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As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love's sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop'd falcon ere he takes his prey :
"Fair Hermes ! crown'd with feathers, fluttering
light, I had a splendid dream of thee last night: I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold, Among the Gods, upon Olympus old, The only sad one; for thou didst not hear The soft, lute-finger'd Muses chanting clear, Nor even Apollo when he sang alone, Deaf to his throbbing throat's long, long melodious
I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes,
Break amorous through the clouds, as morning
And, swiftly as a bright Phoebean dart,
Strike for the Cretan isle ; and here thou art!
Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid ? "
Whereat the star of Lethe not delay'd
His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired :
“ Thou smooth-lipp'd serpent, surely high-inspired !
Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes,
Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise,
Telling me only where my nymph is fled,
Where she doth breathe!” “ Bright planèt, thou
hast said,” Return’d the snake, “ but seal with oaths, fair God !” " I swear,” said Hermes, “ by my serpent rod, And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown !” Light Hew his earnest words, among the blossoms
blown. Then thus again the brilliance feminine : “ Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thine, Free as the air, invisibly, she strays
About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days
She tastes unseen; unseen her nimble feet
Leave traces in the grass and flowers sweet :
From weary tendrils, and bow'd branches green,
She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen :
And by my power is her beauty veil'd
To keep it unaffronted, unassail'd
By the love-glances of unlovely eyes,
Of Satyrs, Fauns, and bleard Silenus' sighs.
Pale grew her immortality, for woe
Of all these lovers, and she grieved so
I took coinpassion on her, bade her steep
Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep
Her loveliness invisible, yet free
To wander as she loves, in liberty.
Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone,
If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon!”
Then, once again, the charmed God began
An oath, and through the serpent's ears it ran
Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.
Ravish’il she lifted her Circean head,
Blush'd a live damask, and swift-lisping said,
“ I was a woman, let me have once more
A woman's shape, and charming as before.
I love a youth of Corinth o the bliss!
Give me my woman's form, and place me where he is.
Stoop, Hermes, let me breathe upon thy brow,
And thou shalt see thy sweet nymph even now.”
'The God on half-shut feathers sank serene,
She breathed upon his eyes, and swift was seen
Of both the guarded nymph near-smiling on the
It was no dream; or say a dream it was,
Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass
Their pleasures in a long immortal dream.
One warın, flush'd moment, hovering, it might seem
Dash'd by the woodl-nymph's beauty, so be burn’d;
Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turn'd
To the swoon'd serpent, and with languid arm,
Delicate, put to proof the lithe Caducean charm.
So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent
Full of adoring tears and blandishment,
And towards her stept: she, like a moon in wane,
Faded before him, cower'd, nor could restrain
Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower
That faints into itself at evening hour:
But the God fostering her chilled hand,
She felt the warmth, her eyelids open'd bland,
And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,
Bloom'd, and gave up her honey to the lees.
Into the green-recessed woods they flew;
Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.
Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin blood in madness ran, Her mouth foam'd, and the grass, therewith besprent, Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent; Her eyes in torture fix’d, and anguish drear, Hot, glazed, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear, Flash'd phosphor and sharp sparks, without one
cooling tear. The colours all inflamed throughout her train, She writhed about, convulsed with scarlet pain : A deep volcanian yellow took the place Of all her milder-mooned body's grace; And, as the lava ravishes the mead, Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede : Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars, Eclipsed her crescents, and lick’d up her stars : So that, in moments few, she was undrest Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst, And rubious-argent: of all these bereft, Nothing but pain and ugliness were left. Still shone her crown; that vanish'd, also she Melted and disappear'd as suddenly; And in the air, her new voice luting soft,
Cried, “ Lycius ! gentle Lycius !” borne aloft With the bright mists about the mountains hoar These words dissolved: Crete's forests heard no
Whither fled Lamia, now a lady bright,
A full-born beauty new and exquisite ?
She fled into that valley they pass o'er
Who go to Corinth from Cenchreas' shore;
And rested at the foot of those wild hills,
The rugged founts of the Peræan rills,
And of that other ridge whose barren back
Stretches, with all its mist and cloudy rack,
South-westward to Cleone. There she stood
About a young bird's flutter from a wood,
Fair, on a sloping green of mossy tread,
By a clear pool, wherein she passioned
To see herself escaped from so sore ills,
While her robes flaunted with the daffodils.
Ah, happy Lycius ! for she was a maid
More beautiful than ever twisted braid,
Or sigh’d, or blush?d, or on spring-flower'd lea
Spread a green kirtle to the minstrelsy :
A virgin purest lipp'd, yet in the lore
Of love deep learned to the red heart's core:
Not one hour old, yet of sciential brain
To unperplex bliss from its neighbour pain;
Define their pettish limits, and estrange
Their points of contact, and swift counterchange;
Intrigue with the specious chaos, and dispart
most ambiguous atoms with sure art;
As though in Cupid's college she had spent
Sweet days a lovely graduate, still unshent,
And kept his rosy terms in idle languishment.
Why this fair creature chose so fairily By the wayside to linger, we shall see;
But first 'tis fit to tell how she could muse
And dream, when in the serpent prison-house,
Of all she list, strange or magnificent:
How, ever, where she will’d, her spirit went;
Whether to faint Elysium, or where
Down through tress-lifting waves the Nereids fair
Wind into Thetis' bower by many a pearly stair;
Or where God Bacchus drains his cups divine,
Stretch'd out, at ease, beneath a glutinous pine;
Or where in Pluto's gardens palatine
Mulciber's columns gleam in far piazzian line.
And sometimes into cities she would send
Her dream, with feast and rioting to blend ;
And once, while among mortals dreaming thus,
She saw the young Corinthian Lycius
Charioting foremost in the envious race,
Like a young Jove with calm uneager face,
And fell into a swooning love of him.
Now on the moth-time of that evening dim
He would return that way, as well she knew,
To Corinth from the shore; for freshly blew
The eastern soft wind, and his galley now
Grated the quay-stones with her brazen prow
In port Cenchreas, from Egina isle
Fresh anchor'd ; whither he had been awhile
To sacrifice to Jove, whose temple there
Waits with high marble doors for blood and in-
Jove heard his vows, and better'd his desire ;
For by some freakful chance he made retire
From his companions, and set forth to walk,
Perhaps grown wearied of their Corinth talk :
Over the solitary hills he fared,
Thoughtless, at first, but ere eve's star appear'd
His phantasy was lost, where reason fades,
In the calm'd twilight of Platonic shades.
Lamia beheld him coming, near, more near
Close to her passing, in indifference drear,