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THE WITCH OF ATLAS.
(ON HER OBJECTING TO THE Following poem, upon the score of iTS CONTAINING NO HUMAN INTEREST.)
How, my dear Mary, are you critic-bitten,
(For vipers kill, though dead) by some review,— That you condemn these verses I have written, Because they tell no story, false or true?
What though no mice are caught by a young kitten?
What hand would crush the silken-winged fly,
Where the swan sings amid the sun's dominions?
When Day shall hide within her twilight pinions
To thy fair feet a winged Vision came,
Whose date should have been longer than a day, And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,
And in thy sight its fading plumes display;
But the shower fell, the swift Sun went his way—
Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years
Of slow dull care, so that their roots to hell
Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the spheres
My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature
As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise Clothes for our grandsons-but she matches Peter,
Though he took nineteen years, and she three days, In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre
She wears he, proud as dandy with his stays, Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress
Like King Lear's looped and windowed raggedness.
If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow
Scorched by hell's hyperequatorial climate Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow;
A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at ;
If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate
THE WITCH OF ATLAS.
BEFORE those cruel twins whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time, Error and Truth, had hunted from the earth
All those bright natures which adorned its prime, And left us nothing to believe in, worth
The pains of putting into learned rhyme,
Her mother was one of the Atlantides.
The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden
In the warm shadow of her loveliness;
He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden The chamber of grey rock in which she lay. She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.
'Tis said she was first changed into a vapour; And then into a cloud,-such clouds as flit (Like splendour-winged moths about a taper)
Round the red west when the Sun dies in it; And then into a meteor, such as caper
On hill-tops when the Moon is in a fit; Then into one of those mysterious stars Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars.
Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent
The sea-deserted sand-(like children chidden,
Since in that cave a dewy splendour hidden Took shape and motion. With the living form Of this embodied Power the cave grew warm.
A lovely Lady garmented in light
From her own beauty: deep her eyes as are Two openings of unfathomable night
Seen through a tempest's cloven roof; her hair Dark; the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight,
Picturing her form. Her soft smiles shone afar; And her low voice was heard like love, and drew All living things towards this wonder new.
And first the spotted camelopard came;
And then the wise and fearless elephant; Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame
Of his own volumes intervolved. All gaunt And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made tame,— They drank before her at her sacred fount; And every beast of beating heart grew bold, Such gentleness and power even to behold.
The brinded lioness led forth her young,
That she might teach them how they should forego Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know, With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue,
How he might be as gentle as the doe. The magic circle of her voice and eyes All savage natures did imparadise.
And old Silenus, shaking a green stick
Of lilies, and the Wood-gods in a crew, Came blithe as in the olive copses thick
Cicada are, drunk with the noonday dew; And Dryope and Faunus followed quick,
Teazing the God to sing them something new; Till in this cave they found the Lady lone, Sitting upon a seat of emerald stone.
And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there.
And, though none saw him,-through the adamant Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air, And through those living spirits, like a want,He passed out of his everlasting lair
Where the quick heart of the great world doth pant, And felt that wondrous Lady all alone,
And she felt him upon her emerald throne.
And every Nymph of stream and spreading tree,
Who drives her white waves over the green sea,
And Ocean with the brine on his grey locks, And quaint Priapus with his company,
All came, much wondering how the enwombed rocks Could have brought forth so beautiful a birth: Her love subdued their wonder and their mirth.
The herdsmen and the mountain maidens came,
Their spirits shook within them, as a flame
Centaurs and Satyrs, and such shapes as haunt
For she was beautiful. Her beauty made
No thought of living spirit could abide
Which when the Lady knew, she took her spindle,
And twined three threads of fleecy mist, and three Long lines of light, such as the dawn may kindle
The clouds and waves and mountains with, and she
And with these threads a subtle veil she wove-
The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling
Were stored with magic treasures :- sounds of air Which had the power all spirits of compelling, Folded in cells of crystal silence there;
Such as we hear in youth, and think the feeling
And there lay Visions swift and sweet and quaint,
It is their work to bear to many a saint