In The Shadow Of A Broken House
In the shadow of a broken house,
Down a deserted street,
Propt walls, cold hearths, and phantom stairs,
And the silence of dead feet —
Locked wildly in one another's arms
I saw two lovers meet.
And over that hearthless house aghast
Rose from the mind's abyss
Lost stars and ruined, peering moons,
Worlds overshadowing this, —
Time's stony palace crumbled down
Before that instant kiss.
In The Shadow Of A Broken House
In the shadow of a broken house,
Down a deserted street,
Propt walls, cold hearths, and phantom stairs,
And the silence of dead feet —
Locked wildly in one another's arms
I saw two lovers meet.
And over that hearthless house aghast
Rose from the mind's abyss
Lost stars and ruined, peering moons,
Worlds overshadowing this, —
Time's stony palace crumbled down
Before that instant kiss.
From the howl of the wind
As I opened the door
And entered, the firelight
Was soft on the floor.
Mute each in their places
Were table and chair,
The white wall, the shadows,
Awaiting me there.
All was strange on a sudden!
From the stillness a spell,
A fear or a fancy,
Across my heart fell.
Were they waiting another
To sit by the hearth?
Was it I saw them newly,
A stranger on earth?
Of bricks once yellow,
Dingied with city grime,
Dusty and sallow,
The high sun, glorying
In clear gold, edges
Your crumbled mortar's
You glow with a touch
From the pure sky.
And suddenly all
Is new to the eye.
I see you as labour's
Rough fruit and homely,
Raised morning by morning
To an order comely;
Labour of hands long dead,
Living, when all's at rest,
After the dark has come
And the light gone West.
The Way Home
Many dreams I have dreamed
That are all now gone.
The world, mirrored in a dark pool,
How unearthly it shone!
But now I have comfort
From the things that are,
Nor shrink too ashamed from the self
That to self is bare.
More than soft clouds of leaf
I like the stark form
Of the tree standing up without mask
In stillness and storm,
Poverty in the grain,
Warp, gnarl, exposed,
Nothing of nature's fault or the years'
Slow injury glozed.
From the thing that is
My comfort is come.
Wind washes the plain road:
This is the way home.
O there are wanderers over wave and strand
Invisible and secret, everywhere
Moving thro' light and night from land to land,
Swifter than bird or cloud upon the air.
Wild Longings, from divided bosoms rent,
Rush home, and Sighs crushed from the pain of years.
Far o'er their quarry hover Hates intent;
Wing to and fro world--wandering great Fears.
Pities like dew, Thoughts on their lonely road
Glide, and dark forms of spiritual Desire;
Yea, all that from its house of flesh the goad
Of terrible Love drives out in mist and fire.
Ah, souls of men and women, where is home,
That in a want, a prayer, a cry, you roam?
The House That Was
Of the old house, only a few, crumbled
Courses of brick, smothered in nettle and dock,
Or a shaped stone lying mossy where it tumbled!
Sprawling bramble and saucy thistle mock
What once was fire-lit floor and private charm,
Whence, seen in a windowed picture, were hills fading
At night, and all was memory-coloured and warm,
And voices talked, secure of the wind's invading.
Of the old garden, only a stray shining
Of daffodil flames among April's Cuckoo-flowers
Or clustered aconite, mixt with weeds entwining!
But, dark and lofty, a royal cedar towers
By homelier thorns; and whether the rain drifts
Or sun scortches, he holds the downs in ken,
The western vales; his branchy tiers he lifts,
Older than many a generation of men.
The Driftwood Gatherers
Along the deep shelve of the abandoned shore
Bowed, with slow pace and careful eyes that keep
The track they travel, move an aged pair.
The full voice of the Atlantic holds the air
In turbulent uproar:
The sad South over desolation blows,
The clouds in wild race never sleep.
But they the shaken snows
Of trampling breakers heed not, nor the hiss
Of quarrelling foam--curves hurried up the strand,
To fade upon the darkened, glistening sand:
Skirting that fretful line, they from amid
The matted shells and seaweed heedfully
Glean their poor treasure hid,
The scattered driftwood, fragments bleached and dry.
Implacable ocean, in whose ear
Even at this instant, cries come uselessly
From mouths that the salt wave and gripping fear
Together choke, far in the lonely storm,
Where mighty ships, conquered and battling, drown;
He to this powerless pair their simple store
Permits, refraining: fearing not his frown
They his expended rages hold in fee;
And them his violent armies wound no more
Than the pale poppy on the neglected shore.
But now as evening closes, they begin
Their homeward path, bordered with heath and pine,
And see afar their cottage roof and wall
White under red leaves of the October vine;
Till glad and tired they win
The door, and let their cherished burden fall,
Then on the swept stones make their happy fire.
Soon a flame leaps, and in the wavering gloom
The dim wall smiles, and every nook of home
Invites them warm in welcoming attire.
The ripe gourd basks his jovial yellow girth;
Rosily burnished gleam the onion strings
Above; the pottage simmers in low mirth,
And in an earthen brazier chestnuts crack,
But each is busy now, that nothing lack.
And she in snatches sings
Old songs, and he with chiding feigned the while
Chides her, and meets her answer with a smile.
At last, when all is done to their desire,
They sup: the low lamp kindles their old cheeks
And features moulded in the cast of Earth,
Their infinite companion: she but speaks
Simply to them, in few words; death and birth,
Winter and summer, rain and frost and sun;
Nor they a care beyond the task invent.
Enough, if day provide their need; day done,
They by each other's side sleep, well content.
First Day Of Summer
Sweetest of all delights are the vainest, merest;
Hours when breath is joy, for the breathing's sake.
Summer awoke this morning, and early awake
I rose refreshed, and gladly my eyes saluted
The entering beam of the sun that laughed his clearest.
I too laughed for pleasure, and vowed straightway
To stream and sun the flower of an idle day,
With summer sweetly enjoyed and friends well suited.
Merry were we, as stepping aboard we laid
The shaven oars in order; merry the leap
Of the oar, that grasped the water and stirred from sleep
A wave, to tremble past us in foamy rings.
With rhyming fall, and with bright returning blade
Impetuous music urges the rippling keel;
Softly our necks the flow of the breezes feel;
And blue, and thronged with birds, the morning sings.
And lo, the elms, in a day reclothed and gleaming
In delicate youth, above us stir their leaves.
The eye, to naked winter used, receives
A magic pleasure: and still the shore we follow
Winding in flowery meadows; freshly streaming
The river meets us ever from fields unknown:
As light we travel his curving mirror lone,
No longer I envy you, O frolic swallow.
Till moored at noon by shadowy turf, and ended
Awhile that pleasant toil, what relish keen
At ease to lie amid flowers, with rustling green
O'ershaded; there, reclined by a bubbling pool,
The rushing weir in murmur and foam blended,
Entrancing ear and eye, caresses the brain
With smooth perpetual sound, the lulling strain
Of water weariless poured and glittering cool.
O then, refreshed, in the level light serene
Our boat re--entering, her prow homeward turned,
How soft we glided; soft, as evening burned
Through drooping leaves, our liquid furrow stirred
The dim green heights of the elm, reflected green
In shadowy water; at last the dreaming shore
From its own enchanted mirror we know no more:
Softly we glided downward, and spoke no word.
Nor took we land, till the West in a blush was dying,
And over the twilit meadow we loitered home.
Even now in my ear is rushing the constant foam,
And the dappled stream is alight with the wind's laughter,
As I taste, in the cool of the darkness dreamily lying,
The sun yet warm upon limbs that sweetly ache;
Drowsed deliciously, still I linger awake,
Only to keep my delight, and to look not after.
She is not fair, as some are fair,
Cold as the snow, as sunshine gay:
On her clear brow, come grief what may,
She suffers not too stern an air;
But, grave in silence, sweet in speech,
Loves neither mockery nor disdain;
Gentle to all, to all doth teach
The charm of deeming nothing vain.
She joined me: and we wandered on;
And I rejoiced, I cared not why,
Deeming it immortality
To walk with such a soul alone.
Primroses pale grew all around,
Violets, and moss, and ivy wild;
Yet, drinking sweetness from the ground,
I was but conscious that she smiled.
The wind blew all her shining hair
From her sweet brows; and she, the while,
Put back her lovely head, to smile
On my enchanted spirit there.
Jonquils and pansies round her head
Gleamed softly; but a heavenlier hue
Upon her perfect cheek was shed,
And in her eyes a purer blue.
There came an end to break the spell;
She murmured something in my ear;
The words fell vague, I did not hear,
And ere I knew, I said farewell;
And homeward went, with happy heart
And spirit dwelling in a gleam,
Rapt to a Paradise apart,
With all the world become a dream.
Yet now, too soon, the world's strong strife
Breaks on me pitiless again;
The pride of passion, hopes made vain,
The wounds, the weariness of life.
And losing that forgetful sphere,
For some less troubled world I sigh,
If not divine, more free, more clear,
Than this poor, soiled humanity.
But when, in trances of the night,
Wakeful, my lonely bed I keep,
And linger at the gate of Sleep,
Fearing, lest dreams deny me light;
Her image comes into the gloom,
With her pale features moulded fair,
Her breathing beauty, morning bloom,
My heart's delight, my tongue's despair.
With loving hand she touches mine,
Showers her soft tresses on my brow,
And heals my heart, I know not how,
Bathing me with her looks divine.
She beckons me; and I arise;
And, grief no more remembering,
Wander again with rapturous eyes
Through those enchanted lands of Spring.
Then, as I walk with her in peace,
I leave this troubled air below,
Where, hurrying sadly to and fro,
Men toil, and strain, and cannot cease:
Then, freed from tyrannous Fate's control,
Untouched by years or grief, I see
Transfigured in that child--like soul
The soiled soul of humanity.
Often we talk of the house that we will build
For airier and less jostled days than these
We chafe in, and send Fancy roaming wide
Down western valleys with a choosing eye
To hover upon this nook or on that,
And let the mind, like fingers pressing clay,
Shape and reshape the mould of an old desire,
Spur jogging Time, conjure slow years to days,
Until tall trees, like those far fabled walls,
Rise visibly to the mind's music. Here
We scoop a terrace under hanging woods
Upon the generous slope of a green hill
That gazes over alluring distances;
Listen to our merry children at their play,
And see the shadow lengthen from our roof
On plots of garden. Fancy, busy still,
Sows colours for the seasons in those plots,
And matches or contrasts the chosen leaves
That are to shade our saunters; the clean boughs
Of aromatic walnut; the wild crab
With, after snows of blossom, fiery fruit;
And beeches of a grander race beyond them
Withdrawing into uninvaded wood;
But, farther down, our orchard falls to where
The stream makes a live murmur all day long.
Man is a builder born: not for the shell
That makes him armour against stripping wind
And frost and darkness; for befriending roof
And walls to sally from, a bread--getter.
No, but as out of mere unmeaning sound
And the wild silence he has made himself
Marvellous words and the order of sweet speech,
Breathing and singing syllables, that move
Out of the caverns of his heart like waves
Into the world beyond discovery; so
Builds he, projecting memory and strong hope
And dear and dark experience into stone
And the warm earth he digs in and reshapes,
Dyeing them human, and with a subtle touch
Discovering far kinships in the sky
And the altering season, till the very cloud
Brings its own shadow as to familiar haunts,
And the sun rests as on a place it sought.
Earth also as with a soft step unperceived
Draws from her ancient silence nearer him,
Sending wild birds to nest beneath his eaves
Or to shake songs about him as he walks,--
Shy friends, the airy playmates of his joy.
Caesars may hoist their towers and heave their walls
Into a stark magnificence, impose
The aggrandised image of themselves, as trumpets
Shattering stillness. We'll not envy them,
While there's a garden to companion us
And earth to meet us with her gentle moss
Upon our own walls. They may entertain
Prodigally a thousand guests unpleased;
But we have always one guest that is ever
Lovely and gracious and acceptable,
Light. As I lay upon a hill--top's turf
I watched the wide light filling the round air
And I was filled with its felicity.
O the carriage of the light among the corn
When the glory of the wind dishevels it!
How it filters into the dim domes of trees
Spilt down their green height, shadows dropping gold!
How beautiful its way upon the hills
At morning and at evening, when the blades
Of grass blow luminous, every little blade!
How the flowers drink it, happy to the roots!
This lovely guest is ours to lodge; and we
Will build for it escapes and entrances
And corners to waylay the early beam
And keep its last of lingering: here to accept
Its royalty of fullness; there to catch
In dusky cool one lustre on the floor
Doubling itself in echoed radiances
Mellow as an old golden wine, on wall
And ceiling: oh, how gentle a touch it has
On choice books, and smooth--burnished wood, in such
Human captivity! When the winds roar over,
What sudden splendours toss into our peace
With reappearing victories! O the glory
Of morning through a doorway on the hair,
Neck, arms, young movements of a laughing child!
O mystery of brightness when we wake
In the night--hush and see upon the blind
The trembling of the shadow of a tree
Kissed by the moon, that from the buried light
Wooes ghostliness of beauty, and receives
And whispers it to all the world asleep.
Whatever it be made of, this dreamed home
Upon a hill, I know not in what vale,
Shall be a little palace for the light
To stray and sleep in and be blest for it.
So thought I: then I thought, O my dear Love,
Surely I am that house, and you the light.
``O King Amasis, hail!
News from thy friend, the King Polycrates!
My oars have never rested on the seas
From Samos, nor on land my horse's hoofs,
Till I might tell my tale.''
Sais, the sacred city, basked her roofs
And gardens whispering in the western light;
Men thronged abroad to taste the coming cool of night:
Only the palace closed
Unechoing courts, where by the lake reposed,
Wide--eyed, the enthronèd shapes of Memphian deities;
And King Amasis in the cloistered shade,
That guards them, of a giant colonnade,
Paced musing; there he pondered mysteries
That are the veils of truth;
For mid those gods of grave, ignoring smile
Large auguries he spelled,
Forgot the spears, the tumults of his youth,
And strangled Apries, and the reddened Nile.
Now turning, he beheld,
Half in a golden shadow and half touched with flame,
The white--robed stranger from the Grecian isle,
And heard pronounced his name.
``Welcome from Samos, friend!
Good news, I think, thou bearest in thy mien,''
The king spoke welcoming with voice serene.
``How is it with Polycrates, thy lord?
Peace on his name attend!
Would he were here in Egypt, and his sword
Could sheathe, and we at god--like ease discourse
Of counsel no ignoble needs enforce,
And take august regale
Of wisdom from the Powers whose purpose cannot fail.
I, too, O man of Samos, bred to war,
Passed youth, passed manhood, in a life of blood;
But many victories bring the heart no certain good.
Would that he too might tease his fate no more,
And I might see his face
In presence of my land's ancestral Powers,--
See, from their countenance, what a grandeur beams!
Thou know'st I love thy race;
Bright wits ye have, skill in adventurous schemes;
But deeper life is ours:
Fed by these springs, your strength might bless the world. But lo!
The light begins to fade from the high towers.
Thy errand let me know.''
``Thus saith Polycrates:
The counsel which thou wrotest me is well;
For, seeing how full crops my granaries swell,
How all winds waft me to prosperity,
How I gain all with ease,
And my raised banner pledges victory,
Thou didst advise me cast away what most
Brought pleasure to my eyes and seemed of rarest cost.
And after heavy thought
I chose the ring which Theodorus wrought,
My famous emerald, where young Phaethon
Shoots headlong with pale limbs through glowing air,
While green waves from beneath toss white drops to his hair.
A long time, very loth, I gazed thereon;
For this cause, thought I, men most envy me;
I took a ship, and fifty beating oars
Bore me far out to sea:
I stood upon the poop--but wherefore tell
What now is rumoured round all Asian shores?
Say only I did well,
Who the world's envy treasured yet in deep waves drowned.
Homeward I came, and mourned within my doors
Three days, nor solace found.''
Amasis without word
Listens, dark--browed: the Samian speaks anew:
``Let not the king this thing so deeply rue;
Truly the gem was of imperial price,
Nay even, men averred,
Coveted more than wealthy satrapies,
Nor twenty talents could its loss redeem:
Yet hear! the Gods are more benignant than men dream.
Thus saith my lord: The moon
Not once had waned, when as I sat at noon
Within my palace court above the Lydian bay,
They led before me with much wondering noise
A fisherman; between two staggering boys
Slung heavily a fish he brought, that day
Caught in his bursting net,
A royal fish for royal destiny!
I marvelled; but amaze broke deeper yet
To recognize Heaven's hand,
When from its cloven belly (surely high
In that large grace I stand)
Dazzled my eyes with light, my heart with joy, the ring
Restored!--Why rendest thou thy robe, and why
Lamentest thou, O king?''
``O lamentable news!''
Amasis cried; ``now have the Gods indeed
Doom on thy head, Polycrates, decreed!
I feared already, when I heard thy joy
Must need stoop down to choose
For sacrifice, loss of a shining toy,
Searching the suburbs only of content,
Not thy heart's home: what God this blindness on thee sent?
Gone was thy ring; yet how
Was thy soul cleared, or thou more greatly thou?
Were vain things vainer, or the dear more dear?
Hast thou, bent gazing o'er thy child asleep,
Thoughts springing, tender as new leaves? Deep, deep,
Deep as thy inmost hope, as thy most sacred fear,
Thou shouldst have sought the pain
That changes earth's wide aspect in an hour,
Heaved by abysmal throes!
Ah, then our pleasant refuges are vain;
Yet, thrilled, the soul assembles all her power,
And cleared by peril glows,
Seeing immortal hosts arrayed upon her side!
Blind man, the scornful Gods thy offering slight:
My fears are certified.''
Swift are the thoughts of fear.
But Fate at will rides swifter far; and lo!
Even as Amasis bows to boded woe,
Even as his robe, with a sad cry, he rends,
The accomplishment is here.
The sun that from the Egyptian plain descends,
Blessing with holier shade
Those strange gods dreaming throned by the vast colonnade,
Burns o'er the northern sea,
Firing the peak of Asian Mycale,
Firing a cross raised on the mountain side!
Polycrates the Fortunate hangs there:
The false Oroetes hath him in a snare;
Now with his quivering limbs his soul is crucified;
And in his last hour first
He tastes the extremity of loss; he burns
With ecstasy of thirst;
Nought recks he even of his dearest now,
Moaning for breath; no pity he discerns
On the dark Persian's brow:
Grave on his milk--white horse, in silks of Sidon shawled,
The Satrap smiles, and on his finger turns
The all--envied emerald.
The dripping of the boughs in silence heard
Softly; the low note of some lingering bird
Amid the weeping vapour; the chill fall
Of solitary evening upon all
That stirs and hopes and apprehends and grieves,
With pining odours of the ruined leaves
Have like a dew distilled upon my heart
The air of death: but now recoiling start
Longing and keen remembrance out of sighs;
And forward the desiring spirit flies
Toward the wild peace of that illumined shore,
Which, left behind her, yet still shines before;
To Douro, rushing through the mighty hills.
Now his great stream with fancied splendour fills
Even this brooding twilight; a swift ghost,
Journeying forever to the glimmering coast,
Where his majestic voice is heard afar,
Exulting dim upon that ocean bar.
O Douro, gliding by dark woods, and fleet
Beneath thy shadowy rocks in the noon heat,
How my heart faints to follow after thee
On one true course to my deep destined sea!
To take no care of dimness or sunshine,
Urged ever by an inward way divine,
Nor falter in this heavy gloom that brings
So thick upon me lamentable things
Of earth, and hinders the swift spirit's wings,
And clouds the steadfast vision that sustains
Alone the trembling heart amid perpetual pains.
Dear friend, who thirstest, even as I, to be
Heir and possessor of sweet liberty,
Once more in memory let us pluck the hour
That bloomed so perfect, and renew the power
Of joy within our wondering breasts, to feel
That freshness of eternal things, and heal
All our unhappy thoughts in those pure rays.
Not yet the last of these delightful days
Into the dark unwillingly has flown,
And thou and I upon a hill o'ergrown,
That indolently shadows Douro stream,
Together watch the wonderful clear dream
Of evening. Under the dark shore of pines
Noiselessly running, the wide water shines.
Curving afar, from where the mountains lift
Their burning heads, through many a forest rift
The River comes, scenting the spaces free
In this broad channel, of his welcoming sea.
No more by silent precipices hewn
Out of the night, murmuring a lonely tune
To craggy Fregeneda; nor where shines
Regoa, throned among her purple vines,
Impetuously seeking valleys new;
But smoothing his broad mirror to the hue
And peace of heaven, unhasting now he flows
And with the sky unfathomably glows,
Even as on yonder shore the woods receive
In their empurpled bosoms the warm eve.
As when a lover gazes tenderly
Upon his loved one, and, as tender, she
Hushes her heart, her joy to realize,
So hushed, so lovely, so contented lies
Earth, by that earnest--gazing glory blest.
But on this hither bank that fervent West
Is hidden behind us, and the stems around
Spring shadowy from the bare and darkling ground.
Only a single pine out of the shade
Emerges, in what splendour soft arrayed!
Magical clearness, warming to the sight
As to the touch it would be: plumed with light,
Motionless upward the tree soars and burns.
But now the dews upon the freshened ferns
In the dim hollow gather, and cool scent
Of herbage with the pine's pure odour blent,
And voices of the villagers below
As home, with music, up the stream they row,
Greet us descending; every blossom sleeps,
And bluer and more blue the evening steeps
Water and fragrant grass and the straight stems
In tender mystery. Down a path that hems
The hollow, to our waiting boat we come.
Pale purple flames shining amid the gloom
Signal the autumn crocus: look, afar,
Betwixt the tree--tops, the first--ventured star!
Soon gliding homeward under shadowy shores
And deepened sky, to the repeated oars'
Strong chime we hasten. Now along pale sand
Our ripple leaps in silver; now the land,
High over the swift water darkly massed,
Echoes our falling blades as we go past;
Until, enthroned upon her hills divine,
The city nears us: lights begin to shine
Scarce from the stars distinguished, so the gloom
Has mingled earth and sky; more steeply loom
The banks on either side, at intervals
Tufted with trees, or crowned with winding walls;
And now at last the river opens large,
Filled with the city's murmur; from his marge,
Slope over slope, the glimmering terraces
Rise, and their scattered lamps' bright images
Cast on the wavering water; and we hear
The sound of soft bells, and cries faint or near
From the dim wharves, or anchored ships, whose spars
Entangle in dark meshes the white stars.
And pale smoke rising blue on the blue air
Sleeps in a thin cloud under heights that bear
Towers and roofs lofty against the west,
Where yet a clearness lingers. Now the breast
Of Douro heaves, foreboding whither bound
His currents hasten, and with joyous sound,
As though the encountering brine new pulses gave,
Lifts, to outrace our speed, his buoyant wave.
For, hearken, up the peaceful evening borne
Out of the wide sea--gates, low thunders warn
Of Ocean beating with his sleepless surge
Along the wild sand--marges: the deep dirge
Of mariners, that wakes the widow's ear
At night, far inland, terrible and near.
Fainter, this eve, he murmurs than as oft
His troubled music: here, by distance soft,
The abrupt volley, the sharp shattering roar,
And seethe of foam flung tumbling up the shore,
Mingle in one wide rumour, that all round
Is heard afar, robing the air with sound.
Deep in my heart I hear it. The still night
Deepens, as we ascend the homeward height,
And loud or low, in following intervals,
Over the hills the sound unwearied falls;
And as upon my bed my heavy eyes
Close up, the drowsing mind re--occupies.
O what a vision floats into my sleep!
As a night--shutting flower, my senses keep
The live day's lingering odours and warm hues,
That thought and motion with themselves transfuse,
Till sound and light and perfume are but one,
Mingled in fires of the embracing sun.
Yet still I am aware of Ocean stirred
Far off, and like a grave rejoicing heard.
Am I awake, or in consenting dreams
Pour thither all my thought's tumultuous streams?
His voice, to meet them, a deep answer sends:
My soul, to listen, her light wing suspends,
And, pillowed upon undulating sound,
For all desire hath satisfaction found.
He calls her thither, where the winds uncage
Vast longing, that the unsounded seas assuage.
Breeze after breeze her wingèd pinnace bears
Over the living water, that prepares
Still widening mystery: she her speed the more
Urges, exulting to have lost the shore,
Supported by the joy that sets her free,
Delighted mistress of her destiny,
Fills the wide night with beating of her wing,
And is content, for ever voyaging
By timeless courses, over worlds unknown,
Lifted and lost, abounding and alone.
Thunder On The Downs
Wide earth, wide heaven, and in the summer air
Silence! The summit of the Down is bare
Between the climbing crests of wood; but those
Great sea--winds, wont, when the wet South--West blows,
To rock tall beeches and strong oaks aloud
And strew torn leaves upon the streaming cloud,
To--day are idle, slumbering far aloof.
Under the solemn height and gorgeous roof
Of cloud--built sky, all earth is indolent.
Wandering hum of bees and thymy scent
Of the short turf enrich pure loneliness;
Scarcely an airy topmost--twining tress
Of bryony quivers where the thorn it wreathes;
Hot fragrance from the honeysuckle breathes,
And sweet the rose floats on the arching briar's
Green fountain, sprayed with delicate frail fires.
For clumps of thicket, dark beneath the blaze
Of the high westering sun, beset the ways
Of smooth grass narrowing where the slope runs steep
Down to green woods, and glowing shadows keep
A freshness round the mossy roots, and cool
The light that sleeps as in a chequered pool
Of golden air. O woods, I love you well,
I love the flowers you hide, your ferny smell;
But here is sweeter solitude, for here
My heart breathes heavenly space; the sky is near
To thought, with heights that fathomlessly glow;
And the eye wanders the wide land below.
And this is England! June's undarkened green
Gleams on far woods; and in the vales between
Gray hamlets, older than the trees that shade
Their ripening meadows, are in quiet laid,
Themselves a part of the warm, fruitful ground.
The little hills of England rise around;
The little streams that wander from them shine
And with their names remembered names entwine
Of old renown and honour, fields of blood
High causes fought on, stubborn hardihood
For freedom spent, and songs, our noblest pride,
That in the heart of England never died,
And burning still make splendour of our tongue.
Glories enacted, spoken, suffered, sung,
You lie emblazoned on this land now sleeping;
And southward, over leagues of forest sweeping
White on the verge glistens the famous sea,
That English wave, on which so haughtily
Towered her sails, and one sail homeward bore
Past capes of silently lamenting shore
Victory's dearest dead. O shores of home,
Since by the vanished watch--fire shields of Rome
Dinted this upland turf, what hearts have ached
To see you far away, what eyes have waked
Ere dawn to watch those cliffs of long desire
One after one rise in their voiceless choir
Out of the twilight over the rough blue
Like music!... But now heavy gleams imbrue
The inland air. Breathless the valleys hold
Their colours in a veil of sultry gold
With mingled shadows that have ceased to crawl;
For far in heaven is thunder! Over all
A single cloud in slow magnificence
Climbs like a mountain, gradual and immense,
With awful head unstirring, and moved on
Against the zenith, towers above the sun.
And still it thickens luminous fold on fold
Of fatal colour, ominously scrolled
And fleeced with fire; above the sun it towers
Like some vast thought quickening a world not ours
Remote in the waste blue, as if behind
Its rim were splendour that could smite us blind,
So doom--piled and intense it crests heaven's height
And mounting makes a menace of the light.
A menace! Yes, for when light comes, we fear.
Light that may touch, as the pure angel--spear,
Us to ourselves, make visible, make start
The apparition of the very heart
And mystery of our thoughts, awaked from under
The mask of cheating habit, and to thunder
Bare in a moment of white fire what we
Have feared and fled, our own reality.
And if a lightning now were loosed in flame
Out of the darkness of the cloud to claim
Thy heart, O England, how wouldst thou be known
In that hour? How to the quick core be shown
And seen? What cry should from thy very soul
Answer the judgment of that thunder--roll?
I hear a voice arraign thee. ``Where is now
The exaltation that once lit thy brow?
Thou countest all thy ocean--sundered lands,
Thou heapest up the labours of thy hands,
Thou seest all thy ships upon the seas.
But in thine own heart mean idolatries
Usurp devotion, choke thee and annul
Noble excess of spirit, and make dull
Thine eyes, enfleshed with much dominion.
Art thou so great and is the glory gone?
Do these bespeak thy freedom who deflower
Time, and make barren every senseless hour,
Who from themselves hurry, like men afraid
Lest what they are be to themselves betrayed?
Or those who in their huddled thousands sweat
To buy the sleep that helps them to forget?--
Life lies unused, life with its loveliness!
While the cry ravens still, ``Possess, Possess!''
And there is no possession. All the lust
Of gainful man is quieted in dust;
His faith, his fear, his joy, his doom he owns,
No more: the rest is parcelled with his bones,
Save what the imagination of his heart
Can to the labour of his hands impart,
Making stones serve his spirit's desire, and breathe.
But thou, what dost thou to the world bequeathe,
Who gatherest riches in a waste of mind
Unto what end, O confidently blind,
Forgetful of the things that grow not old
And alone live and are not bought or sold?''
Speaks that voice truth? Is it for this that great
And tender spirits suffered scorn and hate,
Loved to the utmost, poured themselves, gave all
Nor counted cost, spirits imperial?
Where are they now, they that our memory guard
Among the nations? Shall I say enstarred
And throned aloof? No, not from heavens of thought
Watching our muddied brief procession, not
Judges sublime above us, without share
In our thronged ways of struggle, hope, despair,
But in our blood, our dreams, our deeds they stir,
Strive on our lips for language, shame and spur
The sluggard in us, out of darkness come
Like summoned champions when the world is dumb;
Within our hearts they wait with all they gave:
Woe to us, woe, if we become their grave!
It shall not be. Darken thy pall, and trail,
Thunder of heaven, above the valleys pale!
Another England in my vision glows.
And she is armed within; at last she knows
Herself, and what to her own soul belongs.
