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: Keats attends a few 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-May: leaves for Teignmouth, 4 March, and returns to Hampstead at the end of the 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; I shall never be a Reasoner because 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; writes a first draft for a preface to Endymion that is turned down by his publisher
  • April: plans for a northern walking tour—what he calls his pedestrian tour: the trip will make a sort of Prologue to the Life I intend to pursue—that is to write, to study and to see all Europe at the lowest expense. I will clamber through the Clouds and exist. I will get such an accumulation of stupendous recollections that as I walk through the suburbs of London I may not see them; writes a second draft to preface Endymion; 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 a Mawkish Popularity; feels he needs to escape disquisitions on Poetry; I find cavalier days are gone by. 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; Tom is quite low spirited
  • May: leaves Teignmouth to return London; Tom has spit a little blood this afternoon; I have been in so an uneasy state of Mind as not to be fit to write to an invalid; when the Mind is in its infancy a Bias is in reality a Bias, but when we have acquired more strength, a Bias becomes no Bias; 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; I am now so depressed that I have not an idea to put to paper; judged by Blackwood’s as an infatuated bardling under Hunt’s sway; brother George marries Georgiana (?28 May)
  • June-Aug: worried about his own and Tom’s health, but, with Brown, begins walking tour of northern England into Scotland; takes 3 vols of Dante with him; 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 naughty 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: Endymion is fully mocked in The British Critic; 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; the beginning of his northern expedition with Charles Brown, 26-29 June: Keats visits Lake District, including Kendal, Ambleside, Rydal, and Keswick: 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 (and briefly to Belfast, Ireland, 7-8th); Robert Burn’s misery (a dead weight) and greatness contemplated; contemplating poverty: We live in a barbarous age; 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; on my return I shall begin studying hard
  • July-Sept: sore throat develops; says he need to be more careful of my health than I have been
  • Aug: scales Ben Nevis (2 Aug): mists, crags, chasms, cloud-veils; northern tour cut short because of illness—sore throat and fever; 18 Aug: 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 bad 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; feels in a funk; fears going out on damp nights
  • Sept-Oct[?]: Hyperion begun, gives up on May 1819; meets Fanny Brawne, probably September
  • Oct: [quoted 8 Oct. but written in the spring: I hope Apollo is not angered at my having made a Mockery at him at Hunt’s]; 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: slipshod, and I was never afraid of failure [Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV]; Tom reported as getting weaker every day and I am not able to leave him for more than a few hours; Tom looks upon Keats as his only comfort; Poor Tom
  • 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; I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds
  • Dec: brother Tom dies of consumption (1 Dec); Keats 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 have a new leaf to turn over—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 am certainly more for greartness in a Shade than in the open day; 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

3 February 1818: Another Hazlitt Talk, No More of Wordsworth or Hunt, & Composting a Head in a Garden-Pot

Surrey Institution, Blackfriars Road, London

Click the map to see a larger versiontrue
Click the map to see a larger version

On 3 February, Keats attends another of William Hazlitt’s successful lectures on the English poets at the Surrey Institution (mainly on Pope and Dryden). The lectures began 3 January, running until 3 March. Although his passions reside in philosophy and in painting (which he tries in his early years), his fame (yet modest financial success) by 1818 resides mainly in his work as an essayist, journalist, literary critic, and lecturer. He knows many of the great figures of the age, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, and Robert Southey, and he will have plenty to say about them, particularly in his Spirit of The Age, published 1825. Hazlitt’s natural and energetic prose style, coupled with his desire to speak out and have the final say, didn’t always function to create friends.

Entrance to the Surrey Institution
Entrance to the Surrey Institution

That Keats, aged 22, knows and converses with someone like Hazlitt tells us about the circles Keats now moves easily within—a faction of liberal London intelligentsia of the day—though he is nowhere near as famous or experienced as most of his literary/artistic friends; that Keats is extremely attentive to Hazlitt’s critical views tells us something about the direction of Keats’s poetic progress.

Hazlitt is the third in what might be called the Triple-H influence on Keats’s poetics, the others being his friends Hunt and Haydon. But Keats has now largely moved away from Hunt’s poetical sway (mainly the poetry of fancy and sociability), especially now that he is close to leaving his year-long project of Endymion behind. Haydon (who casts aspersion on Hunt’s influence) continues to encourage Keats’s independence, ideas, and genius in conversation and letters; and Hazlitt’s thinking about Wordsworth’s poetic egoism and the qualities of truly enduring poetry—like that of Spenser, Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, and the Elizabethan poets in general—are developed by Keats in what might be called his epistolary poetics: letters to his friends.

Mr. Hazlitt’s Lectures, The Examiner, 1 Feb 1818, pp.76-77true
Mr. Hazlitt’s Lectures, The Examiner, 1 Feb 1818, pp.76-77

Keats writes a letter to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, 3 February, about the bullying, limiting egoism of contemporary poetry, and he mainly has Wordsworth in mind: We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us [ . . . ] Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject. [ . . . ] Modern poets differ from the Elizabethans in this. Each of the moderns like an Elector of Hanover governs his petty state, & knows how many straws are swept daily from the Causeways in all his dominions & has a continual itching that all the Housewives should have their coppers well scoured: the antients were Emperors of vast Provinces, they had only heard of the remote ones and scarcely cared to visit them.—I will cut all this—I will have no more of Wordsworth or Hunt in particular [ . . . ] Why should we kick against the Pricks, when we can walk on Roses? Why should we be owls, when we can be Eagles? Poetry, Keats suggests, needs to avoid pettiness, pedantry, and personality. Why remain flightless in the dark rather than soar above and see all?

Once more, Keats’s strong and significant declaration of independence—I will cut all this—derives a fair amount from Hazlitt, who is consistently critical of Wordsworth’s all-consuming subjectivity, while applauding the Elizabethans. Keats desires a subtle yet intense poetic voice—great & unobtrusive—and one that comes from the subject rather than from trifling, picky subjectivity and egotism. Keats desires to take in a larger scope, a scope without an obtrusive and petty palpable design. The subject, and not subjectivity, must govern poetry.

Keats will not want his poetry to be, as it were, driven by circumscribed, trivial purpose. At this point we hear Keats more determined than ever to, as it were, distance himself from his contemporaries, those Modern poets. But we have to remember: Keats hugely respects Wordsworth’s depths—his moments of grandeur and genius, in fact—in understanding nature and the complex relationship between joy and suffering, based on restoration and acceptance. In all of this then, here is one of the moments we see Keats strongly articulating his personal aspirations, even with a little rhetorical panache.

The fourth lecture by Hazlitt on 3 February further impacts Keats. It motivates him to turn to a work named in the talk: Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century collection of 100 stories, The Decameron. In particular, over the next few months, Keats significantly massages one of its tragic tales, one of greed, illicit love, and murder, with an added dab of the supernatural to assist with the plot: Isabella; or The Pot of Basil. In Keats’s hand, the story of socially—or economically—mismatched lovers generally lacks much that is profitably suggestive or even compelling, despite a few digressions on melancholy and love, as well as some sideways commentary on the false pride of avarice. It generally pleases with art rather than by probing with thought; that is, at moments, the poem seems arbitrarily decorative rather than purposefully dense or complex. For example, the poem might spend a little too much time describing how the tender feelings of the secret lovers—Lorenzo and Isabella—grows irresistibly passionate with, on the way, faster-beating hearts, fevered restraint, pale foreheads, much anguish, some flushing, much unbearable desire, timid lips growing bold, the sharing of the lovers’ fragrance, not to mention comparisons with unfolding blossoms that need some tasting, as well as great, blissful happiness growing like a lusty flower in June’s caress (72). Whew! Teasing narrative? This is sensual excess, but is it senseless excess?

Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman Hunt, 1868 (formerly part of the Delaware Art Museum; auctioned to a private collector, 2014). Click to enlarge.true
Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman Hunt, 1868 (formerly part of the Delaware Art Museum; auctioned to a private collector, 2014). Click to enlarge.

Well, despite this excess of one kind or another, the poem remains fairly assured in its formal qualities and general narrative fashioning. Keats, though, ends up thinking that Isabella; or The Pot of Basil is simple, weak, and mawkish (amusing or diverting at best), and therefore open to criticism and dismissal. With its gothically-inflected plot line, it brushes up against sensationalism that, Keats knows, could sink it into the farcical. Nevertheless, there remains some novelty and something potentially evocative in Keats’s (re)telling: yes, we can often read about the doomed loved of young, pining, passion-filled lovers from different worlds. But now, piggybacking on Boccaccio, we have the brutal murder of one lover, Lorenzo, by profit-driven brothers of the other lover, Isabella; their intention has been to marry her off her to some propertied nobleman, and so they must eliminate Lorenzo, a poor lad from the lower classes. The brothers use their swords to kill him; they bury Lorenzo’s body in a forest; and off they ride, Each richer by his being a murderer (224). Eventually a spirit comes to Isabella and tells her the truth of Lorenzo’s fate; she exhumes and decapitates the body; and, after much grooming of and swooning over the head, she secretly places it in a garden-pot, adds a little soil, and plants some basil; where, composted by the head and watered by tears of love and loss, the plant fairly flourishes while Isabella, withering, obsesses over it. When the head-filled pot is taken by her suspicious brothers who discover the rotting but recognizable head, she quite naturally pines away and dies forlorn; the brothers flee.

Keats is not quite finished with the bones of this story. In two later poems written in the first months of 1819, he will return to medieval romance and once more to stories of struggling love and unsettled, mismatched lovers—but now he does so in both extraordinarily condensed and expansive forms, and, better yet, with measured intensity that identifies these later poems as Keatsian: La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Eve of St Agnes.

In these later poems, then, we see how the treatment of a subject over a period of not much more than a year marks a clear measure of Keats’s poetic progress. And now think how far he has come since his randomly-plotted, stretched, and overly poeticized poem about other mismatched lovers, drawn from classical myth, Endymion, written mainly in 1817. We can at the very least conclude that Keats is attracted to the poetic circumstance mismatched lovers, since he again returns to it in Lamia, written mainly July-August, 1819, and now we have mismatched lovers in the form of a mortal human (a novice philosopher, no less) and supernatural woman-serpent. Notably, Keats writes this later poem for potential financial success, thinking it has something sensational about it that the public might take to. At the same time, he places it above Isabella, calling his earlier poem weak-sided (letters, 22 Sept. 1819), while the later poem is written with deliberate Judgement (letters, 11 July 1819). In a way, the performance of Lamia seems more purposely professional than almost all of his earlier work—yet, in its sensually-clothed topic shifts and convoluted messing around with truth/illusion issues, the irresolute handling of the story leaves us with an uncertain blend of naughtiness and knottiness.

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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.
×

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!”
×

La Belle Dame sans Merci:
A Ballad

I

  • Oh, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
  • Alone and palely loitering?
  • The sedge has withered from the Lake,
  • And no birds sing!

II

  • Oh, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
  • So haggard and so woe-begone?
  • The squirrel’s granary is full,
  • And the harvest’s done.

III

  • I see a lily on thy brow,
  • With anguish moist and fever-dew,
  • And on thy cheeks a fading rose
  • Fast withereth too.

IV

  • I met a Lady in the Meads,
  • Full beautiful, a faery’s child,
  • Her hair was long, her foot was light,
  • And her eyes were wild.

V

  • I made a Garland for her head,
  • And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
  • She looked at me as she did love,
  • And made sweet moan.

VI

  • I set her on my pacing steed,
  • And nothing else saw all day long;
  • For sidelong would she bend, and sing
  • A faery’s song—

VII

  • She found me roots of relish sweet,
  • And honey wild and manna dew,
  • And sure in language strange she said—
  • I love thee true.

VIII

  • She took me to her elfin grot,
  • And there she wept and sigh’d full sore,
  • And there I shut her wild wild eyes
  • With kisses four.

IX

  • And there she lullèd me asleep,
  • And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!—
  • The latest dream I ever dream’d
  • On the cold hill side.

X

  • I saw pale kings, and princes too,
  • Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
  • They cried—‘La belle dame sans merci
  • Thee hath in thrall!’

XI

  • I saw their starv’d lips in the gloam
  • With horrid warning gapèd wide,
  • And I awoke, and found me here
  • On the cold hill’s side.

XII

  • And this is why I sojourn here,
  • Alone and palely loitering,
  • Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
  • And no birds sing.
×

The Eve of St. Agnes

1

  • St. Agnes’ Eve-Ah, bitter chill it was!
  • The owl, for all it his feathers, was a-cold;
  • The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
  • And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
  • Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
  • His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
  • Like pious incense from a censer old,
  • Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
  • Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

2

  • His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
  • Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
  • And back returnth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
  • Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees:
  • The sculptur’d dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
  • Emprison’d in black, purgatorial rails:
  • Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,
  • He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
  • To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

3

  • Northward he turneth through a little door,
  • And scarce three steps, ere Music’s golden tongue
  • Flatter’d to the tears this aged man and poor;
  • But no-already had his deathbell rung;
  • The joys of all his life were said and sung:
  • His was harsh penance on St. Agnes’ Eve:
  • Another way he went,and soon among
  • Rough ashes sat he for his soul’s reprieve,
  • And all night kept awake, for sinners’ sake to grieve

4

  • The ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft;
  • And so it chanc’d, for many a door was wide,
  • From a hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
  • The silver, snarling trumpets’ gan to chide:
  • The level chambers,ready with their pride,
  • Were glowing to receive a thousand guests:
  • The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
  • Star’d, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
  • With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.

5

  • At length burst in the argent revelry,
  • With plume, tiara,and all rich array,
  • Numerous as the shadows haunting fairily
  • The brain, new stuff’d, in youth, with triumphs gay
  • Of old romance. These let us wish away,
  • And turn, sole-thoughted, to one Lady there,
  • Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
  • On love, and wing’d St. Agnes’ saintly care,
  • As she had heard old dames full many times declare.

6

  • They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve,
  • Young virgins might have visions of delight,
  • And soft adorings from their loves receive
  • Upon the honey’d middle of the night,
  • If the ceremonies due they did aright;
  • As, supperless to bed they must retire,
  • And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
  • Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
  • Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

7

  • Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline:
  • The music, yearning like a God in pain,
  • She scarcely heard: her maiden eyes divine,
  • Fix’d on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
  • Pass by-she heeded not at all: in vain
  • Came many a tiptoe,amorous cavalier,
  • And back retir’d; not cool’d by high disdain,
  • But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere:
  • She sigh’d for Agnes’ dreams, the sweetest of the year.

