Friday, July 29, 2011

Lines Written in a Blank Page of Milton's Paradise Lost

This happy pair a certain bliss might prove,
Confin'd to constancy and mutual love:
Heaven to one object limited their vows,
The only safety faithless Nature knows.
God saw the wand'ring appetite would range,
And would have kept them from the pow'r to change;
But falsehood, soon as man increas'd, began;
Down through the race the swift contagion ran,
All ranks are tainted, all deceitful prove,
False in all shapes, but doubly false in love.
This makes the censure of the world more just,
That damns with shame the weakness of a trust!
Ere change began, our sex no scandal knew,
All nymphs were chaste as long as swains were true;
But now, tho' by the subtlest art betray'd,
We're so by custom and false maxims sway'd
That infamy still brands the injur'd maid.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Love Song

Lovers eminent in love
Ever diversities combine;
The vocal chords of the cushat-dove,
The snake's articulated spine.

Such elective elements
Educate the eye and lip
With one's refreshing innocence,
The other's claim to scholarship.

The serpent's knowledge of the world
Learn, and the dove's more naïve charm;
Whether your ringlets should be curled,
And why he likes his claret warm.

Elinor Morton Wylie

Song to a Fair Young Lady

Ask not the cause why sullen Spring
So long delays her flowers to bear;
Why warbling birds forget to sing,
And winter storms invert the year:
Chloris is gone; and fate provides
To make it Spring where she resides.

Chloris is gone, the cruel fair;
She cast not back a pitying eye:
But left her lover in despair
To sigh, to languish, and to die:
Ah! how can those fair eyes endure
To give the wounds they will not cure?

Great God of Love, why hast thou made
A face that can all hearts command,
That all religions can invade,
And change the laws of every land?
Where thou hadst placed such power before,
Thou shouldst have made her mercy more.

When Chloris to the temple comes,
Adoring crowds before her fall;
She can restore the dead from tombs
And every life but mine recall,
I only am by Love designed
To be the victim for mankind.

John Dryden


UNFELT unheard, unseen,
I've left my little queen,
Her languid arms in silver slumber lying:
Ah! through their nestling touch,
Who---who could tell how much
There is for madness---cruel, or complying?

Those faery lids how sleek!
Those lips how moist!---they speak,
In ripest quiet, shadows of sweet sounds:
Into my fancy's ear
Melting a burden dear,
How "Love doth know no fulness, nor no bounds."

True!---tender monitors!
I bend unto your laws:
This sweetest day for dalliance was born!
So, without more ado,
I'll feel my heaven anew,
For all the blushing of the hasty morn.

John Keats

The Ship That Found Herself

We now, held in captivity,
Spring to our bondage nor grieve--
See now, how it is blesseder,
Brothers, to give than receive!
Keep trust, wherefore we were made,
Paying the debt that we owe;
For a clean thrust, and the shear of the blade,
Will carry us where would go.

Rudyard Kipling

Again—his voice is at the door

Again—his voice is at the door—
I feel the old Degree—
I hear him ask the servant
For such an one—as me—

I take a flower—as I go—
My face to justify—
He never saw me—in this life—
I might surprise his eye!

I cross the Hall with mingled steps—
I—silent—pass the door—
I look on all this world contains—
Just his face—nothing more!

We talk in careless—and it toss—
A kind of plummet strain—
The other's one—had been—

We walk—I leave my Dog—at home—
A tender—thoughtful Moon—
Goes with us—just a little way—
And—then—we are alone—

Alone—if Angels are "alone"—
First time they try the sky!
Alone—if those "veiled faces"—be—
We cannot count—on High!

I'd give—to live that hour—again—
The purple—in my Vein—
But He must count the drops—himself—
My price for every stain!

Emily Dickinson

The Bitter Love-Song

No, I shall not say why it is that I love you—
Why do you ask me, save for vanity?
Surely you would not have me, like a mirror,
Say 'yes,—your hair curls darkly back from the temples,
Your mouth has a humorous, tremulous, half-shy sweetness,
Your eyes are April grey. . . .with jonquils in them?'
No, if I tell at all, I shall tell in silence . . .
I'll say—my childhood broke through chords of music
—Or were they chords of sun?—wherein fell shadows,
Or silences; I rose through seas of sunlight;
Or sometimes found a darkness stooped above me
With wings of death, and a face of cold clear beauty. .
I lay in the warm sweet grass on a blue May morning,
My chin in a dandelion, my hands in clover,
And drowsed there like a bee. . . .blue days behind me
Stretched like a chain of deep blue pools of magic,
Enchanted, silent, timeless. . . .days before me
Murmured of blue-sea mornings, noons of gold,
Green evenings streaked with lilac, bee-starred nights.
Confused soft clouds of music fled above me.

