LYRE of my fatherland! anew, to wake
Thy solemn shell, I come, with trembling hand,
Feeling my rudeness doth harsh discord make
With strings great minstrels all-divinely spanned.
How shall a thrall essay to join your band,
Ye free-born spirits whose bold music fired
My free-born sires to draw the glittering brand
For home and England, or, in arms attired,
To awe their lion kings who to sole power aspired?
How shall a thrall, from humble labour sprung,
Successful, strike the lyre in scornful age,
When full-voiced bards have each neglected sung,
When loftiest rhyme is deemed a worthless page,
And Taste doth browse on bestial pasturage?
Gray Prudence saith the world will disregard
My harping rude, or term it sacrilege
That captive leveller bath rashly dared
To touch the sacred function of the tuneful bard.
Ah! when hath joined the servile world to say
Truth's song was fitly-chosen, fitly-timed?
The bard fit songster for a lofty lay,
Or, that he worthily for bays had climbed?
Great spirits! who, from mortal clay sublimed,
Securely wear your immortality,—
By impulse incontrollable ye hymned
Soul-worship of the Beautiful,—the Free,
By freeborn strains, aroused to spurn at Tyranny!
Thou wert no beggar for permissive grace,
Illustrious sire, so blythely debonair,
Who didst from Monkery's mis-shapen face
The mask of purity, indignant, tear,
And its deep-grained licentiousness lay bare,
What time our simple fathers thou didst sing
On merry journey bent to patter prayer
At Martyr-shrine, where bowed the priest-scourged
That saint with tameless English heart low-homaging!
And if thou soughtst thou didst no favour gain
Worthy to be esteemed a guerdon meet
For one who did in such instructive strain
As thine, great chief of Allegory! greet
A queenly ear, with rhyme of knightly feat
And dark enchantment,—weaving moral pure
So deftly with harmonious numbers sweet
That, while thou didst the outward sense allure,
Thou feddst the mind and heart with Virtue's nouriture.
O matchless Archimage of nature, whom
I name with awe,—when thou aloft didst hold
Thy living 'mirror' to strike mortals dumb
With vision of its wonders manifold,—
To render uglier still the ugly mould
Of baneful vice, and gibbet to mankind
Their general villainy,—didst thou, for gold,
Or great ones' smiles, forbear to tell thy mind,
Or shape thy glass like one to their foul vices blind?
Or thou, immortal Childe, with him that saw
Islam's Revolt, in rapt prohpetic trance,—
Did fear of harsh reception overawe
Your fervid souls from fervid utterance
Of Freedom's fearless shout?—your scathing glance
On priestly rottenness, did ye tame down
Till priests could brook that lightning's mitigance?
Knowing your cold award would be the frown
Of Power and Priestcraft,—ye your sternest thoughts
And what if all were helot-thoughted things
Old Hellene bards to meet by sacred fount
Would scorn, save thee, to whom my spirit clings
With worship true,—it were enough to count
Thy life of toil example paramount
To coward precept. 'Evil days' were thine,
And 'evil tongues' and 'dangers,' —yet
The storm thou didst with courage all-divine,
And reared thy stately fabric 'spite of cloud malign!
Bard of the mighty harp, whose golden chords,
Strung by the Eternal, no befitting theme
Found among mortals and their low records,
But pealed high anthems to the throne supreme,
Or, thundering, echoed where the lurid gleam
Of Erebus, revealed the primal fall!—
Since thou 'mid 'darkness' lone couldst joy, I'll deem
This grated cell no dungeon of a thrall,
But banquet-chamber where the Mind holds festival!
Great minstrel, let the night entomb the day,
Let bolts and bars, in mockery, last till doom,
So that heaven-robed, thou walkst with me, thy lay
Shall dissipate all thought of prison-gloom.
Transcendant spirit,—in this narrow room
Oft tenanted by woe-worn, bruted child
Of man, crushed from his cradle to the tomb
By tyrants,—how hast thou my nights beguiled!
‘Smoothing the raven down of Darkness till it
I joy that my young heart a covenant made—
To take thee for its guide in patriot deed,
If Life's eventful roll should shew arrayed
The brethren of my fatherland agreed
To claim their ancient birthright, and be freed
Oh how the lesson of thy deathless toil,
While my soul homaged thee, in me did feed
The flame of freedom! Shall the sacred oil
Not keep it quenchless till the grave its foemen foil?
Be thou enthroned, bright patriot, tuneful seer,
Not on a regal seat that thou wouldst scorn
As loftily as e'er thou scornedst here
The thrones of kings, or baubles by them worn;
But, be thy name on England's bosom borne
In pride, while all her sons thy lineage boast!—
Thy awful brow is shaded! Dost thou mourn
And bode thy darling Commonweal is lost?—
Nay!—but we'll win her back, by Labour's gathered
She shall return, with face more heavenly fair,
And graced with limbs of fitlier symmetry!
