Amieri staked, and lost, and staked again, Drawn, fascinated, to his ruin fast, Imploring fortune to his aid in vain, Till, desperate, he staked all on one cast, And lost—was ruined—and fell down as slain, Life, fortune, seeming at a moment past, Like gambling pledges raked from Earth's rich hoard By Death's strong hand, whose gains are ne'er restored.
Better if he had staked upon a throw His honour and his daughter openly, And thus like some fell fiend at one swift blow Sunk all he loved in utter misery, Than yielding unto calculation slow, Consent to blast them, and a witness be While sorrow sapped the vigour of her frame, And with her weakness stronger grew his shame;
For in the morning the betrayer rose, The crippled Pietro, the false lover, and With honied phrases, and well studied shows, Sought from Amieri poor Alceste's hand, Whilst for his "intercession" he bestows Full restitution of his wealth and land; Fortune and Honour, fronted, held the field— Ah! poor Alceste, why did honour yield!
Amieri humbled like a guilty thing Beneath shame's level, tremblingly agreed, And sought by torture of the mind to wring Her sad consent to save him in his need, Falsehood and art together minist'ring, To soften her weak heart, and gild the deed; By prayers he moved her, and by childish tears, And fann'd into fierce flame her woman's fears,
Till she, poor fluttering dove, mesh'd in the net, Panted with bitter anguish and dismay, By love and fear so grievously beset, That each would draw her on a diff'rent way. Her tears at night the sleepless pillow wet, And coursed along her pallid cheeks by day, Making life weary, sad, and full of woe, Her hopes of bliss and rapture shatter'd so.
When did a woman's spirit true and sweet, E'er close its issues against pity's cry, E'er hold the field for self without defeat, Nor yield to prayer, though yielding were to die! And so she trembled to this calm retreat, To weep her bitter doom forth silently, Where in the sadness of the fountain's tone, She heard a gentle echo of her own.
A feeble step trail'd o'er the gravell'd way, At which she thrill'd and turned in sudden fright, Whilst in her eyes there shot a fitful ray, That scorched the tears up with its flashing light. He was a weak old man, and time's decay Stood on his brow and thin locks snowy white, And trembling hands that shook upon his staff, As though, alive, they wrote their epitaph.
Slowly he came, reading with anxious eyes The thoughts that flicker'd on Alceste's mien, Veiling dishonour under Virtue's guise, And avarice as though 'twere sorrow keen; And still 'mid tears, and groans, and piping sighs, He querulled forth his plaints the space between, "Must thy poor father beg so near the grave, "Be not so cruel—O! my daughter—save!"
"Sir!" softly said she, while the colour fled From her smooth cheeks till they grew ashy pale, "Cast off your mourning features—I will wed "Though Death should be the bridegroom, and not quail; "The sorrows of our house be on my head; "What though a woman's—'tis no novel tale,— "Within her weakness does my comfort lie, "For if the storm be sore, the flower will die.
"Think not, sir," she said on with noble scorn, "This husband of your choosing loses aught "In that the world doth know him basely born, "And with a shrine that fits the inner thought; "Think not a silly woman's heart will mourn "A shape in Nature's merry moments wrought, "Or weep the finding of each broad defect, "Or wish the form less wry or more erect.
"No! sir! each twisted joint will be my pride, "The blazon of my fortunes to the crowd, "Till envy shall pursue the happy bride "Sworn to a lord with graces so endowed; "And fame shall bear his virtues far and wide, "And trumpet them unto the world aloud; "Then let them say—'Ah! she is over-bought; "'He is a jewel rare, and she is naught'!
"But, sir, although I would not have men hold "My love won by his merits or his charms, "This tongue shall ne'er the bitter truth unfold, "Though falsehood soil me with its sneering harms; "'Tis meet to you the secret should be told, "But henceforth a stern law my grief disarms; "Pray heaven, sir, that your conscience may be dumb, "And his, as my lips for the time to come!"
Thus far her woman's indignation ran, Roused into conflict by the cruel wrong, Standing erect before that crouching man, Weak in his shame—she in her virtue strong; Whilst on her quivering lips and cheeks so wan, Reproach and scorn alternate coursed along— But to her heart the silence went, and then She swept past in her gentleness again,
The tresses rustling on her neck, and she A woman meek and tender as a dove, Yet to her full heart stricken utterly; And as she went, her moist eyes turn'd above, Sighing, "Poor Julian, heaven have care of thee, "And grant thee mercy for thy hapless love!" She said no more, but 'twas a piteous thing To see a helpless maid so sorrowing.
She wept her tears full out, for on the day That was to make her bride, the lids were bare; And such cold sternness on her lips did stay, It seemed as though a smile had ne'er been there. They clad her graceful form in white array, And twined sweet blossoms with her golden hair, And made her lovely who must still be so E'en 'mid despair, and tears, and cruel woe.
He darken'd by her side with honied smile, And fawning courtesy, and limping stride, Showing to those who knew the heart, more vile The baseness that his gilding sought to hide; But she went on unmoved, and stood the while Still as a marble statue at his side; Certes, a terror o'er the spirit crept, It had been mercy had the lady wept.
Julian heard it, and with passion burning Sped he to Florence—to the spoiler's den, Knock'd at the portals, and the lacqueys spurning, Rush'd into presence of the guilty men, Father and husband from the church returning, Alceste standing by them—paler then, She thrill'd as though she would have fled to him, Then calm'd again to stone in every limb.
He said—"Alceste!"—he said nothing more, But gazed a space into her melting eyes So woefully, her poor heart flutter'd sore, Like a caged lark that thrills to mount the skies. He said, "Is this the bliss we pictured o'er? "Is this the rapture, this the Paradise? "O perjured vows! O cruel love!" he said, "Thus at a blow to strike hope's spirit dead."
He said, "Shame on a venal love like thine, "That barters truth for every gilded toy; "Shame on the heart that kneels at mammon's shrine, "There calmly immolates another's joy; "Shame on the tongue that breathes in tones divine "Sweet vows, that on the fond soul never cloy, "Then with their echoes faded scarce away, "The victim of their magic can betray!"
"Shame on thee, false Alceste, most of all; "Shame on thy gentle face, so frank and fair; "Shame on thy tender eyes, whose light did fall "Softly upon the soul, like blessings there; "Shame on thy voice, so low and musical; "Shame on the clusters of thy golden hair; "Shame on them that make thee so bright and sweet, "Yet but an angel-temple for deceit!"
She stood stone still, and answer'd ne'er a word, Though sore the taunts went stabbing through her breast; But her heart beat till it could nigh be heard, Amid the silence of her breath supprest, And through her frame a fitful tremor stirr'd, Like a bowed willow trembling in its rest. And then he turn'd him to the speechless twain, With looks of bitter anger and disdain.
"Sirs! Ye are noble warriors in good sooth, "With bearing worthy of so fair a cause; "Spoilers of love, and constancy, and truth, "And laurelled by a sordid world's applause! "Curses upon ye and your gilded ruth, "Whom pity nor remorse could ever pause; "Curses upon ye, deep as your own shame, "Deep as your fiendish hearts themselves could frame."
Again he turned to her with softened feeling, "Dear shattered idol of this heart" he cried, "I cannot curse thee, e'en thou art sealing "The cruel doom that bans me from thy side. "No! No! a blessing from my soul is stealing, "Nerved by a power that will not be denied, "So be thou blessed, charm'd against all evil, "An angel still, though wedded to a devil."
She answer'd ne'er a word, but stood stone still, Fetter'd as 'twere within some horrid trance, Alive to torture and to deadly ill, Yet powerless of a word, a sigh, a glance; But when he fled at last, a mortal thrill Shot cold and icy through her like a lance, And down she swoon'd, without a word or tear; It made those guilty men grow pale with fear.
They bore her, stirless, to her snowy nest, Stirless, they laid her there as cold as lead, All in her stainless bridal garments drest, With fragrant blossoms circled round her head. They laid their hands upon her dewy breast, And trembled back as those who touch the dead; They wiped the dew from off her clammy brow, And shudder'd, 'twas so cold and passive now.
Vainly they pierced the fair and rounded arm, No crimson stream gush'd o'er its spotless snow; Vainly they sought the frozen heart to warm, And bid its chill'd and torpid currents flow; Vainly they practised every learned charm To call into the veins life's ruddy glow; Stirless, they laid her on that bridal bed, Stirless, she lay, all life and motion fled.
The life-long night they watched and laboured there, With fearful whispers pulsing on the ear, The trembling women gasping many a prayer, Wrung by a rustle, freighted up with fear, Till morning came, and with it came despair, So still she lay, so icy cold and sere; And silently and slow they crept away, With bated breath as though she slumb'ring lay.
They 'lumed pale torches at her moveless feet, That flung grey shadows round the ghostly room, And ofttimes misty clouds of incense sweet Went wreathing upward through the death-like gloom; There was no sound, not e'en a faint heart-beat, But all was silent as it were Death's tomb, And from without the breezes as they drave, Sigh'd low and sad like mourners o'er a grave.
The maiden lay there beautiful and pure, As one that slept and sunn'd her soul in heaven, From every chance of grief and pain secure, Sublimed from every taint of earthly leaven; Her placid bosom through white vestiture Shone soft and holy, that poor breast so riven, And her small hands prest gently as in prayer, Breath'd from the Earth to Heaven, and ended there.
They came with stilly tread and panting breath, And softly laid her on the narrow bier, A lovely sleeper in the arms of death, Unruffled by a dream or chilly fear, As some fair child that sweetly slumbereth Upon the bosom of her mother dear. They bore the dead forth over flowers to rest, Whose living feet on cruel thorns had prest.
He, crooked though in frame, in spirit more, Went by her now as erst he did in life, A slayer, watching whilst they slowly bore The helpless victim of his unseen knife; And sorrow for a mask he broadly wore, To cloak the guilt that in his heart was rife. Woe to thee, base heart, from the lids that weep! Woe to thee, base heart, from the eyes that sleep!
