Home  »  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century  »  Henry Ellison (1811–1880)

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

By Mad Moments: Or First Verse Attempts by a Born Natural (1833). I. Season-Changes: Their Signs and Moral

Henry Ellison (1811–1880)

WHEN Summer fruits have ripen’d sweet,

When winds are sighing, and flowers dying,

And latest are blinking in brake and dell;

When Autumn leaves are first wind-flying,

And rainbow-hued by the rip’ning spell,

Of sun-baked juices that downward fleet

From the seasoned boughs i’ the roots to dwell,

In their Winter cells; when old carles tell

By ingle blaze, their Christmas tales

That smack of the taste of ancient days;

And the New Year midnight’s dream is told

To the flame-flap and the whistling gale’s

Wild Winter music, as he lays

Some stout oak low, and the blood runs cold

Of the prick-eared urchin, ’neath the charm

Of brain-coined fears and sprite-wrought harm;

And good old songs, heart-music, meet

To merrymakings, where the heart

Takes a new lease of life and love,

Are sung by household lips, so sweet

To wiser minds, who play their part

On life’s calm home-stage, far above

Ambition’s vain heart-fevering cares,

Soul-soiling wealth, and all the fears

Of him whose mind is not his own,

But fashioned at Opinion’s beck,

Chameleon-like, a bubble blown

By every breath of Folly thro’

The void wherein ’tis born and dies;

With no self-strength, self-worth, or hue,

But borrowed all, like atomies

Wind-lifted in the sunbeam’s track.

When Summer feelings pass away

With the bright things that gave them birth,

They leave their sweetness in the heart,

By Thought’s honey-bees preserved

And for after-times reserved;

Thought’s honey-bees, whose Summer-day

Tho’ gone, has left a sober mirth,

Which shall endure with kindly ray

To lighten o’er the Winter-hearth;

In the hour of outward dearth

A taste of past joys to impart:

As the honey still retains

The flavour which the flower gave,

When this to charm no more remains,

And wisdom that, alone can save;

Their colours, forms and scents and hues,

The soul can take from outward things,

And with them recreate past views;

Like the wild eagle it has wings

Of unseen motion, which will bear

It cloudwards from this prison-scene,

And give it visions fresh and fair.

When all fruits, ripe to the core

Swell to bursting; when no more

You can see the toppling wain

Crowned with Cere’s golden grain,

Filling all the narrow lane;

And as creaking on it goes

Leaving corn-spikes on the rows

Of the hedge-side elms, which spread

In groin-like arches overhead.

When the garners brimfull tell

That the earth has yielded well;

Paying back man’s toil and care

With all gifts and produce fair;

Teaching many a lesson high

In her wise economy;

Had to turn to fitting use

Means which men too oft abuse;

And e’en in most despisèd things

To seek and find high minist’rings.

When the rainbow harvests all

Are gathered in, and none to fall

’Neath hook or sickle now remain;

’Tis a sign that Summer’s train

Has departed; that again

Prudence, Toil, and Hope begin

A new race, repeating in

The self-same track, the self-same round

Of the Season’s narrow bound;

The image of the former year,

As in a glass reflected clear.

When the stubble field, close-clipped,

Tells that harvest-home is done;

Tho’ Fancy still can think she hears,

(Cheating her heart from Winter-fears)

The harvest carols dying on

Her charmèd ear, and sheafèd corn

Loud-rustling in the breeze, or borne

To the careful granary;

There to be stacked high and dry

For the Winter use, or years

Of scanty growth; when now frost-nipp’d

Flowers hang drooping ’neath the Morn;

Tho’ the lark still soars the sky

As tho’ Winter’s dreaded name

Not one pulse of joy could tame;

Season-free, as unto him,

All times and places were the same;

When the swallow’s swift wings skim

The foam-wave that sparkles by;

Speeding blithely whence he came;

When the cawing rooks do gather

Sticks and straws for Winter-weather;

Architects who build and plan

Tho’ unschool’d, as well as man,

With his terms of Art precise,

And his rules and measures nice.

When the red-cheeked apple falls,

And from the purple-stainèd grapes

Dropping ripe on warm South walls

The nectar juice almost escapes;

When from Summer’s parting lip

Their last beauty-tinge they take;

Fragrant hues and scents that make

The wandering bee athirst to sip

Dew-wine, with warm sunbeams blent,

That might fill the veins nigh spent

Of age with vigour—bunches such

As in his rosy-fingered clutch

(Sweet as kisses, full and lush)

Bacchus’ self was wont to crush

When with frolic, mirth and glee

And many-voicèd revelry,

From the mid-day heat he strayed

Thro’ Nysa’s echo-haunted shade;

Where the Dryads answered him

’Mid the alleys faint and dim;

And the many-fountained glade

By the birds was vocal made;

While from some wide-branching oak

Came the Woodman’s far-off stroke;

Far far from the sacred spot

Which man’s foot disturbèd not;

There on heaped up flowers he’d lie

Counting the moments as they fly,—

Grape-berries for his rosary:

Whose nectar-drops seemed to his mouth

Sweet as the breath of the sweet South;

Trickling o’er his laughing lip,

As with head held back he’d sip;

While old Silenus watched the boy,

And held his sides, and laughed for joy:

Now when ’neath their leafy palls

Tender flowerets buried lie,

Yielding to harsh Destiny,—

From which nothing fair escapes,

And the hoar-frost weaves fancy-shapes,

Till the thawing sunbeam falls;

For Nature has her fancies too,

And with the clouds and with the winds

She fashions pictures ever-new,

At her sweet will, like poet-minds

Who are but utterers of things

Which she has sent thro’ ear and eye,

Unto the heart, which o’er them flings

The charm of human feeling high;

The sweet touch of humanity.

The heart, which by its hopes and fears,

Its yearnings, joys and loves endears

The meanest thing; ’til it can give

An impulse unto all who live:

Yes! in Nature’s every form,

In cloud, in sunshine, and in storm;

In voice of stream, or song of bird,

In all that’s seen and all that’s heard,

One spirit still is hovering nigh,

The soul of all her poesy;

Typ’d in the Echo’s mystic voice

That bids the heart of man rejoice

To think the universal soul

Pulsing thro’ each part and whole,

A sympathetic response gives

Unto everything that lives.

’Tis from this eternal source

Each smaller stream derives its course

Supplied like rivers from the sea,

And flowing thither constantly.

Of all Nature’s harmonies

The corresponding key-note lies

In man’s soul, and every part

Hath an echo in his heart;

As a mirror, where you see

All things in epitome;

The moral world and physical

The outward and the inner, all

Form one vast and perfect whole

Moved by one pervading soul.

And the highest poet he

Who of the vast machinery

At the centre stands, and sees

Creation rise by due degrees;

And with Wisdom’s master-key

Unlocks the soul of harmony.

When grasshopper, chirping late,

Easing thus his merry heart,

Not from cares but over-joy,

Tells that Summer’s out of date,

Yet thereat no fears annoy.

His blithe spirit; not one smart

For lost moments, wishes ill,

As he sang, so sings he still:

In his life-dregs keeping holy

That joy-essence fresh and clear,

Free from taint of melancholy;

Which from Nature, when the Year

Saw his birth-day young like him

He received, a boon of glory

Man might envy, whom a whim

A mere nothing can o’er-dim;

Changing Joy’s smile to a tear

From his cradle to his bier:

Ever-seeking, never tasting,

Some air-form of Fancy grasping,—

Present moments ever-wasting,

For those that come not for his asking;

And when come not worth the tasking;

Wherewith Fancy, sick at heart,

Ransacked all her slippery art;

Giving to Time’s future shape

Graces; in their stead the ape,

Grinning Mockery, to find;

Disappointment hid behind

The form of ripe fruition

When the bubble-dream is gone!

When the Redbreast whistles blithe,

Taking of sweet song his fill,

Tho’ the other birds be still;

And the lambs full-sized bleat strong,

Well-wool’d ’gainst the Winter’s chill;

When no more the reaping scythe

Finds a cornstalk to cut down

And the stubblefield looks brown

Where the formless vapor shows

Objects indistinct and wrong;

When the daylight shorter grows,

And owl and bat’s delight is long;

When nigh eveless Night draws on,

Waiting scarce for set of sun;

Like enchantress, whose high spell

Works a sudden miracle.

When the Nightingale’s spell-song

Is rare heard the brakes among;

Now by ruder sounds o’erblown

Which from Winter take their tone;

The harsh-voicèd wind ’t may be,

With rude-season’d rivalry;

Or the Night-birds bolder made

By the lengthened evening’s shade;

When the peasant, weather-wise,

Shakes his grey head at the skies;

By his blazing cottage flame

Mutters Winter’s chilly name,

Lives o’er the Past in many a tale,

And prophecies, and quaffs his ale;

While the fire’s fitful blaze

On his sunburnt features plays,

And in chimney-nook to sleep

Tirèd dog and urchin creep.

