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Poem by John Keats


Endymion. Book 2


O SOVEREIGN power of love! O grief! O balm!
All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,	
And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:	
For others, good or bad, hatred and tears	
Have become indolent; but touching thine,	       
One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,	
One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.	
The woes of Troy, towers smothering o’er their blaze,	
Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,	
Struggling, and blood, and shrieks — all dimly fades	        
Into some backward corner of the brain;	
Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain	
The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.	
Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!	
Swart planet in the universe of deeds!	        
Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds	
Along the pebbled shore of memory!	
Many old rotten-timber’d boats there be	
Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified	
To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,	       
And golden keel’d, is left unlaunch’d and dry.	
But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly	
About the great Athenian admiral’s mast?	
What care, though striding Alexander past	
The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?	       
Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers	
The glutted Cyclops, what care? — Juliet leaning	
Amid her window-flowers, — sighing, — weaning	
Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,	
Doth more avail than these: the silver flow	        
Of Hero’s tears, the swoon of Imogen,	
Fair Pastorella in the bandit’s den,	
Are things to brood on with more ardency	
Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully	
Must such conviction come upon his head,	        
Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,	
Without one muse’s smile, or kind behest,	
The path of love and poesy. But rest,	
In chaffing restlessness, is yet more drear	
Than to be crush’d, in striving to uprear	        
Love’s standard on the battlements of song.	
So once more days and nights aid me along,	
Like legion’d soldiers.

                        Brain-sick shepherd-prince,	
What promise hast thou faithful guarded since	
The day of sacrifice? Or, have new sorrows	        
Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?	
Alas! ’tis his old grief. For many days,	
Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:	
Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;	
Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes	       
Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,	
Hour after hour, to each lush-leav’d rill.	
Now he is sitting by a shady spring,	
And elbow-deep with feverous fingering	
Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree	       
Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see	
A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now	
He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!	
It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;	
And, in the middle, there is softly pight	        
A golden butterfly; upon whose wings	
There must be surely character’d strange things,	
For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.	
 
  	Lightly this little herald flew aloft,	
Follow’d by glad Endymion’s clasped hands:	        
Onward it flies. From languor’s sullen bands	
His limbs are loos’d, and eager, on he hies	
Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.	
It seem’d he flew, the way so easy was;	
And like a new-born spirit did he pass	        
Through the green evening quiet in the sun,	
O’er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,	
Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams	
The summer time away. One track unseams	
A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue	        
Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,	
He sinks adown a solitary glen,	
Where there was never sound of mortal men,	
Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences	
Melting to silence, when upon the breeze	        
Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,	
To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet	
Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,	
Until it reached a splashing fountain’s side	
That, near a cavern’s mouth, for ever pour’d	        
Unto the temperate air: then high it soar’d,	
And, downward, suddenly began to dip,	
As if, athirst with so much toil, ’twould sip	
The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch	
Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch	       
Even with mealy gold the waters clear.	
But, at that very touch, to disappear	
So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,	
Endymion sought around, and shook each bed	
Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung	        
Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,	
What whisperer disturb’d his gloomy rest?	
It was a nymph uprisen to the breast	
In the fountain’s pebbly margin, and she stood	
’Mong lilies, like the youngest of the brood.	        
To him her dripping hand she softly kist,	
And anxiously began to plait and twist	
Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: “Youth!	
Too long, alas, hast thou starv’d on the ruth,	
The bitterness of love: too long indeed,	        
Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I weed	
Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer	
All the bright riches of my crystal coffer	
To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,	
Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,	
Vermilion-tail’d, or finn’d with silvery gauze;	
Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws	
A virgin light to the deep; my grotto-sands	
Tawny and gold, ooz’d slowly from far lands	
By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,	       
My charming rod, my potent river spells;	
Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup	
Meander gave me, — for I bubbled up	
To fainting creatures in a desert wild.	
But woe is me, I am but as a child	        
To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,	
Is, that I pity thee; that on this day	
I’ve been thy guide; that thou must wander far	
In other regions, past the scanty bar	
To mortal steps, before thou cans’t be ta’en	        
From every wasting sigh, from every pain,	
Into the gentle bosom of thy love.	
Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:	
But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!	
I have a ditty for my hollow cell.”	        
 
