« AnteriorContinua »
THE SPIRIT OF SOLITUDE.
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,
Burn to the socket !"
"Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quærebam quid amarem, amans mare."
CONFESS. ST. AUGI'ST.
Mother of this unfathomable world !
Suspended in the solitary dome
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,
His wandering step,
Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food,
The Poet wandering on, through Arabie
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,