She I love (alas in vain!)
Floats before my slumbering eyes:
When she comes she lulls my pain,
When she goes what pangs arise!
Thou whom love, whom memory flies,
Gentle Sleep! prolong thy reign!
If even thus she soothe my sighs,
Never let me wake again!
Pleasure! why thus desert the heart
In its spring-tide?
I could have seen her, I could part,
And but have sigh’d!
O’er every youthful charm to stray,
To gaze, to touch. . . .
Pleasure! why take so much away,
Or give so much?
Past ruin’d Ilion Helen lives,
Alcestis rises from the shades;
Verse calls them forth; ’tis verse that gives
Immortal youth to mortal maids.
Soon shall Oblivion’s deepening veil
Hide all the peopled hills you see,
The gay, the proud, while lovers hail
These many summers you and me.
Ianthe! you are call’d to cross the sea!
A path forbidden me!
Remember, while the Sun his blessing sheds
Upon the mountain-heads,
How often we have watcht him laying down
His brow, and dropt our own
Against each other’s, and how faint and short
And sliding the support!
What will succeed it now? Mine is unblest,
Ianthe! nor will rest
But on the very thought that swells with pain.
O bid me hope again!
O give me back what Earth, what (without you)
Not Heaven itself can do,
One of the golden days that we have past;
And let it be my last!
Or else the gift would be, however sweet,
Fragile and incomplete.
The gates of fame and of the grave
Stand under the same architrave.
Twenty years hence my eyes may grow
If not quite dim, yet rather so,
Still yours from others they shall know
Twenty years hence.
Twenty years hence tho’ it may hap
That I be call’d to take a nap
In a cool cell where thunder-clap
Was never heard,
There breathe but o’er my arch of grass
A not too sadly sigh’d Alas,
And I shall catch, ere you can pass,
That winged word.
Here, ever since you went abroad,
If there be change, no change I see,
I only walk our wonted road,
The road is only walkt by me.
Yes; I forgot; a change there is;
Was it of that you bade me tell?
I catch at times, at times I miss
The sight, the tone, I know so well.
Only two months since you stood here!
Two shortest months! then tell me why
Voices are harsher than they were,
And tears are longer ere they dry.
Tell me not things past all belief;
One truth in you I prove;
The flame of anger, bright and brief,
Sharpens the barb of Love.
Proud word you never spoke, but you will speak
Four not exempt from pride some future day.
Resting on one white hand a warm wet cheek
Over my open volume you will say,
‘This man loved me!’ then rise and trip away.
Here, where precipitate Spring, with one light bound
Into hot Summer’s lusty arms, expires,
And where go forth at morn, at eve, at night,
Soft airs that want the lute to play with ’em,
And softer sighs that know not what they want,
Aside a wall, beneath an orange-tree,
Whose tallest flowers could tell the lowlier ones
Of sights in Fiesole right up above,
While I was gazing a few paces off
At what they seem’d to show me with their nods,
Their frequent whispers and their pointing shoots,
A gentle maid came down the garden-steps
And gathered the pure treasure in her lap.
I heard the branches rustle, and stept forth
To drive the ox away, or mule, or goat,
Such I believed it must be. How could I
Let beast o’erpower them? When hath wind or rain
Borne hard upon weak plant that wanted me,
And I (however they might bluster round)
Walkt off? ’Twere most ungrateful: for sweet scents
Are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts,
And nurse and pillow the dull memory
That would let drop without them her best stores.
They bring me tales of youth and tones of love,
And ’tis and ever was my wish and way
To let all flowers live freely, and all die
(Whene’er their Genius bids their souls depart)
Among their kindred in their native place.
I never pluck the rose; the violet’s head
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
And not reproacht me; the ever-sacred cup
Of the pure lily hath between my hands
Felt safe, unsoil’d, nor lost one grain of gold.
I saw the light that made the glossy leaves
More glossy; the fair arm, the fairer cheek
Warmed by the eye intent on its pursuit;
I saw the foot that, although half-erect
From its grey slipper, could not lift her up
To what she wanted: I held down a branch
And gather’d her some blossoms; since their hour
Was come, and bees had wounded them, and flies
Of harder wing were working their way thro’
And scattering them in fragments under-foot.
