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SCORN not the Sonnet ; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this Key
Shakspeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small Lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this Pipe did Tasso sound;
Camöens soothed with it an Exile's grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle Leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm Lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a Trumpet, whence he blew
Soul-animating strains alas, too few!
Not Love, not War, nor the tumultuous swell
Of civil conflict, nor the wrecks of change,
Nor Duty struggling with afflictions strange,
Not these alone inspire the tuneful shell;
But where untroubled peace and concord dwell,
There also is the Muse not loth to range,
Watching the blue smoke of the elmy grange,
Skyward ascending from the twilight dell.
Meek aspirations please her, lone endeavour,
And sage content, and placid melancholy;
She loves to gaze upon a crystal river,
Diaphanous, because it travels slowly;
Soft is the music that would charm for ever;
The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
While not a leaf seems faded, — while the fields,
With ripening harvest prodigally fair,
In brightest sunshine bask, - this nipping air,
Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields
His icy scimitar, a foretaste yields
Of bitter change and bids the Flowers beware;
And whispers to the silent Birds, “ Prepare
Against the threatening Foe your trustiest shields.”
For me, who under kindlier laws belong
To Nature's tuneful quire, this rustling dry
Through leaves yet green, and yon crystalline sky,
Announce a season potent to renew,
Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song,
And nobler cares than listless summer knew.
IV. NOVEMBER 1. How clear, how keen, how marvellously bright The effluence from yon distant mountain's head, Which, strewn with snow smooth as the heaven can shed, Shines like another Sun — on mortal sight Uprisen, as if to check approaching night, And all her twinkling stars. Who now would tread, If so he might, yon mountain's glittering head ---Terrestrial but a surface, by the flight Of sad mortality's earth-sullying wing, Unswept, unstained ? Nor shall the aerial Powers Dissolve that beauty — destined to endure, White, radiant, spotless, exquisitely pure, Through all vicissitudes. till genial spring Have filled the laughing vales with welcome flowers.
V. - COMPOSED DURING A STORM.
One who was suffering tumult in his soul
Yet failed to seek the sure relief of prayer,
Went forth his course surrendering to the care
Of the fierce wind, while mid-day lightnings prowl
Insidiously, untimely thunders growl;
While trees, dim-seen, in frenzied numbers, tear
The lingering remnant of their yellow hair,
And shivering wolves, surprised with darkness, howl
As if the sun were not. He raised his eye
Soul-smitten for, that instant, did appear
Large space, mid dreadful clouds, of purest sky,
An azure orb - shield of Tranquillity,
Invisible, unlooked-for minister
of providential goodness ever nigh!
VI. Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they But hardier far, once more I see thee bend Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend, Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day, Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, way-lay The rising sun, and on the plains descend; Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May Shall soon behold this border thickly set With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers; Nor will I then thy modest grace forget, Chaste Snow-drop, venturous harbinger of Spring, And pensive monitor of fleeting years!
-COMPOSED A FEW DAYS AFTER THE FOREGOING.
WHEN haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring
Mature release, in fair society
Survive, and Fortune’s utmost anger try;
Like these frail snow-drops that together cling,
And nod their helmets, smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirl-blast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand
The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate;
And so the bright immortal Theban band,
Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove's command,
Might overwhelm, but could not separate !
VIII. The Stars are mansions built by Nature's hand; The Sun is peopled; and with Spirits blest: Say, can the gentle Moon be unpossest? Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand, A Habitation marvellously planned, For life to occupy in love and rest; All that we see — is dome, or vault, or nest, Or fort, erected at her sage command. Glad thought for every season! but the Spring Gave it while cares were weighing on my heart, ’Mid song of birds, and insects murmuring; And while the youthful year's prolific art. Of bud, leaf, blade, and flower was fashioning Abodes where self-disturbance hath no part.
IX. - TO THE LADY BEAUMONT.
LADY! the songs of Spring were in the grove
While I was shaping beds for winter flowers;
While I was planting green unfading bowers,
And shrubs to hang upon the warm alcove,
And sheltering wall; and still, as Fancy wove
The dream, to time and nature's blended powers
I gave this paradise for winter hours,
A labyrinth, Lady! which your feet shall rove.
Yes! when the sun of life more feebly shines,
Becoming thoughts, I trust, of solemn gloom
Or of high gladness you shall hither bring;
And these perennial bowers and murmuring pines
Be gracious as the music and the bloom
And all the mighty ravishment of spring.