Restless forms of living light
Quivering on your lucid wings,
Cheating still the curious sight
With a thousand shadowings;
Various as the tints of even,
Gorgeous as the hues of heaven,
Reflected on you native streams
In flitting, flashing, billowy gleams!
Harmless warriors, clad in mail
Of silver breastplate, golden scale; –
Mail of Nature’s own bestowing,
With peaceful radiance, mildly glowing –
Fleet are ye as fleetest galley
Or pirate rover sent from Sallee;
Keener than the Tartar’s arrow,
Sport ye in your sea so narrow.
Was the sun himself your sire?
Were ye born of vital fire?
Or of the shade of golden flowers,
Such as we fetch from Eastern bowers,
To mock this murky clime of ours?
Upwards, downwards, now ye glance,
Weaving many a mazy dance;
Seeming still to grow in size
When ye would elude our eyes –
Pretty creatures! we might deem
Ye were happy as ye seem –
As gay, as gamesome, and as blithe,
As light, as loving, and as lithe,
As gladly earnest in your play,
As when ye gleamed in far Cathay.
And yet, since on this hapless earth
There’s small sincerity in mirth,
And laughter oft is but an art
To drown the outcry of the heart;
It may be that your ceaseless gambols,
Your wheelings, dartings, divings, rambles,
Your restless roving round and round,
The circuit of your crystal bound –
Is but the task of weary pain,
An endless labor, dull and vain;
And while your forms are gaily shining,
Your little lives are inly pining!
Nay – but still I fain would dream
That ye are happy as ye seem.
– Hartley Coleridge