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Title: Sanctuary. Sunshine House Sonnets.
Author: Carman, Bliss [William Bliss] (1861-1929)
Date of first publication: 1929
Edition used as base for this ebook: Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1929
Date first posted: 7 October 2010
Date last updated: 7 October 2010
Project Gutenberg Canada ebook #635

This ebook was produced by: Al Haines

[Transcriber's note: The illustrations have not been included in this etext because their copyright status could not be determined. The source book did not have a Table of Contents. One has been added for the reader's convenience.]





Illustrations by




The Dreamer
Mew Moon I, II
Spring, Dancing
A Bluebird in March I, II, III
Early Spring
The Flute of Gold
The Wood Thrush I, II, III
June Leisure
From the Door of Heaven
White Iris I, II
The Bather
Early Summer
Bluebird in October
The Magic Maker
Indian Summer
November Sunset
Autumn Closing
Wild Geese
The Winter Scene I, II, III, IV
The Yule Tree
New Year's Eve
The Sun Room
Buddha I, II, III
A Fantasy
Five Mile River



Whence came the sweet insurgence of the Spring
That loosed the wild bird songs, the willow buds,
The twilight chorus in the marsh, and shone
Within the visionary soul of Man?...
When we behold in August on a day
The goldenrod upon a thousand trails,
The asters in blue drifts through clearings wild,
And every roadside gay with meadow rue—
The poet's recompense and traveller's joy—
When, thrilled by beauty passing thought, we sense
That harmony which is the artist's peace
And presage of creation, then we know
One walked with love among the misty hills
In a gray cloak of rain, and dreamed a dream.


Out of the turmoil whither shall I go?
How cure the fever of a mind distraught,
The crazed futility of haste assuage,
And dear serenity's lost poise restore?
Is there no respite for the racing pulse,
No haven from the day's demoniac din
And the relentless frenzy of the night?
Where may the haunting peace of God be found?
No cabined luxury contents the soul,
Homesick for solace of its native air.
For healing of the wind among the pines,
The stilling beauty of the clear new moon,
The strength of hills, the joy of singing streams,
Take any road at hand, to Out-of-doors.



How many a time have we not seen with joy
The new moon in the West, the longed-for sign
Glory shall fail not with recurring time.
Each month in flawless wonder reappears
That miracle of light and fantasy—
The faithful lamp the Twilight Sibyl bears,
Protectress of the fond in heart, who dwells
Upon the borders of the sacred night.
In April when the woodlands ring with song
Or in December's leafless solitude,
She comes to take away the fret of life
And with sheer ecstasy set all things free;
While the adoring soul in stillness waits,
Love like the frailest windflower revives.


Ah, yes! For love is not a graven stone
Nor sainted image cast in changeless bronze,
To front the onslaughts of tempestuous time
And the slow ravages of frost endure.
It is more like a blossom of the field
Springing in meadow corners unobserved
Or from the common roadside in the dust,
To be the marvel of the passer-by.
Within the fallow of the heart there falls
A chance-sown seed of glory on a day;
Our rapture warms it like the kindly sun,
Our tears of sorrow nourish it like rain;
And there, as in our own door-yard, behold
An immortal flower the Heavenly Gardener tends.


Under gray skies the mirror of the lake
Reflects the misty flush of the young leaves.
From its smooth lip the pastel woodlands rise
In the soft-tinted loveliness of May
Over the dark-stemmed brushwood Spring has thrown
Her impalpable veil of changing green and red,
Like an elusive sorceress who lays
Her spell of wonder on a waiting world.
And all her lovers who had half forgot
Her beauty must arise and follow her,
Enthralled as ever by her witchery.
A breath of wind comes ruffling the smooth lake
And strews the white plum-blossoms on the grass,
Stirring old transports, and is still again.


Here April wanders from the rainy Sound—
Ethereal Beauty in her shining veil,
Like a slow-dancing Sibyl comes with joy.
Enraptured we behold her mystic form
Gleam through the silvery showers against the hill,
And must forever follow on her trace,
Enchanted as in some old fairy tale
By the enthralling sorceries of the earth.
And hark, what music for her pomp is made
In the awakening meadows, where the stream
Murmurs at twilight when the moon is large,
And through the alders in the marshy ground
Rises the watery treble of the frogs—
The eerie and haunted Pan-pipes of the Spring.



