Sagas of Vaster Britain: Poems of the Race, the Empire and the Divinity of Man

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

THE VIOLIN


 

YEA, take all else, my life, or what you will,
But leave me this. What is it unto you?
A few thin shrivelled bits of carven wood,
Time-stained and polished, curved to curious form,
With strings to scrape on that a man might buy
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For a few farthings. You say ’tis a Cremona?
’Tis naught to you or others, but to me
My joy, my life! Once more my hand grows strong
To clasp its curves and feel its soul vibrate
Throughout my being; for, believe me true,
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It is mine other self. Yea, sit and hearken,
And I will make it speak, yea, sing and sob,
And weep and laugh and throb its strings along
The gamut of the passions of this life.
For here dwell melodies that Mozart played,
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When he would call the angels of heaven down
Along the golden ladders of his dreams.
Here sleep those notes vibrate wherewith Beethoven
Did open up those tragic wells of music,
And loose the prisoned ministers of sound;
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Wedding them to harmonies such as never
Before or after, save God or angel, heard.
Here pulse those magic dances that throb through
The sensate universe, keeping it in tune,
Warming the sunlight, blueing the azure of heaven,
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Swaying the tides to harmonies of the moon:—
That stir those demon revellers of the deep,
And charm the rages of those ruined souls
’Mid horrored wakings of their eternal sleep.
Hark now the tender melodies of this song.
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It is a charm-song stolen from fairyland,
Filled brim with spicèd melodies of sleep.

Now ’tis the rest of night, the breathing woods,
The dewy hush of dawn, the peace of even,
Or slumber of noonday, ’tis an infant’s breath;

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Till higher, shriller, it strikes the notes of woe,
The harsh, discordant clangour of human strife:—
Then louder, stronger, to the strident note,
The echoing, vibrant clarion horn,
Or brazen trumpets, with their blatant throats,
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Bugling along the battlements of the world.—
Ah, God! it breaks in discord,—I have done.

I am degraded, old, I go in rags;—
The children cry at me along the streets;
Your lords and ladies shudder and scorn me by;

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Your glittering palaces are barred against me;
Your power and splendour alien to my life:—
But what is wealth to him who holds my riches,
What splendour to the splendours that I draw
From out this shrivelled universe of sound?
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’Tis nothing but a bit of withered wood,
Cunningly built, and welded into shape,
With some few strings a groat or so might buy.—
But when I die I will beg them place it near me,
Within my coffin, close here to my heart;
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That through the long, lone autumn night of death,
My spirit may vibrate to its living strings,
Immortal with the chords that Mozart struck,
That Paganini played, Beethoven rang.

And when I wake, if ever there be waking,

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Beyond that awful sleep that follows life,
My soul will wing to heaven on its strings,—
For did I know, how could I plead with God
Without its melodies to voice my love,
And heaven no heaven without my violin.
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