"One day we wander'd to the western side
O' the island, passing through a matchless realm,
A bowered champaign, rich in corn and wine,
And all fair growths of Hellas, with a wealth
Of native fruitage I had never seen,
Gleaming amid their thickets of dark leaf
And deepest shade. Oh what a fairyland!
I mark'd how tall flowers tassell'd the tall trees,
Filling the clime with odours and with light.
I listen'd the rare songbirds never heard
In other lands; I glimpsed the nimble play
Of happy fearless creatures, in green shade
Of interlinked branch and leaf, or down
The wandering woodwalks. Many a bloomy dale,
Made musical with fountain-waters, curved
'Twixt slopes, that teem'd with the perennial pomps
Of mingled Spring and Autumn; from the heights,
Tufted with gardens, rose white pleasure-house,
And sacred dome. At last we reach'd the sea,
And, looking down upon the purple vast,
Heard only the low winds and mourning waves
Instead of all the voices of the Past.
Sighing he said, 'Behold, my friend,' and sign'd
Toward the western side, and the great deep,
That lay as tranquil, as thou' never Time
Had ruffled its dark purples, mix'd with green
And rose, and all soft colours, as the shells
Upon its shores. 'There was a time,' he said,
'When he, who look'd down from these island heights,
Which then lay midway 'twixt the lovely lands
Far West, and the extremest Orient,
Saw but the valleys, and the folded hills,
Azure, and green, and golden, where the light
Drown'd itself in unfathomable glooms
Of forest shades; or struck the cataract
In its full swing; or lit the tawny slopes
Of the full harvest; or, in later days,
The orchards piled up to the mountain crests;
Or paths of pleasure-gardens fringed with rose;
Or fountains, flinging up from precious cups
Of agate, or of porphyry, diamond dews,
And charming drops of silver into gold.
And, when the eye fell on the soft blue peaks
And throned clouds, he knew that underneath
There wander'd green ways into other worlds
Beyond. So tell the legends of that race,
Whose primal habitation of delights
And loveliness went down beneath the sea.
hark! how it whispers when the gusty wind
Blows hitherward, as though it would reveal
Things only known unto it and that wind,
Its messenger; for only thou, O Sea,
Canst look down on the ruins thou hast made.
Do not the giants of those godlike days
Sleep there, their brows upon their folded arms,
Above their wasted treasures, some great day
To be awaken'd, and to rise again
With a great shout, and shake this fallen world?
But this is idle phantasy; my thoughts
Could wander thus, before I heard the voice
Of the great king speak thro' the unconscious child.
They will not come, but we shall go to them.
See yon great rock, yon tower'd and steepled pile,
That throws along the deep its shadows lone,
As tho' Death's self should cast his image down
Upon a sepulchre; so old it is,
That hoary palace-temple of our kings!
'Twas there the tranced maiden, in her sleep
Of living death, pass'd underneath the earth
Into the sunken mountain, on whose crest
The palace rose, as far above the plain,
As now the city lies beneath the waves.'
And, as we stood upon the utmost verge
Of the steep cliff, rent from a drowned world,
And saw the sea between the castle rock
And the isle, he show'd me, laid along the strait,
A rocky mole, built of unmortar'd stone,
And a broad way atop, that bridged the gulf
To that primeval monumental height,
Vast skeleton of the departed kings.
'See,' said my guide, 'right onward from the base
Of this storm-beaten precipice, the sea
Is shallow, till beyond the ruin'd pile;
And then into unfathomable depths
It falls at once, but all between is dense
With fragments of the ancient capital,
Cumber'd with shatter'd marbles, thick with rocks,
Which the long lapse of ages hath engrain'd
With sea-born atoms, shifting sands, and shells.
And, when the waters are serene and still,
Sometimes we have a sight of things, that lay
Unseen, unshaken since the awful day;
And divers fetch up from their secret glooms
Relics of gold, and gems of antigue mould,
Beyond our art and skill, more precious now,
As tokens of their world, than for their worth
In cunning work, or substance. So it was,
That our forefathers, hallowing that wreck
Of the first empire, laid across the strait,
Betwixt it and the island, that remain'd
Upon the ruin'd fragments as a base,
The massive mole below, that, on a high
And holy day, the people might repair
To the old temple of the ancient Gods,
And house of kings, to offer as of old
Incense and sacrifice, and light again
The sacred ruins, with the altar fires
That flamed of old, and strike the silent halls
With harp and voice.' And then, a little space
Further, he show'd me, sunken in the cliff,
A granite stair that led us face to face
With the old rock-way; and we follow'd it,
Until we stood beneath the sacred pile,
Whose time-worn marbles for a moment shone
In a gay sun-burst, as tho' life once more
Would break forth from within it, and call up
The buried city to our sight again.
We mounted from the rock-way by a stair
Up to the palace-temple's shatter'd gates,
And marble floors; and from the topmost step
We look'd down seaward; and he show'd me then,
Limn'd on an ancient open scroll he held,
All he had vaguely pictured in his words
At the king's table; how Poseidon,
The monarch of the waters, fenced the mount--
The solitary wreck where now we stood--
And circled it with zones of land and sea,
Three zones of water, and two zones of land,
Alternately, each separate from each
By equal spaces, that his realm might be
For ever unassalable by man;
And made me see the city that had been.
We dwell in, lavish though it be of wealth
And beauty, is but as the face of Age,
Wherein the glorious youth it once possess'd
Is but a pale-eyed phantom. This fair land,
Round which the ocean murmurs, is the all
Left of the Great Atlantis which was whelm'd,
Whereof the memory lingers, like the shafts
Of splendour soaring from behind the clouds,
Or that illumined shore, that lies beyond
The twilight of eclipse. There was a land,
Vast as the surface of thy seven days' sea,
On either hand. The ocean thou hast plough'd,
Sailing from the far East, was once dry land,
Like the vast waters which we look on now
To farthest West; midway this island mourn'd,
Forgotten of the world, if world there was
Beyond the waves; where now the waters moan
The wind play'd with green paradises; where
The threatening waters, like earthquaking hills,
Rock in the wintry hurricanes, there rose
Soft slopes of corn and wine; where the sharp crags
Shoot from the dark abysses, cities rose
Tower'd and bulwark'd; and once there was heard,
Instead of the hoarse wind, and wailing wave,
And shrilling of the seabirds, many a swell
Of festal melody, when there were kings
And chiefs, and mighty men of old, who sleep
In deep unfathomable silence now,
And darkness evermore. Think of the days
When thou wert but a child, and this old world
Seem'd to thee fresh and new, and the free sense,
Thirsty as spring-buds for the streams of life,
And all things wondrous, drank in light and air,
Colours, and odours, and delightsome forms.
