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FROM THE FLOWER AND THE LEAF.
ATTENDING long in vain, I took the way,
Which through a path but scarcely printed lay;
In narrow mazes oft it seem'd to meet,
And look'd as lightly press'd by fairy feet.
Wandering, I walk'd alone, for still methought
To some strange end so strange a path was wrought;
At last it led me where an arbour stood,
The sacred receptacle of the wood;
This place unmark'd, though oft I walk'd the green,
In all my progress I had never seen;
And, seized at once with wonder and delight,
Gazed all around me, new to the transporting sight.
'Twas bench'd with turf, and goodly to be seen,
The thick young grass arose in fresher green:
The mound was newly made, no sight could pass
Betwixt the nice partitions of the grass,
The well-united sods so closely lay,
And all around the shades defended it from day;
For sycamores with eglantine were spread,
A hedge about the sides, a covering over head.
And so the fragrant brier was wove between,
The sycamore and flowers were mix'd with green,
That Nature seem'd to vary the delight,
And satisfied at once the smell and sight.
The master workman of the bower was known
Through fairy-lands, and built for Oberon;
Who twining leaves with such proportion drew,
They rose by measure, and by rule they grew; .
No mortal tongue can half the beauty tell,
For none but hands divine could work so well.
Both roof and sides were like a parlour made,
A soft recess, and a cool summer shade;
The hedge was set so thick, no foreign eye
The persons placed within it could espy;
But all that pass'd without with ease was seen,
As if nor fence nor tree was placed between.
'Twas border'd with a field; and some was plain
With grass, and some was sow'd with rising grain,
That (now ihe dew with spangles deck'd the ground)
A sweeter spot of earth was never found.
I look'd and look'd, and still with new delight,
Such joy my soul, such pleasures fill'd my sight;
And the fresh eglantine exhaled a breath,
Whose odours were of power to raise from death
Nor sullen discontent, nor anxious care,
Ev'n though brought thither, could inhabit there ;
But thence they fled as from their mortal foe,
For this sweet place could only pleasure know.
Thus, as I mused, I cast aside my eye,
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh;
The spreading branches made a goodly show,
And full of opening blooms was every bough;
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride
Of painted plumes, that hopp'd from side to side,
Still pecking as she pass'd, and still she drew
The sweets from every flower, and suck'd the dew;
Sufficed at length, she warbled in her throat,
And tuned her voice to many a merry note,
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear,
Yet such as soothed my soul and pleased my ear.
Her short performance was no sooner tried, When she I sought, the nightingale, replied: So sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung, That the grove echoed and the valleys rung; And I so ravish'd with her heavenly note, I stood entranced, and had no room for thought, But, all o'erpower'd with ecstasy of bliss, Was in a pleasing dream of paradise. At length I waked, and, looking round the bower, Search'd every tree, and pried on every flower, If anywhere by chance I might espy The rural poet of the melody, For still, methought, she sung not far away: At last I found her on a laurel spray.
Close by my side she sat, and fair in sight,
Full in a line against her opposite;
Where stood with eglantine the laurel twined,
And both their native sweets were well conjoin'd.
On the green bank I sat, and listen'd long
(Sitting was more convenient for the song),
Nor till her lay was ended could I move,
But wish'd to dwell for ever in the grove;
Only methought the time too swiftly pass'd,
And every note I fear'd would be the last.
My sight, and smell, and hearing were employ'd.
And all three senses in full gust enjoy'd ;
And what alone did all the rest surpass,
The sweet possession of the fairy place :
Single, and conscious to myself alone
Of pleasures to th' excluded world unknown;
Pleasures which nowhere else were to be found,
And all Elysium in a spot of ground.
Thus while I sat intent to see and hear, And drew perfumes of more than vital air, All suddenly I heard th' approaching sound Of vocal music on th' enchanted ground; A host of saints it seemd, so full the quire, As if the bless'd above did all conspire To join their voices and neglect the lyre. At length there issued from the grove behind A fair assembly of the female kind; A train less fair, as ancient fathers tell, Seduced the sons of heaven to rebel. I pass their form and every charming grace, Less than an angel would their worth debase; But their attire, like liveries of a kind All rich and rare, is fresh within my mind : In velvet white as snow the troop was gown'd, The seams with sparkling emeralds set around; Their hoods and sleeves the same, and purfled o'er With diamonds, pearls, and all the shining store of Eastern pomp; their long descending train, . With rubies edged and sapphires, swept the plain;
High on their heads, with jewels richly set,
Each lady wore a radiant coronet.
Beneath the circles, all the quire was graced
With chaplets green on their fair foreheads placed;
Of laurel some, of woodbine many more,
And wreaths of Agnus castus others bore :
These last, who with those virgin crowns were
Appear'd in higher honour than the rest. [dress'd,
They danced around; but in the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien,
(queen. By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign
She in the midst began with sober grace;
Her servants' eyes were fix'd upon her face,
And, as she moved or turn’d, her motions view'd,
Her measures kept, and step by step pursued.
Methought she trod the ground with greater grace,
With more of godhead shining in her face;
And as in beauty she surpass'd the quire,
So, nobler than the rest, was her attire.
A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
A branch of Agnus castus in her hand
She bore aloft (her sceptre of command):
Admired, adored by all the circling crowd,
For wheresoe'er she turn'd her face, they bow'd:
And as she danced, a roundelay she sung,
In honour of the laurel, ever young :
She raised her voice on high, and sung so clear,
The fawns came scudding from the groves to hear:
And all the bending forest lent an ear.
At every close she made, the attending throng
Replied, and bore the burden of the song
So just, so small, yet in so sweet a note,
It seem'd the music melted in the throat.
Thus dancing on, and singing as they danced,
They to the middle of the mead advanced,
Till round my arbour a new ring they made,
And footed it about the secret shade.
O'erjoy'd to see the jolly troop so near,
But somewhat awed, I shook with holy fear;
Yet not so much but that I noted well
Who did the most in song or dance excel.
Dim as the borrow'd beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wandering travellers,
Is Reason to the soul: and as on high,
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,
Not light us here; so Reason's glimmering ray
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear
When day's bright lord ascends our hemisphere,
So pale grows Reason at Religion's sight;
So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light.
Some few, whose lamp shone brighter, have been led
From cause to cause, to Nature's secret head,
And found that one first principle must be :
But what or who that universal He;
Whether some soul encompassing this ball
Unmade, unmoved, yet making, moving all ;
Or various atoms, interfering dance,
Leap'd into form, the noble work of chance ;
Or this great all was from eternity;
Not ev’n the Stagirite himself could see,
And Epicurus guess'd as well as he;
As blindly groped they for a future state,
As rashly judged of providence and fate :
But least of all could their endeavours find
What most concern'd the good of human-kind:
For happiness was never to be found,
But vanish'd from them like enchanted ground.
One thought content the good to be enjoy'd;
This every little accident destroy'd :