Sidney Lanier

Here you will find the Long Poem Corn. of poet Sidney Lanier


To-day the woods are trembling through and through
With shimmering forms, that flash before my view,
Then melt in green as dawn-stars melt in blue.
 The leaves that wave against my cheek caress
 Like women's hands; the embracing boughs express
 A subtlety of mighty tenderness;
 The copse-depths into little noises start,
 That sound anon like beatings of a heart,
 Anon like talk 'twixt lips not far apart.
 The beech dreams balm, as a dreamer hums a song;
 Through that vague wafture, expirations strong
 Throb from young hickories breathing deep and long
With stress and urgence bold of prisoned spring
 And ecstasy of burgeoning.
 Now, since the dew-plashed road of morn is dry,
 Forth venture odors of more quality
 And heavenlier giving. Like Jove's locks awry,
 Long muscadines
Rich-wreathe the spacious foreheads of great pines,
And breathe ambrosial passion from their vines.
 I pray with mosses, ferns and flowers shy
 That hide like gentle nuns from human eye
 To lift adoring perfumes to the sky.
I hear faint bridal-sighs of brown and green
Dying to silent hints of kisses keen
As far lights fringe into a pleasant sheen.
 I start at fragmentary whispers, blown
 From undertalks of leafy souls unknown,
 Vague purports sweet, of inarticulate tone.
Dreaming of gods, men, nuns and brides, between
Old companies of oaks that inward lean
To join their radiant amplitudes of green
 I slowly move, with ranging looks that pass
 Up from the matted miracles of grass
Into yon veined complex of space
Where sky and leafage interlace
 So close, the heaven of blue is seen
 Inwoven with a heaven of green.

I wander to the zigzag-cornered fence
Where sassafras, intrenched in brambles dense,
Contests with stolid vehemence
 The march of culture, setting limb and thorn
 As pikes against the army of the corn.

There, while I pause, my fieldward-faring eyes
Take harvests, where the stately corn-ranks rise,
 Of inward dignities
And large benignities and insights wise,
 Graces and modest majesties.
Thus, without theft, I reap another's field;
Thus, without tilth, I house a wondrous yield,
And heap my heart with quintuple crops concealed.

Look, out of line one tall corn-captain stands
Advanced beyond the foremost of his bands,
 And waves his blades upon the very edge
 And hottest thicket of the battling hedge.
Thou lustrous stalk, that ne'er mayst walk nor talk,
 Still shalt thou type the poet-soul sublime
 That leads the vanward of his timid time
 And sings up cowards with commanding rhyme --
Soul calm, like thee, yet fain, like thee, to grow
By double increment, above, below;
 Soul homely, as thou art, yet rich in grace like thee,
 Teaching the yeomen selfless chivalry
 That moves in gentle curves of courtesy;
Soul filled like thy long veins with sweetness tense,
 By every godlike sense
Transmuted from the four wild elements.
 Drawn to high plans,
 Thou lift'st more stature than a mortal man's,
Yet ever piercest downward in the mould
 And keepest hold
 Upon the reverend and steadfast earth
 That gave thee birth;
 Yea, standest smiling in thy future grave,
 Serene and brave,
 With unremitting breath
 Inhaling life from death,
Thine epitaph writ fair in fruitage eloquent,
 Thyself thy monument.

 As poets should,
Thou hast built up thy hardihood
With universal food,
 Drawn in select proportion fair
 From honest mould and vagabond air;
From darkness of the dreadful night,
 And joyful light;
 From antique ashes, whose departed flame
 In thee has finer life and longer fame;
From wounds and balms,
From storms and calms,
From potsherds and dry bones
 And ruin-stones.
Into thy vigorous substance thou hast wrought
Whate'er the hand of Circumstance hath brought;
 Yea, into cool solacing green hast spun
 White radiance hot from out the sun.
So thou dost mutually leaven
Strength of earth with grace of heaven;
 So thou dost marry new and old
 Into a one of higher mould;
 So thou dost reconcile the hot and cold,
 The dark and bright,
And many a heart-perplexing opposite,
 And so,
 Akin by blood to high and low,
Fitly thou playest out thy poet's part,
Richly expending thy much-bruised heart
 In equal care to nourish lord in hall
 Or beast in stall:
 Thou took'st from all that thou mightst give to all.

O steadfast dweller on the selfsame spot
Where thou wast born, that still repinest not --
Type of the home-fond heart, the happy lot! --
 Deeply thy mild content rebukes the land
 Whose flimsy homes, built on the shifting sand
Of trade, for ever rise and fall
With alternation whimsical,
 Enduring scarce a day,
 Then swept away
By swift engulfments of incalculable tides
Whereon caprici