The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: poem

“The Ghosts” from the Knickerbocker

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Illustrations by Irving Montagu from the Strand Magazine, Volume 2, pg. 572.

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The Ghosts
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 53, January, 1859, pg. 40.

Pale shapes advancing from the mid-night air,
Beckoning with misty fingers round my bed,
Bending your faded faces o’er my head,
I have no fear of ye! I seem to share
Your dim vitality—mine’s well-nigh fled.
I feel the human outlines melt away;
Those thin, gray hands that lie on the damp sheet
Are almost vapory enough to meet
Yours in the grasp of fellowship. My hair
Seems turning into cloud. The quickened clay
That walls me in is cracking, and I strive
Towards ye through the breach. Am I alive?
Or are ye dead? All’s vague—a wide, gray sea.
Hark! the cock crows! Now, spirits, welcome me!

“The Poet’s Life” from the Knickerbocker


Engraving of English poet Felicia Hemans.

The Poet’s Life
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 50, July, 1857, pg. 36.

Think not the dreaming poet’s heart,
Creating an ideal life,
Has feebler power to act its part
In real scenes of toil and strife.

Who breathes in song the burning thought
Which quickens life in slumbering mind,
A nobler deed of life has wrought
Than kings who lord it o’er mankind.

Who breaks the fetters of the soul
Which bind to earth the struggling slave,
Wields over human life control,
That strength of muscle never gave.

“Youth Recalled” by James Gates Percival

Youth Recalled
James Gates Percival
Originally from The Token and Atlantic Souvenir: A Christmas and New Year’s Present of 1836, pp. 227-228.

In deepest shade, by fountain sparkling clear,
High o’er me, darkly heaved, the forest dome,
Sweet tones, long silent, melt upon my ear,—
They soothe my spirit like the voice of home;
And, blended with them, floats a beam of light,
Radiant, but gentle, through the shadowy night.

My heart, that sunk in dim, oblivious dream,
Wakes at the tones, and feels its life again;
My downcast eye uprises to the beam;
Softly untwines my bosom’s heavy chain:
A stream of melody around me flows;
Anew the smothered fire of feeling glows.

The charm, long lost, is found, and gushing pours,
From fancy’s heaven, its beauty, as a shower;
The mystic deep casts up its wondrous stores;
Mind stands in panoply of fullest power.
Heaving with wakened purpose, swells the soul
Its barriers fall; its gathered treasures roll.

Light covers all around,—light from on high,
Soft as the last retiring tint of even,
Full as the glow that fills the morning sky,
Pure as the midmost blue of cloudless heaven:
Like pillared bronze the lofty trunks aspire,
And every leaf above is tipped with fire.

And round me still the magic music flows;
A thousand different tones dissolve in one:
Softer than ever gale of evening blows,
They blend in harmony’s enchanted zone.
With pictured web and golden fringe they bind,
For higher flight, the renovated mind.

I feel it round me twine,—the band of power;
Youth beats in every vein; life bursts in bloom:
All seems as when, at twilight’s blissful hour,
Breathed from the flowery grove the gale’s perfume;
The laugh, the shout, the dance,—and then the strain
Of tenderest love dissolved the heart again.

Ye greet me far, ye years of hope and joy,
Ye days of trembling fears and ardent loves,
The reeling madness of the impassioned boy;—
Through wizard wilds again my spirit roves,
And beauty, veiled in fancy’s heavenly hue,
Smiles and recedes before my longing view.

The light has fled; the tones that won my heart
Back to its early heaven, again are still:
A deeper darkness broods,—with sudden start
Repelled, my life relapses from its thrill:
Heavier the shades descend, and on my ear
Only the bubbling fountain murmurs near.

“To Venus” from the New-York Mirror

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From Popular Astronomy; Or, the Sun, Planets, Satellites, and Comets by Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, pg. 38.

To Venus
By “Remus”
From the New-York Mirror, March 5, 1825, Volume 2, pg. 256.

Hail! lovely Venus! queen of the glimmering tribe
That bespangle the evening sky. Hail!
Thou bright proclaimer of the weary day’s dull end!
Thou cheering herald of approaching night!
Lo! even through the grand magnificence
Of mighty day, thy brilliant lustre pierces.
O! how I love to sit, and watch,
When placid night comes on, and the pale luna,
Wearied with watching, ceases to shine,—
Thy majestic march along the azure bend of heaven,
In the van of thy celestial corps—
Attired in all your bright pellucidness!
Who can behold thee in thy evening’s glory,
Without the spirit of enthusiasm
Sparkling in their eye? For what is brighter
Than thy lucent disk?—and what so faithful
As thy nocturnal course?
Angels of Heaven in adoration take thy name—
So do the daughters of our mother earth.

“Life’s Dream” by James Gates Percival

Life’s Dream
By James Gates Percival
From the Knickerbocker, March, 1835, pg. 232.

“Ach! dürften wir mit Träumen nicht
Die Wirklichkeit verweben,
Wie arm an Farbe, Glanz und Licht
Wärst dann du Menschenleben?”—A. W. SCHLEGEL.
“Ah! could we not entwine
Reality with dreams,
How poor in color, glow, and light
Wert thou then, Human Life?”

“Wer trüge Lebenslast und seine Leere,
Wenn nicht der kurze Traum der Liebe wäre?”—MEYER.
“Who would bear the burden and emptiness of life, if the short dream of love were not?”

“Des Lebens Traum versehwindet,
Mit ihm des Lebens Glück.”—ERNST B*SCH*.
“Life’s dream disappears,—with it, life’s bliss.”

LIGHT and bright the vision plays,
Like the evening’s fitful blaze
Over meadow careering along.
Fairy phantoms hover; blossoms strow
Thick the verdure, as with snow;
Breathes the elfin’s magical song.

Fair the moon in azure floats,
Bending o’er the enchanting notes,
As if longing to glide from her sphere:
White wings faintly quiver; near and far
Glow-worm twinkles back to star,
Lighting a softer galaxy here.

Sweet by sparkling fountain sings,
Sweet and clear, as tone that rings
Pure from Harmony’s crystalline throne,—
Sweetly sings a spirit; still the air
Drinks the song,—its pulses bear
Far through the night the heavenly tone.

Peering quick from shadowy glades,
Glancing back to deeper shades,
Forms too bright and beautiful play:
Gentle voices whisper; snowy doves
Circle forth, as sent by loves,—
Wheel then on fanning pinions away.

Quick steps hurry to my side;
Round my heart soft touches glide,
Wreathing fetters of lily and rose.
Viewless forms embrace me; whispers say,
“Press the joys,—not long they stay:
Comes like a stream the pleasure, and flows.”

Sweetly dim the trance of love:
As through veil of roses wove,
Steals its purple light to the soul.
Break the magic slumber,—cold and bare,
Waste and dark, life meets us there:
Break the dream,—thou hast withered the whole!