Friendship based solely upon gratitude is like a photograph: with time it fades.
We hammer, hammer, hammer on and on,
Day-out, day-in, throughout the year,
In blazing heat and tempests drear;
God's house we slowly heavenward rear--
We'll never see it done!
We hammer, hammer, hammer, might and main.
The sun torments, the rain drops prick,
Our eyes grow blind with dust so thick;
Our name is dust, too, fadeth quick--
No glory and no gain!
We hammer, hammer, hammer ever on.
O blessed God on Heaven's throne,
Dost thou take care of every stone
And leave the toiling poor alone,
Whom no one looks upon?
If only 'twere not Christmas Eve,
Nor bright other places,
Nor loaded the boards I perceive,
Nor happy the faces,
And not so wretched at home,
And none of this whining
And begging for bread when I come
By little cheeks pining
Today for hunger again.
To deeply depress me!
If they, who forget now my pain,
Could see it distress me!
Too listlessly come I and go;
All dirty I never
Must faint in the twilight glow
But toil on forever.
[...] Read more
The island city sleeps. The twilight rideth
Gold-shod above San Marco's treasure-plunder;
As if it would enjoy this golden wonder,
A sunbeam stealeth in and softly glideth
Along Christ's head and trembleth there and strideth
To earth where columns cut the light asunder;
It glideth, sent of God, the choir, where, under
The dome, the glory of the ages bideth.
High in an attic room this decoration
In splendor wakens, where a man, deft-handed,
Sets tiny bits of bright illumination--
To shield his fading sight, his white locks banded
With a green shade.--What profits lamentation?
The work's eternal--God hath so commanded!
The Scissors-Grinder's Song
Fetch on your scissors, your slender blade--
To make them brilliant and sharp's my trade;
To every door-step my grindstone comes,
And on and ever it strolls and hums.
I and my grindstone, we wander by,
And no one asks me from whence come I;
How poor I am, no one cares to know,
None care to hear of my spirit's woe.
I'm ground by sorrow both day and night,
And yet I never am polished bright;
I'm ground by hunger, and though it pales
The face, to sharpen the wit it fails.
I'm ground by grief, but the work is ill,
For notched and rusty my heart is, still.
The wheel is whirling, the stone has grit--
Fetch on your steel--shall I sharpen it?
The Carpenter's Song
My lot grew lighter day by day;
The children grew apace;
I built a little house last May--
No palace like that place.
And--"Father," said she, "sure you know
That once we ate dry bread?
Into our own house now we go!"--
The mother, she is dead!
Her house the undertaker made,
And not the carpenter;
My grace unsaid, the pastor prayed
In loud tones over her.
The day that's spent with merriment,
'Mid blossoms blue and red,
No music lent--my heart was rent!--
The mother, she is dead.
We pulled together many a year;
Like old bird-mates were we;
[...] Read more
Under the Snow
If green the corn and burning the volcano,
Though snowclad, buried under rocks of ice,
Why shall the heart not love and burn in waving
Expectant green, or rising flames of hot
Enthusiasm, or burst into a torrent
Of wrath, though snow the summit long hath crowned?
Behold! The field is green, the seed has risen
That thou hast thrown into these aching furrows,
Once ploughed by Destiny, and sown with sorrow
And watered with the wells of tears, that dropped
Upon each grain and flowed through all the furrows.
They see the snow upon thine head, but not
The corn and not the threat'ning furnace of
Thy soul. They think it is extinct, they hope
Thou hast forgotten, that the gentle warmth
They feel is sunshine, not the stormy fire,
That cannot cease to burn: for it remembers.
Beneath the mild sun vanish the vapor's last wet traces,
And for the autumn sowing the mellow soil lies steeping;
The stubble fires have faded and ended is the reaping;
The piercing plow has leveled the rough resisting places.
The solitary sower along the brown field paces--
Two steps and then a handful, a rhythmic motion keeping;
The eager sparrows follow, now pecking and now peeping.
He sows; but all the increase accomplished by God's grace is.
And whether frost be fatal or drought be devastating,
The blades rise green and slender for spring-time winds to flutter,
As time of golden harvest the coming fall awaiting.
None see the silent yearnings the sower's lips half utter,
the carping care he suffers, distressing thoughts creating.
With steady hand he paces afield without a mutter.
How sweet the manger smells! The cows all listen
With outstretched necks, and with impatient lowing;
They greet the clover, their content now showing--
And how they lick their noses till they glisten!
The velvet-coated beauties do not languish
Beneath the morning's golden light that's breaking,
The unexhausted spring of life awaking,
Their golden eyes of velvet full of anguish.
They patiently endure their pains. Bestowing
Their sympathy, the other cows are ruing
Their unproductive udders and renewing
At milking-time their labor and their lowing.
And now I must deceive the darling bossy--
With hand in milk must make it suck my finger.
Its tender lips cling close like joys that linger,
And feel so warm with dripping white and flossy.
[...] Read more
The mountains lost in clouds, the giant firs
Standing out 'gainst the never-ceasing lightning,
Shaken by thunderpeals, in threefold strength,
As all the valleys echoed through the night.
The mighty heads stormbent, the branches tossed
Into the sheets of water, sky and earth
In lurid light, a never-ceasing flame.
There in the grass, beneath a tiny leaf
A firefly put forth its wondrous ray,
As if no storm, no rain, no hail were nigh,
A peaceful little flame, and yet so strong,
That it outshone the lightning. It would say:
I am the same as lightning! Storm thy life
And threat'ning thunder, but thy flame O minstrel,
Thy heart's own fire, is as strong, as true,
As elementary as Fate's wild raving,
And though it throws its light but on a leaf,
That leaf may be eternal by the light
Thy soul hath shed on it. That steady flame
Burns on, when all the clouds have spent their fire,
[...] Read more