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!