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The Mystic Trumpeter




Hark! some wild trumpeter—some strange musician, Hovering unseen in air, vibrates capricious tunes to-night. I hear thee, trumpeter—listening, alert, I catch thy notes, Now pouring, whirling like a tempest around me, Now low, subdued—now in the distance lost.


Come nearer, bodiless one—haply, in thee resounds Some dead composer—haply thy pensive life Was fill'd with aspirations high—unform'd ideals, Waves, oceans musical, chaotically surging, That now, ecstatic ghost, close to me bending, thy cornet echoing, pealing, Gives out to no one's ears but mine—but freely gives to mine, That I may translate thee.


Blow, trumpeter, free and clear—I follow thee, While at the liquid prelude, glad, serene, The fretting world, the streets, the noisy hours of the day, withdraw; A holy calm descends, like dew, upon me, I walk, in cool refreshing night, the walks of Paradise, I scent the grass, the moist air, and the roses; Thy song expands my numb'd, imbonded spirit—though freest, launchest me, Floating and basking upon Heaven's lake.


Blow again, trumpeter! and for my sensuous eyes, Bring the old pageants—show the feudal world. What charm thy music works!—that makest pass before me, Ladies and cavaliers long dead—barons are in their castle halls—the troubadours are 
Arm'd knights go forth to redress wrongs—some in quest of the Holy Graal : I see the tournament—I see the contestants, encased in heavy armor, seated on stately, 
  champing horses;
I hear the shouts—the sound of blows and smiting steel: I see the Crusaders' tumultuous armies—Hark! how the cymbals clang! Lo! where the monks walk in advance, bearing the cross on high!


Blow again, trumpeter! and for thy theme, Take now the enclosing theme of all—the solvent and the setting; Love, that is pulse of all—the sustenance and the pang; The heart of man and woman all for love; No other theme but love—knitting, enclosing, all-diffusing love. O, how the immortal phantoms crowd around me! I see the vast alembic ever working—I see and know the flames that heat the world; The glow, the blush, the beating hearts of lovers, So blissful happy some—and some so silent, dark, and nigh to death; Love, that is all the earth to lovers—Love, that mocks time and space, Love, that is day and night—Love, that is sun and moon and stars; Love, that is crimson, sumptuous, sick with perfume; No other words, but words of love—No other thought but Love.


Blow again, trumpeter—conjure war's wild alarums. Swift to thy spell, a shuddering hum like distant thunder rolls; Lo! where the arm'd men hasten—Lo! mid the clouds of dust, the glint of bayonets; I see the grime-faced cannoniers—I mark the rosy flash amid the smoke—I hear the 
  cracking of the guns:
—Nor war alone—thy fearful music-song, wild player, brings every sight of fear, The deeds of ruthless brigands—rapine, murder—I hear the cries for help! I see ships foundering at sea—I behold on deck, and below deck, the terrible tableaux!


O trumpeter! methinks I am myself the instrument thou playest! Thou melt'st my heart, my brain—thou movest, drawest, changest them, at will: And now thy sullen notes send darkness through me; Thou takest away all cheering light—all hope: I see the enslaved, the overthrown, the hurt, the opprest of the whole earth; I feel the measureless shame and humiliation of my race—it becomes all mine: Mine too the revenges of humanity—the wrongs of ages—baffled feuds and hatreds: Utter defeat upon me weighs—all lost! the foe victorious! (Yet mid the ruins Pride colossal stands, unshaken to the last! Endurance, resolution, to the last.)


Now, trumpeter, for thy close, Vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet; Sing to my soul—renew its languishing faith and hope; Rouse up my slow belief—give me some vision of the future; Give me, for once, its prophecy and joy! O glad, exulting, culminating song! A vigor more than earth's is in thy notes! Marches of victory—man disenthrall'd—the conqueror at last! Hymns to the universal God, from univeral Man—all joy! A reborn race appears, a perfect World, all joy! Women and Men, in wisdom, innocence and health—all joy! Riotous, laughing bacchanals, filled with joy! War, sorrow, suffering gone—The rank earth purged—nothing but joy left! The ocean fill'd with joy—the atmosphere all joy! Joy! Joy! in freedom, worship, love! Joy in the ecstasy of life! Enough to merely be! Enough to breathe! Joy! Joy! all over Joy!


1. Reprinted in the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, 7 February 1872; in translation by Csukássy Józset, Fõvárosi Lapok (Budapest), 19 January 1873, p. [61]; and in As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free (1872). [back]

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