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Title: The Story of Justin Martyr, and Other Poems

Author: Richard Chenevix Trench

Release date: September 8, 2017 [eBook #55507]
Most recently updated: January 24, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Larry B. Harrison, Chuck Greif and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


P O E M S.


O T H E R   P O E M S.







Dedicatory Lines1
The Story of Justin Martyr9
To ——28
To the same29
To the same30
To the same31
To the same32
A Legend of Alhambra33
The Island of Madeira39
To Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, on his reported Conduct towards the Poles 43
On the Results of the last French Revolution44
To England45
Sonnet to Silvio Pellico{iv}47
To the Same48
From the Spanish49
To a Friend entering the Ministry53
To a Child Playing57
The Herring-Fishers of Lochfyne59
In the Isle of Mull60
The same61
At Sea62
An Evening in France63
Sonnet. To my Child, a Fellow-traveller68
The Descent of the Rhone69
On the Perseus and Medusa of Benvenuto Cellini80
Lines written at the Village of Passignano, on the Lake of Thrasymene81
Vesuvius, as seen from Capri84
The same continued86
To England. Written after a visit to Sorrento87
Lines written after hearing some beautiful singing in a Convent Church at Rome.88
On a Picture of the Assumption by Murillo92
An Incident versified95
Address on leaving Rome to a Friend residing in that City98
Tasso’s Dungeon, Ferrara105
At Brunecken, in the Tyrol107
Lines written in an Inn109
To E ——114
To ——, on the Morning of her Baptism{v}119
To a Lady singing122
The same continued123
The same continued124
The same continued125
The same continued126
Ode to Sleep133
Recollections of Burgos145
To a Friend148
To the Constitutional Exiles of 1823151
To the same152
On an early Death154
New Year’s Eve162
To my Child163
Sonnet. In a Pass between the Walchen and the Waldensee165
To my God-Child, on the Day of his Baptism168
The Monk and Bird172


[Corrected in this etext]

Page 9, line 6, for look read looks.
  ...   26, ... 3, for flonrish read flourish.
  ...   137, ... 6, for starerd read starred.


TO ——

If, Lady, at thy bidding, I have strung
As on one thread these few unvalued beads,
I cannot ask the world to count them pearls,
Or to esteem them better than they are:
But thou, I know, wilt prize them, for by thee
Solicited, I have beguiled with these
The enforcèd leisure of the present time,
And dedicate of right my little book
To thee, beloved—sure at least of this
That if my verse has aught of good or true,{2}
It will not lack the answer of one heart—
And if herein it may be thou shalt find
Some notes of jarring discord, some that speak
A spirit ill at ease, unharmonised,
Yet ’twere a wrong unto thyself to deem
These are the utterance of my present heart,
My present mood—but of long years ago,
When neither in the light of thy calm eyes,
Nor in the pure joys of an innocent home,
Nor in the happy laughter of these babes,
Had I as yet found comfort, peace, or joy.
But all is changèd now, and could I weave
A lay of power, it should not now be wrung
From miserable moods of sullen sin,
Chewing the bitter ashes of the fruit
Itself had gathered; rather would I speak
Of light from darkness, good from evil brought
By an almighty power, and how all things,
If we will not refuse the good they bring,
Are messages of an almighty love,{3}
And full of blessings. Oh! be sure of this—
All things are mercies while we count them so;
And this believing, not keen poverty
Nor wasting years of pain or slow disease,
Nor death, which in a moment might lay low
Our pleasant plants,—not these, if they should come,
Shall ever drift our bark of faith ashore,
Whose stedfast anchor is securely cast
Within the veil, the veil of things unseen,
Which now we know not, but shall know hereafter.
Yet wherefore this? for we have not been called
To interpret the dark ways of Providence,
But that unsleeping eye that wakes for us,
Has kept from hurt, and harm, and blind mischance,
Our happy home till now. Yet not for this
Can we escape our share of human fears
And dim forebodings, chiefly when we think
Under what hostile influence malign
They may grow up, for whom their life is cast{4}
Now to begin in this unhappy age,
When all, that by a solemn majesty
And an enduring being once rebuked
And put to shame the sordid thoughts of man,
Must be no more permitted to affront
Him and his littleness, or bid him back
Unto the higher tasks and nobler cares
For which he lives, for which his life is lent.
Yet what though all things must be common now,
And nothing sacred, nothing set apart,
But each enclosure by rude hands laid waste,
That did fence in from the world’s wilderness
Some spot of holy ground, wherein might grow
The tender slips, the planting of the Lord;
Within the precincts of which holy spots,
With awful ordinances fencèd round,
They might grow up in beauty and in peace,
In season due to be transplanted thence
Into the garden of God,—what though all these{5}
May perish, there will yet remain to us
One citadel, one ark, which hands profane
Will scarce invade, or lay unholy touch
Upon the sanctities inviolate,
And pure religion of our sacred homes.
And here the culture may proceed, and here
Heaven may distil its rich and silent dews,
When all around is parched as desert heath.
For this may come, the withering and the drought,
The laying waste of every holy hedge
May come, how soon we know not, but may fear;
Since nations walk, no less than men, by faith,
As seeing that which is invisible
Unto the sealèd eye of sensual men:
And where this vision is not, or the seers
Are lightly counted of, the people perish.
And woe unto our country, if indeed
She has left off this wisdom, or esteems
This for her higher wisdom—to despise
All spiritual purpose, all far-looking aim,{6}
And all that cannot be exchanged for gold—
Woe unto her, and turbulent unrest
Unto ourselves, who cannot hope or wish
In her disquiet to lead quiet lives,
Or to withdraw out of the stormy press
And tumult—to withdraw and keep the latch
Close fastened of our little world apart,
A peaceful island in a stormy sea,
A patch of sunshine amid shadows lying;
This must not be, we were not called to this.
And all the peace we know must be within,
And from within—from that glad river fed,
Whose springs lie deeper than that heat or cold,
Or the vicissitudes earth’s surface knows
Can reach to harm them.
Mayest thou know well
What are these springing waters, wells of life,
By the great Father dug for us at first,
And which, when sin had stopped them, love anew{7}
Has opened, and has given them their old names
And former virtue[1]; and from these refreshed,
Mayest thou pass onward through the wilderness,
And knowing what of ill is imminent,
And may descend upon us, evermore
Strengthen with faith and prayer, with lofty thought
And effort, and it may be in some part
With soul-sustaining verse, the citadel
Of courage and heroic fortitude,
Which in the centre of a woman’s heart
Is stablished, whatsoever outwardly
Of doubt or womanly weak fear prevail.



POEMS, &c.



It seems to me like yesterday,
The morning when I took my way
Upon the shore—in solitude;
For in that miserable mood
It was relief to quit the ken
And the inquiring looks of men—
The looks of love and gentleness,
And pity, that would fain express{10}
Its only purpose was to know,
That, knowing, it might soothe my woe:
But when I felt that I was free
From searching gaze, it was to me
Like ending of a dreary task,
Or putting off a cumbrous mask.
I wandered forth upon the shore,
Wishing this lie of life was o’er;
What was beyond I could not guess,
I thought it might be quietness,
And now I had no dream of bliss,
No thought, no other hope but this—
To be at rest—for all that fed
The dream of my proud youth had fled,
My dream of youth, that I would be
Happy and glorious, wise and free,
In mine own right, and keep my state,
And would repel the heavy weight,{11}
The load that crushed unto the ground
The servile multitude around;
The purpose of my life had failed,
The heavenly heights I would have scaled,
Seemed more than ever out of sight,
Further beyond my feeble flight.
The beauty of the universe
Was lying on me like a curse;
Only the lone surge at my feet
Uttered a soothing murmur sweet,
As every broken weary wave
Sunk gently to a quiet grave,
Dying on the bosom of the sea—
And death grew beautiful to me,
Until it seemed a mother mild,
And I like some too happy child;
A happy child, that tired with play,
Through a long summer holiday,
Runs to his mother’s arms to weep
His little weariness asleep.{12}
Rest—rest—all passion that once stirred
My heart, had ended in one word—
My one desire to be at rest,
To lay my head on any breast,
Where there was hope that I might keep
A dreamless and unbroken sleep;
And the lulled ocean seemed to say,
“With me is quiet,—come away.”
There is a tale that oft has stirred
My bosom deeply: you have heard
How that the treacherous sea-maid’s art
With song inveigles the lost heart
Of some lone fisher, that has stood
For days beside the glimmering flood;
And when has grown upon him there
The mystery of earth and air,
He cannot find with whom to part
The burden lying at his heart;
So when the mermaid bids him come,{13}
And summons to her peaceful home,
He hears—he leaps into the wave,
To find a home, and not a grave.
Anon I said I would not die;
I loathed to live—I feared to die—
So I went forward, till I stood
Amid a marble solitude,
A ruined town of ancient day.
I rested where some steps away
From other work of human hand
Two solitary pillars stand,
Two pillars on a wild hill side,
Like sea-marks of a shrunken tide:
Their shafts were by the sea-breeze worn,
Beneath them waved the verdant corn;
But a few paces from the crown
Of that green summit, farther down,
A fallen pillar on the plain,
Slow sinking in the earth again,{14}
Bedding itself in dark black mould,
Lay moveless, where it first had rolled.
It once had been a pillar high,
And pointing to the starry sky;
But now lay prostrate, its own weight
Now serving but to fix its state,
To sink it in its earthy bed;
I gazed, and to myself I said,
“This pillar lying on the plain
The hand of man might raise again,
And set it as in former days;
But the fall’n spirit who shall raise,
What power on earth? what power in heaven?”
How quickly was an answer given
Unto this voice of my despair!
But now I sat in silence there,
I thought upon the vanished time,
And my irrevocable prime,
My baffled purpose, wasted years,
My sin, my misery—and my tears{15}
Fell thick and fast upon the sands;
I hid my face within my hands,
For tears are strange that find their way
Under the open eye of day,
Under the broad and glorious sun,
Full in the heavens, as mine have done,
And as upon that day they did,
Unnoticed, unrestrained, unchid.
How long I might have felt them flow
Without a check, I do not know,
But presently, while yet I kept
That attitude of woe, and wept,
A mild voice sounded in mine ears—
“You cannot wash your heart with tears!”
I quickly turned—and, vexed to be
Seen in my spirit’s agony,
In anger had almost replied—
An aged man was at my side;
I think that since my life began,
I never saw an older man,{16}
Than he who stood beside me then,
And with mild accents said again:
“You cannot cleanse your heart with tears,
Though you should weep as many years
As our great Father, when he sat
Uncomforted on Ararat—
This would not help you, and the tear
Which does not heal, will scald and sear.
What is your sorrow?”
Until now
I never had unveiled my woe—
Not that I shunned sweet sympathies,
Man’s words, or woman’s pitying eyes;
But that I felt they were in vain,
And could not help me—for the pain,
The wound which I was doomed to feel,
Man gave not, and he could not heal.
But in this old man’s speech and tone
Was something that allured me on:{17}
I told him all—I did not hide
My sin, my sorrow, or my pride:
I told him how, when I began
First to verge upward to a man,
These thoughts were mine—to dwell alone,
My spirit on its lordly throne,
Hating the vain stir, fierce and loud,
The din of the tumultuous crowd;
And how I thought to arm my soul,
And stablish it in self-controul;
And said I would obey the right,
And would be strong in wisdom’s might,
And bow unto mine own heart’s law,
And keep my heart from speck or flaw,
That in its mirror I might find
A reflex of the Eternal mind,
A glass to give me back the truth—
And how before me from my youth
A phantom ever on the wing,
Appearing now, now vanishing,{18}
Had flitted, looking out from shrine,
From painting, or from work divine
Of poet’s, or of sculptor’s art;
And how I feared it might depart,
That beauty which alone could shed
Light on my life—and then I said,
I would beneath its shadow dwell,
And would all lovely things compel,
All that was beautiful or fair
In art or nature, earth or air,
To be as ministers to me,
To keep me pure, to keep me free
From worldly service, from the chain
Of custom, and from earthly stain;
And how they kept me for a while,
And did my foolish heart beguile;
Yet all at last did faithless prove,
And, late or soon, betrayed my love;
How they had failed me one by one,
Till now, when youth was scarcely done,{19}
My heart, which I had thought to steep
In hues of beauty, and to keep
Its consecrated home and fane,
That heart was soiled with many a stain,
Which from without and from within
Had gathered there, till all was sin,
Till now I only drew my breath,
I lived but in the hope of death.
While my last words were giving place
To my heart’s anguish, o’er his face
A shadow of displeasure past,
But vanished then again as fast
As the breeze-shadow from the brook;
And with mild words and pitying look
He gently said—
“Ah me, my son,
A weary course your life has run;
And yet it need not be in vain,
That you have suffered all this pain;{20}
And, if mine years might make me bold
To speak, methinks I could unfold
Why in such efforts you could meet
But only misery and defeat.
Yet deem not of us as at strife,
Because you set before your life
A purpose and a loftier aim,
Than the blind lives of men may claim
For the most part—or that you sought,
By fixed resolve and solemn thought,
To lift your being’s calm estate
Out of the range of time and fate.
Glad am I that a thing unseen,
A spiritual Presence, this has been
Your worship, this your young heart stirred—
But yet herein you proudly erred,
Here may the source of woe be found,
You thought to fling, yourself around,
The atmosphere of light and love
In which it was your joy to move—{21}
You thought by efforts of your own
To take at last each jarring tone
Out of your life, till all should meet
In one majestic music sweet—
Deeming that in our own heart’s ground
The root of good was to be found,
And that by careful watering
And earnest tendance we might bring
The bud, the blossom, and the fruit
To grow and flourish from that root—
You deemed we needed nothing more
Than skill and courage to explore
Deep down enough in our own heart,
To where the well-head lay apart,
Which must the springs of being feed,
And that these fountains did but need
The soil that choked them moved away,
To bubble in the open day.
But, thanks to heaven, it is not so,
That root a richer soil doth know{22}
Than our poor hearts could e’er supply,
That stream is from a source more high,
From God it came, to God returns,
Not nourished from our scanty urns,
But fed from his unfailing river,
Which runs and will run on for ever.”
When now he came to heavenly things
And spake of them, his spirit had wings,
His words seemed not his own, but given—
I could have deemed one spake from heaven
Of hope and joy, of life and death,
And immortality through faith,
Of that great change commenced within,
The blood that cleanses from all sin,
That can wash out the inward stain,
And consecrate the heart again,
The voice that clearer and more clear
Doth speak unto the purgèd ear,
The gracious influences given
In a continued stream from heaven,{23}
The balm that can the soul’s hurt heal,
The Spirit’s witness and its seal.
I listened, for unto mine ear
The Word, which I had longed to hear,
Was come at last, the lifeful word
Which I had often almost heard
In some deep silence of my breast—
For with a sense of dim unrest
That word unborn had often wrought,
And struggled in the womb of thought,
As from beneath the smothering earth
The seed strives upward to a birth:
And lo! it now was born indeed—
Here was the answer to my need.
But now we parted, never more
To meet upon that lone sea-shore.
We have not met on earth again,
And scarcely shall—there doth remain{24}
A time, a place where we shall meet,
And have the stars beneath our feet.
Since then I many times have sought
Who this might be, and sometimes thought
It must have been an angel sent
To be a special instrument
And minister of grace to me,
Or deemed again it might be He,
Of whom some say he shall not die,
Till he have seen with mortal eye
The glory of his Lord again:
But this is a weak thought and vain.
We parted, each upon our way—
I homeward, where my glad course lay
Beside those ruins where I sate
On the same morning—desolate,—
With scarcely strength enough to grieve:
And now it was a marvellous eve,{25}
The waters at my feet were bright,
And breaking into isles of light:
The misty sunset did enfold
A thousand floating motes of gold;
The red light seemed to penetrate
Through the worn stone, and re-create
The old, to glorify anew;
And steeping all things through and through
A rich dissolving splendour poured
Through rent and fissure, and restored
The fall’n, the falling and decayed,
Filling the rifts which time had made,
Till the rent masses seemed to meet,
The pillar stand upon its feet,
And tower and cornice, roof and stair
Hung self-upheld in the magic air.
Transfigured thus those temples stood
Upon the margin of the flood,
All glorious as they rose of yore,
There standing, as not ever more{26}
They could be harmed by touch of time,
But still, as in that perfect prime,
Must flourish unremoved and free,
Or as they then appeared to me,
A newer and more glorious birth,
A city of that other earth,
That Earth which is to be.



