EIDOLON, OR THE COURSE OF A SOUL; AND OTHER POEMS,
BY WALTER R. CASSELS
LONDON WILLIAM PICKERING 1850
TO CHARLES PEEL,
THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED BY HIS FRIEND,
W. R. CASSELS.
Page Eidolon 1 Alceste 93 Pygmalion 136
MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. Ode to Fancy 159 What is a sigh? 165 Ione 167 Reality 169 Retrospection 172 The Stormy Petrel 181 To —— 183 The Mermaid 185 The Spirit of the Air 190 Why do I love thee? 195 Lady Annabel 196 To Jenny Lind 201 The Gold Seekers 204 To Woman 209 The Poet 212 Evening 224 Life 226 Sorrow 229
SONNETS. I. Written at Ulleswater 233 II. "There is a spell by which the panting soul" 234 III. "We wander on through life as pilgrims do" 235 IV. "Sweet spirits of the Beautiful! where'er ye dwell," 236 V. "We are ambitious overmuch in life," 237 VI. "Mountains! and huge hills! wrap your mighty forms" 238 VII. To Ella 239 VIII. "I traverse oft in thought the battle-plain" 240
INTRODUCTION TO EIDOLON.
Hazlitt says, one cannot "make an allegory go on all fours," it must to a certain degree be obscure and shadowy, like the images which the traveller in the desert sees mirrored on the heavens, wherein he can trace but a dreamy resemblance to the reality beneath. It therefore seems to me advisable to give a solution of the "Eidolon," the symbol, which follows, that the purpose of the poem may at once be evident.
In "Eidolon" I have attempted to symbol the course of a Poet's mind from a state wherein thought is disordered, barren and uncultivated, to that which is ordered and swayed by the true Spirit of Poetry, and holds its perfect creed.
I have therefore laid the scene on a desert island, whence, as from the isolation of his own mind, he reflects upon the concerns of life. At first he is a poet only by birthright 'Poeta nascitur.' He has the poet's inherent love for the Beautiful, his keen susceptibility of all that is lovely in outward nature, but these are only the blossoms which have fallen upon him from the Tree of Life, the fruit is yet untasted. He has looked at the evil of the world alone, and seeing how much "the time is out of joint" has become misanthropic, and turns his back alike on the evil and the good.
Then comes Night, the stillness of the soul, with starlight breaking through the gloom. He gazes on other worlds, and pictures there the perfection he sighs for, but cannot find in this. Thus by the conception of a higher and nobler existence acquiring some impetus towards its realization.
We then find him lying in the sunshine with the beauties of Nature around him, whose silent teaching works upon him till the true SPIRIT OF POETRY speaks within his soul, and combats the misanthropy and weakness of the sensuous MAN, showing him that Action is the end of Life, not mere indulgence in abstract and visionary rhapsodies.
In the next scene he makes further advances, for the spirit of Poetry shows him that the beauty for which he has sought amongst the stars of heaven lies really at his feet; that Earth, too, is a star capable of equal brightness with those on which he gazes. He is thus brought from the Ideal to the Real.
The fifth scene emblems the influence of Love on the soul. It is the nurse of Poetry, and Sorrow is the pang which stimulates the divine germ into active vitality. Had he been entirely happy, and the course of his love run smooth, he would have been content to enjoy life in ease and idleness.
Next we find him looking broadly on life, on its utmost ills as well as its beauties, but not with the eye of the misanthrope, but of the Physician who searches out disease that he may find the remedy, and though the soul still sighs for the serenity and placid delight of the ideal life, the world of Thought, the glorious principle of Poetry prevails, and he sacrifices self-ease, feeling that he has a nobler mission than to dream through life, and that here he must labour ere he can earn the right to rest.
Thus in the last scene the SPIRIT and the MAN have become one—he is truly a Poet. His prayer maintains the direct and divine inspiration of the Poet-Priest.
The action in short is the conflict of two principles within the breast, the False and the True, ending in the extinction of error and the triumph of truth.
EIDOLON, OR THE COURSE OF A SOUL.
SCENE. A desert Island. The sea-shore.
How lonely were I in this solitude, This atom of creation which yon wave, White with the fury of a thousand years, Might gulf into oblivion, if the soul Knew circumscription. Far as eye can reach Around me lies a wild and watery waste, With every billow sentinel to keep Its prisoner fetter'd to his ocean cell— What were it but a plunge—an instant strife— Then liberty snatch'd from the clutch of Death The Tyrant, who with mystic terror grinds Men into slaves—But he who thinks is free, And fineless as the unresting winds of heaven, Now rushing with wild joy around the belt Of whirling Saturn, then away through space Till he and all his radiant brotherhood Dwindle to fire-flies round the brow of Night. Thought is the great creator under God, Begotten of his breathing, that can raise Shapes from the dust and give them Beauty's soul; And though my empire be a continent, Squared down from leagues to inches, what of that? The mind contains a world within its frame Which Fancy peoples o'er with radiant forms, Replete with life and spirit excellence. O! there is glory in the thought that now I stand absolved from all the chilling forms And falsities of life, that like frail reeds Pierce the blind palms of those that lean on them, And from the springs of my own being draw All strength, and hope, and joyance, all that makes Lone meditations sweet, and schools the heart For prophecy. In the o'erpeopled world We seem like babes that cannot walk alone, But fasten on the skirts of other men, Their creeds, conclusions, and vain phantasies, Too languid, or too weak to poize ourselves; But here the crutch is shattered at a blow, Dependence made a thing for winds to blast, And paraphrase in bitter mockery.
From this retreat, as from a cloister calm, I dream upon the busy haunts of men As things that touch me not. An empire riven, A monarchy o'erthrown, here seem to me Importless as a foam-bell's death. The world And all its revolutions are now less Within my chronicles, than is the ken Of a star's orbit on the fines of space; But like a mariner saved from the wreck On this calm spot I stand, unscathed, secure From the rough throbbings of the sea of strife, And woe, and clamour, wherewith this world's life Ebbs and declines unto the printless shore Of death. O! blessed change, if there were one To love me in this solitude, and make Life beautiful. My soul is wearied out With earth's fierce warfare, and its selfish ease; The slights and coldness of the hollow crowds That are its arbiters; the changeful face, The upstart arrogance of base-born fools, Who crown them with their golden dross, and deem That the all-potent badge of sovereignty.
O thou, my heart! hast thou not framed for life A golden palace in all solitude, Whither the strains of quiet melodies Float on the breath of memory, like songs From the dim bosom of the evening woods, Peopling its chambers with sweet poesy? Hast thou not called the sunshine from the morn To circle thee with a pure spirit life, And with the softness of its tender arms Clasp thee in the embrace of heav'nly love? Hast thou not heard the music of the stars, In the calm stillness of the summer night, And read their jewell'd pages o'er and o'er, Like the bright inspirations of a bard, Till glowing strophes rung within thy soul Of glad Orion and clear Pleiades? Hast thou not seen the silv'ry moonshine thrill Upon the dusky mantle of the night, Like radiant glances through a maiden's veil, Till shaken thence they fell in a pure shower O'er flood and field and bosky wilderness, Wreathing earth with the glory of a saint?
O! thus to dwell far from the stir of life, Far from its pleasures and its miseries, Far from the panting cry of man's desire, That waileth upward in hoarse discontent, And here to list but to that liquid voice That riseth in the spirit, and whose flow Is like a rivulet from Paradise— To hear the wanderings of divine thought Within the soul, like the low ebb and flow Of waters in the blue-deep ocean caves, Forming itself a speech and melody Sweeter than words unto the aching sense— To stand alone with Nature where man's step Hath never bowed a grass-blade 'neath its weight, Nor hath the sound of his rude utterance Broken the pauses of the wild-bird's song; And thus in its unpeopled solitude To be the spirit of this universe, Centering thought and reason in one frame, And in the majesty of quenchless soul, Rising unto the stature of a man, That is to make life glorious and great, Dissolving matter in the spiritual, As the green pine dissolveth into flame; Not on the breath of popular applause That is the spectre of all nothingness; Not on the fawning of a servile crew, Who kiss the hem of fortune's purple robe, And lick the dust before prosperity, Waiting the cogging of the downward scale, To turn from slaves to bravos in the dark; Not on the favours of the politic, Who in the smile of honour, Persian-like, Pamper the pampered from their banquet halls, But to his starving cry, when fortune frowns, Mutter their falsehoods through the bolted gate; But in the brightness of the inner soul, The placitude of peace and holy thought, The joyous lightness of the spirit's wings, Sweeping with equal strokes the azure sky Of Present, Past, and wide Futurity; In the high tidemarks on the sands of life, Where thought hath swept her purifying wave, Bearing the treasures of the unsearched deep To swell the riches of humanity. That is a happiness apart from man To aid, to sympathise with, or destroy; In its calm solitude alike secure From the broad adulation of the weak, And the strained condescension of the great, Both insults to the mighty soul within, That is not prized but for its golden shrine. Here there is that which makes the spirit free And noble in the measure of its strength, Untrammelled by conventionalities That make the very light of heaven take worth According to the casement it shines through.
O solitude! thy blessed power hath swept All earthly passions from my soul like weeds That choke the issues of eternal love. What now to me are hatred and revenge? Thoughts that if fleeting through the mind would fall Like unknown birds upon a foreign shore, Strange, wonderful; where no false hearts are nigh To poison life with variance and strife. O holy Nature! thou art only love And peace and universal unity, From thy sweet bosom springeth up no seed Of bitterness and sorrow, that like thorns Cling to the vesture of mortality, Piercing the spirit through with cruel woe. With thee my soul could dwell for evermore, Expanding all good feelings day by day, Till, at the last, like roses in full bloom The blossoms fall from pure maturity. Pride! Here no scale of inches is set up For man to strain his littleness against, But o'er me hangs the majesty of heaven, Bright with the glory of the noontide sun; Beneath, the Earth, that whispers "Thou art dust, "Gat like a child forth from my fertile womb, "And bone of my bone, thus, flesh of my flesh!" Thou glorious firmament that like God's love Enfoldest all creation utterly, Making the pathway of the wheeling spheres A splendour, and a triumph, and a joy, That on the brightness of thine azure breast Settest the constellated stars like gems, To flash the glory of thy loveliness Through all the fulness of unmeasured space. Can madness in its raving cast a thought To soar unto thy blessed perfectness, Nor stand subdued with reverence and awe In contemplation of the Infinite? O Earth! thou Mother and true Monitress! Can thy frail children close their ears for aye 'Gainst the deep-hearted warnings of thy voice? In the wild whirl of life the tones may die Amid the clangour of contending foes, But here, as in the stillness of the night, Thy solemn teaching falleth on the soul To the vibration of the low heart-beat. Then what is there to charm me back to life? To wrestle with the guilty and the vain, And lose identity amid the crowd Who struggle onward after base desire. This quiet scene doth teach me how to weigh Your pleasures and your vanities aright; To hold as dross the honour that is flung Around man like a winter covering, Which the same hand can pluck away again, And leave the outcast shivering in the blast. There is no honour saving that within, Which none, nor man, nor Death itself can snatch, But which falls from the spirit in its flight Like a prophetic mantle upon Time.
