Lines to Southey
Southey, I love the magic of thy lyre,
That calms, at will, or sets the soul on fire;
Whose changeful notes through ev'ry mode can stray,
From deep-toned horror to the sprighliest lay.
In Fancy's wilds with you I love to roam,
Where all things strange and monstrous make their home.
And when from wild imagination's dreams
You wake to holy or heroic themes,
My spirit owns the impulse of your strains;
My circling blood flows freer through my veins.
Yet not amid these wonders of your art
I find the trembling key-note of my heart.
'Tis not the depth and strength of tone that bring
Responsive murmurs from a neighboring string.
Soft sympathetic sounds and tremors rise
Only from chords attun'd to harmonize.
'Tis when you pour the simple plaintive strain
That tells a fond bereaved parent's pain,
'Tis when you sing of dear ones gone to rest,
I feel each fibre vibrate in my breast.
Alas! too well, bereavement's pangs I know;
Too well, a parent's and a husband's woe.
To crown the num'rous blessings of my life,
I had sweet children and a lovely wife.
All seem'd so firm, so ordered to endure,
That, fool! I fancied all around secure.
Heav'n seem'd to smile; Hope whisper'd to my heart,
These love-wrought ties shall never rudely part;
But Time, with sow advance and gentle hand,
Shall loosen, one by one, each sacred band.
The old shall first drop peaceful in the tomb,
And leave the young to fill their vacant room.
Life's pleasures shall not wither at a blow,
But quiet pass, with mild decay and slow.
The buoyant joys of youth, so bright and fair,
Like rainbow tints, shall mellow into air.
But sad reality has prov'd how vain
This faithless prospect of a dreaming brain.
Death's icy hand, within three fleeting years,
Has chang'd this scene of bliss to sighs and tears.
One lovely innocent was snatch'd away --
A rose-bud, not half-open'd to the day --
I saw my wife, then to the grave descend,
Beloved of my heart, my bosom friend.
So interwoven were our joys, our pains,
That, as I weeping follow'd her remains,
I thought to tell her of the mournful scene --
I could not realize the gulph between.
This was not all; there was another blow
Reserv'd to put the finish to my woe.
A sweet endearing creature, perish'd last,
In youth's first spring, all childhood's dangers past --
Oh! awful trial of religion's power,
To see a suffering innocent's last hour!
But mark me well -- I would not change one jot
Of Heaven's decrees, to meliorate my lot:
Farewell to early bliss, to all that's bright!
No thought rebels; I know, I feel 'tis right.
Nor should I mourn as though of all bereft:
Some transient pleasures, here and there, are left;
Some short-liv'd flowers that in the forest bloom,
And scatter fragrance in the settled gloom.
I look not round, and peevishly repine,
As though no other sorrow equall'd mine.
I boast no proud preeminence of pain --
But oh! these spectres that infest my brain!
My death-struck child, with nostrils breathing wide,
Turning in vain, for ease, from side to side;
The fitful flush that lit her half-closed eye,
And burned her sunken cheek; her plaintive cry;
Her dying gasp; and as she sank to rest,
Her wither'd hands cross'd gently o'er her breast.
My dying wife's emaciated form,
So late, with youthful spirit fresh and warm.
The deep, but noiseless anguish of her mind
At leaving all she lov'd on earth behind.
The silent tear that down her cheek would stray,
And wet the pillow where resign'd she lay.
Her stiffen'd limbs, all powerless and weak;
Her clay-cold parting kiss; her pale damp cheek;
Her awful prayer for mercy, at the last,
Fainter and fainter, till her spirit pass'd --
The image of the next lov'd suffer too
Is ever, ever present to my view.
Her cease cough -- her quick and panting breath,
With all the dreadful harbingers of death.
No anxious mother watching at her side,
To whisper consolation as she died.
Oh! do not ask me why I thus complain
To you a stranger, far across the main --
Bear with a bleeding heart that loves to tell
Its sorrows, and on all pangs to dwell.
A strange relief the mourner's bosom knows
In clinging close and closer to its woes.
In unheard plaints it consolation finds,
And weeps and murmurs to the heedless winds.