21+ Best Charles Mackay Poems Everyone Should Read

Charles Mackay was a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter, remembered mainly for his book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of best known James Russell Lowell poems, most famous Homer poems and selected Du Fu poems.

Famous Charles Mackay Poems

Reveries

Come, gentle phantasie,
Come to my lone retreat,
Beside the rolling sea,
Where the playful billows beat;
Come at still twilight’s time,
When the star of evening beams above,
And looks on earth with a look of love,
From her far cerulean clime;
And on the shore
The waters’ roar
Shall to our ears rough music make,
And sweet shall be
Their melody,
As the wind doth o’er them break.

Now fades the daylight o’er the deep,
And now the struggle and the strife,
The cares and toils of busy life,
Sink for awhile in sleep:
And she, Thought’s pallid queen,
Arises on her gentle way,
Scattering far her tremulous ray
With calm and holy sheen.
Now is the hour when Feeling wakes,
Now is the hour when Fancy takes
Her far and heavenward flight;
Now every evil passion dies,
Now Hope lifts up her gentle eyes-
O lovely hour of night!
I gaze upon the roaring sea,
And vague deep thoughts crowd o’er my mind.
There lies the dread immensity,
And o’er the region of the wind
Lies an immensity more dread,
On which the thought cannot repose,
Whose secrets we cannot disclose-
O! happy, happy dead!
Perchance to you your God has given
To know the secrets of the heaven,
On angels’ wings afar to fly,
And scan the wonders of the sky,
And often, mid the darkness dim,
The soul forgets its feeble shell,
As if ‘twould pierce the ways of Him
Whose ways no human heart can tell.
The soul expands, as if to see
If it can grasp Eternity,
And pass the bounds of time and space-
But ah! there is no resting-place
For such adventurous flight.
These are the aspirings of the spirit
To the home it shall inherit;
A dim, faint dream,
A feeble gleam
Of what the soul shall be when passed this earthly night.

Resignation

In cold misfortune’s cheerless day.
When joy and peace and love depart,
When friends deceive, and hopes decay,
And sorrows press the heavy heart,
O! Lord, Thou canst relief impart;
Tis Thou canst cheer the wounded mind, Tis Thou canst heal affliction’s smart;
Teach us to pray, and be resigned.

And O! should changeful fortune frown,
Or those we love prove true no more,
Should Death’s relentless hand cut down
Those who returned the love we bore;
Still let us worship and adore,
And seek the peace we yet may find;
Teach us, O Father! we implore,
To trust in Thee, and be resigned!

Reproach

Hast thou forgotten her to whom
You vowed such vows of truth,
She who was dearest to thy heart
In days of hope and youth?
Dost thou forget the parting prayer
I raised to Heaven for thee,
To guard thee in thy wanderings
In climes beyond the sea?

The vows you breathed-the faith you swore
Too fondly I believed;
Now I must hide my bitter grief,
And mourn my hopes deceived.
But vain my tears-Farewell! Farewell!
Go scorn me if thou wilt;
And though the anguish may be mine,
Remember thine’s the guilt!

Repentance

By the red lightning rent and riven,
And stretched along the plain,
Can the tall oak extend to heaven
Its gay green boughs again?
Or when a star hath lost its track,
And faded from on high,
Can aught restore the lost one back
To glory and the sky?
No; the tall oak no more can spread
Its green leaves to the blast,
Nor can the meteor which hath fled,
Recal its splendours past.

Can man, deep sunk in guilty care
And pressed by human ill,
O! can he triumph o’er despair,
And find a solace still?

Yes! He who for our ransom bled,
Holds back th’ avenging rod,
When meek Contrition bows her head
Repenting to her God.
Though dark the sin-though deep the heart
Be sunk in guilt and pain,
Yet Mercy can a balm impart,
And raise it up again!

The Prayer Of Adam Alone In Paradise

O! Father, hear!
Thou know’st my secret thought,
Thou know’st with love and fear
I bend before Thy mighty throne,
And before Thee I hold myself as nought.
Alas! I’m in the world alone,
All desolate upon the earth,
And when my spirit hears the tone,
The soft song of the birds in mirth,
When the young nightingales
Their tender voices blend,
When from the flowery vales
Their hymns of love ascend;

O! then I feel there is a void for me,
A bliss too little in this world so fair;
To Thee, O Father, do I flee,
To Thee for solace breathe the prayer.
And when the rosy morn
Smiles on the dewy trees,
When music’s voice is borne
Far on the gentle breeze;
When o’er the bowers I stray,
The fairest fruits to bring,
And on Thy shrine to lay
A fervent offering;
Father of many spheres!
When bending thus before Thy throne,
My spirit weeps with silent tears,
To think that I must pray alone!
And when at evening’s twilight dim,
When peaceful slumber shuts mine eye,
And when the gentle seraphim
Bend from their bright homes in the sky:
When angels walk the quiet earth,
To glory in creation’s birth;

Then, Father, in my dreams I see
A gentle being o’er me bent,
Radiant with love, and like to me,
But of a softer lineament:
I strive to clasp her to my heart,
That we may live and be but one-
Ah, wherefore, lovely beam, depart,
Why must I wake and find thee gone?
Almighty, in Thy wisdom high,
Thou saidst, that when I sin I die;
And once my spirit could not see
How that which is, could cease to be;
Death was a vague unfathomed thing,
On which the thought forbore to dwell,
But love has oped its secret spring
And now I know it well!
To die, must be to live alone,
Unloved, uncherished, and unknown;
Without the sweet one of my dreams
To cull the fragrant flowers with me,
To wander by the morning’s beams,
And raise the hymn of thanks to Thee.
But, Father of the earth,
Lord of this boundless sphere,
If ’tis Thy high unchanging will
That I should linger here;
If ’tis Thy will that I should rove
Alone o’er Eden’s smiling bowers,
Grant that the young birds’ song of love,
And the breeze sporting ‘among the flowers,
May to my spirit cease to be
A music and a mystery!
Grant that my soul no more may feel
The soft sounds breathing every where;
That Nature’s voice may cease to hymn
Love’s universal prayer.
For all around, in earth or sea,
And the blue heaven’s immensity,
Whisper it forth in many a tone,
And tell me I am all alone.

The Pilgrims Dog

There came a pilgrim to the gate,
An aged man was he,
And he sat him down upon a stone,
And sighed most bitterly:
The night was cold,-the fierce winds howled
With loud and blustering din,
So, to restore his drooping strength,
We asked the good man in.

‘Now sit thee down, thou aged man,
‘Here’s ale an thou art dry,
‘And tell us now what aileth thee,
‘And wherefore thou dost sigh.’
The aged man he sat him down,
He drank no wine nor ale,
But shook the damp dew from his cloak,
And thus began his tale:

‘O! hoary is my head, and grey,
‘For many years I’ve seen,
‘And over many a distant land
‘My weary feet have been:
‘And I have braved the summer heat,
‘And borne the winter cold,
‘Without a murmur or complaint,
‘Though poor, and very old.

‘But then I had a faithful friend,
‘Companion of my way,
‘Who jogged contented by my side
‘For many a weary day;
‘Who shared my crust, when crust I had,
‘At noon beneath a hill,
‘And who, when I had none to give,
‘Was grateful for the will:

‘Who, when benighted on our road,
‘And far from barn or bield,
‘Lay down contented at my feet,
‘In many a stubble field;
‘Who, when the world looked harshly down,
‘Was never false or cold,
‘But looked up kindly in my face,
‘To cheer the pilgrim old.

‘Long time had we companions been,
‘In every changeful weather,
”Mid frost and snow, and driving sleet,
‘We’d trudged along together;
‘And now he lies upon the road
‘Ah! cold and dead lies he,
‘And I am in the world alone,
‘Alone in my misery!’

A tear ran down the old man’s cheek,
But he wiped it quick away
‘My blessing with you,’ the pilgrim said,
‘Nay, hinder me not, I pray;
‘For I go to the spot where in death he lies,
‘To the sod all wet with dew,
‘With a bursting heart to make a grave,
‘And bury that friend so true!’

