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Or a swift eagle in the morning glare
Breasting the whirlwind with impetuous flight, The pinnace, oared by those enchanted wings, Clove the fierce streams towards their upper springs.
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
Or, when the weary moon was in the wane,
Or in the noon of interlunar night, The lady-witch in visions could not chain
Her spirit; but sailed forth under the light Of shooting stars, and bade extend amain
His storm-outspeeding wings, th' Hermaphrodite; She to the Austral waters took her way, Beyond the fabulous Thamondocona.
Where, like a meadow which no scythe has shaven,
Which rain could never bend, or whirl-blast shake, With the Antarctic constellations paven,
Canopus and his crew, lay th’ Austral lakeThere 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
The tremulous stars sparkled unfathomably, And around which the solid vapours hoar,
Based on the level waters, to the sky Lifted their dreadful crags ; and like a shore
Of wintry mountains, inaccessibly Hemmed in with rifts and precipices grey, And hanging crags, many a cove and bay.
And whilst the outer lake beneath the lash
Of the winds' 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
On which that lady played her many pranks,
Circling the image of a shooting star, Even as a tiger on Hydaspes' banks
Outspeeds the Antelopes which speediest are, In her light boat; and many quips and cranks
She played upon the water ; till the car Of the late moon, like a sick matron wan, To journey from the misty east began.
And then she called out of the hollow turrets
Of those high clouds, white, golden, and vermilion, The armies of her ministering spirits
In mighty legions million after million
They came, each troop emblazoning its merits
On meteor flags; and many a proud pavilion,
They framed the imperial tent of their great Queen
Of woven exhalations, underlaid
A dome of thin and open ivory inlaid
Hung there, and on the water for her tread,
And on a throne o'erlaid with starlight, caught
Upon those wandering isles of aery dew, Which highest shoals of mountain shipwreck not,
She sate, and heard all that had happened new Between the earth and moon since they had brought
The last intelligence--and now she grew Pale as that moon, lost in the watery night, And now she wept, and now she laughed outright.
These were tame pleasures.—She would often climb
The steepest ladder of the crudded rack Up to some beaked cape of cloud sublime,
And like Arion on the dolphin's back Ride singing through the shoreless air. Oft time
Following the serpent lightning's winding track, She ran upon the platforms of the wind, And laughed to hear the fire-balls roar behind.
And sometimes to those streams of upper air,
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round, She would ascend, and win the spirits there
To let her join their chorus. Mortals found That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound Wandered upon the earth where'er she passed, And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.
But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
To glide adown old Nilus, when he threads Egypt and Æthiopia, from the steep
Of utmost Axumé, until he spreads,
His waters on the plain : and crested heads
By Mæris and the Mareotid lakes,
Strewn with faint blooms like bridal chamber floors; Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Of those huge forms :—within the brazen doors
And where within the surface of the river
The shadows of the massy temples lie, And never are erased-but tremble ever
Like things which every cloud can doom to die,
Through lotus-pav'n canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky With tombs, and towers, and fane, '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
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep. Here lay two sister-twins in infancy;
There a lone youth who in his dreams did weep; Within, two lovers linked innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep Like ivy from one stem ;—and there lay calm, Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
Not to be mirrored in a holy song, Distortions foul of supernatural awe,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong, And all the code of custom's lawless law 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.”