A Friend Of Mine.

A poem by James Barron Hope

We sat beneath tall waving trees that flung
Their heavy shadows o'er the dewy grass.
Over the waters, breaking at our feet,
Quivered the moon, and lighted solemnly
The scene before us.

He with whom I talked
Was in the noble vigor of his youth:
Tall, much beyond the standard, and well knit,
With a dark, Norman face, from which the breeze
Flung back his locks of ebon darkness which
In rare luxuriance fell around his brow,
That, in its massive beauty, brought me up
Pictures by ancient masters; or the sharp
And perfect features carved by Grecian hands,
In days when Gods, in forms worthy of Gods,
Started from marble to bewitch the world -
A brow so beautiful was his, that one
Might well conceive it always bound with dreams;
His eyes were luminous and full of gleams,
That made me think of waves wherein I've seen
The moon-hued lightning breaking in the dark
With sudden flashes of phosphoric light:
His cheeks were bronze, his firm lips scarlet-hued.
The Roman's valor, the Assyrian's love
Of ease and pomp sat on his crimson lips,
Uneasy rulers on the self-same throne,
Spoiling the empire of the soul within:
Such was his face.

* * * * *

His thoughts went forth like emperors, and all
His words arrayed themselves around them like
Imperial guards.

* * * * *

Opinions which I had been taught to hold
As full of pith and gravity, he took
As 'twere, 'twixt thumb and finger of his wit -
Rubbed off their gloss, until they seemed to me,
All, as he said, varnished hypocrisies.

* * * * *

Most wise for one so young! and strangely read
In books of quaint philosophy - although
His mind's strange alchemy could find some
Rich thought hidden in the basest thing,
Which he transmuted into golden words,
So that in hearing him I often thought
Upon the story of that Saint whose mouth
Was radiant with the angel's blessed touch,
Which gave him superhuman eloquence;
And though he was thus gifted, yet - ah me!

* * * * *

Still earnest with my theme, I bade him think
Of Auerbach's cellar, and that wassail night
Whole centuries ago: and then in phrase,
Better than that which cometh to me now
I likened it - the necromancy which
Drew richest vintage from the rugged boards -
Unto the spell wherewith he'd bound himself -
The spell by which he drew from simplest things
Conceptions beautiful, as Faust drew wine
From the rude table; for this friend of mine
Was a true poet, though he seldom wrote:
The wealth which might have royally endowed
Some noble charity for coming time
Was idly wasted - pearls dissolved in wine -

* * * * *

Still on my theme I hung and pointed out,
Full eagerly, how Mephistopheles
Ordered the gimlet wherewith it was drawn:

* * * * *

But he who went his way that summer night,
Beneath the shadow of those stately trees
Comes back to me - to earth - ah! nevermore.

* * * * *

He fell obscurely in the common ranks -
His keen sword rusted in its splendid sheath.
God pardon him his faults! for faults he had;
But oh! so blent with goodness, that the while
The lip of every theory of his
Curved with a sneer, each action smiled
With Christian charity.

Like Manfred he had summoned to his aid
Forbidden ministers - but unlike his -
Of the earth, earthy, which did slowly clutch
Upon his lofty faculties until
They summoned him from the lone tow'r of thought
And false philosophy wherein he dwelt.
God pardon him! Amen.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'A Friend Of Mine.' by James Barron Hope

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy