Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Mad Moments: Or First Verse Attempts by a Born Natural (1833).
II. Nature
By Henry Ellison (1811–1880)
 
(As revised for “The Poetry of Real Life.” 1844.)

OFT mighty Nature herself plays for me
Over again, (that I may the true key
Of Being hit), the music of the Past;
Not broken notes, as erst, (which scarce could be
Of their own sweetness conscious, ere, too fast,        5
And but half felt, they fled) but the whole vast
And boundless compass of her harmony;
Through all the vocal steps, e’en from the last,
Soft breathings, rising gradual to the blast
From the loud thunder to the cricket’s glee,—        10
The homesomest note of all her minstrelsy;
Which links the music of the household hearth
With hers: man’s small home with his vast home, earth!
And something more than this, oh something more
I hear (felt by the beating heart before,        15
At intervals, when hushed as is a flower,
It caught the import of some happier hour,
Yet scarcely conscious, though touched to the core:
Lost amid feelings, whose immensity
Makes us to pause, as when upon the shore        20
Of the hushed ocean we come suddenly)
A music of far far diviner power;
A choral burst from out the sanctuary,
The touching music of Humanity;
Which at the heart still of all Nature lies.        25
The deep bass now of all her harmonies.
In snatches I had felt it from the first,
Which more than they expressed seem to comprise;
Oft have the village-bells, the wild replies
Of Echo, as if earth with man conversed,—        30
A dying note, which seemingly dispersed,
Comes softly back once more, in whispering wise,
Like Nature at our ear, brought to my eyes,
The tears I scarce knew why, and scarcely durst
Ask mine own self: for awe—it seemed to rise        35
So far beyond my depth—to sympathise
With some mysterious pulse! but it has burst
On me at length, with its full melodies:
As thunder strong, yet gentle from the first
And clearly its deep import, not as erst        40
Unconsciously in all, I recognise!
 
What we entrust to Nature’s keeping, she
Will beautify a thousand-fold for our
Enlarged perceptions, at some future hour;
Though but the childish recollections we        45
Link with the daisy, or the faded flower,
She makes it as a spell of boundless power:
And, if from youth we walk in her ways, free
And unreproved her footsteps to explore,
The music of our own hearts then will be        50
With her eternal music blent—still more,
And clearer felt—not distinct, as before,
But needful parts of one full harmony:
Where what one wants the other doth supply.
 
The music which in boyhood charmed my ear,        55
The sound of village-bell, of bird and brook,
Was set to hopes and yearnings, which, tho’ dear
And deep, and holy, their sole impulse took
From homes so blessèd, yet still narrow sphere
Music, which few beyond would care to hear        60
Yet, since that too was hers, and in a key,
In which the highest melodies might be
Composed, was set e’en then—the key of Love—
In which the music of the spheres above
By God Himself is tuned!—still, as I grew        65
Did she enlarge, as she is wont to do,
For those who put their trust in her alone,
Its sphere and compass, till it now runs through
The whole vast scale, down to the smallest tone,
The least, least note, to living creature known!        70
Till this wide Earth seems now but as my home,
With the old footsteps marked, where’er I roam!
For such, to my enlarged perceptions shown,
With years expanding, the vast hall has grown,
And all things therein, as transfigured, shine,        75
Enlarged for mankind’s use, yet not to mine
Lost or diminished, but brought far, far more
Within my reach—a richer, goodlier store!
Thus all I seem’d to have lost again I find,
Differing but in degree—the same in kind!        80
The village-clock, whose chimes rang out so sweet,
With memories of youth and home replete,
Is now changed to the vast clock of the sky,
Whose chimes, the spheres, ring out man’s destiny!
And Earth, the grave of millions, is to me        85
Now sacred as the churchyard seemed to be,
In which the graves of my beloved ones lie!
With dew, for holy-water, the great God
Hath blessed it—yea! each flower on the sod!
His blessing is on all perceptible—        90
And from each open grave His voice is sent,
The echo to man’s deep presentiment!
Thus find I still, e’en to the least detail,
All home held dear, upon so grand a scale!
This world is now, with its starlighted dome,        95
Dear and familiar to me, as the room,
Where, in the holy concert, small yet true,
My heart, with those of all I loved, was like
A string, which Nature’s hand e’en then did strike,
Yielding a music which, though low, thrilled through        100
The World’s profound heart, that e’en then with it
Did beat, and strange, electric throbs transmit!
But now it swells into a nobler strain,
A mightier harmony, which can constrain
The pulses of the hush’d world, and subdue        105
Men’s hearts to rapture!—for ’tis now in true
Accord, and set to larger joy and pain,
The hopes and yearnings of this vaster home,
(For ever echoing up to heavens’ dome,
And mingling with the music of the spheres:        110
Where, like its written note, each star appears,
The score, with fire traced through all the sky!)
The deep sweet music of Humanity!
So deep, that its least tone can stir to tears!
Which e’en the living God delighted hears!        115
And, in its sublime swell of harmony
(Like the world-organ’s, whose vast pipes are blown
Upon by all the four winds of the sky
At once, so to produce commensurate tone
And fill its mighty lungs perpetually        120
With breath, that it may lift its voice on high,
And with its choral thunders still make known
The power of God! yet melting gradually,
(His gentleness and mercy to imply)
Into a strain so soft, as not to wake        125
The bird upon the bough, nor yet to make
A dewdrop tremble in the flower’s eye!)
Nature, my nobler mother grown, plays o’er
Again for me the music sweet of yore;
Not lost, but as a soft, deep undertone,        130
Blest with, for aye, and still more like, her own!
So homesome, so familiar, so clear,
That all that sublime music doth appear
To me but as the airs I used to play
On mine own flute, upon my homeward way;        135
And all the stops of that vast instrument,
Like those of my small pipe, obedient
To my least touch, repeat those tunes so dear;
So that, like the first flowers of the Year,
Life’s freshest feelings still to me are lent,—        140
For that which is true to the heart she keeps
In her own blessedness and beauty steeps,
And what man takes to heart, she takes to heart
Likewise, if good, and will not from it part—
Thus, if a truth be hid in antique rhyme,        145
She cleaves to it, and keeps it through all time:
Thus, the first song, that charmed our childish ear
Is still the sweetest music we can hear!
And comes back to us like the voice of God,
When in the paths of peace, His paths, we trod,        150
The paths of innocence: and with Truth played,
As with a cherub, who yet with us stayed!
 
 
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