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Around,around, in ceaseless circles wheeling With clang of wings and scream, the Eagle sailed Incessantly—sometimes on high concealing Its lessening orbs, sometimes as if it failed, Drooped through the air; and still it shrieked and And casting back its eager head, with beak [wailed, And talon unremittingly assailed The wreathed Serpent, who did ever seek Upon his enemy's heart a mortal wound to wreak.
What life, what power, was kindled and arose
Then on the white edge of the bursting surge, Where they had sunk together, would the Snake Relax his suffocating grasp, and scourge The wind with his wild writhings; for to break That chain of torment, the vast bird would shake The strength of his unconquerable wings As in despair, and with his sinewy neck Dissolve in sudden shock those linked rings, Then soar—as swift as smoke from a volcano springs.
xnr. Wile baffled wile, and strength encountered Thus long, but nnpre vailing:—the event [strength, Of that portentous fight appeared at length: Until the lamp of day was almost spent It had endured, when lifeless, stark, and rent, Hung high that mighty Serpent, and at last Fell to the sea, while o'er the continent, Wkh clang of wings and scream the Eagle past, Heavily borne away on the exhausted blast.
And with it fled the tempest, so that ocean And earth and sky shone through the atmosphere— Only, it was strange to see the red commotion Of waves like mountains o'er the sinking sphere Of sunset sweep, and their fierce roar to hear Amid the calm: down the steep path I wound To the sea-shore—the evening was most clear And beautiful, and there the sea I found Calm as a cradled child in dreamless slumber bound.
There was a Woman, beautiful as morning, Sitting beneath the rocks upon the sand Of the waste sea—fair as one flower adorning An icy wilderness—each delicate hand Lay crossed upon her bosom, and the band Of her dark hair had fallen, and so she sate Looking upon the waves; on the bare strand Upon the sea-mark a small boat did wait, Fair as herself, like Love by Hope left desolate.
It seemed that this fair Shape had looked upon That unimaginable fight, and now That her sweet eyes were weary of the sun, As brightly it illustrated her woe; For in the tears which silently to flow Paused not, its lustre hung: she watching aye The foam-wreaths which the faint tide wove below Upon the spangled sands, groaned heavily, And after every groan looked up over the sea.
And when she saw the wounded Serpent make His path between the waves, her lips grew pale, Parted, and quivered; the tears ceased to break From her immovable eyes; no voice of wail Escaped her; but she rose, and on the gale Loosening her star-bright robe and shadowy hair, Poured forth her voice; the caverns of the vale That opened to the ocean, caught it there, And filled with silver sounds the overflowing air.
She spake in language whose strange melody Might not belong to earth. I heard, alone, What made its music more melodious be, The pity and the love of every tone; But to the Snake those accents sweet were known, His native tongue and hers: nor did he beat The hoar spray idly then, but winding on Through the green shadows of the waves that meet Near to the shore, did pause beside her snowy feet.
Then on the sands the Woman sate again, And wept and clasped her hands, and all between, Renewed the unintelligible strain Of her melodious voice and eloquent mien; And she unveiled her bosom, and the green And glancing shadows of the sea did play O'er its marmoreal depth:—one moment seen, For ere the next, the Serpent did obey Her voice, and, coiled in rest, in her embrace it lay.
Then she arose, and smiled on me with eyes Serene yet sorrowing, like that planet fair, While yet the day-light lingereth in the skies Which cleaves with arrowy beams thedark-redair, And said: To grieve is wise, but the despair Was weak and vain which led thee here from sleep: This shalt thou know, and more, if thou dost dare With me and with this Serpent, o'er the deep, A voyage divine and strange, companionship to keep.
