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Of little eyes; as though thou wert to shed
Over the darkest, lushest blue bell bed,
Handfuls of daisies." Overpowered by this “ celestial colloquy sublime,” he sinks at last into slumber — and on wakening finds the scene disenchanted; and the dull shades of evening deepening over his solitude:
I started Ah! my sighs, my tears !
My clenched hands ! For lo! the poppies hung
Dew dabbled on their stalks; the ouzel sung
A heavy ditty; and the sullen day
Had chidden herald Hesperus away,
With leaden looks. The solitary breeze
Bl er'd and slept; and its wild self did teaze
With wayward melancholy. And I thought,
Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought,
Faint Fare-thee-wells — and sigh-shrilled Adieus!" Soon after this he is led away by butterflies to the haunts of Naiads; and by them sent down into enchanted caverns, where he sees Venus and Adonis, and great flights of Cupids; and wanders over diamond terraces among beautiful fountains and temples and statues, and all sorts of fine and strange things. All this is very fantastical: But there are splendid pieces of description, and a sort of wild richness in the whole. We cull a few little morsels. This is the picture of the sleeping Adonis:
In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
Of fondest beauty. Sideway his face repos'd
On one white arm, and tenderly unclos'd,
By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth
To slumbery pout; just as the morning south
Disparts a dew-lipp'd rose. Above his head,
Four lily stalks did their white honours wed
To make a coronal; and round him grew
All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,
Together intertwin'd and trammel'd fresh :
The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,
Shading its Éthiop berries; and woodbine,
Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine,
“ Hard by,
Stood serene Cupids watching silently.
One, kneeling to a lyre, touch'd the strings,
Muffling to death the pathos with his wings !
And, ever and anon, uprose to look
At the youth's slumber; while another took
A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,
And shook it on his hair; another flew
In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
Rain'd violets upon his sleeping eyes.”— p. 72, 73.
Here is another, and more classical sketch, of Cybele -
with a picture of lions that might excite the envy of
Rubens, or Edwin Landseer!
“ Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,
Came mother Cybele ! alone - alone!-
In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
About her majesty, and front death-pale
With turrets crown'd. Four maned lions hale
The sluggish wheels ; solemn their toothed maws,
Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws
Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails
Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails
This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away
In another gloomy arch!”- p. 83. The following picture of the fairy waterworks, which he unconsciously sets playing in these enchanted caverns. is, it must be confessed, “high fantastical;” but we venture to extract it, for the sake of the singular brilliancy and force of the execution:
“So on he hies
Through caves and palaces of mottled ore,
Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquoise floor,
Black polish'd porticoes of awful shade,
Till, at the last, a diamond balustrade
Leads sparkling just above the silvery heads
Of a thousand fountains; so that he could dash
The waters with his spear! But at that splash,
Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose
Sudden a poplar's height, and 'gan to enclose
His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round,
Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound
Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells
Welcome the car of Thetis ! Long he dwells
On this delight; for every minute's space
The streams with changing magic interlace;
Sometimes like delicatest lattices,
Cover'd with crystal vines : then weeping trees
Moving about, as in a gentle wind;
Which, in a wink, to wat'ry gauze refin'd
Pour into shapes of curtain'd canopies,
Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries
Of Flowers, Peacocks, Swans, and Naiads fair !
Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;
And then the water into stubborn streams
Collecting, mimick'd the wrought oaken beams,
Pillars, and freize, and high fantastic roof
Of those dark places, in times far aloof
There are strange melodies too around him; and their
effect on the fancy is thus poetically described :-
“Oh! when the airy stress
Of Music's kiss impregnates the free winds,
And with a sympathetic touch unbinds
Eolian magic from their lucid wombs !
Then old songs waken from forgotten tombs !
Old ditties sigh above their father's grave !
Ghosts of melodious prophesyings rave
Round every spot where trod Apollo's feet !
Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
Where long ago a Giant battle was !
