Poetry by John B. Tabb: A Centenary Selection

284 poems in 56 sets, chosen and arranged by E. L. Core, 2009.

Rev. John Banister Tabb (March 22, 1845 - November 19, 1909) was an American poet, Catholic priest, and professor of English. Born into one of Virginia's oldest and wealthiest families, he became a blockade runner for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and spent eight months in a Union prison camp; he converted to the Catholic Church in 1872, and began to teach Greek and English at Saint Charles College (Ellicott City, Maryland) in 1878. He was ordained as a priest in 1884, after which he retained his academic position. Plagued by eye problems his whole life, Father Tabb lost his sight completely about a year before he died in the college rooms that he had continued to occupy after his retirement.

The references (page number and section) are to The Poetry of Father Tabb, ed. Francis A. Litz, Ph.D. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1928). All of the poems in this centenary selection were originally published before 1923.


To a Songster

O little bird, I’d be
A poet like to thee,
Singing my native song—
Brief to the ear, but long
To love and memory.

April 1902 (p. xvii, Epigraph)

In Solitude

Like as a brook that all night long
Sings, as at noon, a bubble-song
   To sleep’s unheeding ear,
The poet to himself must sing,
When none but God is listening
   The lullaby to hear.

March 1896 (p. 168, Life and Death: Poetry)


O leaf upon the highest bough,
The poet of the woods art thou
   To whom alone ’tis given—
The farthest from thy place of birth—
To hold communion with the earth,
   Nor lose the light of heaven.

O leaf upon the topmost height,
Amid thy heritage of light
   Unsheltered by a shade,
’Tis thine the loneliness to know
That leans for sympathy below
   Nor finds what it hath made.

May 1895 (p. 26, Nature: Trees)


The sweetest warblers—one in light,
And one in darkness, screened from sight—
   By voice alone prevail;
So let the poet sing his song,
As far secluded from the throng
   As lark or nightingale.

1910 (p. 168, Life and Death: Poetry)


A gleam of heaven; the passion of a star
   Held captive in the clasp of harmony;
A silence, shell-like, breathing from afar
   The rapture of the deep—eternity.

July-August 1892 (p. 359, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)



In every seed to breathe the flower,
   In every drop of dew
To reverence a cloistered star
   Within the distant blue;
To wait the promise of the bow,
   Despite the cloud between,
Is Faith—the fervid evidence
   Of loveliness unseen.

August 1895 (p. 222, Religion: Doctrine)


He cannot as he came depart—
   The Wind that woos the Rose;
Her fragrance whispers in his heart
   Wherever hence he goes.

November 1897 (p. 328, Quatrains: Flowers)

All in All

We know Thee, each in part—
   A portion small;
But love Thee, as Thou art—
   The All in all:
For Reason and the rays thereof
Are starlight to the noon of Love.

December 1897 (p. 221, Religion: Doctrine)

Bartimeus to the Bird

Had I no revelation but thy voice,
   No word but thine,
Still would my soul in certitude rejoice
   That love divine
Thy heart, his hidden instrument, employs,
   To waken mine.

November 1898 (p. 42, Nature: Birds)

My Portion

I know not what a day may bring;
For now ’tis sorrow that I sing,
   And now ’tis joy.
In both a father’s hand I see;
For one renews the man in me,
   And one the boy.

September 1909 (p. 146, Life and Death: Joy and Sorrow)

[Bartimeus to the Bird: Bartimeus, Greek son of Timeus; timeus means perfect, admirable, honorable; it is the name of the blind beggar in the Gospel story related in Mark 10:46-52.]


God’s Likeness

Not in mine own, but in my neighbor’s face,
   Must I Thine image trace;
Nor he in his, but in the light of mine,
   Behold thy Face Divine.

April 1894 (p. 338, Quatrains: Religion)

Deus Absconditus

My God has hid Himself from me
Behind whatever else I see;
Myself—the nearest mystery—
As far beyond my grasp as He.

And yet, in darkest night, I know,
While lives a doubt-discerning glow,
That larger lights above it throw
These shadows in the vale below.

September 1892 - February 1896 (p. 219, Religion: Doctrine)

The Stranger

He entered, but the mask he wore
Concealed his face from me.
Still, something I had seen before
   He brought to memory.

“Who art thou? What thy rank, thy name?”
I questioned, with surprise.
“Thyself,” the laughing answer came,
   “As seen of others’ eyes.”

1894 (p. 241, Himself and Others)


At twilight on the open sea
We passed with breath of melody—
A song, to each familiar, sung
In accents of an alien tongue.

We could not see each other’s face,
Nor through the growing darkness trace
Our destinies; but brimming eyes
Betrayed unworded sympathies.

1894 (p. 246, Himself and Others)

My Neighbor

My neighbor as myself to love,
   Thou hast commanded me,
And in obedience I prove
   That Thou Thyself art he.

1910 (p. 346, Quatrains: Religion)

[Deus Absconditus: Latin, Hidden God; see Isaiah 45:15.]



The little streams that onward flow
   To mingle ere they meet the sea,
Know not that heaven hath willed it so
   Till one their waters be.

And, from their fountain heads apart,
   The lives that love hath led to me,
Till heart was wedded unto heart,
   Knew not their destiny.

March 1899 (p. 141, Life and Death: Love)

An Influence

I see thee—heaven’s unclouded face
   A vacancy around thee made,
Its sunshine a subservient grace
   Thy lovelier light to shade.

I feel thee, as the billows feel
   A river freshening the brine;
A life’s libation poured to heal
   The bitterness of mine.

October 1889 (p. 133, Life and Death: Love)

The Ring

Hold the trinket near thine eye,
And it circles earth and sky;
Place it further, and behold!
But a finger’s breadth of gold.

Thus our lives, beloved, lie
Ringed with love’s fair boundary;
Place it further, and its sphere
Measures but a falling tear.

June 1885 (p. 130, Life and Death: Love)


How many an acorn falls to die
   For one that makes a tree!
How many a heart must pass me by
   For one that cleaves to me!

How many a suppliant wave of sound
   Must still unheeded roll
For one low utterance that found
   An echo in my soul!

October 1892 (p. 133, Life and Death: Love)

A Sunset Song

Fade not yet, O summer day,
For my love hath answered yea;
Keep us from the coming night,
Lest our blossom suffer blight.

Fear thou not; if love be true,
Closer will it cleave to you.
’Tis the darkened hours that prove
Faith or faithlessness in love.

May 1908 (p. 143, Life and Death: Love)

[A Sunset Song: the first stanza is addressed to the summer day; the second stanza is the summer day’s reply.]


Deep Unto Deep

Where limpid waters lie between,
There only heaven to heaven is seen;
Where flows the tide of mutual tears
There only heart to heart appears.

August 1894 (p. 366, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

The Rain-Pool

I am too small for winds to mar
My surface; but I hold a Star
That teaches me, though low my lot,
That highest heaven forgets me not.

1902 (p. 337, Quatrains: Day and Night)

“For the Rain It Raineth Every Day”

Aye, every day the rain doth fall,
And every day doth rise;
’Tis thus the heavens incessant call,
And thus the earth replies.

November 1892 (p. 356, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


Out of the deep are we,
Out of that inland sea
Whereof the briny wave
Beats to the yawning grave.

1910 (p. 369, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

The Sun

He prisons many a life indeed
Within the narrow cells of seed,
But cannot call them forth again
Without the sesame of rain.

April 1893 (p. 331, Quatrains: Day and Night)

[Deep Unto Deep: the poem echoes Psalm 41:8 (enumerated Psalm 42:7 in most Bibles). For the Rain It Raineth Every Day: the title is from Shakespeare: Twelfth Night (Act V, Scene I) or King Lear (Act III, Scene II). The Sun: understand sesame as in Open, Sesame from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in Arabian Nights.]



Lo, where the routed shadows pass,
Upon each lifted blade of grass
   The tokens of a fray—
Pale life-drops from the heart of night,
Mute witnesses of sudden flight
   Before the host of day.

October 1892 (p. 83, Nature: Day and Night)


A note so near the dawn
   Too timid was to stay
Till shadows all were gone,
   But, dreamlike, sped away
While paled the hesitating sky
   For Day to bloom or Night to die.

1902 (p. 76, Nature: Day and Night)


Thou hast not looked on Yesterday,
   Nor shalt Tomorrow see;
Upon thy solitary way
   Is none to pilot thee:—
Thou comest to thine own
A stranger and alone.

And yet, alas, thy countenance
   To us familiar seems;
The wonder of thy wakening glance,
   The vanishing of dreams,
Is like an old refrain
From silence come again.

1902 (p. 72, Nature: Day and Night)


Behold, as from a silver horn,
   The sacerdotal night
Outpours upon his latest-born
   The chrism of the light;
And bids him to the altar come,
   Whereon for sacrifice,
(A lamb before his shearers, dumb,)
   A victim shadow lies.

October 1895 (p. 71, Nature: Day and Night)

The Dayspring

What hand with spear of light
Hath cleft the side of Night,
And from the red wound wide
Fashioned the Dawn, his bride?

Was it the deed of Death?
Nay; but of Love, that saith,
“Henceforth be Shade and Sun,
In bonds of Beauty, one.”

1894 (p. 71, Nature: Day and Night)

[Dawn: sacerdotal means priestly; chrism is the oil used during sacramental rites such as Confirmation and Ordination; the penultimate line alludes to Isaiah 53:7 and Acts 8:32.]



Close cleaving unto silence, into sound
   She ventures as a timorous child from land,
Still glancing, at each step, around,
   Lest suddenly she lose her sister’s hand.

September 1893 (p. 361, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

Stilling the Tempest

’Twas all she could:—The gift that Nature gave,
   The torrent of her tresses, did she spill
Before His feet: and lo, the troubled wave
   Of passion heard His whisper, “Peace, be still!”

April 1895 (p. 362, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

The Bubble

Why should I stay? Nor seed nor fruit have I.
   But, sprung at once to beauty’s perfect round,
   Nor loss, nor gain, nor change in me is found—
A life-complete in death-complete to die.

October 1891 (p. 358, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


What art thou, balmy sleep?
“Foam from the fragrant deep
Of silence, hither blown
From the hushed waves of tone.”

September 1892 (p. 360, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


A sea wherein the rivers of all sound
   Their streams incessant pour,
But whence no tide returning e’er hath found
   An echo on the shore.

August 1894 (p. 364, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Stilling the Tempest: the poem skillfully amalgamates the Gospel stories of the sinful woman washing the Lord’s feet with her hair, Luke 7:36-50, and of the Lord Jesus calming the waves, Mark 4:35-40.]



Anonymous—nor needs a name
To tell the secret whence the flame,
With light, and warmth, and incense, came
A new creation to proclaim.

So was it when, His labor done,
God saw His work, and smiled thereon:
His glory in the picture shone,
But name upon the canvas none.

1897 (p. 160, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: The World)

Earth’s Tribute

First the grain, and then the blade—
The one destroyed, the other made;
Then stalk and blossom, and again
The gold of newly minted grain.

So life, by death the reaper cast
To earth, again shall rise at last;
For ’tis the service of the sod
To render God the things of God.

April 1892 (p. 159, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: The World)


Each separate life is fed
From many a fountain-head;
   Tides that we never know
   Into our being flow,
And rays of the remotest star
Converge to make us what we are.

December 1908 (p. 117, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Life)


Alike from depths of joy and sorrow start
   The rain-drops of the heart;
Alike from sweet and briny waves arise
   The tear-drops of the skies.
And back to earth salt tears and freshening rain
   Alike must flow again.

December 1893 (p. 111, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Life)

The Astronomer

The little dome that holds the brain,
Whereby he measures from afar
The influence of steadfast star
   Or moving moon and sun—
Both vaster mysteries contain
   Than those he looks upon;
Nay, such the marvel that perchance
The spheres in mute amazement scan,
The while they meet his upward glance,
   The deeper mind of man.

1923 (p. 118, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Life)

[Earth’s Tribute: the last line alludes to the answer given by the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees and Herodians in Matthew 22:15-22.]


A Hairbreadth

’Tis in the twinkle of escape
   That all our safety lies.
Of danger, whatsoe’er the shape,
   The nearness naught implies:
This side is life; that side, a breath
   Of deviation, instant death.

’Tis in the present I am free
   The mental die to cast;
The future yet of mastery
   Is palsied as the past;
Between, the breathless balance still
   Awaits the hesitating will.

April 1900 (p. 222, Religion: Doctrine)


   Reason, have done!
   Of thee I’ll none
While face to face I see the sun.