Ay, shall return!—for we thy kindred are:
We'll win thy 'mountain nymph, sweet Liberty!'
Thou, and the glorious phalanx of the free;—
Hampden, and Pym, and Eliot, Selden, Vane,
Marten, and martyred Sydney, what were ye?
Our elder brethren!—and the kingly chain
Ye loosed—we'll break: our kingless birthright we'll
Honour—all honour to thee, patriot bard!—
With whom I took sweet counsel in my youth:
I joy, that though my lowly lot was hard,
My spirit, raised by thine, forgot its ruth,
And, smiling, dared the dint of Want's fell tooth:
I joy, that all enamoured of thy song,
While simpletons esteemed my ways uncouth,
I wandered, by days dawn, the woods among,
Or did, with midnight lamp, my grateful task prolong.
Poet of Paradise, whose glory illumed
My path of youthful penury, till grew
The desart to a garden, and Life bloomed
With hope and joy, 'midst suffering,—honour due
I cannot render thee; but reverence true
This heart shall give thee, till it reach the verge
Where human splendours lose their lustrous hue;
And when, in death, my mortal joys all merge—
Thy grand and gorgeous music, Milton, be my
Long had the night o'erveiled the summer sky,
And, through the grated casement of my lair,—
Was it some guardian spirit's wakeful eye
The captive keeping?—one mild, silver star,
Benignant, beamed. Meanwhile, of angel war,
Fierce waged in heaven against the Eternal king,—
Of great Messiah, in his cherub car,
Routing the foe,—I heard the minstrel sing,—"
And heaven's magnific vault with clash of conflict ring!
Then, in ecstatic whispers, of the love
And joy, and peace, and harmony, that reign
Unceasing ,'mid the radiant choir above,
Now war is o'er,—he sang: anon, in strain
Sonorous chaunted how, on burning plain
Rallied the fallen warriors' myriad host,
And hurled defiance, 'spite of fiery pain
And torment, at the Conqueror,—their vain boast
Of strength original maintaining—although lost!
The mighty stature, and still mightier pride
And energy of him who 'seemed alone
'Th' antagonist of heaven' —in
Breasting the flaming waves, or, on the throne
Of stately Pandemonium regal grown,
And confident in ruin,—the high seer,
Filled with his theme, in deep unearthly tone
Rehearsed,—while I, entranced with pleasing fear,
Imagined I beheld the proud archangel near!—
Thus night sped on until the golden lyre
And song magnificent brought sense of rest,
As late they woke the spirit's sleepless fire:
So breathe, conjunctive, at Her high behest,
Nature's great servitors, to make Man blest—
Maugre his foes!—the Muse and Phantasy,
Hope, Music, Sleep: until into his nest—
Straw on an iron slab—he sinks with glee—
Even where the lordlings trow he pines in misery!
Nor did my minstrel guest upon me look
Farewell—until the soul her mystic flight,—
Leaving the flesh to slumber,—once more took:
When, o'er Death's sea, by supernatural might
Upborne, we seemed to speed, and then to alight
Together on that 'boundless continent
'Dark, waste, and wild, under the frown of Night,
'Starless exposed' —where
wandered souls that rent
Themselves, unbidden, from their earthly tenement.
Familiar seemed that drear and gloomy land
Unto the stately Shade with whom I trod
The swamp and rock o'er which the ghastly band
Essayed their march. But, now, as if some god
Potential had transfixed them by his nod,
The chasms forgot to yawn, the rocks to roll
And threaten; warlike meteors to forebode,
And spectres ceased their gibings fierce and foul:
Horror was hushed, and, patient, owned the bard's
Swiftly we threaded through the caverned aisle
Of wondrous masonry; and, forthwith, passed
Thorough the vault that seemed sepulchral pile
Scooped from primeval rock. Then with light haste
Upborne again, as if on gentle blast
Pillowed, or winged away by flying steed
Invisible, we neared a mountain vast,
Where toiled a troop thinking its height would lead
Up to some happier clime from pains of penance freed.
Aloft we floated, passing crowd on crowd,
Their guises varied as the flowers a-field,
While with all nameless hues their features glowed,
Betokening them self-exiles, unannealed,
From every mortal clime. Still up we wheeled
Our flight, reaching no summit,—countless souls
Hard toiling upwards being still revealed,
As if the discontented in huge shoals
Had hither 'scaped from Earth's old hated prison-walls!
Our flying travel ended where a grove
Grew on the mount. 'Midst, sat a form which
With raised right hand to mock the pomp of Jove
Hurling his lightnings. Asking, as I dreamed,
Who this might be—'twas 'he who to be deemed
'A god leapt fondly into Etna flames—
bard replied; while gleamed
From the throned figure looks of one who aims
Unto some high pretension to assert his claims.