‘Nay, hold, good man, art thou a monk
‘Of orders grey or white,
‘To breathe for the soul of thy parted friend
‘The prayers of the Christian rite?’
The old man sighed, and shook his head
‘No Christian might he be,
‘Though many Christians that I wot of,
‘Are not so good as he!

‘Nothing was he-but a poor man’s dog,
‘ A good one and a bold;
‘ Alas for me, that worth so tried
‘ Should ever be dead and cold!’
That aged man went out alone,
Alone and sad went he,
And bent his course adown the hill
Where grows you spreading tree.

The morning sun rose up again,
The lark began to sing,
And village girls went forth to draw
Fresh water from the spring;
And when they came beneath the tree,
The tree all dead and sear,
That pilgrim old was writing there
The words ye now shall hear.

The Phamtoms Of St. Sepulchre

Didst ever see a hanging?’-‘No, not one,
Nor ever wish to see such scandal done.
But once I saw a wretch condemn’d to die:
A lean-faced, bright-eyed youth, who made me sigh
At the recital of a dream he had.
He was not sane, and yet he was not mad:
Fit subject for a mesmerist he seem’d;
for when he slept, he saw; and when he dream’d
His visions were as palpable to him
As facts to us. My memory is dim
Upon his story, but I’ll ne’er forget
The dream he told me, for it haunts me yet,
Impress’d upon me by his earnest faith
that ’twas no vision, but a sight which Death
Open’d his eyes to see,-an actual glimpse
Into the world of spectres and of imps
Vouchsafed to him on threshold of the grave.
List! and I’ll give it in the words he gave:

”Ay, you may think that I am crazed,
But what I saw, that did I see.
These walls are thick, my brain is sick,
And yet mine eyes saw lucidly.
Through the joists and through the stones
I could look as through a glass:
And, from this dungeon damp and cold,
I watch’d the motley people pass.
All day long, rapid and strong,
Roll’d to and fro the living stream;
But in the night I saw a sight
I cannot think it was a dream.

”Old St. Sepulchre’s bell will toll
At eight to-morrow for my soul;
And thousands, not much better than I,
Will throng around to see me die;
And many will bless their happy fate
That they ne’er fell from their high estate,
Or did such deed as I have done;
Though, from the rise to the set of sun,
They cheat their neighbours all their days,
And gather gold in slimy ways.
But my soul feels strong, and my sight grows clear,
As my death-hour approaches near,
And in its presence I will tell
The very truth, as it befell.

”The snow lies thick on the house-tops cold,
Shrill and keen the March winds blow;
The rank grass of the churchyard mould
Is cover’d o’er with drifted snow;
The graves in old St. Sepulchre’s yard
Were white last night when I look’d forth,
And the sharp clear stars seem’d to dance in the sky,
Rock’d by the fierce winds of the north.

”The houses dull seem’d numb with frost,
The streets seem’d wider than of yore,
Aod the straggling passengers trod, like ghost,
Silently on the pathway frore;
When I look’d through that churchyard rail,
And thought of the bell that should ring my doom,
And saW three women, sad and pale,
Sitting together on a tomb.

”A fearful sight it was to see,
As up they rose and look’d at me.
Sunken were their cheeks and eyes;
Blue-cold were their feet, and bare;
Lean and yellow were their hands;
Long and scanty was their hair;
And round their necks I saw the ropes
Deftly knotted, tighly drawn;
And knew they were not things of earth,
Or creatures that could face the dawn.

”Seen dimly in the uncertain light,
They multiplied upon my sight;
And things like men and women sprung
Shapes of those who had been hung
From the rank and clammy ground.
I counted them-I knew them all,
Each with its rope around its neck,
Marshall’d by the churchyard wall.
The stiff policeman, passing along,
Saw them not, nor made delay;
A reeling bacchanal, shouting a song,
Look’d at the clock and went his way;
A troop of girls with painted cheeks,
Laughing and yelling in drunken glee,
Pass’d like a gust, and never look’d
At the sight so palpable to me.
I saw them-heard them-felt their breath
Musty and raw and damp as death!

