Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WANDERER: PROLOGUE. PART 1, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON

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THE WANDERER: PROLOGUE. PART 1, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sweet are the rosy memories of the lips
Last Line: And white death watching over red-lipped love.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Italy; Travel; Italians; Journeys; Trips

SWEET are the rosy memories of the lips
That first kiss'd ours, albeit they kiss no more:
Sweet is the sight of sunset-sailing ships,
Altho' they leave us on a lonely shore:
Sweet are familiar songs, tho' Music dips
Her hollow shell in Thought's forlornest wells:
And sweet, tho' sad, the sound of midnight bells
When the oped casement with the night-rain drips.

There is a pleasure which is born of pain:
The grave of all things hath its violet.
Else why, thro' days which never come again,
Roams Hope with that strange longing, like Regret?
Why put the posy in the cold dead hand?
Why plant the rose above the lonely grave?
Why bring the corpse across the salt sea-wave?
Why deem the dead more near in native land?

Thy name hath been a silence in my life
So long, it falters upon language now,
O more to me than sister or than wife
Once ... and now -- nothing! It is hard to know
That such things have been, and are not; and yet
Life loiters, keeps a pulse at even measure,
And goes upon its business and its pleasure,
And knows not all the depths of its regret....

Thou art not in thy picture, O my friend!
The years are sad and many since I saw thee,
And seen with me to have survived their end.
Far otherwise than thus did memory draw thee
I ne'er shall know thee other than thou wast.
Yet saved, indeed, the same sad eyes of old,
And that abundant hair's warm silken gold,
Thou art changed, if this be like the look thou hast.

Changed! There the epitaph of all the years
Was sounded! I am changed too. Let it be.
Yet it is sad to know my latest tears
Were faithful to a memory, - not to thee.
Nothing is left us! nothing - save the soul.
Yet even the immortal in us alters too.
Who is it his old sensations can renew?
Slowly the seas are changed. Slow ages roll

The mountains to a level. Nature sleeps,
And dreams her dream, and to new work awakes
After a hundred years are in the deeps.
But Man is changed before a wrinkle breaks
The brow's sereneness, or the curls are gray.
We stand within the flux of sense: the near
And far change place: and we see nothing clear.
That's false to-morrow which was true to-day.

Ah, could the memory cast her spots, as do
The snake's brood theirs in spring! and be once more
Wholly renew'd, to dwell i' the time that 's new,
With no reiterance of those pangs of yore.
Peace, peace! My wild song will go wandering
Too wantonly, down paths a private pain
Hath trodden bare. What was it jarr'd the strain?
Some crush'd illusion, left with crumpled wing

Tangled in Music's web of twined strings --
That started that false note, and crack'd the tune
In its beginning. Ah, forgotten things
Stumble back strangely! and the ghost of June
Stands by December's fire, cold, cold! and puts
The last spark out. -- How could I sing aright
With those old airs haunting me all the night
And those old steps that sound when daylight shuts?

For back she comes, and moves reproachfully,
The mistress of my moods, and looks bereft
(Cruel to the last!) as tho' 'twere I, not she,
That did the wrong, and broke the spell, and left
Memory comfortless. -- Away! away!
Phantoms, about whose brows the bindweed clings,
Hopeless regret! In thinking of these things
Some men have lost their minds, and others may.

Yet, O for one deep draught in this dull hour!
One deep, deep draught of the departed time!
O for one brief strong pulse of ancient power,
To beat and breathe thro' all the valves of rhyme!
Thou, Memory, with thy downward eyes, that art
The cup-bearer of gods, pour deep and long,
Brim all the vacant chalices of song
With health! Droop down thine urn. I hold my heart

One draught of what I shall not taste again
Save when my brain with thy dark wine is brimm'd, --
One draught! and then straight onward, spite of pain,
And spite of all things changed, with gaze undimm'd,
Love's footsteps thro' the waning Past to explore
Undaunted; and to carve in the wan light
Of Hope's last outposts, on Song's utmost height,
The sad resemblance of an hour or more.

Midnight, and love, and youth, and Italy!
Love in the land where love most lovely seems!
Land of my love, tho' I be far from thee,
Lend, for love's sake, the light of thy moonbeams,
The spirit of thy cypress-groves and all
Thy dark-eyed beauty for a little while
To my desire. Yet once more let her smile
Fall o'er me: o'er me let her long hair fall,

The lady of my life, whose lovely eyes
Dreaming, or waking, lure me. I shall know her
By Love's own planet o'er her in the skies,
And Beauty's blossom in the grass below her!
Dreaming, or waking, in her soft, sad gaze
Let my heart bathe, as on that fated night
I saw her, when my life took in the sight
Of her sweet face for all its nights and days.

Her winsome head was bare: and she had twined
Through its rich curls wild red anemones;
One stream of her soft hair strayed unconfined
Down her ripe cheek, and shadowed her deep eyes.
The bunch of sword-grass fell from her loose hand.
Her modest foot beneath its snowy skirt
Peeped, and the golden daisy was not hurt.
Stately, yet slight, she stood, as fairies stand.

Under the blessed darkness unreproved
We were alone, in that best hour of time
Which first reveal'd to us how much we loved,
'Neath the thick starlight. The young night sublime
Hung trembling o'er us. At her feet I knelt,
And gazed up from her feet into her eyes.
Her face was bow'd: we breathed each other's sighs:
We did not speak: not move: we look'd: we felt.

