The Forest Sanctuary - Part I.
The voices of my home!-I hear them still!
They have been with me through the dreamy night-
The blessed household voices, wont to fill
My heart's clear depths with unalloy'd delight!
I hear them still, unchang'd:-though some from earth
Are music parted, and the tones of mirth-
Wild, silvery tones, that rang through days more bright!
Have died in others,-yet to me they come,
Singing of boyhood back-the voices of my home!
They call me through this hush of woods, reposing
In the grey stillness of the summer morn,
They wander by when heavy flowers are closing,
And thoughts grow deep, and winds and stars are born;
Ev'n as a fount's remember'd gushings burst
On the parch'd traveller in his hour of thirst,
E'en thus they haunt me with sweet sounds, till worn
By quenchless longings, to my soul I say-
Oh! for the dove's swift wings, that I might flee away,
And find mine ark!-yet whither?-I must bear
A yearning heart within me to the grave.
I am of those o'er whom a breath of air-
Just darkening in its course the lake's bright wave,
And sighing through the feathery canes -hath power
To call up shadows, in the silent hour,
From the dim past, as from a wizard's cave!-
So must it be!-These skies above me spread,
Are they my own soft skies?-Ye rest not here, my dead!
Ye far amidst the southern flowers lie sleeping,
Your graves all smiling in the sunshine clear,
Save one!-a blue, lone, distant main is sweeping
High o'er one gentle head-ye rest not here!-
'Tis not the olive, with a whisper swaying,
Not thy low ripplings, glassy water, playing
Through my own chesnut groves, which fill mine ear;
But the faint echoes in my breast that dwell,
And for their birth-place moan, as moans the ocean-shell.
Peace!-I will dash these fond regrets to earth,
Ev'n as an eagle shakes the cumbering rain
From his strong pinion. Thou that gav'st me birth,
And lineage, and once home,-my native Spain!
My own bright land-my father's land-my child's!
What hath thy son brought from thee to the wilds?
He hath brought marks of torture and the chain,
Traces of things which pass not as a breeze,
A blighted name, dark thoughts, wrath, woe-thy gifts are these.
A blighted name-I hear the winds of morn-
Their sounds are not of this!-I hear the shiver
Of the green reeds, and all the rustlings, borne
From the high forest, when the light leaves quiver:
Their sounds are not of this!-the cedars, waving,
Lend it no tone: His wide savannahs laving,
It is not murmur'd by the joyous river!
What part hath mortal name, where God alone
Speaks to the mighty waste, and through its heart is known?
Is it not much that I may worship Him,
With nought my spirit's breathings to control,
And feel His presence in the vast, and dim,
And whispery woods, where dying thunders roll
From the far cataracts?-Shall I not rejoice
That I have learn'd at last to know His voice
From man's?-I will rejoice!-my soaring soul
Now hath redeem'd her birth-right of the day,
And won, through clouds, to Him, her own unfetter'd way!
And thou, my boy! that silent at my knee
Dost lift to mine thy soft, dark, earnest eyes,
Fill'd with the love of childhood, which I see
Pure through its depths, a thing without disguise;
Thou that hast breath'd in slumber on my breast,
When I have check'd its throbs to give thee rest,
Mine own! whose young thoughts fresh before me rise!
Is it not much that I may guide thy prayer,
And circle thy glad soul with free and healthful air?
Why should I weep on thy bright head, my boy?
Within thy fathers' halls thou wilt not dwell,
Nor lift their banner, with a warrior's joy,
Amidst the sons of mountain chiefs, who fell
For Spain of old.-Yet what if rolling waves
Have borne us far from our ancestral graves?
Thou shalt not feel thy bursting heart rebel
As mine hath done; nor bear what I have borne,
Casting in falsehood's mould th' indignant brow of scorn.
This shall not be thy lot, my blessed child!
I have not sorrow'd, struggled, liv'd in vain-
Hear me! magnificent and ancient wild;
And mighty rivers, ye that meet the main,
As deep meets deep; and forests, whose dim shade
The flood's voice, and the wind's, by swells pervade;
Hear me!-'tis well to die, and not complain,
Yet there are hours when the charg'd heart must speak,
Ev'n in the desert's ear to pour itself, or break!
I see an oak before me, it hath been
The crown'd one of the woods; and might have flung
Its hundred arms to Heaven, still freshly green,
But a wild vine around the stem hath clung,
From branch to branch close wreaths of bondage throwing,
Till the proud tree, before no tempest bowing,
Hath shrunk and died, those serpent-folds among.
Alas! alas!-what is it that I see?
An image of man's mind, land of my sires, with thee!
Yet art thou lovely!-Song is on thy hills-
Oh sweet and mournful melodies of Spain,
That lull'd my boyhood, how your memory thrills
The exile's heart with sudden-wakening pain!-
Your sounds are on the rocks-that I might hear
Once more the music of the mountaineer!-
And from the sunny vales the shepherd's strain
Floats out, and fills the solitary place
With the old tuneful names of Spain's heroic race.
But there was silence one bright, golden day,
Through my own pine-hung mountains. Clear, yet lone
In the rich autumn light the vineyards lay,
And from the fields the peasant's voice was gone;
And the red grapes untrodden strew'd the ground,
And the free flocks untended roam'd around:
Where was the pastor?-where the pipe's wild tone?
Music and mirth were hush'd the hills among,
While to the city's gates each hamlet pour'd its throng.
Silence upon the mountains!-But within
The city's gates a rush-a press-a swell
Of multitudes their torrent way to win;
And heavy boomings of a dull deep bell,
A dead pause following each-like that which parts
The dash of billows, holding breathless hearts
Fast in the hush of fear-knell after knell;
And sounds of thickening steps, like thunder-rain,
That plashes on the roof of some vast echoing fane!
What pageant's hour approach'd?-The sullen gate
Of a strong ancient prison-house was thrown
Back to the day. And who, in mournful state,
Came forth, led slowly o'er its threshold-stone?
They that had learn'd, in cells of secret gloom,
How sunshine is forgotten!-They, to whom
The very features of mankind were grown
Things that bewilder'd!-O'er their dazzled sight,
They lifted their wan hands, and cower'd before the light!
To this man brings his brother!-Some were there,
Who with their desolation had entwin'd
Fierce strength, and girt the sternness of despair
Fast round their bosoms, ev'n as warriors bind
The breast-plate on for fight: but brow and cheek
Seem'd theirs a torturing panoply to speak!
And there were some, from whom the very mind
Had been wrung out: they smil'd-oh! startling smile
Whence man's high soul is fled!-where doth it sleep the while?
But onward moved the melancholy train,
For their false creeds in fiery pangs to die.
This was the solemn sacrifice of Spain-
Heaven's offering from the land of chivalry!
Through thousands, thousands of their race they mov'd-
Oh! how unlike all others!-the belov'd,
The free, the proud, the beautiful! whose eye
Grew fix'd before them, while a people's breath
Was hush'd, and its one soul bound in the thought of death!
It might be that amidst the countless throng,
There swell'd some heart with Pity's weight oppress'd,
For the wide stream of human love is strong;
And woman, on whose fond and faithful breast
Childhood is rear'd, and at whose knee the sigh
Of its first prayer is breath'd, she, too, was nigh.
-But life is dear, and the free footstep bless'd,
And home a sunny place, where each may fill
Some eye with glistening smiles,-and therefore all were still-
All still-youth, courage, strength!-a winter laid,
A chain of palsy, cast on might and mind!
Still, as at noon a southern forest's shade,
They stood, those breathless masses of mankind;
Still, as a frozen torrent!-but the wave
Soon leaps to foaming freedom-they, the brave,
Endur'd-they saw the martyr's place assign'd
In the red flames-whence is the withering spell
That numbs each human pulse?-they saw, and thought it well.
And I, too, thought it well! That very morn
From a far land I came, yet round me clung
The spirit of my own. No hand had torn
With a strong grasp away the veil which hung
Between mine eyes and truth. I gaz'd, I saw,
Dimly, as through a glass. In silent awe
I watch'd the fearful rites; and if there sprung
One rebel feeling from its deep founts up,
Shuddering, I flung it back, as guilt's own poison-cup
But I was waken'd as the dreamers waken
Whom the shrill trumpet and the shriek of dread
Rouse up at midnight, when their walls are taken,
And they must battle till their blood is shed
On their own threshold-floor. A path for light
Through my torn breast was shatter'd by the might
Of the swift thunder-stroke-and Freedom's tread
Came in through ruins, late, yet not in vain,
Making the blighted place all green with life again.
Still darkly, slowly, as a sullen mass
Of cloud, o'ersweeping, without wind, the sky,
Dream-like I saw the sad procession pass,
And mark'd its victims with a tearless eye.
They mov'd before me but as pictures, wrought
Each to reveal some secret of man's thought,
On the sharp edge of sad mortality,
Till in his place came one-oh! could it be?
-My friend, my heart's first friend!-and did I gaze on thee?
On thee! with whom in boyhood I had play'd,
At the grape-gatherings, by my native streams;
And to whose eye my youthful soul had laid
Bare, as to Heaven's, its glowing world of dreams;
And by whose side midst warriors I had stood,
And in whose helm was brought-oh! earn'd with blood
The fresh wave to my lips, when tropic beams
Smote on my fever'd brow!-Ay, years had pass'd,
Severing our paths, brave friend!-and thus we met at last!
I see it still-the lofty mien thou borest-
On thy pale forehead sat a sense of power!
The very look that once thou brightly worest,
Cheering me onward through a fearful hour,
When we were girt by Indian bow and spear,
Midst the white Andes-ev'n as mountain deer,
Hemm'd in our camp-but thro' the javelin shower
We rent our way, a tempest of despair!
-And thou-hadst thou but died with thy true brethren there!
I call the fond wish back-for thou hast perish'd
More nobly far, my Alvar!-making known
The might of truth; and be thy memory cherish'd
With theirs, the thousands, that around her throne
Have pour'd their lives out smiling, in that doom
Finding a triumph, if denied a tomb!
-Ay, with their ashes hath the wind been sown,
And with the wind their spirit shall be spread,
Filling man's heart and home with records of the dead.
Thou Searcher of the Soul! in whose dread sight
Not the bold guilt alone, that mocks the skies,
But the scarce-own'd, unwhisper'd thought of night,
As a thing written with the sunbeam lies;
Thou know'st-whose eye through shade and depth can see.
That this man's crime was but to worship thee,
Like those that made their hearts thy sacrifice,
The call'd of yore; wont by the Saviour's side,
On the dim Olive-Mount to pray at eventide.
For the strong spirit will at times awake,
Piercing the mists that wrap her clay-abode;
And, born of thee, she may not always take
Earth's accents for the oracles of God;
And ev'n for this-O dust, whose mask is power!
Reed, that wouldst be a scourge thy little hour!
Spark, whereon yet the mighty hath not trod,
And therefore thou destroyest!-where were flown
Our hope, if man were left to man's decree alone?
But this I felt not yet. I could but gaze
On him, my friend; while that swift moment threw
A sudden freshness back on vanish'd days,
Like water-drops on some dim picture's hue;
Calling the proud time up, when first I stood
Where banners floated, and my heart's quick blood
Sprang to a torrent as the clarion blew,
And he-his sword was like a brother's worn,
That watches through the field his mother's youngest born.
But a lance met me in that day's career,
Senseless I lay amidst th' o'ersweeping fight,
Wakening at last-how full, how strangely clear,
That scene on memory flash'd!-the shivery light,
Moonlight, on broken shields-the plain of slaughter,
The fountain-side-the low sweet sound of water-
And Alvar bending o'er me-from the night
Covering me with his mantle!-all the past
Flow'd back-my soul's far chords all answer'd to the blast.
Till, in that rush of visions, I became
As one that by the bands of slumber wound,
Lies with a powerless, but all-thrilling frame,
Intense in consciousness of sight and sound,
Yet buried in a wildering dream which brings
Lov'd faces round him, girt with fearful things!
Troubled ev'n thus I stood, but chain'd and bound
On that familiar form mine eye to keep-
-Alas! I might not fall upon his neck and weep!
He pass'd me-and what next?-I look'd on two,
Following his footsteps to the same dread place,
For the same guilt-his sisters!-Well I knew
The beauty on those brows, though each young face
Was chang'd-so deeply chang'd!-a dungeon's air
Is hard for lov'd and lovely things to bear,
And ye, O daughters of a lofty race,
Queen-like Theresa! radiant Inez!-flowers
So cherish'd! were ye then but rear'd for those dark hours?
A mournful home, young sisters! had ye left,
With your lutes hanging hush'd upon the wall,
And silence round the aged man, bereft
Of each glad voice, once answering to his call.
Alas, that lonely father! doom'd to pine
For sounds departed in his life's decline,
And, midst the shadowing banners of his hall,
With his white hair to sit, and deem the name
A hundred chiefs had borne, cast down by you to shame!
And woe for you, midst looks and words of love,
And gentle hearts and faces, nurs'd so long!
How had I seen you in your beauty move,
Wearing the wreath, and listening to the song!
-Yet sat, ev'n then, what seem'd the crowd to shun,
Half veil'd upon the clear pale brow of one,
And deeper thoughts than oft to youth belong,
Thoughts, such as wake to evening's whispery sway,
Within the drooping shade of her sweet eyelids lay.
And if she mingled with the festive train,
It was but as some melancholy star
Beholds the dance of shepherds on the plain,
In its bright stillness present, though afar.
Yet would she smile-and that, too, hath its smile-
Circled with joy which reach'd her not the while,
And bearing a lone spirit, not at war
With earthly things, but o'er their form and hue
Shedding too clear a light, too sorrowfully true.
But the dark hours wring forth the hidden might
Which hath lain bedded in the silent soul,
A treasure all undreamt of;-as the night
Calls out the harmonies of streams that roll
Unheard by day. It seem'd as if her breast
Had hoarded energies, till then suppress'd
Almost with pain, and bursting from control,
And finding first that hour their pathway free:
-Could a rose brave the storm, such might her emblem be!
For the soft gloom whose shadow still had hung
On her fair brow, beneath its garlands worn,
Was fled; and fire, like prophecy's had sprung
Clear to her kindled eye. It might be scorn-
Pride-sense of wrong-ay, the frail heart is bound
By these at times, ev'n as with adamant round,
Kept so from breaking!-yet not thus upborne
She mov'd, though some sustaining passion's wave
Lifted her fervent soul-a sister for the brave!
And yet, alas! to see the strength which clings
Round woman in such hours!-a mournful sight,
Though lovely!-an o'erflowing of the springs,
The full springs of affection, deep as bright!
And she, because her life is ever twin'd
With other lives, and by no stormy wind
May thence be shaken, and because the light
Of tenderness is round her, and her eye
Doth weep such passionate tears-therefore she thus can die.
Therefore didst thou , through that heart-shaking scene,
As through a triumph move; and cast aside
Thine own sweet thoughtfulness for victory's mien,
O faithful sister! cheering thus the guide,
And friend, and brother of thy sainted youth,
Whose hand had led thee to the source of truth,
Where thy glad soul from earth was purified;
Nor wouldst thou, following him through all the past,
That he should see thy step grow tremulous at last.
For thou hadst made no deeper love a guest
Midst thy young spirit's dreams, than that which grows
Between the nurtur'd of the same fond breast,
The shelter'd of one roof; and thus it rose
Twin'd in with life.-How is it, that the hours
Of the same sport, the gathering early flowers
Round the same tree, the sharing one repose,
And mingling one first prayer in murmurs soft,
From the heart's memory fade, in this world's breath, so oft?
But thee that breath had touch'd not; thee, nor him,
The true in all things found!-and thou wert blest
Ev'n then, that no remember'd change could dim
The perfect image of affection, press'd
Like armour to thy bosom!-thou hadst kept
Watch by that brother's couch of pain, and wept,
Thy sweet face covering with thy robe, when rest
Fled from the sufferer; thou hadst bound his faith
Unto thy soul-one light, one hope ye chose-one death.
So didst thou pass on brightly!-but for her,
Next in that path, how may her doom be spoken!
-All-merciful! to think that such things were,
And are , and seen by men with hearts unbroken!
To think of that fair girl, whose path had been
So strew'd with rose-leaves, all one fairy scene!
And whose quick glance came ever as a token
Of hope to drooping thought, and her glad voice
As a free bird's in spring, that makes the woods rejoice!
And she to die!-she lov'd the laughing earth
With such deep joy in its fresh leaves and flowers!
-Was not her smile even as the sudden birth
Of a young rainbow, colouring vernal showers?
Yes! but to meet her fawn-like step, to hear
The gushes of wild song, so silvery clear,
Which, oft unconsciously, in happier hours
Flow'd from her lips, was to forget the sway
Of Time and Death below,-blight, shadow, dull decay!
Could this change be?-the hour, the scene, where last
I saw that form, came floating o'er my mind:
-A golden vintage-eve;-the heats were pass'd,
And, in the freshness of the fanning wind,
Her father sat, where gleam'd the first faint star
Through the lime-boughs; and with her light guitar,
She, on the greensward at his feet reclin'd,
In his calm face laugh'd up; some shepherd-lay
Singing, as childhood sings on the lone hills at play.
And now-oh God!-the bitter fear of death,
The sore amaze, the faint o'ershadowing dread,
Had grasp'd her!-panting in her quick-drawn breath,
And in her white lips quivering;-onward led,
She look'd up with her dim bewilder'd eyes,
And there smil'd out her own soft brilliant skies,
Far in their sultry southern azure spread,
Glowing with joy, but silent!-still they smil'd,
Yet sent down no reprieve for earth's poor trembling child.
Alas! that earth had all too strong a hold,
Too fast, sweet Inez! on thy heart, whose bloom
Was given to early love, nor knew how cold
The hours which follow. There was one, with whom,
Young as thou wert, and gentle, and untried,
Thou might'st, perchance, unshrinkingly have died;
But he was far away;-and with thy doom
Thus gathering, life grew so intensely dear,
That all thy slight frame shook with its cold mortal fear!
No aid!-thou too didst pass!-and all had pass'd,
The fearful-and the desperate-and the strong!
Some like the bark that rushes with the blast,
Some like the leaf swept shiveringly along,
And some as men, that have but one more field
To fight, and then may slumber on their shield,
Therefore they arm in hope. But now the throng
Roll'd on, and bore me with their living tide,
Ev'n as a bark wherein is left no power to guide.
Wave swept on wave. We reach'd a stately square,
Deck'd for the rites. An altar stood on high,
And gorgeous, in the midst. A place for prayer,
And praise, and offering. Could the earth supply
No fruits, no flowers for sacrifice, of all
Which on her sunny lap unheeded fall?
No fair young firstling of the flock to die,
As when before their God the Patriarchs stood?
-Look down! man brings thee, Heaven! his brother's guiltless blood!
Hear its voice, hear!-a cry goes up to thee,
From the stain'd sod;-make thou thy judgment known
On him, the shedder!-let his portion be
The fear that walks at midnight-give the moan
In the wind haunting him a power to say
'Where is thy brother?'-and the stars a ray
To search and shake his spirit, when alone
With the dread splendor of their burning eyes!
-So shall earth own thy will-mercy, not sacrifice!
Sounds of triumphant praise!-the mass was sung-
-Voices that die not might have pour'd such strains!
Thro' Salem's towers might that proud chant have rung,
When the Most High, on Syria's palmy plains,
Had quell'd her foes!-so full it swept, a sea
Of loud waves jubilant, and rolling free!
-Oft when the wind, as thro' resounding fanes,
Hath fill'd the choral forests with its power,
Some deep tone brings me back the music of that hour.
It died away;-the incense-cloud was driven
Before the breeze-the words of doom were said;
And the sun faded mournfully from Heaven,
-He faded mournfully! and dimly red,
Parting in clouds from those that look'd their last,
And sigh'd-'farewell, thou sun!'-Eve glow'd and pass'd-
Night-midnight and the moon-came forth and shed
Sleep, even as dew, on glen, wood, peopled spot-
Save one-a place of death-and there men slumber'd not.
'Twas not within the city -but in sight
Of the snow-crown'd sierras, freely sweeping,
With many an eagle's eyrie on the height,
And hunter's cabin, by the torrent peeping
Far off: and vales between, and vineyards lay,
With sound and gleam of waters on their way,
And chesnut-woods, that girt the happy sleeping,
In many a peasant-home!-the midnight sky
Brought softly that rich world round those who came to die.
The darkly-glorious midnight sky of Spain,
Burning with stars!-What had the torches' glare
To do beneath that Temple, and profane
Its holy radiance?-By their wavering flare,
I saw beside the pyres-I see thee now ,
O bright Theresa! with thy lifted brow,
And thy clasp'd hands, and dark eyes fill'd with prayer!
And thee, sad Inez! bowing thy fair head,
And mantling up thy face, all colourless with dread!
And Alvar, Alvar!-I beheld thee too,
Pale, stedfast, kingly; till thy clear glance fell
On that young sister; then perturb'd it grew,
And all thy labouring bosom seem'd to swell
With painful tenderness. Why came I there,
That troubled image of my friend to bear,
Thence, for my after-years?-a thing to dwell
In my heart's core, and on the darkness rise,
Disquieting my dreams with its bright mournful eyes?
Why came I? oh! the heart's deep mystery!-Why
In man's last hour doth vain affection's gaze
Fix itself down on struggling agony,
To the dimm'd eye-balls freezing, as they glaze?
It might be-yet the power to will seem'd o'er-
That my soul yearn'd to hear his voice once more!
But mine was fetter'd!-mute in strong amaze,
I watch'd his features as the night-wind blew,
And torch-light or the moon's pass'd o'er their marble hue.
The trampling of a steed!-a tall white steed,
Rending his fiery way the crowds among-
A storm's way through a forest-came at speed,
And a wild voice cried 'Inez!' Swift she flung
The mantle from her face, and gaz'd around,
With a faint shriek at that familiar sound,
And from his seat a breathless rider sprung,
And dash'd off fiercely those who came to part,
And rush'd to that pale girl, and clasp'd her to his heart.
And for a moment all around gave way
To that full burst of passion!-on his breast,
Like a bird panting yet from fear she lay,
But blest-in misery's very lap-yet blest!-
Oh love, love, strong as death!-from such an hour
Pressing out joy by thine immortal power,
Holy and fervent love! had earth but rest
For thee and thine, this world were all too fair!
How could we thence be wean'd to die without despair?
But she-as falls a willow from the storm,
O'er its own river streaming-thus reclin'd
On the youth's bosom hung her fragile form,
And clasping arms, so passionately twin'd
Around his neck-with such a trusting fold,
A full deep sense of safety in their hold,
As if nought earthly might th' embrace unbind!
Alas! a child's fond faith, believing still
Its mother's breast beyond the lightning's reach to kill!
Brief rest! upon the turning billow's height,
A strange sweet moment of some heavenly strain,
Floating between the savage gusts of night,
That sweep the seas to foam! Soon dark again
The hour-the scene-th' intensely present, rush'd
Back on her spirit, and her large tears gush'd
Like blood-drops from a victim; with swift rain
Bathing the bosom where she lean'd that hour,
As if her life would melt into th' o'erswelling shower.
But he, whose arm sustain'd her!-oh! I knew
'Twas vain, and yet he hop'd!-he fondly strove
Back from her faith her sinking soul to woo,
As life might yet be hers!-A dream of love
Which could not look upon so fair a thing,
Remembering how like hope, like joy, like spring,
Her smile was wont to glance, her step to move,
And deem that men indeed, in very truth,
Could mean the sting of death for her soft flowering youth!
He woo'd her back to life.-'Sweet Inez, live!
My blessed Inez!-visions have beguil'd
Thy heart-abjure them!-thou wert form'd to give,
And to find, joy; and hath not sunshine smil'd
Around thee ever? Leave me not, mine own!
Or earth will grow too dark!-for thee alone,
Thee have I lov'd, thou gentlest! from a child,
And borne thine image with me o'er the sea,
Thy soft voice in my soul-speak!-Oh! yet live for me!'
She look'd up wildly; these were anxious eyes
Waiting that look-sad eyes of troubled thought,
Alvar's-Theresa's!-Did her childhood rise,
With all its pure and home-affections fraught,
In the brief glance?-She clasp'd her hands-the strife
Of love, faith, fear, and that vain dream of life,
Within her woman's breast so deeply wrought,
It seem'd as if a reed so slight and weak
Must , in the rending storm not quiver only-break!
And thus it was-the young cheek flush'd and faded,
As the swift blood in currents came and went,
And hues of death the marble brow o'ershaded,
And the sunk eye a watery lustre sent
Thro' its white fluttering lids. Then tremblings pass'd
O'er the frail form, that shook it, as the blast
Shakes the sere leaf, until the spirit rent
Its way to peace-the fearful way unknown-
Pale in love's arms she lay-she! -what had lov'd was gone!
Joy for thee, trembler!-thou redeem'd one, joy!
Young dove set free! earth, ashes, soulless clay,
Remain'd for baffled vengeance to destroy;
-Thy chain was riven!-nor hadst thou cast away
Thy hope in thy last hour!-though love was there
Striving to wring thy troubled soul from prayer,
And life seem'd robed in beautiful array,
Too fair to leave!-but this might be forgiven,
Thou wert so richly crown'd with precious gifts of Heaven!
But woe for him who felt the heart grow still,
Which, with its weight of agony, had lain
Breaking on his!-Scarce could the mortal chill
Of the hush'd bosom, ne'er to heave again,
And all the silence curdling round the eye,
Bring home the stern belief that she could die,
That she indeed could die!-for wild and vain
As hope might be-his soul had hoped-'twas o'er-
-Slowly his failing arms dropp'd from the form they bore.
They forc'd him from that spot.-It might be well,
That the fierce, reckless words by anguish wrung
From his torn breast, all aimless as they fell,
Like spray-drops from the strife of torrents flung,
Were mark'd as guilt.-There are, who note these things
Against the smitten heart; its breaking strings
-On whose low thrills once gentle music hung-
With a rude hand of touch unholy trying,
And numbering then as crimes, the deep, strange tones replying.
But ye in solemn joy, O faithful pair!
Stood gazing on your parted sister's dust;
I saw your features by the torch's glare,
And they were brightening with a heavenward trust!
I saw the doubt, the anguish, the dismay,
Melt from my Alvar's glorious mien away,
And peace was there-the calmness of the just!
And, bending down the slumberer's brow to kiss,
'Thy rest is won,' he said :-'sweet sister! praise for this!'
I started as from sleep;-yes! he had spoken-
A breeze had troubled memory's hidden source!
At once the torpor of my soul was broken-
Thought, feeling, passion, woke in tenfold force.
-There are soft breathings in the southern wind,
That so your ce-chains, O ye streams! unbind,
And free the foaming swiftness of your course!
-I burst from those that held me back, and fell
Ev'n on his neck, and cried-'Friend, brother! fare thee well!'
Did he not say 'Farewell?'-Alas! no breath
Came to mine ear. Hoarse murmurs from the throng
Told that the mysteries in the face of death
Had from their eager sight been veil'd too long.
And we were parted as the surge might part
Those that would die together, true of heart.
-His hour was come-but in mine anguish strong,
Like a fierce swimmer through the midnight sea,
Blindly I rush'd away from that which was to be.
Away-away I rush'd;-but swift and high
The arrowy pillars of the firelight grew,
Till the transparent darkness of the sky
Flush'd to a blood-red mantle in their hue;
And, phantom-like, the kindling city seem'd
To spread, float, wave, as on the wind they stream'd,
With their wild splendour chasing me!-I knew
The death-work was begun-I veil'd mine eyes,
Yet stopp'd in spell-bound fear to catch the victims' cries,
What heard I then?-a ringing shriek of pain,
Such as for ever haunts the tortur'd ear?
-I heard a sweet and solemn-breathing strain
Piercing the flames, untremulous and clear!
-The rich, triumphal tones!-I knew them well,
As they came floating with a breezy swell!
Man's voice was there-a clarion voice to cheer
In the mid-battle-ay, to turn the flying-
Woman's-that might have sung of Heaven beside the dying!
It was a fearful, yet a glorious thing,
To hear that hymn of martyrdom, and know
That its glad stream of melody could spring
Up from th' unsounded gulfs of human woe!
Alvar! Theresa!-what is deep? what strong?
-God's breath within the soul!-It fill'd that song
From your victorious voices!-but the glow
On the hot air and lurid skies increas'd-
-Faint grew the sounds-more faint-I listen'd-they had ceas'd!
And thou indeed hadst perish'd, my soul's friend!
I might form other ties-but thou alone
Couldst with a glance the veil of dimness rend,
By other years o'er boyhood's memory thrown!
Others might aid me onward:-Thou and I
Had mingled the fresh thoughts that early die,
Once flowering-never more!-And thou wert gone!
Who could give back my youth, my spirit free,
Or be in aught again what thou hadst been to me?
And yet I wept thee not, thou true and brave!
I could not weep!-there gather'd round thy name
Too deep a passion!-thou denied a grave!
Thou , with the blight flung on thy soldier's fame!
Had I not known thy heart from childhood's time?
Thy heart of hearts?-and couldst thou die for crime?
-No! had all earth decreed that death of shame,
I would have set, against all earth's decree,
Th' inalienable trust of my firm soul in thee!
There are swift hours in life-strong, rushing hours,
That do the work of tempests in their might!
They shake down things that stood as rocks and towers
Unto th' undoubting mind;-they pour in light
Where it but startles-like a burst of day
For which th' uprooting of an oak makes way;-
They sweep the colouring mists from off our sight,
They touch with fire, thought's graven page, the roll
Stamp'd with past years-and lo! it shrivels as a scroll!
And this was of such hours!-the sudden flow
Of my soul's tide seem'd whelming me; the glare
Of the red flames, yet rocking to and fro,
Scorch'd up my heart with breathless thirst for air,
And solitude, and freedom. It had been
Well with me then, in some vast desert scene,
To pour my voice out, for the winds to bear
On with them, wildly questioning the sky,
Fiercely th' untroubled stars, of man's dim destiny.
I would have call'd, adjuring the dark cloud;
To the most ancient Heavens I would have said
-'Speak to me! show me truth!'-through night aloud
I would have cried to him, the newly dead,
'Come back! and show me truth!'-My spirit seem'd
Gasping for some free burst, its darkness teem'd
With such pent storms of thought!-again I fled-
I fled, a refuge from man's face to gain,
Scarce conscious when I paus'd, entering a lonely fane.
A mighty minster, dim, and proud, and vast!
Silence was round the sleepers, whom its floor
Shut in the grave; a shadow of the past,
A memory of the sainted steps that wore
Erewhile its gorgeous pavement, seem'd to brood
Like mist upon the stately solitude,
A halo of sad fame to mantle o'er
Its white sepulchral forms of mail-clad men,
And all was hush'd as night in some deep Alpine glen.
More hush'd, far more!-for there the wind sweeps by,
Or the woods tremble to the streams' loud play!
Here a strange echo made my very sigh
Seem for the place too much a sound of day!
Too much my footstep broke the moonlight, fading,
Yet arch through arch in one soft flow pervading;
And I stood still:-prayer, chant, had died away,
Yet past me floated a funereal breath
Of incense.-I stood still-as before God and death!
For thick ye girt me round, ye long-departed!
Dust-imaged form-with cross, and shield, and crest;
It seem'd as if your ashes would have started,
Had a wild voice burst forth above your rest!
Yet ne'er, perchance, did worshipper of yore
Bear to your thrilling presence what I bore
Of wrath-doubt-anguish-battling in the breast!
I could have pour'd out words, on that pale air,
To make your proud tombs ring:-no, no! I could not there!
Not midst those aisles, through which a thousand years
Mutely as clouds and reverently had swept;
Not by those shrines, which yet the trace of tears
And kneeling votaries on their marble kept!
Ye were too mighty in your pomp of gloom
And trophied age, O temple, altar, tomb!
And you, ye dead!-for in that faith ye slept,
Whose weight had grown a mountain's on my heart,
Which could not there be loos'd.-I turn'd me to depart.
I turn'd-what glimmer'd faintly on my sight,
Faintly, yet brightening, as a wreath of snow
Seen through dissolving haze?-The moon, the night,
Had waned, and dawn pour'd in;-grey, shadowy, slow,
Yet day-spring still!-a solemn hue it caught,
Piercing the storied windows, darkly fraught
With stoles and draperies of imperial glow;
And soft, and sad, that colouring gleam was thrown,
Where, pale, a pictur'd form above the altar shone.
Thy form, thou Son of God!-a wrathful deep,
With foam, and cloud, and tempest, round thee spread,
And such a weight of night!-a night, when sleep
From the fierce rocking of the billows fled.
A bark show'd dim beyond thee, with its mast
Bow'd, and its rent sail shivering to the blast;
But, like a spirit in thy gliding tread,
Thou, as o'er glass, didst walk that stormy sea
Through rushing winds, which left a silent path for thee
So still thy white robes fell!-no breath of air
Within their long and slumberous folds had sway!
So still the waves of parted, shadowy hair
From thy clear brow flow'd droopingly away!
Dark were the Heavens above thee, Saviour!-dark
The gulfs, Deliverer! round the straining bark!
But thou!-o'er all thine aspect and array
Was pour'd one stream of pale, broad, silvery light-
-Thou wert the single star of that all-shrouding night!
Aid for one sinking!-Thy lone brightness gleam'd
On his wild face, just lifted o'er the wave,
With its worn, fearful; human look that seem'd
To cry through surge and blast-'I perish-save!'
Not to the winds-not vainly!-thou wert nigh,
Thy hand was stretch'd to fainting agony,
Even in the portals of th' unquiet grave!
O thou that art the life! and yet didst bear
Too much of mortal woe to turn from mortal prayer!
But was it not a thing to rise on death,
With its remember'd light, that face of thine,
Redeemer! dimm'd by this world's misty breath,
Yet mournfully, mysteriously divine?
-Oh! that calm, sorrowful, prophetic eye,
With its dark depths of grief, love, majesty!
And the pale glory of the brow!-a shrine
Where Power sat veil'd, yet shedding softly round
What told that thou couldst be but for a time uncrown'd!
And more than all, the Heaven of that sad smile!
The lip of mercy, our immortal trust!
Did not that look, that very look, erewhile,
Pour its o'ershadow'd beauty on the dust?
Wert thou not such when earth's dark cloud hung o'er thee?
-Surely thou wert!-my heart grew hush'd before thee,
Sinking with all its passions, as the gust
Sank at thy voice, along its billowy way:-
-What had I there to do, but kneel, and weep, and pray?
Amidst the stillness rose my spirit's cry
Amidst the dead-'By that full cup of woe,
Press'd from the fruitage of mortality,
Saviour! for thee-give light! that I may know
If by thy will, in thine all-healing name,
Men cast down human hearts to blighting shame,
And early death-and say, if this be so,
Where then is mercy?-whither shall we flee,
So unallied to hope, save by our hold on thee?
'But didst thou not, the deep sea brightly treading,
Lift from despair that struggler with the wave?
And wert thou not, sad tears, yet awful, shedding,
Beheld, a weeper at a mortal's grave?
And is this weight of anguish, which they bind
On life, this searing to the quick of mind,
That but to God its own free path would crave,
This crushing out of hope, and love, and youth,
Thy will indeed?-Give light! that I may know the truth!
'For my sick soul is darken'd unto death,
With shadows from the suffering it hath seen
The strong foundations of mine ancient faith
Sink from beneath me-whereon shall I lean?
-Oh! if from thy pure lips was wrung the sigh
Of the dust's anguish! if like man to die,
-And earth round him shuts heavily-hath been
Even to thee bitter, aid me!-guide me!-turn
My wild and wandering thoughts back from their starless bourne!'
And calm'd I rose:-but how the while had risen
Morn's orient sun, dissolving mist and shade!
-Could there indeed be wrong, or chain, or prison.
In the bright world such radiance might pervade?
It fill'd the fane, it mantled the pale form
Which rose before me through the pictured storm,
Even the grey tombs it kindled, and array'd
With life!-how hard to see thy race begun,
And think man wakes to grief, wakening to thee, O sun!
I sought my home again:-and thou, my child,
There at thy play beneath yon ancient pine,
With eyes, whose lightning laughter hath beguil'd
A thousand pangs, thence flashing joy to mine;
Thou in thy mother's arms, a babe, didst meet
My coming with young smiles, which yet, though sweet,
Seem'd on my soul all mournfully to shine,
And ask a happier heritage for thee,
Than but in turn the blight of human hope to see.
Now sport, for thou are free-the bright birds chasing,
Whose wings waft star-like gleams from tree to tree;
Or with the fawn, thy swift wood-playmate racing,
Sport on, my joyous child! for thou art free!
Yes, on that day I took thee to my heart,
And inly vow'd, for thee a better part
To choose; that so thy sunny bursts of glee
Should wake no more dim thoughts of far-seen woe,
But, gladdening fearless eyes, flow on-as now they flow.
Thou hast a rich world round thee:-Mighty shades
Weaving their gorgeous tracery o'er thy head,
With the light melting through their high arcades,
As through a pillar'd cloister's: but the dead
Sleep not beneath; nor doth the sunbeam pass
To marble shrines through rainbow-tinted glass;
Yet thou, by fount and forest-murmur led
To worship, thou art blest!-to thee is shown
Earth in her holy pomp, deck'd for her God alone.
- quotes about hours
- quotes about strength
- quotes about worry
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about voice
- quotes about Spain
- quotes about wind
- quotes about sound
- quotes about colors
The Undying One- Canto III
'THERE is a sound the autumn wind doth make
Howling and moaning, listlessly and low:
Methinks that to a heart that ought to break
All the earth's voices seem to murmur so.
The visions that crost
Our path in light--
The things that we lost
In the dim dark night--
The faces for which we vainly yearn--
The voices whose tones will not return--
That low sad wailing breeze doth bring
Borne on its swift and rushing wing.
Have ye sat alone when that wind was loud,
And the moon shone dim from the wintry cloud?
When the fire was quench'd on your lonely hearth,
And the voices were still which spoke of mirth?
If such an evening, tho' but one,
It hath been yours to spend alone--
Never,--though years may roll along
Cheer'd by the merry dance and song;
Though you mark'd not that bleak wind's sound before,
When louder perchance it used to roar--
Never shall sound of that wintry gale
Be aught to you but a voice of wail!
So o'er the careless heart and eye
The storms of the world go sweeping by;
But oh! when once we have learn'd to weep,
Well doth sorrow his stern watch keep.
Let one of our airy joys decay--
Let one of our blossoms fade away--
And all the griefs that others share
Seem ours, as well as theirs, to bear:
And the sound of wail, like that rushing wind
Shall bring all our own deep woe to mind!
'I went through the world, but I paused not now
At the gladsome heart and the joyous brow:
I went through the world, and I stay'd to mark
Where the heart was sore, and the spirit dark:
And the grief of others, though sad to see,
Was fraught with a demon's joy to me!
'I saw the inconstant lover come to take
Farewell of her he loved in better days,
And, coldly careless, watch the heart-strings break--
Which beat so fondly at his words of praise.
She was a faded, painted, guilt-bow'd thing,
Seeking to mock the hues of early spring,
When misery and years had done their worst
To wither her away. The big tears burst
From out her flashing eyes, which turn'd on him
With agony, reproach, and fear, while dim
Each object swam in her uncertain sight,
And nature's glories took the hue of night.
There was, in spite of all her passion's storm,
A wild revolting beauty in her form;
A beauty as of sin, when first she comes
To tempt us from our calm and pleasant homes.
Her voice, with the appealing tone it took,
Her soft clear voice, belied her fearless look:
And woman's tenderness seem'd still to dwell
In that full bosom's agonizing swell.
And he stood there, the worshipp'd one of years--
Sick of her fondness--angry at her tears;
Choking the loathing words which rose within
The heart whose passion tempted her to sin;
While with a strange sad smile lost hours she mourns,
And prays and weeps, and weeps and prays by turns.
A moment yet he paused, and sigh'd--a sigh
Of deep, deep bitterness; and on his eye
Love's gentle shadow rested for a space--
And faded feelings brighten'd o'er his face.
'Twas but a moment, and he turn'd in wrath
To quench the sunshine on her lonely path.
And his lip curl'd, as on that alter'd cheek
His cold glance rested--while, all faint and weak,
With tearful sad imploring gaze she stood,
Watching with trembling heart his changeful mood;
Her thin lips parted with a ghastly smile,
She strove to please--yet felt she fail'd the while.
And thus his words burst forth:' And dost thou dare
Reproach me with the burden of thy care?
Accuse thy self-will'd heart, where passion reign'd;
Some other hand the lily might have stain'd,
For thou didst listen when none else approved,
Proud in thy strength, and eager to be loved.
Rose of the morning, how thy leaves are gone!
How art thou faded since the sunrise shone!
Think not my presence was the cause of all--
Oh no, thy folly would have made thee fall:
Alike thy woe--alike the cause of blame--
Another tempter, but thine act the same.
And tell me not of all I said or swore:
Poor wretch! art thou as in the days of yore?
Thing of the wanton heart and faded brow,
Whate'er I said or did--I loathe thee now!'
The frozen tears sank back beneath the lid,
Whose long black lashes half their sadness hid--
And with a calm and stedfast look, which spoke
Unutterable scorn, her spirit woke:--
'And thou art he, for whom my young heart gave
All hope of pardon on this side the grave!
For whom I still have struggled on, for years,
Through days of bitterness and nights of tears!--
True, I am changed since that bright summer's day,
When first from home love lured my steps to stray:
And true it is that art hath sought to hide
The work of woe which all my words belied;--
But for whose sake have I with watchful care,
Though sick at heart, endeavour'd to be fair?
For whom, when daylight broke along the skies,
Have I with fear survey'd my weeping eyes?
For whom, with trembling fingers sought to dress
Each woe-worn feature with mock loveliness?
Chased the pale sickness from my darken'd brow,
And strove to listen, calm--as I do now?
For whom--if not for thee?--Oh! had I been
Pure as the stainless lily--were each scene
Of guilt and passion blotted from that book
Where weepingly and sad the angels look--
Did I stand here the calm approved wife,
Bound to thee by the chain that binds for life--
Could I have loved thee more? The dream is past--
I who forsook, am lonely at the last!
One hour ago the thought that we must part,
And part for ever, would have broke my heart:
But now--I cast thee from me! Go and seek
To pale the roses on a fresher cheek.
Why lingerest thou? Dost fear, when thou art gone,
My woman's heart will wake, and live alone?
Fear not--the specious tongue whose well-feign'd tale
Hath lured the dove to leave her native vale,
May use its art some other to beguile;
And the approving world--will only smile.
But she who sins, and suffers for that sin,
Who throws the dangerous die, and doth not win--
Loves once--and loves no more!' He glided by,
And she turn'd from him with a shuddering sigh.
'I saw the widower mournful stand,
Gazing out on the sea and the land;
O'er the yellow corn and the waving trees,
And the blue stream rippling in the breeze.
Oh! beautiful seem the earth and sky--
Why doth he heave that bitter sigh?
Vain are the sunshine and brightness to him--
His heart is heavy, his eyes are dim.
His thoughts are not with the moaning sea,
Though his gaze be fix'd on it vacantly:
His thoughts are far, where the dark boughs wave
O'er the silent rest of his Mary's grave.
He starts, and brushes away the tear;
For the soft small voices are in his ear,
Of the bright-hair'd angels his Mary left
To comfort her lonely and long bereft.
With a gush of sorrow he turns to press
His little ones close with a fond caress,
And they sigh--oh! not because Mary sleeps,
For she is forgotten--but that HE weeps.
Yes! she is forgotten--the patient love,
The tenderness of that meek-eyed dove,
The voice that rose on the evening air
To bid them kneel to the God of prayer,
The joyous tones that greeted them, when
After a while she came again--
The pressure soft of her rose-leaf cheek--
The touch of her hand, as white and weak
She laid it low on each shining head,
And bless'd the sons of the early dead:
All is forgotten--all past away
Like the fading close of a summer's day:
Or the sound of her voice (though they scarce can tell
Whose voice it was, that they loved so well)
Comes with their laughter, a short sweet dream--
As the breeze blows over the gentle stream,
Rippling a moment its quiet breast,
And leaving it then to its sunny rest.
But he!--oh! deep in his inmost soul,
Which hath drunk to the dregs of sorrow's bowl--
Her look--and her smile--the lightest word
Of the musical voice he so often heard,
And never may hear on earth again,
Though he love it more than he loved it then--
Are buried--to rise at times unbid
And force hot tears to the burning lid:
The mother that bore her may learn to forget,
But he will remember and weep for her yet!
Oh! while the heart where her head hath lain
In its hours of joy, in its sighs of pain;
While the hand which so oft hath been clasp'd in hers
In the twilight hour, when nothing stirs--
Beat with the deep, full pulse of life--
Can he forget his gentle wife?
Many may love him, and he in truth
May love; but not with the love of his youth:
Ever amid his joy will come
A stealing sigh for that long-loved home,
And her step and her voice will go gliding by
In the desolate halls of his memory!
'I saw a father weeping, when the last
Of all his dear ones from his sight had past--
The young lamb, in his solitary fold,
Who should have buried him, for he was old.
Silently she had pass'd away from earth,
Beloved by none but him who gave her birth:
And now he sat, with haggard look and wild,
By the lone tomb of his forgotten child:--
'None remember thee! thou whose heart
Pour'd love on all around.
Thy name no anguish can impart--
'Tis a forgotten sound.
Thine old companions pass me by
With a cold bright smile, and a vacant eye--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! thou wert not
Beauteous as some things are;
No glory beam'd upon thy lot,
My pale and quiet star.
Like a winter bud that too soon hath burst,
Thy cheek was fading from the first--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! they could spy
Nought, when they gazed on thee,
But thy soul's deep love in thy quiet eye--
It hath pass'd from their memory.
The gifts of genius were not thine
Proudly before the world to shine--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! now thou'rt gone,
Or they could not choose but weep,--
When they think of thee, my gentle one,
In thy long and lonely sleep.
Fain would I murmur thy name, and tell
How fondly together we used to dwell--
But none remember thee
'I saw a husband, and a guilty wife,
Who once made all the sunshine of his life,
Kneeling upon the threshold of her home,
Where heavily her weary feet had come:
A faded form, a humble brow, are hers--
The livery which sinful sorrow wears;
While with deep agony she lifts her eyes,
And prays him to forgive her, ere she dies!
Long days--long days swell in his broken heart,
When death had seem'd less bitter than to part--
When in her innocence her hush'd lip spoke
The faint confession of the love he woke;
And the first kiss on that pure cheek impress'd,
Made her shrink, trembling, from his faithful breast.