Mid the world's irremediable wrongs
She keeps her faith; and nothing of her name
Or of her handiwork but doth proclaim
Her purpose. Her own soul hath made her free,
Not circumstance; she knows no victory
Save of the mind: in her is nothing done,
No wrong, no shame, no glory of any one,
But is the cause of all and each, a thing
Felt like a fire to kindle and to sting
The proud blood of a nation. On her brows
Is hope; her body doth her spirit house
Express and eloquent, not dumb and frore;
And her voice echoes over sea and shore,
And all the lands and isles that are her own
In choric interchange and antiphon
Answer, as fancy hears in yonder cloud
From vale to vale repeated low and loud
The still--suspended thunder. Hearts of Youth,
High--beating, ardent, quick in hope and ruth
And noble anger, O wherever now
You dedicate your uncorrupted vow
To be an energy of Light, a sword
Of the ever--living Will, amid abhorred
Din of the reeking street and populous den
Where under the great stars blind lusts of men
War on each other, or escaped to hills
Where peace the solitary evening fills,
Or far remote on other soils of earth
Keeping the dearness of your fathers' hearth
On vast plains of the West, or Austral strands
Of the warm under--world, or storied lands
Of the orient sun, or over ocean ways
Stemming the wave through blue or stormy days,
Wherever, as the circling light slopes round,
On human lips is heard an English sound,
O scattered, silent, hidden, and unknown,
Be lifted up, for you are not alone!
High--beating hearts, to your deep vows be true!
Live out your dreams, for England lives in you.
Give me your hand, Beloved! I cannot see;
So close from shadowy--branching tree to tree
Dark leaves hang over us. How vast and still
Night sleeps! and yet a murmur, a low thrill,
Sighed out of mystery, steals slowly near,
Solitary as longing or as fear,
Through the faint foliage, stirring it, and shy
Amid the stillness, ere it tremble by,
Touches us on the cheek and on the brow
Light as a dew--dript finger! Listen now,
'Tis not alone the hushings of the bough,
But on the slabbed rock--beaches far beneath
Listen, the liquid breath
Of the vast lake that rustles up all round
Whispering for ever! Soon shall we be where
The trees end, and the promontory bare
Breathes all that wide and water--wandering air
Which shall our foreheads and our lips delight,
Blown darkly through the breadth and depth and height
Of soft, immense, and solitary Night.
Where is the Day,
Bright as a dream, that on this same cliff--way
Fretted light shadows on old olive stems
By whose gray, riven roots like scarlet gems
The little poppies burned? Where those clear hues
Of water, melted to diviner blues
In the deep distance of each radiant bay,
But close beneath us, past the narrowed edge
Of shadow from sheer crag and jutting ledge,
Shallowing upon the low reef into gold,
A ripple of keen light for ever rolled
Up to the frail reed sighing on the shore?
Where are those mountains far--enthroned and hoar
Above the glittering water's slumbrous heat,
With old blanched towns sprinkled about their feet,
Lifting majestic shoulders, that each side
Of that steep misty northern chasm divide,
Where, ambushed in the dim gulf ere they leap,
Wild spirits of the Wind and Thunder sleep?
'Tis flown, that many--coloured dream is flown,
And with the heart of Night we are alone.
This is the verge. The promontory ends.
Now the dim branches cover us no more.
Abrupt the path descends:
But here will we sit, high above the shore,
Here, where we know what wild flowered bushes cloak
Old ruined walls, and crumbling arches choke
With mounded earth, though buried from our eyes
In dark now, as beneath dark centuries
The marble--towered magnificence of Rome,
From whose hot dust the passionate poet fled
Hither, and laid his head
Where these same waters laughed him welcome home!
It is all dark; but how the air breathes free!
Beloved, lean to me!
Feel how the stillness like a bath desired
With happy pressure heals our senses tired;
And drink the keen sweet fragrance from the grass
And wafts from hidden flowers that come and pass,--
None here but we, and we have left behind
The world, and cares confined,
All with the daylight drowned
In darkness on this height of utmost ground,
Where under us the sighing waters cease
And over us are only stars and peace.
O Love, Love, Love, look up! Let your head lean
Back on my shoulder. Ah, I feel the keen
Indrawing of your breath, and your heart beat
Under my own, and sighing through you sweet
The wonder of the Night that widely broods
Over us with her glittering multitudes.
Oh, in Night's garden has a fountain sprung
That over old earth showers forever young
A fairy splendour of still--dropping spray?
Or in mad rapture has enamoured May
Through the warm dusk mounted like wine, and towered
And in far spaces infinitely flowered,
Breaking the deep heaven into milky bloom?
So beautiful in this most tender gloom
Ten thousand thousand stars through height on height
Burn over us, how breathless and how bright!
Some wild, some fevered, some august and large,
Royal and blazing like a hero's targe,
Some faint and secret, from abysses brought,
Lone as an incommunicable thought--
They throng, they reign, they droop, they bloom, they glow
Upon our gaze, and as we gaze they grow
In patience and in glory, till the mind
Is brimmed and to all other being blind;
They hang, they fall towards us, spears of fire,
Piercing us through with joy and with desire.
Ah me, Beloved, comes an alien gust,
A sudden cold thought, blowing bitter dust
Upon this rapture. They are dead, all dead!
'Tis but the beauty of Medusa's head
Gleaming on us in icy masks, that stare
From everlasting winter blind and bare;
They have no answer for our hearts that yearn,
They have no joy in burning, only burn
Upon their senseless motion. Ah, no, no!
Can you not feel the warm truth overflow?
Light to light answers, even as heart to heart,
And by their shining we in them have part.
Lo, the same light that in the tiniest spark
Makes momentary beauty from the dark,
The light that blesses warm earth and inweaves
A million colours in young flowers and leaves,
That our sick thoughts and melancholy eyes
Confounds with magical simplicities,
Yea, that by dawn's beginning shall unfold
Wide glimmering waters, and to glory mould
Frore peaks, wild torrents in the vales between.
And golden mists on lawns of living green,
'Tis the same light that now above us showers
These star--drops, white and fair as falling flowers;
And silent rings a cry from star to sun,
Through all the worlds, Light, life and love are one!
Hush your heart now, Beloved, hush to sink
Your thought down, deep as the still mind can think,
Then climb as high as boldest thought can climb!
Were these dark heavens the unfathomed gulfs of Time,
So might we see bright peopling spirits star
The memoriless ages, burning far,
Splendid or faint, tempestuous or serene,
All quick and fiery spirits that have been,
From whose immortal ecstasies and pains
Drops of red life run sanguine in our veins;
Who lived and loved, and prodigally spent
Their strength, their prayers, upon one pure intent,
In whom no deed was willed, no lonely thought
Attempered and to sword--blade keenness brought,
But it has helped us, even us, for whom
They shine in glory from the ages' gloom.
But oh, it is not only these I see:
Look up, behold unnumbered hosts to be!
What shall we do for them, whose hope endears
Futurity's dark wilderness of years?
Heroes, that shall adventure and attain
What broke our wills in passion and in pain;
Sages, to find all that we vainly seek,
Poets, to utter all we cannot speak!
And they at last shall into strong towers build
The stones we bled to gather, the unfulfilled
House of our dream; what was but fable sung,
Or indignation on a prophet's tongue,
Made form and hue of life's own tissue, wrought
Into the rich reality of thought.
And women, ah, what majesty of fate
Is theirs, for whom the little is made great,
The tender strong; far--off they also wait
The glory of their burden. Love, what deep
Of mystery unfolds! Let your heart leap!
Lo, at your bosom all the world to come,
A child! It waits, it watches, it is dumb,
Yet hearkens and desires; the vision grows
Before us, and behind us overflows,
Mingling, as throng on throng of stars o'erhead,
One undivided host, the mighty dead,
The mightier unborn! Time is rent away;
There is no morrow, no, nor yesterday,
Nor here, nor there, nor sleeping nor awaking;
But, like full waters into ocean breaking,
Lost at this moment in our heart's high beating
The boundless tides of either world are meeting;
And by the love--cry in my heart that rings,
And by the answer in your heart that sings,
We feel, at once exulting and afraid,
Near to the glowing of the Hand that made
And out of earth, with divine fire instinct,
Moulded us for each other's need, and linked
Our brief breath with the eternal will. That light
Shall kindle, in the dulling world's despite,
The inmost of our spirits, burning through
The shadow of all we suffer, dream and do,
As surely as mine eyes, new facultied
In vision to the estranging day denied,
Still shall behold, when this fair night is fled,
All the stars shine round your belovèd head.
The Vision Of Augustine And Monica
Mother, because thine eyes are sealed in sleep,
And thy cheeks pale, and thy lips cold, and deep
In silence plunged, so fathomlessly still
Thou liest, and relaxest all thy will,
Is it indeed thy spirit that is flown?
And gazing on thy face, am I alone?
O wake and tell me it is false: I fear;
And yet my heart persuades me thou art near
With living love. I cannot weep nor wail,
Nor feel thee taken from me; the tears fail
Within me, and my lips their moan reject.
Nay, as I watch, each instant I expect
Thine eyes will shine upon me unaware
And thy lips softly part, and to thy hair
Laying one hand, like those who come from dreams
So bright, that the dim morning only seems,
Thou wilt stretch forth the other into mine,
And to thy tender gaze thy love resign,
And speak, as thou wast wont, in thy low voice
Words wise and gentle, and my heart rejoice
With comfort poured into a trusted ear.
Mother, thou hearest? Surely thou dost hear,
Though thy tired eyes, blissfully closed, defer
The heavy world, the weight of human lot.
A change has fallen, and yet I know not what.
The deep communion of thy calm enfolds
My spirit also, and suspended holds
Lament, that knows not why to weep, yet yearns
For something missed, a fear it dimly learns.
And yet time has not touched us: the full glow
Salutes us, even as when five eves ago,
By this same window, over the same seas,
With thoughts of home brought by the shadowy breeze
From regions dearer than these golden skies,
We looked, and the same glory filled our eyes.
Even so the sun transfiguring the land
Upon the outstretched waters and bright sand
Reclined: the same faint odours floated sweet
From the green garden flowering at our feet.
Silent we gazed, and the serene large air
Appeased our thoughts; the burden that they bare
Departed: marvelling at our own release
We greeted wave and ray as kindred. Peace
Descended then, and touched us; and we knew
Our joy, attired in light, and felt it true.
Dust of the journey, the hot din of Rome
Fell from us: with an aspect kind, like home,
The silent and interminable sea
Our longing matched with his immensity:
We followed the far sails that, one by one,
Were drawn into the huge and burning sun;
And our souls set to freedom; and they cast
Away the soiled remembrance of things past,
And to the things before, with radiant speed,
Ran on as eager as a captive freed,
Far to the last horizon's utmost bound,
Onward and onward, and no limit found.
Then thou rememberest how regarding long
This lovely earth, an inward vision strong
O'ercame us, till terrestrial beauty took
An insubstantial seeming, the far look
Of regions known in dream. Forsaking fear
We rose together to that ampler sphere,
Where the sun burns, and in his train the moon
And myriad stars upon the darkness strewn
Illumine earth: on splendour past access
Of fleshly eye, revolving weariless,
We gazed; yet even as we gazed, the pang
Of the eternal touched us: then we sprang
From those bright circles, and each boundary passed
Of sense, and into liberty at last,
To our own souls we came, the haunted place
Of thought, companionless as ancient space,
Her lonely mirror; and uplifted thence
Sighed upward to the eternal Effluence
Of life, the intense glory that imbues
With far--off sheddings of its radiant hues
Mortality; that from the trees calls forth
Young leaves, and flowers from the untended earth;
And from the heart of man, joy and despair,
Rapture and adoration, the dim prayer
Of troubled lips, tears and ecstatic throes,
And fearful love unfolding like the rose,
And hymns of peace: whose everlasting power
Draws up ten thousand spirits every hour,
As the bright vapour from ten thousand streams,
Back to their home of homes, where thou with beams
Of living joy, O Sun of humankind,
Feedest the fainting and world--wounded mind,
And from remembrance burnest out all fear.
Sustained a moment in that self--same sphere
By wings of ecstasy, we hung, we drew
Into our trembling souls the very hue
Of Paradise, permitted the dear breath
Of truth; us also ignorance of death
Made mighty, and joy beyond the need of peace.
We of the certain light of blessedness
A moment tasted: then, since even desire
Perishes of its own exceeding fire,
Sighing our spirits failed, and fell away,
And sank into the tinge of alien day
Unwillingly, to memory and the weight
Of hope on the unsure heart, to armèd fate,
And prisoning time, and to the obscuring sound
Of human words, O even to the ground!
The flame that fledged to that remotest height
Our spirits winged upon impassioned flight,
Sped us no more; but yet the usurping press
Of mortal hours their wonted heaviness
Relaxed, and on our rapture lightly leaned.
Now, as we gazed, a glory intervened:
We saw, yet saw not: our thoughts lingered, where
The rays yet pierced them of celestial air;
And with hearts hushed, as children that have learned
The meaning of some fear or joy, we turned
To one another, and spoke softly, and drew
Sighs, when that light smote on our thoughts anew.
O could the tumult of the senses sleep,
We murmured then: the mutinous body keep
Due pace, and this surrounding bath of light,
And these unwearying waves of day and night,
Following in beauty, the bright death and birth
Of suns, the sweet apparel of the earth,
Awhile be dimmed: could but the moon forgo
Her splendour, and the winds forget to blow,
Ocean no more his troubling water heave,
And air its many--coloured web unweave,
Could but those visions pale that with affright
Pierce us, or unapproachable delight,
And all disturbing charm that at our eyes
Darts arrows, and for ever laughs and flies;
Could all be hushed, and memory turn her face,
And hope her low flute silence for a space,
And the soul slip the clinging leash of thought,
And cast the raiment she herself hath wrought,
And, as a flower springs upward unaware,
Naked ascend into the eternal air:
While he, who all this lovely warp of earth
With pomp of time inweaves, and still from birth
Moves his creation to death's other door,
If he through perishable mouths no more
Should speak: not dimly through the veil of sense
Reported, nor conjectured influence
Of stars, nor through the thunder, nor by dream,
Nor by whatever of prophetic theme
Angel or man melodiously hath sung,
But utter very words of his own tongue,
And hold communion with the mind he made,
As with the light such things as know not shade,
O were not this the joy of joy to win,
And Paradise indeed to enter in?
I too, I too, in my own feverish youth
That light desired; and fainted after truth,
Unripe in fervour: in a misty morn
Of passion and unrestful ferment borne
Hither and thither, many uncertain flames
Did I pursue, and stumbled among shames,
And wandered where my own rash spirit drove,
Misleading to sad joys. In love with Love,
I looked in many faces, searching him,
And passionately embraced with phantoms dim,
Nor knew what my heart hungered for. But thou,
Who understandest, who beginnest now
In glory visible to fill mine eyes,
Thou that obscure desire didst authorise,
And by degrees unto itself disclose.
O by that beam how momentary shows
The world: 'tis but the bush that burns with thee:
And I the sandals of mortality
Long to put off, and with these chains have done,
That bind me, and fly homeward to the sun.
Mother, but thou? O what a pang is this
That wounds me? Mother, of what cup of bliss
Hast thou partaken, that I may not taste?
O could I penetrate thy peace, and haste
Thither where thou art gone! For now in vain
My heart swells with unconquerable pain.
My desolation now too well I know.
I cannot come where my soul chafes to go,
But lay my wet cheek down to thine, and feel
Thy cold cheek desolate my heart, and steal
Peace and delight away. Dost thou not move,
Thou that wert used to weep sad tears of love
For me that grieved thee? Now thou weep'st no more,
But I with all the hurt I caused thee sore,
Weep all thy tears afresh. The door is closed
Upon me fast, and darkness interposed!
Now terrible thy calm seems, and this peace
Of night dismays me, longing for release
That will not visit me. On earth and skies
The hush of slumber falls, on thy closed eyes,
My mother, on the shore and on the sea;
All things the night appeases, but not me.
No more of sorrow, the world's old distress,
Nor war of thronging spirits numberless,
Immortal ardours in brief days confined,
No more the languid fever of mankind
To--day I sing: 'tis no melodious pain
Cries in me: a full note, a rapturous strain
My voice adventures. Tremblest thou, my heart,
Because so eagerly the bliss would start
Up from thy fountains? O be near to me,
Thou that upliftest, thou that sett'st me free!
Out of the dim vault and the dying hues
Of Autumn, that for every wanderer strews
On silent paths the perishing pale leaves,
Fallen, like thoughts the heart no more believes,
From blackened branches to the frozen ground:
Out of the multitudinous dim sound
Of millions, to each other all unknown,
Warring together on the alien stone
Of streets unnumbered; where with drooping head
Prisoners pass, by unseen tyrants led
And with inaudible manacles oppressed,
Where he who listens cannot ever rest
For hearing in his heart the cry of men,
His brothers, from their lamentable den;
Out of all these I come to this sweet waste
Of woods and waters, and the odour taste
Of pines in sunshine hearkening to the roar
Of ocean on his solitary shore;
Lone beaches, where the yellow poppy blows
Unplucked, and where the wind for ever flows
Over the heathy desert; where the sea
Sparkles afar into infinity;
And the cleared spirit, tasting all things clean,
Rejoices, as if grief had never been;
Where thou, to whom the birds and the waves sing,
By some enchantment hast restored the Spring.
As when a dear hand touches on the hair
And thrills away the heaviness of care,
Till the world changes and through a window bright
The upleaping spirit gazes in delight,
Over my brain I feel a calming hand;
I look upon sweet earth and understand:
I hear the loud wind laughing through the trees;
The nimble air my limbs encourages,
And I upraise my songs afresh begun,
A palinode to the triumphant sun.
But thou, from whom into my soul to--day
Enters a quivering glory, ray on ray,
O by thine eyes a sister of the Spring,
Striking a core of sweetness in each thing
Thou look'st on, till it blossoms! By thy voice,
Soul of all souls created to rejoice!
Thou that with native overbrimming sense
Takest the light of Beauty's effluence,
As from the morning, in May's festal prime,
The young green leaves of the swift--budded lime;
That drawest all glad things, they know not why,
By some dear magnet of felicity;
And mournful spirits from their yoke of pain
Enchantest, till they lift their necks again,
And looking in thy bright and gentle eyes
To thee devote their dearest enterprise;
Thou whose brave heart could its own pain consume
And turn to deeper tenderness; in whom
Looks, thoughts, and motions, speech and mien persuade,
Immortal Joy hath his own mansion made:
How shall my too full heart, my stammering tongue,
Render thee half the song which thou hast sung
Into my being, by no web of words
Hindered, and fluid as the note of birds?
Or tell what magic of sweet air is shed
On me, so radiantly comforted?
I need each beam of the young sun; I need
Each draught of the pure wind, whereon to feed
My joy; each sparkle of the dew that shines
Under your branches, dark, sun--drunken pines,
All voices, motions of the unwearied sea;
But most, O tender spirit, I need thee.
For thou to this dumb beauty art the tone
It fain would render; all that is thine own
Of wayward and most human and most sweet
Mingling, until the music be complete:
Thine accents, O adorable and dear,
Command me to rejoice and have no fear;
Out of remembrance wash the soil of pain
And medicine me to my own self again.
Muse of my quickened verse, I am as he
Who, striving in the vast up--swollen sea,
Lifted a moment on a wave, descries
Unrolling suddenly the boundless skies.
Now is mere breathing joy; and all that strife
Confused and darkling, that we miscall life,
Is as a cloak, cast off in the warm spring.
Thus to possess the sunlight, is a thing
Worth more than our ambitions; more than ease
Wrung from the despot labour, the stale lees
Of youthful bliss: more than the plotting mind
Can ever compass, or the heart can find
In wisest books or multitude of friends.
For this it is that brings us to the lap
Of bounteous Earth, and fills us with her sap
And early laughter; melts the petty ends
Of daily striving into boundless air,
Revealing to the soul what it can dare:
Frees and enriches thousandfold; and steeps
This trembling self in universal deeps;
Lends it the patience of the eternal hills
To bear, no more in solitude, its ills,
And with all fervours of the world inspires
Its re--awakened and divine desires.
This is it that can find the deepest root
In us, and urge unto the fairest fruit,
Persuading the shut soul, that hid in night,
To crowd its blissful leaves into the light,
And shed, upon the lost, immortal seeds:
Kindles into a forge of fiery deeds
The smouldering heart, and closes the long wound
Of gentle spirits by rough time untuned;
And, O more precious even yet than this,
Empowers our weakness to support in bliss
The immensity of love, to love in vain
Yet still to hunger for that priceless pain;
To love without a bound, to set no end
To our long love, never aside to bend
In loving, but pour forth in living streams
Our hearts, as the full morn his quenchless beams.
He that this light hath tasted, asks no more
Dim questions answerless, that have so sore
Perplexed our thinking: in his bosom flow
Springs of all knowledge he hath need to know.
Nor vaunts he the secure philosophy
Self--throned, that would so easily untie
The knot of this hard world: and judging straight
Pronounce its essence and declare its fate.
How should the universal heart be known
To him that can so hardly read his own?
For where is he that can the inmost speak
Of his own being? Words are blind and weak,
Perplexing phantoms, dim as smoke to fire,
Mocking our tears, and torturing our desire,
When soul with soul would mingle: even Love
Never availed yet, howsoe'er he strove,
But, like the moon, to yield one radiant part
To the dark longing of the embracing heart.
And Earth, shall her vast secret open lie
Before the brief gaze of mortality?
Yet wayward and self--wise, no sooner stept
Into the world, and a few troubles wept,
A few unripe joys garnered, a few sins
Experienced, the impetuous mind begins
Its hasty wisdom; the world's griefs and joys
Holds in a balance, and essays to poise.
O persevering folly! never sleep
Must weigh the lids of that soul who would reap
This mystery; deserts vast must she explore,
Many far towns, many an unguessed shore,
And those deep regions search, more desolate far,
Where lives are herded, ignorant what they are,
And scarcely disentangling joy from woe;
Their being must she put on, if she would know
Humanity; most private bliss invade,
And with extremest terror be afraid,
Blank quiet and fierce rages apprehend.
Nor less into the leaping air ascend
Of flame--like spirits, and enamoured veins
Feel pulse in her; to exquisitest pains
Surrender. Then must her fleet impulse find
A way into the solitary mind
Of creatures, that in thousand thousand forms
Dumb life inspires and a brief sunshine warms;
And into the blind springs of sap and seed
Empty her passion, helpless with their need,
Torn with their hunger, thirsting with their thirst;
And deeper, whither eye hath never pierced,
Search out, amid the unsleeping stir that fills
Caves of old ocean and the rooted hills,
Whether indeed these streams of being flow
From inmost joy or a great core of woe.
Not until then is her wide errand sped,
Nor even so the supreme verdict said.
For far into the outer night must fare
The uncompleted spirit, that to dare
Has but begun: now her commissioned bark
She must adventure on an ocean dark,
Illumined only by the driving foam
Of stars imprisoned in the invisible home
Each of his circle; age be lost in age
Ere she accomplish half her pilgrimage;
Nor till the last of those uncounted spheres
Its incommunicable joys and tears
Yield up to her, shall she at length return
And homeward heavy with the message burn,
And to her wonder--waiting peers rehearse
The mighty meaning of the Universe.
O lovely Joy! and sweet Necessity,
That wakes, empowers, and impassions me,
It is enough that this illumined hour
I feel my own life open like a flower
Within me. Whether the worlds ache or no,
Wearing a bright mask over breasts of woe,
I have no need to learn; I only gaze
Into thine eyes, dear spirit, that dost upraise
My spirit; thy bright eyes, that never cease
To thrill me with soft moon--like beams of peace.
I look in them as into Earth's own eyes;
Faith instantly my longing fortifies;
And now I think no single day has hours,
Nor year has days, nor life has years, for powers
Of joy sufficing; for the things begun
And waiting to be seen and felt and done.
O give me all thy pains, let them be mine,
And keep alone beloved delight for thine!
I have a flame within me shall transmute
All to an ash, that shall bear flower and fruit,
While thou look'st on me, while from thee there flows
The invisible strength that in my spirit grows,
Until like Spring, the blissful prodigal,
It burns as it were capable of all
That ever could be reached, enjoyed, or won,
Or known, or suffered, underneath the sun.
But O why tarry we in language vain
And speak thus dimly of delight and pain?
Those human words have fallen out of sense,
Drunk up into intenser elements,
As colours perish into perfect light.
Now in the visitation of swift sight
That makes me for this happy moment wise
Beyond all wisdom of philosophies,
I feel even through this transitory flesh
The pang of my creation dart afresh;
The bonds of thought fall off, and I am free;
There is no longer grief nor joy for me,
But one infinity of life that flows
From the deep ocean--heart that no man knows
Out into these unnumbered semblances
Of earth and air, mountains and beasts and trees,
One timeless flood which drives the circling star
In furthest heaven, and whose weak waves we are,
Mortal and broken oft in sobbing foam,
Yet ever children of that central home,
Our Peace, that even as we flee, we find;
The Road that is before us and behind,
By which we travel from ourselves, in sleep
Or waking, toward a self more vast and deep.
O could my voice but sound to all the earth
And bring thy tidings, radiant One, to birth
In hearts of men! How would they cast away
The shroud that wraps them from the spacious day,
Burst the strong meshes they themselves have spun
Of idle cares, and step into the sun,
And see, and feel, and dedicate no more
Their travail to some far imagined shore,
Some dreamed--of goal beyond life's eager sphere,
For lo! at every hour the goal is here;
And as the dark woods tremble to the morn,
That shoots into their dewy depths forlorn
Along the wind's path bright victorious rays,
And in all branches the birds lift their praise,
So should they sing, rejoicing to be free,
As I, belovèd Muse, rejoice in thee.
The Deserted Palace
``My feet are dead, the cold rain beats my face!''
``Courage, sweet love, this tempest is our friend!''
``Yet oh, shall we not rest a little space?
This city sleeps; some corner may defend
Our weary bodies till the storm amend.''
``So tired, dear heart? Then we will seek some place
Safe from rude weather and this night air chill,
And prying eyes of those that mean us ill.''
These lovers, fleeing through the midnight street,
Breathlessly pause amid the gusty moan
Of winds that have not heard their echoing feet.
Blind houses, towering up, leave light alone
From narrow skies in glimmering swiftness blown:
In front, from vales of darkness wild airs beat;
Behind them, shouldering crests of cloudy pine
Looms, lost in heaven, the cloven Apennine.
Down the strange street their doubtful steps explore
Each shadowy archway, angle, and recess,
For shelter, nor have travelled far before
Giselda, half--despaired for weariness,
Feels on her fingers Raymond lightly press;
Heavy above the surging wind's uproar
With a dull echo, clanging now, then drowned,
Reverberates a sullen stormy sound.
What heart so fixed that darkness cannot shock?
When the mind stumbles with the blind footfall,
What world may not a random sound unlock,
Wild as a fever--dream's original,
Where through black void we should for ever fall,
Did not our hearts freeze as in dungeon rock?
So Night may mask, when reason, numbed in trance,
Quails at the wandering cyclops, idiot Chance.
Beyond a buttress both had crept more near.
In this dim wall was it a gate that swung?
Still hesitating, half--bewitched in fear,
Upon the silent intervals they hung.
Again it clanged as if the senseless tongue
Of Chaos knelled upon the startled ear,
Resounding mockery of that tranquil, bright
Well--featured earth men fable in daylight.
A gate so old it leaned and swung awry,
With such indifferent motion to and fro
As a stone rolled by shore waves fitfully,
Heavy and melancholy, wavering slow,
Then closed and clashing with a sudden blow:
To what forlorn abode, left long to lie
For spider, gray owl, and the blind bat's wing,
Could this be door? What ruin mouldering?
Raymond with doubtful hand felt on the bar
Rusty and wet; pushed slow the ponderous wood
That gaped on blackness; moaning from afar
A riotous gust rolled back the hinge; he stood,
And leaning pressed the dark weight all he could;
Again it yielded with a grinding jar;
They entered, where they knew not; empty ground
Seemed closed by heights of doubled gloom around.
``What place is this? My feet tread soft on grass,''
Giselda whispered. Raymond drew her on.
Across what seemed a weed--grown court they pass--
Black walls around them, heaven above them wan--
Till soon a row of pillars dimly shone
Before them, o'er wet marble steps. ``Alas!
I fear,'' she cried; but he drew close to his
Her cheek, and made her blood brave with a kiss.
Wondering in that deserted colonnade,
They hearkened to the storm, less boisterous there,
Till to their peering sight a hollower shade
Signalled a doorway deep in quiet air;
And now their hearts beat at an omen fair;
For venturing hands, on either doorpost laid,
Found, sculptured there, soft features of a child,
Where, ignorant of darkness, beauty smiled.
As sailors, nearing home, but blown from land,
When the wind bears them scent of fields they knew;
As a blind father, when his son's young hand,
Laid confident on his, brings faith anew
In the lost light and the pure heavenly blue;
As homeless Psyche, when she trembling scanned
Love's fair strange house, and a mild voice drew near
Invisibly, and soothed away her fear;
So thrilled by silent sweet encouragement,
As if some guardian presence ministered
To aid them, onward, hand in hand, they went.
No living sound in all the place they heard;
Still on they groped, but not a form appeared;
Sometimes beneath an arch their heads were bent:
At last a window, pallid through the gloom,
Showed them each other 'mid an empty room.
Each in the other's face, with breathing stilled,
The tender bright eyes tenderly discerned;
And they embraced, while both their bosoms filled
With growing charm of peace so strangely earned.
Rapt thus they stood, nor any longer turned
At sudden gusts that through the midnight thrilled.
He smoothed the rain--drops from her hair that strayed;
She smiled and spoke: ``I am no more afraid.''
But soon a nest secure from wind they found,
Pillowing their cloaks against the corner wall,
And rested happy; there the roar was drowned,
And only in subsiding interval
Of shuddering flaws, they heard the rushing fall
From rain--swept eaves; 'mid desolation round
Their hearts beat closer to each other, warm
Because of those wild blasts of wandering storm.
Giselda drooped her heavy--lidded eyes;
Tired out, her peaceful bosom sank and swelled:
Soft upon Raymond's shoulder breathed her sighs;
His fostering arm her leaning breast upheld;
Her drowsing head by slumber sweetly quelled
Now and then, lifted in a child's surprise,
Murmured, and soon from all the long day's ache
Slipped into sleep; but Raymond stayed awake.
