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John Keats (1795–1821). The Poetical Works of John Keats. 1884.

32. Endymion

Book I
  • “As I lay in my bed slepe full unmete
  • “Was unto me, but why that I ne might
  • “Rest I ne wist, for there n’as erthly wight
  • “[As I suppose] had more of hertis ese
  • “Than I, for I n’ad sicknesse nor disese.”

  • A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:

    Its loveliness increases; it will never

    Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

    A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

    Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

    Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing

    A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

    Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

    Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,

    Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways

    Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

    Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

    From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,

    Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon

    For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

    With the green world they live in; and clear rills

    That for themselves a cooling covert make

    ’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,

    Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:

    And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

    We have imagined for the mighty dead;

    All lovely tales that we have heard or read:

    An endless fountain of immortal drink,

    Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

    Nor do we merely feel these essences

    For one short hour; no, even as the trees

    That whisper round a temple become soon

    Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,

    The passion poesy, glories infinite,

    Haunt us till they become a cheering light

    Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,

    That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,

    They alway must be with us, or we die.

    Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I

    Will trace the story of Endymion.

    The very music of the name has gone

    Into my being, and each pleasant scene

    Is growing fresh before me as the green

    Of our own vallies: so I will begin

    Now while I cannot hear the city’s din;

    Now while the early budders are just new,

    And run in mazes of the youngest hue

    About old forests; while the willow trails

    Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails

    Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year

    Grows lush in juicy stalks, I’ll smoothly steer

    My little boat, for many quiet hours,

    With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.

    Many and many a verse I hope to write,

    Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white,

    Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees

    Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,

    I must be near the middle of my story.

    O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,

    See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,

    With universal tinge of sober gold,

    Be all about me when I make an end.

    And now at once, adventuresome, I send

    My herald thought into a wilderness:

    There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress

    My uncertain path with green, that I may speed

    Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

    Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread

    A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed

    So plenteously all weed-hidden roots

    Into o’er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.

    And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,

    Where no man went; and if from shepherd’s keep

    A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,

    Never again saw he the happy pens

    Whither his brethren, bleating with content,

    Over the hills at every nightfall went.

    Among the shepherds, ’twas believed ever,

    That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever

    From the white flock, but pass’d unworried

    By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,

    Until it came to some unfooted plains

    Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains

    Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,

    Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,

    And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly

    To a wide lawn, whence one could only see

    Stems thronging all around between the swell

    Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell

    The freshness of the space of heaven above,

    Edg’d round with dark tree tops? through which a dove

    Would often beat its wings, and often too

    A little cloud would move across the blue.

    Full in the middle of this pleasantness

    There stood a marble altar, with a tress

    Of flowers budded newly; and the dew

    Had taken fairy phantasies to strew

    Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,

    And so the dawned light in pomp receive.

    For ’twas the morn: Apollo’s upward fire

    Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre

    Of brightness so unsullied, that therein

    A melancholy spirit well might win

    Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine

    Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine

    Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;

    The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run

    To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;

    Man’s voice was on the mountains; and the mass

    Of nature’s lives and wonders puls’d tenfold,

    To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.

    Now while the silent workings of the dawn

    Were busiest, into that self-same lawn

    All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped

    A troop of little children garlanded;

    Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry

    Earnestly round as wishing to espy

    Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited

    For many moments, ere their ears were sated

    With a faint breath of music, which ev’n then

    Fill’d out its voice, and died away again.

    Within a little space again it gave

    Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,

    To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking

    Through copse-clad vallies,—ere their death, oer-taking

    The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.

    And now, as deep into the wood as we

    Might mark a lynx’s eye, there glimmered light

    Fair faces and a rush of garments white,

    Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last

    Into the widest alley they all past,

    Making directly for the woodland altar.

    O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter

    In telling of this goodly company,

    Of their old piety, and of their glee:

    But let a portion of ethereal dew

    Fall on my head, and presently unmew

    My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,

    To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.

