Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Jan: accumulating influence of Hazlitt; worries that his living circumstance do not allow for concentrated work; I see by little and little more of what is to be done, and how it is to be done, should I ever be able to do it; writing a little now and then; says he continually suffers from agonie ennuiyeuse; I have been writing a little now and then lately: but nothing to speak of—being disconnected and as it were moulting: with Brown visits Chichester and Bedhampton; sore throat
  • Jan-Feb: poem: The Eve of St Agnes
  • Feb: back at Wentworth Place; poem: The Eve of St Mark; I have not been entirely well for some time; What imagination I have I shall enjoy; I have not gone on with Hyperion; I have not been in great cue for writing lately—I must wait for the spring to rouse me up a little; I have no doubt of success in a course of years if I persevere; A Man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory; Lord Byron cuts a figure—but he is not figurative—Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comments on it—; sore throat, which he says has haunted him
  • March: resolves never to write for the sake of writing, or making a poem without years of matured reflection—otherwise I will be dumb; I will not spoil my love of gloom by writing an ode to darkness; I am three and twenty with little knowledge and middling intellect; not exactly on the road to an epic poem; I will not mix with that most vulgar of all crowds the literary; admires Hazlitt, likes half of Wordsworth, none of Hunt; I know not why Poetry and I have been so distant lately. I must make some advances soon or she will cut me entirely
  • March cont’d: articulates a philosophy of disinterestedness of Mind; Circumstances are like Clouds continually gathering and bursting; agrees with Wordsworth: we all have one human heart; despite the frauds of religion, he recognizes the splendour of Jesus; I am however young writing at random—straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness—without knowing the bearing of any one assertion of any one opinion; Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced
  • March-June[?]: poem: Ode on Indolence
  • April: the Brawne family (Keats has had romance interest in Fanny Brawne since autumn 1818) move into in other half of Wentworth Place; I am still at a stand in versifying—I cannot do it yet with any pleasure—I mean to look around at my resources and means—and see what I can do without poetry; The fifth canto of Dante pleases me more and more; continuing suspicion of Abbey, the trustee of family finances
  • April cont’d: accidental encounter with Coleridge; no more can man be happy in spite, the worldly elements will prey upon his nature; the vale of Soul-making—a grander system of salvation: a World of Pains and troubles is [necessary] to school an Intelligence and make it a soul; poem: La Belle Dame sans Merci; poem: Hyperion, K gives up on, sends to Woodhouse; poems: On Fame (Fame, like a wayward girl) and On Fame (How fever’d is the man); poem: Ode to Psyche, over which K says he has taken moderate pains
  • April-May[?]:poem: If by dull rhymes; poem: Ode on a Grecian Urn; poem: Ode on Melancholy
  • May: one of two poison choices in life: leading a fevrous life alone with Poetry; I would rather conquer my indolence and strain my nerves at some grand Poem than be a dunderheaded indiaman; poem: Ode to a Nightingale
  • June-July: sore throat
  • June-Aug: lives at Shanklin, Isle of Wight, with Rice
  • June: I cannot resolve to give up my favorite studies: so I propose to retire into the Country and set my Mind a work once more; My purpose is now to make one more attempt in the Press; idled by the overpowering idea of our dead poets and from the abatement of my love of fame; I dare say my discipline is to come, and plenty of it too; hopes he has become less of a versifying Pet-Lamb; continuing serious money problems
  • July: passionate letters to Fanny Brawne confessing deep, absorbing love; now looks upon the affairs of the world with healthy deliberation; I do not pass a day without sprawling some blank verse or tagging some rhymes; I have of late been moulting: not for fresh feathers & wings [but for] sublunary legs [ . . . ] whence I may look out into the stage of the world; I cannot write for the mere sake of the press; Poems are as common as newspapers and I do not see why it is a greater crime in me than in another to let the verses of an half-fledged brain tumble into the reading-rooms and drawing room windows; poem: Ode to a Nightingale published; poem: a new attempt at [The Fall of] Hyperion (mainly gives up on Sept); throat problems and uneven temper
  • July-Aug: writing Otho the Great, with Brown, rev. Dec-Jan
  • July-Sept: poem: writes Lamia, with great hopes of success, because I make use of my Judgement more deliberately than I yet have done (rev. March 1820)
  • Aug-Oct: lives at Winchester, with Brown
  • Aug: serious money issues continue; plunging so deeply into imaginary interests; Shakespeare and the Paradise Lost every day become greater wonders; contempt for the literary world will enable me to write finer things than any thing else could; fine writing is next to fine doing the top thing in the world; the best sort of Poetry—that is all I care for, all I live for; I feel it in my power to become a popular writer
  • Sept: believes that Lamia will offer readers sensation; poem: To Autumn; poem: The Fall of Hyperion overly Miltonic, too artful with false beauty as opposed to the true voice of feeling; mainly gives up on The Fall of Hyperion; out of need, wants to work as a periodical writer, live cheaply; strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing—to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party; does not trust poetry as a livelihood; My Poetry will never be fit for anything it doesn’t cover its ground well
  • Sept: an odd sort of life for the two or three last years—Here & there—No anchor—I am glad of it; My name with the literary fashionable is vulgar; Bryon describes what he sees—I describe what I imagine; The great beauty of Poetry is, that it makes every thing every place interesting; I want to compose without this fever of vexation and ambition; wishes to write without the Miltonic vein of art; I will no longer live upon hopes; things won’t leave me alone;
  • Sept/Oct[?]: poem: Bright Star
  • Oct: some snow in London toward the end of the month; Keats briefly lives at 25 College Street, Westminster; I cannot exist without you, to Fanny Brawne; I must be busy, or try to be so; I am more fond of pleasure than study; returns to live at Wentworth Place, Hampstead; perplexed by and time taken up with financial affairs related to his brother’s (George’s) bankruptcy in America; Otho the Great sent to Drury Lane for possible production
  • Nov: Keats calls his neglectful manner a disease which at intervals comes upon me like a fever fit; without purpose: lax, unemployed, unmeridian’d, and objectless; money issues mounting; tends to his brother’s financial concerns; greatest ambition is to write plays, yet motivation weakening; briefly works on The Fall of Hyperion, but leaves it, having also given up in Sept
  • Nov[?]: poem: The Cap and Bells; poem: This living hand
  • Dec: engaged to Fanny Brawne; unwell, and fears about cold weather and throat issues; doctor orders he gets a warm coat and thick shoes; preparing some Poems to come out in the Spring; K (wrongly) believes he has hopes of success in the literary world based on possible production of Otho the Great
  • 1819: it is generally a damp, wet year in London; Burlington Arcade opens, London; Peterloo Massacre Manchester (August); Six Acts passed to limit and suppress reform; Wordsworth publishes Peter Bell and The Waggoner; Percy Shelley publishes The Cenci, writes Masque of Anarchy [publ. 1832], Ode to the West Wind, and England in 1819; Percy Florence Shelley born to Mary and Shelley; Mary Shelley begins Mathilda [unpublished until 1959]; Byron publishes Don Juan cantos 1 and 2, anonymously; Hazlitt publishes Political Essays; Polidori publishes The Vampyre; Parry explores the Arctic; born: John Ruskin, George Eliot, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, James Russell Lowell, Queen Victoria; the financial Panic of 1819 in America; Francisco Goya begins his group of Black Paintings; the stethoscope invented

12 May 1819: Viewless Wings & the Complex Play of Consciousness & Imagination: Ode to a Nightingale

Wentworth Place, Hampstead

Click the map to see a fuller view of the neighbourhood.true
Click the map to see a fuller view of the neighbourhood.

May 1819 seems to be a relatively slow month for Keats. It follows from the first few months of 1819 when, despite being quite socially active, he hopes that ambition or inspiration will raise him and save him from (what he variously calls) laziness, languor, indolence, and ennui. In May, Keats does manage to visit his younger sister, Fanny, a few times; he sees the guardian of the family estate over uncertain money issues, which is usually unproductive and stressful, but this time the meeting is civil; he returns some borrowed books that he’s had for six months; he entertains becoming a ship’s surgeon, since a livelihood from writing seems an impossible dream (he drops the fanciful medical idea in early June); and on 12 May he reports to Fanny that he has at last received a letter from their brother George, who, with his wife, Georgiana, emigrated to America in June 1818, and they seem to be doing quite well. For a period around the third week of May, Keats is once more ill and confined.

Wentworth Place (Keats House), by I. S. Williams, c.1940 (Victoria & Albert
          Museum)true
Wentworth Place (Keats House), by I. S. Williams, c.1940 (Victoria & Albert Museum)

But during May and its surrounding weeks, Keats composes poetry that centrally contributes to the reason he becomes a canonical and hugely influential poet: he writes the majority of his so-called great odes. Though their dating is not fully certain, most can be centered in this spring. One of them is his Ode to a Nightingale.

Charles Brown, who is Keats’s generous friend and roommate at Wentworth Place, claims that one morning Keats, sitting under a plum tree, writes the nightingale ode after hearing the bird’s tranquil joy near his house, and that within a couple of hours Keats has some scraps of paper that he, Brown, rescues and helps to arrange—these become the poem. Brown’s story (recalled almost 20 years after the poem’s composition) sounds a little suspect and aggrandizing, but it is about all we have to go on in terms of vaguely contextualizing the poem.

Perhaps also behind Keats’s attraction to the subject is the chance walking encounter he has with Samuel Taylor Coleridge just a few weeks earlier, in which Coleridge astonishingly rambles on about just about everything, including the core subjects in Keats’s own poem-to-be: consciousness, poetry, and (of course) nightingales.

Listen to the song of the nightingale:

The poem startlingly marks Keats’s progress as a poet, in this, the final phase of his writing. So what does he write about, and how does he write it?

Most generally, Ode to a Nightingale flies over and then lands into well-travelled poetic territory: the meaning of human suffering and uncertain consciousness, with the seduction of death in the face of hopeful, but doubtful, transcendence. While the easefully singing nightingale flies from some kind of time-past, then to be buried deep (77) in some kind time-forever, the speaker is left in his darkening time-present with his own sole self (72) and his all-too-human moments of questioning bewilderment and fading beauty—he poetically lingers between and complicates states of consciousness and intoxication, pain and release, anticipation and resignation, sleep and waking, dream and vision, desire and resignation, darkness and insight—and between, of course, those thoughts of death and deathlessness. As a poet, the speaker’s recourse is to imaginatively be with or to follow the nightingale though the viewless wings of Poesy (33). That is, poetry perhaps offers or represents some form of lasting consolation beyond sorrow and pain, but, paradoxically, it also has to capably embrace mystery and doubt, which is fully central to Keats’s literary philosophy. History itself, looking for its own moments of meaning—the desire of those hungry generations (62)—cannot hold the bird and its eternal song. Can it hold any certainty for the listening yet creative speaker—who, after all, has his perfectly controlled poem about an uncontrollable subject that now holds us?

The remarkable poem enacts Keats’s newly-found tone of controlled intensity. The speaker with some drama pushes up against his strong and uncertain emotions without fully giving into or resolving them, though part of the poem’s lyrical drama is the speaker’s draw to indeed give into them. That he cannot fully comprehend the state of his own narrower and numbed consciousness does not matter; that he cannot even clearly see the world around him as darkness encloses does not matter; that his imagination may itself be deceptive does not matter; these do not matter since the truth of the nightingale’s beautiful, enduring song provides thoughts and feelings deeper that his own place or moment, challenging his temporal, struggling consciousness. The poem’s accomplishment is that Keats makes certain that the speaker’s internal uncertainty does not fully spill over into excess or sentiment, and part of the poem’s power (once more, its drama) is how very close he comes to doing so as he listens in closing darkness, with intimations of immortality fused with the beauty of the nightingale’s fading song.

