In Whitman's Hand

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About this Item

Title: Imagination and Fact

Creators: Walt Whitman, ["W.D."]

Annotation Date: 1852 or later

Base Document Citation: Anonymous ["W.D."], "IMAGINATION AND FACT," Graham's Illustrated Magazine of Literature, Romance, Art, and Fashion (January 1852), 39-44.

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. Floyd Stovall in The Foreground of Leaves of Grass points out that this is a revised reprint of an article by the same title published by the American Whig Review in November 1851 and signed "W. D."

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00038

Contributors to digital file: Alejandro Omidsalar and Matt Cohen


Key


Whitman's Hand | Highlighting | Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite



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ENQUIRER, De Soto.—"What is meant by the Seven Wonders of the World?"... The pyramids of Egypt, the walls and hanging gardens of Babylon, the temple of Diana at Ephesus, the statue of the Olympian Jupiter, the Mausoleum, (a sumptuous sepulchre erected to King Mausolus by his wife, B.C. 353,) and the Colossus of Rhodes.

Of the truth in
History

IMAGINATION AND FACT.

BY A NEW CONTRIBUTOR.

Imagination's a world of air,
And our own world. HALLECK.

The world is of such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is bounded by a sleep. SHAKSPEARE.


S'ai che la corre il mondo ove piu versi
Di sue dolcezze il lusinghier Parnaso
E che 'l vero condito in molli versi,
I piu schivi allentando ha persuaso. TASSO.

PEOPLE seem to have an idea that facts are every thing in the business of the world—the only considerations in the philosophy of human progress. Opposed to what is merely imaginary, facts are allowed to have much dignity. Your practical reasoners look for facts; facts "are the jockies for them"—such as they can see, hear, handle, or demonstrate; while the imaginations are mostly held synonymous with the worthless, the unsubstantial and the ridiculous. They seem to say in the spirit of one of Congreve's characters—we forget which— "fiddle-faddle, don't tell me of this and that and every thing in the world; but give me mathematical demonstration; but we think "under leave of Brutus and the rest," that facts do not seem, and have not seemed to be so exclusively essential to "the cosmogony of the world," to the history and progress of mind and the general business of things, as some solid authorities think. Without troubling our heads, in this gossiping paper, with the subtleties of Berkley and others, who knock all creation into the compass of a man's perceptions—establish the column of the unsubstantial universe on the pentagonal base of the senses— we have an idea that a vast amount of the fictitious and imaginary is blended with our regular business of being, doing, and suffering. Human nature has, in all times, contrived a little gilding, to make the bitter pill of life go down. Tasso truly says—in his Invocation to the Virgin Mary for a muse—at the opening of his "Gerusalemme Liberata"—


For well thou knowest, the world more fondly turns
To old Parnassus' consecrated spot;
And truths which graceful poetry adorns
Win while they please us; and a spell is wrought
For the most subtle and reluctant thought.
Thus, for the sickly child, by friendly wile,
The cup's deceptive edge, with sweetness fraught,
Lures to the bitter potion—he the while
Drinks life and health from the judicious guile.

Not alone have the edges of the cup of life been touched in this way, but the contents of it have always been dashed with large doses of the same emollient. Reality is not such a delightful thing, after all. The false and the phantasmal have ever been considered the necessary complements, as it were, of our condition here.

If we take away from the amount of what the world possesses that which belongs and is due to the imagination merely—what is not authentic, and could not be sworn to in a court of justice—what will be left? Let us take it away—and what then? There is a sudden solitude in the world. The beautiful is vanished, and the hard, blank remnant of things is full of gaps, and desert places, disastrous flaws and a strange silence. There is nothing now, but facts in this macrocosm. But, believe us, 't is a very rude, cold place to live in—much worse than ever it was before; and that—in the opinion of the pale pessimist over the way there—was bad enough in all conscience. They who first found out this world, and roamed about on it, had scarcely called it very good when they began to make it better, by people its too extensive solitudes—creating phantasms and imaginations for it, where there were none before. The unclothed reality of things was too bare and blank, beautiful as it was, for the first human beings that walked the earth. They looked to the elements, and the infinite host of heaven, and following their unanswerable instincts, they began to make mysteries, airy fabrics and visions. They imagined a god for the cope and the clouds of the firmament, and he wielded the thunderbolts from a high mountain; another, shaped after the most perfectly formed of men, resided in the sun

"The lord of life and poesy and light:"

His sister was the goddess of the earth's satellite—

"Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns,
To whose bright image nightly by the moon,
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs."

