Peter John Allan Poems >>
Sonnets

I.

Leaving his mountain eyrie far behind,
 On mighty pinions swiftly borne away,
 The eagle bathes his plumage in the day—
Such flight is only for the giant's might.
Content am I some lowlier path to find—
 The sonnet's simple loveliness for me,
 Whose timid muse from angry Mars would flee,
To dwell at peace with nature and mankind.
 No, rather like the tuneful lark, that springs
 Into the bosom of the opening morn,
Pouring her raptures o'er the verdant earth;
 Still would I breathe of sweet familiar things,
 In strains 'mid solitude and silence born,
And dying even as they had their birth.

           II.

BEHOLD, on ocean pillowed into rest,
The weary sun his shining head reposes,
Reft of his radiant crown, but wreathed with roses,
And smiling faintly o'er the distant west.
Behind him glows like fire each mountain's crest,
The mighty pines like springing adders seem;
All glittering with the emerald's darkest green,
They threat with arrowy tongues the heaven's breast.
What silence reigns! save where the mingled voice
 Of wind and wave are whispering, as in love,
Sweet things to one another.  In the deep
Day sinks—the skies grow dark, and night rejoices;
 Mirth, in her countless eyes, that from above
Look down like dreams into the world of sleep.

          FLOWERS.
           III.
DEAR smiling flowers, that over hill and dale,
Beneath the vernal sun are brightly glowing,
Like foot-prints where an angel hath been going,
I hear your perfume voices on the gale,
And mark your starry foreheads bright and pale,
Worship at nature's throne, from whence are flowing
The streams of light that tint your early blowing,
And make ye theme of many a poet's tale.
Your eyes at mid-day seem to laugh at me,
 Low seated, musing in the rural shade,
Or when at eve meek vesper twinkles bright,
And I am moved to tears in sympathy,
 With Philomela's wail in leafy glade;
Then shine your dewy eyes with softened light.

           IV.

WITH me wouldst thou consent to make thy home?
I build a palace for thee in my thought;
Though far away thy graceful form may roam,
Still is thy mem'ry with my heart enwrought;
And I behold therein all lovely things,
In all the sweetest breathings of creation.
I hear thee in the bubbling flow of springs,
The lark's ascending song of exultation,
The zephyr's sighing through the evening air;
I hear thee—thou art nature unto me;
And every worldly hope or feverish care
Vanishes still before one dream of thee,
Whose love can conquer e'en the fierce despair
Of knowing that thou never mine canst be.

        TO NATURE.
          V.

DAUGHTER of God! Instructress of this mind,
A mind that ever turneth unto thee,
Solace in all its miseries to find,
From thy reflections of the Deity,
Whose spirit animates a world and me,
With chains of love my fickle bosom bind,
That I thy fellow-worshipper may be;
And kneeling, load with prayer and praise the wind.
In yonder sun the Maker do I see,
Whose beam sustains the life of frail mankind;
In earth and ocean, fountain, flower, and tree,
In all that lives, his spirit is enshrined;
Then to thy arms, O Nature, let me flee,
Nor live to doubt and cold despair resigned.

        THE RAINBOW.
          VI.

GOD of creation, breathless let me bow,
 Here, in the stillness of the lonely grove,
And fancy 'tis thine own majestic brow,
 Radiant with smiles that speak a Father's love
For all on earth,—I view above me now
 Thine arch in brightness clad.  I ne'er behold
Yon shining token of thy gracious vow,
 That my heart flies not swiftly, uncontrolled,
And joyous as a winged bird to meet
 Thy promised mercy.  In that mercy bold,
May not the guilty bosom learn to beat
 With hope of thy forgiveness, and unfold
Fresh leaves beneath thy fost'ring light, and bear
Fruits for repentance meet, with penitence and prayer?

   TO S. T., A LOVER OF FLOWERS.
         VII.

ANGELS there are who come in silent night
To close the flow'rets' eyes with welcome dew,
And watching them the hours of darkness through,
Wake them with nectar kisses into light;
So when from earth your spirit takes its flight
(Long may your sister seraphs wait for you!)
'Twill oft return old friendships to renew
With ev'ry little blossom, pale or bright,
That fills your bosom now with pure delight,
While yet a maiden in our fading bowers,
Your soft brown hair all garlanded with flowers;
Your modest charms this simple lay invite,
From one who when sweet flowers shall o'er him wave,
Would have thee visit once his lonely grave.


          VIII.

Now Nature slumbers in the embrace of Night,
 Her gentle breathings in my bosom move
 Harmonious sympathy, and dreams of love,
Sweet thoughts that garish day will put to flight;
Then let me linger o'er them with delight,
 And commune pleasantly as on I rove,
 With ev'ry nightingale in yonder grove.
Or watch the bat's quick whirl, or owlet's flight,
 And thou, my Song, the lispings of the heart,
Which, like the infant's stammered words, are dear,
If not to others, to the parents' ear,
 Strive to express one little, smallest part
Of that wild spirit which, within me sleeping,
Is all that in my mind makes life worth keeping.

           IX.

OMNISCIENT Father, by whose love divine
 We breathe the buoyant air of living hope,
 That Faith which reads its glorious horoscope
In purer skies, whose stars for ever shine,
Oh, let my spirit kindle at the shrine
Of earth, thine altar; and amidst her choir,
Winds, waves, and all that is, let me aspire
To pour to thee, my God, the votive line.
Henceforth celestial rapture may I feel,
 Akin to his who sang creation's doom;
Obedient still to conscience's appeal,
 In life's sweet twilight shun the bigot's gloom,
And, heeding all that Nature's lips reveal,
 Move with a Christian's triumph to the tomb.

           X.

