On seeing Mrs. Kean as Constance in King John
'Twas no illusion; from the Past the veil was rent away;
The tide that never changes ebbed, and bore me to that day,
When in the lists and on the field brave deeds of arms were done,
When England blushed beneath the rule of recreant King John.
Scenes from that dim and buried Past came thronging on the gaze,
In all the splendid pageantry of those heroic days.
There Angiers' towers and battlements in stately grandeur frowned
Upon the engines of grim war grouped threat'ningly around:
And where the gathering warlike ranks in burnished armor gleamed,
The sacred Oriflamme of France, the Red Cross Banner streamed:
There Templars came with cross and sword, vowed to the Holy Land,
There were the fiery feudal lords, each with his vassal band:
And in his scarlet robes arrayed, the haughty legate strode,
As when above the prostrate King, in ancient days he trode.
Forgetful, for the hour I lived in that chivalric age,
Amid the stirring scenes portrayed on History's varied page.
But when the gentle Constance came and bowed her queenly head
To that wild tempest of the soul, that grief profound and dread,
The pageant vanished from my sight, I only heard her words,
I only felt the woe that thrilled the heart's electric chords.
Years bring decay and change and death to kingdom and to clime,
But human sympathy and love are changeless through all time:
In the eternal Now they live, though centuries o'er them roll;
They bloom forever fresh and young, immortal as the soul.
Thou, on whose brow the coronet of injured Constance shone,
Who to the glittering circlet gav'st a lustre not its own, --
Thou canst recall those lovely forms the faded Past inurns;
Thou summonest, and the shapeless dust to life and youth returns.
Thou hast the spell, the magic power, the heart's deep founts to move,
To wake the latent ecstasies of Hope, Despair and Love, --
And many a poet's loveliest dream now bears thy form and face,
Speaks in thy sweet impassioned voice, and wears thy matchless grace.