All things of great beauty —from works of art to sacred objects— suffer the unstoppable effects of the passage of time, just as we do. Their life begins the moment their human creator, aware or not of being in harmony with the infinite, puts the finishing touches on them and surrenders them to the world. Over the centuries, life also brings them closer to old age and death.
- quotes about time
- quotes about work
- quotes about beginning
- quotes about old age
- quotes about art
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about death
- quotes about elders
- quotes about life
All Things Can Tempt Me
ALL things can tempt me from this craft of verse:
One time it was a woman's face, or worse --
The seeming needs of my fool-driven land;
Now nothing but comes readier to the hand
Than this accustomed toil. When I was young,
I had not given a penny for a song
Did not the poet Sing it with such airs
That one believed he had a sword upstairs;
Yet would be now, could I but have my wish,
Colder and dumber and deafer than a fish.
Rabbi Ben Ezra
"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made."
"Rabbi Ben Ezra" is a plea for each period in life. Aspiration is the keynote.
" ... Trust God; see all, nor be afraid!"
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, "A whole I plann'd,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid!"
Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sigh'd, "Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall?"
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearn'd, "Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"
Not for such hopes and fears
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finish'd and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-cramm'd beast?
Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.
Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting, that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!
For thence,--a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,--
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.
What is he but a brute
Whose flesh has soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test--
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?
Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole:
Should not the heart beat once "How good to live and learn?"
Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete,--I trust what Thou shalt do!"
For pleasant is this flesh,
Our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pull'd ever to the earth, still yearns for rest;
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold
Possessions of the brute,--gain most, as we did best!
Let us not always say,
"Spite of this flesh to-day
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!"
As the bird wings and sings,
Let us cry, "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"
Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.
And I shall thereupon
Take rest, ere I be gone
Once more on my adventure brave and new:
Fearless and unperplex'd,
When I wage battle next,
What weapons to select, what armour to indue.
Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;
Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same,
Give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.
For note, when evening shuts,
A certain moment cuts
The deed off, calls the glory from the gray:
A whisper from the west
Shoots--"Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another day."
So, still within this life,
Though lifted o'er its strife,
Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,
"This rage was right i' the main,
That acquiescence vain:
The Future I may face now I have proved the Past"
For more is not reserved
To man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day:
Here, work enough to watch
The Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.
As it was better, youth
Should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made:
So, better, age, exempt
From strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedest age: wait death nor be afraid!
Enough now, if the Right
And Good and Infinite
Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own,
With knowledge absolute,
Subject to no dispute
From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.
Be there, for once and all,
Sever'd great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdain'd,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!
Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, and I that: whom shall my soul believe?
Not on the vulgar mass
Call'd "work," must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:
But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger fail'd to plumb,
So pass'd in making up the main account;
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weigh'd not as his work, yet swell'd the man's amount:
Thoughts hardly to be pack'd
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped,
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"
Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure;
What enter'd into thee,
_That_ was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.
He fix'd thee 'mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impress'd.
What though the earlier grooves
Which ran the laughing loves
Around thy base, no longer pause and press?
What though, about thy rim,
Scull-things in order grim
Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?
Look not thou down but up!
To uses of a cup,
The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's peal,
The new wine's foaming flow,
The master's lips aglow!
Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what need'st thou with earth's wheel?
But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men;
And since, not even while the whirl was worst
Did I,--to the wheel of life
With shapes and colours rife,
Bound dizzily,--mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:
So, take and use Thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as plann'd!
Lest age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
It may be, when this city of the nine gates
Is broken down by ruinous old age,
And no one upon any pilgrimage
Comes knocking, no one for an audience waits,
And no bright foraging troop of bandit moods
Rides out on the brave folly of any guest,
But weariness, the restless shadow of rest,
Hoveringly upon the city broods;
It may be, then, that those remembering
And sleepless watchers on the crumbling towers
Shall lose the count of the disastrous hours
Which God may have grown tired of reckoning.
In My Old Age/ I Still See The Morning Light
IN MY OLD AGE/ I STILL SEE THE MORNING LIGHT
In my old age
I still see the morning light -
I still walk out
To the beginning of a new day-
In my old age
I still pray.
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
for the Uncreated
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there
We don’t know what tomorrow may bring
But we want something that will make our hearts sing.
And the things that will make our hearts sing
Is the beautiful memories that it brings.
What is tomorrow but another day
Another day of living, another day of giving
Another day of sharing, another day of caring.
All of our tomorrows will be yesterdays
And all our yesterdays are our pasts
And it will be another memory that will last.
Watching all the Doo wop groups of yester year
On wpbt made me feel old as can be.
With each tomorrow brings you closer to old age
And your life will never be the same.
I will take all my tomorrows and hold them
Like a newborn child, and give thanks to god above
For showing me how to love.
And when my tomorrows become my yester years
With everyone that I know, these memories I will share.
Old age is fine beauty
Old age is not new phenomenal
Every individual may have to depart after arrival
What even if old man is not cared?
At least old man has taken care of children and dared
There is no need to weep
Remain fit always and composure to keep
If sea wind is differently blowing
Who cares for and eager of knowing
It is unfortunate to target old man
He has lived his life as responsible noble
What did he not do for whole of family?
Now even children live in comfort and happily
Many old age homes are coming
Great plight for all ages looming
What can we do for their honorable end?
Feel in life as very close and intimate friend
Someone told me about nice end show
Foreign currency deposited for when I go
Bid final bye and say thank you mother earth
My only request not to spoil natural death
Do nothing so as to denigrate human being
No parents may ask for lovely child and sing
If bird was to be left alone on road
What on earth can be considered as load?
With weak wings you are downed
With all abuses and finally stoned
Shunted from door to door
You had never been such a poor
Think of that kind of poverty
That may wait for them from almighty
Feel not any kind of remorse or pity
Old age is not at all curse but fine departing beauty
Sonnet: All Things Are Beautiful
Be it a mountain or a little mount,
Be it a hillock or a mighty hill,
Be it a waterfall or little fount,
There is much beauty that a heart can fill!
The size or color does not matter much;
The place or face of things isn’t important;
Beauty depends on the observer’s touch,
Of being lured in ways significant.
Each artist knows the value of his heart;
The Potter knows the price of every pot;
All things have beauty innate or in part;
There is a world within a single dot!
The state of mind and exposure matters;
The careless observer always falters.
Old Age Doesn't Come Alone... Not At 53
Where does it come from old age
I took my family grandchildren included
To the beach today only to find out
That people who are unfit are excluded
Not to say I didn't try to reach the beach
'Come on Grandad! ' shouted my boys
But grandad was too ill for the beach to reach
So sat on an old wooden bench and viewed from afar
The shenannigans of my daughter playing in the surf
Made me so envious to be young again.
But I'm only fifty three with a heart of ninety
So thus it must remain until the hospital sort my problems
Without good odds I have been informed
My passing may be sooner rather than later
But I'd rather a day of running on the beach and my heart burst
Than to have to hear my grandchildren shout once again
'Come on grandad last one there is a rotten egg! '
As He Works Out All Things
God works out all things for me, in ways I could not foresee,
In ways that could only come, through Jesus Christ, His Son,
Changing the very heart of men, in ways which only God can,
Arranging a path in life for me, all for God’s Praise and Glory.
Even as those problems do occur, it is God’s Will, I can infer,
As our Lord uses many trials for, the Believer and many more,
Unbelievers who watch one’s life, of a believer in Jesus Christ,
To see just how we respond to, the trials God sees us through.
Our trials can be of any scale, but, in The Lord we shall prevail,
Whether trials come big or small, God, is still The Lord over all,
No matter what the magnitude, others watch to see our attitude,
Watching what is said and done, to see our faith, in God’s Son.
God’s Only Son, Christ Jesus, whose Grace is sufficient for us,
For He is the One who sustains, us through our trials and pains,
Sustaining us through His Grace, in each trial that we shall face,
So men see His Grace and Power, even within our darkest hour.
What many may not know friend, is He’s the beginning and end,
Christ knows every circumstance, in His plan there is no chance,
As Christ directs the way we go, down the path we do not know,
While displaying His power in us, with the peace of Christ Jesus.
All Things Beautiful
Imagine all things beautiful,
Exquisite and sublime.
Quite delicate and lovable,
To stand the test of time,
Just as if the whole Creation
Was blessed from first to last.
Just to grant us great elation,
So not to be downcast...
Imagine all things wonderful,
Designed as God knew best.
With sweet miracles unfolding,
Like shooting stars above...
With our God, the Cosmos holding,
Beholding it with love...
That is how the great designers
Upon this Earth must feel,
When they pause to form their finest,
To showcase and reveal...
Exhibiting each masterpiece,
Each brilliant in its way,
That we partake in what can please
With every passing day...
Upon this Earth, where angels roam,
Unseen by mortal man,
God's Spirit visits every home
To do the best He can,
With inspirations old and new,
To share with young and old,
What's beautiful and meant for you,
As if it were pure gold...
Denis Martindale, copyright, October 2011.
Thanks to James Russell, bid tv Sky UK...
The poem was based on the bid tv presenter
telling us the legend of a Russian who wanted
to create the beauty of a flower in a rock...
He spend years making his sculptured artwork.
The legend says that it was so beautiful that
those who gazed upon it immediately wept...
The expression used to define the Inspirations
product range sold on bid tv was the desire to
create all things beautiful. So this poem was
written to explain why Man seeks to create as
he does. The Holy Bible tells us that it was God
who inspired Man to be a creative designer of
all things beautiful... That is why we have such
masterpieces in the form of the arts that may
bring us a measure of happiness here on Earth.
I call this the double blessing, for we who create
are first blessed. Sharing the blessing with others
means we are blessed yet again... and hopefully,
God is blessed, seeing the good that we share...
A Letter from a Girl to Her Own Old Age
Listen, and when thy hand this paper presses,
O time-worn woman, think of her who blesses
What thy thin fingers touch, with her caresses.
O mother, for the weight of years that break thee!
O daughter, for slow time must yet awake thee,
And from the changes of my heart must make thee!
O fainting traveller, morn is gray in heaven.
Dost thou remember how the clouds were driven?
And are they calm about the fall of even?
Pause near the ending of thy long migration;
For this one sudden hour of desolation
Appeals to one hour of thy meditation.
Suffer, O silent one, that I remind thee
Of the great hills that stormed the sky behind thee,
Of the wild winds of power that have resigned thee.
Know that the mournful plain where thou must wander
Is but a gray and silent world, but ponder
The misty mountains of the morning yonder.
Listen:-the mountain winds with rain were fretting,
And sudden gleams the mountain-tops besetting.
I cannot let thee fade to death, forgetting.
What part of this wild heart of mine I know not
Will follow with thee where the great winds blow not,
And where the young flowers of the mountain grow not.
Yet let my letter with thy lost thoughts in it
Tell what the way was when thou didst begin it,
And win with thee the goal when thou shalt win it.
I have not writ this letter of divining
To make a glory of thy silent pining,
A triumph of thy mute and strange declining.
Only one youth, and the bright life was shrouded;
Only one morning, and the day was clouded;
And one old age with all regrets is crowded.
O hush, O hush! Thy tears my words are steeping.
O hush, hush, hush! So full, the fount of weeping?
Poor eyes, so quickly moved, so near to sleeping?
Pardon the girl; such strange desires beset her.
Poor woman, lay aside the mournful letter
That breaks thy heart; the one who wrote, forget her:
The one who now thy faded features guesses,
With filial fingers thy gray hair caresses,
With morning tears thy mournful twilight blesses.
Great Beauty Past And Present
Think of all the great beauty
still remaining in this world...
on land beaches rivers mountains
at sea beneath the ocean waves
all the species of incredible fishes
uncounted diverse marine life
in the air birds the fliers
insects in their myriads
bats gliders like squirrels
once flying also were pterosaurs
155 million years of powered flight
found on every continent except
Antarctica yet with over sixty genera
discovered and flight skills equal
or exceeding birds (pterosaurs' had
massive flocculi, it occupied 7.5%
of total brain mass, far in excess of
all other vertebrate, birds flocculi 1
and 2% of total brain mass unusually
large flocculi; compared to other
animals, a science marvel, flocculus,
a brain region integrating signals
from skin, muscles, joints and
balance organs, sending out neural
signals to produce small, automatic
movements in eye muscles, to keep
the image on the pterosaurs' retina
steady; pterosaurs may have had
such a large flocculus because of
their large wing size, which would
mean that there was a great deal
more sensory information to
process) their preserved skeletons
must be fossilized in an iced Antarctica
that continent of huge undiscovered
fossilized marvels awaiting discovery
research new fossil discoveries paint
a fuller picture of an ancient lush past
secrets remain hidden in cold storage
98 percent of iced continent is covered
ice bound year-round by an ice layered
mass science will not penetrate probed
why laser tunneled depths publicly sealed
only a few islands along the Antarctic
Peninsula yield published finds recorded
authorities will tell you the first fossils
found were plesiosaurs marine reptiles
on Seymour Island in 1982; a hadrosaur
on James Ross Island in 1986, this first
dinosaur fossil, an ankylosaur, a duck-
billed dinosaur, first large plant eaters
found outside the Americas proving
proving; the continents past tropical
or temperate climate and vegetation
but what discoveries in Byrd Expedition?
