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XWiii. Yes, oft beside the ruin’d labyrinth Which skirts the hoary caves of the green deep, Did Laon and his friend on one grey plinth, tound whose worn base the wild waves hiss and leap, testing at eve, a lofty converse keep: And that this friend was false, may now be said Calmly—that he like other men could weep Tears which are lies, and could betray and spread Snares for that guileless heart which for his own had bled. Mix. Then, had no great aim recompensed my sorrow, I must have sought dark respite from its stress, In dreamless rest, in sleep that sees no morrow— For to tread life's dismaying wilderness Without one smile to cheer, one voice to bless, Amid the snares and scoffs of human kind, Is hard—but I betray'd it not, nor less With love that scorn'd return, sought to unbind The interwoven clouds which make its wisdom blind.
Xv. With deathless minds which leave where they have past A path of light, my soul communion knew: Till from that glorious intercourse, at last, As from a mine of magic store, I drew Words which were weapons;–round my heart there grew The adamantine armour of their power, And from my fancy wings of golden hue Sprano; forth—yet not alone from wisdom's tower, A minister of truth, these plumes young Laon bore. XXI. An orphan with my parents lived, whose eyes Were load-stars of delight, which drew me home when I might wander forth ; nor did I prize Aught human thing beneath Heaven's mighty dome Beyond this child: so when sad hours were come, And baffled hope like ice still clung to me, Since kin were cold, and friends had now become Heartless and false, I turn'd from all, to be, Cythua, the only source of tears and smiles to thee.
XXII. What wert thou then A child most infantine, Yet wandering far beyond that innocent age In all but its sweet looks and mien divine; Even then, methought, with the world's tyrant rage A patient warfare thy young heart did wage, when those soft eyes of scarcely conscious thought, Some tale, or thine own fancies would engage To overflow with tears, or converse fraught With passion, o'er their depths its fleeting light had wrought. xxiii. She moved upon this earth a shape of brightness, A power, that from its objects scarcely drew One impulse of her being—in her lightness Most like some radiant cloud of morning dew, Which wanders through the waste air's pathless blue, To nourish some far desert; she did seem Beside me, gathering beauty as she grew, Like the bright shade of some immortal dream Which walks, when tempest sleeps, the wave of life's dark stream.
xxiv. As mine own shadow was this child to me, A second self, far dearer and more fair: which clothed in undissolving radiancy, All those steep paths which languor and despair Of human things, had made so dark and bare, But which I trod alone—nor, till bereft Of friends, and overcome by lonely care, Knew I what solace for that loss was left, Though by a bitter wound my trusting heart was cleft.
XxW. Once she was dear, now she was all I had To love in human life—this playmate sweet, This child of twelve years old—so she was made My sole associate, and her willing feet Wander'd with mine where earth and occan meet, Beyond the aerial mountains whose vast cells The unreposing billows ever beat, Through forests wide and old, and lawny dells, Where boughs of incense droop over the emerald wells.
xxvi. And warm and light I felt her clasping hand When twined in mine: she followed where I went, Through the lone paths of our immortal land. It had no waste, but some memorial lent Which strung me to my toil—some monument Vital with mind: then. Cythna by my side, Until the bright and beaming day were spent, Would rest, with looks entreating to abide, Too earnest and too sweet ever to be denied.
xxWii. And soon I could not have refused her—thus For ever, day and night, we two were ne'er Parted, but when brief sleep divided us: And when the pauses of the lulling air Of noon beside the sea, had made a lair For her soothed senses, in my arms she slept, And I kept watch over her slumbers there, While, as the shifting visions o'er her swept, Amid her innocent rest by turns she smiled and wept.
