Morn Like A Thousand Shining Spears
Morn like a thousand shining spears
Terrible in the East appears.
O hide me, leaves of lovely gloom,
Where the young Dreams like lilies bloom!
What is this music that I lose
Now, in a world of fading clues?
What wonders from beyond the seas
And wild Arabian fragrancies?
In vain I turn me back to where
Stars made a palace of the air.
In vain I hide my face away
From the too bright invading Day.
That which is come requires of me
My utter truth and mystery.
Return, you dreams, return to Night:
My lover is the armèd Light.
Peacefully fresh, O February morn,
Thy winds come to me: quiet the light slants
Through silver--bosomed clouds, that slowly borne
Across the wide heath, endlessly advance.
Now 'tis that pause before the leaping Spring,
When over all things waiting comes a hush;
And shyly, listen! the one vocal thing,
Over his dewy notes lingers the thrush.
Now life, with all her hindering riddles, seems
Simple as its green budding to the tree.
Awhile the Fates forbear, and to my dreams,
Sheltered awhile from truth, relinquish me.
In haven and at anchor rides my heart,
And broods upon its swelling joys apart.
Over all the watered vale
Shadows of the clouds trail:
Then the sun laughs out, and sheen
Runs like joy across the green.
Young the leaf is, young the flower;
Radiant the beeches tower,
A million tremblings all as one
Dancing forth into the sun.
Above the sound of hidden brooks
Birds sprinkle songs on coppice--nooks,
Each his private happy note,
With small bright eye and rippled throat.
England, through whose fields I stray
In this heavenly--coloured May,
England, lost in histories
Older than her oldest trees,
With nested hamlets, each of them
Flavoured like its ancient name;
England, where my blood began
And moulded childhood into man,
Comes to--day before my eyes
Like a new--found paradise.
Yet I wonder not at this
Wonder, that is half of bliss.
I have looked into Love's eyes
Long, and Love has made me wise.
As when first one face I knew
And our lips together drew,
Old in love, my heart to--day
Is young as the young leaves of May.
In Misty Blue
In misty blue the lark is heard
Above the silent homes of men;
The bright--eyed thrush, the little wren,
The yellow--billed sweet--voiced blackbird
Mid sallow blossoms blond as curd
Or silver oak boughs, carolling
With happy throat from tree to tree,
Sing into light this morn of spring
That sang my dear love home to me.
Be starry, buds of clustered white,
Around the dark waves of her hair!
The young fresh glory you prepare
Is like my ever--fresh delight
When she comes shining on my sight
With meeting eyes, with such a cheek
As colours fair like flushing tips
Of shoots, and music ere she speak
Lies in the wonder of her lips.
Airs of the morning, breathe about
Keen faint scents of the wild wood--side
From thickets where primroses hide
Mid the brown leaves of winter's rout.
Chestnut and willow, beacon out
For joy of her, from far and nigh,
Your English green on English hills:
Above her head, song--quivering sky,
And at her feet, the daffodils.
Because she breathed, the world was more,
And breath a finer soul to use,
And life held lovelier hopes to choose:
But O to--day my heart brims o'er,
Earth glows as from a kindled core,
Like shadows of diviner things
Are hill and cloud and flower and tree--
A splendour that is hers and spring's,--
The day my love came home to me.
The Road Menders
How solitary gleams the lamplit street
Waiting the far--off morn!
How softly from the unresting city blows
The murmur borne
Down this deserted way!
Dim loiterers pass home with stealthy feet.
Now only, sudden at their interval,
The lofty chimes awaken and let fall
Deep thrills of ordered sound;
Subsiding echoes gradually drowned
In a great stillness, that creeps up around,
And darkly grows
Profounder over all
Like a strong frost, hushing a stormy day.
But who is this, that by the brazier red
Encamped in his rude hut,
With many a sack about his shoulder spread
Watches with eyes unshut?
The burning brazier flushes his old face,
Illumining the old thoughts in his eyes.
Surely the Night doth to her secrecies
Admit him, and the watching stars attune
To their high patience, who so lightly seems
To bear the weight of many thousand dreams
(Dark hosts around him sleeping numberless);
He surely hath unbuilt all walls of thought
To reach an air--wide wisdom, past access
Of us, who labour in the noisy noon,
The noon that knows him not.
For lo, at last the gloom slowly retreats,
And swiftly, like an army, comes the Day,
All bright and loud through the awakened streets
Sending a cheerful hum.
And he has stolen away.
Now, with the morning shining round them, come
Young men, and strip their coats
And loose the shirts about their throats,
And lightly up their ponderous hammers lift,
Each in his turn descending swift
With triple strokes that answer and begin
Duly, and quiver in repeated change,
Marrying the eager echoes that weave in
A music clear and strange.
But pausing soon, each lays his hammer down
And deeply breathing bares
His chest, stalwart and brown,
To the sunny airs.
Laughing one to another, limber hand
On limber hip, flushed in a group they stand,
And now untired renew their ringing toil.
The sun stands high, and ever a fresh throng
Comes murmuring; but that eddying turmoil
Leaves many a loiterer, prosperous or unfed,
On easy or unhappy ways
At idle gaze,
Charmed in the sunshine and the rhythm enthralling,
As of unwearied Fates, for ever young,
That on the anvil of necessity
From measureless desire and quivering fear,
With musical sure lifting and downfalling
Of arm and hammer driven perpetually,
Beat out in obscure span
The fiery destiny of man.
Lovely word flying like a bird across the narrow seas,
When winter is over and songs are in the skies,
Peace, with the colour of the dawn upon the name of her,
A music to the ears, a wonder to the eyes;
Peace, bringing husband back to wife and son to mother soon,
And lover to his love, and friend to friend,
Peace, so long awaited and hardly yet believed in,
The answer of faith, enduring to the end;
Tears are in our joy, because the heavy night is gone from us
And morning brings the prisoner's release.