There was a vault within whose stifling maw Lay many a scion of Amieri's race, Crumbling to dust beneath Death's sapping thaw, That still melts down mortality apace; And round the fastness distillations raw Moulder'd the stones with damp and hideous trace; And here they laid her beautiful and pure, From every chance of grief and pain secure.
Close in their cold and narrow coffins pent, Around her lay ancestral ashes heaped, That through the dank and clammy darkness sent Currents in foul and noxious vapours steeped; And loudly through the gloomy stillness went The oozy plashes from the roof that dripped, Marking the minutes as they slid away, With slimy tokens of the frame's decay.
The rank air slumber'd deep on midnight wings, Dead as the dead that fester'd 'neath its shade, Hush'd from those low and fearful whisperings, That make the living pallid and afraid, Till nigh amid its awful shadowings, The cerements silver'd round the hapless maid, As might a lucent gem with radiance glow, Caught from the brightness of the soul below.
Soh! 'tis a sigh—low drawn and very faint, A spirit stirring 'mid the slumb'ring dead, Bodiless, homeless, breathing forth its plaint, Nor yet from life and its sad memories fled. Soh! it comes swooning through the air so taint Acute and clear as ever arrow sped; Ah! miserere for the hapless soul, That from the shores of death thus wafts its dole.
Soh! the soft raising of a white clad arm— Are holy angels bearing her away? Ave Maria! shield thy child from harm, And guard her from this mansion of decay! Soh! how the lady trembles with alarm, How wildly round the cave her glances stray, Until amid the torpid gloom they die Of space deep darken'd to immensity.
With frenzied strength from off her naked feet, She tore the linen fetters they had bound, And mantled closely in white winding sheet, The maiden slid upon the icy ground; With tottering steps that terror rendered fleet, And trembling hands she traced the vault around, Stumbling o'er rotten shells whose prison'd bones Rattled beneath her touch with hollow groans.
Her palm grew clammy with the slimy ooze That fester'd on the walls in sick'ning streams, As on the pallid brow Death's icy dews Gather, the presage of corruption's seams; Pale horror every sound and motion glues, So corpse-like all around the dungeon seems; But on—and a low portal met her hand, By iron staunchions in quaint tracings spann'd.
And so escaping from her death-like swoon, Forth sped she to the clear and healthful air, Fearing her shadow which the orbed moon Flung darkly on the moss-enwoven stair; And her white feet, used to the silken shoon, Chilled 'neath the stone so comfortless and bare, Falling unechoed as she sped away, Wing'd with the strength of wonder and dismay.
Amid her loosen'd hair the night-breeze play'd, And sent it waving wildly o'er her breast, Until the snowy lawn with golden braid In soft and waving traceries seemed drest. And as she sped along a muffled shade Still at her side o'er tombs and grasses prest, As though insatiate Death in discontent Pursuing his escaped victim went.
Ah! whither shall she flee, poor hapless thing, To find a rest more blissful than the grave, For what sweet haven spread her weary wing, To nestle from the foam of sorrow's wave? The midnight winds are sadly whispering, And coldly on her beating temples lave; Yes!—on—an iron law is in her soul, Peace! trembling heart, brave not its stern controul.
Weary and trembling tarried she at last Before her bridal home, with fitful cries, Till on the crooked Pietro limping past The buried voice in trembling accents sighs. The portal opens—but the wretch, aghast, Before that white-draped phantom, livid, flies As slayer 'fore his risen victim might, Smitten with guilty terror at the sight.
Woe to thee, coward, in thy secret places! Woe to thee in the daylight haunts of men! Cold terror wrap thee in his close embraces, And bear thee shrieking to his haunted den. Circle thy midnight couch with vengeful faces, And conscience torture beyond mortal ken; Ave Maria! blessings on the maid All in the moonlight at thy portal laid.
Vainly she calls for help in fainting tones, Only the watchful echoes heed the sound, Respondless bearing on her hapless moans, Fainter and fainter o'er the moonlit ground— On—on—she hurries o'er the flinty stones, Like spirit on some dreadful mission bound; And from that guilty threshold as she stept, The grave clothes off her trembling footprints swept.
She sank nigh dead with weariness and fear Before the dwelling of her early youth, Breathing forth saddest sighs which but to hear Might melt the heart with tenderness and ruth. She lay there like a bud which tempests drear Nip in its spring time with remorseless tooth; Ah! sure a father's heart will tender be, Nor close its issues 'gainst her utterly.
Amieri wander'd through his gloomy halls With restless steps and vacant rolling eyne, Whilst from each wide spread casement down there falls Upon his blanched locks the moon's pale sheen, As though a voice within him ever calls, And bids him follow some old form unseen; She lies upon your threshold, weak old man— Up! take her to your arms while yet you can!
Faint sighs come to him on the sleep-hush'd air, That swell to thunder in his timid breast, Rooted he gazes out with glazed stare At his poor murder'd child in grave clothes drest; "My Father!" cried she in her chill despair, With palms together in mute anguish prest— "Hence! hence! avenging spirit, haunt me not!" He cried, then totter'd from the fearful spot.
She rose and fled in terror through the night, All witless whither her weak steps might stray, As some freed bird first wings its rapid flight From its close prison to the realms of day; But on a sudden beam'd an inward light Upon her troubled soul and bid her stay, With the warm blood sent swiftly to her cheeks, The trace that signals when the fond heart speaks.
She thought of Julian—he so kind and true, And how they gladden'd in the times gone by; She thought how he had stolen her love's young dew, And fused into her heart so tenderly, Until beneath affection's power, they grew Together knit in one sweet unity; And now poor maid, by kith and kin forsaken, Unto his heart she felt she would be taken.
O blessed power of Love! that still can keep A quiet haven for the weary soul, When o'er the sea of life grief-tempests sweep, And surging billows o'er contentment roll; And thither though Affliction's cloud be deep The heart steers true beneath its sweet controul! To him, the loved, the lost, thus basely spurned, She fled a prisoner from Death's chains return'd.
Sigh for the heart that follows to the grave The perish'd idol of its summer dreams! Sigh for the heart that powerless all to save, Sees its sweet treasure gulph'd in sorrow's streams; And joys that ivy-like around it clave, Nipp'd of their blossoms, shorn of their warm beams! So Julian follow'd from afar her bier, With many a sigh, with many a bitter tear.
Within the stillness of his chamber, he Open'd the flood-gates of his chill despair, Darkening the midnight with deep misery, Freighting the moments all with heavy care, Weeping for her he loved so utterly, Whose presence only made existence fair, His pallid face sunk in the outspread palms, Moist with the dew that her dear loss embalms.
Soft through the lattice steals a gentle voice, Breathing his name in accents faint and weak, Tones that in past days made his soul rejoice, And now send crimson currents to his cheek. "Dear vision," said he, "of long cherish'd joys! "That now so sweetly in my soul dost speak, "Fade not away, but like a fixed star, "Shine on my spirit from thy heavens afar.
"Oh! thou art lovely in thy radiant sphere, "As thou wert once, the day-star of my heart, "Revealing ever shadowless and clear "The blessed rays that in thy spirit start. "O light! O life! O angels hovering near! "Pity us, sunder'd thus so far apart." Upon her love the maid imploring cries— Awaken, Julian, or thy loved one dies!
He rose, and to the lattice tranced went, Where through the opened eaves the moonlight fell, And to his tearful glances downward bent, Show'd that dear form, loved and remember'd well. Gazed he in fond and loving wonderment, As one who slumbers under Fancy's spell, On his beloved in cerements snowy white, All in the moonrays pictured there so bright.
"Dream of my soul!" he said, "thus softly stealing "From thine empyrean o'er my aching sense, "Pouring thy balm on my pierced heart, and healing "Cold sorrow's wounds with ravishment intense; "Fold still thy wings, and thus in light revealing "Thine angel charms, flee ne'er away from hence." Still on his name she call'd with swooning sighs, And hands convulsive prest, and upturn'd eyes.
"It is my love," he said, "by death set free "From cruel bonds that sever'd our true vows, "Thus from the piteous tomb return'd to me, "In white array with blossoms on her brows. "Ah! blessed is love's immortality, "That e'en the grave with softest charms endows; "And blessed thou, mine own, alive or dead, "That to this yearning heart once more hast fled.
Entranced still he wander'd to the gate, Where stood Alceste in sad weary plight, Sore press'd with sentience of her hapless fate, Weeping, nigh hopeless, in the pale moonlight. Tarried he there in strange delicious strait, Lapt in the wonder of his dreaming sight; Then opening wide his arms in raptured prayer, Her gentle spirit swoon'd and nestled there.
O Paradise! to waken from a dream, A sleep-revealment of delights, and find The rosy fancies, beauteous though they seem, Reality, and in our fond arms twined; Truth haloed by imagination's beam, And heaven and earth in one sweet birth combined. Thus Julian gazed upon her fainting form, Robed for the grave yet with existence warm.
He bore her as a mother bears a child Within the cradle of her tender breast, His throbbing heart, 'twixt hope and fear nigh wild, With that dear lifeless form against it prest, Like some bright angel beautiful and mild, Sunk in the calmness of Elysian rest. Upon her lips he breath'd his soul away, Whilst she in stilly swoon Joy's prisoner lay.
Slowly she oped her silken-lidded eyes, As night steals from the virgin blue of morn, Gazing on him she loved, in sweet surprise, Thus tenderly within his bosom borne; Whilst clouded Memory through old time flies, Sinking where she from that dear breast was torn. Ah! blessed future never snatch her thence, But sun the visions of her innocence.
Report ran through the city that the maid Ransom'd from Death's cold grasp had happily been, And, in the moonlight, no unhousell'd shade Those fearful, conscience-stricken men had seen; Till they in day-born confidence array'd, Followed in quest, like blood-hounds swift and keen, Tracking love's footsteps out with cruel art, To its sweet resting place within the heart.
They came to Julian, and with honied guise Flatter'd him to restore the risen maid; Seek ye to charm the eagle of his prize, Within his eyrie on the mountain laid; But Love, more strong, all sapping art defies, Nor ever from its fixed trust is sway'd! They came with arms, they came with vengeful threats, Poor fluttering dove! what danger thee besets.
