20+ Best James Henry Leigh Hunt Poems You Should Read

James Henry Leigh Hunt, best known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist and poet. Hunt co-founded The Examiner, a leading intellectual journal expounding radical principles.

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 most known Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, greatest Jane Taylor poems and powerful Joyce Kilmer poems.

Famous James Henry Leigh Hunt poems

An Angel In The House

How sweet it were, if without feeble fright,
Or dying of the dreadful beauteous sight,
An angel came to us, and we could bear
To see him issue from the silent air
At evening in our room, and bend on ours
His divine eyes, and bring us from his bowers
News of dear friends, and children who have never
Been dead indeed,–as we shall know forever.
Alas! we think not what we daily see
About our hearths,–angels that are to be,
Or may be if they will, and we prepare
Their souls and ours to meet in happy air;–
A child, a friend, a wife whose soft heart sings
In unison with ours, breeding its future wings.

Death is a road our dearest friends have gone;
Why with such leaders, fear to say, “Lead on?”
Its gate repels, lest it too soon be tried,
But turns in balm on the immortal side.
Mothers have passed it: fathers, children; men
Whose like we look not to behold again;
Women that smiled away their loving breath;
Soft is the travelling on the road to death!
But guilt has passed it? men not fit to die?
O, hush — for He that made us all is by!
Human we’re all — all men, all born of mothers;
All our own selves in the worn-out shape of others;
Our used, and oh, be sure, not to be ill-used brothers!

The Negro Boy

Paupertas onus visa est grave.

Cold blows the wind, and while the tear
Bursts trembling from my swollen eyes,
The rain’s big drop, quick meets it there,
And on my naked bosom flies!
O pity, all ye sons of Joy,
The little wand’ring Negro-boy.

These tatter’d clothes, this ice-cold breast
By Winter harden’d into steel,
These eyes, that know not soothing rest,
But speak the half of what I feel!
Long, long, I never new one joy,
The little wand’ring Negro-boy!

Cannot the sigh of early grief
Move but one charitable mind?
Cannot one hand afford relief?
One Christian pity, and be kind?
Weep, weep, for thine was never joy,
O little wand’ring Negro-boy!

Is there a good which men call Pleasure?
O Ozmyn, would that it were thine!
Give me this only precious treasure;
How it would soften grief like mine!
Then Ozmyn might be call’d, with joy,
The little wand’ring Negro-boy!

My limbs these twelve long years have borne
The rage of ev’ry angry wind:
Yet still does Ozmyn weep and mourn,
Yet still no ease, no rest can find!
Then death, alas, must soon destroy
The little wand’ring Negro-boy!

No sorrow e’er disturbs the rest,
That dwells within the lonely grave;
Thou best resource, the wo-wrung breast
E’er ask’d of Heav’n, or Heav’n e’er gave!
Ah then, farewell, vain world, with joy
I die the happy Negro-boy!

Song Of Fairies Robbing An Orchard

We, the Fairies, blithe and antic,
Of dimensions not gigantic,
Though the moonshine mostly keep us,
Oft in orchards frisk and peep us.

Stolen sweets are always sweeter,
Stolen kisses much completer,
Stolen looks are nice in chapels,
Stolen, stolen, be your apples.

When to bed the world are bobbing,
Then’s the time for orchard-robbing;
Yet the fruit were scarce worth peeling,
Were it not for stealing, stealing.

On Receiving A Crown Of Ivy From John Keats

It is a lofty feeling, yet a kind,
Thus to be topped with leaves;–to have a sense
Of honour-shaded thought,–an influence
As from great nature’s fingers, and be twined
With her old, sacred, verdurous ivy-bind,
As though she hallowed with that sylvan fence
A head that bows to her benevolence,
Midst pomp of fancied trumpets in the wind.

It is what’s within us crowned. And kind and great
Are all the conquering wishes it inspires,
Love of things lasting, love of the tall woods,
Love of love’s self, and ardour for a state
Of natural good befitting such desires,
Towns without gain, and hunted solitudes.

Sudden Fine Weather

Reader! what soul that laoves a verse can see
The spring return, nor glow like you and me?
Hear the quick birds, and see the landscape fill,
Nor long to utter his melodious will?