8

  • She danc’d along with vague, regardless eyes,
  • Anxious lips, her breathing quick and short:
  • The hallow’d hour was near at hand: she sighs
  • Amid the timbrels, and the throng’d resort
  • Of whisperers in anger, or in sport;
  • ‘Mid looks of love, defiance,hate and scorn,
  • Hoodwink’d with faery fancy; all amort,
  • Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
  • And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.

9

  • So, purposing each moment to retire,
  • She linger’d still. Meantime,across the moors,
  • Had come young Porphyro, with heart on fire
  • For Madeline. Beside the portal doors,
  • Buttress’d from moonlight, stands he, and implores
  • All saints to give him sight of Madeline,
  • But for one moment in the tedious hours,
  • That he might gaze and worship all unseen;
  • Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss- in sooth such thing have been.

10

  • He ventures in: let no buzz’d whisper tell:
  • All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords
  • Will storm his heart, Love’s fev’rous citadel:
  • For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
  • Hyena foeman, and hot-blooded lords,
  • Whose very dogs would execrations howl
  • Against his lineage: not one breast affords
  • Him any mercy, in that mansion foul,
  • Save one old beldame, weak in body and soul.

11

  • Ah, happy chance! the aged creature came,
  • Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand,
  • To where he stood, hid from the torch’s flame,
  • Behind a broad half-pillar, far beyond
  • The sound of merriment and chorus bland:
  • He startled her; but soon she knew his face,
  • And grasp’s his fingers in her palsied hand,
  • Saying, ″Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place;
  • They are all here to-night, the whole bloody thirsty race!

12

  • ″Get hence! get hence! there’s dwarfish Hildebrand;
  • He had a fever late, and in the fit
  • He cursed three and thine, both the house and land:
  • Then there’s that old Lord Maurice, not a whit
  • More tame for his gray hairs- Alas me! flit!
  • Flit like a ghost away. Ah,″-‶ Gossip dear,
  • We’re safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit,
  • And tell me how″-‶Good Saints! not here, not here;
  • Follow me,child, or else these stones will be thy bier.‶

13

  • He follow’d through a lowly arched way,
  • Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume,
  • And as she mutter’d ″Well-a-well-a-day!″
  • He found him in a little moonlight room,
  • Pale, lattic’d, chill, and silent as a tomb.
  • ″Now tell me, where is Madeline,″ said he,
  • ″O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
  • Which non but secret sisterhood may see,
  • When they St. Agnes’ wool are we having piously.″

14

  • ″St. Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes’ Eve-
  • Yet men will murder upon holy days:
  • Thou must hold water in a witch’ s sieve,
  • And be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays,
  • To venture so: it fills me with amaze
  • To see thee, Porphyro!- St. Agnes’ Eve!
  • God’s help! my lady fair the conjuror plays
  • This very night: good angels her deceive!
  • But let me laugh awhile, I’ve mickle time to grieve.″

15

  • Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon,
  • While Porphyro upon her face doth look,
  • Like puzzled urchin on an aged crone
  • Who keepeth clos’d a wond’rous riddle-book,
  • As spectacled she sits in chimney nook.
  • But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told
  • His lady’s purpose; and he scarce could brook
  • Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold,
  • And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old.

16

  • Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
  • Flushing his brow, and in his painted heart
  • Made purple riot: then doth he purpose
  • A stratagem, that makes the beldame start:
  • “A cruel man and impious thou art:
  • Sweet lady, let her pray, and sleep and dream
  • Alone with her good angles, far apart
  • From wicked men like thee. Go, go!-I deem
  • Thou canst not surely be the same that thou didst seem.”

17

  • “I will not harm her, by all the saints I swear,‶
  • Quoth Porphyro: ″O may I ne′er find grace
  • When my weak voice shall whisper its last prayer,
  • If one of her soft ringlets I displace,
  • Or look with ruffian passion in her face:
  • Good Angela, believe me by these tears;
  • Or will, even in a moment′s space,
  • Awake, with horrid shout, my foemen′s ears,
  • And beard them, though they be more fang′d than wolves and bears.”

18

  • “Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?
  • A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing,
  • Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll;
  • Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
  • Were never miss’d” - Thus plaining, doth she bring
  • A gentler speech from burning Porphyro;
  • So woful, and of such deep sorrowing,
  • That Angela gives promise she will do
  • Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.

19

  • Which was, to lead him, in close secrecy,
  • Even to Madeline’s chamber, and there hide
  • Him in closet, of such privacy
  • That he might see her beauty unespy’d,
  • And win perhaps that night a peerless bride,
  • While legion’d faeries pac’d the coverlet,
  • And pale enchantment held her sleepy-eyed.
  • Never on such a night have lovers met,
  • Since Merlin paid his Demon all the monstrous debt.

20

  • “It shall be as thou wishest,” said the Dame:
  • “All cates and dainties shall be stored there
  • Quickly on this feast-night: by the tambour frame
  • Her own lute thou wilt see: no time to spare,
  • For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare
  • On such a catering trust my dizzy head.
  • Wait here, my child, with patience; kneel in prayer
  • The while: Ah! thou must needs the lady wed,
  • Or may I never leave my grave among the dead.”

21

  • So saying, she hobbled off with busy fear.
  • The lover’s endless minutes slowly pass’d;
  • The dame return’d, and whisper’d in his ear
  • To follow her; with aged eyes aghast
  • From fright of dim espial. Safe at last,
  • Through many a dusky gallery, they gain
  • The maiden’s chamber, silken, hush’d, and chaste;
  • Where Porphyro took covert, pleas’d amain.
  • His poor guide hurried back with agues in her brain.

22

  • Her falt’ring hand upon the balustrade,
  • Old Angela was feeling for the stair,
  • When Madeline, St. Agnes’ charmed maid,
  • Rose, like a mission’d spirit, unaware:
  • With silver taper’s light, and pious care,
  • She turn’d, and down the aged gossip led
  • To a safe level matting. Now prepare,
  • Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed;
  • She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove fray’d and fled.

23

  • Out went the taper as she hurried in;
  • Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died:
  • She clos’d the door, she panted, all akin
  • To spirits of the air, and visions wide:
  • No uttered syllable, or, woe betide!
  • But to her heart, her heart was voluble,
  • Paining with eloquence her balmy side;
  • As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
  • Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.

24

  • A casement high and triple-arch’d there was,
  • All garlanded with carven imag’ries
  • Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass,
  • And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
  • Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
  • As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damask’d wings;
  • And in the midst, ‘mong thousand heraldries,
  • And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
  • A shielded scutcheon blush’d with blood of queens and kings.

25

  • Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
  • And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
  • As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
  • Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
  • And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
  • And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
  • She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
  • Save wings, for heaven:—Porphyro grew faint:
  • She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.

26

  • Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
  • Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
  • Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
  • Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
  • Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
  • Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
  • Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
  • In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
  • But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

27

  • Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
  • In sort of wakeful swoon, perplex’d she lay,
  • Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppress’d
  • Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away;
  • Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day;
  • Blissfully haven’d both from joy and pain;
  • Clasp’d like a missal where swart Paynims pray;
  • Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
  • As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.

28

  • Stol’n to this paradise, and so entranced,
  • Porphyro gaz’d upon her empty dress,
  • And listen’d to her breathing, if it chanced
  • To wake into a slumberous tenderness;
  • Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
  • And breath’d himself: then from the closet crept,
  • Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,
  • And over the hush’d carpet, silent, stept,
  • And ‘tween the curtains peep’d, where, lo!—how fast she slept.

