Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude

Original Text: 
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alastor (1816). Reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1975. PR 5407 .A2 D6 SMC.
Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare.--
            Confess. St. August.
1      Earth, ocean, air, belovèd brotherhood!
2If our great Mother has imbued my soul
3With aught of natural piety to feel
4Your love, and recompense the boon with mine;
5If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even,
6With sunset and its gorgeous ministers,
7And solemn midnight's tingling silentness;
8If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood,
9And winter robing with pure snow and crowns
10Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs;
11If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes
12Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me;
13If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast
14I consciously have injured, but still loved
15And cherished these my kindred; then forgive
16This boast, belovèd brethren, and withdraw
17No portion of your wonted favour now!
18      Mother of this unfathomable world!
19Favour my solemn song, for I have loved
20Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched
21Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,
22And my heart ever gazes on the depth
23Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed
24In charnels and on coffins, where black death
25Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,
26Hoping to still these obstinate questionings
27Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost
28Thy messenger, to render up the tale
29Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,
30When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,
31Like an inspired and desperate alchymist
32Staking his very life on some dark hope,
33Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks
34With my most innocent love, until strange tears
35Uniting with those breathless kisses, made
36Such magic as compels the charmèd night
37To render up thy charge:...and, though ne'er yet
38Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary,
39Enough from incommunicable dream,
40And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought,
41Has shone within me, that serenely now
42And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre
43Suspended in the solitary dome
44Of some mysterious and deserted fane,
45I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain
46May modulate with murmurs of the air,
47And motions of the forests and the sea,
48And voice of living beings, and woven hymns
49Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.
50      There was a Poet whose untimely tomb
51No human hands with pious reverence reared,
52But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds
53Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid
54Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness:--
55A lovely youth,--no mourning maiden decked
56With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath,
57The lone couch of his everlasting sleep:--
58Gentle, and brave, and generous,--no lorn bard
59Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh:
60He lived, he died, he sung, in solitude.
61Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes,
62And virgins, as unknown he passed, have pined
63And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes.
64The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn,
65And Silence, too enamoured of that voice,
66Locks its mute music in her rugged cell.
67      By solemn vision, and bright silver dream,
68His infancy was nurtured. Every sight
69And sound from the vast earth and ambient air,
70Sent to his heart its choicest impulses.
71The fountains of divine philosophy
72Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great,
73Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past
74In truth or fable consecrates, he felt
75And knew. When early youth had past, he left
76His cold fireside and alienated home
77To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands.
78Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness
79Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought
80With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men,
81His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps
82He like her shadow has pursued, where'er
83The red volcano overcanopies
84Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice
85With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes
86On black bare pointed islets ever beat
87With sluggish surge, or where the secret caves
88Rugged and dark, winding among the springs
89Of fire and poison, inaccessible
90To avarice or pride, their starry domes
91Of diamond and of gold expand above
92Numberless and immeasurable halls,
93Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines
94Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite.
95Nor had that scene of ampler majesty
96Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven
97And the green earth lost in his heart its claims
98To love and wonder; he would linger long
99In lonesome vales, making the wild his home,
100Until the doves and squirrels would partake
101From his innocuous hand his bloodless food,
102Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks,
103And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er
104The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend
105Her timid steps to gaze upon a form
106More graceful than her own.
107                                His wandering step
108Obedient to high thoughts, has visited
109The awful ruins of the days of old:
110Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste
111Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers
112Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids,
113Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange
114Sculptured on alabaster obelisk,
115Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphynx,
116Dark Æthiopia in her desert hills
117Conceals. Among the ruined temples there,
118Stupendous columns, and wild images
119Of more than man, where marble daemons watch
120The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men
121Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around,
122He lingered, poring on memorials
123Of the world's youth, through the long burning day
124Gazed on those speechless shapes, nor, when the moon
125Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades
126Suspended he that task, but ever gazed
127And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind
128Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw
129The thrilling secrets of the birth of time.
130      Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food,
131Her daily portion, from her father's tent,
132And spread her matting for his couch, and stole
133From duties and repose to tend his steps:--
134Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe
135To speak her love:--and watched his nightly sleep,
136Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips
137Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath
138Of innocent dreams arose: then, when red morn
139Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home
140Wildered, and wan, and panting, she returned.
