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Which won me more than all the best
Where'er I sought to pass, their wands
Motion'd me back, while many a file Of sacred nymphs—but ah, not they Whom my eyes look'd for-throng'd the way Perplex'd, impatient, 'mid this crowd Of faces, lights—the o'erwhelming cloud Of incense round me, and my blood Full of its new-born fire-I stood, Nor moved, nor breathed, but when I canght
A glimpse of some blue, spangled zone, Or wreath of lotus, vhich, I thought,
Like those she wore at distance shone.
But no, 'twas vain-hour after hour,
Till my heart's throbbing tarn’d to pain, And my strain'd eyesight lost its power,
I sought her thus, but all in vain. At length, hot-wilder'd-in despair, I rush'd into the cool night-air, And, hurrying, (though with many a look Back to the busy Temple,) took My way along the moonlight shore, And sprung into my boat once more.
Then was it, by the flash that blazed
Full o'er her features-oh 'twas then, As startingly her eyes she raised,
But quick let fall their lids again,
Upon the threshold of the skies
Newly upon her downcast eyes,
With holier shame, than did this maid, Whom now I saw, in all that gush
Of splendor from the aisles, display'd, Never—though well thou know'st how much
I've felt the sway of Beauty's starNever did her bright influence touch
My soul into its depths so far; And had that vision linger'd there
One minute more, I should have flown,
And, at her feet in worship thrown,
There is a Lake, that to the north
Have a proud City of their own,'
Slumbers, immortalized in stone; And where, through marble grots beneath,
The lifeless, ranged like sacred things, Nor wanting aught of life but breath,
Lio in their painted coverings, And on each new successive race,
That visit their dim haunts below, Look with the same unwithering face,
They wore three thousand years ago. There, Silence, thoughtful God, who loves The neighborhood of death, in groves Of Asphodel lies hid, and weares His bushing spell among the leavesNor ever noise disturbs the air,
Save the low, humming, mournful sound Of priests, within their shrines, at prayer
For the fresh Dead entomb'd around.
But, scarcely had that burst of light
As if on heavenly mission sent,
Like some unearthly creatures, meant
Of light and song, the young maids went;
'Twas tow'rd this place of death—in mood
Made up of thoughts, half bright, half darkI now across the shining flood
Unconscious turn'd my light-wing'd bark.
In vain I tried to follow ;-bands
Of reverend chanters fill'd the aisle:
1 Necropolis, or the City of the Dend, to the south of Memphis.
Cold, dead, and black’ning, 'mid the gloom
Of those eternal sepulchres.
The form of that young maid, in all
Its beauty, was before me still ; And oft I thought, if thus to call
Her image to my mind at will, If but the memory of that one Bright look of hers, forever gone, Was to my heart worth all the rest Of woman-kind, beheld, possess'dWhat would it be, if wholly mine, Within these arms, as in a shrine, Hallow'd by Love, I saw her shineAn idol, worshipp'd by the light Of her own beauties, day and nightIf 'twas a blessing but to see And lose again, what would this be?
Scarce had I turn'd my eyes away
From that dark death-place, at the thought, When by the sound of dashing spray
From a light oar my ear was caught, While past me, through the moonlight, sail'd
A little gilded bark that bore
And mantled, towards that funeral shore.
Shall I confess—to thee I may
That never yet hath come the chanco Of a new music, a new ray
From woman's voice, from woman's glance, Which-let it find me how it might,
In joy or grief–I did not bless, And wander after, as a light
Leading to undreamt happiness. And chiefly now, when hopes so vain Were stirring in my heart and brain, When Fancy had allured my soul
Into a chase, as vague and far As would be his, who fix'd his goal
In the horizon, or some starAny bewilderment, that brought More near to earth my high-flown thought The faintest glimpse of joy, less pure, Less high and heavenly, but more sure, Came welcome-and was then to me What the first flowery islo must be To vagrant birds blown out to sea.
The silence of the lonely tombs
And temples round, where naught was heard But the high palm-tree's tufted plumes,
Shaken, at times, by breeze or bird,
Quick to the shore I urged my bark,
And, by the bursts of moonlight, shed Between the lofty tombs, could mark
Those figures, as with hasty tread They glided on-till in the shade
Of a small pyramíd, which through Some boughs of palm its peak display'd,
They vanish'd instant from my view.
