TO DAVID IN HEAVEN.
“Quo diversus abis?”
“Quem Di diligunt, adolescens moritur.”
TO DAVID IN HEAVEN.
LO! the slow moon roaming
Thro’ fleecy mists of gloaming,
Furrowing with pearly edge the jewel-powder’d sky!
Lo, the bridge moss-laden,
Arch’d like foot of maiden,
And on the bridge, in silence, looking upward, you and I!
Lo, the pleasant season
Of reaping and of mowing—
The round still moon above,—beneath, the river duskily flowing!
Violet colour’d shadows,
Blown from scented meadows,
Float o’er us to the pine-wood dark from yonder dim corn-ridge;
The little river gushes
Thro’ shady sedge and rushes,
And gray gnats murmur o’er the pools, beneath the mossy bridge;—
And you and I stand darkly,
O’er the keystone leaning,
And watch the pale mesmeric moon, in the time of gleaners and gleaning.
Do I dream, I wonder?
As, sitting sadly under
A lonely roof in London, thro’ the grim square pane I gaze?
Here of you I ponder,
In a dream, and yonder
The still streets seem to stir and breathe beneath the white moon’s rays.
By the vision cherish’d, 5
By the battle bravéd,
Do I but dream a hopeless dream, in the city that slew you, David?
Is it fancy also,
That the light which falls so
Faintly upon the stony street below me as I write,
Near tall mountains passes
Thro’ churchyard weeds and grasses,
Barely a mower’s mile away from that small bridge, to-night?
And, where you are lying,—
Grass and flowers above you—
Is mingled with your sleeping face, as calm as the hearts that love you?
Are you then departed,
And have you ceased to dream the dream we loved of old so well? 6
Has the deeply cherish’d
And are you happy, David, in that heaven where you dwell?
Have you found the secret
We, so wildly, sought for,
And is your soul enswath’d, at last, in the singing robes you fought for?
In some heaven star-lighted,
Are you now united
Unto the poet-spirits that you loved, of English race?
Is Chatterton still dreaming?
And, to give it stately seeming,
Has the music of his last strong song passed into Keats’s face?
Is Wordsworth there? and Spenser?
Beyond the grave’s black portals,
Can the grand eye of Milton see the glory he sang to mortals?
You at least could teach me,
Could your dear voice reach me,
Where I sit and copy out for men my soul’s strange speech,
Whether it be bootless,
Profitless, and fruitless,—
The weary aching upward strife to heights we cannot reach,
The fame we seek in sorrow,
The agony we forego not,
The haunting singing sense that makes us climb—whither we know not.
Must it last for ever,
The passionate endeavour,
Ay, have ye, there in heaven, hearts to throb and still aspire?
In the life you know now,
Render’d white as snow now,
Do fresher glory-heights arise, and beckon higher—higher?
Are you dreaming, dreaming, 8
Is your soul still roaming,
Still gazing upward as we gazed, of old in the autumn gloaming?
Lo, the book I hold here,
In the city cold here!
I hold it with a gentle hand and love it as I may;
Lo, the weary moments!
Lo, the icy comments!
And lo, false Fortune’s knife of gold swift-lifted up to slay!
Has the strife no ending?
Has the song no meaning?
Linger I, idle as of old, while men are reaping or gleaning?
Upward my face I turn to you,
I long for you, I yearn to you,
The spectral vision trances me to utt’rance wild and weak;
It is not that I mourn you, 9
To mourn you were to scorn you,
For you are one step nearer to the beauty singers seek.
But I want, and cannot see you,
I seek and cannot find you,
And, see! I touch the book of songs you tenderly left behind you!
Ay, me! I bend above it,
With tearful eyes, and love it,
With tender hand I touch the leaves, but cannot find you there!
Mine eyes are haunted only
By that gloaming sweetly lonely,
The shadows on the mossy bridge, the glamour in the air!
I touch the leaves, and only
See the glory they retain not—
The moon that is a lamp to Hope, who glorifies what we gain not!
The aching and the yearning,
The hollow, undiscerning,
Uplooking want I still retain, darken the leaves I touch— 10
Pale promise, with much sweetness
But ah, you knew so little then—and now you know so much!
By the vision cherish’d,
By the battle bravéd,
Have you, in heaven, shamed the song, by a loftier music, David?
I, who loved and knew you,
In the city that slew you,
Still hunger on, and thirst, and climb, proud-hearted and alone:
Serpent-fears enfold me,
Syren-visions hold me,
And, like a wave, I gather strength, and gathering strength, I moan;
Yea, the pale moon beckons,
Still I follow, aching,
And gather strength, only to make a louder moan, in breaking!
Tho’ the world could turn from you,
This, at least, I learn from you:
Beauty and Truth, tho’ never found, are worthy to be sought,
The singer, upward-springing,
Is grander than his singing,
And tranquil self-sufficing joy illumes the dark of thought.
This, at least, you teach me,
In a revelation:
That gods still snatch, as worthy death, the soul in its aspiration.
And I think, as you thought,
Poesy and Truth ought
Never to lie silent in the singer’s heart on earth;
Tho’ they be discarded,
Tho’, unto vulgar seeming, they appear of little worth,—
Yet tender brother-singers,
Young or not yet born to us,
May seek there, for the singer’s sake, that love which sweeteneth scorn to us! 12
While I sit in silence,
Comes from mile on mile hence,
From English Keats’s Roman grave, a voice that sweetens toil!
