Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WANDERER: PROLOGUE. PART 3, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WANDERER: PROLOGUE. PART 3, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Nurse of an ailing world, beloved night!
Last Line: Of suns that set not on eternity!
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Travel; Journeys; Trips

NURSE of an ailing world, beloved Night!
Our days are fretful children, weak to bear
A little pain: they wrangle, wound, and fight
Each other, weep, and sicken, and despair.
Thou, with thy motherly hand that healeth care,
Stillest our little noise: rebukest one,
Soothest another: blamest tasks undone:
Refreshest jaded hope; and teachest prayer.

Thine is the mother's sweet hush-hush, that stills
The flutterings of a plaintive heart to rest.
Thine is the mother's medicining hand that fills
Sleep's opiate: thine the mother's patient breast:
Thine, too, the mother's mute reproachful eyes,
That gently look our angry noise to shame
When all is done: we dare not meet their blame:
They are so silent, and they are so wise.

Thou that from this lone casement, while I write,
Seen in the shadowy upspring, swift dost post
Without a sound the polar star to light,
Not idly did the Chaldee shepherds boast
By thy stern lights man's life aright to read.
All day he hides himself from his own heart,
Swaggers and struts, and plays his foolish part:
Thou only seest him as he is indeed.

For who could feign false worth, or give the nod
Among his fellows, or this dust disown,
With nought between him and those lights of God,
Left awfully alone with the Alone?
Who vaunt high words, whose least heart's beating jars
The hush of sentinel worlds that take mute note
Of all beneath yon judgment plains remote? --
A universal cognizance of stars!

And yet, O gentlest angel of the Lord!
Thou leadest by the hand the artisan
Away from work. Thou bringest, on ship-board,
When gleam the dead-lights, to the lonely man
That turns the wheel, a blessed memory
Of apple-blossoms, and the mountain vales
About his little cottage in Green Wales,
Miles o'er the ridges of the rolling sea.

Thou bearest divine forgiveness amongst men.
Relenting Anger pauses by the bed
Where Sleep looks so like Death. The absent then
Return; and Memory beckons back the dead.
Thou helpest home (thy balmy hand it is!)
The hard-worked husband to the pale-cheeked wife,
And hushest up the poor day's house-hold strife
On marriage pillows, with a good-night kiss.

Thou bringest to the wretched and forlorn
Woman, that down the glimmering by-street hovers,
A dream of better days: the gleam of corn
About her father's field, and her first lover's
Grave, long forgotten in the green churchyard:
Voices, long-stilled, from purer hours, before
The rushlight, Hope, went out; and, through the door
Of the lone garret, when the nights were hard,

Hunger, the wolf, put in his paw, and found her
Sewing the winding-sheet of Youth, alone;
And griped away the last cold comforts round her: --
Her little bed; the mean clothes she had on:
Her mother's picture -- the sole saint she knew:
Till nothing else was left for the last crust
But the poor body, and the heart's young trust
In its own courage: and so these went too.

Home from the heated Ball flusht Beauty stands,
Musing beside her costly couch alone:
But while she loosens, faint, with jewelled hands,
The diamonds from her dark hair, one by one,
Thou whisperest in her empty heart the name
Of one that died heart-broken for her sake
Long since, and all at once the coiled hell-snake
Turns stinging in his egg, -- and pomp is shame.

Thou comest to the man of many pleasures
Without a joy, that, soulless, plays for souls,
Whose life's a squandered heap of plundered treasures,
While, listless loitering by, the moment rolls
From nothing on to nothing. From the shelf
Perchance he takes a cynic book. Perchance
A dead flower stains the leaves. The old romance
Returns. Ere morn, perchance, he shoots himself.

Thou comest, with a touch of scorn, to me,
That o'er the broken wine-cup of my youth
Sit brooding here, and pointest silently
To thine unchanging stars. Yes! yes! in truth,
They seem more reachless now than when of yore
Above the promist land I watcht them shine,
And all among their cryptic serpentine
Went climbing Hope, new planets to explore.

Not for the flesh that fades -- although decay
This thronged metropolis of sense o'erspread:
Not for the joys of youth, that fleet away
When the wise swallows to the south are fled;
Not that, beneath the law which fades the flower,
An earthly hope should wither in the cells
Of this poor earthly house of life, where dwells
Unseen the solitary Thinking-Power;

But that where fades the flower the weed should flourish;
For all the baffled efforts to achieve
The imperishable from the things that perish,
For broken vows, and weakened will, I grieve.
Knowing that night of all is creeping on
Wherein can no man work, I sorrow most
For what is gained, and not for what is lost;
Nor mourn alone what's undone, but what's done.