Methought, on this aspiring form I gazed
Until a youth, who downcast looked, and coy,
Came near; when wondering that he never raised
His eyes, I asked what thoughts him might employ:
The minstrel said, 'twas 'he who to enjoy
'Plato's Elysium leapt into the sea—
the fanatic boy
Thus briefly named, my minstrel guide from me
Departed. I, to follow felt I was not free.
Perplexed, I seemed awhile to look around;
And wistfully to think of mother Earth;
But soon all thought and consciousness were bound
Unto that mountain region: I felt dearth
Of earthly sense, as heretofore, but birth
Of intellection; for the spirits twain,
Of Hellas sprung, seemed now, in words of worth,
Though without mortal sound, of their soul's stain
And essences of things, to speak in fervid strain.—
"Sage Agrigentine, shall we never leave
Our earth-born weaknesses?"—the youth began:
"Ages of thought, since Hades did receive
Our spirits, have elapsed, by mortal span,—
Still, from the great disciplinarian
Stern Truth, we slowly learn! A juggler's dupe
Thou art, ev'n now—thyself the charlatan!
Nay!—like an intellectual eagle, stoop
Upon thy quarry, Self-Deceit, with conquering swoop!
"Vainly, thou knowst, thou wilt seek worshippers
Of thy proud foolery, here. Before thee fall
No votaries; and thy erring spirit stirs,
In vain, her sovereignty to re-enthral
By harbouring old thoughts terrestrial:
None will thy godship own! Thy rock descend,
Laying stale follies by, and let us call
Forth from the mind the vigorous powers that rend
Fate's curtain; and our ken beyond these shades
The younger Hellene ceased; and, while he spake,
The elder changed, like one who having quaffed
The maddening cup, up, from his couch doth wake,
And—told by crowds that old Lyæan
Beguiled him, till he skipt, and mouthed, and laught,
As one moon-struck,—now, ebriate with rage,
Dashes to earth the foul venenose draught:
So changed, from pride to ire, the thought-smit sage:
As if the soul now spurned her self-wrought vassalage.
Descending his imaginary throne
With haste, upon the rugged granite peak
He seemed to have laid his fancied godhead down;
For, like to glow that crimsons mortal cheek,
A glow of shame came o'er the lofty Greek,
When, 'midst the grove, upon the mountain's sward
He stood, and, couched in phrase antique,
Poured forth his inmost thoughts. A rapt regard
Rendered the youth while thus discoursed the
"Cleombrotus, thou humblest me; yet I
Thy debtor am; fraternal chastisement
Our spirits need, even here—O mystery
Inexplicable! Vainly, on earth outwent
The mind on high discovery, prescient
Herself esteeming of her after-state;
For Ease, Pain's issue, here, is incident,
As to Earth's clime; and all unlike our fate
To what we did in mortal life prognosticate.
"Thou findst not here deep ecstasy absorb
With ravishment perpetual the soul;
Although Elysian dreams yon dreaming orb
Enticed thee to forsake, and flee to goal
Eternal. Neither do fierce fires control
Our thought with mystic torture, as they feign
On earth, who now affright, and then cajole
Poor trampled earthworms—picturing joy or pair
Ghostly, until the mind subserves the body's chain.
"Here, as on earth, we feel our woe or joy
Is of and from ourselves: the yearning mind
Her own beatitude, and its alloy,
Creates, and suffering ever intertwined,
She proves, with error. Fool—I am, and blind—
Amidst my fancied wisdom! What impels
The soul to err? If in the right she find
Her happiness concentred, why rebels
The will against the judgment till it foams and swells,
"A tempest,—aided by the raging blast
Of passion,—and the yielding soul is whirled
Helplessly into guilt's black gulf, or cast
On death's sharp breakers? What hath hither
Thy bark and mine? Our senses' sails upfurled
We did esteem, by sage Philosophy,
Yet was our vessel caught where fiercest curled
The furious billows, and poor shipwrecks we
Were left—even while we boasted our dexterity!
"Thou, whilst aspiring after fuller bliss
Than earth affords, wert maddened with desire
To realise some pure hypostasis
Platonic dreamers fable from their sire,
The Academian: I consuming fire
Felt daily in my veins to see my race
Emerge from out the foul defiling mire
Of animal enjoyments that debase
Their nature, and well-nigh its lineaments efface.
