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Thou, in thy unripe years, wast like the rose,
Which shrinketh from the summer dawn, afraid,
And with her green veil, like a bashful maid,
From the dull earth like thee,) thou did’st appear
Heavenly Aurora, who, when skies are clear,
Surpasseth still the youthful bride when neatest,
So is the full-blown rose for age the sweetest,
Till Laura comes, who now, alas, elsewhere
Breathes, amid fields and forests hard of heart,
Bereft of joy I stray from crowds apart, In this dark vale, 'mid grief and ire's foul air, Where there is nothing left of bright or fair,
Since Love has gone a rustic to the plough,
Or feeds his flocks, or in the summer now Handles the rake, now plies the scythe with care. Happy the mead and valley, hill and wood,
Where man and beast, and almost tree and stone, Seem by her look with sense and joy endued!
What is not changed on which her eyes e'er shone? The country courteous grows, the city rude,
Even from her presence or her loss alone.
I saw two ladies once, illustrious, rare;
One a sad sun, her beauties at mid-day
In clouds concealed ; the other, bright and gay, Gladdened, Aurora-like, earth, sea, and air.
One hid her light, lest men should call her fair,
And of her praises no reflected ray
Suffered to cross her own celestial way; To charm, and to be charmed, the other's care. Yet this her loveliness veiled not so well,
But forth it broke; nor could the other show All hers, which wearied mirrors did not tell.
Nor of this one could I be silent, though Bidden in ire; nor that one's triumphs swell,
Since my tired verse, o’ertasked, refused to flow.
'Twas night, and underneath her starry vest
The prattling Loves were hidden, and their arts
Practised so cunningly upon our hearts, That never felt they sweeter scorn and jest : Thousands of amorous thefts their skill attest,
All kindly hidden by the gloom from day;
A thousand visions in each trembling ray Flitted around, in bright, false splendour dressed. The clear, pure moon rolled on her starry way
Without a cloud to dim her silver light; And high-born beauty made our revels gay,
Reflecting back on heaven beams as bright, Which even with the dawn fled not away,
When chased the sun such lovely ghosts from night.
Ah me! it is a cruel destiny,
Which, envying, robs the world of thy clear voice,
And hence it is that men no more rejoice, Impoverished in their greatest blessing—thee ! Its harmony, like some celestial wind,
Its bright and burning thoughts, like vestal fires, Dispersed the clouds of sense from every mind,
And kindled honour, and divine desires.
It was too much for us to merit long;
That sacred joy inspired, and endless grace;
As they behold the angel in your face.
R. H. S.
One day my lady at a balcony
Three high-born dames it was my lot to see,
Not all alike in beauty, yet so fair,
And so akin in act, and look, and air, That Nature seemed to say, “ Sisters are we!” I praised them all, but one of all the three
So charmed me, that I loved her, and became
Her bard, and sung my passion, and her name,
Was turned elsewhere, it was but to admire
And worship her in idols, fond desire, False incense hid; yet I repent my praise,
As rank idolatry 'gainst Love's true fire.
She, who, a maiden, taught me, Love, thy woes,
To-morrow may become a new-made bride, Like, it I err not, a fresh-gathered rose,
Opening her bosom to the sun with pride : But him, for whom thus flushed with joy it blows,
Whene'er I see, my blood will scarcely glide ; If jealousy my ice-bound heart should close,
Will any ray of pity thaw its tide ? Thou only know'st. And now, alas ! I haste
Where I must mark that snowy neck and breast By envied fingers played with and embraced :
How shall I live, or where find peace or rest, If one kind look on me she will not waste,
To hint not vain my sighs, nor all unblest ?
[This is the sonnet which Tasso sent to Leonora, from Casteldurante.
Anger, a champion bold but warrior weak,
Led me with feeble armour to the field,
Against Love's bow and shafts blunt arms to wield, And Freedom or Revenge in battle seek. Fool that I was! what human arms avail
In conflict with that torch of heavenly fire,
Whose light alone turns anger to desire ? Peace, I implore, and own me rash and frail. Mercy I beg, and my weak hands extend,
And kneel, and bow, and bare my humble breast; If fight I must, pity her aid shall lend,
And win the palm for me, or death and rest : If with my blood some tears of hers should blend,
Defeat is triumph, and I perish blest.
Wandering Ulysses on the storm-vexed shore
Lay amid wrecks, upon the sand scarce dry, Naked and sad; hunger and thirst he bore,
And hopeless gazed upon the sea and sky;
Where there appeared – so willed the Fates on highA royal dame to terminate his woe:
“Sweet fruits,” she said, “sun-tinged with every dye, My father's garden boasts; would'st taste them? Go ! ” For me, alas ! though shivering in the blast
I perish, a more cruel shipwreck mine,
Will point to royal roofs, for which I pine,
What shall I call thee? Goddess ! by each sign.
A hell of torment is this life of mine ;
My sighs are as the Furies breathing flame; Desires around my heart like serpents twine,
A bold, fierce throng no skill or art may tame.
As the lost race to whom hope never came,
My tears are Styx, and my complaint and shame
Fills the abyss, and echoes frightfully
In this alone less hard my fate may be,