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Hight Castalie: and (sureties of thy faith) ·
That Pity and Simplicity stood by,
And promised for thee, that thou shouldst renounce
The world's low cares and lying vanities,
Stedfast and rooted in the heavenly Muse,
And wash'd and sanctified to Poesy.
Yes-thou wert plunged, but with forgetful hand
Held, as by Thetis erst her warrior Son :
And with those recreant unbaptized heels
Thou 'rt flying from thy bounden ministeries
So sore it seems and burthensome a task
Of tides obedient to external force,
And currents self-determined, as might seem,
Or by some inner Power; of moments awful,
Now in thy inner life, and now abroad,
When Power stream'd from thee, and thy soul
The light reflected, as a light bestow'd-
Of Fancies fair, and milder hours of youth,
Hyblean murmurs of poetic thought
Industrious in its joy, in Vales and Glens
Native or outland, Lakes and famous Hills!
To weave unwithering flowers! But take thou heed: Or on the lonely High-road, when the Stars
For thou art vulnerable, wild-eyed Boy,
And I have arrows* mystically dipp'd,
Such as may stop thy speed. Is thy Burns dead?
And shall he die unwept, and sink to Earth
"Without the meed of one melodious tear?"
Thy Burns, and Nature's own beloved Bard,
Who to the "Illustrioust of his native land
So properly did look for patronage."
Ghost of Mæcenas! hide thy blushing face!
They snatch'd him from the Sickle and the Plow-
To gauge Ale-Firkins.
Oh! for shame return!
On a bleak rock, midway the Aonian Mount,
There stands a lone and melancholy tree,
Whose aged branches in the midnight blast
Make solemn music: pluck its darkest bough,
Ere yet the unwholesome night-dew be exhaled,
And weeping wreath it round thy Poet's tomb.
Then in the outskirts, where pollutions grow,
Pick the rank henbane and the dusky flowers
Of night-shade, or its red and tempting fruit.
These with stopp'd nostril and glove-guarded hand
Knit in nice intertexture, so to twine
The illustrious brow of Scotch Nobility.
COMPOSED ON THE NIGHT AFTER HIS RECITATION
OF A POEM ON THE GROWTH OF AN INDIVIDUAL
FRIEND of the Wise! and Teacher of the Good!
Into my heart have I received that lay
More than historic, that prophetic lay,
Wherein (high theme by thee first sung aright)
Of the foundations and the building up
Of a Human Spirit thou hast dared to tell
What may be told, to the understanding mind
Revealable; and what within the mind,
By vital breathings secret as the soul
Of vernal growth, oft quickens in the heart
Thoughts all too deep for words!—
Theme hard as high!
Of smiles spontaneous, and mysterious fears
The first-born they of Reason and twin-birth),
regular; and even when at a considerable distance or high above us, we plainly hear the quill feathers; their shafts and webs upon one another creak as the joints or working of a vessel in a tempestuous sea."
Vide Pind. Olymp. iii. l. 156.
↑ Verbatim from Burns's dedication of his Poems to the Noility and Gentry of the Caledonian Hunt.
Were rising; or by secret Mountain-streams,
The Guides and the Companions of thy way'
Of more than Fancy, of the Social Sense
Distending wide, and Man beloved as Man,
Where France in all her towns lay vibrating
Like some becalmed bark beneath the burst
Of Heaven's immediate thunder, when no cloud
Is visible, or shadow on the Main.
For thou wert there, thine own brows garlanded,
Amid the tremor of a realm aglow,
Amid a mighty nation jubilant,
When from the general heart of human-kind
Hope sprang forth like a full-born Deity!
-Of that dear Hope afflicted and struck down
So summon'd homeward, thenceforth calm and sure
From the dread watch-tower of man's absolute Self,
With light unwaning on her eyes, to look
Far on-herself a glory to behold,
The Angel of the vision! Then (last strain)
Of Duty, chosen laws controlling choice,
Action and Joy!-An orphic song indeed,
A song divine of high and passionate thoughts,
To their own music chanted!
O great Bard'
Ere yet that last strain dying awed the air,
With stedfast eye I view'd thee in the choir
Of ever-enduring men. The truly Great
Have all one age, and from one visible space
Shed influence! They, both in power and act,
Are permanent, and Time is not with them,
Save as it worketh for them, they in it.
