British poet, biographer, essayist, and teacher
Poems (1851) edit
- The soul of man is larger than the sky,
Deeper than ocean, or the abysmal dark
Of the unfathomed center. Like that ark,
Which in its sacred hold uplifted high,
O'er the drowned hills, the human family,
And stock reserved of every living kind,
So, in the compass of the single mind,
The seeds and pregnant forms in essence lie,
That make all worlds. Great poet, 'twas thy art
To know thyself, and in thyself to be
Whate'er Love, Hate, Ambition, Destiny,
Or the firm, fatal purpose of the Heart
Can make of Man. Yet thou wert still the same,
Serene of thought, unhurt by thy own flame.
- "To Shakespeare"
- On this hapless earth
There ’s small sincerity of mirth,
And laughter oft is but an art
To drown the outcry of the heart.
- "Address to certain Gold-fishes"
- She is not fair to outward view
As many maidens be;
Her loveliness I never knew
Until she smiled on me:
Oh! then I saw her eye was bright,
A well of love, a spring of light.
- "Song. She is not fair"
- Her very frowns are fairer far
Than smiles of other maidens are.
- "Song. She is not fair"
- Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist, and dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
That, wisely doating, ask'd not why it doated.
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
That man is more than half of nature's treasure,
Of that fair beauty which no eye can see,
Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
And now the streams may sing for other's pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity.
- To A Friend
- Fragments of an unfinished play, written c. 1820
- Lightly tripping o'er the land,
Deftly skimming o'er the main,
Scarce our fairy wings bedewing
With the frothy mantling brine,
Scarce our silver feet acquainting
With the verdure-vested ground;
Now like swallows o'er a river
Gliding low with quivering pinion,
Now aloft in ether sailing
"Leisurely as summer cloud;"
Rising now, anon descending,
Swift and bright as shooting stars,
Thus we travel glad and free.
- Sweet were change,
If but a change of tortures! But to grow
A motionless rock, fast as my strong prison,
Age after age, till circling suns outnumber
The sands upon the tide-worn beach! No hope,
Or that sad mockery of hope that fools
With dull despair, spanning the infinite!
- Never till this day
Did life disturb the dense eternity
Of joyless quiet; never skylark's song,
Or storm-bird's prescient scream, or eaglet's cry,
Made vital the gross fog. The very light
Is but an alien that can find no welcome
- Hard I strove
To put away my immortality,
Till my collected spirits swell'd my heart
Almost to bursting; but the strife is past.
It is a fearful thing to be a god,
And, like a god, endure a mortal's pain;
To be a show for earth and wondering heaven
To gaze and shudder at! But I will live,
That Jove may know there is a deathless soul
Who ne'er will be his subject. Yes, 'tis past.
The stedfast Fates confess my absolute will,—
Their own co-equal.
- Now, we are agreed,
I and my destinies. The total world, —
Above, below, whate'er is seen or known,
And all that men, and all that gods enact,
Hopes, fears, imaginations, purposes;
With joy, and pain, and every pulse that beats
In the great body of the universe,
I give to the eternal sisterhood,
To make my peace withal! And cast this husk,
This hated, mangled, and dishonour'd carcase
Into the balance; so have I redeem'd
My proper birthright, even the changeless mind,
The imperishable essence uncontroll'd.
- The mighty Jove did love us. Did? He does.
There is a spell of unresisted power
In wonder-working weak simplicity,
Because it is not fear'd.
- We have winning wiles and witcheries,
Such incantations as thy sterner wit
Did never dream of. Time hath been ere now
That Jove hath listen'd to our minstrelsy.
Till wrath would seem to drop out of his soul
Like a forgotten thing.
- True, thy fault is great,
But we are many that will plead for thee;
We and our sisters, dwellers in the streams
That murmur blithely to the joyous mood,
And dolefully to sadness. Not a nook
In darkest woods but some of us are there,
To watch the flowers, that else would die unseen.
- Where'er ye sojourn, and whatever names
Ye are or shall be called; fairies, or sylphs,
Nymphs of the wood or mountain, flood or field:
Live ye in peace, and long may ye be free
To follow your good minds.
- Are we not bold to bid a god repent;
To break upon his slumbers with our prayers;
To watch him day and night; to wear him out
With endless supplication? Perhaps to beg
His kind attention to a pleasant tale;
To cheat him into pity, and conclude
Each story with Prometheus?
- Gentle powers, forbear!
