Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK III

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

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. Endymion: A Poetic Romance BOOK III. 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_iii.html.

Chicago Style: Note

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

Chicago Style: Bibliography

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