Sharp shafts of music dazzled my eyes and pierced me.
I ran and turned and spun and danced in the sunlight,
Shrank, sometimes, from the freezing silence of beauty,
Or crept once more to the warm white cave of sleep.

No, I shall not say 'this is why I praise you—
Because you say such wise things, or such foolish. . .'
You would not have me say what you know better?
Let me instead be silent, only saying—:
My childhood lives in me—or half-lives, rather—
And, if I close my eyes cool chords of music
Flow up to me . . . long chords of wind and sunlight. . . .
Shadows of intricate vines on sunlit walls,
Deep bells beating, with aeons of blue between them,
Grass blades leagues apart with worlds between them,
Walls rushing up to heaven with stars upon them. . .
I lay in my bed and through the tall night window
Saw the green lightning plunging among the clouds,
And heard the harsh rain storm at the panes and roof. . . .
How should I know—how should I now remember—
What half-dreamed great wings curved and sang above me?
What wings like swords? What eyes with the dread night in them?

This I shall say.—I lay by the hot white sand-dunes. .
Small yellow flowers, sapless and squat and spiny,
Stared at the sky. And silently there above us
Day after day, beyond our dreams and knowledge,
Presences swept, and over us streamed their shadows,
Swift and blue, or dark. . . .What did they mean?
What sinister threat of power? What hint of beauty?
Prelude to what gigantic music, or subtle?
Only I know these things leaned over me,
Brooded upon me, paused, went flowing softly,
Glided and passed. I loved, I desired, I hated,
I struggled, I yielded and loved, was warmed to blossom . . .
You, when your eyes have evening sunlight in them,
Set these dunes before me, these salt bright flowers,
These presences. . . .I drowse, they stream above me,
I struggle, I yield and love, I am warmed to dream.

You are the window (if I could tell I'd tell you)
Through which I see a clear far world of sunlight.
You are the silence (if you could hear you'd hear me)
In which I remember a thin still whisper of singing.
It is not you I laugh for, you I touch!
My hands, that touch you, suddenly touch white cobwebs,
Coldly silvered, heavily silvered with dewdrops;
And clover, heavy with rain; and cold green grass. . .