  	Hereat, she vanished from Endymion’s gaze,	
Who brooded o’er the water in amaze:	
The dashing fount pour’d on, and where its pool	
Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,	
Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,	        
And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill	
Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,	
Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr	
Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;	
And, while beneath the evening’s sleepy frown	        
Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,	
Thus breath’d he to himself: “Whoso encamps	
To take a fancied city of delight,	
O what a wretch is he! and when ’tis his,	
After long toil and travelling, to miss	        
The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:	
Yet, for him there’s refreshment even in toil;	
Another city doth he set about,	
Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt	
That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:	        
Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,	
And onward to another city speeds.	
But this is human life: the war, the deeds,	
The disappointment, the anxiety,	
Imagination’s struggles, far and nigh,	        
All human; bearing in themselves this good,	
That they are sill the air, the subtle food,	
To make us feel existence, and to shew	
How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,	
Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,	        
There is no depth to strike in: I can see	
Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand	
Upon a misty, jutting head of land —	
Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,	
When mad Eurydice is listening to ’t;	        
I’d rather stand upon this misty peak,	
With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,	
But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,	
Than be—I care not what. O meekest dove	
Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!	        
From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,	
Glance but one little beam of temper’d light	
Into my bosom, that the dreadful might	
And tyranny of love be somewhat scar’d!	
Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar’d,	        
Would give a pang to jealous misery,	
Worse than the torment’s self: but rather tie	
Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out	
My love’s far dwelling. Though the playful rout	
Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,	        
Too keen in beauty, for thy silver prow	
Not to have dipp’d in love’s most gentle stream.	
O be propitious, nor severely deem	
My madness impious; for, by all the stars	
That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars	        
That kept my spirit in are burst — that I	
Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!	
How beautiful thou art! The world how deep!	
How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep	
Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,	        
How lithe! When this thy chariot attains	
Is airy goal, haply some bower veils	
Those twilight eyes? Those eyes! — my spirit fails —	
Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air	
Will gulph me — help!” — At this with madden’d stare,	        
And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;	
Like old Deucalion mountain’d o’er the flood,	
Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.	
And, but from the deep cavern there was borne	
A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;	        
Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion’d moan	
Had more been heard. Thus swell’d it forth: “Descend,	
Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend	
Into the sparry hollows of the world!	
Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl’d	        
As from thy threshold, day by day hast been	
A little lower than the chilly sheen	
Of icy pinnacles, and dipp’dst thine arms	
Into the deadening ether that still charms	
Their marble being: now, as deep profound	        
As those are high, descend! He ne’er is crown’d	
With immortality, who fears to follow	
Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,	
The silent mysteries of earth, descend!”	
 
  He heard but the last words, nor could contend	        
One moment in reflection: for he fled	
Into the fearful deep, to hide his head	
From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.	
 
  ’Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;	
Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite	        
To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,	
The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,	
But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;	
A dusky empire and its diadems;	
One faint eternal eventide of gems.	       
Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,	
Along whose track the prince quick footsteps told,	
With all its lines abrupt and angular:	
Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,	
Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,	       
Like Vulcan’s rainbow, with some monstrous roof	
Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,	
It seems an angry lightning, and doth hiss	
Fancy into belief: anon it leads	
Through winding passages, where sameness breeds	        
Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;	
Whether to silver grots, or giant range	
Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge	
Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge	
Now fareth he, that o’er the vast beneath	        
Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth	
A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come	
But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb	
His bosom grew, when first he, far away,	
Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray	        
Old darkness from his throne: ’twas like the sun	
Uprisen o’er chaos: and with such a stun	
Came the amazement, that, absorb’d in it,	
He saw not fiercer wonders — past the wit	
Of any spirit to tell, but one of those	        
Who, when this planet’s sphering time doth close,	
Will be its high remembrancers: who they?	
The mighty ones who have made eternal day	
For Greece and England. While astonishment	
With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went	        
Into a marble gallery, passing through	
A mimic temple, so complete and true	
In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear’d	
To search it inwards, whence far off appear’d,	
Through a long pillar’d vista, a fair shrine,	       
And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,	
A quiver’d Dian. Stepping awfully,	
The youth approach’d; oft turning his veil’d eye	
Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.	
And when, more near against the marble cold	        
He had touch’d his forehead, he began to thread	
All courts and passages, where silence dead	
Rous’d by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:	
And long he travers’d to and fro, to acquaint	
Himself with every mystery, and awe;	       
Till, weary, he sat down before the maw	
Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim	
To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.	
There, when new wonders ceas’d to float before,	
And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore	       
The journey homeward to habitual self!	
A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,	
Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,	
Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,	
Into the bosom of a hated thing.	        
 
  	What misery most drowningly doth sing	
In lone Endymion’s ear, now he has caught	
The goal of consciousness? Ah, ’tis the thought,	
The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!	
He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow	      
Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild	
In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil’d,	
The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,	
Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest	
Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;	    
But far from such companionship to wear	
An unknown time, surcharg’d with grief, away,	
Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,	
Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?	
“No!” exclaimed he, “why should I tarry here?”	        
No! loudly echoed times innumerable.	
At which he straightway started, and ’gan tell	
His paces back into the temple’s chief;	
Warming and glowing strong in the belief	
Of help from Dian: so that when again	        
He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,	
Moving more near the while. “O Haunter chaste	
Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,	
Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen	
Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,	        
What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?	
Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos	
Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree	
Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe’er it be,	
’Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste	        
Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste	
Thy loveliness in dismal elements;	
But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,	
There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee	
It feels Elysian, how rich to me,	        
An exil’d mortal, sounds its pleasant name!	
Within my breast there lives a choking flame —	
O let me cool it among the zephyr-boughs!	
A homeward fever parches up my tongue —	
O let me slake it at the running springs!	        
Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings —	
O let me once more hear the linnet’s note!	
Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float —	
O let me ’noint them with the heaven’s light!	
Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?	        
O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!	
Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?	
O think how this dry palate would rejoice!	
If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,	
Oh think how I should love a bed of flowers! —	        
Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!	
Deliver me from this rapacious deep!”	
 
