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Endymion: Book III Analysis

Author: poem of John Keats Type: poem Views: 22

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There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men

With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen

Their baaing vanities, to browse away

The comfortable green and juicy hay

From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!

Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack'd

Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe

Our gold and ripe-ear'd hopes. With not one tinge

Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight

Able to face an owl's, they still are dight

By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,

And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,

Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount

To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,

Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones--

Amid the fierce intoxicating tones

Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour'd drums,

And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,

In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone--

Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,

And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks.--

Are then regalities all gilded masks?

No, there are throned seats unscalable

But by a patient wing, a constant spell,

Or by ethereal things that, unconfin'd,

Can make a ladder of the eternal wind,

And poise about in cloudy thunder-tents

To watch the abysm-birth of elements.

Aye, 'bove the withering of old-lipp'd Fate

A thousand Powers keep religious state,

In water, fiery realm, and airy bourne;

And, silent as a consecrated urn,

Hold sphery sessions for a season due.

Yet few of these far majesties, ah, few!

Have bared their operations to this globe--

Few, who with gorgeous pageantry enrobe

Our piece of heaven--whose benevolence

Shakes hand with our own Ceres; every sense

Filling with spiritual sweets to plenitude,

As bees gorge full their cells. And, by the feud

'Twixt Nothing and Creation, I here swear,

Eterne Apollo! that thy Sister fair

Is of all these the gentlier-mightiest.

When thy gold breath is misting in the west,

She unobserved steals unto her throne,

And there she sits most meek and most alone;

As if she had not pomp subservient;

As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent

Towards her with the Muses in thine heart;

As if the ministring stars kept not apart,

Waiting for silver-footed messages.

O Moon! the oldest shades 'mong oldest trees

Feel palpitations when thou lookest in:

O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din

The while they feel thine airy fellowship.

Thou dost bless every where, with silver lip

Kissing dead things to life. The sleeping kine,

Couched in thy brightness, dream of fields divine:

Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,

Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes;

And yet thy benediction passeth not

One obscure hiding-place, one little spot

Where pleasure may be sent: the nested wren

Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken,

And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf

Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief

To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps

Within its pearly house.--The mighty deeps,

The monstrous sea is thine--the myriad sea!

O Moon! far-spooming Ocean bows to thee,

And Tellus feels his forehead's cumbrous load.

  Cynthia! where art thou now? What far abode

Of green or silvery bower doth enshrine

Such utmost beauty? Alas, thou dost pine

For one as sorrowful: thy cheek is pale

For one whose cheek is pale: thou dost bewail

His tears, who weeps for thee. Where dost thou sigh?

Ah! surely that light peeps from Vesper's eye,

Or what a thing is love! 'Tis She, but lo!

How chang'd, how full of ache, how gone in woe!

She dies at the thinnest cloud; her loveliness

Is wan on Neptune's blue: yet there's a stress

Of love-spangles, just off yon cape of trees,

Dancing upon the waves, as if to please

The curly foam with amorous influence.

O, not so idle: for down-glancing thence

She fathoms eddies, and runs wild about

O'erwhelming water-courses; scaring out

The thorny sharks from hiding-holes, and fright'ning

Their savage eyes with unaccustomed lightning.

Where will the splendor be content to reach?

O love! how potent hast thou been to teach

Strange journeyings! Wherever beauty dwells,

In gulf or aerie, mountains or deep dells,

In light, in gloom, in star or blazing sun,

Thou pointest out the way, and straight 'tis won.

Amid his toil thou gav'st Leander breath;

Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death;

Thou madest Pluto bear thin element;

And now, O winged Chieftain! thou hast sent

A moon-beam to the deep, deep water-world,

To find Endymion.

                  On gold sand impearl'd

With lily shells, and pebbles milky white,

Poor Cynthia greeted him, and sooth'd her light

Against his pallid face: he felt the charm

To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm

Of his heart's blood: 'twas very sweet; he stay'd

His wandering steps, and half-entranced laid

His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds,

To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads,

Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes' tails.

And so he kept, until the rosy veils

Mantling the east, by Aurora's peering hand

Were lifted from the water's breast, and fann'd

Into sweet air; and sober'd morning came

Meekly through billows:--when like taper-flame

Left sudden by a dallying breath of air,

He rose in silence, and once more 'gan fare

Along his fated way.

                      Far had he roam'd,

With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam'd

Above, around, and at his feet; save things

More dead than Morpheus' imaginings:

Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large

Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe;

Rudders that for a hundred years had lost

The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss'd

With long-forgotten story, and wherein

No reveller had ever dipp'd a chin

But those of Saturn's vintage; mouldering scrolls,

Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls

Who first were on the earth; and sculptures rude

In ponderous stone, developing the mood

Of ancient Nox;--then skeletons of man,

Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan,

And elephant, and eagle, and huge jaw

Of nameless monster. A cold leaden awe

These secrets struck into him; and unless

Dian had chaced away that heaviness,

He might have died: but now, with cheered feel,

He onward kept; wooing these thoughts to steal

About the labyrinth in his soul of love.