Pleasure! O World! in thine insanity Thou sinkest Soul into a poor buffoon, Garbed in tinsel and false ornament To play its antics on the stage of life, A thing for fools to laugh at in their mirth. Thou sat'st thy lust upon the sapless husks That strew the highways of this pilgrimage, Closing thine eyes unto their emptiness, And out of folly turning sour to sweet. Hast thou the joy that nature's converse sheds Thro' all the pulses of the quiet soul? The gentle calm that like a whispered song Steals o'er the sense with sweetest languishment? Hast thou the magic of the Beautiful, Wreathing about thy spirit evermore, In sunshine and in shadow; when the stars Gather around the azure dome of heaven, And the pale moon glides like a virgin bride Humbly behind the footsteps of her love: When the sweet morn dawns on the sleeping world To bring reality to visions bright; And on the curtain of dissolving mist Arches the many-tinted sign of heaven? Hast thou the minstrelsie of the wild woods, Clear-tided strains floating along the sky, Swelling, subsiding, like a silvery sea Beneath the dulcet breathing of the south? Hast thou that essence of all joyousness— The glorious independence of the soul— That spurneth man's usurped tyranny, The power of wealth, and hapless circumstance, And, sweeping on its own unaided wings, Measures the circuit of the boundless sky? What is thy wealth, that fadeth in the use, And all the pomp and vanity it buys, To the rich treasure of undying thought, Encreasing evermore, till like a dower It benizon humanity for aye? All thy poor gold resolveth into dust Before the test of such a scene as this: Can it charm forth the blossom of a flower Ere summer bids it with her gentle smile? Can it restore the verdure to the leaf When yellow Autumn marks it for her own? Or, in the noontide bid the dew-shower rise To fill one rosy chalice to the brim? Go! gild thee with it, worldling, as thou wilt, Yet all thy pains will leave thee but a fool!
Ay! there is love to beckon me away And lead me to a fountain of delight, Gliding before me in its purity, Like some bright angel guiding souls to heaven. O Love! have I not drained thee to the dregs, Thy pleasures and thy sorrows equally; Clinging unto thee as the Arab doth To his low fountain in the wilderness? Have I not gazed into thy tender eyes And read the secret of thy holiness, Cleansing my soul in humbleness and faith, To shrine thee in thy fulness evermore? Have I not clasped thee in my frenzied arms And heard thy heart-beats answer back to mine, Fainter and fainter till the deep voice stilled In the eternal silence of the grave? O be to me henceforth but some sweet dream Illumining the sky of Memory: A fixed star of everlasting light To pilot me along the sea of life, And keep the bearings of the spirit true. Visit me in imagination's train, The sweetest and the fairest child of Thought, Till thro' my being, as thro' columned aisles When incense from the altar upward wreaths, There float the fragrance of thy breath divine. Circle my soul in its far wanderings Thro' spirit lands and empyrean heights, Where though it sink in wide bewilderment, Thou wilt enfold it in thy dewy arms, And pillow it to strength and fearlessness! Be to me like a heaven beyond all Time, Dreamt of, and worshipped in this pilgrimage— The habitation of all pure desire, Solace of sorrow, and the home of rest, Where I may lay me from life's troublous way, And feel Eternity rise in my soul! No, World! the cords that bound me unto thee Are snapt in sunder ne'er to join again, Thy voice is waning fainter on mine ear, And thine allurements powerless and vain. There springeth up within me a new want, A perfect yearning for the spiritual, That shaketh from its pinions all the cares And interests of earth, like cleaving dust That clogs its upward winging to the skies. Wend onward, as thou wilt in weal or woe, Swell the rude triumph of thy battle march, Spread thy gay banners broadly to the wind, And let thy clarions ring among the spheres; Laurel thy heroes and thy favourites, And pluck the crowns again from off their brows; Worship thy follies, and thine empty gains, And barter life for mammon—gold for dross. Here let me lie upon the rear of Time, Unheeded, unremembered, and alone, Like a quick seed dropt by a flying dove, That groweth unto blossom and to fruit!
How still are all things now in earth and heaven! From the green-tided woods no rippling stir Breaks on the shore of silence; the sweet birds That sing, like naiads from the crystal deeps, Amid the murmurous coverts, now are mute As dreams of faded happiness, and life Seems calmly slumb'ring in the arms of death. The far waves alone are rocking in unrest, With moonlight flashing o'er them, but their sound Dies in their own wild bosom, like a song Murmuring in the spirit of a man. Thus is a poet's soul!—around it hangs The darkness of this world's reality, Its cares and struggles and necessities; But in its firmament for ever shines The starlight of divine imaginings, Shedding upon the waves of restless feeling, And aspirations for the undefined, The glory of a cloudless hemisphere.
O Stars! that gaze upon me from on high, Like angels from the gates of Paradise, That weave your myriads in a golden chain To bind creation with the Beautiful, As locks are interrun with precious gems To deck a queen out for her royalty: Hear me, ye bright ones, for a poet's love, And let light fall upon my swelling soul, To crest each rising thought with purity! There was a time—in youth, ere yet the sands Of life clogged 'neath satiety, but ran Lighter than blithe rills down a mountain's side; There was a time, when in my soul a voice Rang faintly like a huntsman's horn afar, Sounding along a forest; and I arose, And listed, as the bounding Antelope Starts at the echo of a falling bough. Louder it grew, and clearer—"Search for it!" What?—It melted from me, but the voice still came. Then up I gat, and to the pressing world Sped on the wings of passion, striving on Thro' pleasure and thro' pain, alike unchecked. Then, what were lets to me? Amongst the strong I wrestled for ambition's upper seats— Clung to the slippery shrouds of policy— And in my fury prayed for eagle's wings To poize me in the shadow of the sun. At wealth I grasped as a poor crippled wretch Grasps at the crutch that steadies him along; Yet not for it but for the power it brought, For, Timon-like, within my heart of hearts I cursed the yellow dust I trampled on. But by the wayside I sat down and wept As a child weeps above some shattered toy. Oh Misery! to climb the steep of life Led by a phantom without form or truth— To find reality still rising up To crush hope's fabrics with relentless force. All was a fiction, but the voice said "Search!" And glory flashed before me like a wisp, Dazzling me on to bloodshed, and to strife.
Upon the field I stood with Victory, And Death in all its ghastliness—Around The dim watchfires stood like a burning wall Betwixt the dead and living. On that night Ye saw me, ye pure ministers of heaven,— Shone on my anguish and my bitter tears. Then, when the mangled forms of fellow-men, With hideous passion stiff upon their lips, Blanch'd 'neath the twilight of your glimmering! Oh! there lay one beside me—a mere youth— Whose dying hands had pressed unto his lips A long fair tress, through which his dying sigh Crept, as in happier days perchance did love's. Witness, ye stars, of my abasement then, Judged and condemned by that poor lover's pledge, Lying there like a messenger of heaven, Breathing of peace and love, mid deadly hate. Glory! thou mirage on this desert life, Charming the weary on to water springs That shrivel up to barrenness ere reach'd! Thou shadow of a shadow that departs As the eye scans its bodiless outlines! Thou golden-imaged Ruin and Despair! When this earth cracks, like a poor blasted rock, Before the burning of Almighty wrath, Thy pallid spectre shall rise up to judge The wretched victims that did trust in thee!
"O Heaven!" I said, "lead me to love and peace; Love, that makes all things calm and beautiful, And like the sun, e'en in its setting, flings A glory o'er the cloudy peaks of Time. Peace—that doth hush the throbbing voice of life, Till through the stillness of the Poet's soul, The echoes of Seraphic harmonies Float like a spirit through the blue eterne." I said—"I will sit neath the ancient woods, And list unto the voices of the winds Coming from far o'er spirit lands, and full With stolen snatches of their utterance." I said—"I will lay bare my soul unto the sun, And let its glory rest there till it charm Forth from its womb, as flowers from the cold ground, All lovely thoughts and high imaginings That shed sweet perfume o'er the waste of life. And when the sickle of autumnal time Gathereth in the harvest of ripe thought, Nourish and strengthen long futurity."
Then as an eagle fleeth to his crag High in the stillness of the dim cloudland, Fled I from man into the trackless woods, To sate my soul with quietude and song. Then, too, ye saw me, ye pure orbs of heaven, And sent your blessed radiance to my heart In the still twilight of my calm content! Then came an answer to the unseen voice— "O holy calmness of the inner soul! Treasure of treasures! sweetness of all sense! Athwart the smoothness of whose liquid tide Floateth the spirit of eternal love, Tracing a pathway to the All-Divine! Thine is the perfectness of earthly bliss, The brimming of life's chalice o'er with peace, Till thro' all thought and feeling, the pure draught Sheddeth its gladness and serenity. Thine is a joyance passing utterance, A deep delight, that like the songs of heaven, Swell through its fulness, but are mute without. Thou art the goal of most sublime desire, The haven that all longing seeketh for, Where, shaded from the storms and blasts of life, The bark glides gently down the stream of Time."
How cloudless is this azure firmament! Brighter than all the dreams of sinless youth! Deeper than the deep heart of woman's love! Now as I gaze upon each shining star, What visions steal upon me with its rays, Of that which makes its glorious excellence! Can there be revelation of high truths But through the channels of weak sense alone, Thus like a fountain filt'ring thro' the clay. Or doth the soul hold converse spiritual With powers unseen that fill the universe, Receiving, as by intuition, things That man attains not by intelligence? Is not the spirit perfect in itself, Unmingled with the base alloy of earth That prisons it within this narrow sphere? Hath it not apprehension natural, Attributive as immortality, Unshackled by an organ that will die Beneath the friction of a few short years? O there is blindness on us in this life, That seeth not the things which lie around, E'en in the circuit of our littleness! But death will loose the scales from off our eyes, And smite our fleshly dwelling place in twain; Freeing the spirit, till with joyous wings It cleave the limits of immensity. Yet now the soul will shake its fetters off, And yearn unto the freedom of the skies, Like a poor bird whose life is liberty.
