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HENRY KIRKE WHITE.
Born 1785-Died 1806.
HENRY KIRKE WHITE displayed from his childhood an ardent love of study, and an earnest desire for a literary life. But the circumstances of his family made it necessary to put him to a trade, and between fourteen and fifteen he spent a year of misery in the employment of weaving stockings. He was removed in 1800 to an attorney's office, and thenceforward applied himself with great diligence to the study of the law, acquiring likewise in his leisure hours a knowledge of the languages and of several of the sciences.
At length he seemed to have attained the object of his ardent desire and indefatigable exertion; he was released from his employment in 1804, and after a twelvemonth's preparatory study, in which his progress was truly astonishing, he entered the University of Cambridge. Here he at once obtained the highest academical honors, but his protracted and incessant intensity of devotion to his studies entirely destroyed his health and soon brought him to the grave. It was his intention to have devoted himself to the profession of divinity; an office which he seemed well fitted to dignify and render useful, by his piety and talents.
His poetry possesses uncommon beauties, and excited high hopes of his future excellence and celebrity. It is often remarkable for its pathos.
SONNET TO THE RIVER TRENT.
WRITTEN ON RECOVERY FROM SICKNESS.
ONCE more, O Trent! along thy pebbly marge
A pensive invalid, reduced and pale,
From the close sick-room newly let at large,
Woos to his wan-worn cheek the pleasant gale.
O! to his ear how musical the tale
Which fills with joy the throstle's little throat:
And all the sounds which on the fresh breeze sail,
How wildly novel on his senses float!
It was on this that many a sleepless night,
As lone, he watch'd the taper's sickly gleam,
And at his casement heard, with wild affright,
The owl's dull wing and melancholy scream,
On this he thought, this, this his sole desire,
Thus once again to hear the warbling woodland choir.
GIVE me a cottage on some Cambrian wild,
Where, far from cities, I may spend my days,
And, by the beauties of the scene beguiled,
May pity man's pursuits, and shun his ways.
While on the rock I mark the browsing goat,
List to the mountain-torrent's distant noise,
Or the hoarse bittern's solitary note,
I shall not want the world's delusive joys:
But with my little scrip, my book, my lyre,
Shall think my lot complete, nor covet more;
And when, with time, shall wane the vital fire,
I'll raise my pillow on the desert shore,
And lay me down to rest, where the wild wave
Shall make sweet music o'er my lonely grave.
SONNET IN HIS SICKNESS.
YES, 't will be over soon.-This sickly dream
Of life will vanish from my feverish brain;
And death my wearied spirit will redeem
From this wild region of unvaried pain.
Yon brook will glide as softly as before,-
Yon landscape smile,-yon golden harvest grow,—
Yon sprightly lark on mounting wing will soar
When Henry's name is heard no more below.
I sigh when all my youthful friends caress,
They laugh in health, and future evils brave;
Them shall a wife and smiling children bless,
While I am mouldering in my silent grave.
God of the just-Thou gavest the bitter cup;
I bow to thy behest, and drink it up.
SONNET TO CONSUMPTION.
GENTLY, most gently, on thy victim's head,
Consumption, lay thine hand!-let me decay,
Like the expiring lamp, unseen, away,
And softly go to slumber with the dead.
And if 't is true, what holy men have said,
That strains angelic oft, foretell the day,
Of death to those good men who fall thy prey,
O let the aerial music round my bed,
Dissolving sad in dying symphony,
Whisper the solemn warning in mine ear,
That I may bid my weeping friends good by
Ere I depart upon my journey drear:
And, smiling faintly on the painful past,
I'M PLEASED AND YET I'M SAD.
WHEN twilight steals along the ground,
And all the bells are ringing round,
One, two, three, four, and five,
I at my study window sit,
And, wrapp'd in many a musing fit,
To bliss am all alive.
But though impressions calm and sweet
Thrill round my heart a holy heat,
And I am inly glad,
The tear drop stands in either eye,
And yet I cannot tell thee why,
I'm pleased, and yet I 'm sad.
The silvery rack that flies away
Like mortal life or pleasure's ray,
Does that disturb my breast?
Nay, what have I, a studious man,
To do with life's unstable plan,
Or pleasure's fading vest?
Is it that here I must not stop,
But o'er yon blue hill's woody top,
Must bend my lonely way?
No, surely no! for give but me
My own fireside, and I shall be
At home where'er I stray.
Then is it that yon steeple there,
With music sweet shall fill the air,
When thou no more canst hear?
Oh, no! Oh, no! for then forgiven
I shall be with my God in heaven,.
Released from every fear.
Then whence it is I cannot tell,
But there is some mysterious spell
That holds me when I 'm glad ;
And so the tear-drop fills my eye,
When yet in truth I know not why,
Or wherefore I am sad.
THE SHIPWRECKED SOLITARY'S SONG TO THE NIGHT.
THOU, spirit of the spangled night!
I woo thee from the watch tower high,
Where thou dost sit to guide the bark
Of lonely mariner.
The winds are whistling o'er the wolds,
The distant main is moaning low;
Come, let us sit and weave a song-
A melancholy song!
Sweet is the scented gale of morn,
And sweet the noontide's fervid beam,
But sweeter far the solemn calm,
That marks thy mournful reign.
I 've pass'd here many a lonely year,
And never human voice have heard;
I've pass'd here many a lonely year
A solitary man.
And I have linger'd in the shade,
From sultry noon's hot beam; and I
Have knelt before my wicker door,
To sing my evening song.
And I have hail'd the gray morn high,
On the blue mountain's misty brow,
And tried to tune my little reed
To hymns of harmony.
But never could I tune my reed,
At morn, or noon, or eve, so sweet,
As when upon the ocean shore
1 hail'd thy star-beam mild.
The day-spring brings not joy to me,
The moon it whispers not of peace;
But oh! when darkness robes the heavens,
My woes are mixt with joy.
And then I talk, and often think
Aerial voices answer me;
And oh! I am not then alone-
A solitary man.
And when the blustering winter winds Howl in the woods that clothe my cave, I lay me on my lonely mat,
And pleasant are my dreams.
And Fancy gives me back my wife;
And Fancy gives me back my child;
She gives me back my little home,
And all its placid joys.
Then hateful is the morning hour,
That calls me from the dream of bliss,
To find myself still lone, and hear
The same dull sounds again.
The deep-toned winds, the moaning sea,
The whispering of the boding trees,
The brook's eternal flow, and oft
The condor's hollow scream.
SWEET Scented flower! who art wont to bloom
On January's front severe,
And o'er the wintry desert drear
To waft thy waste perfume!
Come, thou shalt form my nosegay now,
And I will bind thee round my brow;
And as I twine the mournful wreath,
I'll weave a melancholy song:
And sweet the strain shall be and long,
The melody of death.
Come, funeral flower! who lov'st to dwell
With the pale corse in lonely tomb,
And throw across the desert gloom
A sweet decaying smell.
Come, press my lips, and lie with me
Beneath the lowly alder tree,
And we will sleep a pleasant sleep,
And not a care shall dare intrude,
To break the marble solitude
So peaceful and so deep.
And hark! the wind-god, as he flies,
Moans hollow in the forest trees,
And sailing on the gusty breeze,
Mysterious music dies.
Sweet flower! that requiem wild is mine,
It warns me to the lonely shrine,
The cold turf altar of the dead;
My grave shall be in yon lone spot,
Where as I lie, by all forgot,
A dying fragrance thou wilt o'er my ashes shed.
*The Rosemary buds in January. It is the flower commonly put in the coffins of the dead.