Orion, and Other Poems

by Charles G.D. Roberts




RULING with an iron hand
O’er the intermediate land
Twixt the plains of rich completeness,
And the realms of budding sweetness,
Winter! from thy crystal throne,  
With a keenness all thy own
Dartest thou, through gleaming air,
O’er the glorious barren glare
Of thy sunlit wildernesses,
Thine undazzled level glances,                
Where thy minions’ silver tresses
Stream among their icy lances;
While thy universal breathing,
Frozen to a radiant swathing
For the trees, their bareness hides,         
And upon their sunward sides
Shines and flushes rosily
To the chill pink morning sky.
Skilful artists thou employest,
And in chastest beauty joyest,—            
Forms most delicate, pure, and clear,
Frost-caught starbeams fallen sheer
In the night, and woven here
In jewel-fretted tapestries.
But what magic melodies,                      
As in the bord’ring realms are throbbing,
Hast thou, Winter?—Liquid sobbing
Brooks, and brawling waterfalls,
Whose responsive-voicéd calls
Clothe with harmony the hills,                
Gurgling meadow-threading rills,
Lakelets’ lisping wavelets lapping
Round a flock of wild ducks napping,
And the rapturous-noted wooings,
And the molten-throated cooings,          
Of the amorous multitudes
Flashing through the dusky woods,
When a veering wind hath blown
A glare of sudden daylight down?—
Naught of these!—And fewer notes       
Hath the wind alone that floats
Over naked trees and snows;
Half its minstrelsy it owes
To its orchestra of leaves.
Ay! weak the meshes music weaves
For thy snaréd soul’s delight,
’Less, when thou dost lie at night
’Neath the star-sown heavens bright,
To thy sin-unchokéd ears
Some dim harmonies may pierce
From the high-consulting spheres:
’Less the silent sunrise sing
Like a vibrant silver string
When its prison’d splendors first
O’er the crusted snow-fields burst.
But thy days the silence keep,
Save for grosbeaks’ feeble cheep,
Or for snow-birds’ busy twitter
When thy breath is very bitter.

So my spirit often acheth
For the melodies it lacketh
’Neath thy sway, or cannot hear
For its mortal-cloakéd ear.
And full thirstily it longeth
For the beauty that belongeth                 
To the Autumn’s ripe fulfilling;—
Heapéd orchard-baskets spilling
’Neath the laughter-shaken trees;
Fields of buckwheat full of bees,
Girt with ancient groves of fir                 
Shod with berried juniper;
Beech-nuts mid their russet leaves;
Heavy-headed nodding sheaves;
Clumps of luscious blackberries;
Purple-cluster’d traceries                       
Of the cottage climbing-vines;
Scarlet-fruited eglantines;
Maple forests all aflame
When thy sharp-tongued legates came.

Ruler with an iron hand                          
O’er an intermediate land!
Glad am I thy realm is border’d
By the plains more richly order’d,—
Stock’d with sweeter-glowing forms,—
Where the prison’d brightness warms    
In lush crimsons thro’ the leaves,
And a gorgeous legend weaves.