Think you, no fond creatures
Draw comfort from the features
Of Chatterton, pale Phäethon, hurled down to sunless soil?
Scorch’d with sunlight lying,
Eyes of sunlight hollow,
But, see! upon the lips a gleam of the chrism of Apollo!
Noble thought produces
Noble ends and uses,
Noble hopes are part of Hope wherever she may be,
Noble thought enhances
Life and all its chances,
And noble self is noble song,—all this I learn from thee!
And I learn, moreover, 13
’Mid the city’s strife too,
That such faint song as sweetens Death can sweeten the singer’s life too!
Lo, my Book!—I hold it
In weary hands, and fold it
Unto my heart, if only as a token I aspire;
And, by song’s assistance,
Unto your dim distance,
My soul uplifted is on wings, and beckon’d higher, nigher.
By the sweeter wisdom
You return unspeaking,
Though endless, hopeless, be the search, we exalt our souls in seeking.
Higher, yet, and higher,
Ever nigher, ever nigher,
To the glory we conceive not, let us toil and strive and strain!—
The agonizëd yearning, 14
The imploring and the burning,
Grown awfuller, intenser, at each vista we attain,
And clearer, brighter, growing,
Up the gulfs of heaven wander,
Higher, higher yet, and higher, to the Mystery we ponder!
Yea, higher yet, and higher,
Ever nigher, ever nigher,
While men grow small by stooping and the reaper piles the grain,—
Can it then be bootless,
Profitless and fruitless,
The weary aching upward search for what we never gain?
Is there not awaiting
Rest and golden weather,
Where, passionately purified, the singers may meet together?
Up! higher yet, and higher,
Ever nigher, ever nigher,
Thro’ voids that Milton and the rest beat still with seraph-wings; 15
Out thro’ the great gate creeping
Where God hath put his sleeping—
A dewy cloud detaining not the soul that soars and sings,
Up! higher yet, and higher,
Fainting nor retreating,
Beyond the sun, beyond the stars, to the far bright realm of meeting!
O Mystery! O Passion!
To sit on earth, and fashion,
What floods of music visibled may fill that fancied place!
To think, the least that singeth,
Aspireth and upspringeth,
May weep glad tears on Keats’s breast and look in Milton’s face!
When human power and failure
Are equalized for ever,
And the one great Light that haloes all is the passionate bright endeavour!
But ah, that pale moon roaming
Thro’ fleecy mists of gloaming,
Furrowing with pearly edge the jewel-powder’d sky,
And ah, the days departed
With your friendship gentle-hearted,
And ah, the dream we dreamt that night, together, you and I!
Is it fashion’d wisely,
To help us or to blind us,
That at each height we gain we turn, and behold a heaven behind us?
Translations of the Latin on Page 1:
“Quo diversus abis?” ”Whither dost thou run wandering?” from Virgil’s Aeneid, Book V, l.166.
“Quem Di diligunt, adolescens moritur.” “Whom the Gods love die young”.]
Thou Fame! who makest of the singer’s Life,
Faint with the sweetness of its own desire,
A statue of Narcissus, still and fair
For evermore, and bending evermore
Over its beauteous image mirrorëd
In the swift current of our human days,
Eternally in act to clasp and kiss!
O Fame, teach thou this flesh and blood to love
Some beauteous counterpart, and while it bends,
Tremulously gazing on the image, blow
Thy trump aloud, and freeze it into stone!
OR, A PRELUDE.
INTO the living elements of things
I, Proteus, mingle, seeking strange disguise:
I track the Sun-god on an eagle’s wings,
Or look at horror thro’ a murderer’s eyes,
In shape of hornëd beast my shadow glides
Among broad-leavëd flowers that blow ’neath Afric tides.
Lo! I was stirring in the leaves that shaded
The Garden where the Man and Woman smiled:
I saw them later, raimentless, degraded, 20
The apple sour upon their tongues; beguiled
By the sweet wildness of the Woman’s tears,
I dropt in dew upon her lips, and stole
Under her heart, a stirring human Soul,
The blood within her tingling in mine ears;
And as I lay, I heard a voice that cried
“Lo, Proteus, the unborn, shall wake to be
Heir of the Woman’s sorrow, yet a guide
Conducting back to immortality—
The spirit of the leaves of Paradise
Shall lift him upward, to aspire and rise!”
Then sudden, I was conscious that I lay
Under a heaven that gleam’d afar away:—
I heard the Man and Woman weeping,
The green leaves rustling, and the Serpent creeping,
The roar of beasts, the song of birds, the chime
Of elements in sudden strife sublime,
And overhead I saw the starry Tree,
Put forth the blossom Time.
A wind of ancient prophecy swept down,
And wither’d up my beauty—where I lay
On Paris’ bosom, in the Trojan town;
Troy vanish’d, and I wander’d far away,—
Till, lying on a Virgin’s breast, I gazed
Thro’ infant eyes, and saw, as in a dream,
The great god Pan whom I had raised and praised,
Float huge, unsinew’d, down a mighty stream,
With leaves and lilies heap’d about his head,
And a weird music hemming him around,
While, dropping from his nerveless fingers dead,
A brazen sceptre plunged with hollow sound:
A trackless Ocean wrinkling tempest-wing’d
Open’d its darkness for the clay unking’d:
Moreover, as he floated on at rest,
With lips that flutter’d still in act to speak,
An eagle, swooping down upon his breast,
Pick’d at his songless lips with golden beak.