29

  • Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
  • Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
  • A table, and, half anguish’d, threw thereon
  • A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet:—
  • O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
  • The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
  • The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarinet,
  • Affray his ears, though but in dying tone:—
  • The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.

30

  • And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
  • In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,
  • While he forth from the closet brought a heap
  • Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
  • With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
  • And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
  • Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
  • From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
  • From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.

31

  • These delicates he heap’d with glowing hand
  • On golden dishes and in baskets bright
  • Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
  • In the retired quiet of the night,
  • Filling the chilly room with perfume light.—
  • “And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake!
  • Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite:
  • Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes’ sake,
  • Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”

32

  • Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
  • Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
  • By the dusk curtains:—’twas a midnight charm
  • Impossible to melt as iced stream:
  • The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam;
  • Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies:
  • It seem’d he never, never could redeem
  • From such a stedfast spell his lady’s eyes;
  • So mus’d awhile, entoil’d in woofed phantasies.

33

  • Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,—
  • Tumultuous,—and, in chords that tenderest be,
  • He play’d an ancient ditty, long since mute,
  • In Provence call’d, “La belle dame sans mercy”:
  • Close to her ear touching the melody;—
  • Wherewith disturb’d, she utter’d a soft moan:
  • He ceas’d—she panted quick—and suddenly
  • Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone:
  • Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.

34

  • Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
  • Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep:
  • There was a painful change, that nigh expell’d
  • The blisses of her dream so pure and deep
  • At which fair Madeline began to weep,
  • And moan forth witless words with many a sigh;
  • While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep;
  • Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
  • Fearing to move or speak, she look’d so dreamingly.

35

  • “Ah, Porphyro!” said she, “but even now
  • Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
  • Made tuneable with every sweetest vow;
  • And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear:
  • How chang’d thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!
  • Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
  • Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
  • Oh leave me not in this eternal woe,
  • For if thy diest, my Love, I know not where to go.”

36

  • Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
  • At these voluptuous accents, he arose
  • Ethereal, flush’d, and like a throbbing star
  • Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
  • Into her dream he melted, as the rose
  • Blendeth its odour with the violet,—
  • Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
  • Like Love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
  • Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set.

37

  • ‘Tis dark: quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet:
  • “This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!”
  • ‘Tis dark: the iced gusts still rave and beat:
  • “No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!
  • Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine.—
  • Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring?
  • I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine,
  • Though thou forsakest a deceived thing;—
  • A dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing.”

38

  • “My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
  • Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
  • Thy beauty’s shield, heart-shap’d and vermeil dyed?
  • Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest
  • After so many hours of toil and quest,
  • A famish’d pilgrim,—sav’d by miracle.
  • Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest
  • Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think’st well
  • To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.

39

  • “Hark! ‘tis an elfin-storm from faery land,
  • Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed:
  • Arise—arise! the morning is at hand;—
  • The bloated wassaillers will never heed:—
  • Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
  • There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see,—
  • Drown’d all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead:
  • Awake! arise! my love, and fearless be,
  • For o’er the southern moors I have a home for thee.”

40

  • She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
  • For there were sleeping dragons all around,
  • At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears—
  • Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found.—
  • In all the house was heard no human sound.
  • A chain-droop’d lamp was flickering by each door;
  • The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
  • Flutter’d in the besieging wind’s uproar;
  • And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.

41

  • They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall;
  • Like phantoms, to the iron porch, they glide;
  • Where lay the Porter, in uneasy sprawl,
  • With a huge empty flaggon by his side:
  • The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
  • But his sagacious eye an inmate owns:
  • By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide:—
  • The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;—
  • The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.

42

  • And they are gone: ay, ages long ago
  • These lovers fled away into the storm.
  • That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
  • And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
  • Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
  • Were long be-nightmar’d. Angela the old
  • Died palsy-twitch’d, with meagre face deform;
  • The Beadsman, after thousand aves told,
  • For aye unsought for slept among his ashes cold.
×

Lamia

PART I.

