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J oH' \^ REESE LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
Received trf^COcSa^ i SS ■yi.
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BUAMA <0W ilSLis
ELIZABETH BAERETT BAEEETT,
AUTBOS or * TBX BSBAFEUM : AKO OTBSR POBUS.'
HENRY G. LANGLEY,
NO. 8, ASTOR-HOVSS.
No*. 70 and 72, Vesey-sL
A Vision op Poets, 5
Rhyme of the Duchess May, ..*..... 65
The Lady»s Yes, 100
The Poet and the Bird, a Fable, 102
The Lost Bower, 104
A Child Asleep, 127
The Cry of ihe Children, 131
Crowned and Wedded, 140
Crowned and Buried, 146
To Flush, my Dog, 156
The Fourfold Aspect, 163
A Flower m a Letter, 170
The Cry of the Human, 177
A Lay of the Early Eose, 184
Bertha in the Lane, 195
That Day. For Music, 207
Loved Once, 209
A Rhapsody of Life's Progress, 213
L. E. L.'s Last auestion, 223
The House of Clouds, » 227
Catarina to Camoens, . » 233
A Portrait, . 241
Sleeping and Watching, 245
Wine of Cyprus, 248
The Romance of the Swan's Nest, 258
Lessons from the Gorse, ; 264
The Dead Pan, 266
" O Sacred Essence, lighting me this hour,
How may I lightly stile thy great power ?
Power ! hut of whence 1 under the greenwood spraye ?
Or liv'st in Heaven ? saye.
Echo, in Heavens aye.
In Heavens aye ! tell, may I it ohtayne
By alms, by fasting, prayer, — by paine ?
Echo. By paine.
Show me the paine, it shall be undergone:
I to mine end will still go on.
Echo. Go on."
OF THE ^
A VISION OF POETS.
A POET could not sleep aright,
For his soul kept up too much light
Under his eyelids for the night :
And thus he rose disquieted,
With sweet rhymes ringing through his head,
And in the forest wandered ;
Where, sloping up the darkest glades.
The moon had drawn long colonnades.
Upon whose floor the verdure fades
To a faint silver : pavement fair.
The antique Dryads scarce would dare
To footprint o'er, if such were there,
A VISION OF POETS.
But rather sit by breathlessly,
With tears in their large eyes to see
The consecrated sight. But he —
The poet — who with spirit-kiss
Familiar, had long claimed for his
Whatever earthly beauty is.
Who also in his spirit bore
A Beauty passing the earth's store,
Walked calmly onward evermore.
His aimless thoughts in metre went,
Like a babe's hand, without intent,
Drawn down a seven- stringed instrument.
Nor jarred it with his mood whenas.
With a faint stirring with the grass,
An apparition fair did pass.
He might have feared another time.
But all things fair and strange did chime
With his thoughts then — as rhyme to rhyme.
An angel had not startled him,
Dropping from Heaven's encyclic rim
To breathe from glory in the Dim —
Much less a lady, riding slow
Upon a palfrey white as snow.
As smooth as a snow-cloud could go.
Full upon his she turned her face, —
" What, ho, sir poet ! dost thou pace
Our woods at night, in ghostly chase
" Of some fair Dryad of old tales.
Who chants between the nightingales,
And over sleep by song prevails ? "
She smiled ; but he could see arise
Her soul from far adown her eyes.
Prepared as if for sacrifice.
She looked a queen who seemeth gay
From royal grace alone : " Now, nay,"
He answered, — "slumber passed away.
10 A VISION OF POETS.
Compelled by instincts in my head,
That I should see to-night instead
Of a fair nymph, some fairer Dread."
She looked up quickly to the sky
And spake : — " The moon's regality
Will hear no praise ! she is as I.
" She is in heaven, and I on earth ;
This is my kingdom — I come forth
To crown all poets to their worth."
He brake in with a voice that mourned —
" To their worth, lady ! They are scorned
By men they sing for, till inurned.
