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The laughter of the Christmas hearth With sighs of self-exhausted mirth
Ye feelingly reprove;
And daily, in the conscious breast, Your visitations are a test
And exercise of love.
When some great change gives boundless scope
To an exulting Nation's hope,
Oft, startled and made wise
By your low-breathed interpretings,
The simply-meek foretaste the springs
Of bitter contraries.
Ye daunt the proud array of war,
Pervade the lonely ocean far
As sail hath been unfurled;
For dancers in the festive hall
What ghastly partners hath your call
Fetched from the shadowy world.
"Tis said, that warnings ye dispense, Emboldened by a keener sense;
That men have lived for whom, With dread precision, ye made clear The hour that in a distant year
Should knell them to the tomb.
Unwelcome insight! Yet there are Blest times when mystery is laid bare,
Truth shows a glorious face,
While on that isthmus which commands The councils of both worlds, she stands, Sage Spirits! by your grace.
God, who instructs the brutes to scent All changes of the element,
Whose wisdom fixed the scale Of natures, for our wants provides
By higher, sometimes humbler, guides, When lights of reason fail.
The form and rich habiliments of One
Whose countenance bore resemblance to the sun,
When it reveals, in evening majesty,
Features half lost amid their own pure light.
Poised like a weary cloud, in middle air
He hung, then floated with angelic ease
(Softening that bright effulgence by degrees)
Till he had reached a summit sharp and bare,
Where oft the venturous heifer drinks the noon-
Upon the apex of that lofty cone
Alighted, there the Stranger stood alone;
Fair as a gorgeous Fabric of the east
Suddenly raised by some enchanter's power,
Where nothing was; and firm as some old Tower
Of Britain's realm, whose leafy crest
Waves high, embellished by a gleaming shower!
Beneath the shadow of his purple wings
Rested a golden harp; he touched the strings;
And, after prelude of unearthly sound
Poured through the echoing hills around,
"No wintry desolations,
Scorching blight or noxious dew,
Affect my native habitations;
Buried in glory, far beyond the scope
Of man's inquiring gaze, but to his hope
Imaged, though faintly, in the hue
Profound of night's ethereal blue;
And in the aspect of each radiant orb ;—
Some fixed, some wandering with no timid curb;
But wandering star and fixed, to mortal eye,
Blended in absolute serenity,
And free from semblance of decline ;-
Fresh as if Evening brought their natal hour,
Her darkness splendour gave, her silence power,
To testify of Love and Grace divine.
Though all that feeds on nether air,
Howe'er magnificent or fair,
Grows but to perish, and entrust
Its ruins to their kindred dust;
Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care,
Her procreant vigils Nature keeps
Amid the unfathomable deeps;
And saves the peopled fields of earth
From dread of emptiness or dearth.
Thus, in their stations, lifting tow'rd the sky
The foliaged head in cloud-like majesty,
The shadow-casting race of trees survive:
Thus, in the train of Spring, arrive
Sweet flowers;-what living eye hath viewed
Their myriads?-endlessly renewed,
Wherever strikes the sun's glad ray;
Where'er the subtle waters stray;
Wherever sportive zephyrs bend
Their course, or genial showers descend!
Mortals, rejoice! the very Angels quit
Their mansions unsusceptible of change,
Amid your pleasant bowers to sit,
And through your sweet vicissitudes to range!"
O, nursed at happy distance from the cares
Of a too-anxious world, mild pastoral Muse!
That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
And to her sister Clio's laurel wreath,
Prefer'st a garland culled from purple heath,
Or blooming thicket moist with morning dews;
Was such bright Spectacle vouchsafed to me?
And was it granted to the simple ear
Of thy contented Votary
Him rather suits it, side by side with thee,
Wrapped in a fit of pleasing indolence,
While thy tired lute hangs on the hawthorn-tree,
To lie and listen-till o'er-drowsèd sense
Sinks, hardly conscious of the influence-
To the soft murmur of the vagrant Bee.