Think of those days, and of their memories now;
And, as those rise again thro' years between
With supernatural glory, to us comes,
Thro' song and legend and wild fable, a sense
As of a nobler and a happier world;
A world where Art and Science, since forgot,
Went hand in hand with Health, and eager Hope,
And earnest Love; and centenary age
Was the full moonlight after summerday;
And Death was but a deeper sleep that pass'd,
As on the eyelids of a weary child,
Leading the parted soul into new life,
As the young child into his blissful dreams.
Yet the wise world will cry, I hear it cry,
As though its utterance flew on all the winds,
'Where are the tokens now of your renown?
The star of your primeval power, that was,
And is no more, and is for ever sunken?
Oh! all the glory of that ancient time
Is but a phantasy! we are the men,
For arts, for arms, for knowledge, wealth and pow'r,
Forests spring from a seedling, and the race
With each new generation puts forth strength
And virtues unreveal'd till then. Its birth
Is as the babe's, the feeblest thing on earth,
Tho' cradled in the wisdom of the Gods,
Its youth is as a giant's!' So they cry.
But they have not well said; for the babe's dreams,
Breathed in his heart by guardian spirits pure,
Are symbols of the young thoughts of the world,
When innocence and instincts, caught from heaven,
Are link'd together, and great knowledge comes
Swiftly, like daybreak. They have not well said,
To name themselves the full-grown Youth of Time,
When they but hold the interval between
The charmed infant and the noble man
A clime of world-wide tumults, wrath, and wrongs.
Stranger, if we may gather from the bones
Of a dead giant what his living strength,
The very dust and ashes of those days,
Which we hold fast in sanctuaries, tell
More of the Past than any fancies can.
For I can show thee fragments, shatter'd off
From that old world, that silent answers make
To all proud words.' And then he led the way
Thro' many chambers, hush'd as sepulchres,
Grey as the twilight, where the ocean's voice
Came faintly from behind the ancient walls,
Hung with the bones of empire and old Time,
As some far wilderness along the sea,
Spread o'er with wrecks of sunken armaments,
Heard of no more on earth. For these I saw
In graven image, or in pictured form,
Or folded scroll, inscribed with mystic rhythms,
With sign, and symbol half inscrutable,
Of that departed land; a manifold voice
That told of nations of the days of prime,
Unnumber'd years before! while some live here,
Dreaming the years of men upon the earth
Stretch not beyond the memories of old men
Of some few generations! As I look'd,
I knew how noble and majestic arts,
And sciences, beyond all modern lore,
Were born, and wax'd from morn to perfect noon;
While we are proud, as little children are,
To pick up some fair sea-shell, and then lay
Their ears to listen to its inner song
Oceanic, thunder of a sunken tide,
Glories that wail in far oblivion,
Faint sighs, yet breathing from the infinite,
That seem to say, 'We shall be heard again.'
I saw there, moulded after living men
Of those far times, sculptures more beautiful
Than aught we dream of! Such were the first men;
While we are happy, if we can behold
One in a thousand out of living men
Fair as those statues, while the thousand then
Were as this one!' And, while I stood amazed,
The old man raised his head, and clasp'd his hands,
As in deep grief, 'Oh we are fallen, fallen,
My son,' he said, 'but that that is must be.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, on each other
Follow, throughout the many-pictured year,
As Childhood, Boyhood, Manhood, and Old Age
Tread on each other thro' the days of Man.
What if it be that the great Sun in heaven
Images in its course this life of ours?
And each man in his own particular form,
From Infancy to Manhood, shadows forth
The onward steps of the whole Life of Time?
What if the first-born cycles of the world
Are as the infant's sweet simplicity?
What if the days of the Atlantis fair
Were as the beauty, and the innocence,
The health and joyance, of the playful boy?
What if the troubled years in which we live
Are as the stripling's, neither boy nor man,
A struggle 'twixt the past and the to come?
What if the unborn future be the Man,
For ever clothed with strength and bloom; for Time
Once perfected can never see old age?
Old age with Him is ever-added Youth!
But there are other things to see within.
Follow me, I will show thee sights to make
They memory wealthy, and the dreaming soul
Fertile for all the remnant of thy days,
And wise men wiser in the days to come.
"'A little while, ere the dread doom befell,
This realm of ours--so do our records say--
While yet the great Atlantis rode the waves,
Came from the East a wizard, who had skill
To give an outward life to inner moods
By colours, and by shadows, and by forms.
We thought at first he was no mortal man,
But of the Demigods, heroic chiefs,
Who by great deeds, and self-devoting lives,
Win themselves thrones in heaven. All day he wrought
His precious art, attended by the best
Of the land's cunning workers. They brought gems,
Silver, and gold, marbles of many hues,
And sheeny pebbles from the upland streams,
That glitter'd, like imperishable flowers,
With clearest colours. Nought that Time could mar
Shared in the glowing spaces; so thou seest
The precious pictures ev'n as at the first;
The dust of ruin, and the soundless teeth
Of ages have not marr'd them. Here they stand,
Pointing to the four ages of the world,
As 'twere four giants throned in the four winds!
Vast were his memories, and he spoke the tongues
Of many peoples with our own; he sigh'd,
Oft as he mingled bitter thoughts and sweet,
Speaking of things that first began to gloom,
And threaten, many thousand years before
This age of time. 'I wander from a land,
Where Evil swallows up the light of Good,
As shadows lengthen from the setting sun.
I wander from a land where all things great
Have grown and blossom'd, ev'n as they do here;
But the clear spirits of that noble race
Are clouding yearly; the heroic form
Begins to bow beneath the waste of life.
Thriftless of time they revel, and the man,
That look'd up to things godlike, seeks no more
Than to enthrone himself above his peers,
Till festal triumphs hallow cursed things;
Till banquets end in blood, and songs in sighs;
Till holy men, whose eyes were love and truth,
Whose hearts were sunny summers, now are they
Who only weep; till fruitful realms are changed
Into a wilderness. So I have fled,
And seek to die far from the land I loved,
Rather than look upon its utter end.
But I have purposed, ere I die, to leave
An image of my thoughts to aftertimes;
To make a speechless shadow speak of me;
So that such silent records shall discourse
More movingly than any breathed words;
A colour'd dream to be interpreted
By the wise men of ages that shall be.
The jocund years of the sweet birth of Time,
The dewy dawn and sunrise are no more.
I see the tempest coming up, with clouds
And darkness; and I weep to think that none
Shall ever see the morn of years again,
Nor any living race look on this world
As once it was before. But, when I mused
Of my own self, the marvels I infold
Within this mystic personality,
That wraps up in itself the outer world,
And inward; all one little will can do;
The secret rivers and uncounted rills
That run within me; secret fires that burn
Ev'n till a hundred years; and all the stars
Of thought, that lighten from our heaven of mind
Above this body of matter; hopes, and loves,
And phantasies that make a God of me,
A God on earth, able to rule and rise
From throne to throne of empire over Time;
I dreamt, and still I dream that every age,
From infancy to manhood, shadows forth
A separate cycle of the onward life
Of the whole race of Man, from first to last:
And all together show its life entire,
Ev'n as one spark of light the glorious sun;
Ev'n as one waterdrop the sumless seas:
Ev'n as one grain of dust the spanless world.
