“A September Stroll” by Alfred Billings Street

by Ann Neilson

Due to the lack of transcriptions of Street’s poetry on the internet, I had bestowed it upon myself to transcribe a few pieces and place them here for safekeeping. I now regret this decision and have decided to resign from this self-appointment, as Street’s poetry is frustratingly lengthy.

Regardless, here is one that managed to escape and find its place on my blog.

“A September Stroll”

The dull mist of September, fitfully
Thickening to chill and gusty streams of rain,
Lifted at sunset, and the western verge
Showed a broad stripe of light; a golden smile
Burst o’er the dripping scene, then died away :
And the North swept, in hollow moan and hiss,
Round dwellings and through branches.

Morning broke
In cloudless beauty, but a chilly breath
Still edged the crystal air. The sun went down
With a rich halo glowing round the spot
Where his orb glided, and  a splendid belt
Of orange burn’d above his slanting track,
Melting to soft bright gray, that deepend’ up
Into the rich mid-blue ; and where the pearl
Darken’d into the sapphire, bounded forth
The courier-star of night’s magnificence.
Morning again rose gloriously clear :
The air was softer, and the gentle West
Was fanning where the North had struck its chill :
And as the sun climb’d up, his light was cast
So warm and genial, and the atmosphere
Was felt so sweetly and deliciously,
It seemed ’twere pleasure merely to lie down,
And bask and breathe.

The noontide now has come :
Green woods and pleasant fields are smiling forth
Inviting welcome. Let us leave the walls
Of the close city, and with wandering feet
Seek the sweet haunts of Nature. O’er the dust
Of the great thoroughfare, with rapid wheels
And trampling hoofs vex’d ever, where the gay
And flaunting motes sport thick in Fashion’s beam,
Idle and worthless, quick we tread, and turn
Gladly  aside, where a green narrow lane
Leads to a wild ravine amid the hills.
Smooth fields,with browsing cattle, are around,
And now and then the tinkling sheep-bell breaks 
Pleasantly on the ear. Our pathway leads
Through a rude gate and o’er a broken bridge,
Where the green rushes and long tangled grass
Proclaim the shrunken streamlet ; a faint track
Leads to a barrell’d spring, whose waters boil
Unceasing from their loose gray sandy depth.
Grass spreads its sides with velvet, and tall trees
Drop their black shapes around. We pass along :
A gorge winds up, wall’d in with rocky banks
Plumaged with leaning branches : wheel-marks deep
Are traced upon the stone floor of the chasm,
And grateful shadow rests like sleep within.
Grim roots start out from crevices : green sprouts
Flaunt from moss’d ledges ; and large trickling drops,
From the steep sides, shed moisture on the air.
We rest awhile, then tread again our path.
A grassy glade, with points and curving banks,
The dry bed of a streamlet, lures our steps. 
The varied aster-tribes are cluster’d round ; 
The gnarl’d thorn shows its yellow-crimson fruit,
Studding its boughs and scatter’d thick beneath ; 
And from the brinks the solidago  bends
It sgolden feather : mingling with the sweet
And peaceful quiet, low monotonous sounds
Stream from the insects, varied with the swell
Of the near locust’s peevish clarion,
And chirrup of the cricket. Now the fence 
We leap, and stray into the broad green field.
The air is an elixir ; as we breathe,
The blood swift tingles in our veins; we long
To bound with transport and shout out our joy.
The thread-like gossamer is waving past,
Borne on the wind’s light wing, and to yon branch
Tangled and trembling, clings like snowy silk.
The thistle-down, high lifted through the rich
Bright blue, quick float, like gliding stars, and then
Touching the sunshine, flash, and seem to melt
Within the dazzling brilliance. Yon tall oak
Standing from out the straggling skirt of wood,
Touched by the frost, that wondrous chemist, shows
Spottings of gorgeous crimson through its green,
Like a proud monarch, towering still erect,
Though sprinkled with his life-blood. Close beside,
That aspen, to the wind’s soft-finger’d touch,
Flutters with all its dangling leaves, as though 
Beating with myriad pulses. Misty shade
Films the deep hollows, misty sunshine glows
On the round hills. Across the far-off wood,
The atmosphere is shaded like thin smoke,
Until we fancy a dim swarm of motes
Is glimmering there and dancing. We approach,
And tread the dark recesses : wither’d leaves
Spread a thick crackling mantle, countless trunks
Lead on the eye in labyrinths, till lost
Within a dizzy maze, and overhead
A vast and interlacing roof of green.
The hickory-shell, cracked open by its fall,
Shows its ripe fruit, an in ivory ball, within; 
And the cleft chesnut-burr displays its sheath
White glistening, with its glossy nuts below.
Scatter’d around, the wild rose-bushes hang
Their ruby buds tipping their thorny sprays.
The everlasting’s blossoms seem as cut
In delicate silver, whitening o’er the slopes ; 
The seedy clematis, branch’d high, is robed
With woolly tufts; the snowy Indian-pipe
Is streak’d with black decay; the wintergreen
Offers its berries; and the prince’s-pine,
Scarce seen above the fallen leaves, peers out,
A firm green glossy wreath.

Within this knot
Of twining roots, a shelving aperture
Proclaims the hedge-hog’s chamber; through the gloom
Within we see the sparkle of his eye,
And his slim snout thrust level with the brink
To scent his danger; but fear not! no staff
Will pierce thy winding cavern, to drive forth
Thy crouching form, and beat, with cruel blows,
Thy gasping being from thee.

By we pass,
And from the darkening woods released, we see
One mass of shadow stretching to the east,
And narrow stripes of gold upon the tops
Of hill and three; and climbing the ascent,
We view the sun sink calmly to his rest.