(secret diary flights to land beyond poles)
on the sides of Mt. Weaver fossil plants
coal beds at South Pole within 200 miles
formed, by plants growing in profusion,
Ernest Shackleton reported coal proves;
past swampy areas, the growth of enough
plants, to produce an observed bed of coal
unknown wonders remain to be unearthed
- quotes about Antarctica
- quotes about aircrafts
- quotes about flying
- quotes about islands
- quotes about signals
- quotes about journalism
- quotes about laser
- quotes about South Pole
The Old Age Of Queen Maeve
A certain poet in outlandish clothes
Gathered a crowd in some Byzantine lane,
Talked1 of his country and its people, sang
To some stringed instrument none there had seen,
A wall behind his back, over his head
A latticed window. His glance went up at time
As though one listened there, and his voice sank
Or let its meaning mix into the strings.
MAEVE the great queen was pacing to and fro,
Between the walls covered with beaten bronze,
In her high house at Cruachan; the long hearth,
Flickering with ash and hazel, but half showed
Where the tired horse-boys lay upon the rushes,
Or on the benches underneath the walls,
In comfortable sleep; all living slept
But that great queen, who more than half the night
Had paced from door to fire and fire to door.
Though now in her old age, in her young age
She had been beautiful in that old way
That's all but gone; for the proud heart is gone,
And the fool heart of the counting-house fears all
But Soft beauty and indolent desire.
She could have called over the rim of the world
Whatever woman's lover had hit her fancy,
And yet had been great-bodied and great-limbed,
Fashioned to be the mother of strong children;
And she'd had lucky eyes and high heart,
And wisdom that caught fire like the dried flax,
At need, and made her beautiful and fierce,
Sudden and laughing.
O unquiet heart,
Why do you praise another, praising her,
As if there were no tale but your own tale
Worth knitting to a measure of sweet sound?
Have I not bid you tell of that great queen
Who has been buried some two thousand years?
When night was at its deepest, a wild goose
Cried from the porter's lodge, and with long clamour'
Shook the ale-horns and shields upon their hooks;
But the horse-boys slept on, as though some power
Had filled the house with Druid heaviness;
And wondering who of the many-changing Sidhe
Had come as in the old times to counsel her,
Maeve walked, yet with slow footfall, being old,
To that small chamber by the outer gate.
The porter slept, although he sat upright
With still and stony limbs and open eyes.
Maeve waited, and when that ear-piercing noise
Broke from his parted lips and broke again,
She laid a hand on either of his shoulders,
And shook him wide awake, and bid him say
Who of the wandering many-changing ones
Had troubled his sleep. But all he had to say
Was that, the air being heavy and the dogs
More still than they had been for a good month,
He had fallen asleep, and, though he had dreamed nothing,
He could remember when he had had fine dreams.
It was before the time of the great war
Over the White-Horned Bull and the Brown Bull.
She turned away; he turned again to sleep
That no god troubled now, and, wondering
What matters were afoot among the Sidhe,
Maeve walked through that great hall, and with a sigh
Lifted the curtain of her sleeping-room,
Remembering that she too had seemed divine
To many thousand eyes, and to her own
One that the generations had long waited
That work too difficult for mortal hands
Might be accomplished, Bunching the curtain up
She saw her husband Ailell sleeping there,
And thought of days when he'd had a straight body,
And of that famous Fergus, Nessa's husband,
Who had been the lover of her middle life.
Suddenly Ailell spoke out of his sleep,
And not with his own voice or a man's voice,
But with the burning, live, unshaken voice
Of those that, it may be, can never age.
He said, 'High Queen of Cruachan and Magh Ai,
A king of the Great Plain would speak with you.'
And with glad voice Maeve answered him, 'What king
Of the far-wandering shadows has come to me,
As in the old days when they would come and go
About my threshold to counsel and to help?'
The parted lips replied, 'I seek your help,
For I am Aengus, and I am crossed in love.'
'How may a mortal whose life gutters out
Help them that wander with hand clasping hand,
Their haughty images that cannot wither,
For all their beauty's like a hollow dream,
Mirrored in streams that neither hail nor rain
Nor the cold North has troubled?'
'I am from those rivers and I bid you call
The children of the Maines out of sleep,
And set them digging under Bual's hill.
We shadows, while they uproot his earthy housc,
Will overthrow his shadows and carry off
Caer, his blue-eyed daughter that I love.
I helped your fathers when they built these walls,
And I would have your help in my great need,
Queen of high Cruachan.'
'I obey your will
With speedy feet and a most thankful heart:
For you have been, O Aengus of the birds,
Our giver of good counsel and good luck.'
And with a groan, as if the mortal breath
Could but awaken sadly upon lips
That happier breath had moved, her husband turned
Face downward, tossing in a troubled sleep;
But Maeve, and not with a slow feeble foot,
Came to the threshold of the painted house
Where her grandchildren slept, and cried aloud,
Until the pillared dark began to stir
With shouting and the clang of unhooked arms.
She told them of the many-changing ones;
And all that night, and all through the next day
To middle night, they dug into the hill.
At middle night great cats with silver claws,
Bodies of shadow and blind eyes like pearls,
Came up out of the hole, and red-eared hounds
With long white bodies came out of the air
Suddenly, and ran at them and harried them.
The Maines' children dropped their spades, and stood
With quaking joints and terror-stricken faces,
Till Maeve called out, 'These are but common men.
The Maines' children have not dropped their spades
Because Earth, crazy for its broken power,
Casts up a Show and the winds answer it
With holy shadows.' Her high heart was glad,
And when the uproar ran along the grass
She followed with light footfall in the midst,
Till it died out where an old thorn-tree stood.
Friend of these many years, you too had stood
With equal courage in that whirling rout;
For you, although you've not her wandering heart,
Have all that greatness, and not hers alone,
For there is no high story about queens
In any ancient book but tells of you;
And when I've heard how they grew old and died,
Or fell into unhappiness, I've said,
'She will grow old and die, and she has wept!'
And when I'd write it out anew, the words,
Half crazy with the thought, She too has wept!
Outrun the measure.
I'd tell of that great queen
Who stood amid a silence by the thorn
Until two lovers came out of the air
With bodies made out of soft fire. The one,
About whose face birds wagged their fiery wings,
Said, 'Aengus and his sweetheart give their thanks
To Maeve and to Maeve's household, owing all
In owing them the bride-bed that gives peace.'
Then Maeve: 'O Aengus, Master of all lovers,
A thousand years ago you held high ralk
With the first kings of many-pillared Cruachan.
O when will you grow weary?'
They had vanished,
But our of the dark air over her head there came
A murmur of soft words and meeting lips.
The Restoration Of The Works Of Art In Italy
LAND of departed fame! whose classic plains
Have proudly echo'd to immortal strains;
Whose hallow'd soil hath given the great and brave
Daystars of life, a birth-place and a grave;
Home of the Arts! where glory's faded smile
Sheds lingering light o'er many a mouldering pile;
Proud wreck of vanish'd power, of splendour fled,
Majestic temple of the mighty dead!
Whose grandeur, yet contending with decay,
Gleams through the twilight of thy glorious day;
Though dimm'd thy brightness, riveted thy chain,
Yet, fallen Italy! rejoice again!
Lost, lovely realm! once more 'tis thine to gaze
On the rich relics of sublimer days.
Awake, ye Muses of Etrurian shades,
Or sacred Tivoli's romantic glades;
Wake, ye that slumber in the bowery gloom
Where the wild ivy shadows Virgil's tomb;
Or ye, whose voice, by Sorga's lonely wave,
Swell'd the deep echoes of the fountain's cave,
Or thrill'd the soul in Tasso's numbers high,
Those magic strains of love and chivalry:
If yet by classic streams ye fondly rove,
Haunting the myrtle vale, the laurel grove;
Oh ! rouse once more the daring soul of song,
Seize with bold hand the harp, forgot so long,
And hail, with wonted pride, those works revered
Hallow'd by time, by absence more endear'd.
And breathe to Those the strain, whose warrior-might
Each danger stemm'd, prevail'd in every fight;
Souls of unyielding power, to storms inured,
Sublimed by peril, and by toil matured.
Sing of that Leader, whose ascendant mind
Could rouse the slumbering spirit of mankind:
Whose banners track'd the vanquish'd Eagle's flight
O'er many a plain, and dark sierra's height;
Who bade once more the wild, heroic lay
Record the deeds of Roncesvalles' day;
Who, through each mountain-pass of rock and snow,
An Alpine huntsman chased the fear-struck foe;
Waved his proud standard to the balmy gales,
Rich Languedoc ! that fan thy glowing vales,
And 'midst those scenes renew'd the achievements high,
Bequeath'd to fame by England's ancestry.
Yet, when the storm seem'd hush'd, the conflict past,
One strife remain'd–the mightiest and the last!
Nerved for the struggle, in that fateful hour
Untamed Ambition summon'd all his power;
Vengeance and Pride, to frenzy roused, were there,
And the stern might of resolute Despair.
Isle of the free! 'twas then thy champions stood,
Breasting unmoved the combat's wildest flood;
Sunbeam of battle! then thy spirit shone,
Glow'd in each breast, and sank with life alone.
Oh, hearts devoted! whose illustrious doom
Gave there at once your triumph and your tomb,
Ye, firm and faithful, in the ordeal tried
Of that dread strife, by Freedom sanctified;
Shrined, not entomb'd, ye rest in sacred earth,
Hallow'd by deeds of more than mortal worth.
What though to mark where sleeps heroic dust,
No sculptured trophy rise, or breathing bust,
Yours, on the scene where valour's race was run,
A prouder sepulchre–the field ye won!
There every mead, each cabin's lowly name,
Shall live a watchword blended with your fame;
And well may flowers suffice those graves to crown
That ask no urn to blazon their renown!
There shall the bard in future ages tread,
And bless each wreath that blossoms o'er the dead;
Revere each tree whose sheltering branches wave
O'er the low mounds, the altars of the brave;
Pause o'er each warrior's grass-grown bed, and hear
In every breeze some name to glory dear;
And as the shades of twilight close around,
With martial pageants people all the ground.
Thither unborn descendants of the slain
Shall throng as pilgrims to the holy fane,
While as they trace each spot, whose records tell
Where fought their fathers, and prevail'd, and fell,
Warm in their souls shall loftiest feelings glow,
Claiming proud kindred with the dust below!
And many an age shall see the brave repair,
To learn the Hero's bright devotion there.
And well, Ausonia! may that field of fame,
From thee one song of echoing triumph claim.
Land of the lyre! 'twas there the avenging sword
Won the bright treasures to thy fanes restored;
Those precious trophies o'er thy realms that throw
A veil of radiance, hiding half thy woe,
And bid the stranger for awhile forget
How deep thy fall, and deem thee glorious yet.
Yes, fair creations! to perfection wrought,
Embodied visions of ascending thought!
Forms of sublimity! by Genius traced
In tints that vindicate adoring taste;
Whose bright originals, to earth unknown,
Live in the spheres encircling glory's throne;
Models of art, to deathless fame consign'd,
Stamp'd with the high-born majesty of mind;
Yes, matchless works! your presence shall restore
One beam of splendour to your native shore,
And her sad scenes of lost renown illume,
As the bright sunset gilds some hero's tomb.
Oh! ne'er, in other climes, though many an eye
Dwelt on your charms, in beaming ecstasy;
Ne'er was it yours to bid the soul expand
With thoughts so mighty, dreams so boldly grand,
As in that realm, where each faint breeze's moan
Seems a low dirge for glorious ages gone;
Where 'midst the ruin'd shrines of many a vale,
E'en Desolation tells a haughty tale,
And scarce a fountain flows, a rock ascends,
But its proud name with song eternal blends!
Yes! in those scenes where every ancient stream
Bids memory kindle o'er some lofty theme;
Where every marble deeds of fame records,
Each ruin tells of Earth's departed lords;
And the deep tones of inspiration swell
From each wild olive-wood, and Alpine dell;
Where heroes slumber on their battle plains,
Midst prostrate altars and deserted fanes,
And Fancy communes, in each lonely spot,
With shades of those who ne'er shall be forgot;
There was your home, and there your power imprest,
With tenfold awe, the pilgrim's glowing breast;
And, as the wind's deep thrills and mystic sighs
Wake the wild harp to loftiest harmonies,
Thus at your influence, starting from repose,
Thought, Feeling, Fancy, into grandeur rose.
Fair Florence! queen of Arno's lovely vale!
Justice and Truth indignant heard thy tale,
And sternly smiled, in retribution's hour,
To wrest thy treasures from the Spoiler's power.
Too long the spirits of thy noble dead
Mourn'd o'er the domes they rear'd in ages fled.
Those classic scenes their pride so richly graced,
Temples of genius, palaces of taste,
Too long, with sad and desolated mien,
Reveal'd where Conquest's lawless track had been;
Reft of each form with brighter light imbued,
Lonely they frown'd, a desert solitude,
Florence ! the Oppressor's noon of pride is o'er,
Rise in. thy pomp again, and weep no more!
