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1. Israfel

And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures. — KORAN. 


In Heaven a spirit doth dwell 

 “Whose heart-strings are a lute;” 

None sing so wildly well 

As the angel Israfel, 

And the giddy stars (so legends tell) 

Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell 

Of his voice, all mute. 


Tottering above 

In her highest noon, 

The enamoured moon 

Blushes with love, 

While, to listen, the red levin 

 (With the rapid Pleiads, even, 

Which were seven,) 

Pauses in Heaven. 


And they say (the starry choir 

And the other listening things) 

That Israfeli’s fire 

Is owing to that lyre 

By which he sits and sings — 

The trembling living wire 

Of those unusual strings. 


But the skies that angel trod, 

Where deep thoughts are a duty — 

Where Love’s a grown-up God 

Where the Houri glances are 

Imbued with all the beauty 

Which we worship in a star. 


Therefore, thou art not wrong, 

Israfeli, who despisest 

An unimpassioned song; 

To thee the laurels belong, 

Best bard, because the wisest! 

Merrily live, and long! 


The ecstasies above 

With thy burning measures suit — 

Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love, 

With the fervour of thy lute — 

Well may the stars be mute! 


Yes, Heaven is thine; but this 

Is a world of sweets and sours; 

Our flowers are merely — flowers, 

And the shadow of thy perfect bliss 

Is the sunshine of ours. 


If I could dwell 

Where Israfel 

Hath dwelt, and he where I,  

He might not sing so wildly well 

A mortal melody, 

While a bolder note than this might swell 

From my lyre within the sky. 


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