Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CURIOSITY, by CHARLES SPRAGUE



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CURIOSITY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It came from heaven -- its power archangels knew
Last Line: O be his ripest years his happiest and his best!
Subject(s): Curiosities & Wonders


IT came from Heaven — its power archangels knew,
When this fair globe first rounded to their view;
When the young sun revealed each glorious scene
Where oceans gathered and where lands grew green;
When earth's dead dust in joyful myriads swarmed,
And the first man with God's own breath was warmed:
It reigned in Eden — when that man first woke,
Its kindling influence from his eye-balls spoke;
No roving childhood, no exploring youth,
Lured him along, till wonder chilled to truth;
Full-formed at once, his subject world he trod,
And gazed upon the labors of his God;
On all, by turns, his chartered glance was cast,
While each pleased best as each appeared the last;
But when She came, in nature's blameless pride,
Bone of his bone, his heaven-anointed bride,
All meaner objects faded from his sight,
And sense turned giddy with the new delight;
Those charmed his eye, but this entranced his soul,
Another self, queen-wonder of the whole!
Rapt at the view, in ecstacy he stood,
And, like his Maker, saw that all was good.

It reigned in Eden — in that heavy hour
When the arch-tempter sought our mother's bower,
Its thrilling charm her yielding heart assailed,
And even o'er dread Jehovah's word prevailed.
There the fair tree in fatal beauty grew,
And hung its mystic apples to her view;
"Eat," breathed the fiend, beneath his serpent guise;
"Ye shall know all things, gather, and be wise!"
Sweet on her ear the wily falsehood stole,
And roused the ruling passion of her soul.
"Ye shall become like God," — transcendent fate!
That God's command forgot, she plucked and ate;
Ate, and her partner wooed to share the crime,
Whose doom, the legend saith, must live through time.
For this they shrank before the Avenger's face,
For this He drove them from the sacred place;
For this came down the universal lot,
To weep, to wander, die, and be forgot.

It came from Heaven — it reigned in Eden's shades —
It roves on earth — and every walk invades:
Childhood and age alike its influence own,
It haunts the beggar's nook, the monarch's throne;
Hangs o'er the cradle, leans above the bier,
Gazed on old Babel's tower — and lingers here.

To all that's lofty, all that's low, it turns,
With terror curdles and with rapture burns;
Now feels a seraph's throb, now, less than man's,
A reptile tortures and a planet scans;
Now idly joins in life's poor, passing jars,
Now shakes creation off, and soars beyond the stars.

'T is CURIOSITY — who hath not felt
Its spirit, and before its altar knelt?
In the pleased infant see its power expand,
When first the coral fills his little hand;
Throned in his mother's lap, it dries each tear,
As the quaint ballad falls upon his ear;
Next it assails him in his top's strange hum,
Breathes in his whistle, echoes in his drum;
Each gilded toy, that doting love bestows,
He longs to break and every spring expose.
Placed by your hearth, with what delight he pores
O'er the bright pages of his pictured stores!
How oft he steals upon your graver task,
Of this to tell you and of that to ask!
And, when the waning hour to-bedward bids,
Though gentle sleep sit waiting on his lids,
How winningly he pleads to gain you o'er,
That he may read one little storv more.

Nor yet alone to toys and tales confined,
It sits, dark brooding, o'er his embryo mind:
Take him between your knees, peruse his face,
While all you know, or think you know, you trace;
Tell him who spoke creation into birth,
Arched the broad heavens, and spread the rolling earth;
Who formed a pathway for the obedient sun,
And bade the seasons in their circles run;
Who filled the air, the forest, and the flood,
And gave man all, for comfort, or for food;
Tell him they sprang at God's creating nod —
He stops you short with, "Father, who made God?"

Thus through life's stages may we mark the power
That masters man in every changing hour.
It tempts him from the blandishments of home,
Mountains to climb and frozen seas to roam;
By air-blown bubbles buoyed, it bids him rise,
And hang, an atom, in the vaulted skies;
Lured by its charm, he sits and learns to trace
The midnight wanderings of the orbs of space;
Boldly he knocks at wisdom's inmost gate,
With nature counsels, and communes with fate;
Below, above, o'er all he dares to rove,
In all finds God, and finds that God all love.

