an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: Thoughts - A Series of Sonnets
Author: Charles Harpur
eBook No.: 2100451h.html
Date first posted: 2021
Most recent update: 2021
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
View our licence and header
Noon, Evening, and Night
True and False Glory
The Poverty of Greatness
The First Great Australian Poet
The Poetry of Love
The Fate of Poetic Genius in a Sordid Community
On the Political and Moral Condition of Australia in 1845
Speicmens of Love Sonnets
A Lover's Longing for the Society of his Mistress
A Beautiful Mistress Compared with a Genial Day
With Earth’s whole bulk between us, I, a child
Of the Far South, remembring with what glee
Of sacred fellowship my Soul, beguiled
By thy wise wonder-dreams, hath grown to be,
Even from the burthen of its mystery,
Happier;—if aught upon these “Thoughts” hath smiled
Of the true light of Spiritual Passion, mild
Though mighty,—I would point that Light to thee.
And haply that thy glorious head might bend
Approvingly, awhile, over the Wreath
Which from my native Wilderness I send—
This swelling Hope within my heart did breathe
So fervently, that kneeling, lo, beneath
Australia's Heaven, these Votive Lines I penned.
Note. In this Series of Sonnets the arrangement of the rhymes is somewhat peculiar. In departing from the Italian model in this respect, I am conscious of not being induced thereto by a desire merely to innovate. But carefully trying the Form I have here chosen, not to say invented, by my own ear, I venture to believe that it fits the English Sonnet—or rather, the Sonnet in English—more agreeably than the adopted one above referred to.
How beautiful that earliest burst of light
Which floodeth from the opening eye of Morn,
When like a fairy palace, dew bedight,
Bough storying over bough, upspreads the thorn!
And sweet the melodies which tow’rd the Corn
In tassel, or the Orchard, then invite;
And that most love-like, ever fresh delight
Which breathes of many a bloomy thing new born;—
Breathes from vine clumps in the moist dells appearing,
Rich meads and river banks. And cheering then
The voice of Cattle to their pasture steering,
And the full speech of fieldward hastening Men!—
My very Boyhood seems renewed again,
’Mid these delights, like a Delight, careering.
With what content the Forest bowers are blest,
And streams of coolness warbling, when the breeze
Crawls scorchingly, at Noon, o’er the opprest
And browning herbs in the unsheltered leas;
But sweeter far the gradual degrees
Of shadowy Eve, when in the dreamy West
Cloud-wrought Elysiums hang in golden rest,
And smile down bliss for every Eye that sees!
Then of deep Night the still mysterious mien
How grateful, with her solemn birds in flight
Dim gliding ’neath the Stars, whilst o’er the scene
The Moon comes pacing with a step of light!—
Alone ’mid these, in Memory’s despite,
My Soul forgets that Wrong hath ever been.
First in the human Form and Face so fair
’Tis seen, and in all Shapes of animal being;
Also in Things inanimate if rare:
In blending colors next, and sounds agreeing;
Till Thought grow gifted with that inward seeing
Which finds it in the mind beyond compare,
And in the infinite combinations there
Of Memory or Knowledge, fixed or fleeing.
The inmost spirit of all Truth, it hues
The countenance of Science; throbs like thought
In every star of Heaven; and embues
All the Moon looks on; to the heart is brought
Alive in every Sunbeam, if, love taught,
Such bright communion it would not refuse.
Rising and setting Suns of Liberty;
Mountainous Exploits; and the Wrecks thick strewn
By stormy Passion o’er Life’s treacherous Sea;
Relieved by Shores of green delight, and boon
And starry Dreams, and the serene pale Moon
Of pathos;—these, with all of which they be
Idealisms, are of Poesie
The bodily Temple, into fitness hewn.
And for its Soul:—all that the Mind can seize
Of Beauty, harmonising with the might
Of natural Ties and social Sympathies,
And that deep Spirit of Piety whose flight
Is strongest and most heavenward ’mid the blight
Of Mortal Misery—its Soul are these.
How long shall Splendid Guilt mankind deceive?
See Conqueror after Conqueror furious sweep
Across the Past! ambitious each to achieve
Time’s most unrighteous Victory, and so reap
Unequalled Sway, and make their Age one heap
Of bloody marvels for Slave-bards to weave
Into loud Verse; and finally, so leave
To Glory names that she should blush to keep!
How greater They, who Tyrants did debel,
And yet all Public Dignities disown
But such as were the means to Serving well!
Compare an Alexander’s wild renown
With the immaculate Memories that crown
The Souls of Hampden, Washington, and Tell.
His Mind alone is Kingly, who (though one)
But venerates of present Things or past
What he believeth Good; kneeling to none
Save God and Truth! Who, awed not by this vast
And shadowy Scheme of Life, but anchored fast
In Love, and sitting central, like the Sun
So gives his mental beams to pierce and run
Through all its Secrets, while his days may last.
And thus progressive, little faith hath he
For Mysteries, till sounding them, he hear
The gathered tones of their stirr’d depths agree
With that Religious Harmony severe,
Which anthems to his Spiritual ear
The invisible Presence of the Deity.
