Part 5 out of 6
Thou awe of nations, wherefore didst thou fall thus?
What poor fate followed thee and plucked thee on
To trust thy sacred life to an Egyptian?
The life and light of Rome to a blind stranger
That honorable war ne'er taught a nobleness,
Nor worthy circumstance showed what a man was?
That never heard thy name sung but in banquets
And loose lascivious pleasures? To a boy
That had no faith to comprehend thy greatness,
No study of thy life to know thy goodness?...
Egyptians, dare you think your high pyramides,
Built to out-dure the sun, as you suppose,
Where your unworthy kings lie raked in ashes,
Are monuments fit for him? No, brood of Nilus,
Nothing can cover his high fame but heaven;
No pyramid set off his memories,
But the eternal substance of his greatness,
To which I leave him.
Alas! what boots it with incessant care
To tend the homely, slighted, shepherd's trade,
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Were it not better done, as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears,
And slits the thin-spun life. "But not the praise,"
Phoebus replied, and touched my trembling ears:
"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies,
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed."
THE PLEASURES OF MELANCHOLY.
[From _Il Penseroso._]
Sweet bird that shun'st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among
I woo, to hear thy even-song;
And, missing thee, I walk unseen
On the dry smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wandering moon,
Riding near her highest noon,
Like one that had been led astray
Through the heaven's wide pathless way,
And oft, as if her head she bowed,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
I hear the far-off curfew sound,
Over some wide-watered shore,
Swinging slow with sullen roar;
Or, if the air will not permit,
Some still removed place will fit,
Where glowing embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the cricket on the hearth,
Or the bellman's drowsy charm
To bless the doors from nightly harm....
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister's pale,
And love the high embowed roof.
With antique pillars massy-proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced quire below,
In service high and anthem clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell,
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every star that heaven doth shew,
And every herb that sips the dew,
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
These pleasures, Melancholy, give;
And I with thee will choose to live.
[Footnote 121: Atropos, the fate who cuts the thread of life.]
[Footnote 122: The watchman's call.]
THE PROTECTION OF CONSCIENCE.
Scene: A wild wood; night.
_Lady_: My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge
Under the spreading favor of these pines,
Stepped, as they said, to the next thicket-side
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
As the kind hospitable woods provide.
They left me then when the grey-hooded Even,
Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phoebus' wain.
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labor of my thoughts. 'Tis likeliest
They had engaged their wandering steps too far;
And envious darkness, ere they could return,
Had stolen them from me. Else, O thievish Night,
Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars
That Nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light
To the misled and lonely traveller?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfect in my listening ear;
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues that syllable men's names
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion, Conscience.
O, welcome, pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel girt with golden wings,
And thou unblemished form of Chastity!
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That He, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistening guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honor unassailed....
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err: there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
INVOCATION TO LIGHT.
[From _Paradise Lost_.]
Thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovereign vital lamp; but thou
Revisitest not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quenched their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veiled. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget
Those other two equalled with me in fate,
I equalled with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old:
Then feed on thoughts that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark,
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works, to me expunged and rased,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.
[Footnote 123: The _gutta serena_, or cataract.]
[Footnote 124: Homer.]
[From _Paradise Lost_.]
He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend
Was moving toward the shore: his ponderous shield,
Etherial temper, massy, large and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdamo, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains on her spotty globe.
His spear (to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand)
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle, not like those steps
On heaven's azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore beside, vaulted with fire.
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called
His legions, angel-forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
High over-arched embower, or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcasses
And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrewn,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
[Footnote 125: Galileo.]
[Footnote 126: A hill near Florence.]
ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEDMONT.
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple Tyrant, that from these may grow
A hundred-fold, who, having learnt thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
[Footnote 127: This sonnet refers to the persecution instituted in 1655
by the Duke of Savoy against the Vaudois Protestants.]
[Footnote 128: The Pope, who wore the triple crown or tiara.]
[Footnote 129: The Papacy, with which the Protestant reformers identified
Babylon the Great, the "Scarlet Woman" of Revelation.]
SIR THOMAS BROWNE.
THE VANITY OF MONUMENTS.
[From _Urn Burial_]
There is no antidote against the opium of time, which temporally
considereth all things. Our fathers find their graves in our short
memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our survivors.
Grave-stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some
trees stand, and old families last not three oaks....The iniquity
of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of
men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the
founder of the pyramids? Herostratus lives, that burnt the temple of
Diana, he is almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of
Adrian's horse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our
felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal
durations and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon. Who
knows whether the best of men be known, or whether there be not more
remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in the known
account of time? Without the favor of the everlasting register, the
first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methusaleh's long life
had been his only chronicle.
Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be
as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in
the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story, and the
reported names ever since contain not one living century. The number of
the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far
surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the equinox? Every hour adds
unto that current arithmetic which scarce stands one moment. And since
death must be the Lucina of life, and even pagans could doubt
whether thus to live were to die; since our longest sun sets at right
descensions and makes but winter arches, and, therefore, it cannot be
long before we lie down in darkness and have our light in ashes. Since
the brother of death daily haunts us with dying mementoes, and time
that grows old in itself bids us hope no long duration; diuturnity is a
dream and folly of expectation....
There is nothing strictly immortal but immortality. Whatever hath no
beginning may be confident of no end. All others have a dependent being
and within the reach of destruction, which is the peculiar of that
necessary essence that cannot destroy itself, and the highest strain of
omnipotency, to be so powerfully constituted as not to suffer even from
the power of itself. But the sufficiency of Christian immortality
frustrates all earthly glory, and the quality of either state after
death makes a folly of posthumous memory. God, who can only destroy
our souls, and hath assured our resurrection, either of our bodies or
names hath directly promised no duration. Wherein there is so much of
chance that the boldest expectants have found unhappy frustrations, and
to hold long subsistence seems but a scape in oblivion. But man is
a noble animal, splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave, solemnizing
nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of
bravery in the infamy of his nature.
[Footnote 130: Injustice.]
[Footnote 131: See Shakspere's _Troilus and Cressida_.]
[Footnote 132: That is, bribed, bought off.]
[Footnote 133: The goddess of childbirth. We must die to be born again.]
[Footnote 134: Sleep.]
[Footnote 135: That is, the only one who can.]
[Footnote 136: Freak.]
[Footnote 137: Ostentation.]
* * * * *
THE CHARACTER OF ZIMRI.
[From _Absalom and Achitophel_.]
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand,
A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was every thing by turns, and nothing long;
But in the course of one revolving moon
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon;
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking,
Blest madman, who could every hour employ
With something new to wish or to enjoy!
Railing and praising were his usual themes,
And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
So over-violent or over-civil
That every man with him was God or Devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
Beggared by fools whom still he found too late,
He had his jest, and they had his estate.
He laughed himself from court; then sought relief
By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief:
For spite of him, the weight of business fell
To Absalom and wise Achitophel.
Thus, wicked but in will, of means bereft,
He left not faction, but of that was left.
[Footnote 138: This is a satirical
sketch of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.]
[Footnote 139: Found out, detected.]
[Footnote 140: The Duke of Monmouth and the Earl of Shaftesbury.]
THE CHEATS OF HOPE.
When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favor the deceit,
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay;
To-morrow's falser than the former day.
Lies worse, and while it says we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possessed.
Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain,
And from the dregs of life think to receive
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired of waiting for this chymic gold
Which fools us young and beggars us when old.
[Footnote 141: The gold which the
alchemists tried to make from base metals.]
* * * * *
THE EMPEROR OF LILLIPUT.
[From _Gulliver's Travels_.]
He is taller by almost the breadth of my nail than any of his court;
which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders. His features
are strong and masculine, with an Austrian lip and arched nose, his
complexion olive, his countenance erect, his body and limbs well
proportioned, all his motions graceful, and his deportment majestic. He
was then past his prime, being twenty-eight years and three quarters
old, of which he had reigned about seven in great felicity, and
generally victorious. For the better convenience of beholding him, I lay
on my side, so that my face was parallel to his, and he stood but three
yards off; however, I have had him since many times in my hand, and
therefore cannot be deceived in the description. His dress was very
plain and simple, and the fashion of it between the Asiatic and the
European; but he had on his head a light helmet of gold, adorned with
jewels and a plume on the crest. He held his sword drawn in his hand to
defend himself, if I should happen to break loose; it was almost three
inches long: the hilt and scabbard were gold enriched with diamonds. His
voice was shrill, but very clear and articulate, and I could distinctly
hear it, when I stood up.
[From _Gulliver's Travels_.]