"'Therefore they show'd him--so the record runs--
Vast halls of the old palace of the kings,
Where now we stand, where silence reigns alone;
Which once were throng'd with the primeval men,
Men of renown, bards, minstrels, lords of mind,
Who hallow'd not things evil, but the good;
And triumph'd o'er the hearts and loving eyes
Of their enraptured fellows, by such arts,
As have not left to these faint days of ours
Aught but the last and feeblest echo, drawn
From other echoes; who bore down with them,
That fatal night, down into the dark sea,
Wonders of wisdom, not to be unveil'd
Till the good days are come again, and Time
Shall bring about the manhood of the earth;
And all the beauty of the Past shall spring
To life again, like a strange harvest reap'd
From seed sown after many thousand years;
And, blending with the firstfruits of that day,
The everlasting Age that is to be,
Round off the wondrous circle of the world!
And here he limn'd those vast symbolic forms,
Half shadow of the Past, half prophecy,
Whose secret, hadst thou never reach'd this shore,
The nations of the world had never known,
Whose dread fulfilment thou hast seen in part--
This moonlight interval 'twixt day and day--
Whose perfect morn of Life, henceforth to be,
The sevenfold light of that unrisen sun,
Alas! no living race may hope to see!'
"We enter'd now a chamber cold, and vast,
And silent; and he said, 'Look on the walls.'
And I beheld four pictured mysteries;
Each picture twofold in its imagery;
And, subdivided into many parts,
Show'd in one half the glory of the time,
And in the other its earth-shaking fall.
Before each picture was a sculptured shape.
I saw before the first an innocent babe;
Before the second stood a merry boy;
Before the third a stripling sad and pale;
Before the fourth a mighty full-grown man;
Each limned on its own particular wall,
In colours still undimm'd as at the first,
To make known that the painter had portray'd
Some age of living progress; after it
Some day of desolations which befell,
And fill'd the earth with ruins, and the hearts
Of its inhabitants with fears, as great
As if the Immortal Gods, full-arm'd and wing'd
With fire and thunder, had come down to craze
The sons of men. Again my guide began;
'Behold these silent phantasms on the walls;
For they are all that tell us in this age
Of greater ages, better life; the first
And second are gone by for evermore,
And scarce a twilight lingers; but the third
Symbols the age, whereof he saw the dawn,
Sunless and cold, and prophesied its day,
Wherein we live till now, if all thou say'st
Of the great woeful outer world be true.
The fourth, I doubt not, images a time,
Glad as a sunrise after dismal days
And nights of wintry darkness; it shall be!
For he who pictured them, it seems, design'd
To show us that the individual man,
In his own person, is the type of all
The stages in the great life of the race,
From infancy, thro' boyhood, and that frail
And vexed interval 'twixt boy and man,
Up to the perfect lustihood of Youth;
Whereof two stages only have we run,
And even now are struggling in the third,
With only this faint hope that, after lapse
Of untold generations, the sick world
Should clothe it in the majesty of Man,
And move through endless æons, calm and strong.
In these behold the changes of all Time
From the beginning; for the remnant, left
After each world-wide havoc, whisper'd of it
To the next generation, and they bore
The legend to their children, till the time
When the next day of doom o'ershadowed them,
Leaving a few to keep the knowledge of it
For their descendants. As I tell to thee
The sorrows of our fall, inheriting
The lamentable story from the few,
Who lived beyond the deluge, that o'erwhelm'd
The ancient lovely land, so they before
Wafted the terrors down thro' countless years
Up to the days when the great realm--whereof
This island fragment only lives to tell--
Was fresh and new; and on these silent walls
Thou may'st behold the secrets of the Past,
As they came down thro' thousand thousand years,
Ev'n to this very hour. The hand that shaped
These lights and shadows of primeval years,
More cunning in the skill of later days,
Gave form and colour to the solemn chants
Of ages upon ages, ere the art
Of poet, or of painter, had come forth
To make them heard and seen. I hear thee say
That legendary marvels, like a flood,
Or rolling fire, get strength as they come on,
Feeding upon the fears of them who tell
The fears they have been told again, to those
Who darken them with other fears. But doom,
My friend, and death, that striketh suddenly
'Mid flames, and falling mountains, and the roar
Of torrent waters, scarce can be outdone,
Or even imaged fitly; for the soul,
Dealing with such incomparable woes,
Can hardly fashion in its wildest trance
That which it never suffer'd; so, may be,
All that thou seest falls short of half the true,
How sad soe'er it seem. Those only who burn
Can tell us what is fire, and drowning men
How dire is the unbreathable abyss;
And only such, as die in fear and pain
Suddenly, can know all the dread of Death!
"'Stranger, look up,' he said, 'what dost thou see
On the great wall before thee?' As he spoke,
I turn'd to scan more clearly what at first
Seem'd dim confusion; but intenter gaze
Unravell'd the far mystery of that time,--
First cycle of the first-born men who lived
Their measured date, and perish'd--and I saw
In the first picture, by the sculptured babe,
A pastoral realm with slopes of green; a vale
Of many waters; and I seem'd to hear
The whispers of the woodlands, in the flow
Of the sweet winds that herald a new dawn;
The songs of shepherds, mingling with the bleat
Of flocks that wander'd freely; and the wings
Of fearless songbirds rustling in the leaves,
By the clear runnels, whose unsullied springs
No breath of burning summers ever quench'd,
No frosts of winter chain'd. They, lightly clad,
Were free to roam the boundless world, as yet
Unscarr'd of evil, and to reach their hands
To gather the wild vintage all the year,
Lavish'd by the boon Mother, and to reap
Spontaneous harvests. 'See,' he said, 'the days
When-so the tongues of countless ages ran,--
There was no fear, no pain, nor any smear
Of bloodshed on the dewy green and flowers,
The Age of Infancy, the Age of Gold.
And as the infant full of faith will sleep,
His head upon his mother's breast, so Man,
Guiltless and guileless, fear'd no monstrous thing
In his woodwalks, and grottoes cool. God's hand
Prepared a safe home for the innocent;
No lion roar'd, no serpent hiss'd; no storm
Lash'd the fair champaign, or the mountainside;
No earthquake shook, no torrent overwhelm'd;
And naked Winter had not wander'd down
From his far kingdom on the peaks of snow.
The outward aspect of the lovely earth
Answer'd unto the lovable kind heart
Of its first habitants; and, if they knew
No marvels, such as later ages vaunt,
No starry secrets, no earth-hidden wealth,
No rapturous outbreathings, such as shape
The Arts that lift up others to behold
Unearthly paradises, they were blithe
As the free birds whose toil is bliss to them;
And their untutor'd gay simplicity
Lived in the life of Nature. Their pure sense
Drank of her stainless bounties, as their thirst
Of the wild rockborn waters for all wine.
Such was the Age of Innocence; and there
Thou may'st behold the symbol of the whole,
A laughing infant cradled in spring-flowers.'
"Then on the other half the artist strove
To tell us unimaginable things.
'Thou wouldst not dream that it could ever be,'
The old man said in accents sad and low,
'But that primeval, fair, and guileless race
Lapsed into Evil, and, when Love and Truth
Are darken'd, then upon the Outer World
The shadow falls, for Man and Nature meet
As Body and Soul; as fleshly Ill is born
Of Spiritual Evil, so the Outer World
Entire reflects the Inner in its Whole.
Behold thou seest the first of fallen worlds.'
And while he spoke I look'd on it, and lo!
Mountains were shaking, and unprison'd flames
Swathed every valley and green hill with death.
The mist of waters and commingling fires
Rose, as the smoke of furnaces; and all
The distances were dark as coming night
When thunders roll up, drowning moon and star.
I saw whole armies of affrighted souls
Flee into gloomy caverns underground,
From the death-breathing blasts, and burning hail.
'Herein,' the old man said, 'is seen portray'd
The doom of the most ancient world by fire.
"'Look,' said my guide, 'upon the second wall.'
Before the picture stood its symbol form,
A merry-hearted boy, twelve years of age.
The babe is grown into the fearless boy.
The first simplicity, that loved to lean
On others' strength, hath put on its own will;
A daring heart is lifted on the wings
Of boundless exultation, and the hope
That sees not possibilities of ill;
Danger is nought, and life itself is nought,
If each new day bring not its own delight,
And new emprise; the thriftless joy, and strength,
That measures not itself, nor counts mischance,
Bear him, like blown waves over hidden shoals
And perilous rocks. His is the time of day
When the sun flies above the mountain-tops,
Casting its glory on the western side,
And showing all things in the sudden light
That were in shadow; so his instincts soar
Up thro' the realms of knowledge eagle-wise,
Springing toward the light, seen thro' the cloud.
And what he sees with wonderment he loves,
And wills to master and possess. The throbs
Of panting toil are hush'd, amid the glow
Of unrelaxing ardour, as the pains
Of wounded men are lull'd amid the dust
And shouts of onset; with the love of life
The life he lives is quicken'd, and becomes
Twofold itself; so that, tho' young and frail,
Strong men themselves will marvel at his might,
And promise of great prowess. 'Stranger, these
Were the old days of our departed bliss,
What time the great Atlantis rode the waves,
And all the land was full of mirth and songs,
And no proud passions jarr'd the clime of peace
With struggles for dominion; no man strove
Against his fellow, in that love of self,
Which changes honest impulse into guile,
And unforgotten failure to revenge,
More than the merry boy, who strikes, and laughs,
And, whether vanquish'd or the victor, sleeps
Without a thought of evil; for the blaze
Of wrath aroused sank with the setting sun.
Oh happy morning of delighted hearts,
And newborn hopes, and winged thoughts, that sprang,
Like larks that fill the sunlight with their songs!
Why art thou fled, and whither? Shall we see
Any more the glad mountains, clothed with light,
Like kings with festal garments? that sweet light
Of everlasting Spring that kiss'd the earth
Each morn? The blossoming green woodland, bright
And quivering with the tender nightly shower?
The teeming valleys, laughing to the brim
With harvest and with vintage? For the earth
Fail'd not of old, no more than the pure heart
Of man and maid lack'd joyaunce; than their limbs,
Complete in beauty, wanted for one day
The even flow of life. So all the land,
From east to west, was one great garland, wrought
Of all the spring-flowers of prosperity;
And hurricane and earthquake roll'd not then
Over our pleasant gardens; and the dawn
Was as the gate of Heaven, the evening sweet
And clear and calm, as the last hour of man
Who swoon'd into oblivion without pain.'
"I look'd upon the second wall, and lo!
The glory of a sunrise, when the tide
Of dawn hath flooded o'er the purple peaks,
And bears down like a cataract on the world.
The shepherds and their flocks are fled away
Far up into the mountain solitudes;
And the dark forest shows its turf-walks smooth,
And breezy aisles, as tho' the wild were wrought
Into a natural temple; now the brier
Tangles not, nor the wildgrape by the way
Hangs out its amber clusters, but the trim,
Full-fruited vinerows tent their alleys green,
And yellow cornslopes waver in the wind.
For man hath flatter'd so the bounteous heart
Of the great Mother, that she rises up
And clothes herself anew; she bids the nymphs,
Her drowsy handmaids, wake to a new morn,
Deck them in festal robes, and minister
To all best uses. Order, like a bride,
With measured step seeks ever secret place
Of the old house, and she will garnish it
Till all seems new. Where wildings, fruits or flowers,
Sprang unregarded in the tangled brake,
Or shiver'd in the sunless glen, or pined
In thirsty sands, she leads forth, as a spouse
Her simple children; and the burnish'd earth
Grows a fit habitation for the heart
And mind; and goodly tabernacles rise
For Gods and men; and nature and the soul,
Illumining each other, make a world
Of daily wonders, hope emblazoning
The coming hours as the morning sun
Long avenues of roses; morrow's dawn
Lighted at memories of sweet yesterday;
And, with the will to do, great things are done,
Faith working miracles. For the heart unscathed
By woes remember'd--barbed points of ill--
Weighs not the venture which its love achieves,
And, if it fails, strives on till all is done.
As the sun rose, I saw a troop of girls
Ascending by a mountain-walk, that shelved
Into a fragrant valley, thick with trees,
Almond, and orange, nut, and fig, and pear;
Dark evergreens, pierced with the spiry stems
Of cypress and of poplar. All the wood,
Flowing before a low wind from the east,
Lay softly rippling in the morning gold.
The slant beams struck upon their happy eyes,
And flash'd from clasped zone, and scarlet vest,
And sandals fleckt with dew, as they came up
With merriment and songs; then lost their way
In emerald deeps of green, and shadows cool;
And down green alleys carpeted with mint,
Wild strawberries, and purple Autumn flowers,
All curtain'd o'er with network of broad leaves,
That on the sward their chequer'd image threw,
With golden lights between, that here and there
Flamed on some fallen bunch of purple fruit,
Struck down in haste, and trodden under foot,
And crush'd 'mid scatter'd leaves, and pearly dews,
And bleeding precious drops. Onward they came--
Methought I heard their songs--and, poised aloft
By native art, and with a single touch
Of their light fingers, on their jocund heads,
Baskets of unpeel'd osier, trick'd with leaves,
And bellied with the grape, whose lavish blood
Stain'd all the green, and rain'd upon the moss.