This more than ever leaps into the veins,
When spring has been delay’d by winds and rains,
And coming with a burst, comes like a show,
Blue all above, and basking green below,
And all the people culling the sweet prime:
Then issues forth the bee to clutch the thyme,
And the bee poet rushes into rhyme.

For lo! no sooner has the cold withdrawn,
Than the bright elm is tufted on the lawn;
The merry sap has run up in the bowers,
And bursts the windows of the buds in flowers;
With song the bosoms of the birds run o’er,
The cuckoo calls, the swallow’s at the door,
And apple-tree at noon with bees alive
Burn with the golden chorus of the hive.
Now all these sweets, these sounds, this vernal blaze,
Is but one joy, express’d a thousand ways:
And honey from the flowers and song from birds
Are from the poet’s pen his oeverflowing words.

Ah friends! methinks it were a pleasant sphere,
If, like the trees, we blossom’d every year;
If locks grew thick again, and rosy dyes
Return’d in cheeks, and raciness in eyes,
And all around us, vital to the tips,
The human orchard laugh’d with cherry lips!
Lord! what a burst of merriment and play,
Fair dames, were that! and what a first of May!
So natural is the wish, that bards gone by
Have left it, all, in some immortal sigh!

And yet the winter months were not so well:
Who would like changing, as the seasons fell?
Fade every year, and stare, midst ghastly friends,
With falling hairs, and stuck-out fingers’ ends?
Besides, this tale of youth that comes again
Is no more true of apple-trees than men.
The Swedish sage, the Newton of the flow’rs,
Who first found out those worlds of paramours,
Tells us, that every blossom that we see
Boasts in its walls a separate family;
So that a tree is but a sort of stand
That holds those afilial fairies in its hand;
Just as Swift’s giant might have held a bevy
Of Lilliputian ladies, or a levee.
It is not her that blooms: it is his race,
Who honour his old arms, and hide his rugged face.

Ye wits and bards, then, pray discern your duty,
And learn the lastingness of human beauty.
Your finest fruit to some two months may reach:
I’ve known a cheek at forth like a peach.

But see! the weather calls me. Here’s a bee
Comes bounding in my room imperiously,
And talking to himself, hastily burns
About mine ear, and so in heat returns.
O little brethren of the fervid soul,
Kissers of flowers, lords of the golden bowl,
I follow to your fields and tusted brooks:
Winter’s the time to which the poet looks
For hiving his sweet thoughts, and making honied books.

Robin Hood’s Flight

Robin Hood’s mother, these twelve years now,
Has been gone from her earthly home;
And Robin has paid, he scarce knew how,
A sum for a noble tomb.

The church-yard lies on a woody hill,
But open to sun and air:
It seems as if the heaven still
Were looking and smiling there.

Often when Robin looked that way,
He looked through a sweet thin tear;
But he looked in a different manner, they say,
Towards the Abbey of Vere.

He cared not for its ill-got wealth,
He felt not for his pride;
He had youth, and strength, and health,
And enough for one beside.

But he thought of his gentle mother’s cheek
How it sunk away,
And how she used to grow more weak
And weary every day;

And how, when trying a hymn, her voice
At evening would expire,
How unlike it was the arrogant noise
Of the hard throats in the quire:

And Robin thought too of the poor,
How they toiled without their share,
And how the alms at the abbey-door
But kept them as they were:

And he thought him then of the friars again,
Who rode jingling up and down
With their trappings and things as fine as the king’s,
Though they wore but a shaven crown.

And then bold Robin he thought of the king,
How he got all his forests and deer,
And how he made the hungry swing
If they killed but one in a year.

And thinking thus, as Robin stood,
Digging his bow in the ground,
He was aware in Gamelyn Wood,
Of one who looked around.

“And what is Will doing,” said Robin then,
“That he looks so fearful and wan?”
“Oh my dear master that should have been,
I am a weary man.”

“A weary man,” said Will Scarlet, “am I;
For unless I pilfer this wood
To sell to the fletchers, for want I shall die
Here in this forest so good.

“Here in this forest where I have been
So happy and so stout,
And like a palfrey on the green
Have carried you about.”

