A Musical Instrument

A Musical Instrument
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I.
WHAT was he doing, the great god Pan, 
    Down in the reeds by the river ? 
Spreading ruin and scattering ban, 
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat, 
And breaking the golden lilies afloat 
    With the dragon-fly on the river. 

II.
He tore out a reed, the great god Pan, 
    From the deep cool bed of the river : 
The limpid water turbidly ran, 
And the broken lilies a-dying lay, 
And the dragon-fly had fled away, 
    Ere he brought it out of the river. 

III.
High on the shore sate the great god Pan, 
    While turbidly flowed the river ; 
And hacked and hewed as a great god can, 
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed, 
Till there was not a sign of a leaf indeed 
    To prove it fresh from the river. 

IV.
He cut it short, did the great god Pan, 
    (How tall it stood in the river !) 
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man, 
Steadily from the outside ring, 
And notched the poor dry empty thing 
    In holes, as he sate by the river. 

V.
This is the way,’ laughed the great god Pan, 
    Laughed while he sate by the river,) 
The only way, since gods began 
To make sweet music, they could succeed.’ 
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed, 
    He blew in power by the river. 

VI.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan ! 
    Piercing sweet by the river ! 
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan ! 
The sun on the hill forgot to die, 
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly 
    Came back to dream on the river. 

VII.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan, 
    To laugh as he sits by the river, 
Making a poet out of a man : 
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, — 
For the reed which grows nevermore again 
    As a reed with the reeds in the river. 

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Farewells from Paradise

Farewells from Paradise
Elizabeth Barrett Browning


River-spirits
HARK! the flow of the four rivers—
Hark the flow!
How the silence round you shivers,
While our voices through it go,
Cold and clear.

A softer voice
Think a little, while ye hear,
Of the banks
Where the willows and the deer
Crowd in intermingled ranks,
As if all would drink at once
Where the living water runs!—
Of the fishes’ golden edges
Flashing in and out the sedges;
Of the swans on silver thrones,
Floating down the winding streams
With impassive eyes turned shoreward
And a chant of undertones,—
And the lotus leaning forward
To help them into dreams.
Fare ye well, farewell!
The river-sounds, no longer audible,
Expire at Eden’s door.
Each footstep of your treading
Treads out some murmur which ye heard before.
Farewell! the streams of Eden
Ye shall hear nevermore!

Bird-spirit
I am the nearest nightingale
That singeth in Eden after you;
And I am singing loud and true,
And sweet,—I do not fail.
I sit upon a cypress bough,
Close to the gate, and I fling my song
Over the gate and through the mail
Of the warden angels marshall’d strong,—
Over the gate and after you!
And the warden angels let it pass,
Because the poor brown bird, alas,
Sings in the garden, sweet and true.
And I build my song of high pure notes,
Note over note, height over height,
Till I strike the arch of the Infinite,
And I bridge abysmal agonies
With strong, clear calms of harmonies,—
And something abides, and something floats,
In the song which I sing after you.
Fare ye well, farewell!
The creature-sounds, no longer audible,
Expire at Eden’s door.
Each footstep of your treading
Treads out some cadence which ye heard before.
Farewell! the birds of Eden
Ye shall hear nevermore!