On being requested to write some Verses

Nay , ask not for a lay of mine,
Too fitful is my spirit's gleam;
With wavering and unsteady shine
It mocks me like a lover's dream.

And O, my heart is all too weak,
And all too faltering is my tongue;
I cannot gain, I dare not seek
The ennobling meed of sacred song.

For lofty look, and open brow,
Heart fearless in its glorious aim,
That shrinks not from the slanderer's blow
Shrinks not from aught save wise men's blame;

These, and the self-possessing mind
That views unmoved, though not in scorn,
All earth-born aims of lowlier kind,
With the true bard should all be born.

But I,—if e'er from dewy eye
Or summer sun my soul catch fire,—
Too soon the lights of minstrelsy
Quench'd in some gale of care expire.

Nor upward to its native heaven
Ascends the altar-flame; but wild
By some capricious passion driven
Leaves all forlorn Hope's dreaming child
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