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:.
By all the trembling mazes that she ran, Hear us, great Pan! 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! 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! 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.
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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?
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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! 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. 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?
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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! 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?
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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!
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! 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?
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Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun; Not—thy soft hand, fair sister! Unto what awful power shall I call? To what high fane? 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. Dream within dream! 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 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! 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!
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! 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?
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.