They heard gods in winds and in fire—and altars to these were among the earliest raised. They saw a terrible divinity in the vastness or angry billows of the sea, and imagined a crowd of lesser beings to haunt its caverns and depths. The forests were sacred to the universal Pan—his fauns, sylvans and satyrs; every oak had its hamadryad, every river its naiad or potamid; the oreads took charge of the flowery meadows, and the napææ wandered forever in the shady valleys. Impatient of mere reality, men filled the universe with phantasies and theories—

"The intelligible forms of ancient poets—
The fair humanities of old religion,
39

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40GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE.
The power, the beauty and the majesty
That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain,
Or forest, by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms or watery depths."

Suppose we demolish all these graceful fallacies, and the poetry, also, in which they are embalmed. What a throng of splendid deeds, of heroic and beautiful figures—demigods, warriors, kings—bright women and brave men, moving in gorgeous panorama over the vast back-ground of antiquity—is extinguished in the darkness! The creations of the ancient poets and imaginative writers have filled up a space in the earlier ages of the world, which without them would be a blank and lost to the human mind, as much as the pre-Adamite chaos is. What a disinheritance it would be to take away the Iliad and Odyssey! to obliterate Hector, the kind-hearted and manly hero; and Priam with his mighty sorrows a suppliant for his dead son; and the warring Achilles—

"Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer,"

and the wandering Ulysses, seeing strange shores and cities, and the varying manners of men! Not alone would much be wanted in the want of these venerable works, but in the want of all that literature which they inspired and gave rise to in after time. The succeeding poets and dramatists of Greece and Rome drew light from Homer, as Milton's stars did in their golden urns from the sun. They took his historic imaginations and characters as their models, and reproduced them in forms which the world will not willingly let die, and which it prizes nearly as much as the Institutes and Pandects of Justinian, or any thing else of that authentic and substantial kind.

To come to our own familiar literature, the fictions of our insular or continental writers are as favorably and generally remembered as the historic facts of the English-speaking peoples. In our genial moments, when the mind desires to be refreshed or pleased it will revert, with an almost universal preference, to what is imaginary, or adorned with the graces of imaginative literature; and half the world regard with as much attention the men and women of Shakspeare and Scott as those of Hume and Prescott. And how intimately and lovingly we give our interest to the words and actions of these imaginary beings! What a world of thought and life is in the dramas of Shakspeare! There is the venerable Lear, driven out into the storm, and talking the finest philosophy to the wild elements, that so feelingly persuade him what he is; and Hamlet, so sententious in his antic disposition; the fair Ophelia, and the prosy old courtier, Polonius; and the immortal bed-presser, and huge hill of flesh—the greatest liar and the greatest favorite in the world; and Macbeth, with his terrible hags on the heath, and his more terrible wife; and Richard, wooing Lady Anne, or fighting desperately his last battle. Then there are the witty and adventurous Rosalind, and

"The gentle lady wedded to the Moor;"

and Portia, the beautiful, wise young judge; and the impassioned Juliet, with the southern lightnings in her veins; and Miranda, the enchantress, of an enchanted island—and all that magnificent array of womanhood which reflects for ever the unequaled genius of Shakspeare.

