BY JOHN H. INGRAM
Edgar Allan Poe is today best known for his macabre short stories such as The Fall of the House of Usher, the Pit and the Pendulum and others. However he was also a prolific poet, although his body of poems has not stood the test of time very well. The poems that are still recognized as great works are "The Raven" and Annabel Lee. The rest have faded into some obscurity, but they are reproduced here as a way of providing a complete picture of Poe's literary legacy.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-- While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping--rapping at my chamber door. "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-- Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore-- For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-- Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-- Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-- This it is and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, "Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping--tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door:-- Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon I heard again a tapping, somewhat louder than before. "Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-- Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;-- 'Tis the wind and nothing more."
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he: not an instant stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-- Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-- Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-- Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-- Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore."
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing further then he uttered--not a feather then he fluttered-- Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-- On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before." Then the bird said, "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store, Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-- Till the dirges of his Hope the melancholy burden bore Of 'Never--nevermore.'"
But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-- What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er, But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath sent thee Respite--respite aad nepenthé from thy memories of Lenore! Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthé, and forget this lost Lenore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!-- Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-- On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore-- Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore-- Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-- Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore." Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting-- "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted--nevermore!
* * * * *
Hear the sledges with the bells-- Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells! How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In their icy air of night! While the stars, that oversprinkle All the heavens, seem to twinkle With a crystalline delight; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells-- From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Hear the mellow wedding bells, Golden bells! What a world of happiness their harmony foretells! Through the balmy air of night How they ring out their delight! From the molten golden-notes, And all in tune, What a liquid ditty floats To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats On the moon! Oh, from out the sounding cells, What a gush of euphony voluminously wells! How it swells! How it dwells On the future! how it tells Of the rapture that impels To the swinging and the ringing Of the bells, bells, bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells-- To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
Hear the loud alarum bells-- Brazen bells! What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells! In the startled ear of night How they scream out their affright! Too much horrified to speak, They can only shriek, shriek, Out of tune, In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire Leaping higher, higher, higher, With a desperate desire, And a resolute endeavor Now--now to sit or never, By the side of the pale-faced moon. Oh, the bells, bells, bells! What a tale their terror tells Of Despair! How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour On the bosom of the palpitating air! Yet the ear it fully knows, By the twanging, And the clanging, How the danger ebbs and flows; Yet the ear distinctly tells, In the jangling, And the wrangling, How the danger sinks and swells, By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-- Of the bells-- Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells-- In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
Hear the tolling of the bells-- Iron bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan. And the people--ah, the people-- They that dwell up in the steeple. All alone, And who toiling, toiling, toiling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone-- They are neither man nor woman-- They are neither brute nor human-- They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A pæan from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the pæan of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the pæan of the bells-- Of the bells: Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the throbbing of the bells-- Of the bells, bells, bells-- To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme, To the rolling of the bells-- Of the bells, bells, bells-- To the tolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells-- To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
* * * * *
The skies they were ashen and sober; The leaves they were crisped and sere-- The leaves they were withering and sere; It was night in the lonesome October Of my most immemorial year; It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, In the misty mid region of Weir-- It was down by the dank tarn of Auber, In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic. Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul-- Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul. These were days when my heart was volcanic As the scoriac rivers that roll-- As the lavas that restlessly roll Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek In the ultimate climes of the pole-- That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek In the realms of the boreal pole.
Our talk had been serious and sober, But our thoughts they were palsied and sere-- Our memories were treacherous and sere-- For we knew not the month was October, And we marked not the night of the year-- (Ah, night of all nights in the year!) We noted not the dim lake of Auber-- (Though once we had journeyed down here)-- Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber, Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
And now as the night was senescent And star-dials pointed to morn-- As the sun-dials hinted of morn-- At the end of our path a liquescent And nebulous lustre was born, Out of which a miraculous crescent Arose with a duplicate horn-- Astarte's bediamonded crescent Distinct with its duplicate horn.
And I said--"She is warmer than Dian: She rolls through an ether of sighs-- She revels in a region of sighs: She has seen that the tears are not dry on These cheeks, where the worm never dies, And has come past the stars of the Lion To point us the path to the skies-- To the Lethean peace of the skies-- Come up, in despite of the Lion, To shine on us with her bright eyes-- Come up through the lair of the Lion, With love in her luminous eyes."
But Psyche, uplifting her finger, Said--"Sadly this star I mistrust-- Her pallor I strangely mistrust:-- Oh, hasten!--oh, let us not linger! Oh, fly!--let us fly!--for we must." In terror she spoke, letting sink her Wings till they trailed in the dust-- In agony sobbed, letting sink her Plumes till they trailed in the dust-- Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.
I replied--"This is nothing but dreaming: Let us on by this tremulous light! Let us bathe in this crystalline light! Its Sibyllic splendor is beaming With Hope and in Beauty to-night:-- See!--it flickers up the sky through the night! Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming, And be sure it will lead us aright-- We safely may trust to a gleaming That cannot but guide us aright, Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."
Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her, And tempted her out of her gloom-- And conquered her scruples and gloom; And we passed to the end of a vista, But were stopped by the door of a tomb-- By the door of a legended tomb; And I said--"What is written, sweet sister, On the door of this legended tomb?" She replied--"Ulalume--Ulalume-- 'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"
Then my heart it grew ashen and sober As the leaves that were crisped and sere-- As the leaves that were withering and sere; And I cried--"It was surely October On this very night of last year That I journeyed--I journeyed down here-- That I brought a dread burden down here! On this night of all nights in the year, Ah, what demon has tempted me here? Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber-- This misty mid region of Weir-- Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,-- This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."
* * * * *
I saw thee once--once only--years ago: I must not say how many--but not many. It was a July midnight; and from out A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring, Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven, There fell a silvery-silken veil of light, With quietude, and sultriness and slumber, Upon the upturn'd faces of a thousand Roses that grew in an enchanted garden, Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe-- Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses That gave out, in return for the love-light, Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death-- Fell on the upturn'd faces of these roses That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.
Clad all in white, upon a violet bank I saw thee half-reclining; while the moon Fell on the upturn'd faces of the roses, And on thine own, upturn'd--alas, in sorrow!
Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight-- Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow), That bade me pause before that garden-gate, To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses? No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept, Save only thee and me--(O Heaven!--O God! How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)-- Save only thee and me. I paused--I looked-- And in an instant all things disappeared. (Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!) The pearly lustre of the moon went out: The mossy banks and the meandering paths, The happy flowers and the repining trees, Were seen no more: the very roses' odors Died in the arms of the adoring airs. All--all expired save thee--save less than thou: Save only the divine light in thine eyes-- Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes. I saw but them--they were the world to me. I saw but them--saw only them for hours-- Saw only them until the moon went down. What wild heart-histories seemed to lie unwritten Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres! How dark a woe! yet how sublime a hope! How silently serene a sea of pride! How daring an ambition! yet how deep-- How fathomless a capacity for love!
But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight, Into a western couch of thunder-cloud; And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained. They would not go--they never yet have gone. Lighting my lonely pathway home that night, They have not left me (as my hopes have) since. They follow me--they lead me through the years.
They are my ministers--yet I their slave. Their office is to illumine and enkindle-- My duty, to be saved by their bright light, And purified in their electric fire, And sanctified in their elysian fire. They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope), And are far up in Heaven--the stars I kneel to In the sad, silent watches of my night; While even in the meridian glare of day I see them still--two sweetly scintillant Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!
* * * * *
It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know By the name of ANNABEL LEE; And this maiden she lived with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child, In this kingdom by the sea: But we loved with a love that was more than love-- I and my ANNABEL LEE; With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago, In this kingdom by the sea, A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling My beautiful ANNABEL LEE; So that her highborn kinsmen came And bore her away from me, To shut her up in a sepulchre In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven, Went envying her and me-- Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea) That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we-- Of many far wiser than we-- And neither the angels in heaven above, Nor the demons down under the sea, Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE; And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE; And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride, In her sepulchre there by the sea-- In her tomb by the side of the sea.
* * * * *
For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes, Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda, Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader. Search narrowly the lines!--they hold a treasure Divine--a talisman--an amulet That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-- The words--the syllables! Do not forget The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor! And yet there is in this no Gordian knot Which one might not undo without a sabre, If one could merely comprehend the plot. Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing Of poets by poets--as the name is a poet's, too. Its letters, although naturally lying Like the knight Pinto--Mendez Ferdinando-- Still form a synonym for Truth--Cease trying! You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.
[To discover the names in this and the following poem, read the firstletter of the first line in connection with the second letter of thesecond line, the third letter of the third line, the fourth, of thefourth and so on, to the end.]
* * * * *
"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce, "Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet. Through all the flimsy things we see at once As easily as through a Naples bonnet-- Trash of all trash!--how can a lady don it? Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff-- Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it." And, veritably, Sol is right enough. The general tuckermanities are arrant Bubbles--ephemeral and so transparent-- But this is, now--you may depend upon it-- Stable, opaque, immortal--all by dint Of the dear names that lie concealed within't.
[See note after previous poem.]
* * * * *
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above, The angels, whispering to one another, Can find, among their burning terms of love, None so devotional as that of "Mother," Therefore by that dear name I long have called you-- You who are more than mother unto me, And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you, In setting my Virginia's spirit free. My mother--my own mother, who died early, Was but the mother of myself; but you Are mother to the one I loved so dearly, And thus are dearer than the mother I knew By that infinity with which my wife Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.
[The above was addressed to the poet's mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm.--Ed.]
* * * * *
Thank Heaven! the crisis-- The danger is past, And the lingering illness Is over at last-- And the fever called "Living" Is conquered at last.
Sadly, I know, I am shorn of my strength, And no muscle I move As I lie at full length-- But no matter!--I feel I am better at length.
And I rest so composedly, Now in my bed, That any beholder Might fancy me dead-- Might start at beholding me Thinking me dead.
The moaning and groaning, The sighing and sobbing, Are quieted now, With that horrible throbbing At heart:--ah, that horrible, Horrible throbbing!
The sickness--the nausea-- The pitiless pain-- Have ceased, with the fever That maddened my brain-- With the fever called "Living" That burned in my brain.
And oh! of all tortures That torture the worst Has abated--the terrible Torture of thirst, For the naphthaline river Of Passion accurst:-- I have drank of a water That quenches all thirst:--
Of a water that flows, With a lullaby sound, From a spring but a very few Feet under ground-- From a cavern not very far Down under ground.
And ah! let it never Be foolishly said That my room it is gloomy And narrow my bed-- For man never slept In a different bed; And, to sleep, you must slumber In just such a bed.
My tantalized spirit Here blandly reposes, Forgetting, or never Regretting its roses-- Its old agitations Of myrtles and roses:
For now, while so quietly Lying, it fancies A holier odor About it, of pansies-- A rosemary odor, Commingled with pansies-- With rue and the beautiful Puritan pansies.
And so it lies happily, Bathing in many A dream of the truth And the beauty of Annie-- Drowned in a bath Of the tresses of Annie.
She tenderly kissed me, She fondly caressed, And then I fell gently To sleep on her breast-- Deeply to sleep From the heaven of her breast.
When the light was extinguished, She covered me warm, And she prayed to the angels To keep me from harm-- To the queen of the angels To shield me from harm.
And I lie so composedly, Now in my bed (Knowing her love) That you fancy me dead-- And I rest so contentedly, Now in my bed, (With her love at my breast) That you fancy me dead-- That you shudder to look at me. Thinking me dead.
But my heart it is brighter Than all of the many Stars in the sky, For it sparkles with Annie-- It glows with the light Of the love of my Annie-- With the thought of the light Of the eyes of my Annie.
* * * * *
Beloved! amid the earnest woes That crowd around my earthly path-- (Drear path, alas! where grows Not even one lonely rose)-- My soul at least a solace hath In dreams of thee, and therein knows An Eden of bland repose.
And thus thy memory is to me Like some enchanted far-off isle In some tumultuous sea-- Some ocean throbbing far and free With storm--but where meanwhile Serenest skies continually Just o'er that one bright inland smile.
* * * * *
Thou wouldst be loved?--then let thy heart From its present pathway part not; Being everything which now thou art, Be nothing which thou art not. So with the world thy gentle ways, Thy grace, thy more than beauty, Shall be an endless theme of praise. And love a simple duty.
* * * * *
Gaily bedight,A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of Eldorado. But he grew old-- This knight so bold-- And o'er his heart a shadow Fell as he found No spot of ground That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength Failed him at length, He met a pilgrim shadow-- "Shadow," said he, "Where can it be-- This land of Eldorado?"
"Over the MountainsOf the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride," The shade replied, "If you seek for Eldorado!"
* * * * *
I dwelt alone In a world of moan, And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride-- Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride. Ah, less--less bright The stars of the night Than the eyes of the radiant girl! And never a flake That the vapor can make With the moon-tints of purple and pearl, Can vie with the modest Eulalie's most unregarded curl-- Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie's most humble and careless curl. Now Doubt--now Pain Come never again, For her soul gives me sigh for sigh, And all day long Shines, bright and strong, Astarté within the sky, While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye-- While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.
* * * * *
Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, Thus much let me avow-- You are not wrong, who deem That my days have been a dream: Yet if hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision or in none, Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand-- How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep While I weep--while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream?
* * * * *
Of all who hail thy presence as the morning-- Of all to whom thine absence is the night-- The blotting utterly from out high heaven The sacred sun--of all who, weeping, bless thee Hourly for hope--for life--ah, above all, For the resurrection of deep buried faith In truth, in virtue, in humanity-- Of all who, on despair's unhallowed bed Lying down to die, have suddenly arisen At thy soft-murmured words, "Let there be light!" At thy soft-murmured words that were fulfilled In thy seraphic glancing of thine eyes-- Of all who owe thee most, whose gratitude Nearest resembles worship,--oh, remember The truest, the most fervently devoted, And think that these weak lines are written by him-- By him who, as he pens them, thrills to think His spirit is communing with an angel's.
* * * * *
Not long ago, the writer of these lines, In the mad pride of intellectuality, Maintained "the power of words"--denied that ever A thought arose within the human brain Beyond the utterance of the human tongue: And now, as if in mockery of that boast, Two words--two foreign soft dissyllables-- Italian tones, made only to be murmured By angels dreaming in the moonlit "dew That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,"-- Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart, Unthought-like thoughts that are the souls of thought, Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions Than even the seraph harper, Israfel, (Who has "the sweetest voice of all God's creatures,") Could hope to utter. And I! my spells are broken. The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand. With thy dear name as text, though hidden by thee, I cannot write--I cannot speak or think-- Alas, I cannot feel; for 'tis not feeling, This standing motionless upon the golden Threshold of the wide-open gate of dreams, Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista, And thrilling as I see, upon the right, Upon the left, and all the way along, Amid empurpled vapors, far away To where the prospect terminates--thee only!
* * * * *
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne In a strange city lying alone Far down within the dim West, Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best Have gone to their eternal rest. There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers and tremble not!) Resemble nothing that is ours. Around, by lifting winds forgot, Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie.
No rays from the holy Heaven come down On the long night-time of that town; But light from out the lurid sea Streams up the turrets silently-- Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-- Up domes--up spires--up kingly halls-- Up fanes--up Babylon-like walls-- Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-- Up many and many a marvellous shrine Whose wreathed friezes intertwine The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie. So blend the turrets and shadows there That all seem pendulous in air, While from a proud tower in the town Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves Yawn level with the luminous waves; But not the riches there that lie In each idol's diamond eye-- Not the gaily-jewelled dead Tempt the waters from their bed; For no ripples curl, alas! Along that wilderness of glass-- No swellings tell that winds may be Upon some far-off happier sea-- No heavings hint that winds have been On seas less hideously serene.
But lo, a stir is in the air! The wave--there is a movement there! As if the towers had thrust aside, In slightly sinking, the dull tide-- As if their tops had feebly given A void within the filmy Heaven. The waves have now a redder glow-- The hours are breathing faint and low-- And when, amid no earthly moans, Down, down that town shall settle hence, Hell, rising from a thousand thrones, Shall do it reverence.
* * * * *
At midnight, in the month of June, I stand beneath the mystic moon. An opiate vapor, dewy, dim, Exhales from out her golden rim, And, softly dripping, drop by drop, Upon the quiet mountain top, Steals drowsily and musically Into the universal valley. The rosemary nods upon the grave; The lily lolls upon the wave; Wrapping the fog about its breast, The ruin moulders into rest; Looking like Lethe, see! the lake A conscious slumber seems to take, And would not, for the world, awake. All Beauty sleeps!--and lo! where lies (Her casement open to the skies) Irene, with her Destinies!
Oh, lady bright! can it be right-- This window open to the night! The wanton airs, from the tree-top, Laughingly through the lattice-drop-- The bodiless airs, a wizard rout, Flit through thy chamber in and out, And wave the curtain canopy So fitfully--so fearfully-- Above the closed and fringed lid 'Neath which thy slumb'ring soul lies hid, That, o'er the floor and down the wall, Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall! Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear? Why and what art thou dreaming here? Sure thou art come o'er far-off seas, A wonder to these garden trees! Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress! Strange, above all, thy length of tress, And this all-solemn silentness!
The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep Which is enduring, so be deep! Heaven have her in its sacred keep! This chamber changed for one more holy, This bed for one more melancholy, I pray to God that she may lie For ever with unopened eye, While the dim sheeted ghosts go by!
My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep, As it is lasting, so be deep; Soft may the worms about her creep! Far in the forest, dim and old, For her may some tall vault unfold-- Some vault that oft hath flung its black And winged panels fluttering back, Triumphant, o'er the crested palls, Of her grand family funerals-- Some sepulchre, remote, alone, Against whose portal she hath thrown, In childhood many an idle stone-- Some tomb from out whose sounding door She ne'er shall force an echo more, Thrilling to think, poor child of sin! It was the dead who groaned within.
* * * * *
The ring is on my hand, And the wreath is on my brow; Satins and jewels grand Are all at my command. And I am happy now.
And my lord he loves me well; But, when first he breathed his vow, I felt my bosom swell-- For the words rang as a knell, And the voice seemed his who fell In the battle down the dell, And who is happy now.
But he spoke to reassure me, And he kissed my pallid brow, While a reverie came o'er me, And to the churchyard bore me, And I sighed to him before me, Thinking him dead D'Elormie, "Oh, I am happy now!"
And thus the words were spoken, And thus the plighted vow, And, though my faith be broken, And, though my heart be broken, Behold the golden keys That proves me happy now!
Would to God I could awaken For I dream I know not how, And my soul is sorely shaken Lest an evil step be taken,-- Lest the dead who is forsaken May not be happy now.
* * * * *
"The Raven" was first published on the 29th January, 1845, in the NewYork 'Evening Mirror'--a paper its author was then assistant editor of.It was prefaced by the following words, understood to have been writtenby N. P. Willis:
"We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the second number of the 'American Review', the following remarkable poem by Edgar Poe. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of 'fugitive poetry' ever published in this country, and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift and 'pokerishness.' It is one of those 'dainties bred in a book' which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it."
In the February number of the 'American Review' the poem was publishedas by "Quarles," and it was introduced by the following note, evidentlysuggested if not written by Poe himself.
["The following lines from a correspondent--besides the deep, quaint strain of the sentiment, and the curious introduction of some ludicrous touches amidst the serious and impressive, as was doubtless intended by the author--appears to us one of the most felicitous specimens of unique rhyming which has for some time met our eye. The resources of English rhythm for varieties of melody, measure, and sound, producing corresponding diversities of effect, have been thoroughly studied, much more perceived, by very few poets in the language. While the classic tongues, especially the Greek, possess, by power of accent, several advantages for versification over our own, chiefly through greater abundance of spondaic feet, we have other and very great advantages of sound by the modern usage of rhyme. Alliteration is nearly the only effect of that kind which the ancients had in common with us. It will be seen that much of the melody of 'The Raven' arises from alliteration and the studious use of similar sounds in unusual places. In regard to its measure, it may be noted that if all the verses were like the second, they might properly be placed merely in short lines, producing a not uncommon form: but the presence in all the others of one line--mostly the second in the verse" (stanza?)--"which flows continuously, with only an aspirate pause in the middle, like that before the short line in the Sapphio Adonic, while the fifth has at the middle pause no similarity of sound with any part beside, gives the versification an entirely different effect. We could wish the capacities of our noble language in prosody were better understood."
ED. 'Am. Rev.']
* * * * *
The bibliographical history of "The Bells" is curious. The subject, andsome lines of the original version, having been suggested by the poet'sfriend, Mrs. Shew, Poe, when he wrote out the first draft of the poem,headed it, "The Bells. By Mrs. M. A. Shew." This draft, now the editor'sproperty, consists of only seventeen lines, and reads thus:
The bells!--ah the bells! The little silver bells!
How fairy-like a melody there floats From their throats-- From their merry little throats-- From the silver, tinkling throats Of the bells, bells, bells-- Of the bells!
The bells!--ah, the bells! The heavy iron bells!
How horrible a monody there floats From their throats-- From their deep-toned throats-- From their melancholy throats How I shudder at the notes Of the bells, bells, bells-- Of the bells!
In the autumn of 1848 Poe added another line to this poem, and sent itto the editor of the 'Union Magazine'. It was not published. So, in thefollowing February, the poet forwarded to the same periodical a muchenlarged and altered transcript. Three months having elapsed withoutpublication, another revision of the poem, similar to the currentversion, was sent, and in the following October was published in the'Union Magazine'.
* * * * *
This poem was first published in Colton's 'American Review' for December1847, as "To----Ulalume: a Ballad." Being reprinted immediately inthe 'Home Journal', it was copied into various publications with thename of the editor, N. P. Willis, appended, and was ascribed to him.When first published, it contained the following additional stanza whichPoe subsequently, at the suggestion of Mrs. Whitman wisely suppressed:
Said we then--the two, then--"Ah, can it Have been that the woodlandish ghouls-- The pitiful, the merciful ghouls-- To bar up our path and to ban it From the secret that lies in these wolds-- Had drawn up the spectre of a planet From the limbo of lunary souls-- This sinfully scintillant planet From the Hell of the planetary souls?"
* * * * *
"To Helen" (Mrs. S. Helen Whitman) was not published Until November1848, although written several months earlier. It first appeared in the'Union Magazine' and with the omission, contrary to the knowledge ordesire of Poe, of the line, "Oh, God! oh, Heaven--how my heart beats incoupling those two words".
* * * * *
"Annabel Lee" was written early in 1849, and is evidently an expressionof the poet's undying love for his deceased bride although at least oneof his lady admirers deemed it a response to her admiration. Poe sent acopy of the ballad to the 'Union Magazine', in which publication itappeared in January 1850, three months after the author's death. Whilstsuffering from "hope deferred" as to its fate, Poe presented a copy of"Annabel Lee" to the editor of the 'Southern Literary Messenger', whopublished it in the November number of his periodical, a month afterPoe's death. In the meantime the poet's own copy, left among his papers,passed into the hands of the person engaged to edit his works, and hequoted the poem in an obituary of Poe in the New York 'Tribune', beforeany one else had an opportunity of publishing it.
* * * * *
"A Valentine," one of three poems addressed to Mrs. Osgood, appears tohave been written early in 1846.
* * * * *
"An Enigma," addressed to Mrs. Sarah Anna Lewig ("Stella"), was sent tothat lady in a letter, in November 1847, and the following Marchappeared in Sartain's 'Union Magazine'.
The sonnet, "To My Mother" (Maria Clemm), was sent for publication tothe short-lived 'Flag of our Union', early in 1849, but does not appearto have been issued until after its author's death, when it appeared inthe 'Leaflets of Memory' for 1850.
"For Annie" was first published in the 'Flag of our Union', in thespring of 1849. Poe, annoyed at some misprints in this issue, shortlyafterwards caused a corrected copy to be inserted in the 'Home Journal'.
"To F----" (Frances Sargeant Osgood) appeared in the 'Broadway Journal'for April 1845. These lines are but slightly varied from those inscribed"To Mary," in the 'Southern Literary Messenger' for July 1835, andsubsequently republished, with the two stanzas transposed, in 'Graham'sMagazine' for March 1842, as "To One Departed."
"To F--s S. O--d," a portion of the poet's triune tribute to Mrs.Osgood, was published in the 'Broadway Journal' for September 1845. Theearliest version of these lines appeared in the 'Southern LiteraryMessenger' for September 1835, as "Lines written in an Album," and wasaddressed to Eliza White, the proprietor's daughter. Slightly revised,the poem reappeared in Burton's 'Gentleman's Magazine' for August, 1839,as "To----."
Although "Eldorado" was published during Poe's lifetime, in 1849, in the'Flag of our Union', it does not appear to have ever received theauthor's finishing touches.
"Eulalie--a Song" first appears in Colton's 'American Review' for July,1845.
"A Dream within a Dream" does not appear to have been published as aseparate poem during its author's lifetime. A portion of it wascontained, in 1829, in the piece beginning, "Should my early life seem,"and in 1831 some few lines of it were used as a conclusion to"Tamerlane." In 1849 the poet sent a friend all but the first nine linesof the piece as a separate poem, headed "For Annie."
15 TO MARIE LOUISE (SHEW)
"To M----L----S----," addressed to Mrs. Marie Louise Shew, was writtenin February 1847, and published shortly afterwards. In the firstposthumous collection of Poe's poems these lines were, for some reason,included in the "Poems written in Youth," and amongst those poems theyhave hitherto been included.
"To----," a second piece addressed to Mrs. Shew, and written in 1848,was also first published, but in a somewhat faulty form, in the abovenamed posthumous collection.
Under the title of "The Doomed City" the initial version of "The City inthe Sea" appeared in the 1831 volume of Poems by Poe: it reappeared as"The City of Sin," in the 'Southern Literary Messenger' for August 1835,whilst the present draft of it first appeared in Colton's 'AmericanReview' for April, 1845.
As "Irene," the earliest known version of "The Sleeper," appeared in the1831 volume. It reappeared in the 'Literary Messenger' for May 1836,and, in its present form, in the 'Broadway Journal' for May 1845.
"The Bridal Ballad" is first discoverable in the 'Southern LiteraryMessenger' for January 1837, and, in its present compressed and revisedform, was reprinted in the 'Broadway Journal' for August, 1845.
* * * * * POEMS OF MANHOOD. * * * * *
Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever! Let the bell toll!--a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river. And, Guy de Vere, hast thou no tear?--weep now or never more! See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore! Come! let the burial rite be read--the funeral song be sung!-- An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young-- A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.
"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride, And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her--that she died! How shall the ritual, then, be read?--the requiem how be sung By you--by yours, the evil eye,--by yours, the slanderous tongue That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?"
Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong! The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside, Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride-- For her, the fair and débonnaire, that now so lowly lies, The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes-- The life still there, upon her hair--the death upon her eyes.
"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise, But waft the angel on her flight with a pæan of old days! Let no bell toll!--lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth, Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damned Earth. To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven-- From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven-- From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven."
* * * * *
Thou wast that all to me, love, For which my soul did pine-- A green isle in the sea, love, A fountain and a shrine, All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last! Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise But to be overcast! A voice from out the Future cries, "On! on!"--but o'er the Past (Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies Mute, motionless, aghast!
For, alas! alas! with me The light of Life is o'er! "No more--no more--no more"-- (Such language holds the solemn sea To the sands upon the shore) Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree, Or the stricken eagle soar!
And all my days are trances, And all my nightly dreams Are where thy dark eye glances, And where thy footstep gleams-- In what ethereal dances, By what eternal streams!
Alas! for that accursed time They bore thee o'er the billow, From love to titled age and crime, And an unholy pillow! From me, and from our misty clime, Where weeps the silver willow!
* * * * *
Type of the antique Rome! Rich reliquary Of lofty contemplation left to Time By buried centuries of pomp and power! At length--at length--after so many days Of weary pilgrimage and burning thirst, (Thirst for the springs of lore that in thee lie,) I kneel, an altered and an humble man, Amid thy shadows, and so drink within My very soul thy grandeur, gloom, and glory!
Vastness! and Age! and Memories of Eld! Silence! and Desolation! and dim Night! I feel ye now--I feel ye in your strength-- O spells more sure than e'er Judæan king Taught in the gardens of Gethsemane! O charms more potent than the rapt Chaldee Ever drew down from out the quiet stars!