  • UPON a time, before the faery broods
  • Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,
  • Before King Oberon’s bright diadem,
  • Sceptre, and mantle, clasp’d with dewy gem,
  • Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns
  • From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip’d lawns,
  • The ever-smitten Hermes empty left
  • His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft:
  • From high Olympus had he stolen light,
  • On this side of Jove’s clouds, to escape the sight
  • Of his great summoner, and made retreat
  • Into a forest on the shores of Crete.
  • For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt
  • A nymph, to whom all hoofed Satyrs knelt;
  • At whose white feet the languid Tritons poured
  • Pearls, while on land they wither’d and adored.
  • Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont,
  • And in those meads where sometime she might haunt,
  • Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse,
  • Though Fancy’s casket were unlock’d to choose.
  • Ah, what a world of love was at her feet!
  • So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat
  • Burnt from his winged heels to either ear,
  • That from a whiteness, as the lily clear,
  • Blush’d into roses ’mid his golden hair,
  • Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare.
  • From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew,
  • Breathing upon the flowers his passion new,
  • And wound with many a river to its head,
  • To find where this sweet nymph prepar’d her secret bed:
  • In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found,
  • And so he rested, on the lonely ground,
  • Pensive, and full of painful jealousies
  • Of the Wood-Gods, and even the very trees.
  • There as he stood, he heard a mournful voice,
  • Such as once heard, in gentle heart, destroys
  • All pain but pity: thus the lone voice spake:
  • “When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake!
  • “When move in a sweet body fit for life,
  • “And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife
  • “Of hearts and lips! Ah, miserable me!”
  • The God, dove-footed, glided silently
  • Round bush and tree, soft-brushing, in his speed,
  • The taller grasses and full-flowering weed,
  • Until he found a palpitating snake,
  • Bright, and cirque-couchant in a dusky brake.
  • She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
  • Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
  • Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
  • Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d;
  • And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
  • Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
  • Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries—
  • So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
  • She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
  • Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
  • Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
  • Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar:
  • Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
  • She had a woman’s mouth with all its pearls complete:
  • And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
  • But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
  • As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
  • Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
  • Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love’s sake,
  • And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
  • Like a stoop’d falcon ere he takes his prey.
  • “Fair Hermes, crown’d with feathers, fluttering light,
  • “I had a splendid dream of thee last night:
  • “I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold,
  • “Among the Gods, upon Olympus old,
  • “The only sad one; for thou didst not hear
  • “The soft, lute-finger’d Muses chaunting clear,
  • “Nor even Apollo when he sang alone,
  • “Deaf to his throbbing throat’s long, long melodious moan.
  • “I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes,
  • “Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks,
  • “And, swiftly as a bright Phoebean dart,
  • “Strike for the Cretan isle; and here thou art!
  • “Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid?”
  • Whereat the star of Lethe not delay’d
  • His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired:
  • “Thou smooth-lipp’d serpent, surely high inspired!
  • “Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes,
  • “Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise,
  • “Telling me only where my nymph is fled,—
  • “Where she doth breathe!” “Bright planet, thou hast said,”
  • Return’d the snake, “but seal with oaths, fair God!”
  • “I swear,” said Hermes, “by my serpent rod,
  • “And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown!”
  • Light flew his earnest words, among the blossoms blown.
  • Then thus again the brilliance feminine:
  • “Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thine,
  • “Free as the air, invisibly, she strays
  • “About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days
  • “She tastes unseen; unseen her nimble feet
  • “Leave traces in the grass and flowers sweet;
  • “From weary tendrils, and bow’d branches green,
  • “She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen:
  • “And by my power is her beauty veil’d
  • “To keep it unaffronted, unassail’d
  • “By the love-glances of unlovely eyes,
  • “Of Satyrs, Fauns, and blear’d Silenus’ sighs.
  • “Pale grew her immortality, for woe
  • “Of all these lovers, and she grieved so
  • “I took compassion on her, bade her steep
  • “Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep
  • “Her loveliness invisible, yet free
  • “To wander as she loves, in liberty.
  • “Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone,
  • “If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon!”
  • Then, once again, the charmed God began
  • An oath, and through the serpent’s ears it ran
  • Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.
  • Ravish’d, she lifted her Circean head,
  • Blush’d a live damask, and swift-lisping said,
  • “I was a woman, let me have once more
  • “A woman’s shape, and charming as before.
  • “I love a youth of Corinth—O the bliss!
  • “Give me my woman’s form, and place me where he is.
  • “Stoop, Hermes, let me breathe upon thy brow,
  • “And thou shalt see thy sweet nymph even now.”
  • The God on half-shut feathers sank serene,
  • She breath’d upon his eyes, and swift was seen
  • Of both the guarded nymph near-smiling on the green.
  • It was no dream; or say a dream it was,
  • Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass
  • Their pleasures in a long immortal dream.
  • One warm, flush’d moment, hovering, it might seem
  • Dash’d by the wood-nymph’s beauty, so he burn’d;
  • Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turn’d
  • To the swoon’d serpent, and with languid arm,
  • Delicate, put to proof the lythe Caducean charm.
  • So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent,
  • Full of adoring tears and blandishment,
  • And towards her stept: she, like a moon in wane,
  • Faded before him, cower’d, nor could restrain
  • Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower
  • That faints into itself at evening hour:
  • But the God fostering her chilled hand,
  • She felt the warmth, her eyelids open’d bland,
  • And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,
  • Bloom’d, and gave up her honey to the lees.
  • Into the green-recessed woods they flew;
  • Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.
  • Left to herself, the serpent now began
  • To change; her elfin blood in madness ran,
  • Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, therewith besprent,
  • Wither’d at dew so sweet and virulent;
  • Her eyes in torture fix’d, and anguish drear,
  • Hot, glaz’d, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear,
  • Flash’d phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear.
  • The colours all inflam’d throughout her train,
  • She writh’d about, convuls’d with scarlet pain:
  • A deep volcanian yellow took the place
  • Of all her milder-mooned body’s grace;
  • And, as the lava ravishes the mead,
  • Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede;
  • Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars,
  • Eclips’d her crescents, and lick’d up her stars:
  • So that, in moments few, she was undrest
  • Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst,
  • And rubious-argent: of all these bereft,
  • Nothing but pain and ugliness were left.
  • Still shone her crown; that vanish’d, also she
  • Melted and disappear’d as suddenly;
  • And in the air, her new voice luting soft,
  • Cried, “Lycius! gentle Lycius!”—Borne aloft
  • With the bright mists about the mountains hoar
  • These words dissolv’d: Crete’s forests heard no more.
  • Whither fled Lamia, now a lady bright,
  • A full-blown beauty new and exquisite?
  • She fled into that valley they pass o’er
  • Who go to Corinth from Cenchreas’ shore;
  • And rested at the foot of those wild hills,
  • The rugged founts of the Peræan rills,
  • And of that other ridge whose barren back
  • Stretches, with all its mist and cloudy rack,
  • South-westward to Cleone. There she stood
  • About a young bird’s flutter from a wood,
  • Fair, on a sloping green of mossy tread,
  • By a clear pool, wherein she passioned
  • To see herself escap’d from so sore ills,
  • While her robes flaunted with the daffodils.
  • Ah, happy Lycius!—for she was a maid
  • More beautiful than ever twisted braid,
  • Or sigh’d, or blush’d, or on spring-flowered lea
  • Spread a green kirtle to the minstrelsy:
  • A virgin purest lipp’d, yet in the lore
