Henry Kirke White (1785-1806)

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To Consumption

Gently, most gently on thy victim's head,
Consumption, lay thine hand! Let me decay
Like the expiring lamp, unseen, away,
And softly go to slumber with the dead!
And if it is true what holy men have said
That strains angelic oft foretell the day
Of death to those good men who fall thy prey,
O let the aërial music round my bed,
Dissolving slow in dying symphony,
Whisper the solemn warnings to my ear:
That I may bid my weeping friends good-bye
Ere I depart upon my journey drear;
And, smiling faintly on the painful past,
Compose my decent head and breathe my last.

The Bitter Cup

Yes, it will be over soon.--This sickly dream
Of life will vanish from my feverish brain;
And death my wearied spirit will redeem
From this wild region of unvaried pain.

Yon brook will glide as softly as before,
Yon landscape smile,--yon golden harvest grow,
Yon sprightly lark on mounting wing will soar
When Henry's name is heard no more below.

I sigh when all my youthful friends caress,
They laugh in health, and future evils brave;
Them shall a wife and smiling children bless,
While I am mouldering in my silent grave.

God of the just, Thou gavest the bitter cup;
I bow to Thy behest, and drink it up.

The Dark Woodland

As thus oppressed with many a heavy care
(Though young yet sorrowful), I turn my feet
To the dark woodland, longing much to greet
The form of peace, if chance she sojourn there;
Deep thought and dismal, verging to despair,
Fills my sad breast; and tired with this vain coil
I shrink dismayed before life's upland toil,
And as amid the leaves the evening air
Whispers still melody,
                                   --I think, ere long
When I no more can hear, these woods will speak;
And then a sad smile plays upon my cheek,
And mournful fantasies upon me throng,
And I do ponder with most strange delight
On the calm slumbers of the dead man's night.

To Misfortune

Misfortune, I am young, my chin is bare,
And I have wondered much when men have told
How youth was free from sorrow and from care,
That thou shouldst dwell with me and leave the old.
Sure dost not like me!--Shrivelled hag of hate,
My phiz--and thanks to thee--is sadly long;
I am not either, beldame, over strong;
Nor do I wish at all to be thy mate,
For thou, sweet fury, art my utter hate.
Nay, shake not thus thy miserable pate
I am yet young, and do not like thy face;
And lest thou shouldst resume the wild-goose chase
I'll tell thee something all thy heat to assuage
Thou wilt not hit my fancy in my age.

In Reply to the XXXII Sonnet

Let the sublimer Muse, who wrapt in night
Rides on the raven pennons of the storm,
Or o'er the field with purple havock warm
Lashes her steeds and sings along the fight,--
Let her, whom more ferocious strains delight,
Disdain the plaintive sonnet's little form,
And scorn to its mild cadence to conform
The impetuous tenor of her hardy flight.

But me, far lowliest of the sylvan train
Who wake the wood-nymphs from the forest shade
With wildest song,--me much behooves the aid
Of mingled melody, to grace my strain,
And give it power to please, as soft it flows
Through the smooth murmurs of thy frequent close.