An Old-Year Song
As through the forest, disarrayed
By chill November, late I strayed,
A lonely minstrel of the wood
Was singing to the solitude
I loved thy music, thus I said,
When o'er thy perch the leaves were spread
Sweet was thy song, but sweeter now
Thy carol on the leafless bough.
Sing, little bird! thy note shall cheer
The sadness of the dying year.
When violets pranked the turf with blue
And morning filled their cups with dew,
Thy slender voice with rippling trill
The budding April bowers would fill,
Nor passed its joyous tones away
When April rounded into May:
Thy life shall hail no second dawn,--
Sing, little bird! the spring is gone.
And I remember--well-a-day!--
Thy full-blown summer roundelay,
As when behind a broidered screen
Some holy maiden sings unseen
With answering notes the woodland rung,
And every tree-top found a tongue.
How deep the shade! the groves how fair!
Sing, little bird! the woods are bare.
The summer's throbbing chant is done
And mute the choral antiphon;
The birds have left the shivering pines
To flit among the trellised vines,
Or fan the air with scented plumes
Amid the love-sick orange-blooms,
And thou art here alone,--alone,--
Sing, little bird! the rest have flown.
The snow has capped yon distant hill,
At morn the running brook was still,
From driven herds the clouds that rise
Are like the smoke of sacrifice;
Erelong the frozen sod shall mock
The ploughshare, changed to stubborn rock,
The brawling streams shall soon be dumb,--
Sing, little bird! the frosts have come.
Fast, fast the lengthening shadows creep,
The songless fowls are half asleep,
The air grows chill, the setting sun
May leave thee ere thy song is done,
The pulse that warms thy breast grow cold,
Thy secret die with thee, untold
The lingering sunset still is bright,--
Sing, little bird! 't will soon be night.
THESE hallowed precincts, long to memory dear,
Smile with fresh welcome as our feet draw near;
With softer gales the opening leaves are fanned,
With fairer hues the kindling flowers expand,
The rose-bush reddens with the blush of June,
The groves are vocal with their minstrels' tune,
The mighty elm, beneath whose arching shade
The wandering children of the forest strayed,
Greets the bright morning in its bridal dress,
And spreads its arms the gladsome dawn to bless.
Is it an idle dream that nature shares
Our joys, our griefs, our pastimes, and our cares?
Is there no summons when, at morning's call,
The sable vestments of the darkness fall?
Does not meek evening's low-voiced Ave blend
With the soft vesper as its notes ascend?
Is there no whisper in the perfumed air
When the sweet bosom of the rose is bare?
Does not the sunshine call us to rejoice?
Is there no meaning in the storm-cloud's voice?
No silent message when from midnight skies
Heaven looks upon us with its myriad eyes?
Or shift the mirror; say our dreams diffuse
O'er life's pale landscape their celestial hues,
Lend heaven the rainbow it has never known,
And robe the earth in glories not its own,
Sing their own music in the summer breeze,
With fresher foliage clothe the stately trees,
Stain the June blossoms with a livelier dye
And spread a bluer azure on the sky,--
Blest be the power that works its lawless will
And finds the weediest patch an Eden still;
No walls so fair as those our fancies build,--
No views so bright as those our visions gild!
So ran my lines, as pen and paper met,
The truant goose-quill travelling like Planchette;
Too ready servant, whose deceitful ways
Full many a slipshod line, alas! betrays;
Hence of the rhyming thousand not a few
Have builded worse--a great deal--than they knew.
What need of idle fancy to adorn
Our mother's birthplace on her birthday morn?
Hers are the blossoms of eternal spring,
From these green boughs her new-fledged birds take wing,
These echoes hear their earliest carols sung,
In this old nest the brood is ever young.
If some tired wanderer, resting from his flight,
Amid the gay young choristers alight,
These gather round him, mark his faded plumes
That faintly still the far-off grove perfumes,
And listen, wondering if some feeble note
Yet lingers, quavering in his weary throat:--
I, whose fresh voice yon red-faced temple knew,
What tune is left me, fit to sing to you?
Ask not the grandeurs of a labored song,
But let my easy couplets slide along;
Much could I tell you that you know too well;
Much I remember, but I will not tell;
Age brings experience; graybeards oft are wise,
But oh! how sharp a youngster's ears and eyes!
My cheek was bare of adolescent down
When first I sought the academic town;
Slow rolls the coach along the dusty road,
Big with its filial and parental load;
The frequent hills, the lonely woods are past,
The school-boy's chosen home is reached at last.
I see it now, the same unchanging spot,
The swinging gate, the little garden plot,
The narrow yard, the rock that made its floor,
The flat, pale house, the knocker-garnished door,
The small, trim parlor, neat, decorous, chill,
The strange, new faces, kind, but grave and still;
Two, creased with age,--or what I then called age,--
Life's volume open at its fiftieth page;
One, a shy maiden's, pallid, placid, sweet
As the first snow-drop, which the sunbeams greet;
One, the last nursling's; slight she was, and fair,
Her smooth white forehead warmed with auburn hair;
Last came the virgin Hymen long had spared,
Whose daily cares the grateful household shared,
Strong, patient, humble; her substantial frame
Stretched the chaste draperies I forbear to name.
Brave, but with effort, had the school-boy come
To the cold comfort of a stranger's home;
How like a dagger to my sinking heart
Came the dry summons, 'It is time to part;
Good-by!' 'Goo-ood-by!' one fond maternal kiss. . . .
Homesick as death! Was ever pang like this?
Too young as yet with willing feet to stray
From the tame fireside, glad to get away,--
Too old to let my watery grief appear,--
And what so bitter as a swallowed tear!
One figure still my vagrant thoughts pursue;
First boy to greet me, Ariel, where are you?