-A slender sound! yet hoary Time
Doth to the Soul exalt it with the chime
Of all his years;-a company
Of ages coming, ages gone;
(Nations from before them sweeping,
Regions in destruction steeping,)
But every awful note in unison
With that faint utterance, which tells
Of treasure sucked from buds and bells,
For the pure keeping of those waxen cells;
Where She-a statist prudent to confer
Upon the common weal; a warrior bold,
Radiant all over with unburnished gold,
And armed with living spear for mortal fight;
That spreads no waste; a social builder; one In whom all busy offices unite
With all fine functions that afford delight— Safe through the winter storm in quiet dwells!
And is She brought within the power
Of vision?-o'er this tempting flower
Hovering until the petals stay
Her flight, and take its voice away !—
Observe each wing!—a tiny van!
The structure of her laden thigh,
How fragile! yet of ancestry
Mysteriously remote and high;
High as the imperial front of man;
The roseate bloom on woman's cheek;
The soaring eagle's curvèd beak;
The white plumes of the floating swan;
Old as the tiger's paw, the lion's mane
Ere shaken by that mood of stern disdain
At which the desert trembles.-Humming Bee!
Thy sting was needless then, perchance unknown,
The seeds of malice were not sown;
All creatures met in peace, from fierceness free,
And no pride blended with their dignity.
-Tears had not broken from their source;
Nor Anguish strayed from her Tartarean den;
The golden years maintained a course
Not undiversified though smooth and even;
We were not mocked with glimpse and shadow then,
Bright Seraphs mixed familiarly with men ;
And earth and stars composed a universal heaven!
'Not to the earth confined,
WHERE will they stop, those breathing Powers,
The Spirits of the new-born flowers?
They wander with the breeze, they wind
Where'er the streams a passage find ;
Up from their native ground they rise
In mute aërial harmonies;
From humble violet-modest thyme-
Exhaled, the essential odours climb,
As if no space below the sky
Their subtle flight could satisfy :
Heaven will not tax our thoughts with pride
If like ambition be their guide.
Roused by this kindliest of May-showers, The spirit-quickener of the flowers, That with moist virtue softly cleaves The buds, and freshens the young leaves, The birds pour forth their souls in notes Of rapture from a thousand throatsHere checked by too impetuous haste, While there the music runs to waste, With bounty more and more enlarged, Till the whole air is overcharged; Give ear, O Man! to their appeal And thirst for no inferior zeal, Thou, who canst think, as well as feel.
Mount from the earth; aspire ! aspire !
So pleads the town's cathedral quire,
In strains that from their solemn height
Sink, to attain a loftier flight;
While incense from the altar breathes
Rich fragrance in embodied wreaths;
Or, flung from swinging censer, shrouds
The taper-lights, and curls in clouds
Around angelic Forms, the still
Creation of the painter's skill,
That on the service wait concealed
One moment, and the next revealed.
-Cast off your bonds, awake, arise,
And for no transient ecstasies!
What else can mean the visual plea
Of still or moving imagery—
The iterated summons loud,
Not wasted on the attendant crowd,
Nor wholly lost upon the throng
Hurrying the busy streets along?
Alas! the sanctities combined By art to unsensualise the mind, Decay and languish; or, as creeds
And humours change, are spurned like weeds :
The priests are from their altars thrust;
Temples are levelled with the dust;
And solemn rites and awful forms
Founder amid fanatic storms.
Yet evermore, through years renewed
In undisturbed vicissitude
Of seasons balancing their flight
On the swift wings of day and night,
Kind Nature keeps a heavenly door
Wide open for the scattered Poor.
Where flower-breathed incense to the skies
Is wafted in mute harmonies;
And ground fresh-cloven by the plough
Is fragrant with a humbler vow;
WOULDST thou be taught, when sleep has taken flight,
By a sure voice that can most sweetly tell,
How far-off yet a glimpse of morning light,
And if to lure the truant back be well,
Forbear to covet a Repeater's stroke,
That, answering to thy touch, will sound the hour;
Better provide thee with a Cuckoo-clock
For service hung behind thy chamber-door;
And in due time the soft spontaneous shock,
The double note, as if with living power,
Will to composure lead-or make thee blithe as
bird in bower.
