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Poem by John Keats
Endymion. Book 3
There are who lord it o’er their fellow-men With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen Their baaing vanities, to browse away The comfortable green and juicy hay From human pastures; or, O torturing fact! Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack’d Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe Our gold and ripe-ear’d hopes. With not one tinge Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight Able to face an owl’s, they still are dight By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests, And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts, Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount To their spirit’s perch, their being’s high account, Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones — Amid the fierce intoxicating tones Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour’d drums, And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums, In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone — Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon, And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks. — Are then regalities all gilded masks? No, there are throned seats unscalable But by a patient wing, a constant spell, Or by ethereal things that, unconfin’d, Can make a ladder of the eternal wind, And poise about in cloudy thunder-tents To watch the abysm-birth of elements. Aye, ’bove the withering of old-lipp’d Fate A thousand Powers keep religious state, In water, fiery realm, and airy bourne; And, silent as a consecrated urn, Hold sphery sessions for a season due. Yet few of these far majesties, ah, few! Have bared their operations to this globe — Few, who with gorgeous pageantry enrobe Our piece of heaven — whose benevolence Shakes hand with our own Ceres; every sense Filling with spiritual sweets to plenitude, As bees gorge full their cells. And, by the feud ’Twixt Nothing and Creation, I here swear, Eterne Apollo! that thy Sister fair Is of all these the gentlier-mightiest. When thy gold breath is misting in the west, She unobserved steals unto her throne, And there she sits most meek and most alone; As if she had not pomp subservient; As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent Towards her with the Muses in thine heart; As if the ministring stars kept not apart, Waiting for silver-footed messages. O Moon! the oldest shades ’mong oldest trees Feel palpitations when thou lookest in: O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din The while they feel thine airy fellowship. Thou dost bless every where, with silver lip Kissing dead things to life. The sleeping kine, Couched in thy brightness, dream of fields divine: Innumerable mountains rise, and rise, Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes; And yet thy benediction passeth not One obscure hiding-place, one little spot Where pleasure may be sent: the nested wren Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken, And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps Within its pearly house. — The mighty deeps, The monstrous sea is thine — the myriad sea! O Moon! far-spooming Ocean bows to thee, And Tellus feels his forehead’s cumbrous load. Cynthia! where art thou now? What far abode Of green or silvery bower doth enshrine Such utmost beauty? Alas, thou dost pine For one as sorrowful: thy cheek is pale For one whose cheek is pale: thou dost bewail His tears, who weeps for thee. Where dost thou sigh? Ah! surely that light peeps from Vesper’s eye, Or what a thing is love! ’Tis She, but lo! How chang’d, how full of ache, how gone in woe! She dies at the thinnest cloud; her loveliness Is wan on Neptune’s blue: yet there’s a stress Of love-spangles, just off yon cape of trees, Dancing upon the waves, as if to please The curly foam with amorous influence. O, not so idle: for down-glancing thence She fathoms eddies, and runs wild about O’erwhelming water-courses; scaring out The thorny sharks from hiding-holes, and fright’ning Their savage eyes with unaccustomed lightning. Where will the splendor be content to reach? O love! how potent hast thou been to teach Strange journeyings! Wherever beauty dwells, In gulf or aerie, mountains or deep dells, In light, in gloom, in star or blazing sun, Thou pointest out the way, and straight ’tis won. Amid his toil thou gav’st Leander breath; Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death; Thou madest Pluto bear thin element; And now, O winged Chieftain! thou hast sent A moon-beam to the deep, deep water-world, To find Endymion. On gold sand impearl’d With lily shells, and pebbles milky white, Poor Cynthia greeted him, and sooth’d her light Against his pallid face: he felt the charm To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm Of his heart’s blood: ’twas very sweet; he stay’d His wandering steps, and half-entranced laid His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds, To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads, Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes’ tails. And so he kept, until the rosy veils Mantling the east, by Aurora’s peering hand Were lifted from the water’s breast, and fann’d Into sweet air; and sober’d morning came Meekly through billows: — when like taper-flame Left sudden by a dallying breath of air, He rose in silence, and once more ’gan fare Along his fated way. Far had he roam’d, With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam’d Above, around, and at his feet; save things More dead than Morpheus’ imaginings: Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe; Rudders that for