Nor less a sacred roil, than those of old,
And to be placed, as they, with gradual fame
Among the archives of mankind, thy work
Makes audible a linked lay of Truth,
Of Truth profound a sweet continuous lay,
Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes'
Ah! as I listen'd with a heart forlorn,
The pulses of my being beat anew:
And even as life returns upon the drown'd,
Life's joy rekindling roused a throng of pains-
Keen Pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
And Fears self-will'd, that shunn'd the eye of Hope
And Hope that scarce would know itself from Fear
Sense of past Youth, and Manhood come in vain
And Genius given, and knowledge wou in vain
And all which I had cull'd in wood-walks wild
And all which patient toil had rear'd, and all,
Commune with thee had open'd out-but flowers
Strew'd on my corse, and borne upon my bier,
In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!
That way no more! and ill beseems it me,
Who came a welcomer in herald's guise.
Singing of Glory, and Futurity,
To wander back on such unhealthful road,
Plucking the poisons of self-harm! And ill
Such intertwine beseems triumphal wreaths
Strow'd before thy advancing!
Nor do thou,
Sage Bard! impair the memory of that hour
Of my communion with thy nobler mind
By Pity or Grief, already felt too long!
Nor let my words import more blame than needs.
The tumult rose and ceased: for Peace is nigh
Where Wisdom's voice has found a listening heart.
Amid the howl of more than wintry storms,
The Halcyon hears the voice of vernal hours
Already on the wing.
Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of Home
Is sweetest! moments for their own sake hail'd
And more desired, more precious for thy song,
In silence listening, like a devout child,
My soul lay passive, by the various strain
Driven as in surges now beneath the stars,
With momentary Stars of my own birth,
Fair constellated Foam,* still darting off
Into the darkness; now a tranquil sea,
Outspread and bright, yet swelling to the Moon.
And when-O Friend! my comforter and guide!
Strong in thyself, and powerful to give strength!
Thy long sustained song finally closed,
And thy deep voice had ceased-yet thou thyself
Wert still before my eyes, and round us both
That happy vision of beloved faces-
Scarce conscious, and yet conscious of its close
I sate, my being blended in one thought
(Thought was it? or Aspiration? or Resolve?)
Absorb'd, yet hanging still upon the sound-
And when I rose, I found myself in prayer.
THE NIGHTINGALE :
A CONVERSATION POEM;
WRITTEN IN APRIL, 1798.
No cloud, no relic of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently,
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
"A beautiful white cloud of foam at momentary intervals coursed by the side of the vessel with a roar, and little stars of flame danced and sparkled and went out in it: and every now and then light detachments of this white cloud-like foam darted off from the vessel's side, each with its own small constellation, over the sea, and scoured out of sight like a Tartar troop over a wilderness."-The Friend, p. 220.
Most musical, most melancholy" bird!
A melancholy bird? Oh! idle thought!
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
But some night-wandering man, whose heart was
With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
Or slow distemper, or neglected love
|(And so, poor Wretch! filled all things with himself
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of his own sorrow), he and such as he,
First named these notes a melancholy strain.
And many a poet echoes the conceit;
Poet who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretch'd his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell,
By Sun or Moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his frame forgetful! so his fame
Should share in Nature's immortality,
A venerable thing! and so his song
Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself
Be loved like Nature! But 't will not be so;
And youths and maidens most poetical,
Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring
In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still,
Full of meek sympathy, must heave their sighs
O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains.
My friend, and thou, our Sister! we have learnt
A different lore: we may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices, always full of love
And joyance! "Tis the merry Nightingale
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music
And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many Nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,
And one low piping sound more sweet than all-
Stirring the air with such a harmony,
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,
Whose dewy leaflets are but half disclosed,
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright
Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade
Lights up her love-torch.
†This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superio to that of mere description. It is spoken in the character of the melancholy man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity to a line in Milton: a charge than which none could be more painful to him, except perhaps that of having ridiculed his Bible.
A most gentle Maid,
Who dwelleth in her hospitable home
Hard by the castle, and at latest eve
(Even like a lady vow'd and dedicate
To something more than Nature in the grove)
Glides through the pathways; she knows all their
That gentle Maid! and oft a moment's space,
What time the Moon was lost behind a cloud,
Hath heard a pause of silence; till the Moon
Emerging, hath awaken'd earth and sky
With one sensation, and these wakeful Birds
Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
As if some sudden gale had swept at once
A hundred airy harps! And she hath watch'd
Many a Nightingale perch'd giddily
On blossomy twig still swinging from the breeze,
And to that motion tune his wanton song
Like tipsy joy that reels with tossing head.
Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
And now for our dear homes.--That strain again?
Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small forefinger up,
And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
To make him Nature's Play-mate. He knows well
The evening-star; and once, when he awoke
In most distressful mood (some inward pain.
Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream),
I hurried with him to our orchard-plot,
And he beheld the Moon, and, hush'd at once,
Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
While his fair eyes, that swam with undropp'd tears
Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well!-
It is a father's tale: But if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate joy Once more, farewell,
Sweet Nightingale! Once more, my friends! farewell.
