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Such as did once the Poet bless, Who murmuring here a later 1 ditty, Could find no refuge from distress But in the milder grief of pity.
Now let us, as we float along,
For him suspend the dashing oar;
pray that never child of Song
May know that Poet's sorrows more.
How calm! how still! the only sound,
The dripping of the oar suspended!
-The evening darkness gathers round
By virtue's holiest Powers attended.
IF Thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Shine, Poet, in thy place, and be content!
The Star that from the zenith darts its beams,
Visible though it be to half the Earth,
Though half a sphere be conscious of its brightness,
Is yet of no diviner origin,
No purer essence, than the One that burns,
Like an untended watch-fire, on the ridge
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps,
Among the branches of the leafless trees.
IN A BLANK LEAF OF MACPHERSON'S OSSIAN.
OFT have I caught from fitful breeze
Fragments of far-off melodies,
With ear not coveting the whole,
A part so charmed the pensive soul:
While a dark storm before my sight
Was yielding, on a mountain height
Loose vapours have I watched, that won
Prismatic colours from the sun;
Nor felt a wish that Heaven would show
The image of its perfect bow.
What need, then, of these finished Strains?
Away with counterfeit Remains!
An abbey in its lone recess,
A temple of the wilderness,
Wrecks though they be, announce with feeling
The majesty of honest dealing.
Spirit of Ossian! if imbound
In language thou mayst yet be found,
If aught (intrusted to the pen
Or floating on the tongues of Men,
Albeit shattered and impaired)
Subsist thy dignity to guard,
In concert with memorial claim
Of old grey stone, and high-born name,
That cleaves to rock or pillared cave,
Where moans the blast, or beats the wave,
Let Truth, stern Arbitress of all,
Interpret that Original,
And for presumptuous wrongs atone;
Authentic words be given, or none!
1 Collins's Ode on the Death of Thomson, the last written, I be
lieve, of the Poems which were published during his lifetime. This Ode is also alluded to in the next Stanza.
Time is not blind;-yet He, who spares
Pyramid pointing to the Stars,
Hath preyed with ruthless appetite
On all that marked the primal flight
Of the poetic ecstasy
Into the land of mystery.
No tongue is able to rehearse
One measure, Orpheus! of thy verse;
Musæus, stationed with his lyre
Supreme among the Elysian quire,
Is, for the dwellers upon earth,
Mute as a Lark ere morning's birth.
Why grieve for these, though passed away
The Music, and extinct the Lay?
When thousands, by severer doom,
Full early to the silent tomb
Have sunk, at Nature's call; or strayed
From hope and promise, self-betrayed;
The garland withering on their brows;
Stung with remorse for broken vows;
Frantic-else how might they rejoice!
And friendless, by their own sad choice.
The form and rich habiliments of One
Whose countenance bore resemblance to the sun.
When it reveals, in evening majesty,
Features half lost amid their own pure light.
Poised, like a weary cloud, in middle air
He hung, then floated with angelic ease
(Softening that bright effulgence by degrees)
Till he had reached a summit sharp and bare,
Where oft the vent'rous heifer drinks the noon-
Upon the apex of that lofty cone
Alighted, there the Stranger stood alone;
Fair as a gorgeous fabric of the East
Suddenly raised by some Enchanter's power,
Where nothing was; and firm as some old Tower
Of Britain's realm, whose leafy crest
Waves high, embellished by a gleaming shower!
Beneath the shadow of his purple wings
Rested a golden Harp;-he touched the strings;
And, after prelude of unearthly sound
Poured through the echoing hills around,
«No wintry desolations,
Scorching blight, or noxious dew,
Affect my native habitations;
Buried in glory, far beyond the scope
Of man's inquiring gaze, but imaged to his hope (Alas, how faintly!) in the hue Profound of night's ethereal blue;
And in the aspect of each radiant orb;—
Some fixed, some wandering with no timid curb;
But wandering star and fixed, to mortal eye,
Blended in absolute serenity,
And free from semblance of decline;
Fresh as if Evening brought their natal hour;
Her darkness splendour gave her silence power,
To testify of Love and Grace divine.
