A Poetic Romance.
BY JOHN KEATS.
"THE STRETCHED METRE OF AN ANTIQUE SONG."
LONDON: PRINTED FOR TAYLOR AND HESSEY, 93, FLEET STREET. 1818.
INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.
Knowing within myself the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public.
What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press; nor should they if I thought a year's castigation would do them any good;—it will not: the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away: a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit to live.
This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object. This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms of course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are competent to look, and who do look with a zealous eye, to the honour of English literature.
The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages.
I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece, and dulled its brightness: for I wish to try once more, before I bid it farewel.
Teignmouth, April 10, 1818.
Page 108, line 4 from the bottom, for "her" read "his."
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth, Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways 10 Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are daffodils With the green world they live in; and clear rills That for themselves a cooling covert make 'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake, Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 20 We have imagined for the mighty dead; All lovely tales that we have heard or read: An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
Nor do we merely feel these essences For one short hour; no, even as the trees That whisper round a temple become soon Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon, The passion poesy, glories infinite, Haunt us till they become a cheering light 30 Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast, That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast, They alway must be with us, or we die.
Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I Will trace the story of Endymion. The very music of the name has gone Into my being, and each pleasant scene Is growing fresh before me as the green Of our own vallies: so I will begin Now while I cannot hear the city's din; 40 Now while the early budders are just new, And run in mazes of the youngest hue About old forests; while the willow trails Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer My little boat, for many quiet hours, With streams that deepen freshly into bowers. Many and many a verse I hope to write, Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white, 50 Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas, I must be near the middle of my story. O may no wintry season, bare and hoary, See it half finished: but let Autumn bold, With universal tinge of sober gold, Be all about me when I make an end. And now at once, adventuresome, I send My herald thought into a wilderness: There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress 60 My uncertain path with green, that I may speed Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.
Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed So plenteously all weed-hidden roots Into o'er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits. And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep, Where no man went; and if from shepherd's keep A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens, Never again saw he the happy pens 70 Whither his brethren, bleating with content, Over the hills at every nightfall went. Among the shepherds, 'twas believed ever, That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever From the white flock, but pass'd unworried By angry wolf, or pard with prying head, Until it came to some unfooted plains Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many, Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny, 80 And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly To a wide lawn, whence one could only see Stems thronging all around between the swell Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell The freshness of the space of heaven above, Edg'd round with dark tree tops? through which a dove Would often beat its wings, and often too A little cloud would move across the blue.
Full in the middle of this pleasantness There stood a marble altar, with a tress 90 Of flowers budded newly; and the dew Had taken fairy phantasies to strew Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve, And so the dawned light in pomp receive. For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre Of brightness so unsullied, that therein A melancholy spirit well might win Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine 100 Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun; The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass; Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass Of nature's lives and wonders puls'd tenfold, To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.
Now while the silent workings of the dawn Were busiest, into that self-same lawn All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped A troop of little children garlanded; 110 Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry Earnestly round as wishing to espy Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited For many moments, ere their ears were sated With a faint breath of music, which ev'n then Fill'd out its voice, and died away again. Within a little space again it gave Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave, To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking Through copse-clad vallies,—ere their death, o'ertaking The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea. 121
And now, as deep into the wood as we Might mark a lynx's eye, there glimmered light Fair faces and a rush of garments white, Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last Into the widest alley they all past, Making directly for the woodland altar. O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter In telling of this goodly company, Of their old piety, and of their glee: 130 But let a portion of ethereal dew Fall on my head, and presently unmew My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring, To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.
