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The sense of day and night, of false and true,
Was dead within me. Yet two visions burst
That darkness—one, as since that hour I knew,
Was not a phantom of the realms accurst,
Where then my spirit dwelt-but of the first
I know not yet, was it a dream or no.
But both, tho' not distincter, were immersed
In hues which, when thro' memory's waste they flow, Make their divided streams more bright and rapid now.
Methought that gate was lifted, and the seven
Who brought me thither, four stiff corpses bare,
And from the frieze to the four winds of Heaven
Hung them on high by the entangled hair:
Swarthy were three—the fourth was very fair:
As they retired, the golden moon upsprung,
And eagerly, out in the giddy air,
Leaning that I might eat, I stretched and clung
Over the shapeless depth in which those corpses hung.
XXVI. A woman's shape, now lank and cold and blue, The dwelling of the many-coloured worm Hung there, the white and hollow cheek I drew To my dry lips—what radiance did inform Those horny eyes? whose was that withered form? Alas, alas ! it seemed that Cythina's ghost Laughed in those looks, and that the flesh was warın
Within my teeth a whirlwind keen as frost
Then in its sinking gulphs my sickening spirit tost.
Then seemed it that a tameless hurricane
Arose, and bore me in its dark career
Beyond the sun, beyond the stars that wane
On the verge of formless spacemit languished there,
And dying, left a silence lone and drear,
More horrible than famine :--in the deep
The shape of an old man did then appear,
Stately and beautiful, that dreadful sleep
His heavenly smiles dispersed, and I could wake and weer.
And when the blinding tears had fallen, I saw
That column, and those corpses, and the moon,
And felt the poisonous tooth of hunger gnaw
My vitals, I rejoiced, as if the boon
of senseless death would be accorded soon;-
When from that stony gloom a voice arose,
Solemn and sweet as when low winds attune
The midnight pines; the grate did then unclose,
And on that reverend form the moonlight did repose.
He struck my chains, and gently spake and smiled :
As they were loosened by that Hermit old,
Mine eyes were of their madness half beguiled,
To answer those kind looks—he did infold
His giant arms around me, to uphold
My wretched frame, my scorched limbs he wound
In linen moist and balmy, and as cold
As dew to drooping leaves;—the chain, with sound
Like earthquake, thro' the chasm of that steep stair did bound,
As lifting me, it fell !—What next I heard,
Were billows leaping on the harbour bar,
And the shrill sea-wind, whose breath idly stirred
My hair;-I looked abroad, and saw a star
Shining beside a sail, and distant far
That mountain and its column, the known mark
Of those who in the wide deep wandering are,
So that I feared some Spirit, fell and dark,
In trance had lain me thus within a fiendish bark.
For now indeed, over the salt sea billow
I sailed: yet dared not look upon the shape
Of him who ruled the helm, altho' the pillow
For my light head was hollowed in his lap,
And my bare limbs his mantle did enwrap,
Fearing it was a tiend: at last, he bent
O'er me his agèd face, as if to snap
Those dreadful thoughts the gentle grandsire bent,
And to my inmost soul his soothing looks he sent.
A soft and healing potion to my lips
At intervals he raised—now looked on high,
To mark if yet the starry giant dips
His zone in the dim sea—now cheeringly,
Though he said little, did he speak to me.
“ It is a friend beside thee-take good cheer,
Poor victim, thou art now at liberty!”
I joyed as those a human tone to hear,
Who in cells deep and lone have languished many a year.
A dim and feeble joy, whose glimpses oft
Were quenched in a relapse of wildering dreams,
Yet still methought we sailed, until aloft
The stars of night grew pallid, and the beams
Of morn descended on the ocean streams,
And still that aged man, so grand and mild,
Tended me, even as some sick mother seems
To hang in hope over a dying child,
Till in the azure East darkness again was piled.
And then the night-wind steaming from the shore,
Sent odours dying sweet across the sea,
And the swift boat the little waves which bore,
Were cut by its keen keel, tho' slantingly;
Soon I could hear the leaves sigh, and could see
The myrtle blossoms starring the dim grove,
As past the pebbly beach the boat did flee
On sidelong wing, into a silent cove,
Where ebon pines a shade under the starlight wove.
I. The old man took the oars, and soon the bark Smote on the beach beside a tower of stone; It was a crumbling heap, whose portal dark With blooming ivy trails was overgrown; Upon whose floor the spangling sands were strown, And rarest sea-shells, which the eternal flood, Slave to the mother of the months, had thrown
Within the walls of that grey tower, which stood A changeling of man's art, nursed amid Nature's brood.
II. When the old man his boat had anchored, He wound me in his arms with tender care, And very few, but kindly words he said, And bore me thro' the tower adown a stair, Whose smooth descent some ceaseless step to wear For many a year had fallen-We came at last To
sinall chamber, which with mosses rare Was tapestried, where me his soft hands placed Upon a couch of grass and oak-leaves interlaced.
III. The moon was darting through the lattices Its yellow light, warm as the beams of daySo warm, that to admit the dewy breeze, The old man opened them; the moonlight lay Upon a lake whose waters wove their play Even to the threshold of that lonely hone: Within was seen in the dim wavering ray, The antique sculptured roof, and many a tome Whose lore had made that sage all that he had become
The rock-built barrier of the sea was past, -
And I was on the margin of a lake,
A lonely lake, amid the forests vast
And snowy mountains :did my spirit wake
From sleep, as many-coloured as the snake
That girds eternity ? in life and truth,
Might not my heart its cravings ever slake?
Was Cythna then a dream, and all my youth,
And all its hopes and fears, and all its joy and ruth?
Thus madness came again,-a milder madness,
Which darkened nought but time's unquiet flow
With supernatural shades of clinging sadness;
That gentle Hermit, in my helpless woe,
By my sick couch was busy to and fro,
Like a strong spirit ministrant of good :
When I was healed, he led me forth to shew
The wonders of his sylvan solitude,
And we together sate by that isle-fretted flood.
He knew his soothing words to weave with skill
From all my madness told; like mine own heart,
Of Cythna would he question me, until
That thrilling name had ceased to make me start,
From his familiar lips-it was not art,
Of wisdom and of justice when he spoke-
When mid soft looks of pity, there would dart
A glance as keen as is the lightning's stroke
When it doth rive the knots of some ancestral oak.
Thus slowly from my brain the darkness rolled,
My thoughts their due array did re-assume
Thro' the inchantments of that Hermit old;
Then I bethought me of the glorious doom
Of those who sternly struggle to relume
The lamp of Hope o'er man's bewildered lot,
And, sitting by the waters, in the gloom
Of eve, to that friend's heart I told my thoughtThat heart which had grown old, but had corrupted not.