Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO LYCON, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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TO LYCON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: On yon wild waste of ruin thron'd, what form
Last Line: So let me live unknown, so let me die forgot.
Subject(s): Grief; Hope; Pain; Pilgrimages & Pilgrims; Travel; Sorrow; Sadness; Optimism; Suffering; Misery; Journeys; Trips


ON yon wild waste of ruin thron'd, what form
Beats her swoln breast, and tears her unkempt hair?
Why seems the spectre thus to court the storm?
Why glare her full-fix'd eyes in stern despair?
The deep dull groan I hear,
I see her rigid eye refuse the soothing tear.

Ah! fly her dreadful reign,
For desolation rules o'er all the lifeless plain;
For deadliest nightshade forms her secret bower,
For oft the ill-omen'd owl
Yells loud the dreadful howl,
And the night spectres shriek amid the midnight hour.

Pale spectre, Grief! thy dull abodes I know,
I know the horrors of thy barren plain,
I know the dreadful force of woe,
I know the weight of thy soul-binding chain;
But I have fled thy drear domains,
Have broke thy agonizing chains,
Drain'd deep the poison of thy bowl,
Yet wash'd in Science' stream the poison from my soul.

Fair smiles the morn along the azure sky,
Calm and serene the zephyrs whisper by,
And many a flow'ret gems the painted plain;
As down the dale, with perfumes sweet,
The cheerful pilgrim turns his feet,
His thirsty ear imbibes the throstle's strain;
And every bird that loves to sing
The choral song to coming spring,
Tunes the wild lay symphonious through the grove,
Heaven, earth, and nature, all incite to love.

Ah, pilgrim! stay thy heedless feet,
Distrust each soul-subduing sweet,
Dash down alluring pleasure's deadly bowl,
For through thy frame the venom'd juice will creep,
Lull reason's powers to sombrous sleep,
And stain with sable hue the spotless soul;
For soon the valley's charms decay,
In haggard grief's ill-omen'd sway,
And barren rocks shall hide the cheering light of day:
Then reason strives in vain,
Extinguish'd hope's enchanting beam for aye,
And virtue sinks beneath the galling chain,
And sorrow deeply drains her lethal bowl,
And sullen fix'd despair benumbs the nerveless soul.

Yet on the summit of yon craggy steep
Stands Hope, surrounded with a blaze of light
She bids the wretch no more despondent weep,
Or linger in the loathly realms of night;
And Science comes, celestial maid!
As mild as good she comes to aid,
To smooth the rugged steep with magic power,
And fill with many a wile the longly-lingering hour.

Fair smiles the morn, in all the hues of day
Array'd, the wide horizon streams with light;
Anon the dull mists blot the living ray,
And darksome clouds presage the stormy night:
Yet may the sun anew extend his ray,
Anew the heavens may shine in splendour bright;
Anew the sunshine gild the lucid plain,
And nature's frame reviv'd, may thank the genial rain.

And what, my friend, is life?
What but the many-weather'd April day!
Now darkly dimm'd by clouds of strife,
Now glowing in propitious fortune's ray;
Let the reed yielding bend its weakly form,
For, firm in rooted strength, the oak defies the storm.

If thou hast plann'd the morrow's dawn to roam
O'er distant hill or plain,
Wilt thou despond in sadness at thy home,
Whilst heaven drops down the rain?
Or will thy hope expect the coming day,
When bright the sun may shine with unremitted ray?

Wilt thou float careless down the stream of time,
In sadness borne to dull oblivion's shore,
Or shake off grief, and "build the lofty rhyme,"
And live 'till Time himself shall be no more?
If thy light bark have met the storm,
If threatening clouds the sky deform,
Let honest truth be vain; look back on me,
Have I been "sailing on a summer's sea?"
Have only zephyrs fill'd my swelling sails,
As smooth the gentle vessel glides along?
Lycon, I met unscar'd the wintry gales,
And sooth'd the dangers with the song:
So shall the vessel sail sublime,
And reach the port of fame adown the stream of time.

AND does my friend again demand the strain,
Still seek to list the sorrow-soothing lay?
Still would he hear the woe-worn heart complain,
When melancholy loads the lingering day?
Shall partial friendship turn the favouring eye,
No fault behold, but every charm descry;
And shall the thankless bard his honour'd strain deny?

"No single pleasure shall your pen bestow:"
Ah, Lycon! 'tis that thought affords delight;
'Tis that can sooth the wearying weight of woe,
When memory reigns amid the gloom of night:
For fancy loves the distant scene to see,
Far from the gloom of solitude to flee,
And think that absent friends may sometimes think of me.

Oft when my steps have trac'd the secret glade,
What time the pale moon glimmering on the plain
Just mark'd where deeper darkness dyed the shade,
Has contemplation lov'd the night-bird's strain:
Still have I stood, or silent mov'd and slow,
Whilst o'er the copse the thrilling accents flow,
Nor deem'd the pensive bird might pour the notes of woe.

Yet sweet and lovely is the night-bird's lay,
The passing pilgrim loves her notes to hear,
When mirth's rude reign is sunk with parted day,
And silence sleeps upon the vacant ear;
For staid reflection loves the doubtful light,
When sleep and stillness lull the noiseless night,
And breathes the pensive song a soothing sad delight.

Fearful the blast, and loud the torrents roar,
And sharp and piercing drove the pelting rain,
When wildly wandering on the Volga's shore,
The exil'd Ovid pour'd his plaintive strain;
He mourn'd for ever lost the joys of Rome,
He mourn'd his widow'd wife, his distant home,
And all the weight of woe that load the exile's doom.

Oh! could my lays, like Sulmo's minstrel, flow,
Eternity might love her Bion's name;
The muse might give a dignity to woe,
And grief's steep path should prove the path to fame:
But I have pluck'd no bays from Phœbus' bower,
My fading garland, form'd of many a flower,
May haply smile and bloom to last one little hour.

To please that little hour is all I crave,
Lov'd by my friends, I spurn the love of fame;
High let the grass o'erspread my lonely grave,
Let cankering moss obscure the rough-hewn name:
There never may the pensive pilgrim go,
Nor future minstrel drop the tear of woe,
For all would fail to wake the slumbering earth below.

Be mine, whilst journeying life's rough road along,
O'er hill and dale the wandering bard shall go,
To hail the hour of pleasure with the song,
Or soothe with sorrowing strains the hour of woe;
The song each passing moment shall beguile,
Perchance, too, partial friendship deigns to smile,
Let fame reject the lay, I sleep secure the while.

Be mine to taste the humbler joys of life,
Lull'd in oblivion's lap to wear away,
And flee from grandeur's scenes of vice and strife,
And flee from fickle fashion's empty sway:
Be mine, in age's drooping hour, to see
The lisping children climb their grandsire's knee,
And train the future race to live and act like me.

Then, when the inexorable hour shall come
To tell my death, let no deep requiem toll,
No hireling sexton dig the venal tomb,
Nor priest be paid to hymn my parted soul;
But let my children, near their little cot,
Lay my old bones beneath the turfy spot:
So let me live unknown, so let me die forgot.





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