Conrad Potter Aiken

His Parting From Her

SINCE she must go, and I must mourn, come night,
Environ me with darkness, whilst I write ;
Shadow that hell unto me, which alone
I am to suffer when my love is gone.
Alas ! the darkest magic cannot do it,
Thou and great hell, to boot, are shadows to it.
Should Cynthia quit thee, Venus, and each star,
It would not form one thought dark as mine are.
I could lend them obscureness now, and say
Out of my self, there should be no more day.
Such is already my self-want of sight,
Did not the fire within me force a light.
O Love, that fire and darkness should be mix'd,
Or to thy triumphs such strange torments fix'd !
Is it because thou thyself art blind, that we,
Thy martyrs, must no more each other see ?
Or takest thou pride to break us on the wheel,
And view old Chaos in the pains we feel ?
Or have we left undone some mutual rite,
That thus with parting thou seek'st us to spite ?
No, no. The fault is mine, impute it to me,
Or rather to conspiring destiny,
Which, since I loved in jest before, decreed
That I should suffer, when I loved indeed ;
And therefore, sooner now than I can say,
I saw the golden fruit, 'tis rapt away ;
Or as I'd watch'd one drop in the vast stream,
And I left wealthy only in a dream.
Yet, Love, thou'rt blinder than myself in this,
To vex my dove-like friend for my amiss ;
And where one sad truth may expiate
Thy wrath, to make her fortune run my fate.
So blinded justice doth, when favourites fall,
Strike them, their house, their friends, their favourites all.
Was't not enough that thou didst dart thy fires
Into our bloods, inflaming our desires,
And madest us sigh, and blow, and pant, and burn,
And then thyself into our flames didst turn ?
Was't not enough that thou didst hazard us
To paths in love so dark and dangerous,
And those so ambush'd round with household spies,
And over all thy husband's towering eyes,
Inflamed with th' ugly sweat of jealousy ;
Yet went we not still on in constancy ?
Have we for this kept guards, like spy on spy ?
Had correspondence whilst the foe stood by ?
Stolen, more to sweeten them, our many blisses
Of meetings, conference, embracements, kisses ?
Shadow'd with negligence our best respects ?
Varied our language through all dialects
Of becks, winks, looks, and often under boards
Spoke dialogues with our feet far from our words ?
Have we proved all the secrets of our art,
Yea, thy pale inwards, and thy panting heart ?
And, after all this passed purgatory,
Must sad divorce make us the vulgar story ?
First let our eyes be riveted quite through
Our turning brain, and both our lips grow to ;
Let our arms clasp like ivy, and our fear
Freeze us together, that we may stick here,
Till Fortune, that would ruin us with the deed,
Strain his eyes open, and yet make them bleed.
For Love it cannot be, whom hitherto
I have accused, should such a mischief do.
O Fortune, thou'rt not worth my least exclaim,
And plague enough thou hast in thy own name.
Do thy great worst ; my friend and I have charms,
Though not against thy strokes, against thy harms.
Rend us in sunder ; thou canst not divide
Our bodies so, but that our souls are tied,
And we can love by letters still and gifts,
And thoughts and dreams ; love never wanteth shifts.
I will not look upon the quickening sun,
But straight her beauty to my sense shall run ;
The air shall note her soft, the fire, most pure ;
Waters suggest her clear, and the earth sure.
Time shall not lose our passages ; the spring,
How fresh our love was in the beginning ;
The summer, how it ripen'd in the year ;
And autumn, what our golden harvests were ;
The winter I'll not think on to spite thee,
But count it a lost season ; so shall she.
And dearest friend, since we must part, drown night
With hope of day—burdens well borne are light— ;
The cold and darkness longer hang somewhere,
Yet Phoebus equally lights all the sphere ;
And what we cannot in like portion pay
The world enjoys in mass, and so we may.
Be then ever yourself, and let no woe
Win on your health, your youth, your beauty ; so
Declare yourself base Fortune's enemy,
No less be your contempt than her inconstancy ;
That I may grow enamour'd on your mind,
When mine own thoughts I here neglected find.
And this to the comfort of my dear I vow,
My deeds shall still be what my deeds are now ;
The poles shall move to teach me ere I start ;
And when I change my love, I'll change my heart.
Nay, if I wax but cold in my desire,
Think, heaven hath motion lost, and the world, fire.
Much more I could, but many words have made
That oft suspected which men most persuade.
Take therefore all in this ; I love so true,
As I will never look for less in you.

John Donne

Esther, A Sonnet Sequence: XXXIII

Such was the legend. I had read it through
Twice ere I thought of thinking what it meant.
And as I turned with a sigh because I knew
That I alone perhaps of all who went
Homewards that night should bid good--night to none,
From a side door thrust open on the street
And calling as she passed in petulant tone
To one within who seemed to rouse her heat,
``Ah, mauvais plaisant!'' ere she slammed it to,
Out stepped my little woman of the Fair.
Her face was altered, but its form and hue,
If I had doubted in the moonlight there,
Was marked for me by that unaltered sign,
The little scar, its beauty's underline.

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Two ways

There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.

Alfred Korzybski


Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do.

Dale Carnegie

Never loose

What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose.

Henry Ward Beecher


To be brief is almost a condition of being inspired.

Santayana, George

Be smart

Be smart, but never show it.

Mayer, Louis B

Garden of roses

When you whirl, your eye sees the room whirling, too.
If you sail in a ship over the sea,
it seems the seashore is running past.
If your heart is oppressed with struggle,
the whole atmosphere of the world feels tight;
but if you are happy as your friends would wish,
this world seems to be a garden of roses.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

For Once, Then, Something

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost

Night Songs


Now, as I sink in sleep,
My heart is cut down,
Nothing—poetry nor love—


Turns again in my room,
The crippled leopard.
Paw-pad, configured
Yellow light of his eyes,
Pass, repass, repass.
Quiet, my hand; he is tame.
Soon, while I dream, will step
And stir the sunken dawn.