“And why, Will Scarlet, not come to me?
Why not to Robin, Will?
For I remember thy love and thy glee,
And the scar that marks thee still;

“And not a soul of my uncle’s men
To such a pass should come,
While Robin can find in his pocket or bin
A penny or a crumb.

“Stay thee, Will Scarlet, man, stay awhile;
And kindle a fire for me.”
And into the wood for half a mile,
He has vanished instantly.

Robin Hood, with his cheek on fire,
Has drawn his bow so stern,
And a leaping deer, with one leap higher,
Lies motionless in the fern.

Robin, like a proper knight
As he should have been,
Carved a part of the shoulder right,
And bore off a portion clean.

“Oh, what hast thou done, dear master mine!
What hast thou done for me?”
“Roast it, Will, for excepting wine,
Thou shalt feast thee royally.”

And Scarlet took and half roasted it,
Blubbering with blinding tears,
And ere he had eaten a second bit,
A trampling came to their ears.

They heard the tramp of a horse’s feet,
And they listened and kept still,
For Will was feeble and knelt by the meat;
And Robin he stood by Will.

“Seize him, seize him!” the Abbot cried
With his fat voice through the trees;
Robin a smooth arrow felt and eyed,
And Will jumped stout with his knees.

“Seize him, seize him!” and now they appear
The Abbot and foresters three.
“‘Twas I,” cried Will Scarlet, “that killed the deer.”
Says Robin, “Now let not a man come near,
Or he’s dead as dead can be.”

But on they came, and with an embrace
The first one the arrow met;
And he came pitching forward and fell on his face,
Like a stumbler in the street.

The others turned to that Abbot vain,
But “seize him!” still he cried,
And as the second turned again,
An arrow was in his side.

“Seize him, seize him still, I say,”
Cried the Abbot in furious chafe,
“Or these dogs will grow so bold some day,
Even priests will not be safe.”

A fatal word! for as he sat
Urging the sword to cut,
An arrow stuck in his paunch so fat,
As in a leathern butt,

As in a leathern butt of wine;
Or dough, a household lump;
Or a pumpkin; or a good beef chine,
Stuck that arrow with a dump.

“Truly,” said Robin without fear,
Smiling there as he stood,
“Never was slain so fat a deer
In good old Gamelyn wood.”

“Pardon, pardon, Sir Robin stout,”
Said he that stood apart,
“As soon as I knew thee, I wished thee out,
Of the forest with all my heart.

“And I pray thee let me follow thee
Any where under the sky,
For thou wilt never stay here with me,
Nor without thee can I.”

Robin smiled, and suddenly fell
Into a little thought;
And then into a leafy dell,
The three slain men they brought.

Ancle deep in leaves so red,
Which autumn there had cast,
When going to her winter-bed
She had undrest her last.

And there in a hollow, side by side,
They buried them under the treen;
The Abbot’s belly, for all it’s pride,
Made not the grave be seen.

Robin Hood, and the forester,
And Scarlet the good Will,
Struck off among the green trees there
Up a pathless hill;

And Robin caught a sudden sight,
Of merry sweet Locksley town,
Reddening in the sun-set bright;
And the gentle tears came down.

Robin looked at the town and land
And the church-yard where it lay;
And poor Will Scarlet kissed his hand,
And turned his head away.

Then Robin turned with a grasp of Will’s,
And clapped him on the shoulder,
And said with one of his pleasant smiles,
“Now shew us three men bolder.”

And so they took their march away
As firm as if to fiddle,
To journey that night and all next day
With Robin Hood in the middle.

A Thought Or Two On Reading Pomfret’s

I have been reading Pomfret’s “Choice” this spring,
A pretty kind of–sort of–kind of thing,
Not much a verse, and poem none at all,
Yet, as they say, extremely natural.
And yet I know not. There’s an art in pies,
In raising crusts as well as galleries;
And he’s the poet, more or less, who knows
The charm that hallows the least truth from prose,
And dresses it in its mild singing clothes.
Not oaks alone are trees, nor roses flowers;
Much humble wealth makes rich this world of ours.
Nature from some sweet energy throws up
Alike the pine-mount and the buttercup;
And truth she makes so precious, that to paint
Either, shall shrine an artist like a saint,
And bring him in his turn the crowds that press
Round Guido’s saints or Titian’s goddesses.

