Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
Mad Moments: Or First Verse Attempts by a Born Natural (1833).
I. Season-Changes: Their Signs and Moral
By Henry Ellison (1811–1880)
WHEN Summer fruits have ripen’d sweet,
When winds are sighing, and flowers dying,
And latest are blinking in brake and dell;
When Autumn leaves are first wind-flying,
And rainbow-hued by the rip’ning spell,        5
Of sun-baked juices that downward fleet
From the seasoned boughs i’ the roots to dwell,
In their Winter cells; when old carles tell
By ingle blaze, their Christmas tales
That smack of the taste of ancient days;        10
And the New Year midnight’s dream is told
To the flame-flap and the whistling gale’s
Wild Winter music, as he lays
Some stout oak low, and the blood runs cold
Of the prick-eared urchin, ’neath the charm        15
Of brain-coined fears and sprite-wrought harm;
And good old songs, heart-music, meet
To merrymakings, where the heart
Takes a new lease of life and love,
Are sung by household lips, so sweet        20
To wiser minds, who play their part
On life’s calm home-stage, far above
Ambition’s vain heart-fevering cares,
Soul-soiling wealth, and all the fears
Of him whose mind is not his own,        25
But fashioned at Opinion’s beck,
Chameleon-like, a bubble blown
By every breath of Folly thro’
The void wherein ’tis born and dies;
With no self-strength, self-worth, or hue,        30
But borrowed all, like atomies
Wind-lifted in the sunbeam’s track.
When Summer feelings pass away
With the bright things that gave them birth,
They leave their sweetness in the heart,        35
By Thought’s honey-bees preserved
And for after-times reserved;
Thought’s honey-bees, whose Summer-day
Tho’ gone, has left a sober mirth,
Which shall endure with kindly ray        40
To lighten o’er the Winter-hearth;
In the hour of outward dearth
A taste of past joys to impart:
As the honey still retains
The flavour which the flower gave,        45
When this to charm no more remains,
And wisdom that, alone can save;
Their colours, forms and scents and hues,
The soul can take from outward things,
And with them recreate past views;        50
Like the wild eagle it has wings
Of unseen motion, which will bear
It cloudwards from this prison-scene,
And give it visions fresh and fair.
When all fruits, ripe to the core        55
Swell to bursting; when no more
You can see the toppling wain
Crowned with Cere’s golden grain,
Filling all the narrow lane;
And as creaking on it goes        60
Leaving corn-spikes on the rows
Of the hedge-side elms, which spread
In groin-like arches overhead.
When the garners brimfull tell
That the earth has yielded well;        65
Paying back man’s toil and care
With all gifts and produce fair;
Teaching many a lesson high
In her wise economy;
Had to turn to fitting use        70
Means which men too oft abuse;
And e’en in most despisèd things
To seek and find high minist’rings.
When the rainbow harvests all
Are gathered in, and none to fall        75
’Neath hook or sickle now remain;
’Tis a sign that Summer’s train
Has departed; that again
Prudence, Toil, and Hope begin
A new race, repeating in        80
The self-same track, the self-same round
Of the Season’s narrow bound;
The image of the former year,
As in a glass reflected clear.
When the stubble field, close-clipped,        85
Tells that harvest-home is done;
Tho’ Fancy still can think she hears,
(Cheating her heart from Winter-fears)
The harvest carols dying on
Her charmèd ear, and sheafèd corn        90
Loud-rustling in the breeze, or borne
To the careful granary;
There to be stacked high and dry
For the Winter use, or years
Of scanty growth; when now frost-nipp’d        95
Flowers hang drooping ’neath the Morn;
Tho’ the lark still soars the sky
As tho’ Winter’s dreaded name
Not one pulse of joy could tame;
Season-free, as unto him,        100
All times and places were the same;
When the swallow’s swift wings skim
The foam-wave that sparkles by;
Speeding blithely whence he came;
When the cawing rooks do gather        105
Sticks and straws for Winter-weather;
Architects who build and plan
Tho’ unschool’d, as well as man,
With his terms of Art precise,
And his rules and measures nice.        110
When the red-cheeked apple falls,
And from the purple-stainèd grapes
Dropping ripe on warm South walls
The nectar juice almost escapes;
When from Summer’s parting lip        115
Their last beauty-tinge they take;
Fragrant hues and scents that make
The wandering bee athirst to sip
Dew-wine, with warm sunbeams blent,
That might fill the veins nigh spent        120
Of age with vigour—bunches such
As in his rosy-fingered clutch
(Sweet as kisses, full and lush)
Bacchus’ self was wont to crush
When with frolic, mirth and glee        125
And many-voicèd revelry,
From the mid-day heat he strayed
Thro’ Nysa’s echo-haunted shade;
Where the Dryads answered him
’Mid the alleys faint and dim;        130
And the many-fountained glade
By the birds was vocal made;
While from some wide-branching oak
Came the Woodman’s far-off stroke;
Far far from the sacred spot        135
Which man’s foot disturbèd not;
There on heaped up flowers he’d lie
Counting the moments as they fly,—
Grape-berries for his rosary:
Whose nectar-drops seemed to his mouth        140
Sweet as the breath of the sweet South;
Trickling o’er his laughing lip,
As with head held back he’d sip;
While old Silenus watched the boy,
And held his sides, and laughed for joy:        145
Now when ’neath their leafy palls
Tender flowerets buried lie,
Yielding to harsh Destiny,—
From which nothing fair escapes,
And the hoar-frost weaves fancy-shapes,        150
Till the thawing sunbeam falls;
For Nature has her fancies too,
And with the clouds and with the winds
She fashions pictures ever-new,
At her sweet will, like poet-minds        155
Who are but utterers of things
Which she has sent thro’ ear and eye,
Unto the heart, which o’er them flings
The charm of human feeling high;
The sweet touch of humanity.        160
The heart, which by its hopes and fears,
Its yearnings, joys and loves endears
The meanest thing; ’til it can give
An impulse unto all who live:
Yes! in Nature’s every form,        165
In cloud, in sunshine, and in storm;
In voice of stream, or song of bird,
In all that’s seen and all that’s heard,
One spirit still is hovering nigh,
The soul of all her poesy;        170
Typ’d in the Echo’s mystic voice
That bids the heart of man rejoice
To think the universal soul
Pulsing thro’ each part and whole,
A sympathetic response gives        175
Unto everything that lives.
’Tis from this eternal source
Each smaller stream derives its course
Supplied like rivers from the sea,
And flowing thither constantly.        180
Of all Nature’s harmonies
The corresponding key-note lies
In man’s soul, and every part
Hath an echo in his heart;
As a mirror, where you see        185
All things in epitome;
The moral world and physical
The outward and the inner, all
Form one vast and perfect whole
Moved by one pervading soul.        190
And the highest poet he
Who of the vast machinery
At the centre stands, and sees
Creation rise by due degrees;
And with Wisdom’s master-key        195
Unlocks the soul of harmony.
When grasshopper, chirping late,
Easing thus his merry heart,
Not from cares but over-joy,
Tells that Summer’s out of date,        200
Yet thereat no fears annoy.
His blithe spirit; not one smart
For lost moments, wishes ill,
As he sang, so sings he still:
In his life-dregs keeping holy        205
That joy-essence fresh and clear,
Free from taint of melancholy;
Which from Nature, when the Year
Saw his birth-day young like him
He received, a boon of glory        210
Man might envy, whom a whim
A mere nothing can o’er-dim;
Changing Joy’s smile to a tear
From his cradle to his bier:
Ever-seeking, never tasting,        215
Some air-form of Fancy grasping,—
Present moments ever-wasting,
For those that come not for his asking;
And when come not worth the tasking;
Wherewith Fancy, sick at heart,        220
Ransacked all her slippery art;
Giving to Time’s future shape
Graces; in their stead the ape,
Grinning Mockery, to find;
Disappointment hid behind        225
The form of ripe fruition
When the bubble-dream is gone!
When the Redbreast whistles blithe,
Taking of sweet song his fill,
Tho’ the other birds be still;        230
And the lambs full-sized bleat strong,
Well-wool’d ’gainst the Winter’s chill;
When no more the reaping scythe
Finds a cornstalk to cut down
And the stubblefield looks brown        235
Where the formless vapor shows
Objects indistinct and wrong;
When the daylight shorter grows,
And owl and bat’s delight is long;
When nigh eveless Night draws on,        240
Waiting scarce for set of sun;
Like enchantress, whose high spell
Works a sudden miracle.
When the Nightingale’s spell-song
Is rare heard the brakes among;        245
Now by ruder sounds o’erblown
Which from Winter take their tone;
The harsh-voicèd wind ’t may be,
With rude-season’d rivalry;
Or the Night-birds bolder made        250
By the lengthened evening’s shade;
When the peasant, weather-wise,
Shakes his grey head at the skies;
By his blazing cottage flame
Mutters Winter’s chilly name,        255
Lives o’er the Past in many a tale,
And prophecies, and quaffs his ale;
While the fire’s fitful blaze
On his sunburnt features plays,
And in chimney-nook to sleep        260
Tirèd dog and urchin creep.
When the weather-signs are rife,
Telling of new Season’s life;
And all creatures, instinct-wise,
Tho’ taught not to philosophize,        265
Now prepare, each in his way
To protract life’s little day;
When the hazel-nuts full-grown
To the squirrel ripely shown
Thro’ the scant leaves plump and brown        270
Give a relish to his tooth
Epicures might grudge in sooth;
And the acorns pattering
To the swine a rich treat bring;
While the passing traveller sees        275
Them grunting ’neath the wind-shook trees.
Now when all Earth’s living creatures
Tell of change in Time’s old features;
And thy own heart, plainer still
Than falling leaf or faded hill;        280
Tells thee that the Summer’s flown
With all joys that thou hast known;
When thou feel’st that, like the Year
Thy heart too is in the sere
And yellow leaf; that it must be        285
Changed in its fancied unity;
Reflect but shattered fragments now
Like broken glass of former joy,
And of its former self retain
Dull memory with present pain;        290
The remnants of a joy which was
A perfect whole, ere Time the glass
Ot Hope had broke, whose fragments now
But multiply an idle show;
Which puzzles still the cheated eye        295
That vainly would identify.
Take courage Heart; for here below
What are such things but idle show;
Whose whole worth in thyself doth dwell
Created by thy magic spell.        300
According as thou turn’st to good
Or evil use, Time’s changeful mood:
So, like the wind the eagle’s wings
’Twill lift thy soul to higher things
Than those whereon the eye doth rest,        305
Or make thee level with the beast
Who lives but unto time and earth,
Whereof his food and joys have birth.
But thou that draw’st from such mean source
Only thy body’s brief-lived force;        310
Should’st not submit thy soul thereto
But to its service these subdue;
Nor from the changeful Seasons here,
Take argument of hope or fear.
When thy heart with outward things        315
Tells that Time upon his wings
Has thy Summer-fancies stole,
And far from th’ imagin’d goal
Still thy hopes keep toiling on,
For joys that seemed already won,        320
And in future trust to find
Bliss that shall not cheat the mind,
More than all thou’st left behind;
Tho’ if thou think’st well, there is
Nor surer, nor a greater bliss;        325
For what so sure as that which thou
Dost enjoy, not thinking how
Or when, or where, it is enjoyed,
Lost in the bliss, which is destroyed,
Or past, when you begin to think        330
Of what it is; then does it shrink
Up from a boundless joy to a
Cold reflex of what’s passed away.
When all these signs tell the Year
Hath laid Summer on his bier,        335
When all fruits are gathered in,
And our indoor joys begin;
When the fixed mind seeks at home
Bliss for which fools vainly roam;
When in sober thought it tastes        340
Sweeter joys than Summer wastes;
Who, too lavishly profuse
Of pleasure, scarcely knows its use;
Plucking fruit and smelling flower
As Winter had o’er these no power;        345
Who severely wise and kind
Concentrates within the mind.
When at Wisdom’s harvest-home
Gleaning from the fleeting doom,
And quick change of earthly things        350
Bright truths and high aspirings;
It self-centred in the sphere
Of desires calm and clear,
Moves on unto its true end,
E’en as kindred stars do bend        355
In one constellation knit,
To the source from whence they’re lit.
Then look thro’ thy heart, and say
What the Summer in its day
Has ripen’d there of good and bright,        360
That may glad thy after-sight.
Has it had its harvest-home?
Its Spring growth? and its Summer bloom?
And when bloom has passed away
Has it had its seeding-day,        365
Of well-rip’ned, seasoned thought,
From Experience duly bought;
Of wise joys, which in the mind
Seeds of better leave behind;
Joys by sorrow touched and tried,        370
And freed from earthly dross and pride;
Such as unreprov’d and free,
Sweeten after-memory,—
Like scents which tho’ lost in air
Leave a long-breathed odour there:        375
Has the Summer left for thee
In the soul’s high-granary,
Produce not of hasty growth
But of well-maturèd worth?
Fellow-creature Love and Peace,        380
With a mind and heart at ease;
An high trust in human worth,
Where true self-respect has birth;
And a love for everything
Which with man holds communing,        385
From the meanest worm that creeps
To the babe that cradled sleeps,
On his mother’s love-stirred breast,—
Like a young bird on the nest.
Has the Summer left thy heart,        390
That which passes show, the art
Like wise Nature, to prepare
From the Past a future fair?
From thine undisturbèd breast,
To create a high self-rest;        395
And as Earth seems barren round
Yet has rich seeds underground,
In the Winter of thy day,
Still to foster Faith’s pure ray.
As the Earth within her breast        400
When she seems at barren rest,
Still prepares in her good time
Coming Springs; and from the slime
Of the brute soil moulds to life
Forms with grace and beauty rife;        405
So within thy inmost soul
Striving towards a higher goal,
From this life’s impediments,
And the body’s downward bents,
Frame thou the wings to upward aims,        410
As from the gross wood rise pure flames.
In thy spirit’s fertile womb
Mould its shapes not for the tomb;
There let Faith beget on Love
The angel thou shalt be Above!        415
From life’s dull and Winter clime
Prepare the Springs of coming Time.
Thus the Seasons o’er thy heart
Pass, and leave no fretting smart;
Each in its own kind is good,        420
Tho’ they yield a different food;
Still for immortality
Thought from all can draw supply;
Meanings from the falling leaf;
Warnings from things sweet and brief;        425
Thoughts too deep for words, in things
To which home-dear Memory clings;
Food for love in all we see,
For Love is the life-faculty;
The high basis-element        430
Where noblest things take nobler bent;
In which alone they breathe and fly,
Unfold their wings and seek the sky.
Thus pass the fleeting shows of things,
These Time takes off, e’en as he brings;        435
While the pure soul unchanged doth lie
Self-centred in its unity.
Lies not life’s true worth in thought?
Are not hence its best hues caught?
Can we not in soul pass in        440
To the promise-land, and win
Even to reality
Some shadow of that purer sky?
View, like the Hebrew, from afar
The land which earthly senses bar?        445
Is it not enough to think
And as with a Lethe-drink
Gnawing sorrows melt away,
In the warmth of Faith’s full ray:
She feels not the weight of years;        450
In her eye are no dim tears;
She knows neither age nor youth,
For her being is a truth;
And all truth unchanging is;
No chameleon hues are his,        455
In old hearts and young the same,
Burning as their altar-flame.
Tho’ I body old may be,
Still heart-young I’ll taste the glee
Of all things that in my youth        460
Were to me a week-day truth;
Ever in the hope before me,
As with prophet’s eye I’ll see,
From the rainbow’s cloud-path rise
Shadowings of bright mysteries,        465
Wherein the soul doth trust to be
What here it seems but scantily.
Still shall Fancy to me bring
Flowers of Spring-blossoming;
Buds of Southern hue and clime        470
In the chill mid-Winter time;
With the ripest Summer-fruits
And a mood that therewith suits!
And tho’ full-ripe they be not,
I’ll not quarrel with my lot,        475
But the ripe half thankfully
Eat; nor linger greedily
Till the whole shall ripen’d be;
Grateful what the Seasons give
Will I take, and learn to live        480
As the wise bee, who doth hive
From each flower, as it blows
The honey which delay would lose:
Like him mould each different store
Into Wisdom’s compact lore;        485
Giving the enduring taste
To sweets which one brief hour might waste,
For no joy is perfect here;
Half is ripe and half is sere;
Half in Disappointment’s shade;        490
Half by Hope’s warm sun o’er-rayed;
I’ll pluck it as it chance to be;
Half is worth the whole to me;
Fancy still shall bring me pleasures
From an whole life’s scattered treasures        495
She shall plant in my old breast
Youth’s wise heart with all life’s best;
Make me as I was of old,
Ere life’s weary tale was told;
Thus, for ever young, the heart        500
Changes with alchymic art
To pure gold the dross of things;
Plucking from Time’s rapid wings
Feathers for a higher flight,
When it feels full-fledged its might.        505
From Doubt’s curious questionings,
Flashings forth of hidden things;
Drawing stronger faith and love;
Quickened pulses that do move
In a holier unison        510
(Like age-mellowed eld-time song
Sung in Nature’s ear so long,)
With the hidden heart of things,
Throb for throb; mysterious yearnings:
Thus as life shall near its end        515
Wisely I the dregs will spend;
They shall not be troubled lees
Where all taste of goodness dies,
But a genial liquor still
Fit to cheer the heart at will.        520
Thus I’ll pluck, on the grave’s brink
Life’s last flowers ere I sink;
Then my last earth-glance shall be
Sweet as closing minstrelsy;
Or as the calm sunset-ray        525
Betokening a fairer day;
And the first taste of Heaven’s bliss
Mingle with the last of this!
Thus my heart with sober mirth
Shall await its second birth;        530
Self-moulded to that inward form
Which outlives both Time and storm!

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