Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SHAKESPEARE ODE, by CHARLES SPRAGUE



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SHAKESPEARE ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: God of the glorious lyre
Last Line: And what her monarch lost her monarch-bard shall save.
Subject(s): Dramatists; Plays & Playwrights; Poetry & Poets; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)


GOD of the glorious Lyre!
Whose notes of old on lofty Pindus rang,
While Jove's exulting choir
Caught the glad echoes and responsive sang —
Come! bless the service and the shrine
We consecrate to thee and thine.

Fierce from the frozen north,
When Havoc led his legions forth,
O'er Learning's sunny groves the dark destroyers spread;
In dust the sacred statue slept,
Fair Science round her altars wept,
And Wisdom cowled his head.

At length, Olympian lord of morn,
The raven veil of night was torn,
When, through golden clouds descending,
Thou didst hold thy radiant flight,
O'er Nature's lovely pageant bending,
Till Avon rolled, all-sparkling, to thy sight!
There, on its bank, beneath the mulberry's shade,
Wrapped in young dreams, a wild-eyed minstrel strayed.
Lighting there, and lingering long,
Thou didst teach the bard his song;
Thy fingers strung his sleeping shell,
And round his brows a garland curled;
On his lips thy spirit fell,
And bade him wake and warm the world!

Then Shakspeare rose!
Across the trembling strings
His daring hand he flings,
And lo! a new creation glows!
There, clustering round, submissive to his will,
Fate's vassal train his high commands fulfil.

Madness, with his frightful scream,
Vengeance, leaning on his lance,
Avarice, with his blade and beam,
Hatred, blasting with a glance,
Remorse that weeps, and Rage that roars,
And Jealousy that dotes, but dooms, and murders, yet adores.

Mirth, his face with sunbeams lit,
Waking laughter's merry swell,
Arm in arm with fresh-eyed Wit,
That waves his tingling lash, while Folly shakes his bell

Despair, that haunts the gurgling stream,
Kissed by the virgin moon's cold beam,
Where some lost maid wild chaplets wreathes,
And, swan-like, there her own dirge breathes,
Then, broken-hearted, sinks to rest,
Beneath the bubbling wave, that shrouds her maniac breast.

Young Love, with eye of tender gloom,
Now drooping o'er the hallowed tomb
Where his plighted victims lie —
Where they met, but met to die;
And now, when crimson buds are sleeping,
Through the dewy arbor peeping,
Where Beauty's child, the frowning world forgot,
To Youth's devoted tale is listening,
Rapture on her dark lash glistening,
While fairies leave their cowslip cells and guard the happy spot.

Thus rise the phantom throng,
Obedient to their Master's song,
And lead in willing chains the wondering soul along.
For other worlds war's Great One sighed in vain —
O'er other worlds see Shakspeare rove and reign!
The rapt magician of his own wild lay,
Earth and her tribes his mystic wand obey.
Old Ocean trembles, Thunder cracks the skies,
Air teems with shapes, and telltale spectres rise;
Night's paltering hags their fearful orgies keep,
And faithless Guilt unseals the lip of Sleep;
Time yields his trophies up, and Death restores
The mouldered victims of his voiceless shores.
The fireside legend and the faded page,
The crime that cursed, the deed that blessed an age,
All, all come forth — the good to charm and cheer,
To scourge bold Vice, and start the generous tear;
With pictured Folly gazing fools to shame,
And guide young Glory's foot along the path of fame.

Lo! hand in hand,
Hell's juggling sisters stand,
To greet their victim from the fight;
Grouped on the blasted heath,
They tempt him to the work of death,
Then melt in air, and mock his wondering sight.
In midnight's hallowed hour
He seeks the fatal tower,
Where the lone raven, perched on high,
Pours to the sullen gale
Her hoarse, prophetic wail,
And croaks the dreadful moment nigh.
See, by the phantom dagger led,
Pale, guilty thing!
Slowly he steals, with silent tread,
And grasps his coward steel to smite his sleeping king!
Hark! 't is the signal bell,
Struck by that bold and unsexed one
Whose milk is gall, whose heart is stone;
His ear hath caught the knell —
'T is done! 't is done!
Behold him from the chamber rushing
Where his dead monarch's blood is gushing!
Look where he trembling stands,
Sad gazing there,
Life's smoking crimson on his hands,
And in his felon heart the worm of wild despair!