"I burned to see my species proudly count
Themselves for more than brutes; and toiled to draw
Them on to drink at Virtue's living fount,
Whence purest pleasures flow. Alas! I
Old vice had them besotted till some awe,
Some tinge of mystery, must be allied
With moral lessons; or, a futile law
My scholars would esteem them. Not in pride
To Etna's yawning gulph the Agrigentine hied:
"I loved my kind; and, eager to exalt
Them into gods, to be esteemed a god
I coveted: thinking none would revolt
From godlike virtue when the awful nod
Divine affirmed its precepts. Thus, to fraud
Strong zeal for virtue led me! Canst thou blame
My course? I tell thee, thirst for human laud
Impelled me not: 'twas my sole-thoughted aim
To render Man, my brother, worthy his high name!—
"So spake Empedocles; and him the youth
Thus answered:—"Mystery, that for ever grows
More complex as we, ardent, seek for truth,
Doth still encompass us! Thy words disclose
A tide of thoughts; and o'er my spirit flows
Wave after wave, bearing me, nerveless, from
My fancied height: as when, by acheful throes,
Self-castaway, the shelving rock I clomb,
The sea asserted o'er my limbs its masterdom.
"My chiefest marvel is that Wisdom's son,
Thyself, should, after ages have gone o'er
Him, and his race unto the tomb is run,
Still feel anxieties which earth's old shore
Convert to hell. Empedocles, no more
Mix palliation with confession, guise
Of fraud with truth! If, in thy heart's deep
Thou hadst not erred, why, by the grand assize
Of the soul's judge, dost thou in Hades agonise?
"No longer from thy judgment seek to hide
The truth indisputable—that thy heart
Was moved, like every human heart, by pride—
That subtle poison which with fatal smart,
Man's spirit penetrates, and doth impart
Its hateful tinct even to his pearliest deeds.
Whence rise the spectrous forms that flit athwart
Thy mental vision here? Thy thought—why breeds
It still Pride's haughty plant, unless from earth-sown
"I question not the truth of thy deep love
For virtue, for man's happiness thy zeal. 
Empedocles, thou knowst my soul hath clove
To thine for ages, in these shades: we feel
Our heart congenial while we thus reveal
Its throbbings to the core. Oh! not in hate
Or mockery do I once again appeal
Unto thy nobler thought. Though sad our state.
Let us from self-deceit the soul emancipate!"—
He ceased; and thus the Agrigentine sage
Replied:—"Cleombrotus, in me, again,
Thou call'st forth gratitude: self-cozenage,
How low, how mean, how imbecile and vain!
Yet, humbled, I discern its hateful stain
Within my essence, still: would thou hadst torn
My last disguise away, and bruised the reign
Of my deceits, eternally!—Upborne
From hence; then would the soul find some more
"And why cannot the soul her strength exert
Even now? Age after age this irksome feud
With frailty we sustain, or, all inert,
Droop o'er our woe, and, passive mourn! Endued
With power our being is: this torpitude
Let us shake off! We loathe the stain we see
Still cleaving to us: let the will denude
The soul of frailty! Now for victory
Let essence dare, and scale this Mount of Vanity!"—
With wild fanatic light his visage glowed
And kindred fire began forthwith to gleam
In the youth's eyes:—"With mystic might endowed
I feel we are!"—he cried: "with might supreme!
The soul shall sun herself amid the beam
Ecstatic, where Elysian flowers bloom
In fields of ceaseless verdure, and where stream
The waters of rejuvenescence! Gloom
Shall cease! these shades are not the soul's perpetual
"Now, let us mount! Haste, haste, Empedocles!
My brother, haste! Our spirits' law delay
Brooks not: let us the favouring current seize
That now the soul bears onward!"—
I saw them, as I dreamed, sanguine and gay
Of heart as children, join the toiling crew
Of motley shapes and guises, that for aye,
Clomb up to gain some peak, winning no view,
They sought, but seeming, still, their struggle to renew.
My spirit, with a vague, wild ardour rapt,
Seemed speedily to mingle with this host.
And, as I gazed, sleek, supple forms that aped
Deep sanctity, sighing, trudged on, and crossed
Themselves. Of sable hue, full many a ghost
Was there that called on Brahm, and Juggernaut,
Veeshnu, and Seeva, and Kalee: these tossed
Their frantic forms, and writhed, and wildly smote
Upon their breasts—seeming with ecstasy distraught.
And turbaned shapes were there that proudly frowned
On all around them, and 'Allah akbar!'
Proclaimed: whereat 'Christ shield us from Mahound!'
A band exclaimed that signs of antique war
Displayed, their zeal and guise alike bizarre,
Shirted in steel and visored; while loud rung
The air of Hades with unholy jar
Of chivalrous chartel they fiercely flung
At their grim Paynim foemen, with obstreperous tongue.