Tall were they as young Oreads; on their necks,
Warm ivory, roll'd down their ebon locks,
Like the curl'd cloud, that hides the light of morn,
Taking and giving beauty; their sunn'd brows
Shaded with large and dewy pampinus;
And in their hands some twisted stems they bore
Clasp'd with vine tendrils; they came up with songs!
It is the symbol of the growing life
Of the world's youth and beauty; 'tis the first
Full vintage of the world brought in with songs,
The first ingathering of the grapes of joy!
"Then, on the other half, the artist strove
To tell us unimaginable things;
'Thou wouldst not dream that it could ever be,'
The old man said in accents sad and low,
'But ev'n that second, hopeful, happy race
Lapsed into Evil, and its fatal doom:
Behold another, and a sadder change;'
I look'd upon the picture, and behold
The day had darkened, and the mountain-towers
Were wrapt in thunders. One fair girl apart,
Upon a sere knoll in the foreground, stood.
A pannier, piled with the last Autumn gifts,
Had fallen from her head, and cast its fruits
Amid the dry leaves and the dying flowers.
She look'd across the land toward the hills,
With such a gaze as the first terror brings
To a fair child, whose heart could hold no fear,
Because of love given, and return'd; a tear
Shone in the last light of the parting sun.
With one foot forward as about to fly
She stood; ah! whither? swiftly from the heights
The winged death, swathed in a ghastly mist,
Came flying; and, from under the pale storm,
Roll'd down the torrents with a might, that shook
The marble walls; methought I heard them roll.
And from before the torrent and the cloud
The fearful country-folk, with stormblown hair
And outstretch'd arms, fled wailing; 'twas the last.
Again I see her on the wither'd knoll,
That maid forlorn; but round about the base
Of the lone hillock rush the torrent streams,
And make an isle of it; she cries in vain;
For none can hear her weeping in the storm,
And none could help her in her utmost need.
And now I saw a fearful remnant crowd
The mountain steeps, far over roaring floods,
That gather momently, as they would sweep
Their very crests beneath them; some are there
On lower heights, and nearer to the seas,
Who stretch their arms to their beloved ones,
To lift them up from crazy barks, and boughs,
And rafters of their dwellings overwhelm'd.
'So once again,' he said, 'a world was lost
By waters; but we are a remnant saved!'
Sad sunset of the blissful age of gold,
The summer morn of Time; before it stood
The marble symbol of that blissful day,
The merry-hearted boy twelve years of age.
"Again my guide turn'd toward me, and said,
'Stranger, what seest thou on the third wall? say.'
I see a traveller in a mountainland.
Under dark-frowning, wintry clouds he stands
Above the purple of the lower hills,
Just on the edge of a high plain of snow,
Whence, in sight of higher frozen heights,
And sunless valleys, lo! far up, beyond,
And underneath, he sees a pale new world.
It is the realm of mighty Death himself,
Ghastly, and grim, whereon dim moonlight pours
Askance, thro' clefts in the great roof of cloud,
Revealing dim titanities, and shows
The piled city of the bloodless King
Shuddering with icy splendours, and alone
Amid the stars of night; where he unseen,
The giant old, lord of the silence vast,
Forges from his exhaustless treasuries
Armour for endless winters; chains and bars
To prison the free elements, and bolt,
Under crystalline rocks, for countless years,
Until the world be ended; linked atoms
To bind all winged things, that love to live,
With the loud winds and streams: or thence unlocks
His sweeping desolations, hurricane,
Whirlwind, and hail; and rolls down the great wheels
That shake the world. And underneath he sees,
Along the moonlit valleys strown, what seem
The monstrous ruins of a fallen world,
Sheer emptied into this; he seems to hear
Above, below, and far and near, along
That ghostly region, dismal groans, and sighs,
As of weird armies driven 'twixt icy walls;
Clangours of rending adamant, flung back
From cliffs and caverns far remote, with sound,
Like rushing on of brazen wheels of war.
He flies in fear from that abhorred hold,
He knows not whither. Again he looks upon
Another sight, a boundless plain below
The frozen mountains. Still above him soar,
Above the earth, above the sable clouds,
The towers and bulwarks of that City of Death,
Whose wakeful warders ever looked abroad,
Ev'n to the utmost bounds; and from its walls
Glance unseen arrows, charged with doom, that smite
The hearts of men with faintness, smite with pain,
Fear, and despair: and round about him lies
A battlefield, lit by a blood-red moon,
That show'd it scatter'd with the helms, and arms,
And corselets of the slain. Foe, laid by foe,
Felt with his cold hand for his broken sword,
To plunge it in the dead cold heart beside him,
And smiled a wan smile, dreaming he would slay
Afresh the slain man by him. Then I saw
The muffled robber, like a nightbird, steal
Between the fallen, to strip off their last
Torn garments from them; and one, who had found
Another robber, stealthier than himself,
Possess'd of that he sought, fell on him there,
And slew him; and a stronger than himself
Crouching hard by in shadow of a rock,
Shall slay him in his turn; strife follows strife,
War begets war. It seem'd the weary battle
Had welter'd thro' long ages, one long night,
Lit by a moon whose setting was not yet;
For never sun had shone upon that world.
Amid the armed warriors that strove on,
Amid the dead and dying, I could see
The bleaching bones of others who had fallen
Ages agone; and there were cairns, and caves,
And mounds, that hid the dead men of the Past;
And arches graven with the fearful deeds
They had accomplish'd. Others, from high towers
With barred gates, blew trumpets to defy
Their hated brothers, and were answer'd quick
From other towers. Beneath, in shadow, lay
Lean beggars, with lean dogs and crawling things,
Suppliants for the poor dole that came anon
From iron hands above them; but no peace;
Only the bloodshed under the red moon.
And I could see the portals of tall fanes
Throng'd with the proud and pitiless, mingled with
The prouder priests, who blest their bloody hopes,
When they went forth to kill men, or received them,
After the bloodshed, with a hymn of praise!
But, in the distance, two or three I mark'd
Ascending a grey slope towards the East,
With slow step, yet with upward-gazing eyes;
For, far behind the dusky field of death,
A glimmer of a coming dawn was seen.
They seem'd a solitary remnant, fled
From dread and darkness, and they seem'd to tread
A weary way to some new world, a world
Lit by a sun, not by that blood-red moon,
That show'd all faces ghastly and deform.
