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756                                      The Song Of Callicles

THROUGH the black, rushing smoke- bursts,
Thick breaks the red flame.
All Etna heaves fiercely
Her forest-clothed frame.
Not here, O Apollo!
Are haunts meet for thee.
But, where Helicon breaks down
In cliff to the sea.
Where the moon-silver’d inlets
Send far their light voice
Up the still vale of Thisbe,
O speed, and rejoice!
On the sward at the cliff-top,
Lie strewn the white flocks;
On the cliff-side, the pigeons
Roost deep in the rocks.
In the moonlight the shepherds,
Soft lull’d by the rills,
Lie wrapt in their blankets,
Asleep on the hills.
—What forms are these coming
So white through the gloom?
What garment out-glistening
The gold-flower’d broom?
What sweet-breathing Presence
Out-perfumes the thyme?
What voices enrapture
The night’s balmy prime?—
‘Tis Apollo comes leading
His choir, The Nine.
—The Leader is fairest,
But all are divine.
They are lost in the hollows.
They stream up again.
What seeks on this mountain
The glorified train?—
They bathe on this mountain,
In the spring by their road.
Then on to Olympus,
Their endless abode.
—Whose praise do they mention:
Of what is it told?—
What will be for ever.
What was from of old.
First hymn they the Father
Of all things: and then,
The rest of Immortals,
The action of men.
The Day in his hotness,
The strife with the palm;
The Night in her silence,
The Stars in their calm.

757                                              To Marguerite

YES: in the sea of life enisled,
   With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
   We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.
But when the moon their hollows lights,
   And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
   The nightingales divinely sing;
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour;
O then a longing like despair
   Is to their farthest caverns sent!
For surely once, they feel, we were
   Parts of a single continent.
Now round us spreads the watery plain—
O might our marges meet again!
Who order’d that their longing’s fire
   Should be, as soon as kindled, cool’d?
Who renders vain their deep desire?—
   A God, a God their severance ruled;
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.

758                                              Requiescat

STREW on her roses, roses,
   And never a spray of yew.
In quiet she reposes:
   Ah! would that I did too.
Her mirth the world required:
   She bathed it in smiles of glee.
But her heart was tired, tired,
   And now they let her be.
Her life was turning, turning,
   In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,
   And now peace laps her round.
Her cabin’d, ample Spirit,
   It flutter’d and fail’d for breath.
To-night it doth inherit
   The vasty hall of Death.