Bold was his heart; yet extreme tenderness
For that dear heaven enfolded in his arm
Sharpened his fond thoughts to a strange distress,
Threatening his secret storm--encircled charm,
As by the violent waters walled from harm
Amidst the whirlpool's roaring heedlessness
A stillness keeps, most perfect, yet so frail,
That in an instant shattered it may fail.
Then he bethought him of what laughter dead
Had under those old rafters leapt and rung;
What companies of joy had banqueted;
What lovers listened and what ladies sung:
Here had they dwelt, been beautiful, been young!
He bent in tears above that precious head
Slumbering, a thousand times more dear than life,
By him, and whispered, ``O my wife, my wife!
``Alas! what eager hearts and hands once wrought
This chosen place to fashion and adorn!
And now their names are faded out of thought,
And their fond toil neglected and forlorn.
This is their grave. O would that it were morn!
All my great love in this dark house seems naught,
And I in a dead midnight--world alone,
Save for thy dear heart beating on my own.
``Beat close, warm heart, ere my sad spirit cower.
From those dead bosoms not a single sigh!
Year heaped on year, hour creeping over hour,
The wilderness of silence spreads more nigh.
And what a momentary moth am I!
Beat nearer, heart! tell me I still have power
To breathe, to move; I grow so faint and dead,
So Time's wide seas weigh heavy on my head!''
Thus murmuring with daunted forehead low
Leant to her breaths, he listened to the rain.
The gloom seemed living, seemed to tower and grow
O'er him, a shadow among shadows vain.
At last the thoughts grew cloudy in his brain;
The young blood in his wearied limbs grew slow;
His arms relaxed, and in his senses lulled
The sadness faded, exquisitely dulled.
Birds that have nested in tall elm--tree tops
Sleep not more sound, when winds that rock them roar,
Whirling dry leaves about the wintry copse,
Than both slept now, while on the wild night wore.
At last the storm ebbed and was heard no more,
Save in brief gusts and sudden shaken drops:
The dawn came hushed, and found each peaceful face
Turned to the other in entranced embrace.
Raymond awoke. It was the early light
That stole through half--closed shutters o'er the room:
With gleaming stillness it caressed his sight,
And on the floor lay tender like a bloom.
It seemed his own heart wholly to illume,
Soft as a smile, and growing slowly bright,
Spilled its reflected clearness everywhere
Into all corners of that chamber bare.
Slow in delicious languor turn his eyes
Wondering around him. Still Giselda dreams;
But all things else how new a wonder dyes!
From the sunned floor the young light upward gleams,
Hovers about the ceiling's coffered beams,
And those deep squares of shadow glorifies,
Smiling fresh colours on the cornice old
And shielded corbels' rich abraded gold;
Where underneath, in clear or faded stain,
The walls were pictured with old stories fair:
The selfsame walls that, prisoning his pain,
Gloomed yesternight so desolately bare
Now blushed and gloried in the morning air,
More beautiful in Time's enchanting wane,
As leaves by spoiling Autumn fostered few
Treasure the wonder of her tenderest hue.
On the left hand there was a wild seashore,
And Hero, leaning from her turret lone,
Gazed out impassioned where the surge upbore
Leander's face turned fainting to her own.
Careless of chill spray through her deep hair blown,
She stretched her arms, never to clasp him more.
Even now his hands were tossed up in the foam,
But from his eyes his soul leapt towards its home.
Upon the right flushed Cephalus hallooed,
Parting green thickets; knew his spear had sped,
But knew not yet the white doe of that wood
Was his own Procris. Low her piteous head
Lay on the grass; her bosom brightly bled,
And her lips trembling strove, while yet they could,
To pardon the dear hand that wrought that wound,
While dumbly she caressed his whimpering hound.
These upon either end wall were portrayed;
But in the midst was Orpheus with his lyre,
Singing to the ear of one beloved shade,
Lost somewhere in those aisles of gloomy fire.
Only for her he poured his soul's desire:
Yet the grim Pluto hearkened as he played,
And Proserpine remembered the sweet spring,
And with wet cheek besought him still to sing.
Eurydice, through darkness music--drawn,
Was gliding (none forbad her) toward his feet;
And other ghosts like, in the earliest dawn,
Sparrows that stir and raise their restless tweet,
Stole fluttering, because of sound so sweet,
Over the pale flowers of their shadowy lawn,
Lifting their drooping heads as they drew nigh;
And all those faces listening seemed to sigh.
Love, whom no goal, no haven satisfies,
Love hungered and athirst, bound, scarred and lame,
Proud rebel, who through fading mortal eyes
Shoots beams of that clear fire Time cannot tame,
Burned here in suffering flesh his beacon flame.
Ah, who can read these passionate histories,
Nor feel vibrations as of music roll
Ennobling challenge to his kindled soul?
Raymond beheld them; and it seemed all time,
Till now a cave of dimness, without hue,
Flushed back love's colours from its farthest prime,
Claiming the sacrificial fire anew
From his full heart. Nay, every age foreknew
This moment, and the dumb years seemed to climb
Patiently growing toward this latest hour
That bore his own love like a folded flower.
He hung above her slumber, and he spelled
Upon her face the still soul unaware.
A whiter throat than Hero's sorrow swelled
Shone faint beside the flame--brown wave of hair:
But on her cheek the blood's clear tinge how rare!
And the red mouth, how sweet a song it held
Asleep until the living dawn should rise
Brimmed in the perfect sunbirth of her eyes!
O surely here the dead world's shadow--brood
Of spirits yearning from the misty tomb
Hung o'er the presage of earth's coming good,
And poured for her their prayerful hope, in whom
Life triumphing wore all their ravished bloom--
Soft image of immortal womanhood,
For whose dear sake the world waits in its need,
And heroes of the farthest age must bleed.
Raymond gazed on, and could not gaze his fill,
Rapt on a silent stream of thought afloat.
The soft light stirred not; all the house was still;
Only at times with negligent sweet note
A thrush without would fill his freshened throat,
Where the sun slept on the warm window--sill,
And in translucent leaves of trailing vine
Melted his glittering rays to golden wine.
Giselda's face gleamed in the shadowed light.
He bent to wake her; then again delayed,
Lingering upon the foretaste of delight.
``O you dear spirits,'' suddenly he prayed,
``Whose hearts imagined and whose hands arrayed
This home in beauty, ere you turned to night,
And having shed your grosser mortal part
Live in the beatings of the gazer's heart!
Peace be upon you, peace for ever be!
Let my lips bless you, whose bright faith unmarred
Shows me the core of my felicity,
And who, though deep in drear oblivion barred,
Committing Sorrow into Beauty's guard,
Pour your immortal ardour into me:
To such a faith all my desire I vow,
May it burn ever as 'tis kindled now!
Wake, love, awake. O thou art grown so dear,
Yet in the enriching beams of this new day
So glorious a spirit, I almost fear
That from sleep's prison thou wilt soar away
Beyond the stretching of my arms. Nay, nay,
I'll hazard hope for truth. Love, I am here,
Shine out thine answer from these opening eyes,
And lift my soul up into Paradise!''
Enraptured thus, he kissed her. She awoke.
Her gaze that wandered, anchored upon his
In happiness, and dreamingly she spoke:
``Do I sleep still? Or what fair house is this?''
Smiling, he answered with joy's perfect kiss,
And raised her up and wrapt her in her cloak.
So both stole forth. The still world seemed to lie
Their radiant kingdom under the wide sky:
Young was the morning, and their hearts were high.
Tristram lies sick to death;
Dulled is his kingly eye,
Listless his famed right arm: earth--weary breath
Hath force alone to sigh
The one name that re--kindles life's low flame,
Isoult!--And thou, fair moon of Tristram's eve,
Who with that many--memoried name didst take
A glory for the sake
Of her who shone the sole light of his days and deeds,
Thou canst no more relieve
This heart that inly bleeds
With all thy love, with all thy tender lore,
No, nor thy white hands soothe him any more.
Still, the day long, she hears
Kind words that are more sharp to her than spears.
Ah, loved he more, he had not been so kind!
And still with pricking tears
She watches him, and still must seem resigned;
Though well she knows what face his eyes require,
And jealous pangs, like coiled snakes in her mind,
Cling tighter, as that voice more earnestly
Asks heavy with desire
From out that passionate past which is not hers,
``Sweet wife, is there no sail upon the sea?''
Tenderest hearts by pain grow oft the bitterest,
And haste to wound the thing they love the best.
At evening, at sun--set, to Tristram's bed
News on her lips she brings!
She comes with eyes bright in divining dread,
Hardening her anguished heart she bends above his head.
``O Tristram!''--How her low voice strangely rings!--
``There comes a ship, ah, rise not, turn not pale.
I know not what this means, it is a sail
Black, black as night!'' She shot her word, and fled.
But Tristram cried
With a great cry, and rose upon his side.
``It cannot be, it cannot, shall not be!
I will not die until mine own eyes see.''
Despair, more strong than hope, lifts his weak limbs;
He stands and draws deep effort from his breath,
He trembles, his gaze swims,
He gropes his steps in pain,
Nigh fainting, till he gain
Salt air and brightness from the outer door
That opens on the cliff--built bastion floor
And the wide ocean gleaming far beneath.
He gazes, his lips part,
And all the blood pours back upon his heart.
Close thine eyes, Tristram, lest joy blind thee quite!
So swift a splendour burns away thy doubt.
Nay, Tristram, gaze, gaze, lest bright Truth go out
Ere she hath briefly shone.
White, dazzling white,
A sail swells onward, filling all his sight
With snowy light!
As on a gull's sure wing the ship comes on;
She towers upon the wave, she speeds for home.
Tristram on either doorpost must sustain
His arms for strength to gaze his fill again.
She shivers off the wind; the shining foam
Bursts from her pitching prow,
The sail drops as she nears,
Poised on the joyous swell; and Tristram sees
The mariners upon the deck; he hears
Their eager cries: the breeze
Blows a blue cloak; and now
Like magic brought to his divining ears,
A voice, that empties all the earth and sky,
Comes clear across the water, ``It is I!''
Isoult is come! Victorious saints above,
Who suffered anguish ere to bliss you died,
Have pity on him whom Love so sore hath tried,
Who sinned yet greatly suffered for his love.
That dear renouncèd love when now he sees,
Heavy with joy, he sinks upon his knees.
O had she wings to lift her to his side!
But she is far below
Where the spray breaks upon the rusted rail
And rock--hewn steps, and there
Stands gazing up, and lo!
Tristram, how faint and pale!
A pity overcomes her like despair.
How shall her strength avail
To conquer that steep stair,
Dark, terrible, and ignorant as Time,
Up which her feet must climb
To Tristram? His outstretching arms are fain
To help her, yet are helpless; and his pain
Is hers, and her pain Tristram's; with long sighs
She mounts, then halts again,
Till she have drawn strength from his love--dimmed eyes:
But when that wasted face anew she sees,
Despair anew subdues her knees:
She fails, yet still she mounts by sad degrees,
With all her soul into her gaze upcast,
Until at last, at last...
What tears are like the wondering tears
Of that entranced embrace,
When out of desolate and divided years
Face meets belovèd face?
What cry most exquisite of grief or bliss
The too full heart shall tell,
When the new--recovered kiss
Is the kiss of last farewell?
O Tristram, is this true?
Is it thou I see
With my own eyes, clasp in my arms? I knew,
I knew that this must be.
Thou couldst not suffer so,
And I not feel the smart,
Far, far away. But oh,
How pale, my love, thou art!
'Tis I, Isoult, 'tis I
That thee enfold.
I have seen thee, my own life, and yet I die.
O for my strength of old!
O that thy love could heal
This wound that conquers me!
But the night is come, I feel,
And the last sun set for me.
Tristram, 'twas I that healed thy hurt,
That old, fierce wound of Morolt's poisoned sword.
Stricken to death, pale, pale as now thou wert:
Yet was thy strength restored.
Have I forgot my skill?
This wound shall yet be healed.
Love shall be master still,
And Death again shall yield!
Isoult, if Time could bring me back
That eve, that first eve, and that Irish shore,
Then should I fear not, no nor nothing lack,
And life were mine once more.
But now too late thou art come;
Too long we have dwelt apart;
I have pined in an alien home:
This new joy bursts my heart.
Hark, Tristram, to the breaking sea!
So sounded the dim waves, at such an hour
On such an eve, when thy voice came to me
First in my father's tower.
I heard thy sad harp from the shore beneath,
It stirred my soul from sleep.
Then it was bliss to breathe;
But now, but now, I weep.
Shipwrecked, without hope, without friend, alone
On a strange shore, stricken with pang on pang,
I stood sad--hearted by that tower unknown,
Yet soon for joy I sang.
For could I see thee and on death believe?
Ah, glad would I die to attain
The beat of my heart, that eve,
And the song in my mouth again!
Young was I then and fair,
Thou too wast fair and young;
How comely the brown hair
Down on thy shoulder hung!
O Tristram, all grows dark as then it grew,
But still I see thee on that surge--beat shore;
Thou camest, and all was new
And changed for evermore.
Isoult, dost thou regret?
Behold my wasted cheek.
With salt tears it is wet,
My arms how faint, how weak!
And thou, since that far day, what hast thou seen
Save strife, and tears, and failure, and dismay?
Had that hour never been,
Peace had been thine, this day.
Look, Tristram, in my eyes!
My own love, I could feed
Life well with miseries
So thou wert mine indeed.
Proud were the tears I wept;
That day, that hour I bless,
Nor would for peace accept
One single pain the less.
Isoult, my heart is rent.
What pangs our bliss hath bought!
Only joy we meant,
Yet woe and wrong we have wrought.
I vowed a vow in the dark,
And thee, who wert mine, I gave
For a word's sake, to King Mark!
Words, words have digged our grave.
Tristram, despite thy love,
King Mark had yet thine oath.
Ah, surely thy heart strove
How to be true to both.
Blame not thyself! for woe
'Twixt us was doomed to be.
One only thing I know;
Thou hast been true to me.
Accurst be still that day,
When lightly I vowed the king
Whatever he might pray
Home to his hands I'd bring!
Thee, thee he asked! And I
Who never feared man's sword,
Yielded my life to a lie,
To save the truth of a word.
Think not of that day, think
Of the day when our lips desired,
Unknowing, that cup to drink!
The cup with a charm was fired
From thee to beguile my love:
But now in my soul it shall burn
For ever, nor turn, nor remove,
Till the sun in his course shall turn.
Or ever that draught we drank,
Thy heart, Isoult, was mine,
My heart was thine. I thank
God's grace, no wizard wine,
No stealth of a drop distilled
By a spell in the night, no art,
No charm, could have ever filled
With aught but thee my heart.
When last we said farewell,
Remember how we dreamed
Wild love to have learned to quell;
Our hearts grown wise we deemed.
Tender, parted friends
We vowed to be; but the will
Of Love meant other ends.
Words fool us, Tristram, still.
Not now, Isoult, not now!
I am thine while I have breath.
Words part us not, nor vow--
No, nor King Mark, but death.
I hold thee to my breast.
Our sins, our woes are past;
Thy lips were the first I prest,
Thou art mine, thou art mine at the last!
O Tristram, all grows old,
Enfold me closer yet!
The night grows vast and cold,
And the dew on thy hair falls wet.
And never shall Time rebuild
The places of our delight;
Those towers and gardens are filled
With emptiness now, and night!
Isoult, let it all be a dream,
The days and the deeds, let them be
As the bough that I cast on the stream
And that lived but to bring thee to me;
As the leaves that I broke from the bough
To float by thy window, and say
That I waited thy coming--O now
Thou art come, let the world be as they!
How dark is the strong waves' sound!
Tristram, they fill me with fear!
We two are but spent waves, drowned
In the coming of year upon year.
Long dead are our friends and our foes,
Old Rual, Brangian, all
That helped us, or wrought us woes;
And we, the last, we fall.
God and his great saints guard
True friends that loved us well,
And all false foes be barred
In the fiery gates of hell.
But broken be all those towers,
And sunken be all those ships!
Shut out those old, dead hours;
Life, life, is on thy lips!
Tristram, my soul is afraid!
Isoult, Isoult, thy kiss!
To sorrow though I was made,
I die in bliss, in bliss.
Tristram, my heart must break.
O leave me not in the grave
Of the dark world! Me too take!
Save me, O Tristram, save!
Calm, calm the moving waters all the night
On to that shore roll slow,
Fade into foam against the cliff's dim height,
And fall in a soft thunder, and upsurge
For ever out of unexhausted might,
Lifting their voice below
Tuned to no human dirge;
Nor from their majesty of music bend
To wail for beauty's end
Or towering spirit's most fiery overthrow;
Nor tarrieth the dawn, though she unveil
To weeping eyes their woe,
The dawn that doth not know
What the dark night hath wrought,
And over the far wave comes pacing pale,
Of all that she reveals regarding nought.--
But ere the dawn there comes a faltering tread;
Isoult, the young wife, stealing from her bed,
Sleepless with dread,
Creeps by still wall and blinded corridor,
Till from afar the salt scent of the air
Blows on her brow; and now
In that pale space beyond the open door
What mute, clasped shadow dulls her to despair
By keen degrees aware
That with the dawn her widowhood is there?
Is it wild envy or remorseful fear
Transfixes her young heart, unused to woe,
Crying to meet wrath, hatred, any foe,
Not silence drear!
Not to be vanquished so
By silence on the lips that were so dear!
Ah, sharpest stab! it is another face
That leans to Tristram's piteous embrace,
Another face she knows not, yet knows well,
Whose hands are clasped about his helpless head,
Propping it where it fell
In a vain tenderness,
But dead,--her great dream--hated rival dead,
Dead as her love, and cold,
And on her heart a grief heavy as stone is rolled.
She bows down, stricken in accusing pain,
And love, long--baffled, surges back again
Over her heart; she wails a shuddering cry,
While the tears blindly rain,
``I, I have killed him, I that loved him, I
That for his dear sake had been glad to die.
I loved him not enough, I could not keep
His heart, and yet I loved him, O how deep!
I cannot touch him. Will none set him free
From those, those other arms and give him me?
Alas, I may not vex him from that sleep.
He is thine in the end, thou proud one, he is thine,
Not mine, not mine!
I loved him not enough, I could not hold
My tongue from stabbing, and forsook him there.
I had not any care
To keep him from the darkness and the cold.
O all my wretched servants, where were ye?
Hath none in my house tended him but she?
Where are ye now? Can ye not hear my call?
Come hither, laggards all!
Nay, hush not so affrighted, nor so stare
Upon your lord; 'tis he!
Put out your torches, for the dawn grows clear.
And set me out within the hall a bier,
And wedding robes, the costliest that are
In all my house, prepare,
And lay upon the silks these princely dead,
And bid the sailors take that funeral bed
And set it in the ship, and put to sea,
And north to Cornwall steer.
Farewell, my lord, thy home is far from here.
Farewell, my great love, dead and doubly dear!
Carry him hence, proud queen, for he is thine,
Not mine, not mine, not mine!''
Within Tintagel walls King Mark awaits his queen.
The south wind blows, surely she comes to--day!
No light hath his eye seen
Since she is gone, no pleasure; he grows gray;
His knights apart make merry and wassail,
With dice and chessboard, hound at knee, they play;
But he sits solitary all the day,
Thinking of what hath been.
And now through all the castle rings a wail;
The king arises; all his knights are dumb;
The queen, the queen is come.
Not as she came of old,
Sweeping with gesture proud
To meet her wronged lord, royally arrayed,
And music ushered her, and tongues were stayed,
And all hearts beat, her beauty to behold;
But mute she comes and cold,
Borne on a bier, apparelled in a shroud,
Daisies about her sprinkled; and now bowed
Is her lord's head; and hushing upon all
Thoughts of sorrow fall,
As the snow softly, without any word;
And every breast is stirred
With wonder in its weeping;
For by her sleeping side,
In that long sleep no morning shall divide,
Is Tristram sleeping;
Tristram who wept farewell, and fled, and swore
That he would clasp his dear love never more,
And sailed far over sea
Far from his bliss and shame,
And dreamed to die at peace in Brittany
And to uncloud at last the glory of his name.
Yet lo, with fingers clasping both are come,
Come again home
In all men's sight, as when of old they came,
And Tristram led Isoult, another's bride,
True to his vow, but to his heart untrue,
And silver trumpets blew
To greet them stepping o'er the flower--strewn floor,
And King Mark smiled upon them, and men cried
On Tristram's name anew,
Tristram, the king's strong champion and great pride.
Silently gazing long
On them that wrought him wrong,
Still stands the stricken king, and to his eyes
Such tears as old men weep, yet shed not, rise:
Lifting his head at last, as from a trance, he sighs.
``Beautiful ever, O Isoult, wast thou,
And beautiful art thou now,
Though never again shall I, reproaching thee,
Make thy proud head more beautiful to me;
But this is the last reproach, and this the last
Forgiveness that thou hast.
Lost is the lost, Isoult, and past the past!
O Tristram, no more shalt thou need to hide
Thy thought from my thought, sitting at my side,
Nor need to wrestle sore
With thy great love and with thy fixèd oath,
For now Death leaves thee loyal unto both,
Even as thou wouldst have been, for evermore.
Now, after all thy pain, thy brow looks glad;
But I lack all things that I ever had,
My wife, my friend, yea, even my jealous rage;
And empty is the house of my old age.
Behold, I have laboured all my days to part
These two, that were the dearest to my heart.
Isoult, I would have fenced thee from men's sight,
My treasure, that I found so very fair,
The treasure I had taken with a snare:
To keep thee mine, this was my life's delight.
And now the end is come, alone I stand,
And the hand that lies in thine is not my hand.''
The mist has fallen over the isles,
And Ruan turns his boat for home.
The wind is down; with an oar he steers
The narrow races, where at whiles
To left or right through fog he hears
The low roar and short hiss of foam,
As either rock--sharp shore he nears.
Full glad at heart he guides for home,
Full gladly looks ere night to reach
The little haven, twilit beach,
And pleasant smell of the green earth,
That he has left three days ago;
To warm both hands before the glow
Of peats upon the cottage--hearth,
Where his gray father will be mending
The old nets, and his mother, bending
Over the fire, at his step uplook
From the pot that smokes in the ingle--nook.
Is it a sea--mew's cry that calls
Loud through the mist and wailing falls?
Suddenly the white veil lifted,
And in smoking coils was drifted.
Ruan felt a cry ring through him.
There on a jutting rock alone
Stood a woman crying to him;
White her hair was heedless blown;
'Mid gleaming surf the rock rose bare;
Her withered arms were stretched in prayer.
``Fisherman, fisherman, help!'' she cried.
Ruan turned his boat aside
Swiftly in the eddying tide.
``Fisherman, take me in thy boat
And to my own home carry me,
To the isle of Melilot
That lies upon the western sea.''
``How camest thou on this stormy strand,
A barren rock that men avoid?''
``Robbers came upon our land,
Burnt and pillaged and destroyed.
Half our women folk they reft,
And me upon this rock they left.''
``Where is this isle of Melilot?
For of all the isles I know it not.''
``Come hither and take me in with thee
And I will guide thee across the sea.''
Heavily Ruan thought on his home
In Westerness across the foam;
But he turned his oar and glided near;
As it were his mother, he lifted her.
She sat in the stern, cloaked and dim,
And through the chill mist guided him.
It seemed that day had never an end,
It seemed that sea had never a shore,
Such weary hours he seemed to bend
Upon his never--resting oar,
And felt the cold salt on his lip,
And from his hair the vapour drip;
But still the blank fog brooded round
Over an ocean without sound.
At last along the glassy seas
Crept faint upon his face a breeze,
And like a shadow soft and light
Stole up a little wave that knocked
Upon the stern; the boat was rocked;
He looked, and O heart--stilling sight!
She who sat there was not the same!
Before his eyes the winter old
Fell from her; the full hair outrolled
In splendour soft as springing flame,
Breathing out a perfume sweet,
Over her shoulders to her feet.
Now like a bloom her face became,
Her arms and bosom rounded fair,
And even then was Ruan 'ware
Of blueness breaking the white air
And his own shadow trembling there;
And ere his tongue strove into speech
The keel was grating on a beach.
When mortals gaze on goddesses,
So high the hope of our dreaming is,
The wonder loses fear, the charm
Drinks up the wonder; Ruan leapt
Upon a shore in sunshine warm,
And forth with him the Lady stept;
And each to the other lightly talked,
As 'twere their wont so, hand in hand,
To wander through a lovely land.
By solitary slopes they walked.
The mist was scattered, but still before them
Was blown in fleecy tuft and trail;
And tremulous mid the melting cloud,
Upon the bushes low that bore them
Were crimson flowers that danced and bowed,
And green leaves fluttered their edges pale.
In a moment's space behold
The blue noon fell to evening gold.
Suddenly before them stood
A palace silent in a wood.
A dream of the eyes when music fills the ear
By night, and through the lulled brain ebbs and flows,
Might build and colour so unearthly clear
So fair and strange a house as rose
On Ruan's eyes; such gleaming walls,
Delicate towers and airy porticoes.
Pillars of clear jade, whose pale capitals
Like tiger's claws were ivory, smooth and bright,
Upheld a lintel fair like fretted snows.
The carved work by its shadow glowed distinct;
No crevice but was brimmed with brooding light:
Upon the roof a bird of Atlas blinked,
Sun--drowned in splendour from the gorgeous West,
And preened his plumes with languid crest;
Open, beneath, a shadowy doorway stood;
And fragrant smoke from fires of citron wood
Beckoned to happy senses, and the guest
Bade cross the threshold, enter, and be blest.
By now they paused within a spacious room,
Curtained about with glimmering tapestries,
That in the hush and richness of the gloom
Hung like a forest gemmed with fancied eyes.
Pale tendrils twined about the clustered pipe
Of reeds, and black trunks branched above remote
To heavy fruit that hovered over--ripe
Of fiery gold and dull vermilion stripe,
A waste of boughs for wild birds' pillaging:
And over dimness large leaves seemed to float,
That here were spotted like a serpent's throat
And there were greener than a finch's wing.
It seemed to live, though all was whist,
And Ruan gazing seemed to hear
With heart--throb quickened into fear
The drooping briars writhe and twist,
The branches wave with stealthy stir
Of dappled leaves or dappled fur--
A sound as if the tangle hissed!
He trembled as the room he scanned.
The Lady clasped him by the hand.
He looked into her face; she stole
In that moment all his soul.
``Fear not, fear not; all is thine,
Ruan, so thou wilt be mine!
I am Morgaine, whom mortals call Le Fay,
And I have brought thee to my house this day
Because I love thee and will give thee more
Than thou hast dreamed in all thy life before.''
With that she kissed him on the mouth, and he
Was like warm wax before her witchery;
And as she spoke the arras changed to view
Tender and tremulous and clear in hue
As April woods of white anemone;
And in his heart fear died to joy anew.
She led him on with willing feet.
Through many a perfumed hall they glided;
His brain grew giddy with that incense sweet,
But still the smile of Morgaine guided
Betwixt slim pillars, on a floor
Of brindled coromandel wood,
Where now 'twas scented dusk no more
But airy peace calmed all his blood,
For in the wall a window wide
Looked out on magic eventide.
Far, far beneath them a blue lake was cupped
Hollow amid the twilight of a vale,
And over wan mist floating frail
A rosy mountain soared abrupt.
Black pines and gold--green mosses there
On rocks whose distance none could tell
Were pictured in the soundless air
And rivulets that faintly fell
As in some gorge of Saianfu,
Where from her porcelain palace--tower,
Lone on a crag's mist--cradled throne,
A princess leans amid the dew
Of such a marvellous evening hour
O'er balustrade and precipice,
Her lute and woven silk laid by,
Dreaming with a sudden sigh
Of the world--enchanting kiss.
With such a sigh was Ruan's bosom heaving,
With such a sting of beauty past believing,
When soft beside him spoke Morgaine, ``Come, tell:
O Ruan, doth my Kingdom please thee well?''
``Princess, princess,'' he answered, ``I am blest
Beyond all mortals: tell me thy behest
And I will be thy servant.'' But that word
She smiled away; his arms leapt round her, pressed
With mad joy, as she whispered ``Be my lord!''
Morgaine, that lurest the souls of men that are greedy of joy,
What soughtest thou out, Morgaine, in the face of a fisher--boy?
Were the souls of the great ones of earth so easy a prey to thy snare,
Lightly bound to thy hand by a single shining hair,
That the simple heart of a youth, untempted, in hard ways bred,
To thy siren hunger is sweeter than kings or captains dread?
Thou sang'st him songs that lapped him in utter forgetfulness
Of the green hills and the rocks and the waters of Westerness,
Till Time, like a wandering light that is stayed on an opal, shone
Kindled and many--coloured; the charmed days moved not on.
His thoughts were borne as idly as clouds on the slow South,
Or a willow leaf that glides on a wandering summer stream,
And the light that bathed his body, and breathed so sweet to his mouth
Was such as mortals know but in splendid rents of dream
Piercing the cloud of sleep from the dull day--world beguiled.
Together they sailed the calm of evening waters isled
With knolls of gemmy grass, and thickets of nightingales;
They gathered flowers and listened, and moved with drooping sails;
And anon they rose from a feast, from close--embowered delights,
To hunt the timid gazelles on passionate moonlit nights,
Blue nights of milky stars, where fluttering petals snowed
From windswept boughs and scented delicious dusk, and rode
Home by shadowy glades upon soft invisible lawn
Hand in hand through the dews of a shy dove--coloured dawn.
They drank of a fairy wine, till their hearts were weary of earth,
And them, embraced, the mighty wings of Phoenix bore
Up through the light exulting to soar and still to soar,
And the world dropped down beneath them; they clapped their hands in mirth
Mocking the baffled eagle: but how should mortal tell
What wonders Morgaine wove for Ruan in her spell
To charm the nights and days with hopes that never tire,
Morgaine of blissful body and eyes of far desire?
Count the hours that bind and freeze,
That break the breast and shake the knees!
