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To be read what their woe was ;—but still it was woe
That was writ on all faces that swam to and fro
In that river of night ;-and the gaze of their eyes
Was sad,—and the bend of their brows, -and their cries
Were seen, but I heard not. The warm touch of tears
Travell’d down my cold cheeks, and I shook till my fears
Awaked me, and lo! I was couch'd in a bower,
The growth of long summers rear'd up in an hour!
Then I said, in the fear of my dream, I will fly
From this magic, but could not, because that my eye
Giew love-idle among the rich blooms; and the earth
Held me down with its coolness of touch, and the mirth
Of some bird was above me, -who, even in fear,
Would startle the thrush? and methought there drew near
A form as of Ægle,—but it was not the face
Hope made, and I knew the witch-Queen of that place,
Even Circe the Cruel, that came like a Death
Which I fear'd, and yet fled not, for want of my breath.
There was thought in her face, and her eyes were not raised
From the grass at her foot, but I saw, as I gazed,
Her spite—and her countenance changed with her mind
As she plann'd how to thrall me with beauty, and bind
My soul to her charms, -and her long tresses play'd
From shade into shine and from shine into shade,
Like a day in mid-autumn, first fair, O how fair !
With long snaky locks of the adder-black hair
That clung round her neck,—those dark locks that I prize,
For the sake of a maid that once loved me with eyes
Of that fathomless hue,-but they changed as they roll'd,
And brighten'd, and suddenly blazed into gold
That she comb’d into flames, and the locks that fell down
Turn'd dark as they fell, but I slighted their brown,
Nor loved, til. I saw the light ringlets shed wild,
That innocence wears when she is but a child ;
And her eyes,—Oh I ne'er had been witch'd with their shine,
Had they been any other, my Ægle, than thine !
Then I gave me to magic, and gazed till I madden'd
In the full of their light, but I sadden'd and sadden'd
The deeper I look’d, -till I sank on the snow
Of her bosom, a thing made of terror and woe,
And answer'd its throb with the shudder of fears,
And hid my cold eyes from her eyes with my tears,
And strain'd her white arms with the still languid weight
Of a fainting distress. There she sat like the Fate
That is nurse unto Death, and bent over in shame
To hide me from her—the true Ægle—that came
With the words on her lips the false witch had forgiven
To make me immortal— for now I was even
At the portals of Death, who but waited the hush
Of worlds-sounds in my ear to cry welcome, and rush
With my soul to the banks of his black flowing river.
Oh, would it had flown for my body for ever,
Ere I listen'd those words, when I felt with a start,
The life-blood rush back in one throb to my heart,
And saw the pale lips where the rest of that spell
Had perish'd in horror—and heard the farewell
Of that voice that was drown'd in the dash of the stream!
How fain had I follow'd and plunged with that scream
Into death, but my being indignantly lagg'd
Through the brutalised flesh that I painfully dragg'd
Behind me :-"O Circe ! O mother of spite !
Speak the last of that curse ? and imprison me quite
In the husk of a brute,—that no pity may name
The man that I was,—that no kindred may claim
The monster I am! Let me utterly be
Brute-buried, and Nature's dishonour with me
Uninscribed !”—But she listen’d my prayer, that was praise
To her malice, with smiles, and advised me to gaze
On the river for love,—and perchance she would make
In pity a maid without eyes for my sake,
And she left me like Scorn. Then I ask'd of the wave,
What monster I was, and it trembled and gave
The true shape of my grief, and I turn’d with my face
From all waters for ever, and fled through that place,
Till with horror more strong than all magic I pass'd
Its bounds, and the world was before me at last.
There I wander'd in sorrow, and shunn'd the abodes
Of men, that stood up in the likeness of Gods,
But I saw from afar the warm shine of the sun
On their cities, where man was a million, not one ;
And I saw the white smoke of their altars ascending,
That show'd where the hearts of the many were blending,
And the wind in my face brought shrill voices that came
from the trumpets that gather'd whole bands in one fame
As a chorus of man,—and they streamed from the gates
Like a dusky libation poured out to the Fates.
