Endymion, by John Keats

Book I.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing

A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,

Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways

Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,

Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon

For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

With the green world they live in; and clear rills

That for themselves a cooling covert make

‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,

Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:

And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

We have imagined for the mighty dead;

All lovely tales that we have heard or read:

An endless fountain of immortal drink,

Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences

For one short hour; no, even as the trees

That whisper round a temple become soon

Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,

The passion poesy, glories infinite,

Haunt us till they become a cheering light

Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,

That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,

They alway must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I

Will trace the story of Endymion.

The very music of the name has gone

Into my being, and each pleasant scene

Is growing fresh before me as the green

Of our own vallies: so I will begin

Now while I cannot hear the city’s din;

Now while the early budders are just new,

And run in mazes of the youngest hue

About old forests; while the willow trails

Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails

Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year

Grows lush in juicy stalks, I’ll smoothly steer

My little boat, for many quiet hours,

With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.

Many and many a verse I hope to write,

Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white,

Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees

Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,

I must be near the middle of my story.

O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,

See it half finish’d: but let Autumn bold,

With universal tinge of sober gold,

Be all about me when I make an end.

And now at once, adventuresome, I send

My herald thought into a wilderness:

There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress

My uncertain path with green, that I may speed

Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread

A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed

So plenteously all weed-hidden roots

Into o’er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.

And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,

Where no man went; and if from shepherd’s keep

A lamb stray’d far a-down those inmost glens,

Never again saw he the happy pens

Whither his brethren, bleating with content,

Over the hills at every nightfall went.

Among the shepherds, ’twas believed ever,

That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever

From the white flock, but pass’d unworried

By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,

Until it came to some unfooted plains

Where fed the herds of Pan: aye great his gains

Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,

Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,

And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly

To a wide lawn, whence one could only see

Stems thronging all around between the swell

Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell

The freshness of the space of heaven above,

Edg’d round with dark tree tops? through which a dove

Would often beat its wings, and often too

A little cloud would move across the blue.

Full in the middle of this pleasantness

There stood a marble altar, with a tress

Of flowers budded newly; and the dew

Had taken fairy phantasies to strew

Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,

And so the dawned light in pomp receive.

For ’twas the morn: Apollo’s upward fire

Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre

Of brightness so unsullied, that therein

A melancholy spirit well might win

Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine

Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine

Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;

The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run

To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;

Man’s voice was on the mountains; and the mass

Of nature’s lives and wonders puls’d tenfold,

To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.

Now while the silent workings of the dawn

Were busiest, into that self-same lawn

All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped

A troop of little children garlanded;

Who gathering round the altar, seem’d to pry

Earnestly round as wishing to espy

Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited

For many moments, ere their ears were sated

With a faint breath of music, which ev’n then

Fill’d out its voice, and died away again.

Within a little space again it gave

Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,

To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking

Through copse-clad vallies, — ere their death, o’ertaking

The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.

And now, as deep into the wood as we

Might mark a lynx’s eye, there glimmered light

Fair faces and a rush of garments white,

Plainer and plainer showing, till at last

Into the widest alley they all past,

Making directly for the woodland altar.

O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter

In telling of this goodly company,

Of their old piety, and of their glee:

But let a portion of ethereal dew

Fall on my head, and presently unmew

My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,

To stammer where old Chaucer us’d to sing.

Leading the way, young damsels danced along,

Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;

Each having a white wicker over brimm’d

With April’s tender younglings: next, well trimm’d,

A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks

As may be read of in Arcadian books;

Such as sat listening round Apollo’s pipe,

When the great deity, for earth too ripe,

Let his divinity o’erflowing die

In music, through the vales of Thessaly:

Some idly trail’d their sheep-hooks on the ground,

And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound

With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,

Now coming from beneath the forest trees,

A venerable priest full soberly,

Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye

Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,

And after him his sacred vestments swept.

From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,

Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;

And in his left he held a basket full

Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:

Wild thyme, and valley-lillies whiter still

Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill.

His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,

Seem’d like a poll of ivy in the teeth

Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd

Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud

Their share of the ditty. After them appear’d,

Up-followed by a multitude that rear’d

Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,

Easily rolling so as scarce to mar

The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:

Who stood therein did seem of great renown

Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,

Showing like Ganymede to manhood grown;

And, for those simple times, his garments were

A chieftain king’s: beneath his breast, half bare,

Was hung a silver bugle, and between

His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.