What need of Time's all--patient dial
To him that drinks of this deep phial?
These perfumed hours of white and red
Flowered and were never shed.
It might have been a morning's span
Or twice and thrice the years of man:
For Ruan was not Then nor Now;
He was as young as his desire, as young
As on sweet lips an old song newly sung.
O idle thought to number how
The days onrushed, the morrow flushed,
Thicker than blossoms on an apple--bough.
But on a morn at early dawn awaking
He saw the cold light through the lattice breaking.
A spider there her web had made;
Softly in the air it swayed.
Memory in a drowsy muse
Lost and sought such filmy clues.
Till upon a sudden plain
In Ruan's vision, sharp like pain,
Pictured was his home again,
And the long nets, loosely hung
From the white wall, stirred and swung.
He rose and broke into a mournful cry,
Which Morgaine heard with half--shut eye
And caught him with both hands and strove
To turn him with soft words of love,
But he would not; so sharp a pang
Of desolation in him sprang
For all the dearness long forgot
In his own kind's deserted lot;
A tear fell from his eyelids hot
Upon the marble floor below.
He wept; and in an instant, lo!
Beheld the floor transparent glow.
Yawning, a spectral region shone
Where cold abysses plunged betwixt
Sheer mountain column--peaks whereon
That very palace--floor was fixt.
Ruan shuddered as he gazed.
For toward his eyes were eyes upraised
From human faces, forms that froze
Within the rock--walls as they rose,
A thousand forms, a prisoned host
Imbedded in the mountain frost.
But swift a storm of wind and fire
Up those abysses roared and rushed;
The shapes were stirred; a vain desire--
As they would struggle, nearer, higher,--
Their eyes awoke, their bodies flushed.
And then the blast as sudden passed,
The limbs of torment slowly sank
To ice--green languor, fleshless bone,
And starving ruggedness of stone;
The life within them swooned and shrank
To dungeoned attitudes again,
Their half--closed upturned eyes alone
Were gazing in the gaze of pain.
With eyes of horror opened wide
``Save me, save me!'' Ruan cried.
But Morgaine in her arms hath wound him,
Her panting fierce embrace hath bound him,
Her eyes exulting change and glow
Like lights upon a shaken sword.
She pants as in unearthly throe,
Her arms cling tighter than a cord;
How shall Ruan dare to brook
The demon challenge of her look?
``Listen, Ruan, canst thou hear
How the whole world cries in fear?
Lights not splendour in the air
To dance above the world's despair?
They toil in hunger, grief and night
For our desire, for our delight--
They the twisting roots, and we
The topmost red flower on the tree!''
But Ruan with both hands that pressed
Against the burning of her breast,
Trembled and groaned in that embrace,
And strove from that exultant face,
When soft she melted, sank before him, kneeled
And clung, beseeching him that would not yield.
``They are my flesh, my blood, and I
Must go to seek them, or I die.''
When Morgaine heard that lamentable cry
She knew the heart of joy in him was dead,
Looked in his soul and saw her hour had fled.
``Go then,'' she wept, ``but come again
To thy delight, to thy Morgaine.
Yet if thou go, this casket take with thee;
Hid in thy breast, 'twill guide thee safe to me
Without a rudder o'er the wandering sea,
But O beware thou never open this,
Else art thou lost and all thy hope of bliss.
Farewell!'' she kissed him. ``Farewell,'' Ruan said,
And took the casket with averted head,
Nor turned him back, but swiftly passed the door
Of the charmed house, and came to the seashore.
O what a calm as of old days come back
With their old wont and clear untroubled way
Lifted the heart of Ruan, on the track
Of ocean steering for his native bay!
Over blue waves the morning air sang sweet
Full on his sail; he was all fire to greet
The hearth of home, his father's joyful face,
His mother's tears and tremulous embrace.
He sailed beneath the summer's early noon
With the warm favouring wind; and strangely soon
Rose up the coast, till nearing on the swell
He saw the dark waves glitter as they fell
Against the cliff's worn bases, drained of foam.
Now he is past the headland. There is home!
The boats drawn up, the sands, and the green mound
Beyond them; peaceful, sunned, familiar ground.
It seemed he had not been three days away.
With a light heart he beached amid the spray
His boat, and moored it as of old, and sprang
Ashore; a young girl to a baby sang,
Sitting on fishing--nets spread forth to dry.
She looked up, and her song stopped, and her eye
Was filled with wonder; but impatiently
Ruan ran up the beach, where he might catch
The first glimpse of his father's cottage thatch.
He came, he looked; and the heart in him failed.
The house was not. What lonely strangeness ailed
The world? He thrust his hand within his vest
And felt the casket cold upon his breast.
Helpless he gazed; but lo, there slowly came
An old man with a stick, coughing and lame,
Bowed by his years; then towards him Ruan ran,
With a swift thought of pity, almost scorn,
In his young strength for such old age forlorn,
And cried upon the way, ``Old man, old man,
Where is my father? Surely thou know'st me;
I am Ruan, Ruan! I am home from sea.''
The old man lifted up his faint blue eye
And peered upon him slow and curiously
As on some strange thing from the sea upcast.
``Nay, Ruan's name I know not,'' came at last
The answer. Ruan cried, ``Dwell'st thou not here?''
``Ay, all my life, three--score and fifteen year.''
``And yet thou know'st not Ruan?'' The old man
Puzzled his withered brow as he began
Seeking some far--sunk memory in his brain.
``Ay, so it is,'' he slowly spoke again,
``They told a tale of Ruan; ay, 'tis so.
How he was lost, but that was long ago,
Hundreds of years, I think; he sailed away,
And his old parents died of grief, they say.''
He still spoke on: but Ruan heard no more,
For he was wandering fast along the shore
In the lone sunshine; aimlessly he strayed,
Dazzled and indescribably afraid.
On a sudden flamed a thought
Through his body: straight he sought
Within his breast the casket hid,
Crying, ``Morgaine, thou shalt tell,
Though the answer come from Hell!''
With trembling fingers he undid
The silken cord, the golden lid.
Lo, from the opened casket broke
A stealing skein of purple smoke,
A wandering faint cloud of perfume
That rippled up in filmy plume,
And lingered, faltering like a prayer,
Then melted into sunlit air.
Three hundred years had melted there,
Three hundred years of faery bliss,
Perished sooner than a single kiss!
As Ruan stares upon the empty box,
His outstretched fingers stiffen stark,
His cheek is shrivelled, his eyes grow dark,
Either knee together knocks;
Ere he can pray, ere he can groan.
Swift as grass in a furnace thrown,
Or a crumpled clod in a heedless hand,
He withers into whitened bone.
Where his breathing body stood,
Flushed with life and warm with blood
Is a heap of ashes, a drift of sand,
And the wind blowing, and the silent strand.
Luce intellettual, piena d' amore
Lo, the spirit of a pulsing star within a stone
Born of earth, sprung from night!
Prisoned with the profound fires of the light
That lives like all the tongues of eloquence
Locked in a speech unknown!
The crystal, cold and hard as innocence,
Immures the flame; and yet as if it knew
Raptures or pangs it could not but betray,
As if the light could feel changes of blood and breath
And all--but--human quiverings of the sense,
Throbs of a sudden rose, a frosty blue,
Shoot thrilling in its ray,
Like the far longings of the intellect
Restless in clouding clay.
Who has confined the Light? Who has held it a slave,
Sold and bought, bought and sold?
Who has made of it a mystery to be doled,
Or trophy, to awe with legendary fire,
Where regal banners wave?
And still into the dark it sends Desire.
In the heart's darkness it sows cruelties.
The bright jewel becomes a beacon to the vile,
A lodestar to corruption, envy's own:
Soiled with blood, fought for, clutched at; this world's prize,
Captive Authority. Oh, the star is stone
To all that outward sight,
Yet still, like truth that none has ever used,
Lives lost in its own light.
Troubled I fly. O let me wander again at will
(Far from cries, far from these
Hard blindnesses and frozen certainties!)
Where life proceeds in vastness unaware
And stirs profound and still:
Where leafing thoughts at shy touch of the air
Tremble, and gleams come seeking to be mine,
Or dart, like suddenly remembered youth,
Like the ache of love, a light, lost, found, and lost again.
Surely in the dusk some messenger was there!
But, haunted in the heart, I thirst, I pine.--
Oh, how can truth be truth
Except I taste it close and sweet and sharp
As an apple to the tooth?
On a starr'd, a still mid--night
Lost I halted, lost I gazed about.
Great shapes of trees branched black into the sky:
There was no way but wandered into doubt;
There was no light
In the uncertain desert of dim air
But such as told me of all that was not I,--
Of powers absorbed, intent, and active without sound,
That rooted in their unimagined might,
Over me there ignoring towered and spread.
Homeless in my humanity, and drowned
In a dark world, I listened, all aware;
And that world drew me.
The shadowy crossing of the boughs above my head
Enmeshed me as with undecipherable spells:
The silence laid invisible hands upon my heart,
And the Night knew me.
She put not forth her full power, well I knew:
She only toyed
With reason, used to sunshine flatteries,
The praise of happy senses, trusted true,
And smile of stable Earth's affirming ease.
Yet even in this her ante--room I felt,
Near me, that void
Without foundation, roof, or bound, or end,
Where the eyes fast from their food, the heavenly light,
The untallied senses falter, being denied,
The mind into itself is pressed, is penned,
Even memoried glories of experience melt
Into one mapless, eyeless, elemental Night.
It was so near
That like a swimmer toiled in a full--streaming tide
Drawing him unawares down the unsounded seas,
My soul sank into fear.
O for one far beam of the absenting sun!
O for a voice to assure me, and to release
Out of this clutching silence! There is none:
Shadow on shadow, and stillness on stillness
Enclose me, and fasten round.
Is this a world which Day never has known?
A world made only of doubt and dream and dread?
Is this the interior Night of the dark human soul,
And the immaterial blackness branching from the ground
A fearful forest that itself has sown
Against the stars to tower,--
Stars that dispense their faint uncertain dole
Of light, that darkness may the more abound?
Whither am I come? Where have my wandered feet
Brought me on circling steps, led by what furtive power?
Alas! in this dumb gloom wherein my spirit gropes
Only myself I meet.
Only myself; but in what strange image
Encountered and phantasmally surprised!
This thing of stealth that rises from the shrouds of sleep,
I know it, I with shuddering guess presage
An enemy,--the native of the night
That in me was disguised.
Hollow--echoing caverns where blind rivers creep
With soundless motion; ice--cold, sudden breath
Of climbing cloud, at whose abstracting touch
The upholding rock seems baseless as the mist;
Black silence in the eagle's captive stare
Empty of all but the baulked lust of death,
Could not oppress so much.
Even that which in the dark brain says ``I am,''
Desperate in its faltering to persist,
Flickers like an expiring lamp's last leap of flame
To leave me I know not where.
Let not the beautiful world perish and cease!
My heart cries, freezing in its secret cells.
Let me not be extinguished in the abyss,
Losing the blessèd touch and taste of things,
Earth's heaven of hues and smells!
I am so far from worlds where any fountain springs,
Sunken into this placeless dungeon--dream,
That holds me without wall, or roof, or door.
The light is only legend: I begin
To give away my being like a stream
Wandering among unshapen shapes, that spin
A world of unintelligible dread;
And this world seeks me for its own!
All is dissolved, nothing has meaning more.
Each moment heaps an age of time above my head.
It is the very Mind of Darkness I am in,
Lost, and alone, alone!
The Forests of the Night awaken blind in heat
Of black stupor; and stirring in its deep retreat,
I hear the heart of Darkness slowly beat and beat.
As if Earth, shrouded dense in gloom,
Shuddered in her guilty womb;
As if a power from under earth
Would bring some monstrous spirit to birth;
As if a spirit ran pursued
And sobbing through the shadowy wood;
Ghostly throbs of sound begin
To circle from the distance in,
A phantom beating, dulled, remote,
With madness in its fever--note.
I know not what about me or what above me oppresses
The suffocating air; but fear within me guesses
A peopling of the caverned glooms, miasma--cold recesses.
Leaves depending still, still,
Bronzed to blackness, spill
Dead light from a sinking moon,
Wholly to be sunken soon,
Wandering down a desert coast
At the horizon's end, a lost
Eternal exile from the Day,
Whence she stole a perished ray
That falls from off those fingered fronds,
Black as vipers, cold as bronze.
O is it from my heart or from the darkness round,
The far reverberation, the dull throb of sound,
A pulse, a fearful pulse, in air or underground?
Closer, quicker, through the heat
Drones, insists, the incessant beat.
Round in shuddering circle comes
Beat on frenzied beat of drums,
Nearer in from every side
Thudding, madly multiplied,
To seize the heart and blind the brain
With a monotone insane.
Terrible, terrible in continuance,
It holds me fastened in a trance.
O for a spirit that is not mine, to bear
This weight of the unfathomable night!
O for a spirit of more than mortal might
To take upon him this my load
Of infinitely wide world--quivering fear!
O for a Demon or a God
In saving presence to appear!
What is it that my eyes amid the gloom divine
There in the furtive filterings of the ghast moonshine?
What bodies sway and cry and to the ground incline?
The fear that held me falls apart,
But leaves a horror in my heart.
Stony, stony, of blank stone,
Fixt on that secret altar--throne,
Inhuman human Shape, with hands on knees,
With remote stare that nothing, nothing sees,
Yet is a magnet to a thousand eyes,
A thousand forms that crouch, scenting the scent of blood,
Beat breasts and writhe before you with ejected cries,--
Unbrothered beast, abominable God!
Who made you, and shaped you into more than breath
Can give a will to? What power drove the hand
With terror strong as lust, to shape you there
Immovable as Death,
And carve the rock of darkness in the mind
To horrible resemblance of my kind?
Lost Light, sunken Light!
From what I am, save me!
The fever--beat of sound is in my veins.
I breathe the black, blood--smelling air.
The ecstasy of fear, the blind throb in the breast,
I share it, I must share.
It is not I, I cry;
Yet it is I.
These are the powers that crave me;
This is the full dominion of the Night.
The victims, ah, the victims shriek and die:
And on them the eternal Idol stares.
But they have made him incense of their prayers,
Voluptuously have knelt before their own
Black terror, bodied into stone.
Not the expiring cry
So lacerates my mind, while without end
Through ages up the altar--fumes ascend,
And fading into shadow, from their bodies rent,
Stream spirits without number to conceive,--
But this, O victims, this, that you consent,
That you believe!
They were all human. My heart falters: how
That infinite bond refuse?
Like last reverberations of a bell
That in their ebb and last expiry tell
Of stupefying clamour, when it heaved
And shook its tower to the foundation,--now
Whispers out of the dark accuse, accuse:
I have consented, I have believed.
There is singing of brooks in the shadow, and high in a stainless
Solitude of the East
Ineffable colour ascends like a spirit awaking:
Slowly Earth is released.
It is dawn, it is dawn, the light is budding and breaking.
Earth is released, flowing out from the void of the darkness
Into body and bloom;
Flowing out from the nameless immensity, night, where she waited
Myriad forms to resume,
Gloriously moulded, as if in her freshness created.
The lineaments of the hills, serene in their order,
Arise, and the trees
With their motionless fountains of foliage, perfect in slumber;
And by lovely degrees
The blades of the grass re--appear, minute without number.
The rounded rock glistens and warms, where the water slips by it,
Familiar of old.
The tree stretches up to the air its intimate branches
Bathing in gold;
And the dew--dazzle colours in fire the lichen it blanches.
Each is seen in its beauty of difference, deeply companioned,
Leaf, root, and the stone,
And drawn by the light from their dream in earth's prison, emerging
Distinct in their own
Form, from the formless a million natures are urging.
I see them, I know them, I name them, I share in their being;
I am not betrayed:
I feel in my fibre the touch of a spirit that knows me;
For this was I made;
In a world of delight and of wonder my senses enclose me.
Whence come they, the water--brooks? Out of the mountainous darkness,
Where no life is seen,
From caverns of night are they come, but because of their springing
Meadows laugh to be green;
And hearing the voice of their carol, the children go singing.
The children go singing, they read in the books of the Light
Things hidden from the sage.
Unschooled are their bodies, that run like a ripple and fear not
Coming of grief and age:
The sighs of the night, the doubt in the shadow, they hear not.
Lo, single mid grasses a flower upspringing before me
In delicate poise
Takes the light like a kiss from an innocent mouth, as it quivers
Confiding its joys
To the air, and my heart from its prison of self it delivers.
I stand in the dew and the radiance, my shadow behind me,
Lost out of thought.
The bright beams ascend, and ascending, from earth they uncover
The secret they sought.
Enter me; make me afresh, O Light, my lover!
Why are these beams so twined with sweetness and with pain,
Injury and anger, fear, and all desire,
Whose purity should stream through pulse and brain
Not thickened in dull fume or frayed with fire
But absolute and whole
Into the central soul
Disclouded from those lures and all their train,
Knowing what is and is not; white and bare
As the bathed body quit of day's disguise?
But the only truth is coloured with the secret stain
Of our mortality, that unaware
Infects the farthest vision of the eyes
And region of invisible thought: Vain, vain
That throbbing search! The Light
Is more profound, more secret than the Night.
Who has built an airy mansion for the unresting mind
To inhabit and rejoicing contemplate,--
A many--pillared universe, designed
In order clear, complete and intricate,
Intelligible wonder, not
Too vast to hold man's lot,--
But he has waked on some malignant morn to find
The certainty, too certain to be true,
Distasted, and that palace only a maze
Wherein he wanders and is still confined,
The pillars of it fallen, and no clue,
But through the ruin penetrates a blaze
Of glory beyond glory and of light behind
The light: and the strength fails in him; he knows
Himself lost in a world that overflows.
Yet no power stills the ache or stops the springing need.
The dark creative spiritual Desire
Seizes upon his heart which holds that seed
And straightway, till the last of breath expire,
Like tool upon the wheel
Sharpened the more to feel,
He counts all else waste,--honour, wealth, a weed:
The burden of the beauty is too great,
The eternal mystery in the heart a wound,
Until his vision in the end be freed,
Until he has spent his all to incarnate
An airy spirit upon earthly ground,--
Forms for a God to dwell in and exceed
This fading flesh. Alas! from godlike shapes
Some yet diviner essence still escapes.
O that the form which once kindled to ecstasy
The rapt gazer, and freed him, should become
A cold thing to appraise with leisure's eye,
A beauty disinherited and dumb!
Whither is the spirit flown
From the forsaken stone
That seemed our sunken selves to deify?
O that the thought, the word, which into the heart leapt
Pregnant with light and troubling even to tears,
Should fade and wither, should grow old and dry,
By repetition dulled upon the ears
Like cheapened courtesies the lips accept,
And falsehood, custom cares not to deny;
A scumm'd and stirless pool, a frozen rut,
A path deserted, a door shut.
But that the life should be less living than the dead,
This is the worst; that perfect form and word
Should perish of perfection, yet be fed
With incense still, and duteously adored;
A name prostrate the throng
The presence moved among
Unrecognized; neglected and forsaken bled!
Time's treachery sleeks and glozes to our use
The bright eternal bareness: dearer grows
To mortals what is mortal, comforted
Mid alteration rather to keep truce
With the ancestral darkness than oppose
Too arduous scrutiny: by dreams we are led
Content: to pleasure us, our truth decays.
The God departs, the Idol stays.
I have heard voices under the early stars
Where, among hills, the cold roads glimmer white,--
Voices of shadows passing, each to the other,
Clear in the airy stillness
Call their familiar greeting and Good--night.
Were they not come as guests to a remembered room,
Those words, surrounded by the befriending silence?
But words, ah, words--who can tell what they are made of,
Or how inscrutably shaped to colour and bloom?
Sharp odours they breathe, and bitter and sweet and strong,
Born from exultation, endurance, and desire;
Flying from mind to mind, to bud a thought again,
Spring, and in endless birth their wizard power prolong.
There was a voice on a sun--shafted stair
That sang; I heard it singing:
The very trees seemed listening to their roots
Out in the sunshine, and like drops in light
The words rained on the grasses greenly springing.
Ah, lovely living words, what have we done to you?
Each infant thought a soul exulting to be born
Into a body, a breath breathed from the lips, a word
Dancing, tingling, pulsing, a body fresh as dew!
Once in the bonds of use manacled and confined
How have we made you labour, thinned from beauty and strength,
Dulled with our dullness, starved to the apathy of a serf,
Outcast in streets, abandoned foundlings of the mind!
Yet once, in stillness of night's stillest hour,
Words from the page I read
Rose like a spirit to embrace my spirit.
Their radiant secret shook me: earth was new;
And I throbbed, like one wakened from the dead.
O swift words, words like flames, proud as a victor's eye,
Words armed and terrible, storming the heart, sending
Waves of love, and fear, and accusation over
Peoples,--kindling, changing! Alas, but can you die,
Hardened to wither round the thought wherein you grew?
Become as the blind leading with slow shuffle the blind,
Heavy like senseless stones the savage kneels before?
O shamed, O victim words, what have we done to you?
The Presses are awake. Under the midnight cloud,
Mid labyrinthine silence of the spectral streets,
Sound upon darkness beats,
A pulse, quivering aloud
Insanely, as if a fever throbbed in stone,
As if a demon plied in palpitating gloom
The hurry of his loom
To weave that tissue, white for an instant, then
Populated with words, shadows of thought and act,
Death, birth, fear, madness, joy, disaster, packed
Headlong into a medley, a monotone
Indifferently echoing alike
Laughter and the moan of men!
In the avaricious gloom a secret Ear
Sucks with a whirlpool greed out of the skies
Words, voiceless words, drawn in from far and near,
Bubble--blown rumour, whisperings like spies,
The knife--stab in the night, the fall of thrones,
Alarm of nations like a beating bell,
Jubilant feat, and misery grey,
Caught from all corners of the air pell--mell
In a voice that no man owns,
That a multitude of brazen masks shall shout
To the multitudes of Day.
The few stars, solitary in heights of night
Thieved by the cloud, shine and are dimmed again,
Though none puts out their light.
So solitary in the heart is pain,
Solitary the Dream,
Solitary the Vow, solitary the Deed!
There is no room for these
In that invisible cloud, woven of things that seem,
Sure of accepting softness and the greed
That it shall cling to and make cheaply wise,--
An all--uniting web of lies and of half--lies
And lying silences.
Into my ear, remote, remote, is blown
Out of the darkness and across the seas
Sound of a forest falling, young bodies of trees
One by one falling prone,
To be tamed to a helpless tissue, and to feed
The insatiate Presses' need.
Oh, did they spring to scent the blue silence of air
And sway slow to the wind, launching the light--winged birds?
Ghosts only are there,
The ghosts of trees that shoot no fresh leaf any more
But, drones of darkness, in the midnight bear
Black myriads of words.
Invisibly the night thickens with words that glide
Driven thronging on blind errands, soon to fall
Into a million minds, and glorified
To be their momentary oracle,
Glitter, and then--they are like the innumerable snow
Chance--timed, indifferent, random, swift and slow
That falls to a stillness out of whirling flurry;
And workers heavy--eyed
That under the chill cloud of morning hurry,
Muffled against the shiver in the blood,
Soil it at every stride,
Till each articulate crystal whiteness is confused,
And where the moment's wonder shone is mud,
Trodden, stale, and used.
Hewn and heavy, of granite hewn
Heavy and hard, the walls ascend
Bare, without measure to the eye:
Indifferent to night or noon,
Over pavement they impend.
Locked, impassive, huge, the Door
Stands caverned in the midst: on high,
Ruled and squared, the lintel stone
Bears the carven Janitor,
Justice, blind upon her throne.
Her no praying hands implore:
To her bound eyes no eyes plead.
Reason's idol, calm she sits,
Weighing only the gross deed,
Scrupulous with mind unsoiled
Not to know the thoughts that bleed
In the dumb soul, fluttering, beating
Hither, thither in its cage
Of ancestral ignorance foiled,
Rushing blinded into rage
And its own desire defeating.
Behind the door, within the wall
Locked, they sit, the numbered ones,
Secret from each other, all
Lost to name, like spectres passed
From the region of the sun's
Changeful glory on young limbs
Free to dance and free to leap.
From the acted thought they fast:
Them a roof of silence dims.
The midnight stars move over them;
They move not; but ruled times they keep
With the shadows on the floor.
They are mortised in a scheme,
Where the walls and fastened door,
Built of words that are become
Stones, are like their spirits dumb.
In ripened rustle of the corn
The wind becomes a flowing flame;
As swift it curves and slow relents
The body of a wave is born.
It passes--whither? No one knows;
But in the vision that consents
It is the beauty it became.
The wind blows and the spirit blows,
No moment ever yet the same,
And fresher than a sparkling spring
The unrepeated beauty flows;
And in the child that claps his hands
To see the daisy on the green,
And in the young man where he stands
Poised for the naked plunge; and in
The invisible bursting of the bud,
The leafing of the bough, that sends
Lightness like laughter through the blood
Of dancing girls, its wave is seen;
It flows and sings and never ends!
And flowers, trembling heavenly hues
In a lonely mountain place,
And chiming water's liquid curve,
The torrent's white, rock--ruffled race
Freed for splendour of its swerve,
And clouds that steal the solemn blues
Of noon, unregioned in their trace,
Or, ghostly travellers, invade
The mountains they dissolve in dream;
And mazes of the stars that fade
At dawn, still moving, lost in light;--
All, all the threads of music bind
Together in the visioned mind:
Eternity has imaged them.
O lovely is their secret Law
Timing all their motions true.
They know it not, yet they obey
Without thought and without awe,
Of that fountain unaware
Which they spring from and renew,
Finding out their missioned way,
Everywhere, oh, everywhere!
It is wild as a wild rose
And fearful as the weltering wave.
It is courage to the brave,
Wisdom to the eye that knows.
But we have bound it as with cords,
We have built it into stone,
All its motions frozen stark
Round a hidden human moan.
We have made it old and dark
Out of maiming thought and fears,
And the things our fears forbid,
Out of self--hurt and of rue.
We have built it into words,
And the words are stones! We did
What we could not help but do,--
We, the eternal Prisoners.
Break the word and free the thought!
Break the thought and free the thing!
But who in any net has caught
The wind, or in a sieve the spring?
As soon shall he dissever these,
Through which the life--blood single streams
From germ unknown to fruit unguessed,
Nourished with wonder and with dreams,
In its deep essence unpossessed
And smiling out of mysteries.
The flower is in the bud, the bud
Within the seed, beneath the ground.
But all is flowing of one flood
That is not seen, that is not bound.
This palace--prison of the mind
How in the youthful morn it glows!
Its windows flame with angel--light,
Auroral flushes of the rose,
And all the airs of heaven invite
With miracle of breathing blue
And shifting glory of sun and showers
To ecstasy and song,--and who
Remembers how therein confined
In sunken cells are captive powers,
Powers that a jailer fetters close
With chains of the invisible hours,
To one another hardly known
In furtive glimpse, and each alone?
O marvel of the world, O bright
And luminous palace, built to hold
The light of heaven within its walls
Precious with glory as of gold,
Why comes the night, why comes the night,
When, as about it the sky falls
Filled with the dark, it seems to stand
A dark tower in a lonely land!
In the wonder of dreams on a wave of the sky buoyed
My body was the body of a wish, the word of a thought
Uttered whole from a throb of the heart in a cry's delight.
Never bird out of Africa beating a golden void,
Shifting the coloured regions that Spring has caught,
Pursued the desire of its being in flight
Happier: Time an idle ruin gleamed
Where vision flamed or flowered or streamed.
Slow, slow the mind gropes back to curb and term
Of this strange world; to Time that's used, and all
The enclosing, age--descended ritual,
The invisible garment, cobweb--fine and firm,
Wherein the limbs move to the ancestral call,
And hands repeat what dead hands did before,
And the mind lingers as behind a door.
The hinted glory of liberty is fled,
And in its stead
Is only the shadow of Man's ancient nurse,
Dear Custom, at whose knees he learnt the ways
Of his uncounted tribe, schooled to rehearse
Cruelty and folly, and, ere he comprehend,
Make these his virtue, so to earn her praise.
Massive as mountain to his childish gaze
Is that unmoved authority of power,
His fibre trembles to offend.
And slow as the Earth is in her seasons, she
Befriends and punishes like sun and shower;
Well--used to tears and the heart--broken hour,
Smoulder of mutiny and anger, tamed in the end,
Indulgent of a laughter brief as those,
For all come back at night--fall to her knee,
When the old shadows descend.
With mutter upon her lips, with eyes half blind,
Buried mysteries she knows.
With dark fountains of ignorance in her mind,
How wise she seems, amassed in ancient certitudes!
Her silences, how comfortably kind!
The human slowly grows
Inhuman, where she broods.
And if a solitary spirit would wrest
His wrongs away from what so closely cleaves,
And break into the world that he believes,
Betrayers from within, crying Traitor! seek
To pull him back, securely weak,
In passiveness: he sucked it from her breast.
O away and away and afar from this alien home,
Where spirits are woven together in words of fear,
Released into innocence let me have being and breath!
But is it alone by mercy of dreams that I roam,
Liberated to joy's essential sphere,
In an antechamber of birth or beyond death?
All flushes around me and then dissolves away.
The heavenly dawning closes gray.
Once, only once, never again, never,
The idle curve my hand traces in air,
The first flush on the cloud, lost in the morning's height,
Meeting of the eyes and tremble of delight,
Before the heart is aware
Gone! to return, never again, never!
Futurity flows toward me, all things come
Smooth--flowing, and ere this pulse beat they are bound
In fixity that no repenting power can free;
They are with Egypt and with Nineveh,
Cold as a grave in the ground;
And still, undated, all things toward me come.
Why is all strange? Why do I not grow used?
The ripple upon the stream that nothing stays,
The bough above, in glory of warm light waving slow,
Trouble me, enchant me, as with the stream I flow
Lost into the endless days.
Why is all strange? Why do I not grow used?
Eternity! Where heard I that still word?
Like one that, moving through a foreign street,
Has felt upon him bent from far some earnest look,
Yet sees not whence, and feigns that he mistook,
I marvel at my own heart--beat.
Eternity! how learnt I that far word?