Yon star, methinks, must be a glorious world, Where Nature hath a spiritual life And bloometh on in Spring perpetual, Unsatiating in its loveliness. Verdure of herb and leafy plenitude Spread o'er it like a vesture, and the glow Of sunlit waters smiling from afar, Half as in fancy, half reality. The skies above it glassy and serene As the reflection of its own repose, And every new alternation of the light Shedding new beauties on the scene below. Thus far in fashion, kin to Earth as Time Beareth the impress of Eternity, But differing henceforth as the gentle dove Doth from the vulture on its carrion: The dwellers on this paradisal sphere Methinks, must be of glorious lineament, Clad with the brightness of eternal youth, And buoyant with internal blessedness. Spirits that shining with untarnished light, Radiate, and make matter luminous, Filling the eyes with sweet felicity, And love, and peace, and all emotions pure. No sorrow there to make the vision dim, And wash the mellow ripeness from the cheek; No guilty deed to brand the heart with shame, And write its direful sentence on the brow; No rankling venom struggling through the veins, And blasting all the kindliness within, Till like a torrent bursting o'er restraint, It spread its desolation on mankind; But a pure regnant holiness and love, Directing impulse with most queenly sway To ends of tenderness and charity; A nature purified by fellowship With angels and bright ministers of Heaven, That wander thither from their homes above On missions of benignity and grace. And in this pleasaunce, as by holy need, There reigneth deep communion of soul, That frameth as it were one atmosphere Of joy, and hope, and blessedness for all; No selfish pleasures fluttering before To woo satanic emulation forth, But all combining for one common weal, Moved still by sympathetic influence.
How passing beautiful must they not be, Thus dower'd with Virtue's highest attributes, That from the spiritual springeth up A living fount of light and loveliness. Soul is the life of Beauty, as the sun Is of the universe it luminates. O what were matter, fashioned ne'er so fair, But for the beaming of that quenchless light That plays around it, like the radiance Of heaven's own glory stamped upon its work? What were the charm of the soft arching brow White as the snow-flake 'neath its golden braid? What were the dimpled cheek with roseate shades Spread o'er it like the budding of a flower, The lips' ripe crimson, and the melting eye, Unbrightened by the sunshine from within, The emanations of seraphic thought, And full emotion, kindling into life Light, grace, the temple that they glorify? Oh Death! when thou dost bear the soul away The charm is shattered—the illusion gone! Ay, they are beautiful, and as bright forms Make fair the mirrors that they image in, So are their courses glorious and glad. Still doth their swelling harmony ascend In thrilling cadence to the gates of heaven, Making the air about them sweet with joy, As summer's breath with floral incense fumes; And every echo learns the words of love, And wonders at its sweet deliciousness, Repeating o'er and o'er the honied tones Till they infuse into their secret souls.
O ye bright orbs! your shining would be dimmed By sin and all its pallid consequence, Till scarce a glimmer fluttered on the sky To 'lume the dreamer to your sadden'd sphere. But ye have held your priceless birthright sure, And walk among the panoply of heaven, Clear and true-hearted as the sons of God. Yet may we gaze upon you from afar As the unstained gaze on the innocent, Lovely and peerless in their purity, Smitten and wondering with humbleness Of that which is your everlasting dower; Quenching within us pride and earthliness Before the glance of your serenity; Aspiring ever for the spirit life, That casting off this fleshly tenement, With all its weakness and infirmities, Entereth on the cycle of the just, Unstained, immortal, glorious and strong!
SCENE. A Grove—Noontide.
There is no place so sweet as the greenwoods In summer, heaven and earth awake with sounds Melodial; the ripple of the breeze Amongst the sun-green leaves, and pliant boughs, Just like the rustle of young summer's dress; The songs of birds, and the low mystic hum Of bees amongst their floral treasuries; Sweetest of all, the cool and liquid tones Of brooks—nature's true-hearted bards, who draw Bright inspirations from a pebbled ridge, And frame them into sweetest melody. There's poetry in every pendent leaf If we could read them truly; but our hearts Grow strange to nature's language in the world, Nor can translate their heaven lore. Ev'ry change From bud to full-blown ripeness, thence again To sereness and decay, is as the flow Of a short tale, whose moral is life's history. The woods were made for poets and all dreamers, Men who philosophize Time's hour-glass down, And younger grow, till with the last shot sand— They die. The very leaves are fanciful, And write their maxims on the sward in sun And shadow. Here I'll lay me down and dream An hour away amongst these violets! O my heart joys to gaze upon the sky Gleaming athwart green leaves, like happiness Above the gloom and shadow of the world! Then, thought first feels its attribute divine, And like a callow eagle spreads its wings, And makes its rest amid the lumin'd heavens. The lark sings poized above me in the sun, Like Moslem in his gilded minaret Calling the faithful unto matin prayer. There would my spirit follow thee, sweet bird, Ling'ring for ever in the midway air, Earth shrouded 'neath me by ascending mists, And sunny-crested cloudlets, like the base Of bright Imagination's airy halls, Whose roof is the star-fretted empyrean: Thence let the world hear my full gushing joy, And thrill at pleasures they can never know, Hear the sweet tumult of my throbbing breast, Like a clear spring of joyance bubbling up And overflowing time and space with streams; Whilst I, wrapt in my own high blessedness, Drain the sweet nectar shareless and alone.
The lark is beauteous in its skiey home, Amid the confluence of heaven's brightest rays Singing for heaven and earth undying hymns Of beauty, and deep-hearted tenderness; But more, when sinking on its own sweet song, It flutter, jubilant, to its soft nest Couched in the lowly bosom of the earth. And so it is with life. Man may build up A pillar of misanthropy and self, Raising him, statue-like, above his kind, And emulate the monumental stone In coldness and stern-browed indifference, But in the paths of love, and sympathy, And lowly charity, true glory lies, The substance of all joy and happiness. Let not thy spirit spurn man's fellowship, And force the stream of kindness up life's steep, Till, 'mid the rocky peaks of Thought it flow Unmargined by the verdant bloom of Act. Shun Self! 'tis like the worm a rosy bud Folds in its young embraces till it gnaw The heart out. Nature's is no volume writ For his interpreting who measures still Her wisdom by the inverted standard rule Of his own barrenness and blind conceit. There's not a flower but with its own sweet breath Cries out on selfishness, the while it gives Its fragrant treasures to the summer air; And not a bird within the greenwood shade, The burden of whose gentle minstrelsie Is not of love and open-hearted joy. The blest of earth are they whose sympathies Are free to all as streams by the wayside, Cheering, sustaining by their limpid tide, The weary and the footsore of the earth.
O summer sunshine! floating round all things, Meadow and hill and leafy coverture, Steeping all Nature in most sweet delight, Till upward from the bosom of the earth, Before so cold and blank and unadorned, Spring fairest flowers to gladden and adore— That fillest the blue vault of heaven with smiles As of a mother smiling on her child, Pure, holy, without guile or artifice, Melting the spirit of each fleeting cloud From darkness unto beauty and soft grace— Thou art the emblem of that perfect love That sheddeth joy around it evermore, And from whose sweetness rise all gentle thoughts As scent from vernal flowers; that in the heart Waketh all goodness by a magic spell, As the fine touch of blindness makes a page Start into instant light and eloquence. Cherish thou kindness ever, for this life Would be most blissful if its sunshine came To strengthen on Endeavour to its aim.
Methinks there is no blessedness in life More full than that which springs in solitude; A fount unruffled by the outer world, Unmingled with its honey or its gall; But welling through the spirit silently, Like a pure rill within a garden's bounds. Let my life float, like the sad Indian's lamp, Along the waves of Time, unpiloted Save by the breath of heaven, and the stirred tide, Till when its course be run it sink to rest Beyond the ken and fathoming of man; Let me not be a legend mouthed about By empty gossips o'er their clinking cups, Who tell the last sad tale and with a smack Turn to the merits of the passing wine. 'Twere something to be wept for by the young And beautiful, but tears are things that dry Sooner than dew upon the waking flowers, Leaving the heart e'en gladder for their flow. O could my life subside into a dream Rising amid the stillness of calm sleep, Filling the soul with radiant images Of love, and grace, and beauty, all serene And shadowless as yon blue sky is now!— Would that the outward shows and forms of things Could melt away from cold reality To the warm brightness of the spiritual, Losing the grossness of this present world, As a fair face doth mirror'd in a glass— And thus, reposing in seraphic trance, Let the few years of earth's existence pass, Like minutes in the quietness of sleep, And waken to the glorious dawn of Heaven, Refreshed, and scatheless from mortality.
Thy wish, attain'd, would brand thee deep with shame; Life was not made to rust in idle sloth Until the canker eat its gloss away, But like a falchion to grow bright with use, And hew a passage to eternal bliss! Canst thou stand 'fore that glory of the sun, That like God's beacon on Eternity Wakeneth up Creation unto Act, And sheddeth strength and hope, to cheer them on, Yet rebel-wise cast down thine untried arms, Ere foes assail thee, or thy work be done? No, there's a power within the soul that yearns For action, as the lark for liberty, Pursuing ever with insatiate thirst And aspiration, some unsubstant aim. There is assertion of the rule divine, That rest must follow labour as the night Closeth the turmoil of the wakeful day; Then let the bright sun lead thee like a king With dauntless heart to struggle and o'ercome, Uncheck'd by mischance or poor discontent, That shrivels up a monarch to a clown, And rends his purple into beggar's rags. Let no alluring plea of sensuous ease Draw thee away from honour's rugged path, Till sleep fall on thee from the wings of death, And bear thee to sweet dreams and Paradise!
How sweet it is to read fair Nature o'er Reclining thus upon her gentle breast, Like a young child that in her mother's face Traceth the motions of deep tenderness, Listing the murmurs of strange melodies That wander ever round her fresh and clear, Whence the sweet singers of our earth have caught Rapt harmonies and echoed them for aye! What study is like Nature's lumined page, So glorious with perfect excellence, That like the flowing of a mighty wind It fills the crevices and deeps of soul!