How shall we sing her beauty and her blessedness,
Saying at last to one another, Peace?
Guns that boomed from shore to shore
And smote the heart with distant dread
Speak no more.
The terror that bestrode the air,
That under ocean kept his lair,
Now is fled.
I see, as on a misty morn
When a great ship towering glides
To anchor, out of battle borne,
And looms above her dinted sides,--
Burning through the mist at last
The sun flames on her splintered mast
And the torn flag that from it floats,
And cheering from a thousand throats
Bursts from her splendour and her scars,--
So I see our England come,
Come at last from all her wars
Now let us praise the dead that are with us to--day
Who fought and fell before the morning shone,
Happy and brave, an innumerable company;
This day is theirs, the day their deeds have won
Glory to them, and from our hearts a thanksgiving
In humbleness and awe and joy and pride.
We will not say that their place shall know no more of them,
We will not say that they have passed and died:
They are the living, they that bought this hour for us
And spilt their blood to make the world afresh.
One with us, one with our children and their heritage,
They live and move, a spirit in the flesh.
With innocence of flowers and grass and dew
Earth covers up her shame, her wounds, her rue.
She pardons and remits; she gives her grace,
Where men had none, and left so foul a trace.
Peace of the earth, peace of the sky, begins
To sweeten and to cleanse our strifes and sins,
The furious thunderings die away and cease.
But what is won, unless the soul win peace?
Not with folding of the hands,
Not with evening fallen wide
Over waste and weary lands,
Peace is come; but as a bride.
It is the trumpets of the dawn that ring;
It is the sunrise that is challenging.
Lovely word, flying like a light across the happy Land,
When the buds break and all the earth is changed,
Bringing back the sailor from his watch upon the perilled seas,
Rejoining shores long severed and estranged,
Peace, like the Spring, that makes the torrent dance afresh
And bursts the bough with sap of beauty pent,
Flower from our hearts into passionate recovery
Of all the mind lost in that banishment.
Come to us mighty as a young and glad deliverer
From wrong's old canker and out--dated lease,
Then will we sing thee in thy triumph and thy majesty,
Then from our throes shall be prepared our peace.
Destiny drives a crooked plough
And sows a careless seed;
Now through a heart she cuts, and now
She helps a helpless need.
To--night from London's roaring sea
She brings a girl and boy;
For two hearts used to misery,
Opens a door of joy.
Wandering from hateful homes they came,
Till by this fate they meet.
Then out of ashes springs a flame;
Suddenly life is sweet.
Together, where the city ends,
And looks on Thames's stream,
That under Surrey willows bends
And floats into a dream,
Softly in one another's ear
They murmur childish speech;
Love that is deeper and more dear
For words it cannot reach.
Above them the June night is still:
Only with sighs half--heard
Dark leaves above them flutter and thrill,
As with their longing stirred;
And by the old brick wall below
Rustling, the river glides;
Like their full hearts, that deeply glow,
Is the swell of his full tides.
To the farther shore the girl's pale brow
Turns with desiring eyes:
``Annie, what is it you're wishing now?''
She lifts her head and sighs.
``Willie, how peaceful 'tis and soft
Across the water! See,
The trees are sleeping, and stars aloft
Beckon to you and me.
I think it must be good to walk
In the fields, and have no care;
With trees and not with men to talk.
O, Willie, take me there!''
Now hand in hand up to the Night
They gaze; and she looks down
With large mild eyes of grave delight,
The mother they have not known.
Older than sorrow she appears,
Yet than themselves more young;
She understood their childish tears,
Knew how their love was sprung.
The simple perfume of the grass
Comes to them like a call.
Obeying in a dream they pass
Along the old brick wall;
By flickering lamp and shadowy door,
Across the muddy creek,
Warm with their joy to the heart's core,
With joy afraid to speak.
At last the open road they gain,
And by the Bridge, that looms
With giant arch and sloping chain
Over the river's glooms,
They pause: above, the northern skies
Are pale with a furnace light.
London with upcast, sleepless eyes
Possesses the brief night.
The wind flaps in the lamp; and hark!
A noise of wheels, that come
At drowsy pace; along the dark
A waggon lumbers home.
Slow--footed, with a weary ease,
The patient horses step;
The rein relaxed upon his knees,
The waggoner nods asleep.
``Annie, it goes the country way,
'Tis meant for me and you:
It goes to fields, and trees, and hay,
Come, it shall take us too!''
He lifts her in his arms, as past
The great wheels groaning ride,
And on the straw he sets her fast,
And lightly climbs beside.
The waggoner nods his drowsy head,
He hears no sound: awhile
Softly they listen in sweet dread,
Then to each other smile.
Odours of dimly flowering June,
The starry stillness deep,
Possess their wondering spirits; soon,
Like children tired, they sleep.
The waggon creaks, the horses plod
By hedges clearer seen,
Down the familiar dusty road,
And past a village green.
The morning star shines in the pond:
A cock crows loud, and bright
The dawn springs in the sky beyond;
The birds applaud the light.
But on into the summer morn
Beneath the gazing East,
The sleepers move, serenely borne:
The world for them has ceased.
A woman sat, with roses red
Upon her lap before her spread,
On that high bridge whose parapet
Wide over turbulent Thames is set,
Between the dome's far glittering crest
And those famed towers that throng the west.
Neglectful of the summer air
That on her pale brow stirred the hair,
She sat with fond and troubled look,
And in her hand the roses shook.
Shy to her lips a bloom she laid,
Then shrank as suddenly afraid:
For from the breathing crimson leaf
The sweetness came to her like grief.
