Ode I. Visions
Yes, Mysta, yes — me much thy fables please,
Thy dreams of other days, and other climes:
For truths and kind affections with thy rhymes
Commix, inwoven well: — be thine to seize
The Poet's ground, the high aethereal way;
Mine the terrestrial walk: nor me hath age
Yet chill'd, tho' stealing on; and so I stray
Into thy upper grounds, like palmer sage.
Here let us kindly meet, and the world see,
How friends may differ much, and yet may much agree.
Me too thy Spenser pleases, and his song
Lur'd me to Fairy-land: there I did meet
King Arthur and St. George, in converse sweet,
Of their achievements proud, and labours long,
And gentlest charities, and lineage high:
From diff'rent lands they come, to diff'rent ways
They go, yet come and go as friends; so I,
Thy reas'nings heard, will now unfold what says
My secret guide; and shoulds't thou ask of me,
Why he near Isis taught, I will explain to thee.
It was, because he knew in early years,
I bath'd my limbs in Camus, classic stream;
And that I might unthinking lightly deem
Of those two kindred streams, his bright compeers:
For well my genius knew, in days of yore,
How bookmen oft, rivals in pedant pride,
Would over-rate each his own college lore,
And each the others minstrelsies deride;
Hence oft to Isis now my steps he leads,
To muse upon her banks, and tread her flowery meads.
And there he taught me still that stream to love,
Wherein long since my young limbs laved were;
For that great Spenser, Milton, Cowley, there,
Dryden and Gray, whilom were wont to rove,
And were baptiz'd, as in some wizard stream;
And will'd, too, I should ponder well and long,
That Chaucer, of old British bards supreme,
In Isis wash'd; but that the Prince of Song,
Immortal Shakespeare, Nature's fav'rite child,
Bath'd in no classic stream, but ranged the mountains wild.
In that blithe season, when on every spray
Life lifts the fluttering wing, and warms each flower,
In muse-frequented, fancy-colour'd bower,
Sleeps prisoner, lock'd in visions deep, I lay:
Cherwell, fair river, flow'd the bower beside,
Moist'ning the bank, as wont, with kisses sweet;
While Isis pour'd along her silver tide,
Her kindred stream in kind embrace to meet:
Ah! thus, I cried, as now these streams combine,
Might man with fellow-man in friendly union join.
The stately sun had left his mid-day throne,
And on the waters play'd his sloping beam;
Silent awhile the feather'd warblers seem,
And faint with heat the daisied meadows shone.
Soon as soft slumbers had ensnar'd my eyes,
I heard a voice which spoke in accent strong:
'Bright scenes shall rise successive: man be wise,
And mark each shadowy form which glides along:'
All is now still; a lighter landscape shines,
Of Nature's gayest green, of Beauty's softest lines.
One Vision soon is past, when I behold
A POWER descend, that nine fair virgins led:
A glory beams from his ambrosial head,
Bright are his eyes, his sandals shine with gold;
Down his young form a golden vestment flows;
His golden harp with skill is aptly strung.
And now with musings deep his visage glows,
While all around in mute expectance hung;
But when the minstrel strikes the harmonic lyre,
What high-wrought raptures seize that sacred sister choir!
What pencil may describe those virgins fair,
Their mystic forms, their eyes ethereal light?
When poesy's and music's powers unite,
Who may their many-mingling charms declare?
These damsels now by turns responsive sing,
Then wake in chorus, harp, and pipe, and lute,
Sound the gay timbrels, shrill the cymbals ring,
As different sounds their different genius suit.
Thus Nature ever various loves to please,
Thus from mixt forms calls forth her wond'rous harmonies.
Their song was proud — of gods, and heroes brave;
Of Jove loud-thundering, and his awful queen;
And her that virgin rare, of sylvan mien;
And beauty's goddess, sprung from ocean's wave;
Nor less of her, the warrior, from whose eye
Beams wisdom, gorgon-terrors from whose breast,
Nor less of him, that God, the tempest high
Who lifts, or calms at will, its rage to rest;
Of all who fill the empyreal plain,
Or thro' the skies, earth, fire, and water, boundless reign.
Beside a beech, list'ning with his rude throng,
Hung Orpheus, master of the melting lyre;
And near old Hesiod, and the vagrant sire,
Blind Homer, who so rous'd th' heroic song,
The glory of great Greece: others were there,
Bards, fam'd thro' Greece, still of illustrious names,
Some Roman, who those muses smiles wont share,
(Some now ingulph'd in time, unknown to fame)
Foremost of whom, Ennius, of distant age,
With Maro, polished bard, and with Lucretius sage.
But quickly now successive to my view,
Far different forms, and different scenes unfold,
Suns empyrean-bright, and skies of gold,
Hills ever green, and fields of heavenly hue;
And far away, two wide extended streams,
Sacred the names, and dear to eastern lore;
(More stately move not in the poet's dreams)
Roll their proud waves beside the silent shore,
And hark! a thousand songs to Mithra rise,
Luxuriant as the fields, and glowing as the skies.
