American Transcendentalism Web
Authors & Texts Roots & Influences Ideas & Thought Criticism
Resources Search Communication Center
Default text size Big text size Bigger text size Biggest text size

Ellen Sturgis Hooper

Selected Poems

I Slept, and Dreamed that Life was Beauty

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.

The Dial (July 1840) p. 123

The Poet

He touched the earth, a soul of flame,
His bearing proud, his spirit high,
Filled with the heavens from whence he came,
He smiled upon man's destiny.

Yet smiled as one who knew no fear,
And felt a secret strength within,
Who wondered at the pitying tear
Shed over human loss and sin.

Lit by an inward brighter light,
Than aught that round about him shone,
He walked erect through shades of night,
Clear was his pathway—but how lone!

Men gaze in wonder and in awe
Upon a form so like to theirs,
Worship the presence, yet withdraw,
And carry elsewhere warmer prayers.

Yet when the glorious pilgrim guest,
Forgetting once his strange estate,
Unloosed the lyre from off his breast
And strung its chords to human fate;

And gaily snatching some rude air,
Carrolled by idle passing tongue,
Gave back the notes that lingered there,
And in Heaven's tones earth's low lay sung;

Then warmly grasped the hand that sought
To thank him with a brother's soul,
And when the generous wine was brought,
Shared in the feast and quaffed the bowl;—

Men laid their hearts low at his feet,
And sunned their being in his light,
Pressed on his way his steps to greet,
And in his love forgot his might.

And when, a wanderer long on earth,
On him its shadow also fell,
And dimmed the lustre of a birth,
Whose day-spring was from heaven's own well;

They cherished even the tears he shed,
Their woes were hallowed by his woe,
Humanity, half cold and dead,
Had been revived in genius' glow.

The Dial (October 1840) p. 194.

The Poor Rich Man

How long in my youth I longed and prayed to have
Communion with a wise and perfect soul,
And flung away the things that fortune gave,
And over which she claimed to have control.
How my heart stiffened to the world of sense,
And, dying, sought a life far more intense.

And how the treasure I so dearly won,
And spent my life to seek, in riper age,
I long to pour out on some needy son
Of time, that he may have fair heritage.
Alas, that once I languished to be fed,
And now have none to whom to give my bread!

The Dial (October 1840) p. 187.


How they go by—those strange and dreamlike men!
One glance on each, one gleam from out each eye,
And that I never looked upon till now,
Has vanished out of sight as instantly.

Yet in it passed there a whole heart and life,
The only key it gave that transient look;.
But for this key its great event in time
Of peace or strife to me a sealed book.

The Dial (October 1840) p. 216

The Wood-Fire

This bright wood-fire
So like to that which warmed and lit
My youthful days—how doth it flit
Back on the periods nigher,
Relighting and rewarming with its glow
The bright scenes of my youth—all gone out now.
How eagerly its flickering blaze doth catch
On every point now wrapped in time's deep shade,
Into what wild grotesqueness by its flash
And fitful checquering is the picture made!
When I am glad or gay,
Let me walk forth into the brilliant sun,
And with congenial rays be shone upon;
When I am sad, or thought-bewitched would be,
Let me glide forth in moonlight's mystery,
But never, while I live this changeful life,
This past and future with all wonders rife,
Never, bright flame, may be denied to me
Thy dear, life-imaging, close sympathy.
What but my hopes shot upward e'er so bright?
What but my fortunes sunk so low in night?

Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall,
Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all?
Was thy existence then too fanciful
For our life's common light, who are so dull?
Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold
With our congenial souls? secrets too bold?
Well, we are safe and strong, for now we sit
Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit,
Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire
Warms feet and hands—nor does to more aspire;
By whose compact, utilitarian heap
The present may sit down and go to sleep,
Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walked,
And with us by the unequal light of the old wood-fire talked.

The Dial (October 1840) p. 193

To The Ideal

Oh! what avails it thus to dream of thee,
Thou life above me, and aspire to be
A dweller in thy air serene and pure;
I wake and must lower this life endure.

Look no more on me with sun-radiant eyes,
Mine droop so dimmed, in vain my weak sense tries
To find the color of this world of clay,—
Its hue has faded, its light died away.