What good soever in thy heart or mind
Doth yet no higher source nor fountain own
Than thine own self, nor bow to other throne—
Suspect and fear—although therein thou find
High purpose to go forth and bless thy kind,
Or in the awful temple of thy soul
To worship what is loveliest, and controul
The ill within, and by strong laws to bind.
Good is of God—and none is therefore sure
That has dared wander from its source away:
Laws without sanction will not long endure,
Love will grow faint and fainter day by day,
And Beauty from the straight path will allure,
And weakening first, will afterwards betray.


TO ——

What maiden gathers flowers, who does not love[2]?
And some have said, that none in summer bowers,
Save lovers, wreathe them garlands of fresh flowers:
O lady, of a purpose dost thou move
Through garden walks, as willing to disprove
This gentle faith; who, with uncareful hand,
Hast culled a thousand thus at my command,
Wherewith thou hast this dewy garland wove.
There is no meaning in a thousand flowers—
One lily from its green stalk wouldst thou part,
Or pluck, and to my bosom I will fold,
One rose, selected from these wealthy bowers,
Upgathering closely to its virgin heart
An undivulgèd hoard of central gold.



Look, dearest, what a glory from the sun
Has fringed that cloud with silver edges bright,
And how it seems to drink the golden light
Of evening—you would think that it had won
A splendour of its own: but lo! anon
You shall behold a dark mass float away,
Emptied of light and radiance, from the day,
Its glory faded utterly and gone.
And doubt not we should suffer the same loss
As this weak vapour, which awhile did seem
Translucent and made pure of all its dross,
If, having shared the light, we should misdeem
That light our own, or count we hold in fee
That which we must receive continually.



We live not in our moments or our years—
The Present we fling from us like the rind
Of some sweet Future, which we after find
Bitter to taste, or bind that in with fears,
And water it beforehand with our tears—
Vain tears for that which never may arrive:
Meanwhile the joy whereby we ought to live
Neglected or unheeded disappears.
Wiser it were to welcome and make ours
Whate’er of good, though small, the present brings—
Kind greetings, sunshine, song of birds and flowers,
With a child’s pure delight in little things;
And of the griefs unborn to rest secure,
Knowing that mercy ever will endure.



If sorrow came not near us, and the lore
Which wisdom-working sorrow best imparts,
Found never time of entrance to our hearts,
If we had won already a safe shore,
Or if our changes were already o’er,
Our pilgrim being we might quite forget,
Our hearts but faintly on those mansions set,
Where there shall be no sorrow any more.
Therefore we will not be unwise to ask
This, nor secure exemption from our share
Of mortal suffering, and life’s drearier task—
Not this, but grace our portion so to bear,
That we may rest, when grief and pain are over,
“With the meek Son of our Almighty Lover.”{32}


O dowered with a searching glance to see
Quite through the hollow masks, wherewith the bare
And worthless shows of greatness vizored are,
This lore thou hast, because all things to thee
Are proven by the absolute decree
Of duty, and whatever will not square
With that “prime wisdom,” though of seeming fair
Or stately, thou rejectest faithfully.
Till chidden in thy strength, each random aim
Of good, whose aspect heavenward does not turn,
Shrinks self-rebuked—thou looking kindliest blame
From the calm region of thine eyes, that burn
With tempered but continuous flashes bright,
Like the mild lightnings of a tropic night.



The tradition on which the following Ballad is founded is an existing one, and exactly as it is here recounted was narrated to the author during his stay at Granada.

O hymned in many a poet’s strain,
Alhambra, by enchanter’s hand
Exalted on this throne of Spain,
A marvel of the land,
The last of thy imperial race,
Alhambra, when he overstept
Thy portal’s threshold, turned his face—
He turned his face and wept.{34}
In sooth it was a thing to weep,
If then, as now, the level plain
Beneath was spreading like the deep,
The broad unruffled main:
If, like a watch-tower of the sun,
Above the Alpujarras rose,
Streaked, when the dying day was done,
With evening’s roseate snows.
Thy founts yet make a pleasant sound,
And the twelve lions, couchant yet,
Sustain their ponderous burthen, round
The marble basin set.
But never, when the moon is bright
O’er hill and golden-sanded stream,
And thy square turrets in the light
And taper columns gleam,{35}
Will village maiden dare to fill
Her pitcher from that basin wide,
But rather seeks a niggard rill
Far down the steep hill-side!
It was an Andalusian maid,
With rose and pink-enwoven hair,
Who told me what the fear that stayed
Their footsteps from that stair:
How, rising from that watery floor,
A Moorish maiden, in the gleam
Of the wan moonlight, stands before
The stirrer of the stream:
And mournfully she begs the grace,
That they would speak the words divine,
And sprinkling water in her face,
Would make the sacred sign.{36}
And whosoe’er will grant this boon,
Returning with the morrow’s light,
Shall find the fountain pavement strewn
With gold and jewels bright:
A regal gift—for once, they say,
Her father ruled this broad domain,
The last who kept beneath his sway
This pleasant place of Spain.
It surely is a fearful doom,
That one so beautiful should have
No present quiet in her tomb,
No hope beyond the grave.
It must be, that some amulet
Doth make all human pity vain,
Or that upon her brow is set
The silent seal of pain,{37}
Which none can meet—else long ago,
Since many gentle hearts are there,
Some spirit, touched by joy or woe,
Had answered to her prayer.
But so it is, that till this hour
That mournful child beneath the moon
Still rises from her watery bower,
To urge this simple boon—
To beg, as all have need of grace,
That they would speak the words divine,
And, sprinkling water in her face,
Would make the sacred sign.



Peace, Freedom, Happiness, have loved to wait
On the fair islands, fenced by circling seas,
And ever of such favoured spots as these
Have the wise dreamers dreamed, that would create
That perfect model of a happy state,
Which the world never saw. Oceana,
Utopia such, and Plato’s isle that lay
Westward of Gades and the Great Sea’s gate.
Dreams are they all, which yet have helped to make
That underneath fair polities we dwell,
Though marred in part by envy, faction, hate—
Dreams which are dear, dear England, for thy sake,
Who art indeed that sea-girt citadel,
And nearest image of that perfect state.



Though never axe until a later day
Assailed thy forests’ huge antiquity,
Yet elder Fame had many tales of thee—
Whether Phœnician shipman far astray
Had brought uncertain notices away
Of islands dreaming in the middle sea;
Or that man’s heart, which struggles to be free
From the old worn-out world, had never stay
Till, for a place to rest on, it had found
A region out of ken, that happier isle,
Which the mild ocean breezes blow around,
Where they who thrice upon this mortal stage
Had kept their hands from wrong, their hearts from guile,
Should come at length, and live a tearless age.



England, we love thee better than we know—
And this I learned, when after wanderings long
’Mid people of another stock and tongue,
I heard again thy martial music blow,
And saw thy gallant children to and fro
Pace, keeping ward at one of those huge gates,
Which like twin giants watch the Herculean straits:
When first I came in sight of that brave show,
It made my very heart within me dance,
To think that thou thy proud foot shouldst advance
Forward so far into the mighty sea;
Joy was it and exultation to behold
Thine ancient standard’s rich emblazonry,
A glorious picture by the wind unrolled.



We look for, and have promise to behold
A better country, such as earth has none—
Yet, England, am I still thy duteous son,
And never will this heart be dead or cold
At the relation of thy glories old,
Or of what newer triumphs thou hast won,
Where thou as with a mighty arm hast done
The work of God, quelling the tyrants bold.
Elect of nations, for the whole world’s good
Thou wert exalted to a doom so high—
To outbrave Rome’s “triple tyrant,” to confound
Every oppressor, that with impious flood
Would drown the landmarks of humanity,
The limits God hath set to nations and their bound[3].


