Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear:
Of his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.

You smiled, you spoke, and I believed,
By every word and smile deceived.
Another man would hope no more;
Nor hope I what I hoped before:
But let not this last wish be vain;
Deceive, deceive me once again!

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm'd both hands before the fire of life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear:
Of his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.

The chrysolites and rubies Bacchus brings
To crown the feast where swells the broad-vein'd  brow,
Where maidens blush at what the minstrel sings,
They who have coveted may covet now.

Bring me, in cool alcove, the grape uncrush'd,
The peach of pulpy cheek and down mature,
Where every voice (but bird's or child's) is hush'd,
  And every thought, like the brook nigh, runs pure.

I strove with none; for none was worth my strife;
  Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
  It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

Mother, I cannot mind my wheel;
My fingers ache, my lips are dry:
Oh! if you felt the pain I feel!
But oh, who ever felt as I?

No longer could I doubt him true;
All other men may use deceit:
He always said my eyes were blue,
And often swore my lips were sweet.

Why, why repine, my pensive friend,
At pleasures slipp'd away?
Some the stern Fates will never lend,
And all refuse to stay.

I see the rainbow in the sky,
The dew upon the grass,
I see them, and I ask not why
They glimmer or they pass.

With folded arms I linger not
To call them back; 'twere vain;
In this, or in some other spot,
I know they'll shine again.

1.4k
Verse

Past ruined Ilion Helen lives,
Alcestis rises from the shades.
Verse calls them forth; 'tis verse that gives
Immortal youth to mortal maids.

Soon shall oblivion's deepening veil
Hide all the peopled hills you see,
The gay, the proud, while lovers hail
These many summers you and me.

Well I remember how you smiled
To see me write your name upon
The soft sea-sand . . . "O! what a child!
You think you're writing upon stone!"

I have since written what no tide
Shall ever wash away, what men
Unborn shall read o'er ocean wide
And find Ianthe's name again.

Here, where precipitate Spring with one light bound
Into hot Summer's lusty arms expires;
And where go forth at morn, at eve, at night,
Soft airs, that want the lute to play with them,
And softer sighs, that know not what they want;
Under a wall, beneath an orange-tree
Whose tallest flowers could tell the lowlier ones
Of sights in Fiesole right up above,
While I was gazing a few paces off
At what they seemed to show me with their nods,
Their frequent whispers and their pointing shoots,
A gentle maid came down the garden-steps
And gathered the pure treasure in her lap.
I heard the branches rustle, and stept forth
To drive the ox away, or mule, or goat,
(Such I believed it must be); for sweet scents
Are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts,
And nurse and pillow the dull memory
That would let drop without them her best stores.
They bring me tales of youth and tones of love,
And 'tis and ever was my wish and way
To let all flowers live freely, and all die,
Whene'er their Genius bids their souls depart,
Among their kindred in their native place.
I never pluck the rose; the violet's head
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
And not reproacht me; the ever-sacred cup
Of the pure lily hath between my hands
Felt safe, unsoil'd, nor lost one grain of gold.
I saw the light that made the glossy leaves
More glossy; the fair arm, the fairer cheek
Warmed by the eye intent on its pursuit;
I saw the foot, that, altho half-erect
From its grey slipper, could not lift her up
To what she wanted: I held down a branch
Was come, and bees had wounded them, and flies
Of harder wing were working their way thro
And scattering them in fragments under foot.
So crisp were some, they rattled unevolved,
Others, ere broken off, fell into shells,
For such appear the petals when detacht,
Unbending, brittle, lucid, white like snow,
And like snow not seen thro, by eye or sun:
Was fairer than the first . . I thought not so,
But so she praised them to reward my care.
I said: you find the largest.

This indeed,
Cried she, is large and sweet.

She held one forth,
Whether for me to look at or to take
She knew not, nor did I; but taking it
Would best have solved (and this she felt) her doubts.
I dared not touch it; for it seemed a part
Of her own self; fresh, full, the most mature
Of blossoms, yet a blossom; with a touch
To fall, and yet unfallen.