”These women three, these fearful shapes,
Look’d at me through Newgate stone,
And raised their fingers, skinny and lank,
Whispering low in under-tone:
‘His hour draws near,-he’s one of us,
His gibbet is built,-his noose is tied;
They have put his name on the coffin-lid:
The law of blood shall be satisfied.
He shall rest with us, and his name shall be
A by-word and a mockery.’

”I whisper’d to one, ‘What hast thou done?’
She answer’d, whispering, and I heard
Although a chime rang at the time
Every sentence, every word,
Clear above the pealing bells:
‘I was mad, and slew my child;
Better than life, God knows, I loved it;
But pain and hunger drove me wild,
Scorn and hunger, and grief and care;
And I slew it in my despair.
And for this deed tbey raised the gibbet;
For this deed the noose they tied;
And I hung and swung in the sight of men,
And the law of blood was satisfied.’

”I said to the second, ‘What didst thou?’
Her keen eyes flash’d unearthly shine.
‘I married a youth when I was young,
And thought all happiness was mine;
But they stole him from me to fight the French;
And I was left in the world alone.
To beg or steal, to live or die,
Robb’d of my stay, my all, my own.
England stole my lord from me,
I stole a ribbon, was caught and tried;
And I hung and swung in the sight of men,
And the law of blood was satisfied.’

”I said to the third, ‘What crime was thine?’
‘Crime!’ she auswer’d, in accents meek,
‘The babe that sucks at its mother’s breast,
And smiles with its little dimpled cheek,
Is not more innocent than I.
But truth was feeble,-error was strong;
And guiltless of a deed of shame,
Men’s justice did me cruel wrong.
They would not hear my truthful words:
They thought me fill’d with stubborn pride;
And I hung and swung in the sight of men,
And the law of blood was satisfied.’

”Then one and all, by that churchyard wall,
Raised their skinny hands at me;
Their voices mingling like the sound
Of rustling leaves in a withering tree:
‘His hour has come, he’s one of us;
His gibbet is built, his noose is tied;
His knell shall ring, and his corpse shall swing,
And the law of blood shall be satisfied.’

”They vanish’d! I saw them, one by one,
With their bare blue feet on the drifted snow
Sink like a thaw, when the sun is up,
To their wormy solitudes below.
Though you may deem this was a dream,
My facts are tangible facts to me;
For the sight glows clear as death draws near
And looks into futurity.”

Our Saviours Lamentation Over Jerusalem

The eagle hath stooped from his eyrie on high,
Weep, daughter of Salem, the spoiler is nigh;
Weep, weep and lament, for he comes in his wrath,
And the vengeance of God is the guide of his path;
I see his fierce horsemen prepare for the war,
And I hear their loud shouts as they rush from afar.

Mourn, mourn and lament, for thy strength shall he riven,
And the star of thy glory he blotted from heaven;
Thy towers and thy temples, now gleaming in air,
Shall be low as thy shame in that day of despair;
Thy pitiless foe shall exult o’er thy fall,
And the God thou hast scorned shall be deaf to thy call.

How often, O! Salem, I’ve wept by thy side,
And mourned for thy sons in their blindness and pride;
How often I’ve prayed and implored thee in vain
To repent, and return to thy Father again:
Why, daughter of Salem, O why wouldst thou spurn
The grace and the hope that can never return?

The heathen shall come, and shall raze to the earth
The lordly abodes of thy pride and thy mirth;
With the blood of thy sons shall thy altars be stained,
And the shrine of thy God shall be rent and profaned;
On the walls of the temple the spoiler shall tread-
Weep, weep, for the beam of thy glory hath fled.

Then, daughter of Salem, in grief and despair,
When the fires of thy dwellings shall redden the air,
When thy victor shall taunt thee, and scoff at thy cries,
As the smoke of the temple ascends to the skies;
When trampled-insulted-rejected-abhorred,
Then, Zion, O then thou’lt remember the Lord.

The Will O’ The Wisp

Where the snake lurks in the tangled grass,
By the slippery brink of the dank morass,
Merrily O! Merrily O!
I light my lamp, and forth I go!
And to lure astray the lated wight,
I shine all night in the swampy hollows,
Merrily O! Merrily O!
Wailing and woe to the fool who follows!

