William Lisle Bowles

(1762 - 1850 / England)

Elegiac Stanzas


WRITTEN DURING SICKNESS AT BATH.

When I lie musing on my bed alone,
And listen to the wintry waterfall;
And many moments that are past and gone,
Moments of sunshine and of joy, recall;

Though the long night is dark and damp around,
And no still star hangs out its friendly flame;
And the winds sweep the sash with sullen sound,
And freezing palsy creeps o'er all my frame;

I catch consoling phantasies that spring
From the thick gloom, and as the night airs beat,
They touch my heart, like wind-swift wires that ring
In mournful modulations, strange and sweet.

Was it the voice of thee, my buried friend?
Was it the whispered vow of faithful love?
Do I in Knoyle's green shades thy steps attend,
And hear the high pines murmur thus above?

'Twas not thy voice, my buried friend!--Oh, no:
'Twas not, O Knoyle! the murmur of thy trees;
But at the thought I feel my bosom glow,
And woo the dream whose air-drawn shadows please.

And I can think I see the groves again,
The larches that yon peaceful roof embower;
The airy down, the cattle-speckled plain,
And the slant sunshine on the village tower.

And I can think I hear its Sabbath chime
Come smoothly softened down the woody vale;
Or mark on yon lone eminence sublime,
Fast whirling in the wind, the white mill's sail.

Phantom, that by my bed dost beckoning glide,
Spectre of Death, to the damp charnel hie!
Thy dim pale hand, thy festering visage hide;
Thou com'st to say, I with thy worms shall lie!

Thou com'st to say that my once vacant mind
Amid those scenes shall never more rejoice;
Nor on the day of rest the hoary hind
Bend o'er his staff, attentive to my voice.

Hast thou not visited that pleasant place
Where in this hard world I have happiest been?
And shall I tremble at thy lifted mace
That hath pierced all on which life seemed to lean?

But Hope might whisper: Many a smiling day
And many a cheerful eve may yet be mine,
Ere age's autumn strew my locks with gray,
And weary to the dust my steps decline.

I argue not, but uncomplaining bow
To Heaven's high 'hest; secure, whate'er my lot,
Meek spirit of resigned Content, that thou
Wilt smooth my pillow, and forsake me not!

Thou to the turfy hut with pilgrim feet
Wanderest, from halls of loud tumultuous joy;
Or on the naked down, when the winds beat,
Dost sing to the forsaken shepherd boy.

Thou art the sick man's nurse, the poor man's friend,
And through each change of life thou hast been mine;
In every ill thou canst a comfort blend,
And bid the eye, though sad, in sadness shine.

Thee I have met on Cherwell's willowed side,
And when our destined road far onward lay,
Thee I have found, whatever chance betide,
The kind companion of my devious way.

With thee unwearied have I loved to roam,
By the smooth-flowing Scheldt, or rushing Rhine;
And thou hast gladdened my sequestered home,
And hung my peaceful porch with eglantine.

When cares and crosses my tired spirits tried,
When to the dust my father I resigned;
Amidst the quiet shade unseen I sighed,
And, blest with thee, forgot a world unkind.

Ev'n now, while toiling through the sleepless night,
A tearful look to distant scenes I cast,
And the glad objects that once charmed my sight
Remember, like soft views of 'faerie' past;

I see thee come half-smiling to my bed,
With Fortitude more awfully severe,
Whose arm sustaining holds my drooping head,
Who dries with her dark locks the tender tear.

O firmer Spirit! on some craggy height
Who, when the tempest sails aloft, dost stand,
And hear'st the ceaseless billows of the night
Rolling upon the solitary strand;

At this sad hour, when no harsh thoughts intrude
To mar the melancholy mind's repose,
When I am left to night and solitude,
And languid life seems verging to its close;

Oh, let me thy pervading influence feel;
Be every weak and wayward thought repressed;
And hide thou, as with plates of coldest steel,
The faded aspect and the throbbing breast!

Silent the motley pageant may retreat,
And vain mortality's brief scenes remove;
Yet let my bosom, whilst with life it beat,
Breathe a last prayer for all on earth I love.

Slow-creeping pain weighs down my heavy eye,
A chiller faintness steals upon my breast;
'O gentle Muse, with some sweet lullaby'
Rock me in long forgetfulness to rest!

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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