  "What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move

My heart so potently? When yet a child

I oft have dried my tears when thou hast smil'd.

Thou seem'dst my sister: hand in hand we went

From eve to morn across the firmament.

No apples would I gather from the tree,

Till thou hadst cool'd their cheeks deliciously:

No tumbling water ever spake romance,

But when my eyes with thine thereon could dance:

No woods were green enough, no bower divine,

Until thou liftedst up thine eyelids fine:

In sowing time ne'er would I dibble take,

Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake;

And, in the summer tide of blossoming,

No one but thee hath heard me blithly sing

And mesh my dewy flowers all the night.

No melody was like a passing spright

If it went not to solemnize thy reign.

Yes, in my boyhood, every joy and pain

By thee were fashion'd to the self-same end;

And as I grew in years, still didst thou blend

With all my ardours: thou wast the deep glen;

Thou wast the mountain-top--the sage's pen--

The poet's harp--the voice of friends--the sun;

Thou wast the river--thou wast glory won;

Thou wast my clarion's blast--thou wast my steed--

My goblet full of wine--my topmost deed:--

Thou wast the charm of women, lovely Moon!

O what a wild and harmonized tune

My spirit struck from all the beautiful!

On some bright essence could I lean, and lull

Myself to immortality: I prest

Nature's soft pillow in a wakeful rest.

But, gentle Orb! there came a nearer bliss--

My strange love came--Felicity's abyss!

She came, and thou didst fade, and fade away--

Yet not entirely; no, thy starry sway

Has been an under-passion to this hour.

Now I begin to feel thine orby power

Is coming fresh upon me: O be kind,

Keep back thine influence, and do not blind

My sovereign vision.--Dearest love, forgive

That I can think away from thee and live!--

Pardon me, airy planet, that I prize

One thought beyond thine argent luxuries!

How far beyond!" At this a surpris'd start

Frosted the springing verdure of his heart;

For as he lifted up his eyes to swear

How his own goddess was past all things fair,

He saw far in the concave green of the sea

An old man sitting calm and peacefully.

Upon a weeded rock this old man sat,

And his white hair was awful, and a mat

Of weeds were cold beneath his cold thin feet;

And, ample as the largest winding-sheet,

A cloak of blue wrapp'd up his aged bones,

O'erwrought with symbols by the deepest groans

Of ambitious magic: every ocean-form

Was woven in with black distinctness; storm,

And calm, and whispering, and hideous roar

Were emblem'd in the woof; with every shape

That skims, or dives, or sleeps, 'twixt cape and cape.

The gulphing whale was like a dot in the spell,

Yet look upon it, and 'twould size and swell

To its huge self; and the minutest fish

Would pass the very hardest gazer's wish,

And show his little eye's anatomy.

Then there was pictur'd the regality

Of Neptune; and the sea nymphs round his state,

In beauteous vassalage, look up and wait.

Beside this old man lay a pearly wand,

And in his lap a book, the which he conn'd

So stedfastly, that the new denizen

Had time to keep him in amazed ken,

To mark these shadowings, and stand in awe.

  The old man rais'd his hoary head and saw

The wilder'd stranger--seeming not to see,

His features were so lifeless. Suddenly

He woke as from a trance; his snow-white brows

Went arching up, and like two magic ploughs

Furrow'd deep wrinkles in his forehead large,

Which kept as fixedly as rocky marge,

Till round his wither'd lips had gone a smile.

Then up he rose, like one whose tedious toil

Had watch'd for years in forlorn hermitage,

Who had not from mid-life to utmost age

Eas'd in one accent his o'er-burden'd soul,

Even to the trees. He rose: he grasp'd his stole,

With convuls'd clenches waving it abroad,

And in a voice of solemn joy, that aw'd

Echo into oblivion, he said:--

  "Thou art the man! Now shall I lay my head

In peace upon my watery pillow: now

Sleep will come smoothly to my weary brow.

O Jove! I shall be young again, be young!

O shell-borne Neptune, I am pierc'd and stung

With new-born life! What shall I do? Where go,

When I have cast this serpent-skin of woe?--

I'll swim to the syrens, and one moment listen

Their melodies, and see their long hair glisten;

Anon upon that giant's arm I'll be,

That writhes about the roots of Sicily:

To northern seas I'll in a twinkling sail,

And mount upon the snortings of a whale

To some black cloud; thence down I'll madly sweep

On forked lightning, to the deepest deep,

Where through some sucking pool I will be hurl'd

With rapture to the other side of the world!

O, I am full of gladness! Sisters three,

I bow full hearted to your old decree!

Yes, every god be thank'd, and power benign,

For I no more shall wither, droop, and pine.

Thou art the man!" Endymion started back

Dismay'd; and, like a wretch from whom the rack

Tortures hot breath, and speech of agony,

Mutter'd: "What lonely death am I to die

In this cold region? Will he let me freeze,

And float my brittle limbs o'er polar seas?

