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LETTER TO MARIA GISBORNE.

LEGHORN, July 1, 1820, THE spider spreads her webs, whether she be In poet's tower, cellar, or barn, or tree; The silkworm in the dark-green mulberry leaves His winding-sheet and cradle ever weaves ! So I, a thing whom moralists call worm, Sit spinning still round this decaying form, From the fine threads of rare and subtle thoughtNo net of words in garish colours wrought, To catch the idle buzzers of the dayBut a soft cell, where, when that fades away, Memory may clothe in wings my living name And feed it with the asphodels of fame, Which in those hearts which most remember me Grow, making love an immortality.

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Whoever should behold me now, I wist,
Would think I were a mighty mechanist,
Bent with sublime Archimedean art
To breathe a soul into the iron heart
Of some machine portentous, or strange gin,
Which by the force of figured spells might win
Its way over the sea, and sport therein ;
For round the walls are hung dread engines, such
As Vulcan never wrought for Jove to clutch
Ixion or the Titan :—or the quick
Wit of that man of God, St. Dominic,
To convince Atheist, Turk, or Heretic;

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Or those in philosophic councils met,
Who thought to pay some interest for the debt
They owed to Jesus Christ for their salvation,
By giving a faint foretaste of damnation
To Shakspeare, Sidney, Spenser, and the rest
Who made our land an island of the blest,
When lamp-like Spain, who now relumes her fire
On Freedom's hearth, grew dim with Empire
With thumb-screws, wheels, with tooth and spike and jag,
With fishes found under the utmost crag
Of Cornwall, and the storm-encompassed isles,
Where to the sky the rude sea seldom smiles
Unless in treacherous wrath, as on the morn
When the exulting elements in scorn
Satiated with destroyed destruction, lay
Sleeping in beauty on their mangled prey,
As panthers sleep and other strange and dread
Magical forms the brick-floor overspread-
Proteus transformed to metal did not make
More figures, or more strange ; nor did he take
Such shapes of unintelligible brass,
Or heap himself in such a horrid mass
Of tin and iron not to be understood,
And forms of unimaginable wood,
To puzzle Tubal Cain and all his brood :
Great screws, and cones, and wheels, and grooved blocks,
The elements of what will stand the shocks
Of wave and wind and time.—Upon the table
More knacks and quips there be than I am able
To cataloguise in this verse of mine :
A pretty bowl of wood—not full of wine,
But quicksilver; that dew which the gnomes drink
When at their subterranean toil they swink,
Pledging the demons of the earthquake, who
Reply to them in lava-cry, halloo !

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And call out to the cities o'er their head,
Roofs, towns, and shrines,-the dying and the dead
Crash through the chinks of earth—and then all quaff
Another rouse, and hold their sides and laugh.
This quicksilver no gnome has drunk-within
The walnut-bowl it lies, veined and thin,
In colour like the wake of light that stains
The Tuscan deep, when from the moist moon rains
The inmost shower of its white fire—the breeze
Is still—blue heaven smiles over the pale seas.
And in this bowl of quicksilver—for I
Yield to the impulse of an infancy
Outlasting manhood—I have made to float
A rude idealism of a paper

boat-
A hollow screw with cogs—Henry will know
The thing I mean, and laugh at me,-if so

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He fears not I should do more mischief. -Next
Lie bills and calculations much perplext,
With steam-boats, frigates, and machinery quaint
Traced over them in blue and yellow paint.
Then comes a range of mathematical
Instruments, for plans nautical and statical,
A heap of rosin, a green broken glass
With ink in it;- china

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What it will never be again, I think,
A thing from which sweet lips were wont to drink
The liquor doctors rail at—and which I
Will quaff in spite of them—and when we die
We 'll toss up who died first of drinking tea,
And cry out,-heads or tails ? where'er we be.
Near that a dusty paint-box, some old hooks,
A half-burnt match, an ivory block, three books,
Where conic sections, spherics, logarithms,
To great Laplace, from Saunderson and Sims,
Lie heaped in their harmonious disarray

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that was

VOL. III.

Of figures,—disentangle them who may.
Baron de Tott's Memoirs beside them lie,
And some odd volumes of old chemistry.
Near them a most inexplicable thing,
With least in the middle-I'm conjecturing
How to make Henry understand ;—but-no,
I 'll leave, as Spenser says, with many mo,
This secret in the pregnant womb of time,
Too vast a matter for so weak a rhyme.
And here like some weird Archimage sit I,
Plotting dark spells, and devilish enginery,
The self impelling steam-wheels of the mind
Which pump up oaths from clergymen, and grind
The gentle spirit of our meek reviews
Into a powdery foam of salt abuse,
Ruffling the ocean of their self-content:-
I sit—and smile or sigh as is my bent,
But not for them—Libeccio rushes round
With an inconstant and an idle sound,
I heed him more than them—the thunder-smoke
Is gathering on the mountains, like a cloak
Folded athwart their shoulders broad and bare;
The ripe corn under the undulating air
Undulates like an ocean ;-and the vines
Are trembling wide in all their trellised lines ;-
The murmur of the awakening sea doth fill
The empty pauses of the blast ;--the hill
Looks hoary through the white electric rain,
And from the glens beyond, in sullen strain
The interrupted thunder howls; above
One chasm of heaven smiles, like the eye of love
On the unquiet world ;—while such things are,
How could one worth your friendship heed the war
Of worms? The shriek of the world's carrion jays,
Their censure, or their wonder, or their praise ?

You are not here! The quaint witch Memory sees In vacant chairs

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absent images, And points where once you sat, and now should be, But are not. -I demand if ever we Shall meet as then we met ;—and she replies, Veiling in awe her second-sighted eyes,

I know the past alone—but summon home
My sister Hope, she speaks of all to come.”
But I, an old diviner, who know well
Every false verse of that sweet oracle,
Turned to the sad enchantress once again,
And sought a respite from my gentle pain,
In acting every passage o’er and o’er
Of our communion.—How on the sea shore
We watched the ocean and the sky together,
Under the roof of blue Italian weather;
How I ran home through last year's thunder-storm,
And felt the transverse lightning linger warm
Upon my cheek: and how we often made
Treats for each other, where good will outweighed
The frugal luxury of our country cheer,
As it well might, were it less firm and clear
Than ours must ever be ;—and how we spun
A shroud of talk to hide us from the sun
Of this familiar life, which seems to be
But is not,-or is but quaint mockery
Of all we would believe; or sadly blame
The jarring and inexplicable frame
Of this wrong world :-and then anatomize
The
purposes and thoughts of whose

eyes
Were closed in distant years ;-or widely guess
The issue of the earth's great business,
When we shall be as we no longer are ;
Like babbling gossips safe, who hear the war
Of winds, and sigh, but tremble not; or how

men

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