'This shows us, O my friend,' the old man said,
'The world we live in now; for, if this isle,
The lovely remnant of a peaceful prime,
Be spared the havoc of the world without,
What thou hast told me of the ways of men,
Their feuds, their fears, their perils, and their cares,
Their plagues, and famines, their faint hopes of good
From any change, may show thee how the wise,
Prophetic soul, who drew these shadowy shapes,
Truly foresaw that future of our race,
Which is the present, symboll'd in that stage
Of his own life between the boy and man.
Therefore thou seest the carven stripling stands
Before the picture; one hand tears his hair,
One hand is raised to threaten; yet he weeps!'
"Then, on the other half, the artist strove
To tell us unimaginable things.
While they are struggling on that battlefield,
O'ershadow'd by the citadel of Death,
The first ray from the reascending sun
Smiles on the brazen legions, and the tongues
Of terror and of anguish cease at once.
They cannot look upon that light and live.
And there is world-wide silence; nothing breathes,
Save the few wanderers wending toward the East.
It is the end of the long night of Time.
As wanderers gasp in the high mountain air;
As prison'd eyes grow blind in sudden light;
Evil hath perish'd, smitten down by Good.
"'These two or three shall build a better world.'
Sighing the old man said, 'My son, our time,
Methinks. All these wild years of woes and wrongs,
Of tumults, and of discords, and of hates--
When Nature's self draws with her mighty hand
On the great spaces of the outer world,
In hurricanes, in earthquakes, flood and fire;
When nation wars with nation, man with man,
And each deems this world made for him alone,
Or to be won from others--seems that age
'Twixt infancy and youth, when first the boy
Scorns at himself, the late untutor'd child;
Scorns at himself, the yet imperfect man;
Sickens to look back at his merry days,
When phantasy clothed every little thing
With wonder, every childish act was done
With earnest love, and quicken'd into life
With joy like that of gods; and yet repines,
Although he would not lock the wheels of Time,
To muse on the sweet memories of those hours,
Thus wasted in infantine glee, yet more
Than aught he knows of since, those sunbright hours
That nevermore can be. A mightier soul
Gets wings with him now; far off he sees
Glory, and power, and marvels; but his heart
Faints at the future, though it spurns the past.
Stronger than little children, he is weak,
And but a child before the armed man.
Thus the pure peace of infancy is lost,
The stature of proud manhood is not gain'd.
Thus stands he, wavering idly 'twixt the two,
Shaken by changeful storms of fear and pride,
Weeping vain tears, or kindling vain desires,
Blazing with angers, mad with baffled hopes,
Drown'd in love-swoons, and dreaming heavenly joys;
Rending in rage his simple handiwork,
To be rebuilt with nicer art again.
His soul is tossing in so many moods
That none can hold him; and inconstancy
Within him leads him on to doubt the truth
Of all without him--'Are there powers above,'
He cries, 'who see and suffer this ill world
Of chance and tumult; such a thing as I?'--
Until the time when he begins to feel
The strength of Youth, and straight forgets the days
Of his first simple innocence, and all
The lights and shadows of the years between,
And looks right onward. In another scene
Of the same picture, see, the artist draws
Time passing onward, as a traveller swift,
Treading a stormy frontier 'twixt two realms,
Where lions prowl, and serpents hiss; who sees
Caverns, and cliffs by lightning-light, and hears
The winds and waters howling; and behind
Sees the dear land he shall not seek again;
And far before him other regions vast,
With towered heights, and cities dimly shown.
So, after the delighted lovely Prime
Of ages, other ages dawn'd; and days
Of clouds, and darkness, and unruly fires.
And we, O stranger, wheresoe'er the world
Is habitable, are the dwellers now
Of the wild frontier wilderness, beneath
A whirling sky, upon a quaking earth.
The sweet infantine sense of earlier life,
The kind instincts of nature, the pure joy
Of Nature's beauty, are a fable now.
The simple mirth, and the unruffled peace;
The temperate yet full-hearted pleasure, quaff'd
With the keen sense and uncorrupted soul;
The hand that needed not draw back, or fear,
To gather all sweet flowers and fruits; the will,
That needed no repentance of its pure,
And lawful purposes; all this, my friend,
Is as far music floating down the wind,
Listen'd to with sad-hearted eagerness,
For it may nevermore be heard; or then
Only, when the bright stars we look on now
Come back to the same spaces, after flight
Through all heaven, and immeasurable years!
"'Turn,' said my guide, 'to the fourth wall and see.'
Before the picture, shapen wondrously,
There stood the symbol of a perfect one,
Boon and majestic, beautiful and strong;
The stripling grown into the perfect man;
Nobility throned on expanded brows
Radiant; and eyes kindling with love and light;
An age of promise of all mighty things,
Henceforth to crown this being without end.
'Lo!' said my guide, 'the fourth age of the world,
To follow after these forlornest years
Of struggling races, and distracted souls,
When earth rebels against the Gods in Heaven,
When nation strives with nation, house with house,
Brother with brother, and the very thoughts
Of one sad heart are warring with themselves.
Far off that day may be; yet it shall come
With fair new hopes, and other loves, as he,
The carven image, with illumined gaze
Turns upward, and right onward; with his hand
Waving his full locks in the summer air,
And stepping forward, as a warrior sprung
From sleep, to win great conquests, not of blood,
Of burning cities, of disbanded hosts;
But such as, from the ruins of the Past,
Over the fallen towers and pyramids
Of pride, shall lay the great foundation-stones
Of endless progress into brighter day;
Of empire over Evil, and that rule,
That shall bind all the sons of man together
In bonds of love and knowledge. Look, his eyes
Raised heavenward, and his firm foot on the earth,
Symbol the long-lost harmony of Gods,
And men, and Nature, brought beneath his sway,
From end to end of the wide wondrous world,
By help of the Immortal ones themselves!'
"I look'd on the fourth wall, and saw thereon
The selfsame traveller on the mountain-land.
But now he stands in wonder; hath he dreamt
Of that grim region, and that city pale,
That dismal battlefield, and blood-red moon?
Now he sees nothing--nothing--for at first
The glory of another sunrise blinds
His eyes. He cannot see the eastern clime,
For its own amber smoke of radiance floods,
And brims the happy vales, as tho' the seas,
Changed into sunbright fiery ethers, whelm'd
The world, erewhile lock'd under doleful chains
Of icy darkness. Soon his dazzled eyes
Grew stronger in the light; and now he sees
That ghastly city with its icy towers--
Death's armoury, whence universal ill
Ray'd round about, as from a central sun
Beauty and life--by some great countercharm
Wrought into solid gold, wherethrough ascends
The splendour from the East, and makes those walls
Diaphanous, as when a summer rose,
Beauty itself, becomes more beautiful
In rosy ways transfused; and, with the light,
Roll down swift winds, and sweep the illumin'd plain.
That battlefield! and all the ruin there,
Deep in the dust of ages, or piled up
In funeral pyramids, is blown away;
As when a fire, that runs along the ground,
Licks up the dry weeds of a wilderness.
