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The water flashed like sunlight by the prow
Of a noon-wandering meteor flung to Heaven; The still air seemed as if its waves did flow
In tempest down the mountains; loosely driven The lady's radiant hair streamed to and fro: Beneath, the billows having vainly striven Indignant and impetuous, roared to feel The swift and steady motion of the keel.
Or, when the weary moon was in the wane,
Her spirit; but sailed forth under the light
Its storm-outspeeding wings, the Hermaphrodite ; She to the Austral waters took her way, Beyond the fabulous Thamondocana.
Where, like a meadow which no scythe has shaven, Which rain could never bend, or whirl-blast
With the Antarctic constellations paven,
Canopus and his crew, lay the Austral lake— There she would build herself a windless haven Out of the clouds whose moving turrets make The bastions of the storm, when through the sky The spirits of the tempest thundered by.
A haven beneath whose translucent floor
Lifted their dreadful crags, and like a shore
Hemmed in with rifts and precipices grey,
And whilst the outer lake beneath the lash
Of the wind's scourge, foamed like a wounded thing;
And the incessant hail with stony clash
Ploughed up the waters, and the flagging wing Of the roused cormorant in the lightning flash Looked like the wreck of some wind-wandering Fragment of inky thunder-smoke-this haven Was as a gem to copy Heaven engraven.
On which that lady played her many pranks,
Even as a tiger on Hydaspes' banks
Outspeeds the antelopes which speediest are,
And then she called out of the hollow turrets
In mighty legions, million after million,
They pitched upon the plain of the calm mere.
They framed the imperial tent of their great Queen
And on a throne o'erlaid with starlight, caught
The last intelligence—and now she grew
These were tame pleasures; she would often climb
And like Arion on the Dolphin's back
And sometimes to those streams of upper air
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round,
That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound Wandered upon the earth where'er she past, And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.
But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
Of utmost Axumè, until he spreads,
Like a calm flock of silver fleeced sheep,
By Moeris and the Mareotid lakes,
Strewn with faint blooms like bridal chamber floors, Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes, Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes
Of those huge forms-within the brazen doors Of the great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast, Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.
And where within the surface of the river
Like things which every cloud can doom to die, Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky With tombs, and towers, and fanes, 'twas her delight To wander in the shadow of the night.
With motion like the spirit of that wind
Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet Past through the peopled haunts of human kind, Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet, Through fane, and palace-court, and labyrinth mined With many a dark and subterranean street Under the Nile, through chambers high and deep She past, observing mortals in their sleep.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
There, a lone youth who in his dreams did weep; Within, two lovers linkèd innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep Like ivy from one stem;—and there lay calm Old age with snow-bright air and folded palm.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong;
Written upon the brows of old and young: "This," said the wizard maiden, "is the strife Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."
And little did the sight disturb her soul.—
Our course unpiloted and starless make