   Be thine the ray
   To point the way
In darkness: but, behold, ’tis day.

   Should faith divine
   Forbear to shine,
Again I’ll place my hand in thine.

   For in thy sight
   To walk aright
Is prelude to the perfect light.

1910 (p. 224, Religion: Doctrine)

The Sisters

The waves forever move;
The hills forever rest:
Yet each the heavens approve,
And love alike hath blessed
A Martha’s household care,
A Mary’s cloistered prayer.

1897 (p. 95, Nature: Miscellaneous)


From flame to snow—
         E’en so
Must all perfection flow.
   Each pure desire
   Is fledged with fire
And needs must grow
   From dark to light,
   Till, passion past,
Transfigured in its flight,
   It stand at last
Unblushing on the topmost height
   With sister souls in white,
To follow still the Lamb
   Wherever He may go.

(p. 235, Religion: Doctrine)


Like the manna, mute as snow,
Swift the moments come and go,
Each sufficient for the needs
Of the multitude it feeds;
One to all, and all to one,
Superfluity to none,
Ever dying but to give
Life whereon alone we live.

1910 (p. 138, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Love)

[Purification: the last two lines allude to Revelation 14:4. Moments: the poem alludes to the Old Testament story of God providing the Israelites with manna from heaven for their daily food; see Exodus 16, especially verses 18-21.]


To My Lamp

Companion of my vigil, silently,
At midnight, when the voiceful world is still,
Alone with me thou watchest. Peaceably
Thy radiance stems the darkened tide and chill
That floods the outer prospect. On thy ray
Night’s foamless torrent breaks not, but retires
As from a charmed circle, far away,
To glooms beyond. E’en so, Promethean fires,
Within my throbbing temples, fed of pain,
Resist the powers around them—wild desires,
Fevered of passion, as the troubled main
That slumbers not. Thy task with morn expires,
But nought to me of respite brings the day,
Till life is wasted, as thine oil, away.

1882 (p. 275, Sonnets)

Ad Montem

I lift mine eyes, and lo! impetuous tears
Bedim them, as the tides of thought o’erflow
The soul’s expansion. On thy peaks of snow,
Above the boreal revel, Nature hears
The chorus of the night-enkindled spheres
Roll westward, while their flickering torches grow
Like phantoms, in the orient’s warmer glow,
Ere yet the Dawn’s imperial crest appears.
But on thy deep foundations slumber Night
And everlasting Silence. ’Tis their dream
Alone that lingers when the darkness wanes;
Amid the ephemeral seasons’ bloom and blight,
When earth and sky and ocean changeful seem,
That sovereign Calm inviolate remains.

1882 (p. 277, Sonnets)


As one who in the hush of twilight hears
The pausing pulse of nature, when the Light
Commingles in the dim mysterious rite
Of darkness with the mutual pledge of tears,
Till soft, anon, one timorous star appears,
Pale-budding as the earliest blossom white
That comes in winter’s livery bedight,
To hide the gifts of genial spring she bears—
So, unto me—what time the mysteries
Of consciousness and slumber weave a dream
And pause above it with abated breath,
Like intervals in music—lights arise,
Beyond prophetic nature’s farthest gleam,
That teach me half the mystery of death.

1894 (p. 285, Sonnets)

The Dead Tree

Erect in death thou standest gaunt and bare,
Thy limbs uplifted to the wintry sky,
To supplicate its pity, or defy
The threat of wrath with towering despair.
Around thee, like a wizard’s widening snare,
Lithe shadows in a web fantastic lie,
Spun of the moon, in midnight sorcery,
Down gazing with a madman’s vacant stare.
What reads she in thy ruin? Lives the past
Recorded in the present? Lingers here
The legend of a glory overcast,
The song of birds long silent, and the stir
Of leaves forever scattered to the blast,
Yet echoed in eternal dreams to her?

February 1890 (p. 286, Sonnets)

The Mountains

Altar whereon the lordly sacrifice
Of incense from the reverent vales below
Is offered at the dawn’s first kindling glow
And when the day’s last smouldering ember dies,
Around thee, too, the kindred sympathies
Of life—itself a vapor—breathe and flow,
And yearn beyond thy pinnacle of snow
To wing the trackless region of the skies.
Thy shadow broods above me, and mine own
Sleeps as a child beneath it. O’er my dreams
Thou dost, as an abiding presence, pour
Thy spirit in the melancholy moan
Of cavern winds and far-resounding streams,
As sings the ocean to the listening shore.

December 1883 (p. 289, Sonnets)

[Ad Montem: Latin, To the Mountain; the first few words of the poem echo the opening words of Levavi oculos, Psalm 120. Glimspes: in line 9, what time means when.]



Behold, upon the field of night,
Far-scattered seeds of golden light;
Nor one to wither, but anon
To bear the heaven-full harvest, dawn.

1894 (p. 334, Quatrains: Day and Night)

The Dawn Star

Feed me, O morning, till the ray
   That love hath kindled in the shade,
Lost in the satisfying day
   Of light’s perfection, fade.

1910 (p. 335, Quatrains: Day and Night)

The Postulant

In ashes from the wasted fires of noon,
   Aweary of the light,
Comes Evening, a tearful novice, soon
   To take the veil of night.

December 1893 (p. 332, Quatrains: Day and Night)


Like Ruth, she follows where the reaper Day
   Lets fall the slender shadows in her way;
Then, winnowing the darkness, home again,
   She counts her golden grain.

January 1889 (p. 336, Quatrains: Day and Night)


We know thee not, save that when thou art gone,
   Thy sister, beauty, follows in thy train,
Leaving the soul in exile till the dawn
   Come with the gift of franchisement again.

1897 (p. 332, Quatrains: Day and Night)

[The Dawn Star: the planet Venus, often called the Morning Star or Dawn Star during the periods when it is brightest just before sunrise. The Postulant: a postulant is a candidate for membership in a religious order. Twilight: this poem personifies the evening twilight according to the Old Testament story of Ruth gleaning the fields, Ruth 2:1-9; the stars of night are “her golden grain”.]



The master scans the woven score
Of subtle harmonies, before
   A note is stirred;
And Nature now is pondering
The tidal symphony of Spring,
   As yet unheard.

March 1896 (p. 87, Nature: The Seasons)

The Snowdrop

Behold, from winter’s sleeping side,
   The sacramental power
Of Nature fashioneth a bride
   As fair as Eden’s flower.

October 1892 (p. 325, Quatrains: Flowers)


Despite the north wind’s boast,
   Despite the muffled host
      Of hushing snow,
   There cometh from below
Out of the darkness wakened, one by one
   The dreamers of the sun—
   Not in the bleak array
Of winter, but with fragrant banners gay
   Leaping the barriers strong
   Of ice, and loosing song,
   The prisoner, and letting go
Long-fettered laughter, as the shadowy foe
   Shrinks from the echoing cry
      Of “life and victory!”

April 1905 (p. 91, Nature: The Seasons)

New and Old

New blossoms from the selfsame earth,
   Beneath the selfsame skies;
New hope with dawn’s perennial birth,
   The selfsame heaven supplies.

May 1896 (p. 326, Quatrains: Flowers)


Strong as the sea and silent as the grave,
   It ebbs and flows unseen;
Flooding the earth—a fragrant tidal wave—
   With mist of deepening green.

1894 (p. 360, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Poems chosen for the first day of Spring. The Snowdrop: the snowdrop is a flower that blooms in earliest Spring.]



I know not but in every leaf
   That sprang to life along with me,
Were written all the joy and grief
   Thenceforth my fate to be.

The wind that whispered to the earth,
   The bird that sang its earliest lay,
The flower that blossomed at my birth—
   My kinsmen all were they.

Aye, but for fellowship with these
   I had not been—nay, might not be;
Nor they but vagrant melodies
   Till harmonized to me.

February 1893 (p. 242, Himself and Others)

In the Mountains of Virginia

Nurtured upon my mother’s knee,
   From this her mountain-breast apart,
Here nearer heaven I seem to be,
   And closer to her heart.

1902 (p. 356, Quatrains: Personal)

The Playmates

Who are thy playmates, boy?
“My favorite is Joy,
Who brings with him his sister, Peace, to stay
The livelong day.
I love them both; but he
Is most to me.”

And where thy playmates now,
O man of sober brow?
“Alas! dear Joy, the merriest, is dead.
But I have wed
Peace; and our babe, a boy,
New-born, is Joy.”

1894 (p. 145, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Joy and Sorrow)

The Test

The dead there are, who live;
   The living, who are dead:
The poor, who still can give;
   The rich, who lack for bread;
To love it is and love alone
That life or luxury is known.

May 1904 (p. 143, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Love)

To the Summer Wind

Art thou the selfsame wind that blew
   When I was but a boy?
Thy voice is like the voice I knew,
   And yet the thrill of joy
Has softened to a sadder tone—
Perchance the echo of mine own.

Beside a sea of memories
   In solitude I dwell:
Upon the shore forsaken lies
   Alas, no murmuring shell!
Are all the voices lost to me
Still wandering the world with thee?

November 1892 (p. 49, Nature: The Wind)

The Cowslip

It brings my mother back to me,
Thy frail, familiar form to see,
   Which was her homely joy;
And strange, that one so weak as thou,
Should lift the veil that sunders now
   The mother and the boy.

1897 (p. 20, Nature: Flowers)


All men the painter Youth engage;
And some, the famous sculptor, Age.

1902 (p. 372, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Poems chosen for the anniversary of Father Tabb’s birth, March 22, 1845. Fraternity: a lay is a song. The Cowslip: a species of flowering plant, Caltha palustris.]



The little birds that hither bring
The earliest messages of spring,
   Seem, fountain-like, to overflow
   With music melted from the snow.

So sweet the tidings that they tell,
The hidden buds begin to swell,
   Till suddenly, with lifted ears,
   The leafy multitude appears.

1902 (p. 42, Nature: Birds)


The winds from many a cloudy mane
Shake off the sweat of gathering rain
   And whicker with delight;
No slope of pasture-lands they need,
Whereon to rest, or drink, or feed:
Their life the rapture of the speed,
   The frenzy of the flight.

June 1903 (p. 52, Nature: The Wind)

In the Nest

O world beneath the mother’s wing,
   Secure from harm,
The heart so near the sheltered thing
   To keep it warm!

No longer needed now the light
   Of heaven above—
The very darkness breathes a plight
   Of deeper love.

1902 (p. 43, Nature: Birds)

The Breeze

Through thee the ocean knows
The fragrance of the rose;
And inlands, far away,
The blossom of the spray.

Through thee, to every wave
A whisper of the grave;
And to each grave a sigh
Of life that cannot die.

June 1904 (p. 51, Nature: The Wind)


Still sing the morning stars remote
   With echoes now unheard,
Save in the scintillating note
   Of some dawn-wakened bird

Whose heart, a fountain in the light,
   Prolongs the limpid strain
Till on the borderland of Night,
   The stars begin again.

(p. 47, Nature: Birds)

[Racers: to whicker is to whinny or neigh, as horses do. Matins: a portion of the Divine Office, the “hour” of Matins was typically celebrated before dawn.]


Peach Bloom

A dream in fragrant silence wrought,
A blossoming of petaled thought,
A passion of these April days—
The blush of nature now betrays.

February 1896 (p. 326, Quatrains: Flowers)

An April Bloom

Whence art thou? From what chrysalis
   Of silence hast thou come?
What thought in thee finds utterance
   Of dateless ages dumb—
Outspeeding in the distance far
The herald glances of a star
      As yet unseen?

Wast thou, ere thine awakening here,
   In other realms a-bloom?
Or swathed in seamless cerements
   Of immemorial gloom,
Till now, as Nature’s pulses move,
Thou blossomest, a breath of love,
   Her lips between?

1897 (p. 16, Nature: Flowers)


For this the fruit, for this the seed,
   For this the parent tree;
The least to man, the most to God—
   A fragrant mystery
Where Love, with Beauty glorified,
   Forgets utility.

December 1892 (p. 7, Nature: Flowers)

Cherry Bloom

Frailest and first to stand
Upon the border-land
   From darkness shriven,
In livery of Death
Thou utterest the breath
   And light of Heaven.

Though profitless thou seem
As doth a poet’s dream,
   Apart from thee
Nor limb nor laboring root
May load with ripened fruit
   The parent tree.

March 1895 (p. 25, Nature: Trees)


Knew not the Sun, sweet Violet,
   The while he gleaned the snow,
That thou in darkness sepulchred,
   Wast slumbering below?
Or spun a splendor of surprise
Around him to behold thee rise?

