Give me truths; For I am weary of the surfaces, And die of inanition. If I knew Only the herbs and simples of the wood, Rue, cinquefoil, gill, vervain and agrimony, Blue-vetch and trillium, hawkweed, sassafras, Milkweeds and murky brakes, quaint pipes and sun-dew, And rare and virtuous roots, which in these woods Draw untold juices from the common earth, Untold, unknown, and I could surely spell Their fragrance, and their chemistry apply By sweet affinities to human flesh, Driving the foe and stablishing the friend,-- O, that were much, and I could be a part Of the round day, related to the sun And planted world, and full executor Of their imperfect functions. But these young scholars, who invade our hills, Bold as the engineer who fells the wood, And traveling often in the cut he makes, Love not the flower they pluck, and know it not, And all their botany is Latin names. The old men studied magic in the flowers, And human fortunes in astronomy, And an omnipotence in chemistry, Preferring things to names, for these were men, Were unitarians of the united world, And, wheresoever their clear eye-beams fell, They caught the footsteps of the SAME. Our eyes And strangers to the mystic beast and bird, And strangers to the plant and to the mine. The injured elements say, 'Not in us;' And haughtily return us stare for stare. For we invade them impiously for gain; We devastate them unreligiously, And coldly ask their pottage, not their love. Therefore they shove us from them, yield to us Only what to our griping toil is due; But the sweet affluence of love and song, The rich results of the divine consents Of man and earth, of world beloved and lover, The nectar and ambrosia, are withheld; And in the midst of spoils and slaves, we thieves And pirates of the universe, shut out Daily to a more thin and outward rind, Turn pale and starve. Therefore, to our sick eyes, The stunted trees look sick, the summer short, Clouds shade the sun, which will not tan our hay, And nothing thrives to reach its natural term; And life, shorn of its venerable length, Even at its greatest space is a defeat, And dies in anger that it was a dupe; And, in its highest noon and wantonness, Is early frugal, like a beggar's child; Even in the hot pursuit of the best aims And prizes of ambition, checks its hand, Like Alpine cataracts frozen as they leaped, Chilled with a miserly comparison Of the toy's purchase with the length of life.
Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and murmuring like a mouth. You were the shadows of a cloud cross- ing over a field of tulips. You were the tears of a man who cried into a plaid handkerchief. You were the sky without a hat. Your heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line. And when you were a tree, you listened to the trees and the tree things trees told you. You were the wind in the wheels of a red bicycle. You were the spidery Mariatattooed on the hairless arm of a boy in dowtown Houston. You were the rain rolling off the waxy leaves of a magnolia tree. A lock of straw-colored hair wedged between the mottled pages of a Victor Hugo novel. A crescent of soap. A spider the color of a fingernail. The black nets beneath the sea of olive trees. A skein of blue wool. A tea saucer wrapped in newspaper. An empty cracker tin. A bowl of blueber- ries in heavy cream. White wine in a green-stemmed glass. And when you opened your wings to wind, across the punched- tin sky above a prison courtyard, those condemned to death and those condemned to life watched how smooth and sweet a white cloud glides.
Was there even a cause too lost, Ever a cause that was lost too long, Or that showed with the lapse of time to vain For the generous tears of youth and song?