O! Love and Friendship and I make three,
We roam together in company!
Merrily O! Merrily O!
We light our lamps, and forth we go!
Friendship showeth a steady ray,
But its dupes ne’er dream that its heart is hollow,
Merrily O! Merrily O!
Wailing and woe to the fools who follow!

O! Love indeed hath a fairer gleam;
What is so bright as her first fond dream?
Merrily O! Merrily O!
We light our lamps, and forth we go!
An early blight if that love be true,
A broken heart if that love be hollow!
Merrily O! Merrily O!
Wailing and woe to the fools who follow!

The Wishing Gate

BALLAD.

‘Tis dreamy midnight’s solemn hour,
The busy village sleeps,
And the pale moonbeam’s silver sheen
Its nightly vigil keeps;
The pole-star twinkles in the blue,
The hour is waxing late,
Then haste thee, maiden, and away,
And seek the Wishing-gate:
And if thy heart be free from guile,
Thy thoughts serene and holy,
Go breathe thy prayer, go wish thy wish,
And banish melancholy.

The maiden leaves her busy wheel,
And dons her hose and shoon,
And hastens to that ancient gate,
While shines the quiet moon.
‘There is a bark upon the wave,
‘A bark I fain would see,
‘And one who treads her gallant deck,
‘Who vowed to cherish me!
‘Who vowed, in spite of fortune’s frown,
‘His love should never vary-
‘Would he were here in safety now,
‘Conversing with his Mary!’

Pale clouds obscured the thoughtful moon,
The hour was waxing late,
The maiden, pensive and alone,
Leant o’er the Wishing-gate.
Was it a robber in the dark,
That stole along so wary?
”Tis he! ’tis he I my Henry dear,
‘Restored to love and Mary!’

To Romance

Sweet deceiver! who so oft
Hast lulled my soul with visions soft;
When the heart is new and young,
Thou dost come with honeyed tongue,
Whispering to confiding youth
Tales of Friendship, Love, and Truth:
In thy mirror life is seen
Bright and pure and evergreen!
Alas! and must thy visions fade?
Thy brightness darken into shade?
The clear, but cold reality
Breathes upon thy reverie,

Straight thy fairy visions fly,
Their gorgeous hues grow pale and die;
We find that Friendship can betray,
Or wither in Misfortune’s day;
We find that dirty gold can buy
The glance of love in Beauty’s eye,
That sordid wealth can cover crime,
That merit stoops, while blockheads climb!
Romance! thy fairy spell is o’er,
Thy lovely visions charm no more;
Too often by thy wiles betrayed,
I’ll woo no more thy gentle aid;
Yet why?–‘Tis pleasing to believe
Thy dreams are sweet, though they deceive.

War Song

I saw a stain on the last year’s snow,
Brothers! a stain of blood!
But the cold hath past, and the warm winds blow,
And the trees are in the bud.
The snow hath melted from dale and hill
But the blood-the blood remaineth still!

I heard a voice on the winter blast,
Brothers! a voice of woe!
And it cried for vengeance as it past
O’er the cold and blood-stained snow.
That wind hath sunk over wood and hill,
But the voice-the voice-I hear it still!

I saw a spirit in my sleep,
Brothers! its hand was red!
Its eye was fierce, and its scowl was deep,
And it cried, ‘Revenge the dead!’
Shall we not hear what the spirit saith?
Onwards, my brothers!-revenge or death!

Vintagers’ Song To The Sun

Peerless orb of life and light,
Here beneath the cloudless blue,
Lo! we quaff the liquor bright,
And pray for rain and pleasant dew.
Here beneath thy ruddy beam,
To thee we drain the goblet deep,
Where the Rhine’s broad waters stream,
And the grapes in clusters creep.

Sun, O sun, thy splendours pour
O’er the fruitful fields of earth,
And to her remotest shore
Give the jovial harvest birth.
O’er the land that yields the vine,
Let thy warmest radiance glow,
Ripened by those beams of thine,
Let the purple vintage flow.

