Ode on indolence
They toil not, neither do they spin.Matthew 6:28
One morn before me were three figures seen, With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced; And one behind the other stepp'd serene, In placid sandals, and in white robes graced: They pass'd, like figures on a marble urn, When shifted round to see the other side; They came again; as when the urn once more Is shifted round, the first seen shades return; And they were strange to me, as may betide With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.
How is it, shadows, that I knew ye not? How came ye muffled in so hush a masque? Was it a silent deep-disguised plot To steal away, and leave without a task My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour; The blissful cloud of summer-indolence Benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less; Pain had no sting, and pleasure's wreath no flower. O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense Unhaunted quite of all but - nothingness?
A third time pass'd they by, and, passing, turn'd Each one the face a moment whiles to me; Then faded, and to follow them I burn'd And ached for wings, because I knew the three: The first was a fair maid, and Love her name; The second was Ambition, pale of cheek, And ever watchful with fatigued eye; The last, whom I love more, the more of blame Is heap'd upon her, maiden most unmeek, - I knew to be my demon Poesy.
They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings: O folly! What is Love? and where is it? And for that poor Ambition - it springs From a man's little heart's short fever-fit; For Poesy! - no, - she has not a joy, - At least for me, - so sweet as drowsy noons, And evenings steep'd in honied indolence; O, for an age so shelter'd from annoy, That I may never know how change the moons, Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!
A third time came they by: - alas! wherefore? My sleep had been embroider'd with dim dreams; My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o'er With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams: The morn was clouded, but no shower fell, Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May; The open casement press'd a new-leaved vine, Let in the budding warmth and throstle's lay; O shadows! 'twas a time to bid farewell! Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.
So, ye three ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass; For I would not be dieted with praise, A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce! Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more In masque-like figures on the dreary urn; Farewell! I yet have visions for the night, And for the day faint visions there is store; Vanish, ye phantoms, from my idle spright, Into the clouds, and never more return!