A Lament for the Fairies

written by

« Reload image

O, ye have lost,
Mountains, and moors, and meads, the radiant throng
That peopled your green solitudes, and filled
The air, the fields, with beauty and with joy
Intense; with a rich mystery that awed
The mind, and flung around a thousand hearths
Divinest tales, that through the enchanted year
Found passionate listeners! ~ Carrington.

 Beautiful fictions of our trusting youth,
 (Visions we sigh that we have only dreamed!)
 When Fancy mocked the searching gaze of Truth,
 And the whole earth with bright enchantments teemed;
 How have we loved to forest glades to flee;
By haunted streams (in thought) to take our stand;
To watch you circling round the greenwood tree,
 Or trace your gambols on the moonlit strand!
Or, when in gorgeous panoply arrayed,
To grace some pageant of the Elfin Queen,
 You pricked along, a gallant cavalcade,
 Painting the verdant turf a livelier green!
 Nor less we loved you, when, with pitying air,
 And hand beneficent, around you showered
 Gifts, might the world's and nature's spite repair,
 And leave the homeliest maiden doubly dowered!
 But the bright realm of Fairyland is gone;
Its Iris-tinted train hath passed away;
 And Ariel, Mab, Titania, Oberon,
But grace the painter's scene, or poet's lay!
Even Puck, dear imp of mischief and of mirth,
“O'er hill and dale,” at length, hath ceased to range;
Though long-eared Bottoms cumber still the earth,
 Whose “asses' nowls” he is not here to change!
 The “Sword of Sharpness” is no longer keen;
The “Seven League Boots” we distance, now, at will;
Our sole surviving “Giant” is the Spleen;
 Which we, like David, with a stone can kill! [1]
 No more, no more, upon the velvet mead,
On mushroom tables, are your banquets spread;
 No more, with flying feet, the dance you speed,
 'Till dimming glow-worms hint 'tis time for bed!
 No “fairy favours” now reward the fair;
 Nor pearls nor diamonds from her lips are told;
No elfin matron makes her bliss her care,
 With purse exhaustless, filled with fairy gold!
 Your aid unseen, like angel-help, in vain,
 The toil-worn hind may, in his strait, implore;
 The “shadowy flail,” to ease his task, will rain
Its stalwart blows in his behoof no more!
Virtue no longer, in her sorest needs,
 By fairy hands is rescued from her thrall;
 And rampant Vice, how dark soe'er his deeds,
 Your well-earned frowns may now no more appal!
 The superstitions sweet that charmed our youth;
The large belief that bade us still dream on;
 The dear illusions we mistook for truth;
The shaping power that gave them grace;—are flown!
With grosser forms this nether earth is rife;
Even Fancy, now, must walk in Reason's guise;
And, in a world of real care and strife,
 We grow, alas, far sadder if more wise!
 There is no love in this material age,
 For shapes impalpable, we cannot clutch;
Knowledge hath spread so wide her ample page,
 That, for our bliss, we often learn too much!
 The broad, fierce glare of her pervading light,
Is too intense for forms all fancy-born;
 That owe mysterious beauty to the night,
 But melt beneath the earliest rays of morn.
Yet these fair fictions of our youthful day,
 We have but changed for guides less kind and bland;
 The glittering cheats that lead us now astray,
 Are falser far than those of Fairyland!
Love, Friendship, Hope, Ambition, Glory, Pride,
 All, ignis-fatuus-like, by turns, invite;
 But when we follow, make a circuit wide,
 Where fields are dank, and there withdraw their light.
 Though Poets still, as they were wont of yore,
 With filial love to fairy legends cling;
 The charm is half dispelled, and they no more
 Believe the magic wonders that they sing.
 Yet, till the Muse from earth is driven away,
And young Romance hath broken, too, her wand,
 Will elfin lore still grace the Poet's lay,
And his heart's home be still in Fairyland!

© Alaric Alexander Watts