In charity with life, how can I live?
What most I want, does it refuse to give.
Thou, who hast laid this spell upon my soul,
Must be to me henceforth a hope and goal.

Away, thou vision! Now must there be wrought
Armor from life in which may yet be fought
A way to thee,—thy memory shall inspire,
Although thy presence is consuming fire.

As one who may not linger in the halls,
And fair domains of his ancestral home,
Goes forth to labor, yet resolves those walls
Redeemed shall see his old age cease to roam.

So exile I myself, thou dream of youth,
Thou castle where my wild thoughts wandered free.
Yet bear a heart, which through its love and truth,
Shall earn a right to throb its last with thee.

To work! with heart resigned and spirit strong,
Subdue by patient toil Time's heavy wrong;
Through nature's dullest, as her brightest ways,
We will march onward, singing to thy praise.

Yet when our souls are in new forms arrayed,
Like thine, immortal, by immortal aid,
And with forgiving blessing stand beside,
The clay in which they toiled and long were tried.

When comes that solemn "undetermined" hour,
Light of the soul's light! present be thy power;
And welcome be thou, as a friend who waits,
With joy, a soul unsphered at heaven's gates.

The Dial (January 1841) p. 400


And memories so blessed bore she hence
Of all she knew in those few earthly years
As were to her the lovely models, whence
To shape the hopes she formed for unknown spheres.

And gently then the spirit stole away,
Leaving the body in a quiet sleep,
As if 't were too much pain with living sense
To break a tie such precious years did keep;,
As if it feared to trust the waking hour,
When that form, lovely as an angel's need,
Should question why the soul left such abode,
Or why with it to heaven it might not speed.

Still lies thy child with an unspotted brow,
Earth's dust is shaken from her young feet now,
And raying light, she stands in Heaven's clear day,
Girt for an onward and victorious way;
Whom God hath housed wilt thou call back to brave
Anew those storms from which thou canst not save?

The Dial (April 1841) p. 544.

The Out-Bid

Upon a precious shrine one day
I placed a gay and sweet bouquet,
The brightest flowers of my young thought
Were with its finest perfumes wrought,
And with a riband bound, whose hue,
Emblemed a heart forever true.

Upon that shrine there also lay
A gorgeous, many-hued bouquet,
And every flower that told a thought
Was with a golden thread inwrought;
O, not so beauteous to mine eye,
As the love-knot which mine did tie.

I lingered what seemed ages there,
In hope that, answering to my prayer,
The cloud might ope, and show revealed
The form of her to whom I kneeled,
Then from that pure and jealous cloud
A lily hand its lustre showed,
And drew within the envious veil
The gift where gold made yellow pale.

I left my flowers to wither there—
That must they soon with my despair,
No more the pathway to that shrine
Shall know these wonted feet of mine;
I scorn my love's bet gifts to bring
For an unworthy bargaining.

The Dial (April 1841) p. 519

To R. W. E.

Dry lighted soul, the ray that shines in thee,
   Shot without reflex from primeval sun,
We twine the laurel for the victories
   Which thou on thought's broad, bloodless field has won.

Thou art the mountain where we climb to see
   The land our feet have trod this many a year.
Thou art the deep and crystal winter sky,
   Where noiseless, one by one, bright stars appear.

It may be Bacchus, at thy birth, forgot
   That drop from out the purple grape to press
Which is his gift to man, and so thy blood
   Doth miss the heat which ofttimes breeds excess.

But, all more surely do we turn to thee
   When the day's heat and blinding dust are o'er,
And cool our souls in thy refreshing air,
   And find the peace which we had lost before.

Hymn of a Spirit Shrouded

O God! who, in thy dear still heaven,
Dost sit, and wait to see
The errors, sufferings, and crimes
Of our humanity,
How deep must be thy Casual love!
How whole thy final care!
Since Thou, who rulest over all,
Canst see, and yet canst bear.

Æsthetic Papers (1849) pp. 211.

The Straight Road

Beauty may be the path to highest good,
And some successfully have it pursued.
Thou, who wouldst follow, be well earned to see
That way prove not a curvéd road to thee.
The straightest path perhaps which may be sought,
Lies through the great highway men call I ought.

Manuscript, published in An Historical and Biographical Introduction to Accompany The Dial by George Willis Cooke (New York: Russell & Russell, 1961) p. II:56.