READ AT THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE GNOTHAUTII, KNOX COLLEGE,
JUNE 31, 1854.
WITHIN a dell where sparkling in the sun,
From clear sweet fountains, flashing waters run,
Whose purling dimples seemed by Nereids formed,
Whose flowery banks the Nereids' selves adorned ;
Where sighing soft the genii of the breeze
Breathed their sweet cadence thro' the leafy trees ;
Upon whose boughs in rich enamelled hue,
Hung the fair fruits which gods delight to view ;
Where through the -rustling boughs the wand'ring eye
Meets here and there the vaulted azure sky,
Mid fleecy clouds where grouped in grandeur wild,
Shape upon shape the fairy forms were piled ;
There, where the spirits of the earth and sky
Seem in the rich embroidery to vie,
Strayed a youth, whose thoughtful beaming face
Bespoke a soul which Genius deigned to grace,
Whose mind from nature as a book could learn,
The thought-forms, which shaped nature to discern.
And, as he gazed upon this fairy sight,
His senses wrapped in pure and calm delight,
Chained by a spell like wizard charm of yore,
His tranquil musings thus in numbers pour:
The world without us, all its forms how fair,
God's beauties blushing through the earth and air,
The diamond glittering in its pearly bed;
The blue-eyed flower, scare raising its frail head;
The strong, resistless, ever heaving tide;
The storm-charged clouds that on the whirlwinds ride;
The planets wheeling through the rounds of space;
And myriad systems balanced each in place:
Or great or small, alike their beauties show,
Dew-drops like suns in mimic splendor glow.
But could some power propitious teach the art
To pour our eyesight on the mind or heart,
To paint our thoughts, or give emotions hue,
Till thoughts and passions stand revealed to view,
Clad in a lustre that might praise command
Even from bright seraphs of the spirit land,
Compared, the world tho' fair in every form,
Would fade like starlight into coming morn.
When at Jehovah's voice the astonished earth
From out the dark abyss stood trembling forth,
When chaos from the scene abashed withdrew,
And over nothing her thick mantle threw,
When back the waters by the land were driven,
And myriad stars lit up the vault of heaven,
And when from dust a living form arose,
Omnipotence did but his power disclose,
Which into being spoke material forms,
And formed from naught whate'er our senses charms.
Not so was formed the ever living soul;
Creation lost the act that crowned the whole.
Jehovah then from highest heaven descends
And o'er that lifeless form majestic bends;
Breathed in his nostrils then the living flame;
Touched with Promethean fire his lifeless frame.
Creation from the hand of God was given;
The mind is an afflatus BREATHED from heaven.
The mind whose subtle forms eye cannot see,
Simple amid its vast complexity,
'Tis as a harp of thousand hidden strings,
Unknown, save by the melody it brings;
A mechanism perfect in each part,
Which into motion e'en a breath can start;
Bound to material forms, its dwelling place,
By hidden links not e'en itself can trace.
Whence comes this subtle ever-living part,
Which moves in motion, pulsates in the heart ?
Whence springs this quickening and immortal flame
Transfused throughout our dull decaying frame ?
Eternal mystery its source enshrouds,
Like that of Egypt's river, wrapped in clouds.
How strange the union, strange the ties which bind
Essence and body, dust and living mind.
Go look upon the bent and trembling form
Bowed by the blasts of four-score Winters' storm,
Of one, who, like the giant of the wood,
Leafless and branchless, many a day hath stood;
Whose faltering footsteps totter o'er the grave
From which all human power not long can save;
Whose eye o'er-worn, with life's protracted gaze
Can scarce distinguish e'en the sun's bright rays;
Whose palsied hand nor deafened ear scarce brings
Or shape or sound from out material things;
Dimmed every sense, yet still undimmed his mind,
His sight still clear, although his eye is blind;
Though dark without, yet all ideal things
Flit shadowy by on visionary wings.
The mind is as some castle, dim and vast,
Whose chambers are through countless portals passed ~
Where, lodged within, each in its proper cell,
The subtle parts of this vast system dwell.
Could we but enter where the memory stands
And guards the thought-forms treasured by its hands.
Could see the thousand hidden links that bind
Associations thousand cords could find
The Sybil's cave, in all its wonders dressed,
No such mysterious beauty e'er possessed.
Yon aged sire that marks his children's sport,
How yields his sad mood to each gay retort !
Waked by the merry shout, his boyhood stands
Crowned with a thousand joys at memory's hands;
Now glows his face flushed with the sudden joy ;
Once more he sports, once more himself a boy.
The exile wanders o'er Siberia's snows,
Across the barren heath alone he goes,
The bleak winds whistle o'er that dreary waste,
And drifting snow-wreaths chaplet his cold face,
And save the snow-pile and the stunted fern
No object can his failing eye discern.
