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A FACT AND AN IMAGINATION;
The Danish conqueror, on his royal chair,
Mustering a face of haughty sovereignty,
To aid a covert purpose, cried—“Oh, ye
Approaching waters of the deep, that share
With this green isle my fortunes, come not where
Your master's throne is set!”_Absurd decree !
A mandate uttered to the foaming sea
Is to its motion less than wanton air.
Then Canute, rising from the invaded throne,
Said to his servile courtiers, “Poor the reach,
The undisguised extent, of mortal sway!
He only is a king, and he alone
Deserves the name (this truth the billows preach)
Whose everlasting law, sea, earth, and heaven obey,”
This just reproof the prosperous Dane
Drew, from the influx of the main,
For some whose rugged northern mouths would strain
At oriental flattery;
And Canute (truth more worthy to be known)
From that time forth did for his brows disown
The ostentatious symbol of a crown ;
Esteeming earthly royalty
Comtemptible and vain.
Now hear what one of elder days,
Rich theme of England's fondest praise,
Her darling Alfred, might have spoken;
To cheer the remnant of his host
When he was driven from coast to coast,
Distressed and harassed, but with mind unbroken:
“My faithful followers, lo! the tide is spent ;
That rose, and steadily advanced to fill
The shores and channels, working nature's will
Among the mazy streams that backward went,
And in the sluggish pools where ships are pent ;
And now, its task performed, the flood stands still
At the green base of many an inland hill,
In placid beauty and sublime content !
Such the repose that sage and hero find ;
Such measured rest the sedulous and good
Of humbler name; whose souls do, like the flood
Of ocean, press right on; or gently wind,
Neither to be diverted nor withstood,
Until they reach the bounds by Heaven assigned."
"A LITTLE ONWARD LEND THY GUIDING
HAND." “A little onward lend thy guiding hand To these dark steps, a little further on!” What trick of memory to my voice hath brought This mournful iteration? For though Time, The conqueror, crowns the conquered, on this brow Planting his favourite silver diadem, Nor he, nor minister of his intent To run before him-hath enrolled me yet, Though not unmenaced, among those who lean Upon a living staff, with borrowed sight. O my Antigone, beloved child ! Should that day come-but hark! the birds salute The cheerful dawn, brightening for me the east; For me, thy natural leader, once again Impatient to conduct thee, not as erst A tottering infant, with compliant stoop From flower to flower supported; but to curb Thy nymph-like step swift-bounding o'er the lawn,
Along the loose rocks, or the slippery verge
Of foaming torrent.-- From thy orisons
Come forth; and, while the morning air is yet
Transparent as the soul of innocent youth,
Let me, thy happy guide, now point thy way,
And now precede thee, winding to and fro,
Till we by perseverance gain the top
Of some smooth ridge, whose brink precipitous
Kindles intense desire for powers withheld
From this corporeal frame; whereon who stands
Is seized with strong incitement to push forth
His arms, as swimmers use, and plunge-dread thought!
For pastime plunge--into the 'abrupt abyss,'
Where ravens spread their plumy vans at ease!
And yet more gladly thee would I conduct
Through woods and spacious forests,-to behold
There, how the original of human art,
Heaven-prompted Nature, measures and erects
Her temples, fearless for the stately work,
Though waves in every breeze its high-arched roof,
And storms the pillars rock. But we such schools
Of reverential awe will chiefly seek
In the still summer noon, while beams of light,
Reposing here, and in the aisles beyond
Traceably gliding through the dusk, recall
To mind the living presences of nuns ;
A gentle, pensive, white-robed sisterhood,
Whose saintly radiance mitigates the gloom
Of those terrestrial fabrics where they serve,
To Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, espoused.
Now also shall the page of classic lore,
To these glad eyes from bondage freed, again
Lie open; and the book of Holy Writ,
Again unfolded, passage clear shall yield
To heights more glorious still, and into shades
More awful, where advancing hand in hand
We may be taught, O darling of my care !
To calm the affections, elevate the soul,
And consecrate our lives to truth and love,
The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
Are hung, as if with golden shields,
Bright trophies of the sun!
Like a fair sister of the sky,
Unruffled doth the blue lake lie,
The mountains looking on.
And, sooth to say, yon vocal grove,
Albeit uninspired by love,
By love untaught to ring,
May well afford to mortal ear
An impulse more profoundly dear
Than music of the spring.
For that from turbulence and heat
Proceeds, from some uneasy seat
In nature's struggling frame,
Some region of impatient life;
And jealousy, and quivering strife,
Therein a portion claim.
This, this is holy ;-while I hear
These vespers of another year,
This hymn of thanks and praise,
My spirit seems to mount above
The anxieties of human love,
And earth's precarious days.
But list!-though winter storms be nigh,
Unchecked is that soft harmony:
There lives who can provide
For all his creatures; and in him,
Even like the radiant seraphim,
These choristers confide.
UPON THE SAME OCCASION.
DEPARTING summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely caroling.
No faint and hesitating trill,
Such tribute as to winter chill
The lonely redbreast pays !
Clear, loud, and lively is the din,
From social warblers gathering in
Their harvest of sweet lays.
Nor doth the example fail to cheer
Me, conscious that
And yellow on the bough:-
Fall, rosy garlands, from
head! Ye myrtle wreaths, your fragrance shed Around a younger brow! Yet will I temperately rejoice: Wide is the range, and free the choice Of undiscordant themes; Which, haply, kindred souls may prize Not less than vernal ecstasies, And passion's feverish dreams.