Turn to the world — its curious dwellers view,
Like Paul's Athenians, seeking something new.
Be it a bonfire's or a city's blaze,
The gibbet's victim, or the nation's gaze,
A female atheist, or a learned dog,
Siam's twin boys, or Brighton's mammoth hog,
A murder, or a muster, 't is the same,
Life's follies, glories, griefs, all feed the flame.
Hark, where the martial trumpet fills the air,
How the roused multitude come round to stare;
Sport drops his ball, Toil throws his hammer by,
Thrift breaks a bargain off, to please his eye;
Up fly the windows, — even fair mistress cook,
Though dinner burn, must run to take a look.
In the thronged court the ruling passion read,
Where Story dooms, where Wirt and Webster plead;
Yet kindred minds alone their flights shall trace,
The herd press on to see a cut-throat's face.
Around the gallows' foot behold them draw,
When the lost villain answers to the law;
Soft souls, how anxious on his pangs to gloat,
When the vile cord shall tighten round his throat!
And ah! each hard-bought stand to quit how grieved,
As the sad rumor runs — "The man's reprieved!"
See to the church the pious myriads pour,
Squeeze through the aisles and jostle round the door;
Does Langdon preach? — (I veil his quiet name,
Who serves his God and cannot stoop to fame;) —
No, 't is some reverend mime, the latest rage,
Who thumps the desk, that should have trod the stage;
Cant's veriest ranter crams a house if new,
When Paul himself, oft heard, would hardly fill a pew.

Lo, where the Stage, the poor, degraded Stage,
Holds its warped mirror to a gaping age!
There, where, to raise the drama's moral tone,
Fool Harlequin usurps Apollo's throne;
There, where grown children gather round, to praise
The new-vamped fables of their nursery days:
Where one loose scene shall turn more souls to shame
Than ten of Channing's lectures can reclaim;
There, where in idiot rapture we adore
The herded vagabonds of every shore;
Women unsexed, who, lost to woman's pride,
Feign the sot's stagger and the bully's stride;
Pert lisping girls, who, still in childhood's fetters,
Babble of love, yet barely know their letters;
Neat-jointed mummers, mocking nature's shape,
To prove how nearly man can match an ape;
Vaulters, who, rightly served at home, perchance
Had dangled from the rope on which they dance;
Dwarfs, mimics, jugglers, all that yield content,
Where Sin holds carnival and Wit keeps lent;
There, when in shoals the modest million rush,
One sex to laugh, and one to try to blush,
When mincing Ravenot sports tight pantalettes,
And turns fops' heads while turning pirouettes;
There, at each ribald sally, where we hear
The knowing giggle and the scurrile jeer,
While from the intellectual gallery first
Rolls the base plaudit, loudest at the worst.

Gods! who can grace yon desecrated dome,
When he may turn his Shakspeare o'er at home?
Who there can group the pure ones of his race,
To see and hear what bids him veil his face?
Ask ye who can? why I, and you, and you;
No matter what the nonsense, if 't is new.
To Doctor Logic's wit our sons give ear;
They have no time for Hamlet, or for Lear;
Our daughters turn from gentle Juliet's woe,
To count the twirls of Almaviva's toe.

Not theirs the blame who furnish forth the treat,
But ours, who throng the board and grossly eat:
We laud, indeed, the virtue-kindling Stage,
And prate of Shakspeare and his deathless page;
But go, announce his best; on Cooper call,
Cooper, "the noblest Roman of them all;"
Where are the crowds so wont to choke the door?
'T is an old thing, they've seen it all before.

Pray Heaven, if yet indeed the Stage must stand,
With guiltless mirth it may delight the land;
Far better else each scenic temple fall,
And one approving silence curtain all.
Despots to shame may yield their rising youth,
But freedom dwells with purity and truth;
Then make the effort, ye who rule the Stage, —
With novel decency surprise the age;
Even wit, so long forgot, may play its part,
And nature yet have power to melt the heart;
Perchance the listeners, to their instinct true,
May fancy common sense — as something new.

