Herba Santa

A poem by Herman Melville

I
After long wars when comes release
Not olive wands proclaiming peace
Can import dearer share
Than stems of Herba Santa hazed
In autumn's Indian air.
Of moods they breathe that care disarm,
They pledge us lenitive and calm.

II
Shall code or creed a lure afford
To win all selves to Love's accord?
When Love ordained a supper divine
For the wide world of man,
What bickerings o'er his gracious wine!
Then strange new feuds began.

Effectual more in lowlier way,
Pacific Herb, thy sensuous plea
The bristling clans of Adam sway
At least to fellowship in thee!
Before thine altar tribal flags are furled,
Fain wouldst thou make one hearthstone of the world.

III
To scythe, to sceptre, pen and hod--
Yea, sodden laborers dumb;
To brains overplied, to feet that plod,
In solace of the Truce of God
The Calumet has come!

IV
Ah for the world ere Raleigh's find
Never that knew this suasive balm
That helps when Gilead's fails to heal,
Helps by an interserted charm.

Insinuous thou that through the nerve
Windest the soul, and so canst win
Some from repinings, some from sin,
The Church's aim thou dost subserve.

The ruffled fag fordone with care
And brooding, God would ease this pain:
Him soothest thou and smoothest down
Till some content return again.

Even ruffians feel thy influence breed
Saint Martin's summer in the mind,
They feel this last evangel plead,
As did the first, apart from creed,
Be peaceful, man--be kind!

V
Rejected once on higher plain,
O Love supreme, to come again
Can this be thine?
Again to come, and win us too
In likeness of a weed
That as a god didst vainly woo,
As man more vainly bleed?

VI
Forbear, my soul! and in thine Eastern chamber
Rehearse the dream that brings the long release:
Through jasmine sweet and talismanic amber
Inhaling Herba Santa in the passive Pipe of Peace.

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