An allegory in Spenserian stanzas, printed in a private edition in 1822 and published in 1825. The poem was written circa 1810 as the first part of a three-part allegory in twelve cantos that was to have included, in addition to the "Pilgrimage," a "Poetical Purgatory" and a "Poetical Paradise." John Payne Collier published the poem with a dedicatory poem to Charles Lamb. The poem was not a success, and copies of both printings appear to be scarce.
The Poet's Pilgrimage is in four cantos very loosely modeled on Dante's Inferno. The allegory concerns the poet's vocation; not with aesthetic education, but with shaping a poetic career. With a Holy Pilgrim as his guide, the Poet (named Ignoto) encounters the Palace of Fortune, the Valley of Disappointment, the Vale of Neglect, and the River of Popularity before arriving at last in the Abode of Poverty. While the poem is unfinished, and lacks finish, it does contain passages of effective allegory and some notably fantastic treatments of landscape.
Collier's narrative allegory is one of the very few Spenserian poems on whom the influence of Wordsworth is palpably visible: the diction is kept simple, with few archaisms, and there are unmistakable allusions to Resolution and Independence, Wordsworth's poem on the same subject as The Poet's Pilgrimage. It seems just possible that the Pilgrim, occupying the place of Virgil in Dante's Virgil or Spenser's Palmer, is intended as Wordsworth and that the mountainous scenery is intended for the Lake District. A copy of the 1825 edition of Collier's poem appears in the 1859 sale catalogue of Wordsworth's library; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 9:57.
Morning Chronicle: "The Poet's Pilgrimage is allegorical, and it is written in the Spenserian stanza, yet the author cannot be considered as an imitator of Spenser. Most of the poems which have been avowedly put forth as imitations of Spenser, bear no other resemblance to the great original, than the adoption of his stanza, and a certain infusion of antiquated phraseology, which serves rather to eke out the metre than to convey any just idea of the diction which is supposed to be imitated. In Mr. Collier's poem there is scarcely a single obsolete phrase, no antiquated expletives are resorted to, and even the allegory is of a character as essentially modern as the diction. The Poet's Pilgrimage is not an allegory in the sense of a poetical enigma, where chivalrous adventures are beautifully, but incongruously interwoven with moral and metaphysical abstractions; but is is an allegory of a light and intelligible texture, which serves as a pleasing vehicle for a number of highly-wrought passages of descriptive poetry" (14 March 1825).
New Monthly Magazine: "An allegorical poem, even though not more bulky than the present, is, we fear, not very well calculated to attract attention. Mr. Collier, however, is aware is aware of this fact; for he tells us, 'that his object has never been to become a popular poet.' His style of poetry is certainly not captivating; but, at the same time, it is not deficient either in energy of thought or propriety of diction. He is a pretty close imitator of our earlier poets, especially of Spenser; and his poem, as he informs his friend Mr. C. L. in a dedicatory sonnet, 'Is written on that model, plan, and rule'" NS 15 (May 1825) 220.
Joseph Snow: "Alas for Allegory! Without pretending to fix the precise date of its expulsion, or attempting to settle whether or no it be not yet tolerated in the pages of Spenser, or of its great professor Bunyan, it is quite certain that no modern attempt to illustrate Religion or Morals by personifying qualities and attributes, has been successful. We dare not venture to promise Mr. Collier that he is born to restore an obsolete taste, but we are convinced that they who will peruse his Poem will be amply repaid by the overflowing sweetness of his numbers, instinct with the spirit of the mighty masters, and will feel no slight desire that he who can so purely feel and so elegantly express poetical ideas, should never be destined to feel alone, nor to sing in vain.... We dare not attempt to analyze a Poem which, though sufficiently simple in its construction, would yet compel us to tread the Pilgrimage step by step, until we were left in the 'Poet's purgatory.' It is avowedly written on the model of the 'antique school;' and though the phraseology be occasionally somewhat remoter than the antique, yet is it a very clever performance; and though not immediately popular, nor written 'ad captandum,' we dare predict for it an abiding reputation, when more noisy and more talked-of productions are forgotten. Like the immortal Milton, our poet may not find 'fit hearers' in his own generation; but, if we mistake him not, he is of a temperament that can commit the claims of genius to posterity, in proud anticipation of his reward" Gentleman's Magazine 95 (August 1825) 146-47.