Leading the way, young damsels danced along, Bearing the burden of a shepherd song; Each having a white wicker over brimm'd With April's tender younglings: next, well trimm'd, A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks As may be read of in Arcadian books; 140 Such as sat listening round Apollo's pipe, When the great deity, for earth too ripe, Let his divinity o'er-flowing die In music, through the vales of Thessaly: Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground, And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these, Now coming from beneath the forest trees, A venerable priest full soberly, Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye 150 Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept, And after him his sacred vestments swept. From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white, Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light; And in his left he held a basket full Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull: Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill. His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath, Seem'd like a poll of ivy in the teeth 160 Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud Their share of the ditty. After them appear'd, Up-followed by a multitude that rear'd Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car, Easily rolling so as scarce to mar The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown: Who stood therein did seem of great renown Among the throng. His youth was fully blown, Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown; 170 And, for those simple times, his garments were A chieftain king's: beneath his breast, half bare, Was hung a silver bugle, and between His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen. A smile was on his countenance; he seem'd, To common lookers on, like one who dream'd Of idleness in groves Elysian: But there were some who feelingly could scan A lurking trouble in his nether lip, And see that oftentimes the reins would slip 180 Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh, And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry, Of logs piled solemnly.—Ah, well-a-day, Why should our young Endymion pine away!
Soon the assembly, in a circle rang'd, Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang'd To sudden veneration: women meek Beckon'd their sons to silence; while each cheek Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear. Endymion too, without a forest peer, 190 Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face, Among his brothers of the mountain chase. In midst of all, the venerable priest Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least, And, after lifting up his aged hands, Thus spake he: "Men of Latmos! shepherd bands! Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks: Whether descended from beneath the rocks That overtop your mountains; whether come From vallies where the pipe is never dumb; 200 Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge Nibble their fill at ocean's very marge, Whose mellow reeds are touch'd with sounds forlorn By the dim echoes of old Triton's horn: Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air; And all ye gentle girls who foster up Udderless lambs, and in a little cup 210 Will put choice honey for a favoured youth: Yea, every one attend! for in good truth Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan. Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains Green'd over April's lap? No howling sad Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had Great bounty from Endymion our lord. The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour'd 220 His early song against yon breezy sky, That spreads so clear o'er our solemnity."
Thus ending, on the shrine he heap'd a spire Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire; Anon he stain'd the thick and spongy sod With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god. Now while the earth was drinking it, and while Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile, And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright 'Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light 230 Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:
"O THOU, whose mighty palace roof doth hang From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness; Who lov'st to see the hamadryads dress Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken; And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken The dreary melody of bedded reeds— In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds 240 The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth; Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx—do thou now, By thy love's milky brow! By all the trembling mazes that she ran, Hear us, great Pan!
"O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles Passion their voices cooingly 'mong myrtles, What time thou wanderest at eventide Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side 250 Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow girted bees Their golden honeycombs; our village leas Their fairest blossom'd beans and poppied corn; The chuckling linnet its five young unborn, To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year All its completions—be quickly near, 260 By every wind that nods the mountain pine, O forester divine!
"Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies For willing service; whether to surprise The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit; Or upward ragged precipices flit To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw; Or by mysterious enticement draw Bewildered shepherds to their path again; Or to tread breathless round the frothy main, 270 And gather up all fancifullest shells For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells, And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping; Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping, The while they pelt each other on the crown With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown— By all the echoes that about thee ring, Hear us, O satyr king!
"O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears, While ever and anon to his shorn peers 280 A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn, When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms, To keep off mildews, and all weather harms: Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds, That come a swooning over hollow grounds, And wither drearily on barren moors: Dread opener of the mysterious doors Leading to universal knowledge—see, Great son of Dryope, 290 The many that are come to pay their vows With leaves about their brows!
Be still the unimaginable lodge For solitary thinkings; such as dodge Conception to the very bourne of heaven, Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven, That spreading in this dull and clodded earth Gives it a touch ethereal—a new birth: Be still a symbol of immensity; A firmament reflected in a sea; 300 An element filling the space between; An unknown—but no more: we humbly screen With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending, And giving out a shout most heaven rending, Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean, Upon thy Mount Lycean!
