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Through many a dusky gallery, they gain
The maiden's chamber, silken, hush'd and chaste;

Where Porphyro took covert, pleased amain.
His poor guide hurried back with agues in her

brain.

XXII.

Her faltering hand upon the balustrade,
Old Angela was feeling for the stair,
When Madeline, St. Agnes' charmed maid,
Rose, like a mission'd spirit, unaware :
With silver taper's light, and pious care,
She turn'd, and down the aged gossip led
To a safe level matting. Now prepare,

Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed;
She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove fray'd

and fled.

XXIII.

Out went the taper as she hurried in ;
Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died :
She closed the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide :
No utter'd syllable, or, woe betide !
But to her heart, her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side;

As though a tongueless nightingale should swell Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled in her dell.

XXIV.

A casement high and triple arch'd there was,
All garlanded with carven imageries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth's deep-damask'd wings;
And in the midst, ’mong thousand heraldries,

And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of queens

and kings.

XXV.

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven's grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem'd a splendid angel, newly drest,

Save wings, for heaven : Porphyro grew faint: She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal

taint.

XXVI.

Anon his heart revives : her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees :
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,

In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charın is fled.

XXVII.

Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplex'd she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppress'd
Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away ;
Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day ;
Blissfully haven'd both from joy and pain;
Clasp'd like a missal where swart Paynims pray ;

Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.

XXVIII.

Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced,
Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And listen'd to her breathing, if it chanced
To wake into a siumberous tenderness;
Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
And breathed himself : then from the closet

crept,
Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness

And over the hush'd carpet, silent, stept, And 'tween the curtains peep'd, where, lo!- how

fast she slept.

XXIX.

Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguish'd, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet:-
O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarionet,

Affray his ears, though but in dying tone :
The hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.

XXX.

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender'd,
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd ;
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d

From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar'd Lebanon

XXXI.

These delicates he heap'd with glowing hand
On golden dishes and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light.
“And now, my love, my seraph fair awake!
Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite :

Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes' sake,
Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth

ache."

XXXII.

Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
By the dusk curtains: 'twas a midnight charm
Impossible to melt as iced stream:
The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam;
Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies :
It seem'd he never, never could redeem

From such a steadfast spell his lady's eyes;
So mused awhile, entoil'd in woofed phantasies.

XXXIII.

Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,
Tumultuous,

and, in chords that tenderest be,
He play'd an ancient ditty, long since mute,
In Provence call'd “ La belle dame sans mercy :
Close to her ear touching the melody ;
Wherewith disturb’d, she utter'd a soft moan :
He ceased she panted quick -- and suddenly

Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone : Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured

stone.

XXXIV.

Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep :
There was a painful change, that nigh expell’d
The blisses of her dream so pure and deep.
At which fair Madeline began to weep,
And moan forth witless words with many a sigh ;
While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep ;

Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye, Fearing to move or speak, she look'd so dream

ingly.

XXXV.

"Ah, Porphyro!” said she, “ but even now
Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Made tuneable with every sweetest vow;
And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear :
How changed thou art! how pallid, chill, and

drear ! Give me that voice again, my Porphyro, Those looks iinmortal, those complainings dear!

Oh leave me not in this eternal woe, For if thou diest, my Love, I know not where to

go.”

XXXVI.

Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
Ethereal, Alush’ıl, and like a throbbing star
Seen ʼmid the sa:vphire heaven's deep repose ;
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blenileth its odour with the violet,
Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows

Like Love's alarum pattering the sharp sleet Against the window-panes; St. Agnes' moon hath

set.

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