Before the Father of the Church they went With humble suit, with supplications strong, Revenge and lust confirming their intent, And like foul magic drawing them along. Ave Maria! save the innocent, Nor let firm judgment minister to wrong, Warping the tenor of the righteous laws, To aid oppression and a hollow cause.
It was decreed that she who thus had been Parted from all earth's cares and sympathies, Wafted by prayer into a fairer scene, As one who in pure penitency dies, Thence drew new birthright from that air serene To ransom her from antenatal ties. Rejoice, Alceste, twice from Death thou'rt free! Rejoice, O Julian! life is brought to thee.
Sweet are the joys that follow on despair, Like sunrays kissing noontide mists away, Leaving the unveil'd summer skies more fair For the deep shades that on their brightness lay. And love's sweet firmament dispell'd of care, Rivals the glories of its early day, Sunning their progress down life's troubled stream, Wrapt in each other, pillow'd in a dream.
In the blue AEgean is Cyprus, Set in the midst of the waters Like a starry isle in the ocean of heaven. The waters ripple around it With soft and luminous motion, Strewing the silvery sands With shells amaranthine, and flowers Borne from amid the white coral stems, Like off'rings of peace from the ocean.
Amid it riseth Olympus,[A] Stately and grand as the throne of the gods, And the island sleeps 'neath its shadow Like a fair babe 'neath the care of its father. Streams clear as the diamond Evermore wander around it, Like the vein'd tide through our members, Quick with the blessings of beauty, And health and verdurous pleasure, Filling with yellow sheaves And plenty the bosom of Ceres; Calling forth flowers from the slumbering Earth, Like thoughts from the dream of a Poet, Till the island throughout is a garden, The child and the plaything of summer.
[A] The principal mountain of Cyprus was thus named.
In luscious clusters the fruit hangs In the sunshine, melting away From sweetness to sweetness. The grapes clust'ring 'mid leaves, That give their bright hue to the eye Like the setting of rubies. The nectarines and the pomegranates Glowing with crimson ripeness, And the orange trees with their blossoms Yielding sweet odour to every breeze, As the incense flows from the censer.
The air is languid with pleasure and love, Lulling the sense to dreams Elysian, Making life seem a glorious trance, Full of bright visions of heaven, Safe from the touch of reality, Toil none—woe none—pain, Wild and illusive as sleep-revelations. Time to be poured like wine from a chalice Sparkling and joyous for aye, Drained amid mirth and music, The brows circled with ivy, And the goblet at last like a gift Thrust in the bosom of slumber.
Thus are the people of Cyprus; Young men and old making holiday, Decking them daintily forth In robes of Sidonian purple: The maidens all beauteous but wanton, Foolishly flinging youth's gifts, Its jewels—its richest adornment, Like dross on the altar of pleasure; Letting the worm of mortality Eat out their hearts till they bear Only the semblance of angels.
Amongst them like a gaunt and gnarled oak Waving majestic o'er a pigmy race, Pygmalion was; for by the mete of soul Man ranges in the phalanx of his age. His heart was like an ocean, tremulous With radiant aspirations and high thoughts That fretted ever on mortality, Wearing life out with passion and desire, Struggling against the limits of the flesh, The bonds and shackles of the Possible, That bound him, like Prometheus, to the dust, And clogg'd the upward winging of his soul. He walk'd 'mongst men like one who felt the strength Of nobler nature swelling in his breast, Eternal breathings fanning the Divine Within him into flame and utterance. He spake not much, for that his heaving thoughts Yearn'd vainly for the living fire of heaven To burn them through the soul-core of the Time; But in the inner man the tumult sped In burning currents, like the ruddy streams From every pulse-beat of his o'er-fraught heart. His soul hung in an atmosphere of grace, And beauty, midway betwixt earth and heaven, Revolving, like the moon through azure space, Mid starry fancies and faint orbed dreams, That made bright land-marks in the spirit's flight. Faint glimmerings of loveliness untold Flash'd ever on him in his solitudes, Luring him on to search and far pursuit Through empyrean altitudes of thought, Sped onward by the god-like thirst to grasp The spiritual, and with creative hand Mould it to corporal reality. Love was his guiding star—his bright ideal Shining above all visions and all dreams, As doth the Pole-star o'er the icy North; Love in its broad and fineless empery Ruling, directing all by right divine, Pressing its seal of vassalage on thought, And crushing passion with relentless heel; Love—the refiner, whose alchymic art Transmuteth very dross to purest gold, Passing emotion through the furnace heat That scorcheth up its perishable frame, And yields the essence purified for Act. The soul that wanders like the mission'd dove Along the chaos waste of boundless thought, Must have some ark to nestle in on Earth, And shelter from the endless Undefined. So to Eve's daughters would Pygmalion seek, Won by sweet hopes and promises of good And beauty, such as emblem'd to him still The end accomplish'd of aspiring thirst— Essence and grace materialized. In them He saw the sum of Nature's perfectness, The acme of idealism reach'd: Fair forms, smooth with the ruddy glow of health, And ripening time, whose every motion seemed The wak'ning of ethereal gracefulness To life, and on whose lineaments the light Of a seraphic imagery play'd; Forms lithe and rounded by the art of youth To be the shrines of spirit excellence, And hold the fusion of immortal grace Unblemish'd by corporeal defect. What found he then? Flower-wreathed chalices Tinted with rosy dyes, bright elegance Of shape and garniture, but brimming up Draughts bitter to the taste and nauseous. He gazed upon their beauty, which his soul In thought had dower'd with purity and truth, As from the inward reflex of itself; But, gazing, all his visions pass'd away, And cold reality rose death-like up To mow the aureate blossoms from his soul.
In Amathus the chill grey morning dawn'd That woke him to truth's ruggedness, and left Life struggling, joyless, sunless, to its goal. Woman stood forth before him beautiful, But mocking heaven with a shameless brow, Wearing foul lewdness like a victor's crown, And dashing virtue's elixir away. From the deep fountains of her eyes there flow'd No lucid streams of holiness and love, But lust and utter wantonness, that fill'd The heart with loathing, fraught with death to Hope. Her crimson lips shed forth no silvery strains Of gentleness and peace to hymn life's bark Across the heaving waters of this Time, But folly and discordant revelry Sounded around her evermore, and woo'd To sin and shame with notes once toned for heaven. No Priestess she of lovely innocence, Stoled for the work with beauty nigh divine, But, warping all her natal destiny, Prostrate she lay before the shrine of vice, Yielding herself a living sacrifice To the deep blasting of the idol's breath.
The heart clings fondly to the last faint hope That bindeth still the once dear to its love, Rejecting credence whilst a doubt remains, And so Pygmalion. Thought he, 'tis a phase Through which her soul doth pass, like rippling streams That filter for a space through earth's deep pores, Emerging thence more pure and bright than erst, And set himself with patient love to watch The giddy current of her blinded soul, For the subsidence of its troubled waves.
It came not; till his spirit sick'ning o'er, Pour'd forth its bitterness and wounded sense. "Oh! living lie! truth's outward counterfeit! Fair masquerade of virtue's unknown charms! Thou too hast perish'd from my trusting soul; Thy beauty yet endureth, the fair sweep Of limb and rounded form, such as my art Can yield the senseless marble; but the soul That made the work of heaven stand forth alone, So peerless in its radiant loveliness, Hath perished 'neath mortality's cold grasp, And yielded up the patent of its charm. Henceforth I can compete with Heaven, and fill My world with bright creations as its own, Unmarr'd by inner loathsomeness and sin, That rushing through its pulses like a blight Make beauty hideous. Thou, my soul, return, Sit on thy throne, and with creative might People thy kingdom with a beauteous race, Fair form'd, and nobly featured, and the life Set undulating on the Parian, Whom viewing, thou may'st cry with lofty joy, 'Behold the life without its baser part.' O Beauty! I have loved thee with full heart, Follow'd thy shadowy guidance as the cloud Sails at the unseen steering of the wind; Sought thee in Heaven and Earth and Nature all, Led by supreme adorings and desires, Till by communion with thy perfect soul, Mine hath grown wise, in measure, to discern. Not now can I be satiate with grace That gildeth but the superficial frame With the false tissue of deep-seeming life; The searching knife must pierce into the heart, And shew a frame veined with the same warm stream That melts in blushes on the downy cheek. My bright ideal, like the bow of heaven, Hath faded into nothingness, and made A blank upon the clouded sky of life. Can my soul live and love not?
"I will call Art my divinity, and bid her frame New joys to cherish such as Earth hath not Create by natural developement; Nature shall be my monitress, and teach The chisel knowledge of all loveliness, That wrought upon the snowy Parian, Shall give investiture of life's pure part, Grace, ease, and motion's unexerted power. Better no soul than one debauched and foul, And shaming beauty with eternal blots; Therefore my creature shall be beautiful With all that makes up woman's excellence; Youth's bloom imprinted on her gentle charms, And tenderness set playing on her lips, Whilst round her gracious presence for a robe Shall float the vesture of pure modesty; A woman, she, save in the fallen soul, A spotless angel framed, but spiritless; This being shall I mould, and with my love Animate to ideal consciousness, Then let her sisterhood pass humbled on, Unheeded in the depth of my content."
Forth went he from the ebb and flow of men, Whose busy vortex drowneth quiet thought, To hold communion with wise Nature's soul In solitude. Amongst lone woods he roamed, Listing the murmurs of the swaying boughs That quivered with the spirit of the breeze, Threading their arched aisles with solemn heart, And hiving in his soul a myriad thoughts That fell unseen upon him. Oft he stood On mountain fronts, and gazed long hours away, Tracing the sweep of hill and dale, now veined With glistening waters, and now dark with groves, Still changing till sight lost identity, And the ideal and the real met. He saw the sun enter the golden gates Of Night, that closed upon his radiant path, And left Earth wondering; and star by star Unlid their shining orbs, and o'er heaven's plain Wheel their bright cars to greet him in the East. He saw the morn break beautiful and pure, Like virgin from her slumbers, and robe earth In dewy brightness, cresting the far hills With glorious halos of oncoming day. All loveliness of earth and sky he sought, And pondered with a heart attent to learn, Knowing that Beauty, like a parent stream, Is nourished by each trickling rill that flows Into it; and the soul that would be apt To work its highest counsels out, must toil Through long apprentice-ship to mastery, By units gath'ring fitness for the whole.