We have also the creations of Scott—coming nearest of any to those of the great dramatic poet, and enjoying even a more general popularity. Successive generations prize them as an imperishable legacy, and the memory has a pleasure in conjuring them up—so vivid and picturesque in their colors and outlines: The hall of Cedric, the Saxon—the swineherd, the templar, the gorgeous tournament at Ashby de la Zouche, Friar Tuck, the storming of Torquilstone, the Black Knight, fighting as if ten men's strength were in his single arm; and the beautiful Jewess—what splendid series of images— bringing back so vividly the old pomp and circumstance of the feudal times! We shall never forget the feelings with which we first read Ivanhoe, and there found all our vague feelings of romance and dreams of knightly doings put into such spirit-stirring expression. Then how true is the picturesque bravery of Fergus McIvor—


"All plaided and plumed in his tartan array;"

and the marching of the Scottish clans; the fine old Baron Bradwardine, the high-spirited Flora, and the tender Rose. We see the fierce Balfour of Burley, slaying the guardsman at Drumclog, or raving in his cave; and the swords of the Solemn League and Covenant waving in desperate tumult on Bothwell Bridge. Edgar and Lucy walk to the haunted spring, Caleb Balderstone performs laughable prodigies of cunning to save the credit of Wolf's Crag, and the last Lord of Ravenswood disappears awfully into the "Kelpie's flow,"


"And his name is lost for ever moe."

Norna of the Fitful-Head, speaks her wild rune of the reimkennar to the spirits of the North wind; "bold Magnus, the son of the earl;" Minna, Brenda, Cleveland, Claude Halcro, feast, love, fight and rhyme in the Udaller's charmed isle. Diana Vernon, on horseback, clears her five-barred gate and gallops by; Rob Roy cries "claymore," and Bailie Nichol Jarvie fights his highlandman with a hot coulter, and goes up perilously to the Clachan of Aberfoil; Jeannie Deans stands in the presence of Queen Caroline, pleading for the life of her sister, while the Duke of Argyle puts his hand to his chin whenever her Majesty or the Duchess of Suffolk are in danger of a random hit from the lips of the unconscious advocate; Monkbarn's discovers the remains of a Roman preatorium, and Edie Ochiltree comes up and says: "Prætorium here, prætorium there; I mind the bigging o't!" The Knight of the Leopard and the disguised Soldan fight their chivalrous duel in the desert, and then feast together at the spring, and Richard Plantagenet, leaping from his sick-bed, in spite of the Hakim, tears down the standard of Austria from the mound at Acre, and hurls the giant Wallenrode from the top to the bottom of it. Dominic


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IMAGINATION AND FACT.41

Sampson exclaims "prodigious!"—Dirk Hatterick strangles Glossin and shoots Charlotte Cushman—Meg Merrilies we should say, but it is all one —who recognizes young Bertram and dies hard. Hal o' the Wynd "fights for his own band" on the Inch of Perth, in the melée of the clans Chattan and Quhule. Tristram l' Hermit, hangs the trees around Plessis les Tours with Zingaris, like acorns. Louis and Charles the Bold ride together into Liege by a breach in the walls, and the head of the savage De Lamarek secures to the Scottish soldier the hand of Isable Croye. The Highland Widow mourns over her condemned son with all the tragic truth of Æschylus or nature; the Last Minstrel sings a wild epic of goblin gramarye—the Leaguer of Branksome —knights and ladies—the lists and the festival. Roderick and the Knight of Snowdon fight by the ford of Coilantogle; Constance perishes awfully in her convent cell, and Marmion dies like a courageous knight, at Flodden

"Charge, Chester, charge; on Stanley, on—
Where the last words of Marmion!"

All these, and more, come thronging at the call of the wizard And with them will also pass before the reader's or muser's eye the extravagant hero of him who "smiled Spain's chivalry away;" Doctor Primrose and his delightful family, Parson Adams, Sir Roger de Coverley, Evangeline, Ichabod Crane, and a thousand others, which every body's memory will distinguish for itself—just as every eye shapes its proper rainbow. They have all the distinctness of reality, and it is by an effort that we draw the line between them and bona fide characters.