No upper chamber and no midnight oil For me, to throw dim light upon the scroll, Whose feeble pedantry dulls down the soul From high imaginings to senseless words; But for my lamp I'll have the summer sun Set in the brightness of the firmament; My chamber shall be canopied by heaven, Gemmed by the glory of the fixed stars, And round it floating evermore the breath Of nascent flowers, and fragrant greenery: And for my books, all lovely things in Earth And air, and heaven, all seasons and all times. The Spring shall bring me all the thoughts of youth, Its budding hopes and buoyant happiness; 'Twill sing me lays of tenderness and love, That are the first sweet flowers of childhood's days, And win me back to purity and joy With the untainted current of its breath. Summer will be the volume of the heart, Expanded with the strength of growing life, Swelling with full brimm'd feeling evermore, And power and passion longing to be forth; 'Twill tell of life quick with the seed of thought, Rising incessant into bud and bloom, And shedding hope and promise over Time, Like the sweet breath that tells the mariner Of fragrant shores fast rising in his course. Then Autumn, glorious with accomplishment, The harvest and the fruitage of the past, Stored with the gladness and the gain of life, Or sadden'd by its unproductiveness; And Winter like a prophecy would come To warn me of the end that draweth nigh. Each falling leaf that flutter'd from its bough, Pale with the sereness of keen-biting frosts, Would teach me that the ties of earth must loose, One after one, the interests and joys That made life's excellent completeness up, Until the trunk, stripped of its verdant dress, Stand in the naked dreadfulness of death. Thus will my soul learn wisdom true and deep, Not in the school of petty prejudice, Where truth is measured out by interest, And duty shrinks into expediency; Not in the volumes of pedantic fools, Who bind up knowledge, mummy-like, with terms, That sunder'd, the enclosure turns to dust; Not in the false philosophy of man, Who speculates on causes and effects, Yet thrusts his hand into the scorching flame, And wonders that it singeth in the act— But from her teaching who can never err, The Pure, the Beautiful, the Mother mind, That in the fulness of her unsearch'd soul, Shrineth all knowledge and all loveliness!
Ay! there are lessons of true wisdom writ In every page of Nature, from the flower Man treads beneath him as he wanders past, The humblest and the weakest thing of earth, Yet with its sweet breath rising on the air To make the fragrance of the summer full, Up to the rattle of the thunder cloud, The voice of heaven heard rolling through the spheres Till earth is dumb and stricken at the sound; Then let thy heart lean to them reverently, Knowing that action is the end of thought; And thus from Nature bring thou precepts still To guide thee nobly through this pilgrim world! One deed wrought out in holiness and love Is richer than all vain imaginings! Let then her lore fulfil thee evermore, And like high inspiration send thee forth To prophecy aloud unto mankind Of love, and peace, and verity sublime. Let not disaster daunt thee, nor reproach, No feeble yelpings of the toothless curs That follow on the heels of all who walk The highways of this world in faithfulness, And strength, but like a wild swan on the wave Let every billow swelling round thy breast Raise thee in spirit nigher unto heaven!
SCENE. A Grove—Sunset.
O, Earth is beautiful! In such a scene The everlasting curse that sin entailed Strikes on the heart by contrast, as though heaven Rolled back its portals till the holy wrath Of God burst on Creation. All is still Save the rapt nightingale, that sings to rest Earth's warring multitudes, and this bright rill Whose voice is eloquent as poesy. The very breeze is hush'd that stirr'd the leaves To pleasure, and the golden clouds float on As though an angel steered them o'er the plain Of heaven. It is a blessed thing to feel The melody of silence in the woods, When outer life is hushed, and in the heart The echo of its murmurous sweetness sounds, As in the pauses of a song the harp Still vibrates. 'Tis a test by which the soul Lies open unto Nature, for its frame, Impure or guilty, unto discord turns Those tones of peace and harmony. Perchance These woods ne'er heard the voice of man till now, Nor know the motion of his jarring thoughts. I feel the weight of judgment o'er my head If, Adam-like, I bring the brand of guilt On this unfallen Paradise. In sooth This scene is rich in Eden loveliness, And peace, and the rude din of jabbering crowds Unheard as when Earth's generations yet Lay in the womb of Time. How soft the air Breathes with the scent of flow'rs, o'er which the dew Hangs like a charm of sweetness! Ah, fair Earth! 'Tis sad to die and leave thee e'en for heaven; Yet the blue sky above is glorious, And brings the spirit visions of bright scenes Yet lovelier than this. There is a veil Of dreamy beauty o'er it, from whose woof The mystic star-eyes glimmer like a bride's. In such an hour peace steals upon the soul, Like the soft twilight o'er the toiling world; There is no room for passion—strife would blush As at the chiding of a gentle glance.
Eve brings forth bright thoughts from the soul, like stars From the blue heavens. Its sweet serenity Is as a boon of mercy from above, Restoring rest unto a toil-doomed world. Dost thou not turn from this to the pure calm Of Heaven as by a spell?
Ay! yonder cloud, Bright with the last faint glances of the sun, Bears my soul thither.
All the Beautiful Points like the pilot-flower, magnetically, To Heaven, where beauty is accomplish'd. Earth Is but the reproduction of one form, Whose perfectness is heaven, and thus the mind, Unblinded by the blighting mist of sin, Sees emblems of its everlasting hope In Nature's loveliness. This quiet hour When the calm'd heart cries truce unto itself, And lays the weapons of resentment down, And bitterness and anger, yields the bliss That in completeness is the bliss of Heaven. The Earth is ne'er so sweet as when it seems By intuition to the soul like Heaven, And in the spirit earthliness dissolves Like mist before the sunshine.
There's a power Within the soul that makes it yearn to soar Up to the Infinite, and, eagle-like, Bask in the unveiled glory of the sun; But this frame clogs its aspirations all, Like gyves that press the struggling captive down. Tell me of other worlds?
There is a world Bright as yon star that flecks the wing of night, And sheds its glory o'er the Universe, Made up of such pure loveliness within, That like a gem it glistens through the crust, And makes heaven luminous. A chasten'd sound Of never failing melody still floats About it, like an ocean, undulating To the sweet breath of summer scented airs, From hill to dale and leafy-tufted woods, That catch the humours of the golden sun, And deck them in his livery. There falls From the soft twilight gloom of sparry grots, And crystal pillar'd caverns, many a stream That breaks in light and music on the soul, And like a diamond-sandall'd spirit glides In beauty through the land, margined by flowers That mirror in its tide, and seem like stars In heaven. There are flowers everywhere, in vale Hill-side and woodland, in the sun and shade, That whether dreams be on them, or they wake, Send evermore sweet incense to the heavens. Sun-crested mountains, softened into grace By the blue tints of distance, lend new charms To verdant swarded valleys, in whose lap As in a mother's bosom, waters lie And ripple to the wooing of the winds. The very clouds that scan the blue of heaven, Fused sometimes by the sunshine as with soul, Or flaked by the light fancies of the gale, Form to the vision labyrinths of grace And beauty, that melt into space, and spread A hemisphere of magic o'er the orb— And thro' this world at morning, noon, and night, A dreamy sweetness wanders, varying From blessing unto blessing, that the sense Of pleasure dull not with satiety.
And it is habited?
By beings framed After the model of all perfectness. In some the majesty of strength sublime, Rejoicing on the nervous power of life Like the broad noontide sun, with glances bold And open as the soul lies unto God, And brows that thought wreathes with a glorious crown Of fadeless immortality, which shines Like lightning, playing round the arc of heaven. And some there are as gentle and as fair As flowers made animate, whose motions are More graceful than the sweep of evening gales O'er moonlit waters; and whose beauty fills The air they breathe with sweetness, and to life Is what the sunshine is to summer. All Are filled with deathless spirits, capable Of joy, and love, and holiness, that make, Together, heaven's felicity. The strong, Tho' they be trenched round with mighty thoughts, Without one breach for weakness, in their souls Feel the sweet want for love's pure tenderness, That, like the dew, may soothe the eagle's breast, And send it soaring nigher to the sun. Thus to their lives they graft the fragile blossom, Whose sweetness is an amulet to lay Life's else perturbed spirit; so that all Have oneness of necessity and good.
O! I can compass spirit that could grasp A star and dash it from its orbit, till It flew through space eternally, and whelmed Myriads of spheres in flaming ruin, yet Cannot consummate that which is so light, One hour's emancipation from this clod To wander thro' such worlds. Which brightest orb In heaven's wide treasury shines in thy tale?
Listen! e'en in this paradise there works A mighty power of evil, conjured there By acts of foreknown consequence. This rears A standard of rebellion against God, And whirls a giddy tide of interest And pleasure to suck souls unto itself, The centre—dashing sorrow like salt foam To sterilize humanity. Yet still There is a virtue, given to make its guiles Shrink into ruin, like a withered leaf, And pass the spirit scatheless. 'Tis a strife Of spirit against spirit, whose result Of loss or gain fashions eternity.
O! it is fine to brace the spirit up, To struggle with its foes, and feel it swell Till it could shake a thousand demons off As lightly as a lion doth the drops That eve sheds on him. There's no joy like that Of danger met, and danger overcome. The soul is like a sword that rusts to lie Inglorious in its scabbard, but will flash Bright as the lightning in the battle field. Spirit! will death transport to such a world?
Thou art upon it—It is earth—Itself All lovely, but man's soul so warped and blind He scarce can see her beauty, but still scans The stars of heaven for that which lies displayed Beneath his feet. The heart rears phantoms up To overthrow reality, and make Intention stand for Act. 'Tis well to boast Of spirit warfare in another sphere, Yet like a craven slight the trumpet call That bids man up and strive in this. In life There is a struggle evermore, wherein The spirit grapples with such subtle foes, That victory is glory infinite. No crumbling stone to whet ambition on, That 'neath the sapping of one wave of Time, Melts to the substance of oblivion. It is nobility to walk through life With a stout heart and cheerful courage on— To look on sorrow with undaunted mien, And smile away the fears that trouble brings— To bear unto the stricken solace sweet As water to the wounded, and to be A strength and an assurance to the weak. Ay! life, like matter, is atomic, and Man blows unto the winds what multiplied Makes up the universe. This radiant earth, Which, in its penitential moods the heart Feels were a paradise if guilt were not, Sprung from the womb of space, in perfectness Co-equal with the fairest orb that holds Vice-royalty in heaven for the sun; Form, substance, seeming, and that vivid charm Which is the soul of matter like in each. Mind differs only, making fair seem dull With what it glances through, and thus yon star Viewed with man's callous nature, would resolve Into reality as cold as Earth.
