« PreviousContinue »
Banking its broadening current, till it wound
In twined meanders writhing round and round:
Hollow the dreary murmur rose, and more
And more in distance a confused stern roar
Of thronging echoes floated near and near;
Vague, undefined, and fraught with doubt and fear.
Then did that dauntless poet loose the fold
Of his girt robe that round his ancles tolla,
And bared his sinewy arm, and struek the shell
Whose tinkling echoes rose and rose and fell:
That all that uproar ceased; and half-seen wings
Of night-birds stirr'd the air and brush'd the strings:
And on the river's breast a darksome boat
Row'd by a giant arm was seen to float ;
And he was ferried in deep silence o'er,
Till I stood with him on a stranger shore:
And still the harp-strings rang, and shapes of men
Shadowy, enormous, came thick-flocking then;
With huge incredible forms of beast-like mould,
That moved with claws or wings, or snake-like rollu,
Or all at once; and, high above us flung,
One on a moveless wheel grim-gazing hung
His bulk, of stature like a cowering cloud:
Sighs, murmur'd voices, whispers low or loud,
With rustling tramplings, throng'd'us; and a blast
of laughter, like a trumpet, clang'd and past.
I felt secure as some invisible sprite,
Impassive to the grasp of hostile might,
And onward pass'd, as I the shadow were
Of him who forced his fearless passage there.
At length the rock receded over-head;
A sky of amethyst o'er arching spread
Its concave, studded with strange stars, and bright,
With comets wheeling in concentric light ;
And, strait before, a palace rear'd on high
Its gold-leaved doors and walls of porphyry;
And I beheld him, while the valves flew wide,
Across the threshold plant his venturous stride,
And pace with harp i hand the jasper floor;
Till touching a soft stop, he paused before
A veiling arras, that with purpling glow
Checker'd in shifting lights the stone below.
He raised it with his arm, and the strong ray
Of starry lamps flash'd out a midnight day;
And supernatural statures caught the eye
Like shadows flung against a mountain sky:
Embodied attributes, strange virtues, powers
Of vengeance, such as range the guilty towers
Where crime has left its stain ; and some there were
Who wreath'd the serpent round their female hair.
The sweet string trembled: all, incontinent,
Gazed gestureless and mute: the prophet bent
His forehead ; since, above that dream-like crowd,
Steps of pyramidal sweep sustain'd a cloud,
Through whose ensanguined and transparent light
What seem'd a pillar'd throne half met the sight,
Where sate a human shape of doubtful guise,
Tenebrous splendour, and colossal size;
Dazzling, yet dimly seen: the charming rhyme
Melted from Orpheus' lips: he dared to climb
The slope pyramidal of steps that grew
Beneath his toiling feet, till to my view
He stood diminished; the last stair he trod,
Fainting, and touch'd the foot-stool of the God.
He saw a monarch in his pomp of place
Propt on a staff of gold: he saw the face
Of Jove-Apollo in his subterrene
Presence: of two-sex'd aspect : a dark queen
Sate gazing pensive on him, Pluto's spouse :
Arch'd on her forehead met her raven brows;
And languishingly look'd her fawn-like eyes,
Through long-fringed eyelids dipt in hyacinth dyes:
Her tower-tress'd hair was diadem'd: anon
The apparition of that shape was gone;
And through the fire-red vapour, mantling round
The chair of burnish'd adamant, there frown'd
A giant king, whose spiky crown was set
O'er locks that dropp'à in rings of clustering jet :
Thus, in their violet robes enwrapt, the pair
Sate twain, or one; with crisp'd or flowing hair,
Or stern, or melancholy-mild: each came
And went alone ; each different, yet the same:
A masculine Proserpina was he;
And Pluto soften’d to a matron she:
Nor e'er at once were those grand phantoms seen;
A lonely king, a solitary queen :
One only lean'd upon that staff of gold,
And whom you late beheld you still behold:
Her sandal'd feet still press the agate stair,
And his those raven brows, that tower-wreath'd hair :
The lineaments, by involution strange
Of form and sex, pass'd with alternate change
And re-appear’d: and still a disk of rays
Haloed each brow; a faint and flickering blaze:
And in that sign the ravish'd prophet knew
His priesthood pure, his inspirations true.
