Purgatory of Suicides: Book IV.
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-1-

    WELCOME, sweet Robin! welcome, cheerful one!
    Why dost thou slight the merry fields of corn,
    The sounds of human joy, the plenty strown
    From Autumn's teeming lap; and, by gray morn,
    Ere the sun wakes, sing thus to things of scorn
    And infamy and want and sadness whom
    Their stronger fellow-criminals have torn
    From freedom and the gladsome light of home,
To quench the nobler spark within, in dungeoned gloom?

 

-2-

    Why dost thou choose, throughout the live-long day,
    A prison-rampart for thy perch, and sing
    As thou wouldst rend thy fragile throat?   Away,
    My little friend, away, upon light wing,
    A while!   Me it will cheer, imagining
    Till thou revisit this my drear sojourn,
    How, on the margent of some silver spring
    Mantled with golden lilies, thou dost turn
Thy pretty head awry, so meaningly, and yearn,

 

-3-

    From out that beaming look, to know what thoughts
    Within the beauteous arrow-head may dwell—
    The purple eye petalled with snow, that floats
    So gracefully.   Dost think the damosel,
    Young Hope, kirtled with Chastity, there fell
    Into the stream, and grew a flower so fair?
    Ah! still thou lingerest, while I, dreaming, tell
    Of pleasures I would reap, if free I were,
Like thee loved bird, to breathe sweet Freedom's balmy air.

 

-4-

    Away!—for this is not a clime for thee—
    Sweet childhood's sacred one!   The hawthorns bend
    With ruddy fruitage: tiny troops, with glee
    Plundering the mellow wealth, a shout will send
    Aloft, if they behold their feathered friend,
    Loved 'Robin Redbreast,' mingle with their joy!
    Did they not watch thy tenderlings, and wend
    With eager steps, when school was o'er, a coy
And wistful peep to take—lest some rude ruffian boy,

 

-5-

    With sacrilegious heart and hand, should rob
    Thy nest as heathenly as if 'Heaven's bird'
    Were not more sacred than the vulgar mob
    Of pies and crows?   Flee,—loved one!—thou hast heard
    This dissonance of bolts and bars that gird
    Old England's modern slaves, until thy sense
    Of freedom's music will be sepulchred.
    Hie where young hearts gush taintless joy intense,
And, 'mid their rapture, pour thy heart's mellifluence!

 

-6-

    Still lingerest thou upon that dreary wall
    Which bars, so enviously, my view of grove
    And stream and hill, as if it were death's pall?
    Oh leave this tyrant-hold, and, joyous, rove—
    Loved bird of home—bird of our father's love—
    Where the thatched cottage, clad with virgin rose
    And sweet-briar and rosemary, thickly wove
    Among vine-leaves, with nectar-garland woos
The amorous bees that, songful, do their love-sweets
            spouse.

 

-7-

    Hasten, dear Robin!—for the aged dame
    Calls thee to gather up the honeyed crumb
    She scatters at her door; and, at thy name,
    The youngsters crowd to see their favourite come.
    Fear not Grimalkin!—she doth sing 'three-thrum,'
    With happy half-shut eyes, upon the warm
    Soft cushion in the corner-chair: deaf, dumb,
    And toothless lies old Growler:—fear no harm,
Loved Robin!—thou shalt banquet hold without alarm.

 

-8-

    Ah!   Chanticleer hath eyed the dainties spread
    For thee, and summons his pert train the prize
    To share.   Lo! how the children ask with dread,
    Of the old grandame with the glazed eyes,
    'Why Robin does not come?'   The pet one cries,
    Because he sees thee not,—unpacified,
    Even with the apple tinct with vermeil dyes,
    The first-born offers with a kiss!   Abide
Not here, expected one, lest woe the cot betide!

 

-9-

    If thou return not, Gammer o'er her pail
    Will sing in sorrow, 'neath the brinded cow,
    And Gaffer sigh over his nut-brown ale;
    While evermore the petlings, with sad brow,
    Will look for thee upon the holly bough,
    Where thou didst chirp thy signal note, ere on
    The lowly grunsel thou didst light, and show,
    With such sweet confidence,—thou darling one!—
Thy blythesome face,—and, on thee, all cried 'benison!'

