In youth, when blood was warm and fancy high,
I mocked at death. How many a quaint conceit
I wove about his veiled head and feet,
Vaunting aloud, Why need we dread to die?
But now, enthralled by deep solemnity,
Death's pale phantasmal shade I darkly greet:
Ghostlike it haunts the hearth, it haunts the street,
Or drearier makes drear midnight's mystery.
Ah, soul-perplexing vision! oft I deem
That antique myth is true which pictured death
A masked and hideous form all shrank to see;
But at the last slow ebb of mortal breath,
Death, his mask melting like a nightmare dream,
Smiled,—heaven's high-priest of Immortality!
A Dream Of The South Winds
O FRESH, how fresh and fair
Through the crystal gulfs of air,
The fairy South Wind floateth on her subtle wings of balm!
And the green earth lapped in bliss,
To the magic of her kiss
Seems yearning upward fondly through the golden- crested calm!
From the distant Tropic strand,
Where the billows, bright and bland,
Go creeping, curling round the palms with sweet, faint under-tune,
From its fields of purpling flowers
Still wet with fragrant showers,
The happy South Wind lingering sweeps the royal blooms of June.
All heavenly fancies rise
On the perfume of her sighs,
Which steep the inmost spirit in a languor rare and fine,
And a peace more pure than sleep's
Unto dim, half-conscious deeps,
Transports me, lulled and dreaming, on its twilight tides divine.
Those dreams! ah me! the splendor,
So mystical and tender, 20
Wherewith like soft heat-lightnings they gird their meaning round,
And those waters, calling, calling,
With a nameless charm enthralling,
Like the ghost of music melting on a rainbow spray of sound!
Touch, touch me not, nor wake me,
Lest grosser thoughts o'ertake me,
From earth receding faintly with her dreary din and jars -
What viewless arms caress me?
What whispered voices bless me,
With welcomes dropping dewlike from the weird and wondrous stars?
Alas! dim, dim, and dimmer
Grows the preternatural glimmer
Of that trance the South Wind brought me on her subtle wings of balm,
For behold! its spirit flieth,
And its fairy murmur dieth,
And the silence closing round me is a dull and soulless calm!
Here in these mellow grasses, the whole morn,
I love to rest; yonder, the ripening corn
Rustles its greenery; and his blithesome horn
Windeth the frolic breeze o'er field and dell,
Now pealing a bold stave with lusty swell,
Now falling to low breaths ineffable
Of whispered joyance. At calm length I lie,
Fronting the broad blue spaces of the sky,
Covered with cloud-groups, softly journeying by:
An hundred shapes, fantastic, beauteous, strange,
Are theirs, as o'er yon airy waves they range
At the wind's will, from marvelous change to change;
Castles, with guarded roof, and turret tall,
Great sloping archway, and majestic wall,
Sapped by the breezes to their noiseless fall!
Pagodas vague! above whose towers outstream
Banners that wave with motions of a dream—
Rising, or drooping in the noontide gleam;
Gray lines of Orient pilgrims: a gaunt band
On famished camels, o'er the desert sand
Plodding towards their prophet's Holy Land;
Mid-ocean,—and a shoal of whales at play,
Lifting their monstrous frontlets to the day,
Thro' rainbow arches of sun-smitten spray;
Followed by splintered icebergs, vast and lone,
Set in swift currents of some arctic zone,
Like fragments of a Titan's world o'erthrown;
Next, measureless breadths of barren, treeless moor,
Whose vaporous verge fades down a glimmering shore,
Round which the foam-capped billows toss and roar!
Calms of bright water—like a fairy's wiles,
Wooing with ripply cadence and soft smiles,
The golden shore-slopes of Hesperian Isles;
Their inland plains rife with a rare increase
Of plumed grain! and many a snowy fleece
Shining athwart the dew-lit hills of peace;
Wrecks of gigantic cities—to the tune
Of some wise air-god built!—o'er which the noon
Seems shuddering; caverns, such as the wan Moon
Shows in her desolate bosom; then, a crowd
Of awed and reverent faces, palely bowed
O'er a dead queen, laid in her ashy shroud—
A queen of eld—her pallid brow impearled
By gems barbaric! her strange beauty furled
In mystic cerements of the antique world.
Weird pictures, fancy-gendered!—one by one,
'Twixt blended beams and shadows, gold and dun,
These transient visions vanish in the sun.