Page images
PDF
EPUB

But now and then with pressure of his thumb
T adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube
That fumes beneath his nose: the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the roost, or from the neighb'ring pale,
Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossip'd side by side,
Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call,
The feather'd tribes domestic. Half on wing,
And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood,
Conscious and fearful of too deep a plunge.
The sparrows peep, and quit the shelt'ring eaves
To seize the fair occasion. Well they eye
The scatter'd grain; and, thievishly resolv'd
T'escape th’ impending famine, often scar'd,
As oft return....a pert voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care
Remains to each....the search of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resign'd
To sad necessity, the cock foregoes
His wonted strut; and, wading at their head
With well-consider'd steps, seems to resent
His alter'd gait and stateliness retrench'd.
How find the myriad, that in summer cheer
The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs,
Due sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them nought: 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 rigor of the year
Thins all their numerous 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 labor more; and, perch'd aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the travller'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 wrestless wheel,
And wantons in the pebbly gulph 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 glitt'ring 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 wouldst 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
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. -

M

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 fallin
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,
Of 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 smil'd, and it was cold.

Great princes have great playthings. Some have

play'd 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, ť 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

sow'd, 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 :

« PreviousContinue »