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Let me sob over thee my last adieus,
And speak a blessing : Mark me! thou hast thews
Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:
But such a love is mine, that here I chase
Eternally away from thee all bloom
Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.
Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;
And there, ere many days be overpast,
Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then
Thou shalt not go the way of aged men ;
But live and wither, cripple and still breathe
Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath
Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.
Adieu, sweet love, adieu !-As shot stars fall,
She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung
And poison'd was my spirit: despair sung
A war-song of defiance 'gainst all hell.
A hand was at my shoulder to compel
My sullen steps; another 'fore my eyes
Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise
Enforced, at the last by ocean's foam
I found me; by my fresh, my native home,
Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,
Came salutary as I waded in ;
And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave
Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave
Large froth before me, while there yet remain'd
Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain'd.
“ Young lover, I must weep—such hellish spite
With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might
Proving upon this element, dismay'd,
Upon a dead thing's face my hand I laid ;
I look’d—'twas Scylla! Cursed, cursed Circe !
O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy!
Could not thy harshest vengeance be content,
But thou must nip this tender innocent
Because I loved her ?—Cold, O cold indeed
Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed
The sea-swell took her hair. Dead as she was
I clung about her waist, nor ceased to pass
Fleet as an arrow through unfathom'd brine,
Until there shone a fabric crystalline,
Ribb'd and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl.
Headlong I darted ; at one eager swirl
Gain'd its bright portal, enter'd, and behold !
'Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold ;
And all around—But wherefore this to thee
Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see?-
I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled.
My fever'd parchings up, my scathing dread
Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became
Gaunt, wither'd, sapless, feeble, cramp'd, and lame.
“ Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,
Without one hope, without one faintest trace
Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble
Of colour'd phantasy; for I fear 'twould trouble
Thy brain to loss of reason : and next tell
How a restoring chance came down to quell
One half of the witch in me,
« On a day, Sitting upon a rock above the spray, I saw grow up from the horizon's brink A gallant vessel: soon she seem'd to sink Away from me again, as though her course Had been resumed in spite of hindering forceSo vanish’d: and not long, before arose Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose. Old Æolus would stifle his mad spleen, But could not, therefore all the billows green Toss'd up the silver spume against the clouds. The tempest came: I saw that vessel's shrouds In perilous bustle ; while upon the deck Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck; The final gulfing; the poor struggling souls: I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls.
O they had all been saved but crazed eld
Annull’d my vigorous cravings: and thus quell'd
And curb'd, think on 't, 0 Latmian ! did I sit
Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit
Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone,
By ore and one, to pale oblivion;
And I was gazing on the surges prone,
With many a scalding tear, and many a groan,
When at my feet emerged an old man's hand,
Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.
I knelt with pain-reach'd out my hand-had grasp'd
These treasures-touch'd the knuckles — they un-
I caught a finger: but the downward weight
O’erpower'd me—it sank. Then 'gan abate
The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst
The comfortable sun. I was athirst
To search the book, and in the warming air
Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.
Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on
My soul page after page, till well nigh won
Into forgetfulness; when, stupified,
I read these words, and read again, and tried
My eyes against the heavens, and read again.
O what a load of misery and pain
Each Atlas-line bore off!-a shine of hope
Came gold around me, cheering me to cope
Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend !
For thou hast brought their promise to an end.
“In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
Doom'd with enfeebled carcase to outstretch
His loathed existence through ten centuries,
And then to die alone. Who can devise
A total opposition ?
One million times ocean must ebb and flow,
And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,
These things accomplish'd :-If he utterly
Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds
The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds ;
If he explores all forms and substances
Straight homeward to their symbol-essences ;
He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,
He must pursue this task of joy and grief
Most piously ;-all lovers tempest-tost,
And in the savage overwhelming lost,
He shall deposit side by side, until
Time's creeping shall the dreary space fulfil:
Which done, and all these labours ripened,
A youth, by heavenly power loved and led,
Shall stand before him ; whom he shall direct
How to consummate all. The youth elect
Must do the thing, or both will be destroy’d.'”
“ Then,” cried the young Endymion, overjoy’d,
“ We are twin brothers in this destiny !
Say, I entreat thee, what achievement high
Is, in this restless world, for me reserved.
What ! if from thee my wandering feet had swerved,
Had we both perish'd ?”—“ Look !” the sage replied,
“ Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,
Of divers brilliances ? 'tis the edifice
I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies ;
And where I have enshrined piously
All lovers, whom fell storms have doom'd to die
Throughout my bondage.” Thus discoursing, on
They went till unobscured the porches shone ;
Which hurryingly they gain’d, and enter'd straight.
Sure never since king Neptune held his state
Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.
Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars
Has legion'd all his battle ; and behold
How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold
His even breast : see, many steeled squares,
And rigid ranks of iron-whence who dares
One step? Imagine further, line by line,
These warrior thousands on the field supine :-
So in that crystal place, in silent rows,
Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes.
The stranger from the mountains, breathless, traced
Such thousands of shut eyes in order placed ;
Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips
All ruddy,—for here death no blossom nips.
He mark’d their brows and foreheads ; saw their liair
Put sleekly on one side with nicest care ;
And each one's gentle wrists, with reverence,
Put cross-wise to its heart.
“ Let us commence (Whisper'd the guide, stuttering with joy) even now." He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough, Began to tear his scroll in pieces small, Uttering the while some mumblings funeral. He tore it into pieces small as snow That drifts unfeather'd when bleak northerns blow; And having done it, took his dark blue cloak And bound it round Endymion : then struck His wand against the empty air times nine. “ What more there is to do, young man, is thine : But first a little patience ; first undo This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue. Ah, gentle ! 'tis as weak as spider's skein ; And shouldst thou break it— What, is it done so clean ? A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave ! The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave. Here is a shell ; 'tis pearly blank to me, Nor mark’d with any sign or characteryCanst thou read aught ? O read for pity's sake! Olympus ! we are safe! Now, Carian, break This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal.”
'Twas done : and straight with sudden swell and fall Sweet music breathed her soul away, and sigh'd A lullaby to silence." Youth ! now strew These minced leaves on me, and passing through Those files of dead, scatter the same around, And thou wilt see the issue.”—'Mid the sound