There was a sound of fear and lamentation,
The forests wail’d, the stars and moon grew pale,
The air grew cloudy with the desolation 22
Of gods that fell from realmless thrones like hail;
But as I gazed, the great God Pan awaking,
Lookt in the Infant’s happy eyes and smiled,
And smiling died; and like a sunbeam breaking
From greenwood olden, rose a presence mild
In exhalation from the clay, and stole
Around the Infant in an auriole—
When, gladden’d by the glory of the child,
Dawn gleam’d from pole to pole.
And, lo! a shape with pallid smile divine
Wander’d in Palestine;
And Adam’s might was stately in his eyes,
And Eve’s wan sweetness glimmer’d on his cheek,
And when he open’d heavenly lips to speak,
I heard, disturbing Pilate into sighs,
The rustle of those leaves in Paradise!
Then all was dark, the earth, and air, and sky,
The sky was troubled and the earth was shaken,
Beasts shriek’d, men shouted, and there came a cry—
“My God, I am forsaken!”
But even then, I smiled amid my tears, 23
And saw in vision, down the future years,
What time the cry still rung in heaven’s dark dome,
The likeness of his smile ineffable,
On Raphael, sunn’d by popes and kings at Rome,
And Dante, singing in his Tuscan cell!
But sudden, from the vapours of the north, [l.i]
Ice-bearded, snowy-visaged, Strength burst forth,
Brandishing arms in death:
’Twas Ades, frighted from his seat in Hell
By that pale smile of peace ineffable,
That with a sunny life-producing breath,
Wreathed summer round the foreheads of the Dead,
And troubled Hell’s weird silence into joy.
And with a voice that rent the pole he said,
“Lo, I am Thor, the mighty to destroy!”
The accents ran to water on his mouth,
The pole was kindled to a fiery glow,
A breath of summer floated from the south
And melted him like snow.
Yea thus, thro’ change on change,
Haunted for ever by the leafy sound
That sigh’d the Woman and the Man around,
I, Proteus, range.
A weary quest, a power to climb and soar,
Yet never quit life’s bitterness and starkness,
A groping for God’s hand amid the darkness,
The day behind me and the night before,
This is my task for evermore!
I am the shadow of the inspiration
Breath’d on the Man; I am the sense alone,
That, generation upon generation,
Empowers the sinful Woman to atone
By giving angels to the grave and weeping
Because she knows not whither they are going;
I am the strife awake, the terror sleeping,
The sorrow ever ebbing, ever flowing.
Mine are the mighty names of power and worth,
The seekers of the vision that hath fled,
I bear the Infant’s smile about the earth,
And put the Cross on the aspirant’s head,
I am the peace on holy men who die, 25
I waft as sacrifice their fleeting breath—
I am the change that is not change, for I
Am deathless, being DEATH.
For, evermore I grow
Wiser, with humbler power to feel and know;
For, in the end I, Proteus, shall cast
All wondrous shapes aside but one alone,
And stand (while round about me in the Vast
Earth, Sun, Stars, Moon, as snowflakes melt at last,)
A Skeleton that, shadow’d by the Tree,
Holds in his hands the blossom Time full blown,
And kneels before a Throne.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 6, l. i: Suddenly, from the vapours of the north, ]
ADES, KING OF HELL.
BENEATH the caves where sunless loam
Grows dim and reddens into gold;
’Neath the fat earth-seams, where the cold
Rains thicken to the flowery foam
Fringing blue streams in summer zones;
Beneath the spheres where dead men’s bones
Change darkly thro’ slow centuries to marl and glittering stones;—
Orb’d in that rayless realm, alone,
Far from the realm of sun and shower,
A palpable god with godlike power,
I, Ades, dwelt upon a throne;
Much darkness did my eyelids tire; 27
But thro’ my veins the hid Sun’s fire
Communicated impulse, hope, thought, passion, and desire.
Eternities of lonely reign,
Full of faint dreams of day and night
And the white glamour of starry light,
Oppress’d my patience into pain;
Upward I sent a voice of prayer
That made a horror in the air:
And “Ades craves a queen, O Zeus!” shook heaven unaware.
The gods stopt short in full carouse,
And listen’d. On the streams of Hell
The whole effulgent conclave fell
As in a glass. With soft-arch’d brows,
And wings of dewy-tinctured dye,
Moist Iris listen’d blushingly; [l.vi]
And Heré sought the soul of Zeus with coldly eager eye.
Then the clear hyaline grew cold
And dim before the Father’s face;
Gray meditation clothed the place;
And rising up Zeus cried, “Behold!”—
And on Olumpos’ crystal wall
A kingly phantom cloudy and tall,
Throned, sceptred, crown’d, was darkly apparition’d at the call.
“Behold him!” Zeus the Father cried,
With voice that shook my throne forlorn:
Pale Hermes curl’d his lips in scorn,
And Iris drew her bow aside;
Artemis paled and did not speak;
Sheer fear flush’d Aphrodité’s cheek;
And only owl-eyed Pallas look’d with pitying smile and meek.
A weary night thro’ earth and air
The shadow of my longing spread,
And not a goddess answerëd. 29
All nature darken’d at my prayer;
Which darkness earth and air did shroud,
No star rain’d light, but, pale and proud,
With blue-edged sickle Artemis cut her slow path thro’ cloud.
And when the weary dark was done,
Beyond my sphere of realm upsprang,
With smile that beam’d and harp that sang,
Apollo piloting the Sun;
And conscious of him shining o’er,
I watch’d my black and watery floor
Wherein the wondrous upper-world is mirror’d evermore.