a hundred years had lost The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss’d With long-forgotten story, and wherein No reveller had ever dipp’d a chin But those of Saturn’s vintage; mouldering scrolls, Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls Who first were on the earth; and sculptures rude In ponderous stone, developing the mood Of ancient Nox; — then skeletons of man, Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan, And elephant, and eagle, and huge jaw Of nameless monster. A cold leaden awe These secrets struck into him; and unless Dian had chaced away that heaviness, He might have died: but now, with cheered feel, He onward kept; wooing these thoughts to steal About the labyrinth in his soul of love. “What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move My heart so potently? When yet a child I oft have dried my tears when thou hast smil’d. Thou seem’dst my sister: hand in hand we went From eve to morn across the firmament. No apples would I gather from the tree, Till thou hadst cool’d their cheeks deliciously: No tumbling water ever spake romance, But when my eyes with thine thereon could dance: No woods were green enough, no bower divine, Until thou liftedst up thine eyelids fine: In sowing time ne’er would I dibble take, Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake; And, in the summer tide of blossoming, No one but thee hath heard me blithly sing And mesh my dewy flowers all the night. No melody was like a passing spright If it went not to solemnize thy reign. Yes, in my boyhood, every joy and pain By thee were fashion’d to the self-same end; And as I grew in years, still didst thou blend With all my ardours: thou wast the deep glen; Thou wast the mountain-top — the sage’s pen — The poet’s harp — the voice of friends — the sun; Thou wast the river — thou wast glory won; Thou wast my clarion’s blast — thou wast my steed — My goblet full of wine — my topmost deed: — Thou wast the charm of women, lovely Moon! O what a wild and harmonized tune My spirit struck from all the beautiful! On some bright essence could I lean, and lull Myself to immortality: I prest Nature’s soft pillow in a wakeful rest. But, gentle Orb! there came a nearer bliss — My strange love came — Felicity’s abyss! She came, and thou didst fade, and fade away— Yet not entirely; no, thy starry sway Has been an under-passion to this hour. Now I begin to feel thine orby power Is coming fresh upon me: O be kind, Keep back thine influence, and do not blind My sovereign vision. — Dearest love, forgive That I can think away from thee and live! — Pardon me, airy planet, that I prize One thought beyond thine argent luxuries! How far beyond!” At this a surpris’d start Frosted the springing verdure of his heart; For as he lifted up his eyes to swear How his own goddess was past all things fair, He saw far in the concave green of the sea An old man sitting calm and peacefully. Upon a weeded rock this old man sat, And his white hair was awful, and a mat Of weeds were cold beneath his cold thin feet; And, ample as the largest winding-sheet, A cloak of blue wrapp’d up his aged bones, O’erwrought with symbols by the deepest groans Of ambitious magic: every ocean-form Was woven in with black distinctness; storm, And calm, and whispering, and hideous roar Were emblem’d in the woof; with every shape That skims, or dives, or sleeps, ’twixt cape and cape. The gulphing whale was like a dot in the spell, Yet look upon it, and ’twould size and swell To its huge self; and the minutest fish Would pass the very hardest gazer’s wish, And show his little eye’s anatomy. Then there was pictur’d the regality Of Neptune; and the sea nymphs round his state, In beauteous vassalage, look up and wait. Beside this old man lay a pearly wand, And in his lap a book, the which he conn’d So stedfastly, that the new denizen Had time to keep him in amazed ken, To mark these shadowings, and stand in awe. The old man rais’d his hoary head and saw The wilder’d stranger — seeming not to see, His features were so lifeless. Suddenly He woke as from a trance; his snow-white brows Went arching up, and like two magic ploughs Furrow’d deep wrinkles in his forehead large, Which kept as fixedly as rocky marge, Till round his wither’d lips had gone a smile. Then up he rose, like one whose tedious toil Had watch’d for years in forlorn hermitage, Who had not from mid-life to utmost age Eas’d in one accent his o’er-burden’d soul, Even to the trees. He rose: he grasp’d his stole, With convuls’d clenches waving it abroad, And in a voice of solemn joy, that aw’d Echo into oblivion, he said: — “Thou art the man! Now shall I lay my head In peace upon my watery pillow: now Sleep will come smoothly to my weary brow. O Jove! I shall be young again, be young! O shell-borne Neptune, I am pierc’d and stung With new-born life! What shall I do? Where go, When I have cast this serpent-skin of woe? — I’ll swim to the syrens, and one moment listen Their melodies, and see their long hair glisten; Anon upon that giant’s arm I’ll be, That writhes about the roots of Sicily: To northern seas I’ll in a twinkling sail, And mount upon the snortings of a whale To some black cloud; thence down I’ll madly sweep On forked lightning, to the deepest deep, Where through some sucking pool I will be hurl’d With rapture to the other side of the world! O, I am full of gladness! Sisters three, I bow full hearted to your old decree! Yes, every god be thank’d, and power benign, For I no more shall wither, droop, and pine. Thou art the man!” Endymion started back Dismay’d; and, like a wretch from whom the rack Tortures hot breath, and speech of agony, Mutter’d: “What lonely death am I to die In this cold region? Will he let me freeze, And float my brittle limbs o’er polar seas? Or will he touch me with his searing hand, And leave a black memorial on the sand? Or tear me piece-meal with a bony saw, And keep me as a chosen food to draw His magian fish through hated fire and flame? O misery of hell! resistless, tame, Am I to be burnt up? No, I will shout, Until the gods through heaven’s blue look out! — O Tartarus! but some few days agone Her soft arms were entwining me, and on Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves: Her lips were all my own, and — ah, ripe sheaves Of happiness! ye on the stubble droop, But never may be garner’d. I must stoop My head, and kiss death’s foot. Love! love, farewel! Is there no hope from thee? This horrid spell Would melt at thy sweet breath. — By Dian’s hind Feeding from her white fingers, on the wind I see thy streaming hair! and now, by Pan, I care not for this old mysterious man!” He spake, and walking to that aged form, Look’d high defiance. Lo! his heart ’gan warm With pity, for the grey-hair’d creature wept. Had he then wrong’d a heart where sorrow kept? Had he, though blindly contumelious, brought Rheum to kind eyes, a sting to human thought, Convulsion to a mouth of many years? He had in truth; and he was ripe for tears. The penitent shower fell, as down he knelt Before that care-worn sage, who trembling felt About his large dark locks, and faultering spake: “Arise, good youth, for sacred Phoebus’ sake! I know thine inmost bosom, and I feel A very brother’s yearning for thee steal Into mine own: for why? thou openest The prison gates that have so long opprest My weary watching. Though thou know’st it not, Thou art commission’d to this fated spot For great enfranchisement. O weep no more; I am a friend to love, to loves of yore: Aye, hadst thou never lov’d an unknown power I had been grieving at this joyous hour But even now most miserable old, I saw thee, and my blood no longer cold Gave mighty pulses: in this tottering case Grew a new heart, which at this moment plays As dancingly as thine. Be not afraid, For thou shalt hear this secret all display’d, Now as we speed towards our joyous task.” So saying, this young soul in age’s mask Went forward with the Carian side by side: Resuming quickly thus; while ocean’s tide Hung swollen at their backs, and jewel’d sands Took silently their foot-prints. “My soul stands Now past the midway from mortality, And so I can prepare without a sigh To tell thee briefly all my joy and pain. I was a fisher once, upon this main, And my boat danc’d in every creek and bay; Rough billows were my home by night and day, — The sea-gulls not more constant; for I had No housing from the storm and tempests mad, But hollow rocks, — and they were palaces Of silent happiness, of slumberous ease: Long years of misery have told me so. Aye, thus it was one thousand years ago. One thousand years! — Is it then possible To look so plainly through them? to dispel A thousand years with backward glance sublime? To breathe away as ’twere all scummy slime From off a crystal pool, to see its deep, And one’s own image from the bottom peep? Yes: now I am no longer wretched thrall, My long captivity and moanings all Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum, The which I breathe away, and thronging come Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures. “I touch’d no lute, I sang not, trod no measures: I was a lonely youth on desert shores. My sports were lonely, ’mid continuous roars, And craggy isles, and sea-mew’s plaintive cry Plaining discrepant between sea and sky. Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen Would let me feel their scales of gold and green, Nor be my desolation; and, full oft, When a dread waterspout had rear’d aloft Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe My life away like a vast sponge of fate, Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state, Has dived to its foundations, gulph’d it down, And left me tossing safely. But the crown Of all my life was utmost quietude: More did I love to lie in cavern rude, Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune’s voice, And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice! There blush’d no summer eve but I would steer My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear The shepherd’s pipe come clear from aery steep, Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep: And never was a day of summer shine, But I beheld its birth upon the brine: For I would watch all night to see unfold Heaven’s gates, and Aethon snort his morning gold Wide o’er the swelling streams: and constantly At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea, My nets would be spread out, and I at rest. The poor folk of the sea-country I blest With daily boon of fish most delicate: They knew not whence this bounty, and elate Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach. “Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach At things which, but for thee, O Latmian! Had been my dreary death? Fool! I began To feel distemper’d longings: to desire The utmost privilege that ocean’s sire Could grant in benediction: to be free Of all his kingdom. Long in misery I wasted, ere in one extremest fit I plung’d for life or death. To interknit One’s senses with so dense a breathing stuff Might seem a work of pain; so not enough Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt, And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt Whole days and days in sheer astonishment; Forgetful utterly of self-intent; Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow. Then, like