POLAND, 1831.

The nations may not be trod out, and quite
Obliterated from the world’s great page—
The nations, that have filled from age to age
Their place in story. They who in despite
Of this, a people’s first and holiest right,
In lust of unchecked power or brutal rage,
Against a people’s life such warfare wage,
With man no more, but with the Eternal fight.
They who break down the barriers He hath set,
Break down what would another time defend
And shelter their own selves: they who forget
(For the indulgence of the present will)
The lasting ordinances, in the end
Will rue their work, when ill shall sanction ill.




What would it help to call thee what thou art?
When all is spoken, thou remainest still
With the same power and the same evil will
To crush a nation’s life out, to dispart
All holiest ties, to turn awry and thwart
All courses that kind nature keeps, to spill
The blood of noblest veins, to maim, or kill
With torture of slow pain the aching heart.
When our weak hands hang useless, and we feel
Deeds cannot be, who then would ease his breast
With the impotence of words? But our appeal
Is unto Him, who counts a nation’s tears,
With whom are the oppressor and opprest,
And vengeance, and the recompensing years.



How long shall weary nations toil in blood,
How often roll the still returning stone
Up the sharp painful height, ere they will own
That on the base of individual good,
Of virtue, manners, and pure homes endued
With household graces—that on this alone
Shall social freedom stand—where these are gone,
There is a nation doomed to servitude?
O suffering, toiling France, thy toil is vain!
The irreversible decree stands sure,
Where men are selfish, covetous of gain,
Heady and fierce, unholy and impure,
Their toil is lost, and fruitless all their pain;
They cannot build a work which shall endure.




Thy duteous loving children fear for thee
In one thing chiefly—for thy pure abodes
And thy undesecrated household Gods,
Thou most religious, and for this most free,
Of all the nations. Oh! look out and see
The injuries which she, who in the name
Of liberty thy fellowship would claim,
Has done to virtue and to liberty;
Whose philtres have corrupted everywhere
The living springs men drink of, all save thine.
Oh! then of her and of her love beware!
Better again eight hundred years of strife,
Than give her leave to sap and undermine
The deep foundations of thy moral life.



You say we love not freedom, honoured friend;
Yea, doubtless, we can lend to scheme like yours
Small love. Yet not for this—that it assures
Too much to man—this would not me offend:
But for I know that all such schemes will end
With leaving him too little,—will deprive
Of that free energy by which we live:
For of such plots the final act attend—
See them who loathed the very name of king,
Emulous in slavery, bow their souls before
The new-coined title of some meaner thing
Than ever crown of king or emperor wore;
For such in God’s and Nature’s righteousness,
The weakness which avenges all excess.




Ah! who may guess, who yet was never tried
How fearful the temptation to reply
With wrong for wrong, yea fiercely to defy
In spirit, even when action is denied?
Therefore praise waits on thee, not drawn aside
By this strong lure of hell—on thee whose eye
Being formed by love, could every where descry
Love, or some workings unto love allied—
And benediction on the grace that dealt
So with thy soul—and prayer, more earnest prayer,
Intenser longing than before we felt
For all that in dark places lying are,
For captives in strange lands, for them who pine
In depth of dungeon, or in sunless mine[4].



Songs of deliverance compassed thee about,
Long ere thy prison doors were backward flung:
When first thy heart to gentle thoughts was strung,
A song arose in heaven, an angel shout
For one delivered from the hideous rout,
That with defiance and fierce mutual hate
Do each the other’s griefs exasperate.
Thou, loving, from thy grief hadst taken out
Its worst—for who is captive or a slave
But He, who from that dungeon and foul grave,
His own dark soul, refuses to come forth
Into the light and liberty above?
Or whom may we call wretched on this earth
Save only him who has left off to love?



Who ever such adventure yet,
Or a like delight has known,
To that which Count Arnaldo met
On the morning of St. John?
He had gone forth beside the sea,
With his falcon on his hand,
And saw a pinnace fast and free,
That was making to the land.{50}
And he that by the rudder stood
As he went was singing still,
“My galley, oh my galley good,
Heaven protect thee from all ill;
“From all the dangers and the woe
That on ocean’s waters wait,
Almeria’s reefs and shallows low,
And Gibraltar’s stormy strait.
“From Venice and its shallow way,
From the shoals of Flanders’ coast,
And from the gulf of broad Biscay,
Where the dangers are the most.”
Then Count Arnaldo spoke aloud,
You might hear his accents well—
“Those words, thou mariner, I would
Unto me that thou wouldst tell.”{51}
To him that mariner replied
In a courteous tone, but free—
“I never sing that song,” he cried,
“Save to one who sails with me.”{52}


Not thou from us, O Lord, but we
Withdraw ourselves from thee.
When we are dark and dead,
And Thou art covered with a cloud,
Hanging before Thee, like a shroud,
So that our prayer can find no way,
Oh! teach us that we do not say,
“Where is thy brightness fled?”
But that we search and try
What in ourselves has wrought this blame;
For thou remainest still the same;
But earth’s own vapours earth may fill
With darkness and thick clouds, while still
The sun is in the sky.




High thoughts at first, and visions high
Are ours of easy victory;
The word we bear seems so divine,
So framed for Adam’s guilty line,
That none, unto ourselves we say,
Of all his sinning suffering race,
Will hear that word, so full of grace,
And coldly turn away.



But soon a sadder mood comes round—
High hopes have fallen to the ground,
And the ambassadors of peace
Go weeping, that men will not cease
To strive with heaven—they weep and mourn,
That suffering men will not be blest,
That weary men refuse to rest,
And wanderers to return.


Well is it, if has not ensued
Another and a worser mood,
When all unfaithful thoughts have way,
When we hang down our hands, and say,
Alas! it is a weary pain,
To seek with toil and fruitless strife
To chafe the numbed limbs into life,
That will not live again.



Then if Spring odours on the wind
Float by, they bring into our mind
That it were wiser done, to give
Our hearts to Nature, and to live
For her—or in the student’s bower
To search into her hidden things,
And seek in books the wondrous springs
Of knowledge and of power.


Or if we dare not thus draw back,
Yet oh! to shun the crowded track
And the rude throng of men! to dwell
In hermitage or lonely cell,
Feeding all longings that aspire
Like incense heavenward, and with care
And lonely vigil nursing there
Faith’s solitary pyre.



Oh! let not us this thought allow—
The heat, the dust upon our brow,
Signs of the contest, we may wear:
Yet thus we shall appear more fair
In our Almighty Master’s eye,
Than if in fear to lose the bloom,
Or ruffle the soul’s lightest plume,
We from the strife should fly.


And for the rest, in weariness,
In disappointment, or distress,
When strength decays, or hope grows dim,
We ever may recur to Him,
Who has the golden oil divine,
Wherewith to feed our failing urns,
Who watches every lamp that burns
Before his sacred shrine.



Dear boy, thy momentary laughter rings
Sincerely out, and that spontaneous glee,
Seeming to need no hint from outward things,
Breaks forth in sudden shoutings, loud and free.
From what hid fountains doth thy joyance flow,
That borrows nothing from the world around?
Its springs must deeper lie than we can know,
A well whose springs lie safely underground.{58}
So be it ever—and thou happy boy,
When Time, that takes these wild delights away,
Gives thee a measure of sedater joy,
Which, unlike this, shall ever with thee stay;—
Then may that joy, like this, to outward things
Owe nothing—but lie safe beneath the sod,
A hidden fountain fed from unseen springs,
From the glad-making river of our God.



Deem not these fishers idle, though by day
You hear the snatches of their lazy song,
And see them listlessly the sunlight long
Strew the curved beach of this indented bay:
So deemed I, till I viewed their trim array
Of boats last night,—a busy armament,
With sails as dark as ever Theseus bent
Upon his fatal rigging, take their way.
Rising betimes, I could not choose but look
For their return, and when along the lake
The morning mists were curling, saw them make
Homeward, returning toward their quiet nook,
With draggled nets down hanging to the tide,
Weary, and leaning o’er their vessels’ side.



The clouds are gathering in their western dome,
Deep-drenched with sunlight, as a fleece with dew,
While I with baffled effort still pursue
And track these waters toward their mountain home,
In vain—though cataract, and mimic foam,
And island-spots, round which the streamlet threw
Its sister arms, which joyed to meet anew,
Have lured me on, and won me still to roam;
Till now, coy nymph, unseen thy waters pass,
Or faintly struggle through the twinkling grass—
And I, thy founts unvisited, return.
Is it that thou art revelling with thy peers?
Or dost thou feed a solitary urn,
Else unreplenished, with thine own sad tears?



Sweet Water-nymph, more shy than Arethuse,
Why wilt thou hide from me thy green retreat,
Where duly Thou with silver-sandalled feet,
And every Naiad, her green locks profuse,
Welcome with dance sad evening, or unloose,
To share your revel, an oak-cinctured throng,
Oread and Dryad, who the daylight long
By rock, or cave, or antique forest, use
To shun the Wood-god and his rabble bold?
Such comes not now, or who with impious strife
Would seek to untenant meadow stream and plain
Of that indwelling power, which is the life
And which sustaineth each, which poets old
As god and goddess thus have loved to feign.



The sea is like a mirror far and near,
And ours a prosperous voyage, safe from harms;
And yet the sense that everlasting arms
Are round us and about us, is as dear
Now when no sight of danger doth appear,
As though our vessel did its blind way urge
’Mid the long weltering of the dreariest surge,
Through which a perishing bark did ever steer.
Lord of the calm and tempest, be it ours,
Poor mariners! to pay due vows to thee,
Though not a cloud on all the horizon lowers
Of all our life—for even so shall we
Have greater boldness towards thee, when indeed
The storm is up, and there is earnest need.



One star is shining in the crimson eve,
And the thin texture of the faint blue sky
Above is like a veil intensely drawn;
Upon the spirit with a solemn weight
The marvel and the mystery of eve
Is lying, as all holy thoughts and calm,
By the vain stir and tumult of the day
Chased far away, come back on tranquil wing,
Like doves returning to their noted haunts.
It is the solemn even-tide—the hour
Of holy musings, and to us no less
Of sweet refreshment for the bodily frame{64}
Than for the spirit, harassed both and worn
With a long day of travel; and methinks
It must have been an evening such as this,
After a day of toilsome journeyings o’er,
When looking out on Tiber, as we now
Look out on this fair river flowing by,
Together sat the saintly Monica[5],
And with her, given unto her prayers, that son,
The turbid stream of whose tumultuous youth
Now first was running clear and bright and smooth,
And solitary sitting in the niche
Of a deep window held delightful talk—
Such as they never could have known before,
While a deep chasm, deeper than natural love
Could e’er bridge over, lay betwixt their souls—
Of what must be the glorious life in heaven.
And looking forth on meadow, stream, and sky,
And on the golden west, that richest glow{65}
Of sunset to the uncreated light,
Which must invest for ever those bright worlds,
Seemed darkness, and the best that earth can give,
Its noblest pleasures, they with one consent
Counted as vile, nor once to be compared—
Oh! rather say not worthy to be named
With what is to be looked for there; and thus
Leaving behind them all things which are seen,
By many a stately stair they did ascend
Above the earth and all created things,
The sun and starry heavens—yea, and above
The mind of man, until they did attain
Where light no shadow has, and life no death,
Where past or future are not, nor can be,
But an eternal present, and the Lamb
His people feeds from indeficient streams.
Then pausing for a moment, as to taste
That river of delights, at length they cried,
Oh! to be thus for ever, and to hear
Thus in the silence of the lower world,{66}
And in the silence of all thoughts that keep
Vain stir within, unutterable words,
And with the splendour of His majesty,
Whose seat is in the middle of the throne,
Thus to be fed for ever—this must be
The beatific vision, the third heaven.
What we have for these passing moments known,
To know the same for ever—this would be
That life whereof even now we held debate.
When will it be? oh when?
These things they said,
And for a season breathed immortal air,
But then perforce returned to earth again:
For the air on those first summits is too fine
For our long breathing, while we yet have on
Our gross investiture of mortal weeds.
Yet not for nothing had their spirits flown
To those high regions, bringing back at once{67}
A reconcilement with the mean things here,
And a more earnest longing for what there
Of nobler was by partial glimpses thus
Seen through the crannies of the prison house.
And she, that mother—such entire content
Possessed her bosom, and her Lord had filled
The orb of her desires so round and full,
Had answered all her prayers for her lost son
With such an overmeasure of his grace,
She had no more to ask, and did not know
Why she should tarry any longer here,
Nor what she did on earth. Thus then she felt,
And to these thoughts which overflowed her heart
Gave thankful utterance meet; nor many days
After this vision and foretaste of joy,
Inherited the substance of the things
Which she had seen, and entered into peace.




