Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IMITATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE, by JOHN ARMSTRONG



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IMITATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE, by            
First Line: Now summer with her wanton court is gone
Last Line: And murmuring brooks within their channels play.
Subject(s): Dramatists; Plays & Playwrights ; Poetry & Poets; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Youth; Dramatists


Now Summer with her wanton court is gone
To revel on the south side of the world,
And flaunt and frolic out the live-long day.
While Winter rising pale from northern seas
Shakes from his hoary locks the drizzling rheum.
A blast so shrewd makes the tall-bodied pines
Unsinew'd bend, and heavy-paced bears
Sends growling to their savage tenements.

Now blows the surly north, and chills throughout
The stiffening regions; while, by stronger charms
Than Circe e'er or fell Medea brewed,
Each brook that wont to prattle to its banks
Lies all bestilled and wedged betwixt its banks,
Nor moves the withered reeds: and the rash flood
That from the mountains held its headstrong course,
Buried in livid sheets of vaulting ice,
Seen through the shameful breaches, idly creeps
To pay a scanty tribute to the ocean.
What wonder? when the floating wilderness
That scorns our miles, and calls geography
A shallow pryer; from whose unsteady mirror
The high-hung pole surveys his dancing locks;
When this still-raving deep lies mute and dead,
Nor heaves its swelling bosom to the winds.
The surges, baited by the fierce north-east,
Tossing with fretful spleen their angry heads
To roar and rush together,
Even in the foam of all their madness struck
To monumental ice, stand all astride
The rocks they washed so late. Such execution,
So stern, so sudden, wrought the grizzly aspect
Of terrible Medusa, ere young Perseus
With his keen sabre cropt her horrid head,
And laid her serpents rowling on the dust;
When wandering through the woods she frown'd to stone
Their savage tenants: just as the foaming lion
Sprung furious on his prey, her speedier power
Outrun his haste; no time to languish in,
But fixed in that fierce attitude he stands
Like Rage in marble.—Now portly Argosies
Lie wedged 'twixt Neptune's ribs. The bridged abysm
Has changed our ships to horses; the swift bark
Yields to the heavy waggon and the cart,
That now from isle to isle maintain the trade;
And where the surface-haunting dolphin led
Her sportive young, is now an area fit
For the wild school-boy's pastime.

Meantime the evening skies, crusted with ice,
Shifting from red to black their weighty skirts,
Hang mournful o'er the hills; and stealing night
Rides the weak puffing winds, that seem to spit
Their foam sparse through the welkin, which is nothing
If not beheld. Anon the burdened heaven
Shakes from its ample sieve the boulted snow;
That fluttering down besprinkles the sad trees
In mockery of leaves; piles up the hills
To monstrous altitude, and chokes to the lips
The deep impervious vales that yawn as low
As to the centre, Nature's vasty breaches;
While all the pride of men and mortal things
Lies whelmed in heaven's white ruins.—