759                                             The Scholar-Gipsy

GO, for they call you, Shepherd, from the hill;
  Go, Shepherd, and untie the wattled cotes:
   No longer leave thy wistful flock unfed,
  Nor let thy bawling fellows rack their throats,
   Nor the cropp’d grasses shoot another head.
     But when the fields are still,
  And the tired men and dogs all gone to rest,
   And only the white sheep are sometimes seen
   Cross and recross the strips of moon-blanch’d green;
  Come, Shepherd, and again begin the quest.
Here, where the reaper was at work of late,
  In this high field’s dark corner, where he leaves
   His coat, his basket, and his earthen cruise,
  And in the sun all morning binds the sheaves,
   Then here, at noon, comes back his stores to use;
     Here will I sit and wait,
  While to my ear from uplands far away
   The bleating of the folded flocks is borne,
   With distant cries of reapers in the corn—
  All the live murmur of a summer’s day.
Screen’d is this nook o’er the high, half-reap’d field,
  And here till sundown, Shepherd, will I be.
   Through the thick corn the scarlet poppies peep,
  And round green roots and yellowing stalks I see
   Pale pink convolvulus in tendrils creep:
     And air-swept lindens yield
  Their scent, and rustle down their perfumed showers
   Of bloom on the bent grass where I am laid,
   And bower me from the August sun with shade;
  And the eye travels down to Oxford’s towers:
And near me on the grass lies Glanvil’s book—
  Come, let me read the oft-read tale again:
   The story of that Oxford scholar poor,
  Of pregnant parts and quick inventive brain,
   Who, tired of knocking at Preferment’s door,
     One summer morn forsook
  His friends, and went to learn the Gipsy-lore,
   And roam’d the world with that wild brotherhood,
   And came, as most men deem’d, to little good,
  But came to Oxford and his friends no more.
But once, years after, in the country lanes,
  Two scholars, whom at college erst he knew,
   Met him, and of his way of life inquired.
  Whereat he answer’d that the Gipsy-crew,
   His mates, had arts to rule as they desired
     The workings of men’s brains;
  And they can bind them to what thoughts they will:
   ‘And I,’ he said, ‘the secret of their art,
   When fully learn’d, will to the world impart:
  But it needs Heaven-sent moments for this skill!’
This said, he left them, and return’d no more,
  But rumours hung about the country-side,
   That the lost Scholar long was seen to stray,
  Seen by rare glimpses, pensive and tongue-tied,
   In hat of antique shape, and cloak of grey,
     The same the Gipsies wore.
  Shepherds had met him on the Hurst in spring;
   At some lone alehouse in the Berkshire moors,
   On the warm ingle-bench, the smock-frock’d boors
  Had found him seated at their entering,
But, ’mid their drink and clatter, he would fly:
  And I myself seem half to know thy looks,
   And put the shepherds, Wanderer, on thy trace;
  And boys who in lone wheatfields scare the rooks
   I ask if thou hast pass’d their quiet place;
     Or in my boat I lie
  Moor’d to the cool bank in the summer heats,
   ’Mid wide grass meadows which the sunshine fills,
   And watch the warm green-muffled Cumner hills,
  And wonder if thou haunt’st their shy retreats.
For most, I know, thou lov’st retiràed ground.
  Thee, at the ferry, Oxford riders blithe,
   Returning home on summer nights, have met
  Crossing the stripling Thames at Bablock-hithe,
   Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
     As the slow punt swings round:
  And leaning backwards in a pensive dream,
   And fostering in thy lap a heap of flowers
   Pluck’d in shy fields and distant Wychwood bowers,
  And thine eyes resting on the moonlit stream:
And then they land, and thou art seen no more.
  Maidens who from the distant hamlets come
   To dance around the Fyfield elm in May,
  Oft through the darkening fields have seen thee roam,
   Or cross a stile into the public way.
     Oft thou hast given them store
  Of flowers—the frail-leaf’d, white anemone—
   Dark bluebells drench’d with dews of summer eves,
   And purple orchises with spotted leaves—
  But none has words she can report of thee.
And, above Godstow Bridge, when hay-time’s here
  In June, and many a scythe in sunshine flames,
   Men who through those wide fields of breezy grass
  Whereblack-wing’d swallows haunt the glittering Thames,
   To bathe in the abandon’d lasher pass,
     Have often pass’d thee near
  Sitting upon the river bank o’ergrown:
   Mark’d thine outlandish garb, thy figure spare,
   Thy dark vague eyes, and soft abstracted air;
  But, when they came from bathing, thou wert gone.
At some lone homestead in the Cumner hills,
  Where at her open door the housewife darns,
    Thou hast been seen, or hanging on a gate
  To watch the threshers in the mossy barns.
   Children, who early range these slopes and late
     For cresses from the rills,
  Have known thee watching, all an April day,
   The springing pastures and the feeding kine;
   And mark’d thee, when the stars come out and shine,
  Through the long dewy grass move slow away.
In autumn, on the skirts of Bagley Wood,
  Where most the Gipsies by the turf-edged way
   Pitch their smoked tents, and every bush you see
  With scarlet patches tagg’d and shreds of gray,
   Above the forest-ground call’d Thessaly—
     The blackbird picking food
  Sees thee, nor stops his meal, nor fears at all;
   So often has he known thee past him stray
   Rapt, twirling in thy hand a wither’d spray,
  And waiting for the spark from Heaven to fall.
And once, in winter, on the causeway chill
  Where home through flooded fields foot-travellers go,
   Have I not pass’d thee on the wooden bridge
  Wrapt in thy cloak and battling with the snow,
