Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TAPESTRY, by ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES



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THE TAPESTRY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: These tapestries have hung fading around my hall
Last Line: Whether for good or ill—it was them or nothing.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bridges, Robert+(2)
Subject(s): Tapestries


'THESE tapestries have hung fading around my hall
centuries long; their old fashion'd mythology
infects the fresh and young with blighting influence
like Abram there with knife and faggot standing stark
to slay his son. I'm vow'd I'll have no more of them.
Turn me them outside-in, their faces to the wall,
so shall we have more colour and less solemnity.'—
Thus the young heir and lord enjoin'd his wondering steward
who obey'd, and many a guest was bidden, and at the feast
the wine flow'd free with fine hubbub and merriment.

My tale is but a fable of God's fair tapestry
the decorated room wherein my spirit hath dwelt
from infancy a nursling of great Nature's beauty
which keepeth fresh my wonder as when I was a child.
Such is the joy of the eye, that dark conduit whereby
the swift creative ray, offspring of heavenly fire,
steals to the mind, wakening in her secret chamber
vast potencies of thought which there lie slumbering
in the image of God. Ah! had I not heard and seen
today, when at my window a meryl sat fluting
his happy canticle to hail the sun's uprise?
Then looked I forth and lo! The Elysian fields of Dawn!
and there in naked peace my dumb expectancy
mirror'd above the hills, a pageant like music
heard in imagination or the silence of dreams.
What if I had not seen the cloths of Night take hue
soft-tinged as of brown bear-skin on green opal spredd
which still persisting through shift imperceptible
grew to an incandescent copper on a pale light-blue!
Then one flame-yellow streak pierced thru' the molten bronze
with lilac freak'd above, where fiëry in red mist
the orb with slow surprise surged, till his whole blank blaze
dispell'd from out his path all colour—and Day began.
Thus ever at every season in every hour and place
visions await the soul on wide ocean or shore
mountain forest or garden in wind and floating cloud
in busy murmur of bees or blithe carol of birds:
nor is it memoried thought only nor pleasured sense
that holds us, nor whate'er Reason sits puzzling out
of light or atom, as if—say, the Rainbow's beauty
lay in our skill to fray the Sun's white-tissued ray
to unravel and measure-off the gaudy threads thereof:
It is a deeper thrill, the joy that lovers learn
taking divine instruction from each other's eyes,
the Truth that all men feel gazing upon the skies
in constellated Night—O God the father of heaven!
'When I arose and saw the dawn, I sighed for Thee.'
Reckon the backward stretch of Mankind's pedigree,
should it be fifteen thousand generations told
were that so long to climb from dim selfconsciousness
up to the eagle aëry of high philosophy?
to escape from his wild-beast cave in the wilderness
to till'd plains and safe homes, farms and mansion'd gardens,
populous wall'd cities, temples and pillar'd schools,
to dwell in grace, gravity, amity and good manners?
Was then the first dawning of his savage wonder
a vain terror to scare him from his aim astray?
all his prophetic seers, poets, enthusiasts,
dreamers, artists, adorners, whose meditation
won to purity of soul in the visions of God,
have guided him on securely and taught him wisely;
their soul's desire came with man's Reason from Nature,
transfiguring his sorrows in heroic grace;
their temples even in ruin reproach his follies
his science is consecrated by their beauty.
I prop so far my slight fable with argument
to lay malison and ban on the upstart leprous clan
who wrong Nature's beauty turning her face about:
for, certes, hath the goddess also her hinder parts
which men of all ages have kindly thought to hide:
But as a man, owning a fine cloth of Arras,
in reverence for his heirloom will examine it all
inside and out, and learn whether of white wool or silk
the high-warp, what of silver and gold, how fine the thread,
what number of graded tints in hatching of the woof;
so we study Nature, wrong side as well as right
and in the eternal mystery of God's working find
full many unsightly a token of beauty's trouble;
and gain knowledge of Nature and much wisdom thereby:
but these making no part of beauty's welcome face,
these we turn to the wall, hiding away the mean
ugly brutish obscene clumsy irrelevances
which Honesty will own to with baffling humour
and in heightening the paradox can find pleasure;
since without such full knowledge can no man have faith
nor will his thought or picture of life be worth a bean.
Now, bean, button, or boterfly, pray accept of me
for my parrot verses this after apology:
making experiments in versification
I wrote them as they came in the mood of the day
whether for good or ill—it was them or nothing.





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