He look'd upon the self-dividing one,
The female Jove of hell, the subterranean sun:
And as he twitch'd the chords with ivory rod,
Lifted his plaintive chant and haild the Goddess-God.
SONG OF ORPHEUS.
Proem. Hail! in whom the heavens eternal centre still as in their home; Earth with all its hills and forests, ocean with its whirls of foam : Mother of the moon : great father of the dews and founts of fire, Rivers issue from thy bosom ; lightnings own thee for their sire: Hell admits thee to its caverns; death obeys thee; life attends ; At thy footstool, sun infernal! thus thy priest, thy prophet bends : Hear Hyperion! hear Serapis! Pan-Osiris, Venus, hear! Hear me, by thy name Adonis ! Isis, lean thy charmed ear!
The flame that warm’d my stripling heart
Exhales itself in sighs;
Thy light, all-glorious as thou art !
Oh sun! fatigues mine eyes.
Pair'd on the poplar's silvery bough
The turtles sit, and moan
Complaints of love; but tuneless now
To me who sit alone.
The yielding grass betrays the seat
She fill'a beneath the tree;
I now must shun that bower'd retreat,
For she is lost to me.
The chord that I melodious strung
False trembles to my quill ;
Mute is that dear companion's tongue
That join'd its sweeter trill.
The mo tain echoes solemn roll
A dirge-like hollow sound;
They commune with my bleeding squl
That feels the adder's wound.
The breezy planes, that clasp their leaf
My burning temples o'er,
Respond, in whispers to my grief,
She will return no more.
The moonlight shadows cross my cave,
I see her lingering stand,
And with mock'd arms despairing rave,
As she eludes
And when the gleam of morning skies
The vales and rocks unfolds,
What can delight these tearful eyes,
If she no more beholds ?
Grant the prayer of thine adorer,
God of light, and life, and love!
To my vacant arms restore her,
Gladden the deserted grove!
Let the ring-dove's voice again
Charm me with its murmur'd strain.
Let the bank again receive her
Where she lean'd upon my breast;
Why of life in youth bereave her,
Hades ! thine unbidden guest ?
Why pronounce the doom I bear,
Sleepless torment, stern despair?'
Amnion! if ere I hymn'd thy many names as one,
The self-created soul! Supreme, self-center'd sun!
If mine the mortal hand that dared unveil thy face,
And show thee where thou stood'st, all nature for thy base;
Through earth's and ocean's depths thy glistening arrows hurld,
Minerva of the heavens and Vulcan of the world!
Infuse thy holy warmth, thy vital spirit shed
Within the frigid veins of her, the fleeted dead;
Grant me to clasp the lost, and give mine eyes to see
Eurydice in life, the found Eurydice!
With a charm I bind thee;
Avert thy bead;
One flits behind thee
Who join'd the dead.
When the upper skies
Have mix'd with her breath,
Then turn thine eyes,
For she lives from death.
But beware lest haste
The spell dissever;
She is dead for ever.
And in a thought I found me at the mouth
Of that enormous cavern; the sweet south
Whisper'd of primrose odours, and the flow
Of sunshine bathed the mountains with its glow.
The roarings of that subterraneous wave
Were faintlier heard; when from within the cave
A harp rang out: a youth with hurried tread
Sprang into day, and, gasping, turn'd his head,
The very heart within
me seem'd to break
At the shrill sadness of that following shriek.
A figure like a mist veil'd snowy-white
Stretch'd its beseeching arms and sank from sight,
And where that mist-like form pale-hovering stay'a
A moment's space, was blindest, blackest shade.
Then came a distant earthquake sound, whose thrill
Was felt as from within that tremulous hill;
Gloom fell upon the rocks, and winds howl'd by
With lightning glimpses from a scowling sky.
I saw the pontiff youth unmoving stand;
Then, starting, in his harp-strings twine his hand
With passionate tears and reave them from the shell:
Long forest echoes rang their answering knell
To his redoubling shrieks: the serpent
Her venom on him as he bounding pass’d
Beneath the gnarl'd o'erbranching oaks; the glare
Of panthers met him from their briary lair.
Paths that betray'd the Bacchant's agile pace
Now led him onward to their holiest place:
With loathing yet determined glance he sees
The human Bacchus' image, girt with trees;
Whence hung the vine's ripe clusters; and beneath
Lay women, ivy-crown'd, that seem'd to breathe
The breath of deepest slumber, as opprest
With dance and wine that stained their ivory breast
And left its crimson on their ruddier lip:
And some in dreams appear'd again to sip
The rapture-stirring juice, and leaping hurl
The leafy javelin in its breezy whirl.
A fawn's gore-spotted hide beside them lay,
Remnant and symbol of their festive prey;
When snatch'd from mouth to mouth, from hand to hand,
Its living flesh had fed their howling ravening band.
He stood amidst them, and with wildering shout
Startled the sleepers: that inebriate rout
Up-bounded from the earth; their javelins shook,
And measured him amazed with lengthening look
Doubtful and half-assured: but he, austere,
In desperate anguish smiling scorn of fear,
Dragg'd the stain'd idol from its base, and trod
In the delved mould the mortal-visaged God:
And then a yell broke forth, that babes at rest
Had died to hear it on the lulling breast.
Hail to him! hail to the God of the vine !
Death to the spoiler that tramples his shrine!
Death to the wretch who despises our charms,
Looks dew'd with pity and supplicant arms.
Death to the monster who loves but the dead!
Twine all your hands in the locks of his head:
Red as the wine let the blood of his heart
Spout on the barb of each ivy-Wreathed dart..
Wide let his limbs through the forest be strewni,
And the river re-murmur the sob of his groan.
Hail to him hail to the God of the vine !
Death to the spoiler that tramples his shrine !
And on the pontiff youth their arms they flung;
And round and round with fierce embracements clung ;
Their writhing hands were twisted in his locks;
Headless he sank: but woods and glades and rocks
Told back the voice of his last agony-
“ Eurydice! ah, poor Eurydice!”
The last, the only sounds his tongue had shaped
Still quiver'd on the lip, when life escaped ;
The stream that his disparted visage rolld
Along its ruddy tides the echo told,
And all the wild roar died along the steep:
And those, who wreak’d the vengeance, paused to weep.
A troubled, gloomy, sad, repentant air,
The mien of jealous, erring, fond despair-
Forgiveness melting in the gall of hate,
And wrath to love relenting when too late-
Such thoughts were painted in each face: and all
Moved silent back to a maim'à funeral:
Gathering the scatter'd limbs beneath a mound
Of heapy earth, and strewing roses round.
The forest closed upon their toil, and night
Press'd heavy on my intercepted sight;
An interval, as if in death I lay,
And motion, sense, and thought had past away.
Till snatch'd afar, as in a trance, I sank
In torrent-eaten caverns, drear and dank,
Where meteors darting their phosphoric ray
Gleam'd through sparr'd vaults to light my downward way;
And consciously I pass'd that brassy door,
And felt my footsteps on the jasper floor.
The walls then melted like a mist away,
The spangled heavens dissolved in purple day:
And there were lawns of greenness, and far gleams
Of golden fruitage and of amber streams :
And childhood groupes and many an arm-link'd pair.
And one of roseate cheek and sunny hair,
With starr'd and azured vestments, lean'd her head
O'er a wan youth, who waked as from the dead,
Drew life and love like sunlight at his'eyes,
And held his breath in speechless ecstasies,
Then dove-like murmur'd, while delight grew pain,
“ Eurydice! thou then art mine again!"