« PreviousContinue »
Long must they dance before they earn my thanks,-
So step aside, to some far safer spot,
Whilst with my hungry scythe I mow their ranks,
And leave them in the sun, like weeds, to rot,
And with the next day's sun to be forgot.”
Anon, he raised afresh his weapon keen;
But still the gracious Shade disarmed his aim,
Stepping with brave alacrity between,
And made his sere arm powerless and tame.
His be perpetual glory, for the shame
Of hoary Saturn in that grand defeat ! —
But I must tell, how here Titania came
With all her kneeling lieges, to entreat
His kindly succor, in sad tones, but sweet.
Saying, “ Thou seest a wretched queen before thee
The fading power of a failing land,
Who for her kingdom kneeleth to implore thee,
Now menaced by this tyrant's spoiling hand;
No one but thee can hopefully withstand
That crooked blade, he longeth so to lift.
I pray thee blind him with his own vile sand.
Which only times all ruins by its drift,
Or prune his eagle wings that are so swift.
" Or take him by that sole and grizzled tuft,
That hangs upon his bald and barren crown ;
And we will sing to see him so rebuffed,
And lend our little mights to pull him down,
And make brave sport of his malicious frown,
For all his boastful mockery o'er men.
For thou wast born, I know, for this renown,
By my most magical and inward ken,
That readeth even at Fate's forestalling pen.
“Nay, by the golden lustre of thine eye,
And by thy brow's most fair and ample span,
Thought's glorious palace, framed for fancies high,
And by thy cheek thus passionately wan,
I know the signs of an immortal man,-
Nature's chief darling, an illustrious mate,
Destined to foil old Death’s oblivious plan,
And shine untarnished by the fogs of Fate,
Time's famous rival till the final date !
“O, shield us, then, from this usurping Time,
And we will visit thee in moonlight dreams ;
And teach thee tunes, to wed unto thy rhyme,
And dance about thee in all midnight gleams,
Giving thee glimpses of our magic schemes,
Such as no mortal's eye hath ever seen;
And, for thy love to us in our extremes,
Will ever kcep thy chaplet fresh and green,
Such as no poet's wreath hath ever been !
“ And we 'll distil thee aromatic dews,
To charm thy sense, when there shall be no flowers :
And flavored syrups in thy drinks infuse,
And teach the nightingale to haunt thy bowers,
And with our games divert thy weariest hours,
With all that elfin wits can e'er devise.
And, this churl dead, there 'll be no hasting hours
To rob thee of thy joys, as now joy flies :" —
Here she was stopped by Saturn's furious cries.
Whom, therefore, the kind Shade rebukes anew,
Saying, “Thou haggard Sin, go forth, and scoop
Thy hollow coffin in some church-yard yew,
Or make the autumnal flowers turn pale and droop;
Or fell the bearded corn, till gleaners stoop
Under fat sheaves, — or blast the piny grove; -
But here thou shalt not harm this pretty group,
Whose lives are not so frail and feebly wove,
But leased on Nature's loveliness and love.
"'Tis these that free the small entangled fly,
Caught in the venomed spider's crafty snare; —
These be the petty surgeons that apply
The healing balsams to the wounded hare,
Bedded in bloody fern, no creature's care ! —
These be providers for the orphan brood,
Whose tender mother hath been slain in air,
Quitting with gaping bill her darlings' food,
Hard by the verge of her domestic wood.
"'Tis these befriend the timid trembling stag,
When, with a bursting heart beset with fears,
He feels his saving speed begin to flag;
For then they quench the fatal taint with tears,
And prompt fresh shifts in his alarumed ears,
So piteously they view all bloody morts ;
Or if the gunner, with his arm, appears,
Like noisy pyes and jays, with harsh reports,
They warn the wild fowl of his deadly sports.
“For these are kindly ministers of nature,
To soothe all covert hurts and dumb distress;
Pretty they be, and very small of stature,—
For mercy still consorts with littleness; —
Wherefore the sum of good is still the less,
And mischief grossest in this world of wrong: -.
So do these charitable dwarfs redress
The ten-fold ravages of giants strong,
To whom great malice and great might belong.
“Likewise to them are Poets much beholden
For secret favors in the midnight glooms;
Brave Spenser quaffed out of their goblets golden,
And saw their tables spread of prompt mushrooms,
And heard their horns of honeysuckle blooms
Sounding upon the air most soothing soft,
Like humming bees busy about the brooms, –
And glanced this fair queen’s witchery full oft,
And in her magic wain soared far aloft.
“Nay, I myself, though mortal, once was nursed
By fairy gossips, friendly at my birth,
And in my childish ear glib Mab rehearsed
Her breezy travels round our planet's girth,
Telling me wonders of the moon and earth;
My gramarye at her grave lap I conned,
Where Puck hath been convened to make me mirth ;
I have had from Queen Titania tokens fond,
And toyed with Oberon's permitted wand.
“With figs and plums and Persian dates they fed me,
And delicate cates after my sunset meal,
And took me by my childish hand, and led me
By craggy rocks crested with keeps of steel,
Whose awful bases deep dark woods conceal,
Staining some dead lake with their verdant dyes :
And when the West sparkled at Phoebus' wheel,
With fairy euphrasy they purged mine eyes,
To let me see their cities in the skies.
- 'T was they first schooled my young imagination
To take its flights like any new-fledged bird,
And showed the span of wingéd meditation
Stretched wider than things grossly seen or heard.
With sweet swift Ariel how I soared and stirred
The fragrant blooms of spiritual bowers !
’T was they endeared what I have still preferred,
Nature's blest attributes and balmy powers,
Her hills and vales and brooks, sweet birds and flowers !
“Wherefore with all true loyalty and duty
Will I regard them in my honoring rhyme,
With love for love, and homages to beauty,
And magic thoughts gathered in night's cool clime,
With studious verse trancing the dragon Time,
Strong as old Merlin's necromantic spells ;
So these dear monarchs of the summer's prime
Shall live unstartled by his dreadful yells,
Till shrill larks warn them to their flowery celle.”
Look how a poisoned man turns livid black,
Drugged with a cup of deadly hellebore,
That sets his horrid features all at rack,-
So seemed these words into the ear to pour
Of ghastly Saturn, answering with a roar
Of mortal pain and spite and utmost rage,
Wherewith his grisly arm he raised once more,
And bade the clustered sinews all engage,
As if at one fell stroke to wreck an age.
Whereas the blade flashed on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumbed, and stood ajar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of dooin,
Whetting its edge on some old Cæsar's tomb.