LONG ere I knew thee—years of loveless days—
A Shape would gather from my dreams and pour
The soul-sweet influence of its gentle gaze
Into my being, thrilling it to the core,
Then would I wake, with lonely heart to pine
For that nocturnal image:—it was thine!
Thine—for though long with a fond moody heed
I sought to match it with the beauteous creatures
I met in the world’s ways, ’twas but to bleed
With disappointment; for all forms, all features,
Yet left it void of living counterpart—
The shadowy Mistress of my yearning heart.
Thine—for when first seen thou didst seem to me
A being known yet beautifully new!
Thus, warranting some sage’s theory,
Amid Heaven’s sisterhoods, into shining view
Is drawn a long-conjectured star, his name
To fold forever in its virgin flame!
But I forget! Far, far away from thee
Behold, I wander ’mid primeval woods
Where but all savage things are wont to be,
Mixing fond questionings with Solitude’s
Wild cadences, as through dim glades by fits
Yet dreaming her ancient dream, illusively she flits.
And now the HUNTER, with a swollen speed
Rushes in thunder at my feet, but wears
A softened charm in that it seems to lead
My willing vision whether Memory rears
Thy rural bower by the stream that erst
With murmurous heed my infant passion nurst.
And with the river’s torture, oft a tone
Of that far brook seems blending, accents too
Of the dear voice there heard—that voice alone
Unparagoned of mortal sound, like dew
Honeyed with manna, dropping near me seems,
As oft I listen—lost in Memory’s dreams!
But vain these musings! Though my spirit’s bride
Thou knew’st not of my love! Though all my days
To come must be inevitably dyed
Or bright or dark through thee—this missive says
Thy lot in life is cast, that thou wilt be
Another’s ere I look again on thee!
The bardic doom is on me! Poets make
Beauty immortal and yet luckless miss
The charms they sing,—martyrs at Fortune’s stake!
As though their soul’s capacity for bliss
Might else give Earth too much of Heaven and kill
The want that strengthens them for prowess still.
Wreathe then the Poet’s brows with blossoms bright!
Let waters ever, and the sway of trees
Sound through his thoughts, as the renewed delight
Of Even flows around him in a breeze
Laden with dying voices—till the night
Enroof him with her starry mysteries!
For Nature only (fated at his birth!)
May minister unto his love on Earth.