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O thou, stern spirit, who dost dwell
In thine eternal cell,
Noting, gray chronicler! the silent years ;
I saw thee rise, I saw the scroll complete,
Thou spakest, and at thy feet
The universe gave way.
This poem was begun either during the publication of Clifton Grove,
or shortly afterward. Henry never laid aside the intention of completing it, and some of the detached parts were among his
Genius of musings, who, the midnight hour
Wasting in woods or haunted forests wild,
Dost watch Orion in his arctic tower,
fix'd as in some holy trance;
Or when the volley'd lightnings cleave the air,
And ruin gaunt bestrides the winged storm,
Sitt'st in some lonely watch-tower, where thy lamp,
Faint-blazing, strikes the fisher's eye from far,
And, 'mid the howl of elements, unmoved
Dost ponder on the awful scene, and trace
The vast effect to its superior source,
Spirit, attend my lowly benison !
For now I strike to themes of import high
The solitary lyre; and, borne by thee
Above this narrow cell, I celebrate
The mysteries of Time!
Him who, august,
Was ere these worlds were fashioned, -ere the sun
Sprang from the east, or Lucifer display'd
His glowing cresset in the arch of morn,
Or Vesper gilded the serener evė.
Yea, He had been for an eternity!
Had swept unvarying from eternity!
The harp of desolationRere his tones,
At God's command, assumed a milder strain,
And startled on his watch, in the vast deep,
Chaos' sluggish sentry, and evoked
From the dark void the smiling universe.
Chain'd to the grovelling frailties of the flesh,
Mere mortal man, unpurg'd from earthly dross,
Cannot survey, with fix'd and steady eye,
The dim uncertain gulf, which now the muse,
Adventurous, would explore:—but dizzy grown,
He topples down the abyss.- If he would scan
The fearful chasm, and catch a transient glimpse
Of its unfathomable depths, that so
His mind may turn with double joy to God,
His only certainty and resting-place;
He must put off awhile this mortal vest,
And learn to follow, without giddiness,
To heights where all is vision, and surprise,
And vague conjecture.—He must waste by night
The studious taper, far from all resort
Of crowds and folly, in some still retreat;
High on the beetling promontory's crest,
Or in the caves of the vast wilderness,
Where, compass'd round with Nature's wildest shapes,
be driven to centre all his thoughts In the Great Architect, who lives confess'd In rocks, and seas, and solitary wastes.
So has divine Philosophy, with voice
Mild as the murmurs of the moonlight wave,
Tutor’d the heart of him, who now awakes,
Touching the chords of solemn minstrelsy,
His faint, neglected song-intent to snatch
Some vagrant blossom from the dangerous steep
poesy, a bloom of such a hue,
So sober, as may not unseemly suit
With Truth's severer brow; and one with al
So hardy as shall brave the passing wind
Of many winters, --rearing its meek head
In loveliness, when he who gather'd it
Is number'd with the generations gone.
Yet not to me hath God's good providence
Given studious leisure,* or unbroken thought,
Such as he owns,-a meditative man,
Who from the blush of morn to quiet eve
Ponders, or turns the page of wisdom o'er,
Far from the busy crowd's tumultuous din,
From noise and wrangling far, and undisturb'd
With Mirth's unholy shouts. For me the day
Hath duties which require the vigorous hand
Of steadfast application, but which leave
No deep improving trace upon the mind.
But be the day another's ;-let it pass!
The night's my own—They cannot steal my night!
When evening lights her folding-star on high,
I live and breathe, and in the sacred hours
Of quiet, and repose, my spirit flies,
Free as the morning, o'er the realms of space,
And mounts the skies, and imps her wing for Heaven.
Hence do I love the sober-suited maid ;
Hence night's my friend, my mistress, and my theme,
And she shall aid me now to magnify
The night of ages,-now, when the pale ray
Of star-light penetrates the studious gloom,
And, at my window seated, while mankind
Are lock'd in sleep, I feel the freshening breeze
Of stillness blow, while, in her saddest stole,
The author was then in an attorney's office.
Thought, like a wakeful vestal at her shrine,
Assumes her wonted sway.
Behold the world
Rests, and her tired inhabitants have paused
From trouble and turmoil. The widow now
Has ceased to weep, and her twin orphans lie
Lock'd in each arm, partakers of her rest.
The man of sorrow has forgot his woes :
The outcast that his head is shelterless,
His griefs unshared. The mother tends no more
Her daughter's dying slumbers, but, surprised
With heaviness, and sunk upon her couch,
Dreams of her bridals. Even the hectic, lulld
On death's lean arm to rest, in visions wrapp’d, [nurse,
Crowning with Hope's bland wreath his shuddering
Poor victim! smiles.—Silence and deep repose
Reign o'er the nations; and the warning voice
Of Nature utters audibly within
The general moral: tells us that repose, ,
Deathlike as this, but of far longer span,
Is coming on us-that the weary crowds,
Who now enjoy a temporary calm,
Shall soon taste lasting quiet, wrapp'd around
With grave-clothes; and their acting restless heads
Mouldering in holes and corners unobserved,
Till the last trump shall break their sullen sleep.
Who needs a teacher to admonish him
That flesh is grass, that earthly things are mist?
What are our joys but dreams? and what our hopes
But goodly shadows in the summer cloud ?
There's not a wind that blows but bears with it
Some rainbow promise :—not a moment Aies
But puts its sickle in the fields of life,
And mows its thousands, with their joys and cares.
'Tis but as yesterday, since on yon stars,
Which now I view, the Chaldee Shepherd* gazed
In his mid-watch observant, and disposed
The twinkling hosts as fancy gave them shape.
Yet in the interim what mighty shocks
Have buffeted mankind !-whole nations raz'd-
Cities made desolate,-the polish'd sunk
To barbarism, and once barbaric'states
Swaying the wand of science and of arts ;
Illustrious deeds and memorable names
Blotted from record, and upon
gray Tradition voluble no more.
Where are the heroes of the ages past?
Where the brave chieftains, where the mighty ones
Who flourish'd in the infancy of days?
All to the grave gone down.' On their fallen fame
Exultant, mocking at the pride of man,
Sits grim Forgetfulness. The warrior's arm
Lies nerveless on the pillow of its shame;
Hush'd is his stormy voice, and quench'd the blaze
Of his red eye-ball.— Yesterday his name
Was mighty on the earth-To-day~'tis what?
The meteor of the night of distant years,
That flash'd unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld,
Musing at midnight upon prophecies,
Who at her lonely lattice saw the gleam
Point to the mist-poised shroud, then quietly
Clos’d her pale lips, and lock'd the secret up
Safe in the charnel's treasures.
O how weak
Is mortal man! how trifling-how confined