5. Nature and Art
For an Album

{16}
"Man goeth forth" [Note] with reckless trust
     Upon his wealth of mind,
As if in self a thing of dust
     Creative skill might find;
He schemes and toils; stone, wood and ore
Subject or weapon of His power.

By arch and spire, by tower-girt heights,
     He would his boast fulfil;
By marble births, and mimic lights,—
     Yet lacks one secret still;
Where is the master-hand shall give
To breathe, to move, to speak, to live?
{17}
O take away this shade of might,
     The puny toil of man,
And let great Nature in my sight
     Unroll her gorgeous plan;
I cannot bear those sullen walls,
Those eyeless towers, those tongueless halls.

Art's labour'd toys of highest name
     Are nerveless, cold, and dumb;
And man is fitted but to frame
     A coffin or a tomb;
Well suits, when sense is pass'd away,
Such lifeless works the lifeless clay.

Here let me sit where wooded hills
     Skirt yon far-reaching plain;
While cattle bank its winding rills,
     And suns embrown its grain;
Such prospect is to me right dear,
For freedom, health, and joy are here.

There is a spirit ranging through
     The earth, the stream, the air;
Ten thousand shapes, garbs ever new,
     That busy One doth wear; {18}
In colour, scent, and taste, and sound
The energy of Life is found.

The leaves are rustling in the breeze,
     The bird renews her song;
From field to brook, o'er heath, o'er trees,
     The sunbeam glides along;
The insect, happy in its hour,
Floats softly by, or sips the flower.

Now dewy rain descends, and now
     Brisk showers the welkin shroud;
I care not, though with angry brow
     Frowns the red thunder-cloud;
Let hail-storm pelt, and lightning harm,
'Tis Nature's work, and has its charm.

Ah! lovely Nature! others dwell
     Full favour'd in thy court;
I of thy smiles but hear them tell,
     And feed on their report,
Catching what glimpse an Ulcombe yields
To strangers loitering in her fields. {19}

I go where form has ne'er unbent
     The sameness of its sway;
Where iron rule, stern precedent,
     Mistreat the graceful day;
To pine as prisoner in his cell,
And yet be thought to love it well.

Yet so His high dispose has set,
     Who binds on each his part;
Though absent, I may cherish yet
     An Ulcombe of the heart;
Calm verdant hope divinely given,
And suns of peace, and scenes of heaven;—

A soul prepared His will to meet,
     Full fix'd His work to do;
Not laboured into sudden heat,
     But inly born anew.—
So living Nature, not dull Art,
Shall plan my ways and rule my heart.


Ulcombe
.
September, 1826.

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Note

Psalm civ. [ciii.] 23.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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