«<And though to every draught of vital breath Renewed throughout the bounds of earth or ocean, The melancholy gates of Death Respond with sympathetic motion; Though all that feeds on nether air, Howe'er magnificent or fair, Grows but to perish, and entrust Its ruins to their kindred dust; Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care, Her procreant vigils Nature keeps Amid the unfathomable deeps; And saves the peopled fields of earth From dread of emptiness or dearth. Thus, in their stations, lifting tow'rd the sky The foliaged head in cloud-like majesty, The shadow-casting race of Trees survive: Thus, in the train of Spring, arrive Sweet Flowers;-what living eye hath viewed Their myriads?-endlessly renewed, Wherever strikes the sun's glad ray; Where'er the subtle waters stray; Wherever sportive zephyrs bend Their course or genial showers descend! Mortals, rejoice! the very Angels quit Their mansions unsusceptible of change,
Amid your pleasant bowers to sit,
And through your sweet vicissitudes to range!
O, nursed at happy distance from the cares
Of a too-anxious world, mild pastoral Muse!
That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
And to her sister Clio's laurel wreath,
Prefer'st a garland culled from purple heath,
Or blooming thicket moist with morning dew;
Was such bright Spectacle vouchsafed to me?
And was it grauted to the simple ear
Of thy contented Votary
Such melody to hear!
Him rather suits it, side by side with thee,
Wrapped in a fit of pleasing indolence,
While thy tired lute hangs on the hawthorn tree,
To lie and listen, till o'er-drowsed sense
Sinks, hardly conscious of the influence,
To the soft murmur of the vagrant Bee.
-A slender sound! yet hoary Time
Doth to the Soul exalt it with the chime
Of all his years;-a company
Of ages coming, ages gone;
(Nations from before them sweeping,
Regions in destruction steeping,)
But every awful note in unison
With that faint utterance, which tells
Of treasure sucked from buds and bells,
For the pure keeping of those waxen cells;
Where She, a statist prudent to confer
Upon the public weal; a warrior bold,-
Radiant all over with unburnished gold,
And armed with living spear for mortal fight;
A cunning forager
That spreads no waste;-a social builder; one
In whom all busy offices unite
With all fine functions that afford delight,
Safe through the winter storm in quiet dwells!
And is She brought within the power
Of vision?-o'er this tempting flower
Hovering until the petals stay
Her flight, and take its voice away!-
Observe each wing-a tiny van!--
The structure of her laden thigh,
Dlow fragile!-yet of ancestry
Mysteriously remote and high,
High as the imperial front of man,
The roseate bloom on woman's cheek;
The soaring eagle's curved beak;
The white plumes of the floating swan;
Old as the tiger's paw, the lion's mane
Ere shaken by that mood of stern disdain
At which the desert trembles.-Humming Bee!
Thy sting was needless then, perchance unknown;
The seeds of malice were not sown;
All creatures met in peace, from fierceness free.
And no pride blended with their dignity.
-Tears had not broken from their source;
Nor anguish strayed from her Tartarian den;
The golden years maintained a course
Not undiversified, though smooth and even;
We were not mocked with glimpse and shadow,
Bright Seraphs mixed familiarly with men;
And earth and stars composed a universal heaven!
ODE TO LYCORIS.
AN age hath been when Earth was proud
Of lustre too intense
To be sustained; and Mortals bowed
The front in self-defence.
Who then, if Dian's crescent gleamed,
Or Cupid's sparkling arrow streamed
While on the wing the Urchin played,
Could fearlessly approach the shade?
-Enough for one soft vernal day,
If I, a Bard of ebbing time,
And nurtured in a fickle clime,
May haunt this horned bay;
Whose amorous water multiplies
The flitting halcyon's vivid dyes;
And smooths her liquid breast-to show
These swan-like specks of mountain snow, ́
White as the pair that slid along the plains
Of Heaven, when Venus held the reins!
In youth we love the darksome lawn
Brushed by the owlet's wing;
Then, Twilight is preferred to Dawn,
And Autumn to the Spring.
Sad fancies do we then affect,
In luxury of disrespect
To our own prodigal excess
Of too familiar happiness.
Lycoris (if such name befit
Thee, thee my life's celestial sign!)
When Nature marks the year's decline,
Be ours to welcome it;
Pleased with the harvest hope that runs
Before the path of milder suns,
Pleased while the sylvan world displays
Its ripeness to the feeding gaze;
Pleased when the sullen winds resound the knell
Of the resplendent miracle.