  • Of love deep learned to the red heart’s core:
  • Not one hour old, yet of sciential brain
  • To unperplex bliss from its neighbour pain;
  • Define their pettish limits, and estrange
  • Their points of contact, and swift counterchange;
  • Intrigue with the specious chaos, and dispart
  • Its most ambiguous atoms with sure art;
  • As though in Cupid’s college she had spent
  • Sweet days a lovely graduate, still unshent,
  • And kept his rosy terms in idle languishment.
  • Why this fair creature chose so fairily
  • By the wayside to linger, we shall see;
  • But first ’tis fit to tell how she could muse
  • And dream, when in the serpent prison-house,
  • Of all she list, strange or magnificent:
  • How, ever, where she will’d, her spirit went;
  • Whether to faint Elysium, or where
  • Down through tress-lifting waves the Nereids fair
  • Wind into Thetis’ bower by many a pearly stair;
  • Or where God Bacchus drains his cups divine,
  • Stretch’d out, at ease, beneath a glutinous pine;
  • Or where in Pluto’s gardens palatine
  • Mulciber’s columns gleam in far piazzian line.
  • And sometimes into cities she would send
  • Her dream, with feast and rioting to blend;
  • And once, while among mortals dreaming thus,
  • She saw the young Corinthian Lycius
  • Charioting foremost in the envious race,
  • Like a young Jove with calm uneager face,
  • And fell into a swooning love of him.
  • Now on the moth-time of that evening dim
  • He would return that way, as well she knew,
  • To Corinth from the shore; for freshly blew
  • The eastern soft wind, and his galley now
  • Grated the quaystones with her brazen prow
  • In port Cenchreas, from Egina isle
  • Fresh anchor’d; whither he had been awhile
  • To sacrifice to Jove, whose temple there
  • Waits with high marble doors for blood and incense rare.
  • Jove heard his vows, and better’d his desire;
  • For by some freakful chance he made retire
  • From his companions, and set forth to walk,
  • Perhaps grown wearied of their Corinth talk:
  • Over the solitary hills he fared,
  • Thoughtless at first, but ere eve’s star appeared
  • His phantasy was lost, where reason fades,
  • In the calm’d twilight of Platonic shades.
  • Lamia beheld him coming, near, more near—
  • Close to her passing, in indifference drear,
  • His silent sandals swept the mossy green;
  • So neighbour’d to him, and yet so unseen
  • She stood: he pass’d, shut up in mysteries,
  • His mind wrapp’d like his mantle, while her eyes
  • Follow’d his steps, and her neck regal white
  • Turn’d—syllabling thus, “Ah, Lycius bright,
  • “And will you leave me on the hills alone?
  • “Lycius, look back! and be some pity shown.”
  • He did; not with cold wonder fearingly,
  • But Orpheus-like at an Eurydice;
  • For so delicious were the words she sung,
  • It seem’d he had lov’d them a whole summer long:
  • And soon his eyes had drunk her beauty up,
  • Leaving no drop in the bewildering cup,
  • And still the cup was full,—while he afraid
  • Lest she should vanish ere his lip had paid
  • Due adoration, thus began to adore;
  • Her soft look growing coy, she saw his chain so sure:
  • “Leave thee alone! Look back! Ah, Goddess, see
  • “Whether my eyes can ever turn from thee!
  • “For pity do not this sad heart belie—
  • “Even as thou vanishest so I shall die.
  • “Stay! though a Naiad of the rivers, stay!
  • “To thy far wishes will thy streams obey:
  • “Stay! though the greenest woods be thy domain,
  • “Alone they can drink up the morning rain:
  • “Though a descended Pleiad, will not one
  • “Of thine harmonious sisters keep in tune
  • “Thy spheres, and as thy silver proxy shine?
  • “So sweetly to these ravish’d ears of mine
  • “Came thy sweet greeting, that if thou shouldst fade
  • “Thy memory will waste me to a shade:—
  • “For pity do not melt!”—“If I should stay,”
  • Said Lamia, “here, upon this floor of clay,
  • “And pain my steps upon these flowers too rough,
  • “What canst thou say or do of charm enough
  • “To dull the nice remembrance of my home?
  • “Thou canst not ask me with thee here to roam
  • “Over these hills and vales, where no joy is,—
  • “Empty of immortality and bliss!
  • “Thou art a scholar, Lycius, and must know
  • “That finer spirits cannot breathe below
  • “In human climes, and live: Alas! poor youth,
  • “What taste of purer air hast thou to soothe
  • “My essence? What serener palaces,
  • “Where I may all my many senses please,
  • “And by mysterious sleights a hundred thirsts appease?
  • “It cannot be—Adieu!” So said, she rose
  • Tiptoe with white arms spread. He, sick to lose
  • The amorous promise of her lone complain,
  • Swoon’d, murmuring of love, and pale with pain.
  • The cruel lady, without any show
  • Of sorrow for her tender favourite’s woe,
  • But rather, if her eyes could brighter be,
  • With brighter eyes and slow amenity,
  • Put her new lips to his, and gave afresh
  • The life she had so tangled in her mesh:
  • And as he from one trance was wakening
  • Into another, she began to sing,
  • Happy in beauty, life, and love, and every thing,
  • A song of love, too sweet for earthly lyres,
  • While, like held breath, the stars drew in their panting fires
  • And then she whisper’d in such trembling tone,
  • As those who, safe together met alone
  • For the first time through many anguish’d days,
  • Use other speech than looks; bidding him raise
  • His drooping head, and clear his soul of doubt,
  • For that she was a woman, and without
  • Any more subtle fluid in her veins
  • Than throbbing blood, and that the self-same pains
  • Inhabited her frail-strung heart as his.
  • And next she wonder’d how his eyes could miss
  • Her face so long in Corinth, where, she said,
  • She dwelt but half retir’d, and there had led
  • Days happy as the gold coin could invent
  • Without the aid of love; yet in content
  • Till she saw him, as once she pass’d him by,
  • Where ’gainst a column he leant thoughtfully
  • At Venus’ temple porch, ’mid baskets heap’d
  • Of amorous herbs and flowers, newly reap’d
  • Late on that eve, as ’twas the night before
  • The Adonian feast; whereof she saw no more,
  • But wept alone those days, for why should she adore?
  • Lycius from death awoke into amaze,
  • To see her still, and singing so sweet lays;
  • Then from amaze into delight he fell
  • To hear her whisper woman’s lore so well;
  • And every word she spake entic’d him on
  • To unperplex’d delight and pleasure known.
  • Let the mad poets say whate’er they please
  • Of the sweets of Fairies, Peris, Goddesses,
  • There is not such a treat among them all,
  • Haunters of cavern, lake, and waterfall,
  • As a real woman, lineal indeed
  • From Pyrrha’s pebbles or old Adam’s seed.
  • Thus gentle Lamia judg’d, and judg’d aright,
  • That Lycius could not love in half a fright,
  • So threw the goddess off, and won his heart
  • More pleasantly by playing woman’s part,
  • With no more awe than what her beauty gave,
  • That, while it smote, still guaranteed to save.
  • Lycius to all made eloquent reply,
  • Marrying to every word a twinborn sigh;
  • And last, pointing to Corinth, ask’d her sweet,
  • If ’twas too far that night for her soft feet.
  • The way was short, for Lamia’s eagerness
  • Made, by a spell, the triple league decrease
  • To a few paces; not at all surmised
  • By blinded Lycius, so in her comprized.
  • They pass’d the city gates, he knew not how
  • So noiseless, and he never thought to know.
  • As men talk in a dream, so Corinth all,
  • Throughout her palaces imperial,
  • And all her populous streets and temples lewd,
  • Mutter’d, like tempest in the distance brew’d,
  • To the wide-spreaded night above her towers.
  • Men, women, rich and poor, in the cool hours,
  • Shuffled their sandals o’er the pavement white,
  • Companion’d or alone; while many a light
  • Flared, here and there, from wealthy festivals,
  • And threw their moving shadows on the walls,
  • Or found them cluster’d in the corniced shade
  • Of some arch’d temple door, or dusky colonnade.
  • Muffling his face, of greeting friends in fear,
  • Her fingers he press’d hard, as one came near
  • With curl’d gray beard, sharp eyes, and smooth bald crown,
  • Slow-stepp’d, and robed in philosophic gown:
  • Lycius shrank closer, as they met and past,
  • Into his mantle, adding wings to haste,
  • While hurried Lamia trembled: “Ah,” said he,
  • “Why do you shudder, love, so ruefully?
  • “Why does your tender palm dissolve in dew?”—
  • “I’m wearied,” said fair Lamia: “tell me who
  • “Is that old man? I cannot bring to mind
  • “His features:—Lycius! wherefore did you blind
  • “Yourself from his quick eyes?” Lycius replied,
  • “’Tis Apollonius sage, my trusty guide
  • “And good instructor; but to-night he seems
  • “The ghost of folly haunting my sweet dreams.
  • While yet he spake they had arrived before
  • A pillar’d porch, with lofty portal door,
  • Where hung a silver lamp, whose phosphor glow
  • Reflected in the slabbed steps below,
  • Mild as a star in water; for so new,
  • And so unsullied was the marble hue,
  • So through the crystal polish, liquid fine,
  • Ran the dark veins, that none but feet divine
  • Could e’er have touch’d there. Sounds Aeolian
  • Breath’d from the hinges, as the ample span
  • Of the wide doors disclos’d a place unknown
  • Some time to any, but those two alone,
  • And a few Persian mutes, who that same year
  • Were seen about the markets: none knew where
  • They could inhabit; the most curious
  • Were foil’d, who watch’d to trace them to their house:
  • And but the flitter-winged verse must tell,
  • For truth’s sake, what woe afterwards befel,
  • ’Twould humour many a heart to leave them thus,
  • Shut from the busy world of more incredulous.