Turn to the Press — its teeming sheets survey,
Big with the wonders of each passing day;
Births, deaths and weddings, forgeries, fires and wrecks,
Harangues and hail-storms, brawls and broken necks;
Where half-fledged bards on feeble pinions seek
An immortality of near a week;
Where cruel eulogists the dead restore,
In maudlin praise to martyr them once more;
Where ruffian slanderers wreak their coward spite,
And need no venomed dagger while they write:
There, (with a quill, so noisy and so vain,
We almost hear the goose it clothed complain,)
Where each hack scribe, as hate or interest burns,
Toad or toad-eater, stains the page by turns;
Enacts virtú, usurps the critic's chair,
Lauds a mock Guido, or a mouthing player;
Viceroys it o'er the realms of prose and rhyme,
Now puffs pert "Pelham," now "The Course of Time;"
And, though ere Christmas both may be forgot,
Vows this beats Milton, and that Walter Scott:
With Samson's vigor feels his nerves expand,
To overthrow the nobles of the land;
Soils the green garlands that for Otis bloom,
And plants a brier even on Cabot's tomb;
As turn the party coppers, heads or tails,
And now this faction and now that prevails,
Applauds to-day what yesterday he cursed,
Lampoons the wisest and extols the worst;
While hard to tell, so coarse a daub he lays,
Which sullies most, the slander or the praise.

Yet, sweet or bitter, hence what fountains burst,
While still the more we drink the more we thirst:
Trade hardly deems the busy day begun,
Till his keen eye along the page has run;
The blooming daughter throws her needle by,
And reads her schoolmate's marriage with a sigh;
While the grave mother puts her glasses on,
And gives a tear to some old crony gone;
The preacher, too, his Sunday theme lays down,
To know what last new folly fills the town:
Lively or sad, life's meanest, mightiest things,
The fate of fighting cocks, or fighting kings;
Nought comes amiss, we take the nauseous stuff,
Verjuice or oil, a libel or a puff.

'T is this sustains that coarse, licentious tribe
Of tenth-rate type-men, gaping for a bribe;
That reptile race, with all that's good at strife,
Who trail their slime through every walk of life;
Stain the white tablet where a great man's name
Stands proudly chiseled by the hand of fame,
Nor round the sacred fireside fear to crawl,
But drop their venom there, and poison all.

'T is Curiosity — though, in its round,
No one poor dupe the calumny has found,
Still shall it live, and still new slanders breed;
What though we ne'er believe, — we buy and read;
Like Scotland's war-cross, thrown from hand to hand,
To rouse the angry passions of the land,
So the black falsehood flies from ear to ear,
While goodness grieves, but, grieving, still must hear.

All are not such? O no; there are, thank Heaven!
A nobler troop to whom this trust is given;
Who, all unbribed, on freedom's ramparts stand,
Faithful and firm, bright warders of the land.
By them still lifts the Press its arm abroad,
To guide all-curious man along life's road;
To cheer young Genius, Pity's tear to start,
In Truth's bold cause to rouse each fearless heart;
O'er male and female quacks to shake the rod,
And scourge the unsexed thing that scorns her God;
To hunt corruption from his secret den,
And show the monster up, the gaze of wondering men.

How swells my theme! how vain my power I find,
To track the windings of the curious mind!
Let aught be hid, though useless, nothing boots,
Straightway it must be plucked up by the roots.
How oft we lay the volume down to ask
Of him, the victim in the Iron Mask;
The crusted medal rub with painful care,
To spell the legend out — that is not there;
With dubious gaze o'er moss-grown tombstones bend,
To find a name — the herald never penned;
Dig through the lava-deluged city's breast,
Learn all we can, and wisely guess the rest:
Ancient or modern, sacred or profane,
All must be known, and all obscure made plain;
If 't was a pippin tempted Eve to sin,
If glorious Byron drugged his muse with gin;
If Troy e'er stood, if Shakspeare stole a deer,
If Israel's missing tribes found refuge here;
If like a villain Captain Henry lied,
If like a martyr Captain Morgan died.