   Thy face towards Hinksey and its wintry ridge?
     And thou hast climb’d the hill
  And gain’d the white brow of the Cumner range;
   Turn’d once to watch, while thick the snowflakes fall,
   The line of festal light in Christ Church hall—
  Then sought thy straw in some sequester’d grange.
But what—I dream! Two hundred years are flown
  Since first thy story ran through Oxford halls,
   And the grave Glanvil did the tale inscribe
  That thou wert wander’d from the studious walls
   To learn strange arts, and join a Gipsy-tribe:
     And thou from earth art gone
  Long since, and in some quiet churchyard laid—
   Some country nook, where o’er thy unknown grave
   Tall grasses and white flowering nettles wave—
  Under a dark red-fruited yew-tree’s shade.
—No, no, thou hast not felt the lapse of hours.
  For what wears out the life of mortal men?
   ’Tis that from change to change their being rolls:
  ’Tis that repeated shocks, again, again,
   Exhaust the energy of strongest souls,
     And numb the elastic powers.
  Till having used our nerves with bliss and teen,
   And tired upon a thousand schemes our wit,
   To the just-pausing Genius we remit
  Our worn-out life, and are—what we have been.
Thou hast not lived, why shouldst thou perish, so?
  Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire:
   Else wert thou long since number’d with the dead!
  Else hadst thou spent, like other men, thy fire!
   The generations of thy peers are fled,
     And we ourselves shall go;
  But thou possessest an immortal lot,
   And we imagine thee exempt from age
   And living as thou liv’st on Glanvil’s page,
  Because thou hadst—what we, alas, have not!
For early didst thou leave the world, with powers
  Fresh, undiverted to the world without,
   Firm to their mark, not spent on other things;
  Free from the sick fatigue, the languid doubt,
   Which much to have tried, in much been baffled, brings.
     O life unlike to ours!
Who fluctuate idly without term or scope,
    Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives,
   And each half lives a hundred different lives;
Who wait like thee, but not, like thee, in hope.
Thou waitest for the spark from Heaven! and we,
  Vague half-believers of our casual creeds,
   Who never deeply felt, nor clearly will’d,
  Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds,
   Whose weak resolves never have been fulfill’d;
    For whom each year we see
  Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new;
   Who hesitate and falter life away,
   And lose to-morrow the ground won to-day—
Ah, do not we, Wanderer, await it too?
Yes, we await it, but it still delays,
  And then we suffer; and amongst us One,
   Who most has suffer’d, takes dejectedly
  His seat upon the intellectual throne;
   And all his store of sad experience he
    Lays bare of wretched days;
  Tells us his misery’s birth and growth and signs,
   And how the dying spark of hope was fed,
   And how the breast was soothed, and how the head,
And all his hourly varied anodynes.
This for our wisest: and we others pine,
  And wish the long unhappy dream would end,
   And waive all claim to bliss, and try to bear,
  With close-lipp’d Patience for our only friend,
   Sad Patience, too near neighbour to Despair:
    But none has hope like thine.
  Thou through the fields and through the woods dost stray,
   Roaming the country-side, a truant boy,
   Nursing thy project in unclouded joy,
And every doubt long blown by time away.
O born in days when wits were fresh and clear,
  And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
   Before this strange disease of modern life,
  With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
   Its heads o’ertax’d, its palsied hearts, was rife—
    Fly hence, our contact fear!
  Still fly, plunge deeper in the bowering wood!
   Averse, as Dido did with gesture stern
   From her false friend’s approach in Hades turn,
Wave us away, and keep thy solitude.
Still nursing the unconquerable hope,
  Still clutching the inviolable shade,
   With a free onward impulse brushing through,
  By night, the silver’d branches of the glade—
   Far on the forest-skirts, where none pursue,
    On some mild pastoral slope
  Emerge, and resting on the moonlit pales,
   Freshen thy flowers, as in former years,
   With dew, or listen with enchanted ears,
From the dark dingles, to the nightingales.
But fly our paths, our feverish contact fly!
  For strong the infection of our mental strife,
   Which, though it gives no bliss, yet spoils for rest;
  And we should win thee from thy own fair life,
   Like us distracted, and like us unblest.
    Soon, soon thy cheer would die,
  Thy hopes grow timorous, and unfix’d thy powers,
   And thy clear aims be cross and shifting made:
   And then thy glad perennial youth would fade,
Fade, and grow old at last, and die like ours.
Then fly our greetings, fly our speech and smiles!
  —As some grave Tyrian trader, from the sea,
   Descried at sunrise an emerging prow
  Lifting the cool-hair’d creepers stealthily,
   The fringes of a southward-facing brow
    Among the Ægean isles;
  And saw the merry Grecian coaster come,
   Freighted with amber grapes, and Chian wine,
   Green bursting figs, and tunnies steep’d in brine;
And knew the intruders on his ancient home,
The young light-hearted Masters of the waves;
  And snatch’d his rudder, and shook out more sail,
   And day and night held on indignantly
  O’er the blue Midland waters with the gale,
   Betwixt the Syrtes and soft Sicily,
    To where the Atlantic raves
  Outside the Western Straits, and unbent sails
   There, wheredown cloudy cliffs, through sheets of foam,
   Shy traffickers, the dark Iberians come;
And on the beach undid his corded bales.