  Thus ending loudly, as he would o’erleap	
His destiny, alert he stood: but when	
Obstinate silence came heavily again,	        
Feeling about for its old couch of space	
And airy cradle, lowly bow’d his face	
Desponding, o’er the marble floor’s cold thrill.	
But ’twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill	
To its old channel, or a swollen tide	        
To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,	
And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns	
Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns	
Itself, and strives its own delights to hide —	  
Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride	        
In a long whispering birth enchanted grew	
Before his footsteps; as when heav’d anew	
Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,	
Down whose green back the short-liv’d foam, all hoar,	
Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.	        
 
  Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,	
Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;	
So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes	
One moment with his hand among the sweets:	
Onward he goes — he stops — his bosom beats	        
As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm	
Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,	
This sleepy music, forc’d him walk tiptoe:	
For it came more softly than the east could blow	
Arion’s magic to the Atlantic isles;	        
Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles	
Of thron’d Apollo, could breathe back the lyre	
To seas Ionian and Tyrian.	
 
  O did he ever live, that lonely man,	
Who lov’d — and music slew not? ’Tis the pest	        
Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest;	
That things of delicate and tenderest worth	
Are swallow’d all, and made a seared dearth,	
By one consuming flame: it doth immerse	
And suffocate true blessings in a curse.	        
Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,	
Is miserable. ’Twas even so with this	
Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian’s ear;	
First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,	
Vanish’d in elemental passion.	        
 
  And down some swart abysm he had gone,	
Had not a heavenly guide benignant led	
To where thick myrtle branches, ’gainst his head	
Brushing, awakened: then the sounds again	
Went noiseless as a passing noontide rain	        
Over a bower, where little space he stood;	
For as the sunset peeps into a wood	
So saw he panting light, and towards it went	
Through winding alleys; and lo, wonderment!	
Upon soft verdure saw, one here, one there,	        
Cupids a slumbering on their pinions fair.	
 
  After a thousand mazes overgone,	
At last, with sudden step, he came upon	
A chamber, myrtle wall’d, embowered high,	
Full of light, incense, tender minstrelsy,	        
And more of beautiful and strange beside:	
For on a silken couch of rosy pride,	
In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth	
Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,	
Than sighs could fathom, or contentment reach:	        
And coverlids gold-tinted like the peach,	
Or ripe October’s faded marigolds,	
Fell sleek about him in a thousand folds—	
Not hiding up an Apollonian curve	
Of neck and shoulder, nor the tenting swerve	        
Of knee from knee, nor ankles pointing light;	
But rather, giving them to the filled sight	
Officiously. Sideway his face repos’d	
On one white arm, and tenderly unclos’d,	
By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth	        
To slumbery pout; just as the morning south	
Disparts a dew-lipp’d rose. Above his head,	
Four lily stalks did their white honours wed	
To make a coronal; and round him grew	
All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,	        
Together intertwin’d and trammel’d fresh:	
The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,	
Shading its Ethiop berries; and woodbine,	
Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine;	
Convolvulus in streaked vases flush;	        
The creeper, mellowing for an autumn blush;	
And virgin’s bower, trailing airily;	
With others of the sisterhood. Hard by,	
Stood serene Cupids watching silently.	
One, kneeling to a lyre, touch’d the strings,	        
Muffling to death the pathos with his wings;	
And, ever and anon, uprose to look	
At the youth’s slumber; while another took	
A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,	
And shook it on his hair; another flew	        
In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise	
Rain’d violets upon his sleeping eyes.	
 
