Poetry And Prose
What is the true difference ’twixt Prose and Rhyme,
Since both may be beautiful, both be sublime?
Nor in subject, nor treatment, nor passion it ’bides—
But breathes through a certain rich something besides.
How I hate those modern Poems
Vaguer, looser than a dream!
Pointless things that look like poems
Only, to some held-back theme!
Wild unequal, agitated,
As by steam ill-regulated -
And if (in fine) not super-lyrical,
Then vapid, almost to a miracle.
RISING and setting suns of Liberty—
Mountainous exploits and the wrecks thick strewn
By stormy Passion o’er Life’s treacherous sea,
Relieved with shores of green delight, and boon
And starry dreams and the serene pale moon
Of Pathos,—these with all of which they be
Idealisms, are of Poesy
The bodily temple into fitness hewn,
And for its Soul, all that the mind can seize
Of beauty harmonising with the might
Of natural ties and social sympathies
And that deep spirit of Piety whose flight
Is strongest and most heavenward ’mid the blight
Of mortal misery—its Soul are these.
The loud, apt epithet, applying sure;
The dim-drawn image, artfully obscure;
The perfect stanza, framed of words as choice
And round as pearls, yet liquid to the voice;
A pith of phrase, and musical array
Of numbers;—these are the prime charms of Gray.
The naked majesty and open wonder
Of true sublimity heaped in lines of thunder;
That artless grace wherewith the olden time
Dandled the happy infancy of Rhyme;
That negligent melody which shames the trick
Of wire-drawn verse, and verse-drawn rhetoric:
These in our rich old Bards abound; but these
To Gray were literary heresies.
Australia's First Great Poet
HIS lot how glorious whom the must shall name
Her first high-priest in this bright southern clime!
Aglow with light from her aspiring flame,
Catching the raptures of her Grecian prime,
Lifting these later days to heights sublime,
So shall he walk the glorious path of fame;
He boldly quarryeth from nature’s frame
The sculptured marble of his lofty thyme
Enbreathed with beauty; o’er his splendid page
Shall glow his country-women’s lustrous eyes,
And many a future hero’s noble rage
His flame shall kindle; all the brave and wise,
Breathing his influence from age to age,
Shall sound his glory to his native skies.
The Verse Of Coleridge’s ‘christobel’
MARK yon runnel how ’tis flowing,
Like a sylvan spirit dreaming
Of the Spring-blooms near it blowing
And the sunlight in it gleaming!
Where that shelving rock is spied,
There with a smooth warbling slide
It lapses down into a cool
And brimming, not o’erflowing pool.
Then between its narrow’d banks
Playing mellow gurgling pranks,
It gushes till a channel’d stone
Gives it a more strenuous tone;
Or with an under-swirling spread
Over a wide pebbled bed
It bubbles with a gentle pleasure,
Ere some new mood change the measure:
Such a runnel typeth well
The sweet wild verse of ‘Christabel;’
The Wonder-World it warbles through?
A Basket Of Summer Fruit
First see those ample melons-brindled o'er
With mingled green and brown is all the rind;
For they are ripe, and mealy at the core,
And saturate with the nectar of their kind.
And here their fellows of the marsh are set,
Covering their sweetness with a crumpled skin;
Pomegranates next, flame-red without, and yet
With vegetable crystals stored within.
Then mark these brilliant oranges, of which
A by-gone Poet fancifully said,
Their unplucked globes the orchard did enrich
Like Lolden lamps in a green nilht of shade.
With these are lemons that are even more
Golden than they, and which adorn our Rhyme,
As did rough pendants of barbaric ore
Some pillared temple of the olden time.
And here are peaches with their ruddy cheeks
And ripe transparency. Here nectarines bloom,
All mottled as with discontinuous streaks.
And spread a fruity fragrance through the room.
With these are cherries mellow to the stone;
Into such ripeness bath the summer nursed them,
The velvet pressure of the tongue alone
Against the palate were enough to burst them.