141      The Poet wandering on, through Arabie
142And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste,
143And o'er the aërial mountains which pour down
144Indus and Oxus from their icy caves,
145In joy and exultation held his way;
146Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within
147Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine
148Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower,
149Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched
150His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep
151There came, a dream of hopes that never yet
152Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veilèd maid
153Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones.
154Her voice was like the voice of his own soul
155Heard in the calm of thought; its music long,
156Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held
157His inmost sense suspended in its web
158Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues.
159Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme,
160And lofty hopes of divine liberty,
161Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy,
162Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood
163Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame
164A permeating fire: wild numbers then
165She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs
166Subdued by its own pathos: her fair hands
167Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp
168Strange symphony, and in their branching veins
169The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale.
170The beating of her heart was heard to fill
171The pauses of her music, and her breath
172Tumultuously accorded with those fits
173Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose,
174As if her heart impatiently endured
175Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned,
176And saw by the warm light of their own life
177Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil
178Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare,
179Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
180Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
181Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly.
182His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess
183Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled
184His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
185Her panting bosom:...she drew back a while,
186Then, yielding to the irresistible joy,
187With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
188Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
189Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night
190Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep,
191Like a dark flood suspended in its course
192Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.
193      Roused by the shock he started from his trance--
194The cold white light of morning, the blue moon
195Low in the west, the clear and garish hills,
196The distinct valley and the vacant woods,
197Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled
198The hues of heaven that canopied his bower
199Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep,
200The mystery and the majesty of Earth,
201The joy, the exultation? His wan eyes
202Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly
203As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven.
204The spirit of sweet human love has sent
205A vision to the sleep of him who spurned
206Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues
207Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade;
208He overleaps the bounds. Alas! Alas!
209Were limbs and breath and being intertwined
210Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost,
211In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep,
212That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death
213Conduct to thy mysterious paradise,
214O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds,
215And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake,
216Lead only to a black and watery depth,
217While death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung,
218Where every shade which the foul grave exhales
219Hides its dead eye from the detested day,
220Conduct, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms?
221This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart,
222The insatiate hope which it awakened stung
223His brain even like despair.
224                               While daylight held
225The sky, the Poet kept mute conference
226With his still soul. At night the passion came,
227Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream,
228And shook him from his rest, and led him forth
229Into the darkness.--As an eagle grasped
230In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast
231Burn with the poison, and precipitates
232Through night and day, tempest, and calm, and cloud,
233Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight
234O'er the wide aëry wilderness: thus driven
235By the bright shadow of that lovely dream,
236Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night,
237Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells,
238Startling with careless step the moonlight snake,
239He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight,
240Shedding the mockery of its vital hues
241Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on
242Till vast Aornos, seen from Petra's steep,
243Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud;
244Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs
245Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind
246Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on,
247Day after day a weary waste of hours,
248Bearing within his life the brooding care
249That ever fed on its decaying flame.
250And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair
251Sered by the autumn of strange suffering
252Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand
253Hung like dead bone within its withered skin;
254Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone
255As in a furnace burning secretly
256From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers,
257Who ministered with human charity
258His human wants, beheld with wondering awe
259Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer,
260Encountering on some dizzy precipice
261That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind
262With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet
263Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused
264In its career: the infant would conceal
265His troubled visage in his mother's robe
266In terror at the glare of those wild eyes,
267To remember their strange light in many a dream
268Of after-times; but youthful maidens, taught
269By nature, would interpret half the woe
270That wasted him, would call him with false names
271Brother, and friend, would press his pallid hand
272At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path
273Of his departure from their father's door.
274      At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore
275He paused, a wide and melancholy waste
276Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged
277His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there,
278Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds.
279It rose as he approached, and with strong wings
280Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course
281High over the immeasurable main.
282His eyes pursued its flight.--"Thou hast a home,
283Beautiful bird; thou voyagest to thine home,
284Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck
285With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes
286Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy.
287And what am I that I should linger here,
288With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes,
289Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned
290To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers
291In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven
292That echoes not my thoughts?" A gloomy smile
293Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips.
294For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly
295Its precious charge, and silent death exposed,
296Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure,
297With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms.
298      Startled by his own thoughts he looked around.
299There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight
300Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind.
301A little shallop floating near the shore
302Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze.
303It had been long abandoned, for its sides
304Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints
305Swayed with the undulations of the tide.
306A restless impulse urged him to embark
307And meet lone Death on the drear ocean's waste;
308For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves
309The slimy caverns of the populous deep.