Here, where a hero fell, a column falls! Here, where the mimic eagle glared in gold, A midnight vigil holds the swarthy bat! Here, where the dames of Rome their gilded hair Waved to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle! Here, where on golden throne the monarch lolled, Glides, spectre-like, unto his marble home, Lit by the wan light of the horned moon, The swift and silent lizard of the stones!
But stay! these walls--these ivy-clad arcades-- These mouldering plinths--these sad and blackened shafts-- These vague entablatures--this crumbling frieze-- These shattered cornices--this wreck--this ruin-- These stones--alas! these gray stones--are they all-- All of the famed, and the colossal left By the corrosive Hours to Fate and me?
"Not all"--the Echoes answer me--"not all! Prophetic sounds and loud, arise forever From us, and from all Ruin, unto the wise, As melody from Memnon to the Sun. We rule the hearts of mightiest men--we rule With a despotic sway all giant minds. We are not impotent--we pallid stones. Not all our power is gone--not all our fame-- Not all the magic of our high renown-- Not all the wonder that encircles us-- Not all the mysteries that in us lie-- Not all the memories that hang upon And cling around about us as a garment, Clothing us in a robe of more than glory."
* * * * *
In the greenest of our valleys By good angels tenanted, Once a fair and stately palace-- Radiant palace--reared its head. In the monarch Thought's dominion-- It stood there! Never seraph spread a pinion Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow, (This--all this--was in the olden Time long ago), And every gentle air that dallied, In that sweet day, Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley, Through two luminous windows, saw Spirits moving musically, To a lute's well-tunëd law, Bound about a throne where, sitting (Porphyrogene!) In state his glory well befitting, The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing Was the fair palace door, Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, And sparkling evermore, A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty Was but to sing, In voices of surpassing beauty, The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's high estate. (Ah, let us mourn!--for never morrow Shall dawn upon him desolate !) And round about his home the glory That blushed and bloomed, Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley, Through the red-litten windows see Vast forms, that move fantastically To a discordant melody, While, like a ghastly rapid river, Through the pale door A hideous throng rush out forever And laugh--but smile no more.
* * * * *
Lo! 'tis a gala night Within the lonesome latter years! An angel throng, bewinged, bedight In veils, and drowned in tears, Sit in a theatre, to see A play of hopes and fears, While the orchestra breathes fitfully The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high, Mutter and mumble low, And hither and thither fly-- Mere puppets they, who come and go At bidding of vast formless things That shift the scenery to and fro, Flapping from out their Condor wings Invisible Wo!
That motley drama--oh, be sure It shall not be forgot! With its Phantom chased for evermore, By a crowd that seize it not, Through a circle that ever returneth in To the self-same spot, And much of Madness, and more of Sin, And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout A crawling shape intrude! A blood-red thing that writhes from out The scenic solitude! It writhes!--it writhes!--with mortal pangs The mimes become its food, And the angels sob at vermin fangs In human gore imbued.
Out--out are the lights--out all! And, over each quivering form, The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm, And the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirm That the play is the tragedy, "Man," And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
* * * * *
There are some qualities--some incorporate things, That have a double life, which thus is made A type of that twin entity which springs From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade. There is a twofold Silence--sea and shore-- Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places, Newly with grass o'ergrown; some solemn graces, Some human memories and tearful lore, Render him terrorless: his name's "No More." He is the corporate Silence: dread him not! No power hath he of evil in himself; But should some urgent fate (untimely lot!) Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless elf, That haunteth the lone regions where hath trod No foot of man), commend thyself to God!
* * * * *
By a route obscure and lonely, Haunted by ill angels only, Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT, On a black throne reigns upright, I have reached these lands but newly From an ultimate dim Thule-- From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime, Out of SPACE--out of TIME.
Bottomless vales and boundless floods, And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods, With forms that no man can discover For the dews that drip all over; Mountains toppling evermore Into seas without a shore; Seas that restlessly aspire, Surging, unto skies of fire; Lakes that endlessly outspread Their lone waters--lone and dead, Their still waters--still and chilly With the snows of the lolling lily.
By the lakes that thus outspread Their lone waters, lone and dead,-- Their sad waters, sad and chilly With the snows of the lolling lily,--
By the mountains--near the river Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,-- By the gray woods,--by the swamp Where the toad and the newt encamp,-- By the dismal tarns and pools Where dwell the Ghouls,-- By each spot the most unholy-- In each nook most melancholy,--
There the traveller meets aghast Sheeted Memories of the past-- Shrouded forms that start and sigh As they pass the wanderer by-- White-robed forms of friends long given, In agony, to the Earth--and Heaven.
For the heart whose woes are legion 'Tis a peaceful, soothing region-- For the spirit that walks in shadow 'Tis--oh, 'tis an Eldorado! But the traveller, travelling through it, May not--dare not openly view it; Never its mysteries are exposed To the weak human eye unclosed; So wills its King, who hath forbid The uplifting of the fringed lid; And thus the sad Soul that here passes Beholds it but through darkened glasses.
By a route obscure and lonely, Haunted by ill angels only.
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT, On a black throne reigns upright, I have wandered home but newly From this ultimate dim Thule.
* * * * *
Fair isle, that from the fairest of all flowers, Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take! How many memories of what radiant hours At sight of thee and thine at once awake! How many scenes of what departed bliss! How many thoughts of what entombed hopes! How many visions of a maiden that is No more--no more upon thy verdant slopes!
No more! alas, that magical sad sound Transforming all! Thy charms shall please no more-- Thy memory no more! Accursed ground Henceforward I hold thy flower-enamelled shore, O hyacinthine isle! O purple Zante! "Isola d'oro! Fior di Levante!"
* * * * *
At morn--at noon--at twilight dim-- Maria! thou hast heard my hymn! In joy and wo--in good and ill-- Mother of God, be with me still! When the Hours flew brightly by, And not a cloud obscured the sky, My soul, lest it should truant be, Thy grace did guide to thine and thee Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast Darkly my Present and my Past, Let my future radiant shine With sweet hopes of thee and thine!
* * * * *
"Lenore" was published, very nearly in its existing shape, in 'ThePioneer' for 1843, but under the title of "The Pæan"--now firstpublished in the POEMS OF YOUTH--the germ of it appeared in 1831.
"To One in Paradise" was included originally in "The Visionary" (a talenow known as "The Assignation"), in July, 1835, and appeared as aseparate poem entitled "To Ianthe in Heaven," in Burton's 'Gentleman'sMagazine' for July, 1839. The fifth stanza is now added, for the firsttime, to the piece.
"The Coliseum" appeared in the Baltimore 'Saturday Visitor' ('sic') in1833, and was republished in the 'Southern Literary Messenger' forAugust 1835, as "A Prize Poem."
"The Haunted Palace" originally issued in the Baltimore 'AmericanMuseum' for April, 1888, was subsequently embodied in that much admiredtale, "The Fall of the House of Usher," and published in it in Burton's'Gentleman's Magazine' for September, 1839. It reappeared in that as aseparate poem in the 1845 edition of Poe's poems.
"The Conqueror Worm," then contained in Poe's favorite tale of "Ligeia,"was first published in the 'American Museum' for September, 1838. As aseparate poem, it reappeared in 'Graham's Magazine' for January, 1843.
The sonnet, "Silence," was originally published in Burton's 'Gentleman'sMagazine' for April, 1840.
The first known publication of "Dreamland" was in 'Graham's Magazine'for June, 1844.
The "Sonnet to Zante" is not discoverable earlier than January, 1837,when it appeared in the 'Southern Literary Messenger'.
The initial version of the "Catholic Hymn" was contained in the story of"Morella," and published in the 'Southern Literary Messenger' for April,1885. The lines as they now stand, and with their present title, werefirst published in the 'Broadway Journal for August', 1845.
SCENES FROM "POLITIAN."
AN UNPUBLISHED DRAMA.
ROME.--A Hall in a Palace. ALESSANDRA and CASTIGLIONE
Alessandra. Thou art sad, Castiglione.
Castiglione. Sad!--not I. Oh, I'm the happiest, happiest man in Rome! A few days more, thou knowest, my Alessandra, Will make thee mine. Oh, I am very happy!
Aless. Methinks thou hast a singular way of showing Thy happiness--what ails thee, cousin of mine? Why didst thou sigh so deeply?
Cas. Did I sigh? I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion, A silly--a most silly fashion I have When I am very happy. Did I sigh? (sighing.)
Aless. Thou didst. Thou art not well. Thou hast indulged Too much of late, and I am vexed to see it. Late hours and wine, Castiglione,--these Will ruin thee! thou art already altered-- Thy looks are haggard--nothing so wears away The constitution as late hours and wine.
Cas. (musing ). Nothing, fair cousin, nothing-- Not even deep sorrow-- Wears it away like evil hours and wine. I will amend.
Aless. Do it! I would have thee drop Thy riotous company, too--fellows low born Ill suit the like of old Di Broglio's heir And Alessandra's husband.
Cas. I will drop them.
Aless. Thou wilt--thou must. Attend thou also more To thy dress and equipage--they are over plain For thy lofty rank and fashion--much depends Upon appearances.
Cas. I'll see to it.
Aless. Then see to it!--pay more attention, sir, To a becoming carriage--much thou wantest In dignity.
Cas. Much, much, oh, much I want In proper dignity.
Aless.(haughtily). Thou mockest me, sir!
Cos.(abstractedly). Sweet, gentle Lalage!
Aless. Heard I aright? I speak to him--he speaks of Lalage? Sir Count! (places her hand on his shoulder) what art thou dreaming? He's not well! What ails thee, sir?
Cas.(starting). Cousin! fair cousin!--madam! I crave thy pardon--indeed I am not well-- Your hand from off my shoulder, if you please. This air is most oppressive!--Madam--the Duke!
Enter Di Broglio.
Di Broglio. My son, I've news for thee!--hey! --what's the matter? (observing Alessandra). I' the pouts? Kiss her, Castiglione! kiss her, You dog! and make it up, I say, this minute! I've news for you both. Politian is expected Hourly in Rome--Politian, Earl of Leicester! We'll have him at the wedding. 'Tis his first visit To the imperial city.
Aless. What! Politian Of Britain, Earl of Leicester?
Di Brog. The same, my love. We'll have him at the wedding. A man quite young In years, but gray in fame. I have not seen him, But Rumor speaks of him as of a prodigy Pre-eminent in arts, and arms, and wealth, And high descent. We'll have him at the wedding.
Aless. I have heard much of this Politian. Gay, volatile and giddy--is he not, And little given to thinking?
Di Brog. Far from it, love. No branch, they say, of all philosophy So deep abstruse he has not mastered it. Learned as few are learned.
Aless. 'Tis very strange! I have known men have seen Politian And sought his company. They speak of him As of one who entered madly into life, Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs.
Cas. Ridiculous! Now I have seen Politian And know him well--nor learned nor mirthful he. He is a dreamer, and shut out From common passions.
Di Brog. Children, we disagree. Let us go forth and taste the fragrant air Of the garden. Did I dream, or did I hear Politian was a melancholy man?
ROME.--A Lady's Apartment, with a window open and looking into a garden.LALAGE, in deep mourning, reading at a table on which lie some books anda hand-mirror. In the background JACINTA (a servant maid) leanscarelessly upon a chair.
Lalage. Jacinta! is it thou?
Jacinta(pertly). Yes, ma'am, I'm here.
Lal. I did not know, Jacinta, you were in waiting. Sit down!--let not my presence trouble you-- Sit down!--for I am humble, most humble.
Jac. (aside). 'Tis time.
(Jacinta seats herself in a side-long manner upon the chair, restingher elbows upon the back, and regarding her mistress with a contemptuouslook. Lalage continues to read.)
Lal. "It in another climate, so he said, Bore a bright golden flower, but not i' this soil!"
(_pauses--turns over some leaves and resumes_.) "No lingering winters there, nor snow, nor shower-- But Ocean ever to refresh mankind Breathes the shrill spirit of the western wind" Oh, beautiful!--most beautiful!--how like To what my fevered soul doth dream of Heaven! O happy land! (_pauses_) She died!--the maiden died! O still more happy maiden who couldst die! Jacinta! (_Jacinta returns no answer, and Lalage presently resumes_.) Again!--a similar tale Told of a beauteous dame beyond the sea! Thus speaketh one Ferdinand in the words of the play-- "She died full young"--one Bossola answers him-- "I think not so--her infelicity Seemed to have years too many"--Ah, luckless lady! Jacinta! (_still no answer_.) Here's a far sterner story-- But like--oh, very like in its despair-- Of that Egyptian queen, winning so easily A thousand hearts--losing at length her own. She died. Thus endeth the history--and her maids Lean over her and keep--two gentle maids With gentle names--Eiros and Charmion! Rainbow and Dove!--Jacinta!
Jac.(pettishly). Madam, what is it?
Lal. Wilt thou, my good Jacinta, be so kind As go down in the library and bring me The Holy Evangelists?
Lal. If there be balm For the wounded spirit in Gilead, it is there! Dew in the night time of my bitter trouble Will there be found--"dew sweeter far than that Which hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill."
(re-enter Jacinta, and throws a volume on the table.)
There, ma'am, 's the book.
(aside.) Indeed she is very troublesome.
Lal.(astonished). What didst thou say, Jacinta? Have I done aught To grieve thee or to vex thee?--I am sorry. For thou hast served me long and ever been Trustworthy and respectful. (resumes her reading.)
Jac. (aside.) I can't believe She has any more jewels--no--no--she gave me all.
Lal. What didst thou say, Jacinta? Now I bethink me Thou hast not spoken lately of thy wedding. How fares good Ugo?--and when is it to be? Can I do aught?--is there no further aid Thou needest, Jacinta?
Jac. (aside.) Is there no further aid! That's meant for me. I'm sure, madam, you need not Be always throwing those jewels in my teeth.
Lal. Jewels! Jacinta,--now indeed, Jacinta, I thought not of the jewels.
Jac. Oh, perhaps not! But then I might have sworn it. After all, There's Ugo says the ring is only paste, For he's sure the Count Castiglione never Would have given a real diamond to such as you; And at the best I'm certain, madam, you cannot Have use for jewels now. But I might have sworn it.
(Lalage bursts into tears and leans her head upon the table--after ashort pause raises it.)
Lal. Poor Lalage!--and is it come to this? Thy servant maid!--but courage!--'tis but a viper Whom thou hast cherished to sting thee to the soul! (taking up the mirror) Ha! here at least's a friend--too much a friend In earlier days--a friend will not deceive thee. Fair mirror and true! now tell me (for thou canst) A tale--a pretty tale--and heed thou not Though it be rife with woe. It answers me. It speaks of sunken eyes, and wasted cheeks, And beauty long deceased--remembers me, Of Joy departed--Hope, the Seraph Hope, Inurned and entombed!--now, in a tone Low, sad, and solemn, but most audible, Whispers of early grave untimely yawning For ruined maid. Fair mirror and true!--thou liest not! Thou hast no end to gain--no heart to break-- Castiglione lied who said he loved---- Thou true--he false!--false!--false!
(While she speaks, a monk enters her apartment and approachesunobserved)
Monk. Refuge thou hast, Sweet daughter! in Heaven. Think of eternal things! Give up thy soul to penitence, and pray!
Lal.(arising hurriedly). I cannot pray!--My soul is at war with God! The frightful sounds of merriment below; Disturb my senses--go! I cannot pray-- The sweet airs from the garden worry me! Thy presence grieves me--go!--thy priestly raiment Fills me with dread--thy ebony crucifix With horror and awe!
Monk. Think of thy precious soul!
Lal. Think of my early days!--think of my father And mother in Heaven! think of our quiet home, And the rivulet that ran before the door! Think of my little sisters!--think of them! And think of me!--think of my trusting love And confidence--his vows--my ruin--think--think Of my unspeakable misery!----begone! Yet stay! yet stay!--what was it thou saidst of prayer And penitence? Didst thou not speak of faith And vows before the throne?
Monk. I did.
Lal. 'Tis well. There is a vow 'twere fitting should be made-- A sacred vow, imperative and urgent, A solemn vow!
Monk. Daughter, this zeal is well!
Lal. Father, this zeal is anything but well! Hast thou a crucifix fit for this thing? A crucifix whereon to register This sacred vow? (he hands her his own.) Not that--Oh! no!--no!--no (shuddering.) Not that! Not that!--I tell thee, holy man, Thy raiments and thy ebony cross affright me! Stand back! I have a crucifix myself,-- I have a crucifix! Methinks 'twere fitting The deed--the vow--the symbol of the deed-- And the deed's register should tally, father! (draws a cross-handled dagger and raises it on high.) Behold the cross wherewith a vow like mine Is written in heaven!
Monk. Thy words are madness, daughter, And speak a purpose unholy--thy lips are livid-- Thine eyes are wild--tempt not the wrath divine! Pause ere too late!--oh, be not--be not rash! Swear not the oath--oh, swear it not!
Lal. 'Tis sworn!
An Apartment in a Palace. POLITIAN and BALDAZZAR.
Baldazzar. Arouse thee now, Politian! Thou must not--nay indeed, indeed, thou shalt not Give way unto these humors. Be thyself! Shake off the idle fancies that beset thee And live, for now thou diest!
Politian. Not so, Baldazzar! Surely I live.
Bal. Politian, it doth grieve me To see thee thus!
Pol. Baldazzar, it doth grieve me To give thee cause for grief, my honored friend. Command me, sir! what wouldst thou have me do? At thy behest I will shake off that nature Which from my forefathers I did inherit, Which with my mother's milk I did imbibe, And be no more Politian, but some other. Command me, sir!
Bal. To the field then--to the field-- To the senate or the field.
Pol. Alas! alas! There is an imp would follow me even there! There is an imp hath followed me even there! There is--what voice was that?
Bal. I heard it not. I heard not any voice except thine own, And the echo of thine own.
Pol. Then I but dreamed.
Bal. Give not thy soul to dreams: the camp--the court Befit thee--Fame awaits thee--Glory calls-- And her the trumpet-tongued thou wilt not hear In hearkening to imaginary sounds And phantom voices.
Pol. It is a phantom voice! Didst thou not hear it then?
Bal I heard it not.
Pol. Thou heardst it not!--Baldazzar, speak no more To me, Politian, of thy camps and courts. Oh! I am sick, sick, sick, even unto death, Of the hollow and high-sounding vanities Of the populous Earth! Bear with me yet awhile We have been boys together--school-fellows-- And now are friends--yet shall not be so long-- For in the Eternal City thou shalt do me A kind and gentle office, and a Power-- A Power august, benignant, and supreme-- Shall then absolve thee of all further duties Unto thy friend.
Bal. Thou speakest a fearful riddle I will not understand.
Pol. Yet now as Fate Approaches, and the Hours are breathing low, The sands of Time are changed to golden grains, And dazzle me, Baldazzar. Alas! alas! I cannot die, having within my heart So keen a relish for the beautiful As hath been kindled within it. Methinks the air Is balmier now than it was wont to be-- Rich melodies are floating in the winds-- A rarer loveliness bedecks the earth-- And with a holier lustre the quiet moon Sitteth in Heaven.--Hist! hist! thou canst not say Thou hearest not now, Baldazzar?
Bal. Indeed I hear not.
Pol. Not hear it!--listen--now--listen!--the faintest sound And yet the sweetest that ear ever heard! A lady's voice!--and sorrow in the tone! Baldazzar, it oppresses me like a spell! Again!--again!--how solemnly it falls Into my heart of hearts! that eloquent voice Surely I never heard--yet it were well Had I but heard it with its thrilling tones In earlier days!
Bal. I myself hear it now. Be still!--the voice, if I mistake not greatly, Proceeds from younder lattice--which you may see Very plainly through the window--it belongs, Does it not? unto this palace of the Duke. The singer is undoubtedly beneath The roof of his Excellency--and perhaps Is even that Alessandra of whom he spoke As the betrothed of Castiglione, His son and heir.
Pol. Be still!--it comes again!
Voice(very faintly). "And is thy heart so strong  As for to leave me thus, That have loved thee so long, In wealth and woe among? And is thy heart so strong As for to leave me thus? Say nay! say nay!"
Bal. The song is English, and I oft have heard it In merry England--never so plaintively-- Hist! hist! it comes again!
Voice(more loudly). "Is it so strong As for to leave me thus, That have loved thee so long, In wealth and woe among? And is thy heart so strong As for to leave me thus? Say nay! say nay!"
Bal. 'Tis hushed and all is still!
Pol. All is not still.
Bal. Let us go down.
Pol. Go down, Baldazzar, go!
Bal. The hour is growing late--the Duke awaits us,-- Thy presence is expected in the hall Below. What ails thee, Earl Politian?
Voice(distinctly). "Who have loved thee so long, In wealth and woe among, And is thy heart so strong? Say nay! say nay!"
Bal. Let us descend!--'tis time. Politian, give These fancies to the wind. Remember, pray, Your bearing lately savored much of rudeness Unto the Duke. Arouse thee! and remember!
Pol. Remember? I do. Lead on! I do remember. (going). Let us descend. Believe me I would give, Freely would give the broad lands of my earldom To look upon the face hidden by yon lattice-- "To gaze upon that veiled face, and hear Once more that silent tongue."
Bal. Let me beg you, sir, Descend with me--the Duke may be offended. Let us go down, I pray you.
Voice (loudly). Say nay!--say nay!
Pol. (aside). 'Tis strange!--'tis very strange--methought the voice Chimed in with my desires and bade me stay! (Approaching the window) Sweet voice! I heed thee, and will surely stay. Now be this fancy, by heaven, or be it Fate, Still will I not descend. Baldazzar, make Apology unto the Duke for me; I go not down to-night.
Bal. Your lordship's pleasure Shall be attended to. Good-night, Politian.
Pol. Good-night, my friend, good-night.
The Gardens of a Palace--Moonlight. LALAGE and POLITIAN.
Lalage. And dost thou speak of love To me, Politian?--dost thou speak of love To Lalage?--ah woe--ah woe is me! This mockery is most cruel--most cruel indeed!
Politian. Weep not! oh, sob not thus!--thy bitter tears Will madden me. Oh, mourn not, Lalage-- Be comforted! I know--I know it all, And still I speak of love. Look at me, brightest, And beautiful Lalage!--turn here thine eyes! Thou askest me if I could speak of love, Knowing what I know, and seeing what I have seen Thou askest me that--and thus I answer thee-- Thus on my bended knee I answer thee. (kneeling.) Sweet Lalage, I love thee--love thee--love thee; Thro' good and ill--thro' weal and woe, I love thee. Not mother, with her first-born on her knee, Thrills with intenser love than I for thee. Not on God's altar, in any time or clime, Burned there a holier fire than burneth now Within my spirit for thee. And do I love? (arising.) Even for thy woes I love thee--even for thy woes-- Thy beauty and thy woes.
Lal. Alas, proud Earl, Thou dost forget thyself, remembering me! How, in thy father's halls, among the maidens Pure and reproachless of thy princely line, Could the dishonored Lalage abide? Thy wife, and with a tainted memory-- My seared and blighted name, how would it tally With the ancestral honors of thy house, And with thy glory?
Pol. Speak not to me of glory! I hate--I loathe the name; I do abhor The unsatisfactory and ideal thing. Art thou not Lalage, and I Politian? Do I not love--art thou not beautiful-- What need we more? Ha! glory! now speak not of it: By all I hold most sacred and most solemn-- By all my wishes now--my fears hereafter-- By all I scorn on earth and hope in heaven-- There is no deed I would more glory in, Than in thy cause to scoff at this same glory And trample it under foot. What matters it-- What matters it, my fairest, and my best, That we go down unhonored and forgotten Into the dust--so we descend together? Descend together--and then--and then perchance--
Lal. Why dost thou pause, Politian?
Pol. And then perchance Arise together, Lalage, and roam The starry and quiet dwellings of the blest, And still--
Lal. Why dost thou pause, Politian?
Pol. And still together--together.
Lal. Now, Earl of Leicester! Thou lovest me, and in my heart of hearts I feel thou lovest me truly.
Pol. O Lalage! (throwing himself upon his knee.) And lovest thou me?
Lal. Hist! hush! within the gloom Of yonder trees methought a figure passed-- A spectral figure, solemn, and slow, and noiseless-- Like the grim shadow Conscience, solemn and noiseless. (walks across and returns.) I was mistaken--'twas but a giant bough Stirred by the autumn wind. Politian!
Pol. My Lalage--my love! why art thou moved? Why dost thou turn so pale? Not Conscience self, Far less a shadow which thou likenest to it, Should shake the firm spirit thus. But the night wind Is chilly--and these melancholy boughs Throw over all things a gloom.
Lal. Politian! Thou speakest to me of love. Knowest thou the land With which all tongues are busy--a land new found-- Miraculously found by one of Genoa-- A thousand leagues within the golden west? A fairy land of flowers, and fruit, and sunshine,-- And crystal lakes, and over-arching forests, And mountains, around whose towering summits the winds Of Heaven untrammelled flow--which air to breathe Is Happiness now, and will be Freedom hereafter In days that are to come?
Pol. Oh, wilt thou--wilt thou Fly to that Paradise--my Lalage, wilt thou Fly thither with me? There Care shall be forgotten, And Sorrow shall be no more, and Eros be all. And life shall then be mine, for I will live For thee, and in thine eyes--and thou shalt be No more a mourner--but the radiant Joys Shall wait upon thee, and the angel Hope Attend thee ever; and I will kneel to thee And worship thee, and call thee my beloved, My own, my beautiful, my love, my wife, My all;--oh, wilt thou--wilt thou, Lalage, Fly thither with me?
Lal. A deed is to be done-- Castiglione lives!
Pol. And he shall die!
Lal.(after a pause). And--he--shall--die!--alas! Castiglione die? Who spoke the words? Where am I?--what was it he said?--Politian! Thou art not gone--thou art not gone, Politian! I feel thou art not gone--yet dare not look, Lest I behold thee not--thou couldst not go With those words upon thy lips--oh, speak to me! And let me hear thy voice--one word--one word, To say thou art not gone,--one little sentence, To say how thou dost scorn--how thou dost hate My womanly weakness. Ha! ha! thou art not gone-- Oh, speak to me! I knew thou wouldst not go! I knew thou wouldst not, couldst not, durst not go. Villain, thou art not gone--thou mockest me! And thus I clutch thee--thus!--He is gone, he is gone-- Gone--gone. Where am I?--'tis well--'tis very well! So that the blade be keen--the blow be sure, 'Tis well, 'tis very well--alas! alas!
The Suburbs. POLITIAN alone.
Politian. This weakness grows upon me. I am fain And much I fear me ill--it will not do To die ere I have lived!--Stay--stay thy hand, O Azrael, yet awhile!--Prince of the Powers Of Darkness and the Tomb, oh, pity me! Oh, pity me! let me not perish now, In the budding of my Paradisal Hope! Give me to live yet--yet a little while: 'Tis I who pray for life--I who so late Demanded but to die!--What sayeth the Count?
Baldazzar. That, knowing no cause of quarrel or of feud Between the Earl Politian and himself, He doth decline your cartel.
Pol. What didst thou say? What answer was it you brought me, good Baldazzar? With what excessive fragrance the zephyr comes Laden from yonder bowers!--a fairer day, Or one more worthy Italy, methinks No mortal eyes have seen!--what said the Count?
Bal. That he, Castiglione, not being aware Of any feud existing, or any cause Of quarrel between your lordship and himself, Cannot accept the challenge.
Pol. It is most true-- All this is very true. When saw you, sir, When saw you now, Baldazzar, in the frigid Ungenial Britain which we left so lately, A heaven so calm as this--so utterly free From the evil taint of clouds?--and he did say?
Bal. No more, my lord, than I have told you: The Count Castiglione will not fight. Having no cause for quarrel.
Pol. Now this is true-- All very true. Thou art my friend, Baldazzar, And I have not forgotten it--thou'lt do me A piece of service: wilt thou go back and say Unto this man, that I, the Earl of Leicester, Hold him a villain?--thus much, I pr'ythee, say Unto the Count--it is exceeding just He should have cause for quarrel.
Bal. My lord!--my friend!--
Pol. (aside). 'Tis he--he comes himself! (aloud.) Thou reasonest well. I know what thou wouldst say--not send the message-- Well!--I will think of it--I will not send it. Now pr'ythee, leave me--hither doth come a person With whom affairs of a most private nature I would adjust.
Bal. I go--to-morrow we meet, Do we not?--at the Vatican.
Pol. At the Vatican.
(_Exit Bal_.) _Enter Castiglione_.