And after years when her light footstep made
Most precious music--when in sun or shade
She was the same bright, happy, loving thing--
Low at his feet she now lies withering!
His half-stretch'd hand already bids her be
Forgiven and at peace--his kindly eye
Is turn'd on her through tears, to think that she,
His purely-loved, should bide such agony.
Already on his tongue the quivering word
Of comfort trembles, though as yet unheard;
Already he hath bent o'er that pale face:
Why starts he, groaning, from her wild embrace?
Oh! as she clasp'd his knees, her full heart woke
To all its tenderness--a murmur broke
Forth from her lip; the cherish'd name of one
Whose image dwelt when purity was gone,
Secure amid the ruins of lost things,
Filling her soul with soft imaginings,
Like a lone flower within the moss-grown halls
Where echo vainly unto echo calls.
Deep wrath, and agony, and vain despair,
Are painted on his brow who hears her prayer.
'Breathe not her name--it is a sound
Of fearfulness and dread.
Seest thou no trace of tears around?
Yet have salt tears been shed!
Thy babe who nestled at thy breast,
And laugh'd upon thy knee;
That creature of the quiet rest,
Thy child--was too like thee!
The careless fawn that lightly springs--
The rosebud in the dew--
The fair of nature's fairy things--
Like them thy daughter grew.
And then she left her father's side,
Not, woman! as a happy bride,
With a tearful smile, half sad, half meek;
The flush of guilt was on her cheek:
And in the desert wilds I sought--
And in the haunts of men.
Woman! what thou hast felt is naught
To what I suffer'd then.
I thought that--but it may not be--
I thought I could have pardon'd thee;
But when I dream of her, and think
Thy steps led on to ruin's brink--
Oh she is gone, and thou art here
Where ye both were of yore--
To mock with late-repentant tear
Hopes which may come no more!
Hadst thou, frail wretch, been by her still,
To shield her gentle head from ill--
To do thy mother's part--but go--
I will not curse thee, in my woe :
Only, depart!--and haply when
Lonely and left I die,
Thy pardon'd form shall rise again
And claim one parting sigh!'
He closed on her the portal of her home,
Where never more her weary feet may come--
And their wrung hearts are sever'd till that day
When God shall hear, and judge the things of clay.
'I saw the parricide raving stand,
With a rolling eye, and a bloody hand;
Through his thick chill veins the curdling stream
Flows dark and languid. No sunny beam
Can wake the deep pulse of his heart to joy,
Since he raised his murderous hand to destroy.
By day, by night, no pause is given
Of hope to the soul accursed by Heaven.
Through the riotous feast; through his own dull groans;
Through the musical sound of his loved one's tones;
Through the whispering breath of the evening air,
Faulters the old man's dying prayer.
Few were the words he spoke as he sank;
And the greedy poniard his life-blood drank:
'Spare me, my son, I will yield thee all.'
Oh, what would the murderer give to recall
One murmuring sigh to that silent tongue,
Which in infancy sought his ear to please;
One pulse of life, to the hands that clung
Feebly and tremblingly round his knees!
In vain! he hath won the gold he sought;
And the burning agony of thought
Shall haunt him still, till he lays his head
With a shuddering groan on his dying bed!
'I saw a young head bow'd in its deep woe,
Ev'n unto death; and sad, and faint, and slow,
As she sat lonely in her hall of tears,
Her lips address'd some shade of other years:
'Oh! dear to the eyes that are weeping
Was thy form, my lost love:
Though the heart where thine image is sleeping
Its truth might not prove.
I have wept and turn'd from thee, for fear thou shouldst trace
All the love that I bore thee, deep writ on my face.
But oh! could we once more be meeting,
As then, love, we met:
Could I feel that fond heart of thine beating,
Close, close, to mine yet:
I would cling to thee, dearest, nor fear thou shouldst guess
How deeply thy welcome had power to bless,
Oh! tis not for a day, or an hour,
I part from thee now,
To weep and shake off, like a flower,
The tears from my brow:
'Tis to sit dreaming idly of days that are gone,
And start up to remember--that I am alone.
They say that my heart hath recover'd
The deep bitter blow;
That the cloud which for long days hath hover'd,
Is gone from my brow;
That my eyes do not weep, and my lips wear a smile;
It is true --but I do not forget thee the while.
Oh, they know not, amidst all my gladness,
Thy shadow is there:
They feel not the deep thrill of sadness,
Nor the soul's lone despair.
They see not the sudden quick pang, when thy name
Is carelessly utter'd, to praise or to blame!
If to gaze on each long-treasured token
Till bitter tears flow,
And to wonder my heart is not broken
By the weight of its woe:
To join in the world's loud and 'wildering din,
While a passionate feeling is choking within:
If to yearn, in the arms that once bound thee,
To lean down my head;
With the dear ones who used to come round thee,
Salt tear-drops to shed:
If to list to the voice that is like thine, in vain;
And feel its dim echo ring wild through my brain:
If to dream there were pleasure in meeting
Those who once were with thee:
To murmur a sad farewell greeting,
Then sink on my knee;
With my straining hands clasp'd to the Heavens in prayer,
And my choked bosom heaving with grief and despair:
If to sit and to think of thee only,
While they laugh round the hearth;
And feel my full heart grow more lonely
At the sound of their mirth:--
If this be forgetting thee, dear one and good--
Forget thee--forget thee--Oh God! that I could!'
'I saw the child of parents poor,
Dreaming with pain of her cottage door;
Which she left for the splendour which may not cheer--
Pomp hath not power to dry one tear.
The palace--the sunshine--what are they to her
'Mid the heart's full throb, and the bosom's stir?
The picture that rises bedimm'd with tears,
Is an aged woman, bow'd down by years;
Sitting alone in her evening's close,
And feebly weeping for many woes.
Her thin hands are weaving the endless thread,
Her faded eyes gaze where her daughter fled,
O'er the moss-grown copse and the wooded hill:
'Oh! would that I were with my mother still!
That I were with her who rear'd me up--
(And I fill'd to the brim her sorrow's cup)--
That I were with her who taught me to pray
At the morning's dawn and the close of day--
That I were with her whose harshest look
Was half of sorrow and half rebuke.
Oh! the depth of my sin I never could see,
But I feel it now, with the babe on my knee.'
The high proud gaze of her scornful eye
Is quench'd with the tears for days gone by;
And her little one starts from its broken rest,
Woke by the sobs of that heaving breast.
She gazes with fear on its undimm'd brow--
What are the thoughts that lurk below?
Perchance, like her own, the day will come
When its name shall be hush'd in its parent home;
When the hearts that cherish its lightest tone,
Shall wish that the sound from earth were gone.
Perchance it is doom'd to an early grave,
Or a struggling death on the stormy wave;
Or the fair little dimpled hand that clings
So fast in her soft hair's shining rings,
May be dark with the blood of his fellow-men,
And the clanking chain hang round it then.
Haply, forgetting her patient care,
The young, bright creature slumbering there,
Shall forsake her--as she hath forsaken them--
For a heavy heart and a diadem!
She clasps it strong with a burning kiss--
'Oh God! in thy mercy, spare me this.''
'I saw a widow, by her cherish'd son,
Ere all of light, and life, and hope, was gone--
When the last dying glance was faintly raised,
Ere death with withering power the brightness glazed
Of those deep heavenly eyes: a glance which seem'd
To ask her, if the world where he had dream'd
Such dreams of happiness with her, must be
Forsaken in the spring-tide of his glee:
If he indeed must die. I saw her take
His hand, and gaze, as if her heart would break,
On his pale brow and languid limbs of grace,
And wipe the death-dew gently from his face.
I saw her after, when the unconscious clay,
Deaf to her wild appeals, all mutely lay,
With brow upturn'd, and parted lips, whose hue
Was scarce more pale than hers, who met my view.
She stood, and wept not in her deep despair,
But press'd her lips upon his shining hair
With a long bitter kiss, and then with grief--
Like hers of old, who pray'd and found relief--
She groan'd to God, and watch'd to see him stir,
But, ah! no prophet came, to raise him up for her!
'I saw the orphan go forth in dread
Through the pitiless world, and turn to gaze
Once more on the dark and narrow bed
Where sleep the authors of her days.
Well may she weep them, for never more,
After she turns from that cottage door,
Will her young heart beat to a kindly word,
Such as in early days she heard:
Or her young eye shine, as she hastens her pace
To bask in the light of a loved one's face.
Her lot is cast;
Her hope is past;
The careless, the cold, and the cruel may come
To gaze on the orphan, and pass her by:
But a word, or a sound, or a look of home--
For them she must bow her head, and die!
'I saw the dark and city-clouded spot,
Where, by his busy patrons all forgot,
The young sad poet dreams of better days,
And gives his genius forth in darken'd rays.
Chill o'er his soul, gaunt poverty hath thrown
Her veil of shadows, as he sighs alone;
And, withering up the springs and streams of youth,
Left him to feel misfortune's bitter truth,
And own with deep, impassion'd bitterness,
Who would describe--must faintly feel, distress.
Slowly he wanders, with a languid pace,
To the small window of his hiding-place;
Pressing with straining force, all vainly now,
His hot, weak fingers on his throbbing brow;
And seeking for bright thoughts, which care and pain
Have driven from his dim and 'wilder'd brain.
He breathes a moment that unclouded air,
And gazes on the face of nature there--
Longing for fresh wild flowers and verdant fields,
And all the joys the open sunshine yields:
Then turning, he doth rest his heavy eye
Where his torn papers in confusion lie,
And raves awhile, and seats himself again,
To toil and strive for thoughts and words, in vain:
Till he can bid his drooping fancy feel,
And barter genius, for a scanty meal!
'I've been where fell disease a war hath waged
Against young joy,--where pestilence hath raged,
And beauty hath departed from the earth
With none to weep her.--I have seen the birth
Of the lorn infant, greeted but with tears,
And dim forebodings, and remorseful fears,
When to the weary one the grave would show
Less dreadful than a long long life of woe.
I've been in prisons, where in lone despair,
Barr'd from God's precious gifts, the sun and air,
The debtor pines, for a little gold,
His fellow man in iron chains would hold:
There have I seen the bright inquiring eye
Fade into dull and listless vacancy;
There have I seen the meek grow stern and wild;
And the strong man sit weeping like a child;
Till God's poor tortured creatures in their heart
Were fain to Curse their Maker, and depart.
All have I seen--and I have watch'd apart
The fruitless struggles of a breaking heart,
Bruised, crush'd, and wounded by the spoiler's power,
And left to wither like a trodden flower;
Till I have learnt with ease each thought to trace
That flush'd across the fair and fading face,
And known the source of tears, which day by day
Weakness hath shed, and pride hath brush'd away.
'It was in Erin--in the autumn time,
By the broad Shannon's banks of beauty roaming;
I saw a scene of mingled woe and crime--
Oh! ev'n to my sear'd eyes the tears seem'd coming!
It was a mother standing gaunt and wild,
Working her soul to murder her young child,
Who lay unconscious in its soft repose
Upon the breast, that heaved with many woes.
She stood beside the waters, but her eyes
Were not upon the river, nor the skies,
Nor on the fading things of earth. Her soul
Was rapt in bitterness--and evening stole
Chill o'er her form, while yet with nerveless hand
She sought to throw her burden from the land.
'Twas pitiful to see her strive in vain,
Rise sternly up, then melt to love again;
With horrible energy, and lip compress'd,
Hold forth her child--then strain it to her breast
Convulsively; as if some gentle thought
Of all its helpless beauty first was brought
Into her 'wilder'd mind--the soft faint smiles,
Whose charm the mother of her tears beguiles,
Which speak not aught of mirth or merriment,
But of full confidence, and deep content,
And ignorance of woe:--the murmur'd sounds
Which were to her a language, rise up now--
And, like a torrent bursting from its bounds,
Swell in her heart, and shoot across her brow.
Oh! she who plans its death in her despair,
Hath tended it with fond and watchful care;
Hath borne it wearily for many a mile,
Repaid with one fond glance, or gentle smile:
Hath watch'd through long dark nights with patient love,
When some light sickness struck her nestling dove;
And yearn'd to bear its pain, when that meek eye
Turn'd on her, with appealing agony!
Look on her now!--that faint and feverish start
Hath waken'd all the mother in her heart:
That feeble cry hath thrill'd her very frame :--
Was it for murder such a soft heart came?
She will not do it--Fool! the spirit there
Is stronger far than love--it is despair!
Mothers alone may read that mother's woe:
Her heart may break--but she will strike the blow.
Once more she pauses; bending o'er its face,
Calm and unconscious in its timid grace;
Then murmurs to it by the chilly wave,
Ere one strong effort dooms it to the grave:--
'Thou of the sinless breast!
Which passion hath not heaved, nor dark remorse
Swell'd with its full and agonizing curse--
Lo! thou art come to rest!
'Warm is thy guileless heart,
Whose slight quick pulses soon shall beat no more:
Hear'st thou the strong trees rock?--the loud winds roar?
I and my child must part!
'Deep 'neath the sullen sky,
And the dark waters which do boil and foam,
Greedy to take thee to their silent home--
My little one must lie!
'Peace to thy harmless soul!
There is a heaven where thou mayst dwell in peace;
Where the dark howling of the waters cease,
Which o'er thy young head roll.
'There, in the blue still night,
Thou'lt watch, where stars are gleaming from the sky,
O'er the dark spot where thou wert doom'd to die,
And smile, a cherub bright.'
'A plash upon the waves--a low
Half-stifled sob, which seem'd as though
The choked breath fought against the stream--
And all was silent as a dream.
Then rose the shriek that might not stay,
Though much that soul had braved;
And ere its echo died away,
Her little one was saved.
Sudden I plunged, and panting caught
The bright and floating hair,
Which on the waters lustre brought,
As if 'twere sunshine there.
I stood beside that form of want and sin,
That miserable woman in her tears;
Who wept, as though she had not cast it in
To perish with the sorrows of past years.
She thank'd me with a bitter thankfulness,
And thus I spoke: 'Oh! woman, if it is
Sickness and poverty, and lone distress,
That prompted thee to do a deed like this,
Take gold, and wander forth, and let me be
A parent to the child renounced by thee!'
Greedily did she gaze upon the gold,
With a wild avarice in her hollow eye;
And stretch'd her thin damp fingers, clammy cold,
To seize the glittering ore with ecstasy.
But when I claim'd the little helpless thing,
For whose young life that gold had paid the worth;
Close to the breast where it lay shivering,
She strain'd it gaspingly, and then burst forth:--
'I would have slain it! Fool! 'tis true I would;
Because I saw it pine, and had no food:
Because I could not bear its faint frail cry,
Which told my brain such tales of agony:
Because its dumb petitioning glances said,
Am I thy child? and canst not give me bread?
Because, while faint and droopingly it lay
Within my failing arms from day to day,
The tigress rose within my soul--I could
Have slain a man, and bid it lap his blood!
My little one!--my uncomplaining child!
Whose lengthen'd misery drove thy mother wild,
Did they believe that aught but death could part
These nestling limbs from her poor tortured heart?--
No! had the slimy waters gurgled o'er
Thy corpse, and wash'd the slippery reed-grown shore,
Leaving no trace, except in my despair,
Of what had once disturb'd the stillness there--
I could have gazed upon it, and not wept;
For calmly then my little one had slept.
No nightly moans would then have wrung my soul;
No daylight withering bid the tear-drop roll.
In my dark hours of misery and want,
The memory of thy pallid face might haunt,
Not, not to wring my heart with vain regret,
But to remind what thou hadst suffer'd yet,
If from life's wretchedness I had not freed
Thy grateful soul, which thank'd me for the deed.
I lost thee--but I have thee here again,
Close to the heart which now can feel no pain.
Cling to me!--let me feel that velvet cheek--
Look at me, with those eyes so dove-like meek!
Press thy pale lips to mine, and let me be
Repaid for all I have endured for thee.
Part from thee!--never! while this arm hath strength
To hold thee to the bosom where thou liest:
Praise be to God, bright days have dawn'd at length!
I need not watch thy struggles as thou diest.
Part from thee! never--no, my pale sweet flower!
The wealth of worlds would bribe my heart in vain,
Though 'twere to give thee up for one short hour--
Take back thy gold--I have my babe again!
Yet give me food, and I will clasp thy knees,
And night and day will kneel for thee to Heaven;
Else will a lingering death of slow disease,
Or famine gaunt, be all that thou hast given.
And when I die-- then, then be kind'--She ceased:
Her parted lips were tinged with crimson gore,
Her faint hand half, and only half, released
The unconscious form she had been weeping o'er:
Worn nature could not bear the sudden strife;
I look'd upon her--but there was no life!
'That little outcast grew a fairy girl,
A beautiful, a most beloved one.
There was a charm in every separate curl
Whose rings of jet hung glistening in the sun,
Which warm'd her marble brow. There was a grace
Peculiar to herself, ev'n from the first:
Shadows and thoughtfulness you seem'd to trace
Upon that brow, and then a sudden burst
Of sunniness and laughter sparkled out,
And spread their rays of joyfulness about.
Like the wild music of her native land,
Which wakes to joy beneath the minstrel's hand,
Yet at its close gives forth a lingering tone--
Sad, as if mourning that its mirth is gone,
And leaves that note to dwell within your heart,
When all the sounds of joyfulness depart:
So in her heart's full chords there seem'd to be
A strange and wild, but lovely melody:
Half grief--half gladness--but the sadness still
Hanging like shadows on a summer rill.
And when her soul from its deep silence woke,
And from her lip sweet note of answer broke,
Memory in vain would seek the smile that play'd
With her slow words, like one beam in the shade;
Her sorrow hung upon your heart for years--
And all her sweet smiles darken'd into tears.
I loved her, as a father loves his child:
For she was dutiful, and fond, and mild,
As children should be--and she ripen'd on
Like a young rosebud opening to the sun;
Till the full light of womanhood was shed,
Like a soft glory, round about her head.
In all my wanderings, through good and ill,
In storm and sunshine, she was with me still:
Not like a cold sad shadow, forced to glide
Weary--unloved--unnoticed, by my side:
But with her whole heart's worship, ever near,
To love, to smile, to comfort, and to cheer.
Her gentle soul would fear to hurt a worm;
Yet danger found her unappall'd and firm:
Her lip might blanch, but her unalter'd eye
Said, I am ready for thy sake to die.
She stood by me and fear'd not, in that place
When the scared remnant of my wretched race
Gave England's Richard gifts, to let them be
All unmolested in their misery:
And while their jewels sparkled on his hand,
His traitor lips gave forth the dark command
Which, midst a drunken nation's loud carouse,
Sent unexpected death from house to house,
Bade strong arms strike, where none their force withstood,
And woman's wail be quench'd in woman's blood.
She stood by me and fear'd not, when again,
A bloody death cut short a life of pain;
When, with red glaring eyes and desperate force,
Brother laid brother low, a prostrate corse,
Rather than yield their bodies up to those,
In word, in act, and in religion--foes.
She gazed and fainted not, while all around
They lay like slaughter'd cattle on the ground;
With the wide gash in each extended throat,
Calling for vengeance to the God who smote
On Israel's side, ere Israel fell away,
And in her guilt was made the stranger's prey.
'And after that, we dwelt in many lands,
And wander'd through the desert's burning sands;
Where, strange to say, young Miriam sigh'd to be:
Where nature lay stretch'd out so silently
Beneath the glorious sun, and here and there
The fountains bubbled up, as fresh and fair
As if the earth were fill'd with them, and none
In their last agonizing thirst sank down,
With eyes turn'd sadly to far distant dreams
Of unseen gushing waters, and cool streams.
'There is a little island all alone
In the blue Mediterranean; and we went
Where never yet a human foot had gone,
And dwelt there, and young Miriam was content.
There was a natural fountain, where no ray
Of light or warmth had ever found its way,
Thick clustered o'er with flowers; and there she made
A bower of deep retirement and shade;
And proud she was, when, rosy with the glow
Of triumph and exertion, she could show
Her palace of green leaves,--and watch my eyes
For the expected glance of pleased surprise.
Oh! she was beautiful!--if ever earth
To aught of breathing loveliness gave birth.
'One evening--one sweet evening, as we stood,
Silently gazing on the silent flood:
A sudden thought rose swelling in my heart:
Ought my sweet Miriam thus to dwell apart
From human kind? So good, so pure, so bright,
So form'd to be a fervent heart's delight;
Was she to waste the power and will to bless
In ministering to my loneliness?
And then a moment's glance took in her life--
I saw my Miriam a blessed wife;
I saw her with fair children round her knee,
I heard their voices in that home of glee,
And turn'd to gaze on her:--if ever yet,
Turning with shadowy hope, and vain regret,
And consciousness of secret guilt or woe,
Thine eyes have rested on the open brow
Of sinless childhood--thou hast known what I
Felt, when my glance met Miriam's cloudless eye.
Oh! Thought, thou mould where misery is cast--
Thou joiner of the present with the past--
Eternal torturer! wherefore can we not
Through all our life be careless of our lot
As in our early years?--No cares to come
Threw their vain shadow o'er her bosom's home;
No bitter sorrow, with its vain recall,
Poison'd her hope--the present hour was all.
I gazed on her--and as a slow smile broke
Of meek affection round her rosy mouth,
I thought the simple words my heart would choke,
'Would Miriam weep to leave the sunny south?'
Silent she stood--then, in a tone scarce heard,
Faulter'd forth, 'father!' Oh! it wrung, that word;
And snatching her with haste unto my breast,
Where in her childhood's hour of sunny rest
Calmly her innocent head had often slept,
With a strange sense of misery--I wept.
'Oh! weary days, oh! weary days,
Of flattery and empty praise,
When in the tainted haunts of men
My Miriam was brought again.
With vacant gaze and gentle sigh,
She turned her from them mournfully;
As if she rather felt, than saw,
That they were near:--they scarce could draw
A word of answer from her tongue,
Where once such merry music rung,
Save when the island was their theme--
And then, as waking from a dream,
Her soft eye lighted for a while,
And round her mouth a playful smile
Stole for a moment, and then fled,
As if the hope within were dead.
Where'er I gazed, where'er I went,
Her earnest look was on me bent
Stealthily, as she wish'd to trace
Her term of exile on my face.
And many sought her hand in vain.
With pleading voice, and look of pain.
Weepingly she would turn away
When I besought her to be gay;
And resolutely firm, withstood
The noble and the great of blood;
Though they woo'd humbly, as they woo
Who scarcely hope for what they sue.
Oh! glad was Miriam, when at last
I deem'd our term of absence past:
And as her light foot quickly sprang
From out our bark, 'twas thus she sang:--
'The world! the sunny world! I love
To roam untired, till evening throws
Sweet shadows through the pleasant grove,
And bees are murmuring on the rose.
I love to see the changeful flowers
Lie blushing in the glowing day--
Bend down their heads to 'scape the showers,
Then shake the chilly drops away.
'The world! the sunny world! oh bright
And beautiful indeed thou art--
The brilliant day, the dark-blue night,
Bring joy--but not to every heart.
No! till, like flowers, those hearts can fling
Grief's drops from off their folded leaves,
'Twill only smile in hope's bright spring,
And darken when the spirit grieves.'
'She was return'd; but yet she grew not glad;
Her cheek wore not the freshness which it had.
The withering of the world, like the wild storm
Over a tender blossom, left her form
With traces of the havoc that had been,
Ev'n in the sunny calm, and placid scene.
Her brow was darken'd with a gentle cloud;
Her step was slower, and her laugh less loud;
And oft her sweet voice faulter'd, though she said
Nothing in which deep meaning could be read.
I watch'd her gestures when she saw me not,
And once--(oh! will that evening be forgot?)
I stole upon her, when she little thought
Aught but the moaning wind her whispers caught.
'She sat within her bower, where the sun
Linger'd, as loth to think his task was done:
And languidly she raised her heavy gaze,
To meet the splendour of his parting rays.
O'er the smooth cheek which rested on her hand;
Down the rich curls by evening breezes fann'd;
Upon the full red lip, and rounded arm,
The swan-like neck, so snowy, yet so warm--
Each charm the rosy light was wandering o'er,
Brightening what seem'd all-beautiful before.
I paused a moment, gazing yet unseen
Beneath the sleeping shadows dark and green;
And thought, how strange that one so form'd to bless
Should better love to live in loneliness.
Pure, but not passionless, was that soft brow
So warmly gilded by the sunset now;
And in her glistening eye there shone a tear,
Like those we shed when dreaming--for some dear
But lost illusion, which returns awhile
Our nights to brighten with remember'd smile,
And yet we feel is lost, though sleep, strong sleep,
Chains the swoln lid, that fain would wake and weep.
I sat me down beside her; round the zone
That clasp'd her slender waist my arm was thrown:
And the bright ringlets of her shining hair
My fond hand parted on her forehead fair;
And thus I spoke, as with a smile and sigh
She murmur'd forth a welcome timidly:
'Again within the desert and at rest,
Say, does my Miriam find herself more blest,
Than when gay throngs in fond devotion hung
Upon the sportive accents of her tongue?
Is all which made the city seem so gay,
The song, the dance, all dream-like pass'd away?
The sighs, the vows, the worshipping forgot?
And art thou happier in this lonely spot?
Is there no form, all vision-like enshrined
Deep 'mid the treasures of thy guileless mind?
And, deaf to every pure and faithful sigh,
Say, would my desert rose-bud lonely die?'
High, 'neath the arm which carelessly caress'd,
Rose the quick beatings of that gentle breast;
And the slight pulses of her fair young hand,
Which lay so stirlessly within my own,
Trembled and stopp'd, and trembled, as I scann'd
The flushing cheek on which my glance was thrown.
'She loves,' said I; while selfish bitter grief
Swell'd in my soul;--'she loves, and I must live
Alone again, more wretched for the brief
Bright sunshine which her presence used to give.'
And then with sadden'd tones, (which, though I strove
To make them playful, tremulously came)
I murmur'd:'Yes! he lives, whom thou canst love.
His name, dear Miriam--whisper me his name.'
There was a pause, and audibly she drew
Her heaving breath; and faint and fainter grew
The hand that lay in mine; and o'er her brow
Flush'd shadows chased each other to and fro:
Till like a scorch'd-up flower, with languid grace
That young head droop'd, but sought no resting-place.
'Dreams pass'd across my soul--dreams of old days--
Of forms which in the quiet grave lay sleeping;
Of eyes which death had stripp'd of all their rays,
And weary life had quench'd with bitter weeping:
Dreams of the days when, human still, my heart
Refused to feel immortal, and kept clinging
To transient joys, which came and did depart
As fresh flowers wither, which young hands are flinging.
Dreams of the days I loved, and was beloved--
When some young heart for me its sighs was giving,
And fond lips murmur'd forth the vow that proved
Its truth in death, its tenderness when living:
And dreaming thus, I sigh'd. Answering, there came
A deep, low, tremulous sob, which thrill'd my frame.
A moment, that young form shrunk back abash'd
At its own feelings; and all vainly dash'd
The tear aside, which speedily return'd
To quench the cheek where fleeting blushes burn'd.
A moment, while I sought her fears to stay,
The timid girl in silence shrank away--
A moment, from my grasp her hand withdrew--
A moment, hid her features from my view--
Then rising, sank with tears upon my breast,
Her struggles and her love at once confess'd.
'Years--sorrow--death--the hopes that leave me lone,
All I have suffer'd, and must suffer on;
The love of other bright things which may pass
In half eclipse, beyond the darken'd glass
Through which my tearful soul hath learnt to gaze--
The fond delusions of all future days:--
All that this world can bring, hath not the power
To blot from memory that delicious hour.
She, who I thought would leave me desolate--
For whom I brooded o'er a future fate;
She, who had wander'd through each sunny land,
Yet found no heart that could her love command--
She lay within my arms, my own--my own--
Unsought, unwoo'd, but oh! too surely won.
'She was not one of many words and vows,
And breathings of her love, and eager shows
Of warm affection;--in her quiet eye,
Which gazed on all she worshipp'd silently,
There dwelt deep confidence in what she loved,
And nothing more--till some slight action proved
My ceaseless thought of her: then her heart woke,
And fervent feeling like a sunrise broke
O'er her illumined face. Her love for me
Was pure and deep, and hidden as the fount
Which floweth 'neath our footsteps gushingly,
And of whose wanderings none may take account;
And like those waters, when the fountain burst
To light and sunshine, which lay dark at first,
Quietly deep, it still kept flowing on--
Not the less pure for being look'd upon.
'And then she loved all things, and all loved her.
Each sound that mingleth in the busy stir
Of nature, was to her young bosom rife
With the intelligence of human life.
Edith, my playful Edith, when her heart
Tenderly woke to do its woman's part,
Fill'd with a sentiment so strong and new,
Each childish passion from her mind withdrew,
And looking round upon the world beheld
Her Isbal only. By deep sorrow quell'd,
Xarifa's was a melancholy love.
The plashing waters, the blue sky above,
The echo speaking from the distant hill,
The murmurs indistinct which sweetly fill
The evening air--all had for her a tone
Of mournful music--and I stood alone
The one thing that could bid her heart rejoice
With the deep comfort of a human voice.
Not so, young Miriam. Love, within her breast,
Had been a welcome and familiar guest
Ev'n from her childhood:--I was link'd with all
The sunny things that to her lot might fall;
The past--the present--and the future, were
Replete with joys in which I had my share.
Nothing had been, or ever could be, felt
Singly, within the heart where such love dwelt--
Her birds, her trees, her favourite walks, her flowers,
She knew them not as hers--they were all ours.
And thus she loved in her imaginings
Our earth, and all its dumb and living things;
Oft whispering in her momentary glee,
It was the world I dwelt in; part of me:
And, bound by a sweet charm she might not break,
She look'd upon that world, and loved it for my sake.
'How shall I tell it? Linda, a dark pain
Is in my heart, and in my burning brain.--
Where is she?--where is Miriam?--who art thou?
Oh! wipe the death-dew from her pallid brow;
I dare not touch her! See, how still she lies,
Closing in weakness her averted eyes:
Gaspingly struggling for her gentle breath--
And stretching out her quivering limbs in death!
Will no one save her? Fool!--the shadow there
Is the creation of thine own despair.
No love, no agony, is in her heart:
In sin, in suffering, she hath now no part.
She is gone from thee--sooner doom'd to go
Than Nature meant; but thou didst will it so.
'Oh, Linda! the remembrance of that day,
When sad Xarifa's spirit pass'd away,
Haunted me ever with a power that thou,
Who hast not sinn'd or suffer'd, canst not know.
My joys were turn'd to miseries, and wrought
My heart into delirium; I thought
That, as she wept, so Miriam would weep,
And start and murmur in her troubled sleep:
That, as she doubted, Miriam too would find
A dark suspicion steal across her mind:
That, as she faded, Miriam too would fade,
And lose the smile that round her full lips play'd:
That as she perish'd--Miriam too would die,
And chide me with her last reproachful sigh.
Often when gazing on her open brow,
And the pure crimson of her soft cheek's glow--
Sudden, a dark unhappy change would seem
To fall upon her features like a dream.
In vain her merry voice, with laughing tone,
Bade the dim shadow from my heart begone:
Pale--pale and sorrowful--she seem'd to rise,
Death on her cheek, and darkness in her eyes;
The roundness of her form was gone, and care
Had blanch'd the tresses of her glossy hair.
Wan and reproachful, mournfully and mild
Her thin lips moved, and with an effort smiled.
And when with writhing agony I woke
From the delusion, and the dark spell broke;
And Miriam stood there, smiling brilliantly,
Shuddering, I said, 'And yet these things must be.'
Must be;--that young confiding heart must shrink
From my caress; the joyous eyes which drink
Light from the sunshine that doth play within,
Must grovel downcast with a sense of sin;
Or, startled into consciousness, will gaze
Bewilderingly upon the sunset rays;
And, meeting mine, with sorrow wild and deep,
Heart and eyes sinking, turn again to weep.
Yes, these things must be: if, when years have pass'd,
Each leaving her more fading than the last,
She turns to the companion of her track,
And, while her wandering thoughts roam sadly back,
Seeks in her soul the reason why his form
Laughs at the slow decay or ruffling storm,
That hath wreck'd better things;--while on her sight,
With the deep horrible glare, and certain light
Of hell to a lost soul, the slow truth breaks;
Till, as one wounded in his sleep, awakes
To writhe, and shriek, and perish--silently:
Her heart is roused--to comprehend and die.
'To die!--and wherefore should she not depart
Ere doubt hath agonized the trusting heart?
Wherefore not pass away from earth, ere yet
Its mossy bosom with her tears is wet?--
It was a summer's morning, when the first
Glance of that dreadful haunting vision burst
Upon my mind:--I doom'd her then to die,
For then I pictured to my heart and eye
A world where Miriam was not:--often after,
Amid the joyous ringing of her laughter,
In sunshine and in shade, those thoughts return'd,
Madden'd my brain, and in my bosom burn'd.
Oh, God! how bitter were those idle hours,
When softly bending o'er her fragrant flowers,
She form'd her innocent plans, and playfully
Spoke of that future which was not to be!
How bitter were her smiles--her perfect love--
Her deep reliance, which no frowns could move,
On the affections of my murderous heart,
Where the thought brooded,--when shall she depart?
As Jephthah gazed upon her smiling face,
Who bounded forth to claim his first embrace;
And felt, with breathless and bewilder'd pause,
Her early death foredoom'd--her love the cause:
As Jephthah struggled with the vow that still
Bound his pain'd soul against his own free will;
And heard her fond and meekly-worded prayer,
To climb the well-known hills, and wander there,
Weeping to think that in her virgin pride
The beautiful must perish--no man's bride;
And that her name must die away from earth;
And that her voice must leave the halls of mirth,
And they be not less mirthful: so to me
It was to gaze on Miriam silently:
Miriam, who loved me; who, if I had said,
'Lo! thou must perish--bow thy gentle head,'--
Would have repress'd each faint life-longing sigh,
Bared her white bosom, and knelt down to die,
Without a murmur.--So when she upraised
Her quiet eyes, and on my features gazed,
Asking me to come forth and roam with her
Around her favourite haunts, the maddening stir
Of agony and vain resolve would rend
My bosom, and to earth my proud head bend.
It seem'd to me as if that gentle prayer
She breathed--to bid farewell to all her share
Of life and sunshine; to behold again
The high bright happy hills and outstretch'd plain;
And then--come back and die. I left that isle,
And Miriam follow'd with a tearful smile,
Glad to be with me, sorrowful to go
From the dear scene of joy and transient woe.
As Eve to Eden--towards that land of rest
She gazed, then turn'd, and wept upon my breast.
To Italy's sweet shores we bent our course;
And for a while my grief and my remorse,
And all my fearful thoughts, forsook me, when
We mingled in the busy haunts of men.
But oh! the hour was fix'd--though long delay'd;
Like the poor felon's doom, which some reprieve hath stay'd.
'One night a dream disturb'd my frenzied soul.
Methought, to Miriam I confess'd the whole
Of what thou know'st, and watch'd her young glad face,
That on her brow her feelings I might trace.
Methought that, as I gazed, the flushing red
Once more upon her cheek and bosom spread,
As when she told her love; and then--and then--
(How strongly does that vision rise again!)
Each hue of life by gradual shades withdrew,
Till ev'n her dark blue eyes seem'd fading too.
Paler and paler--whiter and more white--
Gazing upon me in the ghastly light,
Her features grew; till all at length did seem
Like moving marble, in that sickly dream,
Except the faded eyes; they faintly kept
The hue of life, and look'd on me, and wept.
And still she spoke not, but stood weeping there,
Till I was madden'd with mine own despair--
And woke. She lay beside me, who was soon
To perish by my hand: the pale clear moon
O'er her fair form a marble whiteness threw,
And wild within my heart the madness grew.
I rush'd from out that chamber, and I stood
By the dim waters of the moon-lit flood;
And in that hour of frantic misery,
I thought my vision told how she would die,
Pining and weeping.--I return'd again,
And gazed upon her with a sickening pain.
Her fair soft arms were flung above her head,
And the deep rose of sleep her cheek was tinging:
The tear which all who follow me must shed,
Slept 'neath the lashes which those orbs were fringing.
And there she lay--so still, so statue-like--
I stagger'd to her--
I lifted up my desperate arm to strike--
Linda--I slew her!
Once--only once--she faintly strove to rise;
Once--only once--she call'd upon my name;
And o'er the dark blue heaven of those eyes,
Death, with its midnight shadows, slowly came.
That tone's despairing echo died away;
The last faint quivering pulsation ceased
To thrill that form of beauty, as it lay
From all the storms and cares of life released:
And I sat by the dead. Fast o'er my soul
A dream of memory's treasured relics stole.
And the day rose before me, and the hour,
When Miriam sat within her own sweet bower,
The red rich sunset lighting on her cheek;
Afraid to trust herself to move or speak,
Conscious and shrinking--while I strove to trace
Her bosom's secret on her guileless face.
I turn'd to press her to my burning heart--
I that had slain her--Wherefore did I start?
Cold, pure, and pale, that glowing cheek was laid,
And motionless each marble limb was lying;
Closed were those eyes which tears of passion shed,
And hush'd the voice that call'd on me in dying.
Gone!--gone!--that frozen bosom never more,
Press'd to mine own, in rapture shall be beating:
Gone!--gone!--her love, her struggles--all was o'er,
Life--weary life, would bring for us no meeting!
'They bore her from me, and they laid her low,
With all her beauty, in the cheerless tomb;
And dragg'd me forth, all weak with pain and woe,
Heedless of death, to meet a murderer's doom.
The wheel--the torturing wheel--was placed to tear
Each quivering limb, and wring forth drops of pain;
And they did mock me in my mute despair,
And point to it, and frown--but all in vain.
The hour at length arrived--a bright sweet day
Rose o'er the world of torture, and of crime;
And human blood-hounds and wild birds of prey
Waited with eagerness their feasting time.
And as I gazed, a wild hope sprang within
My feverish breast:--perchance this dreadful death
And my past sufferings might efface my sin;
And I might now resign my weary breath.
And as the blessed thought flash'd o'er my mind,
I gazed around, and smiled.--To die--to die--
Oh little thought those wolves of human kind,
What rapture in that word may sometimes lie!
They stripp'd my unresisting limbs, and bound;
And the huge ponderous engine gave a sound
Like a dull heavy echo of the moans,
The exhausted cries, the deep and sullen groans,
Of all its many victims. Through each vein
Thrill'd the strange sense of swift and certain pain;
And each strong muscle from the blood-stain'd rack,
Conscious of suffering, quiveringly shrank back.
But I rejoiced--I say I did rejoice:
And when from the loud multitude a voice
Cried 'Death!' I wildly echoed it, and said
'Death! Death! oh, lay me soon among the dead.'
And they did gaze on me with fiendish stare,
Half curiosity, and half the glare
Of bloody appetite; while to and fro,
Nearer and nearer, wheel'd the carrion crow,
As seeking where to strike.--A pause, and hark!
The signal sound!
When sudden as a dream, the heavens grew dark
On all around:
And the loud blast came sweeping in its wrath,
Scattering wide desolation o'er its path:
And the hoarse thunder struggled on its way;
And livid lightning mock'd the darken'd day
With its faint hellish lights.--They fled, that crowd,
With fearful shrieks, and cries, and murmurs loud,
And left me bound. The awful thunder crash'd
Above my head; and in my up-turn'd eyes
The gleams of forked fire brightly flash'd,
Then died along the dark and threatening skies:
And the wild howling of the fearful wind
Madden'd my ringing brain; while, swiftly driven,
The torrent showers fell all thick and blind,
Till mingling seem'd the earth and angry heaven,
A flash--a sound--a shock--and I was free--
Prostrate beside me lay the shiver'd wheel
In broken fragments--I groan'd heavily,
And for a while I ceased to breathe or feel.
'And I arose again, to know that death
Was not yet granted--that the feverish hope
Of yielding up in torture my cursed breath
Was quench'd for ever; and the boundless scope
Of weary life burst on my soul again,
Like the dim distance of the heaving main
On some lost mariner's faint failing eyes;
Who, fondly dreaming of his native shore,
(While in his throat the gurgling waters rise)
Fancies he breathes that welcome air once more,
And far across the bleak lone billows sees
Its blue cool rivers, and its shady trees;
Till when, upraised a moment by the wave,
He views the watery waste, and sickening draws
One long last gasping sigh for a green grave,
Ere helplessly he sinks in Ocean's yawning jaws.
'Night fell around. The quiet dews were weeping
Silently on the dark and mournful earth;
And Sorrow pale its sleepless watch was keeping,
And slumber weigh'd the closing lid of mirth;
While the full round-orb'd moon look'd calmly down
From her thin cloud, as from a light-wreathed crown:
And I went out beneath her silver beams;
And through my 'wilder'd brain there pass'd dark dreams
Of Miriam, and of misery, and death;
And of that tomb, and what lay hid beneath:
And I did lay my head upon that grave,
Weepingly calling on her gentle name;
And to the winds my grieving spirit gave
In words which half without my knowledge came:--
'Thou art gone, with all thy loveliness,
To the silence of the tomb,
Where the voice of friends can never bless,
Nor the cool sweet breezes come;
Deep, deep beneath the flowers bright,
Beneath the dark blue sky,
Which may not send its joyous light
To gladden those who die.
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone, and gone for ever--thou
In whom my life was bound:
The seal of death is on thy brow,
And in thy breast a wound.
Who could have slain thee, thou who wert
So helpless and so fair?
When strong arms rose to do thee hurt,
Why was not Isbal there?
Didst thou not call upon him in thy woe?
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone!--Oh! fain my heart would rest,
And dream--but thou art gone;
The head that lay upon my breast
Is hid beneath that stone.
And art thou there? and wilt thou ne'er
Rise up from that dark place,
And, shaking back thy glossy hair,
Laugh gladly in my face?
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
I loved thee--wherefore, wherefore didst thou go?
'Return, return! Oh! if the rack--
If nature's death-like strife,
Borne silently, could bring thee back
Once more to light, and life:
Ev'n if those lips that used to wreathe
Smiles that a glory shed,
Ne'er parted but in scorn, to breathe
Dark curses on my head:--
Oh! I could bear it all, nor think it woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Once more--once more--oh! yet once more!
If I could see thee stand,
A breathing creature, as before
I smote thee with this hand.
If that dear voice--oh! must these groans,
This agony be vain?
Will no one lift the ponderous stones,
And let thee rise again?
Thou wert not wont in life to work me woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?'
'And then I reason'd--Wherefore should the sod
Hold all of her, which hath not gone to God?
I have the power again that form to see--
I have the wish once more with her to be:
And wherefore should we fear to look upon
What, from our sight, some few short hours is gone?
Wherefore the thrill our senses which comes o'er
At sight of what shall breathe and feel no more?
Oh! Miriam, can there be indeed a place
Where I must dread to look upon thy face?--
And then I knelt, and desperately did tear
If I could bribe them by a Rose
If I could bribe them by a Rose
I'd bring them every flower that grows
From Amherst to Cashmere!
I would not stop for night, or storm—
Or frost, or death, or anyone—
My business were so dear!
If they would linger for a Bird
My Tambourin were soonest heard
Among the April Woods!
Unwearied, all the summer long,
Only to break in wilder song
When Winter shook the boughs!
What if they hear me!
Who shall say
That such an importunity
May not at last avail?
That, weary of this Beggar's face—
They may not finally say, Yes—
To drive her from the Hall?
I Hear Her Playing Music
I hear her playing music
In her room alone at night
She just moved in a month ago
She isn't gonna play the game
I though she'd smile
And come on slow
I still don't even know her name
She must like being lonely
Got no time for anyone
But I hear her play that stereo
Right through to the rising sun
I hear her playing music
In her room alone all night
Through the day she's so elusive
Staying safe and out of sight
If you say hello she lets it go
Cool and so polite
And I hear her playing music
In her room alone at night
Baby are you sad and lonely
Or did somebody do you wrong
'Cause I know that you need only
Look my way
And they'll play our song
And I love your nightly music
But you can't keep playing through
'Cause I'm having trouble sleeping
And when I do I dream of you
I thought I'd try and break the freeze
And win her heart with harmony
So I answered back
And played a stack of my favorite CD's
But she just doesn't hear me
Doesn't have a word to say
So I stay awake and turn it up
Hoping she'll look out my way
I hear her playing music
In her room alone at night
Through the day she's so elusive
Staying safe and out of sight
If you say hello she lets it go
Cool and so polite
And I hear her playing Dave Koz
In her room alone at night
In her room alone at night
Baby are you sad and lonely
Baby won't you tell me your name
I'm in my room alone at night
You're in your room alone at night
I Hear My Own Music
I hear my own music
My poem sounds to me
Like a poem-
But do you hear my poem
As a poem?
And do you feel the rhythm
Of a soul in tune
With its own doubtful singing?
Harp of Heavens Plucked a String
Harp of heavens plucked a string,
Vibrate its metal and iron rings
And the melody so pure, crafted fingers could play
Or is it master's art put into the fine tunes
Magician's spell of the silent night
Flee so pure in the heart of rhythm
Echoes the land, echoes the skies
And the night and day grey in dawn of a new era
Where a heart is born
The soulful music of harp, laughter of my friend
Puts to tune my rusty strings...
A Birthday Present
```Say what, to please you, you would have me be.''
Then listen, dear!
I fain would have you very fair to see,
And sweet to hear.
`You should have Aphrodite's form and face,
With Dian's tread;
And something of Minerva's lofty grace
Should crown your head.
`Summer should wander in your voice, and Spring
Gleam in your gaze,
And pure thoughts ripen in your heart that bring
Calm Autumn days.
`Yours should be winning ways that make Love live,
And ne'er grow old,
With ever something yet more sweet to give,
Which you withhold.
`You should have generous hopes that can beguile
Life's doubts and fears,
And, ever waiting on your April smile,
The gift of tears.
`You should be close to us as earth and sea,
And yet as far
As Heaven itself. In sooth, I'd have you be
Just what you are.'
Russia to the Pacifists
God rest you, peaceful gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
But--leave your sports a little while--the dead are borne
Armies dead and Cities dead, past all count or care.
God rest you, merry gentlemen, what portent see you there?
Singing:--Break ground for a wearied host
That have no ground to keep.
Give them the rest that they covet most . . .
And who shall next to sleep, good sirs,
In such a trench to sleep?
God rest you, peaceful gentlemen, but give us leave to pass.
We go to dig a nation's grave as great as England was.