When the sun shines upon the crust of March
In the bare wood, how blue the shadows lie
Along the snow between the gray tree-boles!
And where the muffled stream runs, bluer still
Between its snowy banks edged with frail ice,
The silvery oaks and sugar maples stand
Like a faint tracing on a lacquer tray,
Or a worn pattern on old Sheffield plate.
The strong sun melts the snow in open places;
A calling crow flies over, trailing north
His silent shadow down the wooded slope;
And then to bring the winter scene to life,
Etched on the memory like a haunting smile
A bluebird flashes to an apple bough.


Now great Orion journeys to the West,
The Lord of Winter from the world withdraws,
And all his glittering house of cold dissolves.
Ice-storm and crust and powdery drift are gone,
And a soft hush of morning fills the world.
In rocky groves the sugar maples drip,
Till the sweet sap o'erbrims the shining pails;
The snow slides from the roofs in the warm sun;
Along spring-runs the first young green appears;
The willow saplings in the meadow lot
Put on their saffron veils with silver sheen
As if for some approaching festival;
And hark, from field to field one note proclaims
The Phantasm of Spring is on the move!


It is the gladdening note our fathers heard
In Puritan New England in old days,
On Marchy mornings when the wind grew still,
Telling them winter would not always last.
How soft it falls, how plaintive yet how sure!
Clear as a call from heaven, that cheery cry
Heralds the reawakening of earth,
And sets the frost-bound urge of life astir.
Is he not of that blessed company
To whom Saint Francis carried the new word—
Of Joyous resurrection and brave life—
The gospel of Victorious ecstasy?
In the bright hush he pauses to repeat
His canticle of transport undismayed.


Now the soft rain comes over the blue hill,
And the red-shouldered blackbird sounds his flute
Along the meadows of the Silvermine.
Between its willow banks the winding stream
Is tinged with violet dusk, as the great moon
Rises in splendor on the Eastern ridge,
And through the twilight all the marshy ground
Rings with the silver chorus of the frogs.
In rocky groves the shy hepaticas
Awake to don their softest blue once more,
And troops of golden adder's-tongue return.
In cool damp woods Jack-in-the-pulpit stands,
And the dark trillium for a mystic sign;
That all the old earth magic is renewed.


Just on the verge of summer, when the air
Of our warm May is redolent with bloom
Of honeysuckle and flaunting peonies
And the white pear tree shedding spicy balm,
With the first heat there falls a waiting hush,—
A faint sweet stillness, as if Nature swooned
At the on-coming of her own desire,
With sense of things too lovely to be borne.
For the blue door of Heaven is left ajar,
And all the dreamful ardor of the spring
Is spent for rapture in a moment now.
And where the dogwood spreads its drifts like snow
Among the greenery of the forest dim,
The first swamp-robin tries his flute of gold.



When the May eve is soft with misty rain
And all the world is hushed as in a trance,
Save for a white-throat singing far away,
The woods are tinged with purple in the dusk,
Where Spring's green fire is smouldering into life.
It surges to the tree-tops like a tide,
Touches the peach trees at the garden's end,
And burns among the tulips in cool flame.
Ah, then we listen for the magic note
We know must come with soul enchantment soon—
Clear as the mythic pipes men used to hear
In wild Arcadian valleys long ago
Haunting the woodlands with supernal cry—
The clear impassioned ecstasy of life.


Hark, from the twilit wood beyond the road,
Those leisurely enraptured cadences
Borne on the dusk deliberate and pure,
As if the player in long ages past
Knowing all grief had learned to put it by,
In a calm melody where no fear is.
That is our wood-thrush who each year returns
To be the heart's interpreter of Spring.
Minstrel of solitude and poet's lore,
His is the music of unspoken things.
Hark how the minor tenderness of time,
Old wistful longings and the storied years,
Blend in untarnished gladness, melt and sing
The unembittered rapture of the hour.