Or will he touch me with his searing hand,

And leave a black memorial on the sand?

Or tear me piece-meal with a bony saw,

And keep me as a chosen food to draw

His magian fish through hated fire and flame?

O misery of hell! resistless, tame,

Am I to be burnt up? No, I will shout,

Until the gods through heaven's blue look out!--

O Tartarus! but some few days agone

Her soft arms were entwining me, and on

Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves:

Her lips were all my own, and--ah, ripe sheaves

Of happiness! ye on the stubble droop,

But never may be garner'd. I must stoop

My head, and kiss death's foot. Love! love, farewel!

Is there no hope from thee? This horrid spell

Would melt at thy sweet breath.--By Dian's hind

Feeding from her white fingers, on the wind

I see thy streaming hair! and now, by Pan,

I care not for this old mysterious man!"

  He spake, and walking to that aged form,

Look'd high defiance. Lo! his heart 'gan warm

With pity, for the grey-hair'd creature wept.

Had he then wrong'd a heart where sorrow kept?

Had he, though blindly contumelious, brought

Rheum to kind eyes, a sting to human thought,

Convulsion to a mouth of many years?

He had in truth; and he was ripe for tears.

The penitent shower fell, as down he knelt

Before that care-worn sage, who trembling felt

About his large dark locks, and faultering spake:

  "Arise, good youth, for sacred Phoebus' sake!

I know thine inmost bosom, and I feel

A very brother's yearning for thee steal

Into mine own: for why? thou openest

The prison gates that have so long opprest

My weary watching. Though thou know'st it not,

Thou art commission'd to this fated spot

For great enfranchisement. O weep no more;

I am a friend to love, to loves of yore:

Aye, hadst thou never lov'd an unknown power

I had been grieving at this joyous hour

But even now most miserable old,

I saw thee, and my blood no longer cold

Gave mighty pulses: in this tottering case

Grew a new heart, which at this moment plays

As dancingly as thine. Be not afraid,

For thou shalt hear this secret all display'd,

Now as we speed towards our joyous task."

  So saying, this young soul in age's mask

Went forward with the Carian side by side:

Resuming quickly thus; while ocean's tide

Hung swollen at their backs, and jewel'd sands

Took silently their foot-prints. "My soul stands

Now past the midway from mortality,

And so I can prepare without a sigh

To tell thee briefly all my joy and pain.

I was a fisher once, upon this main,

And my boat danc'd in every creek and bay;

Rough billows were my home by night and day,--

The sea-gulls not more constant; for I had

No housing from the storm and tempests mad,

But hollow rocks,--and they were palaces

Of silent happiness, of slumberous ease:

Long years of misery have told me so.

Aye, thus it was one thousand years ago.

One thousand years!--Is it then possible

To look so plainly through them? to dispel

A thousand years with backward glance sublime?

To breathe away as 'twere all scummy slime

From off a crystal pool, to see its deep,

And one's own image from the bottom peep?

Yes: now I am no longer wretched thrall,

My long captivity and moanings all

Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum,

The which I breathe away, and thronging come

Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures.

  "I touch'd no lute, I sang not, trod no measures:

I was a lonely youth on desert shores.

My sports were lonely, 'mid continuous roars,

And craggy isles, and sea-mew's plaintive cry

Plaining discrepant between sea and sky.

Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen

Would let me feel their scales of gold and green,

Nor be my desolation; and, full oft,

When a dread waterspout had rear'd aloft

Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe

To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe

My life away like a vast sponge of fate,

Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state,

Has dived to its foundations, gulph'd it down,

And left me tossing safely. But the crown

Of all my life was utmost quietude:

More did I love to lie in cavern rude,

Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune's voice,

And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice!

There blush'd no summer eve but I would steer

My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear

The shepherd's pipe come clear from aery steep,

Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep:

And never was a day of summer shine,

But I beheld its birth upon the brine:

For I would watch all night to see unfold

Heaven's gates, and Aethon snort his morning gold

Wide o'er the swelling streams: and constantly

At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea,

My nets would be spread out, and I at rest.

The poor folk of the sea-country I blest

With daily boon of fish most delicate:

They knew not whence this bounty, and elate

Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach.

  "Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach

At things which, but for thee, O Latmian!

Had been my dreary death? Fool! I began

To feel distemper'd longings: to desire

The utmost privilege that ocean's sire

Could grant in benediction: to be free

Of all his kingdom. Long in misery

I wasted, ere in one extremest fit

I plung'd for life or death. To interknit

One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff

Might seem a work of pain; so not enough

Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,

And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt

Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;

Forgetful utterly of self-intent;

Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.

Then, like a new fledg'd bird that first doth shew

His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,

I tried in fear the pinions of my will.

'Twas freedom! and at once I visited

The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed.

No need to tell thee of them, for I see

That thou hast been a witness--it must be

For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth,

By the melancholy corners of that mouth.