Many of these last, in fact, are little better than the fictions of poets, dramatists and romancers. The histories of the venerable Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, etc. are half imaginative. There are outlines of truth in them—

"The truth is there; but dashed and brewed with lies."

The history of Scotland, for ages, from the reign of Fergus, and of Ireland from the days of Heber, Heremon and Ith, down to the conquest of the country by Strongbow, are just as fanciful as the metrical romances of Scott and Moore. Then, for the annals of Greece; Herodotus, the patriarch of history, sets down almost every thing he hears from the lying priests of Egypt, or that he can gather from vague tradition; and people don't exactly know whether to call the Cyropædia of Xenophon a romance or an authentic narration. Plutarch romances at times like the Scuderis. An old English author, Taylor, says, of his fallacies and blunders in the lives of the orators—mendaxille Plutarchus qui vitas oratorum dolis et erroribus consutas, olim conscribillavit. Neibuhr has got into our old history of Rome and laid about him like an iconoclast. He destroys a crowd of our beliefs, and makes a solitude in the first ages of Rome—so wonderful and picturesque in our school-boy days. He makes a solitude and calls it truth. He demolishes Mars, Rhea Sylvia, Romulus and Remus and the Wolf—Numitor, Evander, and so forth. Under the flourishing of his pen they make themselves into thin air in which they vanish. Then the Tarquins, their insolence and expulsion; Lars Porsenna of Clusium, the siege of Rome, Cocles on the Bridge and Scævola at the flaming Altar—all are inventions of Fabius Pictor, Ennius, Nævius, and others. This portion of the history of Rome, says the German, should be called the Lay of the Tarquins, and is just as authentic as the Lay of the Nibelungen! "Livy's pictored page," (if we may be permitted to make a critical emendation of Byron's phrase in the spirit of Bishop Warburton's Notes on SHAKSPEARE.,) is allowed to be just as fallible as it is brilliant. Thus we have a vast amount of what is called ancient history confounded with the professed creations of fanciful minds; and there does not seem to be any very marked difference between Agamemnon or Ajax, and Cecrops or Codrus; between Æneas or Dido, and Numa or Clelia—they are all equally distinct or indistinct. Scott's King Richard, singing a roundelay and exchanging a buffet with the Clerk of Copmanhurst, is as firm on the canvas as Alfred baking his cakes, or Canute sitting on a chair to rebuke his flatterers on the sea-shore.

And even as regards the more modern and authentic annals of history, we do not think they have paid much more respect to the actual truth of things than do the fictionists. Sir Robert Walpole used to say to his friends, "Don't read history; that must be false." And Sir Walter Raleigh, looking from the window of his prison in the Tower, and witnessing a quarrel in the court-yard or the street, and the after- testimony of the by-standers respecting it, was tempted, it is said, to throw his History of the World into the fire, in despair of ever being able to gather any thing like truth from conflicting authorities. And, certainly, the differences of historians— their doubts concerning motives, and their disagreements concerning facts, tend to give us very unsettled ideas of history in general. Writers have sent Col. Kirke down to us from the James the Second's reign with a very black and bloody renown. But he was not half so black as he was painted by the whigs; and the story of the poor girl whose husband he hanged before her eyes, in the morning, though she dearly purchased his life on Kirke's own terms, is pronounced by Ritson to be an impudent and bare-faced lie. The story is much older than Kirke. Richard the Third is also one of the historical reprobates; though it is not unlikely that the young princes were not murdered in the Tower, and that Perkin Warbeck was really the prince after all; as truly as the surreptitious, warming-pan prince is known to have been the true son of James the Second, in spite of the Protestant historians. Then there are Jack Cade and Wat Tyler; these have been receiving cruel wrong at the hands of the annalists. They dared, in an age when the rights of the people were imperfectly understood, and the influence of the feudal system still strong in the nation, to take up arms and go to war with the king and the nobles for liberty! Their sufferings and and provocations were undeniable, and their spirit was certainly heroic —kindred to that which glowed in the bosoms of


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Yes—an ancient history not
written by a Greek or Roman
—what a face that would
put upon old times

42GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE.

Melchthal, Furst, and Stauffacher, at the Brunnens of Grutli. The Swiss peasants were successful, and are held in honorable remembrance forever. But the Englishmen failed, and are set up as scarecrows and ludibria, upon the field of history. Poor Tyler and Cade were animated by the same kind of blood which boiled in the face of a tyrant at Naseby, Marston Moor, Dunbar, and elsewhere—which warmed the hearts of the exiles on the cold rock of Plymouth, and flowed so freely at Lexington and Bunker Hill. We should honor these English rebels —in spite of history, and in spite of Shakspeare. It is remarkable to see this myriad-minded man, so full of the finer humanities of our nature, yet incapable of sympathizing with the cause and feelings of the mass of the lower classes. But Shakspeare was a man of his era—to which, with an astonishing and happy wizardry, he obliged chronology and human nature to conform; he dreamed as little of the later evangils of democracy as he did of the Daguerreotype and the electric telegraph. In this way Cade, Richard, and a thousand others are in the hands of the historians, tricked out as much in the colors of imagination as in those of fact.

No man can be sure of the lesser details of the annals, though he may put faith in some of their great facts. We are not indisposed to allow that there was a man named Julius Cæsar; though whether he ever said, Quid times? vehis Cæzarem, in the boat, or Et tu Brute! when the republicans set upon him in the senate-house, is not quite so credible. Most of these picturesque properties of character or fact, so to speak, are furnished by the fancies and after-thoughts of the narrators, or fabricated wilfully for a purpose. We need not go very far back in history to discover the truth of this. In a late memoir (Achille de Vaulabelle's) of the "Two Restorations," we are told that an old story of the consternation of the members of the Directory, on its violent dissolution by Bonaparte, in 1800, was a false one. There was no hurry-skurry, nor jumping out of windows, any more than when Oliver Cromwell put an end to the Long Parliament. Again, that glorification made on the sinking of the Vengeur, in an engagement with the English fleet, during the first French revolution, has been latterly put out of countenance. The story in France was, that, being terribly damaged, this ship sunk with all on board, her flag flying, and the crew shouting, "Long live the republic!" Carlyle adopted this version in his history, and makes quite a cartoon of it, in his own outlandish phraseology. But on the appearance of the story in an English work, a naval officer who witnessed the affair of the Vengeur, wrote a letter to the Times, in which he stated that, instead of going down with true republican devotion, the poor French sailors, small blame to them! jumped overboard, and tried to save themselves, and that some hundreds of them were rescued in the British boats. That message, said to have come from the dying Dessaix to Bonaparte, on the field of Marengo, ("Tell the First Consul I die regretting I can no farther serve him and France,") was fabricated in the bulletin by the

aforesaid consul himself. The story of the Duke of Wellington lying in the hollow square of the Guards at Waterloo, and, on the advance of the French, crying, "Up, Guards, and at them!" is as untenable as our own famous saying—"A little more grape, Captain Bragg!" or the military speeches of the great generals of antiquity, as recorded by Tacitus, Sallust, Cæsar, and the rest of the writers. Then, as regards great facts, different nations give different accounts. Ask who gained Waterloo? "We did," say the Prussians. "We gave vast assistance," say the Belgians. Ask John Bull, or rather, do n't; his answer would be rather brief than polite. We should like to see a history of the campaigns in Greece of Darius, Xerxes, and Mardonius, written by Persians. All history is more or less deserving of Sir Robert Walpole's designation. Hume, in one of his letters to Robertson, alluding to the publication of Murdin's State Papers, which threw unexpected light upon the annals, exclaims, "We are all in the wrong!" And, indeed, Hume himself is among those to whom we are mostly indebted for the imaginative character of history. He had little of the industry of Gibbon, and trusted very much to his own sagacity for his views. He was also a tory, and became, in his scorn for whiggery, the apologist of the Stuarts. His history is charming as a composition, but errs in its colorings of facts and its conclusions from them.