For this Kingdom and this Glory and this Power and this Pride
Three hundred years it flourished--in three hundred days it
Singing:--Pour oil for a frozen throng,
That lie about the ways.
Give them the warmth they have lacked so
long . . .
And what shall be next to blaze, good sirs,
On such a pyre to blaze?
God rest you, thoughtful gentlemen, and send your sleep is light!
Remains of this dominion no shadow, sound, or sight,
Except the sound of weeping and the sight of burning fire,
And the shadow of a people that is trampled into mire.
Singing:--Break bread for a starving folk
That perish in the field.
Give them their food as they take the yoke . . .
And who shall be next to yield, good sirs,
For such a bribe to yield?
God rest you merry gentlemen, and keep you in your mirth!
Was ever Kingdom turned so soon to ashes, blood and earth?
'Twixt the summer and the snow-seeding-time and frost--
Arms and victual, hope and counsel, name and country lost!
Singing:--Let down by the foot and the head--
Shovel and smooth it all !
So do we bury a Nation dead . . .
And who shall be next to fall, good sirs,
With your good help to fall?
From Faust - Second Part - I.
WHEN in spring the gentle rain
Breathes into the flower new birth,
When the green and happy plain
Smiles upon the sons of earth,
Haste to give what help we may,
Little elves of wondrous might!
Whether good or evil they,
Pity for them feels the sprite.
CHORUS OF SPIRITS.
WHEN the moist and balmy gale
Round the verdant meadow sighs,
Odors sweet in misty veil
At the twilight-hour arise.
Murmurings soft of calm repose
Rock the heart to child-like rest,
And the day's bright portals close
On the eyes with toil oppress'd.
Night already reigns o'er all,
Strangely star is link'd to star;
Planets mighty, sparkling small,
Glitter near and gleam afar.
Gleam above in clearer night,
Glitter in the glassy sea;
Pledging pure and calm delight,
Rules the moon in majesty.
Now each well-known hour is over,
Joy and grief have pass'd away;
Feel betimes! thoult then recover:
Trust the newborn eye of day.
Vales grow verdant, hillocks teem,
Shady nooks the bushes yield,
And with waving, silvery gleam,
Rocks the harvest in the field.
Wouldst thou wish for wish obtain,
Look upon yon glittering ray!
Lightly on thee lies the chain,
Cast the shell of sleep away!
Tarry not, but be thou bold,
When the many loiter still;
All with ease may be controll'd
By the man of daring will.
HARK! the storm of hours draws near,
Loudly to the spirit-ear
Signs of coming day appear.
Rocky gates are wildly crashing,
Phoebus' wheels are onward dashing;
(A wonderful noise proclaims the approach of the sun.)
Light doth mighty sounds beget!
Pealing loud as rolling thunder,
Eye and ear it fills with wonder,
Though itself unconscious yet.
Downward steals it,'mongst the flowers
Seeking deeper, stiller bowers,
'Mongst the foliage, 'neath the rock;
Thou'lt be deafened by the shock!
The Four Seasons : Summer
From brightening fields of ether fair disclosed,
Child of the Sun, refulgent Summer comes,
In pride of youth, and felt through Nature's depth:
He comes attended by the sultry Hours,
And ever fanning breezes, on his way;
While, from his ardent look, the turning Spring
Averts her blushful face; and earth, and skies,
All-smiling, to his hot dominion leaves.
Hence, let me haste into the mid-wood shade,
Where scarce a sunbeam wanders through the gloom;
And on the dark-green grass, beside the brink
Of haunted stream, that by the roots of oak
Rolls o'er the rocky channel, lie at large,
And sing the glories of the circling year.
Come, Inspiration! from thy hermit-seat,
By mortal seldom found: may Fancy dare,
From thy fix'd serious eye, and raptured glance
Shot on surrounding Heaven, to steal one look
Creative of the Poet, every power
Exalting to an ecstasy of soul.
And thou, my youthful Muse's early friend,
In whom the human graces all unite:
Pure light of mind, and tenderness of heart;
Genius, and wisdom; the gay social sense,
By decency chastised; goodness and wit,
In seldom-meeting harmony combined;
Unblemish'd honour, and an active zeal
For Britain's glory, liberty, and Man:
O Dodington! attend my rural song,
Stoop to my theme, inspirit every line,
And teach me to deserve thy just applause.
With what an awful world-revolving power
Were first the unwieldy planets launch'd along
The illimitable void! thus to remain,
Amid the flux of many thousand years,
That oft has swept the toiling race of men,
And all their labour'd monuments away,
Firm, unremitting, matchless, in their course;
To the kind-temper'd change of night and day,
And of the seasons ever stealing round,
Minutely faithful: such the All-perfect hand!
That poised, impels, and rules the steady whole.
When now no more the alternate Twins are fired,
And Cancer reddens with the solar blaze,
Short is the doubtful empire of the night;
And soon, observant of approaching day,
The meek'd-eyed Morn appears, mother of dews,
At first faint-gleaming in the dappled east:
Till far o'er ether spreads the widening glow;
And, from before the lustre of her face,
White break the clouds away. With quicken'd step,
Brown Night retires: young Day pours in apace,
And opens all the lawny prospect wide.
The dripping rock, the mountain's misty top
Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn.
Blue, through the dusk, the smoking currents shine;
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps, awkward: while along the forest-glade
The wild deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. Music awakes
The native voice of undissembled joy;
And thick around the woodland hymns arise.
Roused by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with Peace he dwells;
And from the crowded fold, in order, drives
His flock, to taste the verdure of the morn.
Falsely luxurious! will not Man awake;
And, springing from the bed of sloth, enjoy
The cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,
To meditation due and sacred song?
For is there ought in sleep can charm the wise?
To lie in dead oblivion, losing half
The fleeting moments of too short a life;
Total extinction of the enlightened soul!
Or else to feverish vanity alive,
Wilder'd, and tossing through distemper'd dreams?
Who would in such a gloomy state remain
Longer than Nature craves; when every Muse
And every blooming pleasure wait without,
To bless the wildly-devious morning-walk?
But yonder comes the powerful King of Day,
Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud,
The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow
Illumed with fluid gold, his near approach
Betoken glad. Lo! now, apparent all,
Aslant the dew-bright earth, and colour'd air,
He looks in boundless majesty abroad;
And sheds the shining day, that burnish'd plays
On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering streams,
High gleaming from afar. Prime cheerer, Light!
Of all material beings first, and best!
Efflux divine! Nature's resplendent robe!
Without whose vesting beauty all were wrapt
In unessential gloom; and thou, O Sun!
Soul of surrounding worlds! in whom best seen
Shines out thy Maker! may I sing of thee?
'Tis by thy secret, strong, attractive force,
As with a chain indissoluble bound,
Thy system rolls entire: from the far bourne
Of utmost Saturn, wheeling wide his round
Of thirty years, to Mercury, whose disk
Can scarce be caught by philosophic eye,
Lost in the near effulgence of thy blaze.
Informer of the planetary train!
Without whose quickening glance their cumbrous orbs
Were brute unlovely mass, inert and dead,
And not, as now, the green abodes of life!
How many forms of being wait on thee!
Inhaling spirit; from the unfetter'd mind,
By thee sublimed, down to the daily race,
The mixing myriads of thy setting beam.
The vegetable world is also thine,
Parent of Seasons! who the pomp precede
That waits thy throne, as through thy vast domain,
Annual, along the bright ecliptic road,
In world-rejoicing state, it moves sublime.
Meantime the expecting nations, circled gay
With all the various tribes of foodful earth,
Implore thy bounty, or send grateful up
A common hymn: while, round thy beaming car,
High-seen, the Seasons lead, in sprightly dance
Harmonious knit, the rosy-finger'd Hours,
The Zephyrs floating loose, the timely Rains,
Of bloom ethereal the light-footed Dews,
And softened into joy the surly Storms.
These, in successive turn, with lavish hand,
Shower every beauty, every fragrance shower,
Herbs, flowers, and fruits; and, kindling at thy touch,
From land to land is flush'd the vernal year.
Nor to the surface of enliven'd earth,
Graceful with hills and dales, and leafy woods,
Her liberal tresses, is thy force confined:
But, to the bowel'd cavern darting deep,
The mineral kinds confess thy mighty power.
Effulgent, hence the veiny marble shines;
Hence Labour draws his tools; hence burnish'd War
Gleams on the day; the nobler works of Peace
Hence bless mankind, and generous Commerce binds
The round of nations in a golden chain.
The unfruitful rock itself, impregn'd by thee,
In dark retirement forms the lucid stone.
The lively diamond drinks thy purest rays,
Collected light, compact; that, polish'd bright,
And all its native lustre let abroad,
Dares, as it sparkles on the fair-one's breast,
With vain ambition emulate her eyes.
At thee the ruby lights its deepening glow,
And with a waving radiance inward flames.
From thee the sapphire, solid ether, takes
Its hue cerulean; and, of evening tinct,
The purple-streaming amethyst is thine.
With thy own smile the yellow topaz burns.
Nor deeper verdure dyes the robe of Spring,
When first she gives it to the southern gale,
Than the green emerald shows. But, all combined,
Thick through the whitening opal play thy beams;
Or, flying several from its surface, form
A trembling variance of revolving hues,
As the site varies in the gazer's hand.
The very dead creation, from thy touch,
Assumes a mimic life. By thee refined,
In brighter mazes the relucent stream
Plays o'er the mead. The precipice abrupt,
Projecting horror on the blacken'd flood,
Softens at thy return. The desert joys,
Wildly, through all his melancholy bounds.
Rude ruins glitter; and the briny deep,
Seen from some pointed promontory's top,
Far to the blue horizon's utmost verge,
Restless, reflects a floating gleam. But this,
And all the much-transported Muse can sing,
Are to thy beauty, dignity, and use,
Unequal far; great delegated source
Of light, and life, and grace, and joy below!
How shall I then attempt to sing of Him!
Who, Light Himself, in uncreated light
Invested deep, dwells awfully retired
From mortal eye, or angel's purer ken;
Whose single smile has, from the first of time,
Fill'd, overflowing, all those lamps of Heaven,
That beam for ever through the boundless sky:
But, should he hide his face, the astonish'd sun,
And all the extinguish'd stars, would loosening reel
Wide from their spheres, and Chaos come again.
And yet was every faltering tongue of Man,
Almighty Father! silent in thy praise;
Thy Works themselves would raise a general voice,
E'en in the depth of solitary woods
By human foot untrod; proclaim thy power,
And to the quire celestial Thee resound,
The eternal cause, support, and end of all!
To me be Nature's volume broad display'd;
And to peruse its all instructing page,
Or, haply catching inspiration thence,
Some easy passage, raptured, to translate,
My sole delight; as through the falling glooms
Pensive I stray, or with the rising dawn
On Fancy's eagle-wing excursive soar.
Now, flaming up the heavens, the potent sun
Melts into limpid air the high-raised clouds,
And morning fogs, that hover'd round the hills
In party-colour'd bands; till wide unveil'd
The face of Nature shines, from where earth seems,
Far-stretch'd around, to meet the bending sphere.
Half in a blush of clustering roses lost,
Dew-dropping Coolness to the shade retires;
There, on the verdant turf, or flowery bed,
By gelid founts and careless rills to muse;
While tyrant Heat, dispreading through the sky,
With rapid sway, his burning influence darts
On man, and beast, and herb, and tepid stream.
Who can unpitying see the flowery race,
Shed by the morn, their new-flush'd bloom resign,
Before the parching beam? so fade the fair,
When fevers revel through their azure veins.
But one the lofty follower of the sun,
Sad when he sets, shuts up her yellow leaves,
Drooping all night; and, when he warm returns,
Points her enamour'd bosom to his ray.
Home, from his morning task, the swain retreats;
His flock before him stepping to the fold:
While the full-udder'd mother lows around
The cheerful cottage, then expecting food,
The food of innocence and health! the daw,
The rook, and magpie, to the grey-grown oaks
That the calm village in their verdant arms,
Sheltering, embrace, direct their lazy flight;
Where on the mingling boughs they sit embower'd,
All the hot noon, till cooler hours arise.
Faint, underneath, the household fowls convene;
And, in a corner of the buzzing shade,
The house-dog, with the vacant greyhound, lies,
Out-stretch'd, and sleepy. In his slumbers one
Attacks the nightly thief, and one exults
O'er hill and dale; till, waken'd by the wasp,
They starting snap. Nor shall the Muse disdain
To let the little noisy summer race
Live in her lay, and flutter through her song:
Not mean though simple; to the sun ally'd,
From him they draw their animating fire.
Waked by his warmer ray, the reptile young
Come wing'd abroad; by the light air upborne,
Lighter, and full of soul. From every chink
And secret corner, where they slept away
The wintry storms; or rising from their tombs,
To higher life; by myriads, forth at once,
Swarming they pour; of all the varied hues
Their beauty-beaming parent can disclose.
Ten thousand forms, ten thousand different tribes,
People the blaze. To sunny waters some
By fatal instinct fly; where on the pool
They, sportive, wheel: or, sailing down the stream,
Are snatch'd immediate by the quick-eyed trout,
Or darting salmon. Through the green-wood glade
Some love to stray; there lodged, amused, and fed,
In the fresh leaf. Luxurious, others make
The meads their choice, and visit every flower,
And every latent herb: for the sweet task,
To propagate their kinds, and where to wrap,
In what soft beds, their young yet undisclosed,
Employs their tender care. Some to the house,
The fold, and dairy, hungry bend their flight;
Sip round the pail, or taste the curdling cheese;
Oft, inadvertent, from the milky stream
They meet their fate; or, weltering in the bowl,
With powerless wings around them wrapt, expire.
But chief to heedless flies the window proves
A constant death; where, gloomily retired,
The villain spider lives, cunning, and fierce,
Mixture abhorr'd! amid a mangled heap
Of carcasses, in eager watch he sits,
O'erlooking all his waving snares around.
Near the dire cell the dreadless wanderer oft
Passes, as oft the russian shows his front;
The prey at last ensnared, he dreadful darts,
With rapid glide, along the leaning line;
And, fixing in the wretch his cruel fangs,
Strikes backward grimly pleased; the fluttering wing
And shriller sound declare extreme distress,
And ask the helping hospitable hand.
Resounds the living surface of the ground:
Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum,
To him who muses through the woods at noon;
Or drowsy shepherd, as he lies reclined,
With half-shut eyes, beneath the floating shade
Of willows grey, close crowding o'er the brook.
Gradual, from these what numerous kinds descend,
Evading e'en the microscopic eye?
Full Nature swarms with life; one wondrous mass
Of animals, or atoms organized,
Waiting the vital breath, when parent Heaven
Shall bid his spirit blow. The hoary fen,
In putrid steams, emits the living cloud
Of pestilence. Through subterranean cells,
Where searching sunbeams scarce can find a way,
Earth animated heaves. The flowery leaf
Wants not its soft inhabitants. Secure,
Within its winding citadel, the stone
Holds multitudes. But chief the forest boughs,
That dance unnumber'd to the playful breeze,
The downy orchard, and the melting pulp
Of mellow fruit, the nameless nations feed
Of evanescent insects. Where the pool
Stands mantled o'er with green, invisible,
Amid the floating verdure millions stray.
Each liquid too, whether it pierces, soothes,
Inflames, refreshes, or exalts the taste,
With various forms abounds. Nor is the stream
Of purest crystal, nor the lucid air,
Though one transparent vacancy it seems,
Void of their unseen people. These, conceal'd
By the kind art of forming Heaven, escape
The grosser eye of man: for, if the worlds
In worlds inclosed should on his senses burst,
From cates ambrosial, and the nectar'd bowl,
He would abhorrent turn; and in dead night,
When silence sleeps o'er all, be stunn'd with noise.
Let no presuming impious railer tax
Creative Wisdom, as if ought was form'd
In vain, or not for admirable ends.
Shall little haughty Ignorance pronounce
His works unwise, of which the smallest part
Exceeds the narrow vision of her mind?
As if upon a full proportion'd dome,
On swelling columns heaved, the pride of art!
A critic fly, whose feeble ray scarce spreads
An inch around, with blind presumption bold,
Should dare to tax the structure of the whole.
And lives the man, whose universal eye
Has swept at once the unbounded scheme of things;
Mark'd their dependance so, and firm accord,
As with unfaltering accent to conclude
That this availeth nought? Has any seen
The mighty chain of beings, lessening down
From Infinite Perfection to the brink
Of dreary nothing, desolate abyss!
From which astonish'd thought, recoiling, turns?
Till then alone let zealous praise ascend,
And hymns of holy wonder, to that Power,
Whose wisdom shines as lovely on our minds,
As on our smiling eyes his servant-sun.
Thick in yon stream of light, a thousand ways,
Upward, and downward, thwarting, and convolved,
The quivering nations sport; till, tempest-wing'd,
Fierce Winter sweeps them from the face of day.
E'en so luxurious men, unheeding, pass
An idle summer life in fortune's shine,
A season's glitter! thus they flutter on
From toy to toy, from vanity to vice;
Till, blown away by death, oblivion comes
Behind, and strikes them from the book of life.
Now swarms the village o'er the jovial mead:
The rustic youth, brown with meridian toil,
Healthful and strong; full as the summer-rose
Blown by prevailing suns, the ruddy maid,
Half naked, swelling on the sight, and all
Her kindled graces burning o'er her cheek.
E'en stooping age is here; and infant hands
Trail the long rake, or, with the fragrant load
O'ercharged, amid the kind oppression roll.
Wide flies the tedded grain; all in a row
Advancing broad, or wheeling round the field,
They spread the breathing harvest to the sun,
That throws refreshful round a rural smell:
Or, as they rake the green-appearing ground,
And drive the dusky wave along the mead,
The russet hay-cock rises thick behind,
In order gay. While heard from dale to dale,
Waking the breeze, resounds the blended voice
Of happy labour, love, and social glee.
Or rushing thence, in one diffusive band,
They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog
Compell'd, to where the mazy-running brook
Forms a deep pool; this bank abrupt and high,
And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore.
Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil,
The clamour much, of men, and boys, and dogs,
Ere the soft fearful people to the flood
Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain,
On some impatient seizing, hurls them in:
Embolden'd then, nor hesitating more,
Fast, fast, they plunge amid the flashing wave,
And panting labour to the farthest shore.
Repeated this, till deep the well-wash'd fleece
Has drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt,
The trout is banish'd by the sordid stream;
Heavy, and dripping, to the breezy brow
Slow more the harmless race: where, as they spread
Their swelling treasures to the sunny ray,
Inly disturb'd, and wondering what this wild
Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints
The country fill; and, toss'd from rock to rock,
Incessant bleatings run around the hills.
At last, of snowy white, the gather'd flocks
Are in the wattled pen innumerous press'd,
Head above head: and ranged in lusty rows
The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears.
The housewife waits to roll her fleecy stores,
With all her gay-drest maids attending round.
One, chief, in gracious dignity enthroned,
Shines o'er the rest, the pastoral queen, and rays
Her smiles, sweet-beaming, on her shepherd-king;
While the glad circle round them yield their souls
To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall.
Meantime, their joyous task goes on apace:
Some mingling stir the melted tar, and some,
Deep on the new-shorn vagrant's heaving side,
To stamp the master's cypher ready stand;
Others the unwilling wether drag along;
And, glorying in his might, the sturdy boy
Holds by the twisted horns the indignant ram.
Behold where bound, and of its robe bereft,
By needy man, that all-depending lord,
How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies!
What softness in its melancholy face,
What dumb complaining innocence appears!
Fear not, ye gentle tribes, 'tis not the knife
Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved;
No, 'tis the tender swain's well-guided shears,
Who having now, to pay his annual care,
Borrow'd your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,
Will send you bounding to your hills again.
A simple scene! yet hence Britannia sees
Her solid grandeur rise: hence she commands
The exalted stores of every brighter clime,
The treasures of the Sun without his rage:
Hence, fervent all, with culture, toil, and arts,
Wide glows her land: her dreadful thunder hence
Rides o'er the waves sublime, and now, e'en now,
Impending hangs o'er Gallia's humbled coast;
Hence rules the circling deep, and awes the world.
'Tis raging noon; and, vertical, the sun
Darts on the head direct his forceful rays.
O'er heaven and earth, far as the ranging eye
Can sweep, a dazzling deluge reigns; and all
From pole to pole is undistinguish'd blaze.
In vain the sight, dejected, to the ground
Stoops for relief; thence hot-ascending steams
And keen reflection pain. Deep to the root
Of vegetation parch'd, the cleaving fields
And slippery lawn an arid hue disclose,
Blast Fancy's bloom, and wither e'en the soul.
Echo no more returns the cheerful sound
Of sharpening scythe: the mower sinking heaps
O'er him the humid hay, with flowers perfumed;
And scarce a chirping grasshopper is heard
Through the dumb mead. Distressful Nature pants.
The very streams look languid from afar;
Or, through the unshelter'd glade, impatient, seem
To hurl into the covert of the grove.
All-conquering Heat, oh intermit thy wrath!
And on my throbbing temples potent thus
Beam not so fierce! incessant still you flow,
And still another fervent flood succeeds,
Pour'd on the head profuse. In vain I sigh,
And restless turn, and look around for night;
Night is far off; and hotter hours approach.
Thrice happy he! who on the sunless side
Of a romantic mountain, forest-crown'd,
Beneath the whole collected shade reclines:
Or in the gelid caverns, woodbine-wrought,
And fresh bedew'd with ever-spouting streams,
Sits coolly calm; while all the world without,
Unsatisfied, and sick, tosses in noon.
Emblem instructive of the virtuous man,
Who keeps his temper'd mind serene and pure,
And every passion aptly harmonized,
Amid a jarring world with vice inflamed.
Welcome, ye shades! ye bowery thickets, hail!
Ye lofty pines! ye venerable oaks!
Ye ashes wild, resounding o'er the steep!
Delicious is your shelter to the soul,
As to the hunted hart the sallying spring,
Or stream full-flowing, that his swelling sides
Laves, as he floats along the herbaged brink.
Cool, through the nerves, your pleasing comfort glides;
The heart beats glad; the fresh-expanded eye
And ear resume their watch; the sinews knit;
And life shoots swift through all the lighten'd limbs.
Around the adjoining brook, that purls along
The vocal grove, now fretting o'er a rock,
Now scarcely moving through a reedy pool,
Now starting to a sudden stream, and now
Gently diffused into a limpid plain;
A various group the herds and flocks compose,
Rural confusion! on the grassy bank
Some ruminating lie; while others stand
Half in the flood, and often bending sip
The circling surface. In the middle droops
The strong laborious ox, of honest front,
Which incomposed he shakes; and from his sides
The troublous insects lashes with his tail,
Returning still. Amid his subjects safe,
Slumbers the monarch-swain; his careless arm
Thrown round his head, on downy moss sustain'd;
Here laid his scrip, with wholesome viands fill'd;
There, listening every noise, his watchful dog.
Light fly his slumbers, if perchance a flight
Of angry gad-flies fasten on the herd;
That startling scatters from the shallow brook,
In search of lavish stream. Tossing the foam,
They scorn the keeper's voice, and scour the plain,
Through all the bright severity of noon;
While, from their labouring breasts, a hollow moan
Proceeding, runs low-bellowing round the hills.
Oft in this season too the horse, provoked,
While his big sinews full of spirits swell,
Trembling with vigour, in the heat of blood,
Springs the high fence; and, o'er the field effused,
Darts on the gloomy flood, with steadfast eye,
And heart estranged to fear: his nervous chest,
Luxuriant, and erect, the seat of strength!
Bears down the opposing stream: quenchless his thirst;
He takes the river at redoubled draughts;
And with wide nostrils, snorting, skims the wave.
Still let me pierce into the midnight depth
Of yonder grove, of wildest largest growth:
That, forming high in air a woodland quire,
Nods o'er the mount beneath. At every step,
Solemn and slow, the shadows blacker fall,
And all is awful listening gloom around.
These are the haunts of Meditation, these
The scenes where ancient bards the inspiring breath,
Ecstatic, felt; and, from this world retired,
Conversed with angels, and immortal forms,
On gracious errands bent: to save the fall
Of virtue struggling on the brink of vice;
In waking whispers, and repeated dreams,
To hint pure thought, and warn the favour'd soul
For future trials fated to prepare;
To prompt the poet, who devoted gives
His muse to better themes; to soothe the pangs
Of dying worth, and from the patriot's breast
(Backward to mingle in detested war,
But foremost when engaged) to turn the death;
And numberless such offices of love,
Daily, and nightly, zealous to perform.
Shook sudden from the bosom of the sky,
A thousand shapes or glide athwart the dusk,
Or stalk majestic on. Deep-roused, I feel
A sacred terror, a severe delight,
Creep through my mortal frame; and thus, me-thinks,
A voice than human more, the abstracted ear
Of fancy strikes:—“Be not of us afraid,
Poor kindred man! thy fellow-creatures, we
From the same Parent-Power our beings drew,
The same our Lord, and laws, and great pursuit.
Once some of us, like thee, through stormy life,
Toil'd, tempest-beaten, ere we could attain
This holy calm, this harmony of mind,
Where purity and peace immingle charms.
Then fear not us; but with responsive song,
Amid these dim recesses, undisturb'd
By noisy folly and discordant vice,
Of Nature sing with us, and Nature's God.
Here frequent, at the visionary hour,
When musing midnight reigns or silent noon,
Angelic harps are in full concert heard,
And voices chanting from the wood-crown'd hill,
The deepening dale, or inmost sylvan glade:
A privilege bestow'd by us, alone,
On Contemplation, or the hallow'd ear
Of poet, swelling to seraphic strain.”
And art thou, Stanley, of that sacred band?
Alas, for us too soon! though raised above
The reach of human pain, above the flight
Of human joy; yet, with a mingled ray
Of sadly pleased remembrance, must thou feel
A mother's love, a mother's tender woe:
Who seeks thee still, in many a former scene;
Seeks thy fair form, thy lovely beaming eyes,
Thy pleasing converse, by gay lively sense
Inspired: where moral wisdom mildly shone,
Without the toil of art; and virtue glow'd,
In all her smiles, without forbidding pride.
But, O thou best of parents! wipe thy tears;
Or rather to Parental Nature pay
The tears of grateful joy, who for a while
Lent thee this younger self, this opening bloom
Of thy enlighten'd mind and gentle worth.
Believe the Muse: the wintry blast of death
Kills not the buds of virtue; no, they spread,
Beneath the heavenly beam of brighter suns,
Through endless ages, into higher powers.
Thus up the mount, in airy vision wrapt,
I stray, regardless whither; till the sound
Of a near fall of water every sense
Wakes from the charm of thought: swift-shrinking back,
I check my steps, and view the broken scene.
Smooth to the shelving brink a copious flood
Rolls fair, and placid; where collected all,
In one impetuous torrent, down the steep
It thundering shoots, and shakes the country round.
At first, an azure sheet, it rushes broad;
Then whitening by degrees, as prone it falls,
And from the loud-resounding rocks below
Dash'd in a cloud of foam, it sends aloft
A hoary mist, and forms a ceaseless shower.
Nor can the tortured wave here find repose:
But, raging still amid the shaggy rocks,
Now flashes o'er the scatter'd fragments, now
Aslant the hollow channel rapid darts;
And falling fast from gradual slope to slope,
With wild infracted course, and lessen'd roar,
It gains a safer bed, and steals, at last,
Along the mazes of the quiet vale.
Invited from the cliff, to whose dark brow
He clings, the steep-ascending eagle soars,
With upward pinions through the flood of day;
And, giving full his bosom to the blaze,
Gains on the sun; while all the tuneful race,
Smit by afflictive noon, disorder'd droop,
Deep in the thicket; or, from bower to bower
Responsive, force an interrupted strain.
The stock-dove only through the forest cooes,
Mournfully hoarse; oft ceasing from his plaint,
Short interval of weary woe! again
The sad idea of his murder'd mate,
Struck from his side by savage fowler's guile,
Across his fancy comes; and then resounds
A louder song of sorrow through the grove.
Beside the dewy border let me sit,
All in the freshness of the humid air:
There in that hollow'd rock, grotesque and wild,
An ample chair moss-lined, and over head
By flowering umbrage shaded; where the bee
Strays diligent, and with the extracted balm
Of fragrant woodbine loads his little thigh.
Now, while I taste the sweetness of the shade,
While Nature lies around deep-lull'd in noon,
Now come, bold Fancy, spread a daring flight,
And view the wonders of the torrid zone:
Climes unrelenting! with whose rage compared,
Yon blaze is feeble, and yon skies are cool.
See, how at once the bright effulgent sun,
Rising direct, swift chases from the sky
The short-lived twilight; and with ardent blaze
Looks gaily fierce through all the dazzling air:
He mounts his throne; but kind before him sends,
Issuing from out the portals of the morn,
The general breeze, to mitigate his fire,
And breathe refreshment on a fainting world.
Great are the scenes, with dreadful beauty crown'd
And barbarous wealth, that see, each circling year,
Returning suns and double seasons pass:
Rocks rich in gems, and mountains big with mines,
That on the high equator ridgy rise,
Whence many a bursting stream auriferous plays:
Majestic woods, of every vigorous green,
Stage above stage, high waving o'er the hills;
Or to the far horizon wide diffused,
A boundless deep immensity of shade.
Here lofty trees, to ancient song unknown,
The noble sons of potent heat and floods
Prone-rushing from the clouds, rear high to Heaven
Their thorny stems, and broad around them throw
Meridian gloom. Here, in eternal prime,
Unnumber'd fruits of keen delicious taste
And vital spirit, drink amid the cliffs,
And burning sands that bank the shrubby vales,
Redoubled day, yet in their rugged coats
A friendly juice to cool its rage contain.
Bear me, Pomona! to thy citron groves;
To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
Beneath the spreading tamarind that shakes,
Fann'd by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit.
Deep in the night the massy locust sheds,
Quench my hot limbs; or lead me through the maze,
Embowering endless, of the Indian fig;
Or thrown at gayer ease, on some fair brow,
Let me behold, by breezy murmurs cool'd,
Broad o'er my head the verdant cedar wave,
And high palmetos lift their graceful shade.
Or stretch'd amid these orchards of the sun,
Give me to drain the cocoa's milky bowl,
And from the palm to draw its freshening wine!
More bounteous far than all the frantic juice
Which Bacchus pours. Nor, on its slender twigs
Low-bending, be the full pomegranate scorn'd;
Nor, creeping through the woods, the gelid race
Of berries. Oft in humble station dwells
Unboastful worth, above fastidious pomp.
Witness, thou best Anana, thou the pride
Of vegetable life, beyond whate'er
The poets imaged in the golden age:
Quick let me strip thee of thy tufty coat,
Spread thy ambrosial stores, and feast with Jove!
From these the prospect varies. Plains immense
Lie stretch'd below, interminable meads,
And vast savannahs, where the wandering eye,
Unfix'd, is in a verdant ocean lost.
Another Flora there, of bolder hues,
And richer sweets, beyond our garden's pride,
Plays o'er the fields, and showers with sudden hand
Exuberant spring: for oft these valleys shift
Their green embroider'd robe to fiery brown,
And swift to green again, as scorching suns,
Or streaming dews and torrent rains, prevail.
Along these lonely regions, where, retired
From little scenes of art, great Nature dwells
In awful solitude, and nought is seen
But the wild herds that own no master's stall,
Prodigious rivers roll their fattening seas:
On whose luxuriant herbage, half-conceal'd,
Like a fallen cedar, far diffused his train,
Cased in green scales, the crocodile extends.
The flood disparts: behold! in plaited mail
Behemoth rears his head. Glanced from his side,
The darted steel in idle shivers flies:
He fearless walks the plain, or seeks the hills;
Where, as he crops his varied fare, the herds,
In widening circle round, forget their food,
And at the harmless stranger wondering gaze.
Peaceful, beneath primeval trees, that cast
Their ample shade o'er Niger's yellow stream,
And where the Ganges rolls his sacred wave;
Or mid the central depth of blackening woods,
High raised in solemn theatre around,
Leans the huge elephant: wisest of brutes!
O truly wise, with gentle might endow'd,
Though powerful, not destructive! here he sees
Revolving ages sweep the changeful earth,
And empires rise and fall; regardless he
Of what the never-resting race of men
Project: thrice happy! could he 'scape their guile,
Who mine, from cruel avarice, his steps;
Or with his towery grandeur swell their state,
The pride of kings! or else his strength pervert,
And bid him rage amid the mortal fray,
Astonish'd at the madness of mankind.
Wide o'er the winding umbrage of the floods,
Like vivid blossoms glowing from afar,
Thick swarm the brighter birds. For Nature's hand,
That with a sportive vanity has deck'd
The plumy nations, there her gayest hues
Profusely pours. But, if she bids them shine,
Array'd in all the beauteous beams of day,
Yet frugal still, she humbles them in song.
Nor envy we the gaudy robes they lent
Proud Montezuma's realm, whose legions cast
A boundless radiance waving on the sun,
While Philomel is ours; while in our shades,
Through the soft silence of the listening night,
The sober-suited songstress trills her lay.
But come, my Muse, the desert-barrier burst,
A wild expanse of lifeless sand and sky:
And, swifter than the toiling caravan,
Shoot o'er the vale of Sennar; ardent climb
The Nubian mountains, and the secret bounds
Of jealous Abyssinia boldly pierce.
Thou art no ruffian, who beneath the mask
Of social commerce comest to rob their wealth;
No holy fury thou, blaspheming Heaven,
With consecrated steel to stab their peace,
And through the land, yet red from civil wounds,
To spread the purple tyranny of Rome.
Thou, like the harmless bee, mayst freely range,
From mead to mead bright with exalted flowers,
From jasmine grove to grove mayst wander gay,
Through palmy shades and aromatic woods,
That grace the plains, invest the peopled hills,
And up the more than Alpine mountains wave.
There on the breezy summit, spreading fair,
For many a league; or on stupendous rocks,
That from the sun-redoubling valley lift,
Cool to the middle air, their lawny tops;
Where palaces, and fanes, and villas rise;
And gardens smile around, and cultured fields;
And fountains gush; and careless herds and flocks
Securely stray; a world within itself,
Disdaining all assault: there let me draw
Ethereal soul, there drink reviving gales,
Profusely breathing from the spicy groves,
And vales of fragrance; there at distance hear
The roaring floods, and cataracts, that sweep
From disembowel'd earth the virgin gold;
And o'er the varied landscape, restless, rove,
Fervent with life of every fairer kind:
A land of wonders! which the sun still eyes
With ray direct, as of the lovely realm
Enamour'd, and delighting there to dwell.
How changed the scene! in blazing height of noon,
The sun, oppress'd, is plunged in thickest gloom.
Still horror reigns, a dreary twilight round,
Of struggling night and day malignant mix'd.
For to the hot equator crowding fast,
Where, highly rarefied, the yielding air
Admits their stream, incessant vapours roll,
Amazing clouds on clouds continual heap'd;
Or whirl'd tempestuous by the gusty wind,
Or silent borne along, heavy, and slow,
With the big stores of steaming oceans charged.
Meantime, amid these upper seas, condensed
Around the cold aërial mountain's brow,
And by conflicting winds together dash'd,
The thunder holds his black tremendous throne;
From cloud to cloud the rending lightnings rage;
Till, in the furious elemental war
Dissolved, the whole precipitated mass
Unbroken floods and solid torrents pours.
The treasures these, hid from the bounded search
Of ancient knowledge; whence, with annual pomp,
Rich king of floods! o'erflows the swelling Nile.
From his two springs, in Gojam's sunny realm,
Pure-welling out, he through the lucid lake
Of fair Dambea rolls his infant stream.
There, by the naiads nursed, he sports away
His playful youth, amid the fragant isles,
That with unfading verdure smile around.
Ambitious, thence the manly river breaks;
And gathering many a flood, and copious fed
With all the mellow'd treasures of the sky,
Winds in progressive majesty along:
Through splendid kingdoms now devolves his maze,
Now wanders wild o'er solitary tracts
Of life-deserted sand; till, glad to quit
The joyless desert, down the Nubian rocks
From thundering steep to steep, he pours his urn,
And Egypt joys beneath the spreading wave.
His brother Niger too, and all the floods
In which the full-form'd maids of Afric lave
Their jetty limbs; and all that from the tract
Of woody mountains stretch'd through gorgeous
Fall on Cor'mandel's coast, or Malabar;
From Menam's orient stream, that nightly shines
With insect-lamps, to where Aurora sheds
On Indus' smiling banks the rosy shower:
All, at this bounteous season, ope their urns,
And pour untoiling harvest o'er the land.
Nor less thy world, Columbus, drinks, refresh'd,
The lavish moisture of the melting year.
Wide o'er his isles, the branching Oronoque
Rolls a brown deluge; and the native drives
To dwell aloft on life-sufficing trees,
At once his dome, his robe, his food, and arms.
Swell'd by a thousand streams, impetuous hurl'd
From all the roaring Andes, huge decends
The mighty Orellana. Scarce the Muse
Dares stretch her wing o'er this enormous mass
Of rushing water; scarce she dares attempt
The sea-like Plata; to whose dread expanse,
Continuous depth, and wondrous length of course,
Our floods are rills. With unabated force,
In silent dignity they sweep along,
And traverse realms unknown, and blooming wilds,
And fruitful deserts, worlds of solitude,
Where the sun smiles and seasons teem in vain,
Unseen and unenjoy'd. Forsaking these,
O'er peopled plains they fair-diffusive flow,
And many a nation feed, and circle safe,
In their soft bosom, many a happy isle;
The seat of blameless Pan, yet undisturb'd
By christian crimes and Europe's cruel sons.
Thus pouring on they proudly seek the deep,
Whose vanquish'd tide recoiling from the shock,
Yields to the liquid weight of half the globe;
And Ocean trembles for his green domain.
But what avails this wondrous waste of wealth?
This gay profusion of luxurious bliss?
This pomp of Nature? what their balmy meads,
Their powerful herbs, and Ceres void of pain?
By vagrant birds dispersed and wafting winds,
What their unplanted fruits? what the cool draughts,
The ambrosial food, rich gums, and spicy health,
Their forests yield? their toiling insects what?
Their silky pride, and vegetable robes?
Ah! what avail their fatal treasures, hid
Deep in the bowels of the pitying earth,
Golconda's gems, and sad Potosi's mines;
Where dwelt the gentlest children of the sun?
What all that Afric's golden rivers roll,
Her odorous woods, and shining ivory stores?
Ill-fated race! the softening arts of Peace,
Whate'er the humanizing Muses teach;
The godlike wisdom of the temper'd breast;
Progressive truth, the patient force of thought;
Investigation calm, whose silent powers
Command the world; the light that leads to Heaven;
Kind equal rule, the goverment of laws,
And all-protecting Freedom, which alone
Sustains the name and dignity of man:
These are not theirs. The parent sun himself
Seems o'er this world of slaves to tyrannize;
And, with oppressive ray, the roseate bloom
Of beauty blasting, gives the gloomy hue,
And feature gross: or worse, to ruthless deeds,
Mad jealousy, blind rage, and fell revenge,
Their fervid spirit fires. Love dwells not there,
The soft regards, the tenderness of life,
The heart-shed tear, the ineffable delight
Of sweet humanity: these court the beam
Of milder climes; in selfish fierce desire,
And the wild fury of voluptuous sense,
There lost. The very brute-creation there
This rage partakes, and burns with horrid fire.
Lo! the green serpent, from his dark abode,
Which even Imagination fears to tread,
At noon forth-issuing, gathers up his train
In orbs immense, then, darting out anew,
Seeks the refreshing fount; by which diffused,
He throws his folds: and while, with threatening tongue
And deathful jaws erect, the monster curls
His flaming crest, all other thirst appall'd,
Or shivering flies or check'd at distance stands,
Nor dares approach. But still more direful he,
The small close-lurking minister of fate,
Whose high-concocted venom through the veins
A rapid lightning darts, arresting swift
The vital current. Form'd to humble man,
This child of vengeful Nature! there, sublimed
To fearless lust of blood, the savage race
Roam, licensed by the shading hour of guilt,
And foul misdeed, when the pure day has shut
His sacred eye. The tiger darting fierce
Impetuous on the prey his glance has doom'd:
The lively shining leopard, speckled o'er
With many a spot, the beauty of the waste;
And, scorning all the taming arts of man,
The keen hyena, fellest of the fell.
These, rushing from the inhospitable woods
Of Mauritania, or the tufted isles,
That verdant rise amid the Libyan wild,
Innumerous glare around their shaggy king,
Majestic, stalking o'er the printed sand;
And, with imperious and repeated roars,
Demand their fated food. The fearful flocks
Crowd near the guardian swain; the nobler herds,
Where round their lordly bull, in rural ease
They ruminating lie, with horror hear
The coming rage. The awaken'd village starts;
And to her fluttering breast the mother strains
Her thoughtless infant. From the pyrate's den,
Or stern Morocco's tyrant fang escaped,
The wretch half wishes for his bonds again:
While, uproar all, the wilderness resounds,
From Atlas eastward to the frighted Nile.
Unhappy he! who from the first of joys,
Society, cut off, is left alone
Amid this world of death. Day after day,
Sad on the jutting eminence he sits,
And views the main that ever toils below;
Still fondly forming in the farthest verge,
Where the round ether mixes with the wave,
Ships, dim-discover'd dropping from the clouds;
At evening, to the setting sun he turns
A mournful eye, and down his dying heart
Sinks helpless; while the wonted roar is up,
And hiss continual through the tedious night.
Yet here, e'en here, into these black abodes
Of monsters, unappall'd, from stooping Rome,
And guilty Cæsar, Liberty retired,
Her Cato following through Numidian wilds:
Disdainful of Campania's gentle plains,
And all the green delights Ausonia pours;
When for them she must bend the servile knee,
And fawning take the splendid robber's boon.
Nor stop the terrors of these regions here.
Commission'd demons oft, angels of wrath,
Let loose the raging elements. Breathed hot
From all the boundless furnace of the sky,
And the wide glittering waste of burning sand,
A suffocating wind the pilgrim smites
With instant death. Patient of thirst and toil,
Son of the desert! e'en the camel feels,
Shot through his wither'd heart, the fiery blast.
Or from the black-red ether, bursting broad,
Sallies the sudden whirlwind. Straight the sands,
Commoved around, in gathering eddies play:
Nearer and nearer still they darkening come;
Till, with the general all-involving storm
Swept up, the whole continuous wilds arise;
And by their noonday fount dejected thrown,
Or sunk at night in sad disastrous sleep,
Beneath descending hills, the caravan
Is buried deep. In Cairo's crowded streets
The impatient merchant, wondering, waits in vain,
And Mecca saddens at the long delay.
But chief at sea, whose every flexile wave
Obeys the blast, the aërial tumult swells.
In the dread ocean, undulating wide,
Beneath the radiant line that girts the globe,
The circling Typhon, whirl'd from point to point,
Exhausting all the rage of all the sky,
And dire Ecnephia reign. Amid the heavens,
Falsely serene, deep in a cloudy speck
Compress'd, the mighty tempest brooding dwells:
Of no regard, save to the skilful eye,
Fiery and foul, the small prognostic hangs
Aloft, or on the promontory's brow
Musters its force. A faint deceitful calm,
A fluttering gale, the demon sends before,
To tempt the spreading sail. Then down at once,
Precipitant, descends a mingled mass
Of roaring winds, and flame, and rushing floods.
In wild amazement fix'd the sailor stands.
Art is too slow: by rapid fate oppress'd,
His broad-winged vessel drinks the whelming tide,
Hid in the bosom of the black abyss.
With such mad seas the daring Gama fought,
For many a day, and many a dreadful night,
Incessant, labouring round the stormy Cape;
By bold ambition led, and bolder thirst
Of gold. For then from ancient gloom emerged
The rising world of trade: the Genius, then,
Of navigation, that, in hopeless sloth,
Had slumber'd on the vast Atlantic deep,
For idle ages, starting, heard at last
The Lusitanian Prince; who, Heaven-inspired,
To love of useful glory roused mankind,
And in unbounded commerce mix'd the world.
Increasing still the terrors of these storms,
His jaws horrific arm'd with threefold fate,
Here dwells the direful shark. Lured by the scent
Of steaming crowds, of rank disease, and death,
Behold! he rushing cuts the briny flood,
Swift as the gale can bear the ship along;
And, from the partners of that cruel trade,
Which spoils unhappy Guinea of her sons,
Demands his share of prey; demands themselves.
The stormy fates descend: one death involves
Tyrants and slaves; when straight, their mangled limbs
Crashing at once, he dyes the purple seas
With gore, and riots in the vengeful meal.
When o'er this world, by equinoctial rains
Flooded immense, looks out the joyless sun,
And draws the copious stream: from swampy fens,
Where putrefaction into life ferments,
And breathes destructive myriads; or from woods,
Impenetrable shades, recesses foul,
In vapours rank and blue corruption wrapt,
Whose gloomy horrors yet no desperate foot
Has ever dared to pierce; then, wasteful, forth
Walks the dire Power of pestilent disease.
A thousand hideous fiends her course attend,
Sick Nature blasting, and to heartless woe,
And feeble desolation, casting down
The towering hopes and all the pride of Man.
Such as, of late, at Carthagena quench'd
The British fire. You, gallant Vernon, saw
The miserable scene; you, pitying, saw
To infant-weakness sunk the warrior's arm;
Saw the deep-racking pang, the ghastly form,
The lip pale quivering, and the beamless eye
No more with ardour bright: you heard the groans
Of agonizing ships, from shore to shore;
Heard, nightly plunged amid the sullen waves,
The frequent corse; while on each other fix'd,
In sad presage, the blank assistants seem'd,
Silent, to ask, whom Fate would next demand.
What need I mention those inclement skies,
Where, frequent o'er the sickening city, Plague,
The fiercest child of Nemesis divine,
Descends? From Ethiopia's poison'd woods,
From stifled Cairo's filth, and fetid fields
With locust-armies putrefying heap'd,
This great destroyer sprung. Her awful rage
The brutes escape: Man is her destined prey,
Intemperate Man! and, o'er his guilty domes,
She draws a close incumbent cloud of death;
Uninterrupted by the living winds,
Forbid to blow a wholesome breeze; and stain'd
With many a mixture by the sun, suffused,
Of angry aspect. Princely wisdom, then,
Dejects his watchful eye; and from the hand
Of feeble justice, ineffectual, drop
The sword and balance: mute the voice of joy,
And hush'd the clamour of the busy world.
