Endymion: Book II


    O Sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!
    All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,
    And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:
    For others, good or bad, hatred and tears
    Have become indolent; but touching thine,
    One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,
    One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.
    The woes of Troy, towers smothering o'er their blaze,
    Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,
    Struggling, and blood, and shrieks, all dimly fades
    Into some backward corner of the brain;
    Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain
    The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.
    Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!
    Swart planet in the universe of deeds!
    Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
    Along the pebbled shore of memory!
    Many old rotten-timber'd boats there be
    Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified
    To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
    And golden keel'd, is left unlaunch'd and dry.
    But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly
    About the great Athenian admiral's mast?
    What care, though striding Alexander past
    The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
    Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
    The glutted Cyclops, what care? Juliet leaning
    Amid her window-flowers, sighing, weaning
    Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
    Doth more avail than these: the silver flow
    Of Hero's tears, the swoon of Imogen,
    Fair Pastorella in the bandit's den,
    Are things to brood on with more ardency
    Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully
    Must such conviction come upon his head,
    Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,
    Without one muse's smile, or kind behest,
    The path of love and poesy. But rest,
    In chaffing restlessness, is yet more drear
    Than to be crush'd, in striving to uprear
    Love's standard on the battlements of song.
    So once more days and nights aid me along,
    Like legion'd soldiers.

     Brain-sick shepherd-prince,
    What promise hast thou faithful guarded since
    The day of sacrifice? Or, have new sorrows
    Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?
    Alas! 'tis his old grief. For many days,
    Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:
    Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;
    Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes
    Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,
    Hour after hour, to each lush-leav'd rill.
    Now he is sitting by a shady spring,
    And elbow-deep with feverous fingering
    Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree
    Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see
    A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now
    He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!
    It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;
    And, in the middle, there is softly pight
    A golden butterfly; upon whose wings
    There must be surely character'd strange things,
    For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.

    Lightly this little herald flew aloft,
    Follow'd by glad Endymion's clasped hands:
    Onward it flies. From languor's sullen bands
    His limbs are loos'd, and eager, on he hies
    Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.
    It seem'd he flew, the way so easy was;
    And like a new-born spirit did he pass
    Through the green evening quiet in the sun,
    O'er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
    Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
    The summer time away. One track unseams
    A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue
    Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,
    He sinks adown a solitary glen,
    Where there was never sound of mortal men,
    Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences
    Melting to silence, when upon the breeze
    Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,
    To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet
    Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,
    Until it reached a splashing fountain's side
    That, near a cavern's mouth, for ever pour'd
    Unto the temperate air: then high it soar'd,
    And, downward, suddenly began to dip,
    As if, athirst with so much toil, 'twould sip
    The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch
    Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch
    Even with mealy gold the waters clear.
    But, at that very touch, to disappear
    So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,
    Endymion sought around, and shook each bed
    Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung
    Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,
    What whisperer disturb'd his gloomy rest?
    It was a nymph uprisen to the breast
    In the fountain's pebbly margin, and she stood
    'Mong lilies, like the youngest of the brood.
    To him her dripping hand she softly kist,
    And anxiously began to plait and twist
    Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: "Youth!
    Too long, alas, hast thou starv'd on the ruth,
    The bitterness of love: too long indeed,
    Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I weed
    Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer
    All the bright riches of my crystal coffer
    To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,
    Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,
    Vermilion-tail'd, or finn'd with silvery gauze;
    Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws
    A virgin light to the deep; my grotto-sands
    Tawny and gold, ooz'd slowly from far lands
    By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,
    My charming rod, my potent river spells;
    Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup
    Meander gave me, for I bubbled up
    To fainting creatures in a desert wild.
    But woe is me, I am but as a child
    To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,
    Is, that I pity thee; that on this day
    I've been thy guide; that thou must wander far
    In other regions, past the scanty bar
    To mortal steps, before thou cans't be ta'en
    From every wasting sigh, from every pain,
    Into the gentle bosom of thy love.
    Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:
    But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!
    I have a ditty for my hollow cell."