Imagination, as we have said, seems the complement of the world of facts and things, in all mental exercises, except the logical and mathematical. If we contemplate nature it enhances what we behold. The mountains, rivers, forests, and the elements that gird them round about, would be only blank conditions of matter, if the mind did not fling its own divinity around them.

This I think is one of
the most indicative
sentences I ever read.

Nature was thus endowed from the beginning—when men heard voices in the winds, and the supernatural inhabitants of terra firma,

"Met on the hill, the dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or on the beached margent of the sea;"

or, in the train of powerful Poseidon, (Po.sid.e.on)

"Took in by lot, 'twixt high and nether Jove,
Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles."

And the modern lovers of nature, though they no longer recognize the mythologic people of the ancient beliefs in her picturesque wildernesses, clothe them with the attributes of the mysterious abstract power which is over all things. And, in the towering of her peaks, the murmur of her forests and seas, the roar of her storms, the singing of her nightly stars, they find revelations and prophecies of higher and farther existences. In this respect, the modern poetry of nature has a nobler scope and purer inspiration than the ancient. Wordsworth and Byron speculate more sublimely than Lucretius.

In another sense, the imagination materially imposes upon facts. In contemplating cities, works of art, ruins, or scenes of nature, we almost always appreciate them for the associations that belong to them—the imaginations they excite. Look at a gray


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WINTER.43

bleak sort of plateau between mountains and the sea, and you see little to admire. But let somebody say, "that is Marathon!" while the blood thrills at the name, a flood of glory flashes over the immortal ground; the air is thick with phantoms—

To the hearer's eye appear,
The camp, the host, the fight, the conqueror's career—
The flying Mede, his shaftless, broken bow;
The fiery Greek, his red pursuing spear;
Mountains above, earth's, ocean's plain below;
Death in the front, destruction in the rear!

It is this quality of the imagination which gives old countries their superior attractions when compared with new soils. At the sight of battle-fields, religious houses, cathedrals, castles, either in ruins or otherwise, we are pleased in calling up a crowd of shadows from the dust, and finding a sort of mysterious companionship with them during our passing reveries.

Campbell says very well, that distance lends enchantment to the view, and it is generally true of the human mind that it regards the past with a feeling of tenderness—a disposition to make the best of it. There is a certain charm in Time, whom we regard as the dominator of us all; and the ruins or remnants of any thing speak an impressive warning of our own evanescent fate. That belief in the good old time is an instinct too strong for the philosophy of most of us. We have a thousand proofs that they were rude, bad, ignorant times. But the poetry of our nature will not be reasoned with, and we believe with the bard—

Not rough or barren are the winding ways
Of hoar Antiquity, but strewn with flowers.

Any thing old or historic is appreciated in proportion to the scope it gives to the imagination—to point a moral or adorn a tale. We gaze on the wild hill, vale, stream or forest of a new country, with none of those feelings which fill us in beholding similar objects in an old land. The former may be as fair or fairer to see: but, as

"A primrose by the river's brim,
A yellow primrose was to him."

of whom Wordsworth speaks, so the latter is a stream, a forest, a hill—nothing more. The nameless savages had the palce from the beginning, and the solitude. The other is a tradition, a romance, a memory. In the valley is the legendary well, and the fairy ring; by the stream is the fortalice of the feudal period, or the abbey dwindled to a few ivied walls and the oriel, on the site of a blood battle where a king fell fighting, a thousand years ago; and, on the slope of the hill stand the Druid stones, in a circle, set there, certainly, in the ancient time of the giants, who descended from Thor and


Lived in the oldé days of King Artour.

As Webster, the old English dramatist, says:

We love these ancient ruins;
We never tread upon them, but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history.