One day in much good company, I was asked by a person of quality whether
I had seen any of their _Struldbrugs_, or immortals? I said I had not,
and desired he would explain to me what he meant by such an appellation,
applied to a mortal creature. He told me that sometimes, though very
rarely, a child happened to be born in a family with a red circular spot
in the forehead, directly over the left eyebrow, which was an infallible
mark that it should never die....He said these births were so rare that
he did not believe there could be above eleven hundred _Struldbrugs_ of
both sexes in the whole kingdom; of which he computed about fifty in the
metropolis, and among the rest, a young girl born about three years ago;
that these productions were not peculiar to any family, but a mere
effect of chance; and the children of the _Struldbrugs_ themselves were
equally mortal with the rest of the people....After this preface, he
gave me a particular account of the _Struldbrugs_ among them. He said
they commonly acted like mortals till about thirty years old; after
which, by degrees, they grew melancholy and dejected, increasing in both
till they came to fourscore. This he learned from their own confession;
for otherwise, there not being above two or three of that species born
in an age, they were too few to form a general observation by. When they
came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the extremity of living in
this country, they had not only all the follies and infirmities of other
old men, but many more, which arose from the dreadful prospect of never
dying. They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain,
talkative, but incapable of friendship and dead to all natural
affection, which never descended below their grandchildren. Envy and
impotent desires are their prevailing passions. But those objects
against which their envy seems principally directed are the vices of the
younger sort and the deaths of the old. By reflecting on the former,
they find themselves cut off from all possibility of pleasure; and
whenever they see a funeral they lament and repine that others are gone
to a harbor of rest, to which they themselves never can hope to arrive.
They have no remembrance of any thing but what they learned and
observed in their youth and middle age, and even that is very imperfect,
And for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend on
common tradition than upon their best recollections. The least miserable
among them appear to be those who turn to dotage and entirely lose their
memories; these meet with more pity and assistance, because they want
many bad qualities which abound in others....At ninety, they lose their
teeth and hair; they have at that age no distinction of taste, but eat
and drink whatever they can get, without relish or appetite. The
diseases they were subject to still continue, without increasing or
diminishing. In talking, they forget the common appellation of things,
and the names of persons, even of those who are their nearest friends
and relatives. For the same reason they never can amuse themselves with
reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them from the
beginning of a sentence to the end; and by this defect they are deprived
of the only entertainment whereof they might otherwise be capable....
They are despised and hated by all sorts of people; when one of them is
born, it is reckoned ominous, and their birth is recorded very
particularly....They were the most mortifying sight I ever beheld; and
the women were homelier than the men Beside the usual deformities in
extreme old age, they acquired an additional ghastliness, in proportion
to their number of years, which is not to be described; and among half a
dozen I soon distinguished which was the eldest, although there was not
above a century or two between them.
* * * * *
A CHARACTER OF ADDISON.
[From the _Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot_.]
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires
True genius kindles and fair fame inspires;
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne;
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate, for arts that caused himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserved to blame or to commend,
A timorous foe and a suspicious friend;
Dreading even fools, by flatterers besieged;
And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
Like _Cato_, give his little Senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While wits and templars every sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise--
Who but must laugh if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he?
AN ORNAMENT TO HER SEX.
[From the _Epistle of the Characters of Women_.]
See how the world its veterans rewards!
A youth of frolic, an old age of cards;
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without lovers, old without a friend;
A fop their passion, but their prize a sot;
Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot.
Ah! Friend, to dazzle let the vain design;
To raise the thought and touch the heart be thine!
That charm shall grow, while what fatigues the Ring
Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing.
So when the sun's broad beam has tired the sight,
All mild ascends the moon's more sober light,
Serene in virgin majesty she shines,
And unobserved, the glaring orb declines.
Oh! blest with temper, whose unclouded ray
Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day;
She who can love a sister's charms, or hear
Sighs for a daughter with unwounded ear;
She who ne'er answers till a husband cools,
Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules;
Charms by accepting, by submitting sways,
Yet has her humour most when she obeys;
Let fops or fortune fly which way they will,
Disdains all loss of tickets or Codille;
Spleen, vapours, or small-pox, above them all,
And mistress of herself though china fall....
Be this a woman's fame; with this unblest,
Toasts live a scorn, and queens may die a jest.
This Phoebus promised (I forget the year)
When those blue eyes first opened on the sphere;
Ascendant Phoebus watched that hour with care,
Averted half your parents' simple prayer;
And gave you beauty, but denied the pelf
That buys your sex a tyrant o'er itself.
The generous God who wit and gold refines,
And ripens spirits as he ripens mines,
Kept dross for duchesses, the world shall know it,
To you gave sense, good-humour, and a poet.
[Footnote 142: A reference to Addison's tragedy of _Cato_.]
[Footnote 143: Young lawyers resident in the
temple. See Spenser's _Prothalamion_.]
[Footnote 144: Martha Blount, a dear friend of the poet's.]
[Footnote 145: The fashionable promenade in Hyde Park.]
[Footnote 146: The "pool" in the game of ombre.]
* * * * *
SIGNOR NICOLINI AND THE LION.
[From the _Spectator_.]