Alas! I know not why it should be so,
But the most rarely mental of Mankind
Are seldom prosperous in Life; as though
High Heaven, severe in simple good, designed,—
In thus denying to Majesty of mind
All accidental blazonry—to show
That Lasting Glory thence alone can flow,
And that the favor of the World is blind.
The Seers of Old were poor in all but style;
Nay, even Jesus for a price was sold,
And lived and died a Child of Scorn, the while
Herod could buy Supremacy with gold,
A Dotard Rome’s almighty Empire hold,
And even Barabbas, liberated, smile.
Spirit, that lookest from the starry fold
Of Truth’s white flock, next to thy Milton there,
Accept my reverence, though feebly told!
And oh, my heart, from thy Example rare,
Henceforth its Being for worthiest Ends would bear!
Thy Thoughts and Deeds were towering all and bold,
And like the steadfast Columns that uphold
Some awful Temple, to thy Duty were.
How much thy Story has enlarged my ken
Of human Greatness! Of mere Heroes, I
With indignation ever read—but when
Of thee, as lifted into Virtue’s sky,
I feel how nobly all may live and die,
And glory in my brotherhood with Men.
Worldly Prosperity is often less
A proof of having than of wanting sense;
And most is thwarted by the noble excess
Of Wit, Love, Valor, or Benevolence.—
I know a bloodless Thing at whose expense
Man ne’er rejoiced, nor Woman; in the guess
And careful feel of his mere Selfishness
More mathematic than a Spider;—hence,
Although in Look unsightly as an Elf,
Nor favoured otherwise, and aught but clever,
Nothing but Death shall cut him short of pelf!
The instinct of the Brute may err; but never
Might even Passion from its Object sever
A thorough Worldling’s providence for Self.
Glorious his lot whom Poesie shall name
Her first High Priest in this so sunny clime,
Though thereby clothed as with a robe of flame!—
With her Creations of the Olden Time
Much conversant, and by their bulk sublime
Moulding new matter, let him build to Fame;
Quarrying from Nature’s everlasting frame
The sculptured beauty of his lofty Rhyme!
Then mirrored ever in his polished page
Shall glow his Countrywomen’s lustrous eyes;
And future Patriots a righteous rage
Thence catch or stimulate—the Brave, and Wise,
And Lovely, so, beneath his native skies,
Hallowing his Memory from age to age.
Man were a grinding Niggard, lean and hoar
Even in his youth, and in his riches poor,
Didst Thou ne’er leave thy Blessing at his door!
If not from Thee, whence were there balm to cure
The scornful injuries lowly hearts endure
From pampered Privilege? Thou art the core
Of Wisdom’s social aim, who, all the more
Fierce Error threatens, toils to hold Thee sure.
On thy maternal bosom many a time
I lay my head, to dream that yet thy reign
In its perfected influence every Clime
Shall sweeten; and, as o’er some torrid plain
Fresh airs breathe vigour, quicken Man to gain
Capacity for Love’s millennian prime.
There’s a rare Soul of Poesie which may be
But concentrated by the chastened Dream
Of constant Hearts. Where’er the ministry
Of beautiful Nature hath enchanced the themes
Of some Petrarchian mind, whose story gleams
Within the Past like a moon-silvered sea;
Or where grey Interest the Spirit free
Of Faithful Love hath caged in iron schemes,
Or round it stirr’d such dangers as o’er drove
The Storm of Ruin at last;—there evermore,
The very Airs that whisper to the Grove,
The Echo’s mystery, and the Streamlet’s lore,
Savour of Passion, and transfusive, pour
Abroad suggestions to Heroic Love.
For Outward Show we barter Competence,
Family Comfort, Credit, Friendship’s Ties;
And even Love’s own dreamy Eden, whence
The beantifullest Flowers of Life arise
To breathe a soul-sweet incense to the skies!
This Social Envy—this most prurient Sense
Of Self-display, grows daily more intense,
Infecting even the Wisdom of the Wise.
Children are pincht with want and early woe,
That She who bore them, Fashion’s fribble Slave,
To Church or Theatre full-drest may go;
Sires, Husbands, Fops, all itch alike, and brave
Even Ruin, to o’erclimb some gaudy knave,
Their Rival in the Court of Outward Show.
Hapless is he who meditates the Nine
Where Trade is all in all, intent to build
Enduring Verse! for none will deem divine
His “divine art,” however he be skilled!
There Taste, like Beauty by the hectic killed,
Fades early, leaving him alone to pine
O’er Youth’s, and Hope’s, and Passion’s pale decline,
Broken in means, and lastly, broken-willed!
To Misery wedded then, as to a wife,
Bearing the burthen of a loving heart
Unloved, adown the desolate ways of Life,
Lo, all the gain of his harmonious art
Is the cold Worldling’s sneer, or viler smart
Of Envy’s sting; and with the ignoble—strife.
Mine heart is heavy with an ancient Sorrow,
My brain is aching with a clinging Grief!
And if I seek to smooth away the furrow
It plougheth in my Soul, in the relief
And balminess of Song—the cheat is brief!