Anathemas and hells eternal waged
They next against each other, losing sense
Of their strange afterstate,—so madly raged
Each bigot at his fellow's difference
Of madness. Memory of their woes intense
Returning, each made halt and turned to scorn
His neighbour's cowardice, with spite prepense,
For blighted self-destroyer that must mourn
In endless pain, with torturous hope of end still
And now gave o'er their lunatic pursuit
The Graian sage and youth I first perceived
Upon the mount. Amid the mad dispute
Of million zealots they seemed each bereaved
Of self-possession, till, anon they cleaved
A way from out the crowd, and sat them down,
Wearied and strife-worn, while their spirits grieved
With more than mortal agony: all flown
Their dreams, and their wild hopes brought back to
Long space, and gloomy, of existence past,
In which, with silent grief, the spirits twain
Seemed overwhelmed, and each enthusiast
His face averted from his brother, fain
To hide his shame, and struggling to sustain
His own peculiar woe. At length outburst
Cleombrotus, unable to restrain
His swelling sorrow:—"Evermore accurst "—
He cried,—"be memory of him who kindled thirst
"Within me for some vaguely imagined good,
Unproven by the soul, and whether ill
Or good unknown; since oft false likelihood
Befools the mind, oft she impels the will
To grasp a hemlock where she thought to fill
Her embrace with the rose. My mortal state
Why did I scorn? Not seldom, sweetest thrill
Of pleasure follows pain: joys mitigate
Worst woe: Men share no irremediable fate;
"Sorrow, on earth, hath uses: nutritive
Of joys griefs often prove; and power to find
Pleasures unfound before pains, friendly, give.
O state beyond compare! and for the mind
And body framed benignly! Weak and blind
And thoughtless was my wish for unmixt joy
Perpetual, since alternate pain designed
Satiety of pleasure to destroy
I now discern. Could ceaseless pleasure fail to cloy?
"Alas! in vain I reason!—vainly charge
My tortured spirit with her last foul leap—
Her darkest, deepest stain! While on the marge
Of jeopardy this lessoning might keep
The soul from error; but when once the steep
She clears, sage counsels no deliverance bring.
Yet, why do I permit despair to sweep
Away all hope? Unto the weakest thing,
For help, the seaman 'midst the strife of death will cling:
"To weeds—to quicksands—to the cresting foam
Of the wild waves themselves! And shall she sink,
The deathless spirit,—in self-exiled home,—
Where yet remains her boundless power to think
O luxury ineffable, since link
To link the spiritual Cyclops swift
And stronger may forge, —till to the very brink
Of space her tether reach! This matchless gift
Is still her portion: shall she not of it make thrift?
"Empedocles, my brother, once more tell
To me thy spirit's woes or joys: once more
Let us together struggle to expel
Our sense of pain, and the wide realm explore
Of deepest cogitation: that vast shore
We can, unfettered, visit, and still glean
Its metaphysic splendours, as of yore:
Let us our travel to the fair demesne
Of Mind essay,—the land of truest evergreen!"—
"Cleombrotus, my spirit doth respond
To thine, with joy!"—replied Empedocles:
"The soul her winged steed, caparisoned
For venturous travel, mounts, and on the breeze
Discursive pants to ride: from far she sees
Her promised conquests; for thou well hast told,
And truly, intellectual pleasures please
When other joys are joyless. But, behold!
Where comes to share our converse the wise Indian old:
"He whom Emathian Philip's son beheld
Amazed,—while pealing trumpets cleaved the sky,
And warrior hosts the wondering tumult swelled—
Ride, on his goaded steed, undauntedly,
Into the funeral flame,—scorning to die
By nature's gradual law! Hail Calanus!"
The sage spake on—for, now, the Indian nigh
Appeared; "full timely comest thou, friend, with us
To share, as oft before, the descant emulous.
"The theme of mystery,—What Existence is,—
Begin! Whence Pain and Pleasure, Hope, Despair?
Why Truth in endless metamorphosis
Doth shroud herself. How Wisdom may declare
Her precept best; and how she best may snare
The vulgar crowd her lessons to observe,
Thereby to elevate and bless—"
The Indian cried, with look of power and nerve:
"How blindly dost thou, still, from truth and wisdom
"Empedocles, in sooth I say thou errst,
As when on earth. Yet, thy clay trammels thou,
By long sojourn in Hades, shouldst have burst.
Falsehood and ignorance will ever bow
The human soul; and urge it, base and low,
To grovel in the dust. Falsehood and sooth
Breed no amalgam. Flame from flood shall flow,—
The summer's sun shed drops congealed,—and Youth
Be sire unto Old Age,—ere Lies shall nurture Truth!
"O Greek, called wise, think how old earth hath
And bled, through ages, by the mixture foul
Of fraud with truth! Would that thy heart
Had never been by pride, a false control
To forge for Virtue o'er the human soul!
How would the universal race of man
Have joined thy lofty labour to extol,—
Thy high emprise of goodness, if the ban
Of evil mystery had not obscured thy plan!