And so, in terms of Keats’s poetic progress, the ode returns to and extends Keats’s oldest subject: the desire to be an enduring poet—only now the voice in the poem is no longer that of a wannabe poet in search of a purposeful or potent subject. There is some excessive phrasing in the poem that recall his early poetry—like beaded bubbles (17) and dewy wine (49)—but Keats moves toward description, thoughts, and feelings uncluttered by poeticisms.

Keats listening to a nightingale, by Joseph Severn, c.1845 (Keats House, City of
        London)
Keats listening to a nightingale, by Joseph Severn, c.1845 (Keats House, City of London)

Now, instead of composing rambling, mawkish, and ineffectual verses about these longings and occasions that cater to it, here the poet’s desire is expressed not only with great tonal and formal control (the 10-line stanza is subtly innovative), but also with dramatic, complex intensity that invokes all the senses—and, moreover, it is expressed movingly. It is, in an important way, truly Shakespearean—in fact, the poet’s tone and language in attempting to face the meaning of life’s dark inconstancy sounds something like young Hamlet’s inner-dialogical explorations of the same topic. Like Hamlet, all the ode’s speaker has is his eloquence and his sole self (72); and, like Hamlet, Keats’s speaker is half in love with easeful Death (52) in conflating sleeping and dreaming. So, too, do both confront the meaning, and morality, of human suffering; and, as in Hamlet, imagery of darkness is utterly pervasive. It might, then, be useful to imagine the speaker of Keats’s poem as Hamlet himself, especially given that is not usual to think of young, inward-seeking Hamlet as a poet representing a vision of darkness and profoundly articulate uncertainty.

But beyond the poem, there also, back into Keats’s world, there seems little doubt that the line about how youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies (26) also holds for Keats the image of his younger brother, Tom, dying in his arms of the wasting disease, consumption.

One of the ode’s strategies is to have the poet’s longings and potentiality transferred to the bird. This is fitting, since the nightingale, with its full-throated ease (10), assumes the role of an enduring poet of the kind to which Keats aspires: it flies through or transcends human fears, aspirations, suffering, death, and, as mentioned, even history. Moreover, the bird’s song, though unknowable, is beautiful and therefore truthful, even if the speaker’s state is closer an emotional limbo. Another way to express this is to say that the mortal poet’s struggle is with the nightingale’s intimation of immortality; and his fleeting vision of that timeless bird that gives rise to a questioning of his own state couples with his desire for his own possible immortality as a poet. Then there is also the lurking but crucial question for the poet: How can the creative temper be sustained?

So say this a slightly different way, poet’s passing desire to establish this identification with the Immortal bird (61) is so that he can, as it were, fly to and fade with it. Yet the paradox remains: the bird’s song surpasses or transcends the truths about waning beauty, human suffering, and death—and yet those are the subjects that Keats knows provide poetic depth that his new work of 1819 so profitably explores. One primary, literal tension, then, is between the grounded, feeling poet in a world of suffering and fading beauty, and the flying, vanishing bird in the world of lasting ease—but, again, this is a tension the poet longs to collapse or appease by fading to or with the nightingale. The nightingale belongs to all time; the poet worries that he is tethered to his sole self (72). Is imagination, is beauty, is poetry, is art (in this case, all troped by the idea of music), enough to see us through our human lot? Keats suggests these, in fact, are all we have. This is a large, lasting message. And though the nightingale is a somewhat hackneyed subject, Keats’s handling is startlingly original. Keats understands that one goal of great art is to offer a new experience to an old subject, and this he has achieved.

The dramatic situation at the poem’s end, with the speaker brought back to his solitary, disoriented reality while the beautiful and allusive bird seems to disappear into a possible dream-ideal, brings back Keats’s earlier poem, La Belle Dame sans Merci, written in April, and the poem that, along with The Eve of St. Agnes, signals Keats’s period of greatest work. The ode does not quite give us the cold hill-side of the waning, woe-begone Knight (6), but the speaker of Ode to a Nightingale likewise is achingly allured by death, and is also caught between vision, sleep, and dream as the bird fades away Up the hill-side and into the next valley (77-78). The Knight’s seductive lady in the meads (13) is not, then, unlike the speaker’s seductive nightingale: both seem unreal, both invoke mourning or melancholia; and both sing in an alluring, unknowable language that transcend the moment. Yet, despite this not-knowing, both poems go to some length to express how the songs of the bird and the dame are beautiful; thus they articulate and represent the core of Keats’s poetics that privileges intensity, doubt, and mystery over fact and reason (letters, 21 Dec 1817). Both the lady and the bird are gone, and the Knight and the speaker await, eternally forlorn, confused, and caught between dream and reality, vision and experience. To borrow syntax from the last line of the ode, fled is the music—likewise the belle dame and the nightingale. Both the ode’s speaker and the knight are left behind in the world of uncertainty, human suffering, and mortality, having sensually encountered a beautiful yet ultimately unknowable ideal.

From Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds (vol 1, p.143),
        1797-1804. Click to enlarge.true
From Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds (vol 1, p.143), 1797-1804. Click to enlarge.

What we learn from the parallels between the two poems is a new range in Keats’s poetic powers and in the consistency of his mature thematics. Once more, we have poems directed toward a possible though uncertain future, and caught in the profitable poetic state of Keatsian in-betweenness. With Ode to a Nightingale, Keats dramatically represents the eternal power of mystery and not-knowing. Both his song and the bird’s song are joined by resisting time and reduction. This, of course, is a recipe for one aspect of poetic greatness: the complex play of consciousness and imagination which the speaker simultaneously creates and into which he is absorbed. This is also a general pattern in the other so-called great odes, whether that absorption is into, for example, a Greek urn or a season.

The ode is first published in Annals of the Fine Arts, July 1819, and subsequently in Keats’s third and final 1820 collection. It is the first of the five odes to appear in the volume, and the fourth poem overall. Ode on a Grecian Urn follows it, and The Eve of St. Agnes precedes it.

🗙

Ode to a Nightingale

1

  • My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  • My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
  • Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  • One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
  • ’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
  • But being too happy in thine happiness,
  • That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
  • In some melodious plot
  • Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
  • Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

2

  • O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  • Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
  • Tasting of Flora and the country green,
  • Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
  • O for a beaker full of the warm South,
  • Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
  • With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
  • And purple-stained mouth;
  • That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
  • And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

3

  • Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  • What thou among the leaves hast never known,
  • The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  • Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
  • Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
  • Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
  • Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
  • And leaden-eyed despairs,
  • Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
  • Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

4

  • Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
  • Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
  • But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
  • Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
  • Already with thee! tender is the night,
  • And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
  • Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
  • But here there is no light,
  • Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
  • Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

5

  • I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  • Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
  • But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
  • Wherewith the seasonable month endows
  • The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
  • White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
  • Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
  • And mid-May’s eldest child,
  • The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
  • The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

6

  • Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  • I have been half in love with easeful Death,
  • Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
  • To take into the air my quiet breath;
  • Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
  • To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
  • While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
  • In such an ecstasy!
  • Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
  • To thy high requiem become a sod.

7

  • Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  • No hungry generations tread thee down;
  • The voice I hear this passing night was heard
  • In ancient days by emperor and clown:
  • Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
  • Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
  • She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
  • The same that oft-times hath
  • Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
  • Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

8

  • Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  • To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
  • Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  • As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
  • Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
  • Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
  • Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep
  • In the next valley-glades:
  • Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
  • Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
🗙

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.
🗙

Ode on a Grecian Urn

1.

  • Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, 
  • Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
  • Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
  • A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
  • What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape 
  • Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
  • In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
  • What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
  • What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
  • What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

2.

  • Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
  • Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
  • Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, 
  • Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
  • Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
  • Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
  • Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
  • Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve; 
  • She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
  • For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

3.

  • Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
  • Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
  • And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
  • For ever piping songs for ever new; 
  • More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
  • For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d, 
  • For ever panting, and for ever young;
  • All breathing human passion far above, 
  • That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
  • A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 

4.

  • Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
  • To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
  • Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
  • And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed? 
  • What little town by river or sea shore, 
  • Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
  • Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
  • And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
  • Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
  • Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

5.

  • O Attic shape! Fair attitude! With brede 
  • Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
  • With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
  • Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
  • As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral! 
  • When old age shall this generation waste, 
  • Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
  • Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, 
  • “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all 
  • Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

[Text based on the published version in Keats’s 1820 collection.]

🗙

The Eve of St. Mark

  • Upon a Sabbath day it fell;
  • Twice holy was the Sabbath bell,
  • That call’d the folk to evening prayer.
  • The city streets were clean and fair
  • From wholesome drench of April rains;
  • And, on the western window panes,
  • The chilly sunset faintly told
  • Of unmatur’d green vallies cold,
  • Of the green thorny bloomless hedge,
  • Of rivers new with spring-tide sedge,
  • Of primroses by shelter’d rills,
  • And daisies on the aguish hills.
  • Twice holy was the Sabbath bell:
  • The silent streets were crowded well
  • With staid and pious companies,
  • Warm from their fire-side orat’ries;
  • And moving, with demurest air,
  • To even-song, and vesper prayer.
  • Each arched porch, and entry low,
  • Was fill’d with patient folk and slow,
  • With whispers hush, and shuffling feet,
  • While play’d the organ loud and sweet.
  • The bells had ceas’d, the prayers begun,
  • And Bertha had not yet half done
  • A curious volume, patch’d and torn,
  • That all day long, from earliest morn,
  • Had taken captive her two eyes,
  • Among its golden broideries;
  • Perplex’d her with a thousand things, —
  • The stars of heaven, and angels’ wings,
  • Martyrs in a fiery blaze,
  • Azure saints in silver rays,
  • Aaron’s breastplate, and the seven
  • Candlesticks John saw in heaven,
  • The winged Lion of Saint Mark,
  • And the Covenantal Ark,
  • With its many mysteries,
  • Cherubim and golden mice.
  • Bertha was a maiden fair,
  • Dwelling in the old Minster-Square;
  • From her fire-side she could see,
  • Sidelong, its rich antiquity,
  • Far as the bishop’s garden-wall;
  • Where sycamores and elm-trees tall,
  • Full-leav’d, the forest had outstript,
  • By no sharp north-wind ever nipt,
  • So shelter’d by the mighty pile.
  • Bertha arose, and read awhile,
  • With forehead ’gainst the window-pane.
  • Again she tried, and then again,
  • Until the dusk eve left her dark
  • Upon the legend of St. Mark.
  • From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin,
  • She lifted up her soft warm chin,
  • With aching neck and swimming eyes,
  • And dazed with saintly imag’ries.
  • All was gloom, and silent all,
  • Save now and then the still foot-fall
  • Of one returning homewards late,
  • Past the echoing minster-gate.
  • The clamorous daws, that all the day
  • Above tree-tops and towers play,
  • Pair by pair had gone to rest,
  • Each in its ancient belfry-nest,
  • Where asleep they fall betimes
  • To music of the drowsy chimes.
  • All was silent, all was gloom,
  • Abroad and in the homely room;
  • Down she sat, poor cheated soul!
  • And struck a lamp from the dismal coal;
  • Leaned forward, with bright drooping hair
  • And slant book, full against the glare.
  • Her shadow, in uneasy guise,
  • Hover’d about, a giant size,
  • On ceiling-beam and old oak chair,
  • The parrot’s cage, and panel square;
  • And the warm angled winter screen,
  • On which were many monsters seen,
  • Call’d doves of Siam, Lima mice,
  • And legless birds of paradise,
  • Macaw, and tender av’davat,
  • And silken-furr’d Angora cat.
  • Untired she read, her shadow still
  • Glower’d about, as it would fill
  • The room with wildest forms and shades,
  • As though some ghostly queen of spades
  • Had come to mock behind her back,
  • And dance, and ruffle her garments black.
  • Untir’d she read the legend page,
  • Of holy Mark, from youth to age;
  • On land, on sea, in pagan-chains,
  • Rejoicing for his many pains.
  • Sometimes the learned eremite,
  • With golden star, or dagger bright,
  • Referr’d to pious poesies
  • Written in smallest crow-quill size
  • Beneath the text; and thus the rhyme
  • Was parcel’d out from time to time:
  • — “Als writith he of swevenis,
  • Men han beforne they wake in bliss,
  • Whanne thate hir friendes thinke hem bound
  • In crimped shroude farre under grounde;
  • And how a litling child mote be
  • A saint er its nativitie,
  • Gif thate the modre ( God her blesse! )
  • Kepen in solitarinesse,
  • And kissen devoute the holy croce.
  • Of Goddis love and Sathan’s force, —
  • He writith; and thinges many mo:
  • Of swiche thinges I may not show.
  • Bot I must tellen verilie
  • Somdel of Sainte Cicilie;
  • And chieflie whate he auctorethe
  • Of Sainte Markis life and dethe.”
  • At length her constant eyelids come
  • Upon the fervent martyrdom;
  • Then lastly to his holy shrine,
  • Exalt amid the tapers’ shine
  • At Venice, —
🗙