Mark the sceptred traitor slumbering!
There flit the slaves of conscience round,
With boding tongue foul murders numbering;
Sleep's leaden portals catch the sound.
In his dream of blood for mercy quaking,
At his own dull scream behold him waking!
Soon that dream to fate shall turn,
For him the living furies burn;
For him the vulture sits on yonder misty peak,
And chides the lagging night, and whets her hungry beak.
Hark! the trumpet's warning breath
Echoes round the vale of death.
Unhorsed, unhelmed, disdaining shield,
The panting tyrant scours the field.
Vengeance! he meets thy dooming blade!
The scourge of earth, the scorn of Heaven,
He falls! unwept and unforgiven,
And all his guilty glories fade.
Like a crushed reptile in the dust he lies,
And Hate's last lightning quivers from his eyes!

Behold yon crownless king —
Yon white-locked, weeping sire —
Where heaven's unpillared chambers ring,
And burst their streams of flood and fire!
He gave them all — the daughters of his love;
That recreant pair! they drive him forth to rove;

In such a night of woe,
The cubless regent of the wood
Forgets to bathe her fangs in blood,
And caverns with her foe!
Yet one was ever kind;
Why lingers she behind?
O pity! — view him by her dead form kneeling,
Even in wild frenzy holy nature feeling.
His aching eye-balls strain
To see those curtained orbs unfold,
That beauteous bosom heave again;
But all is dark and cold.
In agony the father shakes;
Grief's choking note
Swells in his throat,
Each withered heart-string tugs and breaks!
Round her pale neck his dying arms he wreathes,
And on her marble lips his last, his death-kiss breathes.

Down, trembling wing! — shall insect weakness keep
The sun-defying eagle's sweep?
A mortal strike celestial strings,
And feebly echo what a seraph sings?
Who now shall grace the glowing throne,
Where, all unrivalled, all alone,
Bold Shakspeare sat, and looked creation through,
The minstrel monarch of the worlds he drew?

That throne is cold — that lyre in death unstrung
On whose proud note delighted Wonder hung.
Yet old Oblivion, as in wrath he sweeps,
One spot shall spare — the grave where Shakspeare sleeps.
Rulers and ruled in common gloom may lie,
But Nature's laureate bards shall never die.
Art's chiseled boast and Glory's trophied shore
Must live in numbers, or can live no more.
While sculptured Jove some nameless waste may claim,
Still rolls the Olympic car in Pindar's fame;
Troy's doubtful walls in ashes passed away,
Yet frown on Greece in Homer's deathless lay;
Rome, slowly sinking in her crumbling fanes,
Stands all immortal in her Maro's strains;
So, too, yon giant empress of the isles,
On whose broad sway the sun forever smiles,
To Time's unsparing rage one day must bend,
And all her triumphs in her Shakspeare end!

O thou! to whose creative power
We dedicate the festal hour,
While Grace and Goodness round the altar stand,
Learning's anointed train, and Beauty's rose-lipped band —
Realms yet unborn, in accents now unknown,
Thy song shall learn, and bless it for their own.
Deep in the West as Independence roves,
His banners planting round the land he loves,
Where Nature sleeps in Eden's infant grace,
In time's full hour shall spring a glorious race.
Thy name, thy verse, thy language, shall they bear,
And deck for thee the vaulted temple there.
Our Roman-hearted fathers broke
Thy parent empire's galling yoke;
But thou, harmonious master of the mind,
Around their sons a gentler chain shalt bind;
Once more in thee shall Albion's sceptre wave,
And what her Monarch lost her Monarch-Bard shall save.





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