Before I woke there entered in
A woman with a golden skin
That tangled with the light.
A tang of orchards climbed the stair
And dwindled in the waxen air,
Crisping the midnight,
And the white pillows of my bed
On apple-tasted darkness fed.
Weakened with appetite
Sleep broke like a dish wherein
A woman lay with golden skin.

Thomas Kinsella

Esther, A Sonnet Sequence: XXXII

I had stopped to read a handbill of the play,
Caught by the lettering. Thus it was I read,
``Programme of this night's pieces, Saturday
The twentieth of October, `X. Y. Z.,'
A piece in one act, and `Les Bergers Fous,'
These to be followed by the well--known `drame'
Of `Manon Lescaut,' here brought out anew
For the first time at Lyons.'' And a name
Followed in giant type of one who then
Illustrious stood in all the world of folly,
The most sublime Comedian known to men,
``Mademoiselle Esther, Muse of Melancholy.''
She in her part of Manon, so 'twas writ,
Three nights would play in honour infinite.

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Elegy XII

COME Fates ; I fear you not ! All whom I owe
Are paid, but you ; then 'rest me ere I go.
But Chance from you all sovereignty hath got ;
Love woundeth none but those whom Death dares not ;
True if you were, and just in equity,
I should have vanquish'd her, as you did me ;
Else lovers should not brave Death's pains, and live ;
But 'tis a rule, “ Death comes not to relieve.”
Or, pale and wan Death's terrors, are they laid
So deep in lovers, they make Death afraid ?
Or—the least comfort—have I company ?
O'ercame she Fates, Love, Death, as well as me ?
Yes, Fates do silk unto her distaff pay,
For ransom, which tax they on us do lay.
Love gives her youth—which is the reason why
Youths, for her sake, some wither and some die.
Poor Death can nothing give ; yet, for her sake,
Still in her turn, he doth a lover take.
And if Death should prove false, she fears him not ;
Our Muses, to redeem her, she hath got.
That fatal night we last kiss'd, I thus pray'd,
—Or rather, thus despair'd, I should have said—
Kisses, and yet despair ! The forbid tree
Did promise (and deceive) no more than she.
Like lambs, that see their teats, and must eat hay,
A food, whose taste hath made me pine away.
Dives, when thou saw'st bliss, and craved'st to touch
A drop of water, thy great pains were such.
Here grief wants a fresh wit, for mine being spent,
And my sighs weary, groans are all my rent.
Unable longer to endure the pain,
They break like thunder, and do bring down rain.
Thus till dry tear solder my eye, I weep ;
And then, I dream, how you securely sleep,
And in your dreams do laugh at me. I hate,
And pray Love all may ; he pities my state,
But says, I therein no revenge shall find ;
The sun would shine, though all the world were blind.
Yet, to try my hate, Love show'd me your tear ;
And I had died, had not your smile been there.
Your frown undoes me ; your smile is my wealth ;
And as you please to look, I have my health.
Methought, Love pitying me, when he saw this,
Gave me your hands, the backs and palms to kiss.
That cured me not, but to bear pain gave strength ;
And what is lost in force, is took in length.
I call'd on Love again, who fear'd you so,
That his compassion still proved greater woe ;
For, then I dream'd I was in bed with you,
But durst not feel, for fear it should not be true.
This merits not your anger, had it been ;
The queen of chastity was naked seen ;
And in bed not to feel, the pain I took,
Was more than for Actæon not to look ;
And that breast which lay ope, I did not know,
But for the clearness, from a lump of snow ;
Nor that sweet teat which on the top it bore
From the rose-bud which for my sake you wore.
These griefs to issue forth, by verse I prove ;
Or turn their course by travel and new love.
All would not do ; the best at last I tried ;
Unable longer to hold out, I died.
And then I found I lost life, death by flying ;
Who hundreds live, are but so long in dying.
Charon did let me pass ; I'll him requite.
To mark the groves or shades wrongs my delight ;
I'll speak but of those ghosts I found alone,
Those thousand ghosts, whereof myself made one,
All images of thee ; I asked them why ?
The judge told me, all they for thee did die,
And therefore had for their Elysian bliss,
In one another their own loves to kiss.
O here I miss'd not blissh, but being dead ;
For lo ! I dreamt, I dreamt, and waking said,
“ Heaven, if who are in thee there must dwell,
How is't I now was there, and now I fell ?”