Her voice was like the wildest, saddest tone, Yet sweet, of some loved voice heard long ago. I wept. Shall this fair woman all alone Over the sea with that fierce Serpent go! His head is on her heart, and who can know How soon he may devour his feeble prey ?— Such were my thoughts, when the tide 'gan to flow; And that strange boat, like the moon's shade did Amid reflected stars that in the waters lay. [sway
A boat of rare device, which had no sail But its own curved prow of thin moonstone, Wrought like a web of texture fine and frail, To catch those gentlest winds which are not known To breathe, but by the steady speed alone With which it cleaves the sparkling sea; and now We are embarked, the mountains hang and frown Over the starry deep that gleams below A vast and dim expanse, as o'er the waves we go.
And as we sailed, a strange and awful talc That Woman told, like such mysterious dream As makes the slumberer's cheek with wonder pale! 'Twos midnight, and around, a shoreless stream, Wide ocean rolled, when that majestic theme Shrined in her heart found utterance, and she bent Her looks on mine ; those eyes a kindling beam Of love divine into my spirit sent, And, ere her lips could move, made the air eloquent.
Speak not to me, but hear! much shalt thou learn, Much must remain unthought, and more untold, In the dark Future's ever-flowing urn: Know then, that from the depth of ages old Two Powers o'er mortal things dominion hold, Ruling the world with a divided lot, Immortal, all-pervading, manifold, Twin Genii, equal Gods—when life and thought Sprang forth, they burst the womb of inessential Nought.
The earliest dweller of the world alone Stood on the verge of chaos: ho! afar O'er the wide wild abyss two meteors shone, Sprung from the depth of its tempestuous jar: A blood-red Comet and the Morning Star Mingling their beams in combat—as he stood All thoughts within his mind waged mutual war, In dreadful sympathy—when to the flood That fair star fell, he turned and shed his brother's blood.
Thus evil triumphed, and the Spirit of evil, One Power of many shapes which none may know, One Shape of many names; the Fiend did revel In victory, reigning o'er a world of woe, For the new race of man went to and fro, Famished and homeless, loathed and loathing, wild, And hating good—for his immortal foe, He changed fromstarry shape, beauteous and mild, To a dire Snake, with man and beast unreconciled.
The darkness lingering o'er the dawn of things, Was Evil's breath and life: this made him stron; To soar aloft with overshadowing wings; And the great Spirit of Good did creep among The nations of mankind, and every tongue Cursed, and blasphemed him as he past; for none K nc w good from evil, though their names were hung In mockery o'er the fane where many a groan, As King, and Lord, and God, the conquering Fiend did own.
The fiend, whose name was Legion; Death, Decay, Earthquake and Blight, and Want, and Madness Winged and wan diseases, an array [pale.
Numerous as leaves that strew the autumnal gale; Poison, a snake in flowers, beneath the veil Of food and mirth, hiding his mortal head; And, without whom all these might nought avail, Fear, Hatred, Faith, and Tyranny, who spread Those subtle nets which snare the living and the dead.
His spirit is their power, and they his slaves In air, and light, and thought, and language dwell; And keep their state from palaces to graves, In all resorts of men—invisible, But when, in ebon mirror, Nightmare fell, To tyrant or impostor bids them rise, Black winged demon forms—whom, from the heD, His reign and dwelling beneath nether skies, He loosens to their dark and blasting ministries.
In the world's youth his empire was as firm
Then Greece arose, and to its bards and sages,
Like Paradise spread forth beyond the shadowy
The Snake and Eagle meet—the world's foundations tremble!
Thou hast beheld that fight—when to thy home Thou dost return, steep not its hearth in tears; Though thou may'at hear that earth is now become The tyrant's garbage, which to his compeers, The vile reward of their dishonoured years,
He will dividing give The victor Fiend
Omnipotent of yore, now quails, and fears His triumph dearly won, which soon will lend An impulse swift and sure to his approaching end.