" To their worth ! Beauty in the mind
Leaves the hearth cold ; and love-refined
Ambitions make the world unkind.
" The boor who ploughs the daisy down.
The chief, whose mortgage of renown.
Fixed upon graves, has bought a crown —
" Both these are happier, more approved
Than poets ! — Why should I be moved
In saying both are more beloved ? "
**The south can judge not of the north ; "
She resumed calmly — "I come forth
To crown all poets to their worth.
" Yea, sooth ! and to anoint them all
With blessed oils, which surely shall
Smell sweeter as the ages fall."
"As sweet," the poet said, and rung
A low sad laugh, " as flowers do, sprung
Out of their graves when they die young !
" As sweet as window eglantine —
Some bough of which, as they decline.
The hired nurse plucketh at their sign !
" As sweet, in short, as perfumed shroud,
Which the fair Roman maidens sewed
For English Keats, singing aloud."
12 A VISION or POETS.
The lady answered, " Yea, as sweet !
The things thou namest being complete
In fragrance, as I measure it.
" Since sweet the death-clothes and the knell
Of him who, having lived, dies well, —
And holy sweet the asphodel,
" Stirred softly by that foot of his,
When he treads brave on all that is.
Into the world of souls, from this !
" Since sweet the tears, dropped at the door
Of tearless Death, — and even before ;
Sweet, consecrated evermore !
" What ! dost thou judge it a strange thing.
That poets, crowned for conquering,
Should bear some dust from out the ring 1
" Come on with me, come on with me ;
And learn in coming ! Let me free
Thy spirit into verity."
A VISION OF POETS. 13
She ceased : her palfrey's paces sent
No separate noises as she went,—
'Twas a bee's hum — a little spent.
And while the poet seemed to tread
Along the drowsy noise so made,
The forest heaved up overhead
Its billowy foliage through the air.
And the calm stars did, far and fair,
O'er-swim the masses everywhere :
Save where the overtopping pines
Did bar their tremulous light with lines
All fixed and black. Now the moon shines
A broader glory ! You may see
The trees grow rarer presently, —
The air blows up more fresh and free :
Until they come from dark to light.
And from the forest to the sight
Of the large Heaven-heart, bare with night, —
14: A VISION OF POETS.
A fiery throb in every star,
With burning arteries that are
The conduits of God's life afar, —
A wild brown moorland underneath.
Low glimmering here and thither, with
White pools in breaks, as blank as death*
Beside the first pool, near the wood,
A dead tree in set horror stood.
Peeled and disjointed, stark as rood ;
Since thunder- stricken, years ago,
Fixed in the spectral strain and throe
Wherewith it struggled from the blow :
A monumental tree . . . alone.
That will not bend, if tempest-blown.
But break off sudden like a stone, — *
Its lifeless shadow lies oblique
Upon the pool, — -where, javelin-like.
The star-rays quiver while they strike*
A VISIOX OF POETS. 15
" Drink, " said the lady, very still —
"Be holy and cold. " He did her will,
And drank the starry water chill.
The next pool they came near unto,
Was bare of trees : there, only grew
Straight flags and lilies fair to view,
Which sullen on the water sat.
And leant their faces on the flat,
As weary of the starlight- state.
" Drink, " said the lady, grave and slow,
" World's use behooveth thee to know. "
He drank the bitter wave below. '
The third pool, girt with thorny buslies,
And flaunting weeds, and reeds and rushes
That winds sang through in mournful gushes.
Was whitely smeared in many a round
By a slow slime : the starlight swound
Over the ghastly light it found. j
16 A VISION OF POETS,
" Drink, " said the lady, sad and slow —
" World's love behooveth thee to know. "
He looked to her, commanding so.
Her brow was troubled, but her eye
Struck clear to his soul. For all reply
He drank the water suddenly, —
Then, with a deathly sickness, passed
Beside the fourth pool and the last,
Where weights of shadow were down-cast
From yew and cypress, and from trails
Of hemlock clasping the trunk-scales.
