The Wizard Poet

IN the dust of ages old
Sleeps the legend men have told Of Virgilius and his skill :
How he, wicked or divine,
Wrought by secret spell and sign
Many marvels to his will ;
How he breathed the vital flame
Through a pulseless statue’s frame,
So that when the night’s eclipse Left its face it spake aloud, —
And no idle words or proud
Ever passed its marble lips;
How he made a lamp to light
All the city streets by night,
Made and rode a copper mare,
And from Babylon to Rome
Brought the Sultan’s daughter home,
On a bridge built in the air.
Ah ! his books upon my shelves
Hold the secret in themselves
Of the marvelous art he knew !
When we read, their written signs
Luminous grow in all the lines ;
What he did his books still do !
In their silence and disguise
They are genies that arise,
Building bridges with their hands;
And our life’s unending quest
Here may pause a while and rest
In the lap of golden lands.
Shepherd pipes around us sing,
Branches musically swing
In the west wind’s cooling tides !
Then the shadows of the night,
Dropping earthward in their flight,
Darken o’er the mountain sides !
In the distance seem to be
Boats upon the toiling sea,
Oars adrip with silver foam ;
Wave-tossed men of Troy almost
Grasp the e’er-receding coast,
Dreaming of their lofty Rome.
So the poet hath his will,
Working out his marvels still,
Makes us linger as we read!
In our hearts a statue stands, —
White and pure its lips and hands,
Symbolizing word and deed;
And the statue, as it were,
Is the poet’s character,
Spotless in that age of wrong. Did he travel in the air ?
Ay, the bridge suspended there
Was the marvelous Bridge of Song!

And the greatness of his name
Pierces, with a silent flame,
Death and the sepulchral damp;
Somehow, still it seems to light
Rome in all her streets to-night,
And is a perpetual lamp.

Statue, bridge, and lamp unfold
Deeper meanings than of old:
His was no uncanny art;
He but used the spell and sign
Of the poet’s right divine, —
Wizard of the human heart!

S. V. Cole.