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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Masque of Pandora

VII. The House of Epimetheus

LEFT to myself I wander as I will,

And as my fancy leads me, through this house,

Nor could I ask a dwelling more complete

Were I indeed the Goddess that he deems me.

No mansion of Olympus, framed to be

The habitation of the Immortal Gods,

Can be more beautiful. And this is mine,

And more than this, the love wherewith he crowns me.

As if impelled by powers invisible

And irresistible, my steps return

Unto this spacious hall. All corridors

And passages lead hither, and all doors

But open into it. Yon mysterious chest

Attracts and fascinates me. Would I knew

What there lies hidden! But the oracle

Forbids. Ah me! The secret then is safe.

So would it be if it were in my keeping.

A crowd of shadowy faces from the mirrors

That line these walls are watching me. I dare not

Lift up the lid. A hundred times the act

Would be repeated, and the secret seen

By twice a hundred incorporeal eyes.

She walks to the other side of the hall.

My feet are weary, wandering to and fro,

My eyes with seeing and my heart with waiting.

I will lie here and rest till he returns,

Who is my dawn, my day, my Helios.

Throws herself upon a couch, and falls asleep.

Come from thy caverns dark and deep,

O son of Erebus and Night;

All sense of hearing and of sight

Enfold in the serene delight

And quietude of sleep!

Set all thy silent sentinels

To bar and guard the Ivory Gate,

And keep the evil dreams of fate

And falsehood and infernal hate

Imprisoned in their cells.

But open wide the Gate of Horn,

Whence, beautiful as planets, rise

The dreams of truth, with starry eyes,

And all the wondrous prophecies

And visions of the morn.

Ye sentinels of sleep,

It is in vain ye keep

Your drowsy watch before the Ivory Gate;

Though closed the portal seems,

The airy feet of dreams

Ye cannot thus in walls incarcerate.

We phantoms are and dreams

Born by Tartarean streams,

As ministers of the infernal powers;

O son of Erebus

And Night, behold! we thus

Elude your watchful warders on the towers!

From gloomy Tartarus

The Fates have summoned us

To whisper in her ear, who lies asleep,

A tale to fan the fire

Of her insane desire

To know a secret that the Gods would keep.

This passion, in their ire,

The Gods themselves inspire,

To vex mankind with evils manifold,

So that disease and pain

O’er the whole earth may reign,

And nevermore return the Age of Gold.

A voice said in my sleep: “Do not delay:

Do not delay; the golden moments fly!

The oracle hath forbidden; yet not thee

Doth it forbid, but Epimetheus only!”

I am alone. These faces in the mirrors

Are but the shadows and phantoms of myself;

They cannot help nor hinder. No one sees me,

Save the all-seeing Gods, who, knowing good

And knowing evil, have created me

Such as I am, and filled me with desire

Of knowing good and evil like themselves.

She approaches the chest.

I hesitate no longer. Weal or woe,

Or life or death, the moment shall decide.

She lifts the lid. A dense mist rises from the chest, and fills the room. PANDORA falls senseless on the floor. Storm without.

Yes, the moment shall decide!

It already hath decided;

And the secret once confided

To the keeping of the Titan

Now is flying far and wide,

Whispered, told on every side,

To disquiet and to frighten.

Fever of the heart and brain,

Sorrow, pestilence, and pain,

Moans of anguish, maniac laughter,

All the evils that hereafter

Shall afflict and vex mankind,

All into the air have risen

From the chambers of their prison;

Only Hope remains behind.