[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853).]
Lofty and strenuous of sentiment
But narrow and partial in its scope and bent,
And thence the bigot of a local set
Of habitudes, meshed round him like a net.
Hence too his intellect, though large it be
By nature, hath one prime deficiency, —
Of moral difference that broad view which leads
The steps of thought beyond the snares of creeds
And circles of opinion, whether they
Be of the Old Time or of yesterday.
Hence too his narrow bias, I suspect,
Even in poesy to attempt a sect.
Still as a Poet he is great and rare,
A King of Thought upon the peak of bare
And rigid majesty, for power immense
Enthroned for ever! And in spirit thence, —
Thence let him waft us on a white-wing’d dream
Within the murmur of some profluent stream,
And there, just whither a dim line of brakes
In the remotest haze of distance shakes,
On his lone rounds let Peter Bell be seen,—
Seen o’er the White Doe on the herbage green
Heard breathing where she lies, and near her there
“The oldest seeming man that ever wore grey hair.”
Then shall we find him verily a Seer
Of Nature’s myst’ries, simple and severe.
With what a plenitude of pure delight
He triumphs on the mountain’s cloudy height,
With what a gleeful harmony of joy
He wanders down the vale “as happy as a boy!”
How in his verse, each picture-pregnant phrase
Full to the eye some given shape conveys,
And thus though in the jarring city pent
Through him we reach the country and content.
Fond Memory apprehends with gladdened eyes
All that is richest in each wilding’s dyes
As blending with the beauty and the grace
Of some bright advent of our happier days —
Hears through the sway of greenest boughs, as heard
Even then, the far voice of some favourite bird,
The murmurous industry of bees, the low
Responsive throbs of Echo throbbing slow
Out of some lonely dell, as to the tread
Of our own feet in days for ever fled!
Then of some brook that gushes in his lines
Glad Fancy drinks or on the bank reclines,
While of far cloud, grey rock and ancient tree
The dusky shadows on the page we see:
Yea, the air sweetens as the spells prevail
And our locks seem to wave as in a mountain gale!
Still there remains to tell the charm serene
Wherewith this Bard most sanctifies the scene:
’Tis that with eyes of love he’s quick to find
In all its forms meet ministers of Mind
And that with the rare wealth of his own heart
As with a golden chain he interlinks each part.
But vainly the fond spirit of youth may look
For its peculiar food in Wordsworth’s book,
Where Passion is but introduced to wear
A vestal’s tenderness, demure as fair:
Not as to see it the new soul desires,
In all the splendour of its tragic fires,
Or, at the least, in all the bright distress
And rosy beauty of its wilfulness!
Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 120-122
The title of this poem is given as “Characteristics of Wordsworth” on the Contents page.
Peter Bell = the main character in the poem “Peter Bell: A Tale in Verse” by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), published in 1819, about a selfish rustic potter (“Peter Bell” may also mean “simple rustic”, being a phrase derived from William Wordsworth’s poem)
poesy = poetry or the art of poetic composition
Wordsworth = William Wordsworth (1770-1850), a famous English poet
yea = yes; indeed; truly; an affirmation (especially an affirmative vote), an indication of assent
Old spelling in the original text: