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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Things New and Old (1884). Chalfont St. Giles

Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821–1891)

(From Thomas Elwood to William Pennington, A.D. 1665)

YES, he is with me now, that blind old man,

Of whom I oft have told thee. I have sought

To save him from the city’s tainted air;

And so from out the streets, whose midnight hush

Is broken by the plague-cart’s bell, while death

With sweeping scythe mows down the grass of life,

I brought him hither. But a few green fields

Divide us, and at morn, and noon, and eve,

We meet as friends familiar, I to hear,

And he to speak. From pale lips eloquent

Flow golden words, and from the treasured store,

Like a wise scribe, he brings forth new and old;

Remembered words of poets and of sage

Float, like a strain of music, to his ears;

And so from out the dark clouds of the night

The moon looks forth upon his lonely path,

And leads him o’er wild moor and dreary waste,

Until the day-star rises. And his joy,

When o’er him comes the breath of new-mown fields,

The fragrance of the eglantine and rose,

Or the rich sweetness which the summer rain

Draws from the bosom of the parchèd earth,

Shines, like a sunbeam o’er that sightless face,

And sound, by some strange mystery of the sense,

Seems half-transmuted into subtler waves,

And tells of form and colour. Not for him

The golden sunset and the roseate dawn;

And yet the breath of morning, and the songs

Of lark that chants his anthems high and clear,

Bring to his soul the brightness and the glow.

He cannot see the lightning’s fiery flash,

But every peal of solemn thunder sweeps

With sudden glory to the inward eye;

And lo! his soul mounts upward to the Throne

Whence issue voices mighty as the surge

Of many waters, and the emerald arch

Spans the wide vault, and thousand angels wait,

Each in his order, or go to and fro,

Serving their Master. So each varying tone,

When the soft breeze, from out the pine-tree tops,

Calls the low murmur as of distant seas,

Or pattering of the raindrops on the eaves

Tells of the spring-tide shower, or babbling brook,

From pebbly depths and shallows in its course,

Makes clearest music,—all alike for him

Are but the notes of one vast symphony

That rises up from Nature to her God;

And each fair scene is present to his thoughts,

As once it was to sight that now is quenched.

But man is more than Nature, and his soul

Soars to yet loftier empyrean heights,

When from the ivory keys the expert’s touch

Creates its wondrous world of melody,

The solemn chants which fill the lofty choir,

The madrigals which speak of youth and joy,

The rushing flood of some o’erflowing strain

That pours unbidden, man’s will powerless

To start, or guide, or check it. This his hands

Work for themselves, and I but sit and hear,

Wrapt in that cloud of music, and borne on

To heights before unknown; and yet my voice,

That too has power to stir the depths of life,

Or ringing out Great Homer’s trumpet tones,

Or following Virgil’s calmer, statelier tread,

Or the dread vision of the Florentine,

Or in our English speech, with psalm and hymn,

And hallelujah, such as Levites sang

Before their God, the Lord of Sabaoth,

Kindling his spirit, till the wind that sweeps

With mighty rushing wakes his soul to hear

The echoes of the anthems of the stars,

The music of the mountain and the flood.