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Who is the Poet? Who the man whose lines
Live in the souls of men like household words?
Whose thought, spontaneous as the song of birds,
With eldest truth coeval, still combines
With each day's product, and like morning shines,
Exempt from age? 'Tis he, and only he,
Who knows that Truth is free, and only free,-
That Virtue, acting in the strict confines
Of positive law, instructs the infant spirit
In its best strength, and proves its mere demerit
Rooted in earth, yet tending to the sky,
With patient hope surveys the narrow bound,
Culls every flower that loves the lowly ground,
And fraught with sweetness, wings her way on high.
A thousand thoughts were stirring in my mind,
That strove in vain to fashion utterance meet,
And each the other cross'd_swift as a fleet
Of April clouds, perplexed by gusts of wind,
That veer, and veer, around, before, behind.
Now History pointed to the customed beat,
Now Fancy's clue unravelling, led their feet
Through mazes manifold, and quaintly twined.
So were they straying—so had ever stray'd;
Had not the wiser poets of the past
The vivid chart of human life display'd,
And taught the laws that regulate the blast,
Wedding wild impulse to calm forms of beauty,
And making peace 'twixt liberty and duty.
The nimble fancy of all beauteous Greece,
Fabled young Love an everlasting boy,
That held of nature an eternal lease,
Of childhood, beauty, innocence, and joy ;
A bow he had, a pretty childish toy,
That would not terrify his mother's sparrows,
And 'twas his favourite play to sport his arrows,
Light as the glances of a wood-nymph coy,
O happy error! Musical conceit,
Of old idolatry, and youthful time!
Fit emanation of a happy clime,
Where but to live, to breathe, to be, was sweet,
And Love, tho' even then a little cheat,
Dream'd not his craft would e'er be call'd a crime.
Not that my hand could make of stubborn stone,
Whate'er of Gods the shaping thought conceives,
Not that my skill by pictur'd lines hath shewn,
All terrors that the guilty soul believes-
Not that my art, by blended light and shade,
Express’d the world as it was newly made,
Not that my verse—profoundest truth could teach,
In the soft accents of the lover's speech ;
Not that I rear'd a temple for mankind,
To meet and pray in, borne by every wind-
Affords me peace-I count my gain but loss,
For that vast love, that hangs upon the Cross.
Dedicatory Sonnet, line 3. “Beside my cradle, $c.”
Alluding to the poem called “Frost at Midnight,” by S. T, Coleridge.
The reference is especially to the following lines:
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,
As far as regards the habitats of my childhood, these lines, written at
Nether Stowey, were almost prophetic. But poets are not prophets.
Sonnet l. “To a Friend.”
This sonnet, and the two following, my earliest attempts at that form of versification, were addressed to R. S. Jameson, Esq., on occasion of meeting him in London after a separation of some years. He was the favourite companion of my boyhood, the active friend and sincere counsellor of my youth. “Though seas between us broad ha' roll'd” since we “travell?d side by side” last, I trust the sight of this little volume will give rise to recollections that will make him ten years younger. He is now Judge Advocate at Dominica, and husband of Mrs. Jameson, authoress of the “Diary of an Ennuyee,” “ Loves of the Poets,” and other agreeable productions.