List, stranger, list! mine is a human form,[now! Like that thou wearest—touch me—shrink not My hand thou feel'st is not a ghost's, but warm With human blood.—Twas many years ago, Since first my thirsting soul aspired to know The secrets of this wondrous world, when deep My heart was pierced with sympathy, for woe W hich could not be mine own—and thought did keep In dream, unnatural watch beside an infant's sleep.
Woe could not be mine own, since far from men I dwelt, a free and happy orphan child, By the sea-shore, in a deep mountain glen; And near the waves, and through the forests wild, I roamed, to storm and darkness reconciled, For I was calm while tempest shook the sky: But, when the breathless heavens in beauty smiled, I wept sweet tears, yet too tumultuously For peace, and clasped my hands aloft in ecstacy.
These were forebodings of my fate.—Before A woman's heart beat in my virgin breast, It had been nurtured in divinest lore: A dying poet gave me books, and blest With wild but holy talk the sweet unrest In which I watched him as he died away— A youth with hoary hair—a fleeting guest Of our lone mountains—and this lore did sway My spirit like a storm, contending there alway.
Thus the dark tale which history doth unfold, I knew, but not, methinks, as others know, For they weep not; and Wisdom had unrolled The clouds which hide the gulf of mortal woe: To few can she that warning vision show, For I loved all things with intense devotion; So that when Hope's deep source in fullest flow, Like earthquake did uplift the stagnant ocean Of human thoughts—mine shook beneath the wide emotion.
When first the living blood through all these veins Kindled a thought in sense, great France sprang
forth And seized, as if to break, the ponderous chains Which bind in woe the nations of the earth. I saw, and started from my cottage hearth; And to the clouds and waves in tameless gladness Shrieked, till they caught immeasurable mirth— And laughed in light and music: soon, sweet
Was poured upon my heart, a soft and thriling
Deep slumber fell on me;—my dreams were fire, Soft and delightful thoughts did rest and hover Like shadows o'er my brain ; and strange desire, The tempest of a passion, raging over My tranquil soul, its depths with light did cover, Which past; and calm, and darkness, sweeter far Came—then I loved ; but not a human lover! For when I rose from sleep, the Morning Star Shone through the woodbine wreaths which round my casement were.
'Twas like an eye which seemed to smile on me. I watched till, by the sun made pale, it sank Under the billows of the heaving sea; But from its beams deep love my spirit drank, And to my brain the boundless world now shrank Into one thought—one image—yea, for ever! Even like the day's-spring, poured on vapours dank, The beams of that one star did shoot and quiver Through my benighted mind—and were extinguished never.
The day past thus: at night, methought in dream
Near mine, and on my lips impressed a lingering kiss,
xun. And said: A Spirit loves thee, mortal maiden, How wilt thou prove thy worth! Then joyandsleep Together fled ; my soul was deeply laden, And to the shore I went to muse and weep; But as I moved over my heart did creep A joy less soft, but more profound and strong Than my sweet dream; and it forbade to keep The path of the sea-shore: that Spirit's tongue
Seemed whispering in my heart, and bore my steps along.
How, to that vast and peopled city led, Which was a field of holy warfare then, I walked among the dying and the dead, And shared in fearless deeds with evil men, Calm as an angel in the dragon's den— How I braved death for liberty and truth, [when And spurned at peace, and power, and fame; and Those hopes had lost the glory of their youth, How sadly I returned—might move the hearer's ruth:
Warm tears throng fast! the tale may not be said— Know then, that when this grief had been subdued, I was not left, like others, cold and dead; The Spirit whom I loved in solitude Sustained his child : the tempest-shaken wood, The waves, the fountains, and the hush of night— These were his voice, and well I understood His smile divine when the calm sea was bright With silent stars, and Heaven was breathless with delight.
In lonely glens, amid the roar of rivers, When the dim nights were moonless, have I known Joys which no tongue can tell; my pale lip quivers When thought revisits them:—know thou alone, That after many wondrous years were flown, I was awakened by a shriek of woe; And over me a mystic robe was thrown, By viewless hands, and a bright star did glow Beforemy steps—the Snake then met his mortal foe.
