The Poet's Ministers

by Frances Fuller Victor


Oh, my soul! the draught is bitter

Yet it must be sweetly drunken:

Heart and soul! the grinding fetter

Galls, yet have ye never shrunken:

Heart and soul, and pining spirit,

Fail me not! no coward weakness

Such as ye are should inherit--

Be ye strong even in your meekness.

Born were ye to these strange uses,

To brief joy and crushing ill,

To small good and great abuses;

Yet oh, yield not, till they kill.

The stag wounded runneth steady

With his blood in streams a-gushing;

Soul and spirit, be ye ready

For the arrows toward ye rushing.


Now what ails our gentle friend?

In his eye a meaning double,

Sorrow and defiance blend--

Let us soothe him of his trouble.

Poet! do not pass us by:

See how we are robed to meet you;

Heed you not our perfumed sigh?

Heed you not how sweet we greet you?

Ever since the breath of morn

We have waited for your coming,

Fearing when the bee's dull horn

Round our quiet bower was humming:

We have kept our sweets for thee--

Poet, do not pass us by:

Place us on thy breast, for see!

By the sunset we must die.


Bathe thy pale face in the flood

Which overflows this crystal fountain,

Then to rouse thy sluggish blood,

Seek its source far up the mountain.

Note thou how the stream doth sing

Its soft carol, low and light,

To the jagged rocks that fling

Mildew shadows, black and blight.

Learn a lesson from the stream,

Poet! though thy path may lie

Hid forever from the gleam

Of the blue and sunny sky,--

Though thy way be steep and long,

Sing thou still a cheerful song!


Come sister spirits, touch his eyelids newly,

With that rare juice whose magic power it is,

To give the rose-hue to those things which truly

Wear the sad livery of ugliness.

Oh, dignify the office of the meanest

Of all God's manifold created things;

And sprinkle his heart's wounds with the serenest

Waters of sweetness, from our fabled springs.

Oh, close him round with visions of all rareness,

Make him see everything with smiling eye;

Let all his dreams be unsurpassed for fairness,

And what we feign out-charm reality.

Come, sister spirits, up and do your duty;

When the Poet pines, feast his soul with beauty.


Let us wave our branches gently

With a murmur low and loving;

He will say we sang him quaintly

Some old ballad, sweetly moving.

'Tis of all the ways the surest

To awake a poet's fancies,

For he loves these things the purest--

Sigh of leaves, and scent of pansies.

He has loved us, we will love him,

And will cheer his hour of sadness,

Spirits, wave your boughs above him

To a measure of soft gladness.


Ye gentle ministers, ye have done well,

But 'tis for love that most the poet pineth,

And till I spell him with my magic spell,

In vain for him earth smiles or heaven shineth.

Behold I touch his heart, and there upspring

Blooms to his cheeks, and flashes to his eyes;

His scornful lips upon the instant sing,

And all his pulses leap with ecstasies.

'Tis love the poet wants; he cannot live

Without caressing and without caress,

Which all to charity his fellows give;

But I will wrap his soul in tenderness,

And straightway from his lips will burst a song

All loving hearts shall echo and prolong.


O Earth, and Sky, and Flowers, and Streams agushing,

God made ye beautiful to make us blest:

O bright-winged Songsters through the blue air rushing;

O murmuring Tree-tops, by the winds carest;

O Waves of Ocean, Ripples of the River,

O Dew and Fragrance, Sunlight, and Starbeam,

O blessed summer-sounds that round me quiver,

Delights impassable that round me teem--

Oh all things beautiful! God made ye so

That the glad hearts of men might overflow!

O Soul within me, whose wings sweep a lyre--

God gave thee song that thou might'st give him praise;

O Heart that glows with the Promethean fire,

O Spirit whose fine chords some influence plays:

O all sweet thoughts and beautiful emotions,

O smiles and tears, and trembling and delight,

Have ye not all part in the soul's devotions,

To help it swell its anthem's happy height?

Spirit of Love, of God, of inspiration,

The poet's glad heart bursts in acclamation!


Ring every flower-bell on the wind,

And let each insect louder sing;

Let elfin "joy be unconfined;"

And let the laughing fairies bring

A wreath enchanted, and to bind

Upon the Poet's worthy brow

Heartsease and laurel, and a kind

Of valley lily, white as snow;

And fresh May-roses, branching long--

Braid all these in a garland gay,

To crown the Poet for his song,

Sung in our haunts this summer day!