760                                                    Thyrsis

HOW changed is here each spot man makes or fills!
  In the two Hinkseys nothing keeps the same;
   The village-street its haunted mansion lacks,
  And from the sign is gone Sibylla’s name,
   And from the roofs the twisted chimney-stacks;
    Are ye too changed, ye hills?
  See, ’tis no foot of unfamiliar men
   To-night from Oxford up your pathway strays!
   Here came I often, often, in old days;
Thyrsis and I; we still had Thyrsis then.
Runs it not here, the track by Childsworth Farm,
  Up past the wood, to where the elm-tree crowns
   The hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames?
  The signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs,
   The Vale, the three lone weirs, the youthful Thames?—
    This winter-eve is warm,
  Humid the air; leafless, yet soft as spring,
   The tender purple spray on copse and briers;
   And that sweet City with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening,
Lovely all times she lies, lovely to-night!
  Only, methinks, some loss of habit’s power
   Befalls me wandering through this upland dim;
  Once pass’d I blindfold here, at any hour,
   Now seldom come I, since I came with him.
    That single elm-tree bright
  Against the west—I miss it! is it gone?
   We prized it dearly; while it stood, we said,
   Our friend, the Scholar-Gipsy, was not dead;
While the tree lived, he in these fields lived on.
Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here!
  But once I knew each field, each flower, each stick;
   And with the country-folk acquaintance made
  By barn in threshing-time, by new-built rick.
   Here, too, our shepherd-pipes we first assay’d.
    Ah me! this many a year
  My pipe is lost, my shepherd’s-holiday!
   Needs must I lose them, needs with heavy heart
   Into the world and wave of men depart,
But Thyrsis of his own will went away.
It irk’d him to be here, he could not rest.
  He loved each simple joy the country yields,
   He loved his mates; but yet he could not keep,
  For that a shadow lower’d on the fields,
   Here with the shepherds and the silly sheep.
    Some life of men unblest
  He knew, which made him droop, and fill’d his head.
   He went; his piping took a troubled sound
   Of storms that rage outside our happy ground;
He could not wait their passing, he is dead!
So, some tempestuous morn in early June,
  When the year’s primal burst of bloom is o’er,
   Before the roses and the longest day—
  When garden-walks, and all the grassy floor,
   With blossoms, red and white, of fallen May,
    And chestnut-flowers are strewn—
  So have I heard the cuckoo’s parting cry,
   From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
   Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze:
The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I.
Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?
  Soon will the high Midsummer pomps come on,
   Soon will the musk carnations break and swell,
  Soon shall we have gold-dusted snapdragon,
   Sweet-William with its homely cottage-smell,
    And stocks in fragrant blow;
  Roses that down the alleys shine afar,
   And open, jasmine-muffled lattices,
   And groups under the dreaming garden-trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening-star.
He hearkens not! light comer, he is flown!
  What matters it? next year he will return,
   And we shall have him in the sweet spring-days,
  With whitening hedges, and uncrumpling fern,
   And blue-bells trembling by the forest-ways,
    And scent of hay new-mown.
  But Thyrsis never more we swains shall see!
   See him come back, and cut a smoother reed,
   And blow a strain the world at last shall heed—
For Time, not Corydon, hath conquer’d thee.
Alack, for Corydon no rival now!—
  But when Sicilian shepherds lost a mate,
   Some good survivor with his flute would go,
  Piping a ditty sad for Bion’s fate,
   And cross the unpermitted ferry’s flow,
    And relax Pluto’s brow,
  And make leap up with joy the beauteous head
   Of Proserpine, among whose crownéd hair
   Are flowers, first open’d on Sicilian air,
And flute his friend, like Orpheus, from the dead.
O easy access to the hearer’s grace
  When Dorian shepherds sang to Proserpine!
   For she herself had trod Sicilian fields,
  She knew the Dorian water’s gush divine,
   She knew each lily white which Enna yields,
    Each rose with blushing face;
  She loved the Dorian pipe, the Dorian strain.
   But ah, of our poor Thames she never heard!
   Her foot the Cumner cowslips never stirr’d!
And we should tease her with our plaint in vain.
Well! wind-dispers’d and vain the words will be,
  Yet, Thyrsis, let me give my grief its hour
   In the old haunt, and find our tree-topp’d hill!
  Who, if not I, for questing here hath power?
   I know the wood which hides the daffodil,
    I know the Fyfield tree,
  I know what white, what purple fritillaries
   The grassy harvest of the river-fields,
   Above by Ensham, down by Sandford, yields,
And what sedg’d brooks are Thames’s tributaries;
I know these slopes; who knows them if not I?—
  But many a dingle on the loved hill-side,
   With thorns once studded, old, white-blossom’d trees,
  Where thick the cowslips grew, and, far descried,
   High tower’d the spikes of purple orchises,
    Hath since our day put by
  The coronals of that forgotten time.
   Down each green bank hath gone the ploughboy’s team,
