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Upon a time, before the faery broods
To find where this sweet nymph prepared hersecret bed:
In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found,
She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue, Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue; Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard, Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd; And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed, Dissolved, or brighter shone, or interwreathed Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries— So rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries, She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf, Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
• Fair Hermes' crown'd with feathers, flutteries **** I had a splendid dream of thee last night: I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold, Among the Gods, upon Olympus old, The only sad one; for thou didst not hear The soft, lute-finger'd Muses chaunting clear. Nor even Apollo when he sang alone, Deaf to his throbbing throat's long, long melodious mour I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes, Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks. And, swiftly as a bright Phoebean dart, Strike for the Cretan isle; and here thou art: Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid:Whereat the star of Lethe not delay'd His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired : • Thou smooth-lipp'd serpent, surely high inspires: Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes, Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise, Telling me only where my nymph is fled.— Where she doth breathe'' - Bright planet, then has
Return'd the snake, - but seal with oaths, fair God:• I swear," said Hermes, “ by my serpent rod, And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown :Light flew his earnest words, among the blossomsblot Then thus again the brilliance feminine: • Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thise, Free as the air, invisibly, she strays About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days She tastes unseen; unseen her nimble feet Leave traces in the grass and towers sweet: From weary tendrils, and bow’d branches green. She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen: And by my power is her beauty veil'd To keep it unaffronted, unassail'd By the love-glances of unlovely eves, of Satyrs, Fauns, and blear'd Silenus sighs. Pale grew her immortality, for woe Of all these lovers, and she grieved so I took compassion on her, bade her steep Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep Her loveliness invisible, vet free To wander as she loves, in liberty. Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone. If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon"| Then, once again, the charmed God began An oath, and through the serpent's ears it ran Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.
Tavish'd she lifted her Circean head, ilush'd a live damask, and swift-lisping said, • I was a woman, let me have once more A woman's shape, and charming as before. love a youth of Corinth—O the bliss! Give me my woman's form, and place me where he is. Stoop, Hermes, let me breathe upon thy brow, And thou shalt see thy sweet nymph even now." The God on half-shut feathers sank serene, She breathed upon his eyes, and swift was seen of both the guarded nymph near-smiling on the green. it was no dream; or say a dream it was, Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass Their pleasures in a long immortal dream. One warm, flush'd moment, hovering, it might seem Dash'd by the wood-nymph's beauty, so he burn'd; Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turn'd To the swoon'd serpent, and with languid arm, Delicate, put to proof the lythe Caducean charm. So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent Full of adoring tears and blandishment, And towards her stept: she, like a moon in wane, Faded before him, cowerd, nor could restrain Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a slower That faints into itself at evening hour: But the God fostering her chilled hand, She felt the warmth, her eyelids open'd bland, And, like new flowers at morning song of bees, Bloom'd, and gave up her honey to the lees. into the green-recessed woods they slew; Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.
Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin blood in madness ran, Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, therewith besprent, Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent; Her eyes in torture fix'd, and anguish drear, Hot, glazed, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear, Flash'd phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear. The colours all inflamed throughout her train, She writhed about, convulsed with scarlet pain : A deep volcanian yellow took the place Of all her milder-mooned body's grace; And, as the lava ravishes the mead, Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede: Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars, Eclipsed her crescents, and lick'd up her stars: So that, in moments few, she was undrest Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst, And rubious—argent ; of all these bereft, Nothing but pain and ugliness were left. Still shone her crown; that vanish'd, also she Melted and disappear'd as suddenly; And in the air, her new voice luting soft, Cried, - Lycius! gentle Lycius!»–Borne aloft with the bright mists about the mountains hoar These words dissolved : Crete's forests heard no more.
