It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my ANNABEL LEE;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the side of the sea.
’Twas noontide of summer,
And midtime of night,
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, through the light
Of the brighter, cold moon.
’Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold—too cold for me—
There passed, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping—rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping—tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door:—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping, somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more.”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he: not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope the melancholy burden bore
But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath
Respite—respite aad nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked,
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream:
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
AN UNPUBLISHED DRAMA.
ROME.—A Hall in a Palace. ALESSANDRA and CASTIGLIONE
Alessandra. Thou art sad, Castiglione.
Castiglione. Sad!—not I.
Oh, I’m the happiest, happiest man in Rome!
A few days more, thou knowest, my Alessandra,
Will make thee mine. Oh, I am very happy!
Aless. Methinks thou hast a singular way of showing
Thy happiness—what ails thee, cousin of mine?
Why didst thou sigh so deeply?
Cas. Did I sigh?
I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion,
A silly—a most silly fashion I have
When I am very happy. Did I sigh? (sighing.)
Aless. Thou didst. Thou art not well. Thou hast indulged
Too much of late, and I am vexed to see it.
Late hours and wine, Castiglione,—these
Will ruin thee! thou art already altered—
Thy looks are haggard—nothing so wears away
The constitution as late hours and wine.
Cas. (musing ). Nothing, fair cousin, nothing—
Not even deep sorrow—
Wears it away like evil hours and wine.
I will amend.
Aless. Do it! I would have thee drop
Thy riotous company, too—fellows low born
Ill suit the like of old Di Broglio’s heir
And Alessandra’s husband.
Cas. I will drop them.
Aless. Thou wilt—thou must. Attend thou also more
To thy dress and equipage—they are over plain
For thy lofty rank and fashion—much depends
Cas. I’ll see to it.
Aless. Then see to it!—pay more attention, sir,
To a becoming carriage—much thou wantest
Cas. Much, much, oh, much I want
In proper dignity.
(haughtily). Thou mockest me, sir!
(abstractedly). Sweet, gentle Lalage!
Aless. Heard I aright?
I speak to him—he speaks of Lalage?
(places her hand on his shoulder)
what art thou dreaming?
He’s not well!
What ails thee, sir?
Cas.(starting). Cousin! fair cousin!—madam!
I crave thy pardon—indeed I am not well—
Your hand from off my shoulder, if you please.
This air is most oppressive!—Madam—the Duke!
Enter Di Broglio.
Di Broglio. My son, I’ve news for thee!—hey!
—what’s the matter?
I’ the pouts? Kiss her, Castiglione! kiss her,
You dog! and make it up, I say, this minute!
I’ve news for you both. Politian is expected
Hourly in Rome—Politian, Earl of Leicester!
We’ll have him at the wedding. ’Tis his first visit
To the imperial city.
Aless. What! Politian
Of Britain, Earl of Leicester?
Di Brog. The same, my love.
We’ll have him at the wedding. A man quite young
In years, but gray in fame. I have not seen him,
But Rumor speaks of him as of a prodigy
Pre-eminent in arts, and arms, and wealth,
And high descent. We’ll have him at the wedding.
Aless. I have heard much of this Politian.
Gay, volatile and giddy—is he not,
And little given to thinking?
Di Brog. Far from it, love.
No branch, they say, of all philosophy
So deep abstruse he has not mastered it.
Learned as few are learned.
Aless. ’Tis very strange!
I have known men have seen Politian
And sought his company. They speak of him
As of one who entered madly into life,
Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs.
Cas. Ridiculous! Now I have seen Politian
And know him well—nor learned nor mirthful he.
He is a dreamer, and shut out
From common passions.
Di Brog. Children, we disagree.
Let us go forth and taste the fragrant air
Of the garden. Did I dream, or did I hear
Politian was a melancholy man?
ROME.—A Lady’s Apartment, with a window open and looking into a garden.
LALAGE, in deep mourning, reading at a table on which lie some books and
a hand-mirror. In the background JACINTA (a servant maid) leans
carelessly upon a chair.
Lalage. Jacinta! is it thou?
(pertly). Yes, ma’am, I’m here.
Lal. I did not know, Jacinta, you were in waiting.
Sit down!—let not my presence trouble you—
Sit down!—for I am humble, most humble.
Jac. (aside). ’Tis time.
(Jacinta seats herself in a side-long manner upon the chair, resting
her elbows upon the back, and regarding her mistress with a contemptuous
look. Lalage continues to read.)
Lal. “It in another climate, so he said,
Bore a bright golden flower, but not i’ this soil!”
(pauses—turns over some leaves and resumes.)
“No lingering winters there, nor snow, nor shower—
But Ocean ever to refresh mankind
Breathes the shrill spirit of the western wind”
Oh, beautiful!—most beautiful!—how like
To what my fevered soul doth dream of Heaven!
O happy land! (pauses) She died!—the maiden died!
O still more happy maiden who couldst die!
(Jacinta returns no answer, and Lalage presently resumes.)
Again!—a similar tale
Told of a beauteous dame beyond the sea!
Thus speaketh one Ferdinand in the words of the play—
“She died full young”—one Bossola answers him—
“I think not so—her infelicity
Seemed to have years too many”—Ah, luckless lady!
Jacinta! (still no answer.)
Here’s a far sterner story—
But like—oh, very like in its despair—
Of that Egyptian queen, winning so easily
A thousand hearts—losing at length her own.
She died. Thus endeth the history—and her maids
Lean over her and keep—two gentle maids
With gentle names—Eiros and Charmion!
Rainbow and Dove!—Jacinta!
(pettishly). Madam, what is it?
Lal. Wilt thou, my good Jacinta, be so kind
As go down in the library and bring me
The Holy Evangelists?
Lal. If there be balm
For the wounded spirit in Gilead, it is there!
Dew in the night time of my bitter trouble
Will there be found—”dew sweeter far than that
Which hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill.”
(re-enter Jacinta, and throws a volume on the table.)
There, ma’am, ’s the book.
(aside.) Indeed she is very troublesome.
(astonished). What didst thou say, Jacinta?
Have I done aught
To grieve thee or to vex thee?—I am sorry.
For thou hast served me long and ever been
Trustworthy and respectful.
(resumes her reading.)
Jac. (aside.) I can’t believe
She has any more jewels—no—no—she gave me all.
Lal. What didst thou say, Jacinta? Now I bethink me
Thou hast not spoken lately of thy wedding.
How fares good Ugo?—and when is it to be?
Can I do aught?—is there no further aid
Thou needest, Jacinta?
Jac. (aside.) Is there no further aid!
That’s meant for me. I’m sure, madam, you need not
Be always throwing those jewels in my teeth.
Lal. Jewels! Jacinta,—now indeed, Jacinta,
I thought not of the jewels.
Jac. Oh, perhaps not!
But then I might have sworn it. After all,
There’s Ugo says the ring is only paste,
For he’s sure the Count Castiglione never
Would have given a real diamond to such as you;
And at the best I’m certain, madam, you cannot
Have use for jewels now. But I might have sworn it.
(Lalage bursts into tears and leans her head upon the table—after a
short pause raises it.)
Lal. Poor Lalage!—and is it come to this?
Thy servant maid!—but courage!—’tis but a viper
Whom thou hast cherished to sting thee to the soul!
(taking up the mirror)
Ha! here at least’s a friend—too much a friend
In earlier days—a friend will not deceive thee.
Fair mirror and true! now tell me (for thou canst)
A tale—a pretty tale—and heed thou not
Though it be rife with woe. It answers me.
It speaks of sunken eyes, and wasted cheeks,
And beauty long deceased—remembers me,
Of Joy departed—Hope, the Seraph Hope,
Inurned and entombed!—now, in a tone
Low, sad, and solemn, but most audible,
Whispers of early grave untimely yawning
For ruined maid. Fair mirror and true!—thou liest not!
Thou hast no end to gain—no heart to break—
Castiglione lied who said he loved——
Thou true—he false!—false!—false!
(While she speaks, a monk enters her apartment and approaches
Monk. Refuge thou hast,
Sweet daughter! in Heaven. Think of eternal things!
Give up thy soul to penitence, and pray!
(arising hurriedly). I cannot pray!—My soul is at war with God!
The frightful sounds of merriment below;
Disturb my senses—go! I cannot pray—
The sweet airs from the garden worry me!
Thy presence grieves me—go!—thy priestly raiment
Fills me with dread—thy ebony crucifix
With horror and awe!
Monk. Think of thy precious soul!
Lal. Think of my early days!—think of my father
And mother in Heaven! think of our quiet home,
And the rivulet that ran before the door!
Think of my little sisters!—think of them!
And think of me!—think of my trusting love
And confidence—his vows—my ruin—think—think
Of my unspeakable misery!——begone!
Yet stay! yet stay!—what was it thou saidst of prayer
And penitence? Didst thou not speak of faith
And vows before the throne?
Monk. I did.
Lal. ’Tis well.
There is a vow ’twere fitting should be made—
A sacred vow, imperative and urgent,
A solemn vow!
Monk. Daughter, this zeal is well!
Lal. Father, this zeal is anything but well!
Hast thou a crucifix fit for this thing?
A crucifix whereon to register
This sacred vow? (he hands her his own.)
Not that—Oh! no!—no!—no (shuddering.)
Not that! Not that!—I tell thee, holy man,
Thy raiments and thy ebony cross affright me!
Stand back! I have a crucifix myself,—
I have a crucifix! Methinks ’twere fitting
The deed—the vow—the symbol of the deed—
And the deed’s register should tally, father!
(draws a cross-handled dagger and raises it on high.)
Behold the cross wherewith a vow like mine
Is written in heaven!
Monk. Thy words are madness, daughter,
And speak a purpose unholy—thy lips are livid—
Thine eyes are wild—tempt not the wrath divine!
Pause ere too late!—oh, be not—be not rash!
Swear not the oath—oh, swear it not!
Lal. ’Tis sworn!
An Apartment in a Palace. POLITIAN and BALDAZZAR.
Baldazzar. Arouse thee now, Politian!
Thou must not—nay indeed, indeed, thou shalt not
Give way unto these humors. Be thyself!
Shake off the idle fancies that beset thee
And live, for now thou diest!
Politian. Not so, Baldazzar!
Surely I live.
Bal. Politian, it doth grieve me
To see thee thus!
Pol. Baldazzar, it doth grieve me
To give thee cause for grief, my honored friend.
Command me, sir! what wouldst thou have me do?
At thy behest I will shake off that nature
Which from my forefathers I did inherit,
Which with my mother’s milk I did imbibe,
And be no more Politian, but some other.
Command me, sir!
Bal. To the field then—to the field—
To the senate or the field.
Pol. Alas! alas!
There is an imp would follow me even there!
There is an imp hath followed me even there!
There is—what voice was that?
Bal. I heard it not.
I heard not any voice except thine own,
And the echo of thine own.
Pol. Then I but dreamed.
Bal. Give not thy soul to dreams: the camp—the court
Befit thee—Fame awaits thee—Glory calls—
And her the trumpet-tongued thou wilt not hear
In hearkening to imaginary sounds
And phantom voices.
Pol. It is a phantom voice!
Didst thou not hear it then?
Bal I heard it not.
Pol. Thou heardst it not!—Baldazzar, speak no more
To me, Politian, of thy camps and courts.
Oh! I am sick, sick, sick, even unto death,
Of the hollow and high-sounding vanities
Of the populous Earth! Bear with me yet awhile
We have been boys together—school-fellows—
And now are friends—yet shall not be so long—
For in the Eternal City thou shalt do me
A kind and gentle office, and a Power—
A Power august, benignant, and supreme—
Shall then absolve thee of all further duties
Unto thy friend.
Bal. Thou speakest a fearful riddle
I will not understand.
Pol. Yet now as Fate
Approaches, and the Hours are breathing low,
The sands of Time are changed to golden grains,
And dazzle me, Baldazzar. Alas! alas!
I cannot die, having within my heart
So keen a relish for the beautiful
As hath been kindled within it. Methinks the air
Is balmier now than it was wont to be—
Rich melodies are floating in the winds—
A rarer loveliness bedecks the earth—
And with a holier lustre the quiet moon
Sitteth in Heaven.—Hist! hist! thou canst not say
Thou hearest not now, Baldazzar?
Bal. Indeed I hear not.
Pol. Not hear it!—listen—now—listen!—the faintest sound
And yet the sweetest that ear ever heard!
A lady’s voice!—and sorrow in the tone!
Baldazzar, it oppresses me like a spell!
Again!—again!—how solemnly it falls
Into my heart of hearts! that eloquent voice
Surely I never heard—yet it were well
Had I but heard it with its thrilling tones
In earlier days!
Bal. I myself hear it now.
Be still!—the voice, if I mistake not greatly,
Proceeds from younder lattice—which you may see
Very plainly through the window—it belongs,
Does it not? unto this palace of the Duke.
The singer is undoubtedly beneath
The roof of his Excellency—and perhaps
Is even that Alessandra of whom he spoke
As the betrothed of Castiglione,
His son and heir.
Pol. Be still!—it comes again!
(very faintly). “And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus,
That have loved thee so long,
In wealth and woe among?
