ELEGY ON EDWARD BETHAM,
_Lost in the Duchess of Gordon East Indiaman, off the Cape of Good Hope_.
Lovely as are the wide and sudden calms
Upon a lake, when all the waters rise,
To smooth each undulation, and present
A plain of molten silver–is the hope,
Dear Edward, of thy safety–which now comes
To fill, expand, and elevate my heart–
String every nerve, and give to every vein,
A warmer and a sweeter sense of life!
Welcome, oh! welcome, that most healing hope,
Pouring abroad an efficacious ray
Into the aching bosom!–Tidings sweet
Those of such prompt return, with wisdom gain’d
By suffering, but with all thy innocence,
All thy accustomed gaiety of heart,
And all thy deep, quick sensibilities!
Those gems of virtue, which concentre still
In narrow limits, stores of moral wealth
Beyond all estimate–whose value known,
The dealer sells his other merchandize;
His ivory and curious workmanship,
The silkworm’s product and the cloth of gold,
To purchase that imperishable store,
More highly prized than all!–Possessing all
The properties, most precious of the rest,
In a superior measure and degree,
Without alloy, sparkling with inward light!
Unseen, untraced the process of his growth!–
No aid from any human hand or care!—
No nourishment from any earthly dews!
No ripening from our bright, material sun!
But secretly supplied by Providence
With some more pure, diviner aliment,
And with more heavenly, searching radiance fill’d;
For the superior comfort, higher bliss
Of that in-drinking eye the soul of man!
Thus sang I, when fallacious hopes were rais’d
Of his dear safety–whom, howe’er belov’d–
However strong in health, and firmly built
Like a fine statue of the antique world,
As if he might have reach’d a century
Without decrepitude, we ne’er again–
Nor we alone, no other human eye–
Can e’er behold! Then had I painted him
Returning, as he lately left our shores,
With all the fairness and the bloom of youth–
The light brown hair, and its soft yellow gleams,
Brightened with silver; thickening into shade,
Now with a dove-like, now a chesnut hue!
The smile of Peace and Love and joyful Hope!
And those blue eyes, through whose dark lash the soul,
Rejoicing, from its kind and happy home,
Look’d forth with rapture, artless, and uncheck’d!
Eyes, where Delight in careless luxury
Lay nestling and indulging blissful thoughts;
With every day-dream, for whose food the world
Offers magnificence and loveliness;
All graceful motions, and all graceful forms.
The ripened nectar of delicious sounds,
The social haunt–the lonely quiet hour;
The Hopes embodying innocent and gay
As those of Childhood, whose soft footstep past
Not long before, not yet forgotten, by!
The letter, dearest, blotted with thy tears,
In answer to a caution–fear–express’d
By much too strongly–often gives my heart
A secret pang–but of remorse for nought
But paining thee–too tender to endure
The thought that self-indulgence, or neglect,
Causing increas’d disquietude and care,
Might, by increased disquietude and care,
Open the grave for him who gave thee birth!
How often and how warmly did’st thou ask,
With epithets of fondness, how I dar’d
Imagine such a horror, and to one
Present, who would have died, or borne extremes
Of any hard endurance, not to give
The slightest anguish to a parent’s breast!
Alas! the cruel rashness of reproof–
The busy vigilance of human pride–
Like a too eager partizan, may strike,
To ward off danger from his chieftain’s head,
A fellow soldier zealous in the cause!
As of this world, this visible, wide world,
This earth, with all its forests, all its plants,
All its deep mines, its rivers, and its seas,
Yea! all that breathes, and moves, and clings to life
By any subtler impulse, which eludes
Our blunted observation:–as of this,
All that appears and all that is, so much
Remains, in scorn of science, unexplor’d;
So, in the not less wond’rous moral world,
The innermost recesses of the mind,
We see as little; save, Phoenician like,
By petty trade and parley on its coasts,
Talk by interpreters, impatient guess,
Or careless resting in incertitude,
At meanings in a tongue almost unknown;
Or so corrupted by this intercourse,
That all its native harmony is lost,
Its irresistible persuasions o’er!
The clearness and the sweetness of its tones,
Its loftiness, simplicity and truth.
All that we hear is coarse and limited,
And yet we sail along and search no more,
And look no farther, though the ear is pall’d
With the vile din of tame monotony,
The taste perverted, judgment led astray,
By soul-annihilating idleness,
By universal, strengthless poverty,
Which leans upon its neighbour for support,
And lifts the eye for sanction, or assent,
To weakness still more helpless than its own!
Two thousand years the sanctuary’s veil
Has now been rent asunder, shewing all
That, to the patient and unsandall’d foot,
Egress and regress freely are allowed
Through that most glorious temple, where abstract,
And long a stranger to the vulgar eye,
Thought held her silent rule, and mission’d forth
Her sealed and unquestion’d messengers.
Yet those who follow nature when the track
Is finer than a hair–those who can cleave
The subtile and combined elements
That form a drop of water–those can shrink
From the more holy alchemy enjoin’d,
Call’d for by that disgust the heart conceives
At the usurping empire of pretence;
At all those useless and disgraceful chains,
Which tie us down, and imp with aptest wings,
Falsehood and selfishness, who ought to creep
In their own reptile slime, and dart away
When eyes perceiv’d their presence. Oh! could those
Adventure in too perilous a path,
If without other guide than the bright stars,
The love of what is lofty and divine,
Or the desire of gaining for mankind,
Now fettered and held down to poison’d food,
Its unpolluted birth-right
–they dared on,
Plunging at once into untravelled realms,
And bringing, as the harvest of their toil,
Arms which will make each potent talisman,
Each charm, and spell, and dire enchantment sink
In endless infamy–without a hope
To trick their bloated, and their wither’d limbs,
In any Proteus vestment of disguise,
Again to awe and ruinate the world.
Oh! my dear brother, little did I think
These lines would be prophetic, yet to me
They seem so; for I since have felt deep woe,
And passed through seas of anguish to attain
A view of mysteries wonderful and sad–
Since they are rivetted, through every clime,
With shame, and guilt, and wretchedness on all
That bear what only is the _curse_ of life,
Whilst they remain, which have confronted time,
Wearing the semblance, sporting with the names
Of truth and valour, liberty and God,
Successfully, through each recorded age,
But yet _may_ fall, and will, I trust and hope!
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Based on Keywords: merchandize, loftiness, enjoin, unpolluted, disgraceful, day-dream, persuasions, strengthless, untravelled, paining, unquestion