Page images

Till, discouraged and desponding,

Sat he now in shadows deep, And the day's humiliation

Found oblivion in sleep.

Then a voice cried, “Rise, O Master;

From the burning brand of oak Shape the thought that stirs within thee !"

And the startled artist woke,

Woke, and from the smoking embers

Seized and quenched the glowing wood; And therefrom he carved an image,

And he saw that it was good.

O thou sculptor, painter, poet !

Take this lesson to thy heart: That is best which lieth nearest;

Shape from that thy work of art


Flight the first.


That of our vices we can frame A ladder, if we will but tread

Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day's events,

That with the hour begin and end, Our pleasures and our discontents,

Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,

That makes another's virtues less; The revel of the ruddy wine,

And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things ;

The strife for triumph more than truth; The hardening of the heart that brings

Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,

That have their roots in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes

The action of the nobler will;-
All these must first be trampled down

Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown

The right of eminent domain.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,

The cloudy summits of our time. The mighty pyramids of stone

That wedge-like cleave the desert airs, When nearer seen, and better known,

Are but gigantic flights of stairs. The distant mountains, that uprear

Their solid bastions to the skies, Are crossed by pathways, that appear

As we to higher levels rise. The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night. Standing on what too long we bore

With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, We may discern-unseen before

A path to higher destinies. Nor deem the irrevocable Past,

As wholly wasted, wholly vain, If, rising on its wrecks, at last

To something nobler we attain.

Of Prometheus, how undaunted

On Olympus' shining bastions
His audacious foot he planted,
Myths are told and songs are chanted,

Full of promptings and suggestions.
Beautiful is the tradition

Of that fight through heavenly portals, The old classic superstition Of the theft and the transmis

Of the fire of the Immortals ! First the deed of noble daring,

Born of heavenward aspiration, Then the fire with mortals sharing, Then the vulture,-the despairing

Cry of pain on crags Caucasian.
All is but a symbol painted

Of the Poet, Prophet, Seer;
Only those are crowned and sainted
Who with grief have been acquainted,

Making nations nobler, freer.
In their feverish exultations,

In their triumph and their yearning,
In their passionate pulsations,
In their words among the nations,

The Promethean fire is burning.
Shall it, then, be unavailing,

All this toil for human culture ? Through the cloud-rack, dark and trailing, Must they see above them sailing

O'er life's barren crags the vulture ?

Such a fate as this was Dante's,

By defeat and exile maddened : Thus were Milton and Cervantes, Nature's priests and corybantes, .

By affliction touched and saddened.

But the glories so transcendent

That around their memories cluster,
And, on all their steps attendant,
Make their darkened lives resplendent

With such gleams of inward lustre !

All the melodies mysterious,

Through the dreary darkness chanted;
Thoughts in attitudes imperious,
Voices soft, and deep, and serious,

Words that whispered, songs that haunted.

All the soul in rapt suspension,

All the quivering, palpitating Chords of life in utmost tension, With the fervour of invention,

With the rapture of creating !

Ah, Prometheus! heaven-scaling !

In such hours of exultation
Even the faintest heart, unquailing,
Might behold the vulture sailing

Round the cloudy crags Caucasian!

Though to all there is not given

Strength for such sublime endeavour,
Thus to scale the walls of heaven,
And to leaven with fiery leaven

All the hearts of men for ever;

« PreviousContinue »