whither fled Lamia, now a lady bright, A full-born beauty new and exquisite? She fled into that valley they pass o'er who go to Corinth from Cenchreas shore; And rested at the foot of those wild hills, The rutted founts of the Perean rills,
And of that other ridge whose barren back
Ah, happy Lycius!—for she was a maid
Why this fair creature chose so fairily By the wayside to linger, we shall see; But first "t is fit to tell how she could muse And dream, when in the serpent prison-house, Of all she list, strange or magnificent: How, ever, where she will'd, her spirit went; Whether to faint Elysium, or where Down through tress-lifting waves the Nereids fair Wind into Thetis' bower by many a pearly stair; Or where God Bacchus drains his cups divine, Stretch'd out, at ease, beneath a glutinous pine; Or where in Pluto's gardens palatine Mulciber's columns toleam in far piazzian line. And sometimes into cities she would send Her dream, with feast and rioting to blend; And once, while among mortals dreaming thus, She saw the young Corinthian Lycius Charioting foremost in the envious race, Like a young Jove with calm uneager face, And fell into a swooning love of him. Now on the moth-time of that evening dim He would return that way, as well she knew, To Corinth from the shore; for freshly blew The eastern soft wind, and his galley now Grated the quay-stones with her brazen prow In port Cench reas, from Egina isle Fresh anchord; whither he had been awhile To sacrifice to Jove, whose temple there Waits with high marble doors for blood and incense rare. Jove heard his vows, and better'd his desire; For by some freakful chance he made retire From his companions, and set forth to walk, Perhaps grown wearied of their Corinth talk: Over the solitary hills he fared, Thoughtless at first, but ere eve's star appeared His phantasy was lost, where reason fades, In the calm'd twilight of Platonic shades. Lamia beheld him coming, near, more nearClose to her passing, in indifference drear, His silent sandals swept the mossy green; So neighbour'd to him, and yet so unseen
She stood: he pass'd, shut up in mysteries, His mind wrapp'd like his mantle, while her eyes Follow'd his steps, and her neck regal white Turn’d—syllabling thus, “Ah, Lycius bright! And will you leave me on the hills alone? Lycius, look back! and be some pity shown." He did; not with cold wonder fearingly, But Orpheus-like at an Eurydice; For so delicious were the words she sung, It seem'd he had loved them a whole summer long : And soon his eyes had drunk her beauty up, Leaving no drop in the bewildering cup, And still the cup was full,—while he, afraid Lest she should vanish ere his lip had paid Due adoration, thus began to adore; Her soft look growing coy, she saw his chain so sure: • Leave thee alone! Look back! Ah, Goddess, see Whether my eyes can ever turn from thee! For pity do not this sad heart belie— Even as thou vanishest so I shall die. Stay! though a Naiad of the rivers, stay! To thy far wishes will thy streams obey: Stay! though the greenest woods be thy domain, Alone they can drink up the morning rain : Though a descended Pleiad, will not one Of thine harmonious sisters keep in tune Thy spheres, and as thv silver proxy shine? So sweetly to these ravish'd ears of mine Came thy sweet greeting, that if thou shouldst fade Thy memory will waste me to a shade:– For pity do not melt!' –. If I should stay." Said Lamia, here, upon this floor of clay, And pain my steps upon these flowers too rough, What eanst thou say or do of charin enough To dull the nice remembrance of my home? Thou canst not ask me with thee here to roam Over these hills and vales, where nojoy is, Empty of immortality and bliss' Thou art a scholar, Lycius, and must know That finer spirits cannot breathe below In human climes, and live: Alas' poor youth, What taste of purer air hast thou to soothe My essence? What serener palaces, Where I may all my many senses please, And by mysterious sleights a hundred thirsts appease? It cannot be—Adieu's So said, she rose Tiptoe with white arms spread. Ile, sick to lose The amorous promise of her lone complain, Swoon'd, murmuring of love, and pale with pain. The cruel lady, without any show Of sorrow for her tender favourite's woe, But rather, if her eyes could brighter be, With brighter eyes and slow amenity, Put her new lips to his, and gave afresh The life she had so tangled in her mesh : And as he from one trance was wakening Into another, she began to sing, Happy in beauty, life, and love, and every thing, A song of love, too sweet for earthly lyres, While, like held breath, the stars drew in their panting fires. And then she whisper'd in such trembling tone, As those who, safe together met alone For the first time through many anguish'd days, Use other speech than looks; bidding him raise
His drooping head, and clear his soul of doubt,
Than throbbing blood, and that the self-same pains
While yet he spake they had arrived before A pillard porch, with lofty portal door, Where hung a silver lamp, whose phosphor glow Reflected in the slabbed steps below, Mild as a star in water; for so new, And so unsullied was the marble hue, So through the crystal polish, liquid fine, Ran the dark veins, that none but feet divine Could eer have touch'd there. Sounds Eolian Breathed from the hinges, as the ample span Of the wide doors disclosed a place unknown Some time to any, but those two alone, And a few Persian mutes, who that same year Were seen about the markets: none knew where They could inhabit; the most curious Were foil'd, who watch'd to trace them to their house: And but the fliuter-winged verse must tell, For truth's sake, what woe afterwards befel, T would humour many a heart to leave them thus, Shut from the busy world of more incredulous.
Love in a hut, with water and a crust,
For all this came a ruin: side by side They were enthroned, in the even tide, Upon a couch, near to a curtaining whose airy texture, from a golden string, Floated into the room, and let appear Unveil'd the summer heaven, blue and clear, Betwixt two marble shafts:—there they reposed, Where use had made it sweet, with eyelids closed, Saving a tythe which love still open kept, | That they might see each other while they almost slept; When from the slope side of a suburb hill, Deafening the swallow's twitter, came a thrill of trumpets–Lycius started—the sounds fled, But left a thought, a buuing in his head.