310      The day was fair and sunny: sea and sky
311Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind
312Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves.
313Following his eager soul, the wanderer
314Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft
315On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat,
316And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea
317Like a torn cloud before the hurricane.
318      As one that in a silver vision floats
319Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds
320Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly
321Along the dark and ruffled waters fled
322The straining boat.--A whirlwind swept it on,
323With fierce gusts and precipitating force,
324Through the white ridges of the chafèd sea.
325The waves arose. Higher and higher still
326Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's scourge
327Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp.
328Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war
329Of wave ruining on wave, and blast on blast
330Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven
331With dark obliterating course, he sate:
332As if their genii were the ministers
333Appointed to conduct him to the light
334Of those belovèd eyes, the Poet sate
335Holding the steady helm. Evening came on,
336The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues
337High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray
338That canopied his path o'er the waste deep;
339Twilight, ascending slowly from the east,
340Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks
341O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day;
342Night followed, clad with stars. On every side
343More horribly the multitudinous streams
344Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war
345Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock
346The calm and spangled sky. The little boat
347Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam
348Down the steep cataract of a wintry river;
349Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave;
350Now leaving far behind the bursting mass
351That fell, convulsing ocean. Safely fled--
352As if that frail and wasted human form,
353Had been an elemental god.
354                               At midnight
355The moon arose: and lo! the ethereal cliffs
356Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone
357Among the stars like sunlight, and around
358Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves
359Bursting and eddying irresistibly
360Rage and resound for ever.--Who shall save?--
361The boat fled on,--the boiling torrent drove,--
362The crags closed round with black and jaggèd arms,
363The shattered mountain overhung the sea,
364And faster still, beyond all human speed,
365Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave,
366The little boat was driven. A cavern there
367Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths
368Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on
369With unrelaxing speed.--"Vision and Love!"
370The Poet cried aloud, "I have beheld
371The path of thy departure. Sleep and death
372Shall not divide us long!"
373                               The boat pursued
374The windings of the cavern. Daylight shone
375At length upon that gloomy river's flow;
376Now, where the fiercest war among the waves
377Is calm, on the unfathomable stream
378The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain, riven,
379Exposed those black depths to the azure sky,
380Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell
381Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound
382That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass
383Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm;
384Stair above stair the eddying waters rose,
385Circling immeasurably fast, and laved
386With alternating dash the gnarlèd roots
387Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms
388In darkness over it. I' the midst was left,
389Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud,
390A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm.
391Seized by the sway of the ascending stream,
392With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round,
393Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose,
394Till on the verge of the extremest curve,
395Where, through an opening of the rocky bank,
396The waters overflow, and a smooth spot
397Of glassy quiet mid those battling tides
398Is left, the boat paused shuddering.--Shall it sink
399Down the abyss? Shall the reverting stress
400Of that resistless gulf embosom it?
401Now shall it fall?--A wandering stream of wind,
402Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded sail,
403And, lo! with gentle motion, between banks
404Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream,
405Beneath a woven grove it sails, and, hark!
406The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar,
407With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods.
408Where the embowering trees recede, and leave
409A little space of green expanse, the cove
410Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers
411For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes,
412Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave
413Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task,
414Which nought but vagrant bird, or wanton wind,
415Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay
416Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed
417To deck with their bright hues his withered hair,
418But on his heart its solitude returned,
419And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid
420In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame
421Had yet performed its ministry: it hung
422Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud
423Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods
424Of night close over it.
425                               The noonday sun
426Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass
427Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence
428A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves
429Scooped in the dark base of their aëry rocks
430Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever.
431The meeting boughs and implicated leaves
432Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led
433By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death,
434He sought in Nature's dearest haunt, some bank
435Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark
436And dark the shades accumulate. The oak,
437Expanding its immense and knotty arms,
438Embraces the light beech. The pyramids
439Of the tall cedar overarching, frame
440Most solemn domes within, and far below,
441Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky,
442The ash and the acacia floating hang
443Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed
444In rainbow and in fire, the parasites,
445Starred with ten thousand blossoms, flow around
446The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes,
447With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles,
448Fold their beams round the hearts of those that love,
449These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs
450Uniting their close union; the woven leaves
451Make net-work of the dark blue light of day,
452And the night's noontide clearness, mutable
453As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns
454Beneath these canopies extend their swells,
455Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms
456Minute yet beautiful. One darkest glen
457Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with jasmine,
458A soul-dissolving odour, to invite
459To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell,
460Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep
461Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades,
462Like vaporous shapes half seen; beyond, a well,
463Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave,
464Images all the woven boughs above,
465And each depending leaf, and every speck
466Of azure sky, darting between their chasms;
467Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves
468Its portraiture, but some inconstant star
469Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair,
470Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon,
471Or gorgeous insect floating motionless,
472Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings
473Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon.
