The Inspiration of Song

by Isabella Valancy Crawford

Isabella Valancy Crawford

Her turret hung above a glassy lake,
And in all ages changeless thus had stood;
About its foot, dark laurels and a brake
Of gleaming bay eternal zephyrs wooed.
Up by the battlements there climbed a vine
Gemmed with great roses that the eye of morn
Looked on the birth of, but there came no time
That saw them die or one bright petal shorn.

Centuries that on the world breathed but decay
Wheeled their slow flight, and from their heavy wings
Smote on its walls a light that paled the day,
A light such as illumined diamond flings.
Sheer from a bank of violets sprang the walls,
And climbed from thence above the lordliest trees,
Until their hoary foreheads caught the rose
And gold of far-off Heaven; and the breeze.

Swept from the Spirit city harmonies,
Faint voiced thro' starry distances, that fell
In stronger echoes from the rocky walls
And swept abroad o'er city, moor and dell,
And by a casement brightening in the wall,
With fine-flamed diamonds latticed, sat the Queen,
From age to age more beautiful, and looked
To where a road the bay trees wound between.

Whiter than whitest dove her flowing robe
Of precious samite, and the border round
Glowed with all rarest gems of every hue;
And at her feet, crouched on the pearly ground,
A tawny lion, with a mane that tossed
In golden tempests round his awful eyes,
Lay placid, as her pointed fingers struck
From her tall lyre a sound of Paradise.

Her deep and lambent eyes were ever fixed
On the white road that glimmered far below;
The immortal roses glowed about her head;
A starry radiance shook above her brow.
Along the road, that was no common way,
But led to heights where fanes, all bathed in light,
Held thrones for those that won, pilgrims there passed
In humblest weed or gorgeously bedight.

As passed each one beneath the towering wall,
And raised his dazzled gaze to woo her eyes
That at the casement sat, she brake a rose
And breathed upon it till its crimson dyes
Leaped into warmer fire. "Take it," she sang, and cast
It, meteor-glancing, to the outstretched hand
Of him below; and so content he passed
And journeyed to the distant-lying land.

And each one bore a lyre, and some that caught
The Queen's fair flower placed it on the breast;
Then warbling strains breathed from the lyre and sang
Of Love, of sweet-eyed Love, fair Joy and Rest.
And some there were that twined the flower amid
Cold gems that twinkled on the high, pale brow;
Then burst the lyre to trumpet tones and sang
Of power, high deeds, and Fame's eternal glow.

And some there were that crushed the flower between
Gross palms that burned and sapped its charmèd life;
Then fire-eyed Madness struck the clanging strings,
Charmed Vice to fairer form, more vivid life.
And rife the world became with demons masked
In seraph brightness; and so toward the fanes
That held the thrones the pilgrims, singing, passed
Across the mighty glories of the plains.

Last updated February 14, 2024