Friday, November 08, 2013


Vex Not Thy Miserable Self

John Leicester Warren (1835-1895), "The Wine of Life," The Collected Poems of Lord De Tabley (London: Chapman & Hall Limited, 1903), pp. 418-419:
He best can drink the wine of Life,
    And sweetly crush the grape of Fate,
Who shuts the Janus doors of strife,
    And binds an olive on his gate.

Who needs no victim to atone
    The record of his blameless hour;
Contentment is the corner stone
    On which he builds his arch of power.

He best enjoys who can refrain,
    He least is nimble Fortune's fool,
Who sees his honest Duty plain,
    A scholar in her iron school.

How idle for a spurious fame
    To roll in thorn-beds of unrest:
What matter whom the mob acclaim,
    If thou art master of thy breast?

If sick thy soul with fear and doubt,
    And weary with the rabble din,—
If thou wouldst scorn the herd without,
    First make the discord calm within.

If we are lords in our disdain,
    And rule our kingdoms of despair,
As fools we shall not plough the main
    For halters made of syren's hair.

We need not traverse foreign earth
    To seek an alien Sorrow's face.
She sits within thy central hearth,
    And at thy table has her place.

So with this hour of push and pelf,
    Where nought unsordid seems to last,
Vex not thy miserable self,
    But search the fallows of the past.

In Time's rich tract behind us lies
    A soil replete with root and seed;
There harvest wheat repays the wise,
    While idiots find but charlock weed.

There we can hear the flute of Pan,
    Bewailing down the reedy vales:
There see the tempest-beaten swan
    Sail broken, down the moaning gales.

And larger heroes in that morn
    Stride mist-like thro' the asphodel,
And hoary bards with cheeks unshorn
    Invoke anew the lyric spell.

On me their burning helms they turn,
    Their eagle banners awe the glen,
They, rising from each dusty urn,
    Display their giant limbs again.

A broad cup brimmed with mighty red
    These silent years to us assign;
From old Falernian vineyards shed,
    The Roman sends the Teuton wine.

Old Fauns have breathed against the grapes,
    Old-world aromas haunt the bowl;
Still music of forgotten shapes,
    Dim pathos of a Pagan soul.

There from those dark and glimmering lands,
    From altars wrecked with ivy trail,
Old Flaccus reaches out his hands,
    And bids the mild barbarian hail.
I corrected a misprint in the first line of the tenth stanza, by changing "here" to "hear".

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