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WRITTEN IN A BLANK LEAF OF
Oft have I caught, upon a fitful breeze,
Fragments of far-off melodies,
With ear not covering the whole,
A part so charmed the pensive soul :
While a dark storm before my sight
Was yielding, on a mountain height
Loose vapours have I watched, that won
Prismatic colours from the sun;
Nor felt a wish that heaven would show
The image of its perfect bow.
What need, then, of these finished strains?
Away with counterfeit remains !
An abbey in its lone recess,
A temple of the wilderness,
Wrecks though they be, announce with feeling
The majesty of honest dealing.
Spirit of Ossian ! if imbound
In language thou mayst yet be found,
If aught (intrusted to the
pen, Or floating on the tongues of
Albeit shattered and impaired)
Subsist thy dignity to guard,
In concert with memorial claim
Of old gray stone, and high-born name,
That cleaves to rock or pillared cave,
Where moans the blast or beats the wave,
Let Truth, stern arbitress of all,
Interpret that original,
And for presumptuous wrongs atone;
Authentic words be given, or none !
Time is not blind ; yet he, who spares
Pyramid pointing to the stars,
Hath preyed with ruthless appetite
On all that marked the primal flight
Of the poetic ecstasy
Into the land of mystery.
No tongue is able to rehearse
One measure, Orpheus ! of thy verse;
Musæus, stationed with his lyre
Supreme among the Elysian quire,
Is, for the dwellers upon earth,
Mute as a lark ere morning's birth.
Why grieve for these, though passed away
The music, and extinct the lay?
When thousands, by severer doom,
Full early to the silent tomb
Have sunk, at Nature's call ; or strayed
From hope and promise, self-betrayed ;
The garland withering on their brows;
Stand with remorse for broken vows;
Frantic-else how might they rejoice?
And friendless, by their own sad choice.
Hail, bards of mightier grasp! on you
I chiefly call, the chosen few,
Who cast not off the acknowledged guide,
Who faltered not, nor turned aside ;
Whose lofty genius could survive
Privation, under sorrow thrive;
In whom the fiery muse revered
The symbol of a snow-white beard,
Bedewed with meditative tears
Dropped from the lenient cloud of years.
Brothers in soul ! though distant times Produced you, nursed in various climes,
Ye, when the orb of life had waned,
A plenitude of love retained;
Hence, while in you each sad regret
By corresponding hope was met,
Ye lingered among human kind,
Sweet voices for the passing wind;
Departing sunbeams, loth to stop,
Though smiling on the last hill top!
Such to the tender-hearted maid
Even ere her joys begin to fade;
Such, haply, to the rugged chief
By fortune crushed, or tamed by gri
Appears, on Morven's lonely shore,
Dim-gleaming through imperfect lore,
The Son of Fingal; such was blind
Mæonides of ampler mind;
Such Milton, to the fountain head
Of glory by Urania led !
Beneath the concave of an April sky,
When all the fields with freshest green were dight,
Appeared, in presence of that spiritual eye
That aids or supersedes our grosser sight,
The form and rich habiliments of one
Whose countenance bore resemblance to the sun,
When it reveals, in evening majesty,
Features half lost amid their own pure light,
Poised, like a weary cloud, in middle air
He hung,—then floated with angelic ease
(Softening that bright effulgence by degrees)
Till he had reached a summit sharp and bare,
Where oft the venturous heifer drinks the noontide breeze.
Upon the apex of that lofty cone
Alighted, there the stranger stood alone;
Fair as a gorgeous fabric of the East
Suddenly raised by some enchanter's power,
Where nothing was ; and firm as some old tower
Of Britain's realm, whose leafy crest
Waves high, embellished by a gleaming shower!
Beneath the shadow of his purple wings
Rested a golden harp ;-he touched the strings;
And, after prelude of unearthly sound
Poured through the echoing hills around,
“No wintry desolations, Scorching blight, or noxious dew, Affect my native habitations ; Buried in glory, far beyond the scope Of man's inquiring gaze, but imaged to his hope (Alas, how faintly!) in the hue Profound of night's ethereal blue ; And in the aspect of each radiant orb;Some fixed, some wandering with no timid curb; But wandering star and fixed, to mortal eye, Blended in absolute serenity, And free from semblance of decline; Fresh as if evening brought their natal hour ; Her darkness splendour gave, her silence power, To testify of love and grace divine.
“And though to every draught of vital breath Renewed throughout the bounds of earth or ocean, The melancholy gates of death Respond with sympathetic motion; Though all that feeds on nether air, Howe'er magnificent or fair,
Grows but to perish, and intrust
Its ruins to their kindred dust ;
Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care,'
Her procreant vigils Nature keeps
Amid the unfathomable deeps;
And saves the peopled fields of earth
From dread of emptiness or dearth.
Thus, in their stations, lifting toward the sky
The foliaged head in cloud-like majesty,
The shadow-casting race of trees survive:
Thus, in the train of spring, arrive
Sweet flowers ; -- what living eye hath viewed
Their myriads ?-endlessly renewed,
Wherever strikes the sun's glad ray;
Wherever the subtle waters stray ;
Wherever sportive zephyrs bend
Their course or genial showers descend !
Mortals, rejoice! the very angels quit
Their mansions unsusceptible of change,
Amid your pleasant bowers to sit,
And through your sweet vicissitudes to range
Oh, nursed at happy distance from the cares
Of a too-anxious world, mild pastoral Muse!
That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
And to her sister Clio's laurel wreath,
Prefer'st a garland culled from purple heath,
Or blooming thicket moist with morning dews;
Was such bright spectacle vouchsafed to me?
And was it granted to the simple ear
Of thy contented votary
Such melody to hear !
Him rather suits it, side by side with thee,
Wrapped in a fit of pleasing indolence,
While thy tired lute hangs on the hawthorn tree,