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I listen'd, and the dulcet voice of song,
And music manifold of various spells,
And the yet sweeter tones of flattering hope,
Whispering of peace and pleasures without fail,
Smiled at my fears, and ask'd me tauntingly,
If I too smiled not. But a deeper voice
Like that of thunder, utter'd answer — Peace!
There is no peace, and echoed still
- no peace :
And all the after sounds of mirth, that came
Upon the moaning breezes, ever seem'd
To sicken on my weary soul, like things
Of little moment to a dying man.
Hast thou not often at lone hours of midnight,
When the vain troublous world is still, and thou
Art there amidst the universe alone,
Alone with visions of the vast unseen,
In the stern grandeur of eternal truth
Looming around thee, turn’d thy spirit's eye
Inward upon itself, and in a tone
Tremulous for fear of answer unforeseen,
Ask'd thyself what thy being's being is ?
Aye, what that strange mysterious thing self is ?
And all things seem to fall from off thee, like
The leaves of autumn, and the earth to sink,
The stars to fade, and all things be as dreams.
Oh! then the solitude of solitudes,
The feeling of unutter'd weariness,
Like shipwreck'd mariner cast far adrift
Upon a desert ocean, with its void
Crushes the heart: the spirit faints : till soon
The stern conviction that thou canst not stay
Heartless, and homeless, and companionless,
That struggle unto death thou must for life,
Floods all thy soul; and with a sudden spring
Of blended fear, and hope, and confidence,
Thou castest all that storm-tost thing, thyself,
Upon the blessed certainty of God:
And clingest unto Him, with energies
Lent by despair -- the only anchor left;
If that could fail, all others were but straws.
Yet, clinging there, a voice within thee tells,
That cannot fail thee: 'tis thy Father's hand.
Poor child, He loves thee : love can never fail.
And then all grows serene like light, and Peace
Comes stealing o'er the waters, and aloft
Faith rises, Phoenix-like, amid the wreck.
So when that mystic undertone, no peace,
Like the dull clangor of a muffled bell
Rousing the sleep of a beleaguer'd town,
First mingled with those revelries of song,
Louder and louder pealing (whether they
Wax'd fainter, or its tone the clearer grew),
Until I seem'd to hear nor lyre nor dance,
But only that prophetic wailing; then
My spirit lost all consciousness of earth,
And listlessly I counted as they fell
The beatings of the heavy clock of Time.
I saw and slept, and sleeping still I heard ;
And in my sleep my lips re-echoed ever
After that mighty pendulum of Fate
Words that it utter'd palpably, - now — then :
And then still follow'd now, and still the now
Preceded then, eternally the same.
Save when at intervals of mystic length,
The hours of those illimitable ages,
I heard a hammer strike some viewless sphere;
And straightway through the universe of worlds,
In varying number but in tone the same,
Peald forth the everlasting answer, “ gone."
And is there nothing then that fleets not thus?
Unconsciously I murmur'd. At the words,
Came crowding on my spirit's inward eye
visions mine heart leapt To welcome them - for there were cloudless scenes Of childhood's happy rambles; there were thoughts That blended with the burning dreams of youth, And like the sunbeams to the sun flew back As to their early home, where gushes ever That fount within a fountain, human love ; When music held her calm unruffled spell, Or trembled into sorrow, or did wail With deepest spirit storms, and these again Did soothe to rest in wondrous magic wise.
Childhood and youth rose thus, and thus laid out
Their rosy landscapes at my feet: I look'd
- a moment they were gone. I could have wept their sojourn was so brief; But ere the tear fell from my eye, behold New thoughts, new burning feelings, new desires Came rushing o'er me: all the streams of love
From that young crystal fountain, music-like,
Flow'd a majestic river through the vale
Of life; and I was wandering by its banks,
And often paused my footstep, often gazed
Into what seem'd a nether sky, where heaven
With its unfathomable mysteries,
In characters of soften'd loveliness,
Was imaged in the watery mirror. Oh
I could have linger'd by that stream, methought,
For ever and for ever, but its flow
Grew faint and fainter still, till all was air,
And viewless winds, and unremaining dreams.
Yes, I might tell for hours what there and then
Arose and vanish’d, till my bosom ached
And all my heart was pain’d within me: friends
They were and brothers, those light spirit-scenes,
For a few passing moments; but oh, when
My heart was going out towards them, when
Like bright homes nestling in a vale they seem'd
Where I long while might linger, as I mused,
Their cloud foundations sway'd before the wind;
For they were built upon the mists and winds,
And perishable were, and brief as they.