O Earth! thou Beauty! and thou Wonderful! That from thy bosom like a living womb Bringest all forms of loveliness and grace Into the gladness of the summer air— That givest to the winds that are the breath And heaving of thy passion, winged thoughts To root, seed-like, into the ground, and spring, Bud, blossom, nourish'd ever by young showers, And moon-distilled dews, until they make Thine utterance odorous. That from thy soul, As from an unseen presence of divinest light, Dartest into the spirit subtle rays That quicken life to blessing, as the breath Of being stirreth the inanimate, Making existence joy, and love, and power. O woods! and rustling forests! Ye that send Soft murmurs ever to the ends of heaven, And from your breast, as from a poet's soul, Issue all sweetest melodies of birds And leafy eloquence. O springs! and streams! Blithe hearted wanderers throughout the earth, Tracing your footsteps still with flowers that rise Like stars beneath the feet of Night. O hills! O mighty mountains! round whose hoary brows Gather the mystic clouds of heaven, like thoughts Of unimagined wisdom, that are rocked To slumber by the deep-songed hurricanes, Sons of Destruction, and whose waking voice Is the eternal thunder. O wide ocean! Swelling for ever with the mighty throes Of Nature's agony and ceaseless Act; Emblem of Time and of Eternity! Time the great worker, the Implacable, That with the roll of human will and deed, And hopes, and joys, and shatter'd purposes Dashes relentless on! Eternity— The Pauseless, the Insatiate! the gulf Whereto all motion, all existence flows, Enters and ends. O sunshine! and cool shade, And all that makes earth beautiful and sweet! Soft moonlight! life's pure maidenhood, whose dreams Are gleams of antenatal blessedness, Witness for Earth's equality, and bid The sister orbs of heaven cry "Hail!" to her.
O Mother Earth! methinks I hear a voice Sound 'mid the surging of the stars of heaven, Like a clear trump athwart the mighty roar Of falling waters.
"Oh thou beautiful, "Frail daughter of Immensity! that hangest "Upon the bosom of dim night, at once "A glory, and a brightness, and a shame— "That from the urn of everlasting love "Drinkest of light and immortality, "Like a fair child in waywardness and mirth, "Triumphing in her loveliness; the swell "Of thy rapt harmonies is mute in heaven, "That once rang through the arches of all space, "A wonder and an ecstasy; but still "Thy path is with the glorious and pure, "Spanning the empyrean with a jewelled zone, "Making heaven beautiful, and with thy grace "Charming to goodness, though thou act it not. "Arise, O lovely fondling of the skies! "Wake from the silence of thy fallen doom, "Breathe forth thy sweetness to the longing air; "The angels are about thee evermore, "Like watchers o'er a stricken one, that hold "A glass to catch the life-mist from her lips. "Arise! and don thy bridal vestments pure, "And lead the train of heaven to the morn! "Art thou not beautiful, Daughter of Heaven?— "Beautiful as a bride before the sun, "Gliding along the blue serene of space, "Pensive and glorious; showering soft light "Upon the path of heaven, as from the eyes "Of downward-glancing cherubim. Arise! "Stand in the light of lights, and bare thy soul "Unto the searching of the undimmed spheres!"
O, Spirit! are there angels hovering now In the dim ocean of this twilight air?
There are pure angels ever round the earth, As stars are round the azure dome of heaven, In sunshine and in twilight and in gloom, That with the sweetness of an unseen love Circle humanity, and like the lark Hid in the glory of the noonday sun, Pour o'er the world heaven's constant tenderness. Some in the soft-hued glimmering of dreams, Through the unfolded lattices of sleep, Steal to the soul in visions of delight, Pure and benignant as the evening dew That cools the bosom of the blushing rose. Some all unseen, save in the blessed care, That like a lover's arm, from life's rough way Presses the serried thorns that choke it up; But all as with an atmosphere of love, And peace and strength encircling man, alike Within him and without, that the foul breath Of pestilent corruption touch him not. Some are there who have loved and suffered much For earth, as a fond mother doth who sees Her babe die in her bosom; who have traced Man to the precipital brink of ruin, With open arms to charm him back from death, Rejected and despised; who on the scroll Of conscience, as with words of living light, Stamp the pure precepts of a holy lore, That sin obliterates and sets at naught.
Oh! how polluted must man's spirit show In contrast with these ministers of heaven, That e'en beneath frail woman's purity Dims like a taper 'neath the light of day!— Methinks if from our eyes sin's blindness fell, And gave pure angels to our ravish'd sight, Gliding around us clad in the bright robes Of love and immortality, this earth Would be like heaven. O! 'twere a blessed change, And perfect as when Death's exulting sigh Swoons through the empty chambers of the soul His note of liberty.
'Tis man alone Makes Earth less Paradise; its frame is full Of perfect blessedness, which to the pure Were Heaven in all its fulness; but mankind Are crimsoned o'er with sin, which like blood-stains A soundless ocean could not cleanse away. And thus all flesh must thaw back to the dust From which it sprang, as ice doth unto water, Before the soul is purified for heaven. Men little dream how near heaven is to them In possibility, how far in deed. As little as they dream amid their mirth, Death stalks beside them; that his shadow falls In the same mirror where the maiden sees The image of her loveliness, and flits Amongst the whirl of revelry and show.
SCENE. A rock overhanging the Sea.
A rock and the wild waters! 'Tis a spot To moralize on life, and strip the world Of all its gaudy trappings and false gloss, That like the daubing on a wanton's cheek, Crimsons the paleness of disease and shame, And with life's semblance mocks a rotten heart.
O wild, wild sea! eternal wilderness Of strife and toil and fruitless energy! Birthplace and Tomb! whence unto being spring Successive myriads to run their race, Rage, labour, and grow hoar, then pass away With all their deeds and memories, and cede Their petty sphere of inches to another. O wild, wild sea! thou bosom of all passion, And thought, and hope, and longing infinite! That struggling ever from the riven caves, And fathomless abysses of the Earth, As from the cells of an awakened soul, Fling your hoarse murmurs and aspiring groans To the strong winged winds, that puff them on In sport and in derision; that art stirred To tumult and to madness by the breath Of unseen currents, unsubstantial air, That passes on, and leaves a foaming train To wonder at the thing that angered them. O wild, wild sea! soul of indifference! Lashing eternally the rifted sands And lonely shores about ye; swallowing The wreck of man's dependence, and the life That struggles with ye for the prize of love, And joy, and sorrow, clinging round its soul; That flowest on in coldness and self-aim O'er the dissolving frames of countless waves, That sink like generations, and so rise, Pausing or stilling never, numb'ring up A myriad selfish interests to make Thy sum of being perfect. Man may read The lore of human nature in thee, writ Not with the pen of flattery, that gilds The base past recognition, but all plain And coloured only by its truthfulness; The good and ill alike displayed, that lie Within the sounding of its inmost soul. O! thought might wander o'er this briny waste, Dove-like, without one Ark whereon to rest From the interminable ebb and flow, As many a soul has flutter'd o'er the earth, Weary and faint, as mine did till it found A haven in the bosom of sweet love.
Then thou hast loved?
Ay! so that life is bound About by it, as by a Gordian knot, Inseparable, until Death's sharp blade Divide its inmost coil. There is a time When all that sweeten'd youth and childhood dulls And fades to nothingness, as the faint moon Pales at the bright foreshadowing of morn, And leaves heaven void, when every chord is dumb That once made music in the soul, and life Is still and silent, though it be the pause That presages the storm and bitter strife, Whose fury ofttimes bends the spirit down, And strips it of its blossoms; Then to me O'er the blank chaos of my being came, As from the haunted chambers of deep thought, A glorious presence—an imagined grace, Whose footfalls as she rose pulsed thro' my heart With tremblings exquisite. It was sweet Love, The Blessed! the Indwelling! that doth make A virgin firmament for its pure light, Then at the pleading of its own deep want, Shines forth in glory and in tenderness.
Amongst the laughing and the gay I went, Seeking for one to realize love's dream, As mid the countless hosts of heaven the sage Peers for the brightness of a new-born star. Then, soft hands trembled in my palm, and forms Graceful and rounded with the bloom of youth, Flitted about me in the languishment Of music and sweet motion; voices low, And modulate from laughter unto sadness, Hung on the air like perfume on the wind, And eyes, flashing, and mild, and fond, spake too, A very Babel of soft speech, and yet— I sighed. Life seemed to me a painted daub—all glare, And show, and tinsel, where the eye in vain Sought some green spot to rest on, till a mist Swam o'er it as in gazing at the sun.
Man ofttimes palms an artificial life Upon the heart for that which is the true, Though to the real it be what a flower Is to its mimicry, a tinted rag Unsweetened by the breath of summer's love. Joy flows alone from an untroubled spring, Unstirred by the false whirl of giddy dreams, That send the dregs of passion through its veins.
Amid that gay assemblage many wore, Perchance, a laughing vizard o'er a heart Empty and sad; many a vacant smile, Like a sun-ray upon the winter's snow That freezes yet beneath it. Some there were Who flutter'd round its glitter, like a moth That takes a petty rush-light for the sun; And few who let the honest heart appear Unveiled mid Fashion's frigid masquerade. Didst thou look deeper than the outward guise?
Ay! some there were so lovely, that the eye Dreamt of them in its night, when they were gone; But when I search'd them, like a single flower The outer blossoms parted, and showed nought within.
Oh! then I fled, as one whose own wild thoughts Bid him outstrip the curbless winds of heaven, And storm the bulwarks of sublime desire. Want grew within me as a famine grows With every hour that fleets unsatisfied; But in my wanderings there rose a spot, Where man had wrought pure nature's counsel out, Nor reared a shrine to mock her loveliness; Yet this I heeded not, for there was one Who came to me on sudden with such joy That I stirred not, but like one weak with thirst, Let the life draught flow o'er my powerless lips.
O! yet I see her, with those blessed eyes Slaying my soul with beauty; eyes so deep, That in their azure ocean of soft light Thought shrank into a fathom length; and smiles, Stealing their sweetness from a heaven of love, And joy, and immortality within, Whence all emotion, angel-like, came forth, Clad in a vesture of celestial light. Her face beamed on me like a glimpse of heaven Caught in the rapture of prophetic trance, That in all day-light thoughts, and shaded dreams, Haunts the deep soul for ever. As she went, Grace lapt its mantle o'er her, like the gold On fleecy-bosomed clouds in sunny skies. O Spirit! she was beautiful! a thing Guileless and pure, as though her youth had past With Heaven's own children in the light of God, Thence come to make a paradise of earth, And breathe the transports of transcendant bliss Like floral exhalations through my soul.
And I—I loved her with the love of heaven, That melts down time and space, and all between, And clasps an essence in the soul's embrace; And from her being there would ever flow Full streams of holy melody, that lapt Earth, air, and heaven, and all terrestrial forms With charms bright as heaven's new-created light. And as she gazed on the blue firmament, And shrined the stars with her pure thoughts, and dreamt Of that which lay beyond; I gazed on her, And drew Elysian theories of Heaven, As though borne thither by wing'd seraphims. Oh! what is there in love that wreathes all things With an unfading halo of sweet light, Making the mystery of Nature clear?
