Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO A FRIEND ON HER BIRTH-DAY, by BERNARD BARTON



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TO A FRIEND ON HER BIRTH-DAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Once more, my gentle friend! Has time's swift flight
Last Line: Which speaks them born above, though spent on earth below.
Alternate Author Name(s): Quaker Poet
Subject(s): Birthdays


ONCE more, my gentle friend! has time's swift flight
(Suspended never) reach'd thy natal day;
And that pure friendship which first bade me plight
My promise to devote to it a lay,
Shall be fulfill'd: what, though perchance it may
Bear token of the hour that gives it birth,
Yet wilt thou not its sober tone gainsay;
For thou hast sojourn'd long enough on earth,
Young as thou art, to know the emptiness of mirth.

I mean that mirth, which, flashing but to fade,
Exhil'rates not, but soon exhausts the mind;
And, transiently delighting, leaves a shade
Of self-engendered dreariness behind.
With such my clouded spirit oft has pin'd;
Until, disgusted with the treacherous gleam,
In which a moment's bliss it sought to find,
Despair has almost tempted me to deem
Joy an unreal shade—delight an empty dream.

Yet is there left us an alternative
In chasten'd cheerfulness, deriving birth
From other sources than the world can give,
Far, far superior to its heartless mirth;
And though at times, while we remain on earth,
Clouds may obscure this "sunshine of the breast,"
Those who have truly known and priz'd its worth
Will own with gratitude, in hours deprest,
Its memory boasts that charm left by a blameless guest.

Something of this, dear friend, have we not tasted
In hours gone by? Then, since those hours, to me
Have still a living charm, by time unwasted,
Proving that they were never born to be
Enjoy'd, and then forgotten; unto thee
O may they seem, as in my heart they are
When fond imagination wanders free,
Like a bright beacon, or a cloudless star
Flinging o'er ocean's waves its lovely light afar.

This is thy birth-day! and for Friendship's sake,
Even in this gloomiest season of the year,
Feelings as warm as Spring could ever wake
Have chronicled, and bid me hold it dear.
The heart has in itself a hemisphere
That knows not change of season, day or night;
For still when thoughts of those we love are near,
Their cherish'd forms arise before our sight,
And o'er the spirit shed fresh sunshine and delight.

Nature, who wore when few months since we met
Her summer garb, a different dress displays;
Your garden walks may now be moss'd and wet:
The jas'mine's star-like bloom, which in the rays
Of the bright moon seem'd lovely to my gaze,
Has faded now; and the green leaves that grew
So lightly on the acacia's topmost sprays,
Have lost, ere this, their glossy verdant hue,
Shading no more the path their reliques soon must strew.

Is there naught left then, loveliness to lend
Unto the spot my memory loves to trace?
Should I now find, were I to come and spend
A day with you, no beauty left to grace
What seem'd of quiet joy the dwelling-place?
Oh, yes! believe me, much as I admir'd
Those charms which change of seasons can efface,
It was not such alone, when home retir'd,
That memory cherish'd most, or most the muse inspir'd.

When nature sheds her leafy loveliness,
She does not die: her vital principle
But seeks awhile its innermost recess,
And there securely finds a citadel
Which even winter owns impregnable;
The sap retreating downward to the root,
Is still alive, as spring shall shortly tell,
By swelling buds, whence blossoms soon will shoot;
Dispensing fragrance round, and pledge of future fruit.

And thus our best affections, those which bind
Heart unto heart by friendship's purest tie,
Have an internal life, and are enshrin'd
Too deeply in our bosoms soon to die.
Spring's opening bloom, and summer's azure sky
Might borrow from them beauties not their own;
But when November winds are loud and high,
And nature's dirge assumes its deepest tone,
The joy of social hours in its full charm is known.

For as the sap, whose quickening influence
Shall be in spring the birth of future flowers,
Confin'd and concentrated, is from thence
More full of life, than in those brighter hours
When birds sang sweetly in their shady bowers,
And all unclouded was heaven's vaulted dome;
Thus is it with the mind's electric powers,
Forbid by winter's frowning skies to roam,
Their radiance is condens'd, their focus found at HOME!

Then stir the cheerful fire! and let its light
The rallying point of home-born pleasures be;
Where spirit-sparkling eyes, and smiles as bright,
Their own fit emblem may delighted see:
And let the overflow of innocent glee
Be like the exub'rance of the Nile, and bless
The seeds of future joy's fertility;
That days, in years to come, may bear th' impress
Of hours of blameless bliss and social happiness.

Since such, dear friend! is the delightful season
When thou was born, oh! let it, as it ought,
Be kept with due observance, for that reason;
Not lighted up with borrow'd splendour caught
From outward themes, which time or chance may thwart:
But be its zest those charms that have their flow
Fresh from the source of feeling and of thought;
And full of all that pure and vivid glow
Which speaks them born above, though spent on earth below.





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