by: Sidney Lanier (1842-1881)
POEMS BY SIDNEY LANIER
- 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
- 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 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?