 

-10-

    Alas!—I mind me why thou lingerest here!
    My country's happy cottages abound
    No longer.   Where they stood and smiled, uprear
    The 'Bastile' and the gaol!—and thou hast found
    Such refuge, Robin, as,—upon the ground
    Where Alfred reigned, and Hampden fought and bled,
    Where Milton sung, and Latimer was crowned
    With glorious martyrdom,—is portioned
Unto our fathers' sons, who win with tears their bread.

 

-11-

    Bread!—nay devour with greed the grovelling root,
    As recompense of labour for their lords;
    Or, spurned, when begging to have, like the brute,
    Fodder for toil, and coerced into hordes
    Of midnight spoilers, swell the black records
    Of cruelty and crime.   'This dear, dear land' [1]
    Is dear no longer: its great name affords
    Thoughts but for curses!   Ay, where the brave band
Sang in the flames—lit by the brood of Hildebrand;

 

-12-

    Where strode the iron men of Runnymede,
    And quelled the tyrant; where burns memory
    How lawless Falseness, sprung of royal seed
    And sceptred, paid stern forfeit by decree
    Of broad-day justice unto Liberty;
    Where noblest deeds were done; upon this isle—
    'This precious stone set in the silver sea' [2]
    Men talk of England as of something vile;
And wish they could forget her, in some far exile!

 

-13-

    The cottage babes were mourning, did I say,
    For that the threshold their loved visitant
    Presented not?   Alas, poor bird!   Thy lay
    And all its sweetness is forgot: their want
    Of bread hath banished thoughts of Robin's chaunt:
    The children plenty know no more; and Love
    And Gentleness have fled from Hunger's haunt:
    Fled is all worship for fair things that rove
Among fair flowers—worship in young hearts sweetly
            wove.

 

-14-

    Fair Nature charms not: fellowship with song
    And beauty,—germs from which grow, for the good
    Deep reverence, and for the frail, though wrong,
    Pity and tenderness:—all these, the rude
    Chill breath of Want hath stifled in the bud;
    And beggar-quarrels for their scanty crust
    Now fill the bosoms of the lean, dwarfed brood,
    The peasant father—sprung from sires robust—
Beholds at home, and wishes he were laid in dust!

 

-15-

    Ah! darling Robin, thou wilt soon behold
    No homes for poor men on old England's shore:
    No homes but the vile gaol, or viler fold
    Reared by new rule to herd the 'surplus poor'—
    Wise rule which unto Pauperism's foul core—
    The rich man's purse-plague's core—shall penetrate:
    Paupers shall multiply their race no wore
    Except they live in palaces! 
 Debate
Upon the rule they may: but,—the slaves bear their fate!

 

-16-

    Slaves,—abject, bloodless, soulless, sneaking slaves!
    Your fetters are perfected, now!   Tug, strain,
    Toil, sweat, and starve, and die!   For, whoso raves
    For larger pittance from his lords humane;—
    Or, malcontent, dares from hard toil refrain,—
    He shall be Bastiled!   His wise lords say well—
    Such grumbling slaves might nurture bold disdain
    In their serf-offspring: better 'tis to quell,
At once, and, in the germ, creatures that might rebel!

 

-17-

    Cowards,—why did ye suffer knaves to forge
    These eunuch-fetters?—why so tamely don
    These chains?—
                                 Beshrew this rising in my gorge
    To think that others 'neath their fetters groan,
    And do not break them!—Wear I not my own?
    Ay, and must wear them, while my tyrants choose.
    Well: let me bide my time; and, then, atone
    For that real crime—the failing to arouse
Slaves against tyrants.   I may, yet, before life's close.—

 

-18-

    The sun has faded.   Robin, 'tis full time
    Thou fleddst to covert: cease thy song, and hie
    Away to rest!—but let me hear thy chime
    Renewed to-morrow; for home's minstrelsy
    Is precious 'mid these bars.   Robin, good-bye!
    'Twas Childhood's farewell; and I cannot yield.
    This heart to bitterness so utterly,
    But that the sense of fondness, now upsealed
Therein, will struggle till its pulses be revealed.

