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POEMS WRITTEN IN MDCCCXVII.

PRINCE ATHANASE.

A FRAOMKNT.

There was a youth, who, as with toil and travel, Had grown quite weak and grey before his time; Nor any could the restless griefs unravel

Which burned within him, withering up his

prime And goading him, like fiends, from land to land. Not his the load of any secret crime,

For nought of ill his heart could understand,
But pity and wild sorrow for the same;
Not his the thirst for glory or command,

Baffled with blast of hope-consuming shame;
Nor evil joys which fire the vulgar breast,
And quench in speedy smoke its feeble flame,

Had left within his soul the dark unrest:
Nor what religion fables of the grave
Feared he,—Philosophy's accepted guest.

For none than he a purer heart could have,

Or that loved good more for itself alone;

Of nought in heaven or earth was he the slave.

What sorrow,strange, and shadowy,and unknown,
Sent him,ahopelesswanderer,through mankind!—
If with a human sadness he did groan,

He had a gentle yet aspiring mind;
Just, innocent, with varied learning fed;
And such a glorious consolation find

In others' joy, when all their own is dead:
He loved, and laboured for his kind in grief,
And yet, unlike all others, it is said

That from such toil he never found relief.
Although a child of fortune and of power,
Of an ancestral name the orphan chief,

His soul had wedded wisdom, and her dower
Ib love and justice, clothed in which he sate
Apart from men, as in a lonely tower,

Pitying the tumult of their dark estate.—

Yet even in youth did he not e'er abuse

The strength of wealth or thought, to consecrate

Those false opinions which the harsh rich use
To blind die world they famish for their pride;
Nor did he hold from any man his dues,

But, like a steward in honest dealings tried,
With those who toiled and wept, the poor and wise.
His riches and his cares he did divide.

Fearless he was, and scorning all disguise,
Whathe dareddoor think,though men might start,
He spoke with mild yet unaverted eyes;

Liberal he was of soul, and frank of heart,
And to his many friends—all loved him well—
Whate'er he knew or felt he would impart,

If words he found those inmost thoughts to tell;
If not, he smiled or wept; and his weak foes
He neither spurned nor hated—though with fell

And mortal hate their thousand voices rose,
They past like aimless arrows from his ear.—
Nor did his heart or mind its portal close

I To those, or them, or any, whom life's sphere

1 May comprehend within its wide array.

: What sadness made that vernal spirit sere?

; He knew not. Though his life day after day,
I Was failing, like an unreplenished stream,
Though in his eyes a cloud and burthen lay,

Through which his soul, like Vesper's serene beam
Piercing the chasms of ever rising clouds,
Shone, softly burning ; though his lips did i

Like reeds which quiver in impetuous floods;
And through his sleep, and o'er each waking hour,
Thoughts after thoughts, unresting multitudes,

Were driven within him by some secret power,
Which bade them blaze, and live, and roll afar,
Like lights and sounds, from haunted tower to tower.

O'er castled mountains borne, when tempest's war

Is levied by the night-contending winds,

And the pale dalesmen watch with eager ear;—

Though such were in his spirit, as the fiends
Which wake and feed on everliving woe,—
What was this grief, which ne'er in other minds

A mirror found,—he knew not—none could know;
But on whoe'er might question him he turned
The light of his frank eyes, as if to show

He knew not of the grief within that burned,
Bat asked forbearance with a mournful look;
Or spoke in words from which none ever learned

The cause of his disquietude ; or shook

With spasms of silent passion ; or turned pale:

So that his friends soon rarely undertook

To stir his secret pain without avail;—

For all who knew and loved him then perceived

That there was drawn an adamantine veil

Between his heart and mind,—both unrelieved Wrought in his brain and bosom separate strife. Some said that he was mad, others believed

That memories of an antenatal life

Made this, where now he dwelt, a penal hell:

And others said that such mysterious grief

From God's displeasure, like a darkness, fell
On souls like his, which owned no higher law
Than love; love calm, steadfast, invincible

By mortal fear or supernatural awe;
And others,—" 'Tis the shadow of a dream
Which the veiled eye of memory never saw,

"But through the soul's abyss,like some dark stream
Through shattered mines and caverns underground
Rolls, shaking its foundations; and no beam

"Of joy may rise, but it is quenched and drowned In the dim whirlpools of this dream obscure. Soon its exhausted waters will have found

"A lair of rest beneath thy spirit pure,
O Athanasc!—in one so good and great,
Evil or tumult cannot long endure."

