Peter John Allan Poems >>
The Tales Of The Blest--A Vision

I STOOD upon a mountain, lip to lip
With rosy morning, and her breathing came
Refreshingly upon my fever'd brow;
I felt my heart uplifted from the depths
Of this world's vain desires and idle fears,
And, let by Nature's hand, approached the source
From whence my deathless spirit drew its life,
Lost in the presence of that mighty thought,
The power, the love, the mercy of my God--
The one Eternal Heart that feels for all.
My soul is wafted to the realm of dreams.
Methought, amid the sapphire clouds that lay
Strew'd o'er the lucid azure of wide heaven,
I saw the fabled Islands of the Blest
Through the Empyrean floating, beautiful
With flowers, whose magic hues ne'er visited
The eyes of sleep; with perfume-laden trees
Crowned as with emeralds, and echoing
Through shady glen, fair mean, and purple hill,
With harp and song! Lo! as I look'd, there pass'd
Betwixt me and the sun, that, rising now,
Shone like the brighest rose in Paradise,
A silvery vapour gliding swiftly on
Towards me; it took shape all suddenly,
And seemed to my astonished gaze as one
Whom I had known on earth--a gentle friend,
Whose modest spirit shrank into itself
Alike from the world's wintry frown, that throws
Its cypress shadow o'er each humbler heart;
And from the fervour of its summer friendships,
Courting the genius that a halo casts
Round earth and the earthworms that call her mother.
He was a poet, and his ardent soul
Oft soared beyond its cage of mortal clay
Up to the throne of the Invisible,
Eternal God, Creator, Friend of man,
And struck a harp of heaven amid the throng
Of saints and angels, blending worship due,
With strains harmonious.
          In the deepest font
Of his great noble heart he treasured up
Each kindness shown him by his brother men
(Alas! how seldom shown!), and with a love
That could not change; their every hope and fear
Henceforth were his, and he would laugh or weep
E'en as they smiled or sighed. A sympathy
Unselfish, pure, and holy, such as fills,
With echoes of one universal hymn,
The halls of Nature's temples, through our hearts
Ran, like the rivers that in Paradise
Robed with sweet fruit and flowers the virgin earth.
When boys together often would we stroll
Apart from all, through solitary fields
And the brown pathways of some lonely grove;
We cull'd fair flow'rets, watch'd the industrious ants,
Or sat us down, and communed with the streams,
The winds, the sun, the moon, the stars, and were
Philosophers in boyhood, studying through
Fair Nature's book, whose title-page is God.
He was my teacher, for my thoughts to his
Were visions of realities; his mind
Was the true sun and cloudless heaven of soul,
And mine their mere reflection in the stream
Of a tempestuous spirit.
            We were borne
Onward together into manhood; I,
Fearing lest fools should take me for a fool,
Wandered from Edmund's side into the bowers
Of misnamed pleasure; in my bounding veins,
My erring fancy, half the error lay,
And reason soon reclaimed me. Once again
I clasped my friend and virtue to my heart,
Nor did again desert them.
              He meanwhile,
Met all the sneers of sensual men, whose lives
Were to the snow of his as viper's blood,
With a proud conscience and unquailing eye.
He knew it was not with his faults they warr'd,
But with his virtues; and in mind serene,
Aloof from them he moved, nor turned aside
To cringe for honours, nor to beg for fame.
So lived he for awhile, unmoved by scorn,
False as the men who showed it, and his soul,
Thrown back upon itself, beheld a calm,
Deep solitude of thought, unstirr'd by passion.
But feeble was his frame, and tasked o'ermuch,
With struggles after science. Day by day,
He grew less earthly, and his pensive eyes
Gleamed with a flame, which burning in the heart
Is to the body as a funeral pyre.
I knew that he must die, and gazed on him
Solemnly; for it was as if I looked
Upon some white-robed spirit which had found
Rest with its Maker and eternal bliss.
Throughout his brief existence he had walked
Close in the footsteps of the Son of God--
Lowly in mind and mien, and most humane
In word and deed to all men, and he died
Without one weak regret, all joyousness
Glad as the child, when by his mother led
Forth 'mid the fields their loveliest flowers to cull.
Once more I saw him. Through that silv'ry vapour
His noble form and countenance outshone,
Like Phoebus through a veil of lucid clouds.
His deep blue eyes, and glossy golden hair,
That round his lofty intellectual brow
In curls hung clustering, like the honeysuckle
About some marble palace, spotless fair,
He stood in form and features by my side,
The same in all things; but on closer gaze
Methought a change celestial had been wrought.
There was a holier calmness in his eyes--
A blest tranquillity, and on his lips
A spiritual smile sat like a dove,
Hallowing each thought. Around his slender form
A robe of sunny whiteness floated free
As foam upon the main. A golden lyre
In his right hand, and in his left two boughs
Of olive and of myrtle intertwined,
The spirit of my friend in gentlest words,
Of purest tenderness, addressed me thus--
"Friend of my soul, who in the fevered trance,
And aspirations high that filled my youth
With visioned glories unenjoyed on earth,
Stood'st by me ever, prompt to praise the skill
With which I weaved the wild flowers of my thought
Into fast-fading wreaths of artless song,
Know that the One who blest Isaiah's harp
With prophecy, and in lone Patmos shed
The light of revelation upon John,
Gives, though in less degree, all poets still
The inspiration of that muse which bore
Milton, 'that eagle spirit,' from the earth
To heaven's wide temple, which unveiled he saw
Illumin'd by the will of the Most High,
With more than mortal power to paint in flame
Of glowing diction and undying thought,
'Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.'
