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Carmen Sylva about peace

Carmen Sylva

A Room

Whitewashed or panelled, filled with books, with light,
With flowers, with trifles sacred to the heart,
And work so pure and sweet that morning-dew
Might settle there and feel itself at home
As though 'mid garden fragrance; while the carol
Of birds streams through the window joyously,
Mistaking that abode of peace and love
For their own woodland haunts! And in that room
A woman's dainty hands ever at work,
A woman's loving heart ever awake
For others' happiness, a woman's thought
Alive in tender memories that embalm
The past in mute forgiveness. Enter then
As 'twere a sanctuary, lay aside
Thy load of care, and yield thy weary soul
To the deep sense of comfort reigning there.
Not many words--nay, not a single word--
Need tremble through the stillness, not a sigh
With untoward avowal break the peace
That folds thee to its heart and asks no question.

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Carmen Sylva

The Glowworm

The mountains lost in clouds, the giant firs
Standing out 'gainst the never-ceasing lightning,
Shaken by thunderpeals, in threefold strength,
As all the valleys echoed through the night.
The mighty heads stormbent, the branches tossed
Into the sheets of water, sky and earth
In lurid light, a never-ceasing flame.
There in the grass, beneath a tiny leaf
A firefly put forth its wondrous ray,
As if no storm, no rain, no hail were nigh,
A peaceful little flame, and yet so strong,
That it outshone the lightning. It would say:
I am the same as lightning! Storm thy life
And threat'ning thunder, but thy flame O minstrel,
Thy heart's own fire, is as strong, as true,
As elementary as Fate's wild raving,
And though it throws its light but on a leaf,
That leaf may be eternal by the light
Thy soul hath shed on it. That steady flame
Burns on, when all the clouds have spent their fire,

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Carmen Sylva

The Sentinel

Each flower is a sentinel of God,
And ev'ry tree and ev'ry grassblade. Not
An unseen little stem, but that will stand
And wait and shine, and never ask wherefore
It came and why it has to whither. Thou
Art such a sentinel, O Heart! Thou hast
To stand and bloom and love beside the others,
And wither when thy work is done, the spot
Being given to another, whereupon
Thou standest. And that other heart is growing
And blooming into life beneath thy shade,
As strong as thine, as ruby-red as thine,
To wither and to fall beneath the scythe,
As thine has done. Why ask and why despair?
Why not be happy with the sun, the dew,
The other flowery hearts that, full of life
Unfold their petals, which are deep like thine,
And rich as thine? Ye are to be a glorious
And many-coloured meadow. Is it not
Enough? And must ye grumble? Must ye strive

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Carmen Sylva

Friendship based solely upon gratitude is like a photograph: with time it fades.

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Carmen Sylva

To the Memory of Queen Victoria

These ever wakeful eyes are closed. They saw
Such grief, that they could see no more. The heart--
That quick'ning pulse of nations--could not bear
Another throb of pain, and could not hear
Another cry of tortur'd motherhood.
Those uncomplaining lips, they sob no more
The soundless sobs of dark and burning tears,
That none have seen; they smile no more, to breathe
A mother's comfort into aching hearts.
The patriarchal Queen, the monument
Of touching widowhood, of endless love,
And childlike purity--she sleeps. This night
Is watchful not. The restless hand, that slave
To duty, to a mastermind, to wisdom
That fathom'd history and saw beyond
The times, lies still in marble whiteness. Love
So great, so faithful, unforgetting and
Unselfish--must it sleep? Or will that veil,
That widow's veil unfold, and spread into
The dovelike wings, that long were wont to hover

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Carmen Sylva

Sadness

Thy sadness is a leaden shroud, a rock
Of Sisyphus, which thou must upward roll
By night and day, on, on. Its downward rush
Is no relief, no help, since it but seems
Heavier at each fresh start. And still thy strength
Is waning, and thy heart aches with the tears--
The unshed tears that lie like stones upon it,
While those that flowed are rivers in thy path--
Unfathomable, fordless, dark and deep.
These thou must wade, with all thy burdens--wade
And sink with every step as 'twere thy last,
And feel such deadly weakness seize on thee
As though some raging fever laid thee low.
Thy sadness is a Nessus robe, that clings
In burning folds about thee, sears thy flesh,
And eats into thy bones. 'Tis like a weapon
A man turns on himself, whose wound nought heals,
Since it is dealt against his inmost soul.
If, then, through clouds of sadness, thou perceivest
The world, well mayst thou say of it: 'Tis hell!

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Carmen Sylva

The Carpenter's Song

My lot grew lighter day by day;
The children grew apace;
I built a little house last May--
No palace like that place.
And--"Father," said she, "sure you know
That once we ate dry bread?
Into our own house now we go!"--
The mother, she is dead!

Her house the undertaker made,
And not the carpenter;
My grace unsaid, the pastor prayed
In loud tones over her.
The day that's spent with merriment,
'Mid blossoms blue and red,
No music lent--my heart was rent!--
The mother, she is dead.

We pulled together many a year;
Like old bird-mates were we;

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Carmen Sylva

The Shadow

The shadow of your threshold is so full
Of meaning, that the stranger knows what home
Is yours, if peace dwell here, or strife, or restless
Unsatisfied ambition. As the tree's
Deep shadow meaneth rest and comfort, or
Is poison, sleep eternal, such the house
That is a home's sweet shadow or a dark
Abode of sin, of lurking lie and danger.
The shadow of your life, that is so small
In bright midday and summer's burning sun,
Begins to lengthen when your evening comes,
And shows the beauty of the tree in outline,
Its graceful forms, its harmony and power;
And never did its beauty strike before,
As now, when lost in thought, you contemplate
The shadow on the lawn. The golden rays
That flood it, make it higher, nobler, and
Its shadow ever greater, till the night
Calls forth the moon, to make it deep and weird
As if unspoken pain had darkened it,

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Carmen Sylva

A Friend

Old age is gentle as an autumn morn;
The harvest over, you will put the plough
Into another, stronger hand, and watch
The sowing you were wont to do.
Old age
Is like an alabaster room, with soft
White curtains. All is light, but light so mild,
So quiet, that it cannot hurt.
The pangs
Are hushed, for life is wild no more with strife,
Nor breathless uphill work, nor heavy with
The brewing tempests, which have torn away
So much, that nothing more remains to fear.
What once was hope, is gone. You know. You saw
The worst, and not a sigh is left of all
The heavy sighs that tore your heart, and not
A tear of all those tears that burnt your cheeks,
And ploughed the forrows into them.
You see
How others work again and weep again,

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Carmen Sylva

Fodder-Time

How sweet the manger smells! The cows all listen
With outstretched necks, and with impatient lowing;
They greet the clover, their content now showing--
And how they lick their noses till they glisten!

The velvet-coated beauties do not languish
Beneath the morning's golden light that's breaking,
The unexhausted spring of life awaking,
Their golden eyes of velvet full of anguish.

They patiently endure their pains. Bestowing
Their sympathy, the other cows are ruing
Their unproductive udders and renewing
At milking-time their labor and their lowing.

And now I must deceive the darling bossy--
With hand in milk must make it suck my finger.
Its tender lips cling close like joys that linger,
And feel so warm with dripping white and flossy.

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Carmen Sylva

The Gnat

A long-legged gnat with airy wings, a dart
Sharp as a needle and a searching tusk,
Was flutt'ring round my lamp, clung to my bookshelf,
And wandered over papers. Then I blew
On it, to chase it far away. But no,
Beneath the tempest of my breath it clung
Still faster to the paper's slender shelter
And moved not, till I thought my breath had killed it.
We watched each other; then it flew away.
I thought how Fate and we thus ofttimes watch
Each other, till Fate blow us into atoms,
And we remain in some weak place, in Death's
Suspense, not knowing if again the storm
Will blow. But Fate is careless and will let
Us go, if but the wings that are to take
Us hence are still untorn, unsinged, uncrushed;
Or else we creep along and die unseen,
A wingless worm, not understanding what
Those papers and those shelves contain that are
No revelation, nought but a grave, whilst others

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Carmen Sylva

Out of the Deep

Thy soul grows silent, when its accents are
Disturbed, and low thy heart, when dark a burden
Has deeply covered it. Thy soul is proud.
When thou hast made it free of wants and wishes,
Then art thou rich.
Our life is seldom open,
For love and fear have shut it. When we lay
It open, there is nought to show in it,
But wounds and burning pain.
Mysterious is
Thy power, great as it may be, a trial
Of thine own will and of the curb upon
Thyself; mysterious to thyself, the more,
The greater it has grown, surrounded as
We are by fear and pain.
And when the soul
Lifts up her voice and speaks, then must she go
Against the will of people, not her own,
The will that is herself, the soul's own might.
When heaven asks, we work with joy, a dear

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Carmen Sylva

Down the Stream

From whence the brook? From where the waters gather
In mountains' deep recesses, stone-black lakes
And dripping crevices. It ripples forth
Into the shining day with scarce a voice,
And with no strength at all, till mountain showers
And winter's snow and spring storms pour their flood
Into the dancing brook, that foams and starts
And rushes headlong down the steeps and throws
Into the Unknown all its youth and strength,
And thunders into hell, to rise again
In sheets of whiteness into dreamy veils,
To kiss the flowers' feet and overflow
The meadows; thence, o'erbridged and caught and fastened
To wheels, to grind and grind with irksome noise,
To lose all liberty, all winsome frolic,
And work till doomsday. On and on the stream
Goes widening into calm and mighty strength,
A hero of a stream, that bears the ships
Like toys, and carries legions.
Wider still

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Carmen Sylva

Lethe

When dark thy childhood, tears and grief have filled
Thy swelling heart, that understood too much,
Yet not enough to be forgiving, when
The sun was pale, and darkness lonely, when
The fear of unknown evil made thy lips
Turn cold, and wonder changed to horror, then
To dumb despair, to childhood's hopelessness,
More hopeless than old age's iron clutch
Of unbelief, the shadow of the past
Will cast a pall o'er all thy life, then say:
Go down, Remembrance, into Lethe, go!
When work was hard and sacrifice in vain,
And stones were hurled at thee, thy flowers trodden
Into the soil, that, soaked with all thy blood,
Could not resist, and giving way would swallow
Thy noblest thoughts, and teach thee to undo
Thyself, gainsay thyself, as if a coward
Were crouching on thy shoulders, making thee
Believe that all thy heroism was
A sham--then say: Go down to Lethe, Thought,

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Carmen Sylva

"Vengeance is Mine," Saith the Lord

Thou wouldst not be avenged if thou hadst but
Insight enough into the human heart,
Into its frailty and its cowardice.
Thou wouldst not be avenged if thou but sawest
How mad, how childish and how selfish are
The helpless ones, that did thee harm because
They thought--Ah! What then thought they! That perchance
You hated them, or trod them down, or took
Their sun away; and e'en for love will they
Destroy thee, meaning well with thee--so well,
That they as lief would see thee dead, not to
Belong to what they hate--thy work, thy friend,
Thy strong ambition, or the gift that God
Hath put into thy soul, that calleth thee
Away to other heights and other temples,
Then where they long have worshipped. They dislike
Thy road, they word, they call it strange and dark,
And they would lead thee back to where they started
So long ago with thee, and show the wrong
Thou doest quite unwittingly. A sigh,

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