Our trivial poet hit upon a theme
Which all men love, an old, sweet household dream:–
Pray, reader, what is yours?–I know full well
What sort of home should grace my garden-bell,–
No tall, half-furnish’d, gloomy, shivering house,
That worst of mountains labouring with a mouse;
Nor should I choose to fill a tawdry niche in
A Grecian temple, opening to a kitchen.
The frogs in Homer should have had such boxes,
Or Aesop’s frog, whose heart was like the ox’s.
Such puff about high roads, so grand, so small,
With wings and what not, portico and all,
And poor drench’d pillars, which it seems a sin
Not to mat up at night-time, or take in.
I’d live in none of those. Nor would I have
Veranda’d windows to forestall my grave;
Veranda’d truly, from the northern heat!
And cut down to the floor to comfort one’s cold feet!
My house should be of brick, more wide than high,
With sward up to the path, and elm-trees nigh;
A good old country lodge, half hid with blooms
Of honied green, and quaint with straggling rooms,
A few of which, white-bedded and well swept,
For friends, whose name endear’d them, should be kept.
The tip-toe traveller, peeping through the boughs
O’er my low wall, should bless the pleasant house:
And that my luck might not seem ill-bestow’d,
A bench and spring should greet him on the road.

My grounds should not be large. I like to go
To Nature for a range, and prospect too,
And cannot fancy she’d comprise for me,
Even in a park, her all-sufficiency.
Besides, my thoughts fly far, and when at rest
Love not a watch-tow’r but a lulling nest.
A Chiswick or a Chatsworth might, I grant,
Visit my dreams with an ambitious want;
But then I should be forc’d to know the weight
Of splendid cares, new to my former state;
And these ‘twould far more fit me to admire,
Borne by the graceful ease of noblest Devonshire.
Such grounds, however, as I had should look
Like “something” still; have seats, and walks, and brook;
One spot for flowers, the rest all turf and trees;
For I’d not grow my own bad lettuces.
I’d build a cover’d path too against rain,
Long, peradventure, as my whole domain,
And so be sure of generous exercise,
The youth of age and med’cine of the wise.
And this reminds me, that behind some screen
About my grounds, I’d have a bowling-green;
Such as in wits’ and merry women’s days
Suckling preferr’d before his walk of bays.
You may still see them, dead as haunts of fairies,
By the old seats of Killigrews and Careys,
Where all, alas! is vanish’d from the ring,
Wits and black eyes, the skittles and the king!
Fishing I hate, because I think about it,
Which makes it right that I should do without it.
A dinner, or a death, might not be much,
But cruelty’s a rod I dare not touch.
I own I cannot see my right to feel
For my own jaws, and tear a trout’s with steel;
To troll him here and there, and spike, and strain,
And let him loose to jerk him back again.
Fancy a preacher at this sort of work,
Not with his trout or gudgeon, but his clerk:
The clerk leaps gaping at a tempting bit,
And, hah! an ear-ache with a knife in it!
That there is pain and evil is no rule
That I should make it greater, like a fool;
Or rid me of my rust so vile a way,
As long as there’s a single manly play.
Nay, “fool”‘s a word my pen unjustly writes,
Knowing what hearts and brains have dozed o’er “bites”;
But the next inference to be drawn might be,
That higher beings made a trout of me;
Which I would rather should not be the case,
Though Isaak were the saint to tear my face,
And, stooping from his heaven with rod and line,
Made the fell sport, with his old dreams divine,
As pleasant to his taste, as rough to mine.
Such sophistry, no doubt, saves half the hell,
But fish would have preferr’d his reasoning well,
And, if my gills concern’d him, so should I.
The dog, I grant, is in that “equal sky,”
But, heaven be prais’d, he’s not my deity.
All manly games I’d play at,–golf and quoits,
And cricket, to set lungs and limbs to rights,
And make me conscious, with a due respect,
Of muscles one forgets by long neglect.
With these, or bowls aforesaid, and a ride,
Books, music, friends, the day I would divide,
Most with my family, but when alone,
Absorb’d in some new poem of my own,
A task which makes my time so richly pass,
So like a sunshine cast through painted glass
(Save where poor Captain Sword crashes the panes),
That cold my friends live too, and were the gains
Of toiling men but freed from sordid fears,
Well could I walk this earth a thousand years.