How of a sudden Sleep has laid on thee
His heavy hand—on thee, for ever blest,
Sleeping or waking, stirring or at rest:
But now thou wert exulting merrily,
And in the very middle of thy glee
Thy head thou layedst on thy father’s breast,
There seeming to have found a peacefuller nest
Than one would think might in this loud world be.
There were no need to fear thy worser mood,
Striving in years to come against the good
He would impart, if thou couldst keep in mind
How many times, the while with anxious care
He sought to screen thee from the chilling air,
Upon his bosom thou hast slept reclined.



Often when my thought has been
Pondering on what solemn scene,
Which of all the glorious shows
Nature can at will disclose,
Once beholden by the eye,
Ever after would supply
Most unto the musing heart
Of memories which should not depart—
It has seemed no ampler dower
Of her beauty or her power{70}
We could win, than night and day,
An illimitable way,
To sail down some mighty river,
Sailing as we would sail for ever.
Lo! my wish is almost won,
Broadly flows the stately Rhone,
And we loosen from the shore
Our light pinnace, long before
The young East in gorgeous state
Has unlocked his ruby gate,
And our voyage is not done
At the sinking of the sun;
But for us the azure Night
Feeds her golden flocks with light:
Ours are all the hues of heaven,
Sights and sounds of morn and even;
In our view the day is born;
First the stars of lustre shorn,{71}
Until Hesper, he who last
Kept his splendour, now fades fast;
A faint bloom over heaven is spread,
And the clouds blush deeper red,
Till from them the stream below
Catches the same roseate glow;
The pale east lightens into gold,
And the west is with the fold
Of the mantle of dim night
Scarcely darkened or less bright—
Till, his way prepared, at length
Rising up in golden strength,
Tramples the victorious sun
The dying stars out, one by one.
Fairer scene the opening eye
Of the day can scarce descry—
Fairer sight he looks not on
Than the pleasant banks of Rhone;{72}
Where in terraces and ranks,
On those undulating banks,
Rise by many a hilly stair
Sloping tiers of vines, where’er
From the steep and stony soil
Has been won by careful toil,
And with long laborious pains
Fenced against the washing rains,
Fenced and anxiously walled round,
A little patch of garden ground.
Higher still some place of power,
Or a solitary tower,
Ruined now, is looking down
On some quiet little town
In a sheltered glen beneath,
Where the smoke’s unbroken wreath,
Mounting in the windless air,
Rests, dissolving slowly there,
O’er the housetops like a cloud,
Or a thinnest vapourous shroud.{73}
Morn has been, and lo! how soon
Has arrived the middle noon,
And the broad sun’s rays do rest
On some naked mountain’s breast,
Where alone relieve the eye
Massive shadows, as they lie
In the hollows motionless;
Still our boat doth onward press.
Now a peaceful current wide
Bears it on an ample tide,
Now the hills retire, and then
Their broad fronts advance again,
Till the rocks have closed us round,
And would seem our course to bound,
But anon a way appears,
And our vessel onward steers,
Darting swiftly as between
Narrow walls of a ravine.
Morn has been and noon—and now
Evening falls about our prow:{74}
But the sunken sunset still
Burns behind the western hill;
Lo! the starry troop again
Gather on the ethereal plain;
Even now and there were none,
And a moment since but one;
And anon we lift our head,
And all heaven is overspread
With a still assembling crowd,
With a silent multitude—
Venus, first and brightest set
In the night’s pale coronet,
Armed Orion’s belted pride,
And the Seven that by the side
Of the Titan nightly weave
Dances in the mystic eve,
Sisters linked in love and light;
’Twere in truth a solemn sight,
Were we sailing now as they,
Who upon their western way{75}
To the isles of spice and gold,
Nightly watching, might behold
These our constellations dip,
And the great sign of the Ship
Rise upon the other hand,
With the Cross that seems to stand
In the vault of heaven upright,
Marking the middle hour of night—
Or with them whose keels first prest
The mighty rivers of the west,
Who the first with bold intent
Down the Orellana went,[6]
Or a dangerous progress won
On the mighty Amazon,
By whose ocean-streams they tell
How yet the warrior-maidens dwell.
But the Fancy may not roam;
Thou wilt keep it nearer home,{76}
Friend, of earthly friends the best,
Who on this fair river’s breast
Sailest with me fleet and fast,
As the unremitting blast
With a steady breath and strong
Urges our light boat along.
We this day have found delight
In each pleasant sound and sight
Of this river bright and fair,
And in things which flowing are
Like a stream, yet without blame
These my passing song may claim,
Or thy hearing may beguile,
If we not forget the while,
That we are from childhood’s morn
On a mightier river borne,
Which is rolling evermore
To a sea without a shore,
Life the river, and the sea
That we seek—eternity.{77}
We may sometimes sport and play,
And in thought keep holiday,
So we ever own a law,
Living in habitual awe,
And beneath the constant stress
Of a solemn thoughtfulness,
Weighing whither this life tends,
For what high and holy ends
It was lent us, whence it flows,
And its current whither goes.
There is ample matter here
For as much of thought and fear,
As will solemnize our souls—
Thought of how this river rolls
Over millions wrecked before
They could reach that happy shore,
Where we have not anchored yet;
Of the dangers which beset{78}
Our own way, of hidden shoal,
Waters smoothest where they roll
Over point of sunken rock,
Treacherous calm, and sudden shock
Of the storm, which can assail
No boat than ours more weak or frail—
Matter not alone of sadness,
But no less of thankful gladness,
That, whichever way we turn,
There are steady lights that burn
On the shore, and lamps of love
In the gloomiest sky above,
Which will guide our bark aright
Through the darkness of our night—
Many a fixed unblinking star
Unto them that wandering are
Through this blindly-weltering sea.
Themes of high and thoughtful glee,
When we think we are not left,
Of all solaces bereft,{79}
Each to hold, companionless,
Through a watery wilderness,
Unaccompanied our way,
As we can—this I may say,
Whatsoever else betide,
With thee sitting at my side,
And this happy cherub sweet,
Playing, laughing at my feet.



In what fierce spasms upgathered, on the plain
Medusa’s headless corpse has quivering sunk,
While all the limbs of that undying trunk
To their extremest joint with torture strain;
But the calm visage has resumed again
Its beauty,—the orbed eyelids are let down,
As though a living sleep might once more crown
Their placid circlets, guiltless of all pain.
And Thou—is thine the spirit’s swift recoil,
Which follows every deed of acted wrath,
That holding in thine hand this lovely spoil,
Thou dost not triumph, feeling that the breath
Of life is sacred, whether it inform,
Loathly or beauteous, man or beast or worm?




The mountains stand about the quiet lake,
That not a breath its azure calm may break;
No leaf of these sere olive trees is stirred,
In the near silence far-off sounds are heard;
The tiny bat is flitting overhead,
The hawthorn doth its richest odours shed
Into the dewy air; and over all
Veil after veil the evening shadows fall,
And one by one withdraw each glimmering height,
The far, and then the nearer, from our sight—{82}
No sign surviving in this tranquil scene;
That strife and savage tumult here have been.
But if the pilgrim to the latest plain
Of carnage, where the blood like summer rain
Fell but the other day; if in his mind
He marvels much and oftentimes to find
With what success has Nature each sad trace
Of man’s red footmarks laboured to efface—
What wonder is it, if this spot appears
Guiltless of strife, when now two thousand years
Of daily reparation have gone by,
Since it resumed its own tranquillity.
This calm has nothing strange, yet not the less
This holy evening’s solemn quietness,
The perfect beauty of this windless lake,
This stillness which no harsher murmurs break
Than the frogs croaking from the distant sedge,
These vineyards drest unto the water’s edge,{83}
This hind that homeward driving the slow steer,
Tells that man’s daily work goes forward here,
Have each a power upon me, while I drink
The influence of the placid time, and think
How gladly that sweet Mother once again
Resumes her sceptre and benignant reign,
But for a few short instants scared away
By the mad game, the cruel impious fray
Of her distempered children—how comes back,
And leads them in the customary track
Of blessing once again; to order brings
Anew the dislocated frame of things,
And covers up, and out of sight conceals
What they have wrought of ill, or gently heals.



A wreath of light blue vapour, pure and rare,
Mounts, scarcely seen against the bluer sky,
In quiet adoration, silently—
Till the faint currents of the upper air
Dislimn it, and it forms, dissolving there,
The dome, as of a palace, hung on high
Over the mountain—underneath it lie
Vineyards and hays and cities white and fair.
Might we not hope this beauty would engage
All living things unto one pure delight?
A vain belief!—for here, our records tell,
Rome’s understanding tyrant from men’s sight
Hid, as within a guilty citadel,
The shame of his dishonourable age.



As when unto a mother, having chid
Her child in anger, there have straight ensued
Repentings for her quick and angry mood,
That she would fain see all its traces hid
Quite out of sight—even so has Nature bid
Fair flowers, that on the scarred earth she has strewed,
To blossom, and called up the taller wood
To cover what she ruined and undid.
Oh! and her mood of anger did not last
More than an instant, but her work of peace,
Restoring and repairing, comforting
The earth, her stricken child, will never cease;
For that was her strange work, and quickly past,
To this her genial toil no end the years shall bring.



That her destroying fury was with noise
And sudden uproar—but far otherwise,
With silent and with secret ministries,
Her skill of renovation she employs:
For Nature, only loud when she destroys,
Is silent when she fashions. She will crowd
The work of her destruction, transient, loud,
Into an hour, and then long peace enjoys.
Yea, every power that fashions and upholds
Works silently—all things whose life is sure,
Their life is calm—silent the light that moulds
And colours all things; and without debate
The stars, which are for ever to endure,
Assume their thrones and their unquestioned state.




They are but selfish visions at the best,
Which tempt us to desire that we were free
From the dear ties that bind us unto Thee,
That so we might take up our lasting rest,
Where some delightful spot, some hidden nest
In brighter lands has pleased our phantasy:
And might such vows at once accomplished be,
We should not in the accomplishment be blest,
But oh! most miserable, if it be true
Peace only waits upon us, while we do
Heaven’s work and will: for what is it we ask,
When we would fain have leave to linger here,
But to abandon our appointed task,
Our place of duty and our natural sphere?




Sweet voices! seldom mortal ear
Strains of such potency might hear;
My soul, that listened, seemed quite gone,
Dissolved in sweetness, and anon
I was borne upward, till I trod
Among the hierarchy of God.
And when they ceased, as time must bring
An end to every sweetest thing,
With what reluctancy came back
My spirits to their wonted track,
And how I loathed the common life,
The daily and recurring strife{89}
With petty sins, the lowly road
And being’s ordinary load.
Why after such a solemn mood
Should any meaner thought intrude?
Why will not heaven hereafter give,
That we for evermore may live
Thus at our spirit’s topmost bent?
This said I in my discontent.
But give me, Lord, a wiser heart;
These seasons come, and they depart,
These seasons, and those higher still,
When we are given to have our fill
Of strength and life and joy with thee,
And brightness of thy face to see.
They come, or we could never guess
Of heaven’s sublimer blessedness;
They come, to be our strength and cheer
In other times, in doubt or fear,{90}
Or should our solitary way
Lie through the desert many a day.
They go, they leave us blank and dead,
That we may learn, when they are fled,
We are but vapours which have won
A moment’s brightness from the sun,
And which it may at pleasure fill
With splendour, or unclothe at will.
Well for us they do not abide,
Or we should lose ourselves in pride,
And be as angels—but as they
Who on the battlements of day
Walked, gazing on their power and might,
Till they grew giddy in their height.
Then welcome every nobler time,
When, out of reach of earth’s dull chime,
’Tis ours to drink with purgèd ears
The music of the solemn spheres,{91}
Or in the desert to have sight
Of those enchanted cities bright,
Which sensual eye can never see:
Thrice welcome may such seasons be.
But welcome too the common way,
The lowly duties of the day,
And all which makes and keeps us low,
Which teaches us ourselves to know,
That we, who do our lineage high
Draw from beyond the starry sky,
Are yet upon the other side
To earth and to its dust allied.



With what calm power thou risest on the wind—
Mak’st thou a pinion of those locks unshorn?
Or of that dark blue robe which floats behind
In ample fold? or art thou cloud-upborne?
A crescent moon is bent beneath thy feet,
Above the heavens expand, and tier o’er tier
With heavenly garlands thy advance to greet,
The cloudy throng of cherubim appear.{93}
There is a glory round thee, and mine eyes
Are dazzled, for I know not whence it came,
Since never in the light of western skies
The island clouds burned with so pure a flame:
Nor were those flowers of our dull common mould,
But nurtured on some amaranthine bed,
Nearer the sun, remote from storms and cold,
By purer dews and warmer breezes fed.
Well may we be perplexed and sadly wrought,
That we can guess so ill what dreams were thine,
Ere from the chambers of thy silent thought
That face looked out on thee, Painter divine.
What innocence, what love, what loveliness,
What purity must have familiar been
Unto thy soul, before it could express
The holy beauty in that visage seen.{94}
And so, if we would understand thee right,
And the diviner portion of thine art,
We must exalt our spirits to thine height,
Nor wilt thou else the mystery impart.



Far in the south there is a jutting ledge
Of rocks, scarce peering o’er the water’s edge,
Where earliest come the fresh Atlantic gales,
That in their course have filled a thousand sails,
And brushed for leagues and leagues the Atlantic deep,
Till now they make the nimble spirit leap
Beneath their lifeful and renewing breath,
And stir it like the ocean depths beneath.
Two that were strangers to that sunny land,
And to each other, met upon this strand;{96}
One seemed to keep so slight a hold of life,
That when he willed, without the spirit’s strife,
He might let go—a flower upon a ledge
Of verdant meadow by a river’s edge,
Which ever loosens with its treacherous flow
In gradual lapse the moistened soil below;
While to the last in beauty and in bloom
That flower is scattering incense o’er its tomb,
And with the dews upon it, and the breath
Of the fresh morning round it, sinks to death.
They met the following day, and many more
They paced together this low ridge of shore,
Till one fair eve, the other with intent
To lure him out, unto his chamber went;
But straight retired again with noiseless pace,
For with a subtle gauze flung o’er his face
Upon his bed he lay, serene and still
And quiet, even as one who takes his fill{97}
Of a delight he does not fear to lose.
So blest he seemed, the other could not choose
To wake him, but went down the narrow stair;
And when he met an aged attendant there,
She ceased her work to tell him, when he said,
Her patient then on happy slumber fed,
But that anon he would return once more,—
Her inmate had expired an hour before.
I know not by what chance he thus was thrown
On a far shore, untended and alone,
To live or die; for, as I after learned,
There were in England many hearts that yearned
To know his safety, and such tears were shed
For him as grace the living and the dead.



O lately written in the roll of friends,
O written late, not last, three pleasant months
Under the shadow of the Capitol,
A pleasant time, made pleasanter by thee,
It has been mine to pass—three months of spring,
Which pleasant in themselves and for thy sake,
Had yet this higher, that they stirred in the heart
The motions of continual thankfulness{99}
To me, considering by what gracious paths
I had been guided, by what paths of love,
Since I was last a dweller in these gates.
That meditation could not prove to me
But as a spring that ever bubbles up,
Sparkling in the face of heaven, when every day
Reminded me how little gladness then
I gathered from these things, but now how much.
For tho’ not then indifferent to me
Nature or art, yea rather tho’ from these
I drew whatever lightened for a while
The burden of our life and weary load;
Yet seldom could I summon heart enough,
With all their marvels round me, to go forth
In quest of any. But some lonely spot,
Some ridge of ruin fringed with cypresses,
Such as have everywhere loved well to make
Their chosen home above all other trees,
’Mid the fal’n palaces of ancient Rome,{100}
Me did such haunt please better, or I loved,
With others whom the like disquietude,
At the like crisis of their lives, now kept
Restless, with them to question to and fro
And to debate the evil of the world,
As tho’ we bore no portion of that ill,
As tho’ with subtle phrases we could spin
A woof to screen us from its undelight:
Such talk sometimes prolonging into night,
As being loth to separate, and find
Each in his solitude how vain are words,
When that they have opposed to them is more.
I would not live that time again for much,
Full as it was of long and weary days,
Full of rebellious askings, for what end,
And by what power, without our own consent,
We were placed here, to suffer and to sin,
To be in misery and know not why.
But so it was with me, a sojourner,{101}
Five years ago, beneath these mouldering walls
As I am now: and, trusted friend, to thee
I have not doubted to reveal my soul,
For thou hast known, if I may read aright
The pages of thy past existence, thou
Hast known the dreary sickness of the soul,
That falls upon us in our lonely youth,
The fear of all bright visions leaving us,
The sense of emptiness, without the sense
Of an abiding fulness anywhere,
When all the generations of mankind,
With all their purposes, their hopes and fears,
Seem nothing truer than those wandering shapes
Cast by a trick of light upon a wall,
And nothing different from these, except
In their capacity for suffering;
What time we have the sense of sin, and none
Of expiation. Our own life seemed then
But as an arrow flying in the dark
Without an aim, a most unwelcome gift,{102}
Which we might not put by. But now, what God
Intended as a blessing and a boon
We have received as such, and we can say
A solemn yet a joyful thing is life,
Which, being full of duties, is for this
Of gladness full, and full of lofty hopes.
And He has taught us what reply to make,
Or secretly in spirit, or in words,
If there be need, when sorrowing men complain
The fair illusions of their youth depart,
All things are going from them, and to-day
Is emptier of delights than yesterday,
Even as to-morrow will be barer yet;
We have been taught to feel this need not be,
This is not life’s inevitable law,—
But that the gladness we are called to know,
Is an increasing gladness, that the soil
Of the human heart, tilled rightly, will become
Richer and deeper, fitter to bear fruit{103}
Of an immortal growth, from day to day,
Fruit of love life and indeficient joy.
Oh! not for baneful self-complacency,
Not for the setting up our present selves
To triumph o’er our past (worst pride of all),
May we compare this present with that past;
But to provoke renewed acknowledgments,
But to incite unto an earnest hope
For all our brethren. And how should I fear
To own to thee that this is in my heart—
This longing, that it leads me home to-day,
Glad even while I turn my back on Rome,
Yet half unseen—its arts, its memories,
Its glorious fellowship of living men;
Glad in the hope to tread the soil again
Of England, where our place of duty lies:
Not as altho’ we thought we could do much,
Or claimed large sphere of action for ourselves;{104}
Not in this thought—since rather be it ours,
Both thine and mine, to cultivate that frame
Of spirit, when we know and deeply feel
How little we can do, and yet do that.



How might the goaded sufferer in this cell,
With nothing upon which his eyes might fall,
Except this vacant court, that dreary wall,
How might he live? I asked. Here doomed to dwell,
I marvel how at all he could repel
Thoughts which to madness and despair would call.
Enter this vault—the bare sight will appal
Thy spirit, even as mine within me fell,
Until I learned that wall not always there
Had stood—’twas something that this iron grate
Once had looked out upon a garden fair.
There must have been then here, to calm his brain,
Green leaves, and flowers, and sunshine—and a weight
Fell from me, and my heart revived again.



It may be that our homeward longings made
That other lands were judged with partial eyes;
But fairer in my sight the mottled skies,
With pleasant interchange of sun and shade,
And more desired the meadow and deep glade
Of sylvan England, green with frequent showers,
Than all the beauty which the vaunted bowers
Of the parched South have in mine eyes displayed;
Fairer and more desired—this well might be:
For let the South have beauty’s utmost dower,
And yet my heart might well have turned to thee,
My home, my country, when a delicate flower
Within thy pleasant borders was for me
Tended, and growing up thro’ sun and shower.



The men who for this earthly life would claim
Well nigh the whole, and if the work of heaven
Be relegated to one day in seven,
Account the other six may without blame,
Unsanctified by one diviner aim,
To self to mammon and the world be given,
These scanty worshippers might nigh be driven,
Were they but here, to profitable shame.
This eve, the closing of no festal day,
This common work-day eve, in the open street
Seen have I groups of happy people meet,
Putting for this their toil and tasks away,
Men, women, boys, at one rude shrine to pray,
And there their fervent litanies repeat.



To leave unseen so many a glorious sight,
To leave so many lands unvisited,
To leave so many worthiest books unread,
Unrealized so many visions bright;—
Oh! wretched yet inevitable spite
Of our short span, and we must yield our breath,
And wrap us in the lazy coil of death,
So much remaining of unproved delight.
But hush, my soul, and, vain regrets, be stilled
Find rest in Him who is the complement
Of whatsoe’er transcends your mortal doom,
Of broken hope and frustrated intent;
In the clear vision and aspèct of whom
All wishes and all longings are fulfilled.



A dreary lot is his who roams
“Homeless among a thousand homes;”
A dreary thing it is to stray,
As I have sometimes heard men say,
And of myself have partly known,
A passing stranger and alone
In some great city: harder there,
With life about us everywhere,
Than in the desert to restrain
A sense of solitary pain.{110}
We wander thro’ the busy street,
And think how every one we meet
Has parents sister friend or wife,
With whom to share the load of life.
We wander on, for little care
Have we turn our footsteps there,
Where we are but a nameless guest,
One who may claim no interest
In any heart—a passing face,
That comes and goes, and leaves no trace;
Where service waits us, prompt but cold,
A loveless service, bought and sold.
Yet hard it is not to sustain
A time like this, if there remain
True greetings for us, hand and heart,
Wherein we claim the chiefest part,
Although divided now they be
By many a tract of land and sea.{111}
If we can fly to thoughts like these,
Fall back on such sure sympathies,
This were sufficient to repress
That transient sense of loneliness.
Yet better if, where’er we roam,
Another country, truer home,
Is in our hearts; if there we find
The word of power, that from the mind
All sad and drear thoughts shall repel,
All solitary broodings quell;
If in the joy of heav’n we live,
Nor only on what earth can give,
Tho’ pure and high—so we may learn
Unto the soul’s great good to turn
What things soever best engage
Our thoughts towàrd our pilgrimage,
Which teach us this is not our rest,
That here we are but as a guest.{112}
As doubtless ’twas no other thought
That in his holy bosom wrought,
Who not alone content to win
In life the shelter of an inn,
Was fain to finish the last stage
There of his mortal pilgrimage[7]
We too, if we are wise, may be
Pleased for a season to be free
From the encumbrances which love—
Affection hallowed from above,
But earthly yet, has power to fling
About the spirit’s heav’nward wing;
Pleased if we feel that God is nigh,
Both where we live and where we die,{113}
Whether among true kindred thrown,
Or seeming outwardly alone,
That whether this or that befal,
He watches and has care of all.


TO E ——.

Much have we to support us in our strife
With things which else would crush us, nor alone
Secret refreshings of the inward life,
But many a flower of sweetest scent is strown
Upon our outward and our open way;
None sweeter than are at some seasons known
To them who dwell for many a prosperous day
Under one roof, and have, as they would hope,
One purpose for their lives, one aim, one scope—
To labour upward on the path to heaven.{115}
Full of refreshment these occasions are,
Like seasonable resting-places given
To pilgrim feet; for tho’, alas! too rare,
Yet the sweet memories they supply, will give
The food on which affection’s heart may live
In after times; since it were sad indeed
If all more intimate knowledge did not breed
More trust in one another and more love,
More faith that each is seeking to attain
With humble earnest effort, not in vain,
The happy rest of God. And so they part
On their divided ways with cheerful heart,
Knowing that in all places they will call
On the same God and Father over all;
And part not wholly, since they meet whose prayer
Meets at the throne of grace; one life divine
Through all the branches of the mystical vine
Flows ever, even as the same breath of air
Lifts every leaflet of a mighty grove.
And from our meeting we shall reap a share{116}
Of a yet higher good, if we have won
Hereby the strengthening of one weak desire,
The fanning of one faint spark to a fire,
The stirring of one prayer, that we may prove
Stedfast and faithful till our work be done,
Until the course appointed us be run.
We know not whither our frail barks are borne,
To quiet haven, or on stormy shore;
Nor need we seek to know it, while above
The tempest and the waters’ angriest roar
Are heard the voices of Almighty love—
So we shall find none dreary nor forlorn.
Whither we go we know not, but we know
That if we keep our faces surely set
Towàrd new Zion, we shall reach at last,
When every danger, every woe is past,
The city where the sealèd tribes are met,
Whither the nations of the savèd flow,{117}
The city with its heav’n-descended halls,
The city builded round with diamond walls.
Then how should we feel sorrow or dim fear
At any parting now, if there to meet;
How should our hearts with sadder pulses beat,
When thou art going where kind hearts will greet
And welcome thy return, and there as here
Thou still wilt find thine own appointed sphere,
To fill the measure up of gentle deeds,
Even as we have learnèd that in these,
That in the holy Christian charities,
And the suppliance of the lowliest needs
Of the most lowly, our true greatness is.
Therefore we will not seek to win thy stay,
Nor ask but this—that thou shouldst bear away
Kind memories of us, and only claim
What of thyself thou wilt be prompt to give,
That in thy heart’s affections he may live,{118}
To whom thou bearest that most holy name
Of spiritual mother. O beloved friend,
It is a cheering thought, if I should be
Where I can no more watch for him nor tend
His infant years—there where I cannot see
What good, what evil wait upon his way,
That yet thy love thy counsel and thy cares
He will not lack, a child of faithful prayers.


TO ——.


This will we name thy better birth-day, child,
O born already to a sin-worn world,
But now unto a kingdom undefiled,
Where over thee love’s banner is unfurled.
Lo! on the morning of this Sabbath day
I lay aside the weight of human fears,
Which I had for thee, and without dismay
Look through the avenue of coming years.{120}
I see thee passing without mortal harm
Thro’ ranks of foes against thy safety met;
I see thee passing—thy defence and charm,
The seal of God upon thy forehead set.
From this time forth thou often shalt hear say
Of what immortal City thou wert given
The rights and full immunities to-day,
And of the hope laid up for thee in heaven.
From this time forward thou shalt not believe
That thou art earthly, or that aught of earth,
Or aught that hell can threaten, shall receive
Power on the children of the second birth.
O risen out of death into the day
Of an immortal life, we bid thee hail,
And will not kiss the waterdrops away,
The dew that rests upon thy forehead pale.{121}
And if the seed of better life lie long,
As in a wintry hiddenness and death,
Then calling back this day, we will be strong
To wait in hope for heaven’s reviving breath;
To water, if there should be such sad need,
The undiscernèd germ with sorrowing tears,
To wait until from that undying seed
Out of the earth a heavenly plant appears;
The growth and produce of a fairer land,
And thence transplanted to a barren soil,
It needs the tendance of a careful hand,
Of love, that is not weary with long toil.
And thou, dear child, whose very helplessness
Is as a bond upon us and a claim,
Mayest thou have this of us, as we no less
Have daily from our Father known the same.



How like a swan, cleaving the azure sky,
The voice upsoars of thy triumphant song,
That whirled awhile resistlessly along
By the great sweep of threatening harmony,
Seemed, overmatched, to struggle helplessly
With that impetuous music, yet ere long
Escaping from the current fierce and strong,
Pierces the clear crystàlline vault on high.
And I too am upborne with thee together
In circles ever narrowing, round and round,
Over the clouds and sunshine—who erewhile,
Like a blest bird of charmèd summer-weather
In the blue shadow of some foamless isle,
Was floating on the billows of sweet sound.



When the mute voice returns from whence it came,
The silence of a momentary awe,
A brief submission to the eternal law
Of beauty doth to every heart proclaim
A Spirit has been summoned; yea, the same
Whose dwelling is the inmost human heart,
Which will not from that home and haunt depart,
Which nothing can quite vanquish or make tame.
It is the noblest gift beneath the moon,
The power, this awful presence to compel
Out of the lurking places where it lies
Deep-hidden and removed from human eyes:
Oh! reverence thou in fear and cherish well
This privilege of few, this rarest boon.



Look! for a season (ah, too brief a space),
While yet the spell is strong upon the rout,
With something of still fear all move about,
As though a breath or motion might displace
The Spirit, which had come of heavenly grace
Among them, for a moment to redeem
Their thoughts and passions from the selfish dream
Of earthly life, and its inglorious race.
If we might keep this awe upon us still,
If we might walk for ever in the power
And in the shadow of the mystery,
Which has been spread around us at this hour,
This might suffice to guard us from much ill,
This might go far to keep us pure and free.



But the spell fails—and of the many here,
Who have been won to brief forgetfulness
Of all that would degrade them and oppress,
Who have been carried out of their dim sphere
Of being, to realms brighter and more clear,
How few to-morrow will retain a trace,
Which the world’s business shall not soon efface,
Of this high mood, this time of reverent fear.
In these high raptures there is nothing sure,
Nothing that we can rest on, to sustain
The spirit long, or arm it to endure
Against temptation weariness or pain,
And if they promise to preserve it pure
From earthly taint, the promise is in vain.



Yet proof is here of men’s unquenched desire
That the procession of their life might be
More equable majestic pure and free;
That there are times when all would fain aspire,
And gladly use the helps, to lift them higher,
Which music, poesy, or Nature brings,
And think to mount upon these waxen wings,
Not deeming that their strength shall ever tire.
But who indeed shall his high flights sustain,
Who soar aloft and sink not? He alone
Who has laid hold upon that golden chain
Of love, fast linked to God’s eternal throne,—
The golden chain from heav’n to earth let down,
That we might rise by it, nor fear to sink again.



A counsellor well fitted to advise
In daily life and at whose lips no less
Men may inquire or nations, when distress
Of sudden doubtful danger may arise,
Who, though his head be hidden in the skies,
Plants his firm foot upon our common earth,
Dealing with thoughts which everywhere have birth,—
This is the poet, true of heart and wise:
No dweller in a baseless world of dream,
Which is not earth nor heav’n: his words have past
Into man’s common thought and week-day phrase;
This is the poet, and his verse will last.
Such was our Shakspeare once, and such doth seem
One who redeems our later gloomier days.



Me rather may to tears unbidden move
The meanest print that on a cottage wall
Some ancient deed heroic doth recal,
Or loving act of His, whose life was love,
Than that my heart should be too proud to prove
Emotions and sweet sympathies, until
The magic of some mighty master’s skill
Called hues and shapes of wonder from above:
Since if we do no idle homage pay
To what in art most beautiful is found,
We shall have learned to feel in that same hour
With man’s most rude and most unskilled essay
To win the beauty that is floating round
Into abiding forms of grace and power.




Yes, and not otherwise, if we in deed
And with pure hearts are seeking what is fair
In Nature, then believe we shall not need
Long anxious quests, exploring earth and air
Ere we shall find wherewith our hearts to feed:
The beauty which is scattered everywhere
Will in our souls such deep contentment breed,
We shall not pine for aught remote or rare;
We shall not ask from some transcendant height
To gaze on such rare scenes, as may surpass
Earth’s common shows, ere we will own delight:
We shall not need in quest of these to roam,
While sunshine lies upon our English grass,
And dewdrops glitter on green fields at home.




It is a weary hill
Of moving sand that still
Shifts, struggle as we will,
Beneath our tread:
Of those who went before,
And tracked the desert o’er,
The footmarks are no more,
But gone and fled.



We stray to either side,
We wander far and wide,
We fall to sleep and slide
Far down again:
As thro’ the sand we wade,
We do not seek to aid
Our fellows, but upbraid
Each others’ pain.


I gaze on that bright band
Who on the summit stand,
To order and command,
Like stars on high:
Yet with despairing pace
My way I could retrace,
Or on this desert place
Sink down and die.



As we who toil and weep,
And with our weeping steep
The path o’er which we creep,
They had not striven;
They must have taken flight
To that serenest height,
And won it by the might
Of wings from heaven.


Alack! I have no wing,
My spirit lacks that spring,
And Nature will not bring
Her help to me.
From her I have no aid,
But light-enwoven shade,
And stream and star upbraid
Our misery.




I cannot veil mine eyelids from the light;
I cannot turn away
From this insulting and importunate day,
That momently grows fiercer and more bright,
And wakes the hideous hum of monstrous flies
In my vexed ear, and beats
On the broad panes, and like a furnace heats
The chamber of my rest, and bids me rise.



I cannot follow thy departing track,
Nor tell in what far meadows, gentle Sleep,
Thou art delaying. I would win thee back,
Were mine some drowsy potion, or dull spell,
Or charmèd girdle, mighty to compel
Thy heavy grace; for I have heard it said,
Thou art no flatterer, that dost only keep
In kingly haunts, leaving unvisited
The poor man’s lowlier shed;
And when the day is joyless, and its task
Unprofitable, I were fain to ask,
Why thou wilt give it such an ample space,
Why thou wilt leave us such a weary scope
For memory, and for that which men call hope,
Nor wind in one embrace
Sad eve and night forlorn
And undelightful morn.



If with the joyous were thine only home,
I would not so far wrong thee, as to ask
This boon, or summon thee from happier task.
But no,—for then thou wouldst too often roam
And find no rest; for me, I cannot tell
What tearless lids there are, where thou mightst dwell.
I know not any, unenthralled of sorrow,
I know not one, to whom this joyous morrow,
So full of living motion new and bright,
Will be a summons to secure delight.
And thus I shall not harm thee, though I claim
Awhile thy presence—O mysterious Sleep.
Some call thee shadow of a mightier Name,
And whisper how that nightly thou dost keep
A roll and count for him.—
Then be thou on my spirit like his presence dim.



Yet if my limbs were heavy with sweet toil,
I had not needed to have wooed thy might,
But till thy timely flight
Had lain securely in thy peaceful coil.
Or if my heart were lighter, long ago
Had crushed the dewy morn upon the sod,
Darkening where I trod,
As was my pleasure once, but now it is not so.


And therefore am I seeking to entwine
A coronal of poppies for my head,
Or wreathe it with a wreath engarlanded
By Lethe’s slumberous waters. Oh! that mine
Were some dim chamber turning to the north,
With latticed casement, bedded deep in leaves,{137}
That opening with sweet murmur might look forth
On quiet fields from broad o’erhanging eaves,
And ever when the Spring her garland weaves,
Were darkened with encroaching ivy-trail
And jaggèd vine-leaves’ shade;
And all its pavement starred with blossoms pale
Of jasmine, when the wind’s least stir was made;
Where the sun-beam were verdurous-cool, before
It wound into that quiet nook, to paint
With interspace of light and colour faint
That tesselated floor.
How pleasant were it there in dim recess,
In some close-curtained haunt of quietness,
To hear no tones of human pain and care,
Our own or others, little heeding there,
If morn or noon or night
Pursued their weary flight,
But musing what an easy thing it were{138}
To mix our opiates in a larger cup,
And drink, and not perceive
Sleep deepening lead his truer kinsman up,
Like undistinguished Night, darkening the skirts of Eve.




