The Pleasures Of Memory Part II.

A poem by Samuel Rogers

Delle cose custode, e dispensiera.


The Memory has hitherto acted only in subservience to the senses, and so far man is not eminently distinguished from other animals: but, with respect to man, she has a higher province; and is often busily employed, when excited by no external cause whatever. She preserves, for his use, the treasures of art and science, history and philosophy. She colours all the prospects of life: for 'we can only anticipate the future, by concluding what is possible from what is past.' On her agency depends every effusion of the Fancy, whose boldest effort can only compound or transpose, augment or diminish the materials which she has collected and retained.

When the first emotions of despair have subsided, and sorrow has softened into melancholy, she amuses with a retrospect of innocent pleasures, and inspires that noble confidence which results from the consciousness of having acted well. When sleep has suspended the organs of sense from their office, she not only supplies the mind with images, but assists in their combination. And even in madness itself, when the soul is resigned over to the tyranny of a distempered imagination, she revives past perceptions, and awakens the train of thought which was formerly most familiar.

Nor are we pleased only with a review of the brighter passages of life. Events, the most distressing in their immediate consequences, are often cherished in remembrance with a degree of enthusiasm.

But the world and its occupations give a mechanical impulse to the passions, which is not very favourable to the indulgence of this feeling. It is in a calm and well-regulated mind that the Memory is most perfect; and solitude is her best sphere of action. With this sentiment is introduced a Tale, illustrative of her influence in solitude, sickness, and, sorrow. And the subject having now been considered, so far as it relates to man and the animal world, the Poem concludes with a conjecture, that superior beings are blest with a nobler exercise of this faculty.

Sweet MEMORY, wafted by thy gentle gale,
Oft up the stream of Time I turn my sail,
To view the fairy-haunts of long-lost hours.
Blest with far greener shades, far fresher flowers.
Ages and climes remote to Thee impart
What charms in Genius, and refines in Art;
Thee, in whose hand the keys of Science dwell,
The pensive portress of her holy cell;
Whose constant vigils chase the chilling damp
Oblivion steals upon her vestal-lamp.
The friends of Reason, and the guides of Youth,
Whose language breath'd the eloquence of Truth;
Whose life, beyond preceptive wisdom, taught
The great in conduct, and the pure in thought;
These still exist, by Thee to Fame consign'd, [x]
Still speak and act, the models of mankind.
From Thee sweet Hope her airy colouring draws;
And Fancy's flights are subject to thy laws.
From Thee that bosom-spring of rapture flows,
Which only Virtue, tranquil Virtue, knows.
When Joy's bright sun has shed his evening ray,
And Hope's delusive meteors cease to play;
When clouds on clouds the smiling prospect close,
Still thro' the gloom thy star serenely glows;
Like yon fair orb, she gilds the brow of night
With the mild magic of reflected light.
The beauteous maid, that bids the world adieu,
Oft of that world will snatch a fond review;
Oft at the shrine neglect her beads,
to trace Some social scene, some dear, familiar face,
Forgot, when first a father's stern controul
Chas'd the gay visions of her opening soul:
And ere, with iron tongue, the vesper-bell
Bursts thro' the cypress-walk, the convent-cell,
Oft will her warm and wayward heart revive,
To love and joy still tremblingly alive;
The whisper'd vow, the chaste caress prolong,
Weave the light dance and swell the choral song;
With rapt ear drink the enchanting serenade,
And, as it melts along the moonlight-glade,
To each soft note return as soft a sigh,
And bless the youth that bids her slumbers fly.
But not till Time has calm'd the ruffled breast,
Are these fond dreams of happiness confest.
Not till the rushing winds forget to rave,
Is Heav'n's sweet smile reflected on the wave.
From Guinea's coast pursue the lessening sail,
And catch the sounds that sadden every gale.
Tell, if thou canst, the sum of sorrows there;
Mark the fixt gaze, the wild and frenzied glare,
The racks of thought, and freezings of despair!
But pause not then--beyond the western wave,
Go, view the captive barter'd as a slave!
Crush'd till his high, heroic spirit bleeds,
And from his nerveless frame indignantly recedes.
Yet here, ev'n here, with pleasures long resign'd,
Lo! MEMORY bursts the twilight of the mind:
Her dear delusions sooth his sinking soul,
When the rude scourge presumes its base controul;
And o'er Futurity's blank page diffuse
The full reflection of her vivid hues.