"I speak not here to wound thee; but I joy
That Vulcan's fabled forge cast out, in scorn,
Thy sandals' brazen soles, for base alloy, 
And thus the flimsy veil in twain was torn
That hid thy apish godhead. Hadst thou worn
The false divinity thou soughtst, thy shrine
Had only swelled the slavish burthen borne
By sottish man of priestly craft malign:—
The enwoven fraud had frustrated thy scheme
Eager response unto the Indian gave
The Agrigentine bard:—"If not by aid
Of harmless fraud,"—he said,—"how couldst thou save
The sons of degradation that have strayed
In Folly's paths until the comely maid,
Fair Virtue, seems, from her uncomely dress,
"Call not fraud—harmless!"—said the Shade
With sable visage:—"Shadow bodiless
Of Fraud would curse a world with its flagitiousness:
"Tinct, grain of falsehood, would a cureless plague
A leprosy o' the heart, in mankind breed!
Empedocles,—thy wisdom still is vague,
Miscalculating, blind; and still succeed
To thee, on earth, they who mankind mislead,
Without thy real philanthropy engraffed
Within their hearts, but mixing with their greed
For praise or gold, a larger share of craft:
How long and loud the fablers at the easy world have
"And still sleek fablers thrive; whilst thou to flame
Gavest thy frail life, and for thyself hast won—
What?—Folly's laurels and a madman's fame!
The time will come, O Hellene! when the sun
Shall look upon a world no more o'errun
With slaves to sensualism; when haggard Spite,
And frowning Pride, and Envy pale shall shun
Truth's glorious beams, and Love's celestial light—
They twain that shall be one, by hymeneals bright!
"Glad Earth shall wed them: to the nuptial-feast,
The banquet sempiternal, new-born Faith
Shall call the nations: fairest Peace, sweet Rest,
And holy Joy, shall minister with breath
Ambrosial at the bridal: demon wrath
Against their brethren, cruelty through lure
Of gold, strife for the conqueror's wreath of death,
The strong shall loathe: the weak shall wear, secure,
Their stronger brethren's love—that heaven-wrought
"How blest that nuptial reign! The strong shall seek
Their strength to nurture, hourly, with the dews
Of Pity and Mercy; visiting, with meek
Yet fervid zeal, Pain's couch, and Want's purlieus;
Creating health for sickness, hopeful views
Of life for dark despondence; breaking bread
To weeping orphans; and the withered thews
Of age cheering with raiment; till, outspread
In smiles, Earth is one mother's hearth where brethren
"The time will come! But, ere that bridal-day
Dawn on our ancient home, Knowledge must win,
By toilsome steps and slow, her widening way:
Knowledge—the new-born world's great heroine
That shall be—when, of knight and paladin,
Tartar and Mameluke, legion and cohort
And phalanx, fame hath fled; when War's huge sin
Hath ceased; and 'Glory,' ravening kings' fell sport,
Is chronicled with tales of murderous report.
"O Greek, hadst thou a lowly pioneer
Aspired to be of Knowledge, and disdained
To be esteemed, by Greeks, a fit compeer
Of myriad mongrel gods, mankind had gained
By thee, perchance, a gift worth thanks unfeigned;
And lasting honours to thy memory
Exultant lands had rendered, disenchained:
From ignorance, and craft, and tyranny.—
Yet it will come—that trump of world-spread jubilee!
The time will ,come! Young Knowledge on her
Already speeds! Her march of suffering toil,
And peaceful hardihood, of patient search
And tireless zeal. Forth from his snaky coil
Old Superstition springs, and Power his foil
Of sword and chain opposeth to her steps—
But all in vain! She counts them for a spoil!
And conquering and to conquer, forth she sweeps
O’er alp, and vale, and strand; and bounds across the
"Now beams on Thulé's shore her genial
Yea, there her central temple proudly stands:
And lo! who greets her at the stately porch—
An awful-fronted sage, from whom her hands
Receive an ensign which on high expands
Amid the breeze: that peerless gonfalon
Monarchs and Priests behold, and think their sands
Are numbered; for aghast, they read upon
Its scroll 'Knowledge is Power!' They fear their craft
"They quake—they bow—and soon shall disappear
Their twin theurgies—for the nations wake!
Knowledge, the great Enfranchiser, is near!
Yet, though their bonds the wide world's helots break,
They seek not in their tyrants' blood to slake
A thirst for vengeance. Knowledge desolates
No mother's hearth—no brother's home: they take
Revenge in mercy, whom she emancipates:
His carrion maw, tracking her steps, no vulture sates:
"The dogs of carnage prowl not where she treads:
Beneath her steps the sterile desart smiles;
And o'er the wintry waste its perfume sheds
The vernal rose: along the forest aisles
Earth's seraphim awake: her breath beguiles
Old Nature's self! I see their rays appear—
The beauteous bridal pair! Through islet piles
I hear the shout that Truth and Love are near:
For Knowledge wins her way—their radiant harbinger!"—
So spake the Indian sage, and stood enrapt
In ecstasy prophetic, as, of old,
The Pythoness afflate who, struggling shaped
To mortal sounds what the Immortal told.