Here too are plums, like edible rubies glowing -
The language of lush summer's Eden theme:
Even through the skin how temptingly keeps showing
Their juicy comfort, a rich-clouded gleam!
Here too are figs, pears, apples (plucked in haste
Our summer treat judiciously to vary)
With apricots, so exquisite in taste,
And yellow as the breast of a canary.
And luscious strawberries all faceted
With glittering lobes-and all the lovelier seen
In contrast with the loquat's duller red,
And vulgar gooseberry's unlustrous green.
And lastly, bunches of rich blooded grapes
Whose vineyard bloom even yet about them clings.
Though ever in the handling it escapes
Like the fine down upon a moth's bright wings.
Each kind is piled in order in the Basket,
Which we might well imagine now to be
Transmuted into a great golden casket
Entreasuring Pomona's jewelry.
A Poet To...
Long ere I knew thee—years of loveless days,
A shape would gather from my dreams, and pour
The soul-sweet influence of its gentle gaze
Into my heart, to thrill it to the core:
Then would I wake, with lonely heart to pine
For the nocturnal image—it was thine.
Thine—for though long with a fond moody heed
I sought to find it in the beauteous creatures
I met in the world’s ways, twas but to bleed
With disappointment, for all forms, all features,
Yet left it void of living counterpart—
The shadowy mistress of my yearning heart.
Thine—when I saw thee first thou seem’dst to me
A being known, yet beautifully new!
As when, to crown some sage’s theory,
Amid heaven’s sisterhoods, into shining view
Comes the conjectured star!—his lucky name
To halo thenceforth with its virgin flame.
But I forget! Far from thy rural home,
Behold I wander mid primeval woods,
In which but savage things are wont to roam,
Mixing fond questionings with solitude’s
Wild voices, where amid her glades and dells
Enwrapt in twilight trance her shadowy presence dwells.
And now the Hunter, with a swollen speed,
Rushes in thunder at my side, but wears
A softened mien whene’er its reaches lead
My vision westward—where pale fancy rears
Thy wood—next by that brook whose murmurs first,
As with a flattering heed, my love’s new gladness nurst.
And with the river’s murmur, oft a tone
Of that far brook seems blending; accents, too,
Of the dear voice there heard—that voice alone
To me unequalled,—like a silvery dew
Honeyed with manna, dropping near me seems,
As oft I listen, lost in rich memorial dreams.
But vain these musings! Though my spirit’s bride,
Thou knewest not of my love! Though all my days
Must henceforth be inevitably dyed
Or bright, or dark, through thee,—this missive says
Thy lot is cast, and thou a wife wilt be
Ere I again may look (if e’er again) on thee!
The poet’s doom is on me! Poets make
Beauty immortal, and yet luckless miss
The charms they sing; martyrs at fortune’s stake,
As if their soul’s capacity for bliss
Might else mix earth with heaven, and so annul
That want which makes man seek the world-wide beautiful!
Yet, ye wild woods and waters of the earth,
How changed (with all things) shall ye grow to me!
And even the spirit of your summer mirth
Moan pine-like in the woods of memory;
Still, shorn of nearer joy, my heart alone
Out in the mother-whole may henceforth seek its own.
LOFTY and strenuous of sentiment
But narrow and partial in its scope and bent,
And thence the bigot of a local set
Of habitudes, meshed round him like a net.
Hence too his intellect, though large it be
By nature, hath one prime deficiency,—
Of moral difference that broad view which leads
The steps of thought beyond the snares of creeds
And circles of opinion, whether they
Be of the Old Time or of yesterday.
Hence too his narrow bias, I suspect,
Even in poesy to attempt a sect.
Still as a Poet he is great and rare,
A King of Thought upon the peak of bare
And rigid majesty, for power immense
Enthroned for ever! And in spirit thence,—
Thence let him waft us on a white-wing’d dream
Within the murmur of some profluent stream,
And there, just whither a dim line of brakes
In the remotest haze of distance shakes,
On his lone rounds let Peter Bell be seen,—
Seen o’er the White Doe on the herbage green
Heard breathing where she lies, and near her there
“The oldest seeming man that ever wore grey hair.”