Love, like the sun, clears from the soul all clouds That darken understanding, and wrap earth Round with a misty curtain, through whose folds The lineaments of beauty glimmer forth In undefined luxuriance. 'Tis a spell That brings by sympathetic influence The soul-deep glory from the universe. All things are beautiful to those who love, Whether in mind or matter. Life becomes A pathway of soft light and radiance, Whereon the spirit glideth unto heaven As angels up the sunshine. Thought and deed Are blessed in the framing and the act, Fashioned and temper'd with pure charity, That knits man unto man, and grants the weak Exemption from the thraldom of the strong;— And things inanimate, that yet are pierced Through with the spirit of eternal love, As with a life that circulates and glows In ruddy currents throughout all their frame, By gracious intuition stand revealed In all the plenitude of Eden charms. Then Nature's language reaches to the heart, As through the modulations of a song Sweet thoughts flow o'er the spirit. What was fair Seems fairer, what was vividless grows bright.
Ay! she made all things beautiful to me, Drawing, with youth's pure privilege, the sting Of guilt and wrong from life—'twas as the sun Rose on a sphere seen but by night before. Ah! bitter image of a transient thing, That shineth with Promethean glory, then Sinks 'neath the shadow of Eternity! Oh Spirit! day by day I saw her fade, The life within her grew more spiritual, Triumphing in the weakness of the flesh, And in her eyes supernal brightness shone, As from the glory of approaching heaven. Dear child! that kisses could not keep awake, Or woo from the sweet love of Mother-land. She lay within these arms, and angels came And whispered her away with them to Heaven, So softly, that I knew it not, but still Murmured my heart to her. To sense she lay Upon my breast, and yet she was in heaven; This but the earthly mantle she had shed. There were those silken locks that curtained her, And her sweet lips that I had kissed but now; From whence, as from a living spring of love, Trickled pure heaven streams o'er my life's dull waste. But Oh! I kissed the soft lids from her eyes, And knew my desolation, for the soul That was their soul, as light is day's, no more Stood in their dewy portals, like a queen Swaying true-hearted multitudes. Oh heaven! 'Twas wonderful to fold her thus unto me, With life's ripe bloom upon her cheeks, and grace Clinging round her like a bridal robe, Yet feel that she, the verity, the self, Was floating, worlds-off, on the stream of souls To God. Oh mind! 'tis ever thus with thee! Thou graspest at material shadowings, Whilst that the immaterial substance of all good Flies from thee like a vapour from the wind; So that thou hast a clod within thine hand, Life seems eternal, till the crumbling dust Runs through thy clenching fingers, and thy gage Mocks thee up from the mould'ring frame of Earth. There is no mystery like Death; it comes Sightless as the first breath of infant life, And goes to an unsearched Eternity— The End and the Beginning are alike.
Death strikes upon the soul the last deep chime, That tells it Time's short hour has passed away, Eternity's undialled course begun; There is a trackless ocean round this life Whose tide is tremulous with unseen gales, And storms that lash it off to fury—shades Of deep chaotic darkness ever hang Above it, like the thunder crags of heaven, And sounds, as of the swooning of a blast Through time-worn caverns, flap their heavy wings On the white foam crest of the surging waves. O man! that standest on the pinnacle Of life's abysmal heights with failing heart And reeling brain, gaze on that troubled gulf— It is thy pathway to the Better-Land, Which thou must traverse with a sea-bird's flight, Whose rest is on the bosom of the storm. Ay! 'tis a fearful plunge! Now think of Death— There is an angel merciful and strong, Hovering ever o'er the weary world, That foldeth in his arms the weak, whose feet Totter upon the brink of the Inane, And, like a mother, wafts them from Earth's strife Into the bosom of eternal rest; Is he not merciful who spares so long The guilty for repentance, and the pure Transplants in all their purity to heaven? Death harms not aught that's lovely, that poor frame Is mere corruption, which the soul makes fair By luminous infusion, and the soul Feels not Death's breathing on its healthful bloom, But like a virgin doffs its earthly veil, And gives its fullest beauty to the light.
O Spirit! tell me, shall we meet again As those who have loved well in Time; or drop All memories of Earth with the sad dust The soul shakes from it at the gate of heaven? 'Twere bitter to regard her angel there, Unknown, and lost amid the myriad host Of spirits glorified!
The soul is wrought In an eternal mould, which still remains Unscathed 'mid the vicissitudes of flesh; And the same power that makes identity 'Twixt man and man, being the soul within, That constitutes the Self of every man, Bears its distinctive features when it sheds The crysalis of frail humanity; They who have loved on Earth will love in Heaven, Through each the current flowing unto God, Thence shed again in blessing on their souls, As from clear tided springs a summer cloud Gathers its dewy freight to yield again, In sunny showers upon the native earth.
True Love is Earth's blest blessedness. All else, Wealth, fame, nobility, and the poor gauds Wherewith man trinkets out his little life, End with the dust that rattles on his bier; But Love, like a rich heritage, ascends With the freed spirit to the throne of God, There to be perfected and purified To commune with the Children of the Light. Therefore love much on Earth, keeping the heart Pure from the rank pollutions of the flesh, That like a mould'ring bank hangs loose above To launch its filth upon each errant wave; Let thy love circle wider with all time, Like the light ripple round a pebble plunge, Wider, and wider till the swells subside In the calm fulness of Eternity. The love of heaven flows in one stream to God, As from a fountain'd unison of soul Wherein all spirits blend inseparably; There is no isolation but in Time, For Death that units out mortality Like minutes on a dial, now, will break His arrows 'mid the ruins of the Earth, Proclaiming everlasting life and love, The consummation of all unity.
SCENE. Hill and Dale—Morning.
The breath of morn is stealing o'er my brow All redolent of life, and health, and joy, As the first breeze that fans the prisoner's cheeks, And welcomes him to Liberty. The Earth Is yet in her sweet childhood innocence, Ere the dark cloud of worldly interests Obscure her taintless heavens, and the blue mist, Which is the spirit of the rising dew, Hangs o'er it like the sadness of first love, That makes youth beautiful. The lark is up And singing like a disembodied soul Within the brightness of the blessed sun, Telling of naught but heaven and happiness; There is no dew upon her bosom now, For the young beams have kissed it utterly; Yet over flower, and bud, and blade there lies The crystal tissue, trembling with soft light, As the young day moves gaily up the sky, And sheds his guerdon o'er the waiting Earth.
O what a charm there is in purity, Of morn, life, love, and nature all. This scene, So clear and calm and peaceful, that it fills The soul with its o'erflowing blessedness, Pales 'neath the glare of noon, and man's rude lust, To scarce the semblance of its former self. But with the heart—O God! Thy richest gift Is Innocence, that like a quenchless spring Of everlasting light, encircles life With beauty and unfading radiance, Keeping all sense and feeling fresh and sweet As the untainted breathing of the morn.
How lovely is all nature, separate From man! There is no whispering of strife Or sorrow here, naught to inform the soul Of man's deep wretchedness and sin. No lust To justify the wretch who binds his soul In the drear darkness of a murky cell, Scraping for gold as beasts do in the earth For carrion, and counting life-time out By ducats; closing house and heart alike To the benignant sunshine. If our hearts Could lave in Lethe's cleansing stream sometimes, Till evil vanished from its memory, And left a virgin tablet for the pen Of Nature, life would be as sweet as love.
What far extremes of woe and blessedness This earth can yield! The woe create, the joy Begotten from a never failing womb; Woe! fashioned out of craft, and guile, and sin, That hungereth for prey, till, as it were, The mother eats the babe that sucks her breast; The joy! inherent and diffused like light From the eternal glory of the sun, Gather'd from all things, sight, and sound, and sense, E'en from the very breeze that whispers us Of yielded sweetness and unhoarded gifts.
O God! preserve my heart emancipate From all world feelings that must die with Time, Like things unworthy of Eternity; Sow in my spirit seed that may spring up And bud and increase throughout life, until It blossom fully in the light of heaven, Grant that the evil of the world may ne'er Harden my heart against the sweet impress Of Beauty, that beholding there, she see No mirror'd image of her loveliness!
Methinks life were a curse if separate From loving of the Good and Beautiful! To gaze upon that azure dome, so blue And penetrate with sunshine through and through, As lover's eyes with fondness—the far hills, And sun-green meadows sloping to the stream With tints of bosky shadows, yet not feel A motion in the spirit, like the tide Of waving woodlands rippled by a breeze; Better return to dust from which we sprang, And bid the winds of heaven scatter it!
Love Beauty: let it be an atmosphere Above thee and around, whence comes the breath Of life and health and gladness. Yet beware Thy love be not an ideality, That, like the smile upon a sculptur'd lip, Freezes upon the stone nor sheds abroad The genial influence of a loving heart. There is an aim still nobler than the love Of Beauty; to show Beauty forth in act, And life, that like some fertilizing stream It glide flower-margined to Eternity. Beauty quiescent loseth half its charms, As a blue eye when sleep hath closed its lid; But in its operation, 'tis a star That leaves a track of glory on the sky; Worst miser he who hoards up in his soul The blessed wealth of Beauty and repels Unbenison'd the weary at his gate.
There is a way to make life glorious, And nobler than the heritage of kings, Though thy path lie along a vale in life, With mountain pride reared up on either side— To make thy march triumphant, trailing not The colours of thy Purpose in the dust— And be received as victor into heaven. Set Beauty in thy soul like a sea-light To warn thee from the rocks and shoals of wrong, And guide thee surely to thy journey's end; Let her pure promptings stablish in thy heart A living spring of motive, that may flow Through thought and action, like the veined life Through man and all his members; not for praise Let thy work be, nor gain, but heaven and right, And for the feeling of that sweetest sense, That from thy sowing springeth up no tare Of grief or bitterness, but goodly fruit That nourisheth the heart, and gives it strength To combat manfully for life and truth; Look manhood in the face unblanchingly, With no rose-coloured veil 'twixt it and thee— With pure integrity to match the great, And humbleness to poize thee with the small; Look at its guilt and shame, as on deep wounds Wherefrom a life is flowing; seek thou then To staunch them in thy measure; mark its wrongs, The burden of oppression and the toil That grind the sand of life down till it run Like water through the mighty glass of Time, And let thy voice come like a trump to call The faithful to the rescue. Find the weak, And weary, and the desolate of heart, Faint with the sorrows and the cares of life, And let no act add to their bitter cup One drop of gall, but like a priest do thou Tell them of hope and peace, and gladden them With that blest balm, pure kindness, which transforms, With more than Magian art, the meanest act Into the brightness of the summer sun!— Doth not this quiet hour fall on thy soul Like music dropping from the spheres?
