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(1836 - 1907)
Thomas Bailey Aldrich [Nov. 11, 1836--March 19, 1907]
American poet, fiction writer, and editor; came to New York in early 1850s as a clerk in his uncle's firm, but soon resigned to pursue literary career; published first volume The Bells in 1855; became friends with New York literary circle including Nathaniel Parker Willis (whose Home Journal he edited for a time), Bayard Taylor, Edmund Clarence Stedman, William Winter, and Fitz-James O'Brien; served as war correspondent during first two years of Civil War; after Civil War, moved to Boston and became acquainted with the literary circle there, including Longfellow and Whittier; turned more to fiction writing, including such works as The Story of a Bad Boy (1870), The Queen of Sheba (1877), and his best-known short story "Marjorie Daw" (1873); edited a number of periodicals, most importantly The Atlantic Monthly between 1881 and 1890; dramatic poem Mercedes produced as a play in 1894; died as a result of injuries sustained falling from a horse.
|Enamored architect of airy rhyme|
|Pursuit and Possession|
I. Invita Minerva
NOT of desire alone is music born,
Not till the Muse wills is our passion crowned;
Unsought she comes; if sought, but seldom found,
Repaying thus our longing with her scorn.
Hence is it poets often are forlorn,
In super-subtle chains of silence bound,
And mid the crowds that compass them around
Still dwell in isolation night and morn,
With knitted brow and cheek all passion-pale
Showing the baffled purpose of the mind.
Hence is it I, that find no prayers avail
To move my Lyric mistress to be kind,
Have stolen away into this leafy dale
Drawn by the flutings of the silvery wind.
SICK of myself and all that keeps the light
Of the wide heavens away from me and mine,
I climb this ledge, and by this wind-swept pine
Lingering, watch the coming of the night:
'Tis ever a new wonder to my sight.
Men look to God for some mysterious sign,
For other stars than such as nightly shine,
For some unwonted symbol of His might.
Wouldst see a miracle not less than those
The Master wrought of old in Galilee?
Come watch with me the azure turn to rose
In yonder West, the changing pageantry,
The fading alps and archipelagoes,
And spectral cities of the sunset-sea.
VI. “Enamored architect of airy rhyme”
ENAMORED architect of airy rhyme,
Build as thou wilt, heed not what each man says:
Good souls, but innocent of dreamers’ ways,
Will come, and marvel why thou wastest time;
Others, beholding how thy turrets climb
‘Twixt theirs and heaven, will hate thee all thy days;
But most beware of those who come to praise.
O Wondersmith, O worker in sublime
And heaven-sent dreams, let art be all in all;
Build as thou wilt, unspoiled by praise or blame,
Build as thou wilt, and as thy light is given;
Then, if at last the airy structure fall,
Dissolve, and vanish — take thyself no shame.
They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.
IV. Pursuit and Possession
WHEN I behold what pleasure is pursuit,
What life, what glorious eagerness it is;
Then mark how full possession falls from this,
How fairer seems the blossom than the fruit —
I am perplexed, and often stricken mute
Wondering which attained the higher bliss,
The winged insect, or the chrysalis
It thrust aside with unreluctant foot.
Spirit of verse, that still elud’st my art,
Thou uncaught rapture, thou swift-fleeting fire,
O let me follow thee with hungry heart
If beauty’s full possession kill desire!
Still flit away in moonlight, rain, and dew,
Will-of-the-wisp, that I may still pursue!
© 2001 Elena and Yakov Feldman