She drew back
The boon she tendered, and then, finding not
The ribbon at her waist to fix it in,
Dropt it, as loth to drop it, on the rest.

1.3k
Dirce

Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
With Dirce in one boat conveyed!
Or Charon, seeing, may forget
That he is old and she a shade.

When the buds began to burst,
Long ago, with Rose the First
I was walking; joyous then
Far above all other men,
Till before us up there stood
Britonferry's oaken wood,
Whispering, "Happy as thou art,
Happiness and thou must part."
Many summers have gone by
Since a Second Rose and I
(Rose from the same stem) have told
This and other tales of old.
She upon her wedding day
Carried home my tenderest lay:
From her lap I now have heard
Gleeful, chirping, Rose the Third.
Not for her this hand of mine
Rhyme with nuptial wreath shall twine;
Cold and torpid it must lie,
Mute the tongue, and closed the eye.

Smiles soon abate; the boisterous throes
  Of anger long burst forth;
Inconstantly the south-wind blows,
  But steadily the north.

Thy star, O Venus! often changes
  Its radiant seat above,
The chilling pole-star never ranges --
  'Tis thus with Hate and Love.

1.2k
Ianthe

From you, Ianthe, little troubles pass
  Like little ripples down a sunny river;
Your pleasures spring like daisies in the grass,
  Cut down, and up again as blithe as ever.

1.2k
Separation

There is a mountain and a wood between us,
Where the lone shepherd and late bird have seen us
  Morning and noon and eventide repass.
Between us now the mountain and the wood
Seem standing darker than last year they stood,
  And say we must not cross--alas! alas!

Struggling, and faint, and fainter didst thou wane,
O Moon! and round thee all thy starry train
Came forth to help thee, with half-open eyes,
And trembled every one with still surprise,
That the black Spectre should have dared assail
Their beauteous queen and seize her sacred veil.

To my ninth decade I have tottered on,
  And no soft arm bends now my steps to steady;
She, who once led me where she would, is gone,
  So when he calls me, Death shall find me ready.

One lovely name adorns my song,
And, dwelling in the heart,
Forever falters at the tongue,
And trembles to depart.

1.2k
Autumn

MILD is the parting year, and sweet
   The odour of the falling spray;
Life passes on more rudely fleet,
   And balmless is its closing day.

I wait its close, I court its gloom,
   But mourn that never must there fall
Or on my breast or on my tomb
   The tear that would have soothed it all.

Why, why repine, my pensive friend,
  At pleasures slipp'd away?
Some the stern Fates will never lend,
  And all refuse to stay.

I see the rainbow in the sky,
  The dew upon the grass;
I see them, and I ask not why
  They glimmer or they pass.

With folded arms I linger not
  To call them back; 'twere vain:
In this, or in some other spot,
  I know they'll shine again.

Twenty years hence my eyes may grow,
If not quite dim, yet rather so;
Yet yours from others they shall know,
            Twenty years hence.

Twenty years hence, though it may hap
That I be call'd to take a nap
In a cool cell where thunder-clap
            Was never heard,

There breathe but o'er my arch of grass
A not too sadly sigh'd 'Alas!'
And I shall catch, ere you can pass,
            That winged word.

Life (priest and poet say) is but a dream;
I wish no happier one than to be laid
Beneath a cool syringa's scented shade,
Or wavy willow, by the running stream,
Brimful of moral, where the dragon-fly,
Wanders as careless and content as I.

Thanks for this fancy, insect king,
Of purple crest and filmy wing,
Who with indifference givest up
The water-lily's golden cup,
To come again and overlook
What I am writing in my book.
Believe me, most who read the line
Will read with hornier eyes than thine;
And yet their souls shall live for ever,
And thine drop dead into the river!
God pardon them, O insect king,
Who fancy so unjust a thing!

