1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Fergusson

John Malcolm, "Ferguson's last lucid Interval" Edinburgh Magazine NS 11 (December 1822) 712-13.



What beauteous form is floating there,
Half veil'd in her dishevell'd hair—
In tearless woe — without the streak
Of life-bloom on her lovely cheek—
With face as cold, and fix'd, and wan,
As if, by sorrow, smote to stone?
It is my love! — But hark! — that sound
Which breaks the hush of night profound,
The vision from my sight doth scare,
And wakes me from my dream — but where?
Oh Heav'ns! within the fearful domes,
Where raging Madness howls and foams!

How drear, within such dungeon wall,
Comes on my lucid interval!
In pale review, my parted years
Arise with all their clouds and tears.
The cup of joy I madly quaff'd,
Exhausting the delusive draught;
But, mingled in the fatal howl,
I found that poison of the soul,
Beneath whose withering action dies
The heart's best, noblest energies;
Which sears it till the blacken'd core
Is Feeling's glowing shrine no more!

Then gloomy thoughts rose up between
My spirit and this earthly scene,
And wide and wild they compass'd me—
A dim, immeasurable sea,
O'er whose all-restless, troubled tide,
Did Melancholy's phantoms glide.
In festal hall — amidst the fair—
I dwelt — I liv'd — I breath'd but there;
Lone as a rock amidst the seas—
Lone as the desart's deadly breeze—
Or as a solitary tree
Upon its blank immensity—
Or evening's star, when first it sparkles,
In the dome that round it darkles—
Or as the Hebrew, doom'd to stray
O'er earth until the Judgment day!

Then did my soul begin to see
The face of dire Insanity!
The fiend impatient seem'd to wait,
And knock upon the Spirit's gate,
And in the brain's dark portals gleam,
Till Reason sank into a dream;
But oft, o'er my forsaken soul,
In glimpses heavenly visions stole,
Bright as the midnight meteor flies
Along the scowl of wintry skies.

At times, from sight all nature sank;
Around me lay a boundless blank,
For light, and shade, and shape were gone,
And nought was left to look upon—
Not ev'n a visionary shore,
Whose mists the eye might wander o'er:
No flitting shadow came, to cast
Ev'n darkness o'er the void so vast,
Where I to dwell long days was doom'd
In bleakest solitude entomb'd!

But life's last sands are nearly run—
Delusion's gone — and truth begun—
Though all too late; the light but dawns
To show the grave e'en now that yawns!
Alone — unseen by human eye,
Comes on life's latest agony.
From this cold cell, at dead of night,
My soul must take her lonely flight!
The last sad sounds that reach my ear
The maniac's scream — or laugh more drear;
While darkness round my spirit rolls,
That soars into the Land of Souls—
And morning's glad and glorious ray
Above my stiffen'd corse shall play!