Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HYMN TO THE PENATES, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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HYMN TO THE PENATES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Yet one song more! One high and solemn strain
Last Line: Lives the pure song of liberty and truth.
Subject(s): Comfort; Creative Ability; Mythology - Classical; Story-telling; Teaching & Teachers; Inspiration; Creativity


YET one song more! one high and solemn strain
Ere, Phébus! on thy temple's ruined wall
I hang the silent harp: there may its strings,
When the rude tempest shakes the aged pile,
Make melancholy music. One song more!
Penates! hear me! for to you I hymn
The votive lay. Whether, as sages deem,
Ye dwell in the inmost heaven, the counsellors
Of Jove; or, if, supreme of deities,
All things are yours, and in your holy train
Jove proudly ranks, and Juno, white-armed queen,
And wisest of immortals, the dread maid,
Athenian Pallas. Venerable powers!
Hearken your hymn of praise! Though from your rites
Estranged, and exiled from your altars long,
I have not ceased to love you, household gods!
In many a long and melancholy hour
Of solitude and sorrow, hath my heart
With earnest longings prayed to rest at length
Beside your hallowed hearth...for peace is there!

Yes, I have loved you long. I call on you
Yourselves to witness with what holy joy,
Shunning the polish'd mob of human kind,
I have retired to watch your lonely fires,
And commune with myself. Delightful hours,
That gave mysterious pleasure, made me know
All the recesses of my wayward heart,
Taught me to cherish with devoutest care
Its strange unworldly feelings, taught me too
The best of lessons—to respect myself.
Nor have I ever ceased to reverence you,
Domestic deities! from the first dawn
Of reason, through the adventurous paths of youth,
Even to this better day, when on mine ear
The uproar of contending nations sounds
But like the passing wind, and wakes no pulse
To tumult. When a child—(and still I love
To dwell with fondness on my childish years),
When first a little one, I left my home,

I can remember the first grief I felt,
And the first painful smile that clothed my front
With feelings not its own: sadly at night
I sat me down beside a stranger's hearth;
And when the lingering hour of rest was come,
First wet with tears my pillow. As I grew
In years and knowledge, and the course of time
Developed the young feelings of my heart,
When most I loved in solitude to rove
Amid the woodland gloom; or where the rocks
Darkened old Avon's stream, in the ivied cave
Recluse, to sit and brood the future song,—
Yet not the less, Penates, loved I then
Your altars, not the less at evening hour
Delighted by the well-trimmed fire to sit,
Absorbed in many a dear deceitful dream
Of visionary joys: deceitful dreams—
And yet not vain—for painting purest joys,
They formed to fancy's mould her votary's heart.

By Cherwell's sedgy side, and in the meads
Where Isis in her calm clear stream reflects
The willow's bending boughs, at early dawn,
In the noontide hour, and when the night-mist rose,
I have remembered you: and when the noise
Of lewd intemperance on my lonely ear
Burst with loud tumult, as recluse I sat,
Pondering on loftiest themes of man redeemed
From servitude, and vice, and wretchedness,
I blest you, household gods! because I loved
Your peaceful altars and serener rites.
Nor did I cease to reverence you, when driven
Amid the jarring crowd, an unfit man
To mingle with the world; still, still my heart
Sighed for your sanctuary, and inly pined;
And loathing human converse, I have strayed
Where o'er the sea-beach chilly howled the blast,
And gazed upon the world of waves, and wished
That I were far beyond the Atlantic deep,
In woodland haunts, a sojourner with peace.

