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Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes
Of those huge forms;-within the brazen doors Of the Great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast, Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.
And where within the surface of the river
Like things which every cloud can doom to die,—
With motion like the spirit of that wind
Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet Passed through the peopled haunts of humankind, Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet,— Through fane and palace-court and labyrinth mined With many a dark and subterranean street Under the Nile; through chambers high and deep She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep.
Here lay two sister-twins in infancy;
There a lone youth who in his dreams did weep; Within, two lovers linkèd innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong,
And all the code of Custom's lawless law
Written upon the brows of old and young. "This," said the Wizard Maiden, "is the strife Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."
And little did the sight disturb her soul.
But she in the calm depths her way could take, Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.
And she saw princes couched under the glow
She saw the priests asleep,-all of one sort,
For all were educated to be so.
The peasants in their huts, and in the port
The sailors she saw cradled on the waves,
And the dead lulled within their dreamless graves.
And all the forms in which those spirits lay
Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Veils in which those sweet ladies oft array
Their delicate limbs who would conceal from us
Only their scorn of all concealment : they
Move in the light of their own beauty thus. But these and all now lay with sleep upon them, And little thought a Witch was looking on them.
She all those human figures breathing there
And often through a rude and worn disguise
Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone, Could make that spirit mingle with her own.
Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given For such a charm, when Tithon became greyOr how much, Venus, of thy silver heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina Had half (oh! why not all?) the debt forgiven Which dear Adonis had been doomed to payTo any witch who would have taught you it? The Heliad doth not know its value yet.
'Tis said in after times her spirit free
Knew what love was, and felt itself alone:
Than now this Lady. Like a sexless bee,
To those she saw most beautiful she gave
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl. They drank in their deep sleep of that sweet wave, And lived thenceforward as if some control,
Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul, Was as a green and overarching bower
Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.
For, on the night that they were buried, she
The light out of the funeral lamps, to be
And she unwound the woven imagery
Of second childhood's swaddling bands, and took The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,
And threw it with contempt into a ditch.
And there the body lay, age after age,
Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying
Like one asleep in a green hermitage,―
With gentle sleep about its eyelids playing,
And living in its dreams beyond the rage
Of death or life; while they were still arraying
In liveries ever new the rapid, blind,
And fleeting generations of mankind.
And she would write strange dreams upon the brain
The miser, in such dreams, would rise and shake Into a beggar's lap; the lying scribe
Would his own lies betray without a bribe.
The priests would write an explanation full,
And nothing more; and bid the herald stick
The old cant down: they licensed all to speak Whate'er they thought of hawks and cats and geese, By pastoral letters to each diocese.
The king would dress an ape up in his crown
Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet
The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;
THE WITCH OF ATLAS-MRS SHELLEY'S NOTE.
Round the red anvils you might see them stand
And timid lovers, who had been so coy
They hardly knew whether they loved or not,
Met one another, both, like sinners caught,
And then the Witch would let them take no ill:
Were torn apart (a wide wound, mind from mind)
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.
These were the pranks she played among the cities
A tale more fit for the weird winter nights
NOTE ON THE WITCH OF ATLAS, BY MRS. SHELLEY.
We spent the summer of 1820 at the Baths of San Giuliano, four miles from Pisa. These baths were of great use to Shelley in soothing his nervous irritability. We made several excursions in the neighbourhood. The country around is fertile, and diversified and rendered picturesque by ranges of near hills and more distant mountains. The peasantry are a handsome intelligent race; and there was a gladsome