Reginald Heber.

The poetical works of Reginald Heber, late bishop of Calcutta online

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Who loves the generous courser well:
Belov'd liimself by all who dwell
In Pelop's Lydian colony. —
— Of earth-embracing Neptune, he
The darling, when, in days of yore,
All lovely from the caldron red
By Clotho's spell delivered.
The youth an ivory shoulder bore. —

—Well!— -these are tales of mystery! —

And many a darkly-woven lie

With men will easy credence gain;

While truth, calm truth, may speak in vain: —

For eloquence, whose honey'd sway

Our frailer mortal wits obey.

Can honour give to actions ill.

And faith to deeds incredible; — -

And bitter blame, and praises high,

Fall truest from posterity. —

But, if we dare the deeds rehearse

Of those that aye endure,
'Twere meet that in such dangerous verse

Our every word were pure. — -
Then, son of Tantalus, receive

A plain unvarnish'd lay!—


My song shall elder fables leave,

And of thy parent say,
That, when in heaven a favour'd guest,
He call'd the gods in turn to feast
On Sipylus, his mountain home;
The sovereign of the ocean foam,
— Can mortal form such favour prove?-^
Rapt thee on golden car above
To highest house of mighty Jove;

To which, in after day,
Came golden-haired Ganymede,
As bards in ancient story read.

The dark-wing'd eagle's prey. —

And when no earthly tongue could tell
The fate of thee, invisible; —
Nor friends, who sought thee wide in vain,
To soothe the weeping mother's pain,
Could bring thy wanderer home again;

Some envious neighbour's spleen.
In distant hints, and darkly, said,
That in the caldron hissing red.
And on the god's great table spread,

Thy mangled limbs were seen.—

But who shall tax, I dare not, I,
The blessed gods with gluttony? —
Full oft the slanderous tongue has felt
By their high wrath the thunder dealt; —
And sure, if ever mortal head
Heaven's holy watches honoured,

That head was Lydia's Lord. —
Yet, could not mortal heart digest
The wonders of that heavenly feast;
Elate with pride, a thought unblest

Above his nature soar'd. —
And now condemn to endless dread^


(Such is the righteous doom of fate,)
He eyes, above his guilty head,
The shadowy rock's impending weight: —
The fourth, with that tormented three
In horrible society! —

For that, in frantic theft.

The nectar cup he reft,
And to his mortal peers in feasting pour'd, —

For whom a sin it were

With mortal life to share
The mystic dainties of th' immortal board:

And who by policy

Can hope to 'scape the eye
Of him who sits above by men and gods adored?-

For such offence, a doom severe.
Sent down the son to sojourn here
Among the fleeting race of man; —
Who, when the curly down began
To clothe his cheek in darker shade,
To car-borne Pisa's royal maid
A lover's tender service paid. —
But, in the darkness first he stood
Alone, by ocean's hoary flood.
And rais'd to him the suppliant cry,
The hoarse earth-shaking deity. —

Nor call'd in vain, through cloud and storm
Half-seen a huge and shadowy form.

The God of waters came. —
He came, whom thus the youth address'd—
'* Oh thou, if that immortal breast

Have felt a lover's flame,
A lover's prayer in pity hear,
Repel the tyrant's brazen spear

That guards my lovely dame! —


And grant a car whose rolling speed
May help a lover at his need;
Condemn'd by Pisa's hand to bleed,
Unless I win the envied meed
In Elis' field of fame! —

For youthful knights thirteen

By him have slaughter'd been,
His daughter vexing with perverse delay —

Such to a coward's eye

Were evil augury; —
Nor durst a coward's heart the strife essay!

Yet, since alike to all

The doom of death must fall,
Ah! wherefore, sitting in unseemly shade,

Wear out a nameless life.

Remote from noble strife,
And all the sweet applause to valour paid?—
Yes! — I will dare the course! but, thou.
Immortal friend, my prayer allow!"—

Thus not in vain, his grief he told, —

The ruler of the watery space
Bestow'd a wondrous car of gold,

And tireless steeds of winged pace. —
So, victor in the deathful race.