O music maker of the pagan Spring,
Untrammeled seraph of the wilderness!
How should he know the truth at beauty's core,
Or solve the strange enigma of desire?
For through those wild melodious cadences
The tender phrase of earthly sorrow blends
With the pure theme of spirit's certitude
Grown rapturous above all taking thought,
In that serene victorious artistry.
For all the labored questing of our art,
Who finds the sorcery of Nature's way,
And how her free born wisdom works its will?
Before this woodland canticle we bow,
Knowing perfection ... immortality!


When June revisits the New England shore,
She takes the road along the Silvermine,
Where noble trees in every dooryard stand
And shadowy gardens full of dreamy peace
Spread all the full-blown peonies to the sun.
By every orchard wall the air is sweet
With breath of honeysuckle, and the air
Filled with the murmur of the industrious bees;
The river babbles down its dark ravine
By the old mill; the bobolinks spring up,
Scattering music as of fairy bells
From every open field; a few white clouds
Wander across the unimagined blue;
And all is well again with earth and heaven.


Now the tall tulip trees have lifted up
Their green-gold chalices against the sun,
And the white locusts from the door of Heaven
Spill their honied fragrance on the air.
Over the open fields the bobolinks
Toss the gay music of their carillons
Down to the pasture foot where bob-white calls,
And through the meadow blows the purple flag.
By many a wild trail in the wooded hills,
And many a path along the foaming shore,
With unforgotten rapture of old years
And airs that lift the heart on ventures new,
June is come back to her New England home
To make of earth a paradise once more.



The South wind snows the apple blossoms down
And scatters on the grass the petals white;
The sky turns azure from its faint spring gray,
And all the woods put on their summer green;
Fresh is the air with ecstasy new born;
And by the garden wall whose old gray stones
Show purple where the netted sunlight falls,
White Iris now her oriflame unfurls.
Beneath that emblem who would not enroll?
For this is beauty's banner blown afar
To signal how it fares with Earth's deep heart,
Breeding her fancies to perfection still
And bringing them in loveliness to birth,
According to the ordered thought triune.


This is the artist's sign that bids him dare—
The craftsman's symbol of supremacy—
The trefoil of perfection, showing forth
How skill and understanding must conspire
With the Lord of Love to bring heart's wish to pass
In goodliness, in beauty, and in truth,
That loving kindness may possess the world,
And joyous wisdom prosper to the end.
As when the Word first moved upon the void
And swung the planets in stupendous poise,
And there was light—and life—to carry on—
It moves today to form, inspire, sustain—
Man and his doings on the brink of time,
And this frail flower unanxious in the sun.


The painted tulips, like a glorious host
With pennons nodding in the warm south wind,
Crowd by the garden walks; in the fresh grass
The dandelions are strewn like louis-d'ors;
Adoring lilacs blossom by the porch;
While through the orchard in its clouds of bloom
The whistling orioles dart like flakes of fire,
And down beyond the roadside calls a quail.
In the on-coming haze of summer now
That floods the earth with languor and pale fire,
The mellowing woods are like a frail Corot—
Where dark stems merge with misty red and green
Reflected in the gray-green of the lake,
Tranced on the brink a slim young bather stands.


In early summer now the world anew
Is fashioned by the south wind and the sun
And that dark sorcery which no man knows.
The greening woods, the orchards in full blow,
The bright marsh-marigolds by pasture streams,
And hollyhocks along the garden wall—
The scene is like a gorgeous tapestry
Hung in some old gray castle by the sea,
Along whose corridors no footfall sounds,
And only fragrant winds with ghostly hands
Its hallowed timeless reveries disturb.
And so within the summer's pageantry
Along austere New England's shadowed ways
Immortal calm of loveliness abides.


Now when the time of fruit and grain is come,
When apples hang above the garden wall,
And from the tangle by the roadside stream
A scent of wild grapes fills the racy air,
Comes Autumn with her sun-burnt caravan,
Like a long gypsy train with trappings gay
And tattered colors of the Orient,
Moving slow-footed through the dreamy hills.
The woods of Wilton, at her coming, wear
Tints of Bokhara and of Samarcand;
The maples glow with their Pompeian red,
The hickories with burnt Etruscan gold;
And while the crickets fife along her march,
Behind her banners burns the crimson sun.


