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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes


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Six years, six cycles of dead hours,
Six falls of leaves, six births of flowers!
It is not that, you know full well,
That makes my labouring bosom swell,
'Tis not the memory of lost Time,
Since last I heard that matin chime,
That brings to sense the sleeping sorrow,
To bid this long--left scene good--morrow,--
It is the curse to feel as Men,
And be not now as we were then.
The snowy down on yonder hill
Through thousand summers glistens still,--
Yon stream will ne'er to time surrender
Its rapid path of diamond splendour,--
Yon orb, but now who swept the East,
With train of ruby' and amethyst,
Rides on, unweariedly as ever,
O'er frowning rock, and glittering river;
Those trees, I own, are somewhat higher,--
The ivy round the village spire
In fuller--clustering leaf has grown,--
We cannot call that cot our own,--
But what has changed in this sweet glen
As we from what our hearts were then?

Say you, the glow of Hope is bright,
Or, if it be a meteor light,
That hurtles through the thickening sky,
'Tis wise to catch it ere it die?
Tell you me, 'tis a joy to feel
Our toil increase a fellow's weal?
That, 'mid these fainting, fading, bowers,
There linger still some amaranth flowers,
And honest will, and honest prayer,
Will find them lurking everywhere?--
Say on, I can but add, Amen,--
We are not now as we were then.

Oh, Brother! when I gaze upon
These tombs of little blisses gone,--
When, through the dense and steamy air,
Which we with men are wont to share,
A breeze of distant Youth has stole
In freshness on my fever'd soul,--
I feel like one who long has lain
With madness gathering in his brain,
And, bursting from the strong distress,
Wakes to a terrible consciousness.
Then blame you that my pulse beat now?
Blame you the agony on my brow?
Time was, when fear was all a stranger,
Ere knowledge showed the way to danger--
When love was firm,--when faith was sure,
And head and heart alike secure;--
But now, . . . Remember you a flower,
Which we with care, from sun and shower,--
It was our mother's,--loved to guard,
And how we joyed in our reward,
When first we watched its bloom appear,
When it was old so many a year;
And how we heard, with tearful eye,
The good old gardener's prophecy,--
For he was deep in nature's lore,--
That that bright plant would bloom no more?
The flowers fell off,--the stalk was gathered,--
The root grew dry,--the lank leaves withered,--
And, sad to lose its only pride,
The poor Agave sunk and died:
our one, our only bloom is gone,
But, Brother, still we linger on.

Between the cradle and the shroud,
If chance, amid the pilgrim croud,
Though strange the time and strange the place,
We light on some familiar face,
Once loved and known, as friend knows friend,
In whom a thousand memories blend,
Which whilom slumbered dull and dim,
But rise in light and cling to him;
Though not a line of old as wont,
Though care has knit the ample front,
And vice unstrung the well--toned frame,
Still something,--something is the same.
But if we ever hope to find
Some traces in that life--worn mind
Of its pure self, its simple being,
Such as it was, when, unforeseeing,
We thought that Nature's laws would fail,
Ere Sin could make its boldness quail;
Such as it was, ere sensuous things
Had clipped the bird of Eden's wings,
Ere stifled groan and secret sigh
Replaced the tear so soon brushed by,--
'Tis vain,--alas, for human shame!
There nothing, nothing is the same.

Oh! that the painter's favourite scheme
Were not alone a painter's dream!
Oh! that the Paradise he feigns,
Where Innocence with Childhood reigns,
And cherub forms and infant guise
Inclose the heart divinely wise,
Were not alone a Poet's creed,--
No symbol,--but a truth indeed!
That all this circling life might close
Its wearied course where first it rose,
And that our second life might be
A new, eternal, infancy,
Keeping the bliss we lose as men,
And being aye as we were then!



Richard Monckton Milnes


Richard Monckton Milnes's other poems:
  1. To Charles Lamb
  2. Sir Walter Scott at the Tomb of the Stuarts in St Peter's
  3. Columbus and the Mayflower
  4. Valentia
  5. On a Scene in Tuscany


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