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Songs from Vagabondia

Songs from Vagabondia
Category: Poetry
Author: Carman Bliss
Title: Songs from Vagabondia
Release Date: 2006-04-23
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
Count views: 26
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Bliss Carman
Richard Hovey
Designs by
Tom B. Meteyard
Boston Copeland and Day
Elkin Mathews and John Lane


To H.F.W., for debts of love unpaid,
Her boys inscribe this book that they have made.



Off with the fetters
That chafe and restrain!
Off with the chain!
Here Art and Letters,
Music and wine,
And Myrtle and Wanda,
The winsome witches,
Blithely combine.
Here are true riches,
Here is Golconda,
Here are the Indies,
Here we are free—
Free as the wind is,
Free, as the sea.
What have we
To do with the way
Of the Pharisee?
We go or we stay
At our own sweet will;
We think as we say,
And we say or keep still
At our own sweet will,
At our own sweet will.
Here we are free
To be good or bad,
Sane or mad,
Merry or grim
As the mood may be,—
Free as the whim
Of a spook on a spree,—
Free to be oddities,
Not mere commodities,
Stupid and salable,
Wholly available,
Ranged upon shelves;
Each with his puny form
In the same uniform,
Cramped and disabled;
We are not labelled,
We are ourselves.
Here is the real,
Here the ideal;
Laughable hardship
Met and forgot,
Glory of bardship—
World's bloom and world's blot;
The shock and the jostle,
The mock and the push,
But hearts like the throstle
A-joy in the bush;
Wits that would merrily
Laugh away wrong,
Throats that would verily
Melt Hell in Song.
What though the dimes be
Elusive as rhymes be,
And Bessie, with finger
Uplifted, is warning
That breakfast next morning
(A subject she's scorning)
Is mighty uncertain!
What care we? Linger
A moment to kiss—
No time's amiss
To a vagabond's ardor—
Thee finish the larder
And pull down the curtain.
Unless ere the kiss come,
Black Richard or Bliss come,
Or Tom with a flagon,
Or Karl with a jag on—
Then up and after
The joy of the night
With the hounds of laughter
To follow the flight
Of the fox-foot hours
That double and run
Through brakes and bowers
Of folly and fun.
With the comrade heart
For a moment's play,
And the comrade heart
For a heavier day,
And the comrade heart
Forever and aye.
For the joy of wine
Is not for long;
And the joy of song
Is a dream of shine;
But the comrade heart
Shall outlast art
And a woman's love
The fame thereof.
But wine for a sign
Of the love we bring!
And song for an oath
That Love is king!
And both, and both
For his worshipping!
Then up and away
Till the break of day,
With a heart that's merry,
And a Tom-and-Jerry,
And a derry-down-derry—
What's that you say.
You highly respectable
Buyers and sellers?
We should be decenter?
Not as we please inter
Custom, frugality,
Use and morality
In the delectable
Depths of wine-cellars?
Midnights of revel,
And noondays of song!
Is it so wrong?
Go to the Devil!
I tell you that we,
While you are smirking
And lying and shirking
life's duty of duties,
Honest sincerity,
We are in verity
Free to rejoice
In blisses and beauties!
Free as the voice
Of the wind as it passes!
Free as the bird
In the weft of the grasses!
Free as the word
Of the sun to the sea—


Do you know what it is to be vagrant born?
A waif is only a waif. And so,
For another idle hour I sit,
In large content while the fire burns low.
I gossip here to my crony heart
Of the day just over, and count it one
Of the royal elemental days,
Though its dreams were few and its deeds were none.
Outside, the winter; inside, the warmth
And a sweet oblivion of turmoil. Why?
All for a gentle girlish hand
With its warm and lingering good-bye.


