Alfred Lord Tennyson: I

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff


Here far away, seen from the topmost cliff,
Filling with purple gloom the vacancies
Between the tufted hills the sloping seas
Hung in mid-heaven, and half-way down rare sails,
White as white clouds, floated from sky to sky.
Oh! pleasant breast of waters, quiet bay,
Like to a quiet mind in the loud world,
Where the chafed breakers of the outer sea
Sunk powerless, even as anger falls aside,
And withers on the breast of peaceful love,
Thou didst receive that belt of pines, that fledged
The hills that watch'd thee, as Love watcheth Love,—
In thine own essence, and delight thyself
To make it wholly thine on sunny days.
Keep thou thy name of 'Lover's bay': See, Sirs,
Even now the Goddess of the Past, that takes
The heart, and sometimes toucheth but one string,
That quivers, and is silent, and sometimes
Sweeps suddenly all its half-moulder'd chords
To an old melody, begins to play
On those first-moved fibres of the brain.
I come, Great mistress of the ear and eye:
Oh! lead me tenderly, for fear the mind
Rain thro' my sight, and strangling sorrow weigh
Mine utterance with lameness. Tho' long years
Have hallowed out a valley and a gulf
Betwixt the native land of Love and me,
Breathe but a little on me, and the sail
Will draw me to the rising of the sun,
The lucid chambers of the morning star,
And East of life.
Permit me, friend, I prithee,
To pass my hand across my brows, and muse
On those dear hills, that nevermore will meet
The sight that throbs and aches beneath my touch,
As tho' there beat a heart in either eye;
For when the outer lights are darken'd thus,
The memory's vision hath a keener edge.
It grows upon me now—the semicircle
Of dark blue waters and the narrow fringe
Of curving beach—its wreaths of dripping green—
Its pale pink shells—the summer-house aloft
That open'd on the pines with doors of glass,
A mountain nest the pleasure boat that rock'd
Light-green with its own shadow, keel to keel,
Upon the crispings of the dappled waves
That blanched upon its side.
O Love, O Hope,
They come, they crowd upon me all at once,
Moved from the cloud of unforgotten things,
That sometimes on the horizon of the mind
Lies folded—often sweeps athwart in storm—
They flash across the darkness of my brain,
The many pleasant days, the moolit nights,
The dewy dawnings and the amber eyes,
When thou and I, Camilla, thou and I
Were borne about the bay, or safely moor'd
Beneath some low brow'd cavern, where the wave
Plash'd sapping its worn ribs (the while without,
And close above us, sang the wind-tost pine,
And shook its earthly socket, for we heard,
In rising and in falling with the tide,
Close by our ears, the huge roots strain and creak),
Eye feeding upon eye with deep intent;
And mine, with love too high to be express'd
Arrested in its sphere, and ceasing from
All contemplation of all forms, did pause
To worship mine own image, laved in light,
The centre of the splendours, all unworthy
Of such a shrine—mine image in her eyes,
By diminution made most glorious,
Moved with their motions, as those eyes were moved
With motions of the soul, as my heart beat
Twice to the melody of hers. Her face
Was starry-fair, not pale, tenderly flush'd
As 'twere with dawn. She was dark-hair'd, dark-eyed;
Oh, such dark eyes! A single glance of them
Will govern a whole life from birth to death,
Careless of all things else, led on with light
In trances and in visions: look at them,
You lose yourself in utter ignorance,
You cannot find their depth; for they go back,
And farther back, and still withdraw themselves
Quite into the deep soul, that evermore,
Fresh springing from her fountains in the brain,
Still pouring thro', floods with redundant light
Her narrow portals.
Trust me, long ago
I should have died, if it were possible
To die in gazing on that perfectness
Which I do bear within me; I had died
But from my farthest lapse, my latest ebb,
Thine image, like a charm of light and strength
Upon the waters, pushed me back again
On these deserted sands of barren life.
Tho' from the deep vault, where the heart of hope
Fell into dust, and crumbled in the dark—
Forgetting who to render beautiful
Her countenance with quick and healthful blood—
Thou didst not sway me upward, could I perish
With such a costly casket in the grasp
Of memory? He, that saith it, hath o'erstepp'd
The slippery footing of his narrow wit,
And fall'n away from judgment. Thou art light,
To which my spirit leaneth all her flowers,
And length of days, and immortality
Of thought, and freshness ever self-renew'd.