a new fledg’d bird that first doth shew His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill, I tried in fear the pinions of my will. ’Twas freedom! and at once I visited The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed. No need to tell thee of them, for I see That thou hast been a witness — it must be For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth, By the melancholy corners of that mouth. So I will in my story straightway pass To more immediate matter. Woe, alas! That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair! Why did poor Glaucus ever — ever dare To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth! I lov’d her to the very white of truth, And she would not conceive it. Timid thing! She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing, Round every isle, and point, and promontory, From where large Hercules wound up his story Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew The more, the more I saw her dainty hue Gleam delicately through the azure clear: Until ’twas too fierce agony to bear; And in that agony, across my grief It flash’d, that Circe might find some relief — Cruel enchantress! So above the water I rear’d my head, and look’d for Phoebus’ daughter. Aeaea’s isle was wondering at the moon: — It seem’d to whirl around me, and a swoon Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power. “When I awoke, ’twas in a twilight bower; Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees, Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees. How sweet, and sweeter! for I heard a lyre, And over it a sighing voice expire. It ceased — I caught light footsteps; and anon The fairest face that morn e’er look’d upon Push’d through a screen of roses. Starry Jove! With tears, and smiles, and honey-words she wove A net whose thraldom was more bliss than all The range of flower’d Elysium. Thus did fall The dew of her rich speech: “Ah! Art awake? O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid’s sake! I am so oppress’d with joy! Why, I have shed An urn of tears, as though thou wert cold dead; And now I find thee living, I will pour From these devoted eyes their silver store, Until exhausted of the latest drop, So it will pleasure thee, and force thee stop Here, that I too may live: but if beyond Such cool and sorrowful offerings, thou art fond Of soothing warmth, of dalliance supreme; If thou art ripe to taste a long love dream; If smiles, if dimples, tongues for ardour mute, Hang in thy vision like a tempting fruit, O let me pluck it for thee.” Thus she link’d Her charming syllables, till indistinct Their music came to my o’er-sweeten’d soul; And then she hover’d over me, and stole So near, that if no nearer it had been This furrow’d visage thou hadst never seen. “Young man of Latmos! thus particular Am I, that thou may’st plainly see how far This fierce temptation went: and thou may’st not Exclaim, How then, was Scylla quite forgot? “Who could resist? Who in this universe? She did so breathe ambrosia; so immerse My fine existence in a golden clime. She took me like a child of suckling time, And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn’d, The current of my former life was stemm’d, And to this arbitrary queen of sense I bow’d a tranced vassal: nor would thence Have mov’d, even though Amphion’s harp had woo’d Me back to Scylla o’er the billows rude. For as Apollo each eve doth devise A new appareling for western skies; So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour Shed balmy consciousness within that bower. And I was free of haunts umbrageous; Could wander in the mazy forest-house Of squirrels, foxes shy, and antler’d deer, And birds from coverts innermost and drear Warbling for very joy mellifluous sorrow — To me new born delights! “Now let me borrow, For moments few, a temperament as stern As Pluto’s sceptre, that my words not burn These uttering lips, while I in calm speech tell How specious heaven was changed to real hell. “One morn she left me sleeping: half awake I sought for her smooth arms and lips, to slake My greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts; But she was gone. Whereat the barbed shafts Of disappointment stuck in me so sore, That out I ran and search’d the forest o’er. Wandering about in pine and cedar gloom Damp awe assail’d me; for there ’gan to boom A sound of moan, an agony of sound, Sepulchral from the distance all around. Then came a conquering earth-thunder, and rumbled That fierce complain to silence: while I stumbled Down a precipitous path, as if impell’d. I came to a dark valley. — Groanings swell’d Poisonous about my ears, and louder grew, The nearer I approach’d a flame’s gaunt blue, That glar’d before me through a thorny brake. This fire, like the eye of gordian snake, Bewitch’d me towards; and I soon was near A sight too fearful for the feel of fear: In thicket hid I curs’d the haggard scene — The banquet of my arms, my arbour queen, Seated upon an uptorn forest root; And all around her shapes, wizard and brute, Laughing, and wailing, groveling, serpenting, Shewing tooth, tusk, and venom-bag, and sting! O such deformities! Old Charon’s self, Should he give up awhile his penny pelf, And take a dream ’mong rushes Stygian, It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan, And tyrannizing was the lady’s look, As over them a gnarled staff she shook. Oft-times upon the sudden she laugh’d out, And from a basket emptied to the rout Clusters of grapes, the which they raven’d quick And roar’d for more; with many a hungry lick About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow, Anon she took a branch of mistletoe, And emptied on’t a black dull-gurgling phial: Groan’d one and all, as if some piercing trial Was sharpening for their pitiable bones. She lifted up the charm: appealing groans From their poor breasts went sueing to her ear In vain; remorseless as an infant’s bier She whisk’d against their eyes the sooty oil. Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil, Increasing gradual to a tempest rage, Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage; Until their grieved bodies ’gan to bloat And puff from the tail’s end to stifled throat: Then was appalling silence: then a sight More wildering than all that hoarse affright; For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen, Went through the dismal air like one huge Python Antagonizing Boreas, — and so vanish’d. Yet there was not a breath of wind: she banish’d These phantoms with a nod. Lo! from the dark Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark, With dancing and loud revelry, — and went Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent. — Sighing an elephant appear’d and bow’d Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud In human accent: “Potent goddess! chief Of pains resistless! make my being brief, Or let me from this heavy prison fly: Or give me to the air, or let me die! I sue not for my happy crown again; I sue not for my phalanx on the plain; I sue not for my lone, my widow’d wife; I sue not for my ruddy drops of life, My children fair, my lovely girls and boys! I will forget them; I will pass these joys; Ask nought so heavenward, so too — too high: Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die, Or be deliver’d from this cumbrous flesh, From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh, And merely given to the cold bleak air. Have mercy, Goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!” That curst magician’s name fell icy numb Upon my wild conjecturing: truth had come Naked and sabre-like against my heart. I saw a fury whetting a death-dart; And my slain spirit, overwrought with fright, Fainted away in that dark lair of night. Think, my deliverer, how desolate My waking must have been! disgust, and hate, And terrors manifold divided me A spoil amongst them. I prepar’d to flee Into the dungeon core of that wild wood: I fled three days — when lo! before me stood Glaring the angry witch. O Dis, even now, A clammy dew is beading on my brow, At mere remembering her pale laugh, and curse. “Ha! ha! Sir Dainty! there must be a nurse Made of rose leaves and thistledown, express, To cradle thee my sweet, and lull thee: yes, I am too flinty-hard for thy nice touch: My tenderest squeeze is but a giant’s clutch. So, fairy-thing, it shall have lullabies Unheard of yet; and it shall still its cries Upon some breast more lily-feminine. Oh, no — it shall not pine, and pine, and pine More than one pretty, trifling thousand years; And then ’twere pity, but fate’s gentle shears Cut short its immortality. Sea-flirt! Young dove of the waters! truly I’ll not hurt One hair of thine: see how I weep and sigh, That our heart-broken parting is so nigh. And must we part? Ah, yes, it must be so. Yet ere thou leavest me in utter woe, Let me sob over thee my last adieus, And speak a blessing: Mark me! thou hast thews Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race: But such a love is mine, that here I chase Eternally away from thee all bloom Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb. Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast; And there, ere many days be overpast, Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then Thou shalt not go the way of aged men; But live and wither, cripple and still breathe Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath Thy fragile bones to unknown burial. Adieu, sweet love, adieu!” — As shot stars fall, She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung And poisoned was my spirit: despair sung A war-song of defiance ’gainst all hell. A hand was at my shoulder to compel My sullen steps; another ’fore my eyes Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise Enforced, at the last by ocean’s foam I found me; by my fresh, my native home. Its tempering coolness, to my life akin, Came salutary as I waded in; And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave Large froth before me, while there yet remain’d Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain’d. “Young lover, I must weep — such hellish spite With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might Proving upon this element, dismay’d, Upon a dead thing’s face my hand I laid; I look’d — ’twas Scylla! Cursed, cursed Circe! O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy? Could not thy harshest vengeance be content, But thou must nip this tender innocent Because I lov’d her? — Cold, O cold indeed Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed The sea-swell took her hair. Dead as she was I clung about her waist, nor ceas’d to pass Fleet as an arrow through unfathom’d brine, Until there shone a fabric crystalline, Ribb’d and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl. Headlong I darted; at one eager swirl Gain’d its bright portal, enter’d, and behold! ’Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold; And all around — But wherefore this to thee Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see? — I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled. My fever’d parchings up, my scathing dread Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became Gaunt, wither’d, sapless, feeble, cramp’d, and lame. “Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space, Without one