Empty the streets, with uncouth verdure clad;
Into the worst of deserts sudden turn'd
The cheerful haunt of men: unless escaped
From the doom'd house, where matchless horror reigns,
Shut up by barbarous fear, the smitten wretch,
With frenzy wild, breaks loose; and, loud to Heaven
Screaming, the dreadful policy arraigns,
Inhuman, and unwise. The sullen door,
Yet uninfected, on its cautious hinge
Fearing to turn, abhors society:
Dependants, friends, relations, Love himself,
Savaged by woe, forget the tender tie,
The sweet engagement of the feeling heart.
But vain their selfish care: the circling sky,
The wide enlivening air is full of fate;
And, struck by turns, in solitary pangs
They fall, unblest, untended, and unmourn'd.
Thus o'er the prostrate city black Despair
Extends her raven wing: while, to complete
The scene of desolation, stretch'd around,
The grim guards stand, denying all retreat,
And give the flying wretch a better death.
Much yet remains unsung: the rage intense
Of brazen-vaulted skies, of iron fields,
Where drought and famine starve the blasted year:
Fired by the torch of noon to tenfold rage,
The infuriate hill that shoots the pillar'd flame;
And, roused within the subterranean world,
The expanding earthquake, that resistless shakes
Aspiring cities from their solid base,
And buries mountains in the flaming gulf.
But 'tis enough; return, my vagrant Muse:
A nearer scene of horror calls thee home.
Behold, slow-settling o'er the lurid grove
Unusual darkness broods; and growing gains
The full possession of the sky, surcharged
With wrathful vapour, from the secret beds,
Where sleep the mineral generations, drawn.
Thence nitre, sulphur, and the fiery spume
Of fat bitumen, steaming on the day,
With various-tinctured trains of latent flame,
Pollute the sky, and in yon baleful cloud,
A reddening gloom, a magazine of fate,
Ferment; till, by the touch ethereal roused,
The dash of clouds, or irritating war
Of fighting winds, while all is calm below,
They furious spring. A boding silence reigns,
Dread through the dun expanse; save the dull sound
That from the mountain, previous to the storm,
Rolls o'er the muttering earth, disturbs the flood,
And shakes the forest-leaf without a breath.
Prone, to the lowest vale, the aërial tribes
Descend: the tempest-loving raven scarce
Dares wing the dubious dusk. In rueful gaze
The cattle stand, and on the scowling heavens
Cast a deploring eye; by man forsook,
Who to the crowded cottage hies him fast,
Or seeks the shelter of the downward cave.
'Tis listening fear, and dumb amazement all:
When to the startled eye the sudden glance
Appears far south, eruptive through the cloud;
And following slower, in explosion vast,
The Thunder raises his tremendous voice.
At first, heard solemn o'er the verge of Heaven,
The tempest growls; but as it nearer comes,
And rolls its awful burden on the wind,
The lightnings flash a larger curve, and more
The noise astounds: till over head a sheet
Of livid flame discloses wide; then shuts,
And opens wider; shuts and opens still
Expansive, wrapping ether in a blaze.
Follows the loosen'd aggravated roar,
Enlarging, deepening, mingling; peal on peal
Crush'd horrible, convulsing heaven and earth.
Down comes a deluge of sonorous hail,
Or prone-descending rain. Wide-rent, the clouds
Pour a whole flood; and yet, its flame unquench'd,
The unconquerable lightning struggles through,
Ragged and fierce, or in red whirling balls,
And fires the mountains with redoubled rage.
Black from the stroke, above, the smouldring pine
Stands a sad shatter'd trunk; and, stretch'd below,
A lifeless group the blasted cattle lie:
Here the soft flocks, with that same harmless look
They wore alive, and ruminating still
In fancy's eye; and there the frowning bull,
And ox half-raised. Struck on the castled cliff,
The venerable tower and spiry fane
Resign their aged pride. The gloomy woods
Start at the flash, and from their deep recess,
Wide-flaming out, their trembling inmates shake.
Amid Carnarvon's mountains rages loud
The repercussive roar: with mighty crush,
Into the flashing deep, from the rude rocks
Of Penmanmaur heap'd hideous to the sky,
Tumble the smitten cliffs; and Snowden's peak,
Dissolving, instant yields his wintry load.
Far seen, the heights of heathy Cheviot blaze,
And Thulè bellows through her utmost isles.
Guilt hears appall'd, with deeply troubled thought.
And yet not always on the guilty head
Descends the fated flash. Young Celadon
And his Amelia were a matchless pair;
With equal virtue form'd, and equal grace,
The same, distinguish'd by their sex alone:
Hers the mild lustre of the blooming morn,
And his the radiance of the risen day.
They lov'd: but such the guileless passion was,
As in the dawn of time inform'd the heart
Of innocence and undissembling truth.
'Twas friendship, heighten'd by the mutual wish;
The enchanting hope, and sympathetic glow,
Beam'd from the mutual eye. Devoting all
To love, each was to each a dearer self;
Supremely happy in the awaken'd power
Of giving joy. Alone, amid the shades,
Still in harmonious intercourse they lived
The rural day, and talk'd the flowing heart,
Or sigh'd and look'd unutterable things.
So pass'd their life, a clear united stream,
By care unruffled; till, in evil hour,
The tempest caught them on the tender walk,
Heedless how far and where its mazes stray'd,
While, with each other blest, creative love
Still bade eternal Eden smile around.
Presaging instant fate, her bosom heaved
Unwonted sighs, and stealing oft a look
Of the big gloom, on Celadon her eye
Fell tearful, wetting her disorder'd cheek.
In vain assuring love, and confidence
In Heaven, repress'd her fear; it grew, and shook
Her frame near dissolution. He perceived
The unequal conflict, and as angels look
On dying saints, his eyes compassion shed,
With love illumined high. “Fear not,” he said,
“Sweet innocence! thou stranger to offence,
And inward storm! He, who yon skies involves
In frowns of darkness, ever smiles on thee
With kind regard. O'er thee the secret shaft
That wastes at midnight, or the undreaded hour
Of noon, flies harmless: and that very voice,
Which thunders terror through the guilty heart,
With tongues of seraphs whispers peace to thine.
'Tis safety to be near thee sure, and thus
To clasp perfection!” From his void embrace,
(Mysterious Heaven!) that moment, to the ground,
A blacken'd corse, was struck the beauteous maid.
But who can paint the lover, as he stood,
Pierced by severe amazement, hating life,
Speechless, and fix'd in all the death of woe!
So, faint resemblance! on the marble tomb,
The well-dissembled mourner stooping stands,
For ever silent and for ever sad.
As from the face of Heaven the shatter'd clouds
Tumultuous rove, the interminable sky
Sublimer swells, and o'er the world expands
A purer azure. Through the lighten'd air
A higher lustre and a clearer calm,
Diffusive, tremble; while, as if in sign
Of danger past, a glittering robe of joy,
Set off abundant by the yellow ray,
Invests the fields; and nature smiles revived.
'Tis beauty all, and grateful song around,
Join'd to the low of kine, and numerous bleat
Of flocks thick-nibbling through the clover'd vale.
And shall the hymn be marr'd by thankless Man,
Most-favour'd! who with voice articulate
Should lead the chorus of this lower world;
Shall he, so soon forgetful of the Hand
That hush'd the thunder, and serenes the sky,
Extinguish'd feel that spark the tempest waked,
That sense of powers exceeding far his own,
Ere yet his feeble heart has lost its fears?
Cheer'd by the milder beam, the sprightly youth
Speeds to the well-known pool, whose crystal depth
A sandy bottom shows. Awhile he stands
Gazing the inverted landscape, half afraid
To meditate the blue profound below;
Then plunges headlong down the circling flood.
His ebon tresses, and his rosy cheek
Instant emerge; and through the obedient wave,
At each short breathing by his lip repell'd,
With arms and legs according well, he makes,
As humour leads, an easy-winding path;
While, from his polish'd sides, a dewy light
Effuses on the pleased spectators round.
This is the purest exercise of health,
The kind refresher of the summer-heats;
Nor when cold Winter keens the brightening flood,
Would I weak-shivering linger on the brink.
Thus life redoubles, and is oft preserved,
By the bold swimmer, in the swift elapse
Of accident disastrous. Hence the limbs
Knit into force; and the same Roman arm,
That rose victorious o'er the conquer'd earth,
First learn'd, while tender, to subdue the wave.
Even from the body's purity the mind
Receives a secret sympathetic aid.
Close in the covert of a hazel copse,
Where, winded into pleasing solitudes,
Runs out the rambling dale, young Damon sat,
Pensive, and pierced with love's delightful pangs.
There to the stream that down the distant rocks
Hoarse-murmuring fell, and plaintive breeze that play'd
Among the bending willows, falsely he
Of Musidora's cruelty complain'd.
She felt his flame; but deep within her breast
In bashful coyness, or in maiden pride,
The soft return conceal'd; save when it stole
In sidelong glances from her downcast eye,
Or from her swelling soul in stifled sighs.
Touch'd by the scene, no stranger to his vows,
He framed a melting lay, to try her heart;
And, if an infant passion struggled there,
To call that passion forth. Thrice happy swain!
A lucky chance, that oft decides the fate
Of mighty monarchs, then decided thine.
For lo! conducted by the laughing Loves,
This cool retreat his Musidora sought:
Warm in her cheek the sultry season glow'd;
And, robed in loose array, she came to bathe
Her fervent limbs in the refreshing stream.
What shall he do? In sweet confusion lost,
And dubious flutterings, he a while remain'd:
A pure ingenuous elegance of soul,
A delicate refinement, known to few,
Perplex'd his breast, and urged him to retire:
But love forbade. Ye prudes in virtue, say,
Say, ye severest, what would you have done?
Meantime, this fairer nymph than ever blest
Arcadian stream, with timid eye around
The banks surveying, stripp'd her beauteous limbs,
To taste the lucid coolness of the flood.
Ah then! not Paris on the piny top
Of Ida panted stronger, when aside
The rival-goddesses the veil divine
Cast unconfined, and gave him all their charms,
Than, Damon, thou; as from the snowy leg,
And slender foot, the inverted silk she drew;
As the soft touch dissolved the virgin zone:
And, through the parting robe, the alternate breast,
With youth wild-throbbing, on thy lawless gaze
In full luxuriance rose. But, desperate youth,
How durst thou risk the soul-distracting view,
As from her naked limbs of glowing white,
Harmonious swell'd by Nature's finest hand,
In folds loose floating fell the fainter lawn;
And fair exposed she stood, shrunk from herself,
With fancy blushing, at the doubtful breeze
Alarm'd, and starting like the fearful fawn?
Then to the flood she rush'd; the parted flood
Its lovely guest with closing waves received;
And every beauty
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part II.
The South Wind laid his moccasins aside,
Broke his gay calumet of flow'rs, and cast
His useless wampun, beaded with cool dews,
Far from him, northward; his long, ruddy spear
Flung sunward, whence it came, and his soft locks
Of warm, fine haze grew silver as the birch.
His wigwam of green leaves began to shake;
The crackling rice-beds scolded harsh like squaws:
The small ponds pouted up their silver lips;
The great lakes ey'd the mountains, whisper'd 'Ugh!'
'Are ye so tall, O chiefs? Not taller than
Our plumes can reach.' And rose a little way,
As panthers stretch to try their velvet limbs,
And then retreat to purr and bide their time.
At morn the sharp breath of the night arose
From the wide prairies, in deep struggling seas,
In rolling breakers, bursting to the sky;
In tumbling surfs, all yellow'd faintly thro'
With the low sun--in mad, conflicting crests,
Voic'd with low thunder from the hairy throats
Of the mist-buried herds; and for a man
To stand amid the cloudy roll and moil,
The phantom waters breaking overhead,
Shades of vex'd billows bursting on his breast,
Torn caves of mist wall'd with a sudden gold,
Reseal'd as swift as seen--broad, shaggy fronts,
Fire-ey'd and tossing on impatient horns
The wave impalpable--was but to think
A dream of phantoms held him as he stood.
The late, last thunders of the summer crash'd,
Where shrieked great eagles, lords of naked cliffs.
The pulseless forest, lock'd and interlock'd
So closely, bough with bough, and leaf with leaf,
So serf'd by its own wealth, that while from high
The moons of summer kiss'd its green-gloss'd locks;
And round its knees the merry West Wind danc'd;
And round its ring, compacted emerald;
The south wind crept on moccasins of flame;
And the fed fingers of th' impatient sun
Pluck'd at its outmost fringes--its dim veins
Beat with no life--its deep and dusky heart,
In a deep trance of shadow, felt no throb
To such soft wooing answer: thro' its dream
Brown rivers of deep waters sunless stole;
Small creeks sprang from its mosses, and amaz'd,
Like children in a wigwam curtain'd close
Above the great, dead, heart of some red chief,
Slipp'd on soft feet, swift stealing through the gloom,
Eager for light and for the frolic winds.
In this shrill moon the scouts of winter ran
From the ice-belted north, and whistling shafts
Struck maple and struck sumach--and a blaze
Ran swift from leaf to leaf, from bough to bough;
Till round the forest flash'd a belt of flame.
And inward lick'd its tongues of red and gold
To the deep, tranied inmost heart of all.
Rous'd the still heart--but all too late, too late.
Too late, the branches welded fast with leaves,
Toss'd, loosen'd, to the winds--too late the sun
Pour'd his last vigor to the deep, dark cells
Of the dim wood. The keen, two-bladed Moon
Of Falling Leaves roll'd up on crested mists
And where the lush, rank boughs had foiled the sun
In his red prime, her pale, sharp fingers crept
After the wind and felt about the moss,
And seem'd to pluck from shrinking twig and stem
The burning leaves--while groan'd the shudd'ring wood.
Who journey'd where the prairies made a pause,
Saw burnish'd ramparts flaming in the sun,
With beacon fires, tall on their rustling walls.
And when the vast, horn'd herds at sunset drew
Their sullen masses into one black cloud,
Rolling thund'rous o'er the quick pulsating plain,
They seem'd to sweep between two fierce red suns
Which, hunter-wise, shot at their glaring balls
Keen shafts, with scarlet feathers and gold barbs,
By round, small lakes with thinner, forests fring'd,
More jocund woods that sung about the feet
And crept along the shoulders of great cliffs;
The warrior stags, with does and tripping fawns,
Like shadows black upon the throbbing mist
Of Evening's rose, flash'd thro' the singing woods--
Nor tim'rous, sniff'd the spicy, cone-breath'd air;
For never had the patriarch of the herd
Seen limn'd against the farthest rim of light
Of the low-dipping sky, the plume or bow
Of the red hunter; nor when stoop'd to drink,
Had from the rustling rice-beds heard the shaft
Of the still hunter hidden in its spears;
His bark canoe close-knotted in its bronze,
His form as stirless as the brooding air,
His dusky eyes too, fix'd, unwinking, fires;
His bow-string tighten'd till it subtly sang
To the long throbs, and leaping pulse that roll'd
And beat within his knotted, naked breast.
There came a morn. The Moon of Falling Leaves,
With her twin silver blades had only hung
Above the low set cedars of the swamp
For one brief quarter, when the sun arose
Lusty with light and full of summer heat,
And pointing with his arrows at the blue,
Clos'd wigwam curtains of the sleeping moon,
Laugh'd with the noise of arching cataracts,
And with the dove-like cooing of the woods,
And with the shrill cry of the diving loon
And with the wash of saltless, rounded seas,
And mock'd the white moon of the Falling Leaves.
'Esa! esa! shame upon you, Pale Face!
'Shame upon you, moon of evil witches!
'Have you kill'd the happy, laughing Summer?
'Have you slain the mother of the Flowers
'With your icy spells of might and magic?
'Have you laid her dead within my arms?
'Wrapp'd her, mocking, in a rainbow blanket.
'Drown'd her in the frost mist of your anger?
'She is gone a little way before me;
'Gone an arrow's flight beyond my vision;
'She will turn again and come to meet me,
'With the ghosts of all the slain flowers,
'In a blue mist round her shining tresses;
'In a blue smoke in her naked forests--
'She will linger, kissing all the branches,
'She will linger, touching all the places,
'Bare and naked, with her golden fingers,
'Saying, 'Sleep, and dream of me, my children
''Dream of me, the mystic Indian Summer;
''I, who, slain by the cold Moon of Terror,
''Can return across the path of Spirits,
''Bearing still my heart of love and fire;
''Looking with my eyes of warmth and splendour;
''Whisp'ring lowly thro' your sleep of sunshine?
''I, the laughing Summer, am not turn'd
''Into dry dust, whirling on the prairies,--
''Into red clay, crush'd beneath the snowdrifts.
''I am still the mother of sweet flowers
''Growing but an arrow's flight beyond you--
''In the Happy Hunting Ground--the quiver
''Of great Manitou, where all the arrows
''He has shot from his great bow of Pow'r,
''With its clear, bright, singing cord of Wisdom,
''Are re-gather'd, plum'd again and brighten'd,
''And shot out, re-barb'd with Love and Wisdom;
''Always shot, and evermore returning.
''Sleep, my children, smiling in your heart-seeds
''At the spirit words of Indian Summer!''
'Thus, O Moon of Falling Leaves, I mock you!
'Have you slain my gold-ey'd squaw, the Summer?'
The mighty morn strode laughing up the land,
And Max, the labourer and the lover, stood
Within the forest's edge, beside a tree;
The mossy king of all the woody tribes,
Whose clatt'ring branches rattl'd, shuddering,
As the bright axe cleav'd moon-like thro' the air,
Waking strange thunders, rousing echoes link'd
From the full, lion-throated roar, to sighs
Stealing on dove-wings thro' the distant aisles.
Swift fell the axe, swift follow'd roar on roar,
Till the bare woodland bellow'd in its rage,
As the first-slain slow toppl'd to his fall.
'O King of Desolation, art thou dead?'
Thought Max, and laughing, heart and lips, leap'd on
The vast, prone trunk. 'And have I slain a King?
'Above his ashes will I build my house--
No slave beneath its pillars, but--a King!'
Max wrought alone, but for a half-breed lad,
With tough, lithe sinews and deep Indian eyes,
Lit with a Gallic sparkle. Max, the lover, found
The labourer's arms grow mightier day by day--
More iron-welded as he slew the trees;
And with the constant yearning of his heart
Towards little Kate, part of a world away,
His young soul grew and shew'd a virile front,
Full-muscl'd and large statur'd, like his flesh.
Soon the great heaps of brush were builded high,
And like a victor, Max made pause to clear
His battle-field, high strewn with tangl'd dead.
Then roar'd the crackling mountains, and their fires
Met in high heaven, clasping flame with flame.
The thin winds swept a cosmos of red sparks
Across the bleak, midnight sky; and the sun
Walk'd pale behind the resinous, black smoke.
And Max car'd little for the blotted sun,
And nothing for the startl'd, outshone stars;
For Love, once set within a lover's breast,
Has its own Sun--it's own peculiar sky,
All one great daffodil--on which do lie
The sun, the moon, the stars--all seen at once,
And never setting; but all shining straight
Into the faces of the trinity,--
The one belov'd, the lover, and sweet Love!
It was not all his own, the axe-stirr'd waste.
In these new days men spread about the earth,
With wings at heel--and now the settler hears,
While yet his axe rings on the primal woods,
The shrieks of engines rushing o'er the wastes;
Nor parts his kind to hew his fortunes out.
And as one drop glides down the unknown rock
And the bright-threaded stream leaps after it,
With welded billions, so the settler finds
His solitary footsteps beaten out,
With the quick rush of panting, human waves
Upheav'd by throbs of angry poverty;
And driven by keen blasts of hunger, from
Their native strands--so stern, so dark, so dear!
O, then, to see the troubl'd, groaning waves,
Throb down to peace in kindly, valley beds;
Their turbid bosoms clearing in the calm
Of sun-ey'd Plenty--till the stars and moon,
The blessed sun himself, has leave to shine
And laugh in their dark hearts! So shanties grew
Other than his amid the blacken'd stumps;
And children ran, with little twigs and leaves
And flung them, shouting, on the forest pyres,
Where burn'd the forest kings--and in the glow
Paus'd men and women when the day was done.
There the lean weaver ground anew his axe,
Nor backward look'd upon the vanish'd loom,
But forward to the ploughing of his fields;
And to the rose of Plenty in the cheeks.
Of wife and children--nor heeded much the pangs
Of the rous'd muscles tuning to new work.
The pallid clerk look'd on his blister'd palms
And sigh'd and smil'd, but girded up his loins
And found new vigour as he felt new hope.
The lab'rer with train'd muscles, grim and grave,
Look'd at the ground and wonder'd in his soul,
What joyous anguish stirr'd his darken'd heart,
At the mere look of the familiar soil,
And found his answer in the words--'_Mine own!_'
Then came smooth-coated men, with eager eyes,
And talk'd of steamers on the cliff-bound lakes;
And iron tracks across the prairie lands;
And mills to crush the quartz of wealthy hills;
And mills to saw the great, wide-arm'd trees;
And mills to grind the singing stream of grain;
And with such busy clamour mingled still
The throbbing music of the bold, bright Axe--
The steel tongue of the Present, and the wail
Of falling forests--voices of the Past.
Max, social-soul'd, and with his practised thews,
Was happy, boy-like, thinking much of Kate,
And speaking of her to the women-folk;
Who, mostly, happy in new honeymoons
Of hope themselves, were ready still to hear
The thrice told tale of Katie's sunny eyes
And Katie's yellow hair, and household ways:
And heard so often, 'There shall stand our home--
'On yonder slope, with vines about the door!'
That the good wives were almost made to see
The snowy walls, deep porches, and the gleam
Of Katie's garments flitting through the rooms;
And the black slope all bristling with burn'd stumps
Was known amongst them all as 'Max's House.'
* * * * *
O, Love builds on the azure sea,
And Love builds on the golden sand;
And Love builds on the rose-wing'd cloud,
And sometimes Love builds on the land.
* * * * *
O, if Love build on sparkling sea--
And if Love build on golden strand--
And if Love build on rosy cloud--
To Love these are the solid land.
* * * * *
O, Love will build his lily walls,
And Love his pearly roof, will rear,--
On cloud or land, or mist or sea--
Love's solid land is everywhere!
* * * * *
Now being on the eve of death, discharged
From every mortal hope and earthly care,
I questioned how my soul might best employ
This hand, and this still wakeful flame of mind,
In the brief hours yet left me for their use;
Wherefore have I bethought me of my friend,
Of you, Philarchus, and your company,
Yet wavering in the faith and unconfirmed;
Perchance that I may break into thine heart
Some sorrowful channel for the love divine,
I make this simple record of our proof
In diverse sufferings for the name of Christ,
Whereof the end already for the most
Is death this day with steadfast faith endured.
We were in prison many days, close-pent
In the black lower dungeon, housed with thieves
And murderers and divers evil men;
So foul a pressure, we had almost died,
Even there, in struggle for the breath of life
Amid the stench and unendurable heat;
Nor could we find each other save by voice
Or touch, to know that we were yet alive,
So terrible was the darkness. Yea, 'twas hard
To keep the sacred courage in our hearts,
When all was blind with that unchanging night,
And foul with death, and on our ears the taunts
And ribald curses of the soldiery
Fell mingled with the prisoners' cries, a load
Sharper to bear, more bitter than their blows.
At first, what with that dread of our abode,
Our sudden apprehension, and the threats
Ringing perpetually in our ears, we lost
The living fire of faith, and like poor hinds
Would have denied our Lord and fallen away.
Even Perpetua, whose joyous faith
Was in the later holier days to be
The stay and comfort of our weaker ones,
Was silent for long whiles. Perchance she shrank
In the mere sickness of the flesh, confused
And shaken by our new and horrible plight--
The tender flesh, untempered and untried,
Not quickened yet nor mastered by the soul;
For she was of a fair and delicate make,
Most gently nurtured, to whom stripes and threats
And our foul prison-house were things undreamed.
But little by little as our spirits grew
Inured to suffering, with clasped hands, and tongues
That cheered each other to incessant prayer,
We rose and faced our trouble: we recalled
Our Master's sacred agony and death,
Setting before our eyes the high reward
Of steadfast faith, the martyr's deathless crown.
So passed some days whose length and count we lost,
Our bitterest trial. Then a respite came.
One who had interest with the governor
Wrought our removal daily for some hours
Into an upper chamber, where we sat
And held each other's hands in childish joy,
Receiving the sweet gift of light and air
With wonder and exceeding thankfulness.
And then began that life of daily growth
In mutual exaltation and sweet help
That bore us as a gently widening stream
Unto the ocean of our martyrdom.
Uniting all our feebler souls in one--
A mightier--we reached forth with this to God.
Perpetua had been troubled for her babe,
Robbed of the breast and now these many days
Wasting for want of food; but when that change
Whereof I spake, of light and liberty
Relieved the horror of our prison gloom,
They brought it to her, and she sat apart,
And nursed and tended it, and soon the child
Would not be parted from her arms, but throve
And fattened, and she kept it night and day.
And always at her side with sleepless care
Hovered the young Felicitas--a slight
And spiritual figure--every touch and tone
Charged with premonitory tenderness,
Herself so near to her own motherhood.
Thus lightened and relieved, Perpetua
Recovered from her silent fit. Her eyes
Regained their former deep serenity,
Her tongue its gentle daring; for she knew
Her life should not be taken till her babe
Had strengthened and outgrown the need of her.
Daily we were amazed at her soft strength,
Her pliant and untroubled constancy,
Her smiling, soldierly contempt of death,
Her beauty and the sweetness of her voice.
Her father, when our first few bitterest days
Were over, like a gust of grief and rage,
Came to her in the prison with wild eyes,
And cried: 'How mean you, daughter, when you say
You are a Christian? How can any one
Of honoured blood, the child of such as me,
Be Christian? 'Tis an odious name, the badge
Only of outcasts and rebellious slaves!'
And she, grief-touched, but with unyielding gaze,
Showing the fulness of her slender height:
'This vessel, father, being what it is,
An earthen pitcher, would you call it thus?
Or would you name it by some other name?'
'Nay, surely,' said the old man, catching breath,
And pausing, and she answered: 'Nor can I
Call myself aught but what I surely am--
A Christian!' and her father, flashing back
In silent anger, left her for that time.
A special favour to Perpetua
Seemed daily to be given, and her soul
Was made the frequent vessel of God's grace,
Wherefrom we all, less gifted, sore athirst,
Drank courage and fresh joy; for glowing dreams
Were sent her, full of forms august, and fraught
With signs and symbols of the glorious end
Whereto God's love hath aimed us for Christ's sake.
Once--at what hour I know not, for we lay
In that foul dungeon, where all hours were lost,
And day and night were indistinguishable--
We had been sitting a long silent while,
Some lightly sleeping, others bowed in prayer,
When on a sudden, like a voice from God,
Perpetua spake to us and all were roused.
Her voice was rapt and solemn: 'Friends,' she said,
'Some word hath come to me in a dream. I saw
A ladder leading to heaven, all of gold,
Hung up with lances, swords, and hooks. A land
Of darkness and exceeding peril lay
Around it, and a dragon fierce as hell
Guarded its foot. We doubted who should first
Essay it, but you, Saturus, at last--
So God hath marked you for especial grace--
Advancing and against the cruel beast
Aiming the potent weapon of Christ's name--
Mounted, and took me by the hand, and I
The next one following, and so the rest
In order, and we entered with great joy
Into a spacious garden filled with light
And balmy presences of love and rest;
And there an old man sat, smooth-browed, white-haired,
Surrounded by unnumbered myriads
Of spiritual shapes and faces angel-eyed,
Milking his sheep; and lifting up his eyes
He welcomed us in strange and beautiful speech,
Unknown yet comprehended, for it flowed
Not through the ears, but forth-right to the soul,
God's language of pure love. Between the lips
Of each he placed a morsel of sweet curd;
And while the curd was yet within my mouth,
I woke, and still the taste of it remains,
Through all my body flowing like white flame,
Sweet as of some immaculate spiritual thing.'
And when Perpetua had spoken, all
Were silent in the darkness, pondering,
But Saturus spake gently for the rest:
'How perfect and acceptable must be
Your soul to God, Perpetua, that thus
He bends to you, and through you speaks his will.
We know now that our martyrdom is fixed,
Nor need we vex us further for this life.'
While yet these thoughts were bright upon our souls,
There came the rumour that a day was set
To hear us. Many of our former friends,
Some with entreaties, some with taunts and threats,
Came to us to pervert us; with the rest
Again Perpetua's father, worn with care;
Nor could we choose but pity his distress,
So miserably, with abject cries and tears,
He fondled her and called her 'Domina,'
And bowed his aged body at her feet,
Beseeching her by all the names she loved
To think of him, his fostering care, his years,
And also of her babe, whose life, he said,
Would fail without her; but Perpetua,
Sustaining by a gift of strength divine
The fulness of her noble fortitude,
Answered him tenderly: 'Both you and I,
And all of us, my father, at this hour
Are equally in God's hands, and what he wills
Must be'; but when the poor old man was gone
She wept, and knelt for many hours in prayer,
Sore tried and troubled by her tender heart.
One day, while we were at our midday meal,
Our cell was entered by the soldiery,
And we were seized and borne away for trial.
A surging crowd had gathered, and we passed
From street to street, hemmed in by tossing heads
And faces cold or cruel; yet we caught
At moments from masked lips and furtive eyes
Of friends--some known to as and some unknown--
Many veiled messages of love and praise.
The floorways of the long basilica
Fronted us with an angry multitude;
And scornful eyes and threatening foreheads frowned
In hundreds from the columned galleries.
We were placed all together at the bar,
And though at first unsteadied and confused
By the imperial presence of the law,
The pomp of judgment and the staring crowd,
None failed or faltered; with unshaken tongue
Each met the stern Proconsul's brief demand
In clear profession. Rapt as in a dream,
Scarce conscious of my turn, nor how I spake,
I watched with wondering eyes the delicate face
And figure of Perpetua; for her
We that were youngest of our company
Loved with a sacred and absorbing love,
A passion that our martyr's brotherly vow
Had purified and made divine. She stood
In dreamy contemplation, slightly bowed,
A glowing stillness that was near a smile
Upon her soft closed lips. Her turn had come,
When, like a puppet struggling up the steps,
Her father from the pierced and swaying crowd
Appeared, unveiling in his aged arms
The smiling visage of her babe. He grasped
Her robe, and strove to draw her down. All eyes
Were bent upon her. With a softening glance,
And voice less cold and heavy with death's doom,
The old Proconsul turned to her and said:
'Lady, have pity on your father's age;
Be mindful of your tender babe; this grain
Of harmless incense offer for the peace
And welfare of the Emperor'; but she,
Lifting far forth her large and noteless eyes,
As one that saw a vision, only said:
'I cannot sacrifice'; and he, harsh tongued,
Bending a brow upon her rough as rock,
With eyes that struck like steel, seeking to break
Or snare her with a sudden stroke of fear:
'Art thou a Christian?' and she answered, 'Yea,
I am a Christian!' In brow-blackening wrath
He motioned a contemptuous hand and bade
The lictors scourge the old man down and forth
With rods, and as the cruel deed was done,
Perpetua stood white with quivering lips,
And her eyes filled with tears. While yet his cries
Were mingling with the curses of the crowd,
Hilarianus, calling name by name,
Gave sentence, and in cold and formal phrase
Condemned us to the beasts, and we returned
Rejoicing to our prison. Then we wished
Our martyrdom could soon have followed, not
As doubting for our constancy, but some
Grew sick under the anxious long suspense.
Perpetua again was weighed upon
By grief and trouble for her babe, whom now
Her father, seeking to depress her will,
Withheld and would not send it; but at length
Word being brought her that the child indeed
No longer suffered, nor desired the breast,
Her peace returned, and, giving thanks to God,
All were united in new bonds of hope.
Now being fixed in certitude of death,
We stripped our souls of all their earthly gear,
The useless raiment of this world; and thus,
Striving together with a single will,
In daily increment of faith and power,
We were much comforted by heavenly dreams,
And waking visitations of God's grace.
Visions of light and glory infinite
Were frequent with us, and by night or day
Woke at the very name of Christ the Lord,
Taken at any moment on our lips;
So that we had no longer thought or care
Of life or of the living, but became
As spirits from this earth already freed,
Scarce conscious of the dwindling weight of flesh.
To Saturus appeared in dreams the space
And splendour of the heavenly house of God,
The glowing gardens of eternal joy,
The halls and chambers of the cherubim,
In wreaths of endless myriads involved
The blinding glory of the angel choir,
Rolling through deeps of wheeling cloud and light
The thunder of their vast antiphonies.
The visions of Perpetua not less
Possessed us with their homely tenderness--
As one, wherein she saw a rock-set pool
And weeping o'er its rim a little child,
Her brother, long since dead, Dinocrates:
Though sore athirst, he could not reach the stream,
Being so small, and her heart grieved thereat.
She looked again, and lo! the pool had risen,
And the child filled his goblet, and drank deep,
And prattling in a tender childish joy
Ran gaily off, as infants do, to play.
By this she knew his soul had found release
From torment, and had entered into bliss.
Quickly as by a merciful gift of God,
Our vigil passed unbroken. Yesternight
They moved us to the amphitheatre,
Our final lodging-place on earth, and there
We sat together at our agape
For the last time. In silence, rapt and pale,
We hearkened to the aged Saturus,
Whose speech, touched with a ghostly eloquence,
Canvassed the fraud and littleness of life,
God's goodness and the solemn joy of death.
Perpetua was silent, but her eyes
Fell gently upon each of us, suffused
With inward and eradiant light; a smile
Played often upon her lips.
While yet we sat,
A tribune with a band of soldiery
Entered our cell, and would have had us bound
In harsher durance, fearing our escape
By fraud or witchcraft; but Perpetua,
Facing him gently with a noble note
Of wonder in her voice, and on her lips
A lingering smile of mournful irony:
'Sir, are ye not unwise to harass us,
And rob us of our natural food and rest?
Should ye not rather tend us with soft care,
And so provide a comely spectacle?
We shall not honour Caesar's birthday well,
If we be waste and weak, a piteous crew,
Poor playthings for your proud and pampered beasts.'
The noisy tribune, whether touched indeed,
Or by her grave and tender grace abashed,
Muttered and stormed a while, and then withdrew.
The short night passed in wakeful prayer for some,
For others in brief sleep, broken by dreams
And spiritual visitations. Earliest dawn
Found us arisen, and Perpetua,
Moving about with smiling lips, soft-tongued,
Besought us to take food; lest so, she said,
For all the strength and courage of our hearts,
Our bodies should fall faint. We heard without,
Already ere the morning light was full,
The din of preparation, and the hum
Of voices gathering in the upper tiers;
Yet had we seen so often in our thoughts
The picture of this strange and cruel death,
Its festal horror, and its bloody pomp,
The nearness scarcely moved us, and our hands
Met in a steadfast and unshaken clasp.
The day is over. Ah, my friend, how long
With its wild sounds and bloody sights it seemed!
Night comes, and I am still alive--even I,
The least and last--with other two, reserved
To grace to-morrow's second day. The rest
Have suffered and with holy rapture passed
Into their glory. Saturus and the men
Were given to bears and leopards, but the crowd
Feasted their eyes upon no cowering shape,
Nor hue of fear, nor painful cry. They died
Like armed men, face foremost to the beasts,
With prayers and sacred songs upon their lips.
Perpetua and the frail Felicitas
Were seized before our eyes and roughly stripped,
And shrinking and entreating, not for fear,
Nor hurt, but bitter shame, were borne away
Into the vast arena, and hung up
In nets, naked before the multitude,
For a fierce bull, maddened by goads, to toss.
Some sudden tumult of compassion seized
The crowd, and a great murmur like a wave
Rose at the sight, and grew, and thundered up
From tier to tier, deep and imperious:
So white, so innocent they were, so pure:
Their tender limbs so eloquent of shame;
And so our loved ones were brought back, all faint,
And covered with light raiment, and again
Led forth, and now with smiling lips they passed
Pale, but unbowed, into the awful ring,
Holding each other proudly by the hand.
Perpetua first was tossed, and her robe rent,
But, conscious only of the glaring eyes,
She strove to hide herself as best she could
In the torn remnants of her flimsy robe,
And putting up her hands clasped back her hair,
So that she might not die as one in grief,
Unseemly and dishevelled. Then she turned,
And in her loving arms caressed and raised
The dying, bruised Felicitas. Once more
Gored by the cruel beast, they both were borne
Swooning and mortally stricken from the field.
Perpetua, pale and beautiful, her lips
Parted as in a lingering ecstasy,
Could not believe the end had come, but asked
When they were to be given to the beasts.
The keepers gathered round her--even they--
In wondering pity--while with fearless hand,
Bidding us all be faithful and stand firm,
She bared her breast, and guided to its goal
The gladiator's sword that pierced her heart.
The night is passing. In a few short hours
I too shall suffer for the name of Christ.
A boundless exaltation lifts my soul!
I know that they who left us, Saturus,
Perpetua, and the other blessed ones,
Await me at the opening gates of heaven.
The Sylph Of Summer
God said, Let there be light, and there was light!
At once the glorious sun, at his command,
From space illimitable, void and dark,
Sprang jubilant, and angel hierarchies,
Whose long hosannahs pealed from orb to orb,
Sang, Glory be to Thee, God of all worlds!
Then beautiful the ball of this terrene
Rolled in the beam of first-created day,
And all its elements obeyed the voice
Of Him, the great Creator; Air, and Fire,
And Earth, and Water, each its ministry
Performed, whilst Chaos from his ebon throne
Leaped up; and so magnificent, and decked,
And mantled in its ambient atmosphere,
The living world began its state!
Spirit of Air, I lift the venturous song,
Whose viewless presence fills the living scene,
Whose element ten thousand thousand wings
Fan joyous; o'er whose fields the morning clouds
Ride high; whose rule the lightning-shafts obey,
And the deep thunder's long-careering march!
The Winds too are thy subjects; from the breeze,
That, like a child upon a holiday,
On the high mountain's van pursues the down
Of the gray thistle, ere the autumnal shower
Steals soft, and mars his pastime; to the King
Of Hurricanes, that sounds his mighty shell,
And bids Tornado sweep the Western world.
Sylph of the Summer Gale, on thee I call!
Oh, come, when now gay June is in her car,
Wafting the breath of roses as she moves;
Come to this garden bower, which I have hung
With tendrils, and the fragrant eglantine,
And mandrake, rich with many mantling stars!
'Tis pleasant, when thy breath is on the leaves
Without, to rest in this embowering shade,
And mark the green fly, circling to and fro,
O'er the still water, with his dragon wings,
Shooting from bank to bank, now in quick turns,
Then swift athwart, as is the gazer's glance,
Pursuing still his mate; they, with delight,
As if they moved in morris, to the sound
Harmonious of this ever-dripping rill,
Now in advance, now in retreat, now round,
Dart through their mazy rings, and seem to say:
The Summer and the Sun are ours!
Sylph of the Summer Gale, delay a while
Thy airy flight, whilst here Francesca leans,
And, charmed by Ossian's harp, seems in the breeze
To hear Malvina's plaint; thou to her ear
Come unperceived, like music of the song
From Cona's vale of streams; _then_ with the bee,
That sounds his horn, busied from flower to flower,
Speed o'er the yellow meadows, breathing ripe
Their summer incense; or amid the furze,
That paints with bloom intense the upland crofts,
With momentary essence tinge thy wings;
Or in the grassy lanes, one after one,
Lift light the nodding foxglove's purple bell.
Thence, to the distant sea, and where the flag
Hangs idly down, without a wavy curl,
Thou hoverest o'er the topmast, or dost raise
The full and flowing mainsail: Steadily,
The helmsman cries, as now thy breath is heard
Among the stirring cordage o'er his head;
So, steadily, he cries, as right he steers,
Speeds our proud ship along the world of waves.
Sylph, may thy favouring breath more gently blow,
More gently round the temples and the cheek
Of him, who, leaving home and friends behind,
In silence musing o'er the ocean leans,
And watches every passing shade that marks
The southern Channel's fast-retiring line;
Then, as the ship rolls on, keeps a long look
Fixed on the lessening Lizard, the last point
Of that delightful country, where he left
All his fond hopes behind: it lessens still;
Still, still it lessens, and now disappears!
He turns, and only sees the waves that rock
Boundless. How many anxious morns shall rise,
How many moons shall light the farthest seas,
O'er what new scenes and regions shall he stray,
A weary man, still thinking of his home,
Ere he again that shore shall view, and greet
With blissful thronging hopes and starting tears,
Of heartfelt welcome, and of warmest love!
Perhaps, ah! never! So didst thou go forth,
My poor lost brother!
The airs of morning as enticing played,
And gently, round thee, and their whisperings
Might sooth (if aught could sooth) a boding heart;
For thou wert bound to visit scenes of death,
Where the sick gale (alas! unlike the breeze
That bore the gently-swelling sail along)
Was tainted with the breath of pestilence,
That smote the silent camp, and night and day
Sat mocking on the putrid carcases.
Thou too didst perish! As the south-west blows,
Thy bones, perhaps, now whiten on the coast
Of old Algarva. I, meantime, these shades
Of village solitude, hoping erewhile
To welcome thee from many a toil restored,
Still deck, and now thy empty urn alone
I meet, where, swaying in the summer gale,
The willow whispers in my evening walk.
Sylph, in thy airy robe, I see thee float,
A rainbow o'er thy head, and in thy hand
The magic instrument, that, as thy wing,
Lucid, and painted like the butterfly's,
Waves to and from, most musically rings;
Sometimes in joyance, as the flaunting leaf
Of the white poplar, sometimes sad and slow,
As bearing pensive airs from Pity's grave.
Soft child of air, thou tendest on his sway,
As gentle Ariel at the bidding hies
Of mighty Prospero; yet other winds
Throng to his wizard 'hest, inspiring some,
Some melancholy, and yet soothing much
The drooping wanderer in the fading copse;
Some terrible, with solitude and death
Attendant on their march:--the wild Simoom,
Riding on whirling spires of burning sand,
That move along the Nubian wilderness,
And bury deep the silent caravan;--
Monsoon, up-starting from his half-year sleep,
Upon the vernal shores of Hindostan,
And tempesting with sounds of torrent rain,
And hail, the darkening main;--and red Sameel,
Blasting and withering, like a rivelled leaf,
The pilgrim as he roams;--Sirocco sad,
That pants, all summer, on the cloudless shores
Of faint Parthenope;--deep in the mine
Oft lurks the lurid messenger of death,
The ghastly fiend that blows, when the pale light
Quivers, and leaves the gasping wretch to die;--
The imp, that when the hollow curfew knolls,
Wanders the misty marish, lighting it
At night with errant and fantastic flame.
Spirit of air, these are thy ministers,
That wait thy will; but thou art all in all,
And dead without thee were the flower, the leaf,
The waving forest rivelled, the great sea
Still, the lithe birds of heaven extinct, and ceased
The soul of melting music.
This fair scene
Lives in thy tender touch, for so it seems;
Whilst universal nature owns thy sway;
From the mute insect on the summer pool,
That with long cobweb legs, firm as on earth
The ostrich skims, flits idly to and fro,
Making no dimple on the watery mass;
To the huge grampus, spouting, as he rolls,
A cataract, amid the cold clear sky,
And furrowing far and wide the northern deep.
Thy presence permeates and fills the whole!
As the poor butterfly, that, painted gay,
With mealy wings, red, amber, white, or dropped
With golden stains, floats o'er the yellow corn,
Idly, as bent on pastime, while the morn
Smiles on his devious voyage; if inclosed
In the exhausted prison, whence thy breath
With suction slow is drawn, he feels the change
How dire! in palsied inanition drops!
Weak flags his weary wing, and weaker yet;
His frame with tremulous convulsion moves
A moment, and the next is still in death.
So were the great and glorious world itself;
The tenants of its continents, all ceased!
A wide, a motionless, a putrid waste,
Its seas! How droops the languid mariner,
When not a breath, along the sluggish main,
Strays on the sultry surface as it sleeps;
When far away the winds are flown, to dash
The congregated ocean on the Cape
Of Southern Africa, leaving the while
The flood's vast surface noiseless, waveless, white,
Beneath Mozambique's long-reflected woods,
A gleaming mirror, spread from east to west,
Where the still ship, as on a bed of glass,
Sits motionless. Awake, ye hurricanes!
Ye winds that harrow up the wintry waste,
Awake! for Thunder in his sounding car,
Flashing thick lightning from the rolling wheels,
And the red volley, charged with instant death,
Were music to this lingering, sickening calm,
The same eternal sunshine; still, all still,
Without a vapour, or a sound.
Beneath the burning, breathless atmosphere,
Faint Nature sickening droop; who shall ascend
The height, where Silence, since the world began,
Has sat on Cimborazzo's highest peak,
A thousand toises o'er the cloud's career,
Soaring in finest ether? Far below,
He sees the mountains burning at his feet,
Whose smoke ne'er reached his forehead; never there,
Though the black whirlwind shake the distant shores,
The passing gale has murmured; never there
The eagle's cry has echoed; never there
The solitary condor's weary wing
Hath yet ascended!
Let the rising thought
Beyond the confines of this vapoury vault
Be lifted, to the boundless void of space,
How dread, how infinite! where other worlds,
Ten million and ten million leagues aloft,
In other precincts with their shadows roll.
There roams the sole erratic comet, borne
With lightning speed, yet twice three hundred years
Its destined course accomplishing.
Far from the attractive orb of central fire,
Back through the dim and infinite abyss,
Dread flaming visitant, ere thou return'st,
Empires may rise and fail; the palaces,
That shone on earth, may vanish like the dews
Of morning, scarce illumined ere they fly.
Dread flaming visitant, who that pursues
Thy long and lonely voyage, ev'n in thought,
(Till thought itself seem in the effort lost,)
But tremblingly exclaims, There is a God:
There is a God who lights ten thousand suns,
Round which revolve worlds wheeling amid worlds.
He launched thy voyage through the vast abyss,
He hears his universe, through all its orbs,
As with one voice, proclaim,
There is a God!
Lifted above this dim diurnal sphere,
So fancy, rising with her theme, ascends,
And voyaging the illimitable void,
Where comets flame, sees other worlds and suns
Emerge, and on this earth, like a dim speck,
Looks down: nor in the wonderful and vast
Of the dread scene magnificent, she views
Alone the Almighty Ruler, but the web
That shines in summer time, and only seen
In the slant sunbeam, wakes a moral thought.