No object ? Yes ! There is ! It must be so.
A rude-built hut half buried 'neath the snow.
The exile nears it, and with heartfelt praise.
To Heaven, he seeks his earnest thanks to raise.
He goes within that rude hut boasts no lock ;
No shutter bids the weary exile knock ;
But each rude gust that o'er the mountain blows,
Deposits there its freight of drifting snows.
A few burnt brands, whose fires are long since dead ;
A pile of turf that forms a scanty bed ;
The rude built walls and snow-bedrifted sides,
Are all the comforts which that hut provides.
Hope nerves the wandering exile's sinking frame ;
He seeks to kindle there the genial flame,
And while each nook for fuel now he tries,
A worn and tattered volume meets his eyes.
He takes it up. As from its page he reads,
Nor toil, nor cold, nor hunger now he heeds ;
Forgotten now the bitter biting cold ;
Remembered naught save that his chill hands hold.
" Oh, Poland ! Tis thy name, my native land !
Thy bleeding streams and battered walls here stand.
Oh hallowed volume ! Ceaseless be the fame
That bears the glorious Kosciusko's name."
How calm the exile now. His mind, still free,
Visits his home in pleasing reverie.
No longer now an exile doomed to roam ;
Those rude built walls seem like his childhood's home;
Those wintry blasts that howl around his head
Are but the mountain winds that round him played
On Poland's rough and earthquake-riven face,
By memory clad in borrowed loveliness ;
A halo such as erst in childhood graced
The faded beauty of a mother's face.
Association thrills her hidden strings,
And fancy o'er the scene her magic flings.
Memory unlocks her storied treasures now,
Pleasure once more lights up the exile's brow;
He sees again his father's manly form,
Whose strength has braved full many a winter's storm;
He hears again the song his mother sung
When first on his young ear those accents rung.
And still more near he dandles on his knee,
Heaven's surest pledge of earth's felicity;
Presses the form close to his beating heart,
While from his lids the tears unbidden start,
Of her to whom his youthful love was given,
Who bore the exile's fervent love to Heaven.
Where lurked upon that leaf the secret power
That thrilled the exile in that dreary hour ?
And where the Lethean spell that thus should hide
Self and the pressing ills that self betide ?
Ah, look within and there the enchanter find,
See the magician in the exile's mind.
See yonder where the rapturous speaker stands,
While the dense crowd his every look attends;
A thousand ears catch the yet nascent word;
A thousand hearts re-echo it when heard.
He speaks of home a thousand fancies start,
And scenes far distant press each labored heart
As bursts the lightning on the eye of night,
Quick as the meteor flashes on the sight,
A thousand cottages by magic rise;
A thousand homes delight the listener's eyes.
Where rise the bleak New England's rugged hills;
Where low her vales, or gush her mountain rills;
Where surge the billows and the hoarse winds roar;
Where war the wild waves with the rock-girt shore;
Or on the prairies, 'neath the setting sun,
Young nature's play-ground where she sportive run;
Or 'neath the sunny sky of tropic clime;
Or where Arcturus decks his field with rime;
There speed the thoughts on space-neglecting wings,
There fancies hies and untold pleasure brings.
The mind who shall its limits dare define ?
Who fix its bounds, and who its cast design ?
While Newton slumbered on his mother's breast,
Without a thought, in semi-lifeless rest,
What wizard deep within that infant mind,
Germ of Principia's mighty truths could find ?
Who could discern the power that e'en should draw
From nature's self her hidden wondrous law,
Which from the distant, wheeling orbs should find
The laws which all in one vast system bind ?
On Corsica, unknown a league around,
Unconscious lay the hero world-renowned;
Sleep, and the mother's milk his sole desire;
Unthinking then where lurked the secret fire
Those secret passions which like storms should break,
Empires and kingdoms to their centres shake !
Europa's monarchs felt no secret fears;
No genii whispered warnings in their ears.
Why do they now as suppliants entreat
And prostrate bend before his haughty feet ?
And why do thousands guard Helena's shore,
When Corsica knew not his natal hour ?
The latent spark has kindled to a blaze
The germ has burst, its heaven-high boughs to raise.
The infant oak lies prisoned in its cell
A mighty tree encrusted by a shell.
It bursts those walls, and upward seeks the sky;
Spread wide its arms, whose strength the storms defy.
But while it seeks heavenward its boughs to throw,
The slow decay brings e'en its green head low ;
Now crumbling falls the monarch of the wood ;
Time lays that low, which tempests long withstood.
Not so the soul though grown to towering height,
Though knowledge sheds around a halo bright,
Though science has her storied treasures given,
That soul transplanted to the fields of heaven
Borne still aloft by heaven's celestial fire,
Its towering wing shall mount forever higher
Reflect the beauties of its bright abode,
And claim its kindred with its maker God.