by: Bernard Barton (1784-1849)

      onarch of day! once rev'rently ador'd
      By virtuous Pagans; if no longer thou
      With orisons art worshipp'd — as the lord
      Of the delightful lyre, or dreadful bow;
      If thy embodied essence be not now,
      As it once was, regarded as divine;
      Nor blood of victims at thine altar flow,
      Nor clouds of incense hover round thy shrine;—
      Yet fitly may'st thou claim the homage of the Nine.
      Nor can I deem it strange, that in past ages
      Men should have knelt and worshipp'd thee; — that kings,
      And laurel'd bards, robed priests, and hoary sages,
      Should, far above all sublunary things,
      Have turn'd to thee, whose radiant glory flings
      Its splendour over all — Ere gospel-light
      Had dawn'd, and given to thought sublimer wings,
      I cannot marvel, in that mental night,
      That nations should obey, and nature own thy right.
      For man was then, as now he is, compell'd
      By conscious frailties manifold, to seek
      Something to worship. — In the heart, unquell'd
      By innate evil, thoughts there are which speak
      One language in Barbarian, Goth, or Greek;
      A language by the heart well understood,
      Proclaiming man is helpless, frail, and weak,
      And urging him to bow to stone, or wood,—
      Till what his hands had form'd his heart rever'd as good.
      Do I commend idolatry? — O no!
      I merely would assert the human heart
      Must worship: — that its hopes and fears will go
      Out of itself, and restlessly depart
      In search of somewhat which its own fond art,
      Tradition, custom, or sublimer law
      Of Revelation brings, to assuage the smart
      Sorrows and sufferings from its essence draw,
      When it can look not up with hope, and love, and awe.
      Can it be wondrous, then, before the name
      Of the ETERNAL GOD was known, as now,
      That orisons were pour'd, and votaries came
      To offer at thine altars, and to bow
      Before an object beautiful as thou?—
      No, it was natural, in those darker days,
      For such to wreathe around thy phantom brow
      A fitting chaplet of thine arrowy rays,
      Shaping thee forth a form to accept their prayer or praise.
      Even I, majestic Orb! who worship not
      The splendour of thy presence, who controul
      My present feelings, as thy future lot
      Is painted to the vision of my soul,
      When final darkness, like an awful scroll,
      Shall quench thy fires; — even I, if I could kneel
      To aught but Him who fram'd this wondrous whole,
      Could worship thee; so deeply do I feel
      Emotions, words alone are powerless to reveal.
      For thou art glorious! — when from thy pavilion
      Thou lookest forth at morning, flinging wide
      Its curtain clouds of purple and vermilion,
      Dispensing light and life on every side;
      Brightening the mountain cataract, dimly spied
      Through glittering mist; opening each dew-gemm'd flower;
      Or touching, in some hamlet, far descried,
      Its spiral wreaths of smoke that upward tower,—
      While birds their matins sing from many a leafy bower.
      And more magnificent art thou, bright sun!
      Uprising from the ocean's billowy bed;—
      Who, that has seen thee thus, as I have done,
      Can e'er forget the effulgent splendours spread
      From thy emerging radiance? — Upwards sped,
      E'en to the centre of the vaulted sky,
      Thy beams pervade the heavens, and o'er them shed
      Hues indescribable — of gorgeous dye,
      Making among the clouds mute, glorious pageantry.
      Then, then how beautiful, across the deep,
      The lustre of thy orient path of light!
      Onward, still onward, — o'er the waves that leap
      So lovelily, and show their crests of white,
      The eye, unsated, in its own despite,
      Still up that vista gazes; till thy way
      Over the waters, seems a pathway bright
      For holiest thoughts to travel, there to pay
      Man's homage unto Him who bade thee "RULE THE DAY."
      And thou thyself, forgetting what thou art,
      Appear'st thy Maker's temple, in whose dome
      The silent worship of the expanding heart
      May rise, and seek its own eternal home:—
      The intervening billows' snowy foam,
      Rising successively, seem steps of light,
      O'er which a disembodied soul might roam;
      E'en as the heavenly host, in vision bright,
      Once did on Bethel's plain before the Patriarch's sight.
      Nor are thy evening splendours, mighty orb!
      Less beautiful: — and O! more touching far,
      And of more power thought, feeling to absorb
      In voiceless ecstacy, — to me they are.
      When, watchful of thy exit, one pale star
      Of evening, in a lovely summer eve,
      Comes forth, and, softer than the soft guitar,
      Is said to tell how gentle lovers grieve,
      The whispering breezes sigh, and take of thee their leave.
      O! then it is delightful to behold
      Thy calm departure; soothing to survey
      Through opening clouds, by thee all edged with gold,
      The milder pomp of thy declining sway:
      How beautiful, on church-tower old and grey,
      Is shed thy parting smile; how brightly glow
      Thy last beams on some tall tree's loftiest spray,
      While silvery mists half hide its stem below,
      Ascending from the stream which at its foot doth flow.
      This may be mere description; and there are
      Who of such poesy but lightly deem;—