Then shall we find him verily a Seer
Of Nature’s myst’ries, simple and severe.
With what a plenitude of pure delight
He triumphs on the mountain’s cloudy height,
With what a gleeful harmony of joy
He wanders down the vale “as happy as a boy!”
How in his verse, each picture-pregnant phrase
Full to the eye some given shape conveys,
And thus though in the jarring city pent
Through him we reach the country and content.
Fond Memory apprehends with gladdened eyes
All that is richest in each wilding’s dyes
As blending with the beauty and the grace
Of some bright advent of our happier days—
Hears through the sway of greenest boughs, as heard
Even then, the far voice of some favourite bird,
The murmurous industry of bees, the low
Responsive throbs of Echo throbbing slow
Out of some lonely dell, as to the tread
Of our own feet in days for ever fled!
Then of some brook that gushes in his lines
Glad Fancy drinks or on the bank reclines,
While of far cloud, grey rock and ancient tree
The dusky shadows on the page we see:
Yea, the air sweetens as the spells prevail
And our locks seem to wave as in a mountain gale!
Still there remains to tell the charm serene
Wherewith this Bard most sanctifies the scene:
’Tis that with eyes of love he’s quick to find
In all its forms meet ministers of Mind
And that with the rare wealth of his own heart
As with a golden chain he interlinks each part.
But vainly the fond spirit of youth may look
For its peculiar food in Wordsworth’s book,
Where Passion is but introduced to wear
A vestal’s tenderness, demure as fair:
Not as to see it the new soul desires,
In all the splendour of its tragic fires,
Or, at the least, in all the bright distress
And rosy beauty of its wilfulness!
“Who would not be a poet?” thus I read
In thy proud sonnet, my poetic friend;
And unto this my full assent was given:
“There is not, cannot be, under all heaven,
Aught happier in itself than the witch, poetry.”
But “Who’d not be a poet?” here I pause
Forebodingly, my poet-friend,—because
“To see all beauty with his gifted sight,”
To love, like him, with all the soul,
To be, when life is morning-bright
The very creature of delight,—
Delight beyond control,—
Is still to be, in like degree,
Too sensible of misery
And loss and slight, and all the weeping shapes of dole.
And this is truth too, that with saddened heart
Oft must he from his fellows live apart;
For how can men whose every breath of life
Is drawn in the hot air, and mid the strife
Of pettiest interest, have a kindred heart
With him who hath built heavenward and apart
The structures of his mind, and looking thence
Over this world-thronged universe immense,
Is wont all such embroilments to deplore
As light-obscuring vapours—nothing more?
What ladder of experience can they build,
To mount with—up, into a nature filled
With beauty, or by mighty truths inspired,
Or one even with a bold ambition fired?
But least of all in such men can there be
Devotions chiming into sympathy
With some pure soul, unsuccoured and alone,
Struggled in weariness unwearied on—
Unwearied, day and night, and night and day,
Towards the far Mecca of its faith always.
Yet thus the poet, armed only with the right,
To life’s dishonest battle oft must come,
To front instead of valour, mean despite,
With envy aye in emulation’s room,
Blotting heaven’s sacred light!
To see unblushing fortune’s minions doom
To obloguy, through some repute unholy,
Or to some vile and miserable estate,
All such as would not trample on the lowly,
And basely glorify the falsely great.
Yet if a thought like this
Should mar at times they tuneful bliss,
Stronger within thine earnest will
Be the spirit of sone, that still
Thou mayest sing of eloquent eyes
That are of sunny thoughts the every sunny skies;
Sweet dreams that swarm round honeyed lips,
Like honey-loving bees;
Glad birds, fresh flowers, clear streams, and trees
All starry bright with golden pips;
Or with a loud bold chime,
Sing of that braver time,
When world-wide justice from her Alpine chair
Shall read at length in the rich reddening skies
The gospel of her advent, and declare
The sacred sign of her epiphany there,
Amid the purple dyes;
While all true men, the bravely wise,
Shall seek her there with fearless feet and free
Where the prophet-peaks arise
Out of the shattering mist, the phantom sea
Of old iniquity!
