« PreviousContinue »
Full of a nature nothing can tame,
Changed every moment, -ever the same :
Ceaseless aspiring, ceaseless content,
Darkness or sunshine thy element :
Glorious Fountain ! let my heart be
Fresh, changeful, constant, upward, like thee!
Robert Bulwer LYTTON (“ Owen Meredith”) is the author of these delicate lines, entitled The Chess-Board :
My little love, do you remember
(Ere we were grown so sadly wise) -
Those evenings in the bleak December,
Curtained warm from the snowy weather,
When you and I played chess together,
Checkmated by each other's eyes?
Ah me! the little battle's done,
Dispersed is all its chivalry ;
Full many a move, since then, have we
Mid life's perplexing checkers made,
And many a game with Fortune played, -
What is it we have won ?
This, this at least,-if this alone ;-
That never, never, never more,
As in those old still nights of yore
(Ere we were grown so sadly wise),
Can you and I shut out the skies,
Shut out the world and wintry weather,
And, eyes exchanging warmth with eyes,
Play chess, as then we played, together!
ARTHUR CLEVELAND Coxe, author of Christian Ballads, thus pays tribute to historic Old England :
Land of the rare old chronicle, the legend, and the lay,
Where deeds of fancy's dream are truths of all thine ancient day;
Land where the holly-bough is green around the Druid's pile,
And greener yet the histories that wreathe his rugged isle ;
Land of old story-like thine oak, the aged, but the strong,
And wound with antique mistletoe, and ivy-wreaths of song.
Old isle and glorious-I have heard thy fame across the sea,
And know my fathers' homes are thine ; my fathers rest with thee !
And I have wooed thy poet-tide from fountain-head along,
From warbled gush to torrent roar, and cataract of song.
And thou art no strange land to me, from Cumberland to Kent,
With hills and vales of household name, and woods of wild event :
For tales of Guy and Robin Hood my childhood ne'er would tire,
And Alfred's poet story roused my boyhood to the lyre.
Fair isle ! thy Dove's wild dale along with Walton have I roved,
And London, too, with all the heart of burly Johnson, loved.
Chameleon-like, my soul has ta’en its every hue from thine,
From Eastcheap's epidemic laugh to Avon's gloom divine.
All thanks to pencil and to page of graver's mimic art,
That England's panorama gave to picture up my heart :
That round my spirit's eye hath built thine old cathedral piles,
And Aung the checkered window-light adown their trophied aisles.
I know thine abbey, Westminster, as sea-birds know their nest,
And Aies my home-sick soul to thee, when it would find a rest;
Where princes and old bishops sleep, with sceptre and with crook,
And mighty spirits haunt around each Gothic shrine and nook.
I feel the sacramental hue of choir and chapel there,
And pictured panes that chasten down the day's unholy glare ;
And dear it is, on cold gray stone, to see the sunbeams crawl,
In long-drawn lines of coloured light that streak the bannered wall.
I've seen thy beacon-banners blaze our mountain coast along,
And swelled my soul with memories of old romaunt and song ;
Of Chevy-Chase, of Agincourt, of many a field they told ;
Of Norman and Plantagenet, and all their fame of old !
Thy holy Church—the Church of God—that hath grown old in
thee, Since there the ocean-roving Dove came bleeding from the sea ; When pierced afar, her weary feet could find no home but thine, Until thine altars were her nest, thy fanes her glory's shrine !
These opening stanzas of The Ballad of Babie Bell-describing a little life that “was but three Aprils long”-is by our American poet, ALDRICH :
Have you not heard the poets tell
How came the dainty Babie Bell
Into this world of ours?
The gates of heaven were left ajar :
With folded hands and dreamy eyes
Wandering out of Paradise,
She saw this planet, like a star,
Hung in the glistening depths of even-
Its bridges, running to and fro,
O'er which the white-winged angels go,
Bearing the holy Dead to Heaven!
She touched a bridge of flowers--those feet,
So light they did not bend the bells
Of the celestial asphodels !
They fell like dew upon the flowers,
Then all the air grew strangely sweet ;
And thus came dainty Babie Bell
Into this world of ours !
She came, and brought delicious May!
The swallows built beneath the eaves ;
Like sunlight, in and out the leaves,
The robins went, the livelong day :
The lily swung its noiseless bell,
And o'er the porch the trembling vine
Seemed bursting with its veins of wine :
How sweetly, softly, twilight fell!
O, earth was full of singing-birds
And opening Spring-tide Alowers,
When the dainty Babie Bell
Came to this world of ours !
The poet-laureate of England, ALFRED TENNYSON, whose MarQueen, Idyls of the King, and In Memoriam, have won for him such high fame, has also enriched our English poetry with numerous lyrics of exquisite beauty. That fine outburst of philosophy and feeling, In Memoriam, has been compared to "a stream of song and sorrow, Aowing deeply and calmly, and in the light of peaceful memories and tranquil hopes.” Here is the opening stanza :
His last poem of Enoch Arden is the most touchingly beautiful of all his later productions. It is a simple story of two rival suitors for the hand and heart of Annie Lee, who all grew up from childhood together. Enoch; the sailor, at length becomes the accepted lover : he marries her, and subsequently goes on a distant voyage. Years intervene, and no tidings of him reach his wife, who mourns him as dead. Philip, the miller, meanwhile becomes wealthy, seeks again his early love - Annie, who, after many delays, and misgivings as to the fate of Enoch,
At last, one night it chanced
That Annie could not sleep, but earnestly
Prayed for a sign, “ My Enoch, is he gone ?”
Then, compassed round by the blind wall of night,
Brooked not the expectant terror of her heart,
Started from bed, and struck herself a light,
Then desperately seized the Holy Book,
Suddenly set it wide to find a sign,
Suddenly put her finger on the text
“Under a palm-tree.” That was nothing to her :
No meaning there : she closed the Book and slept ;