Collected Poems of Henry Derozio: Preface by Manu Samriti Chander; Edited by Amardeep Singh

The Neglected Minstrel

   Like the harmonious nightingale he lived, 
   A lone inhabitant of sylvan scenes; 
   And to the passing gale his minstrelsy 
   With breaking heart he gave; for save the gale 
   None visited him there — he had no friend!

   Dost thou remember, Love! that Banyan tree 
Which, like a temple, by the river stands ? 
Thou canst not have forgot it; for 'twas there 
Our early vows were interchanged ; and we 
Have often sat beneath its fragrant shade 
As the hot sun at evening hour came down 
To cool his burning brow in the gilt wave, 
And hear the breeze's vesper orisons : — 
O! we have listened with enraptured ears 
To those wild bir^s which on the branches sang 
Perhaps unto each other lays of love. 
And then how often have we wished that we 
Were birds to be so blest. Sweet flowers grew there 
Even in the shadow of that regal tree ; 
And they were sheltered from the summer's fire ; 
But when the storm with all his ministers 
Came wrathful down to chasten this bad world, 
They drooped and died, too like our tender hopes 
That ne'er survive the tempest of misfortune. 
But that is not my tale. — In that thick grove 
A tomb, white as an infant's innocence. 
Has often caught mine eye. It gleameth there 
'Mid all the winning loveliness around. 
As if to mind us that the beauteous place, 
Which seems a relic of lost Paradise 
Is but a. part of this decaying earth. — 
I'll tell thee all the melancholy tale 
Of him who sleeps, the tenant of that tomb ; 
And thou shalt learn what is the common fate 
Of all those mighty spirits in whose breasts 
The fire of genius blazed unquenchable. 
But failing to attract the world's regard. 
Consumed the altar where itself was lit. 
And then temple which it erst made bright. 

   His heart was like a soft Aeolian harp 
Whose sweetest chords are waked by gentlest winds. 
Let no rude hand upon the minstrel's heart 
Attempt to play; its strings are delicate, 
And frail, and they will break when harshly swept 
O! woman when she loves, and truly loves 
Can bring its music forth — all its sweet notes 
Of hope and fear, love's many griefs and joys, — 
And find their echoes in her own fond breast 
His days were in their spring; that joyous time 
When the young heart will open like a rose. 
And drink heaven's dew, and scatter sweetness round, 
Too prodigal of all its odorous store! 
He gazed upon this lovely earth, and all 
The beauties on its bosom with a thrill 
Of wild delight: and as the eye reflects 
Those various objects upon which 'tis fixed. 
The images of things he looked upon 
Moved from his eye into his gifted mind, 
And that they might not perish there, some power 
Linked them with memory and blissful thoughts 

   What was the sun to him but as a god? 
Who, when he sat enthroned in the rich east, 
Heard the young minstrel's hymn rise from his heart 
Like incense from a censer! The sweet flowers 
Blooming like emblems of his lonely self 
In that most still and unfrequented grove 
He made his hours' compantons, and there grew 
A sympathetic feeling in his breast 
For those frail things. The melancholy moon 
Flung on his mind sad thoughts of hopeless love, 
And beauty in her trusting hour betrayed. 
Walking the world unpitied and forlorn. 
With shame and sorrow on her cold white cheek. 
Looked on by every eye. And in the stars 
He read what fame might be, a minstrel's fame. 
Eternal as those lights which ne'er burn out 
And when he heard upon a moonlit night 
The voice of the blue river as it passed. 
He peopled with creations of his brain 
The soft melodious wave, and fondly deemed 
It was a spirit speaking to his soul. 
Even from beneath the water. But the Breeze, 
The evening breeze which from its cavern crept 
Like music from a shell, woke blissful thoughts 
Like fragrance out of flowers in his fond breast, 
And delicate as those which float in dreams — 
The essence of delicious Poesy! 
The gifts which nature to our world hath given, 
Scenes for the eye, and sounds unto the ear, 
All had their influence upon his soul. 
And fitted it for minstrelsy divine. — 

   He loved: — O! love and song are twins, and they 
Have aye been linked together from their birth 
Thus, it was fit the blossoms of his heart 
Should at some shrine be scattered Then he lore 
All thoughts, all fancies from his breast. Until 
It was a fairy palace worthy her 
Who there reigned queen alone. And they were blest, 
So blest that oft' imagination deemed 
They had a foretaste of that promised bliss. 
Which is to be in worlds beyond our own. 
He wore her in his heart as I do thee. 
And oh! she was so lovely that she seemed 
To be a fine embodied thought, like one 
Of those which poets form of angel woman. 
Alas! what is there in mortality 
That fate should come 'tween happiness and us. 
And dash the cup that's held unto our lips 
Even as we kiss its brim? But this is doomed; 
The roses of our life must have their thorns, 
And storm and sunshine burst on us alike! 