The rapturous notes fill every sacred bower,
Till now, as slumbering, clos'd the eye of day:
Then pour'd the nightingale his liquid lay,
Perch'd on a branch beside his favourite flower.
And near that flower his eyes are glittering bright;
And near that flower his notes so wildly rove,
As tho' his little breast with fond delight
Would break, for blooming ROSA was his love.
Thou sweetest flower, oh! still thy stay prolong,
Oh! sweetest bird, still pour that soothing, melting song.
Here gay, o'er wine, with each a dainty dame,
Hafez and Sadi sat; nor far away
Rose Cassem, far renown'd for classic lay;
And Abilola, bard of loftier name;
And he, that shepherd, who gave Israel law,
And he who glorious rul'd, their tuneful king;
And such as taught in prophets schools, and saw
Visions, and wak'd inspired the mystic string,
The first of whom, Isaiah, nor less he
Who moraliz'd in song, thro' the blest Araby.
Now, as just rais'd from fiery surge, behold
Beings, monstrous gods, by God and man accurs'd,
Satan, arch-fiend, and Moloch, mad with thirst
Of human blood, and Mammon gorg'd with gold;
And other forms, huge, hideous, hateful, base;
Gods once of Egypt, or Phoenicia's coast,
Or Syrias, with Belial's beastly race,
Mail'd with dark panoply, a dreadful host!
Furious as fiery storms from Etna rise,
Which deluge all the land, and purple all the skies.
'Gainst Heaven's high King, I saw them waging war;
I saw them plung'd headlong to deepest hell;
I saw them plotting machinations fell,
Plotting, tho' fall'n, in Pandaemonium far:
And against whom those machinations vile?
'Gainst man, and his long feeble progeny.
I saw the tempter give — with baleful smile;
I saw the tempted take the gift and die.
Ah! splendid horrors all; but short their stay;
How like a thunder-storm, that growls, and dies away!
Chang'd is the scene. — Now towering forms I view,
With limbs of giant size, they march along;
Loud they pour forth the hoarse prophetic song;
Bold is their front; their eyes of sullen blue.
Louder and louder bursts their martial strain,
(Clash their rude shields responsive to the sound)
As now embattling fierce, they scour the plain,
Where grisly foemen groaning bite the ground.
'Joy to the brave' — I hear the bardie cry;
'Shout, shout (the day is won) the song of victory.'
And now the rites begin, dark groves among,
Long consecrate in wood-crown'd isle most fair;
Tuisto and Mannus all due honours share;
(The Gods of nations claim the warriors song)
But her in hymns accordant long and loud,
Hertha, the all-prolific source of life,
Her most they celebrate in vestments proud,
High-thron'd in chariot bright: hush'd is all strife;
And war has dropp'd his lance; for all around
The goddess fills the groves, and terrors rock the ground.
Now flutter forms fantastic, dimly seen,
Fays, Genii, Monsters, Spirits, a motley band,
And he, who whilom rul'd through fairy-land,
That merry, pranking king, and elfin queen.
'Oh! stay thee, Oberon — lo! a gentle knight
Implores thy aid, on val'rous deeds intent;
True to his love, and panting for the fight,
On great emprize to lands far-distant bent.'
Oberon is stay'd; and 'take that horn,' he cries,
And 'take that sacred ring and every danger flies.'
And lo! a castle rears its stupendous wall,
And fiery dragons guard the building round;
Ah! who would dare to tread infernal ground?
The knight has dar'd: no terrors may appal:
Though hell were in that place, he must advance:
Deep foams his fiery steed, and prances high,
Till by the terror of his flaming lance,
Close lock'd in death those raving monsters lie.
Loud sounds his horn: wide the gates open spread;
And proud he enters thro', and towers his crested head.
And, oh! what freezing scenes to view unfold!
How stare, with horror wild, his stony eyes!
What piteous howlings, what heart-rending cries!
Stound are his ears; his blood runs shivering cold!
Here deep enthrall'd lies many a lady bright,
Ah! doom'd by giant curs'd to writhe in pain,
Or yield, vile service, to his damn'd delight,
Who deep-retir'd here holds his dev'lish reign:
But by the knight's stout arm the monster fell,
Has felt the stroke of death and hastens down to hell.
'Now, ladies, take heaven's ever-blessed boon,
Freedom is yours: God speed you on your way:'
And now the knight shall hail th' all-glorious day:
High his desert, and he shall triumph soon:
A princess bright (such honours crown the brave)
In pride of youth awaits thy wish'd return;
Full many a fair, Sir Knight, 'twas thine to save;
Nor vainly did that breast with glory burn.
But lo! the fairy scene eludes my sight,
Fled is the princess fair, and fled the valorous knight.
But hark! the master of the Runic rhyme
Strikes the rude shell and wakes the mystic lay:
And see! the KING OF MEN pursues his way.
To try Varthrudnis' art in things sublime.