As one, who, starting at the dawn of day
From dark illusions, phantoms of dismay,
With transport heighten'd by those ills of night,
Hails the rich glories of expanding light;
E'en thus, awakening from thy dream of woe,
While heaven's own hues in radiance round thee glow,
With warmer ecstasy 'tis thine to trace
Each tint of beauty, and each line of grace
More bright, more prized, more precious, since deplored,
As loved, lost relics, ne'er to be restored,
Thy grief as hopeless as the tear-drop shed
By fond affection bending o'er the dead.
Athens of Italy! once more are thine
Those matchless gems of Art's exhaustless mine.
For thee bright Genius darts his living beam,
Warm o'er thy shrines the tints of Glory stream,
And forms august as natives of the sky,
Rise round each fane in faultless majesty,
So chastely perfect, so serenely grand,
They seem creations of no mortal hand.
Ye, at whose voice fair Art, with eagle glance,
Burst in full splendour from her deathlike trance;
Whose rallying call bade slumbering nations wake,
And daring Intellect his bondage break;
Beneath whose eye the lords of song arose,
And snatch'd the Tuscan Iyre from long repose,
And bade its pealiing energies resound,
With power electric, through the realms around;
Oh! high in thought, magnificent in soul!
Born to inspire, enlighten, and control;
Cosmo, Lorenzo! view your reign once more,
The shrine where nations mmgle to adore!
Again the Enthusiast there, with ardent gaze,
Shall hail the mighty of departed days:
Those sovereign spirits, whose commanding mind
Seems in the marble's breathing mould enshrined;
Still with ascendant power the wor]d to awe,
Still the deep homage of the heart to draw
To breathe some spell of holiness around,
Bid all the scene be consecrated ground,
And from the stone, by Inspiration wrought,
Dart the pure lightnings of exalted thought.
There thou, fair offspring of immortal Mind!
Love's radiant goddess, idol of mankind!
Once the bright object of Devotion's vow,
Shalt claim from taste a kindred worship now.
Oh! who can te]l what beams of heavenly light
Flash'd o'er the sculptor's intellectual sight,
How many a glimpse, reveal'd to him alone,
Made brighter beings, nobler worlds, his own;
Ere, like some vision sent the earth to bless,
Burst into life thy pomp of loveliness!
Young Genius there, while dwells his kindling eye
On forms, instinct with bright divinity,
While new-born powers, dilating in his heart,
Embrace the full magnificence of Art;
From scenes, by Raphael's gifted hand array'd,
From dreams of heaven, by Angelo portray'd;
From each fair work of Grecian skill sublime,
Seal'd with perfection, 'sanctified by time';
Shall catch a kindred glow, and proudly feel
His spirit burn with emulative zeal,
Buoyant with loftier hopes, his soul shall rise,
Imbued at once with nobler energies;
O'er life's dim scenes on rapid pinions soar,
And worlds of visionary grace explore,
Till his bold hand give glory's daydream birth,
And with new wonders charm admiring earth.
Venice, exult ! and o'er thy moonlight seas,
Swell with gay strains each Adriatic breeze!
What though long fled those years of martial fame,
That shed romantic lustre o'er thy name;
Though to the winds thy streamers idly play,
And the wild waves another Queen obey;
Though quench'd the spirit of thine ancient race,
And power and freedom scarce have left a trace;
Yet still shall Art her splendours round thee cast,
And gild the wreck of years for ever past.
Again thy fanes may boast a Titian's dyes,
Whose clear soft brilliance emulates thy skies,
And scenes that glow in colouring's richest bloom,
With life's warm flush Palladian halls illume.
From thy rich dome again the unrivall'd steed
Starts to existence, rushes into speed,
Still for Lysippus claims the wreath of fame,
Panting with ardour, vivified with flame.
Proud Racers of the Sun! to fancy's thought
Burning with spirit, from his essence caught,
No mortal birth ye seem–but form'd to bear
Heaven's car of triumph through the realms of air;
To range uncurb'd the pathless fields of space,
The winds your rivals in the glorious race;
Traverse empyreal spheres with buoyant feet,
Free as the zephyr, as the shot-star fleet;
And waft through worlds unknown the vital ray,
The flame that wakes creations into day.
Creatures of fire and ether ! wing'd with light,
To track the regions of the Infinite!
From purer elements whose life was drawn,
Sprung from the sunbeam, offspring of the dawn.
What years on years, in silence gliding by,
Have spared those forms of perfect symmetry!
Moulded by Art to dignify, alone,
Her own bright deity's resplendent throne,
Since first her skill their fiery grace bestow'd,
Meet for such lofty fate, such high abode,
How many a race, whose tales of glory seem
An echo's voice–the music of a dream,
Whose records feebly from oblivion save
A few bright traces of the wise and brave;
How many a state, whose pillar'd strength sublime,
Defied the storms of war, the waves of time,
Towering o'er earth majestic and alone,
Fortress of power–has flourish'd and is gone!
And they, from clime to clime by conquest borne,
Each fleeting triumph destined to adorn,
They, that of powers and kingdoms lost and won,
Have seen the noontide and the setting sun,
Consummate still in every grace remain,
As o'er their heads had ages roll'd in vain!
Ages, victorious in their ceaseless flight,
O'er countless monuments of earthly might!
While she, from fair Byzantium's lost domain,
Who bore those treasures to her ocean-reign,
'Midst the blue deep, who rear'd her island-throne,
And called the infinitude of waves her own;
Venice, the proud, the Regent of the sea,
Welcomes in chains the trophies of the Free!:
And thou, whose Eagle's towering plume umfurl'd,
Once cast its shadow o'er a vassal world,
Eternal city! round whose Curule throne,
The lords of nations knelt in ages flown;
Thou, whose Augustan years have left to time
Immortal records of their glorious prime;
When deathless bards, thine olive-shades among,
Swell'd the high raptures of heroic song;
Fair, fallen Empress! raise thy languid head
From the cold altars of the illustrious dead,
And once again, with fond delight survey
The proud memorials of thy noblest day.
Lo! where thy sons, O Rome! a godlike train,
In imaged majesty return again!
Bards, chieftains, monarchs, tower with mien august
O'er scenes that shrine their venerable dust.
Those forms, those features, luminous with soul,
Still o'er thy children seem to claim control;
With awful grace arrest the pilgrim's glance,
Bind his rapt soul in elevating trance,
And bid the past, to fancy's ardent eyes,
From time's dim sepulchre in glory rise.
Souls of the lofty! whose undying names
Rouse the young bosom still to noblest aims;
Oh! with your images could fate restore,
Your own high spirit to your sons once more;
Patriots and Heroes! could those flames return,
That bade your hearts with freedom's ardours burn
Then from the sacred ashes of the first,
Might a new Rome in phoenix grandeur burst!
With one bright glance dispel the horizon's gloom,
With one loud call wake empire from the tomb;
Bind round her brows her own triumphal crown,
Lift her dread aegis with majestic frown,
Unchain her eagle's wing, and guide his flight,
To bathe his plumage in the fount of light.
Vain dream! degraded Rome! thy noon is o'er,
Once lost, thy spirit shall revive no more.
It sleeps with those, the sons of other days,
Who fix'd on thee the world's adoring gaze;
Those, blest to live, while yet thy star was high,
More blest, ere darkness quench'd its beam, to die!
Yet, though thy faithless tutelary powers
Have fled thy shrines, left desolate thy towers,
Still, still to thee shall nations bend their way,
Revered in ruin, sovereign in decay!
Oh! what can realms, in fame's full zenith, boast,
To match the relics of thy splendour lost!
By Tiber's waves, on each illustrious hill,
Genius and Taste shall love to wander still,
For there has Art survived an empire's doom,
And rear'd her throne o'er Latium's trophied tomb;
She from the dust recalls the brave and free,
Peopling each scene with beings worthy thee!
Oh! ne'er again may War, with lightning-stroke,
Rend its last honours from the shatter'd oak!
Long be those works, revered by ages, thine,
To lend one triumph to thy dim decline.
Bright with stern beauty, breathing wrathful fire,
In all the grandeur of celestial ire,
Once more thine own, the immortal Archer's form
Sheds radiance round, with more than Being warm!
Oh! who could view, nor deem that perfect frame,
A living temple of ethereal flame?
Lord of the daystar! how may words portray
Of thy chaste glory one reflected ray?
Whate'er the soul could dream, the hand could trace,
Of regal dignity, and heavenly grace;
Each purer effluence of the fair and bright,
Whose fitful gleams have broke on mortal sight;
Each bold idea, borrow'd from the sky,
To vest the embodied form of Deity;
All, all in thee ennobled and refined,
Breathe and enchant, transcendently combined!
Son of Elysium! years and ages gone
Have bow'd, in speechless homage, at thy throne,
And days unborn, and nations yet to be,
Shall gaze, absorb'd in ecstasy, on thee!
And thou, triumphant wreck, e'en yet sublime,
Disputed trophy, claimed by Art and Time;
Hail to that scene again, where Genius caught
From thee its fervours of diviner thought!
Where He, the inspired One, whose gigantic mind
Lived in some sphere, to him alone assign'd;
Who from the past, the future, and the unseen,
Could call up forms of more than earthly mien:
Unrivall'd Angelo on thee would gaze,
Till his full soul imbibed perfection's blaze!
And who but he, that Prince of Art, might dare
Thy sovereign greatness view without despair?
Emblem of Rome! from power's meridian hurl'd,
Yet claiming still the homage of the world.
What hadst thou been, ere barbarous hands defaced
The work of wonder, idolized by taste?
Oh! worthy still of some divine abode,
Mould of a Conqueror! ruin of a God!
Still, like some broken gem, whose quenchless beam
From each bright fragment pours its vital stream,
'Tis thine, by fate unconquer'd, to dispense
From every part some ray of excellence!
E'en yet, inform'd with essence from on high,
Thine is no trace of frail mortality!
Within that frame a purer being glows,
Through viewless veins a brighter current flows;
Fill'd with immortal life each muscle swells,
In every line supernal grandeur dwells.
Consummate work! the noblest and the last
Of Grecian Freedom, ere her reign was past:
Nurse of the mighty, she, while lingering still,
Her mantle flow'd o'er many a classic hill,
Ere yet her voice its parting accents breathed,
A hero's image to the world bequeathed;
Enshrined in thee the imperishable ray
Of high-soul'd Genius, foster'd by her sway.
And bade thee teach, to ages yet unborn,
What lofty dreams were hers–who never shall return!
And mark yon group, transfixed with many a throe,
Seal'd with the image of eternal woe:
With fearful truth, terrific power, exprest,
Thy pangs, Laocoon, agonize the breast,
And the stern combat picture to mankind
Of suffering nature, and enduring mind.
Oh, mighty conflict! though his pains intense
Distend each nerve, and dart through every sense;
Though fix'd on him, his children's suppliant eyes
Implore the aid avenging fate denies;
Though with the giant-snake in fruitless strife,
Heaves every muscle with convulsive life,
And in each limb existence writhes, enroll'd
'Midst the dread circles of the venom'd fold;
Yet the strong spirit lives–and not a cry
Shall own the might of Nature's agony!
That furrow'd brow unconquer'd soul reveals,
That patient eye to angry Heaven appeals,
That struggling bosom concentrates its breath,
Nor yields one moan to torture or to death!
Sublimest triumph of intrepid Art!
With speechless horror to congeal the heart,
To freeze each pulse, and dart through every vein,
Cold thrills of fear, keen sympathies of pain;
Yet teach the spirit how its lofty power
May brave the pangs of fate's severest hour.
Turn from such conflicts, and enraptured gaze
On scenes where Painting all her skill displays:
Landscapes, by colouring dress'd in richer dyes,
More mellow'd sunshine, more unclouded skies,
Or dreams of bliss, to dying martyrs given,
Descending seraphs, robed in beams of heaven.
Oh ! sovereign Masters of the Pencil's might,
Its depths of shadow, and its blaze of light;
Ye, whose bold thought, disdaining every bound,
Explored the worlds above, below, around,
Children of Italy! who stand alone
And unapproach'd, 'midst regions all your own;
What scenes, what beings bless'd your favour'd sight
Severely grand, unutterably bright!
Triumphant spirits! your exulting eye
Could meet the noontide of eternity,
And gaze untired, undaunted, uncontroll'd,
On all that Fancy trembles to behold.
Bright on your view such forms their splendour shed,
As burst on prophet-bards in ages fled:
Forms that to trace, no hand but yours might dare,
Darkly sublime, or exquisitely fair;
These, o'er the walls your magic skill array'd,
Glow in rich sunshine, gleam through melting shade,
Float in light grace, in awful greatness tower,
And breathe and move, the records of your power.
Inspired of Heaven! what heighten'd pomp ye cast
O'er all the deathless trophies of the past!