474      Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld
475Their own wan light through the reflected lines
476Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth
477Of that still fountain; as the human heart,
478Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave,
479Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard
480The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung
481Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel
482An unaccustomed presence, and the sound
483Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs
484Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed
485To stand beside him--clothed in no bright robes
486Of shadowy silver or enshrining light,
487Borrowed from aught the visible world affords
488Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;--
489But, undulating woods, and silent well,
490And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom
491Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
492Held commune with him, as if he and it
493Were all that was,--only... when his regard
494Was raised by intense pensiveness,... two eyes,
495Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought,
496And seemed with their serene and azure smiles
497To beckon him.
498                               Obedient to the light
499That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing
500The windings of the dell.--The rivulet
501Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine
502Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell
503Among the moss, with hollow harmony
504Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones
505It danced; like childhood laughing as it went:
506Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings crept,
507Reflecting every herb and drooping bud
508That overhung its quietness.--"O stream!
509Whose source is inaccessibly profound,
510Whither do thy mysterious waters tend?
511Thou imagest my life. Thy darksome stillness,
512Thy dazzling waves, thy loud and hollow gulfs,
513Thy searchless fountain, and invisible course
514Have each their type in me: and the wide sky,
515And measureless ocean may declare as soon
516What oozy cavern or what wandering cloud
517Contains thy waters, as the universe
518Tell where these living thoughts reside, when stretched
519Upon thy flowers my bloodless limbs shall waste
520I' the passing wind!"
521                               Beside the grassy shore
522Of the small stream he went; he did impress
523On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught
524Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one
525Roused by some joyous madness from the couch
526Of fever, he did move; yet, not like him,
527Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame
528Of his frail exultation shall be spent,
529He must descend. With rapid steps he went
530Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow
531Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now
532The forest's solemn canopies were changed
533For the uniform and lightsome evening sky.
534Grey rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemmed
535The struggling brook: tall spires of windlestrae
536Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope,
537And nought but gnarlèd roots of ancient pines
538Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots
539The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here,
540Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away,
541The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin
542And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes
543Had shone, gleam stony orbs:--so from his steps
544Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade
545Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds
546And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued
547The stream, that with a larger volume now
548Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there
549Fretted a path through its descending curves
550With its wintry speed. On every side now rose
551Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms,
552Lifted their black and barren pinnacles
553In the light of evening, and its precipice
554Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above,
555Mid toppling stones, black gulfs and yawning caves,
556Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues
557To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands
558Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks,
559And seems, with its accumulated crags,
560To overhang the world: for wide expand
561Beneath the wan stars and descending moon
562Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams,
563Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom
564Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills
565Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge
566Of the remote horizon. The near scene,
567In naked and severe simplicity,
568Made contrast with the universe. A pine,
569Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy
570Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast
571Yielding one only response, at each pause,
572In most familiar cadence, with the howl
573The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams
574Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river,
575Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path,
576Fell into that immeasurable void,
577Scattering its waters to the passing winds.
578      Yet the grey precipice and solemn pine
579And torrent, were not all;--one silent nook
580Was there. Even on the edge of that vast mountain,
581Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks,
582It overlooked in its serenity
583The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars.
584It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to smile
585Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped
586The fissured stones with its entwining arms,
587And did embower with leaves for ever green,
588And berries dark, the smooth and even space
589Of its inviolated floor, and here
590The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore,
591In wanton sport, those bright leaves, whose decay,
592Red, yellow, or ethereally pale,
593Rivals the pride of summer. 'Tis the haunt
594Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach
595The wilds to love tranquillity. One step,
596One human step alone, has ever broken
597The stillness of its solitude:--one voice
598Alone inspired its echoes;--even that voice
599Which hither came, floating among the winds,
600And led the loveliest among human forms
601To make their wild haunts the depository
602Of all the grace and beauty that endued
603Its motions, render up its majesty,
604Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm,
605And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould,
606Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss,
607Commit the colours of that varying cheek,
608That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes.
