(4TH AUGUST 1892)
Within a narrow span of time, Three princes of the realm of rhyme, At height of youth or manhood's prime, From earth took wing, To join the fellowship sublime Who, dead, yet sing.
He, first, his earliest wreath who wove Of laurel grown in Latmian grove, Conquered by pain and hapless love Found calmer home, Roofed by the heaven that glows above Eternal Rome.
A fierier soul, its own fierce prey, And cumbered with more mortal clay, At Missolonghi flamed away, And left the air Reverberating to this day Its loud despair.
Alike remote from Byron's scorn, And Keats's magic as of morn Bursting for ever newly-born On forests old, Waking a hoary world forlorn With touch of gold,
Shelley, the cloud-begot, who grew Nourished on air and sun and dew, Into that Essence whence he drew His life and lyre Was fittingly resolved anew Through wave and fire.
'Twas like his rapid soul! 'Twas meet That he, who brooked not Time's slow feet, With passage thus abrupt and fleet Should hurry hence, Eager the Great Perhaps to greet With Why? and Whence?
Impatient of the world's fixed way, He ne'er could suffer God's delay, But all the future in a day Would build divine, And the whole past in ruins lay, An emptied shrine.
Vain vision! but the glow, the fire, The passion of benign desire, The glorious yearning, lift him higher Than many a soul That mounts a million paces nigher Its meaner goal.
And power is his, if naught besides, In that thin ether where he rides, Above the roar of human tides To ascend afar, Lost in a storm of light that hides His dizzy car.
Below, the unhastening world toils on, And here and there are victories won, Some dragon slain, some justice done, While, through the skies, A meteor rushing on the sun, He flares and dies.
But, as he cleaves yon ether clear Notes from the unattempted Sphere He scatters to the enchanted ear Of earth's dim throng, Whose dissonance doth more endear The showering song.
In other shapes than he forecast The world is moulded: his fierce blast,— His wild assault upon the Past,— These things are vain; Revolt is transient: what must last Is that pure strain,
Which seems the wandering voices blent Of every virgin element,— A sound from ocean caverns sent,— An airy call From the pavilioned firmament O'erdoming all.
And in this world of worldlings, where Souls rust in apathy, and ne'er A great emotion shakes the air, And life flags tame, And rare is noble impulse, rare The impassioned aim,
'Tis no mean fortune to have heard A singer who, if errors blurred His sight, had yet a spirit stirred By vast desire, And ardour fledging the swift word With plumes of fire.
A creature of impetuous breath, Our torpor deadlier than death He knew not; whatsoe'er he saith Flashes with life: He spurreth men, he quickeneth To splendid strife.
And in his gusts of song he brings Wild odours shaken from strange wings, And unfamiliar whisperings From far lips blown, While all the rapturous heart of things Throbs through his own,—
His own that from the burning pyre One who had loved his wind-swept lyre Out of the sharp teeth of the fire Unmolten drew, Beside the sea that in her ire Smote him and slew.
A GOLDEN HOUR
A beckoning spirit of gladness seemed afloat, That lightly danced in laughing air before us: The earth was all in tune, and you a note Of Nature's happy chorus.
'Twas like a vernal morn, yet overhead The leafless boughs across the lane were knitting: The ghost of some forgotten Spring, we said, O'er Winter's world comes flitting.
Or was it Spring herself, that, gone astray, Beyond the alien frontier chose to tarry? Or but some bold outrider of the May, Some April-emissary?
The apparition faded on the air, Capricious and incalculable comer.— Wilt thou too pass, and leave my chill days bare, And fall'n my phantom Summer?
AT THE GRAVE OF CHARLES LAMB, IN EDMONTON
Not here, O teeming City, was it meet Thy lover, thy most faithful, should repose, But where the multitudinous life-tide flows Whose ocean-murmur was to him more sweet Than melody of birds at morn, or bleat Of flocks in Spring-time, there should Earth enclose His earth, amid thy thronging joys and woes, There, 'neath the music of thy million feet. In love of thee this lover knew no peer. Thine eastern or thy western fane had made Fit habitation for his noble shade. Mother of mightier, nurse of none more dear, Not here, in rustic exile, O not here, Thy Elia like an alien should be laid!
LINES IN A FLYLEAF OF "CHRISTABEL"
Inhospitably hast thou entertained, O Poet, us the bidden to thy board, Whom in mid-feast, and while our thousand mouths Are one laudation of the festal cheer, Thou from thy table dost dismiss, unfilled. Yet loudlier thee than many a lavish host We praise, and oftener thy repast half-served Than many a stintless banquet, prodigally Through satiate hours prolonged; nor praise less well Because with tongues thou hast not cloyed, and lips That mourn the parsimony of affluent souls, And mix the lamentation with the laud.
LINES TO OUR NEW CENSOR
[Mr. Oscar Wilde, having discovered that England is unworthy of him, has announced his resolve to become a naturalised Frenchman.]
And wilt thou, Oscar, from us flee, And must we, henceforth, wholly sever? Shall thy laborious jeux-d'esprit Sadden our lives no more for ever?
And all thy future wilt thou link With that brave land to which thou goest? Unhappy France! we used to think She touched, at Sedan, fortune's lowest.
And you're made French as easily As you might change the clothes you're wearing? Fancy!—and 'tis so hard to be A man of sense and modest bearing.
May fortitude beneath this blow Fail not the gallant Gallic nation! By past experience, well we know Her genius for recuperation.
And as for us—to our disgrace, Your stricture's truth must be conceded: Would any but a stupid race Have made the fuss about you we did?
Reluctant Summer! once, a maid Full easy of access, In many a bee-frequented shade Thou didst thy lover bless. Divinely unreproved I played, Then, with each liberal tress— And art thou grown at last afraid Of some too close caress?
Or deem'st that if thou shouldst abide My passion might decay? Thou leav'st me pining and denied, Coyly thou say'st me nay. Ev'n as I woo thee to my side, Thou, importuned to stay, Like Orpheus' half-recovered bride Ebb'st from my arms away.
THE GREAT MISGIVING
"Not ours," say some, "the thought of death to dread; Asking no heaven, we fear no fabled hell: Life is a feast, and we have banqueted— Shall not the worms as well?
"The after-silence, when the feast is o'er, And void the places where the minstrels stood, Differs in nought from what hath been before, And is nor ill nor good."
Ah, but the Apparition—the dumb sign— The beckoning finger bidding me forego The fellowship, the converse, and the wine, The songs, the festal glow!
And ah, to know not, while with friends I sit, And while the purple joy is passed about, Whether 'tis ampler day divinelier lit Or homeless night without;
And whether, stepping forth, my soul shall see New prospects, or fall sheer—a blinded thing! There is, O grave, thy hourly victory, And there, O death, thy sting.
"THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE EXCELLENT"
As we wax older on this earth, Till many a toy that charmed us seems Emptied of beauty, stripped of worth, And mean as dust and dead as dreams,— For gauds that perished, shows that passed, Some recompense the Fates have sent: Thrice lovelier shine the things that last, The things that are more excellent.
Tired of the Senate's barren brawl, An hour with silence we prefer, Where statelier rise the woods than all Yon towers of talk at Westminster. Let this man prate and that man plot, On fame or place or title bent: The votes of veering crowds are not The things that are more excellent.
Shall we perturb and vex our soul For "wrongs" which no true freedom mar, Which no man's upright walk control, And from no guiltless deed debar? What odds though tonguesters heal, or leave Unhealed, the grievance they invent? To things, not phantoms, let us cleave— The things that are more excellent.
Nought nobler is, than to be free: The stars of heaven are free because In amplitude of liberty Their joy is to obey the laws. From servitude to freedom's name Free thou thy mind in bondage pent; Depose the fetich, and proclaim The things that are more excellent.
And in appropriate dust be hurled That dull, punctilious god, whom they That call their tiny clan the world, Serve and obsequiously obey: Who con their ritual of Routine, With minds to one dead likeness blent, And never ev'n in dreams have seen The things that are more excellent.
To dress, to call, to dine, to break No canon of the social code, The little laws that lacqueys make, The futile decalogue of Mode,— How many a soul for these things lives, With pious passion, grave intent! While Nature careless-handed gives The things that are more excellent.
To hug the wealth ye cannot use, And lack the riches all may gain,— O blind and wanting wit to choose, Who house the chaff and burn the grain! And still doth life with starry towers Lure to the bright, divine ascent!— Be yours the things ye would: be ours The things that are more excellent.
The grace of friendship—mind and heart Linked with their fellow heart and mind; The gains of science, gifts of art; The sense of oneness with our kind; The thirst to know and understand— A large and liberal discontent: These are the goods in life's rich hand, The things that are more excellent.
In faultless rhythm the ocean rolls, A rapturous silence thrills the skies; And on this earth are lovely souls, That softly look with aidful eyes. Though dark, O God, Thy course and track, I think Thou must at least have meant That nought which lives should wholly lack The things that are more excellent.
That beauty such as thine Can die indeed, Were ordinance too wantonly malign: No wit may reconcile so cold a creed With beauty such as thine.
From wave and star and flower Some effluence rare Was lent thee, a divine but transient dower: Thou yield'st it back from eyes and lips and hair To wave and star and flower.
Shouldst thou to-morrow die, Thou still shalt be Found in the rose and met in all the sky: And from the ocean's heart shalt sing to me, Shouldst thou to-morrow die.
ENGLAND MY MOTHER
England my mother, Wardress of waters. Builder of peoples, Maker of men,—
Hast thou yet leisure Left for the muses? Heed'st thou the songsmith Forging the rhyme?
Deafened with tumults, How canst thou hearken? Strident is faction, Demos is loud.
Lazarus, hungry, Menaces Dives; Labour the giant Chafes in his hold.
Yet do the songsmiths Quit not their forges; Still on life's anvil Forge they the rhyme.
