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To unsettle or perplex it; yet with pain
Acknowledging, and grievous self-reproach,
That, though immovably convinced, we want
Zeal, and the virtue to exist by faith,
As soldiers live by courage; as, by strength
Of heart, the sailor tights with roaring seas.
Alas! the endowment of immortal power
Is matched unequally with custom, time,
And domineering faculties of sense
In all; in most, with superadded foes,
Idle temptations, open vanities,
Ephemeral offspring of the unblushing world,
And, in the private regions of the mind,
Ill-governed passions, ranklings of despite,
Immoderate wishes, pining discontent,
Distress, and care. What then remains ? To seek
Those helps for his occasions ever near
Who lacks not will to use them,
On the first motion of a holy thought;
Vigils of contemplation, praise, and prayer,
A stream, which, from the fountain of the heart
Issuing, however feebly, nowhere flows
Without access of unexpected strength.
But, above all, the victory is most sure
For him, who, seeking faith by virtue, strives
To yield entire submission to the law
Of conscience, - conscience reverenced and obeyed
As God's most intimate presence in the soul,
And his most perfect image in the world.
Endeavor thus to live, these rules regard,
These helps solicit, and a steadfast seat
Shall then be yours among the happy few
Who dwell on earth, yet breathe empyreal air,
Sons of the morning. For your nobler part,
Ere disencumbered of her mortal chains,
Doubt shall be quelled, and trouble chased away,
With only such degree of sadness left
As may support longings of pure desire,
And strengthen love, rejoicing secretly
In the sublime attractions of the grave."
While in this strain the venerable sage
Poured forth his aspirations, and announced
His judgments, near that lonely house we paced
A plot of greensward, seemingly preserved
By Nature's care from wreck of scattered stones,
And from encroachment of encircling hearth :
Small space! but, for reiterated steps,
Smooth and commodious as a stately deck
Which to and fro the mariner is used
To tread for pastime, talking with his mates,
Or haply thinking of far-distant friends,
While the ship glides before a steady breeze.
Stillness prevailed around us; and the voice
That spake was capable to lift the soul
Toward regions yet more tranquil. But methought
That he whose fixed despondency had given
Impulse and motive to that strong discourse
Was less upraised in spirit than abashed;
Shrinking from admonition like a man
Who feels that to exhort is to reproach.
Yet, not to be diverted from his aim,
The sage continued :
“ For that other loss,
The loss of confidence in social man,
By the unexpected transports of our age
Carried so high, that every thought which looked
Beyond the temporal destiny of the kind
To many seemed superfluous,
Could e'er for such exalted confidence
Exist, so none is now for fixed despair.
The two extremes are equally disowned
By reason : if, with sharp recoil, from one
You have been driven far as its opposite,
Between them seek the point whereon to build
Sound expectations. So doth he advise
Who shared at first the illusion, but was soon
Cast from the pedestal of pride by shocks
Which Nature gently gave in woods and fields,
Nor unreproved by Providence, thus speaking
To the inattentive children of the world :-
Vainglorious generation ! what new powers
On you have been conferred, what gifts withheld
From your progenitors have ye received,
Fit recompense of new desert, what claim
Are ye prepared to urge, that my decrees
For you should undergo a sudden change,
And, the weak functions of one busy day
Reclaiming and extirpating, perform
What all the slowly-moving years of time,
With their united force, have left undone ?
By Nature's gradual processes be taught ;
By story be confounded. Ye aspire
Rasbly, to fall once more ; and that false fruit,
Which to your overweening spirits yields
Hope of a flight celestial, will produce
Misery and shame. But Wisdom of her sons
Shall not the less, though late, be justified.'
“ Such timely warning," said the wanderer, “Gave that visionary voice: and at this day, When a Tartarean darkness overspreads The groaning nations; when the impious rule, By will or by established ordinance,
Their own dire agents, and constrain the good
To acts which they abhor, - though I bewail
This triumph, yet the pity of my heart
Prevents me not from owning that the law
By which mankind now suffers is most just.
For by superior energies, more strict
Affiance in each other, faith more firm
In their unhallowed principles, the bad
Have fairly earned a victory o'er the weak,
The vacillating, inconsistent good.
“ Therefore, not unconsoled, I wait in hope
To see the moment when the righteous cause
Shall gain defenders zealous and devout
As they who have opposed her; in which Virtue
Will to her efforts tolerate no bounds
That are not lofty as her rights, aspiring
By impulse of her own ethereal zeal.
That spirit only can redeem mankind;
And when that sacred spirit shall appear,
Then shall our triumph be complete as theirs.
Yet, should this confidence prove vain, the wise
Have still the keeping of their proper peace;
Are guardians of their own tranquillity.
They act or they recede, observe, and feel;
• Knowing the heart of man is set to be
The center of this world, about the which
These revolutions of disturbances
Still roll; where all the aspects of misery
Predominate ; whose strong effects are such
As he must bear, being powerless to redress;
And that, unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!'
“ Happy is he who lives to understand Not human nature only, but explores All natures, to the end that he may find The law that governs each, and where begins The union, the partition where, that makes Kind and degree among all visible beings; The constitutions, powers, and faculties Which they inherit, can not step beyond, And can not fall beneath; that do assign To every class its station and its office, Through all the mighty commonwealth of things, Up from the creeping plant to sovereign man. Such converse, if directed by a meek, Sincere, and humble spirit, teaches love: For knowledge is delight, and such delight Breeds love; yet, suited as it rather is To thought and to the climbing intellect, It teaches less to love than to adore, If that be not indeed the highest love."
THOUGHTS ON REVISITING THE WYE.
Oh, how oft
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight, when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft in spirit have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wyel thou wanderer through the woods, –
How often has my spirit turned to thee !
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when, like a roe,
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever Nature led, - more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For Nature then —
The coarser pleasures of my boyish days
And their glad animal movements all gone by –
To me was all in all. I can not paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion ; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colors and their forms, were then to me
An appetite, – a feeling and a love
That had no need of a remoter charm
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. That time is past;
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn, nor murmur: other gifts
Have followed, — for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on Nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth, — of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half create
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In Nature, and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian, of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
The most learned, and perhaps the most talented, of English female poets. Art, life, politics, and religion are treated by her with great vigor of thought, and simplicity of language.
PRINCIPAL WRITINGS. Casa Guidi Windows," a political poem; “The Seraphim;” “A Drama of Exile;" "The Duchess May;" "Lady Geraldine's Courtship;' " “Bertha in the Lane;” “The Cry of the Children; Cowper's Grave;" “Prometheus Bound," translation from Æschylus; and “Aurora Leigh,” her greatest work.
DEAD!- one of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead ! — both my boys! When you sit at the feast,
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me!
Yet I was a poetess only last year;
And good at my art, for a woman, men said,
But this woman, this, who is agonized here, -
The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
For ever instead.
What art can a woman be good at ? Oh, vain !
What art is she good at but hurting her breast
With the milk-teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain ?
Ah, boys, how you hurt! You were strong as you pressed,
And I proud by that test.