Through dense and rare, shall seek her there,
Breathing with lion-lungs the clear keen mountain air
Of a supreme up-climbing, God-great liberty.
Then envy not the splendid wretchedness
Of Mammon’s dupes! Sing thy great rhymes
For those diviner spiritual times
Our country yet shall know, and, wisely knowing, bless.
Downward, through the blooming roofage
Of a lonely forest bower,
Come the yellow sunbeams,—falling
Like a burning shower:
So through heaven’s starry ceiling
To the hermit soul’s abode,
Comes the Holy Spirit,—earthward
Raying down from God.
The Nevers Of Poetry
Never say aught in verse, or grave or gay,
That you in prose would hesitate to say.
Never in rhyme pretend to tears, unless
True feeling sheds them in unfeigned distress;
Or some dream-grief, with such a mournful strain
As night winds make in pine tops, stirs your brain,
To shake them, dew-like, o’er the flowers that bloom
In the wild dark, round Joy’s imagined tomb;
Or save when doubts that over Love may lower,
Like summer clouds, break in a sunny shower
Out of your gladdened eyes, to freshen all
The bowers of memory with their grateful fall.
Never too much affect that polished thing—
Once belauded—known as point, or sting.
The highest and the noblest growths of wit
Are never, or but seldom, touched with it.
For of the muse it is not truly born
Unless the apex of some burst of scorn,
Or irony, or hate all torture-torn!
Not to increase the passion, but to make
The wave, full surging, on its object break.
Never, if you’d be readable at all,
Aim overmuch at being ethical.
Though she should be a teacher, still the Muse
To be a mere schoolmistress should refuse.
She should instruct us, but her methods never
Be academic ones, however clever.
Her morals, like great nature’s morals, aye
Should work themselves out in an unforced way,
And not so patly as to hint the while
At cryptic ingenuities of style.
Whate’er the theme, her ethic lights should shine
Full forth, as from a central heat divine,
Or heat inherent to the passion, wrought
Into the chastened harmony of thought;
And not be mere extraneous coals of fire
Blown for the nonce into factitious ire.
Though sone has oft some beauty most divine,
Which well we feel, yet cannot well define—
Some yearning excellence, intense and far,
Coming and going like a clouded star—
Some awful glory we but half descry,
Like a strong sunset in a stormy sky—
Yet ne’er be murky of set purpose, since
You only thereby shall the more evince
That even the Sublime’s but then made sure
When, like a morning alp, it breaks from the obscure.
Never heed whether a line strictly goes
By learned rule, if, brook-like, it warble as it flows,
Or if, in concord with the thought, it fills
Fast forward, like a torrent fast flooding from the hills.
Never say aught is “fading like a star”
Because receding in the past afar,
Since stars do not fade, but shine on no less,
Thought lost in light to our weaksightedness;
And no true trope should ever rest on fancy,
But claim a universal relevancy;
Nor think a line is racy to the core,
And bold, and bravely eloquent, the more
It striving seems to tear itself asunder,
Like this—“Down there i’ the deep heart o’ the thunder,”
But for which, surely (out of chaos), none
Might feign to find a sanction, save in fun.
Never think harshness the best foil to raise
And relish sweetness; for love craggy lays.
Yet never be you glib, when passion’s force
Should ridge your style, as by a tempest hoarse
The deep is roughened into waves that roar
At heaven—upheaping, huddling, more and more,
To burst at last in booming thunder on the shore.
Never be such a pagan as to deem
That truth or beauty must diviner seem
For some abnormal set-off, hunched and rude,
Prowling for evil in the neighbourhood,
If such strange opposite breathe not the air
Of nature—being found, not conjured there;
And never to be graceless be you fain,
Till to be graceful you have tried in vain.
Never be cheated—never may you be!—
Into the cramp belief that poesy
Must of necessity in soul be one
With the mere form of verse if it but deftly run;
Or pour, as with a mill-wheel’s vigorous cheer,
A rhyming clatter hard upon the ear.