And flung across the intervals
From yew to yew. Who dareth stoop
Where those moist branches overdroop
Into his heart the chill strikes up :
He hears a silent, gliding coil —
The snakes breathe hard against the soil —
His foot slips in their slimy oil :
A VISION OF rOETS. 17
And toads seem crawling on his hand,
And clinging bats, but dimly scanned,
Right in his face their wings expand.
A paleness took the poet's cheek ;
" Must I drink here ? " he questioned meek
The lady's will, with utterance weak.
" Ay, ay, " she said, " it so must be "— •
( And this time she spake cheerfully )
" Behooves thee know world's cruelty. "
He bowed his forehead till his mouth
Curved in the wave, and drank unloth,
As if from rivers of the south.
His lips sobbed through the water rank,
His heart paused in him while he drank.
His brain beat heart-like — rose and sank, —
And he swooned backward to a dream,
Wherein he lay 'twixt gloom and gleam.
With Death and Life at each extreme.
18 A VISION OF POETS.
And spiritual thunders, born of soul
Not cloud, did leap from mystic pole,
And o'er him roll and counter-roll,
Crushing their echoes reboaht
With their own wheels. Did Heaven so grant
His spirit a sign of covenant 1
At last came silence. A slow kiss
Did crown his forehead after this :
His eyelids flew back for the bliss.
The lady stood beside his head.
Smiling a thought, with hair dispread !
The moonshine seemed dishevelled
In her sleek tresses manifold ;
Like Danae's in the rain of old,
That dripped with melancholy gold !
But SHE was holy, pale, and high — ■
As one who saw an ecstasy
Beyond a foretold agony.
A VISION OF POETS. 19
" Rise up ! *' said she, with voice where song
Eddied through speech — ^" rise up ! be strong ;
And learn how right avengeth wrong* "
The poet rose up on his feet t
He stood before an altar set
For sacrament, with vessels meet,
And mystic altarlights which shine
As if their flames were crystalline
Carved flames that would not shrink or pine.
The altar filled the central placfe
Of a great church, and toward its face
Long aisles did shoot and interlace.
And from it a continuous mist
Of incense (round the edges kissed
By a pure light of amethyst)
Wound upward slowly and throbbingly.
Cloud within cloud, right silverly.
Cloud above cloud, victoriously.
20 A VISION OF POETS.
Broke full against the arched roof,
And, thence refracting, eddied off,
And floated through the marble woof
Of many a fine -wrought architrave, —
Then, poising the white masses brave,
Swept solemnly down aisle and nave.
And now in dark, and now in light.
The countless columns, glimmering white,
Seemed leading out to Infinite.
Plunged half-way up the shaft they showed.
In the pale shifting incense -cloud
Which flowed them by, and overflowed,
Till mist and marble seemed to blend.
And the whole temple, at the end.
With its own incense to distend ;
The arches, like a giant's bow.
To bend and slacken, — and below,
The niched saints to come and go.
m -'- -— — — —
A VISION OF POETS. 21
Alone, amid the shifting scene,
That central altar stood serene
In its clear steadfast taper-sheen.
Then first, the poet was aware
Of a chief angel standing there
Before that altar, in the glare.
His eyes were dreadful, for you saw
That they saw God — his lips and jaw,
Grand-made and strong, as Sinai's Law
They could enunciate, and refrain
From vibratory afler-pain ;
And his brows height was sovereign — •
On the vast background of his wings
Arose his image ! and he flings.
From each plumed arc, pale glitterings
And fiery flakes (as beateth more
Or less, the angel-heart!) before.
And round him, upon roof and floor,
22 A VISION OF POETS.
Edging with fire the shifting fumes :
While at his side, 't wixt lights and glooms,
The phantasm of an organ booms.
