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ITINERARY SONNETS

SERIES I

Memorials of a Tour on the Continent
1820

DEDICATION

Dear Fellow-travellers! think not that the Muse,
To You presenting these memorial Lays,
Can hope the general eye thereon would gaze,
As on a mirror that gives back the hues
Of living Nature; no—though free to choose
The greenest bowers, the most inviting ways,
The fairest landscapes and the brightest days—
Her skill she tried with less ambitious views.
For You she wrought: Ye only can supply
The life, the truth, the beauty: she confides
In that enjoyment which with You abides,
Trusts to your love and vivid memory;
Thus far contented, that for You her verse
Shall lack not power the "meeting soul to pierce!"

'Tis said, fantastic ocean doth enfold Fish-women

The likeness of whate'er on land is seen; — on landing

But, if the Nereid Sisters and their Queen, at Calais

Above whose heads the tide so long hath rolled,

The Dames resemble whom we here behold,

How fearful were it down through opening waves

To sink, and meet them in their fretted caves,

Withered, grotesque, immeasurably old,

And shrill and fierce in accent!—Fear it not:

For they Earth's fairest daughters do excel;

Pure undecaying beauty is their lot;

Their voices into liquid music swell,

Thrilling each pearly cleft and sparry grot,

The undisturbed abodes where Sea-nymphs dwell!

Bruges I saw attired with golden light Bruges
(Streamed from the west) as with a robe of
power:

The splendour fled; and now the sunless hour,

That, slowly making way for peaceful night,

Best suits with fallen grandeur, to my sight

Offers the beauty, the magnificence,

And sober graces, left her for defence

Against the injuries of time, the spite

Of fortune, and the desolating storms

Of future war. Advance not—spare to hide,

O gentle Power of darkness! these mild hues;

Obscure not yet these silent avenues

Of stateliest architecture, where the Forms

Of nun-like females, with soft motion, glide!

Bruges The Spirit of Antiquity—enshrined

In sumptuous buildings, vocal in sweet song,

In picture, speaking with heroic tongue,

And with devout solemnities entwined—

Mounts to the seat of grace within the mind:

Hence Forms that glide with swan-like ease along;

Hence motions, even amid the vulgar throng,

To an harmonious decency confined:

As if the streets were consecrated ground,

The city one vast temple, dedicate

To mutual respect in thought and deed;

To leisure, to forbearances sedate;

To social cares from jarring passions freed;

A deeper peace than that in deserts found!

After visiting A Winged Goddess—clothed in vesture wrought the Field of Of rainbow colours; One whose port was bold, Waterloo wiiose overburthened hand could scarcely hold The glittering crowns and garlands which it brought—

Hovered in air above the far-famed Spot.
She vanished; leaving prospect blank and cold
Of wind-swept corn that wide around us rolled
In dreary billows, wood, and meagre cot,
And monuments that soon must disappear:
Yet a dread local recompense we found;
While glory seemed betrayed, while patriot-zeal
Sank in our hearts, we felt as men should feel
With such vast hoards of hidden carnage near,
And horror breathing from the silent ground!

What lovelier home could gentle Fancy choose?
Is this the Stream,whose cities, heights, and plains,
War's favourite playground, are with crimson stains
Familiar, as the Morn with pearly dews?
The Morn, that now, along the silver Meuse,
Spreading her peaceful ensigns, calls the swains
To tend their silent boats and ringing wains,
Or stript the bough whose mellow fruit bestrews
The ripening corn beneath it. As mine eyes
Turn from the fortified and threatening hill,
How sweet the prospect of yon watery glade,
With its grey rocks clustering in pensive shade-
That, shaped like old monastic turrets, rise
From the smooth meadow-ground, serene and still!

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Was it to disenchant, and to undo, AlX"'aii
That we approached the Seat of Charlemaine? a^e e
To sweep from many an old romantic strain
That faith which no devotion may renew!
Why does this puny Church present to view
Her feeble columns? and that scanty chair!
This sword that one of our weak times might wear!
Objects of false pretence, or meanly true!
If from a traveller's fortune I might claim
A palpable memorial of that day,
Then would I seek the Pyrenean Breach
That Roland clove with huge two-handed sway,
And to the enormous labour left his name,
Where unremitting frosts the rocky crescent
bleach.

Between
Namur and
Liege

In the O For the help of Angels to complete Cathedral This Temple—Angels governed by a plan at Cologne Thus far pursued (how gloriously !) by Man, Studious that He might not disdain the seat Who dwells in heaven! But that aspiring heat Hath failed, and now, ye Powers! whose gorgeous wings And splendid aspect yon emblazonings But faintly picture, 'twere an office meet For you, on these unfinished shafts to try The midnight virtues of your harmony:— • This vast design might tempt you to repeat Strains that call forth upon empyreal ground Immortal Fabrics, rising to the sound Of penetrating harps and voices sweet!

—«wv>—

In a Car- Amid this dance of objects sadness steals
riage, upon O'er the defrauded heart—while sweeping by,
the banks of As in a fit of Thespian jollity,

the Rhine Beneath her vine-leaf crown the green Earth reels:
Backward, in rapid evanescence, wheels
The venerable pageantry of Time,
Each beetling rampart, and each tower sublime,
And what the Dell unwillingly reveals
Of lurking cloistral arch, through trees espied
Near the bright River's edge. Yet why repine?
To muse, to creep, to halt at will, to gaze—
Such sweet wayfaring—of life's spring the pride,
Her summer's faithful joy—that still is mine,
And in fit measure cheers autumnal days.

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