I could loose my boat,
And could bid it float
Where the idlest wind should pilot,
So its glad course lay
From this earth away,
Towards any untrodden islet.


For this earth is old,
And its heart is cold,
And the palsy of age has bound it;
And my spirit frets
For the viewless nets
Which are hourly clinging round it.



And with joyful glee
We have heard of thee,
Thou Isle in mid ocean sleeping;
And thy records old,
Which the Sage has told,
How the Memphian tombs are keeping.


But we know not where,
’Neath the desert air,
To look for the pleasant places
Of the youth of Time,
Whose austerer prime
The haunts of his childhood effaces.


Like the golden flowers
Of the western bowers,
Have waned their immortal shadows;
And no harp may tell
Where the asphodel
Clad in light those Elysian meadows.



And thou, fairest Isle
In the daylight’s smile,
Hast thou sunk in the boiling ocean,
While beyond thy strand
Rose a mightier land
From the wave in alternate motion?


Are the isles that stud
The Atlantic flood,
But the peaks of thy tallest mountains,
While repose below
The great water’s flow
Thy towns and thy towers and fountains?


Have the Ocean powers
Made their quiet bowers,
In thy fanes and thy dim recesses?
Or in haunts of thine
Do the sea-maids twine
Coral wreaths for their dewy tresses?



Or does foot not fall
In deserted hall,
Choked with wrecks that ne’er won their haven,
By the ebb trailed o’er
Thy untrampled floor,
Which their sunken wealth has paven?


Oh, appear! appear!
Not as when thy spear
Ruled as far as the broad Egean,
But in Love’s own might,
And in Freedom’s right,
Till the nations uplift their Pæan,


Who now watch and weep,
And their vigil keep,
Till they faint for expectation;
Till their dim eyes shape
Temple tower and cape
From the cloud and the exhalation.



An awful statue, by a veil half-hid,
At Sais stands. One came, to whom was known
All lore committed to Etruscan stone,
And all sweet voices, that dull time has chid
To silence now, by antique Pyramid,
Skirting the desert, heard; and what the deep
May in its dimly-lighted chambers keep,
Where Genii groan beneath the seal-bound lid.
He dared to raise that yet unlifted veil
With hands not pure, but never might unfold
What there he saw—madness, the shadow, fell
On his few days, ere yet he went to dwell
With night’s eternal people, and his tale
Has thus remained, and will remain, untold.



I stood beside a pool, from whence ascended,
Mounting the platforms of the cloudy wind,
A stately hern—its soaring I attended,
Till it grew dim, and I with watching blind—
When, lo! a shaft of arrowy light descended
Upon its darkness and its dim attire:
It straightway kindled then, and was afire,
And with the unconsuming radiance blended.
A bird, a cloud, flecking the sunny air,
It had its golden dwelling mid the lightning
Of those empyreal domes, and it might there
Have dwelt for ever, glorified and brightning,
But that its wings were weak—so it became
A dusky speck again, that was a wingèd flame.



Most like some agèd king it seemed to me,
Who had survived his old regality,
Poor and deposed, but keeping still his state,
In all he had before of truly great;
With no vain wishes and no vain regret,
But his enforcèd leisure soothing yet
With meditation calm and books and prayer;
For all was sober and majestic there—
The old Castilian, with close finger tips
Pressing his folded mantle to his lips;{146}
The dim cathedral’s cross-surmounted pile,
With carved recess, and cool and shadowy aisle,
And had not from dark hoods peered darker eyes,
All fitted well for meditation wise—
The walks of poplar by the river’s side,
That wound by many a straggling channel wide;
And seats of stone, where one might sit and weave
Visions, till well-nigh tempted to believe
That life had few things better to be done,
And many worse, than resting in the sun
To lose the hours, and wilfully to dim
Our half-shut eyes, and veil them till might swim
The pageant by us, smoothly as the stream
And unremembered pageant of a dream.
A castle crowned a neighbouring hillock’s crest,
But now the moat was level with the rest;
And all was fallen of this place of power,
All heaped with formless stone, save one round tower,{147}
And here and there a gateway low and old,
Figured with antique shape of warrior bold.
And then behind this eminence the sun
Would drop serenely, long ere day was done;
And one who climbed that height might see again
A second setting o’er the fertile plain
Beyond the town, and glittering in his beam,
Wind far away that poplar-skirted stream.



Thou that hast travelled far away,
In lands beyond the sea,
Wilt understand me, when I say
What there has come to me.
In chambers dim thou wilt have wrought,
With no one by, to cheer,
And trod the downward paths of thought,
In solitude and fear;{149}
Nor till the weary day was o’er,
Into the air have fled
From thought which could delight no more,
From books whose power was dead;
What time perchance the drooping day
With burning vapour fills
The deep recesses far away
Of all the golden hills:
Or later, when the twilight blends
All hues, or when the moon
Into the ocean depths descends,
A wavering column, down.
Then hast not thou in spirit leapt,
Emerging from thy gloom,
Like one who unawares o’erstept
The barriers of a tomb.{150}
And in thine exultation cried—
Of gladness having fill,
And in it being glorified—
“The world is beauteous still!”{151}


[WRITTEN IN 1829.]

Wise are ye in a wisdom vainly sought
Thro’ all the records of the historic page;
It is not to be learned by lengthened age,
Scarce by deep musings of unaided thought:
By suffering and endurance ye have bought
A knowledge of the thousand links that bind
The highest with the lowest of our kind,
And how the indissoluble chain is wrought.
Ye fell by your own mercy once—beware,
When your lots leap again from fortune’s urn,
An heavier error—to be pardoned less.
Yours be it to the nations to declare
That years of pain and disappointment turn
Weak hearts to gall, but wise to gentleness.



Like nightly watchers from a palace tower,
In hope and faith and patience strong to wait
The beacons on the hills, which should relate
How some fenced city of deceit and power
Had fallen—ye have stood for many an hour,
Till your first hope’s high movements must be dead,
And if with new ye have not cheered and fed
Your bosoms, dim despair may be your dower.
Yet not for all—tho’ yet no fire may crest
The mountains, or light up their beacons sere—
Your eminent commission so far wrong,
Or so much flatter the oppressors’ rest,
As to give o’er your watching, for so long
As ye shall hope, ’tis reason they must fear.



The moments that we rescue and redeem
From the bare desert and the waste of years,
To fertilize, it may be with our tears,
Yet so that for time after they shall teem
With better than rank weeds, and wear a gleam
Of visionary light, and on the wind
Fling odours from the fields long left behind,
These and their fruit to us can never seem
Indifferent things, and therefore do I look
Not without gentle sadness upon thee,
And liken thy outgoing, O my book,
To the impatience of a little brook,
Which might with flowers have lingered pleasantly,
Yet toils to perish in the mighty sea.




Ah me! of them from whom the good have hope,
Of them whom virtue for her liegemen claims,
How many the world tames,
That with its evil they quite cease to cope,
And their first fealty sworn to beauty and truth
Break early; and amid their sinful youth
Make shipwreck of all high and glorious aims.
How few the fierce and fiery trial stand,
To be as weapons tempered and approved
For an almighty hand.{155}
How few of all the streamlets that were moved,
Do ever unto clearness run again,
And therefore is it marvellous to us,
When of these weapons one is broken thus,
When of these fountains one would seem in vain
Renewed in clearness, and is staunched before
It has had leave to spread fresh streams the desert o’er.


Ah me! that by so frail and feeble thread
Our life is holden—that not life alone,
But all that life has won
May in an hour be gathered to the dead;
The slow additions that build up the mind,
The skill that by temptation we have bought
And suffering, and whatever has been taught
By lengthened years and converse with our kind,{156}
That all may cease together—and the tree
Reared to its height by many a slow degree,
And by the dews the sunshine and the showers
Of many springs, an instant may lay low,
With all its living towers,
And all the fruit mature of growth and slow,
Which on the trees of wisdom leisurely must grow.


Alas! it is another thing to wail,
That when the foremost runners sink and fail,
They cannot pass their torch or forward place
To them that are behind them in their race,
But their extinguished torches must be laid
Together with them in the dust of death:
That when the wise and the true-hearted fade,
So little of themselves they can bequeath
To us, who yet are in the race of life,
For labour and for toil, for weariness and strife.



But from behind the veil,
Where they are entered who have gone before,
A solemn voice arrests my feeble wail—
“And has thy life such worthier aims, O man,
That thou shouldst grudge to give its little span
To truth and knowledge, and faith’s holy lore,
Because the places for the exercise
Of these may be withdrawn from mortal eyes.
Win truth, win goodness—for which man was made,
And fear not thou of these to be bereft,
Fear not that these shall in the dust be laid,
Or in corruption left,
Or be the grave-worm’s food.
Nothing is left or lost—nothing of good,
Or lovely; but whatever its first springs
Has drawn from God, returns to him again;
That only which ’twere misery to retain
Is taken from you, which to keep were loss;
Only the scum the refuse and the dross{158}
Are borne away unto the grave of things,
Meanwhile whatever gifts from heav’n descend
Thither again have flowed,
To the receptacle of all things good,
From whom they come and unto whom they tend,
Who is the First and Last, the Author and the End.


And fear to sorrow with increase of grief,
When they who go before
Go furnished—or because their span was brief,
When in the acquist of what is life’s true gage,
Truth, knowledge, and that other worthiest lore,
They had fulfilled already a long age.
For doubt not but that in the worlds above
There must be other offices of love,
That other tasks and ministries there are,
Since it is promised that His servants, there
Shall serve him still. Therefore be strong, be strong,{159}
Ye that remain, nor fruitlessly revolve,
Darkling, the riddles which ye cannot solve,
But do the works that unto you belong,
Believing that for every mystery,
For all the death the darkness and the curse
Of this dim universe,
Needs a solution full of love must be:
And that the way whereby ye may attain
Nearest to this, is not thro’ broodings vain
And half-rebellious—questionings of God,
But by a patient seeking to fulfil
The purpose of his everlasting will,
Treading the way which lowly men have trod.
Since it is ever they who are too proud
For this, that are the foremost and most loud
To judge his hidden judgments, these are still
The most perplexed and mazed at his mysterious will.”{160}


When I have sometimes read of precious things,
The precious things of earth, which yet are vile,
Together heaped into the graves of kings,
Or wasted with them on their funeral pile,
Steeds arms and costly vestments and the dross
Which men call gold, feeding one ravenous pyre,
I have been little moved at all the loss
Of all the treasure which fond men admire.
But when I hear of some too early doom,
Snatching wit wisdom valour grace away,
Or our own loss has taught me what the tomb
May cover from us, then I feel and say
That earth has things whereon the grave may feed,
And feeding may make poor the world indeed.



What is the greatness of a fallen king?
This—that his fall avails not to abate
His spirit to a level with his fate,
Or inward fall along with it to bring;
That he disdains to stoop his former wing,
But keeps in exile and in want the law
Of kingship yet, and counts it scorn to draw
Comfort indign from any meaner thing.
Soul, that art fallen from thine ancient place,
Mayest thou in this mean world find nothing great,
Nor aught that shall the memories efface
Of that true greatness which was once thine own,
As knowing thou must keep thy kingly state,
If thou wouldst reascend thy kingly throne.



The strong in spiritual action need not look
Upon the new-found year as on a scroll,
The which their hands lack cunning to unroll,
But in it read, as in an open book,
All they are seeking—high resolve unshook
By circumstance’s unforeseen control,
Successful striving, and whate’er the soul
Has recognised for duty, not forsook.
But they whom many failures have made tame,
Question the future with that reverent fear,
Which best their need of heav’nly aid may shew.
Will it have purer thought, and loftier aim
Pursued more loftily? That a man might know
What thou wilt bring him, thou advancing year!



Thy gladness makes me thankful every way,
To look upon thy gladness makes me glad;
While yet in part it well might render sad
Us thinking that we too might sport and play,
And keep like thee continual holiday,
If we retained the things which once we had,
If we like happy Neophytes were clad
Still in baptismal stoles of white array.
And yet the gladness of the innocent child
Has not more matter for our thankful glee
Than the dim sorrows of the man defiled;
Since both in sealing one blest truth agree—
Joy is of God, but heaviness and care
Of our own hearts and what has harboured there.