  At these enchantments, and yet many more,	
The breathless Latmian wonder’d o’er and o’er;	
Until, impatient in embarrassment,	        
He forthright pass’d, and lightly treading went	
To that same feather’d lyrist, who straightway,	
Smiling, thus whisper’d: “Though from upper day	
Thou art a wanderer, and thy presence here	
Might seem unholy, be of happy cheer!	        
For ’tis the nicest touch of human honour,	
When some ethereal and high-favouring donor	
Presents immortal bowers to mortal sense;	
As now ’tis done to thee, Endymion. Hence	
Was I in no wise startled. So recline	        
Upon these living flowers. Here is wine,	
Alive with sparkles — never, I aver,	
Since Ariadne was a vintager,	
So cool a purple: taste these juicy pears,	
Sent me by sad Vertumnus, when his fears	        
Were high about Pomona: here is cream,	
Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam;	
Sweeter than that nurse Amalthea skimm’d	
For the boy Jupiter: and here, undimm’d	
By any touch, a bunch of blooming plums	        
Ready to melt between an infant’s gums:	
And here is manna pick’d from Syrian trees,	
In starlight, by the three Hesperides.	
Feast on, and meanwhile I will let thee know	
Of all these things around us.” He did so,	        
Still brooding o’er the cadence of his lyre;	
And thus: “I need not any hearing tire	
By telling how the sea-born goddess pin’d	
For a mortal youth, and how she strove to bind	
Him all in all unto her doting self.	        
Who would not be so prison’d? but, fond elf,	
He was content to let her amorous plea	
Faint through his careless arms; content to see	
An unseiz’d heaven dying at his feet;	
Content, O fool! to make a cold retreat,	        
When on the pleasant grass such love, lovelorn,	
Lay sorrowing; when every tear was born	
Of diverse passion; when her lips and eyes	
Were clos’d in sullen moisture, and quick sighs	
Came vex’d and pettish through her nostrils small.	        
Hush! no exclaim — yet, justly mightst thou call	
Curses upon his head. — I was half glad,	
But my poor mistress went distract and mad,	
When the boar tusk’d him: so away she flew	
To Jove’s high throne, and by her plainings drew	        
Immortal tear-drops down the thunderer’s beard;	
Whereon, it was decreed he should be rear’d	
Each summer time to life. Lo! this is he,	
That same Adonis, safe in the privacy	
Of this still region all his winter-sleep.	        
Aye, sleep; for when our love-sick queen did weep	
Over his waned corse, the tremulous shower	
Heal’d up the wound, and, with a balmy power,	
Medicined death to a lengthened drowsiness:	
The which she fills with visions, and doth dress	        
In all this quiet luxury; and hath set	
Us young immortals, without any let,	
To watch his slumber through. ’Tis well nigh pass’d,	
Even to a moment’s filling up, and fast	
She scuds with summer breezes, to pant through	        
The first long kiss, warm firstling, to renew	
Embower’d sports in Cytherea’s isle.	
Look! how those winged listeners all this while	
Stand anxious: see! behold!” — This clamant word	
Broke through the careful silence; for they heard	        
A rustling noise of leaves, and out there flutter’d	
Pigeons and doves: Adonis something mutter’d,	
The while one hand, that erst upon his thigh	
Lay dormant, mov’d convuls’d and gradually	
Up to his forehead. Then there was a hum	        
Of sudden voices, echoing, “Come! come!	
Arise! awake! Clear summer has forth walk’d	
Unto the clover-sward, and she has talk’d	
Full soothingly to every nested finch:	
Rise, Cupids! or we’ll give the blue-bell pinch	        
To your dimpled arms. Once more sweet life begin!”	
At this, from every side they hurried in,	
Rubbing their sleepy eyes with lazy wrists,	
And doubling overhead their little fists	
In backward yawns. But all were soon alive:	        
For as delicious wine doth, sparkling, dive	
In nectar’d clouds and curls through water fair,	
So from the arbour roof down swell’d an air	
Odorous and enlivening; making all	
To laugh, and play, and sing, and loudly call	        
For their sweet queen: when lo! the wreathed green	
Disparted, and far upward could be seen	
Blue heaven, and a silver car, air-borne,	
Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,	
Spun off a drizzling dew, — which falling chill	        
On soft Adonis’ shoulders, made him still	
Nestle and turn uneasily about.	
Soon were the white doves plain, with necks stretch’d out,	
And silken traces lighten’d in descent;	
And soon, returning from love’s banishment,	        
Queen Venus leaning downward open arm’d:	
Her shadow fell upon his breast, and charm’d	
A tumult to his heart, and a new life	
Into his eyes. Ah, miserable strife,	
But for her comforting! unhappy sight,	        
But meeting her blue orbs! Who, who can write	
Of these first minutes? The unchariest muse	
To embracements warm as theirs makes coy excuse.	
 
  	O it has ruffled every spirit there,	
Saving love’s self, who stands superb to share	        
The general gladness: awfully he stands;	
A sovereign quell is in his waving hands;	
No sight can bear the lightning of his bow;	
His quiver is mysterious, none can know	
What themselves think of it; from forth his eyes	        
There darts strange light of varied hues and dyes:	
A scowl is sometimes on his brow, but who	
Look full upon it feel anon the blue	
Of his fair eyes run liquid through their souls.	
Endymion feels it, and no more controls	        
The burning prayer within him; so, bent low,	
He had begun a plaining of his woe.	
But Venus, bending forward, said: “My child,	
Favour this gentle youth; his days are wild	
With love — he — but alas! too well I see	        
Thou know’st the deepness of his misery.	
Ah, smile not so, my son: I tell thee true,	
That when through heavy hours I used to rue	
The endless sleep of this new-born Adon’,	
This stranger ay I pitied. For upon	        
A dreary morning once I fled away	
Into the breezy clouds, to weep and pray	
For this my love: for vexing Mars had teaz’d	
Me even to tears: thence, when a little eas’d,	
Down-looking, vacant, through a hazy wood,	        
I saw this youth as he despairing stood:	
Those same dark curls blown vagrant in the wind:	
Those same full fringed lids a constant blind	
Over his sullen eyes: I saw him throw	
Himself on wither’d leaves, even as though	        
Death had come sudden; for no jot he mov’d,	
Yet mutter’d wildly. I could hear he lov’d	
Some fair immortal, and that his embrace	
Had zoned her through the night. There is no trace	
Of this in heaven: I have mark’d each cheek,	        
And find it is the vainest thing to seek;	
And that of all things ’tis kept secretest.	
Endymion! one day thou wilt be blest:	
So still obey the guiding hand that fends	
Thee safely through these wonders for sweet ends.	        
’Tis a concealment needful in extreme;	
And if I guess’d not so, the sunny beam	
Thou shouldst mount up to with me. Now adieu!	
Here must we leave thee.” — At these words up flew	
The impatient doves, up rose the floating car,	        
Up went the hum celestial. High afar	
The Latmian saw them minish into nought;	
And, when all were clear vanish’d, still he caught	
A vivid lightning from that dreadful bow.	
When all was darkened, with Etnean throe	        
The earth clos’d — gave a solitary moan —	
And left him once again in twilight lone.	
 