    Hereat, she vanished from Endymion's gaze,
    Who brooded o'er the water in amaze:
    The dashing fount pour'd on, and where its pool
    Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,
    Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,
    And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill
    Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,
    Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr
    Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;
    And, while beneath the evening's sleepy frown
    Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,
    Thus breath'd he to himself: "Whoso encamps
    To take a fancied city of delight,
    O what a wretch is he! and when 'tis his,
    After long toil and travelling, to miss
    The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:
    Yet, for him there's refreshment even in toil;
    Another city doth he set about,
    Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt
    That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:
    Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,
    And onward to another city speeds.
    But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
    The disappointment, the anxiety,
    Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
    All human; bearing in themselves this good,
    That they are sill the air, the subtle food,
    To make us feel existence, and to shew
    How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,
    Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,
    There is no depth to strike in: I can see
    Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand
    Upon a misty, jutting head of land
    Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,
    When mad Eurydice is listening to 't;
    I'd rather stand upon this misty peak,
    With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,
    But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,
    Than be I care not what. O meekest dove
    Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!
    From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,
    Glance but one little beam of temper'd light
    Into my bosom, that the dreadful might
    And tyranny of love be somewhat scar'd!
    Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar'd,
    Would give a pang to jealous misery,
    Worse than the torment's self: but rather tie
    Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out
    My love's far dwelling. Though the playful rout
    Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,
    Too keen in beauty, for thy silver prow
    Not to have dipp'd in love's most gentle stream.
    O be propitious, nor severely deem
    My madness impious; for, by all the stars
    That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars
    That kept my spirit in are burst that I
    Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!
    How beautiful thou art! The world how deep!
    How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep
    Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,
    How lithe! When this thy chariot attains
    Is airy goal, haply some bower veils
    Those twilight eyes? Those eyes! my spirit fails
    Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air
    Will gulph me help!" At this with madden'd stare,
    And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;
    Like old Deucalion mountain'd o'er the flood,
    Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.
    And, but from the deep cavern there was borne
    A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;
    Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion'd moan
    Had more been heard. Thus swell'd it forth: "Descend,
    Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend
    Into the sparry hollows of the world!
    Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl'd
    As from thy threshold, day by day hast been
    A little lower than the chilly sheen
    Of icy pinnacles, and dipp'dst thine arms
    Into the deadening ether that still charms
    Their marble being: now, as deep profound
    As those are high, descend! He ne'er is crown'd
    With immortality, who fears to follow
    Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,
    The silent mysteries of earth, descend!"

    He heard but the last words, nor could contend
    One moment in reflection: for he fled
    Into the fearful deep, to hide his head
    From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.

    'Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;
    Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite
    To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,
    The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,
    But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;
    A dusky empire and its diadems;
    One faint eternal eventide of gems.
    Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,
    Along whose track the prince quick footsteps told,
    With all its lines abrupt and angular:
    Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,
    Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,
    Like Vulcan's rainbow, with some monstrous roof
    Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,
    It seems an angry lightning, and doth hiss
    Fancy into belief: anon it leads
    Through winding passages, where sameness breeds
    Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;
    Whether to silver grots, or giant range
    Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge
    Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge
    Now fareth he, that o'er the vast beneath
    Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth
    A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come
    But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb
    His bosom grew, when first he, far away,
    Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray
    Old darkness from his throne: 'twas like the sun
    Uprisen o'er chaos: and with such a stun
    Came the amazement, that, absorb'd in it,
    He saw not fiercer wonders past the wit
    Of any spirit to tell, but one of those
    Who, when this planet's sphering time doth close,
    Will be its high remembrancers: who they?
    The mighty ones who have made eternal day
    For Greece and England. While astonishment
    With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went
    Into a marble gallery, passing through
    A mimic temple, so complete and true
    In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear'd
    To search it inwards, whence far off appear'd,
    Through a long pillar'd vista, a fair shrine,
    And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,
    A quiver'd Dian. Stepping awfully,
    The youth approach'd; oft turning his veil'd eye
    Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.
    And when, more near against the marble cold
    He had touch'd his forehead, he began to thread
    All courts and passages, where silence dead
    Rous'd by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:
    And long he travers'd to and fro, to acquaint
    Himself with every mystery, and awe;
    Till, weary, he sat down before the maw
    Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim
    To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.
    There, when new wonders ceas'd to float before,
    And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
    The journey homeward to habitual self!
    A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,
    Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,
    Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,
    Into the bosom of a hated thing.

    What misery most drowningly doth sing
    In lone Endymion's ear, now he has caught
    The goal of consciousness? Ah, 'tis the thought,
    The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!
    He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow
    Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild
    In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil'd,
    The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,
    Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest
    Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;
    But far from such companionship to wear
    An unknown time, surcharg'd with grief, away,
    Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,
    Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?
    "No!" exclaimed he, "why should I tarry here?"
    No! loudly echoed times innumerable.
    At which he straightway started, and 'gan tell
    His paces back into the temple's chief;
    Warming and glowing strong in the belief
    Of help from Dian: so that when again
    He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,
    Moving more near the while. "O Haunter chaste
    Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,
    Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen
    Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,
    What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?
    Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos
    Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree
    Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe'er it be,
    'Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste
    Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste
    Thy loveliness in dismal elements;
    But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,
    There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee
    It feels Elysian, how rich to me,
    An exil'd mortal, sounds its pleasant name!
    Within my breast there lives a choking flame
    O let me cool it among the zephyr-boughs!
    A homeward fever parches up my tongue
    O let me slake it at the running springs!
    Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings
    O let me once more hear the linnet's note!
    Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float
    O let me 'noint them with the heaven's light!
    Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?
    O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!
    Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?
    O think how this dry palate would rejoice!
    If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,
    Oh think how I should love a bed of flowers!
    Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!
    Deliver me from this rapacious deep!"