Thou fear'st not then the Serpent on thy heart! Fear it! she said with brief and passionate cry, And spake no more: that silence made me start— I looked, and we were sailing pleasantly, Swift as a cloud between the sea and sky, Beneath the rising moon seen far away; Mountains of ice, like sapphire, piled on high Hemming the horizon round, in silence lay On the still waters,—these we did approach al way.
And swift and swifter grew the vessel's motion, So that a dizzy trance fell on my brain— Wild music woke me: we had past the ocean Which girds the pole, Nature's remotest reign— And we glode fast o'er a pellucid plain Of waters, azure with the noon-tide day. Ethereal mountains shone around—a Fane Stood in the midst, girt by green isles which lay On the blue sunny deep, resplendent far away.
It was a Temple, such as mortal hand Has never built, nor ecstacy, or dream, Reared in the cities of enchanted land: 'Twas likest Heaven, ere yet day's purple streak Ebbs o'er the western forest, while the gleam Of the unrisen moon among the clouds Is gathering—when with many a golden beam The thronging constellations rush in crowds, Faving with fire the sky and the marmoreal floods.
Like what may be conceived of this vast dome, When from the depths which thought can seldom Genius beholds it rise, his native home, [pierce Girt by the deserts of the Universe, Yet, nor in painting's light, or mightier verse, Or sculpture's marble language, can invest That shape to mortal sense—such glooms immerse That incommunicable sight, and rest Upon the labouring brain and over-burtbened breast.
u. Winding among the lawny islands fair, Whose bloomy forests starred the shadowy deep. The wingless boat paused where an ivory stair Its fretwork in the crystal sea did steep, Kncireling that vast Fane's aerial heap: We disembarked, and through a portal wide We passed—whose roof of moonstone carved, did A glimmering o'er the forms on every side, [keep Sculptures like life and thought; immoveable, deep-eyed.
We came to a vast hall, whose glorious roof [sheen Was diamond, which had drunk the lightning's In darkness, and now poured it through the woof Of spell-inwoven clouds hung there to screen Its blinding splendour—through such veil was seen That work of subtlest power, divine and rare; Orb above orb, with starry shapes between, And horned moons, and meteors strange and fair, On night-black columns poised—one hollow hemisphere I
un. Ten thousand columns in that quivering light Distinct—between whose shafts wound far away The long and labyrinthine aisles—more bright With their own radiance than the Heaven of Day; And on the jasper walls around, there lay Paintings, the poesy of mightiest thought, Which did the Spirit's history display; A tale of passionate change, divinely taught, Which, in their winged dance, unconscious Genii wrought.
Beneath, there sate on many a sapphire throne,
And ardent youths, and children bright and fair;
And some had lyres whose strings were intertwined
With pale and clinging flames, which ever there
Waked faint yet thrilling sounds that pierced the
One seat was vacant in the midst, a throne, Reared on a pyramid like sculptured flame, Distinct with circling steps which rested on Their own deep fire—soon as the woman came Into that hall, she shrieked the Spirit's name And fell; and vanished slowly from the sight. Darkness arose from her dissolving frame, Which gathering, filled that dome of woven light, Blotting its sphered stars with supernatural night.
Then first two glittering lights were seen to glide In circles on the amethystine floor, Small serpent eyes trailing from side to side, Like meteors on a river's grassy shore, They round each other rolled, dilating more And more—then rose, commingling into one, One clear and mighty planet hanging o'er A cloud of deepest shadow, which was thrown A ill wurttheglowingsteps and the crystalline throne.
The cloud which rested on that cone of flame Was cloven ; beneath the planet sate a Form, Fairer than tongue can speak or thought may
frame, The radiance of whoso limbs rose-like and warm Flowed forth, and did with softest light inform The shadowy dome, the sculptures, and the state Of those assembled shapes—with clinging charm Sinking upon their hearts and mine—lie sate Majestic yet mest mild—calm, yet compassionate.
