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Poem by John Keats
Endymion. Book 1
A THING of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth, Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are daffodils With the green world they live in; and clear rills That for themselves a cooling covert make ’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake, Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: And such too is the grandeur of the dooms We have imagined for the mighty dead; All lovely tales that we have heard or read: An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. Nor do we merely feel these essences For one short hour; no, even as the trees That whisper round a temple become soon Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon, The passion poesy, glories infinite, Haunt us till they become a cheering light Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast, That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast, They alway must be with us, or we die. Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I Will trace the story of Endymion. The very music of the name has gone Into my being, and each pleasant scene Is growing fresh before me as the green Of our own vallies: so I will begin Now while I cannot hear the city’s din; Now while the early budders are just new, And run in mazes of the youngest hue About old forests; while the willow trails Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year Grows lush in juicy stalks, I’ll smoothly steer My little boat, for many quiet hours, With streams that deepen freshly into bowers. Many and many a verse I hope to write, Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white, Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas, I must be near the middle of my story. O may no wintry season, bare and hoary, See it half finished: but let Autumn bold, With universal tinge of sober gold, Be all about me when I make an end. And now at once, adventuresome, I send My herald thought into a wilderness: There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress My uncertain path with green, that I may speed Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed. Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed So plenteously all weed-hidden roots Into o’er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits. And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep, Where no man went; and if from shepherd’s keep A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens, Never again saw he the happy pens Whither his brethren, bleating with content, Over the hills at every nightfall went. Among the shepherds, ’twas believed ever, That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever From the white flock, but pass’d unworried By angry wolf, or pard with prying head, Until it came to some unfooted plains Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many, Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny, And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly To a wide lawn, whence one could only see Stems thronging all around between the swell Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell The freshness of the space of heaven above, Edg’d round with dark tree tops? through which a dove Would often beat its wings, and often too A little cloud would move across the blue. Full in the middle of this pleasantness There stood a marble altar, with a tress Of flowers budded newly; and the dew Had taken fairy phantasies to strew Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve, And so the dawned light in pomp receive. For ’twas the morn: Apollo’s upward fire Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre Of brightness so unsullied, that therein A melancholy spirit well might win Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun; The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass; Man’s voice was on the mountains; and the mass Of nature’s lives and wonders puls’d tenfold, To feel this sun-rise and its glories old. Now while the silent workings of the dawn Were busiest, into that self-same lawn All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped A troop of little children garlanded; Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry Earnestly round as wishing to espy Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited For many moments, ere their ears were sated With a faint breath of music, which ev’n then Fill’d out its voice, and died away again. Within a little space again it gave Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave, To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking Through copse-clad vallies, — ere their death, oer-taking The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea. And now, as deep into the wood as we Might mark a lynx’s eye, there glimmered light Fair faces and a rush of garments white, Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last Into the widest alley they all past, Making directly for the woodland altar. O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter In telling of this goodly company, Of their old piety, and of their glee: But let a portion of ethereal dew Fall on my head, and presently unmew My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring, To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing. Leading the way, young damsels danced along, Bearing the burden of a shepherd song; Each having a white wicker over brimm’d With April’s tender younglings: next, well trimm’d, A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks As may be read of in Arcadian books; Such as sat listening round Apollo’s pipe, When the great deity, for earth too ripe, Let his divinity o’er-flowing die In music, through the vales of Thessaly: Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground, And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these, Now coming from beneath the forest trees, A venerable priest full soberly, Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept, And after him his sacred vestments swept. From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white, Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light; And in his left he held a basket full Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull: Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill. His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath, Seem’d like a poll of ivy in the teeth Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud Their share of the ditty. After them appear’d, Up-followed by a multitude that rear’d Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car, Easily rolling so as scarce to mar The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown: Who stood therein did seem of great renown Among the throng. His youth was fully blown, Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown; And, for those simple times, his garments were A chieftain king’s: beneath his breast, half bare, Was hung a silver bugle, and between