hope, without one faintest trace Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble Of colour’d phantasy; for I fear ’twould trouble Thy brain to loss of reason: and next tell How a restoring chance came down to quell One half of the witch in me. “On a day, Sitting upon a rock above the spray, I saw grow up from the horizon’s brink A gallant vessel: soon she seem’d to sink Away from me again, as though her course Had been resum’d in spite of hindering force — So vanish’d: and not long, before arose Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose. Old Eolus would stifle his mad spleen, But could not: therefore all the billows green Toss’d up the silver spume against the clouds. The tempest came: I saw that vessel’s shrouds In perilous bustle; while upon the deck Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck; The final gulphing; the poor struggling souls: I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls. O they had all been sav’d but crazed eld Annull’d my vigorous cravings: and thus quell’d And curb’d, think on’t, O Latmian! did I sit Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone, By one and one, to pale oblivion; And I was gazing on the surges prone, With many a scalding tear and many a groan, When at my feet emerg’d an old man’s hand, Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand. I knelt with pain — reached out my hand — had grasp’d These treasures — touch’d the knuckles — they unclasp’d — I caught a finger: but the downward weight O’erpowered me — it sank. Then ’gan abate The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst The comfortable sun. I was athirst To search the book, and in the warming air Parted its dripping leaves with eager care. Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on My soul page after page, till well-nigh won Into forgetfulness; when, stupefied, I read these words, and read again, and tried My eyes against the heavens, and read again. O what a load of misery and pain Each Atlas-line bore off! — a shine of hope Came gold around me, cheering me to cope Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend! For thou hast brought their promise to an end. “In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch, Doom’d with enfeebled carcase to outstretch His loath’d existence through ten centuries, And then to die alone. Who can devise A total opposition? No one. So One million times ocean must ebb and flow, And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die, These things accomplish’d: — If he utterly Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds; If he explores all forms and substances Straight homeward to their symbol-essences; He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief, He must pursue this task of joy and grief Most piously; — all lovers tempest-tost, And in the savage overwhelming lost, He shall deposit side by side, until Time’s creeping shall the dreary space fulfil: Which done, and all these labours ripened, A youth, by heavenly power lov’d and led, Shall stand before him; whom he shall direct How to consummate all. The youth elect Must do the thing, or both will be destroy’d.” — “Then,” cried the young Endymion, overjoy’d, “We are twin brothers in this destiny! Say, I intreat thee, what achievement high Is, in this restless world, for me reserv’d. What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerv’d, Had we both perish’d?” — “Look!” the sage replied, “Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide, Of divers brilliances? ’tis the edifice I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies; And where I have enshrined piously All lovers, whom fell storms have doom’d to die Throughout my bondage.” Thus discoursing, on They went till unobscur’d the porches shone; Which hurryingly they gain’d, and enter’d straight. Sure never since king Neptune held his state Was seen such wonder underneath the stars. Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars Has legion’d all his battle; and behold How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold His even breast: see, many steeled squares, And rigid ranks of iron — whence who dares One step? Imagine further, line by line, These warrior thousands on the field supine: — So in that crystal place, in silent rows, Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes. — The stranger from the mountains, breathless, trac’d Such thousands of shut eyes in order plac’d; Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips All ruddy, — for here death no blossom nips. He mark’d their brows and foreheads; saw their hair Put sleekly on one side with nicest care; And each one’s gentle wrists, with reverence, Put cross-wise to its heart. “Let us commence, Whisper’d the guide, stuttering with joy, even now.” He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough, Began to tear his scroll in pieces small, Uttering the while some mumblings funeral. He tore it into pieces small as snow That drifts unfeather’d when bleak northerns blow; And having done it, took his dark blue cloak And bound it round Endymion: then struck His wand against the empty air times nine. — “What more there is to do, young man, is thine: But first a little patience; first undo This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue. Ah, gentle! ’tis as weak as spider’s skein; And shouldst thou break it — What, is it done so clean? A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave! The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave. Here is a shell; ’tis pearly blank to me, Nor mark’d with any sign or charactery — Canst thou read aught? O read for pity’s sake! Olympus! we are safe! Now, Carian, break