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.
🗙

Ode on Indolence

They toil not, neither do they spin.

I

  • One morn before me were three figures seen,
  • With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;
  • And one behind the other stepped serene,
  • In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;
  • They passed, like figures on a marble urn,
  • When shifted round to see the other side;
  • They came again; as when the urn once more
  • Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;
  • And they were strange to me, as may betide
  • With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.

II

  • How is it, shadows, that I knew ye not?
  • How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?
  • Was it a silent deep-disguised plot
  • To steal away, and leave without a task
  • My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;
  • The blissful cloud of summer-indolence
  • Benumbed my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;
  • Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower,
  • O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense
  • Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness?

III

  • A third time passed they by, and, passing, turned
  • Each one the face a moment whiles to me;
  • Then faded, and to follow them I burned
  • And ached for wings, because I knew the three;
  • The first was a fair maid, and Love her name;
  • The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,
  • And ever watchful with fatigued eye;
  • The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
  • Is heaped upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
  • I knew to be my demon Poesy.

IV

  • They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:
  • O folly! What is Love? and where is it?
  • And for that poor Ambition! it springs
  • From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;
  • For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—
  • At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,
  • And evenings steeped in honeyed indolence;
  • O, for an age so sheltered from annoy,
  • That I may never know how change the moons,
  • Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!

V

  • And once more came they by. Alas, wherefore?
  • My sleep had been embroidered with dim dreams;
  • My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er
  • With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:
  • The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
  • Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
  • The open casement pressed a new-leaved vine,
  • Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;
  • O Shadows! ’twas a time to bid farewell!
  • Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.

VI

  • So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise
  • My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;
  • For I would not be dieted with praise,
  • A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!
  • Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more
  • In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;
  • Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,
  • And for the day faint visions there is store;
  • Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle sprite,
  • Into the clouds, and never more return!
🗙

On Fame (Fame, like a wayward girl)

  • Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
  • To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
  • But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
  • And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;
  • She is a gipsey, will not speak to those
  • Who have not learnt to be content without her;
  • A jilt, whose ear was never whisper’d close,
  • Who thinks they scandal her who talk about her;
  • A very gipsey is she, Nilus-born,
  • Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar;
  • Ye love-sick bards! repay her scorn for scorn;
  • Ye artists lovelorn! madmen that ye are!
  • Make your best bow to her and bid adieu;
  • Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.
🗙

On Fame (How fever’d is the man)

  • How fever’d is the man, who cannot look
  • Upon his mortal days with temperate blood,
  • Who vexes all the leaves of his life’s book,
  • And robs his fair name of its maidenhood;
  • It is as if the rose should pluck herself,
  • Or the ripe plum finger its misty bloom,
  • As if a Naiad, like a meddling elf,
  • Should darken her pure grot with muddy gloom
  • But the rose leaves herself upon the briar,
  • For winds to kiss and grateful bees to feed,
  • And the ripe plum still wears its dim attire,
  • The undisturbed lake has crystal space;
  • Why then should man, teasing the world for grace,
  • Spoil his salvation for a fierce miscreed?
🗙

Ode to Psyche

  • O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
  • By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
  • And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
  • Even into thine own soft-conched ear:
  • Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
  • The winged Psyche with awaken’d eyes?
  • I wander’d in a forest thoughtlessly,
  • And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
  • Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side
  • In deepest grass, beneath the whisp’ring roof
  • Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
  • A brooklet, scarce espied:
  • Mid hush’d, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
  • Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
  • They lay calm-breathing, on the bedded grass;
  • Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
  • Their lips touch’d not, but had not bade adieu,
  • As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,
  • And ready still past kisses to outnumber
  • At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
  • The winged boy I knew;
  • But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
  • His Psyche true!
  • O latest born and loveliest vision far
  • Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!
  • Fairer than Phoebe’s sapphire-region’d star,
  • Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
  • Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
  • Nor altar heap’d with flowers;
  • Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
  • Upon the midnight hours;
  • No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
  • From chain-swung censer teeming;
  • No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
  • Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.
  • O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
  • Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
  • When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
  • Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
  • Yet even in these days so far retir’d
  • From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
  • Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
  • I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspir’d.
  • So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
  • Upon the midnight hours;
  • Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
  • From swinged censer teeming;
  • Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
  • Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.
  • Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
  • In some untrodden region of my mind,
  • Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
  • Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
  • Far, far around shall those dark-cluster’d trees
  • Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
  • And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
  • The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull’d to sleep;
  • And in the midst of this wide quietness
  • A rosy sanctuary will I dress
  • With the wreath’d trellis of a working brain,
  • With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
  • With all the gardener Fancy e’er could feign,
  • Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
  • And there shall be for thee all soft delight
  • That shadowy thought can win,
  • A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
  • To let the warm Love in!
🗙

If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d

  • If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d,
  • And, like Andromeda, the sonnet sweet
  • Fetter’d, in spite of pained loveliness;
  • Let us find out, if we must be constrain’d,
  • Sandals more interwoven and complete
  • To fit the naked foot of Poesy;
  • Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
  • Of every chord, and see what may be gain’d
  • By ear industrious, and attention meet;
  • Misers of sound and syllable, no less
  • Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
  • Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
  • So, if we may not let the muse be free,
  • She will be bound with garlands of her own.
🗙

Ode on Melancholy

1

  • No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
  • Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
  • Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
  • By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
  • Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
  • Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
  • Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
  • A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
  • For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
  • And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

2

  • But when the melancholy fit shall fall
  • Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
  • That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
  • And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
  • Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
  • Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
  • Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
  • Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
  • Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
  • And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

3

  • She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
  • And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
  • Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
  • Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
  • Ay, in the very temple of Delight
  • Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
  • Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
  • Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
  • His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
  • And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
🗙