Its aim oft idle, lovely in its end,
We turn to look, then linger to befriend;
The maid of Egypt thus was led to save
A nation's future leader from the wave:
New things to hear, when erst the Gentiles ran,
Truth closed what Curiosity began.
How many a noble art, now widely known,
Owes its young impulse to this power alone!
Even in its slightest working we may trace
A deed that changed the fortunes of a race;
Bruce, banned and hunted on his native soil,
With curious eye surveyed a spider's toil:
Six times the little climber strove and failed;
Six times the chief before his foes had quailed;
"Once more," he cried, — "in thine my doom I read, —
Once more I dare the fight, if thou succeed;"
'T was done — the insect's fate he made his own,
Once more the battle waged, and gained a throne.

Behold the sick man in his easy-chair;
Barred from the busy crowd and bracing air,
How every passing trifle proves its power
To while away the long, dull, lazy hour!
As down the pane the rival rain-drops chase,
Curious he 'll watch to see which wins the race;
And let two dogs beneath his window fight,
He 'll shut his Bible to enjoy the sight.
So with each new-born nothing rolls the day,
Till some kind neighbor, stumbling in his way,
Draws up his chair, the sufferer to amuse,
And makes him happy while he tells — The News.

The News! our morning, noon, and evening cry;
Day unto day repeats it, till we die.
For this the cit, the critic, and the fop,
Dally the hour away in Tonsor's shop;
For this the gossip takes her daily route,
And wears your threshold and your patience out;
For this we leave the parson in the lurch,
And pause to prattle on the way to church;
Even when some coffined friend we gather round,
We ask, "What news?" then lay him in the ground;
To this the breakfast owes its sweetest zest,
For this the dinner cools, the bed remains unpressed.

What gives each tale of scandal to the street,
The kitchen's wonder and the parlor's treat?
See the pert housemaid to the key-hole fly,
When husband storms, wife frets, or lovers sigh;
See Tom your pockets ransack for each note,
And read your secrets while he cleans your coat;
See, — yes, to listen, see even Madam deign,
When the smug sempstress pours her ready strain.
This wings the lie that malice breeds in fear,
No tongue so vile but finds a kindred ear;
Swift flies each tale of laughter, shame, or folly,
Caught by Paul Pry and carried home to Polly;
On this each foul calumniator leans,
And nods, and hints the villany he means;
Full well he knows what latent wildfire lies
In the close whisper and the dark surmise;
A muffled word, a wordless wink, has woke
A warmer throb than if a Dexter spoke;
And he, o'er Everett's periods who would nod,
To track a secret half the town has trod.

O Thou, from whose rank breath nor sex can save,
Nor sacred virtue, nor the powerless grave,
Felon unwhipped! than whom in yonder cells
Full many a groaning wretch less guilty dwells,
Blush — if of honest blood a drop remains,
To steal its lonely way along thy veins!
Blush — if the bronze, long hardened on thy cheek,
Has left a spot where that poor drop can speak!
Blush to be branded with the Slanderer's name,
And though thou dread'st not sin, at least dread shame!
We hear, indeed, but shudder while we hear
The insidious falsehood and the heartless jeer;
For each dark libel that thou lick'st to shape,
Thou may'st from law, but not from scorn escape;
The pointed finger, cold, averted eye,
Insulted virtue's hiss — thou canst not fly.

The churl, who holds it heresy to think,
Who loves no music but the dollar's clink,
Who laughs to scorn the wisdom of the schools,
And deems the first of poets first of fools,
Who never found what good from science grew,
Save the grand truth, that one and one are two,
And marvels Bowditch o'er a book should pore,
Unless to make those two turn into four;
Who, placed where Catskill's forehead greets the sky,
Grieves that such quarries all unhewn should lie;
Or, gazing where Niagara's torrents thrill,
Exclaims, "A monstrous stream — to turn a mill;"
Who loves to feel the blesséd winds of heaven,
But as his freighted barks are portward driven;
Even he, across whose brain scarce dares to creep
Aught but thrift's parent pair — to get, to keep;
Who never learned life's real bliss to know —
With Curiosity even he can glow.