So spake they : idly of another's state
Babbling vain words and fond philosophy:
This was their consolation ; such debate

Men held with one another; nor did he,
Like one who labours with a human woe,
Decline this talk; as if its theme might be

Another, not himself, he to and fro
Questioned and canvassed it with subtlest wit;
And none but those who loved him best could
know

That which he knew not, how it galled and bit
His weary mind, this converse vain and cold;
For like an eyeless night-mare grief did sit

Upon his being ; a snake which fold by fold
Pressed out the life of life, a clinging fiend
Which clenched him if he stirred with deadlier

bold;— And so his grief remained—let it remain—untold*.

* The Author was pursuing a fuller development of the ideal character of Athanase, when it struck him that in an attempt at extreme refinement and analysis, bis conceptions might be betrayed into the assuming a morbid '■haracter. Tbe reader will judge whether he is a loser or gainer by this difference—Author'/ Note.

FRAGMENTS* OF PRINCE ATHANASE.

PART II.

FRAGMENT I.

Prince Athanase had one beloved friend,

An old, old man, with hair of silver white, [blend

And lips where heavenly smiles would hang and

With his wise words; and eyes whose arrowy light
Shone like the reflex of a thousand minds.
He was the last whom superstition's blight

Had spared in Greece—the blight that cramps and
And in his olive bower at ffinoe [blinds,—

Had sate from earliest youth. Like one who finds

A fertile island in the barren sea,

One mariner who has survived his mates

Many a drear month in a great ship—so he

With soul-sustaining songs, and sweet debates

Of ancient lore, there fed his lonely being:

"The mind becomes that which it contemplates,"—

And thus Zonoras, by for ever seeing

Their bright creations, grew like wisest men;

And when he heard the crash of nations fleeing

i A bloodier power than ruled thy ruins then,

! 0 sacred Hellas! many weary years

1 He wandered, till the path of Laian's glen

Was grass-grown—and the unremembered tears
Were dry in Laian for their honoured chief,
Who fell in Byzant, pierced by Moslem spears:—

And as the lady looked with faithful grief
From her high lattice o'er the rugged path,
Where she once saw that horseman toil, with brief

And blighting hope, who with the news of death
Struck body and soul as with a mortal blight,
She saw beneath the chesnuts, far beneath,

An old man toiling up, a weary wight;

And soon within her hospitable hall

She saw his white hairs glittering in the light

* The idea Shelley had formed of Prince Athanasc was a good deal modelled on Alastor. In the first sketch of the Poem he named it Pandemos and Urania. Athanasc seeks through the world the One whom he may love. lie meets, in the ship in which he is embarked, a lady, who appears to him to embody his ideal of love and beauty. Dut she proves to be Pandemos, or the earthly and unworthy Venus, who, after disappointing his cherished dreams and hopes, deserts him. Athanase, crushed by sorrow, pines and dies. '* On his death-bed the lady, who can really reply to his soul, comes and kisses his lips."—The Death-bed of Athanase. The poet describes her—

Her hair was brown, her sphered eyes were brown,
And in their dark and liquid moisture swam,
Like the dim orb of the eclipsed moon;

Yet when the spirit flashed beneath, there came The light from them, as when tears of delight Double the western planet's serene frame. This slender note is all we have to aid our imagination in shaping out tho form of the poem, such as its author imaged —M. S.

Of the wood fire, and round his shoulders fall, And his wan visage and his withered mien, Yet calm and gentle and majestical.

And Athanase, her child, who must have been Then three years old, sate opposite and gazed In patient silence.

FRAGMENT II.

Such was Zonoras; and as daylight finds
One amaranth glittering on the path of frost.
When autumn nights have nipt all weaker kinds,

Thus through his age, dark, cold, and tempest-tost,
Shone truth upon Zonoras ; and he filled
From fountains pure, nigh overgrown and lost,

The spirit of Prince Athanase, a child,
With soul-sustaining songs of ancient lore
And philosophic wisdom, clear and mild.

i
And sweet and subtle talk now evermore,
The pupil and the master shared ; until,
Sharing that undiminishable store,

The youth, as shadows on a grassy hill
Outrun the winds that chase them, soon outran
His teacher, and did teach with native skill

Strange truths and new to that experienced man.
Still they were friends, as few have ever been
Who mark the extremes of life's discordant span.

So in the caverns of the forest green,
Or by the rocks of echoing ocean hoar,
Zonoras and Prince Athanase were seen

By summer woodmen; and when winter's roar
Sounded o'er earth and sea its blast of war,
The Balearic fisher, driven from shore,

Hanging upon the peaked wave afar,

Then saw their lamp from Lilian's turret gleam,

Piercing the stormy darkness, like a star

Which pours beyond the sea one steadfast beam,
Whilst all the constellations of the sky
Seemed reeling through the storm ; they did but
seem—

For, lo! the wintry clouds are all gone by,

And bright Arcturus through yon pines is glowing,

And far o'er southern waves, immoveably

Belted Orion hangs—warm light is flowing From the young moon into the sunset's chasm.— "0 summer eve! with power divine, bestowing

"On thine own bird the sweet enthusiasm Which overflows in notes of liquid gladness, Filling the sky like light! How many a spasm

"Of fevered brains, oppressed with grief and madWere lulled by thee, delightful nightingale! [ness. And these soft waves, murmuring a gentle sadness,

"And the far sighings of yon piny dale

Made vocal by some wind, we feel not here.—

I bear alone what nothing may avail

"To lighten—a strange load !"—No human ear
Heard this lament; but o'er the visage wan
Of Athanase, a ruffling atmosphere

Of dark emotion, a swift shadow ran,
Like wind upon some forest-bosomed lake,
Glassy and dark.—And that divine old man

Beheld his mystic friend's whole being shake,
Even where its inmost depths were gloomiest—
And with a calm and measured voice he spake,

And, with a soft and equal pressure, prest

That cold lean hand:—" Dost thou remember yet

When the curved moon then lingering in the west

"Paused, in yon waves her mighty horns to wet, Howin those beams we walked Jialfrestingon the sea? 'Tis just one year—sure thou dost not forget—

"Then Plato's words of light in thee and me Lingered like moonlight in the moonless east, For we had just then read—thy memory

"Is faithful now—the story of the feast;

And Agathon and Diotima seemed

From death and dark-forgetfulness released."

FRAGMENT m.

'twas at the season when the Earth upsprinjs i From slumber, as a sphered angel's child, Shadowing its eyes with green and golden wings,

Stands up before its mother bright and mild,
Of whose soft voice the air expectant seems—
So stood before the sun, which shone and smiled

To see it rise thus joyous from its dreams,
The fresh and radiant Earth. The hoary grove
Waxed green—and flowers burst forth lie starry
beams ;—

The grass in the warm sun did start and move.
And sea-buds burst beneath the waves serene :—
How many a one, though none be near to love,

Loves then the shade of his own soul, half seen
In any mirror—or the spring's young minions,
The winged leaves amid the copses green;—

How many a spirit then puts on the pinions
Of fancy, and outstrips the lagging blast,
And his own steps—and over wide dominions

Sweeps in his dream-drawn chariot, far and fast,
More fleet than storms—the wide world shrinks
When winter and despondency are past, [below,

'Twas at this season that Prince Athanase Pass'd the white Alps—those eagle-baffling mountains ; Slept in their Bhrouds of snow;—beside the ways

The waterfalls were voiceless—for their fountains
Were changed to mines of sunless crystal now,
Or by the curdling winds like brazen wings

Which clanged along the mountain's marble brow-
Warped into adamantine fretwork, hung
And filled with frozen light the chasm below.

