Letter to B.W. Procter, Esq.: From Oxford; May, 1825
In every tower, that Oxford has, is swung,
Quick, loud, or solemn, the monotonous tongue
Which speaks Time’s language, the universal one
After the countenance of moon or sun,—
Translating their still motions to the earth.
I cannot read; the reeling belfry’s mirth
Troubles my senses; therefore, Greek, shut up
Your dazzling pages; covered be the cup
Which Homer has beneath his mantle old,
Steamy with boiling life: your petals fold
You fat, square blossoms of the yet young tree
Of Britain-grafted, flourishing Germany:
Hush! Latin, to your grave:—and, with the chime,
My pen shall turn the minutes into rhyme,
And, like the dial, blacken them. There sits,
Or stands, or lounges, or perhaps on bits
Of this rag’s daughter, paper, exorcises,
With strange black marks and inky wild devices,
The witch of worlds, the echo of great verse,
About the chasms of the universe,
Ringing and bounding immortality.—
Give him thy bosom, dark Melpomene,
And let him of thy goblet and thine eye
Exhaust the swimming, deep insanity.
He hath the soul, O let it then be fed,
Sea after sea, with that which is not read,
Nor wrung by reasoning from a resolute head,
But comes like lightning on a hill-top steeple;
Heaven’s spillings on the lofty laurelled people.
Verse to thee, light to thee, wings upraise thee long
In the unvacillating soar of song,
Thou star-seed of a man! But do not dare
To tempt thy Apollonian god too far,
Clogging and smoking thy young snake, Renown,
In the strait, stony shadows of the town,
Lest he grow weak, and pine, and never be
What he was born, twin to Eternity.
So come, shake London from thy skirts away:
So come, forget not it is England’s May.
For Oxford, ho! by moonlight or by sun:
Our horses are not hours, but rather run
Foot by foot faster than the second-sand,
While the old sunteam, like a plough, doth stand
Stuck in thick heaven. Here thou at morn shalt see
Spring’s dryad-wakening whisper call the tree,
And move it to green answers; and beneath,
Each side the river which the fishes breathe,
Daisies and grass, whose tops were never stirred,
Or dews made tremulous, but by foot of bird.
And you shall mark in spring’s heaven-tapestried room
Yesterday’s knoppe, burst by its wild perfume,
Like woman’s childhood, to this morning’s bloom;
And here a primrose pale beneath a tree,
And here a cowslip longing for its bee,
And violets and lilies every one
Grazing in the great pasture of the sun,
Beam after beam, visibly as the grass
Is swallowed by the lazy cows that pass.
Come look, come walk,—and there shall suddenly
Seize you a rapture and a phantasy;
High over mountain sweeping, fast and high
Through all the intricacies of the sky,
As fast and far a ship-wrecked hoard of gold
Dives ocean, cutting every billow’s fold.
These are the honey-minutes of the year
Which make man god, and make a god—Shakespeare.
Come, gather them with me..If not, then go,
And with thee all the ghosts of Jonson’s toe,
The fighting Tartars and the Carthaginians:
And may your lady-muse’s stiff-winged pinions
Be naked and impossible to fly,
Like a fat goose pen-plucked for poetry.
A curse upon thy cream to make it sour:
A curse upon thy tea-pot every hour;
Spirits of ice possess it! and thy tea,
Changed at its contact, hay and straw leaves be!
A cold and nipping ague on thine urn!
And an invisible canker eat and burn
The mathematic picture, near your fire,
Of the grave, compass-handed, quiet sire!
No more.—Be these the visions of your sorrow
When you have read this doggrel through to-morrow,
And then refuse to let our Oxford borrow
You of the smoky-faced, Augustan town,
And unpersuaded drop the paper down.