1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Brownell Jameson

Washington Allston, "To the Author of the Diary of an Ennuyee, one of the truest and most beautiful Books ever written on Italy" Allston, Lectures on Art, and Poems (1850) 377-80.



Sweet, gentle Sibyl! would I had the charm,
E'en while the spell upon my heart is warm,
To waft my spirit to thy far-off dreams,
That, giving form and melody to air,
The long-sealed fountains of my youth might there
Before thee shout, and toss their starry stream,
Flushed with the living light which youth alone
Sheds like the flash from heaven, — that straight is gone!

For thou hast waked as from the sleep of years,—
No, not the memory, with her hopes and fears,—
But e'en the breathing, bounding, present youth;
And thou hast waked him in that vision clime,
Which, having seen, no eye the second time
May ever see in its own glorious truth;
As if it were not, in this world of strife,
Save to the first deep consciousness of life.

And yet, by thy sweet sorcery, is mine
Again the same fresh heart, — e'en fresh as thine,—
As when, entranced, I saw the mountain kings,
The giant Alps, from their dark purple beds
Rise ere the sun, time while their crowned heads
Flashed with his thousand heralds' golden wings;
The while the courtly Borromean Isles
Looked on their mirrored forms with rippling smiles.

E'en in thy freshness do I see thee rise,
Bright, peerless Italy, thy gorgeous skies,
Thy lines of harmony, thy nameless hues,—
As 'twere by passing Angels sportive dropped
From flowers of Paradise, but newly cropped,
Still bathed and glittering with celestial dews!
I see thee, — and again what visions pass,
Called up by thee, as in some magic glass!

Again I feel the Tuscan Zephyrs brush
My youthful brow, and see them laughing rush,
As if their touch another sense had given,
Swift o'er the dodging grass, like living things;
In myriads glancing from their flickering wings
The rose and azure of their native heaven;—
And now they mount, and through the sullen green
Of the dark laurel dart a silvery sheen.

O, now, as once, pure playmates of the soul!
Bear me, as then, where the white billows roll
Of on ethereal ocean, poised above.
How touching thus from that o'erhanging sea
To look upon the world! Now, more to me
Its wrongs and sorrows, nay, a wider love
Grows on my heart, than where its pleasures press,
And throng me round as one whom they would bless.

This is thy voice, kind Nature, in the heart;
Who loves thee truly, loves thee not apart
From his own kind; for in thy humblest work
There lives an echo to some unborn thought,
Akin to man, his Maker, or his lot.
Nay, who has found not in his bosom lurk
Some stranger feeling, far remote from earth,
That still through earthly things awaits a birth?

O, thus to me be thou still ministrant,
Still of the universal Love descant
That all things crave, — thus visible in thee,
The type and register of what man was
Before sin thralled him, substituting laws
That fain from suffering would his spirit free;
Nay, more, be hope, — the soul's sure prophecy
Of lost, regained, primeval harmony.

And now to thee, fair Sibyl, would I turn;
But how to say farewell I may not learn.
We part, — but not forgetting we have met.
May that sweet sadness thou so well dost feign
To thee be ever feigned, — be but the strain
To which the happy soul doth often set
Her happiest moods; for joy and sadness dwell
As neighbours in the heart; — and now farewell!