Category: Romantic


1.
They say that Hope is happiness–
But genuine Love must prize the past;
And Mem’ry wakes the thoughts that bless;
They rose the first — they set the last.
2.
And all that mem’ry loves the most
Was once our only hope to be:
And all that hope adored and lost
Hath melted into memory.
3.
Alas! it is delusion all —
The future cheats us from afar:
Nor can we be what we recall,
Nor dare we think on what we are.

I have made bold the sections of this poem that I most enjoy. Reading this is like indulging in eating a slice of lusciously rich cheesecake. The word pictures he paints by using only words are astounding: he gives tangible reality to intangible thoughts such as what one imagines during fleeting daydreams (“So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me/ With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear/ Most like articulate sounds of things to come!”), the sound of what is seen (” shall hang them up in silent icicles,/ Quietly shining to the quiet moon; Sea, hill, and wood,/ With all the numberless goings on of life,/ Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame/ Lies on my low burnt fire”), and the methodical yet completely whimsical ways our minds work (“But O! how oft./ How oft, at school…”); yet he also uses words to make gloriously intangible what is often tangibly commonplace – lakes and rocky shores become “lovely shapes and sounds intelligible,” while “summer clothe the general earth/ With greenness,” and “eave-drops fall/ Heard only in the trances of the blast/ Or if the secret ministry of frost/ Shall hang them up in silent icicles…”

The frost performs it secret ministry
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud–and hard, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
The calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness.
Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, ever where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself.
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft.
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day.
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me,
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things I dreamt
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!

My babe so beautiful! it thrills my hears
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet moon.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love,-then on the shore
Od the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

“Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble in the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinkling lull the distant folds;

Save that from younder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honor’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull, cold ear of Death?

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.


Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn,
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.”


(emphasis added)