Ode To A Child

BRIGHT as a morn of spring,
That jubilates along the earth,
With clouds, and winds, and flowers rejoicing,
And all the creatures that on wing
Scarce dip the ground in their ethereal mirth.
Whilst the dew'd sunlight and the gold-flushed rain
Wed midway in the air;
And from the twain
Is ever born that fairy gossamer,
The iridescent bridge that spans the skies.
Yea, e'en in such wild glory dost thou glow
Soul-fresh exuberant child!
And drops of heavenly freshness gleam
On red, red lips, in dark-orbed eyes,
Like morning dews that glimmering show
On winter moss and heath'ry wild,
And soft-cropped grasses undefiled,
In all the shifting splendour of a dream.

Oh, thou, that in thy glee
Know'st of no ending yet, and no beginning,
Making the hours melodious with thy play,
Like grasshoppers, that through the livelong day
Hopping on the new-mown hay,
Sun-struck trill their roundelay;
Or the cricket, chirping cheerly
Late at night, at morning early,
With a little baby-singing
Like an echo faintly ringing
From the distant summer leas;
And with tremulous murmurs clinging
Round the hearth, like clustering bees
Humming round the linden trees.

And yet athwart thy soul,
At times, perchance, I seem to see
The hid existence of far off events,
Trailing their slumb'rous shadows silently.
For in the dusky deeps
Of thy large eyes
Sometime the veilèd outline of a still
And mute-born vision sleeps
As in the hollows of a hill,
With dim and darksome rents
The dreamful shadow of the morning lies,
And softly, slowly, ever down doth roll,
Till lost in mystic deeps it flees our watchful eyes.

Yet from that silent trance
Quick leap'st thou back into thy playfulness,
As waters darkened by the drifting cloud
Into the swift sweet sunlight crowd,
Where dashed with dewy gold they dance
In unbedimmèd sprightliness;
Till with their blithesome strain
They make the brooding mountains loud
And fling their merriment across the voiceless plain.
And buzzing lightly, here and there,
Thou, like a little curious fly
That fusses through the air,
Dost pry and spy
With thy keen inquisitive eye;
Poking fatly-dimpled fingers
Into corner, box, and closet,
Where, perchance, there hidden lingers
Some deposit,
To be carried off triumphantly.
And with many questions, ever
Rippling like a restless river,
Puzzling many an older brain,
Dost thou hour by hour increase thy store
Of marvellous lore.
Thus a squirrel darting deftly
Up and down autumnal trees,
Sees its hoard of chesnuts growing swiftly
In a heap upon the leaf-strewn leas.

Yea, open art thou to each influence
That strikes on thy soft spirit from without
Thy spirit not yet frozen, nor shut out
From nature's kindling breath
By selfish aims, nor dulled the sense
By hot desires; alas, too oft the death
Of man's spiritual vision. No, thy soul
Is yet all clear and bright
And lieth naked 'neath the eye of heaven
As a small mountain pool--
A pure and azure pool,
To whom its food is given
By dews, and rains, and snows all lily-white,
That softly fall
Through many a summer's day and winter's night;
And whose unspotted breast
Glasses each pageant of the outer world,
The cloud with pinions to the blast unfurled,
The mountains' haughty crest,
The slanting beam of twilight skies
That like a golden ladder lies
Stretching across perchance for angel hosts
To slide
Down to the earth with heavenly boon;
And glasses too the hurrying mists that glide
Like gliding ghosts,
And stars, and all the mildness of the moon.

As yet 'tis early January with thee!
Warm-cradled doth the summer leaf
Lie folded in the winter leaf
On the blank tree.
And folded in the earth the seed
The future mother of some glorious weed,
Or flower blowing gorgeously,
Or cedar branching wondrously,
Lies slumbering; its whole destiny
Of great or lowly, foul or fair,
In this minutest space surely foreshadowed there.
But let the west wind, ocean-born,
Floating towards the meads of morn,
But once spread out his wild and vasty wing
Setting the sap a-cantring; till new life
Works wonders: then thy being
Will strangely stir, as at the sound
Of sounding drum and fife
The war-horse paws the ground.
And through thy sweet pure veins
Life like a waterfall will grandly bound.