When lo, there murmur’d on my brain,
Like sound of distant waves, a sound
That did my godlike sense confound
And kiss’d my eyelids down in pain;
And far above I heard the beat
Of musically falling feet,
Hurl’d by the echoes of the earth down to my brazen seat.
And I was ’ware that overhead
Walk’d one whose very motion sent
A sweet immortal wonderment
Thro’ the deep dwellings of the Dead,
And flush’d the seams of cavern and mine
To gleams of gold and diamond shine,
And made the misty dews shoot up to kiss her feet divine.
By Zeus, the beat of those soft feet
Thrill’d to the very roots of Hell,
Troubling the mournful streams that fell
Like snakes from out my brazen seat:
Faint music reach’d me strange and slow,
My conscious Throne gleam’d pale as snow,
A beauteous vision vaguely fill’d the dusky glass below.—
When I beheld in that dark glass
The phantom of a lonely maid,
Who gather’d flowers in a green glade 31
Knee-deep in dewy meadow-grass,
And on a riverside. Behold,
The sun that robed her round with gold,
Mirror’d beneath me raylessly, loom’d white and round and cold.
Soft yellow hair that curl’d and clang
Throbbed to her feet in softest showers,
And as she went she gather’d flowers,
And as she gather’d flowers she sang:
It floated down my sulphurous eaves,
That melody of flowers and leaves,
Of vineyards, gushing purple wines, and yellow slanted sheaves.
Darkling I mutter’d, “It were choice
Proudly to throne in solemn cheer
So fair a queen, and ever to hear
Such song from so divine a voice!”
And with the wish I upward breathed 32
A mist of fire that swiftly seethed
Thro’ shuddering earth-seams overhead, and round her warm knees wreathed.
Whereon the caves of precious stones
Grew bright as moonlight thrown on death,
And red gold brighten’d, and the breath
Drew greenness moist from fleshless bones;
And every cave was murmuring:
“O River, cease to flow and sing,
And bear the tall bride on thy banks to the footstool of thy king!”
Then writhed the roots of forest trees
In tortuous fear, till tremblingly
Green leaves quaked round her. A sharp cry
Went upward from the Oreades;
Low murmurs woke in bower and cave,
With diapason in the wave:
The River eddied darkly round, obeying as a slave.
Half stooping downward, while she held
A flower in loosening fingers light;
The quick pink fading from the white
Upon her cheek; with eyes that welled
Dark pansy thoughts from veins that dart
Like restless snakes round the honied heart,
And balmy breath that mildly blew her rose-red lips apart,—
She listen’d—stately, yet dismay’d;
And dimly conscious of some change
That made the whispering place seem strange
And awful, far from human aid;
And as the moaning Stream grew near,
And whirl’d unto her with eddies clear,
She saw my shadow in his waves and shrank away in fear.
“Small River, flowing with summer sound,
Strong River, solemn Ades’ slave,
Flow unto her with gentle wave,
And make an isle, and hem her round.”
The River, sad with gentle worth, 34
Felt backward to that cave of earth
Where, troubled with my crimson eyes, he shudder’d into birth.
Him saw she trembling; but unseen,
Under long sedges lily-strew’d,
Round creeping roots of underwood,
Low down beneath the grasses green
Whereon she waited wondering-eyed,
My servant slid with stealthy tide:—
Then like a fountain bubbled up and foam’d on either side.
And shrinking back she gazed in fear
On his wild hair, and lo, an isle—
Around whose brim waves rose the while
She cried, “O mother Ceres, hear!”
Then sprang she wildly to and fro,
Wilder than rain and white as snow.
“O honour’d River, grasp thy prize, and to the footstool flow!”
One swift sunbeam with sickly flare
On white arms waving high did gleam,
What time she shriek’d, and the strong Stream
Leapt up and grasp’d her by the hair.
And all was dark. With wild heads bow’d
The forest murmur’d, and black cloud
Split speumy on the mountain tops with fire and portent loud!
Then all was still as the Abyss,
Save for the dark and bubbling water,
And the far voice. “Bear Ceres’ daughter
Unto the kingly feet of Dis!”
Wherefore I rose upon my throne,
And smote my kingdom’s roof of stone;
Earth moan’d to her deep fiery roots—Hell answer’d with a groan.
When swiftly waving sulphurous wings
The Darkness brooded down in fear
To listen. I, afar, could hear 36
The coming River’s murmurings;
My god-like eyes with flash of flame
Peer’d up the chasm. As if in shame
Of his slave-deed, darkly and slow, my trembling servant came.
The gentleness of summer light,
This Stream, my honour’d slave possessed:
The blue flowers mirror’d in his breast,
And the meek lamps that sweeten night,
Had made his heart too mild to bear
With other than a gentle care,
And slow sad solemn pace, a load so violet-eyed and fair!
Him saw I, as, thro’ looming rocks,
He glimmer’d like a serpent gray
Whose moist coils hiss; then, far away,
Lo the dim gleam of golden locks,
Lo a far gleam of glinting gold,
Floating in many a throbbing fold,
What time soft ripples panted dark on queenly eyelids cold.
Silently, with obeisance meet,
In gentle arms escorting well
The partner of eternal Hell,
Thus flow’d, not halting, to my feet
The gracious River with his load:
Her with dark arm-sweep he bestow’d
On my great footstool—then again, with sharp shriek, upward flow’d.
