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Of the dying year, to which this closing night Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ’s bay,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, And tremble and despoil themselves : O hear!
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed One too like thee; tameless, and swift, and proud.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is :
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce, My spirit! be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind ! Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
CHAMELEONS feed on light and air :
Poets' food is love and fame :
Poets could but find the same
Would they ever change their hue
As the light chameleons do,
Poets are on this cold earth,
As chameleons might be,
In a cave beneath the sea ;
Where love is not, poets do.
Fame is love disguised : if few
Yet dare not stain with wealth or power
A poet's free and heavenly mind :
Any food but beams and wind,
As their brother lizards are.
Children of a sunnier star,
THE MEDUSA OF LEONARDO DA VINCI,
IN THE FLORENTINE GALLERY.
Ir lieth, gazing on the midnight sky,
Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine; Below, far lands are seen tremblingly;
Its horror and its beauty are divine. Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie
Loveliness like a shadow, from which shine, Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath, The agonies of anguish and of death.
Yet it is less the horror than the grace
Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone Whereon the lineaments of that dead face
Are graven, till the characters be grown Into itself, and thought no more can trace;
'Tis the melodious hues of beauty thrown Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain, Which humanize and harmonize the strain.
And from its head as from one body grow,
] grass out of a watery rock, Hairs which are vipers, and they curl and flow,
And their long tangles in each other lock, And with unending involutions show
Their mailed radiance, as it were to mock The torture and the death within, and saw The solid air with many a ragged jaw.
And from a stone beside, a poisonous eft
Peeps idly into these Gorgonian eyes ; Whilst in the air a ghastly bat, bereft
Of sense, has flitted with a mad surprise Out of the cave this hideous light hath cleft,
And he comes hastening like a moth that hies After a taper; and the midnight sky Flares, a light more dread than obscurity.
'Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror;
For from the serpents gleams a brazen glare Kindled by that inextricable error,
Which makes a thrilling vapour of the air Become a [
] and ever-shifting mirror Of all the beauty and the terror there,— A woman's countenance, with serpent locks, Gazing in death on heaven from those wet rocks.