Poems (Botta)/Image Worship

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Why mounts my blood to cheek and brow, Like an ascending flame, Whene’er from careless lips I hear The accents of thy name?

Why, when my idle fancy seeks Some pictured form to trace, Beneath my pencil still will grow The features of thy face?

Why comes thy haunting shadow thus Between the world and me, To bind my spirit with a charm That blinds to all but thee?

To bid me watch thine upward course, Thy path from mine so far; As earth, ’mid all the hosts of heaven, Watches the polar star?

Thy cold and polished courtesy, Each look and tone of thine, Might well have roused the woman’s pride In duller souls than mine.

They tell me, too, thy heart is light,— That more than once thou’st loved; And ’mid all flowers of loveliness That bee-like thou hast roved.

Why is it, then, while o’er thy heart There comes no thought of me, The good, the true, the beautiful, All speak to me of thee?

Think’st thou ’tis what the world calls love, Love that return is seeking? No—I would scorn a love I sought, Although my heart were breaking.

It is because within the human heart There is an altar to an Unknown God, Who from the gods of this world dwells apart, And in the Unseen, the Unreal, has his abode.

This disembodied thought the soul pursues, And seeking in the visible a sign, She moulds an image, like the apostate Jews, And sets her idol on the vacant shrine.

Thus worshipped once an Indian maid the sun; Thus was an Arab boy won by a star; Thus loved a maid of France the god in stone; And thus did Numa love a shape of air.

What were the sun, the star, the god, to them, The fond idolaters! thou art to me; And rapturous as a poet’s earliest dream, Is the sweet worship that I give to thee.

The world around me is so dark and cold, Life hath for me such draughts of bitter sadness, Oh, bid me not the mocking Real behold! Oh, wake me not from this delicious madness!