So fair, so fair, so strangely fair,
Dark from the waters lay my love;
And lo, I, Ades, stoop’d above,
And shuddering touch’d the yellow hair
That made my beaded eyeballs close—
Awful as sunshine. Cold as snows,
Pale-faced, dank-lidded, proud, she lay in wonderful repose.
And all the lesser Thrones that rise
Around me, shook. With murmurous breath,
Their Kings shook off eternal death, 38
And with a million fiery eyes
Glared red above, below, around,
And saw me stooping fiery-crown’d;
And the white faces of the damn’d arose without a sound.
As if an awful sunbeam, rife
With living glory, pierced the gloom,
Bringing to spirits blind with doom
The summers of forgotten life,—
Those pallid faces, mad and stern,
Rose up in foam, and each in turn
Roll’d downward, as a white wave breaks, and seem’d to plead and yearn.
What time this horror loom’d beyond,
Her soul was troubled into sighs:
Stooping, throned, crown’d, I touch’d her eyes
With dim and ceremonial wand;
And looking up, she saw and knew 39
An awful love which did subdue
Itself to her bright comeliness and gave her greeting due!
“Welcome!”—The rocks and chasms and caves,
The million thrones and their black kings,
The very snakes and creeping things,
The very damn’d within the waves,
Groan’d “welcome;” and she heard—with light
Fingers that writhed in tresses bright,—
But when I touch’d her to the soul, she slowly rose her height.
While shadows of a reign eterne
Quench’d the fine glint in her yellow hair,
She rose erect more hugely fair,
And, dark’ning to a queenhood stern,
She gazed into mine eyes and thence
Drew black and subtle inference,
Subliming the black godhead there with sunnier, sweeter sense.
Low at her feet, huge Cerberus
Crouch’d groaning, but with royal look
She stooping silenced him, and took
The throne sublime and perilous
That rose to hold her and upstream’d
Vaporous fire: the dark void scream’d,
The pale Eumenides made moan, with eyes and teeth that gleam’d.
Behold, she sits beside me now,
A weighty sorrow in her mien,
Yet gracious to her woes—a queen;
The sunny locks about her brow
Shadow’d to godhead solemn, meet;
Throned, queen’d; but round about her feet,
Sweeten’d by gentle grass and flowers, the brackish waves grow sweet.
And surely, when the mirror dun
Beneath me mirrors yellowing leaves,
And reapers binding golden sheaves, 41
And vineyards purple in the sun,
When fulness fills the plenteous year
Of the bright upper-world, I hear
The voice among the harvest-fields that mourns a daughter dear.
“Lo, Ceres mourns the bride of Dis,”
The old Earth moans; and rocks and hills,
“Persephoné;” sad radiance fills
The dripping horn of Artemis,
Silverly shaken in the sky;
And a great frost-wind rushing by—
“Ceres will rob the eyes of Hell when seed-time draweth nigh.”
And in the seed-time after snow,
Down the long caves, in soft distress,
Dry corn-blades tangled in her dress,
The weary goddess wanders slow—
The million eyes of Hell are bent
On my strange queen in wonderment,—
The ghost of Iris gleams across my waters impotent!
And the sweet Bow bends mild and bland
O’er rainy meadows near the light,
When fading far along the night
They wander upward hand-in-hand;
And like a phantom I remain,
Chain’d to a throne in lonely reign,
Till, sweet with greenness, moonlight-kiss’d, she wanders back again.
But when afar thro’ rifts of gold
And caverns steep’d in fog complete,
I hear the beat of her soft feet,
My kingdom totters as of old;
And, conscious of her sweeter worth,
Her godhead of serener birth,
Hell, breathing fire thro’ flowers and leaves, feels to the upper-earth.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 4, l. vi: Pale Iris listen’d blushingly;
A revised version of ‘Ades, King Of Hell’ was published as ‘The Ballad of Persephone’ in The Poetical Works Vol. I (London: H. S. King & Co., 1874).]
IT is not well, ye gods, it is not well!
Yea, hear me grumble—rouse, ye sleepers, rouse
Upon thick-carpeted Olumpos’ top—
Nor, faintly hearing, murmur in your sloth
“’Tis but the voice of Pan the malcontent!”
Shake the sleek sunshine from ambrosial locks,
Vouchsafe a sleepy glance at the far earth
That underneath ye wrinkles dim with cloud,
And smile, and sleep again!
ME, when at first
The deep Vast murmur’d, and Eternity
Gave forth a hollow sound while from its voids
Ye blossom’d thick as flowers, and by the light
Beheld yourselves eternal and divine,—
ME, underneath the darkness visible
And calm as ocean when the cold Moon smoothes 44
The palpitating waves without a sound,—
Me, ye saw sleeping in a dream, white-hair’d,
Low-lidded, gentle, aged, and like the shade
Of the eternal self-unconsciousness
Out of whose law YE had awaken’d—gods
Fair-statured, self-apparent, marvellous,
Dove-eyed, and inconceivably divine.
Over the ledges of high mountains, thro’
The fulgent streams of dawn, soft-pillowëd
On downy clouds that swam in reddening streaks
Like milk wherein a crimson wine-drop melts,
And far beyond the dark of vague low lands,
Uprose Apollo, shaking from his locks
Ambrosial dews, and making as he rose
A murmur such as west winds weave in June.
Wherefore the darkness in whose depth I sat
Wonder’d: thro’ newly-woven boughs, the light
Crept onward to mine eyelids unaware,
And fluttering o’er my wrinkled length of limb
Like tremulous butterflies above a snake,
Disturb’d me,—and I stirr’d, and open’d eyes,
Then lifted up my eyes to see the light, 45
And saw the light, and, seeing not myself,
Thereupon, ye gods, the woods and lawns
Grew populously glad with living things.