 

-19-

    Once more resounds the hateful clank of bars
    And bolts: once more I gain my narrow lair.
    Of bondage-life new-fangledness ne'er mars
    The drear perfection: Morrow is the heir
    Legitimate of dull To-day; and where
    Yesterday gazed upon the chill damp wall
    And yawned, To-day looks on with the same air
    Of listlessness.   Food, sight, sound, converse pall:
Only the fountains of the dead well spiritual

 

-20-

    Waters that purify the stagnant mind
    From morbid loathings that would madness breed,
    Amid this sickening slough of unrefined
    And vulgar circumstance.—
                                                        My spirit, freed
    From matter, seemed on enterprise to speed,
    Once more, across Death's gloomful ocean wave;
    And raught the shore where penance is decreed
    To souls forsaking, with presumption brave,
Their clay ere Nature's sentence lays it in the grave:

 

-21-

    The sculptured aisle—the dome—were quickly gained,
    And past.   And now, a feeling and a sense,
    Or, what were likest sense and feeling, reigned
    Throughout my being of a power intense
    To summon up the soul's experience,
    And view, as in a mirror, her whole course
    Of consciousness: filled with this opulence
    Of intellective might, unto each source
Of mortal joy the mind recurred, with mystic force.

 

-22-

    Her reminiscence seemed so full and clear
    Of pleasures past, so consolably viewed
    She Life's young worships pure, that Hades' sphere
    Grew gladly bright, and the dread clime seemed hued
    Like vernal earth.   Childhood's sweet fields renewed,
    With daisies and with king-cups gay begemmed,
    I saw: then Lindsey's sweetest sanctitude
    Of Druid woods arose, where, giant-stemmed,
Upreared old trees anew with verdure diademmed.

 

-23-

    Cirqued with his offspring stood the central oak
    Of myriad years, throwing each glorious bough
    Abroad as bravely as when music broke
    The solitudes while there his parent grew,
    And 'derry-down!' was sung, and mistletoe
    Was gathered by the bearded hierophant,
    And troops of primal men their eagled foe
    Fierce staggered, chased the bison to his haunt,
And slew, in his own den, the wolf so grim and gaunt.

 

-24-

    Along mazed paths beloved of those old trees
    I seemed to walk 'mong flowers all faëry-frail,
    Azure-robed harebells, chaste anemones,
    Primroses wan, and lilies of the vale,
    Each bud so beauteous that all speech would fail
    To say how lovely 'twas: for, gushing tears
    Of ecstasy can only tell the tale,
    Unto some kindred heart that Nature cheers
As rapturously, how fair are flowers of childhood's
            years!

 

-25-

    And melody awoke of sweet wood-lark
    And mellow-throated blackbird; whispering thrill,
    Of thousand tiny things, each like a spark
    Of gold or emerald, o'er pool and rill,
    Amid the noonbeam sporting; coo and bill,
    And love's soft throbbings by the stockdove coy;
    Mingled with minstrelsy of throstles shrill;—
    Blent sylvan harmonies with flood of joy
Seeming the heart to deluge, and its sense o'ercloy!

 

-26-

    And still the land was Hades, and the soul
    Lived consciously discerpt from her clay shrine,
    And viewed through plenitude of her control
    Over the past, in mirror crystalline,
    Life's joys; nay, seemed her essence to entwine
    With them until again she lived them o'er.—
    The harping of an unseen hand divine
    Now carols woke of courtly troubadour,
Till the old forest echoed with proud songs of yore:

 

-27-

    Lays that with fluttering bosom many a maid
    Of southern clime oft listed from some high
    And envious turret,—rapturous serenade
    Of glowing love, mingled with bitter sigh
    And passionate upbraiding, breathed to die
    Upon the breeze.   Anon a strain upsent
    That unseen harp, shrill as when cleaves the sky
    The battle-trumpet: gorgeous tournament
The harper sang, and shock of knights armipotent:

 

-28-

    Of prancing steeds, and terrible melee,
    And dancing plumes, he told: of high proclaim
    By pageant herald; victor-garland gay
    Bestowed with peerless blush of maiden shame,
    Revealing peerless maiden's conscious flame;
    Of honours by spectator kings conferred;
    And royal mandate that the conqueror's fame
    Be borne through Christendom,—yea, to the beard
Of the swart Soldan, 'mid his sweltering turbanned
            herd

 

-29-

    A stately burthen, couched in antique tongue
    And magic rhyme, unto his mystic shell
    With tuneful voice, the unseen minstrel sung.
    But suddenly, his lofty harpings fell
    To dirge-like melody; for smit by spell
    Of memory dread, the bard his heartless foil
    On earth, and breath of hope hushed by the knell
    Of early death, sung sadly.   Dull recoil
His harp seized, next, as if it shrunk from overtoil.