  	He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,	
For all those visions were o’ergone, and past,	
And he in loneliness: he felt assur’d	        
Of happy times, when all he had endur’d	
Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.	
So, with unusual gladness, on he hies	
Through caves, and palaces of mottled ore,	
Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquois floor,	        
Black polish’d porticos of awful shade,	
And, at the last, a diamond balustrade,	
Leading afar past wild magnificence,	
Spiral through ruggedest loopholes, and thence	
Stretching across a void, then guiding o’er	        
Enormous chasms, where, all foam and roar,	
Streams subterranean tease their granite beds;	
Then heighten’d just above the silvery heads	
Of a thousand fountains, so that he could dash	
The waters with his spear; but at the splash,	        
Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose	
Sudden a poplar’s height, and ’gan to enclose	
His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round	
Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound,	
Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells	        
Welcome the float of Thetis. Long he dwells	
On this delight; for, every minute’s space,	
The streams with changed magic interlace:	
Sometimes like delicatest lattices,	
Cover’d with crystal vines; then weeping trees,	        
Moving about as in a gentle wind,	
Which, in a wink, to watery gauze refin’d,	
Pour’d into shapes of curtain’d canopies,	
Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries	
Of flowers, peacocks, swans, and naiads fair.	        
Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;	
And then the water, into stubborn streams	
Collecting, mimick’d the wrought oaken beams,	
Pillars, and frieze, and high fantastic roof,	
Of those dusk places in times far aloof	        
Cathedrals call’d. He bade a loth farewel	
To these founts Protean, passing gulph, and dell,	
And torrent, and ten thousand jutting shapes,	
Half seen through deepest gloom, and griesly gapes,	
Blackening on every side, and overhead	        
A vaulted dome like Heaven’s, far bespread	
With starlight gems: aye, all so huge and strange,	
The solitary felt a hurried change	
Working within him into something dreary, —	
Vex’d like a morning eagle, lost, and weary,	        
And purblind amid foggy, midnight wolds.	
But he revives at once: for who beholds	
New sudden things, nor casts his mental slough?	
Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,	
Came mother Cybele! Alone — alone —	        
In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown	
About her majesty, and front death-pale,	
With turrets crown’d. Four maned lions hale	
The sluggish wheels; solemn their toothed maws,	
Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws	        
Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails	
Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails	
This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away	
In another gloomy arch.

                          Wherefore delay,	
Young traveller, in such a mournful place?	        
Art thou wayworn, or canst not further trace	
The diamond path? And does it indeed end	
Abrupt in middle air? Yet earthward bend	
Thy forehead, and to Jupiter cloud-borne	
Call ardently! He was indeed wayworn;	        
Abrupt, in middle air, his way was lost;	
To cloud-borne Jove he bowed, and there crost	
Towards him a large eagle, ’twixt whose wings,	
Without one impious word, himself he flings,	
Committed to the darkness and the gloom:	        
Down, down, uncertain to what pleasant doom,	
Swift as a fathoming plummet down he fell	
Through unknown things; till exhaled asphodel,	
And rose, with spicy fannings interbreath’d,	
Came swelling forth where little caves were wreath’d	        
So thick with leaves and mosses, that they seem’d	
Large honey-combs of green, and freshly teem’d	
With airs delicious. In the greenest nook	
The eagle landed him, and farewel took.	
 