So I will in my story straightway pass

To more immediate matter. Woe, alas!

That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair!

Why did poor Glaucus ever--ever dare

To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth!

I lov'd her to the very white of truth,

And she would not conceive it. Timid thing!

She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing,

Round every isle, and point, and promontory,

From where large Hercules wound up his story

Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew

The more, the more I saw her dainty hue

Gleam delicately through the azure clear:

Until 'twas too fierce agony to bear;

And in that agony, across my grief

It flash'd, that Circe might find some relief--

Cruel enchantress! So above the water

I rear'd my head, and look'd for Phoebus' daughter.

Aeaea's isle was wondering at the moon:--

It seem'd to whirl around me, and a swoon

Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power.

  "When I awoke, 'twas in a twilight bower;

Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees,

Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees.

How sweet, and sweeter! for I heard a lyre,

And over it a sighing voice expire.

It ceased--I caught light footsteps; and anon

The fairest face that morn e'er look'd upon

Push'd through a screen of roses. Starry Jove!

With tears, and smiles, and honey-words she wove

A net whose thraldom was more bliss than all

The range of flower'd Elysium. Thus did fall

The dew of her rich speech: "Ah! Art awake?

O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid's sake!

I am so oppress'd with joy! Why, I have shed

An urn of tears, as though thou wert cold dead;

And now I find thee living, I will pour

From these devoted eyes their silver store,

Until exhausted of the latest drop,

So it will pleasure thee, and force thee stop

Here, that I too may live: but if beyond

Such cool and sorrowful offerings, thou art fond

Of soothing warmth, of dalliance supreme;

If thou art ripe to taste a long love dream;

If smiles, if dimples, tongues for ardour mute,

Hang in thy vision like a tempting fruit,

O let me pluck it for thee." Thus she link'd

Her charming syllables, till indistinct

Their music came to my o'er-sweeten'd soul;

And then she hover'd over me, and stole

So near, that if no nearer it had been

This furrow'd visage thou hadst never seen.

  "Young man of Latmos! thus particular

Am I, that thou may'st plainly see how far

This fierce temptation went: and thou may'st not

Exclaim, How then, was Scylla quite forgot?

  "Who could resist? Who in this universe?

She did so breathe ambrosia; so immerse

My fine existence in a golden clime.

She took me like a child of suckling time,

And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn'd,

The current of my former life was stemm'd,

And to this arbitrary queen of sense

I bow'd a tranced vassal: nor would thence

Have mov'd, even though Amphion's harp had woo'd

Me back to Scylla o'er the billows rude.

For as Apollo each eve doth devise

A new appareling for western skies;

So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour

Shed balmy consciousness within that bower.

And I was free of haunts umbrageous;

Could wander in the mazy forest-house

Of squirrels, foxes shy, and antler'd deer,

And birds from coverts innermost and drear

Warbling for very joy mellifluous sorrow--

To me new born delights!

                          "Now let me borrow,

For moments few, a temperament as stern

As Pluto's sceptre, that my words not burn

These uttering lips, while I in calm speech tell

How specious heaven was changed to real hell.

  "One morn she left me sleeping: half awake

I sought for her smooth arms and lips, to slake

My greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts;

But she was gone. Whereat the barbed shafts

Of disappointment stuck in me so sore,

That out I ran and search'd the forest o'er.

Wandering about in pine and cedar gloom

Damp awe assail'd me; for there 'gan to boom

A sound of moan, an agony of sound,

Sepulchral from the distance all around.

Then came a conquering earth-thunder, and rumbled

That fierce complain to silence: while I stumbled

Down a precipitous path, as if impell'd.

I came to a dark valley.--Groanings swell'd

Poisonous about my ears, and louder grew,

The nearer I approach'd a flame's gaunt blue,

That glar'd before me through a thorny brake.

This fire, like the eye of gordian snake,

Bewitch'd me towards; and I soon was near

A sight too fearful for the feel of fear:

In thicket hid I curs'd the haggard scene--

The banquet of my arms, my arbour queen,

Seated upon an uptorn forest root;

And all around her shapes, wizard and brute,

Laughing, and wailing, groveling, serpenting,

Shewing tooth, tusk, and venom-bag, and sting!

O such deformities! Old Charon's self,

Should he give up awhile his penny pelf,

And take a dream 'mong rushes Stygian,

It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan,

And tyrannizing was the lady's look,

As over them a gnarled staff she shook.

Oft-times upon the sudden she laugh'd out,

And from a basket emptied to the rout

Clusters of grapes, the which they raven'd quick

And roar'd for more; with many a hungry lick

About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow,

Anon she took a branch of mistletoe,

And emptied on't a black dull-gurgling phial:

Groan'd one and all, as if some piercing trial

Was sharpening for their pitiable bones.

She lifted up the charm: appealing groans

From their poor breasts went sueing to her ear

In vain; remorseless as an infant's bier

She whisk'd against their eyes the sooty oil.

Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil,

Increasing gradual to a tempest rage,

Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage;

Until their grieved bodies 'gan to bloat

And puff from the tail's end to stifled throat:

Then was appalling silence: then a sight

More wildering than all that hoarse affright;

For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen,

Went through the dismal air like one huge Python

Antagonizing Boreas,--and so vanish'd.

Yet there was not a breath of wind: she banish'd

These phantoms with a nod. Lo! from the dark

Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark,

With dancing and loud revelry,--and went

Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent.--

Sighing an elephant appear'd and bow'd

Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud

In human accent: "Potent goddess! chief

Of pains resistless! make my being brief,

Or let me from this heavy prison fly:

Or give me to the air, or let me die!

I sue not for my happy crown again;

I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;

I sue not for my lone, my widow'd wife;

I sue not for my ruddy drops of life,

My children fair, my lovely girls and boys!

I will forget them; I will pass these joys;

Ask nought so heavenward, so too--too high:

Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die,

Or be deliver'd from this cumbrous flesh,

From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh,

And merely given to the cold bleak air.

Have mercy, Goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!"

  That curst magician's name fell icy numb

Upon my wild conjecturing: truth had come

Naked and sabre-like against my heart.

I saw a fury whetting a death-dart;

And my slain spirit, overwrought with fright,

Fainted away in that dark lair of night.

Think, my deliverer, how desolate

My waking must have been! disgust, and hate,

And terrors manifold divided me

A spoil amongst them. I prepar'd to flee

Into the dungeon core of that wild wood:

I fled three days--when lo! before me stood

Glaring the angry witch. O Dis, even now,

A clammy dew is beading on my brow,

At mere remembering her pale laugh, and curse.

"Ha! ha! Sir Dainty! there must be a nurse

Made of rose leaves and thistledown, express,

To cradle thee my sweet, and lull thee: yes,

I am too flinty-hard for thy nice touch:

My tenderest squeeze is but a giant's clutch.

So, fairy-thing, it shall have lullabies

Unheard of yet; and it shall still its cries

Upon some breast more lily-feminine.

Oh, no--it shall not pine, and pine, and pine

More than one pretty, trifling thousand years;

And then 'twere pity, but fate's gentle shears

Cut short its immortality. Sea-flirt!

Young dove of the waters! truly I'll not hurt

One hair of thine: see how I weep and sigh,

That our heart-broken parting is so nigh.

And must we part? Ah, yes, it must be so.

Yet ere thou leavest me in utter woe,

Let me sob over thee my last adieus,

And speak a blessing: Mark me! thou hast thews

Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:

But such a love is mine, that here I chase

Eternally away from thee all bloom

Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.

Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;

And there, ere many days be overpast,

Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then

Thou shalt not go the way of aged men;

But live and wither, cripple and still breathe

Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath

Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.

Adieu, sweet love, adieu!"--As shot stars fall,

She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung

And poisoned was my spirit: despair sung

A war-song of defiance 'gainst all hell.

A hand was at my shoulder to compel

My sullen steps; another 'fore my eyes

Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise

Enforced, at the last by ocean's foam

I found me; by my fresh, my native home.

Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,

Came salutary as I waded in;

And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave

Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave

Large froth before me, while there yet remain'd

Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain'd.

  "Young lover, I must weep--such hellish spite

With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might

Proving upon this element, dismay'd,

Upon a dead thing's face my hand I laid;

I look'd--'twas Scylla! Cursed, cursed Circe!

O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy?

Could not thy harshest vengeance be content,

But thou must nip this tender innocent

Because I lov'd her?--Cold, O cold indeed

Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed

The sea-swell took her hair. Dead as she was

I clung about her waist, nor ceas'd to pass

Fleet as an arrow through unfathom'd brine,

Until there shone a fabric crystalline,

Ribb'd and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl.

Headlong I darted; at one eager swirl

Gain'd its bright portal, enter'd, and behold!

'Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold;

And all around--But wherefore this to thee

Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see?--

I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled.

My fever'd parchings up, my scathing dread

Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became

Gaunt, wither'd, sapless, feeble, cramp'd, and lame.

  "Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,

Without one hope, without one faintest trace

Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble

Of colour'd phantasy; for I fear 'twould trouble

Thy brain to loss of reason: and next tell

How a restoring chance came down to quell

One half of the witch in me.                 On a day,

Sitting upon a rock above the spray,

I saw grow up from the horizon's brink

A gallant vessel: soon she seem'd to sink

Away from me again, as though her course

Had been resum'd in spite of hindering force--

So vanish'd: and not long, before arose

Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose.

Old Eolus would stifle his mad spleen,

But could not: therefore all the billows green

Toss'd up the silver spume against the clouds.

The tempest came: I saw that vessel's shrouds

In perilous bustle; while upon the deck

Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck;

The final gulphing; the poor struggling souls:

I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls.