So crisp were some, they rattled unevolved,
Others, ere broken off, fell into shells,
For such appear the petals when detacht,
Unbending, brittle, lucid, white like snow,
And like snow not seen thro’, by eye or sun:
Yet every one her gown received from me
Was fairer than the first. I thought not so,
But so she praised them to reward my care.
I said, ‘You find the largest.’
Cried she, ‘is large and sweet.’ She held one forth,
Whether for me to look at or to stake
She knew not, nor did I; but taking it
Would best have solved (and this she felt) her doubt.
I dared not touch it; for it seemed a part
Of her own self; fresh, full, the most mature
Of blossoms, yet a blossom; with a touch
To fall, and yet unfallen. She drew back
The boon she tender’d, and then, finding not
The ribbon at her waist to fix it in,
Dropt it, as loath to drop it, on the rest.
Ah what avails the sceptred race,
Ah what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.
Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and of sighs
I consecrate to thee.
With rosy hand a little girl prest down
A boss of fresh-cull’d cowslips in a rill:
Often as they sprang up again, a frown
Show’d she disliked resistance to her will:
But when they droopt their heads and shone much less,
She shook them to and fro, and threw them by,
And tript away. ‘Ye loathe the heaviness
Ye love to cause, my little girls!’ thought I,
‘And what had shone for you, by you must die.’
Ternissa! you are fled!
I say not to the dead,
But to the happy ones who rest below:
For, surely, surely, where
Your voice and graces are,
Nothing of death can any feel or know.
Girls who delight to dwell
Where grows most asphodel,
Gather to their calm breasts each word you speak:
The mild Persephone
Places you on her knee,
And your cool palm smooths down stern Pluto’s cheek.
Various the roads of life; in one
All terminate, one lonely way
We go; and ‘Is he gone?’
Is all our best friends say.
Yes; I write verses now and then,
But blunt and flaccid is my pen,
No longer talkt of by young men
As rather clever:
In the last quarter are my eyes,
You see it by their form and size;
Is it not time then to be wise?
Or now or never.
Fairest that ever sprang from Eve!
While Time allows the short reprieve,
Just look at me! would you believe
’Twas once a lover?
I cannot clear the five-bar gate,
But, trying first its timber’s state,
Climb stiffly up, take breath, and wait
To trundle over.
Thro’ gallopade I cannot swing
The entangling blooms of Beauty’s spring:
I cannot say the tender thing,
Be ’t true or false,
And am beginning to opine
Those girls are only half-divine
Whose waists yon wicked boys entwine
In giddy waltz.
I fear that arm above that shoulder,
I wish them wiser, graver, older,
Sedater, and no harm if colder
And panting less.
Ah! people were not half so wild
In former days, when, starchly mild,
Upon her high-heel’d Essex smiled
The brave Queen Bess.
Borgia, thou once wert almost too august
And high for adoration; now thou’rt dust.
All that remains of thee these plaits unfold,
Calm hair, meandering in pellucid gold.
Once, and once only, have I seen thy face,
Elia! once only has thy tripping tongue
Run o’er my breast, yet never has been left
Impression on it stronger or more sweet.
Cordial old man! what youth was in thy years,
What wisdom in thy levity, what truth
In every utterance of that purest soul!
Few are the spirits of the glorified
I’d spring to earlier at the gate of Heaven.
Those who have laid the harp aside
And turn’d to idler things,
From very restlessness have tried
The loose and dusty strings.
And, catching back some favourite strain,
Run with it o’er the chords again.
But Memory is not a Muse,
O Wordsworth! though ’tis said
They all descend from her, and use
To haunt her fountain-head:
That other men should work for me
In the rich mines of Poesie,
Pleases me better than the toil
Of smoothing under hardened hand,
With Attic emery and oil,
The shining point for Wisdom’s wand,
Like those thou temperest ‘mid the rills
Descending from thy native hills.
Without his governance, in vain
Manhood is strong, and Youth is bold
If oftentimes the o’er-piled strain
Clogs in the furnace, and grows cold
Beneath his pinions deep and frore,
And swells and melts and flows no more,
That is because the heat beneath
Pants in its cavern poorly fed.
Life springs not from the couch of Death,
Nor Muse nor Grace can raise the dead;
Unturn’d then let the mass remain,
Intractable to sun or rain.
A marsh, where only flat leaves lie,
And showing but the broken sky,
Too surely is the sweetest lay
That wins the ear and wastes the day,
Where youthful Fancy pouts alone
And lets not Wisdom touch her zone.