A smile was on his countenance; he seem’d,

To common lookers on, like one who dream’d

Of idleness in groves Elysian:

But there were some who feelingly could scan

A lurking trouble in his nether lip,

And see that oftentimes the reins would slip

Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,

And think of yellow leaves, of owlets’ cry,

Of logs piled solemnly. — Ah, well-a-day,

Why should our young Endymion pine away!

Soon the assembly, in a circle rang’d,

Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang’d

To sudden veneration: women meek

Beckon’d their sons to silence; while each cheek

Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.

Endymion too, without a forest peer,

Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,

Among his brothers of the mountain chace.

In midst of all, the venerable priest

Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,

And, after lifting up his aged hands,

Thus spake he: “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!

Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:

Whether descended from beneath the rocks

That overtop your mountains; whether come

From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;

Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs

Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze

Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge

Nibble their fill at ocean’s very marge,

Whose mellow reeds are touch’d with sounds forlorn

By the dim echoes of old Triton’s horn:

Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare

The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;

And all ye gentle girls who foster up

Udderless lambs, and in a little cup

Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:

Yea, every one attend! for in good truth

Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.

Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than

Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains

Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains

Green’d over April’s lap? No howling sad

Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had

Great bounty from Endymion our lord.

The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour’d

His early song against yon breezy sky,

That spreads so clear o’er our solemnity.”

Thus ending, on the shrine he heap’d a spire

Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;

Anon he stain’d the thick and spongy sod

With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.

Now while the earth was drinking it, and while

Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,

And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright

‘Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light

Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:

“O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang

From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth

Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death

Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;

Who lov’st to see the hamadryads dress

Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;

And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken

The dreary melody of bedded reeds —

In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds

The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;

Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth

Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx — do thou now,

By thy love’s milky brow!

By all the trembling mazes that she ran,

Hear us, great Pan!

“O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles

Passion their voices cooingly ‘mong myrtles,

What time thou wanderest at eventide

Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side

Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom

Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom

Their ripen’d fruitage; yellow girted bees

Their golden honeycombs; our village leas

Their fairest blossom’d beans and poppied corn;

The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,

To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries

Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies

Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year

All its completions — be quickly near,

By every wind that nods the mountain pine,

O forester divine!

“Thou, to whom every faun and satyr flies

For willing service; whether to surprise

The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;

Or upward ragged precipices flit

To save poor lambkins from the eagle’s maw;

Or by mysterious enticement draw

Bewildered shepherds to their path again;

Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,

And gather up all fancifullest shells

For thee to tumble into Naiads’ cells,

And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;

Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,

The while they pelt each other on the crown

With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown —

By all the echoes that about thee ring,

Hear us, O satyr king!

“O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears

While ever and anon to his shorn peers

A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,

When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn

Anger our huntsmen: Breather round our farms,

To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:

Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,

That come a swooning over hollow grounds,

And wither drearily on barren moors:

Dread opener of the mysterious doors

Leading to universal knowledge — see,

Great son of Dryope,

The many that are come to pay their vows

With leaves about their brows!

“Be still the unimaginable lodge

For solitary thinkings; such as dodge

Conception to the very bourne of heaven,

Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,

That spreading in this dull and clodded earth

Gives it a touch ethereal — a new birth:

Be still a symbol of immensity;

A firmament reflected in a sea;

An element filling the space between;

An unknown — but no more: we humbly screen

With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,

And giving out a shout most heaven rending,

Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean,

Upon thy Mount Lycean!”

Even while they brought the burden to a close,

A shout from the whole multitude arose,

That lingered in the air like dying rolls

Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals

Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.

Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,

Young companies nimbly began dancing

To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.

Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly

To tunes forgotten — out of memory:

Fair creatures! whose young children’s children bred

Thermopylae its heroes — not yet dead,

But in old marbles ever beautiful.

High genitors, unconscious did they cull

Time’s sweet first-fruits — they danc’d to weariness,

And then in quiet circles did they press

The hillock turf, and caught the latter end

Of some strange history, potent to send

A young mind from its bodily tenement.

Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent

On either side; pitying the sad death

Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath

Of Zephyr slew him, — Zephyr penitent,

Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,

Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.

