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Written in Spring

This gentle breath which eddies round my cheek,—
This respiration of the waking spring,—
How eloquently sweet it seems to speak
Of hope and joy to every living thing!
To every?—No, it speaks not thus to all
Alike of hope; where misery gnaws the heart,
Her gentle breathings on the senses fall
Like hateful thoughts that make the memory start.
The soul grows selfish where enjoyment flies,
And, loathing, curses what it cannot taste;
This glorious sun, and yon blue, blessed skies,
And this green earth, but tell him of the past;
The frightful past, that other name for death,
That, when recalled, like mocking spectres come,—
In forms of life, without the living breath,
Like things that speak, yet organless and dumb!
For all that seems in this fair world to live,
To live to man, must catch the quickening ray
From man’s free soul; and they but freely give
Back unto him the life he gave; for they
Are dead to him who lives not unto them.
But unto him, whose happy soul reposes
In love’s sweet dream, how exquisite a gem
Seems every dewdrop on these budding roses!
The humblest plant that sprouts beneath his feet,
The ragged brier, nay, e’en the common grass,
Within that soul a kindred image meet,
As if reflected from an answering glass.
And how they seem by sympathy to lend
Their youthful freshness to each rising thought,
As if the mind had just begun to send
Her faculties abroad, uncurbed, untaught,
From all in nature beautiful and fair
To build her splendid fabrics, while the heart,
Itself deluding, seems by magic rare
To give a substance to each airy part.
Sweet age of first impressions! free and light!
When all the senses, like triumphal ports,
Did let into the soul, by day, by night,
The gorgeous pageants pouring from the courts
Of Nature’s vast dominions!—substance then
To the heart’s faith; but, now that youth’s bright dawn
No longer shines, they flit like shadowy men
That walk on ceilings; for the light is gone!
Yet no,—not gone; for unto him that loves,
The heart is youthful and the faith is strong;
And be it love, or be it youth, that moves
The soul to joy, that light will live as long.
And, O, how blest this kind reacting law,
That the young heart, with Nature’s beauties glowing,
Should need, in all it felt, in all it saw,
Another heart to share its overflowing;
While he that feels the pure expansive power
Of joyous love, must pour his feelings forth
On every tree, and herb, and fragrant flower,
And all that grows upon the beauteous earth.
Washington Allston [1779–1843]