The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream CANTO I

  • Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave
  • A paradise for a sect; the savage too
  • From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep
  • Guesses at heaven pity these have not
  • Trac’d upon vellum or wild Indian leaf
  • The shadows of melodious utterance.
  • But bare of laurel they live, dream and die;
  • For Poesy alone can tell her dreams,
  • With the fine spell of words alone can save
  • Imagination from the sable charm
  • And dumb enchantment. Who alive can say
  • “Thou art no poet; mayst not tell thy dreams”?
  • Since every man whose soul is not a clod
  • Hath visions, and would speak, if he had lov’d
  • And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.
  • Whether the dream now purposed to rehearse
  • Be poet’s or fanatic’s will be known
  • When this warm scribe my hand is in the grave.
  • Methought I stood where trees of every clime,
  • Palm, myrtle, oak, and sycamore, and beech,
  • With plantane, and spice blossoms, made a screen;
  • In neighbourhood of fountains, by the noise
  • Soft showering in mine ears; and, by the touch
  • Of scent, not far from roses. Turning round,
  • I saw an arbour with a drooping roof
  • Of trellis vines, and bells, and larger blooms,
  • Like floral-censers swinging light in air;
  • Before its wreathed doorway, on a mound
  • Of moss, was spread a feast of summer fruits,
  • Which nearer seen, seem’d refuse of a meal
  • By angel tasted, or our mother Eve;
  • For empty shells were scattered on the grass,
  • And grape stalks but half bare, and remnants more,
  • Sweet smelling, whose pure kinds I could not know.
  • Still was more plenty than the fabled horn
  • Thrice emptied could pour forth, at banqueting
  • For Proserpine return’d to her own fields,
  • Where the white heifers low. And appetite
  • More yearning than on earth I ever felt
  • Growing within, I ate deliciously;
  • And, after not long, thirsted, for thereby
  • Stood a cool vessel of transparent juice,
  • Sipp’d by the wander’d bee, the which I took,
  • And, pledging all the mortals of the world,
  • And all the dead whose names are in our lips,
  • Drank. That full draught is parent of my theme.
  • No Asian poppy, nor elixir fine
  • Of the soon fading jealous caliphat;
  • No poison gender’d in close monkish cell
  • To thin the scarlet conclave of old men,
  • Could so have rapt unwilling life away.
  • Among the fragrant husks and berries crush’d,
  • Upon the grass I struggled hard against
  • The domineering potion; but in vain:
  • The cloudy swoon came on, and down I sunk
  • Like Silenus on an antique vase.
  • How long I slumber’d ’tis a chance to guess.
  • When sense of life return’d, I started up
  • As if with wings; but the fair trees were gone,
  • The mossy mound and arbour were no more;
  • I look’d around upon the carved sides
  • Of an old sanctuary with roof august,
  • Builded so high, it seem’d that filmed clouds
  • Might spread beneath, as o’er the stars of heaven;
  • So old the place was, I remembered none
  • The like upon the earth what I had seen
  • Of grey cathedrals, buttress’d walls, rent towers,
  • The superannuations of sunk realms,
  • Or nature’s rocks toil’d hard in waves and winds,
  • Seem’d but the faulture of decrepit things
  • To that eternal domed monument.
  • Upon the marble at my feet there lay
  • Store of strange vessels, and large draperies,
  • Which needs had been of dyed asbestos wove,
  • Or in that place the moth could not corrupt,
  • So white the linen; so, in some, distinct
  • Ran imageries from a sombre loom.
  • All in a mingled heap confus’d there lay
  • Robes, golden tongs, censer, and chafing dish,
  • Girdles, and chains, and holy jewelries.
  • Turning from these with awe, once more I rais’d
  • My eyes to fathom the space every way;
  • The embossed roof, the silent massy range
  • Of columns north and south, ending in mist
  • Of nothing; then to eastward, where black gates
  • Were shut against the sunrise evermore.
  • Then to the west I look’d, and saw far off
  • An image, huge of feature as a cloud,
  • At level of whose feet an altar slept,
  • To be approach’d on either side by steps,
  • And marble balustrade, and patient travail
  • To count with toil the innumerable degrees.
  • Towards the altar sober-pac’d I went,
  • Repressing haste, as too unholy there;
  • And, coming nearer, saw beside the shrine
  • One minist’ring; and there arose a flame.
  • When in mid-May the sickening east wind
  • Shifts sudden to the south, the small warm rain
  • Melts out the frozen incense from all flowers,
  • And fills the air with so much pleasant health
  • That even the dying man forgets his shroud;
  • Even so that lofty sacrificial fire,
  • Sending forth Maian incense, spread around
  • Forgetfulness of everything but bliss,
  • And clouded all the altar with soft smoke,
  • From whose white fragrant curtains thus I heard
  • Language pronounc’d. “If thou canst not ascend
  • These steps, die on that marble where thou art.
  • Thy flesh, near cousin to the common dust,
  • Will parch for lack of nutriment — thy bones
  • Will wither in few years, and vanish so
  • That not the quickest eye could find a grain
  • Of what thou now art on that pavement cold.
  • The sands of thy short life are spent this hour,
  • And no hand in the universe can turn
  • Thy hour glass, if these gummed leaves be burnt
  • Ere thou canst mount up these immortal steps.”
  • I heard, I look’d two senses both at once
  • So fine, so subtle, felt the tyranny
  • Of that fierce threat, and the hard task proposed.
  • Prodigious seem’d the toil, the leaves were yet
  • Burning, — when suddenly a palsied chill
  • Struck from the paved level up my limbs,
  • And was ascending quick to put cold grasp
  • Upon those streams that pulse beside the throat:
  • I shriek’d; and the sharp anquish of my shriek
  • Stung my own ears — I strove hard to escape
  • The numbness; strove to gain the lowest step.
  • Slow, heavy, deadly was my pace: the cold
  • Grew stifling, suffocating, at the heart;
  • And when I clasp’d my hands I felt them not.
  • One minute before death, my iced foot touch’d
  • The lowest stair; and as it touch’d, life seem’d
  • To pour in at the toes I mounted up,
  • As once fair angels on a ladder flew
  • From the green turf to heaven. — “Holy Power,”
  • Cried I, approaching near the horned shrine,
  • “What am I that should so be sav’d from death?
  • What am I that another death come not
  • To choak my utterance sacrilegious here?”
  • Then said the veiled shadow — “Thou hast felt
  • What ’tis to die and live again before
  • Thy fated hour. That thou hadst power to do so
  • Is thy own safety; thou hast dated on
  • Thy doom.”—“High Prophetess,” said I, “purge off
  • Benign, if so it please thee, my mind’s film.”
  • “None can usurp this height,” returned that shade,
  • “But those to whom the miseries of the world
  • Are misery, and will not let them rest.
  • All else who find a haven in the world,
  • Where they may thoughtless sleep away their days,
  • If by a chance into this fane they come,
  • Rot on the pavement where thou rotted’st half.”—
  • “Are there not thousands in the world,” said I,
  • Encourag’d by the sooth voice of the shade,
  • “Who love their fellows even to the death;
  • Who feel the giant agony of the world;
  • And more, like slaves to poor humanity,
  • Labour for mortal good? I sure should see
  • Other men here but I am here alone.”
  • “They whom thou spak’st of are no vision’ries,”
  • Rejoin’d that voice — “They are no dreamers weak,
  • They seek no wonder but the human face;
  • No music but a happy-noted voice —
  • They come not here, they have no thought to come —
  • And thou art here, for thou art less than they.
  • What benefit canst thou do, or all thy tribe,
  • To the great world? Thou art a dreaming thing;
  • A fever of thyself — think of the earth;
  • What bliss even in hope is there for thee?
  • What haven? Every creature hath its home;
  • Every sole man hath days of joy and pain,
  • Whether his labour be sublime or low —
  • The pain alone; the joy alone; distinct
  • Only the dreamer venoms all his days,
  • Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve.
  • Therefore, that happiness be somewhat shar’d,
  • Such things as thou art are admitted oft
  • Into like gardens thou didst pass erewhile,
  • And suffer’d in these temples; for that cause
  • Thou standest safe beneath this statue’s knees.”
  • “That I am favored for unworthiness,
  • By such propitious parley medicin’d
  • In sickness not ignoble, I rejoice,
  • Aye, and could weep for love of such award.”
  • So answer’d I, continuing, “if it please,
  • Majestic shadow, tell me sure not all
  • Those melodies sung into the world’s ear
  • Are useless: sure a poet is a sage;
  • A humanist, physician to all men.
  • That I am none I feel, as vultures feel
  • They are no birds when eagles are abroad.
  • What am I then? Thou spakest of my tribe
  • What tribe?” — The tall shade veil’d in drooping white
  • Then spake, so much more earnest, that the breath
  • Move’d the thin linen folds that drooping hung
  • About a golden censer from the hand
  • Pendent. — “Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?
  • The poet and the dreamer are distinct,
  • Diverse, sheer opposite, antipodes.
  • The one pours out a balm upon the world,
  • The other vexes it.” Then shouted I
  • Spite of myself, and with a Pythia’s spleen,
  • “Apollo! faded, farflown Apollo!
  • Where is thy misty pestilence to creep
  • Into the dwellings, thro’ the door crannies,
  • Of all mock lyrists, large self-worshipers,
  • And careless hectorers in proud bad verse.
  • Tho I breathe death with them it will be life
  • To see them sprawl before me into graves.
  • Majestic shadow, tell me where I am,
  • Whose altar this; for whom this incense curls
  • What image this, whose face I cannot see,
  • For the broad marble knees; and who thou art,
  • Of accent feminine, so courteous.”
  • Then the tall shade, in drooping linens veil’d,
  • Spake out, so much more earnest, that her breath
  • Stirr’d the thin folds of gauze that drooping hung
  • About a golden censer from her hand
  • Pendent; and by her voice I knew she shed
  • Long treasured tears. “This temple sad and lone
  • Is all spar’d from the thunder of a war
  • Foughten long since by giant hierarchy
  • Against rebellion this old image here,
  • Whose carved features wrinkled as he fell,
  • Is Saturn’s; I, Moneta, left supreme
  • Sole priestess of his desolation.” —
  • I had no words to answer; for my tongue,
  • Useless, could find about its roofed home
  • No syllable of a fit majesty
  • To make rejoinder to Moneta’s mourn.
  • There was a silence while the altar’s blaze
  • Was fainting for sweet food I look’d thereon,
  • And on the paved floor, where nigh were pil’d
  • Faggots of cinnamon, and many heaps
  • Of other crisped spicewood — then again
  • I look’d upon the altar and its horns
  • Whiten’d with ashes, and its lang’rous flame,
  • And then upon the offerings again;
  • And so by turns — till sad Moneta cried,
  • “The sacrifice is done, but not the less,
  • Will I be kind to thee for thy good will.
  • My power, which to me is still a curse,
  • Shall be to thee a wonder; for the scenes
  • Still swooning vivid through my globed brain
  • With an electral changing misery
  • Thou shalt with those dull mortal eyes behold,
  • Free from all pain, if wonder pain thee not.”
  • As near as an immortal’s sphered words
  • Could to a mother’s soften, were these last:
  • But yet I had a terror of her robes,
  • And chiefly of the veils, that from her brow
  • Hung pale, and curtain’d her in mysteries
  • That made my heart too small to hold its blood.
  • This saw that Goddess, and with sacred hand
  • Parted the veils. Then saw I a wan face,
  • Not pin’d by human sorrows, but bright blanch’d
  • By an immortal sickness which kills not;
  • It works a constant change, which happy death
  • Can put no end to; deathwards progressing
  • To no death was that visage; it had pass’d
  • The lily and the snow; and beyond these
  • I must not think now, though I saw that face —
  • But for her eyes I should have fled away.
  • They held me back, with a benignant light,
  • Soft mitigated by divinest lids
  • Half closed, and visionless entire they seem’d
  • Of all external things — they saw me not,
  • But in blank splendor beam’d like the mild moon,
  • Who comforts those she sees not, who knows not
  • What eyes are upward cast. As I had found
  • A grain of gold upon a mountain’s side,
  • And twing’d with avarice strain’d out my eyes
  • To search its sullen entrails rich with ore,
  • So at the view of sad moneta’s brow,
  • I ached to see what things the hollow brain
  • Behind enwombed what high tragedy
  • In the dark secret chambers of her skull
  • Was acting, that could give so dread a stress
  • To her cold lips, and fill with such a light
  • Her planetary eyes; and touch her voice
  • With such a sorrow — “Shade of Memory!”
  • Cried I, with act adorant at her feet,
  • “By all the gloom hung round thy fallen house,
  • By this last temple, by the golden age,
  • By great Apollo, thy dear foster child,
  • And by thyself, forlorn divinity,
  • The pale Omega of a wither’d race,
  • Let me behold, according as thou said’st,
  • What in thy brain so ferments to and fro.”—
  • No sooner had this conjuration pass’d
  • My devout lips; than side by side we stood,
  • (Like a stunt bramble by a solemn pine)
  • 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.
  • Onward I look’d beneath the gloomy boughs,
  • And saw, what first I thought an image huge,
  • Like to the image pedestal’d so high
  • In Saturn’s temple. Then Moneta’s voice
  • Came brief upon mine ear, — “So Saturn sat
  • When he had lost his realms” — Whereon there grew
  • A power within me of enormous ken,
  • To see as a God sees, and take the depth
  • Of things as nimbly as the outward eye
  • Can size and shape pervade. The lofty theme
  • At those few words hung vast before my mind,
  • With half unravel’d web. I set myself
  • Upon an eagle’s watch, that I might see,
  • And seeing ne’er forget. No stir of life
  • Was in this shrouded vale, not so much air
  • As in the zoning of 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 deaden’d more
  • By reason of the fallen divinity
  • Spreading more shade the Naiad ’mid her reeds
  • Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.
  • Along the margin sand large footmarks went
  • No farther than to where old Saturn’s feet
  • Had rested, and there slept, how long a sleep!
  • Degraded, cold, upon the sodden ground
  • His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,
  • Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were clos’d,
  • While his bow’d head seem’d listening to the Earth,
  • His antient 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.
  • Then came the griev’d voice of Mnemosyne,
  • And griev’d I hearken’d. “That divinity
  • Whom thou saw’st step from yon forlornest wood,
  • And with slow pace approach our fallen King,
  • Is Thea, softest-natur’d of our brood.”
  • I mark’d the goddess in fair statuary
  • Surpassing wan Moneta by the head,
  • And in her sorrow nearer woman’s tears.
  • 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 hollow ear
  • Leaning, with parted lips, some words she spake
  • In solemn tenor and deep organ tune;
  • Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
  • Would come in this-like accenting; how frail
  • To that large utterance of the early Gods! —
  • “Saturn! look up — and for what, poor lost King?
  • I have no comfort for thee, no — not one;
  • I cannot cry, Wherefore thus sleepest thou?
  • For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth
  • Knows thee not, so afflicted, for a God;
  • And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,
  • Has from the sceptre pass’d, and all the air
  • Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.
  • Thy thunder, captious at the new command,
  • Rumbles reluctant o’er our fallen house;
  • And thy sharp lightning in unpracticed hands
  • Scorches and burns our once serene domain.
  • With such remorseless speed still come new woes
  • That unbelief has not a space to breathe.
  • Saturn, sleep on:—Me thoughtless, why should 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,
  • Forests, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
  • Dream, and so dream all night, without a noise,
  • Save from one gradual solitary gust,
  • Swelling upon the silence; dying off;
  • As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
  • So came these words, and went; the while in tears
  • She press’d her fair large forehead to the earth,
  • Just where her fallen hair might spread in curls,
  • A soft and silken mat for Saturn’s feet.
  • Long, long, those two were postured motionless,
  • Like sculpture builded up upon the grave
  • Of their own power. A long awful time
  • I look’d upon them; still they were the same;
  • The frozen God still bending to the earth,
  • And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet.
  • Moneta silent. Without stay or prop
  • But my own weak mortality, I bore
  • The load of this eternal quietude,
  • The unchanging gloom, and the three fixed shapes
  • Ponderous upon my senses a whole moon.
  • For by my burning brain I measured sure
  • Her silver seasons shedded on the night
  • And ever day by day methought I grew
  • More gaunt and ghostly — oftentimes I pray’d
  • Intense, that death would take me from the vale
  • And all its burthens — gasping with despair
  • Of change, hour after hour I curs’d myself
  • Until old Saturn rais’d his faded eyes,
  • And look’d around and saw his kingdom gone,
  • And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,
  • And that fair kneeling Goddess at his feet.
  • As the moist scent of flowers, and grass, and leaves
  • Fills forest dells with a pervading air,
  • Known to the woodland nostril, so the words
  • Of Saturn fill’d the mossy glooms around,
  • Even to the hollows of time-eaten oaks,
  • And to the winding in the foxes’ holes,
  • With sad low tones, while thus he spake, and sent
  • Strange musings to the solitary Pan.
  • “Moan, brethren, moan; for we are swallow’d up
  • And buried from all godlike exercise
  • Of influence benign on planets pale,
  • And peaceful sway above man’s harvesting,
  • And all those acts which deity supreme
  • Doth ease its heart of love in. Moan and wail.
  • Moan, brethren, moan; for lo! the rebel spheres
  • Spin round, the stars their antient courses keep,
  • Clouds still with shadowy moisture haunt the earth,
  • Still suck their fill of light from sun and moon,
  • Still buds the tree, and still the sea-shores murmur.
  • There is no death in all the universe
  • No smell of death — there shall be death — Moan, moan,
  • Moan, Cybele, moan, for thy pernicious babes
  • Have chang’d a God into a shaking palsy.
  • Moan, brethren, moan, for I have no strength left,
  • Weak as the reed — weak — feeble as my voice —
  • O, O, the pain, the pain of feebleness.
  • Moan, moan; for still I thaw—or give me help:
  • Throw down those imps, and give me victory.
  • Let me hear other groans; and trumpets blown
  • Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival
  • From the gold peaks of heaven’s high piled clouds;
  • Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
  • Of strings in hollow shells; and let there be
  • Beautiful things made new, for the surprize
  • Of the sky-children.” — So he feebly ceas’d,
  • With such a poor and sickly sounding pause,
  • Methought I heard some old man of the earth
  • Bewailing earthly loss; nor could my eyes
  • And ears act with that pleasant unison of sense
  • Which marries sweet sound with the grace of form,
  • And dolourous accent from a tragic harp
  • With large-limb’d visions. More I scrutinized
  • Still fix’d he sat beneath the sable trees,
  • Whose arms spread straggling in wild serpent forms,
  • With leaves all hush’d: his awful presence there
  • (Now all was silent) gave a deadly lie
  • To what I erewhile heard only his lips
  • Trembled amid the white curls of his beard.
  • They told the truth, though, round, the snowy locks
  • Hung nobly, as upon the face of heaven
  • A midday fleece of clouds. Thea arose
  • And stretch’d her white arm through the hollow dark,
  • Pointing some whither whereat he too rose
  • Like a vast giant seen by men at sea
  • To grow pale from the waves at dull midnight.
  • They melted from my sight into the woods:
  • Ere I could turn, Moneta cried — “These twain
  • Are speeding to the families of grief,
  • Where roof’d in by black rocks they waste in pain
  • And darkness for no hope.” — And she spake on,
  • As ye may read who can unwearied pass
  • Onward from the antichamber of this dream,
  • Where even at the open doors awhile
  • I must delay, and glean my memory
  • Of her high phrase: perhaps no further dare.
🗙