The archers too, upon a wider plain,

Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,

And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft

Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,

Call’d up a thousand thoughts to envelope

Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee

And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,

Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young

Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue

Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,

And very, very deadliness did nip

Her motherly cheeks. Arous’d from this sad mood

By one, who at a distance loud halloo’d,

Uplifting his strong bow into the air,

Many might after brighter visions stare:

After the Argonauts, in blind amaze

Tossing about on Neptune’s restless ways,

Until, from the horizon’s vaulted side,

There shot a golden splendour far and wide,

Spangling those million poutings of the brine

With quivering ore: ’twas even an awful shine

From the exaltation of Apollo’s bow;

A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.

Who thus were ripe for high contemplating,

Might turn their steps towards the sober ring

Where sat Endymion and the aged priest

‘Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas’d

The silvery setting of their mortal star.

There they discours’d upon the fragile bar

That keeps us from our homes ethereal;

And what our duties there: to nightly call

Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;

To summon all the downiest clouds together

For the sun’s purple couch; to emulate

In ministring the potent rule of fate

With speed of fire-tail’d exhalations;

To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons

Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,

A world of other unguess’d offices.

Anon they wander’d, by divine converse,

Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse

Each one his own anticipated bliss.

One felt heart-certain that he could not miss

His quick gone love, among fair blossom’d boughs,

Where every zephyr-sigh pouts, and endows

Her lips with music for the welcoming.

Another wish’d, mid that eternal spring,

To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,

Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:

Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,

And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;

And, ever after, through those regions be

His messenger, his little Mercury.

Some were athirst in soul to see again

Their fellow huntsmen o’er the wide champaign

In times long past; to sit with them, and talk

Of all the chances in their earthly walk;

Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores

Of happiness, to when upon the moors,

Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,

And shar’d their famish’d scrips. Thus all out-told

Their fond imaginations, — saving him

Whose eyelids curtain’d up their jewels dim,

Endymion: yet hourly had he striven

To hide the cankering venom, that had riven

His fainting recollections. Now indeed

His senses had swoon’d off: he did not heed

The sudden silence, or the whispers low,

Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,

Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,

Or maiden’s sigh, that grief itself embalms:

But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,

Like one who on the earth had never stept.

Aye, even as dead still as a marble man,

Frozen in that old tale Arabian.

Who whispers him so pantingly and close?

Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,

His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,

And breath’d a sister’s sorrow to persuade

A yielding up, a cradling on her care.

Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:

She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse

Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,

Along a path between two little streams, —

Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,

From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow

From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;

Until they came to where these streamlets fall,

With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,

Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush

With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.

A little shallop, floating there hard by,

Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;

And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,

And dipt again, with the young couple’s weight, —

Peona guiding, through the water straight,

Towards a bowery island opposite;

Which gaining presently, she steered light

Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,

Where nested was an arbour, overwove

By many a summer’s silent fingering;

To whose cool bosom she was used to bring

Her playmates, with their needle broidery,

And minstrel memories of times gone by.

So she was gently glad to see him laid

Under her favourite bower’s quiet shade,

On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,

Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves

When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,

And the tann’d harvesters rich armfuls took.

Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:

But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest

Peona’s busy hand against his lips,

And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips

In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps

A patient watch over the stream that creeps

Windingly by it, so the quiet maid

Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade

Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling

Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling

Among sere leaves and twigs, might all be heard.

O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,

That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind

Till it is hush’d and smooth! O unconfin’d

Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key

To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,

Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,

Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves

And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world

Of silvery enchantment! — who, upfurl’d

Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,

But renovates and lives? — Thus, in the bower,

Endymion was calm’d to life again.

Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,

He said: “I feel this thine endearing love

All through my bosom: thou art as a dove

Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings

About me; and the pearliest dew not brings

Such morning incense from the fields of May,

As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray

From those kind eyes, — the very home and haunt

Of sisterly affection. Can I want

Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?

Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears

That, any longer, I will pass my days

Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise

My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more

Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:

Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll

Around the breathed boar: again I’ll poll

The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:

And, when the pleasant sun is setting low,

Again I’ll linger in a sloping mead

To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed

Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered, sweet,

And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat

My soul to keep in its resolved course.”

Hereat Peona, in their silver source,

Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,

And took a lute, from which there pulsing came

A lively prelude, fashioning the way

In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay

More subtle cadenced, more forest wild

Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child;

And nothing since has floated in the air

So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare

Went, spiritual, through the damsel’s hand;

For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann’d

The quick invisible strings, even though she saw

Endymion’s spirit melt away and thaw

Before the deep intoxication.