He tamed the strength of Pisa's king,
And, from his bride of beauteous face.

Beheld a stock of warriors spring.

Six valiant sons, as legends sing. —
And now, with fame and virtue crown'd.

Where Alpheus' stream, in wat'ry ring,
Encircles half his turfy mound.
He sleeps beneath the piled ground.

Near that blest spot where strangers move
In many a long procession round

The altar of protecting Jove. —


Yet chief, in yonder lists of fame,
Survives the noble Pelops' name:
Where strength of hands and nimble feet
In stern and dubious contest meet;
And high renown and honey'd praise,
And following length of honour'd days,
The victor's weary toil repays. —

But what are past or future joys? —
The present is our own; —

And he is wise who best employs
The passing hour alone. —

To crown with knightly wreath the king,
(A grateful task,) be mine; —

And on the smooth ^olian string
To praise his ancient line. —

For ne'er shall wand'ring minstrel find

A chief so just, — a friend so kind;

With every grace of fortune blest;

The mightiest, wisest, bravest, best! —
God, who beholdeth thee and all thy deeds.
Have thee in charge, king Hiero!-— so again
The bard may sing thy horny-hoofed steeds
In frequent triumph o'er the Olympian plain! —
Nor shall the bard awake a lowly strain.
His wild notes flinging o'er the Cronian steep;
Whose ready muse, and not invoked in vain,
For such high mark her strongest shaft shall keep.
Each hath his proper eminence! —
To kings indulgent Providence
(No farther search the will of Heaven,)
The glories of the earth hath given. —
Still may'st thou reign! enough for me
To dwell with heroes like to thee.
Myself the chief of Grecian minstrelsy. —



O song! whose voice the harp obeys,
Accordant aye with answering string;
What god, what hero wilt thou praise.
What man of godlike prowess sing? —
Lo, Jove himself is Pisa's king;
And Jove's strong son the first to raise
The barriers of th' Olympic ring.—
And now, victorious on the wing
Of sounding wheels, our bards proclaim
The stranger Theron's honour'd name,
The flower of no ignoble race,
And prop of ancient Agragas! —

His patient sires, for many a year.
Where that blue river rolls its flood,
'Mid fruitless war and civil blood

Essay'd their sacred home to rear. —
Till time assign' d, in fatal hour,
Their native virtues, wealth and power;
And made them from their low degree.
The eye of warlike Sicily.

And, may that power of ancient birth.
From Saturn sprung, and parent Earth,

Of tall Olympus' lord.
Who sees with still benignant eye
The games' long splendour sweeping by

His Alpheus' holy ford: —


Appeas'd with anthems chanted high,
To Theron's late posterity

A happier doom accord! —
Or good or ill, the past is gone,
Nor time himself, the parent one,
Can make the former deeds undone; —

But who would these recall, —
When happier days would fain efface
The memory of each past disgrace,
And, from the gods, on Theron's race

Unbounded blessings fall? —

Example meet for such a song.
The sister queens of Laius' blood;

Who sorrow's edge endured long^
Made keener by remember'd good! —
Yet now, she breathes the air of heaven
(On earth by smouldering thunder riven)

Long-haired Semele: —

To Pallas dear is she; —
Dear to the sire of gods, and dear
To him, her son, in dreadful glee
Who shakes the ivy-wreathed spear. —

And thus, they tell that deep below
The sounding ocean*s ebb and flow.
Amid the daughters of the sea,
A sister nymph must Ino be.
And dwell in bliss eternally: —

But, ignorant and blind.
We little know the coming hour?
Or if the latter day shall lower;
Or if to nature's kindly power

Our life in peace resign'd.
Shall sink like fall of summer eve,
And on the face of darkness leave

A ruddy smile behind, —


For grief and joy with fitful gale
Our crazy bark by turns assail,

And, whence our blessings flow,
That same tremendous Providence
Will oft a varying doom dispense,

And lay the mighty low. —

To Theban Laius' that befell.