PART II.

  • LOVE in a hut, with water and a crust,
  • Is—Love, forgive us!—cinders, ashes, dust;
  • Love in a palace is perhaps at last
  • More grievous torment than a hermit’s fast:—
  • That is a doubtful tale from faery land,
  • Hard for the non-elect to understand.
  • Had Lycius liv’d to hand his story down,
  • He might have given the moral a fresh frown,
  • Or clench’d it quite: but too short was their bliss
  • To breed distrust and hate, that make the soft voice hiss.
  • Besides, there, nightly, with terrific glare,
  • Love, jealous grown of so complete a pair,
  • Hover’d and buzz’d his wings, with fearful roar,
  • Above the lintel of their chamber door,
  • And down the passage cast a glow upon the floor.
  • For all this came a ruin: side by side
  • They were enthroned, in the even tide,
  • Upon a couch, near to a curtaining
  • Whose airy texture, from a golden string,
  • Floated into the room, and let appear
  • Unveil’d the summer heaven, blue and clear,
  • Betwixt two marble shafts:—there they reposed,
  • Where use had made it sweet, with eyelids closed,
  • Saving a tythe which love still open kept,
  • That they might see each other while they almost slept;
  • When from the slope side of a suburb hill,
  • Deafening the swallow’s twitter, came a thrill
  • Of trumpets—Lycius started—the sounds fled,
  • But left a thought, a buzzing in his head.
  • For the first time, since first he harbour’d in
  • That purple-lined palace of sweet sin,
  • His spirit pass’d beyond its golden bourn
  • Into the noisy world almost forsworn.
  • The lady, ever watchful, penetrant,
  • Saw this with pain, so arguing a want
  • Of something more, more than her empery
  • Of joys; and she began to moan and sigh
  • Because he mused beyond her, knowing well
  • That but a moment’s thought is passion’s passing bell.
  • “Why do you sigh, fair creature?” whisper’d he:
  • “Why do you think?” return’d she tenderly:
  • “You have deserted me;—where am I now?
  • “Not in your heart while care weighs on your brow:
  • “No, no, you have dismiss’d me; and I go
  • “From your breast houseless: ay, it must be so.”
  • He answer’d, bending to her open eyes,
  • Where he was mirror’d small in paradise,
  • “My silver planet, both of eve and morn!
  • “Why will you plead yourself so sad forlorn,
  • “While I am striving how to fill my heart
  • “With deeper crimson, and a double smart?
  • “How to entangle, trammel up and snare
  • “Your soul in mine, and labyrinth you there
  • “Like the hid scent in an unbudded rose?
  • “Ay, a sweet kiss—you see your mighty woes.
  • “My thoughts! shall I unveil them? Listen then!
  • “What mortal hath a prize, that other men
  • “May be confounded and abash’d withal,
  • “But lets it sometimes pace abroad majestical,
  • “And triumph, as in thee I should rejoice
  • “Amid the hoarse alarm of Corinth’s voice.
  • “Let my foes choke, and my friends shout afar,
  • “While through the thronged streets your bridal car
  • “Wheels round its dazzling spokes.”—The lady’s cheek
  • Trembled; she nothing said, but, pale and meek,
  • Arose and knelt before him, wept a rain
  • Of sorrows at his words; at last with pain
  • Beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung,
  • To change his purpose. He thereat was stung,
  • Perverse, with stronger fancy to reclaim
  • Her wild and timid nature to his aim:
  • Besides, for all his love, in self despite,
  • Against his better self, he took delight
  • Luxurious in her sorrows, soft and new.
  • His passion, cruel grown, took on a hue
  • Fierce and sanguineous as ’twas possible
  • In one whose brow had no dark veins to swell.
  • Fine was the mitigated fury, like
  • Apollo’s presence when in act to strike
  • The serpent—Ha, the serpent! certes, she
  • Was none. She burnt, she lov’d the tyranny,
  • And, all subdued, consented to the hour
  • When to the bridal he should lead his paramour.
  • Whispering in midnight silence, said the youth,
  • “Sure some sweet name thou hast, though, by my truth,
  • “I have not ask’d it, ever thinking thee
  • “Not mortal, but of heavenly progeny,
  • “As still I do. Hast any mortal name,
  • “Fit appellation for this dazzling frame?
  • “Or friends or kinsfolk on the citied earth,
  • “To share our marriage feast and nuptial mirth?”
  • “I have no friends,” said Lamia, “no, not one;
  • “My presence in wide Corinth hardly known:
  • “My parents’ bones are in their dusty urns
  • “Sepulchred, where no kindled incense burns,
  • “Seeing all their luckless race are dead, save me,
  • “And I neglect the holy rite for thee.
  • “Even as you list invite your many guests;
  • “But if, as now it seems, your vision rests
  • “With any pleasure on me, do not bid
  • “Old Apollonius—from him keep me hid.”
  • Lycius, perplex’d at words so blind and blank,
  • Made close inquiry; from whose touch she shrank,
  • Feigning a sleep; and he to the dull shade
  • Of deep sleep in a moment was betray’d.
  • It was the custom then to bring away
  • The bride from home at blushing shut of day,
  • Veil’d, in a chariot, heralded along
  • By strewn flowers, torches, and a marriage song,
  • With other pageants: but this fair unknown
  • Had not a friend. So being left alone,
  • (Lycius was gone to summon all his kin)
  • And knowing surely she could never win
  • His foolish heart from its mad pompousness,
  • She set herself, high-thoughted, how to dress
  • The misery in fit magnificence.
  • She did so, but ’tis doubtful how and whence
  • Came, and who were her subtle servitors.
  • About the halls, and to and from the doors,
  • There was a noise of wings, till in short space
  • The glowing banquet-room shone with wide-arched grace.
  • A haunting music, sole perhaps and lone
  • Supportress of the faery-roof, made moan
  • Throughout, as fearful the whole charm might fade.
  • Fresh carved cedar, mimicking a glade
  • Of palm and plantain, met from either side,
  • High in the midst, in honour of the bride:
  • Two palms and then two plantains, and so on,
  • From either side their stems branch’d one to one
  • All down the aisled place; and beneath all
  • There ran a stream of lamps straight on from wall to wall.
  • So canopied, lay an untasted feast
  • Teeming with odours. Lamia, regal drest,
  • Silently paced about, and as she went,
  • In pale contented sort of discontent,
  • Mission’d her viewless servants to enrich
  • The fretted splendour of each nook and niche.
  • Between the tree-stems, marbled plain at first,
  • Came jasper pannels; then, anon, there burst
  • Forth creeping imagery of slighter trees,
  • And with the larger wove in small intricacies.
  • Approving all, she faded at self-will,
  • And shut the chamber up, close, hush’d and still,
  • Complete and ready for the revels rude,
  • When dreadful guests would come to spoil her solitude.
  • The day appear’d, and all the gossip rout.
  • O senseless Lycius! Madman! wherefore flout
  • The silent-blessing fate, warm cloister’d hours,
  • And show to common eyes these secret bowers?
  • The herd approach’d; each guest, with busy brain,
  • Arriving at the portal, gaz’d amain,
  • And enter’d marveling: for they knew the street,
  • Remember’d it from childhood all complete
  • Without a gap, yet ne’er before had seen
  • That royal porch, that high-built fair demesne;
  • So in they hurried all, maz’d, curious and keen:
  • Save one, who look’d thereon with eye severe,
  • And with calm-planted steps walk’d in austere;
  • ’Twas Apollonius: something too he laugh’d,
  • As though some knotty problem, that had daft
  • His patient thought, had now begun to thaw,
  • And solve and melt:—’twas just as he foresaw.
  • He met within the murmurous vestibule
  • His young disciple. “’Tis no common rule,
  • “Lycius,” said he, “for uninvited guest
  • “To force himself upon you, and infest
  • “With an unbidden presence the bright throng
  • “Of younger friends; yet must I do this wrong,
  • “And you forgive me.” Lycius blush’d, and led
  • The old man through the inner doors broad-spread;
  • With reconciling words and courteous mien
  • Turning into sweet milk the sophist’s spleen.
  • Of wealthy lustre was the banquet-room,
  • Fill’d with pervading brilliance and perfume:
  • Before each lucid pannel fuming stood
  • A censer fed with myrrh and spiced wood,
  • Each by a sacred tripod held aloft,