Not for pity and pardon, for Judgment now I cry!
To be seen, that I may see; known, that I may know,
For this I cry.
Dwelling among dear images dream--created,
Flattered or daunted by a deluding mirror
That is not I,--
O to taste the light as my body tastes the air,
Let fall defence, cast off the obstinately excusing
Pleas, and myself be my only vindication!
Nothing but this in the end can satisfy.
Why does this desire pursue me and so possess me?
Is not breath sweet, and the young smile of the morning?
Yet inly to know
That I am bound in a net of minutes and of hours,
Inheriting bondages of habit, and fear,
And ancient woe;
To be rooted so deep in lost ages of time,
With tendrils of hope and want and frail repining,
The ignorant accomplice of purposes abhorred:
This thought is my companion and my foe.
Sometimes to fly to some remoteness of the air
To perceive with different senses, a new body,
I pine and ache;
As on this bed of self, whereon I am bound, I toss
Day and night, filled with ineffectual longing
That bond to break.
O yet, enslaved, I know not to what I am enslaved:
Only this husk and shard of what I am, this fond
Dreamer of dreams, eater and drinker of untruth,
This only I know, and this cannot forsake.
Wondrous glories crowd into the eye's treasure--chamber,
Wondrous harmonies linger in the ear's recesses,
Stored for delight.
But beyond the ear's compass what modulations fine
Tremble, and what marvels unapprehended sparkle
Beyond the sight!
Oh, and beyond the mind's capacity of conceiving,
Much less of measuring, amplitudes of wisdom,
Fit to sustain eternal serenity and courage,
While we go clouded, faltering, finite!
Were I stationed in the sun, to behold the worlds
Not nightly in declension but in dance triumphant
And timeless rolled;
Had I the vision, closed to the eye's horizon,
Labyrinths of an unimagined minuteness
In the mind to hold;
Could I attain the greatest and assume the least,
Shrink to be a blade of the innumerable grass,
Soar eagle--winged amid the altitudes of noontide,
Then might I measure, and what I am behold.
But rained over with riches of hours and moments,
Meshing me as a lily, thick with honeyed light,
The drunken bee;
Intoxicated with wild sweetnesses of sense,
Fullness of the opened heart, glory of earth, and beauty
Roofed in a den I am, a poor captive rather
Who sits in fetters eyeing the barred, the precious blue,
Where high in the envied air a cloud lingers in light
And wings fly whither they desire to be.
Lying in the night I hear from graves unnumbered,
Under stars that have seen all history passing,
The indignant cry:
Must we only in effigy and phantom be remembered,
Malignly obscured or mocked with gilded pretences,
Wherefrom we fly?
Will none unwind these cerements? none lift up from us
This load of false praise and false fortune's betrayal?
Let us be known in nakedness of our nature!
Deliver us from dominion of the lie!
As if they wandered in deserts and groped in caves,
I hear the exclaiming of disenchanted spirits
In bitter lament
Beholding the barren things for which they wasted
The world, the pitiable causes whereon their breath
And blood were spent!
Was this the Light, this little candle at noon? This loathed
Cruelty, the righteousness for which they thirsted,
Sacrificing to invisible idols of the mind?
They see. But who hears? This world is content.
Perfect Experience! Is not the mind worthy
This, when for glimpses only and shining fragments
The martyrs bled?
Majesty and splendour of overcoming vision,
Vision all--judging, certain and universal,
Not this I dread,
But to remain banished into a parcelled being,
Eternized in all these faculties of error!
Better a perfect oblivion in Earth's vastness,
By that eternal ignorance comforted.
Yet does my heart not cease from its supplication,
Yet I remember and cannot be satisfied,
By Time oppressed.
And, as if summoned and drawn whither I know not,
Clinging into earth with strong fibres of nature,
In dark unrest
I burn like a seed that in burial forgotten
Pushes its hope up, growing in blind affiance
Toward the light shining over an unconceived world,
There to be lost, illumined and released.
In my dream there was a Door.
Dark on my musing path it stood
Before me, and straightway I knew
(The certainty ran through my blood)
That, did I open and pass through,
I should know all for evermore.
Those slow hinges, and that weight
Relenting on them, would unroll
The hidden map of all my fate
And all the world and the world's soul.
Who has trembled not at doors?
Motionless, they shake the heart.
Hope and menace on them hang:
They are the closed lips' counterpart
Wherein the sentence is concealed
For leaping joy or lancing pang.
Ah, what answer will they yield?
Will it be barren as the shores
That endless waves beat, like a knell
Slowly repeated to Time's end?
Or will it be the ineffable
Still radiance that shall all amend,
Melting out Time's ancient stain?
Will they open on sunrise
Everlasting, or will they
Close upon the light again,
Like eyelids closing over eyes
That see for the last time the day?
Is it not by such ancient dread
Inspired,--the warning doubt of what
Our prospering spirits has full--fed
With certainties by hope begot--
That on his progress proud we raise
For the returning conqueror
The arch, the immaterial door,
So he may pass, amid the blaze
And loud acclaim at glory's height,
Beneath a shadow of the night,
Where the hinted powers take toll
Of what is mortal in the soul?
O Door, like sealed fatal decree,
Image of death, image of birth,
Ever uncertain certainty!
O silence as of silent earth,
O silence into substance built,
O night projected into day,
O still unspoken Yea or Nay,
O brimming vessel still unspilt,
O end that meets us on the way!
What lies behind your blank accost?
Is it the treasure we have lost
And laboured wearily to recover?
Or something that we never knew,--
Another mind with other measures
Laughing to scorn our pangs and pleasures?
Is it at last the only true,
The unknown Love, the unknown Lover?
With all my soul at earnest gaze
Fixed upon that silent Door,
I stretched my hand the latch to raise,
I lifted up my hand, and then
Some power forbade me, and I forbore.
In the changes of my dream
I was borne to a far place
Empty and wide, and all a--gleam
With sunlit quivering of the grass.
There rose before me, vast and blind,
A towered prison, walled and old;
It seemed a prison--house so great
It could have held all human--kind.
In the midst there was a gate.
And as I dreamed my dream, behold
I saw the prisoners released.
The gates rolled back; and forth they came
Stumbling in the light that smote
Full on them from the dazzling East.
Like knives it stabbed them; like a flame
It seared them; with their hands they hid
Their faces, or as if by rote
Stretched out vain arms, to touch and feel
Familiar walls closing around;
Then, lacking fetters, halted lame
Waiting to do what they were bid.
Their helpless motions made as though
They would run back, or fall, or kneel
Or hide themselves beneath the ground.
This way and that they looked to go.
O never may I see again
Such looks of blank and empty pain!
They were looks of men betrayed
And of their naked souls afraid.
But some there were, a few, that stood
And stretched their arms up to the sun,
As if the light streamed through their blood,
As if their breath was now begun;
As if their spirits till then had slept,
As if they never yet had known
The world of life that was their own.
These it was, not those, who wept.
Was it for pity of all that sad
Throng, or the extreme joy they had?
O that on earth I could have sight
Of those faces, and that light!
I am laid within a place of summer leaves.
Solid boles mount through foliage out of sight.
No shadow lacks some intimacy of light,
No penetrating radiance but receives
Shadowy immersion. Dream
Is on me, is on the hushed, the thronged and drowsing glow.
Even the thoughts emerging from the mind,
Like voices in a sleeping city, seem
Reproved. This is old Earth, so old and kind,
That she is lenient in her overflow
To all things human. Why, why tease the sense
For a hope to a fear unmated?
Why rend the rich seam of experience?
Why toss upon thoughts frustrated?
Each way appears a closing avenue,
Leading, among warm scents, I know not where.
But Whither is to the idle mind no care,
For always there is fragrance of some clue
Neglected, that might guide
As in a trance the veiled soul to its unknown peace:
Peace such as comes like lips laid upon lips,
A brimmed oblivion of all else beside;
Like anchorage to tempest--blinded ships
When the thwart waves resign, and the winds cease.
Earth with warm arms embrace me, and let me feel,
Feel only, a wonder working,
Until the tender and still sense reveal
The secrets round me lurking.
Now might you come back, old divinities,
Earth--born, from cradling green and lost recess,
Serene in your unclouded nakedness,
To enrich the mirror of my musing eyes.
As fruit on the rough bough
Globes itself, the last golden glory of the tree,
Smooth from wild earth the human image rose;
And what diviner shape should hear the vow
Of mortals, or what else their secret knows,
Though past the ache of our mortality?
Shall I not sacrifice unrest and fume
On an altar here secluded?
Let the vext mind re--open like a bloom
Upon which the light has brooded?
Delay me from the sight that only sees!--
Frost of a dawn disclosing the world bare,
And, stript of splendour, all things as they are,
When stiffened grasses and stark branches freeze
And the mind shrinks apart
With all the living colours famished out of it.
O kindly mediation, interpose
Images of those forms that hold the heart,
Warm, wondrous forms whereinto the world flows
To bloom and to perfect them: O admit
Certitude to obscurity awhile,
As cloud in the light suspended.
Gracious is Earth; not far her secret smile:
And here is the soul befriended.
Only such sorrow as lingered in the gaze
Of Proserpine, returning from the dark,
Such tears as filled her, listening to the lark
And looking on the flower that springs and sways,--
All humanized for her
As even the shadows were, when she was throned in night;
No more than these, to enhance the glowing day
Shall enter where the green leaves are astir!
Shall I not be sufficed, and charm away
Perplexities to soft and shadowy flight?
Shall I not now--O whence is this breath come
Of Time in a stealing chillness?
Why cries my heart out? Why are all things dumb,
And strange, strange the stillness?
Whisper to me, whisper! I have listened and have not heard.
Whisper to me, you leaves; have you not more to say?
Now at the ebb of the low evening ray
Whisper some word left over from the day,
The one word, the lost word!--
So I cried; and then was stilled.
For suddenly, unsought, unwilled,
I knew not how, I knew not whence,
There came a lightening of the sense;
I found an answer from within,
That made me to the stars akin;
My pulse obeyed the lovely Law;
With ears I heard, with eyes I saw;
And one leaf, veined with green, indwelling light
Seemed the world's secret and absorbed me quite.
Eternity through a moment
Sparkled; I could not turn away my sight.
What thing, long contemplated, alters not
Its seeming substance, as the deepening mind
By contemplation passes out of thought,
Immenser worlds to find?
The Mother as she clasps her infant boy,
Bent over him with the deep looks of joy,
Becomes her own hope; oh, she stays
Not with the idol of her gaze,
But she is gone beyond her farthest prayer
And Time's last injury, to meet him there.
All that distracts him from her bosom now,--
White butterflies, a waving bough--
Presages the usurping world: she grows
To something more than fear and hope forebode,
Wide as the sky. He goes
Out of her heart's possession;
Yet in her arms he lies, that stranger and that God.
Free on its wings the mind can hover, worlds away,
To where the vast Atlantic stream
Dwindles to a watery gleam,
And like a star in bright noonday
The body's home is lost.
The mind can tell me that these mossed
Gray boulders in green shadow deep,
Appearing sunk and socketed in sleep,
Beneath their image of repose
Are all a dizzy motion whirled,
A streaming dust our sight so gross
Confuses to a solid world.
Never mortal eye has seen
Those minim motes, no thought can lodge between,
So restless in their secret fever
They dance invisibly for ever.
Alone the soul has knowledge of release;
Only in the soul is stillness,
Poised to receive a universe in peace.
Only in the soul is stillness! I remember an hour,--
It was the May--month and wild throats were singing
From bough to bough that breathed in bud and flower,
And the full grass was springing
Beneath an old gray tower--
I remember those blue, scented airs,
And how I came at unawares
Beside the daisied border of a mead
Upon a pool so magically clear,
It made each coloured pebble and furry weed
And star--grained sand within its depth appear
Like things of Paradise, unearthly bright;--
No surface seemed to intervene
Fairy floor and eye between,
Save for a traceless quivering of the light,
Gentle as breathing sleep, where stole
Up from its pregnant darkness
The living spring, as private as the soul.
Love from its inward well, a secret wonder, arising
Clear as the trembling water--spring,
A spirit that knows not anything,
Simple in the world and nought despising,
Changes all it meets,--the stone
Becomes a gem, the weed a rose;
But oh, within itself it grows
By all it touches, all it makes its own,
Vast and multitudinous, a Power
To act, to kindle and to dower
In pain's and fear's despite
With glory of unending light.
O fountain in my heart, I feel you now
Full and resistless, so I nothing scorn.
How could I lose you, how
Ever for an hour forget you?
This is the world whereinto I was born.
Why did I tread long roads, seeking, seeking in vain?
Why did I make lament of the dark night?
Why crouch with images of old affright?
Eternal Moment, hold me again, again,
Bathe me in wells of light!
It is now and it is here
The something beyond all things dear,
The miracle that has no name!
When I am not, then I am:
Having nothing, I have all.
It was my hands that built my prison--wall,
It was my thought that did my thought confine,
It was my heart refrained my heart from love.
Now I am stilled as in a gaze divine,
Now I flow upward from my secret well,
Now I behold what spirit I am of.
The Body is the Word; nothing divides
This blood and breath from thought ineffable.
Hold me, Eternal Moment!
The Idols fade: the God abides.
The Coming Of The Amazons
Dark in the noonday, dark as solemn pines,
A circle of dark towers above the plain,
Troy sat bereaved; her desolation seemed
To have drawn slowly down in sultry drops
The sky of gathered and contracted cloud,
Hung silent, close as is a cavern roof,
That deep in heavy forests, lost from day,
Echoes the groans of a hurt lioness
For her slain cubs; she fills her den with groans,
Stretching her hoarse throat to the flinty floor;
And with like lamentable echo, barred
Within the great gates, dirge of women swelled
Along the dark--door'd streets that lately shone
With Hector's splendour as he strode to war,
Wailing for Hector fallen; upon towers
Unchampioned men grasped idle spears and groaned.
But in the heart of Troy dead silence dwelt.
There to a temple, throned on a green mound,
Andromache was stolen; there she bowed
Her widowed forehead, pressed upon the strength
Of a square pillar; not a sob, nor sigh
Passed from her, but immovably inclined
She waited yet expected nought; that hour
Of grief was on her, when the exhausted flood
Of passion ebbs, and the still shaken heart
Hungers for staunching silence: then the touch
Of patient cold stone is desired like bliss.
So mourned Andromache, unmoved to know
If earth that lacked her Hector, still endured,
Absorbed into the vastness of a grief
Only by its own majesty consoled.
Crouched at her feet the child Astyanax
Played on the slabbed floor with the creviced dust,
Or followed with soft parted lips and eyes
Bemused, the foiled flight of a swallow's wings
That, strayed within, sighed swiftly up and down
The temple gloom; there was no other stir
In that hushed place of stone, while the slow day
Declining moved the sullen cope of heaven
With westering breezes; under brooding cloud
Light newly trembled; looking up, the boy
Saw wide sheen in the portico that laid
Long shadows from the pillars. It was then
A faint and clear sound in the distance rose,
He knew not what, but wondered, as full soon
Troy seemed to stir and waken; it drew nigh
Up the steep street, a noise of horses' hooves
Numerous and gallant with the ring of arms.
He rose up, and on soft feet tripping stole
To the porch--pillars, looked forth, and returned
Bright--eyed, back to his mother; thrice he twitched
Her robe, ere she perceived; then slow she turned
Her face down on him; bending so, she changed
As a sky changes when the unmuffled moon
Steals tender over April's vanished rain;
And love, older than sorrow, filled her eyes
A mother's, not a widow's now. With awe
In his quick voice the boy cried, ``Mother, come!
The Goddesses ride up to fight for us.''
Andromache smiled on him; though she heard,
Scarce sought to understand; and yet it seemed
Those soft lips brought an answer from afar
As oracle or dream to her sad soul,
That long had waited; she too heard that sound,
And as impetuous freshet in the spring
Breaks on a stagnant stream, the bright blood--warm
Extravagance of hope shot like a pain
Through her dulled body; then her heart recoiled
On doubt and trembled, though the noise now near,
Mingled with cries and swarm of running feet,
Drew her steps on; beside her pressed the boy
Exchanging wonder with his mother's eyes,
Till on one knee she dropt, and holding him
In jealous--clasping arms close to her breast
Looked to the door; now thronging heads appeared
Beneath the temple steps; and they beheld
Framed in the wide porch men and women pass,
And over them, proceeding proud and fair,
Like goddesses indeed, a wondrous troop
That glorified the sunlight as they rode
With easy hips bestriding their tall steeds,
Whose necks shone as they turned this way and that,
Bold riders on bold horses; light mail--coats
They wore upon loose tunics, over which
Where to the throat the stormy bosom swelled
A virgin shoulder gleamed; for now the fire
Of evening, struck back from the temple wall,
Burned ardent hues upon them, moving past
Untamable as their own steeds that moved
With them, and beautiful with ice--bright eyes,
Glancing around them strange, and tossing hair;
Flashed upon bronze bits of the horses, flamed
Along smooth brown wood of their javelin--shafts
To the bright points, and radiantly repelled
From hilt and helm, glowed changing upon shields
Like moons in August, like a hundred moons
Of moving brilliance; scarves of coral red
Blown from the baldric, trembled like the fire
In eyes that kindled the beholder's soul
To presage of what fury these fierce queens
Should madden with, when they were loosed to dance
The dance of battle, matched with men or gods,
Wild as the white brooks when they leap and shout
In tumult, tossing down the wintry hills.
So filled with wonder the thronged faces saw
Those terrible and lovely huntresses,
Mid whom one rode yet queenlier than the rest,
With steadfast eyes superb; a spirit crowned
She seemed, the votaress of some far desire;
She turned not like the others, but rode on
Like one that follows a star fixt in heaven,
Fixt as her thought is; whom beholding now
Mourning Andromache with closer arms
Entwined her boy; her heart was full, it pressed
Against her side, invoking that strange hope
That here was the avenger of her loss,
A sword brought from afar; she leaned at gaze,
Following that form, impassioned to divine
What purpose charmed her from the world of men,
When lo! the street was empty, all had passed.
She rose and with uncertain motion stood,
Swayed like a slender poplar when the south
Tremulously bows it, over her dear child,
Who clung upon her fingers looking up
Wide--eyed with joy: together they went forth.
Already fast as over an ebb shore
The fresh tide rolls up with a rising wind
Invading dry ledge and deserted pool,
And ere the seaward rocks be overstormed,
Streams gliding with a soft stir far inland,
So fast through Troy the stir of rumour ran
To every hushed house; every chieftain heard
Indoors and sent forth messengers to see.
Even to Priam's palace it was borne.
Then there was hurrying through the empty courts,
And women drawing water at the wells
Set down their pitchers; boys ran out; it seemed
As if a city of sleepers sprang to life,
A thousand beating hearts. Priam alone
Heard not at all, for none was with him now,
But solitary in that pillared hall
Where he had feasted with his glorious sons
In days of old, sat patient, mournful, rapt,
His chilly limbs warmed by a cloak's long fold,
In such December solitude of mind
As when the last leaf glides to frozen earth
And all the boughs are bare: the days to come
Were darkness, and the past days like a sea
Of roaring waters; vacant unto each
He mused upon the evening gold that fell
Aslant a pillar's roundness, holding up
One hand against the fire that burned beside.
He heard not, saw not, though without the sound
Of opened gates and murmuring hubbub fast
Increasing on the distance, gathered in
As to the silent centre where he sat
Alone in gloom, nor noted how behind
Came stealing steps; Cassandra first, the shunned
Of all the happy, who yet disbelieved
The fate of her foreseeing; others next
Of Priam's house, mid whom the heavenly eyes
Of Helen, like a mirror to the doom
Coming on beauty till the end of time,
Shone in their sadness; beautiful she leaned
On fair flushed Paris of the golden head.
They as they entered stood expectantly
Pausing, although the King still sat entranced,
Clouded in sorrow's deep and distant reign;
Until Cassandra touched him on the arm
And his eyes woke; a sad, astonished gaze
He lifted; in that moment the far door
Was opened: lo, upon the threshold gleamed
The splendour of an armèd Amazon
Coming towards him; her eyes sought his own:
Slowly, and yet without a pause she came;
And those that saw her deeply breathed; she moved
As if a clearness from within inspired
Her motion, challenging their inmost thoughts.
Simplicity ennobled all her ways;
The heart leapt at the turning of her head;
But in her eyes a soul, deep as the night
Filled by the beauty of assembling stars,
Night on lone mountains, could shine out sword--keen
As now, though touched for Priam's woe she gazed,
While, slowly stirred, he lifted up to her
His brow, and it was kingly: now he seemed,
Though seated, in his stature to resume
Old majesty; for princes of the East
Had sued to him, and Asia sought his word
To hearken to its wisdom. Some few steps
The Amazon approached; at last she spoke.
``Art thou the royal Priam?'' ``What seek'st thou,''
He answered, ``of an old unhappy man?''
``I seek,'' her voice rose ardently, ``to bear
My arms against Achilles in thy cause,
To hazard in the venture all I may
For Troy and thee, O King. This is my quest.''
Proudly she spoke; but he, as old men will,
Because he wondered, was displeased, nor knew
How to rub clear the dimmed sense of his grief,
And pausing half incredulous replied,
``What hast thou said? Abuse not these old ears.
Thou know'st that I have suffered--who art thou?
A woman! Art a woman, and would lift
Thy hand against Achilles? Never hand
Of man prevailed against him yet, and thou
A woman made to bear and suckle babes,''--
``A woman,'' she broke in, ``but not as those
Who spin at home and blench to see a sword.
Penthesilea am I called, and am
An Amazon, and Amazons I rule.
They call me queen; but I like them was reared
To suffer and to dare; my body bathed
In cold Thermodon can outrace his speed;
And I have slain the lion in his lair,
Yea, and have fought with men and have prevailed.''
Admiring murmur followed on her words,
From those that hearkened with hope--kindled eyes.
Priam said only ``Hector fell.'' That word,
Slow--spoken, not to her, but in the dark
Of his own grieving mind, dropt like a stone
Down a well's echoing silence. There was pause.
Just in that moment stole Andromache
Over the threshold; then her heart drank wine,
For she beheld Penthesilea there,
Moved but not shaken, like a Goddess stand
Of all regarded, while her spirit seemed
To swell within her on some secret wave
Of strength, and lifting up her queenly head
She spoke like music through the darkening hall.
``One certain night I stood upon our hills
Before the dawn was come, and I beheld
All the stars over me from south to north
And east to west, each in his place, as they
Had shone before I was or thou, O King.
And as I looked, one fell: far down the sky
It shot in fire to nothing. Who might think
One of heaven's splendours, fixed in heaven, could fall?
O Priam, even Achilles, even he,
This far--renowned one, shall be overthrown
For all his glory and his might, perhaps
By hand unguessed, and thou behold him fall,
It may be by another, or by me.''
Yet Priam would not be persuaded, nay,
Clinging to his old lamenting thoughts, he cried:
``There was none brave as Hector, and he fell,
Hector is fallen; snap all swords in two,
Break all your bows asunder, as my heart
Is broken: it were better. What avails?
What wouldst thou, Queen?'' Yet even as he spoke,
Gazing upon the noble Amazon
The strong bonds of his grief were loosed awhile.
There seemed a courage in those shapely arms,
In that clear brow, which to refuse might be
Unpardoned of the gods: her clarion words
Rang through him still; and as a traveller tired
Vacantly resting at the long day's end
Under the hollow of a stream's high bank
Hears rushing over him the beat of wings
And sees a wild swan snowy--throated take
His effortless great flight in the sun's beams,
So Priam saw her! bound afar to lands
Of morning, like the beauty of those wide wings,
Free, where he might not follow, left alone
In the fast--falling night; but oh, not so,
Not bound afar, but at his feet, with eyes
Of proud petition, of a sweet command,
Penthesilea like a vision stayed
And her voice breathed one silver summons, Hope!
A hush took all who listened, then they stirred.
Only Cassandra, crouching by the King,
Hid her dark face; the others, nearer drawn,
Looked upon Priam, and his soul was moved,
But not as they; his gaze now at the full
Answered the clear magnanimous regard
Of her that spoke with pity, as he replied,
``What sad word hast thou uttered! Oh, thy lips
Are young that shape it, ere they understand.
Look on me that was once called happy, Queen!
What knowest thou of ill? I have borne more
Than my young fears, stretched by some childish wrong,
Imagined that the whole world could contain,
Or this frail flesh that pens us in our place
Find possible to bear. I have been taught.
None was so blest in sons, and none so curst.
And now I know not if the Gods be kind
Or if 'tis the last cruelty they use,
That having heaped such evil on our heads
They lend us power to bear it. O speak not!
For I can teach thee how men learn to bear;
'Tis not with fortitude of hope increased,
'Tis with dulled sense that thickens on the soul
And all its longings pined in frost that cramps
The quivering heart up, till it feel no more.
I am so knitted in harsh fortune's root
As tottering towers, in bitter fibre bound
That props what it has killed. Yet I endure.
Why wilt thou trouble me? For thy young face
Pricks with its courage like reviving blood
In a numbed arm. I was at peace, O Queen.''
He ended, and the glorious Amazon,
Moved even to tears, stept toward him and knelt down
And touched his knees, entreating: ``Let me learn,
Even though the price be of such utmost pain
As thou hast tasted: I would prove my heart,
That is prepared for all things: let me go!
I am not all so ignorant of grief.
Grant me this boon, that I may fight for thee.''
Priam heard marvelling; bending o'er her, soft
He laid his old hands on her youthful hair,
Answering: ``Is thy heart so fixed indeed?
Ah, child, is not life sweet? Turn again home
In honour, for so surely as I live
And as Troy stands, thou shalt have honour here.
The hazard is too much. I, that have ploughed
This heavy and hard furrow into Time
Cannot turn back, but thou canst. Wilt thou not?
None shall reproach thee. O too much ere now,
Too much, too dear blood in my cause is spilt.
And thou art dear and shalt be always dear
And thy name named with blessing in my house.''
Penthesilea lifted up her head.
She looked on him and smiled. ``I thank thee, King.
And thou art wise and I am foolish, yet
Though Heaven in thunder did forbid me this
My heart is fixed.'' Then Priam sighed, she rose,
And he made answer: ``Be it as thou wilt
And I will say some good thing of the Gods
Since they have raised a woman's heart so high.
Bring torches, for the Queen shall feast with us
This night, and on the morrow if she will
Go with our battle forth. Bid Troy prepare.''
So Priam ordered, and the chiefs obeyed.
Through all the city ran the word for war,
And swords refurbished gleamed in kindled eyes
At hope of help unlooked for: Troy was glad,
And all the Amazons that night held feast
Among the captains in the torch--lit halls
Of Priam's royal house. At his right hand,
Admired of all, Penthesilea sat,
Still in her bright mail, though unhelmeted;
For when she had bathed, they brought her women's robes
But she refused; for in her heart she thought,
I shall be deemed but as a woman is
And they will put no faith in me for deeds.
How strange the hush was of the glimmering room
In a high tower apart, when after feast
And song were ended, and all gone to rest,
Penthesilea sat beside the bed
Whereon her coat of mail, now laid aside,
Shone keenly crumpled into glittering folds
Next the smooth texture of a coverlet
Embroidered in dim Indian town with shapes
Of golden lions thronged by suns and stars;
A Tyrian rug was soft to her bare feet
When kneeling by her side Harmothoe
Had loosed their sandal--thongs, and bathed them both
In warm clear water from a brazen bowl;
Who now was gone; and the Queen, left alone,
Stood up, and let the loose white robe fall free,
Holding her strong hands clasped behind her head,
While through their fingers streamed the heavy hair:
She sighed,--a fierce sigh panted from her breast,
Like some imprisoned leopard's, ill at ease
In those rich walls that held her from the air,
And with faint subtlety of old perfume
Wrought on her sense remembrance, as through dream,
Of what dead women fair in idle hours
Had here adorned them, pacing with soft feet
The coloured stones inlaid upon the floor,
Parting these curtains with their silver rings
To gaze upon a mirror, kneeling down
Beside the ebon coffer, to search out
Within its depths of robe laid over robe
Some beaten armlet of Assyrian gold,
Jade--brooch or branches of rose coral brought
From far bays of Arabian Astabel;
Foreign and fair devices; dream on dream,
In the low lamp--flame's wavering, oppressed
The panting free heart of the Amazon.
Thus as she leaned with heavy--lidded eyes
Backward, and into grandeur slow rebelled
The strong mould of her breast beneath the throat,
Andromache stole in to her; she stood
With wondering gaze fixt faltering in the door
A moment, then, hope trembling at her lips,
While the warm blood rushed up her cheek, she ran
Swift to the other's knees, and falling cried,
``O Goddess, help! Ah, surely thou art come
From heaven to avenge me, for the gods in heaven
Loved Hector well; thou hast a woman's shape
But mov'st not like a woman, no, nor look'st.
O certify my heart, my wounded heart!
Fill me, for I am empty; turn again
The water of life into this stony bed
Where my days used to run. I am alone.
Reveal thyself, if to none else, to me.''
Penthesilea with stern looks amazed
With both hands on her shoulders put her off,
Saying, ``Who art thou? What wild thought is thine?
Rise up, kneel not, embrace not so my knees,
My arms are stronger, nay, look up, behold,''
Then with a milder voice continuing,
``I am no goddess, feel, my heart beats quick;
I am not calm as the gods are in heaven.
This flesh is mortal, strike and it will bleed,
Has bled ere now; and feels thy wound and throbbed
To hear thy supplication, and to see
How like a bird thou droppedst to my feet!''
Andromache sank backward on her knees,
Wide--eyed with fearful doubt, then slowly rose
And stood apart, cold now as if despair
Had closed about her sudden as dark night;
Like thunder--drops her words fell desolate:
``O my great hope, how easy was thy lure,
How sweet and now how bitter to my taste!
The folly of my fond heart bites my heart.
The gods are loth to be revealed when they
Take among men disguises: but oh no,
Thou art a woman, thy face speaks the truth.
And yet, yet, if a woman, whence and why
Comest thou, what madness pricks thee so to dare
What scarce a God might compass, when my own
Great Hector whom none else could vanquish fell?''