In autumn, when the thin long spider gains
The leafy bush's top, he from his seat
Shoots the soft filament, like threads of air,
Scarce seen, into the sky; and thus sustained,
Boldly ascends into the breezy void,
Dependent on the trembling line he wove,
Insidious, and intent on scenes of spoil
And death:--So mounts Ambition, and aloft
On his proud summit meditates new scenes
Of plunder and dominion, till the breeze
Of fortune change, that blows to empty air
His feeble, frail support, and once again
Leaves him a reptile, struggling in the dust!
But what the world itself, what in His view
Whose dread Omnipotence is over all!
A twinkling air-thread in the vast of space.
And what the works of that proud insect, Man!
His mausoleums, fanes, and pyramids,
Frown in the dusk of long-revolving years,
While generations, as they rise and drop,
Each following each to silence and to dust,
Point as they pass, and say, It was a God
That made them: but nor date, nor name
Oblivion shows; cloud only, rolling on,
And wrapping darker as it rolls, the works
Now raised on Contemplation's wing,
The blue vault, fervent with unnumbered stars,
He ranges: speeds, as with an angel's flight,
From orb to orb; sees distant suns illume
The boundless space, then bends his head to earth,
So poor is all he knows!
O'er sanguine fields
Now rides he, armed and crested like the god
Of fabled battles; where he points, pale Death
Strides over weltering carcases; nor leaves,--
But still a horrid shadow, step by step,
Stalks mocking after him, till now the noise
Of rolling acclamation, and the shout
Of multitude on multitude, is past:
The scene of all his triumphs, wormy earth,
Closes upon his perishable pride;
For 'dust he is, and shall to dust return'!
But Conscience, a small voice from heaven replies,
Conscience shall meet him in another world.
Let man, then, walk meek, humble, pure, and just;
Though meek, yet dignified; though humble, raised,
The heir of life and immortality;
Conscious that in this awful world he stands,
He only of all living things, ordained
To think, and know, and feel, there is a God!
Child of the air, though most I love to hear
Thy gentle summons whisper, when the Spring,
At the first carol of the village lark,
Looks out and smiles, or June is in her car;
Not undelightful is the purer air
In winter, when the keen north-east is high,
When frost fantastic his cold garland weaves
Of brittle flowers, or soft-succeeding snows
Gather without apace, and heavy load
The berried sweetbrier, clinging to my pane.
The blackbird, then, that marks the ruddy pods
Peep through the snow, though silent is his song,
Yet, pressed by cold and hunger, ventures near.
The robin group, familiar, muster round
The garden-shed, where, at his dinner set,
The laboured hind strews here and there a crumb
From his brown bread; then heedless of the winds
That blow without, and sweep the shivered snow,
Sees from his broken tube the smoke ascend
On an inverted barrow, as in state
He sits, though poor, the monarch of the scene,
As pondering deep the garden's future state,
His kingdom; the rude instruments of death
Lie at his feet, fashioned with simple skill,
With which he hopes to snare the prowling race,
The mice, rapacious of his vernal hopes.
So seated, on the spring he ruminates,
And solemn as a sophi, moves nor hand,
Nor eye, till haply some more venturous bird,
(The crumbs exhausted that he lately strewed
Upon the groundsill,) with often dipping beak,
And sidelong look, as asking larger dole,
Comes hopping to his feet: and say, ye great,
Ye mighty monarchs of this earthly scene,
What nobler views can elevate the heart
Of a proud patriot king, than thus to chase
The bold rapacious spoilers from the field,
And with an eye of merciful regard
To look on humble worth, wet from the storm,
And chilled by indigence!
But thoughts like these
Ill suit the radiant summer's rosy prime,
And the still temper of the calm blue sky.
The sunny shower is past; at intervals
The silent glittering drops descend; and mark,
Upon the blue bank of yon western cloud,
That looms direct against the emerging orb,
How bright, how beautiful the rainbow's hues
Steal out, how stately bends the graceful arch
Above the hills, and tinging at his foot
The mead and trees! Fancy might think young Hope
Pants for the vision, and with ardent eye
Pursues the unreal shade, and spreads her hands,
Weeping to see it fade, as all her dreams
These, O Air! are but the toys,
That sometimes deck thy fairy element;
So oft the eye observant loves to trace
The colours, and the shadows, and the forms,
That wander o'er the veering atmosphere.
See, in the east, the rare parhelia shine
In mimic glory, and so seem to mock
(Fixed parallel to the ascending or
The majesty, the splendour, and the shape,
Of the sole luminary that informs
The world with light and heat! The halo-ring
Bends over all!
With desultory shafts,
And long and arrowy glance, the night-lights shoot
Pale coruscations o'er the northern sky;
Now lancing to the cope, in sheets of flame,
Now wavering wild, as the reflected wave,
On the arched roof of the umbrageous grot.
Hence Superstition dreams of armaments,
Of fiery conflicts, and of bleeding fields
Of slaughter; so on great Jerusalem,
Ere yet she fell, the flaming meteor glared;
A waving sword ensanguined seemed to point
To the devoted city, and a voice
Was heard, Depart, depart!
That with the ceaseless hurry of its clouds,
Encircles the round globe, resembles oft
The passing sunshine, or the glooms that stray
O'er every human spirit.
Thin light streaks
Of thought pass vapoury o'er the vacant mind,
And fade to nothing. Now fantastic gleams
Play, flashing or expiring, of gay hope,
Or deep despair; then clouds of sadness close
In one dark settled gloom, and all the man
Droops, in despondence lost.
Please most the pensive poet: and the views
He forms, though evanescent, and as vain
As the air's mockery, seem to his eye
Ev'n as substantial images, and shapes,
Till in a hurrying rack they all dissolve.
So in the cloudless sky, amusive shines
The soft and mimic scenery; distant hills
That, in refracted light, hang beautiful
Beneath the golden car of eve, ere yet
The daylight lingering fades.
Hence, on the heights
Of Apennine, far stretching to the south,
The goat-herd, while the westering sun, far off,
Hangs o'er the hazy ocean's brim, beholds
In the horizon's faintly-glowing verge
A landscape, like the rainbow, rise, with rocks
That softened shine, and shores that trend away,
Beneath the winding woods of Sicily,
And Etna, smouldering in the still pale sky;
And dim Messina, with her spires, and bays
That wind among the mountains, and the tower
Of Faro, gleaming on the tranquil straits;
Unreal all, yet on the air impressed,
From light's refracted ray, the shadow seems
The certain scene: the hind astonished views,
Yet most delighted, till at once the light
Changes, and all has vanished!
But to him,
How different in still air the unreal view,
Who wanders in Arabian solitudes,
When, faint with thirst, he sees illusive streams
Shine in the arid desert!
A silent waste of dark gray sand is spread,
Like ashes; not a speck in heaven appears,
But the red sun, high in his burning noon,
Shoots down intolerable fire: no sound
Of beast, or blast, or moving insect, stirs
The horrid stillness. Oh! what hand will guide
The pilgrim, panting in the trackless dust,
To where the pure and sparkling fountain cheers
The green oasis. See, as now his lip
Hangs parched and quivering, see before him spread
The long and level lake!
He gazes; still
He gazes, till he drops upon the sands,
And to the vision stretches, as he faints,
His feeble hand.
Come, Sylph of Summer, come!
Return to these green pastures, that, remote
From fiery blasts, or deadly blistering frosts,
Beneath the temperate atmosphere rejoice!
A crown of flame, a javelin in his hand,
Like the red arrow that the lightning shoots
Through night, impetuous steeds, and burning wheels,
That, as they whirl, flash to the cope of heaven,
Proclaim the angel of the world of fire!
The ocean-king, lord of the waters, rides
High on his hissing car, whose concave skirrs
The azure deep beneath him, flashing wide,
As to the sun the dark-green wave upturns,
And foaming far behind: sea-horses breast
The bickering surge, with nostrils sounding far,
And eyes that flash above the wave, and necks,
Whose mane, like breakers whitening in the wind,
Toss through the broken foam: he kingly bears
His trident sceptre high; around him play
Nereids, and sea-maids, singing as he rides
Their choral song: huge Triton, weltering on,
With scaly train, at times his wreathed shell
Sounds, that the caverns of old ocean shake!
But milder thou, soft daughter of the air,
Sylph of the Summer, come! the silent shower
Is past, and 'mid the dripping fern, the wren
Peeps, till the sun looks through the clouds again.
Oh, come, and breathe thy gentler influence,
And send a home-felt quiet to my heart,
Soothed as I hear, by fits, thy whisper run,
Stirring the tall acacia's pendent leaves,
And through yon hazel alley rustling soft
Upon the vacant ear!
Yon eastern downs,
That weather-fence the blossoms of the vale,
Where winds from hill to hill the mighty Dike,
Of Woden named, with many an antique mound,
The warrior's grave, bids exercise awake,
And health, the breeze of morning to inhale:
Meantime, remote from storms, the myrtle blooms
Beneath my southern sash.
May rend the pines of snowy Labrador,
The blasting whirlwinds of the desert sweep
The Nubian wilderness--we fear them not;
Nor yet, my country, do thy breezes bear,
From citrons, or the blooming orange-grove,
As in Rousillon's jasmine-bordered vales,
Incense at eve.
But temperate airs are thine,
England; and as thy climate, so thy sons
Partake the temper of thine isle; not rude,
Nor soft, voluptuous, nor effeminate;
Sincere, indeed, and hardy, as becomes
Those who can lift their look elate, and say,
We strike for injured freedom; and yet mild,
And gentle, when the voice of charity
Pleads like a voice from heaven: and, thanks to GOD,
The chain that fettered Afric's groaning race,
The murderous chain, that, link by link, dropped blood,
Is severed; we have lost that foul reproach
To all our virtuous boast!
England, is thine! not _that_ false substitute,
That meretricious sadness, which, all sighs
For lark or lambkin, yet can hear unmoved
The bloodiest orgies of blood-boltered France;
Thine is consistent, manly, rational,
Nor needing the false glow of sentiment
To melt it into sympathy, but mild,
And looking with a gentle eye on all;
Thy manners open, social, yet refined,
Are tempered with reflection; gaiety,
In her long-lighted halls, may lead the dance,
Or wake the sprightly chord; yet nature, truth,
Still warm the ingenuous heart: there is a blush
With those most gay, and lovely; and a tear
With those most manly!
Hath yet the fairest altar on thy shores;
Such, and so warm with patriot energy,
As raised its arm when a false Stuart fled;
Yet mingled with deep wisdom's cautious lore,
That when it bade a Papal tyrant pause
And tremble, held the undeviating reins
On the fierce neck of headlong Anarchy.
Thy Church, (nor here let zealot bigotry,
Vaunting, condemn all altars but its own),
Thy Church, majestic, but not sumptuous,
Sober, but not austere, with lenity
Tempering her fair pre-eminence, sustains
Her liberal charities, yet decent state.
The tempest is abroad; the fearful sounds
Of armament, and gathering tumult, fill
The ear of anxious Europe. If, O GOD!
It is thy will, that in the storm of death,
When we have lifted the brave sword in vain,
We too should sink, sustain us in that hour!
Meantime be mine, in cheerful privacy,
To wait Thy will, not sanguine, nor depressed;
In even course, nor splendid, nor obscure,
To steal through life among my villagers!
The hum of the discordant crowd, the buzz
Of faction, the poor fly that threads the air
Self-pleased, the wasp that points its tiny sting
Unfelt, pass by me like the idle wind
That I regard not; while the Summer Sylph,
That whispers through the laurels, wakes the thought
Of quietude, and home-felt happiness,
And independence, in a land I love!
The Forest Sanctuary - Part II.
Bring me the sounding of the torrent-water,
With yet a nearer swell-fresh breeze, awake!
And river, darkening ne'er with hues of slaughter
Thy wave's pure silvery green,-and shining lake,
Spread far before my cabin, with thy zone
Of ancient woods, ye chainless things and lone!
Send voices through the forest aisles, and make
Glad music round me, that my soul may dare,
Cheer'd by such tones, to look back on a dungeon's air!
Oh, Indian hunter of the desert's race!
That with the spear at times, or bended bow,
Dost cross my footsteps in thy fiery chase
Of the swift elk or blue hill's flying roe;
Thou that beside the red night-fire thou heapest,
Beneath the cedars and the star-light sleepest,
Thou know'st not, wanderer-never may'st thou know!-
Of the dark holds wherewith man cumbers earth,
To shut from human eyes the dancing seasons' mirth.
There, fetter'd down from day, to think the while
How bright in Heaven the festal sun is glowing,
Making earth's loneliest places, with his smile,
Flush like the rose; and how the streams are flowing
With sudden sparkles through the shadowy grass,
And water-flowers, all trembling as they pass;
And how the rich dark summer-trees are bowing
With their full foliage;-this to know, and pine
Bound unto midnight's heart, seems a stern lot-'twas mine.
Wherefore was this?-Because my soul had drawn
Light from the book whose words are grav'd in light!
There, at its well-head, had I found the dawn,
And day, and noon of freedom:-but too bright
It shines on that which man to man hath given,
And call'd the truth-the very truth, from Heaven!
And therefore seeks he, in his brother's sight,
To cast the mote; and therefore strives to bind
With his strong chains to earth, what is not earth's-the mind!
It is a weary and a bitter task
Back from the lip the burning word to keep,
And to shut out Heaven's air with falsehood's mask,
And in the dark urn of the soul to heap
Indignant feelings-making even of thought
A buried treasure, which may but be sought
When shadows are abroad-and night-and sleep.
I might not brook it long-and thus was thrown
Into that grave-like cell, to wither there alone.
And I a child of danger, whose delights
Were on dark hills and many-sounding seas-
I that amidst the Cordillera heights
Had given Castilian banners to the breeze,
And the full circle of the rainbow seen
There, on the snows; and in my country been
A mountain wanderer, from the Pyrenees
To the Morena crags-how left I not
Life, or the soul's life quench'd, on that sepulchral spot?
Because Thou didst not leave me, oh, my God!
Thou wert with those that bore the truth of old
Into the deserts from the oppressor's rod,
And made the caverns of the rock their fold,
And in the hidden chambers of the dead,
Our guiding lamp with fire immortal fed,
And met when stars met, by their beams to hold
The free heart's communing with Thee,-and Thou
Wert in the midst, felt, own'd-the strengthener then as now!
Yet once I sank. Alas! man's wavering mind!
Wherefore and whence the gusts that o'er it blow?
How they bear with them, floating uncombin'd,
The shadows of the past, that come and go,
As o'er the deep the old long-buried things,
Which a storm's working to the surface brings!
Is the reed shaken, and must we be so,
With every wind?-So, Father! must we be,
Till we can fix undimm'd our stedfast eyes on Thee.
Once my soul died within me. What had thrown
That sickness o'er it?-Even a passing thought
Of a clear spring, whose side, with flowers o'ergrown,
Fondly and oft my boyish steps had sought!
Perchance the damp roof's water-drops, that fell
Just then, low tinkling through my vaulted cell,
Intensely heard amidst the stillness, caught
Some tone from memory, of the music, welling
Ever with that fresh rill, from its deep rocky dwelling.
But so my spirit's fever'd longings wrought,
Wakening, it might be, to the faint sad sound,
That from the darkness of the walls they brought
A lov'd scene round me, visibly around.
Yes! kindling, spreading, brightening, hue by hue,
Like stars from midnight, through the gloom it grew,
That haunt of youth, hope, manhood!-till the bound
Of my shut cavern seem'd dissolv'd, and I
Girt by the solemn hills and burning pomp of sky.
I look'd-and lo! the clear broad river flowing,
Past the old Moorish ruin on the steep,
The lone tower dark against a Heaven all glowing,
Like seas of glass and fire!-I saw the sweep
Of glorious woods far down the mountain side,
And their still shadows in the gleaming tide,
And the red evening on its waves asleep;
And midst the scene-oh! more than all-there smil'd
My child's fair face, and hers, the mother of my child!
With their soft eyes of love and gladness rais'd
Up to the flushing sky, as when we stood
Last by that river, and in silence gaz'd
On the rich world of sunset:-but a flood
Of sudden tenderness my soul oppress'd,
And I rush'd forward with a yearning breast,
To clasp-alas! a vision!-Wave and wood,
And gentle faces, lifted in the light
Of day's last hectic blush, all melted from my sight.
Then darkness!-oh! th' unutterable gloom
That seem'd as narrowing round me, making less
And less my dungeon, when, with all its bloom,
That bright dream vanish'd from my loneliness!
It floated off, the beautiful!-yet left
Such deep thirst in my soul, that thus bereft,
I lay down, sick with passion's vain excess,
And pray'd to die.-How oft would sorrow weep
Her weariness to death, if he might come like sleep!
But I was rous'd-and how?-It is no tale
Even midst thy shades, thou wilderness, to tell!
I would not have my boy's young cheek made pale,
Nor haunt his sunny rest with what befel
In that drear prison-house.-His eye must grow
More dark with thought, more earnest his fair brow,
More high his heart in youthful strength must swell;
So shall it fitly burn when all is told:-
Let childhood's radiant mist the free child yet enfold!
It is enough that through such heavy hours,
As wring us by our fellowship of clay,
I liv'd, and undegraded. We have powers
To snatch th' oppressor's bitter joy away!
Shall the wild Indian, for his savage fame,
Laugh and expire, and shall not truth's high name
Bear up her martyrs with all-conquering sway?
It is enough that Torture may be vain-
I had seen Alvar die-the strife was won from Pain.
And faint not, heart of man! though years wane slow!
There have been those that from the deepest caves,
And cells of night, and fastnesses, below
The stormy dashing of the ocean-waves,
Down, farther down than gold lies hid, have nurs'd
A quenchless hope, and watch'd their time, and burst
On the bright day, like wakeners from the graves!
I was of such at last!-unchain'd I trod
This green earth, taking back my freedom from my God!
That was an hour to send its fadeless trace
Down life's far sweeping tide!-A dim, wild night,
Like sorrow, hung upon the soft moon's face,
Yet how my heart leap'd in her blessed light!
The shepherd's light-the sailor's on the sea-
The hunter's homeward from the mountains free,
Where its lone smile makes tremulously bright
The thousand streams!-I could but gaze through tears-
Oh! what a sight is Heaven, thus first beheld for years!
The rolling clouds!-they have the whole blue space
Above to sail in-all the dome of sky!
My soul shot with them in their breezy race
O'er star and gloom!-but I had yet to fly,
As flies the hunted wolf. A secret spot,
And strange, I knew-the sunbeam knew it not;-
Wildest of all the savage glens that lie
In far sierras, hiding their deep springs,
And travers'd but by storms, or sounding eagles' wings.
Ay, and I met the storm there!-I had gain'd
The covert's heart with swift and stealthy tread:
A moan went past me, and the dark trees rain'd
Their autumn foliage rustling on my head;
A moan-a hollow gust-and there I stood
Girt with majestic night, and ancient wood,
And foaming water.-Thither might have fled
The mountain Christian with his faith of yore,
When Afric's tambour shook the ringing western shore!
But through the black ravine the storm came swelling-
Mighty thou art amidst the hills, thou blast!
In thy lone course the kingly cedars felling,
Like plumes upon the path of battle cast!
A rent oak thunder'd down beside my cave-
Booming it rush'd, as booms a deep sea-wave;
A falcon soar'd; a startled wild-deer pass'd;
A far-off bell toll'd faintly through the roar-
How my glad spirit swept forth with the winds once more!
And with the arrowy lightnings!-for they flash'd,
Smiting the branches in their fitful play,
And brightly shivering where the torrents dash'd
Up, even to crag and eagle's nest, their spray!
And there to stand amidst the pealing strife,
The strong pines groaning with tempestuous life,
And all the mountain-voices on their way,-
Was it not joy?-'twas joy in rushing might,
After those years that wove but one long dead of night!
There came a softer hour, a lovelier moon,
And lit me to my home of youth again,
Through the dim chesnut shade, where oft at noon,
By the fount's flashing burst, my head had lain,
In gentle sleep: but now I pass'd as one
That may not pause where wood-streams whispering run,
Or light sprays tremble to a bird's wild strain,
Because th' avenger's voice is in the wind,
The foe's quick rustling step close on the leaves behind.
My home of youth!-oh! if indeed to part
With the soul's lov'd ones be a mournful thing,
When we go forth in buoyancy of heart,
And bearing all the glories of our spring
For life to breathe on,-is it less to meet,
When these are faded?-who shall call it sweet?
-Even though love's mingling tears may haply bring
Balm as they fall, too well their heavy showers
Teach us how much is lost of all that once was ours!
Not by the sunshine, with its golden glow,
Nor the green earth, nor yet the laughing sky,
Nor the faint flower-scents, as they come and go
In the soft air, like music wandering by;
-Oh! not by these, th' unfailing, are we taught
How time and sorrow on our frames have wrought,
But by the sadden'd eye, the darken'd brow,
Of kindred aspects, and the long dim gaze,
Which tells us we are chang'd,-how chang'd from other days!
Before my father-in my place of birth,
I stood an alien. On the very floor
Which oft had trembled to my boyish mirth,
The love that rear'd me, knew my face no more!
There hung the antique armour, helm and crest,
Whose every stain woke childhood in my breast,
There droop'd the banner, with the marks it bore
Of Paynim spears; and I, the worn in frame
And heart, what there was I?-another and the same!
Then bounded in a boy, with clear dark eye-
-How should he know his father?-when we parted,
From the soft cloud which mantles infancy,
His soul, just wakening into wonder, darted
Its first looks round. Him follow'd one, the bride
Of my young days, the wife how lov'd and tried!
Her glance met mine-I could not speak-she started
With a bewilder'd gaze;-until there came
Tears to my burning eyes, and from my lips her name.
She knew me then!-I murmur'd 'Leonor!'
And her heart answer'd!-oh! the voice is known
First from all else, and swiftest to restore
Love's buried images with one low tone,
That strikes like lightning, when the cheek is faded,
And the brow heavily with thought o'ershaded,
And all the brightness from the aspect gone!
-Upon my breast she sunk, when doubt was fled,
Weeping as those may weep, that meet in woe and dread.
For there we might not rest. Alas! to leave
Those native towers, and know that they must fall
By slow decay, and none remain to grieve
When the weeds cluster'd on the lonely wall!
We were the last-my boy and I-the last
Of a long line which brightly thence had pass'd!
My father bless'd me as I left his hall-
-With his deep tones and sweet, tho' full of years,
He bless'd me there, and bath'd my child's young head with tears.
I had brought sorrow on his grey hairs down,
And cast the darkness of my branded name
(For so he deem'd it) on the clear renown,
My own ancestral heritage of fame.
And yet he bless'd me!-Father! if the dust
Lie on those lips benign, my spirit's trust
Is to behold thee yet, where grief and shame
Dim the bright day no more; and thou wilt know
That not thro' guilt thy son thus bow'd thine age with woe!
And thou, my Leonor! that unrepining,
If sad in soul, didst quit all else for me,
When stars-the stars that earliest rise-are shining,
How their soft glance unseals each thought of thee!
For on our flight they smil'd;-their dewy rays,
Thro' the last olives, lit thy tearful gaze
Back to the home we never more might see;
So pass'd we on, like earth's first exiles, turning
Fond looks where hung the sword above their Eden burning.
It was a woe to say-'Farewell, my Spain!
The sunny and the vintage land, farewell!'
-I could have died upon the battle plain
For thee, my country! but I might not dwell
In thy sweet vales, at peace.-The voice of song
Breathes, with the myrtle scent, thy hills along;
The citron's glow is caught from shade and dell;
But what are these?-upon thy flowery sod
I might not kneel, and pour my free thoughts out to God!
O'er the blue deep I fled, the chainless deep!
-Strange heart of man! that ev'n midst woe swells high,
When thro' the foam he sees his proud bark sweep,
Flinging out joyous gleams to wave and sky!
Yes! it swells high, whate'er he leaves behind;
His spirit rises with the rising wind;
For, wedded to the far futurity,
On, on, it bears him ever, and the main
Seems rushing, like his hope, some happier shore to gain.
Not thus is woman. Closely her still heart
Doth twine itself with ev'n each lifeless thing,
Which, long remember'd, seem'd to bear its part
In her calm joys. For ever would she cling,
A brooding dove, to that sole spot of earth
Where she hath loved, and given her children birth,
And heard their first sweet voices. There may Spring
Array no path, renew no flower, no leaf,
But hath its breath of home, its claim to farewell grief.
I look'd on Leonor, and if there seem'd
A cloud of more than pensiveness to rise,
In the faint smiles that o'er her features gleam'd,
And the soft darkness of her serious eyes,
Misty with tender gloom; I call'd it nought
But the fond exile's pang, a lingering thought
Of her own vale, with all its melodies
And living light of streams. Her soul would rest
Beneath your shades, I said, bowers of the gorgeous west!
Oh! could we live in visions! could we hold
Delusion faster, longer, to our breast,
When it shuts from us, with its mantle's fold,
That which we see not, and are therefore blest!
But they, our lov'd and loving, they to whom
We have spread out our souls in joy and gloom,
Their looks and accents, unto ours address'd,
Have been a language of familiar tone
Too long to breathe, at last, dark sayings and unknown.
I told my heart 'twas but the exile's woe
Which press'd on that sweet bosom;-I deceiv'd
My heart but half:-a whisper faint and low,
Haunting it ever, and at times believ'd,
Spoke of some deeper cause. How oft we seem
Like those that dream, and know the while they dream,
Midst the soft falls of airy voices griev'd,
And troubled, while bright phantoms round them play,
By a dim sense that all will float and fade away!
Yet, as if chasing joy, I woo'd the breeze,
To speed me onward with the wings of morn.
-Oh! far amidst the solitary seas,
Which were not made for man, what man hath borne,
Answering their moan with his!-what thou didst bear,
My lost and loveliest! while that secret care
Grew terror, and thy gentle spirit, worn
By its dull brooding weight, gave way at last,
Beholding me as one from hope for ever cast!
For unto thee, as thro' all change, reveal'd
Mine inward being lay. In other eyes
I had to bow me yet, and make a shield,
To fence my burning bosom, of disguise;
By the still hope sustain'd, ere long to win
Some sanctuary, whose green retreats within,
My thoughts unfetter'd to their source might rise,
Like songs and scents of morn.-But thou didst look
Thro' all my soul, and thine even unto fainting shook.
Fall'n, fall'n, I seem'd-yet, oh! not less belov'd,
Tho' from thy love was pluck'd the early pride,
And harshly, by a gloomy faith reproved,
And sear'd with shame!-tho' each young flower had died,
There was the root,-strong, living, not the less
That all it yielded now was bitterness;
Yet still such love as quits not misery's side,
Nor drops from guilt its ivy-like embrace,
Nor turns away from death's its pale heroic face.
Yes! thou hadst follow'd me thro' fear and flight;
Thou wouldst have follow'd had my pathway led
Even to the scaffold; had the flashing light
Of the rais'd axe made strong men shrink with dread,
Thou, midst the hush of thousands, wouldst have been
With thy clasp'd hands beside me kneeling seen,
And meekly bowing to the shame thy head-
-The shame!-oh! making beautiful to view
The might of human love-fair thing! so bravely true!
There was thine agony-to love so well
Where fear made love life's chastener.-Heretofore
Whate'er of earth's disquiet round thee fell,
Thy soul, o'erpassing its dim bounds, could soar
Away to sunshine, and thy clear eye speak
Most of the skies when grief most touch'd thy cheek.
Now, that far brightness faded! never more
Couldst thou lift heavenwards for its hope thy heart,
Since at Heaven's gate it seem'd that thou and I must part.
Alas! and life hath moments when a glance
(If thought to sudden watchfulness be stirr'd,)
A flush-a fading of the cheek perchance.
A word-less, less-the cadence of a word,
Lets in our gaze the mind's dim veil beneath,
Thence to bring haply knowledge fraught with death!
-Even thus, what never from thy lip was heard
Broke on my soul.-I knew that in thy sight
I stood-howe'er belov'd-a recreant from the light!
Thy sad sweet hymn, at eve, the seas along,-
-Oh! the deep soul it breath'd!-the love, the woe,
The fervor, pour'd in that full gush of song,
As it went floating through the fiery glow
Of the rich sunset!-bringing thoughts of Spain,
With all her vesper-voices, o'er the main,
Which seem'd responsive in its murmuring flow.
-' Ave sanctissima! '-how oft that lay
Hath melted from my heart the martyr-strength away!
'Tis night-fall on the sea;
Ora pro nobis!
Our souls rise to thee!
Watch us, while shadows lie
O'er the dim water spread;
Hear the heart's lonely sigh,
-Thine , too, hath bled!
Thou that hast look'd on death,
Aid us when death is near!
Whisper of Heaven to faith;
Sweet mother, hear!
Ora pro nobis!
The wave must rock our sleep,
Ora, mater, ora!
Thou star of the deep!
'Ora pro nobis, mater!' -What a spell
Was in those notes, with day's last glory dying
On the flush'd waters!-seem'd they not to swell
From the far dust, wherein my sires were lying
With crucifix and sword?-Oh! yet how clear
Comes their reproachful sweetness to mine ear!
'Ora!' -with all the purple waves replying,
All my youth's visions rising in the strain-
-And I had thought it much to bear the rack and chain!
Torture!-the sorrow of affection's eye,
Fixing its meekness on the spirit's core,
Deeper, and teaching more of agony,
May pierce than many swords!-and this I bore
With a mute pang. Since I had vainly striven
From its free springs to pour the truth of Heaven
Into thy trembling soul, my Leonor!
Silence rose up where hearts no hope could share:
-Alas! for those that love, and may not blend in prayer!
We could not pray together midst the deep,
Which, like a floor of sapphire, round us lay,
Through days of splendour, nights too bright for sleep,
Soft, solemn, holy!-We were on our way
Unto the mighty Cordillera-land,
With men whom tales of that world's golden strand
Had lur'd to leave their vines.-Oh! who shall say
What thoughts rose in us, when the tropic sky
Touch'd all its molten seas with sunset's alchemy?
Thoughts no more mingled!-Then came night-th' intense
Dark blue-the burning stars!-I saw thee shine
Once more, in thy serene magnificence,
O Southern Cross! as when thy radiant sign
First drew my gaze of youth.-No, not as then;
I had been stricken by the darts of men
Since those fresh days, and now thy light divine
Look'd on mine anguish, while within me strove
The still small voice against the might of suffering love.
But thou, the clear, the glorious! thou wert pouring
Brilliance and joy upon the crystal wave,
While she that met thy ray with eyes adoring,
Stood in the lengthening shadow of the grave!
-Alas! I watch'd her dark religious glance,
As it still sought thee through the Heaven's expanse,
Bright Cross!-and knew not that I watch'd what gave
But passing lustre-shrouded soon to be-
A soft light found no more-no more on earth or sea!
I knew not all-yet something of unrest
Sat on my heart. Wake, ocean-wind! I said;
Waft us to land, in leafy freshness drest,
Where through rich clouds of foliage o'er her head,
Sweet day may steal, and rills unseen go by,
Like singing voices, and the green earth lie
Starry with flowers, beneath her graceful tread!
-But the calm bound us midst the glassy main;
Ne'er was her step to bend earth's living flowers again.
Yes! as if Heaven upon the waves were sleeping,
Vexing my soul with quiet, there they lay,
All moveless through their blue transparence keeping,
The shadows of our sails, from day to day;
While she-oh! strongest is the strong heart's woe-
And yet I live! I feel the sunshine's glow-
And I am he that look'd, and saw decay
Steal o'er the fair of earth, th' ador'd too much!
-It is a fearful thing to love what death may touch.
A fearful thing that love and death may dwell
In the same world!-She faded on-and I-
Blind to the last, there needed death to tell
My trusting soul that she could fade to die!
Yet, ere she parted, I had mark'd a change,
-But it breath'd hope-'twas beautiful, though strange:
Something of gladness in the melody
Of her low voice, and in her words a flight
Of airy thought-alas! too perilously bright!
And a clear sparkle in her glance, yet wild,
And quick, and eager, like the flashing gaze
Of some all wondering and awakening child,
That first the glories of the earth surveys.
-How could it thus deceive me?-she had worn
Around her, like the dewy mists of morn,
A pensive tenderness through happiest days,
And a soft world of dreams had seem'd to lie
Still in her dark, and deep, and spiritual eye.
And I could hope in that strange fire!-she died,
She died, with all its lustre on her mien!
-The day was melting from the waters wide,
And through its long bright hours her thoughts had been,
It seem'd, with restless and unwonted yearning,
To Spain's blue skies and dark sierras turning
For her fond words were all of vintage-scene,
And flowering myrtle, and sweet citron's breath-
-Oh! with what vivid hues life comes back oft on death!
And from her lips the mountain-songs of old,
In wild faint snatches, fitfully had sprung;
Songs of the orange bower, the Moorish hold,
The 'Rio verde', on her soul that hung,
And thence flow'd forth.-But now the sun was low,
And watching by my side its last red glow,
That ever stills the heart, once more she sung
Her own soft 'Ora, mater!' -and the sound
Was even like love's farewell-so mournfully profound.
The boy had dropp'd to slumber at our feet;-
-'And I have lull'd him to his smiling rest
Once more!' she said:-I rais'd him-it was sweet,
Yet sad, to see the perfect calm which bless'd
His look that hour;-for now her voice grew weak;
And on the flowery crimson of his cheek,
With her white lips a long, long kiss she press'd,
Yet light, to wake him not.-Then sank her head
Against my bursting heart.-What did I clasp?-the dead!
I call'd-to call what answers not our cries-
By that we lov'd to stand unseen, unheard,
With the loud passion of our tears and sighs
To see but some cold glistering ringlet stirr'd,
And in the quench'd eye's fixedness to gaze,
All vainly searching for the parted rays;
This is what waits us!-Dead!-with that chill word
To link our bosom-names!-For this we pour
Our souls upon the dust-nor tremble to adore!
But the true parting came!-I look'd my last
On the sad beauty of that slumbering face;
How could I think the lovely spirit pass'd,
Which there had left so tenderly its trace?
Yet a dim awfulness was on the brow-
No! not like sleep to look upon art Thou,
Death, death!-She lay, a thing for earth's embrace,
To cover with spring-wreaths.-For earth's?-the wave
That gives the bier no flowers-makes moan above her grave!
On the mid-seas a knell!-for man was there,
Anguish and love-the mourner with his dead!
A long low-rolling knell-a voice of prayer-
Dark glassy waters, like a desert spread,-
And the pale-shining Southern Cross on high,
Its faint stars fading from a solemn sky,
Where mighty clouds before the dawn grew red;-
Were these things round me?-Such o'er memory sweep
Wildly when aught brings back that burial of the deep.
Then the broad lonely sunrise!-and the plash
Into the sounding waves!-around her head
They parted, with a glancing moment's flash,
Then shut-and all was still. And now thy bed
Is of their secrets, gentlest Leonor!
Once fairest of young brides!-and never more,
Lov'd as thou wert, may human tear be shed
Above thy rest!-No mark the proud seas keep,
To show where he that wept may pause again to weep.
So the depths took thee!-Oh! the sullen sense
Of desolation in that hour compress'd!
Dust going down, a speck, amidst th' immense
And gloomy waters, leaving on their breast
The trace a weed might leave there!-Dust!-the thing
Which to the heart was as a living spring
Of joy, with fearfulness of love possess'd,
Thus sinking!-Love, joy, fear, all crush'd to this-
And the wide Heaven so far-so fathomless th' abyss!
Where the line sounds not, where the wrecks lie low,
What shall wake thence the dead?-Blest, blest are they
That earth to earth entrust; for they may know
And tend the dwelling whence the slumberer's clay
Shall rise at last, and bid the young flowers bloom,
That waft a breath of hope around the tomb,
And kneel upon the dewy turf to pray!
But thou, what cave hath dimly chamber'd thee?
Vain dreams!-oh! art thou not where there is no more sea?
The wind rose free and singing:-when for ever,
O'er that sole spot of all the watery plain,
I could have bent my sight with fond endeavour
Down, where its treasure was, its glance to strain;
Then rose the reckless wind!-Before our prow
The white foam flash'd-ay, joyously-and thou
Wert left with all the solitary main
Around thee-and thy beauty in my heart,
And thy meek sorrowing love-oh! where could that depart?
I will not speak of woe; I may not tell-
Friend tells not such to friend-the thoughts which rent
My fainting spirit, when its wild farewell
Across the billows to thy grave was sent,
Thou, there most lonely!-He that sits above,
In his calm glory, will forgive the love
His creatures bear each other, ev'n if blent
With a vain worship; for its close is dim
Ever with grief, which leads the wrung soul back to Him!
And with a milder pang if now I bear
To think of thee in thy forsaken rest,
If from my heart be lifted the despair,
The sharp remorse with healing influence press'd,
If the soft eyes that visit me in sleep
Look not reproach, though still they seem to weep;
It is that He my sacrifice hath bless'd,
And fill'd my bosom, through its inmost cell,
With a deep chastening sense that all at last is well.
Yes! thou art now-Oh! wherefore doth the thought
Of the wave dashing o'er thy long bright hair,
The sea-weed into its dark tresses wrought,
The sand thy pillow-thou that wert so fair!
Come o'er me still?-Earth, earth!-it is the hold
Earth ever keeps on that of earthy mould!
But thou art breathing now in purer air,
I well believe, and freed from all of error,
Which blighted here the root of thy sweet life with terror.
And if the love which here was passing light
Went with what died not-Oh! that this we knew,
But this!-that through the silence of the night,
Some voice, of all the lost ones and the true,
Would speak, and say, if in their far repose,
We are yet aught of what we were to those
We call the dead!-their passionate adieu,
Was it but breath, to perish?-Holier trust
Be mine!-thy love is there, but purified from dust!
A thing all heavenly!-clear'd from that which hung
As a dim cloud between us, heart and mind!
Loos'd from the fear, the grief, whose tendrils flung
A chain, so darkly with its growth entwin'd.
This is my hope!-though when the sunset fades,
When forests rock the midnight on their shades,
When tones of wail are in the rising wind,
Across my spirit some faint doubt may sigh;
For the strong hours will sway this frail mortality!
We have been wanderers since those days of woe,
Thy boy and I!-As wild birds tend their young,
So have I tended him-my bounding roe!
The high Peruvian solitudes among;
And o'er the Andes-torrents borne his form,
Where our frail bridge hath quiver'd midst the storm.
-But there the war-notes of my country rung,
And, smitten deep of Heaven and man, I fled
To hide in shades unpierc'd a mark'd and weary head.
But he went on in gladness-that fair child!
Save when at times his bright eye seem'd to dream,
And his young lips, which then no longer smil'd,
Ask'd of his mother!-that was but a gleam
Of Memory, fleeting fast; and then his play
Through the wide Llanos cheer'd again our way,
And by the mighty Oronoco stream,
On whose lone margin we have heard at morn,
From the mysterious rocks, the sunrise-music borne.
So like a spirit's voice! a harping tone,
Lovely, yet ominous to mortal ear,
Such as might reach us from a world unknown,
Troubling man's heart with thrills of joy and fear!
'Twas sweet!-yet those deep southern shades oppress'd
My soul with stillness, like the calms that rest
On melancholy waves: I sigh'd to hear
Once more earth's breezy sounds, her foliage fann'd,
And turn'd to seek the wilds of the red hunter's land.
And we have won a bower of refuge now,
In this fresh waste, the breath of whose repose
Hath cool'd, like dew, the fever of my brow,
And whose green oaks and cedars round me close,
As temple-walls and pillars, that exclude
Earth's haunted dreams from their free solitude;
All, save the image and the thought of those
Before us gone; our lov'd of early years,
Gone where affection's cup hath lost the taste of tears.
I see a star-eve's first-born!-in whose train
Past scenes, words, looks, come back. The arrowy spire
Of the lone cypress, as of wood-girt fane,
Rests dark and still amidst a heaven of fire;
The pine gives forth its odours, and the lake
Gleams like one ruby, and the soft winds wake,
Till every string of nature's solemn lyre
Is touch'd to answer; its most secret tone
Drawn from each tree, for each hath whispers all its own.
And hark! another murmur on the air,
Not of the hidden rills, or quivering shades!
-That is the cataract's, which the breezes bear,
Filling the leafy twilight of the glades
With hollow surge-like sounds, as from the bed
Of the blue mournful seas, that keep the dead:
But they are far!-the low sun here pervades
Dim forest-arches, bathing with red gold
Their stems, till each is made a marvel to behold,
Gorgeous, yet full of gloom!-In such an hour,
The vesper-melody of dying bells
Wanders through Spain, from each grey convent's tower
O'er shining rivers pour'd, and olive-dells,
By every peasant heard, and muleteer,
And hamlet, round my home:-and I am here,
Living again through all my life's farewells,
In these vast woods, where farewell ne'er was spoken,
And sole I lift to Heaven a sad heart-yet unbroken!
In such an hour are told the hermit's beads;
With the white sail the seaman's hymn floats by:
Peace be with all! whate'er their varying creeds,
With all that send up holy thoughts on high!
Come to me, boy!-by Guadalquivir's vines,
By every stream of Spain, as day declines,
Man's prayers are mingled in the rosy sky.
-We, too, will pray; nor yet unheard, my child!
Of Him whose voice we hear at eve amidst the wild.
At eve?-oh! through all hours!-From dark dreams oft
Awakening, I look forth, and learn the might
Of solitude, while thou art breathing soft,
And low, my lov'd one! on the breast of night:
I look forth on the stars-the shadowy sleep
Of forests-and the lake, whose gloomy deep
Sends up red sparkles to the fire-flies' light.
A lonely world!-even fearful to man's thought,
But for His presence felt, whom here my soul hath sought.
Book Sixth [Cambridge and the Alps]
THE leaves were fading when to Esthwaite's banks
And the simplicities of cottage life
I bade farewell; and, one among the youth
Who, summoned by that season, reunite
As scattered birds troop to the fowler's lure,
Went back to Granta's cloisters, not so prompt
Or eager, though as gay and undepressed
In mind, as when I thence had taken flight
A few short months before. I turned my face
Without repining from the coves and heights
Clothed in the sunshine of the withering fern;
Quitted, not loth, the mild magnificence
Of calmer lakes and louder streams; and you,
Frank-hearted maids of rocky Cumberland,
You and your not unwelcome days of mirth,
Relinquished, and your nights of revelry,
And in my own unlovely cell sate down
In lightsome mood--such privilege has youth
That cannot take long leave of pleasant thoughts.
The bonds of indolent society
Relaxing in their hold, henceforth I lived
More to myself. Two winters may be passed
Without a separate notice: many books
Were skimmed, devoured, or studiously perused,
But with no settled plan. I was detached
Internally from academic cares;
Yet independent study seemed a course
Of hardy disobedience toward friends
And kindred, proud rebellion and unkind.
This spurious virtue, rather let it bear
A name it now deserves, this cowardice,
Gave treacherous sanction to that over-love
Of freedom which encouraged me to turn
From regulations even of my own
As from restraints and bonds. Yet who can tell--
Who knows what thus may have been gained, both then
And at a later season, or preserved;
What love of nature, what original strength
Of contemplation, what intuitive truths
The deepest and the best, what keen research,
Unbiassed, unbewildered, and unawed?
The Poet's soul was with me at that time;
Sweet meditations, the still overflow
Of present happiness, while future years
Lacked not anticipations, tender dreams,
No few of which have since been realised;
And some remain, hopes for my future life.
Four years and thirty, told this very week,
Have I been now a sojourner on earth,
By sorrow not unsmitten; yet for me
Life's morning radiance hath not left the hills,
Her dew is on the flowers. Those were the days
Which also first emboldened me to trust
With firmness, hitherto but slightly touched
By such a daring thought, that I might leave
Some monument behind me which pure hearts
Should reverence. The instinctive humbleness,
Maintained even by the very name and thought
Of printed books and authorship, began
To melt away; and further, the dread awe
Of mighty names was softened down and seemed
Approachable, admitting fellowship
Of modest sympathy. Such aspect now,
Though not familiarly, my mind put on,
Content to observe, to achieve, and to enjoy.
All winter long, whenever free to choose,
Did I by night frequent the College grove
And tributary walks; the last, and oft
The only one, who had been lingering there
Through hours of silence, till the porter's bell,
A punctual follower on the stroke of nine,
Rang with its blunt unceremonious voice;
Inexorable summons! Lofty elms,
Inviting shades of opportune recess,
Bestowed composure on a neighbourhood
Unpeaceful in itself. A single tree
With sinuous trunk, boughs exquisitely wreathed,
Grew there; an ash which Winter for himself
Decked out with pride, and with outlandish grace:
Up from the ground, and almost to the top,
The trunk and every master branch were green
With clustering ivy, and the lightsome twigs
And outer spray profusely tipped with seeds
That hung in yellow tassels, while the air
Stirred them, not voiceless. Often have I stood
Foot-bound uplooking at this lovely tree
Beneath a frosty moon. The hemisphere
Of magic fiction, verse of mine perchance
May never tread; but scarcely Spenser's self
Could have more tranquil visions in his youth,
Or could more bright appearances create
Of human forms with superhuman powers,
Than I beheld, loitering on calm clear nights
Alone, beneath this fairy work of earth.
On the vague reading of a truant youth
'Twere idle to descant. My inner judgment
Not seldom differed from my taste in books,
As if it appertained to another mind,
And yet the books which then I valued most
Are dearest to me 'now'; for, having scanned,
Not heedlessly, the laws, and watched the forms
Of Nature, in that knowledge I possessed
A standard, often usefully applied,
Even when unconsciously, to things removed
From a familiar sympathy.--In fine,
I was a better judge of thoughts than words,
Misled in estimating words, not only
By common inexperience of youth,
But by the trade in classic niceties,
The dangerous craft, of culling term and phrase
From languages that want the living voice
To carry meaning to the natural heart;
To tell us what is passion, what is truth,
What reason, what simplicity and sense.
Yet may we not entirely overlook
The pleasure gathered from the rudiments
Of geometric science. Though advanced
In these enquiries, with regret I speak,
No farther than the threshold, there I found
Both elevation and composed delight:
With Indian awe and wonder, ignorance pleased
With its own struggles, did I meditate
On the relation those abstractions bear
To Nature's laws, and by what process led,
Those immaterial agents bowed their heads
Duly to serve the mind of earth-born man;
From star to star, from kindred sphere to sphere,
From system on to system without end.