Saw not the Star, sweet Violet,
   What time a drop of dew
Let fall his image from the sky
   Into thy deeper blue?
Nor waxed he tremulous and dim
When rival Dawn supplanted him?

And dreamest thou, sweet Violet,
   That I, the vanished Star,
The Dewdrop, and the morning Sun,
   Thy closest kinsmen are—
So near that, waking or asleep,
We each and all thine image keep?

1894 (p. 4, Nature: Flowers)

[An April Bloom: a chrysalis is a cocoon. Cherry Bloom: to be shriven is to be absolved, forgiven, or cleansed; the first nor in the tenth line should be understood as neither.]


Good Friday

Behold in every crimson glow
   Of earth and sky and sea,
The Hand that fashioned them doth show
   Love crucified for me.

(p. 344, Quatrains: Religion)

Seeming Failure

O wave upon the strand!
   What urges thee in vain
To lift the baffled hand
   In suppliance again?

“The passion that impels
   The tidal energies
In every bud that swells,
   In every soul that sighs:

“The same that on the cross
   Sustained the dying Christ,
When Love for seeming loss
   Alone was sacrificed.”

May 1903 (p. 118, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Life)


In patience as in labour must thou be
         A follower of Me,
Whose hands and feet, when most I wrought for thee,
         Were nailed unto a tree.

December 1903 (p. 341, Quatrains: Religion)

On Calvary

In the shadow of the rood
Love and Shame together stood;
Love, that bade Him bear the blame
Of her fallen sister Shame;
Shame, that by the pangs thereof
Bade Him break His heart for Love.

April 1895 (p. 226, Religion: Lent and Easter)

The Tollmen

Lo, Silence, Sleep, and Death
   Await us on the way,
To take of each the tribute breath
   That God himself did pay.

Nor Solomon’s as great,
   Nor Caesar’s strong control,
As his who sits beside his gate
   To take of each the toll.

April 1896 (p. 123, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Death)

[Poems chosen for Good Friday, on which day Christians commemorate the Passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Seeming Failure: the strand is the beach; baffled means thwarted. On Calvary: a rood is a cross. The Tollmen: the first nor in the second stanza should be understood as neither.]



Love told a Star the vision that beguiled
His slumber; and the Darkness, hearing, smiled.

November 1898 (p. 71, Nature: Day and Night)

The Recompense

She brake the box, and all the house was filled
   With waftures from the fragrant store thereof,
While at His feet a costlier vase distilled
   The bruised balm of penitential love.

And, lo, as if in recompense of her,
   Bewildered in the lingering shades of night,
He breaks anon the sealed sepulchre,
   And fills the world with rapture and with light.

March 1891 (p. 229, Religion: Lent and Easter)


Out of the dusk a shadow,
   Then, a spark;
Out of the cloud a silence,
   Then, a lark;

Out of the heart a rapture,
   Then, a pain;
Out of the dead, cold ashes,
   Life again.

1894 (p. 157, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: The World)

Easter Morning

Behold, the night of sorrow gone,
Like Magdalen the tearful dawn
Goes forth with love’s anointing sweet,
To kiss again the Master’s feet!

1897 (p. 340, Religion: Lent and Easter)


All that springeth from the sod
Tendeth upwards unto God;
All that cometh from the skies
Urging it anon to rise.

Winter’s life-delaying breath
Leaveneth the lump of death,
Till the frailest fettered bloom
Moves the earth, and bursts the tomb.

Welcome, then, time’s threshing-pain
And the furrows where each grain,
Like a Samson, blossom-shorn,
Waits the resurrection morn.

March 1894 (p. 159, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: The World)

[Poems chosen for Easter Sunday, on which day Christians celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Recompense: the first stanza alludes to the Gospel story of the sinful woman washing the Lord’s feet with her hair, Luke 7:36-50. Easter Morning: the poem alludes to Matthew 28:8-10, wherein St. Mary Magdalen is one of the women greeted by the Risen Lord. Resurrection: the story of Samson is told in the Old Testament book of Judges; the specific occasion to which the last stanza alludes is recounted in Judges 16:15-21.]


Wild Flowers

We grow where none but God,
   Life’s Gardener,
Upon the sterile sod
   Bestows His care.

Our morn and evening dew—
   The sacrament
That maketh all things new—
   From heaven is sent;

And thither, ne’er in vain,
   We look for aid,
To find the punctual rain
   Or sun or shade,

Appointed hour by hour
   To every need,
Alike of parent flower
   Or nursling seed;

Till, blossom-duty done,
   With parting smile,
We vanish, one by one,
   To sleep awhile.

April 1985 (p. 19, Nature: Flowers)

To a Wood-Violet

In this secluded shrine,
   O miracle of grace,
No mortal eye but mine
   Hath looked upon thy face.

No shadow but mine own
   Hath screened thee from the sight
Of Heaven, whose love alone
   Hath led me to thy light.

Whereof—as shade to shade
   Is wedded in the sun—
A moment’s glance hath made
   Our souls forever one.

April 1896 (p. 6, Nature: Flowers)

The Suppliant

“O Dewdrop, lay thy finger-tip
Of moisture on my fevered lip,”
   The noonday Blossom cries.
“Alas, O Dives, dark and deep
The gulf impassable of Sleep
   Henceforth between us lies!”

March 1891 (p. 12, Nature: Flowers)

The Flowers

         They are not ours,
         The fleeting flowers,
         But lights of God
         That through the sod
Flash upwards from the world beneath—
That region peopled wide with death—
And tell us, in each subtle hue,
That life renewed is passing through
Our world again to seek the skies,
Its native realm of Paradise.

         How brief their day!
         They cannot stay;
         Our mother earth
         Beholds their birth
And spreads her ample bosom deep
Some relic of their stay to keep,
And each in benediction flings
A virtue from its dainty wings;
But lo! she treasures it in vain;
It blooms and vanishes again.

1882 (p. 23, Nature: Flowers)

Morning and Night Bloom

A star and a rosebud white,
   In the morning twilight gray,
The latest blossom of the night,
   The earliest of the day;
The star to vanish in the light,
   The rose to stay.

A star and a rosebud white,
   In the evening twilight ray,
The earliest blossom of the night,
   The latest of the day;
The one in darkness finding light,
   One lost for aye.

1897 (p. 14, Nature: Flowers)

[The Suppliant: Dives is the name traditionally given to the rich man in the Lord’s parable recounted in Luke 16:19-31. Morning and Night Bloom: aye means forever.]



“Whom I shall kiss,” I heard a Sunbeam say,
   “Take him and lead away!”
Then, with the Traitor’s salutation, “Hail!
   He kissed the Dawn-Star pale.

October 1902 (p. 334, Quatrains: Day and Night)

To the Crucifix

Day after day the spear of morning bright
   Pierces again the ever-wounded side,
Pointing at once the birthspring of the Light,
   And where for Love the Light Eternal died.

1897 (p. 330, Quatrains: Day and Night)

The Mid-Day Moon

Behold, whatever wind prevail,
Slow westering, a phantom sail—
The lonely soul of yesterday—
Unpiloted, pursues her way.

April 1894 (p. 333, Quatrains: Day and Night)


Against the night, a champion bright,
The glow-worm, lifts a spear of light;
And, undismayed, the slenderest shade
Against the noonday bares a blade.

February 1895 (p. 333, Quatrains: Day and Night)

In Darkness

Dumb silence and her sightless sister sleep
Glide, mistlike, through the deepening vale of night;
Waking, where’er their shadowy garments sweep,
Dream-voices and an echoing dream of light.

January 1891 (p. 332, Quatrains: Day and Night)

[Betrayal: the poem alludes to Matthew 26:47-49; the Traitor is Judas. To the Crucifix: M.S. Pine (p. 96) says the poem was written specifically about a crucifix in Father Tabb's room, upon which the early morning sun would shine.]


The Dead Thrush

Love of nest and mate and young,
Woke the music of his tongue,
While upon the fledgling’s brain
Soft it fell as scattered grain,
There to blossom tone for tone
Into echoes of his own.
Doth the passion wholly die
When the fountainhead is dry?
Nay, as vapor from the sea
Lives the dream eternally;
Soon the silent clouds again
Melt in rhapsodies of rain.

March 1896 (p. 38, Nature: Birds)

The Dove

A tuneful mist above a silent sea
O’er which thou broodest, seems thy voice to me;
A moan of widowed memory above
A tideless depth of erst impetuous love.

E’en as the main, thy circling monody
Upon the lone horizon meets the sky,
Where faintly flickers, in the distance far,
The afterglow of hope’s departed star.

Pour forth, sweet bird, thy requiem; and lo!
Night’s dreamy waves of sympathy o’erflow
To soothe thy pain, while thoughts, attuned to thine,
Melt into twilight tenderness divine.

1882 (p. 45, Nature: Birds)


                  With sudden gush
As from a fountain, sings in yonder bush
                  The hermit thrush.

                  Did ever lark
With swifter scintillations fling the spark
                  That fires the dark?

                  Like April rain
Of mist and sunshine mingled, moves the strain
                  O’er hill and plain.

                  As love, O Song,
In flame or torrent sweep through Life along,
                  O’er grief and wrong.

1902 (p. 40, Nature: Birds)


Killdee! Killdee! far o’er the lea
   At twilight comes the cry.
Killdee! a marsh-mate answereth
   Across the shallow sky.

Killdee! Killdee! thrills over me
   A rhapsody of light,
As star to star gives utterance
   Between the day and night.

Killdee! Killdee! O Memory,
   The twin birds, Joy and Pain,
Like shadows parted by the sun,
   At twilight meet again!

March 1886 (p. 34, Nature: Birds)

In Shadow

Heeds yonder star thy song,
   O warbler of the night?
“I know not, for the way is long
   That leads unto the light.
But as the music of the spheres,
A twinkling silence here appears,
Perchance my warbling from afar
   Appears a star.”

1923 (p. 44, Nature: Birds)

[The Dove: erst means formerly; the main is the sea; a monody is a poem of mourning; a requiem is a hymn for the dead; one American species of dove, Zenaida macroura, is called the Mourning Dove. Killdee: the Killdeer (so called because of the sound of its call) is an American species of plover, Charadrius vociferus.]



To-night the onward-rushing train
   Would bear thee far from me;
But, winged with swifter dreams, again
   My spirit flies to thee.

Nay, speeding far beyond thee, waits
   To welcome thee anew,
Where dawn is opening the gates
   To let the darkness through.

January 1895 (p. 248, Himself and Others)


Once when my heart was passion-free
   To learn of things divine,
The soul of nature suddenly
   Outpoured itself in mine.

I held the secrets of the deep,
   And of the heavens above;
I knew the harmonies of sleep,
   The mysteries of love.

And for a moment’s interval
   The earth, the sky, the sea—
My soul encompassed, each and all,
   As now they compass me.

To one in all, to all in one—
   Since love the work began—
Life’s ever widening circles run,
   Revealing God and man.

September 1892 (p. 245, Himself and Others)


Thou hast the final touch supplied
That till thy coming was denied—
A single letter in a word
Whose absence all the context blurred;
A missing note that, but for thee,
Had marred the perfect harmony.

October 1909 (p. 251, Himself and Others)

The Pilgrim

When, but a child, I wandered hence,
Another child—sweet Innocence,
   My sister—went with me;
But I have lost her, and am fain
To seek her in the home again
   Where we were wont to be.

1897 (p. 246, Himself and Others)

Our Stars

My twilight is before the dark,
And thine before the day;
O’er both alike a beacon-spark
   To keep us in the way.
The darkness can but brighten mine;
Let not the noon extinguish thine.

1910 (p. 249, Himself and Others)


The Pine-Tree

With whispers of futurity
   And echoes of the past,
Twin birds a shelter find in thee
   Against the wintry blast—

The fledgling Hope, that preens her wing,
   Too timorous to fly,
And Memory, that comes to sing
   Her coronach and die.

November 1892 (p. 27, Nature: Trees)


O wind and waters, ye alone
Have chanted the primeval tone
   Since Nature first began.
All other voices change, but ye
Abide, the soul of harmony
   Interpreting the man.

He listens, and his heart is fain
To fashion an immortal strain;
   Yet his sublimest lay
Is but the music of a tongue
Attuned to silence, and among
   The echoes dies away.

September 1903 (p. 53, Nature: The Wind)


Dance to the beat of the rain, little Fern,
   And spread out your palms again,
   And say, “Though the sun
   Hath my vesture spun,
He had laboured, alas, in vain,
   But for the shade
   That the Cloud hath made,
And the gift of the Dew and the Rain.”
   Then laugh and upturn
   All your fronds, little Fern,
And rejoice in the beat of the rain!