    Thus ending loudly, as he would o'erleap
    His destiny, alert he stood: but when
    Obstinate silence came heavily again,
    Feeling about for its old couch of space
    And airy cradle, lowly bow'd his face
    Desponding, o'er the marble floor's cold thrill.
    But 'twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill
    To its old channel, or a swollen tide
    To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,
    And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns
    Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns
    Itself, and strives its own delights to hide
    Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride
    In a long whispering birth enchanted grew
    Before his footsteps; as when heav'd anew
    Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,
    Down whose green back the short-liv'd foam, all hoar,
    Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.

    Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,
    Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;
    So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes
    One moment with his hand among the sweets:
    Onward he goes he stops his bosom beats
    As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm
    Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,
    This sleepy music, forc'd him walk tiptoe:
    For it came more softly than the east could blow
    Arion's magic to the Atlantic isles;
    Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles
    Of thron'd Apollo, could breathe back the lyre
    To seas Ionian and Tyrian.

    O did he ever live, that lonely man,
    Who lov'd and music slew not? 'Tis the pest
    Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest;
    That things of delicate and tenderest worth
    Are swallow'd all, and made a seared dearth,
    By one consuming flame: it doth immerse
    And suffocate true blessings in a curse.
    Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,
    Is miserable. 'Twas even so with this
    Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian's ear;
    First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,
    Vanish'd in elemental passion.

    And down some swart abysm he had gone,
    Had not a heavenly guide benignant led
    To where thick myrtle branches, 'gainst his head
    Brushing, awakened: then the sounds again
    Went noiseless as a passing noontide rain
    Over a bower, where little space he stood;
    For as the sunset peeps into a wood
    So saw he panting light, and towards it went
    Through winding alleys; and lo, wonderment!
    Upon soft verdure saw, one here, one there,
    Cupids a slumbering on their pinions fair.

    After a thousand mazes overgone,
    At last, with sudden step, he came upon
    A chamber, myrtle wall'd, embowered high,
    Full of light, incense, tender minstrelsy,
    And more of beautiful and strange beside:
    For on a silken couch of rosy pride,
    In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
    Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,
    Than sighs could fathom, or contentment reach:
    And coverlids gold-tinted like the peach,
    Or ripe October's faded marigolds,
    Fell sleek about him in a thousand folds
    Not hiding up an Apollonian curve
    Of neck and shoulder, nor the tenting swerve
    Of knee from knee, nor ankles pointing light;
    But rather, giving them to the filled sight
    Officiously. Sideway his face repos'd
    On one white arm, and tenderly unclos'd,
    By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth
    To slumbery pout; just as the morning south
    Disparts a dew-lipp'd rose. Above his head,
    Four lily stalks did their white honours wed
    To make a coronal; and round him grew
    All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,
    Together intertwin'd and trammel'd fresh:
    The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,
    Shading its Ethiop berries; and woodbine,
    Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine;
    Convolvulus in streaked vases flush;
    The creeper, mellowing for an autumn blush;
    And virgin's bower, trailing airily;
    With others of the sisterhood. Hard by,
    Stood serene Cupids watching silently.
    One, kneeling to a lyre, touch'd the strings,
    Muffling to death the pathos with his wings;
    And, ever and anon, uprose to look
    At the youth's slumber; while another took
    A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,
    And shook it on his hair; another flew
    In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
    Rain'd violets upon his sleeping eyes.