For Time and Grief abode too long with Life,
And like all other friends i' the world, at last
They grew aweary of her fellowship:
So Time and Grief did beckon unto Death,
And Death drew nigh and beat the doors of Life;
But thou didst sit alone in the inner house,
A wakeful port'ress and didst parle with Death,
'This is a charmed dwelling which I hold';
So Death gave back, and would no further come.
Yet is my life nor in the present time,
Nor in the present place. To me alone,
Pushed from his chair of regal heritage,
The Present is the vassal of the Past:
So that, in that I have lived, do I live,
And cannot die, and am, in having been,
A portion of the pleasant yesterday,
Thrust forward on to-day and out of place;
A body journeying onward, sick with toil,
The lithe limbs bow'd as with a heavy weight
And all the senses weaken'd in all save that
Which, long ago, they had glean'd and garner'd up
Into the granaries of memory—
The clear brow, bulwark of the precious brain,
Now seam'd and chink'd with years—and all the while
The light soul twines and mingles with the growths
Of vigorous early days, attracted, won,
Married, made one with, molten into all
The beautiful in Past of act or place.
Even as the all-enduring camel, driven
Far from the diamond fountain by the palms,
Toils onward thro' the middle moonlight nights,
Shadow'd and crimson'd with the drifting dust,
Or when the white heats of the blinding noons
Beat from the concave sand; yet in him keeps
A draught of that sweet fountain that he loves,
To stay his feet from falling, and his spirit
From bitterness of death.
Ye ask me, friends,
When I began to love. How should I tell ye?
Or from the after fulness of my heart,
Flow back again unto my slender spring
And first of love, tho' every turn and depth
Between is clearer in my life than all
Its present flow. Ye know not what ye ask.
How should the broad and open flower tell
What sort of bud it was, when press'd together
In its green sheath, close lapt in silken folds?
It seemed to keep its sweetness to itself,
Yet was not the less sweet for that it seem'd.
For young Life knows not when young Life was born,
But takes it all for granted: neither Love,
Warm in the heart, his cradle can remember
Love in the womb, but resteth satisfied,
Looking on her that brought him to the light:
Or as men know not when they fall asleep
Into delicious dreams, our other life,
So know I not when I began to love.
This is my sum of knowledge—that my love
Grew with myself—and say rather, was my growth,
My inward sap, the hold I have on earth,
My outward circling air wherein I breathe,
Which yet upholds my life, and evermore
Was to me daily life and daily death:
For how should I have lived and not have loved?
Can ye take off the sweetness from the flower,
The colour and the sweetness from the rose,
And place them by themselves? or set apart
Their motions and their brightness from the stars,
And then point out the flower or the star?
Or build a wall betwixt my life and love,
And tell me where I am? 'Tis even thus:
In that I live I love; because I love
I live: whate'er is fountain to the one
Is fountain to the other; and whene'er
Our God unknits the riddle of the one,
There is no shade or fold of mystery
Swathing the other.
Many, many years,
For they seem many and my most of life,
And well I could have linger'd in that porch,
So unproportioned to the dwelling place,
In the maydews of childhood, opposite
The flush and dawn of youth, we lived together,
Apart, alone together on those hills.
Before he saw my day my father died,
And he was happy that he saw it not:
But I and the first daisy on his grave
From the same clay came into light at once.
As Love and I do number equal years
So she, my love, is of an age with me.
How like each other was the birth of each!
The sister of my mother—she that bore
Camilla close beneath her beating heart,
Which to the imprisoned spirit of the child,
With its true touched pulses in the flow
And hourly visitation of the blood,
Sent notes of preparation manifold,
And mellow'd echoes of the outer world—
My mother's sister, mother of my love,
Who had a twofold claim upon my heart,
One twofold mightier than the other was,
In giving so much beauty to the world,
And so much wealth as God had charged her with,
Loathing to put it from herself for ever,
Crown'd with her highest act the placid face
And breathless body of her good deeds past.
So we were born, so orphan'd. She was motherless,
And I without a father. So from each
Of those two pillars which from earth uphold
Our childhood, one had fall'n away, and all
The careful burthen of our tender years
Trembled upon the other. He that gave
Her life, to me delightedly fulfill'd
All loving-kindnesses, all offices
Of watchful care and trembling tenderness.
He worked for both: he pray'd for both: he slept
Dreaming of both; nor was his love the less
Because it was divided, and shot forth
Boughs on each side, laden with wholesome shade,
Wherein we rested sleeping or awake,
And sung aloud the matin-song of life.
She was my foster-sister: on one arm
The flaxen ringlets of our infancies
Wander'd, the while we rested: one soft lap
Pillow'd us both: one common light of eyes
Was on us as we lay: our baby lips,
Kissing one bosom, ever drew from thence
The stream of life, one stream, one life, one blood,
One sustenance, which, still as thought grew large,
Still larger moulding all the house of thought,
Perchance assimilated all our tastes
And future fancies. 'Tis a beautiful
And pleasant meditation, what whate'er
Our general mother meant for me alone,
Our mutual mother dealt to both of us:
So what was earliest mine in earliest life,
I shared with her in whom myself remains.
As was our childhood, so our infancy,
They tell me, was a very miracle
Of fellow-feeling and communion.
They tell me that we would not be alone,—
We cried when we were parted; when I wept,
Her smile lit up the rainbow on my tears,
Stay'd on the clouds of sorrow; that we loved
The sound of one another's voices more
Than the grey cuckoo loves his name, and learn'd
To lisp in tune together; that we slept
In the same cradle always, face to face,
Heart beating time to heart, lip pressing lip,
Folding each other, breathing on each other,
Dreaming together (dreaming of each other
They should have added) till the morning light
Sloped thro' the pines, upon the dewy pane
Falling, unseal'd our eyelids, and we woke
To gaze upon each other. If this be true,
At thought of which my whole soul languishes
And faints, and hath no pulse, no breath, as tho'
A man in some still garden should infuse
Rich attar in the bosom of the rose,
Till, drunk with its own wine and overfull
Of sweetness, and in smelling of itself,
It fall on its own thorns—if this be true—
And that way my wish leaneth evermore
Still to believe it—'tis so sweet a thought,
Why in the utter stillness of the soul
Doth question'd memory answer not, nor tell,
Of this our earliest, our closest drawn,
Most loveliest, most delicious union?
Oh, happy, happy outset of my days!
Green springtide, April promise, glad new year
Of Being, which with earliest violets,
And lavish carol of clear-throated larks,
Fill'd all the march of life.—I will not speak of thee;
These have not seen thee, these can never know thee,
They cannot understand me. Pass on then
A term of eighteen years. Ye would but laugh
If I should tell ye how I heard in thought
Those rhymes, 'The Lion and the Unicorn'
'The Four-and-twenty Blackbirds' 'Banbury Cross,'
'The Gander' and 'The man of Mitylene,'
And all the quaint old scraps of ancient crones,
Which are as gems set in my memory,
Because she learn'd them with me. Or what profits it
To tell ye that her father died, just ere
The daffodil was blown; or how we found
The drowned seaman on the shore? These things
Unto the quiet daylight of your minds
Are cloud and smoke, but in the dark of mine
Show traced with flame. Move with me to that hour,
Which was the hinge on which the door of Hope,
Once turning, open'd far into the outward,
And never closed again.
I well remember,
It was a glorious morning, such a one
As dawns but once a season. Mercury
On such a morning would have flung himself
From cloud to cloud, and swum with balanced wings
To some tall mountain. On that day the year
First felt his youth and strength, and from his spring
Moved smiling toward his summer. On that day,
Love working shook his wings (that charged the winds
With spiced May-sweets from bound to bound) and blew
Fresh fire into the sun, and from within
Burst thro' the heated buds, and sent his soul
Into the songs of birds, and touch'd far-off
His mountain-altars, his high hills, with flame
Milder and purer. Up the rocks we wound;
The great pine shook with lovely sounds of joy,
That came on the sea-wind. As mountain brooks
Our blood ran free: the sunshine seem'd to brood
More warmly on the heart than on the brow.
We often paused, and looking back, we saw
The clefts and openings in the hills all fill'd
With the blue valley and the glistening brooks,
And with the low dark groves—a land of Love;
Where Love was worshipp'd upon every height,
Where Love was worshipp'd under every tree—
A land of promise, flowing with the milk
And honey of delicious memories
Down to the sea, as far as eye could ken,
From verge to verge it was a holy land,
Still growing holier as you near'd the bay,
For where the temple stood. When we had reach'd
The grassy platform on some hill, I stoop'd,
I gather'd the wild herbs, and for her brows
And mine wove chaplets of the self-same flower,
Which she took smiling, and with my work there
Crown'd her clear forehead. Once or twice she told me
(For I remember all things), to let grow
The flowers that run poison in their veins.
She said, 'The evil flourish in the world';
Then playfully she gave herself the lie:
'Nothing in nature is unbeautiful,
So, brother, pluck and spare not.' So I wove
Even the dull-blooded poppy, 'whose red flower
Hued with the scarlet of a fierce sunrise,
Like to the wild youth of an evil king,
Is without sweetness, but who crowns himself
Above the secret poisons of his heart
In his old age'—a graceful thought of hers
Graven on my fancy! As I said, with these
She crown'd her forehead. O how like a nymph,
A stately mountain-nymph, she look'd! how native
Unto the hills she trod on! What an angel!
How clothed with beams! My eyes, fix'd upon hers,
Almost forgot even to move again.
My spirit leap'd as with those thrills of bliss
That shoot across the soul in prayer, and show us
That we are surely heard. Methought a light
Burst from the garland I had woven, and stood
A solid glory on her bright black hair:
A light, methought, broke from her dark, dark eyes,
And shot itself into the singing winds;
A light, methought, flash'd even from her white robe,
As from a glass in the sun, and fell about
My footsteps on the mountains.
About sunset
We came unto the hill of woe, so call'd
Because the legend ran that, long time since,
One rainy night, when every wind blew loud,
A woful man had thrust his wife and child
With shouts from off the bridge, and following, plunged
Into the dizzy chasm below. Below,
Sheer thro' the black-wall'd cliff the rapid brook
Shot down his inner thunders, built above
With matted bramble and the shining gloss
Of ivy-leaves, whose low-hung tresses, dipp'd
In the fierce stream, bore downward with the wave.
The path was steep and loosely strewn with crags
We mounted slowly: yet to both of us
It was delight, not hindrance: unto both
Delight from hardship to be overcome,
And scorn of perilous seeming: unto me
Intense delight and rapture that I breathed,
As with a sense of nigher Deity,
With her to whom all outward fairest things
Were by the busy mind referr'd, compared,
As bearing no essential fruits of excellence.
Save as they were the types and shadowings
Of hers—and then that I became to her
A tutelary angel as she rose,
And with a fearful self-impelling joy
Saw round her feet the country far away,
Beyond the nearest mountain's bosky brows,
Burst into open prospect—heath and hill,
And hollow lined and wooded to the lips—
And steep down walls of battlemented rock
Girded with broom or shiver'd into peaks—
And glory of broad waters interfused,
Whence rose as it were breath and steam of gold;
And over all the great wood rioting
And climbing, starr'd at slender intervals
With blossom tufts of purest white; and last,
Framing the mighty landskip to the West,
A purple range of purple cones, between
Whose interspaces gush'd, in blinding bursts,
The incorporate light of sun and sea.
At length,
Upon the tremulous bridge, that from beneath
Seemed with a cobweb firmament to link
The earthquake-shattered chasm, hung with shrubs,
We passed with tears of rapture. All the West,
And even unto the middle South, was ribb'd
And barr'd with bloom on bloom. The sun beneath,
Held for a space 'twixt cloud and wave, shower'd down
Rays of a mighty circle, weaving over
That varied wilderness a tissue of light
Unparallel'd. On the other side the moon,
Half-melted into thin blue air, stood still
And pale and fibrous as a wither'd leaf,
Nor yet endured in presence of his eyes
To imbue his lustre; most unloverlike;
Since in his absence full of light and joy
And giving light to others. But this chiefest,
Next to her presence whom I loved so well,
Spoke loudly, even into my inmost heart,
As to my outward hearing: the loud stream,
Forth issuing from his portals in the crag
(A visible link unto the home of my heart),
Ran amber toward the West, and nigh the sea,
Parting my own loved mountains, was received
Shorn of its strength, into the sympathy
Of that small bay, which into open main
Glow'd intermingling close beneath the sun
Spirit of Love! That little hour was bound,
Shut in from Time, and dedicate to thee;
Thy fires from heav'n had touch'd it, and the earth
They fell on became hallow'd evermore.
