Edward Rowland Sill Poems >>
A Californian's Dreams

A THUNDER-STORM of the olden days!
The red sun' sinks in a sleepy haze;
The sultry twilight, close and still,
Muffles the cricket's drowsy trill.
Then a round-topped cloud rolls up the west,
Black to its smouldering, ashy crest,
And the chariot of the storm you hear,
With its jarring axle rumbling near;
Till the blue is hid, and here and there
The sudden, blinding lightnings glare.
Scattering now the big drops fall,
Till the rushing rain in a silver wall
Blurs the line of the bending elms,
Then blots them out and the landscape whelms.
A flash-a clap, and a rumbling peal:
The broken clouds the blue reveal;
The last bright drops fall far away,
And the wind, that had slept for heat all day,
With a long-drawn sigh awakes again
And drinks the cool of the blessed rain.

November! night, and a sleety storm:
Close are the ruddy curtains, warm
And rich in the glow of the roaring grate.
It may howl outside like a baffled fate,
And rage on the roof, and lash the pane
With its fierce and impotent wrath in vain.
Sitting within at our royal ease
We sing to the chime of the ivory keys,
And feast our hearts from script and score
With the wealth of the mellow hearts of yore.

A winter's night on a world of snow!
Not a sound above, not a stir below:
The moon hangs white in the icy air,
And the shadows are motionless everywhere.
Is this the planet that we know-
This silent floor of the ghostly snow?
Or is this the moon, so still and dead,
And yonder orb far overhead,
With its silver map of plain and sea,
Is that the earth where we used to be?
Shall we float away in the frosty blue
To that living, summer world we knew,
With its full, hot heart-beats as of old,
Or be frozen phantoms of the cold?

A river of ice, all blue and glare,
Under a star-shine dim and rare.
The sheeny sheet in the sparkling light
Is ribbed with slender wisps of white-
Crinkles of snow, that the flying steel
Lightly crunches with ringing heel.
Swinging swift as the swallows skim,
You round the shadowy river's rim:
Falling somewhere out of the sky
Hollow and weird is the owlet's cry;
The gloaming woods seem phantom hosts,
And the bushes cower in the snow like ghosts.

Till the tinkling feet that with you glide
Skate closer and closer to your side,
And something steals from a furry muff,
And you clasp it and cannot wonder enough
That a little palm so soft and fair
Could keep so warm in the frosty air.

'T is thus we dream in our tranquil clime,
Rooted still in the olden time;
Longing for all those glooms and gleams
Of passionate Nature's mad extremes.
Or was it only our hearts, that swelled
With the youth and life and love they held?