O they had all been sav'd but crazed eld

Annull'd my vigorous cravings: and thus quell'd

And curb'd, think on't, O Latmian! did I sit

Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit

Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone,

By one and one, to pale oblivion;

And I was gazing on the surges prone,

With many a scalding tear and many a groan,

When at my feet emerg'd an old man's hand,

Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.

I knelt with pain--reached out my hand--had grasp'd

These treasures--touch'd the knuckles--they unclasp'd--

I caught a finger: but the downward weight

O'erpowered me--it sank. Then 'gan abate

The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst

The comfortable sun. I was athirst

To search the book, and in the warming air

Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.

Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on

My soul page after page, till well-nigh won

Into forgetfulness; when, stupefied,

I read these words, and read again, and tried

My eyes against the heavens, and read again.

O what a load of misery and pain

Each Atlas-line bore off!--a shine of hope

Came gold around me, cheering me to cope

Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend!

For thou hast brought their promise to an end.

  "In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,

Doom'd with enfeebled carcase to outstretch

His loath'd existence through ten centuries,

And then to die alone. Who can devise

A total opposition? No one. So

One million times ocean must ebb and flow,

And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,

These things accomplish'd:--If he utterly

Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds

The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds;

If he explores all forms and substances

Straight homeward to their symbol-essences;

He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,

He must pursue this task of joy and grief

Most piously;--all lovers tempest-tost,

And in the savage overwhelming lost,

He shall deposit side by side, until

Time's creeping shall the dreary space fulfil:

Which done, and all these labours ripened,

A youth, by heavenly power lov'd and led,

Shall stand before him; whom he shall direct

How to consummate all. The youth elect

Must do the thing, or both will be destroy'd."--

  "Then," cried the young Endymion, overjoy'd,

"We are twin brothers in this destiny!

Say, I intreat thee, what achievement high

Is, in this restless world, for me reserv'd.

What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerv'd,

Had we both perish'd?"--"Look!" the sage replied,

"Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,

Of divers brilliances? 'tis the edifice

I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies;

And where I have enshrined piously

All lovers, whom fell storms have doom'd to die

Throughout my bondage." Thus discoursing, on

They went till unobscur'd the porches shone;

Which hurryingly they gain'd, and enter'd straight.

Sure never since king Neptune held his state

Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.

Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars

Has legion'd all his battle; and behold

How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold

His even breast: see, many steeled squares,

And rigid ranks of iron--whence who dares

One step? Imagine further, line by line,

These warrior thousands on the field supine:--

So in that crystal place, in silent rows,

Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes.--

The stranger from the mountains, breathless, trac'd

Such thousands of shut eyes in order plac'd;

Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips

All ruddy,--for here death no blossom nips.

He mark'd their brows and foreheads; saw their hair

Put sleekly on one side with nicest care;

And each one's gentle wrists, with reverence,

Put cross-wise to its heart.

                              "Let us commence,

Whisper'd the guide, stuttering with joy, even now."

He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough,

Began to tear his scroll in pieces small,

Uttering the while some mumblings funeral.

He tore it into pieces small as snow

That drifts unfeather'd when bleak northerns blow;

And having done it, took his dark blue cloak

And bound it round Endymion: then struck

His wand against the empty air times nine.--

"What more there is to do, young man, is thine:

But first a little patience; first undo

This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue.

Ah, gentle! 'tis as weak as spider's skein;

And shouldst thou break it--What, is it done so clean?

A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave!

The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave.

Here is a shell; 'tis pearly blank to me,

Nor mark'd with any sign or charactery--

Canst thou read aught? O read for pity's sake!

Olympus! we are safe! Now, Carian, break

This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal."

  'Twas done: and straight with sudden swell and fall

Sweet music breath'd her soul away, and sigh'd

A lullaby to silence.--"Youth! now strew

These minced leaves on me, and passing through

Those files of dead, scatter the same around,

And thou wilt see the issue."--'Mid the sound

Of flutes and viols, ravishing his heart,

Endymion from Glaucus stood apart,

And scatter'd in his face some fragments light.

How lightning-swift the change! a youthful wight

Smiling beneath a coral diadem,

Out-sparkling sudden like an upturn'd gem,

Appear'd, and, stepping to a beauteous corse,

Kneel'd down beside it, and with tenderest force

Press'd its cold hand, and wept--and Scylla sigh'd!

Endymion, with quick hand, the charm applied--

The nymph arose: he left them to their joy,

And onward went upon his high employ,

Showering those powerful fragments on the dead.

And, as he pass'd, each lifted up its head,

As doth a flower at Apollo's touch.

Death felt it to his inwards; 'twas too much:

Death fell a weeping in his charnel-house.

The Latmian persever'd along, and thus

All were re-animated. There arose

A noise of harmony, pulses and throes

Of gladness in the air--while many, who

Had died in mutual arms devout and true,

Sprang to each other madly; and the rest

Felt a high certainty of being blest.

They gaz'd upon Endymion. Enchantment

Grew drunken, and would have its head and bent.