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!”
Bal. The song is English, and I oft have heard it
In merry England—never so plaintively—
Hist! hist! it comes again!
(more loudly). “Is it so strong
As for to leave me thus,
That have loved thee so long,
In wealth and woe among?
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus?
Say nay! say nay!”
Bal. ’Tis hushed and all is still!
Pol. All is not still.
Bal. Let us go down.
Pol. Go down, Baldazzar, go!
Bal. The hour is growing late—the Duke awaits us,—
Thy presence is expected in the hall
Below. What ails thee, Earl Politian?
(distinctly). “Who have loved thee so long,
In wealth and woe among,
And is thy heart so strong?
Say nay! say nay!”
Bal. Let us descend!—’tis time. Politian, give
These fancies to the wind. Remember, pray,
Your bearing lately savored much of rudeness
Unto the Duke. Arouse thee! and remember!
Pol. Remember? I do. Lead on! I do remember.
Let us descend. Believe me I would give,
Freely would give the broad lands of my earldom
To look upon the face hidden by yon lattice—
“To gaze upon that veiled face, and hear
Once more that silent tongue.”
Bal. Let me beg you, sir,
Descend with me—the Duke may be offended.
Let us go down, I pray you.
Voice (loudly). Say nay!—say nay!
Pol. (aside). ’Tis strange!—’tis very strange—methought
Chimed in with my desires and bade me stay!
(Approaching the window)
Sweet voice! I heed thee, and will surely stay.
Now be this fancy, by heaven, or be it Fate,
Still will I not descend. Baldazzar, make
Apology unto the Duke for me;
I go not down to-night.
Bal. Your lordship’s pleasure
Shall be attended to. Good-night, Politian.
Pol. Good-night, my friend, good-night.
The Gardens of a Palace—Moonlight. LALAGE and POLITIAN.
Lalage. And dost thou speak of love
To me, Politian?—dost thou speak of love
To Lalage?—ah woe—ah woe is me!
This mockery is most cruel—most cruel indeed!
Politian. Weep not! oh, sob not thus!—thy bitter tears
Will madden me. Oh, mourn not, Lalage—
Be comforted! I know—I know it all,
And still I speak of love. Look at me, brightest,
And beautiful Lalage!—turn here thine eyes!
Thou askest me if I could speak of love,
Knowing what I know, and seeing what I have seen
Thou askest me that—and thus I answer thee—
Thus on my bended knee I answer thee. (kneeling.)
Sweet Lalage, I love thee—love thee—love thee;
Thro’ good and ill—thro’ weal and woe, I love thee.
Not mother, with her first-born on her knee,
Thrills with intenser love than I for thee.
Not on God’s altar, in any time or clime,
Burned there a holier fire than burneth now
Within my spirit for thee. And do I love?
Even for thy woes I love thee—even for thy woes—
Thy beauty and thy woes.
Lal. Alas, proud Earl,
Thou dost forget thyself, remembering me!
How, in thy father’s halls, among the maidens
Pure and reproachless of thy princely line,
Could the dishonored Lalage abide?
Thy wife, and with a tainted memory—
My seared and blighted name, how would it tally
With the ancestral honors of thy house,
And with thy glory?
Pol. Speak not to me of glory!
I hate—I loathe the name; I do abhor
The unsatisfactory and ideal thing.
Art thou not Lalage, and I Politian?
Do I not love—art thou not beautiful—
What need we more? Ha! glory! now speak not of it:
By all I hold most sacred and most solemn—
By all my wishes now—my fears hereafter—
By all I scorn on earth and hope in heaven—
There is no deed I would more glory in,
Than in thy cause to scoff at this same glory
And trample it under foot. What matters it—
What matters it, my fairest, and my best,
That we go down unhonored and forgotten
Into the dust—so we descend together?
Descend together—and then—and then perchance—
Lal. Why dost thou pause, Politian?
Pol. And then perchance
Arise together, Lalage, and roam
The starry and quiet dwellings of the blest,
Lal. Why dost thou pause, Politian?
Pol. And still together—together.
Lal. Now, Earl of Leicester!
Thou lovest me, and in my heart of hearts
I feel thou lovest me truly.
Pol. O Lalage!
(throwing himself upon his knee.)
And lovest thou me?
Lal. Hist! hush! within the gloom
Of yonder trees methought a figure passed—
A spectral figure, solemn, and slow, and noiseless—
Like the grim shadow Conscience, solemn and noiseless.
(walks across and returns.)
I was mistaken—’twas but a giant bough
Stirred by the autumn wind. Politian!
Pol. My Lalage—my love! why art thou moved?
Why dost thou turn so pale? Not Conscience self,
Far less a shadow which thou likenest to it,
Should shake the firm spirit thus. But the night wind
Is chilly—and these melancholy boughs
Throw over all things a gloom.
Thou speakest to me of love. Knowest thou the land
With which all tongues are busy—a land new found—
Miraculously found by one of Genoa—
A thousand leagues within the golden west?
A fairy land of flowers, and fruit, and sunshine,—
And crystal lakes, and over-arching forests,
And mountains, around whose towering summits the winds
Of Heaven untrammelled flow—which air to breathe
Is Happiness now, and will be Freedom hereafter
In days that are to come?
Pol. Oh, wilt thou—wilt thou
Fly to that Paradise—my Lalage, wilt thou
Fly thither with me? There Care shall be forgotten,
And Sorrow shall be no more, and Eros be all.
And life shall then be mine, for I will live
For thee, and in thine eyes—and thou shalt be
No more a mourner—but the radiant Joys
Shall wait upon thee, and the angel Hope
Attend thee ever; and I will kneel to thee
And worship thee, and call thee my beloved,
My own, my beautiful, my love, my wife,
My all;—oh, wilt thou—wilt thou, Lalage,
Fly thither with me?
Lal. A deed is to be done—
Pol. And he shall die!
(after a pause). And—he—shall—die!—alas!
Castiglione die? Who spoke the words?
Where am I?—what was it he said?—Politian!
Thou art not gone—thou art not gone, Politian!
I feel thou art not gone—yet dare not look,
Lest I behold thee not—thou couldst not go
With those words upon thy lips—oh, speak to me!
And let me hear thy voice—one word—one word,
To say thou art not gone,—one little sentence,
To say how thou dost scorn—how thou dost hate
My womanly weakness. Ha! ha! thou art not gone—
Oh, speak to me! I knew thou wouldst not go!
I knew thou wouldst not, couldst not, durst not go.
Villain, thou art not gone—thou mockest me!
And thus I clutch thee—thus!—He is gone, he is gone—
Gone—gone. Where am I?—’tis well—’tis very well!
So that the blade be keen—the blow be sure,
’Tis well, ’tis very well—alas! alas!
The Suburbs. POLITIAN alone.
Politian. This weakness grows upon me. I am fain
And much I fear me ill—it will not do
To die ere I have lived!—Stay—stay thy hand,
O Azrael, yet awhile!—Prince of the Powers
Of Darkness and the Tomb, oh, pity me!
Oh, pity me! let me not perish now,
In the budding of my Paradisal Hope!
Give me to live yet—yet a little while:
’Tis I who pray for life—I who so late
Demanded but to die!—What sayeth the Count?
Baldazzar. That, knowing no cause of quarrel or of feud
Between the Earl Politian and himself,
He doth decline your cartel.
Pol. What didst thou say?
What answer was it you brought me, good Baldazzar?
With what excessive fragrance the zephyr comes
Laden from yonder bowers!—a fairer day,
Or one more worthy Italy, methinks
No mortal eyes have seen!—what said the Count?
Bal. That he, Castiglione, not being aware
Of any feud existing, or any cause
Of quarrel between your lordship and himself,
Cannot accept the challenge.
Pol. It is most true—
All this is very true. When saw you, sir,
When saw you now, Baldazzar, in the frigid
Ungenial Britain which we left so lately,
A heaven so calm as this—so utterly free
From the evil taint of clouds?—and he did say?
Bal. No more, my lord, than I have told you:
The Count Castiglione will not fight.
Having no cause for quarrel.
Pol. Now this is true—
All very true. Thou art my friend, Baldazzar,
And I have not forgotten it—thou’lt do me
A piece of service: wilt thou go back and say
Unto this man, that I, the Earl of Leicester,
Hold him a villain?—thus much, I pr’ythee, say
Unto the Count—it is exceeding just
He should have cause for quarrel.
Bal. My lord!—my friend!—
Pol. (aside). ’Tis he—he comes himself!
(aloud.) Thou reasonest well.
I know what thou wouldst say—not send the message—
Well!—I will think of it—I will not send it.
Now pr’ythee, leave me—hither doth come a person
With whom affairs of a most private nature
I would adjust.
Bal. I go—to-morrow we meet,
Do we not?—at the Vatican.
Pol. At the Vatican.
Cas. The Earl of Leicester here!
Pol. I am the Earl of Leicester, and thou seest,
Dost thou not, that I am here?
Cas. My lord, some strange,
Some singular mistake—misunderstanding—
Hath without doubt arisen: thou hast been urged
Thereby, in heat of anger, to address
Some words most unaccountable, in writing,
To me, Castiglione; the bearer being
Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. I am aware
Of nothing which might warrant thee in this thing,
Having given thee no offence. Ha!—am I right?
’Twas a mistake?—undoubtedly—we all
Do err at times.
Pol. Draw, villain, and prate no more!
Cas. Ha!—draw?—and villain? have at thee then at once,
(drawing.) Thus to the expiatory tomb,
Untimely sepulchre, I do devote thee
In the name of Lalage!
Cas. (letting fall his sword and recoiling to the extremity of the
Hold off—thy sacred hand!—avaunt, I say!
Avaunt—I will not fight thee—indeed I dare not.
Pol. Thou wilt not fight with me didst say, Sir Count?
Shall I be baffled thus?—now this is well;
Didst say thou darest not? Ha!
Cas. I dare not—dare not—
Hold off thy hand—with that beloved name
So fresh upon thy lips I will not fight thee—
I cannot—dare not.
Pol. Now, by my halidom,
I do believe thee!—coward, I do believe thee!
Cas. Ha!—coward!—this may not be!
(clutches his sword and staggers towards Politian, but his purpose is
changed before reaching him, and he falls upon hia knee at the feet of
Alas! my lord,
It is—it is—most true. In such a cause
I am the veriest coward. Oh, pity me!
(greatly softened). Alas!—I do—indeed I pity thee.
Cas. And Lalage—
Pol. Scoundrel!—arise and die!
Cas. It needeth not be—thus—thus—Oh, let me die
Thus on my bended knee. It were most fitting
That in this deep humiliation I perish.
For in the fight I will not raise a hand
Against thee, Earl of Leicester. Strike thou home—
(baring his bosom.)
Here is no let or hindrance to thy weapon—
Strike home. I will not fight thee.
Pol. Now’s Death and Hell!
Am I not—am I not sorely—grievously tempted
To take thee at thy word? But mark me, sir:
Think not to fly me thus. Do thou prepare
For public insult in the streets—before
The eyes of the citizens. I’ll follow thee—
Like an avenging spirit I’ll follow thee
Even unto death. Before those whom thou lovest—
Before all Rome I’ll taunt thee, villain,—I’ll taunt
Dost hear? with cowardice—thou wilt not fight me?
Thou liest! thou shalt!
Cas. Now this indeed is just!
Most righteous, and most just, avenging Heaven!
Duke. Why do you laugh?
I hardly know myself. Stay! Was it not
On yesterday we were speaking of the Earl?
Of the Earl Politian? Yes! it was yesterday.
Alessandra, you and I, you must remember!
We were walking in the garden.
I do remember it—what of it—what then?
Cas. O nothing—nothing at all.
Duke. Nothing at all!
It is most singular that you should laugh
At nothing at all!
Cas. Most singular—singular!
Duke. Look yon, Castiglione, be so kind
As tell me, sir, at once what ’tis you mean.
What are you talking of?
Cas. Was it not so?
We differed in opinion touching him.
Cas. Why, sir, the Earl Politian.
Duke. The Earl of Leicester! Yes!—is it he you mean?
We differed, indeed. If I now recollect
The words you used were that the Earl you knew
Was neither learned nor mirthful.
Cas. Ha! ha!—now did I?
Duke. That did you, sir, and well I knew at the time
You were wrong, it being not the character
Of the Earl—whom all the world allows to be
A most hilarious man. Be not, my son,
Too positive again.
Cas. ’Tis singular!
Most singular! I could not think it possible
So little time could so much alter one!
To say the truth about an hour ago,
As I was walking with the Count San Ozzo,
All arm in arm, we met this very man
The Earl—he, with his friend Baldazzar,
Having just arrived in Rome. Ha! ha! he is altered!
Such an account he gave me of his journey!
’Twould have made you die with laughter—such tales he
Of his caprices and his merry freaks
Along the road—such oddity—such humor—
Such wit—such whim—such flashes of wild merriment
Set off too in such full relief by the grave
Demeanor of his friend—who, to speak the truth
Was gravity itself—
Duke. Did I not tell you?
Cas. You did—and yet ’tis strange! but true, as strange,
How much I was mistaken! I always thought
The Earl a gloomy man.
