John Anster Poems >>
Lines On The Death Of The Princess Charlotte

Weep!--for the wrath of God is over us!
Weep!--for his arm is lifted to destroy!
Famine hath thinned the land! in Autumn's gale
We felt his icy breath:--Plague rushes by,
Or, resting in clear air on silent wing,
Numbers his victims, who behold him not.
--Still the same struggles for the same low ends!
Still the same passions!--the same human heart!

Weep!--a severer judgment!--bend to earth
The stubborn knee, and, ere the lightning strike,
Oh call on heaven in agony of prayer!
Weep!--a severer judgment!--oh what woes
Are destined for the earth! what heavier clouds
Of wrath are deepening round us!--She hath died,--
(Daughter of England, from what ills removed!)
She, on whose heavenly life when good men looked,
They thought on years of happiness to come,
And felt with added joy the Briton's boast
Of England, the proud mistress of the earth!
The angel--guarded home of Liberty!

A sudden chill hath withered every heart;
And few there are, who, with untroubled eye,
Have heard the tidings!--in an under--tone
Fathers repeat the tale, and, ere its close,
See the tears shining on their children's cheeks;
And pause at heavy sobs, that half repressed
Will force their way: the mother views in fear
The fire--light glance upon the rosy face,
And deems its flush the herald of decay.
How hollow are the promises of earth!
Its hopes how fleeting! all things round us breathe
Still the same pensive moral:--I have wept
To hear the heavy death--bell's dreary sounds,
On a spring morn, when all things breathed of life,
Tolling for one who died in youth's gay time,
When joys were bright, and hopes were blossomy!--
Why linger to enforce such theme? why tell,
How vain all earthly objects of pursuit,--
Flitting for ever like the idle cloud
Before the wind, what time, as Lochlin's bards
Report, the Dead upon their shadowy steeds
O'er the hill--tops pursue the phantom prey?--
--Nations have passed away!--round Tadmor's walls,
Her columned temples, her proud palaces
The level dust in mournful silence lies;
Or, when the dry wind breathes, the traveller starts
To see the Spirits of the Desert rise,
And, wheeling round in wild fantastic whirl,
Howlthro' lone streets, where man hath ceased to dwell.
--Nations have passed away!--along the deep
The voice of the avenging angel came;
And where is Tyre?--upon a lonely rock,
A lone forgotten ruin of old time,
The fisher dries his net, nor thinks of thee,
Queen of the Ocean! and his sullen song,
And the hoarse sea--bird's scream alone are heard,
Mingling with the dull wave monotonous.
And thou, Eternal City!--tho' no cloud
Stain the soft beauties of that summer sky,
Whose echoes still are musical with joy,
Even in thy gay and laughing atmosphere
Breathes noonday Pestilence, unfelt, unseen!

And, England, what art thou? thy hills have rung
With songs of joy,--with shouts of triumphing:--
Never hath hostile banner in thy breeze
Displayed its wanton pride:--thy gallant barks
Like angels move along the peopled sea,
To minister thy blessings, or discharge
The thunders of thy wrath:--what glorious days
Were thine, when the insulting crest of France
Was crushed beneath thy foot!--when monarchs came
And gazed in wonder on the Mighty Isle!--
Oh then what words might paint the splendid dream
Of him, who, looking with a prophet's eye
Down the long depth of days to come, had fixed
His view upon thy doom?--the prospect holds
Imagination captive;--old Romance
Hath never imaged, in her wildest mood,
A brighter picture:--on a lofty throne,
Ringed with the best of England's chivalry,
In royal robes, a lovely Lady sits:--
Her brow is diademed; and in her hand
The golden sceptre rests, and evermore
Her full eye fixes on the lordly form
Of him who shares her seat:--and is there not
A voice of blessing in that crowded hall?--
Oh for the spirit, that on Woodstock's bowers
Shed light undying--oh for Chaucer's voice
To tell what joyance rings the loud acclaim;--
``Blessing on Charlotte, and the happy youth
Whom our good Queen hath gazed upon with love!''
Oh for the heart of Spenser!--to conceive
That lovely Lady's feelings, when she looks
On her approving subjects;--to conceive
The thoughts, whose language is the silent tear,
That swells from founts of gladness in the heart!--
The deeper joy that finds no utterance!
--But hush! in that wide hall the sounds have ceased;
Envoys from distant lands approach, and bend
Before the lofty throne;--from those green vales
Where Ganges, sacred river, rolls in joy;--
From Tonga's isles, that star the Peaceful Sea;--
From lone Columbia's wilds, where now at eve
The Scottish shepherd sings his country's airs;--
The trembling native hears along the lake
Words wildly chaunted in an unknown tongue,
And deems, his fathers' spirits gliding by
Converse in the strange language of the Dead.

All bow before the throne;--all join the shout
Of England's tribute to the righteous Queen.

It was a dream;--its hues have passed away!
Thus, where Vesuvio's streams of fire had rolled
In savage triumph o'er some city's pride,
When ages have passed on, the jealous mass,
That closed abandoned streets, is hewn away,
And he, who gazes through some fractured roof,
Looks for a moment on the forms of men,
Standing erect in attitude of life,--
Till the cold air of earth hath breathed on them,
And all is solitude and emptiness!

Daughter of England's hopes, amid what scenes
Of bliss and beauty was it thine to move,
Thyself more blessed, and more beautiful!--
What gentle feelings thro' that heavenly heart,
Flowed on for ever, like the quiet lapse
Of streams with music welcoming the Spring!
And Love, the angel of the female soul,
Its guardian spirit, watched that happy home.
In vain the glare of courts allured thine eye,
Which gazed on all their joys, as angels gaze
While pity mingles with their tears of love,
On earth, what time the sinking sun hath stained
The thin soft clouds, and all is beautiful!

Yes, there are Spirits, whom the cold heart knows not!--
Spirits, that shun the dwellings of the great,
And have their home within the sheltered vale.
Unseen they mingle in the village dance;
Unseen they hover o'er the happy hearth;
While to his bright--eyed boy the peasant tells
Some village--tale, or hums an idle song:--
And he, who, with closed eye--lids, musing sits
Beneath some bowering tree, may hear their voices
Mingling with the wild music of the winds,
Or the soft melody of twilight waters;--
And they are echoed in the thinking heart!

Oh Claremont, o'er thy home of blessedness
Such Spirits watched!--and ne'er hath humble maid
Imagined, in her youthful dream of love,
A paradise more sweet, than that still haunt,
Where she, whom England's hopes beheld a Queen,
With him, whom she had singled from the world,
Dwelt in such bliss as worldings will not know!--
I cannot linger on the thought!--the heart
Shrinks from the sight of pleasure past away,
Of joy for ever clouded!--that dull bell
With ceaseless sound distracts the thinking soul,
That fain would dwell on earth, and earthly joys,
On youth, and on the hopes of youthful love:--
Scattering in air such dreams of fairy land,
It calls the spirit back to solemn thought;
And, as I listen to the sullen sounds,
I see the lovely objects of my vision
Swinging before me, dully, dizzily!

Oh there is grief on earth!--o'er Windsor's halls
The wan moon sheds her melancholy beams;--
But surely in her calm and lovely light
There is a tenderness that sorrow loves;
And he who gazes on her placid orb
May half forget his griefs! these solemn bells
Still with their regular and measured peals
Chime heavily!--I hear a distant hum,
Like the long murmur of the evening waves
Breaking upon the melancholy shore.
And see!--the pomp and pageantry of Death!
Banners are waving in the midnight wind;
And heavy plumes are nodding mournfully;
Down Gothic aisles they move; the chapel streams
With a strong glare of thick unnatural light;
And sad it is to gaze along those aisles,
And see the scutcheons held in trembling hands,
Telling, even now, of earthly vanities!--
And sad it is to see the gorgeousness
Of that drear pall, and think upon the hearts
Reposing there for ever!--by the glow
Of waving torches you may see the cheeks
Of Beauty pale, and stained with streaming tears;
And in the eye of man that faltering light,
Which speaks the pang within, when tears are checked
By strong but painful effort!--not a voice
Disturbs the solemn silence of the pile:--
One feeling holds all bosoms,--Youth and Age;--
Youth--in whose heart Hope gazed exultingly
Upon the future, with a prophet's eye;
Age--sick of earth,--whose blood had ceased to throb
At man's delights, or man's calamities;--
The same strong feeling holds all bosoms here.

