Sunday, June 24, 2012

Transcendental Poetry

William Ellery Channing was one of the best friends of both Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Here is a poem that praises the  "music that the fullest breeze can play In its melodious whisperings in the wood," and expresses the mind of the poet.

A Poet's Hope

Flying--flying beyond all lower regions,
Beyond the light called day, and night's repose,
Where the untrammelled soul, on her wind-pinions
Fearlessly sweeping, defies my earthly woes--
There--there, upon that infinitest sea,
Lady, thy hope--so fair a hope, summons me.

Fall off, ye garments of my misty weather,
Drop from my eyes, ye scales of time's applying;
Am I not godlike? meet not here together
A past and future infinite, defying,
The cold, still, callous moment of to-day?
Am I not master of the calm alway?

Would I could summon from the deep, deep mine,
Glutted with shapely jewels, glittering bright,
One echo of that splendor, call it thine,
And weave it in the strands of living light;
For it is in me, and the sea smiles fair,
And thitherward I rage, on whirling air.

Unloose me, demons of dull care and wants,
I will not stand your slave, I am your king;
Think not within your meshes vile I pant
For the wild liberty of an unclipt wing;
My empire is myself, and I defy
The external; yes! I rule the whole, or die.

All music that the fullest breeze can play
In its melodious whisperings in the wood,
All modulations which entrance the day
And deify a sunlight solitude;
All anthems that the waves sing to the ocean
Are mind for song, and yield to my devotion.

And mind the soft glaze of a loving eye,
And mine the pure shapes of the human form,
And mine the bitterest sorrow's witchery,
And spells enough to make a snow-king warm;
For an undying hope thou breathest me--
Hope which can ride the tossing, foaming sea.

Lady, there is a hope that all men have,
Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place
To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle grave;
Another hope with purifies our race,
That when that fearful bourne forever past,
They may find rest--and rest so long to last.

I seek it not, I ask not rest for ever,
My path is onward to the farthest shores--
Upbear me in your arms, unceasing river,
That from the soul's clear fountain swiftly pours,
Motionless not, until the end is won,
Which now I feel hath scarcely felt the sun.

To feel, to know, to soar unlimited,
Mid throngs of light-winged angels sweeping far,
And pore upon the realms unvisited,
That tesselate the unseen unthought star,
To be the thing that now I feebly dream
Flashing within my faintest, deepest gleam.

Ah! caverns of my soul! how think your shade,
Where flows that life by which I faintly see--
Wave your bright torches, for I need your aid,
Golden-eyed demons of my ancestry!
Your son though blinded hath a light within,
A heavenly fire which ye from suns did win.

And, lady, in thy hope my life will rise
Like the air-voyager, till I upbear
These heavy curtains of my film eyes,
Into a lighter, more celestial air;
A mortal's hope shall bear me safely on,
Till I the higher region shall have won.

O Time! O death! I clasp you in my arms,
For I can soothe an infinite cold sorrow,
And gaze contented on your icy charms,
And that wild snow-pile, which we call to-morrow;
Sweep on, O soft, and azure-lidded sky,
Earth's waters to your gentle gaze reply.

I am not earth-born, though I here delay;
Hope's child, I summon infiniter powers,
And laugh to see the mild and sunny day
Smile on the shrunk and thin autumnal hours;
I laugh, for hope hath happy place to me,
If my bark sinks, 'tis to another sea.

- William Ellery Channing

Source: Selected Poems of William Ellery Channing. American Transcendentalism Web.


Amy said...

Yes, I can believe that he's a contemporary of Emerson and Thoreau. I love (and share) the two kinds of hope--the one "that all men have,/Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place/To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle grave," and also "To feel, to know, to soar unlimited,/Mid throngs of light-winged angels sweeping far,/And pore upon the realms unvisited,/That tesselate the unseen unthought star..." To finally have knowledge of all things in the universe. Love it.

James said...

Thanks for your comment on hope & poetry.