Now Gothic lore is beaming on my sight;
Now sacred truth enchains my wond'ring mind;
Whence earth, and heav'n, and all those worlds of light;
The mighty gods and heroes of mankind;
Who drives morn's rising car, and evening's low;
Whence all the flowers that bloom, and all the herbs that grow:
And what that stream, which gods divides from earth;
And whose that arm, which durst with Odin war;
Whence Godhead's source, and Niflhil thence how far;
And whence that old Bergelmer owes his birth;
And where Valhalla, seat of noble men,
Who bravely fought, and durst in youth to bleed;
And where that nameless winter holds its reign,
Which must some new created world precede;
And where yon sun shall hide, when mighty THOR
Shall, midst a world in flames, extinguish ruthless WAR.
But lo! now glimmers thro' the thicken'd air,
Helmets, and shields, and many a sparkling lance;
And see those SISTERS grim! quick they advance!
Orkney for woe! Erin for woe prepare!
Lo! north and south those dragon-sisters fly!
Grim-visag'd terror scowls on all the plain—
And hark! those ponderous groans, that lengthening cry!
The cry, the groan of many a warrior slain!
Oh! scene of horrors, close upon my eyes!
Sped are those grisly dames: and lo! that vision flies.
Dark now the scene, and lengthening still the land!
'Tis Caledonia. — How her forests frown!
Picts, like bees swarming thick, see rushing down
Southward, and now in hosts embattled stand!
Soon Fingal's spirit stalks, while Ossian's song
Rouses, such power have sounds, the martial flame;
Here Bruce's, Baliol's, rival armies throng;
There pensive Wallace with his faithful Graham:
Now border-chiefs, and Danish now arise:
And dauntless, tho' in pangs, hear how great Ragnar dies.
But ruffian squadrons still embattle round,
And guilty conquest has distain'd the field:
Heralds of peace — must they to fury yield?
Shall unarm'd victims feel the dastard's wound?
Yes! they have fall'n, the bards, fair Cambria's pride,
Truth's tuneful priests — with heaven they left the prayer;
And not unmourn'd the blameless victims died;
See beck'ning spirits hover in the air;
While brave Aneurin mourns his Hoel slain;
And pity droops the head at soft Llewellyn's strain.
Thus do these visionary pageants gleam;
Some quick retire, others as quick arise,
(As those bright forms to Jacob from the skies,
Past, and repast, gilding his midnight dream.)
Ah! scenes that do but live in fiction's eye,
Yet can, like charms, beguile a life of woe.
Too true to truth, who would each day-dream fly,
Who, rob'd in wisdom, fancy's worlds forego?
Return, ye fabled forms, if ye can please,
Oh! still, ye visions, rise, and wrap my soul in ease.
Now all is past; and not a being seen;
While silence reigns (as when in spring, a shower
Sheds on the meadows round, its fruitful store,
And leaves the grateful landscape all serene)
But soon — thus changeful is the life of man—
My genius leads me to a secret cave,
Form'd by proportion's nicest, truest plan,
And ocean rolls beside the placid wave.
Straight as I enter, oh! what sweet surprise
Has seiz'd my raptur'd heart, and fill'd my ravish'd eyes!
There art had cull'd from nature's stores divine;
There plac'd in brilliant rows with studious care,
Whatever boasts the sea, of treasures rare;
Whate'er of sparkling ore conceals the mine;
The branching coral, red, and white, and blue,
The silvery pearl, the crystal bright and clear,
Em'ralds of green, the ruby's scarlet hue,
The pride of climes, and blossoms of the year;
All that could please and charm a gazer's eyes:
For here, though small the spot, did seem a paradise.
By nymphs attended, here a sylvan maid,
(Cities she fled, and spurn'd the chain of love;
Her love, to range the mountain, stream, and grove)
Finds rest and coolness in the quiet shade;
And near, an aged dame of power supreme,
Prolific parent she, the sov'reign high
Of the world's boundless realms, yet fond did seem
Of simplest chaplet, cull'd from meadows nigh.
How mild her eye! — Thus beams the morning light—
But all the goddess-form swells full upon my sight!
'Be thine,' she said, and gaz'd upon the flowers,
With looks which wisdom mixt with love express'd,
'With many a dazzling scene thy mind to feast;
To follow fiction through her magic bowers;
To trip with Fancy in her airy dance,
With tiptoe revelries, and wild surprise;
To mark each pageant in its proud advance
From shadowy deeps, and visionary skies:
Sweet are the haunts, wherever genius roves,
Through fields of vision'd bliss, or academic groves.
'Sooth'd into softness by the melting song,
Charm'd into reverence by the mighty theme,
Be thine to kindle at each muse's dream,
To hail with reverence all the tuneful throng.
Theirs be the praise — nor slender be the praise—
To make new worlds — to burst the bounds of time—
Their stately monument of fame to raise—
And on the heart to bind the mystic rhyme—
Bold their design, each daring charm to seize,
And rouse to wonder, where they mean to please.
'Thine be the warblings of the peaceful lyre,
Peaceful, but not inglorious; thine to sing,
The morning's glittering eye — the virgin spring—
—The power of beauty — freedom's holy fire;
To guide the youthful poet on his way;
—To rouse the virtues — soothe the soul of pain.'—
Enough — if Genius may but feel the lay;
Enough, if friendship but approve the strain:
And if, for life's short day-dream soon shall fly,
The muse may charm a pang, or check a rising sigh.