Still the rapt faces Glow from the furnace: Breath of the smithy Scorches their brows.
Yea, and thou hear'st them? So shall the hammers Fashion not vainly Verses of gold.
Lo, with the ancient Roots of man's nature, Twines the eternal Passion of song.
Ever Love fans it, Ever Life feeds it, Time cannot age it; Death cannot slay.
Deep in the world-heart Stand its foundations, Tangled with all things, Twin-made with all.
Nay, what is Nature's Self, but an endless Strife toward music, Euphony, rhyme?
Trees in their blooming, Tides in their flowing, Stars in their circling, Tremble with song.
God on His throne is Eldest of poets: Unto His measures Moveth the Whole.
Therefore deride not Speech of the muses, England my mother, Maker of men.
Nations are mortal, Fragile is greatness; Fortune may fly thee, Song shall not fly.
Song the all-girdling, Song cannot perish: Men shall make music, Man shall give ear.
Not while the choric Chant of creation Floweth from all things, Poured without pause,
Cease we to echo Faintly the descant Whereto for ever Dances the world.
So let the songsmith Proffer his rhyme-gift, England my mother, Maker of men.
Gray grows thy count'nance, Full of the ages; Time on thy forehead Sits like a dream:
Song is the potion All things renewing, Youth's one elixir, Fountain of morn.
Thou, at the world-loom Weaving thy future, Fitly may'st temper Toil with delight.
Deemest thou, labour Only is earnest? Grave is all beauty, Solemn is joy.
Song is no bauble— Slight not the songsmith, England my mother, Maker of men.
In the night, in the night, When thou liest alone, Ah, the sounds that are blown In the freaks of the breeze, By the spirit that sends The voice of far friends With the sigh of the seas In the night!
In the night, in the night, When thou liest alone, Ah, the ghosts that make moan From the days that are sped: The old dreams, the old deeds, The old wound that still bleeds, And the face of the dead In the night!
In the night, in the night, When thou liest alone, With the grass and the stone O'er thy chamber so deep, Ah, the silence at last, Life's dissonance past, And only pure sleep In the night!
THE FUGITIVE IDEAL
As some most pure and noble face, Seen in the thronged and hurrying street, Sheds o'er the world a sudden grace, A flying odour sweet, Then, passing, leaves the cheated sense Baulked with a phantom excellence;
So, on our soul the visions rise Of that fair life we never led: They flash a splendour past our eyes, We start, and they are fled: They pass, and leave us with blank gaze, Resigned to our ignoble days.
(Lines written on the appearance of Lord Tennyson's drama.)
Clear as of old the great voice rings to-day, While Sherwood's oak-leaves twine with Aldworth's bay: The voice of him the master and the sire Of one whole age and legion of the lyre, Who sang his morning-song when Coleridge still Uttered dark oracles from Highgate Hill, And with new-launched argosies of rhyme Gilds and makes brave this sombreing tide of time. Far be the hour when lesser brows shall wear The laurel glorious from that wintry hair— When he, the sovereign of our lyric day, In Charon's shallop must be rowed away, And hear, scarce heeding, 'mid the plash of oar, The ave atque vale from the shore!
To him nor tender nor heroic muse Did her divine confederacy refuse: To all its moods the lyre of life he strung, And notes of death fell deathless from his tongue. Himself the Merlin of his magic strain, He bade old glories break in gloom again; And so exempted from oblivious doom, Through him these days shall fadeless break in bloom.
Lightly we met in the morn, Lightly we parted at eve. There was never a thought of the thorn The rose of a day might leave.
Fate's finger we did not perceive, So lightly we met in the morn! So lightly we parted at eve We knew not that Love was born.
I rose on the morrow forlorn, To pine and remember and grieve. Too lightly we met in the morn! Too lightly we parted at eve!
(12TH OCTOBER 1492)
From his adventurous prime He dreamed the dream sublime: Over his wandering youth It hung, a beckoning star. At last the vision fled, And left him in its stead The scarce sublimer truth, The world he found afar.
The scattered isles that stand Warding the mightier land Yielded their maidenhood To his imperious prow. The mainland within call Lay vast and virginal: In its blue porch he stood: No more did fate allow.
No more! but ah, how much, To be the first to touch The veriest azure hem Of that majestic robe! Lord of the lordly sea, Earth's mightiest sailor he: Great Captain among them, The captors of the globe.
When shall the world forget Thy glory and our debt, Indomitable soul, Immortal Genoese? Not while the shrewd salt gale Whines amid shroud and sail, Above the rhythmic roll And thunder of the seas.
THE PRINCE'S QUEST AND OTHER POEMS
THE PRINCE'S QUEST
PART THE FIRST
There was a time, it passeth me to say How long ago, but sure 'twas many a day Before the world had gotten her such store Of foolish wisdom as she hath,—before She fell to waxing gray with weight of years And knowledge, bitter knowledge, bought with tears,— When it did seem as if the feet of time Moved to the music of a golden rhyme, And never one false thread might woven be Athwart that web of worldwide melody. 'Twas then there lived a certain queen and king, Unvext of wars or other evil thing, Within a spacious palace builded high, Whence they might see their chiefest city lie About them, and half hear from their tall towers Its populous murmur through the daylight hours, And see beyond its walls the pleasant plain. One child they had, these blissful royal twain: Of whom 'tis told—so more than fair was he— There lurked at whiles a something shadowy Deep down within the fairness of his face; As 'twere a hint of some not-earthly grace, Making the royal stripling rather seem The very dreaming offspring of a dream Than human child of human ancestry: And something strange-fantastical was he, I doubt not. Howsoever he upgrew, And after certain years to manhood drew Nigh, so that all about his father's court, Seeing his graciousness of princely port, Rejoiced thereat; and many maidens' eyes Look'd pleased upon his beauty, and the sighs Of many told I know not what sweet tales.
So, like to some fair ship with sunlit sails, Glided his youth amid a stormless sea, Till once by night there came mysteriously A fateful wind, and o'er an unknown deep Bore him perforce. It chanced that while in sleep He lay, there came to him a strange dim dream. 'Twas like as he did float adown a stream, In a lone boat that had nor sail nor oar Yet seemed as it would glide for evermore, Deep in the bosom of a sultry land Fair with all fairness. Upon either hand Were hills green-browed and mist-engarlanded, And all about their feet were woods bespread, Hoarding the cool and leafy silentness In many an unsunned hollow and hid recess. Nought of unbeauteous might be there espied; But in the heart of the deep woods and wide, And in the heart of all, was Mystery— A something more than outer eye might see, A something more than ever ear might hear. The very birds that came and sang anear Did seem to syllable some faery tongue, And, singing much, to hold yet more unsung. And heard at whiles, with hollow wandering tone, Far off, as by some aery huntsmen blown, Faint-echoing horns, among the mountains wound, Made all the live air tremulous with sound.
So hour by hour (thus ran the Prince's dream) Glided the boat along the broadening stream; Till, being widowed of the sun her lord, The purblind day went groping evenward: Whereafter Sleep compelled to his mild yoke The bubbling clear souls of the feathered folk, Sealing the vital fountains of their song. Howbeit the Prince went onward all night long And never shade of languor came on him, Nor any weariness his eyes made dim. And so in season due he heard the breath Of the brief winds that wake ere darkness' death Sigh through the woods and all the valley wide: The rushes by the water answering sighed: Sighed all the river from its reedy throat. And like a winged creature went the boat, Over the errant water wandering free, As some lone seabird over a lone sea.
And Morn pale-haired with watery wide eyes Look'd up. And starting with a swift surprise, Sprang to his feet the Prince, and forward leant, His gaze on something right before him bent That like a towered and templed city showed, Afar off, dim with very light, and glowed As burnished seas at sundawn when the waves Make amber lightnings all in dim-roof'd caves That fling mock-thunder back. Long leagues away, Down by the river's green right bank it lay, Set like a jewel in the golden morn: But ever as the Prince was onward borne, Nearer and nearer danced the dizzy fires Of domes innumerable and sun-tipt spires And many a sky-acquainted pinnacle, Splendid beyond what mortal tongue may tell; And ere the middle heat of day was spent, He saw, by nearness thrice-magnificent, Hardly a furlong's space before him lie The City, sloping to the stream thereby.
And therewithal the boat of its own will Close to the shore began to glide, until, All of a sudden passing nigh to where The glistering white feet of a marble stair Ran to the rippled brink, the Prince outsprang Upon the gleamy steps, and wellnigh sang For joy, to be once more upon his feet, Amid the green grass and the flowers sweet. So on he paced along the river-marge, And saw full many a fair and stately barge, Adorned with strange device and imagery, At anchor in the quiet waters lie. And presently he came unto a gate Of massy gold, that shone with splendid state Of mystic hieroglyphs, and storied frieze All overwrought with carven phantasies. And in the shadow of the golden gate, One in the habit of a porter sate, And on the Prince with wondering eye looked he, And greeted him with reverent courtesy, Saying, "Fair sir, thou art of mortal race, The first hath ever journeyed to this place,— For well I know thou art a stranger here, As by the garb thou wearest doth appear; And if thy raiment do belie thee not, Thou should'st be some king's son. And well I wot, If that be true was prophesied of yore, A wondrous fortune is for thee in store; For though I be not read in Doomful Writ, Oft have I heard the wise expounding it, And, of a truth, the fatal rolls declare That the first mortal who shall hither fare Shall surely have our Maiden-Queen to wife, And while the world lives shall they twain have life. "
Hereat, be sure, the wonder-stricken youth, Holden in doubt if this were lies or truth, Was tongue-tied with amaze, and sore perplext, Unknowing what strange thing might chance him next, And ere he found fit words to make reply, The porter bade a youth who stood hard by Conduct the princely stranger, as was meet, Through the great golden gate into the street, And thence o'er all the city, wheresoe'er Was aught to show of wonderful or fair.