He who would build his fame up high,
The rule and plummet must apply,
Nor say, ‘I’ll do what I have plann’d,’
Before he try if loam or sand
Be still remaining in the place
Delved for each polisht pillar’s base.
With skilful eye and fit device
Thou raisest every edifice,
Whether in sheltered vale it stand
Or overlook the Dardan strand,
Amid the cypresses that mourn
Laodameia’s love forlorn.
We both have run o’er half the space
Listed for mortal’s earthly race;
We both have crost life’s fervid line,
And other stars before us shine:
May they be bright and prosperous
As those that have been stars for us!
Our course by Milton’s light was sped,
And Shakespeare shining overhead:
Chatting on deck was Dryden too,
The Bacon of the rhyming crew;
None ever crost our mystic sea
More richly stored with thought than he;
Tho’ never tender nor sublime,
He wrestles with and conquers Time.
To learn my lore on Chaucer’s knee,
I left much prouder company;
Thee gentle Spenser fondly led,
But me he mostly sent to bed.
I wish them every joy above
That highly blessed spirits prove,
Save one: and that too shall be theirs,
But after many rolling years,
When ‘mid their light thy light appears.
Go then to Italy; but mind
To leave the pale low France behind;
Pass through that country, nor ascend
The Rhine, nor over Tyrol wend:
Thus all at once shall rise more grand
The glories of the ancient land.
Dickens! how often, when the air
Breath’d genially, I’ve thought me there,
And rais’d to heaven my thankful eyes
To see three spans of deep blue skies.
In Genoa now I hear a stir,
A shout . . . Here comes the Minister!
Yes, thou art he, although not sent
By cabinet or parliament:
Yes, thou art he. Since Milton’s youth
Bloom’d in the Eden of the South,
Spirit so pure and lofty none
Hath heavenly Genius from his throne
Deputed on the banks of Thames
To speak his voice and urge his claims.
Let every nation know from thee
How less than lovely Italy
Is the whole world beside; let all
Into their grateful breasts recall
How Prospero and Miranda dwelt
In Italy: the griefs that melt
The stoniest heart, each sacred tear
One lacrymatory gathered here;
All Desdemona’s, all that fell
In playful Juliet’s bridal cell.
Ah! could my steps in life’s decline
Accompany or follow thine!
But my own vines are not for me
To prune, or from afar to see.
I miss the tales I used to tell
With cordial Hare and joyous Gell,
And that good old Archbishop whose
Cool library, at evening’s close
(Soon as from Ischia swept the gale
And heav’d and left the dark’ning sail),
Its lofty portal open’d wide
To me, and very few beside:
Yet large his kindness. Still the poor
Flock round Taranto’s palace door,
And find no other to replace
The noblest of a noble race.
Amid our converse you would see
Each with white cat upon his knee,
And flattering that grand company:
For Persian kings might proudly own
Such glorious cats to share the throne.
Write me few letters: I’m content
With what for all the world is meant;
Write then for all: but, since my breast
Is far more faithful than the rest,
Never shall any other share
With little Nelly nestling there.
Barry! your spirit long ago
Has haunted me; at last I know
The heart it sprung from: one more sound
Ne’er rested on poetic ground.
But, Barry Cornwall! by what right
Wring you my breast and dim my sight,
And make me wish at every touch
My poor old hand could do as much?
No other in these later times
Has bound me in so potent rhymes.
I have observed the curious dress
And jewelry of brave Queen Bess,
But always found some o’ercharged thing,
Some flaw in even the brightest ring,
Admiring in her men of war,
A rich but too argute guitar.
Our foremost now are more prolix,
And scrape with three-fell fiddlesticks,
And, whether bound for griefs or smiles,
Are slow to turn as crocodiles.
Once, every court and country bevy
Chose the gallant of loins less heavy,
And would have laid upon the shelf
Him who could talk but of himself.
Reason is stout, but even Reason
May walk too long in Rhyme’s hot season.
I have heard many folks aver
They have caught horrid colds with her.
Imagination’s paper kite,
Unless the string is held in tight,
Whatever fits and starts it takes,
Soon bounces on the ground, and breaks.
You, placed afar from each extreme,
Nor dully drowse nor wildly dream,
But, ever flowing with good-humour,
Are bright as spring and warm as summer.
