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Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum,
The which I breathe away, and thronging come
Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures.
"I touch'd no lute, I sang not, trod no measures: I was a lonely youth on desert shores. My sports were lonely, 'mid continuous roars, And craggy isles, and seamews' plaintive cry Plaining discrepant between sea and sky. Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen Would let me feel their scales of gold and green, Nor be my desolation ; and, full oft, When a dread waterspout had rear'd aloft Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe My life away like a vast sponge of fate, Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state, Has dived to its foundations, gulf d it down, And left me tossing safely. But the crown Of all my life was utmost quietude: More did I love to lie in cavern rude, Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune's voice, And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice! There blush'd no summer eve but I would steer My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear The shepherd's pipe come clear from aery steep, Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep: And never was a day of summer shine, But I beheld its birth upon the brine: For I would watch all night to see unfold Heaven's gates, and ^Ethon snort his morning gold Wide o'er the swelling streams: and constantly At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea, My nets would be spread out, and I at rest. The poor folk of the sea-country I blest With daily boon of fish most delicate: They knew not whence this bounty, and elate Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach.
"Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach At things which, but for thee, O Latmian! Had been my dreary death! Fool ! I began To feel distemper'd longings: to desire The utmost privilege that ocean's sire
Could grant in benediction : to be free
Of all his kingdom. Long in misery
I wasted, ere in one extremest fit
I plunged for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-intent;
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then, like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
'T was freedom! and at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed.
No need to tell thee of them, for I see
That thou hast been a witness—it must be
For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth,
By the melancholy corners of that mouth.
So I will in my story straightway pass
To more immediate matter. Woe, alas!
That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair!
Why did poor Glaucus ever—ever dare
To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth!
I loved her to the very white of truth,
And she would not conceive it. Timid thing!
She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing,
Round every isle, and point, and promontory,
From where large Hercules wound up his story
Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew
The more, the more I saw her dainty hue
Gleam delicately through the azure clear:
Until 'twas too fierce agony to bear;
And in that agony, across my grief
It flash'd, that Circe might find some relief—
Cruel enchantress! So above the water
I reared my head,and look'd for Phoebus' daughter.
jEsea's isle was wondering at the moon :—
It seem'd to whirl around me, and a swoon
Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power.
"When I awoke, 'twas in a twilight bower; Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees, Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees.
How sweet, and sweeter ! for I heard a lyre,
O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid's sake!
I am so oppress'd with joy! Why, I have shed
From these devoted eyes their silver store,
O let me pluck it for thee.' Thus she link'd
So near, that if no nearer it had been
"Young man of Latmos! thus particular
"Who could resist? Who in this universe?
I bow'd a tranced vassal: nor would thence
Have moved, even though Amphion's heart had woo'd Me back to Scylla o'er the billows rude.
For as Apollo each eve doth devise
"Now let me borrow
"One morn she left me sleeping: half awake
O such deformities! Old Charon's self,
It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan,
And tyrannising was the lady's look,
As over them a gnarled staff she shook.
Oft-times upon the sudden she laugh'd out,
And from a basket emptied to the rout
Clusters of grapes, the which they raven'd quick
And roar'd for more ; with many a hungry lick
About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow,
Anon she took a branch of mistletoe,
And emptied on't a black dull-gurgling phial:
Groan'd one and all, as if some piercing trial
Was sharpening for their pitiable bones.
She lifted up the charm: appealing groans
From their poor breasts went suing to her ear
In vain; remorseless as an infant's bier
She whisk'd against their eyes the sooty oil.
Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil,
Increasing gradual to a tempest rage,
Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage;
Until their grieved bodies 'gan to bloat
And puff from the tail's end to stifled throat:
Then was appalling silence : then a sight
More wildering than all that hoarse affright;
For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen,
Went through the dismal air like one huge Python
Antagonising Boreas,—and so vanish'd.
Yet there was not a breath of wind : she banish'd
These phantoms with a nod. Lo ! from the dark
Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark,
With dancing and loud revelry,—and went
Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent.—
Sighing an elephant appear'd and bow'd
Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud
In human accent: 'Potent goddess! chief
Of pains resistless ! make my being brief,
Or let me from this heavy prison fly:
Or give me to the air, or let me die!
I sue not for my happy crown again;
I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;