A rod of stone beneath my heel grew bright,
Writhing to life, and hissing drew swift coils
O’er the upspringing grass; above my head
A birch unbound her silver-shimmering hair,
Brightening to the notes of numerous birds;
And far dim mountains hollow’d out themselves
To give forth streams, till down the mountain-sides
The loosen’d streams ran flowing. Then a voice
Came from the darkness as it roll’d away
Under Apollo’s sunshine-sandall’d foot,
And the vague voice shriek’d “Pan!” and woods and streams,
Sky-kissing mountains and the courteous vales,
Cried “Pan!” and earth’s reverberating roots
Gave forth an answer, “Pan!” and stooping down
His fiery eyes to scorch me from my trance,
Unto the ravishment of his soft lyre
“Pan!” sang Apollo: when the wide world heard,
Brightening brightlier, till thro’ murmurous leaves 46
Pale wood-nymphs peep’d around me whispering “Pan!”
And sweeter faces floated in the stream
That gurgled to my ankle, whispering “Pan!”
And, clinging to the azure gown of air
That floated earthward dropping scented dews,
A hundred lesser spirits panted “Pan!”
And, far along an opening forest-glade,
Beating a green lawn with alternate feet,
“Pan!” cried the satyrs leaping. Then all sounds
Were hush’d for coming of a sweeter sound;
And rising up, with outstretch’d arms, I, Pan,
Look’d eastward, saw, and knew myself a god.
It was not well, ye gods, it was not well!
Star-guiders, cloud-compellers—ye who stretch
Ambrosia-dripping limbs, great-statured, bright,
Silken and fair-proportion’d, in a place
Thick-carpeted with grass as soft as sleep;
Who with mild glorious eyes of liquid depth
Subdue to perfect peace and calm eterne
The mists and vapours of the nether-world,
That curl up dimly from the nether-world
And make a roseate mist wherein ye lie 47
Soft-lidded, broad-foreheaded, stretch’d supine
In awful contemplations—ye great gods,
Who meditate your souls and find them fair— [l.iv]
Ye heirs of odorous rest—it was not well!—
For, with Apollo sheer above, I, Pan,
In whom a gracious godhead lived and moved,
Rose, glorious-hearted, and look’d down; and lo,
Goat-legs, goat-thighs, goat-feet, uncouth and rude,
And, higher, the breast and bowels of a beast,
Huge thews and twisted sinews swoll’n like cords,
And thick integument of bark-brown skin—
A hideous apparition masculine!
But in my veins a new and natural youth,
In my great veins a music as of boughs
When the cool aspen-fingers of the Rain
Feel for the eyelids of the earth in spring,
In every vein quick life; within my soul
The meekness of some sweet eternity
Forgot; and in mine eyes soft violet-thoughts
That widen’d in the eyeball to the light,
And peep’d, and trembled chilly back to the soul
Like leaves of violets closing.
By my lawns, 48
My honey-flowing rivers, by my woods
Grape-growing, by my mountains down whose sides
The slow flocks thread like silver streams at eve,
By the deep comfort in the eyes of Zeus
When the soft murmur of my peaceful dales
Blows like a gust of perfume on his cheek,
There where he reigns, cloud-shrouded—by meek lives
That smoothe themselves like wings of doves and brood
Over immortal themes for love of me—
I swear it was not well.
Ay, ay, ye smile;—
Ye hear me, garrulous, and turn again
To contemplation of the slothful clouds
That curtain ye for sweetness. Hear me, gods!
Not the ineffable stars that interlace
The azure panoply of Zeus himself,
Have surer sweetness than my hyacinths
When they grow blue in gazing on blue heaven,
Than the white lilies of my rivers when
In leafy spring Selené’s silver horn
Spills paleness, peace, and fragrance.—And for these,
For all the sensible or senseless things
Which swell the sounds and sights of earth and air, 49
I snatch some glory which of right belongs
To ye whom I revile: ay, and for these,
For all the sensible or senseless things
Which swell the sounds and sights of earth and air,
I will snatch fresher glory, fresher joy,
Robbing your rights in heaven day by day,
Till from my dispensation ye remove
Darkness, and drought that parches thirsty skins,
The stinging alchemy of frost, the agues
That rack me in the season of wet winds—
Till, bit by bit, my bestial nether-man
Peels off like bark, my green old age shoots up
Godhead apparent, and I know myself
Fair—as becomes a god!
Ay, I shall do!
Not I alone am something garrulous, gods!
But the broad-bosom’d earth, whose countless young
Moan “Pan!” most piteously when ye frown
In tempests, or when Thunder, waving wings,
Groans crouching from your lightning spears, and then
Springs at your lofty silence with a shriek!
Not I alone, low horror masculine,
But earthquake-shaken hills, the dewy dales, 50
Blue rivers as they flow, and boughs of trees,
Yea, monsters, and the purblind race of men,
Grow garrulous of your higher glory, gods;
Yearning unto it moan my name aloud,
Climbing unto it shriek or whisper “Pan!”
Till from the far-off verdurous depths, from deep
Impenetrable woods whose wondrous roots
Blacken to coal or redden into gold,
I, stirring in this antient dream of mine, [l.x]
Make answer—and they hear.
I, sick of mine own envy, hollow’d out
A valley, green and deep; then pouring forth
From the great hollow of my hand a stream
Sweeter than honey, bade it wander on
In soft and rippling lapse to the far sea.
