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Makes gloomy nooks for Grief to hide,
And pensive shades for Melancholy,
When all the earth is bright beside?
Let clay wear smiles, and green grass wave,
Mirth shall not win us back again,
Whilst man is made of his own grave,
And fairest clouds but gilded rain!
I saw my mother in her shroud,
Her cheek was cold and very pale ;
And ever since I've look'd on all
As creatures doom'd to fail !
Why do buds ope except to die?
Ay, let us watch the roses wither,
And think of our loves' cheeks;
And oh! how quickly time doth fly
To bring death's winter hither!
Minutes, hours, days, and weeks,
Months, years, and ages, shrink to nought,
An age past is but a thought!
Ay, let us think of him awhile
That, with a coffin for a boat,
Rows daily o'er the Stygian moat,
And for our table choose a tomb:
There's dark enough in any skull
To charge with black a raven plume;
And for the saddest funeral thoughts
A winding-sheet hath ample room,
Where Death, with his keen-pointed style,
Hath writ the common doom.
How wide the yew-tree spreads its gloom,
And o'er the dead lets fall its dew,
As if in tears it wept for them,
The many human families
That sleep around its stem !
How cold the dead have made these stones,
With natural drops kept ever wet !
Lo! here the best—the worst—the world
Doth now remember or forget,
Are in one common ruin hurlid,
And love and hate are calmly met ;
The loveliest eyes that ever shone,
The fairest hands, and locks of jet.
Is't not enough to vex our souls,
And fill our eyes, that we have set
Our love upon a rose's leaf,
Our hearts upon a violet?
Blue eyes, red cheeks, are frailer yet,
And sometimes at their swift decay
Beforehand we must fret.
The roses bud and bloom again;
But Love may haunt the grave of Love,
And watch the mould in vain.
O clasp me, sweet, whilst thou art mine,
And do not take my tears amiss ;
For tears must flow to wash away
A thought that shows so stern as this :
Forgive, if somewhile I forget,
In woe to come, the present bliss ;
As frighted Proserpine let fall
Her flowers at the sight of Dis :
Ev'n so the dark and bright will kiss--
The sunniest things throw sternest shade,
And there is ev'n a happiness
That makes the heart afraid !
Of vile and mean, of fierce and bad;
The same fair light that shone in streams,
The fairy lamp that charm'd the lad;
For so it is, with spent delights
She taunts men's brains, and makes them mad
All things are touch'd with Melancholy,
Born of the secret soul's mistrust,
To feel her fair ethereal wings
Weigh'd down with vile degraded dust ;
Even the bright extremes of joy
Bring on conclusions of disgust,
Like the sweet blossoms of the May,
Whose fragrance ends in must.
O give her, then, her tribute just,
Her sighs and tears, and musings holy;
There is no music in the life
That sounds with idiot laughter solely;
There's not a string attuned to mirth,
But has its chord in Melancholy.
LYCUS THE CENTAUR.*
FROM AN UNROLLED MANUSCRIPT OF APOLLONIUS CURIUS.
Lycus, detained by Circe in her magical dominion is beloved by a Water
Nymph, who, desiring to render him immortal, has recourse to the Sor.
ceress. Circe gives her an incantation to pronounce, which should turn
Lycus into a horse ; but the horrible effect of the charm causing her to
break off in the midst, he becomes a Centaur.
Who hath ever been lured and bound by a spell
To wander, fore-damn'd, in that circle of hell
* When this poem was republished in “The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies," the following dedication was added to it :
TO J. H. REYNOLDS, ESQ. My dear Reynolds,
You will remember “Lycus." – It was written in the pleasant springtime of our friendship, and I am glad to maintain that association by connecting your name with the poem. It will gratify me to find that you regard it with the old partiality for the writings of each other, which prevailed with us in those days. For my own sake, I must regret that your pen goes now into far other records than those which used to delight me. Your true friend and brother,
Where Witchery works with her will like a god,
Works more than the wonders of time at a nod, -
At a word,-at a touch, -at a flash of the eye,
But each form is a cheat, and each sound is a lie,
Things born of a wish-to endure for a thought,
Or last for long ages—to vanish to nought,
Or put on new semblance? O Jove, I had given
The throne of a kingdom to know if that heaven,
And the earth and its streams were of Circe, or whether
They kept the world's birthday and brighten’d together !
For I loved them in terror, and constantly dreaded
That the earth where I trod, and the cave where I bedded
The face I might dote on, should live out the lease
Of the charm that created, and suddenly cease:
And I gave me to slumber, as if from one dream
To another-each horrid, and drank of the stream
Like a first taste of blood, lest as water I quaff’d
Swift poison, and never should breathe from the draft,
Such drink as her own monarch husband drain'd up
When he pledged her, and Fate closed his eyes in the cup.
And I pluck'd of the fruit with held breath, and a fear
That the branch would start back and scream out in my ear;
For once, at my suppering, I pluck’d in the dusk
An apple, juice gushing and fragrant of musk;
But by daylight my fingers were crimson'd with gore,
And the half-eaten fragment was flesh at the core;
And once-only once—for the love of its blush,
I broke a bloom bough, but there came such a gush
On my hand, that it sainted away in weak fright,
While the leaf-hidden woodpecker shriek'd at the sight
And oh! such an agony thrill'd in that note,
That my soul, startling up, beat its wings in my throat,
As it long'd to be free of a body whose hand
Was doom'd to work torments a Fury had plann'd!
There I stood without stir, yet how willing to flee.
As if rooted and horror-turn'd into a tree, -
Oh! for innocent death,—and to suddenly win it,
I drank of the stream, but no poison was in it:
I plunged in its waters, but ere I could sink,
Some invisible fate pull’d me back to the brink;
I sprang from the rock, from its pinnacle height,
But fell on the grass with a grasshopper's flight;
I ran at my fears--they were fears and no more,
For the bear would not mangle my limbs, nor the boar,
But moan'd-all their brutalised flesh could not smother
The horrible truth,-We were kin to each other!
They were mournfully gentle, and group'd for relief, All foes in their skin, but all friends in their grief : The leopard was there, -baby-mild in its feature ; And the tiger, black-barr'd, with the gaze of a creature That knew gentle pity; the bristle-back'd boar, His innocent tusks staind with mulberry gore; And the laughing hyena—but laughing no more ; And the snake, not with magical orbs to devise Strange death, but with woman's attraction of eyes; The tall ugly ape, that still bore a dim shine Through his hairy eclipse of a manhood divine ; And the elephant stately, with more than its reason, How thoughtful in sadness ! but this is no season To reckon them up from the lag-bellied toad To the mammoth, whose sobs shook his ponderous load. There were woes of all shapes, wretched forms, when I came, That hung down their heads with a human-like shame; The elephant hid in the boughs, and the bear Shed over his eyes the dark veil of his hair ; And the womanly soul turning sick with disgust, Tried to vomit herself from her serpentine crust; While all groan’d their groans into one at their lot, As I brought them the image of what they were not.
Then rose a wild sound of the human voice choking
Through vile brutal organs-low tremulous croaking;
Cries swallow'd abruptly-deep animal tones
Attuned to strange passion, and full-utter'd groans ;
All shuddering weaker, till hush'd in a pause
Of tongues in mute motion and wide yawning jaws ;
And I guess'd that those horrors mere meant to tell o'er
The tale of their woes; but the silence told more,
That writhed on their tongues ; and I knelt on the sod,
And prayed with my voice to the cloud-stirring god,