Round many a marble fane and classic dome,
Asserting still the majesty of Rome;
Round many a work that bids the world believe
What Grecian Art could image and achieve;
Again, creative minds, your visions throw
Life's chasten'd warmth, and Beauty's mellowest glow,
And when the Morn's bright beams and mantling dyes,
Pour the rich lustre of Ausonian skies,
Or evening suns illume, with purple smile,
The Parian altar, and the pillar'd aisle,
Then, as the full, or soften'd radiance falls
On angel-groups that hover o'er the walls,
Well may those Temples, where your hand has shed
Light o'er the tomb, existence round the dead,
Seem like some world, so perfect and so fair,
That naught of earth should find admittance there,
Some sphere, where beings, to mankind unknown
Dwell in the brightness of their pomp alone!
Hence, ye vain fictions! fancy's erring theme!
Gods of illusion! phantoms of a dream!
Frail, powerless idols of departed time,
Fables of song, delusive, though sublime!
To loftier tasks has Roman Art assign'd
Her matchless pencil, and her mighty mind!
From brighter streams her vast ideas flow'd
With purer fire her ardent spirit glow'd.
To her 'twas given in fancy to explore
The land of miracles, the holiest shore;
That realm where first the light of life was sent,
The loved, the punish'd, of the Omnipotent!
O'er Judah's hills her thoughts inspired would stray,
Through Jordan's valleys trace their lonely way;
By Siloa's brook, or Almotana's deep,
Chain'd in dead silence, and unbroken sleep;
Scenes, whose cleft rocks, and blasted deserts tell,
Where pass'd the Eternal, where His anger fell!
Where oft His voice the words of fate reveal'd,
Swell'd in the whirlwind, in the thunder peal'd,
Or heard by prophets in some palmy vale,
Breathed 'still small' whispers on the midnight gale.
There dwelt her spirit–there her hand portray'd,
'Midst the lone wilderness or cedar-shade,
Ethereal forms with awful missions fraught,
Or patriarch-seers absorb'd in sacred thought,
Bards, in high converse with the world of rest,
Saints of the earth, and spirits of the blest.
But chief to Him, the Conqueror of the grave,
Who lived to guide us, and who died to save;
Him, at whose glance the powers of evil fled,
And soul return'd to animate the dead;
Whom the waves own'd–and sunk beneath His eye,
Awed by one accent of Divinity;
To Him she gave her meditative hours,
Hallow'd her thoughts, and sanctified her powers.
O'er her bright scenes sublime repose she threw,
As all around the Godhead's presence knew,
And robed the Holy One's benignant mien
In beaming mercy, majesty serene.
Oh! mark where Raphael's pure and perfect line
Portrays that form ineffably divine!
Where with transcendent skill his hand has shed
Diffusive sunbeams round the Saviour's head;
Each heaven-illumined lineament imbued
With all the fullness of beatitude,
And traced the sainted group, whose mortal sight
Sinks overpower'd by that excess of light!
Gaze on that scene, and own the might of Art,
By truth inspired, to elevate the heart!
To bid the soul exultingly possess,
Of all her powers, a heighten'd consciousness;
And strong in hope, anticipate the day,
The last of life, the first of freedom's ray;
To realize, in some unclouded sphere,
Those pictured glories imaged here!
Dim, cold reflections from her native sky,
Faint effluence of 'the Day-spring from on high!'
Hackney'd in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain'd to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell'd against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form'd for God alone,
For Heaven's high purposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker’s power and love.
'Tis well, if look’d for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls, that have long despised their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care,
In catching smoke, and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke the unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And, draining its nutritious power to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy, if full of days—but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life’s evening star,
Sick of the service of a world that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from custom’s idiot sway,
To serve the sovereign we were born to obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display’d
(Infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in nature’s most minute design
The signature and stamp of power divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint,
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks and it is done,
The invisible in things scarce seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field:
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch’d, and those resuscitated worms.
New life ordain’d, and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn’d,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn’d,
Would mock the majesty of man’s high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeople earth:
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
Far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour’d at his command,
From urns that never fail, through every land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas, on which every nation spreads her sails;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light,
The crescent moon, the diadem of night:
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor’d in the deep abyss of space—
At such a sight to catch the poet’s flame,
And with a rapture like his own exclaim
These are thy glorious works, thou Source of Good,
How dimly seen, how faintly understood!
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair;
Thy power divine, and bounty beyond thought,
Adored and praised in all that thou has wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abased, and yet aspire to thee;
Instruct me, guide me to that heavenly day
Thy words more clearly than thy works display,
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
O blest proficiency! surpassing all
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompence that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compared with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to shew?
Thus studied, used, and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form’d indeed for us;
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguiled,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires;
But as a scale, by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends,
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferior beings up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
Not that I mean to approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastic course:
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffic and the shades,
And may be fear’d amidst the busiest scenes,
Or scorn’d where business never intervenes.
But, ‘tis not easy, with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest powers,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker’s will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test;
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no favourite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recovery from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased,
How to secure, in some propitious hour
The point of interest or the post of power,
A soul serene, and equally retired
From objects too much dreaded or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Opening the map of God’s extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity’s unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years.
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dangerous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells;
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight.
The waves o’ertake them in their serious play,
And every hour sweeps multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of Heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Seal’d with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorn’d by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatch’d away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change, that lives in every breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its votary to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of avarice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes;
The fruits that hang on pleasure’s flowery stem,
Whate’er enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief favourites share.
With eager step, and carelessly array’d,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleased Fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that power who form’d thee, and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown.
And, poring on thy page, whose every line
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enrich’d by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker’s praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glittering in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest prayers
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
‘Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair;
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plant within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grain’d ash, or glossy beech
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Straitening its growth by such a strict embrace;
So love, that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids the advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor’s air, indeed, he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning’s grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake;
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell!
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an ear,
And lovers, of all creatures, tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,
Yet let a poet (poetry disarms
The fiercest animals with magic charms)
Risk an intrusion on thy pensive mood,
And woo and win thee to thy proper good.
Pastoral images and still retreats,
Umbrageous walks and solitary seats,
Sweet birds in concert with harmonious streams,
Soft airs, nocturnal vigils, and day-dreams,
Are all enchantments in a case like thine,
Conspire against thy peace with one design,
Soothe thee to make thee but a surer prey,
And feed the fire that wastes thy powers away.
Up—God has form’d thee with a wiser view,
Not to be led in chains, but to subdue;
Calls thee to cope with enemies, and first
Points out a conflict with thyself, the worst.
Woman, indeed, a gift he would bestow
When he design’d a Paradise below,
The richest earthly boon his hands afford,
Deserves to be beloved, but not adored.
Post away swiftly to more active scenes,
Collect the scatter’d truth that study gleans,
Mix with the world, but with its wiser part,
No longer give an image all thine heart;
Its empire is not hers, nor is it thine,
‘Tis God’s just claim, prerogative divine.
Virtuous and faithful Heberden, whose skill
Attempts no task it cannot well fulfil,
Gives melancholy up to nature’s care,
And sends the patient into purer air.
Look where he comes—in this embower’d alcove
Stand close conceal’d, and see a statue move:
Lips busy, and eyes fix’d, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp’d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express.
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounced alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever’s secret sway,
And like a summer-brook are past away.
This is a sight for pity to peruse,
Till she resembles faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierced with the woes that she laments in vain.
This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it, when he groan’d beneath the rod
And the barb’d arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare,
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest, rather curst, with hearts that never feel,
Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer’d steel,
With mouths made only to grin wide and eat,
And minds that deem derided pain a treat,
With limbs of British oak, and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sovereign nostrum is a clumsy joke
On pangs enforced with God’s severest stroke.
But, with a soul that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing:
Not to molest, or irritate, or raise
A laugh at his expense, is slender praise;
He that has not usurp’d the name of man
Does all, and deems too little all, he can,
To assuage the throbbings of the fester’d part,
And staunch the bleedings of a broken heart.
‘Tis not, as heads that never ache suppose,
Forgery of fancy, and a dream of woes;
Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws reversed (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their power and use.
Then neither heathy wilds, nor scenes as fair
As ever recompensed the peasant’s care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which art preceptress nature weds,
Nor gardens interspersed with flowery beds,
Nor gales, that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God who makes them heals.
And thou, sad sufferer under nameless ill
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A Father’s frown, and kiss his chastening hand.
To thee the day-spring, and the blaze of noon,
The purple evening and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o’er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a shower of light,
Shine not, or undesired and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine:
Yet seek him, in his favour life is found,
All bliss beside—a shadow or a sound:
Then heaven, eclipsed so long, and this dull earth,
Shall seem to start into a second birth;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borrowing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despised and overlook’d no more,
Shall fill thee with delights unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.
Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims,
Sick of a thousand disappointed aims),
My patrimonial treasure and my pride,
Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide,
Receive me, languishing for that repose
The servant of the public never knows.
Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days,
When boyish innocence was all my praise!)
Hour after hour delightfully allot
To studies then familiar, since forgot,
And cultivate a taste for ancient song,
Catching its ardour as I mused along;
Nor seldom, as propitious Heaven might send,
What once I valued and could boast, a friend,
Were witnesses how cordially I press’d
His undissembling virtue to my breast;
Receive me now, not uncorrupt as then,
Nor guiltless of corrupting other men,
But versed in arts that, while they seem to stay
A falling empire, hasten its decay.
To the fair haven of my native home,
The wreck of what I was, fatigued, I come;
For once I can approve the patriot’s voice,
And make the course he recommends my choice:
We meet at last in one sincere desire,
His wish and mine both prompt me to retire.
‘Tis done—he steps into the welcome chaise,
Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays,
That whirl away from business and debate
The disencumber’d Atlas of the state.
Ask not the boy, who, when the breeze of morn
First shakes the glittering drops from every thorn,
Unfolds his flock, then under bank or bush
Sits linking cherry-stones, or platting rush,
How fair is Freedom?—he was always free:
To carve his rustic name upon a tree,
To snare the mole, or with ill-fashion’d hook
To draw the incautious minnow from the brook,
Are life’s prime pleasures in his simple view,
His flock the chief concern he ever knew;
She shines but little in his heedless eyes,
The good we never miss we rarely prize:
But ask the noble drudge in state affairs,
Escaped from office and its constant cares,
What charms he sees in Freedom’s smile express’d,
In freedom lost so long, now repossess’d;
The tongue whose strains were cogent as commands,
Revered at home, and felt in foreign lands,
Shall own itself a stammerer in that cause,
Or plead its silence as its best applause.
He knows indeed that, whether dress’d or rude,
Wild without art, or artfully subdued,
Nature in every form inspires delight,
But never mark’d her with so just a sight.
Her hedge-row shrubs, a variegated store,
With woodbine and wild roses mantled o’er,
Green balks and furrow’d lands, the stream that spreads
Its cooling vapour o’er the dewy meads,
Downs, that almost escape the inquiring eye,
That melt and fade into the distant sky,
Beauties he lately slighted as he pass’d,
Seem all created since he travell’d last.
Master of all the enjoyments he design’d,
No rough annoyance rankling in his mind,
What early philosophic hours he keeps,
How regular his meals, how sound he sleeps!
Not sounder he that on the mainmast head,
While morning kindles with a windy red,
Begins a long look-out for distant land,
Nor quits till evening watch his giddy stand,
Then, swift descending with a seaman’s haste,
Slips to his hammock, and forgets the blast.
He chooses company, but not the squire’s,
Whose wit is rudeness, whose good-breeding tires,
Nor yet the parson’s, who would gladly come,
Obsequious when abroad, though proud at home;
Nor can he much affect the neighbouring peer,
Whose toe of emulation treads too near;
But wisely seeks a more convenient friend,
With whom, dismissing forms, he may unbend.
A man, whom marks of condescending grace
Teach, while they flatter him, his proper place;
Who comes when call’d, and at a word withdraws,
Speaks with reserve, and listens with applause;
Some plain mechanic, who, without pretence
To birth or wit, nor gives nor takes offence;
On whom he rest well pleased his weary powers,
And talks and laughs away his vacant hours.
The tide of life, swift always in its course,
May run in cities with a brisker force,
But nowhere with a current so serene,
Or half so clear, as in the rural scene.
Yet how fallacious is all earthly bliss,
What obvious truths the wisest heads may miss!
Some pleasures live a month, and some a year,
But short the date of all we gather here;
No happiness is felt, except the true,
That does not charm thee more for being new.
This observation, as it chanced, not made,
Or, if the thought occurr’d, not duly weigh’d,
He sighs—for after all by slow degrees
The spot he loved has lost the power to please;
To cross his ambling pony day by day
Seems at the best but dreaming life away;
The prospect, such as might enchant despair,
He views it not, or sees no beauty there;
With aching heart, and discontented looks,
Returns at noon to billiards or to books,
But feels, while grasping at his faded joys,
A secret thirst of his renounced employs.
He chides the tardiness of every post,
Pants to be told of battles won or lost,
Blames his own indolence, observes, though late,
‘Tis criminal to leave a sinking state,
Flies to the levee, and, received with grace,
Kneels, kisses hands, and shines again in place.