Lately our poets loiter'd in green lanes,
Content to catch the ballads of the plains;
I fancied I had strength enough to climb
A loftier station at no distant time,
And might securely from intrusion doze
Upon the flowers thro' which Ilissus flows.
In those pale olive grounds all voices cease,
And from afar dust fills the paths of Greece.
My sluber broken and my doublet torn,
I find the laurel also bears a thorn.

Ah what avails the sceptred race,
Ah what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.
Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and of sighs
I consecrate to thee.

The leaves are falling; so am I;
The few late flowers have moisture in the eye;
    So have I too.
Scarcely on any bough is heard
Joyous, or even unjoyous, bird
    The whole wood through.

Winter may come: he brings but nigher
His circle (yearly narrowing) to the fire
    Where old friends meet.
Let him; now heaven is overcast,
And spring and summer both are past,
    And all things sweet.

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm'd both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks; and I am ready to depart.

I entreat you, Alfred Tennyson,
Come and share my haunch of venison.
I have too a bin of claret,
Good, but better when you share it.
Tho' 'tis only a small bin,
There's a stock of it within.
And as sure as I'm a rhymer,
Half a butt of Rudeheimer.
Come; among the sons of men is one
Welcomer than Alfred Tennyson?

God scatters beauty as he scatters flowers
O'er the wide earth, and tells us all are ours.
A hundred lights in every temple burn,
And at each shrine I bend my knee in turn.

There is delight in singing, tho' none hear
Beside the singer; and there is delight
In praising, tho' the praiser sit alone
And see the prais'd far off him, far above.
Shakspeare is not our poet, but the world's,
Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
No man hath walkt along our roads with step
So varied in discourse. But warmer climes
Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
Of Alpine highths thou playest with, borne on
Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.

915
Finis

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm'd both hands before the fire of life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

914
To Zoe

Against the groaning mast I stand,
  The Atlantic surges swell,
To bear me from my native land
  And Zoe's wild farewell.

From billow upon billow hurl'd
  I can yet hear her say,
'And is there nothing in the world
  Worth one short hour's delay?'

'Alas, my Zoe! were it thus,
  I should not sail alone,
Nor seas nor fates had parted us,
  But are you all my own?'

Thus were it, never would burst forth
  My sighs, Heaven knows how true!
But, though to me of little worth,
  The world is much to you.

'Yes,' you shall say, when once the dream
  (So hard to break!) is o'er,
'My love was very dear to him,
  My fame and peace were more.'

The Year's twelve daughters had in turn gone by,
Of measured pace tho' varying mien all twelve,
Some froward, some sedater, some adorn'd
For festival, some reckless of attire.
The snow had left the mountain-top; fresh flowers
Had withered in the meadow; fig and prune
Hung wrinkling; the last apple glow'd amid
Its freckled leaves; and weary oxen blinkt
Between the trodden corn and twisted vine,
Under whose bunches stood the empty crate,
To creak ere long beneath them carried home.
This was the season when twelve months before,
O gentle Hamadryad, true to love!
Thy mansion, thy dim mansion in the wood
Was blasted and laid desolate: but none
Dared violate its precincts, none dared pluck
The moss beneath it, which alone remain'd
Of what was thine.

Old Thallinos sat mute
In solitary sadness. The strange tale
(Not until Rhaicos died, but then the whole)
Echion had related, whom no force
Could ever make look back upon the oaks.
The father said "Echion! thou must weigh,
Carefully, and with steady hand, enough
(Although no longer comes the store as once!)
Of wax to burn all day and night upon
That hollow stone where milk and honey lie:
So may the Gods, so may the dead, be pleas'd!"
Thallinos bore it thither in the morn,
And lighted it and left it.

First of those
Who visited upon this solemn day
The Hamadryad's oak, were Rhodope
And Acon; of one age, one hope, one trust.
Graceful was she as was the nymph whose fate
She sorrowed for: he slender, pale, and first
Lapt by the flame of love: his father's lands
Were fertile, herds lowed over them afar.
Now stood the two aside the hollow stone
And lookt with stedfast eyes toward the oak
Shivered and black and bare.

