Eight Harvard Poets/Cor Cordium
DEEP in a heart, beneath o'er-hanging boughs,
Love built himself a house,
And whoso entered in, Love bade him stay,
Nor ever from that feast to come away
Dissatisfied or weary of the fare
Love set him there.
Forever through the groves and glades
Kind thoughts went softly to and fro,
And memories like white-footed maids
With gentle tread would come and go
Among the ever-garrulous trees.
And through the branches overhead
I know not what sweet spirits strayed,
Or what commandant spirit led
Their mazy dances, but one played
So deftly on a psaltery
That they for joy must needs keep singing;
All the chambers of Love's house
With that sweet minstrelsy were ringing.
Faces to the windows came,
Tears to happy eyelids started,
Feeling, as by sudden flame,
Their cares and their sad hearts disparted,
Each old clinging sorrow dead.
All who ever guested there
To each other, murmuring, said:
"In this heart breathes purer air,
The thoughts that move across this sky
Have had a more mysterious birth,
Are lovelier, float more statelily
Than clouds across the sky of earth."
All guests within that heart's deep wood,
All friends together in that house,
High converse held with an aerial brood,
With spirit-folk kept delicate carouse;
None ever turned ungreeted from that door.
(Sorrow himself was guest a weary while,)
But yesterday when I passed by once more,
Met me no welcoming smile,
Nor any breath the unwavering branch to stir,
Silent each glad aerial chorister;
Three drowsy poppies brooded by the wall,
Lonely and tall.
Then, as I leaned above their crimson bloom,
The flower of day grew old and withered,
Night with a sigh sat down beside her loom
Winding her shuttle with a silver thread.
Suddenly from the starlit plains of air
Ethereal tumult, airy tempest blew,
Immortal music showering everywhere,
Flashed to the earth in an harmonious dew,
Leaped jubilant from cloud to craggy cloud,
Binding the moon in a meloidious chain,
Storming the troubled stars, a luminous crowd.
Dropping in fiery streaks to earth again.
From out the windows of God's house
Faint as a far-echoing wave,
The angels, bending their calm brows,
Song for song in answer gave;
And faster than a falcon flies,
Thronging spirits in a cluster
Passed before my dazzled eyes,
Shedding an aerial lustre,
Burning with translucent fire,
Shaking from their dewy wings
Wild, ineffable desire
Of starry and immortal things,
Torturing with delicious pain
Past telling sweet, the bewildered heart,
Piercing the poor mortal brain
With beauty, a keen fiery dart.
Ah! Even as an oracle
Whose soul a god has breathed upon,
The beauteousness unbearable
Possessed me so all strength was gone.
Smitten by a barbéd joy,
My sense with rapturous pain grew dim,
Joy pierced me as it would destroy.
Still higher rose the celestial hymn.
And then of all that starry throng
That streamed toward the upper sky,
One spirit darted down again,
And stood upon a bough near by.
"Even I unsealed thy sight," he said.
Alas, that shape I did not know,
For he was so transfigured,
So circled by the unearthly glow
Of his pulsating aureole;
I who so well the flesh had known
I did not know the soul.
With troubled eyes he bended down,
And all about me where I stood
Every blossom, every tree,
All the branches of that wood
Were trembling in their ecstasy.
They knew ere I had half divined.
But at his voice old dreams awoke
In dusty chambers of the mind,
And when again he softly spoke
With sudden tears mine eyes were wet.
And lowlier still he bent his head:
"Dost thou, dear friend, not know me yet?"
"Yes, for I know thy voice," I said.
"Dear Phantom, this immortal guise,
This disembodied self of thine,
Hath dazed mine unacquainted eyes.
Thou dweller on the steps divine.
Thou image of a god's desire,
Thou spark of the celestial flame
Art fashioned out of wind and fire
And elements without a name;
What sacred fingers mingled them
And trembled with a god's delight?
Thy body is a burning gem,
Thy limbs are chrysolite.
A glory hangs about thy head
For thou in thine immortal lot
In heaven's own light art garmented.
I know thee, yet I know thee not."
Then he, with shining eyes half shut,
Radiantly standing there:
"I did but change my leafy hut
For a mansion in the air,
The eerie wood, the enchanted ground,
The dim, bird-haunted glades we trod,
Grew all untuneful when I found
A dwelling in the heart of God.
I latched the gate at dawn of day,
I planted poppies by the door,
To His retreats I came away
And I shall wander thence no more.
The windy heights are all my love,
The spheral lights, the spheral chimes,
The trailing fires, the hosts that move
In concourse through sidereal climes;
I troop with the celestial choirs;
We have not any wish to be
Sad pilgrims, torn by sad desires,
Wayfarers of mortality.
The husk of flesh we have put by;
The dark seeds planted in the earth
Have blossomed in the upper sky,
In airy gardens have new birth."
There did he make an end, for O
Those spirits, singing, darted by again,
And at the showering sound he trembled so
I saw his earthly dalliance gave him pain,
And cried in sorrow, "O my friend, farewell!
Now from the luminous, paradisal bands,
Gabriel, Israfel, Ithuriel,
Beckon to you with their exulting hands."