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Hymn To The Penates

Written by: Robert Southey | Biography
 | Quotes (21) |
 Yet one Song more! one high and solemn strain
Ere PAEAN! on thy temple's ruined wall
I hang the silent harp: there may its strings,
When the rude tempest shakes the aged pile,
Make melancholy music.
One Song more! PENATES! hear me! for to you I hymn The votive lay.
Whether, as sages deem, Ye dwell in the inmost Heaven, the COUNSELLORS Of JOVE; or if, SUPREME OF DEITIES, All things are yours, and in your holy train JOVE proudly ranks, and JUNO, white arm'd Queen.
And wisest of Immortals, aweful Maid ATHENIAN PALLAS.
Venerable Powers! Hearken your hymn of praise! tho' from your rites Estranged, and exiled from your altars long, I have not ceased to love you, HOUSEHOLD GODS! In many a long and melancholy hour Of solitude and sorrow, has my heart With earnest longings prayed to rest at length Beside your hallowed hearth--for PEACE is there! Yes I have loved you long.
I call on you Yourselves to witness with what holy joy, Shunning the polished mob of human kind, I have retired to watch your lonely fires And commune with myself.
Delightful hours That gave mysterious pleasure, made me know All the recesses of my wayward heart, Taught me to cherish with devoutest care Its strange unworldly feelings, taught me too The best of lessons--to respect myself! Nor have I ever ceas'd to reverence you DOMESTIC DEITIES! from the first dawn Of reason, thro' the adventurous paths of youth Even to this better day, when on mine ear The uproar of contending nations sounds, But like the passing wind--and wakes no pulse To tumult.
When a child--(for still I love To dwell with fondness on my childish years, Even as that Persian favorite would retire From the court's dangerous pageantry and pomp, To gaze upon his shepherd garb, and weep, Rememb'ring humble happiness.
) When first A little one, I left my father's home, I can remember the first grief I felt, And the first painful smile that cloathed my front With feelings not its own: sadly at night I sat me down beside a stranger's hearth; And when the lingering hour of rest was come, First wet with tears my pillow.
As I grew In years and knowledge, and the course of Time Developed the young feelings of my heart, When most I loved in solitude to rove Amid the woodland gloom; or where the rocks Darken'd old Avon's stream, in the ivied cave Recluse to sit and brood the future song, Yet not the less, PENATES, loved I then Your altars, not the less at evening hour Delighted by the well-trimm'd fire to sit, Absorbed in many a dear deceitful dream Of visionary joys: deceitful dreams-- Not wholly vain--for painting purest joys, They form'd to Fancy's mould her votary's heart.
By Cherwell's sedgey side, and in the meads Where Isis in her calm clear stream reflects The willow's bending boughs, at earliest dawn In the noon-tide hour, and when the night-mists rose, I have remembered you: and when the noise Of loud intemperance on my lonely ear Burst with loud tumult, as recluse I sat, Pondering on loftiest themes of man redeemed From servitude, and vice, and wretchedness, I blest you, HOUSEHOLD GODS! because I loved Your peaceful altars and serener rites.
Nor did I cease to reverence you, when driven Amid the jarring crowd, an unfit man To mingle with the world; still, still my heart Sighed for your sanctuary, and inly pined; And loathing human converse, I have strayed Where o'er the sea-beach chilly howl'd the blast, And gaz'd upon the world of waves, and wished That I were far beyond the Atlantic deep, In woodland haunts--a sojourner with PEACE.
Not idly fabled they the Bards inspired, Who peopled Earth with Deities.
They trod The wood with reverence where the DRYADS dwelt; At day's dim dawn or evening's misty hour They saw the OREADS on their mountain haunts.
And felt their holy influence, nor impure Of thought--or ever with polluted hands Touched they without a prayer the NAIAD'S spring; Yet was their influence transient; such brief awe Inspiring as the thunder's long loud peal Strikes to the feeble spirit.
HOUSEHOLD GODS, Not such your empire! in your votaries' breasts No momentary impulse ye awake-- Nor fleeting like their local energies, The deep devotion that your fanes impart.