Extending from which instru ment
And angel, right and left- way bent,
The poet's sight grew sentient
Of a strange company around
And toward the altar, — pale and crowned.
With sovran eyes of depth profound.
Deathful their faces were ; and yet
The power of life was in them set —
Never forgot, nor to forget.
Sublime significance of mouth,
Dilated nostril full of youth.
And forehead royal with the truth.
These faces were not multiplied
Beyond your count, but side by side
Did front the altar, glorified ;
A VISION OF POETS. 23
Still as a vision, yet exprest
Full as an action — look and geste
Of buried saint, in risen rest !
The poet knew them. Faint and dim
His spirit seemed to sink in him.
Then, like a dolphin, change and swim
The current — ^These were poets true
Who died for Beauty, as martyrs do
For Truth — the ends being scarcely two.
God's prophets of the Beautiful
These poets were — of iron rule,
The rugged cilix, serge of wool.
Here, Homer, with the broad suspense
Of thunderous brows, and lips intense
Of garrulous god-innocence.
There, Shakspeare ! on whose forehead climb
The crowns o' the world ! Oh, eyes sublime —
With tears and laughters for all time !
24 A VISIOX OF POETS.
Here, ^Eschjlus, — the women swooned
To see so awful when he frowned
As the gods did, — he standeth crowned.
Euripides, with close and mild
Scholastic lips, — that could be wild,
And laugh or sob out like a child
Right in the classes. Sophocles,
With that king's look which down the trees,
Followed the dark effigies
Of the lost Theban ! Hesiod old.
Who somewhat blind, and deaf and cold.
Cared most for gods and bulls ! and bold
Electric Pindar, quick as fear.
With race-dust on his cheeks, and clear,
Slant startled eyes that seem to hear
The chariot rounding the last goal,
To hurtle past it in his soul !
And Sappho crowned with aureole
A VISION OF POETS. 25
Of ebon curls on calmed brows —
O poet-woman ! none forgoes
The leap, attaining the repose !
Theocritus, with glittering locks,
Dropt sideway, as betwixt the rocks
He watched the visionary flocks !
And Aristophanes ! who took
The world with mirth, and laughter- struck
The hollow caves of Thought and woke
The infinite echoes hid in each.
And Virgil ! shade of Mantuan beech
Did help the shade of bay to reach
And knit around his forehead high ! —
For his gods wore less majesty
Than his brown bees hummed deathlessly.
Lucretius — nobler than his mood !
Who dropped his plummet down the broad
Deep universe, and said ' No God,'
26 A VISION or POETS.
Finding no bottom ! he denied
Divinely the Divine, and died
Chief poet on the Tiber-side,
By grace of God ! his face is stern,
As one compelled, in spite of scorn,
To teach a truth he could not learn.
And Ossian, dimly seen or guessed !
Once counted greater than the rest,
When mountain-winds blew out his vest.
And Spenser drooped his dreaming head
(With languid sleep-smile you had said
From his own verse engendered)
On Ariosto's, till they ran
Their locks in one ! — The Italian
Shot nimbler heat of bolder man
From his fine lids. And Dante stern
And sweet, whose spirit was an urn
For wine and milk poured out in turn.
A VISION OF POI
Hard-souled Alfieri ; and fancy- willed
Boiardo, — who with laughters filled
The pauses of the jostled shield.
And Berni, with a hand stretched out
To sleek that storm ! And not without
The wreath he died in, and the doubt
He died by, Tasso ! bard and lover,
Whose visions were too thin to cover
The face of a false woman over.
And soft Racine, — and grave Corneille —
The orator of rhymes, whose wail
Scarce shook his purple ! And Petrarch pale.
Who from his brainlit heart hath thrown
A thousand thoughts beneath the sun,
Each perfumed with the name of One.
And Camoens, with that look he had,
Compelling India's Genius sad
From the wave through the Lusiad,
With murmurs of a purple ocean
Indrawn in vibrative emotion
Along the verse ! And while devotion
In his wild eyes fantastic shone
Between the bright curls blown upon
By airs celestial, . . Calderon !