    Leading the way, young damsels danced along,

    Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;

    Each having a white wicker over brimm’d

    With April’s tender younglings: next, well trimm’d,

    A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks

    As may be read of in Arcadian books;

    Such as sat listening round Apollo’s pipe,

    When the great deity, for earth too ripe,

    Let his divinity o’er-flowing die

    In music, through the vales of Thessaly:

    Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,

    And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound

    With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,

    Now coming from beneath the forest trees,

    A venerable priest full soberly,

    Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye

    Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,

    And after him his sacred vestments swept.

    From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,

    Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;

    And in his left he held a basket full

    Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:

    Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still

    Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill.

    His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,

    Seem’d like a poll of ivy in the teeth

    Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd

    Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud

    Their share of the ditty. After them appear’d,

    Up-followed by a multitude that rear’d

    Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,

    Easily rolling so as scarce to mar

    The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:

    Who stood therein did seem of great renown

    Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,

    Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;

    And, for those simple times, his garments were

    A chieftain king’s: beneath his breast, half bare,

    Was hung a silver bugle, and between

    His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.

    A smile was on his countenance; he seem’d,

    To common lookers on, like one who dream’d

    Of idleness in groves Elysian:

    But there were some who feelingly could scan

    A lurking trouble in his nether lip,

    And see that oftentimes the reins would slip

    Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,

    And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry,

    Of logs piled solemnly.—Ah, well-a-day,

    Why should our young Endymion pine away!

    Soon the assembly, in a circle rang’d,

    Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang’d

    To sudden veneration: women meek

    Beckon’d their sons to silence; while each cheek

    Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.

    Endymion too, without a forest peer,

    Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,

    Among his brothers of the mountain chase.

    In midst of all, the venerable priest

    Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,

    And, after lifting up his aged hands,

    Thus spake he: “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!

    Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:

    Whether descended from beneath the rocks

    That overtop your mountains; whether come

    From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;

    Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs

    Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze

    Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge

    Nibble their fill at ocean’s very marge,

    Whose mellow reeds are touch’d with sounds forlorn

    By the dim echoes of old Triton’s horn:

    Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare

    The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;

    And all ye gentle girls who foster up

    Udderless lambs, and in a little cup

    Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:

    Yea, every one attend! for in good truth

    Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.

    Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than

    Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains

    Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains

    Green’d over April’s lap? No howling sad

    Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had

    Great bounty from Endymion our lord.

    The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour’d

    His early song against yon breezy sky,

    That spreads so clear o’er our solemnity.”

    Thus ending, on the shrine he heap’d a spire

    Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;

    Anon he stain’d the thick and spongy sod

    With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.

    Now while the earth was drinking it, and while

    Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,

    And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright

    ’Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light

    Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:

    “O THOU, whose mighty palace roof doth hang

    From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth

    Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death

    Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;

    Who lov’st to see the hamadryads dress

    Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;

    And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken

    The dreary melody of bedded reeds—

    In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds

    The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;

    Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth

    Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx—do thou now,

    By thy love’s milky brow!

    By all the trembling mazes that she ran,

    Hear us, great Pan!

    “O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles

    Passion their voices cooingly ’mong myrtles,

    What time thou wanderest at eventide

    Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side

    Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom

    Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom

    Their ripen’d fruitage; yellow girted bees

    Their golden honeycombs; our village leas

    Their fairest-blossom’d beans and poppied corn;

    The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,

    To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries

    Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies

    Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year

    All its completions—be quickly near,

    By every wind that nods the mountain pine,

    O forester divine!

    “Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies

    For willing service; whether to surprise

    The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;

    Or upward ragged precipices flit

    To save poor lambkins from the eagle’s maw;

    Or by mysterious enticement draw

    Bewildered shepherds to their path again;

    Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,

    And gather up all fancifullest shells

    For thee to tumble into Naiads’ cells,

    And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;

    Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,

    The while they pelt each other on the crown

    With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown—

    By all the echoes that about thee ring,

    Hear us, O satyr king!

    “O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,

    While ever and anon to his shorn peers

    A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,

    When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn

    Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms,

    To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:

    Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,

    That come a swooning over hollow grounds,

    And wither drearily on barren moors:

    Dread opener of the mysterious doors

    Leading to universal knowledge—see,

    Great son of Dryope,

    The many that are come to pay their vows

    With leaves about their brows!

