About Alejandra Avila
SPIRIT! who over this our mortal Earth,
Where nought hath birth
Which imperfection doth not some way dim,
Since Earth offended HIM--
Thou who unseen, from out thy radiant wings
Dost shower down light o'er mean and common things;
And, wandering to and fro,
Through the condemn'd and sinful world dost go,
Haunting that wilderness, the human heart,
With gleams of glory that too soon depart,
Gilding both weed and flower;--
What is thy birth divine? and whence thy mighty power?
The Sculptor owns thee! On his high pale brow
Bewild'ring images are pressing now;
Groups whose immortal grace
His chisel ne'er shall trace,
Though in his mind the fresh creation glows;
High forms of godlike strength,
Or limbs whose languid length
The marble fixes in a sweet repose!
At thy command,
His true and patient hand
Moulds the dull clay to Beauty's richest line,
Or with more tedious skill,
Obedient to thy will,
By touches imperceptible and fine,
Works slowly day by day
The rough-hewn block away,
Till the soft shadow of the bust's pale smile
Wakes into statue-life and pays the assiduous toil!
Thee, the young Painter knows,--whose fervent eyes,
O'er the blank waste of canvas fondly bending,
See fast within its magic circle rise
Some pictured scene, with colours softly blending,--
Green bowers and leafy glades,
The old Arcadian shades,
Where thwarting glimpses of the sun are thrown,
And dancing nymphs and shepherds one by one
Appear to bless his sight
In Fancy's glowing light,
Peopling that spot of green Earth's flowery breast
With every attitude of joy and rest.
Lo! at his pencil's touch steals faintly forth
(Like an uprising star in the cold north)
Some face which soon shall glow with beauty's fire:
Dim seems the sketch to those who stand around,
Dim and uncertain as an echoed sound,
But oh! how bright to him, whose hand thou dost inspire!
Thee, also, doth the dreaming Poet hail,
Fond comforter of many a dreary day--
When through the clouds his Fancy's car can sail
To worlds of radiance far, how far, away!
At thy clear touch (as at the burst of light
Which Morning shoots along the purple hills,
Chasing the shadows of the vanish'd night,
And silvering all the darkly gushing rills,
Giving each waking blossom, gemm'd with dew,
Its bright and proper hue--
He suddenly beholds the chequered face
Of this old world in its young Eden grace!
Disease, and want, and sin, and pain, are not--
Nor homely and familiar things:--man's lot
Is like his aspirations--bright and high;
And even the haunting thought that man must die,
His dream so changes from its fearful strife,
Death seems but fainting into purer life!
Nor only these thy presence woo,
The less inspired own thee too!
Thou hast thy tranquil source
In the deep well-springs of the human heart,
And gushest with sweet force
When most imprison'd; causing tears to start
In the worn citizen's o'erwearied eye,
As, with a sigh,
At the bright close of some rare holiday,
He sees the branches wave, the waters play--
And hears the clock's far distant mellow chime
Warn him a busier world reclaims his time!
Thee, Childhood's heart confesses,--when he sees
The heavy rose-bud crimson in the breeze,
When the red coral wins his eager gaze,
Or the warm sunbeam dazzles with its rays.
Thee, through his varied hours of rapid joy,
The eager Boy,--
Who wild across the grassy meadow springs,
And still with sparkling eyes
Pursues the uncertain prize,
Lured by the velvet glory of its wings!
And so from youth to age--yea, till the end--
An unforsaking, unforgetting friend,
Thou hoverest round us! And when all is o'er,
And Earth's most loved illusions please no more,
Thou stealest gently to the couch of Death;
There, while the lagging breath
Comes faint and fitfully, to usher nigh
Consoling visions from thy native sky,
Making it sweet to die!
The sick man's ears are faint--his eyes are dim--
But his heart listens to the Heavenward hymn,
And his soul sees--in lieu of that sad band,
Who come with mournful tread
To kneel about his bed,--
God's white-robed angels, who around him stand,
And waive his Spirit to 'the Better Land!'
So, living,--dying,--still our hearts pursue
That loveliness which never met our view;
Still to the last the ruling thought will reign,
Nor deem one feeling given--was giv'n invain!
For it may be, our banish'd souls recal
In this, their earthly thrall,
(With the sick dreams of exiles,) that far world
Whence angels once were hurl'd;
Or it may be, a faint and trembling sense,
Vague, as permitted by Omnipotence,
Foreshows the immortal radiance round us shed,
When the Imperfect shall be perfected!
Like the chain'd eagle in his fetter'd might,
Straining upon the Heavens his wistful sight,
Who toward the upward glory fondly springs
With all the vain strength of his shivering wings,--
So chain'd to earth, and baffled--yet so fond
Of the pure sky which lies so far beyond,
We make the attempt to soar in many a thought
Of Beauty born, and into Beauty wrought;
Dimly we struggle onwards:--who shall say
Which glimmering light leads nearest to the Day!