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Ode to an Æolian harp

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2022

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Summary

Sweet instrument! whose tones beguile the ear

With mingled strains of sadness and delight,

Recal the scenes to melancholy dear,

Or to the bowers of former bliss invite;

The sweet aerial sylph, or seraph bright,

That sweeps thy strings with more than mortal skill,

Although of frame too subtle for the sight,

May well a bard's imagination fill.

Hark! what a heavenly strain was there!

A dirge for some departed soul

Angels have taken to their care,

With kindred spirits to enrol.

Such were the sounds that softly stole

Erewhile on Cowper's faltering sense,

As onward he survey’d the goal

That hasten’d his departure hence.

A bolder and a bolder note

To gladness now directs my mind,

Like distant bells whose changes float

Across the water on the wind;

To hail some married pair, design’d

For mutual love, or mutual strife;

By habit or by will inclin’d

To strange vicissitudes of life.

And while the rapid chariot rolls,

In noisy pride, the streets along;

Attracts the gaze of vulgar souls,

And mocks and interrupts my song;

How I despise the restless throng,

Who scorn the meed of sober thought;

Whose pulses beat with rapture strong,

Whose transient bliss is dearly bought!

That dying fall, which now succeeds

The uproar that subdued thy sound,

Tells me of many a heart that bleeds

With guilt in fashion's giddy round;

Who never since their childhood found

A day, an hour of cheap repose,

But vainly thought their wishes crown’d.

When riot with the morning rose.

The lofty song, the sprightly dance,

To them was life, to them was all.

The studied sigh, the wanton glance,

And all the arts that grace the ball,

My unapproving heart appal;

But while I listen to thy strains,

I fit my mind for duty's call,

And bless the lot that pride disdains.

The trumpet tells of streaming blood,

Of valour's feats, of victory's prize,

Of broken hearts, and many a flood

Of tears that gush from widows’ eyes.

But thy celestial breath supplies

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2020

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