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LIBERTY

(SEQUEL TO THE ABOVE)

ADDRESSED TO A FRIEND; THE GOLD AND SILVER FISHES HAVING BEEN REMOVED TO A POOL IN THE PLEASURE-GROUND OF RYDAL MOUNT.

          THOSE breathing Tokens of your kind regard,
          (Suspect not, Anna, that their fate is hard;
          Not soon does aught to which mild fancies cling
          In lonely spots, become a slighted thing;)
          Those silent Inmates now no longer share,
          Nor do they need, our hospitable care,
          Removed in kindness from their glassy Cell
          To the fresh waters of a living Well--
          An elfin pool so sheltered that its rest
          No winds disturb; the mirror of whose breast                10
          Is smooth as clear, save where with dimples small
          A fly may settle, or a blossom fall.
          --'There' swims, of blazing sun and beating shower
          Fearless (but how obscured!) the golden Power,
          That from his bauble prison used to cast
          Gleams by the richest jewel unsurpast;
          And near him, darkling like a sullen Gnome,
          The silver Tenant of the crystal dome;
          Dissevered both from all the mysteries
          Of hue and altering shape that charmed all eyes.            20
          Alas! they pined, they languished while they shone;
          And, if not so, what matters beauty gone
          And admiration lost, by change of place
          That brings to the inward creature no disgrace?
          But if the change restore his birthright, then,
          Whate'er the difference, boundless is the gain.
          Who can divine what impulses from God
          Reach the caged lark, within a town-abode,
          From his poor inch or two of daisied sod?
          O yield him back his privilege!--No sea                     30
          Swells like the bosom of a man set free;
          A wilderness is rich with liberty.
          Roll on, ye spouting whales, who die or keep
          Your independence in the fathomless Deep!
          Spread, tiny nautilus, the living sail;
          Dive, at thy choice, or brave the freshening gale!
          If unreproved the ambitious eagle mount
          Sunward to seek the daylight in its fount,
          Bays, gulfs, and ocean's Indian width, shall be,
          Till the world perishes, a field for thee!                  40
            While musing here I sit in shadow cool,
          And watch these mute Companions, in the pool,
          (Among reflected boughs of leafy trees)
          By glimpses caught--disporting at their ease,
          Enlivened, braced, by hardy luxuries,
          I ask what warrant fixed them (like a spell
          Of witchcraft fixed them) in the crystal cell;
          To wheel with languid motion round and round,
          Beautiful, yet in mournful durance bound.
          Their peace, perhaps, our lightest footfall marred;         50
          On their quick sense our sweetest music jarred;
          And whither could they dart, if seized with fear?
          No sheltering stone, no tangled root was near.
          When fire or taper ceased to cheer the room,
          They wore away the night in starless gloom;
          And, when the sun first dawned upon the streams,
          How faint their portion of his vital beams!
          Thus, and unable to complain, they fared,
          While not one joy of ours by them was shared.
            Is there a cherished bird (I venture now                  60
          To snatch a sprig from Chaucer's reverend brow)--
          Is there a brilliant fondling of the cage,
          Though sure of plaudits on his costly stage,
          Though fed with dainties from the snow-white hand
          Of a kind mistress, fairest of the land,
          But gladly would escape; and, if need were,
          Scatter the colours from the plumes that bear
          The emancipated captive through blithe air
          Into strange woods, where he at large may live
          On best or worst which they and Nature give?                70
          The beetle loves his unpretending track,
          The snail the house he carries on his back;
          The far-fetched worm with pleasure would disown
          The bed we give him, though of softest down;
          A noble instinct; in all kinds the same,
          All ranks! What Sovereign, worthy of the name,
          If doomed to breathe against his lawful will
          An element that flatters him--to kill,
          But would rejoice to barter outward show
          For the least boon that freedom can bestow?                 80
            But most the Bard is true to inborn right,
          Lark of the dawn, and Philomel of night,
          Exults in freedom, can with rapture vouch
          For the dear blessings of a lowly couch,
          A natural meal--days, months, from Nature's hand;
          Time, place, and business, all at his command!--
          Who bends to happier duties, who more wise
          Than the industrious Poet, taught to prize,
          Above all grandeur, a pure life uncrossed
          By cares in which simplicity is lost?                       90
          That life--the flowery path that winds by stealth--
          Which Horace needed for his spirit's health;
          Sighed for, in heart and genius, overcome
          By noise and strife, and questions wearisome,
          And the vain splendours of Imperial Rome?--
          Let easy mirth his social hours inspire,
          And fiction animate his sportive lyre,
          Attuned to verse that, crowning light Distress
          With garlands, cheats her into happiness;
          Give 'me' the humblest note of those sad strains           100
          Drawn forth by pressure of his gilded chains,
          As a chance-sunbeam from his memory fell
          Upon the Sabine farm he loved so well;
          Or when the prattle of Blandusia's spring
          Haunted his ear--he only listening--
          He, proud to please, above all rivals, fit
          To win the palm of gaiety and wit;
          He, doubt not, with involuntary dread,
          Shrinking from each new favour to be shed,
          By the world's Ruler, on his honoured head!                110
            In a deep vision's intellectual scene,
          Such earnest longings and regrets as keen
          Depressed the melancholy Cowley, laid
          Under a fancied yew-tree's luckless shade;
          A doleful bower for penitential song,
          Where Man and Muse complained of mutual wrong;
          While Cam's ideal current glided by,
          And antique towers nodded their foreheads high,
          Citadels dear to studious privacy.
          But Fortune, who had long been used to sport               120
          With this tried Servant of a thankless Court,
          Relenting met his wishes; and to you
          The remnant of his days at least was true;
          You, whom, though long deserted, he loved best;
          You, Muses, books, fields, liberty, and rest!
            Far happier they who, fixing hope and aim
          On the humanities of peaceful fame,
          Enter betimes with more than martial fire
          The generous course, aspire, and still aspire;
          Upheld by warnings heeded not too late                     130
          Stifle the contradictions of their fate,
          And to one purpose cleave, their Being's godlike mate!
            Thus, gifted Friend, but with the placid brow
          That woman ne'er should forfeit, keep 'thy' vow;
          With modest scorn reject whate'er would blind
          The ethereal eyesight, cramp the winged mind!
          Then, with a blessing granted from above
          To every act, word, thought, and look of love,
          Life's book for Thee may lie unclosed, till age
          Shall with a thankful tear bedrop its latest page.         140
                                                              1829.


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