“WHO would not be a poet?” thus I read
In thy proud sonnet, my poetic friend;
And unto this my full assent was given:
“There is not, cannot be, under all heaven,
Aught happier in itself than the witch, poetry.”
But “Who’d not be a poet?” here I pause
Forebodingly, my poet-friend,—because
“To see all beauty with his gifted sight,”
To love, like him, with all the soul,
To be, when life is morning-bright
The very creature of delight,—
Delight beyond control,—
Is still to be, in like degree,
Too sensible of misery
And loss and slight, and all the weeping shapes of dole.
And this is truth too, that with saddened heart
Oft must he from his fellows live apart;
For how can men whose every breath of life
Is drawn in the hot air, and mid the strife
Of pettiest interest, have a kindred heart
With him who hath built heavenward and apart
The structures of his mind, and looking thence
Over this world-thronged universe immense,
Is wont all such embroilments to deplore
As light-obscuring vapours—nothing more?
What ladder of experience can they build,
To mount with—up, into a nature filled
With beauty, or by mighty truths inspired,
Or one even with a bold ambition fired?
But least of all in such men can there be
Devotions chiming into sympathy
With some pure soul, unsuccoured and alone,
Struggled in weariness unwearied on—
Unwearied, day and night, and night and day,
Towards the far Mecca of its faith always.
Yet thus the poet, armed only with the right,
To life’s dishonest battle oft must come,
To front instead of valour, mean despite,
With envy aye in emulation’s room,
Blotting heaven’s sacred light!
To see unblushing fortune’s minions doom
To obloguy, through some repute unholy,
Or to some vile and miserable estate,
All such as would not trample on the lowly,
And basely glorify the falsely great.
Yet if a thought like this
Should mar at times they tuneful bliss,
Stronger within thine earnest will
Be the spirit of sone, that still
Thou mayest sing of eloquent eyes
That are of sunny thoughts the every sunny skies;
Sweet dreams that swarm round honeyed lips,
Like honey-loving bees;
Glad birds, fresh flowers, clear streams, and trees
All starry bright with golden pips;
Or with a loud bold chime,
Sing of that braver time,
When world-wide justice from her Alpine chair
Shall read at length in the rich reddening skies
The gospel of her advent, and declare
The sacred sign of her epiphany there,
Amid the purple dyes;
While all true men, the bravely wise,
Shall seek her there with fearless feet and free
Where the prophet-peaks arise
Out of the shattering mist, the phantom sea
Of old iniquity!
Through dense and rare, shall seek her there,
Breathing with lion-lungs the clear keen mountain air
Of a supreme up-climbing, God-great liberty.
Then envy not the splendid wretchedness
Of Mammon’s dupes! Sing thy great rhymes
For those diviner spiritual times
Our country yet shall know, and, wisely knowing, bless.
Downward, through the blooming roofage
Of a lonely forest bower,
Come the yellow sunbeams,—falling
Like a burning shower:
So through heaven’s starry ceiling
To the hermit soul’s abode,
Comes the Holy Spirit,—earthward
Raying down from God.