Go, seek him out on yon dear Gotham's walk,
Where traffic's venturers meet to trade and talk;
Where Mammon's votaries bend, of each degree,
The hard-eyed lender, and the pale lendee;
Where rogues, insolvent, strut in whitewashed pride,
And shove the dupes, who trusted them, aside.
How through the buzzing crowd he threads his way,
To catch the flying rumors of the day;
To learn of changing stocks, of bargains crossed,
Of breaking merchants, and of cargoes lost;
The thousand ills that traffic's walks invade,
And give the heart-ache to the sons of trade.
How cold he hearkens to some bankrupt's woe;
Nods his wise head, and cries — "I told you so;
The thriftless fellow lived beyond his means,
He must buy brants — I make my folks eat beans;"
What cares he for the knave, the knave's sad wife,
The blighted prospects of an anxious life?
The kindly throbs that other men control
Ne'er melt the iron of the miser's soul;
Through life's dark road his sordid way he wends,
An incarnation of fat dividends:
But when to death he sinks, ungrieved, unsung,
Buoyed by the blessing of no mortal tongue;
No worth rewarded and no want redressed,
To scatter fragrance round his place of rest,
What shall that hallowed epitaph supply —
The universal woe when good men die?
Cold Curiosity shall linger there,
To guess the wealth he leaves his tearless heir;
Perchance to wonder what must be his doom,
In the far land that lies beyond the tomb; —
Alas! for him, if, in its awful plan,
Heaven deal with him as he hath dealt with man!

Child of romance, these work-day scenes you spurn,
For loftier things your finer pulses burn;
Through nature's walks your curious way you take,
Gaze on her glowing bow, her glittering flake,
Her spring's first cheerful green, her autumn's last,
Born in the breeze, or dying in the blast;
You climb the mountain's everlasting wall,
You linger where the thunder-waters fall,
You love to wander by old ocean's side,
And hold communion with its sullen tide;
Washed to your foot some fragment of a wreck,
Fancy shall build again the crowded deck
That trod the waves, till mid the tempest's frown
The sepulchre of living men went down.
Yet Fancy, with her milder, tenderer glow,
But dreams what Curiosity would know;
Ye would stand listening, as the booming gun
Proclaimed the work of agony half done;
There would ye drink each drowning seaman's cry,
As wild to Heaven he cast his frantic eye;
Though vain all aid, though Pity's blood ran cold,
The mortal havoc ye would dare behold;
Still Curiosity would wait and weep,
Till all sank down to slumber in the deep.

Nor yet appeased the spirit's restless glow,
Ye would explore the gloomy waste below;
There, where the joyful sunbeams never fell,
Where ocean's unrecorded monsters dwell;
Where sleep earth's precious things, — her rifled gold,
Bones bleached by ages, bodies hardly cold,
Of those who bowed to fate in every form,
By battle-strife, by pirate, or by storm;
The sailor-chief, who freedom's foes defied,
Wrapped in the sacred flag for which he died;
The wretch, thrown over to the midnight foam,
Stabbed in his blesséd dreams of love and home;
The mother, with her fleshless arms still clasped
Round the scared infant that in death she grasped; —
On these, and sights like these, ye long to gaze,
The mournful trophies of uncounted days;
All that the miser deep has brooded o'er,
Since its first billow rolled to find a shore.

Once more the Press — not that which daily flings
Its fleeting ray across life's fleeting things —
See tomes on tomes of fancy and of power,
To cheer man's heaviest, warm his holiest hour.
Now Fiction's groves we tread, where young Romance
Laps the glad senses in her sweetest trance;
Now through earth's cold, unpeopled realms we range,
And mark each rolling century's awful change;
Turn back the tide of ages to its head,
And hoard the wisdom of the honored dead.

'T was heaven to lounge upon a couch, said Gray,
And read new novels through a rainy day:
Add but the Spanish weed, the bard was right;
'T is heaven, the upper heaven of calm delight;
The world forgot, to sit at ease reclined,
While round one's head the smoky perfumes wind,
Firm in one hand the ivory folder grasped,
Scott's uncut latest by the other clasped,
'T is heaven, the glowing, graphic page to turn,
And feel within the ruling passion burn;
Now through the dingles of his own bleak isle,
And now through lands that wear a sunnier smile,
To follow him, that all-creative one,
Who never found a "brother near his throne."