Dropping her hands, her eyes she raised,
And on the hurrying passers gazed.
Two children, loitering along
Amid that swift and busy throng,
Their arms about each other's shoulder,
The younger clinging to the older,
Stopped, with their faces backward turned
To her: her heart within her yearned.
They were so young! She looked away:
Oh, the whole earth was young to--day!
The whole wide earth was laughing fair;
The flashing river, the soft air,
The horses proud, the voices clear
Of young men, frequent cry and cheer,
All these were beautiful and free,
Each with its joy: Alas, but she!
She started up, and bowed her head,
And, gathering her roses, fled.
Through dim, uncounted, silent days,
She had trod deep--secluded ways;
'Mid the fierce throng of jostling lives,
Whom unrelenting hunger drives,
Close to the wall had stolen by,
Yet could not shun calamity.
Her painful thrift, her patient face,
Could not the world--old debt erase;
Nor gentle lips, nor feet that glide,
Persuade the sudden blow aside.
This morn, when she arose, her store,
Trusted to others, was no more.
No more avail her years of care.
She must her bosom frail prepare,
Exposed in her defenceless age,
Against the world and fortune's rage.
For bread, for bread, what must be done?
She stole forth in the morning sun.
I will sell flowers, she thought: this way
Seemed gentler to her first dismay.
Soon to the great flower--market, fair
With watered leaves and scented air,
She came: her seeking, timorous gaze
Wandered about her in amaze.
The arches hummed with cheerful sound;
Buyers and sellers thronged around;
Lilies in virgin slumber stirred
Hardly, the gold dust brightly blurred
Upon their rich illumined snow,
As the soft breezes come and go.
From her smooth sheath, with ardent wings,
Purple and gold, the iris springs;
Deep--umbered wall--flowers, dusk between
The radiance and the odour keen
Of jonquils, this sad woman's eyes
And her o'erclouded soul surprise.
But most the wine--red roses, deep
In sunshine lying, warm asleep,
Breathing perfume, drinking light
Into their inmost bosoms bright,
Seemed fathomlessly to unfold
A treasure of more price than gold.
Martha, o'ercome by wonder new,
Into her heart the crimson drew;
The colour burning on her cheek,
She stood, in strange emotion weak.
But she must buy. Her choice was made:
Red rose upon red rose she laid,
Lingering, then hastened out, with eyes
Bright, and her hands about the prize,
And quickened thought that nowhere aims.
Soon, pausing above glittering Thames,
She spreads the flowers upon her knees.
Vast, many--windowed palaces
Before her raised their scornful height
And haughtily struck back the light.
She scarcely marked them, only bent
Her fond gaze on the flowers, intent
To bind them in gay bunches, drest
So to allure the spoiler best.
But now, as her caressing hand
Each odorous fresh nosegay planned,
A new grief smote her to the heart:
Must she from her sweet treasure part?
They seemed of her own blood. O no,
I cannot shame my roses so:
I will get bread some other way.
So she shut out all thought. The day
Was radiant; and her soul, surprised
To beauty, and the unsurmised
Sweetness of life, itself reproved
That had so little felt and loved!
O now to love, if even a flower,
To taste the sweet sun for an hour,
Was better than the struggle vain,
The dull, unprofitable pain,
To find her useless body bread.
Stricken with grievous joy, she fled.
She fled, but soon her pace grew faint.
She paused awhile, and easier went.
Often, in spirits wrought, despair,
Not less than joy the end of care,
A lightness feigns: for all is done,
And certainty at last begun.
Martha, with impulse fresh recoiled
From empty years, forlorn and soiled,
Trembled to feel the radiant breeze
Blowing from unknown living seas,
And, rising eager from long fast,
Drank in the wine of life at last.
Now, as some lovely face went by,
She noted it with yearning eye;
She joyed in the exultant course
Of horses, and their rushing force.
At last, long wandering, she drew near
Her home; then fell on her a fear,
A shadow from the coming Hours.
By chance a hawker, crying flowers,
His barrow pushed along the street,
And the dull air with scent was sweet.
As on her threshold Martha stood,
A sudden thought surprised her blood.
Quickly she entered, and the stair
Ascended: first with gentle care
Cooled her tired roses: then a box
Of little hoardings she unlocks,
And brings her silver to the door
And buys till she can buy no more.
Laden she enters: the drear room
Glows strangely; the transfigured gloom
Flows over, prodigal in bloom.
Her lonely supper now she spread;
But with her eyes she banqueted.
Over the roofs in solemn flame
The strong beam of the sunset came,
And from the floor striking a glow
Burned back upon the wall; and lo!
How deep, in double splendour dyed,
Blushed the red roses glorified!
When darkness dimmed them, Martha sighed.
Yet still about the room she went
Touching them, and the subtle scent
Wandered into her soul, and brought
All memories, yet stifled thought.
As in her bed she lay, the flowers
Haunted her through the midnight hours:
'Twixt her shut lids the colours crept;
But wearied out, at last she slept.
Next morning she awoke in dread.
O mad, O sinful me! she said,
What have I done? how shall this end
For me? Alas, I have no friend.
She strove to rise; but in her brain
A drowsy magic worked like pain.
She sank back in a weak amaze
Upon the pillow: then her gaze
Fell on the roses; she looked round,
And in the spell again was bound.
The deep--hued blossoms standing by
With serious beauty awed her eye;
Upward, inscrutable, they flamed:
Of that mean fear she was ashamed.
All day their fragrance in the sun
Possessed her spirit: one by one,
She pondered o'er them, dozing still
And waking half against her will.
Her body hungered, but her soul
Was feasting. Gradually stole
The evening shadow on her bed;
She could no longer lift her head,
Deep on her brain the flowers had wrought;
Now in the dim twilight her thought
Put trembling on a strange attire,
And blossomed in fantastic fire.