Upon its banks grew flowers as thick as grass,
Gum-dropping poplars and the purple vine,
Slim willows dusty like the thighs of bees,
And, further, stalks of corn and wheat and flax,
And, even further, on the mountain sides
White sheep and new-yean’d lambs, and in the midst
Mild-featured shepherds piping. Was not this 51
An image of your grander ease, O gods?
A faint sweet picture of your bliss, O gods?
They thank’d me, those sweet shepherds, with the smoke
Of crimson sacrifice of lambkins slain,
Rich spices, succulent herbs that savour meats;
And when they came upon me ere aware,
Walk’d sudden on my presence where I piped
By rivers lorn my mournful ditties old,
Cried “Pan!” and worshipp’d. Yet it was not well,
Ye gods, it was not well, that I, who gave
The harvest to these men, and with my breath
Thicken’d the wool upon the backs of sheep,
I, Pan, should in these purblind mortal forms
Witness a loveliness more gently fair,
Nearer to your dim loveliness, O gods!
Than my immortal wood-pervading self,—
Carelessly blown on by the rosy Hours,
Who breathe quick breath and smile before they die—
Goat-footed, horn’d, a monster—yet a god.
By wanton Aphrodité’s velvet limbs,
I swear, ye amorous gods, it was not well!—
Down the long vale of Arcady I chased 52
A wood-nymph, unapparell’d and white-limb’d,
From gleaming shoulder unto foot a curve
Delicious, like the bow of Artemis:
A gleam of dewy moonlight on her limbs;
Within her veins a motion as of waves
Moon-led and silver-crested to the moon;
And in her heart a sweetness such as fills
Uplooking maidens when the virgin orb
Witches warm bosoms into snows, and gives
The colourable chastity of flowers
To the tumultuous senses curl’d within.
Her, after summer noon, what time her foot
Startled with moonlight motion milk-blue stalks
Of hyacinths in a dim forest glade,—
Her saw I, and, uplifting eager arms,
I rush’d around her as a rush of boughs,
My touch thrill’d thro’ her, she beheld my face,
And like a gnat it stung her, and she fled.
Down the green glade, along the verdurous shade,
She screaming fled and I pursued behind:
By Zeus, it was as though the forest moved
Behind her, following; and with shooting boughs, 53
And bristling arms and stems, and murmurous leaves,
It eddied after her—my underwood
Of bramble and the yellow-blossom’d furze
Flung its thick growth around her waist, my trees
Dropt thorns before her, and my growing grass
Put forth its green and sappy oils and slid
Under her feet; until, with streaming hair
Like ravell’d sunshine torn ’mid scars and cliffs,
Pale, breathless, and long-throated like a swan,
With tongue that panted ’tween the foamy lips
As the red arrow in a tulip’s cup,
She, coming swiftly on the river-side,
Into the circle of a sedgy pool
Plunged knee-deep, shrieking. Then I, thrusting arms
To grasp her, touch’d her with hot hands that clung
Like burrs to the soft skin; while, writhing down
Even as a fountain lessens gurglingly,
She cried to Artemis, “Artemis, Artemis,
Sweet goddess, Artemis, aid me, Artemis!”
And o’er the laurels on the river-side,
Dark and low-fluttering, Daphne’s hidden soul
Breathed fearful hoar-frost, echoing “Artemis”;
When lo, above the sandy sunset rose 54
The silver sickle of the green-gown’d witch
Which flicker’d thrice into a pallid orb,
And thrice flash’d white across the forest leaves,
And—lo, the change ye wot of: melting limbs
Black’ning to oozy sap of reeds, white hands
Waving aloft and putting forth green shoots,
The faint breath-bubbles circling in a pool,
Last, the sharp voice’s murmur dying away
In the low lapping of the rippling pool,
The melancholy motion of the pool,
And the faint undertone of whispering reeds.
By Latmos and its shepherd, was it well?
By smooth-chinn’d Syrinx, was it well, O gods?
Yet mark. What time the pallid sickle wax’d
Blue-edged and luminous o’er the black’ning west,
I, looming hideous in the smooth pool, stooped
And pluck’d seven wondrous pipes of brittle reeds
Wherein the wood-nymph’s soul still flutter’d faint;
And these seven pipes I shaped to one, wherein
I, Pan, with ancient and dejected head
Nodding above its image in the pool,
And large limbs stretch’d their length on shadowy banks, 55
Did breathe such weird and awful ravishment,
Such symmetry of sadness and sweet sound,
Such murmurs of deep boughs and hollow cells,
That neither bright Apollo’s hair-strung lute,
Nor Heré’s queenly tongue when her red lips
Flutter to intercession of love-thoughts
Throned in the counsel-keeping eyes of Zeus,
Nor airs from heaven, blow sweetlier. Hear me, gods!
Behind her veil of azure, Artemis
Turn’d pale and listen’d; mountains, woods, and streams,
And every mute and living thing therein,
Marvell’d, and hush’d themselves to hear the end—
Yea, far away, the fringe of the green sea
Caught the faint sound and with a deeper moan
Rounded the pebbles on the shadowy shore.
