Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, POLITICAL PORTRAITS: 3, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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POLITICAL PORTRAITS: 3, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: His hand is on the snowy sail
Last Line: Are only emblems; -- what art thou?
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


HIS hand is on the snowy sail,
His step is on the prow,
And back the cold night-winds have flung
The dark curls from his brow;
That brow to which his native heaven
A something of itself has given.

But all too mix'd with earthly stain,
The nameless shadowy care,
Which tells, that though heaven gave it birth,
Its home has not been there;
And here, the earth and heaven seem blent
In one discordant element.

It wears our nature's nobler part;
That spirit which doth spurn
The weary bondage of our world,
And show what man can earn;
Where, led by honourable pride,
Hero and sage are deified; --

Those high imaginings which make
The glory which they hope;
Fine-wrought aspirings, lofty aims,
Which have in youth such scope;
Like tides which, haunted by the moon,
Rise but, alas! to fall too soon.

Vain are these dreams, and vain these hopes;
And yet 'tis these give birth
To each high purpose, generous deed,
That sanctifies our earth.
He who hath highest aim in view,
Must dream at first what he will do.

Upon that youthful brow are traced
High impulses like these:
But all too purposeless, like gales
That wander o'er the seas;
Not winds that bear the vessel on,
Fix'd to one point, and only one.

And meaner workings have deform'd
His natural noble mind;
Those wretched aims which waste the ore
For happier use design'd.
And petty wishes, idle praise,
Destroy the hopes of better days.

And hath no earlier vision taught
A more exalted creed?
Alas! that such a mind should waste
Its powers away, to feed
That wretched vanity which clings
To life's debasing, paltry things.

The worthlessness of common praise,
The dry rot of the mind,
By which its temple secretly
But fast is undermined.
Alas! the praise given to the ear
Ne'er was nor e'er can be sincere --

And does but waste away the mind
On which it preys: -- in vain
Would they in whom its poison lurks
A worthier state attain.
Indifference proud, immortal aim,
Had, aye, the demigods of fame.

The dew of night falls cold around,
Yet can it not allay
The fever burning on thy cheek,
That eats thy life away;
For thou dost know thy birthright sold
For even less than his of old.

Thou know'st what thou hast power to be,
Thou know'st, too, what thou art;
And heavily does discontent
Sit rankling at thy heart;
And thou dost mask thy grief the while
With scornful sneer, and bitter smile.

But yet thou art too indolent
From such weak bonds to free
Thy better self, and urge thy strength
To be what thou might'st be;
Thou dost repent the past, and blame,
And yet thy future is the same.

Ay, leave thy rudder to the wave,
Thy sail upon the wind,
Leave them to chance, and they will be
Fit likeness of thy mind:
Unguided sail, unmaster'd prow,
Are only emblems; -- What art thou?





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