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        POESY, AN ODE

Soul of the universe, bright Poesy!
Thy spirit vivifies, and, like the blast
That’s burning in the desert swiftly free,
In its course all inflames where it has past.
Happy the man who feels within his breast
The fire celestial purely is possess’d!
For that to worth, to virtue elevates,
And to his view makes smile the shadowy forms
Confused of joys to come, and future fates:
Of cruel fortune ’gainst the gathering storms
It shields him, causing him to dwell among
The beings of his own creation bright:
It arms him daringly with wings of light,
And to the world invisible along
Bears him, to wondering mortals to unseal
The mysteries which the horrid depths reveal.

High inspiration! O, what hours of joy,
Deep and ineffable, without alloy,
Hast thou benign conceded to my breast!
On summer nights, with brilliant hues impress’d,
’Tis sweet to break with sounding prow the wave
Of the dark surging sea, which shows behind
A lengthen’d streak of light the current gave.
’Tis sweet to bound where lofty mountains wind,
Or on thy steed to scour along the plain;
But sweeter to my fiery soul ’tis far
To feel myself whirl’d forward in the train
Of thy wild torrent, and as with a star
The brow deck’d proudly, hear thy oracles
Divine; and to repeat them, as of old
Greece listen’d mute to those from Delphic cells
The favour’d priestess of Apollo told;
While she with sacred horror would unfold
The words prophetic, trembling to refer
To the consuming god that frenzied her.

There is of life a spirit that pervades
The universe divine: ’tis he who shades
All Nature’s loveliest scenes with majesty,
And glory greater: beauty’s self ’tis he,
Who robes with radiant mantle, and endows
Her eye with language eloquent, while flows
Soft music from her voice; ’tis he who lends
To her the magic irresistible,
And fatal, which her smile and look attends,
Making men mad and drunk beneath her spell.

If on the marble’s sleeping forms he breathe,
To life they start the chisel’s touch beneath:
In Phædra, Tancred, Zorayde he wrings
The heart within us deep; or softly brings
Love-fraught delight, as do their strains inspire
Anacreon, or Tibullus, or the lyre
Of our Melendez, sweetest languishings.
Or wrapt in thunder snatches us away
With Pindar, or Herrera, or thy lay,
Illustrious Quintana! to the heights,
Where virtue, and where glory too invites.
By him compels us Tasso to admire
Clorinda; Homer fierce Achilles’ ire;
And Milton, elevated all beyond,
His direful angel, arm’d of diamond.

O’er all, though invisible, this spirit dwells;
But from ethereal mansions he descends
To show himself to men, and thus portends
His steps the night rain, and the thunder tells.
There have I seen him: or perhaps serene
In the sun’s beam, he wanders to o’erflow
Heaven, earth and sea, in waves of golden glow.
On music’s accent trembles he unseen;
And solitude he loves, he lists attent
The waters’ rush in headlong fury sent:
The wandering Arabs o’er their sands he leads,
And through their agitated breasts inspires
A feeling undefined, but great to deeds
Of desperate and wild liberty that fires.
With joy he sits upon the mountain heights,
Or thence descends, to mirror in the deep,
In crystal fixedness, or animates
The tempest with his cries along to sweep:
Or if its clear and sparkling veil extend
The night, upon the lofty poop reclined,
With ecstasy delights to inspire his mind,
Who raptured views the skies with ocean blend.

Noble and lovely is the ardour felt
For glory! for its laurel pants my heart;
And I would fain, this world when I depart,
Of my steps leave deep traces where I dwelt.
This of thy favour, spirit most divine!
I well may hope, for that eternal lives
Thy glowing flame, and life eternal gives.
Mortals, whom fate gave genius forth to shine,
Haste anxious to the sacred fount, where flows
Thy fiery inspiration; but bestows
The world unworthy guerdon on their pains:
While them a mortal covering enshrouds,
Obscure they wander through the listless crowds;
Contempt and indigence their lot remains,
Perchance ev’n impious mockery all their gains:
At length they die, and their souls take the road
Of the great fount of light whence first they flow’d;
And then, in spite of envy, o’er their tomb
A sterile laurel buds, ay, buds and grows,
And thus protects the ashes in the gloom,
’Neath its immortal shade; but vainly shows
To teach men justice. Ages onward fleet
The lamentable drama to repeat,
Without regret or shame. Homer! thou divine,
Milton sublime, unhappy Tasso thine,
The fate to tell it. Genius yet the while
Faces misfortune undismayed; his ears
Dwell only on the applauses to beguile,
His songs will happy gain in future years;
His glory, his misfortunes will excite
Sweet sympathy; posterity will requite
Justice against their sires, who thus condemn
Him now to grief and misery, shame on them!
From his tomb he will reign; his cherish’d name
Will beauty with respect and sighs proclaim.
On her eye gleams the bright and precious tear
His burning pages then will draw from her,
Kind-hearted loveliness! he sees it near;
His heart beats, he is moved; and strong to incur
The cruelty and injustice, is consoled;
And waiting thus his triumph to obtain,
Enjoying it, though but in death to hold,
Flies his Creator’s bosom to regain.

O, sweet illusion! who has had the power
To save himself from thee, who was not born
Than the cold marble, or the rough trunk lower?
With ardour I embrace, and wait thee lorn.
Yet of my Muse perchance some happier strains
Will me survive, and my sepulchral stone
Will not be left to tell of me alone!
Perhaps my name, which rancour now detains
Proscribed, will yet resound o’er Cuba’s plains,
On the swift trumpet of enduring fame!
Correggio, when he saw his canvas flame
With life, «a painter», it was his to cry,
«I also am!» —A poet too am I.

(Diciembre de 1820)


José María Heredia
Translation by James Kennedy

¿Se tendrá por extravagancia esta tentativa para expresar el espíritu poético? — (Nota del autor, Edic. 1825).

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Poesías filosóficas y morales
español Original version

James Kennedy. "Modern poets and poetry of Spain" (1860). Produced by Cornell University Library, 1992.