  • Whose slender feet wide-swerv’d upon the soft
  • Wool-woofed carpets: fifty wreaths of smoke
  • From fifty censers their light voyage took
  • To the high roof, still mimick’d as they rose
  • Along the mirror’d walls by twin-clouds odorous.
  • Twelve sphered tables, by silk seats insphered,
  • High as the level of a man’s breast rear’d
  • On libbard’s paws, upheld the heavy gold
  • Of cups and goblets, and the store thrice told
  • Of Ceres’ horn, and, in huge vessels, wine
  • Came from the gloomy tun with merry shine.
  • Thus loaded with a feast the tables stood,
  • Each shrining in the midst the image of a God.
  • When in an antichamber every guest
  • Had felt the cold full sponge to pleasure press’d,
  • By minist’ring slaves, upon his hands and feet,
  • And fragrant oils with ceremony meet
  • Pour’d on his hair, they all mov’d to the feast
  • In white robes, and themselves in order placed
  • Around the silken couches, wondering
  • Whence all this mighty cost and blaze of wealth could spring.
  • Soft went the music the soft air along,
  • While fluent Greek a vowel’d undersong
  • Kept up among the guests discoursing low
  • At first, for scarcely was the wine at flow;
  • But when the happy vintage touch’d their brains,
  • Louder they talk, and louder come the strains
  • Of powerful instruments:—the gorgeous dyes,
  • The space, the splendour of the draperies,
  • The roof of awful richness, nectarous cheer,
  • Beautiful slaves, and Lamia’s self, appear,
  • Now, when the wine has done its rosy deed,
  • And every soul from human trammels freed,
  • No more so strange; for merry wine, sweet wine,
  • Will make Elysian shades not too fair, too divine.
  • Soon was God Bacchus at meridian height;
  • Flush’d were their cheeks, and bright eyes double bright:
  • Garlands of every green, and every scent
  • From vales deflower’d, or forest-trees branch rent,
  • In baskets of bright osier’d gold were brought
  • High as the handles heap’d, to suit the thought
  • Of every guest; that each, as he did please,
  • Might fancy-fit his brows, silk-pillow’d at his ease.
  • What wreath for Lamia? What for Lycius?
  • What for the sage, old Apollonius?
  • Upon her aching forehead be there hung
  • The leaves of willow and of adder’s tongue;
  • And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him
  • The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim
  • Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage,
  • Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
  • War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
  • At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
  • There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
  • We know her woof, her texture; she is given
  • In the dull catalogue of common things.
  • Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
  • Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
  • Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
  • Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
  • The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.
  • By her glad Lycius sitting, in chief place,
  • Scarce saw in all the room another face,
  • Till, checking his love trance, a cup he took
  • Full brimm’d, and opposite sent forth a look
  • ’Cross the broad table, to beseech a glance
  • From his old teacher’s wrinkled countenance,
  • And pledge him. The bald-head philosopher
  • Had fix’d his eye, without a twinkle or stir
  • Full on the alarmed beauty of the bride,
  • Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride.
  • Lycius then press’d her hand, with devout touch,
  • As pale it lay upon the rosy couch:
  • ’Twas icy, and the cold ran through his veins;
  • Then sudden it grew hot, and all the pains
  • Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart.
  • “Lamia, what means this? Wherefore dost thou start?
  • “Know’st thou that man?” Poor Lamia answer’d not.
  • He gaz’d into her eyes, and not a jot
  • Own’d they the lovelorn piteous appeal:
  • More, more he gaz’d: his human senses reel:
  • Some hungry spell that loveliness absorbs;
  • There was no recognition in those orbs.
  • “Lamia!” he cried—and no soft-toned reply.
  • The many heard, and the loud revelry
  • Grew hush; the stately music no more breathes;
  • The myrtle sicken’d in a thousand wreaths.
  • By faint degrees, voice, lute, and pleasure ceased;
  • A deadly silence step by step increased,
  • Until it seem’d a horrid presence there,
  • And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
  • “Lamia!” he shriek’d; and nothing but the shriek
  • With its sad echo did the silence break.
  • “Begone, foul dream!” he cried, gazing again
  • In the bride’s face, where now no azure vein
  • Wander’d on fair-spaced temples; no soft bloom
  • Misted the cheek; no passion to illume
  • The deep-recessed vision:—all was blight;
  • Lamia, no longer fair, there sat a deadly white.
  • “Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man!
  • “Turn them aside, wretch! or the righteous ban
  • “Of all the Gods, whose dreadful images
  • “Here represent their shadowy presences,
  • “May pierce them on the sudden with the thorn
  • “Of painful blindness; leaving thee forlorn,
  • “In trembling dotage to the feeblest fright
  • “Of conscience, for their long offended might,
  • “For all thine impious proud-heart sophistries,
  • “Unlawful magic, and enticing lies.
  • “Corinthians! look upon that gray-beard wretch!
  • “Mark how, possess’d, his lashless eyelids stretch
  • “Around his demon eyes! Corinthians, see!
  • “My sweet bride withers at their potency.”
  • “Fool!” said the sophist, in an under-tone
  • Gruff with contempt; which a death-nighing moan
  • From Lycius answer’d, as heart-struck and lost,
  • He sank supine beside the aching ghost.
  • “Fool! Fool!” repeated he, while his eyes still
  • Relented not, nor mov’d; “from every ill
  • “Of life have I preserv’d thee to this day,
  • “And shall I see thee made a serpent’s prey?
  • Then Lamia breath’d death breath; the sophist’s eye,
  • Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
  • Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging: she, as well
  • As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
  • Motion’d him to be silent; vainly so,
  • He look’d and look’d again a level—No!
  • “A Serpent!” echoed he; no sooner said,
  • Than with a frightful scream she vanished:
  • And Lycius’ arms were empty of delight,
  • As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
  • On the high couch he lay!—his friends came round—
  • Supported him—no pulse, or breath they found,
  • And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound.*
  • * “Philostratus, in his fourth book De Vita Apollonii, hath a memorable instance in this kind, which I may not omit, of one Menippus Lycius, a young man twenty-five years of age, that going betwixt Cenchreas and Corinth, met such a phantasm in the habit of a fair gentlewoman, which taking him by the hand, carried him home to her house, in the suburbs of Corinth, and told him she was a Phoenician by birth, and if he would tarry with her, he should hear her sing and play, and drink such wine as never any drank, and no man should molest him; but she, being fair and lovely, would live and die with him, that was fair and lovely to behold. The young man, a philosopher, otherwise staid and discreet, able to moderate his passions, though not this of love, tarried with her a while to his great content, and at last married her, to whose wedding, amongst other guests, came Apollonius; who, by some probable conjectures, found her out to be a serpent, a lamia; and that all her furniture was, like Tantalus’ gold, described by Homer, no substance but mere illusions. When she saw herself descried, she wept, and desired Apollonius to be silent, but he would not be moved, and thereupon she, plate, house, and all that was in it, vanished in an instant: many thousands took notice of this fact, for it was done in the midst of Greece.”
  • Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy.’ Part 3. Sect. 2. Memb. 1. Subs. 1.
×

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.
×

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.
×

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.
×

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 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.