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- The Home Book of Verse, Volume 3 - 60/88 -


Whose intense lamp narrows In the white dawn clear, Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air With thy voice is loud, As, when night is bare, From one lonely cloud The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

What thou art we know not; What is most like thee? From rainbow clouds there flow not Drops so bright to see As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a poet hidden In the light of thought, Singing hymns unbidden Till the world is wrought To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden In a palace tower, Soothing her love-laden Soul in secret hour With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden In a dell of dew, Scattering unbeholden Its aerial hue Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embowered In its own green leaves, By warm winds deflowered, Till the scent it gives Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers On the twinkling grass, Rain-awakened flowers, All that ever was Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, sprite or bird, What sweet thoughts are thine: I have never heard Praise of love or wine That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal, Or triumphal chaunt, Matched with thine would be all But an empty vaunt - A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains Of thy happy strain? What fields, or waves, or mountains? What shapes of sky or plain? What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance Languor cannot be: Shadow of annoyance Never came near thee: Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep, Thou of death must deem Things more true and deep Than we mortals dream, Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after, And pine for what is not: Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught; Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn Hate, and pride, and fear; If we were things born Not to shed a tear, I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures Of delightful sound, Better than all treasures That in books are found, Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness That thy brain must know, Such harmonious madness From my lips would flow, The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Percy Bysshe Shelley [1792-1822]

THE STORMY PETREL

A thousand miles from land are we, Tossing about on the roaring sea, - From billow to bounding billow cast, Like fleecy snow on the stormy blast. The sails are scattered abroad like weeds; The strong masts shake like quivering reeds; The mighty cables and iron chains, The hull, which all earthly strength disdains, - They strain and they crack; and hearts like stone Their natural, hard, proud strength disown.

Up and down! - up and down! From the base of the wave to the billow's crown, And amidst the flashing and feathery foam The stormy petrel finds a home, - A home, if such a place may be For her who lives on the wide, wide sea, On the craggy ice, in the frozen air, And only seeketh her rocky lair To warm her young, and to teach them to spring At once o'er the waves on their stormy wing!

O'er the deep! - o'er the deep! Where the whale and the shark and the swordfish sleep, - Outflying the blast and the driving rain, The petrel telleth her tale - in vain; For the mariner curseth the warning bird Which bringeth him news of the storm unheard! Ah! thus does the prophet, of good or ill, Meet hate from the creatures he serveth still; Yet he ne'er falter, - so, petrel, spring Once more o'er the waves on thy stormy wing!

Bryan Waller Procter [1787-1874]

THE FIRST SWALLOW

The gorse is yellow on the heath, The banks with speedwell flowers are gay, The oaks are budding, and, beneath, The hawthorn soon will bear the wreath, The silver wreath, of May.

The welcome guest of settled Spring, The swallow, too, has come at last; Just at sunset, when thrushes sing, I saw her dash with rapid wing, And hailed her as she passed.

Come, summer visitant, attach To my reed roof your nest of clay, And let my ear your music catch, Low twittering underneath the thatch At the gray dawn of day.

Charlotte Smith [1749-1806]

TO A SWALLOW BUILDING UNDER OUR EAVES

Thou too hast traveled, little fluttering thing, - Hast seen the world, and now thy weary wing Thou too must rest. But much, my little bird, could'st thou but tell, I'd give to know why here thou lik'st so well To build thy nest.

For thou hast passed fair places in thy flight; A world lay all beneath thee where to light; And, strange thy taste, Of all the varied scenes that met thine eye, Of all the spots for building 'neath the sky, To choose this waste!

Did fortune try thee? - was thy little purse Perchance run low, and thou, afraid of worse, Felt here secure? Ah, no! thou need'st not gold, thou happy one! Thou know'st it not. Of all God's creatures, man Alone is poor.

What was it, then? - some mystic turn of thought, Caught under German eaves, and hither brought, Marring thine eye For the world's loveliness, till thou art grown A sober thing that dost but mope and moan, Not knowing why?

Nay, if thy mind be sound, I need not ask, Since here I see thee working at thy task With wing and beak. A well-laid scheme doth that small head contain, At which thou work'st, brave bird, with might and main, Nor more need'st seek.


The Home Book of Verse, Volume 3 - 60/88

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