We turn'd: our eyes met: her's were bright, and mine
Were dim with floating tears, that shot the sunset,
In light rings round me; and my name was borne
Upon her breath. Henceforth my name has been
A hallow'd memory, like the names of old;
A center'd, glory-circled memory,
And a peculiar treasure, brooking not
Exchange or currency; and in that hour
A hope flow'd round me, like a golden mist
Charm'd amid eddies of melodious airs,
A moment, ere the onward whirlwind shatter it,
Waver'd and floated—which was less than Hope,
Because it lack'd the power of perfect Hope;
But which was more and higher than all Hope,
Because all other Hope hath lower aim;
Even that this name to which her seraph lips
Did lend such gentle utterance, this one name
In some obscure hereafter, might inwreathe
(How lovelier, nobler then!) her life, her love,
With my life, love, soul, spirit and heart and strength.
'Brother,' she said, 'let this be call'd henceforth
The Hill of Hope'; and I replied: 'O sister,
My will is one with thine; the Hill of Hope.'
Nevertheless, we did not change the name.
Love lieth deep; Love dwells not in lip-depths:
Love wraps her wings on either side the heart,
Constraining it with kisses close and warm,
Absorbing all the incense of sweet thoughts
So that they pass not to the shrine of sound.
Else had the life of that delighted hour
Drunk in the largeness of the utterance
Of Love; but how should earthly measure mete
The heavenly unmeasured or unlimited Love,
Which scarce can tune his high majestic sense
Unto the thunder-song that wheels the spheres;
Scarce living in the Aeolian harmony,
And flowing odour of the spacious air;
Scarce housed in the circle of this earth:
Be cabin'd up in words and syllables,
Which waste with the breath that made 'em.
Sooner earth
Might go round heaven, and the straight girth of Time
Inswathe the fullness of Eternity,
Than language grasp the infinite of Love.
O day, which did enwomb that happy hour,
Thou art blest in the years, divinest day!
O Genius of that hour which dost uphold
Thy coronal of glory like a God,
Amid thy melancholy mates far-seen,
Who walk before thee, and whose eyes are dim
With gazing on the light and depth of thine
Thy name is ever worshipp'd among hours!
Had I died then, I had not seem'd to die
For bliss stood round me like the lights of heaven,
That cannot fade, they are so burning bright.
Had I died then, I had not known the death;
Planting my feet against this mound of time
I had thrown me on the vast, and from this impulse
Continuing and gathering ever, ever,
Agglomerated swiftness, I had lived
That intense moment thro' eternity.
Oh, had the Power from whose right hand the light
Of Life issueth, and from whose left hand floweth
The shadow of Death, perennial effluences,
Whereof to all that draw the wholesome air,
Somewhile the one must overflow the other;
Then had he stemm'd my day with night and driven
My current to the fountain whence it sprang—
Even his own abiding excellence—
On me, methinks, that shock of gloom had fall'n
Unfelt, and like the sun I gazed upon,
Which, lapt in seeming dissolution,
And dipping his head low beneath the verge,
Yet bearing round about him his own day,
In confidence of unabated strength,
Steppeth from heaven to heaven, from light to light,
And holding his undimmed forehead far
Into a clearer zenith, pure of cloud;
So bearing on thro' Being limitless
The triumph of this foretaste, I had merged
Glory in glory, without sense of change.
We trod the shadow of the downward hill;
We pass'd from light to dark. On the other side
Is scooped a cavern and a mountain-hall,
Which none have fathom'd. If you go far in
(The country people rumour) you may hear
The moaning of the woman and the child,
Shut in the secret chambers of the rock.
I too have heard a sound—perchance of streams
Running far-off within its inmost halls,
The home of darkness, but the cavern mouth,
Half overtrailed with a wanton weed
Gives birth to a brawling stream, that stepping lightly
Adown a natural stair of tangled roots,
Is presently received in a sweet grove
Of eglantine, a place of burial
Far lovelier than its cradle; for unseen
But taken with the sweetness of the place,
It giveth out a constant melody
That drowns the nearer echoes. Lower down
Spreads out a little lake, that, flooding, makes
Cushions of yellow sand; and from the woods
That belt it rise three dark tall cypresses;
Three cypresses, symbols of mortal woe,
That men plant over graves.