XXWiii. And, in the murmur of her dreams was heard Sometimes the name of Laon —suddenly She would arise, and like the secret bird Whom sunset wakens, fill the shore and sky With her sweet accents—a wild melody! Hymns which my soul had woven to Freedom, strong The source of passion whence they rose, to be; Triumphant strains, which, like a spirit's tongue, To the enchanted waves that child of glory sung,
xxix. Her white arms lifted through the shadowy stream Of her loose hair—oh, excellently great Seem'd to me then my purpose, the vast theme Of those impassion'd songs, when Cythna sate Amid the calm which rapture doth create After its tumult, her heart vibrating, Her spirit o'er the oceam's floating state From her deep eyes far wandering, on the wint: Of visions that were mine, beyond its utmost spring.
xxx. For, before Cythma loved it, had my song Peopled with thoughts the boundless universe, A mighty congregation, which were strong Where'er they trod the darkness to disperse The cloud of that unutterable curse Which clings upon mankind:—all things became Slaves to my holy and heroic verse, Earth, sea and sky, the planets, life and fame And fate, or whate'er else binds the world's wondrous frame. Xxxi. And this beloved child thus felt the sway Of my conceptions, gathering like a cloud The very wind on which it rolls away : Hers too were all my thoughts, ere yet endow’d With music and with light, their fountains slow'd In poesy; and her still and earnest face, Pallid with feelings which intensely glow'd Within, was turn'd on mine with speechless grace, Watching the hopes which there her heart had learn'd to trace. xxxii. In me, communion with this purest being Kindled intenser zeal, and made me wise In knowledge, which in hers mine own mind seeing, Left in the human world few mysteries : How without fear of evil or disguise Was Cythna!—what a spirit strong and mild, Which death, or pain or peril could despise, Yet melt in tenderness! what genius wild, Yet mighty, was inclosed within one simple child!
XXXIII. New lore was this—old age with its grey hair, And wrinkled legends of unworthy things, And icy sneers, is nought : it cannot dare To burst the chains which life for ever slings On the entangled soul's aspiring wings, So is it cold and cruel, and is made The careless slave of that dark power which brings Evil, like blight on man, who still betray'd, Laughs o'er the grave in which his living hopes are laid.
XXXIV. Nor are the strong and the severe to keep The empire of the world: thus Cythna taught Even in the visions of her eloquent sleep, Unconscious of the power through which she wrought The woof of such intelligible thought, As from the tranquil strength which cradled lay In her smile-peopled rest, my spirit sought Why the deceiver and the slave has sway O'er heralds so divine of truth's arising day.
xxxW. Within that fairest form, the female mind Untainted by the poison clouds which rest On the dark world, a sacred home did find : But else, from the wide earth's maternal breast, Victorious Evil, which had dispossest All native power, had those fair children torn, And made them slaves to soothe his vile unrest, And minister to lust its joys forlorn, Till they had learned to breathe theatinosphere of scorn.
xxxWi. This misery was but coldly felt, till she Became my only friend, who had indued My purpose with a wider sympathy; Thus, Cythna mourn'd with me the servitude In which the half of humankind were mew'd Victims of lust and hate, the slaves of slaves, She mourn'd that grace and power were thrown as food To the hyena Lust, who, among graves, Over his loathed meal, laughing in agony, raves. XXXVII. And I, still gazing on that glorious child, Even as these thoughts flush'd o'er her.— . Cythna sweet, Well with the world art thou unreconciled; Never will peace and human nature meet Till free and equal man and woman greet Domestic peace; and ere this power can make In human hearts its calm and holy seat: This slavery must be broken-—as I spake, From Cythna's eyes a light of exultation brake. XXXVIII. She replied earnestly:—. It shall be mine, This task, mine, Laon!—thou hast much to gain; Nor wilt thou at poor Cythna's pride repine, If she should lead a happy female train To meet thee over the rejoicing plain, When myriads at thy call shall throng around The Golden City."—Then the child did strain My arm upon her tremulous heart, and wound Her own about my neck, till some reply she found.
XXXIX. I smiled, and spake not—“Wherefore dost thou smile At what I say? Laon, I am not weak, And though my cheek might become pale the while, With thee, if thou desirest, will I seek Through their array of banded slaves to wreak Ruin upon the tyrants. I had thought It was more hard to turn my unpractised cheek To scorn and shame, and this beloved spot And thee, O dearest friend, to leave and murmur not.
XL." • Whence came I what I am? thou, Laon, knowest How a young child should thus undaunted be ; Methinks, it is a power which thou bestowest, Through which I seek, by most resembling thee, So to become most good, and great and free, Yet far beyond this Ocean's utmost roar In towers and huts are many like to me, Who, could they see thine eyes, or feel such lore As I have learnt from them, like me would fear no more.