She stretched her hand out in the gloom:
It touched upon a living bloom.
Thither she turned; the deep perfume
O'ercame her; nearer and more near,
And now her joy is in her fear,
The lily hangs, the rose inclines,
With incense that her soul entwines,
Her inmost soul that dares not stir.
The gentle flowers have need of her.
Unpitying is their rich desire--
Her breath, her being they require.
O, she must yield! She sinks far down,
Conquered, listless, happy, down
Under wells of darkness, deep
Into labyrinths of sleep,
Perishing in sweetness dumb,
By the close enfolding bloom
To a sighing phantom kissed,
Like a water into mist
Melting, and extinguished quite
In unfathomed odorous night.
At last, the brief stars paling, dawn
Breathed from distant stream and lawn.
The earliest bird with chirrup low
Called his mates; softly and slow
The flowers their languid petals part,
And open to the fragrant heart.
And now the first fresh beam returned;
Bright through the lily's edge it burned
And filled the purple rose with fire,
And brightened all their green attire,
And woke a shadow on the wall.
But Martha slept, nor stirred at all.
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.
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.
The Death Of Adam
Cedars, that high upon the untrodden slopes
Of Lebanon stretch out their stubborn arms,
Through all the tempests of seven hundred years
Fast in their ancient place, where they look down
Over the Syrian plains and faint blue sea,
When snow for three days and three nights hath fall'n
Continually, and heaped those terraced boughs
To massy whiteness, still in fortitude
Maintain their aged strength, although they groan;
In such a wintriness of majesty,
O'ersnowed by his uncounted years, and scarce
Supporting that hard load, yet not o'ercome,
Was Adam: all his knotted thews were shrunk,
Hollow his mighty thighs, toward which his beard,
Pale as the stream of far--seen waterfalls,
Hung motionless; betwixt the shoulders grand
Bowed was the head, and dim the gaze; and both
His heavy hands lay on his marble knees.
So sits he all day long and scarcely stirs,
And scarcely notes the bright shapes of his sons
Moving in the broad light without his tent,
That propt on poles about a giant oak
Looks southward to the river and the vale:
Only sometimes slowly he turns his head,
As seeking to recover some lost thought
From the dear presence of the white--haired Eve
Who, less in strength, hath less endured, and still
With slow and careful footsteps tendeth him,
Or seated opposite with silent eyes
Companions him; their thoughts go hand in hand.
So now she sits reposing in the dusk
Of their wide tent, like a great vision throned
Of the Earth Mother, tranquil and august,
Accorded to some youthful votary
Deep in an Asian grove, under the moon.
Peace also rests on Adam; not such peace
As comes forlornly to men dulled with cares,
Whom no ennobling memory uplifts;
Peace of a power far mightier than his own,
Outlasting all it fostered into life,
Pervades him and sustains him: such a peace
As blesses mossed and mouldering architraves
Of pillars standing few among the wreck
Of many long since fallen, pillars old,
Reared by a race long vanished, where the birds
Nest as in trees, and every crevice flowers,
As mothering Earth, having some time indulged
Men's little uses, makes their ruin fair
Ere in her bosom it be folded up.
Thus Adam's mind relinquishing the world,
That grows more dim around him every day,
Withdraws into itself, and in degree
As all that mates him to the moving hours,
Even as his outward joy and vigour fail,
So surely turns his homing spirit back
Unto those silent sources whence delight
And hope and strength and buoyancy of old
Flowed fresh upon his youth, persisting still
To seek those first and fairest memories
In youth and sunshine O how lightly lost,
How difficult in darkness to regain!
He sits in idle stillness, yet at times
From the dark wells of musing some old hour
Floats upward, as the tender lotus lifts
Her swaying stalk up through the limpid depth
Of pools in rivers never known to man,
And buoyed on idle wet luxurious leaves
Peacefully opens white bloom after bloom.
He is rapt far from this last shore of age;
He sees the face of Eve as she approached
To bring him flowers new--found in Paradise,
Or hiding her young sorrow on his breast;
And Abel as a child and Cain with him
Playing beneath the shadow of old trees,
All dearer by the desert interposed
Of time and toil and passionate regret,
Troubling his inmost spirit, until his face,
Wrought with remembrance and with longing, wears
The pressure and the sign of all that swells
And brims his heart, fain to be freed in speech.
``What ails thee, Adam?'' gentle Eve began.
``Why art thou troubled, what thoughts vex thy mind?
For though my eyes are dim, yet I can see
Thy breast heaves upward, and long sighs go forth,
And thou dost move thy hands, and shake thy head.''
But Adam answered not; he seemed alone.
Then, lifting up his eyes, he saw his sons
Slowly approaching in the evening light
With all their flocks; and many voices rose
On the clear air about the tents and trees,
As they made ready for the sacrifice
Before the evening meal: soon they drew near
To Adam's tent; and he looked on them all,
Standing to wait his blessing, of all years,
From the boy Adriel to the aged Seth,
Outlined with glory by the sinking sun.
Strange in their strength and beauty they appeared;
And Adam, though he saw them, seemed to gaze
Beyond them, seeking what he found not there.
Over them all his eyes unresting roved,
While they in silence waited for his word.
At last he spoke: ``Where is my first--born Cain?''
They looked on one another. Few had heard
That darkened name; but Eve bowed down her head.
And Seth stood forth amid them hushed and spoke
With a grave utterance, ``Cain is far away.
Thou knowest, O my father, how we have heard
That far beyond the mountains to the east
He dwells, and ever wanders o'er that land.
Many days' journey must a man be gone
Ere he reach thither and return again;
Nor know we certainly where Cain may dwell.