Thus did he, till with spirit brimming up With glorious inspiration, he returned, And set the god-like in him to create; His swelling soul grew patient to the work, Wise with the sense of innate potency, And on the shapeless marble still he wrought With faith and firm assurance. Many came Amid their aimless wanderings, and stood Beside that quiet worker, wondering At the majestic purpose on his brow, And vapouring forth their self-important views, That turned his course as little as the air Swerveth the eagle in his lightning flight. Many applauded with patronic warmth And empty commendation, and no scorn Curled his proud lip, not one defiant word Echoed their nothings into transient life. But as the marble grew beneath his hands To shape and comeliness, his soul-deep eyes Flashed with the joy of high accomplishment, And scanned each valiant critic with a glance That sifted all his littleness away.
Thus did he till his work stood perfected, A woman beautiful with youth and grace, But like a Vestal singled from her sex To show the beauty of pure innocence. Her form was such as rapt Endymion Saw on the heights of Latmos when he slept And dreamed Heaven down to him. A glorious shape That to the brightness of ethereal charms Join'd the familiar sweetness of a maid; A soft clear forehead circled by the light That heaven sets lambent on its imaged self; A face that beaming on the heart of man As by a silent teaching in the sense Makes goodness natural. Upon each limb Grace laid its sweet commandment lovingly, Whilst the fair bosom glowed with tenderness, As from the fulness of a soul beneath, Woman's divinest attribute possessed Unsullied and entire; and through the frame And every feature radiating went A lovely sense of gentleness and love.
Bright is the summer of Cyprus, Undimm'd the skies and clear, Blue and clear as a maiden's eyes That loves and hath never felt sadness. Then, Time is a sunlit river Flowing 'mid flowers and green pastures Brightly onward to heaven! There is music pervading the air, Music of voice and of instrument, And the silver toning of laughters Blendeth in jubilant chorus; Bands of maidens and youths With flowing garments of purple, And zones jewelled and bright As the mystic girdle of Venus, Wreathed with myrtle and roses, And their beauty wantonly bared To the swimming glances of passion, Evermore sweep o'er the pathways, Strewing sweet flowers as they go To the sacred altars of Venus 'Neath the feet of the snow-white kine, That must bleed at the shrine of the goddess; Care is forgotten, for life Hath no aim and no mission but pleasure; Its cup is a foretaste of Paradise, Drain the sweet draught to the dregs, The fountain will flow on for ever! 'Tis the feast day of Venus—Hail! Hail!
Pygmalion stood beside his master-piece, Still with his mind devote to mighty thoughts And busy inspiration, for through Time The worker must be constant to his toil, Heedless of pleasure and the idle toys For which man bartereth eternity; Life is his seed-time, after life his rest. Had he not joyed to scan that lovely form, And mark each glorious lineament, that held A model up to Nature of pure grace Unblemished by the shadow of a fault? Had he not loved with more than Artist soul The beauteous creature of his heaven-drawn power, And oped again the flood-gates of his heart To the full current of humanity? Had he not thanked the gods for victory, And gloried in his strength with conscious might That made e'en fame his fellow? Yet he stood Silent and sad beside his finished work. What lacked he yet? Life! life! for his creation: "What have I wrought," he uttered, "what achieved? Naught! naught! my power hath wasted on a stone, Changed its rude seeming haply unto grace, But as it was, so is it now, mere stone; My beauteous image, emblem of my soul, Cast in the mould of thought's supremest good, Fairer than all of womankind on Earth, Is yet more worthless and more transient Than is the meanest wretch who feels the life Throb quenchlessly within him. Time may strew Its fragments blindly o'er the face of Earth, Scatter its spotless beauties, yet pass on And leave the world no poorer than it was. There is no beauty separate from soul; From it as from a spring flow all the streams That clothe this dust with living loveliness Else doomed to deep aridity and death. O lovely daughter of my craving soul! Hope of my life! Divinest shape of Earth! Can I regard thy beauty thus and know Thou art the empty semblance of a worthless thing. Are those sweet charms where loveliness hath set The limits of her potency, mere dust Unnobled by the passage of a soul, Rescued a moment from the senseless mass, That soon again shall have thee for its own? What hath my soul begotten? Death in life— A child of Earth unblessed, unstamped of heaven. First-fruit of Spirit love! is this thy fate? Gods! hear me from your thrones! Must it be so?" Forth sped he. Like a stream that is swayed in the sunlight, Breaking in flashes of brightness, The people of Cyprus were gathered Around the temple of Venus; Mirth and music ascended. Amid the fumes of the incense, Loud as when pleasure hath knocked On a heart that is hollow and empty. Maidens rejoiced in their shame, And fancied their lewdness devotion, Banishing thought from their bosoms, And making them giddy with passion. Men forgetting their birthright, And the glorious spirit of freedom, Made themselves slaves unto folly, And lust, and imbecile pleasure. Life was summed up in the Present, For foolishness knoweth no Future.
Through the deluded mass Pygmalion prest, As each true soul must on its course to Fame, Blind to the follies that beset his path, The empty pleasures, and fictitious joys; Deaf to the jeers and mockings of the crowd, Their sottish laughters and unmeaning mirth, His senses all attent to his great aim, Fixed on the prize of immortality. Within the Temple separate he stood From the base host of giddy worshippers, And prostrated his soul with strong desire At the bright shrine of Cytherea's power.
"O Cypris! goddess! Light of heaven and Earth! That from the snow-crest of the waving sea, The endless worker—the unresting soul, Sprang'st in the glory of thy charms divine, And Beauty mad'st immortal! That dost hold The sacred urn of everlasting love, Whose draught is life, strength, rapture to the soul, And pouring of its fulness o'er the Earth, Makest its drooping energies revive, To struggle onward through the fight of life! O thou divinest arbitress of fate! Stoop from thy starry throne, receive my prayer, And grant me life, breath, being for my work. Let not the love that glorifies a man, Sink 'neath the level of humanity, And take unto its Holiest a shape Of woman's dust engraven on a stone; Grant that this first-fruit of my soul may be Endued with lovely immortality; That she may have the throbbing pulse of life, Quick'ning with every gracious influence, To work some sweet seraphic Purpose out, And walking 'mongst Earth's multitudes exalt Man's soul to worship Beauty, that when I The Worker shall have gone unto my rest, A glorious witness may remain to tell That such an one wrought, struggled and attained."
Thus prayed he. And an answer stirred his soul, "That which is born of Truth dies never. Time Still takes its sweet impression as it flies, And drops it seed-like into some wise heart, Where it may blossom and bear fruit anew To make its good perpetual. Thy prayer Is heard. The fire shall go from Heaven. Thy work Shall live."
Homeward he sped, and by his work stood soon. O'er that sweet visage once so motionless, To his rapt gaze there stole the rays divine That bear all high intelligence of heaven, And undulating o'er each graceful line Made the cold stone angelic. Liquid eyes, Bright with all pure imaginings, and full Of young emotion, love, and gentleness, Beamed softly on him in dim wonderment; Whilst from her lips that parted half for speech, Flowed the deep sweetness of a woman's smile, And o'er his perplex'd spirit shed the light Of Hope and glad assurance. All her frame Glowed with the rosy hue of life and youth, And melting from the rigidness of stone Sank into attitudes of peerless grace.
And when conviction strengthened in his soul As the awak'ning beauties of his work Expanded 'neath the spirit influence, He clasp'd the maid unto his beating heart, As father might the daughter of his love, Rejoicing with blent pride and tenderness In the supernal beauty of his child. Hearing within him murmurs of a voice— "I have accomplish'd, have not wrought in vain, Left no faint record written on the tide Of life, to perish with its setting wave; But my fair work shall live for evermore, And through the phalanx of advancing Ages Speed like a herald sounding to the world, 'Behold a man who crushed oblivion, 'And girding up his soul in faith and love 'Wrought like a God beyond the reach of Time!'"
ODE TO FANCY.
O! thou art a sweet and playful thing, And light as a lark upon the wing, Pouring the melody of thy mirth, In sunny showers down to the earth. The sunbeams pave o'er the crystal waters A pathway for thee to Triton's daughters, Down in the depths of the waving sea, Where their bright arched palaces be: There mermaids hasten unto thy side, And sing their songs till the ravished tide Feels the soft music through all its swells, And whispers them o'er to the coral shells. Fays are thy playmates at dewy e'en, For o'er their land they have made thee queen, Crowned thee with flowers of fadeless hue, And drained thy health in the honey dew; And over mountain, and hill, and dale, 'Lumed by the glow of the moonbeams pale, Thy merry train in the stillness dance, Like a beam of pleasure and radiance; Thine are the revels each summer night, Held on the mead by the glow-worm's light, Till maidens, straying at early dawn, Trace thy blithe footsteps upon the lawn; Thus dost thou lead on thy joyous rout, And trip around till thou'rt wearied out; And in the harebells the yellow bee Creeps in the morning to waken thee Forth from thy sweet dreams of joy and love, That rise in odorous breath above.
Like some fair wizard thou weavest spells Over all flowers, and brooks, and dells, Wreathing above every mossy bed, Till with bright dreams it is canopied And through the rose-coloured atmosphere All things more lovely and bright appear, Losing the faintness of earthly things, And shining with heaven's illuminings. Thine are the Naiads and Nymphs which rise From dell and fountain to daze our eyes; Thine are the spirits 'mid leafy trees, Whose voices come to us on the breeze. Thine are the maidens whose trackless feet Bear to the flower cups their honey sweet, Pressing their perfume till through and through Is pierced the soul of the rising dew.