Duke. So, so, you see!
Be not too positive. Whom have we here?
It cannot be the Earl?
Cas. The Earl! Oh no!
Tis not the Earl—but yet it is—and leaning
Upon his friend Baldazzar. Ah! welcome, sir!
(Enter Politian and Baldazzar.)
My lord, a second welcome let me give you
To Rome—his Grace the Duke of Broglio.
Father! this is the Earl Politian, Earl
Of Leicester in Great Britain.
[Politian bows haughtily.]
That, his friend
Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. The Earl has letters,
So please you, for Your Grace.
Duke. Ha! ha! Most welcome
To Rome and to our palace, Earl Politian!
And you, most noble Duke! I am glad to see you!
I knew your father well, my Lord Politian.
Castiglione! call your cousin hither,
And let me make the noble Earl acquainted
With your betrothed. You come, sir, at a time
Most seasonable. The wedding—
Politian. Touching those letters, sir,
Your son made mention of—your son, is he not?—
Touching those letters, sir, I wot not of them.
If such there be, my friend Baldazzar here—
Baldazzar! ah!—my friend Baldazzar here
Will hand them to Your Grace. I would retire.
Duke. Retire!—so soon?
Cas. What ho! Benito! Rupert!
His lordship’s chambers—show his lordship to them!
His lordship is unwell.
Ben. This way, my lord!
(Exit, followed by Politian.)
Duke. Retire! Unwell!
Bal. So please you, sir. I fear me
’Tis as you say—his lordship is unwell.
The damp air of the evening—the fatigue
Of a long journey—the—indeed I had better
Follow his lordship. He must be unwell.
I will return anon.
Duke. Return anon!
Now this is very strange! Castiglione!
This way, my son, I wish to speak with thee.
You surely were mistaken in what you said
Of the Earl, mirthful, indeed!—which of us said
Politian was a melancholy man?
Dim vales—and shadowy floods—
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over
Huge moons there wax and wane—
Every moment of the night—
Forever changing places—
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down—still down—and down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain’s eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be—
O’er the strange woods—o’er the sea—
Over spirits on the wing—
Over every drowsy thing—
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light—
And then, how deep!—O, deep!
Is the passion of their sleep.
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like—almost any thing—
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before—
Videlicet a tent—
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies,
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.
In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed—
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.
Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?
That holy dream—that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam,
A lonely spirit guiding.
What though that light, thro’ storm and night,
So trembled from afar—
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day star?
Hear the sledges with the bells—
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In their icy air of night!
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Hear the mellow wedding bells,
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten golden-notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
Hear the loud alarum bells—
What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now—now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
Of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
Hear the tolling of the bells—
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people—ah, the people—
They that dwell up in the steeple.
And who toiling, toiling, toiling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone—
They are neither man nor woman—
They are neither brute nor human—
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells—
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see
The wantonest singing birds,
Are lips—and all thy melody
Of lip-begotten words—
Thine eyes, in Heaven of heart enshrined
Then desolately fall,
O God! on my funereal mind
Like starlight on a pall—
Thy heart—thy heart!—I wake and sigh,
And sleep to dream till day
Of the truth that gold can never buy—
Of the baubles that it may.
Pardon, Agathos, the weakness of a spirit new-fledged with
You have spoken nothing, my Oinos, for which pardon is to be
demanded. Not even here is knowledge a thing of intuition.
For wisdom, ask of the angels freely, that it may be given!
But in this existence I dreamed that I should be at once
cognizant of all things, and thus at once happy in being
cognizant of all.
Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of
knowledge! In forever knowing, we are forever blessed; but
to know all, were the curse of a fiend.
But does not The Most High know all?
That (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the
one thing unknown even to HIM.
But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must not at last
all things be known?
Look down into the abysmal distances!—attempt to force
the gaze down the multitudinous vistas of the stars, as we
sweep slowly through them thus—and thus—and
thus! Even the spiritual vision, is it not at all points
arrested by the continuous golden walls of the
universe?—the walls of the myriads of the shining
bodies that mere number has appeared to blend into unity?
I clearly perceive that the infinity of matter is no dream.
There are no dreams in Aidenn—but it is here whispered
that, of this infinity of matter, the sole purpose is
to afford infinite springs at which the soul may allay the
thirst to know which is forever unquenchable within
it—since to quench it would be to extinguish the
soul’s self. Question me then, my Oinos, freely and without
fear. Come! we will leave to the left the loud harmony of
the Pleiades, and swoop outward from the throne into the
starry meadows beyond Orion, where, for pansies and violets,
and heart’s-ease, are the beds of the triplicate and triple-
And now, Agathos, as we proceed, instruct me!—speak to
me in the earth’s familiar tones! I understand not what you
hinted to me just now of the modes or of the methods of what
during mortality, we were accustomed to call Creation. Do
you mean to say that the Creator is not God?
I mean to say that the Deity does not create.
In the beginning only, he created. The seeming creatures
which are now throughout the universe so perpetually
springing into being can only be considered as the mediate
or indirect, not as the direct or immediate results of the
Divine creative power.
Among men, my Agathos, this idea would be considered
heretical in the extreme.
Among the angels, my Oinos, it is seen to be simply true.
I can comprehend you thus far—that certain operations
of what we term Nature, or the natural laws, will, under
certain conditions, give rise to that which has all the
appearance of creation. Shortly before the final
overthrow of the earth, there were, I well remember, many
very successful experiments in what some philosophers were
weak enough to denominate the creation of animalculae.
The cases of which you speak were, in fact, instances of the
secondary creation, and of the only species of
creation which has ever been since the first word spoke into
existence the first law.
Are not the starry worlds that, from the abyss of nonentity,
burst hourly forth into the heavens—are not these
stars, Agathos, the immediate handiwork of the King?
Let me endeavor, my Oinos, to lead you, step by step, to the
conception I intend. You are well aware that, as no thought
can perish, so no act is without infinite result. We moved
our hands, for example, when we were dwellers on the earth,
and in so doing we gave vibration to the atmosphere which
engirdled it. This vibration was indefinitely extended till
it gave impulse to every particle of the earth’s air, which
thenceforward, and forever, was actuated by the one
movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our
globe well knew. They made the special effects, indeed,
wrought in the fluid by special impulses, the subject of
exact calculation—so that it became easy to determine
in what precise period an impulse of given extent would
engirdle the orb, and impress (forever) every atom of the
atmosphere circumambient. Retrograding, they found no
difficulty; from a given effect, under given conditions, in
determining the value of the original impulse. Now the
mathematicians who saw that the results of any given impulse
were absolutely endless—and who saw that a portion of
these results were accurately traceable through the agency
of algebraic analysis—who saw, too, the facility of
the retrogradation—these men saw, at the same time,
that this species of analysis itself had within itself a
capacity for indefinite progress—that there were no
bounds conceivable to its advancement and applicability,
except within the intellect of him who advanced or applied
it. But at this point our mathematicians paused.
And why, Agathos, should they have proceeded?
Because there were some considerations of deep interest
beyond. It was deducible from what they knew, that to a
being of infinite understanding—one to whom the
perfection of the algebraic analysis lay unfolded—
there could be no difficulty in tracing every impulse given
the air—and the ether through the air—to the
remotest consequences at any even infinitely remote epoch of
time. It is indeed demonstrable that every such impulse
given the air, must in the end impress every
individual thing that exists within the
universe;—and the being of infinite
understanding—the being whom we have imagined—
might trace the remote undulations of the impulse—
trace them upward and onward in their influences upon all
particles of all matter—upward and onward forever in
their modifications of old forms—or, in other words,
in their creation of new—until he found them
reflected—unimpressive at last—back from
the throne of the Godhead. And not only could such a being
do this, but at any epoch, should a given result be afforded
him—should one of these numberless comets, for
example, be presented to his inspection—he could have
no difficulty in determining, by the analytic
retrogradation, to what original impulse it was due. This
power of retrogradation in its absolute fulness and
perfection—this faculty of referring at all
epochs, all effects to all causes—is of
course the prerogative of the Deity alone—but in every
variety of degree, short of the absolute perfection, is the
power itself exercised by the whole host of the Angelic
But you speak merely of impulses upon the air.
In speaking of the air, I referred only to the earth: but
the general proposition has reference to impulses upon the
ether—which, since it pervades, and alone pervades all
space, is thus the great medium of creation.
Then all motion, of whatever nature, creates?
It must: but a true philosophy has long taught that the
source of all motion is thought—and the source of all
I have spoken to you, Oinos, as to a child, of the fair
Earth which lately perished—of impulses upon the
atmosphere of the earth.
And while I thus spoke, did there not cross your mind some
thought of the physical power of words? Is not every
word an impulse on the air?
But why, Agathos, do you weep—and why, oh, why do your
wings droop as we hover above this fair star—which is
the greenest and yet most terrible of all we have
encountered in our flight? Its brilliant flowers look like a
fairy dream—but its fierce volcanoes like the passions
of a turbulent heart.
They are!—they are!—This wild
star—it is now three centuries since, with clasped
hands, and with streaming eyes, at the feet of my
beloved—I spoke it—with a few passionate
sentences—into birth. Its brilliant flowers are
the dearest of all unfulfilled dreams, and its raging
volcanoes are the passions of the most turbulent and
unhallowed of hearts!
The happiest day—the happiest hour
My seared and blighted heart hath known,
The highest hope of pride and power,
I feel hath flown.
Of power! said I? Yes! such I ween
But they have vanished long, alas!
The visions of my youth have been—
But let them pass.
And pride, what have I now with thee?
Another brow may ev’n inherit
The venom thou hast poured on me—
Be still my spirit!
The happiest day—the happiest hour
Mine eyes shall see—have ever seen
The brightest glance of pride and power
I feel have been:
But were that hope of pride and power
Now offered with the pain
Ev’n then I felt—that brightest hour
I would not live again:
For on its wing was dark alloy
And as it fluttered—fell
An essence—powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well.
The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags, and caves
“LISTEN to me,” said the Demon, as he placed his hand
upon my head. “The region of which I speak is a dreary
region in Libya, by the borders of the river Zaeire. And
there is no quiet there, nor silence.
“The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and
they flow not onward to the sea, but palpitate forever and
forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and
convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the
river’s oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies.
They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch
towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to
and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct
murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of
subterrene water. And they sigh one unto the other.
“But there is a boundary to their realm—the boundary
of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves
about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated
continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And
the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither
with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high
summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the
roots, strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed
slumber. And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the
gray clouds rush westwardly forever until they roll, a
cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is
no wind throughout the heaven. And by the shores of the
river Zaeire there is neither quiet nor silence.
“It was night, and the rain fell; and, falling, it was rain,
but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass
among the tall lilies, and the rain fell upon my head—
and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of
“And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly
mist, and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a
huge gray rock which stood by the shore of the river and was
lighted by the light of the moon. And the rock was gray and
ghastly, and tall,—and the rock was gray. Upon its
front were characters engraven in the stones; and I walked
through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto
the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone.
But I could not decipher them. And I was going back into the
morass when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned
and looked again upon the rock and upon the
characters;—and the characters were DESOLATION.
“And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit
of the rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I
might discover the action of the man. And the man was tall
and stately in form, and wrapped up from his shoulders to
his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his
figure were indistinct—but his features were the
features of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the
mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered
the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with
thought, and his eye wild with care; and in the few furrows
upon his cheek, I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness,
and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.
“And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his
hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down
into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall
primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and
into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the
lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man
trembled in the solitude;—but the night waned, and he
sat upon the rock.
“And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and
looked out upon the dreary river Zaeire, and upon the yellow
ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies.
And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies,
and to the murmur that came up from among them. And
I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the
man. And the man trembled in the solitude;—but the
night waned, and he sat upon the rock.
“Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded
afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto
the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses
of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came,
with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared
loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close
within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And
the man trembled in the solitude;—but the night waned,
and he sat upon the rock.
“Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a
frightful tempest gathered in the heaven, where before there
had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the
violence of the tempest—and the rain beat upon the
head of the man—and the floods of the river came
down—and the river was tormented into foam—and
the water-lilies shrieked within their beds—and the
forest crumbled before the wind—and the thunder
rolled—and the lightning fell—and the rock
rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert
and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in
the solitude;—but the night waned, and he sat upon the
“Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence,
the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and
the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies.
And they became accursed, and were still. And
the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven—and
the thunder died away—and the lightning did not
flash—and the clouds hung motionless—and the
waters sunk to their level and remained—and the trees
ceased to rock—and the water-lilies sighed no
more—and the murmur was heard no longer from among
them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast
illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the
rock, and they were changed;—and the characters were
“And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his
countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised
his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and
listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast
illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were
SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away,
and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more.”
Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi—in
the iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I
say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth,
and of the mighty Sea—and of the Genii that overruled
the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There was much
lore, too, in the sayings which were said by the sybils; and
holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that
trembled around Dodona—but, as Allah liveth, that
fable which the demon told me as he sat by my side in the
shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all!
And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fell back
within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not
laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not
laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came
out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and
looked at him steadily in the face.
