Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ode To The Departing Year - Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Spirit who sweepest the wild harp of Time!
It is most hard, with an untroubled ear
Thy dark inwoven harmonies to hear!
Yet, mine eye fixed on Heaven's unchanging clime,
Long had I listened, free from mortal fear,
With inward stillness, and a bowed mind;
When lo! its folds far waving on the wind,
I saw the train of the departing Year!
Starting from my silent sadness,
Then with no unholy madness
Ere yet the entered cloud foreclosed my sight,
I raised the impetuous song, and solemnised his flight.
Hither, from the recent tomb,
From the prison's direr gloom,
From distemper's midnight anguish;
And thence, where poverty doth waste and languish!
Or where, his two bright torches blending,
Love illuminates manhood's maze;
Or where o'er cradled infants bending
Hope has fixed her wishful gaze;
Hither, in perplexed dance,
Ye Woes! ye young-eyed Joys! advance!
By Time's wild harp, and by the hand
Whose indefatigable sweep
Raises its fateful strings from sleep,
I bid you haste, a mixed tumultuous band!
From every private bower,
And each domestic hearth,
Haste for one solemn hour;
And with a loud and yet a louder voice,
O'er Nature struggling in portentous birth
Weep and rejoice!
Still echoes the dread name that o'er the earth
Let slip the storm, and woke the brood of Hell:
And now advance in saintly jubilee
Justice and Truth! They too have heard thy spell,
They too obey thy name, divinest Liberty!
I marked Ambition in his war-array!
I heard the mailed Monarch's troublous cry--
' Ah! wherefore does the Northern Conqueress stay!
Groans not her chariot on its onward way?'
Fly, mailed monarch, fly!
Stunned by Death's twice mortal mace,
No more on murder's lurid face
The insatiate hag shall gloat with drunken eye!
Manes of the unnumbered slain!
Ye that gasped on Warsaw's plain!
Ye that erst at Ismail's tower,
When human ruin choked the streams,
Fell in conquest's glutted hour,
Mid women's shrieks and infant's screams!
Spirits of the uncoffined slain,
Sudden blasts of triumph swelling,
Oft, at night, in misty train,
Rush around her narrow dwelling!
The exterminating fiend is fled!--
(Foul her life and dark her doom)
Mighty armies of the dead
Dance, like death-fires, round her tomb!
Then with prophetic song relate,
Each some tyrant-murderer's fate!
Departing Year! 'twas on no earthly shore
My soul beheld thy vision! Where alone,
Voiceless and stern, before the cloudy throne,
Aye Memory sits: thy robe inscribed with gore,
With many an unimaginable groan
Thou storied'st thy sad hours! Silence ensued,
Deep silence o'er the ethereal multitude,
Whose locks with wreaths, whose wreaths with glories shone.
Then his eye wild ardors glancing,
From the choired gods advancing,
The Spirit of the Earth made reverence meet,
And stood up, beautiful, before the cloudy seat.
Throughout the blissful throng,
Hushed were harp and song:
Till wheeling round the throne the Lampads seven
(The mystic Words of Heaven)
Permissive signal make:
The fervent Spirit bowed, then spread its wings ad spake!
'Thou in stormy blackness throning
Love and uncreated Light,
By the Earth's unsolaced groaning,
Seize thy terrors, Arm of might!
By peace with proffered insult scared,
Masked hate and envying scorn!
By years of havoc yet unborn!
And hunger's bosom to the frost-winds bared!
But chief by Afric's wrongs,
Strange, horrible, and foul!
By what deep guilt belongs
To the deaf Synod, 'full of gifts and lies!'
By wealth's insensate laugh! by torture's howl!
Forever shall the thankless Island scowl,
Her quiver full, and with unbroken bow?
Speak! from thy storm-black Heaven, O speak aloud!
And on the darkling foe
Open thine eye of fire from some uncertain cloud!
O dart the flash! O rise and deal the blow!
The Past to thee, to thee the Future cries!
Hark, how wide Nature joins her groans below!
Rise, God of Nature! rise.'
The voice had ceased, the vision fled;
Yet still I gasped and reeled with dread.
And ever, when the dream of night
Renews the phantom to my sight,
Cold sweat-drops gather on my limbs;
My ears throb hot; my eye-balls start;
My brain with horrid tumult swims,
Wild is the tempest of my heart;
And my thick and struggling breath
Imitates the toil of death!
No stranger agony confounds
The soldier on the war-field spread,
When all foredone with toil and wounds,
Death-like he dozes among heaps of dead!
(The strife is o'er, the daylight fled,
And the night-wind clamors hoarse!
See! the starting wretch's head
Lies pillowed on a brother's corse!)
Not yet enslaved, not wholly vile,
O Albion! O my mother Isle!
Thy valleys, fair as Eden's bowers,
Glitter green with sunny showers;
Thy grassy uplands' gentle swells
Echo to the bleat of flocks
(Those grassy hills, those glittering dells
Proudly ramparted with rocks);
And Ocean mid his uproar wild
Speaks safety to his island child.
Hence for many a fearless age
Has social Quiet loved thy shore;
Nor ever proud invaders rage
Or sacked thy towers, or stained thy fields with gore.
Abandoned of Heaven! mad avarice thy guide,
At cowardly distance, yet kindling with pride--
Mid thy herds and thy corn-fields secure thou hast stood,
And joined the wild yelling of famine and blood!
The nations curse thee. They with eager wondering
Shall hear Destruction, like a vulture, scream!
Strange-eyed Destruction! who with many a dream
Of central fires through neither seas upthundering
Soothes her fierce solitude; yet as she lies
By livid fount, or red volcanic stream,
If ever to her lidless dragon-eyes,
O Albion! thy predestined ruins rise,
The fiend-hag on her perilous couch doth leap,
Muttering distempered triumph in her charmed sleep.
Away, my soul, away!
In vain, in vain the birds of warning sing--
And hark! I hear the famished bird of prey,
Flap their lank pennons on the groaning wind!
Away, my soul, away!
I, unpartaking of the evil thing,
With daily prayer and daily toil
Soliciting for food my scanty soil,
Have wailed my country with a loud Lament.
Now I recentre my immortal mind
In the deep sabbath of meek self-content;
Cleansed from the vaporous passions that bedim
God's Image, sister of the Seraphim.
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