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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)


A DREAM of interlinking hands, of feet

Tireless to spin the unseen, fairy woof

Of the entangling waltz. Bright eyebeams meet,

Gay laughter echoes from the vaulted roof.

Warm perfumes rise; the soft unflickering glow

Of branching lights sets off the changeful charms

Of glancing gems, rich stuffs, the dazzling snow

Of necks unkerchieft, and bare, clinging arms.

Hark to the music! How beneath the strain

Of reckless revelry, vibrates and sobs

One fundamental chord of constant pain,

The pulse-beat of the poet’s heart that throbs.

So yearns, though all the dancing waves rejoice,

The troubled sea’s disconsolate, deep voice.

Who shall proclaim the golden fable false

Of Orpheus’s miracles? This subtle strain

Above our prose world’s sordid loss and gain

Lightly uplifts us. With the rhythmic waltz,

The lyric prelude, the nocturnal song

Of love and languor, varied visions rise,

That melt and blend to our enchanted eyes.

The Polish poet who sleeps silenced long,

The seraph-souled musician, breathes again

Eternal eloquence, immortal pain.

Revived the exalted face we know so well,

The illuminated eyes, the fragile frame,

Slowly consuming with its inward flame—

We stir not, speak not, lest we break the spell.

A voice was needed, sweet and true and fine

As the sad spirit of the evening breeze,

Throbbing with human passion, yet divine

As the wild bird’s untutored melodies.

A voice for him ’neath twilight heavens dim,

Who mourneth for his dead, while round him fall

The wan and noiseless leaves. A voice for him

Who sees the first green sprout, who hears the call

Of the first robin on the first spring day.

A voice for all whom Fate hath set apart,

Who, still misprized, must perish by the way,

Longing with love, for that they lack the art

Of their own soul’s expression. For all these

Sing the unspoken hope, the vague, sad reveries.

Then Nature shaped a poet’s heart,—a lyre

From out whose chords the slightest breeze that blows

Drew trembling music, wakening sweet desire.

How shall she cherish him? Behold! she throws

This precious, fragile treasure in the whirl

Of seething passions: he is scourged and stung;

Must dive in storm-vext seas, if but one pearl

Of art or beauty therefrom may be wrung.

No pure-browed pensive nymph his Muse shall be:

An Amazon of thought with sovereign eyes,

Whose kiss was poison, man-brained, worldly-wise,

Inspired that elfin, delicate harmony.

Rich gain for us! But with him is it well?—

The poet who must sound earth, heaven, and hell!