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In my youth's summer I did sing of One,
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;
Again I seize the theme then but begun,
And bear it with me, as the rushing wind
Bears the cloud onwards : in that Tale I find
The furrows of long thought, and dried-up tears,
Which, ebbing, leave a steril track behind,
O'er which all heavily the journeying years
Plod the last sands of life, - · where not a flower appears.
Since my young days of passion — joy, or pain,
Perchance my heart and harp have lost a string,
And both may jar : it may be, that in vain
I would essay as I have sung to sing.
Yet, though a dreary strain, to this I cling,
So that it ween me from the
dream Of selfish grief or gladness - so it fling Forgetfulness around me
it shall seem To me, though to none else, a not ungrateful theme.
He, who grown aged in this world of wor,
In deeds, not years, piercing the depths of life,
So that no wonder waits him ; nor below
Can love, or sorrow, fame, ambition, strife,
Cut to his heart again with the keen knife
Of silent, sharp endurance : he can tell
Why thought seeks refuge in lone caves, yet rite
With airy images, and shapes which dweli
Still unimpair'd, though old, in the soul's haunted celi.
'Tis to create, and in creating live
A being more intense, that we endow
With form our fancy, gaining as we give
The life we image, even as I do now.
What am I ? Nothing : but not so art thou,
Soul of my thought! with whom I traverse earth,
Invisible but gazing, as I glow
Mix'd with thy spirit, blended with thy birth,
And feeling still with thee in my crush'd feelings' dearth,
Yet must I think less wildly :- I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy boiling and o’erwrought,
A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame :
And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame,
My springs of life were poisond. 'Tis too late !
Yet am I changed ; though still enough the same
In strength to bear what time can not abate,
And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate.
Something too much of this : — but now 'tis past,
And the spell closes with its silent seal.
Long absent Harold reappears at last;
He of the breast which fain no more would feel,
Wrung with the wounds which kill not, but ne'er heal ;
Yet Time, who changes all, had alter'd him
In soul and aspect as in age : years steal
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And life's enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.
His had been quaff'd too quickly, and he found
The dregs were wormwood; but he fill'd again,
And from a purer fount, on holier ground,
And deem'd its spring perpetual ; but in vain !
Still round him clung invisibly a chain
Which gall’d for ever, fettering though unseen,
And heavy though it clank'd not; worn with pain,
Which pined although it spoke not, and grew keen, Entering with every step he took through many a scene.
Secure in guarded coldness, he had mix'd
Again in fancied safety with his kind,
And deem'd his spirit now so firmly fix'd
And sheath'd with an invulnerable mind,
That, if no joy, no sorrow lurk'd behind;
And he, as one, might midst the many stand
Unheeded, searching through the crowd to find
Fit speculation ; such as in strange land
He found in wonder-works of God and Nature's hand.
But who can view the ripen'd rose, nor seek
To wear it? who can curiously behold
The smoothness and the sheen of beauty's cheek,
Nor feel the heart can never all grow old ?
Who can contemplate Fame through clouds unfold
The star which rises o'er her steep, nor climb ?
Harold, once more within the vortex, roll'd
On with the giddy circle, chasing Time,
Yet with a nobler aim than in his youth's fond prime.
But soon he knew himself the most unfit
Of men to herd with Man ; with whom he held
Little in common; untaught to submit
His thoughts to others, though his soul was quell'd
In youth by his own thoughts ; still uncompell’d,
He would not yield dominion of his mind
To spirits against whom his own rebelld;
Proud though in desolation ; which could find
A life within itself, to breathe without mankind.
Where rose the mountains, there to him were friends,
Where roll'd the ocean, thereon was his home;
Where a blue sky, and glowing clime, extends,
He had the passion and the power to roam ;
T'he desert, forest, cavern, breaker's foam,
Were unto him companionship; they spake
A mutual language, clearer than the tome
Of his land's tongue, which he would oft forsake
For Nature's pages glass'd by sunbeams on the lake.
Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,
Till he had peopled them with beings bright
As their own beams; and earth, and earth-born jars,
And human frailties, were forgotten quite :
Could he have kept his spirit to that flight
He had been happy ; but this clay will sink
Its spark immortal, envying it the light
To which mounts, as if to break the link
That keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink.
But in Man's dwellings he became a thing
Restless and worn, and stern and wearisome,
Droop'd as a wild-born falcon with clipt wing,
To whom the boundless air alone were home :
Then came his fit again, which to o'ercome,
As eagerly the barr'd-up bird will beat
His breast and beak against his wiry dome
Till the blood tinge his plumage, so the heat
Of his impeded soul would through his bosom eat.
Self-exiled Harold wanders forth again,
With nought of hope left, but with less of gloom;
The very knowledge that he lived in vain,
That all was over on this side the tomb,
Had made Despair a smilingness assume,
Which, though 'twere wild, as on the plunder'd wreck
When mariners would madly meet their doom
With draughts intemperate on the sinking deck, -
Did yet inspire a cheer, which he forebore to check.
Stop! - For thy tread is on an Empire's dust!
An Earthquake's spoil is sepulchred below!
Is the spot mark'd with no colossal bust?
Nor column trophied for triumphal show?
None ; but the moral's truth tells simpler so,
As the ground was before, thus let it be ;
How that red rain hath made the harvest grow!
And is this all the world has gain’d by thee,
Thou first and last of fields ! king-making Victory?
And Harold stands upon this place of skulls,
The grave of France, the deadly Waterloo ;
How in an hour the
Its gifts, transferring fame as fleeting too!
In “ pride of place" (') here last the eagle flew,
(1) " PRIDE of place” is a term of falconry, and means the highest pitch of Might. - See Macbeth, &c.
" An Eagle towering in his pride of place
Was by a mousing Owl hawked at and killed."
Then tore with bloody talon the rent plain,
Pierced by the shaft of banded nations through
Ambition's life and labours all were vain ;
He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.
Fit retribution! Gaul may champ the bit
And foam in fetters; but is Earth more free?
Did nations combat to make One submit;
Or league to teach all kings true sovereignty?
What ! shall reviving Thraldom again be
The patch’d-up idol of enlightend days?
Shall we, who struck the Lion down, shall we
Pay the Wolf homage ? proffering lowly gaze
And servile knees to thrones ? No; prove before
ye praise !
If not, o'er one fallen despot boast no more!
In vain fair cheeks were furrow'd with hot tears
For Europe's flowers long rooted up before
The trampler of her vineyards ; in vain years
Of death, depopulation, bondage, fears,
Have all been borne, and broken by the accord
Of roused-up millions : all that most endears
Glory, is when the myrtle wreathes a sword
Such as Harmodius (1) drew on Athens' tyrant lord.
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gather'd then
Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men;
A thousand hearts beat happily ; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes look'd love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell; (*)
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell !
(1) See the famous song on Harmodius and Aristogiton. - The best Engrish translation is in Bland's Anthology, by Mr. Denman.
“ With myrtle my sword will I wreathe,” &c. (2) On the night previous to the action, it is said that a ball was given at Brussels.