Whence, in the season of the pensive eve,
The earth plumes down her weary, weary wings;
The Hours, each frozen in his mazy dance,
Look scared upon the stars and seem to stand
Stone-still, like chisell’d angels mocking Time;
And woods and streams and mountains, beasts and birds,
And serious hearts of purblind men, are hush’d;
While music sweeter far than any dream 56
Floats from the far-off silence, where I sit
Wondrously wov’n about with forest boughs—
Through which the moon peeps faintly, on whose leaves
The unseen stars sprinkle a diamond dew—
And shadow’d in some water that not flows,
But, pausing, spreads dark waves as smooth as oil
Am I over-garrulous, gods?
Thou pale-faced witch, green-kirtled,—thou whose light
Troubles the beardless shepherd where he sleeps
On Latmos,—am I over-garrulous?
Nay, then, pale huntress of my groves, I swear
The lily and the primrose ’neath thy heel
Savour as fair as thee, as pure as thee,
Drinking the lucid glamour of thy speed;
And on the cheeks of marriageable maids
Dwelleth a pallor enviably sweet,
Sweet as thy sweetest self, yet robb’d from thee.
Snow-bosom’d lady, art thou proud?—Then hark . .
When last in the cool quiet of the night
Thou glimmeredst dimly down with thy white nymphs,
And brush’d these dewy lawns with buskin’d foot,
I, Pan the scorn’d, into an oak-tree crept, 57
And holding between thumb and finger—thus—
A tiny acorn, dropt it cunningly
In the small nest beneath thy snow-heap’d breasts,
And thou didst pause in tumult, cried aloud,
Then redden’d like a rose from breast to brow,
Sharp-crimson like a rose from breast to brow,
And trembled, aspen-hearted, timorous
As new-yean’d lambs, and with a young doe’s cry
Startled amazed from thine own tremulous shade
Faint-mirror’d in the dark and dewy lawn!
Ha, turn your mild grand eyes, O gods, and hear!
Why do I murmur darkly, do ye ask?
What do I seek for, yearn for?—Why, not much.
I would be milky-limb’d and straight and tall
And pleasant-featured, like Apollo there!
I would be lithe and fair as Hermes is;
And, with that glittering sheath of god-like form,
Trust me, could find for it a wit as keen
As that which long ago did prick and pain
The thin skin of the Sun-god. I would be
Grand and fine-statured as becomes a god,
A sight divine conceived harmoniously, 58
A stately incarnation of my sweet
Pipings in lonely places. There’s the worm!
Ay, ay, the mood is on me—I am aged,
White-bearded, and my very lifted hands
Shake garrulously—and ye hear, and smile.
By the faint undertone of this blind Earth,
Swooning towards the pathway of the Sun
With flowery pulses, leafy veins, whene’er
She hears in intercession of new births
My voice miraculous melancholy old,—
I swear not I alone, a sensible god,
Shall keep these misproportions, worse than beast’s;
While woods and streams, and all that dwell therein,
And merest flowers, and the starr’d coils of snakes,
Yea, purblind mortal men, inhale from heaven
Such dews as give them heavenly seemliness,
Communicably lovely as the shapes
That doze on high Olumpos.
Is it well?
Ye who compel the very clouds to forms
Beauteous and purely beauteous, ere my rain
Rends their white vestments into flowers to make 59
My peaceful vales look lovely,—gods, great gods,
I ask ye, is it well?—Ye answer not.
But Earth has answer’d, and all things that grow,
All things that live, all things that feel or see
The interchanges of the sun and moon;
And with a yearning palpable and dumb,
Yet conscious of some glory yet unborn,
Of unfulfillëd mysteries, I, Pan,
In the time to come,—in years
Across whose vast I wearily impel
These ancient, blear’d, and humble-lidded eyes,—
Some law more strong than I, yet part of me,
Some power more piteous, yet a part of me,
Shall hurl ye from Olumpos to the depths,
And bruise ye back to that great darkness whence
Ye blossom’d thick as flowers; while I—I, Pan—
The ancient haunting shadow of dim earths,
Shall slough this form of beast, this wrinkled length,
Yea, cast it from my feet as one who shakes
A worthless garment off; and lo, beneath,
Mild-featured manhood, manhood eminent,
Subdued into the glory of a god, 60
Sheer harmony of body and of soul,
Wondrous, and inconceivably divine.
Wherefore, ye gods, with this my prophecy
I sadden those sweet sounds I pipe unseen.
From dimly lonely places float the sounds
To haunt the regions of the homeless air,
Whatever changeful season ye vouchsafe
To all broad worlds which, hearing, whisper, “Pan!”
And thence they reach the hearts of lonely men,
Who wearily bear the burthen and are pain’d
To utterance of fond prophetic song,
Who singing smile, because the song is sweet,
Who die, because they cannot sing the end.
It is my care to keep the graves of such
Thick-strewn and deep with grass and precious flowers
Such as ye slumber on; and to those graves,
In sable vestments, ever comes the ghost
Of my forgot and dumb eternity,
Mnemosyne; but what she broods on there
I know not, nor can any wholly know,
Mortal or god. The seasons come and go, 61
In their due season perish rocks and trees,
In their due season are the streams drain’d dry;
Earth dumbly changes, and those lonely men,
Less blind than purblind mortals, sing and die;
But still, with hooded and dejected head,
Above those graves ponders Mnemosyne;
While I remain to pipe my ditties old,
And my new prophecy, in ancient woods
And by the margins of unfortunate pools,—
My wondrous music dying afar away
Upon the fringes of the setting sun.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 47, l. iv: Who meditate your forms and find them fair—
Page 50, l. x: I, stirring in this ancient dream of mine,
A slightly revised version of ’Pan’ was published in The Poetical Works Vol. I (London: H. S. King & Co., 1874).]
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