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.
🗙

To Autumn

1

  • Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  • Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
  • Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  • With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
  • To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
  • And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
  • To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  • With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
  • And still more, later flowers for the bees,
  • Until they think warm days will never cease,
  • For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

2

  • Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  • Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
  • Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  • Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
  • Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
  • Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
  • Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
  • And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
  • Steady thy laden head across a brook;
  • Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
  • Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

3

  • Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
  • Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
  • While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  • And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
  • Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  • Among the river sallows, borne aloft
  • Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
  • And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  • Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  • The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
  • And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
🗙

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art

  • Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
  • Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
  • And watching, with eternal lids apart,
  • Like nature’s patient, sleepless eremite,
  • The moving waters at their priestlike task
  • Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
  • Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
  • Of snow upon the mountains and the moors;
  • No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
  • Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
  • To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
  • Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
  • Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
  • And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
🗙

The Cap And Bells; Or, The Jealousies: A Faery Tale — Unfinished

1

  • In midmost Ind, beside Hydaspes cool,
  • There stood, or hover’d, tremulous in the air,
  • A faery city ’neath the potent rule
  • Of Emperor Elfinan; fam’d ev’rywhere
  • For love of mortal women, maidens fair,
  • Whose lips were solid, whose soft hands were made
  • Of a fit mould and beauty, ripe and rare,
  • To tamper his slight wooing, warm yet staid:
  • He lov’d girls smooth as shades, but hated a mere shade.

2

  • This was a crime forbidden by the law;
  • And all the priesthood of his city wept,
  • For ruin and dismay they well foresaw,
  • If impious prince no bound or limit kept,
  • And faery Zendervester overstept;
  • They wept, he sin’d, and still he would sin on,
  • They dreamt of sin, and he sin’d while they slept;
  • In vain the pulpit thunder’d at the throne,
  • Caricature was vain, and vain the tart lampoon.

3

  • Which seeing, his high court of parliament
  • Laid a remonstrance at his Highness’ feet,
  • Praying his royal senses to content
  • Themselves with what in faery land was sweet,
  • Befitting best that shade with shade should meet:
  • Whereat, to calm their fears, he promis’d soon
  • From mortal tempters all to make retreat, —
  • Aye, even on the first of the new moon,
  • An immaterial wife to espouse as heaven’s boon.

4

  • Meantime he sent a fluttering embassy
  • To Pigmio, of Imaus sovereign,
  • To half beg, and half demand, respectfully,
  • The hand of his fair daughter Bellanaine;
  • An audience had, and speeching done, they gain
  • Their point, and bring the weeping bride away;
  • Whom, with but one attendant, safely lain
  • Upon their wings, they bore in bright array,
  • While little harps were touch’d by many a lyric fay.

5

  • As in old pictures tender cherubim
  • A child’s soul thro’ the sapphir’d canvas bear,
  • So, thro’ a real heaven, on they swim
  • With the sweet princess on her plumag’d lair,
  • Speed giving to the winds her lustrous hair;
  • And so she journey’d, sleeping or awake,
  • Save when, for healthful exercise and air,
  • She chose to ‘promener à l’aile,’ or take
  • A pigeon’s somerset, for sport or change’s sake.

6

  • ‘Dear Princess, do not whisper me so loud,’
  • Quoth Corallina, nurse and confidant,
  • ‘Do not you see there, lurking in a cloud,
  • Close at your back, that sly old Crafticant?
  • He hears a whisper plainer than a rant:
  • Dry up your tears, and do not look so blue;
  • He’s Elfinan’s great state-spy militant,
  • His running, lying, flying foot-man too,--
  • Dear mistress, let him have no handle against you!

7

  • ‘Show him a mouse’s tail, and he will guess,
  • With metaphysic swiftness, at the mouse;
  • Show him a garden, and with speed no less,
  • He’ll surmise sagely of a dwelling house,
  • And plot, in the same minute, how to chouse
  • The owner out of it; show him a’ --- ‘Peace!
  • Peace! nor contrive thy mistress’ ire to rouse!’
  • Return’d the Princess, ‘my tongue shall not cease
  • Till from this hated match I get a free release.

8

  • ‘Ah, beauteous mortal!’ ‘Hush!’ quoth Coralline,
  • ‘Really you must not talk of him, indeed.’
  • ‘You hush!’ reply’d the mistress, with a shinee
  • Of anger in her eyes, enough to breed
  • In stouter hearts than nurse’s fear and dread:
  • ‘Twas not the glance itself made nursey flinch,
  • But of its threat she took the utmost heed;
  • Not liking in her heart an hour-long pinch,
  • Or a sharp needle run into her back an inch.

9

  • So she was silenc’d, and fair Bellanaine,
  • Writhing her little body with ennui,
  • Continued to lament and to complain,
  • That Fate, cross-purposing, should let her be
  • Ravish’d away far from her dear countree;
  • That all her feelings should be set at nought,
  • In trumping up this match so hastily,
  • With lowland blood; and lowland blood she thought
  • Poison, as every staunch true-born Imaian ought.

10

  • Sorely she griev’d, and wetted three or four
  • White Provence rose-leaves with her faery tears,
  • But not for this cause; —alas! she had more
  • Bad reasons for her sorrow, as appears
  • In the fam’d memoirs of a thousand years,
  • Written by Crafticant, and published
  • By Parpaglion and Co., (those sly compeers
  • Who rak’d up ev’ry fact against the dead,)
  • In Scarab Street, Panthea, at the Jubal’s Head.

11

  • Where, after a long hypercritic howl
  • Against the vicious manners of the age,
  • He goes on to expose, with heart and soul,
  • What vice in this or that year was the rage,
  • Backbiting all the world in every page;
  • With special strictures on the horrid crime,
  • (Section’d and subsection’d with learning sage,)
  • Of faeries stooping on their wings sublime
  • To kiss a mortal’s lips, when such were in their prime.

12

  • Turn to the copious index, you will find
  • Somewhere in the column, headed letter B,
  • The name of Bellanaine, if you’re not blind;
  • Then pray refer to the text, and you will see
  • An article made up of calumny
  • Against this highland princess, rating her
  • For giving way, so over fashionably,
  • To this new-fangled vice, which seems a burr
  • Stuck in his moral throat, no coughing e’er could stir.

13

  • There he says plainly that she lov’d a man!
  • That she around him flutter’d, flirted, toy’d,
  • Before her marriage with great Elfinan;
  • That after marriage too, she never joy’d
  • In husband’s company, but still employ’d
  • Her wits to ’scape away to Angle-land;
  • Where liv’d the youth, who worried and annoy’d
  • Her tender heart, and its warm ardours fann’d
  • To such a dreadful blaze, her side would scorch her hand.

14

  • But let us leave this idle tittle-tattle
  • To waiting-maids, and bed-room coteries,
  • Nor till fit time against her fame wage battle.
  • Poor Elfinan is very ill at ease,
  • Let us resume his subject if you please:
  • For it may comfort and console him much,
  • To rhyme and syllable his miseries;
  • Poor Elfinan! whose cruel fate was such,
  • He sat and curs’d a bride he knew he could not touch.

15

  • Soon as (according to his promises)
  • The bridal embassy had taken wing,
  • And vanish’d, bird-like, o’er the suburb trees,
  • The Emperor, empierc’d with the sharp sting
  • Of love, retired, vex’d and murmuring
  • Like any drone shut from the fair bee-queen,
  • Into his cabinet, and there did fling
  • His limbs upon a sofa, full of spleen,
  • And damn’d his House of Commons, in complete chagrin.