And bold De Vega, — who breathed quick
Song after song, till death's old trick
Put pause to life and rhetoric.
And Goethe — with that reaching eye
His soul reached out from, far and high,
And fell from inner entity.
And Schiller, with heroic front
Worthy of Plutarch's kiss upon 't —
Too large for wreath of modern wont.
And Chaucer, with his infantine
Familiar clasp of things divine —
That mark upon his lip is wine.
A VISION OF POETS. 29
Here Milton's eyes strike piercing-dim !
The shapes of suns and stars did swim
Like clouds from them, and granted him
God for sole vision ! Cowley, there.
Whose active fancy debonaire
Drew straws like amber — foul to fair.
Drayton and Browne, — with smiles they drew
From outward Nature, to renew
From their own inward nature true.
And Marlowe, Webster, Fletcher, Ben —
Whose fire -heart sowed our furrows, when
The world was worthy of such men.
And Burns, with pungent passionings
Set in his eyes. Deep lyric springs
Are of the fire-mount's issuings.
And Shelley, in his white ideal.
All statue-blind ; and Keats, the real
Adonis, with the hymeneal
30 A VISION OF POETS.
Fresh vernal buds half sunk between
His youthful curls, kissed straight and sheen
In his Rome-grave, by Venus queen.
And poor, proud Byron, — sad as grave
And salt as life ! forlornly brave,
And quivering with the dart he drave.
And visionary Coleridge, who
Did sweep his thoughts as angels do
Their wings, with cadence up the Blue.
These poets faced (and other more)
The lighted altar booming o'er
The clouds of incense dim and hoar :
And all their faces, in the lull
Of natural things, looked wonderful
With life and death iand deathless rule !
All still as stone, and yet intense ;
As if by spirit's vehemence
That stone were carved, and not by sense.
; .-..- -.....,. .... ....■ - ..-.^. - .. m
A VISION OF POETS. 31
All still and calm as statue-stone I
The life lay coiled unforgone
Up in the awful eyes alone,
And flung its length out through the air
Into whatever eyes should dare
To front them — Awful shapes and fair !
But where the heart of each should beat,
There seemed a wound instead of it.
From whence the blood dropped to their feet,
Drop after drop — dropped heavily.
As century follows century
Into the deep eternity.
Then said the lady, — and her word
Came distant, — as wide waves were stirred
Between her and the ear that heard ; —
" World's use is cold — world's love is vain, —
World's cruelty is bitter bane ;
But pain is not the fruit of pain.
32 A VISION OF POETS.
" Hearken, O poet, whom I led
From the dark wood ! Dismissing dread,
Now hear this angel in my stead :
" His organ's pedals strike along
These poets' hearts, which metal-strong.
They gave him without count of wrong, —
" From which foundation he can guide
Up to God's feet, from these who died.
An anthem fully glorified !
" Whereat God's blessing .... Ibarak ("T^^lQ^)
Breathes back this music — folds it back
About the earth in vapoury rack :
" And men walk in it, crying ' Lo !
* The world is wider, and we know
' The very heavens look brighter so !
" ' The stars walk statelier round the edge
' O' the silver spheres, and give in pledge
* Their light for nobler privilege.
A VISION OF POETS. 83
" ' No little flower but joys or grieves —
' Full life is rustling in the sheaves ;
' Full spirit sweeps the forest-leaves ! '
" So works this music on the earth !
God so admits it, sends it forth,
To add another worth to worth- —
" A new creation-bloom that rounds
The old creation, and expounds
His Beautiful in tuneful sounds.
" Now hearken ! " Then the poet gazed
Upon the angel glorious-faced,
Whose hand, majestically raised,
Floated across the organ-keys.
Like a pale moon o'er murmuring seas.
With no touch but with influences.
