By John Jay Chapman
Clear as the dew it kindles on the spray
Across the shadows of each shelving lawn,
The rising sun, with low and level ray
Scatters the cold, gray phantoms of the dawn.
Like ghosts they flee, like dreams expire
Within the elemental fire
Of our first calm October day.
A day all zenith; the enclosing air,
Like to the lens of a vast telescope,
Shows the enameled globe, which now doth wear
Its gayest motley; every jutting slope
And quiet spire appears both far and near,
Seen through the splendor of the atmosphere.
Something Elysian,—a faint tang of joy,—
Breathes from the moisture of the open field,
Recalling Spring, yet Spring with no alloy
Of heartache, such as hovers on the view
Of things in promise. Here is harvest-yield;
Old Earth hath done her best and can no further do.
The yellowing pages of Earth’s ledger lie,
In new-cropped acres, open to the sky;
A text that all may understand,
With margins where wild vines expand
In crimson revelry.
Beyond the valley lies a ledge
Of rocky pasture and a tier
Of hemlock and of juniper;
And close to the embattled edge,—
Their roots embedded in the stony stairs,—
The agèd cedars flaunt their burning wares.
Like banners in a gallery,
They hang above the bright ravine,
Where from the mountains to the sea
The farms and villages are seen,
All clad in twinkling sheen.
Above our heads the mountain bleak
Bears his cold summit to the view,
As one in scorn of earthly mists,
Who, in his gesture, seems to seek
The silent depths of the transparent blue
Where nought save light exists.
Nor sight nor mutter from the world below,
Nor sound of joy or woe;
For that clear realm is deaf to man’s debates.
There nought save Contemplation ever came;
For reason is extinguished by the glow,
And passion dies within its parent flame.
Rays of religion, shafts of power,
From that eternal upper day
Descend on man, the creature of an hour,
And whirl him as a leaf is whirled away.
Born to phantasmal contest, he survives
A moment merely; yet the fray,
The whirlwind, seizes other lives,
And, raging like a mountain fire,
Burns on with inextinguishable ire.
Here, here, from this ærial zone
Flows all the force the world has known,
All insight and all sight,
The substance of all just resolves,
Solid and pure;
The rest is lightning, here is light:
And when the varied earth dissolves,
This shall endure.
But see! above the sinking sun
The angel of the west
Has set his star against the mountain’s breast:
October’s day is done.
The shadows mount, the twilight clear
Shows all of Autumn’s mellow husk,
Where one belated teamster in the dusk
Circles the plain, like a dark charioteer
Who scatters secretly the gleaming seeds,
And drives his mystic steeds
Before the tread of the pursuing year