With that the Prince, beside his willing guide, Went straightway through the gate, and stood inside The wall, that, builded of a rare white stone, Clasp'd all the city like a silver zone. And thence down many a shining street they passed, Each one appearing goodlier than the last, Cool with the presence of innumerous trees And fountains playing before palaces. And whichsoever way the Prince might look, Another marvel, and another, took His wildered eyes with very wonderment. And holding talk together as they went, The Prince besought his guide to tell him why Of all the many folk that passed them by There was not one that had the looks of eld, Or yet of life's mid-years; for they beheld Only young men and maidens everywhere, Nor ever saw they one that was not fair. Whereat the stripling: "Master, thou hast seen, Belike, the river that doth flow between Flowers and grasses at the city's feet?" And when the Prince had rendered answer meet, "Then," said the other, "know that whosoe'er Drinks of the water thou beheldest there (It matters not how many are his years) Thenceforward from that moment he appears Like as he was in youthly days, before His passed summers told beyond a score: And so the people of this land possess Unto all time their youth and comeliness."
Scarce had his mouth made answer when there rose Somewhat of tumult, ruffling the repose Of the wide splendid street; and lifting up His eyes, the Prince beheld a glittering troop Of horsemen, each upon a beauteous steed, Toward them coming at a gentle speed. And as the cavalcade came on apace, A sudden pleasure lit the stripling's face Who bore him company and was his guide; And "Lo, thou shalt behold our queen," he cried,— "Even the fairest of the many fair; With whom was never maiden might compare For very loveliness!" While yet he spake, On all the air a silver sound 'gan break Of jubilant and many-tongued acclaim, And in a shining car the bright queen came, And looking forth upon the multitude Her eyes beheld the stranger where he stood, And round about him was the loyal stir: And all his soul went out in love to her.
But even while her gaze met his, behold, The city and its marvels manifold Seemed suddenly removed far off, and placed Somewhere in Twilight; and withal a waste Of sudden waters lay like time between; And over all that space he heard the queen Calling unto him from her chariot; And then came darkness. And the Dream was not.
PART THE SECOND
A fearful and a lovely thing is Sleep, And mighty store of secrets hath in keep; And those there were of old who well could guess What meant his fearfulness and loveliness, And all his many shapes of life and death, And all the secret things he uttereth. But Wisdom lacketh sons like those that were, And Sleep hath never an interpreter: So there be none that know to read aright The riddles he propoundeth every night.
And verily, of all the wondrous things By potence wrought of mortal visionings In that dark house whereof Sleep hath the keys— Of suchlike miracles and mysteries Not least, meseems, is this among them all: That one in dream enamoured should fall, And ever afterward, in waking thought, Worship the phantom which the dream hath brought. Howbeit such things have been, and in such wise Did that king's son behold, with mortal eyes, A more than mortal loveliness, and thus Was stricken through with love miraculous.
For evermore thereafter he did seem To see that royal maiden of his dream Unto her palace riding sovranly; And much he marvelled where that land might be That basking lay beneath her beauty's beams, Well knowing in his heart that suchlike dreams Come not in idleness but evermore Are Fate's veiled heralds that do fly before Their mighty master as he journeyeth, And sing strange songs of life and love and death. And so he did scarce aught but dream all day Of that far land revealed of sleep, that lay He knew not where; and musing more and more On her the mistress of that unknown shore, There fell a sadness on him, thus to be Vext with desire of her he might not see Yet could not choose but long for; till erewhile Nor man nor woman might behold the smile Make sudden morning of his countenance, But likest one he seemed half-sunk, in trance, That wanders groping in a shadowy land, Hearing strange things that none can understand. Now after many days and nights had passed, The queen, his mother well-beloved, at last, Being sad at heart because his heart was sad, Would e'en be told what hidden cause he had To be cast down in so mysterious wise: And he, beholding by her tearful eyes How of his grief she was compassionate, No more a secret made thereof, but straight Discovered to her all about his dream— The mystic happy marvel of the stream. A fountain running Youth to all the land; Flowing with deep dim woods on either hand Where through the boughs did birds of strange song flit: And all beside the bloomy banks of it The city with its towers and domes far-seen. And then he told her how that city's queen Did pass before him like a breathing flower, That he had loved her image from that hour. "And sure am I," upspake the Prince at last, "That somewhere in this world so wide and vast Lieth the land mine eyes have inly seen;— Perhaps in very truth my spirit hath been Translated thither, and in very truth Hath seen the brightness of that city of youth. Who knows?—for I have heard a wise man say How that in sleep the souls of mortals may, At certain seasons which the stars decree, From bondage of the body be set free To visit farthest countries, and be borne Back to their fleshly houses ere the morn."
At this the good queen, greatly marvelling, Made haste to tell the story to the king; Who hearing laughed her tale to scorn. But when Weeks followed one another, and all men About his person had begun to say "What ails our Prince? He groweth day by day Less like the Prince we knew ... wan cheeks, and eyes Hollow for lack of sleep, and secret sighs.... Some hidden grief the youth must surely have,"— Then like his queen the king himself wox grave; And thus it chanced one summer eventide, They sitting in an arbour side by side, All unawares the Pince passed by that way, And as he passed, unmark'd of either—they Nought heeding but their own discourse—could hear Amidst thereof his own name uttered clear, And straight was 'ware it was the queen who spake, And spake of him; whereat the king 'gan make Answer in this wise, somewhat angerly: "The youth is crazed, and but one remedy Know I, to cure such madness—he shall wed Some princess; ere another day be sped, Myself will bid this dreamer go prepare To take whom I shall choose to wife; some fair And highborn maiden, worthy to be queen Hereafter."—So the Prince, albeit unseen, Heard, and his soul rebelled against the thing His sire had willed; and slowly wandering About the darkling pleasance—all amid A maze of intertangled walks, or hid In cedarn glooms, or where mysterious bowers Were heavy with the breath of drowsed flowers— Something, he knew not what, within his heart Rose like a faint-heard voice and said "Depart From hence and follow where thy dream shall lead." And fain would he have followed it indeed, But wist not whither it would have him go.
Howbeit, while yet he wandered to and fro, Among his thoughts a chance remembrance leapt All sudden—like a seed, that long hath slept In earth, upspringing as a flower at last, When he that sowed forgetteth where 'twas cast; A chance remembrance of the tales men told Concerning one whose wisdom manifold Made all the world to wonder and revere— A mighty mage and learn'd astrologer Who dwelt in honour at a great king's court In a far country, whither did resort Pilgrims innumerable from many lands, Who crossed the wide seas and the desert sands To learn of him the occult significance Of some perplexing omen, or perchance To hear forewhisperings of their destiny And know what things in aftertime should be. "Now surely," thought the Prince, "this subtile seer, To whom the darkest things belike are clear, Could read the riddle of my dream and tell Where lieth that strange land delectable Wherein mine empress hath her dwelling-place. So might I look at last upon her face, And make an end of all these weary sighs, And melt into the shadow of her eyes!" Thus musing, for a little space he stood As holden to the spot; and evil, good, Life, death, and earth beneath and heaven above, Shrank up to less than shadows,—only Love, With harpings of an hundred harps unseen, Filled all the emptiness where these had been.
But soon, like one that hath a sudden thought, He lifted up his eyes, and turning sought The halls once more where he was bred, and passed Through court and corridor, and reached at last His chamber, in a world of glimmer and gloom. Here, while the moonrays filled the wide rich room, The Prince in haste put off his courtly dress For raiment of a lesser sumptuousness (A sober habit such as might disguise His royal rank in any stranger's eyes) And taking in his hand three gems that made Three several splendours in the moonlight, laid These in his bosom, where no eye might see The triple radiance; then all noiselessly Down the wide stair from creaking floor to floor Passed, and went out from the great palace-door.
Crossing the spacious breadth of garden ground, Wherein his footfalls were the only sound Save the wind's wooing of the tremulous trees, Forth of that region of imperial ease He fared, amid the doubtful shadows dim, No eye in all the place beholding him; No eye, save only of the warders, who Opened the gates that he might pass therethrough.
And now to the safe-keeping of the night Intrusted he the knowledge of his flight; And quitting all the purlieus of the court, Out from the city by a secret port Went, and along the moonlit highway sped. And himself spake unto himself and said (Heard only of the silence in his heart) "Tarry thou here no longer, but depart Unto the land of the Great Mage; and seek The Mage; and whatsoever he shall speak, Give ear to that he saith, and reverent heed; And wheresoever he may bid thee speed, Thitherward thou shalt set thy face and go. For surely one of so great lore must know Where lies the land thou sawest in thy dream: Nay, if he know not that,—why, then I deem The wisdom of exceeding little worth That reads the heavens but cannot read the earth."
PART THE THIRD
So without rest or tarriance all that night, Until the world was blear with coming light, Forth fared the princely fugitive, nor stayed His wearied feet till morn returning made Some village all a-hum with wakeful stir; And from that place the royal wayfarer Went ever faster on and yet more fast, Till, ere the noontide sultriness was past, Upon his ear the burden of the seas Came dreamlike, heard upon a cool fresh breeze That tempered gratefully a fervent sky. And many an hour ere sundown he drew nigh A fair-built seaport, warder of the land And watcher of the wave, with odours fanned Of green fields and of blue from either side;— A pleasant place, wherein he might abide, Unknown of man or woman, till such time As any ship should sail to that far clime Where lived the famous great astrologer.