Hither we came,
And sitting down upon the golden moss
Held converse sweet and low—low converse sweet,
In which our voices bore least part. The wind
Told a love-tale beside us, how he woo'd
The waters, and the crisp'd waters lisp'd
The kisses of the wind, that, sick with love,
Fainted at intervals, and grew again
To utterance of passion. Ye cannot shape
Fancy so fair as is this memory.
Methought all excellence that ever was
Had drawn herself from many thousand years,
And all the separate Edens of this earth,
To centre in this place and time. I listen'd,
And her words stole with most prevailing sweetness
Into my heart, as thronged fancies come,
All unawares, into the poet's brain;
Or as the dew-drops on the petal hung,
When summer winds break their soft sleep with sighs,
Creep down into the bottom of the flower.
Her words were like a coronal of wild blooms
Strung in the very negligence of Art,
Or in the art of Nature, where each rose
Doth faint upon the bosom of the other,
Flooding its angry cheek with odorous tears.
So each with each inwoven lived with each,
And were in union more than double-sweet.
What marvel my Camilla told me all?
It was so happy an hour, so sweet a place,
And I was as the brother of her blood,
And by that name was wont to live in her speech,
Dear name! which had too much of nearness in it
And heralded the distance of this time.
At first her voice was very sweet and low,
As tho' she were afeard of utterance;
But in the onward current of her speech,
(As echoes of the hollow-banked brooks
Are fashioned by the channel which they keep)
His words did of their meaning borrow sound,
Her cheek did catch the colour of her words,
I heard and trembled, yet I could but hear;
My heart paused,—my raised eyelids would not fall,
But still I kept my eyes upon the sky.
I seem'd the only part of Time stood still,
And saw the motion of all other things;
While her words, syllable by syllable,
Like water, drop by drop, upon my ear
Fell, and I wish'd, yet wish'd her not to speak,
But she spoke on, for I did name no wish.
What marvel my Camilla told me all
Her maiden dignities of Hope and Love,
'Perchance' she said 'return'd.' Even then the stars
Did tremble in their stations as I gazed;
But she spake on, for I did name no wish,
No wish—no hope. Hope was not wholly dead,
But breathing hard at the approach of Death,
Updrawn in expectation of her change—
Camilla, my Camilla, who was mine
No longer in the dearest use of mine—
The written secrets of her inmost soul
Lay like an open scroll before my view,
And my eyes read, they read aright, her heart
Was Lionel's: it seem'd as tho' a link
Of some light chain within my inmost frame
Was riven in twain: that life I heeded not
Flow'd from me, and the darkness of the grave,
The darkness of the grave and utter night,
Did swallow up my vision: at her feet,
Even the feet of her I loved, I fell,
Smit with exceeding sorrow unto death.
Then had the earth beneath me yawning given
Sign of convulsion; and tho' horrid rifts
Sent up the moaning of unhappy spirits
Imprison'd in her centre, with the heat
Of their infolding element; had the angels,
The watchers at heaven's gate, push'd them apart,
And from the golden threshold had down-roll'd
Their heaviest thunder, I had lain as still,
And blind and motionless as then I lay!
White as quench'd ashes, cold as were the hopes
Of my lorn love! What happy air shall woo
The wither'd leaf fall'n in the woods, or blasted
Upon this bough? a lightning stroke had come
Even from that Heaven in whose light I bloom'd
And taken away the greenness of my life,
The blossom and the fragrance. Who was cursed
But I? who miserable but I? even Misery
Forgot herself in that extreme distress,
And with the overdoing of her part
Did fall away into oblivion.
The night in pity took away my day
Because my grief as yet was newly born,
Of too weak eyes to look upon the light,
And with the hasty notice of the ear,
Frail life was startled from the tender love
Of him she brooded over. Would I had lain
Until the pleached ivy tress had wound
Round my worn limbs, and the wild briar had driven
Its knotted thorns thro' my unpaining brows
Leaning its roses on my faded eyes.
The wind had blown above me, and the rain
Had fall'n upon me, and the gilded snake
Had nestled in this bosomthrone of love,
But I had been at rest for evermore.
Long time entrancement held me: all too soon,
Life (like a wanton too-officious friend
Who will not hear denial, vain and rude
With proffer of unwished for services)
Entering all the avenues of sense,
Pass'd thro' into his citadel, the brain
With hated warmth of apprehensiveness:
And first the chillness of the mountain stream
Smote on my brow, and then I seem'd to hear
Its murmur, as the drowning seaman hears,
Who with his head below the surface dropt,
Listens the dreadful murmur indistinct
Of the confused seas, and knoweth not
Beyond the sound he lists: and then came in
O'erhead the white light of the weary moon,
Diffused and molten into flaky cloud.