Twere worse than all my miseries foreseen
Should my huge wreck suck down the friendly skiffs
That proffer'd aid. Oh! would that Jupiter
Had hurl'd me to the deep of Erebus,
Where neither god nor man might pity me.
- Now shall I become a common tale,
A ruin'd fragment of a worn-out world;
Unchanging record of unceasing change.
Eternal landmark to the tide of time.
Swift generations, that forget each other,
Shall still keep up the memory of my shame
Till I am grown an unbelieved fable.
- Horsed upon hippogriffs, the hags of night
Shall come to visit me; and once an age
Some desperate wight, or wizard, gaunt and grey,
Shall seek this spot by help of hidden lore,
To ask of things forgotten or to come.
But who, beholding me, shall dare defy
The wrath of Jove? Since vain is wisdom's boast,
And impotent the knowledge that o'erleaps
The dusky bourne of time. Twere better far
That gods should quaff their nectar merrily,
And men sing out the day like grasshoppers,
So may they haply lull the watchful thunder.
- Go your way. Forget Prometheus,
And all the woe that he is doom'd to bear;
By his own choice this vile estate preferring
To ignorant bliss and unfelt slavery.
- Jove is not one half so merciless
As thou art to thyself. But fare thee well;
Our love is all as stubborn as thy pride,
And swift as firm.
- What were Jove himself
If pity had not been? Was not he once
A hapless babe, condemn'd to die ere born?
- He grew, and grew,
A star-bright sign of fated empery;
And all conspiring omens led him on
To lofty purpose and pre-eminence.
The mountain eagles, towering in their pride,
Stoop'd at his beck and flock'd about his path,
Like the small birds by wintry famine tamed;
Or with their dusky and expansive wings
Shaded and fann'd him as he slept at noon.
The lightnings danced before him sportively,
And shone innocuous as the pale cold moon
In the clear blue of his celestial eye.
- The glad sons of the deliver'd earth
Shall yearly raise their multitudinous voice,
Hymning great Jove, the God of Liberty!
Then he grew proud, yet gentle in his pride,
And full of tears, which well became his youth,
As showers do spring. For he was quickly moved,
And joy'd to hear sad stories that we told
Of what we saw on earth, of death and woe,
And all the waste of time. Then would he swear
That he would conquer time; that in his reign
It never should be winter; he would have
No pain, no growing old, no death at all.
And that the pretty damsels, whom we said
He must not love, for they would die and leave him,
Should evermore be young and beautiful;
Or, if they must go, they should come again,
Like as the flowers did. Thus he used to prate,
Till we almost believed him.
- Aye, ye were blest with folly. Who may tell
What strange conceits upon the earth were sown
And gender'd by the fond garrulity
Of your aereal music? Scatter'd notes,
Half heard, half fancied by the erring sense
Of man, on which they fell like downy seeds
Sown by autumnal winds, grew up, and teem'd
With plenteous madness.
- There is a dark foreboding in thy speech;
Thine eyes flash fearfully a moody joy
That augurs a new downfall. Whence arise
These desperate hopes, that seem to make thee fond
Of lowest misery?
- I know it all —
All ye would ask. But ne'er shall hope be mine
Till the dread secret works its fatal will
In daylight visible, with wrath and scorn,
And ceaseless memory of forgotten things.
Then Jove shall learn what all his sulphurous bolts,
Soul-piercing torments, earthquakes, fiery plagues,
Disease, and loathsome, black deformity,
And all confounding shame, shall ne'er persuade
My voice to utter.
- Ye patient fields, rejoice!
The blessing that ye pray for silently
Is come at last; for ye shall no more fade,
Nor see your flow'rets droop like famishing babes
Upon your comfortless breasts.
- With all your music, loud and lustily,
With every dainty joy of sight and smell,
Prepare a banquet meet to entertain
The Lord of Thunder, that hath set you free
From old oppression.
- Thou breeze,
That mak'st an organ of the mighty sea,
Obedient to thy wilful phantasies,
Provoke him not to scorn; but soft and low,
As pious maid awakes her aged sire,
On tiptoe stealing, whisper in his ear
The tidings of the young god's victory.
- Oh, where is man—
That mortal god, that hath no mortal kin
Or like on earth? Shall Nature's orator—
The interpreter of all her mystic strains —
Shall he be mute in Nature's jubilee?
- Mortal! fear no more,—
The reign is past of ancient violence;
And Jove hath sworn that time shall not deface,
Nor death destroy, nor mutability
Perplex the truth of love.