Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SOUNDS, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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First Line: Hearken, hearken! / the rapid river carrieth
Last Line: And not the voice of god?
Subject(s): Sound


I

HEARKEN, hearken!
The rapid river carrieth
Many noises underneath
The hoary ocean:
Teaching his solemnity
Sounds of inland life and glee
Learnt beside the waving tree
When the winds in summer prank
Toss the shades from bank to bank,
And the quick rains, in emotion
Which rather gladdens earth than grieves,
Count and visibly rehearse
The pulses of the universe
Upon the summer leaves --
Learnt among the lilies straight
When they bow them to the weight
Of many bees whose hidden hum
Seemeth from themselves to come --
Learnt among the grasses green
Where the rustling mice are seen
By the gleaming, as they run,
Of their quick eyes in the sun;
And lazy sheep are browsing through
With their noses trailed in dew;
And the squirrel leaps adown
Holding fast the filbert brown;
And the lark, with more of mirth
In his song than suits the earth,
Droppeth some in soaring high,
To pour the rest out in the sky;
While the woodland doves apart
In the copse's leafy heart,
Solitary, not ascetic,
Hidden and yet vocal, seem
Joining, in a lovely psalm,
Man's despondence, nature's calm,
Half mystical and half pathetic,
Like a singing in a dream.
All these sounds the river telleth,
Softened to an undertone
Which ever and anon he swelleth
By a burden of his own,
In the ocean's ear:
Ay, and ocean seems to hear
With an inward gentle scorn,
Smiling to his caverns worn.

II

Hearken, hearken!
The child is shouting at his play
Just in the tramping funeral's way;
The widow moans as she turns aside
To shun the face of the blushing bride
While, shaking the tower of the ancient church,
The marriage bells do swing;
And in the shadow of the porch
An idiot sits with his lean hands full
Of hedgerow flowers and a poet's skull,
Laughing loud and gibbering
Because it is so brown a thing,
While he sticketh the gaudy poppies red
In and out the senseless head
Where all sweet fancies grew instead:
And you may hear at the self-same time
Another poet who reads his rhyme,
Low as a brook in summer air,
Save when he droppeth his voice adown
To dream of the amaranthine crown
His mortal brows shall wear:
And a baby cries with a feeble sound
'Neath the weary weight of the life newfound,
And an old man groans, -- with his testament
Only half-signed, -- for the life that's spent;
And lovers twain do softly say,
As they sit on a grave, 'For aye, for aye!'
And foemen twain, while Earth their mother
Looks greenly upward, curse each other;
A school-boy drones his task, with looks
Cast over the page to the elm-tree rooks:
A lonely student cries aloud
Eureka! clasping at his shroud;
A beldame's age-cracked voice doth sing
To a little infant slumbering;
A maid forgotten weeps alone,
Muffling her sobs on the trysting-stone;
A sick man wakes at his own mouth's wail,
A gossip coughs in her thrice-told tale,
A muttering gamester shakes the dice,
A reaper foretells goodluck from the skies,
A monarch vows as he lifts his band to them;
A patriot, leaving his native land to them,
Cries to the world against perjured state;
A priest disserts
Upon linen skirts,
A sinner screams for one hope more,
A dancer's feet do palpitate
A piper's music out on the floor;
And nigh to the awful Dead, the living
Low speech and stealthy steps are giving,
Because he cannot hear;
And he who on that narrow bier
Has room enough, is closely wound
In a silence piercing more than sound.

III

Hearken, hearken!
God speaketh to thy soul,
Using the supreme voice which doth confound
All life with consciousness of Deity,
All senses into one, --
As the seer-saint of Patmos, loving John
(For whom did backward roll
The cloud-gate of the future) turned to see
The Voice which spake. It speaketh now,
Through the regular breath of the calm creation,
Through the moan of the creature's desolation
Striking, and in its stroke resembling
The memory of a solemn vow
Which pierceth the din of a festival
To one in the midst, -- and he letteth fall
The cup with a sudden trembling.

IV

Hearken, hearken!
God speaketh in thy soul,
Saying, 'O thou that movest
With feeble steps across this earth of Mine,
To break beside the fount thy golden bowl
And spill its purple wine, --
Look up to heaven and see how, like a scroll,
My right hand hath thine immortality
In an eternal grasping! thou, that lovest
The songful birds and grasses underfoot,
And also what change mars and tombs pollute --
I am the end of love! give love to Me!
O thou that sinnest, grace doth more abound
Than all thy sin! sit still beneath My rood,
And count the droppings of My victim-blood,
And seek none other sound!'

V

Hearken, hearken!
Shall we hear the lapsing river
And our brother's sighing ever,
And not the voice of God?





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