But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon

Her self-possession — swung the lute aside,

And earnestly said: “Brother, ’tis vain to hide

That thou dost know of things mysterious,

Immortal, starry; such alone could thus

Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn’d in aught

Offensive to the heavenly power? Caught

A Paphian dove upon a message sent?

Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent

Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen

Her naked limbs among the alders green;

And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace

Something more high perplexing in thy face!”

Endymion look’d at her, and press’d her hand,

And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland

And merry in our meadows? How is this?

Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss! —

Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change

Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?

Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?

Ambition is so sluggard; ’tis no prize,

That toiling years would put within my grasp,

That I have sighed for: with so deadly gasp

No man e’er panted for a mortal love.

So all have set my heavier grief above

These things which happen. Rightly have they done:

I, who still saw the horizontal sun

Heave his broad shoulder o’er the edge of the world,

Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d

My spear aloft, as signal for the chace —

I, who, for very sport of heart, would race

With my own steed from Araby; pluck down

A vulture from his towery perching; frown

A lion into growling, loth retire —

To lose, at once, all my toil-breeding fire,

And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast

Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.

“This river does not see the naked sky,

Till it begins to progress silverly

Around the western border of the wood,

Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood

Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:

And in that nook, the very pride of June,

Had I been used to pass my weary eves;

The rather for the sun unwilling leaves

So dear a picture of his sovereign power,

And I could witness his most kingly hour,

When he doth tighten up the golden reins,

And paces leisurely down amber plains

His snorting four. Now when his chariot last

Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,

There blossom’d suddenly a magic bed

Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:

At which I wondered greatly, knowing well

That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;

And, sitting down close by, began to muse

What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,

In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;

Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook

Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,

Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth

Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,

Until my head was dizzy and distraught.

Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole

A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;

And shaping visions all about my sight

Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;

The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,

And then were gulph’d in a tumultuous swim:

And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell

The enchantment that afterwards befel?

Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream

That never tongue, although it overteem

With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,

Could figure out and to conception bring

All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay

Watching the zenith, where the milky way

Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;

And travelling my eye, until the doors

Of heaven appear’d to open for my flight,

I became loth and fearful to alight

From such high soaring by a downward glance:

So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,

Spreading imaginary pinions wide.

When, presently, the stars began to glide,

And faint away, before my eager view:

At which I sigh’d that I could not pursue,

And dropt my vision to the horizon’s verge;

And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge

The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er

A shell for Neptune’s goblet: she did soar

So passionately bright, my dazzled soul

Commingling with her argent spheres did roll

Through clear and cloudy, even when she went

At last into a dark and vapoury tent —

Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train

Of planets all were in the blue again.

To commune with those orbs, once more I rais’d

My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed

By a bright something, sailing down apace,

Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:

Again I look’d, and, O ye deities,

Who from Olympus watch our destinies!

Whence that completed form of all completeness?

Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?

Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O where

Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?

Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;

Not — thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun

Such follying before thee — yet she had,

Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;

And they were simply gordian’d up and braided,

Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,

Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;

The which were blended in, I know not how,

With such a paradise of lips and eyes,

Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,

That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings

And plays about its fancy, till the stings

Of human neighbourhood envenom all.

Unto what awful power shall I call?

To what high fane? — Ah! see her hovering feet,

More bluely vein’d, more soft, more whitely sweet

Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose

From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows

Her scarf into a fluttering pavillion;

’Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million

Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,

Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,

Handfuls of daisies.” — “Endymion, how strange!

Dream within dream!” — “She took an airy range,

And then, towards me, like a very maid,

Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,

And press’d me by the hand: Ah! ’twas too much;

Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,

Yet held my recollections, even as one

Who dives three fathoms where the waters run

Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,

I felt upmounted in that region

Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,

And eagles struggle with the buffeting north

That balances the heavy meteor-stone; —

Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,

But lapp’d and lull’d along the dangerous sky.

Soon, as it seem’d, we left our journeying high,

And straightway into frightful eddies swoop’d;

Such as aye muster where grey time has scoop’d

Huge dens and caverns in a mountain’s side;

There hollow sounds arous’d me, and I sigh’d

To faint once more by looking on my bliss —

I was distracted; madly did I kiss

The wooing arms which held me, and did give

My eyes at once to death: but ’twas to live,

To take in draughts of life from the gold fount

Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count

The moments, by some greedy help that seem’d

A second self, that each might be redeem’d

And plunder’d of its load of blessedness.