But now the Amazon regarding her
More earnestly, spoke heedless of her cry,
``I saw thee in the hall where Priam was.
Art thou not Priam's daughter?'' ``Hector's wife,''
Answered the other. ``Then I know thy name,
Andromache men call thee; and I know
Thy wound: sit by me, be my friend to--night,
Tell me of this Achilles, I would know
What manner of a man is he who sounds
In the world's ear so terrible. Is he
Fair--haired, as I have heard, or swarthy--cheeked
Like those men I have matched my strength against,
The Gargareans? Do his inches tower
Much over mine? How goes he into fight?
On horseback, as we Amazons, or afoot?
Or standing in a chariot hurls his spear?
Tell me of all these things, that I may know
And be aware and in the battle take
What vantage may be mine among the Greeks
The better to avenge thee, if fate will.''
Andromache said no word for a space,
Facing her with dulled eyes and mind confused;
Then to her lips a word outleapt her thought
Fledged with a bitter meaning: she exclaimed,
``Thou lovest him!'' The queen laughed, a scornful laugh,
``O woman, have you none but woman's thoughts?
Because you are weak and have such clinging arms,--
I felt them soft and trembling round my knees--
Deem you such weakness rules an Amazon?
What is this love you are so quick to find
The key of all you cannot understand?
To tremble and to wait on a man's mood
And seek I know not what bliss in his arms
That fondle you a plaything, far from all
The thoughts that make him strong! Such thoughts I have,
Such will to tame and conquer, such delight
In battle, such resolve never to yield
My soul to any other's servitude.
Love, love! Think you I have been wont to bathe
My body in snow--brooks to temper it
True as a sword--blade, slept on forest leaves,
Raced the wild colts to break them, chased the deer,
The lion even, seen the red blood spirt
Of men into whose murderous eyes I looked
And did not quail, think you that such as I
Have hung my life's joy on another's smile,
Pining with fancies such as in close walls
You women fill slow days with feeding on,
Who lie upon soft couches and dream dreams?''
She ended with an anger--burning eye
Standing dilated in her beauteous scorn
Over against Andromache, who shook
Her head, distrustfully insisting still,
``Yet, yet thou lovest him.'' Suddenly a fire
Swept o'er her and impatiently she cried,
``When thou hast borne a man--child, speak of love!
Thou knowest not, thou, though in thine ignorant heart
The blind beginnings of that selfsame power
Compel thee where it wills, where thou wouldst not.
Thou hast not loved, thou hast not known a man,
Yet a man's glory, a man's imagined form
Has drawn thee from thy mountains even here,
To meet him face to face. Ask thy heart why!
Hate, hope, fear, longing, 'tis all one; 'tis love
Betwixt a man and woman. Ah, didst think,
Penthesilea, to escape? But now
Necessity has overtaken thee.
Achilles masters and o'ertops thy mind
Who wouldst be wooed not with soft words but spears.
And thou must seek him. To thy wooing go!
But oh, thou goest into a fell embrace,
For he will clutch thee as a hawk a hare,
And thy bride--bed shall be the bloody ground.''
With that harsh word she would have turned to go
But stayed upon the threshold; for the voice
Of Penthesilea called her, changing now
To a deep cry, not angered nor in scorn
But grievous, as though suddenly her heart
Imperiously swelled beyond its bounds
And loosed its secret storm and sweetness out,
The proud voice breaking into truth and pain.
``No, no! not so, thou shalt not leave me so,
Thou dost not know me; far away thy words
Fly over me, they hurt me not at all.
Yet, didst thou know my heart--I am not wise
In love, thou say'st, yet I am wise in grief.
'Twas not Achilles drew me; it was grief
That drove me hither, grief brims up my heart
And blinded me to thy grief: sit by me,
Andromache, and hear me: nay thou must.
I had a sister, whom indeed I loved,
For we were twinned in thought and act and soul,
My bedfellow and playmate; oft have we
To one another brought a timely arm
Faint in the heat of battle or of chase.
But oh, it was this arm, that should have first
Withered on the shoulder, this right arm that sped
The bolt that slew her, my Hippolyta!
She had outstript me on the woody hills
Hunting a hind that fled us; I saw not;
But where the boughs were stirring in the brake
I drew my bow, the arrow leapt, I ran,
Parted the hazels, and beheld her there
Lying beyond, the arrow in her side,
Where still I see her on soaked yellow ferns
Under a thorn, trailed with black bryony,
So near a pool, the fingers of her hand
Could touch the trembling harebells on its brink.
She bled within,--there was no blood at all
To soil her body that still seemed to live--
Nor gave a cry, but with one hand she beat
On the wet ground a little, then was still.
But when I took her by the hand, it hung
Cold in my grasp, though close I cherished it,
And kissed her cheek, her mouth a hundred times,
Calling upon her name, Hippolyta:
Calling the dead that heard not.--I have seen
When Euxine on a sudden rises black
With storm, a sail that sought our haven swept
Out into darkness, from the cliffs have watched
How it flew onward fearfully, far out
Blind under sheets of tempest and was lost.
From that hour I drove like that driving ship
Borne on, I recked not whither, over wastes
Of time that have no harbour and no peace.
I fled, and yet I feared being thought to flee.
Therefore did I imagine to my soul
Some dear atonement that should make my name
Burn on the lips of men; set up my mark
And that pursued, till the usurping hope
Of glory with a glozing tongue sometimes
Flattered my dark thoughts to forget: but oh,
It is myself that am pursued, the hounds
Of memory are upon me,--Break this off.
Too much is spoken. Yet my heart is eased.
Forget this weakness, tell not to another
Penthesilea's sorrow, for from now
She puts it from her, she is strong again.
Nay, from my childhood up 'twas in my soul
The dearest hope to do a thing of fame.
To--morrow I will slay thy husband's slayer,
Or gladly, if the fates refuse, will die.''
While she was speaking, sad Andromache
Changed in her countenance, her soft bosom swelled
And her eyes brightening were soon dimmed with tears.
At last she broke forth: ``O unhappy Queen,
Pardon!'' But ere another word could pass
Her lips, there was a babbling cry without,
Soft feet came running to the door, and there
Parting the heavy curtain, stood the child
Astyanax, who ran to her and called,
``O Mother, I have found you. Come to bed;
I woke and could not find you, and was afraid.''
The old nurse following at his heels began
To chide him, but Andromache embraced
Her boy and kissed him; he looked wondering up
Now at the Amazon and spoke in awe,
``It is the Goddess, mother''; when again
She hugged him close, and gentle came her voice,
``Penthesilea, pardon! I have erred,
My hope was blind and my despair was blind.
I dreamed of Gods come down to succour me.
Lo, here is my avenger!'' and she held
The boy before her, while the warrior queen
Admiring his bold limbs and fearless gaze
That wandered to the splendour of the mail
Lying on the bed, uplifted with a smile
The sword beside it, saying, ``Wilt thou fight
With such a sword when thou art grown a man?''
Whereat he gravely answered to her face,
``Yea, I am Hector's son.'' Andromache
Drawing him towards her, with warm kisses, spoke:
``I keep thy father's sword for thee; but now
Thou must to bed and sleep. Sleep also thou,
Penthesilea; and to--morrow morn
Eat with me ere thou go, and thou shalt have
All such as Hector's heart delighted in
When he went forth to battle. Fare thee well.''
Penthesilea was alone. She turned;
Lo, in the corner the moon's wandered beam
Lay gentle, like the soul of solitude.
She drew a curtain; over earth the night
Rose naked; and she looked with longing eyes
Past the low plain, where Simois wound his stream
To choke in marsh mist and the creeping ooze,
Up to the mountain tops, and far beyond
Saw in her memory clear a certain glen
Where snows among the pale cloud gleamed above
Crag--pines, but from the spongy mosses sprang
Tall ash and chestnut, plundered by the gusts
Of autumn to let fall gold leaves adrift
Upon the young Thermodon, that between
Gray boulders, dancing in his frolic race
Over the abrupt edge of a gloomy gulf,
Leapt and was lost; but lost in splendour! so
Should her life be ennobled in its end,
Lifting her heart she prayed, and in her mind
Knew how, removed from all that others use
And have their joy in, she must fix her course
One way, since exiles in the world of men
Heroic hearts are unto the end alone.
Waters of Asia, westward--beating waves
Of estuaries, and mountain--warded straits,
Whose solitary beaches long had lost
The ashen glimmer of that sinking moon,
Listened in darkness to their own lone sound
Moving about the shores of sleep, when first
A faint light stole, and hills in the east emerged,
A faint wind soon, born upon ocean, blew;
The cold stars faded; high on forest slopes
The goatherd woke in his thatched hut and shook
His cloak about him, striding forth, and saw
Pale over the round world of shadow tower
The silently awakened presences
Of Rhodope and Ida, dawning peaks
Far opposite, that slowly flushed, till all
The hill--thronged vales streamed out in sudden gold
He saw the young sun ripple into fire
Propontis, and the bright seas run like wine
Into the dim west where aerial snows
Of Athos hovered o'er a hundred isles;
Nearer, Troy towers stood gleaming; in the plain
The river smoked with mist, and cranes in flocks
Rose through the sun--soaked vapour toward the sea
Beyond the trench and trench--encircled huts
And black--beaked Danaan ships upon the strand.
There in their huts and tents the Danaans woke,
And streamed abroad in the keen morning air,
But armed not yet; their camp made holiday,
With shields hung up, with heads unhelmeted.
Greek challenged Greek to hurling of the quoit,
To wrestle and race; not a sole trumpet rang,
For Troy since Hector's slaying kept her gates
Fast--barred, nor sent her files forth to the war.
So now the battle--weary Greeks prepared
Their meal beside the trenches, eased at heart,
When single scouts came running from the plain:
``Arm, arm!'' they cried, ``for Troy will fight to--day,
The Amazons are come to succour them.''
Then sportful laughter leapt from mouth to mouth
Among the gay--eyed youth, mocking to hear,
And one to another shot a mirthful word.
``The hawk is dead, the twittering swallows come
To harry us! We will go garlanded
To battle and will hale these women home.''
So as for sport they armed; but ere the word
Had run through half the camp, Thersites rose,
Filled with his dwarfish malice that rejoiced
In quarrels without causes between friends,
Pleased with the comedy of angry wits
When wisest men show weakest; he arose
Glancing from side to side in evil glee,
And went along the sea--beach till he came
Where lay Achilles and his Myrmidons
Who pitched apart, a separate host; he went
Alone, for all despised him, though they feared
His tongue, and coming to Achilles' tent
Called to him with a gibing pomp of speech.
``Hail, son of Thetis, slayer of thousands, hail!
Hear what fresh tidings echoes through our camp!
Thy fame is flown into the Asian lands,
And how thou didst, a goddess helping thee,
Hew Hector down, provokes the envious world
To emulate thy glory. Lo, to--day
Troy's latest hope, there comes to challenge thee
A woman.'' Then Achilles laughed aloud,
But he continued: ``Nay, it is a queen,
Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons,
Brings her wild squadrons to this faint--heart Troy,
A queen of fame, with courage like a man's
And more than woman's beauty. Agamemnon
Already in his gloating thought adorns
His palace with this all--outshining gem
Captive to him. O Eagle of the Greeks
Doth not the quarry please thee?'' But again
Achilles laughed: ``Come, yet another day
I shall have peace and leisure from the fight.
I wore a woman's robes once, feigned their ways
In Scyros, and I know them, quick to fire
Upon imagination of a deed
That blazes through them like a strand of flax
Left light as ashes, fluttering, when the hour strikes
For doing what a man's heart leaps to do.
On such Achilles draws not. Get thee gone,
Thersites, let the Greeks fight if they will
With these mad women: but my heart is stirred
To be alone and think upon the dead
This day. Thy wry face puts me out of tune.
Begone, thou crookedness, ere thou be driven!''
So trudging back with ill smiles on his mouth
Thersites went, well pleased to bear bad news.
Achilles stood at his tent--door; the sea
Before him smiled; but heavy thoughts like rain
Clouded his darkening spirit, as his eyes
Looked homeward toward the far Thessalian coast
Where he was nurtured in fresh upland glens
Of Pelion, and his father even now
Kept his old age, watching uncomforted;
But most the thought of dear Patroclus' dust
Drew his soul down to sorrow; pacing slow
The shore he came to where the mound was heaped
On those beloved ashes; there he bade
Fetch wine, and poured libation to the dead.
There came a runner hasting from the camp,
Who cried: ``Achilles, arm! The battle joins;
And half our host, yet unprepared, recoils
Before the onset of those Amazons
Whose horses rush upon them, and they cry,
Where is Achilles? Arm, and bring us aid.
'Tis Agamemnon sends thee this command.''
But Peleus' son looked frowning and replied,
``Go tell the King I heed not his command
Nor any man's; to--day my sword is sheathed.''
With that he turned him to his grief; the peal
Of distant horn and crying of many cries,
All the harsh drone of battle muttering swelled
Beyond the trench and rows of stranded ships
Half--sunk in sand, that with their rampart shut
The beach into its calm of little waves
Falling and hushing; but to Achilles' ear
That roar was vain and hateful; and he drew
His cloak over his head, and cried with groans,
``O to what end, what end? Must our souls beat
Their high--attempered force out, and keen edge
Blunt in a senseless turmoil, but to make
A pageant for the Gods? O friend, I lose
How much more than thyself in losing thee!
Have I appeased thy ghost, and given thee sleep
By my so great revenge? Yet am not I
Appeased. Because in courage and in strength
The Gods have made me excellent beyond
All other sons of men, this is my woe
That none can match me, easy comes the crown
Of glory, and I would toss it from my hand
Into these careless waters, could I find
Some stay and dear abode such as I found
In those thoughts that together, O my friend,
We held, and well--companioned, ever looked
On through all days with never sated eyes.
But now the splendour and the spur is gone.
I hunger after thine untimeliness
For which my tears were shed. O that these Gods
Who smile on their calm seats in happy heaven
Could be provoked to wrath and themselves come
Against me armed; then were there scope and marge
For this full fire to burn in, that consumes
My soul in puny angers at the pomp
Of Agamemnon's puffed authority.
But me they mean for some inglorious doom,
And even now, plotting my shame, have sent
A woman to defy me!'' Thus he cried,
Pacing in angry grief the calm sea--sand,
While still the noise of war, rolled nearer, charged
The air with jarring clamour; noon was passed,
And the sky strewn with slow clouds idly moved;
But ever louder at the trench it rose.
At last a second runner from the camp
Came, and Achilles knew him as he ran;
It was a youth from white Iolcos town,
Of Peleus' kin; he sobbed forth breathless words.
``Come to the trench, Achilles, come and see!
Not women are these Amazons but wolves!
Like Maenads, maddened beyond strength of men,
They rage and with amazement bear us down.''
So both went forth to the great dyke and looked
Over the trench; then in Achilles' heart
Grief straightway slumbered, and the cruel sting
Of battle stirred in him: as one who sees
A wild bright bay of angry ocean storm
With thunderous upleaping, surge on surge,
Black rampart rocks, filling the brilliant air
With sound and splendour, and joy charms his eyes,
So now rejoiced Achilles; not less fierce
In onset than those waters snowy--maned,
The Amazons on their wild horses rode
Storming upon the stubborn infantry,
And by them, thrice--inspirited, with shouts
Of vengeance, the victorious ranks of Troy.
Achilles looked far o'er the fray and laughed:
``See how the sullen Ajax like a bear
Stung by a bee--swarm, puzzles how to strike:
But you shall see how these same Maenads fly
When that I leap upon them. Say, I come.''
Glad the youth turned, and ran back to the Greeks,
And through them flew the word ``Achilles comes.''
Penthesilea through the press all day
Had sought for Hector's slayer, and sought in vain,
Though many a captain on her path in arms
So tall, so splendid stood, that hope had sprung
Not twice or thrice alone that this was he
She should defy; the rest she scorned, yet some
Essayed her prowess and came wounded off
Or fell beneath her, and so trampled, died.
Lo, as a potter strikes with eager hands
Shapes of soft moulded clay, fired with the thought
To make a thing more noble, so she smote
Those meaner challengers, crushed idly down
If haply from the wreck and tumult might
Spring the desired Achilles; her bright axe
Shone over shouts and groans and maddened more
The tempest of those headlong Amazons
Who rushed black--maned upon spurred horses, where
The spears bristled the thickest. They outmatched
The fury of impetuous Diomed,
Who even now where fierce Antandra struck
Hardly avoided, catching at her rein,
And was borne backward raging in his beard
With half his helm--plumes shorn away; with her
Derione and Thermodossa, red
With rapture of the sword, Antibrote,
Hippodamia and Brontissa drave
Like screaming gusts of whirlwind when the air
Fills with torn boughs of cracking oaks, and pines
Shiver to ground uprooted; thrust on thrust
Met shrieks, where desperately tugging hands
Clutching a spear were tost up suddenly
As it stabbed home; strange--echoing female cries
Exulted; in the van Harmothoe
Called, as her axe--blows rang about her path
Hard as the white hail when it strips the vines
And their bruised clusters; the gay Danaan youth,
Spoiled of their sweet imagined sport, laughed now
But as the mad in whom no mirth is, driven
Before the Amazons in pale amaze
And terror of their beauty and their strength,
While crest on crest the Phrygians followed on.
But most all marvelled, friend and foe, to see
Clear where the foremost onset hurled and clanged,
Penthesilea like a star in storm
That through the black rents of a burying cloud
Rides unimperilled; for none stayed her, not
Diomed, nor Ajax; yet her quest despaired;
Achilles came not; something failed the hour,
And ere he came 'twas lost: there at the trench
In baffled frenzy the wild warring queens
Perceived it in their hearts, and raged the more,
Wanting the one goal's glory that should force
Their last strength onward; by so much as they
Began to faint, by so much more the foe
Rousing his stubborn manhood, clenched his ranks
And bore them backward. Then Achilles came.
He leapt upon the dyke, bright as a brand
Breaking to sudden fire; they saw him shine,
They heard his great voice clear above the roar,
And half the battle swerved along the plain
Toward Simois. Far upon the city wall
Andromache was gazing; now she pressed
Her hands upon her bounding heart in fear;
She saw her own host in the centre break
Before Achilles and roll back; in vain
Penthesilea on the seaward wing
Maintained the onset; half her Amazons
Caught in the frayed edge of the flight, were turned,
Were flying; nay, it seemed that earth and heaven
Joined in that altered combat and pursuit,
For in the west the sun charged out of clouds
And shot his rays forth over shadowy isles
Set in the fiery seas, and flashed behind
The Argives and their crested coming on,
Dazzling the ranks of Troy, that broken now
Reeled from the middle outward, here and there
Stemmed by a chieftain's cry; with hot--blood cheek
The youthful Troilus was storming, shamed,
And shouted: ``Rally at the river bank!''
But now among the fleers thudding hooves,
The maddened steeds of single Amazons,
Headlong and helpless, thrice confounded them,
In whom the terror of Achilles stung
Sharp as a cruel rowel in the flanks
Of those scared horses; uncontrollably
Crushed, wrestling, groaning, trodden, all were hurled
Together wild as from a foundered ship
A hundred men, flung forth, one moment strive
Huddled in the hollow of one tremendous wave,
The next upon its crest toss up to crash
Down upon rocks they agonize to shun:
So desperate in a huge blind tide of flight
Phrygian and Amazon together reeled.
All in a moment they had reached the stream.
A grove of oaks stood on the hither side,
Where Troilus made rally some stout hearts
Staying the rout. Woe then to him that fled,
When in his back the pouncing arrow plunged
And straight was bloody to the feathers! woe
To him that fled, there was no help for him!
Ingloriously he fell, or pressed by shields
Of comrades from behind was beaten down,
Or on the crumbling bank was crushed by hooves
That broke the bones in many a breathing breast
Of strong men, trampled like tall mallow stalks
At the stream's edge, broken like leafy boughs
That cracked and splintered in the whirling stroke
Of swords; and many falling in the stream
Meshed by long weeds were strangled in the ooze.
Black--haired Antandra there, forced with the rout,
Strove ever like a raging lioness
To turn on her pursuers: on the bank
She stayed her horse, and some Thessalian youth,
Stung by her beauty, caught her by the belt
And dragged her from the saddle; she, so spent,
Let fall the axe from her dead--weary arms,
But with sobbed breath caught him so desperately
That both together in a blind embrace
Fell plunging in the shallows, rolled among
Marsh--marigolds; she thrust upon his face
Under the water, laughed and strove to rise,
When even then a javelin bit her breast
And clove her through; so died Antandra; so
Fell many another; pity there was none,
For cruel is the anger of men shamed
When they avenge their shame; and that fierce hour
Made many a widow on far hill--town wall
That golden evening dandling with fond smile
A son already fatherless; and still
Achilles' murderous and resistless hands
Were stayed not. So by Simois the red flight
Streamed swift and fearful as a fever--dream.
But meanwhile upon either wing the war
Swung doubtful, nay, the Greeks were overmatched,
Wanting their champion, drawn with all his men
So far dispersed, though now shrill trumpets rang
Recalling them, for on the seaward side
Penthesilea pressing hardly, she
With the fierce remnant of her Amazons
And gray Antenor, passionately smote
As in a kind of anguish; like a net
Trapping a lion's limbs, the battle closed
Round her deep--thwarted spirit: Sthenelus
Assailed her, striding huge among the rest;
And riding at him, as she struck, the axe
Crashed broken on his helm, she wrenched the spear
From his stunned arm, when on the other side
Leapt Ornytus against her, and she swerved
To dart the spear--point through him, crying out,
``O that thou wert Achilles!'' All at once
Clear from the distant battle's farther edge
Sounded upon a sudden several horns,
Harsh--blown bull's horns; Antenor knew the note
Of signal, and he called across the spears,
``Penthesilea, hark, upon the left
The son of Aphrodite holds the day.
Between us all the foe is locked and hemmed,
And hot Achilles has pursued too far.
Press, 'tis Troy's hour!'' and even as he spoke
The Greeks relaxed; but now, flushed from the rout,
Those same pursuers singly and in troops
Mixed in the battle, all confused, and swung
A score of ways with half--arrested clash
And crossing tides of onset; streaming loose
In separate combats, or bewildered pause
Where all was doubt. Penthesilea burned
Amid the scattered mellay; surely now
From Simois through the dust and disarray
She spied a great crest and a blazing spear
Returning, and Harmothoe cried out,
``Penthesilea!'' with so keen a cry
That her heart leapt; she knew Achilles came.
All knew, the spent arms and the shouting heads
Were stayed and turned; they halted man by man
As knowing the hour was other than their own,
Awaiting in a thrilled expectancy,
As a drawn bowstring ere the arrow fly,
That strange encounter, not alone the shock
Of chosen champions, but a storm of worlds
Where the deep blood--tides, man and woman, met
Penthesilea kindled, her soul soared
Above the beating of her heart, alone
Answering that high peril, that made pale
The boldest round her, all their fluttered hope
Afraid, as with a deep imperious cry
And striding pace, through moil of crimsoned arms,
Dinted and shattered shields, Achilles came
Shining from head to heel; a demigod
Whom smouldering anger dyed in fire, whose limbs
For swiftness and for strength unmatchable
Seemed but the prison of a spirit that, freed
As a flame leaps in beauty to and fro,
Splendid in indignation should have towered
Against the lords of heaven; a spirit wronged,
That for oblivion of its sore heart--strings
Had robed itself so red in slaughterous deeds
And as in scorn feasted on dying cries,
Hot like a reveller seeking to forget;
But as a reveller comes out into dawn
Shooting bright beams up to the fading stars,
So was it with Achilles when he found
The royal Amazon; in ardour she
Leaned on her reined horse forward, all her soul
Ingathered at a breath, ready to launch
And dare, as those together--leaping looks
Like stone and steel flashed! To the fingers tense,
She poised in one uplifted hand her spear
Against him over challenging proud eyes,
That quailed not where the eyes of kings had quailed.
``Turn again home! Thou canst not fight with men,
And least with me, whom no man overcomes,''
Scornfully with a mighty voice he cried,
``Madwoman, turn, or here thou spill'st thy soul!''
Clear rang her voice back, ``Put me to the proof!
Have I not sought thee, Achilles, all this day,
And having found thee, shall I let thee go?''
With that she hurled, and the spear bounded forth
Straight at Achilles' face, but lifting up
His shield, he caught it on the golden boss
That shivered it to pieces: his own spear
Flew on the instant, the shock marred his aim,
And not the queen he smote, but smote her horse
Deep in the shoulder: with sharp shriek he reared
And staggering fell; but lightly ere he fell
Penthesilea leapt upon the ground,
As swiftly Achilles plucked his weapon back.
Pale grew the Trojans, glad the Greeks exclaimed,
But she stood, deeply breathing, and her mind
Debated if to draw her sword and rush
On death at once; while marvelling to behold
The beauty of the daring on her brow
Achilles called, ``Thou tameless one, be tamed!
Else thou art dead, no god shall save thee now.''
She answered, ``Nay, thou shalt not think such scorn
Of me that am a woman. Men are bold,
All men are bold, and women are all weak,
Thou think'st, yet when a woman's heart is bold,
By so much more it can outmatch a man's
As all her strength is in extremity,
Sped like a shaft that stops but in a wound!
Though but a woman, thou hast cause to fear
And fear me most, because I stand alone.''
She called undaunted, yet her heart despaired;
When quickly came Harmothoe and thrust
A second javelin in her hand; at which
Achilles frowned: ``Bold art thou, overbold;
And surely as high Zeus on Ida sits
And watches now, I swear none braver moves
In this day's battle, nay, alone of all
Worthy my strife. Be wise, venture not more.''
He spoke, reluctant. But without a word
She, moving in his path until she backed
The low sun where he faced it full, upraised
The spear, and cast at him with all her force.
Then taken half at unawares, he swerved.
On the left shoulder, near the neck, above
The great shield's rim it smote and grazed the flesh,
So that the blood sprang: like winged Victory
The Amazon flushed bright, a hundred throats
Broke into one loud cry, and the Greeks clutched
Their swords, as that exulting murmur ran
Trembling and echoing o'er the plain to Troy.
There was such pause as when the ear waits thunder.
Achilles' face was dark, yet lightning--lit;
And all the ruthless eagle in his soul
Called instant for her death; yet she was fair,
Young, and a woman, and surpassing fair;
But she had shamed him: as an eagle beats
Towering against the mastery of a storm
That blows him o'er a tossed lake backward, then
Upon a lull swoops forward, so his wrath
Leapt conquering on a sudden, and the spear
Flamed from his hurling hand; she saw it come,
She raised her shield, but through the shield it crashed
Under the arm, through the tough panther--skin
And plates of iron; in her side it pierced
And bore her down; imperially she fell
Without a cry, sank on lost feet, nor heard
Achilles' dread voice, ``Art thou satisfied,
Penthesilea?'' but the heavy shield
Rang on her fallen, the helmet rolled in dust
From her proud head, and the long, loosened hair
Tossed one tress richly over throat and bosom
Shuddering strongly up from where the blood
Welled dark about the spear forced deep within;
And sudden as a torch plunged in a pool
Her face lay dead--pale with the eyes quite closed.
Some moments held, still as deep snow is still,
The hearts of either watching throng, for whom
There seemed a glory fallen from the world
Where she lay fallen, stirred not: spear and shield
Were silent; then among the Danaans woke
A cruel exultation as they saw
The Trojan faces; and one cast a spear
At random; harsh the shouts of battle rose.
But still Achilles stood where he had hurled,
Filled with besieging thoughts that in his brain
Like thunder broke: he heard the cry and clang
Renewing, and faced back upon his Greeks,
Staying them sternly: wrath was in his soul,
Wrath with those spirits despised, and wrath with her
That had provoked him, wrath that his right hand
Abhorred its own act, and deep wrath with heaven
And fate; so darkened inly, like a storm
He came, and standing o'er the fallen queen
Gazed on the shape his wound had marred, a shape
Where strength had into beauty thewed and strung
Thighs of swift purpose, deep bosom and loins
Largely imagined, a God's dream; such limbs
As in the forges of desire should mould
Heroes oh never now to be! So pale
She lay, a life that might have with him soared
Abreast, but all its world of hope a cup
Quite spilled, a splendour ravelled and undone
By his own hand who now, so darkly stirred,
Saw her eyes open on him, full and strange.
Imperiously, ``O thou shalt live!'' he cried;
Flung his shield off, with a fierce tenderness
Bending beside her to uplift the weight
Of her resigning shoulder on his arm.
But faint she moaned, ``I thirst.'' Then at his call
One ran to where a stream welled near a bush
Hard by; but quicker ran Harmothoe
And brought her helmet brimming, which the queen
Drank of a little, though the bubbling cold
Of her own mountain springs hardly had eased
The growing anguish of the wound; when now
Among the Greeks murmur and strife arose,
Where loud among the rest Thersites mocked.
``See, lords of Hellas, see this prince you fame
So high beyond us all, and fawn upon
His all--contemptuous pride, shows his true heart.
A fondler of soft women would he be,
A Paris! Kills, and weeps on those he kills.
We should have left him in his proper robes
On Scyros, hollow braggart that he is.
What is this woman she should baulk our fray?
Let kites and dogs stay over her, not we.''
But ere he ceased Achilles sprang on him,
Flaming. ``Thou toad!'' he cried, and in an instant
Seized with both furious hands and lifted him,
Towering and terrible, above his head,
And as a lion flings a snarling hound,
Tossed him afar to fall with gnashing noise
Horribly biting the blood--spattered earth.
``Spit thy slime there, thou shalt not on a thing
Less vile than thine own soul!'' Achilles cried.
And all the rest, half wroth, half shamed before
The domination of his burning eyes,
Fell backward. ``To the trench and to your huts!''
He called again. ``Go, for the night comes on.
You fight to--day no more!'' He shouted stern;
And one to another whispered in his fear,
``The Gods have sent a madness on this man.
Stir not his fury.'' So they all retired,
And on their side slowly the men of Troy
Drew homeward: but alone Achilles came
Back to the Amazon, propped on the knees
Of sad Harmothoe, and darkling stood
Over her, where she cast her eyes around
And knew the earth and heaven but saw them strange;
Saw the stilled armies and far towers, and light
Upon the great clouds drooping sanguine plumes
On Ida from the zenith over Troy,
Where wept Andromache; brief evening burned
One solemn colour o'er a world at pause:
Last she beheld Achilles: in their eyes
Meeting, the marvel of what might have been
Was with that moment married, as a touch
On thrilling strings wakes from the eternal void
Beauty unending, but the excluded heart
Heaves mutinous in pangs at the dear cost
And pity to be mortal: pangs more keen
Pierced now Achilles gazing, and in smart
He cried, ``Thou smilest!'' for her countenance changed,
Eased out of anguish under falling calm,
A lightening and release. Now not on him
Her dying eyes looked, not on him who stood
Meshed in the wrath of his own fiery deeds,
Passionate, yet transfixed, as if the power
Of some Immortal had made vain his might
And helpless his victorious hands; her head
Sank, and her liberated spirit, where
He might not follow, was already flown.
``O from the dungeon of this flesh to break
At last, and to have peace,'' Porphyrion cried,
Inly tormented, as with pain he toiled
Before his dwelling in the Syrian noon:
The desert, idly echoing, answered him.
Had not the desert peace? All empty stood
That region, the swept mansion of the wind.
Pillars of skyey rock encompassed it
Afar; there was no voice, nor any sound
Of living creature, but from morn to eve
Silence abounding, that o'erflowed the air
And the waste sunshine, and on stone and herb
The tinge and odour of neglected time.
Yet into vacancy the troubled heart
Brings its own fullness: and Porphyrion found
The void a prison, and in the silence chains.
He in the unripe fervour of sweet youth
Hearing a prophet's cry, had fled from mirth
And revel to assuaging solitude.
He turned from soft entreaties, he unwound
The arms that would have stayed him, he denied
His friends, and cast the garland from his brow.
Pangs of diviner hunger urged him forth
Into the wild; for ever there to lose
Love, hate and wrath, and fleshly tyrannies,
And madness of desire: tumultuous life,
Full of sweet peril, thronged with rich alarms,
Dismayed his soul, too suddenly revealed:
And far into the wilderness, from face
And feet of men he fled, by memory fierce
Pursued; till in the impenetrable hills
He deemed at last to have discovered peace.
Three years amid the wilderness he dwelt,
In solitary, pure aspiring turned
Toward the immortal Light, that all the stars
Outshines, and the frail shadow of our death
Consumes for ever, and sustains the sun.
The voiceless days in pious order flowed,
Calm as the gliding shadow of a cloud
On Lebanon; morn followed after morn
Like the still coming of a stream: his mind
Was habited in silence, like a robe.
Then gradually mutinous, quenched youth
Swelled up again within him, hard to tame.
For like that secret Asian wave, that drinks
The ever--running rivers, and holds all
In jealous wells; so had the desert drunk
All his young thoughts, wishes, and idle tears,
Nor any sigh returned; but in his breast
Sweet yearnings, and the thousand needs that live
Upon the touch of others, impulses
Quick as dim buds are to the rain and light,
Falterings, and leanings backward after joy,
And dewy flowerings in the heart, that make
Life fragrant, were all sealed and frozen up.
Now, at calm evening, the just--waving boughs
Of the lone tree began to trouble him:
Almost he had arisen, following swift
As after beckoning hands. Now every dawn
At once disrobed him of tranquillity:
Fever had taken him; and he was wrought
Into perpetual strangeness, visited
By rumours and bright hauntings from the world.
And now the noon intolerable grew:
The very rock, hanging about him, seemed
To listen for his footfall, and the stream
Commented, whispering to the rushes. Ah,
The little lizard, blinking in the sun,
Was spying on his soul! A terror ran
Into his veins, and he cried out aloud,
And heard his own voice ringing in the air,
A sound to start at, echoing fearfully.
He paced with fingers clenched, with knotted brow:
He cast himself upon the ground, to feel
His wild breast nearer the impassive earth,
So far away in peace, but all in vain!
And springing up he cast swift eyes around
Like a sore--hunted creature that must seek
A path to fly: alas, from his own thoughts
What outer wilderness shall harbour him?
Then after many idle purposes,
And such vain wringing of the hands, as use
Men slowly overtaken by despair,
He sought in toil, last refuge, to forget:
And he began to labour at the plot
Before his rocky cell, digging the soil
With patience, and the sweat was on his brow.
All the lone day he toiled, until at last
He rested heavy on the spade, and bowed
His head upon his hands: a shadow lay
Beneath him, and deep silence all around.
The silence seized him. As a man who feels
Some eye upon him unperceived, he turned
His head in fear: and lo, a little sound
Among the reeds, like laughter, mocked at him.
And he discerned bright eyes in ambush hid
Beyond the bushes; and he heard distinct
A song, borne to him with the clapping hands
Of banqueters; an old song heard afresh,
That melted quivering in his heart, and woke
Delicious memory: all his senses hung
To listen when that voice sang to his soul:
Then, fearfully aware, he shuddered back;
Yet could not shake the music from his ears.
He cast the spade down, with quick--beating heart,
And sought that voice, whence came it; but the reeds
In the soft--running stream were motionless,
The bushes vacant, all the valley dumb:
And clear upon the yellowed region burned
Evening serene. Then his sore troubled heart
With a tumultuous surging in his breast
Heaved to the calm heaven in a bitter cry:
``I have no strength, I have no refuge more.
Father, ere thou forsake me, send me peace!''
Scarce had the sun into his furnace drawn
The western hills, whose molten peaks shot far
Over the wide waste region fiery rays,
When swiftly Night descended with her stars:
And lo, upon this wrought, unhappy spirit
At last out of the darkness, raining mild
In precious dew upon the desert, peace
Incredibly descended with the night.
He stood immersed in the sweet falling hush.
Over him liquid gloom quivered with stars
Appearing endlessly, as each its place
Remembered, and in order tranquil shone.
Easily all his fever was allayed:
And as a traveller strained against a storm
That meets him, buffeting the mountain side,
Suddenly entering a deep hollow, finds
Magical ease over his nerves, and thinks
He never tasted stillness till that hour;
So eager he surrendered and relaxed
His will, persuaded sweetly beyond hope.
Tranquil at last, his solitary cell
He entered, and a taper lit, that shed
Upon rude arches and deep--shadowed walls
A clearness, tempering all with gentle beam.
Then he, that with such anguish of desire
Had supplicated peace, now peace was come,
Of all forgetful save of his strange joy,
That dear guest in his bosom entertained;
From trouble and from the stealing steps of time
Sequestered; housed within a blissful mood
Of contemplation, like a sacred shrine;
And poured his soul out, into gratitude
Released: how long, there was no tongue to tell,
Nor was himself aware; no warning voice
Admonished, and the great stars altered heaven
Unnoted, and the hours moved over him,
When on his ear and slowly into his soul
Deliciously distilling, stole a sigh.
O like the blossoming of peace it seemed,
Or like an odour heard; or as the air
Had mirrored his own yearning joy in speech,
A whisper wandering out of Paradise.
``Porphyrion, Porphyrion!'' Like a wind
Shaking a tree, that whisper shook his heart.
Keen to reality enkindled now
His inmost fibre was aware of all:
Vast night and the unpeopled wilderness
Around him silent; in that solitude
Himself, and near to him a human sigh!
Immediately the faint voice called again:
'Thou only in this perilous wilderness
Hast found a refuge; ah, for pity's sake
Open! It is a woman weak and lost
In this great darkness, that importunes thee.''
Then with a beating heart, Porphyrion spoke.
``O woman, I have made my soul a vow
To look upon a human face no more.''
'Yet in some corner might I rest my limbs
That are so weary with much wandering,
And thou be unhurt by the sight of me!''
Sweet was the voice: doubting, he answered slow.
'Thou troublest me. I know not who thou art
That com'st so strangely, and I fear thy voice.
What wouldst thou with me? Enter: but my face
Seek not to meet.'' Then he unclosed the door,
But turned aside, and knelt apart, and strove
Again to enter the sweet house of peace.
Yet his heart listened, as with hurried feet
The woman entered; and he heard her sigh,
Like one that after peril breathes secure.
Now the more fixedly he prayed; his will
Was fervent to be lost in holy calm,
So hardly new--recovered: but his ear
Yearned for each gentle human sound, the stir
Of garments, moving hand or heaving breast.
Amid his prayer he questioned, who is this
That wanders in this wilderness alone?
And, as he thought, the faint voice came to him:
'I hunger.'' Then, as men do in a dream,
Obeying without will, he sought and found
Food from his store, and brought, and gave to her.
But as he gave, he touched her on the hand:
He looked at unawares, then turned away;
And dared with venturing eyes to look again;
And when he had looked, he could not look elsewhere.
O what an unknown sweetness troubled him!
He gazed: and as wine blushes through a cup
Of water slowly, in sure--winding coils
Of crimson, the pale solitude of his soul
Was filled and flushed, and he was born anew.
Instantly he forgot all his despair
And anguished supplications after peace.
Not peace, but to be filled with this strange joy
He pined for, while that lovely miracle
His eyes possessed, nor wonder wanted more.
At last his breast heaved, and he found a voice.
``Mystery, speak! O once again refresh
My famished ear with thy sweet syllables!
Thou comest from the desert night, all bloom!
I fear to look away, lest thou shouldst fade.
Art thou too moulded out of simple earth
As I, or only visitest my sight,
Deluding? Ah, Delusion, breathe again
The music of thy voice into my soul!''
As if a rose had sprung within his cell
And magically opened odorous leaves,
So felt he, as she raised her eyes on him
And spoke. 'Hast thou forgotten then so soon?
Hast thou not vowed never again to look
On face of woman or of man? Remember
Ere it be lost, thy vow, thy treasured vow.
O turn away thy wonder--wounded eyes,
Call back thy rashly wandering looks, unsay
Thy words, and this frail image from thy breast
Lock harshly out! Defend thy soul with prayers,
Nor hazard for a dream thy holy calm;
Lest thou repent, and this joy shatter thee.''
While thus she spoke, the stirring of her soul,
Even as a breeze is seen upon a pool,
Appeared upon her face. Like the pale flower
Of darkness, the sweet moon, that dazzles first
And then delights, unfolding more and more
Her beauty, shining full of histories
On the dark world, upon Porphyrion now
She shone; and he was lifted into air
Such as immortals breathe, who dwell in light
Of memory beginningless, and hope
Endless, and joy old and forever fresh.
He heard, yet heard not, and still gazing, sighed:
``Pour on, delicious Music, in my ears
Thy sweetness: for I parch, I am athirst.
Three years have I been vacant of all joy,
Have mocked my sense with famine, and the sound
Of wind and reed: but in thy voice is bliss.
How am I changed, since I have looked on thee!
Thou art not dream. Yet, if a vision only,
Tell me not yet, suffer me still to brim
My sight to overflowing, to rejoice
My heart to melting, even to despair.
Thou art not dream! Yet tell me what thou art,
That in this desert venturest so deep?''
'Seek not,'' she answered, 'what I am, nor whence
I come; in destiny, perhaps, my hand
Was stretched toward thee, and my way prepared.
Only rejoice that thou didst not refuse
Help to the helpless, and hast succoured me.''
As the awakened earth beholds the sun,
Her saviour, when his beam delivers her
From icy prison, and that annual fear
Of death, Porphyrion in his bosom felt
Pangs of recovered ecstasy, old thoughts
Made young, and sweet desires bursting his heart
Like the fresh bursting of a thousand leaves.
Uplifted into rapture he exclaimed:
``O full of bliss, out of the empty world
That comest wondrous, I will ask no more.
Enough that thou art here, that I behold
Thy face, and in thee mirrored all the world
Created newly: Eyes, my oracles,
What days, what years of wonder ye foretell!
As in a dewdrop all the morning shines
I see in you time glorious, grief refreshed,
And Fate undone.'' 'Seest thou only this?''
She said, and earnestly regarded him:
'Art thou so eager after joy? Yet think
In what a boundless wilderness of time
We wander brief! Art thou so swift to taste
Of thy mortality? Yet I am come
To bring thee tidings out of every sea;
Not pearls alone, but shipwrecks in the night
Unsuccoured, and disastrous luring fires,
And tossings infinite, and peril strange.
O wilt thou dare embark? Dost thou not dread
This ocean, in whose murmur seems delight?
Will even thy hunger drive thee through the waves
To bliss? I look on thee, and see the joy
Rise up within thy bosom, and I fear.
So fragile is this sweetness, and so vast
The world: O venturous, glad voyager,
Be sure of all thy courage, for I see
Far off the cloud of sorrow, and bright spears,
And dirges, and joy changed from what it seemed.
Art thou still fervent, O impetuous one?
Still hastest thou to fly tranquillity?''
But he on whom she looked with those deep eyes
Of bright compassion, answered undismayed:
``Let me drink deep of this fountain of bliss!
Speak not of mortal fear, speak not of pain:
Thou painest, but with joy. Thou art all joy;
And in the world I have no joy but thee.
O that I had the wasted days once more
Since to this idle, barren wilderness
I fled, in fear of the tumultuous world,
Enamoured of the silence: here I dreamed
In lonely prayer to satiate my soul.
But now, I want. Rain on my thirsty heart
Thy charm, and by so much as was my loss
By so much more enrich me. I have stript
My days, imprisoned wandering desires,
Made of my mind a jealous solitude,
Pruned overrunning thoughts, and rooted up
Delight and the vain weeds of memory,
Imagining far off to capture peace.
Blind fool! But O no, let me rather praise
Foreseeing Fate, that kept so fast a watch
Over my bliss, and of my heart prepared
A wilderness to bloom with only thee!''
Even now he would embrace her; but awhile
She with delaying gesture stayed him still,
Wistfully doubting, and perusing well
His inmost gaze and his adoring heart.
As from bright water on some early morn,
Under a beautiful dim--branching tree,
A gleam floats up among the leaves, and sends
Light into darkness wavering: from the light
Of his enraptured face a radiance shone
Into the mystery of her eyes; at last
To his warm being she resigned her soul.
She on his heart inscribed for evermore
Her look in that deep moment, and her love.
At unawares this trembled from her lips:
``O joyful spirit, I too have need of thee!''
And now he seemed to fold her in his arms,
And on the mouth to kiss her; close to him,
Surely her swimming eyes were dim with love,
Her lips against him murmured tenderly,
And her cheek touched his own: yet even now,
Even as her bosom swelled within his arms,
As like the inmost richness of a rose
Wounding, the perfume of her soul breathed up
An insupportable joy into his brain,
Even now, alas! faltering in ecstasy,
His arms were emptied; back he sank; despair
Drowned him; upon his sense the darkness closed;
And with a cry, lost in a cloud, he fell.
Slumber these desolated senses guard
With silence interposed and dimness kind;
While in tumultuous ebb joy and dismay
Murmur, re--gathering their surge afar.
Idle thou liest, Porphyrion, and o'erthrown
By violent bliss into a trance as deep:
Yet even in thy trance thou takest vows,
Thou burnest with a dedicated fire,
And thou canst be no more what thou hast been.
A rebel, thou wert in strong bonds, who now
Art chosen and consenting: and prepared
Is all thy path, that no more leads to peace,
But to repining fever; pain so dear,
It will not be assuaged. Awaiting thee
Is all that Love of the deep heart requires;
The ecstasy, the loss, the hope, the want,
The prick of grief beneath the closed eyelid
Of him whom memory visits, but not rest;
The sweetness touched, for ever perishing
Out of the eager hands. Invisibly
Perhaps even now on thy unconscious cheek
Thy Guide is gazing, and to pity moved
He thy forgetful term gently extends.
At last from heavily unclouding sleep
Porphyrion stirs: dimly over his brain
Returns the noon, and opens wide his eyes.
Some moments by the veiling sense of use
Delayed in wonder, troubled he starts up.
Instantly he remembered; and all changed
Appeared his cell, the silence and the light:
She, whom his heart had need of, was not there.
And eager from his dwelling he came forth,
If there were sign of her. But all was still.
Suspended over the forsaken land,
The sun stood motionless, and palsied Time,
Helpless to urge his congregated hours,
Leaned heavy on the mountain: the steep noon
Had all the cool shade into fire devoured.
Then quailed Porphyrion. Lost was his new joy,
An apparition frail as a bright flame
Seen in the sun: irrevocably lost
The old thoughts that so long had sheltered him.
The fear, that presaging the heavy world
Makes wail the newborn child, he now, a man,
Thrice competent to suffer, felt afresh,
To cruel truth re--born, a naked soul.
Now he had eyes to see and ears to hear,
And knew at last he was alone: the sky
Absorbed he saw, the earth with absent face,
The water murmuring only to the reeds,
Unconscious rock, and sun--contented sand.
And even as within him keener rose
Longing unloosed, so much the heavier grew
The intensity of solitude around.
Melancholy had planned her palace here.
Dead columns, to support the burning sky,
For living senses insupportable,
She made, and ample barrenness, wherein
To ponder of defeated spirits, quenched
Desire, o'ertaken hope, courage undone,
Implored oblivion, and rejected joy:
Nor this alone, but idleness so vast
As even the stormiest enterprise becalmed,
Till it was trivial to advance one foot
Beyond the other; rashness to provoke
An echo, where if ever man could laugh,
Laughter had seemed the end of vanity,
Were not a vanity more vain in tears.
For from the blown dust to the extremest hills,
Audible silence, that sustained despair,
A ceiling over all immovable,
Presided; and the desert, nourishing
That silence, listened, jealous of a sound
Younger than her unageing solitude;
The desert, that was old when earth was young.
Wailing into the silence, that rang back
A wounded cry, to the unhearkening ear
Of the austere ravines perhaps not strange,
The youth in that vain region stood, and cast
Hither and thither seeking, his sad eyes.
Out of the dreadful light to his dim cell
He fled for refuge. Here he had possessed
Joy, for a brief space, here She looked on him,
Here had her heart beat in her bosom close
Against his own. Her voice was in his ear;
And suddenly his soul was quieted.
Surely the visitation of such spirits
Comes not of chance, he murmured, but of truth.
Surely this was the shadow of some light
That shines, the odour of some flower that blooms,
And far off mid the great world dwells in flesh
That blissful spirit, and bears a human name.
If she be far, yet have I all my days
For seeking, and no other joy on earth:
I will arise, and seek her through the world.
With this resolve impassioned and inspired,
His thoughts were bright, and his hot bosom calmed.
Sweet was it to behold that radiant goal,
Though far, and hazardous and wide the way.
The greatness of his quest found answer in him
Of greatness, and the thousand teasing cares
That swarm upon perplexity, flew off.
Gladly against his journey he prepared
His pilgrim's need, and laid him down and slept,
And ere the dawn with scrip and staff arose.
Now at his door, irrevocably free,
Before the unknown world, spread dim and vast,
He stood and pondered, gazing forth, which way
To follow, and what distant city or vale
Held his desire; but pondering he was drawn
Forth by some secret impulse; he obeyed,
Not doubting; toward the places of his youth
He turned his face, toward the high mountain slopes
Of the dim west, and Antioch and the sea.
Up the long valley, by the glimmering stream
He went; and over him the stars grew pale.
Cliffs upon either hand in darkness plunged
Built up a shadow; but far off, in front,
Invaded by the first uncertain beam,
Mountain on mountain like a cloud arose.
He seemed ascending some old Titan stair,
That led up to the sky by great degrees,
In the vast dawn; he journeyed eagerly,
Foot keeping pace with thought; for his full heart
Tarried not, but was with its happy goal,
One face, one form, one vision, one desire.
Due onward over the unending hills
He held his way, and the warm morning sprang
Behind him, and a less impatient speed
Drove his feet onward. In the midday heat
He rested weary; and relaxing thought,
Had leisure to perceive where he had come.
Burning beneath the solitary noon
All round him rose, rock upon rock o'erhung,
A fiery silence: undefended now
By clouding grief, nor in illusion armed,
He to the heavy lure all open lay
That from this mortal desolation breathed.
Out of his heart he sought to summon up
The vision, but it fled before his thought.
Only the hot blank everywhere opposed
His spirit, and the silent mountain wall.
Like one, on whom the fear of blindness comes,
For whom the sun begins to fall from heaven,
And the ground darkens, he rose up and fled,
Grasping his staff; and fearful now to pause
In that death--breathing region, onward ran.
Yet was not peril past. He had not come
Far, when his agitated eyes beheld,
Amid the uneven crumbling ground, a stone
Square--hewn and edgeways fallen; and he knew
That he had come where men long since had been.
And as he lifted up his eyes, all round
Were massy granite pillars half o'erthrown,
Propping the air; and yellow marble shone,
Dimly inscribed, fragments of maimed renown.
Over the ruined region he stole on,
Threading the interrupted clue of roads
That led all to oblivion, trenches choked
With weed, and old mounds heaped on idle gold.
And now Porphyrion paused, inhaling fast
Odours of buried fame: as in a dream,
All that remote dead city and her brisk streets,
Repeopled and for mountain battle armed,
He apprehended. The deep wave of time
Subsiding, had disclosed englutted wrecks,
Which now so long slept idle, that they seemed
To emulate the agelessness of earth;
Did not the fondness of mortality
Still haunt them, and a kind of youth forlorn,
As if the Desert their brief fable, man,
Indulging from austerest indolence,
Forbore a just disdain. Porphyrion,
With beating pulses, and with running blood,
Alone on ashes perishably breathed.
As he who treads the uncertain lava fears
Each moment that his rash foot may awaken
Fire from beneath him, from that sepulchre
Of smouldering ages fearfully he fled.
And sometimes he looked backward, lest his feet
Startle a shadowy population up
In the deserted sunlight, faces stern
Of fleshless kings, to claim him for their own:
So frail appeared the heaving of his breath,
So brief his pace, so idle his desire.
At last beyond the scarred gray walls he came,
And gladly found the savage rock once more
Beneath him, nor yet dared to rest or pause,
But onward pressed, over the winding sides
Of pathless valleys, where an echoing stream
Ran far below; and ridges desolate
He climbed, and under precipices huge
And down the infinite spread slopes made way.
The eagle steering in the upper winds,
As, balanced out of sight, his eye surveyed
From white Palmyra to Damascus, flushed
Among faint--shining streams, saw him afar
Journey, a shadow never wearying
From hour to hour: until at last the hills
Less steep opposed him, toward the distant plains
Declining in great uplands dimly rolled.
Here were few stubborn trees, by sunset now
With sullen glory lighted rich, till night
Rose in the east, and hooded the bare world.
Porphyrion had ascended a last ridge
Of many, and his eyes gazed out afar
On boundless country darkening; he lay down
At last, full weary: the keen foreign air
Filled his delighted nostril: and his heart
Was soothed. As on a troubled mere at night
Wind ceases, and the gentle evening brings
Beauty to that vext mirror, and all fresh
In perfect images the lost returns;
Serenely in his bosom rose anew
The vision: somewhere in that distant world,
He mused, is she; and there is all my joy.
But evening now before his gazing eyes
Receded dim, until the whole wide earth
Appeared a cloud. Then in the gloom a dread
Came whispering, and hope faltered in his breast:
``O if the great world be but fantasy
Raised by the deep enchantment of desire,
And melt before my coming like a cloud!''
Parleying with the ghost of fear, yet still
Cherishing his thought's treasure, he resigned
His senses to the huge and empty night,
When on the infinite horizon, lo!
Sending a herald clearness, upward stole
Tranquil and vast, over the world, the moon.
Delicately as when a sculptor charms
The ignorant clay to liberate his dream,
Out of the yielding dark with subtle ray
And imperceptible touch she moulded hill
And valley, beauteous undulation mild,
Inlaid with silver estuary and stream,
Until her solid world created shines
Before her, and the hearts of men with peace,
That is not theirs, disquiets: peopled now
Is her dominion; she in far--off towns
Has lighted clear a long--awaited lamp
For many a lover, or set an end to toil,
Or terribly invokes the brazen lip
Of trumpets blown to Fate, where men besieged
For desperate sally buckle their bright arms.
All these, that the cheered wanderer on his height
In fancy sees, the lover's secret kiss,
The mirth--flushed faces thronging through the streets,
And ships upon the glimmering wave, and flowers
In sleeping gardens, and encounters fierce,
And revellers with lifted cups, and men
In prison bowed, that move not for their chains,
And sacred faces of the newly dead;
All with a mystery of gentle light
She visits, and in her deep charm includes.
Dawn in the ancient heavens over the earth
Shone up; but in Porphyrion's bosom rose
A brighter dawn: the early ray that touched
His slumber, woke the new, unfathomed need,
Fallen from radiant night into his soul,
That thirsted still for beauty; for that joy
Beyond possession, ever flying far
From our dim utterance, beauty causing tears.
He stretched his arms out to the golden sun,
His glorious kin, impetuously glad,
And with aërial morning journeyed on
O'er valley and o'er hill. The second dawn
Found him far--travelled over pastoral lands,
Where from the shepherds' lonely huts a smoke
Went up, or some white shrine gleamed on a height.
Soon the dark ranging and unchanging pines
Yielded to ash and chestnut; O how fair
Their perishable leaf! Porphyrion knew
That some great city neared him, and his pace
Grew eager, climbing a soft--crested hill
In expectation; yet all unprepared
At last upon his eye the prospect broke,
Dawning serene, and endlessly unrolled.
There lay the city, there embodied hope
Rose to outmatch desire: he cried aloud,
Taken with joy so irresistible,
That he must seize a sapling by the stem
To uphold him, and in ardent silence gazed.
Solitary heaven, strown with vast white clouds,
Moved toward him over the abounding land;
A land of showers, a land of quivering trees,
A land of youth, lovely and full of sap,
Upon whose border trembled the wide sea.
Young were the branches round him, in fresh leaf
Luminously shaded; the arriving winds
Broke over him in soft aërial surge;
For him the grass was glittering, the far cloud
Loosened her faltering tresses of dim rain,
And broad Orontes interrupted shone.
But mid that radiant amphitheatre
He saw but the far city: thither ran
His gaze, and rested on her, in a bloom
Of distant air apparelled, while his heart
Beat at the thought of what she held for him.
Bright Antioch! From the endless ocean wave
Gliding the sunbeam broke upon her towers,
A moment gleaming white, then into shade
Withdrawn, until she seemed a thing of breath,
Created fair, from whose far roofs arose
Soft, like an exhalation, human joy.
Clear as a pool to plunge in, seemed the world
This blissful morn, to him that thither gazed,
Wondering, until unconscious tears were wet
Upon his flushing cheek, while he sent forth
His eager thoughts flying to that sweet goal,
And conjuring wishes waved unknown delight
To come to him. Already in dream arrived,
Close to his ear the hum of those far streets
He hears; already sees the busy crowd
Pass and repass, with laughter and with cries.
Meeting him, children hand in hand from school
Gleefully run, and old men, slow of step,
Approach; the mason, pausing from his toil
Under the plank's cool shadow, looks at him,
Or, with a negligent wonder glancing down,
Beautiful faces; oh, perhaps the face
That to his fate he follows through the world.
That deepest hope, too dear to muse upon,
A moment filled him with a thrilling light:
And as a bird, alighting on a reed
Sprung straight and slender from a lonely stream,
Some idle morning, delicately sways
The mirrored stem, and sings for perfect joy;
So musical, alighted young desire
Upon his heart, that trembled like the reed.
Down from that height, over delicious grass,
Amid the rocks, amid the trees, he sped.
The browsing sheep upstarted in the sun,
Scared by his coming; he ran on, and tore
A fresh leaf in his mouth, or sang aloud
Out of his happy heart; such keen delight
His eye was treasuring, that welcomed all
The variable blooms in the high grass,
Borage and mullein and the rust--red plume
Of sorrel, and the sprinkled daisies white.
Even the sap in the young bough he felt
Reach warmly up to the inviting sun,
As if his own blood by the spring renewed
Were theirs, and budding leaves within his breast.
At last, ere he perceived it, he was close
Upon the city walls: through shading boughs
Across a valley they rose populous
With crowding towers and roofs of distant hum.
Then in the midst of joy he was afraid.
So close to him the richness he desired
Dismayed his spirit, that to doubt and fear
Recoiling fell. Not yet will I go up,
He thought; but when the dark comes, I will go.
Even as his purpose was relaxed, his limbs
To sudden heaviness surrendered: down
He laid him in sweet grass beside a pool,
Under a chestnut, opposite a grove
Of cypress; and at once sleep fell on him:
Deep sleep, that into dark unfathomed wells
Plunges the spirit, and with ignorance lost
Acquaints, and inaccessible delight,
And unborn beauty. But meanwhile the noon
Had ripened and grown pale in the soft sky.
A gentle rain fell as the light declined;
And, the drops ceasing, an unprisoned beam
Out of a cloud flowed trembling o'er the grove,
And ran beside long shadows of the stems,
And lighted the dark underleaves, and touched
The sleeper: suddenly his cheek was warm:
He stirred an arm, and unrelaxing, sighed;
And now, through crimsoned eyelids, on his brain
The full sun burned; to wonder he awoke.
Green over him, in mystery o'erhung,
Was dimness fluttered with a thousand rays;
Unfathomable green; that living roof
A single stem upbore, whose mighty swerve
Upward he followed, till it branched abroad
In heaven, and through the dark leaves shone remote,
Smooth--molten splendour, the broad evening cloud.
Porphyrion upon his elbow leaned
And hearkened, for the trembling air was hushed
By hundred birds, praising the peaceful light
Invisibly: a wet drop from the leaf
Spilled glittering on his hand. Then he reclined
Deep into joy, absolved out of himself,
The while the wind brought to him light attired
In fragrance, and the breathing stillness seemed
Music asleep, too lovely to be stirred.
As thus he drew into his pining heart
Such juices as make young the world, and feed
The veins of spring; as into one pure sense
Embodied, he was hearkening blissfully,
A sound came to him wonderful, like pain,
With such a sweetness edged. It was a voice,
A happy voice: and toward it instantly
The fibre of his flesh yearningly turned,
Trembling as at a touch. Then he arose
Troubled: he looked, and in the grove beyond
That peaceful water, lo! a little band
Of youths and maidens under distant trees
Departing: one looked backward ere she went;
And his heart cried within his breast, awaked
Suddenly into blissful hope. Alas!
