The Strayed Reveller
The Youth Faster, faster, O Circe, Goddess, Let the wild, thronging train The bright procession Of eddying forms, Sweep through my soul! Thou standest, smiling Down on me! thy right arm, Lean'd up against the column there, Props thy soft cheek; Thy left holds, hanging loosely, The deep cup, ivy-cinctured, I held but now. Is it, then, evening So soon? I see, the night-dews, Cluster'd in thick beads, dim The agate brooch-stones On thy white shoulder; The cool night-wind, too, Blows through the portico, Stirs thy hair, Goddess, Waves thy white robe! Circe. Whence art thou, sleeper? The Youth. When the white dawn first Through the rough fir-planks Of my hut, by the chestnuts, Up at the valley-head, Came breaking, Goddess! I sprang up, I threw round me My dappled fawn-skin; Passing out, from the wet turf, Where they lay, by the hut door, I snatch'd up my vine-crown, my fir-staff, All drench'd in dew- Came swift down to join The rout early gather'd In the town, round the temple, Iacchus' white fane On yonder hill. Quick I pass'd, following The wood-cutters' cart-track Down the dark valley;-I saw On my left, through the beeches, Thy palace, Goddess, Smokeless, empty! Trembling, I enter'd; beheld The court all silent, The lions sleeping, On the altar this bowl. I drank, Goddess! And sank down here, sleeping, On the steps of thy portico. Circe. Foolish boy! Why tremblest thou? Thou lovest it, then, my wine? Wouldst more of it? See, how glows, Through the delicate, flush'd marble, The red, creaming liquor, Strown with dark seeds! Drink, thee! I chide thee not, Deny thee not my bowl. Come, stretch forth thy hand, thee-so! Drink-drink again! The Youth. Thanks, gracious one! Ah, the sweet fumes again! More soft, ah me, More subtle-winding Than Pan's flute-music! Faint-faint! Ah me, Again the sweet sleep! Circe. Hist! Thou-within there! Come forth, Ulysses! Art tired with hunting? While we range the woodland, See what the day brings. Ulysses. Ever new magic! Hast thou then lured hither, Wonderful Goddess, by thy art, The young, languid-eyed Ampelus, Iacchus' darling- Or some youth beloved of Pan, Of Pan and the Nymphs? That he sits, bending downward His white, delicate neck To the ivy-wreathed marge Of thy cup; the bright, glancing vine-leaves That crown his hair, Falling forward, mingling With the dark ivy-plants-- His fawn-skin, half untied, Smear'd with red wine-stains? Who is he, That he sits, overweigh'd By fumes of wine and sleep, So late, in thy portico? What youth, Goddess,-what guest Of Gods or mortals? Circe. Hist! he wakes! I lured him not hither, Ulysses. Nay, ask him! The Youth. Who speaks' Ah, who comes forth To thy side, Goddess, from within? How shall I name him? This spare, dark-featured, Quick-eyed stranger? Ah, and I see too His sailor's bonnet, His short coat, travel-tarnish'd, With one arm bare!-- Art thou not he, whom fame This long time rumours The favour'd guest of Circe, brought by the waves? Art thou he, stranger? The wise Ulysses, Laertes' son? Ulysses. I am Ulysses. And thou, too, sleeper? Thy voice is sweet. It may be thou hast follow'd Through the islands some divine bard, By age taught many things, Age and the Muses; And heard him delighting The chiefs and people In the banquet, and learn'd his songs. Of Gods and Heroes, Of war and arts, And peopled cities, Inland, or built By the gray sea.-If so, then hail! I honour and welcome thee. The Youth. The Gods are happy. They turn on all sides Their shining eyes, And see below them The earth and men. They see Tiresias Sitting, staff in hand, On the warm, grassy Asopus bank, His robe drawn over His old sightless head, Revolving inly The doom of Thebes. They see the Centaurs In the upper glens Of Pelion, in the streams, Where red-berried ashes fringe The clear-brown shallow pools, With streaming flanks, and heads Rear'd proudly, snuffing The mountain wind. They see the Indian Drifting, knife in hand, His frail boat moor'd to A floating isle thick-matted With large-leaved, low-creeping melon-plants And the dark cucumber. He