Israfel

And the angel Israfel whose heart-strings
are a lute, 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.