19th Century

“The Sunbeam” (1857) | F.W. Alexander

The following poem was written in 1857 by F.W. Alexander and printed in Reynolds’s Miscellany. Little is known about the poet; they were in all likelihood not a professional poet but had a day job and simply contributed a few lines to Reynolds’s Miscellany, which often published contributions from readers.[1]

I come, an arrow swift and keen,

The rims of tempest-clouds between,

And change their raven locks to fleece,

When the lightning’s bolt is quenched,

And the earth, with torrents drenched,

Smiles on the messengers of peace,

As a maiden’s tearful eyes

Bright up with glad surprise.

I dive into the ocean’s breast,

After many a curious guest,

And lay its deepest secrets bare.

Who, in tropic climes, the sun

Burns the mirrored sea upon,

And raindrops climb the heated air,

Shells five fathoms cannot reach,

Shine like pebbles on the beach.

I dress in robes of white at noon;

But near the coming of the moon,

Rose, gold, and purple deck my form.

Fringed with stars, my garments cover

Clouds and shapeless mists, that hover

Around the western sunset warm.

Soon I cast them off, and fly,

As night’s shadow draweth nigh.

I burn on deserts’ sandy hearth,

And drain all moisture from the earth;

Not fiercer speeds the prairie blaize,

When its sweeping, ruddy knife

Levels grass, and herb, and life.

But sweeter sports my gentle rays,

Even in the midday hour,

Kiss, and wither not a flower.

Mad Pleasure shuns my tranquil light,

To make a lurid day of night.

Yes; when his torches dimly flame,

And his eye—too long awake—

Shrinks to view the morning break,

I tinge the heated brow with shame,

Cheeks, before like roses fair,

Then their natural colours wear.

I seldom meet my like below,

Save when, beneath a brow of snow,

Woman’s sweet eyes serenely shine.

There I love to rest awhile,

Gilding eye, and brow, and smile,

Stealing returning light divine;

Till to heaven again I soar,

Brighter, purer than before.

[1] F.W. Alexander, ‘The Sunbeam’, Reynolds’s Miscellany, 19 December 1857, 357.