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On HELICON's inspiring brink,
Ere yet MY FRIEND had learn'd to think,
Once as he pass'd the careless day
Among the whispering reeds at play,
The MUSE OF SORROW wander'd by ;
Her pensive beauty fix'd his eye;
With sweet astonishment he smiled;
The Gipsy saw, she stole the child;
And soft on her ambrosial breast
Sang the delighted babe to rest;
Convey'd him to her inmost grove,
And loved him with a Mother's love.
Awaking from his rosy nap,
And gaily sporting on her lap,
His wanton fingers o'er her lyre
Twinkled like electric fire:
Quick and quicker as they flew,
Sweet and sweeter tones they drew;
Now a bolder hand he flings,
And dives among the deepest strings;
Then forth the music brake like thunder;
Back he started, wild with wonder.
The MUSE OF SORROW wept for joy,
And clasp'd and kiss'd her chosen boy.
Ah! then no more his smiling hours
Were spent in Childhood's Eden-bowers;
The fall from Infant-innocence,
The fall to knowledge drives us thence:
O Knowledge! worthless at the price,
Bought with the loss of PARADISE.
As happy ignorance declined,
And reason rose upon his mind,
Romantic hopes and fond desires
(Sparks of the soul's immortal fires)
Kindled within his breast the rage
To breathe through every future age,
To clasp the flitting shade of fame,
To build an everlasting name,
O'erleap the narrow vulgar span,
And live beyond the life of man.
Then NATURE's charms his heart possess'd,
And NATURE'S glory fill'd his breast:
The sweet Spring-morning's infant rays,
Meridian Summer's youthful blaze,
Maturer Autumn's evening mild,
And hoary Winter's midnight wild,
Awoke his eye, inspired his tongue;
For every scene he loved, he sung.
Rude were his songs, and simple truth,
Till Boyhood blossom'd into Youth;
Then nobler themes his fancy fired,
To bolder flights his soul aspired;
And as the new moon's opening eye
Broadens and brightens through the sky,
From the dim streak of western light
To the full orb that rules the night;
Thus, gathering lustre in its race,
And shining through unbounded space,
From earth to heaven his GENIUS soar'd,
Time and eternity explored,
And hail'd, where'er its footsteps trod,
In NATURE's temple, NATURE's God:
Or pierced the human breast to scan
The hidden majesty of Man;
Man's hidden weakness too descried,
His glory, grandeur, meanness, pride:
Pursued along their erring course
The streams of passion to their source;
Or in the mind's creation sought
New stars of fancy, worlds of thought.
Yet still through all his strains would flow
A tone of uncomplaining woe,
Kind as the tear in Pity's eye,
Soft as the slumbering Infant's sigh,
So sweetly, exquisitely wild,
It spake the MUSE OF SORROW's child.
O PILLOW! then, when light withdrew,
To thee the fond enthusiast flew ;
On thee, in pensive mood reclined,
He pour'd his contemplative mind,
Till o'er his eyes with mild control
Sleep like a soft enchantment stole,
Charm'd into life his airy schemes,
And realized his waking dreams.
Soon from those waking dreams he woke, The fairy spell of fancy broke;
In vain he breathed a soul of fire
Through every chord that strung his lyre.
No friendly echo cheer'd his tongue;
Amidst the wilderness he sung;
Louder and bolder bards were crown'd,
Whose dissonance his music drown'd:
The public ear, the public voice,
Despised his song, denied his choice,
Denied a name, a life in death,
Denied - a bubble and a breath.
Stript of his fondest, dearest claim,
And disinherited of fame,
To thee, O PILLOW! thee alone,
He made his silent anguish known;
His haughty spirit scorn'd the blow
That laid his high ambition low;
But, ah! his looks assumed in vain
A cold ineffable disdain,
While deep he cherish'd in his breast
The scorpion that consumed his rest.
Yet other secret griefs had he,
O PILLOW! only told to thee:
Say, did not hopeless love intrude
On his poor bosom's solitude?
Perhaps on thy soft lap reclined,
In dreams the cruel FAIR was kind,
That more intensely he might know
The bitterness of waking woe.
Whate'er those pangs from me conceal'd, To thee in midnight groans reveal'd,
They stung remembrance to despair:
"A wounded spirit who can bear!"
Meanwhile disease, with slow decay,
Moulder'd his feeble frame away;
And as his evening sun declined,
The shadows deepen'd o'er his mind.
What doubts and terrors then possess'd
The dark dominion of his breast!
How did delirious fancy dwell
On Madness, Suicide, and Hell!
There was on earth no PoWER to save:
But, as he shudder'd o'er the grave,
He saw from realms of light descend
The friend of him who has no friend,
RELIGION! Her almighty breath
Rebuked the winds and waves of death;
She bade the storm of frenzy cease,
And smiled a calm, and whisper'd peace:
Amidst that calm of sweet repose,
TO HEAVEN his gentle Spirit rose.