OF THE VALUE OF MASTERPIECES.—A DISPUTE.
NOTHING, you say, was ever worth the throes Of thinking save it met its counterpart In other minds; no sonnet, lyric, tale,
Worth penning 'cept some meed of pence or praise Acclaimed the doer; what slight men call " Fame " Blew for one hour at least her good cracked horn ?
The claim's familiar, yet you'll sure admit That strains of harmony, divinely sweet, Born in celestial spheres, may now and then Sound at deep dead of night, heard of but few Who wake and yawn, then promptly sleep again.
Nay, who durst swear no white Divinity,
Round-limbed, snow-bosomed, may have trod you glade This morn at cockcrow; kissed a band and fled,
Seen only of the silly browsing kine And so to our contention :—who can say On what poor, spent, and quite nnhonoured brain The pearly treasure of one spacious phrase, Eight matchless words, worthy our dearest Keats, May now and then alight ; glow for a space, And vanish, scarcely recognised while there, And quite unguessed of by our sapient crowd ?
At all events I who now speak to you Would gladly—should some gracious power deign (Say once or twice perchance in sixty years)
To make use the recipient of like gift,
And claim the promise—gladly would I vow Here on mine oath no mortal save myself Should see, hear, aye, or catch a rumour of it; Nay, to make matters certain, once the scroll
Writ out and conned, I would with mine own hand
Bury it where e'en moles would never nose it.
Or—a more seemly burial we'll concede—
Take boat and drop it twenty fathoms deep, Where old Atlantic's surfiest billows roll, There to be merged for aye with wracks and wrecks, And dead men's bones, and vanished argosies, And all the flotsam of unthrifty Time.
You smile ! Such triumphs in your eyes at% naught ?
Well, well ! We each know what our own souls crave, And for my part I know that I should live The larger and the happier till the end.
Nay, that my secret should go out with me,
Worn like a jewel nearest to my heart, Best of all jewels, just one flawless phrase, To shine a diamond in the unlettered dusk. E. L.