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O! Nothing earthly save the ray (Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty’s eye, As in those gardens where the day Springs from the gems of Circassy— O! nothing earthly save the thrill Of melody in woodland rill— Or (music of the passion-hearted) Joy’s voice so peacefully departed That like the murmur in the shell, Its echo dwelleth and will dwell— Oh, nothing of the dross of ours— Yet all the beauty—all the flowers That list our Love, and deck our bowers— Adorn yon world afar, afar— The wandering star.
’Twas a sweet time for Nesace—for there Her world lay lolling on the golden air, Near four bright suns—a temporary rest— An oasis in desert of the blest. Away—away—‘mid seas of rays that roll Empyrean splendor o’er th’ unchained soul— The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense) Can struggle to its destin’d eminence— To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode, And late to ours, the favour’d one of God— But, now, the ruler of an anchor’d realm, She throws aside the sceptre—leaves the helm, And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns, Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.
Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth, Whence sprang the “Idea of Beauty” into birth, (Falling in wreaths thro’ many a startled star, Like woman’s hair ‘mid pearls, until, afar, It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt) She look’d into Infinity—and knelt. Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled— Fit emblems of the model of her world— Seen but in beauty—not impeding sight Of other beauty glittering thro’ the light— A wreath that twined each starry form around, And all the opal’d air in color bound.
All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed Of flowers: of lilies such as rear’d the head On the fair Capo Deucato, and sprang So eagerly around about to hang Upon the flying footsteps of—deep pride— **Of her who lov’d a mortal—and so died. The Sephalica, budding with young bees, Uprear’d its purple stem around her knees: And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam’d— Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham’d All other loveliness: its honied dew (The fabled nectar that the heathen knew) Deliriously sweet, was dropp’d from Heaven, And fell on gardens of the unforgiven In Trebizond—and on a sunny flower So like its own above that, to this hour, It still remaineth, torturing the bee With madness, and unwonted reverie: In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf And blossom of the fairy plant, in grief Disconsolate linger—grief that hangs her head, Repenting follies that full long have fled, Heaving her white breast to the balmy air, Like guilty beauty, chasten’d, and more fair: Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light She fears to perfume, perfuming the night: And Clytia pondering between many a sun, While pettish tears adown her petals run: And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth— And died, ere scarce exalted into birth, Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king: And Valisnerian lotus thither flown From struggling with the waters of the Rhone: And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante! Isola d’oro!—Fior di Levante! And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever With Indian Cupid down the holy river— Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given To bear the Goddess’ song, in odors, up to Heaven:
“Spirit! that dwellest where, In the deep sky, The terrible and fair, In beauty vie! Beyond the line of blue— The boundary of the star Which turneth at the view Of thy barrier and thy bar— Of the barrier overgone By the comets who were cast From their pride, and from their throne To be drudges till the last— To be carriers of fire (The red fire of their heart) With speed that may not tire And with pain that shall not part— Who livest—that we know— In Eternity—we feel— But the shadow of whose brow What spirit shall reveal? Tho’ the beings whom thy Nesace, Thy messenger hath known Have dream’d for thy Infinity A model of their own— Thy will is done, Oh, God! The star hath ridden high Thro’ many a tempest, but she rode Beneath thy burning eye; And here, in thought, to thee— In thought that can alone Ascend thy empire and so be A partner of thy throne— By winged Fantasy, My embassy is given, Till secrecy shall knowledge be In the environs of Heaven.”
She ceas’d—and buried then her burning cheek Abash’d, amid the lilies there, to seek A shelter from the fervour of His eye; For the stars trembled at the Deity. She stirr’d not—breath’d not—for a voice was there How solemnly pervading the calm air! A sound of silence on the startled ear Which dreamy poets name “the music of the sphere.” Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call “Silence”—which is the merest word of all. All Nature speaks, and ev’n ideal things Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings— But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high The eternal voice of God is passing by, And the red winds are withering in the sky!