John Donne

Counterpoint: Two Rooms

He, in the room above, grown old and tired,
She, in the room below—his floor her ceiling—
Pursue their separate dreams. He turns his light,
And throws himself on the bed, face down, in laughter. . . .
She, by the window, smiles at a starlight night,

His watch—the same he has heard these cycles of ages—
Wearily chimes at seconds beneath his pillow.
The clock, upon her mantelpiece, strikes nine.
The night wears on. She hears dull steps above her.
The world whirs on. . . .New stars come up to shine.

His youth—far off—he sees it brightly walking
In a golden cloud. . . .Wings flashing about it. . . . Darkness
Walls it around with dripping enormous walls.
Old age—far off—her death—what do they matter?
Down the smooth purple night a streaked star falls.

She hears slow steps in the street—they chime like music;
They climb to her heart, they break and flower in beauty,
Along her veins they glisten and ring and burn. . . .
He hears his own slow steps tread down to silence.
Far off they pass. He knows they will never return.

Far off—on a smooth dark road—he hears them faintly.
The road, like a sombre river, quietly flowing,
Moves among murmurous walls. A deeper breath
Swells them to sound: he hears his steps more clearly.
And death seems nearer to him: or he to death.

What's death?—She smiles. The cool stone hurts her elbows.
The last of the rain-drops gather and fall from elm-boughs,
She sees them glisten and break. The arc-lamp sings,
The new leaves dip in the warm wet air and fragrance.
A sparrow whirs to the eaves, and shakes his wings.

What's death—what's death? The spring returns like music,
The trees are like dark lovers who dream in starlight,
The soft grey clouds go over the stars like dreams.
The cool stone wounds her arms to pain, to pleasure.
Under the lamp a circle of wet street gleams. . . .
And death seems far away, a thing of roses,
A golden portal, where golden music closes,
Death seems far away:
And spring returns, the countless singing of lovers,
And spring returns to stay. . . .

He, in the room above, grown old and tired,
Flings himself on the bed, face down, in laughter,
And clenches his hands, and remembers, and desires to die.
And she, by the window, smiles at a night of starlight.
. . . The soft grey clouds go slowly across the sky.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Upon A Venerable Rival

Full thirty frosts since thou wert young
Have chilled the withered grove,
Thou wretch! and hast thou lived so long,
Nor yet forgot to love?

Ye sages! spite of your pretences
To wisdom, you must own
Your folly frequently commences
When you acknowledge none.

Not that I deem it weak to love,
Or folly to admire;
But ah! the pangs we lovers prove
Far other years require.

Unheeded on the youthful brow
The beams of Phoebus play;
But unsupported age stoops low
Beneath the sultry ray.

For once, then, if untutored youth,
Youth unapproved by years,
May chance to deviate into truth,
When your experience errs;

For once attempt not to despise
What I esteem a rule:
Who early loves, though young, is wise,--
Who old, though gray, a fool.

William Cowper

After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes

After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Toombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--

This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--

Emily Dickinson

The Sea-Wife

There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
And a wealthy wife is she;
She breeds a breed o' rovin' men
And casts them over sea.

And some are drowned in deep water,
And some in sight o' shore,
And word goes back to the weary wife
And ever she sends more.

For since that wife had gate or gear,
Or hearth or garth or bield,
She willed her sons to the white harvest,
And that is a bitter yield.

She wills her sons to the wet ploughing,
To ride the horse of tree,
And syne her sons come back again
Far-spent from out the sea.

The good wife's sons come home again
With little into their hands,
But the lore of men that ha' dealt with men
In the new and naked lands;

But the faith of men that ha' brothered men
By more than easy breath,
And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men
In the open books of death.

Rich are they, rich in wonders seen,
But poor in the goods o' men;
So what they ha' got by the skin o' their teeth
They sell for their teeth again.

For whether they lose to the naked life
Or win to their hearts' desire,
They tell it all to the weary wife
That nods beside the fire.