Yet what thou biddest, that shall be performed;
Shall we send to him?'' Adam answered, ``Send:
Let them go quickly, see that they make haste.
But on the tenth day bid them come again,
Whether they have found him, or have found him not,
For mine eyes fail, yea, and my heart grows cold.''
Heavy as pale clouds of October roll
Over the soaring snows of Ararat,
The vapour of oblivion fell once more
Down over Adam's head, in languor drooped
Between his mighty shoulders on his breast.
From morn to night, from night to morn he sat
As in a trance of deep thought undivined.
His children looking on his face were filled
With desolation and disquietude,
Sad as Armenian shepherds when they watch
For the still clouds to roll from those great peaks,
Praying the clear bright North winds to restore
Their guardian mountain; with such heavy hearts
They waited for his face to give a sign
That still gave none. Listless amid their toil
They grew, and sitting idle by their flocks
Each from his station, scattered on the hills,
Turned often to the east, in hope to spy
The messengers returning: but at eve
While the gray--bearded elders patient sat
In the cool tent--doors, they would pace the shore
Under the gathering stars, and murmured low
One to another saying, ``What is this
That comes upon us all, what evil thing
Whereof we have not heard? What cloud is fallen
Upon our father Adam, and why seeks he
This Cain whose name we know not? Peace is gone,
And nothing now is as it was before.''
And others answered, ``Well for us, if they
Whom we have sent on such a hazard come
Ever again or we behold them more!
Would they had never gone on this dark quest!
We have no hunters brave and swift as they,--
Ophir, that was the strongest of us all,
And Iddo, that could match the eagle's sight.''
Thus the young men spoke their despondent mind.
But every morn renewing wearied hope
They turned with the sunrising to the east,
And numbered the long hours till noon, and still
Nor morn nor noon brought tidings; and each eve
Watching tall herons by the sandy pools
Widen their wings and slow with trailing feet
And lifted head sail off into the sky,
They followed them with long and silent thoughts
Over the darkening mountains, far and far
Into that never yet imagined world
Beginning to oppress them; whither now
Their fears went wandering through enormous night.
Thus waxed and waned each heavy day; at last
From mouth to mouth the unquiet murmur ran,
``'Tis the ninth evening, and they are not come!''
The kingly star had stolen from his throne
In the first brightening of the morrow morn;
And far in the east, with frail cloud overspread,
Light hovered in the pale immensity.
A mile--broad shade beneath the mountain slept;
But opposite a dewy glimmer soon
Moulded the shapes of rough crags, and beneath
Strewn boulders, and thin streams, and slopes obscure.
There, on the slopes amid the rocks appeared
The youth of Adam's race, assembled forms
Sitting or standing with hand--shaded eyes
At gaze into the eastern gorge, where hills
Between dark shoulders inaccessible
Opened a narrowing way into the dawn.
Stiller than statues, yet with beating hearts
They waited while the wished light kindled clear,
Invading that deep valley, until the sun
Flamed warm upon their limbs through coloured air,
And slow rose upward: it was nigh to noon:
At last a motion on the horizon stirred
And a faint dust in the far gorge was blown.
Then those that sat rose up and gazed erect,
And those that stood moved and stept on a pace.
And as they watched amid the shining dust
Two far--off forms appeared, but only two.
Their straining eyes watched, but no other came.
A sigh ran through their troubled ranks, they turned
To one another, then again to those
Two lonely journeyers downcast and slow,
Who now discerned them from afar and raised
Their hands in greeting; then some ran, with cakes
Of bread, and skins of milk, and honeycombs,
Down the great slope to meet the messengers;
And others climbed the ridge and backward ran
Down to the tents, the river, and the vale,
And came to where Seth sat beneath a tree
Waiting, with folded arms, and cried to him,
``They come, they come; but Cain comes not with them.''
Then Seth arose and came to Adam's tent,
And stood before his father in the door.
Eve questioning sought his eyes: he shook his head
And looked on Adam; motionless he sat
Plunged in a trance, yet dimly was aware
Of tidings, as he heard the voice of Seth,
``'Tis the tenth morning, and thy sons return.''
Faintly by imperceptible degrees
Light stole o'er Adam's features, and Seth saw
The wellings of his troubled mind on them,
As one who in a cavern lifts a torch
And sees the gradual recesses grow
Out of their ancient gloom, uncertain shapes
Of rugged roof and walls without an end:
So dark from innermost obscurity
The slumbrous memories of Adam rose
And on his face appeared: yet still a veil
Remained betwixt his senses and the world;
When now the noise of many feet drew nigh
Softly approaching: and Seth spoke again,
``Behold! thy sons, thy messengers are here.''
He drew the matted curtains of the tent
Aside, and Adam raised his head and saw
All his assembled children coming on,
Hushing their steps in awe; they stopped at gaze
Now as his eyes were on them; but before
Came the two messengers and stood alone,
How soiled and burnt with travel! Round the neck
Of Ophir hung the leopard's spotty hide
Stripped from that fierce beast strangled by his hand,
Torn now and stained; neither had paused to wash
The thick dust from his feet; but Iddo held
A spray of leaves new--plucked to freshen him
Seared on the parching mountain; thus they stood
With troubled countenance and hanging head
Till Ophir spoke; all listened rapt and still.
``Father, we went; and lo, we are come back
On the tenth morn, according to thy word.
For we have sought Cain but have found him not.
We passed beyond the mountains and we crossed
The sultry desert, toiling in hot sands
Two heavy days, and thence with difficulty
Climbed the far ridge unto the land beyond.
It is a land not fruitful like our vale,
Barren it is with short grass and few trees;
On the fifth day we came into the midst
Of that bare country and we saw no man,
Nor knew we whither to direct our steps,
When on a slope at unawares we spied
A sheepfold made of stones, and Lo! we said
To one another, Surely he was here.