The shivering clown digs his obstructed way
Through the snow-barricadoed cottage door;
And muffled in his home-spun plaid encounters
With livid cheeks and rheum-distilling nose
The morning's sharp and scourging breath; to count
His starving flock whose number's all too short
To make the goodly sum of yester-night:
Part deep ingurgitated, part yet struggling
With their last pantings melt themselves a grave
In Winter's bosom; which yields not to the touch
Of the pale languid cresset of this world,
That now with lean and churlish husbandry
Yields heartlessly the remnants of his prime;
And like most spendthrifts starves his latter days
For former rankness. He with bleary eye
Blazons his own disgrace; the harness'd waste
Rebellious to his blunt defeated shafts;
And idly strikes the chalky mountains' tops
That rise to kiss the welkin's ruddy lips;
Where all the rash young bullies of the air
Mount their quick slender penetrating wings,
Whipping the frost-burnt villagers to the bones;
And growing with their motion mad and furious,
'Till, swollen to tempests, they out-rage the thunder;
Winnow the chaffy snow, and mock the skies
Even with their own artillery retorted;
Tear up and throw the accumulated hills
Into the valleys. And as rude hurricanes,
Discharged from the wind-swollen cheeks of heaven,
Buoy up the swelling skirts of Araby's
Inhospitable wilds,
And roll the dusty desert through the skies,
Choking the liberal air, and smothering
Whole caravans at once; such havoc spreads
This war of heaven and earth, such sudden ruin
Visits their houseless citizens, that shrink
In the false shelter of the hills together,
And hear the tempest howling o'er their heads
That by and by o'erwhelms them. The very birds,
Those few that trooped not with the chiming tribe
Of amorous Summer, quit their ruffian element;
And with domestic tameness hop and flutter
Within the roofs of persecuting man,
(Grown hospitable by like sense of sufferance;)
Whither the hinds, the debt o' the day discharged,
From kiln or barn repairing, shut the door
On surly Winter; crowd the clean-swept hearth
And cheerful shining fire; and doff the time,
The whilst the maids their twirling spindles ply,
With musty legends and ear-pathing tales;
Of giants, and black necromantic bards,
Of air-built castles, feats of madcap knights,
And every hollow fiction of romance.
And, as their rambling humour leads them, talk
Of prodigies, and things of dreadful utterance;
That set them all agape, rouse up their hair,
And make the idiot drops start from their eyes;
Of churchyards belching flames at dead of night,
Of walking statues, ghosts unaffable,
Haunting the dark waste tower or airless dungeon;
Then of the elves that deftly trip the green,
Drinking the summer's moonlight from the flowers;
And all the toys that phantasy pranks up
T'amuse her fools withal.—Thus they lash on
The snail-paced hyperborean nights, till heaven
Hangs with a juster poise: when the murk clouds
Rolled up in heavy wreaths low-bellying, seem
To kiss the ground, and all the waste of snow
Looks blue beneath 'em; till plump'd with bloating dropsy,
Beyond the bounds and stretch of continence,
They burst at once; down pours the hoarded rain,
Washing the slippery winter from the hills,
And floating all the valleys. The fading scene
Melts like a lost enchantment or vain phantasm
That can no more abuse. Nature resumes
Her old substantial shape; while from the waste
Of undistinguishing calamity,
Forests, and by their sides wide-skirted plains,
Houses and trees arise; and waters flow,
That from their dark confinements bursting, spurn
Their brittle chains; huge sheets of loosened ice
Float on their bosoms to the deep, and jar
And clatter as they pass; the o'erjutting banks,
As long unpractised to so steep a view,
Seem to look dizzy on the moving pomp.

Now every petty brook that crawled along,
Railing its pebbles, mocks the river's rage,
Like the proud frog i' the fable. The huge Danube,
While melting mountains rush into its tide,
Rolls with such headstrong and unreined course,
As it would choke the Euxine's gulphy maw,
Bursting his crystal cerements. The breathing time
Of peace expired that hushed the deafening scenes
Of clam'rous indignation, ruffian War
Rebels, and Nature stands at odds again:
When the roused Furies of the fighting winds
Torment the main; that swells its angry sides,
And churns the foam betwixt its flinty jaws;
While through the savage dungeon of the night
The horrid thunder growls. The ambitious waves
Assault the skies, and from the bursting clouds
Drink the glib lightening; as if the seas
Would quench the ever-burning fires of heaven.
Straight from their slippery pomp they madly plunge
And kiss the lowest pebbles. Wretched they
That 'midst such rude vexation of the deep
Guide a frail vessel! Better ice-bound still,
Than mock'd with liberty thus be resign'd
To the rough fortune of the froward time;
When Navigation all a-tiptoe stands
On such unsteady footing. Now they mount
On the tall billow's top, and seem to jowl
Against the stars; whence (dreadful eminence!)
They see with swimming eyes (enough to hurry round
In endless vertigo the dizzy brain)
A gulph that swallows vision, with wide mouth
Steep-yawning to receive them; down they duck
To the rugged bottom of the main, and view
The adamantine gates of vaulted hell:
Thence toss'd to light again; till borne adrift
Against some icy mountain's bulging sides
They reel, and are no more.—Nor less by land
Ravage the winds, that in their wayward rage
Howl thro' the wide unhospitable glens;
That rock the stable-planted towers, and shake
The hoary monuments of ancient time
Down to their flinty bases; that engage
As they would tear the mountains from their roots,
And brush the high heavens with their woody heads;
Making the stout oaks bow.—But I forget
That sprightly Ver trips on old Winter's heel:
Cease we these notes too tragic for the time,
Nor jar against great Nature's symphony;
When even the blustrous elements grow tuneful,
Or listen to the concert. Hark! how loud
The cuckoo wakes the solitary wood!
Soft sigh the winds as o'er the greens they stray,
And murmuring brooks within their channels play.





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