Even while they brought the burden to a close, A shout from the whole multitude arose, That lingered in the air like dying rolls Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals 310 Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine. Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine, Young companies nimbly began dancing To the swift treble pipe, and humming string. Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly To tunes forgotten—out of memory: Fair creatures! whose young childrens' children bred Thermopylae its heroes—not yet dead, But in old marbles ever beautiful. High genitors, unconscious did they cull 320 Time's sweet first-fruits—they danc'd to weariness, And then in quiet circles did they press The hillock turf, and caught the latter end Of some strange history, potent to send A young mind from its bodily tenement. Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent On either side; pitying the sad death Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath Of Zephyr slew him,—Zephyr penitent, Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament, 330 Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain. The archers too, upon a wider plain, Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft, And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top, Call'd up a thousand thoughts to envelope Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee And frantic gape of lonely Niobe, Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue 340 Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip, And very, very deadliness did nip Her motherly cheeks. Arous'd from this sad mood By one, who at a distance loud halloo'd, Uplifting his strong bow into the air, Many might after brighter visions stare: After the Argonauts, in blind amaze Tossing about on Neptune's restless ways, Until, from the horizon's vaulted side, There shot a golden splendour far and wide, 350 Spangling those million poutings of the brine With quivering ore: 'twas even an awful shine From the exaltation of Apollo's bow; A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe. Who thus were ripe for high contemplating, Might turn their steps towards the sober ring Where sat Endymion and the aged priest 'Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas'd The silvery setting of their mortal star. There they discours'd upon the fragile bar 360 That keeps us from our homes ethereal; And what our duties there: to nightly call Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather; To summon all the downiest clouds together For the sun's purple couch; to emulate In ministring the potent rule of fate With speed of fire-tailed exhalations; To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these, A world of other unguess'd offices. 370 Anon they wander'd, by divine converse, Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse Each one his own anticipated bliss. One felt heart-certain that he could not miss His quick gone love, among fair blossom'd boughs, Where every zephyr-sigh pouts, and endows Her lips with music for the welcoming. Another wish'd, mid that eternal spring, To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails, Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales: 380 Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind, And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind; And, ever after, through those regions be His messenger, his little Mercury, Some were athirst in soul to see again Their fellow huntsmen o'er the wide champaign In times long past; to sit with them, and talk Of all the chances in their earthly walk; Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores Of happiness, to when upon the moors, 390 Benighted, close they huddled from the cold, And shar'd their famish'd scrips. Thus all out-told Their fond imaginations,—saving him Whose eyelids curtain'd up their jewels dim, Endymion: yet hourly had he striven To hide the cankering venom, that had riven His fainting recollections. Now indeed His senses had swoon'd off: he did not heed The sudden silence, or the whispers low, Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe, 400 Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms, Or maiden's sigh, that grief itself embalms: But in the self-same fixed trance he kept, Like one who on the earth had never slept. Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man, Frozen in that old tale Arabian.
Who whispers him so pantingly and close? Peona, his sweet sister: of all those, His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made, And breath'd a sister's sorrow to persuade 410 A yielding up, a cradling on her care. Her eloquence did breathe away the curse: She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse Of happy changes in emphatic dreams, Along a path between two little streams,— Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow, From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small; Until they came to where these streamlets fall, With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush, 420 Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush With crystal mocking of the trees and sky. A little shallop, floating there hard by, Pointed its beak over the fringed bank; And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank, And dipt again, with the young couple's weight,— Peona guiding, through the water straight, Towards a bowery island opposite; Which gaining presently, she steered light Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove, 430 Where nested was an arbour, overwove By many a summer's silent fingering; To whose cool bosom she was used to bring Her playmates, with their needle broidery, And minstrel memories of times gone by.
So she was gently glad to see him laid Under her favourite bower's quiet shade, On her own couch, new made of flower leaves, Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves When last the sun his autumn tresses shook, 440 And the tann'd harvesters rich armfuls took. Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest: But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest Peona's busy hand against his lips, And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps A patient watch over the stream that creeps Windingly by it, so the quiet maid Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling 450 Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling Among sere leaves and twigs, might all be heard.