Then eagerly we climbed the highest hill
And all around gazed long, but saw no more.
But toward the evening, when the light was low
And the extremest mountains grew distinct,
Far off in the clear air, but very far,
We saw a little smoke go up to heaven,
And we cried out, It is the home of Cain!
But deeply we were troubled and perplext,
For we were faint and footsore, and thy word
Lay heavy on our thoughts, remembering it,
On the tenth morning see that ye be here!
Surely our hearts were eager to go on;
But thinking of thy word we feared to go,
And hardly even now are we returned.
Father, we did thy bidding. Is it well?''
All gathered nearer, hushed and wistful; all
Awaited Adam's voice, but he was mute.
They would have prayed him, but they ventured not;
Like hunters that at hot noon, lost in woods,
Pressing through boughs and briers, at unawares
Come on the huge throat of a hollow cliff
Ribbed with impending ledges of wet moss,
Whence in a smooth--lipped basin of black stone
Some secret water wells without a sound:
Then sorely though they thirst they fear to drink,
Awed by the mystery of that silent source,
So these awhile with beating hearts delayed
To speak, awaiting what his words might be.
At last he raised his head and turned his eyes
On Eve, and looked upon her long, while she
On him hung gazing: light began to burn
In his dimmed eyes, and his whole frame was wrought
With the stirring of his spirit, as of old.
At length the thoughts were kindled on his tongue:
He lifted up his voice and cried aloud.
``O that mine eyes had seen thee once again,
Cain, that my hands had blessed thee! Thou art gone,
For ever gone, and still that curse abides
On thee who wast my joy, my first--born child.
Eve, Eve, hast thou forgotten that far hour,
When our first child, our baby newly--born,
Held up his little and defenceless hands
Crying toward thy bosom?'' And Eve sighed:
``Surely my bosom hath not forgotten Cain,
Who sucked the tender first milk from its paps.
His feet are worn, wandering the desert wide,
But I have washed them with my tears in dreams.
Oh, in my heart he has not left his home.
Would I might lay my arms about him now!
Yet why, O Adam, utterest thou these thoughts?
Thou knowest how betwixt us and our son
There lies a land we may not overleap
More than the flames of those exiling swords,
Because of our fault, Adam, and of his.
Why dost thou waken this our ancient pain?''
But Adam still uplifted his lament:
``He is gone from us, gone beyond our reach,
Beyond our yearning, he remembers not
These arms that were around his weakness once,
These hands that fed him and that fostered him
And now would bless him. All these have I blessed
With many blessings, but him whom I cursed
Him would I bless at last, and be at peace.
He is gone from me, and now these also go
Whither I know not, and I fear for them.
How often have I seen them going forth
Into the woods upon these hills, how oft
See them with night returning, but now they
Depart for ever and return no more.''
Eve wondering replied with earnest voice,
``Behold them, Adam, they are very fair
And strong with all the strength that we have lost.
What ill shall harm them more than hath harmed us?
Remember how when I was used to fear,
Beholding our first child in his soft youth
Go from us on his tender feet alone--
His tender feet a little stone might bruise,
And would have caught him back to my fond breast,
Thou didst rebuke me, saying it must be
That he go forth alone; now thou dost fear,
When these are strong and we can help no more.''
But Adam shook his head and answered not.
For he was like a shepherd who hath lit
A fire to warm him on the mountain side
In the first chill after the summer heats,
And drowsing by the embers wakes anon
With wonder--frighted eyes, to see the sparks
Blowing astray run kindling over grass
And withered heath and bushes of dry furze,
And ere his heavy senses, pricked with smoke,
Uncloud, the white fire rushes from his reach,
Leaps to embrace the tall pines, tossing up
A surge of trembling stars, and eagerly
Roars through their topmost branches, wide aflame,
While all around enormous shadows rock
And wrestle, as tumultuous lights o'errides
The darkness as with charging spears and plumes,
Till the whole hillside reddens, and beyond
Far mountains waken flushed out of the night:
Then he who ignorantly had started up
This wild exulting glory from its sleep
Forgets to stir his steps or wring his hands;
The swiftness and the radiance and the sound
Beget a kind of rapture in his dread;
Like that amazed shepherd Adam saw
His race, sprung out of darkness, fill the earth
Increasing swift and terrible like fire
That feeds on all its ruins, wave on wave
Streaming impetuous without rest or pause
Right onward to the boundaries of the world:
And he how helpless who had caused it all!
So stood his soul still in a gaze of awe
Filled with the foretaste of calamity:
And his lips broke into a groaning cry.
``What is this thing that I have done, what doom,
What boundless and irrevocable doom,
My children, have I wakened for you all?
O could I see the end, but end is none.
My thoughts are carried from me, and they faint,
As birds that come from out the farthest sky,
Voyaging to a home far, far beyond,
Sink in our valley on a drooping wing
Quite wearied out, yea, we have seen them sink,
So my thoughts faint within my bosom old;
The vision is too vast, I am afraid.''
But understanding nothing of his speech,
That yet seemed opening some mysterious door
Disclosing an horizon all unknown,
His children listened, touched to trouble vague
And longing without name: like travellers
Who in a company together pass
On some spring evening by an upland road,
And as they travel, each in thought immersed,
Rich merchants, wise in profitable cares,
Adventurous youths, and timorous old men,
Through deepening twilight the young rising moon
Begins to cast along them a mild gleam,
And shadows trembling from the wayside trees
In early leaf steal forward on the ground
Beside them, and faint balm is past them blown;
All troubles them with beauty fresh and strange,
Stealing their thoughts away; so tenderly
Were Adam's children troubled when they heard.