'Tis but to die, and then, to weep no more,
Then will he wake on Congo's distant shore;
Beneath his plantain's antient shade, renew
The simple transports that with freedom flew;
Catch the cool breeze that musky Evening blows,
And quaff the palm's rich nectar as it glows;
The oral tale of elder time rehearse,
And chant the rude, traditionary verse;
With those, the lov'd companions of his youth,
When life was luxury, and friendship truth.
Ah! why should Virtue fear the frowns of Fate?
Hers what no wealth can win, no power create!
A little world of clear and cloudless day,
Nor wreck'd by storms, nor moulder'd by decay;
A world, with MEMORY'S ceaseless sun-shine blest,
The home of Happiness, an honest breast.
But most we mark the wonders of her reign,
When Sleep has lock'd the senses in her chain.
When sober Judgment has his throne resign'd,
She smiles away the chaos of the mind;
And, as warm Fancy's bright Elysium glows,
From Her each image springs, each colour flows.
She is the sacred guest! the immortal friend!
Oft seen o'er sleeping Innocence to bend,
In that dead hour of night to Silence giv'n,
Whispering seraphic visions of her heav'n.
When the blithe son of Savoy, journeying round
With humble wares and pipe of merry sound,
From his green vale and shelter'd cabin hies,
And scales the Alps to visit foreign skies;
Tho' far below the forked lightnings play,
And at his feet the thunder dies away,
Oft, in the saddle rudely rock'd to sleep,
While his mule browses on the dizzy steep,
With MEMORY'S aid, he sits at home, and sees
His children sport beneath their native, trees,
And bends, to hear their cherub-voices call,
O'er the loud fury of the torrent's fall.
But can her smile with gloomy Madness dwell?
Say, can she chase the horrors of his cell?
Each fiery flight on Frenzy's wing restrain,
And mould the coinage of the fever'd brain?
Pass but that grate, which scarce a gleam supplies,
There in the dust the wreck of Genius lies!
He, whose arresting hand sublimely wrought
Each bold conception in the sphere of thought;
And round, in colours of the rainbow, threw
Forms ever fair, creations ever new!
But, as he fondly snatch'd the wreath of Fame,
The spectre Poverty unnerv'd his frame.
Cold was her grasp, a withering scowl she wore;
And Hope's soft energies were felt no more.
Yet still how sweet the soothings of his art! [y]
From the rude wall what bright ideas start!
Ev'n now he claims the amaranthine wreath,
With scenes that glow, with images that breathe!
And whence these scenes, these images, declare.
Whence but from Her who triumphs o'er despair?
Awake, arise! with grateful fervor fraught,
Go, spring the mine of elevating thought.
He, who, thro' Nature's various walk, surveys
The good and fair her faultless line pourtrays;
Whose mind, prophan'd by no unhallow'd guest,
Culls from the crowd the purest and the best;
May range, at will, bright Fancy's golden clime,
Or, musing, mount where Science sits sublime,
Or wake the spirit of departed Time.
Who acts thus wisely, mark the moral muse,
A blooming Eden in his life reviews!
So rich the culture, tho' so small the space,
Its scanty limits he forgets to trace.
But the fond fool, when evening shades the sky,
Turns but to start, and gazes but to sigh! [z]
The weary waste, that lengthen'd as he ran,
Fades to a blank, and dwindles to a span!
Ah! who can tell the triumphs of the mind,
By truth illumin'd, and by taste refin'd?
When Age has quench'd the eye and clos'd the ear,
Still nerv'd for action in her native sphere,
Oft will she rise--with searching glance pursue
Some long-lov'd image vanish'd from her view;
Dart thro' the deep recesses of the past,
O'er dusky forms in chains of slumber cast;
With giant-grasp fling back the folds of night,
And snatch the faithless fugitive to light.
So thro' the grove the impatient mother flies.
Each sunless glade, each secret pathway tries;
Till the light leaves the truant boy disclose,
Long on the wood-moss stretch'd in sweet repose.
Nor yet to pleasing objects are confin'd
The silent feasts of the reflecting mind.
Danger and death a dread delight inspire;
And the bald veteran glows with wonted fire,
When, richly bronz'd by many a summer-sun,
He counts his scars, and tells what deeds were done.