   And only in the hidden brookside gleam
Primroses, orphans of the flowery prime.
Where is the girl, who, by the boatman’s door,
  Above the locks, above the boating throng,
   Unmoor’d our skiff, when, through the Wytham flats,
  Red loosestrife and blond meadow-sweet among,
   And darting swallows, and light water-gnats,
    We track’d the shy Thames shore?
  Where are the mowers, who, as the tiny swell
   Of our boat passing heav’d the river-grass,
   Stood with suspended scythe to see us pass?—
They are all gone, and thou art gone as well.
Yes, thou art gone! and round me too the night
  In ever-nearing circle weaves her shade.
   I see her veil draw soft across the day,
  I feel her slowly chilling breath invade
   The cheek grown thin, the brown hair sprent with grey;
    I feel her finger light
  Laid pausefully upon life’s headlong train;
   The foot less prompt to meet the morning dew,
   The heart less bounding at emotion new,
And hope, once crush’d, less quick to spring again.
And long the way appears, which seem’d so short
  To the unpractis’d eye of sanguine youth;
   And high the mountain-tops, in cloudy air,
  The mountain-tops where is the throne of Truth,
   Tops in life’s morning-sun so bright and bare!
    Unbreachable the fort
  Of the long-batter’d world uplifts its wall.
   And strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows,
   And near and real the charm of thy repose,
And night as welcome as a friend would fall.
But hush! the upland hath a sudden loss
  Of quiet;—Look! adown the dusk hill-side,
   A troop of Oxford hunters going home,
  As in old days, jovial and talking, ride!
   From hunting with the Berkshire hounds they come—
    Quick, let me fly, and cross
  Into yon further field!—’Tis done; and see,
   Back’d by the sunset, which doth glorify
   The orange and pale violet evening-sky,
Bare on its lonely ridge, the Tree! the Tree!
I take the omen! Eve lets down her veil,
  The white fog creeps from bush to bush about,
   The west unflushes, the high stars grow bright,
  And in the scatter’d farms the lights come out.
   I cannot reach the Signal-Tree to-night,     
Yet, happy omen, hail!
  Hear it from thy broad lucent Arno vale
   (For there thine earth-forgetting eyelids keep
   The morningless and unawakening sleep
Under the flowery oleanders pale),
Hear it, O Thyrsis, still our Tree is there!—
  Ah, vain! These English fields, this upland dim,
   These brambles pale with mist engarlanded,
  That lone, sky-pointing tree, are not for him.
   To a boon southern country he is fled,
    And now in happier air,
  Wandering with the great Mother’s train divine
   (And purer or more subtle soul than thee,
   I trow, the mighty Mother doth not see!)
Within a folding of the Apennine,
Thou hearest the immortal strains of old.
Putting his sickle to the perilous grain
In the hot cornfield of the Phrygian king,
For thee the Lityerses song again
Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing;
Sings his Sicilian fold,
His sheep, his hapless love, his blinded eyes;
And how a call celestial round him rang
And heavenward from the fountain-brink he sprang,
And all the marvel of the golden skies.
There thou art gone, and me thou leavest here
  Sole in these fields; yet will I not despair;
   Despair I will not, while I yet descry
  ’Neath the soft canopy of English air
   That lonely Tree against the western sky.
    Still, still these slopes, ’tis clear,
  Our Gipsy-Scholar haunts, outliving thee!
   Fields where soft sheep from cages pull the hay,
   Woods with anemonies in flower till May,
Know him a wanderer still; then why not me?
A fugitive and gracious light he seeks,
  Shy to illumine; and I seek it too.
   This does not come with houses or with gold,
  With place, with honour, and a flattering crew;
   ’Tis not in the world’s market bought and sold.
    But the smooth-slipping weeks
  Drop by, and leave its seeker still untired;
   Out of the heed of mortals he is gone,
   He wends unfollow’d, he must house alone;
Yet on he fares, by his own heart inspired.
Thou too, O Thyrsis, on like quest wert bound,
  Thou wanderedst with me for a little hour;
    Men gave thee nothing, but this happy quest,
  If men esteem’d thee feeble, gave thee power,
  If men procured thee trouble, gave thee rest.
      And this rude Cumner ground,
  Its fir-topped Hurst, its farms, its quiet fields,
    Here cam’st thou in thy jocund youthful time,
    Here was thine height of strength, thy golden prime;
And still the haunt beloved a virtue yields.
What though the music of thy rustic flute
 Kept not for long its happy, country tone,
  Lost it too soon, and learnt a stormy note
 Of men contention-tost, of men who groan,
 Which task’d thy pipe too sore, and tired thy throat—
  It fail’d, and thou wast mute;
 Yet hadst thou always visions of our light,
  And long with men of care thou couldst not stay,
  And soon thy foot resumed its wandering way,
Left human haunt, and on alone till night.
Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here!
 ’Mid city-noise, not, as with thee of yore,
  Thyrsis, in reach of sheep-bells is my home!
 Then through the great town’s harsh, heart-wearying roar,
 Let in thy voice a whisper often come,
  To chase fatigue and fear:
 Why faintest thou? I wander’d till I died.
  Roam on! the light we sought is shining still.
  Dost thou ask proof? Our Tree yet crowns the hill,
Our Scholar travels yet the loved hillside

