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This lady never slept, but lay in trance
All night within the fountain—as in sleep.
Through the green splendour of the water deep
Like fire-flies—and withal did ever keep
And when the whirlwinds and the clouds descended
From the white pinnacles of that cold hill, She passed at dewfall to a space extended,
Where, in a lawn of flowering asphodel Amid a wood of pines and cedars blended,
There yawned an inextinguishable well Of crimson fire, full even to the brim, And overflowing all the margin trim.
Within the which she lay when the fierce war
Of wintry winds shook that innocuous liquor In many a mimic moon and bearded star,
O’er woods and lawns—the serpent heard it flicker In sleep, and dreaming still, he crept afar
And when the windless snow descended thicker Than autumn leaves, she watched it as it came Melt on the surface of the level flame.
She had a Boat which some say Vulcan wrought
For Venus, as the chariot of her star;
And so she sold it, and Apollo bought
gave it to this daughter : from a car Changed to the fairest and the lightest boat Which ever upon mortal stream did float.
And others say, that, when but three hours old,
The first-born Love out of his cradle leapt,
And like a horticultural adept,
And sowed it in his mother's star, and kept
The plant grew strong and green—the snowy flower
Fell, and the long and gourd-like fruit began
To its own substance: woven tracery ran
The solid rind, like a leaf's veined fan,
This boat she moored upon her fount, and lit
A living spirit within all its frame, Breathing the soul of swiftness into it.
Couched on the fountain like a panther tame,
Or as on Vesta's sceptre a swift flame,
Then by strange art she kneaded fire and snow
Together, tempering the repugnant mass With liquid love-all things together grow
Through which the harmony of love can pass ; And a fair Shape out of her hands did flow
A living Image, which did far surpass In beauty that bright shape of vital stone Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.
A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect Of either sex, yet all the grace of both,
In gentleness and strength its limbs were decked; The bosom lightly swelled with its full youth,
The countenance was such as might select Some artist that his skill should never die, Imaging forth such perfect purity.
From its smooth shoulders hung two rapid wings,
Fit to have borne it to the seventh sphere, Tipt with the speed of liquid lightenings,
Dyed in the arcours of the atmosphere: She led her creature to the boiling springs
Where the light boat was moored, and said—“Sit here!" And pointed to the prow, and took her seat Beside the rudder with opposing feet.
And down the streams which clove those mountains vast
Around their inland islets, and amid
Darkness and odours, and a pleasure hid
In melancholy gloom, the pinnace passed;
By many a star-surrounded pyramid
The silver moon into that winding dell,
With slanted gleam athwart the forest tops, Tempered like golden evening, feebly fell;
A green and glowing light, like that which drops From folded lilies in which glow-worms dwell,
When earth over her face night's mantle wraps ; Between the severed mountains lay on high Over the stream, a narrow rift of sky.
And ever as she went, the Image lay
With folded wings and unawakened eyes ; And o’er its gentle countenance did play
The busy dreams, as thick as summer flies, Chasing the rapid smiles that would not stay,
And drinking the warm tears, and the sweet sighs Inhaling, which, with busy murmur vain, They had aroused from that full heart and brain.
And ever down the prone vale, like a cloud
Upon a stream of wind, the pinnace went:
The calm and darkness of the deep, content
Of white and dancing waters, all besprent
And down the earthquaking cataracts, which shiver
Their snow-like waters into golden air, Or under chasms unfathomable ever
Sepulchre them, till in their rage they tear A subterranean portal for the river,
It fled—the circling sunbows did upbear Its fall down the hoar precipice of spray, Lighting it far upon its lampless way.
And when the wizard lady would ascend
The labyrinths of some many-winding vale, Which to the inmost mountain upward tend
She called “Hermaphroditus !” and the pale And heavy hue which slumber could extend
Over its lips and eyes, as on the gale A rapid shadow from a slope of grass, Into the darkness of the stream did pass.
And it unfurled its heaven-coloured pinions ;
With stars of fire spotting the stream below And from above into the Sun's dominions
Flinging a glory, like the golden glow
All interwoven with fine feathery snow
And then it winnowed the Elysian air
Which ever hung about that lady bright, With its ethereal vans—and speeding there,
Like a star up the torrent of the night,