His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen. A smile was on his countenance; he seem’d, To common lookers on, like one who dream’d Of idleness in groves Elysian: But there were some who feelingly could scan A lurking trouble in his nether lip, And see that oftentimes the reins would slip Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh, And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry, Of logs piled solemnly. — Ah, well-a-day, Why should our young Endymion pine away! Soon the assembly, in a circle rang’d, Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang’d To sudden veneration: women meek Beckon’d their sons to silence; while each cheek Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear. Endymion too, without a forest peer, Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face, Among his brothers of the mountain chase. In midst of all, the venerable priest Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least, And, after lifting up his aged hands, Thus spake he: “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands! Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks: Whether descended from beneath the rocks That overtop your mountains; whether come From vallies where the pipe is never dumb; Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge Nibble their fill at ocean’s very marge, Whose mellow reeds are touch’d with sounds forlorn By the dim echoes of old Triton’s horn: Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air; And all ye gentle girls who foster up Udderless lambs, and in a little cup Will put choice honey for a favoured youth: Yea, every one attend! for in good truth Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan. Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains Green’d over April’s lap? No howling sad Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had Great bounty from Endymion our lord. The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour’d His early song against yon breezy sky, That spreads so clear o’er our solemnity.” Thus ending, on the shrine he heap’d a spire Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire; Anon he stain’d the thick and spongy sod With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god. Now while the earth was drinking it, and while Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile, And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright ’Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang: “O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness; Who lov’st to see the hamadryads dress Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken; And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken The dreary melody of bedded reeds — In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth; Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx — do thou now, By thy love’s milky brow! By all the trembling mazes that she ran, Hear us, great Pan! “O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles Passion their voices cooingly ’mong myrtles, What time thou wanderest at eventide Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom Their ripen’d fruitage; yellow girted bees Their golden honeycombs; our village leas Their fairest-blossom’d beans and poppied corn; The chuckling linnet its five young unborn, To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year All its completions — be quickly near, By every wind that nods the mountain pine, O forester divine! “Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies For willing service; whether to surprise The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit; Or upward ragged precipices flit To save poor lambkins from the eagle’s maw; Or by mysterious enticement draw Bewildered shepherds to their path again; Or to tread breathless round the frothy main, And gather up all fancifullest shells For thee to tumble into Naiads’ cells, And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping; Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping, The while they pelt each other on the crown With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown — By all the echoes that about thee ring, Hear us, O satyr king! “O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears, While ever and anon to his shorn peers A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn, When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms, To keep off mildews, and all weather harms: Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds, That come a swooning over hollow grounds, And wither drearily on barren moors: Dread opener of the mysterious doors Leading to universal knowledge — see, Great son of Dryope, The many that are come to pay their vows With leaves about their brows! Be still the unimaginable lodge For solitary thinkings; such as dodge Conception to the very bourne of heaven, Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven, That spreading in this dull and clodded earth Gives it a touch ethereal — a new birth: Be still a symbol of immensity; A firmament reflected in a sea; An element filling the space between; An unknown — but no more: we humbly screen With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending, And giving out a shout most heaven rending, Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean, Upon thy Mount Lycean! Even while they brought the burden to a close, A shout from the whole multitude arose, That lingered in the air like dying rolls Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine. Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine, Young companies nimbly began dancing To the swift treble pipe, and humming string. Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly To tunes forgotten — out of memory: Fair creatures! whose young children’s children bred Thermopylæ its heroes — not yet dead, But in old marbles ever beautiful. High genitors, unconscious did they cull Time’s sweet first-fruits — they danc’d to weariness, And then in quiet circles did they press The hillock turf, and caught the latter end Of some strange history, potent to send A young mind from its bodily tenement. Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent On either side; pitying the sad death Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath Of Zephyr slew him, — Zephyr penitent, Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament, Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain. The archers too, upon a wider plain, Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft, And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top, Call’d up a thousand thoughts to envelope Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee And frantic gape of lonely Niobe, Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip, And very, very deadliness did nip Her motherly cheeks. Arous’d from this sad mood By one, who at a distance loud halloo’d, Uplifting his strong bow into the air, Many might after brighter visions stare: After the Argonauts, in blind amaze Tossing about on Neptune’s restless ways, Until, from the horizon’s vaulted side, There shot a golden splendour far and wide, Spangling those million poutings of the brine With quivering ore: ’twas even an awful shine From the exaltation of Apollo’s bow; A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe. Who thus were ripe for high contemplating, Might turn their steps towards the sober ring Where sat Endymion and the aged priest ’Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas’d The silvery setting of their mortal star. There they discours’d upon the fragile bar That keeps us from our homes ethereal; And what our duties there: to nightly call Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather; To summon all the downiest clouds together For the sun’s purple couch; to emulate In ministring the potent rule of fate With speed of fire-tailed exhalations; To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these, A world of other unguess’d offices. Anon they wander’d, by divine converse, Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse Each one his own anticipated bliss. One felt heart-certain that he could not miss His quick gone love, among fair blossom’d boughs, Where every zephyr-sigh pouts and endows Her lips with music for the welcoming. Another wish’d, mid that eternal spring, To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails, Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales: Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind, And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind; And, ever after, through those regions be His messenger, his little Mercury. Some were athirst in soul to see again Their fellow huntsmen o’er the wide champaign In times long past; to sit with them, and talk Of all the chances in their earthly walk; Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores Of happiness, to when upon the moors, Benighted, close they huddled from the cold, And shar’d their famish’d scrips. Thus all out-told Their fond imaginations, — saving him Whose eyelids curtain’d up their jewels dim, Endymion: yet hourly had he striven To hide the cankering venom, that had riven His fainting recollections. Now indeed His senses had swoon’d off: he did not heed The sudden silence, or the whispers low, Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe, Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms, Or maiden’s sigh, that grief itself embalms: But in the self-same fixed trance he kept, Like one who on the earth had never stept. Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man, Frozen in that old tale Arabian. Who whispers him so pantingly and close? Peona, his sweet sister: of all those, His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made, And breath’d a sister’s sorrow to persuade A yielding up, a cradling on her care. Her eloquence did breathe away the curse: She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse Of happy changes in emphatic dreams, Along a path between two little streams, — Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow, From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small; Until they came to where these streamlets fall, With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush, Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush With crystal mocking of the trees and sky. A little shallop, floating there hard by, Pointed its beak over the fringed bank; And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank, And dipt again, with the young couple’s weight, — Peona guiding, through the water straight, Towards a bowery island opposite; Which gaining presently, she steered light Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove, Where nested was an arbour, overwove By many a summer’s silent fingering; To whose cool bosom she was used to bring Her playmates, with their needle broidery, And minstrel memories of times gone by. So she was gently glad to see him laid Under her favourite bower’s quiet shade, On her own couch, new made of flower leaves, Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves When last the sun his autumn tresses shook, And the tann’d harvesters rich armfuls took. Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest: But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest Peona’s busy hand against his lips, And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps A patient watch over the stream that creeps Windingly by it, so the quiet maid Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling Among seer leaves and twigs, might all be heard. O magic sleep! O comfortable bird, That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind Till it is hush’d and smooth! O unconfin’d Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy, Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world Of silvery enchantment! — who, upfurl’d Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour, But renovates and lives? — Thus, in the bower, Endymion was calm’d to life again. Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain, He said: “I feel this thine endearing love All through my bosom: thou art as a dove Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings About me; and the pearliest dew not brings Such morning incense from the fields of May, As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray From those kind eyes, — the very home and haunt Of sisterly affection. Can I want Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears? Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears That, any longer, I will pass my days Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar: Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll Around the breathed boar: again I’ll poll The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow: And, when the pleasant sun is getting low, Again I’ll linger in a sloping mead To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered sweet, And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat My soul to keep in its resolved course.” Hereat Peona, in their silver source, Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim, And took a lute, from which there pulsing came A lively prelude, fashioning the way In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay More subtle cadenced, more forest wild Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child; And nothing since has floated in the air So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare Went, spiritual, through the damsel’s hand; For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann’d The quick invisible strings, even though she saw Endymion’s spirit melt away and thaw Before the deep intoxication. But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon Her self-possession — swung the lute aside, And earnestly said: “Brother, ’tis vain to hide That thou dost know of things mysterious, Immortal, starry; such alone could thus Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn’d in aught Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught A Paphian dove upon a message sent? Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent, Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen Her naked limbs among the alders green; And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace Something more high perplexing in thy face!” Endymion look’d at her, and press’d her hand, And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland And merry in our meadows? How is this? Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss! — Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange? Or more complete to overwhelm surmise? Ambition is no sluggard: ’tis no prize, That toiling years would put within my grasp, That I have sigh’d for: with so deadly gasp No man e’er panted for a mortal love. So all have set my heavier grief above These things which happen. Rightly have they done: I, who still saw the horizontal sun Heave his broad shoulder o’er the edge of the world, Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d My spear aloft, as signal for the chace — I, who, for very sport of heart, would race With my own steed from Araby; pluck down A vulture from his towery perching; frown A lion into growling, loth retire — To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire, And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest. “This river does not see the naked sky, Till it begins to progress silverly Around the western border of the wood, Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood Seems at the distance like a crescent moon: And in that nook, the very pride of June, Had I been used to pass my weary eves; The rather for the sun unwilling leaves So dear a picture of his sovereign power, And I could witness his most kingly hour, When he doth lighten up the golden reins, And paces leisurely down amber plains His snorting four. Now when his chariot last Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast, There blossom’d suddenly a magic bed Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red: At which I wondered greatly, knowing well That but one night had wrought this flowery spell; And, sitting down close by, began to muse What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus, In passing here, his owlet pinions shook; Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth, Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought, Until my head was dizzy and distraught. Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul; And shaping visions all about my sight Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light; The which became more strange, and strange, and dim, And then were gulph’d in a tumultuous swim: And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell The enchantment that afterwards befel? Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream That never tongue, although it overteem With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring, Could figure out and to conception bring All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay Watching the zenith, where the milky way Among the stars in virgin splendour pours; And travelling my eye, until the doors Of heaven appear’d to open for my flight, I became loth and fearful to alight From such high soaring by a downward glance: So kept me stedfast in that airy trance, Spreading imaginary pinions wide. When, presently, the stars began to glide, And faint away, before my eager view: At which I sigh’d that I could not pursue, And dropt my vision to the horizon’s verge; And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er A shell for Neptune’s goblet: she did soar So passionately bright, my dazzled soul Commingling with her argent spheres did roll Through clear and cloudy, even when she went At last into a dark and vapoury tent — Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train Of planets all were in the blue again. To commune with those orbs, once more I rais’d My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed By a bright something, sailing down apace, Making me quickly veil my eyes and face: Again I look’d, and, O ye deities, Who from Olympus watch our destinies! Whence that completed form of all completeness? Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness? Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O Where Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair? Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun; Not — thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun Such follying before thee — yet she had, Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad; And they were simply gordian’d up and braided, Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded, Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow; The which were blended in, I know not how, With such a paradise of lips and eyes, Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs, That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings And plays about its fancy, till the stings Of human neighbourhood envenom all. Unto what awful power shall I call? To what high fane? — Ah! see her hovering feet, More bluely vein’d, more soft, more whitely sweet Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion; ’Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed, Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed, Handfuls of daisies.” — “Endymion, how strange! Dream within dream!” — “She took an airy range, And then, towards me, like a very maid, Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid, And press’d me by the hand: Ah! ’twas too much; Methought I fainted at the charmed touch, Yet held my recollection, even as one Who dives three fathoms where the waters run Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon, I felt upmounted in that region Where falling stars dart their artillery forth, And eagles struggle with the buffeting north That balances the heavy meteor-stone; — Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone, But lapp’d and lull’d along the dangerous sky. Soon, as it seem’d, we left our journeying high, And straightway into frightful eddies swoop’d; Such as ay muster where grey time has scoop’d Huge dens and caverns in a mountain’s side: There hollow sounds arous’d me, and I sigh’d To faint once more by looking on my bliss — I was distracted; madly did I kiss The wooing arms which held me, and did give My eyes at once to death: but ’twas to live, To take in draughts of life from the gold fount Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count The moments, by some greedy help that seem’d A second self, that each might be redeem’d And plunder’d of its load of blessedness. Ah, desperate mortal! I ev’n dar’d to press Her very cheek against my crowned lip, And, at that moment, felt my body dip Into a warmer air: a moment more, Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes A scent of violets, and blossoming limes, Loiter’d around us; then of honey cells, Made delicate from all white-flower bells; And once, above the edges of our nest, An arch face peep’d, — an Oread as I guess’d. “Why