For the first time, since first he harbour'd in
My parents' bones are in their dusty urns Sepulchred, where no kindled incense burns,
Seeing all their luckless race are dead, save me,
It was the custom then to bring away The bride from home at blushing shut of day, Weild, in a chariot, heralded along By strewn flowers, torches, and a marriage song, With other pageants: but this fair unknown Had not a friend. So being left alone (Lycius was gone to summon all his kin), And knowing surely she could never win His foolish heart from its mad pompousness, She set herself, high-thoughted, how to dress The misery in fit magnificence. She did so, but 'tis doubtful how and whence Came, and who were her subtle servitors. About the halls, and to and from the doors, There was a noise of wings, till in short space The glowing banquet-room shone with wide-arched grace. A haunting music, sole perhaps and lone Supportress of the faery-roof, made moan Throughout, as fearful the whole charm might fade Fresh carved cedar, mimicking a glade Of palm and plantain, met from either side, High in the midst, in honour of the bride: Two palms and then two plantains, and so on, From either side their stems branch'd one to one All down the aisled place; and beneath all There ran astream of lamps straight on from wall to wall. So canopied, lay an untasted feast Teeming with odours. Lamia, regal drest, Silently paced about, and as she went, In pale contented sort of discontent, Mission'd her viewless servants to enrich The fretted splendour of each nook and niche. Between the tree-stems, marbled plain at first, Came jasper pannels; then, anon, there burst Forth creeping imagery of slighter trees, And with the larger wove in small intricacies. Approving all, she faded at self-will, And shut the chamber up, close, hush'd and still, Complete and ready for the revels rude, When dreadful guests would come to spoil her solitude.
The day appear'd, and all the gossip rout. O senseless Lycius: Madman' wherefore flout The silent-blessing fate, warm cloister'd hours, And show to common eyes these secret bowers? The herd approach'd; each guest, with busy brain, Arriving at the portal, gazed amain, And enter'd marveling: for they knew the street, Remember'd it from childhood all complete Without a gap, yet ne'er before had seen That royal porch, that high-built fair demesne; So in they hurried all, mazed, curious and keen : Save one, who look d thereon with eye severe, And with calm-planted steps walk'd in austere;
"T was Apollonius: something too he laugh'd, As though some knotty problem, that had daft His patient thought, had now begun to thaw, And solve and melt:—'t was just as he foresaw.
He met within the murmurous vestibule His young disciple. * T is no common rule, Lycius," said he, . for uninvited guest To force himself upon you, and infest With an unbidden presence the bright throng Of younger friends; yet must I do this wrong. And you forgive me." Lycius blush'd, and led The old man through the inner doors broad-spread: with reconciling words and courteous mien Turning into sweet milk the sophist's spleen.
of wealthy lustre was the banquet-room. Fill'd with pervading brilliance and perfume: Before each lucid pannel fuming stood A censer fed with myrrh and spiced wood, | Each by a sacred tripod held aloft, whose slender feet wide-swerved upon the scft wool-woofed carpets: fifty wreaths of smoke From fifty censers their light voyage took To the high roof, still mimick'd as they rose Along the mirror'd walls by twin-clouds odorous. Twelve sphered tables, by silk seats insphered, High as the level of a man's breast rear'd 0n libbard's paws, upheld the heavy gold of cups and goblets, and the store thrice told Of Ceres' horn, and, in huge vessels, wine Came from the gloomy tun with merry shine. Thus loaded with a feast the tables stood, Each shrining in the midst the image of a God.
When in an antechamber every guest Had felt the cold full sponge to pleasure press'd, By ministring slaves, upon his hands and feet, And fragrant oils with ceremony meet Pour'd on his hair, they all moved to the feast In white robes, and themselves in order placed Around the silken couches, wondering Whence all this mighty cost and blaze of wealth could
Soft went the music the soft air along, While fluent Greek a vowel'd under-song Kept up among the guests, discoursing low At first, for scarcely was the wine at low; But when the happy vintage touch'd their brains, Louder they talk, and louder come the strains Of powerful instruments:—the gorgeous dyes, The space, the splendour of the draperies, The roof of awful richness, uectarous cheer, Beautiful slaves, and Lamia's self, appear, Now, when the wine has done its rosy deed, And every soul from human trammels freed, No more so strange; for merry wine, sweet wine, Will make Elysian shades not too fair, too divine. Soon was God Bacchus at meridian height; |Flush'd were their cheeks, and bright eyes double bright Garlands of every green, and every scent From vales deflower'd, or forest-trees branch-rent. In baskets of bright osier'd gold were brought
High as the handles heap'd, to suit the thought
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