With flutter of fair robes and mingled, gay,
Faint laughter, down a bank out of his view
They were all taken. Pierced with sudden loss,
And kindled, like a wild, uncertain flame,
Into a hundred joyful, wavering fears,
He gazed upon the empty grove, the pool,
And the light brimming over on fresh grass
And lonely stems: but the bereaved bright scene
No more rejoiced him. Now, to aid his wish,
Swift night upon the fading west inclined:
And he stole forward through the cypress gloom
Toward Antioch. Halting on a neighbour brow,
Afar off he beheld that company
Even now under the dim gate entering in.
He followed, and at last the darkened street
Received him, wondering, back among his kind.
Was ever haven like the dream of it
In peril? or did ever feet attain
Their goal, but still a richer rose beyond?
It was a festal night: gay multitudes
Came idly by, and no man noted him.
His seeking gaze, hither and thither drawn,
Roamed in a mirror of desires amazed,
And found, yet wanted more than it could find.
Beauty he felt around him brushing near,
And joy in others seen; but all to him,
Without the vision that his soul required,
Was idle: solitary was his heart,
And full to breaking: yet, as wounds are dulled
To the frail sense, he knew not yet his grief,
For wonder clothed it; through a veil he heard
And saw. Thus wandering aimlessly he found
His feet upon a marble stair; in face
A porch rose; issuing was a festal sound,
That drew him onward out of the lone night.
Halting upon the threshold he gazed in.
Pillars in lovely parallel sustained
A roof of shadowed snow, enkindled warm
From torches pedestalled in order bright;
Amid whose brilliance at a banquet sat,
Crowned with sweet garlands, revellers, and cups
Lifted in laughing, boisterous pledge, or gazed
Earnest in joy, on their proud paramours.
Pages, with noiseless tripping feet, had borne
The feast aside; and now the brimming wine
From frosted flagons blushed, and the spread board
Showed the soft cheek of apricot, or glory
Of orange burning from a dusk of leaves,
Cloven pomegranates, brimmed with ruby cells,
Great melons, purpling to the frosty core,
And mountain strawberries. Beyond, less bright,
Was hung mysterious magnificence
Of tapestry, where, with ever--moving feet,
A golden Triumph followed banners waved
O'er captive arms, and slender trumpets blew
To herald a calm hero charioted.
Just when a music, melted from above,
Over the feasters flowed, and softly fixed
The listening gaze, and stilled the idle hand,
Porphyrion entered; all those faces flushed,
Lights, flowers and laughter, and the trembling wine,
And hushing melody, and happy fume
Of the clear torches burning Indian balm,
Clouded his brain with sweetness, like a waft
Of perished youth returned; those wonders held
His eyes, yet were as things he might not touch,
And, if he stretched his hand out, they would fade.
Then he remembered whom he sought. A pang
Disturbed him; eager with bright eyes inspired,
Through those that would have stayed his feet, he stole
Nearer to bliss. They all regarded him
Astonished; in their joyful throng he seemed
An apparition: darkly the long hair
Hung on his shoulders, and his form was frail.
Some cried, then all were silent; a strange want
Woke in their sated breasts, and wonder dread
Troubled them, whence had come and what required
This messenger unknown. But he passed on,
And in each woman's face with questioning gaze,
Dazzled by nearer splendour, looked, and sought,
Doubtful. Already one, whose arm was laid
Around the shoulder of her paramour,
Stayed him, so deep into his heart she looked,
Biting her pearly necklace: in her robe
Was moonlight shivering over purple seas.
Encountering, their spirits parleyed: then
Unwillingly he drew his eyes away.
Another, clothed as in the fiery bloom
Of cloud at evening changing o'er the sun,
Backward reclining, under lids half--closed
Gazed, and a moment held him at her feet:
Until at last one turned and dazzled him,
Of whose attire he knew not, so her face
With sun--like glory drew him: he approached;
And she, presiding beauteous and adored
Queen of that perfumed feast, beckoned him on.
Her bosom heaved; the music from her ears
Faded, and from her sated sense the glow
Of empty mirth: far lovelier were in him
Sorrow and youth and wonder and desire.
Forward she leaned, and showed a vacant place
By her, and he came near, and sat him down,
Charm--stricken also, whispering, Art thou she?
She said no word, but to his shining eyes
Answered, and of the red pomegranate fruit
Gave him to eat, and golden wine to drink,
And with pale honeyed roses crowned his hair.
All marvelled, and with murmur looked on him,
As, high exalted over realms of joy,
He sat in glory, and sweet incense breathed
Of that dominion, riches in a cloud
Descending, and before his feet prepared
The world in bloom, and in his eyes the dream
Of destiny excelled, and rushing thoughts
Radiant, and beauty by his side enthroned.
Love, the sweet nourishing sun of human kind,
Who with unquenchable fire inhabitest
Worlds, that would fall into that happy death
Out of their course, were not their course so fixt;
Who from the dark soil drawest up the plant,
And the sweet leaves out of the naked tree;
Whose ardent air to taste and to enjoy
All flesh desire, even of bitter pangs
Enamoured, so that this intenser breath
They breathe, and one victorious moment taste
Life perfect, over Fate and Time empowered;
Leave him not desolate, Love, who to thy glory
Is dedicated, and for thee endures
To look upon the dreadful grave of joy,
Knowing the lost is lost; comfort him now,
Thy votary, who by the pale sea--shore
In the young dawn paces uncomforted.
Ah, might not sweet embraces have assuaged
The fever which had burnt him, honeyed mouth
And the close girdle of voluptuous arms?
Nor dimly fragrant hair have curtained him
From memory? Alas, too new he came
From love, too recent from that ecstasy;
And memory mocked him under the cold stars,
With finished yet untasted pleasure sad.
Flying that fragrant lure, unhappy soul,
By the dark shore he paces: and his eyes
The dawn delights not, far off in the east
Discovering the sleeping world, and men
To all their tasks arousing, while she strews
Neglected roses on the unchanging hills,
And over the dim earth and wave unfolds
Beauty, but not the beauty he desires.
To her, to her, who in the desert touched
His spirit, and unsealed his eyes, and showed
Above a new earth a new sun, and brought
His steps forth to this perilous rich world,
Stirred with ineffable deep longing now
He turned; ev'n to behold her from afar,
To touch the hem of her apparel, seemed
Sweeter ten thousandfold than absolute
Taste and possession of a lesser charm.
``Where art thou?'' cried he. ``Ah, dost thou behold
My desolation and not come to me?
O ere my sick heart all delight refuse,
Return, appear! Or say in what far land
Thou lingerest, that I may seek thee out
And find thee, without whom I have no peace
Nor joy, but wander aimless in a path
Barren and undetermined o'er the world.
Wilt not thou make thy voice upon the wind
Float hither, or in dew thy secret breathe
To answer my entreaty?'' The still shore
Was echoless, unanswered that sad cry.
Warm on the wave the Syrian morning stole.
Out of suspended hazes the smooth sea
Swelled into brilliance, and subsiding hushed
The lonely shore with music: such a calm
As vexes the full heart, inviting it,
Flattered with sighing pause Porphyrion's ear.
The sea hungered his spirit; he could not lift
His eyes from the arriving splendour calm
Of those broad waters, to their solemn chime
Setting his grief; and gradually vast
His longing opened to horizons wide
As the round ocean; deep as the deep sea
His heart, and the unbounded earth his road.
That inward stream and dark necessity,
Which drives us onward in the way of Time,
Moved his uncertain hesitating soul
Into its old course, and his feet set firm
To tread their due path, seeking over earth
The Wonder that made idle all things else.
He raised his brow, inhaling the wide air;
And the wind rose, and his resolve was set.
Broad on the morrow hoisting to the sun
Her sail, a ship out of the harbour stands
Bearing Porphyrion, fervent to renew
His lonely pilgrimage; to fate his way
Committed, and to guiding beams of heaven;
And careless whither bound, so the remote
Irradiated circle, ever fresh,
Glittering into infinity, lead on.
Soon the bright water and keen kiss of the air
His clouded courage cleared; uprising wind
Swelled the resisting sail, and the prow felt
The supple press of water, cleaving it;
And the foam flashed and murmured; hope again
Rose tremulous to that music's buoyant note.
Day pursued day on the blue deep, and shores
Sprang up and faded: still his gaze was cast
Forward, and followed that undying dream.
Standing at last above a harbour strange,
Inland he bent, ever with questioning heart
Expectant; and through wilderness and town
Journeyed all summer; nor could autumn tame
That urging fire; nor mid the gliding leaves
Of bare December could hope fall from him.
Ever a stranger roamed he, nor had thought
To seek a home; for him this vast desire
Was home, that fed his spirit and sheltered him
From care and time and the perplexing world.
For not beside an earthly hearth he deemed
To find her moving whom he sought, though fair
With human limbs, and clothed in lovely flesh.
Rather some visitation swift and strange
His soul awaited. When at evening's end
He rested and each fostered secret wish
Rose trembling; when the dewy yellow moon
Slowly on cypress gardens poured her light,
And from the flowery gloom and whispering
Of leaves, a hundred odours had released,
Dimly he knew that she was wandering near,
A blissful presence, scarce beyond the marge
Of his veiled senses, in a world of beams.
Or journeying through the wild forest, he saw
Her passing robe pale mid the shadowy stems
A moment shine before his quickened steps
To leave him in the deep forsaken gloom
Pining with throbbing breast and desolate eyes;
And once in the thronged market at hot noon
Heard his name spoken, and looked round on air.
So visited, so haunted, he was led
Onward through many a city of the plain
Till vaster grew the silence, and far off
The noise of men; and he began to climb
Pastoral hills that into mountains rose
Skyward, with shelving ridges sloped between,
Long days apart. And as he wound his way
Thither, from crested town to town, he heard
Rumours of war all round him, men in arms
Saw glittering in winding files, and waved
Banners, and trumpets blown. But all to him
Was distant, borne from a far alien world
Where men in ignorant vain deeds embroiled
Lost the treasure of earth and all their soul.
Onward he kept his course, nor recked of them,
Riding the solitary forest ways.
And now again it was the time of birth,
When the young year arises in the woods
From sleep, and tender leaves, and the first flower.
Old thoughts were stirring in Porphyrion's breast,
And old desires, like old wounds, flowed anew.
It was that hour of hesitating spring
When with expanded buds and widened heaven
The heart swells into sadness, wanting joy
More ample, and unnumbered longings reach
Into a void, as tendrils into air.
O now as never seemed he to have need
Of his beloved, to be with her at last,
To see her and embrace her with his arms,
And in her bosom find perpetual peace.
Scarcely aware of the bright leaves around
His path, and heedless of his way, he rode
With bridle slack and forward absent eyes,
When piercing his deep dream a groaning cry
Smote on him; he stayed still and from his horse
Dismounted, and the rough briar pushed aside.
Hard by the path, amid the trodden grass
And bloody brambles, lay a wounded man.
``Friend, fetch me water,'' groaned he, ``for I die.
The spring is near, and I have crawled thus far
But get no farther, struggle how I may.''
Quickly Porphyrion ran to where the spring
Gushed bubbling, and fetched water, and came back.
The dying man drank deep, and having drunk
Half rose upon his arm, and eager asked:
``How went the battle? have we won or lost?
I know not whether thou be friend or foe,
But quick, tell me! I faint.'' ``What sayest thou
Of battles?'' said Porphyrion; ``I know not
Of what thou speakest, and I fight for none.''
Faintly the other with upbraiding eyes
Regarding him, made answer. ``Art thou young
And is the blood warm in thy body, and yet
Thou wanderest idle? But perhaps thy hand
Knows not the sword, nor thou the ways of men?''
Then kindled at his heart Porphyrion spoke.
``I have no need of fighting, yet my hand
Knows the sword, and my youth was trained in arms.''
``Take then this blade, and bind my armour on.
For over yonder hill I think even now
They fight; there is our camp; ah, bid them come
And bury Orophernes where he fell!''
Even with the word he sank back and expired,
Youthful amid the soft green leaves of spring,
That over his pale cheek and purple lips
Waved shadowing. Nearer than his inmost thought
Was then the silence to Porphyrion's heart,
As heavily he rode, bearing the sword
For token, and the helmet on his brows.
He sought for his old thoughts and found them not.
Even as when the sudden thunder breaks
A brooding sky, and the air chills, and strange
The altered landscape shines in a cold light,
And they that loitered hasten on, and oft
Shiver in the untimely falling eve,
So now on this irruption of the world
Followed a sadness, and his thoughts were changed
And yearning chilled. How idle seemed his hope,
How infinite his quest! Before his mind
Life spread deserted, vacant as a mist.
So mournful rode he; when beyond a hill,
Whose height, with hanging forest interposed,
Shut off the sun, he came into the light
Over against a valley broad that sloped
Before him; and at once burst on him full
All the glory of war and sounding arms.
He thought no more, but gazed and gazed again.
Dark in the middle of the plain beneath
An army moved against a city towered
Upon a distant eminence: even now
From the gate issued troops, with others joined
New--come to aid them, and together ranked
Stood to encounter stern the foes' assault.
These upon either wing had clouded horse
In squadrons, chafing like a river curbed
By the firm wind that meets it; crest and hoof
Shone restless as the white wind--thwarted waves.
Lonely and loud a sudden trumpet blew;
And fierce a score of brazen throats replied.
The sound redoubled in Porphyrion's soul
And forward drew him; he remembered now
His errand. In that instant the ripe war
Broke like a tempest; the great squadrons loosed
Shot forward glittering, like a splendid wave
That rises out of shapeless gloom, a form
Massy with dancing crest, threatening and huge,
And effortlessly irresistible
Bursts on the black rocks turbulently abroad,
Falling, and roaring, and re--echoing far.
So rushed that ordered fury of steeds and spears
Under an arch of arrows hailing dark
Against the stubborn foe: they from the slope
Swept onward opposite with clang as fierce:
Afar, pale women from the wall looked down.
Porphyrion saw: he was a spirit changed.
He hearkened not to memory, hope or fear,
But cast them from him violently, and swift
To fuse in this fierce impulse all regret,
To woo annihilation, or to plunge
At least in fiery action his unused
Vain life, and in that burning furnace melt
The idle vessel and re--mould it new,
Spurred his horse on into the very midst,
And loud the streaming battle swallowed him.
Just on that instant when the meeting shock
Tumultuously clashed, and cries were mixt
With glitter of blades whirled like spirted spray,
He came: and as the thundering ranks recoiled,
They saw him, solitary, flushed and young,
A radiant ghost in the dead hero's arms.
Amazement smote them; in that pause he rode
Forward; and shouting Orophernes' name
Jubilant the swayed host came after him.
Iron on iron gnashed: Porphyrion smote
Unwearied; the bright peril stilled his brain,
The terrible joy inspired him: by his side
Vaunting, young men over their ready graves
Were rushing glorious: many as they rushed
Drank violent draughts of darkness unawares,
And swiftly fell; but he uninjured fought.
Easily as men conquer in a dream
He passed through splintered spears, opposing shields
And shouting faces, and wild cries, and blood;
Till now a hedge of battle bristling sprang
All round him, and no way appeared, and dark
This way and that the rocking weight of war
Swung heavy, shields and lances interclasped.
He in his heart felt hungrier the flame
Burning for desolation, and he flushed,
Sanguine of death; the sudden starting blood
Inflamed him, drunk as with a mighty wine.
And on an instant terror from the air
Upon the foemen fell; from heart to heart
As in mysterious mirrors flashed; afar
Triumphing cries rose all at once, and death
Shone dazzling in their eyes, and they were lost.
Then on them rushed the victors glorying.
Shaken abroad the battle fiercely flowed,
Wild--scattering sudden as quicksilver stream
Spilled in a thousand drops; the electric air
Pulsed with the vehemence of strong bodies hurled
In mad pursuit, till yielding or in flight
Or fallen, the defeated armies ran
Broken, and on the wall the women wailed.
Then to their camp the victors came, and all
Followed Porphyrion wondering, and acclaimed
His triumph: he in an exultant dream
Still moved, and had no thought, but from the lips
Of bearded captains, as around their fires
That night they told of old heroic deeds,
Heard his own praise, and feasted, and afar
Drank, like an ocean wind, the air of fame.
Meanwhile in the surrendered city, night
Went heavy, not in feasting nor in sleep.
Proud in submission were those stubborn hearts,
And nursed through darkness thoughts of far revenge,
Mixt with the glory of their courage vain.
And now as the first beam revisited
Their sorrow, and to each his neighbour's face
Disclosed, they stood at leisure to perceive
How grimly famine on their limbs had wrought,
And on their wasted cheeks and temples worn;
And from their eyes shone desolated fire,
Inflexible resolve unstrung in the end.
They saw the sentinels with haughty pace
Trample the thresholds of their homes, and watched
In melancholy indolence all day
Soldiers upon their errands come and go.
At evening afar off a bugle blew,
Sounding humiliation and despair
To them, but triumph to their conquering foes,
Who now in bright magnificence arrayed
Their hosts to enter the dejected walls.
Feigning indifference, each man to his door
Came forth; beneath the battlemented arch
Too soon detested ensign and proud plume
They saw; the broad flag streaming to the air
Fresh flowered purples, like a summer field,
The trumpets blown, the thousand upright spears
Shining, and drums and ordered trampling feet.
But in the van of these battalions stern
All wondered to behold a single youth,
Riding unhelmeted with ardent mien,
And all about him casting his bright eyes.
Up through the thronged street triumphing he rode.
But as he passed, his radiant look, that seemed
From some far glory to have taken light,
Shining among dark faces, suffered change.
Nothing on either side but hate or woe,
Defiant or averted, sullen youth
And wasted age, all misery, smote his gaze.
As the sun's splendour leaves a mountain peak
Sinking into the west, and ashy pale
Leaves it, the sadder from that former glow,
So from Porphyrion's face the glory ebbed,
His eye grew dim, and pain altered his brow.
At last that conquering army, with the night,
Possessed the city; and a hum arose
Like busy noise of settling bees; and fires,
Kindled, shed broad into the gloom a blaze;
And there were sounds of feasting and loud mirth,
And riot late, until by slow degrees
Returned darkness and silence, and all slept.
Only Porphyrion slept not: on his bed,
Turning from lamentable thoughts in vain,
He lay. But in that stillest hour, when first
Stars fade, and mist arises, and air chills,
Quite wearied out with toil and war within,
Slumber at length fell on him; but not peace.
Scarce had he wandered in the ways of sleep
Some moments, when before his feet appeared,
Solemn and in the bright attire of dreams,
She whom his waking soul so many days,
So many months, had followed still in vain,
His dearest unattainable desire.
But now she looked into his face, and saw
His grief, and met him with reproachful eyes.
``What dost thou here, Porphyrion?'' Her grave voice
Was musical with sorrow. ``Faintest thou
In seeking me, thy joy, tired of the way
Because the hour is not yet come to find?
Dost thou forget what in thy desert cell
I warned thee to be perilous on thy path,
Luring of loud distraction, and delay,
The vastness of the world and thy frail heart?
Seek on, faint not, prove all things till thou find;
And still take comfort; where thou art, I am.''
Her voice, that trembled in the dreamer's soul
From some celestial distance, like a breeze,
Ended: the brightness went, and he awoke.
And lo, the placid colours of the dawn
Were stealing in: he rose, and came without.
Ah, now, sweet vision, O my perfect light,
I come to thee, my love, my only truth!
It was not I, but some false clouding self
That fell bewildered in this erring way;
Or an oblivion rose from underground
To blind me; but this place of grief and blood
I leave, to follow thee for evermore.
Full of this fervent prayer, through the dim street
He went: the stillness hearkened at his heels.
Now as he passed, in chilly waftings fresh
He scented the far morning: the blue night
Thinned, and all pale things were disclosed; and now
Even in his earnest pace he could not choose
But pause a moment; for all round he saw
Faces and forms lying in shadowy sleep
Within dark porches, and by sheltering walls,
And under giant temple--colonnades,
Utterly wearied. Some in armour lay
Dewy, with forehead upturned to the dawn;
And some against a pillar leaned, with hands
Open and head thrown back; an ancient pair
With fingers clasping slumbered, by whose side
A bearded warrior moved in his dark dream
Exclaiming fiercely; and a mother pressed
Her baby closer, even in her sleep.
He gazed upon them by a charm detained.
For heavy over all their slumber weighed;
And if one lifted voice or arm, it was
As plants that in deep water idly stir
And then are still: so these, bodies entranced,
Lay under soft oblivion deeply drowned.
But, as they slept, the light stole over them
By pale degrees, and each unconscious soul
Yielded his secret: with the hues of dawn
Into that calm of faces floated up
Out of their living and profound abyss
What thoughts, what dreams, what terrors, what dumb wails!
What gleams of ever--burning funeral fires
On haunted deserts where delight had been!
Glories, and dying memories, and desires!
What sighs, that like a piercing odour rose
From the long pain of love, what beauty strange
Of joy, and sweetness unreleased, and strength
Fatally strong to bear immortal woe,
And anguish darkly sepulchred in peace.
Porphyrion gazed, and as he gazed, he wept.
For he beheld how in those spirits frail,
Slept also passions mightier than themselves,
Waiting to rend and toss them; tiger thoughts,
Ecstasies, hungers, and disastrous loves,
Violent as storms that sleep under the wave,
Vast longings cruelly in flesh confined,
And wrecking winds of madness and of doom.
He trembled; yet as knowledge, even of things
Terrible, hath power to calm and to sustain,
His soul endured that truth, and to its depth
Feared not to plunge. Now he began to love,
And to be sorrowful with a new sorrow.
``What have I done,'' he sighed, ``what have I lost,
My brothers, that I have no part in you?
Yet am I of your flesh and you of mine.
Sleep for this hour hath separated you
From one another, but from me for ever.
O that I could delay with you, and bear
Your lot! or with enchanting wand have power
To raise you out of slumber into peace!
To be entwined and rooted in that life
Which brings you want of one another, pain
Borne not alone, and all that human joy,
How sweet it were to me! O you of whom,
When you awaken, others will have need,
I envy you those trusting eyes, and hands
Put forth for help: I envy all your grief.
But I am all made of untimeless.
Necessity drives on my soul to pass
Another way; my errand is not here.
Farewell, farewell, O happy, troubled hearts!''
As a blind man who feels around him move
The blest, who see, and fancies them embraced
Or feasting in each other's joyous eyes;
With such deep envy often he turned back,
Even as he went, to those unconscious forms
That slumbered. But his spirit urged him on,
With kindled heart and quickened feet: and now
He neared the shadow of the city gate,
And saw the mountains rise beyond, far off.
With longing he drew in the freshened air.
But even at that moment he perceived,
Standing before a doorway in the dawn,
A solitary woman, motionless
As cloud at evening piled in the pale east
After retreating thunder: like the ash
Of a spent flame her cheek, and in her eyes
Deep--gazing, a great anguish lay becalmed.
Coldly she looked on him, and calmly spoke
In marble accent: ``Enter and behold
What thou hast done!'' He would have passed due on,
Following his way resolved, but like a charm
Beautiful sorrow in this grave regard
Drew him aside. He entered and beheld.
Upon a bed, unstirring and supine,
Lay an old man, so old that the live breath
Seemed rather hovering over him, than warm
Within his placid limbs; yet had he strapped
Ancient armour upon him, and unused
A heavy sword lay by him on the ground.
Dim was the room: a table in the midst
Stood empty; in the whole house all was bare.
Now when Porphyrion entered, and with him
The woman, the old man nothing perceived:
But at the sound a boy, that by the wall
Was leaning, opened wide his painful eyes.
Porphyrion with accusing heart beheld.
Then to the woman turning, of their story
He questioned: quietly she answered him.
``We were four souls under a happy roof
Until your armies came. Then was our need
More cruel every day. When first our meat
Grew scarce, we sat with feigning eyes and each
The other shunned. I know not who thou art,
But if thou takest pity upon pain,
I pray that no necessity bring thee
Hunger more dear than love. With me it was
So that I dared not look upon my child
Lest I should grudge him eat. To my old father,
Whom age makes helpless as a child, my breast
As to a child I gave: and I have stood
Under the trees and cursed them that so slow
They budded for our want: the buds we tore
Ere they could grow to leaf. So passed our days.
But worse the nights were, when sleep would not come
For hunger, and the dreadful morn seemed sweet.
And if thou wonder that I weep not now
Recounting them, it is that I have borne
What carries beyond grief.'' She in her tale
Spoke nothing of her husband: he lay cold
Without the city fallen; but as now
She ended, the returning thought of him
Absented her sad eyes. And suddenly
Her heart, of a strange tenderness aware,
Out of its heavy frost was melted: then
She bowed her head, and she let forth her tears.
You that have known that bitter wound, of all
The bitterest, since no courage brings it balm,
When silent all the misery of the world
Knocks at your door and you have empty hands,
You know what dart entered Porphyrion's breast,
As he beheld and heard. But now the boy
Turning with restless body and parched lip
Sighed, ``Give me water! I am so thirsty, mother,
I cannot fetch the breath into my throat.''
Porphyrion filled a cup and gave to him.
Deeply he drank, closing his eyes, as bliss
Were in the cold fresh drops: unwillingly
His fingers from the cup relaxed; and now
The mother spoke. ``Yesterday on the walls
One of your arrows smote him, and the wound
Torments him. If thou wilt, make water warm,
I pray thee, and bind up his cruel hurt
Afresh; for my hand trembles, I am weak.''
So he made water warm, and washed the wound
With careful tender hands, and ointment soft
Laid on, and in sweet linen bound it up.
Comforted then the boy put round his neck
One arm, and sighing thanks, as a child will,
With faltering hand caressed him. That fond touch
Porphyrion endured not. Are men born
So apt to misery, thought he, that even this
Is worthy thanks? Yet his wrought heart attained
Even in such slender spending of its love
A little ease. Now, said he, I must go,
I must not longer tarry: for she calls,
Whom I am vowed to follow and to find.
But when he looked upon those three, they seemed
To need him in their helplessness; the child
Divining, mutely prayed him: he resolved
For that day to remain and then to go.
So all that day he tended them and went
Abroad into the town, and brought them food,
Bartering his share of spoil for meat and bread,
And freshest fruit, and delicatest wine;
Nor marked he as he went the frowning eyes
Of the stern soldiers, how they stood and watched
Murmuring together, sullen and askance.
As in a slumbering great city, snow
With gentle foot comes muffling empty ways,
Corners and alleys, and to the tardy dawn
Faint the murmur of toil ascends, and dumb
The wheels roll, and the many feet go hushed,
So on his mind lay sorrow: hum of arms
And voices, all were soft to him and strange.
Day passed, and evening fell, and in that house
All slept; and once again he would renew
His journey; but once more his heart perplexed
Smote him, to leave them so: They have no friend,
He said, and who will tend them, if not I?
The next day he abode, and with fond care
Ministered to their need, and still the next
Found him delaying and his own dim pain
Solacing sweetly; for the old man now
By faint degrees returned to healthful warmth,
And grave with open eyes serenely looked
In a mild wonder on this unknown friend:
The mother, taxed no longer to endure
Even to her utmost strength, permitted calm
To her worn spirit, and her wasted limbs
Resigned into a happy weariness;
And the child's hurt began to be appeased.
On the fourth morn Porphyrion arose,
And saw them all still laid in peaceful sleep.
Now, said he, will I go upon my quest,
Less troubled: they have need of me no more.
He turned to go, but in the early light
Still looked upon them, and his heart was full;
And softly he unbarred the door, and seemed
Within his soul to see the whole great world
Await his coming, and its wounded breast
Disclose, and all life radiantly unroll
Her riches, opening to an endless end.
Filled with the power of that impassioned thought,
Into the silence of the morning sun
He came; and on a sudden was aware
Of men about the entrance thronged; they set
Their bright spears forward, and his path opposed.
Astonished, he looked on them, and perceived
The faces of those warriors he had brought
Thither exulting, and in victory led;
Yet on their faces he beheld his doom.
He stood in that great moment greatly calm,
Proudly confronting them, and cried aloud:
``What murmur you against me? I for you
Fought, and you triumphed. Have I asked of one
A single boon? Soldiers, will you take arms
Against your captain? Men, will you dare to strike
A man unarmed? You answer not a word!
Put up your swords; for now I will pass on
To my own work, and as I came will go.''
There was a stillness as he ceased, and none
Answered, but none gave way. As when in heaven
Clouds curdle, and the heavy thunder holds
All things in stupor hushed, they stood constrained,
Menacing and mistrustful; and their hearts
Grew cruel: the uncomprehended light,
That in Porphyrion shone and flushed his brow
With radiance, like the bright ambassador
Come from an unknown power, tormented them;
And dark enchanting terror drove them on.
Then one by stealth an arrow to his bow
Fitted, and strung, and drew it, and the shaft
Beside Porphyrion in the lintel stuck
Quivering: and at once they fiercely cried.
Like the loud drop that loosens the pent storm,
That loosened arrow drew tempestuous hail
From every bow: they lusted after blood,
And put far from them pity: and he fell
Before them. Yet astonished and dismayed,
Those sacrificers saw the victim smile
Triumphing and incredulous of death,
Even in anguish: pang upon fresh pang
Rekindled the lost light, the perished bloom
Of memory, and he was lifted far
In exaltation above death; he drank
Wine at the banquet, and the stormy thrill
Of battle caught him, and he knew again
The dart of love and the sweet wound of grief
In one transfigured instant, that illumed
And pierced him, as the arrows pierced his side.
Then, mingling all those bright beams into one
Full glory, dawned upon his dying sense
She whom his feet followed through all the world
Out of the waste, and over perilous paths,
Dearer than breath and lovelier than desire.
Like the first kiss of love recovered new
Was the undreamed--of joy, that he in death
With the last ecstasy of living found,
Tasted and touched, as she embraced his soul.
Then the world perished: stretching forth his arms,
Into the unknown vastness eagerly
He went, and like a bridegroom to his bride.