There is nothing that of late years has afforded matter of greater
amusement to the town than Signor Nicolini's combat with a lion in the
Haymarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general
satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great
Britain....But before I communicate my discoveries I must acquaint the
reader that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was
thinking on something else, I accidentally jostled against a monstrous
animal that extremely startled me, and, upon my nearer survey of it,
appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion, seeing me very much surprised,
told me in a gentle voice that I might come by him if I pleased; "for,"
says he, "I do not intend to hurt any body." I thanked him very kindly
and passed by him, and in a little time after saw him leap upon the
stage and act his part with very great applause. It has been observed by
several that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice
since his first appearance, which will not seem strange when I acquaint
the reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three
The first lion was a candle-snuffer, who, being a fellow of a testy,
choleric temper, overdid his part, and would not suffer himself to be
killed so easily as he ought to have done; besides, it was observed of
him that he grew more surly every time he came out of the lion; and
having dropt some words in ordinary conversation, as if he had not
fought his best, and that he suffered himself to be thrown upon his back
in the scuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he
pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to discard him;
and it is verily believed to this day that had he been brought upon the
stage another time he would certainly have done mischief. Besides, it
was objected against the first lion that he reared himself so high upon
his hinder paws, and walked in so erect a position, that he looked more
like an old man than a lion.
The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the playhouse,
and had the character of a mild and peaceful man in his profession. If
the former was too furious, this was too sheepish, for his part;
inasmuch that, after a short, modest walk upon the stage, he would fall
at the first touch of 'Hydaspes' without grappling with him and
giving him an opportunity of showing his variety of Italian trips; it is
said, indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-colored doublet;
but this was only to make work for himself in his private character of a
tailor. I must not omit that it was this second lion who treated me with
so much humanity behind the scenes.
The acting lion at present is, as I am informed, a country gentleman who
does it for his diversion, but desires his name may be concealed. He
says very handsomely, in his own excuse, that he does not act for gain,
that he indulges an innocent pleasure in it, and that it is better to
pass away an evening in this manner than in gaming and drinking; but at
the same time says, with a very agreeable raillery upon himself, that if
his name should be known the ill-natured world might call him _the ass
in the lion's skin_. This gentleman's temper is made out of such a happy
mixture of the mild and the choleric that he outdoes both his
predecessors, and has drawn together greater audiences than have been
known in the memory of man.
I must not conclude my narrative without taking notice of a groundless
report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage, of whom I
must declare myself an admirer; namely, that Signor Nicolini and the
lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another and smoking a pipe
together behind the scenes, by which their common enemies would
insinuate that it is but a sham combat which they represent upon the
stage; but upon inquiry I find that if any such correspondence has
passed between them it was not till the combat was over, when the lion
was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received rules of the
drama. Besides, this is what is practiced every day in Westminster Hall,
where nothing is more usual than to see a couple of lawyers, who have
been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as
soon as they are out of it.
[Footnote 147: In the opera of _Hydaspes_, presented at the Haymarket
in 1710, the hero, whose part was taken by Signor Nicolini, kills a lion in
DETACHED PASSAGES FROM BOSWELL'S LIFE.
We talked of the education of children, and I asked him what he thought
was best to teach them first. _Johnson_: Sir, it is no matter what you
teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your
breeches first. Sir, while you are considering which of two things you
should teach your child first, another boy has learnt them both.
Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is
not done well, but you are surprised to see it done at all.
A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage married immediately
after his wife died. Johnson said it was a triumph of hope over
He would not allow Scotland to derive any credit from Lord Mansfield,
for he was educated in England. "Much," said he, "may be made of a
Scotchman if he be _caught_ young." _Johnson_: An old tutor of a college
said to one of his pupils, "Read over your compositions, and wherever
you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine strike it
out." A gentleman who introduced his brother to Dr. Johnson was earnest
to recommend him to the doctor's notice, which he did by saying: "When
we have sat together some time you'll find my brother grow very
"Sir," said Johnson, "I can wait."
"Greek, sir," said he, "is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he
Lord Lucan tells a very good story, that when the sale of Thrale's
brewery was going forward, Johnson appeared bustling about with an
inkhorn and pen in his button-hole, like an exciseman, and on being
asked what he really considered to be the value of the property which
was to be disposed of, answered, "We are not here to sell a parcel of
boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams
_Johnson_: My dear friend, clear your _mind_ of cant. You may _talk_ as
other people do; you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble
servant." You are _not_ his most humble servant. You may say, "These are
bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times." You
don't mind the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had such bad
weather the last day of your journey and were so much wet." You don't
care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You may _talk_ in this manner;
it is a mode of talking in society, but don't _think_ foolishly.
A lively saying of Dr. Johnson to Miss Hannah More, who had expressed a
wonder that the poet who had written _Paradise Lost_ should write such
poor sonnets: "Milton, madam, was a genius that could cut a colossus
from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones."