O ye whom YOUTH has wilder'd on your way, Or VICE with fair-mask'd foulness, or the lure Of FAME that calls ye to her crowded paths With FOLLY's rattle, to your HOUSEHOLD GODS Return! for not in VICE's gay abodes, Not in the unquiet unsafe halls of FAME Does HAPPINESS abide! O ye who weep Much for the many miseries of Mankind, More for their vices, ye whose honest eyes Frown on OPPRESSION,--ye whose honest hearts Beat high when FREEDOM sounds her dread tocsin;-- O ye who quit the path of peaceful life Crusading for mankind--a spaniel race That lick the hand that beats them, or tear all Alike in frenzy--to your HOUSEHOLD GODS Return, for by their altars VIRTUE dwells And HAPPINESS with her; for by their fires TRANQUILLITY in no unsocial mood Sits silent, listening to the pattering shower; For, so SUSPICION sleep not at the gate Of WISDOM,--FALSEHOOD shall not enter there.
As on the height of some huge eminence, Reach'd with long labour, the way-faring man Pauses awhile, and gazing o'er the plain With many a sore step travelled, turns him then Serious to contemplate the onward road, And calls to mind the comforts of his home, And sighs that he has left them, and resolves To stray no more: I on my way of life Muse thus PENATES, and with firmest faith Devote myself to you.
I will not quit To mingle with the mob your calm abodes, Where, by the evening hearth CONTENTMENT sits And hears the cricket chirp; where LOVE delights To dwell, and on your altars lays his torch That burns with no extinguishable flame.
Hear me ye POWERS benignant! there is one Must be mine inmate--for I may not chuse But love him.
He is one whom many wrongs Have sicken'd of the world.
There was a time When he would weep to hear of wickedness And wonder at the tale; when for the opprest He felt a brother's pity, to the oppressor A good man's honest anger.
His quick eye Betray'd each rising feeling, every thought Leapt to his tongue.
When first among mankind He mingled, by himself he judged of them, And loved and trusted them, to Wisdom deaf, And took them to his bosom.
FALSEHOOD met Her unsuspecting victim, fair of front, And lovely as Apega's sculptured form, Like that false image caught his warm embrace And gored his open breast.
The reptile race Clung round his bosom, and with viper folds Encircling, stung the fool who fostered them.
His mother was SIMPLICITY, his sire BENEVOLENCE; in earlier days he bore His father's name; the world who injured him Call him MISANTHROPY.
I may not chuse But love him, HOUSEHOLD GODS! for we were nurst In the same school.
PENATES! some there are Who say, that not in the inmost heaven ye dwell, Gazing with eye remote on all the ways Of man, his GUARDIAN GODS; wiselier they deem A dearer interest to the human race Links you, yourselves the SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.
No mortal eye may pierce the invisible world, No light of human reason penetrate That depth where Truth lies hid.
Yet to this faith My heart with instant sympathy assents; And I would judge all systems and all faiths By that best touchstone, from whose test DECEIT Shrinks like the Arch-Fiend at Ithuriel's spear, And SOPHISTRY'S gay glittering bubble bursts, As at the spousals of the Nereid's son, When that false Florimel, by her prototype Display'd in rivalry, with all her charms Dissolved away.
Nor can the halls of Heaven Give to the human soul such kindred joy, As hovering o'er its earthly haunts it feels, When with the breeze it wantons round the brow Of one beloved on earth; or when at night In dreams it comes, and brings with it the DAYS And JOYS that are no more, Or when, perchance With power permitted to alleviate ill And fit the sufferer for the coming woe, Some strange presage the SPIRIT breathes, and fills The breast with ominous fear, and disciplines For sorrow, pours into the afflicted heart The balm of resignation, and inspires With heavenly hope.
Even as a Child delights To visit day by day the favorite plant His hand has sown, to mark its gradual growth, And watch all anxious for the promised flower; Thus to the blessed spirit, in innocence And pure affections like a little child, Sweet will it be to hover o'er the friends Beloved; then sweetest if, as Duty prompts, With earthly care we in their breasts have sown The seeds of Truth and Virtue, holy flowers Whose odour reacheth Heaven.
