Frederick Locker-Lampson

The Castle in the Air

    “I would build a cloudy house,
       For my thoughts to live in,
    When for earth too fancy loose,
       And too low for heaven!

    Hush!  I talk my dream alone:
       I build it bright to see;
    I build it on the moon-lit cloud,
       To which I look with thee!”

    Mrs E. B. Browning.

You shake your curls, and ask me why
I don’t build castles in the sky;
You smile, and you are thinking too,
He’s nothing else on earth to do.
It needs, my dear, romantic ware
To raise such fabrics in the air—
Ethereal bricks, and rainbow beams,
The gossamer of Fancy’s dreams:
And much the architect may lack
Who labours in the zodiac
To rear what I, from chime to chime,
Attempted once upon a time.

My Castle was a glad retreat,
   Adorn’d with bloom and scented briars,—
A Cupid’s model country-seat,
   With all that such a seat requires.
A rustic thatch, a purple mountain,
A sweet, mysterious, haunted fountain,
A terraced lawn, a summer lake,
   By sun or moonbeam ever burnish’d;
And then my cot, by some mistake,
   Unlike most cots was neatly furnish’d.

A trelliss’d porch, a mirror’d hall,
A Hebe, laughing from the wall,
3Frail vases from remote Cathay,—
   While, under arms and armour wreath’d
   In trophied guise, the marble breath’d—
A peering fawn, a startled fay.

And cabinets with gems inlaid,
   The legacy of parted years,
Full curtains of festoon’d brocade,
   And Venice lent her chandeliers.
Quaint carvings dark, and, pillow’d light,
Meet couches for the Sybarite;
Embroider’d carpets, soft as down,
The last new novel fresh from town.
On silken cushion, rich with braid,
A shaggy pet from Skye was laid,
And, drowsy eyed, would dosing swing
A parrot in his golden ring.

All these I saw one happy day,
   And more than now I care to name;
Here, lately shut, that workbox lay,
   There stood your own embroidery frame.
And over this piano bent
A Form, from some pure region sent.

Her dusky tresses lustrous shone,
In massy clusters, like your own;
And, as her fingers pressed the keys,
How strangely they resembled these.

Yes, you, you only, Lady Fair,
Adorn’d my Castle in the Air;
And Life, without the least foundation,
Became a charming occupation.
We viewed, with much serene disdain,
The smoke and scandal of Cockaigne,
Its dupes and dancers, knaves and nuns,
Possess’d by blues, or bored by duns.
With souls released from earthly tether,
We gazed upon the moon together.
Our sympathy, from night to noon,
Rose crescent with that crescent moon,
We lived and loved in cloudless climes,
And died (in rhymes) a thousand times.

Yes, you, you only, Lady Fair,
Adorn’d my Castle in the Air,
Now, tell me, could you dwell content
In such a baseless tenement?
Or could so delicate a flower
Exist in such a breezy bower?
Because, if you would settle in it,
’Twere built, for love, in half a minute.

What’s love? you ask;—why, love at best
Is only a delightful jest;—
As sad for one, as bad for three,
So I suggest you jest with me.

You shake your head, and wonder why
   A denizen of dear May-Fair
Should ever condescend to try
   And build her Castle in the Air.

I’ve music, books, and all, you say,
To make the gravest lady gay;
I’m told my essays show research,
My sketches have endow’d a church.
I’ve partners, who have witty parts;
I’ve lovers, who have broken hearts;
Quite undisturbed by nerves or blues,
My doctor gives me—all the news.
Poor Polly would not care to fly;
And Wasp, you know, was born in Skye.

To realise your tête-à-tête
Might jeopardise a giddy pate;
And quel ennui! if, pride apart,
I lost my head, or you your heart.
I’m more than sorry, I’m afraid
My Castle is already made.

And is this all we gain by fancies
For noon-day dreams, and waking trances,—
Such dreams as brought poor souls mishap,
When Baby-Time was fond of pap:
And still will cheat with feigning joys,
While women smile, and men are boys?

The blooming rose conceals an asp,
And bliss coquetting flies the grasp:
And, waking up, snap goes the slight
Poor cord that held my foolish kite,—
Your slave, you may not care to know it,
Your humble slave will be your Poet.

Farewell!—can aught for her be will’d
Whose every wish is all fulfill’d?
Farewell!—could wishing weave a spell,
There’s promise in those words “Fare well!”

I wish your wish may not be marr’d;—
Now wish yourself a better Bard!

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