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XXXIII. The Meteor showed the leaves on which we sate, And Cythna's glowing arms, and the thick ties Of her soft hair, which bent with gathered weight My neck near hers, her dark and deepening eyes, Which, as twin phantoms of one star that lies O'er a dim well, move, though the star reposes, Swam in our mute and liquid ecstacies, Her marble brow, and eager lips, like roses,
There we unheeding sate, in the communion
With their own fragrance pale, which spring but half Which common hopes and fears made, like a tempest,
Cythna beheld me part, as I bestrode
Down the ravine of rocks, did soon unite,
The darkness and the tumult of their might
Borne on all winds.-Far through the streaming rain Floating at intervals the garments white
"Of Cythna gleam'd, and her voice once again
For they foreknew the storm, and the grey ruin shook. Came to me on the gust, and soon I reach'd the plain.
I dreaded not the tempest, nor did he
Mock the fierce peal with neighings;-thus we sped
There was a desolate village in a wood,
Women, and babes, and men, slaughter'd confusedly.
Beside the fountain in the market-place
No living thing was there beside one woman,
Soon as she heard my steps she leap'd on me, And glued her burning lips to mine, and laugh'd With a loud, long, and frantic laugh of glee,
And cried, Now Mortal, thou hast deeply quaff'd The Plague's blue kisses-soon millions shall pledge the draught!
My name is Pestilence-this bosom dry, Once fed two babes-a sister and a brotherWhen I came home, one in the blood did lie
Of three death-wounds-the flames had ate the other! Since then I have no longer been a mother, But I am Pestilence;-hither and thither I flit about, that I may slay and smother;All lips which I have kiss'd must surely wither, But Death's-if thou art he, we 'll go to work together!
What seek'st thou here? the moonlight comes in
The dew is rising dankly from the dell-
Thou shalt have food; Famine, my paramour,
As thus she spake, she grasp'd me with the strength
A ring of cold, stiff babes; silent and stark they sate.
She leap'd upon a pile, and lifted high
Her mad looks to the lightning and cried: Eat! Share the great feast-to-morrow we must die! And then she spurn'd the loaves with her pale feet, Towards her bloodless guests;-that sight to meet, Mine eyes and my heart ached, and but that she Who loved me, did with absent looks defeat Despair, I might have raved in sympathy; But now I took the food that woman offered me;
And vainly having with her madness striven
The dark steed bore me, and the mountain grey
Had sate, with anxious eyes fix'd on the lingering day.
And joy was ours to meet: she was most pale, Famished, and wet and weary, so I cast My arms around her, lest her steps should fail As to our home we went, and thus embraced, Her full heart seemed a deeper joy to taste Than e'er the prosperous know; the steed behind Trod peacefully along the mountain waste, We reached our home ere morning could unbind Night's latest veil, and on our bridal couch reclined.
Her chill'd heart having cherish'd in my bosom,
Of health, and hope; and sorrow languish'd near it, And fear, and all that dark despondence doth inherit.
So we sate joyous as the morning ray
Which fed upon the wrecks of night and storm Now lingering on the winds; light airs did play Among the dewy weeds, the sun was warm, And we sate linked in the inwoven charm Of converse and caresses sweet and deep, Speechless caresses, talk that might disarm Time, though he wield the darts of death and sleep, And those thrice mortal barbs in his own poison steep.
I told her of my sufferings and my madness,
And all that now I was, while tears pursued
She told me a strange tale of strange endurance,
From the swoln brain, and that her thoughts were firm
When from all mortal hope she did depart,
And that she reach'd the port without one fear infirm.
One was she among many there, the thralls
Like winds that die in wastes-one moment mute
The evil thoughts it made, which did his breast pollute.
She told me what a loathsome agony Is that when selfishness mocks love's delight, Foul as in dreams most fearful imagery To dally with the mowing dead-that night All torture, fear, or horror made seem light Which the soul dreams or knows, and when the day Shone on her awful frenzy, from the sight Where like a Spirit in fleshly chains she lay Struggling, aghast and pale the Tyrant fled away.
Her madness was a beam of light, a power Which dawn'd through the rent soul; and words it gave, Gestures and looks, such as in whirlwinds bore Which might not be withstood, whence none could save All who approach'd their sphere, like some calm wave Vex'd into whirlpools by the chasms beneath; And sympathy made each attendant slave Fearless and free, and they began to breathe Deep curses, like the voice of flames far underneath.
The King felt pale upon his noon-day throne:
Of all things ill-distorted, bow'd and bent.
Made dumb by poison; who nought knew or meant
A diver lean and strong, of Oman's coral sea.
They bore her to a bark, and the swift stroke Of silent rowers clove the blue moonlight seas, Until upon their path the morning broke; They anchor'd then, where, be there calm or breeze, The gloomiest of the drear Symplegades Shakes with the sleepless surge;-the Ethiop there Wound his long arms around her, and with knees Like iron clasp'd her feet, and plunged with her Among the closing waves out of the boundless air.
Swift as an eagle stooping from the plain Of morning light, into some shadowy wood, He plunged through the green silence of the main, Through many a cavern which the eternal flood Had scoop'd, as dark lairs for its monster brood; And among mighty shapes which fled in wonder, And among mightier shadows which pursued His heels, he wound: until the dark rocks under He touch'd a golden chain-a sound arose like thunder.
A stunning clang of massive bolts redoubling Beneath the deep-a burst of waters driven As from the roots of the sea, raging and bubbling: And in that roof of crags a space was riven Thro' which there shone the emerald beams of heaven, Shot through the lines of many waves inwoven, Like sunlight through acacia woods at even, Through which, his way the diver having cloven, Past like a spark sent up out of a burning oven.
<«< And then, she said, he laid me in a cave
<< It was a babe, beautiful from its birth.-
Was pierced with one round cleft through which the Her looks on mine, as if some doubt she sought to shift:
«Below, the fountain's brink was richly paven
Of mountains, and on such bright floor did stand
Of kingless thrones, which Earth did in her heart create.
«The fiend of madness which had made its prey Of my poor heart, was lull'd to sleep awhile: There was an interval of many a day, And a sea-eagle brought me food the while, Whose nest was built in that untrodden isle, And who, to be the jailor had been taught, Of that strange dungeon; as a friend whose smile Like light and rest at morn and even is sought, That wild bird was to me, till madness misery brought.
The misery of a madness slow and creeping, Which made the earth seem fire, the sea seem air, And the white clouds of noon which oft were sleeping, In the blue heaven so beautiful and fair, Like hosts of ghastly shadows hovering there; And the sea-eagle look'd a fiend, who bore Thy mangled limbs for food!-thus all things were Transform'd into the agony which I wore Even as a poison'd robe around my bosom's core.
« Again I knew the day and night fast fleeing, The eagle, and the fountain, and the air; Another frenzy came-there seem'd a being Within me a strange load my heart did bear, As if some living thing had made its lair Even in the fountains of my life-a long And wondrous vision wrought from my despair, Then grew, like sweet reality among Dim visionary woes, an unreposing throng.
Methought I was about to be a motherMonth after month went by, and still I dream'd That we should soon be all to one another, I and my child; and still new pulses seem'd To beat beside my heart, and still I deem'd There was a babe within-and when the rain Of winter through the rifted cavern streamed, Methought, after a lapse of lingering pain,
I saw that lovely shape, which near my heart had lain. Vex'd the inconstant waves with my perpetual moan.