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It does not leap to great results,
But in some corner out of sight,
Suspects a spot of latent blight,
And, o'er the impatient infinite,
She bargains, haggles, and consults.
Her eye, -it seems a chemic test
And drops upon you like an acid; It bites you with unconscious zest,
So clear and bright, so coldly placid; It holds you quietly aloof,
It holds,--and yet it does not win you; It merely puts you to the proof
And sorts what qualities are in you ; It smiles, but never brings you nearer,
It lights,-her nature draws not nigh; 'Tis but that yours is growing clearer
To her assays ;-yes, try and try,
You'll get no deeper than her eye.
There, you are classified : she's gone
Far, far away into herself;
Each with its Latin label on,
Your poor components, one by one,
Are laid upon their proper shelf
In her compact and ordered mind,
And what of you is left behind
Is no more to her than the wind;
In that clear brain, which, day and night,
No movement of the heart e'er jostles, Her friends are ranged on left and right,Here, silex, hornblende, sienite;
There, animal remains and fossils.
And yet, O subtile analyst,
That canst each property detect
Of mood or grain, that canst untwist
Each tangled skein of intellect,
And with thy scalpel eyes lay bare
Each mental nerve more fine than air,-
O brain exact, that in thy scales
Canst weigh the sun and never err,
For once thy patient science fails, One problem still defies thy art ;Thou never canst compute for her The distance and diameter
Of any simple human heart.
Hear him but speak, and you will feel
The shadows of the Portice
Over your tranquil spirit steal,
To modulate all joy and woe
To one subdued, subduing glow;
Above our squabbling business-hours,
Like Phidian Jove's,
his beauty lowers, His nature satirizes ours;
A form and front of Attic grace,
He shames the higgling market-place, And dwarfs our more mechanic powers. What throbbing verse can fitly render That face,-so pure, so trembling-tender ?
Sensation glimmers through its rest,
It speaks unmanacled by words,
As full of motion as a nest
That palpitates with unfledged birds ;
'Tis likest to Bethesda's stream, Forewarned through all its thrilling springs,
White with the angel's coming gleam,
And rippled with his fanning wings.
Hear him unfold his plots and plans,
And larger destinies seem man's ;
You conjure from his glowing face
The omen of a fairer race;
With one grand trope he boldly spans
The gulf wherein so many fall,
'Twixt possible and actual ;
His first swift word, talaria-shod,
Exuberant with conscious God,
Out of the choir of planets blots
The present earth with all its spots
Himself unshaken as the sky,
His words, like whirlwinds, spin on high
Systems and creeds pellmell together; 'Tis strange as to a deaf man's eye, While trees uprooted splinter by,
The dumb turmoil of stormy weather;
Less of iconoclast than shaper, His spirit, safe behind the reach Of the tornado of his speech,
Burns calmly as a glowworm's taper. So great in speech, but, ah! in act
So overrun with vermin troubles, The coarse, sharp-cornered, ugly fact
Of life collapses all his bubbles : Had he but lived in Plato's day,
He might, unless my fancy errs,
Have shared that golden voice's sway
O'er barefooted philosophers.
Our nipping climate hardly suits
The ripening of ideal fruits :
His theories vanquish us all summer,
But winter makes him dumb and dumber;
To see him 'mid life's needful things
Is something painfully bewildering;
He seems an angel with clipt wings
Tied to a mortal wife and children,
And by a brother seraph taken
In the act of eating eggs and bacon.
Like a clear fountain, his desire
Exults and leaps toward the light,
In every drop it says · Aspire !'
Striving for more ideal height;
And as the fountain, falling thence,
Crawls baffled through the common gutter,
So, from his speech's eminence,
He shrinks into the present tense,
Unkinged by foolish bread and butter.
Yet smile not, worldling, for in deeds
Not all of life that's brave and wise is;
He strews an ampler future's seeds,
'Tis your fault if no harvest rises ;
Smooth back the sneer; for is it nought
That all he is and has is Beauty's ?
By soul the soul's gains must be wrought,
The Actual claims our coarser thought,
The Ideal hath its higher duties.
ON A PORTRAIT OF DANTE BY GIOTTO.
Can this be thou who, lean and pale,
With such immitigable eye
Didst look upon those writhing souls in bale,
And note each vengeance, and pass by
Unmoved, save when thy heart by chance
Cast backward one forbidden glance,
And saw Francesca, with child's glee,
Subdue and mount thy wild-horse knee
And with proud hands control its fiery prance ?
With half-drooped lids, and smooth, round brow,
And eye remote, that inly sees
Fair Beatrice's spirit wandering now
In some sea-lulled Hesperides,
Thou movest through the jarring street,
Secluded from the noise of feet
By her gift-blossom in thy hand,
Thy branch of palm from Holy Land ;-
No trace is here of ruin's fiery sleet.
Yet there is something round thy lips
That prophesies the coming doom,
The soft, gray herald-shadow ere the eclipse
Notches the perfect disk with gloom;
A something that would banish thee,
And thine untamed pursuer be,
From men and their unworthy fates,
Though Florence had not shut her gates,
And grief had loosed her clutch and let thee free.
Ah! he who follows fearlessly
The beckonings of a poet-heart
Shall wander, and without the world's decree,
A banished man in field and mart;
Harder than Florence' walls the bar
Which with deaf sternness holds him far
From home and friends, till death's release,
And makes his only prayer for peace,
Like thine, scarred veteran of a lifelong war!
ON THE DEATH OF A FRIEND'S CHILD.
Death never came so nigh to me before,
Nor showed me his mild face: oft had I mused
Of calm and peace and deep forgetfulness,
Of folded hands, closed eyes, and heart at rest,
And slumber sound beneath a flowery turf,
Of faults forgotten, and an inner place
Kept sacred for us in the heart of friends;
But these were idle fancies, satisfied
With the mere husk of this great mystery,
And dwelling in the outward shows of things.
Heaven is not mounted to on wings of dreams,
Nor doth the unthankful happiness of youth
Aim thitherward, but floats from bloom to bloom,
With earth's warm patch of sunshine well content:
'Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up,
Whose golden rounds are our calamities,
Whereon our firm feet planting, nearer God
The spirit climbs, and hath its eyes unsealed.
True is it that Death's face seems stern and cold,
When he is sent to summon those we love,
But all God's angels come to us disguised:
Sorrow and sickness, poverty and death,
One after other lift their frowning masks,
And we behold the seraph's face beneath,
All radiant with the glory and the calm
Of having looked upon the front of God.
With every anguish of our earthly part
The spirit's sight grows clearer; this was meant
When Jesus touched the blind man's lids with clay.
Life is the jailer, Death the angel sent
To draw the unwilling bolts and set us free.
He flings not ope the ivory gate of Rest,-
Only the fallen spirit knocks at that,-
But to benigner regions beckons us,
To destinies of more rewarded toil.
In the hushed chamber, sitting by the dead,
It grates on us to hear the flood of life
Whirl rustling onward, senseless of our loss.
The bee hums on; around the blossomed vine
Whirs the light humming-bird; the cricket chirps;
The locust's shrill alarum stings the ear;
Hard by, the cock shouts lustily; from farm to farm,
His cheery brothers, telling of the sun,
Answer, till far away the joyance dies :
We never knew before how God had filled
The summer air with happy living sounds;
All round us seems an overplus of life,
And yet the one dear heart lies cold and still.
It is most strange, when the great miracle
Hath for our sakes been done, when we have had
Our inwardest experience of God,
When with His presence still the room expands,
And is awed after Him, that nought is changed,
That Nature's face looks unacknowledging,
And the mad world still dances heedless on
After its butterflies, and gives no sign.
'Tis hard at first to see it all aright;
In vain Faith blows her trump to summon back
Her scattered troop; yet, through the clouded glass
Of our own bitter tears, we learn to look
Undazzled on the kindness of God's face;
Earth is too dark, and Heaven alone shines through.
It is no little thing, when a fresh soul
And a fresh heart, with their unmeasured cope
For good, not gravitating earthward yet,
But circling in diviner periods,
Are sent into the world, -no little thing,