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Of truth profound a sweet continuous lay,
Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes !
Ah! as I listened with a heart forlorn,
The pulses of my being beat anew;
And even as life returns upon the drowned
Life's joy rekindling roused a throng of pains--
Keen pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
And fears self-willed, that shunned the eye of hope;
And hope that scarce would know itself from fear;
Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
And genius given, and knowledge won in vain ;
And all which I had culled in wood-walks wild,
And all which patient toil had reared, and all,
Commune with thee had opened out—but flowers
Strewed on my corse, and borne upon my bier,
In the same coffin, for the self-same grave !
That way no more! and ill beseems it me,
Who came a welcomer in herald's guise,
Singing of glory, and futurity,
To wander back on such unhealthful road,
Plucking the poisons of self-harm! And ill
Such intertwine beseems triumphal wreaths
Strewed before thy advancing !
Nor do thou, Sage Bard ! impair the memory of that hour Of thy communion with my nobler mind By pity or grief, already felt too long ! Nor let my words import more blame than needs. The tumult rose and ceased ; for
peace Where wisdom's voice has found a listening heart. Amid the howl of more than wintry storms,
The halcyon hears the voice of vernal hours
Already on the wing.
Eve following eve, Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of Home Is sweetest! moments for their own sake hailed And more desired, more precious for thy song, In silence listening, like a devout child, My soul lay passive, by thy various strain Driven as in surges now beneath the stars, With momentary stars of my own birth, Fair constellated foam,* still darting off Into the darkness ; now a tranquil sea, Outspread and bright, yet swelling to the moon.
And when--O Friend ! my comforter and guide! Strong in thyself, and powerful to give strength! Thy long sustained Song finally closed, And thy deep voice had ceased—yet thou thyself Wert still before my eyes, and round us both That happy vision of beloved facesScarce conscious, and yet conscious of its close I sate, my being blended in one thought (Thought was it ? or aspiration ? or resolve ?) Absorbed, yet hanging still upon the soundAnd when I rose, I found myself in prayer.
“ A beautiful white cloud of foam at momentary intervals coursed by the side of the vessel with a roar, and little stars of fame danced and sparkled and went out in it; and every now and then light detachments of this white cloud-like foam darted off from the vessel's side, each with its own small constellation, over the sea, and scoured out of sight like a Tartar troop over a wilderness.”—Biographia Literaria, 197
O cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge !
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring; it flows silently,
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
“ Most musical, most melancholy” bird !*
A melancholy bird ! Oh! idle thought! 4 In nature there is nothing melancholy. But some night-wandering man whose heart was
pierced With the remembrance of a grievous wrong, Or slow distemper, or neglected love, (And so, poor wretch ! filled all things with him
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of bis own sorrow) he, and such as he,
First named these notes a melancholy strain.
* “ Most musical, most melancholy." This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description. It is spoken in the character of the melancholy man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity, to a line in Milton.
And many a poet echoes the conceit:
Poet who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretched his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell,
By sun or moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his fame forgetful ! so his fame
Should share in Nature's immortality,
A venerable thing ! and so his song
Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself
Be loved like Nature! But 'twill not be so.
And youths and maidens most poetical,
Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring
In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still
Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
O’er Philomela's pity-pleading strains.
My Friend, and thou, our Sister! we have learnt
A different lore; we may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices, always full of love
And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chaunt, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music!
And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken
grass, Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many nightingales ; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the white grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,
And one low piping sound more sweet than all-
Stirring the air with such a harmony,
your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day! On moon-lit bushes,
Whose dewy leaflets are but half disclosed,
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and
full, Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade Lights up her love-torch.
A most gentle Maid,
Who dwelleth in her hospitable home
Hard by the castle, and at latest eve
(Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate
To something more than Nature in the grove)
Glides through the path ways; she knows all their
That gentle Maid ! and oft a moment's space,
What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,
Hath heard a pause of silence; till the moon
Emerging, hath awakened earth and sky
With one sensation, and these wakeful birds
Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
As if some sudden gale had swept at once
A hundred airy harps ! And she hath watched
Many a nightingale perched giddily
On blossom twig still swinging from the breeze,