Entered within its gates, a wanderer Besoiled with dust and no-wise richly drest, Yet therewithal a prince and princeliest Of princes, with the press of motley folk He mixed unheeded and unknown, nor spoke To any, no man speaking unto him, But, being wearied sore in every limb, Sought out a goodly hostel where he might Rest him and eat and tarry for the night: And having eaten he arose and passed Down to the wharves where many a sail and mast Showed fiery-dark against the setting sun: There, holding talk with whom he chanced upon, In that same hour by great good hap he found The master of a vessel outward-bound Upon the morrow for that selfsame port Whither he sought to go (where dwelt at court The mage deep-read in starry charact'ry). An honest man and pleasant-tongued was he, This worthy master-mariner; and since He had no scorn of well-got gain, the Prince Agreed to pay him certain sums in gold, And go aboard his vessel, ere were told Two hours of sunlight on the coming day; And thus agreed they wended each his way, For the dusk hour was nigh, and all the West Lay emptied of its sun. But as he pressed Up the long seaward-sloping street that ran Through half the town, the Prince sought out a man Who dealt in pearls and diamonds and all Manner of stones which men do precious call; To whom the least of his three gems he sold For a great price, and laden with the gold Forthwith returned unto his hostelry And dreamed all night of seaports and the sea.
Early the morrow-morn, a fair soft gale Blowing from overland, the ship set sail At turning of the tide; and from her deck The Prince gazed till the town was but a speck, And all the shore became a memory: And still he gazed, though more he might not see Than the wide waters and the great wide sky. And many a long unchangeful day went by Ere land was sighted, but at length uprose A doubtful dusky something, toward the close Of the last hour before one sultry noon: Most like an isle of cloud it seemed, but soon The sailors knew it for the wished strand, And ere the evenfall they reached the land, And that same night the royal wanderer lay In a strange city, amid strange folk, till Day Rose from the dim sea's lap and with his wings Fanned into wakefulness all breathing things.
Then he uprose, but going forth that morn A sadness came upon him, and forlorn He felt within himself, and nowise light Of heart: for all his lonely travel might Prove void and fruitless and of no avail, (Thus pondered he) and should it wholly fail, What then were left him for to do? Return To his own country, that his kin might learn To know him duped and fooled of fantasies, Blown hither and thither by an idle breeze From Dreamland? Or in lieu, perchance, of this, Wander unresting, reft of hope and bliss, A mariner on a sea that hath no coast, Seeking a shade, himself a shade, and lost In shadows, as a wave is lost i' the sea.
Thus in a heart not lightsome pondered he, And roamed from unfamiliar street to street, Much marvelling that all he chanced to meet Showed faces troubled as his own: for some Did weep outright, and over all a gloom Hung, as a cloud that blotteth out the sun. Wherefore the Prince addressed him unto one Of sadder visage even than the rest, Who, ever as he walked, or beat his breast Or groaned aloud or with his fingers rent His robe, and, being besought to say what meant This look of rue on all men's faces, cried In loud amazement, "What, can any abide Within this city, having ears to hear, Yet know not how this morn the mighty seer Hath died and left the land all desolate? For now, when sudden ills befall the state, There will be none to warn or prophesy As he, but when calamities are nigh No man will know till they be come and we Be all undone together, woe is me!"
Thus ended he his outcry and again Passed on his way and mixed with other men Scarce joyfuller than he, if less they spake. Meanwhile upon the Prince's heart there brake Grief like a bitter wind, beneath whose breath Hope paled and sickened well-nigh unto death: For lo, those dumb and formless fears that came Within his heart that morn, and, like a flame That flickers long and dimly ere it die, Tarried and would not pass, but fitfully Flickered and flared and paled and flared again,— Lo, those mysterious messengers of pain, Dumb formless fears, were they not verified? And lo, that voyage o'er the waters wide, Was it not vain and a most empty thing? And what might now the years avail to bring, But hopes that barren live and barren die?
Thus did his heart with many an inward sigh Ask of itself, though answer there was none To be returned: and so the day, begun Tristfully, trailed an ever wearier wing; Till toward night another questioning Like a strange voice from far beset his soul: And as a low wind wails for very dole About a tarn whereof the listless wave Maketh no answer to its plaining, save A sound that seems the phantom of its own, So that low voice making unbidden moan No answer got, saving the many sighs Its echoes; and in this reproachful wise, Heaping new pain on him disconsolate, The low voice spake and spake, importunate: O Prince that wast and wanderer that art, Say doth love live within thy hidden heart (Love born of dream but nurtured wakingly) Ev'n as that Once when thy soul's eyes did see Love's visible self, and worshipt? Or hast thou Fall'n from thy faith in Her and Love ere now, And is thy passion as a robe outworn? Nay, love forbid! Yet wherefore art thou lorn Of hope and peace if Love be still thine own? For, were the wondrous vision thou hast known Indeed Love's voice and Fate's (which are the same) Then, even as surely as the vision came, So surely shall it be fulfilled, if faith Abide in thee; but if thy spirit saith Treason of Love or Fate, and unbelief House in thy heart, then surely shall swift grief Find thee, and hope (that should be as a breath Of song undying) shall even die the death, And thou thyself the death-in-life shalt see, O Prince that wast, O wanderer that shalt be!
So spake the Voice. And in the pauses of That secret Voice, there 'gan to wake and move, Deep in his heart, a thing of blackest ill— The shapeless shadow men call Doubt, until That hour all unacquainted with his soul: And being tormented sore of this new dole, There came on him a longing to explore That sleep-discovered flowery land once more, Isled in the dark of the soul; for he did deem That were he once again to dream The Dream, His faith new-stablished would stand, and be No longer vext of this infirmity. And so that night, ere lying down to sleep, There came on him, half making him to weep And half to laugh that such a thing should be, A mad conceit and antic fantasy (And yet more sad than merry was the whim) To crave this boon of Sleep, beseeching him To send the dream of dreams most coveted. And ere he lay him down upon his bed, A soft sweet song was born within his thought; But if he sang the song, or if 'twas nought But the soul's longing whispered to the soul, Himself knew hardly, while the passion stole From that still depth where passion lieth prone, And voiced itself in this-like monotone:
"O Sleep, thou hollow sea, thou soundless sea, Dull-breaking on the shores of haunted lands, Lo, I am thine: do what thou wilt with me.
But while, as yet unbounden of thy bands, I hear the breeze from inland chide and chafe Along the margin of thy muttering sands,
Somewhat I fain would crave, if thou vouchsafe To hear mine asking, and to heed wilt deign. Behold, I come to fling me as a waif
Upon thy waters, O thou murmuring main! So on some wasteful island cast not me, Where phantom winds to phantom skies complain,
And creeping terrors crawl from out the sea, (For such thou hast)—but o'er thy waves not cold Bear me to yonder land once more, where She
Sits throned amidst of magic wealth untold: Golden her palace, golden all her hair, Golden her city 'neath a heaven of gold!
So may I see in dreams her tresses fair Down-falling, as a wave of sunlight rests On some white cloud, about her shoulders bare, Nigh to the snowdrifts twain which are her breasts."
So ran the song,—say rather, so did creep, With drowsy faltering feet unsure, till Sleep Himself made end of it, with no rude touch Sealing the lips that babbled overmuch. Howbeit the boon of boons most coveted Withholden was, and in that vision's stead Another Dream from its dim hold uprose, Which he who tells the tale shall straight disclose.
PART THE FOURTH
That night he dreamed that over him there stole A change miraculous, whereby his soul Was parted from his body for a space, And through a labyrinth of secret ways Entered the world where dead men's ghosts abide To seek the Seer who yestermorn had died. And there in very truth he found the Seer, Who gazing on him said, "What would'st thou here, O royal-born, who visitest the coasts Of darkness, and the dwellings of the ghosts?"
Then said the Prince, "I fain would know to find The land as yet untrod of mortal-kind Which I beheld by gracious leave of Sleep." To whom the Spirit: "O Prince, the seas are deep And very wide betwixt thee and that land, And who shall say how many days do stand, As dim-seen armed hosts between thy bliss And thee?—Moreover, in the world there is A certain Emerald Stone which some do call The Emerald of the Virtues Mystical; (Though what those Virtues Mystical may be None living knows) and since, O youth, to me Thou dost apply for counsel, be it known Except thou have this wondrous emerald stone, Go seek through all the world, thou shalt not find The land thou wouldst: but like the houseless wind That roams the world to seek a resting-place, Thou through inhospitable time and space Shalt roam, till time and space deliver thee, To spaceless, timeless, mute eternity.
"For in a certain land there once did dwell (How long ago it needs not I should tell) At the king's court a great astrologer, Ev'n such as erst was I, but mightier And far excelling; and it came to pass That he fell sick; and very old he was; And knowing that his end was nigh, he said To him that sat in sorrow by his bed, 'O master well-beloved and matchless king, Take thou and keep this lowly offering In memory of thy servant;' whereupon The king perceived it was a gem that shone Like the sea's heart: and on one side of it This legend in an unknown tongue was writ— Who holdeth Me may go where none hath fared Before, and none shall follow afterward. So the king took the bright green stone betwixt His fingers, and upon the legend fixed His eyes, and said unto the dying Seer, 'Now who shall render this dark scripture clear That I may know the meaning of the gift?' And the mage oped his mouth and strove to lift His voice, but could not, for the wished word Clave to his rattling throat, that no man heard: Whereby the soul, departing, bore away From all men living, even to this day, The secret. And the jewel hath passed down Seven times from sire to son, and in the crown It shineth of that country's kings, being called Ev'n to this day the mystic emerald; But no man liveth in the world, of wit To read the writing that is on it writ."
"O Master," said the Prince, "and wilt not thou Instruct me where to find the king who now Weareth the jewel in his diadem?" To whom the Spirit, "O youth, and if the gem Be worth the finding, is't not also worth The little pain of seeking through the earth?— Yet so thou may'st not wander witlessly, Look thou forget not this I tell to thee: When in thy journeyings thou shalt dream once more The fateful dream thou haddest heretofore, That filled thy veins with longing as with wine, Till all thy being brimm'd over—by that sign Thou mayest know thyself at last to be Within the borders of his empery Who hath the mystic emerald stone, whose gleam Shall light thee to the country of thy dream."