Cas. The Earl of Leicester here!
Pol. I am the Earl of Leicester, and thou seest, Dost thou not, that I am here?
Cas. My lord, some strange, Some singular mistake--misunderstanding-- Hath without doubt arisen: thou hast been urged Thereby, in heat of anger, to address Some words most unaccountable, in writing, To me, Castiglione; the bearer being Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. I am aware Of nothing which might warrant thee in this thing, Having given thee no offence. Ha!--am I right? 'Twas a mistake?--undoubtedly--we all Do err at times.
Pol. Draw, villain, and prate no more!
Cas. Ha!--draw?--and villain? have at thee then at once, Proud Earl! (Draws.)
Pol.(drawing.) Thus to the expiatory tomb, Untimely sepulchre, I do devote thee In the name of Lalage!
Cas. (letting fall his sword and recoiling to the extremity of the stage.) Of Lalage! Hold off--thy sacred hand!--avaunt, I say! Avaunt--I will not fight thee--indeed I dare not.
Pol. Thou wilt not fight with me didst say, Sir Count? Shall I be baffled thus?--now this is well; Didst say thou darest not? Ha!
Cas. I dare not--dare not-- Hold off thy hand--with that beloved name So fresh upon thy lips I will not fight thee-- I cannot--dare not.
Pol. Now, by my halidom, I do believe thee!--coward, I do believe thee!
Cas. Ha!--coward!--this may not be!(clutches his sword and staggers towards Politian, but his purpose ischanged before reaching him, and he falls upon hia knee at the feet ofthe Earl.) Alas! my lord, It is--it is--most true. In such a cause I am the veriest coward. Oh, pity me!
Pol.(greatly softened). Alas!--I do--indeed I pity thee.
Cas. And Lalage--
Pol. Scoundrel!--arise and die!
Cas. It needeth not be--thus--thus--Oh, let me die Thus on my bended knee. It were most fitting That in this deep humiliation I perish. For in the fight I will not raise a hand Against thee, Earl of Leicester. Strike thou home-- (baring his bosom.) Here is no let or hindrance to thy weapon-- Strike home. I will not fight thee.
Pol. Now's Death and Hell! Am I not--am I not sorely--grievously tempted To take thee at thy word? But mark me, sir: Think not to fly me thus. Do thou prepare For public insult in the streets--before The eyes of the citizens. I'll follow thee-- Like an avenging spirit I'll follow thee Even unto death. Before those whom thou lovest-- Before all Rome I'll taunt thee, villain,--I'll taunt thee, Dost hear? with cowardice--thou wilt not fight me? Thou liest! thou shalt!
Cas. Now this indeed is just! Most righteous, and most just, avenging Heaven!
[Footnote 1: By Sir Thomas Wyatt.--Ed.]
* * * * *
NOTE ON POLITIAN
Duke. Why do you laugh?
Castiglione. Indeed. I hardly know myself. Stay! Was it not On yesterday we were speaking of the Earl? Of the Earl Politian? Yes! it was yesterday. Alessandra, you and I, you must remember! We were walking in the garden.
Duke. Perfectly. I do remember it--what of it--what then?
Cas. O nothing--nothing at all.
Duke. Nothing at all! It is most singular that you should laugh At nothing at all!
Cas. Most singular--singular!
Duke. Look yon, Castiglione, be so kind As tell me, sir, at once what 'tis you mean. What are you talking of?
Cas. Was it not so? We differed in opinion touching him.
Cas. Why, sir, the Earl Politian.
Duke. The Earl of Leicester! Yes!--is it he you mean? We differed, indeed. If I now recollect The words you used were that the Earl you knew Was neither learned nor mirthful.
Cas. Ha! ha!--now did I?
Duke. That did you, sir, and well I knew at the time You were wrong, it being not the character Of the Earl--whom all the world allows to be A most hilarious man. Be not, my son, Too positive again.
Cas. 'Tis singular! Most singular! I could not think it possible So little time could so much alter one! To say the truth about an hour ago, As I was walking with the Count San Ozzo, All arm in arm, we met this very man The Earl--he, with his friend Baldazzar, Having just arrived in Rome. Ha! ha! he is altered! Such an account he gave me of his journey! 'Twould have made you die with laughter--such tales he told Of his caprices and his merry freaks Along the road--such oddity--such humor-- Such wit--such whim--such flashes of wild merriment Set off too in such full relief by the grave Demeanor of his friend--who, to speak the truth Was gravity itself--
Duke. Did I not tell you?
Cas. You did--and yet 'tis strange! but true, as strange, How much I was mistaken! I always thought The Earl a gloomy man.
Duke. So, so, you see! Be not too positive. Whom have we here? It cannot be the Earl?
Cas. The Earl! Oh no! Tis not the Earl--but yet it is--and leaning Upon his friend Baldazzar. Ah! welcome, sir! (Enter Politian and Baldazzar.) My lord, a second welcome let me give you To Rome--his Grace the Duke of Broglio. Father! this is the Earl Politian, Earl Of Leicester in Great Britain. [Politian bows haughtily.] That, his friend Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. The Earl has letters, So please you, for Your Grace.
Duke. Ha! ha! Most welcome To Rome and to our palace, Earl Politian! And you, most noble Duke! I am glad to see you! I knew your father well, my Lord Politian. Castiglione! call your cousin hither, And let me make the noble Earl acquainted With your betrothed. You come, sir, at a time Most seasonable. The wedding--
Politian. Touching those letters, sir, Your son made mention of--your son, is he not?-- Touching those letters, sir, I wot not of them. If such there be, my friend Baldazzar here-- Baldazzar! ah!--my friend Baldazzar here Will hand them to Your Grace. I would retire.
Duke. Retire!--so soon?
Cas. What ho! Benito! Rupert! His lordship's chambers--show his lordship to them! His lordship is unwell.
Ben. This way, my lord!
(_Exit, followed by Politian_.)
Duke. Retire! Unwell!
Bal. So please you, sir. I fear me 'Tis as you say--his lordship is unwell. The damp air of the evening--the fatigue Of a long journey--the--indeed I had better Follow his lordship. He must be unwell. I will return anon.
Duke. Return anon! Now this is very strange! Castiglione! This way, my son, I wish to speak with thee. You surely were mistaken in what you said Of the Earl, mirthful, indeed!--which of us said Politian was a melancholy man?
(_Exeunt_.) * * * * * POEMS OF YOUTH * * * * *
INTRODUCTION TO POEMS.--1831.
LETTER TO MR. B--.
"WEST POINT, 1831
Believing only a portion of my former volume to be worthy a secondedition--that small portion I thought it as well to include in thepresent book as to republish by itself. I have therefore herein combined'Al Aaraaf' and 'Tamerlane' with other poems hitherto unprinted. Norhave I hesitated to insert from the 'Minor Poems,' now omitted, wholelines, and even passages, to the end that being placed in a fairerlight, and the trash shaken from them in which they were imbedded, theymay have some chance of being seen by posterity.
"It has been said that a good critique on a poem may be written by onewho is no poet himself. This, according to your idea and mine ofpoetry, I feel to be false--the less poetical the critic, the less justthe critique, and the converse. On this account, and because there arebut few B----s in the world, I would be as much ashamed of the world'sgood opinion as proud of your own. Another than yourself might hereobserve, 'Shakespeare is in possession of the world's good opinion, andyet Shakespeare is the greatest of poets. It appears then that the worldjudge correctly, why should you be ashamed of their favorable judgment?'The difficulty lies in the interpretation of the word 'judgment' or'opinion.' The opinion is the world's, truly, but it may be calledtheirs as a man would call a book his, having bought it; he did notwrite the book, but it is his; they did not originate the opinion, butit is theirs. A fool, for example, thinks Shakespeare a great poet--yetthe fool has never read Shakespeare. But the fool's neighbor, who is astep higher on the Andes of the mind, whose head (that is to say, hismore exalted thought) is too far above the fool to be seen orunderstood, but whose feet (by which I mean his every-day actions) aresufficiently near to be discerned, and by means of which thatsuperiority is ascertained, which but for them would never have beendiscovered--this neighbor asserts that Shakespeare is a great poet--thefool believes him, and it is henceforward his opinion. This neighbor'sown opinion has, in like manner, been adopted from one above him, andso, ascendingly, to a few gifted individuals who kneel around thesummit, beholding, face to face, the master spirit who stands upon thepinnacle.
"You are aware of the great barrier in the path of an American writer.He is read, if at all, in preference to the combined and established witof the world. I say established; for it is with literature as with lawor empire--an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne inpossession. Besides, one might suppose that books, like their authors,improve by travel--their having crossed the sea is, with us, so great adistinction. Our antiquaries abandon time for distance; our very fopsglance from the binding to the bottom of the title-page, where themystic characters which spell London, Paris, or Genoa, are precisely somany letters of recommendation.
"I mentioned just now a vulgar error as regards criticism. I think thenotion that no poet can form a correct estimate of his own writings isanother. I remarked before that in proportion to the poetical talentwould be the justice of a critique upon poetry. Therefore a bad poetwould, I grant, make a false critique, and his self-love wouldinfallibly bias his little judgment in his favor; but a poet, who isindeed a poet, could not, I think, fail of making a just critique;whatever should be deducted on the score of self-love might be replacedon account of his intimate acquaintance with the subject; in short, wehave more instances of false criticism than of just where one's ownwritings are the test, simply because we have more bad poets than good.There are, of course, many objections to what I say: Milton is a greatexample of the contrary; but his opinion with respect to the 'ParadiseRegained' is by no means fairly ascertained. By what trivialcircumstances men are often led to assert what they do not reallybelieve! Perhaps an inadvertent word has descended to posterity. But, infact, the 'Paradise Regained' is little, if at all, inferior to the'Paradise Lost,' and is only supposed so to be because men do not likeepics, whatever they may say to the contrary, and reading those ofMilton in their natural order, are too much wearied with the first toderive any pleasure from the second.
"I dare say Milton preferred 'Comus' to either--if so--justly.
"As I am speaking of poetry, it will not be amiss to touch slightly uponthe most singular heresy in its modern history--the heresy of what iscalled, very foolishly, the Lake School. Some years ago I might havebeen induced, by an occasion like the present, to attempt a formalrefutation of their doctrine; at present it would be a work ofsupererogation. The wise must bow to the wisdom of such men as Coleridgeand Southey, but being wise, have laughed at poetical theories soprosaically exemplified.
"Aristotle, with singular assurance, has declared poetry the mostphilosophical of all writings--but it required a Wordsworth to pronounceit the most metaphysical. He seems to think that the end of poetry is,or should be, instruction; yet it is a truism that the end of ourexistence is happiness; if so, the end of every separate part of ourexistence, everything connected with our existence, should be stillhappiness. Therefore the end of instruction should be happiness; andhappiness is another name for pleasure;--therefore the end ofinstruction should be pleasure: yet we see the above-mentioned opinionimplies precisely the reverse.
"To proceed: ceteris paribus, he who pleases is of more importance tohis fellow-men than he who instructs, since utility is happiness, andpleasure is the end already obtained which instruction is merely themeans of obtaining.
"I see no reason, then, why our metaphysical poets should plumethemselves so much on the utility of their works, unless indeed theyrefer to instruction with eternity in view; in which case, sincererespect for their piety would not allow me to express my contempt fortheir judgment; contempt which it would be difficult to conceal, sincetheir writings are professedly to be understood by the few, and it isthe many who stand in need of salvation. In such case I should no doubtbe tempted to think of the devil in 'Melmoth,' who labors indefatigably,through three octavo volumes, to accomplish the destruction of one ortwo souls, while any common devil would have demolished one or twothousand.
"Against the subtleties which would make poetry a study--not apassion--it becomes the metaphysician to reason--but the poet toprotest. Yet Wordsworth and Coleridge are men in years; the one imbuedin contemplation from his childhood; the other a giant in intellect andlearning. The diffidence, then, with which I venture to dispute theirauthority would be overwhelming did I not feel, from the bottom of myheart, that learning has little to do with the imagination--intellectwith the passions--or age with poetry.
"'Trifles, like straws, upon the surface flow; He who would search for pearls must dive below,'
"are lines which have done much mischief. As regards the greater truths,men oftener err by seeking them at the bottom than at the top; Truthlies in the huge abysses where wisdom is sought--not in the palpablepalaces where she is found. The ancients were not always right in hidingthe goddess in a well; witness the light which Bacon has thrown uponphilosophy; witness the principles of our divine faith--that moralmechanism by which the simplicity of a child may overbalance the wisdomof a man.
"We see an instance of Coleridge's liability to err, in his 'BiographiaLiteraria'--professedly his literary life and opinions, but, in fact, atreatise 'de omni scibili et quibusdam aliis'. He goes wrong by reasonof his very profundity, and of his error we have a natural type in thecontemplation of a star. He who regards it directly and intensely sees,it is true, the star, but it is the star without a ray--while he whosurveys it less inquisitively is conscious of all for which the star isuseful to us below--its brilliancy and its beauty.
"As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him. That he had in youth thefeelings of a poet I believe--for there are glimpses of extreme delicacyin his writings--(and delicacy is the poet's own kingdom--his 'ElDorado')--but they have the appearance of a better day recollected; andglimpses, at best, are little evidence of present poetic fire; we knowthat a few straggling flowers spring up daily in the crevices of theglacier.
"He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the endof poetizing in his manhood. With the increase of his judgment the lightwhich should make it apparent has faded away. His judgment consequentlyis too correct. This may not be understood,--but the old Goths ofGermany would have understood it, who used to debate matters ofimportance to their State twice, once when drunk, and once whensober--sober that they might not be deficient in formality--drunk lestthey should be destitute of vigor.
"The long wordy discussions by which he tries to reason us intoadmiration of his poetry, speak very little in his favor: they are fullof such assertions as this (I have opened one of his volumes atrandom)--'Of genius the only proof is the act of doing well what isworthy to be done, and what was never done before;'--indeed? then itfollows that in doing what is 'un'worthy to be done, or what 'has' beendone before, no genius can be evinced; yet the picking of pockets is anunworthy act, pockets have been picked time immemorial, and Barrington,the pick-pocket, in point of genius, would have thought hard of acomparison with William Wordsworth, the poet.
"Again, in estimating the merit of certain poems, whether they beOssian's or Macpherson's can surely be of little consequence, yet, inorder to prove their worthlessness, Mr. W. has expended many pages inthe controversy. 'Tantæne animis?' Can great minds descend to suchabsurdity? But worse still: that he may bear down every argument infavor of these poems, he triumphantly drags forward a passage, in hisabomination with which he expects the reader to sympathise. It is thebeginning of the epic poem 'Temora.' 'The blue waves of Ullin roll inlight; the green hills are covered with day; trees shake their dustyheads in the breeze.' And this--this gorgeous, yet simple imagery, whereall is alive and panting with immortality--this, William Wordsworth, theauthor of 'Peter Bell,' has 'selected' for his contempt. We shall seewhat better he, in his own person, has to offer. Imprimis:
"'And now she's at the pony's tail, And now she's at the pony's head, On that side now, and now on this; And, almost stifled with her bliss, A few sad tears does Betty shed.... She pats the pony, where or when She knows not ... happy Betty Foy! Oh, Johnny, never mind the doctor!'
"'The dew was falling fast, the--stars began to blink; I heard a voice: it said,--"Drink, pretty creature, drink!" And, looking o'er the hedge, before me I espied A snow-white mountain lamb, with a maiden at its side. No other sheep was near, the lamb was all alone, And by a slender cord was tether'd to a stone.'
"Now, we have no doubt this is all true: we will believe it,indeed we will, Mr, W. Is it sympathy for the sheep you wish to excite?I love a sheep from the bottom of my heart.
"But there are occasions, dear B----, there are occasions when evenWordsworth is reasonable. Even Stamboul, it is said, shall have an end,and the most unlucky blunders must come to a conclusion. Here is anextract from his preface:
"'Those who have been accustomed to the phraseology of modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to a conclusion (impossible!) will, no doubt, have to struggle with feelings of awkwardness; (ha! ha! ha!) they will look round for poetry (ha! ha! ha! ha!), and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts have been permitted to assume that title.' Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
"Yet, let not Mr. W. despair; he has given immortality to a wagon, andthe bee Sophocles has transmitted to eternity a sore toe, and dignifieda tragedy with a chorus of turkeys.
"Of Coleridge, I cannot speak but with reverence. His toweringintellect! his gigantic power! To use an author quoted by himself,
'J'ai trouvé souvent que la plupart des sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qu'elles avancent, mais non pas en ce qu'elles nient;'
and to employ his own language, he has imprisoned his own conceptions bythe barrier he has erected against those of others. It is lamentable tothink that such a mind should be buried in metaphysics, and, like theNyctanthes, waste its perfume upon the night alone. In reading thatman's poetry, I tremble like one who stands upon a volcano, consciousfrom the very darkness bursting from the crater, of the fire and thelight that are weltering below.
"What is Poetry?--Poetry! that Proteus-like idea, with as manyappellations as the nine-titled Corcyra! 'Give me,' I demanded of ascholar some time ago, 'give me a definition of poetry.''Tres-volontiers;' and he proceeded to his library, brought me a Dr.Johnson, and overwhelmed me with a definition. Shade of the immortalShakespeare! I imagine to myself the scowl of your spiritual eye uponthe profanity of that scurrilous Ursa Major. Think of poetry, dearB----, think of poetry, and then think of Dr. Samuel Johnson! Think ofall that is airy and fairy-like, and then of all that is hideous andunwieldy; think of his huge bulk, the Elephant! and then--and then thinkof the 'Tempest'--the 'Midsummer Night's Dream'--Prospero--Oberon--andTitania!
"A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, forits immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having, forits object, an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being apoem only so far as this object is attained; romance presentingperceptible images with definite, poetry with indefinite sensations,to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweetsound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with apleasurable idea, is poetry; music, without the idea, is simply music;the idea, without the music, is prose, from its very definitiveness.
"What was meant by the invective against him who had no music in hissoul?
"To sum up this long rigmarole, I have, dear B----, what you, no doubt,perceive, for the metaphysical poets as poets, the most sovereigncontempt. That they have followers proves nothing:
"'No Indian prince has to his palace More followers than a thief to the gallows.'"
* * * * *
SCIENCE! true daughter of Old Time thou art! Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes. Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart, Vulture, whose wings are dull realities How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise, Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies, Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing! Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car? And driven the Hamadryad from the wood To seek a shelter in some happier star? Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood, The Elfin from the green grass, and from me The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
* * * * *
Private reasons--some of which have reference to the sin of plagiarism,and others to the date of Tennyson's first poems --have induced me,after some hesitation, to republish these, the crude compositions of myearliest boyhood. They are printed 'verbatim'--without alteration fromthe original edition--the date of which is too remote to be judiciouslyacknowledged.--E. A. P. (1845).
[Footnote 1: This refers to the accusation brought against Edgar Poethat he was a copyist of Tennyson.--Ed.]
* * * * *
O! nothing earthly save the ray (Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye, As in those gardens where the day Springs from the gems of Circassy-- O! nothing earthly save the thrill Of melody in woodland rill-- Or (music of the passion-hearted) Joy's voice so peacefully departed That like the murmur in the shell, Its echo dwelleth and will dwell-- O! nothing of the dross of ours-- Yet all the beauty--all the flowers That list our Love, and deck our bowers-- Adorn yon world afar, afar-- The wandering star.
'Twas a sweet time for Nesace--for there Her world lay lolling on the golden air, Near four bright suns--a temporary rest-- An oasis in desert of the blest. Away away--'mid seas of rays that roll Empyrean splendor o'er th' unchained soul-- The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense) Can struggle to its destin'd eminence-- To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode, And late to ours, the favour'd one of God-- But, now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm, She throws aside the sceptre--leaves the helm, And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns, Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.
Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth, Whence sprang the "Idea of Beauty" into birth, (Falling in wreaths thro' many a startled star, Like woman's hair 'mid pearls, until, afar, It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt), She look'd into Infinity--and knelt. Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled-- Fit emblems of the model of her world-- Seen but in beauty--not impeding sight-- Of other beauty glittering thro' the light-- A wreath that twined each starry form around, And all the opal'd air in color bound.
All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed Of flowers: of lilies such as rear'd the head On the fair Capo Deucato , and sprang So eagerly around about to hang Upon the flying footsteps of--deep pride-- Of her who lov'd a mortal--and so died . The Sephalica, budding with young bees, Uprear'd its purple stem around her knees: And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam'd -- Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham'd All other loveliness: its honied dew (The fabled nectar that the heathen knew) Deliriously sweet, was dropp'd from Heaven, And fell on gardens of the unforgiven In Trebizond--and on a sunny flower So like its own above that, to this hour, It still remaineth, torturing the bee With madness, and unwonted reverie: In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf And blossom of the fairy plant, in grief Disconsolate linger--grief that hangs her head, Repenting follies that full long have fled, Heaving her white breast to the balmy air, Like guilty beauty, chasten'd, and more fair: Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light She fears to perfume, perfuming the night: And Clytia  pondering between many a sun, While pettish tears adown her petals run: And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth -- And died, ere scarce exalted into birth, Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king: And Valisnerian lotus thither flown  From struggling with the waters of the Rhone: And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante ! Isola d'oro!--Fior di Levante! And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever  With Indian Cupid down the holy river-- Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given To bear the Goddess' song, in odors, up to Heaven :
"Spirit! that dwellest where, In the deep sky,The terrible and fair, In beauty vie!Beyond the line of blue-- The boundary of the starWhich turneth at the view Of thy barrier and thy bar--Of the barrier overgone By the comets who were castFrom their pride, and from their throne To be drudges till the last--To be carriers of fire (The red fire of their heart)With speed that may not tire And with pain that shall not part--Who livest--_that_ we know-- In Eternity--we feel--But the shadow of whose brow What spirit shall reveal?Tho' the beings whom thy Nesace, Thy messenger hath knownHave dream'd for thy Infinity A model of their own --Thy will is done, O God! The star hath ridden highThro' many a tempest, but she rode Beneath thy burning eye;And here, in thought, to thee-- In thought that can aloneAscend thy empire and so be A partner of thy throne--By winged Fantasy , My embassy is given,Till secrecy shall knowledge be In the environs of Heaven."
She ceas'd--and buried then her burning cheek Abash'd, amid the lilies there, to seek A shelter from the fervor of His eye; For the stars trembled at the Deity. She stirr'd not--breath'd not--for a voice was there How solemnly pervading the calm air! A sound of silence on the startled ear Which dreamy poets name "the music of the sphere." Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call "Silence"--which is the merest word of all.
All Nature speaks, and ev'n ideal things Flap shadowy sounds from the visionary wings-- But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high The eternal voice of God is passing by, And the red winds are withering in the sky! "What tho' in worlds which sightless cycles run , Link'd to a little system, and one sun-- Where all my love is folly, and the crowd Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud, The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath (Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?) What tho' in worlds which own a single sun The sands of time grow dimmer as they run, Yet thine is my resplendency, so given To bear my secrets thro' the upper Heaven. Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly, With all thy train, athwart the moony sky-- Apart--like fire-flies in Sicilian night , And wing to other worlds another light! Divulge the secrets of thy embassy To the proud orbs that twinkle--and so be To ev'ry heart a barrier and a ban Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!"
Up rose the maiden in the yellow night, The single-mooned eve!-on earth we plight Our faith to one love--and one moon adore-- The birth-place of young Beauty had no more. As sprang that yellow star from downy hours, Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers, And bent o'er sheeny mountain and dim plain Her way--but left not yet her Therasæan reign .
High on a mountain of enamell'd head-- Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed Of giant pasturage lying at his ease, Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees With many a mutter'd "hope to be forgiven" What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven-- Of rosy head, that towering far away Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray Of sunken suns at eve--at noon of night, While the moon danc'd with the fair stranger light-- Uprear'd upon such height arose a pile Of gorgeous columns on th' uuburthen'd air, Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile Far down upon the wave that sparkled there, And nursled the young mountain in its lair. Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall  Thro' the ebon air, besilvering the pall Of their own dissolution, while they die-- Adorning then the dwellings of the sky. A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down, Sat gently on these columns as a crown-- A window of one circular diamond, there, Look'd out above into the purple air And rays from God shot down that meteor chain And hallow'd all the beauty twice again, Save when, between th' Empyrean and that ring, Some eager spirit flapp'd his dusky wing. But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen The dimness of this world: that grayish green That Nature loves the best for Beauty's grave Lurk'd in each cornice, round each architrave-- And every sculptured cherub thereabout That from his marble dwelling peered out, Seem'd earthly in the shadow of his niche-- Achaian statues in a world so rich? Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis -- From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss Of beautiful Gomorrah! Oh, the wave  Is now upon thee--but too late to save! Sound loves to revel in a summer night: Witness the murmur of the gray twilight That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco , Of many a wild star-gazer long ago-- That stealeth ever on the ear of him Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim, And sees the darkness coming as a cloud-- Is not its form--its voice--most palpable and loud?  But what is this?--it cometh--and it brings A music with it--'tis the rush of wings-- A pause--and then a sweeping, falling strain, And Nesace is in her halls again. From the wild energy of wanton haste Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart; The zone that clung around her gentle waist Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart. Within the centre of that hall to breathe She paus'd and panted, Zanthe! all beneath, The fairy light that kiss'd her golden hair And long'd to rest, yet could but sparkle there!
Young flowers were whispering in melody  To happy flowers that night--and tree to tree; Fountains were gushing music as they fell In many a star-lit grove, or moon-light dell; Yet silence came upon material things-- Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings-- And sound alone that from the spirit sprang Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:
"Neath blue-bell or streamer-- Or tufted wild sprayThat keeps, from the dreamer, The moonbeam away--Bright beings! that ponder, With half-closing eyes,On the stars which your wonder Hath drawn from the skies,Till they glance thro' the shade, and Come down to your browLike--eyes of the maiden Who calls on you now--Arise! from your dreaming In violet bowers,To duty beseeming These star-litten hours--And shake from your tresses Encumber'd with dewThe breath of those kisses That cumber them too--(O! how, without you, Love! Could angels be blest?)Those kisses of true love That lull'd ye to rest!Up! shake from your wing Each hindering thing:The dew of the night-- It would weigh down your flight;And true love caresses-- O! leave them apart!They are light on the tresses, But lead on the heart.Ligeia! Ligeia! My beautiful one!Whose harshest idea Will to melody run,O! is it thy will On the breezes to toss?Or, capriciously still, Like the lone Albatross, Incumbent on night (As she on the air)To keep watch with delight On the harmony there?Ligeia! wherever Thy image may be,No magic shall sever Thy music from thee.Thou hast bound many eyes In a dreamy sleep--But the strains still arise Which _thy_ vigilance keep--The sound of the rain Which leaps down to the flower,And dances again In the rhythm of the shower--The murmur that springs  From the growing of grassAre the music of things-- But are modell'd, alas!Away, then, my dearest, O! hie thee awayTo springs that lie clearest Beneath the moon-ray--To lone lake that smiles, In its dream of deep rest,At the many star-islesThat enjewel its breast--Where wild flowers, creeping, Have mingled their shade,On its margin is sleeping Full many a maid--Some have left the cool glade, and Have slept with the bee--Arouse them, my maiden, On moorland and lea--Go! breathe on their slumber, All softly in ear,The musical number They slumber'd to hear--For what can awaken An angel so soonWhose sleep hath been taken Beneath the cold moon,As the spell which no slumber Of witchery may test,The rhythmical number Which lull'd him to rest?"
Spirits in wing, and angels to the view, A thousand seraphs burst th' Empyrean thro', Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight-- Seraphs in all but "Knowledge," the keen light That fell, refracted, thro' thy bounds afar, O death! from eye of God upon that star; Sweet was that error--sweeter still that death-- Sweet was that error--ev'n with us the breath Of Science dims the mirror of our joy-- To them 'twere the Simoom, and would destroy-- For what (to them) availeth it to know That Truth is Falsehood--or that Bliss is Woe? Sweet was their death--with them to die was rife With the last ecstasy of satiate life-- Beyond that death no immortality-- But sleep that pondereth and is not "to be"-- And there--oh! may my weary spirit dwell-- Apart from Heaven's Eternity--and yet how far from Hell! 
What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn? But two: they fell: for heaven no grace imparts To those who hear not for their beating hearts. A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover-- O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over) Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known? Unguided Love hath fallen--'mid "tears of perfect moan." 