List, Cuckoo-Cuckoo !-oft tho' tempests howl, Or nipping frost remind thee trees are bare, How cattle pine, and droop the shivering fowl, Thy spirits will seem to feed on balmy air:
I speak with knowledge,-by that Voice beguiled, Thou wilt salute old memories as they throng Into thy heart; and fancies, running wild Through fresh green fields, and budding groves among,
Will make thee happy, happy as a child;
Of sunshine wilt thou think, and flowers, and song, And breathe as in a world where nothing can go wrong.
And know-that, even for him who shuns the day
And nightly tosses on a bed of pain;
Whose joys, from all but memory swept away,
Must come unhoped for, if they come again;
Know-that, for him whose waking thoughts, severe
As his distress is sharp, would scorn my theme,
The mimic notes, striking upon his ear
In sleep, and intermingling with his dream,
Could from sad regions send him to a dear
Delightful land of verdure, shower and gleam,
To mock the wandering Voice beside some haunted
O bounty without measure! while the grace
Of Heaven doth in such wise, from humblest springs,
Pour pleasure forth, and solaces that trace
A mazy course along familiar things,
Well may our hearts have faith that blessings come,
Streaming from founts above the starry sky,
With angels when their own untroubled home
They leave, and speed on nightly embassy
To visit earthly chambers, and for whom?
Yea, both for souls who God's forbearance try,
And those that seek his help, and for his mercy sigh.
ARMY of Clouds! ye wingèd Host in troops
Ascending from behind the motionless brow
Of that tall rock, as from a hidden world,
O whither with such eagerness of speed?
What seek ye, or what shun ye? of the gale
Companions, fear ye to be left behind,
Or racing o'er your blue ethereal field
Contend ye with each other? of the sea
Children, thus post ye over vale and height
To sink upon your mother's lap-and rest?
Or were ye rightlier hailed, when first mine eyes
Beheld in your impetuous march the likeness
Of a wide army pressing on to meet
Or overtake some unknown enemy?—
But your smooth motions suit a peaceful aim ;
And Fancy, not less aptly pleased, compares
Your squadrons to an endless flight of birds
Aerial, upon due migration bound
To milder climes; or rather do ye urge
In caravan your hasty pilgrimage
To pause at last on more aspiring heights
Than these, and utter your devotion there
With thunderous voice? Or are ye jubilant,
And would ye, tracking your proud lord the Sun,
Be present at his setting; or the pomp
Of Persian mornings would ye fill, and stand
Poising your splendours high above the heads
Of worshippers kneeling to their up-risen God?
Whence, whence, ye Clouds! this eagerness of
Speak, silent creatures.-They are gone, are fled,
Buried together in yon gloomy mass
That loads the middle heaven; and clear and bright
And vacant doth the region which they thronged
Appear; a calm descent of sky conducting
Down to the unapproachable abyss,
Down to that hidden gulf from which they rose
To vanish-fleet as days and months and years,
Fleet as the generations of mankind,
Power, glory, empire, as the world itself,
The lingering world, when time hath ceased to be.
But the winds roar, shaking the rooted trees,
And see! a bright precursor to a train
Perchance as numerous, overpeers the rock
That sullenly refuses to partake
Of the wild impulse. From a fount of life
Invisible, the long procession moves
Luminous or gloomy, welcome to the vale
Which they are entering, welcome to mine eye
That sees them, to my soul that owns in them,
And in the bosom of the firmament
O'er which they move, wherein they are contained,
A type of her capacious self and all
Her restless progeny.