Suburban villas, highway-side retreats,
That dread the encroachment of our growing streets,
Tight boxes neatly sash’d, and in a blaze
With all a July sun’s collected rays,
Delight the citizen, who, gasping there,
Breathes clouds of dust, and calls it country air.
O sweet retirement! who would balk the thought
That could afford retirement or could not?
‘Tis such an easy walk, so smooth and straight,
The second milestone fronts the garden gate;
A step if fair, and, if a shower approach,
They find safe shelter in the next stage-coach.
There, prison’d in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall,
The man of business and his friends compress’d,
Forget their labours, and yet find no rest;
But still ‘tis rural—trees are to be seen
From every window, and the fields are green;
Ducks paddle in the pond before the door,
And what could a remoter scene shew more?
A sense of elegance we rarely find
The portion of a mean or vulgar mind,
And ignorance of better things makes man,
Who cannot much, rejoice in what he can;
And he, that deems his leisure well bestow’d,
In contemplation of a turnpike-road,
Is occupied as well, employs his hours
As wisely, and as much improves his powers,
As he that slumbers in pavilions graced
With all the charms of an accomplish’d taste.
Yet hence, alas! insolvencies; and hence
The unpitied victim of ill-judged expense,
From all his wearisome engagements freed,
Shakes hands with business, and retires indeed.
Your prudent grandmammas, ye modern belles,
Content with Bristol, Bath, and Tunbridge Wells,
When health required it, would consent to roam,
Else more attach’d to pleasures found at home;
But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife,
Ingenious to diversify dull life,
In coaches, chaises, caravans, and hoys,
Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys,
And all, impatient of dry land, agree
With one consent to rush into the sea.
Ocean exhibits, fathomless and broad,
Much of the power and majesty of God.
He swathes about the swelling of the deep,
That shines and rests, as infants smile and sleep;
Vast as it is, it answers as it flows
The breathings of the lightest air that blows;
Curling and whitening over all the waste,
The rising waves obey the increasing blast,
Abrupt and horrid as the tempest roars,
Thunder and flash upon the steadfast shores,
Till he that rides the whirlwind checks the rein,
Then all the world of waters sleeps again.
Nereids or Dryads, as the fashion leads,
Now in the floods, now panting in the meads,
Votaries of pleasure still, where’er she dwells,
Near barren rocks, in palaces, or cells,
Oh, grant a poet leave to recommend
(A poet fond of nature, and your friend)
Her slighted works to your admiring view;
Her works must needs excel, who fashion’d you.
Would ye, when rambling in your morning ride,
With some unmeaning coxcomb at your side,
Condemn the prattler for his idle pains,
To waste unheard the music of his strains,
And, deaf to all the impertinence of tongue,
That, while it courts, affronts and does you wrong,
Mark well the finish’d plan without a fault,
The seas globose and huge, the o’er-arching vault,
Earth’s millions daily fed, a world employ’d
In gathering plenty yet to be enjoy’d,
Till gratitude grew vocal in the praise
Of God, beneficent in all his ways;
Graced with such wisdom, how would beauty shine!
Ye want but that to seem indeed divine.
Anticipated rents and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at a cheaper rate.
There, hid in loathed obscurity, removed
From pleasures left, but never more beloved,
He just endures, and with a sickly spleen
Sighs o’er the beauties of the charming scene.
Nature indeed looks prettily in rhyme;
Streams tinkle sweetly in poetic chime:
The warblings of the blackbird, clear and strong,
Are musical enough in Thomson’s song;
And Cobham’s groves, and Windsor’s green retreats,
When Pope describes them, have a thousand sweets;
He likes the country, but in truth must own,
Most likes it when he studies it in town.
Poor Jack—no matter who—for when I blame,
I pity, and must therefore sink the name,
Lived in his saddle, loved the chase, the course,
And always, ere he mounted, kiss’d his horse.
The estate, his sires had own’d in ancient years,
Was quickly distanced, match’d against a peer’s.
Jack vanish’d, was regretted, and forgot;
‘Tis wild good-nature’s never failing lot.
At length, when all had long supposed him dead,
By cold submersion, razor, rope, or lead,
My lord, alighting at his usual place,
The Crown, took notice of an ostler’s face.
Jack knew his friend, but hoped in that disguise
He might escape the most observing eyes,
And whistling, as if unconcern’d and gay,
Curried his nag and look’d another way;
Convinced at last, upon a nearer view,
‘Twas he, the same, the very Jack he knew,
O’erwhelm’d at once with wonder, grief, and joy,
He press’d him much to quit his base employ;
His countenance, his purse, his heart, his hand,
Influence and power, were all at his command:
Peers are not always generous as well-bred,
But Granby was, meant truly what he said.
Jack bow’d, and was obliged—confess’d ‘twas strange,
That so retired he should not wish a change,
But knew no medium between guzzling beer,
And his old stint—three thousand pounds a year.
Thus some retire to nourish hopeless woe;
Some seeking happiness not found below;
Some to comply with humour, and a mind
To social scenes by nature disinclined;
Some sway’d by fashion, some by deep disgust;
Some self-impoverish’d, and because they must;
But few, that court Retirement, are aware
Of half the toils they must encounter there.
Lucrative offices are seldom lost
For want of powers proportion’d to the post:
Give e’en a dunce the employment he desires,
And he soon finds the talents it requires;
A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
But in his arduous enterprise to close
His active years with indolent repose,
He finds the labours of that state exceed
His utmost faculties, severe indeed.
‘Tis easy to resign a toilsome place,
But not to manage leisure with a grace;
Absence of occupation is not rest,
A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d,
The veteran steed, excused his task at length,
In kind compassion of his failing strength,
And turn’d into the park or mead to graze,
Exempt from future service all his days,
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind,
Ranges at liberty, and snuffs the wind:
But when his lord would quit the busy road,
To taste a joy like that he has bestow’d,
He proves, less happy than his favour’d brute,
A life of ease a difficult pursuit.
Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream:
But reveries (for human minds will act),
Specious in show, impossible in fact,
Those flimsy webs, that break as soon as wrought,
Attain not to the dignity of thought:
Nor yet the swarms that occupy the brain,
Where dreams of dress, intrigue, and pleasure reign;
Nor such as useless conversation breeds,
Or lust engenders, and indulgence feeds.
Whence, and what are we? to what end ordain’d?
What means the drama by the world sustain’d?
Business or vain amusement, care or mirth,
Divide the frail inhabitants of earth.
Is duty a mere sport, or an employ?
Life an entrusted talent, or a toy?
Is there, as reason, conscience, Scripture say,
Cause to provide for a great future day,
When, earth’s assign’d duration at an end,
Man shall be summon’d, and the dead attend?
The trumpet—will it sound? the curtain rise?
And shew the august tribunal of the skies,
Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophic toil;
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours, and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enrich’d with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employ’d on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her adventurous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlighten’d most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
A mind unnerved, or indisposed to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch that wants both hands;
As useless if it goes as when it stands.
Books, therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those, in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners shew;
Nor his who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh’d his Word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learn’d philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s ark;
But such as learning, without false pretence,
The friend of truth, the associate of sound sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment labouring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars invention, and makes fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the generous breast
Will stand advanced a step above the rest;
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)—
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy’s haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplined, who, placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, though the world may think the ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman, his remark was shrewd,
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper—Solitude is sweet.
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoy’d,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh, sacred art! to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorn’d in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap, with bleeding hands,
Flowers of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens the obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah’s promised king, bereft of all,
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him o’erwhelm’d with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
‘Tis manly music, such as martyrs make,
Suffering with gladness for a Saviour’s sake.
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion’s roar,
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before;
‘Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber’d pleasures harmlessly pursued;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the power
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet—
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time.
Me poetry (or, rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if, thus sequester’d, I may raise
A monitor’s, though not a poet’s, praise,
And, while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
Canto the Fourth
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.
In Venice, Tasso’s echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone - but beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade - but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city’s vanished sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away -
The keystones of the arch! though all were o’er,
For us repeopled were the solitary shore.
The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence: that which Fate
Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy;
And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
And, may be, that which grows beneath mine eye:
Yet there are things whose strong reality
Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues
More beautiful than our fantastic sky,
And the strange constellations which the Muse
O’er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:
I saw or dreamed of such, - but let them go -
They came like truth, and disappeared like dreams;
And whatsoe’er they were - are now but so;
I could replace them if I would: still teems
My mind with many a form which aptly seems
Such as I sought for, and at moments found;
Let these too go - for waking reason deems
Such overweening phantasies unsound,
And other voices speak, and other sights surround.
I’ve taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes
Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
Which is itself, no changes bring surprise;
Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
A country with - ay, or without mankind;
Yet was I born where men are proud to be,
Not without cause; and should I leave behind
The inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea,
Perhaps I loved it well: and should I lay
My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
My spirit shall resume it - if we may
Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine
My hopes of being remembered in my line
With my land’s language: if too fond and far
These aspirations in their scope incline, -
If my fame should be, as my fortunes are,
Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar.
My name from out the temple where the dead
Are honoured by the nations - let it be -
And light the laurels on a loftier head!
And be the Spartan’s epitaph on me -
‘Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.’
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree
I planted, - they have torn me, and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
And, annual marriage now no more renewed,
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his withered power,
Over the proud place where an Emperor sued,
And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns -
An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt;
Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt
From power’s high pinnacle, when they have felt
The sunshine for a while, and downward go
Like lauwine loosened from the mountain’s belt:
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
The octogenarian chief, Byzantium’s conquering foe.
Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
But is not Doria’s menace come to pass?
Are they not bridled? - Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun,
Even in Destruction’s depth, her foreign foes,
From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
In youth she was all glory, - a new Tyre, -
Her very byword sprung from victory,
The ‘Planter of the Lion,’ which through fire
And blood she bore o’er subject earth and sea;
Though making many slaves, herself still free
And Europe’s bulwark ’gainst the Ottomite:
Witness Troy’s rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye
Immortal waves that saw Lepanto’s fight!
For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
Statues of glass - all shivered - the long file
Of her dead doges are declined to dust;
But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust,
Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls,
Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must
Too oft remind her who and what enthrals,
Have flung a desolate cloud o’er Venice’ lovely walls.
When Athens’ armies fell at Syracuse,
And fettered thousands bore the yoke of war,
Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse,
Her voice their only ransom from afar:
See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car
Of the o’ermastered victor stops, the reins
Fall from his hands - his idle scimitar
Starts from its belt - he rends his captive’s chains,
And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine,
Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot,
Thy choral memory of the bard divine,
Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot
Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot
Is shameful to the nations, - most of all,
Albion! to thee: the Ocean Queen should not
Abandon Ocean’s children; in the fall
Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
I loved her from my boyhood: she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakspeare’s art,
Had stamped her image in me, and e’en so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part,
Perchance e’en dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
I can repeople with the past - and of
The present there is still for eye and thought,
And meditation chastened down, enough;
And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought;
And of the happiest moments which were wrought
Within the web of my existence, some
From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught:
There are some feelings Time cannot benumb,
Nor torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.
But from their nature will the tannen grow
Loftiest on loftiest and least sheltered rocks,
Rooted in barrenness, where nought below
Of soil supports them ’gainst the Alpine shocks
Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks
The howling tempest, till its height and frame
Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks
Of bleak, grey granite, into life it came,
And grew a giant tree; - the mind may grow the same.
Existence may be borne, and the deep root
Of life and sufferance make its firm abode
In bare and desolate bosoms: mute
The camel labours with the heaviest load,
And the wolf dies in silence. Not bestowed
In vain should such examples be; if they,
Things of ignoble or of savage mood,
Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay
May temper it to bear, - it is but for a day.
All suffering doth destroy, or is destroyed,
Even by the sufferer; and, in each event,
Ends: - Some, with hope replenished and rebuoyed,
Return to whence they came - with like intent,
And weave their web again; some, bowed and bent,
Wax grey and ghastly, withering ere their time,
And perish with the reed on which they leant;
Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime,
According as their souls were formed to sink or climb.
But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion’s sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound -
A tone of music - summer’s eve - or spring -
A flower - the wind - the ocean - which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,
But feel the shock renewed, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesigned,
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind, -
The cold - the changed - perchance the dead - anew,
The mourned, the loved, the lost - too many! - yet how few!
But my soul wanders; I demand it back
To meditate amongst decay, and stand
A ruin amidst ruins; there to track
Fall’n states and buried greatness, o’er a land
Which was the mightiest in its old command,
And is the loveliest, and must ever be
The master-mould of Nature’s heavenly hand,
Wherein were cast the heroic and the free,
The beautiful, the brave - the lords of earth and sea.
The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome!
And even since, and now, fair Italy!
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes’ fertility;
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
The moon is up, and yet it is not night -
Sunset divides the sky with her - a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli’s mountains; Heaven is free
From clouds, but of all colours seems to be -
Melted to one vast Iris of the West,
Where the day joins the past eternity;
While, on the other hand, meek Dian’s crest
Floats through the azure air - an island of the blest!
