Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, STANZAS SELECTED FROM THE PAINS OR MEMORY; A FRAGMENT, by BERNARD BARTON



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STANZAS SELECTED FROM THE PAINS OR MEMORY; A FRAGMENT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Memory! Mysterious principle, whose power
Last Line: Shines with unwelcome ray, and tells of mischief done!
Alternate Author Name(s): Quaker Poet
Subject(s): Memory


MEMORY! mysterious principle, whose power
Can ope alike the source of joy or wo;
Can gild with gladsome ray the passing hour,
Or bid the starting tear of anguish flow:
Fain would my mournful song aspire to show
What keen regret, what deep remorse is thine;
How in the wreath which decks thine awful brow,
The cypress with the willow should entwine.
Alas! my plaintive lyre, a gloomy theme is mine!

Far different visions happier bards have seen,
Far different lays have happier poets sung;
And on those soul-enchanting sounds, I ween,
Full many a captivated ear hath hung.
Nor would I spurn the lyre to rapture strung,
Or deem the song of Memory's joys untrue;
For oft, ere anguish had my bosom wrung,
Did former hours recur to fancy's view,
In gaudier colours drest, with graces ever new.

Yes, Memory! in thy richly-varied page,
Some pleasing passages may charm the eye;
The guileless records of our earlier age,
May bring some dreams of retrospective joy;
But is that pleasure then without alloy?
Or does not contrast turn that bliss to wo?
But few, I fear, can think of hours gone by,
Nor witness in their hearts compunction's throe;
For moments unimprov'd, and time mispent below.

Grant that nor vice, nor folly wounds the heart,
Yet various feelings may regret inspire;
The agonizing tear may often start,
To see departed friendship's flame expire.
The mother mourns her child, the son his sire,
Once lov'd on earth, now number'd with the dead:
The weeping maiden's trembling steps retire
From the green sod where rests her lover's head.
Who hath not mourn'd in vain for joys that long have fled?

To meditate, with retrospective glance,
On vanish'd transports of gay hours of pleasure,
Our present happiness may well enhance,
As former gains increase our present treasure.
Benignant time's insensible erasure
May mitigate the heart-felt pangs of sorrow;
And, from the cheering view of well-spent leisure,
Some gleams of hope the mind may justly borrow,
'To usher in the dawn of heaven's eternal morrow.

For, can the wiles of art, the grasp of power,
Or all the fiends which blasts the mind's repose,
Snatch the rich reliques of a well-spent hour,
Or quench the light it gives at life's dark close?
No: when the lamp of life but faintly glows,
E'en when the trembling spirit wings her flight,
Conscience shall blunt departing nature's throes,
And smiling hope shall pour, with lustre bright,
Around her heaven-ward path a stream of living light.

Such were the sounds, which, on my youthful ear,
In strains of harmony and rapture fell;
When ROGERS bade his song, melodious, clear,
In sweetest accents Memory's pleasures tell;
Did not my glowing bosom feel the spell
Of his celestial theme? My raptur'd thought
Would oft, by him inspir'd, with fondness dwell
On hours for ever fled, with pleasure fraught,
By Memory's magic power, from infant pastime brought.

Oh! sweetest Minstrel! since to thee belong
The gift of verse, the poet's art divine;
Why should thy silence thus the Muses wrong?
Why lies unstrung a harp so sweet as thine?
"Oh! wake once more!" pour forth the flowing line,
Assert the honours thou hast justly won:
"Oh! wake once more!" invoke the favouring Nine,
And ere thy yet remaining sand be run,
Resplendently shine forth like the meridian sun.

But, though thy pleasures, Memory, justly claim
The votive tribute of the minstrel's song;
Yet keen regret, despair, and blushing shame,
Horrour and madness too, to thee belong.
Of torturing fiends, a fell, relentless throng
Attend thy course, and goad the anguish'd mind,
Recal the hour when vice betray'd to wrong,
Anticipate the doom to guilt assign'd,
And to each glimpse of hope the wandering senses blind.

And shall thy pleasures then alone inspire
The poet's song? Shall fancy, sportive, gay,
To notes of joy ecstatic tune the lyre,
Unmindful that those pleasures soon decay?
Forgetful that the brightest, happiest day
Must often, by misfortune overcast,
Call forth the tear for moments pass'd away,
For hopes dispers'd by disappointment's blast,
And pleasing spells dissolv'd, which fancy said should last.

And do not themes like these deserve the lay?
Yes; though ungrateful, gloomy, and forlorn;
Scorn'd by the young, unnotic'd by the gay,
Who sport enraptur'd in the glowing morn
Of life; yet hearts there are who may not scorn
The song which bids the tear of pity start;
Hearts which have deeply felt the rankling thorn,
Which Memory can through every fibre dart;
To such my lay shall flow, warm from a kindred heart.

Are there who mourn for friendship known no more?
For cold neglect, unmerited disdain?
Are there who weep adversity's dark hour,
Reluctant vassals in misfortune's train?
Are there for evil past who sigh in vain,
Harrass'd with grief, worn out with toiling care?
Whoe'er ye are, whose bosoms throb with pain,
Deam not your own distress beyond compare,
But learn from heavier griefs your lighter load to bear.

Hapless the lover in his nymph's disdain,
Hapless the mariner by tempests driven,
Hapless the cripple bent with age and pain,
Hapless the blind amid the light of heaven;
More hapless still the wretch who long has striven,
And o'er his fierce desires no battle won:
But, oh! how hapless he, whose heart is riven
With conscious guilt! on whom the glorious sun
Shines with unwelcome ray, and tells of mischief done!





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