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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.
December 14, 1815.
"The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust,
"Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quærebam quid amarem, amans mare.'
EARTH, ocean, air, beloved brotherhood!
CONFESS. ST. AUGUST.
Your love, and recompense the boon with mine;
Mother of this unfathomable world!
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,
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
Enough from incommunicable dream,
And twilight phantasms and deep noonday thought
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
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 his 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
To scek strange truths in undiscovered lands.
Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice
To avarice or pride, their starry domes
Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines
In lonesome vales, making the wild his home,
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
Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids,
Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange
Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphinx,
Conceals. Among the ruined temples there,
Of more than man, where marble demons watch
Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around,
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
Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food,
And spread her matting for his couch, and stole
To speak her love :-and watched his nightly sleep,
Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath
The Poet wandering on, through Arabie
In joy and exultation held his way;
Till in the vale of Cachmire, far within
Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine
Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched
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
Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues.
Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy,
Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame
She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs
Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp
Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned,
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Roused by the shock, he started from his trance—
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.
A vision to the sleep of him who spurned