Imp of all mischief, heaven alone knows how
You learned it all,--are you an angel now,
Or tottering gently down the slope of years,
Your face grown sober in the vale of tears?
Forgive my freedom if you are breathing still;
If in a happier world, I know you will.
You were a school-boy--what beneath the sun
So like a monkey? I was also one.
Strange, sure enough, to see what curious shoots
The nursery raises from the study's roots!
In those old days the very, very good
Took up more room--a little--than they should;
Something too much one's eyes encountered then
Of serious youth and funeral-visaged men;
The solemn elders saw life's mournful half,--
Heaven sent this boy, whose mission was to laugh,
Drollest of buffos, Nature's odd protest,
A catbird squealing in a blackbird's nest.
Kind, faithful Nature! While the sour-eyed Scot--
Her cheerful smiles forbidden or forgot--
Talks only of his preacher and his kirk,--
Hears five-hour sermons for his Sunday work,--
Praying and fasting till his meagre face
Gains its due length, the genuine sign of grace,--
An Ayrshire mother in the land of Knox
Her embryo poet in his cradle rocks;--
Nature, long shivering in her dim eclipse,
Steals in a sunbeam to those baby lips;
So to its home her banished smile returns,
And Scotland sweetens with the song of Burns!
The morning came; I reached the classic hall;
A clock-face eyed me, staring from the wall;
Beneath its hands a printed line I read
YOUTH IS LIFE'S SEED-TIME: so the clock-face said:
Some took its counsel, as the sequel showed,--
Sowed,--their wild oats,--and reaped as they had sowed.
How all comes back! the upward slanting floor,--
The masters' thrones that flank the central door,--
The long, outstretching alleys that divide
The rows of desks that stand on either side,--
The staring boys, a face to every desk,
Bright, dull, pale, blooming, common, picturesque.
Grave is the Master's look; his forehead wears
Thick rows of wrinkles, prints of worrying cares;
Uneasy lie the heads of all that rule,
His most of all whose kingdom is a school.
Supreme he sits; before the awful frown
That bends his brows the boldest eye goes down;
Not more submissive Israel heard and saw
At Sinai's foot the Giver of the Law.
Less stern he seems, who sits in equal Mate
On the twin throne and shares the empire's weight;
Around his lips the subtle life that plays
Steals quaintly forth in many a jesting phrase;
A lightsome nature, not so hard to chafe,
Pleasant when pleased; rough-handled, not so safe;
Some tingling memories vaguely I recall,
But to forgive him. God forgive us all!
One yet remains, whose well-remembered name
Pleads in my grateful heart its tender claim;
His was the charm magnetic, the bright look
That sheds its sunshine on the dreariest book;
A loving soul to every task he brought
That sweetly mingled with the lore he taught;
Sprung from a saintly race that never could
From youth to age be anything but good,
His few brief years in holiest labors spent,
Earth lost too soon the treasure heaven had lent.
Kindest of teachers, studious to divine
Some hint of promise in my earliest line,
These faint and faltering words thou canst not hear
Throb from a heart that holds thy memory dear.
As to the traveller's eye the varied plain
Shows through the window of the flying train,
A mingled landscape, rather felt than seen,
A gravelly bank, a sudden flash of green,
A tangled wood, a glittering stream that flows
Through the cleft summit where the cliff once rose,
All strangely blended in a hurried gleam,
Rock, wood, waste, meadow, village, hill-side, stream,--
So, as we look behind us, life appears,
Seen through the vista of our bygone years.
Yet in the dead past's shadow-filled domain,
Some vanished shapes the hues of life retain;
Unbidden, oft, before our dreaming eyes
From the vague mists in memory's path they rise.
So comes his blooming image to my view,
The friend of joyous days when life was new,
Hope yet untamed, the blood of youth unchilled,
No blank arrear of promise unfulfilled,
Life's flower yet hidden in its sheltering fold,
Its pictured canvas yet to be unrolled.
His the frank smile I vainly look to greet,
His the warm grasp my clasping hand should meet;
How would our lips renew their school-boy talk,
Our feet retrace the old familiar walk!
For thee no more earth's cheerful morning shines
Through the green fringes of the tented pines;
Ah me! is heaven so far thou canst not hear,
Or is thy viewless spirit hovering near,
A fair young presence, bright with morning's glow,
The fresh-cheeked boy of fifty years ago?
Yes, fifty years, with all their circling suns,
Behind them all my glance reverted runs;
Where now that time remote, its griefs, its joys,
Where are its gray-haired men, its bright-haired boys?
Where is the patriarch time could hardly tire,--
The good old, wrinkled, immemorial 'squire '?
(An honest treasurer, like a black-plumed swan,
Not every day our eyes may look upon.)
Where the tough champion who, with Calvin's sword,
In wordy conflicts battled for the Lord?
Where the grave scholar, lonely, calm, austere,
Whose voice like music charmed the listening ear,
Whose light rekindled, like the morning star
Still shines upon us through the gates ajar?
Where the still, solemn, weary, sad-eyed man,
Whose care-worn face and wandering eyes would scan,--
His features wasted in the lingering strife
With the pale foe that drains the student's life?
Where my old friend, the scholar, teacher, saint,
Whose creed, some hinted, showed a speck of taint;
He broached his own opinion, which is not
Lightly to be forgiven or forgot;
Some riddle's point,--I scarce remember now,--
Homoi-, perhaps, where they said homo-ou.
(If the unlettered greatly wish to know
Where lies the difference betwixt oi and o,
Those of the curious who have time may search
Among the stale conundrums of their church.)
Beneath his roof his peaceful life I shared,
And for his modes of faith I little cared,--
I, taught to judge men's dogmas by their deeds,
Long ere the days of india-rubber creeds.
Why should we look one common faith to find,
Where one in every score is color-blind?