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tuned law,
Bound about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate !)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh—but smile no more.
Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.
The night—tho’ clear—shall frown—
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee forever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish—
Now are visions ne’er to vanish—
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drops from the grass.
The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!
Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
With drowsy head and folded wing,
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted paroquet
Hath been—a most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say—
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.
Of late, eternal Condor years
So shake the very Heaven on high
With tumult as they thunder by,
I have no time for idle cares
Though gazing on the unquiet sky.
And when an hour with calmer wings
Its down upon my spirit flings—
That little time with lyre and rhyme
To while away—forbidden things!
My heart would feel to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the strings.
Lo! ’tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly—
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama—oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out—out are the lights—out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
There are some qualities—some incorporate things,
That have a double life, which thus is made
A type of that twin entity which springs
From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade.
There is a twofold Silence—sea and shore—
Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places,
Newly with grass o’ergrown; some solemn graces,
Some human memories and tearful lore,
Render him terrorless: his name’s “No More.”
He is the corporate Silence: dread him not!
No power hath he of evil in himself;
But should some urgent fate (untimely lot!)
Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless elf,
That haunteth the lone regions where hath trod
No foot of man), commend thyself to God!
Sent to a friend who had complained that I was glad enough to see
him when he came, but didn't seem to miss him if he stayed away.
And cannot pleasures, while they last,
Be actual unless, when past,
They leave us shuddering and aghast,
With anguish smarting?
And cannot friends be firm and fast,
And yet bear parting?
And must I then, at Friendship's call,
Calmly resign the little all
(Trifling, I grant, it is and small)
I have of gladness,
And lend my being to the thrall
Of gloom and sadness?
And think you that I should be dumb,
And full DOLORUM OMNIUM,
Excepting when YOU choose to come
And share my dinner?
At other times be sour and glum
And daily thinner?
Must he then only live to weep,
Who'd prove his friendship true and deep
By day a lonely shadow creep,
At night-time languish,
Oft raising in his broken sleep
The moan of anguish?
The lover, if for certain days
His fair one be denied his gaze,
Sinks not in grief and wild amaze,
But, wiser wooer,
He spends the time in writing lays,
And posts them to her.
And if the verse flow free and fast,
Till even the poet is aghast,
A touching Valentine at last
The post shall carry,
When thirteen days are gone and past
Farewell, dear friend, and when we meet,
In desert waste or crowded street,
Perhaps before this week shall fleet,
I trust to find YOUR heart the seat
Of wasting sorrow.
In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
“Whose heart-strings are a lute;”
None sing so wildly well
As the angel Israfel,
And the giddy Stars (so legends tell),
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
Of his voice, all mute.
In her highest noon,
The enamoured Moon
Blushes with love,
While, to listen, the red levin
(With the rapid Pleiads, even,
Which were seven),
Pauses in Heaven.
And they say (the starry choir
And the other listening things)
That Israfeli’s fire
Is owing to that lyre
By which he sits and sings—
The trembling living wire
Of those unusual strings.
But the skies that angel trod,
Where deep thoughts are a duty—
Where Love’s a grow-up God—
Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
Which we worship in a star.
Therefore, thou art not wrong,
Israfeli, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong,
Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live and long!
The ecstasies above
With thy burning measures suit—
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love,
With the fervor of thy lute—
Well may the stars be mute!
Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
Is a world of sweets and sours;
Our flowers are merely—flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
Is the sunshine of ours.
If I could dwell
Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay,
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Unceasingly, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—out of TIME.
Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters—lone and dead,
Their still waters—still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.
By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains—near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the gray woods,—by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy,—
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven.
For the heart whose woes are legion
’Tis a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
’Tis—oh, ’tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not—dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only.
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.
“Nullus enim locus sine genio est.”
“La musique,” says Marmontel, in those “Contes
Moraux” which in all our translations we have insisted upon
calling “Moral Tales,” as if in mockery of their
spirit—”la musique est le seul des talens qui
jouisse de lui-meme: tous les autres veulent des
temoins.” He here confounds the pleasure derivable from
sweet sounds with the capacity for creating them. No more
than any other talent, is that for music susceptible
of complete enjoyment where there is no second party to
appreciate its exercise; and it is only in common with other
talents that it produces effects which may be fully
enjoyed in solitude. The idea which the raconteur has
either failed to entertain clearly, or has sacrificed in its
expression to his national love of point, is
doubtless the very tenable one that the higher order of
music is the most thoroughly estimated when we are
exclusively alone. The proposition in this form will be
admitted at once by those who love the lyre for its own sake
and for its spiritual uses. But there is one pleasure still
within the reach of fallen mortality, and perhaps only one,
which owes even more than does music to the accessory
sentiment of seclusion. I mean the happiness experienced in
the contemplation of natural scenery. In truth, the man who
would behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in
solitude behold that glory. To me at least the presence, not
of human life only, but of life, in any other form than that
of the green things which grow upon the soil and are
voiceless, is a stain upon the landscape, is at war with the
genius of the scene. I love, indeed, to regard the dark
valleys, and the gray rocks, and the waters that silently
smile, and the forests that sigh in uneasy slumbers, and the
proud watchful mountains that look down upon all,—I
love to regard these as themselves but the colossal members
of one vast animate and sentient whole—a whole whose
form (that of the sphere) is the most perfect and most
inclusive of all; whose path is among associate planets;
whose meek handmaiden is the moon; whose mediate sovereign
is the sun; whose life is eternity; whose thought is that of
a god; whose enjoyment is knowledge; whose destinies are
lost in immensity; whose cognizance of ourselves is akin
with our own cognizance of the animalculae which
infest the brain, a being which we in consequence regard as
purely inanimate and material, much in the same manner as
these animalculae must thus regard us.
Our telescopes and our mathematical investigations assure us
on every hand, notwithstanding the cant of the more ignorant
of the priesthood, that space, and therefore that bulk, is
an important consideration in the eyes of the Almighty. The
cycles in which the stars move are those best adapted for
the evolution, without collision, of the greatest possible
number of bodies. The forms of those bodies are accurately
such as within a given surface to include the greatest
possible amount of matter; while the surfaces themselves are
so disposed as to accommodate a denser population than could
be accommodated on the same surfaces otherwise arranged. Nor
is it any argument against bulk being an object with God
that space itself is infinite; for there may be an infinity
of matter to fill it; and since we see clearly that the
endowment of matter with vitality is a principle—
indeed, as far as our judgments extend, the leading
principle in the operations of Deity, it is scarcely logical
to imagine it confined to the regions of the minute, where
we daily trace it, and not extending to those of the august.
As we find cycle within cycle without end, yet all revolving
around one far-distant centre which is the Godhead, may we
not analogically suppose, in the same manner, life within
life, the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit
Divine? In short, we are madly erring through self-esteem in
believing man, in either his temporal or future destinies,
to be of more moment in the universe than that vast “clod of
the valley” which he tills and contemns, and to which he
denies a soul, for no more profound reason than that he does
not behold it in operation.
These fancies, and such as these, have always given to my
meditations among the mountains and the forests, by the
rivers and the ocean, a tinge of what the every-day world
would not fail to term the fantastic. My wanderings amid
such scenes have been many and far-searching, and often
solitary; and the interest with which I have strayed through
many a dim deep valley, or gazed into the reflected heaven
of many a bright lake, has been an interest greatly deepened
by the thought that I have strayed and gazed alone.
What flippant Frenchman was it who said, in allusion to the
well known work of Zimmermann, that “la solitude est une
belle chose; mais il faut quelqu’un pour vous dire que la
solitude est une belle chose”? The epigram cannot be
gainsaid; but the necessity is a thing that does not exist.
It was during one of my lonely journeyings, amid a far
distant region of mountain locked within mountain, and sad
rivers and melancholy tarns writhing or sleeping within all,
that I chanced upon a certain rivulet and island. I came
upon them suddenly in the leafy June, and threw myself upon
the turf beneath the branches of an unknown odorous shrub,
that I might doze as I contemplated the scene. I felt that
thus only should I look upon it, such was the character of
phantasm which it wore.
On all sides, save to the west where the sun was about
sinking, arose the verdant walls of the forest. The little
river which turned sharply in its course, and was thus
immediately lost to sight, seemed to have no exit from its
prison, but to be absorbed by the deep green foliage of the
trees to the east; while in the opposite quarter (so it
appeared to me as I lay at length and glanced upward) there
poured down noiselessly and continuously into the valley a
rich golden and crimson waterfall from the sunset fountains
of the sky.
About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took
in, one small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed
upon the bosom of the stream.
So blended bank and shadow there, That each seemed pendulous
so mirror-like was the glassy water, that it was scarcely
possible to say at what point upon the slope of the emerald
turf its crystal dominion began. My position enabled me to
include in a single view both the eastern and western
extremities of the islet, and I observed a singularly-marked
difference in their aspects. The latter was all one radiant
harem of garden beauties. It glowed and blushed beneath the
eye of the slant sunlight, and fairly laughed with flowers.
The grass was short, springy, sweet-scented, and Asphodel-
interspersed. The trees were lithe, mirthful, erect, bright,
slender, and graceful, of eastern figure and foliage, with
bark smooth, glossy, and parti-colored. There seemed a deep
sense of life and joy about all, and although no airs blew
from out the heavens, yet everything had motion through the
gentle sweepings to and fro of innumerable butterflies, that
might have been mistaken for tulips with wings.
The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the
blackest shade. A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom,
here pervaded all things. The trees were dark in color and
mournful in form and attitude— wreathing themselves
into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes, that conveyed ideas
of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore the deep
tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung
droopingly, and hither and thither among it were many small
unsightly hillocks, low and narrow, and not very long, that
had the aspect of graves, but were not, although over and
all about them the rue and the rosemary clambered. The
shades of the trees fell heavily upon the water, and seemed
to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the
element with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the
sun descended lower and lower, separated itself sullenly
from the trunk that gave it birth, and thus became absorbed
by the stream, while other shadows issued momently from the
trees, taking the place of their predecessors thus entombed.
This idea having once seized upon my fancy greatly excited
it, and I lost myself forthwith in reverie. “If ever island
were enchanted,” said I to myself, “this is it. This is the
haunt of the few gentle Fays who remain from the wreck of
the race. Are these green tombs theirs?—or do they
yield up their sweet lives as mankind yield up their own? In
dying, do they not rather waste away mournfully, rendering
unto God little by little their existence, as these trees
render up shadow after shadow, exhausting their substance
unto dissolution? What the wasting tree is to the water that
imbibes its shade, growing thus blacker by what it preys
upon, may not the life of the Fay be to the death which
As I thus mused, with half-shut eyes, while the sun sank
rapidly to rest, and eddying currents careered round and
round the island, bearing upon their bosom large dazzling
white flakes of the bark of the sycamore, flakes which, in
their multiform positions upon the water, a quick
imagination might have converted into anything it pleased;
while I thus mused, it appeared to me that the form of one
of those very Fays about whom I had been pondering, made its
way slowly into the darkness from out the light at the
western end of the island. She stood erect in a singularly
fragile canoe, and urged it with the mere phantom of an oar.
While within the influence of the lingering sunbeams, her
attitude seemed indicative of joy, but sorrow deformed it as
she passed within the shade. Slowly she glided along, and at
length rounded the islet and re-entered the region of light.
“The revolution which has just been made by the Fay,”
continued I musingly, “is the cycle of the brief year of her
life. She has floated through her winter and through her
summer. She is a year nearer unto death: for I did not fail
to see that as she came into the shade, her shadow fell from
her, and was swallowed up in the dark water, making its
blackness more black.”
And again the boat appeared and the Fay, but about the
attitude of the latter there was more of care and
uncertainty and less of elastic joy. She floated again from
out the light and into the gloom (which deepened momently),
and again her shadow fell from her into the ebony water, and
became absorbed into its blackness. And again and again she
made the circuit of the island (while the sun rushed down to
his slumbers), and at each issuing into the light there was
more sorrow about her person, while it grew feebler and far
fainter and more indistinct, and at each passage into the
gloom there fell from her a darker shade, which became
whelmed in a shadow more black. But at length, when the sun
had utterly departed, the Fay, now the mere ghost of her
former self, went disconsolately with her boat into the
region of the ebony flood, and that she issued thence at all
I cannot say, for darkness fell over all things, and I
beheld her magical figure no more.
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers and tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
No rays from the holy Heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently—
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free—
Up domes—up spires—up kingly halls—
Up fanes—up Babylon-like walls—
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers—
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye—
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass—
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea—
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.
But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave—there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide—
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow—
The hours are breathing faint and low—
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.
In these rapid, restless shadows,
Once I walked at eventide,
When a gentle, silent maiden,
Walked in beauty at my side.
She alone there walked beside me
All in beauty, like a bride.
Pallidly the moon was shining
On the dewy meadows nigh;
On the silvery, silent rivers,
On the mountains far and high,—
On the ocean’s star-lit waters,
Where the winds a-weary die.
Slowly, silently we wandered
From the open cottage door,
Underneath the elm’s long branches
To the pavement bending o’er;
Underneath the mossy willow
And the dying sycamore.
