Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Lyre
By Milton Ward
 
THERE 1 was a Lyre, ’tis said, that hung
  High waving in the summer air;
An angel hand its chord had strung,
  And left to breathe its music there.
Each wandering breeze, that o’er it flew,        5
  Awoke a wilder, sweeter strain,
Than ever shell of Mermaid blew
  In coral grottoes of the main.
When, springing from the rose’s bell,
  Where all night he had sweetly slept,        10
The zephyr left the flowery dell
  Bright with the tears, that morning wept,
He rose, and o’er the trembling lyre,
  Waved lightly his soft azure wing;
What touch such music could inspire!        15
  What harp such lays of joy could sing!
The murmurs of the shaded rills,
  The birds, that sweetly warbled by,
And the soft echo from the hills,
  Were heard not where that harp was nigh.        20
When the last light of fading day
  Along the bosom of the west,
In colors softly mingled lay,
  While night had darken’d all the rest,
Then, softer than that fading light,        25
  And sweeter than the lay, that rung
Wild through the silence of the night,
  As solemn Philomela sung,
That harp its plaintive murmurs sigh’d
  Along the dewy breeze of even;        30
So clear and soft they swell’d and died,
  They seem’d the echoed songs of heaven.
Sometimes, when all the air was still,
  And not the poplar’s foliage trembled,
That harp was nightly heard to thrill        35
  With tones, no earthly tones resembled.
And then, upon the moon’s pale beams,
  Unearthly forms were seen to stray,
Whose starry pinions’ trembling gleams
  Would oft around the wild harp play.        40
But soon the bloom of summer fled—
  In earth and air it shone no more;
Each flower and leaf fell pale and dead,
  While skies their wintry sternness wore.
One day, loud blew the northern blast—        45
  The tempest’s fury raged along—
Oh! for some angel, as they pass’d,
  To shield the harp of heavenly song!
It shriek’d—how could it bear the touch,
  The cold rude touch of such a storm,        50
When e’en the zephyr seem’d too much
  Sometimes, though always light and warm.
It loudly shriek’d—but ah! in vain—
  The savage wind more fiercely blew;
Once more—it never shriek’d again,        55
  For every chord was torn in two.
It never thrill’d with anguish more,
  Though beaten by the wildest blast;
The pang, that thus its bosom tore,
  Was dreadful—but it was the last.        60
And though the smiles of summer play’d
  Gently upon its shatter’d form,
And the light zephyrs o’er it stray’d,
  That lyre they could not wake or warm.
 
Note 1. This young writer published a volume of poetry at Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1826. Most of it was composed at the age of fifteen. The following is one of his earliest pieces. [back]
 
 
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