Obrazy na stronie
PDF

LETTER

TO MARLA GISBORNE.

LEGhokN, 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 thought— No net of words in garish colours wrought, To catch the idle buzzers of the day— But 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.

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 ;
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 !
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
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 ;-achina cup that was
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 books,
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
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 your 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 men 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
You listened to some interrupted flow
Of visionary rhyme;—in joy and pain
Struck from the inmost fountains of my brain,
With little skill perhaps ;-or how we sought
Those deepest wells of passion or of thought
Wrought by wise poets in the waste of years,
Staining the sacred waters with our tears;
Quenching a thirst ever to be renewed |
Or how I, wisest lady then indued
The language of a land which now is free,
And winged with thoughts of truth and majesty,
Flits round the tyrant's sceptre like a cloud,
And bursts the peopled prisons, and cries aloud,
“My name is Legion ("−that majestic tongue,
Which Calderon over the desert flung
Of ages and of nations; and which found
An echo in our hearts, and with the sound
Startled oblivion ;-thou wert then to me
As is a nurse—when inarticulately
A child would talk as its grown parents do.
If living winds the rapid clouds pursue,
If hawks chase doves through the aerial way,
Huntsmen the innocent deer, and beasts their prey,
Why should not we rouse with the spirit's blast
Out of the forest of the pathless past
These recollected pleasures :

You are now In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow

At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
Yet in its depth what treasures 1 You will see
Your old friend Godwin, greater none than he ;
Though fallen on evil times, yet will he stand,
Among the spirits of our age and land,
Before the dread tribunal of To-come
The foremost, whilst rebuke stands pale and dumb.
You will see Coleridge ; he who sits obscure
In the exceeding lustre and the pure
Intense irradiation of a mind,
Which, with its own internal lustre blind,
Flags wearily through darkness and despair—.
A cloud-encircled meteor of the air,
A hooded eagle among blinking owls.
You will see Hunt ; one of those happy souls
Which are the salt of the earth, and without whom
This world would smell like what it is—a tomb ;
Who is, what others seem :—his room no doubt
Is still adorned by many a cast from Shout,
With graceful flowers, tastefully placed about ;
And coronals of bay from ribbons hung,
And brighter wreaths in neat disorder flung,
The gifts of the most learned among some dozens
Of female friends, sisters-in-law and cousins.
And there is he with his eternal puns,
Which beat the dullest brain for smiles, like duns
Thundering for money at a poet's door;
Alas! it is no use to say, “I’m poor l’”
Or oft in graver mood, when he will look
Things wiser than were ever said in book,
Except in Shakspeare's wisest tenderness.
You will see H–, and I cannot express
His virtues, though I know that they are great,
Because he locks, then barricades, the gate
Within which they inhabit ;-of his wit,
And wisdom, you'll cry out when you are bit.
He is a pearl within an oyster-shell,
One of the richest of the deep. And there
Is English P- with his mountain Fair
Turned into a Flamingo, that shy bird
That gleams i'the Indian air. Have you not heard
When a man marries, dies, or turns Hindoo,
His best friends hear no more of him but you
Will see him, and will like him too, I hope,
With the milk-white Snowdonian Antelope
Matched with his camelopard his fine wit
Makes such a wound, the knife is lost in it;
A strain too learned for a shallow age,
Too wise for selfish bigots —let his page,
Which charms the chosen spirits of the age,
Fold itself up for a serener clime
Of years to come, and find its recompense
In that just expectation. Wit and sense,
Virtue and human knowledge, all that might
Make this dull world a business of delight,
Are all combined in Horace Smith.-And these,
With some exceptions, which I need not teaze
Your patience by descanting on, are all
You and I know in London.

I recall My thoughts, and bid you look upon the night: As water does a sponge, so the moonlight Fills the void, hollow, universal air. What see you !—Unpavilioned heaven is fair, Whether the moon, into her chamber gone, Leaves midnight to the golden stars, or wan Climbs with diminished beams the azure steep; Or whether clouds sail o'er the inverse deep,

Piloted by the many-wandering blast,
And the rare stars rush through them, dim and
fast.
All this is beautiful in every land.
But what see you beside : A shabby stand
Of hackney-coaches—a brick house or wall
Fencing some lonely court, white with the scrawl
Of our unhappy politics;–or worse—
A wretched woman reeling by, whose curse
Mixed with the watchman's, partner of her trade,
You must accept in place of serenade—
Or yellow-haired Pollonia murmuring
To Henry, some unutterable thing.

I see a chaos of green leaves and fruit
Built round dark caverns, even to the root
Of the living stems who feed them ; in whose
bowers
There sleep in their dark dew the folded flowers;
Beyond, the surface of the unsickled corn
Trembles not in the slumbering air, and borne
In circles quaint, and ever-changing dance,
Like winged stars the fire-flies flash and glance
Pale in the open moonshine ; but each one
Under the dark trees seems a little sun,
A meteor tamed ; a fixed star gone astray
From the silver regions of the Milky-way.
Afar the Contadino's song is heard,
Rude, but made sweet by distance ;-and a bird
Which cannot be a nightingale, and yet
I know none else that sings so sweet as it
At this late hour ; –and then all is still :—
Now Italy or London, which you will !

