Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889


By William Winter (1836–1917)

[From Stanzas read at the Dedication of the Actors’ Monument to Edgar Allan Poe.—The New York Tribune. 1885.]

FROM earliest youth his spirit kept its throne

By the sea’s marge, or on the mountain height,

Or in the forest deeps, or meadow lone,

Where the long shadows fall, as comes the night,

And spectral shapes gleam on the startled sight

And vanish with low sighs. The darkling caves

That line the murmurous shore were his delight,

Where the defeated billow chafes and raves,

And much he loved the stars that shine on lonely graves.

By night he roamed along the haunted shore,

And on the vacant summit of the hills

Held converse with the vast; while evermore

The awful mystery with which Nature thrills,—

Whispering the poet’s heart, and thence distils

The essence of her beauty,—wrapt his soul,

Buoyant and glorious, with such power as fills

The dread expanse where sky and ocean roll,

Thought measureless, supreme, and feeling past control.

Among the haunts of men a wanderer still,

He walked a dusky pathway, all his own;

For men were not his mates—their good, their ill

Were things by him unfelt, to him unknown—

An empty laughter or an idle moan;

And they that saw him passed him coldly by,

And thus he roved his shadowy world alone,—

A world of haunting shapes and phantasy,

And life a dream that longed yet dreaded more to die.

His o’er-fraught bosom and his haunted brain

Gave out their music and then ceased to be—

A strange, a weird, a melancholy strain,

Like the low moaning of the distant sea!

And when death harshly set his spirit free

From frenzied days and penury and blight,

At least ’twas tender mercy’s kind decree,—

Shrining his name in memory’s living light,

With thoughts that gild the day and charm the lingering night.

He was the voice of beauty and of woe,

Passion and mystery and the dread unknown;

Pure as the mountains of perpetual snow,

Cold as the icy winds that round them moan,

Dark as the caves wherein earth’s thunders groan,

Wild as the tempests of the upper sky,

Sweet as the faint, far-off, celestial tone

Of angel whispers, fluttering from on high,

And tender as love’s tear when youth and beauty die.

His music dies not—nor can ever die—

Blown round the world by every wandering wind;

The comet, lessening in the midnight sky,

Still leaves its trail of glory far behind.

Death cannot quench the lustre of the mind,

Nor hush the seraph song that Beauty sings;

Still in the Poet’s soul must Nature find

Her voice for every secret that she brings,

To all that dwell beneath the brooding of her wings.