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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes

To the Moon of the South

Let him go down,--the gallant Sun!
His work is nobly done;
Well may He now absorb
Within his solid orb
The rays so beautiful and strong,
The rays that have been out so long
Embracing this delighted land as with a mystic song.

Let the brave Sun go down to his repose,
And though his heart be kind,
He need not mourn for those
He leaves behind;
He knows, that when his ardent throne
Is rolled beyond the vaulting sky,
The Earth shall not be left alone
In darkness and perplexity.

We shall not sit in sullen sorrow
Expectant of a tardy morrow,
But there where he himself arose,
Another power shall rise,
And gracious rivalry disclose
To our reverted eyes,
Between the passing splendour and the born,
Which can the most our happy world adorn.

The light of night shall rise,--
Not as in northern skies,
A memory of the day, a dream
Of sunshine, something that might seem
Between a shadow and a gleam,
A mystery, a maiden
Whose spirit worn and sorrow laden
Pleasant imaginations wile
Into a visionary smile,
A novice veiled in vapoury shrouds,
A timid huntress, whom the clouds
Rather pursue than shun,--
With far another mien,
Wilt Thou come forth serene,
Thou full and perfect Queen,
Moon of the South! twin--sister of the Sun!

Still harboured in his tent of cloth of gold
He seems thy ordered presence to await,
In his pure soul rejoicing to behold
The majesty of his successor's state,--
Saluting thy ascent
With many a tender and triumphant tone
Compassing in his celestial instrument,
And harmonies of hue to other climes unknown.
He, too, who knows what melody of word
May with that visual music best accord,
Why does the Bard his homage now delay?
As in the ancient East,
The royal Minstrel--Priest
Sang to his harp that Hallelujah lay
Of the Sun--bridegroom ready for his way,
So, in the regions of the later West
This blessed even--tide,
Is there no Poet whose divine behest
Shall be to hail the bride?

A feeble voice may give an earnest sound,
And grateful hearts are measured not by power,
Therefore may I, tho' nameless and uncrowned,
Proffer a friendly tribute to thy dower.
For on the midland Sea I sailed of old,
Leading thy line of narrow rippled light,
And saw it grow a field of frosted gold,
With every boat a Shadow in the Bright;
And many a playful fancy has been mine,
As I have watched the shapes thy glory made,
Glimpsing like starlight through the massive pine,
Or finely--trellised by mimosa shade;
And now I trace each moment of thy spell,
That frees from mortal stain these Venice isles,
From eve's rich shield to morn's translucid shell,
From Love's young glow to Love's expiring smiles!
We gaze upon the faces we hold dear,
Each feature in thy rays as well defined,
As just a symbol of informing mind,
As when the moon is on them full and clear;
Yet all some wise attempered and subdued,
Not far from what to Faith's prospective eyes
Transfigured creatures of beatitude
From earthly graves arise.

Those evenings, oh! those evenings, when with one,
Then the world's loveliness, now wholly mine,
I stood beside the salient founts that shone
Fit frontispiece to Peter's Roman shrine;
I knew how fair were She and They
In every bright device of day,
All happy as a lark on wing,
A singing, glistening, dancing thing,
With joy and grace that seemed to be
Of Nature's pure necessity;
But when, O holy Moon! thy might
Turned all the water into light,
And each enchanted Fountain wore
Diviner beauty than before,
A pillar of aspiring beams,
An ever--falling veil of gleams,--
She who in day's most lively hour
Had something of composing power
About her mirthful lips and eyes,--
Sweet folly making others wise,--
Was vested with a sudden sense
Of great and grave intelligence,
As if in thy reflex she saw
The process of eternal law,
God's conscious pleasure working out
Through all the Passion, Pain, and Doubt;--
And thus did She and Thou impart
Such knowledge to my listening heart,
Such sympathies as word or pen
Can never tell again!

All spirits find themselves fulfilled in Thee,
The glad have triumph and the mourning balm:
Dear God! how wondrous that a thing should be
So very glorious and so very calm!
The lover, standing on a lonely height,
Rests his sad gaze upon the scene below,
Lapt in the trance of thy pervading glow,
Till pleasant tears obscure his pensive sight;
And in his bosom those long--smothered flames,
The scorching elements of vain desire,
Taking the nature of thy gentle fire,
Play round the heart in peace, while he exclaims,
``Surely my Love is out somewhere to--night!''

Why art thou thus companionable? Why
Do we not love thy light alone, but Thee?
Is it that though thou art so pure and high,
Thou dost not shock our senses, as they be?
That our poor eyes rest on thee, and descry
Islands of earth within thy golden sea?
Or should the root be sought
In some unconscious thought,
That thy fine presence is not more thine own
Than are our soul's adorning splendours ours?--
Than are the energies and powers,
With which reflected light alone
Illuminates the living hours,
From our own wells of being brought,
From virtue self--infused or seed of life self--sown?
Thus with ascent more ready may we pass
From this delightful sharing of thy gifts
Up to the common Giver, Source, and Will;
And if, alas!
His daily--affluent sun--light seldom lifts
To thankful ecstasy our hearts' dull mass,
It may be that our feeble sight
Will not confront the total light,
That we may love, in nature frail,
To blend the vivid with the pale,
The dazzling with the dim:
And lo! how God, all--gracious still
Our simplest fancies to fulfil,
Bids us, O Southern Moon, thy beauty hail,
In Thee rejoicing and adoring Him.

Richard Monckton Milnes

Richard Monckton Milnes's other poems:
  1. Switzerland and Italy
  2. London Churches
  3. The Subterranean River, At Cong
  4. Sir Walter Scott at the Tomb of the Stuarts in St Peter's
  5. Valentia

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