Imatges de pÓgina
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1815.

ALASTOR;

OR,

THE SPIRIT OF SOLITUDE.

PREFACE.

THE poem entitled Alastor," may be considered as allegorical of one of the most interesting situations of the human mind. It represents a youth of uncorrupted feelings and adventurous genius led forth by an imagination inflamed and purified through familiarity with all that is excellent and majestic, to the contemplation of the universe. He drinks deep of the fountains of knowledge, and is still insatiate. The magnificence and beauty of the external world sinks profoundly into the frame of his conceptions, and affords to their modifications a variety not to be exhausted. So long as it is possible for his desires to point towards objects thus infinite and unmeasured, he is joyous, and tranquil, and self-possessed. But the period arrives when these objects cease to suffice. His mind is at length suddenly awakened and thirsts for intercourse with an intelligence similar to itself. He images to himself the Being whom he loves. Conversant with speculations of the sublimest and most perfect natures, the vision in which he embodies his own imaginations unites all of wonderful, or wise, or beautiful, which the poet, the philosopher, or the lover, could depicture. The intellectual faculties, the imagination, the functions of sense, have their respective requisitions on the sympathy of corresponding powers in other human beings. The poet is represented as uniting these requisitions, and attaching them to a single image. He seeks in vain for a prototype of his conception. Blasted by his disappointment, he descends to an untimely grave.

The picture is not barren of instruction to actual men. The Poet's selfcentred seclusion was avenged by the furies of an irresistible passion pursuing him to speedy ruin. But that Power which strikes the luminaries of the world with sudden darkness and extinction, by awakening them to too exquisite a perception of its influences, dooms to a slow and poisonous decay those meaner spirits that dare to abjure its dominion. Their destiny is more abject and inglorious as their delinquency is more contemptible and pernicious. They who, deluded by no generous error, instigated by no sacred thirst of doubtful knowledge, duped by no illustrious superstition, loving nothing on this earth, and cherishing no hopes beyond, yet keep aloof from sympathies with their kind, rejoicing neither in human joy nor mourning with human grief; these, and such as they, have their apportioned curse. They languish, because none feel with them their common nature. They are morally dead. They are neither friends, nor lovers, nor fathers, nor citizens of the world, nor benefactors of their country. Among those who attempt to exist without human sympathy, the pure and tender-hearted perish through the intensity and passion of their search after its communities, when the vacancy of their spirit suddenly makes itself felt, All else, selfish, blind, and torpid, are those unforeseeing multitudes who constitute, together with their own, the lasting misery and loneliness of the world. Those who love not their fellow-beings, live unfruitful lives, and prepare for their old age a miserable grave.

“The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust,

Burn to the socket !"
December

14, 1815.

"Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quærebam quid amarem, amans mare."

CONFESS. ST. AUGI'ST.
EARTH, ocean, air, beloved brotherhood !
If our great Mother has imbued my soul
With aught of natural piety to feel
Your love, and recompense the boon with mine ;
If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even,
With sunset and its gorgeous ministers,
And solemn midnight's tingling silentness ;
If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood,
And winter robing with pure snow and crowns
Of starry ice the gray grass and bare boughs ;
If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes
Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me ;
If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast
I consciously have injured, but still loved
And cherished these my kindred :—then forgive
This boast, beloved brethren, and withdraw
No portion of your wonted favour now!

Mother of this unfathomable world !
Favour my solemn song, for I have loved
Thee ever, and thee only : I have watched
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps
And my heart ever gazes on the depth
Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed
In charnels and on coffins, where black death
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,
Hoping to still these obstinate questionings
Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost,
Thy messenger, to render up the tale
Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,
When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,
Like an inspired and desperate alchymist
Staking his very life on some dark hope,
Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks
With my most innocent love, until strange tears
Uniting with those breathless kisses, made
Such magic as compels the charmed night
To render up thy charge : .... and, though ne'er yet
Thou hast unveiled thy ininost sanctuary,
Enough from incommunicable dream,
And twilight phantasms and deep noonday thought
Has shone within me, that serenely row,
And moveless as a long-forgotten lyre,

Suspended in the solitary dome
Of some mysterious and deserted fane,
I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain
May modulate with murmurs of the air,
And motions of the forests and the sea,
And voice of living beings, and woven hymns
Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.

