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Knowing within myself the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public. What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a severish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press; nor should they, if I thought a year's castigation would do them any good;—it will not: the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away: a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit to live. , This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will 're forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with ‘Jae conviction that there is not a fiercer hell than the sailure in a great object. This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms of course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are competent to look, and who do look with a jealous eye, to the honor of English literature. The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceed mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages. I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece, and dulled its brightness: for I wish to try once more, before I bid it farewell.
TEIGNMouth, April 10, 1818.
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Nor do we merely feel these essences For one short hour; no, even as the trees That whisper round a temple become soon Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon, The passion poesy, glories infinite, Haunt us till they become a cheering light Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast, That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast, They always must be with us, or we die.
Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I Will trace the story of Endymion. The very music of the name has gone Into my being, and each pleasant scene Is growing fresh before me as the green Of our own valleys: so I will begin Now while I cannot hear the city's din; Now while the early budders are just new, And run in mazes of the youngest hue About old forests; while the willow trails Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer My little boat, for many quiet hours, With streams that deepen freshly into bowers. Many and many a verse I hope to write, Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white, Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas, I must be near the middle of my story. O may no wintry season, bare and hoary, See it half finish'd : but let Autumn bold, With universal tinge of sober gold, Be all about me when I make an end. And now at once, adventuresome, I send My herald thought into a wilderness: There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress My uncertain path with green, that I may speed Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.
Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed So plenteously all weed-hidden roots Into o'erhanging boughs, and precious fruits. And it had gloomy shades, sequester'd deep, Where no man went ; and if from shepherd's keep A lamb stray'd far adown those inmost glens, Never again saw he the happy pens Whither his brethren, bleating with content, Over the hills at every nightfall went. Among the shepherds 't was believed ever, That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever From the white flock, but pass'd unworried By any wolf, or pard with prying head, Until it came to some unfooted plains Where fed the herds of Pan: ay, great his gains Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many, Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny, And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly To a wide lawn, whence one could only see Stems thronging all around between the swell Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell The freshness of the space of heaven above, Edged round with dark tree-tops ? through which a
Would often beat its wings, and often too
Full in the middle of this pleasantness There stood a marble altar, with a tress Of flowers budded newly; and the dew Had taken fairy fantasies to strew Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve, And so the dawned light in pomp receive. For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
Now while the silent workings of the dawn Were busiest, into that self-same lawn All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped A troop of little children garlanded; Who, gathering round the altar, seem'd to pry Earnestly round as wishing to espy Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited For many moments, ere their ears were sated With a faint breath of music, which ev'n then Fill'd out its voice, and died away again. Within a little space again it gave Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave, To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking Through copse-clad valleys, ere their death, o'ei
The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.
And now, as deep into the wood as we Might mark a lynx's eye, there glimmer'd light Fair faces and a rush of garments white, Plainer and plainer showing, till at last Into the widest alley they all past, Making directly for the woodland altar. O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue falter In telling of this goodly company, Of their old piety, and of their glee: But let a portion of ethereal dew Fall on my head, and presently unmew My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring, To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.
Leading the way, young damsels danced along, Bearing the burden of a shepherd's song; Each having a white wicker over-brimm'd With April's tender younglings: next, well trimm'd A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks As may be read of in Arcadian books; Such as sat listening round Apollo's pipe, When the great deity, for earth too ripe, Let his divinity o'erflowing die In music, through the vales of Thessaly: Some idly trail'd their sheep-hooks on the ground, And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these, Now coming from beneath the forest trees, A venerable priest full soberly, Begirt with ministering looks: alway his eye Stedsast upon the matted turf he kept, And after him his sacred vestments swept. From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light; And in his left he held a basket full Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull. Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill.
His aged head, crown'd with beechen wreath,
Soon the assembly, in a circle ranged, Stood silent round the shrine: each look was changed To sudden veneration: women meek Beckon'd their sons to silence; while each cheek Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear. Endymion too, without a forest peer, Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face, Among his brothers of the mountain chase. In midst of all, the venerable priest Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least, And, after lifting up his aged hands, Thus spake he “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands! Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks: Whether descended from beneath the rocks That overtop your mountains; whether come From valleys where the pipe is never dumb; Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs Blue harebells lightly, and where prickly furze Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge Nibble their fill at ocean's very marge, Whose mellow reeds are touch'd with sounds forlorn By the dim echoes of old Triton's horn: Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air; And all ye gentle girls who foster up Udderless lambs, and in a little cup Will put choice honey for a favor'd youth: Yea, every one attend for in good truth Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan. Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains Speckled with countless fleeces ! Have not rains Green'd over April's lap 2 No howling sad Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had Great bounty from Endymion our lord. The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour'd His early song against yon breezy sky, That spreads so clear o'er our solemnity."