"But," said the Prince, "When all the world's highways My feet have trod, till after length of days I reach the land where lies the wondrous stone, How shall I make so rare a, thing mine own? For had I riches more than could be told, What king would sell his jewels for my gold?" And on this wise the answer of the Seer Fell in the hollow of his dreaming ear: "Behold this Iron Chain,—of power it is To heal all manner of mortal maladies In him that wears it round his neck but once, Between the sun's downgoing and the sun's Uprising: take it thou, and hold it fast Until by seeking long thou find at last The king that hath the mystic emerald stone: And having found him, thou shalt e'en make known The virtues lodged within this charmed chain: Which when the king doth hear he will be fain To have possession of so strange a thing; And thou shalt make a bargain with the king To give the Iron Chain in bartery For that mysterious jewel whereof he Knows not the secret worth. And when at last The emerald stone in thy own hands thou hast, Itself shall guide thee whither thou would'st go— Ev'n to the land revealed of sleep, where no Grief comes to mar their music, neither sound Of sighing, while the golden years go round."
So spake the Spirit unto him that dreamed, And suddenly that world of shadow seemed More shadowy; and all things began to blend Together: and the dream was at an end.
Then slept the Prince a deep sweet sleep that knew Nor dream nor vision; till the dawnlight grew Up, and his soul a sudden halt did make About the confines dim of sleep and wake, Where wandering lights and wildered shadows meet. But presently uprising to his feet From tarriance in that frontier-region dim, Exceeding wonderment laid hold on him; For even while from off his bed he rose, He heard a clinking as of metal, close Thereby, and could in no-wise understand: And lo the Iron Chain was in his hand!
PART THE FIFTH
So, being risen, the Prince in brief while went Forth to the market-place, where babblement Of them that bought and them that sold was one Of many sounds in murmurous union— buzzing as of bees about their hives, With shriller gossiping of garrulous wives Piping a tuneless treble thereunto: In midst whereof he went his way as who Looketh about him well before he buys, To mark the manner of their merchandise; Till chancing upon one who cried for sale A horse, and seeing it well-limb'd and hale, And therewithal right goodly to behold, He bought the beast and paid the man in gold, And having gotten him the needful gear Rode from the market, nothing loth to hear Its garrulous wives no longer, and the din Of them that daily bought and sold therein. So from the place he passed, and slowly down Street after street betook him till the town Behind him and the gates before him were, And all without was cornland greenly fair.
And through the cornland wending many a mile, And through the meadowland, he came erewhile To where the highways parted, and no man Was nigh to tell him whitherward they ran; But while he halted all in doubtful mood, An eagle, as if mourning for her brood Stolen, above him sped with rueful cry; And when that he perceived the fowl to fly Plaining aloud, unto himself he said, "Now shall yon mournful mother overhead Instruct the wandering of my feet, and they Shall follow where she leadeth:" and away The bird went winging westward clamorously, That westward even in her wake went he. And it may be that in his heart there stirred Some feeling as of fellowship with the bird; For he, like her, was bound on a lone quest; And for his feet, as for her wings, no rest Might be, but only urgence of desire, And one far goal that seemed not ever nigher.
So through that country wended he his way, Resting anights, till on the seventh day He passed unwares into another land, Whose people's speech he could not understand— A tract o'er-run with tribes barbarian, And blood-red from the strife of man with man: And truly 'twas a thing miraculous That one should traverse all that rude land thus, And no man rid him of his gold, nor raise A hand to make abridgment of his days; But there was that about him could make men's Hearts, ere they knew it, yield him reverence,— Perchance a sovran something in his eye, Whereat the fierce heart failed, it wist not why;— Perchance that Fate which (hovering like a doubt Athwart his being) hemmed him round about, Gloomed as a visible shadow across his way, And made men fearful. Be this as it may, No harm befell him in that land, and so He came at last to where the ebb and flow Of other seas than he had wandered o'er Upflung to landward an attempered roar; And wandering downward to the beach, he clomb To topmost of a tall grey cliff, wherefrom He saw a smoke as of men's houses, far Off, from a jutting point peninsular Uprising: whence he deemed that there a town Must surely be. And so he clambered down The cliff, and getting him again to horse Thither along the seabound held his course, And reached that city about sunset-tide The smoking of whose hearths he had espied.
There at an hostel rested he, and there Tarried the coming of the morn. But ere He fell asleep that night, a wandering thought, Through darkling byeways of the spirit brought, Knock'd at his soul for entrance, whispering low "What if to-night thou dream The Dream, and know To-morrow, when thou wakest from that bliss, The land wherein thou liest to be his Who hath the mystic jewel in his keep?" So, full of flattering hope he fell asleep, And sleeping dreamed, but dreamed not that he would: For at one time it seemed as if he stood Alone upon a sterile neck of land, Where round about him upon either hand Was darkness, and the cry of a dark sea, And worldwide vapours glooming thunderously; And ever as he stood, the unstable ground Slid from beneath his feet with a great sound, Till he could find no foothold anywhere That seemed not unsubstantial as the air. At otherwhiles he wandered all alone About a lonely land, and heard a moan As of some bird that sang and singing grieved; And peering all about the woods thick-leaved If so he might espy the bird, he found At length, after long searching, that the sound Even from the bottom of his own heart came, And unawares his own mouth sang the same. And then in dream 'twas like as years went by, And still he journeyed, hardly knowing why, Till at the last a mist about him fell, And if the mist were death he could not tell, For after that he knew no more. And so He slept until the cock began to crow.
Then came the gladful morn, that sendeth sick Dreams flying, and all shapes melancholic That vex the slumbers of the love-distraught. Unto his heart the merry morning brought Cheer, and forewhisperings of some far-off rest, When he should end in sweet that bitter quest. But going forth that morn, and with his feet Threading the murmurous maze of street and street, All strangely fell upon him everywhere The things he saw and heard of foul or fair. The thronging of the folk that filled the ways; The hubbub of the street and market-place; The sound of heavy wain-wheels on the stones; The comely faces and ill-favoured ones; The girls with apple-cheeks and hair of gold; The grey locks and the wrinkles of the old;— All these remote and unfamiliar Seem'd, and himself a something from afar, Looking at men as shadows on the wall And even the veriest shadow among them all.
But now when all things dreamwise seemed to swim About the dubious eyes and ears of him, That nothing in the world might be believed, It chanced that on a sudden he perceived Where one that dealt in jewels sat within His doorway, hearkening to the outer din, As who cared no-wise to make fast his ears Against the babble of the street-farers: Whereat the merchant, seeing a stranger pass, Guessed by his garb what countryman he was, And giving him good-day right courteously Bespake him in his mother-tongue; for he Had wandered in his youth o'er distant seas And knew full many lands and languages. Wherefore with him the royal stranger fell To talking cheerly, and besought him tell Whence all his gems were had and costly things, Talismans, amulets, and charmed rings: Whereto the other answered, They had come Some from a country not far hence, and some From out a land a thousand leagues away To eastward, ev'n the birthplace of the Day, The region of the sun's nativity; And giving ear to this right readily The Prince would fain be told of him the way To that far homeland of the youngling Day. So, being ask'd, the other answered, "Sir, There liveth but one master-mariner Whose ship hath sailed so far: and that is he Who hither brought the jewels thou dost see. And now, as luck will have it for the nonce, He wills to voyage thitherward but once Before he die—for he is old like me— And even this day se'nnight saileth he. Wherefore if thou be fain to see that land, There needeth only gold within thy hand: For gold, if that it jingle true and clear, Hath still a merry music for man's ear, And where is he that hateth sound of it?" So saying, the merchant bade the stranger sit, But the Prince thanked him for his courtesy, And went his way. And that day se'nnight he Was sailing toward the far-off morningland, And felt the skies about him like a band, And heard the low wind uttering numerous noise, And all the great sea singing as one voice.
PART THE SIXTH
Even as one voice the great sea sang. From out The green heart of the waters round about, Welled as a bubbling fountain silverly The overflowing song of the great sea; Until the Prince, by dint of listening long, Divined the purport of that mystic song; (For so do all things breathe articulate breath Into his ears who rightly harkeneth) And, if indeed he heard that harmony Aright, in this wise came the song of the sea:
"Behold all ye that stricken of love do lie, Wherefore in manacles of a maiden's eye Lead ye the life of bondmen and of slaves? Lo in the caverns and the depths of Me A thousand mermaids dwell beneath the waves: A thousand maidens meet for love have I, Ev'n I the virgin-hearted cold chaste sea. Behold all ye that weary of life do lie, There is no rest at all beneath the sky Save in the nethermost deepness of the deep. Only the silence and the midst of Me Can still the sleepless soul that fain would sleep; For such, a cool death and a sweet have I, Ev'n I the crystal-hearted cool sweet sea. Behold all ye that in my lap do lie, To love is sweet and sweeter still to die, And woe to him that laugheth me to scorn! Lo in a little while the anger of Me Shall make him mourn the day that he was born: For in mine hour of wrath no ruth have I, Ev'n I the tempest-hearted pitiless sea."
So sang the waters, if indeed 'twere they That sang unto the Prince's ears that day, Since in the ship was not a soul besides Could hear that burden of the voiceful tides; For when he told the sailors of this thing, And ev'n what words the waters seemed to sing, They stared astonishment, and some, that had More churlish souls than others, held him mad, And laughed before his face outright. But when The captain heard the gossip of his men Touching this marvel, the strange news begot No merry mood in him, who wist not what Should be the meaning of the miracle, Nor whether 'twere an omen good or ill. Wherefore the old seafarer—having heard The tale retold with many an afterword The mariners' own most fruitful wit supplied To grace the telling—took the Prince aside, And ask'd him sundry questions privily Concerning this same singing of the sea. So the Prince told him all there was to tell, And when that he had heard, the old man fell To meditating much, and shook his head As one exceeding ill at ease, and said, "I doubt the singing thou hast heard was no Voice of the waters billowing below, But rather of some evil spirit near, Who sought with singing to beguile thine ear, Spreading a snare to catch the soul of thee In meshes of entangling melody, Which taketh captive the weak minds of men. Therefore if thou should'st hear the sound again, Look thou content thee not with hearkening, But cast thine eyes around, and mark what thing Thou seest, and let no man know but me."