      And think it nobler in a bard by far,
      To seek in narrative a livelier theme:—
      These think, perchance, the poet does but dream,
      Who paints the scenes most lovely in his eyes,—
      And, all unconscious of the bliss supreme
      Their quiet unobtrusiveness supplies,
      Insipid judge his taste, his simple strain despise.
      I quarrel not with such. If battle fields,
      Where crowns are lost and won; or potent spell
      Which portraiture of stormier passion yields;—
      If such alone can bid their bosoms swell
      With those emotions words can feebly tell,—
      Enough there are who sing such themes as these,
      Whose loftier powers I seek not to excel:
      I neither wish to fire the heart, nor freeze;
      But seek their praise alone, whom gentler thoughts can please.
      But if the quiet study of the heart,
      And love sincere of nature's softer grace,
      Have not deceiv'd me; — these have power to impart
      Feelings and thoughts well worthy of a place
      In every bosom: — he who learns to trace,
      Through all he sees, that Hand which form'd the whole,
      While contemplating fair Creation's face,
      Feels its calm beauty ruder thoughts control,
      And touch the mystic chords which vibrate through the soul.
      Majestic Orb! when, at the tranquil close
      Of a long day in irksome durance spent,
      I've wander'd forth, and seen thy disk repose
      Upon the vast horizon, while it lent
      Its glory to the kindling firmament,
      While clouds on clouds, in rich confusion roll'd,
      Encompass'd thee as with a gorgeous tent,
      Whose most magnificent curtains would unfold,
      And form a vista bright, through which I might behold
      Celestial visions--Then the wondrous story
      Of BUNYAN'S PILGRIMS seem'd a tale most true;
      How he beheld their entrance into glory,
      And saw them pass the pearly portal through;
      Catching, meanwhile, a beatific view
      Of that bright city, shining like the sun,
      Whose glittering streets appear'd of golden hue,
      Where spirits of the just, their conflicts done,
      Walk'd in white robes, with palms, and crowned every one.
      Past is that vision:--Views of heavenly things
      Rest not in glories palpable to sense;
      To something dearer Hope exulting springs,
      With joy chastis'd by humble diffidence;
      Not robes, nor palms, give rapture so intense
      As thought of meeting, never more to part,
      Those we have lov'd on earth; the influence
      Of whose affection o'er the subject heart,
      Was by mild virtue gain'd, and sway'd with gentle art.
      Once more unto my theme. I turn again
      To Thee, appointed ruler of the day!
      For time it is to close this lingering strain,
      And I, though half reluctantly, obey.
      Still, not thy rise, and set, alone, though they
      Are most resplendent, claim thy votary's song;
      The bard who makes thee subject of his lay,
      Unless he would a theme so glorious wrong,
      Will find it one that makes of thoughts a countless throng.
      For can imagination upward soar
      To thee, and to thy daily path on high,
      Nor feel, if it have never felt before,
      Warm admiration of thy majesty?
      Thy home is in the beautiful blue sky!
      From whence thou lookest on this world of ours,
      As but a satellite thy beams supply
      With light and gladness; thy exhaustless powers
      Call forth in other worlds sweet Spring's returning flowers!
      Yes--as in this, in other worlds the same,
      The seasons do thee homage--each in turn:
      Spring, with a smile, exults to hear thy name;
      Then Summer woos thy bright, but brief sojourn,
      To bless her bowers; while deeper ardours burn
      On Autumn's glowing cheek when thou art nigh;
      And even Winter half foregoes his stern
      And frigid aspect, as thy bright'ning eye
      Falls on his features pale, nor can thy power deny.
      Yet though on earth thou hast beheld the sway
      Of time, which alters all things; and may'st look
      On Pyramids as piles of yesterday,
      Which were not in thy youth: although no nook
      Of earth, perchance, retain the form it took
      When first thou didst behold it: even thou
      Must know, in turn, thy strength and glory strook;
      Must lose the radiant crown that decks thy brow,
      Day's regal sceptre yield, and to a Mightier bow!
      For thou thyself art but a thing of time,
      Whose birth with thine one awful moment blended;
      Together ye began your course sublime,
      Together will that course sublime be ended.
      For, soon or late, have oracles portended,
      One final consummation ye shall meet:
      When into nothingness ye have descended,
      This mighty world shall melt with fervent heat,
      Its revolutions end, its cycle be complete.
      And then shall dawn Heaven's everlasting day,
      Illum'd with splendour far surpassing thine;
      For HE who made thee shall HIMSELF display,
      And in the brightness of His glory shine.
      Redeem'd from grief and sin by Love Divine,
      Before his throne shall countless thousands bend;
      And space itself become one holy shrine,
      Whence in harmonious concord shall ascend
      To GOD, and to THE LAMB, praise, glory without end!

"To the Sun" is reprinted from Napoleon and Other Poems. Bernard Barton. London: Thomas Boys, 1822.




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