“What tho’ in worlds which sightless cycles run, Link’d to a little system, and one sun— Where all my love is folly and the crowd Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud, The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath— (Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?) What tho’ in worlds which own a single sun The sands of Time grow dimmer as they run, Yet thine is my resplendency, so given To bear my secrets thro’ the upper Heaven. Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly, With all thy train, athwart the moony sky— *Apart—like fire-flies in Sicilian night, And wing to other worlds another light! Divulge the secrets of thy embassy To the proud orbs that twinkle—and so be To ev’ry heart a barrier and a ban Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!”
Up rose the maiden in the yellow night, The single-mooned eve!—on Earth we plight Our faith to one love—and one moon adore— The birth-place of young Beauty had no more. As sprang that yellow star from downy hours Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers, And bent o’er sheeny mountain and dim plain Her way—but left not yet her Therasaean reign.
High on a mountain of enamell’d head— Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed Of giant pasturage lying at his ease, Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees With many a mutter’d “hope to be forgiven” What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven— Of rosy head, that towering far away Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray Of sunken suns at eve—at noon of night, While the moon danc’d with the fair stranger light— Uprear’d upon such height arose a pile Of gorgeous columns on th’ unburthen’d air, Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile Far down upon the wave that sparkled there, And nursled the young mountain in its lair. Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall Thro’ the ebon air, besilvering the pall Of their own dissolution, while they die— Adorning then the dwellings of the sky. A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down, Sat gently on these columns as a crown— A window of one circular diamond, there, Look’d out above into the purple air And rays from God shot down that meteor chain And hallow’d all the beauty twice again, Save when, between th’ Empyrean and that ring, Some eager spirit flapp’d his dusky wing. But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen The dimness of this world: that grayish green That Nature loves the best for Beauty’s grave Lurk’d in each cornice, round each architrave— And every sculptured cherub thereabout That from his marble dwelling peered out, Seem’d earthly in the shadow of his niche— Achaian statues in a world so rich? Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis— From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss Of beautiful Gomorrah! Oh, the wave Is now upon thee—but too late to save!
Sound loves to revel in a summer night: Witness the murmur of the gray twilight That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco, Of many a wild star-gazer long ago— That stealeth ever on the ear of him Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim, And sees the darkness coming as a cloud— Is not its form—its voice—most palpable and loud?
But what is this?—it cometh—and it brings A music with it—’tis the rush of wings— A pause—and then a sweeping, falling strain, And Nesace is in her halls again. From the wild energy of wanton haste Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart; The zone that clung around her gentle waist Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart. Within the centre of that hall to breathe She paus’d and panted, Zanthe! all beneath, The fairy light that kiss’d her golden hair And long’d to rest, yet could but sparkle there!
Young flowers were whispering in melody To happy flowers that night—and tree to tree; Fountains were gushing music as they fell In many a star-lit grove, or moon-light dell; Yet silence came upon material things— Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings— And sound alone that from the spirit sprang Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:
“ ’Neath blue-bell or streamer— Or tufted wild spray That keeps, from the dreamer, The moonbeam away— Bright beings! that ponder, With half-closing eyes, On the stars which your wonder Hath drawn from the skies, Till they glance thro’ the shade, and Come down to your brow Like—eyes of the maiden Who calls on you now— Arise! from your dreaming In violet bowers, To duty beseeming These star-litten hours— And shake from your tresses Encumber’d with dew The breath of those kisses That cumber them too— (O! how, without you, Love! Could angels be blest?) Those kisses of true love That lull’d ye to rest! Up! shake from your wing Each hindering thing: The dew of the night— It would weigh down your flight; And true love caresses— O! leave them apart! They are light on the tresses, But lead on the heart.
Ligeia! Ligeia! My beautiful one! Whose harshest idea Will to melody run, O! is it thy will On the breezes to toss? Or, capriciously still, Like the lone Albatross, Incumbent on night (As she on the air) To keep watch with delight On the harmony there?