 

-30-

    The sorrow-broken songster, soon, to wake
    Its chords in wailful cavatina strove:
    He sung of the proud, slighted bosom's ache,
    Of soul-consuming fires more fierce than love
    Or jealousy, of restless hopes that move
    Their young possessor to aspirings wild,
    Of disappointment's gall when frowns disprove
    His smiling day-dreams, till the draught defiled—
The deathly chalice—tempts the scorn-stung Poet-
            child!

 

-31-

    Sobbings, that heaved as they would rend the heart,
    Succeeded, and the lyre was dumb!   Then passed
    The shade of fated Chatterton athwart
    My path,—sad, mournful, slow, with eyes downcast,
    And visage ye might emblem by a waste
    Of over-prurience, or tropic field
    Where luscious fruitage springing thick and fast
    Expires of hasty ripeness, ere can yield
To the taste its sweets, or their rich value be revealed.—

 

-32-

    The shade evanished from my eager gaze,—
    Seeking, with haste of heart-galled misanthrope,
    Some dark secluded nook of forest-maze.
    And, now, came o'er my spirit a grim troop
    Of self-accusing thoughts, swift summoned up
    By Memory, who, again, with mystic might
    Seemed high endowed.   How oft, in youth, the dupe
    I, also, was, of dreams,—and misused flight
Of years,—she sternly pictured to my humbled sight.

 

-33-

    To manhood, reached before the dreams of youth
    Were half relinquished, passed my bodiless
    Essence, and seemed to sigh, where oft, in truth,
    The waking heart had sighed, deep blamefulness
    Of indolence beholding, pride's excess,—
    And thousand errors although inly mourned
    Still followed.   Then a love-look of distress
    Was pictured, telling how one bosom yearned
To bless me, as if still the soul on earth sojourned.—

 

-34-

    Anon a change came o'er my dream.   Disposed
    In stately length, a twilight avenue
    Of trees funebrous suddenly disclosed
    I saw,—where, the tall cypress, ancient yew,
    Dark pine, and spreading cedar, as by due
    Observance of nice art, like colonnade
    Of desert Tadmor, were arranged, and grew
    A solemn vista clothed with musing shade—
Such as the rapt soul's holiest retrospect might aid.

 

-35-

    A monumental form, that meekly glowed
    With softest radiance, sadly o'er an urn
    Sepulchral, 'neath a lofty cypress, bowed,
    Midway, along this sombrous pathway.   Lorn
    It drooped, and, voiceless, seemed to tell 'I mourn
    'With more than mortal grief;' yet, was such grace
    Celestial by that drooping statue worn,
    That one desired for ever in that place
To stay and gaze upon its spiritual face.

 

-36-

    Enrapt to ecstasy, I gazed till life
    Began to fill its breast, and passion shone
    Through its unmarbled eyes!   Death a vain strife
    Essayed, with chilly grasp around her zone,
    To hold in sculptured grief that ardent one.
    Lo! high, immortal Love breathed vital power
    On her fair limbs, and, with a gentle moan,
    She raised her head—a monument no more
Of sorrow—but, for love, a peerless cynosure!

 

-37-

    Her islet shell the burning Lesbian took
    From sad repose upon the urn that feigned
    To hold the image of her grief, and strook
    The matchless chords as one who pain disdained:
    Then, proudly, though with tears, she thus
            complained
    Of slighted tenderness,—vowing to feed
    Her fruitless flame till, spirit disenchained
    From torture, her deep constancy its meed
Should find in some blest state for souls by gods
            decreed:—

 

-38-

    "Phaon! beloved, unloving Phaon! thee
    The maid enamoured hymns,—by pain unchanged
    In Hades, as by scorn on earth: on me
    Let angry Jove, the Torturer, be avenged
    For slighted life, and order disarranged
    Of his stern government: woe shall not wrest
    Thy image from its throne: never estranged
    Shall be her love from Sappho's faithful breast:
She can love on—unloved, despised, ache-doomed,
            unblest!

