by: Sidney Lanier (1842-1881)

      E companies of governor-spirits grave,
      Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
      From steep-walled heavens, holy malcontents,
      Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
      That brood about the skies of poesy,
      Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars.
      Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
      With totle lustre blazeth, no, not one
      But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
      Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
      His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
      Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
      Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
      We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
      Your largess so with love, and interplight
      Your geniuses with our mortalities.
      Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakspere sole,
      A hundred hurts a day I do forgive
      ('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee):
      Small curious quibble; Juliet's prurient pun
      In the poor, pale face of Romeo's fancied death;
      Cold rant of Richard; Henry's fustian roar
      Which frights away that sleeps he invocates;
      Wronged Valentine's unnatural haste to yield;
      Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men
      In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise--
      Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind;
      Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax
      Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain;
      Last I forgive (with more delight, because
      'Tis more to do) the labored-lewd discourse
      That e'en thy young invention's youngest heir
      Besmirched the world with.
      Father Homer, thee,
      Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes
      Of prose and catalogue, thy drear harangues
      That tease the patience of the centuries;
      Thy sleazy scrap of story--but a rogue's
      Rape of a light-o'-love--too soiled a patch
      To broider with the gods.
      Thee, Socrates,
      Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive
      Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies
      That were but dandy upside-down, thy words
      Of truth that mildlier spoke had mainlier wrought.
      So, Buddha, beautiful! I pardon thee
      That all the All thou hadst for needy man
      Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was
      But not to be.
      Worn Dante, I forgive
      The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells
      Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed
      By death, nor time, nor love.
      And I forgive
      Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars
      Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel,
      Immortals smite immortals mortalwise
      And fill all heaven with folly.
      Also thee,
      Brave Aeschylus, thee I forgive, for that
      Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked,
      Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love
      Stands shining.
      So, unto thee, Lucretius mine
      (For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this
      That's now complaining?), freely I forgive
      Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth
      Whose graves eat souls and all.
      Yea, all you hearts
      Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large:
      Aurelius fine, oft superfine; mild Saint
      A Kempis, overmild; Epictetus,
      Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct'
      Rapt Behmen, rapt too far; high Swedenborg,
      O'ertoppling; Langley, that with but a touch
      Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top
      Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest now
      And most adorable; Cædmon, in the morn
      A-calling angels with the cow-herd's call
      That late brought up the cattle; Emerson,
      Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost
      Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angel's nerves,
      Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice
      Since Milton, yet some register of wit
      Wanting--all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked,
      Your more or less, your little mole that marks
      You brother and your kinship seals to man.
      But Thee, but Thee, O Sovereign Seer of time,
      But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue,
      But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love,
      O perfect life in perfect labor writ,
      O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest--
      What if or yet what mole, what flaw, what lapse,
      What least defect or shadow of defect,
      What rumor tattled by an enemy,
      Of inference loose, what lack of grace,
      Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's--
      Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,
      Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?




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