He was a goodly spirit--he who fell: A wanderer by mossy-mantled well-- A gazer on the lights that shine above-- A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love: What wonder? for each star is eye-like there, And looks so sweetly down on Beauty's hair-- And they, and ev'ry mossy spring were holy To his love-haunted heart and melancholy. The night had found (to him a night of wo) Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo-- Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky, And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie. Here sate he with his love--his dark eye bent With eagle gaze along the firmament: Now turn'd it upon her--but ever then It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.
"Ianthe, dearest, see! how dim that ray! How lovely 'tis to look so far away! She seemed not thus upon that autumn eve I left her gorgeous halls--nor mourned to leave, That eve--that eve--I should remember well-- The sun-ray dropped, in Lemnos with a spell On th' Arabesque carving of a gilded hall Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall-- And on my eyelids--O, the heavy light! How drowsily it weighed them into night! On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan: But O, that light!--I slumbered--Death, the while, Stole o'er my senses in that lovely isle So softly that no single silken hair Awoke that slept--or knew that he was there.
"The last spot of Earth's orb I trod upon Was a proud temple called the Parthenon;  More beauty clung around her columned wall Then even thy glowing bosom beats withal,  And when old Time my wing did disenthral Thence sprang I--as the eagle from his tower, And years I left behind me in an hour. What time upon her airy bounds I hung, One half the garden of her globe was flung Unrolling as a chart unto my view-- Tenantless cities of the desert too! Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then, And half I wished to be again of men."
"My Angelo! and why of them to be? A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee-- And greener fields than in yon world above, And woman's loveliness--and passionate love." "But list, Ianthe! when the air so soft Failed, as my pennoned spirit leapt aloft,  Perhaps my brain grew dizzy--but the world I left so late was into chaos hurled, Sprang from her station, on the winds apart, And rolled a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart. Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar, And fell--not swiftly as I rose before, But with a downward, tremulous motion thro' Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto! Nor long the measure of my falling hours, For nearest of all stars was thine to ours-- Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth, A red Daedalion on the timid Earth."
"We came--and to thy Earth--but not to us Be given our lady's bidding to discuss: We came, my love; around, above, below, Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go, Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod She grants to us as granted by her God-- But, Angelo, than thine gray Time unfurled Never his fairy wing o'er fairer world! Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes Alone could see the phantom in the skies, When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be Headlong thitherward o'er the starry sea-- But when its glory swelled upon the sky, As glowing Beauty's bust beneath man's eye, We paused before the heritage of men, And thy star trembled--as doth Beauty then!"
Thus in discourse, the lovers whiled away The night that waned and waned and brought no day. They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.
[Footnote 1: A star was discovered by Tycho Brahe which appearedsuddenly in the heavens--attained, in a few days, a brilliancysurpassing that of Jupiter--then as suddenly disappeared, and has neverbeen seen since.]
[Footnote 2: On Santa Maura--olim Deucadia.]
[Footnote 3: Sappho.]
[Footnote 4: This flower is much noticed by Lewenhoeck and Tournefort.The bee, feeding upon its blossom, becomes intoxicated.]
[Footnote: Clytia--the Chrysanthemum Peruvianum, or, to employ abetter-known term, the turnsol--which turns continually towards the sun,covers itself, like Peru, the country from which it comes, with dewyclouds which cool and refresh its flowers during the most violent heatof the day.--'B. de St. Pierre.']
[Footnote 6: There is cultivated in the king's garden at Paris, aspecies of serpentine aloe without prickles, whose large and beautifulflower exhales a strong odor of the vanilla, during the time of itsexpansion, which is very short. It does not blow till towards the monthof July--you then perceive it gradually open its petals--expandthem--fade and die.--'St. Pierre'.]
[Footnote 7: There is found, in the Rhone, a beautiful lily of theValisnerian kind. Its stem will stretch to the length of three or fourfeet--thus preserving its head above water in the swellings of theriver.]
[Footnote 8: The Hyacinth.]
[Footnote 9: It is a fiction of the Indians, that Cupid was first seenfloating in one of these down the river Ganges, and that he still lovesthe cradle of his childhood.]
[Footnote 10: And golden vials full of odors which are the prayers ofthe saints.--'Rev. St. John.']
[Footnote 11: The Humanitarians held that God was to be understood ashaving really a human form.--'Vide Clarke's Sermons', vol. I, page 26,fol. edit.
The drift of Milton's argument leads him to employ language which wouldappear, at first sight, to verge upon their doctrine; but it will beseen immediately, that he guards himself against the charge of havingadopted one of the most ignorant errors of the dark ages of theChurch.--'Dr. Sumner's Notes on Milton's Christian Doctrine'.
This opinion, in spite of many testimonies to the contrary, could neverhave been very general. Andeus, a Syrian of Mesopotamia, was condemnedfor the opinion, as heretical. He lived in the beginning of the fourthcentury. His disciples were called Anthropomorphites.--'Vide du Pin'.
Among Milton's minor poems are these lines:
Dicite sacrorum præesides nemorum Dese, etc., Quis ille primus cujus ex imagine Natura solers finxit humanum genus? Eternus, incorruptus, æquævus polo, Unusque et universus exemplar Dei.
Non cui profundum Cæcitas lumen dedit Dircæus augur vidit hunc alto sinu, etc.]
Seltsamen Tochter Jovis Seinem Schosskinde Der Phantasie.
[Footnote 13: Sightless--too small to be seen.--'Legge'.]
[Footnote 14: I have often noticed a peculiar movement of thefire-flies; they will collect in a body and fly off, from a commoncentre, into innumerable radii.]
[Footnote 15: Therasæa, or Therasea, the island mentioned by Seneca,which, in a moment, arose from the sea to the eyes of astonishedmariners.]
Some star which, from the ruin'd roof Of shak'd Olympus, by mischance did fall.
[Footnote 17: Voltaire, in speaking of Persepolis, says,
"Je connais bien l'admiration qu'inspirent ces ruines--mais un palais érigé au pied d'une chaîne de rochers steriles--peut-il être un chef d'oeuvre des arts!"]
[Footnote 18: "Oh, the wave"--Ula Deguisi is the Turkish appellation;but, on its own shores, it is called Baliar Loth, or Al-motanah. Therewere undoubtedly more than two cities engulphed in the "dead sea." Inthe valley of Siddim were five--Adrah, Zeboin, Zoar, Sodom and Gomorrah.Stephen of Byzantium mentions eight, and Strabo thirteen (engulphed)--but the last is out of all reason. It is said (Tacitus, Strabo,Josephus, Daniel of St. Saba, Nau, Maundrell, Troilo, D'Arvieux), thatafter an excessive drought, the vestiges of columns, walls, etc., areseen above the surface. At 'any' season, such remains may be discoveredby looking down into the transparent lake, and at such distance as wouldargue the existence of many settlements in the space now usurped by the"Asphaltites."]
[Footnote 19: Eyraco-Chaldea.]
[Footnote 20: I have often thought I could distinctly hear the sound ofthe darkness as it stole over the horizon.]
Fairies use flowers for their charactery.
'Merry Wives of Windsor'.]
[Footnote 22: In Scripture is this passage:
"The sun shall not harm thee by day, nor the moon by night."
It is, perhaps, not generally known that the moon, in Egypt, has theeffect of producing blindness to those who sleep with the face exposedto its rays, to which circumstances the passage evidentlyalludes.]
[Footnote 23: The Albatross is said to sleep on the wing.]
[Footnote 24: I met with this idea in an old English tale, which I amnow unable to obtain and quote from memory:
"The verie essence and, as it were, springe heade and origine of all musiche is the verie pleasaunte sounde which the trees of the forest do make when they growe."]
[Footnote 25: The wild bee will not sleep in the shade if there bemoonlight. The rhyme in the verse, as in one about sixty lines before,has an appearance of affectation. It is, however, imitated from Sir W.Scott, or rather from Claud Halcro--in whose mouth I admired its effect:
O! were there an island, Tho' ever so wild, Where woman might smile, and No man be beguil'd, etc. ]
[Footnote 26: With the Arabians there is a medium between Heaven andHell, where men suffer no punishment, but yet do not attain thattranquil and even happiness which they suppose to be characteristic ofheavenly enjoyment.
Un no rompido sueno-- Un dia puro--allegre--libre Quiera-- Libre de amor--de zelo-- De odio--de esperanza--de rezelo.
'Luis Ponce de Leon.'
Sorrow is not excluded from "Al Aaraaf," but it is that sorrow which theliving love to cherish for the dead, and which, in some minds, resemblesthe delirium of opium.
The passionate excitement of Love and the buoyancy of spirit attendantupon intoxication are its less holy pleasures--the price of which, tothose souls who make choice of "Al Aaraaf" as their residence afterlife, is final death and annihilation.]
There be tears of perfect moan Wept for thee in Helicon.
[Footnote 28: It was entire in 1687--the most elevated spot in Athens.]
Shadowing more beauty in their airy brows Than have the white breasts of the queen of love.
[Footnote 30: Pennon, for pinion.--'Milton'.]
* * * * *
Kind solace in a dying hour! Such, father, is not (now) my theme-- I will not madly deem that power Of Earth may shrive me of the sin Unearthly pride hath revelled in-- I have no time to dote or dream: You call it hope--that fire of fire! It is but agony of desire: If I can hope--O God! I can-- Its fount is holier--more divine-- I would not call thee fool, old man, But such is not a gift of thine.
Know thou the secret of a spirit Bowed from its wild pride into shame O yearning heart! I did inherit Thy withering portion with the fame, The searing glory which hath shone Amid the Jewels of my throne, Halo of Hell! and with a pain Not Hell shall make me fear again-- O craving heart, for the lost flowers And sunshine of my summer hours! The undying voice of that dead time, With its interminable chime, Rings, in the spirit of a spell, Upon thy emptiness--a knell.
I have not always been as now: The fevered diadem on my brow I claimed and won usurpingly-- Hath not the same fierce heirdom given Rome to the Cæsar--this to me? The heritage of a kingly mind, And a proud spirit which hath striven Triumphantly with human kind. On mountain soil I first drew life: The mists of the Taglay have shed Nightly their dews upon my head, And, I believe, the winged strife And tumult of the headlong air Have nestled in my very hair.
So late from Heaven--that dew--it fell ('Mid dreams of an unholy night) Upon me with the touch of Hell, While the red flashing of the light From clouds that hung, like banners, o'er, Appeared to my half-closing eye The pageantry of monarchy; And the deep trumpet-thunder's roar Came hurriedly upon me, telling Of human battle, where my voice, My own voice, silly child!--was swelling (O! how my spirit would rejoice, And leap within me at the cry) The battle-cry of Victory!
The rain came down upon my head Unsheltered--and the heavy wind Rendered me mad and deaf and blind. It was but man, I thought, who shed Laurels upon me: and the rush-- The torrent of the chilly air Gurgled within my ear the crush Of empires--with the captive's prayer-- The hum of suitors--and the tone Of flattery 'round a sovereign's throne.
My passions, from that hapless hour, Usurped a tyranny which men Have deemed since I have reached to power, My innate nature--be it so: But, father, there lived one who, then, Then--in my boyhood--when their fire Burned with a still intenser glow (For passion must, with youth, expire) E'en then who knew this iron heart In woman's weakness had a part.
I have no words--alas!--to tell The loveliness of loving well! Nor would I now attempt to trace The more than beauty of a face Whose lineaments, upon my mind, Are--shadows on th' unstable wind: Thus I remember having dwelt Some page of early lore upon, With loitering eye, till I have felt The letters--with their meaning--melt To fantasies--with none.
O, she was worthy of all love! Love as in infancy was mine-- 'Twas such as angel minds above Might envy; her young heart the shrine On which my every hope and thought Were incense--then a goodly gift, For they were childish and upright-- Pure--as her young example taught: Why did I leave it, and, adrift, Trust to the fire within, for light?
We grew in age--and love--together-- Roaming the forest, and the wild; My breast her shield in wintry weather-- And, when the friendly sunshine smiled. And she would mark the opening skies, I saw no Heaven--but in her eyes. Young Love's first lesson is----the heart: For 'mid that sunshine, and those smiles, When, from our little cares apart, And laughing at her girlish wiles, I'd throw me on her throbbing breast, And pour my spirit out in tears-- There was no need to speak the rest-- No need to quiet any fears Of her--who asked no reason why, But turned on me her quiet eye!
Yet more than worthy of the love My spirit struggled with, and strove When, on the mountain peak, alone, Ambition lent it a new tone-- I had no being--but in thee: The world, and all it did contain In the earth--the air--the sea-- Its joy--its little lot of pain That was new pleasure--the ideal, Dim, vanities of dreams by night-- And dimmer nothings which were real-- (Shadows--and a more shadowy light!) Parted upon their misty wings, And, so, confusedly, became Thine image and--a name--a name! Two separate--yet most intimate things.
I was ambitious--have you known The passion, father? You have not: A cottager, I marked a throne Of half the world as all my own, And murmured at such lowly lot-- But, just like any other dream, Upon the vapor of the dew My own had past, did not the beam Of beauty which did while it thro' The minute--the hour--the day--oppress My mind with double loveliness.
We walked together on the crown Of a high mountain which looked down Afar from its proud natural towers Of rock and forest, on the hills-- The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers And shouting with a thousand rills.
I spoke to her of power and pride, But mystically--in such guise That she might deem it nought beside The moment's converse; in her eyes I read, perhaps too carelessly-- A mingled feeling with my own-- The flush on her bright cheek, to me Seemed to become a queenly throne Too well that I should let it be Light in the wilderness alone.
I wrapped myself in grandeur then, And donned a visionary crown-- Yet it was not that Fantasy Had thrown her mantle over me-- But that, among the rabble--men, Lion ambition is chained down-- And crouches to a keeper's hand-- Not so in deserts where the grand-- The wild--the terrible conspire With their own breath to fan his fire.
Look 'round thee now on Samarcand!-- Is she not queen of Earth? her pride Above all cities? in her hand Their destinies? in all beside Of glory which the world hath known Stands she not nobly and alone? Falling--her veriest stepping-stone Shall form the pedestal of a throne-- And who her sovereign? Timour--he Whom the astonished people saw Striding o'er empires haughtily A diademed outlaw!
O, human love! thou spirit given, On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven! Which fall'st into the soul like rain Upon the Siroc-withered plain, And, failing in thy power to bless, But leav'st the heart a wilderness! Idea! which bindest life around With music of so strange a sound And beauty of so wild a birth-- Farewell! for I have won the Earth.
When Hope, the eagle that towered, could see No cliff beyond him in the sky, His pinions were bent droopingly-- And homeward turned his softened eye. 'Twas sunset: When the sun will part There comes a sullenness of heart To him who still would look upon The glory of the summer sun. That soul will hate the ev'ning mist So often lovely, and will list To the sound of the coming darkness (known To those whose spirits hearken) as one Who, in a dream of night, would fly, But cannot, from a danger nigh.
What tho' the moon--tho' the white moon Shed all the splendor of her noon, Her smile is chilly--and her beam, In that time of dreariness, will seem (So like you gather in your breath) A portrait taken after death. And boyhood is a summer sun Whose waning is the dreariest one-- For all we live to know is known, And all we seek to keep hath flown-- Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall With the noon-day beauty--which is all. I reached my home--my home no more-- For all had flown who made it so. I passed from out its mossy door, And, tho' my tread was soft and low, A voice came from the threshold stone Of one whom I had earlier known-- O, I defy thee, Hell, to show On beds of fire that burn below, An humbler heart--a deeper woe.
Father, I firmly do believe-- I know--for Death who comes for me From regions of the blest afar, Where there is nothing to deceive, Hath left his iron gate ajar. And rays of truth you cannot see Are flashing thro' Eternity---- I do believe that Eblis hath A snare in every human path-- Else how, when in the holy grove I wandered of the idol, Love,-- Who daily scents his snowy wings With incense of burnt-offerings From the most unpolluted things, Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven Above with trellised rays from Heaven No mote may shun--no tiniest fly-- The light'ning of his eagle eye-- How was it that Ambition crept, Unseen, amid the revels there, Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt In the tangles of Love's very hair!
* * * * *
Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicean barks of yore, That gently, o'er a perfumed sea, The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore.
On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, Thy Naiad airs have brought me home To the glory that was Greece, To the grandeur that was Rome.
Lo! in yon brilliant window niche, How statue-like I see thee stand, The agate lamp within thy hand! Ah, Psyche, from the regions which Are Holy Land!
* * * * *
THE VALLEY OF UNREST.
Once it smiled a silent dell Where the people did not dwell; They had gone unto the wars, Trusting to the mild-eyed stars, Nightly, from their azure towers, To keep watch above the flowers, In the midst of which all day The red sun-light lazily lay, Now each visitor shall confess The sad valley's restlessness. Nothing there is motionless-- Nothing save the airs that brood Over the magic solitude. Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees That palpitate like the chill seas Around the misty Hebrides! Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven That rustle through the unquiet Heaven Unceasingly, from morn till even, Over the violets there that lie In myriad types of the human eye-- Over the lilies that wave And weep above a nameless grave! They wave:--from out their fragrant tops Eternal dews come down in drops. They weep:--from off their delicate stems Perennial tears descend in gems.
* * * * *
In Heaven a spirit doth dwell "Whose heart-strings are a lute;" None sing so wildly well As the angel Israfel, And the giddy Stars (so legends tell), Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell Of his voice, all mute.
Tottering above In her highest noon, The enamoured Moon Blushes with love, While, to listen, the red levin (With the rapid Pleiads, even, Which were seven), Pauses in Heaven.
And they say (the starry choir And the other listening things) That Israfeli's fire Is owing to that lyre By which he sits and sings-- The trembling living wire Of those unusual strings.
But the skies that angel trod, Where deep thoughts are a duty-- Where Love's a grow-up God-- Where the Houri glances are Imbued with all the beauty Which we worship in a star.
Therefore, thou art not wrong, Israfeli, who despisest An unimpassioned song; To thee the laurels belong, Best bard, because the wisest! Merrily live and long!
The ecstasies above With thy burning measures suit-- Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love, With the fervor of thy lute-- Well may the stars be mute!
Yes, Heaven is thine; but this Is a world of sweets and sours; Our flowers are merely--flowers, And the shadow of thy perfect bliss Is the sunshine of ours.
If I could dwell Where Israfel Hath dwelt, and he where I, He might not sing so wildly well A mortal melody, While a bolder note than this might swell From my lyre within the sky.
And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God's creatures.
* * * * *
I heed not that my earthly lot Hath--little of Earth in it-- That years of love have been forgot In the hatred of a minute:-- I mourn not that the desolate Are happier, sweet, than I, But that you sorrow for my fate Who am a passer-by.
* * * * *
The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see The wantonest singing birds,
Are lips--and all thy melody Of lip-begotten words--
Thine eyes, in Heaven of heart enshrined Then desolately fall, O God! on my funereal mind Like starlight on a pall--
Thy heart--thy heart!--I wake and sigh, And sleep to dream till day Of the truth that gold can never buy-- Of the baubles that it may.
* * * * *
TO THE RIVER
Fair river! in thy bright, clear flow Of crystal, wandering water, Thou art an emblem of the glow Of beauty--the unhidden heart-- The playful maziness of art In old Alberto's daughter;
But when within thy wave she looks-- Which glistens then, and trembles-- Why, then, the prettiest of brooks Her worshipper resembles; For in his heart, as in thy stream, Her image deeply lies-- His heart which trembles at the beam Of her soul-searching eyes.
* * * * *
I saw thee on thy bridal day-- When a burning blush came o'er thee, Though happiness around thee lay, The world all love before thee:
And in thine eye a kindling light (Whatever it might be) Was all on Earth my aching sight Of Loveliness could see.
That blush, perhaps, was maiden shame-- As such it well may pass-- Though its glow hath raised a fiercer flame In the breast of him, alas!
Who saw thee on that bridal day, When that deep blush would come o'er thee, Though happiness around thee lay, The world all love before thee.
* * * * *
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.
Thy soul shall find itself alone 'Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone Not one, of all the crowd, to pry Into thine hour of secrecy. Be silent in that solitude Which is not loneliness--for then The spirits of the dead who stood In life before thee are again In death around thee--and their will Shall overshadow thee: be still. The night--tho' clear--shall frown-- And the stars shall not look down From their high thrones in the Heaven, With light like Hope to mortals given-- But their red orbs, without beam, To thy weariness shall seem As a burning and a fever Which would cling to thee forever. Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish-- Now are visions ne'er to vanish-- From thy spirit shall they pass No more--like dew-drops from the grass. The breeze--the breath of God--is still-- And the mist upon the hill Shadowy--shadowy--yet unbroken, Is a symbol and a token-- How it hangs upon the trees, A mystery of mysteries!
* * * * *
In visions of the dark night I have dreamed of joy departed-- But a waking dream of life and light Hath left me broken-hearted.
Ah! what is not a dream by day To him whose eyes are cast On things around him with a ray Turned back upon the past?
That holy dream--that holy dream, While all the world were chiding, Hath cheered me as a lovely beam, A lonely spirit guiding.
What though that light, thro' storm and night, So trembled from afar-- What could there be more purely bright In Truth's day star?
* * * * *
Romance, who loves to nod and sing, With drowsy head and folded wing, Among the green leaves as they shake Far down within some shadowy lake, To me a painted paroquet Hath been--a most familiar bird-- Taught me my alphabet to say-- To lisp my very earliest word While in the wild wood I did lie, A child--with a most knowing eye.
Of late, eternal Condor years So shake the very Heaven on high With tumult as they thunder by, I have no time for idle cares Though gazing on the unquiet sky. And when an hour with calmer wings Its down upon my spirit flings-- That little time with lyre and rhyme To while away--forbidden things! My heart would feel to be a crime Unless it trembled with the strings.
* * * * *
Dim vales--and shadowy floods-- And cloudy-looking woods, Whose forms we can't discover For the tears that drip all over Huge moons there wax and wane-- Again--again--again-- Every moment of the night-- Forever changing places-- And they put out the star-light With the breath from their pale faces. About twelve by the moon-dial One more filmy than the rest (A kind which, upon trial, They have found to be the best) Comes down--still down--and down With its centre on the crown Of a mountain's eminence, While its wide circumference In easy drapery falls Over hamlets, over halls, Wherever they may be-- O'er the strange woods--o'er the sea-- Over spirits on the wing-- Over every drowsy thing-- And buries them up quite In a labyrinth of light-- And then, how deep!--O, deep! Is the passion of their sleep. In the morning they arise, And their moony covering Is soaring in the skies, With the tempests as they toss, Like--almost any thing-- Or a yellow Albatross. They use that moon no more For the same end as before-- Videlicet a tent-- Which I think extravagant: Its atomies, however, Into a shower dissever, Of which those butterflies, Of Earth, who seek the skies, And so come down again (Never-contented thing!) Have brought a specimen Upon their quivering wings.
* * * * *
In spring of youth it was my lot To haunt of the wide world a spot The which I could not love the less-- So lovely was the loneliness Of a wild lake, with black rock bound, And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall Upon the spot, as upon all, And the mystic wind went by Murmuring in melody-- Then--ah, then, I would awake To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright, But a tremulous delight-- A feeling not the jewelled mine Could teach or bribe me to define-- Nor Love--although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave, And in its gulf a fitting grave For him who thence could solace bring To his lone imagining-- Whose solitary soul could make An Eden of that dim lake.
* * * * *
'Twas noontide of summer, And midtime of night, And stars, in their orbits, Shone pale, through the light Of the brighter, cold moon. 'Mid planets her slaves, Herself in the Heavens, Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhileOn her cold smile;
Too cold--too cold for me-- There passed, as a shroud, A fleecy cloud, And I turned away to thee, Proud Evening Star, In thy glory afar And dearer thy beam shall be; For joy to my heart Is the proud part Thou bearest in Heaven at night, And more I admire Thy distant fire, Than that colder, lowly light.
* * * * *
A dark unfathomed tide Of interminable pride-- A mystery, and a dream, Should my early life seem; I say that dream was fraught With a wild and waking thought Of beings that have been, Which my spirit hath not seen, Had I let them pass me by, With a dreaming eye! Let none of earth inherit That vision on my spirit; Those thoughts I would control, As a spell upon his soul: For that bright hope at last And that light time have past, And my wordly rest hath gone With a sigh as it passed on: I care not though it perish With a thought I then did cherish.
* * * * *
"THE HAPPIEST DAY."
I. The happiest day--the happiest hour My seared and blighted heart hath known, The highest hope of pride and power, I feel hath flown. II. Of power! said I? Yes! such I ween But they have vanished long, alas! The visions of my youth have been-- But let them pass. III. And pride, what have I now with thee? Another brow may ev'n inherit The venom thou hast poured on me-- Be still my spirit! IV. The happiest day--the happiest hour Mine eyes shall see--have ever seen The brightest glance of pride and power I feel have been: V. But were that hope of pride and power Now offered with the pain Ev'n _then_ I felt--that brightest hour I would not live again: VI. For on its wing was dark alloy And as it fluttered--fell An essence--powerful to destroy A soul that knew it well.
* * * * *
Translation from the Greek.
HYMN TO ARISTOGEITON AND HARMODIUS.
I. Wreathed in myrtle, my sword I'll conceal, Like those champions devoted and brave, When they plunged in the tyrant their steel, And to Athens deliverance gave.
II. Beloved heroes! your deathless souls roam In the joy breathing isles of the blest; Where the mighty of old have their home-- Where Achilles and Diomed rest.
III. In fresh myrtle my blade I'll entwine, Like Harmodius, the gallant and good, When he made at the tutelar shrine A libation of Tyranny's blood.
IV. Ye deliverers of Athens from shame! Ye avengers of Liberty's wrongs! Endless ages shall cherish your fame, Embalmed in their echoing songs!
* * * * *
Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream! My spirit not awakening, till the beam Of an Eternity should bring the morrow. Yes! though that long dream were of hopeless sorrow, 'Twere better than the cold reality Of waking life, to him whose heart must be, And hath been still, upon the lovely earth, A chaos of deep passion, from his birth. But should it be--that dream eternally Continuing--as dreams have been to me In my young boyhood--should it thus be given, 'Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven. For I have revelled when the sun was bright I' the summer sky, in dreams of living light And loveliness,--have left my very heart Inclines of my imaginary apart  From mine own home, with beings that have been Of mine own thought--what more could I have seen? 'Twas once--and only once--and the wild hour From my remembrance shall not pass--some power Or spell had bound me--'twas the chilly wind Came o'er me in the night, and left behind Its image on my spirit--or the moon Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon Too coldly--or the stars--howe'er it was That dream was that that night-wind--let it pass. I have been happy, though in a dream. I have been happy--and I love the theme: Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife Of semblance with reality which brings To the delirious eye, more lovely things Of Paradise and Love--and all my own!-- Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.
[Footnote 1: In climes of mine imagining apart?--Ed.]
* * * * *
"IN YOUTH I HAVE KNOWN ONE."
_How often we forget all time, when lone Admiring Nature's universal throne; Her woods--her wilds--her mountains--the intense Reply of Hers to Our intelligence!_
I. In youth I have known one with whom the Earth In secret communing held--as he with it, In daylight, and in beauty, from his birth: Whose fervid, flickering torch of life was lit From the sun and stars, whence he had drawn forth A passionate light such for his spirit was fit-- And yet that spirit knew--not in the hour Of its own fervor--what had o'er it power.
II. Perhaps it may be that my mind is wrought To a ferver  by the moonbeam that hangs o'er, But I will half believe that wild light fraught With more of sovereignty than ancient lore Hath ever told--or is it of a thought The unembodied essence, and no more That with a quickening spell doth o'er us pass As dew of the night-time, o'er the summer grass?
III. Doth o'er us pass, when, as th' expanding eye To the loved object--so the tear to the lid Will start, which lately slept in apathy? And yet it need not be--(that object) hid From us in life--but common--which doth lie Each hour before us--but then only bid With a strange sound, as of a harp-string broken T' awake us--'Tis a symbol and a token--
IV. Of what in other worlds shall be--and given In beauty by our God, to those alone Who otherwise would fall from life and Heaven Drawn by their heart's passion, and that tone, That high tone of the spirit which hath striven Though not with Faith--with godliness--whose throne With desperate energy 't hath beaten down; Wearing its own deep feeling as a crown.
[Footnote 1: Query "fervor"?--Ed.]