Was my sight drunk, that it did shape to me
Him who should own that name? or had my fancy
So lethargised discernment in the sense,
That she did act the step-dame to mine eyes,
Warping their nature, till they minister'd
Unto her swift conceits? 'Twere better thus
If so be that the memory of that sound
With mighty evocation, had updrawn
The fashion and the phantasm of the form
It should attach to. There was no such thing.—
It was the man she loved, even Lionel,
The lover Lionel, the happy Lionel,
All joy; who drew the happy atmosphere
Of my unhappy sighs, fed with my tears,
To him the honey dews of orient hope.
Oh! rather had some loathly ghastful brow,
Half-bursten from the shroud, in cere cloth bound,
The dead skin withering on the fretted bone,
The very spirit of Paleness made still paler
By the shuddering moonlight, fix'd his eyes on mine
Horrible with the anger and the heat
Of the remorseful soul alive within,
And damn'd unto his loathed tenement.
Methinks I could have sooner met that gaze!
Oh, how her choice did leap forth from his eyes!
Oh, how her love did clothe itself in smiles
About his lips! This was the very arch-mock
And insolence of uncontrolled Fate,
When the effect weigh'd seas upon my head
To twit me with the cause.
Why how was this?
Could he not walk what paths he chose, nor breathe
What airs he pleased! Was not the wide world free,
With all her interchange of hill and plain
To him as well as me? I know not, faith:
But Misery, like a fretful, wayward child,
Refused to look his author in the face,
Must he come my way too? Was not the South,
The East, the West, all open, if he had fall'n
In love in twilight? Why should he come my way,
Robed in those robes of light I must not wear,
With that great crown of beams about his brows?
Come like an angel to a damned soul?
To tell him of the bliss he had with God;
Come like a careless and a greedy heir,
That scarce can wait the reading of the will
Before he takes possession? Was mine a mood
To be invaded rudely, and not rather
A sacred, secret, unapproached woe
Unspeakable? I was shut up with grief;
She took the body of my past delight,
Narded, and swathed and balm'd it for herself,
And laid it in a new-hewn sepulchre,
Where man had never lain. I was led mute
Into her temple like a sacrifice;
I was the high-priest in her holiest place,
Not to be loudly broken in upon.
Oh! friend, thoughts deep and heavy as these well-nigh
O'erbore the limits of my brain; but he
Bent o'er me, and my neck his arm upstay'd
From earth. I thought it was an adder's fold,
And once I strove to disengage myself,
But fail'd, I was so feeble. She was there too:
She bent above me too: her cheek was pale,
Oh! very fair and pale: rare pity had stolen
The living bloom away, as tho' a red rose
Should change into a white one suddenly.
Her eyes, I saw, were full of tears in the morn,
And some few drops of that distressful rain
Being wafted on the wind, drove in my sight,
And being there they did break forth afresh
In a new birth, immingled with my own,
And still bewept my grief. Keeping unchanged
The purport of their coinage. Her long ringlets,
Drooping and beaten with the plaining wind,
Did brush my forehead in their to-and-fro:
For in the sudden anguish of her heart
Loosed from their simple thrall they had flowed abroad,
And onward floating in a full, dark wave,
Parted on either side her argent neck,
Mantling her form half way. She, when I woke,
After my refluent health made tender quest
Unanswer'd, for I spoke not: for the sound
Of that dear voice so musically low,
And now first heard with any sense of pain,
As it had taken life away before,
Choked all the syllables that in my throat
Strove to uprise, laden with mournful thanks,
From my full heart: and ever since that hour,
My voice hath somewhat falter'd—and what wonder
That when hope died, part of her eloquence
Died with her? He, the blissful lover, too,
From his great hoard of happiness distill'd
Some drops of solace; like a vain rich man,
That, having always prosper'd in the world,
Folding his hands deals comfortable words
To hearts wounded for ever; yet, in truth,
Fair speech was his and delicate of phrase,
Falling in whispers on the sense, address'd
More to the inward than the outward ear,
As rain of the midsummer midnight soft
Scarce-heard, recalling fragrance and the green
Of the dead spring—such as in other minds
Had film'd the margents of the recent wound.
