Maria Gowen Brooks Poems >>
Ode

Thou who wert born of Psyche and of Love
And fondly nurst on Poesy's warm breast
     Painting, oh, power adored!
     My country's sons have poured
To thee their orisons; and thou hast blest
Their votive sighs, nor vainly have they strove.

Thou who art wont to soothe the varied pain
That ceaseless throbs at absent lover's heart,
     Who first bestowed thine aid
     On the young Rhodian maid
When doomed, from him whose love was life, to part,
From a lone bard accept an humble heartfelt strain.

'Twas the last night the idol youth might stay--
E'en now, to bear him from the rosy isle,
     The galley waits: he sleeps
     She silent wakes and weeps--
Watches his lips that in light dreaming smile--
Twines her soul round his charms and dreads the coming day.

The dazzling drops her pitious eyes that blind
Hushing her struggling sobs she wiped away:--
     Her tapers paly light
     Fell on the marble white,
Beside the couch where half reclined he lay
And of his beauteous face the shadow well defined.

Loved deity, then first thou cam'st on earth!--
Pity for truth in sorrow, called thee here!
     Sudden the fair, inspired,
     With a new thought was fired
Her hand urged on by hope--yet, breathing not for fear--
She traced the unreal shade--'twas hers--an art had birth.

By dearest, tenderest feelings still allured,
Thou sought'st our wilds far blooming o'er the deep
     Pleased with the soft employ
     A fair haired cherub boy
O'er a more helpless child his watch to keep
Was placed; and from his sports the long restraint endured.

Fair as the hues of heaven, the innocent
Lay like a phantom born of some mild soul;
     A drop, for it had wept
     A moment ere it slept,
O'er its light vermil cheek was seen to roll
And its young guardian's heart drank beauty as he leant.

That nameless wish to nought but genius known.--
Indefinite--but in each fibre felt,
     Whispered. The boy elate
     Burned to perpetuate
The full pervasive bliss; enrapt he knelt--
Thou saw'st--a pencil's by--and infant West's thine own.

Soon the plumed savage, from his leafy home
Emerging, saw and loved the gifted child,
     And soon, beneath their care,
     His hands the tints prepare,
That strain their shapely limbs, in grandeur wild
As thro' their arching woods, the desert warriors roam.

Please he repaid their plans, nor those alone;
Sped by his strength the painted arrow flew;
     And oft the soaring bird
     For shape, or hue preferred,
To make a model for his art he knew
While sovereign Nature saw--and smiled upon her throne.

Bold Science, who earth's caverned depths explores,
And soars triumphant 'mid new worlds of light,--
     Lays bare the heaving heart
     Nor suffers life to part--
Lures the red lightning from its stormy height--
Oft, goddess kneels to thee to save his precious stores.

The rough-browed warrior on the midnight deck
While stealing softness thro' his pulses glides,
     By the moon's pensive rays
     Regards with lengthened gaze,
The pictured form his scarry bosom hides
By day; that tho' death grasp, hangs smiling at his neck.

When fate has torn from the fond mother's arms
The tender hope her bosom fed, to thee
     She flies;--and ere decay
     Can mar his beauteous prey
Her arching eyes, amid their grief, can see,
Still dawning bright, to them, its early-blighted charms.

The generous youth who, fired by love of fame,
A victim at her bloody altars fell;
     To the beloved ones reft,
     By aid of thee, has left
His form, his lip, his ardent glance, to tell
How fair was he on earth who left it for a name.

The patriot--here a moment let my strain
Tremble before thy Stuart--who but he
     Could bid mild Washington--
     His god-loved labours done--
Thus sit before us breathing majesty,
And, in his deep blue eye, still life and soul retain?

Methinks, the while I gaze, each graceful line
So light imprinted on his forehead fair,
     Where Wisdom sits serene
     Of every sense the queen,
Seems as an embryo empire still were there,
While still his ample breast swells with the vast design.

And fondly o'er the mellow tints I pause
Of her, whose vivid touch shames not her sire;
     Bold Genius in his pride
     Has marked her as his bride,
On his bright pinions bids her soul aspire,
Nor pay the tribute due by tardier Nature's laws.

But guard thee well young J--e: in his embrace
How many seal with death their ectasy!
     Too deep, intense, and wild,
     For one so late a child,
I fear me lest the proffered transport be
That every earthlier joy absorbent would efface.

Soft is thy form--amid the unpent air,
Pay rosy exercise her just demands:
     Tho' heaven thy lone hours woo
     Earth still demands her due;
Gay health to guard e'en genius' palace stands--
And when she takes her flight--e'en genius, must despair.

Nor those alone doomed to incarnate birth
Painting, death-baffler, is it thine to save!
     The heavenly shapes that flit,
     When the entranced fit,
Is on, and the charmed soul forgets its earth,
Thou bidst to earthly eyes their sky-dipt vestments wave.

The radiant visions Fancy's wand uprears
When Poesy around has spread her spell,
     Like summer flowrets dies
     Refresh the enchanted skies,
Where, soft as air, and lovelier for her fears,
Bright in her golden robes flies fair-haired Florimell.

The miracles, in holy record kept,
Done--ere one cheering ray of distant light
     Thro' death's dark portals shown,
     At thy command alone,
Still, still--reacted meet--the astonished sight,
Tho' rolling ages o'er the scene have swept.

In this far distant land, which the great deep
Perchance embosomed, when that dust was rife,
     The pale unconscious dead
     On the strown relics laid
Of old Elisha, in his passing sleep,
Still, at the hallowed touch, starts back to warmth and life.

Sweet, when the soul is weary of the ills
That stern reality presents, to dwell
     On beauteous forms: they smooth
     The ruffled sense, and sooth
The heart with soft perfection; till a spell
Blends with its troublous pulse, and all its achings stills.

And who can look nor own the pencil's power
Where tender Ariadne, happy yet,
     Lies in a dream of bliss?
     The last half-pitying kiss,
By falsehood given, her sleeping lip has met--
That still seems hovering there like Zephyr o'er a flower.

The dawn breaks slowly o'er the distant main,
To come no more her ingrate hero flies;
     While thoughts confiding speak
     Upon her mantling cheek--
Illusion chains the sense--in lowest sighs
Whispering--we fear to see her wake to pain.

But whither wandering? whatsoe'er has gained
Long conning book and heart the white-haired sage;
     Cause and remote effect
     In living semblance dect,
The truths divine of many a moral page
Thy hand, harmonious Peale, hath at a glance explained.