Delicious symphonies, like airy flowers,

Budded, and swell'd, and, full-blown, shed full showers

Of light, soft, unseen leaves of sounds divine.

The two deliverers tasted a pure wine

Of happiness, from fairy-press ooz'd out.

Speechless they eyed each other, and about

The fair assembly wander'd to and fro,

Distracted with the richest overflow

Of joy that ever pour'd from heaven.


Shouted the new-born god; "Follow, and pay

Our piety to Neptunus supreme!"--

Then Scylla, blushing sweetly from her dream,

They led on first, bent to her meek surprise,

Through portal columns of a giant size,

Into the vaulted, boundless emerald.

Joyous all follow'd, as the leader call'd,

Down marble steps; pouring as easily

As hour-glass sand--and fast, as you might see

Swallows obeying the south summer's call,

Or swans upon a gentle waterfall.

  Thus went that beautiful multitude, nor far,

Ere from among some rocks of glittering spar,

Just within ken, they saw descending thick

Another multitude. Whereat more quick

Moved either host. On a wide sand they met,

And of those numbers every eye was wet;

For each their old love found. A murmuring rose,

Like what was never heard in all the throes

Of wind and waters: 'tis past human wit

To tell; 'tis dizziness to think of it.

  This mighty consummation made, the host

Mov'd on for many a league; and gain'd, and lost

Huge sea-marks; vanward swelling in array,

And from the rear diminishing away,--

Till a faint dawn surpris'd them. Glaucus cried,

"Behold! behold, the palace of his pride!

God Neptune's palaces!" With noise increas'd,

They shoulder'd on towards that brightening east.

At every onward step proud domes arose

In prospect,--diamond gleams, and golden glows

Of amber 'gainst their faces levelling.

Joyous, and many as the leaves in spring,

Still onward; still the splendour gradual swell'd.

Rich opal domes were seen, on high upheld

By jasper pillars, letting through their shafts

A blush of coral. Copious wonder-draughts

Each gazer drank; and deeper drank more near:

For what poor mortals fragment up, as mere

As marble was there lavish, to the vast

Of one fair palace, that far far surpass'd,

Even for common bulk, those olden three,

Memphis, and Babylon, and Nineveh.

  As large, as bright, as colour'd as the bow

Of Iris, when unfading it doth shew

Beyond a silvery shower, was the arch

Through which this Paphian army took its march,

Into the outer courts of Neptune's state:

Whence could be seen, direct, a golden gate,

To which the leaders sped; but not half raught

Ere it burst open swift as fairy thought,

And made those dazzled thousands veil their eyes

Like callow eagles at the first sunrise.

Soon with an eagle nativeness their gaze

Ripe from hue-golden swoons took all the blaze,

And then, behold! large Neptune on his throne

Of emerald deep: yet not exalt alone;

At his right hand stood winged Love, and on

His left sat smiling Beauty's paragon.

  Far as the mariner on highest mast

Can see all round upon the calmed vast,

So wide was Neptune's hall: and as the blue

Doth vault the waters, so the waters drew

Their doming curtains, high, magnificent,

Aw'd from the throne aloof;--and when storm-rent

Disclos'd the thunder-gloomings in Jove's air;

But sooth'd as now, flash'd sudden everywhere,

Noiseless, sub-marine cloudlets, glittering

Death to a human eye: for there did spring

From natural west, and east, and south, and north,

A light as of four sunsets, blazing forth

A gold-green zenith 'bove the Sea-God's head.

Of lucid depth the floor, and far outspread

As breezeless lake, on which the slim canoe

Of feather'd Indian darts about, as through

The delicatest air: air verily,

But for the portraiture of clouds and sky:

This palace floor breath-air,--but for the amaze

Of deep-seen wonders motionless,--and blaze

Of the dome pomp, reflected in extremes,

Globing a golden sphere.

                          They stood in dreams

Till Triton blew his horn. The palace rang;

The Nereids danc'd; the Syrens faintly sang;

And the great Sea-King bow'd his dripping head.

Then Love took wing, and from his pinions shed

On all the multitude a nectarous dew.

The ooze-born Goddess beckoned and drew

Fair Scylla and her guides to conference;

And when they reach'd the throned eminence

She kist the sea-nymph's cheek,--who sat her down

A toying with the doves. Then,--"Mighty crown

And sceptre of this kingdom!" Venus said,

"Thy vows were on a time to Nais paid:

Behold!"--Two copious tear-drops instant fell

From the God's large eyes; he smil'd delectable,

And over Glaucus held his blessing hands.--

"Endymion! Ah! still wandering in the bands

Of love? Now this is cruel. Since the hour

I met thee in earth's bosom, all my power

Have I put forth to serve thee. What, not yet

Escap'd from dull mortality's harsh net?

A little patience, youth! 'twill not be long,

Or I am skilless quite: an idle tongue,

A humid eye, and steps luxurious,

Where these are new and strange, are ominous.

Aye, I have seen these signs in one of heaven,

When others were all blind; and were I given

To utter secrets, haply I might say

Some pleasant words:--but Love will have his day.

So wait awhile expectant. Pr'ythee soon,

Even in the passing of thine honey-moon,

Visit my Cytherea: thou wilt find

Cupid well-natured, my Adonis kind;

And pray persuade with thee--Ah, I have done,

All blisses be upon thee, my sweet son!"--

Thus the fair goddess: while Endymion

Knelt to receive those accents halcyon.

  Meantime a glorious revelry began

Before the Water-Monarch. Nectar ran

In courteous fountains to all cups outreach'd;

And plunder'd vines, teeming exhaustless, pleach'd

New growth about each shell and pendent lyre;

The which, in disentangling for their fire,

Pull'd down fresh foliage and coverture

For dainty toying. Cupid, empire-sure,

Flutter'd and laugh'd, and oft-times through the throng

Made a delighted way. Then dance, and song,

And garlanding grew wild; and pleasure reign'd.

In harmless tendril they each other chain'd,

And strove who should be smother'd deepest in

Fresh crush of leaves.

                          O 'tis a very sin

For one so weak to venture his poor verse

In such a place as this. O do not curse,

High Muses! let him hurry to the ending.

  All suddenly were silent. A soft blending

Of dulcet instruments came charmingly;

And then a hymn.

                    "KING of the stormy sea!

Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor

Of elements! Eternally before

Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock,

At thy fear'd trident shrinking, doth unlock

Its deep foundations, hissing into foam.

All mountain-rivers lost, in the wide home

Of thy capacious bosom ever flow.

Thou frownest, and old Eolus thy foe

Skulks to his cavern, 'mid the gruff complaint

Of all his rebel tempests. Dark clouds faint

When, from thy diadem, a silver gleam

Slants over blue dominion. Thy bright team

Gulphs in the morning light, and scuds along

To bring thee nearer to that golden song

Apollo singeth, while his chariot

Waits at the doors of heaven. Thou art not

For scenes like this: an empire stern hast thou;

And it hath furrow'd that large front: yet now,

As newly come of heaven, dost thou sit

To blend and interknit

Subdued majesty with this glad time.

O shell-borne King sublime!

We lay our hearts before thee evermore--

We sing, and we adore!

  "Breathe softly, flutes;

Be tender of your strings, ye soothing lutes;

Nor be the trumpet heard! O vain, O vain;

Not flowers budding in an April rain,

Nor breath of sleeping dove, nor river's flow,--

No, nor the Eolian twang of Love's own bow,

Can mingle music fit for the soft ear

Of goddess Cytherea!

Yet deign, white Queen of Beauty, thy fair eyes

On our souls' sacrifice.

  "Bright-winged Child!

Who has another care when thou hast smil'd?

Unfortunates on earth, we see at last

All death-shadows, and glooms that overcast

Our spirits, fann'd away by thy light pinions.

O sweetest essence! sweetest of all minions!

God of warm pulses, and dishevell'd hair,

And panting bosoms bare!

Dear unseen light in darkness! eclipser

Of light in light! delicious poisoner!

Thy venom'd goblet will we quaff until

We fill--we fill!

And by thy Mother's lips----"

                         Was heard no more

For clamour, when the golden palace door

Opened again, and from without, in shone

A new magnificence. On oozy throne

Smooth-moving came Oceanus the old,

To take a latest glimpse at his sheep-fold,

Before he went into his quiet cave

To muse for ever--Then a lucid wave,

Scoop'd from its trembling sisters of mid-sea,

Afloat, and pillowing up the majesty

Of Doris, and the Egean seer, her spouse--

Next, on a dolphin, clad in laurel boughs,

Theban Amphion leaning on his lute:

His fingers went across it--All were mute

To gaze on Amphitrite, queen of pearls,

And Thetis pearly too.--

                           The palace whirls

Around giddy Endymion; seeing he

Was there far strayed from mortality.

He could not bear it--shut his eyes in vain;

Imagination gave a dizzier pain.

"O I shall die! sweet Venus, be my stay!

Where is my lovely mistress? Well-away!

I die--I hear her voice--I feel my wing--"

At Neptune's feet he sank. A sudden ring

Of Nereids were about him, in kind strife

To usher back his spirit into life:

But still he slept. At last they interwove

Their cradling arms, and purpos'd to convey

Towards a crystal bower far away.

  Lo! while slow carried through the pitying crowd,

To his inward senses these words spake aloud;

Written in star-light on the dark above:

Dearest Endymion! my entire love!

How have I dwelt in fear of fate: 'tis done--

Immortal bliss for me too hast thou won.

Arise then! for the hen-dove shall not hatch

Her ready eggs, before I'll kissing snatch

Thee into endless heaven. Awake! awake!

  The youth at once arose: a placid lake

Came quiet to his eyes; and forest green,

Cooler than all the wonders he had seen,

Lull'd with its simple song his fluttering breast.

How happy once again in grassy nest!


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