Wonder and joy a passing faintness threw
A tale of human power—despair not—list and learn!
ux. I looked, and lo ! one stood forth eloquently, His eyes were dark and deep, and the clear brow Which shadowed them was like the morning sky, The cloudless Heaven of Spring, whenintheirflow Through the bright air, the soft winds as they blow Wake the green world—his gestures did obey The oracular mind that made his features glow, And where his curved lips half open lay,
Paaaon'sdivinest stream had made impetuous way.
Beneath the darkness of his outspread hair
i. The star-light smile of children, the sweet looks Of women, the fair breast from which I fed, The murmur of the unreposing brooks, And the green light which, shifting overhead, Some tangled bower of vines around me shed, The shells on the sea-sand, and the wild flowers, The lamp-light through therafterscheerly spread, And on the twining flax—in life's young hours
These sights and sounds did nurse my spirit's folded powers.
n. In Argolis beside the echoing sea, Such impulses within my mortal frame Arose, and they were dear to memory, Like tokens of the dead:—but others came Soon, in another shape: the wondrous fame Of the past world, the vital words and deeds Of minds whom neither time nor change can tame, Traditions dark and old, whence evil creeds
Start forth, and whose dim shade a stream of poison feeds.
m. I heard, as all have heard, the various story Of human life, and wept unwilling tears. Feeble historians of its shame and glory, False disputants on all its hopes and fears, Victims who worshipped ruin,—chroniclers Of daily scorn, and slaves who loathed their state; Yet nattering power had given its ministers A throne of judgment in the grave —'twas fate,
That among such as these my youth should seek its mate.
The land in which I lived, by a fell bane Was withered up. Tyrants dwelt side by side, And stabled in our homes,—until the chain Stifled the captive's cry, and to abide That blasting curse men had no shame—all vied In evil, slave and despot; fear with lust Strange fellowship through mutual hate had tied, Like two dark serpents tangled in the dust, Which on the paths of men their mingling poison thrust.
Earth,our bright home,its mountains and its waters, And the ethereal shapes which are suspended Over its green expanse, and those fair daughters, The clouds, of Sun and Ocean, who have blended The colours of the air since first extended It cradled the young world, none wandered forth To see or feel: a darkness had descended On every heart: the light which shows its worth, Must among gentle thoughts and fearless take its birth.
This vital world, this home of happy spirits, Was as a dungeon to my blasted kind, All that despair from murdered hope inherits They sought, and in their helpless misery blind, A deeper prison and heavier chains did find, And stronger tyrants:—a dark gulf before, The realm of a stern Ruler, yawned; behind, Terror and Time conflicting drove, and bore On their tempestuous flood the shrieking wretch from shore.
Out of that Ocean's wrecks had Guilt and Woe Framed a dark dwelling for their homeless
thought, And, starting at the ghosts which to and fro Glide o'er its dim and gloomy strand, had brought The worship thence which they each other taught. Well might men loathe their life, well might they
turn Even to the ills again from which they sought Such refuge after death !—well might they learn To gaze on this fair world with hopeless uncon
For they all pined in bondage; body and soul, Tyrant and slave, victim and torturer, bent Before one Power, to which supreme control Over their will by their own weakness lent, Made all its many names omnipotent; All symbols of things evil, all divine; And hymns of blood or mockery, which rent The air from all its fanes, did intertwine Imposture's impious toils round each discordant shrine.
I heard, as all have heard, life's various story, And in no careless heart transcribed the tale; But, from the sneers of men who had grown hoary In shame and scorn, from groans of crowds made By famine, from a mother's desolate wail [pale 0 er her polluted child, from innocent blood • Poured on the earth, and brows anxious and pale With the heart's warfare; did I gather food To feed my many thoughts:—a tameless multitude.