Anna Hempstead Branch

(1875-1937 / United States)

Dominus Vineae; Spiritus Agricola - Poem by Anna Hempstead Branch

Once more among our archangelic hills
The streets of this old, grave, and gracious town
Throb with renewing vigor as when Spring
Rushes upon the forest and through it spills
Her ancient rapture. Now the campus thrills
With feet that run and voices that sing.
It is the College in her bourgeoning!

Happy are we
Returning homeward that we still can see
In the old places
The tenderly remembered kindly faces
Of those who taught us wisdom in our youth;
In faith established, having made plain the truth
Of beautiful friendship, honorably proved;
Yes, in a chastened and a lofty mood
Of thoughtful gratitude
Seeing once more in the accustomed ways
Him whom we come to praise,
Presence revered and loved.

Ever among life's solemn things
Are such rejoicings.
Beneath the laughter and the song there fall
Rich silences,
And stronger cadences,
And deeper voices call
'Ending is here '—and cycles new and strange
Sweep through the air a solemn undertone.
Deeper than depth beneath all things are blown
The rushings of the invisible wings of change.

Not ours to know
His deep rejoicings
When with strict vigilance and with secret pains
He turned to visible gains
Hard and invisible things.
Not ours the solemn splendor of those wings
That in his sombre vigils of the night
Seized him with visions excellently bright.
Not ours the speechless grievings,
The glorious believings,
When with a glad surmise
He saw the future with prophetic eyes.
Not ours to know,

During laborious years,
The downcast moment or with what aching need
He watched upon the bursting of the seed;
Nor the interior spiritual tears
That are the bitter waterings
Of all heroic things;
Nor amid what savor of his midnight prayer
The Spirit came upon him with a mood
That drove him forth into the solitude
Of sleepless, holy watching. And he went.
And beholding a vision wonderfully fair
He wrestled with the Lord before the tent.

But ours is the harvesting,
The joyous bringing-in,
The drinking of the wine
That is the vintage of his thought benign.
Ours is the glory won!
What ritual shall be done?
What shall be said?
Ye feasters upon bread
Made of nutritious grain,
The very kernel of his faith and pain!
Upon this day
There is accomplished a great deed,
A beautiful fruition
From the small sowing of an early seed.

Behold, a work is brought into completion.
Let us rejoice, for we have need I say,
Of every praiseful speech and loving word,
Knowing that when night falls upon this town
A good man has laid down
His fruits upon the table of the Lord.

Behold the Pioneer!
Stout-hearted, with keen eyes, of vision clear,
A natural searcher for such land as lies
In distant seas and under alien skies.
Would I might trace
The courtly quaintness and the austere grace,
The angelic shrewdness of that kindly face,
Inscribed with characters, as if lightning-struck
God's gracious scripture was engraved on rock.
A son of our New England stock,
Serene, high-souled, and exquisitely plain
As mountain air is, after a cold rain!
But yet with no severity
In his sweet austerity!
So charitably mild
I think that any child
Would run to meet him if he only smiled!

I like to muse
On his first simple strenuous days
And the high-hearted girls that greatly kept
Their great companionships
With sages, prophets, poets. With what glad eyes
They tripped, girl-wise,
Through many a blossoming Paradise!
In flower-sweet vales where dreaming Pindar slept
The bees left honey on their lips.
In classic porticos of thought,
By Grecian boys befriended,
With lofty speech and young imaginings
They jealously attended
High counsels held on spiritual things,
Angelic—human.
Still by mankind forbidden, they eagerly sought
What Diotima unto Plato taught
And Socrates learned from a mystic Woman.

Yes—it should be our glory and elation
That among the earliest women of this nation
They vowed themselves to that great exploration.
How many a girl has set
Her face against the unhuman wind that blows
From the imperishable snows
Of mathematical glaciers and beheld
Such fierce auroral splendors as not yet
Have shown in gentler climates, but flash forth
Out of the frozen north

Of ultimate thought that has not any pole;
Or has explored the regions of the soul
And from some philosophic precipice
Has swept
Her innocent vision over the dark abyss
Of mortal night;
With spirit lowly
And with dreaming eyes
Has guarded well the sight
Of visions lovely and holy,
And half a child, in solitude, has kept
Her solemn watch beneath the infinite skies.