Long silence fell. At last with heavy voice
And weakened utterance Adam spoke again:
``My children, bring me fruits and bring me flowers,
Set them within my sight that I may see
And touch them, and their sweetness smell once more.''
They hasted and plucked flowers and gathered fruit
Such as their valley yielded; balsam boughs,
Late roses, darkly flushed, or honey--pale,
And heavy clustered grapes, and yellowing gourds,
Plump figs, and dew--moist apples, and smooth pears.
All these they brought and heaped before his sight.
Voyagers in the utmost seas, when ice
Pinions their vessel fast and they prepare
For the blind frozen winter's boundless night,
How jealously they watch the last low rays,
How from the loftiest vantage in their view
Cherish the rosy warmth still on their limbs,
Tarrying until the bright rim wholly dips!
Adam, by huger darkness overhung,
So longed to taste life warm even to the last;
And fostering those fair flowers upon his lap
And holding a gold apple in his hand
Remembered Eden. O what blissful light
Flowed o'er his heart and bathed it in its beams!
It seemed the deep recesses of his soul
Welled up their inmost wisdom at the last:
He glowed with some transfiguring fire; his lips
Moved, and his face uplifted was inscribed
With mighty thoughts, that thus at length unrolled
Their solemnly assembled syllables.
``Look well on me, my children, whom ye lose!
Behold these eyes that have wept tears for you,
Behold these arms that have long toiled for you!--
These hands in Paradise have gathered flowers;
These limbs, which ye have seen so wasted down
In feebleness, so utterly brought low,
They grew not into stature like your limbs.
I wailed not into this great world a child
Helpless and speechless, understanding naught,
But from God's rapture perfect and full--grown
I suddenly awoke out of the dark.
How sweet a languor did enrich the blood
In my warmed veins, as on my opening eyes
The splendour of the world shone slowly in,
Mingling its radiant colours in my soul!
Yea, in my soul and only in my soul
I deemed them to abide: sky, water, trees,
The moving shadows and the tender light,
This solid earth, this wide and teeming earth,
Which we have trodden, weary step by step,
Nor found beginning of an end of it,
I deemed it all abounding in my brain:
The murmur of the waters and the winds
Seemed but a music sighing from my joy;
Then I arose, and ventured forth afoot;
And soon, how soon, was dispossessed of all!
By every step I travelled into truth
That stripped me of my proud dreams, one by one,
Till all were taken. On such faltering feet
By gradual but most certain steps I came
Into my real and perfect solitude,
Alone amid the world that knew not me.
O Eve, thou knowest what I tell not now,
How I was comforted, and all the woe
That fell on our transgression; yet not less
When that first child lay babbling on thy knees,
Then again said I, `Surely this is mine.'
And you, my children, whom I saw increase
Around me, stronger as my strength decayed,
How often have I called you also mine!
But now my first--born is not any more,
Or wanders lost from me, and ye, ye too
Go from me over earth, forgetting me.
So surely I perceive, for all that I
In joy begot you, ye are mine no more.
But ye, who seem the proud and easy lords
Of this fair earth, ye too must tread the path
Which I trod in my ignorant longing, lose
What I have lost, and find what I have found.
What seek you, O my children, what seek you?
For I behold you in this narrow vale,
That mountains and deep forests compass round
Filled with desires. Beyond is all the world
That hardly shall content them; ye must go
Forth into that vast world, as from my feet
This water glides, we know not whither; yea,
Even as this stream is prisoned in its speed,
So shall ye be imprisoned in desire.
But when you have imagined peace and balm
For your endeavour, musing, `This is mine,'
When you shall say, `I have a cause for joy,'
Then be distrustful, lest you only learn
How cruel is desire till it attain,
And being baffled yet more cruel grows,
Indignant not to find what it had sought,
And suffering ye rage, and raging fall
Upon your own flesh. Ah, deal tenderly
With one another, O my sons, for ye,
Caged in these limbs that toil under the noon,
Are capable of sorrow huge as night;
And still must ye bear all, whatever come.
Look how the trees in an untimely spring
Put forth their sweet shoots on the frosty air
That withers up the tender sap, yet still
Cannot delay their ripening, nor fold back
Their wounded buds into the sheltering rind;
So shall ye shrink, yet so must ye endure.
I that was strong and proud in strength, and now
Am come to this last weakness, tell you this:
Alas, could ye but know it as I know.
I speak in vain, ye cannot understand.''
He ended sighing: for his mind was filled
With apprehensions rolling up from far
The doom and tribulation of his race.
Looking upon the faces of his sons,
Well he divined their weakness from his own.
He knew what they should suffer; yet the worst
He knew not; had he known, he would have rued
Less to be parent of their feebleness
Than of their strength, the power to maim and rend
And ravage even that which to their hearts
Is dearest, though they know not what they do,
Trampling their peace in dust; had he seen all
The dreadful actors on the endless stage,
Sprung from his loins,--the triumphing blind hordes,
Spurred by an ignorant fury to create
An engine of fierce pleasure in the pangs
Wrung from the brave, the gentle, and the wise,
And raging at a beauty not their own
That vexes all their vileness; till the world,
Discovering too late its precious loss,
Loves and laments in vain: had he seen this,
His grief had gone forth in a bitterer cry.
But they that heard him heard incredulous.
Trouble was far, and sweet youth in their hearts.
The beauty of the world encompassed them;
All else was fable; and they stood elate
Yet stirred and pensive, in such wondering pause
As might a troop of children who have found
In a king's garden, under shadowy yews,
Ancestral marbles on a sculptured wall,
Half hid in vines, and lifting up the leaves
Gaze in a bright--eyed wonder on fair shapes
Of arming heroes and unhappy queens,
Or press soft lips on Helen's woeful mouth,
Touching her perfect breast, and smile on her,
Unknowing how beneath that heavenly mould
Swelled, like a sea, the powers of love and pain,
Powers that shall surely also rock themselves
In storms, and their young courage crush to sobs,
Toss them on easeless beds, blind their hot eyes
With tears, in longing violent as vain,
Till they shall quite forget how life was once
Sweet as a rose's breath and only fair,
As now 'tis fair and sweet to Adam's sons.