My oars were lifted, and my boat
Lay rock'd upon the rippling stream; While my vague thoughts, alike afloat,
Drifted through many an idle dream, With all of which, wild and unfix'd As was their aim, that vision mix'd, That bright nymph of the Temple—now, With the same innocence of brow She wore within the lighted faneNow kindling, through each pulse and vein, With passion of such deep-felt fire As Gods might glory to inspire ;And now-oh Darkness of the tomb,
That must eclipse even light like hers!
I hurried to the spot--no trace
At length, exploring darkly round
"Twixt peak and base-and, with a prayer
To the bliss-loving Moon, whose eye
Alone beheld me, sprung in there. Downward the narrow stairway led Through many a duct obscure and dread,
A labyrinth for mystery made, With wanderings onward, backward, round, And gathering still, where'er it wound,
But deeper density of shado
For there was yet one wonder there,
That held me as by witch’ry bound. The lamp, that through the chamber shed Its vivid beam, was at the head Of her who on that altar slept ;
And near it stood, when first I came Bending her brow, as if she kept
Sad watch upon its silent flameA female form, as yet so placed
Between the lamp's strong glow and me, That I but saw, in outline traced,
The shadow of her symmetry. Yet did my heart-I scarce knew whyEven at that shadow'd shape beat high. Nor was it long, ere full in sight The figure turn'd; and by the light That touch'd her features, as she bent Over the crystal monument, I saw 'twas she—the same—the same
That lately stood before me, bright'ning The holy spot, where she but came
And went again, like summer lightning!
Scarce had I ask'd myself, “ Can aught
“ That man delights in sojourn here ?"When, suddenly, far off, I caught
A glimpse of light, remote, but clearWhose welcome glimmer seem'd to pour
From some alcove or cell, that ended The long, steep, marblo corridor,
Through which I now, all hope, descended. Never did Spartan to his bride With warier foot at midnight glide. It seem'd as echo's self were dead In this dark place, so mute my tread. Reaching, at length, that light, I saw
Oh listen to the scene, now raised
The still, rapt awe with which I gazed.
The Theban beetle, as he shines,
When the Nile's mighty flow declines,
Upon the crystal, o'er the breast
Another type of that blest home,
Build for us in a world to come :-
As if, intent on heaven, those eyes
Their own pure orbits and the skies; And, though her lips no motion made,
And that fix'd look was all her speech, I saw that the rapt spirit pray'd
Deeper within than words could reach.
Direct beneath this type, reclined
On a black granite altar, lay
And looking fresh as if the ray
Of soul had fled but yesterday. While in relief, of silv'ry hue,
Graved on the altar's front were seen A branch of lotus, broken in two,
As that fair creature's life had been, And a small bird that from its spray Was winging, like her soul, away.
Strange power of Innocence, to turn
To its own hue whate'er comes near, And make even vagrant Passion burn
With purer warmth within its sphere ! She who, but one short hour before, Had come, like sudden wildfire, o'er My heart and brain-whom gladly, even
From that bright Temple, in the face Of those proud ministers of heaven,
I would have borne, in wild embrace. And risk'd all punishment, divine And human, but to make her mice ;She, she was now before me, thr:wn
By fate itself into my arms
But brief the glimpse I now could spare,
To the wild, mystic wonders round;
Though the red sun for hours hath burn'd,
And now, in his mid course, hath met The peak of that eternal pile
He pauses still at noon to bless, Standing beneath his downward smile,
Like a great Spirit, shadowless ! Nor yet she comes-while here, alone,
Saunt'ring through this death-peopled place,
By turns I watch, and rest, and trace
Dost thou remember, in that slo
Of our own Sea, where thou and I Linger'd so long, so happy a while,
Till all the summer flowers went byHow gay it was, when sunset brought
To the cool Well our favorite maids Some we had won, and some we sought
To dance within the fragrant shades, And, till the stars went down attune Their Fountain Hymns' to the young moon?
There standing, beautiful, alone,
With naught to guard her, but her charms. Yet did I, then-did even a breath
From my parch'd lips, too parch'd to move, Disturb a scene where thus, beneath Earth's silent covering, Youth and Death
Held converse through undying love ? No-smile and taunt me as thou wilt
Though but to gaze thus was delight, Yet seem'd it like a wrong, a guilt,
To win by stealth so pure a sight: And rather than a look profane
Should then have met those thoughtful eyes, Or voice or whisper broke the chain
That link'd her spirit with the skies, I would have gladly, in that place, From which I watch'd her heavenward face, Let my heart break, without one beat That could disturb a prayer so sweet. Gently, as if on every tread,
My life, my more than life, depended,
To this bless'd scene I now ascended,
The marble hills of Araby,
His beams into that living sea.
