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To nothing, loved a nothing, nothing seen
Or felt but a great dream Oh, I have been
Presumptuous against love, against the sky,
Against all elements, against the tie
Of mortals each to each, against the blooms
Of flowers, rush of rivers, and the tombs
Of heroes gone! Against his proper glory
Has my own soul conspired: so my story
Will I to children utter, and repent.
There never lived a mortal man, who bent
His appetite beyond his natural sphere,
But starved and died. My sweetest Indian, here,
Here will I kneel, for thou redeemed hast
My life from too thin breathing: gone and past
Are cloudy phantasms. Caverns lone, farewell!
And air of visions, and the monstrous swell
Of visionary seas' No, never more
Shall airy voices cheat me to the shore
Of tangled wonder, breathless and aghast.
Adieu, my daintiest Dream although so vast
My love is still for thee. The hour may come
When we shall meet in pure elysium.
On earth I may not love thee; and therefore
Doves will I offer up, and sweetest store
All through the teeming year: so thou wilt shine,
On me, and on this damsel fair of mine,
And bless our simple lives. My Indian bliss!
My river-lily bud! one human kiss!
One sigh of real breath—one gentle squeeze,
Warm as a dove's nest among summer trees,
And warm with dews that ooze from living blood!
Whither didst melt Ah, what of that –all good
We'll talk about—no more of dreaming.—Now,
Where shall our dwelling be? Under the brow
Of some steep mossy hill, where ivy dun
Would hide us up, although spring leaves were none;
And where dark yew-trees, as we rustle through,
Will drop their scarlet-berry cups of dew
O thou wouldst joy to live in such a place!
Dusk for our loves, yet light enough to grace
Those gentle limbs on mossy bed reclined:
For by one step the blue sky shouldst thou find,
And by another, in deep dell below,
See, through the trees, a little river go
All in its mid-day gold and glimmering.
Honey from out the gnarled hive I'll bring,
And apples, wan with sweetness, gather thee,_
Cresses that grow where no man may them see,
And sorrel untorn by the dew-claw'd stag:
Pipes will I fashion of the syrinx flag,
That thou mayst always know whither I roam,
When it shall please thee in our quiet home
To listen and think of love. Still let me speak;
Still let me dive into the joy I seek-
For yet the past doth prison me. The rill,
Thou haply mayst delight in, will I fill
With fairy fishes from the mountain tarn,
And thou shalt feed them from the squirrel's barn.
Its bottom will I strew with amber shells,
And pebbles blue from deep enchanted wells.
Its sides I'll plant with dew-sweet eglantine,
And honeysuckles full of clear bee-wine.
I will entice this crystal rill to trace
Love's silver name upon the meadow's face.
I'll kneel to Vesta, for a flame of fire;
And to god Phoebus, for a golden lyre;
To Empress Dian, for a hunting-spear;
To Vesper, for a taper silver-clear,
That I may see thy beauty through the night;
To Flora, and a nightingale shall light
Tame on thy finger; to the River-gods,
And they shall bring thee taper fishing-rods
Of gold, and lines of Naiad's long bright tress.
Heaven shield thee for thine utter loveliness!
Thy mossy footstool shall the altar be
"Fore which I'll bend, bending, dear love, to thee:
Those lips shall be my Delphos, and shall speak
Laws to my footsteps, color to my cheek,
Trembling or stedfastness to this same voice,
And of three sweetest pleasurings the choice:
And that affectionate light, those diamond things,
Those eyes, those passions, those supreme pearl
Shall be my grief, or twinkle me to pleasure.
Say, is not bliss within our perfect seizure?
O that I could not doubt?”
The mountaineer Thus strove by fancies vain and crude to clear His brier'd path to some tranquillity. It gave bright gladness to his lady's eye, And yet the tears she wept were tears of sorrow; Answering thus, just as the golden morrow Beam'd upward from the valleys of the east: “O that the flutter of this heart had ceased, Or the sweet name of love had pass'd away! Young feather'd tyrant! by a swift decay Wilt thou devote this body to the earth: And I do think that at my very birth I lisp'd thy blooming titles inwardly; For at the first, first dawn and thought of thee, With uplift hands I blest the stars of heaven. Art thou not cruel! Ever have I striven To think thee kind, but ah, it will not do! When yet a child, I heard that kisses drew Favor from thee, and so I kisses gave To the void air, bidding them find out love: But when I came to feel how far above All fancy, pride, and fickle maidenhood. All earthly pleasure, all imagined good, Was the warm tremble of a devout kiss, Even then, that moment, at the thought of this, Fainting I fell into a bed of flowers, And languish'd there three days. Ye milder powers Am I not cruelly wrong'd : Believe, believe Me, dear Endymion, were I to weave With my own fancies garlands of sweet life, Thou shouldst be one of all. Ah, bitter strife! I may not be thy love: I am forbidden— Indeed I am—thwarted, affrighted, chidden By things I trembled at, and gorgon wrath. Twice hast thou ask'd whither I went: henceforth Ask me no more! I may not utter it, Nor may I be thy love. We might commit Ourselves at once to vengeance; we might die, We might embrace and die; voluptuous thought Enlarge not to my hunger, or I'm caught In trammels of perverse deliciousness. No, no, that shall not be: thee will I bless, And bid a long adieu.”
No word return'd both lovelorn, silent, wan,
Into the valleys green together went.
Far wandering they were perforce content
To sit beneath a fair, lone beechen tree;
Nor at each other gazed, but heavily
Pored on its hazel cirque of shedded leaves.
Endymion! unhappy! it nigh grieves Me to behold thee thus in last extreme: Enskied ere this, but truly that I deem Truth the best music in a first-born song. Thy lute-voiced brother will I sing ere long, And thou shalt aid—hast thou not aided me? Yes, moonlight Emperor! felicity Has been thy meed for many thousand years; Yet often have I, on the brink of tears, Mourn’d as if yet thou wert a forester;Forgetting the old tale.
He did not stir His eyes from the dead leaves, or one small pulse Of joy he might have felt. The spirit culls Unfaded amaranth, when wild it strays Through the old garden-ground of boyish days. A little onward ran the very stream By which he took his first soft poppy dream; And on the very bark gainst which he leant A crescent he had carved, and round it spent His skill in little stars. The teeming tree Had swoll'n and green'd the pious charactery, But not ta'en out. Why, there was not a slope Up which he had not fear'd the antelope; And not a tree, beneath whose rooty shade He had not with his tamed leopards play'd; Nor could an arrow light, or javelin, Fly in the air where his had never been— And yet he knew it not.
O treachery! Why does his lady smile, pleasing her eye With all his sorrowing He sees her not. But who so stares on him f His sister, sure : Peona of the woods! Can she endure— Impossible—how dearly they embrace! His lady smiles; delight is in her face; It is no treachery.
“Dear brother mine ! Endymion, weep not so! Why shouldst thou pine When all great Latmos so exalt will be Thank the great gods, and look not bitterly; And speak not one pale word, and sigh no more. Sure I will not believe thou hast such store Of grief, to last thee to my kiss again. Thou surely canst not bear a mind in pain, Come hand in hand with one so beautiful. Be happy both of you! for I will pull The flowers of autumn for your coronals. Pan's holy priest for young Endymion calls; And when he is restored, thou, fairest dame, Shalt be our queen. Now, is it not a shame To see ye thus-not very, very sad Î Perhaps ye are too happy to be glad: O feel as if it were a common day; Free-voiced as one who never was away.
No tongue shall ask, whence come ye? but ye shali
Be gods of your own rest imperial.
Not even I, for one whole month, will pry
Into the hours that have pass'd us by,
Since in my arbor I did sing to thee.
O Hermes! on this very night will be
A hymning up to Cynthia, queen of light;
For the soothsayers old saw yesternight
Good visions in the air-whence will befall,
As say these sages, health perpetual
To shepherds and their flocks; and furthermore,
In Dian's face they read the gentle lore:
Therefore for her these vesper-carols are.
Our friends will all be there from nigh and far.
Many upon thy death have ditties made;
And many, even now, their foreheads shade
With cypress, on a day of sacrifice.
New singing for our maids shalt thou devise,
And pluck the sorrow from our huntsmen's brows.
Tell me, my lady-queen, how to espouse
This wayward brother to his rightful joys!
His eyes are on thee bent, as thou didst poise
His fate most goddess-like. Help me, I pray,
To lure—Endymion, dear brother, say
What ails thee!” He could bear no more, and so
Bent his soul fiercely like a spiritual bow,
And twang'd it inwardly, and calmly said:
“I would have thee my only friend, sweet maid:
My only visitor' not ignorant though,
That those deceptions which for pleasure go
'Mong men, are pleasures real as real may be:
But there are higher ones I may not see,
If impiously an earthly realm I take.
Since I saw thee, I have been wide awake
Night after night, and day by day, until
Of the empyrean I have drunk my fill.
Let it content thee, Sister, seeing me
More happy than betides mortality.
