Then spoke the Spirit of the Earth,
Her gentle voice like a soft water’s song—
None from my loins have ever birth,
But what to joy and love belong;
I faithful am, and give to thee
Blessings great, and give them free.
I have woven shrouds of air
In a loom of hurrying light,
For the trees which blossoms bear,
And gilded them with sheets of bright;
I fall upon the grass like love’s first kiss,
I make the golden flies and their fine bliss.
I paint the hedge-rows in the lane,
And clover white and red the pathways bear,
I laugh aloud in sudden gusts of rain,
To see the ocean lash himself in air;
I throw smooth shells and weeds along the beach,
And pour the curling waves far o’er the glassy reach;
Swing birds’ nests in the elms, and shake cool moss
Along the aged beams and hide their loss.
The very broad rough stones I gladden too;
Some willing seeds I drop along their sides,
Nourish the generous plant with freshening dew,
Till there, where all was waste, true joy abides.
The peaks of aged mountains, with my care
Smile in the red of glowing morn elate;
I bind the caverns of the sea with hair,
Glossy, and long, and rich as king’s estate;
I polish the green ice, and gleam the wall
With the white frost, and leaf the brown trees tall.
’T was so—t’was thine. Earth! thou wast true:
I kneel, thy grateful child, I kneel,
Thy full forgiveness for my sins I sue,
My mother! learn thy child can think and feel.
Mother dear! wilt pardon one
Who loved not the generous sun,
Nor thy seasons loved to hear
Singing to the busy year—
Thee neglected—shut his heart
In thy being had no part?
Mother dear! I list thy song
In the autumn eve along;
Now thy chill airs round the day
And leave me my time to pray.
Mother dear! The day must come,
When I, thy child, shall make my home,
My long, last home amid the grass,
Over which thy warm hands pass.
Ah me! do let me lie
Gently on thy breast to die;
I know my prayers will reach thy ear,
Thou art with me while I ask,
Nor a child refuse to hear,
Who would learn his little task.
Let me take my part with thee
In the gray clouds, or thy light,
Laugh with thee upon the sea,
Or idle on the land by night.
In the trees I will with thee,
In the flowers, like any bee.
I feel it shall be so. We are not born
To sink our finer feelings in the dust;
And better to the grave with feelings torn,
So in our step strides truth and honest trust
In the great love of things, than to be slaves
To forms, whose ringing sides each stroke we give
Stamps with a hollower want. Yes, to our graves
Hurry, before we in the heavens’ look live,
Strangers to our best thoughts, and fearing men,
And fearing death, and to be born again.
— William Ellery Channing is 200 years old today
Listen to this poem, read by your curator, JJM