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II.

GOLD AND SILVER FISHES IN A VASE.

The soaring lark is blest as proud

When at heaven's gate she sings ;
The roving bee proclaims aloud

Her flight by vocal wings ;
While ye, in lasting durance pent,

Your silent lives employ
For something more than dull content,

Though haply less than joy.

Yet might your glassy prison seem

A place where joy is known,
Where golden flash and silver gleam

Have meanings of their own ;
While, high and low, and all about,
Your motions, glittering Elves !

no danger from without, And peace among yourselves.

Ye weave,

Type of a sunny human breast

Is your transparent cell ;
Where Fear is but a transient guest,

No sullen Humors dwell ;
Where, sensitive of every ray

That smites this tiny sea, Your scaly panoplies repay

The loan with usury.

How beautiful !— Yet none knows why

This ever-graceful change,
Renewed, renewed incessantly,

Within your quiet range.
Is it that ye with conscious skill

For mutual pleasure glide;
And sometimes, not without your will,

Are dwarfed, or magnified ?

Fays, Genii of gigantic size!

And now, in twilight dim, Clustering like constellated eyes,

In wings of Cherubim,
When the fierce orbs abate their glare;-
Whate'er

your
forms

express, Whate'er ye seem, whate'er ye are,

All leads to gentleness.

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Cold though your nature be, 't is pure;

Your birthright is a fence
From all that haughtier kinds endure

Through tyranny of sense.
Ah! not alone by colors bright

Are ye to heaven allied,
When, like essential forms of light,

Ye mingle, or divide.

For day-dreams soft as e'er beguiled

Day-thoughts while limbs repose; For moonlight fascinations mild,

Your gift, ere shutters close, –

Accept, mute Captives ! thanks and praise ;

And may this tribute prove That gentle admirations raise Delight resembling love.

1829.

III.

LIBERTY.

(SEQUEL TO THE PRECEDING.)

[Addressed to a friend; the gold and silver fishes having been removed to a pool in the pleasure-ground of Rydal Mount.)

“ The liberty of a people consists in being governed by laws which they have made for themselves, under whatever form it be of government. The liberty of a private man, in being master of his own time and actions, as far as may consist with the laws of God and of his country. Of this latter we are here to discourse." - COWLEY.

THOSE breathing Tokens of your kind regard,
(Suspect not, Anna, that their fate is hard;
Not soon does aught to which mild fancies cling
In lonely spots, become a slighted thing)
Those silent Inmates now no longer share,
Nor do they need, our hospitable care,
Removed in kindness from their glassy Cell
To the fresh waters of a living Well, –
An elfin pool so sheltered that its rest
No winds disturb; the mirror of whose breast
Is smooth as clear, save where with dimples small

A fly may settle, or a blossom fall.

There swims, of blazing sun and beating shower Fearless, (but how obscured !) the golden Power, That from this bauble prison used to cast Gleams by the richest jewel unsurpast; And near him, darkling like a sullen Gnome, The silver Tenant of the crystal dome ; Dissevered both from all the mysteries Of hue and altering shape that charmed all eyes. Alas! they pined, they languished while they

shone; And, if not so, what matters beauty gone And admiration lost, by change of place That brings to the inward creature no disgrace? But if the change restore his birthright, then, Whate'er the difference, boundless is the gain. Who can divine what impulses from God Reach the caged lark, within a town abode, From his poor inch or two of daisied sod ? O yield him back his privilege ! — No sea Swells like the bosom of a man set free; A wilderness is rich with liberty. Roll on, ye spouting whales, who die or keep Your independence in the fathomless Deep! Spread, tiny nautilus, the living sail ; Dive, at thy choice, or brave the freshening gale! If unreproved the ambitious eagle mount Sunward to seek the daylight in its fount, Bays, gulfs, and ocean's Indian width shall be, Till the world perishes, a field for thee!

While musing here I sit in shadow cool, And watch these mute Companions, in the pool (Among reflected boughs of leafy trees) By glimpses caught, disporting at their ease, Enlivened, braced, by hardy luxuries, I ask what warrant fixed them (like a spell Of witchcraft fixed them) in the crystal cell ; To wheel with languid motion round and round, Beautiful, yet in mournful durance bound. Their peace, perhaps, our lightest footfall marred; On their quick sense our sweetest music jarred; And whither could they dart, if seized with fear? No sheltering stone, no tangled root was near. When fire or taper ceased to cheer the room, They wore away the night in starless gloom; And, when the sun first dawned upon the streams, How faint their portion of his vital beams ! Thus, and unable to complain, they fared, While not one joy of ours by them was shared.

Is there a cherished bird (I venture now To snatch a sprig from Chaucer's reverend brow) – Is there a brilliant fondling of the cage, Though sure of plaudits on his costly stage, Though fed with dainties from the snow-white hand Of a kind mistress, fairest of the land, But gladly would escape; and, if need were, Scatter the colors from the plumes that bear The emancipated captive through blithe air Into strange woods, where he at large may live

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