The Last Invocation
At the last, tenderly, From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house, From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors, Let me be wafted. Let me glide noiselessly forth; With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper, Set ope the doors O soul. Tenderly—be not impatient, (Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, Strong is your hold O love.)
The longstanding tradition of the Boston Pops Orchestra is to give a concert on the Fourth of July, inevitably closed by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. This is from the Bicentennial Year of 1976, when the Pops was still helmed by Arthur Fiedler, the face of the Pops throughout my childhood and young adulthood. May he rest in peace; and may you enjoy the music.
As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music is playing, To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist of a wreck at sea, Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers and wafted kisses, and that is the last of them, Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the President, Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations founder'd off the Northeast coast and going down—of the steamship Arctic going down, Of the veil'd tableau-women gather'd together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws so close—O the moment! A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—and then the women gone, Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on—and I now pondering, Are those women indeed gone? Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so? Is only matter triumphant?
Night on the Prairies
Night on the prairies, The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low, The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets; I walk by myself—I stand and look at the stars, which I think now never realized before. Now I absorb immortality and peace, I admire death and test propositions. How plenteous! how spiritual! how resume! The same old man and soul—the same old aspirations, and the same content. I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the not-day exhibited, I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so noiseless around me myriads of other globes. Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will measure myself by them, And now touch'd with the lives of other globes arrived as far along as those of the earth, Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those of the earth, I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life, Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive. O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot, I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.
To One Shortly to Die
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you, You are to die—let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate, I am exact and merciless, but I love you—there is no escape for you. Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you 'ust feel it, I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it, I sit quietly by, I remain faithful, I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor, I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is eternal, you yourself will surely escape, The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious. The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions, Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile, You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick, You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping friends, I am with you, I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated, I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.
O Living Always, Always Dying
O living always, always dying! O the burials of me past and present, O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever; O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am content;) O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look at where I cast them, To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind.
A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless patient spider, I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated, Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself, Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. And you O my soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold, Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.