    Be still the unimaginable lodge

    For solitary thinkings; such as dodge

    Conception to the very bourne of heaven,

    Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,

    That spreading in this dull and clodded earth

    Gives it a touch ethereal—a new birth:

    Be still a symbol of immensity;

    A firmament reflected in a sea;

    An element filling the space between;

    An unknown—but no more: we humbly screen

    With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,

    And giving out a shout most heaven rending,

    Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean,

    Upon thy Mount Lycean!

    Even while they brought the burden to a close,

    A shout from the whole multitude arose,

    That lingered in the air like dying rolls

    Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals

    Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.

    Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,

    Young companies nimbly began dancing

    To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.

    Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly

    To tunes forgotten—out of memory:

    Fair creatures! whose young children’s children bred

    Thermopylæ its heroes—not yet dead,

    But in old marbles ever beautiful.

    High genitors, unconscious did they cull

    Time’s sweet first-fruits—they danc’d to weariness,

    And then in quiet circles did they press

    The hillock turf, and caught the latter end

    Of some strange history, potent to send

    A young mind from its bodily tenement.

    Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent

    On either side; pitying the sad death

    Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath

    Of Zephyr slew him,—Zephyr penitent,

    Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,

    Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.

    The archers too, upon a wider plain,

    Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,

    And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft

    Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,

    Call’d up a thousand thoughts to envelope

    Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee

    And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,

    Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young

    Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue

    Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,

    And very, very deadliness did nip

    Her motherly cheeks. Arous’d from this sad mood

    By one, who at a distance loud halloo’d,

    Uplifting his strong bow into the air,

    Many might after brighter visions stare:

    After the Argonauts, in blind amaze

    Tossing about on Neptune’s restless ways,

    Until, from the horizon’s vaulted side,

    There shot a golden splendour far and wide,

    Spangling those million poutings of the brine

    With quivering ore: ’twas even an awful shine

    From the exaltation of Apollo’s bow;

    A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.

    Who thus were ripe for high contemplating,

    Might turn their steps towards the sober ring

    Where sat Endymion and the aged priest

    ’Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas’d

    The silvery setting of their mortal star.

    There they discours’d upon the fragile bar

    That keeps us from our homes ethereal;

    And what our duties there: to nightly call

    Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;

    To summon all the downiest clouds together

    For the sun’s purple couch; to emulate

    In ministring the potent rule of fate

    With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;

    To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons

    Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,

    A world of other unguess’d offices.

    Anon they wander’d, by divine converse,

    Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse

    Each one his own anticipated bliss.

    One felt heart-certain that he could not miss

    His quick gone love, among fair blossom’d boughs,

    Where every zephyr-sigh pouts and endows

    Her lips with music for the welcoming.

    Another wish’d, mid that eternal spring,

    To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,

    Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:

    Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,

    And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;

    And, ever after, through those regions be

    His messenger, his little Mercury.

    Some were athirst in soul to see again

    Their fellow huntsmen o’er the wide champaign

    In times long past; to sit with them, and talk

    Of all the chances in their earthly walk;

    Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores

    Of happiness, to when upon the moors,

    Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,

    And shar’d their famish’d scrips. Thus all out-told

    Their fond imaginations,—saving him

    Whose eyelids curtain’d up their jewels dim,

    Endymion: yet hourly had he striven

    To hide the cankering venom, that had riven

    His fainting recollections. Now indeed

    His senses had swoon’d off: he did not heed

    The sudden silence, or the whispers low,

    Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,

    Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,

    Or maiden’s sigh, that grief itself embalms:

    But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,

    Like one who on the earth had never stept.

    Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man,

    Frozen in that old tale Arabian.

    Who whispers him so pantingly and close?

    Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,

    His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,

    And breath’d a sister’s sorrow to persuade

    A yielding up, a cradling on her care.

    Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:

    She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse

    Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,

    Along a path between two little streams,—

    Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,

    From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow

    From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;

    Until they came to where these streamlets fall,

    With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,

    Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush

    With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.

    A little shallop, floating there hard by,

    Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;

    And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,

    And dipt again, with the young couple’s weight,—

    Peona guiding, through the water straight,

    Towards a bowery island opposite;

    Which gaining presently, she steered light

    Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,

    Where nested was an arbour, overwove

    By many a summer’s silent fingering;

    To whose cool bosom she was used to bring

    Her playmates, with their needle broidery,

    And minstrel memories of times gone by.

    So she was gently glad to see him laid

    Under her favourite bower’s quiet shade,

    On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,

    Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves

    When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,

    And the tann’d harvesters rich armfuls took.

    Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:

    But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest

    Peona’s busy hand against his lips,

    And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips

    In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps

    A patient watch over the stream that creeps

    Windingly by it, so the quiet maid

    Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade

    Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling

    Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling

    Among seer leaves and twigs, might all be heard.

    O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,

    That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind

    Till it is hush’d and smooth! O unconfin’d

    Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key

    To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,

    Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,

    Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves

    And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world

    Of silvery enchantment!—who, upfurl’d

    Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,

    But renovates and lives?—Thus, in the bower,

    Endymion was calm’d to life again.

    Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,

    He said: “I feel this thine endearing love

    All through my bosom: thou art as a dove

    Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings

    About me; and the pearliest dew not brings

    Such morning incense from the fields of May,

    As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray

    From those kind eyes,—the very home and haunt

    Of sisterly affection. Can I want

    Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?

    Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears

    That, any longer, I will pass my days

    Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise

    My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more

    Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:

    Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll

    Around the breathed boar: again I’ll poll

    The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:

    And, when the pleasant sun is getting low,

    Again I’ll linger in a sloping mead

    To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed

    Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered sweet,

    And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat

    My soul to keep in its resolved course.”

    Hereat Peona, in their silver source,

    Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,

    And took a lute, from which there pulsing came

    A lively prelude, fashioning the way

    In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay

    More subtle cadenced, more forest wild

    Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child;

    And nothing since has floated in the air

    So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare

    Went, spiritual, through the damsel’s hand;

    For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann’d

    The quick invisible strings, even though she saw

    Endymion’s spirit melt away and thaw

    Before the deep intoxication.

    But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon

    Her self-possession—swung the lute aside,

    And earnestly said: “Brother, ’tis vain to hide

    That thou dost know of things mysterious,

    Immortal, starry; such alone could thus

    Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn’d in aught

    Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught

    A Paphian dove upon a message sent?

    Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent,

    Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen

    Her naked limbs among the alders green;

    And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace

    Something more high perplexing in thy face!”

    Endymion look’d at her, and press’d her hand,

    And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland

    And merry in our meadows? How is this?

    Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss!—

    Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change

    Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?

    Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?

    Ambition is no sluggard: ’tis no prize,

    That toiling years would put within my grasp,

    That I have sigh’d for: with so deadly gasp

    No man e’er panted for a mortal love.

    So all have set my heavier grief above

    These things which happen. Rightly have they done:

    I, who still saw the horizontal sun

    Heave his broad shoulder o’er the edge of the world,

    Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d

    My spear aloft, as signal for the chace—

    I, who, for very sport of heart, would race

    With my own steed from Araby; pluck down

    A vulture from his towery perching; frown

    A lion into growling, loth retire—

    To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire,

    And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast

    Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.

    “This river does not see the naked sky,

    Till it begins to progress silverly

    Around the western border of the wood,

    Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood

    Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:

    And in that nook, the very pride of June,

    Had I been used to pass my weary eves;

    The rather for the sun unwilling leaves

    So dear a picture of his sovereign power,

    And I could witness his most kingly hour,

    When he doth lighten up the golden reins,

    And paces leisurely down amber plains

    His snorting four. Now when his chariot last

    Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,

    There blossom’d suddenly a magic bed

    Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:

    At which I wondered greatly, knowing well

    That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;

    And, sitting down close by, began to muse

    What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,

    In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;

    Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook

    Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,

    Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth

    Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,

    Until my head was dizzy and distraught.

    Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole

    A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;

    And shaping visions all about my sight

    Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;

    The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,

    And then were gulph’d in a tumultuous swim:

    And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell

    The enchantment that afterwards befel?

    Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream

    That never tongue, although it overteem

    With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,

    Could figure out and to conception bring

    All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay

    Watching the zenith, where the milky way

    Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;

    And travelling my eye, until the doors

    Of heaven appear’d to open for my flight,

    I became loth and fearful to alight

    From such high soaring by a downward glance:

    So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,

    Spreading imaginary pinions wide.

    When, presently, the stars began to glide,

    And faint away, before my eager view:

    At which I sigh’d that I could not pursue,

    And dropt my vision to the horizon’s verge;

    And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge

    The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er

    A shell for Neptune’s goblet: she did soar

    So passionately bright, my dazzled soul

    Commingling with her argent spheres did roll

    Through clear and cloudy, even when she went

    At last into a dark and vapoury tent—

    Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train

    Of planets all were in the blue again.

    To commune with those orbs, once more I rais’d

    My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed

    By a bright something, sailing down apace,

    Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:

    Again I look’d, and, O ye deities,

    Who from Olympus watch our destinies!

    Whence that completed form of all completeness?

    Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?

    Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O Where

    Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?

    Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;

    Not—thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun

    Such follying before thee—yet she had,

    Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;

    And they were simply gordian’d up and braided,

    Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,

    Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;

    The which were blended in, I know not how,

    With such a paradise of lips and eyes,

    Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,

    That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings

    And plays about its fancy, till the stings

    Of human neighbourhood envenom all.

    Unto what awful power shall I call?

    To what high fane?—Ah! see her hovering feet,

    More bluely vein’d, more soft, more whitely sweet

    Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose

    From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows

    Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion;

    ’Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million

    Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,

    Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,

    Handfuls of daisies.”—“Endymion, how strange!

    Dream within dream!”—“She took an airy range,

    And then, towards me, like a very maid,

    Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,

    And press’d me by the hand: Ah! ’twas too much;

    Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,

    Yet held my recollection, even as one

    Who dives three fathoms where the waters run

    Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,

    I felt upmounted in that region

    Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,

    And eagles struggle with the buffeting north

    That balances the heavy meteor-stone;—

    Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,

    But lapp’d and lull’d along the dangerous sky.

    Soon, as it seem’d, we left our journeying high,

    And straightway into frightful eddies swoop’d;

    Such as ay muster where grey time has scoop’d

    Huge dens and caverns in a mountain’s side:

    There hollow sounds arous’d me, and I sigh’d

    To faint once more by looking on my bliss—

    I was distracted; madly did I kiss

    The wooing arms which held me, and did give

    My eyes at once to death: but ’twas to live,

    To take in draughts of life from the gold fount

    Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count

    The moments, by some greedy help that seem’d

    A second self, that each might be redeem’d

    And plunder’d of its load of blessedness.

    Ah, desperate mortal! I ev’n dar’d to press

    Her very cheek against my crowned lip,

    And, at that moment, felt my body dip

    Into a warmer air: a moment more,

    Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store

    Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes

    A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,

    Loiter’d around us; then of honey cells,

    Made delicate from all white-flower bells;

    And once, above the edges of our nest,

    An arch face peep’d,—an Oread as I guess’d.

    “Why did I dream that sleep o’er-power’d me

    In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,

    Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,

    And stare them from me? But no, like a spark

    That needs must die, although its little beam

    Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream

    Fell into nothing—into stupid sleep.

    And so it was, until a gentle creep,

    A careful moving caught my waking ears,

    And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,

    My clenched hands;—for lo! the poppies hung

    Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung

    A heavy ditty, and the sullen day

    Had chidden herald Hesperus away,

    With leaden looks: the solitary breeze

    Bluster’d, and slept, and its wild self did teaze

    With wayward melancholy; and r thought,

    Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought

    Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus!—

    Away I wander’d—all the pleasant hues

    Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades

    Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades

    Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills

    Seem’d sooty, and o’er-spread with upturn’d gills

    Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown

    In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown

    Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird

    Before my heedless footsteps stirr’d, and stirr’d

    In little journeys, I beheld in it

    A disguis’d demon, missioned to knit

    My soul with under darkness; to entice

    My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:

    Therefore I eager followed, and did curse

    The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,

    Rock’d me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!