Oriental Herald: "The excellences of which we have been speaking may, perhaps, be owing considerably to Mr. Collier's being possessed of learning; for he is not one of those mere geniuses who build every thing out of their own web, like a spider. He has studied the manners of the great poets of past times, and appears to know in how far a man may hope to be original in the present day. With all this, his language is chaste and beautiful; his similes and his metaphors, if not always new, are made his own by application; and his events possess enough of interest to keep the attention properly awake" 6 (July 1825) 53-54.
In a scene imitated from Wordsworth's Resolution and Independence, Ignoto admires a fine landscape, and imagines dreaming his life away, when he is interrupted by an uncouth figure — the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim inquires why he would spend his time in idleness, a question to which the poet has no answer. A storm blows up, and when it clears the Poet beholds a vast and busy city, where "none in sloth and dreaming idless stand— | Wise, ignorant, old, young, fufil high Heav'n's command" p. 16. The Poet claims that he too has a higher purpose to fulfill, at which the Pilgrim looks upon him sorrowfully, recommending that he avoid poverty and sorrow by pursuing an active vocation. As cautionary examples, the Pilgrim mentions Dante, Ovid, Aeschylus, Milton, and "He who of antique knights the fell debate | Told in his Faerie Queene, starv'd all alone, | While courtly slaves withheld the tribute from a throne!" p. 23. When the Poet is undeterred, the Pilgrim offers to teach him by experience: "And, if thou wilt, with me thou shalt explore | The truth of all those griefs that I have taught before" p. 27.
The text reproduced is taken from the 1825 edition.
IGNOTO on a grassy hill
Meets with a PILGRIM grey,
Who from a poet's meedless life
To ween him doth essay.
High in the east the sun of July shone,
Upland and valley steaming with the heat:
On a hill's grassy side I lay alone,
O'ercanopied by elms, while at my feet
Well'd ever forth a brooklet, noisy, fleet,
That from a fissure in the hill did play,
And joy'd from its dark deep the light to greet;
Dancing and laughing all its merry way,
Like a glad prisoner 'scap'd to freedom and to day.
A little on it reach'd a precipice—
A precipice to it, so small a brook—
O'er which it fell. The flowers made haste to kiss
The leaping waves, and many kisses took,
As if they lov'd upon themselves to look,
And own their shadows in the waters fair:
Then having kiss'd, tears from their bright eyes shook
To see the stream away their beauty bear;
Then kiss'd and kiss'd again to see it still was there.
Often and often have I watch'd this stream,
And thought it never could be watch'd too long;
Often and often in some sweet day-dream
Have thought its murmur its blithe spirit's song:
Then fancied it some torrent, bounding strong,
And I a pigmy that my stand would take,
To mark the cataract that pour'd along
Down the steep precipice, and then did make
A basin for itself — a wide swift-eddying lake.
Beyond this brooklet was the green hill's side,
Broken by shrubs thick cluster'd here and there;
And further still, a glorious prospect wide
Of hill and vale, clad with the browning ear;
Set off by darksome wood and waters clear,
And tufted hedge-rows crossing the green lea:
Onward, more dim through the blue atmosphere,
Were swelling downs of high and low degree,
And the bright view was ended by the endless sea.
Yet was not all in equal brightness clad,
For morning clouds slow floating o'er the sky,
The dazzling sunny ray at times forbad
On some broad districts of the plain to lie:
Yet was it not less beauteous made thereby,
For sun and shade were in fit contrast seen,
And mix'd the whole in one wide harmony:
Here rose a hill that shone in liveliest green,
While moving shades embrown'd the cultured lands between.
And all was full of joy and vigorous life,
For who or what could sorrow at that hour?
