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For there was Milton like a seraph strong,
Beside him Shakspeare bland and mild;
And there the world-worn Dante grasped his song,
And somewhat grimly smiled.
And there the Ionian father of the rest;
A million wrinkles carved his skin;
A hundred winters snowed upon his breast,
From cheek and throat and chin.
Above, the fair hall-ceiling stately-set
Many an arch high up did lift,
And angels rising and descending met
With interchange of gift.
Below was all mosaic choicely planned
With cycles of the human tale
Of this wide world, the times of every land
So wrought, they will not fail.
The people here, a beast of burden slow,
Toiled onward, pricked with goads and stings;
Here played, a tiger, rolling to and fro
The heads and crowns of kings;
Here rose, an athlete, strong to break or bind
All force in bonds that might endure,
And here once more like some sick man declined,
And trusted any cure.
But over these she trod: and those great bells
Began to chime. She took her throne :
She sat betwixt the shining Oriels,
To sing her songs alone.
And through the topmost Oriels' colored flame
Two godlike faces gazed below:
Plato the wise, and large-browed Verulam,
The first of those who know.
And all those names, that in their motion were
Full-welling fountain-heads of change,
Betwixt the slender shafts were blazoned fair
In diverse raiment strange :
Through which the lights, rose, amber, emerald, blue Flushed in her temples and her eyes,
And from her lips, as morn from Memnon, drew Rivers of melodies.
No nightingale delighteth to prolong
Her low preamble all alone,
More than my soul to hear her echoed song
Throb through the ribbed stone;
Singing and murmuring in her feastful mirth,
Joying to feel herself alive,
Lord over Nature, Lord of the visible earth,
Lord of the senses five;
Communing with herself: "All these are mine,
And let the world have peace or wars,
'Tis one to me." She-when young night divine
Crowned dying day with stars,
Making sweet close of his delicious toils-
Lit light in wreaths and anadems,
And pure quintessences of precious oils
In hollowed moons of gems,
'To mimic heaven; and clapt her hands and cried, "I marvel if my still delight
In this great house so royal-rich, and wide,
Be flattered to the height.
"O all things fair to sate my various eyes!
O shapes and hues that please me well!
O silent faces of the Great and Wise,
My Gods, with whom I dwell!
"O God-like isolation which art mine,
I can but count thee perfect gain, What time I watch the darkening droves of swine That range on yonder plain.
"In filthy sloughs they roll a prurient skin,
They graze and wallow, breed and sleep;
And oft some brainless devil enters in,
And drives them to the deep."
Then of the moral instinct would she prate,
And of the rising from the dead,
As hers by right of full-accomplished Fate;
And at the last she said :
"I take possession of man's mind and deed.
I care not what the sects may brawl.
I sit as God, holding no form of creed,
But contemplating all."
Full oft the riddle of the painful earth
Flashed through her as she sat alone,
Yet not the less held she her solemn mirth,
And intellectual throne.
And so she throve and prospered: so three years
She prospered: on the fourth she fell,
Like Herod, when the shout was in his ears,
Struck through with pangs of hell.
Lest she should fail and perish utterly,
God, before whom ever lie bare
The abysmal deeps of Personality,
Plagued her with sore despair.
When she would think,where'er she turned her sight, The airy hand confusion wrought,
Wrote "Mene, mene," and divided quite
The kingdom of her thought.
Deep dread and loathing of her solitude
Fell on her, from which mood was born
Scorn of herselt; again, from out that mood
Laughter at her self-scorn.
"What! is not this my place of strength," she said,
My spacious mansion built for me,
Whereof the strong foundation-stones were laid
Since my first memory?"
But in dark corners of her palace stood
Uncertain shapes; and unawares
On white-eyed phantasms weeping tears of blood,
And horrible nightmares,
And hollow shades enclosing hearts of flame,
And, with dim fretted foreheads all,
On corpses three-months-old at noon she came,
That stood against the wall.
A spot of dull stagnation, without light
Or power of movement, seemed my soul,
'Mid onward-sloping motions infinite
Making for one sure goal.
A still salt pool, locked in with bars of sand;
Left on the shore; that hears all night
The plunging seas draw backward from the land
Their moon-led waters white.
A star that with the choral starry dance
Joined not, but stood, and standing saw
The hollow orb of moving Circumstance
Rolled round by one fixed law.
Back on herself her serpent pride had curled. “No voice,” she shrieked in that lone hall, "No voice breaks through the stillness of this world, One deep, deep silence all!"
She, mouldering with the dull earth's mouldering
Inwrapt tenfold in slothful shame, Lay there exiled from eternal God, Lost to her place and name;
And death and life she hated equally,
And nothing saw, for her despair,
But dreadful time, dreadful eternity,
No comfort anywhere;
Remaining utterly confused with fears,
And ever worse with growing time,
And ever unrelieved by dismal tears,
And all alone in crime:
Shut up as in a crumbling tomb, girt round
With blackness as a solid wall,
Far off she seemed to hear the dully sound
Of human footsteps fall.
As in strange lands a traveller walking slow,
In doubt and great perplexity,
A little before moon-rise hears the low
Moan of an unknown sea;
And knows not if it be thunder or a sound
Of rocks thrown down, or one deep cry
Of great wild beasts; then thinketh, "I have found
A new land, but I die.”
She howled aloud, "I am on fire within.
There comes no murmur of reply.
What is it that will take away my sin,
And save me lest I die?"
So when four years were wholly finished,
She threw her royal robes away.
Make me a cottage in the vale,” she said.
"Where I may mourn and pray.