Look now, directed by yon candle's blaze,
Where the false shutter half its trust betrays —
Mark that fair girl, reclining in her bed,
Its curtain round her polished shoulders spread:
Dark midnight reigns, the storm is up in power;
What keeps her waking in that dreary hour?
See where the volume on her pillow lies —
Claims Radcliffe or Chapone those frequent sighs?
'T is some wild legend — now her kind eye fills,
And now cold terror every fibre chills;
Still she reads on — in fiction's labyrinth lost,
Of tyrant fathers, and of true love crossed;
Of clanking fetters, low, mysterious groans,
Blood-crusted daggers, and uncoffined bones,
Pale, gliding ghosts, with fingers dropping gore,
And blue flames dancing round a dungeon door; —
Still she reads on — even though to read she fears,
And in each key-hole moan strange voices hears,
While every shadow that withdraws her look
Glares in her face, the goblin of her book;
Still o'er the leaves her craving eye is cast,
On all she feasts, yet hungers for the last;
Counts what remain, now sighs there are no more,
And now even those half tempted to skip o'er;
At length, the bad all killed, the good all pleased,
Her thirsting Curiosity appeased,
She shuts the dear, dear book, that made her weep,
Puts out her light, and turns away to sleep.

Her bright, her bloody records to unroll,
See History come, and wake the inquiring soul:
How bounds the bosom at each wondrous deed
Of those who founded, and of those who freed!
The good, the valiant of our own loved clime,
Whose names shall brighten through the clouds of time.
How rapt we linger o'er the volumed lore
That tracks the glories of each distant shore!
In all their grandeur and in all their gloom,
The throned, the thralled, rise dimly from the tomb;
Chiefs, sages, bards, the giants of their race,
Earth's monarch men, her greatness and her grace;
Warmed as we read, the penman's page we spurn,
And to each near, each far arena turn;
Here, where the Pilgrim's altar first was built,
Here, where the patriot's life-blood first was spilt;
There, where new empires spread along each spot
Where old ones flourished, but to be forgot,
Or, direr judgment, spared to fill a page,
And with their errors warn an after age.

And where is he, upon that Rock can stand,
Nor with their firmness feel his heart expand,
Who a new empire planted where they trod,
And gave it to their children and their God?
Who yon immortal mountain-shrine hath pressed,
With saintlier relics stored than priest e'er blessed,
But felt each grateful pulse more warmly glow,
In voiceless reverence for the dead below?
Who, too, by Curiosity led on,
To tread the shores of kingdoms come and gone,
Where faith her martyrs to the fagot led,
Where freedom's champions on the scaffold bled,
Where ancient power, though stripped of ancient fame,
Curbed, but not crushed, still lives for guilt and shame,
But prouder, happier, turns on home to gaze,
And thanks his God who gave him better days?

Withdraw yon curtain, look within that room,
Where all is splendor, yet where all is gloom:
Why weeps that mother? why, in pensive mood,
Group noiseless round, that little, lovely brood?
The battledoor is still, laid by each book,
And the harp slumbers in its customed nook.
Who hath done this? what cold, unpitying foe
Hath made this house the dwelling-place of woe?
'T is he, the husband, father, lost in care,
O'er that sweet fellow in his cradle there:
The gallant bark that rides by yonder strand
Bears him to-morrow from his native land.
Why turns he, half unwilling, from his home,
To tempt the ocean, and the earth to roam?
Wealth he can boast a miser's sigh would hush,
And health is laughing in that ruddy blush;
Friends spring to greet him, and he has no foe —
So honored and so blessed, what bids him go? —
His eye must see, his foot each spot must tread,
Where sleeps the dust of earth's recorded dead;
Where rise the monuments of ancient time,
Pillar and pyramid in age sublime;
The Pagan's temple and the Churchman's tower,
War's bloodiest plain and Wisdom's greenest bower;
All that his wonder woke in school-boy themes,
All that his fancy fired in youthful dreams:
Where Socrates once taught he thirsts to stray,
Where Homer poured his everlasting lay;
From Virgil's tomb he longs to pluck one flower,
By Avon's stream to live one moonlight hour;
To pause where England "garners up" her great,
And drop a patriot's tear to Milton's fate;
Fame's living masters, too, he must behold,
Whose deeds shall blazon with the best of old;
Nations compare, their laws and customs scan,
And read, wherever spread, the book of Man;
For these he goes, self-banished from his hearth,
And wrings the hearts of all he loves on earth.