XLI. • Think'st thou that I shall speak unskilfully, And none will heed me? I remember now, IIow once, a slave in tortures doom'd to die, Was saved, because in accents sweet and low He sung a song his Judge loved long ago, As he was led to death.-All shall relent Who hear me—tears as mine have flow'd, shall slow, Hearts beat as mine now beats, with such intent As renovates the world; a will omnipotent!
XLii. * Yes, I will tread Pride's golden palaces, Through Penury's roofless huts and squalid cells Will I descend, where'er in abjectness Woman with some vile slave her tyrant dwells, There with the music of thine own sweet spells Will disenchant the captives, and will pour For the despairing, from the crystal wells Of thy deep spirit, reason's mighty lore, And power shall then abound, and hope arise once more.
XLi'i. • Can man be free if woman be a slave? Chain one who lives, and breathes this boundless air To the corruption of a closed grave! Can they whose mates are beasts, condemn'd to bear Scorn, heavier far than toil or anguish, dare To trample their oppressors? in their home Among their babes, thou knowest a curse would wear The shape of woman—hoary crime would come Behind, and fraud rebuild religion's tottering dome.
XLIV. * I am a child:—I would not yet depart. When I go forth alone, bearing the lamp Aloft which thou hast kindled in my heart, Millions of slaves from many a dungeon damp Shall leap in joy, as the benumbing cramp Of ages leaves their limbs—no ill may harm Thy Cythna ever—truth its radiant stamp Has fix’d, as an invulnerable charm Upon her children's brow, dark falsehood to disarm.
XLV. • Wait yet awhile for the appointed day— Thou wilt depart, and 1 with tears shall stand Watching thy dim sail skirt the ocean grey; Amid the dwellers of this lonely land I shall remain alone—and thy command Shall then dissolve the world's unquiet trance, And, multitudinous as the desert sand Borne on the storm, its millions shall advance, Thronging round thee, the light of their deliverance.
XLVI. • Then, like the forests of some pathless mountain, Which from remotest glens two warring winds Involve in fire, which not the loosen'd fountain of broadest floods might quench, shall all the kinds Of evil, catch from our uniting minds The spark which must consume them;-Cythna then Will have cast off the impotence that binds Her childhood now, and through the paths of men Will pass, as the charm'd bird that haunts the serpent's den. XLVII. • We part!–0 Laon, I must dare nor tremble To meet those looks no more!—Oh, heavy stroke, Sweet brother of my soul can I dissemble The agony of this thought?"—As thus she spoke The gather'd sobs her quivering accents broke, And in my arms she hid her beating breast. I remain'd still for tears—sudden she woke As one awakes from sleep, and wildly prest My bosom, her whole frame impetuously possest.
xLWiii. ... We part to meet again—but yon blue waste, Yon desert wide and deep holds no recess, Within whose happy silence, thus embraced We might survive all ills in one caress: Nor doth the grave—l fear ’t is passionless— Nor von cold vacant Ileaven —we meet again Within the minds of men, whose lips shall bless Our memory, and whose hopes its light retain When these dissever'd bones are trodden in the plain."
XLIX. I could not speak, though she had ceased, for now The fountains of her feeling, swift and deep, Seem'd to suspend the tumult of their flow; So we arose, and by the star-light steep went homeward—neither did we speak nor weep, But pale, were calm with passion—thus subdued Like evening shades that o'er the mountains creep, We moved towards our home; where, in this mood. Each from the other sought refuge in solitude.
CAN TO III.
i. What thoughts had sway o'er Cythna's lonely slumber That night, I know not; but my own did seem As if they might ten thousand years outnumber Of waking life, the visions of a dream, Which hid in one dim gulf the troubled stream Of mind; a boundless chaos wild and vast, Whose limits yet were never memory's theme: And I lay struggling as its whirlwinds past, Sometimes for rapture sick, sometimes for pain aghast.