    These things, with all their comfortings, are given

    To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,

    Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea

    Of weary life.”

    Thus ended he, and both

    Sat silent: for the maid was very loth

    To answer; feeling well that breathed words

    Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords

    Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps

    Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps,

    And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;

    To put on such a look as would say, Shame

    On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,

    She could as soon have crush’d away the life

    From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,

    She said with trembling chance: “Is this the cause?

    This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!

    That one who through this middle earth should pass

    Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave

    His name upon the harp-string, should achieve

    No higher bard than simple maidenhood,

    Singing alone, and fearfully,—how the blood

    Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray

    He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,

    If any said ’twas love: and yet ’twas love;

    What could it be but love? How a ring-dove

    Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;

    And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe,

    The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;

    And then the ballad of his sad life closes

    With sighs, and an alas!—Endymion!

    Be rather in the trumpet’s mouth,—anon

    Among the winds at large—that all may hearken!

    Although, before the crystal heavens darken,

    I watch and dote upon the silver lakes

    Pictur’d in western cloudiness, that takes

    The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,

    Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands

    With horses prancing o’er them, palaces

    And towers of amethyst,—would I so tease

    My pleasant days, because I could not mount

    Into those regions? The Morphean fount

    Of that fine element that visions, dreams,

    And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams

    Into its airy channels with so subtle,

    So thin a breathing, not the spider’s shuttle,

    Circled a million times within the space

    Of a swallow’s nest-door, could delay a trace,

    A tinting of its quality: how light

    Must dreams themselves be; seeing they’re more slight

    Than the mere nothing that engenders them!

    Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem

    Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?

    Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick

    For nothing but a dream?” Hereat the youth

    Look’d up: a conflicting of shame and ruth

    Was in his plaited brow: yet his eyelids

    Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids

    A little breeze to creep between the fans

    Of careless butterflies: amid his pains

    He seem’d to taste a drop of manna-dew,

    Full palatable; and a colour grew

    Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.

    “Peona! ever have I long’d to slake

    My thirst for the world’s praises: nothing base,

    No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace

    The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar’d—

    Though now ’tis tatter’d; leaving my bark bar’d

    And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope

    Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,

    To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.

    Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks

    Our ready minds to fellowship divine,

    A fellowship with essence; till we shine,

    Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold

    The clear religion of heaven! Fold

    A rose leaf round thy finger’s taperness,

    And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress

    Of music’s kiss impregnates the free winds,

    And with a sympathetic touch unbinds

    Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:

    Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;

    Old ditties sigh above their father’s grave;

    Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave

    Round every spot where trod Apollo’s foot;

    Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,

    Where long ago a giant battle was;

    And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass

    In every place where infant Orpheus slept.

    Feel we these things?—that moment have we stept

    Into a sort of oneness, and our state

    Is like a floating spirit’s. But there are

    Richer entanglements, enthralments far

    More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,

    To the chief intensity: the crown of these

    Is made of love and friendship, and sits high

    Upon the forehead of humanity.

    All its more ponderous and bulky worth

    Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth

    A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,

    There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop

    Of light, and that is love: its influence,

    Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,

    At which we start and fret; till in the end,

    Melting into its radiance, we blend,

    Mingle, and so become a part of it,—

    Nor with aught else can our souls interknit

    So wingedly: when we combine therewith,

    Life’s self is nourish’d by its proper pith,

    And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.

    Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,

    That men, who might have tower’d in the van

    Of all the congregated world, to fan

    And winnow from the coming step of time

    All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime

    Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,

    Have been content to let occasion die,

    Whilst they did sleep in love’s elysium.

    And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,

    Than speak against this ardent listlessness:

    For I have ever thought that it might bless

    The world with benefits unknowingly;

    As does the nightingale, upperched high,

    And cloister’d among cool and bunched leaves—

    She sings but to her love, nor e’er conceives

    How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.

    Just so may love, although ’tis understood

    The mere commingling of passionate breath,

    Produce more than our searching witnesseth:

    What I know not: but who, of men, can tell

    That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell

    To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,

    The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,

    The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,

    The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,

    Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,

    If human souls did never kiss and greet?