The Field Of Battle

The Deed of Blood is o’er!
And, hark, the Trumpet’s mournful breath
Low murmurs round it a Note of Death—
The Mighty are no more!

How solemn slow that distant Groan!—
O, could AMBITION, wild with fear,
The deep prophetic Warning hear,
And, looking, listning vain around
For one soul-soothing, softer sound,
While near, unseen, the Fiends of Hell
Toll round the wretch his fancied Knell,
Rave all alone!

But, hark, soft Plaints arise!—
Friendship, adieu; farewel, soft Love!
I go to smiling Peace above:—
The Friend, the Lover dies!

Yet, happy Soul to Freedom giv’n,
Go where no proud tyrannic Lord
Drives Man upon his Brother’s sword;
Where Angels from thine arms shall tear
The Chains AMBITION bade thee wear;
Where, on the once pale Cheek of Woe,
In Smiles immortal, Roses blow—
The Bloom of Heav’n!

Bellman’s Verses For 1814

Huzza, my boys! our friends the Dutch have risen,
Our good old friends, and burst the Tyrant’s prison!
Aye, and have done it without bloodshed too,
Like men, to sense as well as freedom true.
The moment, I’ll be sworn, that Ocean heard it,
With a new dance of waters it bestirr’d it;
And Trade, reviving from her trance of death,
Took a new lease of sunshine and of breath.
Let’s aid them, my fine fellows, all we can:—
Where’s finer business for an Englishman—
Who knows what ’tis to eat his own good bread,
And see his table-cloth securely spread—
Than helping to set free a neighbour’s oven?
Huzza! The Dutch for ever! Orange Boven!

The Plate Of Gold

One day there fell in great Benares’ temple-court
A wondrous plate of gold, whereon these words were writ;
‘To him who loveth best, a gift from Heaven.’
The priests made proclamation: ‘At the midday hour,
Each day, let those assemble who for virtue deem
their right to Heaven’s gift the best; and we will hear
the deeds of mercy done, and so adjudge.’
The news
ran swift as light, and soon from every quarter came
nobles and munshis, hermits, scholars, holy men,
and all renowned for gracious or for splendid deeds,
meanwhile the priests in solemn council sat and heard
what each had done to merit best the gift of Heaven.
So for a year the claimants came and went.
At last,
after a patient weighing of the worth of all,
the priests bestowed the plate of gold on one who seemed,
the largest lover of the race – whose whole estate,
within the year had been parted among the poor.
This man, all trembling with his joy, advanced to take
the golden plate-when lo! at his finger’s first touch
it changed to basest lead! All stood aghast; but when
the hapless claimant dropt it clanging on the floor,
Heaven’s guerdon was again transformed to shining gold.
So for another twelve month sat he priests and judged.
Thrice they awarded-thrice did Heaven refuse the gift.
Meanwhile a host of poor, maimed beggars in the street
lay all about the temple gate, in hope to move
that love whereby each claimant hoped to win the gift
and well for them it was (if gold be charity),
for every pilgrim to the temple gate praised God.
that love might thus approve itself before the test,
and so coins rained freely in the outstretched hands;
but none of those who gave, so much as turned to look
into the poor sad eyes of them that begged.
And now
The second year had almost passed, but still the plate
of gold, by whomsoever touched was turned to lead.
At length there came a simple peasant-not aware
of that strange contest for the gift of God-to pay
a vow within the temple. As he passed along
the line of shrivelled beggars, all his soul was moved
within him to sweet pity, and the tears well up
and trembled in his eyes.
Now by the temple gate
there lay a poor, sore creature, blind, and shunned by all;
but when the peasant came, and saw the sightless face
and trembling, maimed hands he could not pass, but knelt,
and took both palms in his, and softly said: ‘O thou,
my brother! bear the trouble bravely. God is good.’
The he arose and walked straightway across the court,
and entered where they wrangled of their deeds of love
before the priests.
A while he listened sadly; then
had turned away; but something moved the priest who held
the plate of gold to beckon to the peasant. So
he came, not understanding and obeyed, and stretched
his hand and took the sacred vessel. Lo! it shone
with thrice its former lustre, and amazed them all!
‘Son’, cried the priest, ‘rejoice, the gift of God is thine.
Thou lovest best!’ And all made answer, ‘It is well.’
And, one by one, departed. But the peasant knelt
and prayed, bowing his head above the golden plate;
while o’er his soul like morning streamed the love of God.

