Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Jan: younger brother Tom hemorrhages, consumption; there is nothing stable in the world; poem: Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair; Nothing is finer for the purposes of great productions, than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers; I am getting at it, with a sort of determination and strength; there is nothing stable in the world; poem: On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Again; I have seen a good deal of Wordsworth; imagines writing a drama—the playing of different Natures with Joy and Sorrow; poem: Lines on the Mermaid Tavern; wants to leave behind the sentimental cast of Endymion and write in a more naked and grecian Manner in Hyperion, though probably not begun until October; poem: When I have fears; poem: Oh blush not so!; poem: Hence burgundy, claret, and port; poem: God of the meridian
  • Jan-Feb: Hazlitt’s influential lectures on English poetry
  • Jan-March: poem: revisions, corrections to Endymion [Book II, Book III, Book IV]
  • Feb-April: poem: Isabella composed
  • Feb: poems: Robin Hood; To the Nile; Time’s sea hath been; Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine; Blue! Tis the life of heaven; O thou whose face hath felt the winter’s wind; Wordsworth according to Keats: over confident and pea-cocking in his halfseeing; We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us; Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a things that enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject; prefers Elizabethan poets over modern poets; I will have no more of Hunt and Wordsworth; Why should we be owls, when we could be eagles?; desire to be passive, receptive, and patient for knowledge; Wordsworth: a great Poet if not Philosopher, but egotistical, vain, bigoted; Poetry should surprise by fine excess and not by Singularity; full Poesy or distilled Prose can forever be wandered with, mused upon, reflected upon, prophesied upon, and dreamt upon; let us open our leaves like a flower and be passive and receptive; if Poetry comes not as natural as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all; poem: Endymion: a Pioneer poem to forget about and proceed from; thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths
  • March-April: leaves for Teignmouth, 4 March, and returns first week of May; with brother Tom; Tom spitting blood
  • March: nothing is this world is provable; scenery is fine—but human nature finer; I care not to be in the right; poem: Endymion: I want to forget it and make my mind free for something new; Oh! for a day and all well! When I die I’ll have my Shakespeare placed on my heart…; Tom’s condition worsens, though it improves somewhat in early April; poems: Where be ye going, you Devon maid; For there’s Bishop’s Teign; Over the hill and over the dale; Dear Reynolds, as I last night lay in bed
  • April: I never wrote one single line of poetry with the least shadow of public thought; his only feeling of humility is to the eternal Being, the Principle of Beauty—and the Memory of Great Men; I hate Mawkish popularity; feels he needs to escape disquisitions on Poetry; I find that I can have no enjoyment in the world but continual drinking in of knowledge […] the road lies through application and study; I long to feast on old Homer as we have upon Shakespeare and as I have lately upon Milton; Endymion published
  • May: leaves Teignmouth for London; axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses; knowledge widens speculation to ease the Burden of the Mystery; life: a large Mansion of Many Apartments; Wordsworth’s genius and depth: exploring life’s dark passages; Wordsworth deemed deeper than Milton; sorrow is wisdom; the World is full of Misery and Heartbreak, Pain, Sickness and oppression; judged by Blackwood’s as an infatuated bardling under Hunt’s sway; brother George marries Georgiana
  • June-Aug: with Brown, walking tour of northern England to Scotland; reads Dante; poems written during the tour include Give me your patience; Sweet, sweet is the greeting of eyes; Old Meg she was a gipsey; There was a naugty boy; Ah, ken ye; To Ailsa Rock; This mortal body; All gentle folks; Of late two dainties; There is a joy; Not Aladdin magian; Read me a lesson, Muse; Upon my life, Sir Nevis
  • June: Life must be undergone, and I certainly derive a consolation from the thought of writing one or two more Poems before it ceases; brother George and wife sail to America; Keats visits Lake District: a mass of beauty to be harvested in his poetry; I shall learn poetry here and shall henceforth write more than ever, for the abstract endeavor of being able to add a mite to that mass of beauty which is harvested from the materials, by the finest spirits, and put into the ethereal existence for the relish of one’s fellows. […] I live in the eye; and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest; the countenance of the Lake District scenery challenges Keats’s imagination; unfading aspects of the scenery make one forget the divisions of life
  • July: into Scotland; Robert Burn’s misery (a dead weight) and greatness contemplated; poem: On Visiting the Tomb of Burns; the Scotch: they never laugh; I carry all matters to an extreme […] I have so little selfpossession; his hope was that tramping in the highlands would strengthen more my reach in Poetry, than would stopping home among Books
  • July-Sept: sore throat develops
  • Aug: scales Ben Nevis; northern tour cut short because of illness—sore throat and fever; Aug 18: back at Wentworth Place; Endymion reviewed: called drivelling idiocy influenced by Hunt
  • Aug-Dec: Tom extremely ill, Keats cares for him; Keats is himself not well for some of the time, suffering from anxiety, fever, and throat issues
  • Sept: Endymion reviewed: deemed gratuitous nonsense influenced by Hunt; the fame of poetry haunts and disturbs him, and he plunges into writing to ease thoughts of Tom’s suffering: This morning poetry has conquered—I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life—I feel escaped from a new strange and threatening sorrow. And I am thankful for it; I am obliged to write
  • Sept-Oct[?]: Hyperion begun, gives up on May 1819; meets Fanny Brawne, probably September
  • Oct: love of beauty in the abstract makes [a man] a severe critic on his own Works; I will write independently.—I have written independently without Judgment—I may write independently & with judgment hereafter. The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man […] That which is creative must create itself; I would sooner fail [in writing Endymion] than not be among the greatest; about Endymion: I was never afraid of failure [Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV]
  • Oct cont’d: I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death; We have no Milton; I have too many interruptions to a train of feeling to be able to write poetry; The mighty abstract Idea I have of Beauty […]; As my imagination strengthens, [I feel] I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds […] shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me; Endymion: a necessary risk; likens the Poetical character as the camelion Poet; Keats defines his Poetic character against the Wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; brief encounter with Isabella Jones; I hope I shall never marry . . . my solitude is sublime; the yearning Passion I have for the beautiful; The only thing that can ever effect me personally for more than one short passing day, is any doubt about my powers for poetry—I seldom have any, and I look with hope to the nighing time when I shall have none; The faint conceptions I have of poems to come brings the blood frequently into my forehead; I will assay to reach to as high a summit in Poetry as the nerve bestowed upon me will suffer. The faint conceptions I have of Poems to come brings the blood frequently into my forehead
  • Dec: brother Tom dies of consumption (1 Dec); moves to Wentworth Place, Hampstead, with Brown; The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; about Fanny Brawne: beautiful and elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable, and strange; about Hunt: pleasant […] but in reality he is vain, egotistical and disgusting in matters of taste and in morals; my pen seems to have grown too goutty for verse
  • Dec cont’d: Never relieved except when I am composing—so I will write away; I must work—I must read—I must write; I feel in myself all the vices of a Poet, irritability love of effect and admiration; I wish to avoid publishing; comes to some kind of understanding with Fanny Brawne; I never can feel certain of any truth but from a clear perception of its Beauty; sore throat
  • 1818: habeas corpus restored (suspended 1817); UK and Netherlands sign anti-slave convention; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein published (anonymously); Percy Shelley publishes The Revolt of Islam; Lord Byron completes 4th (and final) canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and begins Don Juan; Hazlitt’s Lectures on the English Poets ; Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey; in London, the first ever blood transfusion; a select committee finds contagious fever in London to be prevalent; Karl Marx, Emily Bronte, Frederick Douglass, and Ivan Turgenev born; death of Matthew Monk Lewis: border between US and Canada established; first modern use of rubber as a covering
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Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair
Ode.

  • Chief of organic Numbers! 
  • Old Scholar of the Spheres! 
  • Thy spirit never slumbers, 
  • But rolls about our ears 
  • For ever and for ever: 
  • O, what a mad endeavour 
  • Worketh he, 
  • Who, to thy sacred and ennobled hearse, 
  • Would offer a burnt sacrifice of verse 
  • And melody!
  • How heavenward thou soundedst 
  • Live Temple of sweet noise; 
  • And discord unconfoundedst: 
  • Giving delight new joys, 
  • And pleasure nobler pinions— 
  • O, where are thy dominions! 
  • Lend thine ear 
  • To a young Delian oath,—aye, by thy soul, 
  • By all that from thy mortal lips did roll; 
  • And by the kernel of thine earthly love, 
  • Beauty, in things on earth and things above; 
  • When every childish fashion 
  • Has vanish’d from my rhyme, 
  • Will I, grey-gone in passion, 
  • Leave to an after-time 
  • Hymning and harmony 
  • Of thee, and of thy works, and of thy life; 
  • But vain is now the burning, and the strife, 
  • Pangs are in vain—until I grow high-rife 
  • With old philosophy 
  • And mad with glimpses at futurity! 
  • For many years my offerings must be hush’d. 
  • When I do speak I’ll think upon this hour, 
  • Because I feel my forehead hot and flush’d— 
  • Even at the simplest vassal of thy power,— 
  • A lock of thy bright hair— 
  • Sudden it came, 
  • And I was startled when I caught thy name 
  • Coupled so unaware; 
  • Yet, at the moment, temperate was my blood,— 
  • Methought I had beheld it from the Flood.
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On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again

  • O golden-tongued Romance, with serene lute!
  • Fair plumed Siren! Queen of far-away!
  • Leave melodizing on this wintry day,
  • Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute:
  • Adieu! for, once again, the fierce dispute,
  • Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
  • Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
  • The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.
  • Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion,
  • Begetters of our deep eternal theme!
  • When through the old oak forest I am gone,
  • Let me not wander in a barren dream:
  • But when I am consumed in the fire,
  • Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.
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Lines on the Mermaid Tavern

  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Have ye tippled drink more fine
  • Than mine host’s Canary wine?
  • Or are fruits of Paradise
  • Sweeter than those dainty pies
  • Of venison? O generous food!
  • Drest as though bold Robin Hood
  • Sup and bowse from horn and can.
  • I have heard that on a day
  • Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
  • Nobody knew whither, till
  • An astrologer’s old quill
  • To a sheepskin gave the story,
  • Said he saw you in your glory,
  • Underneath a new-old sign
  • Sipping beverage divine,
  • And pledging with contented smack
  • The Mermaid in the zodiac.
  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
  • Lethe’s weed and Hermes’ feather;
  • Come to-day, and come to-morrow,
  • I do love you both together!
  • I love to mark sad faces in fair weather;
  • And hear a merry laugh amid the thunder;
  • Fair and foul I love together.
  • Meadows sweet where flames burn under,
  • And a giggle at a wonder;
  • Visage sage at pantomime;
  • Funeral, and steeple-chime;
  • Infant playing with a skull;
  • Morning fair, and stormwreck’d hull;
  • Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
  • Serpents in red roses hissing;
  • Cleopatra regal-dress’d
  • With the aspic at her breast;
  • Dancing music, music sad,
  • Both together, sane and mad;
  • Muses bright and Muses pale;
  • Sombre Saturn, Momus hale; —
  • Laugh and sigh, and laugh again;
  • Oh the sweetness of the pain!
  • Muses bright, and Muses pale,
  • Bare your faces of the veil;
  • Let me see; and let me write
  • Of the day, and of the night —
  • Both together — let me slake
  • All my thirst for sweet heart-ache!
  • Let my bower be of yew,
  • Interwreath’d with myrtles new;
  • Pines and lime-trees full in bloom,
  • And my couch a low grass tomb.
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Hyperion: A Fragment. BOOK I

  • Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
  • Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
  • Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
  • Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
  • Still as the silence round about his lair;
  • Forest on forest hung above his head
  • Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
  • Not so much life as on a summer’s day
  • Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
  • But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
  • A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
  • By reason of his fallen divinity
  • Spreading a shade the Naiad ’mid her reeds
  • Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.
  • Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went,
  • No further than to where his feet had stray’d,
  • And slept there since. Upon the sodden ground
  • His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,
  • Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed;
  • While his bow’d head seem’d list’ning to the Earth,
  • His ancient mother, for some comfort yet.
  • It seem’d no force could wake him from his place;
  • But there came one, who with a kindred hand
  • Touch’d his wide shoulders, after bending low
  • With reverence, though to one who knew it not.
  • She was a Goddess of the infant world;
  • By her in stature the tall Amazon
  • Had stood a pigmy’s height she would have ta’en
  • Achilles by the hair and bent his neck;
  • Or with a finger stay’d Ixion’s wheel.
  • Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx,
  • Pedestal’d haply in a palace court,
  • When sages look’d to Egypt for their lore.
  • But oh! how unlike marble was that face
  • How Beautiful, if sorrow had not made
  • Sorrow more beautiful than beauty’s self.
  • There was a listening fear in her regard,
  • As if calamity had but begun;
  • As if the vanward clouds of evil days
  • Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear
  • Was with its stored thunder labouring up.
  • One hand she press’d upon that aching spot
  • Where beats the human heart, as if just there,
  • Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain
  • The other upon Saturn’s bended neck
  • She laid, and to the level of his ear
  • Leaning with parted lips, some words she spake
  • In solemn tenour and deep organ tone
  • Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
  • Would come in these like accents; O how frail
  • To that large utterance of the early Gods!
  • “Saturn, look up! — though wherefore, poor old King?
  • I have no comfort for thee, no not one
  • I cannot say, “ O wherefore sleepest thou?”
  • For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth
  • Knows thee not, thus afflicted, for a God;
  • And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,
  • Has from thy sceptre pass’d; and all the air
  • Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.
  • Thy thunder, conscious of the new command,
  • Rumbles reluctant o’er our fallen house;
  • And thy sharp lightning in unpractised hands
  • Scorches and burns our once serene domain.
  • O aching time! O moments big as years!
  • All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth,
  • And press it so upon our weary griefs
  • That unbelief has not a space to breathe.
  • Saturn, sleep on:—O thoughtless, why did I
  • Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude?
  • Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes?
  • Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep.”
  • As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
  • Those green-rob’d senators of mighty woods,
  • Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
  • Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
  • Save from one gradual solitary gust
  • Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
  • As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
  • So came these words and went; the while in tears
  • She touch’d her fair large forehead to the ground,
  • Just where her falling hair might be outspread,
  • A soft and silken mat for Saturn’s feet.
  • One moon, with alteration slow, had shed
  • Her silver seasons four upon the night,
  • And still these two were postured motionless,
  • Like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern;
  • The frozen God still couchant on the earth,
  • And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet:
  • Until at length old Saturn lifted up
  • His faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone,
  • And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,
  • And that fair kneeling Goddess: and then spake,
  • As with a palsied tongue, and while his beard
  • Shook horrid with such aspen-malady:
  • “O tender spouse of gold Hyperion,
  • Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face;
  • Look up, and let me see our doom in it;
  • Look up, and tell me if this feeble shape,
  • Is Saturn’s; tell me, if thou hear’st the voice
  • Of Saturn; tell me, if this wrinkling brow,
  • Naked and bare of its great diadem,
  • Peers like the front of Saturn. Who had power
  • To make me desolate? whence came the strength?
  • How was it nurtur’d to such bursting forth,
  • While Fate seem’d strangled in my nervous grasp?
  • But it is so; and I am smother’d up,
  • And buried from all godlike exercise
  • Of influence benign on planets pale,
  • Of admonitions to the winds and seas,
  • Of peaceful sway above man’s harvesting,
  • And all those acts which Deity supreme
  • Doth ease its heart of love in.—I am gone
  • Away from my own bosom: I have left
  • My strong identity, my real self,
  • Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit
  • Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search!
  • Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round
  • Upon all space: space starr’d, and lorn of light;
  • Space region’d with life-air; and barren void;
  • Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell.—
  • Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest
  • A certain shape or shadow, making way
  • With wings or chariot fierce to repossess
  • A heaven he lost erewhile: it must — it must
  • Be of ripe progress — Saturn must be King.
  • Yes, there must be a golden victory;
  • There must be Gods thrown down, and trumpets blown
  • Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival
  • Upon the gold clouds metropolitan,
  • Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
  • Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be
  • Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
  • Of the sky-children; I will give command:
  • Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?”
  • This passion lifted him upon his feet,
  • And made his hands to struggle in the air,
  • His Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat,
  • His eyes to fever out, his voice to cease.
  • He stood, and heard not Thea’s sobbing deep;
  • A little time, and then again he snatch’d
  • Utterance thus. — “But cannot I create?
  • Cannot I form? Cannot I fashion forth
  • Another world, another universe,
  • To overbear and crumble this to nought?
  • Where is another Chaos? Where?”—That word
  • Found way unto Olympus, and made quake
  • The rebel three.—Thea was startled up,
  • And in her bearing was a sort of hope,
  • As thus she quick-voic’d spake, yet full of awe.
  • “This cheers our fallen house: come to our friends,
  • O Saturn! come away, and give them heart;
  • I know the covert, for thence came I hither.”
  • Thus brief: then with beseeching eyes she went
  • With backward footing through the shade a space:
  • He follow’d, and she turn’d to lead the way
  • Through aged boughs, that yielded like the mist
  • Which eagles cleave upmounting from their nest.
  • Meanwhile in other realms big tears were shed,
  • More sorrow like to this, and such like woe,
  • Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe:
  • The Titans fierce, self-hid, or prison-bound,
  • Groan’d for the old allegiance once more,
  • And listen’d in sharp pain for Saturn’s voice.
  • But one of the whole mammoth-brood still kept
  • His sov’reignty, and rule, and majesty;—
  • Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire
  • Still sat, still snuff’d the incense, teeming up
  • From man to the sun’s God; yet unsecure:
  • For as among us mortals omens drear
  • Fright and perplex, so also shuddered he—
  • Not at dog’s howl, or gloom-bird’s hated screech,
  • Or the familiar visiting of one
  • Upon the first toll of his passing-bell,
  • Or prophesyings of the midnight lamp;
  • But horrors, portion’d to a giant nerve,
  • Oft made Hyperion ache. His palace bright,
  • Bastion’d with pyramids of glowing gold,
  • And touch’d with shade of bronzed obelisks,
  • Glar’d a blood-red through all its thousand courts,
  • Arches, and domes, and fiery galleries;
  • And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds
  • Flush’d angerly: while sometimes eagle’s wings,
  • Unseen before by Gods or wondering men,
  • Darken’d the place; and neighing steeds were heard,
  • Not heard before by Gods or wondering men.
  • Also, when he would taste the spicy wreaths
  • Of incense, breath’d aloft from sacred hills,
  • Instead of sweets, his ample palate took
  • Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick:
  • And so, when harbour’d in the sleepy west,
  • After the full completion of fair day,—
  • For rest divine upon exalted couch
  • And slumber in the arms of melody,
  • He pac’d away the pleasant hours of ease
  • With stride colossal, on from hall to hall;
  • While far within each aisle and deep recess,
  • His winged minions in close clusters stood,
  • Amaz’d and full of fear; like anxious men
  • Who on wide plains gather in panting troops,
  • When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers.
  • Even now, while Saturn, rous’d from icy trance,
  • Went step for step with Thea through the woods,
  • Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear,
  • Came slope upon the threshold of the west;
  • Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope
  • In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes,
  • Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet
  • And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies;
  • And like a rose in vermeil tint and shape,
  • In fragrance soft, and coolness to the eye,
  • That inlet to severe magnificence
  • Stood full blown, for the God to enter in.
  • He enter’d, but he enter’d full of wrath;
  • His flaming robes stream’d out beyond his heels,
  • And gave a roar, as if of earthly fire,
  • That scar’d away the meek ethereal Hours
  • And made their dove-wings tremble. On he flared,
  • From stately nave to nave, from vault to vault,
  • Through bowers of fragrant and enwreathed light,
  • And diamond-paved lustrous long arcades,
  • Until he reach’d the great main cupola;
  • There standing fierce beneath, he stampt his foot,
  • And from the basements deep to the high towers
  • Jarr’d his own golden region; and before
  • The quavering thunder thereupon had ceas’d,
  • His voice leapt out, despite of godlike curb,
  • To this result: “O dreams of day and night!
  • O monstrous forms! O effigies of pain!
  • O spectres busy in a cold, cold gloom!
  • O lank-eared Phantoms of black-weeded pools!
  • Why do I know ye? why have I seen ye? why
  • Is my eternal essence thus distraught
  • To see and to behold these horrors new?
  • Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?
  • Am I to leave this haven of my rest,
  • This cradle of my glory, this soft clime,
  • This calm luxuriance of blissful light,
  • These crystalline pavillions, and pure fanes,
  • Of all my lucent empire? It is left
  • Deserted, void, nor any haunt of mine.
  • The blaze, the splendor, and the symmetry,
  • I cannot see—but darkness, death and darkness.
  • Even here, into my centre of repose,
  • The shady visions come to domineer,
  • Insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp.—
  • Fall!— No, by Tellus and her briny robes!
  • Over the fiery frontier of my realms
  • I will advance a terrible right arm
  • Shall scare that infant thunderer, rebel Jove,
  • And bid old Saturn take his throne again.”—
  • He spake, and ceas’d, the while a heavier threat
  • Held struggle with his throat but came not forth;
  • For as in theatres of crowded men
  • Hubbub increases more they call out “Hush!”
  • So at Hyperion’s words the Phantoms pale
  • Bestirr’d themselves, thrice horrible and cold;
  • And from the mirror’d level where he stood
  • A mist arose, as from a scummy marsh.
  • At this, through all his bulk an agony
  • Crept gradual, from the feet unto the crown,
  • Like a lithe serpent vast and muscular
  • Making slow way, with head and neck convuls’d
  • From over-strained might. Releas’d, he fled
  • To the eastern gates, and full six dewy hours
  • Before the dawn in season due should blush,
  • He breath’d fierce breath against the sleepy portals,
  • Clear’d them of heavy vapours, burst them wide
  • Suddenly on the ocean’s chilly streams.
  • The planet orb of fire, whereon he rode
  • Each day from east to west the heavens through,
  • Spun round in sable curtaining of clouds;
  • Not therefore veiled quite, blindfold, and hid,
  • But ever and anon the glancing spheres,
  • Circles, and arcs, and broad-belting colure,
  • Glow’d through, and wrought upon the muffling dark
  • Sweet-shaped lightnings from the nadir deep
  • Up to the zenith,— hieroglyphics old,
  • Which sages and keen-eyed astrologers
  • Won from the gaze of many centuries:
  • Now lost, save what we find on remnants huge
  • Of stone, or marble swart; their import gone,
  • Their wisdom long since fled.— Two wings this orb
  • Possess’d for glory, two fair argent wings,
  • Ever exalted at the God’s approach:
  • And now, from forth the gloom their plumes immense,
  • Rose, one by one, till all outspreaded were;
  • While still the dazzling globe maintain’d eclipse,
  • Awaiting for Hyperion’s command.
  • Fain would he have commanded, fain took throne
  • And bid the day begin, if but for change.
  • He might not:— No, though a primeval God:
  • The sacred seasons might not be disturb’d.
  • Therefore the operations of the dawn
  • Stay’d in their birth, even as here ’tis told.
  • Those silver wings expanded sisterly,
  • Eager to sail their orb; the porches wide
  • Open’d upon the dusk demesnes of night;
  • And the bright Titan, phrenzied with new woes,
  • Unus’d to bend, by hard compulsion bent
  • His spirit to the sorrow of the time;
  • And all along a dismal rack of clouds,
  • Upon the boundaries of day and night,
  • He stretch’d himself in grief and radiance faint.
  • There as he lay, the heaven with its stars
  • Look’d down on him with pity, and the voice
  • Of Coelus, from the universal space,
  • Thus whisper’d low and solemn in his ear.
  • “O brightest of my children dear, earth-born
  • And sky-engendered, Son of Mysteries
  • All unrevealed even to the powers
  • Which met at thy creating; at whose joys
  • And palpitations sweet, and pleasures soft,
  • I, Coelus, wonder, how they came and whence;
  • And at the fruits thereof what shapes they be,
  • Distinct, and visible; symbols divine,
  • Manifestations of that beauteous life
  • Diffus’d unseen throughout eternal space:
  • Of these new-form’d art thou, oh brightest child!
  • Of these, thy brethren and the Goddesses!
  • There is sad feud among ye, and rebellion
  • Of son against his sire. I saw him fall,
  • I saw my first-born tumbled from his throne!
  • To me his arms were spread, to me his voice
  • Found way from forth the thunders round his head!
  • Pale wox I, and in vapours hid my face.
  • Art thou, too, near such doom? vague fear there is:
  • For I have seen my sons most unlike Gods.
  • Divine ye were created, and divine
  • In sad demeanour, solemn, undisturb’d,
  • Unruffled, like high Gods, ye liv’d and ruled:
  • Now I behold in you fear, hope, and wrath;
  • Actions of rage and passion; even as
  • I see them, on the mortal world beneath,
  • In men who die.— This is the grief, O Son!
  • Sad sign of ruin, sudden dismay, and fall!
  • Yet do thou strive; as thou art capable,
  • As thou canst move about, an evident God;
  • And canst oppose to each malignant hour
  • Ethereal presence:—I am but a voice;
  • My life is but the life of winds and tides,
  • No more than winds and tides can I avail:—
  • But thou canst.— Be thou therefore in the van
  • Of circumstance; yea, seize the arrow’s barb
  • Before the tense string murmur.— To the earth!
  • For there thou wilt find Saturn, and his woes.
  • Meantime I will keep watch on thy bright sun,
  • And of thy seasons be a careful nurse.”—
  • Ere half this region-whisper had come down,
  • Hyperion arose, and on the stars
  • Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide
  • Until it ceas’d; and still he kept them wide:
  • And still they were the same bright, patient stars.
  • Then with a slow incline of his broad breast.
  • Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
  • Forward he stoop’d over the airy shore,
  • And plung’d all noiseless into the deep night.
🗙

When I have fears that I may cease to be

  • When I have fears that I may cease to be
  • Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
  • Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,
  • Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
  • When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
  • Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
  • And think that I may never live to trace
  • Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
  • And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
  • That I shall never look upon thee more,
  • Never have relish in the faery power
  • Of unreflecting love; — then on the shore
  • Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
  • Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
🗙

O blush not so! O blush not so

  • 1
  • O blush not so! O blush not so!
  • Or I shall think ye knowing;
  • And if you smile the blushing while,
  • Then maidenheads are going.
  • 2
  • There’s a blush for won’t, and a blush for shan’t,
  • And a blush for having done it;
  • There’s a blush for thought, and a blush for nought,
  • And a blush for just begun it.
  • 3
  • O say not so! O say not so!
  • For it sounds of Eve’s sweet pippin;
  • By these loosen’d hips, you have tasted the pips,
  • And fought in an amorous nipping.
  • 4
  • Will you play once more, at nice-cut-core,
  • For it only will last our youth out;
  • And we have the prime of our kissing time,
  • We have not one sweet tooth out.
  • 5
  • There’s a sigh for aye, and a sigh for nay,
  • And a sigh for I can’t bear it!
  • O what can be done? Shall we stay or run?
  • O cut the sweet apple and share it!
🗙

Hence burgundy, claret, and port

  • Hence burgundy, claret, and port,
  • Away with old hock and madeira!
  • Too earthly ye are for my sport;
  • There’s a beverage brighter and clearer!
  • Instead of a pitiful rummer,
  • My wine overbrims a whole summer;
  • My bowl is the sky,
  • And I drink at my eye,
  • Till I feel in the brain
  • A Delphian pain —
  • Then follow, my Caius! then follow!
  • On the green of the hill,
  • We will drink our fill
  • Of golden sunshine,
  • Till our brains intertwine
  • With the glory and grace of Apollo!
🗙

God of the Meridian

  • God of the meridian!
  • And of the east and west!
  • To thee my soul is flown,
  • And my body is earthward press’d:
  • It is an awful mission,
  • A terrible division;
  • And leaves a gulph austere
  • To be fill’d with worldly fear.
  • Aye, when the soul is fled
  • Too high above our head,
  • Affrighted do we gaze
  • After its airy maze,
  • As doth a mother wild,
  • When her young infant child
  • Is in an eagle’s claws —
  • And is not this the cause
  • Of madness? — God of Song,
  • Thou bearest me along
  • Through sights I scarce can bear;
  • O let me, let me share
  • With the hot lyre and thee,
  • The staid philosophy.
  • Temper my lonely hours,
  • And let me see thy bowers
  • More unalarm’d!
🗙

ENDYMION: A Poetic Romance.