A beaming pleasure over all was rife,
Still pouring down from heaven in a shower.
The loftiest forest tree, the lowliest flower
Possess, like man, the sense of happiness:
The "builder oak," huge type of age and power,
Murmurs its pleasure to the breeze; nor less
The daisy's eye pays back her infant thankfulness.
Things merely senseless, or but seeming so,
All in their kind the general joy partake:
The barren rocks return a ruddier glow,
The very stones some sign of gladness make,
And all their cheerful varied colours wake:
The river dances t'ward the sail-speck'd firth,
And sunny smiles play on the dappled lake:
Land, water, sky, all join in common mirth,
And earth is like to heav'n, and heav'n is like to earth!
There is a music far beyond the sound
Of instruments, though touch'd with featliest skill;
Harmony breathing from the heav'n-blest ground,
As wavering vapours from the dewy hill:
It feeds the heart and eyes when all is still;
More felt than seen, and more, I ween, inspires
Than sounds that through the moon's blue beams distil
On the far ear from high monastic quires,
Lighted at midnight's hour with dim religious fires.
Such music knows he who enjoys a heart
Soft to the touch of beauty — most of all
To that which kindly Nature doth impart
To all her works, or be they great or small;
For Nature's works are ever musical:
And while I sat upon the green hill's side,
Watching the little brooklet's flow and fall,
Or looking on the gladsome prospect wide,
To my sight-listening heart that music sweet did glide.
"Would that this prospect I might never quit,"
I cried, "but dream a joyous life away;
Marking the flow'rets bloom, the waters flit,
And trees to burgeon green from day to day,
Until with them I felt myself decay:
For what have I to do with worldling's strife?
Oh! let them fade or flourish as they may,
I have enough where pleasure is so rife:
Here let me spend my days, here let me end my life!"
"And what art thou? and why in idleness
Art thou to live?" a hoarse low voice replied.
Wond'ring I turn'd, and there in russet dress,
I saw an ancient Pilgrim at my side;
His figure gaunt — his shoulders square and wide,
That seem'd unbow'd the weight of years to bear;
And me with piercing steady gaze he eyed
Under his hanging brows, while silver hair
Flow'd largely 'neath his hat, and floated on the air.
There was about his look, although severe,
Something that confidence and love invited;
Not haughty, nor forbidding, nor austere,
Yet most majestical: as grief had blighted
The blossoms of his youth, and thus benighted,
In pilgrim's weed he wander'd far and near.
In his dark eye there dwelt a fire that lighted
His time-worn visage, where deep lines appear
Of thought intense, and furrows plough'd by many a tear.
He seem'd as one that in his youth had past
Through all the life of some imperial court,
And thus his gallant days had run to waste
Mid knightly courtesies and regal sport;
'Till in his full career of joy cut short,
While favour sought him and bright beauty smil'd,
By some calamity that did distort
His after life, though borne with firmness mild;
A gracious temple hurl'd at once to ruin wild.
As some fair tree fast by a broad lake's side
Uplifts to heav'n its high aspiring head,
And throws its grasping arms in vigorous pride
Far o'er the land, into the waters' bed,
Its dripping branches to their shades to wed,
Courting and courted by the breezes bland,
Which the jagg'd lightning strikes; and then instead
Of lightsome leaves, that gladden water, land,
Its scathed trunk and arms a mournful mockery stand.
Yet still it stands erect, though rent and torn,
A monument of majesty and might;
And here and there, to make it less forlorn,
Its riven trunk is not forsaken quite
By lively green; some buds still burgeon bright
Where not deserted by the sap and rind;
To cheer its woe they take a sad delight:
So with this seer, whom age had not inclin'd,
Some trace of former state was left, methought, behind.
Both his broad hands upon his staff did rest,
Polish'd by constant use from year to year;
So tall, it rose full midway up his breast,
Whereon our Saviour's cross did plain appear:
His limbs, as I could judge them through his gear,
Seem'd fair of mould, but journeying o'er the soil
Had squared the joints of graceful turn whilere;
His features nobly form'd, though care and toil
Had made their early bloom an unresisting spoil.