Not idly fabled they the bards inspired,
Who peopled earth with deities. They trod
The wood with reverence where the Dryads dwelt;
At day's dim dawn or evening's misty hour
They saw the Oreads on their mountain haunts,
And felt their holy influence; nor impure
Of thought, or ever with polluted hands
Touched they without a prayer the Naiad's spring:
Yet was their influence transient; such brief awe
Inspiring as the thunder's long loud peal
Strikes to the feeble spirit. Household gods,
Not such your empire! in your votaries' breasts
No momentary impulse ye awake;
Nor fleeting, like their local energies,
The deep devotion that your fanes impart.
O ye, whom youth has wildered on your way,
Or vice with fair-masked foulness, or the lure
Of fame, that calls ye to her crowded paths
With folly's rattle, to your household gods
Return; for not in vice's gay abodes,
Not in the unquiet unsafe halls of fame
Doth happiness abide! O ye who weep
Much for the many miseries of mankind,
More for their vices; ye whose honest eyes
Frown on oppression,—ye whose honest hearts
Beat high when freedom sounds her dread alarm;
O ye who quit the path of peaceful life
Crusading for mankind—a spaniel race
That lick the hand that beats them, or tear all
Alike in phrensy—to your household gods
Return, for by their altars virtue dwells,
And happiness with her; for by their fires
Tranquillity, in no unsocial mood,
Sits silent, listening to the pattering shower;
For, so suspicion sleeps not at the gate
Of wisdom, falsehood shall not enter there.

As on the height of some huge eminence,
Reached with long labour, the wayfaring man
Pauses awhile, and gazing o'er the plain,
With many a sore step travelled, turns him then
Serious to contemplate the onward road,
And calls to mind the comforts of his home,
And sighs that he has left them, and resolves
To stray no more: I on my way of life
Muse thus, Penates, and with firmest faith
Devote myself to you. I will not quit,
To mingle with the crowd, your calm abodes,
Where by the evening hearth contentment sits
And hears the cricket chirp; where love delights
To dwell, and on your altars lays his torch
That burns with no extinguishable flame.