* * * * *
I. How shall the burial rite be read? The solemn song be sung? The requiem for the loveliest dead, That ever died so young?
II. Her friends are gazing on her, And on her gaudy bier, And weep!--oh! to dishonor Dead beauty with a tear!
III. They loved her for her wealth-- And they hated her for her pride-- But she grew in feeble health, And they love her--that she died.
IV. They tell me (while they speak Of her "costly broider'd pall") That my voice is growing weak-- That I should not sing at all--
V. Or that my tone should be Tun'd to such solemn song So mournfully--so mournfully, That the dead may feel no wrong.
VI. But she is gone above, With young Hope at her side, And I am drunk with love Of the dead, who is my bride.--
VII. Of the dead--dead who lies All perfum'd there, With the death upon her eyes. And the life upon her hair.
VIII. Thus on the coffin loud and long I strike--the murmur sent Through the gray chambers to my song, Shall be the accompaniment.
IX. Thou diedst in thy life's June-- But thou didst not die too fair: Thou didst not die too soon, Nor with too calm an air.
X. From more than friends on earth, Thy life and love are riven, To join the untainted mirth Of more than thrones in heaven.--
XI. Therefore, to thee this night I will no requiem raise, But waft thee on thy flight, With a Pæan of old days.
* * * * *
"Al Aaraaf" first appeared, with the sonnet "To Silence" prefixed to it,in 1829, and is, substantially, as originally issued. In the edition for1831, however, this poem, its author's longest, was introduced by thefollowing twenty-nine lines, which have been omitted in all subsequentcollections:
Mysterious star! Thou wert my dream All a long summer night-- Be now my theme! By this clear stream, Of thee will I write; Meantime from afar Bathe me in light!
Thy world has not the dross of ours, Yet all the beauty--all the flowers That list our love or deck our bowers In dreamy gardens, where do lie Dreamy maidens all the day; While the silver winds of Circassy On violet couches faint away. Little--oh! little dwells in thee Like unto what on earth we see: Beauty's eye is here the bluest In the falsest and untruest-- On the sweetest air doth float The most sad and solemn note-- If with thee be broken hearts, Joy so peacefully departs, That its echo still doth dwell, Like the murmur in the shell. Thou! thy truest type of grief Is the gently falling leaf-- Thou! thy framing is so holy Sorrow is not melancholy.
* * * * *
The earliest version of "Tamerlane" was included in the suppressedvolume of 1827, but differs very considerably from the poem as nowpublished. The present draft, besides innumerable verbal alterations andimprovements upon the original, is more carefully punctuated, and, thelines being indented, presents a more pleasing appearance, to the eye atleast.
"To Helen" first appeared in the 1831 volume, as did also "TheValley of Unrest" (as "The Valley Nis"), "Israfel," and one or twoothers of the youthful pieces.
The poem styled "Romance" constituted the Preface of the 1829 volume,but with the addition of the following lines:
Succeeding years, too wild for song, Then rolled like tropic storms along, Where, though the garish lights that fly Dying along the troubled sky, Lay bare, through vistas thunder-riven, The blackness of the general Heaven, That very blackness yet doth fling Light on the lightning's silver wing.
For being an idle boy lang syne, Who read Anacreon and drank wine, I early found Anacreon rhymes Were almost passionate sometimes-- And by strange alchemy of brain His pleasures always turned to pain-- His naïveté to wild desire-- His wit to love--his wine to fire-- And so, being young and dipt in folly, I fell in love with melancholy.
And used to throw my earthly rest And quiet all away in jest-- I could not love except where Death Was mingling his with Beauty's breath-- Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny, Were stalking between her and me.
* * * * *
But now my soul hath too much room-- Gone are the glory and the gloom-- The black hath mellow'd into gray, And all the fires are fading away.
My draught of passion hath been deep-- I revell'd, and I now would sleep-- And after drunkenness of soul Succeeds the glories of the bowl-- An idle longing night and day To dream my very life away.
But dreams--of those who dream as I, Aspiringly, are damned, and die: Yet should I swear I mean alone, By notes so very shrilly blown, To break upon Time's monotone, While yet my vapid joy and grief Are tintless of the yellow leaf-- Why not an imp the greybeard hath, Will shake his shadow in my path-- And e'en the greybeard will o'erlook Connivingly my dreaming-book.
* * * * * DOUBTFUL POEMS. * * * * *
From childhood's hour I have not been As others were--I have not seen As others saw--I could not bring My passions from a common spring-- From the same source I have not taken My sorrow--I could not awaken My heart to joy at the same tone-- And all I loved--I loved alone-- Thou--in my childhood--in the dawn Of a most stormy life--was drawn From every depth of good and ill The mystery which binds me still-- From the torrent, or the fountain-- From the red cliff of the mountain-- From the sun that round me roll'd In its autumn tint of gold-- From the lightning in the sky As it passed me flying by-- From the thunder and the storm-- And the cloud that took the form (When the rest of Heaven was blue) Of a demon in my view.
March 17, 1829.
* * * * *
I. Beneath the vine-clad eaves, Whose shadows fall before Thy lowly cottage door-- Under the lilac's tremulous leaves-- Within thy snowy clasped hand The purple flowers it bore. Last eve in dreams, I saw thee stand, Like queenly nymph from Fairy-land-- Enchantress of the flowery wand, Most beauteous Isadore!
II. And when I bade the dream Upon thy spirit flee, Thy violet eyes to me Upturned, did overflowing seem With the deep, untold delight Of Love's serenity; Thy classic brow, like lilies white And pale as the Imperial Night Upon her throne, with stars bedight, Enthralled my soul to thee!
III. Ah! ever I behold Thy dreamy, passionate eyes, Blue as the languid skies Hung with the sunset's fringe of gold; Now strangely clear thine image grows, And olden memories Are startled from their long repose Like shadows on the silent snows When suddenly the night-wind blows Where quiet moonlight lies.
IV. Like music heard in dreams, Like strains of harps unknown, Of birds for ever flown,-- Audible as the voice of streams That murmur in some leafy dell, I hear thy gentlest tone, And Silence cometh with her spell Like that which on my tongue doth dwell, When tremulous in dreams I tell My love to thee alone!
V. In every valley heard, Floating from tree to tree, Less beautiful to me, The music of the radiant bird, Than artless accents such as thine Whose echoes never flee! Ah! how for thy sweet voice I pine:-- For uttered in thy tones benign (Enchantress!) this rude name of mine Doth seem a melody!
* * * * *
THE VILLAGE STREET.
In these rapid, restless shadows, Once I walked at eventide, When a gentle, silent maiden, Walked in beauty at my side. She alone there walked beside me All in beauty, like a bride.
Pallidly the moon was shining On the dewy meadows nigh; On the silvery, silent rivers, On the mountains far and high,-- On the ocean's star-lit waters, Where the winds a-weary die.
Slowly, silently we wandered From the open cottage door, Underneath the elm's long branches To the pavement bending o'er; Underneath the mossy willow And the dying sycamore.
With the myriad stars in beauty All bedight, the heavens were seen, Radiant hopes were bright around me, Like the light of stars serene; Like the mellow midnight splendor Of the Night's irradiate queen.
Audibly the elm-leaves whispered Peaceful, pleasant melodies, Like the distant murmured music Of unquiet, lovely seas; While the winds were hushed in slumber In the fragrant flowers and trees.
Wondrous and unwonted beauty Still adorning all did seem, While I told my love in fables 'Neath the willows by the stream; Would the heart have kept unspoken Love that was its rarest dream!
Instantly away we wandered In the shadowy twilight tide, She, the silent, scornful maiden, Walking calmly at my side, With a step serene and stately, All in beauty, all in pride.
Vacantly I walked beside her. On the earth mine eyes were cast; Swift and keen there came unto me Bitter memories of the past-- On me, like the rain in Autumn On the dead leaves, cold and fast.
Underneath the elms we parted, By the lowly cottage door; One brief word alone was uttered-- Never on our lips before; And away I walked forlornly, Broken-hearted evermore.
Slowly, silently I loitered, Homeward, in the night, alone; Sudden anguish bound my spirit, That my youth had never known; Wild unrest, like that which cometh When the Night's first dream hath flown.
Now, to me the elm-leaves whisper Mad, discordant melodies, And keen melodies like shadows Haunt the moaning willow trees, And the sycamores with laughter Mock me in the nightly breeze.
Sad and pale the Autumn moonlight Through the sighing foliage streams; And each morning, midnight shadow, Shadow of my sorrow seems; Strive, O heart, forget thine idol! And, O soul, forget thy dreams!
* * * * *
THE FOREST REVERIE.
'Tis said that when The hands of menTamed this primeval wood,
And hoary trees with groans of wo, Like warriors by an unknown foe, Were in their strength subdued, The virgin Earth Gave instant birth To springs that ne'er did flow-- That in the sun Did rivulets run, And all around rare flowers did blow-- The wild rose pale Perfumed the gale, And the queenly lily adown the dale (Whom the sun and the dew And the winds did woo), With the gourd and the grape luxuriant grew.
So when in tears The love of yearsIs wasted like the snow,
And the fine fibrils of its life By the rude wrong of instant strife Are broken at a blow-- Within the heart Do springs upstart Of which it doth now know, And strange, sweet dreams, Like silent streams That from new fountains overflow, With the earlier tide Of rivers glide Deep in the heart whose hope has died-- Quenching the fires its ashes hide,-- Its ashes, whence will spring and grow Sweet flowers, ere long,-- The rare and radiant flowers of song!
* * * * *
Of the many verses from time to time ascribed to the pen of Edgar Poe,and not included among his known writings, the lines entitled "Alone"have the chief claim to our notice. 'Fac-simile' copies of this piecehad been in possession of the present editor some time previous to itspublication in 'Scribner's Magazine' for September 1875; but as proofsof the authorship claimed for it were not forthcoming, he refrained frompublishing it as requested. The desired proofs have not yet beenadduced, and there is, at present, nothing but internal evidence toguide us. "Alone" is stated to have been written by Poe in the album ofa Baltimore lady (Mrs. Balderstone?), on March 17th, 1829, and the'fac-simile' given in 'Scribner's' is alleged to be of his handwriting.If the caligraphy be Poe's, it is different in all essential respectsfrom all the many specimens known to us, and strongly resembles that ofthe writer of the heading and dating of the manuscript, both of whichthe contributor of the poem acknowledges to have been recently added.The lines, however, if not by Poe, are the most successful imitation ofhis early mannerisms yet made public, and, in the opinion of one wellqualified to speak, "are not unworthy on the whole of the parentageclaimed for them."
Whilst Edgar Poe was editor of the 'Broadway Journal', some lines "ToIsadore" appeared therein, and, like several of his known pieces, boreno signature. They were at once ascribed to Poe, and in order to satisfyquestioners, an editorial paragraph subsequently appeared, saying theywere by "A. Ide, junior." Two previous poems had appeared in the'Broadway Journal' over the signature of "A. M. Ide," and whoever wrotethem was also the author of the lines "To Isadore." In order, doubtless,to give a show of variety, Poe was then publishing some of his knownworks in his journal over 'noms de plume', and as no other writingswhatever can be traced to any person bearing the name of "A. M. Ide," itis not impossible that the poems now republished in this collection maybe by the author of "The Raven." Having been published without his usualelaborate revision, Poe may have wished to hide his hasty work under anassumed name. The three pieces are included in the present collection,so the reader can judge for himself what pretensions they possess to beby the author of "The Raven."
* * * * * PROSE POEMS. * * * * *
THE ISLAND OF THE FAY.
"Nullus enim locus sine genio est."_Servius_.
"La musique," says Marmontel, in those "Contes Moraux" which in allour translations we have insisted upon calling "Moral Tales," as if inmockery of their spirit--"la musique est le seul des talens qui jouissede lui-meme: tous les autres veulent des temoins." He here confoundsthe pleasure derivable from sweet sounds with the capacity for creatingthem. No more than any other talent, is that for music susceptible ofcomplete enjoyment where there is no second party to appreciate itsexercise; and it is only in common with other talents that it produceseffects which may be fully enjoyed in solitude. The idea which theraconteur has either failed to entertain clearly, or has sacrificed inits expression to his national love of point, is doubtless the verytenable one that the higher order of music is the most thoroughlyestimated when we are exclusively alone. The proposition in this formwill be admitted at once by those who love the lyre for its own sake andfor its spiritual uses. But there is one pleasure still within the reachof fallen mortality, and perhaps only one, which owes even more thandoes music to the accessory sentiment of seclusion. I mean the happinessexperienced in the contemplation of natural scenery. In truth, the manwho would behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in solitudebehold that glory. To me at least the presence, not of human life only,but of life, in any other form than that of the green things which growupon the soil and are voiceless, is a stain upon the landscape, is atwar with the genius of the scene. I love, indeed, to regard the darkvalleys, and the gray rocks, and the waters that silently smile, and theforests that sigh in uneasy slumbers, and the proud watchful mountainsthat look down upon all,--I love to regard these as themselves but thecolossal members of one vast animate and sentient whole--a whole whoseform (that of the sphere) is the most perfect and most inclusive of all;whose path is among associate planets; whose meek handmaiden is themoon; whose mediate sovereign is the sun; whose life is eternity; whosethought is that of a god; whose enjoyment is knowledge; whose destiniesare lost in immensity; whose cognizance of ourselves is akin with ourown cognizance of the animalculæ which infest the brain, a being whichwe in consequence regard as purely inanimate and material, much in thesame manner as these animalculæ must thus regard us.
Our telescopes and our mathematical investigations assure us on everyhand, notwithstanding the cant of the more ignorant of the priesthood,that space, and therefore that bulk, is an important consideration inthe eyes of the Almighty. The cycles in which the stars move are thosebest adapted for the evolution, without collision, of the greatestpossible number of bodies. The forms of those bodies are accurately suchas within a given surface to include the greatest possible amount ofmatter; while the surfaces themselves are so disposed as to accommodatea denser population than could be accommodated on the same surfacesotherwise arranged. Nor is it any argument against bulk being an objectwith God that space itself is infinite; for there may be an infinity ofmatter to fill it; and since we see clearly that the endowment of matterwith vitality is a principle--indeed, as far as our judgments extend,the leading principle in the operations of Deity, it is scarcelylogical to imagine it confined to the regions of the minute, where wedaily trace it, and not extending to those of the august. As we findcycle within cycle without end, yet all revolving around one far-distantcentre which is the Godhead, may we not analogically suppose, in thesame manner, life within life, the less within the greater, and allwithin the Spirit Divine? In short, we are madly erring throughself-esteem in believing man, in either his temporal or futuredestinies, to be of more moment in the universe than that vast "clod ofthe valley" which he tills and contemns, and to which he denies a soul,for no more profound reason than that he does not behold it in operation.
These fancies, and such as these, have always given to my meditationsamong the mountains and the forests, by the rivers and the ocean, atinge of what the every-day world would not fail to term the fantastic.My wanderings amid such scenes have been many and far-searching, andoften solitary; and the interest with which I have strayed through manya dim deep valley, or gazed into the reflected heaven of many a brightlake, has been an interest greatly deepened by the thought that I havestrayed and gazed alone. What flippant Frenchman  was it who said,in allusion to the well known work of Zimmermann, that "la solitude estune belle chose; mais il faut quelqu'un pour vous dire que la solitudeest une belle chose"? The epigram cannot be gainsaid; but the necessityis a thing that does not exist.
It was during one of my lonely journeyings, amid a far distant region ofmountain locked within mountain, and sad rivers and melancholy tarnswrithing or sleeping within all, that I chanced upon a certain rivuletand island. I came upon them suddenly in the leafy June, and threwmyself upon the turf beneath the branches of an unknown odorous shrub,that I might doze as I contemplated the scene. I felt that thus onlyshould I look upon it, such was the character of phantasm which it wore.
On all sides, save to the west where the sun was about sinking, arosethe verdant walls of the forest. The little river which turned sharplyin its course, and was thus immediately lost to sight, seemed to have noexit from its prison, but to be absorbed by the deep green foliage ofthe trees to the east; while in the opposite quarter (so it appeared tome as I lay at length and glanced upward) there poured down noiselesslyand continuously into the valley a rich golden and crimson waterfallfrom the sunset fountains of the sky.
About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, onesmall circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the bosom of thestream.
So blended bank and shadow there, That each seemed pendulous in air--
so mirror-like was the glassy water, that it was scarcely possible tosay at what point upon the slope of the emerald turf its crystaldominion began. My position enabled me to include in a single view boththe eastern and western extremities of the islet, and I observed asingularly-marked difference in their aspects. The latter was all oneradiant harem of garden beauties. It glowed and blushed beneath the eyeof the slant sunlight, and fairly laughed with flowers. The grass wasshort, springy, sweet-scented, and Asphodel-interspersed. The trees werelithe, mirthful, erect, bright, slender, and graceful, of eastern figureand foliage, with bark smooth, glossy, and parti-colored. There seemed adeep sense of life and joy about all, and although no airs blew from outthe heavens, yet everything had motion through the gentle sweepings toand fro of innumerable butterflies, that might have been mistaken fortulips with wings .
The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade.A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom, here pervaded all things.The trees were dark in color and mournful in form and attitude--wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes, thatconveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore thedeep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung droopingly,and hither and thither among it were many small unsightly hillocks, lowand narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of graves, but werenot, although over and all about them the rue and the rosemaryclambered. The shades of the trees fell heavily upon the water, andseemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the elementwith darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun descended lowerand lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk that gave it birth,and thus became absorbed by the stream, while other shadows issuedmomently from the trees, taking the place of their predecessors thusentombed.
This idea having once seized upon my fancy greatly excited it, and Ilost myself forthwith in reverie. "If ever island were enchanted," saidI to myself, "this is it. This is the haunt of the few gentle Fays whoremain from the wreck of the race. Are these green tombs theirs?--or dothey yield up their sweet lives as mankind yield up their own? In dying,do they not rather waste away mournfully, rendering unto God little bylittle their existence, as these trees render up shadow after shadow,exhausting their substance unto dissolution? What the wasting tree is tothe water that imbibes its shade, growing thus blacker by what it preysupon, may not the life of the Fay be to the death which engulfs it?"
As I thus mused, with half-shut eyes, while the sun sank rapidly torest, and eddying currents careered round and round the island, bearingupon their bosom large dazzling white flakes of the bark of thesycamore, flakes which, in their multiform positions upon the water, aquick imagination might have converted into anything it pleased; while Ithus mused, it appeared to me that the form of one of those very Faysabout whom I had been pondering, made its way slowly into the darknessfrom out the light at the western end of the island. She stood erect ina singularly fragile canoe, and urged it with the mere phantom of anoar. While within the influence of the lingering sunbeams, her attitudeseemed indicative of joy, but sorrow deformed it as she passed withinthe shade. Slowly she glided along, and at length rounded the islet andre-entered the region of light. "The revolution which has just been madeby the Fay," continued I musingly, "is the cycle of the brief year ofher life. She has floated through her winter and through her summer. Sheis a year nearer unto death: for I did not fail to see that as she cameinto the shade, her shadow fell from her, and was swallowed up in thedark water, making its blackness more black."
And again the boat appeared and the Fay, but about the attitude of thelatter there was more of care and uncertainty and less of elastic joy.She floated again from out the light and into the gloom (which deepenedmomently), and again her shadow fell from her into the ebony water, andbecame absorbed into its blackness. And again and again she made thecircuit of the island (while the sun rushed down to his slumbers), andat each issuing into the light there was more sorrow about her person,while it grew feebler and far fainter and more indistinct, and at eachpassage into the gloom there fell from her a darker shade, which becamewhelmed in a shadow more black. But at length, when the sun had utterlydeparted, the Fay, now the mere ghost of her former self, wentdisconsolately with her boat into the region of the ebony flood, andthat she issued thence at all I cannot say, for darkness fell over allthings, and I beheld her magical figure no more.
[Footnote 1: Moraux is here derived from moeurs, and its meaning is"fashionable," or, more strictly, "of manners."]
[Footnote 2: Speaking of the tides, Pomponius Mela, in his treatise,'De Sitû Orbis', says,
"Either the world is a great animal, or," etc.]
[Footnote 3: Balzac, in substance; I do not remember the words.]
"Florem putares nare per liquidum æthera."
* * * * *
THE POWER OF WORDS.
Pardon, Agathos, the weakness of a spirit new-fledged with immortality!
You have spoken nothing, my Oinos, for which pardon is to be demanded. Not even here is knowledge a thing of intuition. For wisdom, ask of the angels freely, that it may be given!
But in this existence I dreamed that I should be at once cognizant of all things, and thus at once happy in being cognizant of all.
Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of knowledge! In forever knowing, we are forever blessed; but to know all, were the curse of a fiend.
But does not The Most High know all?
That (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the one thing unknown even to HIM.
But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must not at last all things be known?
Look down into the abysmal distances!--attempt to force the gaze down the multitudinous vistas of the stars, as we sweep slowly through them thus--and thus--and thus! Even the spiritual vision, is it not at all points arrested by the continuous golden walls of the universe?--the walls of the myriads of the shining bodies that mere number has appeared to blend into unity?
I clearly perceive that the infinity of matter is no dream.
There are no dreams in Aidenn--but it is here whispered that, of this infinity of matter, the sole purpose is to afford infinite springs at which the soul may allay the thirst to know which is forever unquenchable within it--since to quench it would be to extinguish the soul's self. Question me then, my Oinos, freely and without fear. Come! we will leave to the left the loud harmony of the Pleiades, and swoop outward from the throne into the starry meadows beyond Orion, where, for pansies and violets, and heart's-ease, are the beds of the triplicate and triple-tinted suns.
And now, Agathos, as we proceed, instruct me!--speak to me in the earth's familiar tones! I understand not what you hinted to me just now of the modes or of the methods of what during mortality, we were accustomed to call Creation. Do you mean to say that the Creator is not God?
I mean to say that the Deity does not create.
In the beginning only, he created. The seeming creatures which are now throughout the universe so perpetually springing into being can only be considered as the mediate or indirect, not as the direct or immediate results of the Divine creative power.
Among men, my Agathos, this idea would be considered heretical in the extreme.
Among the angels, my Oinos, it is seen to be simply true.
I can comprehend you thus far--that certain operations of what we term Nature, or the natural laws, will, under certain conditions, give rise to that which has all the appearance of creation. Shortly before the final overthrow of the earth, there were, I well remember, many very successful experiments in what some philosophers were weak enough to denominate the creation of animalculæ.
The cases of which you speak were, in fact, instances of the secondary creation, and of the only species of creation which has ever been since the first word spoke into existence the first law.
Are not the starry worlds that, from the abyss of nonentity, burst hourly forth into the heavens--are not these stars, Agathos, the immediate handiwork of the King?
Let me endeavor, my Oinos, to lead you, step by step, to the conception I intend. You are well aware that, as no thought can perish, so no act is without infinite result. We moved our hands, for example, when we were dwellers on the earth, and in so doing we gave vibration to the atmosphere which engirdled it. This vibration was indefinitely extended till it gave impulse to every particle of the earth's air, which thenceforward, and forever, was actuated by the one movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our globe well knew. They made the special effects, indeed, wrought in the fluid by special impulses, the subject of exact calculation--so that it became easy to determine in what precise period an impulse of given extent would engirdle the orb, and impress (forever) every atom of the atmosphere circumambient. Retrograding, they found no difficulty; from a given effect, under given conditions, in determining the value of the original impulse. Now the mathematicians who saw that the results of any given impulse were absolutely endless--and who saw that a portion of these results were accurately traceable through the agency of algebraic analysis--who saw, too, the facility of the retrogradation--these men saw, at the same time, that this species of analysis itself had within itself a capacity for indefinite progress--that there were no bounds conceivable to its advancement and applicability, except within the intellect of him who advanced or applied it. But at this point our mathematicians paused.
And why, Agathos, should they have proceeded?
Because there were some considerations of deep interest beyond. It was deducible from what they knew, that to a being of infinite understanding--one to whom the perfection of the algebraic analysis lay unfolded--there could be no difficulty in tracing every impulse given the air--and the ether through the air--to the remotest consequences at any even infinitely remote epoch of time. It is indeed demonstrable that every such impulse given the air, must in the end impress every individual thing that exists within the universe;--and the being of infinite understanding--the being whom we have imagined--might trace the remote undulations of the impulse--trace them upward and onward in their influences upon all particles of all matter--upward and onward forever in their modifications of old forms--or, in other words, in their creation of new--until he found them reflected--unimpressive at last--back from the throne of the Godhead. And not only could such a being do this, but at any epoch, should a given result be afforded him--should one of these numberless comets, for example, be presented to his inspection--he could have no difficulty in determining, by the analytic retrogradation, to what original impulse it was due. This power of retrogradation in its absolute fulness and perfection--this faculty of referring at all epochs, all effects to all causes--is of course the prerogative of the Deity alone--but in every variety of degree, short of the absolute perfection, is the power itself exercised by the whole host of the Angelic Intelligences.
But you speak merely of impulses upon the air.
In speaking of the air, I referred only to the earth: but the general proposition has reference to impulses upon the ether--which, since it pervades, and alone pervades all space, is thus the great medium of creation.
Then all motion, of whatever nature, creates?
It must: but a true philosophy has long taught that the source of all motion is thought--and the source of all thought is--
I have spoken to you, Oinos, as to a child, of the fair Earth which lately perished--of impulses upon the atmosphere of the earth.
And while I thus spoke, did there not cross your mind some thought of the physical power of words? Is not every word an impulse on the air?
But why, Agathos, do you weep--and why, oh, why do your wings droop as we hover above this fair star--which is the greenest and yet most terrible of all we have encountered in our flight? Its brilliant flowers look like a fairy dream--but its fierce volcanoes like the passions of a turbulent heart.
They are!--they are!--This wild star--it is now three centuries since, with clasped hands, and with streaming eyes, at the feet of my beloved--I spoke it--with a few passionate sentences--into birth. Its brilliant flowers are the dearest of all unfulfilled dreams, and its raging volcanoes are the passions of the most turbulent and unhallowed of hearts!
* * * * *
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA.
[Greek: Mellonta sauta']
These things are in the future.
Yes, fairest and best beloved Una, "born again." These were the words upon whose mystical meaning I had so long pondered, rejecting the explanations of the priesthood, until Death itself resolved for me the secret.
How strangely, sweet Una, you echo my words! I observe, too, a vacillation in your step, a joyous inquietude in your eyes. You are confused and oppressed by the majestic novelty of the Life Eternal. Yes, it was of Death I spoke. And here how singularly sounds that word which of old was wont to bring terror to all hearts, throwing a mildew upon all pleasures!
Ah, Death, the spectre which sate at all feasts! How often, Monos, did we lose ourselves in speculations upon its nature! How mysteriously did it act as a check to human bliss, saying unto it, "thus far, and no farther!" That earnest mutual love, my own Monos, which burned within our bosoms, how vainly did we flatter ourselves, feeling happy in its first upspringing that our happiness would strengthen with its strength! Alas, as it grew, so grew in our hearts the dread of that evil hour which was hurrying to separate us forever! Thus in time it became painful to love. Hate would have been mercy then.
Speak not here of these griefs, dear Una--mine, mine forever now!
But the memory of past sorrow, is it not present joy? I have much to say yet of the things which have been. Above all, I burn to know the incidents of your own passage through the dark Valley and Shadow.
And when did the radiant Una ask anything of her Monos in vain? I will be minute in relating all, but at what point shall the weird narrative begin?
At what point?
You have said.
Monos, I comprehend you. In Death we have both learned the propensity of man to define the indefinable. I will not say, then, commence with the moment of life's cessation--but commence with that sad, sad instant when, the fever having abandoned you, you sank into a breathless and motionless torpor, and I pressed down your pallid eyelids with the passionate fingers of love.
