1848 

 

[LINES ON ALE]

  Fill with mingled cream and amber,
     I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
    Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
    Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
    I am drinking ale today.


AN ENIGMA

 
          “Seldom we find, says Solomon Don Dunce,
                  “Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
           Through all the flimsy things we see at once
                   As easily as through a Naples bonnet
                  Trash of all trash! how can a lady don it?
          Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff
          Owl‑downy nonsense that the faintest puff
                  Twirls into trunk‑paper the while you con it.
          And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
          The general tuckermanities are arrant
          Bubbles ephemeral and so transparent
                 But this is, now, you may depend upon it
         Stable, opaque, immortal all by dint
         Of the dear names that lie concealed withint.

 

TO    

 
    Not long ago, the writer of these lines,
    In the mad pride of intellectuality,
    Maintained the power of words denied that ever
    A thought arose within the human brain
    Beyond the utterance of the human tongue:
    And now, as if in mockery of that boast,
    Two words two foreign soft dissyllables
    Italian tones made only to be murmured
    By angels, dreaming in the moonlit dew
    That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,
    Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart,
    Unthought‑like thoughts that are the souls of thought,
    Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions
    Than even the seraph harper, Israfel,
    (Who has the sweetest voice of all Gods creatures,”)
    Could hope to utter. And I! my spells are broken.
    The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand.
    With thy dear name as text, though bidden by thee,
    I cannot write I cannot speak or think,
    Alas, I cannot feel; for t is not feeling,
   This standing motionless upon the golden
   Threshold of the wide‑open gate of dreams,
   Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista,
   And thrilling as I see upon the right,
   Upon the left, and all the way along
   Amid empurpled vapors, far away
   To where the prospect terminatesthee only.

  

TO HELEN

 

I saw thee once once only years ago:
I must not say how many but not many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full‑orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery‑silken veil of light,
With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber,
Upon the upturnd faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe
Fell on the upturnd faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love‑light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death
Fell on the upturnd faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.

Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
I saw thee half reclining; while the moon
Fell on the upturnd faces of the roses,
And on thine own, upturnd alas, in sorrow!

Was it not Fate that, on this July midnight
Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow),
That bade me pause before that garden‑gate,
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footstep stirred: the hated world all slept,
Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! oh, God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)
Save only thee and me. I paused–– I looked––
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!)
The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
All–– all expired save thee–– save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.
I saw but them they were the world to me.
I saw but them saw only them for hours
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres!
How dark a wo! yet how sublime a hope!
How silently serene a sea of pride!
How daring an ambition! yet how deep––
How fathomless a capacity for love!

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder‑cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained.
They would not go they never yet have gone.
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since.
They follow me–– they lead me through the years.
They are my ministers yet I their slave.
Their office is to illumine and enkindle
My duty, to be saved by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire.
They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope),
And are far up in Heaven the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still two sweetly scintillant
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!