THE Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelp'd by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which flutter'd on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, everywhere
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.
How oft, at school, with most believing mind
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirr'd and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lull'd me to sleep, and sleep prolong'd my dreams:
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fix'd with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half-open'd, and I snatch'd
A hasty glance, and still my heart leap'd up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!
Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was rear'd
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.
TOGETHER WITH AN UNFINISHED POEM
THUS far my scanty brain hath built the rhyme Elaborate and swelling: yet the heart
Not owns it. From thy spirit-breathing powers
I ask not now, my friend! the aiding verse,
Tedious to thee, and from my anxious thought
Of dissonant mood. In fancy (well I know)
From business wand'ring far and local cares,
Thou creepest round a dear-loved Sister's bed
With noiseless step, and watchest the faint look,
Soothing each pang with fond solicitude,
And tenderest tones medicinal of love.
I too a Sister had, an only Sister——
She loved me dearly, and I doted on her!
To her I pour'd forth all my puny sorrows
(As a sick patient in his nurse's arms),
And of the heart those hidden maladies
That shrink ashamed from even Friendship's eye.
Oh! I have woke at midnight, and have wept
Because SHE WAS NOT!-Cheerily, dear Charles!
Thou thy best friend shalt cherish many a year:
Such warm presages feel I of high Hope.
For not uninterested the dear maid
I've view'd-her soul affectionate yet wise,
Her polish'd wit as mild as lambent glories,
That play around a sainted infant's head.
He knows (the Spirit that in secret sees,
Of whose omniscient and all-spreading Love
Aught to implore* were impotence of mind)
That my mute thoughts are sad before his throne,
Prepared, when he his healing ray vouchsafes,
To pour forth thanksgiving with lifted heart,
And praise Him Gracious with a Brother's joy!
THE HOUR WHEN WE SHALL MEET AGAIN.
COMPOSED DURING ILLNESS AND IN ABSENCE.
DIM hour! that sleep'st on pillowing clouds' afar,
O rise and yoke the turtles to thy car!
Bend o'er the traces, blame each lingering dove,
And give me to the bosom of my love!
My gentle love, caressing and carest,
With heaving heart shall cradle me to rest;
Shed the warm tear-drop from her smiling eyes,
Lull with fond woe, and med'cine me with sighs:
While finely-flushing float her kisses meek,
Like melted rubies, o'er my pallid cheek.
Chill'd by the night, the drooping rose of May
Mourns the long absence of the lovely day;
Young Day, returning at her promised hour,
Weeps o'er the sorrows of her fav'rite flower;
Weeps the soft dew, the balmy gale she sighs,
And darts a trembling lustre from her eyes.
New life and joy th' expanding flow'ret feels:
His pitying Mistress mourns, and mourning heals!
Embow'rs me from noon's sultry influence!
For, like that nameless riv'let stealing by,
Your modest verse, to musing Quiet dear,
Is rich with tints heaven-borrow'd: the charm'd eye
Shall gaze undazzled there, and love the soften'd sky.
Circling the base of the Poetic mount
A stream there is, which rolls in lazy flow
Its coal-black waters from Oblivion's fount:
The vapor-poison'd birds, that fly too low,
Fall with dead swoop, and to the bottom go.
Escaped that heavy stream on pinion fleet,
Beneath the Mountain's lofty-frowning brow,
Ere aught of perilous ascent you meet,
A mead of mildest charm delays th' unlab'ring feet
Not there the cloud-climb'd rock, sublime and vast,
That like some giant-king, o'erglooms the hill;
Nor there the pine-grove to the midnight blast
Makes solemn music! But th' unceasing rill
To the soft wren or lark's descending trill
Murmurs sweet under-song 'mid jasmin bowers.
In this same pleasant meadow, at your will,
I ween, you wander'd-there collecting flow'rs
Of sober tint, and herbs of med'cinable powers!
There for the monarch-murder'd Soldier's tomb
You wove th' unfinish'd wreath of saddest hues;*
And to that holier chaplett added bloom,
Besprinkling it with Jordan's cleansing dews.
But lo! your Henderson‡ awakes the Muse-
His spirit beckon'd from the mountain's height!
You left the plain and soar'd 'mid richer views'
So Nature mourn'd, when sank the first day's light,
With stars, unseen before, spangling her robe of
Still soar, my friend, those richer views among,
Strong, rapid, fervent flashing Fancy's beam!
Virtue and Truth shall love your gentler song;
But Poesy demands th' impassion'd theme:
Waked by Heaven's silent dews at eve's mild gleam,
What balmy sweets Pomona breathes around!
But if the vext air rush a stormy stream,
Or Autumn's shrill gust moan in plaintive sound, With fruits and flowers she loads the tempest honor'd ground.
IV. ODES AND MISCELLANEOUS POEMS
A FRAGMENT OF A SEXTON'S TALE.
[The Author has published the following humble fragment. encouraged by the decisive recommendation of more than one of our most celebrated living Poets. The language was in
My honor'd friend! whose verse concise, yet clear, tended to be dramatic; that is, suited to the narrator: and the
Tunes to smooth melody unconquer'd sense,
May your fame fadeless live, as "never-sere"
The ivy wreathes yon oak, whose broad defence
*I utterly recant the sentiment contained in the lines Of whose omniscient and all-spreading love Aught to implore were impotence of mind,
it being written in Scripture, "Ask, and it shall be given you," and my human reason being moreover convinced of the propriety of offering petitions as well as thanksgivings to the Deity.
metre corresponds to the homeliness of the diction. It is therefore presented as the fragment, not of a Poem, but of a com mon Ballad-tale. Whether this is sufficient to justify the adop tion of such a style, in any metrical composition not profess edly ludicrous, the Author is himself in some doubt. At all events, it is not presented as Poetry, and it is in no way connected with the Author's judgment concerning Poetic diction. Its merits, if any, are exclusively Psychological. The story
which must be supposed to have been narrated in the first and second parts, is as follows,
Edward, a young farmer, meets, at the house of Ellen, her bosom friend, Mary, and commences an acquaintance, which ends in a mutual attachment. With her consent, and by the advice of their common friend Ellen, he announces his hopes and intentions to Mary's Mother, a widow-woman bordering on her fortieth year, and from constant health, the possession of a competent property, and from having had no other children but Mary and another daughter (the Father died in their infaney), retaining, for the greater part, her personal attractions and comeliness of appearance; but a woman of low education and violent temper. The answer which she at once returned to Edward's application was remarkable-" Well, Edward! you are a handsome young fellow, and you shall have my Daughter." From this time all their wooing passed under the Mother's eye; and, in fine, she became herself enamoured of her future Son-in-law, and practised every art, both of endearment and of calumny, to transfer his affections from her daughter to herself. (The outlines of the Tale are positive facts, and of no very distant date, though the author has purposely altered the names and the scene of action, as well as invented the characters of the parties and the detail of the incidents.) Edward, however, though perplexed by her strange detraction from her daughter's good qualities, yet in the innocence of his own heart still mistaking her increasing fondness for motherly affection: she, at length overcome by her miserable passion, after much abuse of Mary's temper and moral tendencies, exclaimed with violent emotion-"O Edward! indeed, indeed, she is not fit for you-she has not a heart to love you as you deserve. It is I that love you! Marry me, Edward! and I will this very day settle all my property on you."-The Lover's eyes were now opened; and thus taken by surprise, whether from the effect of the horror which he felt, acting as it were hysterically on his nervous system, or that at the first moment he lost the sense of the proposal in the feeling of its strangeness and absurdity, he flung her from him and burst into a fit of laughter. Irritated by this almost to frenzy, the woman fell on her knees, and in a loud voice that approached to a scream, she prayed for a Curse both on him and on her own Child. Mary happened to be in the room directly above them, heard Edward's. laugh and her Mother's blasphemous prayer, and fainted away. He, hearing the fall, ran up stairs, and taking her in his arms, carried her off to Ellen's home; and after some fruitless attempts on her part toward a reconciliation with her Mother, she was married to him. And here the third part of the Tale begins.
I was not led to choose this story from any partiality to tragic, much less to monstrous events (though at the time that Icomposed the verses, somewhat more than twelve years ago, I was less averse to such subjects than at present), but from finding in it a striking proof of the possible effect on the imagiration, from an idea violently and suddenly impressed on it. I had been reading Bryan Edwards's account of the effect of the Oby Witchcraft on the Negroes in the West Indies, and Hlearne's deeply interesting Anecdotes of similar workings on the imagination of the Copper Indians (those of my readers who have it in their power will be well repaid for the trouble of referring to those works for the passages alluded to), and I conceived the design of showing that instances of this kind are not Peculiar to savage, or barbarous tribes, and of illustrating the mode in which the mind is affected in these cases, and the progross and symptoms of the morbid action on the fancy from the beginning.
[The Tale is supposed to be narrated by an old Sexton, in a country church-yard, to a Traveller whose curiosity had been awakened by the appearance of three graves, close by each other, to two only of which there were grave-stones. On the first of these were the name, and dates, as usual: on the second, to name, but only a date, and the words, The Mercy of God is Infinite.?
THE grapes upon the vicar's wall
Were ripe as ripe could be;
And yellow leaves in sun and wind
Were falling from the tree.