England's Antiphon

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I struck the board, and cried "No more!--

I will abroad.

What! shall I ever sigh and pine?

My lines and life are free--free as the road,

Loose as the wind, as large as store.

Shall I be still in suit?

Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore What I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine

Before my sighs did dry it! There was corn

Before my tears did drown it!

Is the year only lost to me?

Have I no bays to crown it?

No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?

All wasted?

Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,

And thou hast hands.

Recover all thy sigh-blown age

On double pleasures. Leave thy cold dispute Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,

Thy rope of sands,

Which petty thoughts have made--and made to thee

Good cable, to enforce and draw,

And be thy law,

While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.

Away! Take heed--
I will abroad.

Call in thy death's-head there. Tie up thy fears.

He that forbears
To suit and serve his need, Deserves his load."

But as I raved, and grew more fierce and wild

At every word,
Methought I heard one calling "_Child!_" And I replied, "_My Lord!_"

Coming now to speak of his art, let me say something first about his use of homeliest imagery for highest thought. This, I think, is in itself enough to class him with the highest kind of poets. If my reader will refer to The Elixir, he will see an instance in the third stanza, "You may look at the glass, or at the sky:" "You may regard your action only, or that action as the will of God." Again, let him listen to the pathos and simplicity of this one stanza, from a poem he calls The Flower. He has been in trouble; his times have been evil; he has felt a spiritual old age creeping upon him; but he is once more awake.

And now in age[99] I bud again;
After so many deaths I live and write;

I once more smell the dew and rain,

And relish versing. O my only light,

It cannot be
That I am he

On whom thy tempests fell all night!


Some may dream merrily, but when they wake

They dress themselves and come to thee.

He has an exquisite feeling of lyrical art. Not only does he keep to one idea in it, but he finishes the poem like a cameo. Here is an instance wherein he outdoes the elaboration of a Norman trouvère; for not merely does each line in each stanza end with the same sound as the corresponding line in every other stanza, but it ends with the very same word. I shall hardly care to defend this if my reader chooses to call it a whim; but I do say that a large degree of the peculiar musical effect of the poem--subservient to the thought, keeping it dimly chiming in the head until it breaks out clear and triumphant like a silver bell in the last--is owing to this use of the same column of words at the line-ends of every stanza. Let him who doubts it, read the poem aloud.

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