More frequently from the same source I drew
A pleasure quiet and profound, a sense
Of permanent and universal sway,
And paramount belief; there, recognised
A type, for finite natures, of the one
Supreme Existence, the surpassing life
Which--to the boundaries of space and time,
Of melancholy space and doleful time,
Superior and incapable of change,
Nor touched by welterings of passion--is,
And hath the name of, God. Transcendent peace
And silence did await upon these thoughts
That were a frequent comfort to my youth.
'Tis told by one whom stormy waters threw,
With fellow-sufferers by the shipwreck spared,
Upon a desert coast, that having brought
To land a single volume, saved by chance,
A treatise of Geometry, he wont,
Although of food and clothing destitute,
And beyond common wretchedness depressed,
To part from company and take this book
(Then first a self-taught pupil in its truths)
To spots remote, and draw his diagrams
With a long staff upon the sand, and thus
Did oft beguile his sorrow, and almost
Forget his feeling: so (if like effect
From the same cause produced, 'mid outward things
So different, may rightly be compared),
So was it then with me, and so will be
With Poets ever. Mighty is the charm
Of those abstractions to a mind beset
With images and haunted by herself,
And specially delightful unto me
Was that clear synthesis built up aloft
So gracefully; even then when it appeared
Not more than a mere plaything, or a toy
To sense embodied: not the thing it is
In verity, an independent world,
Created out of pure intelligence.
Such dispositions then were mine unearned
By aught, I fear, of genuine desert--
Mine, through heaven's grace and inborn aptitudes.
And not to leave the story of that time
Imperfect, with these habits must be joined,
Moods melancholy, fits of spleen, that loved
A pensive sky, sad days, and piping winds,
The twilight more than dawn, autumn than spring;
A treasured and luxurious gloom of choice
And inclination mainly, and the mere
Redundancy of youth's contentedness.
--To time thus spent, add multitudes of hours
Pilfered away, by what the Bard who sang
Of the Enchanter Indolence hath called
'Good-natured lounging,' and behold a map
Of my collegiate life--far less intense
Than duty called for, or, without regard
To duty, 'might' have sprung up of itself
By change of accidents, or even, to speak
Without unkindness, in another place.
Yet why take refuge in that plea?--the fault,
This I repeat, was mine; mine be the blame.
In summer, making quest for works of art,
Or scenes renowned for beauty, I explored
That streamlet whose blue current works its way
Between romantic Dovedale's spiry rocks;
Pried into Yorkshire dales, or hidden tracts
Of my own native region, and was blest
Between these sundry wanderings with a joy
Above all joys, that seemed another morn
Risen on mid noon; blest with the presence, Friend
Of that sole Sister, her who hath been long
Dear to thee also, thy true friend and mine,
Now, after separation desolate,
Restored to me--such absence that she seemed
A gift then first bestowed. The varied banks
Of Emont, hitherto unnamed in song,
And that monastic castle, 'mid tall trees,
Low standing by the margin of the stream,
A mansion visited (as fame reports)
By Sidney, where, in sight of our Helvellyn,
Or stormy Cross-fell, snatches he might pen
Of his Arcadia, by fraternal love
Inspired;--that river and those mouldering towers
Have seen us side by side, when, having clomb
The darksome windings of a broken stair,
And crept along a ridge of fractured wall,
Not without trembling, we in safety looked
Forth, through some Gothic window's open space,
And gathered with one mind a rich reward
From the far-stretching landscape, by the light
Of morning beautified, or purple eve;
Or, not less pleased, lay on some turret's head,
Catching from tufts of grass and hare-bell flowers
Their faintest whisper to the passing breeze,
Given out while mid-day heat oppressed the plains.
Another maid there was, who also shed
A gladness o'er that season, then to me,
By her exulting outside look of youth
And placid under-countenance, first endeared;
That other spirit, Coleridge! who is now
So near to us, that meek confiding heart,
So reverenced by us both. O'er paths and fields
In all that neighbourhood, through narrow lanes
Of eglantine, and through the shady woods,
And o'er the Border Beacon, and the waste
Of naked pools, and common crags that lay
Exposed on the bare fell, were scattered love,
The spirit of pleasure, and youth's golden gleam.
O Friend! we had not seen thee at that time,
And yet a power is on me, and a strong
Confusion, and I seem to plant thee there.
Far art thou wandered now in search of health
And milder breezes,--melancholy lot!
But thou art with us, with us in the past,
The present, with us in the times to come.
There is no grief, no sorrow, no despair,
No languor, no dejection, no dismay,
No absence scarcely can there be, for those
Who love as we do. Speed thee well! divide
With us thy pleasure; thy returning strength,
Receive it daily as a joy of ours;
Share with us thy fresh spirits, whether gift
Of gales Etesian or of tender thoughts.
I, too, have been a wanderer; but, alas!
How different the fate of different men.
Though mutually unknown, yea nursed and reared
As if in several elements, we were framed
To bend at last to the same discipline,
Predestined, if two beings ever were,
To seek the same delights, and have one health,
One happiness. Throughout this narrative,
Else sooner ended, I have borne in mind
For whom it registers the birth, and marks the growth,
Of gentleness, simplicity, and truth,
And joyous loves, that hallow innocent days
Of peace and self-command. Of rivers, fields,
And groves I speak to thee, my Friend! to thee,
Who, yet a liveried schoolboy, in the depths
Of the huge city, on the leaded roof
Of that wide edifice, thy school and home,
Wert used to lie and gaze upon the clouds
Moving in heaven; or, of that pleasure tired,
To shut thine eyes, and by internal light
See trees, and meadows, and thy native stream,
Far distant, thus beheld from year to year
Of a long exile. Nor could I forget,
In this late portion of my argument,
That scarcely, as my term of pupilage
Ceased, had I left those academic bowers
When thou wert thither guided. From the heart
Of London, and from cloisters there, thou camest.
And didst sit down in temperance and peace,
A rigorous student. What a stormy course
Then followed. Oh! it is a pang that calls
For utterance, to think what easy change
Of circumstances might to thee have spared
A world of pain, ripened a thousand hopes,
For ever withered. Through this retrospect
Of my collegiate life I still have had
Thy after-sojourn in the self-same place
Present before my eyes, have played with times
And accidents as children do with cards,
Or as a man, who, when his house is built,
A frame locked up in wood and stone, doth still,
As impotent fancy prompts, by his fireside,
Rebuild it to his liking. I have thought
Of thee, thy learning, gorgeous eloquence,
And all the strength and plumage of thy youth,
Thy subtle speculations, toils abstruse
Among the schoolmen, and Platonic forms
Of wild ideal pageantry, shaped out
From things well-matched or ill, and words for things,
The self-created sustenance of a mind
Debarred from Nature's living images,
Compelled to be a life unto herself,
And unrelentingly possessed by thirst
Of greatness, love, and beauty. Not alone,
Ah! surely not in singleness of heart
Should I have seen the light of evening fade
From smooth Cam's silent waters: had we met,
Even at that early time, needs must I trust
In the belief, that my maturer age,
My calmer habits, and more steady voice,
Would with an influence benign have soothed,
Or chased away, the airy wretchedness
That battened on thy youth. But thou hast trod
A march of glory, which doth put to shame
These vain regrets; health suffers in thee, else
Such grief for thee would be the weakest thought
That ever harboured in the breast of man.
A passing word erewhile did lightly touch
On wanderings of my own, that now embraced
With livelier hope a region wider far.
When the third summer freed us from restraint,
A youthful friend, he too a mountaineer,
Not slow to share my wishes, took his staff,
And sallying forth, we journeyed side by side,
Bound to the distant Alps. A hardy slight,
Did this unprecedented course imply,
Of college studies and their set rewards;
Nor had, in truth, the scheme been formed by me
Without uneasy forethought of the pain,
The censures, and ill-omening, of those
To whom my worldly interests were dear.
But Nature then was sovereign in my mind,
And mighty forms, seizing a youthful fancy,
Had given a charter to irregular hopes.
In any age of uneventful calm
Among the nations, surely would my heart
Have been possessed by similar desire;
But Europe at that time was thrilled with joy,
France standing on the top of golden hours,
And human nature seeming born again.
Lightly equipped, and but a few brief looks
Cast on the white cliffs of our native shore
From the receding vessel's deck, we chanced
To land at Calais on the very eve
Of that great federal day; and there we saw,
In a mean city, and among a few,
How bright a face is worn when joy of one
Is joy for tens of millions. Southward thence
We held our way, direct through hamlets, towns,
Gaudy with reliques of that festival,
Flowers left to wither on triumphal arcs,
And window-garlands. On the public roads,
And, once, three days successively, through paths
By which our toilsome journey was abridged,
Among sequestered villages we walked
And found benevolence and blessedness
Spread like a fragrance everywhere, when spring
Hath left no corner of the land untouched;
Where elms for many and many a league in files
With their thin umbrage, on the stately roads
Of that great kingdom, rustled o'er our heads,
For ever near us as we paced along:
How sweet at such a time, with such delight
On every side, in prime of youthful strength,
To feed a Poet's tender melancholy
And fond conceit of sadness, with the sound
Of undulations varying as might please
The wind that swayed them; once, and more than once,
Unhoused beneath the evening star we saw
Dances of liberty, and, in late hours
Of darkness, dances in the open air
Deftly prolonged, though grey-haired lookers on
Might waste their breath in chiding.
The vine-clad hills and slopes of Burgundy,
Upon the bosom of the gentle Saone
We glided forward with the flowing stream.
Swift Rhone! thou wert the 'wings' on which we cut
A winding passage with majestic ease
Between thy lofty rocks. Enchanting show
Those woods and farms and orchards did present,
And single cottages and lurking towns,
Reach after reach, succession without end
Of deep and stately vales! A lonely pair
Of strangers, till day closed, we sailed along
Clustered together with a merry crowd
Of those emancipated, a blithe host
Of travellers, chiefly delegates, returning
From the great spousals newly solemnised
At their chief city, in the sight of Heaven.
Like bees they swarmed, gaudy and gay as bees;
Some vapoured in the unruliness of joy,
And with their swords flourished as if to fight
The saucy air. In this proud company
We landed--took with them our evening meal,
Guests welcome almost as the angels were
To Abraham of old. The supper done,
With flowing cups elate and happy thoughts
We rose at signal given, and formed a ring
And, hand in hand, danced round and round the board;
All hearts were open, every tongue was loud
With amity and glee; we bore a name
Honoured in France, the name of Englishmen,
And hospitably did they give us hail,
As their forerunners in a glorious course;
And round and round the board we danced again.
With these blithe friends our voyage we renewed
At early dawn. The monastery bells
Made a sweet jingling in our youthful ears;
The rapid river flowing without noise,
And each uprising or receding spire
Spake with a sense of peace, at intervals
Touching the heart amid the boisterous crew
By whom we were encompassed. Taking leave
Of this glad throng, foot-travellers side by side,
Measuring our steps in quiet, we pursued
Our journey, and ere twice the sun had set
Beheld the Convent of Chartreuse, and there
Rested within an awful 'solitude':
Yes, for even then no other than a place
Of soul-affecting 'solitude' appeared
That far-famed region, though our eyes had seen,
As toward the sacred mansion we advanced,
Arms flashing, and a military glare
Of riotous men commissioned to expel
The blameless inmates, and belike subvert
That frame of social being, which so long
Had bodied forth the ghostliness of things
In silence visible and perpetual calm.
--'Stay, stay your sacrilegious hands!'--The voice
Was Nature's, uttered from her Alpine throne;
I heard it then and seem to hear it now--
'Your impious work forbear, perish what may,
Let this one temple last, be this one spot
Of earth devoted to eternity!'
She ceased to speak, but while St. Bruno's pines
Waved their dark tops, not silent as they waved,
And while below, along their several beds,
Murmured the sister streams of Life and Death,
Thus by conflicting passions pressed, my heart
Responded; 'Honour to the patriot's zeal!
Glory and hope to new-born Liberty!
Hail to the mighty projects of the time!
Discerning sword that Justice wields, do thou
Go forth and prosper; and, ye purging fires,
Up to the loftiest towers of Pride ascend,
Fanned by the breath of angry Providence.
But oh! if Past and Future be the wings
On whose support harmoniously conjoined
Moves the great spirit of human knowledge, spare
These courts of mystery, where a step advanced
Between the portals of the shadowy rocks
Leaves far behind life's treacherous vanities,
For penitential tears and trembling hopes
Exchanged--to equalise in God's pure sight
Monarch and peasant: be the house redeemed
With its unworldly votaries, for the sake
Of conquest over sense, hourly achieved
Through faith and meditative reason, resting
Upon the word of heaven-imparted truth,
Calmly triumphant; and for humbler claim
Of that imaginative impulse sent
From these majestic floods, yon shining cliffs,
The untransmuted shapes of many worlds,
Cerulean ether's pure inhabitants,
These forests unapproachable by death,
That shall endure as long as man endures,
To think, to hope, to worship, and to feel,
To struggle, to be lost within himself
In trepidation, from the blank abyss
To look with bodily eyes, and be consoled.'
Not seldom since that moment have I wished
That thou, O Friend! the trouble or the calm
Hadst shared, when, from profane regards apart,
In sympathetic reverence we trod
The floors of those dim cloisters, till that hour,
From their foundation, strangers to the presence
Of unrestricted and unthinking man.
Abroad, how cheeringly the sunshine lay
Upon the open lawns! Vallombre's groves
Entering, we fed the soul with darkness; thence
Issued, and with uplifted eyes beheld,
In different quarters of the bending sky,
The cross of Jesus stand erect, as if
Hands of angelic powers had fixed it there,
Memorial reverenced by a thousand storms;
Yet then, from the undiscriminating sweep
And rage of one State-whirlwind, insecure.
'Tis not my present purpose to retrace
That variegated journey step by step.
A march it was of military speed,
And Earth did change her images and forms
Before us, fast as clouds are changed in heaven.
Day after day, up early and down late,
From hill to vale we dropped, from vale to hill
Mounted--from province on to province swept,
Keen hunters in a chase of fourteen weeks,
Eager as birds of prey, or as a ship
Upon the stretch, when winds are blowing fair:
Sweet coverts did we cross of pastoral life,
Enticing valleys, greeted them and left
Too soon, while yet the very flash and gleam
Of salutation were not passed away.
Oh! sorrow for the youth who could have seen,
Unchastened, unsubdued, unawed, unraised
To patriarchal dignity of mind,
And pure simplicity of wish and will,
Those sanctified abodes of peaceful man,
Pleased (though to hardship born, and compassed round
With danger, varying as the seasons change),
Pleased with his daily task, or, if not pleased,
Contented, from the moment that the dawn
(Ah! surely not without attendant gleams
Of soul-illumination) calls him forth
To industry, by glistenings flung on rocks,
Whose evening shadows lead him to repose.
Well might a stranger look with bounding heart
Down on a green recess, the first I saw
Of those deep haunts, an aboriginal vale,
Quiet and lorded over and possessed
By naked huts, wood-built, and sown like tents
Or Indian cabins over the fresh lawns
And by the river side.
That very day,
From a bare ridge we also first beheld
Unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc, and grieved
To have a soulless image on the eye
That had usurped upon a living thought
That never more could be. The wondrous Vale
Of Chamouny stretched far below, and soon
With its dumb cataracts and streams of ice,
A motionless array of mighty waves,
Five rivers broad and vast, made rich amends,
And reconciled us to realities;
There small birds warble from the leafy trees,
The eagle soars high in the element,
There doth the reaper bind the yellow sheaf,
The maiden spread the haycock in the sun,
While Winter like a well-tamed lion walks,
Descending from the mountain to make sport
Among the cottages by beds of flowers.
Whate'er in this wide circuit we beheld,
Or heard, was fitted to our unripe state
Of intellect and heart. With such a book
Before our eyes, we could not choose but read
Lessons of genuine brotherhood, the plain
And universal reason of mankind,
The truths of young and old. Nor, side by side
Pacing, two social pilgrims, or alone
Each with his humour, could we fail to abound
In dreams and fictions, pensively composed:
Dejection taken up for pleasure's sake,
And gilded sympathies, the willow wreath,
And sober posies of funereal flowers,
Gathered among those solitudes sublime
From formal gardens of the lady Sorrow,
Did sweeten many a meditative hour.
Yet still in me with those soft luxuries
Mixed something of stern mood, an underthirst
Of vigour seldom utterly allayed:
And from that source how different a sadness
Would issue, let one incident make known.
When from the Vallais we had turned, and clomb
Along the Simplon's steep and rugged road,
Following a band of muleteers, we reached
A halting-place, where all together took
Their noon-tide meal. Hastily rose our guide,
Leaving us at the board; awhile we lingered,
Then paced the beaten downward way that led
Right to a rough stream's edge, and there broke off;
The only track now visible was one
That from the torrent's further brink held forth
Conspicuous invitation to ascend
A lofty mountain. After brief delay
Crossing the unbridged stream, that road we took,
And clomb with eagerness, till anxious fears
Intruded, for we failed to overtake
Our comrades gone before. By fortunate chance,
While every moment added doubt to doubt,
A peasant met us, from whose mouth we learned
That to the spot which had perplexed us first
We must descend, and there should find the road,
Which in the stony channel of the stream
Lay a few steps, and then along its banks;
And, that our future course, all plain to sight,
Was downwards, with the current of that stream.
Loth to believe what we so grieved to hear,
For still we had hopes that pointed to the clouds,
We questioned him again, and yet again;
But every word that from the peasant's lips
Came in reply, translated by our feelings,
Ended in this,--'that we had crossed the Alps'.
Imagination--here the Power so called
Through sad incompetence of human speech,
That awful Power rose from the mind's abyss
Like an unfathered vapour that enwraps,
At once, some lonely traveller. I was lost;
Halted without an effort to break through;
But to my conscious soul I now can say--
'I recognise thy glory:' in such strength
Of usurpation, when the light of sense
Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed
The invisible world, doth greatness make abode,
There harbours; whether we be young or old,
Our destiny, our being's heart and home,
Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.
Under such banners militant, the soul
Seeks for no trophies, struggles for no spoils
That may attest her prowess, blest in thoughts
That are their own perfection and reward,
Strong in herself and in beatitude
That hides her, like the mighty flood of Nile
Poured from his fount of Abyssinian clouds
To fertilise the whole Egyptian plain.
The melancholy slackening that ensued
Upon those tidings by the peasant given
Was soon dislodged. Downwards we hurried fast,
And, with the half-shaped road which we had missed,
Entered a narrow chasm. The brook and road
Were fellow-travellers in this gloomy strait,
And with them did we journey several hours
At a slow pace. The immeasurable height
Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,
The stationary blasts of waterfalls,
And in the narrow rent at every turn
Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn,
The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,
The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,
Black drizzling crags that spake by the way-side
As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
The unfettered clouds and region of the Heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light--
Were all like workings of one mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree;
Characters of the great Apocalypse,
The types and symbols of Eternity,
Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.
That night our lodging was a house that stood
Alone within the valley, at a point
Where, tumbling from aloft, a torrent swelled
The rapid stream whose margin we had trod;
A dreary mansion, large beyond all need,
With high and spacious rooms, deafened and stunned
By noise of waters, making innocent sleep
Lie melancholy among weary bones.
Uprisen betimes, our journey we renewed,
Led by the stream, ere noon-day magnified
Into a lordly river, broad and deep,
Dimpling along in silent majesty,
With mountains for its neighbours, and in view
Of distant mountains and their snowy tops,
And thus proceeding to Locarno's Lake,
Fit resting-place for such a visitant.
Locarno! spreading out in width like Heaven,
How dost thou cleave to the poetic heart,
Bask in the sunshine of the memory;
And Como! thou, a treasure whom the earth
Keeps to herself, confined as in a depth
Of Abyssinian privacy. I spake
Of thee, thy chestnut woods, and garden plots
Of Indian corn tended by dark-eyed maids;
Thy lofty steeps, and pathways roofed with vines,
Winding from house to house, from town to town,
Sole link that binds them to each other; walks,
League after league, and cloistral avenues,
Where silence dwells if music be not there:
While yet a youth undisciplined in verse,
Through fond ambition of that hour I strove
To chant your praise; nor can approach you now
Ungreeted by a more melodious Song,
Where tones of Nature smoothed by learned Art
May flow in lasting current. Like a breeze
Or sunbeam over your domain I passed
In motion without pause; but ye have left
Your beauty with me, a serene accord
Of forms and colours, passive, yet endowed
In their submissiveness with power as sweet
And gracious, almost, might I dare to say,
As virtue is, or goodness; sweet as love,
Or the remembrance of a generous deed,
Or mildest visitations of pure thought,
When God, the giver of all joy, is thanked
Religiously, in silent blessedness;
Sweet as this last herself, for such it is.
With those delightful pathways we advanced,
For two days' space, in presence of the Lake,
That, stretching far among the Alps, assumed
A character more stern. The second night,
From sleep awakened, and misled by sound
Of the church clock telling the hours with strokes
Whose import then we had not learned, we rose
By moonlight, doubting not that day was nigh,
And that meanwhile, by no uncertain path,
Along the winding margin of the lake,
Led, as before, we should behold the scene
Hushed in profound repose. We left the town
Of Gravedona with this hope; but soon
Were lost, bewildered among woods immense,
And on a rock sate down, to wait for day.
An open place it was, and overlooked,
From high, the sullen water far beneath,
On which a dull red image of the moon
Lay bedded, changing oftentimes its form
Like an uneasy snake. From hour to hour
We sate and sate, wondering, as if the night
Had been ensnared by witchcraft. On the rock
At last we stretched our weary limbs for sleep,
But 'could not' sleep, tormented by the stings
Of insects, which, with noise like that of noon,
Filled all the woods: the cry of unknown birds;
The mountains more by blackness visible
And their own size, than any outward light;
The breathless wilderness of clouds; the clock
That told, with unintelligible voice,
The widely parted hours; the noise of streams,
And sometimes rustling motions nigh at hand,
That did not leave us free from personal fear;
And, lastly, the withdrawing moon, that set
Before us, while she still was high in heaven;--
These were our food; and such a summer's night
Followed that pair of golden days that shed
On Como's Lake, and all that round it lay,
Their fairest, softest, happiest influence.
But here I must break off, and bid farewell
To days, each offering some new sight, or fraught
With some untried adventure, in a course
Prolonged till sprinklings of autumnal snow
Checked our unwearied steps. Let this alone
Be mentioned as a parting word, that not
In hollow exultation, dealing out
Hyperboles of praise comparative,
Not rich one moment to be poor for ever;
Not prostrate, overborne, as if the mind
Herself were nothing, a mere pensioner
On outward forms--did we in presence stand
Of that magnificent region. On the front
Of this whole Song is written that my heart
Must, in such Temple, needs have offered up
A different worship. Finally, whate'er
I saw, or heard, or felt, was but a stream
That flowed into a kindred stream; a gale,
Confederate with the current of the soul,
To speed my voyage; every sound or sight,
In its degree of power, administered
To grandeur or to tenderness,--to the one
Directly, but to tender thoughts by means
Less often instantaneous in effect;
Led me to these by paths that, in the main,
Were more circuitous, but not less sure
Duly to reach the point marked out by Heaven.
Oh, most beloved Friend! a glorious time,
A happy time that was; triumphant looks
Were then the common language of all eyes;
As if awaked from sleep, the Nations hailed
Their great expectancy: the fife of war
Was then a spirit-stirring sound indeed,
A blackbird's whistle in a budding grove.
We left the Swiss exulting in the fate
Of their near neighbours; and, when shortening fast
Our pilgrimage, nor distant far from home,
We crossed the Brabant armies on the fret
For battle in the cause of Liberty.
A stripling, scarcely of the household then
Of social life, I looked upon these things
As from a distance; heard, and saw, and felt,
Was touched, but with no intimate concern;
I seemed to move along them, as a bird
Moves through the air, or as a fish pursues
Its sport, or feeds in its proper element;
I wanted not that joy, I did not need
Such help; the ever-living universe,
Turn where I might, was opening out its glories,
And the independent spirit of pure youth
Called forth, at every season, new delights,
Spread round my steps like sunshine o'er green fields.
Gertrude of Wyoming
On Susquehanna's side, fair Wyoming!
Although the wild-flower on thy ruin'd wall,
And roofless homes, a sad remembrance bring,
Of what thy gentle people did befall;
Yet thou wert once the loveliest land of all
That see the Atlantic wave their morn restore.
Sweet land! may I thy lost delights recall,
And paint thy Gertrude in her bowers of yore,
Whose beauty was the love of Pennsylvania's shore!
Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies,
The happy shepherd swains had nought to do
But feed their flocks on green declivities,
Or skim perchance thy lake with light canoe,
From morn till evening's sweeter pastimes grew,
With timbrel, when beneath the forests brown,
Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew;
And aye those sunny mountains half-way down
Would echo flageolet from some romantic town.
Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes
His leave, how might you the flamingo see
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes--
And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
And every sound of life was full of glee,
From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men;
While hearkening, fearing naught their revelry,
The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades, and then,
Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.
And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
Heard, but in transatlantic story rung,
For here the exile met from every clime,
And spoke in friendship every distant tongue:
Men from the blood of warring Europe sprung
Were but divided by the running brook;
And happy where no Rhenish trumpet sung,
On plains no sieging mine's volcano shook,
The blue-eyed German changed his sword to pruning-hook.
Nor far some Andalusian saraband
Would sound to many a native roundelay--
But who is he that yet a dearer land
Remembers, over hills and far away?
Green Albin! what though he no more survey
Thy ships at anchor on the quiet shore,
Thy pelloch's rolling from the mountain bay,
Thy lone sepulchral cairn upon the moor,
And distant isles that hear the loud Corbrechtan roar!
Alas! poor Caledonia's mountaineer,
That wants stern edict e'er, and feudal grief,
Had forced him from a home he loved so dear!
Yet found he here a home and glad relief,
And plied the beverage from his own fair sheaf,
That fired his Highland blood with mickle glee:
And England sent her men, of men the chief,
Who taught those sires of empire yet to be,
To plant the tree of life,--to plant fair Freedom's tree!
Here was not mingled in the city's pomp
Of life's extremes the grandeur and the gloom
Judgment awoke not here her dismal tromp,
Nor seal'd in blood a fellow-creature's doom,
Nor mourn'd the captive in a living tomb.
One venerable man, beloved of all,
Sufficed, where innocence was yet in bloom,
To sway the strife, that seldom might befall:
And Albert was their judge, in patriarchal hall.
How reverend was the look, serenely aged,
He bore, this gentle Pennsylvanian sire,
Where all but kindly fervors were assuaged,
Undimm'd by weakness' shade, or turbid ire!
And though, amidst the calm of thought entire,
Some high and haughty features might betray
A soul impetuous once, 'twas earthly fire
That fled composure's intellectual ray,
As AEtna's fires grow dim before the rising day.
I boast no song in magic wonders rife,
But yet, oh Nature! is there naught to prize,
Familiar in thy bosom scenes of life?
And dwells in day-light truth's salubrious skies
No form with which the soul may sympathise?--
Young, innocent, on whose sweet forehead mild
The parted ringlet shone in simplest guise,
An inmate in the home of Albert smiled,
Or blest his noonday walk--she was his only child.
The rose of England bloom'd on Gertrude's cheek--
What though these shades had seen her birth, her sire
A Briton's independence taught to seek
Far western worlds; and there his household fire
The light of social love did long inspire,
And many a halcyon day he lived to see
Unbroken but by one misfortune dire,
When fate had reft his mutual heart--but she
Was gone--and Gertrude climb'd a widow'd father's knee.
A loved bequest,--and I may half impart--
To them that feel the strong paternal tie,
How like a new existence to his heart
That living flower uprose beneath his eye
Dear as she was from cherub infancy,
From hours when she would round his garden play,
To time when as the ripening years went by,
Her lovely mind could culture well repay,
And more engaging grew, from pleasing day to day.
I may not paint those thousand infant charms;
(Unconscious fascination, undesign'd!)
The orison repeated in his arms,
For God to bless her sire and all mankind;
The book, the bosom on his knee reclined,
Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con,
(The playmate ere the teacher of her mind:)
All uncompanion'd else her heart had gone
Till now, in Gertrude's eyes, their ninth blue summer shone.
And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,
When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,
An Indian from his bark approach their bower,
Of buskin limb, and swarthy lineament;
The red wild feathers on his brow were blent,
And bracelets bound the arm that help'd to light
A boy, who seem'd, as he beside him went,
Of Christian vesture, and complexion bright,
Led by his dusky guide, like morning brought by night.
Yet pensive seem'd the boy for one so young--
The dimple from his polish'd cheek had fled;
When, leaning on his forest-bow unstrung,
Th' Oneyda warrior to the planter said,
And laid his hand upon the stripling's head,
"Peace be to thee! my words this belt approve;
The paths of peace my steps have hither led:
This little nursling, take him to thy love,
And shield the bird unfledged, since gone the parent dove.
Christian! I am the foeman of thy foe;
Our wampum league thy brethren did embrace:
Upon the Michigan, three moons ago,
We launch'd our pirogues for the bison chase,
And with the Hurons planted for a space,
With true and faithful hands, the olive-stalk;
But snakes are in the bosoms of their race,
And though they held with us a friendly talk,
The hollow peace-tree fell beneath their tomahawk!
It was encamping on the lake's far port,
A cry of Areouski broke our sleep,
Where storm'd an ambush'd foe thy nation's fort
And rapid, rapid whoops came o'er the deep;
But long thy country's war-sign on the steep
Appear'd through ghastly intervals of light,
And deathfully their thunders seem'd to sweep,
Till utter darkness swallow'd up the sight,
As if a shower of blood had quench'd the fiery fight!
It slept--it rose again--on high their tower
Sprung upwards like a torch to light the skies,
Then down again it rain'd an ember shower,
And louder lamentations heard we rise;
As when the evil Manitou that dries
Th' Ohio woods, consumes them in his ire,
In vain the desolated panther flies,
And howls amidst his wilderness of fire:
Alas! too late, we reach'd and smote those Hurons dire!
But as the fox beneath the nobler hound,
So died their warriors by our battle brand;
And from the tree we, with her child, unbound
A lonely mother of the Christian land:--
Her lord--the captain of the British band--
Amidst the slaughter of his soldiers lay.
Scarce knew the widow our delivering hand;
Upon her child she sobb'd and soon'd away,
Or shriek'd unto the God to whom the Christians pray.
Our virgins fed her with their kindly bowls
Of fever-balm and sweet sagamite:
But she was journeying to the land of souls,
And lifted up her dying head to pray
That we should bid an ancient friend convey
Her orphan to his home of England's shore;
And take, she said, this token far away,
To one that will remember us of yore,
When he beholds the ring that Waldegrave's Julia wore.
And I, the eagle of my tribe, have rush'd
With this lorn dove."--A sage's self-command
Had quell'd the tears from Albert's heart that gush'd;
But yet his cheek--his agitated hand--
That shower'd upon the stranger of the land
No common boon, in grief but ill beguiled
A soul that was not wont to be unmann'd;
"And stay," he cried, "dear pilgrim of the wild,
Preserver of my old, my boon companion's child!--
Child of a race whose name my bosom warms,
On earth's remotest bounds how welcome here!
Whose mother oft, a child, has fill'd these arms,
Young as thyself, and innocently dear,
Whose grandsire was my early life's compeer.
Ah, happiest home of England's happy clime!
How beautiful even' now thy scenes appear,
As in the noon and sunshine of my prime!
How gone like yesterday these thrice ten years of time!
And Julia! when thou wert like Gertrude now
Can I forget thee, favorite child of yore?
Or thought I, in thy father's house, when thou
Wert lightest-hearted on his festive floor,
And first of all his hospitable door
To meet and kiss me at my journey's end?
But where was I when Waldegrave was no more?
And thou didst pale thy gentle head extend
In woes, that ev'n the tribe of deserts was thy friend!"
He said--and strain'd unto his heart the boy;--
Far differently, the mute Oneyda took
His calumet of peace, and cup of joy;
As monumental bronze unchanged his look;
A soul that pity touch'd but never shook;
Train'd from his tree-rock'd cradle to his bier
The fierce extreme of good and ill to brook
Impassive--fearing but the shame of fear--
A stoic of the woods--a man without a tear.
Yet deem not goodness on the savage stock
Of Outalissi's heart disdain'd to grow;
As lives the oak unwither'd on the rock
By storms above, and barrenness below;
He scorn'd his own, who felt another's wo:
And ere the wolf-skin on his back he flung,
Or laced his mocassins, in act to go,
A song of parting to the boy he sung,
Who slept on Albert's couch, nor heard his friendly tongue.
"Sleep, wearied one! and in the dreaming land
Shouldst thou to-morrow with thy mother meet,
Oh! tell her spirit, that the white man's hand
Hath pluck'd the thorns of sorrow from thy feet;
While I in lonely wilderness shall greet
They little foot-prints--or by traces know
The fountain, where at noon I thought it sweet
To feed thee with the quarry of my bow,
And pour'd the lotus-horn, or slew the mountain roe.
Adieu! sweet scion of the rising sun!
But should affliction's storms thy blossom mock,
Then come again--my own adopted one!
And I will graft thee on a noble stock:
The crocodile, the condor of the rock,
Shall be the pastime of thy sylvan wars;
And I will teach thee in the battle' shock
To pay with Huron blood thy father's scars,
And gratulate his soul rejoicing in the stars!"
So finish'd he the rhyme (howe'er uncouth)
That true to nature's fervid feelings ran;
(And song is but the eloquence of truth:)
Then forth uprose that lone wayfaring man;
But dauntless he, nor chart, nor journey's plan
In woods required, whose trained eye was keen,
As eagle of the wilderness, to scan
His path by mountain, swamp, or deep ravine,
Or ken far friendly huts on good savannas green.
Old Albert saw him from the valley's side--
His pirogue launch'd--his pilgrimage begun--
Far, like the red-bird's wing he seem'd to glide;
Then dived, and vanish'd in the woodlands dun.
Oft, to that spot by tender memory won,
Would Albert climb the promontory's height,
If but a dim sail glimmer'd in the sun;
But never more to bless his longing sight,
Was Outalissi hail'd, with bark and plumage bright.
A valley from the river shower withdrawn
Was Albert's home, two quiet woods between,
Whose lofty verdure overlook'd his lawn
And waters to their resting-place serene
Came freshening, and reflecting all the scene:
(A mirror in the depth of flowery shelves;)
So sweet a spot of earth, you might (I ween,)
Have guess'd some congregation of the elves,
To sport by summer moons, had shaped it for themselves.
Yet wanted not the eye far scope to muse,
Nor vistas open'd by the wandering stream;
Both where at evening Alleghany views
Through ridges burning in her western beam
Lake after lake interminably gleam:
And past those settlers' haunts the eye might roam
Where earth's unliving silence all would seem;
Save where on rocks the beaver built his dome,
Or buffalo remote low'd far from human home.
But silent not that adverse eastern path,
Which saw Aurora's hills th' horizon crown;
There was the river heard, in bed of wrath,
(A precipice of foam from mountains brown,)
Like tumults heard from some far distant town;
But softening in approach he left his gloom,
And murmur'd pleasantly, and laid him down
To kiss those easy curving banks of bloom,
That lent the windward air an exquisite perfume.
It seem'd as if those scenes sweet influence had
On Gertrude's soul, and kindness like their own
Inspired those eyes affectionate and glad,
That seem'd to love whate'er they look'd upon;
Whether with Hebe's mirth her features shone,
Or if a shade more pleasing them o'ercast,
(As if for heavenly musing meant alone;)
Yet so becomingly th' expression past,
That each succeeding look was lovelier than the last.
Nor guess I, was that Pennsylvanian home,
With all its picturesque and balmy grace,
And fields that were a luxury to roam,
Lost on the soul that look'd from such a face!
Enthusiast of the woods! when years apace
Had bound thy lovely waist with woman's zone,
The sunrise path, at morn, I see thee trace
To hills with high magnolia overgrown,
And joy to breathe the groves, romantic and alone.
The sunrise drew her thoughts to Europe forth,
That thus apostrophised its viewless scene:
"Land of my father's love, my mother's birth!
The home of kindred I have never seen!
We know not other--oceans are between:
Yet say, far friendly hearts! from whence we came,
Of us does oft remembrance intervene?
My mother sure--my sire a thought may claim;--
But Gertrude is to you an unregarded name.
And yet, loved England! when thy name I trace
In many a pilgrim's tale and poet's song,
How can I choose but wish for one embrace
Of them, the dear unknown, to whom belong
My mother's looks; perhaps her likeness strong?
Oh, parent! with what reverential awe,
From features of thine own related throng,
An image of thy face my soul could draw!
And see thee once again whom I too shortly saw!"
Yet deem not Gertrude sighed for foreign joy;
To soothe a father's couch her only care,
And keep his reverend head from all annoy:
For this, methinks, her homeward steps repair,
Soon as the morning wreath had bound her hair;
While yet the wild deer trod in spangling dew,
While boatmen carol'd to the fresh-blown air,
And woods a horizontal shadow threw,
And early fox appear'd in momentary view.
Apart there was a deep untrodden grot,
Where oft the reading hours sweet Gertrude wore,
Tradition had not named its lonely spot;
But here (methinks) might India's sons explore
Their fathers' dust, or lift, perchance of yore,
Their voice to the great Spirit:--rocks sublime
To human art a sportive semblance bore,
And yellow lichens color'd all the clime,
Like moonlight battlements, and towers decay'd by time.
But high in amphitheatre above,
Gay tinted woods their massy foliage threw:
Breathed but an air of heaven, and all the grove
As if instinct with living spirit grew,
Rolling its verdant gulfs of every hue;
And now suspended was the pleasing din,
Now from a murmur faint it swell'd anew,
Like the first note of organ heard within
Cathedral aisles,--ere yet its symphony begin.
It was in this lonely valley she would charm
The lingering noon, where flowers a couch had strown;
Her cheek reclining, and her snowy arm
On hillock by the pine-tree half o'ergrown:
And aye that volume on her lap is thrown,
Which every heart of human mould endears;
With Shakspear's self she speaks and smiles alone,
And no intruding visitation fears,
To shame the unconscious laugh, or stop her sweetest tears.
And naught within the grove was heard or seen
But stock-doves plaining through its gloom profound,
Or winglet of the fairy humming-bird,
Like atoms of the rainbow fluttering round;
When, lo! there enter'd to its inmost ground
A youth, the stranger of a distant land;
He was, to weet, for eastern mountains bound;
But late th' equator suns his cheek had tann'd,
And California's gales his roving bosom fann'd.
A steed, whose rein hung loosely o'er his arm,
He led dismounted; here his leisure pace,
Amid the brown leaves, could her ear alarm,
Close he had come, and worshipp'd for a space
Those downcast features:--she her lovely face
Uplift on one, whose lineaments and frame
Wore youth and manhood's intermingled grace:
Iberian seem'd his booth--his robe the same,
And well the Spanish plume his lofty looks became.
For Albert's home he sought--her finger fair
Has pointed where the father's mansion stood.
Returning from the copse he soon was there;
And soon has Gertrude hied from dark greenwood:
Nor joyless, by the converse, understood
Between the man of age and pilgrim young,
That gay congeneality of mood,
And early liking from acquaintance sprung;
Full fluently conversed their guest in England's tongue.
And well could he his pilgrimage of taste
Unfold,--and much they loved his fervid strain,
While he each fair variety retraced
Of climes, and manners, o'er the eastern main.
Now happy Switzer's hills,--romantic Spain,--
Gay lilied fields of France,--or, more refined,
The soft Ausonia's monumental reign;
Nor less each rural image he design'd
Than all the city's pomp and home of humankind.
Anon some wilder portraiture he draws;
Of Nature's savage glories he would spea,--
The loneliness of earth at overawes,--
Where, resting by some tomb of old Cacique,
The lama-driver on Peruvia's peak
Nor living voice nor motion marks around;
But storks that to the boundless forest shriek,
Or wild-cane arch high flung o'er gulf profound,
That fluctuates when the storms of El Dorado sound.
Pleased with his guest, the good man still would ply
Each earnest question, and his converse court;
But Gertrude, as she eyed him, knew not why
A strange and troubling wonder stopt her short.
"In England thou hast been,--and, by report,
An orphan's name (quoth Albert) may'st have known.
Sad tale!--when latest fell our frontier fort,--
One innocent--one soldier's child--alone
Was spared, and brought to me, who loved him as my own.
Young Henry Waldegrave! three delightful years
These very walls his infants sports did see,
But most I loved him when his parting tears
Alternately bedew'd my child and me:
His sorest parting, Gertrude, was from thee;
Nor half its grief his little heart could hold;
By kindred he was sent for o'er the sea,
They tore him from us when but twelve years old,
And scarcely for his loss have I been yet consoled!"
His face the wanderer hid--but could not hide
A tear, a smile, upon his cheek that dwell;
"And speak! mysterious strange!" (Gertrude cried)
"It is!--it is!--I knew--I knew him well;
'Tis Waldegrave's self, of Waldegrave come to tell!"
A burst of joy the father's lips declare!
But Gertrude speechless on his bosom fell;
At once his open arms embraced the pair,
Was never group more blest in this wide world of care.
"And will ye pardon then (replied the youth)
Your Waldegrave's feign'd name, and false attire?
I durst not in the neighborhood, in truth,
The very fortunes of your house inquire;
Lest one that knew me might some tidings dire
Impart, and I my weakness all betray,
For had I lost my Gertrude and my sire
I meant but o'er your tombs to weep a day,
Unknown I meant to weep, unknown to pass away.
But here ye life, ye bloom,--in each dear face,
The changing hand of time I may not blame;
For there, it hath but shed more reverend grace,
And here, of beauty perfected the frame:
And well I know your hearts are still the same--
They could not change--ye look the very way,
As when an orphan first to you I came.
And have ye heard of my poor guide, I pray?
Nay, wherefore weep ye, friends, on such a joyous day!"
"And art thou here? or is it but a dream?
And wilt thou, Waldegrave, wilt thou, leave us more!"
"No, never! thou that yet dost lovelier seem
Than aught on earth--than even thyself of yore--
I will not part thee from thy father's shore;
But we shall cherish him with mutual arms,
And hand in hand again the path explore
Which every ray of young remembrance warms,
While thou shalt be my own, with all thy truth and charms!"
At morn, as if beneath a galaxy
Of over-arching groves in blossoms white,
Where all was odorous scent and harmony,
And gladness to the heart, nerve, ear, and sight:
There, if, O gentle Love! I read aright
The utterance that seal'd thy sacred bond,
'Twas listening to these accents of delight,
She hid upon his breast those eyes, beyond
Expression's power to paint, all languishingly fond--
"Flower of my life, so lovely, and so lone!
Whom I would rather in this desert meet,
Scorning, and scorn'd by fortune's power, than own
Her pomp and splendors lavish'd at my feet!
Turn not from me thy breath, move exquisite
Than odors cast on heaven's own shrine--to please--
Give me thy love, than luxury more sweet,
And more than all the wealth that loads the breeze,
When Coromandel's ships return from Indian seas."
Then would that home admit them--happier far
Than grandeur's most magnificent saloon,
While, here and there, a solitary star
Flush'd in the darkening firmament of June;
And silence brought the soul-felt hour, full soon
Ineffable, which I may not portray;
For never did the hymenean moon
A paradise of hearts more sacred sway,
In all that slept beneath her soft voluptuous ray.
O Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine.
Here shall no forms abridge, no hours confine
The views, the walks, that boundless joy inspire!
Nor, blind with ecstacy's celestial fire,
Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time expire.
Three little moons, how short! amidst the grove
And pastoral savannas they consume!
While she, beside her buskin'd youth to rove,
Delights, in fancifully wild costume,
Her lovely brow to shade with Indian plume;
And forth in hunter-seeming vest they fare;
But not to chase the deer in forest gloom,
'Tis but the breath of heaven--the blessed air--
And interchange of hearts unknown, unseen to share.
What though the sportive dog oft round them note,
Or fawn, or wild bird bursting on the wing;
Yet who, in Love's own presence, would devote
To death those gentle throats that wake the spring,
Or writhing from the brook its victim bring?
No!--nor let fear one little warbler rouse;
But, fed by Gertrude's hand, still let them sing,
Acquaintance of her path, amidst the boughs,
That shade ev'n now her love, and witness'd first her vows.
Now labyrinths, which but themselves can pierce,
Methinks, conduct them to some pleasant ground,
Where welcome hills shut out the universe,
And pines their lawny walk encompass round;
There, if a pause delicious converse found,
'Twas but when o'er each heart th' idea stole,
(Perchance a while in joy's oblivion drown'd)
That come what may, while life's glad pulses roll,
Indissolubly thus should soul be knit to soul.
And in the visions of romantic youth,
What years of endless bliss are yet to flow!
But mortal pleasure, what art thou in truth?
The torrent's smoothness, ere it dash below!
And must I change my song? and must I show,
Sweet Wyoming! the day when thou art doom'd,
Guiltless, to mourn thy loveliest bowers laid low!
When were of yesterday a garden bloom'd,
Death overspread his pall, and blackening ashes gloom'd!
Sad was the year, by proud oppression driven,
When Transatlantic Liberty arose,
Not in the sunshine and the smile of heaven,
But wrapt in whirlwinds, and begirt with woes,
Amidst the strife of fratricidal foes;
Her birth star was the light of burning plains;
Her baptism is the weight of blood that flows
From kindred hearts--the blood of British veins--
And famine tracks her steps, and pestilential pains.
Yet, here the storm of death had raged remote,
Or seige unseen in heaven reflects its beams,
Who now each dreadful circumstance shall note,
That fills pale Gertrude's thoughts, and nightly dreams!
Dismal to her the forge of battle gleams
Portentous light! and music's voice is dumb;
Save where the fife its shrill reveille screams,
Or midnight streets re-echo to the drum,
That speaks of maddening strife, and blood-stained fields to come.
It was in truth a momentary pang;
Yet how comprising myriad shapes of wo!
First when in Gertrude's ear the summons rang,
A husband to the battle doom'd to go!
"Nay meet not thou( she cried) thy kindred foe!
But peaceful let us seek fair England's strand!"
"Ah, Gertrude, thy beloved heart, I know,
Would feel like mine the stigmatising brand!
Could I forsake the cause of Freedom's holy band!
But shame--but flight--a recreant's name to prove,
To hide in exile ignominous fears;
Say, ev'n if this I brook'd, the public love
Thy father's bosom to his home endears:
And how could I his few remaining years,
My Gertrude, sever from so dear a child?"
So, day by day, her boding heart he cheers:
At last that heart to hope is half beguiled,
And, pale, through tears suppress'd, the mournful beauty smiled.
