« PreviousContinue »
The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs,
Due sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them naught: th’imprison'd worm is safe
Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs
Lie cover'd close ; and berry-bearing thorns,
That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppose)
Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.
The long protracted rigour of the year
Thins all their num'rous flocks. In chinks and holes
Ten thousand seek an unmolested end,
As instinct prompts ; self-buried ere they die.
The very rooks and daws forsake the fields,
Where neither grub, nor root, nor earth-nut, now
Repays their labour more ; and, perch'd aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the trav'ller's track,
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half-digested grain.
The streams are lost amid the splendid blank,
O'erwhelming all distinction. On the flood,
Indurated and fix'd, the snowy weight
Lies undissolv'd; while silently beneath,
And unperceiv'd, the current steals away.
Not so, where, scornful of a check, it leaps
The mill-dam, dashes on the restless wheel,
And wantons in the pebbly gulf below :
No frost can bind it there ; its utmost force
Can but arrest the light and smoky mist
That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide.
And see where it has hung th' embroider'd banks
With forms so various, that no pow'rs of art,
The pencil or the pen, may trace the scene !
Here glittring turrets rise, upbearing high
(Fantastic misarrangement !) on the roof
Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees
And shrubs of fairy land. The crystal drops
That trickle down the branches, fast congeald,
Shoot into pillars of pellucid length,
And prop the pile they but adorn'd before.
Here grotto within grotto safe defies
The sun-beam ; there, imboss'd and fretted wild,
The growing wonder takes a thousand shapes
Capricious, in which fancy seeks in vain
The likeness of some object seen before.
Thus nature works as if to mock at art,
And in defiance of her rival pow'rs;
By these fortuitous and random strokes
Performing such inimitable feats
As she with all her rules can never reach.
Less worthy of applause, though more admir'd,
Because a novelty, the work of man,
Imperial mistress of the fur-clad Russ !
Thy most magnificent and mighty freak,
The wonder of the North. No forest fell
When thou would'st build ; no quarry sent its stores
T'enrich thy walls : but thou didst hew the floods,
And make thy marble of the glassy wave.
In such a palace Aristæus found i
Cyrene, when he bore the plaintive tale
Of his lost bees to her maternal ear :
In such a palace poetry might place
The armory of winter ; where his troops,
The gloomy clouds, find weapons, arrowy sleet,
Skin-piercing volley, blossom-bruising hail,
And snow that often blinds the trav’ller's course,
And wraps him in an unexpected tomb.
Silently as a dream the fabric rose ;-
No sound of hammer or of saw was there :
Ice upon ice, the well adjusted parts
Were soon conjoin'd ; nor other cement ask'd
Than water interfus'd to make them one.
Lamps gracefully dispos'd, and of all hues,
Illumin'd ev'ry side : a wat’ry light
Gleam'd through the clear transparency, that seem'd
Another moon new risen, or meteor fall’n
From heav'n to earth, of lambent flame serene.
So stood the brittle prodigy; though smooth
And slipp’ry the materials, yet frost-bound
Firm as a rock. Nor wanted aught within,
That royal residence might well befit,
For grandeur or for use. Long wavy wreaths
Of flow'rs, that fear'd no enemy but warmth,
Blush'd on the pannels. Mirror needed none
Where all was vitreous; but in order due
Convivial table and commodious seat
(What seem'd at least commodious seat) were there ;
Sofa, and couch, and high-built throne august.
The same lubricity was found in all,
And all was moist to the warm touch ; a scene
Of evanescent glory, once a stream, And soon to slide into a stream again. Alas ! 'twas but a mortifying stroke Of undesign'd severity, that glanc'd (Made by a monarch) on her own estate, On human grandeur and the courts of kings. 'Twas transient in its nature, as in show 'Twas durable ; as worthless, as it seem'd Intrinsically precious ; to the foot Treach'rous and false ; it smild, and it was cold. Great princes have great playthings. Some have
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain-high.
Some have amus'd the dull, sad years of life
(Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad)
With schemes of monumental fame ; and sought
By pyramids and mausolean pomp,
Short-liv'd themselves, t immortalize their bones.
Some seek diversion in the tented field,
And make the sorrows of mankind their sport.
But war's a game, which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at. Nations would do well
Textort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief; and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy the world.
When Babel was confounded, and the great
Confed'racy of projectors wild and vain
Was split into diversity of tongues,
Then, as a shepherd separates his flock,
These to the upland, to the valley those,
God drave asunder, and assign'd their lot
To all the nations. Ample was the boon
He gave them, in its distribution fair
And equal ; and he bade them dwell in peace.
Peace was awhile their care : they plough'd, and
And reap'd their plenty, without grudge or strife.
But violence can never longer sleep
Than human passions please. In ev'ry heart
Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war ;
Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze.
Cain had already shed a brother's blood :
The deluge wash'd it out ; but left unquench'd.
The seeds of murder in the breast of man.
Soon, by a righteous judgment, in the line
Of his descending progeny was found
The first artificer of death ; the shrewd ..
Contriver who first sweated at the forge,
And forc'd the blunt and yet unbloodied steel
To a keen edge, and made it bright for war.
Him, Tubal nam'd, the Vulcan of old times,
The sword and falchion their inventor claim;
And the first smith was the first murd'rer's son.
His art surviv'd the waters ; and ere long, ...
When man was multiplied and spread abroad
In tribes and clans, and had begun to call ':
These meadows and that range of hills his own,
The tasted sweets of property begat