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Poem by Bayard Taylor

Ariel in the Cloven Pine

NOW the frosty stars are gone:
I have watched them one by one,
Fading on the shores of Dawn.
Round and full the glorious sun
Walks with level step the spray,        
Through this vestibule of Day,
While the wolves that late did howl
Slink to dens and converts foul,
Guarded by the demon owl,
Who, last night, with mocking croon,        
Wheeled athwart the chilly moon,
And with eyes that blankly glared
On my direful torment stared.

The lark is flickering in the light;
Still he nightingale doth sing;        
All the isle, alive with Spring,
Lies, a jewel of delight,
On the blue seas heaving breast;
Not a breath from out the west,
But some balmy smell doth bring        
From the sprouting myrtle buds,
Or from meadowy vales that lie
Like a green inverted sky,
Which the yellow cowslip stars,
And the bloomy almond woods,        
Cloud-like, cross with roseate bars.
All is life that I can spy,
To the farthest sea and sky,
And my own the only pain
Within this ring of Tyrrhene main.        

In the gnarled and cloven Pine
Where that hell-born hag did chain me,
All this orb of cloudless shine,
All this youth in Natures veins
Tingling with the seasons wine,        
With a sharper torment pain me.
Pansies in soft April rains
Fill their stalks with honeyed sap
Drawn from Earths prolific lap;
But the sluggish blood she brings        
To the tough Pines hundred rings,
Closer locks their cruel hold,
Closer draws the scaly bark
Round the crevice, damp and cold,
Where my useless, damp and cold,        
Sealing me in iron dark.

By this coarse and alien state
Is my dainty essence wronged;
Finer senses, that belonged
To my freedom, chafe at Fate,        
Till the happier elves I hate,
Who in moonlight dances turn
Underneath the palmy fern,
Or in light and twinkling bands
Follow on with linkëd hands        
To the oceans yellow sands.

Primrose-eyes each morning ope
In their cool, deep beds of grass;
Violets make the airs that pass
Telltales of their fragrant slope.        
I can see them where they spring
Never brushed by fairy wing.
All those corners I can spy
In the islands solitude,
Where the dew is never dry,        
Nor the miser bees intrude.
Cups of rarest hue are there,
Full of perfumed wine undrained,
Mushroom banquets, neer profaned
Canopied by maiden-hair.        
Pearls I see upon the sands,
Never touched by other hands,
And the rainbow bubbles shine
On the ridged and frothy brine,
Tenantless of voyager        
Till they burst in vacant air.
Oh, the song that sung might be,
And the mazy dances woven,
Had that witch neer crossed the sea
And the Pine been never cloven!        

Many years my direst pain
Has made the wave-rocked isle complain
Winds that from the Cyclades
Came to blow in wanton riot
Round its shores enchanted quiet,        
Bore my wailings on the seas:
Sorrowing birds in autumn West
Through the world with my lament.
Still the bitter fate is mine,
All delight unshared to see,        
Smarting in the cloven Pine,
While I wait the tardy axe
Which, perchance, shall set me free
From the demand witch Sycorax.

Bayard Taylor

Bayard Taylor's other poems:
  1. The Return of the Goddess
  2. Gettysburg Ode
  3. America to Iceland
  4. To M. T.
  5. Daughter of Egypt

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