Exalted in expectancy, they mused,
And in their veins a warmer current glowed
Round their full--moulded limbs; their open eyes
Shone wistful, and they murmured to themselves,
When Adam's voice recalled them to his grief.
Out of unfathomable deeps his words
Seemed drawn in solemn slowness. ``Lo, the light
Makes ready to go from you, even as I.
Hearken, my sons! Upon the mountain side
There is a cave that looks toward the East:
And thence in the evening clearness have I oft
Far--off beheld the gates of Paradise.
Mine eyes would feel that glory once again
Ere they be turned for ever to the night.
Therefore go down and strew a bed for me,
Lay me upon that bed and bear me up.
It grows late and I may not tarry more.''
But now at last the certainty of woe
Smote through them, and they feared exceedingly,
Scarce knowing yet what this command might mean.
They would have stayed, but Adam with raised hands
Moved them unto his bidding; they went down
And busied them, most sadly, o'er that toil
By the stream's shore, plaiting a bed of withes,
And some prepared rough poles, some gathered leaves.
Adam with Eve remained alone; the light
Slept warm upon the grass and on their feet,
And round about them in the spacious tent
Struck upward hovering glories, pale and clear.
He turned to her those eyes which never yet
Sought there a solace or heart's ease in vain,
And spoke, ``O Eve!'' but even there his voice
Stopt in the shadow of his coming thoughts,
And he could say no more; but she came near
To lay her hands on his cold hands, and looked
On his bowed face, and with a soft reproach
Answered him, ``Adam, thou didst say but now
That all were going from thee o'er the earth
And thou shouldst be alone, and none be thine,
And no companion with thee any more.
Am I not with thee? Shall I go from thee?
Am I not thine? Am I not wholly thine?''
Then Adam lifted up his fallen brow
And gently laid his great arms round her neck;
He looked into her eyes, into her soul.
The face of Eve was falling toward his breast;
Her hair with his was mingled; now no more
They spoke, for they had come beyond all words.
They spoke not, stirred not, but together leaned,
Grand in the marble gesture of a grief
Becalmed for ever in the certitude
Of this last hour that over them stood still.
Thus had they stayed, nor moved, nor heeded aught;
But 'twixt them and the light a shadow fell:
And Adam lifted up his eyes, and saw
Seth standing there; he knew the hour was come.
For lo, about the doorway were the sons
Of Adam all assembled, with their wives
And children weeping; they had brought a bed
Of plaited osiers heaped with leaves; and now
Laying him on that litter, silently
They lifted up the poles. Eve weeping sank
Upon her knees: she kissed the dear last kiss;
She held his body in her tender arms
One aching moment, then relinquished him.
Thus they began, the young men and the old,
To bear him forth, unwillingly, with slow
Sad footsteps planted on the yielding sand,
While all the women wailed and wept aloud,
Beating their breasts; they felt and were afraid
Yet understood not; their despair was blind.
But Eve, who understood her perfect loss
Even to the utmost pang, wept now no more.
Her daughters sobbing round her, hid their heads:
She only, with dim eyes, stretched forth her hands.
But they that bore the litter passed beside
The bright stream's pebbly margin; and with them
The bearded men and boys, all overcome
With desolating thoughts and silent fears,
Followed: soon slowly they began to climb
Slopes scattered darkly o'er their bossy knolls
With shadowy cedars, where the jutting ribs
Of gray rock interposed; until at last
They came to the great cavern in the cliff,
And rested, gazing backward o'er the vale
Reposing in the golden solitude.
Then Adam said, ``Lift me, that I may see.''
With careful arms they lifted him: he gazed
Down on the valley stretched out at his feet,
Marked with the shining stream; he saw beyond
Ranges of endless hills, and very far
On the remote horizon high and clear
Shone marvellous the gates of Paradise.
There was his home, his lost home, there the paths
His feet had trod in bliss and tears, the streams,
The heavenly trees that had o'ershadowed him,
Removed all into radiance, clear and strange
As to a fisher on dark Caspian waves,
Far from the land, appears the glimmering snow
Of Caucasus, already bathed in dawn,
Like a suspended opal huge in heaven,
And wonder awes him to remember how
Long happy mornings of his youth he strayed
Over those same far valleys of his home,
Now melted and subdued to phantom shade
Beneath that lonely mount hung in the dawn:
So over darkened intervening vales
Tinged in the sweet fire of the light's farewell,
Shone Eden upon Adam. Then he sighed
A sigh not all of grief, ``It is enough.
Leave me, my children, to my peace; go ye
And comfort Eve, go, prosper and be blest.''
They each turned fearfully to each, but Seth
Bowed down his head and hushed them with his hand.
Silent with running tears they wept farewell,
And, often looking backward, on slow feet
Moved down the wide slope. Adam was alone.
At last his eyes were closing, yet he saw
Dimly the shapes of his departing sons,
Inheriting their endless fate; for them
The world lay free, and all things possible.
Perchance his dying gaze, so satisfied,
Was lightened, and he saw how vast a scope
Ennobled them of power to dare beyond
Their mortal frailty in immortal deeds,
Exceeding their brief days in excellence,
Not with the easy victory of gods
Triumphant, but in suffering more divine;
Since that which drives them to unnumbered woes,
Their burning deep unquenchable desire,
Shall be their glory, and shall forge at last
From fiery pangs their everlasting peace.
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.