Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PRELUDE TO A MASQUE, by HERBERT TRENCH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

PRELUDE TO A MASQUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Princes, behold a masque, a vizored image
Last Line: Become at length aware of an audience divine? Who knows?
Subject(s): Jonson, Ben (1572-1637); Poetry & Poets

PRINCES, behold a Masque, a vizored Image of things --
A merry shadow of things eternal -- dust of a Rose
Gathered, three centuries gone, for a merry-making of Kings:
Life it hath still and fragrance, infinity and repose.

Swift as the flame of a Cloud, a summer Cloud high-hung,
Mock you not our poor Masque for the transiency of its sweetness.
Our time's a time for Symbols -- who can with fullness of tongue
Utter this widening World to-day with old completeness?

Not as a Play that is played out orderly, clear to the end,
Rounded from simple beginnings, unveils the Show universal.
All's but a dim-lit Fragment, a fragment with much to amend,
Much to rehearse and excuse. The whole crude World's Rehearsal!

And so some Dance like a wind, some snatch of a Song or a Stave
Is our time's best incarnation -- all we can humbly demand
Who feel a power through the ages thrilling, Wave upon Wave
Each Wave by a greater that follows compelled to expand, expand!

For lo! by the lyric touch of some God behind the scenes
Are the walls of this Players' house, like a rude shell, sounded!
And the tears that surge in you are the tears of ancient Queens
And by the soul in your eyes shall the Future be founded!

I see the Earth, outscrolled like a glittering Map, lie here,
Her Indian snows and seas, her minarets, palms and isles,
And Time, from his last generation, his topmost encircling Tier
Looks down on the glittering Map, and salutes . . . and smiles.

The Playhouse itself enlarges, seems to transcend, surpass,
Melt into the scene of the World. And shall there be the ultimate close?
Or wave-like shall Man, enkindled, and mirrored from glass unto glass
Become at length aware of an audience DIVINE? Who knows?

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