    At these enchantments, and yet many more,
    The breathless Latmian wonder'd o'er and o'er;
    Until, impatient in embarrassment,
    He forthright pass'd, and lightly treading went
    To that same feather'd lyrist, who straightway,
    Smiling, thus whisper'd: "Though from upper day
    Thou art a wanderer, and thy presence here
    Might seem unholy, be of happy cheer!
    For 'tis the nicest touch of human honour,
    When some ethereal and high-favouring donor
    Presents immortal bowers to mortal sense;
    As now 'tis done to thee, Endymion. Hence
    Was I in no wise startled. So recline
    Upon these living flowers. Here is wine,
    Alive with sparkles never, I aver,
    Since Ariadne was a vintager,
    So cool a purple: taste these juicy pears,
    Sent me by sad Vertumnus, when his fears
    Were high about Pomona: here is cream,
    Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam;
    Sweeter than that nurse Amalthea skimm'd
    For the boy Jupiter: and here, undimm'd
    By any touch, a bunch of blooming plums
    Ready to melt between an infant's gums:
    And here is manna pick'd from Syrian trees,
    In starlight, by the three Hesperides.
    Feast on, and meanwhile I will let thee know
    Of all these things around us." He did so,
    Still brooding o'er the cadence of his lyre;
    And thus: "I need not any hearing tire
    By telling how the sea-born goddess pin'd
    For a mortal youth, and how she strove to bind
    Him all in all unto her doting self.
    Who would not be so prison'd? but, fond elf,
    He was content to let her amorous plea
    Faint through his careless arms; content to see
    An unseiz'd heaven dying at his feet;
    Content, O fool! to make a cold retreat,
    When on the pleasant grass such love, lovelorn,
    Lay sorrowing; when every tear was born
    Of diverse passion; when her lips and eyes
    Were clos'd in sullen moisture, and quick sighs
    Came vex'd and pettish through her nostrils small.
    Hush! no exclaim yet, justly mightst thou call
    Curses upon his head. I was half glad,
    But my poor mistress went distract and mad,
    When the boar tusk'd him: so away she flew
    To Jove's high throne, and by her plainings drew
    Immortal tear-drops down the thunderer's beard;
    Whereon, it was decreed he should be rear'd
    Each summer time to life. Lo! this is he,
    That same Adonis, safe in the privacy
    Of this still region all his winter-sleep.
    Aye, sleep; for when our love-sick queen did weep
    Over his waned corse, the tremulous shower
    Heal'd up the wound, and, with a balmy power,
    Medicined death to a lengthened drowsiness:
    The which she fills with visions, and doth dress
    In all this quiet luxury; and hath set
    Us young immortals, without any let,
    To watch his slumber through. 'Tis well nigh pass'd,
    Even to a moment's filling up, and fast
    She scuds with summer breezes, to pant through
    The first long kiss, warm firstling, to renew
    Embower'd sports in Cytherea's isle.
    Look! how those winged listeners all this while
    Stand anxious: see! behold!" This clamant word
    Broke through the careful silence; for they heard
    A rustling noise of leaves, and out there flutter'd
    Pigeons and doves: Adonis something mutter'd,
    The while one hand, that erst upon his thigh
    Lay dormant, mov'd convuls'd and gradually
    Up to his forehead. Then there was a hum
    Of sudden voices, echoing, "Come! come!
    Arise! awake! Clear summer has forth walk'd
    Unto the clover-sward, and she has talk'd
    Full soothingly to every nested finch:
    Rise, Cupids! or we'll give the blue-bell pinch
    To your dimpled arms. Once more sweet life begin!"
    At this, from every side they hurried in,
    Rubbing their sleepy eyes with lazy wrists,
    And doubling overhead their little fists
    In backward yawns. But all were soon alive:
    For as delicious wine doth, sparkling, dive
    In nectar'd clouds and curls through water fair,
    So from the arbour roof down swell'd an air
    Odorous and enlivening; making all
    To laugh, and play, and sing, and loudly call
    For their sweet queen: when lo! the wreathed green
    Disparted, and far upward could be seen
    Blue heaven, and a silver car, air-borne,
    Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,
    Spun off a drizzling dew, which falling chill
    On soft Adonis' shoulders, made him still
    Nestle and turn uneasily about.
    Soon were the white doves plain, with necks stretch'd out,
    And silken traces lighten'd in descent;
    And soon, returning from love's banishment,
    Queen Venus leaning downward open arm'd:
    Her shadow fell upon his breast, and charm'd
    A tumult to his heart, and a new life
    Into his eyes. Ah, miserable strife,
    But for her comforting! unhappy sight,
    But meeting her blue orbs! Who, who can write
    Of these first minutes? The unchariest muse
    To embracements warm as theirs makes coy excuse.

    O it has ruffled every spirit there,
    Saving love's self, who stands superb to share
    The general gladness: awfully he stands;
    A sovereign quell is in his waving hands;
    No sight can bear the lightning of his bow;
    His quiver is mysterious, none can know
    What themselves think of it; from forth his eyes
    There darts strange light of varied hues and dyes:
    A scowl is sometimes on his brow, but who
    Look full upon it feel anon the blue
    Of his fair eyes run liquid through their souls.
    Endymion feels it, and no more controls
    The burning prayer within him; so, bent low,
    He had begun a plaining of his woe.
    But Venus, bending forward, said: "My child,
    Favour this gentle youth; his days are wild
    With love he but alas! too well I see
    Thou know'st the deepness of his misery.
    Ah, smile not so, my son: I tell thee true,
    That when through heavy hours I used to rue
    The endless sleep of this new-born Adon',
    This stranger ay I pitied. For upon
    A dreary morning once I fled away
    Into the breezy clouds, to weep and pray
    For this my love: for vexing Mars had teaz'd
    Me even to tears: thence, when a little eas'd,
    Down-looking, vacant, through a hazy wood,
    I saw this youth as he despairing stood:
    Those same dark curls blown vagrant in the wind:
    Those same full fringed lids a constant blind
    Over his sullen eyes: I saw him throw
    Himself on wither'd leaves, even as though
    Death had come sudden; for no jot he mov'd,
    Yet mutter'd wildly. I could hear he lov'd
    Some fair immortal, and that his embrace
    Had zoned her through the night. There is no trace
    Of this in heaven: I have mark'd each cheek,
    And find it is the vainest thing to seek;
    And that of all things 'tis kept secretest.
    Endymion! one day thou wilt be blest:
    So still obey the guiding hand that fends
    Thee safely through these wonders for sweet ends.
    'Tis a concealment needful in extreme;
    And if I guess'd not so, the sunny beam
    Thou shouldst mount up to with me. Now adieu!
    Here must we leave thee." At these words up flew
    The impatient doves, up rose the floating car,
    Up went the hum celestial. High afar
    The Latmian saw them minish into nought;
    And, when all were clear vanish'd, still he caught
    A vivid lightning from that dreadful bow.
    When all was darkened, with Etnean throe
    The earth clos'd gave a solitary moan
    And left him once again in twilight lone.

