The days of old, the good old days,
Whose misty memories haunt us still,
Demand alike our blame and praise,
And claim their shares of good and ill.
They had strong faith in things unseen,
But stronger in the things they saw
Revenge for Mercy's pitying mien,
And lordly Right for equal Law.
'Tis true the cloisters all throughout
The valleys rais'd their peaceful towers,
And their sweet bells ne'er wearied out
In telling of the tranquil hours.
But from the craggy hills above,
A shadow darken'd o'er the sward;
For there--a vulture to this dove--
Hung the rude fortress of the lord;
Whence oft the ravening bird of prey
Descending, to his eyry wild
Bore, with exulting cries, away
The powerless serf's dishonour'd child.
Then Safety lit with partial beams
But the high-castled peaks of Force,
And Polity revers'd its streams,
And bade them flow but for their Source.
That Source from which, meandering down,
A thousand streamlets circle now;
For then the monarch's glorious crown
But girt the most rapacious brow.
But individual Force is dead,
And link'd Opinion late takes birth;
And now a woman's gentle head
Supports the mightiest crown on earth.
A pleasing type of all the change
Permitted to our eyes to see,
When she herself is free to range
Throughout the realm her rule makes free.
Not prison'd in a golden cage,
To sigh or sing her lonely state,
A show for youth or doating age,
With idiot eyes to contemplate.
But when the season sends a thrill
To ev'ry heart that lives and moves,
She seeks the freedom of the hill,
Or shelter of the noontide groves.
There, happy with her chosen mate,
And circled by her chirping brood,
Forgets the pain of being great
In the mere bliss of being good.
And thus the festive summer yields
No sight more happy, none so gay,
As when amid her subject-fields
She wanders on from day to day.
Resembling her, whom proud and fond,
The bard hath sung of--she of old,
Who bore upon her snow-white wand,
All Erin through, the ring of gold.
Thus, from her castles coming forth,
She wanders many a summer hour,
Bearing the ring of private worth
Upon the silver wand of Power.
Thus musing, while around me flew
Sweet airs from fancy's amaranth bowers,
Methought, what this fair queen doth do,
Hath yearly done the queen of flowers.
The beauteous queen of all the flowers,
Whose faintest sigh is like a spell,
Was born in Eden's sinless bowers
Long ere our primal parents fell.
There in a perfect form she grew,
Nor felt decay, nor tasted death;
Heaven was reflected in her hue,
And heaven's own odours filled her breath.
And ere the angel of the sword
Drove thence the founders of our race,
They knelt before him, and implor'd
Some relic of that radiant place:
Some relic that, while time would last,
Should make men weep their fatal sin;
Proof of the glory that was past,
And type of that they yet might win.
The angel turn'd, and ere his hands
The gates of bliss for ever close,
Pluck'd from the fairest tree that stands
Within heaven's walls--the peerless rose.
And as he gave it unto them,
Let fall a tear upon its leaves--
The same celestial liquid gem
We oft perceive on dewy eves.
Grateful the hapless twain went forth,
The golden portals backward whirl'd,
Then first they felt the biting north,
And all the rigour of this world.
Then first the dreadful curse had power
To chill the life-streams at their source,
Till e'en the sap within the flower
Grew curdled in its upward course.
They twin'd their trembling hands across
Their trembling breasts against the drift,
Then sought some little mound of moss
Wherein to lay their precious gift.
Some little soft and mossy mound,
Wherein the flower might rest till morn;
In vain! God's curse was on the ground,
For through the moss out gleam'd the thorn!
Out gleam'd the fork`ed plant, as if
The serpent tempter, in his rage,
Had put his tongue in every leaf
To mock them through their pilgrimage.
They did their best; their hands eras'd
The thorns of greater strength and size;
Then 'mid the softer moss they plac'd
The exiled flower of paradise.
The plant took root; the beams and showers
Came kindly, and its fair head rear'd;
But lo! around its heaven of flowers
The thorns and moss of earth appear'd.
Type of the greater change that then
Upon our hapless nature fell,
When the degenerate hearts of men
Bore sin and all the thorns of hell.
Happy, indeed, and sweet our pain,
However torn, however tost,
If, like the rose, our hearts retain
Some vestige of the heaven we've lost.
Where she upon this colder sphere
Found shelter first, she there abode;
Her native bowers, unseen were near,
And near her still Euphrates flowed--
Brilliantly flow'd; but, ah! how dim,
Compar'd to what its light had been;--
As if the fiery cherubim
Let pass the tide, but kept its sheen.
At first she liv'd and reigned alone,
No lily-maidens yet had birth;
No turban'd tulips round her throne
Bow'd with their foreheads to the earth.
No rival sisters had she yet--
She with the snowy forehead fringed
With blushes; nor the sweet brunette
Whose cheek the yellow sun has ting'd.
Nor all the harbingers of May,
Nor all the clustering joys of June:
Uncarpeted the bare earth lay,
Unhung the branches' gay festoon.
But Nature came in kindly mood,
And gave her kindred of her own,
Knowing full well it is not good
For man or flower to be alone.
Long in her happy court she dwelt,
In floral games and feasts of mirth,
Until her heart kind wishes felt
To share her joy with all the earth.
To go from longing land to land
A stateless queen, a welcome guest,
O'er hill and vale, by sea and strand,
From North to South, and East to West.
And thus it is that every year,
Ere Autumn dons his russet robe,
She calls her unseen charioteer,
And makes her progress through the globe.
First, sharing in the month-long feast--
"The Feast of Roses"--in whose light
And grateful joy, the first and least
Of all her subjects reunite.
She sends her heralds on before:
The bee rings out his bugle bold,
The daisy spreads her marbled floor,
The buttercup her cloth of gold.
The lark leaps up into the sky,
To watch her coming from afar;
The larger moon descends more nigh,
More lingering lags the morning star.
From out the villages and towns,
From all of mankind's mix'd abodes,
The people, by the lawns and downs,
Go meet her on the winding roads.
And some would bear her in their hands,
And some would press her to their breast,
And some would worship where she stands,
And some would claim her as their guest.
Her gracious smile dispels the gloom
Of many a love-sick girl and boy;
Her very presence in a room
Doth fill the languid air with joy.
Her breath is like a fragrant tune,
She is the soul of every spot;
Gives nature to the rich saloon,
And splendour to the peasant's cot.
Her mission is to calm and soothe,
And purely glad life's every stage;
Her garlands grace the brow of youth,
And hide the hollow lines of age.
But to the poet she belongs,
By immemorial ties of love;--
Herself a folded book of songs,
Dropp'd from the angel's hands above.
Then come and make his heart thy home,
For thee it opes, for thee it glows;--
Type of ideal beauty, come!
Wonder of Nature! queenly Rose!