[from the title page:]

“THE STRETCHED METRE OF AN ANTIQUE SONG”

[from the dedication page:]

INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.

PREFACE.

[on pages vii-ix of the original text]

KNOWING within myself the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public.

What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press; nor should they if I thought a year’s castigation would do them any good;—it will not: the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away: a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit to live.

This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not fiercer hell than the failure in a great object. This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms of course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are competent to look, and who do look with a zealous eye, to the honour of English literature.

The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages.

I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece and dulled its brightness: for I wish to try once more, before I bid it farewel [sic].

Teignmouth,
April 10, 1818.

ENDYMION

BOOK 1.

  • A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
  • Its loveliness increases; it will never
  • Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
  • A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
  • Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
  • Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
  • A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
  • Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
  • Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
  • Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
  • Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
  • Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
  • From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
  • Trees old, and young sprouting a shady boon
  • For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
  • With the green world they live in; and clear rills
  • That for themselves a cooling covert make
  • ’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
  • Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
  • And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
  • We have imagined for the mighty dead;
  • All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
  • An endless fountain of immortal drink,
  • Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
  • Nor do we merely feel these essences
  • For one short hour; no, even as the trees
  • That whisper round a temple become soon
  • Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
  • The passion poesy, glories infinite,
  • Haunt us till they become a cheering light
  • Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
  • That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
  • They alway must be with us, or we die.
  • Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I
  • Will trace the story of Endymion.
  • The very music of the name has gone
  • Into my being, and each pleasant scene
  • Is growing fresh before me as the green
  • Of our own vallies: so I will begin
  • Now while I cannot hear the city’s din;
  • Now while the early budders are just new,
  • And run in mazes of the youngest hue
  • About old forests; while the willow trails
  • Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
  • Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
  • Grows lush in juicy stalks, I’ll smoothly steer
  • My little boat, for many quiet hours,
  • With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
  • Many and many a verse I hope to write,
  • Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white,
  • Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
  • Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
  • I must be near the middle of my story.
  • O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
  • See it half finished: but let autumn bold,
  • With universal tinge of sober gold,
  • Be all about me when I make an end.
  • And now at once, adventuresome, I send
  • My herald thought into a wilderness:
  • There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
  • My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
  • Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.
  • Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread
  • A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed
  • So plenteously all weed-hidden roots
  • Into o’er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.
  • And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,
  • Where no man went; and if from shepherd’s keep
  • A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,
  • Never again saw he the happy pens
  • Whither his brethren, bleating with content,
  • Over the hills at every nightfall went.
  • Among the shepherds, ’twas believed ever,
  • That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever
  • From the white flock, but pass’d unworried
  • By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,
  • Until it came to some unfooted plains
  • Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains
  • Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,
  • Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,
  • And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly
  • To a wide lawn, whence one could only see
  • Stems thronging all around between the swell
  • Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell
  • The freshness of the space of heaven above,
  • Edg’d round with dark tree tops? through which a dove
  • Would often beat its wings, and often too
  • A little cloud would move across the blue.
  • Full in the middle of this pleasantness
  • There stood a marble altar, with a tress
  • Of flowers budded newly; and the dew
  • Had taken fairy phantasies to strew
  • Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,
  • And so the dawned light in pomp receive.
  • For ’twas the morn: Apollo’s upward fire
  • Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
  • Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
  • A melancholy spirit well might win
  • Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
  • Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine
  • Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
  • The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
  • To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
  • Man’s voice was on the mountains; and the mass
  • Of nature’s lives and wonders puls’d tenfold,
  • To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.
  • Now while the silent workings of the dawn
  • Were busiest, into that self-same lawn
  • All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped
  • A troop of little children garlanded;
  • Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry
  • Earnestly round as wishing to espy
  • Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited
  • For many moments, ere their ears were sated
  • With a faint breath of music, which ev’n then
  • Fill’d out its voice, and died away again.
  • Within a little space again it gave
  • Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,
  • To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking
  • Through copse-clad vallies, — ere their death, o’ertaking
  • The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.
  • And now, as deep into the wood as we
  • Might mark a lynx’s eye, there glimmered light
  • Fair faces and a rush of garments white,
  • Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last
  • Into the widest alley they all past,
  • Making directly for the woodland altar.
  • O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter
  • In telling of this goodly company,
  • Of their old piety, and of their glee:
  • But let a portion of ethereal dew
  • Fall on my head, and presently unmew
  • My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,
  • To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.
  • Leading the way, young damsels danced along,
  • Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;
  • Each having a white wicker over brimm’d
  • With April’s tender younglings: next, well trimm’d,
  • A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks
  • As may be read of in Arcadian books;
  • Such as sat listening round Apollo’s pipe,
  • When the great deity, for earth too ripe,
  • Let his divinity o’er-flowing die
  • In music, through the vales of Thessaly:
  • Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,
  • And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound
  • With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,
  • Now coming from beneath the forest trees,
  • A venerable priest full soberly,
  • Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye
  • Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,
  • And after him his sacred vestments swept.
  • From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,
  • Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;
  • And in his left he held a basket full
  • Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:
  • Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
  • Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill.
  • His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,
  • Seem’d like a poll of ivy in the teeth
  • Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd
  • Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud
  • Their share of the ditty. After them appear’d,
  • Up-followed by a multitude that rear’d
  • Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,
  • Easily rolling so as scarce to mar
  • The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:
  • Who stood therein did seem of great renown
  • Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,
  • Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;
  • And, for those simple times, his garments were
  • A chieftain king’s: beneath his breast, half bare,
  • Was hung a silver bugle, and between
  • His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.
  • A smile was on his countenance; he seem’d,
  • To common lookers on, like one who dream’d
  • Of idleness in groves Elysian:
  • But there were some who feelingly could scan
  • A lurking trouble in his nether lip,
  • And see that oftentimes the reins would slip
  • Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,
  • And think of yellow leaves, of owlet’s cry,
  • Of logs piled solemnly. — Ah, well-a-day,
  • Why should our young Endymion pine away!
  • Soon the assembly, in a circle rang’d,
  • Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang’d
  • To sudden veneration: women meek
  • Beckon’d their sons to silence; while each cheek
  • Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.
  • Endymion too, without a forest peer,
  • Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,
  • Among his brothers of the mountain chase.
  • In midst of all, the venerable priest
  • Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,
  • And, after lifting up his aged hands,
  • Thus spake he: “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!
  • Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:
  • Whether descended from beneath the rocks
  • That overtop your mountains; whether come
  • From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;
  • Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs
  • Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze
  • Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge
  • Nibble their fill at ocean’s very marge,
  • Whose mellow reeds are touch’d with sounds forlorn
  • By the dim echoes of old Triton’s horn:
  • Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare
  • The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;
  • And all ye gentle girls who foster up
  • Udderless lambs, and in a little cup
  • Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:
  • Yea, every one attend! for in good truth
  • Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.
  • Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than
  • Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains
  • Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains
  • Green’d over April’s lap? No howling sad
  • Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had
  • Great bounty from Endymion our lord.
  • The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour’d
  • His early song against yon breezy sky,
  • That spreads so clear o’er our solemnity.”
  • Thus ending, on the shrine he heap’d a spire
  • Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;
  • Anon he stain’d the thick and spongy sod
  • With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.
  • Now while the earth was drinking it, and while
  • Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,
  • And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright
  • ’Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light
  • Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:
  • “O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
  • From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth
  • Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death
  • Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;
  • Who lov’st to see the hamadryads dress
  • Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;
  • And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken
  • The dreary melody of bedded reeds —
  • In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds
  • The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;
  • Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth
  • Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx — do thou now,
  • By thy love’s milky brow!
  • By all the trembling mazes that she ran,
  • Hear us, great Pan!
  • “O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles
  • Passion their voices cooingly ’mong myrtles,
  • What time thou wanderest at eventide
  • Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side
  • Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom
  • Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom
  • Their ripen’d fruitage; yellow girted bees
  • Their golden honeycombs; our village leas
  • Their fairest blossom’d beans and poppied corn;
  • The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,
  • To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries
  • Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies
  • Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year
  • All its completions — be quickly near,
  • By every wind that nods the mountain pine,
  • O forester divine!
  • “Thou, to whom every faun and satyr flies
  • For willing service; whether to surprise
  • The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;
  • Or upward ragged precipices flit
  • To save poor lambkins from the eagle’s maw;
  • Or by mysterious enticement draw
  • Bewildered shepherds to their path again;
  • Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,
  • And gather up all fancifullest shells
  • For thee to tumble into Naiads’ cells,
  • And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;
  • Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,
  • The while they pelt each other on the crown
  • With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown —
  • By all the echoes that about thee ring,
  • Hear us, O satyr king!
  • “O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,
  • While ever and anon to his shorn peers
  • A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,
  • When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn
  • Anger our huntsmen: Breather round our farms,
  • To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
  • Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,
  • That come a swooning over hollow grounds,
  • And wither drearily on barren moors:
  • Dread opener of the mysterious doors
  • Leading to universal knowledge — see,
  • Great son of Dryope,
  • The many that are come to pay their vows
  • With leaves about their brows!
  • “Be still the unimaginable lodge
  • For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
  • Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
  • Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
  • That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
  • Gives it a touch ethereal — a new birth:
  • Be still a symbol of immensity;
  • A firmament reflected in a sea;
  • An element filling the space between;
  • An unknown — but no more: we humbly screen
  • With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,
  • And giving out a shout most heaven rending,
  • Conjure thee to receive our humble paean,
  • Upon thy Mount Lycean!”
  • Even while they brought the burden to a close,
  • A shout from the whole multitude arose,
  • That lingered in the air like dying rolls
  • Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals
  • Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.
  • Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,
  • Young companies nimbly began dancing
  • To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.
  • Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly
  • To tunes forgotten — out of memory:
  • Fair creatures! whose young childrens’ children bred
  • Thermopylae its heroes — not yet dead,
  • But in old marbles ever beautiful.
  • High genitors, unconscious did they cull
  • Time’s sweet first-fruits — they danc’d to weariness,
  • And then in quiet circles did they press
  • The hillock turf, and caught the latter end
  • Of some strange history, potent to send
  • A young mind from its bodily tenement.
  • Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
  • On either side; pitying the sad death
  • Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
  • Of Zephyr slew him, — Zephyr penitent,
  • Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
  • Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.
  • The archers too, upon a wider plain,
  • Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,
  • And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft
  • Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,
  • Call’d up a thousand thoughts to envelope
  • Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee
  • And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,
  • Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young
  • Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue
  • Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,
  • And very, very deadliness did nip
  • Her motherly cheeks. Arous’d from this sad mood
  • By one, who at a distance loud halloo’d,
  • Uplifting his strong bow into the air,
  • Many might after brighter visions stare:
  • After the Argonauts, in blind amaze
  • Tossing about on Neptune’s restless ways,
  • Until, from the horizon’s vaulted side,
  • There shot a golden splendour far and wide,
  • Spangling those million poutings of the brine
  • With quivering ore: ’twas even an awful shine
  • From the exaltation of Apollo’s bow;
  • A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.
  • Who thus were ripe for high contemplating
  • Might turn their steps towards the sober ring
  • Where sat Endymion and the aged priest
  • ’Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas’d
  • The silvery setting of their mortal star.
  • There they discours’d upon the fragile bar
  • That keeps us from our homes ethereal;
  • And what our duties there: to nightly call
  • Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;
  • To summon all the downiest clouds together
  • For the sun’s purple couch; to emulate
  • In ministring the potent rule of fate
  • With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;
  • To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons
  • Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,
  • A world of other unguess’d offices.
  • Anon they wander’d, by divine converse,
  • Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse
  • Each one his own anticipated bliss.
  • One felt heart-certain that he could not miss
  • His quick gone love, among fair blossom’d boughs,
  • Where every zephyr-sigh pouts, and endows
  • Her lips with music for the welcoming.
  • Another wish’d, mid that eternal spring,
  • To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,
  • Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:
  • Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,
  • And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;
  • And, ever after, through those regions be
  • His messenger, his little Mercury.
  • Some were athirst in soul to see again
  • Their fellow huntsmen o’er the wide champaign
  • In times long past; to sit with them, and talk
  • Of all the chances in their earthly walk;
  • Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores
  • Of happiness, to when upon the moors,
  • Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,
  • And shar’d their famish’d scrips. Thus all out-told
  • Their fond imaginations, — saving him
  • Whose eyelids curtain’d up their jewels dim,
  • Endymion: yet hourly had he striven
  • To hide the cankering venom, that had riven
  • His fainting recollections. Now indeed
  • His senses had swoon’d off: he did not heed
  • The sudden silence, or the whispers low,
  • Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,
  • Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,
  • Or maiden’s sigh, that grief itself embalms:
  • But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,
  • Like one who on the earth had never stept —
  • Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man,
  • Frozen in that old tale Arabian.
  • Who whispers him so pantingly and close?
  • Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,
  • His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,
  • And breath’d a sister’s sorrow to persuade
  • A yielding up, a cradling on her care.
  • Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:
  • She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse
  • Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,
  • Along a path between two little streams, —
  • Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,
  • From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow
  • From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;
  • Until they came to where these streamlets fall,
  • With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,
  • Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush
  • With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.
  • A little shallop, floating there hard by,
  • Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;
  • And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,
  • And dipt again, with the young couple’s weight, —
  • Peona guiding, through the water straight,
  • Towards a bowery island opposite;
  • Which gaining presently, she steered light
  • Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,
  • Where nested was an arbour, overwove
  • By many a summer’s silent fingering;
  • To whose cool bosom she was used to bring
  • Her playmates, with their needle broidery,
  • And minstrel memories of times gone by.
  • So she was gently glad to see him laid
  • Under her favourite bower’s quiet shade,
  • On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,
  • Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves
  • When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,
  • And the tann’d harvesters rich armfuls took.
  • Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:
  • But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest
  • Peona’s busy hand against his lips,
  • And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips
  • In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps
  • A patient watch over the stream that creeps
  • Windingly by it, so the quiet maid
  • Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade
  • Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling
  • Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling
  • Among sere leaves and twigs, might all be heard.
  • O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
  • That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind
  • Till it is hush’d and smooth! O unconfin’d
  • Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key
  • To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,
  • Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,
  • Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves
  • And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world
  • Of silvery enchantment! — who, upfurl’d
  • Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,
  • But renovates and lives? — Thus, in the bower,
  • Endymion was calm’d to life again.
  • Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,
  • He said: “I feel this thine endearing love
  • All through my bosom: thou art as a dove
  • Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings
  • About me; and the pearliest dew not brings
  • Such morning incense from the fields of May,
  • As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray
  • From those kind eyes, — the very home and haunt
  • Of sisterly affection. Can I want
  • Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?
  • Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears
  • That, any longer, I will pass my days
  • Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise
  • My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more
  • Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:
  • Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll
  • Around the breathed boar: again I’ll poll
  • The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:
  • And, when the pleasant sun is getting low,
  • Again I’ll linger in a sloping mead
  • To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed
  • Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered, sweet,
  • And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat
  • My soul to keep in its resolved course.”
  • Hereat Peona, in their silver source,
  • Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,
  • And took a lute, from which there pulsing came
  • A lively prelude, fashioning the way
  • In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay
  • More subtle cadenced, more forest wild
  • Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child;
  • And nothing since has floated in the air
  • So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare
  • Went, spiritual, through the damsel’s hand;
  • For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann’d
  • The quick invisible strings, even though she saw
  • Endymion’s spirit melt away and thaw
  • Before the deep intoxication.
  • But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon
  • Her self-possession — swung the lute aside,
  • And earnestly said: “Brother, ’tis vain to hide
  • That thou dost know of things mysterious,
  • Immortal, starry; such alone could thus
  • Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn’d in aught
  • Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught
  • A Paphian dove upon a message sent?
  • Thy deathful bow against some dear-herd bent,
  • Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen
  • Her naked limbs among the alders green;
  • And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace
  • Something more high perplexing in thy face!”
  • Endymion look’d at her, and press’d her hand,
  • And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland
  • And merry in our meadows? How is this?
  • Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss! —
  • Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change
  • Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?
  • Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?
  • Ambition is no sluggard: ’tis no prize,
  • That toiling years would put within my grasp,
  • That I have sigh’d for: with so deadly gasp
  • No man e’er panted for a mortal love.
  • So all have set my heavier grief above
  • These things which happen. Rightly have they done:
  • I, who still saw the horizontal sun
  • Heave his broad shoulder o’er the edge of the world,
  • Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d
  • My spear aloft, as signal for the chace —
  • I, who, for very sport of heart, would race
  • With my own steed from Araby; pluck down
  • A vulture from his towery perching; frown
  • A lion into growling, loth retire —
  • To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire,
  • And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast
  • Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.
  • “This river does not see the naked sky,
  • Till it begins to progress silverly
  • Around the western border of the wood,
  • Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood
  • Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:
  • And in that nook, the very pride of June,
  • Had I been used to pass my weary eves;
  • The rather for the sun unwilling leaves
  • So dear a picture of his sovereign power,
  • And I could witness his most kingly hour,
  • When he doth tighten up the golden reins,
  • And paces leisurely down amber plains
  • His snorting four. Now when his chariot last
  • Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,
  • There blossom’d suddenly a magic bed
  • Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:
  • At which I wondered greatly, knowing well
  • That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;
  • And, sitting down close by, began to muse
  • What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,
  • In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;
  • Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook
  • Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,
  • Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth
  • Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,
  • Until my head was dizzy and distraught.
  • Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole
  • A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;
  • And shaping visions all about my sight
  • Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;
  • The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,
  • And then were gulph’d in a tumultuous swim:
  • And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell
  • The enchantment that afterwards befel?
  • Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream
  • That never tongue, although it overteem
  • With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,
  • Could figure out and to conception bring
  • All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay
  • Watching the zenith, where the milky way
  • Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;
  • And travelling my eye, until the doors
  • Of heaven appear’d to open for my flight,
  • I became loth and fearful to alight
  • From such high soaring by a downward glance:
  • So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,
  • Spreading imaginary pinions wide.
  • When, presently, the stars began to glide,
  • And faint away, before my eager view:
  • At which I sigh’d that I could not pursue,
  • And dropt my vision to the horizon’s verge;
  • And lo! from the opening clouds, I saw emerge
  • The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er
  • A shell for Neptune’s goblet: she did soar
  • So passionately bright, my dazzled soul
  • Commingling with her argent spheres did roll
  • Through clear and cloudy, even when she went
  • At last into a dark and vapoury tent —
  • Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train
  • Of planets all were in the blue again.
  • To commune with those orbs, once more I rais’d
  • My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed
  • By a bright something, sailing down apace,
  • Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:
  • Again I look’d, and, O ye deities,
  • Who from Olympus watch our destinies!
  • Whence that completed form of all completeness?
  • Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?
  • Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O where
  • Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?
  • Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;
  • Not — thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun
  • Such follying before thee — yet she had,
  • Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;
  • And they were simply gordian’d up and braided,
  • Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,
  • Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;
  • The which were blended in, I know not how,
  • With such a paradise of lips and eyes,
  • Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,
  • That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings
  • And plays about its fancy, till the stings
  • Of human neighbourhood envenom all.
  • Unto what awful power shall I call?
  • To what high fane? — Ah! see her hovering feet,
  • More bluely vein’d, more soft, more whitely sweet
  • Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose
  • From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows
  • Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion;
  • ’Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million
  • Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,
  • Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,
  • Handfuls of daisies.” — “Endymion, how strange!
  • Dream within dream!” — “She took an airy range,
  • And then, towards me, like a very maid,
  • Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,
  • And press’d me by the hand: Ah! ’twas too much;
  • Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,
  • Yet held my recollection, even as one
  • Who dives three fathoms where the waters run
  • Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,
  • I felt upmounted in that region
  • Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,
  • And eagles struggle with the buffeting north
  • That balances the heavy meteor-stone; —
  • Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,
  • But lapp’d and lull’d along the dangerous sky.
  • Soon, as it seem’d, we left our journeying high,
  • And straightway into frightful eddies swoop’d;
  • Such as aye muster where grey time has scoop’d
  • Huge dens and caverns in a mountain’s side:
  • There hollow sounds arous’d me, and I sigh’d
  • To faint once more by looking on my bliss —
  • I was distracted; madly did I kiss
  • The wooing arms which held me, and did give
  • My eyes at once to death: but ’twas to live,
  • To take in draughts of life from the gold fount
  • Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count
  • The moments, by some greedy help that seem’d
  • A second self, that each might be redeem’d
  • And plunder’d of its load of blessedness.
  • Ah, desperate mortal! I ev’n dar’d to press
  • Her very cheek against my crowned lip,
  • And, at that moment, felt my body dip
  • Into a warmer air: a moment more,
  • Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store
  • Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes
  • A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,
  • Loiter’d around us; then of honey cells,
  • Made delicate from all white-flower bells;
  • And once, above the edges of our nest,
  • An arch face peep’d, — an Oread as I guess’d.
  • “Why did I dream that sleep o’er-power’d me
  • In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,
  • Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,
  • And stare them from me? But no, like a spark
  • That needs must die, although its little beam
  • Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream
  • Fell into nothing — into stupid sleep.
  • And so it was, until a gentle creep,
  • A careful moving caught my waking ears,
  • And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,
  • My clenched hands; — for lo! the poppies hung
  • Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung
  • A heavy ditty, and the sullen day
  • Had chidden herald Hesperus away,
  • With leaden looks: the solitary breeze
  • Bluster’d, and slept, and its wild self did teaze
  • With wayward melancholy; and I thought,
  • Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought
  • Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus! —
  • Away I wander’d — all the pleasant hues
  • Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades
  • Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades
  • Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills
  • Seem’d sooty, and o’er-spread with upturn’d gills
  • Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown
  • In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown
  • Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird
  • Before my heedless footsteps stirr’d, and stirr’d
  • In little journeys, I beheld in it
  • A disguis’d demon, missioned to knit
  • My soul with under darkness; to entice
  • My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:
  • Therefore I eager followed, and did curse
  • The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,
  • Rock’d me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!
  • These things, with all their comfortings, are given
  • To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,
  • Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea
  • Of weary life.”
  • Thus ended he, and both
  • Sat silent: for the maid was very loth
  • To answer; feeling well that breathed words
  • Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords
  • Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps
  • Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps,
  • And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;
  • To put on such a look as would say, Shame
  • On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,
  • She could as soon have crush’d away the life
  • From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,
  • She said with trembling chance: “Is this the cause?
  • This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!
  • That one who through this middle earth should pass
  • Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave
  • His name upon the harp-string, should achieve
  • No higher bard than simple maidenhood,
  • Singing alone, and fearfully, — how the blood
  • Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray
  • He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,
  • If any said ’twas love: and yet ’twas love;
  • What could it be but love? How a ring-dove
  • Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;
  • And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe
  • The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;
  • And then the ballad of his sad life closes
  • With sighs, and an alas! — Endymion!
  • Be rather in the trumpet’s mouth, — anon
  • Among the winds at large — that all may hearken!
  • Although, before the crystal heavens darken,
  • I watch and dote upon the silver lakes
  • Pictur’d in western cloudiness, that takes
  • The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,
  • Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands
  • With horses prancing o’er them, palaces
  • And towers of amethyst, — would I so tease
  • My pleasant days, because I could not mount
  • Into those regions? The Morphean fount
  • Of that fine element that visions, dreams,
  • And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams
  • Into its airy channels with so subtle,
  • So thin a breathing, not the spider’s shuttle,
  • Circled a million times within the space
  • Of a swallow’s nest-door, could delay a trace,
  • A tinting of its quality: how light
  • Must dreams themselves be; seeing they’re more slight
  • Than the mere nothing that engenders them!
  • Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem
  • Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?
  • Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick
  • For nothing but a dream?” Hereat the youth
  • Look’d up: a conflicting of shame and ruth
  • Was in his plaited brow: yet, his eyelids
  • Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids
  • A little breeze to creep between the fans
  • Of careless butterflies: amid his pains
  • He seem’d to taste a drop of manna-dew,
  • Full palatable; and a colour grew
  • Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.
  • “Peona! ever have I long’d to slake
  • My thirst for the world’s praises: nothing base,
  • No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace
  • The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar’d —
  • Though now ’tis tatter’d; leaving my bark bar’d
  • And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope
  • Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,
  • To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.
  • Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
  • Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
  • A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
  • Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold
  • The clear religion of heaven! Fold
  • A rose leaf round thy finger’s taperness,
  • And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress
  • Of music’s kiss impregnates the free winds,
  • And with a sympathetic touch unbinds
  • Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:
  • Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;
  • Old ditties sigh above their father’s grave;
  • Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave
  • Round every spot where trod Apollo’s foot;
  • Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
  • Where long ago a giant battle was;
  • And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass
  • In every place where infant Orpheus slept.
  • Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept
  • Into a sort of oneness, and our state
  • Is like a floating spirit’s. But there are
  • Richer entanglements, enthralments far
  • More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,
  • To the chief intensity: the crown of these
  • Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
  • Upon the forehead of humanity.
  • All its more ponderous and bulky worth
  • Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth
  • A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,
  • There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop
  • Of light, and that is love: its influence,
  • Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,
  • At which we start and fret; till in the end,
  • Melting into its radiance, we blend,
  • Mingle, and so become a part of it, —
  • Nor with aught else can our souls interknit
  • So wingedly: when we combine therewith,
  • Life’s self is nourish’d by its proper pith,
  • And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.
  • Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,
  • That men, who might have tower’d in the van
  • Of all the congregated world, to fan
  • And winnow from the coming step of time
  • All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime
  • Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,
  • Have been content to let occasion die,
  • Whilst they did sleep in love’s elysium.
  • And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,
  • Than speak against this ardent listlessness:
  • For I have ever thought that it might bless
  • The world with benefits unknowingly;
  • As does the nightingale, upperched high,
  • And cloister’d among cool and bunched leaves —
  • She sings but to her love, nor e’er conceives
  • How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.
  • Just so may love, although ’tis understood
  • The mere commingling of passionate breath,
  • Produce more than our searching witnesseth:
  • What I know not: but who, of men, can tell
  • That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
  • To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
  • The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
  • The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
  • The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
  • Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
  • If human souls did never kiss and greet?
  • “Now, if this earthly love has power to make
  • Men’s being mortal, immortal; to shake
  • Ambition from their memories, and brim
  • Their measure of content; what merest whim,
  • Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,
  • To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim
  • A love immortal, an immortal too.
  • Look not so wilder’d; for these things are true,
  • And never can be born of atomies
  • That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,
  • Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I’m sure,
  • My restless spirit never could endure
  • To brood so long upon one luxury,
  • Unless it did, though fearfully, espy
  • A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.
  • My sayings will the less obscured seem,
  • When I have told thee how my waking sight
  • Has made me scruple whether that same night
  • Was pass’d in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!
  • Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,
  • Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,
  • Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows
  • Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart,
  • And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,
  • And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide
  • Past them, but he must brush on every side.
  • Some moulder’d steps lead into this cool cell,
  • Far as the slabbed margin of a well,
  • Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye
  • Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.
  • Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set
  • Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet
  • Edges them round, and they have golden pits:
  • ’Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits
  • In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,
  • When all above was faint with mid-day heat.
  • And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,
  • I’d bubble up the water through a reed;
  • So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships
  • Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,
  • With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be
  • Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,
  • When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,
  • I sat contemplating the figures wild
  • Of o’er-head clouds melting the mirror through.
  • Upon a day, while thus I watch’d, by flew
  • A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;
  • So plainly character’d, no breeze would shiver
  • The happy chance: so happy, I was fain
  • To follow it upon the open plain,
  • And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!
  • A wonder, fair as any I have told —
  • The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,
  • Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap
  • Through the cool depth. — It moved as if to flee —
  • I started up, when lo! refreshfully,
  • There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,
  • Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,
  • Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,
  • Bathing my spirit in a new delight.
  • Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss
  • Alone preserved me from the drear abyss
  • Of death, for the fair form had gone again.
  • Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain
  • Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth
  • On the deer’s tender haunches: late, and loth,
  • ’Tis scar’d away by slow returning pleasure.
  • How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure
  • Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,
  • By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!
  • Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,
  • Than when I wander’d from the poppy hill:
  • And a whole age of lingering moments crept
  • Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept
  • Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.
  • Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;
  • Once more been tortured with renewed life.
  • When last the wintry gusts gave over strife
  • With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies
  • Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes
  • In pity of the shatter’d infant buds, —
  • That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,
  • My hunting cap, because I laugh’d and smil’d,
  • Chatted with thee, and many days exil’d
  • All torment from my breast; — ’twas even then,
  • Straying about, yet, coop’d up in the den
  • Of helpless discontent, — hurling my lance
  • From place to place, and following at chance,
  • At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,
  • And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck
  • In the middle of a brook, — whose silver ramble
  • Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,
  • Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,
  • Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave
  • The nether sides of mossy stones and rock, —
  • ’Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock
  • Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,
  • Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread
  • Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph’s home.
  • `Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?’
  • Said I, low voic’d `ah, whither! ’tis the grot
  • Of Proserpine, when hell, obscure and hot,
  • Doth her resign; and where her tender hands
  • She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:
  • Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,
  • And babbles thorough silence, till her wits
  • Are gone in tender madness, and anon,
  • Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone
  • Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,
  • And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,
  • To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,
  • Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,
  • And weave them dyingly — send honey-whispers
  • Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers
  • May sigh my love unto her pitying!
  • O charitable Echo! hear, and sing
  • This ditty to her! — tell her’ — so I stay’d
  • My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,
  • Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,
  • And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.
  • Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name
  • Most fondly lipp’d, and then these accents came:
  • ’Endymion! the cave is secreter
  • Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
  • No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
  • Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
  • And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.’
  • At that oppress’d I hurried in. — Ah! where
  • Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?
  • I’ll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed
  • Sorrow the way to death; but patiently
  • Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;
  • And come instead demurest meditation,
  • To occupy me wholly, and to fashion
  • My pilgrimage for the world’s dusky brink.
  • No more will I count over, link by link,
  • My chain of grief: no longer strive to find
  • A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind
  • Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,
  • Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;
  • What a calm round of hours shall make my days.
  • There is a paly flame of hope that plays
  • Where’er I look: but yet, I’ll say ’tis naught —
  • And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,
  • Already, a more healthy countenance?
  • By this the sun is setting; we may chance
  • Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car.”
  • This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star
  • Through autumn mists, and took Peona’s hand:
  • They stept into the boat, and launch’d from land.
🗙

Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK II

  • O sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!
  • All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,
  • And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:
  • For others, good or bad, hatred and tears
  • Have become indolent; but touching thine,
  • One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,
  • One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.
  • The woes of Troy, towers smothering o’er their blaze,
  • Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,
  • Struggling, and blood, and shrieks — all dimly fades
  • Into some backward corner of the brain;
  • Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain
  • The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.
  • Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!
  • Swart planet in the universe of deeds!
  • Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
  • Along the pebbled shore of memory!
  • Many old rotten-timber’d boats there be
  • Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified
  • To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
  • And golden keel’d, is left unlaunch’d and dry.
  • But wherefore this? what care, though owl did fly
  • About the great Athenian admiral’s mast?
  • What care, though striding Alexander past
  • The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
  • Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
  • The glutted Cyclops, what care? — Juliet leaning
  • Amid her window-flowers, — signing, — weaning
  • Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
  • Doth more avail than these: the silver flow
  • Of Hero’s tears, the swoon of Imogen,
  • Fair Pastorella in the bandit’s den,
  • Are things to brood on with more ardency
  • Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully
  • Must such conviction come upon his head,
  • Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,
  • Without one muse’s smile, or kind behest,
  • The path of love and poesy. But rest,
  • In chafing restlessness, is yet more drear
  • Than to be crush’d, in striving to uprear
  • Love’s standard on the battlements of song.
  • So once more days and nights aid me along,
  • Like legion’d soldiers
  • Brain-sick shepherd-prince,
  • What promise hast thou faithful guarded since
  • The day of sacrifice? or, have new sorrows
  • Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?
  • Alas! ’tis his old grief. For many days,
  • Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:
  • Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;
  • Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes
  • Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,
  • Hour after hour, to each lush-leav’d rill.
  • Now he is sitting by a shady spring,
  • And elbow-deep with feverous fingering
  • Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree
  • Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see
  • A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now
  • He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!
  • It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;
  • And, in the middle, there is softly pight
  • A golden butterfly; upon whose wings
  • There must be surely character’d strange things,
  • For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.
  • Lightly this little herald flew aloft,
  • Follow’d by glad Endymion’s clasped hands:
  • Onward it flies. From languor’s sullen bands
  • His limbs are loos’d, and eager, on he hies
  • Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.
  • It seem’d he flew, the way so easy was;
  • And like a new-born spirit did he pass
  • Through the green evening quiet in the sun,
  • O’er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
  • Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
  • The summer time away. One track unseams
  • A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue
  • Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,
  • He sinks adown a solitary glen,
  • Where there was never sound of mortal men,
  • Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences
  • Melting to silence, when upon the breeze
  • Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,
  • To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet
  • Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,
  • Until it reached a splashing fountain’s side
  • That, near a cavern’s mouth, for ever pour’d
  • Unto the temperate air: then high it soar’d,
  • And, downward, suddenly began to dip,
  • As if, athirst with so much toil, ’twould sip
  • The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch
  • Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch
  • Even with mealy gold the waters clear.
  • But, at that very touch, to disappear
  • So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,
  • Endymion sought around, and shook each bed
  • Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung
  • Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,
  • What whisperer disturb’d his gloomy rest?
  • It was a nymph uprisen to the breast
  • In the fountain’s pebbly margin, and she stood
  • ’Mong lilies, like the youngest of the brood.
  • To him her dripping hand she softly kist,
  • And anxiously began to plait and twist
  • Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: “Youth!
  • Too long, alas, hast thou starv’d on the ruth,
  • The bitterness of love: too long indeed,
  • Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I weed
  • Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer
  • All the bright riches of my crystal coffer
  • To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,
  • Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,
  • Vermilion-tail’d, or finn’d with silvery gauze;
  • Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws
  • A virgin light to the deep; my grotto-sands
  • Tawny and gold, ooz’d slowly from far lands
  • By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,
  • My charming rod, my potent river spells;
  • Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup
  • Meander gave me, — for I bubbled up
  • To fainting creatures in a desert wild.
  • But woe is me, I am but as a child
  • To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,
  • Is, that I pity thee; that on this day
  • I’ve been thy guide; that thou must wander far
  • In other regions, past the scanty bar
  • To mortal steps, before thou cans’t be ta’en
  • From every wasting sigh, from every pain,
  • Into the gentle bosom of thy love.
  • Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:
  • But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!
  • I have a ditty for my hollow cell.”
  • Hereat, she vanished from Endymion’s gaze,
  • Who brooded o’er the water in amaze:
  • The dashing fount pour’d on, and where its pool
  • Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,
  • Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,
  • And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill
  • Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,
  • Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr
  • Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;
  • And, while beneath the evening’s sleepy frown
  • Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,
  • Thus breath’d he to himself: “Whoso encamps
  • To take a fancied city of delight,
  • O what a wretch is he! and when ’tis his,
  • After long toil and travelling, to miss
  • The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:
  • Yet, for him there’s refreshment even in toil;
  • Another city doth he set about,
  • Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt
  • That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:
  • Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,
  • And onward to another city speeds.
  • But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
  • The disappointment, the anxiety,
  • Imagination’s struggles, far and nigh,
  • All human; bearing in themselves this good,
  • To make us feel existence, and to show
  • How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,
  • Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,
  • There is no depth to strike in: I can see
  • Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand
  • Upon a misty, jutting head of land —
  • Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,
  • When mad Eurydice is listening to ’t;
  • I’d rather stand upon this misty peak,
  • With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,
  • But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,
  • Than be — I care not what. O meekest dove
  • Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!
  • From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,
  • Glance but one little beam of temper’d light
  • Into my bosom, that the dreadful might
  • And tyranny of love be somewhat scar’d!
  • Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar’d,
  • Would give a pang to jealous misery,
  • Worse than the torment’s self: but rather tie
  • Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out
  • My love’s far dwelling. Though the playful rout
  • Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,
  • Too keen in beauty for thy silver prow
  • Not to have dipp’d in love’s most gentle stream.
  • O be propitious, nor severely deem
  • My madness impious; for, by all the stars
  • That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars
  • That kept my spirit in are burst — that I
  • Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!
  • How beautiful thou art! the world how deep!
  • How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep
  • Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,
  • How lithe! When this thy chariot attains
  • Its airy goal, haply some bower veils
  • Those twilight eyes? Those eyes! — my spirit fails —
  • Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air
  • Will gulph me — help!” — At this with madden’d stare,
  • And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;
  • Like old Deucalion mountain’d o’er the flood,
  • Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.
  • And, but from the deep cavern there was borne
  • A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;
  • Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion’d moan
  • Had more been heard. Thus swell’d it forth: “Descend,
  • Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend
  • Into the sparry hollows of the world!
  • Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl’d
  • As from thy threshold; day by day hast been
  • A little lower than the chilly sheen
  • Of icy pinnacles, and dipp’dst thine arms
  • Into the deadening ether that still charms
  • Their marble being: now, as deep profound
  • As those are high, descend! He ne’er is crown’d
  • With immortality, who fears to follow
  • Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,
  • The silent mysteries of earth, descend!”
  • He heard but the last words, nor could contend
  • One moment in reflection: for he fled
  • Into the fearful deep, to hide his head
  • From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.
  • ’Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;
  • Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite
  • To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,
  • The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,
  • But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;
  • A dusky empire and its diadems;
  • One faint eternal eventide of gems.
  • Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,
  • With all its lines abrupt and angular:
  • Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,
  • Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,
  • Like Vulcan’s rainbow, with some monstrous roof
  • Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,
  • It seems an angry lighting, and doth hiss
  • Fancy into belief: anon it leads
  • Through winding passages, where sameness breeds
  • Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;
  • Whether to silver grots, or giant range
  • Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge
  • Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge
  • Now fareth he, that o’er the vast beneath
  • Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth
  • A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come
  • But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb
  • His bosom grew, when first he, far away,
  • Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray
  • Old darkness from his throne: ’twas like the sun
  • Uprisen o’er chaos: and with such a stun
  • Came the amazement, that, absorb’d in it,
  • He saw not fiercer wonders — past the wit
  • Of any spirit to tell, but one of those
  • Who, when this planet’s sphering time doth close,
  • Will be its high remembrancers: who they?
  • The mighty ones who have made eternal day
  • For Greece and England. While astonishment
  • With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went
  • Into a marble gallery, passing through
  • A mimic temple, so complete and true
  • In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear’d
  • To search it inwards; whence far off appear’d,
  • Through a long pillar’d vista, a fair shrine,
  • And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,
  • A quiver’d Dian. Stepping awfully,
  • The youth approach’d; oft turning his veil’d eye
  • Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.
  • And when, more near against the marble cold
  • He had touch’d his forehead, he began to thread
  • All courts and passages, where silence dead
  • Rous’d by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:
  • And long he travers’d to and fro, to acquaint
  • Himself with every mystery, and awe;
  • Till, weary, he sat down before the maw
  • Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim,
  • To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.
  • There, when new wonders ceas’d to float before,
  • And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
  • The journey homeward to habitual self!
  • A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,
  • Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,
  • Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,
  • Into the bosom of a hated thing.
  • What misery most drowningly doth sing
  • In lone Endymion’s ear, now he has raught
  • The goal of consciousness? Ah, ’tis the thought,
  • The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!
  • He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow
  • Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild
  • In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil’d,
  • The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,
  • Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest
  • Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;
  • But far from such companionship to wear
  • An unknown time, surcharg’d with grief, away,
  • Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,
  • Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?
  • “No!” exclaimed he, “why should I tarry here?”
  • No! loudly echoed times innumerable.
  • At which he straightaway started, and ’gan tell
  • His paces back into the temple’s chief;
  • Warming and glowing strong in the belief
  • Of help from Dian: so that when again
  • He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,
  • Moving more near the while. “O Haunter chaste
  • Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,
  • Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen
  • Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,
  • What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?
  • Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos
  • Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree
  • Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe’er it be,
  • ’Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste
  • Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste
  • Thy loveliness in dismal elements;
  • But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,
  • There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee
  • It feels Elysian, how rich to me,
  • An exil’d mortal, sounds its pleasant name!
  • Within my breast there lives a choking flame —
  • O let me cool it the zephyr-boughs among!
  • A homeward fever parches up my tongue —
  • O let me slake it at the running springs!
  • Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings —
  • O let me once more hear the linnet’s note!
  • Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float —
  • O let me ’noint them with the heaven’s light!
  • Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?
  • O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!
  • Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?
  • O think how this dry palate would rejoice!
  • If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,
  • O think how I should love a bed of flowers! —
  • Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!
  • Deliver me from this rapacious deep!”
  • Thus ending loudly, as he would o’erleap
  • His destiny, alert he stood: but when
  • Obstinate silence came heavily again,
  • Feeling about for its old couch of space
  • And airy cradle, lowly bow’d his face
  • Desponding, o’er the marble floor’s cold thrill.
  • But ’twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill
  • To its old channel, or a swollen tide
  • To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,
  • And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns
  • Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns
  • Itself, and strives its own delights to hide —
  • Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride
  • In a long whispering birth enchanted grew
  • Before his footsteps; as when heav’d anew
  • Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,
  • Down whose green back the short-liv’d foam, all hoar,
  • Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.
  • Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,
  • Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;
  • So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes
  • One moment with his hand among the sweets:
  • Onward he goes — he stops — his bosom beats
  • As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm
  • Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,
  • This sleepy music, forc’d him walk tiptoe:
  • For it came more softly than the east could blow
  • Arion’s magic to the Atlantic isles;
  • Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles
  • Of thron’d Apollo, could breathe back the lyre
  • To seas Ionian and Tyrian.
  • O did he ever live, that lonely man,
  • Who lov’d — and music slew not? ’Tis the pest
  • Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest
  • That things of delicate and tenderest worth
  • Are swallow’d all, and made a seared dearth,
  • By one consuming flame: it doth immerse
  • And suffocate true blessings in a curse.
  • Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,
  • Is miserable. ’Twas even so with this
  • Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian’s ear;
  • First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,
  • Vanish’d in elemental passion.
  • And down some swart abysm he had gone
  • Had not a heavenly guide benignant led
  • To where thick myrtle branches, ’gainst his head
  • Brushing, awakened: then the sounds again
  • Went noiseless as a passing noontide rain
  • Over a bower, where little space he stood;
  • For, as the sunset peeps into a wood,
  • So saw he panting light, and towards it went
  • Through winding alleys; and lo, wonderment!
  • Upon soft verdure saw, one here, one there,
  • Cupids a slumbering on their pinions fair.
  • After a thousand mazes overgone,
  • At last, with sudden step, he came upon
  • A chamber, myrtle wall’d, embowered high,
  • Full of light, incense, tender minstrelsy
  • And more of beautiful and strange beside:
  • For on a silken couch of rosy pride,
  • In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
  • Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,
  • Than sighs could fathom, or contentment reach:
  • And coverlids gold-tinted like the peach,
  • Or ripe October’s faded marigolds,
  • Fell sleek about him in a thousand folds —
  • Not hiding up an Apollonian curve
  • Of neck and shoulder, nor the tenting swerve
  • Of knee from knee, nor ankles pointing light;
  • But rather, giving them to the filled sight
  • Officiously. Sideway his face repos’d
  • On one white arm, and tenderly unclos’d,
  • By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth
  • To slumbery pout; just as the morning south
  • Disparts a dew-lipp’d rose. Above his head,
  • Four lily stalks did their white honours wed
  • To make a coronal; and round him grew
  • All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,
  • Together intertwin’d and trammel’d fresh:
  • The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,
  • Shading its Ethiop berries; and woodbine,
  • Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine;
  • Convolvulus in streaked vases flush;
  • The creeper, mellowing for an autumn blush;
  • And virgin’s bower, trailing airily;
  • With others of the sisterhood. Hard by,
  • Stood serene Cupids watching silently.
  • One, kneeling to a lyre, touch’d the strings,
  • Muffling to death the pathos with his wings;
  • And, ever and anon, uprose to look
  • At the youth’s slumber; while another took
  • A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,
  • And shook it on his hair; another flew
  • In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
  • Rain’d violets upon his sleeping eyes.
  • At these enchantments, and yet many more,
  • The breathless Latmian wonder’d o’er and o’er;
  • Until, impatient in embarrassment,
  • He forthright pass’d, and lightly treading went
  • To that same feather’d lyrist, who straightway,
  • Smiling, thus whisper’d “though from upper day
  • Thou art a wanderer, and thy presence here
  • Might seem unholy, be of happy cheer!
  • For ’tis the nicest touch of human honour,
  • When some ethereal and high-favouring donor
  • Presents immortal bowers to mortal sense;
  • As now ’tis done to thee, Endymion. Hence
  • Was I in no wise startled. So recline
  • Upon these living flowers. Here is wine,
  • Alive with sparkles — never, I aver,
  • Since Ariadne was a vintager,
  • So cool a purple: taste these juicy pears,
  • Sent me by sad Vertumnus, when his fears
  • Were high about Pomona: here is cream,
  • Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam;
  • Sweeter than that nurse Amalthea skimm’d
  • For the boy Jupiter: and here, undimm’d
  • By any touch, a bunch of blooming plums
  • Ready to melt between an infant’s gums:
  • And here is manna pick’d from Syrian trees,
  • In starlight, by the three Hesperides.
  • Feast on, and meanwhile I will let thee know
  • Of all these things around us.” He did so,
  • Still brooding o’er the cadence of his lyre;
  • And thus “I need not any hearing tire
  • By telling how the sea-born goddess pin’d
  • For a mortal youth, and how she strove to bind
  • Him all in all unto her doting self.
  • Who would not be so imprison’d? but, fond elf,
  • He was content to let her amorous plea
  • Faint through his careless arms; content to see
  • An unseiz’d heaven dying at his feet;
  • Content, O fool! to make a cold retreat,
  • When on the pleasant grass such love, lovelorn,
  • Lay sorrowing; when every tear was born
  • Of diverse passion; when her lips and eyes
  • Were clos’d in sullen moisture, and quick sighs
  • Came vex’d and pettish through her nostrils small.
  • Hush! no exclaim — yet, justly mightst thou call
  • Curses upon his head. — I was half glad,
  • But my poor mistress went distract and mad,
  • When the boar tusk’d him: so away she flew
  • To Jove’s high throne, and by her plainings drew
  • Immortal tear-drops down the thunderer’s beard;
  • Whereon, it was decreed he should be rear’d
  • Each summer time to life. Lo! this is he,
  • That same Adonis, safe in the privacy
  • Of this still region all his winter-sleep.
  • Aye, sleep; for when our love-sick queen did weep
  • Over his waned corse, the tremulous shower
  • Heal’d up the wound, and, with a balmy power,
  • Medicined death to a lengthened drowsiness:
  • The which she fills with visions, and doth dress
  • In all this quiet luxury; and hath set
  • Us young immortals, without any let,
  • To watch his slumber through. ’Tis well nigh pass’d,
  • Even to a moment’s filling up, and fast
  • She scuds with summer breezes, to pant through
  • The first long kiss, warm firstling, to renew
  • Embower’d sports in cytherea’s isle.
  • Look! how those winged listeners all this while
  • Stand anxious: see! behold!” — this clamant word
  • Broke through the careful silence; for they heard
  • A rustling noise of leaves, and out there flutter’d
  • Pigeons and doves: Adonis something mutter’d,
  • The while one hand, that erst upon his thigh
  • Lay dormant, mov’d convuls’d and gradually
  • Up to his forehead. Then there was a hum
  • Of sudden voices, echoing, “come! come!
  • Arise! awake! clear summer has forth walk’d
  • Unto the clover-sward, and she has talk’d
  • Full soothingly to every nested finch:
  • Rise, Cupids! or we’ll give the blue-bell pinch
  • To your dimpled arms. Once more sweet life begin!”
  • Rubbing their sleepy eyes with lazy wrists,
  • And doubling over head their little fists
  • In backward yawns. But all were soon alive:
  • For as delicious wine doth, sparkling, dive
  • In nectar’d clouds and curls through water fair,
  • So from the arbour roof down swell’d an air
  • Odorous and enlivening; making all
  • To laugh, and play, and sing, and loudly call
  • For their sweet queen: when lo! the wreathed green
  • Disparted, and far upward could be seen
  • Blue heaven, and a silver car, air-borne,
  • Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,
  • Spun off a drizzling dew, — which falling chill
  • On soft Adonis’ shoulders, made him still
  • Nestle and turn uneasily about.
  • Soon were the white doves plain, with necks stretch’d out,
  • And silken traces tighten’d in descent;
  • And soon, returning from love’s banishment,
  • Queen Venus leaning downward open arm’d:
  • Her shadow fell upon his breast, and charm’d
  • A tumult to his heart, and a new life
  • Into his eyes. Ah, miserable strife,
  • But for her comforting! unhappy sight,
  • But meeting her blue orbs! who, who can write
  • Of these first minutes? the unchariest muse
  • To embracements warm as theirs makes coy excuse.
  • O it has ruffled every spirit there,
  • Saving love’s self, who stands superb to share
  • The general gladness: awfully he stands;
  • A sovereign quell is in his waving hands;
  • No sight can bear the lightning of his bow;
  • His quiver is mysterious, none can know
  • What themselves think of it; from forth his eyes
  • There darts strange light of varied hues and dyes:
  • A scowl is sometimes on his brow, but who
  • Look full upon it feel anon the blue
  • Of his fair eyes run liquid through their souls.
  • Endymion feels it, and no more controls
  • The burning prayer within him; so, bent low,
  • He had begun a plaining of his woe.
  • But Venus, bending forward, said: “My child,
  • Favour this gentle youth; his days are wild
  • With love — he — but alas! too well I see
  • Thou know’st the deepness of his misery.
  • Ah, smile not so, my son: I tell thee true,
  • That when through heavy hours I used to rue
  • The endless sleep of this new-born Adon’,
  • This stranger ay I pitied. For upon
  • A dreary morning once I fled away
  • Into the breezy clouds, to weep and pray
  • For this my love: for vexing Mars had teaz’d
  • Me even to tears: thence, when a little eas’d
  • Down-looking, vacant, through a hazy wood,
  • I saw this youth as he despairing stood:
  • Those same dark curls blown vagrant in the wind;
  • Those same full fringed lids a constant blind
  • Over his sullen eyes: I saw him throw
  • Himself on wither’d leaves, even as though
  • Death had come sudden; for no jot he mov’d,
  • Yet mutter’d wildly. I could hear he lov’d
  • Some fair immortal, and that his embrace
  • Had zoned her through the night. There is no trace
  • Of this in heaven: I have mark’d each cheek,
  • And find it is the vainest thing to seek;
  • And that of all things ’tis kept secretest.
  • Endymion! one day thou wilt be blest:
  • So still obey the guiding hand that fends
  • Thee safely through these wonders for sweet ends.
  • ’Tis a concealment needful in extreme;
  • And if I guess’d not so, the sunny beam
  • Thou shouldst mount up to with me. Now adieu!
  • Here must we leave thee.” — At these words up flew
  • The impatient doves, up rose the floating car,
  • Up went the hum celestial. High afar
  • The Latmian saw them minish into nought;
  • And, when all were clear vanish’d, still he caught
  • A vivid lightning from that dreadful bow.
  • When all was darkened, with Etnean throe
  • The earth clos’d — gave a solitary moan —
  • And left him once again in twilight lone.
  • He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,
  • For all those visions were o’ergone, and past,
  • And he in loneliness: he felt assur’d
  • Of happy times, when all he had endur’d
  • Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.
  • So, with unusual gladness, on he hies
  • Through caves, and palaces of mottled ore,
  • Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquois floor,
  • Black polish’d porticos of awful shade,
  • And, at the last, a diamond balustrade,
  • Leading afar past wild magnificence,
  • Spiral through ruggedest loopholes, and thence
  • Enormous chasms, where, all foam and roar,
  • Streams subterranean tease their granite beds;
  • Then heighten’d just above the silvery heads
  • Of a thousand fountains, so that he could dash
  • The waters with his spear; but at the splash,
  • Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose
  • Sudden a poplar’s height, and ’gan to enclose
  • His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round
  • Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound,
  • Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells
  • Welcome the float of Thetis. Long he dwells
  • On this delight; for, every minute’s space,
  • The streams with changed magic interlace:
  • Sometimes like delicatest lattices,
  • Cover’d with crystal vines; then weeping trees,
  • Moving about as in a gentle wind,
  • Which, in a wink, to watery gauze refin’d,
  • Pour’d into shapes of curtain’d canopies,
  • Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries
  • Of flowers, peacocks, swans, and naiads fair.
  • Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;
  • And then the water, into stubborn streams
  • Collecting, mimick’d the wrought oaken beams,
  • Pillars, and frieze, and high fantastic roof,
  • Of those dusk places in times far aloof
  • Cathedrals call’d. He bade a loth farewel
  • To these founts Protean, passing gulph, and dell,
  • And torrent, and ten thousand jutting shapes,
  • Half seen through deepest gloom, and griesly gapes,
  • Blackening on every side, and overhead
  • A vaulted dome like heaven’s, far bespread
  • With starlight gems: aye, all so huge and strange,
  • The solitary felt a hurried change
  • Working within him into something dreary, —
  • Vex’d like a morning eagle, lost, and weary,
  • And purblind amid foggy, midnight wolds.
  • But he revives at once: for who beholds
  • New sudden things, nor casts his mental slough?
  • Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,
  • Came mother Cybele! alone — alone —
  • In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
  • About her majesty, and front death-pale,
  • With turrets crown’d. Four maned lions hale
  • The sluggish wheels; solemn their toothed maws,
  • Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws
  • Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails
  • Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails
  • This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away
  • In another gloomy arch.
  • Wherefore delay,
  • Young traveller, in such a mournful place?
  • Art thou wayworn, or canst not further trace
  • The diamond path? And does it indeed end
  • Abrupt in middle air? Yet earthward bend
  • Thy forehead, and to Jupiter cloud-borne
  • Call ardently! He was indeed wayworn;
  • Abrupt, in middle air, his way was lost;
  • To cloud-borne Jove he bowed, and there crost
  • Towards him a large eagle, ’twixt whose wings,
  • Without one impious word, himself he flings,
  • Committed to the darkness and the gloom:
  • Down, down, uncertain to what pleasant doom,
  • Swift as a fathoming plummet down he fell
  • Through unknown things; till exhaled asphodel,
  • And rose, with spicy fannings interbreath’d,
  • Came swelling forth where little caves were wreath’d
  • So thick with leaves and mosses, that they seem’d
  • Large honey-combs of green, and freshly teem’d
  • With airs delicious. In the greenest nook
  • The eagle landed him, and farewel took.
  • It was a jasmine bower, all bestrown
  • With golden moss. His every sense had grown
  • Ethereal for pleasure; ’bove his head
  • Flew a delight half-graspable; his tread
  • Was Hesperean; to his capable ears
  • Silence was music from the holy spheres;
  • A dewy luxury was in his eyes;
  • The little flowers felt his pleasant sighs
  • And stirr’d them faintly. Verdant cave and cell
  • He wander’d through, oft wondering at such swell
  • Of sudden exaltation: but, “Alas!”
  • Said he, “will all this gush of feeling pass
  • Away in solitude? And must they wane,
  • Like melodies upon a sandy plain,
  • Without an echo? Then shall I be left
  • So sad, so melancholy, so bereft!
  • Yet still I feel immortal! O my love,
  • My breath of life, where art thou? High above,
  • Dancing before the morning gates of heaven?
  • Or keeping watch among those starry seven,
  • Old Atlas’ children? Art a maid of the waters,
  • One of shell-winding Triton’s bright-hair’d daughters?
  • Or art, impossible! a nymph of Dian’s,
  • Weaving a coronal of tender scions
  • For very idleness? Where’er thou art,
  • Methinks it now is at my will to start
  • Into thine arms; to scare Aurora’s train,
  • And snatch thee from the morning; o’er the main
  • To scud like a wild bird, and take thee off
  • From thy sea-foamy cradle; or to doff
  • Thy shepherd vest, and woo thee mid fresh leaves.
  • No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives
  • Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.
  • O let me then by some sweet dreaming flee
  • To her entrancements: hither, sleep, awhile!
  • Hither, most gentle sleep! and soothing foil
  • For some few hours the coming solitude.”
  • Thus spake he, and that moment felt endued
  • With power to dream deliciously; so wound
  • Through a dim passage, searching till he found
  • The smoothest mossy bed and deepest, where
  • He threw himself, and just into the air
  • Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!
  • A naked waist: “Fair Cupid, whence is this?”
  • A well-known voice sigh’d, “Sweetest, here am I!”
  • At which soft ravishment, with doating cry
  • They trembled to each other. —Helicon!
  • O fountain’d hill! Old Homer’s Helicon!
  • That thou wouldst spout a little streamlet o’er
  • These sorry pages; then the verse would soar
  • And sing above this gentle pair, like lark
  • Over his nested young: but all is dark
  • Around thine aged top, and thy clear fount
  • Exhales in mists to heaven. Aye, the count
  • Of mighty Poets is made up; the scroll
  • Is folded by the Muses; the bright roll
  • Is in Apollo’s hand: our dazed eyes
  • Have seen a new tinge in the western skies:
  • The world has done its duty. Yet, oh yet,
  • Although the sun of poesy is set,
  • These lovers did embrace, and we must weep
  • That there is no old power left to steep
  • A quill immortal in their joyous tears.
  • Long time in silence did their anxious fears
  • Question that thus it was; long time they lay
  • Fondling and kissing every doubt away;
  • Long time ere soft caressing sobs began
  • To mellow into words, and then there ran
  • Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.
  • Such darling essence, wherefore may I not
  • Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot
  • Pillow my chin for ever? ever press
  • These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?
  • Why not for ever and for ever feel
  • That breath about my eyes? ah, thou wilt steal
  • Away from me again, indeed, indeed —
  • Thou wilt be gone away, and wilt not heed
  • My lonely madness. Speak, delicious fair!
  • Is — is it to be so? No! Who will dare
  • To pluck thee from me? And, of thine own will,
  • Full well I feel thou wouldst not leave me. Still
  • Let me entwine thee surer, surer — now
  • How can we part? Elysium! who art thou?
  • Who, that thou canst not be for ever here,
  • Or lift me with thee to some starry sphere?
  • Enchantress! tell me by this soft embrace,
  • By the most soft completion of thy face,
  • Those lips, O slippery blisses, twinkling eyes,
  • And by these tenderest, milky sovereignties —
  • These tenderest, and by the nectar-wine,
  • The passion” — “O dov’d Ida the divine!
  • Endymion! dearest! Ah, unhappy me!
  • His soul will ’scape us — O felicity!
  • How he does love me! His poor temples beat
  • To the very tune of love — how sweet, sweet, sweet.
  • Revive, dear youth, or I shall faint and die;
  • Revive, or these soft hours will hurry by
  • In tranced dulness; speak, and let that spell
  • Affright this lethargy! I cannot quell
  • Its heavy pressure, and will press at least
  • My lips to thine, that they may richly feast
  • Until we taste the life of love again.
  • What! dost thou move? dost kiss? O bliss! O pain!
  • I love thee, youth, more than I can conceive;
  • And so long absence from thee doth bereave
  • My soul of any rest: yet must I hence:
  • Yet, can I not to starry eminence
  • Uplift thee; nor for very shame can own
  • Myself to thee. Ah, dearest, do not groan
  • Or thou wilt force me from this secrecy,
  • And I must blush in heaven. O that I
  • Had done ’t already; that the dreadful smiles
  • At my lost brightness, my impassion’d wiles,
  • Had waned from Olympus’ solemn height,
  • And from all serious Gods; that our delight
  • Was quite forgotten, save of us alone!
  • And wherefore so ashamed? ’Tis but to atone
  • For endless pleasure, by some coward blushes:
  • Yet must I be a coward! — Horror rushes
  • Too palpable before me — the sad look
  • Of Jove — Minerva’s start — no bosom shook
  • With awe of purity — no Cupid pinion
  • In reverence vailed — my crystalline dominion
  • Half lost, and all old hymns made nullity!
  • But what is this to love? O I could fly
  • With thee into the ken of heavenly powers,
  • So thou wouldst thus, for many sequent hours,
  • Press me so sweetly. Now I swear at once
  • That I am wise, that Pallas is a dunce —
  • Perhaps her love like mine is but unknown —
  • O I do think that I have been alone
  • In chastity: yes, Pallas has been sighing,
  • While every eve saw me my hair uptying
  • With fingers cool as aspen leaves. Sweet love,
  • I was as vague as solitary dove,
  • Nor knew that nests were built. Now a soft kiss —
  • Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss,
  • An immortality of passion’s thine:
  • Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine
  • Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade
  • Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
  • And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
  • And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.
  • My happy love will overwing all bounds!
  • O let me melt into thee; let the sounds
  • Of our close voices marry at their birth;
  • Let us entwine hoveringly — O dearth
  • Of human words! roughness of mortal speech!
  • Lispings empyrean will I sometime teach
  • Thine honied tongue — lute-breathings, which I gasp
  • To have thee understand, now while I clasp
  • Thee thus, and weep for fondness — I am pain’d,
  • Endymion: woe! woe! is grief contain’d
  • In the very deeps of pleasure, my sole life?” —
  • Hereat, with many sobs, her gentle strife
  • Melted into a languor. He return’d
  • Entranced vows and tears.
  • Ye who have yearn’d
  • With too much passion, will here stay and pity,
  • For the mere sake of truth; as ’tis a ditty
  • Not of these days, but long ago ’twas told
  • By a cavern wind unto a forest old;
  • To a sleeping lake, whose cool and level gleam
  • A poet caught as he was journeying
  • To Phoebus’ shrine; and in it he did fling
  • His weary limbs, bathing an hour’s space,
  • And after, straight in that inspired place
  • He sang the story up into the air,
  • Giving it universal freedom. There
  • Has it been ever sounding for those ears
  • Whose tips are glowing hot. The legend cheers
  • Yon centinel stars; and he who listens to it
  • Must surely be self-doom’d or he will rue it:
  • For quenchless burnings come upon the heart,
  • Made fiercer by a fear lest any part
  • Should be engulphed in the eddying wind.
  • As much as here is penn’d doth always find
  • A resting place, thus much comes clear and plain;
  • Anon the strange voice is upon the wane —
  • And ’tis but echo’d from departing sound,
  • That the fair visitant at last unwound
  • Her gentle limbs, and left the youth asleep. —
  • Thus the tradition of the gusty deep.
  • Now turn we to our former chroniclers. —
  • Endymion awoke, that grief of hers
  • Sweet paining on his ear: he sickly guess’d
  • How lone he was once more, and sadly press’d
  • His empty arms together, hung his head,
  • And most forlorn upon that widow’d bed
  • Sat silently. Love’s madness he had known:
  • Often with more than tortured lion’s groan
  • Moanings had burst from him; but now that rage
  • Had pass’d away: no longer did he wage
  • A rough-voic’d war against the dooming stars.
  • No, he had felt too much for such harsh jars:
  • The lyre of his soul Eolian tun’d
  • Forgot all violence, and but commun’d
  • With melancholy thought: O he had swoon’d
  • Drunken from pleasure’s nipple; and his love
  • Henceforth was dove-like. — Loth was he to move
  • From the imprinted couch, and when he did,
  • ’Twas with slow, languid paces, and face hid
  • In muffling hands. So temper’d, out he stray’d
  • Half seeing visions that might have dismay’d
  • Alecto’s serpents; ravishments more keen
  • Than Hermes’ pipe, when anxious he did lean
  • Over eclipsing eyes: and at the last
  • It was a sounding grotto, vaulted vast,
  • O’er studded with a thousand, thousand pearls,
  • And crimson mouthed shells with stubborn curls,
  • Of every shape and size, even to the bulk
  • In which whales arbour close, to brood and sulk
  • Against an endless storm. Moreover too,
  • Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue,
  • Ready to snort their streams. In this cool wonder
  • Endymion sat down, and ’gan to ponder
  • On all his life: his youth, up to the day
  • When ’mid acclaim, and feasts, and garlands gay,
  • He stept upon his shepherd throne: the look
  • Of his white palace in wild forest nook,
  • And all the revels he had lorded there:
  • Each tender maiden whom he once thought fair,
  • With every friend and fellow-woodlander —
  • Pass’d like a dream before him. Then the spur
  • Of the old bards to mighty deeds: his plans
  • To nurse the golden age ’mong shepherd clans:
  • That wondrous night: the great Pan-festival:
  • His sister’s sorrow; and his wanderings all,
  • Until into the earth’s deep maw he rush’d:
  • Then all its buried magic, till it flush’d
  • High with excessive love. “And now,” thought he,
  • “How long must I remain in jeopardy
  • Of blank amazements that amaze no more?
  • Now I have tasted her sweet soul to the core
  • All other depths are shallow: essences,
  • Once spiritual, are like muddy lees,
  • Meant but to fertilize my earthly root,
  • And make my branches lift a golden fruit
  • Into the bloom of heaven: other light,
  • Though it be quick and sharp enough to blight
  • The Olympian eagle’s vision, is dark,
  • Dark as the parentage of chaos. Hark!
  • My silent thoughts are echoing from these shells;
  • Or they are but the ghosts, the dying swells
  • Of noises far away? — list!” — Hereupon
  • He kept an anxious ear. The humming tone
  • Came louder, and behold, there as he lay,
  • On either side outgush’d, with misty spray,
  • A copious spring; and both together dash’d
  • Swift, mad, fantastic round the rocks, and lash’d
  • Among the conchs and shells of the lofty grot,
  • Leaving a trickling dew. At last they shot
  • Down from the ceiling’s height, pouring a noise
  • As of some breathless racers whose hopes poize
  • Upon the last few steps, and with spent force
  • Along the ground they took a winding course.
  • Endymion follow’d — for it seem’d that one
  • Ever pursued, the other strove to shun —
  • Follow’d their languid mazes, till well nigh
  • He had left thinking of the mystery, —
  • And was now rapt in tender hoverings
  • Over the vanish’d bliss. Ah! what is it sings
  • His dream away? What melodies are these?
  • They sound as through the whispering of trees,
  • Not native in such barren vaults. Give ear!
  • “O Arethusa, peerless nymph! why fear
  • Such tenderness as mine? Great Dian, why,
  • Why didst thou hear her prayer? O that I
  • Were rippling round her dainty fairness now,
  • Circling about her waist, and striving how
  • To entice her to a dive! then stealing in
  • Between her luscious lips and eyelids thin.
  • O that her shining hair was in the sun,
  • And I distilling from it thence to run
  • In amorous rillets down her shrinking form!
  • To linger on her lily shoulders, warm
  • Between her kissing breasts, and every charm
  • Touch raptur’d! — See how painfully I flow:
  • Fair maid, be pitiful to my great woe.
  • Stay, stay thy weary course, and let me lead,
  • A happy wooer, to the flowery mead
  • Where all that beauty snar’d me.” — “Cruel god,
  • Desist! or my offended mistress’ nod
  • Will stagnate all thy fountains: — tease me not
  • With syren words — Ah, have I really got
  • Such power to madden thee? And is it true —
  • Away, away, or I shall dearly rue
  • My very thoughts: in mercy then away,
  • Kindest Alpheus, for should I obey
  • My own dear will, ’twould be a deadly bane. —
  • O, Oread-Queen-! would that thou hadst a pain
  • Like this of mine, then would I fearless turn
  • And be a criminal. — Alas, I burn,
  • I shudder — gentle river, get thee hence.
  • Alpheus! thou enchanter! every sense
  • Of mine was once made perfect in these woods.
  • Fresh breezes, bowery lawns, and innocent floods,
  • Ripe fruits, and lonely couch, contentment gave;
  • But ever since I heedlessly did lave
  • In thy deceitful stream, a panting glow
  • Grew strong within me: wherefore serve me so,
  • And call it love? Alas, ’twas cruelty.
  • Not once more did I close my happy eye
  • Amid the thrushes’ song. Away! Avaunt!
  • O ’twas a cruel thing.” — “ Now thou dost taunt
  • So softly, Arethusa, that I think
  • If thou wast playing on my shady brink,
  • Thou wouldst bathe once again. Innocent maid!
  • Stifle thine heart no more; — nor be afraid
  • Of angry powers: there are deities
  • Will shade us with their wings. Those fitful sighs
  • ’Tis almost death to hear: O let me pour
  • A dewy balm upon them! — fear no more,
  • Sweet Arethusa! Dian’s self must feel
  • Sometimes these very pangs. Dear maiden, steal
  • Blushing into my soul, and let us fly
  • These dreary caverns for the open sky
  • I will delight thee all my winding course,
  • From the green sea up to my hidden source
  • About Arcadian forests; and will shew
  • The channels where my coolest waters flow
  • Through mossy rocks; where, ’mid exuberant green,
  • I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen
  • Than Saturn in his exile; where I brim
  • Round flowery islands, and take thence a skim
  • Of mealy sweets, which myriads of bees
  • Buzz from their honied wings: and thou shouldst please
  • Thyself to choose the richest, where we might
  • Be incense-pillow’d every summer night.
  • Doff all sad fears, thou white deliciousness,
  • And let us be thus comforted; unless
  • Thou couldst rejoice to see my hopeless stream
  • Hurry distracted from Sol’s temperate beam,
  • And pour to death along some hungry sands.” —
  • “What can I do, Alpheus? Dian stands
  • Severe before me: persecuting fate!
  • Unhappy Arethusa! thou wast late
  • A huntress free in” — At this, sudden fell
  • Those two sad streams adown a fearful dell.
  • The Latmian listen’d, but he heard no more,
  • Save echo, faint repeating o’er and o’er
  • The name of Arethusa. On the verge
  • Of that dark gulph he wept, and said: “I urge
  • Thee, gentle Goddess of my pilgrimage,
  • By our eternal hopes, to soothe, to assuage,
  • If thou art powerful, these lovers’ pains;
  • And make them happy in some happy plains.”
  • He turn’d — there was a whelming sound — he stept,
  • There was a cooler light; and so he kept
  • Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!
  • More suddenly than doth a moment go,
  • The visions of the earth were gone and fled —
  • He saw the giant sea above his head.
🗙

Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK III

  • There are who lord it o’er their fellow-men
  • With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
  • Their baaing vanities, to browse away
  • The comfortable green and juicy hay
  • From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
  • Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack’d
  • Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
  • Our gold and ripe-ear’d hopes. With not one tinge
  • Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
  • Able to face an owl’s, they still are dight
  • By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
  • And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
  • Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
  • To their spirit’s perch, their being’s high account,
  • Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones —
  • Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
  • Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour’d drums,
  • And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
  • In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone —
  • Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
  • And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks. —
  • Are then regalities all gilded masks?
  • No, there are throned seats unscalable
  • But by a patient wing, a constant spell,
  • Or by ethereal things that, unconfin’d,
  • Can make a ladder of the eternal wind,
  • And poise about in cloudy thunder-tents
  • To watch the abysm-birth of elements.
  • Aye, ’bove the withering of old-lipp’d Fate
  • A thousand Powers keep religious state,
  • In water, fiery realm, and airy bourne;
  • And, silent as a consecrated urn,
  • Hold sphery sessions for a season due.
  • Yet few of these far majesties, ah, few!
  • Have bared their operations to this globe —
  • Few, who with gorgeous pageantry enrobe
  • Our piece of heaven — whose benevolence
  • Shakes hand with our own Ceres; every sense
  • Filling with spiritual sweets to plenitude,
  • As bees gorge full their cells. And, by the feud
  • ’Twixt Nothing and Creation, I here swear,
  • Eterne Apollo! that thy Sister fair
  • Is of all these the gentlier-mightiest,
  • When thy gold breath is misting in the west,
  • She unobserved steals unto her throne,
  • And there she sits most meek and most alone;
  • As if she had not pomp subservient;
  • As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent
  • Towards her with the Muses in thine heart;
  • As if the ministring stars kept not apart,
  • Waiting for silver-footed messages.
  • O Moon! the oldest shades ’mong oldest trees
  • Feel palpitations when thou lookest in:
  • O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din
  • The while they feel thine airy fellowship.
  • Thou dost bless every where, with silver lip
  • Kissing dead things to life. The sleeping kine,
  • Couched in thy brightness, dream of fields divine:
  • Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,
  • Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes;
  • And yet thy benediction passeth not
  • One obscure hiding-place, one little spot
  • Where pleasure may be sent: the nested wren
  • Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken,
  • And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf
  • Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief
  • To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps
  • Within its pearly house. — The mighty deeps,
  • The monstrous sea is thine — the myriad sea!
  • O Moon! far-spooming Ocean bows to thee,
  • And Tellus feels his forehead’s cumbrous load.
  • Cynthia! where art thou now? What far abode
  • Of green or silvery bower doth enshrine
  • Such utmost beauty? Alas, thou dost pine
  • For one as sorrowful: thy cheek is pale
  • For one whose cheek is pale: thou dost bewail
  • His tears, who weeps for thee. Where dost thou sigh?
  • Ah! surely that light peeps from Vesper’s eye,
  • Or what a thing is love! ’Tis She, but lo!
  • How chang’d, how full of ache, how gone in woe!
  • She dies at the thinnest cloud; her loveliness
  • Is wan on Neptune’s blue: yet there’s a stress
  • Of love-spangles, just off yon cape of trees,
  • Dancing upon the waves, as if to please
  • The curly foam with amorous influence.
  • O, not so idle: for down-glancing thence
  • She fathoms eddies, and runs wild about
  • O’erwhelming water-courses; scaring out
  • The thorny sharks from hiding-holes, and fright’ning
  • Their savage eyes with unaccustomed lightning.
  • Where will the splendour be content to reach?
  • O love! how potent hast thou been to teach
  • Strange journeyings! Wherever beauty dwells,
  • In gulf or aerie, mountains or deep dells,
  • In light, in gloom, in star or blazing sun,
  • Thou pointest out the way, and straight ’tis won.
  • Amid his toil thou gav’st Leander breath;
  • Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death;
  • Thou madest Pluto bear thin element;
  • And now, O winged Chieftain! thou hast sent
  • A moon-beam to the deep, deep water-world,
  • To find Endymion.
  • On gold sand impearl’d
  • With lily shells, and pebbles milky white,
  • Poor Cynthia greeted him, and sooth’d her light
  • Against his pallid face: he felt the charm
  • To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm
  • Of his heart’s blood: ’twas very sweet; he stay’d
  • His wandering steps, and half-entranced laid
  • His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds,
  • To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads,
  • Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes’ tails.
  • And so he kept, until the rosy veils
  • Mantling the east, by Aurora’s peering hand
  • Were lifted from the water’s breast, and fann’d
  • Into sweet air; and sober’d morning came
  • Meekly through billows: — when like taper-flame
  • Left sudden by a dallying breath of air,
  • He rose in silence, and once more ’gan fare
  • Along his fated way.
  • Far had he roam’d,
  • With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam’d
  • Above, around, and at his feet; save things
  • More dead than Morpheus’ imaginings:
  • Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large
  • Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe;
  • Rudders that for a hundred years had lost
  • The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss’d
  • With long-forgotten story, and wherein
  • No reveller had ever dipp’d a chin
  • But those of Saturn’s vintage; mouldering scrolls,
  • Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls
  • Who first were on the earth; and sculptures rude
  • In ponderous stone, developing the mood
  • Of ancient Nox; — then skeletons of man,
  • Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan,
  • And elephant, and eagle, and huge jaw
  • Of nameless monster. A cold leaden awe
  • These secrets struck into him; and unless
  • Dian had chaced away that heaviness,
  • He might have died: but now, with cheered feel,
  • He onward kept; wooing these thoughts to steal
  • About the labyrinth in his soul of love.
  • “What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move
  • My heart so potently? When yet a child
  • I oft have dried my tears when thou hast smil’d.
  • Thou seem’dst my sister: hand in hand we went
  • From eve to morn across the firmament.
  • No apples would I gather from the tree,
  • Till thou hadst cool’d their cheeks deliciously:
  • No tumbling water ever spake romance,
  • But when my eyes with thine thereon could dance:
  • No woods were green enough, no bower divine,
  • Until thou liftedst up thine eyelids fine:
  • In sowing time ne’er would I dibble take,
  • Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake;
  • And, in the summer tide of blossoming,
  • No one but thee hath heard me blithely sing
  • And mesh my dewy flowers all the night.
  • No melody was like a passing spright
  • If it went not to solemnize thy reign.
  • Yes, in my boyhood, every joy and pain
  • By thee were fashion’d to the self-same end;
  • And as I grew in years, still didst thou blend
  • With all my ardours: thou wast the deep glen;
  • Thou wast the mountain-top — the sage’s pen —
  • The poet’s harp — the voice of friends — the sun;
  • Thou wast the river — thou wast glory won;
  • Thou wast my clarion’s blast — thou wast my steed —
  • My goblet full of wine — my topmost deed: —
  • Thou wast the charm of women, lovely Moon!
  • O what a wild and harmonized tune
  • My spirit struck from all the beautiful!
  • On some bright essence could I lean, and lull
  • Myself to immortality: I prest
  • Nature’s soft pillow in a wakeful rest.
  • But, gentle Orb! there came a nearer bliss —
  • My strange love came — Felicity’s abyss!
  • She came, and thou didst fade, and fade away —
  • Yet not entirely; no, thy starry sway
  • Has been an under-passion to this hour.
  • Now I begin to feel thine orby power
  • Is coming fresh upon me: O be kind,
  • Keep back thine influence, and do not blind
  • My sovereign vision. — Dearest love, forgive
  • That I can think away from thee and live! —
  • Pardon me, airy planet, that I prize
  • One thought beyond thine argent luxuries!
  • How far beyond!” At this a surpris’d start
  • Frosted the springing verdure of his heart;
  • For as he lifted up his eyes to swear
  • How his own goddess was past all things fair,
  • He saw far in the concave green of the sea
  • An old man sitting calm and peacefully.
  • Upon a weeded rock this old man sat,
  • And his white hair was awful, and a mat
  • Of weeds were cold beneath his cold thin feet;
  • And, ample as the largest winding-sheet,
  • A cloak of blue wrapp’d up his aged bones,
  • O’erwrought with symbols by the deepest groans
  • Of ambitious magic: every ocean-form
  • Was woven in with black distinctness; storm,
  • And calm, and whispering, and hideous roar,
  • Quicksand, and whirlpool, and deserted shore
  • Were emblem’d in the woof; with every shape
  • That skims, or dives, or sleeps, ’twixt cape and cape.
  • The gulphing whale was like a dot in the spell,
  • Yet look upon it, and ’twould size and swell
  • To its huge self; and the minutest fish
  • Would pass the very hardest gazer’s wish,
  • And shew his little eye’s anatomy.
  • Then there was pictur’d the regality
  • Of Neptune; and the sea nymphs round his state,
  • In beauteous vassalage, look up and wait.
  • Beside this old man lay a pearly wand,
  • And in his lap a book, the which he conn’d
  • So stedfastly, that the new denizen
  • Had time to keep him in amazed ken,
  • To mark these shadowings, and stand in awe.
  • The old man rais’d his hoary head and saw
  • The wilder’d stranger — seeming not to see,
  • His features were so lifeless. Suddenly
  • He woke as from a trance; his snow-white brows
  • Went arching up, and like two magic ploughs
  • Furrow’d deep wrinkles in his forehead large,
  • Which kept as fixedly as rocky marge,
  • Till round his wither’d lips had gone a smile.
  • Then up he rose, like one whose tedious toil
  • Had watch’d for years in forlorn hermitage,
  • Who had not from mid-life to utmost age
  • Eas’d in one accent his o’er-burden’d soul,
  • Even to the trees. He rose: he grasp’d his stole,
  • With convuls’d clenches waving it abroad,
  • And in a voice of solemn joy, that aw’d
  • Echo into oblivion, he said: —
  • “Thou art the man! Now shall I lay my head
  • In peace upon my watery pillow: now
  • Sleep will come smoothly to my weary brow.
  • O Jove! I shall be young again, be young!
  • O shell-borne Neptune, I am pierc’d and stung
  • With new-born life! What shall I do? Where go,
  • When I have cast this serpent-skin of woe? —
  • I’ll swim to the syrens, and one moment listen
  • Their melodies, and see their long hair glisten;
  • Anon upon that giant’s arm I’ll be,
  • That writhes about the roots of Sicily:
  • To northern seas I’ll in a twinkling sail,
  • And mount upon the snortings of a whale
  • To some black cloud; thence down I’ll madly sweep
  • On forked lightning, to the deepest deep,
  • Where through some sucking pool I will be hurl’d
  • With rapture to the other side of the world!
  • O, I am full of gladness! Sisters three,
  • Yes, every god be thank’d, and power benign,
  • For I no more shall wither, droop, and pine.
  • Thou art the man!” Endymion started back
  • Dismay’d; and, like a wretch from whom the rack
  • Tortures hot breath, and speech of agony,
  • Mutter’d: “What lonely death am I to die
  • In this cold region! Will he let me freeze,
  • And float my brittle limbs o’er polar seas?
  • Or will he touch me with his searing hand,
  • And leave a black memorial on the sand?
  • Or tear me piece-meal with a bony saw,
  • And keep me as a chosen food to draw
  • His magian fish through hated fire and flame?
  • O misery of hell! resistless, tame,
  • Am I to be burnt up? No, I will shout,
  • Until the gods through heaven’s blue look out! —
  • O Tartarus! but some few days agone
  • Her soft arms were entwining me, and on
  • Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves:
  • Her lips were all my own, and — ah, ripe sheaves
  • Of happiness! ye on the stubble droop,
  • But never may be garner’d. I must stoop
  • My head, and kiss death’s foot. Love! love, farewel!
  • Is there no hope from thee? This horrid spell
  • Would melt at thy sweet breath. — By Dian’s hind
  • Feeding from her white fingers, on the wind
  • I see thy streaming hair! and now, by Pan,
  • I care not for this old mysterious man!”
  • He spake, and walking to that aged form,
  • Look’d high defiance. Lo! his heart ’gan warm
  • With pity, for the grey-hair’d creature wept.
  • Had he then wrong’d a heart where sorrow kept?
  • Had he, though blindly contumelious, brought
  • Rheum to kind eyes, a sting to humane thought,
  • Convulsion to a mouth of many years?
  • He had in truth; and he was ripe for tears.
  • The penitent shower fell, as down he knelt
  • Before that care-worn sage, who trembling felt
  • About his large dark locks, and faultering spake:
  • “Arise, good youth, for sacred Phoebus’ sake!
  • I know thine inmost bosom, and I feel
  • A very brother’s yearning for thee steal
  • Into mine own: for why? thou openest
  • The prison gates that have so long opprest
  • My weary watching. Though thou know’st it not,
  • Thou art commission’d to this fated spot
  • For great enfranchisement. O weep no more;
  • I am a friend to love, to loves of yore:
  • Aye, hadst thou never lov’d an unknown power,
  • I had been grieving at this joyous hour.
  • But even now most miserable old,
  • I saw thee, and my blood no longer cold
  • Gave mighty pulses: in this tottering case
  • Grew a new heart, which at this moment plays
  • As dancingly as thine. Be not afraid,
  • For thou shalt hear this secret all display’d,
  • Now as we speed towards our joyous task.”
  • So saying, this young soul in age’s mask
  • Went forward with the Carian side by side:
  • Resuming quickly thus; while ocean’s tide
  • Hung swollen at their backs, and jewel’d sands
  • Took silently their foot-prints.
  • “My soul stands
  • Now past the midway from mortality,
  • And so I can prepare without a sigh
  • To tell thee briefly all my joy and pain.
  • I was a fisher once, upon this main,
  • And my boat danc’d in every creek and bay;
  • Rough billows were my home by night and day, —
  • The sea-gulls not more constant; for I had
  • But hollow rocks, — and they were palaces
  • Of silent happiness, of slumberous ease:
  • Long years of misery have told me so.
  • Aye, thus it was one thousand years ago.
  • One thousand years! — Is it then possible
  • To look so plainly through them? to dispel
  • A thousand years with backward glance sublime?
  • To breathe away as ’twere all scummy slime
  • From off a crystal pool, to see its deep,
  • And one’s own image from the bottom peep?
  • Yes: now I am no longer wretched thrall,
  • My long captivity and moanings all
  • Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum,
  • The which I breathe away, and thronging come
  • Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures.
  • “I touch’d no lute, I sang not, trod no measures:
  • I was a lonely youth on desert shores.
  • My sports were lonely, ’mid continuous roars,
  • And craggy isles, and sea-mew’s plaintive cry
  • Plaining discrepant between sea and sky.
  • Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen
  • Would let me feel their scales of gold and green,
  • Nor be my desolation; and, full oft,
  • When a dread waterspout had rear’d aloft
  • Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe
  • To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe
  • My life away like a vast sponge of fate,
  • Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state,
  • Has dived to its foundations, gulph’d it down,
  • And left me tossing safely. But the crown
  • Of all my life was utmost quietude:
  • More did I love to lie in cavern rude,
  • Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune’s voice,
  • And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice!
  • There blush’d no summer eve but I would steer
  • My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear
  • The shepherd’s pipe coming clear from aery steep,
  • Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep:
  • And never was a day of summer shine,
  • But I beheld its birth upon the brine:
  • For I would watch all night to see unfold
  • Heaven’s gates, and Aethon snort his morning gold
  • Wide o’er the swelling streams: and constantly
  • At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea,
  • My nets would be spread out, and I at rest.
  • The poor folk of the sea-country I blest
  • With daily boon of fish most delicate:
  • They knew not whence this bounty, and elate
  • Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach.
  • “Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach
  • At things which, but for thee, O Latmian!
  • Had been my dreary death? Fool! I began
  • To feel distemper’d longings: to desire
  • The utmost privilege that ocean’s sire
  • Could grant in benediction: to be free
  • Of all his kingdom. Long in misery
  • I wasted, ere in one extremest fit
  • I plung’d for life or death. To interknit
  • One’s senses with so dense a breathing stuff
  • Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
  • Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
  • And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
  • Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
  • Forgetful utterly of self-intent;
  • Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
  • Then, like a new fledg’d bird that first doth shew
  • His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
  • I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
  • ’Twas freedom! and at once I visited
  • No need to tell thee of them, for I see
  • That thou hast been a witness — it must be —
  • For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth,
  • By the melancholy corners of that mouth.
  • So I will in my story straightway pass
  • To more immediate matter. Woe, alas!
  • That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair!
  • Why did poor Glaucus ever — ever dare
  • To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth!
  • I lov’d her to the very white of truth,
  • And she would not conceive it. Timid thing!
  • She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing,
  • Round every isle, and point, and promontory,
  • From where large Hercules wound up his story
  • Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew
  • The more, the more I saw her dainty hue
  • Gleam delicately through the azure clear:
  • Until ’twas too fierce agony to bear;
  • And in that agony, across my grief
  • It flash’d, that Circe might find some relief —
  • Cruel enchantress! So above the water
  • I rear’d my head, and look’d for Phoebus’ daughter.
  • Aeaea’s isle was wondering at the moon: —
  • It seem’d to whirl around me, and a swoon
  • Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power.
  • “When I awoke, ’twas in a twilight bower;
  • Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees,
  • Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees.
  • How sweet, and sweeter! for I heard a lyre,
  • And over it a sighing voice expire.
  • It ceased — I caught light footsteps; and anon
  • The fairest face that morn e’er look’d upon
  • Push’d through a screen of roses. Starry Jove!
  • With tears, and smiles, and honey-words she wove
  • A net whose thraldom was more bliss than all
  • The range of flower’d Elysium. Thus did fall
  • The dew of her rich speech: “Ah! Art awake?
  • O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid’s sake!
  • I am so oppress’d with joy! why, I have shed
  • An urn of tears, as though thou wert cold dead;
  • And now I find thee living, I will pour
  • From these devoted eyes their silver store,
  • Until exhausted of the latest drop,
  • So it will pleasure thee, and force thee stop
  • Here, that I too may live: but if beyond
  • Such cool and sorrowful offerings, thou art fond
  • If thou art ripe to taste a long love dream;
  • If smiles, if dimples, tongues for ardour mute,
  • Hang in thy vision like a tempting fruit,
  • O let me pluck it for thee.” Thus she link’d
  • Her charming syllables, till indistinct
  • Their music came to my o’er-sweeten’d soul;
  • And then she hover’d over me, and stole
  • So near, that if no nearer it had been
  • This furrow’d visage thou hadst never seen.
  • “Young man of Latmos! thus particular
  • Am I, that thou may’st plainly see how far
  • This fierce temptation went: and thou may’st not
  • Exclaim, How then, was Scylla quite forgot?
  • “Who could resist? Who in this universe?
  • She did so breathe ambrosia; so immerse
  • My fine existence in a golden clime.
  • She took me like a child of suckling time,
  • And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn’d,
  • The current of my former life was stemm’d,
  • And to this arbitrary queen of sense
  • I bow’d a tranced vassal: nor would thence
  • Have mov’d, even though Amphion’s harp had woo’d
  • For as Apollo each eve doth devise
  • A new appareling for western skies;
  • So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour
  • Shed balmy consciousness within that bower.
  • And I was free of haunts umbrageous;
  • Could wander in the mazy forest-house
  • Of squirrels, foxes shy, and antler’d deer,
  • And birds from coverts innermost and drear
  • Warbling for very joy mellifluous sorrow —
  • To me new born delights!
  • “Now let me borrow,
  • For moments few, a temperament as stern
  • As Pluto’s sceptre, that my words not burn
  • These uttering lips, while I in calm speech tell
  • How specious heaven was changed to real hell.
  • “One morn she left me sleeping: half awake
  • I sought for her smooth arms and lips, to slake
  • My greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts;
  • But she was gone. Whereat the barbed shafts
  • Of disappointment stuck in me so sore,
  • That out I ran and search’d the forest o’er.
  • Wandering about in pine and cedar gloom
  • Damp awe assail’d me; for there ’gan to boom
  • A sound of moan, an agony of sound,
  • Sepulchral from the distance all around.
  • Then came a conquering earth-thunder, and rumbled
  • That fierce complain to silence: while I stumbled
  • Down a precipitous path, as if impell’d.
  • I came to a dark valley. — Groanings swell’d
  • Poisonous about my ears, and louder grew,
  • The nearer I approach’d a flame’s gaunt blue,
  • That glar’d before me through a thorny brake.
  • This fire, like the eye of gordian snake,
  • Bewitch’d me towards; and I soon was near
  • A sight too fearful for the feel of fear:
  • In thicket hid I curs’d the haggard scene —
  • The banquet of my arms, my arbour queen,
  • Seated upon an uptorn forest root;
  • And all around her shapes, wizard and brute,
  • Laughing, and wailing, groveling, serpenting,
  • Shewing tooth, tusk, and venom-bag, and sting!
  • O such deformities! Old Charon’s self,
  • Should he give up awhile his penny pelf,
  • And take a dream ’mong rushes Stygian,
  • It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan,
  • And tyrannizing was the lady’s look,
  • As over them a gnarled staff she shook.
  • And from a basket emptied to the rout
  • Clusters of grapes, the which they raven’d quick
  • And roar’d for more; with many a hungry lick
  • About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow,
  • Anon she took a branch of mistletoe,