When the weather-signs are rife,

Telling of new Season’s life;

And all creatures, instinct-wise,

Tho’ taught not to philosophize,

Now prepare, each in his way

To protract life’s little day;

When the hazel-nuts full-grown

To the squirrel ripely shown

Thro’ the scant leaves plump and brown

Give a relish to his tooth

Epicures might grudge in sooth;

And the acorns pattering

To the swine a rich treat bring;

While the passing traveller sees

Them grunting ’neath the wind-shook trees.

Now when all Earth’s living creatures

Tell of change in Time’s old features;

And thy own heart, plainer still

Than falling leaf or faded hill;

Tells thee that the Summer’s flown

With all joys that thou hast known;

When thou feel’st that, like the Year

Thy heart too is in the sere

And yellow leaf; that it must be

Changed in its fancied unity;

Reflect but shattered fragments now

Like broken glass of former joy,

And of its former self retain

Dull memory with present pain;

The remnants of a joy which was

A perfect whole, ere Time the glass

Ot Hope had broke, whose fragments now

But multiply an idle show;

Which puzzles still the cheated eye

That vainly would identify.

Take courage Heart; for here below

What are such things but idle show;

Whose whole worth in thyself doth dwell

Created by thy magic spell.

According as thou turn’st to good

Or evil use, Time’s changeful mood:

So, like the wind the eagle’s wings

’Twill lift thy soul to higher things

Than those whereon the eye doth rest,

Or make thee level with the beast

Who lives but unto time and earth,

Whereof his food and joys have birth.

But thou that draw’st from such mean source

Only thy body’s brief-lived force;

Should’st not submit thy soul thereto

But to its service these subdue;

Nor from the changeful Seasons here,

Take argument of hope or fear.

When thy heart with outward things

Tells that Time upon his wings

Has thy Summer-fancies stole,

And far from th’ imagin’d goal

Still thy hopes keep toiling on,

For joys that seemed already won,

And in future trust to find

Bliss that shall not cheat the mind,

More than all thou’st left behind;

Tho’ if thou think’st well, there is

Nor surer, nor a greater bliss;

For what so sure as that which thou

Dost enjoy, not thinking how

Or when, or where, it is enjoyed,

Lost in the bliss, which is destroyed,

Or past, when you begin to think

Of what it is; then does it shrink

Up from a boundless joy to a

Cold reflex of what’s passed away.

When all these signs tell the Year

Hath laid Summer on his bier,

When all fruits are gathered in,

And our indoor joys begin;

When the fixed mind seeks at home

Bliss for which fools vainly roam;

When in sober thought it tastes

Sweeter joys than Summer wastes;

Who, too lavishly profuse

Of pleasure, scarcely knows its use;

Plucking fruit and smelling flower

As Winter had o’er these no power;

Who severely wise and kind

Concentrates within the mind.

When at Wisdom’s harvest-home

Gleaning from the fleeting doom,

And quick change of earthly things

Bright truths and high aspirings;

It self-centred in the sphere

Of desires calm and clear,

Moves on unto its true end,

E’en as kindred stars do bend

In one constellation knit,

To the source from whence they’re lit.

Then look thro’ thy heart, and say

What the Summer in its day

Has ripen’d there of good and bright,

That may glad thy after-sight.

Has it had its harvest-home?

Its Spring growth? and its Summer bloom?

And when bloom has passed away

Has it had its seeding-day,

Of well-rip’ned, seasoned thought,

From Experience duly bought;

Of wise joys, which in the mind

Seeds of better leave behind;

Joys by sorrow touched and tried,

And freed from earthly dross and pride;

Such as unreprov’d and free,

Sweeten after-memory,—

Like scents which tho’ lost in air

Leave a long-breathed odour there:

Has the Summer left for thee

In the soul’s high-granary,

Produce not of hasty growth

But of well-maturèd worth?

Fellow-creature Love and Peace,

With a mind and heart at ease;

An high trust in human worth,

Where true self-respect has birth;

And a love for everything

Which with man holds communing,

From the meanest worm that creeps

To the babe that cradled sleeps,

On his mother’s love-stirred breast,—

Like a young bird on the nest.

Has the Summer left thy heart,

That which passes show, the art

Like wise Nature, to prepare

From the Past a future fair?