What light, from yonder windless cloud released,
Is widening up the peaks of you black hills?
It is the full moon in the mystic east,
Whose coming half the unravisht darkness fills
Till all among the ribbed light cloudlets pale,
From shore to shore of sapphrine deeps divine,
The orbed splendor seems to slide and shine
Aslope the rolling vapors in the vale.

Abroad the stars' majestic light is flung,
And they fade brightening up the steps of Night.
Cold mysteries of the midnight! that, among
The sleeps and pauses of this world, in sight,
Reveal a doubtful hope to wild Desire;
Which, hungering for the sources of the suns,
Makes moan beyond the blue Septentrions,
And spidery Saturn in his webs of fire;

Whether the unconscious destinies of man
Move with the motions of your sphered lights,
And his brief course, foredoomed ere he began,
Your shining symbols fixed in reachless heights,
Or whether all the purpose of his pain
Be shut in his wild heart and feverish will,
He knows no more than this: -- that you are still,
But he is moved: he goes, but you remain.

Fooled was the human vanity that wrote
Strange names in astral fire on yonder pole.
Who and what were they -- in what age remote --
That scrawled weak boasts on you sidereal scroll?
Orion shines. Now seek for Nimrod. Where?
Osiris is a fable, and no more:
But Sirius burns as brightly as of yore.
There is no shade on Berenice's hair.

You that outlast the Pyramids, as they
Outlast their founders, tell us of our doom!
You that see Love depart, and Error stray,
And Genius toiling at a splendid tomb,
Like those Egyptian slaves: and Hope deceived:
And Strength still failing when the goal is near:
And Passion parcht: and Rapture claspt to Fear:
And Trust betrayed: and Memory bereaved!

Vain question! Shall some other voice declare
What my soul knows not of herself? Ah no!
Dumb patient Monster, grieving everywhere,
Thou answerest nothing which I did not know.
The broken fragments of ourselves we seek
In alien forms, and leave our lives behind.
In our own memories our graves we find.
And when we lean upon our hearts, they break.

I seem to see 'mid yonder glimmering spheres
Another world: -- not that our prayers record,
Wherein our God shall wipe away all tears,
And never voice of mourning shall be heard;
But one between the sunset and moonrise:
Near night, yet neighboring day: a twilit land,
And peopled by a melancholy band --
The souls that loved and failed -- with hopeless eyes;

More like that Hades of the antique creeds; --
A land of vales forlorn, where Thought shall roam
Regretful, void of wholesome human deeds,
An endless, homeless pining after home,
To which all sights and sounds shall minister
In vain: -- white roses glimmering all alone
In an evening light, and, with his haunting tone,
The advancing twilight's shard-born trumpeter.

A world like this world's worst come back again;
Still groaning 'neath the burthen of a Fall:
Eternal longing with eternal pain,
Want without hope, and memory saddening all.
All congregated failure and despair
Shall wander there, through some old maze of wrong: --
Ophelia drowning in her own deathsong,
And First-Love strangled in his golden hair.

Ah well, for those that overcome, no doubt
The crowns are ready; strength is to the strong.
But we -- but we -- weak hearts that grope about
In darkness, with a lamp that fails along
The lengthening midnight, dying ere we reach
The bridal doors! O, what for us remains,
But mortal effort with immortal pains?
And yet -- God breathed a spirit into each!

I know this miracle of the soul is more
Than all the marvels that it looks upon.
And we are kings whose heritage was before
The spheres, and owes no homage to the sun.
In my own breast a mightier world I bear
Than all those orbs on orbs about me rolled;
Nor are you kinglier, stars, though throned on gold,
And given the empires of the midnightair.

For I, too, am undying as you are.
O teach me calm, and teach me selfcontrol: --
To sphere my spirit like yon fixed star
That moves not ever in the utmost pole,
But whirls, and sleeps, and turns all heaven one way.
So, strong as Atlas, should the spirit stand,
And turn the great globe round in her right hand,
For recreation of her sovereign sway.

Ah yet! -- For all, I shall not use my power,
Nor reign within the light of my own home,
Till speculation fades, and that strange hour
Of the departing of the soul is come;
Till all this wrinkled husk of care falls by,
And my immortal nature stands upright
In her perpetual morning, and the light
Of suns that set not on Eternity!

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