If here on earth they know not red from green,
Will they see better into things unseen!
Once more to time's old graveyard I return
And scrape the moss from memory's pictured urn.
Who, in these days when all things go by steam,
Recalls the stage-coach with its four-horse team?
Its sturdy driver,--who remembers him?
Or the old landlord, saturnine and grim,
Who left our hill-top for a new abode
And reared his sign-post farther down the road?
Still in the waters of the dark Shawshine
Do the young bathers splash and think they're clean?
Do pilgrims find their way to Indian Ridge,
Or journey onward to the far-off bridge,
And bring to younger ears the story back
Of the broad stream, the mighty Merrimac?
Are there still truant feet that stray beyond
These circling bounds to Pomp's or Haggett's Pond,
Or where the legendary name recalls
The forest's earlier tenant,--'Deerjump Falls'?
Yes, every nook these youthful feet explore,
Just as our sires and grand sires did of yore;
So all life's opening paths, where nature led
Their father's feet, the children's children tread.
Roll the round century's fivescore years away,
Call from our storied past that earliest day
When great Eliphalet (I can see him now,--
Big name, big frame, big voice, and beetling brow),
Then young Eliphalet,--ruled the rows of boys
In homespun gray or old-world corduroys,--
And save for fashion's whims, the benches show
The self-same youths, the very boys we know.
Time works strange marvels: since I trod the green
And swung the gates, what wonders I have seen!
But come what will,--the sky itself may fall,--
As things of course the boy accepts them all.
The prophet's chariot, drawn by steeds of flame,
For daily use our travelling millions claim;
The face we love a sunbeam makes our own;
No more the surgeon hears the sufferer's groan;
What unwrit histories wrapped in darkness lay
Till shovelling Schliemann bared them to the day!
Your Richelieu says, and says it well, my lord,
The pen is (sometimes) mightier than the sword;
Great is the goosequill, say we all; Amen!
Sometimes the spade is mightier than the pen;
It shows where Babel's terraced walls were raised,
The slabs that cracked when Nimrod's palace blazed,
Unearths Mycenee, rediscovers Troy,--
Calmly he listens, that immortal boy.
A new Prometheus tips our wands with fire,
A mightier Orpheus strains the whispering wire,
Whose lightning thrills the lazy winds outrun
And hold the hours as Joshua stayed the sun,--
So swift, in truth, we hardly find a place
For those dim fictions known as time and space.
Still a new miracle each year supplies,--
See at his work the chemist of the skies,
Who questions Sirius in his tortured rays
And steals the secret of the solar blaze;
Hush! while the window-rattling bugles play
The nation's airs a hundred miles away!
That wicked phonograph! hark! how it swears!
Turn it again and make it say its prayers!
And was it true, then, what the story said
Of Oxford's friar and his brazen head?
While wondering Science stands, herself perplexed
At each day's miracle, and asks 'What next?'
The immortal boy, the coming heir of all,
Springs from his desk to 'urge the flying ball,'
Cleaves with his bending oar the glassy waves,
With sinewy arm the dashing current braves,
The same bright creature in these haunts of ours
That Eton shadowed with her 'antique towers.'
Boy! Where is he? the long-limbed youth inquires,
Whom his rough chin with manly pride inspires;
Ah, when the ruddy cheek no longer glows,
When the bright hair is white as winter snows,
When the dim eye has lost its lambent flame,
Sweet to his ear will be his school-boy name
Nor think the difference mighty as it seems
Between life's morning and its evening dreams;
Fourscore, like twenty, has its tasks and toys;
In earth's wide school-house all are girls and boys.
Brothers, forgive my wayward fancy. Who
Can guess beforehand what his pen will do?
Too light my strain for listeners such as these,
Whom graver thoughts and soberer speech shall please.
Is he not here whose breath of holy song
Has raised the downcast eyes of Faith so long?
Are they not here, the strangers in your gates,
For whom the wearied ear impatient waits,--
The large-brained scholars whom their toils release,--
The bannered heralds of the Prince of Peace?
Such was the gentle friend whose youth unblamed
In years long past our student-benches claimed;
Whose name, illumined on the sacred page,
Lives in the labors of his riper age;
Such he whose record time's destroying march
Leaves uneffaced on Zion's springing arch
Not to the scanty phrase of measured song,
Cramped in its fetters, names like these belong;
One ray they lend to gild my slender line,--
Their praise I leave to sweeter lips than mine.
Homes of our sires, where Learning's temple rose,
While vet they struggled with their banded foes,
As in the West thy century's sun descends,
One parting gleam its dying radiance lends.
Darker and deeper though the shadows fall
From the gray towers on Doubting Castle's wall,
Though Pope and Pagan re-array their hosts,
And her new armor youthful Science boasts,
Truth, for whose altar rose this holy shrine,
Shall fly for refuge to these bowers of thine;
No past shall chain her with its rusted vow,
No Jew's phylactery bind her Christian brow,
But Faith shall smile to find her sister free,
And nobler manhood draw its life from thee.
Long as the arching skies above thee spread,
As on thy groves the dews of heaven are shed,
With currents widening still from year to year,
And deepening channels, calm, untroubled, clear,
Flow the twin streamlets from thy sacred hill--
Pieria's fount and Siloam's shaded rill!
Poetry: A Metrical Essay, Read Before The Phi Beta Kappa Society, Harvard
To Charles Wentworth Upham, the Following Metrical Essay is Affectionately Inscribed.
Scenes of my youth! awake its slumbering fire!
Ye winds of Memory, sweep the silent lyre!
Ray of the past, if yet thou canst appear,
Break through the clouds of Fancyâ€™s waning year;
Chase from her breast the thin autumnal snow,
If leaf or blossom still is fresh below!