Next winter you must pass with me ; I’ll have My house by that time turned into a grave Of dead despondence and low-thoughted care, And all the dreams which our tormentors are. O that Hunt and were there, With everything belonging to them fair 1– We will have books; Spanish, Italian, Greek, And ask one week to make another week As like his father, as I’m unlike mine. Though we eat little flesh and drink no wine, Yet let's be merry ; we’ll have tea and toast; Custards for supper, and an endless host Of syllabubs and jellies and mince-pies, And other such lady-like luxuries, Feasting on which we will philosophise. And we'll have fires out of the Grand Duke's

wood,

To thaw the six weeks' winter in our blood.
And then we’ll talk ;-what shall we talk about !
Oh there are themes enough for many about
Of thought-entangled descant; as to nerves
With cones and parallelograms and curves,
I’ve sworn to strangle them if once they dare
To bother me, -when you are with me there.
And they shall never more sip laudanum
From Helicon or Himeros ; *—well, come,
And in spite of * * * and of the devil,
Will make our friendly philosophic revel
Outlast the leafless time;—till buds and flowers
Warn the obscure inevitable hours |
Sweet meeting by sad parting to renew:—
“To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.”

* "Iuepos, from which the river Himera was named, is, with some slight shade of difference, a synonyme of Love.

TO MARY,

(oN HER obj ECTING To THE Follow ING PoEM, UPON THE score of its coxTAINING No HUMAN INTEREs.T.)

I.

How, my dear Mary, are you critic-bitten,

(For vipers kill, though dead,) by some review, That you condemn these verses I have written,

Because they tell no story, false or true! What, though no mice are caught by a young kitten,

May it not leap and play as grown cats do, Till its claws come! Prithee, for this one time, Content thee with a visionary rhyme.

II.

What hand would crush the silken-winged fly,

The youngest of inconstant April's minions, Because it cannot climb the purest sky,

Where the swan sings, amid the sun's dominions? Not thine. Thou knowest 'tis its doom to die,

When day shall hide within her twilight pinions, The lucent eyes, and the eternal smile, Serene as thine, which lent it life awhile.

III.

To thy fair feet a winged Vision came,

Whose date should have been longer than a day, And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,

And in thy sight its fading plumes display; The watery bow burned in the evening flame,

But the shower fell, the swift Sun went his way— And that is dead. O, let me not believe That any thing of mine is fit to live!

IV,

Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years

Considering and retouching Peter Bell; Watering his laurels with the killing tears

Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to hell Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the

spheres

Of heaven, with dewy leaves and flowers; this well May be, for Heaven and Earth conspire to foil The over-busy gardener's blundering toil.

V.

My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature

As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise Clothes for our grandsons—but she matches Peter,

Though he took nineteen years, and she three

days

In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre

She wears; he, proud as dandy with his stays,
Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress
Like King Lear’s “looped and windowed ragged-

ness.”
vi.

If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow,

Scorched by Hell's hyperequatorial climate Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow :

A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at ; In shape a Scaramouch, in hue Othello,

If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate Can shrive you of that sin,_if sin there be In love, when it becomes idolatry.

THE WITCH OF ATLAS.

I.

Before those cruel Twins, whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time,

Error and Truth, had hunted from the earth
All those bright natures which adorned its

prime, And left us nothing to believe in, worth The pains of putting into learned rhyme, A lady-witch there lived on Atlas’ mountain Within a cavern by a secret fountain.

II.

Her mother was one of the Atlantides:

The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas

So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden In the warm shadow of her loveliness;–

He kissed her with his beams, and made all

golden

The chamber of grey rock in which she lay—
She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.

III. 'Tis said, she was first changed into a vapour, And then into a cloud, such clouds as flit, Like splendour-winged moths about a taper, Round the red west when the sun dies in it: And then into a meteor, such as caper On hill-tops when the moon is in a fit; Then, into one of those mysterious stars .. Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars. IV. Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden With that bright sign the billows to indent The sea-deserted sand: like children chidden, At her command they ever came and went:— Since in that cave a dewy splendour hidden, Took shape and motion: with the living form Of this embodied Power, the cave grew warm.

[blocks in formation]

vii.

The brinded lioness led forth her young,

That she might teach them how they should forego Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung

His sinews at her feet, and sought to know With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue

How he might be as gentle as the doe. The magic circle of her voice and eyes All savage natures did imparadise.

VIII.

And old Silenus, shaking a green stick

Of lilies, and the wood-gods in a crew Came, blithe, as in the olive copses thick

Cicadae are, drunk with the moonday dew: And Driope and Faunus followed quick,

Teazing the God to sing them something new, Till in this cave they found the lady lone, Sitting upon a seat of emerald stone.

IX.

And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there,

And though none saw him, through the adamant Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air,

And through those living spirits, like a want, He passed out of his everlasting lair

Where the quick heart of the great world doth And felt that wondrous lady all alone,— [pant, And she felt him upon her emerald throne.

X. And every nymph of stream and spreading tree, And every shepherdess of Ocean's flocks, Who drives her white waves over the green sea; And Ocean, with the brine on his grey locks, And quaint Priapus with his company, [rocks All came, much wondering how the enwombed Could have brought forth so beautiful a birth;Her love subdued their wonder and their mirth.

xi.

The herdsmen and the mountain maidens came,

And the rude kings of pastoral Garamant— Their spirits shook within them, as a flame

Stirred by the air under a cavern gaunt: Pigmies, and Polyphemes, by many a name,

Centaurs and Satyrs, and such shapes as haunt Wet clefts, and lumps neither alive nor dead, Dog-headed, bosom-eyed, and bird-footed.

xii. For she was beautiful: her beauty made The bright world dim, and everything beside Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade: No thought of living spirit could abide, Which to her looks had ever been betrayed, On any object in the world so wide, On any hope within the circling skies, But on her form, and in her inmost eyes.

xiii.

Which when the lady knew, she took her spindle

And twined three threads of fleecy mist, and three Long lines of light, such as the dawn may kindle

The clouds and waves and mountains with, and she As many star-beams, ere their lamps could dwindle

In the belated moon, wound skilfully; And with these threads a subtle veil she wove— A shadow for the splendour of her love.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »