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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The New Castalia

By William Hayes Ward (1835–1916)

[An Invocation. 1888.]

HAVE I not loved, dear Verse, the tinkling dance

Of thy sweet feet? What master taught thy steps?

’Twas the free winds, the liberty of the clouds,

The balance of successive day and night,

The patter of the rain, the gay brook’s rush,

The waxing and the waning of the moon.

Thy feet are steady as the stately stars,

The pulsing tides have timed thy solemn rhythm;

Anon, thy steps, inwove with deftest art,

Trip the quick graces of the intricate dance;

Thou wanderest in and out the vagrant ode,

Mingling in measured motion, swift or slow,

Th’ alternate stoppings of a double star,

The triple cadence of a flower-de-luce.

Out of a cavern on Parnassus’ side,

Flows Castaly; and with the flood outblown

From its deep heart of ice, the mountain’s breath

Tempers the ardor of the Delphian vale.

Beside the stream from the black mould upsprings

Narcissus, robed in snow, with ruby crowned.

Long ranks of crocus, humble servitors,

But clad in purple, mark his downcast face.

The sward, moist from the flood, is pied with flowers,

Lily and vetch, lupine and melilot,

The hyacinth, cowslip, and gay marigold,

While on the border of the copse, sweet herbs,

Anise and thyme, breathe incense to the bay

And myrtle. Here thy home, fair Muse! How soft

Thy step falls on the grass whose morning drops

Bedew thy feet! The blossoms bend but break

Not, and thy fingers pluck the eglantine,

The privet and the bilberry; or frame

A rustic whistle from a fresh-cut reed.

Here is thy home, dear Muse, fed on these airs;

The hills, the founts, the woods, the sky are thine!

But who are these? A company of youth

Upon a tesseled pavement in a court,

Under a marble statue of a muse.

Strew hot-house flowers before a mimic fount

Drawn from a faucet in a rockery.

With mutual admiration they repeat

Their bric-a-brackery of rococo verse,

Their versicles and icicles of song!

What know ye, verse-wrights, of the Poet’s art?

What noble passion or what holy heat

Is stirred to frenzy when your eyes admire

The peacock feathers on a frescoed wall,

Or painted posies on a lady’s fan?

Are these thine only bards, young age, whose eyes

Are blind to Heaven and heart of man; whose blood

Is water, and not wine; unskilled in notes

Of liberty, and holy love of land,

And man, and all things beautiful; deep skilled

To burnish wit in measured feet, to wind

A weary labyrinth of labored rhymes,

And cipher verses on an abacus?