Long have I wandered; the returning tide
Brought back an exile to his cradleâ€™s side;
And as my bark her time-worn flag unrolled,
To greet the land-breeze with its faded fold,
So, in remembrance of my boyhoodâ€™s time,
I lift these ensigns of neglected rhyme;
Oh, more than blest, that, all my wanderings through,
My anchor falls where first my pennons flew!
The morning light, which rains its quivering beams
Wide oâ€™er the plains, the summits, and the streams,
In one broad blaze expands its golden glow
On all that answers to its glance below;
Yet, changed on earth, each far reflected ray
Braids with fresh hues the shining brow of day;
Now, clothed in blushes by the painted flowers,
Tracks on their cheeks the rosy-fingered hours;
Now, lost in shades, whose dark entangled leaves
Drip at the noontide from their pendent eaves,
Fades into gloom, or gleams in light again
From every dew-drop on the jewelled plain.
We, like the leaf, the summit, or the wave,
Reflect the light our common nature gave,
But every sunbeam, falling from her throne,
Wears on our hearts some coloring of our own
Chilled in the slave, and burning in the free,
Like the sealed cavern by the sparkling sea;
Lost, like the lightning in the sullen clod,
Or shedding radiance, like the smiles of God;
Pure, pale in Virtue, as the star above,
Or quivering roseate on the leaves of Love;
Glaring like noontide, where it glows upon
Ambitionâ€™s sands,â€”Âthe desert in the sun,â€”Â
Or soft suffusing oâ€™er the varied scene
Lifeâ€™s common coloring,â€”Âintellectual green.
Thus Heaven, repeating its material plan,
Arched over all the rainbow mind of man;
But he who, blind to universal laws,
Sees but effects, unconscious of their cause,â€”Â
Believes each image in itself is bright,
Not robed in drapery of reflected light,â€”Â
Is like the rustic who, amidst his toil,
Has found some crystal in his meagre soil,
And, lost in rapture, thinks for him alone
Earth worked her wonders on the sparkling stone,
Nor dreams that Nature, with as nice a line,
Carved countless angles through the boundless mine.
Thus err the many, who, entranced to find
Unwonted lustre in some clearer mind,
Believe that Genius sets the laws at naught
Which chain the pinions of our wildest thought;
Untaught to measure, with the eye of art,
The wandering fancy or the wayward heart;
Who match the little only with the less,
And gaze in rapture at its slight excess,
Proud of a pebble, as the brightest gem
Whose light might crown an emperorâ€™s diadem.
And, most of all, the pure ethereal fire
Which seems to radiate from the poetâ€™s lyre
Is to the world a mystery and a charm,
An AEgis wielded on a mortalâ€™s arm,
While Reason turns her dazzled eye away,
And bows her sceptre to her subjectâ€™s sway;
And thus the poet, clothed with godlike state,
Usurped his Makerâ€™s titleâ€”Âto create;
He, whose thoughts differing not in shape, but dress,
What others feel more fitly can express,
Sits like the maniac on his fancied throne,
Peeps through the bars, and calls the world his own.
There breathes no being but has some pretence
To that fine instinct called poetic sense
The rudest savage, roaming through the wild;
The simplest rustic, bending oâ€™er his child;
The infant, listening to the warbling bird;
The mother, smiling at its half-formed word;
The boy uncaged, who tracks the fields at large;
The girl, turned matron to her babe-like charge;
The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand
The vote that shakes the turret of the land;
The slave, who, slumbering on his rusted chain,
Dreams of the palm-trees on his burning plain;
The hot-cheeked reveller, tossing down the wine,
To join the chorus pealing â€œAuld lang syneâ€;
The gentle maid, whose azure eye grows dim,
While Heaven is listening to her evening hymn;
The jewelled beauty, when her steps draw near
The circling dance and dazzling chandelier;
Eâ€™en trembling age, when Springâ€™s renewing air
Waves the thin ringlets of his silvered hair;â€”Â
All, all are glowing with the inward flame,
Whose wider halo wreathes the poetâ€™s name,
While, unenbalmed, the silent dreamer dies,
His memory passing with his smiles and sighs!
If glorious visions, born for all mankind,
The bright auroras of our twilight mind;
If fancies, varying as the shapes that lie
Stained on the windows of the sunset sky;
If hopes, that beckon with delusive gleams,
Till the eye dances in the void of dreams;
If passions, following with the winds that urge
Earthâ€™s wildest wanderer to her farthest verge;â€”Â
If these on all some transient hours bestow
Of rapture tingling with its hectic glow,
Then all are poets; and if earth had rolled
Her myriad centuries, and her doom were told,
Each moaning billow of her shoreless wave
Would wail its requiem oâ€™er a poetâ€™s grave!
If to embody in a breathing word
Tones that the spirit trembled when it heard;
To fix the image all unveiled and warm,
And carve in language its ethereal form,
So pure, so perfect, that the lines express
No meagre shrinking, no unlaced excess;
To feel that art, in living truth, has taught
Ourselves, reflected in the sculptured thought;â€”Â
If this alone bestow the right to claim
The deathless garland and the sacred name,
Then none are poets save the saints on high,
Whose harps can murmur all that words deny!
But though to none is granted to reveal
In perfect semblance all that each may feel,
As withered flowers recall forgotten love,
So, warmed to life, our faded passions move
In every line, where kindling fancy throws
The gleam of pleasures or the shade of woes.
When, schooled by time, the stately queen of art
Had smoothed the pathways leading to the heart,
Assumed her measured tread, her solemn tone,
And round her courts the clouds of fable thrown,
The wreaths of heaven descended on her shrine,
And wondering earth proclaimed the Muse divine.
Yet if her votaries had but dared profane
The mystic symbols of her sacred reign,
How had they smiled beneath the veil to find
What slender threads can chain the mighty mind!