16

  • “I’ll trounce some of the members,” cry’d the Prince,
  • “I’ll put a mark against some rebel names,
  • I’ll make the opposition-benches wince,
  • I’ll show them very soon, to all their shames,
  • What ’tis to smother up a Prince’s flames;
  • That ministers should join in it, I own,
  • Surprises me! —they too at these high games!
  • Am I an Emperor? Do I wear a crown?
  • Imperial Elfinan, go hang thyself or drown!

17

  • “I’ll trounce ‘em! —there’s the square-cut chancellor,
  • His son shall never touch that bishopric;
  • And for the nephew of old Palfior,
  • I’ll show him that his speeches made me sick,
  • And give the colonelcy to Phalaric;
  • The tiptoe marquis, mortal and gallant,
  • Shall lodge in shabby taverns upon tick;
  • And for the Speaker’s second cousin’s aunt,
  • She sha’n’t be maid of honour, — by heaven that she sha’n’t!

18

  • ‘I’ll shirk the Duke of A.; I’ll cut his brother;
  • I’ll give no garter to his eldest son;
  • I won’t speak to his sister or his mother!
  • The Viscount B. shall live at cut-and-run;
  • But how in the world can I contrive to stun
  • That fellow’s voice, which plagues me worse than any,
  • That stubborn fool, that impudent state-dun,
  • Who sets down ev’ry sovereign as a zany, —
  • That vulgar commoner, Esquire Biancopany?

19

  • “Monstrous affair! Pshaw! pah! what ugly minx
  • Will they fetch from Imaus for my bride?
  • Alas! my wearied heart within me sinks,
  • To think that I must be so near ally’d
  • To a cold dullard fay, —ah, woe betide!
  • Ah, fairest of all human loveliness!
  • Sweet Bertha! what crime can it be to glide
  • About the fragrant plaintings of thy dress,
  • Or kiss thine eyes, or count thy locks, tress after tress?”

20

  • So said, one minute’s while his eyes remaind’
  • Half lidded, piteous, languid, innocent;
  • But, in a wink, their splendour they regain’d,
  • Sparkling revenge with amorous fury blent.
  • Love thwarted in bad temper oft has vent:
  • He rose, he stampt his foot, he rang the bell,
  • And order’d some death-warrants to be sent
  • For signature: —somewhere the tempest fell,
  • As many a poor felon does not live to tell.

21

  • “At the same time, Eban,” —(this was his page,
  • A fay of colour, slave from top to toe,
  • Sent as a present, while yet under age,
  • From the Viceroy of Zanguebar, —wise, slow,
  • His speech, his only words were “yes” and “no,”
  • But swift of look, and foot, and wing was he, —)
  • “At the same time, Eban, this instant go
  • To Hum the soothsayer, whose name I see
  • Among the fresh arrivals in our empery.

22

  • “Bring Hum to me! But stay — here, take my ring,
  • The pledge of favour, that he not suspect
  • Any foul play, or awkward murdering,
  • Tho’ I have bowstrung many of his sect;
  • Throw in a hint, that if he should neglect
  • One hour, the next shall see him in my grasp,
  • And the next after that shall see him neck’d,
  • Or swallow’d by my hunger-starved asp, —
  • And mention (’tis as well) the torture of the wasp.”

23

  • These orders given, the Prince, in half a pet,
  • Let o’er the silk his propping elbow slide,
  • Caught up his little legs, and, in a fret,
  • Fell on the sofa on his royal side.
  • The slave retreated backwards, humble-ey’d,
  • And with a slave-like silence clos’d the door,
  • And to old Hun thro’ street and alley hied;
  • He “knew the city,” as we say, of yore,
  • And for short cuts and turns, was nobody knew more.

24

  • It was the time when wholesale dealers close
  • Their shutters with a moody sense of wealth,
  • But retail dealers, diligent, let loose
  • The gas (objected to on score of health),
  • Convey’d in little solder’d pipes by stealth,
  • And make it flare in many a brilliant form,
  • That all the powers of darkness it repell’th,
  • Which to the oil-trade doth great scaith and harm,
  • And superseded quite the use of the glow-worm.

25

  • Eban, untempted by the pastry-cooks,
  • (Of pastry he got store within the palace,)
  • With hasty steps, wrapp’d cloak, and solemn looks,
  • Incognito upon his errand sallies,
  • His smelling-bottle ready for the allies;
  • He pass’d the Hurdy-gurdies with disdain,
  • Vowing he’d have them sent on board the gallies;
  • Just as he made his vow; it ’gan to rain,
  • Therefore he call’d a coach, and bade it drive amain.

26

  • “I’ll pull the string,” said he, and further said,
  • “Polluted Jarvey! Ah, thou filthy hack!
  • Whose springs of life are all dry’d up and dead,
  • Whose linsey-woolsey lining hangs all slack,
  • Whose rug is straw, whose wholeness is a crack;
  • And evermore thy steps go clatter-clitter;
  • Whose glass once up can never be got back,
  • Who prov’st, with jolting arguments and bitter,
  • That ’tis of modern use to travel in a litter.

27

  • “Thou inconvenience! thou hungry crop
  • For all corn! thou snail-creeper to and fro,
  • Who while thou goest ever seem’st to stop,
  • And fiddle-faddle standest while you go;
  • I’ the morning, freighted with a weight of woe,
  • Unto some lazar-house thou journeyest,
  • And in the evening tak’st a double row
  • Of dowdies, for some dance or party drest,
  • Besides the goods meanwhile thou movest east and west.

28

  • “By thy ungallant bearing and sad mien,
  • An inch appears the utmost thou couldst budge;
  • Yet at the slightest nod, or hint, or sign,
  • Round to the curb-stone patient dost thou trudge,
  • School’d in a beckon, learned in a nudge,
  • A dull-ey’d Argus watching for a fare;
  • Quiet and plodding, thou dost bear no grudge
  • To whisking Tilburies, or Phaetons rare,
  • Curricles, or Mail-coaches, swift beyond compare.”

29

  • Philosophizing thus, he pull’d the check,
  • And bade the Coachman wheel to such a street,
  • Who, turning much his body, more his neck,
  • Louted full low, and hoarsely did him greet:
  • “Certes, Monsieur were best take to his feet,
  • Seeing his servant can no further drive
  • For press of coaches, that to-night here meet,
  • Many as bees about a straw-capp’d hive,
  • When first for April honey into faint flowers they dive.”

30

  • Eban then paid his fare, and tiptoe went
  • To Hum’s hotel; and, as he on did pass
  • With head inclin’d, each dusky lineament
  • Show’d in the pearl-pav’d street, as in a glass;
  • His purple vest, that ever peeping was
  • Rich from the fluttering crimson of his cloak,
  • His silvery trowsers, and his silken sash
  • Tied in a burnish’d knot, their semblance took
  • Upon the mirror’d walls, wherever he might look.

31

  • He smil’d at self, and, smiling, show’d his teeth,
  • And seeing his white teeth, he smil’d the more;
  • Lifted his eye-brows, spurn’d the path beneath,
  • Show’d teeth again, and smil’d as heretofore,
  • Until he knock’d at the magician’s door;
  • Where, till the porter answer’d, might be seen,
  • In the clear panel more he could adore, —
  • His turban wreath’d of gold, and white, and green,
  • Mustachios, ear-ring, nose-ring, and his sabre keen.

32

  • “Does not your master give a rout to-night?”
  • Quoth the dark page. “Oh, no!” return’d the Swiss,
  • “Next door but one to us, upon the right,
  • The Magazin des Modes now open is
  • Against the Emperor’s wedding; —and, sir, this
  • My master finds a monstrous horrid bore;
  • As he retir’d, an hour ago I wis,
  • With his best beard and brimstone, to explore
  • And cast a quiet figure in his second floor.

33

  • “Gad! he’s oblig’d to stick to business!
  • For chalk, I hear, stands at a pretty price;
  • And as for aqua vitae — there’s a mess!
  • The dentes sapientiae of mice,
  • Our barber tells me too, are on the rise, —
  • Tinder’s a lighter article, — nitre pure
  • Goes off like lightning, — grains of Paradise
  • At an enormous figure! — stars not sure! —
  • Zodiac will not move without a slight douceur!

34

  • “Venus won’t stir a peg without a fee,
  • And master is too partial, entre nous,
  • To” — “Hush — hush!” cried Eban, “sure that is he
  • Coming down stairs, — by St. Bartholomew!
  • As backwards as he can, — is’t something new?
  • Or is’t his custom, in the name of fun?’
  • “He always comes down backward, with one shoe” —
  • Return’d the porter — “off, and one shoe on,
  • Like, saving shoe for sock or stocking, my man John!”

35

  • It was indeed the great Magician,
  • Feeling, with careful toe, for every stair,
  • And retrograding careful as he can,
  • Backwards and downwards from his own two pair:
  • “Salpietro!” exclaim’d Hum, “is the dog there?
  • He’s always in my way upon the mat!’
  • “He’s in the kitchen, or the Lord knows where,” —
  • Reply’d the Swiss, — “the nasty, yelping brat!”
  • “Don’t beat him!” return’d Hum, and on the floor came pat.

36

  • Then facing right about, he saw the Page,
  • And said: “Don’t tell me what you want, Eban;
  • The Emperor is now in a huge rage, —
  • ‘Tis nine to one he’ll give you the rattan!
  • Let us away!” Away together ran
  • The plain-dress’d sage and spangled blackamoor,
  • Nor rested till they stood to cool, and fan,
  • And breathe themselves at th’ Emperor’s chamber door,
  • When Eban thought he heard a soft imperial snore.

37

  • “I thought you guess’d, foretold, or prophesy’d,
  • That’s Majesty was in a raving fit?”
  • “He dreams,” said Hum, “or I have ever lied,
  • That he is tearing you, sir, bit by bit.”
  • “He’s not asleep, and you have little wit,”
  • Reply’d the page; “that little buzzing noise,
  • Whate’er your palmistry may make of it,
  • Comes from a play-thing of the Emperor’s choice,
  • From a Man-Tiger-Organ, prettiest of his toys.”

38

  • Eban then usher’d in the learned Seer:
  • Elfinan’s back was turn’d, but, ne’ertheless,
  • Both, prostrate on the carpet, ear by ear,
  • Crept silently, and waited in distress,
  • Knowing the Emperor’s moody bitterness;
  • Eban especially, who on the floor ’gan
  • Tremble and quake to death, — he feared less
  • A dose of senna-tea or nightmare Gorgon
  • Than the Emperor when he play’d on his Man-Tiger-Organ.

39

  • They kiss’d nine times the carpet’s velvet face
  • Of glossy silk, soft, smooth, and meadow-green,
  • Where the close eye in deep rich fur might trace
  • A silver tissue, scantly to be seen,
  • As daisies lurk’d in June-grass, buds in green;
  • Sudden the music ceased, sudden the hand
  • Of majesty, by dint of passion keen,
  • Doubled into a common fist, went grand,
  • And knock’d down three cut glasses, and his best ink-stand.

40

  • Then turning round, he saw those trembling two:
  • “Eban,” said he, “as slaves should taste the fruits
  • Of diligence, I shall remember you
  • To-morrow, or next day, as time suits,
  • In a finger conversation with my mutes, —
  • Begone! — for you, Chaldean! here remain!
  • Fear not, quake not, and as good wine recruits
  • A conjurer’s spirits, what cup will you drain?
  • Sherry in silver, hock in gold, or glass’d champagne?”