From thine undisturbèd breast,

To create a high self-rest;

And as Earth seems barren round

Yet has rich seeds underground,

In the Winter of thy day,

Still to foster Faith’s pure ray.

As the Earth within her breast

When she seems at barren rest,

Still prepares in her good time

Coming Springs; and from the slime

Of the brute soil moulds to life

Forms with grace and beauty rife;

So within thy inmost soul

Striving towards a higher goal,

From this life’s impediments,

And the body’s downward bents,

Frame thou the wings to upward aims,

As from the gross wood rise pure flames.

In thy spirit’s fertile womb

Mould its shapes not for the tomb;

There let Faith beget on Love

The angel thou shalt be Above!

From life’s dull and Winter clime

Prepare the Springs of coming Time.

Thus the Seasons o’er thy heart

Pass, and leave no fretting smart;

Each in its own kind is good,

Tho’ they yield a different food;

Still for immortality

Thought from all can draw supply;

Meanings from the falling leaf;

Warnings from things sweet and brief;

Thoughts too deep for words, in things

To which home-dear Memory clings;

Food for love in all we see,

For Love is the life-faculty;

The high basis-element

Where noblest things take nobler bent;

In which alone they breathe and fly,

Unfold their wings and seek the sky.

Thus pass the fleeting shows of things,

These Time takes off, e’en as he brings;

While the pure soul unchanged doth lie

Self-centred in its unity.

Lies not life’s true worth in thought?

Are not hence its best hues caught?

Can we not in soul pass in

To the promise-land, and win

Even to reality

Some shadow of that purer sky?

View, like the Hebrew, from afar

The land which earthly senses bar?

Is it not enough to think

And as with a Lethe-drink

Gnawing sorrows melt away,

In the warmth of Faith’s full ray:

She feels not the weight of years;

In her eye are no dim tears;

She knows neither age nor youth,

For her being is a truth;

And all truth unchanging is;

No chameleon hues are his,

In old hearts and young the same,

Burning as their altar-flame.

Tho’ I body old may be,

Still heart-young I’ll taste the glee

Of all things that in my youth

Were to me a week-day truth;

Ever in the hope before me,

As with prophet’s eye I’ll see,

From the rainbow’s cloud-path rise

Shadowings of bright mysteries,

Wherein the soul doth trust to be

What here it seems but scantily.

Still shall Fancy to me bring

Flowers of Spring-blossoming;

Buds of Southern hue and clime

In the chill mid-Winter time;

With the ripest Summer-fruits

And a mood that therewith suits!

And tho’ full-ripe they be not,

I’ll not quarrel with my lot,

But the ripe half thankfully

Eat; nor linger greedily

Till the whole shall ripen’d be;

Grateful what the Seasons give

Will I take, and learn to live

As the wise bee, who doth hive

From each flower, as it blows

The honey which delay would lose:

Like him mould each different store

Into Wisdom’s compact lore;

Giving the enduring taste

To sweets which one brief hour might waste,

For no joy is perfect here;

Half is ripe and half is sere;

Half in Disappointment’s shade;

Half by Hope’s warm sun o’er-rayed;

I’ll pluck it as it chance to be;

Half is worth the whole to me;

Fancy still shall bring me pleasures

From an whole life’s scattered treasures

She shall plant in my old breast

Youth’s wise heart with all life’s best;

Make me as I was of old,

Ere life’s weary tale was told;

Thus, for ever young, the heart

Changes with alchymic art

To pure gold the dross of things;

Plucking from Time’s rapid wings

Feathers for a higher flight,

When it feels full-fledged its might.

From Doubt’s curious questionings,

Flashings forth of hidden things;

Drawing stronger faith and love;

Quickened pulses that do move

In a holier unison

(Like age-mellowed eld-time song

Sung in Nature’s ear so long,)

With the hidden heart of things,

Throb for throb; mysterious yearnings:

Thus as life shall near its end

Wisely I the dregs will spend;

They shall not be troubled lees

Where all taste of goodness dies,

But a genial liquor still

Fit to cheer the heart at will.

Thus I’ll pluck, on the grave’s brink

Life’s last flowers ere I sink;

Then my last earth-glance shall be

Sweet as closing minstrelsy;

Or as the calm sunset-ray

Betokening a fairer day;

And the first taste of Heaven’s bliss

Mingle with the last of this!

Thus my heart with sober mirth

Shall await its second birth;

Self-moulded to that inward form

Which outlives both Time and storm!