The Ideal

Charles Harpur

SPIRIT of Dreams! When many a toilsome height
Shut paradise from exiled Adam’s sight,
Two wedded powers were given thenceforth to stray
On either hand, companions of his way;
This Hope was named in heaven, whence he came,
And that of Melancholy bore the name;
Thy parents these—who clothed thee with a ray
Snatched from Perfection as she passed away,
And to their gentle child bequeathed the grace
Wherewith they once adorned unfallen nature’s face.

Queen-mother of Elysiums, and all fair
Hesperian gardens, hear thy suppliant’s prayer!
Lend me the hues with which the mortal eyes
Thou dost bring back the tints of paradise—
Hues drawn from all the splendours that there be
In this new world, from earth and sky and sea;
From nameless flowers, that wild in forests run,
Up to the glories of the setting sun—
From those white flickers that round fountains leap,
From the phosphoric lightenings of the deep,
From wave-wet sands that glisten on the shore,
From blazing diamonds and rich-beaming ore;
From these by thee with native art combined,
And interblended with the light of mind;
These hues now lend thy suppliant, for he
The brilliant steps would trace of thy whole ministry.

O for a golden lyre while first I sing
How thou dost lovelier make the loveliest thing!
Woman is beautiful!—no more—unless
Thou touch her beauty with thy soft caress;
Then sweeter sweets her form at once invest
Than breathe in gales of Araby the blest!
A thousand charms from thy fair soul are given,
And she outshines the very moon of heaven.
Lovely this prospect! Yet thy presence here
Doubles each glory of the golden year!
Breathes but thy influence o er a pasture plain,
And lo! ’tis flushed with Eden-glows again.
This light, how glorious! A sun-woven robe
Wrapping in living warmth the fruitful globe:
But if thy touch lend vision to our eyes,
We see celestial radiance flood the skies;
The common light burns with diviner flame,
“It is the light of God!” Our awestruck souls exclaim.

O he whose wild heart leaps to thy wild call,
Hath yet some joy whatever may befall!
Hath yet some wealth where destitution reigns—
Nay, even some high inviolable gains
Where rapine sits enthroned, and slavery clanks her chains!
Still his possessions compass whatsoe er
Of good and beauteous nature treasures there!
Still the lone hill, wild vale, and pathless grove
Are his by the great solemn right of love;
For him what gold is in the morning’s hues!
What unbought jewels are the lucent dews!
What regal mansions are the brookside bowers!
What gay assemblies the balm-breathing flowers!
Then every bird that pipes a matin lay
Doth unto him unconscious tribute pay;
Yea, every grace of stream and wood and sky
Is vassal to his sovereign ear and eye.

And when the busy coils of Mammon’s brood
Fail like the voices of an ebbing flood,
And from the scenes that glared with her display
Pride-drunken fashion rolls fatigued away;
When from mild evening’s shadowy robe the breeze
Shakes cool delight and odorous messages;
And when no longer the sun’s beams fire-crest
The dusky hills, but round him in the west
Are gathered, even like a summoned host,
In gorgeous tents on the horizon’s coast,
Ere to the regions of a separate day
He rolls at length in purple pomp away;
Whilst yet—some moments yet—withdrawing gleams
Travel the air, and die along the streams;
A sumptuous festival that hour shall prove
To bathe his chosen soul with harmony and love!

When up the unclouded heaven in starry sheen
Night walks like a gem-sprangled Ethiop queen,
And from her solemn curtains wide unfurled
Falls dense repose upon the drowsy world,
No sordid appetite, no passion mean,
Chains down thy votary to this mere terrene;
But following thee he freely soars afar
From moon to planet, and from star to star!
Yea, onward still he venturous may trace
Thy distant course through dimmest depths of space,
Till waxing bolder from the boundless flight,
He claim his kinship with the infinite.

And now, though mournful he thy servant’s theme,
A tale of hapless love, or faded dream
Of worth, of men, whose spirits once so bright
Like halcyons gemmed the rivers of delight,
But fled misfortune’s wintry floods before,
Never to show their shining plumage more;
Still thou, thy hope-tired follower ever near,
Sublim’st each sigh and hallowest every tear,
Till even despair thy handmaid grows to be,
Sending a lurid light by its intensity
Through awful spirit depths thy foes can never see.
Doth danger threaten, and doth terror scream?
O’er their wild fronts a reconciling gleam
Thy wings reflect! The storm that rends the sky
And ploughs the ocean can, if thou art nigh,
Give to the heart stern strength and lift the soul on high!
Thou throw’st fierce loveliness o’er ruin’s face,
And over death’s calm brow a mild entrancing grace.
Nay, be thy glance but turned where devils dwell,
And a sad glory lightens out of hell!

Spirit of dreams! Oh, let me grateful say
How thou hast brightened my lone earthly way!
When most beset by troubles stern and new,
When foes must triumphed, friends were most untrue,
My soul’s distractions thou hast all subdued
Through visions high of Love, and Liberty and Good.
Or stood I like a wizard, wild and lone,
On some great mountain’s cloud-frequented cone,
Meet altar of a universal fane,
Where no fiend-rites had left their murder-strain,
Thou gav’st me faith’s prophetic power, to seize
High consolation out of mysteries—
Those mystic terrors that low-muttering roll
Through life’s dim tract, the storm-clouds of the soul.
O spirit! Thus attend me to the last!
Brighten the future as thou did st the past!
May never aught thy splendid dreams dispel,
Till the hard Real earn the heart’s applause as well.

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