But there is one--whom every eye regards,--
Whose eye is fastened on that lonely bier;--
He sees it not!--but Leopold, to think
Upon the images, that swim thro' tears
Before thy troubled eye!--whate'er they are,
Still sacred be that noble spirit's grief!--
For pangs are written on the mourner's brow;
And that wan cheek--that dim and fixed eye
Speak agonies man shudders to conceive!--

But hark!--a tremulous and feeble voice!--
The broken voice of age!--the herald tells
Her name who lies beneath, her princely birth!
But what is Grandeur? in an hour like this,
All feel its nothingness!--a deeper voice
Gives utterance to those calm and solemn words,
That tell us of the Dead,--who sleep in peace.
They have laid down their burdens, and they rest.
Earth! unto thee do we confide our dead!
To thee, and to the dews of heaven confide
The seed of frail Humanity,--and lo!
The heavenly blossom, the exulting flower--
Like day from darkness--Man--Immortal Man!
Hush--for it is the pillared organ's peal,
That sends into the soul its streams of sound,--
Its deep unearthly music!--what is Man
That we should mourn for him?--and what is Earth,
That we should grieve for its calamities?
``I know that my Redeemer liveth.'' ``I,
I am the Resurrection and the Life.''
--How like an angel's voice the deep sounds roll,
And waken thoughts, that are not of the earth.
Hush!--for the sinking murmurs roll away;
But, ere the spell hath died upon the ear,
You hear the human voice in mournful wail;--
And now again the long rich melody
Fills the wide pile;--and, when its notes are hushed,
The heart throbs audibly, and holy tears,
That speak of heaven, are rushing to the eye!
``Mourn not, as they who mourn and have no hope.''

The last sad rites are paid; and--earth to earth--
The Beautiful, the Noble is consigned!
Charlotte of England, thou art laid in peace!--
Short was thy sojourn here, and, like the smile
Of Heaven approving thy most blameless life,
The glow of happiness was shed o'er thee!

Peace dwelleth in the silence of the grave;
And the bright stars, that smile like souls at rest,
Oh, speak they not of peace?--but there is grief
On earth; and they, who, from those misty aisles
Pour, like a wave, into the moonlight air,
Gaze for a moment on the holy stars,
And the moon moving through the clear blue sky,
And think with tears that all but earth is blest!

Oh, whither,--whither shall the mourner go?
The Lover?--the Beloved?--he, who gazed
Till now on the departed?--he, who called
On madness to relieve him from the pangs
Of memory, that, with too faithful zeal,
Is picturing the form of her he loved?
Whither,--oh whither shall the mourner go?--
His brain is swimming round in dizzy whirl;
Vainly he gazes on the quiet heavens;--
To him they speak not of tranquillity!
They smile;--a chilling smile of mockery!
The stars are shivering in cold green light,--
Cold as the lot of man!--Oh, speak not now
Of Nature sharing in our woes!--the heart
Forbids all sympathy, repels relief,--
And scorns the airy fiction, that would blend
Its feelings with the silent things of Nature.
Spirit of the Departed! smile on him,
Who wanders now through thy deserted haunts,
And casts a mournful glance upon the walls,
That speak of thee!--and thou art speaking there,
Enchantress! thine the genius, thine the spell,
On the blank tablet that hath breathed a soul,
And shed upon these walls this deathless bloom
Of scenes, that he had gazed on with delight,
When, arm in arm, he rambled forth with thee!
See! where he stands, and looks upon that frame,
Once eloquent with music's holiest spells,
Now mute:--he stands, as though he hoped to hear
The voice he loved;--and who can tell, what songs
Of joy, with their sad echoes, wound that heart?