This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal.” ’Twas done: and straight with sudden swell and fall Sweet music breath’d her soul away, and sigh’d A lullaby to silence. — “Youth! now strew These minced leaves on me, and passing through Those files of dead, scatter the same around, And thou wilt see the issue.” — ’Mid the sound Of flutes and viols, ravishing his heart, Endymion from Glaucus stood apart, And scatter’d in his face some fragments light. How lightning-swift the change! a youthful wight Smiling beneath a coral diadem, Out-sparkling sudden like an upturn’d gem, Appear’d, and, stepping to a beauteous corse, Kneel’d down beside it, and with tenderest force Press’d its cold hand, and wept — and Scylla sigh’d! Endymion, with quick hand, the charm applied — The nymph arose: he left them to their joy, And onward went upon his high employ, Showering those powerful fragments on the dead. And, as he pass’d, each lifted up its head, As doth a flower at Apollo’s touch. Death felt it to his inwards; ’twas too much: Death fell a weeping in his charnel-house. The Latmian persever’d along, and thus All were re-animated. There arose A noise of harmony, pulses and throes Of gladness in the air — while many, who Had died in mutual arms devout and true, Sprang to each other madly; and the rest Felt a high certainty of being blest. They gaz’d upon Endymion. Enchantment Grew drunken, and would have its head and bent. Delicious symphonies, like airy flowers, Budded, and swell’d, and, full-blown, shed full showers Of light, soft, unseen leaves of sounds divine. The two deliverers tasted a pure wine Of happiness, from fairy-press ooz’d out. Speechless they eyed each other, and about The fair assembly wander’d to and fro, Distracted with the richest overflow Of joy that ever pour’d from heaven. —— “Away!” Shouted the new-born god; “Follow, and pay Our piety to Neptunus supreme!” — Then Scylla, blushing sweetly from her dream, They led on first, bent to her meek surprise, Through portal columns of a giant size, Into the vaulted, boundless emerald. Joyous all follow’d, as the leader call’d, Down marble steps; pouring as easily As hour-glass sand — and fast, as you might see Swallows obeying the south summer’s call, Or swans upon a gentle waterfall. Thus went that beautiful multitude, nor far, Ere from among some rocks of glittering spar, Just within ken, they saw descending thick Another multitude. Whereat more quick Moved either host. On a wide sand they met, And of those numbers every eye was wet; For each their old love found. A murmuring rose, Like what was never heard in all the throes Of wind and waters: ’tis past human wit To tell; ’tis dizziness to think of it. This mighty consummation made, the host Mov’d on for many a league; and gain’d, and lost Huge sea-marks; vanward swelling in array, And from the rear diminishing away, — Till a faint dawn surpris’d them. Glaucus cried, “Behold! behold, the palace of his pride! God Neptune’s palaces!” With noise increas’d, They shoulder’d on towards that brightening east. At every onward step proud domes arose In prospect, — diamond gleams, and golden glows Of amber ’gainst their faces levelling. Joyous, and many as the leaves in spring, Still onward; still the splendour gradual swell’d. Rich opal domes were seen, on high upheld By jasper pillars, letting through their shafts A blush of coral. Copious wonder-draughts Each gazer drank; and deeper drank more near: For what poor mortals fragment up, as mere As marble was there lavish, to the vast Of one fair palace, that far far surpass’d, Even for common bulk, those olden three, Memphis, and Babylon, and Nineveh. As large, as bright, as colour’d as the bow Of Iris, when unfading it doth shew Beyond a silvery shower, was the arch Through which this Paphian army took its march, Into the outer courts of Neptune’s state: Whence could be seen, direct, a golden gate, To which the leaders sped; but not half raught Ere it burst open swift as fairy thought, And made those dazzled thousands veil their eyes Like callow eagles at the first sunrise. Soon with an eagle nativeness their gaze Ripe from hue-golden swoons took all the blaze, And then, behold! large Neptune on his throne Of emerald deep: yet not exalt alone; At his right hand stood winged Love, and on His left sat smiling Beauty’s paragon. Far as the mariner on highest mast Can see all round upon the calmed vast, So wide was Neptune’s hall: and as the blue Doth vault the waters, so the waters drew Their doming curtains, high, magnificent, Aw’d from the throne aloof; — and when storm-rent Disclos’d the thunder-gloomings in Jove’s air; But sooth’d as now, flash’d sudden everywhere, Noiseless, sub-marine cloudlets, glittering Death to a human eye: for there did spring From natural west, and east, and south, and north, A light as of four sunsets, blazing forth A gold-green zenith ’bove the Sea-God’s head. Of lucid depth the floor, and far outspread As breezeless lake, on which the slim canoe Of feather’d Indian darts about, as through The delicatest air: air verily, But for the portraiture of clouds and sky: This palace floor breath-air, — but for the amaze Of deep-seen wonders motionless, — and blaze Of the dome pomp, reflected in extremes, Globing a golden sphere. They stood in dreams Till Triton blew his horn. The palace rang; The Nereids danc’d; the Syrens faintly sang; And the great Sea-King bow’d his dripping head. Then Love took wing, and from his pinions shed On all the multitude a nectarous dew. The ooze-born Goddess beckoned and drew Fair Scylla and her guides to conference; And when they reach’d the throned eminence She kist