Ah, desperate mortal! I e’en dar’d to press

Her very cheek against my crowned lip,

And, at that moment, felt my body dip

Into a warmer air: a moment more,

Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store

Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes

A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,

Loiter’d around us; then of honey cells,

Made delicate from all white-flower bells;

And once, above the edges of our nest,

An arch face peep’d, — an Oread as I guess’d.

“Why did I dream that sleep o’er-power’d me

In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,

Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,

And stare them from me? But no, like a spark

That needs must die, although its little beam

Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream

Fell into nothing — into stupid sleep.

And so it was, until a gentle creep,

A careful moving caught my waking ears,

And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,

My clenched hands:— for lo! the poppies hung

Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung

A heavy ditty, and the sullen day

Had chidden herald Hesperus away,

With leaden looks: the solitary breeze

Bluster’d, and slept, and its wild self did teaze

With wayward melancholy; and I thought,

Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought

Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus! —

Away I wander’d — all the pleasant hues

Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades

Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades

Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills

Seem’d sooty, and o’er-spread with upturn’d gills

Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown

In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown

Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird

Before my heedless footsteps stirr’d, and stirr’d

In little journeys, I beheld in it

A disguis’d demon, missioned to knit

My soul with under darkness; to entice

My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:

Therefore I eager followed, and did curse

The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,

Rock’d me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!

These things, with all their comfortings, are given

To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,

Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea

Of weary life.”

Thus ended he, and both

Sat silent: for the maid was very loth

To answer; feeling well that breathed words

Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords

Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps

Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps

And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;

To put on such a look as would say, Shame

On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,

She could as soon have crush’d away the life

From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,

She said with trembling chance: “Is this the cause?

This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!

That one who through this middle earth should pass

Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave

His name upon the harp-string, should achieve

No higher bard than simple maidenhood,

Singing alone, and fearfully, — how the blood

Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray

He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,

If any said ’twas love: and yet ’twas love;

What could it be but love? How a ring-dove

Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;

And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe

The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;

And then the ballad of his sad life closes

With sighs, and an alas! — Endymion!

Be rather in the trumpet’s mouth, — anon

Among the winds at large — that all may hearken!

Although, before the crystal heavens darken,

I watch and dote upon the silver lakes

Pictur’d in western cloudiness, that takes

The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,

Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands

With horses prancing o’er them, palaces

And towers of amethyst, — would I so teaze

My pleasant days, because I could not mount

Into those regions? The Morphean fount

Of that fine element that visions, dreams,

And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams

Into its airy channels with so subtle,

So thin a breathing, not the spider’s shuttle,

Circled a million times within the space

Of a swallow’s nest-door, could delay a trace,

A tinting of its quality: how light

Must dreams themselves be; seeing they’re more slight

Than the mere nothing that engenders them!

Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem

Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?

Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick

For nothing but a dream?” Hereat the youth

Look’d up: a conflicting of shame and ruth

Was in his plaited brow: yet, his eyelids

Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids

A little breeze to creep between the fans

Of careless butterflies: amid his pains

He seem’d to taste a drop of manna-dew,

Full palatable; and a colour grew

Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.

“Peona! ever have I long’d to slake

My thirst for the world’s praises: nothing base,

No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace

The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar’d —

Though now ’tis tatter’d; leaving my bark bar’d

And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope

Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,

To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.

Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks

Our ready minds to fellowship divine,

A fellowship with essence; till we shine,

Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold

The clear religion of heaven! Fold

A rose leaf round thy finger’s taperness,

And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress

Of music’s kiss impregnates the free winds,

And with a sympathetic touch unbinds

AEolian magic from their lucid wombs:

Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;

Old ditties sigh above their father’s grave;

Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave

Round every spot where trod Apollo’s foot;

Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,

Where long ago a giant battle was;

And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass

In every place where infant Orpheus slept.

Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept

Into a sort of oneness, and our state

Is like a floating spirit’s. But there are

Richer entanglements, enthralments far

More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,

To the chief intensity: the crown of these

Is made of love and friendship, and sits high

Upon the forehead of humanity.

All its more ponderous and bulky worth

Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth

A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,

There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop

Of light, and that is love: its influence,

Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,

At which we start and fret; till in the end,

Melting into its radiance, we blend,

Mingle, and so become a part of it, —

Nor with aught else can our souls interknit

So wingedly: when we combine therewith,

Life’s self is nourish’d by its proper pith,

And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.

Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,

That men, who might have tower’d in the van

Of all the congregated world, to fan

And winnow from the coming step of time

All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime

Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,

Have been content to let occasion die,

Whilst they did sleep in love’s elysium.

And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,

Than speak against this ardent listlessness:

For I have ever thought that it might bless

The world with benefits unknowingly;

As does the nightingale, upperched high,

And cloister’d among cool and bunched leaves —

She sings but to her love, nor e’er conceives

How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.

Just so may love, although ’tis understood

The mere commingling of passionate breath,

Produce more than our searching witnesseth:

What I know not: but who, of men, can tell

That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell

To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,

The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,

The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,

The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,

Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,

If human souls did never kiss and greet?

“Now, if this earthly love has power to make

Men’s being mortal, immortal; to shake

Ambition from their memories, and brim

Their measure of content: what merest whim,

Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,

To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim

A love immortal, an immortal too.

Look not so wilder’d; for these things are true,

And never can be born of atomies

That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,

Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I’m sure,

My restless spirit never could endure

To brood so long upon one luxury,

Unless it did, though fearfully, espy

A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.

My sayings will the less obscured seem,

When I have told thee how my waking sight

Has made me scruple whether that same night

Was pass’d in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!

Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,

Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,

Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows

Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart

And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,

And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide

Past them, but he must brush on every side.

Some moulder’d steps lead into this cool cell,

Far as the slabbed margin of a well,

Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye

Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.

Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set

Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet

Edges them round, and they have golden pits:

’Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits

In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,

When all above was faint with mid-day heat.

And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,

I’d bubble up the water through a reed;

So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships

Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,

With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be

Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,

When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,

I sat contemplating the figures wild

Of o’er-head clouds melting the mirror through.

Upon a day, while thus I watch’d, by flew

A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;

So plainly character’d, no breeze would shiver

The happy chance: so happy, I was fain

To follow it upon the open plain,

And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!

A wonder, fair as any I have told —

The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,

Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap

Through the cool depth. — It moved as if to flee —

I started up, when lo! refreshfully

There came upon my face in plenteous showers

Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,

Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,

Bathing my spirit in a new delight.

Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss

Alone preserved me from the drear abyss

Of death, for the fair form had gone again.

Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain

Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth

On the deer’s tender haunches: late, and loth,

’Tis scar’d away by slow returning pleasure.

How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure

Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,

By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!

Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,

Than when I wander’d from the poppy hill:

And a whole age of lingering moments crept

Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept

Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.

Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;

Once more been tortured with renewed life.

When last the wintry gusts gave over strife

With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies

Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes

In pity of the shatter’d infant buds, —

That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,

My hunting cap, because I laugh’d and smil’d,

Chatted with thee, and many days exil’d

All torment from my breast; — ’twas even then,

Straying about, yet, coop’d up in the den

Of helpless discontent, — hurling my lance

From place to place, and following at chance,

At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,

And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck

In the middle of a brook, — whose silver ramble

Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,

Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,

Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave

The nether sides of mossy stones and rock, —

‘Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock

Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,

Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread

Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph’s home.

‘Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?’

Said I, low voic’d: ‘Ah, whither! ’Tis the grot

‘Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot,

‘Doth her resign; and where her tender hands

‘She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:

‘Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,

‘And babbles thorough silence, till her wits

‘Are gone in tender madness, and anon,

‘Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone

‘Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,

‘And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,

‘To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,

‘Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,

‘And weave them dyingly — send honey-whispers

‘Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers

‘May sigh my love unto her pitying!

‘O charitable Echo! hear, and sing

‘This ditty to her! — tell her’ — so I stay’d

My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,

Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,

And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.

Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name

Most fondly lipp’d, and then these accents came:

‘Endymion! the cave is secreter

‘Than the Isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir

‘No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise

‘Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys

‘And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.’

At that oppress’d I hurried in. — Ah! where

Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?

I’ll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed

Sorrow the way to death; but patiently

Bear up against it: so farewell, sad sigh;

And come instead demurest meditation,

To occupy me wholly, and to fashion

My pilgrimage for the world’s dusky brink.

No more will I count over, link by link,

My chain of grief: no longer strive to find

A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind

Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,

Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;

What a calm round of hours shall make my days.

There is a paly flame of hope that plays

Where’er I look: but yet, I’ll say ’tis naught —

And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,

Already, a more healthy countenance?

By this the sun is setting; we may chance

Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car.”

This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star

Through autumn mists, and took Peona’s hand:

They stept into the boat, and launch’d from land.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/endymion/book1.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38