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and it was not until 1850 that the poet made the world a sharer in these imaginings, composed at various intervals, and expressive of a profound and thoughtful sorrow, modified by seasons and by time. The volume must be a sealed book to all who allow themselves to think of
poetry as words to be lightly or indolently read, or as a mere effusion of effeminate sentimentalism : it demands not only study, but reflection on the reader's own inmost being. To such, and to repeated reading, the wisdom and beauty of the work disclose themselves; and in this lies one of the proofs of genius in it, for the poet is treating none of the merely superficial sentiments, but the more profound emotions and the most mysterious meditations, with which the soul of man strives to preserve communion with those who have passed behind the veil that hides the dead from the living. It is an effort made in no vain curiosity; there is no irrational and immoral dallying with grief, po wandering away from the light of divine truth, in chase of the false fires of human speculations. The poet clings to the memory of his dead friend, with a highsouled loyalty, holding it as an ever-present possession of good :
« This truth came borne with bier and pall,
I felt it when I sorrowed most,
It is grief cherished, not for grief's sake—that were unmanly, irrational, weak, and wicked—but for its highest moral uses, a spiritual companionship that lifts him who is true to it above all ignoble thoughts and passions, and makes him truer to himself and to his God, by deepening and expanding his sense of immortal life. Here is a ministry of good for every human being who knows a single grave that holds the earthly part of one that ever was dear to his eyes; and thus poet expounds the chastening power
With what divine affections bold,
Should be the man whose thought would hold
In vain shalt thou, or any, call
The spirits from their golden day,
Except, like them, thou too canst say,
They haunt the silence of the breast,
Imaginations calm and fair,
The memory, like a cloudless air,
But when the heart is full of din,
And doubt beside the portal waits,
They can but listen at the gates,
It was said by Jeremy Taylor of one of the early Fathers, that there were some passages in his writings which a lamb might ford, and others which an elephant could not swim. In this volume of poems there are pieces which are the lucid expression of thought or feeling, common to many a mind, but uncommon in the exquisite utterance : there are other passages dim and even dark, for they tell of a great poetic imagination looking into very deep places. Nowhere is this more so, than in that series of stanzas in which he describes the homeward voyage of the ship from the Danube to the Severn freighted with his friend's lifeless remains.
How wonderfully expressive are they of that complex and confused state of thought and feeling toward the dead while they are yet within the reach of a tender care and of a sacred duty! The first of this series speaks of the dead as of the sleeping, and tenderly solicits the quiet guardianship of the ship, and the ocean, sky, and elements :
“Fair ship, that from the Italian shore
Sailest the placid ocean-plains
With my lost Arthur's loved remains,
The voyage brings to the poet's earnest imagination the dread of dismal burial in the sea, what he elsewhere speaks of in allusion to the sailor's funeral in that remarkable line,
“His heavy-shotted hammock shroud
Drops in his vast and wandering grave.” The “vast and wandering grave" seems more fearful than the “narrow house” that moves only with the earth's motion, and is quiet in the churchyard or in the chancel.*
“I hear the noise about thy keel;
I hear the bell struck in the night;
I see the cabin-window bright;
Thou bringest the sailor to his wife,
And travelled men from foreign lands;
And letters unto trembling hands;
* And he who thus wrote, “the friend, the brother of my love,” found his “vast and wandering grave" in the Atlantic. W. B. R.
So bring him: we have idle dreams;
This look of quiet flatters thus
Our home-bred fancies: oh, to us,
To rest beneath the clover sod,
That takes the sunshine and the rains,
Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
Than if with thee the roaring wells
Should gulf him fathom deep in brine;
And hands so often clasped in mine,
Should toss with tangle and with shells." When the ship has given up her trust, the poet's last thought of her follows her with thankfulness and benediction :
“Henceforth, wherever thou mayst roam,
My blessing, like a line of light,
Is on the waters day and night,
So may whatever tempest mars
Mid ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;
And balmy drops in summer dark
So kind an office hath been done,
Such precious relics brought by thee;
The dust of him I shall not see
Till all my widowed race be run." After the unconscious and sacred freight is placed upon the land again—the devouring ocean having done gentle service of restoration—the poet's heart is almost exultant:
6'Tis well, 'tis something, we may stand
Where he in English earth is laid,
And from his ashes may be made The violet of his native land.
'Tis little; but it looks in truth
As if the quiet bones were blest
Among familiar names to rest,
Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
That sleeps, or wears the mask of sleep,
And come, whatever loves to weep,
In this instance, the first period of grief was, by the peculiar circumstances, protracted much beyond the common duration; and thus there was delayed for a while that second period—which lasts through the mourner's lifewhen the separation is consummated by the grave.
The sharp agony or the dull anguish which follows, is coupled perhaps, first, with the memories that are prompted by local association, the familiar places that are darkened by the shadow. These feelings have their record in the volume, but perhaps even more expressively in some stanzas not contained in it, and different in metre, but obviously belonging to the same subject, written perhaps on the heights of the Bristol Channel :
“Break, break, break
On thy cold gray stones, O sea !
The thoughts that arise in me.
Oh well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
And the sound of a voice that is still!