Silence applausive, that with mystic mould
Of spirits consorts, the Twain long held. His
Of admiration first the youth controlled:
"I burn with wish,"—he said,—"that Fate or Chance
Had granted us of clay a later heritance:
"What raptures then had been our portion! Now
We wrestle with our lot in hope: for yet
Hope unto us remains; and on thy brow;
O Calanus, methinks, are brightly met
Rays of a hope for Hades. Shall thy debt
And ours to angered Providence be purged
By ages of endurance, here, beset
With strange alternate woes? For either urged
By hope we strive; or, in despair all strife is merged
"In wretchedness of dull, grave-cold despair.
Say, sable spirit, what thou knowst of rest
That shall be ours!"—
With look of anxious care,
He ceased, impatient for reply. Unblest,
Humbled, regretful, thought and speech confest
Empedocles; and he, ere deeper gauge
Of thought the Indian took, thus urged his quest:
"Some glimpse of joy," he said, "my thoughts presage:—
This shall not be the soul's eternal heritage:
"The spirit shall escape her prison-house:
But thou, O Sage,—to whom mind more intense
Hath brought deep knowledge, who with luminous
Perceptions art endowed, and opulence
Of reasoning power, like to the prescience
Of gods,—tell forth what hope of blissful end
To these our changeful woes, or what suspense
Of agony, thou dost foreknow. Could we amend
The past, my soul should truth no more with foul fraud
"Bright truth with grovelling fraud. Too late I see
Wide wanderings with my fancied rectitude
Enmixt. But why this Mount of Vanity,—
So called by souls that have, for aye, renewed
Their strife to win its peak,—still unsubdued
Their sanguine zeal, though fruitless,—why assign
The gods our portion here? Torturous soul-feud
Of myriad forms hath Hades,—but divine,—
If that thou canst,—why hold we this abhorr'd confine?
"What Power appoints to us; with minds at large,
This mountain-prison? Why, in this duresse,
Deemed we, but now, our spirits on the marge
Of ecstasy's eternal boundlessness,
And then, again, surged, wrecked, and shelterless,
On agony's shore, ourselves imagined? Though
Mysterious agencies on us impress
Their purposes,—thou, Calanus, mayst know
What these, the wondering soul's perplexities,
"Perplexed I am for answer,"—in my dream
The Indian seemed to say:—"Here banishment
From earth is self-inflicted; and I deem
Some mystic law consociates spirits pent
In this strange realm of penance. They who rent
Themselves from earth, impelled by painful force
Of ill-requited passion, live unblent
With spirits who through torturous remorse
Fled hither to embrace the self-destroyer's curse:
"And they whom slights and treacheries have pierced
With thousand arrows; or, whom children's hate
Hath heart-galled; or, whose actions misrehearsed,
The pitiless world hath phrensied; or, whom Fate
Or circumstance hath failed to elevate
Above their fellows, till with their own hand
They broke life's bonds, hold here a various state.
From these the Poet and the Patriot band,
Self-exiles, dwell apart, in this mysterious land.
"Nor seems it purposeless that we who reft
Ourselves of earth's mixt joys through thirst to drink
Of ecstasy unmixt, should thus be left
At large, as heretofore, to dream and think;
And, while imagining we reach the brink
Of purest joy, should feel ourselves still tossed
On hope's conflicting wave, then feebly sink
Desponding. If, upon this mystic coast,
Each wandering soul with dreams and visions be
"Analogous to dreams and visions which
In mortal life engrossed her, 'midst the crowd
Of stern realities,—if glozing speech
Mislead her, as on earth,—and mists enshroud
Her vision till all essence with a cloud
Is wrapt,—and doubt asks whether she exists
Or not,—why, let our struggling will be bowed!
It is our spirits' law,—and, as Fate lists
We live: in vain this law our rebel will resists.
"Shall we live thus for ever, or hath hope
Foundation firm for joys—pure joys to come?
Perplexed I answer: We but guess and grope
For this the jewel of our search: unwomb
Herself Truth may: but, in the heart of gloom
She still hides this her gem of gems. The mind
Oft asks how gods their progeny can doom
To endless, hopeless woe: but what, if blind
Necessity grasps all! Who shall her grasp unbind?
"Oft speak we of deep sympathies enwove
In flesh-freed Essences with men on earth,
Foretelling that when Truth shall wed with Love
'Mong mortals, spirits in Hades shall, thenceforth,
Experience wondrous change,—the soul new birth
Shall have of wisdom,—false distinctions cease,—
Or they have highest honour who in worth
Of virtue most excel,—penance to peace
For ever shall be changed,—and ever know increase.