"May never we
Love as they loved!" said Acon. She at this
Smiled, for he said not what he meant to say,
And thought not of its bliss, but of its end.
He caught the flying smile, and blusht, and vow'd
Nor time nor other power, whereto the might
Of love hath yielded and may yield again,
Should alter his.

The father of the youth
Wanted not beauty for him, wanted not
Song, that could lift earth's weight from off his heart,
Discretion, that could guide him thro' the world,
Innocence, that could clear his way to heaven;
Silver and gold and land, not green before
The ancestral gate, but purple under skies
Bending far off, he wanted for his heir.

Fathers have given life, but virgin heart
They never gave; and dare they then control
Or check it harshly? dare they break a bond
Girt round it by the holiest Power on high?

Acon was grieved, he said, grieved bitterly,
But Acon had complied . . 'twas dutiful!

Crush thy own heart, Man! Man! but fear to wound
The gentler, that relies on thee alone,
By thee created, weak or strong by thee;
Touch it not but for worship; watch before
Its sanctuary; nor leave it till are closed
The temple-doors and the last lamp is spent.

Rhodope, in her soul's waste solitude,
Sate mournful by the dull-resounding sea,
Often not hearing it, and many tears
Had the cold breezes hardened on her cheek.
Meanwhile he sauntered in the wood of oaks,
Nor shun'd to look upon the hollow stone
That held the milk and honey, nor to lay
His plighted hand where recently 'twas laid
Opposite hers, when finger playfully
Advanced and pusht back finger, on each side.
He did not think of this, as she would do
If she were there alone.

The day was hot;
The moss invited him; it cool'd his cheek,
It cool'd his hands; he thrust them into it
And sank to slumber. Never was there dream
Divine as his. He saw the Hamadryad.
She took him by the arm and led him on
Along a valley, where profusely grew
The smaller lilies with their pendent bells,
And, hiding under mint, chill drosera,
The violet shy of butting cyclamen,
The feathery fern, and, browser of moist banks,
Her offspring round her, the soft strawberry;
The quivering spray of ruddy tamarisk,
The oleander's light-hair'd progeny
Breathing bright freshness in each other's face,
And graceful rose, bending her brow, with cup
Of fragrance and of beauty, boon for Gods.
The fragrance fill'd his breast with such delight
His senses were bewildered, and he thought
He saw again the face he most had loved.
He stopt: the Hamadryad at his side
Now stood between; then drew him farther off:
He went, compliant as before: but soon
Verdure had ceast: altho' the ground was smooth,
Nothing was there delightful. At this change
He would have spoken, but his guide represt
All questioning, and said,

"Weak youth! what brought
Thy footstep to this wood, my native haunt,
My life-long residence? this bank, where first
I sate with him . . the faithful (now I know,
Too late!) the faithful Rhaicos. Haste thee home;
Be happy, if thou canst; but come no more
Where those whom death alone could sever, died."

He started up: the moss whereon he slept
Was dried and withered: deadlier paleness spread
Over his cheek; he sickened: and the sire
Had land enough; it held his only son.

Ianthe! you are call'd to cross the sea!
A path forbidden me!
Remember, while the Sun his blessing sheds
Upon the mountain-heads,
How often we have watcht him laying down
His brow, and dropt our own
Against each other's, and how faint and short
And sliding the support!
What will succeed it now? Mine is unblest,
Ianthe! nor will rest
But on the very thought that swells with pain.
O bid me hope again!
O give me back what Earth, what (without you)
Not Heaven itself can do--
One of the golden days that we have past,
And let it be my last!
Or else the gift would be, however sweet,
Fragile and incomplete.