"And what art thou? and why in idleness
Art thou to live?" — I heard without a start
The sounds that came in such still gentleness,
That they sank warmly to my lowest heart,
Nor from my memory will they e'er depart:
The voice was musical, yet low and deep—
So low and deep, it seem'd at first a part
Of the dull murmur wood and waters keep,
When underneath the leaves the amorous zephyrs creep.
Yet being articulate, I turn'd and saw
That Pilgrim grey: the sight might well astound;
Nor could I then my fixed eyes withdraw,
Nor lift me prostrate from the clinging ground.
There seem'd some strange enchantment in the sound
Of his deep voice, that all my senses took:
Still on his rev'rend face my eyes were bound,
And pored upon it as if it were a book,
And he still cast on me a mild upbraiding look.
And though he silent stood, he seem'd to speak
A thousand things my idless to reprove:
At length a brighter flush came o'er his cheek,
And now I saw his lips begin to move.
"Son," said the seer, "and wherefore dost thou love
To linger slothful on this grassy hill?
Will watching earth, or sea, or skies above,
Perform the task that thou hast to fulfil?
Will lying here inert perform of Heav'n the will?"
He paus'd, as though he wish'd from me to draw
Some answer: I still gaz'd upon his face
With love, with reverence and pious awe,
But speak I could not: twice within that space
I strove in vain. Then sterner looks gave place,
And in his eye so bland a smile had birth,
That cloudy fears this sunshine put to chase:
If erst I deem'd him more than mortal worth,
His heav'nly smile confirm'd he could not be mere earth.
"Fear not!" he cried in mellowest tone, akin
To that benignant smile his visage wore,
That would dead silence force amid the din
Of howling fiends, as Dante told of yore;
"Fear not, my son; — arise, and look before!"
I rose and look'd; and now the prospect green
Of hill and vale and wood was known no more;
Black bursting clouds had roll'd themselves between,
Threat'ning to deluge deep that once sun-lighted scene.
The mountain where we stood full high ascended
Above the storm, which spread so wide below
That o'er the angry ocean is extended:
Still upon us the hot sun cast a glow,
That made the darken'd vale still darker show.
I heard the thunder roll beneath our feet,
Then burst in wrath, and murmuring distant low
Retire exhaust. I watch'd in wonder great,
Till now the wind compell'd the unwieldy storm retreat.
And as the clouds grew thinner I could hear
The busy hum of some huge peopled town:
Now through the mist high gilded vanes appear,
And now the domes and spires themselves are shown,
As glittering islands on a sea thick-sown;
And now the tops of temples and of towers
Rise dimly through the air still purer grown;
The palaces of kings and lordly bowers,
Fill'd all with regal state, and pomp of martial powers.
And lower still was many a humbler dwelling
Of active citizens, a smoking throng;
And now I mark'd a noble river swelling;
Rolling majestical its tide along,
Travers'd by many bridges, wide and strong,
Wedding the southern to the northern shore.
Thousands of vessels at their anchors swung,
Which on his breast this lordly river bore
From every distant clime man's voyages explore.
And now the sun in vivid splendour shone
On this proud city — city proud and fair:
The domes and tapering spires, the towers of stone,
All glitter'd in the pure transparent air,
And seem'd to feel a joy in being there.
Was nothing but what was bright in their degrees,
The lowliest dwellings the rich sunshine wear,
Ships spread their dazzling canvas to the breeze,
And sail like lessening stars our on the dark blue seas.
Methought more glorious sight eye ne'er beheld.
The rural scene of water, wood, and plain
I late admir'd, from memory was expell'd,
Or but dim traces now behind remain:
Yet round this city spread a wide champaign
Of richly cultivated dale and hill,
Sprinkled with dwellings fair. The frequent wain,
The browsing herds, the flocks that roam'd at will,
All moving, join'd at once this living scene to fill.