But now the Psyche of thy being
Still shyly doth essay her delicate wing,
Like to that airy nurseling of the sun
When first it breaketh through its dun
And hornèd shell, and tries
To move its pinions, powdered o'er and o'er
With rainbow dust of April skies,
That have as not yet learnt to soar,
And lie soft-folded in sweet mysteries.

Oh! looking on thee, I do speculate
On thy futurity!
What wilt thou be?
Some great and glorious lot I dream for thee,
Some starry fate!
For in thy nature meet
Such buoyant strength, and such a sweet
Half-veiled heart tenderness, that on thy being doth rest
Like soft dark bloom upon a pansy's breast;
And pity gushes o'er thee, like warm rain,
For everything in pain,
Or great or small; and such a shoal
Of thick-bred fancies ever swimmeth forth
From the deep sea
Of changeful fantasy,
Like golden fish that glitter in the sun;
And quick perception leading on and on,
Into a maze of thought, fresh'ning the soul
Of him who listens. Aye, what wilt thou be?
Perchance, one of that sacred band
That ever were the salt of earth,
Whom men call dowered with genius! They who stand
In grandeur and in glory like the Alps,
With silver-shining scalps,
Bathed in the ether; feeding all the land
With the pure skyey waters that descend
For ever from them; men who freed
From narrow bonds of hate and greed,
Fetters of custom, and blind circumstance,
Breathe the soul-quickening air of thought and love.
And struggling into freedom, sudden see
The solid shroud of sense
Consumèd by a heavenly flame,
As is the vapour dense and dun,
Which the earth-spirit fast doth breed
By the great sun.
And the large mind in native majesty
Doth catch that radiance evermore above,
Around us; finest effluence of being;
Illuminating with sharp sudden blaze
Nature's mysterious ways;
Until his spirit, feeling itself one
With all that is, and was, and is to be,
Vibrates into intenser life,
Which is creation!
Then makes he revelation
Of that one truth, that as a supreme ray
With new existence heavily fraught,
Lightened in awful loveliness
And empyrean holiness,
Upon his passive thought;
Till with long peals of explosive oracular thunder,
He bursts and cleaves and splinters asunder
The clinging clinking manacles of life,
That fall and curl in harsh black masses under
His wingèd feet: and through time's noisy strife
His infinite acts do strike like flame

Of a volcano seen across a sea,
On nights when with earthquake the labouring hills are rife;
And labouring, too, like heaving heights, doth he,
Girt round with turbulent whirls of praise and blame,
Breathe the hot spark of that which he did see,
As vital force that pulses strong and warm
In the mid-heart of creeds,
Or rolls itself along the epic's flood,
Or lives through ages in the marbled form,
Or leaps to life in the heroic deeds,
Watering with the heart's noble blood
The seed of future world-reforming good.

But stay, my soul;
Too far thou fliest, as a falcon flies,
Forgetful of the hand
Where he must perch, so trancèd with the grand
And boundless skies.
Oh come my song, and roll
Thy billows back, where on the swelling bank,
Mid flowers, and reeds, and grasses rank,
And feathered warblers, warbling wild,
Sporteth the unconscious child,
Safely roofed o'er by shielding mother's love,
Like wee lamb-clouds of morn by tender skies above.
Hark! now I hear thy low soft laughter falling
Upon my heart, like to the murmurous calling
Of brooding stock doves, now it sweet doth sound
Like rippling rills of rain, that make the ground
Harmonious on hot summer afternoons;
And now thy joyous croons
Blither and brighter tumble on my ear
All clarion clear,
Like songs of matin birds that in spring weather,
Hid in young woods, do jubilate together.
Yea, on the musing mind,
That wrapt in meditation's sober dress,
Looks inward in a half-forgetfulness
Of the world's outer show,
Thou breakest in, like a tumultuous wind
That teasing tosses
The foam of flickering fountain;
Or like the flashing flow
Of waves of light along the long green grasses;
Or waters bickering low
Down many a sloping mountain
That make themselves a nest mid ferns and shining mosses.
Of each free thing that in its joy
All chains, and bonds, and obstacles o'erpasses
In elemental gladsomenesses
And wonderful wild wantonesses--
Fire, water, wand'ring air,
Hast a past, exuberant boy,
Glorious, glad, and fresh, and fair,
And blowing in upon the tired brain
Nature's undying, spirit-stirring strain.

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