One Feeling still, from which the Past did borrow
Exceeding light, reminds me that the morrow
Must drag me further from its lost Belief!
For Solace therefore, I would dive with Truth
Into the depths of her remotest lore:
Somewhere in Nature’s motherly heart there’s ruth
Yet for her Child, though wounded to the core!
Though Life’s first objects may beguile no more,
And Misery clothe her with the dreams of youth.
My Country, I am sore at heart for Thee!
And in mine ear, like a storm-heralding breeze,
A Voice against thee gathers warningly!
Lo, in what Hands seem now thy Destinies!
Hands grasping, all, through Party means, to seize
Some private benefit: and what should be
Thy Freedom’s dawn but gives ascendency
To lawless Squatters, and the Hacks of these!
Woe waits a Land whose Men are wise or brave
For nought but Self! where even the Best aside
Are thrusting honesty to don the knave!
Where Worth is trampled on by Vulgar Pride!
And where all Beauty of the Mind, decried,
Hangs dying o’er a Mammon-delved grave.
O Liberty, yet build Thee an august
And best Abode in this most virgin Clime!
The Old World yet, power-trampled to the dust,
Hath never known Thee in thy perfect prime!
Seeing all Rule which at a given time
Expires not, as reposed in Public Trust,
And thence renewable but by Suffrage, must
Against thee, in its nature, be a Crime!
Seeing that all not privileged to name
Their Governors—and more, to Govern too,
Choosing or chosen, but live unto thy shame!
That all are Slaves in Act who may not do
Whate’er is virtuous; and in Spirit, who
Believing aught, dare not avow the same.
“Nothing in Polite Literature, perhaps, would do greater service to morality than a new school of pure and simple Love-poetry, yet not deficient in ardour and imagination. * * * This is highly desirable, not more on account of the social importance of the passion at all times, than as an antidote to the impure extravagance with which our amatory poets, with scarcely an exception, have hitherto celebrated the triumphs of the Fair.” From an English Periodical.
As one who o’er Arabian Wilderness
Hath toiled a long and Spirit-wearying space,
And now athirst, desires the gleaming face
Of some known Spring,—and ’mid the shadowless
And fiery sand, remembers too, to bless
The sun-proof shelter of the storied race
Of Palm Trees that, with leafy arms, embrace
Each other there in verdant gracefulness:
So ’mid the sordid cares it proudly brooks,
And the dull daily tedium that it knows,
(Despite Consolatories found in Books)
My Nature panteth for the evening’s close,
When it may drink clear welcome from Her looks,
And in the shadow of Her grace repose.
Fair as the Day!—a genial day serene
Of early Summer, when the living air
Seems God’s own breath, and Flowers with bosoms bare
To the warm light, look smiling forth, between
The heapy folds of Nature’s mantle green,
As listening to the mingled gladness there
Of Birds and Brooks—even so serenely fair,
And of delight profuse, is my heart’s Queen!
My Spirit in the sunshine of her Grace
Glows with intenser being, and my veins
Fill as with nectar!—In your pride of place,
Ye Mighty, boast! Ye Rich, heap gold apace!
I envy nor your grandeur nor your gains,
Thus looking loved and loving in Her face!
In sleep with a sweet pang my brain was wrung,
And straight, methought, I passed from Life away
Into some World whereon a brighter day
Than ours came down, ’mid fairer shades, all hung
With starry fruit; whilst deathless Warblers sung,
Unceasingly, a bliss-inspiring lay;
And Streams of Nectar, as in living play,
Brimm’d into Symphony those shades among.
I seemed alone:—when from a bowery place
A silver-winged Shape came moving fast,
And as I looked in its approaching face,
Methought a thrilling memory of it pass’d
Into my Soul—and in a little space,
’Twas Rosa, smiling as I saw her last.
To day we part! Me far away to dwell
From this the Scene that saw our innocent Love
Bloom into beauty! The blue Heaven above,—
These Hills and Valleys,—and each rocky Dell
Where Echo hideth;—shall not these some spell
Of our sweet Vows retain? Shall these not guess
Their gain and loss in our supreme distress,
Till Time to Fame the eloquent Story tell?
To-morrow, and the Sun shall climb yon Hill
Bright as before; all winged Things shall start
To song as glad as we were listening still;
This Stream exult like a mirth-gushing heart!
But I, pursuing Fortune’s wandering star,
Shall not with these rejoice—from Thee and Them afar!
Nightly I watch the Moon with silvery sheen
Flaking the City house-tops, till I feel
Thy memory, Rosa, like a presence, steal
Down in her light: for ever in her mien
Thy Soul’s Similitude my Soul hath seen!
And as she seemeth now a Guardian seal
On Heaven’s far bliss, upon my future weal
Even such thy Truth is—radiantly serene!
But long my Fancy may not entertain
These bright Resemblances,—for lo, a Cloud
Blots her away! and in my breast the pain
Recurs of Absent Love, piercing and loud!
When shall I look in thy sweet eyes again,
Rosa, when cheer thee, with like sadness bowed!
Project Gutenberg Australia