Whose son, with murder dyed.
Fulfill' d the former oracle.

Unconscious parricide!—
Unconscious '.^ — yet avenging hell
Pursued the offender's stealthy pace,
And heavy, sure, and hard it fell,
The curse of blood, on all his race!

Spared from their kindred strife,

The young Thersander's life,
Stern Polynices' heir, was left alone:

In every martial game,

And in the field of Fame,
For early force and matchless prowess known:
Was left, the pride and prop to be
Of good Adrastus' pedigree.
And hence, through loins of ancient kings,
The warrior blood of Theron springs;
Exalted name! to whom belong
The minstrel's harp, the poet's song.

In fair Olympia crown'd;
And where, 'mid Pythia's olives blue.
An equal lot his brother drew;
And where his twice-twain coursers flew

The isthmus twelve times round. —
Such honour, earn'd by toil and care.
May best his ancient wrongs repair.
And wealth, unstain'd by pride,


May laugh at fortune's fickle power,
And blameless in the tempting hour

Of syren ease abide: —
Led by that star of heavenly ray,
Which best may keep our darkling way

O'er life's unsteady tide! —

For, whoso holds in righteousness the throne,
He in his heart hath known

How the foul spirits of the guilty dead.
In chambers dark and dread,

Of nether earth abide, and penal flame:
Where he whom none may name.

Lays bare the soul by stern necessity;
Seated in judgment high;

The minister of God whose arm is there.

In heaven alike and hell, almighty every where!-
But, ever bright, by day, by night.
Exulting in excess of light;
From labour free and long distress,
The good enjoy their happiness. —
No more the stubborn soil they cleave.
Nor stem for scanty food the wave;

But with the venerable gods they dwell: —
No tear bedims their thankful eye,
Nor mars their long tranquillity;

While those accursed howl in pangs unspeakable.-

But, who the thrice-renew'd probation
Of either world may well endure;
And keep with righteous destination
The soul from all transgression pure;
To such and such alone is given,
To walk the rainbow paths of heaven.
To that tall city of almighty time.


Where ocean's balmy breezes play,
And, flashing to the western day,
The gorgeous blossoms of such blessed clime,
Now in the happy isles are seen
Sparkling through the groves of green;
And now, all glorious to behold.
Tinge the wave with floating gold, —

Hence are their garlands woven — hence their hands
Fiird with triumphal boughs; — the righteous doom
Of Rhadamanthus, whom, o'er these his lands,
A blameless judge in every time to come,
Chronos, old Chronos, sire of gods, hath placed;

Who with his consort dear.

Dread Rhea, reigneth here.
On cloudy throne with deathless honour graced. —

And still they say, in high communion,
Peleus and Cadmus here abide;
And, with the blest in blessed union,
(Nor Jove has Thetis' prayer denied)
The daughter of the ancient sea
Hath brought her warrior boy to be;
Him whose stern avenging blow
Laid the prop of Ilium low,
Hector, train' d to slaughter fell.
By all but him invincible; —
And sea-born Cycnus tamed; and slew
Aurora's knight of Ethiop hue. —

Beneath my rattling belt I wear

A sheaf of arrows keen and clear.

Of vocal shafts, that wildly fly.