761                                                Philomela

HARK! ah, the Nightingale!
The tawny-throated!
Hark! from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
What triumph! hark—what pain!
O Wanderer from a Grecian shore,
Still, after many years, in distant lands,
Still nourishing in thy bewilder’d brain
That wild, unquench’d, deep-sunken, old-world pain—
 Say, will it never heal?
And can this fragrant lawn
With its cool trees, and night,
And the sweet, tranquil Thames,
And moonshine, and the dew,
To thy rack’d heart and brain
 Afford no balm?
 Dost thou to-night behold
Here, through the moonlight on this English grass,
The unfriendly palace in the Thracian wild?
 Dost thou again peruse
With hot cheeks and sear’d eyes
The too clear web, and thy dumb Sister’s shame?
 Dost thou once more assay
Thy flight, and feel come over thee,
Poor Fugitive, the feathery change
Once more, and once more seem to make resound
With love and hate, triumph and agony,
Lone Daulis, and the high Cephissian vale?
 Listen, Eugenia—
How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
 Again—thou hearest!
Eternal Passion!
Eternal Pain!

762                                                Shakespeare

OTHERS abide our question. Thou art free,
We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill
That to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil’d searching of mortality;
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school’d, self-scann’d, self-honour’d, self-secure,
Didst walk on earth unguess’d, at. Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
  All weakness that impairs, all griefs that bow,
  Find their sole voice in that victorious brow.

763                                       From the Hymn of Empedocles

        IS it so small a thing
        To have enjoy’d the sun,
        To have lived light in the spring,
        To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;
        That we must feign a bliss
        Of doubtful future date,
        And while we dream on this
        Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?
        Not much, I know, you prize
        What pleasures may be had,
        Who look on life with eyes
        Estranged, like mine, and sad:
And yet the village churl feels the truth more than you;
        Who’s loth to leave this life
        Which to him little yields:
        His hard-task’d sunburnt wife,
        His often-labour’d fields;
The boors with whom he talk’d, the country spots he knew.
        But thou, because thou hear’st
        Men scoff at Heaven and Fate;
        Because the gods thou fear’st
        Fail to make blest thy state,
Tremblest, and wilt not dare to trust the joys there are.
        I say, Fear not! life still
        Leaves human effort scope.
        But, since life teems with ill,
        Nurse no extravagant hope.
Because thou must not dream, thou need’st not then despair.