Ligeia! wherever Thy image may be, No magic shall sever Thy music from thee. Thou hast bound many eyes In a dreamy sleep— But the strains still arise Which thy vigilance keep— The sound of the rain Which leaps down to the flower, And dances again In the rhythm of the shower— The murmur that springs From the growing of grass Are the music of things— But are modell’d, alas! Away, then, my dearest, O! hie thee away To springs that lie clearest Beneath the moon-ray— To lone lake that smiles, In its dream of deep rest, At the many star-isles That enjewel its breast— Where wild flowers, creeping, Have mingled their shade, On its margin is sleeping Full many a maid— Some have left the cool glade, and Have slept with the bee— Arouse them, my maiden, On moorland and lea— Go! breathe on their slumber, All softly in ear, The musical number They slumber’d to hear— For what can awaken An angel so soon Whose sleep hath been taken Beneath the cold moon, As the spell which no slumber Of witchery may test, The rhythmical number Which lull’d him to rest?”
Spirits in wing, and angels to the view, A thousand seraphs burst th’ Empyrean thro’, Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight— Seraphs in all but “Knowledge,” the keen light That fell, refracted, thro’ thy bounds afar, O death! from eye of God upon that star; Sweet was that error—sweeter still that death— Sweet was that error—ev’n with us the breath Of Science dims the mirror of our joy— To them ‘twere the Simoom, and would destroy— For what (to them) availeth it to know That Truth is Falsehood—or that Bliss is Woe? Sweet was their death—with them to die was rife With the last ecstasy of satiate life— Beyond that death no immortality— But sleep that pondereth and is not “to be”— And there—oh! may my weary spirit dwell— Apart from Heaven’s Eternity—and yet how far from Hell!
What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn? But two: they fell: for heaven no grace imparts To those who hear not for their beating hearts. A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover— O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over) Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known? Unguided Love hath fallen—‘mid “tears of perfect moan.”
He was a goodly spirit—he who fell: A wanderer by mossy-mantled well— A gazer on the lights that shine above— A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love: What wonder? for each star is eye-like there, And looks so sweetly down on Beauty’s hair— And they, and ev’ry mossy spring were holy To his love-haunted heart and melancholy. The night had found (to him a night of wo) Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo— Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky, And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie. Here sate he with his love—his dark eye bent With eagle gaze along the firmament: Now turn’d it upon her—but ever then It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.
“Ianthe, dearest, see! how dim that ray! How lovely ’tis to look so far away! She seemed not thus upon that autumn eve I left her gorgeous halls—nor mourned to leave, That eve—that eve—I should remember well— The sun-ray dropped, in Lemnos with a spell On th’ Arabesque carving of a gilded hall Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall— And on my eyelids—O, the heavy light! How drowsily it weighed them into night! On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan: But O, that light!—I slumbered—Death, the while, Stole o’er my senses in that lovely isle So softly that no single silken hair Awoke that slept—or knew that he was there.
The last spot of Earth’s orb I trod upon Was a proud temple called the Parthenon; More beauty clung around her columned wall Then even thy glowing bosom beats withal, And when old Time my wing did disenthral Thence sprang I—as the eagle from his tower, And years I left behind me in an hour. What time upon her airy bounds I hung, One half the garden of her globe was flung Unrolling as a chart unto my view— Tenantless cities of the desert too! Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then, And half I wished to be again of men.”
“My Angelo! and why of them to be? A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee— And greener fields than in yon world above, And woman’s loveliness—and passionate love.” “But list, Ianthe! when the air so soft Failed, as my pennoned spirit leapt aloft, Perhaps my brain grew dizzy—but the world I left so late was into chaos hurled, Sprang from her station, on the winds apart, And rolled a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart. Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar, And fell—not swiftly as I rose before, But with a downward, tremulous motion thro’ Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto! Nor long the measure of my falling hours, For nearest of all stars was thine to ours— Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth, A red Daedalion on the timid Earth.”
“We came—and to thy Earth—but not to us Be given our lady’s bidding to discuss: We came, my love; around, above, below, Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go, Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod She grants to us as granted by her God— But, Angelo, than thine gray Time unfurled Never his fairy wing o’er fairer world! Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes Alone could see the phantom in the skies, When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be Headlong thitherward o’er the starry sea— But when its glory swelled upon the sky, As glowing Beauty’s bust beneath man’s eye, We paused before the heritage of men, And thy star trembled—as doth Beauty then!”
Thus in discourse, the lovers whiled away The night that waned and waned and brought no day. They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.