When the October woods in Orient dyes
Are at their peak of splendor, and the bloom
Of Indian summer lies upon the Hills,
There is a hushed expectancy, as if
Some medieval city on a morn,
Emblazoned with pure gold and scarlet gems,
Waited entranced a silver trumpet call
To sound its fanfare for triumphal news.
And then across the sunburnt valley comes—
No sudden cry of any victory,
Nor answering tumult of the charmed scene—
Only, repeated like a litany
Of the fond heart, a bluebird's plaintive note,
Homesick for April, native of the Spring.


Where the old Danbury Turnpike branches off
From the Valley Road to cross our meadow stream,
There is a shallow where the river sings
Slipping under the bridge where willows lean
From crumbling banks. There on a spell-bound day,
Through the blue hazy doorway of the hills
October with her mystic pomp comes by.
As children watch a painter at his work
In awe until they win his slow regard,
The smile of those who dream and understand,
We linger on entranced by glowing earth,
The splendor of the blazoned woods all still,
The pattern of the everlasting hours....
The lone Designer of Indian Summer smiles.


Lord of the sunshine and the soul of earth,
Here in the slow autumnal afternoon
Drenched in the balm that sweetens the blue grape
And keeps the cricket chirping in the grass,
Musing on loveliness there come to us
Hints of supernal artistry,—we learn
The folly of impatience and despair.
Not the sublime sierras in their snows
Guarding the secrets of the Manitou,
Nor desert ranges flushed with sunrise gold,
Silent in wonder, nor the fragrant moors
Above the summer sea, are lovelier
Than these haze-haunted Indian-summer lands
In the wild Valley of the Rippowam.


Up from Broad River to the Wilton hills
The valley lies in late November now,
Flooded with purple twilight warm as wine.
Northward the woods lie far and wide outspread
In their wild peace, their gray austerity
Bathed in the ash of autumn's passing glow—
The mellow consolation of the year
More mystical than all of summer's pride.
Upon the western ridge, where the trees stand
In silhouette against a cold green light,
The scarlet sun goes down in amethyst,
His day accomplished and the solemn hour
Of his departure lit with sacred fires
That flush the sky with a supernal mauve.


The show is over, and the leafy tent
All gold and crimson where the sunlight lingered
Through the slow afternoon, is coming down.
The bittersweet is scarlet on the bough
Reluctant to be gone, though frosts have strewn
Patrins of glory on the forest trails,
While tatters of torn splendor go to feed
The smoky bonfires in the village street.
What singer pipes the closing autumn hush
With surest note of cheer in all the wild?
A dauntless minstrel of the changing year,
Chickadee of the wilderness! He knows
What sweetness gathers in the winter's heart,
What saving oracles the North Wind sings.


They do not come when gorgeous June is here,
Nor with the pomp of August passing by.
But when the roadside asters are all gone
With the last trace of summer from the fields—
When the last cricket has long since been hushed
And earth awaits in silence the first frost—
In white and mauve, dark red and antique gold,
These true patricians of the garden come.
When snow is in the air and low gray skies
Are bleak with coming winter, like a host
In medieval frescoes many-hued
With banners and TE DEUMS, they return
To offer brave Thanksgiving and to grace
Deserted gardens with their noble praise.


To-night with snow in the November air,
Over the roof I heard that startling cry
Passing along the highway of the dark—
The Wild Geese going South. Confused commands
As of a column on the march rang out
Clamorous and sharp against the frosty air.
And with an answering tumult in my heart
I too went hurrying out into the night
Was it from some deep immemorial past
I learned those summoning signals and alarms,
And still must answer to my brothers' call?
I knew the darkling hope that bade them rise
From Northern lakes, and with courageous hearts
Adventure forth on their uncharted quest.