reaps, and stows them, Drifting--drifting;--round him, Round his green harvest-plot, Flow the cool lake-waves, The mountains ring them. They see the Scythian On the wide stepp, unharnessing His wheel'd house at noon. He tethers his beast down, and makes his meal-- Mares' milk, and bread Baked on the embers;--all around The boundless, waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr'd With saffron and the yellow hollyhock And flag-leaved iris-flowers. Sitting in his cart He makes his meal; before him, for long miles, Alive with bright green lizards, And the springing bustard-fowl, The track, a straight black line, Furrows the rich soil; here and there Cluster of lonely mounds Topp'd with rough-hewn, Gray, rain-blear'd statues, overpeer The sunny waste. They see the ferry On the broad, clay-laden Lone Chorasmian stream;--thereon, With snort and strain, Two horses, strongly swimming, tow The ferry-boat, with woven ropes To either bow Firm harness'd by the mane; a chief With shout and shaken spear, Stands at the prow, and guides them; but astern The cowering merchants, in long robes, Sit pale beside their wealth Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops, Of gold and ivory, Of turquoise-earth and amethyst, Jasper and chalcedony, And milk-barred onyx-stones. The loaded boat swings groaning In the yellow eddies; The Gods behold him. They see the Heroes Sitting in the dark ship On the foamless, long-heaving Violet sea. At sunset nearing The Happy Islands. These things, Ulysses, The wise bards, also Behold and sing. But oh, what labour! O prince, what pain! They too can see Tiresias;--but the Gods, Who give them vision, Added this law: That they should bear too His groping blindness, His dark foreboding, His scorn'd white hairs; Bear Hera's anger Through a life lengthen'd To seven ages. They see the Centaurs On Pelion:--then they feel, They too, the maddening wine Swell their large veins to bursting; in wild pain They feel the biting spears Of the grim Lapithæ, and Theseus, drive, Drive crashing through their bones; they feel High on a jutting rock in the red stream Alcmena's dreadful son Ply his bow;--such a price The Gods exact for song: To become what we sing. They see the Indian On his mountain lake; but squalls Make their skiff reel, and worms In the unkind spring have gnawn Their melon-harvest to the heart.--They see The Scythian: but long frosts Parch them in winter-time on the bare stepp, Till they too fade like grass; they crawl Like shadows forth in spring. They see the merchants On the Oxus stream;--but care Must visit first them too, and make them pale. Whether, through whirling sand, A cloud of desert robber-horse have burst Upon their caravan; or greedy kings, In the wall'd cities the way passes through, Crush'd them with tolls; or fever-airs, On some great river's marge, Mown them down, far from home. They see the Heroes Near harbour;--but they share Their lives, and former violent toil in Thebes, Seven-gated Thebes, or Troy; Or where the echoing oars Of Argo first Startled the unknown sea. The old Silenus Came, lolling in the sunshine, From the dewy forest-coverts, This way at noon. Sitting by me, while his Fauns Down at the water-side Sprinkled and smoothed His drooping garland, He told me these things. But I, Ulysses, Sitting on the warm steps, Looking over the valley, All day long, have seen, Without pain, without labour, Sometimes a wild-hair'd Mænad-- Sometimes a Faun with torches-- And sometimes, for a moment, Passing through the dark stems Flowing-robed, the beloved, The desired, the divine, Beloved Iacchus. Ah, cool night-wind, tremulous stars! Ah, glimmering water, Fitful earth-murmur, Dreaming woods! Ah, golden-haired, strangely smiling Goddess, And thou, proved, much enduring, Wave-toss'd Wanderer! Who can stand still? Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me-- The cup again! Faster, faster, O Circe, Goddess. Let the wild, thronging train, The bright procession Of eddying forms, Sweep through my soul!
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