Hear me, ye powers benignant! there is one
Must be mine inmate—for I may not choose
But love him. He is one whom many wrongs
Have sickened of the world. There was a time
When he would weep to hear of wickedness,
And wonder at the tale; when for the opprest
He felt a brother's pity, to the oppressor
A good man's honest anger. His quick eye
Betrayed each rising feeling, every thought
Leapt to his tongue. When first among mankind
He mingled, by himself he judged of them,
And loved and trusted them, to wisdom deaf,
And took them to his bosom. Falsehood met
Her unsuspecting victim, fair of front,
And lovely as Apega's sculptured form,
Like that false image, caught his warm embrace
And gored his open breast. The reptile race
Clung round his bosom, and, with viper folds
Encircling, stung the fool who fostered them.
His mother was simplicity, his sire
Benevolence; in earlier days he bore
His father's name; the world who injured him
Call him misanthropy. I may not choose
But love him, household gods! for we were nurst
In the same school.
Penates! some there are
Who say, that not in the inmost heaven ye dwell
Gazing with eye remote on all the ways
Of man, his guardian gods; wiselier they deem
A dearer interest to the human race
Links you, yourselves the spirits of the dead.
No mortal eye may pierce the invisible world,
No light of human reason penetrate
The depth where truth lies hid. Yet to this faith
My heart with instant sympathy assents;
And I would judge all systems and all faiths
By that best touchstone, from whose test deceit
Shrinks like the arch-fiend at Ithuriel's spear,
And sophistry's gay glittering bubble bursts,
As at the spousals of the Nereid's son,
When that false Florimel, by her prototype
Displayed in rivalry, with all her charms
Dissolved away.
Nor can the halls of heaven
Give to the human soul such kindred joy,
As hovering o'er its earthly haunts it feels,
When with the breeze it wantons round the brow
Of one beloved on earth; or when at night
In dreams it comes, and brings with it the days
And joys that are no more. Or when, perchance
With power permitted to alleviate ill
And fit the sufferer for the coming woe,
Some strange presage the Spirit breathes, and fills
The breast with ominous fear, and disciplines
For sorrow, pours into the afflicted heart
The balm of resignation, and inspires
With heavenly hope. Even as a child delights
To visit day by day the favourite plant
His hand has sown, to mark its gradual growth,
And watch all-anxious for the promised flower;
Thus to the blessed spirit, in innocence
And pure affections, like a little child,
Sweet will it be to hover o'er the friends
Beloved; then sweetest, if, as Duty prompts,
With earthly care we in their breasts have sown
The seeds of truth and virtue, holy flowers,
Whose odour reacheth heaven.
When my sick heart
(Sick with hope long delayed, than which no care
Presses the crushed heart heavier;) from itself
Seeks the best comfort, often have I deemed
That thou didst witness every inmost thought,
Seward! my dear dead friend! for not in vain,
O early summoned on thy heavenly course!
Was thy brief sojourn here: me didst thou leave
With strengthened step to follow the right path
Till we shall meet again. Meantime I soothe
The deep regret of nature, with belief,
O Edmund! that thine eye's celestial ken
Pervades me now, marking with no mean joy
The movements of the heart that loved thee well!
Such feelings nature prompts, and hence your rites,
Domestic gods! arose. When for his son
With ceaseless grief Syrophanes bewailed,
Mourning his age left childless, and his wealth
Heapt for an alien, he with fixed eye
Still on the imaged marble of the dead
Dwelt, pampering sorrow. Thither from his wrath,
A safe asylum, fled the offending slave,
And garlanded the statue, and implored
His young lost lord to save: remembrance then
Softened the father, and he loved to see
The votive wreath renewed, and the rich smoke
Curl from the costly censer slow and sweet.
From Egypt soon the sorrow-soothing rites
Divulging spread; before your idol forms
By every hearth the blinded pagan knelt,
Pouring his prayers to these, and offering there
Vain sacrifice or impious, and sometimes
With human blood your sanctuary defiled:
Till the first Brutus, tyrant-conquering chief,
Arose; he first the impious rites put down;
He fitliest, who for freedom lived and died,
The friend of human kind. Then did your feasts
Frequent recur and blameless; and when came
The solemn festival, whose happiest rites
Emblemed equality, the holiest truth!
Crowned with gay garlands were your statues seen,
To you the fragrant censer smoked, to you
The rich libation flowed: vain sacrifice!
For nor the poppy wreath nor fruits nor wine
Ye ask, Penates! nor the altar cleansed
With many a mystic form; ye ask the heart
Made pure, and by domestic peace and love,
Hallowed to you.
Hearken your hymn of praise,
Penates! to your shrines I come for rest,
There only to be found. Often at eve,
Amid my wanderings I have seen far off
The lonely light that spake of comfort there;
It told my heart of many a joy of home,
And my poor heart was sad. When I have gazed
From some high eminence on goodly vales
And cots and villages embowered below,
The thought would rise that all to me was strange
Amid the scene so fair, nor one small spot
Where my tired mind might rest and call it home.
There is a magic in that little word;
It is a mystic circle that surrounds
Comforts and virtues never known beyond
The hallowed limit. Often has my heart
Ached for that quiet haven!—havened now,
I think of those in this world's wilderness
Who wander on and find no home of rest
Till to the grave they go! them poverty,
Hollow-eyed fiend, the child of wealth and power,
Bad offspring of worse parents, aye afflicts,
Cankering with her foul mildews the chilled heart—
Them want with scorpion scourge drives to the den
Of guilt—them slaughter for the price of death
Throws to her raven brood. Oh, not on them,
God of eternal justice! not on them
Let fall thy thunder!
Household deities!
Then only shall be happiness on earth
When man shall feel your sacred power, and love
Your tranquil joys; then shall the city stand
A huge void sepulchre, and rising fair
Amid the ruins of the palace pile
The olive grow; there shall the tree of peace
Strike its roots deep and flourish. This the state
Shall bless the race redeemed of man, when wealth
And power, and all their hideous progeny
Shall sink annihilate, and all mankind
Live in the equal brotherhood of love.
Heart-calming hope, and sure! for hitherward
Tend all the tumults of the troubled world,
Its woes, its wisdom, and its wickedness
Alike: so He hath willed whose will is just.

Meantime, all hoping and expecting all
In patient faith, to you, domestic gods!
I come, studious of other lore than song,
Of my past years the solace and support:
Yet shall my heart remember the past years
With honest pride, trusting that not in vain
Lives the pure song of liberty and truth.





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