And from the turf a lullaby doth pass,
In ev'ry place where infant Orpheus slept !"
In the midst of all these enchantments he has, we do
not very well know how, another ravishing interview
with his unknown goddess; and when she again melts
away from him, he finds himself in a vast grotto, where
he overhears the courtship of Alpheus and Arethusa ;
and as they elope together, discovers that the grotto has
disappeared, and that he is at the bottom of the sea,
under the transparent arches of its naked waters ! The
following is abundantly extravagant; but comes of no
ignoble lineage — nor shames its high descent: –
“ Far had he roam'd,
With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam'd
Above, around, and at his feet; save things
More dead than Morpheus' imaginings!
Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large
Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe;
Rudders that for a thousand years had lost
The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss'd
With long-forgotten story, and wherein
No reveller had ever dipp'd a chin
But those of Saturn's vintage; mould’ring scrolls,
Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls
Who first were on the earth ; and sculptures rude
In pond'rous stone, developing the mood
384 KEATS - INEXTRICABLE CONSUMMATION— ISABELLA.
Of ancient Nox; - then skeletons of man,
Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan,
And elephant, and eagle — and huge jaw
Of nameless monster.
There he finds ancient Glaucus enchanted by Circe hears his wild story — and goes with him to the deliverance and restoration of thousands of drowned lovers, whose bodies were piled and stowed away in a large submarine palace. When this feat is happily performed, he finds himself again on dry ground, with woods and waters around him; and cannot help falling desperately in love with a beautiful damsel whom he finds there, pining for some such consolation; and who tells a long story of having come from India in the train of Bacchus, and having strayed away from him into that forest!So they vow eternal fidelity; and are wafted up to heaven on flying horses; on which they sleep and dream among the stars ; — and then the lady melts away, and he is again alone upon the earth ; but soon rejoins his Indian love, and agrees to give up his goddess, and live only for her: But she refuses, and says she is resolved to devote herself to the service of Diana: But, when she goes to accomplish that dedication, she turns out to be the goddess herself in a new shape! and finally exalts her lover with her to a blessed immortality!
We have left ourselves room to say but little of the second volume; which is of a more miscellaneous character. Lamia is a Greek antique story, in the measure and taste of Endymion. Isabella is a paraphrase of the same tale of Boccacio which Mr. Cornwall has also imitated, under the title of “ A Sicilian Story.” It would be worth while to compare the two imitations; but we have no longer time for such a task. Mr. Keats has followed his original more closely, and has given a deep pathos to several of his stanzas. The widowed bride's discovery of the murdered body is very strikingly given.
“ Soon she turn'd up a soiled glove, whereon
Her silk had play'd in purple phantasies !
She kiss'd it with a lip more chill than stone,
And put it in her bosom, where it dries.
Then 'gan she work again; nor stay'd her care,
But to throw back at times her veiling hair.
“ That old nurse stood beside her, wondering,
Until her heart felt pity to the core,
At sight of such a dismal labouring;
And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
And put her lean hands to the horrid thing :
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore ;
At last they felt the kernel of the grave, &c.
“ In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then — the prize was all for Isabel !
She calm'd its wild hair with a golden comb;
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell
Pointed each fringed lash: The smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
She drench'd away : - and still she comb’d, and kept
Sighing all day - and still she kiss'd, and wept!
“ Then in a silken scarf – sweet with the dews
Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully,
She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose
A garden pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould; and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.
“ And she forgot the stars, the moon, the sun !
And she forgot the blue above the trees;
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze!
She had no knowledge when the day was done ;
And the new morn she saw not !
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears, unto the core !"
p. 72–75. The following lines from an ode to a Nightingale are equally distinguished for harmony and high poetic feeling: “ O for a beaker full of the warm South!
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth !
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim!
Fade far away ! dissolve --- and quite forget
What Thou among the leaves hast never known
The weariness, the fever, and the fret,
Here, -- where men sit and hear each other groan;