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(ON HER OBJECTING TO THE FOLLOWING POEM, UPON THE SCORE
OF ITS CONTAINING NO HUMAN INTEREST.)
my dear Mary, are you critic-bitten, (For vipers kill, though dead, by some review, That
you condemn these verses I have written, Because they tell no story, false or true ! What, though no mice are caught by a young kitten,
May it not leap and play as grown cats do,
What hand would crush the silken-winged fly,
The youngest of inconstant April's minions, Because it cannot climb the purest sky,
Where the swan sings, amid the sun's dominions ? Not thine. Thou knowest 'tis its doom to die,
When day shall hide within her twilight pinions,
To thy fair feet a winged Vision came,
Whose date should have been longer than a day, And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,
And in thy sight its fading plumes display ;
The watery bow burned in the evening flame,
But the shower fell, the swift Sun went his way-
thing of mine is fit to live!
Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years
Considering and retouching Peter Bell; Watering his laurels with the killing tears
Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to hell Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the spheres
Of heaven, with dewy leaves and flowers; this well May be, for Heaven and Earth conspire to foil The over-busy gardener's blundering toil.
My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature
As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise Clothes for our grandsons—but she matches Peter,
Though he took nineteen years, and she three days In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre
She wears ; he, proud as dandy with his stays, Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress Like King Lear's “looped and windowed raggedness.”
If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow,
Scorched by Hell's hyperequatorial climate Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow :
A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at;
If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate
THE WITCH OF ATLAS.
BEFORE those cruel Twins, whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time, Error and Truth, had hunted from the earth
All those bright natures which adorned its prime, And left us nothing to believe in, worth
The pains of putting into learned rhyme, A lady-witch there lived on Atlas' mountain Within a cavern by a secret fountain.
Her mother was one of the Atlantides :
The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas
So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden In the warm shadow of her loveliness ;
He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden The chamber of grey rock in which she layShe, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.
'Tis said, she was first changed into a vapour,
And then into a cloud, such clouds as flit, Like splendour-winged moths about a taper,
Round the red west when the sun dies in it:
And then into a meteor, such as caper
On hill-tops when the moon is in a fit; Then, into one of those mysterious stars Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars.
Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent
Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden With that bright sign the billows to indent
The sea-deserted sand : like children chidden, At her command they ever came and went:
Since in that cave a dewy splendour hidden, Took shape and motion : with the living form Of this embodied Power, the cave grew warm.
A lovely lady garmented in light
From her own beauty-deep her eyes, as are Two openings of unfathomable night
Seen through a tempest's cloven roof;-her hair Dark—the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight,
Picturing her form ;-her soft smiles shone afar, And her low voice was heard like love, and drew All living things towards this wonder new.
And first the spotted camelopard came,
And then the wise and fearless elephant ; Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame
Of his own volumes intervolved ;-all gaunt And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made tame.
They drank before her at her sacred fount; And every beast of beating heart grew bold, Such gentleness and power even to behold.
The brinded lioness led forth her
young, That she might teach them how they should forego Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know, With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue,
How he might be as gentle as the doe. The magic circle of her voice and eyes All savage natures did imparadise
And old Silenus, shaking a green stick
Of lilies, and the wood-gods in a crew Came, blithe, as in the olive
thick Cicadæ are, drunk with the noonday dew : And Driope and Faunus followed quick,
Teazing the God to sing them something new,
And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there,
And though none saw him,—through the adamant Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air,
And through those living spirits, like a want, He passed out of his everlasting lair
Where the quick heart of the great world doth pant, And felt that wondrous lady all alone, And she felt him upon her emerald throne.
And every nymph of stream and spreading tree,
And every shepherdess of Ocean's flocks,
And Ocean, with the brine on his grey locks,