Prometheus Bound, and other poems/Sonnets

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YOU see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused forgetful of his presence here
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus, thrust its way
Right sudden against my face,—two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine,—a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian,
Amazed by goatly God in twilight grove:
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.


THE wind sounds only in opposing straights,
The sea, beside the shore; man's spirit rends
Its quiet only up against the ends
Of wants and oppositions, loves and hates,
Where worked and worn by passionate debates,
And losing by the loss it apprehends,
Its flesh rocks round, and every breath it sends,
Is ravelled to a sigh. All tortured states
Suppose a straightened place. Jehovah Lord,
Make room for rest, around me! Out of sight
Now float me, of the vexing land abhorred,
Till, in deep calms of space, my soul may right
Her nature; shoot large sail on lengthening cord,
And rush exultant on the Infinite.



THE shadow of her face upon the wall
May take your memory to the perfect Greek;
But when you front her, you would call the cheek
Too full, sir, for your models, if withal
That bloom it wears could leave you critical,
And that smile reaching toward the rosy streak:—
For one who smiles so, has no need to speak,
To lead your thoughts along, as steed to stall!
A smile that turns the sunny side o' the heart
On all the world, as if herself did win
By what she lavished on an open mart:—
Let no man call the liberal sweetness, sin,—
While friends may whisper, as they stand apart,
"Methinks there's still some warmer place within."


Her azure eyes, dark lashes hold in fee:
Her fair superfluous ringlets, without check,
Drop after one another down her neck;
As many to each cheek as you might see
Green leaves to a wild rose. This sign, outwardly,
And a like woman-covering seems to deck
Her inner nature. For she will not fleck
World's sunshine with a finger. Sympathy
Must call her in Love's name! and then, I know,
She rises up, and brightens, as she should,
And lights her smile for comfort, and is slow
In nothing of high-hearted fortitude.
To smell this flower, come near it: such can grow
In that sole garden where Christ's brow dropped blood.


THE simple goatherd, between Alp and sky,
Seeing his shadow, in that awful tryst,
Dilated to a giant's on the mist,
Esteems not his own stature larger by
The apparent image, but more patiently
Strikes his staff down beneath his clenching fist—
While the snow-mountains lift their amethyst
And sapphire crowns of splendor, far and nigh,
Into the air around him. Learn from hence
Meek morals, all ye poets that pursue
Your way still onward, up to eminence!
Ye are not great, because creation drew
Large revelations round your earliest sense,
Nor bright, because God's glory shines for you.


THE poet hath the child's sight in his breast,
And sees all new. What oftenest he has viewed,
He views with the first glory. Fair and good
Pall never on him, at the fairest, best,
But stand before him, holy and undressed
In week-day false conventions, such as would
Drag other men down from the altitude
Of primal types, too early dispossessed.
Why, God would tire of all his heavens as soon
As thou, O godlike, childlike poet, didst,
Of daily and nightly sights of sun and moon!
And therefore hath He set thee in the midst,
Where men may hear thy wonder's ceaseless tune,
And praise His world for ever, as thou bidst.


THEY say Ideal Beauty cannot enter
The house of anguish. On the threshold stands
An alien Image with the shackled hands,
Called the Greek Slave: as if the artist meant her,
(That passionless perfection which he lent her,
Shadowed, not darkened, where the sill expands)
To, so, confront man's crimes in different lands,
With man's ideal sense. Pierce to the centre,
Art's fiery finger!—and break up ere long
The serfdom of this world! Appeal, fair stone,
From God's pure heights of beauty, against man's wrong!
Catch up in thy divine face, not alone
East griefs but west,—and strike and shame the strong,
By thunders of white silence, overthrown.


EACH creature holds an insular point in space:
Yet what man stirs a finger, breathes a sound,
But all the multitudinous beings round
In all the countless worlds, with time and place
For their conditions, down to the central base,
Thrill, haply, in vibration and rebound,
Life answering life across the vast profound,
In full antiphony, by a common grace!—
I think, this sudden joyaunce which illumes
A child's mouth sleeping, unaware may run
From some soul newly loosened from earth's tombs:
I think, this passionate sigh, which, half-begun,
I stifle back, may reach and stir the plumes
Of God's calm angel standing in the sun.


WE cannot live, except, thus, mutually,
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue outward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes, there,
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration, both,
Make mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.


"And there was silence in heayen for the space of half-an-hour."


GOD, who, with thunders and great voices kept
Beneath thy throne, and stars most silver-paced
Along the inferior gyres, and open-faced
Melodious angels round;—canst intercept
Music with music;—yet, at will, hast swept
All back, all back, (said he in Patmos placed,)
To fill the heavens with silence of the waste,
Which lasted half-an-hour!—Lo, I, who have wept
All day and night, beseech Thee, by my tears,
And by that dread response of curse and groan
Men alternate across these hemispheres,
Vouchsafe us such a half-hour's hush alone,
In compensation for our noisy years!
As heaven has paused from song, let earth, from moan.


METHINKS we do as fretful children do,
Leaning their faces on the window-pane
To sigh the glass dim with their own breath's stain,
And shut the sky and landscape from their view.
And thus, alas! since God the maker drew
A mystic separation 'twixt those twain,
The life beyond us, and our souls in pain,
We miss the prospect which we're called unto,
By grief we're fools to use. Be still and strong,
O man, my brother! hold thy sobbing breath,
And keep thy soul's large window pure from wrong,—
That so, as life's appointment issueth,
Thy vision may be clear to watch along
The sunset consummation-lights of death.



GOD would not let the spheric Lights accost
This God-loved man, and bade the earth stand off
With all her beckoning hills, whose golden stuff
Under the feet of the royal sun is crossed.
Yet such things were, to him, not wholly lost,—
Permitted, with his wandering eyes light-proof,
To have Mr visions rendered full enough
By many a ministrant accomplished ghost:
And seeing, to sounds of softly-turned book-leaves,
Sappho's crown-rose, and Meleager's spring,
And Gregory's starlight, on Greek-burnished eves:
Till Sensual and Unsensual seemed one thing
Viewed from one level;—earth's reapers at the sheaves,
Not plainer than Heaven's angels marshalling!


HIS DEATH, 1848.

BELOVED friend, who living many years
With sightless eyes raised vainly to the sun,
Didst learn to keep thy patient soul in tune
To visible nature's elemental cheers!
God has not caught thee to new hemispheres
Because thou wast aweary of this one:—
I think thine angel's patience first was done,
And that he spake out with celestial tears,
"Is it enough, dear God? then lighten so
This soul that smiles in darkness!"
Stedfast friend,
Who never didst my heart or life misknow,
Nor either's faults too keenly apprehend,—
How can I wonder when I see thee go
To join the Dead, found faithful to the end?



THREE gifts the Dying left me; Æschylus,
And Gregory Nazianzen, and a clock
Chiming the gradual hours out like a flock
Of stars, whose motion is melodious.
The books were those I used to read from, thus
Assisting my dear teacher's soul to unlock
The darkness of his eyes: now, mine they mock,
Blinded in turn, by tears: now, murmurous
Sad echoes of my young voice, years agone,
Entoning, from these leaves, the Græcian phrase,
Return and choke my utterance. Books, lie down
In silence on the shelf within my gaze!
And thou, clocks striking the hour's pulses on,
Chime in the day which ends these parting days!


MY future will not copy fair my past.
I wrote that once; and, thinking at my side
My ministering life-angel justified
The word by his appealing look upcast
To the white throne of God, I turned at last,
And saw instead there, thee; not unallied
To angels in thy soul! Then I, long tried
By natural ills, received the comfort fast,
While budding at thy sight, my pilgrim's staff
Gave out green leaves with morning dews impearled.
—I seek no copy now of life's first half!
Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
And write me new my future's epigraph,
New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!

  1. To whom was inscribed, in grateful affection, my poem of "Cyprus Wine." There comes a moment in life when even gratitude and affection turn to pain, as they do now with me. This excellent and leaned man, enthusiastic for the good and the beautiful, and one of the most simple and upright of human beings, passed out of his long darkness through death in the summer of 1848; Dr. Adam Clarke's daughter and biographer, Mrs. Smith, (happier in this than the absent) fulfllling a double filial duty as she sate by the death-bed of her father's friend and hers.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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