All we survey'd bespoke activity;
Bustle and business reign'd the city through;
The streets were crowded, as I well could see
Even from that height: all men intent pursue
Some several aim. In other parts my view
Was ta'en by pompous shows and triumphs rare;
Levies of horse and foot, as to subdue
A haughty foe; while many a palace fair
Pour'd forth its glittering dwellers in the sunny air.
Silent and lost I gaz'd, but soon I turn'd
Toward the aged Pilgrim: he the while
Some pleasure-busy younkers had discern'd
Joying in meadows green, and with a smile
He watch'd their sport through every antic wile.
Thus paus'd he long, and sympathetic joy
Seem'd of his age and sorrows to beguile:
I would not with a word that calm destroy,
But fix'd my eyes on that which did his thoughts employ.
At length he spoke: "Mark you those infants blithe;
Unthinking sport is both their debt and dower—
Blossoms that dream not of Time's sweeping scythe:
'Tis theirs t' enjoy the sunshine of the hour,
Yet work unconscious by Almighty power
The high decrees: — each has his task assign'd,
And still performs it or in shine or shower,
Here on this sward as much as when confin'd
To low mechanic art, and by the sick air pin'd.
"Then look within this city's lengthen'd wall,
And note each man upon his labours bent;
You see not their designs, yet busy all:
Some lowly aim — some breathe a high intent,
And scorn the works that grov'ling minds invent:
Some toil by intellect and some by hand,
And unto all a differing mean is lent;
But none in sloth and dreaming idless stand—
Wise, ignorant, old, young, fufil high Heav'n's command.
"But thou upon the green hill laid supine,
What is thy task? how dost thou it perform?
All that thou seest should make this lesson thine,
That not in vain created is the worm:
All things devoid of instinct to inform
Have still their uses — things devoid of sense;
The arching rocks give shelter in the storm,
The trees have shade against the heat intense,
And living waters flow their freshness to dispense."
I felt his weighty voice, and fix'd my eyes
Full on his countenance, and there I saw
All that could make me deem him good and wise:
Nothing of dread I knew, though silent awe
Still kept me gazing, nor could I withdraw
My sight, that busy town to look upon;
Yet feeling I had form'd myself a law,
And had a lofty purpose — nobler none—
I thus erect replied, though in submissive tone.
"Father, I cannot read the will of Heaven
As clearly as thou canst, yet still I deem
My blameless purpose need not be forgiven.
'Tis not that I may life away would dream
In uselessness inert — a nobler scheme
I inly frame — a higher aim I take:
And though upon this hill I idle seem,
Yet even here my better powers awake,
To do the work of Heaven that I will ne'er forsake!"
Methought I read compassion in his eye,
And in the smile that he upon me cast
Much more of pity than contempt. Thereby
Abash'd I stood, and fix'd my eyeballs fast
Upon the ground. A thousand feelings past
Across my mind, but this most chilly came—
That he my purpose read from first to last,
And thus would check me for my desperate aim
Directed at the stars — a poet's deathless name!
"I know thy thoughts, young poet, yet forbear,"
He said, "and let me warn thee ere too late.
Chuse not a life of penury and care;
Make not thyself the sport of time and fate.
Thou hold'st thy purpose at too high a rate,
Ev'n though thy genius could command success:
An active life will best become thy state,
A life of industry and usefulness,
And at thy hands will Heaven expect nor more nor less."
"Ah! rev'rend sire," I cried, "full well I know
That in this mortal life a poet's meed
Is often cold neglect and bitter woe,
Contempt, and finger-pointing scorn and need:
Yet all these sufferings should ne'er impede
My progress to that goal far-glittering bright,
Did I but feel that inward strength indeed
To reach it at the last: there with delight
I would lay up my soul above the world's despite.
"He is not worthy of a poet's name
Who cannot scorn and woe and want despise;
Who cannot glory in his after fame,
And that dear hope above all blessings prize!
This is no life where day by day he dies—
This mortal span: he lives in after times,
When fate a bare cold memory denies
To all who once contemn'd his powerful rhimes;
Unless they live for aye, immortal in their crimes!