Her hearth is wide to every wind
That makes the white ash spin;
And tide and tide and 'tween the tides
Her sons go out and in;

(Out with great mirth that do desire
Hazard of trackless ways,
In with content to wait their watch
And warm before the blaze);

And some return by failing light,
And some in waking dream,
For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts
That ride the rough roof-beam.

Home, they come home from all the ports,
The living and the dead;
The good wife's sons come home again
For her blessing on their head!

Rudyard Kipling

Lamia. Part II

Love in a hut, with water and a crust,
Is—Love, forgive us!—cinders, ashes, dust;
Love in a palace is perhaps at last
More grievous torment than a hermit’s fast:—
That is a doubtful tale from faery land,
Hard for the non-elect to understand.
Had Lycius liv’d to hand his story down,
He might have given the moral a fresh frown,
Or clench’d it quite: but too short was their bliss
To breed distrust and hate, that make the soft voice hiss.
Besides, there, nightly, with terrific glare,
Love, jealous grown of so complete a pair,
Hover’d and buzz’d his wings, with fearful roar,
Above the lintel of their chamber door,
And down the passage cast a glow upon the floor.

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 buzzing in his head.
For the first time, since first he harbour’d in
That purple-lined palace of sweet sin,
His spirit pass’d beyond its golden bourn
Into the noisy world almost forsworn.
The lady, ever watchful, penetrant,
Saw this with pain, so arguing a want
Of something more, more than her empery
Of joys; and she began to moan and sigh
Because he mused beyond her, knowing well
That but a moment’s thought is passion’s passing bell.
“Why do you sigh, fair creature?” whisper’d he:
“Why do you think?” return’d she tenderly:
“You have deserted me;—where am I now?
“Not in your heart while care weighs on your brow:
“No, no, you have dismiss’d me; and I go
“From your breast houseless: ay, it must be so.”
He answer’d, bending to her open eyes,
Where he was mirror’d small in paradise,
“My silver planet, both of eve and morn!
“Why will you plead yourself so sad forlorn,
“While I am striving how to fill my heart
“With deeper crimson, and a double smart?
“How to entangle, trammel up and snare
“Your soul in mine, and labyrinth you there
“Like the hid scent in an unbudded rose?
“Ay, a sweet kiss—you see your mighty woes.
“My thoughts! shall I unveil them? Listen then!
“What mortal hath a prize, that other men
“May be confounded and abash’d withal,
“But lets it sometimes pace abroad majestical,
“And triumph, as in thee I should rejoice
“Amid the hoarse alarm of Corinth’s voice.
“Let my foes choke, and my friends shout afar,
“While through the thronged streets your bridal car
“Wheels round its dazzling spokes.”—The lady’s cheek
Trembled; she nothing said, but, pale and meek,
Arose and knelt before him, wept a rain
Of sorrows at his words; at last with pain
Beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung,
To change his purpose. He thereat was stung,
Perverse, with stronger fancy to reclaim
Her wild and timid nature to his aim:
Besides, for all his love, in self despite,
Against his better self, he took delight
Luxurious in her sorrows, soft and new.
His passion, cruel grown, took on a hue
Fierce and sanguineous as ’twas possible
In one whose brow had no dark veins to swell.
Fine was the mitigated fury, like
Apollo’s presence when in act to strike
The serpent—Ha, the serpent! certes, she
Was none. She burnt, she lov’d the tyranny,
And, all subdued, consented to the hour
When to the bridal he should lead his paramour.
Whispering in midnight silence, said the youth,
“Sure some sweet name thou hast, though, by my truth,
“I have not ask’d it, ever thinking thee
“Not mortal, but of heavenly progeny,
“As still I do. Hast any mortal name,
“Fit appellation for this dazzling frame?
“Or friends or kinsfolk on the citied earth,
“To share our marriage feast and nuptial mirth?”
“I have no friends,” said Lamia, “no, not one;
“My presence in wide Corinth hardly known:
“My parents’ bones are in their dusty urns
“Sepulchred, where no kindled incense burns,
“Seeing all their luckless race are dead, save me,
“And I neglect the holy rite for thee.
“Even as you list invite your many guests;
“But if, as now it seems, your vision rests
“With any pleasure on me, do not bid
“Old Apollonius—from him keep me hid.”
Lycius, perplex’d at words so blind and blank,
Made close inquiry; from whose touch she shrank,
Feigning a sleep; and he to the dull shade
Of deep sleep in a moment was betray’d.

