Title: Charles Warren Stoddard to Walt Whitman, 8 February 1867
Date: February 8, 1867
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839-1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.01942
Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Beverley Rilett
To Walt Whitman. Poet..
My very dear Sir
If you will reply to this I shall be satisfied; and where one is so easily made happy—will you grudge a little inconvenience?
I should be very proud of your autograph, and because I know it to be a healthful pleasure I anticipate my hearo-worship is pardonable.
You are well known here and much talked of—and we are looking for a fresh edition of your poems. How long must we wait?
I am approaching my twenty-fourth birthday—and stand upon the order of printing a small selection of my own rhymes—being assisted in this (perhaps unwise move) by my friends. May I send you a copy of my book in June?—when it will be safely out. D. V.
Please answer me—if possible, and be sure—if you so far honor me—I shall thank your indulgence, rather than mistrust that my verses have afforded you any pleasure.
I am, dear Sir—
Chas. W. Stoddard..
San Francisco—Cal. 8th Feb—1867.
I have a friend who is so true to me,
We may not parted be.
Though I strayed, on to the uttermost,
Yet is his voice not lost.
If I am madly-deaf for having erred,
Still may I hear his word.
If sin hath slain mine honor, straight appears,
The river of his tears,
Wherein I find redemption: tenderly
He woos my fear away,
And searches out some star of hope, above,
So boundless in his love.
When from the loathed grave I shall arise,
He'll hail me from the skies.
Who else would seek me in corruption's dress
With a so kind caress?
Though I am weak, there is a hope of power;
He is my mighty tower;
Like as a flame to fright the gloom away;
He is my perfect day.
I am the homely bulb that tops the reed—
He is the precious seed.
I am the rudest shell the vext-waves whirl—
He is the priceless pearl.
Thou art indeed my friend while ages roll,
O! thou my deathless soul.
C. W. S.
A sailor by the green home-shore,
While seas are ebbing from his view,
Doth all his earthly joys renew:
He sings the songs he sang of yore;
He spies his little cot, he smiles
With a full joy ne'er felt before—
He holds that one bare prospect more
Than all the summer of the isles.
The quiet home is his; the trees
Sprang from the seeds his grandsires laid,
Among the mould; within the glade
The myrtles rustle in the breeze.
Above a treasured little grave,
His earthly lost, his first deep woe!
Not any land that he may know
Beyond the purple of the wave
Hath such a jewel in its breast.
He loves each rock and stream and dell;
'Tis only here he cares to dwell,
'Tis ever here he longs to rest.
This is his home of joy and ease:
And better is the myrtle tomb
Than all the heavy dusks that gloom
The groves of spice beyond the seas.
C. W. S.
I knew a cumbrous hill,
From whose green breast did daintily distill
A throbbing rill.
This is the artery,
And further on the crystal heart must be,
Thought said to me.
All other I forsook,
To follow every twist and curious crook
Of this wild brook.
Among deep mosses set,
I found the glimmering fount that did beget
No other eye had known
Its secret, nor ear heard—for it made moan
I quaffed its water clear;
Its limpid music babbled to mine ear
With voice sincere.
Then such a silence fell
Upon me, mantling me, as where a spell
Is wont to dwell.
Yet fled I from the place
At a rude rustling; and fear gave me chase
In my disgrace.
'Twas a slim water-snake
Slipt like an arrow through the shivering brake.
And left no wake.
But cleft the placid spring
And waved its flaming sword, its forked sting,
In a charmed ring.
* * * * * * *
So was the fountain spoiled
Within its lucid walls a devil coiled—
My trust was foiled.
Chas. Warren Stoddard.
San Francisco, Cal.
I know a well so deep and cool
And hid, the crystal-hearted pool
Hath never thrilled a swallow's throat
Or sweetened a lark's note.
No fainting stag, though perishing,
Hath ventured to disturb this spring;
No leopard with its fiery breast
This fountain dares molest.
No cunning silver-cased trout
The sheltered source can e'er search out—
No tongue but mine may ever tell
The secret of this well.
I build about its guarded rim
With added stones: I know the dim
Still twilight of its mossy cell,
Where the sweet waters dwell.
For spirits go between us two
With flasks; they brim with softest dew.
I drink and am refreshed and seem
As living in a dream.
This well, that is alone for me,
Is all a fount of memory;
And every year that I have known
Is as an added stone.
My willing thoughts, as spirits, haste
To draw the draught I love to taste.
There is an ever full supply
Yet who may drink but I?
C. W. S.
If life be as a flame that death doth kill:
Burn little candle lit for me.
With a pure spark, that I may rightly see
To word my song and utterly
God's plan fulfill.
If life be as a flower that blooms and dies:
Forbid the cunning frost that slays
With Judas-kiss, and trusting love betrays:
Forever may my song of praise
If life be as a voyage, or foul, or fair:
Oh! bid me not my banners furl
For adverse gale, or wave in angry whirl,
Till I have found the gates of pearl
And anchored there.
C. W. S.
Not the cherries' nerveless flesh,
However fair, however fresh,
May ever hope my love to win
For Ethiope blood and satin skin.
Their lustre rich, and deep their dye,
Yet under all their splendors lie—
To what I cannot tribute grant—
Their hateful hearts of adamant.
I love the amber globes that hold
That dead-delicious wine of gold;
A thousand torrid suns distill
Such liquors as those flagons fill.
Yet tropic gales with souls of musk
Should steep my grapes in steams of dusk;
An orient Eden nothing lacks
To spice their purple silken sacks.
C. W. S.
A maid is sitting by a brook,
The sweetest of sweet creatures:
I pass that way with my good book
Yet cannot read, nor cease to look
Upon her winsome features.
Amongst the blushes on her cheek
Her small, white hand reposes:
I am a shepherd, for I seek
That wilful lamb, with fleece so sleek,
Feeding among the roses!
C. W. S.