MY heart grows weak, and tears are in my eyes,
When I behold how many a lofty brow
Before the idol, Interest, deigns to bow
Submissive.  Ev'ry thought of high emprize,
Valour, religion, love (the strongest ties
'Twixt God and man), we tremble to avow.
As in the days of old it is not now—
All brotherhood as folly we despise.
A pampered steed, a very dog, we prize
 Beyond our fellow-mortals; nor confess
 Emotions soft of manly tenderness.
Lest the cold world should laugh to hear our sighs,
Break, selfish heart, whene'er our souls shall prove
Deaf to the thrilling voice of pity, virtue, love.

        MEMORY.
         XI.
THOU phantom dark of pleasure passed away,
Grim ghost of buried time, fell Memory,
Hie to Ambition's hall, there seek thy prey;
But leave this spirit from thy fetters free,
I cannot, and I will not, dwell with thee,
Whose glance malign, like deadly lightning scars,
Thou mak'st this beauteous world a dreary sea,
Where man is wrecked by self-created fears
That to a moment give the force of years;
 And, in the whirlpool of black despair,
Engulph his sinking soul  Away, weak tears,
 My bark the sails of Faith shall safely bear,
While Hope, with eye and hand, intrepid steers
 To the one land unvisited by care.

          XII.

STAND firm, ye few, who in this selfish earth
 Hold independence as your best estate,
 And by that creed are made more truly great
Than ever tyrant was, whose rule was dearth,
And woe, and desolation.  Ye whom fate
Compels to sit in shade of no man's gate,
And beg for power or peace; ye whose dear hearth
Is hedged around with faces beaming mirth
 And beautiful contentment, still, oh! still,
For Freedom's noble birthright live and die.
 In peace the holy offices fulfil
Of charity and love; but when the cry
 Of greedy foes to England menace ill,
Arise, and smite their legions hip and thigh.

         CONTENT.
          XIII.

WHY art thou sad?  The earth, the heaven, the sea,
Though each hath changes like the human heart
(Changes from light to darkness), they to me
 The simple lesson of content impart.
Why pluck the olive-branch to form a dart
 With which to wound thy spirit?  Learn to bear
Patiently ev'ry ill; for with the smart
 Ofttimes comes good; then laugh at grim despair.
As the sun tints the cloud in azure air
 With silv'ry radiance—as the ocean keeps
 A solemn calmness in her lowest deeps,
Let blest content, amid the thorns of care,
 Plant roses; and, when weaker nature weeps,
Oh! let the soul her holy influence share.

           DREAMS.
           XIV.

DREAMS are the fairies beneath wisdom's reign,
 All banished from the cheerful light of day;
And in the darksome chambers of the brain,
Like moping nuns, are destined to remain.
 But oft at midnight's hour they break away,
 When reason, their gruff jailor, nods, and pay
Gossiping visits to their friends around,
In ocean, air, on earth, and underground.
Ofttimes they join Titania's fairy train,
 Where, with winged feet, in wild sequestered glade,
 They circle some vast oak of ancient shade,
Merrily till the morn; when, caught again,
 They to their nunnery are once more conveyed.

             XV.

[The two following Sonnets originally appeared as translations
 from the Italian.  The former is supposed to be addressed
 by a friend to Columbus, then about to depart on his second
 voyage.]

No, Colon; thou, by Nature's changeless laws,
Wast formed to breathe the atmosphere of fame
(I live on love's thin air).  Despair's fell name
Can never fill with fright thy soul of flame—
A soul that disappointments fail to tame.
On! on! thy fate points onwards; thou must reap
Thine immortality upon the deep.
Wide continents their great discoverer claim,
But bid me not go with thee.  I am one
 Whose heart is of a weaker love than thine;
It teaches me the treacherous wave to shun;
 Nor all the wealth of Ophir's richest mine
Could tempt me to desert Italia's sun,
 The land of deathless song, ripe lips, and ruby wine.

           XVI.

"I FEAR long looking on my lady's eyes,
 That rival yonder sun's refulgent light,
 May yet, perchance, destroy the bliss of sight."
So did I speak, determined to be wise,
And turned my gaze aside, but heaviest sighs
 Shook my poor heart, and I had died outright
 If once again their glance (alas! how bright)
Had not revived me.  All in vain he tries
 To 'scape who carries in himself a foe,
And death is worse than blindness.  Should it be
The will of fate that I must cease to see,
 My latest look on her I will bestow,
Whom, but to be permitted to behold,
Is worth a Caesar's fame, a Croesus' hoarded gold.

           XVII.

AND can I e'er forget thee, though thou art
 Far from the arms that fain would clasp thee now?
 No, loved one of the fair unclouded brow,
I still embrace thee in a changeless heart,
And never shall the hallowed mem'ry part
 From this sad spirit of the hours we spent
 Together beneath hope's blue firmament;
When casting off thy sex's bashful art,
Thou didst confess I had not loved in vain.
 Then were the fountains of my soul unsealed,
 I melted into tears, sweet tears that yield
More bliss than smiles enshrine.  The summer's rain
Fostereth the drooping rose, love brighter beams
When on the passion-flower a tear-drop gleams.

         TO AMBITION.
           XVIII.

How desolate the human heart without
 Thee, soul-sustaining passion!  Like some hall,
Where long has ceased to peal the merry shout
 Of revellers, who now are sleeping all
 Within the circle of a churchyard wall;
Or the unworn cuirasss [sic], a wreck all red
 With rust of long disuse.  Thy magic thrall
Strengthens its captive.  Thoughts that long seemed
    dead
Revive like dew-crushed flowers beneath thy ray.
Thou bidst the weary mind spring forth anew,
 (Swift as the steed) upon the thorny way
To power.  More miracles thy medicines do
 Than erst Siloam's wave.  Oh, never may
 My soul be severed from thy healthful sway.