Nor ken the base their import high.
Yet to the wise they breathe no vulgar melody.
Yes, he is wise whom nature's dower

Hath raised above the crowd. —


But, train'd in study's formal hour,
There are who hate the minstrel's power,
As daws who mark the eagle tower,

And croak in envy loud! —
So let them rail! but thou! my heart,
Rest on the bow thy levell'd'^dart;

Nor seek a worthier aim
For arrow sent on friendship's wing,
Than him the Agragantine king

Who best thy song may claim. —
For, by eternal truth I swear,
His parent town shall scantly bear
A soul to every friend so dear,
A breast so void of blame ;
Though twenty lustres rolling round.
With rising youth her nation crown'd,
In heart, in liand, should none be found

Like Theron's honour'd name. —
Yes! we have heard the factious lie! —
But let the babbling vulgar try
To blot his worth with tyranny. —
Seek thou the ocean strand! —
And when thy soul would fain record
The bounteous deeds of yonder lord,
Go — reckon up the sand! —



May my solemn strain ascending
Please the long-hair'd Helen well,
And those brave twins of Leda's shell
The stranger's holy cause defending!-—
With whose high name the chorus blending
To ancient Agragas shall rise,
And Theron for the chariot prize
Again, and not in vain, contending.—
The muse, in numbers bold and high,
Hath taught my Dorian note to fly,
Worthy of silent awe, a strange sweet harmony. —

Yes! — as I fix mine eager view

On yonder wreath of paly blue,

That olive wreath, whose shady round

Amid the courser's mane is bound;

I feel again the sacred glow

That bids my strain of rapture flow.

With shrilly breath of Spartan flute,

The many-voiced harp to suit;

And wildly fling my numbers sweet,

Again mine ancient friend to greet. —

Nor, Pisa, thee I leave unsung;

To men the parent of renown.

Amid whose shady ringlets strung,

Etolia binds her olive crown;

Whose sapling root from Scythian down

And Ister's fount Alcides bare.

To deck his parent's hallow'd town;

With placid brow and suppliant prayer


Soothing the favour'd northern seed,
Whose horny-hoofed victims bleed
To Phoebus of the flowing hair.

A boon from these the Hero pray'd:
One graft of that delightful tree;
To Jove's high hill a welcome shade,
To men a blessed fruit to be,
And crown of future victory. —
For that fair moon, whose slender light
With inefficient horn had shone.
When late on Pisa's airy height
He rear'd to Jove the altar stone;
Now, through the dappled air, alone,
In perfect ring of glory bright.
Guided her golden-wheeled throne;
The broad and burning eye of night.—
And now the days were told aright.
When Alpheus, from his sandy source,
Should judge the champion's eager might
And mark of wheels the rolling force.—
Nor yet a tree to cheer the sight
The Cronian vale of Pelops bore!—
Obnoxious to the noonday weight
Of summer suns, a naked shore. —
But she who sways the silent sky,
Latona's own equestrian maid,
Beheld how far Alcides stray'd,
Bound on adventure strange and high;
Forth from the glens of Arcady
To Istrian rocks in ice array'd
He urged the interminable race,
(Such penance had Euryslheus laid,)
The golden-horned hind to chase.
Which, grateful for Diana's aid,
By her redeem'd from foul embrace,


Old Atlas' daughter hallowed. —

Thus, following' where the quarry fled,

Beyond the biting north he pass'd.

Beyond the regions of the blast,

And, all unknown to travellers tread,

He saw the blessed land at last. —

He stopp'd, he gazed with new delight

When that strange verdure met his sight;

And soft desire inflamed his soul

(Where twelve-times round the chariots roll,)

To plant with such the Pisan goal.

But now, unseen to mortal eyes,

He comes to Theron's sacrifice;

And with him brings to banquet there

High-bosom'd Leda's knightly pair. —

Himself to high Olympus bound.

To these a latest charge he gave,

A solemn annual feast to found,

And of contending heroes round

To deck the strong, the swift, the brave. —

Nor doubt I that on Theron's head.

And on the good Eumenides,

The sons of Jove their blessing shed;

Whom still, with bounteous table spread.

That holy tribe delight to please;

Observing with religious dread

The hospitable god's decrees.

But, wide as water passeth earthly clay,

Or sun-briorht orold transcendeth baser ore:

Wide as from Greece to that remotest shore

Whose rock built pillars own Alcides' sway;

Thy fame hath past thine equals! — To explore

The further ocean all in vain essay,

Or fools or wise; — here from thy perilous way

Cast anchor here, my bark! I dare no more! —




Oh, urging on the tireless speed

Of thunder's elemental steed,

Lord of the world. Almighty Jove!

