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My children fair, my lovely girls and boys!
"That curst magician's name fell icy numb
Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:
But such a love is mine, that here I chase
Eternally away from thee all bloom
Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.
Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;
And there, ere many days be overpast,
Disabled age shall seize thee ; and even then
Thou shalt not go the way of aged men;
But live and wither, cripple and still breathe
Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath
Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.
Adieu, sweet love, adieu !'—As shot stars fall,
She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung
And poison'd was my spirit: despair sung
A war-song of defiance 'gainst all hell.
A hand was at my shoulder to compel
My sullen steps; another 'fore my eyes
Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise
Enforced, at the last by ocean's foam
I found me ; by my fresh, my native home,
Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,
Came salutary as I waded in;
And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave
Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave
Large froth before me, while there yet remain'd
Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain'd.
"Young lover, I must weep—such hellish spite
O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy!
I clung about her waist, nor ceased to pass
Gain'd its bright portal, enter'd, and behold!
"Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,
"On a day, Sitting upon the rock above the spray, I saw grow up from the horizon's brink A gallant vessel: soon she seem'd to sink Away from me again, as though her course Had been resumed in spite of hindering force— So vanish'd : and not long, before arose Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose. Old yEolus would stifle his mad spleen, But could not, therefore all the billows green Toss'd up the silver spume against the clouds. The tempest came: I saw that vessel's shrouds In perilous bustle ; while upon the deck Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck; The final gulfing; the poor struggling souls: I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls. O they had all been saved but crazed eld Annull'd my vigorous cravings : and thus quell'd And curb'd, think on 't. O Latmian ! did I sit Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone, By one and one, to pale oblivion; And I was gazing on the surges prone, With many a scalding tear, and many a groan, When at my feet emerged an old man's hand, Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.
I knelt with pain—reached out my hand—had grasp'd
These treasures—touch'd the knuckles—they unclasp'd—
I caught a finger: but the downward weight
O'erpower'd me—it sank. Then 'gan abate
The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst
The comfortable sun. I was athirst
To search the book, and in the warming air
Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.
Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on
My soul page after page, till well nigh won
Into forgetfulness; when, stupified,
I read these words, and read again, and tried
My eyes against the heavens, and read again.
O what a load of misery and pain
Each Atlas line bore off!—a shine of hope
Came gold around me, cheering me to cope
Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend!
For thou hast brought their promise to an end.
"' In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
These things accomplish'd: If he utterly
Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds
"Then," cried the young Endymion, overjoy'd,
"We are twin brothers in this destiny!
Say, I entreat thee, what achievement high
Is, in this restless world, for me reserved.
What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerved,
Had we both perish'd V—" Look !" the sage replied,
"Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,
Of divers brilliances? 't is the edifice
I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies;
And where I have enshrined piously
All lovers, whom fell storms have doom'd to die
Throughout my bondage." Thus discoursing, on
They went till unobscured the porches shone;
Which hurryingly they gain'd, and enter'd straight.
Sure never since king Neptune held his state
Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.
Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars
Has legion'd all his battle ; and behold
How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold
His even breast: see, many steeled squares,
And rigid ranks of iron—whence who dares
One step? Imagine further, line by line,
These warrior thousands on the field supine :—
So in that crystal place, in silent rows,
Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes.
The stranger from the mountains, breathless, traced
Such thousands of shut eyes in order placed;
Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips
All ruddy,—for here death no blossom nips.
He mark'd their brows and foreheads; saw their hair
Put sleekly on one side with nicest care;
And each one's gentle wrists, with reverence,
Put cross-wise to its heart.
"Let us commence (Whisper'd the guide, stuttering with joy) even now," He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough, Began to tear his scroll in pieces small, Uttering the while some mumblings funeral. He tore it into pieces small as snow That drifts unfeather'd when bleak northerns blow; And having done it, took his dark blue cloak And bound it round Endymion: then struck His wand against the empty air times nine. "What more there is to do, young man, is thine: