Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Green Book of the Bards / Bliss Carman

The Green Book of the Bards

There is a book not written
    By any human hand,
The prophets all have studied,
    The priests have always banned.

I read it every morning,
    I ponder it by night;
And Death shall overtake me
    Trimming my humble light.

He’ll say, as did my father
    When I was young and small
“My son, no time for reading!
    The night awaits us all.”

He’ll smile, as did my father
    When I was small and young,
That I should be so eager
    Over an unknown tongue.

Then I would leave my volume
    And willingly obey,—
Get me a little slumber
    Against another day

Content that he who taught me
    Should bid me sleep awhile.
I would expect the morning
    To bring his courtly smile;

New verses to decipher,
    New chapters to explore,
While loveliness and wisdom
    Grow ever more and more!

For who could ever tire
    Of that wild legendry,
The folklore of the mountains,
    The drama of the sea?

I pore for days together
    Over some lost refrain,—
The epic of the thunder,
    The lyric of the rain.

This was the creed and canon
    Of Jeffries and Thoreau,
And all the free believers
    Who worshipped long ago.

Here Amiel in sadness,
    And Burns in pure delight,
Sought for the hidden import
    Of man’s eternal plight.

No Xenophon and Caesar
    This master had for guides,
Yet here are well recorded
    The marches of the tides.

Here are the marks of greatness
    Accomplished without noise,
The Elizabethan vigour,
    And the Landorian poise;

The sweet Chaucerian temper,
    Smiling at all defeats;
The gusty moods of Shelley,
    The Autumn calms of Keats.

Here were derived the gospels
    Of Emerson and John;
‘T was with this revelation
    The face of Moses shone.

Here Blake and Job and Omar
    The author’s meaning traced;
Here Virgil got his sweetness,
    And Arnold his unhaste.

Here Horace learned to question,
    And Browning to reply,
When soul stood up on trial
    For her mortality.

And all these lovely spirits
    Who read in the great book,
Then went away in silence
    With their illumined look,

Left comment, as art furnished
    A margin for their skill,—
Their guesses at the secret
    Whose gist eludes us still.

And still in that green volume,
    With ardour and with youth
Undaunted, my companions
    Are searching for the truth.

One page, entitled Grand Pré,
    Has the idyllic air
That Bion might have envied:
    I set a footnote there.

Bliss Carman
from From the Green Book of the Bards, 1903

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Bliss Carman biography

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