Mid your Penates not a word
Of scorn or ill-report is heard;
Nor is there any need to pull
A sheaf or truss from cart too full,
Lest it o’erload the horse, no doubt,
Or clog the road by falling out.
We, who surround a common table,
And imitate the fashionable,
Wear each two eyeglasses: this lens
Shows us our faults, that other men’s.
We do not care how dim may be
This by whose aid our own we see,
But, ever anxiously alert
That all may have their whole desert,
We would melt down the stars and sun
In our heart’s furnace, to make one
Thro’ which the enlighten’d world might spy
A mote upon a brother’s eye.
There is delight in singing, tho’ none hear
Beside the singer: and there is delight
In praising, tho’ the praiser sit alone
And see the prais’d far off him, far above.
Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world’s,
Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
No man hath walkt along our roads with step
So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue
So varied in discourse. But warmer climes
Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
Of Alpine highths thou playest with, borne on
Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.
Death, tho’ I see him not, is near
And grudges me my eightieth year.
Now, I would give him all these last
For one that fifty have run past.
Ah! he strikes all things, all alike,
But bargains: those he will not strike.
Leaf after leaf drops off, flower after flower,
Some in the chill, some in the warmer hour:
Alike they flourish and alike they fall,
And Earth who nourisht them receives them all.
Should we, her wiser sons, be less content
To sink into her lap when life is spent?
Well I remember how you smiled
To see me write your name upon
The soft sea-sand —‘O! what a child!
You think you’re writing upon stone!’
I have since written what no tide
Shall ever wash away, what men
Unborn shall read o’er ocean wide
And find Ianthe’s name again.
I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art;
I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.
Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear:
Of his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.
Damon was sitting in the grove
With Phyllis, and protesting love;
And she was listening; but no word
Of all he loudly swore she heard.
How! was she deaf then? no, not she,
Phyllis was quite the contrary.
Tapping his elbow, she said, ‘Hush!
O what a darling of a thrush!
I think he never sang so well
As now, below us, in the dell.’
Now thou art gone, tho’ not gone far,
It seems that there are worlds between us;
Shine here again, thou wandering star!
Earth’s planet! and return with Venus.
At times thou broughtest me thy light
When restless sleep had gone away;
At other times more blessed night
Stole over, and prolonged thy stay.
One day, when I was young, I read
About a poet, long since dead,
Who fell asleep, as poets do
In writing — and make others too.
But herein lies the story’s gist,
How a gay queen came up and kist
‘Capital!’ thought I.
‘A like good fortune let me try.’
Many the things we poets feign.
I feign’d to sleep, but tried in vain.
I tost and turn’d from side to side,
With open mouth and nostrils wide.
At last there came a pretty maid,
And gazed; then to myself I said,
‘Now for it!’ She, instead of kiss,
Cried, ‘What a lazy lout is this!’
Few will acknowledge what they owe
To persecuted, brave Defoe.
Achilles, in Homeric song,
May, or he may not, live so long
As Crusoe; few their strength had tried
Without so staunch and safe a guide.
What boy is there who never laid
Under his pillow, half afraid,
That precious volume, lest the morrow
For unlearnt lessons might bring sorrow?
But nobler lessons he has taught
Wide-awake scholars who fear’d naught:
A Rodney and a Nelson may
Without him not have won the day.
They say that every idle word
Is numbered by the Omniscient Lord.
O Parliament! ’tis well that He
Endureth for Eternity,
And that a thousand Angels wait
To write them at thy inner gate.
Avon! why runnest thou away so fast?
Rest thee before that Chancel where repose
The bones of him whose spirit moves the world.
I have beheld thy birthplace, I have seen
Thy tiny ripples where they play amid
The golden cups and ever-waving blades.
I have seen mighty rivers, I have seen
Padus, recovered from his fiery wound,
And Tiber, prouder than them all to bear
Upon his tawny bosom men who crusht
The world they trod on, heeding not the cries
Of culprit kings and nations many-tongued.
What are to me these rivers, once adorn’d
With crowns they would not wear but swept away?
Worthier art thou of worship, and I bend
My knees upon thy bank, and call thy name,
And hear, or think I hear, thy voice reply.
The single Greek word in this work has been transliterated, and is surrounded by plus signs +like this+.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11