    He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,
    For all those visions were o'ergone, and past,
    And he in loneliness: he felt assur'd
    Of happy times, when all he had endur'd
    Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.
    So, with unusual gladness, on he hies
    Through caves, and palaces of mottled ore,
    Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquois floor,
    Black polish'd porticos of awful shade,
    And, at the last, a diamond balustrade,
    Leading afar past wild magnificence,
    Spiral through ruggedest loopholes, and thence
    Stretching across a void, then guiding o'er
    Enormous chasms, where, all foam and roar,
    Streams subterranean tease their granite beds;
    Then heighten'd just above the silvery heads
    Of a thousand fountains, so that he could dash
    The waters with his spear; but at the splash,
    Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose
    Sudden a poplar's height, and 'gan to enclose
    His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round
    Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound,
    Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells
    Welcome the float of Thetis. Long he dwells
    On this delight; for, every minute's space,
    The streams with changed magic interlace:
    Sometimes like delicatest lattices,
    Cover'd with crystal vines; then weeping trees,
    Moving about as in a gentle wind,
    Which, in a wink, to watery gauze refin'd,
    Pour'd into shapes of curtain'd canopies,
    Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries
    Of flowers, peacocks, swans, and naiads fair.
    Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;
    And then the water, into stubborn streams
    Collecting, mimick'd the wrought oaken beams,
    Pillars, and frieze, and high fantastic roof,
    Of those dusk places in times far aloof
    Cathedrals call'd. He bade a loth farewel
    To these founts Protean, passing gulph, and dell,
    And torrent, and ten thousand jutting shapes,
    Half seen through deepest gloom, and griesly gapes,
    Blackening on every side, and overhead
    A vaulted dome like Heaven's, far bespread
    With starlight gems: aye, all so huge and strange,
    The solitary felt a hurried change
    Working within him into something dreary,
    Vex'd like a morning eagle, lost, and weary,
    And purblind amid foggy, midnight wolds.
    But he revives at once: for who beholds
    New sudden things, nor casts his mental slough?
    Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,
    Came mother Cybele! alone alone
    In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
    About her majesty, and front death-pale,
    With turrets crown'd. Four maned lions hale
    The sluggish wheels; solemn their toothed maws,
    Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws
    Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails
    Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails
    This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away
    In another gloomy arch.

     Wherefore delay,
    Young traveller, in such a mournful place?
    Art thou wayworn, or canst not further trace
    The diamond path? And does it indeed end
    Abrupt in middle air? Yet earthward bend
    Thy forehead, and to Jupiter cloud-borne
    Call ardently! He was indeed wayworn;
    Abrupt, in middle air, his way was lost;
    To cloud-borne Jove he bowed, and there crost
    Towards him a large eagle, 'twixt whose wings,
    Without one impious word, himself he flings,
    Committed to the darkness and the gloom:
    Down, down, uncertain to what pleasant doom,
    Swift as a fathoming plummet down he fell
    Through unknown things; till exhaled asphodel,
    And rose, with spicy fannings interbreath'd,
    Came swelling forth where little caves were wreath'd
    So thick with leaves and mosses, that they seem'd
    Large honey-combs of green, and freshly teem'd
    With airs delicious. In the greenest nook
    The eagle landed him, and farewel took.