II. Two hours, whose mighty circle did embrace More time than might make grey the infant world, Rolled thus, a weary and tumultuous space: When the third came, like mist on breezes curl’d From my dim sleep a shadow was unfurl’d : Methought, upon the threshold of a cave I sate with Cythna; drooping briony, pearled With dew from the wild streamlet's shatter'd wave, Hung, where we sate to taste the joys which Nature gave. III. We lived a day as we were wont to live, But Nature had a robe of glory on, And the bright air o'er every shape did weave Intenser hues, so that the herbless stone, The leafless bough among the leaves alone, Had being clearer than its own could be, And Cythna's pure and radiant self was shown In this strange vision, so divine to me, That if I loved before, now love was agony.
xxxii. Then Greece arose, and to its bards and sages, In dream, the golden pinioned Genii came, Even where they slept amid the night of ages, Steeping their hearts in the divinest flame, which thy breath kindled, Power of holiest name! And oft in cycles since, when darkness gave New weapons to thy foe, their sunlike fame Upon the combat shone—a light to save, Like Paradise spread forth beyond the shadowy grave.
xxxiii. Such is this conflict—when mankind doth strive with its oppressors in a strife of blood, or when free thoughts, like lightnings are alive; And in each bosom of the multitude Justice and truth, with custom's hydra brood, wage silent war;-when priests and kings dissemble in smiles or frowns their fierce disquietude, when round pure hearts, a host of hopes assemble, The Snake and Eagle meet—the world's foundations tremble! xxxiv. Thou hast beheld that fight—when to thy home Thou didst return, steep not its hearth in tears; Though thou mayst hear that earth is now become The tyrants garbage, which to his compeers, The vile reward of their dishonour'd years, He will dividing give—The victor Fiend Omnipotent of yore, now quails, and fears His triumph dearly won, which soon will lend An impulse swift and sure to his approaching end.
xxxviii. Thus the dark tale which history doth unfold, I knew, but not, methinks, as others know, For they weep not; and wisdom had unroll'd The clouds which hide the gulf of mortal woe: To few can she that warning vision show, For I loved all things with intense devotion; So that when Hope's deep source in fullest flow, Like earthquake did uplift the stagnant ocean Of human thoughts—mine shook beneath the wide emotion. xxxix. when first the living blood through all these veins Kindled a thought in sense, great France sprang forth, And seized, as if to break, the ponderous chains which bind in woe the nations of the earth. I saw, and started from my cottage hearth; And to the clouds and waves in tameless gladness, Shriek'd, till they caught immeasurable mirth— And laugh’d in light and music: soon, sweet madness was pour'd upon my heart, a soft and thrilling sadness.
ML. Deep slumber fell on me:–my dreams were fire, Soft and delightful thoughts did rest and hover Like shadows o'er my brain; and strange desire, The tempest of a passion, raging over My tranquil soul, its depths with light did cover, which past; and calm, and darkness, sweeter far Came—then I loved; but not a human lover: For when I rose from sleep, the Morning Star Shone through the woodbine wreaths which round my caseinent were. xLL. 'Twas like an eye which seem'd to smile on me. I watch'd, till by the sun made pale, it sank Under the billows of the heaving sea; But from its beams deep love my spirit drank, And to my brain the boundless world now shrank Into one thought—one image—yes, for ever! Even like the day-spring, pour'd on vapours dank, The beams of that one Star did shoot and quiver Through my benighted mind—and were extinguish'd never. XLII. The day past thus: at night, methought in dream A shape of speechless beauty did appear: It stood like light on a careering stream of golden clouds which shook the atmosphere; A winged youth, his radiant brow did wear The Morning Star: a wild dissolving bliss Over my frame he breathed, approaching near, And bent his eyes of kindling tenderness
|Near mine, and on my lips impress'd a lingering kiss.
MLIII. And said: a Spirit loves thee, mortal maiden, How wilt thou prove thy worth? Then joy and sleep Together fled, my soul was deeply laden, And to the shore I went to muse and weep; But as I moved, over my heart did creep Ajoy less soft, but more profound and strong Than my sweet dream; and it forbade to keep The path of the sea-shore: that Spirit's tongue Seem'd whispering in my heart, and bore my steps along.