Lead me, sweet sprite, to thy sunny dwelling! Is it where brooklets are softly welling Amid the greenwoods with many a fall, Making the lily-cups musical? Is it where mosses and violets meet, And blend their lives in an union sweet, Whither the butterflies speed to tell Glad tales of the flowers thou lovest so well? Is't in the covert whose lonely shade The ring-dove her resting place hath made, Lulled by the melody of her note Till dreams of Elysium round thee float? Is't on the breast of the sunlit sea, With ripples of glory to circle thee, Bright flashing dolphins to bear thy car, And waft thee to glorious isles afar? Is't in some cave where the light of day Borrows new hues from the diamond ray, Paven with jewels and silv'ry sand Borne by the waves from the mermaid's land Is't in the arms of the balmy gale Over the ocean thou lovest to sail, Loosing the folds of thy silken hair To float at will on the perfumed air? Is it by valley or heath-clad mountain? Is it by streamlet or limpid fountain? Tell me, and I will come to thee, Follow thy flight through immensity!
Dost thou not roam in the realms of sleep, While stars above thee their bright watch keep, Lapping the soul in a crystal sea, Whose every swell is felicity? And in the halls of her quiet home, Where darkness pillars the starry dome, Making all beauty more beautiful, And keeping the moonbeams soft and cool, Dost thou not sit till the morning beams Weaving the fabric of happy dreams, Bringing dear visions to weeping eyes, Till sorrow transforms to paradise? Dost thou not kiss sweet lips till they smile, And murmur of joys they knew erewhile, And build up hopes that are shatter'd quite, Decking the past in a robe of light?
O! thou art a kind and gentle thing, Bearing the gifts that good angels bring, Joying in all that is bright and free, And soothing the sting of misery; If thou would'st dwell in my beating heart, And breathe thy fragrance through every part, I would ever love and obey thee, Never slight thee and never betray thee Into the hands of cruel scoffers, Who sell their souls to fill their coffers, Crush every flower beneath their feet, And make the sole bliss of life—to cheat; Cheat the greenwoods of happy ramblers, To rear a race of slaves and gamblers; Cheat the summer, cheat the spring, Cheat the sweet flowers of their ministring; Cheat the soft meadows and sunny skies Of their glad tribute from glist'ning eyes; Cheat the birds in their leafy bowers, Cheat every day of its few short hours, Cheat even life of its little pleasure, Dealing its needfuls out in short measure; Cheating all beauty while they draw breath, But true to one commerce, that is—Death!
Come to me then, and I'll cherish thee, Thou shalt my loving companion be; From the cold world we will live apart, And build up a new one within my heart.
WHAT IS A SIGH?
It is the sound Raised by the sweeping of an angel's wing, As through the air It bears a prayer Of the soul's uttering.
It is the sweet Melodious echo of some thrilling thought Retold by sadness Unto gladness, Which memory hath brought.
It is the hymn Breath'd ever by the votaries of love, Whose dulcidence, Soft and intense, Soars dreamily above.
It is the sign Of Earth's fraternity, the only tie That links us all, Both great and small, In common sympathy.
It is the heart Issueing from its prison house of clay; Perchance gladly, Perchance sadly, Wending on its way.
Sad are the glances from thy deep blue eyes, Ione, Soft as the mirror of the summer skies When twilight shadows o'er its surface steal, And twinkling stars their radiant orbs reveal! Why are they sad Which were so glad, Ione? Have their rays bathed in dew-drops 'mid the air, And still the sparkling moisture trembles there? Then, smile, for dewy tears Melt when the sun appears, Ione! Yet thou art very beautiful in sadness, Ione! More beautiful e'en than in gladness, And the sweet music of thy gentle sighs Comes like the language of thy speaking eyes; What do they say? Tell me their lay, Ione! Fain would I learn from thee what passing thought Can with such plaintive melody be fraught— Ah! wherefore turn away, Stay, yet a little stay, Ione!
O the heart has dreams Elysian! That steal o'er it calm and sweet, Hushing pain like a magician Who binds spirits at his feet.
But the forms that throng its mazes Are too bright for mortal birth, And the scenes that fancy raises Far too beautiful for earth.
Let us turn with humbler spirits To the things that God has made, Pass the weakness flesh inherits, Since the sunshine, too, has shade.
'Tis the pride of human nature That makes life seem cold and drear, Drawing up a dwarfish stature To o'ertop its proper sphere.
Gath'ring round it misty fancies, Like the mountain's cloudy wreath, Till the spirit's errant glances See no beauty underneath.
There are true hearts beating nigh us As we fight the fight of life, Hearts unstain'd by guilty bias, Hearts unharden'd by its strife.
There are gentle bosoms swelling With all motions pure and kind, That unceasingly are welling Solace to the weary mind.
Few there are without possessing Some good virtue in their heart, Whence, beneath love's soft compressing, As from flowers, sweet perfumes start.
Dreamer, turn then to the real With a frank and trusting soul, Not alone to the ideal Let thy genial currents roll.
Pierce the clay that oft encloses The pure brightness of a gem, Think thee, flowers less fair than roses, In their sweetness rival them.
Thus in truth, and not in dreaming, Life will blossom to the full, Unto love's eyes all things seeming Prism'd through the beautiful.
Oh, my heart throbs ever wildly, half in joy and half in scorning, As the course of my life's story dimly flits across my mind, Now that fate seems clear and steady, and the mist that veil'd its morning Has resolved into bright sunshine with the azure heaven behind.
And I cry with exultation—"Bless he who feeling in him Precepts of pure grace and beauty guiding on his willing soul, Yields himself unto their teaching, nor lets toil nor danger win him To forsake the race he runneth till he resteth at the goal."
I was sprung, from lineage noble, with a spirit inly burning To uphold my name and honor taintless from the blast of shame, I was born to be a freeman, by my birthright therefore spurning All the gilded chains of fashion that make freedom but a name.
From the forms and outward emblems of the deep-lored spirit Nature Drew I inspiration early for the moulding of my thought, Gath'ring strength from her o'erflowing, till I grew unto the stature Of a man nerved to accomplish all the good her wisdom taught.
So when years had ripen'd on me, and the world's great portals yawning, Bid me enter the enchanted palace of youth's mystic life, Eager, breathless to explore it, at each step new wonders dawning, I went on with stedfast courage, arm'd alike for peace or strife.
And I loved, that I might ever in my bosom bear a treasure Strong to ransom life from sorrow, strong to furnish it with joy; So I sought with keenest insight—neither small nor scant the measure To content my requisition—purest gold without alloy.
And I found it lying lowly, far beneath my proud line's dreaming, Who if they perchance had seen it, would with scorn have turn'd away, But I sought it with soul-gladness, e'en with pride, for to my seeming A pure gem is worth the lifting though it lie amongst the clay.
She was fair, a lumin'd beauty rippling o'er each chisell'd feature, Changing ever like the sunshine playing on the summer sea, Revelations of God's spirit permeating through his creature, Making loveliness all perfect by infused divinity.
What to me though all her dow'ry were the wealth of love and kindness, And a heart full fraught with feelings vein'd with gentleness and grace? Which the worldling holds as nothing, smitten with judicial blindness, But which I o'er all things prizing, wed her in the weak world's face.
Scared my kinsmen were and bitter for the shame and the dishonour, Said they, I had brought upon them and the noble name I bore; And my sire with passion burning launch'd his deepest curses on her, And as though I were a felon, drove me fiercely from his door.
I was destined for some puppet, some gold image of his choosing, Doubtless, who was made to worship like the golden calf of old, With no merit but her riches, but such shame my soul refusing, I was cast forth without blessing, poor and guideless from the fold.
Poor?—Not poor, for she went with me, pouring still with patient spirit Balm upon my wounded feelings, peace upon my burning soul; So that though man's love was reft me, 'twas the better to inherit That which far transcends man's favour,—sentience of Heaven's sweetest dole.
Words of scorn and deep contemning gave I back for their reviling, For my soul waxed wroth within me to be judged by such as they, Fools so sage in their great folly, that they shake their bells, and smiling With an imbecile self-blindness, sneer the wise of heart away.
Let them wear their masking purple, threadbare now with vilest uses, All the ancient gloss and brightness faded from it through their stains, They may be disgraced, degraded, but true nobleness, ne'er loses By relinquishing its trappings, whilst the spirit still remains.
Did I shame them that I ceded all the forms and false adorning That doth deck them for their stations heedless of the stuff within, And stood forth in my own fashion, such as God had made me, scorning To be made a man of tinsel, to be honoured for my kin.
Did I shame them that rejoicing in the freedom of my spirit I asserted all its fulness, spite of prejudice and pride; Whilst they, slaves of wealth and fashion, trembling cowards did not dare it, Would not risk a pointed finger e'en to gain an angel bride.
Was the noble name they cited but the badge of slaves and vassals, Bound beyond emancipation to obey another's mood? Better far to be a peasant 'neath the shadow of their castles, Than debase the soul within me to such brutish servitude.
What were they with all their lordship, all their riches, measured duly, That they looked with scorn upon her in her unadorned worth? Ashy fruit with surface golden, she with goodness leavened throughly, All her wealth by heaven imparted, their's derived alone from Earth.
Oh! I felt a high compassion for their warp'd and narrow feelings As I press'd my bride unto me, and read o'er her gentle eyes, Gaining deeper insight daily, meeting ever new revealings Of the grace of woman's spirit, and her holy sympathies.
So we pilgrim'd on together, buffeting the ills about us, Sharing hope, and joy, and sorrow, as we shared our daily bread, Keeping still a pleasaunce scathless in our hearts, though all without us Might be cheerless desolation, and the sky with clouds o'erspread.
Through much toil and tribulation, we attain'd at last to honour With no succour from my kindred, I upreared my house alone, And I see my cherish'd maiden, with admiring gazes on her, Glide amid the high and noble with a grace beyond their own.
And those proud ones now are gracious, bowing fawningly before her, Whilst she with her true eyes calmly takes the measure of their hearts, Weighs aright the honied speeches, and the praise they heap upon her, Her own innocence instinctively disarming all their arts.