A humble walk Here is my body doomed to tread, this path, A little hoary line and faintly traced, Work, shall we call it, of the shepherd's foot Or of his flock?-joint vestige of them both. pace it unrepining, for my thoughts Admit no bondage and my words have wings. Where is the Orphean lyre, or Druid harp, To accompany the verse? The mountain blast Shall be our hand of music; he shall sweep The rocks, and quivering trees, and billowy lake, And search the fibres of the caves, and they Shall answer, for our song is of the Clouds And the wind loves them; and the gentle galesWhich by their aid re-clothe the naked lawn With annual verdure, and revive the woods, And moisten the parched lips of thirsty flowersLove them; and every idle breeze of air Bends to the favourite burthen. Moon and stars Keep their most solemn vigils when the Clouds Watch also, shifting peaceably their place Like bands of ministering Spirits, or when they lie, As if some Protean art the change had wrought, In listless quiet o'er the ethereal deep Scattered, a Cyclades of various shapes And all degrees of beauty. O ye Lightnings!
Ye are their perilous offspring; and the Sun--
Source inexhaustible of life and joy,
And type of man's far-darting reason, therefore
In old time worshipped as the god of verse,
A blazing intellectual deity-
Loves his own glory in their looks, and showers
Upon that unsubstantial brotherhood
Visions with all but beatific light
Enriched-too transient were they not renewed
From age to age, and did not, while we gaze
In silent rapture, credulous desire
Nourish the hope that memory lacks not power
To keep the treasure unimpaired. Vain thought!
Yet why repine, created as we are
For joy and rest, albeit to find them only
Lodged in the bosom of eternal things?
A sense of seemingly presumptuous wrong
Gave the first impulse to the Poet's song;
But, of his scorn repenting soon, he drew
A juster judgment from a calmer view;
And, with a spirit freed from discontent,
Thankfully took an effort that was meant
Not with God's bounty, Nature's love, to vie,
Or made with hope to please that inward eye
Which ever strives in vain itself to satisfy,
But to recal the truth by some faint trace
Of power ethereal and celestial grace,
That in the living Creature find on earth a place.
SUGGESTED BY A PICTURE OF THE BIRD OF PARADISE.
THE gentlest Poet, with free thoughts endowed,
And a true master of the glowing strain,
Might scan the narrow province with disdain
That to the Painter's skill is here allowed.
This, this the Bird of Paradise! disclaim
The daring thought, forget the name;
This the Sun's Bird, whom Glendoveers might
As no unworthy Partner in their flight
Through seas of ether, where the ruffling sway
Of nether air's rude billows is unknown;
Whom Sylphs, if e'er for casual pastime they
Through India's spicy regions wing their way,
Might bow to as their Lord. What character,
O sovereign Nature! I appeal to thee,
Of all thy feathered progeny
Is so unearthly, and what shape so fair?
So richly decked in variegated down,
Green, sable, shining yellow, shadowy brown,
Tints softly with each other blended,
Hues doubtfully begun and ended;
Or intershooting, and to sight
Lost and recovered, as the rays of light
Glance on the conscious plumes touched here and
Full surely, when with such proud gifts of life
Began the pencil's strife,
O'erweening Art was caught as in a snare.
(IN A SMALL VALLEY OPPOSITE ST. GOAR, UPON THE RHINE.)
GENIUS of Raphael! if thy wings
Might bear thee to this glen, With faithful memory left of things
To pencil dear and pen,
Thou would'st forego the neighbouring Rhine,
And all his majesty-
A studious forehead to incline
O'er this poor family.
The Mother-her thou must have seen, In spirit, ere she came
To dwell these rifted rocks between,
Or found on earth a name;
An image, too, of that sweet Boy,
Thy inspirations give-
Of playfulness, and love, and joy,
Predestined here to live.
Downcast, or shooting glances far,
How beautiful his eyes,
That blend the nature of the star
With that of summer skies!
I speak as if of sense beguiled;
Uncounted months are gone,
Yet am I with the Jewish Child,
That exquisite Saint John.
I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
The holiness within;