One word first, my Una, in regard to man's general condition at this epoch. You will remember that one or two of the wise among our forefathers--wise in fact, although not in the world's esteem--had ventured to doubt the propriety of the term "improvement," as applied to the progress of our civilization. There were periods in each of the five or six centuries immediately preceding our dissolution when arose some vigorous intellect, boldly contending for those principles whose truth appears now, to our disenfranchised reason, so utterly obvious --principles which should have taught our race to submit to the guidance of the natural laws rather than attempt their control. At long intervals some master-minds appeared, looking upon each advance in practical science as a retrogradation in the true utility. Occasionally the poetic intellect--that intellect which we now feel to have been the most exalted of all--since those truths which to us were of the most enduring importance could only be reached by that analogy which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone, and to the unaided reason bears no weight--occasionally did this poetic intellect proceed a step farther in the evolving of the vague idea of the philosophic, and find in the mystic parable that tells of the tree of knowledge, and of its forbidden fruit, death-producing, a distinct intimation that knowledge was not meet for man in the infant condition of his soul. And these men--the poets--living and perishing amid the scorn of the "utilitarians"--of rough pedants, who arrogated to themselves a title which could have been properly applied only to the scorned--these men, the poets, pondered piningly, yet not unwisely, upon the ancient days when our wants were not more simple than our enjoyments were keen--days when mirth was a word unknown, so solemnly deep-toned was happiness--holy, august, and blissful days, blue rivers ran undammed, between hills unhewn, into far forest solitudes, primeval, odorous, and unexplored. Yet these noble exceptions from the general misrule served but to strengthen it by opposition. Alas! we had fallen upon the most evil of all our evil days. The great "movement"--that was the cant term--went on: a diseased commotion, moral and physical. Art--the Arts--arose supreme, and once enthroned, cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated them to power. Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty of Nature, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and still-increasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked a God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him. As might be supposed from the origin of his disorder, he grew infected with system, and with abstraction. He enwrapped himself in generalities. Among other odd ideas, that of universal equality gained ground; and in the face of analogy and of God--in despite of the loud warning voice of the laws of gradation so visibly pervading all things in Earth and Heaven--wild attempts at an omniprevalent Democracy were made. Yet this evil sprang necessarily from the leading evil, Knowledge. Man could not both know and succumb. Meantime huge smoking cities arose, innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot breath of furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as with the ravages of some loathsome disease. And methinks, sweet Una, even our slumbering sense of the forced and of the far-fetched might have arrested us here. But now it appears that we had worked out our own destruction in the perversion of our taste, or rather in the blind neglect of its culture in the schools. For, in truth, it was at this crisis that taste alone--that faculty which, holding a middle position between the pure intellect and the moral sense, could never safely have been disregarded--it was now that taste alone could have led us gently back to Beauty, to Nature, and to Life. But alas for the pure contemplative spirit and majestic intuition of Plato! Alas for the [Greek: mousichae] which he justly regarded as an all-sufficient education for the soul! Alas for him and for it!--since both were most desperately needed, when both were most entirely forgotten or despised . Pascal, a philosopher whom we both love, has said, how truly!--"Que tout notre raisonnement se réduit à céder au sentiment;" and it is not impossible that the sentiment of the natural, had time permitted it, would have regained its old ascendency over the harsh mathematical reason of the schools. But this thing was not to be. Prematurely induced by intemperance of knowledge, the old age of the world drew near. This the mass of mankind saw not, or, living lustily although unhappily, affected not to see. But, for myself, the Earth's records had taught me to look for widest ruin as the price of highest civilization. I had imbibed a prescience of our Fate from comparison of China the simple and enduring, with Assyria the architect, with Egypt the astrologer, with Nubia, more crafty than either, the turbulent mother of all Arts. In the history of these regions I met with a ray from the Future. The individual artificialities of the three latter were local diseases of the Earth, and in their individual overthrows we had seen local remedies applied; but for the infected world at large I could anticipate no regeneration save in death. That man, as a race, should not become extinct, I saw that he must be "born again."
And now it was, fairest and dearest, that we wrapped our spirits, daily, in dreams. Now it was that, in twilight, we discoursed of the days to come, when the Art-scarred surface of the Earth, having undergone that purification which alone could efface its rectangular obscenities, should clothe itself anew in the verdure and the mountain-slopes and the smiling waters of Paradise, and be rendered at length a fit dwelling-place for man:--for man the Death-purged--for man to whose now exalted intellect there should be poison in knowledge no more--for the redeemed, regenerated, blissful, and now immortal, but still for the material, man.
Well do I remember these conversations, dear Monos; but the epoch of the fiery overthrow was not so near at hand as we believed, and as the corruption you indicate did surely warrant us in believing. Men lived; and died individually. You yourself sickened, and passed into the grave; and thither your constant Una speedily followed you. And though the century which has since elapsed, and whose conclusion brings up together once more, tortured our slumbering senses with no impatience of duration, yet my Monos, it was a century still.
Say, rather, a point in the vague infinity. Unquestionably, it was in the Earth's dotage that I died. Wearied at heart with anxieties which had their origin in the general turmoil and decay, I succumbed to the fierce fever. After some few days of pain, and many of dreamy delirium replete with ecstasy, the manifestations of which you mistook for pain, while I longed but was impotent to undeceive you--after some days there came upon me, as you have said, a breathless and motionless torpor; and this was termed Death by those who stood around me.
Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of sentience. It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the extreme quiescence of him, who, having slumbered long and profoundly, lying motionless and fully prostrate in a mid-summer noon, begins to steal slowly back into consciousness, through the mere sufficiency of his sleep, and without being awakened by external disturbances.
I breathed no longer. The pulses were still. The heart had ceased to beat. Volition had not departed, but was powerless. The senses were unusually active, although eccentrically so--assuming often each other's functions at random. The taste and the smell were inextricably confounded, and became one sentiment, abnormal and intense. The rose-water with which your tenderness had moistened my lips to the last, affected me with sweet fancies of flowers--fantastic flowers, far more lovely than any of the old Earth, but whose prototypes we have here blooming around us. The eye-lids, transparent and bloodless, offered no complete impediment to vision. As volition was in abeyance, the balls could not roll in their sockets--but all objects within the range of the visual hemisphere were seen with more or less distinctness; the rays which fell upon the external retina, or into the corner of the eye, producing a more vivid effect than those which struck the front or interior surface. Yet, in the former instance, this effect was so far anomalous that I appreciated it only as sound--sound sweet or discordant as the matters presenting themselves at my side were light or dark in shade--curved or angular in outline. The hearing, at the same time, although excited in degree, was not irregular in action--estimating real sounds with an extravagance of precision, not less than of sensibility. Touch had undergone a modification more peculiar. Its impressions were tardily received, but pertinaciously retained, and resulted always in the highest physical pleasure. Thus the pressure of your sweet fingers upon my eyelids, at first only recognized through vision, at length, long after their removal, filled my whole being with a sensual delight immeasurable. I say with a sensual delight. All my perceptions were purely sensual. The materials furnished the passive brain by the senses were not in the least degree wrought into shape by the deceased understanding. Of pain there was some little; of pleasure there was much; but of moral pain or pleasure none at all. Thus your wild sobs floated into my ear with all their mournful cadences, and were appreciated in their every variation of sad tone; but they were soft musical sounds and no more; they conveyed to the extinct reason no intimation of the sorrows which gave them birth; while large and constant tears which fell upon my face, telling the bystanders of a heart which broke, thrilled every fibre of my frame with ecstasy alone. And this was in truth the Death of which these bystanders spoke reverently, in low whispers--you, sweet Una, gaspingly, with loud cries.
They attired me for the coffin--three or four dark figures which flitted busily to and fro. As these crossed the direct line of my vision they affected me as forms; but upon passing to my side their images impressed me with the idea of shrieks, groans, and, other dismal expressions of terror, of horror, or of woe. You alone, habited in a white robe, passed in all directions musically about.
The day waned; and, as its light faded away, I became possessed by a vague uneasiness--an anxiety such as the sleeper feels when sad real sounds fall continuously within his ear--low distant bell-tones, solemn, at long but equal intervals, and commingling with melancholy dreams. Night arrived; and with its shadows a heavy discomfort. It oppressed my limbs with the oppression of some dull weight, and was palpable. There was also a moaning sound, not unlike the distant reverberation of surf, but more continuous, which, beginning with the first twilight, had grown in strength with the darkness. Suddenly lights were brought into the rooms, and this reverberation became forthwith interrupted into frequent unequal bursts of the same sound, but less dreary and less distinct. The ponderous oppression was in a great measure relieved; and, issuing from the flame of each lamp (for there were many), there flowed unbrokenly into my ears a strain of melodious monotone. And when now, dear Una, approaching the bed upon which I lay outstretched, you sat gently by my side, breathing odor from your sweet lips, and pressing them upon my brow, there arose tremulously within my bosom, and mingling with the merely physical sensations which circumstances had called forth, a something akin to sentiment itself--a feeling that, half appreciating, half responded to your earnest love and sorrow; but this feeling took no root in the pulseless heart, and seemed indeed rather a shadow than a reality, and faded quickly away, first into extreme quiescence, and then into a purely sensual pleasure as before.
And now, from the wreck and the chaos of the usual senses, there appeared to have arisen within me a sixth, all perfect. In its exercise I found a wild delight--yet a delight still physical, inasmuch as the understanding had in it no part. Motion in the animal frame had fully ceased. No muscle quivered; no nerve thrilled; no artery throbbed. But there seemed to have sprung up in the brain that of which no words could convey to the merely human intelligence even an indistinct conception. Let me term it a mental pendulous pulsation. It was the moral embodiment of man's abstract idea of Time. By the absolute equalization of this movement--or of such as this--had the cycles of the firmamental orbs themselves been adjusted. By its aid I measured the irregularities of the clock upon the mantel, and of the watches of the attendants. Their tickings came sonorously to my ears. The slightest deviations from the true proportion--and these deviations were omniprevalent--affected me just as violations of abstract truth were wont on earth to affect the moral sense. Although no two of the timepieces in the chamber struck the individual seconds accurately together, yet I had no difficulty in holding steadily in mind the tones, and the respective momentary errors of each. And this--this keen, perfect self-existing sentiment of duration--this sentiment existing (as man could not possibly have conceived it to exist) independently of any succession of events--this idea--this sixth sense, upspringing from the ashes of the rest, was the first obvious and certain step of the intemporal soul upon the threshold of the temporal eternity.
It was midnight; and you still sat by my side. All others had departed from the chamber of Death. They had deposited me in the coffin. The lamps burned flickeringly; for this I knew by the tremulousness of the monotonous strains. But suddenly these strains diminished in distinctness and in volume. Finally they ceased. The perfume in my nostrils died away. Forms affected my vision no longer. The oppression of the Darkness uplifted itself from my bosom. A dull shot like that of electricity pervaded my frame, and was followed by total loss of the idea of contact. All of what man has termed sense was merged in the sole consciousness of entity, and in the one abiding sentiment of duration. The mortal body had been at length stricken with the hand of the deadly Decay.
Yet had not all of sentience departed; for the consciousness and the sentiment remaining supplied some of its functions by a lethargic intuition. I appreciated the direful change now in operation upon the flesh, and, as the dreamer is sometimes aware of the bodily presence of one who leans over him, so, sweet Una, I still dully felt that you sat by my side. So, too, when the noon of the second day came, I was not unconscious of those movements which displaced you from my side, which confined me within the coffin, which deposited me within the hearse, which bore me to the grave, which lowered me within it, which heaped heavily the mould upon me, and which thus left me, in blackness and corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the worm.
And here in the prison-house which has few secrets to disclose, there rolled away days and weeks and months; and the soul watched narrowly each second as it flew, and, without effort, took record of its flight--without effort and without object.
A year passed. The consciousness of being had grown hourly more indistinct, and that of mere locality had in great measure usurped its position. The idea of entity was becoming merged in that of place. The narrow space immediately surrounding what had been the body was now growing to be the body itself. At length, as often happens to the sleeper (by sleep and its world alone is Death imaged)--at length, as sometimes happened on Earth to the deep slumberer, when some flitting light half startled him into awaking, yet left him half enveloped in dreams--so to me, in the strict embrace of the Shadow, came that light which alone might have had power to startle--the light of enduring Love. Men toiled at the grave in which I lay darkling. They upthrew the damp earth. Upon my mouldering bones there descended the coffin of Una. And now again all was void. That nebulous light had been extinguished. That feeble thrill had vibrated itself into quiescence. Many lustra had supervened. Dust had returned to dust. The worm had food no more. The sense of being had at length utterly departed, and there reigned in its stead-- instead of all things, dominant and perpetual--the autocrats Place and Time. For that which was not--for that which had no form--for that which had no thought--for that which had no sentience--for that which was soundless, yet of which matter formed no portion--for all this nothingness, yet for all this immortality, the grave was still a home, and the corrosive hours, co-mates.
"It will be hard to discover a better [method of education] than that which the experience of so many ages has already discovered; and this may be summed up as consisting in gymnastics for the body, and music for the soul."
Repub. lib. 2.
"For this reason is a musical education most essential; since it causes Rhythm and Harmony to penetrate most intimately into the soul, taking the strongest hold upon it, filling it with beauty and making the man beautiful-minded. ... He will praise and admire the beautiful, will receive it with joy into his soul, will feed upon it, and assimilate his own condition with it."
Ibid. lib. 3. Music had, however, among the Athenians, a far morecomprehensive signification than with us. It included not only theharmonies of time and of tune, but the poetic diction, sentiment andcreation, each in its widest sense. The study of music was with them,in fact, the general cultivation of the taste--of that which recognizesthe beautiful--in contradistinction from reason, which deals only withthe true.]
* * * * *
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION.
I will bring fire to thee.
Why do you call me Eiros?
So henceforward will you always be called. You must forget, too, my earthly name, and speak to me as Charmion.
This is indeed no dream!
Dreams are with us no more;--but of these mysteries anon. I rejoice to see you looking life-like and rational. The film of the shadow has already passed from off your eyes. Be of heart, and fear nothing. Your allotted days of stupor have expired, and to-morrow I will myself induct you into the full joys and wonders of your novel existence.
True--I feel no stupor--none at all. The wild sickness and the terrible darkness have left me, and I hear no longer that mad, rushing, horrible sound, like the "voice of many waters." Yet my senses are bewildered, Charmion, with the keenness of their perception of the new.
A few days will remove all this;--but I fully understand you, and feel for you. It is now ten earthly years since I underwent what you undergo--yet the remembrance of it hangs by me still. You have now suffered all of pain, however, which you will suffer in Aidenn.
O God!--pity me, Charmion!--I am overburthened with the majesty of all things--of the unknown now known--of the speculative Future merged in the august and certain Present.
Grapple not now with such thoughts. To-morrow we will speak of this. Your mind wavers, and its agitation will find relief in the exercise of simple memories. Look not around, nor forward--but back. I am burning with anxiety to hear the details of that stupendous event which threw you among us. Tell me of it. Let us converse of familiar things, in the old familiar language of the world which has so fearfully perished.
Most fearfully, fearfully!--this is indeed no dream.
Dreams are no more. Was I much mourned, my Eiros?
Mourned, Charmion?--oh, deeply. To that last hour of all there hung a cloud of intense gloom and devout sorrow over your household.
And that last hour--speak of it. Remember that, beyond the naked fact of the catastrophe itself, I know nothing. When, coming out from among mankind, I passed into Night through the Grave--at that period, if I remember aright, the calamity which overwhelmed you was utterly unanticipated. But, indeed, I knew little of the speculative philosophy of the day.
The individual calamity was, as you say, entirely unanticipated; but analogous misfortunes had been long a subject of discussion with astronomers. I need scarce tell you, my friend, that, even when you left us, men had agreed to understand those passages in the most holy writings which speak of the final destruction of all things by fire as having reference to the orb of the earth alone, But in regard to the immediate agency of the ruin, speculation had been at fault from that epoch in astronomical knowledge in which the comets were divested of the terrors of flame. The very moderate density of these bodies had been well established. They had been observed to pass among the satellites of Jupiter without bringing about any sensible alteration either in the masses or in the orbits of these secondary planets. We had long regarded the wanderers as vapory creations of inconceivable tenuity, and as altogether incapable of doing injury to our substantial globe, even in the event of contact. But contact was not in any degree dreaded; for the elements of all the comets were accurately known. That among them we should look for the agency of the threatened fiery destruction had been for many years considered an inadmissible idea. But wonders and wild fancies had been of late days strangely rife among mankind; and, although it was only with a few of the ignorant that actual apprehension prevailed, upon the announcement by astronomers of a new comet, yet this announcement was generally received with I know not what of agitation and mistrust.
The elements of the strange orb were immediately calculated, and it was at once conceded by all observers that its path, at perihelion would bring it into very close proximity with the earth. There were two or three astronomers of secondary note who resolutely maintained that a contact was inevitable. I cannot very well express to you the effect of this intelligence upon the people. For a few short days they would not believe an assertion which their intellect, so long employed among worldly considerations, could not in any manner grasp. But the truth of a vitally important fact soon makes its way into the understanding of even the most stolid. Finally, all men saw that astronomical knowledge lies not, and they awaited the comet. Its approach was not at first seemingly rapid, nor was its appearance of very unusual character. It was of a dull red, and had little perceptible train. For seven or eight days we saw no material increase in its apparent diameter, and but a partial alteration in its color. Meantime, the ordinary affairs of men were discarded, and all interest absorbed in a growing discussion instituted by the philosophic in respect to the cometary nature. Even the grossly ignorant aroused their sluggish capacities to such considerations. The learned now gave their intellect--their soul--to no such points as the allaying of fear, or to the sustenance of loved theory. They sought--they panted for right views. They groaned for perfected knowledge. Truth arose in the purity of her strength and exceeding majesty, and the wise bowed down and adored.
That material injury to our globe or to its inhabitants would result from the apprehended contact was an opinion which hourly lost ground among the wise; and the wise were now freely permitted to rule the reason and the fancy of the crowd. It was demonstrated that the density of the comet's nucleus was far less than that of our rarest gas; and the harmless passage of a similar visitor among the satellites of Jupiter was a point strongly insisted upon, and which served greatly to allay terror. Theologists, with an earnestness fear-enkindled, dwelt upon the biblical prophecies, and expounded them to the people with a directness and simplicity of which no previous instance had been known. That the final destruction of the earth must be brought about by the agency of fire, was urged with a spirit that enforced everywhere conviction; and that the comets were of no fiery nature (as all men now knew) was a truth which relieved all, in a great measure, from the apprehension of the great calamity foretold. It is noticeable that the popular prejudices and vulgar errors in regard to pestilences and wars--errors which were wont to prevail upon every appearance of a comet--were now altogether unknown, as if by some sudden convulsive exertion reason had at once hurled superstition from her throne. The feeblest intellect had derived vigor from excessive interest.
What minor evils might arise from the contact were points of elaborate question. The learned spoke of slight geological disturbances, of probable alterations in climate, and consequently in vegetation; of possible magnetic and electric influences. Many held that no visible or perceptible effect would in any manner be produced. While such discussions were going on, their subject gradually approached, growing larger in apparent diameter, and of a more brilliant lustre. Mankind grew paler as it came. All human operations were suspended.
There was an epoch in the course of the general sentiment when the comet had attained, at length, a size surpassing that of any previously recorded visitation. The people now, dismissing any lingering hope that the astronomers were wrong, experienced all the certainty of evil. The chimerical aspect of their terror was gone. The hearts of the stoutest of our race beat violently within their bosoms. A very few days suffered, however, to merge even such feelings in sentiments more unendurable. We could no longer apply to the strange orb any accustomed thoughts. Its historical attributes had disappeared. It oppressed us with a hideous novelty of emotion. We saw it not as an astronomical phenomenon in the heavens, but as an incubus upon our hearts and a shadow upon our brains. It had taken, with unconceivable rapidity, the character of a gigantic mantle of rare flame, extending from horizon to horizon.
Yet a day, and men breathed with greater freedom. It was clear that we were already within the influence of the comet; yet we lived. We even felt an unusual elasticity of frame and vivacity of mind. The exceeding tenuity of the object of our dread was apparent; for all heavenly objects were plainly visible through it. Meantime, our vegetation had perceptibly altered; and we gained faith, from this predicted circumstance, in the foresight of the wise. A wild luxuriance of foliage, utterly unknown before, burst out upon every vegetable thing.
Yet another day--and the evil was not altogether upon us. It was now evident that its nucleus would first reach us. A wild change had come over all men; and the first sense of pain was the wild signal for general lamentation and horror. The first sense of pain lay in a rigorous construction of the breast and lungs, and an insufferable dryness of the skin. It could not be denied that our atmosphere was radically affected; the conformation of this atmosphere and the possible modifications to which it might be subjected, were now the topics of discussion. The result of investigation sent an electric thrill of the intensest terror through the universal heart of man.
It had been long known that the air which encircled us was a compound of oxygen and nitrogen gases, in the proportion of twenty-one measures of oxygen and seventy-nine of nitrogen in every one hundred of the atmosphere. Oxygen, which was the principle of combustion, and the vehicle of heat, was absolutely necessary to the support of animal life, and was the most powerful and energetic agent in nature. Nitrogen, on the contrary, was incapable of supporting either animal life or flame. An unnatural excess of oxygen would result, it had been ascertained, in just such an elevation of the animal spirits as we had latterly experienced. It was the pursuit, the extension of the idea, which had engendered awe. What would be the result of a total extraction of the nitrogen? A combustion irresistible, all-devouring, omni-prevalent, immediate;--the entire fulfilment, in all their minute and terrible details, of the fiery and horror-inspiring denunciations of the prophecies of the Holy Book.
Why need I paint, Charmion, the now disenchained frenzy of mankind? That tenuity in the comet which had previously inspired us with hope, was now the source of the bitterness of despair. In its impalpable gaseous character we clearly perceived the consummation of Fate. Meantime a day again passed--bearing away with it the last shadow of Hope. We gasped in the rapid modification of the air. The red blood bounded tumultuously through its strict channels. A furious delirium possessed all men; and with arms rigidly outstretched towards the threatening heavens, they trembled and shrieked aloud. But the nucleus of the destroyer was now upon us;--even here in Aidenn I shudder while I speak. Let me be brief--brief as the ruin that overwhelmed. For a moment there was a wild lurid light alone, visiting and penetrating all things. Then--let us bow down, Charmion, before the excessive majesty of the great God!--then, there came a shouting and pervading sound, as if from the mouth itself of HIM; while the whole incumbent mass of ether in which we existed, burst at once into a species of intense flame, for whose surpassing brilliancy and all-fervid heat even the angels in the high Heaven of pure knowledge have no name. Thus ended all.
* * * * *
Yea! though I walk through the valley of the _Shadow_.'Psalm of David'.
Ye who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have longsince gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange thingsshall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries shall passaway, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will besome to disbelieve and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find muchto ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.
The year had been a year of terror, and of feeling more intense thanterror for which there is no name upon the earth. For many prodigies andsigns had taken place, and far and wide, over sea and land, the blackwings of the Pestilence were spread abroad. To those, nevertheless,cunning in the stars, it was not unknown that the heavens wore an aspectof ill; and to me, the Greek Oinos, among others, it was evident thatnow had arrived the alternation of that seven hundred and ninety-fourthyear when, at the entrance of Aries, the planet Jupiter is enjoined withthe red ring of the terrible Saturnus. The peculiar spirit of the skies,if I mistake not greatly, made itself manifest, not only in the physicalorb of the earth, but in the souls, imaginations, and meditations ofmankind.
Over some flasks of the red Chian wine, within the walls of a noblehall, in a dim city called Ptolemais, we sat, at night, a company ofseven. And to our chamber there was no entrance save by a lofty door ofbrass: and the door was fashioned by the artisan Corinnos, and, being ofrare workmanship, was fastened from within. Black draperies, likewise inthe gloomy room, shut out from our view the moon, the lurid stars, andthe peopleless streets--but the boding and the memory of Evil, theywould not be so excluded. There were things around us and about of whichI can render no distinct account--things material and spiritual--heaviness in the atmosphere--a sense of suffocation--anxiety--and, aboveall, that terrible state of existence which the nervous experience whenthe senses are keenly living and awake, and meanwhile the powers ofthought lie dormant. A dead weight hung upon us. It hung upon ourlimbs--upon the household furniture--upon the goblets from which wedrank; and all things were depressed, and borne down thereby--all thingssave only the flames of the seven iron lamps which illumined our revel.Uprearing themselves in tall slender lines of light, they thus remainedburning all pallid and motionless; and in the mirror which their lustreformed upon the round table of ebony at which we sat each of us thereassembled beheld the pallor of his own countenance, and the unquietglare in the downcast eyes of his companions. Yet we laughed and weremerry in our proper way--which was hysterical; and sang the songs ofAnacreon--which are madness; and drank deeply--although the purple winereminded us of blood. For there was yet another tenant of our chamber inthe person of young Zoilus. Dead and at full length he lay,enshrouded;--the genius and the demon of the scene. Alas! he bore noportion in our mirth, save that his countenance, distorted with theplague, and his eyes in which Death had but half extinguished the fireof the pestilence, seemed to take such an interest in our merriment asthe dead may haply take in the merriment of those who are to die. Butalthough I, Oinos, felt that the eyes of the departed were upon me,still I forced myself not to perceive the bitterness of theirexpression, and gazing down steadily into the depths of the ebonymirror, sang with a loud and sonorous voice the songs of the son ofTeos. But gradually my songs they ceased, and their echoes, rolling afaroff among the sable draperies of the chamber, became weak, andundistinguishable, and so faded away. And lo! from among those sabledraperies, where the sounds of the song departed, there came forth adark and undefiled shadow--a shadow such as the moon, when low inheaven, might fashion from the figure of a man: but it was the shadowneither of man nor of God, nor of any familiar thing. And quiveringawhile among the draperies of the room it at length rested in full viewupon the surface of the door of brass. But the shadow was vague, andformless, and indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man norGod--neither God of Greece, nor God of Chaldæa, nor any Egyptian God.And the shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and under the arch of theentablature of the door and moved not, nor spoke any word, but therebecame stationary and remained. And the door whereupon the shadow restedwas, if I remember aright, over against the feet of the young Zoilusenshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen the shadow asit came out from among the draperies, dared not steadily behold it, butcast down our eyes, and gazed continually into the depths of the mirrorof ebony. And at length I, Oinos, speaking some low words, demanded ofthe shadow its dwelling and its appellation. And the shadow answered, "Iam SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the Catacombs of Ptolemais, andhard by those dim plains of Helusion which border upon the foulCharonian canal." And then did we, the seven, start from our seats inhorror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast: for the tonesin the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of amultitude of beings, and varying in their cadences from syllable tosyllable, fell duskily upon our ears in the well remembered and familiaraccents of many thousand departed friends.
* * * * *
The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags, and caves are silent.
"LISTEN to me," said the Demon, as he placed his hand upon my head."The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the bordersof the river Zäire. And there is no quiet there, nor silence.
"The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and they flownot onward to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the redeye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many mileson either side of the river's oozy bed is a pale desert of giganticwater-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretchtowards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to and frotheir everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur which comethout from among them like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sighone unto the other.
"But there is a boundary to their realm--the boundary of the dark,horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, thelow underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind throughoutthe heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither andthither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits,one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots, strange poisonousflowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And overhead, with a rustlingand loud noise, the gray clouds rush westwardly forever until they roll,a cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is no windthroughout the heaven. And by the shores of the river Zäire there isneither quiet nor silence.
"It was night, and the rain fell; and, falling, it was rain, but, havingfallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall lilies,and the rain fell upon my head--and the lilies sighed one unto the otherin the solemnity of their desolation.
"And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist, and wascrimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock which stoodby the shore of the river and was lighted by the light of the moon. Andthe rock was gray and ghastly, and tall,--and the rock was gray. Uponits front were characters engraven in the stones; and I walked throughthe morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto the shore, that Imight read the characters upon the stone. But I could not decipher them.And I was going back into the morass when the moon shone with a fullerred, and I turned and looked again upon the rock and upon thecharacters;--and the characters were DESOLATION.
"And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of therock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover theaction of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form, and wrappedup from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old Rome. And theoutlines of his figure were indistinct--but his features were thefeatures of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the mist, andof the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered the features of hisface. And his brow was lofty with thought, and his eye wild with care;and in the few furrows upon his cheek, I read the fables of sorrow, andweariness, and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.
"And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, andlooked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low unquietshrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher at therustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close withinshelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the mantrembled in the solitude;--but the night waned, and he sat upon therock.
"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out uponthe dreary river Zäire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon thepale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs ofthe water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from among them. And Ilay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And theman trembled in the solitude;--but the night waned, and he sat upon therock.
"Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar inamong the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotamiwhich dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And thehippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot ofthe rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I layclose within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the mantrembled in the solitude;--but the night waned, and he sat upon therock.
"Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightfultempest gathered in the heaven, where before there had been no wind. Andthe heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest--and the rainbeat upon the head of the man--and the floods of the river camedown--and the river was tormented into foam--and the water-liliesshrieked within their beds--and the forest crumbled before the wind--andthe thunder rolled--and the lightning fell--and the rock rocked to itsfoundation. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions ofthe man. And the man trembled in the solitude;--but the night waned, andhe sat upon the rock.
"Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, andthe lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and thethunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed,and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway toheaven--and the thunder died away--and the lightning did not flash--andthe clouds hung motionless--and the waters sunk to their level andremained--and the trees ceased to rock--and the water-lilies sighed nomore--and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadowof sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon thecharacters of the rock, and they were changed;--and the characters wereSILENCE.
"And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenancewas wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand,and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there was no voicethroughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rockwere SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fledafar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more."
Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi--in the iron-bound,melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I say, are glorious historiesof the Heaven, and of the Earth, and of the mighty Sea--and of the Geniithat overruled the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There wasmuch lore, too, in the sayings which were said by the sybils; and holy,holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that trembled aroundDodona--but, as Allah liveth, that fable which the demon told me as hesat by my side in the shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the mostwonderful of all! And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fellback within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not laughwith the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not laugh. And the lynxwhich dwelleth forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down atthe feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face.
* * * * * ESSAYS. * * * * *
THE POETIC PRINCIPLE.
In speaking of the Poetic Principle, I have no design to be eitherthorough or profound. While discussing very much at random theessentiality of what we call Poetry, my principal purpose will be tocite for consideration some few of those minor English or American poemswhich best suit my own taste, or which, upon my own fancy, have left themost definite impression. By "minor poems" I mean, of course, poems oflittle length. And here, in the beginning, permit me to say a few wordsin regard to a somewhat peculiar principle, which, whether rightfully orwrongfully, has always had its influence in my own critical estimate ofthe poem. I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that thephrase, "a long poem," is simply a flat contradiction in terms.
I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch asit excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ratioof this elevating excitement. But all excitements are, through a psychalnecessity, transient. That degree of excitement which would entitle apoem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout acomposition of any great length. After the lapse of half an hour, at thevery utmost, it flags--fails--a revulsion ensues--and then the poem is,in effect, and in fact, no longer such.
There are, no doubt, many who have found difficulty in reconciling thecritical dictum that the "Paradise Lost" is to be devoutly admiredthroughout, with the absolute impossibility of maintaining for it,during perusal, the amount of enthusiasm which that critical dictumwould demand. This great work, in fact, is to be regarded as poeticalonly when, losing sight of that vital requisite in all works of Art,Unity, we view it merely as a series of minor poems. If, to preserve itsUnity--its totality of effect or impression--we read it (as would benecessary) at a single sitting, the result is but a constant alternationof excitement and depression. After a passage of what we feel to be truepoetry, there follows, inevitably, a passage of platitude which nocritical prejudgment can force us to admire; but if, upon completing thework, we read it again; omitting the first book--that is to say,commencing with the second--we shall be surprised at now finding thatadmirable which we before condemned--that damnable which we hadpreviously so much admired. It follows from all this that the ultimate,aggregate, or absolute effect of even the best epic under the sun, is anullity--and this is precisely the fact.
In regard to the Iliad, we have, if not positive proof, at least verygood reason, for believing it intended as a series of lyrics; but,granting the epic intention, I can say only that the work is based in animperfect sense of Art. The modern epic is, of the supposititiousancient model, but an inconsiderate and blindfold imitation. But the dayof these artistic anomalies is over. If, at any time, any very long poemwere popular in reality--which I doubt--it is at least clear that novery long poem will ever be popular again.
That the extent of a poetical work is ceteris paribus, the measure ofits merit, seems undoubtedly, when we thus state it, a propositionsufficiently absurd--yet we are indebted for it to the QuarterlyReviews. Surely there can be nothing in mere size, abstractlyconsidered--there can be nothing in mere bulk, so far as a volume isconcerned, which has so continuously elicited admiration from thesesaturnine pamphlets! A mountain, to be sure, by the mere sentiment ofphysical magnitude which it conveys, does impress us with a sense ofthe sublime--but no man is impressed after this fashion by thematerial grandeur of even "The Columbiad." Even the Quarterlies have notinstructed us to be so impressed by it. As yet, they have notinsisted on our estimating Lamartine by the cubic foot, or Pollock bythe pound--but what else are we to infer from their continual pratingabout "sustained effort"? If, by "sustained effort," any littlegentleman has accomplished an epic, let us frankly commend him for theeffort--if this indeed be a thing commendable--but let us forbearpraising the epic on the effort's account. It is to be hoped thai commonsense, in the time to come, will prefer deciding upon a work of Artrather by the impression it makes--by the effect it produces--than bythe time it took to impress the effect, or by the amount of "sustainedeffort" which had been found necessary in effecting the impression. Thefact is, that perseverance is one thing and genius quite another--norcan all the Quarterlies in Christendom confound them. By and by, thisproposition, with many which I have been just urging, will be receivedas self-evident. In the meantime, by being generally condemned asfalsities, they will not be essentially damaged as truths.
On the other hand, it is clear that a poem may be improperly brief.Undue brevity degenerates into mere epigrammatism. A very short poem,while now and then producing a brilliant or vivid, never produces aprofound or enduring effect. There must be the steady pressing down ofthe stamp upon the wax. De Béranger has wrought innumerable things,pungent and spirit-stirring, but in general they have been tooimponderous to stamp themselves deeply into the public attention, andthus, as so many feathers of fancy, have been blown aloft only to bewhistled down the wind.
A remarkable instance of the effect of undue brevity in depressing apoem, in keeping it out of the popular view, is afforded by thefollowing exquisite little Serenade:
I arise from dreams of thee In the first sweet sleep of night When the winds are breathing low, And the stars are shining bright. I arise from dreams of thee, And a spirit in my feet Has led me--who knows how?-- To thy chamber-window, sweet!
The wandering airs they faint On the dark the silent stream-- The champak odors fail Like sweet thoughts in a dream; The nightingale's complaint, It dies upon her heart, As I must die on thine, O, beloved as thou art!
O, lift me from the grass! I die, I faint, I fail! Let thy love in kisses rain On my lips and eyelids pale. My cheek is cold and white, alas! My heart beats loud and fast: O, press it close to thine again, Where it will break at last!
Very few perhaps are familiar with these lines, yet no less a poet thanShelley is their author. Their warm, yet delicate and etherealimagination will be appreciated by all, but by none so thoroughly as byhim who has himself arisen from sweet dreams of one beloved to bathe inthe aromatic air of a southern midsummer night.
One of the finest poems by Willis, the very best in my opinion which hehas ever written, has no doubt, through this same defect of unduebrevity, been kept back from its proper position, not less in thecritical than in the popular view:
The shadows lay along Broadway, 'Twas near the twilight-tide-- And slowly there a lady fair Was walking in her pride. Alone walk'd she; but, viewlessly Walk'd spirits at her side.
Peace charm'd the street beneath her feet, And honor charm'd the air; And all astir looked kind on her, And called her good as fair-- For all God ever gave to her She kept with chary care.
She kept with care her beauties rare From lovers warm and true-- For heart was cold to all but gold, And the rich came not to woo-- But honor'd well her charms to sell, If priests the selling do.
Now walking there was one more fair-- A slight girl, lily-pale; And she had unseen company To make the spirit quail-- Twixt Want and Scorn she walk'd forlorn, And nothing could avail.
No mercy now can clear her brow From this world's peace to pray, For as love's wild prayer dissolved in air, Her woman's heart gave way!-- But the sin forgiven by Christ in Heaven, By man is cursed alway!
In this composition we find it difficult to recognise the Willis who haswritten so many mere "verses of society." The lines are not only richlyideal but full of energy, while they breathe an earnestness, an evidentsincerity of sentiment, for which we look in vain throughout all theother works of this author.
While the epic mania, while the idea that to merit in poetry prolixityis indispensable, has for some years past been gradually dying out ofthe public mind, by mere dint of its own absurdity, we find it succeededby a heresy too palpably false to be long tolerated, but one which, inthe brief period it has already endured, may be said to haveaccomplished more in the corruption of our Poetical Literature than allits other enemies combined. I allude to the heresy of The Didactic. Ithas been assumed, tacitly and avowedly, directly and indirectly, thatthe ultimate object of all Poetry is truth. Every poem, it is said,should inculcate a moral, and by this moral is the poetical merit of thework to be adjudged. We Americans especially have patronized this happyidea, and we Bostonians very especially have developed it in full. Wehave taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem'ssake, and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be toconfess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity andforce:--but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves tolook into our own souls we should immediately there discover that underthe sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughlydignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem perse, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem writtensolely for the poem's sake.
With as deep a reverence for the True as ever inspired the bosom of man,I would nevertheless limit, in some measure, its modes of inculcation. Iwould limit to enforce them. I would not enfeeble them by dissipation.The demands of Truth are severe. She has no sympathy with the myrtles.All that which is so indispensable in Song is precisely all thatwith which she has nothing whatever to do. It is but making her aflaunting paradox to wreathe her in gems and flowers. In enforcing atruth we need severity rather than efflorescence of language. We must besimple, precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, unimpassioned. In a word,we must be in that mood which, as nearly as possible, is the exactconverse of the poetical. He must be blind indeed who does notperceive the radical and chasmal difference between the truthful and thepoetical modes of inculcation. He must be theory-mad beyond redemptionwho, in spite of these differences, shall still persist in attempting toreconcile the obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and Truth.
Dividing the world of mind into its three most immediately obviousdistinctions, we have the Pure Intellect, Taste, and the Moral Sense. Iplace Taste in the middle because it is just this position which in themind it occupies. It holds intimate relations with either extreme; butfrom the Moral Sense is separated by so faint a difference thatAristotle has not hesitated to place some of its operations among thevirtues themselves. Nevertheless we find the offices of the triomarked with a sufficient distinction. Just as the Intellect concernsitself with Truth, so Taste informs us of the Beautiful, while the MoralSense is regardful of Duty. Of this latter, while Conscience teaches theobligation, and Reason the expediency, Taste contents herself withdisplaying the charms, waging war upon Vice solely on the ground of herdeformity, her disproportion, her animosity to the fitting, to theappropriate, to the harmonious, in a word, to Beauty.
An immortal instinct deep within the spirit of man is thus plainly asense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight inthe manifold forms, and sounds, and odors, and sentiments amid which heexists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes ofAmaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition ofthese forms, and sounds, and colors, and odors, and sentiments aduplicate source of delight. But this mere repetition is not poetry. Hewho shall simply sing, with however glowing enthusiasm, or with howevervivid a truth of description, of the sights, and sounds, and odors, andcolors, and sentiments which greet him in common with all mankind--he, Isay, has yet failed to prove his divine title. There is still asomething in the distance which he has been unable to attain. We havestill a thirst unquenchable, to allay which he has not shown us thecrystal springs. This thirst belongs to the immortality of man. It is atonce a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It isthe desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of theBeauty before us, but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspiredby an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggleby multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time toattain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements perhapsappertain to eternity alone. And thus when by Poetry, or when by Music,the most entrancing of the poetic moods, we find ourselves melted intotears, we weep then, not as the Abbate Gravina supposes, through excessof pleasure, but through a certain petulant, impatient sorrow at ourinability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and forever,those divine and rapturous joys of which through the poem, orthrough the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.
The struggle to apprehend the supernal Loveliness--this struggle, on thepart of souls fittingly constituted--has given to the world all thatwhich it (the world) has ever been enabled at once to understand and tofeel as poetic.
The Poetic Sentiment, of course, may develop itself in various modes--inPainting, in Sculpture, in Architecture, in the Dance--very especiallyin Music--and very peculiarly, and with a wide field, in the compositionof the Landscape Garden. Our present theme, however, has regard only toits manifestation in words. And here let me speak briefly on the topicof rhythm. Contenting myself with the certainty that Music, in itsvarious modes of metre, rhythm, and rhyme, is of so vast a moment inPoetry as never to be wisely rejected--is so vitally important anadjunct, that he is simply silly who declines its assistance, I will notnow pause to maintain its absolute essentiality. It is in Music perhapsthat the soul most nearly attains the great end for which, when inspiredby the poetic Sentiment, it struggles--the creation of supernal Beauty.It may be, indeed, that here this sublime end is, now and, then,attained in fact. We are often made to feel, with a shivering delight,that from an earthly harp are stricken notes which cannot have beenunfamiliar to the angels. And thus there can be little doubt that in theunion of Poetry with Music in its popular sense, we shall find thewidest field for the Poetic development. The old Bards and Minnesingershad advantages which we do not possess--and Thomas Moore, singing hisown songs, was, in the most legitimate manner, perfecting them as poems.
To recapitulate then:--I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words asThe Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste. With theIntellect or with the Conscience it has only collateral relations.Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either with Duty or withTruth.
A few words, however, in explanation. That pleasure which is at oncethe most pure, the most elevating, and the most intense, is derived, Imaintain, from the contemplation of the Beautiful. In the contemplationof Beauty we alone find it possible to attain that pleasurableelevation, or excitement of the soul, which we recognize as the PoeticSentiment, and which is so easily distinguished from Truth, which is thesatisfaction of the Reason, or from Passion, which is the excitement ofthe heart. I make Beauty, therefore--using the word as inclusive of thesublime--I make Beauty the province of the poem, simply because it is anobvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring as directly aspossible from their causes:--no one as yet having been weak enough todeny that the peculiar elevation in question is at least most readilyattainable in the poem. It by no means follows, however, that theincitements of Passion, or the precepts of Duty, or even the lessons ofTruth, may not be introduced into a poem, and with advantage; for theymay subserve incidentally, in various ways, the general purposes of thework: but the true artist will always contrive to tone them down inproper subjection to that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the realessence of the poem.
I cannot better introduce the few poems which I shall present for yourconsideration, than by the citation of the Pröem to Longfellow's "Waif":
The day is done, and the darkness Falls from the wings of Night, As a feather is wafted downward From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village Gleam through the rain and the mist, And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me, That my soul cannot resist;
A feeling of sadness and longing, That is not akin to pain, And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters, Not from the bards sublime, Whose distant footsteps echo Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music, Their mighty thoughts suggest Life's endless toil and endeavor; And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet, Whose songs gushed from his heart, As showers from the clouds of summer, Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who through long days of labor, And nights devoid of ease, Still heard in his soul the music Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet The restless pulse of care, And come like the benediction That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume The poem of thy choice, And lend to the rhyme of the poet The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day, Shall fold their tents like the Arabs, And as silently steal away.
With no great range of imagination, these lines have been justly admiredfor their delicacy of expression. Some of the images are very effective.Nothing can be better than
--the bards sublime,Whose distant footsteps echo
Down the corridors of Time.
The idea of the last quatrain is also very effective. The poem on thewhole, however, is chiefly to be admired for the graceful insoucianceof its metre, so well in accordance with the character of thesentiments, and especially for the ease of the general manner. This"ease" or naturalness, in a literary style, it has long been the fashionto regard as ease in appearance alone--as a point of really difficultattainment. But not so:--a natural manner is difficult only to him whoshould never meddle with it--to the unnatural. It is but the result ofwriting with the understanding, or with the instinct, that the tone,in composition, should always be that which the mass of mankind wouldadopt--and must perpetually vary, of course, with the occasion. Theauthor who, after the fashion of The North American Review, should beupon all occasions merely "quiet," must necessarily upon manyoccasions be simply silly, or stupid; and has no more right to beconsidered "easy" or "natural" than a Cockney exquisite, or than thesleeping Beauty in the waxworks.
Among the minor poems of Bryant, none has so much impressed me as theone which he entitles "June." I quote only a portion of it:
There, through the long, long summer hours, The golden light should lie, And thick young herbs and groups of flowers Stand in their beauty by. The oriole should build and tell His love-tale, close beside my cell; The idle butterfly Should rest him there, and there be heard The housewife-bee and humming bird.
And what, if cheerful shouts at noon, Come, from the village sent, Or songs of maids, beneath the moon, With fairy laughter blent? And what if, in the evening light, Betrothed lovers walk in sight Of my low monument? I would the lovely scene around Might know no sadder sight nor sound.
I know, I know I should not see The season's glorious show, Nor would its brightness shine for me; Nor its wild music flow;
But if, around my place of sleep, The friends I love should come to weep, They might not haste to go. Soft airs and song, and light and bloom, Should keep them lingering by my tomb.
These to their soften'd hearts should bear The thought of what has been, And speak of one who cannot share The gladness of the scene; Whose part in all the pomp that fills The circuit of the summer hills, Is--that his grave is green; And deeply would their hearts rejoice To hear again his living voice.
The rhythmical flow here is even voluptuous--nothing could be moremelodious. The poem has always affected me in a remarkable manner. Theintense melancholy which seems to well up, perforce, to the surface ofall the poet's cheerful sayings about his grave, we find thrilling us tothe soul--while there is the truest poetic elevation in the thrill. Theimpression left is one of a pleasurable sadness. And if, in theremaining compositions which I shall introduce to you, there be more orless of a similar tone always apparent, let me remind you that (how orwhy we know not) this certain taint of sadness is inseparably connectedwith all the higher manifestations of true Beauty. It is, nevertheless,
A feeling of sadness and longing That is not akin to pain, And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
The taint of which I speak is clearly perceptible even in a poem so fullof brilliancy and spirit as "The Health" of Edward Coote Pinkney:
I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman, of her gentle sex The seeming paragon; To whom the better elements And kindly stars have given A form so fair, that like the air, 'Tis less of earth than heaven.
Her every tone is music's own, Like those of morning birds, And something more than melody Dwells ever in her words; The coinage of her heart are they, And from her lips each flows As one may see the burden'd bee Forth issue from the rose.
Affections are as thoughts to her, The measures of her hours; Her feelings have the fragrancy, The freshness of young flowers; And lovely passions, changing oft, So fill her, she appears The image of themselves by turns,-- The idol of past years!
Of her bright face one glance will trace A picture on the brain, And of her voice in echoing hearts A sound must long remain; But memory, such as mine of her, So very much endears, When death is nigh my latest sigh Will not be life's, but hers.
I fill'd this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman, of her gentle sex The seeming paragon-- Her health! and would on earth there stood, Some more of such a frame, That life might be all poetry, And weariness a name.
It was the misfortune of Mr. Pinkney to have been born too far south.Had he been a New Englander, it is probable that he would have beenranked as the first of American lyrists by that magnanimous cabal whichhas so long controlled the destinies of American Letters, in conductingthe thing called 'The North American Review'. The poem just cited isespecially beautiful; but the poetic elevation which it induces we mustrefer chiefly to our sympathy in the poet's enthusiasm. We pardon hishyperboles for the evident earnestness with which they are uttered.
It was by no means my design, however, to expatiate upon the meritsof what I should read you. These will necessarily speak for themselves.Boccalina, in his 'Advertisements from Parnassus', tells us that Zoilusonce presented Apollo a very caustic criticism upon a very admirablebook:--whereupon the god asked him for the beauties of the work. Hereplied that he only busied himself about the errors. On hearing this,Apollo, handing him a sack of unwinnowed wheat, bade him pick out allthe chaff for his reward.
Now this fable answers very well as a hit at the critics--but I am by nomeans sure that the god was in the right. I am by no means certain thatthe true limits of the critical duty are not grossly misunderstood.Excellence, in a poem especially, may be considered in the light of anaxiom, which need only be properly put, to become self-evident. It isnot excellence if it require to be demonstrated its such:--and thus topoint out too particularly the merits of a work of Art, is to admit thatthey are not merits altogether.
Among the "Melodies" of Thomas Moore is one whose distinguishedcharacter as a poem proper seems to have been singularly left out ofview. I allude to his lines beginning--"Come, rest in this bosom." Theintense energy of their expression is not surpassed by anything inByron. There are two of the lines in which a sentiment is conveyed thatembodies the all in all of the divine passion of Love--a sentimentwhich, perhaps, has found its echo in more, and in more passionate,human hearts that any other single sentiment ever embodied in words:
Come, rest in this bosom, my own stricken deer, Though the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here; Here still is the smile, that no cloud can o'ercast, And a heart and a hand all thy own to the last.
Oh! what was love made for, if 'tis not the same Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame? I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that heart, I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art.
Thou hast call'd me thy Angel in moments of bliss, And thy Angel I'll be,'mid the horrors of this,-- Through the furnace, unshrinking, thy steps to pursue, And shield thee, and save thee,--or perish there too!
It has been the fashion of late days to deny Moore Imagination, whilegranting him Fancy--a distinction originating with Coleridge--than whomno man more fully comprehended the great powers of Moore. The fact is,that the fancy of this poet so far predominates over all his otherfaculties, and over the fancy of all other men, as to have induced, verynaturally, the idea that he is fanciful only. But never was there agreater mistake. Never was a grosser wrong done the fame of a true poet.In the compass of the English language I can call to mind no poem moreprofoundly--more weirdly imaginative, in the best sense, than thelines commencing--"I would I were by that dim lake"--which are thecomposition of Thomas Moore. I regret that I am unable to remember them.
One of the noblest--and, speaking of Fancy--one of the most singularlyfanciful of modern poets, was Thomas Hood. His "Fair Ines" had alwaysfor me an inexpressible charm:
O saw ye not fair Ines? She's gone into the West, To dazzle when the sun is down And rob the world of rest She took our daylight with her, The smiles that we love best, With morning blushes on her cheek, And pearls upon her breast.
O turn again, fair Ines, Before the fall of night, For fear the moon should shine alone, And stars unrivall'd bright; And blessed will the lover be That walks beneath their light, And breathes the love against thy cheek I dare not even write!
Would I had been, fair Ines, That gallant cavalier, Who rode so gaily by thy side, And whisper'd thee so near! Were there no bonny dames at home, Or no true lovers here, That he should cross the seas to win The dearest of the dear?
I saw thee, lovely Ines, Descend along the shore, With bands of noble gentlemen, And banners-waved before; And gentle youth and maidens gay, And snowy plumes they wore; It would have been a beauteous dream, If it had been no more!
Alas, alas, fair Ines, She went away with song, With Music waiting on her steps, And shoutings of the throng; But some were sad and felt no mirth, But only Music's wrong, In sounds that sang Farewell, Farewell, To her you've loved so long.
Farewell, farewell, fair Ines, That vessel never bore So fair a lady on its deck, Nor danced so light before,-- Alas for pleasure on the sea, And sorrow on the shore! The smile that blest one lover's heart Has broken many more!
"The Haunted House," by the same author, is one of the truest poems everwritten,--one of the truest, one of the most unexceptionable, one of themost thoroughly artistic, both in its theme and in its execution. It is,moreover, powerfully ideal--imaginative. I regret that its lengthrenders it unsuitable for the purposes of this lecture. In place of itpermit me to offer the universally appreciated "Bridge of Sighs:"
One more Unfortunate, Weary of breath, Rashly importunate Gone to her death!
Take her up tenderly, Lift her with care;-- Fashion'd so slenderly, Young and so fair!
Look at her garments Clinging like cerements; Whilst the wave constantly Drips from her clothing; Take her up instantly, Loving, not loathing.
Touch her not scornfully Think of her mournfully, Gently and humanly; Not of the stains of her, All that remains of her Now is pure womanly.
Make no deep scrutiny Into her mutiny Rash and undutiful; Past all dishonor, Death has left on her Only the beautiful.
Where the lamps quiver So far in the river, With many a light From window and casement, From garret to basement, She stood, with amazement, Houseless by night.
The bleak wind of March Made her tremble and shiver; But not the dark arch, Or the black flowing river: Mad from life's history, Glad to death's mystery, Swift to be hurl'd-- Anywhere, anywhere Out of the world!
In she plunged boldly, No matter how coldly The rough river ran,-- Over the brink of it, Picture it,--think of it, Dissolute Man! Lave in it, drink of it Then, if you can!
Still, for all slips of hers, One of Eve's family-- Wipe those poor lips of hers Oozing so clammily, Loop up her tresses Escaped from the comb, Her fair auburn tresses; Whilst wonderment guesses Where was her home?
Who was her father? Who was her mother! Had she a sister? Had she a brother? Or was there a dearer one Still, and a nearer one Yet, than all other?
Alas! for the rarity Of Christian charity Under the sun! Oh! it was pitiful! Near a whole city full, Home she had none.
Sisterly, brotherly, Fatherly, motherly, Feelings had changed: Love, by harsh evidence, Thrown from its eminence; Even God's providence Seeming estranged.
Take her up tenderly; Lift her with care; Fashion'd so slenderly, Young, and so fair! Ere her limbs frigidly Stiffen too rigidly, Decently,--kindly,-- Smooth and compose them; And her eyes, close them, Staring so blindly!
Dreadfully staring Through muddy impurity, As when with the daring Last look of despairing Fixed on futurity.
Perishing gloomily, Spurred by contumely, Cold inhumanity, Burning insanity, Into her rest,-- Cross her hands humbly, As if praying dumbly, Over her breast! Owning her weakness, Her evil behavior, And leaving, with meekness, Her sins to her Saviour!
The vigor of this poem is no less remarkable than its pathos. Theversification, although carrying the fanciful to the very verge of thefantastic, is nevertheless admirably adapted to the wild insanity whichis the thesis of the poem.
Among the minor poems of Lord Byron is one which has never received fromthe critics the praise which it undoubtedly deserves:
Though the day of my destiny's over, And the star of my fate hath declined, Thy soft heart refused to discover The faults which so many could find; Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted, It shrunk not to share it with me, And the love which my spirit hath painted It never hath found but in thee.
Then when nature around me is smiling, The last smile which answers to mine, I do not believe it beguiling, Because it reminds me of thine; And when winds are at war with the ocean, As the breasts I believed in with me, If their billows excite an emotion, It is that they bear me from thee.
Though the rock of my last hope is shivered, And its fragments are sunk in the wave, Though I feel that my soul is delivered To pain--it shall not be its slave. There is many a pang to pursue me: They may crush, but they shall not contemn-- They may torture, but shall not subdue me-- 'Tis of thee that I think--not of them.
Though human, thou didst not deceive me, Though woman, thou didst not forsake, Though loved, thou forborest to grieve me, Though slandered, thou never couldst shake,-- Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me, Though parted, it was not to fly, Though watchful, 'twas not to defame me, Nor mute, that the world might belie.
Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it, Nor the war of the many with one-- If my soul was not fitted to prize it, 'Twas folly not sooner to shun: And if dearly that error hath cost me, And more than I once could foresee, I have found that whatever it lost me, It could not deprive me of thee.
From the wreck of the past, which hath perished, Thus much I at least may recall, It hath taught me that which I most cherished Deserved to be dearest of all: In the desert a fountain is springing, In the wide waste there still is a tree, And a bird in the solitude singing, Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
Although the rhythm here is one of the most difficult, the versificationcould scarcely be improved. No nobler theme ever engaged the pen ofpoet. It is the soul-elevating idea that no man can consider himselfentitled to complain of Fate while in his adversity he still retains theunwavering love of woman.
From Alfred Tennyson, although in perfect sincerity I regard him as thenoblest poet that ever lived, I have left myself time to cite only avery brief specimen. I call him, and think him the noblest of poets,not because the impressions he produces are at all times the mostprofound--not because the poetical excitement which he induces is atall times the most intense--but because it is at all times the mostethereal--in other words, the most elevating and most pure. No poet isso little of the earth, earthy. What I am about to read is from his lastlong poem, "The Princess:"
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, In looking on the happy Autumn fields, And thinking of the days that are no more.
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld, Sad as the last which reddens over one That sinks with all we love below the verge; So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds To dying ears, when unto dying eyes The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Dear as remember'd kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd On lips that are for others; deep as love, Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; O Death in Life, the days that are no more.
Thus, although in a very cursory and imperfect manner, I have endeavoredto convey to you my conception of the Poetic Principle. It has been mypurpose to suggest that, while this Principle itself is strictly andsimply the Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty, the manifestation ofthe Principle is always found in an elevating excitement of the soul,quite independent of that passion which is the intoxication of theHeart, or of that truth which is the satisfaction of the Reason. For inregard to passion, alas! its tendency is to degrade rather than toelevate the Soul. Love, on the contrary--Love--the true, the divineEros--the Uranian as distinguished from the Dionasan Venus--isunquestionably the purest and truest of all poetical themes. And inregard to Truth, if, to be sure, through the attainment of a truth weare led to perceive a harmony where none was apparent before, weexperience at once the true poetical effect; but this effect isreferable to the harmony alone, and not in the least degree to the truthwhich merely served to render the harmony manifest.
