1831

 

TO HELEN

 

Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicéan barks of yore,
That gently, oer a perfumed sea,
   The weary, way‑worn wanderer bore
  To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece,
   And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window‑niche
     How statue‑like I see thee stand,
     The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!


ISRAFEL

 

And the angel Israfel, whose heart‑strings are a lute,
and who has the sweetest voice of all God's creatures.––
K 0 R A N

In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
     “Whose heart‑strings are a lute;
None sing so wildly well
As the angel Israfel,
And the giddy stars (so legends tell)
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
     Of his voice, all mute.

Tottering above
     In her highest noon,
    The enamoured moon
Blushes with love,
     While, to listen, the red levin
     (With the rapid Pleiads, even,
     Which were seven,)
     Pauses in Heaven.

And they say (the starry choir
     And the other listening things)
That Israfelis fire
Is owing to that lyre
    By which he sits and sings
The trembling living wire
    Of those unusual strings.

But the skies that angel trod,
    Where deep thoughts are a duty
Where Loves a grown‑up God
    Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
    Which we worship in a star.

Therefore, thou art not wrong,
    Israfeli, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong,
    Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above
    With thy burning measures suit
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love,
    With the fervour of thy lute
    Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
     Is a world of sweets and sours;
     Our flowers are merely flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
     Is the sunshine of ours.

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
    Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
   A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
    From my lyre within the sky.

THE CITY IN THE SEA

 

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time - eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free
Up domes up spires up kingly halls
Up fanes up Babylon-likes walls
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idols diamond eye
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave there us a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow
The hours are breathing faint and low
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

THE SLEEPER

 

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps! and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

Oh, lady bright! can it be right
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree‑top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully so fearfully
Above the closed and fringéd lid
Neath which thy slumbring soul lies hid,
That, oer the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come oer far‑off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
 Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold
Some vault that oft hath flung its black
And wingéd pannels fluttering back,
Triumphant, oer the crested palls,
Of her grand family funerals

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portals she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She neer shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within. 


A PAEAN


I

 

How shall the burial rite be read?
   The solemn song be sung?
The requiem for the loveliest dead,
  That ever died so young?

II 

  Her friends are gazing on her,
   And on her gaudy bier,
And weep! oh! to dishonor
   Dead beauty with a tear!

III

     They loved her for her wealth
And they hated her for her pride
   But she grew in feeble health,
     And they love her that she died.

IV

  They tell me (while they speak
   Of her costly broiderd pall)
That my voice is growing weak
   That I should not sing at all

V

  Or, that my tone should be
   Turnd to such solemn song
So mournfully so mournfully,
  That the dead may feel no wrong

VI

  But she is gone above,
   With young Hope at her side,
And I am drunk with love
   Of the dead, who is my bride.  

VII

  Of the dead dead who lies
    All perfumd there,
With the death upon her eyes,
   And the life upon her hair.

VIII

  Thus on the coffin loud and long
    I strike the murmur sent
Through the gray chambers to my song
    Shall be the accompaniment.

IX

  Thou diedst in thy lifes June
    But thou didst not die too fair:
Thou didst not die too soon,
    Nor with too calm an air.

X

  From more than friends on earth,
    Thy life and love are riven,
To join the untainted mirth
    Of more than thrones in heaven.

XI

  Therefore, to thee this night
    I will no requiem raise,
But waft thee on thy flight,
    With a Paean of old days.

 

THE VALLEY OF UNREST

  Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild‑eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun‑light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valleys restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
 That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descending in gems