On The Same (On Receiving A Crown Of Ivy From Keats)

It is a lofty feeling, yet a kind,
Thus to be topped with leaves; — to have a sense
Of honour-shaded thought,– an influence
As from great nature’s fingers, and be twined
With her old, sacred, verdurous ivy-bind,
As though she hallowed with that sylvan fence
A head that bows to her benevolence,
Midst pomp of fancied trumpets in the wind.
It is what’s within us crowned. And kind and great
Are all the conquering wishes it inspires,
Love of things lasting, love of the tall woods,
Love of love’s self, and ardour for a state
Of natural good befitting such desires,
Towns without gain, and hunted solitudes.

To A Fish

You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be,–
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste:–

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
What is’t ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?

To The Grasshopper And The Cricket

Green little vaulter in the sunny grass,
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that’s heard amidst the lazy noon,
When even the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song:
Indoors and out, summer and winter,–Mirth.

Ariadne Waking

The moist and quiet morn was scarcely breaking,
When Ariadne in her bower was waking;
Her eyelids still were closing, and she heard
But indistinctly yet a little bird,
That in the leaves o’erhead, waiting the sun,
Seemed answering another distant one.
She waked, but stirred not, only just to please
Her pillow-nestling cheek; while the full seas,
The birds, the leaves, the lulling love o’ernight
The happy thought of the returning light,
The sweet, self-willed content, conspired to keep
Her senses lingering in the feel of sleep;
And with a little smile she seemed to say,
“I know my love is near me, and ’tis day.”

The Olive Of Peace

Now sheath’d is the Sword that was wild as the blast:
The Tempest of Slaughter and Terror is past;
Old ALBION her Neighbour all smilingly hails—
For the OLIVE of PEACE blooms again in our Vales!
Beam on the day,
Thou Olive gay:
‘Matchless is he
Who planted thee;
And mayst thou like him immortal be!’

Divinest of Olives, O, never was seen
A bloom so enchanting, a verdure so green!
Sweet, sweet do thy Beauties entwiningly smile
In the Vine-tree of France and the Oak of our Isle!
Beam on the day,
Thou Olive gay, &c.

Long, long did thy envied Exotic delay,
‘Till the voice of HUMANITY charm’d thee away;
And here, ever here mayst thou bloom in repose,
As firm as our Oak-tree, and gay as the Rose!
Bloom on the day,
Thou Olive gay, &c.

Let ALCIDES his Poplar of Majesty prize,
And VENUS her Myrtle exalt to the skies:
FRANCE and ALBION excell all the Gods of old Greece—
For they crown their wise heads with the OLIVE of PEACE!
Bloom on the day,
Thou Olive gay, &c.

The delicate Lily may gracefully mount,
And the Pink all her charms with the Rainbow recount;
Green, green is the Olive on ALBION’S brow,
And the Lily and Pink to the Olive must bow!
Bloom on the day,
Thou Olive gay, &c.

Thou Olive divine, may Eternity’s Sun
Beam warm where thy roots thro’ the ages shall run;
The Dew of Affection ‘light soft where they twine,
And the Love of an Universe stamp thee divine!
Bloom on the day,
Thou Olive gay:
‘Matchless was he
Who planted thee;
And mayst thou like him immortal be!’

To Robert Batty, M.D., On His Giving Me A Lock Of Milton’s Hair

It lies before me there, and my own breath
Stirs its thin outer threads, as though beside
The living head I stood in honoured pride,
Talking of lovely things that conquer death.
Perhaps he pressed it once, or underneath
Ran his fine fingers when he leant, blank-eyed,
And saw in fancy Adam and his bride
With their heaped locks, or his own Delphic wreath.

There seems a love in hair, though it be dead.
It is the gentlest, yet the strongest thread
Of our frail plant,–a blossom from the tree
Surviving the proud trunk; as if it said,
Patience and gentleness in power. In me
Behold affectionate eternity.

To John Keats

‘Tis well you think me truly one of those,
Whose sense discerns the loveliness of things;
For surely as I feel the bird that sings
Behind the leaves, or dawn as it up grows,
Or the rich bee rejoicing as he goes,
Or the glad issue of emerging springs,
Or overhead the glide of a dove’s wings,
Or turf, or trees, or, midst of all, repose.
And surely as I feel things lovelier still,
The human look, and the harmonious form
Containing woman, and the smile in ill,
And such a heart as Charles’s, wise and warm,–
As surely as all this, I see, ev’n now,
Young Keats, a flowering laurel on your brow.

To A Child During Sickness

SLEEP breathes at last from out thee,
My little patient boy;
And balmy rest about thee
Smooths off the day’s annoy.
I sit me down, and think
Of all thy winning ways;
Yet almost wish, with sudden shrink,
That I had less to praise.

Thy sidelong pillowed meekness;
Thy thanks to all that aid;
Thy heart, in pain and weakness,
Of fancied faults afraid;
The little trembling hand
That wipes thy quiet tears,—
These, these are things that may demand
Dread memories for years.

Sorrows I ‘ve had, severe ones,
I will not think of now;
And calmly, midst my dear ones,
Have wasted with dry brow;
But when thy fingers press
And pat my stooping head,
I cannot bear the gentleness,—
The tears are in their bed.

Ah, first-born of thy mother,
When life and hope were new;
Kind playmate of thy brother,
Thy sister, father too;
My light, where’er I go;
My bird, when prison-bound;
My hand-in-hand companion—No,
My prayers shall hold thee round.

To say, “He has departed”—
“His voice”—”his face”—is gone,
To feel impatient-hearted,
Yet feel we must bear on,—
Ah, I could not endure
To whisper of such woe,
Unless I felt this sleep insure
That it will not be so.

Yes, still he ‘s fixed, and sleeping!
This silence too the while,—
Its very hush and creeping
Seem whispering us a smile;
Something divine and dim
Seems going by one’s ear,
Like parting wings of cherubim,
Who say, “We ‘ve finished here.”

Walcheren Expedition

Ye brave, enduring Englishmen,
Who dash through fire and flood,
And spend with equal thoughtlessness
Your money and your blood,
I sing of that black season,
Which all true hearts deplore,
When ye lay,
Night and day,
Upon Walcheren’s swampy shore.

‘Twas in the summer’s sunshine
Your mighty host set sail,
With valour in each longing heart
And vigour in the gale;
The Frenchman dropp’d his laughter,
The Fleming’s thoughts grew sore,
As ye came
In your fame
To the dark and swampy shore.

But foul delays encompass’d ye
More dang’rous than the foe,
As Antwerp’s town and its guarded fleet
Too well for Britons know;
One spot alone ye conquer’d
With hosts unknown of yore;
And your might
Day and night,
Lay still on the swampy shore.

In vain your dauntless mariners
Mourn’d ev’ry moment lost,
In vain your soldiers threw their eyes
In flame to the hostile coast;
The fire of gallant aspects
Was doom’d to be no more,
And your fame
Sunk with shame
In the dark and the swampy shore.

Ye died not in the triumphing
Of the battle-shaken flood,
Ye died not on the charging field
In the mingle of brave blood;
But ’twas in wasting fevers
Full three months and more,
Britons born,
Pierc’d with scorn,
Lay at rot on the swampy shore.

No ship came o’er to bring relief,
No orders came to save;
But DEATH stood there and never stirr’d,
Still counting for the grave.
They lay down, and they linger’d,
And died with feelings sore,
And the waves
Pierc’d their graves
Thro’ the dark and the swampy shore.

Oh England! Oh my Countrymen!
Ye ne’er shall thrive again,
Till freed from Councils obstinate
Of mercenary men.
So toll for the six thousand
Whose miseries are o’er,
Where the deep,
To their sleep,
Bemoans on the swampy shore.