The night said not a word. The breeze was dead.
The leaf lay without whispering on the tree,
As I lay at her feet. Droop'd was her head:
One hand in mine: and one still pensively
Went wandering through my hair. We were together.
How? Where? What matter? Somewhere in a dream,
Drifting, slow drifting down a wizard stream:
Whither? Together: then what matter whither?

It was enough for me to clasp her hand:
To blend with her love-looks my own: no more.
Enough (with thoughts like ships that cannot land,
Blown by faint winds about a magic shore)
To realize, in each mysterious feeling,
The droop of the warm cheek so near my own:
The cool white arm about my shoulder thrown:
Those exquisite fair feet where I was kneeling.

How little know they life's divinest bliss,
That know not to possess and yet refrain!
Let the young Psyche roam, a fleeting kiss:
Grasp it -- a few poor grains of dust remain.
See how those floating flowers, the butterflies,
Hover the garden thro', and take no root!
Desire for ever hath a flying foot:
Free pleasure comes and goes beneath the skies.

Close not thy hand upon the innocent joy
That trusts itself within thy reach. It may,
Or may not, linger. Thou canst but destroy
The winged wanderer. Let it go or stay.
Love thou the rose, yet leave it on its stem.
Think! Midas starved by turning all to gold.
Blessed are those that spare, and that withhold;
Because the whole world shall be trusted them.

The foolish Faun pursues the unwilling Nymph
That culls her flowers beside the precipice
Or dips her shining ankles in the lymph:
But, just when she must perish or be his,
Heaven puts an arm out. She is safe. The shore
Gains some new fountain; or the lilied lawn
A rarer sort of rose: but ah, poor Faun!
To thee she shall be changed for evermore.

Chase not too close the fading rapture. Leave
To Love his long auroras, slowly seen.
Be ready to release as to receive.
Deem those the nearest, soul to soul, between
Whose lips yet lingers reverence on a sigh.
Judge what thy sense can reach not, most thine own,
If once thy soul hath seized it. The unknown
Is life to love, religion, poetry.

The moon had set. There was not any light,
Save of the lonely legion'd watch-stars pale
In outer air, and what by fits made bright
Hot oleanders in a rosy vale
Search'd by the lamping fly, whose little spark
Went in and out, like passion's bashful hope.
Meanwhile the sleepy globe began to slope
A ponderous shoulder sunward thro' the dark.

And the night pass'd in beauty like a dream.
Aloof in those dark heavens paused Destiny,
With her last star descending in the gleam
Of the cold morrow, from the emptied sky.
The hour, the distance from her old self, all
The novelty and loneness of the place
Had left a lovely awe on that fair face,
And all the land grew strange and magical.

As droops some billowy cloud to the crouch'd hill,
Heavy with all heaven's tears, for all earth's care,
She droop'd unto me, without force or will,
And sank upon my bosom, murmuring there
A woman's inarticulate passionate words.
O moment of all moments upon earth!
O life's supreme! How worth, how wildly worth,
Whole worlds of flame, to know this world affords.

What even Eternity can not restore!
When all the ends of life take hands and meet
Round centres of sweet fire. Ah, never more,
Ah never, shall the bitter with the sweet
Be mingled so in the pale after-years!
One hour of life immortal spirits possess.
This drains the world, and leaves but weariness,
And parching passion, and perplexing tears.

Sad is it, that we cannot even keep
That hour to sweeten life's last toil: but Youth
Grasps all, and leaves us: and when we would weep,
We dare not let our tears fall, lest, in truth,
They fall upon our work which must be done.
And so we bind up our torn hearts from breaking:
Our eyes from weeping, and our brows from aching:
And follow the long pathway all alone.

O moment of sweet peril, perilous sweet!
When woman joins herself to man; and man
Assumes the full-lived woman, to complete
The end of life, since human life began!
When in the perfect bliss of union,
Body and soul triumphal rapture claim,
When there's a spirit in blood, in spirit a flame,
And earth's lone hemispheres glow, fused in one!

Rare moment of rare peril! . . . The bard's song,
The mystic's musing fancy. Did there ever
Two perfect souls, in perfect forms, belong
Perfectly to each other? Never, never!
Perilous were such moments, for a touch
Might mar their clear perfection. Exquisite
Even for the peril of their frail delight.
Such things man feigns: such seeks: but finds not such.

No! for 'tis in ourselves our love doth grow:
And, when our love is fully risen within us,
Round the first object doth it overflow,
Which, be fair or foul, is sure to win us
Out of ourselves. We clothe with our own nature
The man or woman its first want doth find.
The leafless prop with our own buds we bind,
And hide in blossoms: fill the empty feature

With our own meanings: even prize defects
Which keep the mark of our own choice upon
The chosen: bless each fault whose spot protects
Our choice from possible confusion
With the world's other creatures: we believe them
What most we wish, the more we find they are not:
Our choice once made, with our own choice we war not:
We worship them for what ourselves we give them.

Doubt is this otherwise . . . When fate removes
The unworthy one from our reluctant arms,
We die with that lost love to other loves,
And turn to its defects from other charms.
And nobler forms, where moved those forms
With lingering looks: our cold farewells we wave them.
We loved our lost loves for the love we gave them,
And not for anything they gave our love.

Old things return not as they were in Time.
Trust nothing to the recompense of Chance,
Which deals with novel forms. This falling rhyme
Fails from the flowery steeps of old romance,
Down that abyss which Memory droops above,
And, gazing out of hopelessness down there,
I see the shadow creep through Youth's gold hair
And white Death watching over red-lipped Love.

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