A gentleman having said that a _conge d'elire_ has not, perhaps, the
force of a command, but may be considered only as a strong
recommendation. "Sir," replied Johnson, "it is such a recommendation as
if I should throw you out of a two pair of stairs window, and recommend
you to fall soft."
Happening one day to mention Mr. Flaxman, the doctor replied, "Let me
hear no more of him, sir; that is the fellow who made the index to my
_Ramblers_, and set down the name of Milton thus: 'Milton, _Mr_, John.'"
Goldsmith said that he thought he could write a good fable, mentioned
the simplicity which that kind of composition requires, and observed
that, in most fables, the animals introduced seldom talk in character.
"For instance," said he, "the fable of the little fishes, who saw birds
fly over their heads, and, envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be
changed into birds. The skill," continued he, "consists in making them
talk like little fishes." While he indulged himself in this fanciful
reverie, he observed Johnson shaking his sides and laughing. Upon which
he smartly proceeded, "Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem
to think; for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk
He expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall
of China. I caught it for the moment, and said I really believed I
should go and see the wall of China, had I not children of whom it was
my duty to take care. "Sir," said he, "by doing so, you would do what
would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would
be a luster reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They
would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to
view the wall of China--I am serious, sir."
THE VILLAGE PASTOR AND SCHOOL-MASTER.
[From _The Deserted Village_.]
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
And still where many a garden flower grows wild;
There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
The village preacher's modest mansion rose.
A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place.
Unskillful he to fawn or seek for power
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour:
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train--
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain;
The long-remembered beggar was his guest,
Whose beard, descending, swept his aged breast.
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat by his fire and talked the night away;
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done,
Shouldered his crutch and showed how fields were won.
Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave e'er charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side....
At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorned the venerable place;
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools who came to scoff remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
E'en children followed with endearing wile
And plucked his gown to share the good man's smile.
His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossomed furze unprofitable gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school.
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew.
Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
The day's disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
At all his jokes (for many a joke had he);
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Conveyed the dismal, tidings when he frowned
Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught,
The love he bore for learning was his fault.
The village all declared how much he knew--
'Twas certain he could write and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, times and tides presage,
And e'en the story ran that he could gauge.
In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,
For, e'en though vanquished, he could argue still,
While words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
* * * * *
THE DECAY OF LOYALTY.
[From _Reflections on the Revolution in France_.]
It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France,
then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this
orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw
her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere
she just began to move in; glittering like the morning star, full of
life and splendor and joy. O, what a revolution! and what a heart must I
have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall. Little
did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of
enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged
to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom;
little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen
upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of
cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from the
scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the
age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators
has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never,
never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that
proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the
heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an
exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of
nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It
is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which
felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage, whilst it mitigated
ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice
itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness....On the scheme
of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and
muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom as it is
destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by
their own terms, and by the concern which each individual may find in
them from his own private speculations, or can spare to them from his
own private interests. In the groves of their academy, at the end of
every vista, you see nothing but the gallows. Nothing is left which
engages the affections on the part of the commonwealth. On the
principles of this mechanic philosophy, our institutions can never be
embodied, if I may use the expresssion, in persons; so as to create in
us love, veneration, admiration, or attachment. But that sort of reason
which banishes the affections is incapable of filling their place. These
public affections, combined with manners, are required sometimes as
supplements, sometimes as corrections, always as aids, to law. The
precept given by a wise man, as well as a great critic, for the
construction of poems, is equally true as to states. _Non satis est
pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto_. There ought to be a system of
manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to
relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
[Footnote 148: Marie Antoinette.]
* * * * *
ODE ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF ETON COLLEGE.
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the watery glade,
Where grateful Science still adores
Her Henry's holy shade;
And ye, that from the stately brow
Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead, survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way:
Ah happy hills, ah pleasing shade,
Ah fields beloved in vain,
Where once my careless childhood strayed,
A stranger yet to pain!
I feel the gales that from ye blow,
A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing
My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.
Say, father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race,
Disporting on thy margent green,
The paths of pleasure trace,
Who, foremost now delight to cleave
With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which enthral?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?
While some, on earnest business bent,
Their morning labors ply
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint
To sweeten liberty:
Some bold adventurers disdain
The limits of their little reign,
And unknown regions dare discry:
Still as they run they look behind,
They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy.
Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possest;
The tear forgot as soon as shed,
The sunshine of the breast:
Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,
Wild wit, invention ever new,
And lively cheer of vigour born;
The thoughtless day, the easy night,
The spirits pure, the slumbers light,
That fly th' approach of morn.
Alas! regardless of their doom
The little victims play.