"With ye not seldom, Hellenes sage, I share
These sanguine thoughts; but souls of Kings ask whence
Derive we our bright hope. Summons I bear
Unto our mountain realm—that high souls hence
Betake them where, in pictured affluence
Of power, Monarchs held thrones, when lapse of pain
To them, with us, Nature's behests dispense.
Since Kings yield parley, think ye that in vain
Truth's devotees 'fore thrones shall themes of Truth maintain?
"Spirits, ye beam with thoughts that antedate
Triumph of Truth and Right; and I partake
Your deep prophetic joy. What though dark hate
Bosoms of kings usurps?—Love shall awake
In gentleness omnipotent, and make
Her meekest throne within their souls, for they
Are human,—and all human souls shall break
Their vassalage to Wrong. Alas!—dismay
Of doubt begins, anew, to seek me for its prey!
In Hades, as on earth, is mystery:
Our being is a contest and a strife
Of self with self: thus struggling to be free
We add unto our fetters: while we flee—
Or think we flee—from folly, we are more
Than ever fools! The soul, a refugee
In Hades from Earth's woes, her woes deplore
In deeper woe may, endlessly;—or with new power
"Endowed, may yet launch out her fragile bark
Adventurously, and find some sea of bliss,—
Some unknown flood of light,—and, far from dark
And dismal storms of doubt, emparadise
Anon, from vague hypothesis
The Indian fell again to doubtings void,
Till like his speech, his form itself, I wis,
Grew dim; and with its brother forms did glide
Into the womb of Nought:—the vision was destroyed!
NOTES TO BOOK THE SECOND.
1.—Page 53, Stanza 8.
'Evil days' were thine,
And ‘evil tongues' and 'dangers,'—
2.—Page 53, Stanza 10.
'Smoothing the raven down of darkness till it smiled!'
3.—Page 54, Stanza 13.
We'll win thy 'mountain nymph, sweet Liberty!
4.—Page 55, Stanza 16
Routing the foe,—I heard the minstrel sing,—
In plain prose, I mean that my rehearsal of Milton, during
the long hours of darkness in my sleeping cell, frequently converted the
gloom into a season of ecstasy. I had committed three books of
"Paradise Lost" to memory, while at the last, twenty years before
my imprisonment; and I thus was enabled to realise the high value of such
an inalienable possession.
5.—Page 55, Stanza 18.
'Th' antagonist of heaven'—in gloom descried
6.—Page 56, Stanza 20.
'Starless exposed'—where wandered souls that rent
7.—Page 57, Stanza 24.
'he who to be deemed
'A god leapt fondly into Etna's flames—
8.—Page 57, Stanza 25.
'he who to enjoy
'Plato's Elysium leapt into the Sea—
9.—Page 58, Stanza 30.
thee ancient bard:
The poetical performances of Empedocles (without mooting the
question of his identity with Empedocles the tragedian) must have been
considerable.—Diogenes Laertius (editio Amsteldami: Hen. Wetstenii: p.
529) records Aristotle's testimony that the character of the Agrigentine
philosopher's poetry was "Homerical," and takes especial notice of a poem
on Xerxes' transit of the Hellespont, and an address or hymn to the Sun
(in Apollinem proœmium). Fabricius
(Bibliotheca Græca: editio Hamburgi :
vol. i., p. 811), in the list of the works of Empedocles, places three
books of hexameter verse on Nature,—3,000 hexametres on Lustrations, and
600 on Medicine. In the same volume the "learned" reader may peruse
a specimen of this philosopher's poetry,—being 168 lines of Greek, on the
Spheres, and may also acquaint himself with some stout reasons why
Empedocles should be considered as the real author of the celebrated
"Golden Verses of Pythagoras."
10.—Page 61, Stanza 41.
For virtue, for man's happiness thy zeal.
The highest testimonies to the philanthropy, humane exercise
of his medical skill, liberality in the disposition of his wealth, and
democratic spirit of Empedocles, are given by Laertius and others.—See
Stanley's or Enfield's "History of Philosophy."
11.—Page 6.—Stanza 57.
The self-immolation of this Indian philosopher, in the
presence of Alexander the Great, is described, with some variations of
circumstance, by Arrian, Plutarch, and others. King Sudraka, author
of the Sanscrit drama "Mrichchacati, or the Toy Cart," (recently
translated by Professor Horace Hayman Wilson), also burnt himself to
death, as a religious consummation of mortal life, about, it is supposed,
192 years before Christ.
12.—Page 66, Stanza 66.
Thy sandals' brazen soles,
Diogenes Laertius gives authorities for his relation that the
mode of Empedocles' suicide was discovered by the casting up of his brazen
sandals from the crater of Etna: other ancient authors discredit the