  • And emptied on’t a black dull-gurgling phial:
  • Groan’d one and all, as if some piercing trial
  • Was sharpening for their pitiable bones.
  • She lifted up the charm: appealing groans
  • From their poor breasts went sueing to her ear
  • In vain; remorseless as an infant’s bier
  • She whisk’d against their eyes the sooty oil.
  • Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil,
  • Increasing gradual to a tempest rage,
  • Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage;
  • Until their grieved bodies ’gan to bloat
  • And puff from the tail’s end to stifled throat:
  • Then was appalling silence: then a sight
  • More wildering than all that hoarse affright;
  • For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen,
  • Went through the dismal air like one huge Python
  • Antagonizing Boreas, — and so vanish’d.
  • Yet there was not a breath of wind: she banish’d
  • These phantoms with a nod. Lo! from the dark
  • Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark,
  • With dancing and loud revelry, — and went
  • Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent. —
  • Sighing, an elephant appear’d and bow’d
  • Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud
  • In human accent: “Potent goddess! chief
  • Of pains resistless! make my being brief,
  • Or let me from this heavy prison fly:
  • Or give me to the air, or let me die!
  • I sue not for my happy crown again;
  • I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;
  • I sue not for my lone, my widow’d wife;
  • I sue not for my ruddy drops of life,
  • My children fair, my lovely girls and boys!
  • I will forget them; I will pass these joys;
  • Ask nought so heavenward, so too — too high:
  • Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die,
  • Or be deliver’d from this cumbrous flesh,
  • From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh,
  • And merely given to the cold bleak air.
  • Have mercy, Goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!”
  • “That curst magician’s name fell icy numb
  • Upon my wild conjecturing: truth had come
  • Naked and sabre-like against my heart.
  • I saw a fury whetting a death-dart;
  • And my slain spirit, overwrought with fright,
  • Fainted away in that dark lair of night.
  • Think, my deliverer, how desolate
  • My waking must have been! disgust, and hate,
  • And terrors manifold divided me
  • A spoil amongst them. I prepar’d to flee
  • Into the dungeon core of that wild wood:
  • I fled three days — when lo! before me stood
  • Glaring the angry witch. O Dis, even now,
  • A clammy dew is beading on my brow,
  • At mere remembering her pale laugh, and curse.
  • “Ha! ha! Sir Dainty! there must be a nurse
  • Made of rose leaves and thistledown, express,
  • To cradle thee my sweet, and lull thee: yes,
  • I am too flinty-hard for thy nice touch:
  • My tenderest squeeze is but a giant’s clutch.
  • So, fairy-thing, it shall have lullabies
  • Unheard of yet; and it shall still its cries
  • Upon some breast more lily-feminine.
  • Oh, no — it shall not pine, and pine, and pine
  • More than one pretty, trifling thousand years;
  • And then ’twere pity, but fate’s gentle shears
  • Cut short its immortality. Sea-flirt!
  • Young dove of the waters! truly I’ll not hurt
  • One hair of thine: see how I weep and sigh,
  • That our heart-broken parting is so nigh.
  • And must we part? Ah, yes, it must be so.
  • Yet ere thou leavest me in utter woe,
  • Let me sob over thee my last adieus,
  • And speak a blessing: Mark me! Thou hast thews
  • Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:
  • But such a love is mine, that here I chase
  • Eternally away from thee all bloom
  • Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.
  • Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;
  • And there, ere many days be overpast,
  • Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then
  • Thou shalt not go the way of aged men;
  • But live and wither, cripple and still breathe
  • Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath
  • Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.
  • Adieu, sweet love, adieu!” — As shot stars fall,
  • She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung
  • A war-song of defiance ’gainst all hell.
  • A hand was at my shoulder to compel
  • My sullen steps; another ’fore my eyes
  • Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise
  • Enforced, at the last by ocean’s foam
  • I found me; by my fresh, my native home.
  • Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,
  • Came salutary as I waded in;
  • And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave
  • Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave
  • Large froth before me, while there yet remain’d
  • Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain’d.
  • “Young lover, I must weep — such hellish spite
  • With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might
  • Proving upon this element, dismay’d,
  • Upon a dead thing’s face my hand I laid;
  • I look’d — ’twas Scylla! cursed, cursed Circe!
  • O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy?
  • Could not thy harshest vengeance be content,
  • But thou must nip this tender innocent
  • Because I lov’d her? — Cold, O cold indeed
  • Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed
  • I clung about her waist, nor ceas’d to pass
  • Fleet as an arrow through unfathom’d brine,
  • Until there shone a fabric crystalline,
  • Ribb’d and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl.
  • Headlong I darted; at one eager swirl
  • Gain’d its bright portal, enter’d, and behold!
  • ’Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold;
  • And all around — But wherefore this to thee
  • Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see? —
  • I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled.
  • My fever’d parchings up, my scathing dread
  • Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became
  • Gaunt, wither’d, sapless, feeble, cramp’d, and lame.
  • “Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,
  • Without one hope, without one faintest trace
  • Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble
  • Of colour’d phantasy; for I fear ’twould trouble
  • Thy brain to loss of reason: and next tell
  • How a restoring chance came down to quell
  • One half of the witch in me.
  • “On a day,
  • Sitting upon a rock above the spray,
  • I saw grow up from the horizon’s brink
  • A gallant vessel: soon she seem’d to sink
  • Away from me again, as though her course
  • Had been resum’d in spite of hindering force —
  • So vanish’d: and not long, before arose
  • Dark clouds, and mutterings of winds morose.
  • Old Eolus would stifle his mad spleen,
  • But could not: therefore all the billows green
  • Toss’d up the silver spume against the clouds.
  • The tempest came: I saw that vessel’s shrouds
  • In perilous bustle; while upon the deck
  • Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck;
  • The final gulphing; the poor struggling souls:
  • I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls.
  • O they had all been sav’d but crazed eld
  • Annull’d my vigorous cravings: and thus quell’d
  • And curb’d, think on’t, O Latmian! did I sit
  • Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit
  • Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone,
  • By one and one, to pale oblivion;
  • And I was gazing on the surges prone,
  • With many a scalding tear and many a groan,
  • When at my feet emerg’d an old man’s hand,
  • Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.
  • I knelt with pain — reached out my hand — had grasp’d
  • These treasures — touch’d the knuckles — they unclasp’d —
  • I caught a finger: but the downward weight
  • O’erpowered me — it sank. Then ’gan abate
  • The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst
  • The comfortable sun. I was athirst
  • To search the book, and in the warming air
  • Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.
  • Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on
  • My soul page after page, till well-nigh won
  • Into forgetfulness; when, stupefied,
  • I read these words, and read again, and tried
  • My eyes against the heavens, and read again.
  • O what a load of misery and pain
  • Each Atlas-line bore off! — a shine of hope
  • Came gold around me, cheering me to cope
  • Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend!
  • For thou hast brought their promise to an end.
  • “In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
  • Doom’d with enfeebled carcase to outstretch
  • His loath’d existence through ten centuries,
  • And then to die alone. Who can devise
  • A total opposition? No one. So
  • One million times ocean must ebb and flow,
  • And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,
  • These things accomplish’d: — If he utterly
  • Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds
  • The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds;
  • If he explores all forms and substances
  • Straight homeward to their symbol-essences;
  • He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,
  • He must pursue this task of joy and grief
  • Most piously; — all lovers tempest-tost,
  • And in the savage overwhelming lost,
  • He shall deposit side by side, until
  • Time’s creeping shall the dreary space fulfil:
  • Which done, and all these labours ripened,
  • A youth, by heavenly power lov’d and led,
  • Shall stand before him; whom he shall direct
  • How to consummate all. The youth elect
  • Must do the thing, or both will be destroy’d.” —
  • “Then,” cried the young Endymion, overjoy’d,
  • “We are twin brothers in this destiny!
  • Say, I intreat thee, what achievement high
  • Is, in this restless world, for me reserv’d.
  • What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerv’d,
  • Had we both perish’d?” — “Look!” the sage replied,
  • “Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,
  • Of divers brilliances? ’tis the edifice
  • I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies;
  • And where I have enshrined piously
  • All lovers, whom fell storms have doom’d to die
  • Throughout my bondage.” Thus discoursing, on
  • They went till unobscur’d the porches shone;
  • Which hurryingly they gain’d, and enter’d straight.
  • Sure never since king Neptune held his state
  • Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.
  • Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars
  • Has legion’d all his battle; and behold
  • How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold
  • His even breast: see, many steeled squares,
  • And rigid ranks of iron — whence who dares
  • One step? Imagine further, line by line,
  • These warrior thousands on the field supine: —
  • So in that crystal place, in silent rows,
  • Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes. —
  • The stranger from the mountains, breathless, trac’d
  • Such thousands of shut eyes in order placed;
  • Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips
  • All ruddy, — for here death no blossom nips.
  • He mark’d their brows and foreheads; saw their hair
  • Put sleekly on one side with nicest care;
  • And each one’s gentle wrists, with reverence,
  • Put cross-wise to its heart.
  • “Let us commence,”
  • Whisper’d the guide, stuttering with joy, “even now.”
  • He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough,
  • Began to tear his scroll in pieces small,
  • Uttering the while some mumblings funeral.
  • He tore it into pieces small as snow
  • That drifts unfeather’d when bleak northerns blow;
  • And having done it, took his dark blue cloak
  • And bound it round Endymion: then stroke
  • His wand against the empty air times nine. —
  • “What more there is to do, young man, is thine:
  • But first a little patience; first undo
  • This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue.
  • Ah, gentle! ’tis as weak as spider’s skein;
  • And shouldst thou break it — What, is it done so clean?
  • A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave!
  • The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave.
  • Here is a shell; ’tis pearly blank to me,
  • Nor mark’d with any sign or charactery —
  • Canst thou read aught? O read for pity’s sake!
  • Olympus! we are safe! Now, Carian, break
  • This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal.”
  • ’Twas done: and straight with sudden swell and fall
  • Sweet music breath’d her soul away, and sigh’d
  • A lullaby to silence. — “Youth! now strew
  • These minced leaves on me, and passing through
  • Those files of dead, scatter the same around,
  • And thou wilt see the issue.” — ’Mid the sound
  • Of flutes and viols, ravishing his heart,
  • Endymion from Glaucus stood apart,
  • And scatter’d in his face some fragments light.
  • How lightning-swift the change! a youthful wight
  • Smiling beneath a coral diadem,
  • Out-sparkling sudden like an upturn’d gem,
  • Appear’d, and, stepping to a beauteous corse,
  • Kneel’d down beside it, and with tenderest force
  • Press’d its cold hand, and wept, — and Scylla sigh’d!
  • Endymion, with quick hand, the charm applied —
  • The nymph arose: he left them to their joy,
  • And onward went upon his high employ,
  • Showering those powerful fragments on the dead.
  • And, as he pass’d, each lifted up its head,
  • As doth a flower at Apollo’s touch.
  • Death felt it to his inwards: ’twas too much:
  • Death fell a weeping in his charnel-house.
  • The Latmian persever’d along, and thus
  • All were re-animated. There arose
  • A noise of harmony, pulses and throes
  • Of gladness in the air — while many, who
  • Had died in mutual arms devout and true,
  • Sprang to each other madly; and the rest
  • Felt a high certainty of being blest.
  • They gaz’d upon Endymion. Enchantment
  • Grew drunken, and would have its head and bent.
  • Delicious symphonies, like airy flowers,
  • Budded, and swell’d, and, full-blown, shed full showers
  • Of light, soft, unseen leaves of sounds divine.
  • The two deliverers tasted a pure wine
  • Of happiness, from fairy-press ooz’d out.
  • Speechless they eyed each other, and about
  • The fair assembly wander’d to and fro,
  • Distracted with the richest overflow
  • Of joy that ever pour’d from heaven.
  • — “Away!”
  • Shouted the new born god; “Follow, and pay
  • Our piety to Neptunus supreme!” —
  • Then Scylla, blushing sweetly from her dream,
  • They led on first, bent to her meek surprise,
  • Through portal columns of a giant size,
  • Into the vaulted, boundless emerald.
  • Joyous all follow’d, as the leader call’d,
  • Down marble steps; pouring as easily
  • As hour-glass sand — and fast, as you might see
  • Swallows obeying the south summer’s call,
  • Or swans upon a gentle waterfall.
  • Thus went that beautiful multitude, nor far,
  • Ere from among some rocks of glittering spar,
  • Just within ken, they saw descending thick
  • Another multitude. Whereat more quick
  • Moved either host. On a wide sand they met,
  • And of those numbers every eye was wet;
  • For each their old love found. A murmuring rose,
  • Like what was never heard in all the throes
  • Of wind and waters: ’tis past human wit
  • To tell; ’tis dizziness to think of it.
  • This mighty consummation made, the host
  • Mov’d on for many a league; and gain’d, and lost
  • Huge sea-marks; vanward swelling in array,
  • And from the rear diminishing away, —
  • Till a faint dawn surpris’d them. Glaucus cried,
  • “Behold! behold, the palace of his pride!
  • God Neptune’s palaces!” With noise increas’d,
  • They shoulder’d on towards that brightening east
  • At every onward step proud domes arose
  • In prospect, — diamond gleams, and golden glows
  • Of amber ’gainst their faces levelling.
  • Joyous, and many as the leaves in spring,
  • Still onward; still the splendour gradual swell’d.
  • Rich opal domes were seen, on high upheld
  • By jasper pillars, letting through their shafts
  • A blush of coral. Copious wonder-draughts
  • Each gazer drank; and deeper drank more near:
  • For what poor mortals fragment up, as mere
  • As marble was there lavish, to the vast
  • Of one fair palace, that far far surpass’d,
  • Even for common bulk, those olden three,
  • Memphis, and Babylon, and Nineveh.
  • As large, as bright, as colour’d as the bow
  • Of Iris, when unfading it doth shew
  • Beyond a silvery shower, was the arch
  • Through which this Paphian army took its march,
  • Into the outer courts of Neptune’s state:
  • Whence could be seen, direct, a golden gate,
  • To which the leaders sped; but not half raught
  • Ere it burst open swift as fairy thought,
  • And made those dazzled thousands veil their eyes
  • Like callow eagles at the first sunrise.
  • Soon with an eagle nativeness their gaze
  • Ripe from hue-golden swoons took all the blaze,
  • And then, behold! large Neptune on his throne
  • Of emerald deep: yet not exalt alone;
  • At his right hand stood winged Love, and on
  • His left sat smiling Beauty’s paragon.
  • Far as the mariner on highest mast
  • Can see all round upon the calmed vast,
  • So wide was Neptune’s hall: and as the blue
  • Doth vault the waters, so the waters drew
  • Their doming curtains, high, magnificent,
  • Aw’d from the throne aloof; — and when storm-rent
  • Disclos’d the thunder-gloomings in Jove’s air;
  • But sooth’d as now, flash’d sudden everywhere,
  • Noiseless, sub-marine cloudlets, glittering
  • Death to a human eye: for there did spring
  • From natural west, and east, and south, and north,
  • A light as of four sunsets, blazing forth
  • A gold-green zenith ’bove the Sea-God’s- head.
  • Of lucid depth the floor, and far outspread
  • As breezeless lake, on which the slim canoe,
  • Of feather’d Indian darts about, as through
  • The delicatest air: air verily,
  • But for the portraiture of clouds and sky:
  • This palace floor breath-air, — but for the amaze
  • Of deep-seen wonders motionless, — and blaze
  • Of the dome pomp, reflected in extremes,
  • Globing a golden sphere.
  • They stood in dreams
  • Till Triton blew his horn. The palace rang;
  • The Nereids danc’d; the Syrens faintly sang;
  • And the great Sea-King- bow’d his dripping head.
  • Then Love took wing, and from his pinions shed
  • On all the multitude a nectarous dew.
  • The ooze-born Goddess beckoned and drew
  • Fair Scylla and her guides to conference;
  • And when they reach’d the throned eminence
  • She kist the sea-nymph’s cheek, — who sat her down
  • A toying with the doves. Then, — “Mighty crown
  • And sceptre of this kingdom!” Venus said,
  • “Thy vows were on a time to Nais paid:
  • Behold!” — Two copious tear-drops instant fell
  • From the God’s large eyes; he smil’d delectable,
  • And over Glaucus held his blessing hands. —
  • “Endymion! Ah! still wandering in the bands
  • Of Love? Now this is cruel. Since the hour
  • I met thee in earth’s bosom, all my power
  • Have I put forth to serve thee. What, not yet
  • Escap’d from dull mortality’s harsh net?
  • A little patience, youth! ’twill not be long,
  • Or I am skilless quite: an idle tongue,
  • A humid eye, and steps luxurious,
  • Where these are new and strange, are ominous.
  • Aye, I have seen these signs in one of heaven,
  • When others were all blind; and were I given
  • To utter secrets, haply I might say
  • Some pleasant words: — but love will have his day.
  • So wait awhile expectant. Pr’ythee soon,
  • Even in the passing of thine honey-moon,
  • Visit thou my Cythera: thou wilt find
  • Cupid well-natured, my Adonis kind;
  • And pray persuade with thee — Ah, I have done,
  • All blisses be upon thee, my sweet son!” —
  • Thus the fair goddess: while Endymion
  • Knelt to receive those accents halcyon.
  • Meantime a glorious revelry began
  • Before the Water-Monarch. Nectar ran
  • In courteous fountains to all cups outreach’d;
  • And plunder’d vines, teeming exhaustless, pleach’d
  • New growth about each shell and pendent lyre;
  • The which, in disentangling for their fire
  • Pull’d down fresh foliage and coverture
  • For dainty toying. Cupid, empire-sure,
  • Flutter’d and laugh’d, and oft-times through the throng
  • Made a delighted way. Then dance, and song,
  • And garlanding grew wild; and pleasure reign’d.
  • In harmless tendril they each other chain’d,
  • And strove who should be smother’d deepest in
  • Fresh crush of leaves.
  • O ’tis a very sin
  • For one so weak to venture his poor verse
  • In such a place as this. O do not curse,
  • High Muses! let him hurry to the ending.
  • All suddenly were silent. A soft blending
  • Of dulcet instruments came charmingly;
  • And then a hymn.
  • “King of the stormy sea!
  • Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor
  • Of elements! Eternally before
  • Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock,
  • At thy fear’d trident shrinking, doth unlock
  • Its deep foundations, hissing into foam.
  • All mountain-rivers lost in the wide home
  • Of thy capacious bosom ever flow.
  • Thou frownest, and old Eolus thy foe
  • Skulks to his cavern, ’mid the gruff complaint
  • Of all his rebel tempests. Dark clouds faint
  • When, from thy diadem, a silver gleam
  • Slants over blue dominion. Thy bright team
  • Gulphs in the morning light, and scuds along
  • To bring thee nearer to that golden song
  • Apollo singeth, while his chariot
  • Waits at the doors of heaven. Thou art not
  • For scenes like this: an empire stern hast thou;
  • And it hath furrow’d that large front: yet now,
  • As newly come of heaven, dost thou sit
  • To blend and interknit
  • Subdued majesty with this glad time.
  • O shell-borne King sublime!
  • We lay our hearts before thee evermore —
  • We sing, and we adore!
  • “Breathe softly, flutes;
  • Be tender of your strings, ye soothing lutes;
  • Nor be the trumpet heard! O vain, O vain;
  • Not flowers budding in an April rain,
  • Nor breath of sleeping dove, nor river’s flow, —
  • No, nor the Eolian twang of Love’s own bow,
  • Can mingle music fit for the soft ear
  • Of goddess Cytherea!
  • Yet deign, white Queen of Beauty, thy fair eyes
  • On our souls’ sacrifice.
  • “Bright-winged Child!
  • Who has another care when thou hast smil’d?
  • Unfortunates on earth, we see at last
  • All death-shadows, and glooms that overcast
  • Our spirits, fann’d away by thy light pinions.
  • O sweetest essence! sweetest of all minions!
  • God of warm pulses, and dishevell’d hair,
  • And panting bosoms bare!
  • Dear unseen light in darkness! eclipser
  • Of light in light! delicious poisoner
  • Thy venom’d goblet will we quaff until
  • We fill — we fill!
  • And by thy Mother’s lips —”
  • Was heard no more
  • For clamour, when the golden palace door
  • Opened again, and from without, in shone
  • A new magnificence. On oozy throne
  • Smooth-moving came Oceanus the old,
  • To take a latest glimpse at his sheep-fold,
  • Before he went into his quiet cave
  • To muse for ever — Then a lucid wave,
  • Scoop’d from its trembling sisters of mid-sea,
  • Of Doris, and the Egean seer, her spouse —
  • Next, on a dolphin, clad in laurel boughs,
  • Theban Amphion leaning on his lute:
  • His fingers went across it — All were mute
  • To gaze on Amphitrite, queen of pearls,
  • And Thetis pearly too. —
  • The palace whirls
  • Around giddy Endymion; seeing he
  • Was there far strayed from mortality.
  • He could not bear it — shut his eyes in vain;
  • Imagination gave a dizzier pain.
  • “O I shall die! sweet Venus, be my stay!
  • Where is my lovely mistress? Well-away!
  • I die — I hear her voice — I feel my wing —”
  • At Neptune’s feet he sank. A sudden ring
  • Of Nereids were about him, in kind strife
  • To usher back his spirit into life:
  • But still he slept. At last they interwove
  • Their cradling arms, and purpos’d to convey
  • Towards a crystal bower far away.
  • Lo! while slow carried through the pitying crowd,
  • To his inward senses these words spake aloud;
  • Written in star-light on the dark above:
  • Dearest Endymion! my entire love!
  • How have I dwelt in fear of fate: ’tis done —
  • Immortal bliss for me too hast thou won.
  • Arise then! for the hen-dove shall not hatch
  • Her ready eggs, before I’ll kissing snatch
  • Thee into endless heaven. Awake! awake!
  • The youth at once arose: a placid lake
  • Came quiet to his eyes; and forest green,
  • Cooler than all the wonders he had seen,
  • Lull’d with its simple song his fluttering breast.
  • How happy once again in grassy nest!
🗙

Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK IV

  • Muse of my native land! loftiest Muse!
  • O first-born on the mountains! by the hues
  • Of heaven on the spiritual air begot:
  • Long didst thou sit alone in northern grot,
  • While yet our England was a wolfish den;
  • Before our forests heard the talk of men;
  • Before the first of Druids was a child; —
  • Long didst thou sit amid our regions wild
  • Rapt in a deep prophetic solitude.
  • There came an eastern voice of solemn mood: —
  • Yet wast thou patient. Then sang forth the Nine,
  • Apollo’s garland: —yet didst thou divine
  • Such home-bred glory, that they cry’d in vain,
  • “Come hither, Sister of the Island!” Plain
  • Spake fair Ausonia; and once more she spake
  • A higher summons: — still didst thou betake
  • Thee to thy native hopes. O thou hast won
  • A full accomplishment! The thing is done,
  • Which undone, these our latter days had risen
  • On barren souls. Great Muse, thou know’st what prison,
  • Of flesh and bone curbs, and confines, and frets
  • Our spirit’s wings: despondency besets
  • Our pillows; and the fresh to-morrow morn
  • Seems to give forth its light in very scorn
  • Of our dull, uninspired, snail-paced lives.
  • Long have I said, how happy he who shrives
  • To thee! But then I thought on poets gone,
  • And could not pray: —nor can I now —so on
  • I move to the end in lowliness of heart. —
  • “Ah, woe is me! that I should fondly part
  • From my dear native land! Ah, foolish maid!
  • Glad was the hour, when, with thee, myriads bade
  • Adieu to Ganges and their pleasant fields!
  • To one so friendless the clear freshet yields
  • A bitter coolness; the ripe grape is sour:
  • Yet I would have, great gods! but one short hour
  • Of native air — let me but die at home.”
  • Endymion to heaven’s airy dome
  • Was offering up a hecatomb of vows,
  • When these words reach’d him. Whereupon he bows
  • His head through thorny-green entanglement
  • Of underwood, and to the sound is bent,
  • Anxious as hind towards her hidden fawn.
  • “Is no one near to help me? No fair dawn
  • Of life from charitable voice? No sweet saying
  • To set my dull and sadden’d spirit playing?
  • No hand to toy with mine? No lips so sweet
  • That I may worship them? No eyelids meet
  • To twinkle on my bosom? No one dies
  • Before me, till from these enslaving eyes
  • Redemption sparkles! —I am sad and lost.”
  • Thou, Carian lord, hadst better have been tost
  • Into a whirlpool. Vanish into air,
  • Warm mountaineer! for canst thou only bear
  • A woman’s sigh alone and in distress?
  • See not her charms! Is Phoebe passionless?
  • Phoebe is fairer far —O gaze no more: —
  • Yet if thou wilt behold all beauty’s store,
  • Behold her panting in the forest grass!
  • Do not those curls of glossy jet surpass
  • For tenderness the arms so idly lain
  • Amongst them? Feelest not a kindred pain,
  • To see such lovely eyes in swimming search
  • After some warm delight, that seems to perch
  • Dovelike in the dim cell lying beyond
  • Their upper lids? —Hist!
  • “O for Hermes’ wand,
  • To touch this flower into human shape!
  • That woodland Hyacinthus could escape
  • From his green prison, and here kneeling down
  • Call me his queen, his second life’s fair crown!
  • Ah me, how I could love! — My soul doth melt
  • For the unhappy youth — Love! I have felt
  • So faint a kindness, such a meek surrender
  • To what my own full thoughts had made too tender,
  • That but for tears my life had fled away! —
  • Ye deaf and senseless minutes of the day,
  • And thou, old forest, hold ye this for true,
  • There is no lightning, no authentic dew
  • But in the eye of love: there’s not a sound,
  • Melodious howsoever, can confound
  • The heavens and earth in one to such a death
  • As doth the voice of love: there’s not a breath
  • Will mingle kindly with the meadow air,
  • Till it has panted round, and stolen a share
  • Of passion from the heart!”—
  • Upon a bough
  • He leant, wretched. He surely cannot now
  • Thirst for another love: O impious,
  • That he can even dream upon it thus! —
  • Thought he, “Why am I not as are the dead,
  • Since to a woe like this I have been led
  • Through the dark earth, and through the wondrous sea?
  • Goddess! I love thee not the less: from thee
  • By Juno’s smile I turn not — no, no, no —
  • While the great waters are at ebb and flow. —
  • I have a triple soul! O fond pretence —
  • For both, for both my love is so immense,
  • I feel my heart is cut for them in twain.”
  • And so he groan’d, as one by beauty slain.
  • The lady’s heart beat quick, and he could see
  • Her gentle bosom heave tumultuously.
  • He sprang from his green covert: there she lay,
  • Sweet as a muskrose upon new-made hay;
  • With all her limbs on tremble, and her eyes
  • Shut softly up alive. To speak he tries.
  • “Fair damsel, pity me! forgive that I
  • Thus violate thy bower’s sanctity!
  • O pardon me, for I am full of grief —
  • Grief born of thee, young angel! fairest thief!
  • Who stolen hast away the wings wherewith
  • I was to top the heavens. Dear maid, sith
  • Thou art my executioner, and I feel
  • Loving and hatred, misery and weal,
  • Will in a few short hours be nothing to me,
  • And all my story that much passion slew me;
  • Do smile upon the evening of my days:
  • And, for my tortur’d brain begins to craze,
  • Be thou my nurse; and let me understand
  • How dying I shall kiss that lily hand. —
  • Dost weep for me? Then should I be content.
  • Scowl on, ye fates! until the firmament
  • Outblackens Erebus, and the full-cavern’d earth
  • Crumbles into itself. By the cloud girth
  • Of Jove, those tears have given me a thirst
  • To meet oblivion.” — As her heart would burst
  • The maiden sobb’d awhile, and then replied:
  • “Why must such desolation betide
  • As that thou speak’st of? Are not these green nooks
  • Empty of all misfortune? Do the brooks
  • Utter a gorgon voice? Does yonder thrush,
  • Schooling its half-fledg’d little ones to brush
  • About the dewy forest, whisper tales? —
  • Speak not of grief, young stranger, or cold snails
  • Will slime the rose to night. Though if thou wilt,
  • Methinks ’twould be a guilt — a very guilt —
  • Not to companion thee, and sigh away
  • The light — the dusk — the dark — till break of day! ”
  • “Dear lady,” said Endymion, “’tis past:
  • I love thee! and my days can never last.
  • That I may pass in patience still speak:
  • Let me have music dying, and I seek
  • No more delight — I bid adieu to all.
  • Didst thou not after other climates call,
  • And murmur about Indian streams?” — Then she,
  • Sitting beneath the midmost forest tree,
  • For pity sang this roundelay —
  • “ O Sorrow,
  • Why dost borrow
  • The natural hue of health, from vermeil lips? —
  • To give maiden blushes
  • To the white rose bushes?
  • Or is’t thy dewy hand the daisy tips?
  • “O Sorrow,
  • Why dost borrow
  • The lustrous passion from a falcon-eye? —
  • To give the glow-worm light?
  • Or, on a moonless night,
  • To tinge, on syren shores, the salt sea-spry?
  • “O Sorrow,
  • Why dost borrow
  • The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue? —
  • To give at evening pale
  • Unto the nightingale,
  • That thou mayst listen the cold dews among?
  • “O Sorrow,
  • Why dost borrow
  • Heart’s lightness from the merriment of May? —
  • A lover would not tread
  • A cowslip on the head,
  • Though he should dance from eve till peep of day —
  • Nor any drooping flower
  • Held sacred for thy bower,
  • Wherever he may sport himself and play.
  • “To Sorrow,
  • I bade good-morrow,
  • And thought to leave her far away behind;
  • But cheerly, cheerly,
  • She loves me dearly;
  • She is so constant to me, and so kind:
  • I would deceive her
  • And so leave her,
  • But ah! she is so constant and so kind.
  • “Beneath my palm trees, by the river side,
  • I sat a weeping: in the whole world wide
  • There was no one to ask me why I wept, —
  • And so I kept
  • Brimming the water-lily cups with tears
  • Cold as my fears.
  • “Beneath my palm trees, by the river side,
  • I sat a weeping: what enamour’d bride,
  • Cheated by shadowy wooer from the clouds,
  • But hides and shrouds
  • Beneath dark palm trees by a river side?
  • “And as I sat, over the light blue hills
  • There came a noise of revellers: the rills
  • Into the wide stream came of purple hue —
  • ’Twas Bacchus and his crew!
  • The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
  • From kissing cymbals made a merry din —
  • ’Twas Bacchus and his kin!
  • Like to a moving vintage down they came,
  • Crown’d with green leaves, and faces all on flame;
  • All madly dancing through the pleasant valley,
  • To scare thee, Melancholy!
  • O then, O then, thou wast a simple name!
  • And I forgot thee, as the berried holly
  • By shepherds is forgotten, when, in June,
  • Tall chesnuts keep away the sun and moon: —
  • I rush’d into the folly!
  • “Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood,
  • Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,
  • With sidelong laughing;
  • And little rills of crimson wine imbrued
  • His plump white arms, and shoulders, enough white
  • For Venus’ pearly bite:
  • And near him rode Silenus on his ass,
  • Pelted with flowers as he on did pass
  • Tipsily quaffing.
  • “Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye!
  • So many, and so many, and such glee?
  • Why have ye left your bowers desolate,
  • Your lutes, and gentler fate? —
  • We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing,
  • A conquering!
  • Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide,
  • We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide: —
  • Come hither, lady fair, and joined be
  • To our wild minstrelsy! ”
  • “Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye!
  • So many, and so many, and such glee?
  • Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left
  • Your nuts in oak-tree cleft? —
  • For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree;
  • For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms,
  • And cold mushrooms;
  • For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth;
  • Great God of breathless cups and chirping mirth! —
  • Come hither, lady fair, and joined be
  • To our mad minstrelsy!”
  • “Over wide streams and mountains great we went,
  • And, save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent,
  • Onward the tiger and the leopard pants,
  • With Asian elephants:
  • Onward these myriads — with song and dance,
  • With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians’ prance,
  • Web-footed alligators, crocodiles,
  • Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files,
  • Plump infant laughers mimicking the coil
  • Of seamen, and stout galley-rowers’ toil:
  • With toying oars and silken sails they glide,
  • Nor care for wind and tide.
  • “Mounted on panthers’ furs and lions’ manes,
  • From rear to van they scour about the plains;
  • A three days’ journey in a moment done:
  • And always, at the rising of the sun,
  • About the wilds they hunt with spear and horn,
  • On spleenful unicorn.
  • “I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown
  • Before the vine-wreath crown!
  • I saw parch’d Abyssinia rouse and sing
  • To the silver cymbals’ ring!
  • I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce
  • Old Tartary the fierce!
  • The kings of Inde their jewel-sceptres vail,
  • And from their treasures scatter pearled hail;
  • Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans,
  • And all his priesthood moans;
  • Before young Bacchus’ eye-wink turning pale. —
  • Into these regions came I following him,
  • Sick hearted, weary — so I took a whim
  • To stray away into these forests drear
  • Alone, without a peer:
  • And I have told thee all thou mayest hear.
  • “Young stranger!
  • I’ve been a ranger
  • In search of pleasure throughout every clime:
  • Alas! ’tis not for me!
  • Bewitch’d I sure must be,
  • To lose in grieving all my maiden prime.
  • “Come then, Sorrow!
  • Sweetest Sorrow!
  • Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast:
  • I thought to leave thee
  • And deceive thee,
  • But now of all the world I love thee best.
  • “There is not one,
  • No, no, not one
  • But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid;
  • Thou art her mother,
  • And her brother,
  • Her playmate, and her wooer in the shade.”
  • O what a sigh she gave in finishing,
  • And look, quite dead to every worldly thing!
  • Endymion could not speak, but gazed on her;
  • And listened to the wind that now did stir
  • About the crisped oaks full drearily,
  • Yet with as sweet a softness as might be
  • Remember’d from its velvet summer song.
  • At last he said: “Poor lady, how thus long
  • Have I been able to endure that voice?
  • Fair Melody! kind Syren! I’ve no choice;
  • I must be thy sad servant evermore:
  • I cannot choose but kneel here and adore.
  • Alas, I must not think — by Phoebe, no!
  • Let me not think, soft Angel! shall it be so?
  • Say, beautifullest, shall I never think?
  • O thou could’st foster me beyond the brink
  • Of recollection! make my watchful care
  • Close up its bloodshot eyes, nor see despair!
  • Do gently murder half my soul, and I
  • Shall feel the other half so utterly! —
  • I’m giddy at that cheek so fair and smooth;
  • O let it blush so ever! let it soothe
  • My madness! let it mantle rosy-warm
  • With the tinge of love, panting in safe alarm. —
  • This cannot be thy hand, and yet it is;
  • And this is sure thine other softling — this
  • Thine own fair bosom, and I am so near!
  • Wilt fall asleep? O let me sip that tear!
  • And whisper one sweet word that I may know
  • This is this world — sweet dewy blossom!” — Woe!
  • Woe! Woe to that Endymion! Where is he? —
  • Even these words went echoing dismally
  • Through the wide forest — a most fearful tone,
  • Like one repenting in his latest moan;
  • And while it died away a shade pass’d by,
  • As of a thunder cloud. When arrows fly
  • Through the thick branches, poor ring-doves sleek forth
  • Their timid necks and tremble; so these both
  • Leant to each other trembling, and sat so
  • Waiting for some destruction — when lo,
  • Foot-feather’d Mercury appear’d sublime
  • Beyond the tall tree tops; and in less time
  • Than shoots the slanted hail-storm, down he dropt
  • Towards the ground; but rested not, nor stopt
  • One moment from his home: only the sward
  • He with his wand light touch’d, and heavenward
  • Swifter than sight was gone — even before
  • The teeming earth a sudden witness bore
  • Of his swift magic. Diving swans appear
  • Above the crystal circlings white and clear;
  • And catch the cheated eye in wide surprise,
  • How they can dive in sight and unseen rise —
  • So from the turf outsprang two steeds jet-black,
  • Each with large dark blue wings upon his back.
  • The youth of Caria plac’d the lovely dame
  • On one, and felt himself in spleen to tame
  • The other’s fierceness. Through the air they flew,
  • High as the eagles. Like two drops of dew
  • Exhal’d to Phoebus’ lips, away they are gone,
  • Far from the earth away — unseen, alone,
  • Among cool clouds and winds, but that the free,
  • The buoyant life of song can floating be
  • Above their heads, and follow them untir’d. —
  • Muse of my native land, am I inspir’d?
  • This is the giddy air, and I must spread
  • Wide pinions to keep here; nor do I dread
  • Or height, or depth, or width, or any chance
  • Precipitous: I have beneath my glance
  • Those towering horses and their mournful freight.
  • Could I thus sail, and see, and thus await
  • Fearless for power of thought, without thine aid? —
  • There is a sleepy dusk, an odorous shade
  • From some approaching wonder, and behold
  • Those winged steeds, with snorting nostrils bold
  • Snuff at its faint extreme, and seem to tire,
  • Dying to embers from their native fire!
  • There curl’d a purple mist around them; soon,
  • It seem’d as when around the pale new moon
  • Sad Zephyr droops the clouds like weeping willow:
  • ’Twas Sleep slow journeying with head on pillow.
  • For the first time, since he came nigh dead born
  • From the old womb of night, his cave forlorn
  • Had he left more forlorn; for the first time,
  • He felt aloof the day and morning’s prime —
  • Because into his depth Cimmerian
  • There came a dream, shewing how a young man,
  • Ere a lean bat could plump its wintery skin,
  • Would at high Jove’s empyreal footstool win
  • An immortality, and how espouse
  • Jove’s daughter, and be reckon’d of his house.
  • Now was he slumbering towards heaven’s gate,
  • That he might at the threshold one hour wait
  • To hear the marriage melodies, and then
  • Sink downward to his dusky cave again.
  • His litter of smooth semilucent mist
  • Diversely ting’d with rose and amethyst,
  • Puzzled those eyes that for the centre sought;
  • And scarcely for one moment could be caught
  • His sluggish form reposing motionless.
  • Those two on winged steeds, with all the stress
  • Of vision search’d for him, as one would look
  • Athwart the sallows of a river nook
  • To catch a glance at silver throated eels, —
  • Or from old Skiddaw’s top, when fog conceals
  • His rugged forehead in a mantle pale,
  • With an eye-guess towards some pleasant vale
  • Descry a favourite hamlet faint and far.
  • These raven horses, though they foster’d are
  • Of earth’s splenetic fire, dully drop
  • Their full-veined ears, nostrils blood wide, and stop;
  • Upon the spiritless mist have they outspread
  • Their ample feathers, are in slumber dead, —
  • And on those pinions, level in mid air,
  • Endymion sleepeth and the lady fair.
  • Slowly they sail, slowly as icy isle
  • Upon a calm sea drifting: and meanwhile
  • The mournful wanderer dreams. Behold! he walks
  • On heaven’s pavement; brotherly he talks
  • To divine powers: from his hand full fain
  • Juno’s proud birds are pecking pearly grain:
  • He tries the nerve of Phoebuts golden bow,
  • And asketh where the golden apples grow:
  • Upon his arm he braces Pallas’ shield,
  • And strives in vain to unsettle and wield
  • A Jovian thunderbolt: arch Hebe brings
  • A full-brimm’d goblet, dances lightly, sings
  • And tantalizes long; at last he drinks,
  • And lost in pleasure at her feet he sinks,
  • Touching with dazzled lips her starlight hand.
  • He blows a bugle, — an ethereal band
  • Are visible above: the Seasons four, —
  • Green-kyrtled Spring, flush Summer, golden store
  • In Autumn’s sickle, Winter frosty hoar,
  • Join dance with shadowy Hours; while still the blast,
  • In swells unmitigated, still doth last
  • To sway their floating morris. “Whose is this?
  • Whose bugle?” he inquires: they smile — “O Dis!
  • Why is this mortal here? Dost thou not know
  • Its mistress’ lips? Not thou? — ’Tis Dian’s: lo!
  • She rises crescented!” He looks, ’tis she,
  • His very goddess: good-bye earth, and sea,
  • And air, and pains, and care, and suffering;
  • Good-bye to all but love! Then doth he spring
  • Towards her, and awakes — and, strange, o’erhead,
  • Of those same fragrant exhalations bred,
  • Beheld awake his very dream: the gods
  • Stood smiling; merry Hebe laughs and nods;
  • And Phoebe bends towards him crescented.
  • O state perplexing! On the pinion bed,
  • Too well awake, he feels the panting side
  • Of his delicious lady. He who died
  • For soaring too audacious in the sun,
  • When that same treacherous wax began to run,
  • Felt not more tongue-tied than Endymion.
  • His heart leapt up as to its rightful throne,
  • To that fair shadow’d passion puls’d its way —
  • Ah, what perplexity! Ah, well a day!
  • So fond, so beauteous was his bed-fellow,
  • He could not help but kiss her: then he grew
  • Awhile forgetful of all beauty save
  • Young Phoebe’s, golden hair’d; and so ’gan crave
  • Forgiveness: yet he turn’d once more to look
  • At the sweet sleeper, — all his soul was shook, —
  • She press’d his hand in slumber; so once more
  • At this the shadow wept, melting away.
  • The Latmian started up: “Bright goddess, stay!
  • Search my most hidden breast! By truth’s own tongue,
  • I have no daedale heart: why is it wrung
  • To desperation? Is there nought for me,
  • Upon the bourne of bliss, but misery?”
  • These words awoke the stranger of dark tresses:
  • Her dawning love-look rapt Endymion blesses
  • With ’haviour soft. Sleep yawned from underneath.
  • “Thou swan of Ganges, let us no more breathe
  • This murky phantasm! thou contented seem’st
  • Pillow’d in lovely idleness, nor dream’st
  • What horrors may discomfort thee and me.
  • Ah, shouldst thou die from my heart-treachery! —
  • Yet did she merely weep — her gentle soul
  • Hath no revenge in it: as it is whole
  • In tenderness, would I were whole in love!
  • Can I prize thee, fair maid, all price above,
  • Even when I feel as true as innocence?
  • I do, I do. — What is this soul then? Whence
  • Came it? It does not seem my own, and I
  • Have no self-passion or identity.
  • Some fearful end must be: where, where is it?
  • By Nemesis, I see my spirit flit
  • Alone about the dark — Forgive me, sweet:
  • Shall we away?” He rous’d the steeds: they beat
  • Their wings chivalrous into the clear air,
  • Leaving old Sleep within his vapoury lair.
  • The good-night blush of eve was waning slow,
  • And Vesper, risen star, began to throe
  • In the dusk heavens silverly, when they
  • Thus sprang direct towards the Galaxy.
  • Nor did speed hinder converse soft and strange —
  • Eternal oaths and vows they interchange,
  • In such wise, in such temper, so aloof
  • Up in the winds, beneath a starry roof,
  • So witless of their doom, that verily
  • ’Tis well nigh past man’s search their hearts to see;
  • Whether they wept, or laugh’d, or griev’d, or toy’d —
  • Most like with joy gone mad, with sorrow cloy’d.
  • Full facing their swift flight, from ebon streak,
  • The moon put forth a little diamond peak,
  • No bigger than an unobserved star,
  • Or tiny point of fairy scymetar;
  • Bright signal that she only stoop’d to tie
  • Her silver sandals, ere deliciously
  • She bow’d into the heavens her timid head.
  • Slowly she rose, as though she would have fled,
  • While to his lady meek the Carian turn’d
  • To mark if her dark eyes had yet discern’d
  • This beauty in its birth — Despair! despair!
  • He saw her body fading gaunt and spare
  • In the cold moonshine. Straight he seiz’d her wrist;
  • It melted from his grasp: her hand he kiss’d,
  • And, horror! kiss’d his own — he was alone.
  • Her steed a little higher soar’d, and then
  • Dropt hawkwise to the earth.
  • There lies a den,
  • Beyond the seeming confines of the space
  • Made for the soul to wander in and trace
  • Its own existence, of remotest glooms.
  • Dark regions are around it, where the tombs
  • Of buried griefs the spirit sees, but scarce
  • One hour doth linger weeping, for the pierce
  • Of new-born woe it feels more inly smart:
  • And in these regions many a venom’d dart
  • At random flies; they are the proper home
  • Of every ill: the man is yet to come
  • Who hath not journeyed in this native hell.
  • But few have ever felt how calm and well
  • Sleep may be had in that deep den of all
  • There anguish does not sting; nor pleasure pall:
  • Woe-hurricanes beat ever at the gate,
  • Yet all is still within and desolate.
  • Beset with painful gusts, within ye hear
  • No sound so loud as when on curtain’d bier
  • The death-watch tick is stifled. Enter none
  • Who strive therefore: on the sudden it is won.
  • Just when the sufferer begins to burn,
  • Then it is free to him; and from an urn,
  • Still fed by melting ice, he takes a draught —
  • Young Semele such richness never quaft
  • In her maternal longing! Happy gloom!
  • Dark paradise! where pale becomes the bloom
  • Of health by due; where silence dreariest
  • Is most articulate; where hopes infest;
  • Where those eyes are the brightest far that keep
  • Their lids shut longest in a dreamless sleep.
  • O happy spirit-home! O wondrous soul!
  • Pregnant with such a den to save the whole
  • In thine own depth. Hail, gentle Carian!
  • For, never since thy griefs and woes began,
  • Hast thou felt so content: a grievous feud
  • Hath led thee to this Cave of Quietude.
  • Aye, his lull’d soul was there, although upborne
  • With dangerous speed: and so he did not mourn
  • Because he knew not whither he was going.
  • So happy was he, not the aerial blowing
  • Of trumpets at clear parley from the east
  • Could rouse from that fine relish, that high feast.
  • They stung the feather’d horse: with fierce alarm
  • He flapp’d towards the sound. Alas, no charm
  • Could lift Endymion’s head, or he had view’d
  • A skyey masque, a pinion’d multitude, —
  • And silvery was its passing: voices sweet
  • Warbling the while as if to lull and greet
  • The wanderer in his path. Thus warbled they,
  • While past the vision went in bright array.
  • “Who, who from Dian’s feast would be away?
  • For all the golden bowers of the day
  • Are empty left? Who, who away would be
  • From Cynthia’s wedding and festivity?
  • Not Hesperus: lo! upon his silver wings
  • He leans away for highest heaven and sings,
  • Snapping his lucid fingers merrily! —
  • Ah, Zephyrus! art here, and Flora too!
  • Ye tender bibbers of the rain and dew,
  • Young playmates of the rose and daffodil,
  • Be careful, ere ye enter in, to fill
  • Your baskets high
  • With fennel green, and balm, and golden pines,
  • Savory, latter-mint, and columbines,
  • Cool parsley, basil sweet, and sunny thyme;
  • Yea, every flower and leaf of every clime,
  • All gather’d in the dewy morning: hie
  • Away! fly, fly! —
  • Crystalline brother of the belt of heaven,
  • Aquarius! to whom king Jove has given
  • Two liquid pulse-streams ’stead of feather’d wings,
  • Two fan-like fountains, — thine illuminings
  • For Dian play:
  • Dissolve the frozen purity of air;
  • Let thy white shoulders silvery and bare
  • Shew cold through watery pinions; make more bright
  • The Star-Queen’s crescent on her marriage night:
  • Haste, haste away! —
  • Castor has tamed the planet Lion, see!
  • And of the Bear has Pollux mastery:
  • A third is in the race! who is the third,
  • Speeding away swift as the eagle bird?
  • The ramping Centaur!
  • The Lion’s mane’s on end: the Bear how fierce!
  • The Centaur’s arrow ready seems to pierce
  • Some enemy: far forth his bow is bent
  • Into the blue of heaven. He’ll be shent,
  • Pale unrelentor,
  • When he shall hear the wedding lutes a playing. —
  • Andromeda! sweet woman! why delaying
  • So timidly among the stars: come hither!
  • Join this bright throng, and nimbly follow whither
  • They all are going.
  • Danae’s Son, before Jove newly bow’d,
  • Has wept for thee, calling to Jove aloud.
  • Thee, gentle lady, did he disenthral:
  • Ye shall for ever live and love, for all
  • Thy tears are flowing. —
  • By Daphne’s fright, behold Apollo! — ”
  • More
  • Endymion heard not: down his steed him bore,
  • Prone to the green head of a misty hill.
  • His first touch of the earth went nigh to kill.
  • “Alas!” said he, “were I but always borne
  • Through dangerous winds, had but my footsteps worn
  • A path in hell, for ever would I bless
  • Horrors which nourish an uneasiness
  • For my own sullen conquering: to him
  • Who lives beyond earth’s boundary, grief is dim,
  • Sorrow is but a shadow: now I see
  • The grass; I feel the solid ground — Ah, me!
  • It is thy voice — divinest! Where? — who? who
  • Left thee so quiet on this bed of dew?
  • Behold upon this happy earth we are;
  • Let us aye love each other; let us fare
  • On forest-fruits, and never, never go
  • Among the abodes of mortals here below,
  • Or be by phantoms duped. O destiny!
  • Into a labyrinth now my soul would fly,
  • But with thy beauty will I deaden it.
  • Where didst thou melt to? by thee will I sit
  • For ever: let our fate stop here — a kid
  • I on this spot will offer: Pan will bid
  • Us live in peace, in love and peace among
  • His forest wildernesses. I have clung
  • To nothing, lov’d a nothing, nothing seen
  • Or felt but a great dream! O I have been
  • Presumptuous against love, against the sky,
  • Against all elements, against the tie
  • Of mortals each to each, against the blooms
  • Of flowers, rush of rivers, and the tombs
  • Of heroes gone! Against his proper glory
  • Has my own soul conspired: so my story
  • Will I to children utter, and repent.
  • There never liv’d a mortal man, who bent
  • His appetite beyond his natural sphere,
  • But starv’d and died. My sweetest Indian, here,
  • Here will I kneel, for thou redeemed hast
  • My life from too thin breathing: gone and past
  • Are cloudy phantasms. Caverns lone, farewel!
  • And air of visions, and the monstrous swell
  • Of visionary seas! No, never more
  • Shall airy voices cheat me to the shore
  • Of tangled wonder, breathless and aghast.
  • Adieu, my daintiest Dream! although so vast
  • My love is still for thee. The hour may come
  • When we shall meet in pure elysium.
  • On earth I may not love thee; and therefore
  • Doves will I offer up, and sweetest store
  • All through the teeming year: so thou wilt shine
  • On me, and on this damsel fair of mine,
  • And bless our simple lives. My Indian bliss!
  • My river-lily bud! one human kiss!
  • One sigh of real breath — one gentle squeeze,
  • Warm as a dove’s nest among summer trees,
  • And warm with dew at ooze from living blood!
  • Whither didst melt? Ah, what of that! — all good
  • We’ll talk about — no more of dreaming. — Now,
  • Where shall our dwelling be? Under the brow
  • Of some steep mossy hill, where ivy dun
  • Would hide us up, although spring leaves were none;
  • And where dark yew trees, as we rustle through,
  • Will drop their scarlet berry cups of dew?
  • O thou wouldst joy to live in such a place;
  • Dusk for our loves, yet light enough to grace
  • Those gentle limbs on mossy bed reclin’d:
  • For by one step the blue sky shouldst thou find,
  • And by another, in deep dell below,
  • See, through the trees, a little river go
  • All in its mid-day gold and glimmering.
  • Honey from out the gnarled hive I’ll bring,
  • And apples, wan with sweetness, gather thee, —
  • Cresses that grow where no man may them see,
  • And sorrel untorn by the dew-claw’d stag:
  • Pipes will I fashion of the syrinx flag,
  • That thou mayst always know whither I roam,
  • When it shall please thee in our quiet home
  • To listen and think of love. Still let me speak;
  • Still let me dive into the joy I seek, —
  • For yet the past doth prison me. The rill,
  • Thou haply mayst delight in, will I fill
  • With fairy fishes from the mountain tarn,
  • And thou shalt feed them from the squirrel’s barn.
  • Its bottom will I strew with amber shells,
  • And pebbles blue from deep enchanted wells.
  • Its sides I’ll plant with dew-sweet eglantine,
  • And honeysuckles full of clear bee-wine.
  • I will entice this crystal rill to trace
  • Love’s silver name upon the meadow’s face.
  • I’ll kneel to Vesta, for a flame of fire;
  • And to god Phoebus, for a golden lyre;
  • To Empress Dian, for a hunting spear;
  • To Vesper, for a taper silver-clear,
  • That I may see thy beauty through the night;
  • To Flora, and a nightingale shall light
  • Tame on thy finger; to the River-gods,
  • And they shall bring thee taper fishing-rods
  • Of gold, and lines of Naiads’ long bright tress.
  • Heaven shield thee for thine utter loveliness!
  • Thy mossy footstool shall the altar be
  • ’Fore which I’ll bend, bending dear love, to thee:
  • Those lips shall be my Delphos, and shall speak
  • Laws to my footsteps, colour to my cheek,
  • Trembling or stedfastness to this same voice,
  • And of three sweetest pleasurings the choice:
  • And that affectionate light, those diamond things,
  • Those eyes, those passions, those supreme pearl springs,
  • Shall be my grief, or twinkle me to pleasure.
  • Say, is not bliss within our perfect seisure?
  • O that I could not doubt!”
  • The mountaineer
  • Thus strove by fancies vain and crude to clear
  • His briar’d path to some tranquillity.
  • It gave bright gladness to his lady’s eye,
  • And yet the tears she wept were tears of sorrow;
  • Answering thus, just as the golden morrow
  • Beam’d upward from the vallies of the east:
  • “O that the flutter of this heart had ceas’d,
  • Or the sweet name of love had pass’d away.
  • Young feather’d tyrant! by a swift decay
  • Wilt thou devote this body to the earth:
  • And I do think that at my very birth
  • I lisp’d thy blooming titles inwardly;
  • For at the first, first dawn and thought of thee,
  • With uplift hands I blest the stars of heaven
  • Art thou not cruel? Ever have I striven
  • To think thee kind, but ah, it will not do!
  • When yet a child, I heard that kisses drew
  • Favour from thee, and so I kisses gave
  • To the void air, bidding them find out love:
  • But when I came to feel how far above
  • All fancy, pride, and fickle maidenhood,
  • All earthly pleasure, all imagin’d good,
  • Was the warm tremble of a devout kiss, —
  • Even then, that moment, at the thought of this,
  • Fainting I fell into a bed of flowers,
  • And languish’d there three days. Ye milder powers,
  • Am I not cruelly wrong’d? Believe, believe
  • Me, dear Endymion, were I to weave
  • With my own fancies garlands of sweet life,
  • Thou shouldst be one of all. Ah, bitter strife!
  • I may not be thy love: I am forbidden —
  • Indeed I am — thwarted, affrighted, chidden,
  • By things I trembled at, and gorgon wrath.
  • Twice hast thou ask’d whither I went: henceforth
  • Ask me no more! I may not utter it,
  • Nor may I be thy love. We might commit
  • Ourselves at once to vengeance; we might die;
  • We might embrace and die: voluptuous thought!
  • Enlarge not to my hunger, or I’m caught
  • In trammels of perverse deliciousness.
  • No, no, that shall not be: thee will I bless,
  • And bid a long adieu.”
  • The Carian
  • No word return’d: both lovelorn, silent, wan,
  • Into the vallies green together went.
  • Far wandering, they were perforce content
  • To sit beneath a fair lone beechen tree;
  • Nor at each other gaz’d, but heavily
  • Por’d on its hazle cirque of shedded leaves.
  • Endymion! unhappy! it nigh grieves
  • Me to behold thee thus in last extreme:
  • Ensky’d ere this, but truly that I deem
  • Truth the best music in a first-born song.
  • Thy lute-voic’d brother will I sing ere long,
  • And thou shalt aid — hast thou not aided me?
  • Yes, moonlight Emperor! felicity
  • Has been thy meed for many thousand years;
  • Yet often have I, on the brink of tears,
  • Mourn’d as if yet thou wert a forester; —
  • Forgetting the old tale.
  • He did not stir
  • His eyes from the dead leaves, or one small pulse
  • Of joy he might have felt. The spirit culls
  • Unfaded amaranth, when wild it strays
  • Through the old garden-ground of boyish days.
  • A little onward ran the very stream
  • By which he took his first soft poppy dream;
  • And on the very bark ’gainst which he leant
  • A crescent he had carv’d, and round it spent
  • His skill in little stars. The teeming tree
  • Had swollen and green’d the pious charactery,
  • But not ta’en out. Why, there was not a slope
  • Up which he had not fear’d the antelope;
  • And not a tree, beneath whose rooty shade
  • He had not with his tamed leopards play’d:
  • Nor could an arrow light, or javelin,
  • Fly in the air where his had never been —
  • And yet he knew it not.
  • O treachery!
  • Why does his lady smile, pleasing her eye
  • With all his sorrowing? He sees her not.
  • But who so stares on him? His sister sure!
  • Peona of the woods! — Can she endure —
  • Impossible — how dearly they embrace!
  • His lady smiles; delight is in her face;
  • It is no treachery.
  • “Dear brother mine!
  • Endymion, weep not so! Why shouldst thou pine
  • When all great Latmos so exalt will be?
  • Thank the great gods, and look not bitterly;
  • And speak not one pale word, and sigh no more.
  • Sure I will not believe thou hast such store
  • Of grief, to last thee to my kiss again.
  • Thou surely canst not bear a mind in pain,
  • Come hand in hand with one so beautiful.
  • Be happy both of you! for I will pull
  • The flowers of autumn for your coronals.
  • Pan’s holy priest for young Endymion calls;
  • And when he is restor’d, thou, fairest dame,
  • Shalt be our queen. Now, is it not a shame
  • To see ye thus, — not very, very sad?
  • Perhaps ye are too happy to be glad:
  • O feel as if it were a common day;
  • Free-voic’d as one who never was away.
  • No tongue shall ask, whence come ye? but ye shall
  • Be gods of your own rest imperial.
  • Not even I, for one whole month, will pry
  • Into the hours that have pass’d us by,
  • Since in my arbour I did sing to thee.
  • O Hermes! on this very night will be
  • A hymning up to Cynthia, queen of light;
  • For the soothsayers old saw yesternight
  • Good visions in the air, — whence will befal,
  • As say these sages, health perpetual
  • To shepherds and their flocks; and furthermore,
  • In Dian’s face they read the gentle lore:
  • Therefore for her these vesper-carols are.
  • Our friends will all be there from nigh and far.
  • Many upon thy death have ditties made;
  • And many, even now, their foreheads shade
  • With cypress, on a day of sacrifice.
  • New singing for our maids shalt thou devise,
  • And pluck the sorrow from our huntsmen’s brows.
  • Tell me, my lady-queen, how to espouse
  • This wayward brother to his rightful joys!
  • His eyes are on thee bent, as thou didst poise
  • His fate most goddess-like. Help me, I pray,
  • To lure — Endymion! dear brother, say
  • What ails thee?” He could bear no more, and so
  • Bent his soul fiercely like a spiritual bow,
  • And twang’d it inwardly, and calmly said:
  • “I would have thee my only friend, sweet maid!
  • My only visitor! not ignorant though,
  • That those deceptions which for pleasure go
  • ’Mong men, are pleasures real as real may be:
  • But there are higher ones I may not see,
  • If impiously an earthly realm I take.
  • Since I saw thee, I have been wide awake
  • Night after night, and day by day, until
  • Of the empyrean I have drunk my fill.
  • Let it content thee, sister, seeing me
  • More happy than betides mortality.
  • A hermit young, I’ll live in mossy cave,
  • Where thou alone shalt come to me, and lave
  • Thy spirit in the wonders I shall tell.
  • Through me the shepherd realm shall prosper well;
  • For to thy tongue will I all health confide.
  • And, for my sake, let this young maid abide
  • With thee as a dear sister. Thou alone,
  • Peona, mayst return to me. I own
  • This may sound strangely: but when, dearest girl,
  • Thou seest it for my happiness, no pearl
  • Will trespass down those cheeks. Companion fair!
  • Wilt be content to dwell with her, to share
  • This sister’s love with me?” Like one resign’d
  • And bent by circumstance, and thereby blind
  • In self-commitment, thus that meek unknown:
  • “Aye, but a buzzing by my ears has flown,
  • Of jubilee to Dian: — truth I heard?
  • Well then, I see there is no little bird,
  • Tender soever, but is Jove’s own care.
  • Long have I sought for rest, and, unaware,
  • Behold I find it! so exalted too!
  • So after my own heart! I knew, I knew
  • There was a place untenanted in it:
  • In that same void white Chastity shall sit,
  • And monitor me nightly to lone slumber.
  • With sanest lips I vow me to the number
  • Of Dian’s sisterhood; and, kind lady,
  • With thy good help, this very night shall see
  • My future days to her fane consecrate.”
  • As feels a dreamer what doth most create
  • His own particular fright, so these three felt:
  • Or like one who, in after ages, knelt
  • To Lucifer or Baal, when he’d pine
  • After a little sleep: or when in mine
  • Far under-ground, a sleeper meets his friends
  • Who know him not. Each diligently bends
  • Towards common thoughts and things for very fear;
  • Striving their ghastly malady to cheer,
  • By thinking it a thing of yes and no
  • That housewives talk of. But the spirit-blow
  • Was struck, and all were dreamers. At the last
  • Endymion said: “Are not our fates all cast?
  • Why stand we here? Adieu, ye tender pair!
  • Adieu!” Whereat those maidens, with wild stare,
  • Walk’d dizzily away. Pained and hot
  • His eyes went after them, until they got
  • Near to a cypress grove, whose deadly maw,
  • In one swift moment, would what then he saw
  • Engulph for ever. “Stay!” he cried, “ah, stay!
  • Turn, damsels! hist! one word I have to say.
  • Sweet Indian, I would see thee once again.
  • It is a thing I dote on: so I’d fain,
  • Peona, ye should hand in hand repair
  • Into those holy groves, that silent are
  • Behind great Dian’s temple. I’ll be yon,
  • At Vesper’s earliest twinkle — they are gone —
  • But once, once, once again —” At this he press’d
  • His hands against his face, and then did rest
  • His head upon a mossy hillock green,
  • And so remain’d as he a corpse had been
  • All the long day; save when he scantly lifted
  • His eyes abroad, to see how shadows shifted
  • With the slow move of time, — sluggish and weary
  • Until the poplar tops, in journey dreary,
  • Had reach’d the river’s brim. Then up he rose,
  • And, slowly as that very river flows,
  • Walk’d towards the temple grove with this lament:
  • “Why such a golden eve? The breeze is sent
  • Careful and soft, that not a leaf may fall
  • Before the serene father of them all
  • Bows down his summer head below the west.
  • Now am I of breath, speech, and speed possest,
  • But at the setting I must bid adieu
  • To her for the last time. Night will strew
  • On the damp grass myriads of lingering leaves,
  • And with them shall I die; nor much it grieves
  • To die, when summer dies on the cold sward.
  • Why, I have been a butterfly, a lord
  • Of flowers, garlands, love-knots, silly posies,
  • Groves, meadows, melodies, and arbour roses;
  • My kingdom’s at its death, and just it is
  • That I should die with it: so in all this
  • We miscal grief, bale, sorrow, heartbreak, woe,
  • What is there to plain of? By Titan’s foe
  • I am but rightly serv’d.” So saying, he
  • Tripp’d lightly on, in sort of deathful glee;
  • Laughing at the clear stream and setting sun,
  • As though they jests had been: nor had he done
  • His laugh at nature’s holy countenance,
  • Until that grove appear’d, as if perchance,
  • And then his tongue with sober seemlihed
  • Gave utterance as he entered: “Ha! I said,
  • “King of the butterflies; but by this gloom,
  • And by old Rhadamanthus’ tongue of doom,
  • This dusk religion, pomp of solitude,
  • And the Promethean clay by thief endued,
  • By old Saturnus’ forelock, by his head
  • Shook with eternal palsy, I did wed
  • Myself to things of light from infancy;
  • And thus to be cast out, thus lorn to die,
  • Is sure enough to make a mortal man
  • Grow impious.” So he inwardly began
  • On things for which no wording can be found;
  • Deeper and deeper sinking, until drown’d
  • Beyond the reach of music: for the choir
  • Of Cynthia he heard not, though rough briar
  • Nor muffling thicket interpos’d to dull
  • The vesper hymn, far swollen, soft and full,
  • Through the dark pillars of those sylvan aisles.
  • He saw not the two maidens, nor their smiles,
  • Wan as primroses gather’d at midnight
  • By chilly finger’d spring. “Unhappy wight!
  • Endymion!” said Peona, “we are here!
  • What wouldst thou ere we all are laid on bier?”
  • Then he embrac’d her, and his lady’s hand
  • Press’d, saying: “Sister, I would have command,
  • If it were heaven’s will, on our sad fate.”
  • At which that dark-eyed stranger stood elate
  • And said, in a new voice, but sweet as love,
  • To Endymion’s amaze: “By Cupid’s dove,
  • And so thou shalt! and by the lily truth
  • Of my own breast thou shalt, beloved youth!”
  • And as she spake, into her face there came
  • Light, as reflected from a silver flame:
  • Her long black hair swell’d ampler, in display
  • Full golden; in her eyes a brighter day
  • Dawn’d blue and full of love. Aye, he beheld
  • Phoebe, his passion! joyous she upheld
  • Her lucid bow, continuing thus: “Drear, drear
  • Has our delaying been; but foolish fear
  • Withheld me first; and then decrees of fate;
  • And then ’twas fit that from this mortal state
  • Thou shouldst, my love, by some unlook’d for change
  • Be spiritualiz’d. Peona, we shall range
  • These forests, and to thee they safe shall be
  • As was thy cradle; hither shalt thou flee
  • To meet us many a time.” Next Cynthia bright
  • Peona kiss’d, and bless’d with fair good night:
  • Her brother kiss’d her too, and knelt adown
  • Before his goddess, in a blissful swoon.
  • She gave her fair hands to him, and behold,
  • Before three swiftest kisses he had told,
  • They vanish’d far away! — Peona went
  • Home through the gloomy wood in wonderment.
🗙

Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil

  • 1
  • Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
  • Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye!
  • They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
  • Without some stir of heart, some malady;
  • They could not sit at meals but feel how well
  • It soothed each to be the other by;
  • They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
  • But to each other dream, and nightly weep.
  • 2
  • With every morn their love grew tenderer,
  • With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
  • He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
  • But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
  • And his continual voice was pleasanter
  • To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
  • Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
  • She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.
  • 3
  • He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
  • Before the door had given her to his eyes;
  • And from her chamber-window he would catch
  • Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
  • And constant as her vespers would he watch,
  • Because her face was turn’d to the same skies;
  • And with sick longing all the night outwear,
  • To hear her morning-step upon the stair.
  • 4
  • A whole long month of May in this sad plight
  • Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
  • “To-morrow will I bow to my delight,
  • To-morrow will I ask my lady’s boon. ” —
  • “O may I never see another night,
  • Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love’s tune. ” —
  • So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
  • Honeyless days and days did he let pass;
  • 5
  • Until sweet Isabella’s untouch’d cheek
  • Fell sick within the rose’s just domain,
  • Fell thin as a young mother’s, who doth seek
  • By every lull to cool her infant’s pain:
  • “How ill she is, ” said he, “ I may not speak,
  • And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
  • If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
  • And at the least ’twill startle off her cares.”
  • 6
  • So said he one fair morning, and all day
  • His heart beat awfully against his side;
  • And to his heart he inwardly did pray
  • For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
  • Stifled his voice, and puls’d resolve away —
  • Fever’d his high conceit of such a bride,
  • Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
  • Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!
  • 7
  • So once more he had wak’d and anguished
  • A dreary night of love and misery,
  • If Isabel’s quick eye had not been wed
  • To every symbol on his forehead high;
  • She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
  • And straight all flush’d; so, lisped tenderly,
  • “Lorenzo! ” — here she ceas’d her timid quest,
  • But in her tone and look he read the rest.
  • 8
  • “O Isabella, I can half perceive
  • That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
  • If thou didst ever any thing believe,
  • Believe how I love thee, believe how near
  • My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
  • Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
  • Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
  • Another night, and not my passion shrive.
  • 9
  • “Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
  • Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
  • And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
  • In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.”
  • So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
  • And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
  • Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
  • Grew, like a lusty flower in June’s caress.
  • 10
  • Parting they seem’d to tread upon the air,
  • Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
  • Only to meet again more close, and share
  • The inward fragrance of each other’s heart.
  • She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
  • Sang, of delicious love and honey’d dart;
  • He with light steps went up a western hill,
  • And bade the sun farewell, and joy’d his fill.
  • 11
  • All close they met again, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
  • All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil
  • Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
  • Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
  • Ah! better had it been for ever so,
  • Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.
  • 12
  • Were they unhappy then? — It cannot be —
  • Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
  • Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
  • Too much of pity after they are dead,
  • Too many doleful stories do we see,
  • Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
  • Except in such a page where Theseus’ spouse
  • Over the pathless waves towards him bows.
  • 13
  • But, for the general award of love,
  • The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
  • Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
  • And Isabella’s was a great distress,
  • Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
  • Was not embalm’d, this truth is not the less —
  • Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
  • Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
  • 14
  • With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
  • Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
  • And for them many a weary hand did swelt
  • In torched mines and noisy factories,
  • And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt
  • In blood from stinging whip; — with hollow eyes
  • Many all day in dazzling river stood,
  • To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.
  • 15
  • For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
  • And went all naked to the hungry shark;
  • For them his ears gush’d blood; for them in death
  • The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
  • Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
  • A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
  • Half-ignorant, they turn’d an easy wheel,
  • That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
  • 16
  • Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
  • Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears? —
  • Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
  • Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs? —
  • Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts
  • Were richer than the songs of Grecian years? —
  • Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
  • Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
  • 17
  • Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
  • In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
  • As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
  • Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies;
  • The hawks of ship-mast forests — the untired
  • And pannier’d mules for ducats and old lies — .
  • Quick cat’s-paws on the generous stray-away, —
  • Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.
  • 18
  • How was it these same ledger-men could spy
  • Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
  • How could they find out in Lorenzo’s eye
  • A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt’s pest
  • Into their vision covetous and sly!
  • How could these money-bags see east and west? —
  • Yet so they did — and every dealer fair
  • Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.
  • 19
  • O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
  • Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
  • And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
  • And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
  • And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
  • Now they can no more hear thy ghittern’s tune,
  • For venturing syllables that ill beseem
  • The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.
  • 20
  • Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
  • Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
  • There is no other crime, no mad assail
  • To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
  • But it is done — succeed the verse or fail —
  • To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
  • To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
  • An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.
  • 21
  • These brethren having found by many signs
  • What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
  • And how she lov’d him too, each unconfines
  • His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
  • That he, the servant of their trade designs,
  • Should in their sister’s love be blithe and glad,
  • When ’twas their plan to coax her by degrees
  • To some high noble and his olive-trees.
  • 22
  • And many a jealous conference had they,
  • And many times they bit their lips alone,
  • Before they fix’d upon a surest way
  • To make the youngster for his crime atone;
  • And at the last, these men of cruel clay
  • Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
  • For they resolved in some forest dim
  • To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.
  • 23
  • So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
  • Into the sun-rise, o’er the balustrade
  • Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
  • Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
  • “You seem there in the quiet of content,
  • Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
  • Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
  • Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.
  • 24
  • “To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
  • To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
  • Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
  • His dewy rosary on the eglantine.”
  • Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
  • Bow’d a fair greeting to these serpents’ whine;
  • And went in haste, to get in readiness,
  • With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman’s dress.
  • 25
  • And as he to the court-yard pass’d along,
  • Each third step did he pause, and listen’d oft
  • If he could hear his lady’s matin-song,
  • Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
  • And as he thus over his passion hung,
  • He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
  • When, looking up, he saw her features bright
  • Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.
  • 26
  • “Love, Isabel!” said he, “I was in pain
  • Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
  • Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
  • I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
  • Of a poor three hours’ absence? but we’ll gain
  • Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
  • Good bye! I’ll soon be back.” — “Good bye!” said she —
  • And as he went she chanted merrily.
  • 27
  • So the two brothers and their murder’d man
  • Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno’s stream
  • Gurgles through straiten’d banks, and still doth fan
  • Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
  • Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
  • The brothers’ faces in the ford did seem,
  • Lorenzo’s flush with love. — They pass’d the water
  • Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.
  • 28
  • There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
  • There in that forest did his great love cease;
  • Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
  • It aches in loneliness — is ill at peace
  • As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
  • They dipp’d their swords in the water, and did tease
  • Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
  • Each richer by his being a murderer.
  • 29
  • They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
  • Lorenzo had ta’en ship for foreign lands,
  • Because of some great urgency and need
  • In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
  • Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow’s weed,
  • And ’scape at once from Hope’s accursed bands;
  • To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
  • And the next day will be a day of sorrow.
  • 30
  • She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
  • Sorely she wept until the night came on,
  • And then, instead of love, O misery!
  • She brooded o’er the luxury alone:
  • His image in the dusk she seem’d to see,
  • And to the silence made a gentle moan,
  • Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
  • And on her couch low murmuring “Where? O where?”
  • 31
  • But Selfishness, Love’s cousin, held not long
  • Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
  • She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
  • Upon the time with feverish unrest —
  • Not long — for soon into her heart a throng
  • Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
  • Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
  • And sorrow for her love in travels rude.
  • 32
  • In the mid days of autumn, on their eves,
  • The breath of Winter comes from far away,
  • And the sick west continually bereaves
  • Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
  • Of death among the bushes and the leaves
  • To make all bare before he dares to stray
  • From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
  • By gradual decay from beauty fell,
  • 33
  • Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
  • She ask’d her brothers, with an eye all pale,
  • Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
  • Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
  • Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
  • Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom’s vale;
  • And every night in dreams they groan’d aloud,
  • To see their sister in her snowy shroud.
  • 34
  • And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
  • But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
  • It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
  • Which saves a sick man from the feather’d pall
  • For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
  • Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
  • With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
  • Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.
  • 35
  • It was a vision. — In the drowsy gloom,
  • The dull of midnight, at her couch’s foot
  • Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
  • Had marr’d his glossy hair which once could shoot
  • Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
  • Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
  • From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
  • Had made a miry channel for his tears.
  • 36
  • Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
  • For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
  • To speak as when on earth it was awake,
  • And Isabella on its music hung:
  • Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
  • As in a palsied Druid’s harp unstrung;
  • And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song,
  • Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.
  • 37
  • Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
  • With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
  • From the poor girl by magic of their light,
  • The while it did unthread the horrid woof
  • Of the late darken’d time, — the murderous spite
  • Of pride and avarice, — the dark pine roof
  • In the forest, — and the sodden turfed dell,
  • Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.
  • 38
  • Saying moreover, “Isabel, my sweet!
  • Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
  • And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
  • Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
  • Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
  • Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
  • Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
  • And it shall comfort me within the tomb.
  • 39
  • “I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
  • Upon the skirts of Human-nature dwelling
  • Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
  • While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
  • And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
  • And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
  • Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
  • And thou art distant in Humanity.
  • 40
  • “I know what was, I feel full well what is,
  • And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
  • Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
  • That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
  • A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
  • To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
  • Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
  • A greater love through all my essence steal.”
  • 41
  • The Spirit mourn’d “Adieu!” — dissolv’d, and left
  • The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
  • As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
  • Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
  • We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
  • And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
  • It made sad Isabella’s eyelids ache,
  • And in the dawn she started up awake;
  • 42
  • “Ha! ha! ” said she, “ I knew not this hard life,
  • I thought the worst was simple misery;
  • I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
  • Portion’d us — happy days, or else to die;
  • But there is crime — a brother’s bloody knife!
  • Sweet Spirit, thou hast school’d my infancy:
  • I’ll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
  • And greet thee morn and even in the skies.”
  • 43
  • When the full morning came, she had devised
  • How she might secret to the forest hie;
  • How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
  • And sing to it one latest lullaby;
  • How her short absence might be unsurmised,
  • While she the inmost of the dream would try.
  • Resolv’d, she took with her an aged nurse,
  • And went into that dismal forest-hearse.
  • 44
  • See, as they creep along the river side,
  • How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
  • And, after looking round the champaign wide,
  • Shows her a knife. — “What feverous hectic flame
  • “Burns in thee, child? — What good can thee betide,
  • That thou should’st smile again?” — The evening came,
  • And they had found Lorenzo’s earthy bed;
  • The flint was there, the berries at his head.
  • 45
  • Who hath not loiter’d in a green church-yard,
  • And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
  • Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
  • To see scull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;
  • Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr’d,
  • And filling it once more with human soul?
  • Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
  • When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.
  • 46
  • She gaz’d into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
  • One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
  • Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
  • Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
  • Upon the murderous spot she seem’d to grow,
  • Like to a native lily of the dell:
  • Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
  • To dig more fervently than misers can.
  • 47
  • Soon she turn’d up a soiled glove, whereon
  • Her silk had play’d in purple phantasies,
  • She kiss’d it with a lip more chill than stone,
  • And put it in her bosom, where it dries
  • And freezes utterly unto the bone
  • Those dainties made to still an infant’s cries:
  • Then ’gan she work again; nor stay’d her care,
  • But to throw back at times her veiling hair.
  • 48
  • That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
  • Until her heart felt pity to the core
  • At sight of such a dismal labouring,
  • And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
  • And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
  • Three hours they labour’d at this travail sore;
  • At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
  • And Isabella did not stamp and rave.
  • 49
  • Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
  • Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
  • O for the gentleness of old Romance,
  • The simple plaining of a minstrel’s song!
  • Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
  • For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
  • To speak: — O turn thee to the very tale,
  • And taste the music of that vision pale.
  • 50
  • With duller steel than the Persean sword
  • They cut away no formless monster’s head,
  • But one, whose gentleness did well accord
  • With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
  • Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
  • If Love impersonate was ever dead,
  • Pale Isabella kiss’d it, and low moan’d.
  • ’Twas love; cold, — dead indeed, but not dethroned.
  • 51
  • In anxious secrecy they took it home,
  • And then the prize was all for Isabel:
  • She calm’d its wild hair with a golden comb,
  • And all around each eye’s sepulchral cell
  • Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
  • With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
  • She drench’d away: — and still she comb’d, and kept
  • Sighing all day — and still she kiss’d, and wept.
  • 52
  • Then in a silken scarf, — sweet with the dews
  • Of precious flowers pluck’d in Araby,
  • And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
  • Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully, —
  • She wrapp’d it up; and for its tomb did choose
  • A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
  • And cover’d it with mould, and o’er it set
  • Sweet basil, which her tears kept ever wet.
  • 53
  • And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
  • And she forgot the blue above the trees,
  • And she forgot the dells where waters run,
  • And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
  • She had no knowledge when the day was done,
  • And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
  • Hung over her sweet basil evermore,
  • And moisten’d it with tears unto the core.
  • 54
  • And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
  • Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
  • So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
  • Of basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
  • Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
  • From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
  • So that the jewel, safely casketed,
  • Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.
  • 55
  • O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
  • Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us — O sigh!
  • Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
  • Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
  • And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
  • Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.
  • 56
  • Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
  • From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
  • Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
  • And touch the strings into a mystery;
  • Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
  • For simple Isabel is soon to be
  • Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
  • Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.
  • 57
  • O leave the palm to wither by itself;
  • Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour! —
  • It may not be — those Baalites of pelf,
  • Her brethren, noted the continual shower
  • From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
  • Among her kindred, wonder’d that such dower
  • Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
  • By one mark’d out to be a noble’s bride.
  • 58
  • And, furthermore, her brethren wonder’d much
  • Why she sat drooping by the basil green,
  • And why it flourish’d, as by magic touch;
  • Greatly they wonder’d what the thing might mean:
  • They could not surely give belief, that such
  • A very nothing would have power to wean
  • Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
  • And even remembrance of her love’s delay.
  • 59
  • Therefore they watch’d a time when they might sift
  • This hidden whim; and long they watch’d in vain;
  • For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
  • And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
  • And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
  • As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
  • And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
  • Beside her basil, weeping through her hair.
  • 60
  • Yet they contriv’d to steal the basil-pot,
  • And to examine it in secret place:
  • The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
  • And yet they knew it was Lorenzo’s face:
  • The guerdon of their murder they had got,
  • And so left Florence in a moment’s space,
  • Never to turn again. — Away they went,
  • With blood upon their heads, to banishment.
  • 61
  • O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
  • From isles Lethean, sigh to us — o sigh!
  • Spirits of grief, sing not you “ Well-a-way!”
  • For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
  • Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
  • Now they have ta’en away her basil sweet.
  • 62
  • Piteous she look’d on dead and senseless things,
  • Asking for her lost basil amorously;
  • And with melodious chuckle in the strings
  • Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
  • After the pilgrim in his wanderings,
  • To ask him where her basil was; and why
  • ’Twas hid from her: “ For cruel ’tis, ” said she,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me.”
  • 63
  • And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
  • Imploring for her basil to the last.
  • No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
  • In pity of her love, so overcast.
  • And a sad ditty of this story born
  • From mouth to mouth through all the country pass’d:
  • Still is the burthen sung — “ O cruelty,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me!”
🗙

Robin Hood

TO A FRIEND

  • No! those days are gone away,
  • And their hours are old and gray,
  • And their minutes buried all
  • Under the down-trodden pall
  • Of the leaves of many years:
  • Many times have winter’s shears,
  • Frozen north, and chilling east,
  • Sounded tempests to the feast
  • Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,
  • Since men knew nor rent nor leases.
  • No, the bugle sounds no more,
  • And the twanging bow no more;
  • Silent is the ivory shrill
  • Past the heath and up the hill;
  • There is no mid-forest laugh,
  • Where lone Echo gives the half
  • To some wight, amaz’d to hear
  • Jesting, deep in forest drear.
  • On the fairest time of June
  • You may go, with sun or moon,
  • Or the seven stars to light you,
  • Or the polar ray to right you;
  • But you never may behold
  • Little John, or Robin bold;
  • Never one, of all the clan,
  • Thrumming on an empty can
  • Some old hunting ditty, while
  • He doth his green way beguile
  • To fair hostess Merriment,
  • Down beside the pasture Trent;
  • For he left the merry tale
  • Messenger for spicy ale.
  • Gone, the merry morris din;
  • Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
  • Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
  • Idling in the “grene shawe”;
  • All are gone away and past!
  • And if Robin should be cast
  • Sudden from his turfed grave,
  • And if Marian should have
  • Once again her forest days,
  • She would weep, and he would craze:
  • He would swear, for all his oaks,
  • Fall’n beneath the dockyard strokes,