FRAGMENT IV.

Thoc art the wine whose drunkenness is all
We can desire, 0 Love! and happy souls,
Ere from thy vine the leaves of autumn fall,

Catch thee, and feed from their o'erflowing bowls
Thousands who thirst for thy ambrosial dew;
Thou art the radiance which where ocean rolls

Investest it; and when the heavens are blue
Thou fillest them ; and when the earth is fair,
The shadow of thy moving wings imbue

Its deserts and its mountains, till they wear
Beauty like some bright robe ;—thou ever soarest
Among the towers of men, and as soft air

In spring, which moves the unawakened forest, Clothing with leaves its branches bare and bleak, Thou floatest among men ; and aye implorest

That which from thee they should implore :—the

weak Alone kneel to thee, offering up the hearts The strong have broken—yet where shall any seek

A garment whom thou clothest not 1
Muuv. 1817.

MARIANNE'S DREAM.

A Pale dream came to a Lady fair,
And said, A boon, a boon, I pray!

I know the secrets of the air;
And things are lost in the glare of day,

Which I can make the sleeping 6ee,

If they will put their trust in me.

And thou shalt know of things unknown,
If thou wilt let me rest between

The veiny lids, whose fringe is thrown
Over thine eyes so dark and sheen:

And half in hope, and half in fright,

The Lady closed her eyes so bright.

At first all deadly shapes were driven
Tumultuously across her sleep,

And o'er the vast cope of bending heaven
All ghastly-visaged clouds did sweep;

And the Lady ever looked to spy

If the gold sun shone forth on high.

And as towards the east she turned,

She saw aloft in the morning air, Which now with hues of sunrise burned,

A great black Anchor rising there;
And wherever the Lady turned her eyes
It hung before her in the skies.

The sky was blue as the summer sea,
The depths were cloudless over head.

The air was calm as it could be,

There was no sight nor sound of dread,

But that black Anchor floating still

Over the piny eastern hill.

The Lady grew sick with a weight of fear,

To see that Anchor ever hanging,
And veiled her eyes; she then did hear

The sound as of a dim low clanging,
And looked abroad if she might know
Was it aught else, or but the flow
Of the blood in her own veins, to and fro.

There was a mist in the sunless air,

Which shook as it were with an earthquake's But the very weeds that blossomed there [shock,

Were moveless, and each mighty rock
Stood on its basis stedfastly;
The Anchor was seen no more on high.

But piled around with summits hid

In lines of cloud at intervals,
Stood many a mountain pyramid

Among whose everlasting walls
Two mighty cities shone, and ever
Through the red mist their domes did quiver.

On two dread mountains, from whose crest,
Might seem, the eagle for her brood

Would ne'er have hung her dizzy nest
Those tower-encircled cities stood.

A vision strange such towers to see,

Sculptured and wrought so gorgeously,

Where human art could never be.

And columns framed of marble white,

And giant fanes, dome over dome
Piled, and triumphant gates, all bright

With workmanship, which could not come
From touch of mortal instrument,
Shot o'er the vales, or lustre lent
From its own shapes magnificent.

But still the Lady heard that clang

Filling the wide air far away;
And still the mist whose light did hang

Among the mountains shook alway,
So that the Lady's heart beat fast,
As half in joy and half aghast,
On those high domes her look she cast.

Sudden from out that city sprung

A light that made the earth grow red;

Two flames that each with quivering tongue
Licked its high domes, and over-head

Among those mighty towers and fanes

Dropped fire, as a volcano rains
I Its sulphurous ruin on the plains.

[graphic]

And hark! a rush, as if the deep

Had burst its bonds; she looked behind And saw over the western steep

A raging flood descend, and wind Through that wide vole: she felt no fear, But said within herself, "Tis clear These towers are Nature's own, and she To save them has sent forth the sea.