No sense have they of ill to come,
Nor care beyond to-day:
Yet see how all around them wait
The ministers of human fate,
And black Misfortune's baleful train!
Ah, show them where in ambush stand,
To seize their prey the murth'rous band!
Ah, tell them they are men!
These shall the fury Passions tear,
The vultures of the mind,
Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
And Shame that skulks behind;
Or pining Love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
That only gnaws the secret heart,
And Envy wan, and faded Care,
Grim-visaged, comfortless Despair,
And Sorrow's piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning Infamy,
The stings of Falsehood those shall try,
And hard Unkindness' altered eye,
That mocks the tear it forced to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defiled,
And moody Madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe.
Lo in the vale of years beneath
A grisly troop are seen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their queen:
This racks the joints, this fires the veins,
That every laboring sinew strains,
Those in the deeper vitals rage:
Lo, Poverty, to fill the band,
That numbs the soul with icy hand,
And slow consuming Age.
To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies,
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.
[Footnote 149: Henry VI., founder of Eton College.]
* * * * *
FROM LINES ON THE RECEIPT OF HIS MOTHER'S PICTURE.
O, that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine--thy own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
"Grieve not, my child; chase all thy fears away!"
My mother! When I learnt that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial day;
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away;
And, turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return.
What ardently I wished I long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived;
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of _to-morrow_ even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learnt at last submission to my lot;
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.
[From _The Task_.]
Now stir the fire and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steaming column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in....
O winter! ruler of the inverted year,
Thy scattered hair with sleet-like ashes filled,
Thy breath congealed upon thy lips, thy cheek
Fringed with a beard made white with other snows
Than those of age, thy forehead wrapped in clouds,
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne
A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urged by storms along its slippery way;
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seemest,
And dreaded as thou art. Thou holdest the sun
A prisoner in the yet undawning east,
Shortening his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west; but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gathering, at short notice, in one group
The family dispersed, and fixing thought,
Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturbed retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening know.
* * * * *
MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN.
[From _The Task_.]
O for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war
Might never reach me more! My ear is pained,
My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong or outrage with which earth is filled.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
It does not feel for man; the natural bond
Of brotherhood is severed as the flax
That falls asunder at the touch of fire.
* * * * *
When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neebors neebors meet,
As market-days are wearing late
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An' getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
This truth fand honest Tam O'Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonnie lasses.)
O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou wast a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou wasna sober;
That ilka melder, wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirten Jean till Monday.
She prophesy'd that, late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drowned in Doon,
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how monie counsels sweet,
How monie lengthened, sage advices
The husband frae the wife despises! . .
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed;
Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellowed:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.
(Mounted on his gray mare Maggie, Tarn pursues his homeward way in
safety till, reaching Kirk-Alloway, he sees the windows in a blaze, and,
looking in, beholds a dance of witches, with Old Nick playing the
fiddle. Most of the witches are any thing but inviting, but there is one
winsome wench, called Nannie, who dances in a "cutty-sark," or short
But here my muse her wing maun cower;
Sic flights are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
And how Tam stood like are bewitched,
And thought his very e'en enriched.
Even Satan glowered and fidged fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud.
So Maggie runs, the witches follow
Wi' monie an eldritch skreech and hollow,
Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin':
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman.
Now do thy speedy utmost Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross,
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tale she had to shake,
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle--
Ae spring brought aff her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
[Footnote 150: Peddler fellows.]
[Footnote 151: Thirsty.]
[Footnote 152: Road home.]
[Footnote 153: Ale.]
[Footnote 154: Full.]
[Footnote 155: Uncommonly.]
[Footnote 156: Swamps.]
[Footnote 157: Gaps in a hedge.]
[Footnote 158: One.]
[Footnote 159: Good-for-nothing.]
[Footnote 160: Babbling.]
[Footnote 161: Gossip.]
[Footnote 162: Every time corn was sent to the mill.]
[Footnote 163: Driven.]
[Footnote 164: Makes me weep.]
[Footnote 165: Must.]
[Footnote 166: Such.]
[Footnote 167: Leaped and flung.]
[Footnote 168: Stared and fidgeted with eagerness.]
[Footnote 169: Hitched about.]
[Footnote 170: Then.]
[Footnote 171: Lost.]
[Footnote 172: Fuss.]
[Footnote 173: Hive.]
[Footnote 174: Deserts.]
[Footnote 175: Bridge.]
[Footnote 176: Devil.]
[Footnote 177: Aim.]
[Footnote 178: Whole.]
[Footnote 179: Hag.]
[Footnote 180: Caught.]
John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo.
John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And monie a canty day, John,
We've had wi' are anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.
[Footnote 181: Sweetheart.]