Go, with old Thames, view Chelsea's glorious pile;
And ask the shatter'd hero, whence his smile?
Go, view the splendid domes of Greenwich--Go,
And own what raptures from Reflection flow.
Hail, noblest structures imag'd in the wave!
A nation's grateful tribute to the brave.
Hail, blest retreats from war and shipwreck, hail!
That oft arrest the wondering stranger's sail.
Long have ye heard the narratives of age,
The battle's havoc, and the tempest's rage;
Long have ye known Reflection's genial ray
Gild the calm close of Valour's various day.
Time's sombrous touches soon correct the piece,
Mellow each tint, and bid each discord cease:
A softer tone of light pervades the whole,
And steals a pensive languor o'er the soul.
Hast thou thro' Eden's wild-wood vales pursued [a]
Each mountain-scene, majestically rude;
To note the sweet simplicity of life,
Far from the din of Folly's idle strife:
Nor there awhile, with lifted eye, rever'd
That modest stone which pious PEMBROKE rear'd;
Which still records, beyond the pencil's power,
The silent sorrows of a parting hour;
Still to the musing pilgrim points the place,
Her sainted spirit most delights to trace?
Thus, with the manly glow of honest pride,
O'er his dead son the gallant ORMOND sigh'd. [b]
Thus, thro' the gloom of SHENSTONE'S fairy grove,
MARIA'S urn still breathes the voice of love.
As the stern grandeur of a Gothic tower
Awes us less deeply in its morning hour,
Than when the shades of Time serenely fall
On every broken arch and ivy'd wall;
The tender images we love to trace,
Steal from each year a melancholy grace!
And as the sparks of social love expand,
As the heart opens in a foreign land;
And, with a brother's warmth, a brother's smile,
The stranger greets each native of his isle;
So scenes of life, when present and confest,
Stamp but their bolder features on the breast;
Yet not an image, when remotely view'd,
However trivial, and however rude,
But wins the heart, and wakes the social sigh,
With every claim of close affinity!
But these pure joys the world can never know;
In gentler climes their silver currents flow.
Oft at the silent, shadowy close of day,
When the hush'd grove has sung its parting lay;
When pensive Twilight, in her dusky car,
Comes slowly on to meet the evening-star;
Above, below, aerial murmurs swell,
From hanging wood, brown heath, and bushy dell!
A thousand nameless rills, that shun the light.
Stealing soft music on the ear of night.
So oft the finer movements of the soul,
That shun the sphere of Pleasure's gay controul,
In the still shades of calm Seclusion rise,
And breathe their sweet, seraphic harmonies!
Once, and domestic annals tell the time,
(Preserv'd in Cumbria's rude, romantic clime)
When nature smil'd, and o'er the landscape threw
Her richest fragrance, and her brightest hue,
A blithe and blooming Forester explor'd
Those loftier scenes SALVATOR'S soul ador'd;
The rocky pass half hung with shaggy wood,
And the cleft oak flung boldly o'er the flood;
Nor shunn'd the path, unknown to human tread,
That downward to the night of caverns led;
Some antient cataract's deserted bed.
High on exulting wing the heath-cock rose, [c]
And blew his shrill blast o'er perennial snows
Ere the rapt youth, recoiling from the roar,
Gaz'd on the tumbling tide of dread Lodoar;
And thro' the rifted cliffs, that scal'd the sky,
Derwent's clear mirror charm'd his dazzled eye. [d]
Each osier isle, inverted on the wave,
Thro' morn's gray mist its melting colours gave;
And, o'er the cygnet's haunt, the mantling grove
Its emerald arch with wild luxuriance wove.
Light as the breeze that brush'd the orient dew:
From rock to rock the young adventurer flew;
And day's last sunshine slept along the shore,
When lo, a path the smile of welcome wore.
Imbowering shrubs with verdure veil'd the sky,
And on the musk-rose shed a deeper dye;
Save when a bright and momentary gleam
Glanc'd from the white foam of some shelter'd stream.
O'er the still lake the bell of evening toll'd,
And on the moor the shepherd penn'd his fold;
And on the green hill's side the meteor play'd;
When, hark! a voice sung sweetly thro' the shade.