There was a Poet whose untimely tomb No human hands with pious reverence reared, But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness : A lovely youth,—no mourning maiden decked With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath, The lone couch of bis everlasting sleep; Gentle, and brave, and generous, no lorn bard Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh : He lived, he died, he sung, in solitude. Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes, And virgins, as unknown he past, have sighed And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes. The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, Locks its mute music in her rugged cell.

By solemn vision and bright silver dream, His infancy was nurtured. Every sight And sound from the vast earth and ambient air, Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. The fountains of divine philosophy Fled not his thirsting lips; and all of great, Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past In truth or fable consecrates, he felt And knew. When early youth had past, he left His cold fireside and alienated home To scek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness Has lured his fearless steps; and as he bought With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps He like her shadow, has pursued, where'er The red volcano overcanopies Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice With burning smoke ; or where bitumen lakes, On black bare pointed islets ever beat With sluggish surge ; or where the secret caves Rugged and dark, winding among the springs Of fire and poison, inaccessible To avarice or pride, their starry domes Or diamond and of gold, expand above Numberless and immeasurable halls, Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite. Nor had that scene of ampler majesty Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven And the green earth lost in his heart its claims To love and wonder ; he would linger long

In lonesome vales, making the wild his home,
Until the doves and squirrels would partake
From his innocuous hand his bloodless food,
Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks,
And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er
The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend
Her timid steps, to gaze upon a form
More graceful than her own.

His wandering step,
Obedient to high thoughts, has visited
The awful ruins of the days of old :
Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste
Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers
Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids,
Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange
Seulptured on alabaster obelisk,
Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphinx,
Dark Ethiopia on her desert bills
Conceals. Among the ruined temples there,
Stupendous columns, and wild images
Of more than man, where marble demons watch
The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men
Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around,
He lingered, poring on memorials
Of the world's youth, through the long burning day
Gazed on those speechless shapes, nor, when the moon
Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades
Suspended he that task, but ever gazed
And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind
Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw
The thrilling secrets of the birth of time.

Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food,
Her daily portion, from her father's tent,
And spread her matting for his couch, and stole
From duties and repose to tend his steps :-
Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe
To speak her love :-and watched his nightly sleep,
Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips
Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath
Of innocent dreams arose : then, when red morn
Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home,
Wildered and wan and panting, she returned.

The Poet wandering on, through Arabie
And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste,
And o'er the aërial mountains which pour down
Indus and Oxus from their icy caves,
In joy and exultation held his way,:.
Till in the vale of Cachmire, far within
Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine
Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower,
Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched
His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep
There came, a dream of hopes that never yet
Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veiled maid
Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones.

Her voice was like the voice of his own soul Heard in the calm of thought ; its music long, Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held His inmost sense suspended in its web Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues. Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme, And lofty hopes of divine liberty, Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy, Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame A permeating fire : wild numbers then She raised, with voice stified in tremuious sobs Subdued by its own pathos : her fair hands Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp Strange symphony, and in their branching veins The eloqueni blood told an ineffable tale. The beating of her heart was heard to fill The pauses of her music, and her breath Tumultuously accorded with those fits Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose, As if her heart impatiently endured Its bursting burthen : at the sound he turned, And saw by the warm light of their own life Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare, Her dark locks floating in the breath of night, Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly. His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet Her panting bosom :-she drew back awhile, Then, yielding to the irresistible joy, With frantic gesture and short breathless cry Folded his frame in her dissolving arms. Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night Involved and swallowed up the vision ; sleep, Like a dark flood suspended in its course, Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain. Roused by the shock, he started from his tranceThe cold white light of morning, the blue moon Low in the west, the clear and garish hills, The distinct valley and the vacant woods, Spread round where he stood.-Whither have fled The hues of heaven that canopied his bower Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep, The mystery and the majesty of earth, The joy, the exultation?' His wan eyes Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven. The spirit of sweet human love has sent A vision to the sleep of him who spurned Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues Beyond the realms of dream thai fleeting shade ; He overleaps the bound. Alas ! alas ! Were limbs and breath and being intertwined Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost,

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