Not those alone who in the sight of me
Have soared to high Parnassus, in the eye
Of the Creator are as poets held.
The pale and silent worshippers in woods,
The lonely gazer from the mountain tops,
The pilgrim thoughtful roaming on the marge
Of the wild wilderness of ocean's waves,
The melancholy student of the tombs,
They who fall undeplored by proud mankind,
Over whose graves no epitaph is reared,
Save that which nature writes in summer flowers--
These from your sphere are wafted on the wind
To yon blest islands, where their spirits pour
Harmonious offering to the God they love.
Nor doom'd to an eternal death are those
Who have expired in heathen lands of old,
Ere yet the Star of Bethlehem arose,
And angels called on man to know his God,
Revealed in human shape, but sinless, pure,
All-wise, and merciful--the God that walk'd
With Moses in the camp of Israel.
Those passionate hearts that flow'd in deathless song,
The master of the lyre, the sages famed
For self-examination, sons of Greece
And Rome; Historians, Bards, Philosophers,
And Patriots, who, like Leonidas,
Fell for the freedom of their countrymen,
Acting with strong right hand, the poesy
That swelled with hate of tyranny their hearts;
All who stood virtuous amid sin, and cast
Aside the fetters of idolatry,
Cherishing hope in the Divinity
Of the one God who is the universe,
Have immortality in those fair isles.
For He who knows the hearts of all mankind
Knew theirs, and has redeemed them through the love
Of crucified Immanuel.
            "But to name
The host of these, would be an endless task,
Since many are accepted of the Lord
Whom men have scrupled not to stigmatize
As vile and most abandoned heretics.
The hypocrite whose doubts are granaried
Within a subtle and tenacious heart,
Is reverenced for his piety of mien,
His iciness of manner, when beneath
The solemn sadness of the wrinkled brow,
Avarice sits plotting schemes to cheat the world,
That for a saint can take a Pharisee.
And he whose open spirit scorns to bow
In adoration at an unknown shrine,
Who for himself examines thoroughly
A doctrine ere he puts his faith in it--
He stands convicted of a mind, in vain
Does he protest the innocence of thought,
The worst of crimes to those who will not think.
The multitude baptise him Atheist,
And having doom'd him to eternal fire,
Piously strive to make his life a hell.
Oh! that the human race with one consent,
Would in their God behold a Being pure,
Merciful, just, and holy, who disdains
The mockery of one sinner, lost to hope
Save through the love of Christ, inveighing loud
Against his brother's sins. Oh! vain attempt
To blind the eyes of the Omnipotent,
Who is above, below, around, within us!
Ay, with what rapture do I gaze
On Homer's lineaments divine, and hear
Those lips that pour'd the dirge o'er Hector slain,
Breathe to the Maker's praise their loftiest hymns.
Homer, the sightless eagle, who from earth,
Guided by inward whisp'rings of the soul,
Upsprang into the bosom of the Son,
Whence manna, like the riches of his thoughts,
Have fed till now the wond'ring race of man.
By Milton's side he roams in interchange
Of holiest eloquence; those poets' harps
Together tuned in honour of their God,
Oft mingle strains that, in their flight sublime,
Ascending, scale the capital of heaven,
Where angels stand around the eternal throne,
In middle of their anthems all struck dumb
With rapture at that solemn song. And there
Is AEschylus, the sire of tragic muse;
There Sophocoles, on whom his mantle fell,
Who (wanting the simplicity and strength
Of him who saw Prometheus vulture-torn),
In smoother folds, yet graceful, wore it still,
Attempting so to hide with studied art,
Whence far he sank in grandeur of design
Below his great original. And there
With them is seen the sweet Euripides,
Whose muse judicious culls the flowers of each
To form a garland for her poet's brow,
Whose lay so pure, so natural, and serene,
Partaking of his brethren's light and shade,
Is like the tender twilight's balmy hour.
Among those the mighty Shakspeare [sic] moves,
Acknowledged monarch over fancy's realms,
Simple, and wise in his simplicity.
'Once touch of nature makes the whole world kin.'
But hark! they call me! Ere I bid farewell
To thee and earth--to thee, until we meet
In yonder isles--but unto earth for ever,
Take counsel from my love. Though pride may scoff,
Be not the dust beneath Time's chariot wheel,
But build thyself a mem'ry 'mid mankind;
The lyre and olive-branch thy symbols are;
Improve thy soul for immortality,
Nor tarry till death give thy spirit wings,
But soar through time into eternity,
And heaven preoccupy. Be humble still;
None who wear flesh have reason to be proud.
In joyful hope attune thy lyre to sing
All innocent delights of soul and sense,
Wise as the serpent, harmless as the dove;
And when death calls on thee to leave behind
Thy grosser self,--in trustfulness of heart,
Attend the summons; then we meet again
In yonder land of bards. Upon the day
When sounds the trump of judgment, we shall look
Upon the Throne, and Him who sits thereon,
And hearken to the words of boundless love.
He is the Father of the fatherless;
In Him the poor and friendless find a friend;
The Saviour pleads for all, nor pleads in vain.
Farewell! thy thoughts should emulate my wings."
He said, and sprang into the flood of day,
Now pouring o'er the mountain's brow afar
Into the lap of every little vale,
Glad'ning the heart of every living thing.
I woke into remembrance of my dream,
And in the solitude of midnight gave
Expression to the phantoms of my sleep.