"And is it come, sweet Poesy, to this,
That in our age, and in this happy land,
Which to its poets owes its chiefest bliss,
Thy usefulness men cannot understand;
Foster'd as thou hast been by Heaven's hand!
The nurse of heroes, the reward of kings!
Art above art — the example and the band
That knits low earthly with celestial things;
From whence all virtue, wisdom, honour, freedom springs?"
While thus I spoke this wild apostrophy
With earnest tone and gesture void of art,
And warmth so truly token'd by my eye,
The hoary Pilgrim seem'd to feel a part
Ev'n of the burning love that from my heart
Flow'd in a torrent; for I could behold
A light celestial o'er his visage dart,
That made him seem no longer grey and old,
But features of fresh youth and beauty's beam unfold.
Whether it were my fancy or the truth
I could not tell; he then look'd most divine:
If thus he could assume and doff his youth,
It was strange proof of power most subtle fine.—
But as I look'd, his youthful charms decline,
At least in my weak sight; and now again
By slow degrees I mark'd his face resign
Its heavenly lustre, and behind remain
The deep-indented lines of age, of thought and pain.
Yet still his look was cheerful, though not bright;
But as I watch'd, methought I could discern,
Little and little as it lost its light,
The cheeful turn'd to grave, the grave to stern:
The reason for this change I fear'd to learn.
He spoke of idle hopes, of time misspent,
Of fruitless works for the gross world to spurn;
Of young presumptuousness in high intent,
And still to active use his thoughts were ever bent.
"What saith that bard," he cried, "for thou canst tell,
The first great lustre of a dusky age;
Of Purgatory, Paradise, and Hell,
Who wrote in fearful, joyful, hopeless page,
Whiles he an active warfare long did wage
With his friends' foes? — 'Not upon beds of down,
Nor 'neath luxurious canopies to 'suage
The noonday heat, is won that bright renown
That our brief mortal life to endless date should crown.'"
"But not the strife 'twixt Guelf and Ghibbeline,
Nor what he suffer'd by it," I replied,
Have liv'd coeval with that powerful line,
Where 'by his spirit he is deified;'
Spreading his fame through all creation wide.
That shall survive bright Florence and old Rome,
Ravenna's glory, and Venetian pride:
All else he shows in his undying tome,
'Is but as smoke in air, or as the salt sea foam.'"
"Canst thou forget," he answer'd, "how that bard
Was once insulted in Verona's court?
A ribald jester met his lord's regard,
While the great Dante was his scorn and sport;
'For vulgar souls still love the vulgar sort.'
Canst thou forget what Tasso long endured,
The victim of intrigue and base report,
For poesy? — And all along since allured
To yield to that disease that never can be cured?
"I go not to days of Greece and Rome,
I quote not Aeschylus nor Ovid's fate;
Mark but the lot of poets born at home—
Contempt and pity of a world ingrate!
See him who could that lofty theme dilate
Of our first parents' fall, die poor, unknown:
He who of antique knights the fell debate
Told in his Faerie Queene, starv'd all alone,
While courtly slaves withheld the tribute from a throne!"
I answer'd thus: "Such men thou need not name,
Nor what they suffer'd for the Muses' sake:
They died in beggary, but their after fame
An ample glorious recompence will make!
If me thou wouldst deter, such course forsake,
And back recal some miserable wight,
Who his ambition did for power mistake;
And thought, because he long'd to reach the height,
That he had strength of wing for such a perilous flight.
"This chilling anxious thought has oft deterr'd
Efforts the best resolv'd, the noblest plann'd:
Many have heeded not rewards deferr'd
If at the last, when run was all life's sand,
Mankind would place them mid the glorious band
Of poets true. Few mortal pangs are worse,
Than first in hope o'er new-penn'd lines to stand,
While blank distrust creeps slowly in to curse
The self-deluded wretch, and time misspent in verse!
"Yet hope returns, again returns distrust,
Alternate spring and winter of the mind.
