Rhymes On The Road. Extract XVI. Les Charmettes.

A poem by Thomas Moore

A Visit to the house where Rousseau lived with Madame de Warrens.-- Their Menage.--Its Grossness.--Claude Anet.--Reverence with which the spot is now visited.--Absurdity of this blind Devotion to Fame.--Feelings excited by the Beauty and Seclusion of the Scene. Disturbed by its Associations with Rousseau's History.--Impostures of Men of Genius.--Their Power of mimicking all the best Feelings, Love, Independence, etc.


Strange power of Genius, that can throw
Round all that's vicious, weak, and low,
Such magic lights, such rainbows dyes
As dazzle even the steadiest eyes.

* * * * *

'Tis worse than weak--'tis wrong, 'tis shame,
This mean prostration before Fame;
This casting down beneath the car
Of Idols, whatsoe'er they are,
Life's purest, holiest decencies,
To be careered o'er as they please.
No--give triumphant Genius all
For which his loftiest wish can call:
If he be worshipt, let it be
For attributes, his noblest, first;
Not with that base idolatry
Which sanctifies his last and worst.

I may be cold;--may want that glow
Of high romance which bards should know;
That holy homage which is felt
In treading where the great have dwelt;
This reverence, whatsoe'er it be,
I fear, I feel, I have it not:--
For here at this still hour, to me
The charms of this delightful spot,
Its calm seclusion from the throng,
From all the heart would fain forget,
This narrow valley and the song
Of its small murmuring rivulet,
The flitting to and fro of birds,
Tranquil and tame as they were once
In Eden ere the startling words
Of man disturbed their orisons,
Those little, shadowy paths that wind
Up the hillside, with fruit-trees lined
And lighted only by the breaks
The gay wind in the foliage makes,
Or vistas here and there that ope
Thro' weeping willows, like the snatches
Of far-off scenes of light, which Hope
Even tho' the shade of sadness catches!--
All this, which--could I once but lose
The memory of those vulgar ties
Whose grossness all the heavenliest hues
Of Genius can no more disguise
Than the sun's beams can do away
The filth of fens o'er which they play--
This scene which would have filled my heart
With thoughts of all that happiest is;--
Of Love where self hath only part,
As echoing back another's bliss;
Of solitude secure and sweet.
Beneath whose shade the Virtues meet.
Which while it shelters never chills
Our sympathies with human woe,
But keeps them like sequestered rills
Purer and fresher in their flow;
Of happy days that share their beams
'Twixt quiet mirth and wise employ;
Of tranquil nights that give in dreams
The moonlight of the morning's joy!--
All this my heart could dwell on here,
But for those gross mementoes near;
Those sullying truths that cross the track
Of each sweet thought and drive them back
Full into all the mire and strife
And vanities of that man's life,
Who more than all that e'er have glowed
With fancy's flame (and it was his,
In fullest warmth and radiance) showed
What an impostor Genius is;
How with that strong, mimetic art
Which forms its life and soul, it takes
All shapes of thought, all hues of heart,
Nor feels itself one throb it wakes;
How like a gem its light may smile
O'er the dark path by mortals trod,
Itself as mean a worm the while
As crawls at midnight o'er the sod;
What gentle words and thoughts may fall
From its false lip, what zeal to bless,
While home, friends, kindred, country, all,
Lie waste beneath its selfishness;
How with the pencil hardly dry
From coloring up such scenes of love
And beauty as make young hearts sigh
And dream and think thro' heaven they rove,
They who can thus describe and move,
The very workers of these charms,
Nor seek nor know a joy above
Some Maman's or Theresa's arms!

How all in short that makes the boast
Of their false tongues they want the most;
And while with freedom on their lips,
Sounding their timbrels, to set free
This bright world, laboring in the eclipse
Of priestcraft and of slavery,--
They may themselves be slaves as low
As ever Lord or Patron made
To blossom in his smile or grow
Like stunted brushwood in his shade.
Out on the craft!--I'd rather be
One of those hinds that round me tread,
With just enough of sense to see
The noonday sun that's o'er his head,
Than thus with high-built genius curst,
That hath no heart for its foundation,
Be all at once that's brightest, worst,
Sublimest, meanest in creation!

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