Two Poems

I—Alere Flammam

To A. C. B.

In ancient Rome, the secret fire,—1
An intimate and holy thing,—2
Was guarded by a tender choir3
Of kindred maidens in a ring,4
Deep, deep within the house it lay,5
No stranger ever gazed thereon,6
But, flickering still by night and day,7
The beacon of the house, it shone ;8
Thro’ birth and death, from age to age,9
It passed, a quenchless heritage ;10
And there were hymns of mystic tone11
Sung round bout the family flame,12
Beyond the threshold all unknown,13
Fast-welded to an ancient name ;14
There sacrificed the sire as priest,15
Before that altar, none but he,16
Alone he spread the solemn feast17
For a most secret deity ;18
He knew the god had once been sire,19
And served the same memorial fire.20
Ah ! so, untouched by windy roar21
Of public issues loud and long,22
The Poet holds the sacred door,23
And guards the glowing coal of song ;24
Not his to grasp at praise or blame,25
Red gold, or crowns beneath the sun,26
His only pride to tend the flame27
That Homer and that Virgil won,28
Retain the rite, preserve the act,29
And pass the worship on intact.30
Before the shrine at last he falls ;31
The crowd rush in, a chattering band32
But, ere he fades in death, he calls33
Another priest to ward the brand ;34
He, with a gesture of disdain,35
Flings back the ringing brazen gate,36
Reproves, repressing, the profane,37
And feeds the flame in primal state ;38
Content to toil and fade in turn,39
If still the sacred embers burn.40