    It was a jasmine bower, all bestrown
    With golden moss. His every sense had grown
    Ethereal for pleasure; 'bove his head
    Flew a delight half-graspable; his tread
    Was Hesperèan; to his capable ears
    Silence was music from the holy spheres;
    A dewy luxury was in his eyes;
    The little flowers felt his pleasant sighs
    And stirr'd them faintly. Verdant cave and cell
    He wander'd through, oft wondering at such swell
    Of sudden exaltation: but, "Alas!
    Said he, "will all this gush of feeling pass
    Away in solitude? And must they wane,
    Like melodies upon a sandy plain,
    Without an echo? Then shall I be left
    So sad, so melancholy, so bereft!
    Yet still I feel immortal! O my love,
    My breath of life, where art thou? High above,
    Dancing before the morning gates of heaven?
    Or keeping watch among those starry seven,
    Old Atlas' children? Art a maid of the waters,
    One of shell-winding Triton's bright-hair'd daughters?
    Or art, impossible! a nymph of Dian's,
    Weaving a coronal of tender scions
    For very idleness? Where'er thou art,
    Methinks it now is at my will to start
    Into thine arms; to scare Aurora's train,
    And snatch thee from the morning; o'er the main
    To scud like a wild bird, and take thee off
    From thy sea-foamy cradle; or to doff
    Thy shepherd vest, and woo thee mid fresh leaves.
    No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives
    Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.
    O let me then by some sweet dreaming flee
    To her entrancements: hither sleep awhile!
    Hither most gentle sleep! and soothing foil
    For some few hours the coming solitude."

    Thus spake he, and that moment felt endued
    With power to dream deliciously; so wound
    Through a dim passage, searching till he found
    The smoothest mossy bed and deepest, where
    He threw himself, and just into the air
    Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!
    A naked waist: "Fair Cupid, whence is this?"
    A well-known voice sigh'd, "Sweetest, here am I!"
    At which soft ravishment, with doating cry
    They trembled to each other. Helicon!
    O fountain'd hill! Old Homer's Helicon!
    That thou wouldst spout a little streamlet o'er
    These sorry pages; then the verse would soar
    And sing above this gentle pair, like lark
    Over his nested young: but all is dark
    Around thine aged top, and thy clear fount
    Exhales in mists to heaven. Aye, the count
    Of mighty Poets is made up; the scroll
    Is folded by the Muses; the bright roll
    Is in Apollo's hand: our dazed eyes
    Have seen a new tinge in the western skies:
    The world has done its duty. Yet, oh yet,
    Although the sun of poesy is set,
    These lovers did embrace, and we must weep
    That there is no old power left to steep
    A quill immortal in their joyous tears.
    Long time in silence did their anxious fears
    Question that thus it was; long time they lay
    Fondling and kissing every doubt away;
    Long time ere soft caressing sobs began
    To mellow into words, and then there ran
    Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.
    "O known Unknown! from whom my being sips
    Such darling essence, wherefore may I not
    Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot
    Pillow my chin for ever? ever press
    These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?
    Why not for ever and for ever feel
    That breath about my eyes? Ah, thou wilt steal
    Away from me again, indeed, indeed
    Thou wilt be gone away, and wilt not heed
    My lonely madness. Speak, my kindest fair!
    Is is it to be so? No! Who will dare
    To pluck thee from me? And, of thine own will,
    Full well I feel thou wouldst not leave me. Still
    Let me entwine thee surer, surer now
    How can we part? Elysium! who art thou?
    Who, that thou canst not be for ever here,
    Or lift me with thee to some starry sphere?
    Enchantress! tell me by this soft embrace,
    By the most soft completion of thy face,
    Those lips, O slippery blisses, twinkling eyes,
    And by these tenderest, milky sovereignties
    These tenderest, and by the nectar-wine,
    The passion" "O lov'd Ida the divine!
    Endymion! dearest! Ah, unhappy me!
    His soul will 'scape us O felicity!
    How he does love me! His poor temples beat
    To the very tune of love how sweet, sweet, sweet.
    Revive, dear youth, or I shall faint and die;
    Revive, or these soft hours will hurry by
    In tranced dulness; speak, and let that spell
    Affright this lethargy! I cannot quell
    Its heavy pressure, and will press at least
    My lips to thine, that they may richly feast
    Until we taste the life of love again.
    What! dost thou move? dost kiss? O bliss! O pain!
    I love thee, youth, more than I can conceive;
    And so long absence from thee doth bereave
    My soul of any rest: yet must I hence:
    Yet, can I not to starry eminence
    Uplift thee; nor for very shame can own
    Myself to thee. Ah, dearest, do not groan
    Or thou wilt force me from this secrecy,
    And I must blush in heaven. O that I
    Had done it already; that the dreadful smiles
    At my lost brightness, my impassion'd wiles,
    Had waned from Olympus' solemn height,
    And from all serious Gods; that our delight
    Was quite forgotten, save of us alone!
    And wherefore so ashamed? 'Tis but to atone
    For endless pleasure, by some coward blushes:
    Yet must I be a coward! Horror rushes
    Too palpable before me the sad look
    Of Jove Minerva's start no bosom shook
    With awe of purity no Cupid pinion
    In reverence veiled my crystaline dominion
    Half lost, and all old hymns made nullity!
    But what is this to love? O I could fly
    With thee into the ken of heavenly powers,
    So thou wouldst thus, for many sequent hours,
    Press me so sweetly. Now I swear at once
    That I am wise, that Pallas is a dunce
    Perhaps her love like mine is but unknown
    O I do think that I have been alone
    In chastity: yes, Pallas has been sighing,
    While every eve saw me my hair uptying
    With fingers cool as aspen leaves. Sweet love,
    I was as vague as solitary dove,
    Nor knew that nests were built. Now a soft kiss
    Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss,
    An immortality of passion's thine:
    Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine
    Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade
    Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
    And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
    And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.
    My happy love will overwing all bounds!
    O let me melt into thee; let the sounds
    Of our close voices marry at their birth;
    Let us entwine hoveringly O dearth
    Of human words! roughness of mortal speech!
    Lispings empyrean will I sometime teach
    Thine honied tongue lute-breathings, which I gasp
    To have thee understand, now while I clasp
    Thee thus, and weep for fondness I am pain'd,
    Endymion: woe! woe! is grief contain'd
    In the very deeps of pleasure, my sole life?"
    Hereat, with many sobs, her gentle strife
    Melted into a languor. He return'd
    Entranced vows and tears.

