Poems (Botta)/The Ideal

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For works with similar titles, see The Ideal.


“How the shadow the Ideal throws before it darkens the actual.”—Zanoni.

“Ta vie est un sommeil, l’amour en est le rêve.”

A sad, sweet dream; it fell upon my soul When song and thought first woke their echoes there, Swaying my spirit to its wild control, And with the shadow of a fond despair Darkening the fountain of my young life’s stream— It haunts me still, and yet I know ’tis but a dream.

Whence art thou, shadowy presence, that canst hide From my charmed sight the glorious things of earth? A mirage o’er life’s desert dost thou glide? Or, with those glimmerings of a former birth, A “trailing cloud of glory,” hast thou come From some bright world afar, our unremembered home?

I know thou dwell’st not in this dull cold Real, I know thy home is in some brighter sphere; I know I shall not meet thee, my Ideal! In the dark wanderings that await me here— Why comes thy gentle image then to me, Wasting my night of life in one long dream of thee?

The city’s peopled solitude, the glare Of festal halls, moonlight and music’s tone, All breathe the sad refrain, thou art not there; And even with Nature, I am still alone; With joy I watch her summer bloom depart— I love drear winter’s reign—’tis winter in my heart.

And if I sigh upon my brow to see The deepening shadow of Time’s fleeting wing, ’Tis for the youth I might not give to thee,— The vanished brightness of my first sweet spring; That I might give thee not the joyous form, Unworn by bitter tears, unblighted by the storm.

And when the hearts I should be proud to win, Breathe, in those tones that woman holds so dear, Words of impassioned homage unto mine, Coldly and harsh they fall upon my ear; And as I listen to the fervent vow, My weary heart replies, “Alas! it is not thou!

And when the thoughts within my spirit glow, That would outpour themselves in words of fire, If some kind influence bade the music flow, Like that which woke the notes of Memnon’s lyre; Thou, sunlight of my life! wakest not the lay— And song within my heart unuttered dies away.

Depart, oh shadow! fatal dream, depart! Go, I conjure thee; leave me this poor life, And I will meet with firm, heroic heart, Its threatening storms and its tumultuous strife, And with the Poet-Seer will see thee stand, To welcome my approach to thine own Spirit-land.