41

  • “Commander of the faithful!” answer’d Hum,
  • “In preference to these, I’ll merely taste
  • A thimble-full of old Jamaica rum.”
  • “A simple boon!” said Elfinan; “thou may’st
  • Have Nantz, with which my morning-coffee’s lac’d.”
  • “I’ll have a glass of Nantz, then,” — said the Seer, —
  • “Made racy — (sure my boldness is misplac’d!) —
  • With the third part — (yet that is drinking dear!) —
  • Of the least drop of crème de citron, crystal clear.”

42

  • “I pledge you, Hum! and pledge my dearest love,
  • My Bertha!” “Bertha! Bertha!” cry’d the sage,
  • “I know a many Berthas!” “Mine’s above
  • All Berthas!” sighed the Emperor. “I engage,”
  • Said Hum, “in duty, and in vassalage,
  • To mention all the Berthas in the earth; —
  • There’s Bertha Watson, — and Miss Bertha Page, —
  • This fam’d for languid eyes, and that for mirth, —
  • There’s Bertha Blount of York, — and Bertha Knox of Perth.”

43

  • “You seem to know” — “I do know,” answer’d Hum,
  • “Your Majesty’s in love with some fine girl
  • Named Bertha; but her surname will not come,
  • Without a little conjuring.” “’Tis Pearl,
  • ‘Tis Bertha Pearl! What makes my brain so whirl?
  • And she is softer, fairer than her name!”
  • “Where does she live?” ask’d Hum. “Her fair locks curl
  • So brightly, they put all our fays to shame! —
  • Live? — O! at Canterbury, with her old grand-dame.”

44

  • “Good! good!” cried Hum, “I’ve known her from a child!
  • She is a changeling of my management;
  • She was born at midnight in an Indian wild;
  • Her mother’s screams with the striped tiger’s blent,
  • While the torch-bearing slaves a halloo sent
  • Into the jungles; and her palanquin,
  • Rested amid the desert’s dreariment,
  • Shook with her agony, till fair were seen
  • The little Bertha’s eyes ope on the stars serene.”

45

  • “I can’t say,” said the monarch; “that may be
  • Just as it happen’d, true or else a bam!
  • Drink up your brandy, and sit down by me,
  • Feel, feel my pulse, how much in love I am;
  • And if your science is not all a sham.
  • Tell me some means to get the lady here.’
  • “Upon my honour!” said the son of Cham,
  • “She is my dainty changeling, near and dear,
  • Although her story sounds at first a little queer.”

46

  • “Convey her to me, Hum, or by my crown,
  • My sceptre, and my cross-surmounted globe,
  • I’ll knock you” — “Does your majesty mean — down?
  • No, no, you never could my feelings probe
  • To such a depth!” The Emperor took his robe,
  • And wept upon its purple palatine,
  • While Hum continued, shamming half a sob, —
  • “In Canterbury doth your lady shine?
  • But let me cool your brandy with a little wine.”

47

  • Whereat a narrow Flemish glass he took,
  • That since belong’d to Admiral De Witt,
  • Admir’d it with a connoisseuring look,
  • And with the ripest claret crowned it,
  • And, ere the lively bead could burst and flit,
  • He turn’d it quickly, nimbly upside down,
  • His mouth being held conveniently fit
  • To catch the treasure: “Best in all the town!”
  • He said, smack’d his moist lips, and gave a pleasant frown.

48

  • “Ah! good my Prince, weep not!” And then again
  • He filled a bumper. “Great Sire, do not weep!
  • Your pulse is shocking, but I’ll ease your pain.”
  • “Fetch me that Ottoman, and prithee keep
  • Your voice low,” said the Emperor; “and steep
  • Some lady’s-fingers nice in Candy wine;
  • And prithee, Hum, behind the screen do peep
  • For the rose-water vase, magician mine!
  • And sponge my forehead, — so my love doth make me pine.”

49

  • “Ah, cursed Bellanaine!” “Don’t think of her,”
  • Rejoin’d the Mago, “but on Bertha muse;
  • For, by my choicest best barometer,
  • You shall not throttled be in marriage noose;
  • I’ve said it, Sire; you only have to choose
  • Bertha or Bellanaine.” So saying, he drew
  • From the left pocket of his threadbare hose,
  • A sampler hoarded slyly, good as new,
  • Holding it by his thumb and finger full in view.

50

  • “Sire, this is Bertha Pearl’s neat handy-work,
  • Her name, see here, Midsummer, ninety-one.”
  • Elfinan snatch’d it with a sudden jerk,
  • And wept as if he never would have done,
  • Honouring with royal tears the poor homespun;
  • Whereon were broider’d tigers with black eyes,
  • And long-tail’d pheasants, and a rising sun,
  • Plenty of posies, great stags, butterflies
  • Bigger than stags, — a moon, — with other mysteries.

51

  • The monarch handled o’er and o’er again
  • Those day-school hieroglyphics with a sigh;
  • Somewhat in sadness, but pleas’d in the main,
  • Till this oracular couplet met his eye
  • Astounded — Cupid, I / do thee defy!
  • It was too much. He shrunk back in his chair,
  • Grew pale as death, and fainted — very nigh!
  • “Pho! nonsense!” exclaim’d Hum, “now don’t despair;
  • She does not mean it really. Cheer up, hearty — there!

52

  • “And listen to my words. You say you won’t,
  • On any terms, marry Miss Bellanaine;
  • It goes against your conscience — good! Well, don’t.
  • You say you love a mortal. I would fain
  • Persuade your honour’s highness to refrain
  • From peccadilloes. But, Sire, as I say,
  • What good would that do? And, to be more plain,
  • You would do me a mischief some odd day,
  • Cut off my ears and limbs, or head too, by my fay!

53

  • “Besides, manners forbid that I should pass any
  • Vile strictures on the conduct of a prince
  • Who should indulge his genius, if he has any,
  • Not, like a subject, foolish matters mince.
  • Now I think on’t, perhaps I could convince
  • Your Majesty there is no crime at all
  • In loving pretty little Bertha, since
  • She’s very delicate, — not over tall, —
  • A fairy’s hand, and in the waist why — very small.”

54

  • “Ring the repeater, gentle Hum!” “’Tis five,”
  • Said the gentle Hum; “the nights draw in apace;
  • The little birds I hear are all alive;
  • I see the dawning touch’d upon your face;
  • Shall I put out the candles, please your Grace?”
  • “Do put them out, and, without more ado,
  • Tell me how I may that sweet girl embrace, —
  • How you can bring her to me.” “That’s for you,
  • Great Emperor! to adventure, like a lover true.”

55

  • “I fetch her!” — “Yes, an’t like your Majesty;
  • And as she would be frighten’d wide awake
  • To travel such a distance through the sky,
  • Use of some soft manoeuvre you must make,
  • For your convenience, and her dear nerves’ sake;
  • Nice way would be to bring her in a swoon,
  • Anon, I’ll tell what course were best to take;
  • You must away this morning.” “Hum! so soon?”
  • “Sire, you must be in Kent by twelve o’clock at noon.”

56

  • At this great Caesar started on his feet,
  • Lifted his wings, and stood attentive-wise.
  • “Those wings to Canterbury you must beat,
  • If you hold Bertha as a worthy prize.
  • Look in the Almanack — Moore never lies —
  • April the twenty- fourth, — this coming day,
  • Now breathing its new bloom upon the skies,
  • Will end in St. Mark’s Eve; — you must away,
  • For on that eve alone can you the maid convey.”

57

  • Then the magician solemnly ’gan to frown,
  • So that his frost-white eyebrows, beetling low,
  • Shaded his deep green eyes, and wrinkles brown
  • Plaited upon his furnace-scorched brow:
  • Forth from his hood that hung his neck below,
  • He lifted a bright casket of pure gold,
  • Touch’d a spring-lock, and there in wool or snow,
  • Charm’d into ever freezing, lay an old
  • And legend-leaved book, mysterious to behold.

58

  • “Take this same book, — it will not bite you, Sire;
  • There, put it underneath your royal arm;
  • Though it’s a pretty weight it will not tire,
  • But rather on your journey keep you warm:
  • This is the magic, this the potent charm,
  • That shall drive Bertha to a fainting fit!
  • When the time comes, don’t feel the least alarm,
  • But lift her from the ground, and swiftly flit
  • Back to your palace, where I wait for guerdon fit.”

59

  • “What shall I do with that same book?” “Why merely
  • Lay it on Bertha’s table, close beside
  • Her work-box, and ’twill help your purpose dearly;
  • I say no more.” “Or good or ill betide,
  • Through the wide air to Kent this morn I glide!”
  • Exclaim’d the Emperor. “When I return,
  • Ask what you will, — I’ll give you my new bride!
  • And take some more wine, Hum; — O Heavens! I burn
  • To be upon the wing! Now, now, that minx I spurn!”

60

  • “Leave her to me,” rejoin’d the magian:
  • “But how shall I account, illustrious fay!
  • For thine imperial absence? Pho! I can
  • Say you are very sick, and bar the way
  • To your so loving courtiers for one day;
  • If either of their two archbishops’ graces
  • Should talk of extreme unction, I shall say
  • You do not like cold pig with Latin phrases,
  • Which never should be used but in alarming cases.”

61

  • “Open the window, Hum; I’m ready now!”
  • “Zooks!” exclaim’d Hum, as up the sash he drew.
  • “Behold, your Majesty, upon the brow
  • Of yonder hill, what crowds of people!” “Whew!
  • The monster’s always after something new,”
  • Return’d his Highness, “they are piping hot
  • To see my pigsney Bellanaine. Hum! do
  • Tighten my belt a little, — so, so, — not
  • Too tight, — the book! — my wand! — so, nothing is forgot.”

62

  • “Wounds! how they shout!” said Hum, “and there, — see, see!
  • Th’ ambassador’s return’d from Pigmio!
  • The morning’s very fine, — uncommonly!
  • See, past the skirts of yon white cloud they go,
  • Tinging it with soft crimsons! Now below
  • The sable-pointed heads of firs and pines
  • They dip, move on, and with them moves a glow
  • Along the forest side! Now amber lines
  • Reach the hill top, and now throughout the valley shines.”

63

  • “Why, Hum, you’re getting quite poetical!
  • Those nows you managed in a special style.”
  • “If ever you have leisure, Sire, you shall
  • See scraps of mine will make it worth your while,
  • Tid-bits for Phoebus! — yes, you well may smile.
  • Hark! hark! the bells!” “A little further yet,
  • Good Hum, and let me view this mighty coil.”
  • Then the great Emperor full graceful set
  • His elbow for a prop, and snuff’d his mignonnette.

64

  • The morn is full of holiday; loud bells
  • With rival clamours ring from every spire;
  • Cunningly-station’d music dies and swells
  • In echoing places; when the winds respire,
  • Light flags stream out like gauzy tongues of fire;
  • A metropolitan murmur, lifeful, warm,
  • Comes from the northern suburbs; rich attire
  • Freckles with red and gold the moving swarm;
  • While here and there clear trumpets blow a keen alarm.

65

  • And now the fairy escort was seen clear,
  • Like the old pageant of Aurora’s train,
  • Above a pearl-built minister, hovering near;
  • First wily Crafticant, the chamberlain,
  • Balanc’d upon his grey-grown pinions twain,
  • His slender wand officially reveal’d;
  • Then black gnomes scattering sixpences like rain;
  • Then pages three and three; and next, slave-held,
  • The Imaian ’scutcheon bright, — one mouse in argent field.

