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Lycidas

2006-09-08 11:38

    YET once more O ye laurels and once more

    Ye myrtles brown with ivy never sere

    I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude

    And with forced fingers rude

    Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.

    Bitter constraint and sad occasion dear

    Compels me to disturb your season due:

    For Lycidas is dead dead ere his prime

    Young Lycidas and hath not left his peer.

    Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew

    Himself to sing and build the lofty rhyme.

    He must not float upon his watery bier

    Unwept and welter to the parching wind

    Without the meed of some melodious tear.

    Begin then Sisters of the sacred well

    That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring;

    Begin and somewhat loudly sweep the string.

    Hence with denial vain and coy excuse:

    So may some gentle Muse

    With lucky words favour my destined urn;

    And as he passes turn

    And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.

    For we were nursed upon the selfsame hill

    Fed the same flock by fountain shade and rill:

    Together both ere the high lawns appear'd

    Under the opening eyelids of the Morn

    We drove afield and both together heard

    What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn

    Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of night

    Oft till the star that rose at evening bright

    Toward heaven's descent had sloped his westering wheel.

    Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute

    Temper'd to the oaten flute

    Rough Satyrs danced and Fauns with cloven heel

    From the glad sound would not be absent long;

    And old Damoetas loved to hear our song.

    But oh the heavy change now thou art gone—

    Now thou art gone and never must return!

    Thee Shepherd thee the woods and desert caves

    With wild thyme and the gadding vine o'ergrown

    And all their echoes mourn:

    The willows and the hazel copses green

    Shall now no more be seen

    Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays:—

    As killing as the canker to the rose

    Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze

    Or frost to flowers that their gay wardrobe wear

    When first the #CCCCFF-thorn blows

    Such Lycidas thy loss to shepherd's ear.

    Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep

    Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas?

    For neither were ye playing on the steep

    Where your old bards the famous Druids lie

    Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high

    Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream:

    Ay me! I fondly dream—

    Had ye been there …… For what could that have done?

    What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore

    The Muse herself for her enchanting son

    Whom universal nature did lament

    When by the rout that made the hideous roar

    His gory visage down the stream was sent

    Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore?

    Alas! what boots it with uncessant care

    To tend the homely slighted shepherd's trade

    And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?

    Were it not better done as others use

    To sport with Amaryllis in the shade

    Or with the tangles of Ne?ra's hair?

    Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

    (That last infirmity of noble mind)

    To scorn delights and live laborious days;

    But the fair guerdon when we hope to find

    And think to burst out into sudden blaze

    Comes the blind Fury with the abhorrèd shears

    And slits the thin-spun life. "But not the praise

    Phoebus replied and touch'd my trembling ears;

    Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil

    Nor in the glistering foil

    Set off to the world nor in broad rumour lies:

    But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes

    And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;

    As he pronounces lastly on each deed

    Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed."

    O Fountain Arethuse and thou honour'd flood

    Smooth-sliding Mincius crown'd with vocal reeds

    That strain I heard was of a higher mood.

    But now my oat proceeds

    And listens to the herald of the sea

    That came in Neptune's plea;

    He ask'd the waves and ask'd the felon winds

    What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain?

    And question'd every gust of rugged wings

    That blows from off each beakèd promontory:

    They knew not of his story;

    And sage Hippotades their answer brings

    That not a blast was from his dungeon stray'd;

    The air was calm and on the level brine

    Sleek Panope with all her sisters play'd.

    It was that fatal and perfidious bark

    Built in the eclipse and rigg'd with curses dark

    That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.

    Next Camus reverend sire went footing slow

    His mantle hairy and his bonnet sedge

    Inwrought with figures dim and on the edge

    Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe:

    Ah! who hath reft quoth he my dearest pledge!

    Last came and last did go

    The Pilot of the Galilean lake;

    Two massy keys he bore of metals twain

    (The golden opes the iron shuts amain);

    He shook his mitred locks and stern bespake:

    How well could I have spared for thee young swain

    Enow of such as for their bellies' sake

    Creep and intrude and climb into the fold!

    Of other care they little reckoning make

    Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast

    And shove away the worthy bidden guest.

    Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold

    A sheep-hook or have learn'd aught else the least

    That to the faithful herdman's art belongs!

    What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;

    And when they list their lean and flashy songs

    Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw:

    The hungry sheep look up and are not fed

    But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw

    Rot inwardly and foul contagion spread:

    Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw

    Daily devours apace and nothing said:

    —But that two-handed engine at the door

    Stands ready to smite once and smite no more.

    Return Alpheus; the dread voice is past

    That shrunk thy streams; return Sicilian Muse

    And call the vales and bid them hither cast

    Their bells and flowerets of a thousand hues.

    Ye valleys low where the mild whispers use

    Of shades and wanton winds and gushing brooks

    On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks

    Throw hither all your quaint enamell'd eyes

    That on the green turf suck the honey'd showers

    And purple all the ground with vernal flowers.

    Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies

    The tufted crow-toe and pale jessamine

    The #CCCCFF pink and the pansy freak'd with jet

    The glowing violet

    The musk-rose and the well-attirèd woodbine

    With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head

    And every flower that sad embroidery wears:

    Bid amarantus all his beauty shed

    And daffadillies fill their cups with tears

    To strew the laureat hearse where Lycid lies.

    For so to interpose a little ease

    Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise:—

    Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas

    Wash far away —where'er thy bones are hurl'd

    Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides

    Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide

    Visitest the bottom of the monstrous world;

    Or whether thou to our moist vows denied

    Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old

    Where the great Vision of the guarded mount

    Looks towards Namancos and Bayona's hold

    —Look homeward Angel now and melt with ruth:

    —And O ye dolphins waft the hapless youth!

    Weep no more woeful shepherds weep no more

    For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead

    Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor:

    So sinks the day-star in the ocean-bed

    And yet anon repairs his drooping head

    And tricks his beams and with new-spangl'd ore

    Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:

    So Lycidas sunk low but mounted high

    Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves;

    Where other groves and other streams along

    With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves

    And hears the unexpressive nuptial song

    In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.

    There entertain him all the Saints above

    In solemn troops and sweet societies

    That sing and singing in their glory move

    And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.

    Now Lycidas the shepherds weep no more;

    Henceforth thou art the Genius of the shore

    In thy large recompense and shalt be good

    To all that wander in that perilous flood.

    Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and rills

    While the still morn went out with sandals gray;

    He touch'd the tender stops of various quills

    With eager thought warbling his Doric lay:

    And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills

    And now was dropt into the western bay.

    At last he rose and twitch'd his mantle blue:

    To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.

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