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And sometimes to those streams of upper air
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round She would ascend, and win the spirits there
To let her join their chorus. Mortals found That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound Wandered upon the earth where'er she passed, And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.
LVII. But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
To glide adown old Nilus, where he threads Egypt and Æthiopia, from the steep
Of utmost Axumè, until he spreads, Like a calm flock of silver-fleecèd sheep,
His waters on the plain; and crested heads Of cities and proud temples gleam amid, And many a vapour-belted pyramid.
LVIII. By Mæris and the Mareotid lakes, Strewn with faint blooms like bridal chamber
floors, Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Or charioteering ghastly alligators, Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes Of those huge forms—within the brazen
doors Of the great Labyrinth slept both boy and
beast, Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.
The shadows of the massy temples lie,
Like things which every cloud can doom to
die, Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky With tombs, and towers, and fanes, 'twas her
delight To wander in the shadow of the night.
With motion like the spirit of that wind
feet Passed through the peopled haunts of human
kind, Scattering sweet visions from her presence
sweet, Through fane, and palace-court, and labyrinth
mined With many a dark and subterranean street Under the Nile, through chambers high and
deep She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep. Here lay two sister twins in infancy; There, a lone youth who in his dreams did
weep; Within, two lovers linkèd innocently In their loose locks which over both did
creep Like ivy from one stem ;-and there lay calm Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
Not to be mirrored in a holy song
Distortions foul of supernatural awe,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong; And all the code of custom's lawless law
Written upon the brows of old and young : “ This,” said the wizard maiden, “is the strife Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life.”
We, the weak mariners of that wide lake,
Our course unpiloted and starless make O’er its wild surface to an unknown goal;
But she in the calm depths her way could take, Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.
LXIV. And she saw princes couched under the glow Of sunlike gems; and round each temple
court In dormitories ranged, row after row,
She saw the priests asleep-all of one sortFor all were educated to be so.
The peasants in their huts, and in the port
Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Their delicate limbs, who would conceal from
Only their scorn of all concealment: they
Move in the light of their own beauty thus. But these and all now lay with sleep upon them, And little thought a Witch was looking on them.
Beheld as living spirits—to her eyes
And often through a rude and worn disguise She saw the inner form most bright and fair
And then she had a charm of strange device, Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone, Could make that spirit mingle with her own.
LXVII. Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given
For such a charm when Tithon became grey ? Or how much, Venus, of thy silver Heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina Had half (oh! why not all ?) the debt forgiven
Which dear Adonis had been doomed to pay, To any witch who would have taught you it ? The Heliad doth not know its value yet.
LXVIII. 'Tis said in after times her spirit free · Knew what love was, and felt itself alone But holy Dian could not chaster be,
Before she stooped to kiss Endymion, Than now this lady-like a sexless bee
Tasting all blossoms, and confined to none, Among those mortal forms, the wizard-maiden Passed with an eye serene and heart unladen.
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl:-
wave, And lived thenceforward as if some control, Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave
Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul, Was as a green and overarching bower Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.
Lxx. For on the night when they were buried, she
Restored the embalmers' ruining, and shook The light out of the funeral lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathy nook; And she unwound the woven imagery. Of second childhood's swaddling bands, and
took The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche, And threw it with contempt into a ditch.
LXXI. And there the body lay, age after age, Mute, breathing, beating, warm and unde
caying, Like one asleep in a green hermitage,
With gentle smiles about its eyelids playing, And living in its dreams beyond the rage
Of death or life; while they were still arraying In liveries ever new the rapid, blind And fleeting generations of mankind.
And she would write strange dreams upon the
brain Of those who were less beautiful, and make All harsh and crooked purposes more vain
Than in the desert is the serpent's wake Which the sand covers,—all his evil gain The miser in such dreams would rise and
shake Into a beggar's lap;—the lying scribe Would his own lies betray without a bribe.