Non est ad astra mollis è terris via.—SENECA.
HE that would earn the Poet’s sacred name,
Must write for future as for present ages;
Must learn to scorn the wreath of vulgar fame,
And bear to see cold critics o’er the pages
His burning brain hath wrought, wreak wantonly
Their dull and crabbed spite, or trifling mockery.
He must not fret his heart that men will turn
From the deep wealth his soul hath freely given;
He must not marvel that their spirits burn
With fire so dim and cold. The God of Heaven
Who hung the golden stars in loftiest sky,
Hath o’er all spirits set the Poet’s heart on high.
Star-like and high, his task and glorious sphere
Is to shine on in love and light unborrowed,
Yet looking down, to hold all nature dear,
And where a heart hath deeply joyed or sorrowed,
To gather to itself all images
Of mind, and heart and passion, and to breathe life through these:
And in this life burning through all his words,
And glancing back so strangely on man’s soul
The image of himself, the bard records
The power which lifls all nature, till the whole
Swims in the spirit of beauty, and the breath
Of earthly things is murmuring life untouched by death.
Thus hovering, bee-winged, over every flower,
And gathering· all the nectar from its bosom,
And e’en midst broken hearts, in grief’s dark hour,
Stealing a sweetness from the poison blossom,
He garners up the honey of his thought,
And yields unto the world whate’er his soul hath wrought.
His is the task to clothe the dull and common
In the rich garb of ever-living youth;
And o’er the soul of child, or man, or woman,
And o’er the countenance of daily truth,
And o’er Creation’s face to spread the light
Of beauty, as it shines in God’s eternal sight.
He may not stoop to pander to the herd
Of fickle tastes and morbid appetites;
He hath upon his lips a holy word,
And he must heed not if it cheers or blights,
So it be Truth, and the deep earnest fire
Of no dull earthward thought, nor any base desire.
His path is through all nature like the sun;
From world to world, like a recording spirit;
And with all shapes and hues his heart is one;
And if a bird but sing, his ear must hear it,
And the coarse, scentless flower is as a brother,
And the green turf the gentle bosom of a mother.
And these he loves;—and with all these the heart
Of frail humanity, which like a tremulous harp
Hung in “the winds, not oft from storms apart,
Sobs or rejoices; and when tempests sharp
Sweep the tense strings, a “sweet sad music” hears,
Where others list no voice, nor heed the dropping tears.
Who scorns the Poet’s art, deserves the scorn
Which he would heap on others’ heads; that man
Knows not the sacred gift and calling born
Within the Poet’s soul when life began:—
Knows not that he must speak, and not for fame,
But that his heart would wither else within its flame.
Time’s wreaths await him: far in future ages,
Twined in their amaranth beauty they are shining,
And blessings rained upon his fragrant pages,
And tears from kindred hearts, quenching repining
With a warm sympathy, and smiles of joy
Embalm a sacred life which Time cannot destroy.
All Sub-Works of Poems (1844):
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