A hermit young, I'll live in mossy cave,
Where thou alone shalt come to me, and lave
Thy spirit in the wonders I shall tell.
Through me the shepherd realm shall prosper well,
For to thy tongue will I all health confide.
And, for my sake, let this young maid abide
With thee as a dear sister. Thou alone,
Peona, mayst return to me. I own
This may sound strangely: but when, dearest girl,
Thou seest it for my happiness, no pearl
Will trespass down those cheeks. Companion fair:
Wilt be content to dwell with her. to share
This sister's love with me?" Like one resign'd
And bent by circumstances, and thereby blind
In self-commitment, thus that meek unknown:
“Ay, but a buzzing by my ears has flown,
Of jubilee to Dian:-truth I heard'
Well then, I see there is no little bird,
Tender soever, but is Jove's own care.
Long have I sought for rest, and, unaware,
Behold I find it! so exalted too!
So after my own heart! I knew, I knew
There was a place untenanted in it;
In that same void white Chastity shall sit,
And monitor me nightly to lone slumber.
With sanest lips I vow me to the number
Of Dian's sisterhood; and, kind lady,
With thy good help, this very night shall see
My future days to her fane consecrate."
As feels a dreamer what doth most create His own particular fright, so these three felt: Or like one, who, in after ages, knelt To Lucifer or Baal, when he'd pine After a little sleep: or when in mine Far under-ground, a sleeper meets his friends Who know him not. Each diligently bends
Tow'rds common thoughts and things for very fear;
Striving their ghastly malady to cheer,
By thinking it a thing of yes and no,
That housewives talk of But the spirit-blow
Was struck, and all were dreamers. . At the last
Endymion said: “Are not our fates all cast?
Why stand we here ! Adieu, ye tender pair'
Adieu !” Whereat those maidens, with wild stare,
Walk'd dizzily away. Pained and hot
His eyes went after them, until they got
Near to a cypress grove, whose deadly maw,
In one swift moment, would what then he saw
Ingulf for ever. “Stay!” he cried, “ah, stay!
Turn, damsels' hist! one word I have to say:
Sweet Indian, I would see thee once again.
It is a thing I dote on: so I'd sain,
Peona, ye should hand in hand repair,
Into those holy groves that silent are
Behind great Dian's temple. I’ll be yon,
At vesper's earliest twinkle—they are gone—
But once, once, once again—” At this he press'd
His hands against his face, and then did rest
His head upon a mossy hillock green,
And so remain'd as he a corpse had been
All the long day; save when he scantly lifted
His eyes abroad, to see how shadows shifted
With the slow move of time, sluggish and weary
Until the poplar tops, in journey dreary,
Had reach'd the river's brim. Then up he rose,
And, slowly as that very river flows,
Walk'd tow'rds the temple-grove with this lament:
“Why such a golden eve? The breeze is sent
Careful and soft, that not a leaf may fall
Before the serene father of them all
Bows down his summer head below the west.
Now am I of breath, speech, and speed possest,
But at the setting I must bid adieu
To her for the last time. Night will strew
On the damp grass myriads of lingering leaves,
And with them shall I die; nor much it grieves
To die, when summer dies on the cold sward.
Why, I have been a butterfly, a lord
Of flowers, garlands, love-knots, silly posies,
Groves, meadows, melodies, and arbor-roses;
My kingdom's at its death, and just it is
That I should die with it: so in all this
We miscall grief, bale, sorrow, heart-break, woe,
What is there to plain of By Titan's foe
I am but rightly served.” So saying, he
Tripp'd lightly on, in sort of deathful glee :
Laughing at the clear stream and setting sun,
As though they jests had been: nor had he done
His laugh at Nature's holy countenance,
Until that grove appear'd, as if perchance,
And then his tongue with sober seemlihed
Gave utterance as he enter'd : “Ha!” I said,
“King of the butterflies; but by this gloom,
And by old Rhadamanthus' tongue of doom,
This dusk religion, pomp of solitude,
And the Promethean clay by thief endued,
By old Saturnus' forelock, by his head
Shook with eternal palsy, I did wed
Myself to things of light from infancy;
And thus to be cast out, thus lorn to die,
Is sure enough to make a mortal man
Grow impious.” So he inwardly began
On things for which no wording can be found;
Deeper and deeper sinking, until drown'd
Beyond the reach of music: for the choir
Of Cynthia he heard not, though rough brier
Nor muffling thicket interposed to dull
The vesper hymn, far swollen, soft and full,
Through the dark pillars of those sylvan aisles.
He saw not the two maidens, nor their smiles,
Wan as primroses gather'd at midnight
By chilly-finger'd spring. “Unhappy wight!
Endymion!” said Peona, “we are here!
What wouldst thou ere we all are laid on bier?”
Then he embraced her, and his lady's hand
Press'd, saying: “Sister, I would have command,
If it were heaven's will, on our sad fate.”
At which that dark-eyed stranger stood elate,
And said, in a new voice, but sweet as love,
To Endymion's amaze: “By Cupid's dove,
And so thou shalt! and by the lily truth
Of my own breast thou shalt, beloved youth!”
And as she spake, into her face there cam
Light, as reflected from a silver flame:
Her long black hair swell'd ampler, in display
Full golden; in her eyes a brighter day
Dawn'd blue and full of love. Ay, he beheld
Phoebe, his passion! joyous she upheld
Her lucid bow, continuing thus: “Drear, drear
Has our delaying been; but foolish fear
Withheld me first; and then decrees of sate;
And then 'twas fit that from this mortal state
Thou shouldst, my love, by some unlook'd-for change
Be spiritualized. Peona, we shall range
These forests, and to thee they safe shall be
As was thy cradle; hither shalt thou flee
To meet us many a time.” Next Cynthia bright
Peona kiss'd, and bless'd with fair good-night:
Her brother kiss'd her too, and knelt adown
Before his goddess, in a blissful swoon.
She gave her fair hands to him, and behold,
Before three swiftest kisses he had told,
They vanish'd far away!—Peona went
Home through the gloomy wood in wonderment.
Upon a time, before the faery broods
Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,
Before King Oberon's bright diadem,
Sceptre, and mantle, clasp'd with dewy gem,
Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns
From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip'd lawns,
The ever-smitten Hermes empty left
His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft:
From high Olympus had he stolen light,
On this side of Jove's clouds, to escape the sight
Of his great summoner, and made retreat
Into a forest on the shores of Crete.
For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt
A nymph, to whom all hoofed Satyrs knelt;
At whose white feet the languid Tritons pour'd
Pearls, while on land they wither'd and adored.
Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont,
And in those meads where sometimes she might haunt,
Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse,
Though Fancy's casket were unlock'd to choose.
Ah, what a world of love was at her feet!
So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat
Burnt from his winged heels to either ear,
That from a whiteness, as the lily clear,
Blush'd into roses 'mid his golden hair,
Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare.
From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew,
Breathing upon the flowers his passion new,
And wound with many a river to its head,
To find where this sweet nymph prepared her secret
In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be sound,
And so he rested, on the lonely ground,
Pensive, and full of painful jealousies
Of the Wood-Gods, and even the very trees.
There as he stood, he heard a mournful voice,
Such as once heard, in gentle heart, destroys
All pain but pity : thus the lone voice spake:
“When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake 7
When move in a sweet body fit for life,
And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife
Of hearts and lips ? Ah, miserable me!”
The God, dove-footed, glided silently
Round bush and tree, soft-brushing, in his speed,
The taller grasses and full-flowering weed,
Until he found a palpitating snake,
Bright, and cirque-couchant in a dusky brake.
She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue, Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue; Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard, Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson-barr'd ; And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed, Dissolved, or brighter shone, or interwreathed Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries— So rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries, She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf, Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete
And for her eyes—what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love's sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop'd falcon ere he takes his prey:
“Fair Hermes' crown'd with feathers, fluttering light, I had a splendid dream of thee last night: I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold, Among the Gods, upon Olympus old, The only sad one; for thou didst not hear The soft, lute-finger'd Muses chanting clear, Nor even Apollo when he sang alone, Deaf to his throbbing throat's long, long melodious moan. I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes, Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks. And, swiftly as a bright Phoebean dart, Strike sor the Cretan isle; and here thou art' Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid " Whereat the star of Lethe not delay'd His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired : “Thou smooth-lipp'd serpent, surely high inspired! Thou beauteous wreath with melancholy eyes, Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise, Telling me only where my nymph is fled.— Where she doth breathe" “Bright planet, thou hast said,” Return'd the snake, “but seal with oaths, fair God!” “I swear,” said Hermes, “by my serpent rod, And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown!” Light flew his earnest words, among the blossoms blown. Then thus again the brilliance seminine: “Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thine, Free as the air, invisibly, she strays About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days She tastes unseen ; unseen her nimble feet Leave traces in the grass and flowers sweet: From weary tendrils, and bow'd branches green, She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen: And by my power is her beauty veil'd To keep it unaffronted, unassail'd By the love-glances of unlovely eyes, Of Satyrs, Fauns, and blear'd Silenus' sighs. Pale grew her immortality, for woe Of all these lovers, and she grieved so I took compassion on her, bade her steep Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep Her loveliness invisible, yet free To wander as she loves, in liberty. Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone, If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon!" Then, once again, the charmed God began An oath, and through the serpent's ears it ran
Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.
Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turn'd
To the swoon'd serpent, and with languid arm,
Delicate, put to proof the lithe Caducean charm.
So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent
Full of adoring tears and blandishment,
And towards her stept: she, like a moon in wane,
Faded before him, cower'd, nor could restrain
Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower
That faints into itself at evening hour:
But the God fostering her chilled hand,
She felt the warmth, her eyelids open'd bland
And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,
Bloom'd, and gave up her honey to the lees.
Into the green-recessed woods they flew;
Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.
Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin blood in madness ran,
Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, there with besprent,
Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent;
Her eyes in torture fix'd, and anguish drear,
Hot, glazed, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear,
Flash'd phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cool
ing tear. The colors all inflamed throughout her train, She writhed about, convulsed with scarlet pain: A deep volcanian yellow took the place Of all her milder-mooned body's grace; And, as the lava ravishes the mead, Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede: Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars, Eclipsed her crescents, and lick'd up her stars: So that, in moments few, she was undrest Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst. And rubious-argent; of all these bereft, Nothing but pain and ugliness were left. Still shone her crown; that vanish'd, also she Melted and disappear'd as suddenly ; And in the air, her new voice luting soft, Cried, “Lycius! gentle Lycius!”—Borne aloft With the bright mists about the mountains hoar, These words dissolved: Crete's forests heard no more.
Whither fled Lamia, now a lady bright, A full-born beauty new and exquisite? She fled into that valley they pass o'er Who go to Corinth from Chenchreas' shore; And rested at the foot of those wild hills, The rugged sounts of the Pertean rills,
And of that other ridge whose barren back
Stretches, with all its mist and cloudy rack,
South-westward to Cleone. There she stood
About a young bird's flutter from a wood,
Fair, on a sloping green of mossy tread,
By a clear pool, wherein she passioned
To see herself escaped from so sore ills,
While her robes flaunted with the daffodils.
Ah, happy Lycius!—for she was a maid More beautiful than ever twisted braid, Or sigh'd, or blush'd, or on spring-flower'd lea Spread a green kirtle to the minstrelsy : A virgin purest lipp'd, yet in the lore Of love deep learn'd to the red heart's core: Not one hour old, yet of sciential brain To unperplex bliss from its neighbor pain; Define their pettish limits, and estrange Their points of contact, and swift counterchange; Intrigue with the specious chaos, and dispart Its most ambiguous atoms with sure art; As though in Cupid's college she had spent Sweet days a lovely graduate, still unshent, And kept his rosy terms in idle languishment.
Why this fair creature chose so fairily By the wayside to linger, we shall see; But first 'tis fit to tell how she could muse And dream, when in the serpent prison-house, Of all she list, strange or magnificent, How, ever, where she will'd, her spirit went; Whether to faint Elysium, or where Down through tress-lifting waves the Nereids fair Wind into Thetis' bower by many a pearly stair; Or where God Bacchus drains his cups divine, Stretch'd out, at ease, beneath a glutinous pine; Or where in Pluto's gardens palatine Mulciber's columns gleam in far piazzian line. And sometimes into cities she would send Her dream, with feast and rioting to blend; And once, while among mortals dreaming thus, She saw the young Corinthian Lycius Charioting foremost in the envious race, Like a young Jove with calm uneager face, And fell into a swooning love of him. Now on the moth-time of that evening dim He would return that way, as well she knew, To Corinth from the shore; for freshly blew The eastern soft wind, and his galley now Grated the quay-stones with her brazen prow In port Cenchreas, from Egina isle Fresh anchor'd ; whither he had been awhile To sacrifice to Jove, whose temple there Waits with high marble doors for blood and incense rare. Jove heard his vows, and better'd his desire; For by some freakful chance he made retire From his companions, and set forth to walk, Perhaps grown wearied of their Corinth talk: Over the solitary hills he fared, Thoughtless at first, but ere eve's star appear'd His phantasy was lost, where reason fades, In the calm'd twilight of Platonic shades. Lamia beheld him coming, near, more nearClose to her passing, in indifference drear, His silent sandals swept the mossy green; So neighbor'd to him, and yet so unseen