A single star is at her side, and reigns
With her o’er half the lovely heaven; but still
Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains
Rolled o’er the peak of the far Rhætian hill,
As Day and Night contending were, until
Nature reclaimed her order: - gently flows
The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil
The odorous purple of a new-born rose,
Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within it glows,
Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
Comes down upon the waters; all its hues,
From the rich sunset to the rising star,
Their magical variety diffuse:
And now they change; a paler shadow strews
Its mantle o’er the mountains; parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till - ’tis gone - and all is grey.
There is a tomb in Arqua; - reared in air,
Pillared in their sarcophagus, repose
The bones of Laura’s lover: here repair
Many familiar with his well-sung woes,
The pilgrims of his genius. He arose
To raise a language, and his land reclaim
From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes:
Watering the tree which bears his lady’s name
With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame.
They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died;
The mountain-village where his latter days
Went down the vale of years; and ’tis their pride -
An honest pride - and let it be their praise,
To offer to the passing stranger’s gaze
His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain
And venerably simple, such as raise
A feeling more accordant with his strain,
Than if a pyramid formed his monumental fane.
And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt
Is one of that complexion which seems made
For those who their mortality have felt,
And sought a refuge from their hopes decayed
In the deep umbrage of a green hill’s shade,
Which shows a distant prospect far away
Of busy cities, now in vain displayed,
For they can lure no further; and the ray
Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday.
Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers
And shining in the brawling brook, where-by,
Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours
With a calm languor, which, though to the eye
Idlesse it seem, hath its morality,
If from society we learn to live,
’Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
No hollow aid; alone - man with his God must strive:
Or, it may be, with demons, who impair
The strength of better thoughts, and seek their prey
In melancholy bosoms, such as were
Of moody texture from their earliest day,
And loved to dwell in darkness and dismay,
Deeming themselves predestined to a doom
Which is not of the pangs that pass away;
Making the sun like blood, the earth a tomb,
The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom.
Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
There seems as ’twere a curse upon the seat’s
Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
Of Este, which for many an age made good
Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore
Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
Of petty power impelled, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante’s brow alone had worn before.
And Tasso is their glory and their shame.
Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell!
And see how dearly earned Torquato’s fame,
And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell.
The miserable despot could not quell
The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend
With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
Where he had plunged it. Glory without end
Scattered the clouds away - and on that name attend
The tears and praises of all time, while thine
Would rot in its oblivion - in the sink
Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line
Is shaken into nothing; but the link
Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn -
Alfonso! how thy ducal pageants shrink
From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad’st to mourn:
Thou! formed to eat, and be despised, and die,
Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
Hadst a more splendid trough, and wider sty:
He! with a glory round his furrowed brow,
Which emanated then, and dazzles now
In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
No strain which shamed his country’s creaking lyre,
That whetstone of the teeth - monotony in wire!
Peace to Torquato’s injured shade! ’twas his
In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
Aimed with their poisoned arrows - but to miss.
Oh, victor unsurpassed in modern song!
Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
The tide of generations shall roll on,
And not the whole combined and countless throng
Compose a mind like thine? Though all in one
Condensed their scattered rays, they would not form a sun.
Great as thou art, yet paralleled by those
Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine,
The bards of Hell and Chivalry: first rose
The Tuscan father’s comedy divine;
Then, not unequal to the Florentine,
The Southern Scott, the minstrel who called forth
A new creation with his magic line,
And, like the Ariosto of the North,
Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth.
The lightning rent from Ariosto’s bust
The iron crown of laurel’s mimicked leaves;
Nor was the ominous element unjust,
For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves,
And the false semblance but disgraced his brow;
Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves,
Know that the lightning sanctifies below
Whate’er it strikes; - yon head is doubly sacred now.
Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;
Then mightst thou more appal; or, less desired,
Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
Would not be seen the armèd torrents poured
Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
Of many-nationed spoilers from the Po
Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword
Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquished, thou the slave of friend or foe.
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
The Roman friend of Rome’s least mortal mind,
The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
Came Megara before me, and behind
Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;
For time hath not rebuilt them, but upreared
Barbaric dwellings on their shattered site,
Which only make more mourned and more endeared
The few last rays of their far-scattered light,
And the crushed relics of their vanished might.
The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
These sepulchres of cities, which excite
Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page
The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.
That page is now before me, and on mine
His country’s ruin added to the mass
Of perished states he mourned in their decline,
And I in desolation: all that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
Rome - Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.
Yet, Italy! through every other land
Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
Mother of Arts! as once of Arms; thy hand
Was then our Guardian, and is still our guide;
Parent of our religion! whom the wide
Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
Europe, repentant of her parricide,
Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.
But Arno wins us to the fair white walls,
Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps
A softer feeling for her fairy halls.
Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps
Her corn, and wine, and oil, and Plenty leaps
To laughing life, with her redundant horn.
Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps,
Was modern Luxury of Commerce born,
And buried Learning rose, redeemed to a new morn.
There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills
The air around with beauty; we inhale
The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils
Part of its immortality; the veil
Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale
We stand, and in that form and face behold
What Mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;
And to the fond idolaters of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould:
We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there - for ever there -
Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.
Away! - there need no words, nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where Pedantry gulls Folly - we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast, confirm the Dardan Shepherd’s prize.
Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise?
Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,
In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies
Before thee thy own vanquished Lord of War?
And gazing in thy face as toward a star,
Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,
Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are
With lava kisses melting while they burn,
Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!
Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love,
Their full divinity inadequate
That feeling to express, or to improve,
The gods become as mortals, and man’s fate
Has moments like their brightest! but the weight
Of earth recoils upon us; - let it go!
We can recall such visions, and create
From what has been, or might be, things which grow,
Into thy statue’s form, and look like gods below.
I leave to learnèd fingers, and wise hands,
The artist and his ape, to teach and tell
How well his connoisseurship understands
The graceful bend, and the voluptuous swell:
Let these describe the undescribable:
I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream
Wherein that image shall for ever dwell;
The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream
That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam.
In Santa Croce’s holy precincts lie
Ashes which make it holier, dust which is
E’en in itself an immortality,
Though there were nothing save the past, and this
The particle of those sublimities
Which have relapsed to chaos: - here repose
Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,
The starry Galileo, with his woes;
Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.
These are four minds, which, like the elements,
Might furnish forth creation: - Italy!
Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents
Of thine imperial garment, shall deny,
And hath denied, to every other sky,
Spirits which soar from ruin: - thy decay
Is still impregnate with divinity,
Which gilds it with revivifying ray;
Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day.
But where repose the all Etruscan three -
Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they,
The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
Of the Hundred Tales of love - where did they lay
Their bones, distinguished from our common clay
In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,
And have their country’s marbles nought to say?
Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?
Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust?
Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;
Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,
Proscribed the bard whose name for evermore
Their children’s children would in vain adore
With the remorse of ages; and the crown
Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore,
Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,
His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled - not thine own.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
His dust, - and lies it not her great among,
With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed
O’er him who formed the Tuscan’s siren tongue?
That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
The poetry of speech? No; - even his tomb
Uptorn, must bear the hyæna bigots’ wrong,
No more amidst the meaner dead find room,
Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom?
And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
Yet for this want more noted, as of yore
The Cæsar’s pageant, shorn of Brutus’ bust,
Did but of Rome’s best son remind her more:
Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,
Fortress of falling empire! honoured sleeps
The immortal exile; - Arqua, too, her store
Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,
While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps.
What is her pyramid of precious stones?
Of porphyry, jasper, agate, and all hues
Of gem and marble, to encrust the bones
Of merchant-dukes? the momentary dews
Which, sparkling to the twilight stars, infuse
Freshness in the green turf that wraps the dead,
Whose names are mausoleums of the Muse,
Are gently prest with far more reverent tread
Than ever paced the slab which paves the princely head.
There be more things to greet the heart and eyes
In Arno’s dome of Art’s most princely shrine,
Where Sculpture with her rainbow sister vies;
There be more marvels yet - but not for mine;
For I have been accustomed to entwine
My thoughts with Nature rather in the fields
Than Art in galleries: though a work divine
Calls for my spirit’s homage, yet it yields
Less than it feels, because the weapon which it wields
Is of another temper, and I roam
By Thrasimene’s lake, in the defiles
Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home;
For there the Carthaginian’s warlike wiles
Come back before me, as his skill beguiles
The host between the mountains and the shore,
Where Courage falls in her despairing files,
And torrents, swoll’n to rivers with their gore,
Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scattered o’er,
Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.
The Earth to them was as a rolling bark
Which bore them to Eternity; they saw
The Ocean round, but had no time to mark
The motions of their vessel: Nature’s law,
In them suspended, recked not of the awe
Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds
Plunge in the clouds for refuge, and withdraw
From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds
Stumble o’er heaving plains, and man’s dread hath no words.
Far other scene is Thrasimene now;
Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain
Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough;
Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain
Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta’en -
A little rill of scanty stream and bed -
A name of blood from that day’s sanguine rain;
And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turned the unwilling waters red.
But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave
Of the most living crystal that was e’er
The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave
Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear
Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer
Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters!
And most serene of aspect, and most clear:
Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters,
A mirror and a bath for Beauty’s youngest daughters!
And on thy happy shore a temple still,
Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps
Thy current’s calmness; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps;
While, chance, some scattered water-lily sails
Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
Pass not unblest the genius of the place!
If through the air a zephyr more serene
Win to the brow, ’tis his; and if ye trace
Along his margin a more eloquent green,
If on the heart the freshness of the scene
Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust
Of weary life a moment lave it clean
With Nature’s baptism, - ’tis to him ye must
Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust.
The roar of waters! - from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss;
The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald. How profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent
To the broad column which rolls on, and shows
More like the fountain of an infant sea
Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes
Of a new world, than only thus to be
Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly,
With many windings through the vale: - Look back!
Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,
Charming the eye with dread, - a matchless cataract,
Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,
From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,
An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,
Like Hope upon a deathbed, and, unworn
Its steady dyes, while all around is torn
By the distracted waters, bears serene
Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:
Resembling, mid the torture of the scene,
Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.
Once more upon the woody Apennine,
The infant Alps, which - had I not before
Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine
Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar
The thundering lauwine - might be worshipped more;
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar
Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc both far and near,
And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear,
The Acroceraunian mountains of old name;
And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly
Like spirits of the spot, as ’twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high:
I’ve looked on Ida with a Trojan’s eye;
Athos, Olympus, Ætna, Atlas, made
These hills seem things of lesser dignity,
All, save the lone Soracte’s height displayed,
Not now in snow, which asks the lyric Roman’s aid
For our remembrance, and from out the plain
Heaves like a long-swept wave about to break,
And on the curl hangs pausing: not in vain
May he who will his recollections rake,
And quote in classic raptures, and awake
The hills with Latian echoes; I abhorred
Too much, to conquer for the poet’s sake,
The drilled dull lesson, forced down word by word
In my repugnant youth, with pleasure to record
Aught that recalls the daily drug which turned
My sickening memory; and, though Time hath taught
My mind to meditate what then it learned,
Yet such the fixed inveteracy wrought
By the impatience of my early thought,
That, with the freshness wearing out before
My mind could relish what it might have sought,
If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel, thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse,
Although no deeper moralist rehearse
Our little life, nor bard prescribe his art,
Nor livelier satirist the conscience pierce,
Awakening without wounding the touched heart,
Yet fare thee well - upon Soracte’s ridge we part.
O Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye!
Whose agonies are evils of a day -
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe;
An empty urn within her withered hands,
Whose holy dust was scattered long ago;
The Scipios’ tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress!
The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dwelt upon the seven-hilled city’s pride:
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car climbed the Capitol; far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site; -
Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,
O’er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, ‘Here was, or is,’ where all is doubly night?
The double night of ages, and of her,
Night’s daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt, and wrap
All round us; we but feel our way to err:
The ocean hath its chart, the stars their map;
And knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
Stumbling o’er recollections: now we clap
Our hands, and cry, ‘Eureka!’ it is clear -
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.
Alas, the lofty city! and alas
The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
When Brutus made the dagger’s edge surpass
The conqueror’s sword in bearing fame away!
Alas for Tully’s voice, and Virgil’s lay,
And Livy’s pictured page! But these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside - decay.
Alas for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!
O thou, whose chariot rolled on Fortune’s wheel,
Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue
Thy country’s foes ere thou wouldst pause to feel
The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due
Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew
O’er prostrate Asia; - thou, who with thy frown
Annihilated senates - Roman, too,
With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down
With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown -
The dictatorial wreath, - couldst thou divine
To what would one day dwindle that which made
Thee more than mortal? and that so supine
By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid?
She who was named eternal, and arrayed
Her warriors but to conquer - she who veiled
Earth with her haughty shadow, and displayed
Until the o’er-canopied horizon failed,
Her rushing wings - Oh! she who was almighty hailed!
Sylla was first of victors; but our own,
The sagest of usurpers, Cromwell! - he
Too swept off senates while he hewed the throne
Down to a block - immortal rebel! See
What crimes it costs to be a moment free
And famous through all ages! But beneath
His fate the moral lurks of destiny;
His day of double victory and death
Beheld him win two realms, and, happier, yield his breath.
The third of the same moon whose former course
Had all but crowned him, on the self-same day
Deposed him gently from his throne of force,
And laid him with the earth’s preceding clay.