"Do you remember me? or are you proud?"
Lightly advancing thro' her star-trimm'd crowd,
Ianthe said, and lookt into my eyes,
"A yes, a yes, to both: for Memory
Where you but once have been must ever be,
And at your voice Pride from his throne must rise."

An ancient chestnut's blossoms threw
Their heavy odour over two:
Leucippe, it is said, was one;
The other, then, was Alciphron.
'Come, come! why should we stand beneath
This hollow tree's unwholesome breath?'
Said Alciphron, 'here 's not a blade
Of grass or moss, and scanty shade.
Come; it is just the hour to rove
In the lone dingle shepherds love;
There, straight and tall, the hazel twig
Divides the crooked rock-held fig,
O'er the blue pebbles where the rill
In winter runs and may run still.
Come then, while fresh and calm the air,
And while the shepherds are not there.'

Leucippe. But I would rather go when they
Sit round about and sing and play.
Then why so hurry me? for you
Like play and song, and shepherds too.

Alciphron.  I like the shepherds very well,
And song and play, as you can tell.
But there is play, I sadly fear,
And song I would not have you hear.

Leucippe. What can it be? What can it be?

Alciphron.  To you may none of them repeat
The play that you have play'd with me,
The song that made your bosom beat.

Leucippe. Don't keep your arm about my waist.

Alciphron.  Might you not stumble?

Leucippe.                     Well then, do.
But why are we in all this haste?

Alciphron.  To sing.

Leucippe.           Alas! and not play too?

Proud word you never spoke, but you will speak
Four not exempt from pride some future day.
Resting on one white hand a warm wet cheek,
  Over my open volume you will say,
  'This man loved me'--then rise and trip away.

892
To Zoл

Against the groaning mast I stand,
The Atlantic surges swell,
To bear me from my native land
And Zoл's wild farewell.

From billow upon billow hurl'd
I can yet hear her say,
'And is there nothing in the world
Worth one short hour's delay?'

'Alas, my Zoл! were it thus,
I should not sail alone,
Nor seas nor fates had parted us,
But are you all my own?'

Thus were it, never would burst forth
My sighs, Heaven knows how true!
But, though to me of little worth,
The world is much to you.

'Yes,' you shall say, when once the dream
(So hard to break!) is o'er,
'My love was very dear to him,
My fame and peace were more.'

890
Years

Years, many parti-colour'd years,
  Some have crept on, and some have flown
Since first before me fell those tears
  I never could see fall alone.

Years, not so many, are to come,
  Years not so varied, when from you
One more will fall: when, carried home,
  I see it not, nor hear Adieu.

Tanagra! think not I forget
Thy beautifully-storey'd streets;
Be sure my memory bathes yet
In clear Thermodon, and yet greets
The blythe and liberal shepherd boy,
Whose sunny bosom swells with joy
When we accept his matted rushes
Upheaved with sylvan fruit; away he bounds, and blushes.

I promise to bring back with me
What thou with transport wilt receive,
The only proper gift for thee,
Of which no mortal shall bereave
In later times thy mouldering walls,
Until the last old turret falls;
A crown, a crown from Athens won!
A crown no god can wear, beside Latona's son.

There may be cities who refuse
To their own child the honours due,
And look ungently on the Muse;
But ever shall those cities rue
The dry, unyielding, niggard breast,
Offering no nourishment, no rest,
To that young head which soon shall rise
Disdainfully, in might and glory, to the skies.

Sweetly where cavern'd Dirce flows
Do white-arm'd maidens chaunt my lay,
Flapping the while with laurel-rose
The honey-gathering tribes away;
And sweetly, sweetly, Attick tongues
Lisp your Corinna's early songs;
To her with feet more graceful come
The verses that have dwelt in kindred breasts at home.

O let thy children lean aslant
Against the tender mother's knee,
And gaze into her face, and want
To know what magic there can be
In words that urge some eyes to dance,
While others as in holy trance
Look up to heaven; be such my praise!
Why linger? I must haste, or lose the Delphick bays.

