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Alan Seeger - An Ode to Antares

At dusk, when lowlands where dark waters glide 
Robe in gray mist, and through the greening hills 
The hoot-owl calls his mate, and whippoorwills 
Clamor from every copse and orchard-side, 
I watched the red star rising in the East, 
And while his fellows of the flaming sign 
From prisoning daylight more and more released, 
Lift their pale lamps, and, climbing higher, higher, 
Out of their locks the waters of the Line 
Shaking in clouds of phosphorescent fire, 
Rose in the splendor of their curving flight, 
Their dolphin leap across the austral night, 
From windows southward opening on the sea 
What eyes, I wondered, might be watching, too, 
Orbed in some blossom-laden balcony. 
Where, from the garden to the rail above, 
As though a lover's greeting to his love 
Should borrow body and form and hue 
And tower in torrents of floral flame, 
The crimson bougainvillea grew, 
What starlit brow uplifted to the same 
Majestic regress of the summering sky, 
What ultimate thing -- hushed, holy, throned as high 
Above the currents that tarnish and profane 
As silver summits are whose pure repose 
No curious eyes disclose 
Nor any footfalls stain, 
But round their beauty on azure evenings 
Only the oreads go on gauzy wings, 
Only the oreads troop with dance and song 
And airy beings in rainbow mists who throng 
Out of those wonderful worlds that lie afar 
Betwixt the outmost cloud and the nearest star. 


Like the moon, sanguine in the orient night 
Shines the red flower in her beautiful hair. 
Her breasts are distant islands of delight 
Upon a sea where all is soft and fair. 
Those robes that make a silken sheath 
For each lithe attitude that flows beneath, 
Shrouding in scented folds sweet warmths and tumid flowers, 
Call them far clouds that half emerge 
Beyond a sunset ocean's utmost verge, 
Hiding in purple shade and downpour of soft showers 
Enchanted isles by mortal foot untrod, 
And there in humid dells resplendent orchids nod; 
There always from serene horizons blow 
Soul-easing gales and there all spice-trees grow 
That Phoenix robbed to line his fragrant nest 
Each hundred years in Araby the Blest. 


Star of the South that now through orient mist 
At nightfall off Tampico or Belize 
Greetest the sailor rising from those seas 
Where first in me, a fond romanticist, 
The tropic sunset's bloom on cloudy piles 
Cast out industrious cares with dreams of fabulous isles -- 
Thou lamp of the swart lover to his tryst, 
O'er planted acres at the jungle's rim 
Reeking with orange-flower and tuberose, 
Dear to his eyes thy ruddy splendor glows 
Among the palms where beauty waits for him; 
Bliss too thou bringst to our greening North, 
Red scintillant through cherry-blossom rifts, 
Herald of summer-heat, and all the gifts 
And all the joys a summer can bring forth ---- 


Be thou my star, for I have made my aim 
To follow loveliness till autumn-strown 
Sunder the sinews of this flower-like frame 
As rose-leaves sunder when the bud is blown. 
Ay, sooner spirit and sense disintegrate 
Than reconcilement to a common fate 
Strip the enchantment from a world so dressed 
In hues of high romance. I cannot rest 
While aught of beauty in any path untrod 
Swells into bloom and spreads sweet charms abroad 
Unworshipped of my love. I cannot see 
In Life's profusion and passionate brevity 
How hearts enamored of life can strain too much 
In one long tension to hear, to see, to touch. 
Now on each rustling night-wind from the South 
Far music calls; beyond the harbor mouth 
Each outbound argosy with sail unfurled 
May point the path through this fortuitous world 
That holds the heart from its desire. Away! 
Where tinted coast-towns gleam at close of day, 
Where squares are sweet with bells, or shores thick set 
With bloom and bower, with mosque and minaret. 
Blue peaks loom up beyond the coast-plains here, 
White roads wind up the dales and disappear, 
By silvery waters in the plains afar 
Glimmers the inland city like a star, 
With gilded gates and sunny spires ablaze 
And burnished domes half-seen through luminous haze, 
Lo, with what opportunity Earth teems! 
How like a fair its ample beauty seems! 
Fluttering with flags its proud pavilions rise: 
What bright bazaars, what marvelous merchandise, 
Down seething alleys what melodious din, 
What clamor importuning from every booth! 
At Earth's great market where Joy is trafficked in 
Buy while thy purse yet swells with golden Youth! 

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Poet: Alan Seeger
Poem: An Ode to Antares
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