Since these thine hours have sent me forth

The witness of thy champion's worth,

And prophet of thine olive grove; —

And since the good thy poet hear,

And hold his tuneful message dear; —

Saturnian Lord of Etna hill! —

Whose storm-cemented rocks encage

The hundred-headed rebel's rage;

Accept with favourable will

The Muses' gift of harmony;

The dance, the song, whose numbers high

Forbid the hero's name to die,

A crown of life abiding still! —

Hark! round the car of victory.

Where noble Psaumis sits on high,

The cheering notes resound;
Who vows to swell with added fame
His Camarina's ancient name;

With Pisan olive crown'd. —
And thou, oh father, hear his prayer! —
For much I praise the knightly care

That trains the warrior steed:

Nor less the hospitable hall
Whose open doors the stranger call;
Yet, praise I Psaumis most of all

For wise and peaceful rede,


And patriot love of liberty.' —
— What! — do we weave the glozing lie? —
Then whoso list my truth to try,
The proof be in the deed! —

To Lemnos' laughing' dames of yore.
Such was the proof Ernicus bore,

When, matchless in his speed,
All brazen-arm'd the racer hoar,
Victorious on the applauding shore,

Sprang to the proffer'd meed; —
Bow'd to the queen his wreathed head; —
"Thou seest my limbs are light," he said;

" And, lady, mayst thou know,
That every joint is firmly strung,
And hand and heart alike are young;
Though treacherous time my locks among

Have strew'd a summer snow!" —



Accept of these Olympian games the crown,
Daughter of Ocean, rushy Camarine! —
The flower of knightly worth and high renown,
Which car-borne Psaumis on thy parent shrine,
(Psaumis, the patriot, whom thy peopled town
Its second author owns,) with rite divine
Suspends! — His praise the twice six altars tell
Of the great gods whom he hath feasted well
With blood of bull; the praise of victory.
Where cars and mules and steeds contest the prize:
And that green garland of renown to thee
He hallows, virgin daughter of the sea!
And to his sire and household deities. —
Thee too, returning home from Pelops' land,


Thee, guardian Pallas, and thy holy wood,

He hails with song; and cool Oanus flood ;

And of his native pool the rushy strand ;

And thy broad bed, refreshing Hipparis,

Whose silent waves the peopled city kiss ;

That city which hath blest his bounteous hand
Rearing her goodly bowers on high. —
That now, redeem'd from late disgrace.

The wealthy mother of a countless race,

She lifts her front in shining majesty.—
'Tis ever thus! by toil, and pain,
And cumbrous cost, we strive to gain
Some seeming prize whose issues lie
■ In darkness and futurity.
And yet, if conquest crown our aim,
Then foremost in the rolls of fame.

Even from the envious herd a forced applause we claim.

cloud-enthron'd, protecting Jove,
Who sits the Cronian cliffs above,
And Alpheus' ample wave.

And that dark gloom hast deign'd to love

Of Ida's holy cave!
On softest Lydian notes to thee

1 tune the choral prayer.

That this thy town, the brave, the free.
The strong in virtuous energy.

May ieel thine endless care.
And, victor, thou, whose matchless might

The Pisan wreath hath bound ;
Still, Psaumis, be thy chief delight

In generous coursers found. —
Calm be thy latter age, and late
And gently fall the stroke of fate.

Thy children standing round! —
And know, when favouring gods have given

A green old age, a temper even.

And wealth and fame in store.


