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Catch the white-handed nymphs in shady places,
To woo sweet kisses from averted faces,-
Play with their fingers, touch their shoulders white
Into a pretty shrinking with a bite
As hard as lips can make it : till agreed,
A lovely tale of human life we'll read.
And one will teach a tame dove how it best
May fan the cool air gently o'er my rest:
Another, bending o'er her nimble tread,
Will set a green robe floating round her head,
And still will dance with ever-varied ease,
Smiling upon the flowers and the trees :
Another will entice me on, and on,
Through almond blossoms and rich cinnamon;
Till in the bosom of a leafy world
We rest in silence, like two gems upcurl'd
In the recesses of a pearly shell.
And can I ever bid these joys farewell? Yes, I must pass them for a nobler life, Where I may find the agonies, the strife Of human hearts : for lo ! I see afar, O'er-sailing the blue cragginess, a car And steeds with streamy manes—the chariotecr Looks out upon the winds with glorious fear: And now the numerous tramplings quiver lightly Along a huge cloud's ridge; and now with sprightly Wheel downward come they into fresher skies, Tipt round with silver from the sun's bright eyes. Still downward with capacious whirl they glide;
And now I see them on a green hill-side
In breezy rest among the nodding stalks.
The charioteer with wondrous gesture talks
To the trees and mountains; and there soon appear
Shapes of delight, of mystery, and fear,
Passing along before a dusky space
Made by some mighty oaks: as they would chase
Some ever-fleeting music, on they sweep.
Lo! how they murmur, laugh, and smile, and weep:
Some with upholden hand and mouth severe;
Some with their faces muffled to the ear
Between their arms; some clear in youthful bloom,
Go glad and smilingly athwart the gloom;
Some looking back, and some with upward gaze;
Yes, thousands in a thousand different ways
Flit onward-now a lovely wreath of girls
Dancing their sleek hair into tangled curls;
And now broad wings. Most awfully intent
The driver of those steeds is forward bent,
And seems to listen: O that I might know
All that he writes with such a hurrying glow!
The visions all are fled the car is filed Into the light of heaven, and in their stead A sense of real things comes doubly strong, And, like a muddy stream, would bear along My soul to nothingness; but I will strive Against all doubtings, and will keep alive The thought of that same chariot, and the strange Journey it went.
Is there so small a range In the present strength of manhood, that the high Imagination cannot freely fly As she was wont of old ? prepare her steeds, Paw up against the light, and do strange deeds Upon the clouds? Has she not shown us all ? From the clear space of ether, to the small Breath of new buds unfolding? From the meaning Of Jove's large eyebrow, to the tender greening Of April meadows? Here her altar shone, E’en in this isle ; and who could paragon The fervid choir that lifted up a noise Of harmony, to where it aye will poise Its mighty self of convoluting sound, Huge as a planet, and like that roll round, Eternally around a dizzy void ? Ay, in those days the Muses were nigh cloy'd With honours ; nor had any other care Than to sing out and soothe their wavy hair.
Could all this be forgotten ? Yes, a schism Nurtured by foppery and barbarism, Made great Apollo blush for this his land. Men were thought wise who could not understand His glories : with a puling infant's force They sway'd about upon a rocking horse, And thought it Pegasus. Ah, dismal-sould ! The winds of heaven blew, the ocean rolld Its gathering wave-ye felt it not. The blue Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew
Of summer night collected still to make
The morning precious : Beauty was awake!
Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead
To things ye knew not of, -were closely wed
To musty laws lined out with wretched rule
And compass vile : so that ye taught a school
Of dolts to smooth, inlay, and clip, and fit,
Till, like the certain wands of Jacob's wit,
Their verses tallied. Easy was the task :
A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask
Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race!
That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his face,
And did not know it,--no, they went about,
Holding a poor, decrepit standard out,
Mark'd with most flimsy mottoes, and in large
The name of one Boileau !
Oye whose charge
It is to hover round our pleasant hills !
Whose congregated majesty so fills
My boundly reverence, that I cannot trace
Your hallow'd names, in this unholy place,
So near those common folk; did not their shames
Affright you ? Did our old lamenting Thames
Delight you ! did ye never cluster round
Delicious Avon, with a mournful sound,
And weep? Or did ye wholly bid adieu
To regions where no more the laurel grew?
Or did ye stay to give a welcoming
To some lone spirits who could proudly sing
Their youth away, and die? 'Twas even so :
But let me think away those times of woe :
Now 'tis a fairer season ; ye have breathed
Rich benedictions o'er us; ye have wreathed
Fresh garlands : for sweet music had been heard
In many places ; some has been upstirr'd
From out its crystal dwelling in a lake,
By a swan's ebon bill ; from a thick brake,
Nested and quiet in a valley mild,
Bubbles a pipe ; fine sounds are floating wild
About the earth : happy are ye and glad.
These things are, doubtless : yet in truth we've had
Strange thunders from the potency of song ;
Mingled indeed with what is sweet and strong,
From majesty : but in clear truth the themes
Are ugly cubs, the Poets' Polyphemes
Disturbing the grand sea. A drainless shower
Of light is poesy ; 'tis the supreme of power :
'Tis might half slumb’ring on its own right arm.
The very archings of her eye-lids charm
A thousand willing agents to obey,
And still she governs with the mildest sway :
But strength alone though of the Muses born
Is like a fallen angel : trees uptorn,
Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchres
Delight it ; for it feeds upon the burrs
And thorns of life : forgetting the great end
Of poesy, that it should be a friend
To soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.