At length the sentence on himself, unjust
Th' aspirant deems; — resolves to leave behind
All low pursuits to vulgar souls and blind:
Then humbly turns his grateful thoughts to Heaven,
Content, that though his brows no wreath may bind,
He can procure delights from morn 'till even,
Such as to worldly hearts have never yet been given.
"Delights of poesy, how true, how pure!
What equals the free raptures it bestows?
If poet's pains are exquisite, be sure
Ev'n then a double recompence he knows.
If he succeed in the bright path he chose,
He feels deep gratitude for all his pain,
And back recals with joy his 'labour'd throes.'
Let me be meanest of the Muses' train,
I hope — I ask no more — I would not ask in vain!
"Thus then thou know'st me well! — Succeed or fail,
Here have I fix'd my thoughts, my hope, my heart:
Misfortune, poverty, diseases pale,
May follow me, and haply ne'er depart;
To love the Muse will still relieve the smart;
Or if that were not all I dared to ask,
It forms of poets' bliss one chiefest part:—
In sunshine of high future fame to bask
Is theirs, 'by nature's power drawn to this genial task!'"
With strenuous diffidence against the stream
Of his tongue-music thus I kept my stand;
For sure I knew I had a glorious theme!
I cited ancient bards of English land,
Who bade the sphere of knowledge wide expand,
And gave ensample to our latter day.—
But these are matters now too often scann'd
On them to need that I should here delay,
Or tell how he essay'd my reasons to gainsay.
At length when he well saw, that firmly still
I would persevere in that best pursuit,
And my strong love would urge through good and ill,
Against despite, contempt, and foul repute,
For a short space he gaz'd upon me mute;
Not seeming wrath that his advice had failed,
But with a look of love and grief acute,
That his divine forewarning nought availed
To turn me from that path, which following thousands wailed.
At last he spoke: — "Good son, thy ardent zeal
I well perceive; and since by argument
I cannot now persuade thee to thy weal,
I will essay by sad experiment;
That thou by seeing may at length repent.
Full many a year have I now journey'd o'er
This woful world in lonely dreriment,
And, if thou wilt, with me thou shalt explore
The truth of all those griefs that I have taught before.
"Right well I know the ways of selfish men;
Indeed but few are gifted to admire,
And fewer still will aid the poet's pen,
Though it inscribe in characters of fire:—
I cannot wonder that thou should'st aspire,
Ambitious, inexperienced in their ways:
But disappointment waits on high desire;
Or if thou hast the power high themes to raise,
Thy portion will be still cold pity — colder praise!"
"I fear it not," I hastily exclaim;
I am prepar'd to dare and bear the worst!
Would but endurance make me worthy fame,
There is no ill by which our nature's curst,
But I to court its suffering would be first!
Remember, father, that I bear a breast
In the hard school of disappointment nurst,
And till I reach the goal 'twill never rest:
Till then the worst of fate shall be to me the best!"
"Then follow me, bold youth!" the Pilgrim said:
"Thy speech is confident, but if thy heart
Be not of purest, richest metal made,
Thou may'st remain — 'tis useless to depart.
Trials 'twill have made it deeply smart:
If thou retreat, better thou'dst ne'er been born;
Death cannot aid thee with his mortal dart!
Turn back, and thou from every hope art torn—
Living thou meet'st contempt, and dying endless scorn!"
"Lead on!" I cried. — He took me by the hand,
And we turn'd quickly from the city's sight,
And from the mountain whereon we did stand,
Towards a wood that lay upon our right.
And now the sun declining from his height,
On ocean's breast disspread his golden hair;
While from the east the car of dusky night
Slowly advanc'd o'er every object there,
Mingling in one dark mass all that was once so fair.
Save that the river's course you still could mark,
Reflecting back the lustre of the sky,
Bearing a tide of light into the dark,
Yet still no lighter made the dark thereby.
When from the town we turn'd our parting eye,
The sunshine faintly ting'd each gilded vane;
The rook belated sail'd with far-heard cry
High overhead, crossing the purple plain
Of heaven, whereon still clouds in golden streaks remain.