Now the joys of the road are chiefly these:
A crimson touch on the hard-wood trees;
A vagrant's morning wide and blue,
In early fall when the wind walks, too;
A shadowy highway cool and brown,
Alluring up and enticing down
From rippled water to dappled swamp,
From purple glory to scarlet pomp;
The outward eye, the quiet will,
And the striding heart from hill to hill;
The tempter apple over the fence;
The cobweb bloom on the yellow quince;
The palish asters along the wood,—
A lyric touch of the solitude;
An open hand, an easy shoe.
And a hope to make the day go through,—
Another to sleep with, and a third
To wake me up at the voice of a bird;
The resonant far-listening morn,
And the hoarse whisper of the corn;
The crickets mourning their comrades lost,
In the night's retreat from the gathering frost;
(Or is it their slogan, plaintive and shrill,
As they beat on their corselets, valiant still?)
A hunger fit for the kings of the sea,
And a loaf of bread for Dickon and me;
A thirst like that of the Thirsty Sword,
And a jug of cider on the board;
An idle noon, a bubbling spring,
The sea in the pine-tops murmuring;
A scrap of gossip at the ferry;
A comrade neither glum nor merry,
Asking nothing, revealing naught,
But minting his words from a fund of thought,
A keeper of silence eloquent,
Needy, yet royally well content,
Of the mettled breed, yet abhorring strife,
And full of the mellow juice of life;
A taster of wine, with an eye for a maid,
Never too bold, and never afraid,
Never heart-whole, never heart-sick,
(These are the things I worship in Dick)
No fidget and no reformer, just
A calm observer of ought and must,
A lover of books, but a reader of man,
No cynic and no charlatan,
Who never defers and never demands,
But, smiling, takes the world in his hands,—
Seeing it good as when God first saw
And gave it the weight of his will for law.
And O the joy that is never won,
But follows and follows the journeying sun,
By marsh and tide, by meadow and stream,
A will-o'-the-wind, a light-o'-dream,
Delusion afar, delight anear,
From morrow to morrow, from year to year,
A jack-o'-lantern, a fairy fire,
A dare, a bliss, and a desire!
The racy smell of the forest loam,
When the stealthy, sad-heart leaves go home;
(O leaves, O leaves, I am one with you,
Of the mould and the sun and the wind and the dew!)
The broad gold wake of the afternoon;
The silent fleck of the cold new moon;
The sound of the hollow sea's release
From stormy tumult to starry peace;
With only another league to wend;
And two brown arms at the journey's end!
These are the joys of the open road—
For him who travels without a load.


The fervid breath of our flushed Southern May
Is sweet upon the city's throat and lips,
As a lover's whose tired arm slips
Listlessly over the shoulder of a queen.
Far away
The river melts in the unseen.
Oh, beautiful Girl-City, how she dips
Her feet in the stream
With a touch that is half a kiss and half a dream!
Her face is very fair,
With flowers for smiles and sunlight in her hair.
My westland flower-town, how serene she is!
Here on this hill from which I look at her,
All is still as if a worshipper
Left at some shrine his offering.
Soft winds kiss
My cheek with a slow lingering.
A luring whisper where the laurels stir
Wiles my heart back to woodland-ward again.
But lo,
Across the sky the sunset couriers run,
And I remain
To watch the imperial pageant of the Sun
Mock me, an impotent Cortez here below,
With splendors of its vaster Mexico.
O Eldorado of the templed clouds!
O golden city of the western sky!
Not like the Spaniard would I storm thy gates;
Not like the babe stretch chubby hands and cry
To have thee for a toy; but far from crowds,
Like my Faun brother in the ferny glen,
Peer from the wood's edge while thy glory waits,
And in the darkening thickets plunge again.


Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
When thy flowery hand delivers
All the mountain-prisoned rivers,
And thy great heart beats and quivers,
To revive the days that were,
Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
Take my dust and all my dreaming,
Count my heart-beats one by one,
Send them where the winters perish;
Then some golden noon recherish
And restore them in the sun,
Flower and scent and dust and dreaming,
With their heart-beats every one!
Set me in the urge and tide-drift
Of the streaming hosts a-wing!
Breast of scarlet, throat of yellow,
Raucous challenge, wooings mellow—
Every migrant is my fellow,
Making northward with the spring.
Loose me in the urge and tide-drift
Of the streaming hosts a-wing!
Shrilling pipe or fluting whistle,
In the valleys come again;
Fife of frog and call of tree-toad,
All my brothers, five or three-toed,
With their revel no more vetoed,
Making music in the rain;
Shrilling pipe or fluting whistle,
In the valleys come again.
Make me of thy seed to-morrow,
When the sap begins to stir!
Tawny light-foot, sleepy bruin,
Bright-eyes in the orchard ruin,
Gnarl the good life goes askew in,
Whiskey-jack, or tanager,—
Make me anything to-morrow,
When the sap begins to stir!
Make me even (How do I know?)
Like my friend the gargoyle there;
It may be the heart within him
Swells that doltish hands should pin him
Fixed forever in mid-air.
Make me even sport for swallows,
Like the soaring gargoyle there!
Give me the old clue to follow,
Through the labyrinth of night!
Clod of clay with heart of fire,
Things that burrow and aspire,
With the vanishing desire,
For the perishing delight,—
Only the old clue to follow,
Through the labyrinth of night!
Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
Fashion me from swamp or meadow,
Garden plot or ferny shadow,
Hyacinth or humble burr!
Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
Let me hear the far, low summons,
When the silver winds return;
Rills that run and streams that stammer,
Goldenwing with his loud hammer,
Icy brooks that brawl and clamor,
Where the Indian willows burn;
Let me hearken to the calling,
When the silver winds return,
Till recurring and recurring,
Long since wandered and come back,
Like a whim of Grieg's or Gounod's,
This same self, bird, bud, or Bluenose,
Some day I may capture (Who knows?)
Just the one last joy I lack,
Waking to the far new summons,
When the old spring winds come back.
For I have no choice of being,
When the sap begins to climb,—

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