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The grace of parting Infancy
By blushes yet untamed;
Nor of her arms ashamed.
Two lovely Sisters, still and sweet
Upon them not forlorn,
Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite
From Hebrew fountains sprung;
Of Palestine, of glory past,
ON THE POWER OF SOUND.
Strict passage, through which sighs are brought,
Of shivering flesh; and warbled air,
Hosannas pealing down the long-drawn aisle,
The headlong streams and fountains
Shout, cuckoo!-let the vernal soul
Toll from thy loftiest perch, lone bell-bird, toll!
Mercy from her twilight throne
Listening to nun's faint throb of holy fear,
To sailor's prayer breathed from a darkening sea,
The Ear addressed, as occupied by a spiritual functionary, Ye Voices, and ye Shadows
And Images of voice-to hound and horn
Where mists are breaking up or gone,
Blest be the song that brightens
The blind man's gloom, exalts the veteran's mirth;
His duteous toil of furrowing the green earth.
Who, from a martial pageant, spreads Incitements of a battle-day,
Oblivion may not cover
All treasures hoarded by the miser, Time.
And voice and shell drew forth a tear
Yet strenuous was the infant Age:
Thrilling the unweaponed crowd with plumeless Stirred nowhere but an urgent equipage
Even She whose Lydian airs inspire
Peaceful striving, gentle play
Of timid hope and innocent desire
Shot from the dancing Graces, as they move Fanned by the plausive wings of Love.
How oft along thy mazes,
To a voluptuous influence
That taints the purer, better, mind;
But lead sick Fancy to a harp
That hath in noble tasks been tried;
And, if the virtuous feel a pang too sharp,
And let some mood of thine in firm array
As Conscience, to the centre
Of being, smites with irresistible pain
The mouldy vaults of the dull idiot's brain,
Of rapt imagination sped her march
The GIFT to king Amphion
That walled a city with its melody
So shall he touch at length a friendly strand,
The pipe of Pan, to shepherds
Couched in the shadow of Mænalian pines,
How did they sparkle to the cymbal's clang!
This way and that, with wild-flowers crowned.
Of fable, though to truth subservient, hear
The convict's summons in the steeple's knell ;
For terror, joy, or pity,
Vast is the compass and the swell of notes:
Ye wandering Utterances, has earth no scheme,
As laboured minstrelsies through ages wear!
By one pervading spirit
Of tones and numbers all things are controlled,
The heavens, whose aspect makes our minds as still
With everlasting harmony;
The towering headlands, crowned with mist,
That Ocean is a mighty harmonist;
Are delegates of harmony, and bear
Strains that support the Seasons in their round; Stern Winter loves a dirge-like sound.
Break forth into thanksgiving,
Ye banded instruments of wind and chords;
Your inarticulate notes with the voice of words!
Nor mute the forest hum of noon;
Thou too be heard, lone eagle! freed
From snowy peak and cloud, attune
Thy hungry barkings to the hymn
All worlds, all natures, mood and measure keep
A Voice to Light gave Being;
To Time, and Man his earth-born chronicler;
To archangelic lips applied,
The grave shall open, quench the stars.
O Silence! are Man's noisy years
Is Harmony, blest queen of smiles and tears,
Thy destined bond-slave? No! though earth be dust
MY DEAR FRIEND,
TO ROBERT SOUTHEY, ESQ., P.L., ETC. ETC.
The Tale of Peter Bell, which I now introduce to your notice, and to that of the Public, has, in its Manuscript state, nearly survived its minority:-for it first saw the light in the summer of 1798. During this long interval, pains have been taken at different times to make the production less unworthy of a favourable reception; or, rather, to fit it for filling permanently a station, however humble, in the Literature of our Country. This has, indeed, been the aim of all my endeavours in Poetry, which, you know, have been sufficiently laborious to prove that I deem the Art not lightly to be approached; and that the attainment of excellence in it, may laudably be made the principal object of intellectual pursuit by any man, who, with reasonable consideration of circumstances, has faith in his own impulses.
The Poem of Peter Bell, as the Prologue will show, was composed under a belief that the Imagination not only does not require for its exercise the intervention of supernatural agency, but that, though such agency be excluded, the faculty may be called forth as imperiously and for kindred results of pleasure, by incidents, within the compass of poetic probability, in the humblest departments of daily life. Since that Prologue was written, you have exhibited most splendid effects of judicious daring, in the opposite and usual course. Let this acknowledgment make my peace with the lovers of the supernatural; and I am persuaded it will be admitted, that to you, as a Master in that province of the art, the following Tale, whether from contrast or congruity, is not an unappropriate offering. Accept it, then, as a public testimony of affectionate admiration from one with whose name yours has been often coupled (to use your own words) for evil and for good; and believe me to be, with earnest wishes that life and health may be granted you to complete the many important works in which you are engaged, and with high respect,