[Sidenote: He looks from his window on the midnight town.]
‘Tis the midnight hour; I heard
The city clocks give out the word.
Seldom are the lamp-rays shed
On the quick foot-farer’s head,
As I sit at my window old,
Looking out into the cold,
Down along the narrowing street
Stretching out below my feet,
From base of this primeval block,
My old home’s foundation rock.
[Sidenote: He renounces Beauty the body for Truth the soul.]
How her windows are uplighted!
God in heaven! for this I slighted,
Brooding ever in the sky!
What an earthly constellation
Fills those chambers with vibration!
Fleeting, gliding, weaving, parting;
Light of jewels! flash of eyes!
Meeting, changing, wreathing, darting,
In a cloud of rainbow-dyes.
Soul of light, her eyes are floating
Hither, thither, through the cloud,
Wandering planets, seeking, noting
Chosen stars amid the crowd.
Who, as centre-source of motion
Draws those dark orbs’ spirit-ocean?
All the orbs on which they turn
Sudden with shooting radiance burn;
Mine I felt grow dim with sheen,
Sending tribute to their queen:
Queen of all the slaves of show–
Queen of Truth’s free nobles–no.
She my wandering eyes might chain,
Fill my throbbing burning brain:
Beauty lacking Truth within
Spirit-homage cannot win.
Will is strong, though feeling waver
Like the sea to its enslaver–
Strong as hills that bar the sea
With the word of the decree.
[Sidenote: The Resentment of Genius at the thumbscrews of worldly talent.]
That passing shadow in the street!
Well I know it, as is meet!
Did he not, before her face,
Seek to brand me with disgrace?
From the chiselled lips of wit
Let the fire-flakes lightly flit,
Scorching as the snow that fell
On the damned in Dante’s hell?
With keen-worded opposition,
playful, merciless precision,
Mocking the romance of Youth,
Standing on the sphere of Truth,
He on worldly wisdom’s plane
Rolled it to and fro amain.–
Doubtless there it could not lie,
Or walk an orbit but the sky.–
I, who glowed in every limb,
Knowing, could not answer him;
But I longed yet more to be
What I saw he could not see.
So I thank him, for he taught
What his wisdom never sought.
It were sweet to make him burn
With his poverty in turn,
Shaming him in those bright eyes,
Which to him are more than skies!
Whither? whither? Heart, thou knowest
Side by side with him thou goest,
If thou lend thyself to aught
But forgiving, saving thought.
[Sidenote: The recess of the window a niche, wherein he beholds
all the world of his former walk as the picture of a vain slave.]
Ah! come in; I need your aid.
Bring-your tools, as then I said.–
There, my friend, build up that niche.
“Pardon me, my lord, but which?”
That, in which I stood this minute;
That one with the picture in it.–
“The window, do you mean, my lord?
Such, few mansions can afford!
Picture is it? ‘Tis a show
Picture seldom can bestow!
City palaces and towers,
Forest depths of floating pines,
Sloping gardens, shadowed bowers;
Use with beauty here combines.”
True, my friend, seen with your eyes:
But in mine ’tis other quite:
In that niche the dead world lies,
Shadowed over with the night.
In that tomb I’ll wall it out;
Where, with silence all about,
Startled only by decay
As the ancient bonds give way,
Sepulchred in all its charms,
Circled in Death’s nursing arms,
Mouldering without a cross,
It may feed itself on loss.