For she knows their tongues are venal, sold to flatter wealth and power, And to crouch with serpent homage in the dust at Fortune's shrine, Ready to revile and slander if calamity should lower, And to flout as base, deceitful, what they late had termed divine.
Thus unmask'd and sifted throughly let them stoop and fawn at pleasure, Little reck I to revenge me better for their former spite As I mark their degradation falling on them in full measure When they humble themselves vilely, thus, to one who reads them right.
THE STORMY PETREL.
Far in the wilderness of waves, Where vision dieth 'mid endless motion, Where only the madden'd storm-wind raves, And sinketh its chains in the soundless ocean; Far from the ken and the power of men, And lone as though Earth were in chaos again, The Stormy Petrel cleaveth the air, And maketh the surging billow its lair.
The black cloud scuddeth along on high, Silent and swift as the angel Death, Led by Euroclydon through the sky Unto its victim with bated breath, Whilst only God and the Petrel seeth The path by which the Avenger fleeth, And with shrill accent of wail and mourning Riseth the Petrel's wild cry of warning.
Anon the bones of the wreck come past Bitterly mock'd of the roaring tide, From wave to wave in derision cast With scorn and jeers at poor human pride; And still the Petrel with lightning sweep Circles their way through the raging deep, Settling in awe on some shatter'd spar, And tracking its course as it drifts afar.
Into this realm of the winds and waves Man cometh not with his living soul, But like the mounds over clammy graves, Over his body the surges roll; No mortal weeper hath seen his tomb, Buried he lies in eternal gloom, Save that the Petrel with wailing cry Hover'd around as he floated by.
What doth the Petrel so far away From the home of love and the field of strife? In this lone spot doth the Petrel stay To show the beauty and power of LIFE. For the broad Earth and the boundless sea, Time and the endless eternity, All, all acknowledge the spirit's controul, And like the frail body, were made for the soul.
When the stars are up and keeping Holy vigils in the skies, Whilst Night's train is passing slowly, Footsteps hush'd, and voices lowly, And on earth sweet dreams are steeping Slumbering souls in Paradise, In my heart there comes a vision, Angel-like from its elysian, Bent upon some blessed mission, And its form resembleth thee In thy grace and purity.
I with tranced rapture gazing, Scan each lineament divine, Trace again thy pensive sweetness, Beauty's soul, and love's completeness, Heart and hands devoutly raising Like a pilgrim at Love's shrine, Evermore within me feeling Like a charm thy beauty stealing, Hushing pain, and sorrow healing, And I pray to dream for ever Gazing thus, and waking never;
For the morn comes, and the Real Once again resumes its sway, Scattereth these radiant fancies, Cloudeth o'er thy gentle glances, And still seeking my Ideal Through this life I take my way, Weary, heart-sick, longing, sighing, Praying much, yet no replying, Phantom Hope before me flying Leading ever back to thee, To behold thee in thy beauty, Feel that love is only duty, Meritless, save that so dying Gain I Love's eternity.
A mermaid smoothing her sunny hair, Fanned by the breath of the summer air, Sang to me,—"Love, wilt thou go with me "Down to the depths of the purple sea?"— "Maiden, ah yes! I will go with thee, "And lap my soul in felicity!"
Down we went through the crystal waters Evermore waving round Neptune's daughters, Down, till the light of the starry sky Melted away like an echoed sigh, And the rapt breast of the restless ocean Sank into still dreams of past emotion, Down, and we stood on a pleasant shore Paven with shells from the Naiad's store, Shining and rosy-lipp'd such as keep The mermaid's songs for their balmy sleep. Flowers there were set with sparkling gems, Gleaming amid the white coral stems, And flinging their measure of light and scent Up through the translucent firmament. And as the air by a bird's wing laven, Or a deep pool by a white hand waven, Floated the swells of the dewy tide Round the sea-maiden and me beside. Onward we went where a diamond portal Kept the pure light of the dawn immortal, Making the heart sicken o'er to win The halcyon joys it enclosed within; Entered we under its arching sweep Into the palace hall of the deep, Where 'neath the vault of its lofty dome Have the nymphs and mermen gay their home; There sat old Neptune upon his throne, A foaming wave that was turn'd to stone, And round about him his merry crew With brimming cups of the purple dew; Wandering far through the lumin'd halls, Where light was bred in the ruby walls, Stray'd the fair Naiads with golden hair, That wanton'd about in the perfumed air; And flowing robes round their white limbs waved, Like moonbeams bright into substance laved. Neptune in tones that spread far and wide, "Ho! Ho! a man with a mermaid bride!" And the blue dome rung with cruel laughter, Till all the arches mutter'd it after; Then came the nymphs in a radiant string, And circled us round like Saturn's ring, Forms that appearing to mortal eyes Dazzle them so that the spirit dies. Then to my mermaid old Neptune saith, "Hymn the rash mortal unto his death!" She with a voice that murmuring stole Deep as a heaven thought into my soul— "O! in the land that is under the waves "To dwell with my love in the coral caves, "To bind his brows with a diamond zone, "And call the light of his eyes mine own; "To roam with him through the boundless space, "And make the billow our resting place, "There sing our songs till we fall asleep, "And dream of Elysium in the deep; "Waves are flowing for ever and ever, "O they will rock us for ever and ever, "Hush every sorrow to quiet rest, "And pillow love in each other's breast; "O they will sink us deeper and deeper, "Until they themselves sleep with the sleeper, "Until there is only love awake, "That cannot sleep for his own sweet sake; "Come in my bosom, then, come with me, "Down to the depths of the purple sea!" All my soul thrill'd and panted for bliss As pilgrims thirst in the wilderness; I cried, "O maiden, whose softest sighs "Are sweeter than all Earth's melodies, "If thou wilt wander with me for ever, "And naught have power our true hearts to sever, "I shall forget all that earth calls fair, "And all that I fondly treasured there, "The meadows and hills and sunny dells, "And the birds and fragrant heather-bells, "And I will follow thee through the deep, "Where waves shall rock us to tender sleep; "All powers of ocean I will defy, "And follow thee though it be but to die!" Neptune then, "Youth thou hast bravely said, "And meet art thou with a nymph to wed, "So thou shalt live out thy little span "Unscathed by the hands of the blithe merman."
So they bound me fast in cruel sleep, And bore me silently from the deep, And ne'er have I seen my mermaid more, Though oft I watch for her on the shore.
THE SPIRIT OF THE AIR.
A spirit came to me on the breeze Sweet with the breath of the orange trees, Floated about me, and murmur'd soft, "O Poet! wilt fly with me far aloft? "And I will show thee the realms of space "Where the lightning can find no resting place. "We will away to the home of morn, "And see the first youngling sunbeams born. "We will away to the cave of Night, "And wake the echoes to sudden fright, "And then we'll wander among the stars "And mark the roll of their golden cars?"— "Spirit! I'll go with thee through the sky, "For my soul pants ever to soar on high, "If thou wilt bear me upon thy wings, "And guide me amid our bright wanderings."
Swiftly we went through the sunny air, Higher than ever the skylark dare, And the bright clouds where the summer beams Slumber and revel in golden dreams, Lay far beneath us like dewy fumes Hovering over the flower-blooms. Higher we went till the puny Earth Dwindled away to an atom girth, And the record of our rapid way Was the far death of a starry ray; Then we drew nigh to the palace bright Where morning treasures her dewy light, Cool'd by the breath of the angels' wings, And sweet with their musical utterings. There we saw the young day-beams awaken, And the earth's rays from their soft tresses shaken, And there we saw the sweet zephyrs rise, That woo the flowers with gentle sighs, And kiss the mist from the streamlet's tide, As tears are kiss'd from a happy bride; The angels of Joy and bliss were there, Lapt in the folds of the balmy air, Breathing their paeans till far away The echoes went with the light of day; The spirit said, "Hence the ray of morn, "Like a poor child unto sorrow born, "Wends to the earth with sweet smiles uplit, "And from the darkness awakens it; "But though it whisper of peace and love, "And tell the world of the joys above, "They will not hearken unto the voice "Whose accents faint make the flowers rejoice, "But still grovel on in strife and sorrow, "And make the signal of war, 'the morrow.'" Onward we went through the heavens afar Swift as the course of a shooting star, Until dark shadows began to fall Around our way, like a funeral pall, Deeper and deeper, and then the gloom Grew thick as it were the Night's own tomb; There was no sound save the rushing wave Closing the furrow our passing clave; There was no sound save the beating heart, That at its own throbbings seemed to start; There was no sound save the ebb and flow Of my own breathing drawn long and low; Then the air-spirit gave forth a cry That rang through the arches of the sky, Whereat a myriad echoes leapt Forth from the darkness 'mid which they slept, Shouted an answer in fierce surprise, That rumbled far into faintest sighs, Then slowly sank to their rest again, And left the Night to her silent reign. On we went whilst the sounds grew dimmer, Till stars afar began to glimmer Like flashing lights on a lonely mere, Like tapers dim round a sable bier; Onward, till many a radiant world In solemn glory across us whirl'd, Shaking the air in their mighty march, Like thunder beneath its prison arch; Ever louder the swift wind bore us The swell of their eternal chorus, Filling the soul of the boundless sky With strains of adoring harmony. Past us came Mars all fiery and red, Like a warrior stain'd with the blood he shed; And his voice o'er all rang clear and high Pealing for ever Truth's battle-cry; Saturn came with his blazing ring, Like a crown round the brows of a Titan king, Circled by many a satellite, That made his pathway through heaven bright; The star of eve like a maiden sphere, Gleaming with beauty and grace, drew near, Sweeping along 'mid heaven's panoply, The sweetest and fairest child of the sky; Onward they came in myriad lines From space whereon the sun never shines, But fades away like a twinkling star 'Neath orbs whose glory is greater far; Many a beautiful world appear'd, Such as not even Fancy hath rear'd, Sinless and happy as Heaven will be, And stamp'd with the seal of Eternity.
But sadly we sank to Earth again, And heard the discord and strife of men, Like a harp that jars from a sudden fall, And turns to discord tones musical.
WHY DO I LOVE THEE?