Night came,--and in their lighted bower, full late,
The joy of converse had endured--when, hark!
Abrupt and loud, a summons shook their gate;
And heedless of the dog's obstrep'rous bark,
A form had rush'ed amidst them from the dark,
And spread his arms,--and fell upon the floor:
Of aged strength his limbs retained the mark;
But desolate he look's and famish'd, poor,
As ever shipwreck'd wretch lone left on desert shore.
Uprisen, each wond'ring brow is knit and arch'd:
A spirit form the dead they deem him first:
To speak he tries; but quivering, pale, and parch'd,
From lips, as by some powerless dream accursed
Emotions unintelligible burst;
And long his filmed eye is red and dim;
At length the pity-proffer'd cup his thirst
Had half assuaged, and nerved his shuddering limb
When Albert's hand he grasp'd;--but Albert knew not him--
"And hast thou then forgot," (he cried forlorn,
And eyed the group with half indignant air,)
"Oh! hast thou, Christian chief, forgot the morn
When I with thee the cup of peace did share?
Then stately was this head, and dark this hair,
That now is white as Appalachia's snow;
But, if the weight of fifteen years' despair,
And age hath bow'd me, and the torturing foe,
Bring me my boy--and he will his deliverer know!"--
It was not long, with eyes and heart of flame,
Ere Henry to his loved Oneyda flew:
"Bless thee, my guide!"--but backward as he came,
The chief his old bewilder'd head withdrew,
And grasp'd his arm, and look'd and look'd him through.
'Twas strange--nor could the group a smile control--
The long, the doubtful scrutiny to view:
At last delight o'er all his features stole,
"It is--my own," he cried, and clasp'd him to his soul.
"Yes! thou recallest my pride of years, for then
The bowstring of my spirit was not slack,
When, spite of woods and floods, and ambush'd men,
I bore thee like the quiver on my back,
Fleet as the whirlwind hurries on the rack;
Nor foreman then, nor cougar's crouch I fear'd,
For I was strong as mountain cataract:
And dost thou not remember how we cheer'd,
Upon the last hill-top, when white men's huts appear'd?
Then welcome be my death-song, and my death
Since I have seen thee, and again embrac'd."
And longer had he spent his toil-worn breath;
But with affectionate and eager haste,
Was every arm outstretch'd around their guest,
To welcome and to bless his aged head.
Soon was the hospitable banquet placed;
And Gertrude's lovely hands a balsam shed
On wounds with fever'd joy that more profusely bled.
"But this is not a time,"--he started up,
And smote his breast with wo-denouncing hand--
"This is no time to fill the joyous cup,
The Mammoth comes,--the foe,--the Monster Brandt,--
With all his howling desolating band;
These eyes have seen their blade and burning pine
Awake at once, and silence half your land.
Red is the cup they drink; but not with wine:
Awake, and watch to-night, or see no morning shine!
Scorning to wield the hatchet for his bribe,
'Gainst Brandt himself I went to battle forth:
Accursed Brandt! he left of all my tribe
Nor man, nor child, nor thing of living birth:
No! not the dog that watch'd my household hearth,
Escaped that night of blood, upon our plains!
All perish'd!--I alone am left on earth!
To whom nor relative nor blood remains.
No! not a kindred drop that runs in human veins!
But go!--and rouse your warriors, for, if right
These old bewilder'd eyes could guess, by signs
Of striped, and starred banners, on yon height
Of eastern cedars, o'er the creek of pines--
Some fort embattled by your country shines:
Deep roars th' innavigable gulf below
Its squared rock, and palisaded lines.
Go! seek the light its warlike beacons show;
Whilst I in ambush wait, for vengeance, and the foe!"
Scarce had he utter'd--when Heaven's virge extreme
Reverberates the bomb's descending star,
And sounds that mingled laugh,--and shout,--and scream,--
To freeze the blood in once discordant jar
Rung to the pealing thunderbolts of war.
Whoop after whoop with rack the ear assail'd;
As if unearthly fiends had burst their bar;
While rapidly the marksman's shot prevail'd:--
And aye, as if for death, some lonely trumpet wail'd.
Then look'd they to the hills, where fire o'erhung
The bandit groups, in one Vesuvian glare;
Or swept, far seen, the tower, whose clock unrung
Told legible that midnight of despair.
She faints,--she falters not,--th' heroic fair,
As he the sword and plume in haste array'd.
One short embrace--he clasp'd his dearest care--
But hark! what nearer war-drum shakes the glade?
Joy, joy! Columbia's friends are trampling through the shade!
Then came of every race the mingled swarm,
Far rung the groves and gleam'd the midnight grass,
With Flambeau, javelin, and naked arm;
As warriors wheel'd their culverins of brass,
Sprung from the woods, a bold athletic mass,
Whom virtue fires, and liberty combines:
And first the wild Moravian yagers pass,
His plumed host the dark Iberian joins--
And Scotia's sword beneath the Highland thistle shines.
And in, the buskin'd hunters of the deer,
To Albert's home, with shout and cymbal throng--
Roused by their warlike pomp, and mirth, and cheer,
Old Outalissi woke his battle song,
And, beating with his war-club cadence strong,
Tells how his deep-stung indignation smarts,
Of them that wrapt his house in flames, ere long,
To whet a dagger on their stony hearts,
And smile avenged ere yet his eagle spirit parts.
Calm, opposite the Christian father rose,
Pale on his venerable brow its rays
Of martyr light the conflagration throws;
One hand upon his lovely child he lays,
And one th' uncover'd crowd to silence sways;
While, though the battle flash is faster driven,--
Unaw'd, with eye unstartled by the blaze,
He for his bleeding country prays to Heaven,--
Prays that the men of blood themselves may be forgiven.
Short time is now for gratulating speech:
And yet, beloved Gertrude, ere began
Thy country's flight, yon distant towers to reach,
Looks not on thee the rudest partisan
With brow relax'd to love? And murmurs ran,
As round and round their willing ranks they drew,
From beauty's sight to shield the hostile van.
Grateful on them a placid look she threw,
Nor wept, but as she bade her mother's grave adieu!
Past was the flight, and welcome seem'd the tower,
That like a giant standard-bearer frown'd
Defiance on the roving Indian power,
Beneath, each bold and promontory mound
With embrasure emboss'd, and armor crown'd.
And arrowy frise, and wedg'd ravelin,
Wove like a diadem its tracery round
The loft summit of that mountain green;
Here stood secure the group, and eyed a distant scene--
A scene of death! where fires beneath the sun,
And blended arms, and white pavilions glow;
And for the business of destruction done,
Its requiem the war-horn seem'd to blow:
There, sad spectatress of her country's wo!
The lovely Gertrude, safe from present harm,
Had laid her cheek, and clasp'd her hands of snow
On Waldegrave's shoulder, half within his arm
Enclosed, that felt her heart, and hush'd its wild alarm!
But short that contemplation--sad and short
The pause to bid each much-loved scene adieu!
Beneath the very shadow of the fort,
Where friendly swords were drawn, and banners flew;
Ah! who could deem that root of Indian crew
Was near?--yet there, with lust of murd'rous deeds,
Gleam'd like a basilisk, form woods in view,
The ambush'd foeman's eye, his volley speeds,
And Albert--Albert falls! the dear old father bleeds!
And tranced in giddy horror Gertrude swoon'd;
Yet, while she clasps him lifeless to her zone,
Say, burst they, borrow'd from her father's wound,
These drops?--Oh, God! the life-blood is her own!
And faltering on her Waldegrave's bosom thrown;
"Weep not, O Love!"--she cries, "to see me bleed;
Thee, Gertrude's sad survivor, thee alone
Heaven's peace commiserate; for scarce I heed
These wounds;--yet thee to leave is death, is death indeed!
Clasp me a little longer on the brink
Of fate! while I can feel thy dear caress;
And when this heart hath ceased to beat--oh! think,
And let it mitigate thy wo's excess,
That thou hast been to me all tenderness,
And friend no more than human friendship just.
Oh! by that retrospect of happiness,
And by the hopes of an immortal trust,
God shall assuage thy pangs--when I am laid in dust!
Go, Henry, go not back, when I depart,
The scene thy bursting tears too deep will move,
Where my dear father took thee to his heart,
And Gertrude thought it ecstacy to rove
With thee, as with an angel, through the grove
Of peace, imagining her lot was cast
In heaven; for ours was not like earthly love.
And must this parting be our very last!
No! I shall love thee still, when death itself is past.--
Half could I bear, methinks, to leave this earth,--
And thee, more loved than aught beneath the sun,
If I had lived to smile but on the birth
Of one dear pledge;--but shall there then be none
In future times--no gentle little one,
To clasp thy neck, and look, resembling me?
Yet seems it, even while life's last pulses run,
A sweetness in the cup of death to be,
Lord of my bosom's love! to die beholding thee!"
Hush'd were his Gertrude's lips! but still their bland
And beautiful expression seem'd to melt
With love that could not die! and still his hand
She presses to the heart no more that felt.
Ah, heart! where once each fond affection dwelt,
And features yet that spoke a soul more fair.
Mute, gazing, agonizing as he knelt,--
Of them that stood encircling his despair,
He heard some friendly words;--but knew not what they were.
For now, to mourn their judge and child, arrives
A faithful band. With solemn rites between
'Twas sung, how they were lovely in their lives,
And in their deaths had not divided been.
Touch'd by the music, and the melting scene,
Was scarce one tearless eye amidst the crowd:--
Stern warriors, resting on their swords, were seen
To veil their eyes, as pass'd each much-loved shroud,
While woman's softer soul in wo, dissolved aloud.
Then mournfully the parting bugle bid
Its farewell, o'er the grave of worth and truth;
Prone to the dust, afflicted Waldegrave hid
His face on earth; him watch'd, in gloomy ruth,
His woodland guide; but words had none to soothe
The grief that knew not consolation's name;
Casting his Indian mantle o'er the youth,
He watch'd, beneath its folds, each burst that came
Convulsive, ague-like, across his shuddering frame!
"And I could weep;"--th' Oneyda chief
His descant wildly thus begun:
"But that I may not stain with grief
The death-song of my father's son,
Or bow this head in wo!
For by my wrongs, and by my wrath!
To-morrow Areouski's breath,
(That fires yon heaven with storms of death,)
Shall light us to the foe:
And we shall share, my Christian boy!
The foeman's blood, the avenger's joy!
But thee, my flower whose breath was given
By milder genii o'er the deep,
The spirits of the white man's heaven
Forbid not thee to weep:--
Nor will the Christian host,
Nor will thy father's spirit grieve,
To see thee, on the battle's eve,
Lamenting take a mournful leave
Of her who loved thee most:
She was the rainbow to thy sight!
Thy sun--thy heaven--of lost delight!
To-morrow let us do or die!
But when the bolt of death is hurl'd,
Ah! whither then with thee to fly,
Shall Outalissi roam the world?
Seek we thy once-loved home?
The hand is gone that cropt its flowers;
Unheard their clock repeats its hours!
Cold is the hearth within their bowers!
And should we thither roam,
Its echoes, and its empty tread,
Would sound like voices from the dead!
Or shall we cross yon mountains blue,
Whose streams my kindred nation quaff'd
And by my side, in battle true,
A thousand warriors drew the shaft?
Ah! there, in desolation cold,
The desert serpent dwells alone,
Where grass o'ergrows each mouldering bone
And stones themselves to ruin grown
Like me are death-like old.
Then seek we not their camp,--for there--
The silence dwells of my despair!
But hark, the trump!--to-morrow thou
In glory's fires shalt dry thy tears:
Ev'n from the land of shadows now
My father's awful ghost appears,
Amidst the clouds that round us roll;
He bids my soul for battle thirst--
He bids me dry the last--the first--
The only tears that ever burst
From Outalissi's soul;
Because I may not stain with grief
The death-song of an Indian chief!"
Peter Bell, A Tale
There's something in a flying horse,
There's something in a huge balloon;
But through the clouds I'll never float
Until I have a little Boat,
Shaped like the crescent-moon.
And now I 'have' a little Boat,
In shape a very crescent-moon
Fast through the clouds my boat can sail;
But if perchance your faith should fail,
Look up--and you shall see me soon!
The woods, my Friends, are round you roaring,
Rocking and roaring like a sea;
The noise of danger's in your ears,
And ye have all a thousand fears
Both for my little Boat and me!
Meanwhile untroubled I admire
The pointed horns of my canoe;
And, did not pity touch my breast,
To see how ye are all distrest,
Till my ribs ached, I'd laugh at you!
Away we go, my Boat and I--
Frail man ne'er sate in such another;
Whether among the winds we strive,
Or deep into the clouds we dive,
Each is contented with the other.
Away we go--and what care we
For treasons, tumults, and for wars?
We are as calm in our delight
As is the crescent-moon so bright
Among the scattered stars.
Up goes my Boat among the stars
Through many a breathless field of light,
Through many a long blue field of ether,
Leaving ten thousand stars beneath her:
Up goes my little Boat so bright!
The Crab, the Scorpion, and the Bull--
We pry among them all; have shot
High o'er the red-haired race of Mars,
Covered from top to toe with scars;
Such company I like it not!
The towns in Saturn are decayed,
And melancholy Spectres throng them;--
The Pleiads, that appear to kiss
Each other in the vast abyss,
With joy I sail among them.
Swift Mercury resounds with mirth,
Great Jove is full of stately bowers;
But these, and all that they contain,
What are they to that tiny grain,
That little Earth of ours?
Then back to Earth, the dear green Earth:--
Whole ages if I here should roam,
The world for my remarks and me
Would not a whit the better be;
I've left my heart at home.
See! there she is, the matchless Earth!
There spreads the famed Pacific Ocean!
Old Andes thrusts yon craggy spear
Through the grey clouds; the Alps are here,
Like waters in commotion!
Yon tawny slip is Libya's sands;
That silver thread the river Dnieper!
And look, where clothed in brightest green
Is a sweet Isle, of isles the Queen;
Ye fairies, from all evil keep her!
And see the town where I was born!
Around those happy fields we span
In boyish gambols;--I was lost
Where I have been, but on this coast
I feel I am a man.
Never did fifty things at once
Appear so lovely, never, never;--
How tunefully the forests ring!
To hear the earth's soft murmuring
Thus could I hang for ever!
"Shame on you!" cried my little Boat,
"Was ever such a homesick Loon,
Within a living Boat to sit,
And make no better use of it;
A Boat twin-sister of the crescent-moon!
"Ne'er in the breast of full-grown Poet
Fluttered so faint a heart before;--
Was it the music of the spheres
That overpowered your mortal ears?
--Such din shall trouble them no more.
"These nether precincts do not lack
Charms of their own;--then come with me;
I want a comrade, and for you
There's nothing that I would not do;
Nought is there that you shall not see.
"Haste! and above Siberian snows
We'll sport amid the boreal morning;
Will mingle with her lustres gliding
Among the stars, the stars now hiding,
And now the stars adorning.
"I know the secrets of a land
Where human foot did never stray;
Fair is that land as evening skies,
And cool, though in the depth it lies
Of burning Africa. 0
"Or we'll into the realm of Faery,
Among the lovely shades of things;
The shadowy forms of mountains bare,
And streams, and bowers, and ladies fair,
The shades of palaces and kings!
"Or, if you thirst with hardy zeal
Less quiet regions to explore,
Prompt voyage shall to you reveal
How earth and heaven are taught to feel
The might of magic lore!"
"My little vagrant Form of light,
My gay and beautiful Canoe,
Well have you played your friendly part;
As kindly take what from my heart
Experience forces--then adieu!
"Temptation lurks among your words;
But, while these pleasures you're pursuing
Without impediment or let,
No wonder if you quite forget
What on the earth is doing.
"There was a time when all mankind
Did listen with a faith sincere
To tuneful tongues in mystery versed;
'Then' Poets fearlessly rehearsed
The wonders of a wild career.
"Go--(but the world's a sleepy world,
And 'tis, I fear, an age too late)
Take with you some ambitious Youth!
For, restless Wanderer! I, in truth,
Am all unfit to be your mate.
"Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.
"The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.
"These given, what more need I desire
To stir, to soothe, or elevate?
What nobler marvels than the mind
May in life's daily prospect find,
May find or there create?
"A potent wand doth Sorrow wield;
What spell so strong as guilty Fear!
Repentance is a tender Sprite;
If aught on earth have heavenly might,
'Tis lodged within her silent tear.
"But grant my wishes,--let us now
Descend from this ethereal height;
Then take thy way, adventurous Skiff,
More daring far than Hippogriff,
And be thy own delight!
"To the stone-table in my garden,
Loved haunt of many a summer hour,
The Squire is come: his daughter Bess
Beside him in the cool recess
Sits blooming like a flower.
"With these are many more convened;
They know not I have been so far;--
I see them there, in number nine,
Beneath the spreading Weymouth-pine!
I see them--there they are!
"There sits the Vicar and his Dame;
And there my good friend, Stephen Otter;
And, ere the light of evening fail,
To them I must relate the Tale
Of Peter Bell the Potter."
Off flew the Boat--away she flees,
Spurning her freight with indignation!
And I, as well as I was able,
On two poor legs, toward my stone-table
Limped on with sore vexation.
"O, here he is!" cried little Bess--
She saw me at the garden-door;
"We've waited anxiously and long,"
They cried, and all around me throng,
Full nine of them or more!
"Reproach me not--your fears be still--
Be thankful we again have met;--
Resume, my Friends! within the shade
Your seats, and quickly shall be paid
The well-remembered debt."
I spake with faltering voice, like one
Not wholly rescued from the pale
Of a wild dream, or worse illusion;
But, straight, to cover my confusion,
Began the promised Tale.
ALL by the moonlight river side
Groaned the poor Beast--alas! in vain;
The staff was raised to loftier height,
And the blows fell with heavier weight
As Peter struck--and struck again.
"Hold!" cried the Squire, "against the rules
Of common sense you're surely sinning;
This leap is for us all too bold;
Who Peter was, let that be told,
And start from the beginning." 0
----"A Potter, Sir, he was by trade,"
Said I, becoming quite collected;
"And wheresoever he appeared,
Full twenty times was Peter feared
For once that Peter was respected.
"He, two-and-thirty years or more,
Had been a wild and woodland rover;
Had heard the Atlantic surges roar
On farthest Cornwall's rocky shore,
And trod the cliffs of Dover.
"And he had seen Caernarvon's towers,
And well he knew the spire of Sarum;
And he had been where Lincoln bell
Flings o'er the fen that ponderous knell--
A far-renowned alarum!
"At Doncaster, at York, and Leeds,
And merry Carlisle had be been;
And all along the Lowlands fair,
All through the bonny shire of Ayr
And far as Aberdeen.
"And he had been at Inverness;
And Peter, by the mountain-rills,
Had danced his round with Highland lasses;
And he had lain beside his asses
On lofty Cheviot Hills:
"And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding 'scars',
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars:
"And all along the indented coast,
Bespattered with the salt-sea foam;
Where'er a knot of houses lay
On headland, or in hollow bay;--
Sure never man like him did roam!
"As well might Peter, in the Fleet,
Have been fast bound, a begging debtor;--
He travelled here, he travelled there,--
But not the value of a hair
Was heart or head the better.
"He roved among the vales and streams,
In the green wood and hollow dell;
They were his dwellings night and day,--
But nature ne'er could find the way
Into the heart of Peter Bell.
"In vain, through every changeful year,
Did Nature lead him as before;
A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.
"Small change it made on Peter's heart
To see his gentle panniered train
With more than vernal pleasure feeding,
Where'er the tender grass was leading
Its earliest green along the lane.
"In vain, through water, earth, and air,
The soul of happy sound was spread,
When Peter on some April morn,
Beneath the broom or budding thorn,
Made the warm earth his lazy bed.
"At noon, when, by the forest's edge
He lay beneath the branches high,
The soft blue shy did never melt
Into his heart; he never felt
The witchery of the soft blue sky!
"On a fair prospect some have looked
And felt, as I have heard them say,
As if the moving time had been
A thing as steadfast as the scene
On which they gazed themselves away.
"Within the breast of Peter Bell
These silent raptures found no place;
He was a Carl as wild and rude
As ever hue-and-cry pursued,
As ever ran a felon's race.
"Of all that lead a lawless life,
Of all that love their lawless lives,
In city or in village small,
He was the wildest far of all;--
He had a dozen wedded wives.
"Nay, start not!--wedded wives--and twelve!
But how one wife could e'er come near him,
In simple truth I cannot tell;
For, be it said of Peter Bell
To see him was to fear him.
"Though Nature could not touch his heart
By lovely forms, and silent weather,
And tender sounds, yet you might see
At once, that Peter Bell and she
Had often been together.
"A savage wildness round him hung
As of a dweller out of doors;
In his whole figure and his mien
A savage character was seen
Of mountains and of dreary moors.
"To all the unshaped half-human thoughts
Which solitary Nature feeds
'Mid summer storms or winter's ice,
Had Peter joined whatever vice
The cruel city breeds. 0
"His face was keen as is the wind
That cuts along the hawthorn-fence;--
Of courage you saw little there,
But, in its stead, a medley air
Of cunning and of impudence.
"He had a dark and sidelong walk,
And long and slouching was his gait;
Beneath his looks so bare and bold,
You might perceive, his spirit cold
Was playing with some inward bait.
"His forehead wrinkled was and furred;
A work, one half of which was done
By thinking of his 'whens' and 'hows;'
And half, by knitting of his brows
Beneath the glaring sun.
"There was a hardness in his cheek,
There was a hardness in his eye,
As if the man had fixed his face,
In many a solitary place,
Against the wind and open sky!"
ONE NIGHT, (and now my little Bess!
We've reached at last the promised Tale:)
One beautiful November night,
When the full moon was shining bright
Upon the rapid river Swale,
Along the river's winding banks
Peter was travelling all alone;--
Whether to buy or sell, or led
By pleasure running in his head,
To me was never known.
He trudged along through copse and brake,
He trudged along o'er hill and dale;
Nor for the moon cared he a tittle,
And for the stars he cared as little,
And for the murmuring river Swale.
But, chancing to espy a path
That promised to cut short the way
As many a wiser man hath done,
He left a trusty guide for one
That might his steps betray.
To a thick wood he soon is brought
Where cheerily his course he weaves,
And whistling loud may yet be heard,
Though often buried, like a bird
Darkling, among the boughs and leaves.
But quickly Peter's mood is changed,
And on he drives with cheeks that burn
In downright fury and in wrath;--
There's little sign the treacherous path
Will to the road return!
The path grows dim, and dimmer still;
Now up, now down, the Rover wends,
With all the sail that he can carry,
Till brought to a deserted quarry--
And there the pathway ends.
He paused--for shadows of strange shape,
Massy and black, before him lay;
But through the dark, and through the cold,
And through the yawning fissures old,
Did Peter boldly press his way
Right through the quarry;--and behold
A scene of soft and lovely hue!
Where blue and grey, and tender green,
Together make as sweet a scene
As ever human eye did view.
Beneath the clear blue sky he saw
A little field of meadow ground;
But field or meadow name it not;
Call it of earth a small green plot,
With rocks encompassed round,
The Swale flowed under the grey rocks,
But he flowed quiet and unseen;--
You need a strong and stormy gale
To bring the noises of the Swale
To that green spot, so calm and green!
And is there no one dwelling here,
No hermit with his beads and glass?
And does no little cottage look
Upon this soft and fertile nook?
Does no one live near this green grass?
Across the deep and quiet spot
Is Peter driving through the grass--
And now has reached the skirting trees;
When, turning round his head, he sees
A solitary Ass.
"A Prize!" cries Peter--but he first
Must spy about him far and near:
There's not a single house in sight,
No woodman's hut, no cottage light--
Peter, you need not fear!
There's nothing to be seen but woods,
And rocks that spread a hoary gleam,
And this one Beast, that from the bed
Of the green meadow hangs his head
Over the silent stream.
His head is with a halter bound;
The halter seizing, Peter leapt
Upon the Creature's back, and plied
With ready heels his shaggy side;
But still the Ass his station kept. 0
Then Peter gave a sudden jerk,
A jerk that from a dungeon-floor
Would have pulled up an iron ring;
But still the heavy-headed Thing
Stood just as he had stood before!
Quoth Peter, leaping from his seat,
"There is some plot against me laid;"
Once more the little meadow-ground
And all the hoary cliffs around
He cautiously surveyed,
All, all is silent--rocks and woods,
All still and silent--far and near!
Only the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turns round his long left ear.
Thought Peter, What can mean all this?
Some ugly witchcraft must be here!
--Once more the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turned round his long left ear.
Suspicion ripened into dread;
Yet with deliberate action slow,
His staff high-raising, in the pride
Of skill, upon the sounding hide,
He dealt a sturdy blow.
The poor Ass staggered with the shock;
And then, as if to take his ease,
In quiet uncomplaining mood,
Upon the spot where he had stood,
Dropped gently down upon his knees:
As gently on his side he fell;
And by the river's brink did lie;
And, while he lay like one that mourned,
The patient Beast on Peter turned
His shining hazel eye.
'Twas but one mild, reproachful look,
A look more tender than severe;
And straight in sorrow, not in dread,
He turned the eye-ball in his head
Towards the smooth river deep and clear.
Upon the Beast the sapling rings;
His lank sides heaved, his limbs they stirred;
He gave a groan, and then another,
Of that which went before the brother,
And then he gave a third.
All by the moonlight river side
He gave three miserable groans;
And not till now hath Peter seen
How gaunt the Creature is,--how lean
And sharp his staring bones!
With legs stretched out and stiff he lay:--
No word of kind commiseration
Fell at the sight from Peter's tongue;
With hard contempt his heart was wrung,
With hatred and vexation.
The meagre beast lay still as death;
And Peter's lips with fury quiver;
Quoth he, "You little mulish dog,
I'll fling your carcase like a log
Head-foremost down the river!"
An impious oath confirmed the threat--
Whereat from the earth on which he lay
To all the echoes, south and north,
And east and west, the Ass sent forth
A long and clamorous bray!
This outcry, on the heart of Peter,
Seems like a note of joy to strike,--
Joy at the heart of Peter knocks;
But in the echo of the rocks
Was something Peter did not like.
Whether to cheer his coward breast,
Or that he could not break the chain,
In this serene and solemn hour,
Twined round him by demoniac power,
To the blind work he turned again.
Among the rocks and winding crags;
Among the mountains far away;
Once more the ass did lengthen out
More ruefully a deep-drawn shout,
The hard dry see-saw of his horrible bray!
What is there now in Peter's heart!
Or whence the might of this strange sound?
The moon uneasy looked and dimmer,
The broad blue heavens appeared to glimmer,
And the rocks staggered all around--
From Peter's hand the sapling dropped!
Threat has he none to execute;
"If any one should come and see
That I am here, they'll think," quoth he,
"I'm helping this poor dying brute."
He scans the Ass from limb to limb,
And ventures now to uplift his eyes;
More steady looks the moon, and clear
More like themselves the rocks appear
And touch more quiet skies.
His scorn returns--his hate revives;
He stoops the Ass's neck to seize
With malice--that again takes flight;
For in the pool a startling sight
Meets him, among the inverted trees. 0
Is it the moon's distorted face?
The ghost-like image of a cloud?
Is it a gallows there portrayed?
Is Peter of himself afraid?
Is it a coffin,--or a shroud?
A grisly idol hewn in stone?
Or imp from witch's lap let fall?
Perhaps a ring of shining fairies?
Such as pursue their feared vagaries
In sylvan bower, or haunted hall?
Is it a fiend that to a stake
Of fire his desperate self is tethering?
Or stubborn spirit doomed to yell
In solitary ward or cell,
Ten thousand miles from all his brethren?
Never did pulse so quickly throb,
And never heart so loudly panted;
He looks, he cannot choose but look;
Like some one reading in a book--
A book that is enchanted.
Ah, well-a-day for Peter Bell!
He will be turned to iron soon,
Meet Statue for the court of Fear!
His hat is up--and every hair
Bristles, and whitens in the moon!
He looks, he ponders, looks again;
He sees a motion--hears a groan;
His eyes will burst--his heart will break--
He gives a loud and frightful shriek,
And back he falls, as if his life were flown!
WE left our Hero in a trance,
Beneath the alders, near the river;
The Ass is by the river-side,
And, where the feeble breezes glide,
Upon the stream the moonbeams quiver.
A happy respite! but at length
He feels the glimmering of the moon;
Wakes with glazed eve. and feebly signing--
To sink, perhaps, where he is lying,
Into a second swoon!
He lifts his head, he sees his staff;
He touches--'tis to him a treasure!
Faint recollection seems to tell
That he is yet where mortals dwell--
A thought received with languid pleasure!
His head upon his elbow propped,
Becoming less and less perplexed,
Sky-ward he looks--to rock and wood--
And then--upon the glassy flood
His wandering eye is fixed.
Thought he, that is the face of one
In his last sleep securely bound!
So toward the stream his head he bent,
And downward thrust his staff, intent
The river's depth to sound.
'Now'--like a tempest-shattered bark,
That overwhelmed and prostrate lies,
And in a moment to the verge
Is lifted of a foaming surge--
Full suddenly the Ass doth rise!
His staring bones all shake with joy,
And close by Peter's side he stands:
While Peter o'er the river bends,
The little Ass his neck extends,
And fondly licks his hands.
Such life is in the Ass's eyes,
Such life is in his limbs and ears;
That Peter Bell, if he had been
The veriest coward ever seen,
Must now have thrown aside his fears.
The Ass looks on--and to his work
Is Peter quietly resigned;
He touches here--he touches there--
And now among the dead man's hair
His sapling Peter has entwined.
He pulls--and looks--and pulls again;
And he whom the poor Ass had lost,
The man who had been four days dead,
Head-foremost from the river's bed
Uprises like a ghost!
And Peter draws him to dry land;
And through the brain of Peter pass
Some poignant twitches, fast and faster,
"No doubt," quoth he, "he is the Master
Of this poor miserable Ass!"
The meagre Shadow that looks on--
What would he now? what is he doing?
His sudden fit of joy is flown,--
He on his knees hath laid him down,
As if he were his grief renewing;
But no--that Peter on his back
Must mount, he shows well as he can:
Thought Peter then, come weal or woe,
I'll do what he would have me do,
In pity to this poor drowned man.
With that resolve he boldly mounts
Upon the pleased and thankful Ass;
And then, without a moment's stay,
That earnest Creature turned away
Leaving the body on the grass. 0
Intent upon his faithful watch,
The Beast four days and nights had past;
A sweeter meadow ne'er was seen,
And there the Ass four days had been,
Nor ever once did break his fast:
Yet firm his step, and stout his heart;
The mead is crossed--the quarry's mouth
Is reached; but there the trusty guide
Into a thicket turns aside,
And deftly ambles towards the south.
When hark a burst of doleful sound!
And Peter honestly might say,
The like came never to his ears,
Though he has been, full thirty years,
A rover--night and day!
'Tis not a plover of the moors,
'Tis not a bittern of the fen;
Nor can it be a barking fox,
Nor night-bird chambered in the rocks,
Nor wild-cat in a woody glen!
The Ass is startled--and stops short
Right in the middle of the thicket;
And Peter, wont to whistle loud
Whether alone or in a crowd,
Is silent as a silent cricket.
What ails you now, my little Bess?
Well may you tremble and look grave!
This cry--that rings along the wood,
This cry--that floats adown the flood,
Comes from the entrance of a cave:
I see a blooming Wood-boy there,
And if I had the power to say
How sorrowful the wanderer is,
Your heart would be as sad as his
Till you had kissed his tears away!
Grasping a hawthorn branch in hand,
All bright with berries ripe and red,
Into the cavern's mouth he peeps;
Thence back into the moonlight creeps;
Whom seeks he--whom?--the silent dead:
His father!--Him doth he require--
Him hath he sought with fruitless pains,
Among the rocks, behind the trees;
Now creeping on his hands and knees,
Now running o'er the open plains.
And hither is he come at last,
When he through such a day has gone,
By this dark cave to be distrest
Like a poor bird--her plundered nest
Hovering around with dolorous moan!
Of that intense and piercing cry
The listening Ass conjectures well;
Wild as it is, he there can read
Some intermingled notes that plead
With touches irresistible.
But Peter--when he saw the Ass
Not only stop but turn, and change
The cherished tenor of his pace
That lamentable cry to chase--
It wrought in him conviction strange;
A faith that, for the dead man's sake
And this poor slave who loved him well,
Vengeance upon his head will fall,
Some visitation worse than all
Which ever till this night befell.
Meanwhile the Ass to reach his home,
Is striving stoutly as he may;
But, while he climbs the woody hill,
The cry grows weak--and weaker still;
And now at last it dies away.
So with his freight the Creature turns
Into a gloomy grove of beech,
Along the shade with footsteps true
Descending slowly, till the two
The open moonlight reach.
And there, along the narrow dell,
A fair smooth pathway you discern,
A length of green and open road--
As if it from a fountain flowed--
Winding away between the fern.
The rocks that tower on either side
Build up a wild fantastic scene;
Temples like those among the Hindoos,
And mosques, and spires, and abbey windows,
And castles all with ivy green!
And, while the Ass pursues his way,
Along this solitary dell,
As pensively his steps advance,
The mosques and spires change countenance
And look at Peter Bell!
That unintelligible cry
Hath left him high in preparation,--
Convinced that he, or soon or late,
This very night will meet his fate--
And so he sits in expectation!
The strenuous Animal hath clomb
With the green path; and now he wends
Where, shining like the smoothest sea,
In undisturbed immensity
A level plain extends. 0
But whence this faintly-rustling sound
By which the journeying pair are chased?
--A withered leaf is close behind,
Light plaything for the sportive wind
Upon that solitary waste.
When Peter spied the moving thing,
It only doubled his distress;
"Where there is not a bush or tree,
The very leaves they follow me--
So huge hath been my wickedness!"
To a close lane they now are come,
Where, as before, the enduring Ass
Moves on without a moment's stop,
Nor once turns round his head to crop
A bramble-leaf or blade of grass.
Between the hedges as they go,
The white dust sleeps upon the lane;
And Peter, ever and anon
Back-looking, sees, upon a stone,
Or in the dust, a crimson stain.
A stain--as of a drop of blood
By moonlight made more faint and wan;
Ha! why these sinkings of despair?
He knows not how the blood comes there--
And Peter is a wicked man.
At length he spies a bleeding wound,
Where he had struck the Ass's head;
He sees the blood, knows what it is,--
A glimpse of sudden joy was his,
But then it quickly fled;
Of him whom sudden death had seized
He thought,--of thee, O faithful Ass!
And once again those ghastly pains,
Shoot to and fro through heart and reins,
And through his brain like lightning pass.
I'VE heard of one, a gentle Soul,
Though given to sadness and to gloom,
And for the fact will vouch,--one night
It chanced that by a taper's light
This man was reading in his room;
Bending, as you or I might bend
At night o'er any pious book,
When sudden blackness overspread
The snow-white page on which he read,
And made the good man round him look.
The chamber walls were dark all round,--
And to his book he turned again;
--The light had left the lonely taper,
And formed itself upon the paper
Into large letters--bright and plain!
The godly book was in his hand--
And, on the page, more black than coal,
Appeared, set forth in strange array,
A 'word'--which to his dying day
Perplexed the good man's gentle soul.
The ghostly word, thus plainly seen,
Did never from his lips depart;
But he hath said, poor gentle wight!
It brought full many a sin to light
Out of the bottom of his heart.
Dread Spirits! to confound the meek
Why wander from your course so far,
Disordering colour, form, and stature!
--Let good men feel the soul of nature,
And see things as they are.
Yet, potent Spirits! well I know,
How ye, that play with soul and sense,
Are not unused to trouble friends
Of goodness, for most gracious ends--
And this I speak in reverence!
But might I give advice to you,
Whom in my fear I love so well;
From men of pensive virtue go,
Dread Beings! and your empire show
On hearts like that of Peter Bell.
Your presence often have I felt
In darkness and the stormy night;
And, with like force, if need there be,
Ye can put forth your agency
When earth is calm, and heaven is bright.
Then, coming from the wayward world,
That powerful world in which ye dwell,
Come, Spirits of the Mind! and try
To-night, beneath the moonlight sky,
What may be done with Peter Bell!
--O, would that some more skilful voice
My further labour might prevent!
Kind Listeners, that around me sit,
I feel that I am all unfit
For such high argument.
I've played, I've danced, with my narration;
I loitered long ere I began:
Ye waited then on my good pleasure;
Pour out indulgence still, in measure
As liberal as ye can!
Our Travellers, ye remember well,
Are thridding a sequestered lane;
And Peter many tricks is trying,
And many anodynes applying,
To ease his conscience of its pain. 0
By this his heart is lighter far;
And, finding that he can account
So snugly for that crimson stain,
His evil spirit up again
Does like an empty bucket mount.
And Peter is a deep logician
Who hath no lack of wit mercurial;
"Blood drops--leaves rustle--yet," quoth he,
"This poor man never, but for me,
Could have had Christian burial.
"And, say the best you can, 'tis plain,
That here has been some wicked dealing;
No doubt the devil in me wrought;
I'm not the man who could have thought
An Ass like this was worth the stealing!"
So from his pocket Peter takes
His shining horn tobacco-box;
And, in a light and careless way,
As men who with their purpose play,
Upon the lid he knocks.
Let them whose voice can stop the clouds,
Whose cunning eye can see the wind,
Tell to a curious world the cause
Why, making here a sudden pause,
The Ass turned round his head, and 'grinned'.
Appalling process! I have marked
The like on heath, in lonely wood;
And, verily, have seldom met
A spectacle more hideous--yet
It suited Peter's present mood.
And, grinning in his turn, his teeth
He in jocose defiance showed--
When, to upset his spiteful mirth,
A murmur, pent within the earth,
In the dead earth beneath the road
Rolled audibly! it swept along,
A muffled noise--a rumbling sound!--
'Twas by a troop of miners made,
Plying with gunpowder their trade,
Some twenty fathoms under ground.
Small cause of dire effect! for, surely,
If ever mortal, King or Cotter,
Believed that earth was charged to quake
And yawn for his unworthy sake,
'Twas Peter Bell the Potter.
But, as an oak in breathless air
Will stand though to the centre hewn;
Or as the weakest things, if frost
Have stiffened them, maintain their post;
So he, beneath the gazing moon!--
The Beast bestriding thus, he reached
A spot where, in a sheltering cove,
A little chapel stands alone,
With greenest ivy overgrown,
And tufted with an ivy grove;
Dying insensibly away
From human thoughts and purposes,
It seemed--wall, window, roof and tower--
To bow to some transforming power,
And blend with the surrounding trees.
As ruinous a place it was,
Thought Peter, in the shire of Fife
That served my turn, when following still
From land to land a reckless will
I married my sixth wife!
The unheeding Ass moves slowly on,
And now is passing by an inn
Brim-full of a carousing crew,
That make, with curses not a few,
An uproar and a drunken din.
I cannot well express the thoughts
Which Peter in those noises found;--
A stifling power compressed his frame,
While-as a swimming darkness came
Over that dull and dreary sound.
For well did Peter know the sound;
The language of those drunken joys
To him, a jovial soul, I ween,
But a few hours ago, had been
A gladsome and a welcome noise.
'Now', turned adrift into the past,
He finds no solace in his course;
Like planet-stricken men of yore,
He trembles, smitten to the core
By strong compunction and remorse.
But, more than all, his heart is stung
To think of one, almost a child;
A sweet and playful Highland girl,
As light and beauteous as a squirrel,
As beauteous and as wild!
Her dwelling was a lonely house,
A cottage in a heathy dell;
And she put on her gown of green,
And left her mother at sixteen,
And followed Peter Bell.
But many good and pious thoughts
Had she; and, in the kirk to pray,
Two long Scotch miles, through rain or snow
To kirk she had been used to go,
Twice every Sabbath-day. 0
And, when she followed Peter Bell,
It was to lead an honest life;
For he, with tongue not used to falter,
Had pledged his troth before the altar
To love her as his wedded wife.
A mother's hope is hers;--but soon
She drooped and pined like one forlorn;
From Scripture she a name did borrow;
Benoni, or the child of sorrow,
She called her babe unborn.
For she had learned how Peter lived,
And took it in most grievous part;
She to the very bone was worn,
And, ere that little child was born,
Died of a broken heart.
And now the Spirits of the Mind
Are busy with poor Peter Bell;
Upon the rights of visual sense
Usurping, with a prevalence
More terrible than magic spell.
Close by a brake of flowering furze
(Above it shivering aspens play)
He sees an unsubstantial creature,
His very self in form and feature,
Not four yards from the broad highway:
And stretched beneath the furze he sees
The Highland girl--it is no other;
And hears her crying as she cried,
The very moment that she died,
"My mother! oh my mother!"
The sweat pours down from Peter's face,
So grievous is his heart's contrition;
With agony his eye-balls ache
While he beholds by the furze-brake
This miserable vision!
Calm is the well-deserving brute,
'His' peace hath no offence betrayed;
But now, while down that slope he wends,
A voice to Peter's ear ascends,
Resounding from the woody glade:
The voice, though clamorous as a horn
Re-echoed by a naked rock,
Comes from that tabernacle--List!
Within, a fervent Methodist
Is preaching to no heedless flock!
"Repent! repent!" he cries aloud,
"While yet ye may find mercy;--strive
To love the Lord with all your might;
Turn to him, seek him day and night,
And save your souls alive!
"Repent! repent! though ye have gone,
Through paths of wickedness and woe,
After the Babylonian harlot;
And, though your sins be red as scarlet,
They shall be white as snow!"
Even as he passed the door, these words
Did plainly come to Peter's ears;
And they such joyful tidings were,
The joy was more than he could bear!--
He melted into tears.
Sweet tears of hope and tenderness!
And fast they fell, a plenteous shower!
His nerves, his sinews seemed to melt;
Through all his iron frame was felt
A gentle, a relaxing, power!
Each fibre of his frame was weak;
Weak all the animal within;
But, in its helplessness, grew mild
And gentle as an infant child,
An infant that has known no sin.
'Tis said, meek Beast! that, through Heaven's grace,
He not unmoved did notice now
The cross upon thy shoulder scored,
For lasting impress, by the Lord
To whom all human-kind shall bow;
Memorial of his touch--that day
When Jesus humbly deigned to ride,
Entering the proud Jerusalem,
By an immeasurable stream
Of shouting people deified!
Meanwhile the persevering Ass,
Turned towards a gate that hung in view
Across a shady lane; his chest
Against the yielding gate he pressed
And quietly passed through.
And up the stony lane he goes;
No ghost more softly ever trod;
Among the stones and pebbles, he
Sets down his hoofs inaudibly,
As if with felt his hoofs were shod.
Along the lane the trusty Ass
Went twice two hundred yards or more,
And no one could have guessed his aim,--
Till to a lonely house he came,
And stopped beside the door.
Thought Peter, 'tis the poor man's home!
He listens--not a sound is heard
Save from the trickling household rill;
But, stepping o'er the cottage-sill,
Forthwith a little Girl appeared. 00
She to the Meeting-house was bound
In hopes some tidings there to gather:
No glimpse it is, no doubtful gleam;
She saw--and uttered with a scream,
"My father! here's my father!"
The very word was plainly heard,
Heard plainly by the wretched Mother--
Her joy was like a deep affright:
And forth she rushed into the light,
And saw it was another! 10
And, instantly, upon the earth,
Beneath the full moon shining bright,
Close to the Ass's feet she fell;
At the same moment Peter Bell
Dismounts in most unhappy plight.
As he beheld the Woman lie
Breathless and motionless, the mind
Of Peter sadly was confused;
But, though to such demands unused,
And helpless almost as the blind,
He raised her up; and, while he held
Her body propped against his knee,
The Woman waked--and when she spied
The poor Ass standing by her side,
She moaned most bitterly.
"Oh! God be praised--my heart's at ease--
For he is dead--I know it well!"
--At this she wept a bitter flood;
And, in the best way that he could,
His tale did Peter tell.
He trembles--he is pale as death;
His voice is weak with perturbation;
He turns aside his head, he pauses;
Poor Peter, from a thousand causes,
Is crippled sore in his narration.
At length she learned how he espied
The Ass in that small meadow-ground;
And that her Husband now lay dead,
Beside that luckless river's bed
In which he had been drowned.
A piercing look the Widow cast
Upon the Beast that near her stands;
She sees 'tis he, that 'tis the same;
She calls the poor Ass by his name,
And wrings, and wrings her hands.
"O wretched loss--untimely stroke!
If he had died upon his bed!
He knew not one forewarning pain;
He never will come home again--
Is dead, for ever dead!"
Beside the woman Peter stands;
His heart is opening more and more;
A holy sense pervades his mind;
He feels what he for human kind
Had never felt before.
At length, by Peter's arm sustained,
The Woman rises from the ground--
"Oh, mercy! something must be done,
My little Rachel, you must run,--
Some willing neighbour must be found.
"Make haste--my little Rachel--do,
The first you meet with--bid him come,
Ask him to lend his horse to-night,
And this good Man, whom Heaven requite,
Will help to bring the body home."
Away goes Rachel weeping loud;--
An Infant, waked by her distress,
Makes in the house a piteous cry;
And Peter hears the Mother sigh,
"Seven are they, and all fatherless!"
And now is Peter taught to feel
That man's heart is a holy thing;
And Nature, through a world of death,
Breathes into him a second breath,
More searching than the breath of spring.
Upon a stone the Woman sits
In agony of silent grief--
From his own thoughts did Peter start;
He longs to press her to his heart,
From love that cannot find relief.
But roused, as if through every limb
Had past a sudden shock of dread,
The Mother o'er the threshold flies,
And up the cottage stairs she hies,
And on the pillow lays her burning head.
And Peter turns his steps aside
Into a shade of darksome trees,
Where he sits down, he knows not how,
With his hands pressed against his brow,
His elbows on his tremulous knees.
There, self-involved, does Peter sit
Until no sign of life he makes,
As if his mind were sinking deep
Through years that have been long asleep
The trance is passed away--he wakes;
He lifts his head--and sees the Ass
Yet standing in the clear moonshine;
"When shall I be as good as thou?
Oh! would, poor beast, that I had now
A heart but half as good as thine!" 0
But 'He'--who deviously hath sought
His Father through the lonesome woods,
Hath sought, proclaiming to the ear
Of night his grief and sorrowful fear--
He comes, escaped from fields and floods;--
With weary pace is drawing nigh;
He sees the Ass--and nothing living
Had ever such a fit of joy
As hath this little orphan Boy,
For he has no misgiving!
