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Oblivion may not cover
All treasures hoarded by the miser, Time.
Orphean Insight! truth's undannted lover,
To the first leagues of tutor'd passion climb,
When Music deign'd within this grosser sphere
Her subtle essence to enfold,
And voice and shell drew forth a tear
Softer than Nature's self could mould.
Yet strenuous was the infant Age: *
Art, daring becanse souls could feel,
Stirr'd nowhere but an urgent equipage
Of rapt imagination sped her march
Through the realms of woe aud weal:
Hell to the lyre bow'd low; the upper arch
Ecjoiced that clamorous spell and magic verse
Her wan disasters could disperse.4
The Gift to king Amphion
That wall'd a city with its melody
Was for belief no dream:6 — thy skill, Aricn!
Could humanise the ereatures of the sea,
Where men were monsters.' A last grace he eraves,
Leave for one chant; — the dulcet sound
Steals from the deck o'er willing waves,
And listening dolphins gather round.
Self-cast, as with a desperate course,
'Mid that strange andience, he bestrides
A proud One docile as a managed horse;
& The ancient myths of Orpheus, Amphion, nnd Arion are here justly regarded as showing that the old Greek sensibility to music was much more lively and responsi ve than that of any modern people. Classical poetry and table were fond of such daring and hyperbolical representations of the power of music, becanse they I'M sure of an answering sympathy in the popular feeling; whereas, to our duller sensi. bilities, those representations lippcar so extravagant as to be quite ludierous. And so Hume, inhisessny Of Eloquence, remarks of ancientorators, that "their eloquence was infinitely more sublime than that which modern orators aspire to;" though he attributes this to higher powers of expression and delivery in the ancient speaker <: and he illustrates by quoting passages from Demosthenes and Cicero which would be scouted by a modern andience as " wholly monstrous and gigantic."
4 "The upper arch "is the heavens or the sky, whose direfullest portents and prodigies were thought to be quelled by lyrical ana musical incantations.
5 The fable of Orpheusi is, I presume, too well known to need any statement of its contents here. It was in his handling that " Hell to the lyre bow'd low," yielding up his beloved Eurydiec to the divine compulsion of his music. — Amphion \vas Kmg of the Grecian Thebes: his harp and voice so affected the stones that they could not choose but march to their places, and so girdled the city with a wall.
(i Arion was a famous Greek bard and player on the harp. The story is, that he went to Sicily to take part in a musical contest; and, having won the prize, w::s going home to Corinth by sea, In.len with presents, when the rude sailors coveted his wealth and were bent on murdering him. After trying in vain to break their purpose, he at last got leave to play once more on the harp: s0, putting on festal a I:iru, and standing in the prow of the ship, he invoked the gods m inspired strains, and then threw himself into the sea. But a Hock of song.loving dolphins had gath. cred round; and now one of them took the bard on its back, and carried him to 1'ienai'us, from whence he returned safe to Corinth.
And singing, while th' accordant hand
The pipe of Pan, to shepherds
Couch'd in the shadow of Masnalian pines,7
Was passing sweet; the eyeballs of the leopards,
That in high triumph drew the Lord of vines,
How did they sparkle to the cymbal's clang!
While Fauns and Satyrs beat the ground
In cadence,8 — and Silenus swang
This way and that, with wild-flowers erown'd.—
To life, to life give back thine ear:
Ye who are longing to be rid
Of fable, though to truth subservient, hear
The little sprinkling of cold earth that fell
Echo'd from the coffin-lid;
The convict's summons in the steeple's knell;
"The vain distress-gun," from a leeward shore,
Repeated, — heard, and heard no more!
For terror, joy, or pity,
Vast is the compass and the swell of notes:
From the babe's iirst ery to voice of regal city,
Rolling a solemn sea-like bass, that floats
Far as the woodlands, — with the trill to blend
Of that shy songstress whose love-tale
Might tempt an angel to descend,
While hovering o'er the moonlit vale.
Ye wandering Utterances, has Earth no scheme,
No scale of moral musie, to unite
Powers that survive but in the faintest dream
Of memory ? — O, that ye might stoop to bear
7 Mitnalian is the same as Arcadian; Mivnalus being the name of the mountain) In Arcadia, which were celebrated as the favourite haunts of the god Pan. Arcadia is the old name of the central portion of Peloponnesus. The Areadians were noted as a simple pastoral people, passionately fond of musie, and devoted to the worship of Pan.
8 Fauns and Satyrs appear to have been much the same, only the former were Roman, the latter Grecian. They were among the minor divinities of the ancienl mythology: in form, half man a'nd half goat, with horns; vastly given to music and wine, and to sensual pleasures of all sorts. Silenus was their chief, and a very funny god withal. He was generally intoxicated, and is describe I as a jovial old mar.. with a bald head, a puck nose, fat and round like his wii c-bag, which ha always carried with him. He was specially given to dancing, a ' " '
the dancer: in othttr respects, his addiction was abont equally divii sleep, and music. Jint his main peculiarity lay in his being an
who knew all the past and the remotest fnture, and also a sage ~. -..
the mils of fortune. When drunk or asleep, he was in the power of mortals, who mpcl him to prophesy and sing by tying him up with chains of flowera.
Chains, such precious chains of sight
By one pervading spirit
Of tones and numbers all things are controll'd, . As sages taught, where faith was found to merit •' Initiation in that mystery old.*
The heavens, whose aspect makes our minds as still
.As they themselves appear to be,
Innumerable voices fill
With everlasting harmony;
The towering headlands, erown'd with mist,
Their feet among the billows, know
That Ocean is a mighty harmonist;
Thy pinions, universal Air,
Ever waving to and fro,
Are delegates of harmony, and bear
Strains that support the Seasons in their round;
Stern Winter loves a dirge-like sound.
Break forth into thanksgiving,
Ye banded instruments of wind and chords;
Unite, to magnify the Ever-living,
Your inarticulate notes with the voice of words!
Nor hush'd be service from the lowing mead,
Nor mnte the forest hum of noon;
Thou too be heard, lone eagle! freed
From snowy peak and clond, attune
Thy hungry barkings to the hymn
Of joy, that from her utmost walls
The six-days' Work, by flaming Seraphim,
Transmits to Heaven! As Deep to Deep
Shonting through one valley calls,
All worlds, all natures, mood and measure keep
For praise and ceaseless gratulation, pour'd
Into the ear of God, their Lord!
9 Allnding to what la called "the music of the spheres,"—an ancient mystery "vhich taught that the heavenly bodies in their revolutions sing together in a concert so lond, various, and sweet, as to exceed all proportion to the human ear. The same thing is apparently referred to in Job, xxxvtii. 7: -'The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shonted for joy." And the greatest souls in every age seem to have been raised above themselves" by the idea that the uniicn-c was knit together by a principle of which musical harmony is the aptest and clearest expression. So the well-knowu passage ia Tne Merchant uf Venire, v. l:
"There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
A Voice to Light gave Being;
To Time, and Man his earth-born chronicler;
A Voice shall finish doubt and dim foreseeing,
And sweep away life's visionary stir:
The trumpet, (we, intoxicate with pride,
Arm at its blast for deadly wars,)
To archangelic lips applied,
The grave shall open, quench the stars.—
0 Silence! are Man's noisy years
No more than moments of thy life ?
Is Harmony, blest queen of smiles and tears,
With her smooth tones and discords just,
Temper'd into rapturous strife,
Thy destined bond-slave ? No! though Earth be dust
And vanish, though the heavens dissolve, her stay
Is in the WORD, that shall not pass away.i [l828
OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OB
The Child is Father of the Man;
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
To me did seem
By night or day,
] This has long seemed to me one of the anthor's greatest poems; hardly inferioi, indeed, to his Ode on Immortality, though less celebrated than that. The clas.-i.
cal allusions, of which there are many, are selected with rare jndgment, and used with consummate art: the scope of the piece is as wide-sweeping and inclupive as
attempered into u multitndinous anthem, now thrilling the heart with the deepest notes of awe, now soothing it with the softest notes ol. joy, nml anon Illvmlin" the two in a strain that leaves no part of our emotional nature untouched. Thus much Is the least I can say of this magniflcont poem. 2 The little poem, We are Seccn, page 133, ought to bo read in connection witk II.
The rainbow comes and goes,
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
As to the tabor's sound,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
Land and sea
this Ode. —In his notes dictated 1843, the author has the following: "This was com. posed during my residence at Towncnd. Urasmere. Two years at least passed between the writing of the ilrst four stanzas and the rcmainfng part. To the attentive and competent reader the whole sufficiently explains itselt; but there may be_no harm in adverting here to particular feelings or expsrienres of my own mind on which the structure of the poem partly rests. Nothing was more difficult for mi: in childhood than to admit the notion 'of death as a state applicable to my own being. I used to brood over the stories of Enoch and Elijah, and almost to persuade myself that, whatever might become of others, I should be translated, in something of the sanic way, to Heaven. With a feeling congenial to this, I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence; and I communed with all that I sawas something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. Many times while going to school have I grasped at a wall or tree, to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the rcalitv. At that time 1 was afraid of such processes. In later periods of life I have deplored, as we all have reason to do, a subjugation of an opposite character. To that dream-like vividness and splendour which invest objects of sight in childhood, every one, I believe, if he would look back, could bear testimony, and 1 need not dwell upon it here; but, having in the poem regarded it as presumptive evidence of a prior state of existence, I think it right to protest aaainst a conclusion, which has given pain to some good and pious persons, that I meant to Inculcate such a belief. l>ut let us bear in mind that, though the idea is not advanced in revelation, there is nothing there to contradict it, and the fall of man presents an analogy in its favour. Accordingly, a pre-existent state has entered into the popular ereeds of many nations; and, among all persons acquainted with classic literature, is known as an ingredient in the 1'latonic. philosophy. Archimedes said that he could move the world, if ho had a point whereon to rest his machine. Who has not felt the same aspirations as regards the world of his own mind? Having to wiold some of its elements when 1 was impelled to write thia poem on the ' Immortality of the Rmil,' I took hold of the notion of pro-existence as having sufficient foundation in humanity for authorizing uie to make for my p irpost the bast use of it I could as a poet"