Poets, like painters, their machinery claim,
And verse bestows the varnish and the frame;
Our grating English, whose Teutonic jar
Shakes the racked axle of Artâ€™s rattling car,
Fits like mosaic in the lines that gird
Fast in its place each many-angled word;
From Saxon lips Anacreonâ€™s numbers glide,
As once they melted on the Teian tide,
And, fresh transfused, the Iliad thrills again
From Albionâ€™s cliffs as oâ€™er Achaiaâ€™s plain
The proud heroic, with, its pulse-like beat,
Rings like the cymbals clashing as they meet;
The sweet Spenserian, gathering as it flows,
Sweeps gently onward to its dying close,
Where waves on waves in long succession pour,
Till the ninth billow melts along the shore;
The lonely spirit of the mournful lay,
Which lives immortal as the verse of Gray,
In sable plumage slowly drifts along,
On eagle pinion, through the air of song;
The glittering lyric bounds elastic by,
With flashing ringlets and exulting eye,
While every image, in her airy whirl,
Gleams like a diamond on a dancing girl!
Born with mankind, with manâ€™s expanded range
And varying fates the poetâ€™s numbers change;
Thus in his history may we hope to find
Some clearer epochs of the poetâ€™s mind,
As from the cradle of its birth we trace,
Slow wandering forth, the patriarchal race.
When the green earth, beneath the zephyrâ€™s wing,
Wears on her breast the varnished buds of Spring;
When the loosed current, as its folds uncoil,
Slides in the channels of the mellowed soil;
When the young hyacinth returns to seek
The air and sunshine with her emerald beak;
When the light snowdrops, starting from their cells,
Hang each pagoda with its silver bells;
When the frail willow twines her trailing bow
With pallid leaves that sweep the soil below;
When the broad elm, sole empress of the plain,
Whose circling shadow speaks a centuryâ€™s reign,
Wreathes in the clouds her regal diadem,â€”Â
A forest waving on a single stem;â€”Â
Then mark the poet; though to him unknown
The quaint-mouthed titles, such as scholars own,
See how his eye in ecstasy pursues
The steps of Nature tracked in radiant hues;
Nay, in thyself, whateâ€™er may be thy fate,
Pallid with toil or surfeited with state,
Mark how thy fancies, with the vernal rose,
Awake, all sweetness, from their long repose;
Then turn to ponder oâ€™er the classic page,
Traced with the idyls of a greener age,
And learn the instinct which arose to warm
Artâ€™s earliest essay and her simplest form.
To themes like these her narrow path confined
The first-born impulse moving in the mind;
In vales unshaken by the trumpetâ€™s sound,
Where peaceful Labor tills his fertile ground,
The silent changes of the rolling years,
Marked on the soil or dialled on the spheres,
The crested forests and the colored flowers,
The dewy grottos and the blushing bowers,â€”Â
These, and their guardians, who, with liquid names,
Strephons and Chloes, melt in mutual flames,
Woo the young Muses from their mountain shade,
To make Arcadias in the lonely glade.
Nor think they visit only with their smiles
The fabled valleys and Elysian isles;
He who is wearied of his village plain
May roam the Edens of the world in vain.
â€™T is not the star-crowned cliff, the cataractâ€™s flow,
The softer foliage or the greener glow,
The lake of sapphire or the spar-hung cave,
The brighter sunset or the broader wave,
Can warm his heart whom every wind has blown
To every shore, forgetful of his own.
Home of our childhood! how affection clings
And hovers round thee with her seraph wings!
Dearer thy hills, though clad in autumn brown,
Than fairest summits which the cedars crown!
Sweeter the fragrance of thy summer breeze
Than all Arabia breathes along the seas!
The strangerâ€™s gale wafts home the exileâ€™s sigh,
For the heartâ€™s temple is its own blue sky!
Oh happiest they, whose early love unchanged,
Hopes undissolved, and friendship unestranged,
Tired of their wanderings, still can deign to see
Love, hopes, and friendship, centring all in thee!
And thou, my village! as again I tread
Amidst thy living and above thy dead;
Though some fair playmates guard with charter fears
Their cheeks, grown holy with the lapse of years;
Though with the dust some reverend locks may blend,
Where lifeâ€™s last mile-stone marks the journeyâ€™s end;
On every bud the changing year recalls,
The brightening glance of morning memory falls,
Still following onward as the months unclose
The balmy lilac or the bridal rose;
And still shall follow, till they sink once more
Beneath the snow-drifts of the frozen shore,
As when my bark, long tossing in the gale,
Furled in her port her tempest-rended sail!
What shall I give thee? Can a simple lay,
Flung on thy bosom like a girlâ€™s bouquet,
Do more than deck thee for an idle hour,
Then fall unheeded, fading like the flower?
Yet, when I trod, with footsteps wild and free,
The crackling leaves beneath yon linden-tree,
Panting from play or dripping from the stream,
How bright the visions of my boyish dream
Or, modest Charles, along thy broken edge,
Black with soft ooze and fringed with arrowy sedge,
As once I wandered in the morning sun,
With reeking sandal and superfluous gun,
How oft, as Fancy whispered in the gale,
Thou wast the Avon of her flattering tale!
Ye hills, whose foliage, fretted on the skies,
Prints shadowy arches on their evening dyes,
How should my song with holiest charm invest
Each dark ravine and forest-lifting crest!
How clothe in beauty each familiar scene,
Till all was classic on my native green!
As the drained fountain, filled with autumn leaves,
The field swept naked of its garnered sheaves,
So wastes at noon the promise of our dawn,
The springs all choking, and the harvest gone.
Yet hear the lay of one whose natal star
Still seemed the brightest when it shone afar;
Whose cheek, grown pallid with ungracious toil,
Glows in the welcome of his parent soil;
And ask no garlands sought beyond the tide,
But take the leaflets gathered at your side.
But times were changed; the torch of terror came,
To light the summits with the beaconâ€™s flame;
The streams ran crimson, the tall mountain pines
Rose a new forest oâ€™er embattled lines;
The bloodless sickle lent the warriorâ€™s steel,
The harvest bowed beneath his chariot wheel;
Where late the wood-dove sheltered her repose
The raven waited for the conflictâ€™s close;
The cuirassed sentry walked his sleepless round
Where Daphne smiled or Amaryllis frowned;
Where timid minstrels sung their blushing charms,
Some wild Tyrtaeus called aloud, â€œTo arms!â€
When Glory wakes, when fiery spirits leap,
Roused by her accents from their tranquil sleep,
The ray that flashes from the soldierâ€™s crest
Lights, as it glances, in the poetâ€™s breast;â€”Â
Not in pale dreamers, whose fantastic lay
Toys with smooth trifles like a child at play,
But men, who act the passions they inspire,
Who wave the sabre as they sweep the lyre!
Ye mild enthusiasts, whose pacific frowns
Are lost like dew-drops caught in burning towns,
Pluck as ye will the radiant plumes of fame,
Break Caesarâ€™s bust to make yourselves a name;
But if your country bares the avengerâ€™s blade
For wrongs unpunished or for debts unpaid,
When the roused nation bids her armies form,
And screams her eagle through the gathering storm,
When from your ports the bannered frigate rides,
Her black bows scowling to the crested tides,
Your hour has past; in vain your feeble cry
As the babeâ€™s wailings to the thundering sky!
Scourge of mankind! with all the dread array
That wraps in wrath thy desolating way,
As the wild tempest wakes the slumbering sea,
Thou only teachest all that man can be.
Alike thy tocsin has the power to charm
The toil-knit sinews of the rusticâ€™s arm,
Or swell the pulses in the poetâ€™s veins,
And bid the nations tremble at his strains.
The city slept beneath the moonbeamâ€™s glance,
Her white walls gleaming through the vines of France,
And all was hushed, save where the footsteps fell,
On some high tower, of midnight sentinel.
But one still watched; no self-encircled woes
Chased from his lids the angel of repose;
He watched, he wept, for thoughts of bitter years
Bowed his dark lashes, wet with burning tears
His countryâ€™s sufferings and her childrenâ€™s shame
Streamed oâ€™er his memory like a forestâ€™s flame;
Each treasured insult, each remembered wrong,
Rolled through his heart and kindled into song.
His taper faded; and the morning gales
Swept through the world the war-song of Marseilles!
Now, while around the smiles of Peace expand,
And Plentyâ€™s wreaths festoon the laughing land;
While France ships outward her reluctant ore,
And half our navy basks upon the shore;
From ruder themes our meek-eyed Muses turn
To crown with roses their enamelled urn.
If eâ€™er again return those awful days
Whose clouds were crimsoned with the beaconâ€™s blaze,
Whose grass was trampled by the soldierâ€™s heel,
Whose tides were reddened round the rushing keel,
God grant some lyre may wake a nobler strain
To rend the silence of our tented plain!
When Galliaâ€™s flag its triple fold displays,
Her marshalled legions peal the Marseillaise;
When round the German close the war-clouds dim,
Far through their shadows floats his battle-hymn;
When, crowned with joy, the campsâ€™ of England ring,
A thousand voices shout, â€œGod save the King!â€
When victory follows with our eagleâ€™s glance,
Our nationâ€™s anthem pipes a country dance!
Some prouder Muse, when comes the hour at last,
May shake our hillsides with her bugle-blast;
Not ours the task; but since the lyric dress
Relieves the statelier with its sprightliness,
Hear an old song, which some, perchance, have seen
In stale gazette or cobwebbed magazine.
There was an hour when patriots dared profane
The mast that Britain strove to bow in vain;
And one, who listened to the tale of shame,
Whose heart still answered to that sacred name,
Whose eye still followed oâ€™er his countryâ€™s tides
Thy glorious flag, our brave Old Ironsides
From yon lone attic, on a smiling morn,
Thus mocked the spoilers with his school-boy scorn.
When florid Peace resumed her golden reign,
And arts revived, and valleys bloomed again,
While War still panted on his-broken blade,
Once more the Muse her heavenly wing essayed.
Rude was the song: some ballad, stern and wild,
Lulled the light slumbers of the soldierâ€™s child;
Or young romancer, with his threatening glance
And fearful fables of his bloodless lance,
Scared the soft fancy of the clinging girls,
Whose snowy fingers smoothed his raven curls.
But when long years the stately form had bent,
And faithless Memory her illusions lent,
So vast the outlines of Tradition grew
That History wondered at the shapes she drew,
And veiled at length their too ambitious hues
Beneath the pinions of the Epic Muse.
Far swept her wing; for stormier days had brought
With darker passions deeper tides of thought.
The campâ€™s harsh tumult and the conflictâ€™s glow,
The thrill of triumph and the gasp of woe,
The tender parting and the glad return,
The festal banquet and the funeral urn,
And all the drama which at once uprears
Its spectral shadows through the clash of spears,
From camp and field to echoing verse transferred,
Swelled the proud song that listening nations heard.
Why floats the amaranth in eternal bloom
Oâ€™er Iliumâ€™s turrets and Achillesâ€™ tomb?
Why lingers fancy where the sunbeams smile
On Circeâ€™s gardens and Calypsoâ€™s isle?
Why follows memory to the gate of Troy
Her plumed defender and his trembling boy?
Lo! the blind dreamer, kneeling on the sand
To trace these records with his doubtful hand;
In fabled tones his own emotion flows,
And other lips repeat his silent woes;
In Hectorâ€™s infant see the babes that shun
Those deathlike eyes, unconscious of the sun,
Or in his hero hear himself implore,
â€œGive me to see, and Ajax asks no more!â€
Thus live undying through the lapse of time
The solemn legends of the warriorâ€™s clime;
Like Egyptâ€™s pyramid or Paestumâ€™s fane,
They stand the heralds of the voiceless plain.
Yet not like them, for Time, by slow degrees,
Saps the gray stone and wears the embroidered frieze,
And Isis sleeps beneath her subject Nile,
And crumbled Neptune strews his Dorian pile;
But Artâ€™s fair fabric, strengthening as it rears
Its laurelled columns through the mist of years,
As the blue arches of the bending skies
Still gird the torrent, following as it flies,
Spreads, with the surges bearing on mankind,
Its starred pavilion oâ€™er the tides of mind!
In vain the patriot asks some lofty lay
To dress in state our wars of yesterday.
The classic days, those mothers of romance,
That roused a nation for a womanâ€™s glance;
The age of mystery, with its hoarded power,
That girt the tyrant in his storied tower,
Have passed and faded like a dream of youth,
And riper eras ask for historyâ€™s truth.
On other shores, above their mouldering towns,
In sullen pomp the tall cathedral frowns,
Pride in its aisles and paupers at the door,
Which feeds the beggars whom it fleeced of yore.
Simple and frail, our lowly temples throw
Their slender shadows on the paths below;
Scarce steal the winds, that sweep his woodland tracks,
The larchâ€™s perfume from the settlerâ€™s axe,
Ere, like a vision of the morning air,
His slightâ€”Âframed steeple marks the house of prayer;
Its planks all reeking and its paint undried,
Its rafters sprouting on the shady side,
It sheds the raindrops from its shingled eaves
Ere its green brothers once have changed their leaves.
Yet Faithâ€™s pure hymn, beneath its shelter rude,
Breathes out as sweetly to the tangled wood
As where the rays through pictured glories pour
On marble shaft and tessellated floor;â€”Â
Heaven asks no surplice round the heart that feels,
And all is holy where devotion kneels.
Thus on the soil the patriotâ€™s knee should bend
Which holds the dust once living to defend;
Whereâ€™er the hireling shrinks before the free,
Each pass becomes â€œa new Thermopylaeâ€!
Whereâ€™er the battles of the brave are won,
There every mountain â€œlooks on Marathonâ€!
Our fathers live; they guard in glory still
The grass-grown bastions of the fortressed hill;
Still ring the echoes of the trampled gorge,
With God and Freedom. England and Saint George!
The royal cipher on the captured gun
Mocks the sharp night-dews and the blistering sun;
The red-cross banner shades its captorâ€™s bust,
Its folds still loaded with the conflictâ€™s dust;
The drum, suspended by its tattered marge,
Once rolled and rattled to the Hessianâ€™s charge;
The stars have floated from Britanniaâ€™s mast,
The redcoatâ€™s trumpets blown the rebelâ€™s blast.
Point to the summits where the brave have bled,
Where every village claims its glorious dead;
Say, when their bosoms met the bayonetâ€™s shock,
Their only corselet was the rustic frock;
Say, when they mustered to the gathering horn,
The titled chieftain curled his lip in scorn,
Yet, when their leader bade his lines advance,
No musket wavered in the lionâ€™s glance;
Say, when they fainted in the forced retreat,
They tracked the snow-drifts with their bleeding feet,
Yet still their banners, tossing in the blast,
Bore Ever Ready, faithful to the last,
Through storm and battle, till they waved again
On Yorktownâ€™s hills and Saratogaâ€™s plain.
Then, if so fierce the insatiate patriotâ€™s flame,
Truth looks too pale and history seems too tame,
Bid him await some new Columbiadâ€™s page,
To gild the tablets of an iron age,
And save his tears, which yet may fall upon
Some fabled field, some fancied Washington!
But once again, from their AEolian cave,
The winds of Genius wandered on the wave.
Tired of the scenes the timid pencil drew,
Sick of the notes the sounding clarion blew,
Sated with heroes who had worn so long
The shadowy plumage of historic song,
The new-born poet left the beaten course,
To track the passions to their living source.
Then rose the Drama;â€”Âand the world admired
Her varied page with deeper thought inspired
Bound to no clime, for Passionâ€™s throb is one
In Greenlandâ€™s twilight or in Indiaâ€™s sun;
Born for no age, for all the thoughts that roll
In the dark vortex of the stormy soul,
Unchained in song, no freezing years can tame;
God gave them birth, and man is still the same.
So full on life her magic mirror shone,
Her sister Arts paid tribute to her throne;
One reared her temple, one her canvas warmed,
And Music thrilled, while Eloquence informed.
The weary rustic left his stinted task
For smiles and tears, the dagger and the mask;
The sage, turned scholar, half forgot his lore,
To be the woman he despised before.
Oâ€™er sense and thought she threw her golden chain,
And Time, the anarch, spares her deathless reign.
Thus lives Medea, in our tamer age,
As when her buskin pressed the Grecian stage;
Not in the cells where frigid learning delves
In Aldine folios mouldering on their shelves,
But breathing, burning in the glittering throng,
Whose thousand bravoes roll untired along,
Circling and spreading through the gilded halls,
From Londonâ€™s galleries to San Carloâ€™s walls!
Thus shall he live whose more than mortal name
Mocks with its ray the pallid torch of Fame;
So proudly lifted that it seems afar
No earthly Pharos, but a heavenly star,
Who, unconfined to Artâ€™s diurnal bound,
Girds her whole zodiac in his flaming round,
And leads the passions, like the orb that guides,
From pole to pole, the palpitating tides!
