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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.

Yet I rejoice : a myrtle fairer than E'er grew in Paphos, from the bitter weeds Lifts its sweet head into the air, and feeds A silent space with ever-sprouting green. All tenderest birds there find a pleasant screen, Creep through the shade with jaunty fluttering. Nibble the little cupped flowers and sing. Then let us clear away the choking thorns From round its gentle stem; let the young fawns, Yeaned in after-times, when we are flown, Find a fresh sward beneath it, overgrown With simple flowers: let there nothing be More boisterous than a lover's bended knee; Nought more ungentle than the placid look Of one who leans upon a closed book; Nought more untranquil than the grassy slopes Between two hills. All hail, delightful hopes! As she was wont, th' imagination Into most lovely labyrinths will be gone, And they shall be accounted poet kings Who simply tell the most heart-easing things. O may these joys be ripe before I die!

Will not some say that I presumptuously Have spoken? that from hastening disgrace 'T were better far to hide my foolish face? That whining boyhood should with reverence bow Ere the dread thunderbolt could reach? How! If I do hide myself, it sure shall be In the very fane, the light of Poesy: If I do fall, at least I will be laid Beneath the silence of a poplar shade; And over me the grass shall be smooth shaven; And there shall be a kind memorial graven. But off, Despondence ! miserable bane! They should not know thee, who athirst to gain

A noble end, are thirsty every hour.

What though I am not wealthy in the dower

Of spanning wisdom ; though I do not know

The shiftings of the mighty winds that blow

Hither and thither all the changing thoughts

Of man: though no great ministering reason sorts

Out the dark mysteries of human souls

To clear conceiving : yet there ever rolls

A vast idea before me, and I glean

Therefrom my liberty; thence too I've seen

The end and aim of Poesy. 'T is clear

As anything most true ; as that the year

Is made of the four seasons—manifest

As a large cross, some old cathedral's crest,

Lifted to the white clouds. Therefore should I

Be but the essence of deformity,

A coward, did my very eyelids wink

At speaking out what I have dared to think.

Ah ! rather let me like a madman run

Over some precipice; let the hot sun

Melt my Dedalian wings, and drive me down

Convulsed and headlong '. Stay ! an inward frown

Of conscience bids me be more calm awhile.

An ocean dim, sprinkled with many an isle,

Spreads awfully before me. How much toil!

How many days ! what desperate turmoil!

Ere I can have explored its widenesses.

Ah, what a task ! upon my bended knees,

I could unsay those—no, impossible!


For sweet relief I 'll dwell On humbler thoughts, and let this strange assay Begun in gentleness die so away. E'en now all tumult from my bosom fades: I turn full-hearted to the friendly aids That smooth the path of honour ; brotherhood, And friendliness, the nurse of mutual good. The hearty grasp that sends a pleasant sonnet Into the brain ere one can think upon it; The silence when some rhymes are coming out; And when they 're come, the very pleasant route : The message certain to be done to-morrow. 'T is perhaps as well that it should be to borrow

Some precious book from out its snug retreat,
To cluster round it when we next shall meet.
Scarce can I scribble on; for lovely airs
Are fluttering round the room like doves in pairs;
Many delights of that glad day recalling,
When first my senses caught their tender falling.
And with these airs come forms of elegance
Stooping their shoulders o'er a horse's prance,
Careless, and grand—fingers soft and round
Parting luxuriant curls ; and the swift bound
Of Bacchus from his chariot, when his eye
Made Ariadne's cheek look blushingly.
Thus I remember all the pleasant flow
Of words at opening a portfolio.

Things such as these are ever harbingers

To trains of peaceful images : the stirs

Of a swan's neck unseen among the rushes:

A linnet starting all about the bushes:

A butterfly, with golden wings broad-parted,

Nestling a rose, convulsed as though it smarted

With over-pleasure—many, many more,

Might I indulge at large in all my store

Of luxuries: yet I must not forget

Sleep, quiet with his poppy coronet:

For what there may be worthy in these rhymes

I partly owe to him : and thus, the chimes

Of friendly voices had just given place

To as sweet a silence, when I 'gan retrace

The pleasant day, upon a couch at ease.

It was a poet's house who keeps the keys

Of pleasure's temple—round about were hung

The glorious features of the bards who sung

In other ages—cold and sacred busts

Smiled at each other. Happy he who trusts

To clear Futurity his darling fame!

Then there were fauns and satyrs taking aim

At swelling apples with a frisky leap

And reaching fingers, 'mid a luscious heap

Of vine-leaves. Then there rose to view a fane

Of liney marble, and thereto a train

Of nymphs approaching fairly o'er the sward:

One, loveliest, holding her white hand toward

The dazzling sun-rise: two sisters sweet

Bending their graceful figures till they meet

Over the trippings of a little child:

And some are hearing, eagerly, the wild

Thrilling liquidity of dewy piping.

See, in another picture, nymphs are wiping

Cherishingly Diana's timorous limbs;

A fold of lawny mantle dabbling swims

At the bath's edge, and keeps a gentle motion

With the subsiding crystal: as when ocean

Heaves calmly its broad swelling smoothness o'er

Its rocky marge, and balances once more

The patient weeds ; that now unshent by foam

Feel all about their undulating home.

Sappho's meek head was there half smiling down

At nothing ; just as though the earnest frown

Of over-thinking had that moment gone

From off her brow, and left her all alone.

Great Alfred's too, with anxious, pitying eyes,
As if he always listened to the<sighs
Of the goaded world; and Kosciusko's, worn
By horrid suffrance—mightily forlorn.

Petrarch, outstepping from the shady green,

Starts at the sight of Laura; nor can wean

His eyes from her sweet face. Most happy they!

For over them was seen a free display

Of outspread wings, and from between them shone

The face of Poesy : from off her throne

She overlook'd things that I scarce could tell,

The very sense of where I was might well

Keep sleep aloof: but more than that there came

Thought after thought to nourish up the flame

Within my breast; so that the morning light

Surprised me even from a sleepless night;

And up I rose refresh'd, and glad, and gay,

Resolving to begin that very day

These lines ; and howsoever they be done,

I leave them as a father does his son.


Souls of poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern i
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host's Canary wine?
Or are fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bold Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host's sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer's old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,—
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old-sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Souls of poets dead and gone, What Elysium have ye known, Happy field or mossy cavern, Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

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