We shall reach, however, more immediately a distinct conception of whattrue Poetry is, by mere reference to a few of the simple elements whichinduce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect. He recognizes theambrosia which nourishes his soul in the bright orbs that shine inHeaven, in the volutes of the flower, in the clustering of lowshrubberies, in the waving of the grain-fields, in the slanting of talleastern trees, in the blue distance of mountains, in the grouping ofclouds, in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks, in the gleaming ofsilver rivers, in the repose of sequestered lakes, in the star-mirroringdepths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds, in theharp of Æolus, in the sighing of the night-wind, in the repining voiceof the forest, in the surf that complains to the shore, in the freshbreath of the woods, in the scent of the violet, in the voluptuousperfume of the hyacinth, in the suggestive odor that comes to him ateventide from far-distant undiscovered islands, over dim oceans,illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble thoughts, in allunworldly motives, in all holy impulses, in all chivalrous, generous,and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman, in thegrace of her step, in the lustre of her eye, in the melody of her voice,in her soft laughter, in her sigh, in the harmony of the rustling of herrobes. He deeply feels it in her winning endearments, in her burningenthusiasms, in her gentle charities, in her meek and devotionalendurance, but above all, ah, far above all, he kneels to it, heworships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in thealtogether divine majesty of her love.
Let me conclude by the recitation of yet another brief poem, one verydifferent in character from any that I have before quoted. It is byMotherwell, and is called "The Song of the Cavalier." With our modernand altogether rational ideas of the absurdity and impiety of warfare,we are not precisely in that frame of mind best adapted to sympathizewith the sentiments, and thus to appreciate the real excellence of thepoem. To do this fully we must identify ourselves in fancy with the soulof the old cavalier:
A steed! a steed! of matchless speede! A sword of metal keene! Al else to noble heartes is drosse-- Al else on earth is meane. The neighynge of the war-horse prowde. The rowleing of the drum, The clangor of the trumpet lowde-- Be soundes from heaven that come. And oh! the thundering presse of knightes, When as their war-cryes welle, May tole from heaven an angel bright, And rowse a fiend from hell,
Then mounte! then mounte, brave gallants all, And don your helmes amaine, Deathe's couriers, Fame and Honor, call Us to the field againe. No shrewish teares shall fill your eye When the sword-hilt's in our hand,-- Heart-whole we'll part, and no whit sighe For the fayrest of the land; Let piping swaine, and craven wight, Thus weepe and puling crye, Our business is like men to fight, And hero-like to die!
* * * * *
THE PHILOSOPHY OF COMPOSITION.
Charles Dickens, in a note now lying before me, alluding to anexamination I once made of the mechanism of Barnaby Rudge, says--"Bythe way, are you aware that Godwin wrote his Caleb Williams backwards?He first involved his hero in a web of difficulties, forming the secondvolume, and then, for the first, cast about him for some mode ofaccounting for what had been done."
I cannot think this the precise mode of procedure on the part ofGodwin--and indeed what he himself acknowledges is not altogether inaccordance with Mr. Dickens's idea--but the author of Caleb Williamswas too good an artist not to perceive the advantage derivable from atleast a somewhat similar process. Nothing is more clear than that everyplot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement beforeanything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouementconstantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air ofconsequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially thetone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.
There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing astory. Either history affords a thesis--or one is suggested by anincident of the day--or, at best, the author sets himself to work in thecombination of striking events to form merely the basis of hisnarrative---designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue,or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact or action may, from pageto page, render themselves apparent.
I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keepingoriginality always in view--for he is false to himself who ventures todispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source ofinterest--I say to myself, in the first place, "Of the innumerableeffects or impressions of which the heart, the intellect, or (moregenerally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the presentoccasion, select?" Having chosen a novel first, and secondly, a vivideffect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident ortone--whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse,or by peculiarity both of incident and tone--afterwards looking about me(or rather within) for such combinations of events or tone as shall bestaid me in the construction of the effect.
I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be writtenby any author who would--that is to say, who could--detail, step bystep, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained itsultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given tothe world, I am much at a loss to say--but perhaps the autorial vanityhas had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Mostwriters--poets in especial--prefer having it understood that theycompose by a species of fine frenzy--an ecstatic intuition--and wouldpositively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes,at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought--at the truepurposes seized only at the last moment--at the innumerable glimpses ofidea that arrived not at the maturity of full view--at the fully-maturedfancies discarded in despair as unmanageable--at the cautious selectionsand rejections--at the painful erasures and interpolations,--in a word,at the wheels and pinions, the tackle for scene-shifting, thestep-ladders and demon-traps, the cock's feathers, the red paint, andthe black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred,constitute the properties of the literary histrio.
I am aware, on the other hand, that the case is by no means common, inwhich an author is at all in condition to retrace the steps by which hisconclusions have been attained. In general, suggestions, having arisenpell-mell, are pursued and forgotten in a similar manner.
For my own part, I have neither sympathy with the repugnance alluded to,nor, at any time, the least difficulty in recalling to mind theprogressive steps of any of my compositions; and, since the interest ofan analysis, or reconstruction, such as I have considered adesideratum, is quite independent of any real or fancied interest inthe thing analyzed, it will not be regarded as a breach of decorum on mypart to show the modus operandi by which some one of my own works wasput together. I select "The Raven" as most generally known. It is mydesign to render it manifest that no one point in its composition isreferrible either to accident or intuition--that the work proceeded,step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequenceof a mathematical problem.
Let us dismiss, as irrelevant to the poem, per se, thecircumstance--or say the necessity--which, in the first place, gave riseto the intention of composing a poem that should suit at once thepopular and the critical taste.
We commence, then, with this intention.
The initial consideration was that of extent. If any literary work istoo long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense withthe immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression--for,if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, andeverything like totality is at once destroyed. But since, ceterisparibus, no poet can afford to dispense with anything that mayadvance his design, it but remains to be seen whether there is, inextent, any advantage to counterbalance the loss of unity which attendsit. Here I say no, at once. What we term a long poem is, in fact, merelya succession of brief ones--that is to say, of brief poetical effects.It is needless to demonstrate that a poem is such only inasmuch as itintensely excites, by elevating the soul; and all intense excitementsare, through a psychal necessity, brief. For this reason, at leastone-half of the "Paradise Lost" is essentially prose--a succession ofpoetical excitements interspersed, inevitably, with correspondingdepressions--the whole being deprived, through the extremeness of itslength, of the vastly important artistic element, totality, or unity ofeffect.
It appears evident, then, that there is a distinct limit, as regardslength, to all works of literary art--the limit of a single sitting--andthat, although in certain classes of prose composition, such asRobinson Crusoe (demanding no unity), this limit may be advantageouslyoverpassed, it can never properly be overpassed in a poem. Within thislimit, the extent of a poem may be made to bear mathematical relation toits merit--in other words, to the excitement or elevation--again, inother words, to the degree of the true poetical effect which it iscapable of inducing; for it is clear that the brevity must be in directratio of the intensity of the intended effect--this, with oneproviso--that a certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite forthe production of any effect at all.
Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree ofexcitement which I deemed not above the popular, while not below thecritical taste, I reached at once what I conceived the proper lengthfor my intended poem--a length of about one hundred lines. It is, infact, a hundred and eight.
My next thought concerned the choice of an impression, or effect, to beconveyed: and here I may as well observe that, throughout theconstruction, I kept steadily in view the design of rendering the workuniversally appreciable. I should be carried too far out of myimmediate topic were I to demonstrate a point upon which I haverepeatedly insisted, and which, with the poetical, stands not in theslightest need of demonstration--the point, I mean, that Beauty is thesole legitimate province of the poem. A few words, however, inelucidation of my real meaning, which some of my friends have evinced adisposition to misrepresent. That pleasure which is at once the mostintense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found inthe contemplation of the beautiful. When, indeed, men speak of Beauty,they mean, precisely, not a quality, as is supposed, but an effect--theyrefer, in short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul--not of intellect, or of heart--upon which I have commented, andwhich is experienced in consequence of contemplating "the beautiful."Now I designate Beauty as the province of the poem, merely because it isan obvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring from directcauses--that objects should be attained through means best adapted fortheir attainment--no one as yet having been weak enough to deny that thepeculiar elevation alluded to is most readily attained in the poem.Now the object Truth, or the satisfaction of the intellect, and theobject Passion, or the excitement of the heart, are, although attainableto a certain extent in poetry, far more readily attainable in prose.Truth, in fact, demands a precision, and Passion a homeliness (thetruly passionate will comprehend me) which are absolutely antagonisticto that Beauty which, I maintain, is the excitement, or pleasurableelevation, of the soul. It by no means follows from anything here saidthat passion, or even truth, may not be introduced, and even profitablyintroduced, into a poem--for they may serve in elucidation, or aid thegeneral effect, as do discords in music, by contrast--but the trueartist will always contrive, first, to tone them into propersubservience to the predominant aim, and secondly, to enveil them, asfar as possible, in that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the essenceof the poem.
Regarding, then, Beauty as my province, my next question referred to thetone of its highest manifestation--and all experience has shown thatthis tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supremedevelopment, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholyis thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.
The length, the province, and the tone being thus determined, I betookmyself to ordinary induction, with the view of obtaining some artisticpiquancy which might serve me as a key-note in the construction of thepoem--some pivot upon which the whole structure might turn. In carefullythinking over all the usual artistic effects--or more properly points,in the theatrical sense--I did not fail to perceive immediately that noone had been so universally employed as that of the refrain. Theuniversality of its employment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsicvalue, and spared me the necessity of submitting it to analysis. Iconsidered it, however, with regard to its susceptibility ofimprovement, and soon saw it to be in a primitive condition. As commonlyused, the refrain, or burden, not only is limited to lyric verse, butdepends for its impression upon the force of monotone--both in sound andthought. The pleasure is deduced solely from the sense of identity--ofrepetition. I resolved to diversify, and so heighten the effect, byadhering in general to the monotone of sound, while I continually variedthat of thought: that is to say, I determined to produce continuouslynovel effects, by the variation of the application of therefrain--the refrain itself remaining, for the most part, unvaried.
These points being settled, I next bethought me of the nature of myrefrain. Since its application was to be repeatedly varied, it wasclear that the refrain itself must be brief, for there would have beenan insurmountable difficulty in frequent variations of application inany sentence of length. In proportion to the brevity of the sentencewould of course be the facility of the variation. This led me at once toa single word as the best refrain.
The question now arose as to the character of the word. Having made upmy mind to a refrain, the division of the poem into stanzas was ofcourse a corollary, the refrain forming the close to each stanza. Thatsuch a close, to have force, must be sonorous and susceptible ofprotracted emphasis, admitted no doubt, and these considerationsinevitably led me to the long o as the most sonorous vowel inconnection with r as the most producible consonant.
The sound of the refrain being thus determined, it became necessary toselect a word embodying this sound, and at the same time in the fullestpossible keeping with that melancholy which I had predetermined as thetone of the poem. In such a search it would have been absolutelyimpossible to overlook the word "Nevermore." In fact, it was the veryfirst which presented itself.
The next desideratum was a pretext for the continuous use of the oneword "nevermore." In observing the difficulty which I at once found ininventing a sufficiently plausible reason for its continuous repetition,I did not fail to perceive that this difficulty arose solely from thepre-assumption that the word was to be so continuously or monotonouslyspoken by a human being--I did not fail to perceive, in short, thatthe difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony with theexercise of reason on the part of the creature repeating the word. Here,then, immediately arose the idea of a non-reasoning creature capableof speech; and very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance,suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven as equallycapable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intendedtone.
I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven, the bird ofill-omen, monotonously repeating the one word "Nevermore" at theconclusion of each stanza in a poem of melancholy tone, and in lengthabout one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the objectsupremeness or perfection at all points, I asked myself--"Of allmelancholy topics what, according to the universal understanding ofmankind, is the most melancholy?" Death, was the obvious reply. "Andwhen," I said, "is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?" Fromwhat I have already explained at some length, the answer here also isobvious--"When it most closely allies itself to Beauty; the death,then, of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic inthe world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited forsuch topic are those of a bereaved lover."
I had now to combine the two ideas of a lover lamenting his deceasedmistress and a Raven continuously repeating the word "Nevermore." I hadto combine these, bearing in mind my design of varying at every turn theapplication of the word repeated, but the only intelligible mode ofsuch combination is that of imagining the Raven employing the word inanswer to the queries of the lover. And here it was that I saw at oncethe opportunity afforded for the effect on which I had been depending,that is to say, the effect of the variation of application. I saw thatI could make the first query propounded by the lover--the first query towhich the Raven should reply "Nevermore"--that I could make this firstquery a commonplace one, the second less so, the third still less, andso on, until at length the lover, startled from his originalnonchalance by the melancholy character of the word itself, by itsfrequent repetition, and by a consideration of the ominous reputation ofthe fowl that uttered it, is at length excited to superstition, andwildly propounds queries of a far different character--queries whosesolution he has passionately at heart--propounds them half insuperstition and half in that species of despair which delights inself-torture--propounds them not altogether because he believes in theprophetic or demoniac character of the bird (which reason assures him ismerely repeating a lesson learned by rote), but because he experiences afrenzied pleasure in so modelling his questions as to receive from theexpected "Nevermore" the most delicious because the most intolerableof sorrow. Perceiving the opportunity thus afforded me, or, morestrictly, thus forced upon me in the progress of the construction, Ifirst established in mind the climax or concluding query--that query towhich "Nevermore" should be in the last place an answer--that query inreply to which this word "Nevermore" should involve the utmostconceivable amount of sorrow and despair.
Here then the poem may be said to have its beginning, at the end whereall works of art should begin; for it was here at this point of mypreconsiderations that I first put pen to paper in the composition ofthe stanza:
"Prophet," said I, "thing of evil! prophet still if bird or devil! By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore, Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-- Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore." Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
I composed this stanza, at this point, first that, by establishing theclimax, I might the better vary and graduate, as regards seriousness,and importance the preceding queries of the lover, and secondly, that Imight definitely settle the rhythm, the metre, and the length andgeneral arrangement of the stanza, as well as graduate the stanzas whichwere to precede, so that none of them might surpass this in rhythmicaleffect. Had I been able in the subsequent composition to construct morevigorous stanzas, I should without scruple have purposely enfeebled themso as not to interfere with the climacteric effect.
And here I may as well say a few words of the versification. My firstobject (as usual) was originality. The extent to which this has beenneglected in versification is one of the most unaccountable things inthe world. Admitting that there is little possibility of variety in mererhythm, it is still clear that the possible varieties of metre andstanza are absolutely infinite; and yet, for centuries, no man, inverse has ever done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an originalthing. The fact is that originality (unless in minds of very unusualforce) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse orintuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought and,although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in itsattainment less of invention than negation.
Of course I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or metre ofthe "Raven." The former is trochaic--the latter is octametreacatalectic, alternating with heptametre catalectic repeated in therefrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrametrecatalectic. Less pedantically, the feet employed throughout (trochees)consists of a long syllable followed by a short; the first line of thestanza consists of eight of these feet, the second of seven and a half(in effect two-thirds), the third of eight, the fourth of seven and ahalf, the fifth the same, the sixth three and a half. Now, each of theselines taken individually has been employed before, and what originalitythe "Raven" has, is in their combinations into stanzas; nothing evenremotely approaching this combination has ever been attempted. Theeffect of this originality of combination is aided by other unusual andsome altogether novel effects, arising from an extension of theapplication of the principles of rhyme and alliteration.
The next point to be considered was the mode of bringing together thelover and the Raven--and the first branch of this consideration was thelocale. For this the most natural suggestion might seem to be aforest, or the fields--but it has always appeared to me that a closecircumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect ofinsulated incident--it has the force of a frame to a picture. It has anindisputable moral power in keeping concentrated the attention, and, ofcourse, must not be confounded with mere unity of place.
I determined, then, to place the lover in his chamber--in a chamberrendered sacred to him by memories of her who had frequented it. Theroom is represented as richly furnished--this in mere pursuance of theideas I have already explained on the subject of Beauty, as the soletrue poetical thesis.
The locale being thus determined, I had now to introduce the bird--andthe thought of introducing him through the window was inevitable. Theidea of making the lover suppose, in the first instance, that theflapping of the wings of the bird against the shutter, is a "tapping" atthe door, originated in a wish to increase, by prolonging, the reader'scuriosity, and in a desire to admit the incidental effect arising fromthe lover's throwing open the door, finding all dark, and thenceadopting the half-fancy that it was the spirit of his mistress thatknocked.
I made the night tempestuous, first to account for the Raven's seekingadmission, and secondly, for the effect of contrast with the (physical)serenity within the chamber.
I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also for the effect ofcontrast between the marble and the plumage--it being understood thatthe bust was absolutely suggested by the bird--the bust of Pallasbeing chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship of thelover, and, secondly, for the sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself.
About the middle of the poem, also, I have availed myself of the forceof contrast, with a view of deepening the ultimate impression. Forexample, an air of the fantastic--approaching as nearly to the ludicrousas was admissible--is given to the Raven's entrance. He comes in "withmany a flirt and flutter."
Not the least obeisance made he--not a moment stopped or stayed he, But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
In the two stanzas which follow, the design is more obviously carriedout:
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the nightly shore-- Tell me what thy lordly name is on the night's Plutonian shore?" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-- Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore."
The effect of the dénouement being thus provided for, I immediately dropthe fantastic for a tone of the most profound seriousness--this tonecommencing in the stanza directly following the one last quoted, withthe line,
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only, etc.
From this epoch the lover no longer jests--no longer sees anything evenof the fantastic in the Raven's demeanor. He speaks of him as a "grim,ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore," and feels the"fiery eyes" burning into his "bosom's core." This revolution ofthought, or fancy, on the lover's part, is intended to induce a similarone on the part of the reader--to bring the mind into a proper frame forthe dénouement--which is now brought about as rapidly and asdirectly as possible.
With the dénouement proper--with the Raven's reply, "Nevermore," tothe lover's final demand if he shall meet his mistress in anotherworld--the poem, in its obvious phase, that of a simple narrative, maybe said to have its completion. So far, everything is within the limitsof the accountable--of the real. A raven having learned by rote thesingle word "Nevermore," and having escaped from the custody of itsowner, is driven at midnight, through the violence of a storm, to seekadmission at a window from which a light still gleams--thechamber-window of a student, occupied half in pouring over a volume,half in dreaming of a beloved mistress deceased. The casement beingthrown open at the fluttering of the bird's wings, the bird itselfperches on the most convenient seat out of the immediate reach of thestudent, who, amused by the incident and the oddity of the visitor'sdemeanor, demands of it, in jest and with out looking for a reply, itsname. The Raven addressed, answers with its customary word,"Nevermore"--a word which finds immediate echo in the melancholy heartof the student, who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughtssuggested by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl's repetition of"Nevermore." The student now guesses the state of the case, but isimpelled, as I have before explained, by the human thirst forself-torture, and in part by superstition, to propound such queries tothe bird as will bring him, the lover, the most of the luxury of sorrowthrough the anticipated answer "Nevermore." With the indulgence, to theextreme, of this self-torture, the narration, in what I have termed itsfirst or obvious phase, has a natural termination, and so far there hasbeen no overstepping of the limits of the real.
But in subjects so handled, however skilfully, or with however vivid anarray of incident, there is always a certain hardness or nakedness whichrepels the artistical eye. Two things are invariably required--first,some amount of complexity, or more properly, adaptation; and, secondly,some amount of suggestiveness, some undercurrent, however indefinite ofmeaning. It is this latter, in especial, which imparts to a work of artso much of that richness (to borrow from colloquy a forcible term)which we are too fond of confounding with the ideal. It is theexcess of the suggested meaning--it is the rendering this the upperinstead of the under current of theme--which turns into prose (and thatof the very flattest kind) the so-called poetry of the so-calledtranscendentalists.
Holding these opinions, I added the two concluding stanzas of thepoem--their suggestiveness being thus made to pervade all the narrativewhich has preceded them. The undercurrent of meaning is rendered firstapparent in the lines:
"Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore!"
It will be observed that the words, "from out my heart," involve thefirst metaphorical expression in the poem. They, with the answer,"Nevermore," dispose the mind to seek a moral in all that has beenpreviously narrated. The reader begins now to regard the Raven asemblematical--but it is not until the very last line of the very laststanza, that the intention of making him emblematical of Mournful andnever-ending Remembrance is permitted distinctly to be seen:
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted--nevermore!
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OLD ENGLISH POETRY. 
It should not be doubted that at least one-third of the affection withwhich we regard the elder poets of Great Britain should be attributed towhat is, in itself, a thing apart from poetry--we mean to the simplelove of the antique--and that, again, a third of even the proper poeticsentiment inspired by their writings, should be ascribed to a factwhich, while it has strict connection with poetry in the abstract, andwith the old British poems themselves, should not be looked upon as amerit appertaining to the authors of the poems. Almost every devoutadmirer of the old bards, if demanded his opinion of their productions,would mention vaguely, yet with perfect sincerity, a sense of dreamy,wild, indefinite, and he would perhaps say, indefinable delight; onbeing required to point out the source of this so shadowy pleasure, hewould be apt to speak of the quaint in phraseology and in generalhandling. This quaintness is, in fact, a very powerful adjunct toideality, but in the case in question it arises independently of theauthor's will, and is altogether apart from his intention. Words andtheir rhythm have varied. Verses which affect us to-day with a vividdelight, and which delight, in many instances, may be traced to the onesource, quaintness, must have worn in the days of their construction avery commonplace air. This is, of course, no argument against the poemsnow--we mean it only as against the poets then. There is a growingdesire to overrate them. The old English muse was frank, guileless,sincere and although very learned, still learned without art. No generalerror evinces a more thorough confusion of ideas than the error ofsupposing Donne and Cowley metaphysical in the sense wherein Wordsworthand Coleridge are so. With the two former ethics were the end--with thetwo latter the means. The poet of the "Creation" wished, by highlyartificial verse, to inculcate what he supposed to be moral truth--thepoet of the "Ancient Mariner" to infuse the Poetic Sentiment throughchannels suggested by analysis. The one finished by complete failurewhat he commenced in the grossest misconception; the other, by a pathwhich could not possibly lead him astray, arrived at a triumph which isnot the less glorious because hidden from the profane eyes of themultitude. But in this view even the "metaphysical verse" of Cowley isbut evidence of the simplicity and single-heartedness of the man. And hewas in this but a type of his school--for we may as well designate inthis way the entire class of writers whose poems are bound up in thevolume before us, and throughout all of whom there runs a veryperceptible general character. They used little art in composition.Their writings sprang immediately from the soul--and partook intenselyof that soul's nature. Nor is it difficult to perceive the tendency ofthis abandon--to elevate immeasurably all the energies of mind--but,again, so to mingle the greatest possible fire, force, delicacy, and allgood things, with the lowest possible bathos, baldness, and imbecility,as to render it not a matter of doubt that the average results of mindin such a school will be found inferior to those results in one(ceteris paribus) more artificial.
We cannot bring ourselves to believe that the selections of the "Book ofGems" are such as will impart to a poetical reader the clearest possibleidea of the beauty of the school--but if the intention had been merelyto show the school's character, the attempt might have been consideredsuccessful in the highest degree. There are long passages now before usof the most despicable trash, with no merit whatever beyond that oftheir antiquity. The criticisms of the editor do not particularly pleaseus. His enthusiasm is too general and too vivid not to be false. Hisopinion, for example, of Sir Henry's Wotton's "Verses on the Queen ofBohemia"--that "there are few finer things in our language," isuntenable and absurd.
In such lines we can perceive not one of those higher attributes ofPoesy which belong to her in all circumstances and throughout all time.Here everything is art, nakedly, or but awkwardly concealed. Noprepossession for the mere antique (and in this case we can imagine noother prepossession) should induce us to dignify with the sacred name ofpoetry, a series, such as this, of elaborate and threadbare compliments,stitched, apparently, together, without fancy, without plausibility, andwithout even an attempt at adaptation.
In common with all the world, we have been much delighted with "TheShepherd's Hunting" by Withers--a poem partaking, in a remarkabledegree, of the peculiarities of 'Il Penseroso'. Speaking of Poesy, theauthor says:
"By the murmur of a spring, Or the least boughs rustleling, By a daisy whose leaves spread, Shut when Titan goes to bed, Or a shady bush or tree, She could more infuse in me Than all Nature's beauties con In some other wiser man. By her help I also now Make this churlish place allow Something that may sweeten gladness In the very gall of sadness-- The dull loneness, the black shade, That these hanging vaults have made The strange music of the waves Beating on these hollow caves, This black den which rocks emboss, Overgrown with eldest moss, The rude portals that give light More to terror than delight, This my chamber of neglect Walled about with disrespect; From all these and this dull air A fit object for despair, She hath taught me by her might To draw comfort and delight."
But these lines, however good, do not bear with them much of the generalcharacter of the English antique. Something more of this will be foundin Corbet's "Farewell to the Fairies!" We copy a portion of Marvell's"Maiden lamenting for her Fawn," which we prefer--not only as a specimenof the elder poets, but in itself as a beautiful poem, abounding inpathos, exquisitely delicate imagination and truthfulness--to anythingof its species:
"It is a wondrous thing how fleet 'Twas on those little silver feet, With what a pretty skipping grace It oft would challenge me the race, And when't had left me far away 'Twould stay, and run again, and stay; For it was nimbler much than hinds, And trod as if on the four winds. I have a garden of my own, But so with roses overgrown, And lilies, that you would it guess To be a little wilderness; And all the spring-time of the year It only loved to be there. Among the beds of lilies I Have sought it oft where it should lie, Yet could not, till itself would rise, Find it, although before mine eyes. For in the flaxen lilies shade It like a bank of lilies laid; Upon the roses it would feed Until its lips even seemed to bleed, And then to me 'twould boldly trip, And print those roses on my lip, But all its chief delight was still With roses thus itself to fill, And its pure virgin limbs to fold In whitest sheets of lilies cold, Had it lived long, it would have been Lilies without, roses within."
How truthful an air of lamentations hangs here upon every syllable! Itpervades all. It comes over the sweet melody of the words--over thegentleness and grace which we fancy in the little maiden herself--evenover the half-playful, half-petulant air with which she lingers on thebeauties and good qualities of her favorite--like the cool shadow of asummer cloud over a bed of lilies and violets, "and all sweet flowers."The whole is redolent with poetry of a very lofty order. Every line isan idea conveying either the beauty and playfulness of the fawn, or theartlessness of the maiden, or her love, or her admiration, or her grief,or the fragrance and warmth and appropriateness of the littlenest-like bed of lilies and roses which the fawn devoured as it lay uponthem, and could scarcely be distinguished from them by the once happylittle damsel who went to seek her pet with an arch and rosy smile onher face. Consider the great variety of truthful and delicate thought inthe few lines we have quoted--the wonder of the little maiden at thefleetness of her favorite--the "little silver feet"--the fawnchallenging his mistress to a race with "a pretty skipping grace,"running on before, and then, with head turned back, awaiting herapproach only to fly from it again--can we not distinctly perceive allthese things? How exceedingly vigorous, too, is the line,
"And trod as if on the four winds!"
a vigor apparent only when we keep in mind the artless character of thespeaker and the four feet of the favorite, one for each wind. Thenconsider the garden of "my own," so overgrown, entangled with roses andlilies, as to be "a little wilderness"--the fawn loving to be there, andthere "only"--the maiden seeking it "where it should lie"--and notbeing able to distinguish it from the flowers until "itself wouldrise"--the lying among the lilies "like a bank of lilies"--the loving to"fill itself with roses,"
"And its pure virgin limbs to fold In whitest sheets of lilies cold,"
and these things being its "chief" delights--and then the pre-eminentbeauty and naturalness of the concluding lines, whose very hyperboleonly renders them more true to nature when we consider the innocence,the artlessness, the enthusiasm, the passionate girl, and morepassionate admiration of the bereaved child:
"Had it lived long, it would have been Lilies without, roses within."
[Footnote 1: "The Book of Gems." Edited by S. C. Hall.]