An open wound that has been healed anew;
A stream dried up, that once again is fed
With waters making green its grassy bed;
A tree that withered was, but to the dew
Puts forth young leaves and blossoms fresh of hue,
Even from the branches which had seemed most dead;
A sea which having been disquieted,
Now stretches like a mirror calm and blue,—
Our hearts to each of these were likened well.
But Thou wert the physician and the balm;
Thou, Lord, the fountain, whence anew was filled
Their parchèd channel; Thou the dew that fell
On their dead branches; ’twas thy voice that stilled
The storm within—Thou didst command the calm.




“His voice was as the sound of many waters.”

A sound of many waters—now I know
To what was likened the large utterance sent
By Him who ’mid the golden lampads went:
Innumerable streams, above, below,
Some seen, some heard alone, with headlong flow
Come rushing; some with smooth and sheer descent,
Some dashed to foam and whiteness, but all blent
Into one mighty music. As I go,
The tumult of a boundless gladness fills
My bosom, and my spirit leaps and sings:
Sounds and sights are there of the ancient hills,
The eagle’s cry, or when the mountain flings
Mists from its brow, but none of all these things
Like the one voice of multitudinous rills.



What is thy worship but a vain pretence,
Spirit of Beauty, and a servile trade,
A poor and an unworthy traffic made
With the most sacred gifts of soul and sense;
If they who tend thine altars, gathering thence
No strength, no purity, may still remain
Selfish and dark, and from Life’s sordid stain
Find in their ministrations no defence?
Thus many times I ask, when aught of mean
Or sensual has been brought unto mine ear,
Of them whose calling high is to insphere
Eternal Beauty in forms of human art—
Vexed that my soul should ever moved have been
By that which has such feigning at the heart.



Thou cam’st not to thy place by accident,
It is the very place God meant for thee;
And shouldst thou there small scope for action see,
Do not for this give room to discontent;
Nor let the time thou owest to God be spent
In idly dreaming how thou mightest be,
In what concerns thy spiritual life, more free
From outward hindrance or impediment.
For presently this hindrance thou shalt find
That without which all goodness were a task
So slight, that Virtue never could grow strong:
And wouldst thou do one duty to His mind,
The Imposer’s—over-burdened thou shalt ask,
And own thy need of grace to help, ere long.




No harsh transitions Nature knows,
No dreary spaces intervene;
Her work in silence forward goes,
And rather felt than seen.
For where the watcher, that with eye
Turned eastward, yet could ever say
When the faint glooming in the sky
First lightened into day?{169}
Or maiden, by an opening flower
That many a summer morn has stood,
Could fix upon the very hour
It ceased to be a bud?
The rainbow colours mix and blend
Each with the other, until none
Can tell where fainter hues had end,
And deeper tints begun.
But only doth this much appear—
That the pale hues are deeper grown;
The day has broken bright and clear;
The bud is fully blown.
Dear child, and happy shalt thou be,
If from this hour, with just increase
All good things shall grow up in thee,
By such unmarked degrees.{170}
If there shall be no dreary space
Between thy present self and past,
No dreary miserable place
With spectral shapes aghast;
But the full graces of thy prime
Shall, in their weak beginnings, be
Lost in an unremembered time
Of holy infancy.
This blessing is the first and best;
Yet has not prayer been made in vain
For them, tho’ not so amply blest,
The lost and found again.
And shouldest thou, alas! forbear
To choose the better, nobler lot,
Yet may we not esteem our prayer
Unheard or heeded not;{171}
If after many a wandering,
And many a devious pathway trod;
If having known that bitter thing,
To leave the Lord thy God,
It yet shall be, that thou at last,
Altho’ thy noon be lost, return
To bind life’s eve in union fast
To this, its blessed morn.




As he who finds one flower sharp thorns among,
Plucks it, and highly prizes, though before
Careless regard on thousands he has flung,
As fair as this or more;


Not otherwise perhaps this argument
Won from me, where I found it, such regard,
That I esteemed no labour thereon spent
As wearisome or hard.



In huge and antique volume did it lie,
That by two solemn clasps was duly bound,
As neither to be opened or laid by
But with due thought profound.


There fixèd thought to questions did I lend,
Which hover on the bounds of mortal ken,
And have perplexed, and will unto the end
Perplex the brains of men;


Of what is time, and what eternity,
Of all that seems and is not—forms of things—
Till my tired spirit followed painfully
On flagging weary wings.


So that I welcomed this one resting-place,
Pleased as a bird, that when its forces fail,
Lights panting in the ocean’s middle space
Upon a sunny sail.



And now the grace of fiction, which has power
To render things impossible believed,
And win them with the credence of an hour
To be for truths received—


That grace must help me, as it only can,
Winning such transient credence, while I tell
What to a cloistered solitary man
In ancient times befel.


Him little might our earthly grandeur feed,
Who to the uttermost was vowed to be
A follower of his Master’s barest need,
In holy poverty.


Nor might he know the gentle mutual strife
Of home affections, which can more or less
Temper with sweet the bitter of our life,
And lighten its distress.



Yet we should err to deem that he was left
To bear alone our being’s lonely weight,
Or that his soul was vacant and bereft
Of pomp and inward state:


Morn, when before the sun his orb unshrouds,
Swift as a beacon torch the light has sped,
Kindling the dusky summits of the clouds
Each to a fiery red—


The slanted columns of the noonday light,
Let down into the bosom of the hills,
Or sunset, that with golden vapour bright
The purple mountains fills—


These made him say,—if God has so arrayed
A fading world that quickly passes by,
Such rich provision of delight was made
For every human eye,



What shall the eyes that wait for him survey,
Where his own presence gloriously appears
In worlds that were not founded for a day,
But for eternal years?


And if at seasons this world’s undelight
Oppressed him, or the hollow at its heart,
One glance at those enduring mansions bright
Made gloomier thoughts depart;


Till many times the sweetness of the thought
Of an eternal country—where it lies
Removed from care and mortal anguish, brought
Sweet tears into his eyes.


Thus, not unsolaced, he longwhile abode,
Filling all dreary melancholy time,
And empty spaces of the heart with God,
And with this hope sublime:



Even thus he lived, with little joy or pain,
Drawn thro’ the channels by which men receive—
Most men receive the things which for the main
Make them rejoice or grieve.


But for delight—on spiritual gladness fed,
And obvious to temptations of like kind;
One such, from out his very gladness bred,
It was his lot to find.


When first it came, he lightly put it by,
But it returned again to him ere long,
And ever having got some new ally,
And every time more strong—


A little worm that gnawed the life away
Of a tall plant, the canker of its root,
Or like as when, from some small speck, decay
Spreads o’er a beauteous fruit.



For still the doubt came back—can God provide
For the large heart of man what shall not pall,
Nor thro’ eternal ages’ endless tide
On tired spirits fall.


Here but one look tow’rd heavèn will repress
The crushing weight of undelightful care;
But what were there beyond, if weariness
Should ever enter there?


Yet do not sweetest things here soonest cloy?
Satiety the life of joy would kill,
If sweet with bitter, pleasure with annoy
Were not attempered still.


This mood endured, till every act of love,
Vigils of praise and prayer, and midnight choir,
All shadows of the service done above,
And which, while his desire,



And while his hope was heav’nward, he had loved,
As helps to disengage him from the chain
That fastens unto earth—all these now proved
Most burdensome and vain.


What must have been the issue of that mood
It were a thing to fear—but that one day,
Upon the limits of an ancient wood,
His thoughts him led astray.


Darkling he went, nor once applied his ear,
On a loud sea of agitations thrown,
Nature’s low tones and harmonies to hear,
Heard by the calm alone.


The merry chirrup of the grasshopper,
Sporting among the roots of withered grass,
The dry leaf rustling to the wind’s light stir
Did each unnoted pass:



He, walking in a trance of selfish care,
Not once observed the beauty shed around,
The blue above, the music in the air,
The flowers upon the ground;


Till from the centre of that forest dim
Came to him such sweet singing of a bird,
As sweet in very truth, then seemed to him
The sweetest ever heard.


That lodestar drew him onward inward still,
Deeper than where the village children stray,
Deeper than where the woodman’s glittering bill
Lops the large boughs away—


Into a central space of glimmering shade,
Where hardly might the struggling sunbeams pass,
Which a faint lattice-work of light had made
Upon the long lank grass.



He did not sit, but stood and listened there,
And to him listening the time seemed not long,
While that sweet bird above him filled the air
With its melodious song.


He heard not, saw not, felt not aught beside,
Through the wide worlds of pleasure and of pain,
Save the full flowing and the ample tide
Of that celestial strain.


As tho’ a bird of Paradise should light
A moment on a twig of this bleak earth,
And singing songs of Paradise invite
All hearts to holy mirth,


And then take wing to Paradise again,
Leaving all listening spirits raised above
The toil of earth the trouble and the pain,
And melted all in love:



Such spiritual might, such power was in the sound,
But when it ceased sweet music to unlock,
The spell that held him sense and spirit-bound
Dissolved with a slight shock.


All things around were as they were before—
The trees and the blue sky, and sunshine bright,
Painting the pale and leafstrewn forest-floor
With patches of faint light.


But as when music doth no longer thrill,
Light shudderings yet along the chords will run,
Or the heart vibrates tremulously still,
After its prayer be done,


So his heart fluttered all the way he went,
Listening each moment for the vesper bell;
For a long hour he deemed he must have spent
In that untrodden dell.



And once it seemed that something new or strange
Had passed upon the flowers the trees the ground,
Some slight but unintelligible change
On every thing around:


Such change, where all things undisturbed remain,
As only to the eye of him appears,
Who absent long, at length returns again—
The silent work of years.


And ever grew upon him more and more
Fresh marvel—for, unrecognised of all,
He stood a stranger at the convent door—
New faces filled the hall.


Yet was it long ere he received the whole
Of that strange wonder—how, while he had stood
Lost in deep gladness of his inmost soul,
Far hidden in that wood,



A generation had gone down unseen
Under the thin partition which is spread—
The thin partition of thin earth—between
The living and the dead.


Nor did he many days to earth belong,
For like a pent-up stream, released again,
The years arrested by the strength of song,
Came down on him amain;


Sudden as a dissolving thaw in spring;
Gentle as when upon the first warm day,
Which sunny April in its train may bring,
The snow melts all away.


They placed him in his former cell, and there
Watched him departing; what few words he said
Were of calm peace and gladness, with one care
Mingled—one only dread—



Lest an eternity should not suffice
To take the measure and the breadth and height
Of what there is reserved in Paradise—
Its ever-new delight.




[1] See Gen. xxvi. 18.


Qual es la niña
Que coge las flores
Si no tiene amores?
Spanish Ballad.

[3] Eusebius thus speaks of the Antichristian power:—Τον θεο μαχου ... τας πρας τον Υψιστου τοις αγγελοις παραδοθεισας των εθνων ‘οροθεσιας και συγχειν απειλουντος.

[4] Some of the old Litanies specially included these last:—’Pro navigantibus, iter agentibus, in carceribus, in vinculis, in metallis, in exiliis constitutis, precamur Te.

[5] See Augustine’s Confessions, B. 9, C. 10.

[6] See Garcilasso’s Conquest of Peru.

[7] “He [Archbishop Leighton] used often to say, that if he were to choose a place to die in, it should be an inn; it looks like a pilgrim’s going home, to whom this world was all as an inn, and who was weary of the noise and confusion in it. He added that the officious care and tenderness of friends was an entanglement to a dying man, and that the unconcerned attendance of those that could be procured in such a place would give less disturbance, and he obtained what he desired.”—Burnet’s History of his own Time.

[8] The poems which follow, from this page to p. 153 inclusive, as also some scattered in other parts of the volume, were written many years ago. I mention this here, and indeed only mention it at all, because some of those that follow are the expression of states of mind, in which I would not now ask others to sympathise, and from which I am thankful myself to have been delivered.