And why was I to darken their pure love,
If, as I knew, they two did love each other,
Because my own was darken'd? Why was I
To stand within the level of their hopes,
Because my hope was widow'd, like the cur
In the child's adage? Did I love Camilla?
Ye know that I did love her: to this present
My full-orb'd love hath waned not. Did I love her,
And could I look upon her tearful eyes?
Tears wept for me; for me—weep at my grief?
What had she done to weep—let my heart
Break rather—whom the gentlest airs of heaven
Should kiss with an unwonted gentleness.
Her love did murder mine; what then? she deem'd
I wore a brother's mind: she call'd me brother:
She told me all her love: she shall not weep.
The brightness of a burning thought awhile
Battailing with the glooms of my dark will,
Moonlike emerged, lit up unto itself,
Upon the depths of an unfathom'd woe,
Reflex of action, starting up at once,
As men do from a vague and horrid dream,
And throwing by all consciousness of self,
In eager haste I shook him by the hand;
Then flinging myself down upon my knees
Even where the grass was warm where I had lain,
I pray'd aloud to God that he would hold
The hand of blessing over Lionel,
And her whom he would make his wedded wife,
Camilla! May their days be golden days,
And their long life a dream of linked love,
From which may rude Death never startle them,
But grow upon them like a glorious vision
Of unconceived and awful happiness,
Solemn but splendid, full of shapes and sounds,
Swallowing its precedent in victory.
Let them so love that men and boys may say,
Lo! how they love each other! till their love
Shall ripen to a proverb unto all,
Known when their faces are forgot in the land.
And as for me, Camilla, as for me,
Think not thy tears will make my name grow green,—
The dew of tears is an unwholesome dew.
The course of Hope is dried,—the life o' the plant—
They will but sicken the sick plant more.
Deem then I love thee but as brothers do,
So shalt thou love me still as sisters do;
Or if thou dream'st aught farther, dream but how
I could have loved thee, had there been none else
To love as lovers, loved again by thee.
Or this, or somewhat like to this, I spoke,
When I did see her weep so ruefully;
For sure my love should ne'er induce the front
And mask of Hate, whom woful ailments
Of unavailing tears and heart deep moans
Feed and envenom, as the milky blood
Of hateful herbs a subtle-fanged snake.
Shall Love pledge Hatred in her bitter draughts,
And batten on his poisons? Love forbid!
Love passeth not the threshold of cold Hate,
And Hate is strange beneath the roof of Love.
O Love, if thou be'st Love, dry up these tears
Shed for the love of Love; for tho' mine image,
The subject of thy power, be cold in her,
Yet, like cold snow, it melteth in the source
Of these sad tears, and feeds their downward flow.
So Love, arraign'd to judgment and to death,
Received unto himself a part of blame.
Being guiltless, as an innocent prisoner,
Who when the woful sentence hath been past,
And all the clearness of his fame hath gone
Beneath the shadow of the curse of men,
First falls asleep in swoon. Wherefrom awaked
And looking round upon his tearful friends,
Forthwith and in his agony conceives
A shameful sense as of a cleaving crime—
For whence without some guilt should such grief be?
So died that hour, and fell into the abysm
Of forms outworn, but not to be outworn,
Who never hail'd another worth the Life
That made it sensible. So died that hour,
Like odour wrapt into the winged wind
Borne into alien lands and far away.
There be some hearts so airy-fashioned,
That in the death of love, if e'er they loved,
On that sharp ridge of utmost doom ride highly
Above the perilous seas of change and chance;
Nay, more, holds out the lights of cheerfulness;
As the tall ship, that many a dreary year
Knit to some dismal sandbank far at sea,
All through the lifelong hours of utter dark,
Showers slanting light upon the dolorous wave.
For me all other Hopes did sway from that
Which hung the frailest: falling, they fell too,
Crush'd link on link into the beaten earth,
And Love did walk with banish'd Hope no more,
It was ill-done to part ye, Sisters fair;
Love's arms were wreathed about the neck of Hope,
And Hope kiss'd Love, and Love drew in her breath
In that close kiss, and drank her whisper'd tales.
They said that Love would die when Hope was gone,
And Love mourned long, and sorrowed after Hope;
At last she sought out memory, and they trod
The same old paths where Love had walked with Hope,
And Memory fed the soul of Love with tears.
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