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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William Watson 1858–1935

The First Skylark of Spring


TWO worlds hast thou to dwell in, Sweet,—

The virginal, untroubled sky,

And this vexed region at my feet.—

Alas, but one have I!

To all my songs there clings the shade,

The dulling shade, of mundane care;

They amid mortal mists are made,—

Thine, in immortal air.

My heart is dashed with griefs and fears;

My song comes fluttering, and is gone.

O high above the home of tears,

Eternal Joy, sing on!

Not loftiest bard, of mightiest mind,

Shall ever chant a note so pure,

Till he can cast this earth behind

And breathe in heaven secure.

We sing of Life, with stormy breath

That shakes the lute’s distempered string:

We sing of Love, and loveless Death

Takes up the song we sing.

And born in toils of Fate’s control,

Insurgent from the womb, we strive

With proud, unmanumitted soul

To burst the golden gyve.

Thy spirit knows nor bounds nor bars;

On thee no shreds of thraldom hang:

Not more enlarged, the morning stars

Their great Te Deum sang.

But I am fettered to the sod,

And but forget my bonds an hour;

In amplitude of dreams a god,

A slave in dearth of power.

And fruitless knowledge clouds my soul,

And fretful ignorance irks it more.

Thou sing’st as if thou knew’st the whole,

And lightly held’st thy lore!

Sing, for with rapturous throes of birth,

And arrowy labyrinthine sting,

There riots in the veins of Earth

The ichor of the Spring!

Sing, for the beldam Night is fled,

And Morn the bride is wreathed and gay;

Sing, while her revelling lord o’erhead

Leads the wild dance of day!

The serpent Winter sleeps upcurled:

Sing, till I know not if there be

Aught else in the dissolving world

But melody and thee!

Sing, as thou drink’st of heaven thy fill,

All hope, all wonder, all desire—

Creation’s ancient canticle

To which the worlds conspire!

Somewhat as thou, Man once could sing,

In porches of the lucent morn,

Ere he had felt his lack of wing,

Or cursed his iron bourn.

The springtime bubbled in his throat,

The sweet sky seemed not far above,

And young and lovesome came the note;—

Ah, thine is Youth and Love!

Thou sing’st of what he knew of old,

And dreamlike from afar recalls;

In flashes of forgotten gold

An orient glory falls.

And as he listens, one by one

Life’s utmost splendors blaze more nigh;

Less inaccessible the sun,

Less alien grows the sky.

For thou art native to the spheres,

And of the courts of heaven art free,

And carriest to his temporal ear

News from eternity;

And lead’st him to the dizzy verge,

And lur’st him o’er the dazzling line,

Where mortal and immortal merge,

And human dies divine.