1894 (p. 11, Nature: Flowers)

The Tree

Planted by the Master’s hand
Steadfast in thy place to stand,
While the ever-changing year
Clothes or strips thy branches bare;
Lending not a leaf to hold
Warmth against the winter’s cold;
Lightening not a limb the less
For the summer’s sultriness;
Nay, thy burden heavier made,
That within thy bending shade
Thankless multitudes, oppressed,
There may lay them down and rest.
Soul, upon thy Calvary
Wait; the Christ will come to thee.

September 1895 (p. 26, Nature: Trees)

The Rain and the Dew

“Thou hast fallen,” said the dewdrop
   To a sister drop of rain,
“But wilt thou, wedded with the dust,
   In banishment remain?”

“Nay, dewdrop, but anon with thee—
   The lowlier born than I—
Uplifted shall I seek again
   My native home, the sky.”

February 1892 (p. 58, Nature: Clouds and Sky)

[The Pine-Tree: a coronach is a lament. Choristers: a lay is a song. The Rain and the Dew: anon means soon.]



The cock crows; and behold the hidden Day,
   The thrice-denied, appears,
And Darkness, conscience-stricken, steals away,
   His face bedewed with tears.

1910 (p. 335, Quatrains: Day and Night)


A bow across the sky,
   Another in the river
Whence swallows upward fly,
   Like arrows from a quiver.

1899 (p. 330, Quatrains: Birds)

The Lark

He rose and singing passed from sight:
   A shadow kindling with the sun,
His joy ecstatic flamed, till light
   And heavenly song were one.

August 1892 (p. 329, Quatrains: Birds)

The Sunbeam

A ladder from the land of light,
   I rest upon the sod,
Whence dewy angels of the night
   Climb back again to God.

December 1892 (p. 331, Quatrains: Day and Night)


The prophet Star, the Maiden Dawn, the Sun—
   So light begins his reign;
Then Sunset, widowed Twilight, and anon
   The prophet Star again.

July 1904 (p. 336, Quatrains: Day and Night)

[Abashed: the poem alludes to the narrative in Matthew 26:69-75. <>The Sunbeam: the poem alludes to the Old Testament story of Jacob's Ladder, Genesis 28:10-22; see also John 1:51. Signals: anon means soon.]


The Hermit

High on the hoary mountain-top he dwelt
Alone with God, whose handiwork above
The wonders of the firmament approve
In an eternal silence. There he spelt
The name of the Omnipotent, and knelt
In lowly reverence of adoring love.
Beneath him, all the elements that move
In Nature’s prayerful harmonies he felt
And knew their mystic meaning. Thus the tone
Of lifted billows and the storm that sways
The forest-seas in chorus spake alone
Divinity, scarce hidden from his gaze;
And with their mighty voices blent his own
In one majestic utterance of praise.

1882 (p. 296, Sonnets)


Pause while thine eyes are alien to the scene
That lies before thee. Let the Fancy range,
As yet she may, sole sovereign of the strange
Uncharted region of that wide demesne
Where Truth the tyrant never yet hath been.
He, once supreme, as in a narrowed grange
Thenceforth abides forever—Chance and Change
Foregone his guarded barriers between.
Pass not; before the all-discerning Light
The angels veil their faces. To the wise
The tree of Knowledge in their Eden stands
Untasted, lest the Death that in it lies
Prevail, the bud of Innocence to blight,
And cloud the glimpse of ever-widening lands.

1897 (p. 299, Sonnets)

The Druid

Godlike beneath his grave divinities,
The last of all their worshippers, he stood.
The shadows of a vanished multitude
Enwound him, and their voices in the breeze
Made murmur, while the meditative trees
Reared of their strong fraternal branches rude
A temple meet for prayer. What blossoms strewed
The path between life’s morning hours and these?
What lay beyond the darkness? He alone
The sunshine and the shadow and the dew
Had shared alike with leaf, and flower, and stem:
Their life had been his lesson; and from them
A dream of immortality he drew,
As in their fate foreshadowing his own.

August 1896 (p. 295, Sonnets)

The Petrel

A wanderer o’er the sea-graves ever green,
Whereon the foam-flowers blossom day by day,
Thou flittest as a doomful shadow gray
That from the wave no sundering light can wean.
What wouldst thou from the deep unfathomed glean,
Frail voyager? and whither leads thy way?
Or art thou, as the sailor legends say,
An exile from the spirit-world unseen?
Lo! desolate, above a colder tide,
Pale Memory, a sea-bird like to thee,
Flits outward where the whitening billows hide
What seemed of Life the one reality—
A mist whereon the morning bloom hath died,
Returning, ghost-like, to the restless sea.

September 1883 (p. 287, Sonnets)


Waiting for words—as on the broad expanse
Of heaven the formless vapors of the night,
Expectant, wait the oracle of light
Interpreting their dumb significance;
Or like a star that in the morning glance
Shrinks, as a folding blossom, from the sight,
Nor wakens till upon the western height
The shadows to their evening towers advance—
So, in my soul, a dream ineffable,
Expectant of the sunshine or the shade,
Hath oft, upon the brink of twilight chill,
Or at the dawn’s pale glimmering portal stayed
In tears, that all the quivering eyelids fill,
In smiles, that on the lip of silence fade.

June 1883 (p. 282, Sonnets)

[Restraint: a demesne (a two-syllable word of French origin; the second syllable is accented and is pronounced “main”) is a territory or region; see Genesis, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, for Eden and the tree of Knowledge. The Druid: druids were a learned and/or priestly class in ancient Celtic and Gallic regions of Europe, about whom little is actually known but much has been fancied. The Petrel: petrels are seabirds that live in open oceans or seas, returning to land only to breed.]


The Mist

Eurydice eludes the dark
   To follow Orpheus, the lark
That leads her to the dawn
   With rhapsodies of star-delight,
   Till, looking backward in his flight,
He finds that she is gone.

December 1900 (p. 62, Nature: Clouds and Sky)

The Shower

   Against the royal blue,
   A mist rebellious flew—
A night-born, wind-uplifted shade
That for an angry moment stayed,
   Then wept itself away.

   The earth with moistened eyes
   Beholds the sunlit skies
Again, but never to forget
The cloud whose life-drops mingle yet
   With her maternal clay.

August 1895 (p. 57, Nature: Clouds and Sky)


Like inland streams, O sea,
   Through joy and pain
All nature dreams of thee;
   Nor more appears
Thy life in mist or rain
   Than in our tears.

July 1909 (p. 69, Nature: The Sea)


The world, they tell us, dwindles,
   When matched with other spheres;
And yet in all their amplitudes
   No place for human tears.

How sterile is the sunshine,
   How masculine the blue,
That breeds no shadow, nor betrays
   A memory of dew!

July 1909 (p. 151, Life, Death, and Similar Themes: Sympathy)

A Legacy

Do you remember, little cloud,
   This morning when you lay—
A mist along the river—what
   The waters had to say?

And how the many-coloured flowers
   That on the margin grew
All promised when the day was done
   To leave their tints to you?

1899 (p. 59, Nature: Clouds and Sky)

[The Mist: Eurydice and her husband Orpheus are figures in Greek mythology; dismayed by the death of Eurydice, Orpheus travels to the underworld to win her return; in the poem, the mist is Eurydice and the lark is Orpheus.]


A Query

Was it the dawn that waked the bird
   With yonder spark?
Or had the sleeping darkness stirred
   Before the Lark?

For either rival to declare
   The winds are loth;
And blossoms, nodding everywhere,
   Affirm for both.

April 1893 (p. 73, Nature: Day and Night)

The Duet

A little yellow bird above,
A little yellow flower below;
The little bird can sing the love
That bird and blossom know;
The blossom has no song nor wing,
But breathes the love he cannot sing.

1899 (p. 45, Nature: Birds)


I see Thee in the distant blue;
But in the violet’s dell of dew,
Behold, I breathe and touch Thee too.

March 1895 (p. 218, Religion: Doctrine)

The Bluebird

When God had made a host of them,
One little flower still lacked a stem
   To hold its blossom blue;
So into it He breathed a song,
And suddenly, with petals strong
   As wings, away it flew.

1899 (p. 46, Nature: Birds)


One dream the bird and blossom dreamed
   Of love the whole night long;
Yet twain its revelation seemed,
   In fragrance and in song.

April 1893 (p. 359, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[A Query: larks are songbirds; only one, the Horned Lark, lives in North America. God: violets are widely distributed flowering plants; this was the first poem of Father Tabb’s that I ever read. The Bluebird: bluebirds are songbirds belonging to the Thrush family; one species, the Eastern Bluebird, lives year-round in Virginia, where Father Tabb resided.]



Where closing water-lilies are
I’ve sometimes seen the Evening Star,
   A-blossom just below,
And I have wondered if there be
No pools in heaven where souls may see
   How water-lilies grow.

1902 (p. 18, Nature: Flowers)


The river to the sea,
In language of the land,
Interpreter would be
Of life beyond the strand;
Of billowy heights that never fall
When winds have gone their way,
Of waving forests, dark and tall,
Of flocks, and herds, and fertile vales,
Of warbling birds and blossom-spray
That scents the wandering gales.
Alas! ’tis all a mystery!
She does not understand.

(p. 70, Nature: The Sea)

Life’s Gulf Stream

Stars that in the darkness bloom
Wither in the light;
Dreams begotten of the gloom,
Take their morning flight.

And, the gleam of fancy gone,
From the current of the dawn
Tidal memories are drawn
To the coast of Night.

1910 (p. 77, Nature: Day and Night)


Lo! of gladness or regret
Teardrops in the violet
Weeping till her leaves are wet,
Dewdrops in mine eyes beget!

Mirrored in each lucid sphere,
Highest heaven to earth is near;
Closer sympathies are here
’Twixt the dewdrop and the tear.

April 1894 (p. 150, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

Sunset at Sea

Lo, where he sinks from sight,
The day forgets her light;
   Nor breathes a wave
To break the silence sweet
Where sky and ocean meet
   Above his grave.

February 1892 (p. 64, Nature: The Sea)

[Reflection: the Evening Star is the planet Venus, so called during the periods when it is brightest just after sunset. Beyond: in the last line, She refers to the sea. Life’s Gulf Stream: the Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm current in the Atlantic Ocean, running along the Eastern seaboard of North America.]


Song of the Morning-Glories

We wedded each a star—
   A warrior true,
That plighted faith afar
   In drops of dew.

But comes the cruel dawn;
   The dew is dry;
And we, our lovers gone,
   Lamenting, die.

1897 (p. 17, Nature: Flowers)


The ghost am I
Of winds that die
   Alike on land or sea,
In silence deep
To shroud and keep
   Their mournful memory.

A spirit white
I stalk the night,
   Or, shadowing the skies,
Forbid the sun
To look upon
   My noonday mysteries.

March 1903 (p. 59, Nature: Clouds and Sky)

All in All

One heaven above;
But many a heaven below
The dewdrops show—
God’s tenderness
Subdued in every teardrop to express
   The whole of love.

April 1895 (p. 135, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)

To a Rose

Thou hast not toiled, sweet Rose,
   Yet needest rest;
Softly thy petals close
   Upon thy breast,
Like folded hands, of labor long oppressed.

Naught knowest thou of sin,
   Yet tears are thine;
Baptismal drops within
   Thy chalice shine,
At morning’s birth, at evening’s calm decline.

Alas! one day hath told
   The tale to thee!
Thy tender leaves enfold
   Life’s mystery:
Its shadow falls alike on thee and me!

1894 (p. 7, Nature: Flowers)


The summer night remembers
   The morning glories slain,
And from the twilight embers
   Recalls their ghosts again.

November 1898 (p. 327, Nature: Flowers)

[Song of the Morning-Glories: the Morning Glory is a flowering plant whose blossoms usually last for only one morning, new blossoms opening each day. To a Rose: the Rose is a common perennial flowering shrub. Moon-Flowers: these are flowering plants of the genus Datura that bloom at night; most of the species have white flowers.]


The Lake

I am a lonely woodland lake:
   The trees that round me grow,
The glimpse of heaven above me, make
   The sum of all I know.

The mirror of their dreams to be
   Alike in shade and shine,
To clasp in love’s captivity,
   And keep them one—is mine.