The task were vain to scale the heaven ;■ —
— Have those immortals more? —



Who seeks a goodly bower to raise,

Conspicuous to the stranger's eye,

With gold the lintel overlays,

And clothes the porch in itory.
So bright, so bold, so wonderful.
The choicest themes of verse I cull,

To each high song a frontal high! —

But, lives there one, whose brows around
The green Olympian wreath is bound;
Prophet and priest in those abodes
Where Pisans laud the sire of gods ;
And Syracusa's denizen? —
Who, 'mid the sons of mortal men.
While envy's self before his name
Abates her rage, may htlier claim
Whate'er a bard may yield of fame? —
For sure, to no forbidden strife,
In hallow'd Pisa's field of praise.
He came, the priest of blameless life! — •
Nor who in peace hath past his days,
Marring with canker sloth his might,
May hope a name in standing fight
Nor in the hollow ship to raise! —

By toil, illustrious toil alone.

Of elder times the heroes shone ;

And, bought by like emprize, to thee,

Oh warrior priest, like honour be! —

Such praise as good Adrastus bore

To him, the prophet chief of yore,

When, snatch'd from Thebes' accursed fight,


With steed and car and armour bright,

Down, down he sank to earthy night. —

When the fight was ended,

And the seven-fold pyres

All their funeral fires

In one sad lustre blended.

The leader of the host

Murmur' d mournfully,

" I lament the eye

Of all mine army lost! —

To gods and mortals dear.

Either art he knew;

Augur tried and true.

And strong to wield the spear!" —

And, by the powers divine.

Such praise is justly thine.
Oh Syracusian peer. —
For of a gentle blood thy race is sprung,
As she shall truly tell, the muse of honey'd tongue.

Then yoke the mules of winged pace,
And, Phintis, climb the car with me ;
For well they know the path to trace
Of yonder victor's pedigree! —

Unbar the gates of song, unbar! —

For we to-day must journey far,
To Sparta and to Pitane. —

She, mournful nymph, and nursing long

Her silent pain and virgin wrong,

To Neptune's rape a daughter fair,

Evadne of the glossy hair,

(Dark as the violet's darkest shade,)

In solitary sorrow bare.

Then to her nurse the infant maid

She weeping gave, and bade convey

To high Phersana's hall away ;

Where woman-grown, and doom'd to prove


In turn a god's disastrous love,

Her charms allured the lord of day. —

Nor long the months, ere, fierce in pride,

The painful tokens of disgrace

Her foster-father sternly eyed,

Fruit of the furtive god's embrace. —
He spake not, but, with soul on flame,
He sought th' unknown offender's name,

At Phoebus' Pythian dwelling-place. —

But she, beneath the greenwood spray,

Her zone of purple silk untied ;

And flung the silver clasp away

That rudely prest her heaving side;
While, in the solitary wood,
Lucina's self to aid her stood,
.And fate a secret force supplied. —
But, who the mother's pang can tell,
As sad and slowly she withdrew,
And bade her babe a long farewell,
Laid on a bed of violets blue? —

When, ministers of Heaven's decree,

(Dire nurses they and strange to see,)
Two scaly snakes of azure hue

Watch'd o'er his helpless infancy,

And, rifled from the mountain bee.
Bare on their forky tongues a harmless honey dew. —

Swift roll the wheels! from Delphos home
Arcadia's car-borne chief is come:

But, ah, how changed his eye! —
His wrath is sunk, and past his pride,
"Where is Evadne's babe," he cried,

"Child of the Deity?
'Twas thus the augur god replied,
Nor strove his noble seed to hide;
And to his favour' d boy, beside,

The gift of prophecy,


And power beyond the sons of men
The secret things of fate to ken,

His blessing will supply." —
But, vainly, from his liegemen round,

He sought the noble child;
Who, naked on the grassy ground,

And nurtured in the wild.
Was moisten'd with the sparkling dew

Beneath his hawthorn bower;
Where morn her wat'ry radiance threw
Now golden bright, now deeply blue.

Upon the violet flower. —

From that dark bed of breathing bloom

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Online LibraryReginald HeberThe poetical works of Reginald Heber, late bishop of Calcutta → online text (page 5 of 15)