Yet say, shall not new joy those hearts inspire,
When, grouping round the future winter fire,
To hear the wonders of the world they burn,
And lose his absence in his glad return? —
Return? — alas! he shall return no more,
To bless his own sweet home, his own proud shore.
Look once again — cold in his cabin now,
Death's finger-mark is on his pallid brow;
No wife stood by, her patient watch to keep,
To smile on him, then turn away to weep;
Kind woman's place rough mariners supplied,
And shared the wanderer's blessing when he died.
Wrapped in the raiment that it long must wear,
His body to the deck they slowly bear;
Even there the spirit that I sing is true,
The crew look on with sad, but curious view;
The setting sun flings round his farewell rays,
O'er the broad ocean not a ripple plays;
How eloquent, how awful, in its power,
The silent lecture of death's sabbath-hour!
One voice that silence breaks — the prayer is said,
And the last rite man pays to man is paid;
The plashing waters mark his resting-place,
And fold him round in one long, cold embrace;
Bright bubbles for a moment sparkle o'er,
Then break, to be, like him, beheld no more;
Down, countless fathoms down, he sinks to sleep,
With all the nameless shapes that haunt the deep.

"Alps rise on Alps" — in vain my muse essays
To lay the spirit that she dared to raise:
What spreading scenes of rapture and of woe,
With rose and cypress lure me as I go!
In every question and in every glance,
In folly's wonder and in wisdom's trance,
In all of life, nor yet of life alone,
In all beyond, this mighty power we own.
We would unclasp the mystic book of fate,
And trace the paths of all we love and hate;
The father's heart would learn his children's doom,
Even when that heart is crumbling in the tomb;
If they must sink in guilt, or soar to fame,
And leave a hated or a hallowed name;
By hope elated, or depressed by doubt,
Even in the death-pang he would find it out.

What boots it to your dust, your son were born
An empire's idol or a rabble's scorn?
Think ye the franchised spirit shall return,
To share his triumph, his disgrace to mourn?
Ah! Curiosity, by thee inspired,
This truth to know how oft has man inquired!
And is it fancy all? can reason say
Earth's loves must moulder with earth's mouldering clay
That death can chill the father's sacred glow,
And hush the throb that none but mothers know?
Must we believe those tones of dear delight,
The morning welcome and the sweet good-night,
The kind monition and the well-earned praise,
That won and warmed us in our earlier days,
Turned, as they fell, to cold and common air? —
Speak, proud Philosophy, the truth declare.

Yet no! the fond delusion, if no more,
We would not yield for wisdom's cheerless lore;
A tender creed they hold, who dare believe
The dead return, with them to joy or grieve.
How sweet, while lingering slow on shore or hill,
When all the pleasant sounds of earth are still,
When the round moon rolls through the unpillared skies,
And stars look down as they were angels' eyes,
How sweet to deem our lost, adored ones nigh,
And hear their voices in the night wind's sigh!
Full many an idle dream that hope had broke,
And the awed heart to holy goodness woke;
Full many a felon's guilt in thought had died,
Feared he his father's spirit by his side; —
Then let that fear, that hope, control the mind,
Still let us question, still no answer find;
Let Curiosity of Heaven inquire,
Nor earth's cold dogmas quench the ethereal fire.

