Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Minstrel Boy
By James Nack (1809–1879)
AND 1 am I doom’d to be denied for ever
  The blessings that to all around are given?
And shall those links be reunited never,
  That bound me to mankind till they were riven
In childhood’s day? Alas! how soon to sever        5
  From social intercourse, the doom of heaven
Was pass’d upon me! And the hope how vain,
That the decree may be recall’d again.
Amid a throng in deep attention bound,
  To catch the accents that from others fall,        10
The flow of eloquence, the heavenly sound
  Breathed from the soul of melody, while all
Instructed or delighted list around,
  Vacant unconsciousness must me enthrall!
I can but watch each animated face,        15
And there attempt th’ inspiring theme to trace.
Unheard, unheeded are the lips by me,
  To others that unfold some heaven-born art,
And melody—Oh, dearest melody!
  How had thine accents thrilling to my heart.        20
Awaken’d all its strings to sympathy,
  Bidding the spirit at thy magic start!
How had my heart responsive to the strain,
Throbb’d in love’s wild delight or soothing pain
In vain—alas, in vain! thy numbers roll—        25
  Within my heart no echo they inspire;
Though form’d by nature in thy sweet control,
  To melt with tenderness, or glow with fire,
Misfortune closed the portals of the soul;
  And till an Orpheus rise to sweep the lyre,        30
That can to animation kindle stone,
To me thy thrilling power must be unknown.
*      *      *      *      *      *
And none are more exquisitely awake
  To nature’s loveliness than those who feel
The inspiration of the muse—who take        35
  From her the glowing thoughts that as they steal
Around the soul entranced, a goddess make
  Of nature to whose shrine of beauty kneel,
The fond enthusiasts adoring all
Within her we may dread or lovely call.        40
The terrible in nature is to them
  The beautiful, and they can with delight
Behold the tempest, and its wrath contemn,
  Stationed upon some rock whose quivering height
Is by the spirit swept, whose diadem        45
  In burning terror wreathes the brow of night,
While the rude winds their cave of slumber rend,
And to the loud-voiced thunders answer send.
Yet, Nature, not alone when stern and wild
  Canst thou the homage of the bard awaken,        50
Still art thou worshipp’d by the muse’s child,
  When thou thy throne of terrors hast forsaken;
With darkness when thy brow is undefiled,
  When scarce a leaflet of thy robe is shaken
By zephyrs that soft music murmuring,        55
Around thee wave their aromatic wing.
When first the queen of night in beauty rides,
  That with the glory of Apollo vies,
One star alone through heaven’s azure glides,
  That when ten thousand thousand robe the skies,        60
Preeminent in beauty still presides;
  To her the lover’s and the poet’s eyes
Are ever fondly turned to hail the power
That smiles such loveliness upon the hour.
How often have I watch’d the star of even,        65
  When eyes of heaven’s own etherial blue,
Have follow’d mine to gaze upon the heaven,
  Where they as on a mirror’s face might view
The bright and beautiful reflection given,
  Of their own starry light and azure hue!        70
But she beholding night’s resplendent throne,
Of nature’s beauty thought, and not her own.
I thought of both—if earth appear so fair,
  How glorious the world beyond the skies;
And if the form that heaven-born spirits wear,        75
  This earthly shrine so fascinate our eyes,
To kneel in worship we can scarce forbear,
  And e’en to gaze on thine is paradise.
O what are those who free from earthly stain,
Above yon azure realms in bloom immortal reign?        80
Note 1. Nack, of New York, is the author of “The Legend of Rocks, and other poems,” published in 1827. His poetry is quite respectable, but the most remarkable fact concerning it, is that the author is deaf and dumb. He lost the faculty of speech and hearing, by disease at an early age. His writings show that he has as nice a perception of the harmonies of verse, as those in whom the senses are perfect. This we apprehend must be owing to a knowledge of sound, accent, and quantity in language, which he has retained by memory. The deaf and dumb by birth have never, we think, in any instance, arrived at any distinct notion of these qualities of speech. This author is still very young. On the peculiarities of his situation, he may be expected to write with a full degree of feeling and earnestness. For this reason we have selected the passage which follows, as the most interesting. [back]

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