Forth to the gentle Ass he springs,
And up about his neck he climbs;
In loving words he talks to him,
He kisses, kisses face and limb,--
He kisses him a thousand times!
This Peter sees, while in the shade
He stood beside the cottage-door;
And Peter Bell, the ruffian wild,
Sobs loud, he sobs even like a child,
"O God! I can endure no more!"
--Here ends my Tale: for in a trice
Arrived a neighbour with his horse;
Peter went forth with him straightway;
And, with due care, ere break of day,
Together they brought back the Corse.
And many years did this poor Ass,
Whom once it was my luck to see
Cropping the shrubs of Leming-Lane,
Help by his labour to maintain
The Widow and her family.
And Peter Bell, who, till that night,
Had been the wildest of his clan,
Forsook his crimes, renounced his folly,
And, after ten months' melancholy,
Became a good and honest man.
Rosalind and Helen: a Modern Eclogue
ROSALIND, HELEN, and her Child.
SCENE. The Shore of the Lake of Como.
Come hither, my sweet Rosalind.
'T is long since thou and I have met;
And yet methinks it were unkind
Those moments to forget.
Come, sit by me. I see thee stand
By this lone lake, in this far land,
Thy loose hair in the light wind flying,
Thy sweet voice to each tone of even
United, and thine eyes replying
To the hues of yon fair heaven.
Come, gentle friend! wilt sit by me?
And be as thou wert wont to be
Ere we were disunited?
None doth behold us now; the power
That led us forth at this lone hour
Will be but ill requited
If thou depart in scorn. Oh, come,
And talk of our abandoned home!
Remember, this is Italy,
And we are exiles. Talk with me
Of that our land, whose wilds and floods,
Barren and dark although they be,
Were dearer than these chestnut woods;
Those heathy paths, that inland stream,
And the blue mountains, shapes which seem
Like wrecks of childhood's sunny dream;
Which that we have abandoned now,
Weighs on the heart like that remorse
Which altered friendship leaves. I seek
No more our youthful intercourse.
That cannot be! Rosalind, speak,
Speak to me! Leave me not! When morn did come,
When evening fell upon our common home,
When for one hour we parted,--do not frown;
I would not chide thee, though thy faith is broken;
But turn to me. Oh! by this cherished token
Of woven hair, which thou wilt not disown,
Turn, as 't were but the memory of me,
And not my scornèd self who prayed to thee!
Is it a dream, or do I see
And hear frail Helen? I would flee
Thy tainting touch; but former years
Arise, and bring forbidden tears;
And my o'erburdened memory
Seeks yet its lost repose in thee.
I share thy crime. I cannot choose
But weep for thee; mine own strange grief
But seldom stoops to such relief;
Nor ever did I love thee less,
Though mourning o'er thy wickedness
Even with a sister's woe. I knew
What to the evil world is due,
And therefore sternly did refuse
To link me with the infamy
Of one so lost as Helen. Now,
Bewildered by my dire despair,
Wondering I blush, and weep that thou
Shouldst love me still--thou only!--There,
Let us sit on that gray stone
Till our mournful talk be done.
Alas! not there; I cannot bear
The murmur of this lake to hear.
A sound from there, Rosalind dear,
Which never yet I heard elsewhere
But in our native land, recurs,
Even here where now we meet. It stirs
Too much of suffocating sorrow!
In the dell of yon dark chestnut wood
Is a stone seat, a solitude
Less like our own. The ghost of peace
Will not desert this spot. To-morrow,
If thy kind feelings should not cease,
We may sit here.
Thou lead, my sweet,
And I will follow.
'T is Fenici's seat
Where you are going? This is not the way,
Mamma; it leads behind those trees that grow
Close to the little river.
Yes, I know;
I was bewildered. Kiss me and be gay,
Dear boy; why do you sob?
I do not know;
But it might break any one's heart to see
You and the lady cry so bitterly.
It is a gentle child, my friend. Go home,
Henry, and play with Lilla till I come.
We only cried with joy to see each other;
We are quite merry now. Good night.
Lifted a sudden look upon his mother,
And, in the gleam of forced and hollow joy
Which lightened o'er her face, laughed with the glee
Of light and unsuspecting infancy,
And whispered in her ear, 'Bring home with you
That sweet strange lady-friend.' Then off he flew,
But stopped, and beckoned with a meaning smile,
Where the road turned. Pale Rosalind the while,
Hiding her face, stood weeping silently.
In silence then they took the way
Beneath the forest's solitude.
It was a vast and antique wood,
Through which they took their way;
And the gray shades of evening
O'er that green wilderness did fling
Still deeper solitude.
Pursuing still the path that wound
The vast and knotted trees around,
Through which slow shades were wandering,
To a deep lawny dell they came,
To a stone seat beside a spring,
O'er which the columned wood did frame
A roofless temple, like the fane
Where, ere new creeds could faith obtain,
Man's early race once knelt beneath
The overhanging deity.
O'er this fair fountain hung the sky,
Now spangled with rare stars. The snake,
The pale snake, that with eager breath
Creeps here his noontide thirst to slake,
Is beaming with many a mingled hue,
Shed from yon dome's eternal blue,
When he floats on that dark and lucid flood
In the light of his own loveliness;
And the birds, that in the fountain dip
Their plumes, with fearless fellowship
Above and round him wheel and hover.
The fitful wind is heard to stir
One solitary leaf on high;
The chirping of the grasshopper
Fills every pause. There is emotion
In all that dwells at noontide here;
Then through the intricate wild wood
A maze of life and light and motion
Is woven. But there is stillness now--
Gloom, and the trance of Nature now.
The snake is in his cave asleep;
The birds are on the branches dreaming;
Only the shadows creep;
Only the glow-worm is gleaming;
Only the owls and the nightingales
Wake in this dell when daylight fails,
And gray shades gather in the woods;
And the owls have all fled far away
In a merrier glen to hoot and play,
For the moon is veiled and sleeping now.
The accustomed nightingale still broods
On her accustomed bough,
But she is mute; for her false mate
Has fled and left her desolate.
This silent spot tradition old
Had peopled with the spectral dead.
For the roots of the speaker's hair felt cold
And stiff, as with tremulous lips he told
That a hellish shape at midnight led
The ghost of a youth with hoary hair,
And sate on the seat beside him there,
Till a naked child came wandering by,
When the fiend would change to a lady fair!
A fearful tale! the truth was worse;
For here a sister and a brother
Had solemnized a monstrous curse,
Meeting in this fair solitude;
For beneath yon very sky,
Had they resigned to one another
Body and soul. The multitude,
Tracking them to the secret wood,
Tore limb from limb their innocent child,
And stabbed and trampled on its mother;
But the youth, for God's most holy grace,
A priest saved to burn in the market-place.
Duly at evening Helen came
To this lone silent spot,
From the wrecks of a tale of wilder sorrow
So much of sympathy to borrow
As soothed her own dark lot.
Duly each evening from her home,
With her fair child would Helen come
To sit upon that antique seat,
While the hues of day were pale;
And the bright boy beside her feet
Now lay, lifting at intervals
His broad blue eyes on her;
Now, where some sudden impulse calls,
Following. He was a gentle boy
And in all gentle sorts took joy.
Oft in a dry leaf for a boat,
With a small feather for a sail,
His fancy on that spring would float,
If some invisible breeze might stir
Its marble calm; and Helen smiled
Through tears of awe on the gay child,
To think that a boy as fair as he,
In years which never more may be,
By that same fount, in that same wood,
The like sweet fancies had pursued;
And that a mother, lost like her,
Had mournfully sate watching him.
Then all the scene was wont to swim
Through the mist of a burning tear.
For many months had Helen known
This scene; and now she thither turned
Her footsteps, not alone.
The friend whose falsehood she had mourned
Sate with her on that seat of stone.
Silent they sate; for evening,
And the power its glimpses bring,
Had with one awful shadow quelled
The passion of their grief. They sate
With linkèd hands, for unrepelled
Had Helen taken Rosalind's.
Like the autumn wind, when it unbinds
The tangled locks of the nightshade's hair
Which is twined in the sultry summer air
Round the walls of an outworn sepulchre,
Did the voice of Helen, sad and sweet,
And the sound of her heart that ever beat
As with sighs and words she breathed on her,
Unbind the knots of her friend's despair,
Till her thoughts were free to float and flow;
And from her laboring bosom now,
Like the bursting of a prisoned flame,
The voice of a long-pent sorrow came.
I saw the dark earth fall upon
The coffin; and I saw the stone
Laid over him whom this cold breast
Had pillowed to his nightly rest!
Thou knowest not, thou canst not know
My agony. Oh! I could not weep.
The sources whence such blessings flow
Were not to be approached by me!
But I could smile, and I could sleep,
Though with a self-accusing heart.
In morning's light, in evening's gloom,
I watched--and would not thence depart--
My husband's unlamented tomb.
My children knew their sire was gone;
But when I told them, 'He is dead,'
They laughed aloud in frantic glee,
They clapped their hands and leaped about,
Answering each other's ecstasy
With many a prank and merry shout.
But I sate silent and alone,
Wrapped in the mock of mourning weed.
They laughed, for he was dead; but I
Sate with a hard and tearless eye,
And with a heart which would deny
The secret joy it could not quell,
Low muttering o'er his loathèd name;
Till from that self-contention came
Remorse where sin was none; a hell
Which in pure spirits should not dwell.
I 'll tell thee truth. He was a man
Hard, selfish, loving only gold,
Yet full of guile; his pale eyes ran
With tears which each some falsehood told,
And oft his smooth and bridled tongue
Would give the lie to his flushing cheek;
He was a coward to the strong;
He was a tyrant to the weak,
On whom his vengeance he would wreak;
For scorn, whose arrows search the heart,
From many a stranger's eye would dart,
And on his memory cling, and follow
His soul to its home so cold and hollow.
He was a tyrant to the weak,
And we were such, alas the day!
Oft, when my little ones at play
Were in youth's natural lightness gay,
Or if they listened to some tale
Of travellers, or of fairyland,
When the light from the wood-fire's dying brand
Flashed on their faces,--if they heard
Or thought they heard upon the stair
His footstep, the suspended word
Died on my lips; we all grew pale;
The babe at my bosom was hushed with fear
If it thought it heard its father near;
And my two wild boys would near my knee
Cling, cowed and cowering fearfully.
I 'll tell thee truth: I loved another.
His name in my ear was ever ringing,
His form to my brain was ever clinging;
Yet, if some stranger breathed that name,
My lips turned white, and my heart beat fast.
My nights were once haunted by dreams of flame,
My days were dim in the shadow cast
By the memory of the same!
Day and night, day and night,
He was my breath and life and light,
For three short years, which soon were passed.
On the fourth, my gentle mother
Led me to the shrine, to be
His sworn bride eternally.
And now we stood on the altar stair,
When my father came from a distant land,
And with a loud and fearful cry
Rushed between us suddenly.
I saw the stream of his thin gray hair,
I saw his lean and lifted hand,
And heard his words--and live! O God!
Wherefore do I live?--'Hold, hold!'
He cried, 'I tell thee 't is her brother!
Thy mother, boy, beneath the sod
Of yon churchyard rests in her shroud so cold;
I am now weak, and pale, and old;
We were once dear to one another,
I and that corpse! Thou art our child!'
Then with a laugh both long and wild
The youth upon the pavement fell.
They found him dead! All looked on me,
The spasms of my despair to see;
But I was calm. I went away;
I was clammy-cold like clay.
I did not weep; I did not speak;
But day by day, week after week,
I walked about like a corpse alive.
Alas! sweet friend, you must believe
This heart is stone--it did not break.
My father lived a little while,
But all might see that he was dying,
He smiled with such a woful smile.
When he was in the churchyard lying
Among the worms, we grew quite poor,
So that no one would give us bread;
My mother looked at me, and said
Faint words of cheer, which only meant
That she could die and be content;
So I went forth from the same church door
To another husband's bed.
And this was he who died at last,
When weeks and months and years had passed,
Through which I firmly did fulfil
My duties, a devoted wife,
With the stern step of vanquished will
Walking beneath the night of life,
Whose hours extinguished, like slow rain
Falling forever, pain by pain,
The very hope of death's dear rest;
Which, since the heart within my breast
Of natural life was dispossessed,
Its strange sustainer there had been.
When flowers were dead, and grass was green
Upon my mother's grave--that mother
Whom to outlive, and cheer, and make
My wan eyes glitter for her sake,
Was my vowed task, the single care
Which once gave life to my despair--
When she was a thing that did not stir,
And the crawling worms were cradling her
To a sleep more deep and so more sweet
Than a baby's rocked on its nurse's knee,
I lived; a living pulse then beat
Beneath my heart that awakened me.
What was this pulse so warm and free?
Alas! I knew it could not be
My own dull blood. 'T was like a thought
Of liquid love, that spread and wrought
Under my bosom and in my brain,
And crept with the blood through every vein,
And hour by hour, day after day,
The wonder could not charm away
But laid in sleep my wakeful pain,
Until I knew it was a child,
And then I wept. For long, long years
These frozen eyes had shed no tears;
But now--'t was the season fair and mild
When April has wept itself to May;
I sate through the sweet sunny day
By my window bowered round with leaves,
And down my cheeks the quick tears ran
Like twinkling rain-drops from the eaves,
When warm spring showers are passing o'er.
O Helen, none can ever tell
The joy it was to weep once more!
I wept to think how hard it were
To kill my babe, and take from it
The sense of light, and the warm air,
And my own fond and tender care,
And love and smiles; ere I knew yet
That these for it might, as for me,
Be the masks of a grinning mockery.
And haply, I would dream, 't were sweet
To feed it from my faded breast,
Or mark my own heart's restless beat
And watch the growing soul beneath
Dawn in faint smiles; and hear its breath,
Half interrupted by calm sighs,
And search the depth of its fair eyes
For long departed memories!
And so I lived till that sweet load
Was lightened. Darkly forward flowed
The stream of years, and on it bore
Two shapes of gladness to my sight;
Two other babes, delightful more,
In my lost soul's abandoned night,
Than their own country ships may be
Sailing towards wrecked mariners
Who cling to the rock of a wintry sea.
For each, as it came, brought soothing tears;
And a loosening warmth, as each one lay
Sucking the sullen milk away,
About my frozen heart did play,
And weaned it, oh, how painfully--
As they themselves were weaned each one
From that sweet food--even from the thirst
Of death, and nothingness, and rest,
Strange inmate of a living breast,
Which all that I had undergone
Of grief and shame, since she who first
The gates of that dark refuge closed
Came to my sight, and almost burst
The seal of that Lethean spring--
But these fair shadows interposed.
For all delights are shadows now!
And from my brain to my dull brow
The heavy tears gather and flow.
I cannot speak--oh, let me weep!
The tears which fell from her wan eyes
Glimmered among the moonlight dew.
Her deep hard sobs and heavy sighs
Their echoes in the darkness threw.
When she grew calm, she thus did keep
The tenor of her tale:--
I know not how; he was not old,
If age be numbered by its years;
But he was bowed and bent with fears,
Pale with the quenchless thirst of gold,
Which, like fierce fever, left him weak;
And his strait lip and bloated cheek
Were warped in spasms by hollow sneers;
And selfish cares with barren plough,
Not age, had lined his narrow brow,
And foul and cruel thoughts, which feed
Upon the withering life within,
Like vipers on some poisonous weed.
Whether his ill were death or sin
None knew, until he died indeed,
And then men owned they were the same.
Seven days within my chamber lay
That corse, and my babes made holiday.
At last, I told them what is death.
The eldest, with a kind of shame,
Came to my knees with silent breath,
And sate awe-stricken at my feet;
And soon the others left their play,
And sate there too. It is unmeet
To shed on the brief flower of youth
The withering knowledge of the grave.
From me remorse then wrung that truth.
I could not bear the joy which gave
Too just a response to mine own.
In vain. I dared not feign a groan;
And in their artless looks I saw,
Between the mists of fear and awe,
That my own thought was theirs; and they
Expressed it not in words, but said,
Each in its heart, how every day
Will pass in happy work and play,
Now he is dead and gone away!
After the funeral all our kin
Assembled, and the will was read.
My friend, I tell thee, even the dead
Have strength, their putrid shrouds within,
To blast and torture. Those who live
Still fear the living, but a corse
Is merciless, and Power doth give
To such pale tyrants half the spoil
He rends from those who groan and toil,
Because they blush not with remorse
Among their crawling worms. Behold,
I have no child! my tale grows old
With grief, and staggers; let it reach
The limits of my feeble speech,
And languidly at length recline
On the brink of its own grave and mine.
Thou knowest what a thing is Poverty
Among the fallen on evil days.
'T is Crime, and Fear, and Infamy,
And houseless Want in frozen ways
Wandering ungarmented, and Pain,
And, worse than all, that inward stain,
Foul Self-contempt, which drowns in sneers
Youth's starlight smile, and makes its tears
First like hot gall, then dry forever!
And well thou knowest a mother never
Could doom her children to this ill,
And well he knew the same. The will
Imported that, if e'er again
I sought my children to behold,
Or in my birthplace did remain
Beyond three days, whose hours were told,
They should inherit nought; and he,
To whom next came their patrimony,
A sallow lawyer, cruel and cold,
Aye watched me, as the will was read,
With eyes askance, which sought to see
The secrets of my agony;
And with close lips and anxious brow
Stood canvassing still to and fro
The chance of my resolve, and all
The dead man's caution just did call;
For in that killing lie 't was said--
'She is adulterous, and doth hold
In secret that the Christian creed
Is false, and therefore is much need
That I should have a care to save
My children from eternal fire.'
Friend, he was sheltered by the grave,
And therefore dared to be a liar!
In truth, the Indian on the pyre
Of her dead husband, half consumed,
As well might there be false as I
To those abhorred embraces doomed,
Far worse than fire's brief agony.
As to the Christian creed, if true
Or false, I never questioned it;
I took it as the vulgar do;
Nor my vexed soul had leisure yet
To doubt the things men say, or deem
That they are other than they seem.
All present who those crimes did hear,
In feigned or actual scorn and fear,
Men, women, children, slunk away,
Whispering with self-contented pride
Which half suspects its own base lie.
I spoke to none, nor did abide,
But silently I went my way,
Nor noticed I where joyously
Sate my two younger babes at play
In the courtyard through which I passed;
But went with footsteps firm and fast
Till I came to the brink of the ocean green,
And there, a woman with gray hairs,
Who had my mother's servant been,
Kneeling, with many tears and prayers,
Made me accept a purse of gold,
Half of the earnings she had kept
To refuge her when weak and old.
With woe, which never sleeps or slept,
I wander now. 'T is a vain thought--
But on yon Alp, whose snowy head
'Mid the azure air is islanded,
(We see it--o'er the flood of cloud,
Which sunrise from its eastern caves
Drives, wrinkling into golden waves,
Hung with its precipices proud--
From that gray stone where first we met)
There--now who knows the dead feel nought?--
Should be my grave; for he who yet
Is my soul's soul once said: ''T were sweet
'Mid stars and lightnings to abide,
And winds, and lulling snows that beat
With their soft flakes the mountain wide,
Where weary meteor lamps repose,
And languid storms their pinions close,
And all things strong and bright and pure,
And ever during, aye endure.
Who knows, if one were buried there,
But these things might our spirits make,
Amid the all-surrounding air,
Their own eternity partake?'
Then 't was a wild and playful saying
At which I laughed or seemed to laugh.
They were his words--now heed my praying,
And let them be my epitaph.
Thy memory for a term may be
My monument. Wilt remember me?
I know thou wilt; and canst forgive,
Whilst in this erring world to live
My soul disdained not, that I thought
Its lying forms were worthy aught,
And much less thee.
Oh, speak not so!
But come to me and pour thy woe
Into this heart, full though it be,
Aye overflowing with its own.
I thought that grief had severed me
From all beside who weep and groan,
Its likeness upon earth to be--
Its express image; but thou art
More wretched. Sweet, we will not part
Henceforth, if death be not division;
If so, the dead feel no contrition.
But wilt thou hear, since last we parted,
All that has left me broken-hearted?
Yes, speak. The faintest stars are scarcely shorn
Of their thin beams by that delusive morn
Which sinks again in darkness, like the light
Of early love, soon lost in total night.
Alas! Italian winds are mild,
But my bosom is cold--wintry cold;
When the warm air weaves, among the fresh leaves,
Soft music, my poor brain is wild,
And I am weak like a nursling child,
Though my soul with grief is gray and old.
Weep not at thine own words, though they must make
Me weep. What is thy tale?
I fear 't will shake
Thy gentle heart with tears. Thou well
Rememberest when we met no more;
And, though I dwelt with Lionel,
That friendless caution pierced me sore
With grief; a wound my spirit bore
Indignantly--but when he died,
With him lay dead both hope and pride.
Alas! all hope is buried now.
But then men dreamed the aged earth
Was laboring in that mighty birth
Which many a poet and a sage
Has aye foreseen--the happy age
When truth and love shall dwell below
Among the works and ways of men;
Which on this world not power but will
Even now is wanting to fulfil.
Among mankind what thence befell
Of strife, how vain, is known too well;
When Liberty's dear pæan fell
'Mid murderous howls. To Lionel,
Though of great wealth and lineage high,
Yet through those dungeon walls there came
Thy thrilling light, O Liberty!
And as the meteor's midnight flame
Startles the dreamer, sun-like truth
Flashed on his visionary youth,
And filled him, not with love, but faith,
And hope, and courage mute in death;
For love and life in him were twins,
Born at one birth. In every other
First life, then love, its course begins,
Though they be children of one mother;
And so through this dark world they fleet
Divided, till in death they meet;
But he loved all things ever. Then
He passed amid the strife of men,
And stood at the throne of armèd power
Pleading for a world of woe.
Secure as one on a rock-built tower
O'er the wrecks which the surge trails to and fro,
'Mid the passions wild of humankind
He stood, like a spirit calming them;
For, it was said, his words could bind
Like music the lulled crowd, and stem
That torrent of unquiet dream
Which mortals truth and reason deem,
But is revenge and fear and pride.
Joyous he was; and hope and peace
On all who heard him did abide,
Raining like dew from his sweet talk,
As where the evening star may walk
Along the brink of the gloomy seas,
Liquid mists of splendor quiver.
His very gestures touched to tears
The unpersuaded tyrant, never
So moved before; his presence stung
The torturers with their victim's pain,
And none knew how; and through their ears
The subtle witchcraft of his tongue
Unlocked the hearts of those who keep
Gold, the world's bond of slavery.
Men wondered, and some sneered to see
One sow what he could never reap;
For he is rich, they said, and young,
And might drink from the depths of luxury.
If he seeks fame, fame never crowned
The champion of a trampled creed;
If he seeks power, power is enthroned
'Mid ancient rights and wrongs, to feed
Which hungry wolves with praise and spoil
Those who would sit near power must toil;
And such, there sitting, all may see.
What seeks he? All that others seek
He casts away, like a vile weed
Which the sea casts unreturningly.
That poor and hungry men should break
The laws which wreak them toil and scorn
We understand; but Lionel,
We know, is rich and nobly born.
So wondered they; yet all men loved
Young Lionel, though few approved;
All but the priests, whose hatred fell
Like the unseen blight of a smiling day,
The withering honey-dew which clings
Under the bright green buds of May
Whilst they unfold their emerald wings;
For he made verses wild and queer
On the strange creeds priests hold so dear
Because they bring them land and gold.
Of devils and saints and all such gear
He made tales which whoso heard or read
Would laugh till he were almost dead.
So this grew a proverb: 'Don't get old
Till Lionel's Banquet in Hell you hear,
And then you will laugh yourself young again.'
So the priests hated him, and he
Repaid their hate with cheerful glee.
Ah, smiles and joyance quickly died,
For public hope grew pale and dim
In an altered time and tide,
And in its wasting withered him,
As a summer flower that blows too soon
Droops in the smile of the waning moon,
When it scatters through an April night
The frozen dews of wrinkling blight.
None now hoped more. Gray Power was seated
Safely on her ancestral throne;
And Faith, the Python, undefeated
Even to its blood-stained steps dragged on
Her foul and wounded train; and men
Were trampled and deceived again,
And words and shows again could bind
The wailing tribes of humankind
In scorn and famine. Fire and blood
Raged round the raging multitude,
To fields remote by tyrants sent
To be the scornèd instrument
With which they drag from mines of gore
The chains their slaves yet ever wore;
And in the streets men met each other,
And by old altars and in halls,
And smiled again at festivals.
But each man found in his heart's brother
Cold cheer; for all, though half deceived,
The outworn creeds again believed,
And the same round anew began
Which the weary world yet ever ran.
Many then wept, not tears, but gall,
Within their hearts, like drops which fall
Wasting the fountain-stone away.
And in that dark and evil day
Did all desires and thoughts that claim
Men's care--ambition, friendship, fame,
Love, hope, though hope was now despair--
Indue the colors of this change,
As from the all-surrounding air
The earth takes hues obscure and strange,
When storm and earthquake linger there.
And so, my friend, it then befell
To many,--most to Lionel,
Whose hope was like the life of youth
Within him, and when dead became
A spirit of unresting flame,
Which goaded him in his distress
Over the world's vast wilderness.
Three years he left his native land,
And on the fourth, when he returned,
None knew him; he was stricken deep
With some disease of mind, and turned
Into aught unlike Lionel.
On him--on whom, did he pause in sleep,
Serenest smiles were wont to keep,
And, did he wake, a wingèd band
Of bright Persuasions, which had fed
On his sweet lips and liquid eyes,
Kept their swift pinions half outspread
To do on men his least command--
On him, whom once 't was paradise
Even to behold, now misery lay.
In his own heart 't was merciless--
To all things else none may express
Its innocence and tenderness.
'T was said that he had refuge sought
In love from his unquiet thought
In distant lands, and been deceived
By some strange show; for there were found,
Blotted with tears--as those relieved
By their own words are wont to do--
These mournful verses on the ground,
By all who read them blotted too.
'How am I changed! my hopes were once like fire;
I loved, and I believed that life was love.
How am I lost! on wings of swift desire
Among Heaven's winds my spirit once did move.
I slept, and silver dreams did aye inspire
My liquid sleep; I woke, and did approve
All Nature to my heart, and thought to make
A paradise of earth for one sweet sake.
'I love, but I believe in love no more.
I feel desire, but hope not. Oh, from sleep
Most vainly must my weary brain implore
Its long lost flattery now! I wake to weep,
And sit through the long day gnawing the core
Of my bitter heart, and, like a miser, keep--
Since none in what I feel take pain or pleasure--
To my own soul its self-consuming treasure.'
He dwelt beside me near the sea;
And oft in evening did we meet,
When the waves, beneath the starlight, flee
O'er the yellow sands with silver feet,
And talked. Our talk was sad and sweet,
Till slowly from his mien there passed
The desolation which it spoke;
And smiles--as when the lightning's blast
Has parched some heaven-delighting oak,
The next spring shows leaves pale and rare,
But like flowers delicate and fair,
On its rent boughs--again arrayed
His countenance in tender light;
His words grew subtle fire, which made
The air his hearers breathed delight;
His motions, like the winds, were free,
Which bend the bright grass gracefully,
Then fade away in circlets faint;
And wingèd Hope--on which upborne
His soul seemed hovering in his eyes,
Like some bright spirit newly born
Floating amid the sunny skies--
Sprang forth from his rent heart anew.
Yet o'er his talk, and looks, and mien,
Tempering their loveliness too keen,
Past woe its shadow backward threw;
Till, like an exhalation spread
From flowers half drunk with evening dew,
They did become infectious--sweet
And subtle mists of sense and thought,
Which wrapped us soon, when we might meet,
Almost from our own looks and aught
The wild world holds. And so his mind
Was healed, while mine grew sick with fear;
For ever now his health declined,
Like some frail bark which cannot bear
The impulse of an altered wind,
Though prosperous; and my heart grew full,
'Mid its new joy, of a new care;
For his cheek became, not pale, but fair,
As rose-o'ershadowed lilies are;
And soon his deep and sunny hair,
In this alone less beautiful,
Like grass in tombs grew wild and rare.
The blood in his translucent veins
Beat, not like animal life, but love
Seemed now its sullen springs to move,
When life had failed, and all its pains;
And sudden sleep would seize him oft
Like death, so calm,--but that a tear,
His pointed eye-lashes between,
Would gather in the light serene
Of smiles whose lustre bright and soft
Beneath lay undulating there.
His breath was like inconstant flame
As eagerly it went and came;
And I hung o'er him in his sleep,
Till, like an image in the lake
Which rains disturb, my tears would break
The shadow of that slumber deep.
Then he would bid me not to weep,
And say, with flattery false yet sweet,
That death and he could never meet,
If I would never part with him.
And so we loved, and did unite
All that in us was yet divided;
For when he said, that many a rite,
By men to bind but once provided,
Could not be shared by him and me,
Or they would kill him in their glee,
I shuddered, and then laughing said--
'We will have rites our faith to bind,
But our church shall be the starry night,
Our altar the grassy earth outspread,
And our priest the muttering wind.'
'T was sunset as I spoke. One star
Had scarce burst forth, when from afar
The ministers of misrule sent
Seized upon Lionel, and bore
His chained limbs to a dreary tower,
In the midst of a city vast and wide.
For he, they said, from his mind had bent
Against their gods keen blasphemy,
For which, though his soul must roasted be
In hell's red lakes immortally,
Yet even on earth must he abide
The vengeance of their slaves: a trial,
I think, men call it. What avail
Are prayers and tears, which chase denial
From the fierce savage nursed in hate?
What the knit soul that pleading and pale
Makes wan the quivering cheek which late
It painted with its own delight?
We were divided. As I could,
I stilled the tingling of my blood,
And followed him in their despite,
As a widow follows, pale and wild,
The murderers and corse of her only child;
And when we came to the prison door,
And I prayed to share his dungeon floor
With prayers which rarely have been spurned,
And when men drove me forth, and I
Stared with blank frenzy on the sky,--
A farewell look of love he turned,
Half calming me; then gazed awhile,
As if through that black and massy pile,
And through the crowd around him there,
And through the dense and murky air,
And the thronged streets, he did espy
What poets know and prophesy;
And said, with voice that made them shiver
And clung like music in my brain,
And which the mute walls spoke again
Prolonging it with deepened strain--
'Fear not the tyrants shall rule forever,
Or the priests of the bloody faith;
They stand on the brink of that mighty river,
Whose waves they have tainted with death;
It is fed from the depths of a thousand dells,
Around them it foams, and rages, and swells,
And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,
Like wrecks, in the surge of eternity.'
I dwelt beside the prison gate;
And the strange crowd that out and in
Passed, some, no doubt, with mine own fate,
Might have fretted me with its ceaseless din,
But the fever of care was louder within.
Soon but too late, in penitence
Or fear, his foes released him thence.
I saw his thin and languid form,
As leaning on the jailor's arm,
Whose hardened eyes grew moist the while
To meet his mute and faded smile
And hear his words of kind farewell,
He tottered forth from his damp cell.
Many had never wept before,
From whom fast tears then gushed and fell;
Many will relent no more,
Who sobbed like infants then; ay, all
Who thronged the prison's stony hall,
The rulers or the slaves of law,
Felt with a new surprise and awe
That they were human, till strong shame
Made them again become the same.
The prison bloodhounds, huge and grim,
From human looks the infection caught,
And fondly crouched and fawned on him;
And men have heard the prisoners say,
Who in their rotting dungeons lay,
That from that hour, throughout one day,
The fierce despair and hate which kept
Their trampled bosoms almost slept,
Where, like twin vultures, they hung feeding
On each heart's wound, wide torn and bleeding,--
Because their jailors' rule, they thought,
Grew merciful, like a parent's sway.
I know not how, but we were free;
And Lionel sate alone with me,
As the carriage drove through the streets apace;
And we looked upon each other's face;
And the blood in our fingers intertwined
Ran like the thoughts of a single mind,
As the swift emotions went and came
Through the veins of each united frame.
So through the long, long streets we passed
Of the million-peopled City vast;
Which is that desert, where each one
Seeks his mate yet is alone,
Beloved and sought and mourned of none;
Until the clear blue sky was seen,
And the grassy meadows bright and green.
And then I sunk in his embrace
Enclosing there a mighty space
Of love; and so we travelled on
By woods, and fields of yellow flowers,
And towns, and villages, and towers,
Day after day of happy hours.
It was the azure time of June,
When the skies are deep in the stainless noon,
And the warm and fitful breezes shake
The fresh green leaves of the hedge-row briar;
And there were odors then to make
The very breath we did respire
A liquid element, whereon
Our spirits, like delighted things
That walk the air on subtle wings,
Floated and mingled far away
'Mid the warm winds of the sunny day.
And when the evening star came forth
Above the curve of the new bent moon,
And light and sound ebbed from the earth,
Like the tide of the full and the weary sea
To the depths of its own tranquillity,
Our natures to its own repose
Did the earth's breathless sleep attune;
Like flowers, which on each other close
Their languid leaves when daylight's gone,
We lay, till new emotions came,
Which seemed to make each mortal frame
One soul of interwoven flame,
A life in life, a second birth
In worlds diviner far than earth;--
Which, like two strains of harmony
That mingle in the silent sky,
Then slowly disunite, passed by
And left the tenderness of tears,
A soft oblivion of all fears,
A sweet sleep:--so we travelled on
Till we came to the home of Lionel,
Among the mountains wild and lone,
Beside the hoary western sea,
Which near the verge of the echoing shore
The massy forest shadowed o'er.
The ancient steward with hair all hoar,
As we alighted, wept to see
His master changed so fearfully;
And the old man's sobs did waken me
From my dream of unremaining gladness;
The truth flashed o'er me like quick madness
When I looked, and saw that there was death
On Lionel. Yet day by day
He lived, till fear grew hope and faith,
And in my soul I dared to say,
Nothing so bright can pass away;
Death is dark, and foul, and dull,
But he is--oh, how beautiful!
Yet day by day he grew more weak,
And his sweet voice, when he might speak,
Which ne'er was loud, became more low;
And the light which flashed through his waxen cheek
Grew faint, as the rose-like hues which flow
From sunset o'er the Alpine snow;
And death seemed not like death in him,
For the spirit of life o'er every limb
Lingered, a mist of sense and thought.
When the summer wind faint odors brought
From mountain flowers, even as it passed,
His cheek would change, as the noonday sea
Which the dying breeze sweeps fitfully.
If but a cloud the sky o'ercast,
You might see his color come and go,
And the softest strain of music made
Sweet smiles, yet sad, arise and fade
Amid the dew of his tender eyes;
And the breath, with intermitting flow,
Made his pale lips quiver and part.
You might hear the beatings of his heart,
Quick but not strong; and with my tresses
When oft he playfully would bind
In the bowers of mossy lonelinesses
His neck, and win me so to mingle
In the sweet depth of woven caresses,
And our faint limbs were intertwined,--
Alas! the unquiet life did tingle
From mine own heart through every vein,
Like a captive in dreams of liberty,
Who beats the walls of his stony cell.
But his, it seemed already free,
Like the shadow of fire surrounding me!
On my faint eyes and limbs did dwell
That spirit as it passed, till soon--
As a frail cloud wandering o'er the moon,
Beneath its light invisible,
Is seen when it folds its gray wings again
To alight on midnight's dusky plain--
I lived and saw, and the gathering soul
Passed from beneath that strong control,
And I fell on a life which was sick with fear
Of all the woe that now I bear.
Amid a bloomless myrtle wood,
On a green and sea-girt promontory
Not far from where we dwelt, there stood,
In record of a sweet sad story,
An altar and a temple bright
Circled by steps, and o'er the gate
Was sculptured, 'To Fidelity;'
And in the shrine an image sate
All veiled; but there was seen the light
Of smiles which faintly could express
A mingled pain and tenderness
Through that ethereal drapery.
The left hand held the head, the right--
Beyond the veil, beneath the skin,
You might see the nerves quivering within--
Was forcing the point of a barbèd dart
Into its side-convulsing heart.
An unskilled hand, yet one informed
With genius, had the marble warmed
With that pathetic life. This tale
It told: A dog had from the sea,
When the tide was raging fearfully,
Dragged Lionel's mother, weak and pale,
Then died beside her on the sand,
And she that temple thence had planned;
But it was Lionel's own hand
Had wrought the image. Each new moon
That lady did, in this lone fane,
The rites of a religion sweet
Whose god was in her heart and brain.
The seasons' loveliest flowers were strewn
On the marble floor beneath her feet,
And she brought crowns of sea-buds white
Whose odor is so sweet and faint,
And weeds, like branching chrysolite,
Woven in devices fine and quaint;
And tears from her brown eyes did stain
The altar; need but look upon
That dying statue, fair and wan,
If tears should cease, to weep again;
And rare Arabian odors came,
Through the myrtle copses, steaming thence
From the hissing frankincense,
Whose smoke, wool-white as ocean foam,
Hung in dense flocks beneath the dome--
That ivory dome, whose azure night
With golden stars, like heaven, was bright
O'er the split cedar's pointed flame;
And the lady's harp would kindle there
The melody of an old air,
Softer than sleep; the villagers
Mixed their religion up with hers,
And, as they listened round, shed tears.
One eve he led me to this fane.
Daylight on its last purple cloud
Was lingering gray, and soon her strain
The nightingale began; now loud,
Climbing in circles the windless sky,
Now dying music; suddenly
'T is scattered in a thousand notes;
And now to the hushed ear it floats
Like field-smells known in infancy,
Then, failing, soothes the air again.
We sate within that temple lone,
Pavilioned round with Parian stone;
His mother's harp stood near, and oft
I had awakened music soft
Amid its wires; the nightingale
Was pausing in her heaven-taught tale.
'Now drain the cup,' said Lionel,
'Which the poet-bird has crowned so well
With the wine of her bright and liquid song!
Heard'st thou not sweet words among
That heaven-resounding minstrelsy?
Heard'st thou not that those who die
Awake in a world of ecstasy?
That love, when limbs are interwoven,
And sleep, when the night of life is cloven,
And thought, to the world's dim boundaries clinging,
And music, when one beloved is singing,
Is death? Let us drain right joyously
The cup which the sweet bird fills for me.'
He paused, and to my lips he bent
His own; like spirit his words went
Through all my limbs with the speed of fire;
And his keen eyes, glittering through mine,
Filled me with the flame divine
Which in their orbs was burning far,
Like the light of an unmeasured star
In the sky of midnight dark and deep;
Yes, 't was his soul that did inspire
Sounds which my skill could ne'er awaken;
And first, I felt my fingers sweep
The harp, and a long quivering cry
Burst from my lips in symphony;
The dusk and solid air was shaken,
As swift and swifter the notes came
From my touch, that wandered like quick flame,
And from my bosom, laboring
With some unutterable thing.
The awful sound of my own voice made
My faint lips tremble; in some mood
Of wordless thought Lionel stood
So pale, that even beside his cheek
The snowy column from its shade
Caught whiteness; yet his countenance,
Raised upward, burned with radiance
Of spirit-piercing joy whose light,
Like the moon struggling through the night
Of whirlwind-rifted clouds, did break
With beams that might not be confined.
I paused, but soon his gestures kindled
New power, as by the moving wind
The waves are lifted; and my song
To low soft notes now changed and dwindled,
And, from the twinkling wires among,
My languid fingers drew and flung
Circles of life-dissolving sound,
Yet faint; in aëry rings they bound
My Lionel, who, as every strain
Grew fainter but more sweet, his mien
Sunk with the sound relaxedly;
And slowly now he turned to me,
As slowly faded from his face
That awful joy; with look serene
He was soon drawn to my embrace,
And my wild song then died away
In murmurs; words I dare not say
We mixed, and on his lips mine fed
Till they methought felt still and cold.
'What is it with thee, love?' I said;
No word, no look, no motion! yes,
There was a change, but spare to guess,
Nor let that moment's hope be told.
I looked,--and knew that he was dead;
And fell, as the eagle on the plain
Falls when life deserts her brain,
And the mortal lightning is veiled again.
Oh, that I were now dead! but such--
Did they not, love, demand too much,
Those dying murmurs?--he forbade.
Oh, that I once again were mad!
And yet, dear Rosalind, not so,
For I would live to share thy woe.
Sweet boy! did I forget thee too?
Alas, we know not what we do
When we speak words.
No memory more
Is in my mind of that sea-shore.
Madness came on me, and a troop
Of misty shapes did seem to sit
Beside me, on a vessel's poop,
And the clear north wind was driving it.
Then I heard strange tongues, and saw strange flowers,
And the stars methought grew unlike ours,
And the azure sky and the stormless sea
Made me believe that I had died
And waked in a world which was to me
Drear hell, though heaven to all beside.
Then a dead sleep fell on my mind,
Whilst animal life many long years
Had rescued from a chasm of tears;
And, when I woke, I wept to find
That the same lady, bright and wise,
With silver locks and quick brown eyes,
The mother of my Lionel,
Had tended me in my distress,
And died some months before. Nor less
Wonder, but far more peace and joy,
Brought in that hour my lovely boy.
For through that trance my soul had well
The impress of thy being kept;
And if I waked or if I slept,
No doubt, though memory faithless be,
Thy image ever dwelt on me;
And thus, O Lionel, like thee
Is our sweet child. 'T is sure most strange
I knew not of so great a change
As that which gave him birth, who now
Is all the solace of my woe.
That Lionel great wealth had left
By will to me, and that of all
The ready lies of law bereft
My child and me,--might well befall.
But let me think not of the scorn
Which from the meanest I have borne,
When, for my child's belovèd sake,
I mixed with slaves, to vindicate
The very laws themselves do make;
Let me not say scorn is my fate,
Lest I be proud, suffering the same
With those who live in deathless fame.
She ceased.--'Lo, where red morning through the woods
Is burning o'er the dew!' said Rosalind.
And with these words they rose, and towards the flood
Of the blue lake, beneath the leaves, now wind
With equal steps and fingers intertwined.
Thence to a lonely dwelling, where the shore
Is shadowed with steep rocks, and cypresses
Cleave with their dark green cones the silent skies
And with their shadows the clear depths below,
And where a little terrace from its bowers
Of blooming myrtle and faint lemon flowers
Scatters its sense-dissolving fragrance o'er
The liquid marble of the windless lake;
And where the aged forest's limbs look hoar
Under the leaves which their green garments make,
They come. 'T is Helen's home, and clean and white,
Like one which tyrants spare on our own land
In some such solitude; its casements bright
Shone through their vine-leaves in the morning sun,
And even within 't was scarce like Italy.
And when she saw how all things there were planned
As in an English home, dim memory
Disturbed poor Rosalind; she stood as one
Whose mind is where his body cannot be,
Till Helen led her where her child yet slept,
And said, 'Observe, that brow was Lionel's,
Those lips were his, and so he ever kept
One arm in sleep, pillowing his head with it.
You cannot see his eyes--they are two wells
Of liquid love. Let us not wake him yet.'
But Rosalind could bear no more, and wept
A shower of burning tears which fell upon
His face, and so his opening lashes shone
With tears unlike his own, as he did leap
In sudden wonder from his innocent sleep.
So Rosalind and Helen lived together
Thenceforth--changed in all else, yet friends again,
Such as they were, when o'er the mountain heather
They wandered in their youth through sun and rain.
And after many years, for human things
Change even like the ocean and the wind,
Her daughter was restored to Rosalind,
And in their circle thence some visitings
Of joy 'mid their new calm would intervene.
A lovely child she was, of looks serene,
And motions which o'er things indifferent shed
The grace and gentleness from whence they came.
And Helen's boy grew with her, and they fed
From the same flowers of thought, until each mind
Like springs which mingle in one flood became;
And in their union soon their parents saw
The shadow of the peace denied to them.
And Rosalind--for when the living stem
Is cankered in its heart, the tree must fall--
Died ere her time; and with deep grief and awe
The pale survivors followed her remains
Beyond the region of dissolving rains,
Up the cold mountain she was wont to call
Her tomb; and on Chiavenna's precipice
They raised a pyramid of lasting ice,
Whose polished sides, ere day had yet begun,
Caught the first glow of the unrisen sun,
The last, when it had sunk; and through the night
The charioteers of Arctos wheelèd round
Its glittering point, as seen from Helen's home,
Whose sad inhabitants each year would come,
With willing steps climbing that rugged height,
And hang long locks of hair, and garlands bound
With amaranth flowers, which, in the clime's despite,
Filled the frore air with unaccustomed light;
Such flowers as in the wintry memory bloom
Of one friend left adorned that frozen tomb.
Helen, whose spirit was of softer mould,
Whose sufferings too were less, death slowlier led
Into the peace of his dominion cold.
She died among her kindred, being old.
And know, that if love die not in the dead
As in the living, none of mortal kind
Are blessed as now Helen and Rosalind.
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.
Stillness Of The Night
Midnight on the hill I heard the thunder fill
The stillness of the night
It hit me like a slap, youre never comin back
From the stillness of the night
It was never black or white, neither wrong or right
Like the shadow of a full moons light
I knew wed lost the track, when I heard the lightning crack
The stillness of the night
In the stillness of the night
Thats when well make it right
We can stop the thunder till the light
In the stillness of the night
I know you think you hear, those voices in your ear
In the stillness of the night
But Ive tried to make it clear theres nothing left to fear
Just the stillness of the night
And if you listen hard you might find the reason for your fright
Just the wind is high tonight
And the danger we must face is the anger of this race
In the stillness of the night
Summer Home In Your Arms
You take your coat off and throw it on the floor
Night delivers you to my arms once more
You feel so familiar as you get into bed
Cigarette smoke halo around you head
You lean over and kiss me so sweet...
I could lay with you like this for hours...
Hours and hours
Building a summer home in your arms
I kiss you with the languid adiration of slumber
Landin random as lotto numbers
One for each eye
And, oops, one on your nose
And ten for each of your cute little toes
You lean over and kiss me so sweet...
I could lay with you like this for hours...
Hours and hours...
Building a summer home in your arms
Am I crazy, do I talk too much?
Sometimes I think your silence is a crutch
Am I mad, are you married?
Oh jesus this love stuff can sure be scary
But so sweet... so sweet
Here in your arms
Im a bit of a mess and Im gone too much
But when Im away its you I long to touch
And certain things remind me its such a special treat
As these little things that bring you to me
You lean over and kiss me so sweet...
I could lay with you like this for hours...
Hours and hours...
Building a summer home in your arms
Im building a summer home in your arms
Im building a summer home in your arms
Im building a summer home in your arms
Built with all your charms