     Ye who have yearn'd
    With too much passion, will here stay and pity,
    For the mere sake of truth; as 'tis a ditty
    Not of these days, but long ago 'twas told
    By a cavern wind unto a forest old;
    And then the forest told it in a dream
    To a sleeping lake, whose cool and level gleam
    A poet caught as he was journeying
    To Phoebus' shrine; and in it he did fling
    His weary limbs, bathing an hour's space,
    And after, straight in that inspired place
    He sang the story up into the air,
    Giving it universal freedom. There
    Has it been ever sounding for those ears
    Whose tips are glowing hot. The legend cheers
    Yon centinel stars; and he who listens to it
    Must surely be self-doomed or he will rue it:
    For quenchless burnings come upon the heart,
    Made fiercer by a fear lest any part
    Should be engulphed in the eddying wind.
    As much as here is penn'd doth always find
    A resting place, thus much comes clear and plain;
    Anon the strange voice is upon the wane
    And 'tis but echo'd from departing sound,
    That the fair visitant at last unwound
    Her gentle limbs, and left the youth asleep.
    Thus the tradition of the gusty deep.

    Now turn we to our former chroniclers.
    Endymion awoke, that grief of hers
    Sweet paining on his ear: he sickly guess'd
    How lone he was once more, and sadly press'd
    His empty arms together, hung his head,
    And most forlorn upon that widow'd bed
    Sat silently. Love's madness he had known:
    Often with more than tortured lion's groan
    Moanings had burst from him; but now that rage
    Had pass'd away: no longer did he wage
    A rough-voic'd war against the dooming stars.
    No, he had felt too much for such harsh jars:
    The lyre of his soul Eolian tun'd
    Forgot all violence, and but commun'd
    With melancholy thought: O he had swoon'd
    Drunken from pleasure's nipple; and his love
    Henceforth was dove-like. Loth was he to move
    From the imprinted couch, and when he did,
    'Twas with slow, languid paces, and face hid
    In muffling hands. So temper'd, out he stray'd
    Half seeing visions that might have dismay'd
    Alecto's serpents; ravishments more keen
    Than Hermes' pipe, when anxious he did lean
    Over eclipsing eyes: and at the last
    It was a sounding grotto, vaulted, vast,
    O'er studded with a thousand, thousand pearls,
    And crimson mouthed shells with stubborn curls,
    Of every shape and size, even to the bulk
    In which whales arbour close, to brood and sulk
    Against an endless storm. Moreover too,
    Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue,
    Ready to snort their streams. In this cool wonder
    Endymion sat down, and 'gan to ponder
    On all his life: his youth, up to the day
    When 'mid acclaim, and feasts, and garlands gay,
    He stept upon his shepherd throne: the look
    Of his white palace in wild forest nook,
    And all the revels he had lorded there:
    Each tender maiden whom he once thought fair,
    With every friend and fellow-woodlander
    Pass'd like a dream before him. Then the spur
    Of the old bards to mighty deeds: his plans
    To nurse the golden age 'mong shepherd clans:
    That wondrous night: the great Pan-festival:
    His sister's sorrow; and his wanderings all,
    Until into the earth's deep maw he rush'd:
    Then all its buried magic, till it flush'd
    High with excessive love. "And now," thought he,
    "How long must I remain in jeopardy
    Of blank amazements that amaze no more?
    Now I have tasted her sweet soul to the core
    All other depths are shallow: essences,
    Once spiritual, are like muddy lees,
    Meant but to fertilize my earthly root,
    And make my branches lift a golden fruit
    Into the bloom of heaven: other light,
    Though it be quick and sharp enough to blight
    The Olympian eagle's vision, is dark,
    Dark as the parentage of chaos. Hark!
    My silent thoughts are echoing from these shells;
    Or they are but the ghosts, the dying swells
    Of noises far away? list!" Hereupon
    He kept an anxious ear. The humming tone
    Came louder, and behold, there as he lay,
    On either side outgush'd, with misty spray,
    A copious spring; and both together dash'd
    Swift, mad, fantastic round the rocks, and lash'd
    Among the conchs and shells of the lofty grot,
    Leaving a trickling dew. At last they shot
    Down from the ceiling's height, pouring a noise
    As of some breathless racers whose hopes poize
    Upon the last few steps, and with spent force
    Along the ground they took a winding course.
    Endymion follow'd for it seem'd that one
    Ever pursued, the other strove to shun
    Follow'd their languid mazes, till well nigh
    He had left thinking of the mystery,
    And was now rapt in tender hoverings
    Over the vanish'd bliss. Ah! what is it sings
    His dream away? What melodies are these?
    They sound as through the whispering of trees,
    Not native in such barren vaults. Give ear!

    "O Arethusa, peerless nymph! why fear
    Such tenderness as mine? Great Dian, why,
    Why didst thou hear her prayer? O that I
    Were rippling round her dainty fairness now,
    Circling about her waist, and striving how
    To entice her to a dive! then stealing in
    Between her luscious lips and eyelids thin.
    O that her shining hair was in the sun,
    And I distilling from it thence to run
    In amorous rillets down her shrinking form!
    To linger on her lily shoulders, warm
    Between her kissing breasts, and every charm
    Touch raptur'd! See how painfully I flow:
    Fair maid, be pitiful to my great woe.
    Stay, stay thy weary course, and let me lead,
    A happy wooer, to the flowery mead
    Where all that beauty snar'd me." "Cruel god,
    Desist! or my offended mistress' nod
    Will stagnate all thy fountains: tease me not
    With syren words Ah, have I really got
    Such power to madden thee? And is it true
    Away, away, or I shall dearly rue
    My very thoughts: in mercy then away,
    Kindest Alpheus for should I obey
    My own dear will, 'twould be a deadly bane."
    "O, Oread-Queen! would that thou hadst a pain
    Like this of mine, then would I fearless turn
    And be a criminal." "Alas, I burn,
    I shudder gentle river, get thee hence.
    Alpheus! thou enchanter! every sense
    Of mine was once made perfect in these woods.
    Fresh breezes, bowery lawns, and innocent floods,
    Ripe fruits, and lonely couch, contentment gave;
    But ever since I heedlessly did lave
    In thy deceitful stream, a panting glow
    Grew strong within me: wherefore serve me so,
    And call it love? Alas, 'twas cruelty.
    Not once more did I close my happy eyes
    Amid the thrush's song. Away! Avaunt!
    O 'twas a cruel thing." "Now thou dost taunt
    So softly, Arethusa, that I think
    If thou wast playing on my shady brink,
    Thou wouldst bathe once again. Innocent maid!
    Stifle thine heart no more; nor be afraid
    Of angry powers: there are deities
    Will shade us with their wings. Those fitful sighs
    'Tis almost death to hear: O let me pour
    A dewy balm upon them! fear no more,
    Sweet Arethusa! Dian's self must feel
    Sometimes these very pangs. Dear maiden, steal
    Blushing into my soul, and let us fly
    These dreary caverns for the open sky.
    I will delight thee all my winding course,
    From the green sea up to my hidden source
    About Arcadian forests; and will shew
    The channels where my coolest waters flow
    Through mossy rocks; where, 'mid exuberant green,
    I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen
    Than Saturn in his exile; where I brim
    Round flowery islands, and take thence a skim
    Of mealy sweets, which myriads of bees
    Buzz from their honied wings: and thou shouldst please
    Thyself to choose the richest, where we might
    Be incense-pillow'd every summer night.
    Doff all sad fears, thou white deliciousness,
    And let us be thus comforted; unless
    Thou couldst rejoice to see my hopeless stream
    Hurry distracted from Sol's temperate beam,
    And pour to death along some hungry sands."
    "What can I do, Alpheus? Dian stands
    Severe before me: persecuting fate!
    Unhappy Arethusa! thou wast late
    A huntress free in" At this, sudden fell
    Those two sad streams adown a fearful dell.
    The Latmian listen'd, but he heard no more,
    Save echo, faint repeating o'er and o'er
    The name of Arethusa. On the verge
    Of that dark gulph he wept, and said: "I urge
    Thee, gentle Goddess of my pilgrimage,
    By our eternal hopes, to soothe, to assuage,
    If thou art powerful, these lovers pains;
    And make them happy in some happy plains.

    He turn'd there was a whelming sound he stept,
    There was a cooler light; and so he kept
    Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!
    More suddenly than doth a moment go,
    The visions of the earth were gone and fled
    He saw the giant sea above his head.


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