Poem – The Sweet Little Man 

Now, while our soldiers are fighting our battles,

Each at his post to do all that he can,

Down among rebels and contraband chattels,

What are you doing, my sweet little man?
All the brave boys under canvas are sleeping,

All of them pressing to march with the van,

Far from the home where their sweethearts are weeping;

What are you waiting for, sweet little man?
You with the terrible warlike mustaches,

Fit for a colonel or chief of a clan,

You with the waist made for sword-belts and sashes,

Where are your shoulder-straps, sweet little man?
Bring him the buttonless garment of woman!

Cover his face lest it freckle and tan;

Muster the Apron-String Guards on the Common,

That is the corps for the sweet little man!
Give him for escort a file of young misses,

Each of them armed with a deadly rattan;

They shall defend him from laughter and hisses,

Aimed by low boys at the sweet little man.
All the fair maidens about him shall cluster,

Pluck the white feathers from bonnet and fan,

Make him a plume like a turkey-wing duster,–

That is the crest for the sweet little man!
Oh, but the Apron-String Guards are the fellows

Drilling each day since our troubles began,–

‘Handle your walking-sticks!’ ‘Shoulder umbrellas!’

That is the style for the sweet little man!
Have we a nation to save? In the first place

Saving ourselves is the sensible plan,–

Surely the spot where there’s shooting’s the worst place

Where I can stand, says the sweet little man.
Catch me confiding my person with strangers!

Think how the cowardly Bull-Runners ran!

In the brigade of the Stay-at-Home Rangers

Marches my corps, says the sweet little man.
Such was the stuff of the Malakoff-takers,

Such were the soldiers that scaled the Redan;

Truculent housemaids and bloodthirsty Quakers,

Brave not the wrath of the sweet little man!
Yield him the sidewalk, ye nursery maidens!

Sauve qui peut! Bridget, and right about! Ann;–

Fierce as a shark in a school of menhadens,

See him advancing, the sweet little man!
When the red flails of the battle-field’s threshers

Beat out the continent’s wheat from its bran,

While the wind scatters the chaffy seceshers,

What will become of our sweet little man?
When the brown soldiers come back from the borders,

How will he look while his features they scan?

How will he feel when he gets marching orders,

Signed by his lady love? sweet little man!
Fear not for him, though the rebels expect him,–

Life is too precious to shorten its span;

Woman her broomstick shall raise to protect him,

Will she not fight for the sweet little man?
Now then, nine cheers for the Stay-at-Home Ranger!

Blow the great fish-horn and beat the big pan!

First in the field that is farthest from danger,

Take your white-feather plume, sweet little man! 

Poem – The Study

YET in the darksome crypt I left so late,

Whose only altar is its rusted grate,—­

Sepulchral, rayless, joyless as it seems,

Shamed by the glare of May’s refulgent beams,—­

While the dim seasons dragged their shrouded train,

Its paler splendors were not quite in vain. 

From these dull bars the cheerful firelight’s glow

Streamed through the casement o’er the spectral snow;

Here, while the night-wind wreaked its frantic will

On the loose ocean and the rock-bound hill,

Rent the cracked topsail from its quivering yard,

And rived the oak a thousand storms had scarred,

Fenced by these walls the peaceful taper shone,

Nor felt a breath to slant its trembling cone.
Not all unblest the mild interior scene

When the red curtain spread its falling screen;

O’er some light task the lonely hours were past,

And the long evening only flew too fast;

Or the wide chair its leathern arms would lend

In genial welcome to some easy friend,

Stretched on its bosom with relaxing nerves,

Slow moulding, plastic, to its hollow curves;

Perchance indulging, if of generous creed,

In brave Sir Walter’s dream-compelling weed. 

Or, happier still, the evening hour would bring

To the round table its expected ring,

And while the punch-bowl’s sounding depths were stirred,—­

Its silver cherubs smiling as they heard,—­

Our hearts would open, as at evening’s hour

The close-sealed primrose frees its hidden flower.
Such the warm life this dim retreat has known,

Not quite deserted when its guests were flown;

Nay, filled with friends, an unobtrusive set,

Guiltless of calls and cards and etiquette,

Ready to answer, never known to ask,

Claiming no service, prompt for every task. 

On those dark shelves no housewife hand profanes,

O’er his mute files the monarch folio reigns;

A mingled race, the wreck of chance and time,

That talk all tongues and breathe of every clime,

Each knows his place, and each may claim his part

In some quaint corner of his master’s heart. 

This old Decretal, won from Moss’s hoards,

Thick-leaved, brass-cornered, ribbed with oaken boards,

Stands the gray patriarch of the graver rows,

Its fourth ripe century narrowing to its close;

Not daily conned, but glorious still to view,

With glistening letters wrought in red and blue. 

There towers Stagira’s all-embracing sage,

The Aldine anchor on his opening page;

There sleep the births of Plato’s heavenly mind,

In yon dark tomb by jealous clasps confused,

“Olim e libris” (dare I call it mine?)

Of Yale’s grave Head and Killingworth’s divine! 

In those square sheets the songs of Maro fill

The silvery types of smooth-leaved Baskerville;

High over all, in close, compact array,

Their classic wealth the Elzevirs display. 

In lower regions of the sacred space

Range the dense volumes of a humbler race;

There grim chirurgeons all their mysteries teach,

In spectral pictures, or in crabbed speech;

Harvey and Haller, fresh from Nature’s page,

Shoulder the dreamers of an earlier age,

Lully and Geber, and the learned crew

That loved to talk of all they could not do.
Why count the rest,—­those names of later days

That many love, and all agree to praise,—­

Or point the titles, where a glance may read

The dangerous lines of party or of creed? 

Too well, perchance, the chosen list would show

What few may care and none can claim to know. 

Each has his features, whose exterior seal

A brush may copy, or a sunbeam steal;

Go to his study,—­on the nearest shelf

Stands the mosaic portrait of himself.
What though for months the tranquil dust descends,

Whitening the heads of these mine ancient friends,

While the damp offspring of the modern press

Flaunts on my table with its pictured dress;

Not less I love each dull familiar face,

Nor less should miss it from the appointed place;

I snatch the book, along whose burning leaves

His scarlet web our wild romancer weaves,

Yet, while proud Hester’s fiery pangs I share,

My old MAGNALIA must be standing there! 

Poem – Within This Body 

Within this body

breathes the secret essence.

Within this body

beats the heart of the Vedas.
Within this body

shines the entire Universe,

so the saints say.
Hermits, ascetics, celibates —

all are lost

seeking Him

in endless guises.
Seers and sages perfectly parrot

the scriptures and holy books,

blinded by knowledge.
Their pilgrimage,

and fasting,

and striving

but delude.

Despite their perfect practice,

they discover no destination.
Only the saints

who know the body’s heart

have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.

Realize this, and you’ve found your freedom.
While teachers trapped in tradition

know only the mirage

in the mirror.