Never believe that verse a license knows
For aught that would be balderdash in prose,
Or that all reason may at any time
Find a sufficient substitute in rhyme;
Or that because with many words you re fraught,
There must be under them some flood of thought.
Never compel a simile that wont
Take service without forcing; if it don t,
As of itself, into your verses flow,
But true to liberty—and let it go.
Never reject a homely-sounding phrase,
That your whole meaning easily conveys,
For one made current by some courtly wit
Which barely indicates a shade of it,
Or which—for probably it so may fall—
Does not express what you would mean at all.
Never suppose that you in song are free
To strain all praise, and make it flattery.
To sing of the heroic is to raise
One value by another—but to praise
Mere clowns, in verse, or natures lean and cold,
Is like to setting gravel stones in gold.
Never exalt vagaries to a station
But due to flights of the imagination—
Gas-charged balloons, put vainly all a-bloat,
For clouds of God that in the orient float;
Theatric thunders, all set brattling for
The dread all-shaking tempest-trumps of Thor;
For in the end all charlatanry must,
The more it startle, but the more disgust.
And lastly, never take for gospel all
Your friends say of your genius, when they call
Its merits o’er; but at the same time see
That you do never take yourself to be
So great an ass as your known foes declare
They do most solemnly believe you are.
[Each embryo poet, profit by my strain!
Then shall men say, “He has not lived in vain! ”]
A Storm In The Mountains
A lonely boy, far venturing from home
Out on the half-wild herd’s faint tracks I roam;
Mid rock-browned mountains, which with stony frown
Glare into haggard chasms deep adown;
A rude and craggy world, the prospect lies
Bounded in circuit by the bending skies.
Now at some clear pool scooped out by the shocks
Of rain-floods plunging from the upper rocks
Whose liquid disc in its undimpled rest
Glows like a mighty gem brooching the mountain’s breast,
I drink and must, or mark the wide-spread herd,
Or list the thinking of the dingle-bird;
And now towards some wild-hanging shade I stray,
To shun the bright oppression of the day;
For round each crag, and o’er each bosky swell,
The fierce refracted heat flares visible,
Lambently restless, like the dazzling hem
Of some else viewless veil held trembling over them.
Why congregate the swallows in the air,
And northward then in rapid flight repair?
With sudden swelling din, remote yet harsh,
Why roar the bull-frogs in the tea-tree marsh?
Why cease the locusts to throng up in flight
And clap their gay wings in the fervent light?
Why climb they, bodingly demure, instead
The tallest spear-grass to the bending head?
Instinctively, along the sultry sky,
I turn a listless, yet inquiring, eye;
And mark that now with a slow gradual pace
A solemn trance creams northward o’er its face;
Yon clouds that late were labouring past the sun,
Reached by its sure arrest, one after one,
Come to a heavy halt; the airs that played
About the rugged mountains all are laid:
While drawing nearer far-off heights appear,
As in a dream’s wild prospect, strangely near!
Till into wood resolves their robe of blue,
And the grey crags rise bluffly on the view.
Such are the signs and tokens that presage
A summer hurricane’s forthcoming rage.
At length the south sends out her cloudy heaps
And up the glens at noontide dimness creeps;
The birds, late warbling in the hanging green
Off steep-set brakes, seek now some safer screen;
The herd, in doubt, no longer wanders wide,
But fast ingathering throngs yon mountain’s side,
Whose echoes, surging to its tramp, might seem
The muttered troubles of some Titan’s dream.
Fast the dim legions of the muttering storm
Throng denser, or protruding columns form;
While splashing forward from their cloudy lair,
Convolving flames, like scouting dragons, glare:
Low thunders follow, labouring up the sky;
And as fore-running blasts go blaring by,
At once the forest, with a mighty stir,
Bows, as in homage to the thunderer!