    “Now, if this earthly love has power to make

    Men’s being mortal, immortal; to shake

    Ambition from their memories, and brim

    Their measure of content; what merest whim,

    Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,

    To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim

    A love immortal, an immortal too.

    Look not so wilder’d; for these things are true,

    And never can be born of atomies

    That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,

    Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I’m sure,

    My restless spirit never could endure

    To brood so long upon one luxury,

    Unless it did, though fearfully, espy

    A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.

    My sayings will the less obscured seem,

    When I have told thee how my waking sight

    Has made me scruple whether that same night

    Was pass’d in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!

    Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,

    Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,

    Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows

    Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart,

    And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,

    And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide

    Past them, but he must brush on every side.

    Some moulder’d steps lead into this cool cell,

    Far as the slabbed margin of a well,

    Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye

    Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.

    Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set

    Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet

    Edges them round, and they have golden pits:

    ’Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits

    In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,

    When all above was faint with mid-day heat.

    And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,

    I’d bubble up the water through a reed;

    So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships

    Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,

    With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be

    Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,

    When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,

    I sat contemplating the figures wild

    Of o’er-head clouds melting the mirror through.

    Upon a day, while thus I watch’d, by flew

    A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;

    So plainly character’d, no breeze would shiver

    The happy chance: so happy, I was fain

    To follow it upon the open plain,

    And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!

    A wonder, fair as any I have told—

    The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,

    Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap

    Through the cool depth.—It moved as if to flee—

    I started up, when lo! refreshfully,

    There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,

    Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,

    Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,

    Bathing my spirit in a new delight.

    Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss

    Alone preserved me from the drear abyss

    Of death, for the fair form had gone again.

    Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain

    Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth

    On the deer’s tender haunches: late, and loth,

    ’Tis scar’d away by slow returning pleasure.

    How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure

    Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,

    By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!

    Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,

    Than when I wander’d from the poppy hill:

    And a whole age of lingering moments crept

    Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept

    Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.

    Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;

    Once more been tortured with renewed life.

    When last the wintry gusts gave over strife

    With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies

    Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes

    In pity of the shatter’d infant buds,—

    That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,

    My hunting cap, because I laugh’d and smil’d,

    Chatted with thee, and many days exil’d

    All torment from my breast;—’twas even then,

    Straying about, yet, coop’d up in the den

    Of helpless discontent,—hurling my lance

    From place to place, and following at chance,

    At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,

    And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck

    In the middle of a brook,—whose silver ramble

    Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,

    Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,

    Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave

    The nether sides of mossy stones and rock,—

    ’Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock

    Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,

    Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread

    Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph’s home.

    “Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?”

    Said I, low voic’d: “Ah whither! ’Tis the grot

    Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot,

    Doth her resign; and where her tender hands

    She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:

    Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,

    And babbles thorough silence, till her wits

    Are gone in tender madness, and anon,

    Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone

    Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,

    And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,

    To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,

    Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,

    And weave them dyingly—send honey-whispers

    Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers

    May sigh my love unto her pitying!

    O charitable echo! hear, and sing

    This ditty to her!—tell her”—so I stay’d

    My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,

    Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,

    And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.

    Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name

    Most fondly lipp’d, and then these accents came:

    ‘Endymion! the cave is secreter

    Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir

    No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise

    Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys

    And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.”

    At that oppress’d I hurried in.—Ah! where

    Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?

    I’ll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed

    Sorrow the way to death, but patiently

    Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;

    And come instead demurest meditation,

    To occupy me wholly, and to fashion

    My pilgrimage for the world’s dusky brink.

    No more will I count over, link by link,

    My chain of grief: no longer strive to find

    A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind

    Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,

    Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;

    What a calm round of hours shall make my days.

    There is a paly flame of hope that plays

    Where’er I look: but yet, I’ll say ’tis naught—

    And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,

    Already, a more healthy countenance?

    By this the sun is setting; we may chance

    Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car.”

    This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star

    Through autumn mists, and took Peona’s hand:

    They stept into the boat, and launch’d from land.