 

-39-

    "Ingrate!   I offered thee no vulgar toy,
    No mindless, soulless prize: hadst thou my flame
    Returned, the passion of a thoughtless boy,
    Compared with mine, were like the lustre tame
    Of night's pale worm shown to the sun-lit gem.
    Cold, undiscerning clay,—thou wast not worth
    My love!   Alas! each winged reproach I aim
    At thee back on my soul recoils with birth
Of fond remorse more torturous, far, than woes of
            earth.

 

-40-

    "Phaon beloved! unloving though thou wert,
    My love burns on, and shall all pain survive—
    A deathless flame: my soul lives all-amort
    By her own nature, since she doth derive
    Her essence from intenseness, nor can live
    An atom of her life in meek, cold, calm
    Indifference.   Mystic hopes that in me strive
    For utterance!—do ye truly shape the palm
I claim, or doth sick Fancy feign the spirit's balm?

 

-41-

    "Fidelity to Nature's impulses
    Shall bring, at length, ineffable reward:
    They who, all unsubdued, 'gainst miseries
    Of scorn and death have waged the combat hard
    Shall meet their guerdon; dreams of gifted bard
    And visions of gray seer shall be fulfilled:
    Torture, that long the universe hath marred,
    Shall end: of Love and Hate the life-war wild
Shall cease: the discords of the soul for aye be stilled.

 

-42-

    "It cannot be that with the Beautiful
    Deformity shall ever, envious, blend:
    Mercy divine shall demon Wrath annul,
    Love conquer Hate, and glorious Goodness bend
    Her iris over life till she transcend
    The power of Evil, and annihilate
    Its sting for ever!"—
                                   "Ardent Lesbian, end
    Thy dreams, nor dare Futurity and Fate
To fix, by thy fond wish, in fancied happy state!"—

 

-43-

    Thus broke upon my spirit accents stern,
    Haughty, abrupt; and, forthwith, stood beside
    Sappho's soft form a spirit cold and dern
    Of aspect, but whose stately, seemly pride
    Outspoke the tuneful Roman suicide
    Who wooed the Muse to leave her wonted hill,
    And tread the plain with philosophic stride,—
    And, slighting toys, with manly themes to fill
The soul—of its own Liberty, Fate, Good, and Ill [3]

 

-44-

    "Dispel these sanguine dreams!"—the proud bard said
    "Passion,—warm maid, —hath seized the heritance
    Of Reason in thee: proof hath Nature spread
    That strong Necessity rules wide expanse
    Of Universe: primeval atoms Chance
    May have assorted; but, once joined, 'tis vain
    To dream a separation.   Partial glance
    On Nature renders thy warm essence fain
To witness unmixed Good begin its ceaseless reign:  

 

-45-

    "But, know, the Universe is perfect, since
    Eternal destiny forbade all germs
    Diverse from what exist.   Let it convince
    Short-sighted murmurers at the mingled swarms
    Of being, that all which is—is best, though storms
    And darkness, death and havoc, mix with peace
    And radiance, life and love; since each conforms
    To high Necessity.   Let passion cease,
Lesbian, to dazzle thee with fraudful garishness."—

 

-46-

    So spake Lucretius; but, with look undimmed
    Of intellectual ardour, Sappho thus
    Renewed her yearning thought:—
                                                             "Guesses sublimed
    By doubt, rather than argument abstruse
    And wise, thou utterest, O incredulous
    Epicurean!   Failing to foreknow
    The future, and with haste incurious
    Glancing at past and present, thou art slow
To mark how Nature doth her bright intents foreshow.

 

-47-

    "Weakly, not wisely, Mind doth refuge take
    In greater mystery from the less: though faith
    In government of kindly gods forsake
    The soul full oft, beholding pain and death
    Of fairest things endowed with lease of breath,—
    Yet seems it blind procedure to conclude
    Our puzzled survey with a word that saith
    The gods are helpless as ourselves, and feud
Of Good with Evil hath by law of Fate ensued:

 

-48-

    "Fate, or Necessity: Bard, what is this
    But Ignorance veiled in simulance of words?
    Nature's strange strife must be—because it is;
    Or, is—because it must be: dull discords
    Of reason!   If its help, indeed, affords
    No sager explications of the cause
    Of things, sterile its rules my soul regards,
    And cleaves to Phantasy, from which she draws
Faith more ennobling to interpret Nature's laws.  