Look—we arise
Before the eider daughters gathered here.
Scanning young faces with gaze steady and clear
They search them and require
A spiritual accounting and a just.
'How have ye answered to the sacred trust?
Before the lamps we lighted have ye slept?
Have ye forsook the service? or have ye kept
Your spirits constant and your minds austere?
Out of our vessels have ye spilt the wine?
Are ye troubled with a spiritual yearning?
Are ye dream-enchanted?
What are your visions? Are your souls star-haunted?

Speak, in the fennel is the fire still burning?
Is the incense good? Is the fragrance pungent and fine?
What prayers do ye breathe over it?
Ye unknown daughters of this generation,
In sacred places is the service fit?
And with the old mysterious elation,
Ye younger vestals, have ye kept the shrine?
Oh, is the flame upon our altars lit?'

Last night among our academic trees
Gleamed golden bubbles, globes of scarlet light,
Blue stars, and moons diaphanously white,
As if great comets blew through our mortal night
A fiery and a planetary seed.
Then was there laughter and such sights indeed
As once we never dreamed.
It seemed
As if the altar spirit had been spent
In delirious merriment.
Amid the ancient failing of the dew
Flashed spirits white, the very maddest crew
That ever charmed the grass with dances new.
Like morning stars singing in the deep skies!
With silvery halloo and gracious cries
Of friendship! Why, in such a magic air,

One looked no more for any mortal thing,
But for such faery pageants as were seen
When Vivian dressed in green
Charmed Wisdom into strange imagining.
Then, as of gay and friendly fauns,
Were daintiest skippings on the lawns,
Bright screams and singing calls
Of innocent Bacchanals,
While through the darkness in delicious swirls,
Sport beguiled,
Delicately wild,
Swept lightly frenzied girls.

Sedulously the elders catechize,
But to the watchful query of their eyes
Gaze back young eyes as clear.
'Before the lamps ye lighted we have not slept.
Still, still do we behold with ritual lowly
Visions and things unutterably holy,
And with strict pain and vigilance have kept
Our spirits constant and our minds austere.
Even as of old our spiritual waters
Are troubled with the angels. Oh, believe!
Now, as of old, communing with His daughters
God walks among these gardens in the eve.'

Now, as of old! Still do the orchard trees
Bear fruits for ardent girls. In Paradise
Forget-me-nots still look with childlike eyes.
To the intimate skies
Point familiar towers.
It is no alien grace
That mocks from a strange face.
Unspeakably ours!
But the old Spirit, with influence divine,
Is worshiped still upon this mystic shrine.
Happy are they who in their youth inherit
That vast and lovely Spirit
To whom our steps are led—
The invisible, scarce dreamed of, superhuman,
The Ultimate Woman—
The moon of Heaven is underneath Her feet
And twelve bright stars are orbed about Her head.

Oh, let it on this day of him be said,
He had the sight,
The interior vision, and he saw such things,
As John the Belovéd dreamed on. And he came,
And raised a holy altar in the night,
And that Her presence should be known by flame
He set upon Her shrine an eternal light.
So did the Seer remind us,
Lest the new morning blind us,

That beauty and youth and youth's own spiritual yearning,
All loves and aspirations,
Hard labors and elations,
All passionate learning,
Should be the oil to that holy burning.

Wherefore let us wisdom take
And of it make
A garment innocent and fair
Radiant as the early air.
Let us turn it into Spring:
Out of ancient, alien dust
Wake a joyous blossoming;
With a heart of ardent trust
Refreshing earth with untouched dew,
Cultures exquisite and new,
Praising him, if praise we can,
That in a time when men on Customs lean,
By a great man,
Womanhood has been beautifully seen.

Oh man of battles! Hero in God's sight!
Zealous fighter for the right,
Stout wielder of the sword,
Lover of things desirable and hard!

How beautiful he goes!
As graciously as a rose
Unfolds its sweetness to a larger light!
The work achieved and with the Lord put by,
He goes to other deeds,
Fulfilling unseen needs,
To greatnesses hard and high.

By his influence benign,
And by his battles at the great redoubt,
By his purged and chastened sight,
That saw a Woman raised upon the night—
Oh by his faith divine,
And the pure flame he set upon Her shrine,
Let not that light go out.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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