764                                      The Strayed Reveller to Ulysses

THE Gods are happy.
They turn on all sides
Their shining eyes:
And see, below them,
The Earth, and men.
They see Tiresias
Sitting, staff in hand,
On the warm, grassy
Asopus’ bank:
His robe drawn over
His old, sightless head:
Revolving inly
The doom of Thebes.
They see the Centaurs
In the upper glens
Of Pelion, in the streams,
Where red-berried ashes fringe
The clear-brown shallow pools;
With streaming flanks, and heads
Rear’d proudly, snuffing
The mountain wind.
They see the Indian
Drifting, knife in hand,
His frail boat moor’d to
A floating isle thick matted
With large-leav’d, low-creeping melon-plants,
And the dark cucumber.
He reaps, and stows them,
Drifting—drifting:—round him,
Round his green harvest-plot,
Flow the cool lake-waves:
The mountains ring them.
They see the Scythian
On the wide Stepp, unharnessing
His wheel’d house at noon.
He tethers his beast down, and makes his meal.
Mares’ milk, and bread
Bak’d on the embers:—all around
The boundless waving grass-plains stretch, thick-starr’d
With saffron and the yellow hollyhock
And flag-leav’d iris flowers.
Sitting in his cart
He makes his meal: before him, for long miles,
Alive with bright green lizards,
And the springing bustard fowl,
The track, a straight black line,
Furrows the rich soil: here and there
Clusters of lonely mounds
Topp’d with rough-hewn,
Grey, rain-blear’d statues, overpeer
The sunny Waste.
They see the Ferry
On the broad, clay-laden
Lone Chorasmian stream: thereon,
With snort and strain,
Two horses, strongly swimming, tow
The ferry-boat, with woven ropes
To either bow
Firm-harness’d by the mane:—a Chief,
With shout and shaken spear
Stands at the prow, and guides them: but astern,
The cowering Merchants, in long robes,
Sit pale beside their wealth
Of silk-bales and of balsam-drops,
Of gold and ivory,
Of turquoise-earth and amethyst,
Jasper and chalcedony,
And milk-barr’d onyx stones.
The loaded boat swings groaning
In the yellow eddies.
The Gods behold them.
They see the Heroes
Sitting in the dark ship
On the foamless, long-heaving,
Violet sea:
At sunset nearing
The Happy Islands.
These things, Ulysses,
The wise Bards also
Behold and sing.
But oh, what labour!
O Prince, what pain!
They too can see
Tiresias:—but the Gods,
Who give them vision,
Added this law:
That they should bear too
His groping blindness,
His dark foreboding,
His scorn’d white hairs;
Bear Hera’s anger
Through a life lengthen’d
To seven ages.
They see the Centaurs
On Pelion:—then they feel,
They too, the maddening wine
Swell their large veins to bursting: in wild pain
They feel the biting spears
Of the grim Lapithae, and Theseus, drive,
Drive crashing through their bones: they feel
High on a jutting rock in the red stream
Alcmena’s dreadful son
Ply his bow:—such a price
The Gods exact for song;
To become what we sing.
They see the Indian
On his mountain lake:—but squalls
Make their skiff reel, and worms
In the unkind spring have gnaw’d
Their melon-harvest to the heart: They see
The Scythian:—but long frosts
Parch them in winter-time on the bare Stepp,
Till they too fade like grass: they crawl
Like shadows forth in spring.
They see the Merchants
On the Oxus’ stream:—but care
Must visit first them too, and make them pale.
Whether, through whirling sand,
A cloud of desert robber-horse has burst
Upon their caravan: or greedy kings,
In the wall’d cities the way passes through,
Crush’d them with tolls: or fever-airs,
On some great river’s marge,
Mown them down, far from home.
They see the Heroes
Near harbour:—but they share
Their lives, and former violent toil, in Thebes,
Seven-gated Thebes, or Troy;
Or where the echoing oars
Of Argo first
Startled the unknown Sea.
The old Silenus
Came, lolling in the sunshine,
From the dewy forest coverts,
This way, at noon.
Sitting by me, while his Fauns
Down at the water side
Sprinkled and smooth’d
His drooping garland,
He told me these things.
But I, Ulysses,
Sitting on the warm steps,
Looking over the valley,
All day long, have seen,
Without pain, without labour,
Sometimes a wild-hair’d Maenad;
Sometimes a Faun with torches;
And sometimes, for a moment,
Passing through the dark stems
Flowing-rob’d—the belov’d,
The desir’d, the divine,
Belov’d Iacchus.

Ah cool night-wind, tremulous stars!
Ah glimmering water—
Fitful earth-murmur—
Dreaming woods!
Ah golden-hair’d, strangely-smiling Goddess,
And thou, prov’d, much enduring,
Wave-toss’d Wanderer!
Who can stand still?
Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me.
The cup again!
Faster, faster,
O Circe, Goddess,
Let the wild thronging train,
The bright procession
Of eddying forms,
Sweep through my soul!


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