With the myriad stars in beauty
All bedight, the heavens were seen,
Radiant hopes were bright around me,
Like the light of stars serene;
Like the mellow midnight splendor
Of the Night’s irradiate queen.
Audibly the elm-leaves whispered
Peaceful, pleasant melodies,
Like the distant murmured music
Of unquiet, lovely seas;
While the winds were hushed in slumber
In the fragrant flowers and trees.
Wondrous and unwonted beauty
Still adorning all did seem,
While I told my love in fables
’Neath the willows by the stream;
Would the heart have kept unspoken
Love that was its rarest dream!
Instantly away we wandered
In the shadowy twilight tide,
She, the silent, scornful maiden,
Walking calmly at my side,
With a step serene and stately,
All in beauty, all in pride.
Vacantly I walked beside her.
On the earth mine eyes were cast;
Swift and keen there came unto me
Bitter memories of the past—
On me, like the rain in Autumn
On the dead leaves, cold and fast.
Underneath the elms we parted,
By the lowly cottage door;
One brief word alone was uttered—
Never on our lips before;
And away I walked forlornly,
Slowly, silently I loitered,
Homeward, in the night, alone;
Sudden anguish bound my spirit,
That my youth had never known;
Wild unrest, like that which cometh
When the Night’s first dream hath flown.
Now, to me the elm-leaves whisper
Mad, discordant melodies,
And keen melodies like shadows
Haunt the moaning willow trees,
And the sycamores with laughter
Mock me in the nightly breeze.
Sad and pale the Autumn moonlight
Through the sighing foliage streams;
And each morning, midnight shadow,
Shadow of my sorrow seems;
Strive, O heart, forget thine idol!
And, O soul, forget thy dreams!
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you,
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing!
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
Kind solace in a dying hour!
Such, father, is not (now) my theme—
I will not madly deem that power
Of Earth may shrive me of the sin
Unearthly pride hath revelled in—
I have no time to dote or dream:
You call it hope—that fire of fire!
It is but agony of desire:
If I can hope—O God! I can—
Its fount is holier—more divine—
I would not call thee fool, old man,
But such is not a gift of thine.
Know thou the secret of a spirit
Bowed from its wild pride into shame
O yearning heart! I did inherit
Thy withering portion with the fame,
The searing glory which hath shone
Amid the Jewels of my throne,
Halo of Hell! and with a pain
Not Hell shall make me fear again—
O craving heart, for the lost flowers
And sunshine of my summer hours!
The undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,
Rings, in the spirit of a spell,
Upon thy emptiness—a knell.
I have not always been as now:
The fevered diadem on my brow
I claimed and won usurpingly—
Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
Rome to the Caesar—this to me?
The heritage of a kingly mind,
And a proud spirit which hath striven
Triumphantly with human kind.
On mountain soil I first drew life:
The mists of the Taglay have shed
Nightly their dews upon my head,
And, I believe, the winged strife
And tumult of the headlong air
Have nestled in my very hair.
So late from Heaven—that dew—it fell
(’Mid dreams of an unholy night)
Upon me with the touch of Hell,
While the red flashing of the light
From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,
Appeared to my half-closing eye
The pageantry of monarchy;
And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar
Came hurriedly upon me, telling
Of human battle, where my voice,
My own voice, silly child!—was swelling
(O! how my spirit would rejoice,
And leap within me at the cry)
The battle-cry of Victory!
The rain came down upon my head
Unsheltered—and the heavy wind
Rendered me mad and deaf and blind.
It was but man, I thought, who shed
Laurels upon me: and the rush—
The torrent of the chilly air
Gurgled within my ear the crush
Of empires—with the captive’s prayer—
The hum of suitors—and the tone
Of flattery ’round a sovereign’s throne.
My passions, from that hapless hour,
Usurped a tyranny which men
Have deemed since I have reached to power,
My innate nature—be it so:
But, father, there lived one who, then,
Then—in my boyhood—when their fire
Burned with a still intenser glow
(For passion must, with youth, expire)
E’en then who knew this iron heart
In woman’s weakness had a part.
I have no words—alas!—to tell
The loveliness of loving well!
Nor would I now attempt to trace
The more than beauty of a face
Whose lineaments, upon my mind,
Are—shadows on th’ unstable wind:
Thus I remember having dwelt
Some page of early lore upon,
With loitering eye, till I have felt
The letters—with their meaning—melt
To fantasies—with none.
O, she was worthy of all love!
Love as in infancy was mine—
’Twas such as angel minds above
Might envy; her young heart the shrine
On which my every hope and thought
Were incense—then a goodly gift,
For they were childish and upright—
Pure—as her young example taught:
Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
Trust to the fire within, for light?
We grew in age—and love—together—
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather—
And, when the friendly sunshine smiled.
And she would mark the opening skies,
I saw no Heaven—but in her eyes.
Young Love’s first lesson is——the heart:
For ’mid that sunshine, and those smiles,
When, from our little cares apart,
And laughing at her girlish wiles,
I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,
And pour my spirit out in tears—
There was no need to speak the rest—
No need to quiet any fears
Of her—who asked no reason why,
But turned on me her quiet eye!
Yet more than worthy of the love
My spirit struggled with, and strove
When, on the mountain peak, alone,
Ambition lent it a new tone—
I had no being—but in thee:
The world, and all it did contain
In the earth—the air—the sea—
Its joy—its little lot of pain
That was new pleasure—the ideal,
Dim, vanities of dreams by night—
And dimmer nothings which were real—
(Shadows—and a more shadowy light!)
Parted upon their misty wings,
And, so, confusedly, became
Thine image and—a name—a name!
Two separate—yet most intimate things.
I was ambitious—have you known
The passion, father? You have not:
A cottager, I marked a throne
Of half the world as all my own,
And murmured at such lowly lot—
But, just like any other dream,
Upon the vapor of the dew
My own had past, did not the beam
Of beauty which did while it thro’
The minute—the hour—the day—oppress
My mind with double loveliness.
We walked together on the crown
Of a high mountain which looked down
Afar from its proud natural towers
Of rock and forest, on the hills—
The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers
And shouting with a thousand rills.
I spoke to her of power and pride,
But mystically—in such guise
That she might deem it nought beside
The moment’s converse; in her eyes
I read, perhaps too carelessly—
A mingled feeling with my own—
The flush on her bright cheek, to me
Seemed to become a queenly throne
Too well that I should let it be
Light in the wilderness alone.
I wrapped myself in grandeur then,
And donned a visionary crown—
Yet it was not that Fantasy
Had thrown her mantle over me—
But that, among the rabble—men,
Lion ambition is chained down—
And crouches to a keeper’s hand—
Not so in deserts where the grand—
The wild—the terrible conspire
With their own breath to fan his fire.
Look ’round thee now on Samarcand!—
Is she not queen of Earth? her pride
Above all cities? in her hand
Their destinies? in all beside
Of glory which the world hath known
Stands she not nobly and alone?
Falling—her veriest stepping-stone
Shall form the pedestal of a throne—
And who her sovereign? Timour—he
Whom the astonished people saw
Striding o’er empires haughtily
A diademed outlaw!
O, human love! thou spirit given,
On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!
Which fall’st into the soul like rain
Upon the Siroc-withered plain,
And, failing in thy power to bless,
But leav’st the heart a wilderness!
Idea! which bindest life around
With music of so strange a sound
And beauty of so wild a birth—
Farewell! for I have won the Earth.
When Hope, the eagle that towered, could see
No cliff beyond him in the sky,
His pinions were bent droopingly—
And homeward turned his softened eye.
’Twas sunset: When the sun will part
There comes a sullenness of heart
To him who still would look upon
The glory of the summer sun.
That soul will hate the ev’ning mist
So often lovely, and will list
To the sound of the coming darkness (known
To those whose spirits hearken) as one
Who, in a dream of night, would fly,
But cannot, from a danger nigh.
What tho’ the moon—tho’ the white moon
Shed all the splendor of her noon,
Her smile is chilly—and her beam,
In that time of dreariness, will seem
(So like you gather in your breath)
A portrait taken after death.
And boyhood is a summer sun
Whose waning is the dreariest one—
For all we live to know is known,
And all we seek to keep hath flown—
Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall
With the noon-day beauty—which is all.
I reached my home—my home no more—
For all had flown who made it so.
I passed from out its mossy door,
And, tho’ my tread was soft and low,
A voice came from the threshold stone
Of one whom I had earlier known—
O, I defy thee, Hell, to show
On beds of fire that burn below,
An humbler heart—a deeper woe.
Father, I firmly do believe—
I know—for Death who comes for me
From regions of the blest afar,
Where there is nothing to deceive,
Hath left his iron gate ajar.
And rays of truth you cannot see
Are flashing thro’ Eternity——
I do believe that Eblis hath
A snare in every human path—
Else how, when in the holy grove
I wandered of the idol, Love,—
Who daily scents his snowy wings
With incense of burnt-offerings
From the most unpolluted things,
Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
Above with trellised rays from Heaven
No mote may shun—no tiniest fly—
The light’ning of his eagle eye—
How was it that Ambition crept,
Unseen, amid the revels there,
Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
In the tangles of Love’s very hair!
Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine—
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
“On! on!”—but o’er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!
For, alas! alas! with me
The light of Life is o’er!
“No more—no more—no more”—
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar!
And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams—
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams!
Alas! for that accursed time
They bore thee o’er the billow,
From love to titled age and crime,
And an unholy pillow!
From me, and from our misty clime,
Where weeps the silver willow!
I dwelt alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride—
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.
Ah, less—less bright
The stars of the night
Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
And never a flake
That the vapor can make
With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl—
Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless
Now Doubt—now Pain
Come never again,
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
And all day long
Shines, bright and strong,
Astarte within the sky,
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye—
While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.
Thank Heaven! the crisis—
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last—
And the fever called “Living”
Is conquered at last.
Sadly, I know,
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length—
But no matter!—I feel
I am better at length.
And I rest so composedly,
Now in my bed,
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead—
Might start at beholding me
Thinking me dead.
The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:—ah, that horrible,
The sickness—the nausea—
The pitiless pain—
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain—
With the fever called “Living”
That burned in my brain.
And oh! of all tortures
That torture the worst
Has abated—the terrible
Torture of thirst,
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:—
I have drank of a water
That quenches all thirst:—
Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground—
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.
And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed—
For man never slept
In a different bed;
And, to sleep, you must slumber
In just such a bed.
My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting its roses—
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:
For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies—
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies—
With rue and the beautiful
And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie—
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.
She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast—
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.
When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm—
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.
And I lie so composedly,
Now in my bed
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead—
And I rest so contentedly,
Now in my bed,
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead—
That you shudder to look at me.
Thinking me dead.
But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie—
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie—
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.
I saw thee on thy bridal day—
When a burning blush came o’er thee,
Though happiness around thee lay,
The world all love before thee:
And in thine eye a kindling light
(Whatever it might be)
Was all on Earth my aching sight
Of Loveliness could see.
That blush, perhaps, was maiden shame—
As such it well may pass—
Though its glow hath raised a fiercer flame
In the breast of him, alas!
Who saw thee on that bridal day,
When that deep blush would come o’er thee,
Though happiness around thee lay,
The world all love before thee.
[Greek: Mellonta sauta’]
These things are in the future.
Yes, fairest and best beloved Una, “born again.” These were
the words upon whose mystical meaning I had so long
pondered, rejecting the explanations of the priesthood,
until Death itself resolved for me the secret.
How strangely, sweet Una, you echo my words! I
observe, too, a vacillation in your step, a joyous
inquietude in your eyes. You are confused and oppressed by
the majestic novelty of the Life Eternal. Yes, it was of
Death I spoke. And here how singularly sounds that word
which of old was wont to bring terror to all hearts,
throwing a mildew upon all pleasures!
Ah, Death, the spectre which sate at all feasts! How often,
Monos, did we lose ourselves in speculations upon its
nature! How mysteriously did it act as a check to human
bliss, saying unto it, “thus far, and no farther!” That
earnest mutual love, my own Monos, which burned within our
bosoms, how vainly did we flatter ourselves, feeling happy
in its first upspringing that our happiness would strengthen
with its strength! Alas, as it grew, so grew in our hearts
the dread of that evil hour which was hurrying to separate
us forever! Thus in time it became painful to love. Hate
would have been mercy then.
Speak not here of these griefs, dear Una—mine, mine
But the memory of past sorrow, is it not present joy? I have
much to say yet of the things which have been. Above all, I
burn to know the incidents of your own passage through the
dark Valley and Shadow.
And when did the radiant Una ask anything of her Monos in
vain? I will be minute in relating all, but at what point
shall the weird narrative begin?
At what point?
You have said.
Monos, I comprehend you. In Death we have both learned the
propensity of man to define the indefinable. I will not say,
then, commence with the moment of life’s cessation—but
commence with that sad, sad instant when, the fever having
abandoned you, you sank into a breathless and motionless
torpor, and I pressed down your pallid eyelids with the
passionate fingers of love.
One word first, my Una, in regard to man’s general condition
at this epoch. You will remember that one or two of the wise
among our forefathers—wise in fact, although not in
the world’s esteem—had ventured to doubt the propriety
of the term “improvement,” as applied to the progress of our
civilization. There were periods in each of the five or six
centuries immediately preceding our dissolution when arose
some vigorous intellect, boldly contending for those
principles whose truth appears now, to our disenfranchised
reason, so utterly obvious —principles which should
have taught our race to submit to the guidance of the
natural laws rather than attempt their control. At long
intervals some master-minds appeared, looking upon each
advance in practical science as a retrogradation in the true
utility. Occasionally the poetic intellect—that
intellect which we now feel to have been the most exalted of
all—since those truths which to us were of the most
enduring importance could only be reached by that analogy
which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone,
and to the unaided reason bears no weight—occasionally
did this poetic intellect proceed a step farther in the
evolving of the vague idea of the philosophic, and find in
the mystic parable that tells of the tree of knowledge, and
of its forbidden fruit, death-producing, a distinct
intimation that knowledge was not meet for man in the infant
condition of his soul. And these men—the poets—
living and perishing amid the scorn of the
“utilitarians”—of rough pedants, who arrogated to
themselves a title which could have been properly applied
only to the scorned—these men, the poets, pondered
piningly, yet not unwisely, upon the ancient days when our
wants were not more simple than our enjoyments were
keen—days when mirth was a word unknown, so
solemnly deep-toned was happiness—holy, august, and
blissful days, blue rivers ran undammed, between hills
unhewn, into far forest solitudes, primeval, odorous, and
unexplored. Yet these noble exceptions from the general
misrule served but to strengthen it by opposition. Alas! we
had fallen upon the most evil of all our evil days. The
great “movement”—that was the cant term—went on:
a diseased commotion, moral and physical. Art—the
Arts—arose supreme, and once enthroned, cast chains
upon the intellect which had elevated them to power. Man,
because he could not but acknowledge the majesty of Nature,
fell into childish exultation at his acquired and still-
increasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked
a God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over
him. As might be supposed from the origin of his disorder,
he grew infected with system, and with abstraction. He
enwrapped himself in generalities. Among other odd ideas,
that of universal equality gained ground; and in the face of
analogy and of God—in despite of the loud warning
voice of the laws of gradation so visibly pervading
all things in Earth and Heaven—wild attempts at an
omniprevalent Democracy were made. Yet this evil sprang
necessarily from the leading evil, Knowledge. Man could not
both know and succumb. Meantime huge smoking cities arose,
innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot breath of
furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as with the
ravages of some loathsome disease. And methinks, sweet Una,
even our slumbering sense of the forced and of the far-
fetched might have arrested us here. But now it appears that
we had worked out our own destruction in the perversion of
our taste, or rather in the blind neglect of its
culture in the schools. For, in truth, it was at this crisis
that taste alone—that faculty which, holding a middle
position between the pure intellect and the moral sense,
could never safely have been disregarded—it was now
that taste alone could have led us gently back to Beauty, to
Nature, and to Life. But alas for the pure contemplative
spirit and majestic intuition of Plato! Alas for the [Greek:
mousichae] which he justly regarded as an all-sufficient
education for the soul! Alas for him and for it!—since
both were most desperately needed, when both were most
entirely forgotten or despised. Pascal, a philosopher whom
we both love, has said, how truly!—”Que tout notre
raisonnement se reduit a ceder au sentiment;” and it is
not impossible that the sentiment of the natural, had time
permitted it, would have regained its old ascendency over
the harsh mathematical reason of the schools. But this thing
was not to be. Prematurely induced by intemperance of
knowledge, the old age of the world drew near. This the mass
of mankind saw not, or, living lustily although unhappily,
affected not to see. But, for myself, the Earth’s records
had taught me to look for widest ruin as the price of
highest civilization. I had imbibed a prescience of our Fate
from comparison of China the simple and enduring, with
Assyria the architect, with Egypt the astrologer, with
Nubia, more crafty than either, the turbulent mother of all
Arts. In the history of these regions I met with a ray from
the Future. The individual artificialities of the three
latter were local diseases of the Earth, and in their
individual overthrows we had seen local remedies applied;
but for the infected world at large I could anticipate no
regeneration save in death. That man, as a race, should not
become extinct, I saw that he must be “born again.”
And now it was, fairest and dearest, that we wrapped our
spirits, daily, in dreams. Now it was that, in twilight, we
discoursed of the days to come, when the Art-scarred surface
of the Earth, having undergone that purification which alone
could efface its rectangular obscenities, should clothe
itself anew in the verdure and the mountain-slopes and the
smiling waters of Paradise, and be rendered at length a fit
dwelling-place for man:—for man the
Death-purged—for man to whose now exalted intellect
there should be poison in knowledge no more—for the
redeemed, regenerated, blissful, and now immortal, but still
for the material, man.
Well do I remember these conversations, dear Monos; but the
epoch of the fiery overthrow was not so near at hand as we
believed, and as the corruption you indicate did surely
warrant us in believing. Men lived; and died individually.
You yourself sickened, and passed into the grave; and
thither your constant Una speedily followed you. And though
the century which has since elapsed, and whose conclusion
brings up together once more, tortured our slumbering senses
with no impatience of duration, yet my Monos, it was a
Say, rather, a point in the vague infinity. Unquestionably,
it was in the Earth’s dotage that I died. Wearied at heart
with anxieties which had their origin in the general turmoil
and decay, I succumbed to the fierce fever. After some few
days of pain, and many of dreamy delirium replete with
ecstasy, the manifestations of which you mistook for pain,
while I longed but was impotent to undeceive you—after
some days there came upon me, as you have said, a breathless
and motionless torpor; and this was termed Death by
those who stood around me.
Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of
sentience. It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the
extreme quiescence of him, who, having slumbered long and
profoundly, lying motionless and fully prostrate in a mid-
summer noon, begins to steal slowly back into consciousness,
through the mere sufficiency of his sleep, and without being
awakened by external disturbances.
I breathed no longer. The pulses were still. The heart had
ceased to beat. Volition had not departed, but was
powerless. The senses were unusually active, although
eccentrically so—assuming often each other’s functions
at random. The taste and the smell were inextricably
confounded, and became one sentiment, abnormal and intense.
The rose-water with which your tenderness had moistened my
lips to the last, affected me with sweet fancies of
flowers—fantastic flowers, far more lovely than any of
the old Earth, but whose prototypes we have here blooming
around us. The eye-lids, transparent and bloodless, offered
no complete impediment to vision. As volition was in
abeyance, the balls could not roll in their sockets—
but all objects within the range of the visual hemisphere
were seen with more or less distinctness; the rays which
fell upon the external retina, or into the corner of the
eye, producing a more vivid effect than those which struck
the front or interior surface. Yet, in the former instance,
this effect was so far anomalous that I appreciated it only
as sound—sound sweet or discordant as the
matters presenting themselves at my side were light or dark
in shade—curved or angular in outline. The hearing, at
the same time, although excited in degree, was not irregular
in action—estimating real sounds with an extravagance
of precision, not less than of sensibility. Touch had
undergone a modification more peculiar. Its impressions were
tardily received, but pertinaciously retained, and resulted
always in the highest physical pleasure. Thus the pressure
of your sweet fingers upon my eyelids, at first only
recognized through vision, at length, long after their
removal, filled my whole being with a sensual delight
immeasurable. I say with a sensual delight. All my
perceptions were purely sensual. The materials furnished the
passive brain by the senses were not in the least degree
wrought into shape by the deceased understanding. Of pain
there was some little; of pleasure there was much; but of
moral pain or pleasure none at all. Thus your wild sobs
floated into my ear with all their mournful cadences, and
were appreciated in their every variation of sad tone; but
they were soft musical sounds and no more; they conveyed to
the extinct reason no intimation of the sorrows which gave
them birth; while large and constant tears which fell upon
my face, telling the bystanders of a heart which broke,
thrilled every fibre of my frame with ecstasy alone. And
this was in truth the Death of which these bystanders
spoke reverently, in low whispers—you, sweet Una,
gaspingly, with loud cries.
They attired me for the coffin—three or four dark
figures which flitted busily to and fro. As these crossed
the direct line of my vision they affected me as forms;
but upon passing to my side their images impressed me
with the idea of shrieks, groans, and, other dismal
expressions of terror, of horror, or of woe. You alone,
habited in a white robe, passed in all directions musically
The day waned; and, as its light faded away, I became
possessed by a vague uneasiness—an anxiety such as the
sleeper feels when sad real sounds fall continuously within
his ear—low distant bell-tones, solemn, at long but
equal intervals, and commingling with melancholy dreams.
Night arrived; and with its shadows a heavy discomfort. It
oppressed my limbs with the oppression of some dull weight,
and was palpable. There was also a moaning sound, not unlike
the distant reverberation of surf, but more continuous,
which, beginning with the first twilight, had grown in
strength with the darkness. Suddenly lights were brought
into the rooms, and this reverberation became forthwith
interrupted into frequent unequal bursts of the same sound,
but less dreary and less distinct. The ponderous oppression
was in a great measure relieved; and, issuing from the flame
of each lamp (for there were many), there flowed unbrokenly
into my ears a strain of melodious monotone. And when now,
dear Una, approaching the bed upon which I lay outstretched,
you sat gently by my side, breathing odor from your sweet
lips, and pressing them upon my brow, there arose
tremulously within my bosom, and mingling with the merely
physical sensations which circumstances had called forth, a
something akin to sentiment itself—a feeling that,
half appreciating, half responded to your earnest love and
sorrow; but this feeling took no root in the pulseless
heart, and seemed indeed rather a shadow than a reality, and
faded quickly away, first into extreme quiescence, and then
into a purely sensual pleasure as before.
And now, from the wreck and the chaos of the usual senses,
there appeared to have arisen within me a sixth, all
perfect. In its exercise I found a wild delight—yet a
delight still physical, inasmuch as the understanding had in
it no part. Motion in the animal frame had fully ceased. No
muscle quivered; no nerve thrilled; no artery throbbed. But
there seemed to have sprung up in the brain that of
which no words could convey to the merely human intelligence
even an indistinct conception. Let me term it a mental
pendulous pulsation. It was the moral embodiment of man’s
abstract idea of Time. By the absolute equalization
of this movement—or of such as this—had the
cycles of the firmamental orbs themselves been adjusted. By
its aid I measured the irregularities of the clock upon the
mantel, and of the watches of the attendants. Their tickings
came sonorously to my ears. The slightest deviations from
the true proportion—and these deviations were
omniprevalent—affected me just as violations of
abstract truth were wont on earth to affect the moral sense.
Although no two of the timepieces in the chamber struck the
individual seconds accurately together, yet I had no
difficulty in holding steadily in mind the tones, and the
respective momentary errors of each. And this—this
keen, perfect self-existing sentiment of
duration—this sentiment existing (as man could
not possibly have conceived it to exist) independently of
any succession of events—this idea—this sixth
sense, upspringing from the ashes of the rest, was the first
obvious and certain step of the intemporal soul upon the
threshold of the temporal eternity.
It was midnight; and you still sat by my side. All others
had departed from the chamber of Death. They had deposited
me in the coffin. The lamps burned flickeringly; for this I
knew by the tremulousness of the monotonous strains. But
suddenly these strains diminished in distinctness and in
volume. Finally they ceased. The perfume in my nostrils died
away. Forms affected my vision no longer. The oppression of
the Darkness uplifted itself from my bosom. A dull shot like
that of electricity pervaded my frame, and was followed by
total loss of the idea of contact. All of what man has
termed sense was merged in the sole consciousness of entity,
and in the one abiding sentiment of duration. The mortal
body had been at length stricken with the hand of the deadly
Yet had not all of sentience departed; for the consciousness
and the sentiment remaining supplied some of its functions
by a lethargic intuition. I appreciated the direful change
now in operation upon the flesh, and, as the dreamer is
sometimes aware of the bodily presence of one who leans over
him, so, sweet Una, I still dully felt that you sat by my
side. So, too, when the noon of the second day came, I was
not unconscious of those movements which displaced you from
my side, which confined me within the coffin, which
deposited me within the hearse, which bore me to the grave,
which lowered me within it, which heaped heavily the mould
upon me, and which thus left me, in blackness and
corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the worm.
And here in the prison-house which has few secrets to
disclose, there rolled away days and weeks and months; and
the soul watched narrowly each second as it flew, and,
without effort, took record of its flight—without
effort and without object.
A year passed. The consciousness of being had grown
hourly more indistinct, and that of mere locality had
in great measure usurped its position. The idea of entity
was becoming merged in that of place. The narrow
space immediately surrounding what had been the body was now
growing to be the body itself. At length, as often happens
to the sleeper (by sleep and its world alone is Death
imaged)—at length, as sometimes happened on Earth to
the deep slumberer, when some flitting light half startled
him into awaking, yet left him half enveloped in
dreams—so to me, in the strict embrace of the
Shadow, came that light which alone might have
had power to startle—the light of enduring
Love. Men toiled at the grave in which I lay
darkling. They upthrew the damp earth. Upon my mouldering
bones there descended the coffin of Una. And now again all
was void. That nebulous light had been extinguished. That
feeble thrill had vibrated itself into quiescence. Many
lustra had supervened. Dust had returned to dust. The
worm had food no more. The sense of being had at length
utterly departed, and there reigned in its stead—
instead of all things, dominant and perpetual—the
autocrats Place and Time. For that
which was not—for that which had no form—
for that which had no thought—for that which had no
sentience—for that which was soundless, yet of which
matter formed no portion—for all this nothingness, yet
for all this immortality, the grave was still a home, and
the corrosive hours, co-mates.