November 1892 (p. 97, Nature: Miscellaneous)

The Marsh

The woods have voices, and the sea,
Her choral-song and threnody;
But thou alike to sun and rain
Dost mute and motionless remain.
As pilgrims to the shrine of Sleep,
Through all thy solemn spaces creep
The tides—a moment on thy breast
To pause in sacramental rest;
Then, flooded with the mystery,
To sink reluctant to the sea,
In landward loneliness to yearn
Till to thy bosom they return.

January 1896 (p. 67, Nature: The Sea)


Around us lies a world invisible,
With isles of dreams, and many a continent
Of thought, and isthmus fancy, where we dwell
   Each as a lonely wanderer intent
Upon his vision, finding each his fears
And hopes encompassed by the tide of tears.

June 1895 (p. 114, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)


Far off a solitary Peak
   The restless Waves behold.
“Thou hast attained the heaven we seek;
   O teach us, self-controlled,
Thy constancy!” Alas, how bleak
   The mountain top and cold!

1902 (p. 152, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sympathy)

At the Ebb-Tide

O marshes that remain
   In anguish dumb
Till over you again
   The waters come!

So must thy life abide
   In silent pain,
Till Love, the truant tide,
   Come back again.

February 1905 (p. 140, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)

[The Marsh: a threnody is a song of mourning. Lone-Land: an isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas. At the Ebb-Tide: the sea-level lowers or falls during the ebb tide.]


The Peak

As on some solitary height
Abides, in summer’s fierce despite,
Snow-blossom that no sun can blight,
   No frost can kill;
So, in my soul—all else below
To change succumbing—stands aglow
One wreath of immemorial snow,
   Unscattered still.

January 1892 (p. 154, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Memory)


I go not to the grave to weep,
But to my heart, wherein I keep
A hidden manna that hath fed
Alike the living and the dead.

We gathered it as, day by day,
It fell from heaven upon our way,
To be, if haply one were gone,
The bread for both to feed upon.

1910 (p. 156, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sympathy)


Full many a noonday nook I know
Where memory is fain to go
And wait in silence till the shade
Of sleep the solitude invade.

For these the resting-places are
Of dreams that, journeying afar,
Pause in their migratory flight
This side the continent of night.

February 1903 (p. 155, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Memory)


God speed thee, setting Sun!
Thy beams for me have spun
   Of light to-day
A memory that one
Alone could bring, and none
   Can take away.

June 1895 (p. 155, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)


I miss thee everywhere.
   The places dear to thee,
Familiar shadows wear
   Henceforth for memory.

And where thou hast not been,
   Thou seemest to repose
As near, though never seen,
   As fragrance to the rose.

November 1906 (p. 157, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)

[Memory: manna was the miraculous food provided by God to the Israelites during their sojourn in the desert; this whole poem alludes to Exodus 16; haply means by chance or accident. Harbors: fain means pleased or willing. Adieu: French, farewell; God speed is a wish for success, especially on a journey.]


Life’s Ramah

Day after day,
   The Herod Morn
Of Dreams doth slay
   The latest-born;
And Love, like Rachel o’er her dead,
Will not again be comforted.

December 1898 (p. 74, Nature: Day and Night)


The noonday smiles to hear
   The oft-repeated tale
Of shadows lurking near
   Her sunbeams to assail;
Nor heeds the placid night
   A prophecy of doom
To drown her stars in light
   As fathomless as gloom.

January 1896 (p. 80, Nature: Day and Night)

Light and Shadow

   “I love you, little maid,”
   Said the Sunbeam to the Shade,
As all day long she shrank away before him;
   But at twilight, ere he died,
   She was weeping at his side;
And he felt her tresses softly trailing o’er him.

1899 (p. 78, Nature: Day and Night)


The epitaph of night
The sunbeams write;
The epitaph of day,
The shadows gray;
One requiem of wind and wave
Above each grave.

May 1906 (p. 77, Nature: Day and Night)


Could Day demand a gift of Night,
   And Night the boon bestow,
’Twould be that heaven of star-delight
   Where Dreams departed go.

Could Night the gift demand, and Day
   The benefit confer,
’Twould be, upon his twilight way
   A lengthened hour with her.

December 1897 (p. 79, Nature: Day and Night)

[Life’s Ramah: King Herod (the Great) ordered the massacre of the Innocents, trying to destroy the Christ Child; to this episode, Matthew 2:13-18 applies the words of the Prophet, Jeremiah 13:15, about the lamentation of Rachel. Inscriptions: an epitaph is a memorial inscription, such as on a tombstone; a requiem is a hymn or other composition for the dead. Ideals: a boon is a gift or blessing.]


The Seed

Bearing a life unseen,
Thou lingerest between
   A flower withdrawn,
And—what thou ne’er shalt see—
A blossom yet to be
   When thou art gone.

Unto the feast of spring
Thy broken heart shall bring
   What most it craved,
To find, like Magdalen
In tears, a life again
   Love-lost—and saved!

March 1895 (p. 95, Nature: Miscellaneous)


Behold, in summer’s parching thirst,
The while the waters pass them by,
The hills, like Tantalus accurst,
   In silent anguish lie;
Nor look they to the lowly vale
Wherein their famished shadows glide,
But, with uplifted glances pale,
   The will of Heaven abide.

1897 (p. 98, Nature: Miscellaneous)


This is the way that the sap-river ran
From the root to the top of the tree—
   Silent and dark,
   Under the bark,
Working a wonderful plan
   That the leaves never know,
   And the branches that grow
On the brink of the tide never see.

July 1901 (p. 28, Nature: Trees)

The Acorn

I am the heir—the Acorn small,
To whom as tributaries all,
The root, the stem, the branches tall,
Do homage round my castle wall.

And yet, obedient to the call
Of Earth, through Death’s opposing thrall—
Of wealth a seeming prodigal—
To Life’s dominion must I fall.

May 1906 (p. 30, Nature: Day and Night)


I give what ne’er was mine—
   To every seed the power
   Of stem and leaf and flower,
Of fruit or fragrance fine;

And take what others loathe—
   Of death the foulest forms,
   Wherewith to feed my worms,
And thus the world reclothe.

September 1898 (p. 104, Nature: Miscellaneous)

[The Seed: Magdalen is St. Mary Magdalen(e); the allusion is to the Gospel story of the sinful woman washing the Lord’s feet with her hair, Luke 7:36-50: traditionally, the woman has often been identified as the Saint, though the identification is not much more than conjecture. Resignation: in Greek mythology, Tantalus was a son of Zeus; his name and story are the source of our word tantalize. The Acorn: a poem remarkable for having all eight lines rhyming.]


The Cynosure

So let me in thy heaven of thought appear,
   As doth a twilight star—
The harbinger of tenderest hopes anear,
   And memories afar.

1897 (p. 353, Quatrains: Personal)


Go now thy way, but whereso’er thou art,
   If sick again for home,
Know that the place forsaken in my heart
   Is vacant till thou come.

1910 (p. 355, Quatrains: Personal)

My Secret

’Tis not what I am fain to hide
   That doth in deepest darkness dwell,
But what my tongue hath often tried,
   Alas, in vain, to tell.

March 1896 (p. 354, Quatrains: Personal)

In Absence

All that thou art not, makes not up the sum
   Of what thou art, beloved, unto me:
All other voices, wanting thine, are dumb;
   All vision, in thine absence, vacancy.

1897 (p. 354, Quatrains: Personal)

A Remonstrance

Sing me no more, sweet warbler, for the dart
Of joy is keener than the flash of pain;
Sing me no more, for the re-echoed strain
Together with the silence breaks my heart.

May 1896 (p. 354, Quatrains: Personal)

[The Cynosure: a cynosure is a guide or a focal point of attention; a harbinger is a forerunner or a foreshadowing.]



   Nay, wake him not!
Unfelt our presence near,
Nor falls a whisper on his dreaming ear:
He sees but sleep’s celestial visions clear,
   All else forgot.

   And who shall say
That, in life’s waking dream,
There be not ever near us those we deem
(As now our faces to the Sleeper seem)
   Far, far away?

July 1881 (p. 164, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sleep)

The Stroke of the Hour

If I were dead, and yonder chime
Retold the fairy-tale of time,
At distance I perchance might hear,
And half in pity, half in fear,
Perceive the future life to be
But an immortal memory.

1910 (p. 157, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Memory)

The Voyager

Far inland, where the sea,
   Throughout the day,
Lives but in memory—
   From twilight gray
As foamless tides of sleep
   Their heights attain—
Back to the distant deep
   I drift again;

And, as of old, a boy
   Seem I to be,
With Innocence and Joy
   Afloat with me,
Till, all too soon, the star
   Of morn appears,
And on the slumber-bar
   We part in tears.

1910 (p. 167, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sleep)

From Paradise

All else that in the limit lies
   Of fleeting time I see;
The glance, Beloved, of thine eyes
   Alone is lost to me.

And in the selfsame interval,
   The ever-changing place
Of light’s horizon-line is all
   That meets thy lonely gaze.

Behold the glimmer of a tear,
   The twinkle of a star—
The shadow and the light how near!
   And yet, alas, how far!

May 1896 (p. 185, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Miscellaneous)

The Departed

They cannot wholly pass away,
   How far soe’er above;
Nor we, the lingerers, wholly stay
   Apart from those we love:
For spirits in eternity,
   As shadows in the sun,
Reach backward into Time, as we,
   Like lifted clouds, reach on.

December 1893 (p. 125, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sleep)

[The Voyager: a bar is a ridge of sand or gravel on a shore or streambed, produced by action of wave and wind, symbolic of any line of demarcation; Fr. Tabb’s “slumber-bar” would be the passage made from sleeping to awakening; see also “Crossing the Bar”, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.]


The Shell

Silence—a deeper sea—
Now sunders thee
Save from the primal tone—
Thy mother’s moan.

Within her waves, hadst thou
No voice as now;
A life of exile long
Hath taught thee song.

October 1902 (p. 171, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Silence)

Visible Sound

Aye, have we not felt it and known,
Ere Science proclaimed it her own,
That form is but visible tone?

Behold, where in silence was drowned
The last fleeting echo of sound,
The rainbow—its blossom—is found;

While anon, with a verdurous sweep
From the mountain-side, wooded and steep,
Swells the chorus of deep unto deep,

That the trumpet flowers, flame-flashing, blow
Till the lilies enkindled below
Swoon pale into passion, like snow!

Yea, Love, of sweet Nature the Lord,
Hath fashioned each manifold chord
To utter His visible Word,

Whose work, wheresoever begun,
Like the rays floating back to the Sun,
In the soul of all beauty is one.

1894 (p. 158, Life, Death and Similar Themes: The World)

The Chord

In this narrow cloister bound
Dwells a sisterhood of sound,
Far from alien voices rude
As in secret solitude
Unisons, that yearned apart,
Here, in harmony of heart,
Blend divided sympathies,
And in choral strength arise,
Like the cloven tongues of fire,
One in heavenly desire.

1894 (p. 149, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sympathy)

The Lute-Player

He touched the strings; and lo, the strain,
   As waters dimple to the rain,
Spontaneous rose and fell again.

In swaddling clothes or silence bound,
   His genius a soul had found,
And wakened it to light and sound.

July 1907 (p. 187, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Miscellaneous)

The Statue

First fashioned in the artist’s brain,
It stood as in the marble vein,
   Revealed to him alone;
Nor could he from its native night
Have led it to the living light,
   Save through the lifeless stone.

E’en so, of silence and of sound
A twin-born mystery is found,
   Like as of death and birth;
Without the pause we had not heard
The harmony, nor caught the word
   That heaven reveals to earth.

May 1893 (p. 169, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Silence)

[The Shell: a seashell. Visible Sound: the trumpet flower is a flowering vine that grows in warmer regions of America, so-called because the flowers are shaped like the flared end of the musical instrument; anon means soon. The Chord: the concluding simile alludes to Pentecost, as recounted in Acts 2:1-4, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord’s disciples, appearing as tongues of fire.]


The Bubble

A momentary miracle,
   Wherein Eternal Light,
A child among his children still,
   Forgets the infinite,
Among His toys to multiply
The larger bubble of the sky.

October 1891 (p. 161, Life, Death and Similar Themes: The World)


Upon the isle of time we trace
The signs of many a vanished race;
But on the sea that laps it round,
No memory of man is found.

1897 (p. 366, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

The Sea Bubble

Yea, a bubble though I be,
   Love, O man, that fashioned thee
   Of the dust, created me
Not of earth, but of the sea:
Kindred blossoms then are we—
Time-blooms on eternity.

December 1892 (p. 134, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)


The calm horizon circles only me,
The centre of its measureless embrace—
A bubble on the bosom of the sea,
Itself a bubble in the bound of space.