When my sick Heart, (Sick with hope long delayed, than, which no care Presses the crush'd heart heavier from itself Seeks the best comfort, often have I deemed That thou didst witness every inmost thought SEWARD! my dear dead friend! for not in vain, Oh early summon'd in thy heavenly course! Was thy brief sojourn here: me didst thou leave With strengthen'd step to follow the right path Till we shall meet again.
Meantime I soothe The deep regret of Nature, with belief, My EDMUND! that thine eye's celestial ken Pervades me now, marking no mean joy The movements of the heart that loved thee well! Such feelings Nature prompts, and hence your rites DOMESTIC GODS! arose.
When for his son With ceaseless grief Syrophanes bewail'd, Mourning his age left childless, and his wealth Heapt for an alien, he with fixed eye Still on the imaged marble of the dead Dwelt, pampering sorrow.
Thither from his wrath A safe asylum, fled the offending slave, And garlanded the statue and implored His young lost Lord to save: Remembrance then Softened the father, and he loved to see The votive wreath renewed, and the rich smoke Curl from the costly censer slow and sweet.
From Egypt soon the sorrow-soothing rites Divulging spread; before your idol forms By every hearth the blinded Pagan knelt, Pouring his prayers to these, and offering there Vain sacrifice or impious, and sometimes With human blood your sanctuary defil'd: Till the first BRUTUS, tyrant-conquering chief, Arose; he first the impious rites put down, He fitliest, who for FREEDOM lived and died, The friend of humankind.
Then did your feasts Frequent recur and blameless; and when came The solemn festival, whose happiest rites Emblem'd EQUALITY, the holiest truth! Crown'd with gay garlands were your statues seen, To you the fragrant censer smok'd, to you The rich libation flow'd: vain sacrifice! For nor the poppy wreath nor fruits nor wine.
Ye ask, PENATES! nor the altar cleans'd With many a mystic form; ye ask the heart Made pure, and by domestic Peace and Love Hallowed to you.
Hearken your hymn of praise, PENATES! to your shrines I come for rest, There only to be found.
Often at eve, Amid my wanderings I have seen far off The lonely light that spake of comfort there, It told my heart of many a joy of home, And my poor heart was sad.
When I have gazed From some high eminence on goodly vales And cots and villages embower'd below, The thought would rise that all to me was strange Amid the scene so fair, nor one small spot Where my tir'd mind might rest and call it home, There is a magic in that little word; It is a mystic circle that surrounds Comforts and Virtues never known beyond The hallowed limit.
Often has my heart Ached for that quiet haven; haven'd now, I think of those in this world's wilderness Who wander on and find no home of rest Till to the grave they go! them POVERTY Hollow-eyed fiend, the child of WEALTH and POWER, Bad offspring of worse parents, aye afflicts, Cankering with her foul mildews the chill'd heart-- Them WANT with scorpion scourge drives to the den Of GUILT--them SLAUGHTER with the price of death Buys for her raven brood.
Oh not on them GOD OF ETERNAL JUSTICE! not on them Let fall thy thunder! HOUSEHOLD DEITIES! Then only shall be Happiness on earth When Man shall feel your sacred power, and love Your tranquil joys; then shall the city stand A huge void sepulchre, and rising fair Amid the ruins of the palace pile The Olive grow, there shall the TREE OF PEACE Strike its roots deep and flourish.
This the state Shall bless the race redeemed of Man, when WEALTH And POWER and all their hideous progeny Shall sink annihilate, and all mankind Live in the equal brotherhood of LOVE.
Heart-calming hope and sure! for hitherward Tend all the tumults of the troubled world, Its woes, its wisdom, and its wickedness Alike: so he hath will'd whose will is just.
Meantime, all hoping and expecting all In patient faith, to you, DOMESTIC GODS! I come, studious of other lore than song, Of my past years the solace and support: Yet shall my Heart remember the past years With honest pride, trusting that not in vain Lives the pure song of LIBERTY and TRUTH.



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