He stands upon the very plot of ground
Where once he crush'd the frozen snows; but, see,
His feet are hidden amid purple flowers;
He breathes the sweetness of their mingled souls.
And where the silent midnight round him slept,
Or started to appalling sounds, he hears
The still, small voices of unnumber'd streams
In whisper'd converse, as of captives' tongues,
Who fly in fear from the abhorred hold,
And gladden with the dawn of this new day.
Again he hearkens, gazing eagerly
Thro' the orient fire, as though he heard
From far an onward motion of great wings,
Kindling the air with deep vibrations, like
The endless shudder of a mighty chord,
Or thunder league on league away, and heard
At midnight faint and low. It seems as though
A secret, sudden instinct shadow'd him,
And warn'd him of a God. And now he stands,
Listening the voice of the Immortal--sweet
As melody that draws forth loving tears--
Upon the utmost border of that land,
And looks far forth, as one who veils his eyes
From sunlight thrown up from a dazzling sea,
That he may see the clearer; and the God
Touches with his bright hand the traveller's eyes,
And far things are brought near. He seems to see
A world-wide empire, gather'd into bounds
Of one fair valley, such the overflow
Of things majestic, bright and beautiful.
The aerial abysses, and the shapes,
Cloudlike, of mountains curtain round, and shield
The riches of the valley, laid with rows
Of sun-smit columns, graven temples, tall
Towers, and broad-based pyramids, that rise
Thro' quivering lights, and silence, from the depths
Of breathing gardens dark with odorous bowers,
Into the purple of the morn, and take,
Upon their fronts and summits, the first flash
Of day like stars. And there were arches, spanning
The dimpled rivers, that inverted all
The carven structures with their open doors,
Imaged therein; and he may see afar,
Looking across that valley toward the hills,
High terraced lawns that stepp'd into a lake
Of azure sheen, a cup of clear cold dews
Fresh from the peaks of snow; a crystal clear,
That drew the trembling shadows of the trees
And dove-wing'd clouds of summer. 'Tis a land,
Where lovely shows respond to loving hearts,
And Man and Nature are twin souls that pulse,
Like golden chords in living unison.
"Again the vision changes, and the God
Touches with his bright hand the traveller's eyes,
And far things are brought near; and he can see
Great multitudes upon a mountain plain,
Who stretch their arms rejoicing. They can see,
Descending thence, an army, ev'n of those
Who go forth conquering, but not with arms.
And each immortal of that mighty host
Bears in his hand a separate diadem,
To crown withal each mortal man below;
To bring him with each added year a power;
To deal him daily strength, and bliss, and hope;
And in the endless conquests over Time
Aids him with his own might; brings him swift thoughts
By day, and dreams and visions in the night,
Such as no mortal hath beheld, or shall
Behold, till that great day which is foredoom'd
To lead a march of triumph through all years!
"Then, on the other half, the artist strove
To tell us unimaginable things:
But woe belongs not to them, nor dismay.
Behold, as in an amphitheatre,
The whole world gather'd; 'tis a hemisphere
Of living faces, whose astonished eyes
Gaze upward to another hemisphere
Of living faces; but the latter live
No longer in this world. They stretch their arms
Each to the other; and they seem to hold
Converse, in music new and wonderful;
And interchange divine antiphonies,
As tho' they sang the very death of Death,
And Heaven and Earth were joining in the song!
"Such were the pictures on the ancient walls
I look'd on; but the soul that breathed from them
Had reach'd my soul but dimly, had not he,
Interpreter and guide, revealed to me
The inner spirit of the silent forms.
So that, inspired by his prophetic voice,
Which gave them all his thought and poesy,
Methought, I added life and motion to them,
And fancy multiplied the artist's skill
By changes manifold, as when, in dream,
A simple action of the outer world
Becomes a world-within. I saw and heard
The Past and Future, as he spoke to me,
And all the dead, cold marbles glow'd with life.
These things by help of my far-seeing guide
I understood, and stored up in my mind.
And when his tongue was silent, and I thought
He would no more have spoken, suddenly
Lights, like twin stars, came up into his eyes,
Tho' he seem'd blind to all things outward, deaf
To every sound. He lifted up his arms,
And with a prophet's voice he cried aloud,
Looking across the illimitable sea.
'The great Atlantis shall arise again!
I stand upon the farthest promontory
Of an old world, and look across a main
Of purple waters endless; what is this
I see before me? For it seems no more
The restless, glancing ocean; it grows calm,
Hush'd and immovable; its colours change
With every movement, and the level plain
Is moulded into solid substance, shaped
Like hill and valley: heavens! it is a world,
A newborn world! The waters have gone down,
The earth hath risen once more! but it is waste
And silent, no green thing hath blossom'd there,
And Man is not. Again I look upon
The selfsame, boundless region; but it seems
A thousand years are gone, and all is changed.
The wilderness is clothed, the mountain-tops
Are plumed with forests; but no column'd fanes
Are there, no sacred places; all is still,
And beautiful, beneath the azure air,
As that old world, whereof the highpriest spake,
The selfsame surging woods, and golden vales,
Gardens and orchards; founts, and curving streams,
And falling waters. Do I see once more
The imperial city, as it stood of old?
It stands upon the selfsame mount and plain.
But where are the old bulwarks? where the zones,
Alternately of land and sea, the walls,
And towers, once unassailable by man?
The gates are open, and the harbours full,
And many nations throng the marts again,
As in old time. I hear the sound of songs,
And festal cheer, and not a voice is sad;
All faces turn with faith upon each other;
I mark no hateful frown, no angry word.
Where are the temples of the early Gods?
Are they cast down dishonour'd? Or do men
Behold their faces so familiarly,
That other worship is not needed now,
But loving faith that makes obedience sure,
And scatters phantoms of o'ershadowing fears,
That lead the weak to folly, so that they,
That tremble for their guilt, will sooner strive
To cheat with a vain show the very Gods,
Who judge the earth, than think upon their deeds?
Where are the armed hosts that pass'd of old,
Out of the gates into the morning plain,
With thunderous tread, and lightnings, and the sound
Of lifted standards, and of flowing songs?
Where they, who laugh'd and sang, when others wept?
I hear the music, and I see the pomp,
As in the days before; but it is life,
Not death, that calls for triumph; and the love
Of many for their few, those kings of men
Whose crowns are loving thoughts, and gentle deeds;
Who rule their kind by serving them the best;
Who give them life from their own living souls,
As the blest sun the thankful earth at morn.
The great Atlantis shall arise again!
And yet, methinks, it is not that of old.
Impulsive moods, and eager hopes have pass'd
Into serenest noon of peaceful thought.