O magic sleep! O comfortable bird, That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind Till it is hush'd and smooth! O unconfin'd Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy, Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world 460 Of silvery enchantment!—who, upfurl'd Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour, But renovates and lives?—Thus, in the bower, Endymion was calm'd to life again. Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain, He said: "I feel this thine endearing love All through my bosom: thou art as a dove Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings About me; and the pearliest dew not brings Such morning incense from the fields of May, 470 As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray From those kind eyes,—the very home and haunt Of sisterly affection. Can I want Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears? Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears That, any longer, I will pass my days Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar: Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll 480 Around the breathed boar: again I'll poll The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow: And, when the pleasant sun is getting low, Again I'll linger in a sloping mead To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered sweet, And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat My soul to keep in its resolved course."
Hereat Peona, in their silver source, Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim, 490 And took a lute, from which there pulsing came A lively prelude, fashioning the way In which her voice should wander. 'Twas a lay More subtle cadenced, more forest wild Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child; And nothing since has floated in the air So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare Went, spiritual, through the damsel's hand; For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann'd The quick invisible strings, even though she saw 500 Endymion's spirit melt away and thaw Before the deep intoxication. But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon Her self-possession—swung the lute aside, And earnestly said: "Brother, 'tis vain to hide That thou dost know of things mysterious, Immortal, starry; such alone could thus Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn'd in aught Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught A Paphian dove upon a message sent? 510 Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent, Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen Her naked limbs among the alders green; And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace Something more high perplexing in thy face!"
Endymion look'd at her, and press'd her hand, And said, "Art thou so pale, who wast so bland And merry in our meadows? How is this? Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss!— Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change 520 Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange? Or more complete to overwhelm surmise? Ambition is no sluggard: 'tis no prize, That toiling years would put within my grasp, That I have sigh'd for: with so deadly gasp No man e'er panted for a mortal love. So all have set my heavier grief above These things which happen. Rightly have they done: I, who still saw the horizontal sun Heave his broad shoulder o'er the edge of the world, 530 Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl'd My spear aloft, as signal for the chace— I, who, for very sport of heart, would race With my own steed from Araby; pluck down A vulture from his towery perching; frown A lion into growling, loth retire— To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire, And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.
"This river does not see the naked sky, 540 Till it begins to progress silverly Around the western border of the wood, Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood Seems at the distance like a crescent moon: And in that nook, the very pride of June, Had I been used to pass my weary eves; The rather for the sun unwilling leaves So dear a picture of his sovereign power, And I could witness his most kingly hour, When he doth lighten up the golden reins, 550 And paces leisurely down amber plains His snorting four. Now when his chariot last Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast, There blossom'd suddenly a magic bed Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red: At which I wondered greatly, knowing well That but one night had wrought this flowery spell; And, sitting down close by, began to muse What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus, In passing here, his owlet pinions shook; 560 Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth, Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought, Until my head was dizzy and distraught. Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul; And shaping visions all about my sight Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light; The which became more strange, and strange, and dim, And then were gulph'd in a tumultuous swim: 571 And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell The enchantment that afterwards befel? Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream That never tongue, although it overteem With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring, Could figure out and to conception bring All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay Watching the zenith, where the milky way Among the stars in virgin splendour pours; 580 And travelling my eye, until the doors Of heaven appear'd to open for my flight, I became loth and fearful to alight From such high soaring by a downward glance: So kept me stedfast in that airy trance, Spreading imaginary pinions wide. When, presently, the stars began to glide, And faint away, before my eager view: At which I sigh'd that I could not pursue, And dropt my vision to the horizon's verge; 590 And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge The loveliest moon, that ever silver'd o'er A shell for Neptune's goblet: she did soar So passionately bright, my dazzled soul Commingling with her argent spheres did roll Through clear and cloudy, even when she went At last into a dark and vapoury tent— Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train Of planets all were in the blue again. To commune with those orbs, once more I rais'd 600 My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed By a bright something, sailing down apace, Making me quickly veil my eyes and face: Again I look'd, and, O ye deities, Who from Olympus watch our destinies! Whence that completed form of all completeness? Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness? Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O where Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair? Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun; 610 Not—thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun Such follying before thee—yet she had, Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad; And they were simply gordian'd up and braided, Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded, Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow; The which were blended in, I know not how, With such a paradise of lips and eyes, Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs, That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings 620 And plays about its fancy, till the stings Of human neighbourhood envenom all. Unto what awful power shall I call? To what high fane?—Ah! see her hovering feet, More bluely vein'd, more soft, more whitely sweet Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion; 'Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed, 630 Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed, Handfuls of daisies."—"Endymion, how strange! Dream within dream!"—"She took an airy range, And then, towards me, like a very maid, Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid, And press'd me by the hand: Ah! 'twas too much; Methought I fainted at the charmed touch, Yet held my recollection, even as one Who dives three fathoms where the waters run Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon, 640 I felt upmounted in that region Where falling stars dart their artillery forth, And eagles struggle with the buffeting north That balances the heavy meteor-stone;— Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone, But lapp'd and lull'd along the dangerous sky. Soon, as it seem'd, we left our journeying high, And straightway into frightful eddies swoop'd; Such as ay muster where grey time has scoop'd Huge dens and caverns in a mountain's side: 650 There hollow sounds arous'd me, and I sigh'd To faint once more by looking on my bliss— I was distracted; madly did I kiss The wooing arms which held me, and did give My eyes at once to death: but 'twas to live, To take in draughts of life from the gold fount Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count The moments, by some greedy help that seem'd A second self, that each might be redeem'd And plunder'd of its load of blessedness. 660 Ah, desperate mortal! I ev'n dar'd to press Her very cheek against my crowned lip, And, at that moment, felt my body dip Into a warmer air: a moment more, Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes A scent of violets, and blossoming limes, Loiter'd around us; then of honey cells, Made delicate from all white-flower bells; And once, above the edges of our nest, 670 An arch face peep'd,—an Oread as I guess'd.
"Why did I dream that sleep o'er-power'd me In midst of all this heaven? Why not see, Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark, And stare them from me? But no, like a spark That needs must die, although its little beam Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream Fell into nothing—into stupid sleep. And so it was, until a gentle creep, A careful moving caught my waking ears, 680 And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears, My clenched hands;—for lo! the poppies hung Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung A heavy ditty, and the sullen day Had chidden herald Hesperus away, With leaden looks: the solitary breeze Bluster'd, and slept, and its wild self did teaze With wayward melancholy; and I thought, Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus!— 690 Away I wander'd—all the pleasant hues Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills Seem'd sooty, and o'er-spread with upturn'd gills Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird Before my heedless footsteps stirr'd, and stirr'd In little journeys, I beheld in it 700 A disguis'd demon, missioned to knit My soul with under darkness; to entice My stumblings down some monstrous precipice: Therefore I eager followed, and did curse The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse, Rock'd me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven! These things, with all their comfortings, are given To my down-sunken hours, and with thee, Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea Of weary life." 710
Thus ended he, and both Sat silent: for the maid was very loth To answer; feeling well that breathed words Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps, And wonders; struggles to devise some blame; To put on such a look as would say, Shame On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife, She could as soon have crush'd away the life 720 From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause, She said with trembling chance: "Is this the cause? This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas! That one who through this middle earth should pass Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave His name upon the harp-string, should achieve No higher bard than simple maidenhood, Singing alone, and fearfully,—how the blood Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray He knew not where; and how he would say, nay, 730 If any said 'twas love: and yet 'twas love; What could it be but love? How a ring-dove Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path; And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe, The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses; And then the ballad of his sad life closes With sighs, and an alas!—Endymion! Be rather in the trumpet's mouth,—anon Among the winds at large—that all may hearken! Although, before the crystal heavens darken, 740 I watch and dote upon the silver lakes Pictur'd in western cloudiness, that takes The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands, Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands With horses prancing o'er them, palaces And towers of amethyst,—would I so tease My pleasant days, because I could not mount Into those regions? The Morphean fount Of that fine element that visions, dreams, And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams 750 Into its airy channels with so subtle, So thin a breathing, not the spider's shuttle, Circled a million times within the space Of a swallow's nest-door, could delay a trace, A tinting of its quality: how light Must dreams themselves be; seeing they're more slight Than the mere nothing that engenders them! Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick? Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick 760 For nothing but a dream?" Hereat the youth Look'd up: a conflicting of shame and ruth Was in his plaited brow: yet, his eyelids Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids A little breeze to creep between the fans Of careless butterflies: amid his pains He seem'd to taste a drop of manna-dew, Full palatable; and a colour grew Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.
"Peona! ever have I long'd to slake 770 My thirst for the world's praises: nothing base, No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar'd— Though now 'tis tatter'd; leaving my bark bar'd And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope, To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks. Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks Our ready minds to fellowship divine, A fellowship with essence; till we shine, 780 Full alchemiz'd, and free of space. Behold The clear religion of heaven! Fold A rose leaf round thy finger's taperness, And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress Of music's kiss impregnates the free winds, And with a sympathetic touch unbinds Eolian magic from their lucid wombs: Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs; Old ditties sigh above their father's grave; Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave 790 Round every spot were trod Apollo's foot; Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit, Where long ago a giant battle was; And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass In every place where infant Orpheus slept. Feel we these things?—that moment have we stept Into a sort of oneness, and our state Is like a floating spirit's. But there are Richer entanglements, enthralments far More self-destroying, leading, by degrees, 800 To the chief intensity: the crown of these Is made of love and friendship, and sits high Upon the forehead of humanity. All its more ponderous and bulky worth Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth A steady splendour; but at the tip-top, There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop Of light, and that is love: its influence, Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense, At which we start and fret; till in the end, 810 Melting into its radiance, we blend, Mingle, and so become a part of it,— Nor with aught else can our souls interknit So wingedly: when we combine therewith, Life's self is nourish'd by its proper pith, And we are nurtured like a pelican brood. Aye, so delicious is the unsating food, That men, who might have tower'd in the van Of all the congregated world, to fan And winnow from the coming step of time 820 All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime Left by men-slugs and human serpentry, Have been content to let occasion die, Whilst they did sleep in love's elysium. And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb, Than speak against this ardent listlessness: For I have ever thought that it might bless The world with benefits unknowingly; As does the nightingale, upperched high, And cloister'd among cool and bunched leaves— 830 She sings but to her love, nor e'er conceives How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood. Just so may love, although 'tis understood The mere commingling of passionate breath, Produce more than our searching witnesseth: What I know not: but who, of men, can tell That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail, The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale, The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones, 840 The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones, Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet, If human souls did never kiss and greet?
"Now, if this earthly love has power to make Men's being mortal, immortal; to shake Ambition from their memories, and brim Their measure of content; what merest whim, Seems all this poor endeavour after fame, To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim A love immortal, an immortal too. 850 Look not so wilder'd; for these things are true, And never can be born of atomies That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies, Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I'm sure, My restless spirit never could endure To brood so long upon one luxury, Unless it did, though fearfully, espy A hope beyond the shadow of a dream. My sayings will the less obscured seem, When I have told thee how my waking sight 860 Has made me scruple whether that same night Was pass'd in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona! Beyond the matron-temple of Latona, Which we should see but for these darkening boughs, Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart, And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught, And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide Past them, but he must brush on every side. Some moulder'd steps lead into this cool cell, 870 Far as the slabbed margin of a well, Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky. Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet Edges them round, and they have golden pits: 'Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat, When all above was faint with mid-day heat. And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed, 880 I'd bubble up the water through a reed; So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips, With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily, When love-lorn hours had left me less a child, I sat contemplating the figures wild Of o'er-head clouds melting the mirror through. Upon a day, while thus I watch'd, by flew A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver; 890 So plainly character'd, no breeze would shiver The happy chance: so happy, I was fain To follow it upon the open plain, And, therefore, was just going; when, behold! A wonder, fair as any I have told— The same bright face I tasted in my sleep, Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap Through the cool depth.—It moved as if to flee— I started up, when lo! refreshfully, There came upon my face, in plenteous showers, 900 Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers, Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight, Bathing my spirit in a new delight. Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss Alone preserved me from the drear abyss Of death, for the fair form had gone again. Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth On the deer's tender haunches: late, and loth, 'Tis scar'd away by slow returning pleasure. 910 How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure Of weary days, made deeper exquisite, By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night! Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still, Than when I wander'd from the poppy hill: And a whole age of lingering moments crept Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept Away at once the deadly yellow spleen. Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen; Once more been tortured with renewed life. 920 When last the wintry gusts gave over strife With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes In pity of the shatter'd infant buds,— That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs, My hunting cap, because I laugh'd and smil'd, Chatted with thee, and many days exil'd All torment from my breast;—'twas even then, Straying about, yet, coop'd up in the den Of helpless discontent,—hurling my lance 930 From place to place, and following at chance, At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck, And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck In the middle of a brook,—whose silver ramble Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble, Tracing along, it brought me to a cave, Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave The nether sides of mossy stones and rock,— 'Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead, 940 Hung a lush scene of drooping weeds, and spread Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph's home. "Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?" Said I, low voic'd: "Ah, whither! 'Tis the grot Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot, Doth her resign; and where her tender hands She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands: Or 'tis the cell of Echo, where she sits, And babbles thorough silence, till her wits Are gone in tender madness, and anon, 950 Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone Of sadness. O that she would take my vows, And breathe them sighingly among the boughs, To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head, Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed, And weave them dyingly—send honey-whispers Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers May sigh my love unto her pitying! O charitable echo! hear, and sing This ditty to her!—tell her"—so I stay'd 960 My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid, Stood stupefied with my own empty folly, And blushing for the freaks of melancholy. Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name Most fondly lipp'd, and then these accents came: "Endymion! the cave is secreter Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys And trembles through my labyrinthine hair." 970 At that oppress'd I hurried in.—Ah! where Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled? I'll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed Sorrow the way to death; but patiently Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh; And come instead demurest meditation, To occupy me wholly, and to fashion My pilgrimage for the world's dusky brink. No more will I count over, link by link, My chain of grief: no longer strive to find 980 A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see, Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be; What a calm round of hours shall make my days. There is a paly flame of hope that plays Where'er I look: but yet, I'll say 'tis naught— And here I bid it die. Have not I caught, Already, a more healthy countenance? By this the sun is setting; we may chance Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car." 990
This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star Through autumn mists, and took Peona's hand: They stept into the boat, and launch'd from land.
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 10 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, 20 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 30 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 40 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; 50 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; 60 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; 70 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 80 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 90 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 100 '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, 110 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. 120 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! 130 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; 140 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-head of doubt 150 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 still the air, the subtle food, To make us feel existence, and to shew How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow, 160 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 170 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 180 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 190 Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins, How lithe! When this thy chariot attains Its 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 200 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 210 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 221 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, 230 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 240 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 250 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, 260 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 270 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, 280 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 290 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 growing strong in the belief 300 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, 310 '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— 320 O let me slake it at the running springs! Upon my car 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, 330 O 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 340 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. 351
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 360 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 370 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 380 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, 390 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 400 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 410 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. 420 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; 430 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 440 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 450 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 460 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 470 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 480 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 490 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 500 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 over head their little fists 510 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 521 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, 530 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 540 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 550 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, 560 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 570 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 580 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, 590 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 600 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, 610 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 620 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, 630 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, 640 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. 650
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, 660 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 670 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 Hesperean; 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 680 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? 690 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 700 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 710 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 720 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, 730 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. 740 "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! 750 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, 760 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 770 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 780 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: 790 Yet must I be a coward!—Honour 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 crystalline 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 800 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 eye 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: 810 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! 820 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 830 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 840 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 850 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 860 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 870 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 880 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 890 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: 900 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, 910 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, 920 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 930 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, 940 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 950 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 960 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, 970 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, 980 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. 990 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 1001 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 1010 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. 1020