 

-49-

    "The soul loathes Pain, Deformity, Decay:
    Nature hath made them loathsome to her sense:
    Therefore, they shall not always be.   Bard, say,
    What proves this truthless?   Wordy eloquence
    Of doubt compriseth all the proof from whence
    Thou dost affirm Necessity; and why
    Should spirits slight the cheering evidence
    Of their own sympathies with Nature's high
Proclaim, to embrace clouds of dull dubiety?—

 

-50-

    "The sanguine Lesbian ceased; and thus replied
    The philosophic bard:—
                                          "Couldst thou efface
    "My doubts,—rapt, tuneful one,—to list thee chide
    With this sweet earnestness and winning grace [4]
    Long season would I yield.   A resting-place
    My spirit yearns to find within the veil
    Of Truth—but yearns in vain.   We still but chase
    Shadows, and evermore the substance fail
To find, of Truth: our clearest light is mystical. 

 

-51-

    "Deformity and discord war with fair
    And lovely shapes throughout the universe:
    What wonder, then, if gifted spirits share
    This wishful trust—that Good shall Ill disperse
    Victorious, yet?   I own, 'tis not through fierce
    Impetuous longing, but by true, innate
    Devotion to the Beautiful—to hearse
    All pain in joy—woe, wrong, to annihilate—
Thy essence, Lesbian, builds this happy after-state: 

 

-52-

    "It is the native yearning of the Mind:
    The soul attuned to harmony and love
    Longs from the chains of discord to unbind
    All being that wears them.   Yet, I view, enwove
    Through Nature, laws by which all things
            commove
    Despite our choice, misnamed,—or joy or woe
    Of sentient creatures: laws it doth behove
    Gods to conserve, lest fickle men below,
Judging them null, should cease within their fanes
            to bow.

 

-53-

    "Or, if uncaused the Universe exists—
    Mystery beyond the plummet of our thought!—
    Who, then, shall sperse the dark eternal mists
    That veil all being?—who break the irksome knot
    With which Necessity binds fast the lot
    Of every sensuous thing—exposed to death,
    And pain, and hate?—who cancel the huge blot
    Of suffering from all life?   The shadow fleeth
Of Truth!   Spirits,—we wander in a mystic path!  

 

-54-

    "How know we whether it be fair and good
    And godlike to desire plenipotence
    Of love, whereby to pour a bounteous flood
    Upon the universe, and fill all sense
    And thought with joy, or, whether vehemence
    Of folly be the fitter name whereby
    To note our wish?   Unknowing indigence—
    With all our toil—beggars the soul: we try
In vain to grasp Truth's substance: all is phantasy!   

 

-55-

    "If it were fair and good to bless all thought
    And life with joy, why was not Nature clad
    In never-changing smiles from birth? why fraught
    For ages thus, her life with suffering sad,
    With pain and agony?   Will Evil add,
    By mystic providence, unto the sum
    Of everlasting Good?   What rapture glad
    Would fill the soul, what blest delirium
Of joy, could she burst through the veil that hides
            her doom!   

 

-56-

    "But all is doubt, and dark: we struggle on
    Like limëd birds: still captive, but the strife
    Maintain, in trust that freedom shall be won.
    How vain may prove our trust!   Spirits, what if
    Our ignorance have misnamed the hues of Life—
    Evil and Good?   From whence, then, shall we earn
    Knowledge to unknow our strange errors?   Rife
    With mystery all—ay, all appears; and yearn
For ever, vainly, may the soul pure Truth to learn!"—  

 

-57-

    Lucretius ceased: and dark debate and doubt
    Brooded on brows of many an habitant
    Of that strange clime who now, in wondering rout,
    Listed the theme.—
                                       A spiritual pursuivant
    Or herald ghost, meanwhile, with ministrant
    Aspect approached; and him thus greet the crowd:—
    "Hail, bard who didst the world-waged victory chaunt
    Of Cćsar and Pharsalia! message-browed
Thy visage seems: we listen: thy full thoughts
            unshroud!"—

 

-58-

    "High-gifted spirits of self-exiled land,"—
    Replied the soul of Lucan;— "Minds, that erst
    On earth caught inspiration from the grand
    And beautiful in Nature, and conversed
    With her Divinity until she nursed
    Within ye thoughts and forms of glorious might
    And loveliness,—which in their fulness burst
    Upon the world suffusing Man with bright
Ecstatic visions of the reign of Truth and Right,— 

 

-59-

    "I come with embassage from high divan
    Of spirits who on earth held sceptred sway
    Or civic honour.   Deep debate began
    Their essences, of late, if throned-array
    And pomps, in Hades, ceaseless state pourtray
    Of monarchy on earth,—or phantoms build
    Their regal seats, and mythic shapes display
    Lessons of change, that dynasts unbeguiled
May be of pride which hath, perchance, their souls
            defiled:

 

-60-

    "Exalted Hellene spirits challenge proof
    Of natural kingship; while a haughty host
    Of Thrones contend, beneath cerulean roof,
    For ceaseless rule of princes.   To their coast
    The court of sceptred suicides each ghost
    Inviteth of your king-souled lineage,
    That ye the quest may aid which long hath tossed
    Hades in doubt; and blissful heritage
Of Truth spirits may win.   Ye have my embassage."—



NOTES TO BOOK THE FOURTH.
 
1.—Page 111, Stanza II.

'This dear, dear land'


Dying speech of Gaunt.—SHAKSPEARE, Rich. II. Act 2.

 
2.—Page 112, Stanza 12.

'This precious stone set in the silver sea'


Dying speech of Gaunt.—SHAKSPEARE, Rich. II., Act 2.

 
3.—Page 119, Stanza 43.

    And, slighting toys, with manly themes to fill
The soul—of its own Liberty, Fate, Good, and Ill.


    In an age when all metaphysical poetry is deemed dull and stupid, it would not be easy to create a popular curiosity respecting the contents of the superb poem on 'The Nature of Things,' by Lucretius.  Readers of the Latin classics usually regard it as valuable, chiefly for its masterly embodiment of the principles of the Epicurean philosophy; but Dr. Mason Good opens the preface to his version with this glowing, and more universal, eulogy of the Roman philosopher-poet:—

    "There is no poem within the circle of the ancient classics, more entitled to attention than 'The Nature of Things,' by Titus Lucretius Carus.  It unfolds to us the rudiments of that philosophy, which, under the plastic hands of Gassendi and Newton, has, at length, obtained an eternal triumph over every other hypothesis of the Grecian schools; it is composed in language the most captivating and perspicuous that can result from an equal combination of simplicity and polish, is adorned with episodes the most elegant and impressive, and illustrated by all the treasures of natural history.  It is the Pierian spring from which Virgil drew his happiest draughts of inspiration; and constitutes, in point of time, as of excellence, the first didactic poem of antiquity."

 
4.—Page 121, Stanza 50.

With this sweet earnestness and winning grace


    I entreat the reader to understand these phrases as an ascription to Sappho's real power as a poetess,—not as characteristic of the manner in which I have made her apparition discourse. Ancient and modern critics without number—Longinus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Horace himself, Vossius, Hoffman, Addison, &c. &c., have paid the highest tribute to the poetical excellence of the fair suicide of Lesbos; but, perhaps, a more finished and eloquent eulogy on her lyric worth is not to be found in the compass of a few words, than in the following extract from the ninth volume of the Encyclopśdia Metropolitana:—

    "There are few intellectual treasures, the loss of which is more deeply to be regretted than that of the works of this poetess; for the remnants which have reached us certainly display genius of the highest order; they are rich even to exuberance, and yet directed by the most exquisite taste.  In these most delicious of love-songs the tide of passion seems deep and exhaustless; it flows rapidly yet gently on, while the most sparkling fancy is ever playing over it; and the words themselves seem to participate in the sentiments which they develop.  It is a mistake to imagine that the fragments of Sappho are nothing more than the eloquent expressions of amatory feeling; they are really verses of high imagination, which renders them as beautiful as they are intense, and, in the opinion of some writers, raises them even to the sublime."

 



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