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
To the grandeur that was Rome.
Lo! in yon brilliant window niche,
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!
Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!—a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river.
And, Guy de Vere, hast thou no tear?—weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read—the funeral song be sung!—
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young—
A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.
“Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her—that she died!
How shall the ritual, then, be read?—the requiem how be sung
By you—by yours, the evil eye,—by yours, the slanderous tongue
That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?”
Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath “gone before,” with Hope, that flew beside,
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride—
For her, the fair and debonnaire, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes—
The life still there, upon her hair—the death upon her eyes.
“Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a paean of old days!
Let no bell toll!—lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damned Earth.
To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven—
From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven—
From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven.”
In youth I have known one with whom the Earth
In secret communing held—as he with it,
In daylight, and in beauty, from his birth:
Whose fervid, flickering torch of life was lit
From the sun and stars, whence he had drawn forth
A passionate light such for his spirit was fit—
And yet that spirit knew—not in the hour
Of its own fervor—what had o’er it power.
Perhaps it may be that my mind is wrought
To a ferver by the moonbeam that hangs o’er,
But I will half believe that wild light fraught
With more of sovereignty than ancient lore
Hath ever told—or is it of a thought
The unembodied essence, and no more
That with a quickening spell doth o’er us pass
As dew of the night-time, o’er the summer grass?
Doth o’er us pass, when, as th’ expanding eye
To the loved object—so the tear to the lid
Will start, which lately slept in apathy?
And yet it need not be—(that object) hid
From us in life—but common—which doth lie
Each hour before us—but then only bid
With a strange sound, as of a harp-string broken
T’ awake us—’Tis a symbol and a token—
Of what in other worlds shall be—and given
In beauty by our God, to those alone
Who otherwise would fall from life and Heaven
Drawn by their heart’s passion, and that tone,
That high tone of the spirit which hath striven
Though not with Faith—with godliness—whose throne
With desperate energy ‘t hath beaten down;
Wearing its own deep feeling as a crown.
Fair river! in thy bright, clear flow
Of crystal, wandering water,
Thou art an emblem of the glow
Of beauty—the unhidden heart—
The playful maziness of art
In old Alberto’s daughter;
But when within thy wave she looks—
Which glistens then, and trembles—
Why, then, the prettiest of brooks
Her worshipper resembles;
For in his heart, as in thy stream,
Her image deeply lies—
His heart which trembles at the beam
Of her soul-searching eyes.
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less—
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon the spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody—
Then—ah, then, I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight—
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define—
Nor Love—although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining—
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.
Beloved! amid the earnest woes
That crowd around my earthly path—
(Drear path, alas! where grows
Not even one lonely rose)—
My soul at least a solace hath
In dreams of thee, and therein knows
An Eden of bland repose.
And thus thy memory is to me
Like some enchanted far-off isle
In some tumultuous sea—
Some ocean throbbing far and free
With storm—but where meanwhile
Serenest skies continually
Just o’er that one bright inland smile.
“Seldom we find,” says Solomon Don Dunce,
“Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet—
Trash of all trash!—how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff—
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it.”
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles—ephemeral and so transparent—
But this is, now—you may depend upon it—
Stable, opaque, immortal—all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within’t.
At morn—at noon—at twilight dim—
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and wo—in good and ill—
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee
Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!
O! nothing earthly save the ray
(Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty’s eye,
As in those gardens where the day
Springs from the gems of Circassy—
O! nothing earthly save the thrill
Of melody in woodland rill—
Or (music of the passion-hearted)
Joy’s voice so peacefully departed
That like the murmur in the shell,
Its echo dwelleth and will dwell—
O! nothing of the dross of ours—
Yet all the beauty—all the flowers
That list our Love, and deck our bowers—
Adorn yon world afar, afar—
The wandering star.
’Twas a sweet time for Nesace—for there
Her world lay lolling on the golden air,
Near four bright suns—a temporary rest—
An oasis in desert of the blest.
Away away—’mid seas of rays that roll
Empyrean splendor o’er th’ unchained soul—
The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)
Can struggle to its destin’d eminence—
To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode,
And late to ours, the favour’d one of God—
But, now, the ruler of an anchor’d realm,
She throws aside the sceptre—leaves the helm,
And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns,
Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.
Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth,
Whence sprang the “Idea of Beauty” into birth,
(Falling in wreaths thro’ many a startled star,
Like woman’s hair ’mid pearls, until, afar,
It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt),
She look’d into Infinity—and knelt.
Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled—
Fit emblems of the model of her world—
Seen but in beauty—not impeding sight—
Of other beauty glittering thro’ the light—
A wreath that twined each starry form around,
And all the opal’d air in color bound.
All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed
Of flowers: of lilies such as rear’d the head
On the fair Capo Deucato, and sprang
So eagerly around about to hang
Upon the flying footsteps of—deep pride—
Of her who lov’d a mortal—and so died.
The Sephalica, budding with young bees,
Uprear’d its purple stem around her knees:
And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam’d—
Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham’d
All other loveliness: its honied dew
(The fabled nectar that the heathen knew)
Deliriously sweet, was dropp’d from Heaven,
And fell on gardens of the unforgiven
In Trebizond—and on a sunny flower
So like its own above that, to this hour,
It still remaineth, torturing the bee
With madness, and unwonted reverie:
In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf
And blossom of the fairy plant, in grief
Disconsolate linger—grief that hangs her head,
Repenting follies that full long have fled,
Heaving her white breast to the balmy air,
Like guilty beauty, chasten’d, and more fair:
Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light
She fears to perfume, perfuming the night:
And Clytia pondering between many a sun,
While pettish tears adown her petals run:
And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth—
And died, ere scarce exalted into birth,
Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing
Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king:
And Valisnerian lotus thither flown
From struggling with the waters of the Rhone:
And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante!
Isola d’oro!—Fior di Levante!
And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever
With Indian Cupid down the holy river—
Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given
To bear the Goddess’ song, in odors, up to Heaven:
“Spirit! that dwellest where,
In the deep sky,
The terrible and fair,
In beauty vie!
Beyond the line of blue—
The boundary of the star
Which turneth at the view
Of thy barrier and thy bar—
Of the barrier overgone
By the comets who were cast
From their pride, and from their throne
To be drudges till the last—
To be carriers of fire
(The red fire of their heart)
With speed that may not tire
And with pain that shall not part—
Who livest—that we know—
In Eternity—we feel—
But the shadow of whose brow
What spirit shall reveal?
Tho’ the beings whom thy Nesace,
Thy messenger hath known
Have dream’d for thy Infinity
A model of their own—
Thy will is done, O God!
The star hath ridden high
Thro’ many a tempest, but she rode
Beneath thy burning eye;
And here, in thought, to thee—
In thought that can alone
Ascend thy empire and so be
A partner of thy throne—
By winged Fantasy,
My embassy is given,
Till secrecy shall knowledge be
In the environs of Heaven.”
She ceas’d—and buried then her burning cheek
Abash’d, amid the lilies there, to seek
A shelter from the fervor of His eye;
For the stars trembled at the Deity.
She stirr’d not—breath’d not—for a voice was there
How solemnly pervading the calm air!
A sound of silence on the startled ear
Which dreamy poets name “the music of the sphere.”
Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call
“Silence”—which is the merest word of all.
All Nature speaks, and ev’n ideal things
Flap shadowy sounds from the visionary wings—
But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high
The eternal voice of God is passing by,
And the red winds are withering in the sky!
“What tho’ in worlds which sightless cycles run,
Link’d to a little system, and one sun—
Where all my love is folly, and the crowd
Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud,
The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath
(Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?)
What tho’ in worlds which own a single sun
The sands of time grow dimmer as they run,
Yet thine is my resplendency, so given
To bear my secrets thro’ the upper Heaven.
Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly,
With all thy train, athwart the moony sky—
Apart—like fire-flies in Sicilian night,
And wing to other worlds another light!
Divulge the secrets of thy embassy
To the proud orbs that twinkle—and so be
To ev’ry heart a barrier and a ban
Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!”
Up rose the maiden in the yellow night,
The single-mooned eve!-on earth we plight
Our faith to one love—and one moon adore—
The birth-place of young Beauty had no more.
As sprang that yellow star from downy hours,
Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers,
And bent o’er sheeny mountain and dim plain
Her way—but left not yet her Therasaean reign.
Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! though that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
’Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be—that dream eternally
Continuing—as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood—should it thus be given,
’Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revelled when the sun was bright
I’ the summer sky, in dreams of living light
And loveliness,—have left my very heart
Inclines of my imaginary apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought—what more could I have seen?
’Twas once—and only once—and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass—some power
Or spell had bound me—’twas the chilly wind
Came o’er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit—or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly—or the stars—howe’er it was
That dream was that that night-wind—let it pass.
I have been happy, though in a dream.
I have been happy—and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love—and all my own!—
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.
Type of the antique Rome! Rich reliquary
Of lofty contemplation left to Time
By buried centuries of pomp and power!
At length—at length—after so many days
Of weary pilgrimage and burning thirst,
(Thirst for the springs of lore that in thee lie,)
I kneel, an altered and an humble man,
Amid thy shadows, and so drink within
My very soul thy grandeur, gloom, and glory!
Vastness! and Age! and Memories of Eld!
Silence! and Desolation! and dim Night!
I feel ye now—I feel ye in your strength—
O spells more sure than e’er Judaean king
Taught in the gardens of Gethsemane!
O charms more potent than the rapt Chaldee
Ever drew down from out the quiet stars!
Here, where a hero fell, a column falls!
Here, where the mimic eagle glared in gold,
A midnight vigil holds the swarthy bat!
Here, where the dames of Rome their gilded hair
Waved to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle!
Here, where on golden throne the monarch lolled,
Glides, spectre-like, unto his marble home,
Lit by the wan light of the horned moon,
The swift and silent lizard of the stones!
But stay! these walls—these ivy-clad arcades—
These mouldering plinths—these sad and blackened shafts—
These vague entablatures—this crumbling frieze—
These shattered cornices—this wreck—this ruin—
These stones—alas! these gray stones—are they all—
All of the famed, and the colossal left
By the corrosive Hours to Fate and me?
“Not all”—the Echoes answer me—”not all!
Prophetic sounds and loud, arise forever
From us, and from all Ruin, unto the wise,
As melody from Memnon to the Sun.
We rule the hearts of mightiest men—we rule
With a despotic sway all giant minds.
We are not impotent—we pallid stones.
Not all our power is gone—not all our fame—
Not all the magic of our high renown—
Not all the wonder that encircles us—
Not all the mysteries that in us lie—
Not all the memories that hang upon
And cling around about us as a garment,
Clothing us in a robe of more than glory.”
High on a mountain of enamell’d head—
Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed
Of giant pasturage lying at his ease,
Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees
With many a mutter’d “hope to be forgiven”
What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven—
Of rosy head, that towering far away
Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray
Of sunken suns at eve—at noon of night,
While the moon danc’d with the fair stranger light—
Uprear’d upon such height arose a pile
Of gorgeous columns on th’ uuburthen’d air,
Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile
Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,
And nursled the young mountain in its lair.
Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall
Thro’ the ebon air, besilvering the pall
Of their own dissolution, while they die—
Adorning then the dwellings of the sky.
A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down,
Sat gently on these columns as a crown—
A window of one circular diamond, there,
Look’d out above into the purple air
And rays from God shot down that meteor chain
And hallow’d all the beauty twice again,
Save when, between th’ Empyrean and that ring,
Some eager spirit flapp’d his dusky wing.
But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen
The dimness of this world: that grayish green
That Nature loves the best for Beauty’s grave
Lurk’d in each cornice, round each architrave—
And every sculptured cherub thereabout
That from his marble dwelling peered out,
Seem’d earthly in the shadow of his niche—
Achaian statues in a world so rich?
Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis—
From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss
Of beautiful Gomorrah! Oh, the wave
Is now upon thee—but too late to save!
Sound loves to revel in a summer night:
Witness the murmur of the gray twilight
That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco,
Of many a wild star-gazer long ago—
That stealeth ever on the ear of him
Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim,
And sees the darkness coming as a cloud—
Is not its form—its voice—most palpable and loud?
But what is this?—it cometh—and it brings
A music with it—’tis the rush of wings—
A pause—and then a sweeping, falling strain,
And Nesace is in her halls again.
From the wild energy of wanton haste
Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart;
The zone that clung around her gentle waist
Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart.
Within the centre of that hall to breathe
She paus’d and panted, Zanthe! all beneath,
The fairy light that kiss’d her golden hair
And long’d to rest, yet could but sparkle there!
