YALE UNIVERSITY PRIZE POEMS
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YALE UNIVERSITY PRIZE POEMS
MARTHA HALE SHACKFORD
TUTTL, MoxmHOusx, AND TAYLOR
These sonnets received the first award of a prite
offered by Professor Albert S. Cook to Yale
University for the best unpublished verse, the
committee of award consisting of Messrs. Walter
H. Page, Richard Watson Gilder, and Charles D.
Impulsive, stormy, passionate as the sea
Whose beat and tumult swept Iona's shore,
Columba sang to Arran o'er and o'er:
"My sun, my heart is in the west with thee !"
From bitterness of longing never free,
His life the glory of a triumph wore.
Against the sins and wrongs of men he bore
Unflinching fight,-a man who would not flee.
The father of that fiery northern school
Unmatched for zeal and magic influence,
His ardor, never quiet, never cool,
Loved evening's gold and crimson, with a sense
Of God's eternal, everlasting rule,
Maintained by love and man's long reverence.
A fair-haired boy, he loved the silent place
Where gray, cold walls were warders of that song
Whose even Latin cadence lingered long
Within. his heart. When prayer and fast gave space,
His eager, steady fingers learned to trace
The letters done in blue and gold along
The vellum pages-while the dark-robed throng
Passed by, unseen, before his glowing face.
A silver-haired and beautiful old man,
With vehement desire he hungered still
To master some abtruse old Latin page.
Still seeking fact, our first historian,"
He labored on with changeless heart and will,
The foremost scholar of his learned age.
To royal Oswald's war-encompassed land
Went Aidan with the peace of God within
His heart, rebuking avarice and sin,
And daring in his fervor to withstand
Ambitious princes' pride, and to demand
Unswerving rectitude where crime had been.
The cruel gleam of knives, the smoke and din
Of heathendom ceased at his stern command.
When death assailed him with a sudden right,
His comrades quickly pitched a sheltering tent
Beside the church he loved; and as he died
He grasped the buttress with defiant might,
Exulting in his faith, which no event
Could weaken, and no changing aims divide.
Where haunting sea-gulls scream and eagles fly
Round island shores lashed by the ocean's swell,
Saint Cuthbert hollowed out his rocky cell
With grim, blank walls, and roof of stars and sky.
The sea-mews came with friendly, eager cry
To brush his shoulder. Every stone and shell
Lay in his hand; and from his lips there fell
Sweet words of cheer to sailors passing by.
His holy death was flashed from isle to isle
By beacon lights over the far blue sea ;
Even so his spirit sent its healing strength,
As legends tell, to stricken people, while
They kissed his relics. So his sanctity
Transcended death and time's consuming length.
Beside the mouth of smoothly-flowing Wear
Rose Benedict's long-dreamed-of masterpiece.
His foreign travels labored to increase
The growing beauty of his church, whose fair
Glass windows sheltered ornaments of rare
Strange form and color. Through his diocese
He sent God's messengers in love and peace,
With Latin music for their daily prayer.
Some mystic sense of art's constraining power
Sufficed to guide his consecrated mind
To fairer, more imaginative ways
Of praising God under that Roman tower.
Men felt a sweeter faith, an undefined
New inspiration ruling work and praise.
His hands had ever held the plough afield ;
His eyes had loved the pasture and the sheep;
He saw the wind and rain and sunshine keep
Their yearly watch over the seeds that yield
The yellow corn. Deep in his heart concealed,
A poet's majestic spirit was asleep.
With music full of ease he could not sweep
The harp; no gaiety his lips unsealed.
But in the dark, alone, his heart was stung
With impotence, and from the sting there came
The first great poem in that triumphant tongue
Whose truth and purity have been the aim
Of English poets, while their songs have rung
With melody eternal as their fame.