Spirit of the Departed, smile on him!
He sleeps,--and thou art with him in his dreams!--
Fair, as when first he gazed upon thy charms;--
Kind, as when first his tale of love was breathed;--
And dear, as when, with joy that fathers feel,
He blessed the mother of his unborn child!
His dream is of the days of early love,--
And of his lovely bride:--of her, whose soul
Was lofty, and claimed kindred with the great;
Whose heart was gentle; whose strong mind was fixed
On thoughts beseeming her high destiny;
Whose spirit held communion bright with heaven;
And thus along the walks of daily life
Shed such a mild and tender light, as clouds,
That float around the sun to catch his rays,
Diffuse o'er earth, in evening's loveliest hues.
Such is his happy dream;--but hush!--he moans,
And starts, and gazes round with open eyes:
But still his senses sleep;--the spirit wakes,
And Hope, and Fear, and Bliss, and Agony
Are mingled in the vision;--a strange hall
Receives him; lofty columns prop the roof;
And music summons to high festival;
He rushes from the board; and suddenly
Stands where a thousand torches chase the night,
Waving above a sable canopy:
And there is one, who, in a well--known voice,
Cries--``Welcome, Leopold, to Paradise!''
And momently, as though he moved on wings,
He stands in Eden's garden;--all is bliss!--
Through pleasant walks the dreamer wanders on,
Or, lingering, enjoys the breezy shade
Of arbours, garlanded with many a flower,
Bright as the colours of a sunset cloud,
Or the soft cheek of woman, when her heart
Is happy, and her features glow with love.
Again a sudden dampness chills his soul,
And deepening thunders in the gloom are heard,
He gazes on a shuddering female form,
While a deep voice is breathing awfully,--
``In sorrow shalt thou bring thy children forth?''--
And who shall tell the terrors of that voice?
But still the senses sleep;--the loud bells peal;
A song of gladness fills the echoing earth;--
``Joy, for an heir is born to England's throne!''--
But then was heard a sound of muffled drums,
And, as they cease, a scream of agony
Rings through his soul, and bursts the bonds of sleep--
Sweet Spirit, that he loved, oh comfort him!--

There is a blind old venerable Man,
Whose cheek grief hath not clouded;--and no tear
Hath stained his sightless eye ball;--good Old Man!--
He only doth not grieve;--years have rolled by,
Since on a daughter's death that old man gazed;
And the soul sunk, stunned with the heavy blow,
In darkness--hopeless darkness:--a chill flash
At times will lighten o'er that midnight gloom,
In ghastly mockery;--then fade away!
Oh! 'tis a thing of sadness, that the heart
Even now can feel, to view that hollow cheek,
And its unmeaning smile;--to hear that laugh,--
Mocking the agonies of all around!--
Yet is not the dark chamber comfortless;
He knows not Man,--and all beneath is passed
For ever from his heart;--but, like the star,
O'er which a chilling cloud hangs dim, that soul,
Shut out from Earth, enjoys its native Heaven.
Oh, with what anguish would those pale lips writhe,
And how distractedly those feeble hands
Scatter the thin gray tresses, if one ray
Shone on the midnight of that soul, and showed
The solitude of earth!--till now, one flower
Still smiled, the hope of England's royal stem,
And cheered the desert!-- All is loneliness!--

Oh God, in trouble we do call on thee!
Thou, who dost bid the lightning--bolt of wrath
Oft minister to mercy,--and the storm,
That o'er the mountain--billow flings his voice,
Combat the fiend, whose breath is pestilence;--
Thou, by whose power, the passions and the sins
Of Man, his wants and his adversities,
All onward tend to Universal Good:--
Father, in mercy look upon the earth,
And change its mourning into songs of joy!

Even in the silence of this lonely hour
The Hurricane above the Atlantic wave
Spreads his black wings:--the sullen thunder--clouds
Clash, and the red sun sinks with angry glare;
The cane--groves crash; the lightnings are abroad!
And, like a troubled spirit, the dark stream
Rolls wrathfully above the haunts of men!
Oh, what a scene shall morning's sun reveal?
Horror, and desolation, and despair,
And silence, such as reigned within the camp
Of that Assyrian army, through whose tents
The Angel of the Lord in darkness walked!

Weep!--for the wrath of God is over us!