did I dream that sleep o’er-power’d me In midst of all this heaven? Why not see, Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark, And stare them from me? But no, like a spark That needs must die, although its little beam Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream Fell into nothing — into stupid sleep. And so it was, until a gentle creep, A careful moving caught my waking ears, And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears, My clenched hands; — for lo! the poppies hung Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung A heavy ditty, and the sullen day Had chidden herald Hesperus away, With leaden looks: the solitary breeze Bluster’d, and slept, and its wild self did teaze With wayward melancholy; and r thought, Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus! — Away I wander’d — all the pleasant hues Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills Seem’d sooty, and o’er-spread with upturn’d gills Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird Before my heedless footsteps stirr’d, and stirr’d In little journeys, I beheld in it A disguis’d demon, missioned to knit My soul with under darkness; to entice My stumblings down some monstrous precipice: Therefore I eager followed, and did curse The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse, Rock’d me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven! These things, with all their comfortings, are given To my down-sunken hours, and with thee, Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea Of weary life.” Thus ended he, and both Sat silent: for the maid was very loth To answer; feeling well that breathed words Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps, And wonders; struggles to devise some blame; To put on such a look as would say, Shame On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife, She could as soon have crush’d away the life From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause, She said with trembling chance: “Is this the cause? This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas! That one who through this middle earth should pass Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave His name upon the harp-string, should achieve No higher bard than simple maidenhood, Singing alone, and fearfully, — how the blood Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray He knew not where; and how he would say, nay, If any said ’twas love: and yet ’twas love; What could it be but love? How a ring-dove Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path; And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe, The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses; And then the ballad of his sad life closes With sighs, and an alas! — Endymion! Be rather in the trumpet’s mouth, — anon Among the winds at large — that all may hearken! Although, before the crystal heavens darken, I watch and dote upon the silver lakes Pictur’d in western cloudiness, that takes The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands, Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands With horses prancing o’er them, palaces And towers of amethyst, — would I so tease My pleasant days, because I could not mount Into those regions? The Morphean fount Of that fine element that visions, dreams, And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams Into its airy channels with so subtle, So thin a breathing, not the spider’s shuttle, Circled a million times within the space Of a swallow’s nest-door, could delay a trace, A tinting of its quality: how light Must dreams themselves be; seeing they’re more slight Than the mere nothing that engenders them! Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick? Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick For nothing but a dream?” Hereat the youth Look’d up: a conflicting of shame and ruth Was in his plaited brow: yet his eyelids Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids A little breeze to creep between the fans Of careless butterflies: amid his pains He seem’d to taste a drop of manna-dew, Full palatable; and a colour grew Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake. “Peona! ever have I long’d to slake My thirst for the world’s praises: nothing base, No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar’d — Though now ’tis tatter’d; leaving my bark bar’d And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope, To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks. Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks Our ready minds to fellowship divine, A fellowship with essence; till we shine, Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold The clear religion of heaven! Fold A rose leaf round thy finger’s taperness, And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress Of music’s kiss impregnates the free winds, And with a sympathetic touch unbinds Eolian magic from their lucid wombs: Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs; Old ditties sigh above their father’s grave; Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave Round every spot where trod Apollo’s foot; Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit, Where long ago a giant battle was; And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass In every place where infant Orpheus slept. Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept Into a sort of oneness, and our state Is like a floating spirit’s. But there are Richer entanglements, enthralments far More self-destroying, leading, by degrees, To the chief intensity: the crown of these Is made of love and friendship, and sits high Upon the forehead of humanity. All its more ponderous and bulky worth Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth A steady splendour; but at the tip-top, There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop Of light, and that is love: its influence, Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense, At which we start and fret; till in the end, Melting into its radiance, we blend, Mingle, and so become a part of it, — Nor with aught else can our souls interknit So wingedly: when we combine therewith, Life’s self is nourish’d by its proper pith, And we are nurtured like a pelican brood. Aye, so delicious is the unsating food, That men, who might have tower’d in the van Of all the congregated world, to fan And winnow from the coming step of time All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime Left by men-slugs and human serpentry, Have been content to let occasion die, Whilst they did sleep in love’s elysium. And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb, Than speak against this ardent listlessness: For I have ever thought that it might bless The world with benefits unknowingly; As does the nightingale, upperched high, And cloister’d among cool and bunched leaves — She sings but to her love, nor e’er conceives How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood. Just so may love, although ’tis understood The mere