ON SEEING SCHILLER'S SKULL.
[This curious imitation of the
of Dante was written at the age of 77.]
WITHIN a gloomy charnel-house one
I view'd the countless skulls,
so strangely mated,
And of old times I thought, that now were grey.
Close pack'd they stand, that once
so fiercely hated,
And hardy bones, that to the death contended,
Are lying cross'd,--to lie for
What held those crooked shoulder-blades suspended?
No one now asks; and limbs with
The hand, the foot--their use in life is ended.
Vainly ye sought the tomb for rest
Peace in the grave may not be yours; ye're driven
Back into daylight by a force inspired;
But none can love the wither'd husk, though even
A glorious noble kernel it contained.
To me, an adept, was the writing given
Which not to all its holy sense
When 'mid the crowd, their icy shadows flinging,
I saw a form, that glorious still
And even there, where mould and damp were clinging,
Gave me a blest, a rapture-fraught
As though from death a living fount were springing.
What mystic joy I felt! What rapt
That form, how pregnant with a godlike trace!
A look, how did it whirl me tow'rd
Whose rolling billows mightier shapes embrace!
Mysterious vessel! Oracle how dear!
Even to grasp thee is my hand too base,
Except to steal thee from thy prison
With pious purpose, and devoutly go
Back to the air, free thoughts,
and sunlight clear.
What greater gain in life can man e'er know
Than when God-Nature will to him
How into Spirit steadfastness may flow,
How steadfast, too, the Spirit-Born