'Tis not because thou art so fair, So beautiful unto the sight; 'Tis not because thy silken hair Curls o'er a neck of spotless white; 'Tis not because thy speaking eye Claims kindred with the deep blue sky, Alone I love thee!
No! 'tis because around thee gleams The light of innocence and truth, Adorning with its radiant beams, And pure reflex the charms of youth; Because thine every word and thought With thy soul's gentleness is fraught, Therefore I love thee!
She had suitors many, many, The fair Lady Annabel, But she loved him more than any, For she knew he loved her well. She was rich, but he was lowly, Lowly in the world's esteem, But that made her love more holy, As the darkness gilds the beam; For she knew his manly honour, All the beauties of his mind, And they sweetly stole upon her Like the scent borne on the wind; So she loved him ere she knew it, Ere she thought to close her heart 'Gainst the tender spells that drew it Evermore to take his part When in idlesse or in malice Others lightly spoke of him, Careless that in his life's chalice They poured sadness to the brim; For he was a dreamer throughly, Feeding on sweet Poesie, And few knew his spirit truly, And none prized it well as she; But upon the thymy mosses, With wild flowers by his side, Blossoms that the summer glosses For the brow of fairy bride, He would lie and weave bright fancies From the maze within his heart, Which her gentle smiles and glances Kindled with an angel's art; For a firmament of beauty Hung like heaven o'er his mind, And it seem'd a sacred duty To hymn all the fair it shrined; So he praised her golden tresses, And he thought them fair and soft As the locks the sun caresses On bright angels far aloft; And her eyes so blue and tender, Made for love to glisten through, That their gentleness might render Love as welcome as the dew; And her cheeks with roses blushing, And her lips with sunshine drest, Her white bosom gently hushing With its swells all ill to rest, All came to him in his dreaming Like things from another sphere, Till bewildered by their gleaming He felt only they were dear. Must he perish, must he languish For the love of one so fair, Till the cruel sting of anguish Change a blessing to despair? He is poor, and favour never Smiles on one so weak as he, Poverty still comes to sever All hopes of felicity. But she loves him, and communion With his soul gives strength to hers, So they blend their lives in union Careless of cold fashion's slurs; She resigns what earth calls treasure, Titled suitors, wealthy-dower, That is commerce, she seeks pleasure, For she knows life's but an hour, Far too short and full of sadness, Far too full of grief and pain, For the heart to barter gladness For a shadow or for gain; So she fondly stood beside him, And she placed her hand in his With a smile that seem'd to chide him For the shade that veil'd his bliss, As he thought how he could duly Make return for all her love, Only could he serve her truly, Love her as the light above; And she said "We will live gaily In some sylvan hermitage, Worshipping all beauty daily, Till my foolish heart grow sage; We will have sweet flowers about us, Birds to sing from every tree No suspicious friends to doubt us, So we must live merrily!"
Thus they went, and of their marriage Jesting spake the giddy world; Nobles, pillow'd in their carriage, Laugh'd aloud with proud lips curled, And fair ladies smiled their pity, With a sigh for mortal folly, Whilst rich merchants in the city Frown'd, and called it, "Melancholy." What they said, or what they ponder'd Little reck'd fair Annabel, As with joyous hearts they wander'd By green vale and shady dell; And she cried "O! life was never Made to be ambition's fool, Bound in fashion's chains, and ever Banish'd from the Beautiful!"
TO JENNY LIND.
ON HER RE-APPEARANCE IN ENGLAND
MAY 4th. 1848.
Summer hath come, led on by sunny May The blue-eyed, round whose brow the first pure ray That trembles from the opening gates of dawn Still seems to circle, and the mossy lawn, As they glide gently onward, ever breathes A beauty and a fragrance, which enwreathes Within the being until every thought With a strange mystery of joy is fraught. And where the hazel forms a leafy screen Of verdant matting, the cuckoo, unseen, Chaunts forth her woodnotes through the stilly air, Whose silent motions far the accents bear. And thou hast come, sweet Nightingale! once more O'er our entranced spirits to outpour Thy liquid warblings! 'Mid the flow'rets' scent And summer's gladness rises interblent Thy loving welcome! Not the bird that sighs Her thrilling love-tale through the moonlit skies Of Italy, as erst to Juliet's ear From the pomegranate tree 'twas wafted near, Seizes the soul with ravishment more sweet Than thy soft tones, stealing unto the seat Of passion, waking echoes in the breast Of love, and purity, and quiet rest, Murmuring through the windings of the soul, Till interpenetrated is the whole With holy harmonies, and blissful sense Of joyance, and straightway is refted thence All baser feeling, and all earthly leaven, By the dear magic of that voice from heaven. Fair Priestess of the Beautiful! that bringest Missions of sweetness from above, and flingest In a rich flood of song—now faint, yet clear As Helicon's own murmurs to the ear, Now swelling till around our being floats In thrilling cadences thy bell-like notes,— The poetry of poetry, the deep Mysterious essences whose wavings steep Life in the bliss of angels, and the real In the ethereal hues of the ideal; A welcome to thee! heartfelt as the lay Hymn'd by the panting lark to the young day, Joyous and loving as the sunny beam That greets the early primrose, when the dream Of flowery revels through the noontide hours First steals upon it. Such a joy is ours Now, as with falt'ring tones our spirits hail Thy glad return, O sweetest Nightingale!
THE GOLD SEEKERS.
Ever onward sweep the Nations, marching with a mighty train, Prince and peasant, youth and maiden, toiling, struggling o'er Life's plain;
Turning from the land that bore them, from the loving ties of old, Still to wander, weary pilgrims, o'er the wide world after gold.
Little reck they of the dangers, little reck they of the woes, Urged along by strong endeavour, heedless both of friends and foes;
Gazing on the shadow moving at their sides till sun hath set, Ever whisp'ring to their spirit, "Courage! we will grasp it yet!"
Over plain and over mountain, rocks their zeal cannot resist, Up the rugged heights they clamber till they perish in the mist;
Down the precipital hollows blindly falling as they speed, Calling still with dying accents on their fellows to take heed;
Over stream, and trackless ocean, with the storm-cloud hatching nigh, Ever waiting there to thunder at the bidding of the sky;
Tossing on the angry billow, heart and soul beset with fear, Yet with longing all unshaken, onward through the blast they steer;
Over marsh, and sandy desert, sinking 'neath the scorching sun, Hopeless, weary, madly thirsting, slowly dying one by one;
Leaving many a bone to whiten by the wayside, and to tell By mortality's drear tide-marks, how its surges rose and fell;
Through the spring, and through the summer, when the flowers are on the lea; Through the Autumn when the blossoms fade and wither drearily;
Through the chill and ghostly Winter when the year is in its shroud, And corruption preys on Nature, stooping fiercely from its cloud;
Through the light and through the darkness, through the rain and through the snow, Striving onward without resting seeking it above, below,
In the earth, and in the water, in the rock, and in the clay, Gathering up the sandy beaches, searching, sifting them away;
Never resting, but with spirits eager, breathless to attain, Evermore they hurry forward to their purpose o'er life's plain,
With their garments waxen olden, and their sandals wearing out, And the sinews growing weaker that once bore them up so stout,
With the vision ever dimmer to discern the cherish'd prize, Till at length upon the highway, at each step some pilgrim dies,
His glazed eyes still feebly turning e'en in death unto the goal That yet glimmers far beyond him, the life haven of his soul.
But a stalwart phalanx presseth onward still with hearts serene, Strong in faith and stedfast courage, meeting toil with dauntless mien;
Working out their primal mission through the calm and through the blast, Gath'ring fitness for the Future from the Present, and the Past.
Thus enduring, thus pursuing upheld by a mighty hand Through all dangers of the travel, come they to the Golden Land,
Find the treasures they are seeking richly pour'd into their breast; Toil and danger ever finish'd, now they sweetly take their rest,
With the light of glory shining from the Godhead on their souls, Whilst above them the broad banner of Eternity unrolls.
Beautiful Spirit! Angel of the Earth! That glidest through the storm-tost world, And bearest Blessings of peace and rest unto the weak, Giddy and faint within its vortex whirled; O! fairest, Sweetest Pilot of the wavering soul Through the wide-yawning gulfs and shoals of crime, Whence issue siren-spells that seek To sink the wayward in their noxious slime; Emblem of Purity! That like the star of Bethlehem dost lume The wise of heart through this life's deepest gloom To hope, and joy, and blessedness, Hail to thee! Thou art the Priestess of all Holiness! Standing midway betwixt the earth and heaven, Part shared of either, Mortality inwrought with purer leaven, Good sympathies, sweet thoughts, and stainless love, That like distilled perfume float above To charm the breather!
O vision of soft eyes and flowing hair, Mild gentle eyes that chasten as they glance, And on their dewy brightness ever bear The heart's warm language writ in radiance! O blessed smiles! heaven's golden sunrays shed On life's cold stream, Renewed summer when the old is fled Like a dream! O voice tinct with the spirit's sweetness, Last tone of heaven's clear harmonies Ere in the silence of wide space it dies, Music's completeness! O gentle laughters! rising from the crystal spring Of joyance and free-hearted sympathy, Pure rills to trickle sunnily From eyes and rosy lips in liquid warbling, Sweetly ye win us To shrine the blest spirit of Beauty Within us!
O tender heart! Love's everlasting dwelling, Beautiful fountain of all generous thoughts, From whose unsealed fulness, ever welling, Come to mankind their purest pleasure draughts; O gentle heart! Grief's only sanctuary, Safe refuge from the rude assaults of woe, Throbbing with mild compassion constantly, That never change nor withering can know; From the pure spring of virgin slumbers Peace falls upon the soul when thou art by, Lulling it sweeter than Philomel's numbers, Lapping it deep within felicity. O brightest! dearest! still there floats to thee The incense of pure minds eternally, Thoughts sown of loveliness, that bud and bloom, And through the summer-time of after years Shed sweet perfume, Love-imaginings that rise through tears Like rainbows, and soft dreams That are the heaven-gleams, Caught from the deep Of Elysian sleep!