It ceas'd--yet still in FLORIO'S fancy sung,
Still on each note his captive spirit hung;
Till o'er the mead a cool, sequester'd grot
From its rich roof a sparry lustre shot.
A crystal water cross'd the pebbled floor,
And on the front these simple lines it bore:
Hence away, nor dare intrude!
In this secret, shadowy cell
Musing MEMORY loves to dwell,
With her sister Solitude.
Far from the busy world she flies,
To taste that peace the world denies.
Entranc'd she sits; from youth to age,
Reviewing Life's eventful page;
And noting, ere they fade away,
The little lines of yesterday.
FLORIO had gain'd a rude and rocky seat,
When lo, the Genius of this still retreat!
Fair was her form--but who can hope to trace
The pensive softness of her angel-face?
Can VIRGIL'S verse, can RAPHAEL'S touch impart
Those finer features of the feeling heart,
Those tend'rer tints that shun the careless eye,
And in the world's contagious climate die?
She left the cave, nor mark'd the stranger there;
Her pastoral beauty, and her artless air
Had breath'd a soft enchantment o'er his soul!
In every nerve he felt her blest controul!
What pure and white-wing'd agents of the sky,
Who rule the springs of sacred sympathy,
Inform congenial spirits when they meet?
Sweet is their office, as their natures sweet!
FLORIO, with fearful joy, pursued the maid,
Till thro' a vista's moonlight-checquer'd shade,
Where the bat circled, and the rooks repos'd,
(Their wars suspended, and their councils clos'd)
An antique mansion burst in awful state,
A rich vine clustering round the Gothic gate.
Nor paus'd he there. The master of the scene
Saw his light step imprint the dewy green;
And, slow-advancing, hail'd him as his guest,
Won by the honest warmth his looks express'd,
He wore the rustic manners of a 'Squire;
Age had not quench'd one spark of manly fire;
But giant Gout had bound him in her chain,
And his heart panted for the chase in vain.
Yet here Remembrance, sweetly-soothing power!
Wing'd with delight Confinement's lingering hour.
The fox's brush still emulous to wear,
He scour'd the county in his elbow-chair;
And, with view-halloo, rous'd the dreaming hound,
That rung, by starts, his deep-ton'd music round.
Long by the paddock's humble pale confin'd,
His aged hunters cours'd the viewless wind:
And each, with glowing energy pourtray'd,
The far-fam'd triumphs of the field display'd:
Usurp'd the canvas of the crowded hall,
And chas'd a line of heroes from the wall.
There slept the horn each jocund echo knew.
And many a smile and many a story drew!
High o'er the hearth his forest-trophies hung,
And their fantastic branches wildly flung.
How would he dwell on the vast antlers there!
These dash'd the wave, those fann'd the mountain-air.
All, as they frown'd, unwritten records bore,
Of gallant feats and festivals of yore.
But why the tale prolong?--His only child,
His darling JULIA on the stranger smil'd.
Her little arts a fretful sire to please,
Her gentle gaiety, and native ease
Had won his soul; and rapturous Fancy shed
Her golden lights, and tints of rosy red.
But ah! few days had pass'd, ere the bright vision fled!
When evening ting'd the lake's ethereal blue,
And her deep shades irregularly threw;
Their shifting sail dropt gently from the cove,
Down by St. Herbert's consecrated grove; [e]
Whence erst the chanted hymn, the taper'd rite
Amus'd the fisher's solitary night:
And still the mitred window, richly wreath'd,
A sacred calm thro' the brown foliage breath'd.
The wild deer, starting thro' the silent glade,
With fearful gaze their various course survey'd.
High hung in air the hoary goat reclin'd,
His streaming beard the sport of every wind;
And, while the coot her jet-wing lov'd to lave,
Rock'd on the bosom of the sleepless wave;
The eagle rush'd from Skiddaw's purple crest,
A cloud still brooding o'er her giant-nest.
And now the moon had dimm'd, with dewy ray.
The few fine flushes of departing day;
O'er the wide water's deep serene she hung,
And her broad lights on every mountain flung;
When lo! a sudden blast the vessel blew, [f]
And to the surge consign'd the little crew.
All, all escap'd--but ere the lover bore
His faint and faded JULIA, to the shore,
Her sense had fled!--Exhausted by the storm,
A fatal trance hang o'er her pallid form;
Her closing eye a trembling lustre fir'd;
'Twas life's last spark--it flutter'd and expir'd!
The father strew'd his white hairs in the wind,
Call'd on his child--nor linger'd long behind:
And FLORIO liv'd to see the willow wave,
With many an evening-whisper, o'er their grave.
Yes, FLORIO liv'd--and, still of each possest,
The father cherish'd, and the maid caress'd!
For ever would the fond enthusiast rove,
With JULIA'S spirit, thro' the shadowy grove;
Gaze with delight on every scene she plann'd,
Kiss every flowret planted by her hand.
Ah! still he trac'd her steps along the glade,
When hazy hues and glimmering lights betray'd
Half-viewless forms; still listen'd as the breeze
Heav'd its deep sobs among the aged trees;
And at each pause her melting accents caught,
In sweet delirium of romantic thought!
Dear was the grot that shunn'd the blaze of day;
She gave its spars to shoot a trembling ray.
The spring, that bubbled from its inmost cell,
Murmur'd of JULIA'S virtues as it fell;
And o'er the dripping moss, the fretted stone,
In FLORIO'S ear breath'd language not its own.
Her charm around the enchantress MEMORY threw,
A charm that sooths the mind, and sweetens too!
But is Her magic only felt below?
Say, thro' what brighter realms she bids it flow;
To what pure beings, in a nobler sphere, [g]
She yields delight but faintly imag'd here:
All that till now their rapt researches knew,
Not call'd in slow succession to review;
But, as a landscape meets the eye of day,
At once presented to their glad survey!
Each scene of bliss reveal'd, since chaos fled,
And dawning light its dazzling glories spread;
Each chain of wonders that sublimely glow'd,
Since first Creation's choral anthem flow'd;
Each ready flight, at Mercy's smile divine,
To distant worlds that undiscover'd shine;
Full on her tablet flings its living rays,
And all, combin'd, with blest effulgence blaze.
There thy bright train, immortal Friendship, soar;
No more to part, to mingle tears no more!
And, as the softening hand of Time endears
The joys and sorrows of our infant-years,
So there the soul, releas'd from human strife,
Smiles at the little cares and ills of life;
Its lights and shades, its sunshine and its showers;
As at a dream that charm'd her vacant hours!
Oft may the spirits of the dead descend
To watch the silent slumbers of a friend;
To hover round his evening-walk unseen,
And hold sweet converse on the dusky green;
To hail the spot where first their friendship grew,
And heav'n and nature open'd to their view!
Oft, when he trims his cheerful hearth, and sees
A smiling circle emulous to please;
There may these gentle guests delight to dwell,
And bless the scene they lov'd in life so well!
Oh thou! with whom my heart was wont to share
From Reason's dawn each pleasure and each care;
With whom, alas! I fondly hop'd to know
The humble walks of happiness below;
If thy blest nature now unites above
An angel's pity with a brother's love,
Still o'er my life preserve thy mild controul,
Correct my views, and elevate my soul;
Grant me thy peace and purity of mind,
Devout yet cheerful, active yet resign'd;
Grant me, like thee, whose heart knew no disguise,
Whose blameless wishes never aim'd to rise,
To meet the changes Time and Chance present,
With modest dignity and calm content.
When thy last breath, ere Nature sunk to rest,
Thy meek submission to thy God express'd;
When thy last look, ere thought and feeling fled,
A mingled gleam of hope and triumph shed;
What to thy soul its glad assurance gave,
Its hope in death, its triumph o'er the grave?
The sweet Remembrance of unblemish'd youth,
The still inspiring voice of Innocence and Truth!
Hail, MEMORY, hail! in thy exhaustless mine
From age to age unnumber'd treasures shine!
Thought and her shadowy brood thy call obey,
And Place and Time are subject to thy sway!
Thy pleasures most we feel, when most alone;
The only pleasures we can call our own.
Lighter than air, Hope's summer-visions die,
If but a fleeting cloud obscure the sky;
If but a beam of sober Reason play,
Lo, Fancy's fairy frost-work melts away!
But can the wiles of Art, the grasp of Power,
Snatch the rich relics of a well-spent hour?
These, when the trembling spirit wings her flight,
Pour round her path a stream of living light;
And gild those pure and perfect realms of rest,
Where Virtue triumphs, and her sons are blest!

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