So spake the white-haired wanderer of the sea. And on the morrow—when the sealine grew O'erhazed with visible heat, and no wind blew, And the half-stifled morning dropt aswoon Into the panting bosom of the noon— There came into the Prince's ears anew The song that yestermorn had hearkened to. And lifting up his eyes in hope to see What lips they were that made such melody And filled him with the fulness of their sound, He saw the sun at highest of his round Show as a shield with one dark bloodstain blurred, By reason of the body of some great bird Like to an eagle, with wide wings outspread, Athwart the sunfire hovering duskly red. So to the master of the ship he told What he had witnessed, bidding him behold The marvel with his own eyes if he would; Who, though he strained his vision all he could, Yet might not once endure to look the sun I' the face; and calling to him one by one The whole ship's crew, he bade each mariner look Sunward who could, but no man's eyes might brook The glare upon them of the noontide rays And lidless fervour of that golden gaze: So none of them beheld the bodeful bird.
Then said the greybeard captain, hardly heard Amid the babble of voices great and small, "The bird thou seest is no bird at all, But some unholy spirit in guise of one; And I do fear that we are all undone If any amongst us hearken to its voice;— For of its mouth, I doubt not, was the noise Thou heardest as of dulcet carolling, When at thine ear the waters seemed to sing."
And truly, many a wiser man than he Herein had farther strayed from verity; For that great bird that seemed to fan the sun's Face with its wings was even the same as once Flew screaming westward o'er the Prince's head, Beguiling him to follow where it fled. And bird it was not, but a spirit of ill, Man-hating, and of mankind hated still, And slave to one yet mightier demon-sprite Whose dwelling is the shadow of the night.
So the days passed, and always on the next The bird-sprite like a baleful vision vexed The happy-hearted sunlight; and each time Its false sweet song was wedded to the rhyme And chime of wind and wave—although it dropped As honey changed to music—the Prince stopped His ears, and would not hear; and so the Sprite, Seeing his charmed songcraft of no might Him to ensnare who hearkened not at all, On the tenth day with dreadful noise let fall A tempest shaken from the wings of him, Whereat the eyes of heaven wox thunderous-dim, Till the day-darkness blinded them, and fell Holding the world in night unseasonable. And from his beaked mouth the demon blew A breath as of a hundred winds, and flew Downward aswoop upon the labouring bark, And, covered of the blear untimely Dark, Clutch'd with his gripple claws the Prince his prey, And backward through the tempest soared away, Bearing that royal burden; and his eyes Were wandering wells of lightning to the skies.
Long time the Prince was held in swound, and knew Nor outer world nor inner, as they flew From darkness unto darkness; till at last— The fierce flight over, and his body cast Somewhere alone in a strange place—the life Stirred in him faintly, as at feeble strife With covetous Death for ownership of him. And 'fore his eyes the world began to swim All vague, and doubtful as a dream that lies Folded within another, petal-wise. And therewithal himself but half believed His own eyes' testimony, and perceived The things that were about him as who hears A distant music throbbing toward his ears At noontide, in a flowery hollow of June, And listens till he knows not if the tune And he be one or twain, or near or far, But only feels that sound and perfume are, And tremulous light and leafy umbrage: so The Prince beheld unknowing, nor fain to know.
About him was a ruinous fair place, Which Time, who still delighteth to abase The highest, and throw down what men do build, With splendid prideful barrenness had filled, And dust of immemorial dreams, and breath Of silence, which is next of kin to death. A weedy wilderness it seemed, that was In days forepast a garden, but the grass Grew now where once the flowers, and hard by A many-throated fountain had run dry Which erst all day a web of rainbows wove Out of the body of the sun its love. And but a furlong's space beyond, there towered In middest of that silent realm deflowered A palace builded of black marble, whence The shadow of a swart magnificence Falling, upon the outer space begot A dream of darkness when the night was not. Which while the Prince beheld, a wonderment Laid hold upon him, that he rose and went Toward the palace-portico apace, Thinking to read the riddle of the place. And entering in (for open was the door) From hall to hall he passed, from floor to floor, Through all the spacious house, and (saving where The subtile spider had his darksome lair) No living creature could he find in it. Howbeit, by certain writing that was writ Upon the wall of one dark room and bare, He guessed that some great sorcerer had there Inhabited, a slave to his own lust Of evil power and knowledge, till the dust Received his dust, and darkness had his soul; But ere death took him he had willed the whole Of his possessions to a Spirit of Ill, His sometime mate in commerce damnable, Making him lord of that high house, wherein The twain had sealed their covenant of sin.
With that a horror smote the Prince, and fain Would he have fled that evil spirit's domain And shook its dust from off his feet that hour. But from a window of the topmost tower Viewing the dim-leaved wilderness without, Full plainly he perceived it hemmed about With waves, an island of the middle sea, In watery barriers bound insuperably; And human habitation saw he none, Nor heard one bird a-singing in the sun To lighten the intolerable stress Of utter undisputed silentness.
So by these signs he knew himself the thrall Of that foul spirit unseen, and therewithal Wholly unfellowed in captivity, Bound round with fetters of the tyrannous sea. And sick for very loneliness, he passed Downward through galleries and chambers vast To one wide hall wherefrom a vestibule Opened into a dim green space and cool, Where great trees grew that various fruitage bore The like whereof he had not seen before, And hard by was a well of water sweet; And being anhungered he did pluck and eat The strange fair fruit, and being athirst did drink The water, and lay down beside the brink; Till sleep, as one that droppeth from the skies, Dropt down, and made a mist about his eyes.
PART THE SEVENTH
But Sleep, who makes a mist about the sense, Doth ope the eyelids of the soul, and thence Lifteth a heavier cloud than that whereby He veils the vision of the fleshly eye. And not alone by dreams doth Sleep make known The sealed things and covert—not alone In visions of the night do mortals hear The fatal feet and whispering wings draw near; But dimly and in darkness doth the soul Drink of the streams of slumber as they roll, And win fine secrets from their waters deep: Yea, of a truth, the spirit doth grow in sleep.
Howbeit I know not whether as he slept A voice from out the depth of dream upleapt And whispered in his ear; or whether he Grew to the knowledge blindly, as a tree Waxes from bloom to fruitage, knowing not The manner of its growth: but this I wot, That rising from that sleep beside the spring The Prince had knowledge of a certain thing Whereof he had not wist until that hour— To wit, that two contending spirits had power Over his spirit, ruling him with sway Altern; as 'twere dominion now of Day And now of Dark; for one was of the light, And one was of the blackness of the night.
Now there be certain evil spirits whom The mother of the darkness in her womb Conceived ere darkness' self; and one of these Did rule that island of the middle seas Hemmed round with silence and enchantment dim. Nothing in all the world so pleasured him As filling human hearts with dolorousness And banning where another sprite did bless; But chiefly did his malice take delight In thwarting lovers' hopes and breathing blight Into the blossoms newly-opened Of sweet desire, till all of sweet were fled: And (for he knew what secret hopes did fill The minds of men) 'twas even now his will To step between the Prince and his desire, Nor suffer him to fare one furlong nigher Unto that distant-shining golden goal That beacon'd through the darkness to his soul.
And so the days, the sultry summer days, Went by, and wimpled over with fine haze The noiseless nights stole after them, as steals The moon-made shadow at some traveller's heels. And day by day and night by night the Prince Dwelt in that island of enchantment, since The hour when Evil Hap, in likeness of An eagle swooping from the clouds above, Did bind him body and soul unto that place. And in due time the summer waxed apace, And in due time the summer waned: and now The withered leaf had fallen from the bough, And now the winter came and now the spring; Yea, summer's self was toward on the wing From wandering overseas: and all this while The Prince abode in that enchanted isle, Marvelling much at Fortune and her ways.
And by degrees the slowly-sliding days Gathered themselves together into years, And oftentimes his spirit welled in tears From dawn to darkness and from dark to dawn, By reason of the light of life withdrawn. And if the night brought sleep, a fitful sleep, The phantoms of a buried time would creep Out of their hollow hiding-places vast, Peopling his Present from the wizard Past. Sometimes between the whirl of dream and dream, All in a doubtful middle-world, a gleam Went shivering past him through the chill grey space, And lo he knew it for his mother's face, And wept; and all the silence where he stood Wept with him. And at times the dreamer would Dream himself back beneath his father's roof At eventide, and there would hold aloof In silence, clothed upon with shadows dim, To hear if any spake concerning him; But the hours came and went and went and came, And no man's mouth did ever name his name. And year by year he saw the queen and king Wax older, and beheld a shadowy thing Lurking behind them, till it came between His dreamsight and the semblance of the queen, From which time forth he saw her not: and when Another year had been it came again, And after that he saw his sire the king No more, by reason of the shadowy thing Stepping between; and all the place became As darkness, and the echo of a name.
* * * * *
What need to loiter o'er the chronicle Of days that brought no change? What boots it tell The tale of hours whereof each moment was As like its fellow as one blade of grass Is to another, when the dew doth fall Without respect of any amongst them all? Enow that time in that enchanted air Nor slept nor tarried more than otherwhere, And so at last the captive lived to see The fiftieth year of his captivity. And on a day within that fiftieth year He wandered down unto the beach, to hear The breaking of the breakers on the shore, As he had heard them ofttimes heretofore In days when he would sit and watch the sea, If peradventure there some ship might be. But now his soul no longer yearned as then To win her way back to the world of men: For what could now his freedom profit him? The hope that filled youth's beaker to its brim The tremulous hand of age had long outspilled, And whence might now the vessel be refilled? Moreover, after length of days and years The soul had ceased to beat her barriers, And like a freeborn bird that caged sings Had grown at last forgetful of her wings.
And so he took his way toward the sea— Not, as in former days, if haply he Might spy some ship upon the nether blue, And beckon with his hands unto the crew, But rather with an easeful heart to hear What things the waves might whisper to his ear Of counsel wise and comfortable speech. But while he walked about the yellow beach, There came upon his limbs an heaviness, For languor of the sultry time's excess; And so he lay him down under a tree Hard by a little cove, and there the sea Sang him to sleep. And sleeping thus, he dreamed A dream of very wonderment: himseemed, The spirit that half an hundred years before In likeness of an eagle came and bore His body to that island on a day, Came yet again and found him where he lay, And taking him betwixt his talons flew O'er seas and far-off countries, till they drew Nigh to a city that was built between Four mountains in a pleasant land and green; And there upon the highest mountain's top The bird that was no bird at all let drop Its burthen, and was seen of him no more.
Thereat he waked, and issuing from the door Of dream did marvel in his heart; because He found he had but dreamed the thing that was: For there, assuredly, was neither sea Nor Isle Enchanted; and assuredly He sat upon the peak of a great hill; And far below him, looking strangely still, Uptowered a city exceeding fair to ken, And murmurous with multitude of men.
PART THE EIGHTH
Now as it chanced, the day was almost spent When down the lonely mountain-side he went, The whitehaired man, the Prince that was; and ere He won the silence of the valley where The city's many towers uprose, the gate Was closed against him, for the hour was late. So even as they that have not wherewithal To roof them from the rain if it should fall, Upon the grassy ground this king's son lay, And slept till nigh the coming of the day.
But while as any vagabond he slept Or outcast from the homes of men, there crept Unto him lying in such sorry sort A something fairer than the kingliest court In all the peopled world had witness of— Even the shadow of the throne of Love, That from a height beyond all height did creep Along the pavement of the halls of sleep. O fair and wonderful! that shadow was The golden dream of dreams that came across His youth, full half an hundred years before, And sent him wandering through the world. Once more In a lone boat that sails and oars had none, Midmost a land of summer and the sun Where nothing was that was not fair to see, Adown a gliding river glided he, And saw the city that was built thereby, And saw the chariot of the queen draw nigh, And gazed upon her in the goodly street; Whereat he waked and rose upon his feet, Remembering the Vision of the Seer, And what the spirit spake unto his ear: "When in thy wanderings thou shalt dream once more The fateful dream thou haddest heretofore, That filled thy veins with longing as with wine Till all thy being brimm'd over—by that sign Thou mayest know thyself at last to be Within the borders of his empery Who hath the mystic emerald stone, whose gleam Shall light thee to the country of thy dream."
Then rose the heart within his heart and said: "O bitter scornful Fate, in days long dead I asked and thou denied'st mine asking: now The boon can no-wise profit me, and thou Dost mock me with bestowal!" Thereupon He fell to thinking of his youthhood gone, And wept. For now the goal, the longtime-sought, Was even at hand, "but how shall I," he thought, "I that am old and sad and hoary-haired, Enter the place for youth and love prepared? For in my veins the wellspring of desire Hath failed, and in mine heart the golden fire Burneth no more for ever. I draw near The night that is about our day, and hear The sighing of the darkness as I go Whose ancient secret there is none doth know."
Ev'n so to his own heart he spake full sad, And many and bitter were the thoughts he had Of days that were and days that were to be. But now the East was big with dawn, and he Drew nigh the city-gates and entered in, Ere yet the place remurmured with the din Of voices and the tread of human feet; And going up the void and silent street, All in the chill gleam of the new-lit air, A Thought found way into his soul, and there Abode and grew, and in brief while became Desire, and quickened to a quenchless flame: And holding converse with himself, he said, "Though in my heart the heart's desire be dead, And can no more these time-stilled pulses move; Though Death were lovelier to these eyes than Love Yet would these eyes behold, or ere I pass, The land that mirror'd lay as in a glass In the deep wells of dream. And her that is The sunlight of that city of all bliss, Her would I fain see once with waking eyes Whom sleep hath rendered unto vision twice. And having seen her beauty I would go My way, even to the river which doth flow From daylight unto darkness and the place Of silence, where the ghosts are face to face."
So mused the man, and evermore his thought Gave him no peace. Wherefore next morn he sought The palace of the king, but on his way Tarried till nigh the middle of the day In talk with certain of the city-folk; Whereby he learned, if that were true they spoke, How that the king their lord was nigh distract With torture of a strange disease that racked Each day his anguished body more and more, Setting at naught the leeches and their lore. Which having heard he went before the king, Who sat upon his throne, delivering Judgment, his body pierced the while with pain. And taking from his neck the charmed chain Which he had borne about him ever since That morn miraculous, the unknown Prince Upspake and said, "O king, I hold within My hand a wonder-working medicine Of power to make thee whole if thou wilt deign So to be healed;" and he held the chain Aloft, and straightway told unto the king The passing worth and wonder of the thing.
Then he that heard stretched forth a hand that shook With sudden fever of half-hope, and took The chain, and turned it over in his hand Until his eyes had left no link unscanned. And on each separate link was character'd A language that no living ear had heard, Occult, of secret import, mystic, strange. Then said the king, "What would'st thou in exchange For this the magic metal thou dost bring?" And the Prince answered him and said, "O king, Even the emerald stone which some do call The Emerald of the Virtues Mystical." And they who thronged the hall of judgment were Astonished at the stranger who could dare Ask such a boon; and some base mouths did curl With sneers, churl whispering to his fellow churl, "Who could have deemed the man so covetous, So void of shame in his great greed?" For thus It shall be ever underneath the sun, Each man believing that high hearts are none Whose own is as the dust he treads on low.
But the king answered saying, "Be it so. To-night this chain of iron shall be worn About my neck, and on the morrow-morn, If all the pain have left these limbs of mine, The guerdon thou demandest shall be thine. But if this torment still tormenteth me, Thy head and shoulders shall part company, And both be cast uncoffin'd to the worms. Open thy mouth and answer if these terms Content thee." And aloud the Prince replied, "With these conditions I am satisfied:" Whereafter, rising from his knees, he went Out from before the king, and was content.
Next morning, when the king awoke, I wis No heart was lighter in the land than his; For all the grievous burden of his pains Had fall'n from off his limbs, and in his veins Upleapt the glad new life, and the sick soul Seemed like its body all at once made whole. But hardly was the king uprisen before There knock'd and entered at the chamber-door His chief physician (a right skilful leech, But given to hollow trickeries of speech, And artful ways and wiles) who said, "O king, Be not deceived, I pray thee. One good thing Comes of another, like from like. The weed Beareth not lilies, neither do apes breed Antelopes. Thou art healed of thy pain Not by the wearing of an iron chain— An iron chain forsooth!"—(hereat he laughed As 'twere a huge rare jest) "but by the draught Which I prepared for thee with mine own hands From certain precious simples grown in lands It irks me tell how many leagues away: Which medicine thou tookest yesterday."
Then said the king, "O false and jealous man, Who lovest better thine own praises than Thy master's welfare! Little 'tis to such As thou, that I should be made whole; but much That men should go before thee, trumpeting "'Behold the man that cured our lord the king.'" And he was sore displeased and in no mood To hearken. But the chief physician stood Unmoved amid this hail of kingly scorn, With meek face martyr-like, as who hath borne Much in the name of Truth, and much can bear. And from the mouth of him false words and fair So cunningly flowed that in a little while The royal frown became a royal smile, And the king hearkened to the leech and was Persuaded. So that morn it came to pass That when the Prince appeared before the throne To claim his rightful meed, the emerald stone, The king denied his title to receive The jewel, saying, "Think'st thou I believe Yon jingling chain hath healed my body? Nay; For whatsoever such as thou may say I am not found so easy to beguile: As for the gem thou wouldest, this good while It hath adorned the crown I wear, nor shall The stone be parted from the coronal."
Scarce had the false king spoken when behold Through the high ceiling's goodly fretted gold A sudden shaft of lightning downward sped And smote the golden crown upon his head, Yea, melted ev'n as wax the golden crown. And from the molten metal there fell down A grassgreen Splendour, and the Emerald Stone Tumbled from step to step before the throne, And lay all moveless at the Prince's feet! And the king sat upon his royal seat A dead king, marble-mute: but no man stirred Or spake: and only silence might be heard.
Then he before whose feet the gem did lie Said not a word to any man thereby, But stooped and lifted it from off the floor, And passing outward from the open door Put the mysterious jewel in his breast And went his way, none daring to molest The stranger. For the whisper rose and ran, "Is not the lightning leagued with this man?"
PART THE NINTH
And passing through the city he went out Into the fat fields lying thereabout, And lo the spirit of the emerald stone With secret influence to himself unknown Guided the wandering of his errant feet, The servants of the errant soul; and sweet The meadows were, with babble of birds, and noise Of brooks, the water's voice and the wind's voice. Howbeit he gave small heed to any of them; And now the subtile spirit of the gem Led him along a winding way that ran Beyond the fields to where the woods began To spread green matwork for the mountains' feet; A region where the Silence had her seat And hearkened to the sounds that only she Can hear—the fall of dew on herb and tree; The voice of the growing of the grass; the night Down-fluttering breathless from the heaven's height; And autumn whispering unawares at times Strange secrets and dark sayings, wrapt in rhymes Wind-won from forest branches. At this place The old man rested for a little space, Forgetful that the day was wellnigh flown: But soon the urgent spirit of the stone Itself re-entered and possessed anew His soul; and led thereby, and wandering through A mile of trackless and untrodden ground, By favour of the rising moon he found A rude path, broken here and there by rills Which crossed it as they hurried from the hills. And going whitherso the wild path went, A two hours' journeying brought him, wellnigh spent With toiling upwards, to a mountain pass, A bleak lone place where no trees grew nor grass, But on each hand a peak of rock, high-reared, Uprose: afar the two like horns appeared Of some great beast, so tapering-tall they were. And now with forward gaze the wanderer Stood where the pass was highest and the track Went downward both ways; and behind his back The full moon shone, and lo before his face The bright sea glimmered at the mountain's base. It seemed, what way soever he might turn, His fate still led him to that watery bourn.