   Hast thou observed an August sunset sky. 
With all its colours, purple, gold, and red? 
How beautifully dies the day! Each hue 
Fades faintly out of sight, and every change 
Makes heaven look lovely, though it brings 
Dun night upon the world apace! and thus 
Sweetly died she who was unto his heart 
Like the red vital current there. — O Memory! 
Canst thou not also die when all we love 
Sinks like the lost star from our sight? Ah no! 
Thou dost burn on like a pale charnel light 
Above the grave of hopes, and smiles, and joys 
Which made life's wake delightful. 

   Now, in that peopled solitude, the world, 
He sought companionship to wean his mind 
From melancholy thoughts on which it fed. 
He was a stranger, poor, and friendless there, 
A being of another sphere, who seemed 
As if while searching for a happy home 
To have mistaken his bright path, and none 
Had so much charity as bid him turn 
And dwell there for a while. — Alas! that gold, 
Dross, worthless as it is, should be the charm, 
The magic lamp commanding all things here 
But 'tis a cold unfeeling world, and flings 
Its baneful shadow on the wretched head 
Which has not wealth to light the gloom around 
At length he found protection, and a man 
Who called himself the minstrel's friend, and gave 
This youthful candidate for fame new hope 
To live upon.
          The end of his sad history 
Is almost come. Hope like a faithless friend 
Betrayed the heart which on its promise leaned, 
And like the false mirage on Arab sands -- 
Left him more wretched when the truth was known 
Then the world's scorn, the thought of buried love, 
The recollection of past happiness, 
And, oh humanity! his proud protector 
Who soon forsook him, drove him to his fate 
He sought his Banyan grove and flowers again , 
But like a stricken deer whose many wounds 
And blood unstanched foretell his coming end, 
At last the hapless minstrel brought his heart. 
On which the bloodhounds of the world had rushed. 
To break in that sweet spot. There is his tomb 
Raised by some pitying hand, his history, 
I have unfolded to thine ear. One night 
As by his tomb I stood, — that place, his name. 
And the soft hour which wakes reflections soft 
So wrought upon my spirit, that its thoughts 
Arrayed themselves in verse; — thus were they linked. 

   The sod is cold where thou art sleeping 
      Too dark a sleep to wake again, 
   But heaven its tears o'er thee is weeping, 
      And all the world's proud scorn is vain. 

   Their fragrance flowers around are flinging 
      To consecrate this beauteous spot, 
   And winds a requiem wild are singing 
      Which man, inhuman man, forgot. 

   Sure thou art weeping. Love! nay do not fear 
A sad resemblance in his fate and mine ; — 
My hopes perchance are fragile flowers, but then 
Remember on what soil they grow, and more, — 
The friendly hand that rears them into strength 
Nay — nay — I shall be blest! 

          A few brief months 
Have fled so happily, their plumage bright 
Must have been dipped in Fancy's golden hues. 
Since I this wreath of song entwined. But then. 
With ardent step Hope's ladder was I climbing. 
And fondly deemed it would have led to heaven, 
That heaven which in my youthful dreams I saw, 
Made of eternal brightness. — Now no more 
Those golden. visions on my spirit beam. 
Like morning sunlight on a sapphire lake. 
For sad reality has broke their spell. — O Truth! 
Thou whom my soul hath sought like a rich jewel 
For which th' adventurer will risk his all — 
How hast thou taught me that my aspirations 
Wore not a tint of earth ! — th' Ithuriel spear 
Wherewith thou'rt armed, has touched them, and they've fled 
Far to the darksome caverns of the past; 
And heaven-sent fancies needlessly descend 
Upon my blighted heart — they fall like dew 
Softly, but vainly on a withered flower! 
My mind that wandered once like summer bird 
From twisted brake and bush on wildest wing. 
Swift as its own desires, must fall at last 
Even from those sweet ideal worlds it made ; 
And, like my native earth, which once a star 
Blazed through the pathless ether, must I roam. 
Darkness without, within, consuming flame. — 

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