Simplicity and innocence have clothed
Their youthful limbs in wisdom; and the heart,
Earnest and pure, is fixed on high resolves,
And that pure heart is so wedded to man's hand,
That what he wills he works, and what he works
He wills; no dissonance 'twixt thought and act,
As when sweet echoes, which sweet sounds beget,
Fall back, and join themselves unto the sounds.
The great Atlantis shall arise again!
Oh! still I hope, I dream, I look beyond
These vexed times, how long soe'er they last,
Unto a bright futurity, the dawn
Of unrelapsing æons, when the world
Without us, and the living world within,
Shall live their youth, a youthhood of all strength,
And beauty, like the form of him, who steps
At morning from his chamber, and throws back
His deep hair, and looks up with sunny eyes
Sunward; and knows, before the end of day,
That, as the star unto the zenith runs,
So he shall do great deeds, and win the praise
Of thousands upon thousands, and shall hear
The music and the shouting in his ears,
And gain him countless welcomes, and a crown!
That day shall open with the end of wars;
That day shall see the nations flock together;
And every hand shall fetch with loving care
Some serviceable stone, or precious gem,
To build into the pyramid of peace.
And, as the young man, full of love and light,
At peace with all, and concord with himself,
Is radiant outward, and delights the hearts
Of others, and takes back the love he gives;
So the whole world that shall be--each to all,
And all to each breathing goodwill--shall weld
With sympathetic ardour, swift and sure,
Issues of all things godlike, noblest arts,
And faultless science. For the Gods shall bend
From heaven to hark the pæans of the earth;
And join the banquets of abundant powers,
And waxing wonders; and themselves shall speed
The work of mortals, till one day shall grow
More fruit than many years of this sad time.
And Man himself, in wisdom as a God,
Shall talk with the Immortals, and shall hear,
And see the things of the Eternal Life.
"That day that wanderer from the Eastern clime
Had ended all this wondrous handiwork,
He call'd the wise together, and he said;
'I have depicted by archaic Art,
And bodied in imperishable form,
What is recorded in the mystic lore,
And dateless revelations of old Time.
But whether all be true, or but a part,
I know not; only He who sleepeth not,
Whom walls of Space and Time imprison not,
Can fully grasp the Future and the Past.
Oft have I told ye whence I came, and oft
Have own'd the ancients of this realm of yours,
Mine ancestors. To other lands they pass'd,
And bore with them their wisdom and their skill
In knowledges and arts; yea, we have grown
All stately flowers from that same goodly seed,
Rivals of all the best we left behind.
Whereof I leave ye--for I know I die--
This long-wrought, now consummate work. I die
With something of a melancholy joy,
To think I leave ye that may bring delight
To look on! and a knowledge, and a power
To follow me in paths, where long ago
Your own forefathers led us; so I pay
Back the great gift of good they have bestow'd,
With something of a warning to your souls
That ye may flee, if this be possible,
The coming night of evil o'er the earth,
The shadow of whose wings myself have seen.
For, O my friends, believe a dying man
Whose ears have heard the whispers of the Gods,
That watch about the world. The time is nigh
When Evil, like a night that hath no morn,
Shall pall the world--but I shall be away--'
Ev'n while he spake his trembling accents faint
Answer'd not to the brightness of his eye,
But he pursued, 'When I am flown afar,
Forget not all my words, tho' ye no more
Remember me. But oh! if that I fear
Should fall on this blest region, as on ours,
And I, a living man, were with ye still,
Rather than see it wasting, like a fire,
That from a little spark grows more and more,
Into a sea of flame, oh! liefer I
Would cry to the Immortals night and morn,
Would call on the great Gods, to make all vain
The wrath of man, and under the deep sea
Lay my dear country with its hills and streams,
Lay me, and mine, and all I hear and see
Around me, ay, ev'n all I love the best,
And bid the waters save us from the fire!'
He spake no more, and slowly in his eyes
Were quenched the twin stars of his love and truth.
And with grey finger, pointing to the wall,
Whence frown'd the endless battle, he breath'd out
His spirit, and they wept for him in vain;
For none remember'd those foredooming words,
Till the last dreadful night that made them true.'
"Again the morning rose on our farewell;
The sails were set, the anchor was updrawn.
The sea-walls of the city, as before,
The towers and ramparts, throng'd with living forms,
Silent as memory's ghostlike images,
Phantasms we only seem to see and hear;
Dead shadows of things quick and vital once.
We saw them lift their arms into the air,
And wave farewell; but not a voice was heard,
Save of our men, and ev'n that was low,
As tho' their hearts were loth to leave that home
Of peace and beauty, for the stormy clime
Of the great world without. Then, round the walls
Of the weird city, rose a choral strain,
Solemn and sweet, and floated o'er the sea,
As tho' the guardian spirits of the place
Bad us turn back to it, and look again
Once more, but once, upon that lovely land,
As one may look upon a dying face
No eye shall see again for evermore.
We felt as tho' we shook off with the morn
Imagin'd joys, which Hecate and Night
Mock our sad days withal--the haggard cares
That meet us at the gate--and pass'd with sighs
Among the warring hosts of mortal men.
The sea was calm, blue as the cloudless air;
Unwilling the sleepy zephyrs breathed;
Our slumbrous bark crept through a slumbrous sea.
All day we kept the western isle in view;
Slowly it seem'd to sink, that fairy isle,
Under the cruel waters, as of old
The Motherland; and still we seem'd to hear
The silver sweetness of the parting song,
Fainter and fainter, till at eventide
The enchanting mystery of sight and sound
Drown'd in the flaming west from whence it rose.
Again the wind sprang up, and snatch'd away
Our bark thro' starlight onward to the east;
And seem'd to warn us with its freshening voice
To look no more for ever on the past.
Beneath the stars I thought of the weird isle
That seem'd to vanish; did it only seem?
I know not; but the story that I told
Stirr'd many more to venture after me
Across the western waves; but nevermore
Was found that land of melancholy souls.
Did the fair island follow in the wake
Of the first drowned world, as 'twere a child,
Call'd by its mother's ghost, or little bark
Drawn under by the rolling of a wreck?
I know not; but when years and cares had dimm'd
Its first bright image in my heart, methought,
I must have dreamt it only, and the dream,
More wonderful than other ghosts of sleep,
Ruled o'er me, like an earthly memory first,
And then dissolv'd into its elements,
Old tales, and phantasies, at work to pour
Their warm breath and their rainbow colours on
Grey dust and ashes. Oh! I know not now,
But fain would deem, like weary wayfarers,
The magic waters in the wilderness
Real, tho' they flee before me; fain would take
The gardens, and the temples, and the towers,
Wove of thin air and sunshine, for the home
Of beings, nobler than the sons of men,
A city builded of pure gold and pearl.
And, if no eye had seen so fair a world,
This let me dream some unborn age may see.'
Thus did my grandsire speak, the mariner bold."