[Footnote 182: Smooth]
[Footnote 183: Merry.]
* * * * *
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers--
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan, suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF THE SOUL.
[From Ode on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early
Our birth is but a sleep, and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy:
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy;
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy.
The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day....
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benedictions: not, indeed,
For that which is most worthy to be blest;
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast--
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble, like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal silence: truths that wake
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavor,
Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy.
Hence, in a season of calm weather,
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither;
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were none to praise,
And very few to love.
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye:
Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
THE SOLITARY REAPER.
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No nightingale did ever chant
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travelers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands.
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending,
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;
I listened, motionless and still,
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
SKATING AT NIGHT.
[From the _Prelude_.]
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle; with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
Eastward were sparking clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star
That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me--even as if the earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round!
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.
* * * * *
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
THE SONG OF THE SPIRITS.
[From _The Ancient Mariner_.]
Sometimes, a-dropping from the sky,
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
And now 'twas like all instruments,
And now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel's song
That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
THE LOVE OF ALL CREATURES.
[From the same.]
O wedding guest, this soul hath been
Alone on a wide, wide sea:
So lonely 'twas that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company.
To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father bends,
Old men and babes and loving friends,
And youths and maidens gay.
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou wedding guest;
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
ESTRANGEMENT OF FRIENDS.
Alas! they had been friends in youth
But whispering tongues can poison truth,
And constancy lives in realms above,
And life is thorny and youth is vain,
And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it fared, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother;
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining.
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs that had been rent asunder:
A dreary sea now flows between,
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder
Can wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once has been.
[From _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_.]
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said.
This is my own, my native land?
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
O Caledonia! stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! what mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band
That knits me to thy rugged strand?
Still, as I view each well-known scene,
Think what is now, and what hath been,
Seems as, to me, of all bereft
Sole friends thy woods and streams are left:
And thus I love them better still
Even in extremity of ill.
By Yarrow's stream still let me stray,
Though none should guide my feeble way
Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break,
Although it chill my withered cheek;
Still lay my head by Teviot's stone,
Though there, forgotten and alone,
The bard may draw his parting groan.
SUNSET ON THE BORDER.
Day set on Norham's castled steep
And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loop-hole grates where captives
The flanking walls that round it sweep,
In yellow luster shone.
The warriors on the turrets high,
Moving athwart the evening sky
Seemed forms of giant height:
Their armor; as it caught the rays,
Flashed back again the western blaze,
In lines of dazzling light.
St. George's banner, broad and gay,
Now faded, as the fading ray
Less bright, and less was flung;
The evening gale had scarce the power
To wave it on the donjon tower,
So heavily it hung.
The scouts had parted on their search,
The castle gates were barred;
Above the gloomy portal arch,
Timing his footsteps to a march,
The warden kept his guard;
Low humming, as he passed along,
Some ancient border-gathering song.
Proud Maisie is in the wood
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush
Singing so rarely.
"Tell me, thou bonny bird,
When shall I marry me?"
--"When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye."
"Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?"
"The gray-headed sexton
That delves the grave duly.
"The glow-worm o'er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing
Welcome, proud lady."
[Footnote 184: Brave, fine.]
PIBROCH OF DONUIL DHU.
Pibroch of Donuil Dhu, Pibroch of Donuil,
Wake thy wild voice anew, summon Clan-Conuil.
Come away, come away, hark to the summons!
Come in your war array, gentles and commons.
Come from deep glen and from mountain so rocky,
The war-pipe and pennon are at Inverlochy.
Come every hill-plaid and true heart that wears one,
Come every steel blade and strong hand that bears one.
Leave untended the herd, the flock without shelter;
Leave the corpse uninterred, the bride at the altar;
Leave the deer, leave the steer, leave nets and barges:
Come with your fighting gear, broadswords and targes.
Come as the winds come when forests are rended;
Come as the waves come when navies are stranded;
Faster come, faster come; faster and faster,
Chief, vassal, page and groom, tenant and master.
Fast they come, fast they come; see how they gather!
Wide waves the eagle plume blended with heather.
Cast your plaids, draw your blades, forward each man set!
Pibroch of Donuil Dhu, knell for the onset!
* * * * *
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.
LINES TO AN INDIAN AIR.
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 odours 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 heartbeats loud and fast:
O! press it close to thine again,
Where it will break at last.
[From _Lines Written in the Euganean Hills_.]
Sun-girt city, thou hast been
Ocean's child, and then his queen;
Now is come a darker day
And thou soon must be his prey,
If the power that raised thee here
Hallow so thy watery bier.
