Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Lark Ascending

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

George Meredith 1828–1909

The Lark Ascending


HE rises and begins to round,

He drops the silver chain of sound

Of many links without a break,

In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,

All intervolv’d and spreading wide,

Like water-dimples down a tide

Where ripple ripple overcurls

And eddy into eddy whirls;

A press of hurried notes that run

So fleet they scarce are more than one,

Yet changingly the trills repeat

And linger ringing while they fleet,

Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear

To her beyond the handmaid ear,

Who sits beside our inner springs,

Too often dry for this he brings,

Which seems the very jet of earth

At sight of sun, her musci’s mirth,

As up he wings the spiral stair,

A song of light, and pierces air

With fountain ardor, fountain play,

To reach the shining tops of day,

And drink in everything discern’d

An ecstasy to music turn’d,

Impell’d by what his happy bill

Disperses; drinking, showering still,

Unthinking save that he may give

His voice the outlet, there to live

Renew’d in endless notes of glee,

So thirsty of his voice is he,

For all to hear and all to know

That he is joy, awake, aglow,

The tumult of the heart to hear

Through pureness filter’d crystal-clear,

And know the pleasure sprinkled bright

By simple singing of delight,

Shrill, irreflective, unrestrain’d,

Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain’d

Without a break, without a fall,

Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,

Perennial, quavering up the chord

Like myriad dews of sunny sward

That trembling into fulness shine,

And sparkle dropping argentine;

Such wooing as the ear receives

From zephyr caught in choric leaves

Of aspens when their chattering net

Is flush’d to white with shivers wet;

And such the water-spirit’s chime

On mountain heights in morning’s prime,

Too freshly sweet to seem excess,

Too animate to need a stress;

But wider over many heads

The starry voice ascending spreads,

Awakening, as it waxes thin,

The best in us to him akin;

And every face to watch him rais’d,

Puts on the light of children prais’d,

So rich our human pleasure ripes

When sweetness on sincereness pipes,

Though nought be promis’d from the seas,

But only a soft-ruffling breeze

Sweep glittering on a still content,

Serenity in ravishment.

For singing till his heaven fills,

’T is love of earth that he instils,

And ever winging up and up,

Our valley is his golden cup,

And he the wine which overflows

To lift us with him as he goes:

The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine

He is, the hills, the human line,

The meadows green, the fallows brown,

The dreams of labor in the town;

He sings the sap, the quicken’d veins;

The wedding song of sun and rains

He is, the dance of children, thanks

Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks,

And eye of violets while they breathe;

All these the circling song will wreathe,

And you shall hear the herb and tree,

The better heart of men shall see,

Shall feel celestially, as long

As you crave nothing save the song.

Was never voice of ours could say

Our inmost in the sweetest way,

Like yonder voice aloft, and link

All hearers in the song they drink:

Our wisdom speaks from failing blood,

Our passion is too full in flood,

We want the key of his wild note

Of truthful in a tuneful throat,

The song seraphically free

Of taint of personality,

So pure that it salutes the suns

The voice of one for millions,

In whom the millions rejoice

For giving their one spirit voice.

Yet men have we, whom we revere,

Now names, and men still housing here,

Whose lives, by many a battle-dint

Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint,

Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet

For song our highest heaven to greet:

Whom heavenly singing gives us new,

Enspheres them brilliant in our blue,

From firmest base to farthest leap,

Because their love of Earth is deep,

And they are warriors in accord

With life to serve and pass reward,

So touching purest and so heard

In the brain’s reflex of yon bird;

Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,

Through self-forgetfulness divine,

In them, that song aloft maintains,

To fill the sky and thrill the plains

With showerings drawn from human stores,

As he to silence nearer soars,

Extends the world at wings and dome,

More spacious making more our home,

Till lost on his aërial rings

In light, and then the fancy sings.