Ay! sooth It is most sweet! Methinks that such a time Were meeter far for lover's tryst than eve, When the dark night must sadden o'er their vows, And hide them from each other. Now, all things Are pure and beautiful as love should be, The dew of youth fresh on them, and though life Should darken o'er with clouds as it roll on, Still love would light them on, like the bright guide Of Israel, to the promised land of rest. 'Tis beautiful, love plighted in the morn Of life, when not a shadow dims its heaven— Plighted for good or ill, as fate may rule, Enduring alike true through sun and storm, Save when the cold blast sweeps across the way, It knits them only closer heart to heart.
Love is no faint exotic made to bloom In the close summer of a glassy frame, That at the first breath of the unquelled air Shrivels up like a parchment in the flame. No! let it stand upon the mountain's brow, And bid the untamed winds make sport of it; Yet though they drive it 'fore them in their might, 'Twill be like the strong eagle that exults In the wild rapture of his headlong swoop; The strongest and the tenderest is Love!
Now as I gaze upon this cloudless sky, So soft and tranquil, mem'ry paints to me One whose life bid as fair—that my heart said Beholding her—"O flower! so bright and sweet, "With the pure dew of maidenhood bestrewn, "Thy life will be unfolded like the rose, "That leaf by leaf adds sweetness to the spring!" She was most beautiful! but more in this, That she moved like an angel, minist'ring To joy and peace and charity. The weak Rejoiced before her as the embodied smile Of Providence, and sadden'd when she pass'd; And yet one short, short year and she was gone, Her heart pierced through with thorns, who ne'er had borne The semblance of a sorrow into life. Is there no armour against sorrow's sting?
The highway of this world is set with thorns, O'er which poor pilgrims still must journey on; There are who walk it shod with iron sense, That crushes opposition like a vice, And puts aside the ready points like twigs Pressed backward in the woodlands by a child. There are who seem buoyed upward by some power Above the level of affliction's range, Until their term be run, and then they fall Into the bosom of the angel Death. And there are some whose tender feet are pierced Evermore deeper by the rugged path, Whose softness and whose beauty nigh invite The cruel spoiler to his unarmed prey, As the swift hawk high poized in the sky, Swoops when the dove floats past on silv'ry wings.
There is a veil upon the eyes of men, That makes all things show dimly, but if rent Would work like resurrection on the mind, Bringing to life thoughts dead in doubt and error; Thus, standing on the bridge of Time, which spans The gulf 'twixt two eternities through which Flows ever on the tide of human life, That troubled stream would seem a sea of glass, And all its thick impurities appear Clear as the outline of a floating corpse; Gaze down upon it though it sicken thee.
There cometh one beneath whose ermined pride Stalks the corruption of a charnel-house, Where fest'ring flesh lies in its cloth of gold, E'en yet the wonder of the gaping crowd. Upon his brow the jewelled circlet rests, His only title to nobility; But that, unto the vulgar, symbols still The orbit of the everlasting sun, That fills and glorifies a universe—of clay. Where is the mind that should have overtopp'd, Saul-like, the level of the multitude? Where the bold front that in the breach of wrong Stemm'd the fierce current of insidious foes, Flashing Truth's falchion in the van of Time? Shame! it hath rusted in its scabbard, till The nerveless arm can scarce withdraw it thence. O Earth! rejoice that at his side there comes An undimm'd light to beacon on the world; One who upholds the honour of his line Unsullied as the glory of the stars; Whose voice rings clear above the battle strife, And shakes oppression from his iron throne; And for the purple, round his heaving breast Folds like a vesture manly Honesty. Is it not glorious the light that gilds The hoary summits of the giant hills, Spread like the standard of eternal Truth O'er many phalanxed Ages—blazoning The stalwart band that barrier'd from the world The bitter fury of Heaven's huricanes! Onward there come a thick'ning mass who drown Defects and vices in a shower of gold; Who crush report, like Rome the Sabine maid, Beneath the burden of their molten wealth, And 'neath their gilding flaunt them in the sun Brightly as though there were no dross within; So the eye sees them, but search thou the soul, And part the sterling from the counterfeit. Oh! for the sighing of the desolate, The widow and the orphan in their woe, Drown'd 'neath the clink of gold wrung from their need, Like moisture from the crushing of the grape. Oh! for the fruitless cry of misery, The Tantalus of stern reality, That feebly perisheth in Famine's grasp, Whilst plenty moulders for the lust of pride, And adds its rottenness to the hot-bed Of wantonness and subtle infamy. And yet the worker wears as fair a port As he whose life is holy Charity, Setting his footprints on the way of life Like sunshine rippling o'er the summer sea. Some wear their little merit on their sleeve, Which 'neath the friction of Time's troublous waves, Grows threadbare as the coat of beggary. Some under rugged lineaments enclose Treasures of truth and goodness, that like gems Shine through the fissures of the strong Time-quake, Showing more perfect as affliction works, And sorrow rends the earthy covering. Some are there with the sight turned inwards still, Beholding but the narrow sphere of self, And trampling under foot the weak who stand Betwixt them and the goal of their desire. Blessed the few who unto fellow men Turn with the fervent grasp of Brotherhood, Breasting the surges of tempestuous fate, With souls fulfilled with kindliness and Faith— Raising the ensign of prophetic Hope Like the clear rainbow on the thunder-cloud; And 'mid the darkness of impending care, Pouring the cheerful daylight of the soul! There are sweet spirits mingling with the throng, Marked out with sunshine, like the pouting waves When heaven looks down in sun and shadow, hearts So leaven'd through with grace and purity, That though sin warp and sift them at its will, Some hidden sweetness lingers yet to tell The perfectness of Nature's handy-work. Are they not as the ministers of heaven, Liveried with beauty, and deep tenderness, Missioned in mercy to this fallen sphere Proclaiming peace and blessedness above; Threading the ranks of Earth's fierce battle field, Amid the clangour of death-darting steel, Raising the wounded from their helplessness, And bearing life draughts to the sinking soul! O Mother Earth! thine arms will fondle her When ingrate man hath drain'd her spirit dry, Fashioned in weakness, yet in weakness strong Where honour were the foeman, what is she Before the onslaught of satanic serfs?— The mirror of her purity obscured, Polluted by lust's pestilential breath— Pluck'd like a flower to while an hour away, Then cast to wither on the barren ground, Shattered and bruised beneath base passion's heel, And all the clinging tendrils of her love Torn bleeding from the stay round which they clung.
Look thou upon that stream, rough with the whirl Of crime, and woe, and wretchedness, that float Like poisoned scum upon the driving flood, Filling the breath of life with noxious blasts That smite humanity with pestilence. And tremble thou, though man discern it not, Ten thousand times more foul it shows to God; Then praise him for the twilight of thy sense. Yet there is much of good and fair in life, That like the glow upon the eastern sky, Blazons the glory of approaching day.
O! is not life then sweetest to the soul In utter solitude, or that deep calm When all of Earth, its cares and interests, Are shaken from the spirit, as the moth Doffs from its wings the natal crysalis And wanders through the blue serene of heaven? In this pure scene the din of man would sound Harsher than discord amid melody. Here no rude tongue should whisper of the things Poor Earth bows down to worship—fashion, wealth, And hollow mockings gilded by a name, That makes the calf which browses on the plain Turn to a god when moulded in the gold. No thought should rise, that passing into speech Might soil the purity of new-born flowers, Fresh with the dews of morn and paradise, But like an angel singing through the skies, Wing the blue empyrean of the mind, And break in music on the thrilling sense.
Is there no music in the gentle word That falls in consolation on the sad, Starting the crystal tear into the eye, Filtrate through gratitude till there remain Naught earthy in its brightness? Though the scene Be as a plague spot on the face of earth Sweet Charity can cleanse it, till it shine Bright as the jewels in a monarch's crown, That not the midnight of Earth's blackest sin Can dim. All beauty emanates from soul, And all deformity. The piteous straw Where sickness writhes in suffering and want— The cold, bleak dwelling where the winds have will To brag o'er man's debasement, if possess'd In fortitude and patience, with the heart Clear in its honour, stedfast in its faith, Is to the eye of angels, beautiful as day; And this fair spot with all its waken'd charms Is purgatorial torture to the wretch Whose life shrieks in him under conscience-stings.
Let sunshine be within thee, and without Summer will dwell in everlasting bloom, Whether in light or darkness, in close cell, Or 'neath the blessed canopy of heaven.
SCENE. A Mountain Summit—Sunrise.
'Tis glorious to stand thus nigh to heaven, And like a Prophet with the mark of god Set on him for an everlasting work, With outstretched hands, and earnest-hearted words, To speak unto the Nations. This calm spot, Emblem of Truth's serenity and peace, With no hoarse dissonance to stir the deep Of thought to passion, till the whirling waves Swallow the love-steered purposes of soul, And leave its being desolate—looks down On Earth, and all its jarring multitudes, Its miseries of soul and sense, as Earth Looks on the distant glory of the stars, All unparticipant of weal or woe, Save as the glass is of its mirrored form; Thus Action rises over Thought, and sets Man over man preeminent for and great, As mountains in the sphere of human life. This were a throne meet for the Sent of God To rest on, and give laws unto the world, Rooted in the unshaken strength of Earth, With man for footstool, and the disc of heaven For canopy and witness to swell down The quenchless words into the heart of Time; Here to raise up the wand, and smite Earth's soul Till streams of penitence and love gushed out To wipe away her barrenness, and fill The latent seeds of holiness with life, To blossom for the harvest of the Angels.
O Thou that from Thy throne set on the flood Of measureless Eternity, dost bind The mighty thunder in its misty cave, And still'st its throbbings with a single word; That break'st the chain which holdeth it, and send'st It booming o'er the boundless Universe, Thy minister to testify of Thee, And shake the pillars of the firm-set Earth With knowledge of Thy majesty and strength; That with the trenchant lightning dost search out The limits of immensity, and bare Its inmost soul to Thy dread scrutiny, Before whose holiness the sun grows dim, And vanishes to nothingness like mist; That bidd'st the winds sweep o'er the bounds of space, Strong in the terror of Thy mightiness, Till stars are shaken from their seats, like fruit From the autumnal fulness of the bough; Breathe Thou upon me till my soul be full Of deathless inspiration, that may flow In burning currents through all space and Time, And stir up generations with warm life, To battle for the cause of Truth and Heaven. Let my words ring upon the sleeper's ear Clear as the trump that wakes the dead for doom, Fright him from false security and sloth, And rouse the man within him, though it be Feeble and powerless as a creeping babe. Let them break on the conscience of the base, As billows break upon the shifting sands, Crumbling the false foundations of his hope, And sweeping all his theories to naught: Let them rush swifter on him as he flees, Circle him with their terrors everywhere, Snatch from his clutching fingers every prop That guilt or error flings him, till he fall Into the waves of truth a drowning man With not a straw to grasp at. Let them smite Wrong and oppression like a gnawing blight, Eating into the heart, till like dead leaves, Shrivell'd and pow'rless, beggars tread them down. Let them fall on the pure in heart like dews, To strengthen and to nourish all sweet thoughts, Raising the drooping and the weary up, And adding sweetness to the path of life. To all may they be wafted on the wings Of love, not the false love that shines alike On flower and weed, until the evil rise To choke the good seed with its overgrowth; But let deep kindness fill them utterly, In comfort, or in sorrow, or in doom.