The rutted roads are all like iron; skies
Are keen and brilliant; only the oak-leaves cling
In the bare woods, or the hardy bitter-sweet;
Drivers have put their sheepskin jackets on;
And all the ponds are sealed with sheeted ice
That rings with stroke of skate and hockey-stick,
Or in the twilight cracks with running whoop.
Bring in the logs of oak and hickory,
And make an ample blaze on the wide hearth.
Now is the time, with winter o'er the world,
For books and friends and yellow candle-light,
And timeless lingering by the settling fire.
While all the shuddering stars are keen with cold.


Out from the silent portal of the hours,
When frosts are come and all the hosts put on.
Their burnished gear to march across the night
And o'er a darkened earth in splendor shine,
Slowly above the world Orion wheels
His glittering square, while on the shadowy hill
And throbbing like a sea-light through the dusk,
Great Sirius rises in his flashing blue.
Lord of the winter night, august and pure,
Returning year on year untouched by time,
To hearten faith with thine unfaltering fire,
There are no hurts that beauty cannot ease,
No ills that love cannot at last repair,
In the victorious progress of the soul.


Russet and white and gray is the oak wood
In the great snow. Still from the North it comes,
Whispering, settling, sifting through the trees,
O'erloading branch and twig. The road is lost.
Clearing and meadow, stream and ice-bound pond
Are made once more a trackless wilderness
In the white hush where not a creature stirs;
And the pale sun is blotted from the sky.
In that strange twilight the lone traveller halts
To listen to the stealthy snowflakes fall.
And then far off toward the Stamford shore,
Where through the storm the coastwise liners go,
Faint and recurrent on the muffled air,
A foghorn booming through the smother—hark!


When the day changed and the mad wind died down,
The powdery drifts that all day long had blown
Across the meadows and the open fields,
Or whirled like diamond dust in the bright sun,
Settled to rest, and for a tranquil hour
The lengthening bluish shadows on the snow
Stole down the orchard slope, and a rose light
Flooded the earth with beauty and with peace.
Then in the west behind the cedars black
The sinking sun stained red the winter dusk
With sullen flare upon the snowy ridge,—
As in a masterpiece by Hokusai,
Where on a background gray, with flaming breath
A scarlet dragon dies in dusky gold.


When winter comes, along the Silvermine,
And earth has put away her green attire,
With all the pomp of her autumnal pride,
The world is made a sanctuary old,
Where Gothic trees uphold the arch of gray,
And gaunt stone fences on the ridge's crest
Stand like carved screens before a crimson shrine,
Showing the sunset glory through the chinks.
There, like a nun with frosty breath, the soul,
Uplift in adoration, sees the world
Transfigured as a temple of her Lord;
While down the soft blue-shadowed aisles of snow
Night, like a sacristan with silent step,
Passes to light the tapers of the stars.


Look out, dear heart, above the twilight wood!
There in the blue-gray of the winter dusk,
Above the dark-lined tree-tops still with cold,
The evening star in limpid glory hangs,—
In everlasting beauty as it hung
Above the walls of Ninevah and Tyre,
And where the Lesbian oleanders flowered,
The lover's star of prophesy and peace.
Ah, yes, unsullied and immortal still,
It shines for you and me, and will shine on
When we have left this lovely country side,
Forever lighting up the dream of man,—
The star of friendship and felicity,
A lamp within the entry of the night.


Now on the night when Christ was born, bring in
The evergreen and heavenward pointing fir,
By Winfrid blessed a thousand years ago
To be the emblem of eternal life
And fragrant hardihood through all its days.
Well has it served to keep the forest cheer,
To shelter the wild creatures from the snow,
For sill and rafter and quick kindling fire.
Ever aspiring and unbowed it grows,
Saving the good committed to its care,
And to its holy fruitage comes at last,—
Bearing upon its boughs the gifts of love,
Immortal memories and glad surprise,
Making the children's eyes to shine like stars.


The air is pulsing as with crowding wings.
Migrant Ideals and valiant-hearted Dreams,
The Heavenly vanguard of eternity,
Muster to cross the frontier of new days.
A brave unhasting company, they throng
Out of old years with life's immortal zest,—
In gleaming panoply of seraphim
Advance these dauntless heralds of all good.
'Tis midnight hour. The clanging bells break forth.
The march of man has crossed the boundary
Into another year. Close up the ranks!
Our ancients bid, fare on! New Year, Salute!
The promise of the past is on your knees.
The glory of all time is unto God.


From snow-bound paths and shortened afternoons
One step to summer warmth's beatitude,
The desert's balm, the Orient's opulence!
A buckskin wall, a poppy-golden floor,
Tables and benches bold in lacquer red,
A Zuni blanket, Indian pottery,
And gorgeous chintz gay with great fabulous birds,—
All glowing life. Outside as day burns low,
Within his rocky hollow the gray brook
Makes iridescent frost-work where it runs
Through the blue snow; while o'er the purpling ridge
Where black woods stand against a pale jade sky,
Between two oaks a Mandarin-orange sun
Hangs like a Chinese gong immense and still.



In Burmese alabaster white and smooth,
Two thousand years ago the workman cut,
And pricked with gold, fine scarlet and dull blue,
This seated image of the Lord of Life.
The face still wears its infinite regard;
The mouth still curves with its ineffable smile;
The hand lies open in the folded lap;
And still the generations do not know.
Here for remembrance reverently we place,
With thoughts made gentler by his gentleness,
The yellow daffodils in early spring;
The blue flag from the meadows in high June;
And the red lilies of the August moors;
Praying for love, for wisdom and for peace.


Immortal brother of the tranquil soul,
On the first day when winter is gone by
And the soft twilight has a tender hue,
In sign of love we bring the yellow flowers,—
These chalices of sunlight cooled in earth,—
As symbols of the never-wearying life
Which takes new form yet keeps its fervor pure,
And out of darkness into light returns.
Where may the seed of love within the heart
Prosper and grow and fill all time with joy,
As the green blade comes up through garden mould,
Breaking to bud and blossoming in the sun,
Till all the world is a victorious host
With golden banners floating on the breeze?


And now, in summer when the arch of sky
Bends o'er us its far illimitable blue,
To meet the azure of the ocean floor
Upon the threshold of infinity,
By many a far-run stream in alien ground,
And where our garden takes the warming sun,
Blows the blue meadow-flag, to carpet earth
With tints of sky and shadows of the sea.
As in our minds from seeds of knowledge bloom
The flowers of wisdom, colored with the light
Of dreams and shadowings of eager life,
For Buddha in her season Iris blooms,—
A symbol of creation's loveliness
In her pure color of eternal truth.


Against the South Room wall of Sunshine House
There hangs a Japanese embroidery.
Upon a background of bright whorls of gold
Long drooping lines of blue wistaria sway,
While from the pond below white cranes upwing
Trailing their slim black legs in heavy flight,
Or turn with sleek necks and red eyes to peer
In the pale reedy shallows where they wade.
And there, when all the paths were locked in snow,
On many a summer journey I have gone
Through that fantastic land of golden art,
Where flowers fade not, the sun never dies,
And prisoned Sense may rove away from time,
A happy wanderer through Heart's Desire.


Deep in New England's heart there is a dell
Where Five Mile River sings the whole year through.
In May the ivory dogwood blossoms there
And the blue flag, while with the evening star
Through green twilight it hears the angelic thrush.
On summer eves it serenades the moon
While fireflies swing their lanterns from its banks.
And there the October woods outspread a maze
Of rose and russet and Etruscan gold,
More precious than the Vale of Avalon
Or any road to storied Camelot.
A-tinkle with thin ice on frosty morns
Our happy river still is chiming low
The woodland music of enchanted hours.


Heaven is no larger than Connecticut;
No larger than Fairfield County; no, no larger
Than the little valley of the Silvermine
The white sun visits and the wandering showers.
For there is room enough for spring's return,
For lilac evenings and the rising moon,
And time enough for autumn's idle days,
When soul is ripe for immortality.
And there when winter comes with smouldering dusk
To kindle rosy flames upon the hearth,
And hang his starry belt upon the night,
One firelit room is large enough for heaven,
For all we know of wisdom and of love,
And the eternal welfare of the heart.

[End of Sanctuary by Bliss Carman]