  	It was a jasmine bower, all bestrown	        
With golden moss. His every sense had grown	
Ethereal for pleasure; ’bove his head	
Flew a delight half-graspable; his tread	
Was Hesperean; to his capable ears	
Silence was music from the holy spheres;	        
A dewy luxury was in his eyes;	
The little flowers felt his pleasant sighs	
And stirr’d them faintly. Verdant cave and cell	
He wander’d through, oft wondering at such swell	
Of sudden exaltation: but, “Alas!	        
Said he, “will all this gush of feeling pass	
Away in solitude? And must they wane,	
Like melodies upon a sandy plain,	
Without an echo? Then shall I be left	
So sad, so melancholy, so bereft!	        
Yet still I feel immortal! O my love,	
My breath of life, where art thou? High above,	
Dancing before the morning gates of heaven?	
Or keeping watch among those starry seven,	
Old Atlas’ children? Art a maid of the waters,	        
One of shell-winding Triton’s bright-hair’d daughters?	
Or art, impossible! a nymph of Dian’s,	
Weaving a coronal of tender scions	
For very idleness? Where’er thou art,	
Methinks it now is at my will to start	        
Into thine arms; to scare Aurora’s train,	
And snatch thee from the morning; o’er the main	
To scud like a wild bird, and take thee off	
From thy sea-foamy cradle; or to doff	
Thy shepherd vest, and woo thee mid fresh leaves.	        
No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives	
Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.	
O let me then by some sweet dreaming flee	
To her entrancements: hither sleep awhile!	
Hither most gentle sleep! and soothing foil	        
For some few hours the coming solitude.”	
 
  Thus spake he, and that moment felt endued	
With power to dream deliciously; so wound	
Through a dim passage, searching till he found	
The smoothest mossy bed and deepest, where	        
He threw himself, and just into the air	
Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!	
A naked waist: “Fair Cupid, whence is this?”	
A well-known voice sigh’d, “Sweetest, here am I!”	
At which soft ravishment, with doating cry	        
They trembled to each other. — Helicon!	
O fountain’d hill! Old Homer’s Helicon!	
That thou wouldst spout a little streamlet o’er	
These sorry pages; then the verse would soar	
And sing above this gentle pair, like lark	        
Over his nested young: but all is dark	
Around thine aged top, and thy clear fount	
Exhales in mists to heaven. Aye, the count	
Of mighty Poets is made up; the scroll	
Is folded by the Muses; the bright roll	        
Is in Apollo’s hand: our dazed eyes	
Have seen a new tinge in the western skies:	
The world has done its duty. Yet, oh yet,	
Although the sun of poesy is set,	
These lovers did embrace, and we must weep	        
That there is no old power left to steep	
A quill immortal in their joyous tears.	
Long time in silence did their anxious fears	
Question that thus it was; long time they lay	
Fondling and kissing every doubt away;	        
Long time ere soft caressing sobs began	
To mellow into words, and then there ran	
Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.	
“O known Unknown! from whom my being sips	
Such darling essence, wherefore may I not	        
Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot	
Pillow my chin for ever? ever press	
These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?	
Why not for ever and for ever feel	
That breath about my eyes? Ah, thou wilt steal	        
Away from me again, indeed, indeed —	
Thou wilt be gone away, and wilt not heed	
My lonely madness. Speak, my kindest fair!	
Is — is it to be so? No! Who will dare	
To pluck thee from me? And, of thine own will,	       
Full well I feel thou wouldst not leave me. Still	
Let me entwine thee surer, surer — now	
How can we part? Elysium! who art thou?	
Who, that thou canst not be for ever here,	
Or lift me with thee to some starry sphere?	        
Enchantress! tell me by this soft embrace,	
By the most soft completion of thy face,	
Those lips, O slippery blisses, twinkling eyes,	
And by these tenderest, milky sovereignties —	
These tenderest, and by the nectar-wine,	        
The passion” ———— “O lov’d Ida the divine!	
Endymion! dearest! Ah, unhappy me!	
His soul will ’scape us — O felicity!	
How he does love me! His poor temples beat	
To the very tune of love — how sweet, sweet, sweet.	        
Revive, dear youth, or I shall faint and die;	
Revive, or these soft hours will hurry by	
In tranced dulness; speak, and let that spell	
Affright this lethargy! I cannot quell	
Its heavy pressure, and will press at least	        
My lips to thine, that they may richly feast	
Until we taste the life of love again.	
What! dost thou move? dost kiss? O bliss! O pain!	
I love thee, youth, more than I can conceive;	
And so long absence from thee doth bereave	        
My soul of any rest: yet must I hence:	
Yet, can I not to starry eminence	
Uplift thee; nor for very shame can own	
Myself to thee. Ah, dearest, do not groan	
Or thou wilt force me from this secrecy,	        
And I must blush in heaven. O that I	
Had done it already; that the dreadful smiles	
At my lost brightness, my impassion’d wiles,	
Had waned from Olympus’ solemn height,	
And from all serious Gods; that our delight	
Was quite forgotten, save of us alone!	
And wherefore so ashamed? ’Tis but to atone	
For endless pleasure, by some coward blushes:	
Yet must I be a coward! — Horror rushes	
Too palpable before me — the sad look	        
Of Jove — Minerva’s start — no bosom shook	
With awe of purity — no Cupid pinion	
In reverence veiled — my crystaline dominion	
Half lost, and all old hymns made nullity!	
But what is this to love? O I could fly	        
With thee into the ken of heavenly powers,	
So thou wouldst thus, for many sequent hours,	
Press me so sweetly. Now I swear at once	
That I am wise, that Pallas is a dunce —	
Perhaps her love like mine is but unknown —	        
O I do think that I have been alone	
In chastity: yes, Pallas has been sighing,	
While every eve saw me my hair uptying	
With fingers cool as aspen leaves. Sweet love,	
I was as vague as solitary dove,	        
Nor knew that nests were built. Now a soft kiss —	
Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss,	
An immortality of passion’s thine:	
Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine	
Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade	        
Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;	
And I will tell thee stories of the sky,	
And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.	
My happy love will overwing all bounds!	
O let me melt into thee; let the sounds	        
Of our close voices marry at their birth;	
Let us entwine hoveringly — O dearth	
Of human words! roughness of mortal speech!	
Lispings empyrean will I sometime teach	
Thine honied tongue — lute-breathings, which I gasp	        
To have thee understand, now while I clasp	
Thee thus, and weep for fondness — I am pain’d,	
Endymion: woe! woe! is grief contain’d	
In the very deeps of pleasure, my sole life?” —	
Hereat, with many sobs, her gentle strife	        
Melted into a languor. He return’d	
Entranced vows and tears.

