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On A Landscape Bt Rubens - Poem by William Lisle Bowles

Nay, let us gaze, ev'n till the sense is full,
Upon the rich creation, shadowed so
That not great Nature, in her loftiest pomp
Of living beauty, ever on the sight
Rose more magnificent; nor aught so fair
Hath Fancy, in her wildest, brightest mood,
Imaged of things most lovely, when the sounds
Of this cold cloudy world at distance sink,
And all alone the warm idea lives
Of what is great, or beautiful, or good,
In Nature's general plan.
So the vast scope,
O Rubens! of thy mighty mind, and such
The fervour of thy pencil, pouring wide
The still illumination, that the mind
Pauses, absorbed, and scarcely thinks what powers
Of mortal art the sweet enchantment wrought.
She sees the painter, with no human touch,
Create, embellish, animate at will,
The mimic scenes, from Nature's ampler range
Caught as by inspiration; while the clouds,
High wandering, and the fairest form of things,
Seem at his bidding to emerge, and burn
With radiance and with life!
Let us, subdued,
Now to the magic of the moment lose
The thoughts of life, and mingle every sense
Ev'n in the scenes before us!
The fresh morn
Of summer shines; the white clouds of the east
Are crisped; beneath, the bright blue champaign steams;
The banks, the meadows, and the flowers, send up
An incensed exhalation, like the meek
And holy praise of Him whose soul's deep joy
The lone woods witness. Thou, whose heart is sick
Of vanities; who, in the throng of men,
Dost feel no lenient fellowship; whose eye
Turns, with a languid carelessness, around
Upon the toiling crowd, still murmuring on,
Restless;--oh, think, in summer scenes like these,
How sweet the sense of quiet gladness is,
That, like the silent breath of morning, steals
From lowly nooks, and feels itself expand
Amid the works of Nature, to the Power
That made them: to the awful thought of HIM
Who, when the morning stars shouted for joy,
Bade the great sun from tenfold darkness burst,
The green earth roll in light, and solitude
First hear the voice of man, whilst hills and woods
Stood eminent, in orient hues arrayed,
His dwelling; and all living Nature smiled,
As in this pictured semblance, beaming full
Before us!
Mark again the various view:
Some city's far-off spires and domes appear,
Breaking the long horizon, where the morn
Sits blue and soft: what glowing imagery
Is spread beneath!--Towns, villages, light smoke,
And scarce-seen windmill-sails, and devious woods,
Chequering 'mid sunshine the grass-level land,
That stretches from the sight.
Now nearer trace
The forms of trees distinct--the broad brown oak;
The poplars, that, with silvery trunks, incline,
Shading the lonely castle; flakes of light
Are flung behind the massy groups, that, now
Enlarging and enlarging still, unfold
Their separate beauties. But awhile delay;
Pass the foot-bridge, and listen (for we hear,
Or think we hear her), listen to the song
Of yonder milkmaid, as she brims her pail;
Whilst, in the yellow pasture, pensive near,
The red cows ruminate.
Break off, break off, for lo! where, all alarmed,
The small birds, from the late resounding perch,
Fly various, hushed their early song; and mark,
Beneath the darkness of the bramble-bank
That overhangs the half-seen brook, where nod
The flowing rushes, dew-besprent, with breast
Ruddy, and emerald wing, the kingfisher
Steals through the dripping sedge away. What shape
Of terrors scares the woodland habitants,
Marring the music of the dawn? Look round;
See, where he creeps, beneath the willowy stump,
Cowering and low, step silent after step,
The booted fowler: keen his look, and fixed
Upon the adverse bank, while, with firm hand,
He grasps the deadly tube; his dog, with ears
Hung back, and still and steady eye of fire,
Points to the prey; the boor, intent, moves on
Panting, and creeping close beneath the leaves,
And fears lest ev'n the rustling reeds betray
His footfall; nearer yet, and yet more near,
He stalks. Who now shall save the heedless group,
The speckled partridges, that in the sun,
On yonder hillock green, across the stream,
Bask unalarmed beneath the hawthorn bush,
Whose aged boughs the crawling blackberry
And thus, upon the sweetest scenes
Of human loveliness, and social peace
Domestic, when the full fond heart reclines
Upon its hopes, and almost mingles tears
Of joy, to think that in this hollow world
Such bliss should be its portion; then (alas,
The bitter change!), then, with his unheard step,
In darkness shrouded, yet approaching fast,
Death, from amidst the sunny flowers, lifts up
His giant dread anatomy, and smites,
Smites the fair prospect once, whilst every bloom
Hangs shrivelled, and a sound of mourning fills
The lone and blasted valley: but no sound
Is here of sorrow or of death, though she,
The country Kate, with shining morning cheek
(Who, in the tumbril, with her market-gear,
Sits seated high), seems to expect the flash
Exploding, that shall lay the innocent
And feathered tenants of the landscape low.
Not so the clown, who, heedless whether life
Or death betide, across the plashy ford
Drives slow; the beasts plod on, foot following foot,
Aged and grave, with half-erected ears,
As now his whip above their matted manes
Hangs tremulous, while the dark and shallow stream
Flashes beneath their fetlock: he, astride
On harness saddle, not a sidelong look
Deigns at the breathing landscape, or the maid
Smiling behind; the cold and lifeless calf
Her sole companion: and so mated oft
Is some sweet maid, whose thrilling heart was formed
For dearer fellowship. But lift the eye,
And hail the abode of rural ease. The man
Walks forth, from yonder antique hall, that looks
The mistress of the scene; its turrets gleam
Amid the trees, and cheerful smoke is seen,
As if no spectred shape (though most retired
The spot) there ever wandered, stoled in white,
Along the midnight chambers; but quaint Mab
Her tiny revels led, till the rare dawn
Peeped out, and chanticleer his shrill alarm
Beneath the window rang, then, with a wink,
The shadowy rout have vanished!
As the morn
Jocund ascends, how lovely is the view
To him who owns the fair domain! The friend
Of his still hours is near, to whom he vowed
His truth; her eyes reflect his bliss; his heart
Beats high with joy; his little children play,
Pleased, in his pathway; one the scattered flowers
Straggling collects, the other spreads its arms,
In speechless blandishment, upon the neck
Of its caressing nurse.
Still let us gaze,
And image every form of heartfelt joy
Which scenes like these bestow, that charm the sight,
Yet soothe the spirit. All is quiet here,
Yet cheerful as the green sea, when it shines
In some still bay, shines in its loneliness
Beneath the breeze, that moves, and hardly moves,
The placid surface.
On the balustrade
Of the old bridge, that o'er the moat is thrown,
The fisher with his angle leans intent,
And turns, from the bright pomp of spreading plains,
To watch the nimble fry, that glancing oft
Beneath the gray arch shoot! Oh, happiest he
Who steals through life, untroubled as unseen!
The distant city, with its crowded spires,
That dimly shines upon his view, awakes
No thought but that of pleasure more composed,
As the winds whisper him to sounder sleep.
He leans upon the faithful arm of her
For whom his youthful heart beat, fondly beat,
When life was new: time steals away, yet health
And exercise are his; and in these shades,
Though sometimes he has mourned a proud world's wrong,
He feels an independence that all cares
Breasts with a carol of content; he hears
The green leaves of his old paternal trees
Make music, soothing as they stir: the elm,
And poplar with its silvery trunk, that shades
The green sward of the bank before his porch,
Are to him as companions;--whilst he turns
With more endearment to the living smile
Of those his infants, who, when he is dead,
Shall hear the music of the self-same trees
Waving, till years roll on, and their gray hairs
Go to the dust in peace.
Away, sad thought!
Lo! where the morning light, through the dark wood,
Upon the window-pane is flung like fire,
Hail, Life and Hope; and thou, great work of art,
That 'mid this populous and busy swarm
Of men dost smile serene, as with the hues
Of fairest, grandest Nature; may'st thou speak
Not vainly of the endearments and best joys
That Nature yields. The manliest heart that swells
With honest English feelings,--while the eye,
Saddened, but not cast down, beholds far off
The darkness of the onward rolling storm,--
Charmed for a moment by this mantling view,
Its anxious tumults shall suspend: and such,
The pensive patriot shall exclaim, thy scenes,
My own beloved country, such the abode
Of rural peace! and while the soul has warmth,
And voice has energy, the brave arm strength,
England, thou shalt not fall! The day shall come,
Yes, and now is, that thou shalt lift thyself;
And woe to him who sets upon thy shores
His hostile foot! Proud victor though he be,
His bloody march shall never soil a flower
That hangs its sweet head, in the morning dew,
On thy green village banks! His mustered hosts
Shall be rolled back in thousands, and the surge
Bury them! Then, when peace illumes once more,
My country, thy green nooks and inmost vales,
It will be sweet amidst the forest glens
To stray, and think upon the distant storm
That howled, but injured not!
At thoughts like these,
What heart, what English heart, but shall beat high!
Meantime, its keen flash passed, thine eye intent,
Beaumont, shall trace the master-strokes of art,
And view the assemblage of the finished piece,
As with his skill who formed it: ruder views,
Savage, with solitary pines, hung high
Amid the broken crags (where scowling wait
The fierce banditti), stern Salvator's hand
Shall aptly shade: o'er Poussin's clustering domes,
With ampler umbrage, the black woods shall hang,
Beneath whose waving gloom the sudden flash
Of broken light upon the brawling stream
Is flung below.
Aerial Claude shall paint
The gray fane peering o'er the summer woods,
The azure lake below, or distant seas,
And sails, in the pellucid atmosphere,
Soft gleaming to the morn. Dark on the rock,
Where the red lightnings burst, shall Wilson stand,
Like mighty Shakspeare, whom the imps of fire
Await. Nor oh, sweet Gainsborough! shall thee
The Muse forget, whose simple landscape smiles
Attractive, whether we delight to view
The cottage chimney through the high wood peep;
Or beggar beauty stretch her little hand,
With look most innocent; or homeward kine
Wind through the hollow road at eventide,
Or browse the straggling branches.
Scenes like these
Shall charm all hearts, while truth and beauty live,
And Nature's pictured loveliness shall own
Each master's varied touch; but chiefly thou,
Great Rubens! shalt the willing senses lead,
Enamoured of the varied imagery,
That fills the vivid canvas, swelling still
On the enraptured eye of taste, and still
New charms unfolding; though minute, yet grand,
Simple, yet most luxuriant; every light
And every shade, greatly opposed, and all
Subserving to one magical effect
Of truth and harmony.
So glows the scene;
And to the pensive thought refined displays
The richest rural poem. Oh, may views
So pictured animate thy classic mind,
Beaumont, to wander 'mid Sicilian scenes,
And catch the beauties of the pastoral bard,
Shadowing his wildest landscapes! AEtna's fires,
Bebrycian rocks, Anapus' holy stream,
And woods of ancient Pan; the broken crag
And the old fisher here; the purple vines
There bending; and the smiling boy set down
To guard, who, innocent and happy, weaves,
Intent, his rushy basket, to ensnare
The chirping grasshoppers, nor sees the while
The lean fox meditate her morning meal,
Eyeing his scrip askance; whilst further on
Another treads the purple grapes--he sits,
Nor aught regards, but the green rush he weaves.
O Beaumont! let this pomp of light and shade
Wake thee, to paint the woods that the sweet Muse
Has consecrated: then the summer scenes
Of Phasidamus, clad in richer light,
Shall glow, the glancing poplars, and clear fount;
While distant times admire (as now we trace
This summer-mantling view) hoar AEtna's pines,
The vine-hung grotts, and branching planes, that shade
The silver Arethusa's stealing wave.

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Poems About Green

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