The secret of a poem, no less than a jest’s prosperity, lies in the ear of him that hears it.
Yield to its spell, accept the poet’s mood: this, after all, is what the sages answer when you ask them of its value. Even though the poet himself, in his other mood, tell you that his art is but sleight of hand, his food enchanter’s food, and offer to show you the trick of it,—believe him not. Wait for his prophetic hour; then give yourself to his passion, his joy or pain. “We are in Love’s hand to-day!” sings Gautier, in Swinburne’s buoyant paraphrase,—and from morn to sunset we are wafted on the violent sea: there is but one love, one May, one flowery strand. Love is eternal, all else unreal and put aside. The vision has an end, the scene changes; but we have gained something, the memory of a charm. As many poets, so many charms. There is the charm of Evanescence, that which lends to supreme beauty and grace an aureole of Pathos. Share with Landor his one “night of memories and of sighs” for Rose Aylmer, and you have this to the full.
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘T is some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this, and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow:—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘T is some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is, and nothing more.”