December 1895 (p. 353, Quatrains: Personal)


A boat unmoored, wherein a dreamer lies,
   The slumberous waves low-lisping of a land
Where love, forever with unclouded eyes,
   Goes, wed with wandering music, hand in hand.

1897 (p. 364, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


The Life-Tide

Each wave that breaks upon the strand,
How swift soe’er to spurn the sand
   And seek again the sea,
Christ-like, within its lifted hand
Must bear the stigma of the land
   For all eternity.

September 1892 (p. 114, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

Against the Sky

See, where the foliage fronts the sky,
How many a meaning we descry
That else had never to the eye
   A signal shown!

So we, on life’s horizon-line,
To watchers waiting for a sign,
Perchance interpret love’s design,
   To us unknown.

January 1891 (p. 133, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)


Oh, frame me in thy love, as I
The landscape in the branches low;
That none beneath the bending sky
   Our sylvan secret know.

For ’tis of life the mystery
That, whereso’er its fibres run,
In time or in eternity,
   The many shape the one.

January 1902 (p. 115, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

A Crisis

O leaf, against the twilight seen,
   Move not; for at thy side
Gleams, trembling lest thou intervene,
   My hope, my star, my guide.

1897 (p. 365, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


The heavens that seemed so far away
   When old-time grief was near,
Beyond the vista seen to-day,
   Close o’er my life appear;
For there, in reconcilement sweet,
   The human and divine,
The loftiest and the lowliest, meet
   On love’s horizon-line.

July 1891 (p. 136, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)



Throughout the livelong summer day
The leaf and twinborn shadow play
   Till leaf to shadow fade;
Then, hidden for a season brief,
They dream, till shadow turn to leaf
   As leaf was turned to shade.

November 1893 (p. 113, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

Love Immortal

The soul that sees no hell below,
   No heaven above,
All other mysteries may know,
   But never love.

If from the prison-walls of time
   No life may fly,
Then love and innocence and crime
   Alike must die.

1910 (p. 137, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)


The tempest past—
A home in ruin laid;
But lo! where last
The little children played
At hide-and-seek,
A footprint small
Pleads silently,
As if afraid to speak.
“Behold in me
A memory,
The least and last of all!”

November 1909 (p. 156,Life, Death and Similar Themes: Memory)


Breathe above me or below;
Never canst thou farther go
Than the spirit’s octave-span,
Harmonizing God and Man.

Thus within the iris-bound,
Light a prisoner is found;
Thus within my soul I see
Life in time’s captivity.

November 1893 (p. 109, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

An Interpreter

What, O Eternity,
   Is time to thee?—
What to the boundless All
   My portion small?

Lift up thine eyes, my soul!
Against the tidal roll
   Stands many a stone,
   Whereon the breakers thrown
Are dashed to spray;
   Else were the ocean dumb.

So, in the way
   Of tides eternal, thou
   Abidest now;
And God himself doth come
   A suppliant to thee,
   Love’s prisoned thought to free.

1902 (p. 142, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)

[Survival: this poem was the last of Father Tabb's poetry to be published during his lifetime. Limitation: Father Tabb’s niece, Jennie Masters Tabb, quotes (p. 81) her uncle as having said of this poem, “The best of my work, according to my judgment”; she gives no indication, however, of when he made that pronouncement.]


The Grave-Digger

Here underneath the sod,
   Where night till now hath been,
With every lifted clod
   I let the sunshine in.

How dark soe’er the gloom
   Of Death’s approaching shade,
The first within the tomb
   Is light, that cannot fade.

And from the deepest grave
   I banish it in vain;
For, like a tidal wave,
   Anon ’twill come again.

March 1907 (p. 186, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Miscellaneous)


I knew the flowers had dreamed of you,
   And hailed the morning with regret;
For all their faces with the dew
   Of vanished joy were wet.

I knew the winds had passed your way,
   Though not a sound the truth betrayed;
About their pinions all the day
   A summer fragrance stayed.

And so, awaking or asleep,
   A memory of lost delight
By day the sightless breezes keep,
   And silent flowers by night.

May 1891 (p. 153, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Memory)


I envy not the sun
   His lavish light;
But O to be the one
   Pale orb of night,
In silence and alone
Communing with mine own!

I envy not the rain
   That freshens all
The parching hill and plain;
   But O the small
Night-dewdrop now to be,
My noonday flower, for thee!

September 1900 (p. 250, Himself and Others)


The interval
We both recall,
To each was all.

A moment’s space
That time nor place
Can e’er efface.

’Tis all our own,
A secret known
To us alone:

My life to thee,
As thine to me,

1902 (p. 252, Himself and Others)


O to be with thee sinking to thy rest,
                     Thy journey done;
The world thou leavest blessing thee and blest,
                     O setting sun;
The clouds, that ne’er the morning joys forget,
                     Again aglow,
And leaf and flower with tears of twilight wet
                     To see thee go.

1910 (p. 249, Himself and Others)

[Finis: Latin, the end.]


Sicut in Principio

A pentecostal breath—
The wind that baffles death—
Moves; and from sterile sand
The sea brings forth the land,
Out of whose wounded side
All life is satisfied.

1910 (p. 115, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

To the Wheatfield

Give us this day our daily bread.
“Oh wheat,” the wind, in passing, said,
“’Tis you that answer everywhere
This call of life’s incessant prayer;
Bow, then, in reverence your head,
For ’tis the Master’s gift you bear.”

March 1906 (p. 103, Nature: Miscellaneous)

Christ and the Winds

From Bethlehem to Calvary,
By night and day, by land and sea,
His closest followers were we.

We soothed Him on His mother’s breast;
We shared with John the place of rest;
With Magdalen His feet we pressed.

We saw His twilight agony;
To us He breathed His latest sigh;
With us He sought again the sky.

And now of all to whom His tone,
His face and gesture once were known,
We, wanderers, remain alone.

1910 (p. 194, Religion: Christ)


We sighed of old till underneath His feet
         Our pulses beat,
Again to sigh in restlessness until
         He saith, “Be still.”

And with us is the ever-moving wind,
         And all mankind—
A triple chorus—each upheaving breast,
         A sigh for rest.

March 1909 (p. 117, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

A Wind-Call

Dust thou art, and unto dust,
Playfellow, return thou must;
Lingering death it is to stay
In the prison-house of clay—
Bricks of Egypt, year by year,
Walling up a sepulchre.

Better far the soul to free
From its cold captivity,
And with us, thy comrades, go
Wheresoe’er we list to blow.
Come, for soon again to dust
Playfellow, return thou must.

March 1904 (p. 52, Nature: The Wind)

[Sicut in Principio: Latin, as in the beginning; Pentecost is the day on which Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples, as recounted in Acts 2, especially verses 1-2. To the Wheatfield: the first line is from the Lord's Prayer, Luke 11:3. Waves: the first quatrain quotes from the Gospel story of the Lord Jesus calming the storm at sea, Mark 4:35-40. A Wind-Call: the Israelites were oppressed in Egypt, forced to construct buildings, including making the bricks; see the first five chapters of Exodus.]


The Voyagers

The spring in festival array,
From death to life, from night to day,
   Came floating o’er the main;
And now with banners brave and bright,
From life to death, from day to night,
   The autumn drifts again.

September 1892 (p. 86, Nature: The Seasons)

Mater Dolorosa

Again maternal Autumn grieves,
As blood-like drip the maple leaves
   On Nature’s Calvary,
And every sap-forsaken limb
Renews the mystery of Him
   Who died upon a Tree.

April 1896 (p. 91, Nature: The Seasons)

Life’s Repetend

Do ye forget the blossom-time?
Or tint for tint, as rhyme for rhyme,
   Would ye, O leaves, supply;
To prove, as echo to the ear,
That Near is Far and Far is Near
   In circling home to die?

April 1899 (p. 116, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Life)

A Rubric

The aster puts its purple on
   When flowers begin to fall
To suit the solemn antiphon
   Of Autumn’s ritual;

And deigns, unwearied, to stand
   In robes pontifical
Till Indian Summer leaves the land,
   And Winter spreads the pall.

October 1895 (p. 13, Nature: Flowers)


If this the preface be of death
   In crimson, green, and gold,
What wondrous art illumineth
   The story still untold?

April 1899 (p. 368, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Poems chosen for the first day of Autumn. The Voyagers: the main is the sea. Mater Dolorosa: Latin, sorrowful mother. Life’s Repetend: a repetend is a refrain or repetition. A Rubric: this poem, part and parcel, is an extended metaphor on the Church’s liturgy; rubrics are instructions and directions for celebrating the liturgy; purple is the liturgical color of affliction and melancholy; an antiphon is a short refrain; pontifical robes are vestments worn by bishops and other prelates; Indian Summer is a warm spell when the leaves are in color; the pall is a long cloth draped over a coffin, to which the fall of snow corresponds.]


The Portrait

Each has his Angel-Guardian. Mine, I know,
Looks on me from that pictured face. Behold,
How clear, between those rifted clouds of gold,
The radiant brow! It is the morning glow
Of Innocence, ere yet the heart let go
The leading-strings of Heaven. Upon the eyes
No shadow: like the restful noonday skies
They sanctify the teeming world below.
Why bows my soul before it? None but thou,
O tender child, has known the life estranged
From thee and all that made thy days of joy
The measure of my own. Behold me now—
The man that begs a blessing of the boy—
His very self; but from himself how changed!

January 1893 (p. 292, Sonnets)


All night a rose, with budding warmth aglow,
Above a sleeper’s dreamful visage hung,
Pale with intenser passion than the tongue
Of man is tuned to utter. Breathing low,
The night winds, fledged with odor, to and fro
Went wandering the languid leaves among;
While darkling woke a mocking-bird, and sung
All echoes that the noonday warblers know.
The dream, the song, the odor, each in one
Upbreathing as a starry vapor, spread,
And from the golden minarets of morn,
Far heralding the unawakened sun,
A rapture as of poesy outshed
Upon the spirit of a babe unborn.

1897 (p. 293, Sonnets)


Thou wast to me what to the changing year
Its seasons are—a joy forever new;
What to the night its stars, its heavenly dew,
Its silence; what to dawn its lark-song clear;
To noon, its light—its fleckless atmosphere,
Where ocean and the overbending blue,
In passionate communion, hue for hue,
As one in Love’s circumference appear.
O brimming heart, with tears for utterance
Alike of joy and sorrow! lift thine eyes
And sphere the desolation. Love is flown;
And in the desert’s widening expanse
Grim Silence, like a sepulchre of stone,
Stands charnelling a soul’s funereal sighs.

November-December 1892 (p. 283, Sonnets)

The Agony

I wrestled, as did Jacob, till the dawn,
With the reluctant Spirit of the Night
That keeps the keys of Slumber. Worn and white,
We paused a panting moment, while anon
The darkness paled around us. Thereupon—
His mighty limbs relaxing in affright—
The Angel pleaded: “Lo, the morning light!
O Israel, release me, and begone!”
Then said I, “Nay, a captive to my will
I hold thee till the blessing thou dost keep
Be mine.” Whereat he breathed upon my brow;
And, as the dew upon the twilight hill,
So on my spirit, over-wearied now,
Came tenderly the benediction, Sleep.

March 1893 (p. 285, Sonnets)


To die in sleep—to drift from dream to dream
Along the banks of slumber, beckoned on
Perchance by forms familiar, till anon,
Unconsciously, the ever-widening stream
Beyond the breakers bore thee, and the beam
Of everlasting morning woke upon
Thy dazzled gaze, revealing one by one
Thy visions grown immortal in its gleam.
O blessed consummation! thus to feel
In death no touch of terror. Tenderly
As shadows to the evening hills, he came
In garb of God’s dear messenger to thee,
Nor on thy weary eyelids broke the seal,
In reverence for a brother’s holier name.

1894 (p. 290, Sonnets)

[The Portrait: the first line alludes to Matthew 18:10. Solitude: a charnel is a repository for bones or dead bodies. The Agony: Father Tabb was a chronic insomniac; the poem is based on the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, Genesis 32:22-32.]



The sunshine seeks thee, and the day,
Without thee lonely, wears away:
And where the twilight shadows pass,
And miss thy footprints on the grass,
They weep; whereat the breezes sigh,
And, following to find thee, die.

1897 (p. 81, Nature: Day and Night)

The Humming-Bird

A flash of harmless lightning,
   A mist of rainbow dyes,
The burnished sunbeams brightening,
   From flower to flower he flies:

While wakes the nodding blossom,
   But just too late to see
What lip hath touched her bosom
   And drained her nectary.

October 1891 (p. 36, Nature: Birds)

An Autumn Leaf

A nursling of the under-green,
A tethered wing I poised between
A heaven above and heaven below—
Twin sisters, mirrored in the glow
Of limpid waters—where the breeze,
Blind comrade of the listening trees,
Came wakening with soft caress
The shadows dumb and motionless.

There once, at summer’s close, a flame
Of fire and song, a redbird came,
And, perched upon my parent limb,
Outpoured his soul. From joy abrim,
The bubbling vintage of his brain,
I quaffed, the while each fibre-vein,
Deep-reddening with emotion, stirred,
Alas! he heeded not nor heard!
But when he ceased, and flew away,
A panting prisoner I lay,
Close-fettered, till the kindred fire
Of frost lit up the autumn pyre;
Then, suddenly, the tidal swell
Of sap receded, and I fell.

1894 (p. 90, Nature: The Seasons)

A Fleeting Guest

Through the foul arch of night
On airy pinions white
   It came to me,
And in the smile of day
All beautiful it lay,
   Yet pale to see.

“Whence comest thou?” I cried;
A silence soft replied:
   “From regions vast—
The ocean gave me birth
And thence through heaven to earth
   My spirit passed.”

As o’er an elfin bright
I bent with strange delight,
   But all too near;
For lo! my breathing warm
Dissolved the magic charm
   Into a tear!

1882 (p. 73, Nature: Day and Night)


New-born, how long to stay?
The while a dewdrop may
   Or rainbow-gleam:
One kiss of sun or shade,
And lo, the breath that made
   Unmakes the dream!

1894 (p. 145, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Joy and Sorrow)

[The Humming-Bird: hummingbirds are small nectar-eating birds whose wings beat so fast they can heard to hum; the Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests in the eastern United States. An Autumn Leaf: a redbird is a Cardinal; the male of the species is almost entirely red. A Fleeting Guest: a snowflake; elfin is typically the adjectival form of elf, here used as a noun for metrical purposes.]



How hast thou, little spring,
The heart to sing,
   Leaving thy lofty home
For yonder plain,
Whence ne’er again
   Returning canst thou come?

“Nay not as now I go;
But mute as snow,”
   The laughing wave replies;
“To crown the height,
In vapors white
   Again I nightly rise.”

June 1907 (p. 69, Nature: The Sea)

Vox Clamantis

O sea, forever calling to the shore
   With menace or caress—
A voice like his unheeded that of yore
   Cried in the wilderness;
A deep forever yearning unto deep,
   For silence out of sound—
Thy restlessness the cradle of a sleep
   That thou hast never found.

March 1892 (p. 63, Nature: The Sea)


’Tis well the dimples sweet
   To kiss away—
The marks of little feet
   That love the spray;

For, once the children gone,
   ’Twere mockery
The vestiges upon
   The sand to see.

1910 (p. 177, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Childhood)


I bide mine hour, when thou,
   Beloved, far away,
As unto sleep shalt bow
   Submissive to my sway.

The clouds that, floating, seem
   Unpiloted and free,
Obedient to the stream,
   Move onward to the sea;

And under love’s control,
   Despite the opposing tide,
The current of thy soul
   Is setting to my side.

1902 (p. 141, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Love)

Winter Rain

Rain on the roof and rain
On the burial-place of grain;
To one a voice in vain;
To one, o’er hill and plain
The pledge of life again.

Rain on the sterile sea,
That hath no need of thee,
Nor keeps thy memory—
’Tis thou that teachest me
The range of charity.

June 1905 (p. 61, Nature: Clouds and Sky)

[Vox Clamantis: Latin, a voice crying out; this poem alludes to the New Testament story of St. John the Baptist; see Matthew 3; the fifth line echoes Psalm 41:8 (enumerated Psalm 42:7 in most Bibles).]


Autumn Wind

It sings, and every flower and weed
Bestows a tributary seed
   Of life again to live.
I listen, but a sterile tear,
Alas! no recompense to bear,
   Is all I have to give.

1902 (p. 51, Nature: The Wind)

Indian Summer

’Tis said, in death, upon the face
Of age, a momentary trace
Of infancy’s returning grace
   Forestalls decay;

And here, in Autumn’s dusky reign,
A birth of blossom seems again
To flush the woodland’s fading train
   With dreams of May.

October 1887 (p. 89, Nature: The Seasons)

In My Orange-Grove

Orbs of Autumnal beauty, breathed to light
   From blooms of May,
Rounded between the touch of lengthening night
   And lessening day,
Flushed with the Summer fulness that the Spring
   (Fair seer!) foretold,
The circle of three seasons compassing
   In spheres of gold.

1894 (p. 24, Nature: Trees)

Autumn Gold

Death in the house, and the golden-rod
   A-bloom in the field!
O blossom, how, from the lifeless clod,
When the fires are out and the ashes cold,
Doth a vein that the miners know not, yield
   Such wealth of gold?

September 1892 (p. 11, Nature: Flowers)

The Twins

      Are you lost,
         Jack Frost?
            Ah, no;
   For a time to and fro
         Must I go,
   But a longer stay
   Shall I make some day
When I come with my sister, the snow.

(p. 100, Nature: Miscellaneous)

[Indian Summer: Indian Summer is a warm spell when the leaves are in color. Autumn Gold: goldenrod is any of a large number of flowering plants that bloom in late Summer and Autumn. The Twins: Jack Frost is the personification of crisp, cold weather.]


The Lost Anchor

Ah, sweet it was to feel the strain,
   What time, unseen, the ship above
   Stood steadfast to the storm that strove
To rend our kindred cords atwain!

To feel, as feel the roots that grow
   In darkness, when the stately tree
   Resists the tempests, that in me
High hope was planted far below!

But now, as when a mother’s breast
   Misses the babe, my prisoned power
   Deep-yearning, heart-like, hour by hour,
Unquiet aches in cankering rest.

1897 (p. 247, Himself and Others)


My soul is as a fainting noonday star,
   And thou, the absent night;
Haste, that thy healing shadow from afar
   May touch me into light.

1894 (p. 352, Quatrains: Personal)


Within the compass of mine eyes
Behold, a lordly city lies—
   A world to me unknown,
Save that along its crowded ways
Moves one whose heart in other days
   Was mated to mine own.

I ask no more; enough for me
One heaven above us both to see,
   One calm horizon-line
Around us, like a mystic ring
That Love has set, encompassing
   That kindred life and mine.

September 1893 (p. 260, Himself and Others)

The Captives

Apart forever dwelt the twain,
Save for one oft-repeated strain
Wherein what love alone could say
They learned and lavished day by day.

Strangers in all but misery
And music’s hope-sustaining tie,
They lived and loved and died apart,
But soul to soul and heart to heart.

April 1893 (p. 261, Himself and Others)


Henceforth alone to bear
The cross thou canst not share
   Is sweet to me;
For ’twas the heavier part
That lay upon thy heart
   Which now is free.

1910 (p. 249, Himself and Others)

[The Lost Anchor: Francis Litz relates in his biography of Father Tabb, p. 16, that an experience during the poet’s days as a blockade runner, on the ship Robert E. Lee leaving Charleston, suggested this poem to him in later years; what time means when.]



The cloud unto its parent stream
   That rushes to the sea
Reveals a far-reflected dream
   Of heaven’s tranquillity;
And unto faith’s adoring sight
   A mystery appears—
A cloud transfigured of the light
   In every tide of tears.

April 1896 (p. 223, Religion: Doctrine)


If but the world would give to love
The crumbs that from its table fall,
’Twere bounty large enough for all
The famishing to feed thereof.

And love, that still the laurel wins
Of sacrifice, would lovelier grow,
And round the world a mantle throw
To hide its multitude of sins.

November 1892 (p. 220, Religion: Doctrine)


And is it well with thee?
Aye, past all dreaming, well!
   For here we dwell
   Where none may weep,
And Paradise is ours again to keep,
The tree of knowledge in the midst thereof.
   Time-ripened love—
The leaves no more for healing, but for food
   Of life renewed,
Fresh with the dew, from vanished faith distilled,
   Of hope fulfilled.
   All round us angels be
To guard the gateways, not with sword of flame,
But fragrant breathings of the holy Name,
That never more an after-thought of sin
   May enter in.

December 1903 (p. 224, Religion: Doctrine)


Better for sin to dwell from heaven apart
   In foulest night,
Than on its lidless eyeballs feel the dart
   Of torturing Light.
Better to pine in floods of sulphurous fire,
   Than far above
Behold the bliss of satisfied desire,
   Nor taste thereof.
Yea, love is lord, e’en where the powers of pain
   Undying dwell:
Defiled, in spotless glory to remain
   Were deeper hell.

September 1892 (p. 233, Religion: Miscellaneous)

Time’s Legacy

The night so long to grief,
The day to joy so brief,
What shall eternity
To each, unaltered, be!

1897 (p. 365, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Poems chosen for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Beatitude: the fifth and sixth lines allude to the Old Testament story of the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2; lines 7 through 11 allude to 1 Corinthians 13.]



Whate’er we love becomes of us a part;
   The centre of all tributary powers—
Our life is fed from Nature’s throbbing heart,
   And of her best the fibred growth is ours.

1894 (p. 361, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

My Angel

O little child, that once was I,
   And still in part must be,
When other children pass me by,
   Again thy face I see.

Where art thou? Can the Innocence
   That here no more remains,
Forget, though early banished hence,
   What memory retains?

Alas! and could’st thou look upon
   The features that were thine,
To see of tender graces none
   Abiding now in mine,

Thy heart compassionate would plead,
   And, haply, not in vain,
As Angel Guardian, home to lead
   The wanderer again.

October 1905 (p. 255, Himself and Others)

A Heart-Cry

Come back to me! but not as now ye are,
   O friends afar!
For it were pain,
More keen than parting, so to meet again,
With all the change that time, perchance, hath wrought
   In form and thought,
To make us strangers in each other’s eyes,
   Save for long-cloistered sympathies.

1902 (p. 270, Himself and Others)

The Shadow

O shadow, in thy fleeting form I see
The friend of fortune that once clung to me.
In flattering light, thy constancy is shown;
In darkness, thou wilt leave me all alone.

December 1885 (p. 352, Quatrains: Personal)


Old Sorrow I shall meet again,
   And Joy, perchance—but never, never,
Happy Childhood, shall we twain
   See each other’s face forever!

And yet I would not call thee back,
   Dear Childhood, lest the sight of me,
Thine old companion, on the rack
   Of Age, should sadden even thee.

1894 (p. 172, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Childhood)


Fiat Lux

“Give us this day our daily bread,” and light:
   For more to me, O Lord, than food is sight:
      And I at noon have been
In twilight, where my fellow-men were seen
   “As trees” that walked before me. E’en to-day
From time to time there falls upon my way
   A feather of the darkness. But again
It passes; and amid the falling rain
   Of tears, I lift, O Lord, mine eyes to Thee,
                        For, lo! I see!

1910 (p. 257, Himself and Others)


Whate’er my darkness be,
’Tis not, O Lord, of Thee.
The light is Thine alone;
The shadows, all my own.

November 1895 - February 1896 (p. 353, Quatrains: Personal)

Going Blind

Back to the primal gloom
   Where life began,
As to my mother’s womb
   Must I a man
Not to be born again,
   But to remain:
And in the School of Darkness learn
      What mean
“The things unseen.”

August 1908 (p. 257, Himself and Others)

The Smiter

They bound Thine eyes and questioned, “Tell us now
Who smote Thee.” Thou wast silent. When to-day
Mine eyes are holden, and again they say,
“Who smote Thee?” Lord, I tell them it is Thou.

1910 (p. 355, Quatrains: Personal)

In Tenebris

The dawn to ours is dusk to other eyes;
                  And, light away,
Our stars returning to their native skies
                  Forget the day.

If then, some life be brighter for the shade
                  That darkens mine,
To both, O Lord, more manifest be made
                  The light divine.

1910 (p. 259, Himself and Others)

[Father Tabb lost his eyesight completely in late November 1908. Fiat Lux: Latin, let there be light, a quotation from the Old Testament story of creation, Genesis 1:3; the first line quotes from the Lord's Prayer, Luke 1:1-4; “As trees” is from the New Testament story of the Lord Jesus restoring sight to a blind man, Mark 8:22-26. Tenebrae: Latin, darkness. Going Blind: the final line refers to 2 Corinthians 4:18. The Smiter: the first two lines refer to the taunting received by the blindfolded Lord Jesus in the house of Caiaphas, Luke 22:63-65; holden is archaic for held, here meaning obstructed. In Tenebris: Latin, in darkness.]