You might think, to look upon them with their arms around each other, And the tale that he is breathing softly crimsoned on her cheek, That a sweeter spell enwound them than the love she bears a brother, And that sweeter words are spoken than the words that brothers speak.
For, fair one, she loves him dearly, dearly as a woman's spirit Full of gentleness and beauty loves all pure and holy things, Just as though some blessed angel, screened from sight, were floating near it, Fanning every tender feeling into motion with its wings.
So she hears with echoed rapture hopes that in his breast are swelling, Of the glory and the honour that have sunned his poet's dream, Charmed him by their bright illusion madly from his quiet dwelling To immerse him in life's ocean, there to lose him like a stream.
Ay! look in her eyes, poor poet, kiss the tears that tremble brightly On their fringes till thou deem'st them her pure soul distill'd for thee, They are true ones, they are fond ones, and that vision, coming nightly, May refresh thee like a fountain rising 'mid sterility.
Backward from her upturned beauty did he smooth the golden tresses, That Madonna-like fell clust'ring round the softness of her cheek; 'Twas a frank one, and a fair one, with the grace that truth impresses Beaming o'er it without shadow, so he gazed but did not speak.
Then he whispered, "Bright May, dear May, in the world where I am going, Going, it may be unwisely, but some magic draws me on, There to win the fame and honour with whose fire my soul is glowing, Thou shalt be my guiding angel, thou shalt be my helicon.
I will paint thee in my verses, thee, so beautiful and tender, Till that world shall thrill with pleasure, and pure hearts shall cherish thee; Bright May, dear May, they will love thee, and thy gentleness shall render Earth again a sunny Eden dedicate to Poesy.
They will crown me for thy beauty, they will love me for thy sweetness, They will shrine my name in glory, hear it like a household thing, They will feel the spell of beauty, think of heaven for thy meetness, Thus I'll do the poet's mission, thou an angel's ministring."
So he went into the wide world with bright hopes around him playing, Youth to make his footsteps buoyant, and firm trust to nerve his heart, Fame and glory clear before him like a sun the path arraying, Witless that the golden vision of his dreams could ere depart.
There are thousands in the highways buffeting the waves beside them, Struggling onward without respite in pursuit of sandbuilt gain; There are thousands sinking daily, but the selfish crowd deride them, Only hurry on the swifter—there's no time to pity pain.
Ah! what hope for thee, poor poet! in the race that they are running, When the jar of stormy passions makes thy temples wildly beat; Can'st thou wrestle with the torrent, can'st thou stand against their cunning, Who will crush thee without mercy, like a flower beneath their feet.
Wherefore did'st thou leave thy dwelling 'mid the calm and pleasant places, Where no sorrow came to rouse thee from the heaven of thy dreams, Where the wood-birds gave thee music, and the path the wild bee traces For its sweetness thou could'st follow, or repose by gentle streams.
O poor world! immersed in folly, O dull world! that will not hearken To the music of a Poet singing of the Beautiful, Close your heart against its teaching, though it be so sweet, and darken All the sunshine of the spirit by the coldness of your rule.
* * * * *
Who would bid us draw the curtain that conceals the poet's sorrow, Who would need to hear his anguish when they look upon his brow,— It is written there in tracings far more true than tongue could borrow, It is brimming in his glances, once so bright, so woeful now.
Gaze upon him! dost thou know him? to his long-left home returning, For his step is very feeble, and his cheek is very pale, And amid it like a sunset is the hectic plague-spot burning, Ye who know no shatter'd hope-dreams, gaze upon him—there's the tale!
O the holy love of woman! O the gentle love of woman! Breathing like a balmy zephyr on the fever'd brows of care, Centrate sweetness of all sweetness, only in its sorrow human, Joy without you were a phantom, grief without you were despair!
See! how tenderly she leads him with her arm around him pressing, As to shield him from the rough world that had wrought him so much woe, And his eyes are filled with moisture, scarcely can he breathe his blessing, But she feels it in the throbbing of his full heart as they go.
Gaze again into her kind eyes, gaze into them, weary poet, Fill thy soul with holy calmness from the fountain of her love, If there's peace for thy poor spirit in this earth they will bestow it, For she is a gentle angel sent to bless thee from above.
And she said, as she bent o'er him, half in language, half in glances, For there is a hidden meaning far too deep for words to tell, "We will dwell," she said, "with nature, nourishing all gentle fancies, And the lark shall be our minstrel, and the flowers shall love us well."
So he smiled upon her gently with a glance more sad than weeping, That a bitter thrill ran through her like a harp struck suddenly, And she thought upon the summer with cold shadows o'er it creeping, And she thought upon the flowers fading on the mossy lea.
But she turn'd her till the paleness, and the tears that would be flowing Faded from her that they might not be the mirrors of his own; Smiling comfort on him ever, evermore as they were going, For she said "Ah! there are none to smile on him but I alone."
He is lying in the sunshine with the blithe birds round him singing, There are flowers beside his pillow, there are flowers beneath his feet, Summer pours her treasures round him, like a gentle maiden flinging Fragrant blossoms from her bosom o'er a path to make it sweet.
She is kneeling in the sunshine with the radiant glory o'er her, And his palm is on her tresses, her's are folded on her breast; He were very calm and happy, only for the love he bore her, Which was far too sweet a feeling to resign it e'en for rest.
"Bright May! dear May! draw still nearer, nearer, dear May! till my spirit Sun itself within your brightness, as the lark doth in the day; Soon the air will be so lumined that my weakness will not bear it, So I'll gather new strength from thee to support me on my way.
"There are tears within your eyes, May, let me kiss them from your eyes, May, They will taste as sweet to me as do the dews upon the rose; Dear eyes how I love them! they oft tell me of the skies, May, Tell me secrets of the Blessed more than mortal spirit knows.
"Ah! I knew not in the old time half the sweetness that doth linger Round the simple things of Nature which the proud heart passes by, Now I see there's not a wildflower but doth point with warning finger, To the unobservant passer, truths of immortality.
"Bright May, thou shalt be my beadsman, and thy golden tresses drooping Round thee shall be all the vesture that my loving soul shall seek; Thou shalt be a meet confessor for a lowly poet stooping To breathe forth his secret failings, and read pardon on thy cheek.
"Bright May! I have been a strayer from the narrow path that wanders Through this world to lead the traveller to a glad eternity, I have been an erring madman, for the blind heart never ponders Till the fancied light it follows lead it from felicity.
"I have been most false and perjured, false to all a poet's duty, Even whilst my heart was boasting proudly of a poet's creed, I have loudly claimed the title of a worshipper of beauty, Yet could gaze upon a flower till I thought it but a weed.
"Yes! I dwelt amid the woodlands with bright streamlets singing round me, Sunny dells, moss-paven alleys, and cool shades to ramble in; All was happy, all was peaceful, yet e'en there ambition found me, Charm'd me forth into the rough world to engulph me in its din.
"Yes! I wearied of the woodlands, of the streams and sunny places Where I lay me in the summer to dream all the noontide o'er, Like the child of a sweet mother lapt within her fond embraces Drawing fitness from her beauty to lisp forth in poet's lore.
But the time is drawing nigh; now, when my soul sublimed from folly Shall see all things in their trueness, with no sun-veil drawn between; Know that glory is mere weakness and that aim alone is holy Which, wrought out in life with patience, fits man for a higher scene.
Far away in Western ether Day and Night at length have met, Like old friends that come together, And their eyes with tears are wet.
In the heart, too, joy and sorrow Meet together without pain, Loving friends who, on the morrow, At the dawning, part again.
'Tis the time for sweet contentment, Thoughts all dedicate to love, Soften'd down from all resentment, Chasten'd as the light above.
'Tis the time to breathe a blessing Forth on all things good and fair, That make life so sweet, repressing Like a charm the strokes of care.
Tis the time when those who love us Rise like stars in Fancy's sky, Shining steadily above us, Though afar, in seeming nigh.
Sure our life is but a gloaming Deep'ning slowly unto Night, To give rest unto the roaming, To the sad, dreams of delight.
Should not life, then, be contentment, Only dedicate to love, Softened down from all resentment, Holy as the light above.
Many a bright and pleasant vision Hath the heart in youth, Visions that the wizard Fancy Conjures by sweet Necromancy, Ever robed in hues Elysian, From the world of Truth; Many a bright and pleasant vision Cheers the heart of youth!
Just as though the curtain parted From the Life Unseen, And a portion of its gladness, Unalloy'd by any sadness, O'er the ripening spirit darted Like the morning's sheen, Making us awhile pure-hearted And our sky serene.
Many a pleasure from the real Hath our manly prime, Though the mystic light is shaded, And the rosy dreams have faded; For our strengthen'd spirits see all Things matured by Time, Growing out of the ideal Unto truth sublime;
Blossom unto fruitage golden, Hope to certainty; All things by divine transition Keeping pace with life's ambition, New joys springing from the olden As we pass them by Climbing still, by faith upholden, Onward to the sky.
Many a pleasant recollection Hath the heart of Age, That life's tide hath staunchly breasted, Wrought, achieved and nobly rested, Musing with calm retrospection Their past pilgrimage; Many a sweet and wise reflection Hath the heart of Age;
Looking forward, dreaming ever Of the Better Land; Waiting for the promised glory, That shall bind their temples hoary With a brightness fading never On that holy strand, Crowning life's devout Endeavour With a bounteous hand.
Through the Earth a Spirit goeth Onward still from morn till night, Silent as the Time-stream floweth Out of darkness into light.
And her heart is very tender, Full of love and kindliness, Yearning evermore to render Goodness fuller, error less.
Through the Earth the spirit wendeth, And full many a little child With light heart her course attendeth, By her gentle eyes beguiled;
Turning to her fond embraces, Playing round her as she goes, With no shade on their glad faces Deeper than the budding rose.
A maiden dreaming of her lover Like a star amid the night, Felt the spirit bend above her, In between her and the light;
And she quivered back in terror From the spirit's offered kiss; Ah! how often, thus, doth error Backward fright our souls from bliss!