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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

To a Comrade

By Harrison Smith Morris (1856–1948)

[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1856. Died there, 1948.]

J. A. H., Obiit 14 March, 1889.

THE LEAVES have come—he comes not—he is dead.

The bugle winds of April blow their note;

The little buds dance in with dewy head

And curtsy to their lover where they spread;

The robin fills her throat,

Making the customed answer to his oat,

But he—alas! his fingered airs are fled!

He knew to gather lyrics from the leaves

And breathe their sweetness through the quiet closes,

And knew the rustled converse of the roses

About the edges of the country eaves;

And where the dappled sunlight dozes,

And where the ditties wake the sheaves,

The silence lulled him into long reposes

And happy world-reprieves.

Born was he for the uplands where the sun

And morning hill-tops meet,

Where breezes through the yellow barley run

With dimpling feet;

His heart went thither, though he trod the street.

He left his toil undone

To listen to the runnel eddies fleet—

He better loved the reveries won

In some old tree-retreat,

The mid-bough twitter and the homeward bleat,

And twilight village fun.

But tyrant toil is harsh with what it owns,

Nor lets the prodigal forget

His penitential debt;

And, late, his merry music ebbed in moans.

Who loved the noonday minuet

Of sun and shadow forest-met,

The freshened herbage bending in the wet

And birds in thicket-wones—

Who touched his pipe to a thousand tender tones—

He passed us woe-beset!

Song slept within him like the winter buds

That wait the under whisper of the year,

Then break the crumbling loam and reappear

And work a beauty in the naked woods.

He waited, oh, how long! for happier moods,

And walked the city’s peopled roods,

With music at his ear:

With murmur of the leaves he loved to hear

In day-long solitudes—

But songs that should have made his presence dear,

And purchased love and long beatitudes,

Like early blossoms drenched with many a tear

Lay withered on his bier.

The memories are full, the years are few,

That bound us into comradeship complete.

We came together in the rainy street

At night, nor either knew

How close the current of our being drew,

How wide the circles rippling from our feet.

It was as if a pair of leaves that grew

Bough-neighbors ere the severing autumn blew

Had come again to meet,

And, finding solace in each other, knew

Remembrance of the far-off summer sweet.

We made a bond of song—we made us nights

Arustle with the buskined forest flights,

And pipe-réveillés of the Doric days.

We found our attic full of arching ways—

Or, bound afield, beheld the sights

Embalmed in old poetic rites,

And saw the slender dances of the fays.

For he was learnèd in all leafy books

And knew the winding region of romance;

His fingers fitted to the olden reeds;

And, when the music eddied, in his looks

Came vision of the wood, the circled dance,

And all the secret sweetness of the deeds

By forest brooks.

His riches were an idle dreamer’s meeds;

But yet he gave his best for others’ needs,

And nurtured with his love the seeds

Of worth grown up in sordid city nooks.

And, last, his music ebbed. He trod the street,

Pursuing hopes of melancholy made:

The lights that ever seem to fade

And leave the midnight darker by retreat.

The quiet counsel of the trees

He heeded not, nor sought the country peace,

But, like a quarry goaded—like a shade

Swept on in darkness, all his being beat

In maddened seas

Headlong against the granite of defeat.

He trusted not, but made

Foemen of guardian laws that give us aid

And lost his treasured music in the breeze.

So like a sheaf, wherein young birds have learned

Their matin music ere the grain be eared

And glancing sickles go abroad the field,

He lay storm-broken. Fame, that would have turned

With but a little wooing, could but yield

A chaplet of her young leaves seared.

And he who was to earth endeared

By tendril loves that clasped him like a vine;

Who held her soil as something sweet and fine;

And loved her still, though severed from her long—

He lies, in union grown divine,

Within her bosom, whence a flower-flight,

Sole guerdon of his dreams of day and night,

Springs from his seeds of song.

The Literary World. 1889.