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne among the waves,
Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew
Flies, as once before it flew,
O'er thine isles depopulate,
And all is in its ancient state;
Save where many a palace gate
With green sea-flowers overgrown,
Like a rock of ocean's own
Topples o'er the abandoned sea
As the tides change sullenly.
The fisher on his watery way
Wandering at the close of day,
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o'er the starlight deep,
Lead a rapid masque of death
O'er the waters of his path.
O world! O life! O time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before,
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more--O, never more!
Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight;
Fresh spring and summer and winter hoar
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more--O, never more!
THE POET'S DREAM.
[From _Prometheus Unbound_.]
On a poet's lips I slept
Dreaming like a love-adept
In the sound his breathing kept.
Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,
But feeds on the aerial kisses
Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses.
He will watch from dawn to gloom
The lake-reflected sun illume
The yellow bees in the ivy bloom,
Nor heed nor see what things they be;
But from these create he can
Forms more real than living man,
Nurslings of immortality.
GEORGE GORDON BYRON.
ELEGY ON THYRZA.
And thou art dead, as young and fair
As aught of mortal birth:
And form so soft and charms so rare,
Too soon returned to earth:
Though earth received them in her bed,
And o'er the spot the crowd may tread
In carelessness or mirth,
There is an eye which could not brook
A moment on that grave to look.
I will not ask where thou liest low
Nor gaze upon the spot;
There flowers or weeds at will may grow,
So I behold them not:
It is enough for me to prove
That what I loved and long must love
Like common earth can rot;
To me there needs no stone to tell
'Tis nothing that I loved so well.
Yet did I love thee to the last
As fervently as thou,
Who didst not change through all the past
And canst not alter now.
The love where death has set his seal
Nor age can chill, nor rival steal,
Nor falsehood disavow:
And, what were worse, thou canst not see
Or wrong, or change, or fault in me.
The better days of life were ours;
The worst can be but mine:
The sun that cheers, the storm that lowers,
Shall never more be thine.
The silence of that dreamless sleep
I envy now too much to weep,
Nor need I to repine
That all those charms have passed away,
I might have watched through long decay.
The flower in ripened bloom unmatched
Must fall the earliest prey;
Though by no hand untimely snatched,
The leaves must drop away:
And yet it were a greater grief
To watch it withering leaf by leaf,
Than see it plucked to-day;
Since earthly eye but ill can bear
To trace the change to foul from fair.
I know not if I could have borne
To see thy beauties fade;
The night that followed such a morn
Had worn a deeper shade:
Thy day without a cloud hath past,
And thou wert lovely to the last,
Extinguished, not decayed;
As stars that shoot along the sky
Shine brightest as they fall from high.
As once I wept, if I could weep,
My tears might well be shed,
To think I was not near to keep
One vigil o'er thy bed;
To gaze, how fondly! on thy face,
To fold thee in a faint embrace,
Uphold thy drooping head;
And show that love, however vain,
Nor thou nor I can feel again.
Yet how much less it were to gain,
Though thou hast left me free,
The loveliest things that still remain,
Than thus remember thee!
The all of thine that cannot die
Through dark and dread Eternity,
Returns again to me,
And more thy buried love endears
Than aught, except its living years.
THE BALL AT BRUSSELS ON THE NIGHT BEFORE WATERLOO.
[From _Childe Harold_.]
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gathered there
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men:
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell;
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
Did ye not hear it? No; 'twas but the wind,
Or the car rattling o'er the stony street.
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined!
No sleep till morn when youth and pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet--
But hark! that heavy sound breaks in once more,
As if the clouds its echo would repeat;
And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!
Arm! arm! it is--it is--the cannon's opening roar!...
Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,
And cheeks all pale which but an hour ago
Blushed at the praise of their own loveliness;
And there were sudden partings, such as press
The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs
Which ne'er might be repeated: who could guess
If evermore should meet those mutual eyes,
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise?
And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,
The mustering squadron, and the clattering car
Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,
And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;
And the deep thunder peal on peal afar;
And near, the beat of the alarming drum
Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;
While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,
Or whispering, with white lips, "The foe! They come! they come!"
And wild and high the "Cameron's gathering" rose,
The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn's hills
Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes:
How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills,
Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills
Their mountain pipe, so fill the mountaineers
With the fierce native daring which instils
The stirring memory of a thousand years;
And Evan's, Donald's fame rings in each clansman's ears.
And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Dewy with nature's tear-drops, as they pass,
Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
Over the unreturning brave--alas!
Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
Which now beneath them, but above shall grow,
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valor rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low.
ODE ON A GRECIAN URN.
Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme;
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet; but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet do not grieve:
She cannot fade though thou hast not thy bliss,
Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And happy melodist, unwearied
Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
Forever panting and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk this pious morn?
Ah! little town, thy streets forever more
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate can e'er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.