Child of a day, thou knowest not
The tears that overflow thy urn,
The gushing eyes that read thy lot,
Nor, if thou knewest, couldst return!

And why the wish! the pure and blest
Watch like thy mother o'er thy sleep.
O peaceful night! O envied rest!

875
To Age

Welcome, old friend! These many years
Have we lived door by door;
The fates have laid aside their shears
Perhaps for some few more.

I was indocile at an age
When better boys were taught,
But thou at length hast made me sage,
If I am sage in aught.

Little I know from other men,
Too little they know from me,
But thou hast pointed well the pen
That writes these lines to thee.

Thanks for expelling Fear and Hope,
One vile, the other vain;
One's scourge, the other's telescope,
I shall not see again.

Rather what lies before my feet
My notice shall engage--
He who hath braved Youth's dizzy heat
Dreads not the frost of Age.

866
What News

Here, ever since you went abroad,
If there be change, no change I see,
I only walk our wonted road,
The road is only walkt by me.

Yes; I forgot; a change there is;
Was it of that you bade me tell?
I catch at times, at times I miss
The sight, the tone, I know so well.

Only two months since you stood here!
Two shortest months! then tell me why
Voices are harsher than they were,
And tears are longer ere they dry.

860
Absence

Here, ever since you went abroad,
  If there be change no change I see:
I only walk our wonted road,
  The road is only walk'd by me.

Yes; I forgot; a change there is--
  Was it of that you bade me tell?
I catch at times, at times I miss
  The sight, the tone, I know so well.

Only two months since you stood here?
  Two shortest months? Then tell me why
Voices are harsher than they were,
  And tears are longer ere they dry.

856
Remain!

Remain, ah not in youth alone!
  --Tho' youth, where you are, long will stay--
But when my summer days are gone,
  And my autumnal haste away.
'Can I be always by your side?'
  No; but the hours you can, you must,
Nor rise at Death's approaching stride,
  Nor go when dust is gone to dust.

Mild is the parting year, and sweet
  The odour of the falling spray;
Life passes on more rudely fleet,
  And balmless is its closing day.

I wait its close, I court its gloom,
  But mourn that never must there fall
Or on my breast or on my tomb
  The tear that would have soothed it all.

In Clementina's artless mien
  Lucilla asks me what I see,
And are the roses of sixteen
            Enough for me?

Lucilla asks, if that be all,
  Have I not cull'd as sweet before:
Ah yes, Lucilla! and their fall
            I still deplore.

I now behold another scene,
  Where Pleasure beams with Heaven's own light,
More pure, more constant, more serene,
            And not less bright.

Faith, on whose breast the Loves repose,
  Whose chain of flowers no force can sever,
And Modesty who, when she goes,
            Is gone for ever.

Tell me not what too well I know
About the bard of Sirmio.
  Yes, in Thalia's son
Such stains there are--as when a Grace
Sprinkles another's laughing face
  With nectar, and runs on.

In spring and summer winds may blow,
And rains fall after, hard and fast;
The tender leaves, if beaten low,
Shine but the more for shower and blast

But when their fated hour arrives,
When reapers long have left the field,
When maidens rifle turn'd-up hives,
And their last juice fresh apples yield,

A leaf perhaps may still remain
Upon some solitary tree,
Spite of the wind and of the rain . . .
A thing you heed not if you see.

At last it falls. Who cares? Not one:
And yet no power on earth can ever
Replace the fallen leaf upon
Its spray, so easy to dissever.

If such be love, I dare not say.
Friendship is such, too well I know:
I have enjoyed my summer day;
'Tis past; my leaf now lies below.

'Do you remember me? or are you proud?'
Lightly advancing thro' her star-trimm'd crowd,
  Ianthe said, and look'd into my eyes.
'A yes, a yes to both: for Memory
Where you but once have been must ever be,
  And at your voice Pride from his throne must rise.'

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Imaginary Conversations and Poems - A Selection by Walter Savage Landor