And showed not Fortune thus how fame and sway,
And all we deem delightful, and consume
Our souls to compass through each arduous way,
Are in her eyes less happy than the tomb?
Were they but so in man’s, how different were his doom!
And thou, dread statue! yet existent in
The austerest form of naked majesty,
Thou who beheldest, mid the assassins’ din,
At thy bathed base the bloody Cæsar lie,
Folding his robe in dying dignity,
An offering to thine altar from the queen
Of gods and men, great Nemesis! did he die,
And thou, too, perish, Pompey? have ye been
Victors of countless kings, or puppets of a scene?
And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome!
She-wolf! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart
The milk of conquest yet within the dome
Where, as a monument of antique art,
Thou standest: - Mother of the mighty heart,
Which the great founder sucked from thy wild teat,
Scorched by the Roman Jove’s ethereal dart,
And thy limbs blacked with lightning - dost thou yet
Guard thine immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget?
Thou dost; - but all thy foster-babes are dead -
The men of iron; and the world hath reared
Cities from out their sepulchres: men bled
In imitation of the things they feared,
And fought and conquered, and the same course steered,
At apish distance; but as yet none have,
Nor could, the same supremacy have neared,
Save one vain man, who is not in the grave,
But, vanquished by himself, to his own slaves a slave,
The fool of false dominion - and a kind
Of bastard Cæsar, following him of old
With steps unequal; for the Roman’s mind
Was modelled in a less terrestrial mould,
With passions fiercer, yet a judgment cold,
And an immortal instinct which redeemed
The frailties of a heart so soft, yet bold.
Alcides with the distaff now he seemed
At Cleopatra’s feet, and now himself he beamed.
And came, and saw, and conquered. But the man
Who would have tamed his eagles down to flee,
Like a trained falcon, in the Gallic van,
Which he, in sooth, long led to victory,
With a deaf heart which never seemed to be
A listener to itself, was strangely framed;
With but one weakest weakness - vanity:
Coquettish in ambition, still he aimed
At what? Can he avouch, or answer what he claimed?
And would be all or nothing - nor could wait
For the sure grave to level him; few years
Had fixed him with the Cæsars in his fate,
On whom we tread: For this the conqueror rears
The arch of triumph! and for this the tears
And blood of earth flow on as they have flowed,
An universal deluge, which appears
Without an ark for wretched man’s abode,
And ebbs but to reflow! - Renew thy rainbow, God!
What from this barren being do we reap?
Our senses narrow, and our reason frail,
Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep,
And all things weighed in custom’s falsest scale;
Opinion an omnipotence, whose veil
Mantles the earth with darkness, until right
And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale
Lest their own judgments should become too bright,
And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light.
And thus they plod in sluggish misery,
Rotting from sire to son, and age to age,
Proud of their trampled nature, and so die,
Bequeathing their hereditary rage
To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage
War for their chains, and rather than be free,
Bleed gladiator-like, and still engage
Within the same arena where they see
Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree.
I speak not of men’s creeds - they rest between
Man and his Maker - but of things allowed,
Averred, and known, - and daily, hourly seen -
The yoke that is upon us doubly bowed,
And the intent of tyranny avowed,
The edict of Earth’s rulers, who are grown
The apes of him who humbled once the proud,
And shook them from their slumbers on the throne;
Too glorious, were this all his mighty arm had done.
Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child
Such as Columbia saw arise when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has Earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?
But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime,
And fatal have her Saturnalia been
To Freedom’s cause, in every age and clime;
Because the deadly days which we have seen,
And vile Ambition, that built up between
Man and his hopes an adamantine wall,
And the base pageant last upon the scene,
Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall
Which nips Life’s tree, and dooms man’s worst - his second fall.
Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind;
Thy trumpet-voice, though broken now and dying,
The loudest still the tempest leaves behind;
Thy tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind,
Chopped by the axe, looks rough and little worth,
But the sap lasts, - and still the seed we find
Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North;
So shall a better spring less bitter fruit bring forth.
There is a stern round tower of other days,
Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
Such as an army’s baffled strength delays,
Standing with half its battlements alone,
And with two thousand years of ivy grown,
The garland of eternity, where wave
The green leaves over all by time o’erthrown:
What was this tower of strength? within its cave
What treasure lay so locked, so hid? - A woman’s grave.
But who was she, the lady of the dead,
Tombed in a palace? Was she chaste and fair?
Worthy a king’s - or more - a Roman’s bed?
What race of chiefs and heroes did she bear?
What daughter of her beauties was the heir?
How lived - how loved - how died she? Was she not
So honoured - and conspicuously there,
Where meaner relics must not dare to rot,
Placed to commemorate a more than mortal lot?
Was she as those who love their lords, or they
Who love the lords of others? such have been
Even in the olden time, Rome’s annals say.
Was she a matron of Cornelia’s mien,
Or the light air of Egypt’s graceful queen,
Profuse of joy; or ’gainst it did she war,
Inveterate in virtue? Did she lean
To the soft side of the heart, or wisely bar
Love from amongst her griefs? - for such the affections are.
Perchance she died in youth: it may be, bowed
With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
That weighed upon her gentle dust, a cloud
Might gather o’er her beauty, and a gloom
In her dark eye, prophetic of the doom
Heaven gives its favourites - early death; yet shed
A sunset charm around her, and illume
With hectic light, the Hesperus of the dead,
Of her consuming cheek the autumnal leaf-like red.
Perchance she died in age - surviving all,
Charms, kindred, children - with the silver grey
On her long tresses, which might yet recall,
It may be, still a something of the day
When they were braided, and her proud array
And lovely form were envied, praised, and eyed
By Rome - But whither would Conjecture stray?
Thus much alone we know - Metella died,
The wealthiest Roman’s wife: Behold his love or pride!
I know not why - but standing thus by thee
It seems as if I had thine inmate known,
Thou Tomb! and other days come back on me
With recollected music, though the tone
Is changed and solemn, like the cloudy groan
Of dying thunder on the distant wind;
Yet could I seat me by this ivied stone
Till I had bodied forth the heated mind,
Forms from the floating wreck which ruin leaves behind;
And from the planks, far shattered o’er the rocks,
Built me a little bark of hope, once more
To battle with the ocean and the shocks
Of the loud breakers, and the ceaseless roar
Which rushes on the solitary shore
Where all lies foundered that was ever dear:
But could I gather from the wave-worn store
Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?
There woos no home, nor hope, nor life, save what is here.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlet’s cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o’er the bird of darkness’ native site,
Answer each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening grey and bright,
And sailing pinions. - Upon such a shrine
What are our petty griefs? - let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and massed together, hillocks heaped
On what were chambers, arch crushed, column strown
In fragments, choked-up vaults, and frescoes steeped
In subterranean damps, where the owl peeped,
Deeming it midnight: - Temples, baths, or halls?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reaped
From her research hath been, that these are walls -
Behold the Imperial Mount! ’tis thus the mighty falls.
There is the moral of all human tales:
’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory - when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page, - ’tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amassed
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask - Away with words! draw near,
Admire, exult - despise - laugh, weep - for here
There is such matter for all feeling: - Man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this span,
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
Of Glory’s gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun’s rays with added flame were filled!
Where are its golden roofs? where those who dared to build?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Cæsar’s brow?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan’s? No; ’tis that of Time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace,
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime,
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars; they had contained
A spirit which with these would find a home,
The last of those who o’er the whole earth reigned,
The Roman globe, for after none sustained
But yielded back his conquests: - he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and unstained
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues - still we Trajan’s name adore.
Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steep
Tarpeian - fittest goal of Treason’s race,
The promontory whence the traitor’s leap
Cured all ambition? Did the Conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced factions sleep -
The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes - burns with Cicero!
The field of freedom, faction, fame, and blood:
Here a proud people’s passions were exhaled,
From the first hour of empire in the bud
To that when further worlds to conquer failed;
But long before had Freedom’s face been veiled,
And Anarchy assumed her attributes:
Till every lawless soldier who assailed
Trod on the trembling Senate’s slavish mutes,
Or raised the venal voice of baser prostitutes.
Then turn we to our latest tribune’s name,
From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee,
Redeemer of dark centuries of shame -
The friend of Petrarch - hope of Italy -
Rienzi! last of Romans! While the tree
Of freedom’s withered trunk puts forth a leaf,
Even for thy tomb a garland let it be -
The forum’s champion, and the people’s chief -
Her new-born Numa thou, with reign, alas! too brief.
Egeria! sweet creation of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate’er thou art
Or wert, - a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe’er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green wild margin now no more erase
Art’s works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o’er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy creep,
Fantastically tangled; the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;
The sweetness of the violet’s deep blue eyes,
Kissed by the breath of heaven, seems coloured by its skies.
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple Midnight veiled that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befell?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamoured Goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy Love - the earliest oracle!
And didst thou not, thy breast to his replying,
Blend a celestial with a human heart;
And Love, which dies as it was born, in sighing,
Share with immortal transports? could thine art
Make them indeed immortal, and impart
The purity of heaven to earthly joys,
Expel the venom and not blunt the dart -
The dull satiety which all destroys -
And root from out the soul the deadly weed which cloys?
Alas! our young affections run to waste,
Or water but the desert: whence arise
But weeds of dark luxuriance, tares of haste,
Rank at the core, though tempting to the eyes,
Flowers whose wild odours breathe but agonies,
And trees whose gums are poison; such the plants
Which spring beneath her steps as Passion flies
O’er the world’s wilderness, and vainly pants
For some celestial fruit forbidden to our wants.
O Love! no habitant of earth thou art -
An unseen seraph, we believe in thee, -
A faith whose martyrs are the broken heart,
But never yet hath seen, nor e’er shall see,
The naked eye, thy form, as it should be;
The mind hath made thee, as it peopled heaven,
Even with its own desiring phantasy,
And to a thought such shape and image given,
As haunts the unquenched soul - parched - wearied - wrung - and riven.
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation; - where,
Where are the forms the sculptor’s soul hath seized?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues which we dare
Conceive in boyhood and pursue as men,
The unreached Paradise of our despair,
Which o’er-informs the pencil and the pen,
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again.
Who loves, raves - ’tis youth’s frenzy - but the cure
Is bitterer still; as charm by charm unwinds
Which robed our idols, and we see too sure
Nor worth nor beauty dwells from out the mind’s
Ideal shape of such; yet still it binds
The fatal spell, and still it draws us on,
Reaping the whirlwind from the oft-sown winds;
The stubborn heart, its alchemy begun,
Seems ever near the prize - wealthiest when most undone.
We wither from our youth, we gasp away -
Sick - sick; unfound the boon, unslaked the thirst,
Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first -
But all too late, - so are we doubly curst.
Love, fame, ambition, avarice - ’tis the same -
Each idle, and all ill, and none the worst -
For all are meteors with a different name,
And death the sable smoke where vanishes the flame.
Few - none - find what they love or could have loved:
Though accident, blind contact, and the strong
Necessity of loving, have removed
Antipathies - but to recur, ere long,
Envenomed with irrevocable wrong;
And Circumstance, that unspiritual god
And miscreator, makes and helps along
Our coming evils with a crutch-like rod,
Whose touch turns hope to dust - the dust we all have trod.
Our life is a false nature - ’tis not in
The harmony of things, - this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew -
Disease, death, bondage, all the woes we see -
And worse, the woes we see not - which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.
Yet let us ponder boldly - ’tis a base
Abandonment of reason to resign
Our right of thought - our last and only place
Of refuge; this, at least, shall still be mine:
Though from our birth the faculty divine
Is chained and tortured - cabined, cribbed, confined,
And bred in darkness, lest the truth should shine
Too brightly on the unpreparèd mind,
The beam pours in, for time and skill will couch the blind.
Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As ’twere its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here, to illume
This long explored but still exhaustless mine
Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o’er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which Time hath bent,
A spirit’s feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruined battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.
O Time! the beautifier of the dead,
Adorner of the ruin, comforter
And only healer when the heart hath bled -
Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
The test of truth, love, - sole philosopher,
For all beside are sophists, from thy thrift,
Which never loses though it doth defer -
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift:
Amidst this wreck, where thou hast made a shrine
And temple more divinely desolate,
Among thy mightier offerings here are mine,
Ruins of years - though few, yet full of fate:
If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
Hear me not; but if calmly I have borne
Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
Which shall not whelm me, let me not have worn
This iron in my soul in vain - shall they not mourn?
And thou, who never yet of human wrong
Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis!
Here, where the ancients paid thee homage long -
Thou, who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss
For that unnatural retribution - just,
Had it but been from hands less near - in this
Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!
Dost thou not hear my heart? - Awake! thou shalt, and must.
It is not that I may not have incurred
For my ancestral faults or mine the wound
I bleed withal, and had it been conferred
With a just weapon, it had flowed unbound.
But now my blood shall not sink in the ground;
To thee I do devote it - thou shalt take
The vengeance, which shall yet be sought and found,
Which if I have not taken for the sake -
But let that pass - I sleep, but thou shalt yet awake.
