Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK II

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

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK II. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_endymion_book_ii.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK II. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_endymion_book_ii.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK II. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_endymion_book_ii.html.