                          Ye who have yearn’d	
With too much passion, will here stay and pity,	
For the mere sake of truth; as ’tis a ditty	
Not of these days, but long ago ’twas told	        
By a cavern wind unto a forest old;	
And then the forest told it in a dream	
To a sleeping lake, whose cool and level gleam	
A poet caught as he was journeying	
To Phoebus’ shrine; and in it he did fling	        
His weary limbs, bathing an hour’s space,	
And after, straight in that inspired place	
He sang the story up into the air,	
Giving it universal freedom. There	
Has it been ever sounding for those ears	        
Whose tips are glowing hot. The legend cheers	
Yon centinel stars; and he who listens to it	
Must surely be self-doomed or he will rue it:	
For quenchless burnings come upon the heart,	
Made fiercer by a fear lest any part	        
Should be engulphed in the eddying wind.	
As much as here is penn’d doth always find	
A resting place, thus much comes clear and plain;	
Anon the strange voice is upon the wane —	
And ’tis but echo’d from departing sound,	
That the fair visitant at last unwound	
Her gentle limbs, and left the youth asleep. —	
Thus the tradition of the gusty deep.	
 
  	Now turn we to our former chroniclers. —	
Endymion awoke, that grief of hers	        
Sweet paining on his ear: he sickly guess’d	
How lone he was once more, and sadly press’d	
His empty arms together, hung his head,	
And most forlorn upon that widow’d bed	
Sat silently. Love’s madness he had known:	        
Often with more than tortured lion’s groan	
Moanings had burst from him; but now that rage	
Had pass’d away: no longer did he wage	
A rough-voic’d war against the dooming stars.	
No, he had felt too much for such harsh jars:	        
The lyre of his soul Eolian tun’d	
Forgot all violence, and but commun’d	
With melancholy thought: O he had swoon’d	
Drunken from pleasure’s nipple; and his love	
Henceforth was dove-like. — Loth was he to move	        
From the imprinted couch, and when he did,	
’Twas with slow, languid paces, and face hid	
In muffling hands. So temper’d, out he stray’d	
Half seeing visions that might have dismay’d	
Alecto’s serpents; ravishments more keen	        
Than Hermes’ pipe, when anxious he did lean	
Over eclipsing eyes: and at the last	
It was a sounding grotto, vaulted, vast,	
O’er studded with a thousand, thousand pearls,	
And crimson mouthed shells with stubborn curls,	        
Of every shape and size, even to the bulk	
In which whales arbour close, to brood and sulk	
Against an endless storm. Moreover too,	
Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue,	
Ready to snort their streams. In this cool wonder	        
Endymion sat down, and ’gan to ponder	
On all his life: his youth, up to the day	
When ’mid acclaim, and feasts, and garlands gay,	
He stept upon his shepherd throne: the look	
Of his white palace in wild forest nook,	        
And all the revels he had lorded there:	
Each tender maiden whom he once thought fair,	
With every friend and fellow-woodlander —	
Pass’d like a dream before him. Then the spur	
Of the old bards to mighty deeds: his plans	        
To nurse the golden age ’mong shepherd clans:	
That wondrous night: the great Pan-festival:	
His sister’s sorrow; and his wanderings all,	
Until into the earth’s deep maw he rush’d:	
Then all its buried magic, till it flush’d	        
High with excessive love. “And now,” thought he,	
“How long must I remain in jeopardy	
Of blank amazements that amaze no more?	
Now I have tasted her sweet soul to the core	
All other depths are shallow: essences,	        
Once spiritual, are like muddy lees,	
Meant but to fertilize my earthly root,	
And make my branches lift a golden fruit	
Into the bloom of heaven: other light,	
Though it be quick and sharp enough to blight	        
The Olympian eagle’s vision, is dark,	
Dark as the parentage of chaos. Hark!	
My silent thoughts are echoing from these shells;	
Or they are but the ghosts, the dying swells	
Of noises far away? — list!” — Hereupon	        
He kept an anxious ear. The humming tone	
Came louder, and behold, there as he lay,	
On either side outgush’d, with misty spray,	
A copious spring; and both together dash’d	
Swift, mad, fantastic round the rocks, and lash’d	        
Among the conchs and shells of the lofty grot,	
Leaving a trickling dew. At last they shot	
Down from the ceiling’s height, pouring a noise	
As of some breathless racers whose hopes poize	
Upon the last few steps, and with spent force	       
Along the ground they took a winding course.	
Endymion follow’d — for it seem’d that one	
Ever pursued, the other strove to shun —	
Follow’d their languid mazes, till well nigh	
He had left thinking of the mystery, —	        
And was now rapt in tender hoverings	
Over the vanish’d bliss. Ah! what is it sings	
His dream away? What melodies are these?	
They sound as through the whispering of trees,	
Not native in such barren vaults. Give ear!	
 