The Old Pastor

How long, O Lord, to wait
Beside this open gate?
My sheep with many a lamb
Have entered, and I am
Alone, and it is late.

1902 (p. 216, Religion: Saints)


I passed him daily, but his eyes,
   On others musing, missed me,
Till suddenly, with pale surprise,
   He caught and clasped and kissed me.
Since then his long-averted glance
Is fixed upon my countenance.

1910 (p. 129, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Personal)

Leaf and Soul


Let go the Limb?
My life in him
   Alone is found.
Come night, come day,
’Tis here I stay
   Above the sapless ground.


Let go the warm
Life-kindled form,
   And upward fly?
Come joy, come pain,
I here remain
   Despite the yearning sky.

A sudden frost—and, lo!
Both Leaf and Soul let go!

November 1902 (p. 31, Nature: Trees)

In Extremis

Lord, as from Thy body bleeding,
Wave by wave is life receding
   From these limbs of mine:
As it drifts away from me
To the everlasting sea,
   Blend it, Lord, with Thine.

1907 (p. 250, Himself and Others)


   Here buried side by side
We long have waited with between us two
   A place for you.

   The powers of darkness tried
To chill our hearts to ashes; but behold
   They grew not cold.

   You journey far and wide;
Our eyes were on you till they turned your way
   To where we lay.

   Henceforth, all fate defied,
Our kindred dust commingling, three in one—
   We slumber, son.

(p. 271, Himself and Others)

A Stone’s Throw

Lo, Death another pebble far doth fling
   Into the midmost sea,
To leave of Life an ever-widening ring
   Upon Eternity.

1894 (p. 357, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

The Soul’s Quest

I laid my vesture by
   Upon this spot,
And here returning, I
   Behold it not.
Dost thou, O earth, resume
   The relics of the tomb?

Whereto the earth replies:
   “Be not afraid;
Safe in my keeping lies
   What here was laid:
A thousand forms refine
   What shall again be thine.”

October 1896 (p. 160, Life, Death and Similar Themes: The World)

[Poems chosen for the anniversary of Father Tabb’s death, November 19, 1909. In Extremis: Latin, to the furthest reaches; thus, figuratively, near the point of death.]



Again as in the desert way,
Behold my guides, a cloud by day,
   A flame by night;
For darkness wakens with the morn,
But dreams, of midnight slumber born,
   Bring back the light.

March 1909 (p. 258, Himself and Others)

In Blindness

For me her life to consecrate,
   My Lady Light
Within her shadowy convent gate
   Is lost to sight.

I may not greet her; but a grace—
   A gleam divine—
The rapture of her hidden face
   Suffuses mine.

October 1908 (p. 258, Himself and Others)


The day is nearer to the night
   Than to another day;
If closer to the Living Light,
   In darkness let me stay.

1910 (p. 355, Quatrains: Personal)


I loved her countenance whereon,
   Despite the longest day,
The tenderness of visions gone
   In shadow seemed to stay.
And now, when faithless sight is fled
   Beyond my waking gaze,
Of darkness I am not afraid—
   It is my Mammy’s face.

1910 (p. 258, Himself and Others)


The sun is gone; and the forsaken sea—
   Her glance a tear
Wherein all depths of tenderness appear—
   Looks back at me,
Where I upon the strand,
The centre of the lone horizon, stand
   Forlorn as she,
To know that when her darkness drifts away
   Mine own must stay.

March 1906 (p. 259, Himself and Others)

[Father Tabb lost his eyesight completely in late November 1908. Blind: the poem alludes to Exodus 13:21-22. In Blindness: St. Francis of Assisi had figuratively taken Lady Poverty as his bride. Mammy: in childhood, Fr. Tabb’s nanny had been Jenny Thompson, a Negro woman, with whom he remained friends for the rest of her life.]


The Foundling

What time the wandering mother night
   Made ready to depart,
A new-born, trembling dream of light
   She laid upon my heart.
“Keep it,” she sighed, and bending low
   Wept o’er it where it lay;
Then, suddenly as April snow,
   Went vanishing away.

1897 (p. 72, Nature: Day and Night)

The Expected of Nations

While shepherd stars their nightly vigils keep
   Above the clouds of sleep,
Long prophesied, behold the manchild, morn,
   Again is born.

1902 (p. 335, Quatrains: Day and Night)

The Dial

A dreamer in the dark, I grow
Prophetic in the morning glow;
Thereon a slender shade I throw—
A sign in Babylon to say
“Thou’rt in the balance weighed, O Day,
Found wanting, and shalt waste away.”
And now in Night’s pavilion, all
The stars are writing on the wall,
“Behold, thy kingdom too must fall.”

1910 (p. 77, Nature: Day and Night)

At Cock-Crow

Crow! For the night has thrice denied
   The glory of the sun,
And now, repentant, turns aside
   To weep what he has done.

1899 (p. 336, Quatrains: Day and Night)

Light in Darkness

The day—of sorrow pitiless—
   Proclaims “He is not here”;
But never hath the tenderness
   Of night denied thee near.

Nay, with the twilight sympathy
   Returning from afar,
She wakes again for memory
   The dawn-extinguished star.

1907 (p. 85, Nature: Day and Night)

[The Foundling: what time means when. The Expected of Nations: one of the titles (Latin, exspectatio gentium) of the Lord Jesus in the seventh of the “O” Antiphons, used in the Catholic liturgy during Advent. The Dial: a sundial; the poem alludes to an Old Testament story about the prophet Daniel, recounted in Daniel 5. At Cock-Crow: the poem alludes to the Gospel story of St. Peter’s triple denial of the Lord Jesus, as in Mark 14:66-72. Light in Darkness: the second line quotes the angel at the Lord’s tomb, as in Matthew 28:6.]



Low, I listen in my grave
   For the silence soon to be
When a slow-receding wave,
   Hushed, is memory.

Now the falling of a tear
   Or the breathing half-suppressed
Of a sigh, re-echoed here,
   Holds me from my rest.

O, ye breakers of the past
   From the never-resting deep,
On the coast of slumber cast,
   Cease, and let me sleep.

April 1907 (p. 165, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sleep)


E’en this, Lord, didst thou bless—
This pain of sleeplessness—
   The livelong night,
Urging God’s gentlest angel from thy side,
That anguish only might with thee abide
   Until the light.
Yea, e’en the last and best,
Thy victory and rest,
   Came thus to thee;
For ’twas while others calmly slept around,
That thou alone in sleeplessness wast found
   To comfort me.

October 1891 (p. 243, Himself and Others)


Sleep quiets all but me,
   A desert isle unsolaced by the sea—
   A Tantalus denied
The draught wherewith all thirst is satisfied.

June 1893 (p. 355, Quatrains: Personal)


Thou sleepest sound, and I
Anear thee lie,
Yet worlds apart:
Thou in the light of dreams;
I, where the midnight seems—
An ashen sea—
From this my world and that wherein thou art
To blot out all but me.

March 1908 (p. 251, Himself and Others)


A flood of darkness overwhelms the land;
And all that God had planned,
Of loveliness beneath the noonday skies,
A dream o’ershadowed lies.

Amid the universal darkness deep,
Only the Isles of Sleep,
As did the dwellings of the Israelite
In Egypt, stem the night.

August 1894 (p. 163, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Sleep)

[Father Tabb was a chronic insomniac. Insomnia: the concluding lines allude to the Gospel story of the Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, as in Mark 14:32-42. Sleeplessness: in Greek mythology, Tantalus was a son of Zeus. Midnight: the second quatrain alludes to the Old Testament story of the Plagues of Egypt, the ninth plague being darkness, as told in Exodus 10:21-23.]



Since to my smiting enemy
   Thou biddest me be meek,
Lo, gladlier, my God, to Thee
   I turn the other cheek.

(p. 354, Quatrains: Personal)

Love’s Autograph

Once only did he pass my way.
   “When wilt thou come again?
Ah, leave some token of thy stay!”
   He wrote (and vanished) “Pain.”

September 1892 (p. 357, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


I am a gardener to weed
   And dig about the heart;
To plant therein the pregnant seed,
   And watch, with many a smart,
The stem and leaf and blossom rise,
   Alternate to supply
The victims for the sacrifice,
And, for the fruit, to die.

January 1895 (p. 145, Life, Death and Similar Themes: Joy and Sorrow)

Angels of Pain

Ah, should they come revisiting the spot
   Whence by our prayers we drove them utterly,
Shame were it for their saddened eyes to see
      How soon their visitations are forgot.

1894 (p. 352, Quatrains: Personal)

The Sphinx

Ah, not alone in Egypt’s desert land
   Thy dwelling-place apart!
But wheresoe’er the scorching passion-sand
   Hath seared the human heart.

September 1892 (p. 359, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Submission: the poem alludes to Matthew 5:39. The Sphinx: the Great Sphinx of Giza, the greatest of sphinxes, has become a symbol of ineffable mystery, because of its unknown origin and purpose, and of strength and wisdom, because it has withstood the desert for thousands of years.]


Vox Dei

“Some said it thundered.”

The Father speaking to the Son,
In all the multitude was none
   That caught the meaning true.
And yet “This word from Heaven,” said He,
“Was spoken not because of me—
   But came because of you.”

Thus through the Son of Man alone
The mysteries of God are known;
   Thus to the chosen few
With eye and ear attentive found
He speaks in every sight and sound,
   The old becoming new.

1909 (p. 194, Religion: Christ)


When home our blessed Lord was gone,
His mother lived alone with John;
For each had secrets to impart
That Love had taught them both by heart.

1899 (p. 345, Quatrains: Religion)

Christ and the Pagan

I had no God but these,
The sacerdotal Trees,
And they uplifted me.
“I hung upon a Tree.”

The sun and moon I saw,
And reverential awe
Subdued me day and night.
“I am the perfect Light.”

Within a lifeless stone—
All other gods unknown—
I sought Divinity.
“The Corner-Stone am I.”

For sacrificial feast
I slaughtered man and beast,
Red recompense to gain.
“So I, a Lamb, was slain.

“Yea; such My hungering Grace
That wheresoe’er My face
Is hidden, none may grope
Beyond eternal Hope.”

1910 (p. 193, Religion: Christ)

Potter’s Field

’Twas purchased with His blood, this holy ground,
   This place of refuge for the homeless dead;
While He, alas! no spot secluded found
   In all the world, whereon to lay His head.

May 1898 (p. 342, Quatrains: Religion)

The Image-Maker

“Thou shalt no graven image make;”
And yet, O sculptor, for the sake
   Of such an effigy as I—
The superscription like the face
Disfigured now, and hard to trace—
   Didst thou thyself consent to die.

January 1909 (p. 195, Religion: Christ)

[Poems chosen for the anniversary of John B. Tabb’s ordination to the priesthood, December 20, 1884. Vox Dei: Latin, the voice of God; the poem is a reflection on the Gospel story related in John 12:20-36. Tradition: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The word tradition (Greek paradosis) in the ecclesiastical sense... refers sometimes to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another; sometimes to the organ or mode of the transmission....” Potter’s Field: the poem references Matthew 27:3-10 and alludes to Luke 9:57-58. The Image-Maker: the quotation is from Exodus 20:4; the whole poem alludes to Genesis 1:26; a superscription is something written on the surface of, on the outside of, or above something else; an effigy is an image or representation of a person.]



Here fancy far outdoes the deed;
So hath eternity the need
Of telling more than time has taught
To fill the boundaries of thought.

September 1893 (p. 358, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

Alter Ego

Thou art to me as is the sea
   Unto the shell:
A life whereof I breathe, a love
   Wherein I dwell.

December 1892 (p. 361, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


For one extinguished light
Of Love, all heaven is night;
For one frail flower the less,
The world a wilderness.

January 1909 (p. 369, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


This, biting Frost—this, branding Sun—
This, Wind or drenching Rain hath done;
Each perfecting the Sculptor’s plan
Upon the godlike image, Man.

November 1903 (p. 370, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)


She sleeps, her hiding-place unknown
   To other worshippers,
Till Art, her lover, comes alone
   To press his lips to hers.

1910 (p. 371, Quatrains: Miscellaneous)

[Alter Ego: Latin, the other I; Wrinkles: the last line alludes to Genesis 1:26.]


The poems presented here were originally selected and arranged for the Father Tabb Centenary Year at The Blog from the Core; only those sets with five or more poems are included here.

Webpage © 2009 ELC
Lane Core Jr. (lane@elcore.net)
Created December 31, 2009.