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The shiftings of the mighty winds that blow

Hither and thither all the changing thoughts

Of man: though no great ministering reason sorts

Out the dark mysteries of human souls

To clear conceiving: yet there ever rolls

A vast idea before me, and I glean

Therefrom my liberty ; thence too I 've seen

The end and aim of Poesy. 'Tis clear

As anything most true ; as that the year

Is made of the four seasons—manifest

As a large cross, some old cathedral's crest,

Lifted to the white clouds. Therefore should I

Be but the essence of deformity,

A coward, did my very eyelids wink

At speaking out what I have dared to think.

Ah! rather let me like a madman run

Over some precipice; let the hot sun

Melt my Dedalian wings, and drive me down

Convulsed and headlong 1 Stay! an inward frown

Of conscience bids me be more calm awhile.

An ocean dim, sprinkled with many an isle,

Spreads awfully before me. How much toil!

How many days! what desperate turmoil!

Ere I can have explored its widenesses.

Ah, what a task! upon my bended knees,

I could unsay those—no, impossible!


For sweet relief I 'll dwell On humbler thoughts, and let this strange assay Begun in gentleness die so away. E'en now all tumult from my bosom fades: I turn full-hearted to the friendly aids That smooth the path of honour; brotherhood, And friendliness, the nurse of mutual good. The hearty grasp that sends a pleasant sonnet Into the brain ere one can think upon it; The silence when some rhymes are coming out; And when they 're come, the very pleasant rout:

The message certain to be done to-morrow.
'Tis perhaps as well that it should be to borrow
Some precious book from out its snug retreat,
To cluster round it when we next shall meet.
Scarce can I scribble on; for lovely airs
Are fluttering round the room like doves in pairs;
Many delights of that glad day recalling,
When first my senses caught their tender falling.
And with these airs come forms of elegance
Stooping their shoulders o'er a horse's prance,
Careless, and grand—fingers soft and round
Parting luxuriant curls; and the swift bound
Of Bacchus from his chariot, when his eye
Made Ariadne's cheek look blushingly.
Thus I remember all the pleasant flow
Of words at opening a portfolio.

Things such as these are ever harbingers
To trains of peaceful images: the stirs
Of a swan's neck unseen among the rushes:
A linnet starting all about the bushes:
A butterfly, with golden wings broad-parted,
Nestling a rose, convulsed as though it smarted
With over-pleasure—many, many more,
Might I indulge at large in all my store
Of luxuries: yet I must not forget
Sleep, quiet with his poppy coronet:
For what there may be worthy in these rhymes
I partly owe to him: and thus, the chimes
Of friendly voices had just given place
To as sweet a silence, when I 'gan retrace
The pleasant day, upon a couch at ease.
It was a poet's house who keeps the keys
Of pleasure's temple—round about were hung
The glorious features of the bards who sung
In other ages—cold and sacred busts
Smiled at each other. Happy he who trusts
To clear Futurity his darling fame!
Then there were fauns and satyrs taking aim

At swelling apples with a frisky leap

And reaching fingers, 'mid a luscious heap

Of vine-leaves. Then there rose to view a fane

Of liney marble, and thereto a train

Of nymphs approaching fairly o'er the sward:

One, loveliest, holding her white hand toward

The dazzling sun-rise: two sisters sweet

Bending their graceful figures till they meet

Over the trippings of B little child:

And some are hearing, eagerly, the wild

Thrilling liquidity of dewy piping.

See, in another picture, nymphs are wiping

Cherishingly Diana's timorous limbs;

A fold of lawny mantle dabbling swims

At the bath's edge, and keeps a gentle motion

With the subsiding crystal: as when ocean

Heaves calmly its broad swelling smoothness o'er

Its rocky marge, and balances once more

The patient weeds; that now unshent by foam

Feel all about their undulating home.

Sappho's meek head was there half smiling down

At nothing; just as though the earnest frown

Of over-thinking had that moment gone

From off her brow, and left her all alone.

Great Alfred's too, with anxious, pitying eyes,

As if he always listen'd to the sighs

Of the goaded world; and Kosciusko's, worn

By horrid suffrance—mightily forlorn.

Petrarch, outstepping from the shady green,

Starts at the sight of Laura; nor can wean

His eyes from her sweet face. Most happy they!

For over them was seen a free display

Of outspread wings, and from between them shone

The face of Poesy: from off her throne

She overlook'd things that I scarce could tell,

The very sense of where I was might well

Keep sleep aloof: but more than that there came

Thought after thought to nourish up the flame

Within my breast; so that the morning light

Surprised me even from a sleepless night;
And up I rose refreshed, and glad, and gay,
Resolving to begin that very day
These lines; and howsoever they be done,
I leave them as a father does his son.


In a drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne'er remember

Their green felicity:

The north cannot undo them,

With a sleety whistle through them;

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

In a drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne'er remember
Apollo's summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would 't were so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy
To know the change and feel it,
When there is none to heal it,
Nor numbed sense to steal it,
Was never said in rhyme.



Many the wonders I this day have seen:
The sun, when first he kist away the tears
That fill'd the eyes of Morn;—the laurel'd peers

Who from the feathery gold of evening lean;—

The ocean with its vastness, its blue green,
Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears,—
Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears

Must think on what will be, and what has been.

E'en now, dear George, while this for you I write,
Cynthia is from her silken curtains peeping

So scantly, that it seems her bridal night,
And she her half-discover'd revels keeping.

But what, without the social thought of thee,

Would be the wonders of the sky and sea?

Had I a man's fair form, then might my sighs
Be echoed swiftly through that ivory shell
Thine ear, and find thy gentle heart; so well

Would passion arm me for the enterprise:

But ah! I am no knight whose foeman dies;
No cuirass glistens on my bosom's swell;
I am no happy shepherd of the dell

Whose lips have trembled with a maiden's eyes.

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