Under The Holly Bough

Ye who have scorned each other
In this fast fading year,
Or wronged a friend or brother,
Come gather humbly here:
Let sinned against and sinning
Forget their strife’s beginning,
Be links no longer broken
Beneath the holly bough,
Be sweet forgiveness spoken
Beneath the holly bough.

Ye who have loved each other
In this fast fading year,
Sister, or friend, or brother,
Come gather happy here:
And let your hearts grow fonder
As mem’ry glad shall ponder
Old loves and later wooing
Beneath the holly bough,
So sweet in their renewing
Beneath the holly bough.

Ye who have nourished sadness
In this fast fading year,
Estranged from joy and gladness,
Come gather hopeful here:
No more let useless sorrow
Pursue you night and morrow;
Come join in our embraces
Beneath the holly bough;
Take heart, uncloud your faces
Beneath the holly bough.

Winter

When the tempests fly
O’er the cloudy sky,
And the piping blast sings wearily,
O! sweet is the mirth
Of the social hearth,
Where the flames are blazing cheerily.

The moonbeam bright
Of the summer night
Shineth but sad and wearily,
But jolly’s the glow
Where the wine-cups flow,
And the bright fire blazes cheerily.

Let the storms without,
In their midnight rout,
Howl through the casement drearily,
We’re merry within,
Round the blazing linn,
Where the wine-cup circles cheerily.

Wassail

If thy bosom undaunted ne’er quailed before danger,
Or feared to stand forth for the right,
If thy doors were ne’er shut on the poor and the stranger,
Thy heart never false to its plight,
To thee we will drink, as a king among men
Wassail, O wassail! a health to thee then!

If Honour can dazzle, or Freedom inspire thee
To fight in her cause ere she sink,
If the wrongs of thy kind or thy country can fire thee,
A bumper to thee we will drink.
Though humble and poor, thou art king among men,
Wassail, O wassail! a health to thee then!

Wooing

Tis sad to go a-roving
Through the weary world alone,
For the bliss of life is loving,
Ere the days of youth are flown
And old age is Love’s undoing,
Passion fades away with time,
So we’ll go again a-wooing,
While our hearts are in their prime.
So we’ll go again a-wooing, &c. &c.

The frowns of Fortune grieve us,
And Ambition is a cheat,
And the lures of Hope deceive us,
Though her visions are so sweet.
Love alone, her roses strewing,
Smooths our pathway as we climb,
So we’ll go again a-wooing,
While our hearts are in their prime.
So we’ll go again a-wooing, &c. &c.

You Have No Enemies

YOU have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

To An Eagle

O! for an eagle’s wings,
To brave the rugged blast,
In spite of wind and storm to soar
O’er mount and meadow vast.
O! that I might, like thee,
O’er Alpine summits fly,
And travel, unconfined and free,
The nearest to the sky!

O! that mine eye like thine
Upon the sun might gaze,
And revel in that living light,
Undazzled by the blaze!
O! that my rapid flight
O’er boundless ether driven,
Might never leave, for things of earth,
The brighter ones of heaven!

Here, when the soul inspired
Would leave the world behind,
Forgetting its affinity
To sorrow and mankind,
With eye like thine to scan
The wonders of its birth,
Some petty care disturbs its flight,
And draws it back to earth.

O! for an eagle’s wings!
O, for an eagle’s nest!
To dwell upon the mountain tops,
With Nature for my guest:
Fanned by the rushing wind,
Rejoicing in the blast,
And soaring in the light of morn
O’er woods and waters vast.

On The Capitulation Of Warsaw, September 1831

Soldier of Poland! wherefore sigh?
Freedom, though crushed, shall never die;
Though for awhile her noble head
Be trampled by the Cossack’s tread.
Though the proud Russian lay her low,
And laugh to scorn a nation’s woe;
Though those whom free-born hearts deplore,
Be banished from their native shore,
And forced in foreign climes to roam,
To seek a shelter and a home;
Though thousand wrongs obscure her yet,
The sun of Freedom shall not set!
From Warsaw’s ruins shall arise
A fire to blind the Tartars’ eyes;
A voice shall sound from Praga’s plain,
To rouse the nations up again!
A flag of wrath shall be unfurled,
And Justice once more light the world!

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