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(Her fragrant chamber for a while resigned,
Her lute, by fits discoursing with the wind)
Wanders well-pleased, what time the nightingale
Sings to the rose, rejoicing hill and dale;
And now to Venice — to a bridge, a square,
Glittering with light, all nations masking there,
With light reflected on the tremulous tide,
Where gondolas in gay confusion glide,
Answering the jest, the song on every side;
To Naples next ---- and at the crowded gate,
Where Grief and Fear and wild Amazement wait,
Lo! on his back a son brings in his sire,
Vesuvius blazing like a world on fire ! -
Then, at a sign that never was forgot,
A strain breaks forth (who hears and loves it not ?)
From harp or organ !5 ’T is at parting given,
That in their slumbers they may dream of Heaven;
Young voices mingling, as it floats along,
In Tuscan air or Handel's sacred song!
And she inspires, whose beauty shines in all;
So soon to weave a daughter's coronal,
And at the nuptial rite smile through her tears ; ---
So soon to hover round her full of fears,
And with assurance sweet her soul revive
In child-birth 52 when a mother's love is most alive!
No, 't is not here that Solitude is known.
Through the wide world he only is alone
Who lives not for another. 33 Come what will,
The generous man has his companion still :
The cricket on his hearth; the buzzing fly,
That skims his roof, or, be his roof the sky,
Still with its note of gladness passes by :
And, in an iron cage condemned to dwell,
The cage that stands within the dungeon-cell,
He feeds his spider — happier at the worst
Than he at large who in himself is curst!
O thou all-eloquent, whose mighty mind 54
Streams from the depth of ages on mankind,
Streams like the day — who, angel-like, hast shed
Thy full effulgence on the hoary head,
Speaking in Cato's venerable voice,
“Look up, and faint not --- faint not, but rejoice!"
From thy Elysium guide him! Age has now
Stamped with his signet that ingenuous brow;
And, ʼmid his old hereditary trees,
Trees he has climbed so oft, he sits and sees
His children's children playing round his knees :
Then happiest, youngest, when the quoit is flung,
When side by side the archers' bows are strung;
His to prescribe the place, adjudge the prize,
Envying no more the young their energies
Than they an old man when his words are wise
His a delight how pure . . . without alloy ;
Strong in their strength, rejoicing in their joy !
Now in their turn assisting, they repay The anxious cares of many and many a day; And now by those he loves relieved, restored, His very wants and weaknesses afford A feeling of enjoyment. In his walks, Leaning on them, how oft he stops and talks, While they look up! Their questions, their replies, Fresh as the welling waters, round him rise, Gladdening his spirit: and, his theme the past, How eloquent he is ! His thoughts flow fast;
And, while his heart (O! can the heart grow old ?
False are the tales that in the world are told !)
Swells in his voice, he knows not where to end ;
Like one discoursing of an absent friend.
But there are moments which he calls his own.
Then, never less alone than when alone,
Those whom he loved so long and sees no more,
Loved and still loves--not dead -- but gone before,
He gathers round him; and revives at will
Scenes in his life ---that breathe enchantment still -
That come not now at dreary intervals
But where a light as from the Blessed falls,
A light such guests bring ever -- pure and holy-
Lapping the soul in sweetest melancholy !
Ah! then less willing (nor the choice condemn)
To live with others than to think of them!
And now behold him up the hill ascending,
Memory and Hope like evening-stars attending;
Sustained, excited, till his course is run,
By deeds of virtue done or to be done.
When on his couch he sinks at length to rest,
Those by his counsel saved, his power redressed,
Those by the world shunned ever as unblest,
At whom the rich man's dog growls from the gate,
But whom he sought out, sitting desolate,
Come and stand round-the widow with her child,
As when she first forgot her tears and smiled !
They, who watch by him, see not; but he sees,
Sees and exults. - Were ever dreams like these ?
They, who watch by him, hear not; but he hears,
And earth recedes, and Heaven itself appears !
'Tis past! That hand we grasped, alas ! in vain! Nor shall we look upon his face again!
But to his closing eyes, for all were there,
Nothing was wanting; and, through many a year
We shall remember with a fond delight
The words so precious which we heard to-night;
His parting, though a while our sorrow flows,
Like setting suns or music at the close !
Then was the drama ended. Not till then,
So full of chance and change the lives of men,
Could we pronounce him happy. Then secure
From pain, from grief, and all that we endure,
He slept in peace -- say rather soared to Heaven,
Upborne from earth by Him to whom 't is given
In his right hand to hold the golden key
That opes the portals of Eternity.
- When by a good man's grave I muse alone,
Methinks an angel sits upon the stone,
And, with a voice inspiring joy, not fear,
Says, pointing upward, “Know, he is not here!"
But let us hence; for now the day is spent,
And stars are kindling in the firmament,
To us how silent! -though like ours perchance
Busy and full of life and circumstance;
Where some the paths of Wealth and Power pursue,
Of Pleasure some, of Happiness a few;
And, as the sun goes round — a sun not ours
While from her lap another Nature showers
Gifts of her own, some from the crowd retire,
Think on themselves, within, without inquire;
At distance dwell on all that passes there,
All that their world reveals of good and fair ;
Trace out the journey through their little day,
And dream, like me, an idle hour away.
(1) See the Iliail, l. xviii. v. 496.
(2) “ Nil actum credens, dum quid superesset agendum.”
(3) See Bossuet, Sermon sur la Résurrection.
(4) “ I have considere:l,” says Solomon, “ all the works that are under the sun , and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” But who believes it, till Death tells it us? It is Death alone that can make man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant. IIe takes the account of the rich man, and proves him a beggar, --a naked beggar. He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein their deformity; and they acknowledge it
O eloquent, just and mighty Death ! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded ; what none have dared, thou hast done ; and whom all the world have flattered, thou only hast cast out and despised ; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet. Raleigh.
(5) Among the most precious gifts with which the Almighty has rewarded us for our diligence in the investigation of his works are the 'Telescope and the Microscope. They came as it were hy chance; they came we know not how ; and “they have laid open the infinite in both directions.” But what may not come in like manner ; when from the situation of a pebble may be learnt the state of the earth, many myriads of ages ago, before it was inhabited by man; and when the fall of an apple to the ground has led us to the knowledge of those laws which regulate every world as it revolves in its orbit? - See Sir John Herschel's excellent Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy.
(6) How much is it to be lamented that the greatest benefactors of mankind, being beyond the age they live in, are so seldom understood before they are gone !
(7) Fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked his reputation stealing its way in a kind of subterraneous current through fear and silence. I cannot but conceive him calm and confident, little disappointed, not at all dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and waiting, without impatience, the vicissitudes of opinion and the impartiality of a future generation. - Johnson. After this line, in the MS.
O'er place and time we triumph ; on we go,
Ranging at will the realms above, below;
Yet, ah! how little of ourselves we know !