66

  • Gentlemen pensioners next; and after them,
  • A troop of winged Janizaries flew;
  • Then slaves, as presents bearing many a gem;
  • Then twelve physicians fluttering two and two;
  • And next a chaplain in a cassock new;
  • Then Lords in waiting; then (what head not reels
  • For pleasure?) — the fair Princess in full view,
  • Borne upon wings, — and very pleas’d she feels
  • To have such splendour dance attendance at her heels.

67

  • For there was more magnificence behind:
  • She wav’d her handkerchief. “Ah, very grand!”
  • Cry’d Elfinan, and clos’d the window-blind;
  • “And, Hum, we must not shilly-shally stand, —
  • Adieu! adieu! I’m off for Angle-land!
  • I say, old Hocus, have you such a thing
  • About you, — feel your pockets, I command, —
  • I want, this instant, an invisible ring, —
  • Thank you, old mummy! — now securely I take wing.”

68

  • Then Elfinan swift vaulted from the floor,
  • And lighted graceful on the window-sill;
  • Under one arm the magic book he bore,
  • The other he could wave about at will;
  • Pale was his face, he still look’d very ill;
  • He bow’d at Bellanaine, and said — “Poor Bell!
  • Farewell! farewell! and if for ever! still
  • For ever fare thee well!” — and then he fell
  • A laughing! — snapp’d his fingers! — shame it is to tell!

69

  • “By’r Lady! he is gone!” cries Hum, “and I —
  • (I own it) — have made too free with his wine;
  • Old Crafticant will smoke me. By-the-bye!
  • This room is full of jewels as a mine, —
  • Dear valuable creatures, how ye shine!
  • Sometime to-day I must contrive a minute,
  • If Mercury propitiously incline,
  • To examine his scutoire, and see what’s in it,
  • For of superfluous diamonds I as well may thin it.

70

  • “The Emperor’s horrid bad; yes, that’s my cue!”
  • Some histories say that this was Hum’s last speech;
  • That, being fuddled, he went reeling through
  • The corridor, and scarce upright could reach
  • The stair-head; that being glutted as a leech,
  • And us’d, as we ourselves have just now said,
  • To manage stairs reversely, like a peach
  • Too ripe, he fell, being puzzled in his head
  • With liquor and the staircase: verdict — found stone dead.

71

  • This as a falsehood Crafticanto treats;
  • And as his style is of strange elegance,
  • Gentle and tender, full of soft conceits,
  • (Much like our Boswell’s,) we will take a glance
  • At his sweet prose, and, if we can, make dance
  • His woven periods into careless rhyme;
  • O, little faery Pegasus! rear — prance —
  • Trot round the quarto — ordinary time!
  • March, little Pegasus, with pawing hoof sublime!

72

  • Well, let us see, — tenth book and chapter nine, —
  • Thus Crafticant pursues his diary: —
  • “’Twas twelve o’clock at night, the weather fine,
  • Latitude thirty-six; our scouts descry
  • A flight of starlings making rapidly
  • Towards Thibet. Mem.: — birds fly in the night;
  • From twelve to half-past — wings not fit to fly
  • For a thick fog — the Princess sulky quite;
  • Call’d for an extra shawl, and gave her nurse a bite.

73

  • “Five minutes before one — brought down a moth
  • With my new double-barrel — stew’d the thighs
  • And made a very tolerable broth —
  • Princess turn’d dainty, to our great surprise,
  • Alter’d her mind, and thought it very nice;
  • Seeing her pleasant, try’d her with a pun,
  • She frown’d; a monstrous owl across us flies
  • About this time, — a sad old figure of fun;
  • Bad omen — this new match can’t be a happy one.

74

  • “From two to half-past, dusky way we made,
  • Above the plains of Gobi, — desert, bleak;
  • Beheld afar off, in the hooded shade
  • Of darkness, a great mountain (strange to speak),
  • Spitting, from forth its sulphur-baken peak,
  • A fan-shap’d burst of blood-red, arrowy fire,
  • Turban’d with smoke, which still away did reek,
  • Solid and black from that eternal pyre,
  • Upon the laden winds that scantly could respire.

75

  • “Just upon three o’clock a falling star
  • Created an alarm among our troop,
  • Kill’d a man-cook, a page, and broke a jar,
  • A tureen, and three dishes, at one swoop,
  • Then passing by the princess, singed her hoop:
  • Could not conceive what Coralline was at,
  • She clapp’d her hands three times and cry’d out ‘Whoop!’
  • Some strange Imaian custom. A large bat
  • Came sudden ’fore my face, and brush’d against my hat.

76

  • “Five minutes thirteen seconds after three,
  • Far in the west a mighty fire broke out,
  • Conjectur’d, on the instant, it might be,
  • The city of Balk — ’twas Balk beyond all doubt:
  • A griffin, wheeling here and there about,
  • Kept reconnoitring us — doubled our guard —
  • Lighted our torches, and kept up a shout,
  • Till he sheer’d off — the Princess very scar’d —
  • And many on their marrow-bones for death prepar’d.

77

  • “At half-past three arose the cheerful moon —
  • Bivouack’d for four minutes on a cloud —
  • Where from the earth we heard a lively tune
  • Of tambourines and pipes, serene and loud,
  • While on a flowery lawn a brilliant crowd
  • Cinque-parted danc’d, some half asleep reposed
  • Beneath the green-fan’d cedars, some did shroud
  • In silken tents, and ’mid light fragrance dozed,
  • Or on the opera turf their soothed eyelids closed.

78

  • “Dropp’d my gold watch, and kill’d a kettledrum —
  • It went for apoplexy — foolish folks! —
  • Left it to pay the piper — a good sum —
  • (I’ve got a conscience, maugre people’s jokes,)
  • To scrape a little favour; ’gan to coax
  • Her Highness’ pug-dog — got a sharp rebuff —
  • She wish’d a game at whist — made three revokes —
  • Turn’d from myself, her partner, in a huff;
  • His majesty will know her temper time enough.

79

  • “She cry’d for chess — I play’d a game with her —
  • Castled her king with such a vixen look,
  • It bodes ill to his Majesty — (refer
  • To the second chapter of my fortieth book,
  • And see what hoity-toity airs she took).
  • At half-past four the morn essay’d to beam —
  • Saluted, as we pass’d, an early rook —
  • The Princess fell asleep, and, in her dream,
  • Talk’d of one Master Hubert, deep in her esteem.

80

  • “About this time, — making delightful way, —
  • Shed a quill-feather from my larboard wing —
  • Wish’d, trusted, hop’d ’twas no sign of decay --
  • Thank heaven, I’m hearty yet! — ’twas no such thing: —
  • At five the golden light began to spring,
  • With fiery shudder through the bloomed east;
  • At six we heard Panthea’s churches ring —
  • The city wall his unhiv’d swarms had cast,
  • To watch our grand approach, and hail us as we pass’d.

81

  • “As flowers turn their faces to the sun,
  • So on our flight with hungry eyes they gaze,
  • And, as we shap’d our course, this, that way run,
  • With mad-cap pleasure, or hand-clasp’d amaze;
  • Sweet in the air a mild-ton’d music plays,
  • And progresses through its own labyrinth;
  • Buds gather’d from the green spring’s middle-days,
  • They scatter’d, — daisy, primrose, hyacinth, —
  • Or round white columns wreath’d from capital to plinth.

82

  • “Onward we floated o’er the panting streets,
  • That seem’d throughout with upheld faces paved;
  • Look where we will, our bird’s-eye vision meets
  • Legions of holiday; bright standards waved,
  • And fluttering ensigns emulously craved
  • Our minute’s glance; a busy thunderous roar,
  • From square to square, among the buildings raved,
  • As when the sea, at flow, gluts up once more
  • The craggy hollowness of a wild reefed shore.

83

  • “And ‘Bellanaine for ever!’ shouted they,
  • While that fair Princess, from her winged chair,
  • Bow’d low with high demeanour, and, to pay
  • Their new-blown loyalty with guerdon fair,
  • Still emptied at meet distance, here and there,
  • A plenty horn of jewels. And here I
  • (Who wish to give the devil her due) declare
  • Against that ugly piece of calumny,
  • Which calls them Highland pebble-stones not worth a fly.

84

  • “Still ‘Bellanaine!’ they shouted, while we glide
  • ‘Slant to a light Ionic portico,
  • The city’s delicacy, and the pride
  • Of our Imperial Basilic; a row
  • Of lords and ladies, on each hand, make show
  • Submissive of knee-bent obeisance,
  • All down the steps; and, as we enter’d, lo!
  • The strangest sight — the most unlook’d for chance —
  • All things turn’d topsy-turvy in a devil’s dance.

85

  • “‘Stead of his anxious Majesty and court
  • At the open doors, with wide saluting eyes,
  • Congèes and scrape-graces of every sort,
  • And all the smooth routine of gallantries,
  • Was seen, to our immoderate surprise,
  • A motley crowd thick gather’d in the hall,
  • Lords, scullions, deputy-scullions, with wild cries
  • Stunning the vestibule from wall to wall,
  • Where the Chief Justice on his knees and hands doth crawl.

86

  • “Counts of the palace, and the state purveyor
  • Of moth’s-down, to make soft the royal beds,
  • The Common Council and my fool Lord Mayor
  • Marching a-row, each other slipshod treads;
  • Powder’d bag-wigs and ruffy-tuffy heads
  • Of cinder wenches meet and soil each other;
  • Toe crush’d with heel ill-natur’d fighting breeds,
  • Frill-rumpling elbows brew up many a bother,
  • And fists in the short ribs keep up the yell and pother.

87

  • “A Poet, mounted on the Court-Clown’s back,
  • Rode to the Princess swift with spurring heels,
  • And close into her face, with rhyming clack,
  • Began a Prothalamion; — she reels,
  • She falls, she faints! while laughter peels
  • Over her woman’s weakness. ‘Where!’ cry’d I,
  • ‘Where is his Majesty?’ No person feels
  • Inclin’d to answer; wherefore instantly
  • I plung’d into the crowd to find him or die.

88

  • “Jostling my way I gain’d the stairs, and ran
  • To the first landing, where, incredible!
  • I met, far gone in liquor, that old man,
  • That vile impostor Hum. ——”
  • So far so well, —
  • For we have prov’d the Mago never fell
  • Down stairs on Crafticanto’s evidence;
  • And therefore duly shall proceed to tell,
  • Plain in our own original mood and tense,
  • The sequel of this day, though labour ’tis immense!

89

  • Now Hum, new fledg’d with high authority,
  • Came forth to quell the hubbub in the hall.
🗙

This living hand, now warm and capable

  • This living hand, now warm and capable
  • Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
  • And in the icy silence of the tomb,
  • So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
  • That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood,
  • So in my veins red life might stream again,
  • And thou be conscience-calm’d — see here it is —
  • I hold it towards you.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Blank, G. Kim. “12 May 1819: Viewless Wings & the Complex Play of Consciousness & Imagination: Ode to a Nightingale.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1819-05-12.html.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “12 May 1819: Viewless Wings & the Complex Play of Consciousness & Imagination: Ode to a Nightingale,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1819-05-12.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “12 May 1819: Viewless Wings & the Complex Play of Consciousness & Imagination: Ode to a Nightingale.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1819-05-12.html.