Newly put on—as if for pride
To his own Isis, his young bride,
At once from this entangling net-
Of every sense, that night forget. But vain the effort-spell-bound still, I linger’d, without power or will
To turn my eyes froin that dark door, Which now enclosed her 'mong the dead
Oft fancying, through the boughs, that o'er The sunny pile their flickering shed, 'Twas her light form again I saw
Starting to earth-still pure and bright,
Thus seen by morning's natural light,
That time, too-oh, 'tis like a dream
When from Scamander's holy tide I sprung as Genius of the Stream,
And bore away that blooming bride, Who thither came, to yield her charms
(As Phrygian maids are wont, ere wed) Into the cold Scamander's arms,
But met, and welcomed mine, instead Wondering, as on my neck she fell, How river-gods could love so well! Who would have thought that he, who roved
Like the first bees of summer then,
But the free bearts, that loved again,
Yet so it is and the same thirst
For something high and pure, above This withering world, which, from the first,
Made me drink deep of woman's love
As the one joy, to heaven most near
Farewell ; whatever may befall-
And, 'stead of haunting the trim Gardon's school
FROM ORCUS, HIGH PRIEST OF MEMPHIS, TO DECIUS,
Still less should they presume, weak wits, that THE PRETORIAN PREFECT.
Alone despise the craft of us who pray ;-REJOICE, my friend, rejoice :-the youthful Chief Still less their creedless vanity deceive Of that light Sect which mocks at all belief, With the fond thought, that we who pray believe And, gay and godless, makes the present hour Believe !Apis forbid-forbid it, all Its only heaven, is now within our power.
Yo monster Gods, before whose shrines we fall Smooth, impious school !—not all the weapons aim'd Deities, framed in jest, as if to try At priestly creeds, since first a creed was framed, How far gross Man can vulgarize the sky; E'er struck so deep as that sly dart they wield, How far the same low fancy that combines The Bacchant's pointed spear in laughing flowers Into a drove of brutes yon zodiac's signs, conceal'd.
And turns that Heaven itself into a place And oh, 'twore victory to this heart, as sweet Of sainted sin and deified disgrace, As any thou canst boast-even when the feet Can bring Olympus even to shame more deep, Of thy proud war-steed wade through Christian Stock it with things that earth itself holds cheap, blood,
Fish, flesh, and fowl, the kitchen's sacred brood, To wrap this scoffer in Faith's blinding hood, Which Egypt keeps for worship, not for foodAnd bring him, tamed and prostrate, to implore All, worthy idols of a Faith that sees The vilest gods even Egypt's saints adore.
In dogs, cats, owls, and apes, divinities! What do these sages think, to them alone The key of this world's happiness is known? Believe -oh, Decius, thou, who feel'st no care That none but they, who make such proud parade For things divine, beyond the soldier's share, Of Pleasure's smiling favors, win the maid,
Who takes on trust the faith for which he bleeds, Or that Religion keeps no secret place,
A good, fierce God to swear by, all he needsNo niche, in her dark fanes, for Love to grace ? Little canst thou, whose creed around thee hangs Fools !--did they know how keen the zest that's Loose as thy summer war-cloak, guess the pangs given
Of loathing and self-scorn with which a heart, To earthly joy, when season'd well with heaven ; Stubborn as mine is, acts the zealot's partHow Piety's grave mask improves the hue
The deep and dire disgust with which I wade Of Pleasure's laughing features, half seen through, Through the foul juggling of this holy trade And how the Priest, set aptly within reach
This mud profound of mystery, where the feet, Of two rich worlds, traffics for bliss with each, At every step, sink deeper in deceit. Would they not, Decius—thou, whom th' ancient Oh! many a time, when, 'mid the Temple's blaze, tie
O'er prostrate fools the sacred cist I raise, Twixt Sword and Altar makes our best ally- Did I not keep still proudly in my mind Would they not change their creed, their craft, for The power this priesteraft gives me o'er mankind ours?
A lever, of moro might, in skilful hand, Leave the gross daylight joys that, in their bowers, To move this world, than Archimede e'er plann'dLanguish with too much sun, like o'erblown I should, in vengeance of the shame I feel flowers,
At my own mockery, crush the slaves that kneel For the veil'd loves, the blisses undisplay'd
Besotted round; and-like that kindred breed That slyly lurk within the Temple's shade ? Of reverend, well-dress'd crocodiles they feed,