So journeying down the track which lay before, He came, an hour past midnight, to the shore, And, looking backward, far above espied The two sharp peaks, one peak on either side Of that lone pass; verily like a pair Of monstrous horns, the tips far-seen, up there: And in the nether space betwixt the two, A single monstrous eye the moon shone through.
Now all this while the spirit of the stone Had led him forward, he, the old man lone, Taking no thought of whither he was bound. And roaming now along the beach he found A creek, and in the creek, some little way From where it joined the sea, a pinnace lay Moored at the marge; and stepping thereinto, He sat him down, and from his bosom drew The mystic gem, and placed it at the prow, That he might watch its paly splendours, how They lightened here and there, and flashed aflame, Mocked at the moon and put the stars to shame. But hardly was the stone out of his hand, When the boat wrenched her moorings from the land, And swift as any captive bird set free Shot o'er the shimmering surface of the sea, The spirit of the emerald guiding her; And for a time the old man could not stir For very greatness of astonishment.
But merrily o'er the moonlit waters went The pinnace, till the land was out of sight, Far in the dreaming distance. All that night, Faster than ever wind in winter blew, Faster than quarrel flies the bow, she flew. A moment was a league in that wild flight From vast to vast of ocean and the night. And now the moon her lanthorn had withdrawn: And now the pale weak heralds of the dawn Lifted the lids of their blear eyes afar: The last belated straggler of a star Went home; and in her season due the morn Brake on a cold and silent sea forlorn— A strange mute sea, where never wave hath stirred, Nor sound of any wandering wind is heard, Nor voice of sailors sailing merrily: A sea untraversed, an enchanted sea From all the world fate-folden; hemmed about Of linked Dreams; encompassed with a Doubt.
But not the less for lack of wind went she, The flying pinnace, o'er that silent sea, Till those dull waters of enchantment lay Behind her many a league. And now her way Was toward a shining tract of ocean, where Low winds with bland breath flattered the mild air, And low waves did together clasp and close, And skyward yearning from the sea there rose And seaward yearning from the sky there fell A Spirit of Deep Content Unspeakable: So midway meeting betwixt sky and sea, These twain are married for eternity, And rule the spirits of that Deep, and share The lordship of the legions of the air.
Here winds but came to rest them from their wars With far seas waged. Here Darkness had her stars Always, a nightly multitudinous birth. And entering on this happier zone of earth, The boat 'gan bate her speed, and by degrees Tempered her motion to the tranquil seas, As if she knew the land not far ahead, The port not far: so forward piloted By that sweet spirit and strong, she held her way Unveering. And a little past midday, The wanderer lifted up his eyes, and right Before him saw what seemed a great wall, white As alabaster, builded o'er the sea, High as the heaven; but drawing nearer he Perceived it was a mighty mist that lay Upon the ocean, stretching far away Northward and southward, and the sun appeared Powerless to melt its mass. And while he neared This cloudy barrier stretching north and south, A tale once told him by his mother's mouth, In childhood, while he sat upon her knee, Rose to remembrance: how that on the sea. Sat somewhere a Great Mist which no sun's heat Could melt, nor wind make wander from, its seat. So great it was, the fastest ship would need Seven days to compass it, with all her speed. And they of deepest lore and wisest wit Deemed that an island in the midst of it Bloomed like a rosebush ring'd with snows, a place Of pleasance, folded in that white embrace And chill. But never yet would pilot steer Into the fog that wrapped it round, for fear Of running blindfold in that sightless mist On sunken reefs whereof no mariner wist: And so from all the world this happy isle Lay hidden. Thus the queen, long since; and while He marvelled if the mist before his ken Could be the same she told of—even then, Hardly a furlong 'fore the pinnace' prow It lay: and now 'twas hard at hand: and now The boat had swept into the folds of it! But all that vision of white darkness—lit By the full splendour of the emerald stone That from the forepart of the pinnace shone— Melted around her, as in sunder cleft By that strong spirit of light; and there was left A wandering space, behind her and before, Of radiance, roofed and walled with mist, the floor A liquid pavement large. And so she passed Through twilight immemorial, and at last Issued upon the other side, where lay The land no mortal knew before that day.
There wilding orchards faced the beach, and bare All manner of delicious fruit and rare, Such as in gardens of kings' palaces Trembles upon the sultry-scented trees, The soul of many sunbeams at its core. Well-pleased the wanderer landed on this shore, Beholding all its pleasantness, how sweet And soft, to the tired soul, to the tired feet. And so he sat him down beneath the boughs, And there a low wind seemed to drone and drowse Among the leaves as it were gone astray And like to faint forwearied by the way; Till the persistence of the sound begat An heaviness within him as he sat: So when Sleep chanced to come that way, he found A captive not unwilling to be bound, And on his body those fine fetters put Wherewith he bindeth mortals hand and foot.
When the tired sleeper oped again his eyes, 'Twas early morn, and he beheld the skies Glowing from those deep hours of rest and dew Wherein all creatures do themselves renew. The laughing leaves blink'd in the sun, throughout Those dewy realms of orchard thereabout; But green fields lay beyond, and farther still, Betwixt them and the sun, a great high hill Kept these in shadow, and the brighter made The fruitlands look for all that neighbouring shade. And he the solitary man uprose, His face toward the mountain beyond those Fair fields not yet acquainted with the sun; And crossed the fields, and climbed the hill, and won The top; and journeying down the eastern side Entered upon a grassy vale and wide, Where in the midst a pure stream ran, as yet A youngling, hardly able to forget The lofty place of its nativity, Nor lusting yet for union with the sea. And through this valley, taking for his guide The stream, and walking by the waterside, He wandered on, but had at whiles to ford The lesser brooks that from the mountains poured Into this greater; which by slow degrees, Enlarged with such continual soft increase, Became a river broad and fair, but still As clear as when it flowed a mountain-rill: And he the wanderer wandering by that stream Saw 'twas the river he had known in dream.
So day by day he journeyed; and it chanced One day he fared till night was well advanced Ere lying down to sleep; and when he waked Next morn, his bones and all his body ached, And on his temples lay a weary heat, And with sore pain he got upon his feet. Yet when he rose and hard at hand espied The City sloping to the riverside, With bright white walls and golden port agleam, Such as he saw them figured in the dream— Then the blood leapt as fire along his veins And the o'erwearied limbs forgat their pains. But when he strove to make what speed he might Toward the happy haven full in sight, The feet that would have hastened thereunto Could not; and heavily, as old men do, He fell to earth, and groaned aloud and said, "Old man, what would'st thou, with thy silvered head, Yonder, where all their tresses be as gold Forever?—Thou art suffered to behold The city of thy search: what wilt thou more? Tarry thou here upon this river-shore; Thou mightest farther go nor find the grass Greener, whereon to lay thy head, and pass Into the deep dark populous empty land."
So spake the man, not able to withstand This dumb remonstrance of the flesh, now first Thwarting the soul. Howbeit a mighty thirst Consumed him, and he crawled unto the brink Of the clear stream hard by, that he might drink One draught thereof, and with the water still His deep desire. When lo a miracle! No sooner had he drunken than his whole Body was changed and did from crown to sole The likeness of its youthful self put on, The Prince of half-an-hundred years agone, Wearing the very garments that he wore What time his years were but a single score.
Then he remembered how that in The Dream One told him of the marvel of that stream, Whose waters are a well of youth eterne. And night and day its crystal heart doth yearn To wed its youthhood with the sea's old age; And faring on that bridal pilgrimage, Its waters past the shining city are rolled, And all the people drink and wax not old.
PART THE TENTH
That night within the City of Youth there stood Musicians playing to the multitude On many a gold and silver instrument Whose differing souls yet chimed in glad consent. And sooth-tongued singers, throated like the bird All darkness holds its breath to hear, were heard Chanting aloud before the comely folk, Chanting aloud till none-for listening spoke, Chanting aloud that all the city rang; And whoso will may hear the song they sang:—
O happy hearts, O youths and damsels, pray What new and wondrous thing hath chanced to-day, O happy hearts, what wondrous thing and new? Set the gold sun with kinglier-mightful glance, Rose the maid-moon with queenlier countenance, Came the stars forth a merrier madder crew, Than ever sun or maiden-moon before, Or jostling stars that shook the darkness' floor With night-wide tremor 'neath their dizzy dance?
Strong is the Sun, but strong alway was he; The Moon is fair, but ever fair showed she; The Stars are many, and who hath known them few? As now they be, so heretofore were they: What is the wondrous thing hath chanced to-day, O happy hearts, the wondrous thing and new, Whereof ye are glad together even more Than of the sunlight or the moonlight or The light o' the stars that strow the milky-way?
For all your many maidens have the head In goodly festal wise engarlanded, With flowers at noon the banquet of the bees, And leaves that in some grove at midday grew: And ever since the falling of the dew Your streets are full of pomps and pageantries, Laughter and song, feasting and dancing:—nay, Surely some wondrous thing hath chanced to-day; O happy hearts, what wondrous thing and new?
No, no, ye need not answer any word! Heard have we all—who lives and hath not heard?— What thing the sovran Fates have done to-day; Who turn the tides of life which way they please, And sit themselves aloft, aloof, at ease: Dwellers in courts of marble silence they. No need to ask what thing the Fates have done Between the sunrise and the set of sun, Mute-moving in their twilight fastnesses!