Nor even to life, nor death, nor time confined —
The dread hereafter fills the exploring mind;
We burst the grave, profane the coffin's lid,
Unwisely ask of all so wisely hid;
Eternity's dark record we would read,
Mysteries unravelled yet by mortal creed;
Of life to come, unending joy and woe,
And all that holy wranglers dream below;
To find their jarring dogmas out we long,
Or which is right, or whether all be wrong;
Things of an hour, we would invade His throne,
And find out Him, the Everlasting One!
Faith we may boast, undarkened by a doubt,
We thirst to find each awful secret out;
Hope may sustain, and innocence impart
Her sweet specific to the fearless heart,
The inquiring spirit will not be controlled,
We would make certain all, and all behold.

Unfathomed well-head of the boundless soul!
Whose living waters lure us as they roll,
From thy pure wave one cheering hope we draw —
Man, man, at least, shall spurn proud nature's law.
All that have breath, but he, lie down content,
Life's purpose served, indeed, when life is spent;
All as in Paradise the same are found;
The beast, whose footstep shakes the solid ground,
The insect living on a summer spire,
The bird, whose pinion courts the sunbeam's fire;
In lair and nest, in way and want, the same
As when their sires sought Adam for a name:
Their be-all and their end-all here below,
They nothing need beyond, nor need to know;
Earth and her hoards their every want supply,
They revel, rest, then fearless, hopeless, die!
But Man, his Maker's likeness, lord of earth,
Who owes to nature little but his birth,
Shakes down her puny chains, her wants, and woes,
One world subdues, and for another glows.
See him, the feeblest, in his cradle laid;
See him, the mightiest, in his mind arrayed!
How wide the gulf he clears, how bold the flight,
That bears him upward to the realms of light!
By restless Curiosity inspired,
Through all his subject world he roves untired;
Looks back and scans the infant days of yore,
On to the time when time shall be no more;
Even in life's parting throb its spirit burns,
And, shut from earth, to heaven more warmly turns.

Shall he alone, of mortal dwellers here,
Thus soar aloft to sink in mid-career?
Less favored than a worm, shall his stern doom
Lock up these seraph longings in the tomb? —
O Thou, whose fingers raised us from the dust,
Till there we sleep again, be this our trust:
This sacred hunger marks the immortal mind,
By Thee 't was given, for Thee, for Heaven, designed;
There the rapt spirit, from earth's grossness freed,
Shall see, and know, and be like Thee indeed.

Here let me pause — no further I rehearse
What claims a loftier soul, a nobler verse;
The mountain's foot I have but loitered round,
Nor dared to scale its highest, holiest ground;
But ventured on the pebbly shore to stray,
While the broad ocean all before me lay; —
How bright the boundless prospect there on high!
How rich the pearls that here all hidden lie!
But not for me — to life's coarse service sold,
Where thought lies barren and nought breeds but gold —
'T is yours, ye favored ones, at whose command,
From the cold world I ventured, here to stand:
Ye who were lapped in Wisdom's murmuring bowers,
Who still to bright improvement yield your hours;
To you the privilege and the power belong,
To give my theme the grace of living song;
Yours be the flapping of the eagle's wing,
To dare the loftiest crag and heavenward spring;
Mine the light task to hop from spray to spray,
Blessed if I charm one summer hour away.

One summer hour — its golden sands have run,
And the poor labor of the bard is done —
Yet, ere I fling aside my humble lyre,
Let one fond wish its trembling strings inspire;
Fancy the task to Feeling shall resign,
And the heart prompt the warm, untutored line.
Peace to this ancient spot! here, as of old,
May learning dwell and all her stores unfold;
Still may her priests around these altars stand,
And train to truth the children of the land;
Bright be their paths within these shades who rest,
These brother-bands — beneath his guidance blessed,
Who, with their fathers, here turned wisdom's page,
Who comes to them the Statesman and the Sage.
Praise be his portion in his labors here,
The praise that cheered a Kirkland's mild career;
The love that finds in every breast a shrine,
When zeal and gentleness with wisdom join.
Here may he sit, while race succeeding race
Go proudly forth his parent care to grace;
In head and heart by him prepared to rise,
To take their stations with the good and wise:
This crowning recompense to him be given,
To see them guard on earth and guide to heaven;
Thus in their talents, in their virtues blessed,
O be his ripest years his happiest and his best!





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