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COMPOSED OR SUGGESTED DURING A TOUR IN THE SUMMER OF 1833

XXVII. WRITTEN IN A BLANK LEAF OF MACPHERSON'S OSSIAN

          OFT have I caught, upon a fitful breeze,
          Fragments of far-off melodies,
          With ear not coveting the whole,
          A part so charmed the pensive soul.
          While a dark storm before my sight
          Was yielding, on a mountain height
          Loose vapours have I watched, that won
          Prismatic colours from the sun;
          Nor felt a wish that heaven would show
          The image of its perfect bow.                               10
          What need, then, of these finished Strains?
          Away with counterfeit Remains!
          An abbey in its lone recess,
          A temple of the wilderness,
          Wrecks though they be, announce with feeling
          The majesty of honest dealing.
          Spirit of Ossian! if imbound
          In language thou may'st yet be found,
          If aught (intrusted to the pen
          Or floating on the tongues of men,                          20
          Albeit shattered and impaired)
          Subsist thy dignity to guard,
          In concert with memorial claim
          Of old grey stone, and high-born name
          That cleaves to rock or pillared cave
          Where moans the blast, or beats the wave,
          Let Truth, stern arbitress of all,
          Interpret that Original,
          And for presumptuous wrongs atone;--
          Authentic words be given, or none!                          30
          Time is not blind;--yet He, who spares
          Pyramid pointing to the stars,
          Hath preyed with ruthless appetite
          On all that marked the primal flight
          Of the poetic ecstasy
          Into the land of mystery.
          No tongue is able to rehearse
          One measure, Orpheus! of thy verse;
          Musaeus, stationed with his lyre
          Supreme among the Elysian quire,                            40
          Is, for the dwellers upon earth,
          Mute as a lark ere morning's birth.
          Why grieve for these, though past away
          The music, and extinct the lay?
          When thousands, by severer doom,
          Full early to the silent tomb
          Have sunk, at Nature's call; or strayed
          From hope and promise, self-betrayed;
          The garland withering on their brows;
          Stung with remorse for broken vows;                         50
          Frantic--else how might they rejoice?
          And friendless, by their own sad choice!
          Hail, Bards of mightier grasp! on you
          I chiefly call, the chosen Few,
          Who cast not off the acknowledged guide,
          Who faltered not, nor turned aside;
          Whose lofty genius could survive
          Privation, under sorrow thrive;
          In whom the fiery Muse revered
          The symbol of a snow-white beard,                           60
          Bedewed with meditative tears
          Dropped from the lenient cloud of years.
            Brothers in soul! though distant times
          Produced you nursed in various climes,
          Ye, when the orb of life had waned,
          A plenitude of love retained:
          Hence, while in you each sad regret
          By corresponding hope was met,
          Ye lingered among human kind,
          Sweet voices for the passing wind,                          70
          Departing sunbeams, loth to stop,
          Though smiling on the last hill top!
          Such to the tender-hearted maid
          Even ere her joys begin to fade;
          Such, haply, to the rugged chief
          By fortune crushed, or tamed by grief;
          Appears, on Morven's lonely shore,
          Dim-gleaming through imperfect lore,
          The Son of Fingal; such was blind
          Maeonides of ampler mind;                                   80
          Such Milton, to the fountain head
          Of glory by Urania led!


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