But at times there were gentler processions of peace
That I watch'd with my soul in my eyes till their cease,
There were women! there men! but to me a third sex
( saw them all dots—yet I loved them as specks :
And oft to assuage a sad yearning of eyes
( stole near the city, but stole covert-wise
Like a wild beast of love, and perchance to be smitten
By some hand that I rather had wept on than bitten !
Oh, I once had a haunt near a cot where a mother
Daily sat in the shade with her child, and would smother
Its eyelids in kisses, and then in its sleep
Sang dreams in its ear of its manhood, while deep
In a thicket of willows I gazed o'er the brooks
That murmur'd between us and kiss'd them with looks;
But the willows unbosom'd their secret, and never
I return'd to a spot I had startled for ever,
Though I oft long’d to know, but could ask it of none,
Was the mother still fair, and how big was her son?
For the haunters of fields they all shunn'd me by flight, The men in their horror, the women in fright; None ever remain'd save a child once that sported Among the wild bluebells, and playfully courted
he breeze ; and beside him a speckled snake lay Tight strangled, because it had hiss'd him away From the flower at his finger; he rose and drew near Like a Son of Immortals, one born to no fear, But with strength of black locks and with eyes azure bright To grow to large manhood of merciful might. He came, with his face of bold wonder, to feel, The hair of my side, and to lift up my heel, And question'd my face with wide eyes; but when under My lids he saw tears,—for I wept for his wonder, He stroked me, and utter'd such kindliness then, That the once love of women, the friendship of men
In past sorrow, no kindness e'er came like a kiss
On my heart in its desolate day such as this !
And I yearn'd at his cheeks in my love, and down bent,
And lifted him up with my arms with intent
To kiss him,-but he cruel-kindly, alas!
Held out to my lips a pluck'd handfull of grass !
Then I dropt him in horror, but felt as I fled
The stone he indignantly hurl'd at my head,
That dissever'd my ear,—but I felt not, whose fate
Was to meet more distress in his love than his hate !
Thus I wander'd companion'd of grief and forlom
Till I wish'd for that land where my being was born,
But what was that land with its love, where my home
Was self-shut against me for why should I come
Like an after-distress to my grey-bearded father,
With a blight to the last of his sight ?—let him rather
Lament for me dead, and shed tears in the urn
Where I was not, and still in fond memory turn
To his son even such as he left him. Oh, how
Could I walk with the youth once my fellows, but now
Like Gods to my humbled estate ?-or how bear
The steeds once the pride of my eyes and the care
Of my hands? Then I turn'd me self-banish’d, and came
Into Thessaly here, where I met with the same
As myself. I have heard how they met by a stream
In games, and were suddenly changed by a scream
That made wretches of many, as she roll'd her wild eyes
Against heaven, and so vanishid.—The gentle and wise
Lose their thoughts in deep studies, and others their ill
In the mirth of mankind where they mingle them still.*
Although " Lycus" has never met with very warm admirers, owing, perhaps, to its classical origin and style (indeed, in a letter I have of his, simple John Clare confesses he does not understand a word of it), I incline to hold with the following opinion from a letter written to my father by Hartley Coleridge, in 1831.
“I wish you would write a little more in the style of ‘ Lycus the Centaur,' or ‘Eugene Aram's Dream.' In whatever you attempt you excel. Then why not exert your best and noblest talent, as well as that wit, which I would never wish to be dormant? I am not a graduate in the Academy of Compliment, but I think 'Lycus'a work absolutely unique in its line, such as no man has written, or could have written, but yourself."
“On Monday they began to hunt."-Chevy Chase.
JOHN HUGGINS was as bold a man
As trade did ever know,
A warehouse good he had, that stood
Hard by the church of Bow.
There people bought Dutch cheeses round
And single Glos'ter flat;
And English butter in a lump,
And Irish-in a pat.
Six days a week beheld him stand,
His business next his heart,
At counter, with his apron tied
About his counter-part.
The seventh, in a Sluice-house box
He took his pipe and pot;
On Sundays, for cel-piety,
A very noted spot.