And now those raging billows came
Where that fair Lady sate, and she

Was borne towards the showering flame
By the wild waves heaped tumultously,

And, on a little plank, the flow

Of the whirlpool bore her to and fro.

The waves were fiercely vomited
From every tower and every dome,

And dreary light did widely shed

O'er that vast flood's suspended foam,

Beneath the smoke which hung its night

On the stained cope of heaven's light.

The plank whereon that Lady sate

Was driven through the chasms, about and about, Between the peaks so desolate

Of the drowning mountain, in and out, As the thistle-beard on a whirlwind sails— While the flood was filling those hollow vales.

At last her plank an eddy crost,

And bore her to the city's wall,
Which now the flood had reached almost;

It might the stoutest heart appal
To hear the fire roar and hiss
Through the domes of those mighty palaces.

The eddy whirled her round and round
Before a gorgeous gate, which stood

Piercing the clouds of smoke which bound
Its aery arch with light like blood;

She looked on that gate of marble clear

With wonder that extinguished fear:

For it was filled with sculptures rarest,
Of forms most beautiful aud strange,

Like nothing human, but the fairest
Of winged shapes, whose legious range

Throughout the sleep of those who are,

Like this same Lady, good and fair.

And as she looked, still lovelier grew
Those marble forms ;—the sculptor sure

Was a strong spirit, and the hue
Of his own mind did there endure

After the touch, whose power had braided

Such grace, was in some sad change faded.

She looked, the flames were dim, the flood
Grew tranquil as a woodland river

Winding through hills in solitude;
Those marble shapes then seemed to quiver,

And their fair limbs to float in motion,

Like weeds unfolding in the ocean.

And their lips moved ; one seemed to speak, When suddenly the mountain crackt,

And through the chasm the floor did break With an earth-uplifting cataract:

The statues gave a joyous scream,

And on its wings the pale thin dream

Lifted the Lady from the stream.

The dizzy flight of that phantom pale
Waked the fair Lady from her sleep,

And she arose, while from the veil
Of her dark eyes the dream did creep;

And she walked about as one who knew

That sleep has sights as clear and true

As any waking eyes can view.

TO CONSTANTIA

Tins to be lost and thus to sink and die,

Perchance were death indeed!—Constant!*, turn!

In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie, Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn

Between thy lips, are laid to sleep;

Within thy breath, and on thy hair, like odour it

And from thy touch like fire doth leap. [is vet,
Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet,
Alas, that the torn heart can bleed,but not forget!

A breathless awe, like the swift change
Unseen but felt in youthful slumbers,

Wild, sweet, but uncommunicably strange,
Thou breathest now in fast ascending numbers.

The cope of heaven seems rent and cloven
By the enchantment of thy strain,

And on my shoulders wings are woven,
To follow its sublime career,

Beyond the mighty moons that wane
Upon the verge of nature's utmost sphere,
Till the world's shadowy walls are past and
disappear.

Her voice is hovering o'er my soul—it lingers
O'ershadowing it with soft and lulling wings,

The blood and life within those snowy fingers
Teach witchcraft to the instrumental strings.

My brain is wild, my breath comes quick—
The blood is listening in my frame,

And thronging shadows, fast and thick,
Fall on my overflowing eyes;

My heart is quivering like a flame;
As morning dew, that in the sunbeam dies,
I am dissolved in these consuming ccstacies.

I have no life, Constantia, now, but thee,

Whilst, like the world-surrounding air, thy song

Flows on, and fills all things with melody.—
Now is thy voice a tempest swift and strong,

On which, like one in trance upborne,
Secure o'er rocks and waves I sweep,

Rejoicing like a cloud of morn.

Now 'tis the breath of summer night,

Which, when the starry waters sleep,
Round western isles,with inceiisc-blossomsbright,
Lingering, suspends my soul in its voluptuous
flight.

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