« PreviousContinue »
EREWHILE of music, and etherial mirth,
Wherewith the stage of air and earth did ring,
And joyous news of heavenly Infant's birth,
My Muse with angels did divide to sing;
But headlong joy is ever on the wing,
In wintery solstice like the shorten'd light,
Soon swallow'd up in dark and long out-living night.
For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
And set my harp to' notes of saddest woe,
Which on our dearest Lord did seize ere long,
Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than
Which he for us did freely undergo:
Most perfect hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labors huge and hard, too hard for human wight!
He, sovran priest, stooping his regal head,
That dropp'd with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
Poor fleshy tabernacle entered,
His starry front low-roof'd beneath the skies:
O, what a mask was there, what a disguise!
Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide, Then lays him meekly down fast by his brethren's side.
These latest scenes confine my roving verse:
To this horizon is my Phœbus bound:
His god-like acts, and his temptations fierce,
And former sufferings, other where are found;
Loud o'er the rest Cremona's trump doth sound:
Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.
Befriend me, Night! best patroness of grief;
Over the pole thy thickest mantle throw,
And work my flatter'd fancy to belief,
That heaven and earth are color'd with my woe; My sorrows are too dark for day to know:
The leaves should all be black whereon I write, And letters, where my tears have wash'd, a wannish white.
See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
That whirl'd the prophet up at Chebar flood;
My spirit some transporting Cherub feels,
To bear me where the towers of Salem stood,
Once glorious towers, now sunk in guiltless blood.
There doth my soul in holy vision sit,
In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatic fit.
Mine eye hath found that sad sepulchral rock
That was the casket of Heaven's richest store,
And here though grief my feeble hands up lock,
Yet on the soften'd quarry would I score
My plaining verse as lively as before:
For sure so well instructed are my tears,
That they would fitly fall in order'd characters.
Or should I thence hurried on viewless wing
Take up a weeping on the mountains wild,
The gentle neighbourhood of grove and spring
Would soon unbosom all their echoes mild;
And I (for grief is easily beguiled)
Might think the' infection of my sorrows loud Had got a race of mourners on some pregnant cloud.
This subject the Author finding to be above the years he had, when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.
YE flaming Powers, and winged Warriors bright!
That erst with music, and triumphant song,
First heard by happy watchful shepherds' ear,
So sweetly sung your joy the clouds along
Through the soft silence of the listening night,
Now mourn; and, if sad share with us to bear
Your fiery essence can distill no tear,
Burn in your sighs, and borrow
Seas wept from our deep sorrow;
He, who with all Heaven's heraldry whilere Enter'd the world, now bleeds to give us ease: Alas, how soon our sin
Sore doth begin
His infancy to seize !
O more exceeding love, or law more just!
Just law indeed, but more exceeding love!
For we, by rightful doom remediless,
Were lost in death, till he that dwelt above
High throned in secret bliss, for us frail dust
Emptied his glory, even to nakedness;
And that great covenant which we still transgress
And the full wrath beside,
Of vengeful justice bore for our excess;
And seals obedience first, with wounding smart,
This day; but O! ere long,
Huge pangs and strong
Will pierce more near his heart.
O FAIREST flower! no sooner blown but blasted, Soft silken primrose fading timelessly,
Summer's chief honor, if thou hadst out-lasted Bleak Winter's force that made thy blossom dry; For he, being amorous on that lovely dye
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss, But kill'd, alas! and then bewail'd his fatal bliss.
For since grim Aquilo, his charioteer,
rape the' Athenian damsel got,
He thought it touch'd his deity full near,
If likewise he some fair one wedded not,
Thereby to wipe away the infamous blot
Of long-uncoupled bed and childless eld, Which, 'mongst the wanton gods, a foul reproach was held.
So, mounting up on icy-pearled car,
Through middle empire of the freezing air
He wander'd long, till thee he spied from far:
There ended was his quest, there ceased his care:
Down he descended from his snow-soft chair.
But, all unwares, with his cold-kind embrace Unhoused thy virgin soul from her fair biding place.
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
For so Apollo, with unweeting hand,
Whilom did slay his dearly-loved mate,
Young Hyacinth, born on Eurotas' strand,
Young Hyacinth, the pride of Spartan land;
But then transform'd him to a purple flower:
Alack, that so to change thee Winter had no power!
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead,
Or that thy corse corrupts in earth's dark womb,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,
Hid from the world in a low-delved tomb;
Could Heaven for pity thee so strictly doom?
Oh no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortality, that show'd thou wast divine.
Resolve me then, oh Soul most surely bless'd!
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear;)
Tell me, bright Spirit! where'er thou hoverest,
Whether above that high first-moving sphere,
Or in the' Elysian fields, (if such there were ;)
Oh say me true, if thou wert mortal wight, And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight?
Wert thou some star which from the ruin'd roof
Of shaked Olympus by mischance didst fall;
Which careful Jove in Nature's true behoof
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?
Or did of late Earth's sons besiege the wall
Of sheeny heaven, and thou, some goddess, fled, Amongst us here below to hide thy nectar'd head?
Or wert thou that just maid, who once before
Forsook the hated earth, O tell me sooth,
And camest again to visit us once more?
Or wert thou, Mercy, that sweet-smiling youth?
Or that crown'd matron sage, white-robed Truth?