  	“O Arethusa, peerless nymph! why fear	
Such tenderness as mine? Great Dian, why,	
Why didst thou hear her prayer? O that I	
Were rippling round her dainty fairness now,	
Circling about her waist, and striving how	        
To entice her to a dive! then stealing in	
Between her luscious lips and eyelids thin.	
O that her shining hair was in the sun,	
And I distilling from it thence to run	
In amorous rillets down her shrinking form!	        
To linger on her lily shoulders, warm	
Between her kissing breasts, and every charm	
Touch raptur’d!—See how painfully I flow:	
Fair maid, be pitiful to my great woe.	
Stay, stay thy weary course, and let me lead,	        
A happy wooer, to the flowery mead	
Where all that beauty snar’d me.” — “Cruel god,	
Desist! or my offended mistress’ nod	
Will stagnate all thy fountains: — tease me not	
With syren words — Ah, have I really got	        
Such power to madden thee? And is it true —	
Away, away, or I shall dearly rue	
My very thoughts: in mercy then away,	
Kindest Alpheus for should I obey	
My own dear will, ’twould be a deadly bane.” —	        
“O, Oread-Queen! would that thou hadst a pain	
Like this of mine, then would I fearless turn	
And be a criminal.” — “Alas, I burn,	
I shudder — gentle river, get thee hence.	
Alpheus! thou enchanter! every sense	        
Of mine was once made perfect in these woods.	
Fresh breezes, bowery lawns, and innocent floods,	
Ripe fruits, and lonely couch, contentment gave;	
But ever since I heedlessly did lave	
In thy deceitful stream, a panting glow	        
Grew strong within me: wherefore serve me so,	
And call it love? Alas, ’twas cruelty.	
Not once more did I close my happy eyes	
Amid the thrush’s song. Away! Avaunt!	
O ’twas a cruel thing.” — “Now thou dost taunt	        
So softly, Arethusa, that I think	
If thou wast playing on my shady brink,	
Thou wouldst bathe once again. Innocent maid!	
Stifle thine heart no more; — nor be afraid	
Of angry powers: there are deities	        
Will shade us with their wings. Those fitful sighs	
’Tis almost death to hear: O let me pour	
A dewy balm upon them! — fear no more,	
Sweet Arethusa! Dian’s self must feel	
Sometimes these very pangs. Dear maiden, steal	        
Blushing into my soul, and let us fly	
These dreary caverns for the open sky.	
I will delight thee all my winding course,	
From the green sea up to my hidden source	
About Arcadian forests; and will shew	        
The channels where my coolest waters flow	
Through mossy rocks; where, ’mid exuberant green,	
I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen	
Than Saturn in his exile; where I brim	
Round flowery islands, and take thence a skim	        
Of mealy sweets, which myriads of bees	
Buzz from their honied wings: and thou shouldst please	
Thyself to choose the richest, where we might	
Be incense-pillow’d every summer night.	
Doff all sad fears, thou white deliciousness,	        
And let us be thus comforted; unless	
Thou couldst rejoice to see my hopeless stream	
Hurry distracted from Sol’s temperate beam,	
And pour to death along some hungry sands.” —	
“What can I do, Alpheus? Dian stands	        
Severe before me: persecuting fate!	
Unhappy Arethusa! thou wast late	
A huntress free in”—At this, sudden fell	
Those two sad streams adown a fearful dell.	
The Latmian listen’d, but he heard no more,	        
Save echo, faint repeating o’er and o’er	
The name of Arethusa. On the verge	
Of that dark gulph he wept, and said: “I urge	
Thee, gentle Goddess of my pilgrimage,	
By our eternal hopes, to soothe, to assuage,	        
If thou art powerful, these lovers pains;	
And make them happy in some happy plains.	
 
  	He turn’d — there was a whelming sound — he stept,	
There was a cooler light; and so he kept	
Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!	       
More suddenly than doth a moment go,	
The visions of the earth were gone and fled —	
He saw the giant sea above his head.	



John Keats


John Keats's other poems:
  1. Specimen of Induction to a Poem
  2. Calidore
  3. To (“Hadst Thou Liv’d in Days of Old…”)
  4. The Poet
  5. The Castle Builder


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