Francis Turner Palgrave Poems >>
Grocyn At Oxford

_THE ENGLISH RENAISSANCE_

1491

  As she who in some village-child unknown,
  With rustic grace and fantasy bedeck'd
  And in her simple loveliness alone,
  A sister finds;--and the long years' neglect
  Effaces with warm love and nursing care,
      And takes her heart to heart,
And in her treasured treasures bids her freely share,

  And robes with radiance new, new strength and grace:--
  Hellas and England! thus it was with ye!
  Though distanced far by centuries and by space,
  Sisters in soul by Nature's own decree.
  And if on Athens in her glory-day
      The younger might not look,
Her living soul came back, and reinfused our clay.

  --It was not wholly lost, that better light,
  Not in the darkest darkness of our day;
  From cell to cell, e'en through the Danish night,
  The torch ran on its firefly fitful way;
  And blazed anew with him who in the vale
      Of fair Aosta saw
The careless reaper-bands, and pass'd the heavens' high pale,

  And supp'd with God, in vision!  Or with him,
  Earliest and greatest of his name, who gave
  His life to Nature, in her caverns dim
  Tracking her soul, through poverty to the grave,
  And left his Great Work to the barbarous age
      That, in its folly-love,
With wizard-fame defamed his and sweet Vergil's page.

  But systems have their day, and die, or change
  Transform'd to new: Not now from cloister-cell
  And desk-bow'd priest, breathes out that impulse strange
  'Neath which the world of feudal Europe fell:--
  Throes of new birth, new life; while men despair'd
      Or triumph'd in their pride,
As in their eyes the torch of learning fiercely flared.

  For now the cry of Homer's clarion first
  And Plato's golden tongue on English ears
  And souls aflame for that new doctrine burst,
  As Grocyn taught, when, after studious years,
  He came from Arno to the liberal walls
      That welcomed me in youth,
And nursed in Grecian lore, long native to her halls.

  O voice that spann'd the gulf of vanish'd years,
  Evoking shapes of old from night to light,
  Lo at thy spell a long-lost world appears,
  Where Rome and Hellas break upon our sight:--
  The Gothic gloom divides; a glory burns
      Behind the clouds of Time,
And all that wonder-past in beauty's glow returns.

  --For when the Northern floods that lash'd and curl'd
  Around the granite fragments of great Rome
  Outspread Colossus-like athwart the world,
  Foam'd down, and the new nations found their home,
  That earlier Europe, law and arts and arms,
      Fell into far-off shade,
Or lay like some fair maid sleep-sunk in magic charms.

  And as in lands once flourishing, now forlorn,
  And desolate capitals, the traveller sees
  Wild tribes, in ruins from the ruins torn
  Hutted like beasts 'mid marble palaces,
  Unknowing what those relics mean, and whose
      The goblets gold-enchased
And images of the gods the broken vaults disclose;

  So in the Mid-age from the Past of Man
  The Present was disparted; and they stood
  As on some island, sever'd from the plan
  Of the great world, and the sea's twilight flood
  Around them, and the monsters of the unknown;
      Blind fancy mix'd with fact;
Faith in the things unseen sustaining them alone.

  Age of extremes and contrasts!--where the good
  Was more than human in its tenderness
  Of chivalry;--Beauty's self the prize of blood,
  And evil raging round with wild excess
  Of more than brutal:--A disjointed time!
      Doubt with Hypocrisy pair'd,
And purest Faith by folly, childlike, led to crime.

  O Florentine, O Master, who alone
  From thy loved Vergil till our Shakespeare came
  Didst climb the long steps to the imperial throne,
  With what immortal dyes of angry flame
  Hast blazon'd out the vileness of the day!
      What tints of perfect love
Rosier than summer rose, etherealize thy lay!

  --Now, as in some new land when night is deep
  The pilgrim halts, nor knows what round him lies
  And wakes with dawn, and finds him on the steep,
  While plains beneath and unguess'd summits rise,
  And stately rivers widening to the sea,
      Cities of men and towers,
Abash'd for very joy, and gazing fearfully;--

  New worlds, new wisdom, a new birth of things
  On Europe shine, and men know where they stand:
  The sea his western portal open flings,
  And bold Sebastian strikes the flowery land:
  Soon, heaven its secret yields; the golden sun
      Enthrones him in the midst,
And round his throne man and the planets humbly run.

  New learning all! yet fresh from fountains old,
  Hellenic inspiration, pure and deep:
  Strange treasures of Byzantine hoards unroll'd,
  And mouldering volumes from monastic sleep,
  Reclad with life by more than magic art:
      Till that old world renew'd
His youth, and in the past the present own'd its part.

  --O vision that ye saw, and hardly saw,
  Ye who in Alfred's path at Oxford trod,
  Or in our London train'd by studious law
  The little-ones of Christ to Him and God,
  Colet and Grocyn!--Though the world forget
      The labours of your love,
In loving hearts your names live in their fragrance yet.

  O vision that our happier eyes have seen!
  For not till peace came with Elizabeth
  Did those fair maids of holy Hippocrene
  Cross the wan waves and draw a northern breath:
  Though some far-echoed strain on Tuscan lyres
      Our Chaucer caught, and sang
Like her who sings ere dawn has lit his Eastern fires;--

  Herald of that first splendour, when the sky
  Was topaz-clear with hope, and life-blood-red
  With thoughts of mighty poets, lavishly
  Round all the fifty years' horizon shed:--
  Now in our glades the Aglaian Graces gleam,
      Around our fountains throng,
And change Ilissus' banks for Thames and Avon stream.

  Daughters of Zeus and bright Eurynome,
  She whose blue waters pave the Aegaean plain,
  Children of all surrounding sky and sea,
  A larger ocean claims you, not in vain!
  Ye who to Helicon from Thessalia wide
      Wander'd when earth was young,
Come from Libethrion, come; our love, our joy, our pride!

  Ah! since your gray Pierian ilex-groves
  Felt the despoiling tread of barbarous feet,
  This land, o'er all, the Delian leader loves;
  Here is your favourite home, your genuine seat:--
  In these green western isles renew the throne
      Where Grace by Wisdom shines;
--We welcome with full hearts, and claim you for our own!