They receive all their witchery from the imagination of him who surveys them. This faculty is potentially mingled with all that is most real in nature; nay, it would seem to be as much a reality as any thing else we call such. The preacher calls the world a vain shadow, and the Berkleyan philosopher calls it a huge accident of the five senses; and Shakspeare is inclined to think there is nothing that is but thinking makes it so. The practical men, therefore,—the directors of railways, the managers of stock, and the owners of electric telegraphs cannot be considered to have matters all to themselves. The poet and the romanticist control as much of the "thick rotundity of the world" as they; and certainly the most enchanting portion. Schiller gives us in an admired lyric, the idea that the imaginative being was forgotten by Jove in the distribution of the earth; but received a general invitation to the Court of Olympus. Our nether "maker," or "finder," does still, of course, avail himself of this privilege; but not as one without alternative. He has a great share and dominion in all sublinary things; and his castles in the air may be found as firmly fixed, after all, and as well tenanted, as any existing on any other element.


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44GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE.

Then, with his black beard glistening in the frost,
Under the icy arches of the north,
And o'er the still graves of the seasons lost,
Blustered the winter forth.
Spring, with your crown of roses budding news,
Thought-nursing and most melancholy fall,
Summer, with bloomy meadows wet with dew,
Blighting your beauties all.

O heart, your spring-time dream will idle prove,
Your summer but forerun the autumn's death
The flowery arches in the home of love
Fall, crumbling, at a breath;
And sick at last with that great sorrow's shock,
As some poor prisoner pressing to the bars
His forehead, calls on mercy to unlock
The chambers of the stars:
You, turning off from life's first mocking glow,
Leaning it may be still on broken faith,
Will down the vale of autumn gladly go
To the chill winter, death.

Hark! from the empty bosom of the grove
I hear a sob, as one forlorn might pine—
The white-limbed beauty of a god is thine,
King of the seasons, and the night that hoods
Thy brow majestic, brightest stars enweave—
Thou surely canst not grieve.

But only far away
Mak'st stormy prophecies—well lift them higher,
Till morning on the forehead of the day
Presses a seal of fire.
Dearer to me the scene
Of nature shrinking from thy rough embrace,
Than summer, with her rustling robe of green,
Cool blowing in my face.

The moon is up—how still the yellow beams
That slantwise lie upon the stirless air,
Sprinkled with frost, like pearl-entangled hair,
O'er beauty's cheek that streams.
How the red light of Mars their pallor mocks.
And the wild legend from the old time wins,
Of sweet waves kissing all the drowning locks
Of Ilia's lovely twins.

Come, Poesy, and with thy shadowy hands
Cover me softly, singing all the night—
In thy dear presence find I best delight;
Even the saint that stands
Tending the gate of heaven, involved in beams
Of rarest glory, to my mortal eyes
Pales from the blest insanity of dreams
That round thee lies.

Unto the dusky borders of the grove
Where gray-haired Saturn, silent as a stone,
Sat in his grief alone,
Or where young Venus, searching for her love,
Walked through the clouds, I pray,
Bear me to-night away.

Or wade with me through snows
Drifted in loose fantastic curves aside,
From humble doors where love and faith abide,
And no rough winter blows,
Chilling the beauty of affections fair,
Cabined securely there.

Where round their fingers winding the white slips
That crown his forehead, on the grandsire's knees,
Sit merry children, teasing about ships
Lost in perilous seas;
Or listening with a troublous joy, yet deep,
To stories about battles, or of storms,
Till weary grown, and drowsing into sleep,
Slide they from out his arms.

Where, by the log-heap fire,
As the pane rattles and the cricket sings,
I with the gray-haired sire
May talk of vanished summer-times and springs,
And harmlessly and cheerfully beguile
The long, long hours—
The happier for the snows that drift the while
About the flowers.


Winter, wilt keep the love I offer thee?
No mesh of flowers is bound about my brow;
From life's fair summer I am hastening now.
And as I sink my knee,
Dimpling the beauty of thy bed of snow,
Dowerless, I can but say,
O, cast me not away!

IMPROMPTU TO THE AUTHOR OF "THE OCEAN-BORN."

[cut away]

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