But something whispers to my heart
That, as we downward tend,
Lycoris! life requires an art
To which our souls must bend;
A skill-to balance and supply;
And, ere the flowing fount be dry,
As soon it must, a sense to sip,
Or drink, with no fastidious lip.
Frank greeting, then, to that blithe Guest
Diffusing smiles o'er land and sea
To aid the vernal Deity
Whose home is in the breast!
May pensive Autumn ne'er present
A claim to her disparagement!
While blossoms and the budding spray
Inspire us in our own decay;
Still, as we nearer draw to life's dark goal,
Be hopeful Spring the favourite of the Soul!
ENOUGH of climbing toil!-Ambition treads
Here, as mid busier scenes, ground steep and rough,
Or slippery even to peril! and each step,
As we for must uncertain recompeuse
Mount tow'rd the empire of the fickle clonds,
Each weary step, dwarfing the world below,
Induces, for its old familiar sights,
Unacceptable feelings of contempt,
With wonder mixed-that Man could e'er be tied,
In anxious bondage, to such nice array
And formal fellowship of petty things!
-Oh! 't is the heart that magnifies this life,
Making a truth and beauty of her own:
And moss grown alleys, circumscribing shades,
And gurgling rills, assist her in the work
More efficaciously than realms outspread,
As in a map, before the adventurer's gaze-
Ocean and Earth contending for regard.
But lo! where darkness seems to guard the mouth
Of yon wild cave, whose jagged brows are fringed
With flaccid threads of ivy, in the still
And sultry air, depending motionless.
Yet cool the space within, and not uncheered
(As whoso enters shall ere long perceive)
By stealthy influx of the timid day
Mingling with night, such twilight to compose
As Numa loved; when, in the Egerian Grot,
From the sage Nymph appearing at his wish,
He gained whate'er a regal mind might ask,
Or need, of council breathed through lips divine.
Long as the heat shall rage, let that dim cave
Protect us, there deciphering as we may
Diluvian records; or the sighs of Earth
Interpreting; or counting for old Time
Ilis minutes, by reiterated drops,
Audible tears, from some invisible source
That deepens upon faucy-more and more Drawn tow'rd the centre whence those sighs creep forth
To awe the lightness of humanity, Or, shutting up thyself within thyself, There let me see thee sink into a mood Of gentler thought, protracted till thine eye Be calm as water when the winds are gone, And no one can tell whither. Dearest friend! We two have known such happy hours together, That, were power granted to replace them (fetched From out the pensive shadows where they lie Ju the first warmth of their original sunshine, Loth should I be to use it: passing sweet Are the domains of tender memory!
A BARKING Sound the Shepherd hears,
A cry as of a Dog or Fox;
He halts and searches with his eyes
Among the scattered rocks:
And now at distance can discern
A stirring in a brake of fern;
And instantly a dog is seen,
Glancing through that covert green.
The Dog is not of mountain breed; Its motions, too, are wild and shy;
Well may the Villagers rejoice!
Nor heat, nor cold, nor weary ways,
Will be a hindrance to the voice
That would unite in prayer and praise;
More duly shall wild-wandering Youth
Receive the curb of sacred truth,
Shall tottering Age, bent earthward, hear
The Promise, with uplifted ear;
And all shall welcome the new ray
Imparted to their Sabbath-day.
Even Strangers, slackening here their pace,
Shall hail this work of pious care,
Lifting its front with modest grace
To make a fair recess more fair;
And to exalt the passing hour;
Or soothe it, with a healing power
Drawn from the Sacrifice fulfilled,
Before this rugged soil was tilled,
Or human habitation rose
To interrupt the deep repose!
Not yet the corner stone is laid
With solemn rite; but Fancy sees
The tower time-stricken, and in shade
Embosomed of coeval trees;
Hlears, o'er the lake, the warning clock
As it shall sound with gentle shock
At evening, when the ground beneath
Is ruffled o'er with cells of Death;
Where happy Generations lie,
Here tutored for Eternity.
Lives there a Man whose sole delights
Are trivial pomp and city noise,
Hardening a heart that loathes or slights
What every natural heart enjoys?
Bekangs Ghyll-or the Vale of Nightshade-in which stands St Mary's Abbey, in Low Furness.