commingling of passionate breath, Produce more than our searching witnesseth: What I know not: but who, of men, can tell That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail, The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale, The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones, The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones, Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet, If human souls did never kiss and greet? “Now, if this earthly love has power to make Men’s being mortal, immortal; to shake Ambition from their memories, and brim Their measure of content; what merest whim, Seems all this poor endeavour after fame, To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim A love immortal, an immortal too. Look not so wilder’d; for these things are true, And never can be born of atomies That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies, Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I’m sure, My restless spirit never could endure To brood so long upon one luxury, Unless it did, though fearfully, espy A hope beyond the shadow of a dream. My sayings will the less obscured seem, When I have told thee how my waking sight Has made me scruple whether that same night Was pass’d in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona! Beyond the matron-temple of Latona, Which we should see but for these darkening boughs, Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart, And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught, And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide Past them, but he must brush on every side. Some moulder’d steps lead into this cool cell, Far as the slabbed margin of a well, Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky. Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet Edges them round, and they have golden pits: ’Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat, When all above was faint with mid-day heat. And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed, I’d bubble up the water through a reed; So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips, With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily, When love-lorn hours had left me less a child, I sat contemplating the figures wild Of o’er-head clouds melting the mirror through. Upon a day, while thus I watch’d, by flew A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver; So plainly character’d, no breeze would shiver The happy chance: so happy, I was fain To follow it upon the open plain, And, therefore, was just going; when, behold! A wonder, fair as any I have told — The same bright face I tasted in my sleep, Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap Through the cool depth. — It moved as if to flee — I started up, when lo! refreshfully, There came upon my face, in plenteous showers, Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers, Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight, Bathing my spirit in a new delight. Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss Alone preserved me from the drear abyss Of death, for the fair form had gone again. Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth On the deer’s tender haunches: late, and loth, ’Tis scar’d away by slow returning pleasure. How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure Of weary days, made deeper exquisite, By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night! Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still, Than when I wander’d from the poppy hill: And a whole age of lingering moments crept Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept Away at once the deadly yellow spleen. Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen; Once more been tortured with renewed life. When last the wintry gusts gave over strife With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes In pity of the shatter’d infant buds, — That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs, My hunting cap, because I laugh’d and smil’d, Chatted with thee, and many days exil’d All torment from my breast; — ’twas even then, Straying about, yet, coop’d up in the den Of helpless discontent, — hurling my lance From place to place, and following at chance, At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck, And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck In the middle of a brook, — whose silver ramble Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble, Tracing along, it brought me to a cave, Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave The nether sides of mossy stones and rock, — ’Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead, Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph’s home. “Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?” Said I, low voic’d: “Ah whither! ’Tis the grot Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot, Doth her resign; and where her tender hands She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands: Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits, And babbles thorough silence, till her wits Are gone in tender madness, and anon, Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone Of sadness. O that she would take my vows, And breathe them sighingly among the boughs, To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head, Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed, And weave them dyingly — send honey-whispers Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers May sigh my love unto her pitying! O charitable echo! hear, and sing This ditty to her! — tell her” — so I stay’d My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid, Stood stupefied with my own empty folly, And blushing for the freaks of melancholy. Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name Most fondly lipp’d, and then these accents came: ‘Endymion! the cave is secreter Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.” At that oppress’d I hurried in. — Ah! where Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled? I’ll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed Sorrow the way to death, but patiently Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh; And come instead demurest meditation, To occupy me wholly, and to fashion My pilgrimage for the world’s dusky brink. No more will I count over, link by link, My chain of grief: no longer strive to find A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see, Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be; What a calm round of hours shall make my days. There is a paly flame of hope that plays Where’er I look: but yet, I’ll say ’tis naught — And here I bid it die. Have not I caught, Already, a more healthy countenance? By this the sun is setting; we may chance Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car.” This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star Through autumn mists, and took Peona’s hand: They stept into the boat, and launch’d from land.
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