Then rose and fell (with swell and swound
Of shapeless noises wandering round
A concord which at last they found)
>J34 A VISION OF POETS.
Those mystic keys — the tones were mixed,
Dim, faint ; and thrilled and throl
The incomplete and the unfixed :
3 Dim, faint : and thrilled and throbbed betwixt
And therein mighty minds were heard
In mighty musings, inly stirred,
And struggling outward for a word.
Until these surges, having run
This way and that, gave out as one
An Aphrodite of sweet tune, —
A Harmony that, finding vent,
Upward in grand ascension went,
Winged to a heavenly argument —
Up, upward ! like a saint who strips
The shroud back from his eyes and lips.
And rises in apocalypse !
A Harmony sublime and plain,
Which cleft (as flying swan, the rain, —
Throwing the drops oft^with a strain
A VISION OF rOETS,
Of her white wings) those undertones
Of perplext chords, and soared at once,
And struck out from the starry thrones
Their several silver octaves, as
It passed to God ! The music was
Of divine stature — strong to pass !
And those who heard it, understood
Something of life in spirit and blood —
Something of Nature's fair and good.
And while it sounded, those great souls
Did thrill as racers at the goals,
And burn in all their aureoles.
But she, the ladj, as vapour-bound,
Stood calm^ in the joy of sound, —
Like nature with the showers around.
And when it ceased, the blood which fell,
Again, alone grew audible,
Tollino^ the silence as a bell.
36 A VISION OF POETS.
The sovran angel lifted high
His hand and spake out sovranly —
" Tried poets, hearken and reply !
" Give me true answers. If we grant
That not to suffer, is to want
The conscience of the Jubilant, —
" If ignorance of anguish is
But ignorance ; and mortals miss
Far prospects, by a level bliss, —
" If as two colours must be viewed
In a seen image, mortals should
Need good and evil, to see good, —
" If to speak nobly, comprehends
To feel profoundly — if the ends
Of power and suffering, Nature, blends,-
" If poets on the tripod must
Writhe like the Pythian, to make just
Their oracles, and merit trust, —
A VISION OF POETS. 37
j " If every vatic word that sweeps
/ To change the world, must pale their lips,
And leave their own souls in eclipse —
" If to search deep the universe
Must pierce the searcher with the curse, —
Because that bolt (in man's reverse,)
" Was shot to the heart o' the wood, and lies
Wedged deepest in the best ! — if eyes
That look for visions and surprise
" From marshalled angels, must shut down
Their lids, first, upon sun and moon,
The head asleep upon a stone, —
" If One who did redeem you back,
By His own lack, from final lack,
Did consecrate by touch and track
" Those temporal sorrows, till the taste
Of brackish waters of the waste
Is salt with tears He dropt too fast, —
40 A VISION OF POETS.
So asked the angel. Straight the while,
A company came up the aisle
With measured step and sorted smile ;
Cleaving the incense-clouds that rise,
With winking unaccustomed eyes.
And love-locks smelling sweet of spice.
One bore his head above the rest,
As if the world were dispossessed —
And one did pillow chin on breast,
Right languid — an as he should faint !
One shook his curls across his paint.
And moralized on worldly taint.
One, slanting up his face, did wink
The salt rheum to the eyelid's brink.
To think — O gods ! or — not to think !
Some trod out stealthily and slow,
As if the sun would fall in snow.
If they walked to, instead of fro.
m = ^
A VISION OF POli^. /v ox 41
And some with conscious ambling free^
Did shake their bells right daintily
On hand and foot, for harmony.
And some composing sudden sighs,
In attitudes of point-device,
Rehearsed impromptu agonies.
And when this company drew near
The spirits crowned, it might appear
Submitted to a ghastly fear.
As a sane eye in master-passion
Constrains a maniac to the fashion
Of hideous maniac imitation
In the least geste — the dropping low
O' the lid — the wrinkling of the brow, —
Exaggerate with mock and mow, —