It was the custom then to bring away
The bride from home at blushing shut of day,
Veil’d, 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 a stream 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, gaz’d 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, maz’d, curious and keen:
Save one, who look’d thereon with eye severe,
And with calm-planted steps walk’d in austere;
’Twas 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:—’twas just as he foresaw.

He met within the murmurous vestibule
His young disciple. “’Tis 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-swerv’d upon the soft
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
On 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 antichamber every guest
Had felt the cold full sponge to pleasure press’d,
By minist’ring slaves, upon his hands and feet,
And fragrant oils with ceremony meet
Pour’d on his hair, they all mov’d 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 spring.

Soft went the music the soft air along,
While fluent Greek a vowel’d undersong
Kept up among the guests discoursing low
At first, for scarcely was the wine at flow;
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, nectarous 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
Of every guest; that each, as he did please,
Might fancy-fit his brows, silk-pillow’d at his ease.

What wreath for Lamia? What for Lycius?
What for the sage, old Apollonius?
Upon her aching forehead be there hung
The leaves of willow and of adder’s tongue;
And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him
The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim
Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage,
Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.

By her glad Lycius sitting, in chief place,
Scarce saw in all the room another face,
Till, checking his love trance, a cup he took
Full brimm’d, and opposite sent forth a look
’Cross the broad table, to beseech a glance
From his old teacher’s wrinkled countenance,
And pledge him. The bald-head philosopher
Had fix’d his eye, without a twinkle or stir
Full on the alarmed beauty of the bride,
Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride.
Lycius then press’d her hand, with devout touch,
As pale it lay upon the rosy couch:
’Twas icy, and the cold ran through his veins;
Then sudden it grew hot, and all the pains
Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart.
“Lamia, what means this? Wherefore dost thou start?
“Know’st thou that man?” Poor Lamia answer’d not.
He gaz’d into her eyes, and not a jot
Own’d they the lovelorn piteous appeal:
More, more he gaz’d: his human senses reel:
Some hungry spell that loveliness absorbs;
There was no recognition in those orbs.
“Lamia!” he cried—and no soft-toned reply.
The many heard, and the loud revelry
Grew hush; the stately music no more breathes;
The myrtle sicken’d in a thousand wreaths.
By faint degrees, voice, lute, and pleasure ceased;
A deadly silence step by step increased,
Until it seem’d a horrid presence there,
And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
“Lamia!” he shriek’d; and nothing but the shriek
With its sad echo did the silence break.
“Begone, foul dream!” he cried, gazing again
In the bride’s face, where now no azure vein
Wander’d on fair-spaced temples; no soft bloom
Misted the cheek; no passion to illume
The deep-recessed vision:—all was blight;
Lamia, no longer fair, there sat a deadly white.
“Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man!
“Turn them aside, wretch! or the righteous ban
“Of all the Gods, whose dreadful images
“Here represent their shadowy presences,
“May pierce them on the sudden with the thorn
“Of painful blindness; leaving thee forlorn,
“In trembling dotage to the feeblest fright
“Of conscience, for their long offended might,
“For all thine impious proud-heart sophistries,
“Unlawful magic, and enticing lies.
“Corinthians! look upon that gray-beard wretch!
“Mark how, possess’d, his lashless eyelids stretch
“Around his demon eyes! Corinthians, see!
“My sweet bride withers at their potency.”
“Fool!” said the sophist, in an under-tone
Gruff with contempt; which a death-nighing moan
From Lycius answer’d, as heart-struck and lost,
He sank supine beside the aching ghost.
“Fool! Fool!” repeated he, while his eyes still
Relented not, nor mov’d; “from every ill
“Of life have I preserv’d thee to this day,
“And shall I see thee made a serpent’s prey?
Then Lamia breath’d death breath; the sophist’s eye,
Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging: she, as well
As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
Motion’d him to be silent; vainly so,
He look’d and look’d again a level--No!
“A Serpent!” echoed he; no sooner said,
Than with a frightful scream she vanished:
And Lycius’ arms were empty of delight,
As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
On the high couch he lay!—his friends came round--
Supported him—no pulse, or breath they found,
And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound.

John Keats