the sea-nymph’s cheek, — who sat her down A toying with the doves. Then , — “Mighty crown And sceptre of this kingdom!” Venus said, “Thy vows were on a time to Nais paid: Behold!” — Two copious tear-drops instant fell From the God’s large eyes; he smil’d delectable, And over Glaucus held his blessing hands. — “Endymion! Ah! still wandering in the bands Of love? Now this is cruel. Since the hour I met thee in earth’s bosom, all my power Have I put forth to serve thee. What, not yet Escap’d from dull mortality’s harsh net? A little patience, youth! ’twill not be long, Or I am skilless quite: an idle tongue, A humid eye, and steps luxurious, Where these are new and strange, are ominous. Aye, I have seen these signs in one of heaven, When others were all blind; and were I given To utter secrets, haply I might say Some pleasant words: — but Love will have his day. So wait awhile expectant. Pr’ythee soon, Even in the passing of thine honey-moon, Visit my Cytherea: thou wilt find Cupid well-natured, my Adonis kind; And pray persuade with thee — Ah, I have done, All blisses be upon thee, my sweet son!”— Thus the fair goddess: while Endymion Knelt to receive those accents halcyon. Meantime a glorious revelry began Before the Water-Monarch. Nectar ran In courteous fountains to all cups outreach’d; And plunder’d vines, teeming exhaustless, pleach’d New growth about each shell and pendent lyre; The which, in disentangling for their fire, Pull’d down fresh foliage and coverture For dainty toying. Cupid, empire-sure, Flutter’d and laugh’d, and oft-times through the throng Made a delighted way. Then dance, and song, And garlanding grew wild; and pleasure reign’d. In harmless tendril they each other chain’d, And strove who should be smother’d deepest in Fresh crush of leaves. O ’tis a very sin For one so weak to venture his poor verse In such a place as this. O do not curse, High Muses! let him hurry to the ending. All suddenly were silent. A soft blending Of dulcet instruments came charmingly; And then a hymn. “King of the stormy sea! Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor Of elements! Eternally before Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock, At thy fear’d trident shrinking, doth unlock Its deep foundations, hissing into foam. All mountain-rivers lost, in the wide home Of thy capacious bosom ever flow. Thou frownest, and old Eolus thy foe Skulks to his cavern, ’mid the gruff complaint Of all his rebel tempests. Dark clouds faint When, from thy diadem, a silver gleam Slants over blue dominion. Thy bright team Gulphs in the morning light, and scuds along To bring thee nearer to that golden song Apollo singeth, while his chariot Waits at the doors of heaven. Thou art not For scenes like this: an empire stern hast thou; And it hath furrow’d that large front: yet now, As newly come of heaven, dost thou sit To blend and interknit Subdued majesty with this glad time. O shell-borne King sublime! We lay our hearts before thee evermore — We sing, and we adore! “Breathe softly, flutes; Be tender of your strings, ye soothing lutes; Nor be the trumpet heard! O vain, O vain; Not flowers budding in an April rain, Nor breath of sleeping dove, nor river’s flow, — No, nor the Eolian twang of Love’s own bow, Can mingle music fit for the soft ear Of goddess Cytherea! Yet deign, white Queen of Beauty, thy fair eyes On our souls’ sacrifice. “Bright-winged Child! Who has another care when thou hast smil’d? Unfortunates on earth, we see at last All death-shadows, and glooms that overcast Our spirits, fann’d away by thy light pinions. O sweetest essence! sweetest of all minions! God of warm pulses, and dishevell’d hair, And panting bosoms bare! Dear unseen light in darkness! eclipser Of light in light! delicious poisoner! Thy venom’d goblet will we quaff until We fill — we fill! And by thy Mother’s lips —— ” Was heard no more For clamour, when the golden palace door Opened again, and from without, in shone A new magnificence. On oozy throne Smooth-moving came Oceanus the old, To take a latest glimpse at his sheep-fold, Before he went into his quiet cave To muse for ever — Then a lucid wave, Scoop’d from its trembling sisters of mid-sea, Afloat, and pillowing up the majesty Of Doris, and the Egean seer, her spouse — Next, on a dolphin, clad in laurel boughs, Theban Amphion leaning on his lute: His fingers went across it — All were mute To gaze on Amphitrite, queen of pearls, And Thetis pearly too. — The palace whirls Around giddy Endymion; seeing he Was there far strayed from mortality. He could not bear it — shut his eyes in vain; Imagination gave a dizzier pain. “O I shall die! sweet Venus, be my stay! Where is my lovely mistress? Well-away! I die — I hear her voice — I feel my wing — ” At Neptune’s feet he sank. A sudden ring Of Nereids were about him, in kind strife To usher back his spirit into life: But still he slept. At last they interwove Their cradling arms, and purpos’d to convey Towards a crystal bower far away. Lo! while slow carried through the pitying crowd, To his inward senses these words spake aloud; Written in star-light on the dark above: Dearest Endymion! my entire love! How have I dwelt in fear of fate: ’tis done — Immortal bliss for me too hast thou won. Arise then! for the hen-dove shall not hatch Her ready eggs, before I’ll kissing snatch Thee into endless heaven. Awake! awake! The youth at once arose: a placid lake Came quiet to his eyes; and forest green, Cooler than all the wonders he had seen, Lull’d with its simple song his fluttering breast. How happy once again in grassy nest!
John Keats's other poems:
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