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XLIX. "My name is Pestilence. This bosom dry

Once fed two babes a sister and a brother.
When I came home, one in the blood did lie

Of three death-wounds--the flames had ate the other !
Since then I have no longer been a mother,
But I am Pestilence ;-hither and thither

I flit about, that I may slay and smother ;
All lips which I have kissed must surely wither,
But Death's—if thou art he, we'll go to work together!

“What seek'st thou here? the moonlight comes in flashes,

The dew is rising dankly from the dell; 'Twill moisten her! and thou shalt see the gashes

In my sweet boy-now full of worms——But tell First what thou seek'st.”—“I seek for food.”—“'Tis well, Thou shalt have food; Famine, my paramour,

Waits for us at the feast-cruel and fell Is Famine, but he drives not from his door Those whom these lips have kissed, alone. No more, no more !"


As thus she spake, she grasped me with the strength

Of madness, and by many a ruined hearth She led, and over many a corpse. At length

We came to a lone hut, where, on the earth

Which made its floor, she in her ghastly mirth,
Gatherăng from all those homes now desolate,

Had piled three heaps of loaves, making a dearth
Among the dead—round which she set in state
A ring of cold stiff babes; silent and stark they sate.

She leaped upon a pile, and lifted high

Her mad looks to the lightning, and cried : “Eat !
Share the great feast-to-morrow we must die !"
And then she spurned the loaves with her pale feet,

Towards her bloodless guests. That sight to meet,
Mine eyes and my heart ached, and, but that she

Who loved me did with absent looks defeat
Despair, I might have raved in sympathy;
But now I took the food that woman offered me;


. LIII. And, vainly having with her madness striven

If I might win her to return with me,
Departed. In the eastern beams of heaven

The lightning now grew pallid-rapidly
As by the shore of the tempestuous sea
The dark steed bore me: and the mountain grey

Soon echoed to his hoofs, and I could see
Cythna among the rocks, where she alway
Had sate with anxious eyes fixed on the lingering day.

And joy was ours to meet. She was most pale,

Famished, and wet, and weary; so I cast
My arms around her, lest her steps should fail

As to our home we went, and, thus embraced, Her full heart seemed a deeper joy to taste Than e'er the prosperous know. The steed behind

Trod peacefully along the mountain waste. We reached our home ere morning could unbind Night's latest veil, and on our bridal couch reclined.


Her chilled heart having cherished in my bosom,

And sweetest kisses passed, we two did share Our peaceful meal. As an autumnal blossom

Which spreads its shrunk leaves in the sunny air

After cold showers, like rainbows woven there, Thus in her lips and cheeks the vital spirit

Mantled, and in her eyes an atmosphere Of health and hope ; and sorrow languished near it, And fear, and all that dark despondence doth inherit.


So we sate joyous as the morning ray

Which fed upon the wrecks of night and storm Now lingering on the winds ; light airs did play

Among the dewy weeds, the sun was warm,

And we sate linked in the inwoven charm Of converse and caresses sweet and deep,

Speechless caresses, talk that might disarm

Time, though he wield the darts of death and sleep, And those thrice mortal barbs in his own poison steep.

11. I told her of my sufferings and my madness;

And how, awakened from that dreamy mood By liberty's uprise, the strength of gladness

Came to my spirit in my solitude;

And all that now I was; while tears pursued Each other down her fair and listening cheek

Fast as the thoughts which fed them, like a flood From sunbright dales ;-and, when I ceased to speak, Her accents soft and sweet the pausing air did wake.

She told me a strange tale of strange endurance,

Like broken memories of many a heart
Woven into one ; to which no firm assurance,
So wild were they, could her own faith impart.

She said that not a tear did dare to start
From the swoln brain, and that her thoughts were firm,

When from all mortal hope she did depart, Borne by those slaves across the ocean's term; And that she reached the port without one fear infirm.


One was she among many there, the thralls

Of the cold tyrant's cruel lust : and they
Laughed mournfully in those polluted halls;

But she was calm and sad, musing alway
On loftiest enterprise, till on a day
The tyrant heard her singing to her lute

A wild and sad and spirit-thrilling lay,
Like winds that die in wastes—one moment mute
The evil thoughts it made which did his breast pollute.

v. Even when he saw her wondrous loveliness,

One moment to great Nature's sacred power He bent, and was no longer passionless

But, when he bade her to his secret bower

Be borne a loveless victim, and she tore
Her locks in agony, and her words of flame

And mightier looks availed not; then he bore
Again his load of slavery, and became
A king, a heartless beast, a pageant and a name. -



She told me what a loathsome agony

Is that when selfishness mocks love's delight, Foul as in dream's most fearful imagery

To dally with the mowing dead. That night

All torture, fear, or horror, made seem light
Which the soul dreams or knows; and, when the day

Shone on her awful frenzy, from the sight,
Where like a spirit in fleshly chains she lay
Struggling, aghast and pale the tyrant fled away.

Her madness was a beam of light, a power

Which dawned through the rent soul; and words it gave, Gestures, and looks, such as in whirlwinds bore,

Which might not be withstood, whence none could save

All who approached their sphere, like some calm wave Vexed into whirlpools by the chasms beneath.

And sympathy made each attendant slave
Fearless and free, and they began to breathe
Deep curses, like the voice of flames far underneath.

The King felt pale upon his noonday throne.

At night two slaves he to her chamber sent.
One was a green and wrinkled eunuch, grown

From human shape into an instrument

Of all things ill—distorted, bowed, and bent :-
The other was a wretch from infancy

Made dumb by poison, who nought knew or meant
But to obey ; from the fire-isles came he,
A diver lean and strong, of Oman's coral sea.


They bore her to a bark, and the swift stroke

Of silent rowers clove the blue moonlight seas, Until upon their path the morning broke.

They anchored then where, be there calm or breeze,

The gloomiest of the drear Symplegades
Shakes with the sleepless surge ;-the Ethiop there

Wound his long arms around her, and with knees
Like iron clasped her feet, and plunged with her
Among the closing waves out of the boundless air.

“Swift as an eagle stooping from the plain

Of morning light into some shadowy wood,
He plunged through the green silence of the main,

Through many a cavern which the eternal flood
Had scooped as dark lairs for its monster brood;
And among mighty shapes which fled in wonder,

And among mightier shadows which pursued
His heels, he wound : until the dark rocks under
He touched a golden chain—a sound arose like thunder.


“A stunning clang of massive bolts redoubling

Beneath the deep—a burst of waters driven
As from the roots of the sea, raging and bubbling :
And in that roof of crags a space was riven

Through which there shone the emerald beams of heaven, Shot through the lines of many waves inwoven

Like sunlight through acacia woods at even, Through which his way the diver having cloven Passed like a spark sent up out of a burning oven.


“And then,” she said, “he laid me in a cave

Above the waters, by that chasm of sea,
A fountain round and vast, in which the wave,

Imprisoned, boiled and leaped perpetually,

Down which, one moment resting, he did flee, Winning the adverse depth; that spacious cell

Like an hupaithric temple wide and high, Whose aëry dome is inaccessible,

[fell. Was pierced with one round cleft through which the sunbeams

“Below, the fountain's brink was richly paven

With the deep's wealth, coral and pearl, and sand .
Like spangling gold, and purple shells engraven
With mystic legends by no mortal hand,

Left there when, thronging to the moon's command,
The gathering waves rent the Hesperian gate

Of mountains; and on such bright floor did stand
Columns, and shapes like statues, and the state
Of kingless thrones, which earth did in her heart create.

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