Young flowers were whispering in melody
To happy flowers that night—and tree to tree;
Fountains were gushing music as they fell
In many a star-lit grove, or moon-light dell;
Yet silence came upon material things—
Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings—
And sound alone that from the spirit sprang
Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:
“Neath blue-bell or streamer—
Or tufted wild spray
That keeps, from the dreamer,
The moonbeam away—
Bright beings! that ponder,
With half-closing eyes,
On the stars which your wonder
Hath drawn from the skies,
Till they glance thro’ the shade, and
Come down to your brow
Like—eyes of the maiden
Who calls on you now—
Arise! from your dreaming
In violet bowers,
To duty beseeming
These star-litten hours—
And shake from your tresses
Encumber’d with dew
The breath of those kisses
That cumber them too—
(O! how, without you, Love!
Could angels be blest?)
Those kisses of true love
That lull’d ye to rest!
Up! shake from your wing
Each hindering thing:
The dew of the night—
It would weigh down your flight;
And true love caresses—
O! leave them apart!
They are light on the tresses,
But lead on the heart.
My beautiful one!
Whose harshest idea
Will to melody run,
O! is it thy will
On the breezes to toss?
Or, capriciously still,
Like the lone Albatross,
Incumbent on night
(As she on the air)
To keep watch with delight
On the harmony there?
Thy image may be,
No magic shall sever
Thy music from thee.
Thou hast bound many eyes
In a dreamy sleep—
But the strains still arise
Which thy vigilance keep—
The sound of the rain
Which leaps down to the flower,
And dances again
In the rhythm of the shower—
The murmur that springs
From the growing of grass
Are the music of things—
But are modell’d, alas!
Away, then, my dearest,
O! hie thee away
To springs that lie clearest
Beneath the moon-ray—
To lone lake that smiles,
In its dream of deep rest,
At the many star-isles
That enjewel its breast—
Where wild flowers, creeping,
Have mingled their shade,
On its margin is sleeping
Full many a maid—
Some have left the cool glade, and
Have slept with the bee—
Arouse them, my maiden,
On moorland and lea—
Go! breathe on their slumber,
All softly in ear,
The musical number
They slumber’d to hear—
For what can awaken
An angel so soon
Whose sleep hath been taken
Beneath the cold moon,
As the spell which no slumber
Of witchery may test,
The rhythmical number
Which lull’d him to rest?”
Spirits in wing, and angels to the view,
A thousand seraphs burst th’ Empyrean thro’,
Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight—
Seraphs in all but “Knowledge,” the keen light
That fell, refracted, thro’ thy bounds afar,
O death! from eye of God upon that star;
Sweet was that error—sweeter still that death—
Sweet was that error—ev’n with us the breath
Of Science dims the mirror of our joy—
To them ’twere the Simoom, and would destroy—
For what (to them) availeth it to know
That Truth is Falsehood—or that Bliss is Woe?
Sweet was their death—with them to die was rife
With the last ecstasy of satiate life—
Beyond that death no immortality—
But sleep that pondereth and is not “to be”—
And there—oh! may my weary spirit dwell—
Apart from Heaven’s Eternity—and yet how far from Hell!
What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim
Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn?
But two: they fell: for heaven no grace imparts
To those who hear not for their beating hearts.
A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover—
O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over)
Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known?
Unguided Love hath fallen—’mid “tears of perfect moan.”
He was a goodly spirit—he who fell:
A wanderer by mossy-mantled well—
A gazer on the lights that shine above—
A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:
What wonder? for each star is eye-like there,
And looks so sweetly down on Beauty’s hair—
And they, and ev’ry mossy spring were holy
To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.
The night had found (to him a night of wo)
Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo—
Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky,
And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie.
Here sate he with his love—his dark eye bent
With eagle gaze along the firmament:
Now turn’d it upon her—but ever then
It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.
“Ianthe, dearest, see! how dim that ray!
How lovely ’tis to look so far away!
She seemed not thus upon that autumn eve
I left her gorgeous halls—nor mourned to leave,
That eve—that eve—I should remember well—
The sun-ray dropped, in Lemnos with a spell
On th’ Arabesque carving of a gilded hall
Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall—
And on my eyelids—O, the heavy light!
How drowsily it weighed them into night!
On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran
With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan:
But O, that light!—I slumbered—Death, the while,
Stole o’er my senses in that lovely isle
So softly that no single silken hair
Awoke that slept—or knew that he was there.
“The last spot of Earth’s orb I trod upon
Was a proud temple called the Parthenon;
More beauty clung around her columned wall
Then even thy glowing bosom beats withal,
And when old Time my wing did disenthral
Thence sprang I—as the eagle from his tower,
And years I left behind me in an hour.
What time upon her airy bounds I hung,
One half the garden of her globe was flung
Unrolling as a chart unto my view—
Tenantless cities of the desert too!
Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then,
And half I wished to be again of men.”
“My Angelo! and why of them to be?
A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee—
And greener fields than in yon world above,
And woman’s loveliness—and passionate love.”
“But list, Ianthe! when the air so soft
Failed, as my pennoned spirit leapt aloft,
Perhaps my brain grew dizzy—but the world
I left so late was into chaos hurled,
Sprang from her station, on the winds apart,
And rolled a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart.
Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar,
And fell—not swiftly as I rose before,
But with a downward, tremulous motion thro’
Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto!
Nor long the measure of my falling hours,
For nearest of all stars was thine to ours—
Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth,
A red Daedalion on the timid Earth.”
“We came—and to thy Earth—but not to us
Be given our lady’s bidding to discuss:
We came, my love; around, above, below,
Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go,
Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod
She grants to us as granted by her God—
But, Angelo, than thine gray Time unfurled
Never his fairy wing o’er fairer world!
Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes
Alone could see the phantom in the skies,
When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be
Headlong thitherward o’er the starry sea—
But when its glory swelled upon the sky,
As glowing Beauty’s bust beneath man’s eye,
We paused before the heritage of men,
And thy star trembled—as doth Beauty then!”
Thus in discourse, the lovers whiled away
The night that waned and waned and brought no day.
They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts
Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.
Beneath the vine-clad eaves,
Whose shadows fall before
Thy lowly cottage door—
Under the lilac’s tremulous leaves—
Within thy snowy clasped hand
The purple flowers it bore.
Last eve in dreams, I saw thee stand,
Like queenly nymph from Fairy-land—
Enchantress of the flowery wand,
Most beauteous Isadore!
And when I bade the dream
Upon thy spirit flee,
Thy violet eyes to me
Upturned, did overflowing seem
With the deep, untold delight
Of Love’s serenity;
Thy classic brow, like lilies white
And pale as the Imperial Night
Upon her throne, with stars bedight,
Enthralled my soul to thee!
Ah! ever I behold
Thy dreamy, passionate eyes,
Blue as the languid skies
Hung with the sunset’s fringe of gold;
Now strangely clear thine image grows,
And olden memories
Are startled from their long repose
Like shadows on the silent snows
When suddenly the night-wind blows
Where quiet moonlight lies.
Like music heard in dreams,
Like strains of harps unknown,
Of birds for ever flown,—
Audible as the voice of streams
That murmur in some leafy dell,
I hear thy gentlest tone,
And Silence cometh with her spell
Like that which on my tongue doth dwell,
When tremulous in dreams I tell
My love to thee alone!
In every valley heard,
Floating from tree to tree,
Less beautiful to me,
The music of the radiant bird,
Than artless accents such as thine
Whose echoes never flee!
Ah! how for thy sweet voice I pine:—
For uttered in thy tones benign
(Enchantress!) this rude name of mine
Doth seem a melody!
Wreathed in myrtle, my sword I’ll conceal,
Like those champions devoted and brave,
When they plunged in the tyrant their steel,
And to Athens deliverance gave.
Beloved heroes! your deathless souls roam
In the joy breathing isles of the blest;
Where the mighty of old have their home—
Where Achilles and Diomed rest.
In fresh myrtle my blade I’ll entwine,
Like Harmodius, the gallant and good,
When he made at the tutelar shrine
A libation of Tyranny’s blood.
Ye deliverers of Athens from shame!
Ye avengers of Liberty’s wrongs!
Endless ages shall cherish your fame,
Embalmed in their echoing songs!
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”
“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied,
“If you seek for Eldorado!”
Yea! though I walk through the valley of the
‘Psalm of David’.
Ye who read are still among the living; but I who write
shall have long since gone my way into the region of
shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and secret
things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere
these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will
be some to disbelieve and some to doubt, and yet a few who
will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven
with a stylus of iron.
The year had been a year of terror, and of feeling more
intense than terror for which there is no name upon the
earth. For many prodigies and signs had taken place, and far
and wide, over sea and land, the black wings of the
Pestilence were spread abroad. To those, nevertheless,
cunning in the stars, it was not unknown that the heavens
wore an aspect of ill; and to me, the Greek Oinos, among
others, it was evident that now had arrived the alternation
of that seven hundred and ninety-fourth year when, at the
entrance of Aries, the planet Jupiter is enjoined with the
red ring of the terrible Saturnus. The peculiar spirit of
the skies, if I mistake not greatly, made itself manifest,
not only in the physical orb of the earth, but in the souls,
imaginations, and meditations of mankind.
Over some flasks of the red Chian wine, within the walls of
a noble hall, in a dim city called Ptolemais, we sat, at
night, a company of seven. And to our chamber there was no
entrance save by a lofty door of brass: and the door was
fashioned by the artisan Corinnos, and, being of rare
workmanship, was fastened from within. Black draperies,
likewise in the gloomy room, shut out from our view the
moon, the lurid stars, and the peopleless streets—but
the boding and the memory of Evil, they would not be so
excluded. There were things around us and about of which I
can render no distinct account—things material and
spiritual— heaviness in the atmosphere—a sense
of suffocation—anxiety—and, above all, that
terrible state of existence which the nervous experience
when the senses are keenly living and awake, and meanwhile
the powers of thought lie dormant. A dead weight hung upon
us. It hung upon our limbs—upon the household
furniture—upon the goblets from which we drank; and
all things were depressed, and borne down thereby—all
things save only the flames of the seven iron lamps which
illumined our revel. Uprearing themselves in tall slender
lines of light, they thus remained burning all pallid and
motionless; and in the mirror which their lustre formed upon
the round table of ebony at which we sat each of us there
assembled beheld the pallor of his own countenance, and the
unquiet glare in the downcast eyes of his companions. Yet we
laughed and were merry in our proper way—which was
hysterical; and sang the songs of Anacreon—which are
madness; and drank deeply—although the purple wine
reminded us of blood. For there was yet another tenant of
our chamber in the person of young Zoilus. Dead and at full
length he lay, enshrouded;—the genius and the demon of
the scene. Alas! he bore no portion in our mirth, save that
his countenance, distorted with the plague, and his eyes in
which Death had but half extinguished the fire of the
pestilence, seemed to take such an interest in our merriment
as the dead may haply take in the merriment of those who are
to die. But although I, Oinos, felt that the eyes of the
departed were upon me, still I forced myself not to perceive
the bitterness of their expression, and gazing down steadily
into the depths of the ebony mirror, sang with a loud and
sonorous voice the songs of the son of Teos. But gradually
my songs they ceased, and their echoes, rolling afar off
among the sable draperies of the chamber, became weak, and
undistinguishable, and so faded away. And lo! from among
those sable draperies, where the sounds of the song
departed, there came forth a dark and undefiled
shadow—a shadow such as the moon, when low in heaven,
might fashion from the figure of a man: but it was the
shadow neither of man nor of God, nor of any familiar thing.
And quivering awhile among the draperies of the room it at
length rested in full view upon the surface of the door of
brass. But the shadow was vague, and formless, and
indefinite, and was the shadow neither of man nor God—
neither God of Greece, nor God of Chaldaea, nor any Egyptian
God. And the shadow rested upon the brazen doorway, and
under the arch of the entablature of the door and moved not,
nor spoke any word, but there became stationary and
remained. And the door whereupon the shadow rested was, if I
remember aright, over against the feet of the young Zoilus
enshrouded. But we, the seven there assembled, having seen
the shadow as it came out from among the draperies, dared
not steadily behold it, but cast down our eyes, and gazed
continually into the depths of the mirror of ebony. And at
length I, Oinos, speaking some low words, demanded of the
shadow its dwelling and its appellation. And the shadow
answered, “I am SHADOW, and my dwelling is near to the
Catacombs of Ptolemais, and hard by those dim plains of
Helusion which border upon the foul Charonian canal.” And
then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and
stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast: for the tones
in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one
being, but of a multitude of beings, and varying in their
cadences from syllable to syllable, fell duskily upon our
ears in the well remembered and familiar accents of many
thousand departed friends.
A dark unfathomed tide
Of interminable pride—
A mystery, and a dream,
Should my early life seem;
I say that dream was fraught
With a wild and waking thought
Of beings that have been,
Which my spirit hath not seen,
Had I let them pass me by,
With a dreaming eye!
Let none of earth inherit
That vision on my spirit;
Those thoughts I would control,
As a spell upon his soul:
For that bright hope at last
And that light time have past,
And my wordly rest hath gone
With a sigh as it passed on:
I care not though it perish
With a thought I then did cherish.