Thus ending, on the shrine he heap'd a spire Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;
Anon he stain'd the thick and spongy sod
“O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness; Who lovest to see the hamadryads dress Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken; And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken The dreary melody of bedded reeds— In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth, Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx—do thou now, By thy love's milky brow! By all the trembling mazes that she ran, Hear us, great Pan'
“O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles Passion their voices cooingly 'mong myrtles, What time thou wanderest at eventide Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side Of thine enmossed realms : O thou, to whom Broad-leaved fig-trees even now foredoom Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow-girted bees Their golden honeycombs; our village leas Their fairest blossom'd beans and poppied corn; The chuckling linnet its five young unborn, To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year All its completions—be quickly near, By every wind that nods the mountain pine, O forester divine !
“Thou, to whom every shun and satyr flies For willing service; whether to surprise The squatted hare while in half-sleeping fit ; Or upward ragged precipices flit To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw; Or by mysterious enticement draw Bewilder'd shepherds to their path again; Or to tread breathless round the frothy main, And gather up all fancifullest shells For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells, And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping; Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping, The while they pelt each other on the crown With silvery oak-apples, and fir-cones brown— By all the echoes that about thee ring, Hear us, O satyr king!
“O Hearkener to the loud-clapping shears, While ever and anon to his shorn peers A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn, When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms, To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,
“Be still the unimaginable lodge
Even while they brought the burden to a close,
Until, from the horizon's vaulted side,
Who whispers him so pantingly and close 1
Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,
Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,
So she was gently glad to see him laid Under her favorite bower's quiet shade, On her own couch, new made of flower leaves, Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves When last the sun his autumn tresses shook, And the tann'd harvesters rich armfuls took. Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest: But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest Peona's busy hand against his lips, And still, a-sleeping, held her finger-tips In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps A patient watch over the stream that creeps Windingly by it, so the quiet maid Held her in peace : so that a whispering blade Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling Among sere leaves and twigs, might all be heard.
O magic sleep! O comfortable bird, That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind Till it is hush'd and smooth ! O unconfined Restraint! imprison'd liberty! great key To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy, Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, Echoing grottoes, full of tumbling waves And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world Of silvery enchantment!—who, upfurl’d Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour, But renovates and lives t—Thus, in the bower, Endymion was calm'd to life again. Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain, He said: “I feel this thine endearing love All through my bosom; thou art as a dove Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings About me; and the pearliest dew not brings Such morning incense from the fields of May, As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray From those kind eyes-the very home and haunt Of sisterly affection. Can I want Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears? Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears That, any longer, I will pass my days Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise
My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more
Hereat Peona, in their silver source, Shut her pure sorrow-drops with glad exclaim, And took a lute, from which there pulsing came A lively prelude, fashioning the way In which her voice should wander. 'Twas a lay More subtle cadenced, more forest wild Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child; And nothing since has floated in the air So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare Went, spiritual, through the damsel's hand; For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann'd The quick invisible strings, even though she saw Endymion's spirit melt away and thaw Before the deep intoxication. But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon Her self-possession—swung the lute aside, And earnestly said: “Brother, 'tis vain to hide That thou dost know of things mysterious, Immortal, starry; such alone could thus Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn'd in aught Offensive to the heavenly powers Caught A Paphian dove upon a message sent Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent, Sacred to Dian Haply, thou hast seen Her naked limbs among the alders green; And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace Something more high perplexing in thy face!”
Endymion look'd at her, and press'd her hand, And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland And merry in our meadows? How is this? Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss!— Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange? Or more complete to overwhelm surmise 7 Ambition is no sluggard: 'tis no prize, That toiling years would put within my grasp, That I have sigh'd for: with so deadly gasp No man e'er panted for a mortal love. So all have set my heavier grief above These things which happen. Rightly have they done: I, who still saw the horizontal sun Heave his broad shoulder o'er the edge of the world, Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d My spear aloft, as signal for the chase— I, who, for very sport of heart, would race With my own steed from Araby; pluck down A vulture from his towery perching; frown A lion into growling, loth retire— To lose, at once, all my toil-breeding fire, And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.
“This river does not see the naked sky, Till it begins to progress silverly