609      The dim and hornèd moon hung low, and poured
610A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge
611That overflowed its mountains. Yellow mist
612Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and drank
613Wan moonlight even to fulness: not a star
614Shone, not a sound was heard; the very winds,
615Danger's grim playmates, on that precipice
616Slept, clasped in his embrace.--O, storm of death!
617Whose sightless speed divides this sullen night:
618And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still
619Guiding its irresistible career
620In thy devastating omnipotence,
621Art king of this frail world, from the red field
622Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital,
623The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed
624Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne,
625A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin calls
626His brother Death. A rare and regal prey
627He hath prepared, prowling around the world;
628Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men
629Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms,
630Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine
631The unheeded tribute of a broken heart.
632      When on the threshold of the green recess
633The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew that death
634Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled,
635Did he resign his high and holy soul
636To images of the majestic past,
637That paused within his passive being now,
638Like winds that bear sweet music, when they breathe
639Through some dim latticed chamber. He did place
640His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk
641Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone
642Reclined his languid head, his limbs did rest,
643Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink
644Of that obscurest chasm;--and thus he lay,
645Surrendering to their final impulses
646The hovering powers of life. Hope and despair,
647The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear
648Marred his repose, the influxes of sense,
649And his own being unalloyed by pain,
650Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed
651The stream of thought, till he lay breathing there
652At peace, and faintly smiling:--his last sight
653Was the great moon, which o'er the western line
654Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended,
655With whose dun beams inwoven darkness seemed
656To mingle. Now upon the jaggèd hills
657It rests, and still as the divided frame
658Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's blood,
659That ever beat in mystic sympathy
660With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler still:
661And when two lessening points of light alone
662Gleamed through the darkness, the alternate gasp
663Of his faint respiration scarce did stir
664The stagnate night:--till the minutest ray
665Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered in his heart.
666It paused--it fluttered. But when heaven remained
667Utterly black, the murky shades involved
668An image, silent, cold, and motionless,
669As their own voiceless earth and vacant air.
670Even as a vapour fed with golden beams
671That ministered on sunlight, ere the west
672Eclipses it, was now that wondrous frame--
673No sense, no motion, no divinity--
674A fragile lute, on whose harmonious strings
675The breath of heaven did wander--a bright stream
676Once fed with many-voicèd waves--a dream
677Of youth, which night and time have quenched for ever,
678Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered now.
679      O, for Medea's wondrous alchemy,
680Which wheresoe'er it fell made the earth gleam
681With bright flowers, and the wintry boughs exhale
682From vernal blooms fresh fragrance! O, that God,
683Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice
684Which but one living man has drained, who now,
685Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels
686No proud exemption in the blighting curse
687He bears, over the world wanders for ever,
688Lone as incarnate death! O, that the dream
689Of dark magician in his visioned cave,
690Raking the cinders of a crucible
691For life and power, even when his feeble hand
692Shakes in its last decay, were the true law
693Of this so lovely world! But thou art fled
694Like some frail exhalation; which the dawn
695Robes in its golden beams,--ah! thou hast fled!
696The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful,
697The child of grace and genius. Heartless things
698Are done and said i' the world, and many worms
699And beasts and men live on, and mighty Earth
700From sea and mountain, city and wilderness,
701In vesper low or joyous orison,
702Lifts still its solemn voice:--but thou art fled--
703Thou canst no longer know or love the shapes
704Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee
705Been purest ministers, who are, alas!
706Now thou art not. Upon those pallid lips
707So sweet even in their silence, on those eyes
708That image sleep in death, upon that form
709Yet safe from the worm's outrage, let no tear
710Be shed--not even in thought. Nor, when those hues
711Are gone, and those divinest lineaments,
712Worn by the senseless wind, shall live alone
713In the frail pauses of this simple strain,
714Let not high verse, mourning the memory
715Of that which is no more, or painting's woe
716Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery
717Their own cold powers. Art and eloquence,
718And all the shows o' the world are frail and vain
719To weep a loss that turns their lights to shade.
720It is a woe too "deep for tears," when all
721Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit,
722Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves
723Those who remain behind, not sobs or groans,
724The passionate tumult of a clinging hope;
725But pale despair and cold tranquillity,
726Nature's vast frame, the web of human things,
727Birth and the grave, that are not as they were.
Publication Start Year: 
1816
RPO poem Editors: 
J. D. Robins
RPO Edition: 
2RP 2.224.
Form: