ODE TO POESY.

UNTO what likeness shall I liken thee,

O moon-wrought maiden of my dewy sleep?

For thou art Queen of Thoughts, and unto me

Sister and Bride; the worn earth’s echoes leap

Because thy holy name is Poesy.

Whereto art thou most like?

Thou art a Dian, crescent o’er the sea

That beats sonorous on the craggy shore,

Or shakes the frail earth-dyke.

So calm and still and far, that never more

Thy silken song shall quiver through the land;

Only by coral isle, by lonely strand

Where no man dwells, thy voice re-wakens wild and grand. {114A}

Thou art an Aphrodite. From the foam

Of golden grape and red thou risest up

Immaculate; thou hast an ebon comb

Of shade and silence, and a jasper cup

Wherein are mingled all desires. Thine home

Is in the forest shade.

Thy pale feet kiss the daffodils; they roam

By moss-grown springs, and shake the bluebell tips.

Each flower of the deep glade

Has whispered kisses for thy listening lips,

While Eos blushes in the sky, to find

A fairer, queenlier maiden, and as kind

To man and maid, whose eyes are lit by the same mind.

Thou hast, as Pallas hath, a polished shield,

Whose Gorgon-head is Hatred, and a sword

Sharper than Love’s. Thy wisdom is revealed

To them who love, but thou hast aya abhorred

The children of revenge; to them is sealed

Thy book, so clear to me.

Thy book where seven sins their sceptres wield,

And seven sorrows track them, and one joy

Cancels their infamy;

Shame and regret are fused to an alloy,

Whose drossy weight sinks down and is consumed,

While o’er the ruddy metal is relumed

A purer flame of piece, with knowledge now perfumed.

Thy ways are very bitter. Not one rose

Twines in the crown of thorns thy spouse must wear;

There is no Lethe for the scoffs, the blows,

Nor find they a Cyrenian1 anywhere

Amid the mob, to lift my cross, to share

Its burden: not one friend

Whose love were silence, whose affection knows

To press my hand and close my dying eyes

There, at the endless end.

I am alone on earth, and from the skies {114B}

Sometimes I seem so far -- and yet, thy kiss

Re-quickens Hope; through aether’s emptiness

Thou guidest me to touch the Hand of Him who Is.

Thou hadst a torch to lume my lips to song;

Thou hast a cooler fountain for my thirst,

Lest my young love should work thy fame a wrong;

So the grape’s veins in purple ardour burst,

And opiates in bloomless gardens throng,

And Life, a moon, wanes fast;

But to thy garden richer buds belong

And hardier flowers, and Love, a deathless sun,

Flames eager to the last,

And young desires in fleeter revels run,

And life revives, and all the flowers rejoice,

Bird and light butterfly have made their choice,

Creation hymns its God with an united voice.

There is a storm without. The hoary trees

Stagger; the foam is angry on the sea:

I know the secret mountains are at ease,

And in the deepest ice-embroidery

Where great men’s spirits linger there is peace.

Heed not the unquiet wind!

Dawn’s finger shall be raised, its wrath shall cease,

The sun shall rouse us whom the tempest lulled,

And thy poor poet’s mind

For respite by its own deep anguish dulled

Shall wake again to watch the cruel day

Drift slowly on its chill and wasted way

With but thy smile to inspire some sad melodious lay.

From whose rude caverns sweep these gusty wings

That shake the steeples as they mock at God?

Who reared the stallion wind? Whose foaling flings

The billows starward? Whose the steeds fire-shod {115}

That sweep throughout the world? What spearman sings

The fearful chant of war

That fires, and spurs, and maddens all the kings

That rule o’er the earth, and air, and ocean?

Whose hand excites the star

To shatter into fiery flakes? No man,

No petty god, but One who governs all,

Slips the sun’s leash, perceives the sparrow’s fall,

Too high for man to fear, too near for man to call.

1. Simon the Cyrenian, who bore the cross of Christ.

 

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