Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ARTIST, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON



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THE ARTIST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O artist, range not over-wide
Last Line: And freshness to our fainting minds.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Art & Artists


O ARTIST, range not over-wide:
Lest what thou seek be haply hid
In bramble-blossoms at thy side,
Or shut within the daisy-lid.

God's glory lies not out of reach.
The moss we crush beneath our feet,
The pebbles on the wet sea-beach,
Have solemn meanings strange and sweet.

The peasant at his cottage door
May teach thee more than Plato knew:
See that thou scorn him not: adore
God in him, and thy nature too.

Know well thy friends. The woodbine's breath,
The woolly tendril on the vine,
Are more to thee than Cato's death,
Or Cicero's words to Catiline.

The wild rose is thy next in blood:
Share Nature with her, and thy heart.
The kingcups are thy sisterhood:
Consult them duly on thine art.

Nor cross the sea for gems. Nor seek:
Be sought. Fear not to dwell alone.
Possess thyself. Be proudly meek.
See thou be worthy to be known.

The Genius on thy daily ways
Shall meet, and take thee by the hand:
But serve him not as who obeys:
He is thy slave if thou command:

And blossoms on the black berry-stalks
He shall enchant as thou dost pass,
Till they drop gold upon thy walks,
And diamonds in the dewy grass.

Such largess of the liberal bowers
From left to right is grandly flung,
What time their subject blooms and flowers
King-Poets walk in state among.

Be quiet. Take things as they come;
Each hour will draw out some surprise.
With blessing let the days go home:
Thou shalt have thanks from evening skies.

Lean not on one mind constantly:
Lest, where one stood before, two fall.
Something God hath to say to thee
Worth hearing from the lips of all.

All things are thine estate: yet must
Thou first display the title-deeds,
And sue the world. Be strong: and trust
High instincts more than all the creeds.

The world of Thought is packed so tight,
If thou stand up another tumbles:
Heed it not, though thou have to fight
With giants; whoso follows stumbles.

Assert thyself: and by and by
The world will come and lean on thee.
But seek not praise of men: thereby
Shall false shows cheat thee. Boldly be.

Each man was worthy at the first:
God spake to us ere we were born:
But we forget. The land is curst:
We plant the brier, reap the thorn.

Remember, every man He made
Is different: has some deed to do,
Some work to work. Be undismayed,
Though thine be humble: do it too.

Not all the wisdom of the schools
Is wise for thee. Hast thou to speak?
No man hath spoken for thee. Rules
Are well: but never fear to break

The scaffolding of other souls:
It was not meant for thee to mount;
Though it may serve thee. Separate wholes
Make up the sum of God's account.

Earth's number-scale is near us set;
The total God alone can see;
But each some fraction: shall I fret
If you see Four where I saw Three?

A unit's loss the sum would mar;
Therefore if I have One or Two,
I am as rich as others are,
And help the whole as well as you.

This wild white rosebud in my hand
Hath meanings meant for me alone,
Which no one else can understand:
To you it breathes with altered tone:

How shall I class its properties
For you? or its wise whisperings
Interpret? Other ears and eyes
It teaches many other things.

We number daisies, fringe and star:
We count the cinqfoils and the poppies:
We know not what they mean. We are
Degenerate copyists of copies.

We go to Nature, not as lords,
But servants: and she treats us thus:
Speaks to us with indifferent words,
And from a distance looks at us.

Let us go boldly, as we ought,
And say to her, "We are a part
Of that supreme original Thought
Which did conceive thee what thou art:

"We will not have this lofty look:
Thou shalt fall down, and recognize
Thy kings: we will write in thy book,
Command thee with our eyes."

She hath usurpt us. She should be
Our model; but we have become
Her miniature-painters. So when we
Entreat her softly she is dumb.

Nor serve the subject overmuch:
Nor rhythm and rhyme, nor color and form.
Know Truth hath all great graces, such
As shall with these thy work inform.

We ransack History's tattered page:
We prate of epoch and costume:
Call this, and that, the Classic Age:
Choose tunic now, helmand plume:

But while we halt in weak debate
'Twixt that and this appropriate theme,
The offended wild-flowers stare and wait,
The bird hoots at us from the stream.

Next, as to laws. What's beautiful
We recognize in form and face:
And judge it thus, and thus, by rule,
As perfect law brings perfect grace:

If through the effect we drag the cause,
Dissect, divide, anatomize,
Results are lost in loathsome laws,
And all the ancient beauty dies:

Till we, instead of bloom and light,
See only sinews, nerves, and veins:
Nor will the effect and cause unite,
For one is lost if one remains:

But from some higher point behold
This dense, perplexing complication;
And laws involved in laws unfold.
And orb into thy contemplation.

God, when he made the seed, conceived
The flower; and all the work of sun
And rain, before the stem was leaved,
In that prenatal thought was done;

The girl who twines in her soft hair
The orange-flower, with love's devotion,
By the mere act of being fair
Sets countless laws of life in motion;

So thou, by one thought thoroughly great,
Shalt, without heed thereto, fulfil
All laws of art. Create! create!
Dissection leaves the dead dead still.

All Sciences are branches, each,
Of that first science, -- Wisdom. Seize
The true point whence, if thou shouldst reach
Thine arm out, thou may'st grasp all these,

And close all knowledge in thy palm.
As History proves Philosophy:
Philosophy, with warnings calm,
Prophet-like, guiding History.

Burn catalogues. Write thine own books.
What need to pore o'er Greece and Rome?
When whoso through his own life looks
Shall find that he is fully come,

Through Greece and Rome, and Middle-Age:
Hath been by turns, ere yet full-grown,
Soldier, and Senator, and Sage,
And worn the tunic and the gown.

Cut the world thoroughly to the heart.
The sweet and bitter kernel crack.
Have no half-dealings with thine art.
All heaven is waiting: turn not back.

If all the world for thee and me
One solitary shape possessed,
What shall I say? a single tree --
Whereby to type and hint the rest,

And I could imitate the bark
And foliage, both in form and hue,
Or silvery-gray, or brown and dark,
Or rough with moss, or wet with dew,

But thou, with one form in thine eye,
Couldst penetrate all forms: possess
The soul of form: and multiply
A million like it, more or less, --

Which were the Artist of us twain?
The moral's clear to understand.
Where'er we walk, by hill or plain,
Is there no mystery on the land?

The osiered, oozy water, ruffled
By fluttering swifts that dip and wink:
Deep cattle in the cowslips muffled,
Or lazy-eyed upon the brink:

Or, when -- a scroll of stars -- the night
(By God withdrawn) is rolled away,
The silent sun, on some cold height,
Breaking the great seal of the day:

Are these not words more rich than ours?
O seize their import if you can!
Our souls are parched like withering flowers,
Our knowledge ends where it began.

While yet about us fall God's dews,
And whisper secrets o'er the earth
Worth all the weary years we lose
In learning legends of our birth,

Arise, O Artist! and restore
Their music to the moaning winds,
Love's broken pearls to life's bare shore,
And freshness to our fainting minds.





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