Though round the Muse the robe of song is thrown,
Think not the poet lives in verse alone.
Long ere the chisel of the sculptor taught
The lifeless stone to mock the living thought;
Long ere the painter bade the canvas glow
With every line the forms of beauty know;
Long ere the iris of the Muses threw
On every leaf its own celestial hue,
In fableâ€™s dress the breath of genius poured,
And warmed the shapes that later times adored.
Untaught by Science how to forge the keys
That loose the gates of Natureâ€™s mysteries;
Unschooled by Faith, who, with her angel tread,
Leads through the labyrinth with a single thread,
His fancy, hovering round her guarded tower,
Rained through its bars like Danaeâ€™s golden shower.
He spoke; the sea-nymph answered from her cave
He called; the naiad left her mountain wave
He dreamed of beauty; lo, amidst his dream,
Narcissus, mirrored in the breathless stream;
And nightâ€™s chaste empress, in her bridal play,
Laughed through the foliage where Endymion lay;
And ocean dimpled, as the languid swell
Kissed the red lip of Cythereaâ€™s shell.
Of power,â€”ÂBellona swept the crimson field,
And blue-eyed Pallas shook her Gorgon shield;
Oâ€™er the hushed waves their mightier monarch drove,
And Ida trembled to the tread of Jove!
So every grace that plastic language knows
To nameless poets its perfection owes.
The rough-hewn words to simplest thoughts confined
Were cut and polished in their nicer mind;
Caught on their edge, imaginationâ€™s ray
Splits into rainbows, shooting far away;â€”Â
From sense to soul, from soul to sense, it flies,
And through all nature links analogies;
He who reads right will rarely look upon
A better poet than his lexicon!
There is a race which cold, ungenial skies
Breed from decay, as fungous growths arise;
Though dying fast, yet springing fast again,
Which still usurps an unsubstantial reign,
With frames too languid for the charms of sense,
And minds worn down with action too intense;
Tired of a world whose joys they never knew,
Themselves deceived, yet thinking all untrue;
Scarce men without, and less than girls within,
Sick of their life before its cares begin;â€”Â
The dull disease, which drains their feeble hearts,
To lifeâ€™s decay some hectic thrillâ€™s imparts,
And lends a force which, like the maniacâ€™s power,
Pays with blank years the frenzy of an hour.
And this is Genius! Say, does Heaven degrade
The manly frame, for health, for action made?
Break down the sinews, rack the brow with pains,
Blanch the right cheek and drain the purple veins,
To clothe the mind with more extended sway,
Thus faintly struggling in degenerate clay?
No! gentle maid, too ready to admire,
Though false its notes, the pale enthusiastâ€™s lyre;
If this be genius, though its bitter springs
Glowed like the morn beneath Auroraâ€™s wings,
Seek not the source whose sullen bosom feeds
But fruitless flowers and dark, envenomed weeds.
But, if so bright the dear illusion seems,
Thou wouldst be partner of thy poetâ€™s dreams,
And hang in rapture on his bloodless charms,
Or die, like Raphael, in his angel arms,
Go and enjoy thy blessed lot,â€”Âto share
In Cowperâ€™s gloom or Chattertonâ€™s despair!
Not such were they whom, wandering oâ€™er the waves,
I looked to meet, but only found their graves;
If friendshipâ€™s smile, the better part of fame,
Should lend my song the only wreath I claim,
Whose voice would greet me with a sweeter tone,
Whose living hand more kindly press my own,
Than theirs,â€”Âcould Memory, as her silent tread
Prints the pale flowers that blossom oâ€™er the dead,
Those breathless lips, now closed in peace, restore,
Or wake those pulses hushed to beat no more?
Thou calm, chaste scholar! I can see thee now,
The first young laurels on thy pallid brow,
Oâ€™er thy slight figure floating lightly down
In graceful folds the academic gown,
On thy curled lip the classic lines that taught
How nice the mind that sculptured them with thought,
And triumph glistening in the clear blue eye,
Too bright to live,â€”Âbut oh, too fair to die!
And thou, dear friend, whom Science still deplores,
And Love still mourns, on ocean-severed shores,
Though the bleak forest twice has bowed with snow
Since thou wast laid its budding leaves below,
Thine image mingles with my closing strain,
As when we wandered by the turbid Seine,
Both blessed with hopes, which revelled, bright and free,
On all we longed or all we dreamed to be;
To thee the amaranth and the cypress fell,â€”Â
And I was spared to breathe this last farewell!
But lived there one in unremembered days,
Or lives there still, who spurns the poetâ€™s bays,
Whose fingers, dewy from Castaliaâ€™s springs,
Rest on the lyre, yet scorn to touch the strings?
Who shakes the senate with the silver tone
The groves of Pindus might have sighed to own?
Have such eâ€™er been? Remember Canningâ€™s name!
Do such still live? Let â€œAlaricâ€™s Dirgeâ€ proclaim!
Immortal Art! whereâ€™er the rounded sky
Bends oâ€™er the cradle where thy children lie,
Their home is earth, their herald every tongue
Whose accents echo to the voice that sung.
One leap of Ocean scatters on the sand
The quarried bulwarks of the loosening land;
One thrill of earth dissolves a centuryâ€™s toil
Strewed like the leaves that vanish in the soil;
One hill oâ€™erflows, and cities sink below,
Their marbles splintering in the lavaâ€™s glow;
But one sweet tone, scarce whispered to the air,
From shore to shore the blasts of ages bear;
One humble name, which oft, perchance, has borne
The tyrantâ€™s mockery and the courtierâ€™s scorn,
Towers oâ€™er the dust of earthâ€™s forgotten graves,
As once, emerging through the waste of waves,
The rocky Titan, round whose shattered spear
Coiled the last whirlpool of the drowning sphere!