And if my voice break forth, ’tis not that now
I shrink from what is suffered: let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind’s convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak
The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse!
That curse shall be forgiveness. - Have I not -
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven! -
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven,
Hopes sapped, name blighted, Life’s life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,
Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.
But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain,
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire:
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
The seal is set. - Now welcome, thou dread Power
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walk’st in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear:
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear
That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmured pity, or loud-roared applause,
As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man.
And wherefore slaughtered? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody circus’ genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure. - Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms - on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand - his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low -
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him: he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not - his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother - he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday -
All this rushed with his blood - Shall he expire,
And unavenged? - Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!
But here, where murder breathed her bloody steam;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roared or murmured like a mountain-stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;
Here, where the Roman million’s blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
My voice sounds much - and fall the stars’ faint rays
On the arena void - seats crushed, walls bowed,
And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.
A ruin - yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been reared;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric’s form is neared:
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all, years, man, have reft away.
But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air,
The garland-forest, which the grey walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar’s head;
When the light shines serene, but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:
Heroes have trod this spot - ’tis on their dust ye tread.
‘While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls - the World.’ From our own land
Thus spake the pilgrims o’er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and these three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unaltered all;
Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,
The World, the same wide den - of thieves, or what ye will.
Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime -
Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods,
From Jove to Jesus - spared and blest by time;
Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods
Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods
His way through thorns to ashes - glorious dome!
Shalt thou not last? - Time’s scythe and tyrants’ rods
Shiver upon thee - sanctuary and home
Of art and piety - Pantheon! - pride of Rome!
Relic of nobler days, and noblest arts!
Despoiled yet perfect, with thy circle spreads
A holiness appealing to all hearts -
To art a model; and to him who treads
Rome for the sake of ages, Glory sheds
Her light through thy sole aperture; to those
Who worship, here are altars for their beads;
And they who feel for genius may repose
Their eyes on honoured forms, whose busts around them close.
There is a dungeon, in whose dim drear light
What do I gaze on? Nothing: Look again!
Two forms are slowly shadowed on my sight -
Two insulated phantoms of the brain:
It is not so: I see them full and plain -
An old man, and a female young and fair,
Fresh as a nursing mother, in whose vein
The blood is nectar: - but what doth she there,
With her unmantled neck, and bosom white and bare?
Full swells the deep pure fountain of young life,
Where on the heart and from the heart we took
Our first and sweetest nurture, when the wife,
Blest into mother, in the innocent look,
Or even the piping cry of lips that brook
No pain and small suspense, a joy perceives
Man knows not, when from out its cradled nook
She sees her little bud put forth its leaves -
What may the fruit be yet? - I know not - Cain was Eve’s.
But here youth offers to old age the food,
The milk of his own gift: - it is her sire
To whom she renders back the debt of blood
Born with her birth. No; he shall not expire
While in those warm and lovely veins the fire
Of health and holy feeling can provide
Great Nature’s Nile, whose deep stream rises higher
Than Egypt’s river: - from that gentle side
Drink, drink and live, old man! heaven’s realm holds no such tide.
The starry fable of the milky way
Has not thy story’s purity; it is
A constellation of a sweeter ray,
And sacred Nature triumphs more in this
Reverse of her decree, than in the abyss
Where sparkle distant worlds: - Oh, holiest nurse!
No drop of that clear stream its way shall miss
To thy sire’s heart, replenishing its source
With life, as our freed souls rejoin the universe.
Turn to the mole which Hadrian reared on high,
Imperial mimic of old Egypt’s piles,
Colossal copyist of deformity,
Whose travelled phantasy from the far Nile’s
Enormous model, doomed the artist’s toils
To build for giants, and for his vain earth,
His shrunken ashes, raise this dome: How smiles
The gazer’s eye with philosophic mirth,
To view the huge design which sprung from such a birth!
But lo! the dome - the vast and wondrous dome,
To which Diana’s marvel was a cell -
Christ’s mighty shrine above his martyr’s tomb!
I have beheld the Ephesian’s miracle -
Its columns strew the wilderness, and dwell
The hyæna and the jackal in their shade;
I have beheld Sophia’s bright roofs swell
Their glittering mass i’ the sun, and have surveyed
Its sanctuary the while the usurping Moslem prayed;
But thou, of temples old, or altars new,
Standest alone - with nothing like to thee -
Worthiest of God, the holy and the true,
Since Zion’s desolation, when that he
Forsook his former city, what could be,
Of earthly structures, in his honour piled,
Of a sublimer aspect? Majesty,
Power, Glory, Strength, and Beauty, all are aisled
In this eternal ark of worship undefiled.
Enter: its grandeur overwhelms thee not;
And why? it is not lessened; but thy mind,
Expanded by the genius of the spot,
Has grown colossal, and can only find
A fit abode wherein appear enshrined
Thy hopes of immortality; and thou
Shalt one day, if found worthy, so defined,
See thy God face to face, as thou dost now
His Holy of Holies, nor be blasted by his brow.
Thou movest - but increasing with th’ advance,
Like climbing some great Alp, which still doth rise,
Deceived by its gigantic elegance;
Vastness which grows - but grows to harmonise -
All musical in its immensities;
Rich marbles - richer painting - shrines where flame
The lamps of gold - and haughty dome which vies
In air with Earth’s chief structures, though their frame
Sits on the firm-set ground - and this the clouds must claim.
Thou seest not all; but piecemeal thou must break
To separate contemplation, the great whole;
And as the ocean many bays will make,
That ask the eye - so here condense thy soul
To more immediate objects, and control
Thy thoughts until thy mind hath got by heart
Its eloquent proportions, and unroll
In mighty graduations, part by part,
The glory which at once upon thee did not dart.
Not by its fault - but thine: Our outward sense
Is but of gradual grasp - and as it is
That what we have of feeling most intense
Outstrips our faint expression; e’en so this
Outshining and o’erwhelming edifice
Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great
Defies at first our nature’s littleness,
Till, growing with its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.
Then pause and be enlightened; there is more
In such a survey than the sating gaze
Of wonder pleased, or awe which would adore
The worship of the place, or the mere praise
Of art and its great masters, who could raise
What former time, nor skill, nor thought could plan;
The fountain of sublimity displays
Its depth, and thence may draw the mind of man
Its golden sands, and learn what great conceptions can.
Or, turning to the Vatican, go see
Laocoön’s torture dignifying pain -
A father’s love and mortal’s agony
With an immortal’s patience blending: - Vain
The struggle; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon’s grasp,
The old man’s clench; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links, - the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.
Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light -
The Sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot - the arrow bright
With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.
But in his delicate form - a dream of Love,
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Longed for a deathless lover from above,
And maddened in that vision - are expressed
All that ideal beauty ever blessed
The mind within its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest -
A ray of immortality - and stood
Starlike, around, until they gathered to a god?
And if it be Prometheus stole from heaven
The fire which we endure, it was repaid
By him to whom the energy was given
Which this poetic marble hath arrayed
With an eternal glory - which, if made
By human hands, is not of human thought
And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid
One ringlet in the dust - nor hath it caught
A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which ’twas wrought.
But where is he, the pilgrim of my song,
The being who upheld it through the past?
Methinks he cometh late and tarries long.
He is no more - these breathings are his last;
His wanderings done, his visions ebbing fast,
And he himself as nothing: - if he was
Aught but a phantasy, and could be classed
With forms which live and suffer - let that pass -
His shadow fades away into Destruction’s mass,
Which gathers shadow, substance, life, and all
That we inherit in its mortal shroud,
And spreads the dim and universal pall
Thro’ which all things grow phantoms; and the cloud
Between us sinks and all which ever glowed,
Till Glory’s self is twilight, and displays
A melancholy halo scarce allowed
To hover on the verge of darkness; rays
Sadder than saddest night, for they distract the gaze,
And send us prying into the abyss,
To gather what we shall be when the frame
Shall be resolved to something less than this
Its wretched essence; and to dream of fame,
And wipe the dust from off the idle name
We never more shall hear, - but never more,
Oh, happier thought! can we be made the same:
It is enough, in sooth, that once we bore
These fardels of the heart - the heart whose sweat was gore.
Hark! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
A long, low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound;
Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground.
The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
Seems royal still, though with her head discrowned,
And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.
Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou?
Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
Some less majestic, less beloved head?
In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
The mother of a moment, o’er thy boy,
Death hushed that pang for ever: with thee fled
The present happiness and promised joy
Which filled the imperial isles so full it seemed to cloy.
Peasants bring forth in safety. - Can it be,
O thou that wert so happy, so adored!
Those who weep not for kings shall weep for thee,
And Freedom’s heart, grown heavy, cease to hoard
Her many griefs for One; for she had poured
Her orisons for thee, and o’er thy head
Beheld her Iris. - Thou, too, lonely lord,
And desolate consort - vainly wert thou wed!
The husband of a year! the father of the dead!
Of sackcloth was thy wedding garment made:
Thy bridal’s fruit is ashes; in the dust
The fair-haired Daughter of the Isles is laid,
The love of millions! How we did entrust
Futurity to her! and, though it must
Darken above our bones, yet fondly deemed
Our children should obey her child, and blessed
Her and her hoped-for seed, whose promise seemed
Like star to shepherd’s eyes; ’twas but a meteor beamed.
Woe unto us, not her; for she sleeps well:
The fickle reek of popular breath, the tongue
Of hollow counsel, the false oracle,
Which from the birth of monarchy hath rung
Its knell in princely ears, till the o’erstrung
Nations have armed in madness, the strange fate
Which tumbles mightiest sovereigns, and hath flung
Against their blind omnipotence a weight
Within the opposing scale, which crushes soon or late, -
These might have been her destiny; but no,
Our hearts deny it: and so young, so fair,
Good without effort, great without a foe;
But now a bride and mother - and now there!
How many ties did that stern moment tear!
From thy Sire’s to his humblest subject’s breast
Is linked the electric chain of that despair,
Whose shock was as an earthquake’s, and oppressed
The land which loved thee so, that none could love thee best.
Lo, Nemi! navelled in the woody hills
So far, that the uprooting wind which tears
The oak from his foundation, and which spills
The ocean o’er its boundary, and bears
Its foam against the skies, reluctant spares
The oval mirror of thy glassy lake;
And, calm as cherished hate, its surface wears
A deep cold settled aspect nought can shake,
All coiled into itself and round, as sleeps the snake.
And near Albano’s scarce divided waves
Shine from a sister valley; - and afar
The Tiber winds, and the broad ocean laves
The Latian coast where sprung the Epic war,
‘Arms and the Man,’ whose reascending star
Rose o’er an empire, - but beneath thy right
Tully reposed from Rome; - and where yon bar
Of girdling mountains intercepts the sight,
The Sabine farm was tilled, the weary bard’s delight.
But I forget. - My pilgrim’s shrine is won,
And he and I must part, - so let it be, -
His task and mine alike are nearly done;
Yet once more let us look upon the sea:
The midland ocean breaks on him and me,
And from the Alban mount we now behold
Our friend of youth, that ocean, which when we
Beheld it last by Calpe’s rock unfold
Those waves, we followed on till the dark Euxine rolled
Upon the blue Symplegades: long years -
Long, though not very many - since have done
Their work on both; some suffering and some tears
Have left us nearly where we had begun:
Yet not in vain our mortal race hath run,
We have had our reward - and it is here;
That we can yet feel gladdened by the sun,
And reap from earth, sea, joy almost as dear
As if there were no man to trouble what is clear.
Oh! that the Desert were my dwelling-place,
With one fair Spirit for my minister,
That I might all forget the human race,
And, hating no one, love but only her!
Ye Elements! - in whose ennobling stir
I feel myself exalted - can ye not
Accord me such a being? Do I err
In deeming such inhabit many a spot?
Though with them to converse can rarely be our lot.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean - roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin - his control
Stops with the shore; - upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths, - thy fields
Are not a spoil for him, - thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: - there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals.
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee -
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play -
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow -
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed - in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; - boundless, endless, and sublime -
The image of Eternity - the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers - they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror - ’twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane - as I do here.
My task is done - my song hath ceased - my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream.
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp - and what is writ, is writ -
Would it were worthier! but I am not now
That which I have been - and my visions flit
Less palpably before me - and the glow
Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.
Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been -
A sound which makes us linger; yet, farewell!
Ye, who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
Which is his last, if in your memories dwell
A thought which once was his, if on ye swell
A single recollection, not in vain
He wore his sandal-shoon and scallop shell;
Farewell! with him alone may rest the pain,
If such there were - with you, the moral of his strain.
OLD age is courteous--no one more:
For time after time he knocks at the door,
But nobody says, "Walk in, sir, pray!"
Yet turns he not from the door away,
But lifts the latch, and enters with speed.
And then they cry "A cool one, indeed!"
Before Old Age
Young beauty forces love, and that’s a rape,
there’s far more willingness in middle-age
when lovers do not look for an escape,
together trapped before old age can rage.
It was Donne, in the elegy 'The Autumnal, ' who observed that 'Young Beauties force our love, and that's a Rape.'