Hard is their journey, and unsmooth their way Who walk like pilgrims to eternal fame, Raising for ever hymns of love and beauty, Amid the jar and weariness of life, Working through joy and sorrow equally To stamp their names upon the world's great heart, And piercing their own bosoms, like the bird, For glowing streams to nourish it for aye. Yet it is glorious to make this life Great in the strength of Action, till it stand A landmark and a guide immoveable, To witness of the struggle and the end; A life of thought is blossom without fruit.
O Life! would I could map thy minutes out, And give to each its purpose, like a king To claim just tribute from futurity; Would I could freight ye with such spirit power, That, like a huge rock cast into the sea, Ye sent Time waving back for evermore; Would ye could track your footsteps out in deeds, Like prints in the soft sands that heaven's decree Changeth into the adamantine rock, Till time nor tide can wipe the trace away. Let my steps march right onward, pausing none For pleasure or for folly, for the path Is long, and difficult, and hard to walk, And at its limit lies Eternity. Let no false weakness clog me in the work, And cramp the motions of my willing soul, But let me gird my spirit up to run Before the chariot of the speeding age, A Prophet, and a Poet, and a guide!
O! my heart thrills to that great watchword "Act," To leave no record written on the sand For the first wave to crumble into naught, But to materialize on thought—to raise A standard glorious with the sign of heaven, And set it waving o'er oblivion; To seize on spirit like a willow rod, And bend and fashion it to perfect use, Curbing its wayward fancies and desires, Until it sway true to the Poet's creed; To move Earth's multitudes with nervous power, And burning eloquence, as leaves are swept Before the breathing of a mighty wind, Urging them on for Truth and Nobleness, And leading on the van to show the way— No prating coward framing theories For other men to build on, with "Do this" For empty precept—but there, standing forth, Set deeds in the world's face, and cry "Do thus!"
The Poet's life is action spiritualized, Words sublimate by earnestness and truth To the reality and force of deed— Falling upon the great world's soul like spells That take the reason captive, and subdue Its motions to the gentle sway of love. His thoughts are like the moonlight that enshrines All earth and heaven with beauty and soft grace, Pouring rich floods of radiance divine O'er life's reality of grief and pain, Making e'en sorrow luminous and sweet, And freighting sighs with gentlest melody. His creed is—Love—Love perfect, uncontrolled; Twining round all the good and beautiful, As ivy twineth round the sapling oak, Evermore growing with its growth more strong, Till not e'en Death can tear those arms away; Love—winging o'er creation like the morn And show'ring light and beauty as it flies O'er mountain, vale, and streamlet, equally— In flowery mead and desert solitude Making itself a presence of delight, A radiant glory sweeter than all forms, All shows, all substance—rising in the soul, Like water in the desert—heaven in death! Opening the unseen gates of Heaven, till sense Dream of its utter blessedness and peace; Leading life onward like an angel pure, Through strife and sorrow scatheless and secure, Scattering joy around it evermore, Like benisons shed from a mother's heart, Making the weary and the bruized glad, Wiping the tears from sorrow's clouded eyes, And soothing pain like woman's tenderness.
Let me love all things with a perfect love, That would e'en coin its own heart-drops to pay Life's ransom from the bitterness of woe, Bear tenderly upon the weaknesses Of flesh, and its oft seen infirmities, And turn with hope and trustfulness to man; Let me not be a stunted thorn on earth, With jagged points to scare all fondness off, Unsweeten'd by a blossom or a bud, And branded deep with harsh sterility, But like a soft wind breathing to and fro, May love and sympathy wave through the Earth. Life without love, is sorrow without hope.
O Love! thou law of Heaven! thou joy of Earth! That like the Star of Bethlehem dost rest Above the cradle of a Poet's soul, The witness and the seal of holy birth; Before whose brightness all earth's shadows fade Like fiends before the angel of the Lord; That rend'st in twain the veil of doubt and fear Shrouding the perfectness of heaven's pure bliss, Till man may worship with unsmitten soul Before the glory of the inner shrine; O Love! the Quenchless! Pure! and Beautiful! Be to me as the Prophet's cruize of oil, That wasteth not, nor minisheth with use, To nourish me through this life's famine time, And strengthen me unto the poet's work; Fold my soul throughly in thy sweet embrace, In honour, or in sorrow, or in joy, Filling it with thy holy influence, As air is filled with sunshine at the noon, Till all thought feel its blessedness and peace. Thus would I furnish me for life's long march, Arm for its dangers, cater for its wants, Work out its ends with confidence and truth, And rest unstained, unwearied at the goal!
Beautiful Florence! e'en thy very name Falls on the ear with a strange magic spell, As though upon the wings of Time there came A breathing of sweet chances that befell In days of old, all chronicled by Fame, Whose faintest whisper makes the bosom swell With kindred feelings, as a sea-flower waves Concordant to the tale the ripple laves.
Thou art entwined with all lovely things That bind a rosy chaplet round the earth; The life of Poets, whose sweet utterings Have the soft cadence of an angel's mirth; The springs of genius—high imaginings That are the wealth of ages, and the birth Of Art, beneath whose vivifying wand The stone, the canvas, animated, stand.
Thy very dust is hallowed, and we tread The footsteps of the mighty, meeting ever The prized memorials of the Living Dead, Those whose sublimed spirits, waning never, Hover around the struggling world and shed Their blessings o'er it, which nor time can sever, Nor can oblivion crush, but which endure Strong in their greatness, in their truth secure.
Would that some faint ray of the heavenly light Shower'd on thy children now might rest on me, Illume my twilight thoughts and grant me sight Into the depths of Nature's poesie; And tune my faltering tones to breathe aright That which my heart so fondly feels of thee, For 'twere a music sweet as heaven's own lays, Could love's deep soul be cadenced in thy praise.
There was a garden sloping to the west, Smooth'd downward from the giant Apennines, The serried outlines of whose hoary crest Blent with the distant heavens in mystic lines, At eventide with golden splendours drest, When the red sun its farewell greeting shines; A palace topped it, from whose terraced height Wound a broad stair of marble, snowy white.
And paths went wandering beneath the sweep Of Orange boughs and trelliced vines, whose leaves Gave in their parting many a transient peep Of the blue sky, as through soft-tinted eaves; And oft they led to arbours shaded deep, As are the nooks the midway forest weaves, And carven forms of nymphs and dryads gleamed Through leafy screens, as though a Poet dreamed.
A fountain rippled in the midst, and threw Coolness into the sky; the sculptor's thought A quaint conceit—Aurora flinging dew Upon the earth—the marble finely wrought, Till through the Iris-tinted drops it grew Warm with existence, all its fair limbs fraught With grace and motion—'twas a thing so human, The heart forgot the goddess in the woman.
Beside the marge of this fair fountain stood A maiden tranced with its melting sound, For rillet murmurs are to pensive mood Sweet as the rain-drops to the thirsty ground. Alas! that youth so soon should feel the rude And merciless stinging of cold sorrow's wound, That Nature's sweetest melodies should gain The heart's full rapture through the ear of pain.
She was a maiden, in whose gentle mien The spirit mirror'd all its fairest hues, As on the undimm'd summer sky serene The noonday sun its golden splendour strews; Her deep blue eye o'erflowed with tender sheen, Like sadness through whose frame soft smiles infuse, Whilst on her lip expression rippling lay, And limned in silence what the soul would say.
Her's was a beauty vivified by grace, That made each motion music to the eye, Beam'd from the sunny sweetness of her face, And tuned her accents all so tenderly, That when Alceste spake the heart could trace A woman's spirit full of motions high, And kind, and noble, and whose inward bent Sway'd to all courses pure and innocent.
There were full many suitors who had sigh'd Their amorous orisons before her shrine, And with the flutter of a doublet vied To win the smile they toasted o'er their wine; There were full many who with blinded pride, Deem'd that a title could the scale incline, And flung their lordships, gauntlet-fashion, down, Daring a Caesar to refuse a crown.
But there was one who loved for love's own sake, And treasured its dear sweetness in his breast, Whose spirit thrill'd within him when she spake, And bowed before her as the flower down-prest By her light step, and who could ever make A long day happy and a midnight blest With brooding on a word, a smile, a glance, That haply served to sun love's young romance.
They had been playmates in gay childhood's days, When hearts are open as a summer flower, And love had wound them slowly in his maze, And knit them close ere yet they felt his power. But once a-wandering by green-shaded ways, The silence drew their souls out, and that hour, Hand clasped in hand, and lip to lip united, Their pure young vows of constant love they plighted.
What spirit fused into the blossom'd spray, And wreathed about them in its waving scent? What angel echoes tuned the thrushes lay, And gave the tones such sudden ravishment? For sure they ne'er were sweet as on that day, Nor with such magic to the spirit went; If it was love, then love is wondrous sweet, The point of life where Earth and Heaven meet.
Yet Love but drew the summer clouds away That curtain'd heaven from their raptured eyes; Still from attainment spread an ocean wide, And bade them pause in sight of paradise: Her father sternly his fond suit denied, Nor soften'd to his prayers, nor heard his sighs; So Julian shrined her image in his soul, Till happier fortune brought them sweeter dole.
Now at Verona sojourn'd he a space, Dreaming of her, as he must everywhere; Unconscious of the woes that grew apace, And soon might drive his spirit to despair; Unconscious that his love in grief's embrace Cradled her panting soul, nigh dead with care, And wept at noontide, wept at dewy eve, Till e'en the light that saw her seem'd to grieve.
There was a suitor, who with crooked frame Crawled in the race for beauty; thither prest, Not 'fore the gaze of heaven, but as in shame Hid he the purpose in his own dark breast, And serpented his motions to his aim, Like one who stabs a victim in his rest; For still the heart must feel in its calm time, That to crush love's true spirit is a crime.
One midnight gather'd round the fatal board Where wealth's death rattle echoes in the dice, Her sire, Amieri, with some others pored In full abstraction of the cursed vice. Each golden piece raked from his precious hoard, Froze the vext heart-pulse of the wretch like ice. There was no sound save the cold ring of gold, That broke the stillness as a knell had toll'd.