Hark! From the dingoes blood-polluted dens
In the gloom-hidden chasms of the glens,
Long fitful howls wail up; and in the blast
Strange hissing whispers seem to huddle past;
As if the dread stir had aroused from sleep
Weird spirits, cloistered in yon cavy steep
(On which, in the grim past, some Cain’s offence
Hath haply outraged heaven!) Who rising thence
Wrapped in the boding vapours, laughed again
To wanton in the wild-willed hurricane.
See in the storm’s front, sailing dark and dread,
A wide-winged eagle like a black flag spread!
The clouds aloft flash doom! Short stops his flight!
He seems to shrivel in the blasting light!
The air is shattered with a crashing sound,
And he falls stonelike, lifeless, to the ground.
Now, like a shadow at great nature’s heart,
The turmoil grows. Now wonder, with a start,
Marks where right overhead the storm careers,
Girt with black horrors and wide-flaming fears!
Arriving thunders, mustering on his path,
Swell more and more the roarings of his wrath,
As out in widening circles they extend,
And then—at once—in utter silence end.
Portentous silence! Time keeps breathing past,
Yet it continues! May this marvel last?
This wild weird silence in the midst of gloom
So manifestly big with coming doom?
Tingles the boding ear; and up the glens
Instinctive dread comes howling from the wild-dogs dens.
Terrific vision! Heaven’s great ceiling splits,
And a vast globe of writhing fire emits,
Which pouring down in one continuous stream,
Spans the black concave like a burning beam,
A moment;—then from end to end it shakes
With a quick motion—and in thunder breaks!
Peal rolled on peal! While heralding the sound,
As each concussion thrills the solid ground,
Fierce glares coil, snake-like, round the rocky wens
Of the red hills, or hiss into the glens,
Or thick through heaven like flaming falchions swarm,
Cleaving the teeming cisterns of the storm,
From which rain-torrents, searching every gash,
Split by the blast come sheeting with a dash.
On yon grey peak, from rock-encrusted roots,
The mighty patriarch of the wood upshoots,
In whose proud-spreading top’s imperial height,
The mountain-eagle loveth most to light:
Now dimly seen through the tempestuous air,
His form seems harrowed by a mad despair,
As with his ponderous arms uplifted high,
He wrestles with the storm and threshes at the sky!
A swift bolt hurtles through the lurid air,
Another thundering crash! The peak is bare!
Huge hurrying fragments all around are cast,
The wild-winged, mad-limbed monsters of the blast.
The darkness thickens! With despairing cry
From shattering boughs the rain-drenched parrtos fly;
Loose rocks roll rumbling from the mountains round,
And half the forest strews the smoking ground;
To the bared crags the blasts now wilder moan,
And the caves labour with a ghostlier groan.
Wide raging torrents down the gorges flow
Swift bearing with them to the vale below
Those sylvan wrecks that littered late the path
Of the loud hurricane s all-trampling wrath.
The storm is past. Yet booming on afar
Is heard the rattling of the thunder-car,
And that low muffled moaning, as of grief,
Which follows with a wood-sigh wide and brief.
The clouds break up; the sun s forth-bursting rays
Clothe the wet landscape with a dazzling blaze;
The birds begin to sing a lively strain,
And merry echoes ring it o’er again;
The clustered herd is spreading out to graze,
Though lessening torrents still a hundred ways
Flash downward, and from many a rock ledge
A mantling gush comes quick and shining o er the edge.
’Tis evening; and the torrent’s furious flow
Runs gentlier now into the lake below,
O’er all the freshened scene no sound is heard,
Save the short twitter of some busied bird,
Or a faint rustle made amongst the trees
By wasting fragments of a broken breeze.
Along the wild and wreck-strewed paths I wind,
Watching earth’s happiness with quiet mind,
And see a beauty all unmarked till now
Flushing each flowery nook and sunny brow;
Wished peace returning like a bird of calm,
Brings to the wounded world its blessed healing balm.
On nerveless, tuneless lines how sadly
Ringing rhymes may wasted be,
While blank verse oft is mere prose madly
Striving to be poetry:
While prose that’s craggy as a mountain
May Apollo’s sun-robe don,
Or hold the well-spring of a fountain
Bright as that in Helicon.