James Henry Leigh Hunt


To the Memory of B. Y. and A. M. D.

OUR fairest dreams are made of truths,
Nymphs are sweet women, angels youths,
  And Eden was an earthly bower:
Not that the heavens are false;—O no!
But that the sweetest thoughts that grow
In earth must have an earthly flower;
Blest, if they know how sweet they are,
And that earth also is a star.

  I met a lady by the sea,
A heart long known, a face desired,
Who led me with sweet breathful glee
To one that sat retired,—
That sat retired in reverend chair,
That younger lady’s pride and care,
Fading heavenward beauteously
In a long-drawn life of love,
With smiles below and thoughts above:
And round her played that fairy she,
Like Impulse by Tranquillity.

  And truly might they, in times old,
Have deemed her one of fairy mould
Keeping some ancestral queen
Deathless, in a bower serene:
For oft she might be noticed walking
Where the seas at night were talking;
Or extracting with deep look
Power from out some learned book;
Or with pencil or with pen
Charming the rapt thoughts of men:
And her eyes! they were so bright,
They seemed to dance with elfin light,
Playmates of pearly smiles, and yet
So often and so sadly wet,
That Pity wondered to conceive
How lady so beloved could grieve.
And oft would both those ladies rare,
Like enchantments out of air,
In a sudden shower descend
Of balm on want, or flowers on friend;
No matter how remote the place,
For fairies laugh at time and space.
From their hearts the gifts were given,
As the light leaps out of heaven.

Their very house was fairy;—none
Might find it without favor won
For some great zeal, like errant-knight,
Or want and sorrow’s holy right;
And then they reached it by long rounds
Of lanes between thick pastoral grounds
Nest-like, and alleys of old trees,
Until at last, in lawny ease,
Down by a garden and its fountains,
In the ken of mild blue mountains,
Rose, as if exempt from death,
Its many-centuried household breath.
The stone-cut arms above the door
Were such as earliest chieftains bore,
Of simple gear, long laid aside;
And low it was, and warm and wide,—
A home to love, from sire to son,
By white-grown servants waited on.
Here a door opening breathed of bowers
Of ladies, who lead lives of flowers;
There, walls were books; and the sweet witch,
Painting, had there the rooms made rich	
With knights, and dames, and loving eyes
Of heaven-gone kindred, sweet and wise;
Of bishops, gentle as their lawn,
And sires, whose talk was one May-dawn.
Last, on the roof, a clock’s old grace
Looked forth, like some enchanted face
That never slept, but in the night
Dinted the air with thoughtful might
Of sudden tongue which seemed to say,
“The stars are firm, and hold their way.”

  Behold me now, like knight indeed,
Whose balmed wound had ceased to bleed,
Behold me in this green domain
Leading a palfrey by the rein,
On which the fairy lady sat
In magic talk, which men call “chat,”
Over mead, up hill, down dale,
While the sweet thoughts never fail,
Bright as what we plucked ’twixt whiles,
The mountain-ash’s thick red smiles;
And aye she laughed, and talked, and rode,
And to blest eyes her visions showed
Of nook, and tower, and mountain rare,
Like bosom, making mild the air;
And seats, endeared by friend and sire,	
Facing sunset’s thoughtful fire.
And then, to make romances true,
Before this lady open flew
A garden gate; and lo! right in,
Where horse’s foot had never been,
Rode she! The gardener with a stare
To see her threat his lilies fair,
Uncapped his bent old silver hair,
And seemed to say, “My lady good
Makes all things right in her sweet mood.”

  O land of Druid and of bard,
Worthy of bearded Time’s regard,
Quick-blooded, light-voiced, lyric Wales,
Proud with mountains, rich with vales,
And of such valor that in thee
Was born a third of chivalry
(And is to come again, they say,
Blowing its trumpets into day,
With sudden earthquake from the ground,
And in the midst, great Arthur crowned),
I used to think of thee and thine
As one of an old faded line
Living in his hills apart,
Whose pride I knew, but not his heart:
But now that I have seen thy face,
Thy fields, and ever youthful race,
And women’s lips of rosiest word
(So rich they open), and have heard
The harp still leaping in thy halls,
Quenchless as the waterfalls,
I know thee full of pulse as strong
As the sea’s more ancient song,
And of a sympathy as wide;
And all this truth, and more beside,
I should have known, had I but seen,
O Flint, thy little shore, and been
Where Truth and Dream walk, hand-in-hand,
Bodryddan’s living Fairy-land.

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