Love in a hut, with water and a crust,
Is—Love, forgive us!—cinders, ashes, dust;
Love in a palace is perhaps at last
More grievous torment than a hermit’s fast:—
That is a doubtful tale from faery land,
Hard for the non-elect to understand.
Had Lycius liv’d to hand his story down,
He might have given the moral a fresh frown,
Or clench’d it quite: but too short was their bliss
To breed distrust and hate, that make the soft voice hiss.
Besides, there, nightly, with terrific glare,
Love, jealous grown of so complete a pair,
Hover’d and buzz’d his wings, with fearful roar,
Above the lintel of their chamber door,
And down the passage cast a glow upon the floor.
For all this came a ruin: side by side
They were enthroned, in the even tide,
Upon a couch, near to a curtaining
Whose airy texture, from a golden string,
Floated into the room, and let appear
Unveil’d the summer heaven, blue and clear,
Betwixt two marble shafts:—there they reposed,
Where use had made it sweet, with eyelids closed,
Saving a tythe which love still open kept,
That they might see each other while they almost slept;
When from the slope side of a suburb hill,
Deafening the swallow’s twitter, came a thrill
Of trumpets—Lycius started—the sounds fled,
But left a thought, a buzzing in his head.
For the first time, since first he harbour’d in
That purple-lined palace of sweet sin,
His spirit pass’d beyond its golden bourn
Into the noisy world almost forsworn.
The lady, ever watchful, penetrant,
Saw this with pain, so arguing a want
Of something more, more than her empery
Of joys; and she began to moan and sigh
Because he mused beyond her, knowing well
That but a moment’s thought is passion’s passing bell.
“Why do you sigh, fair creature?” whisper’d he:
“Why do you think?” return’d she tenderly:
“You have deserted me;—where am I now?
“Not in your heart while care weighs on your brow:
“No, no, you have dismiss’d me; and I go
“From your breast houseless: ay, it must be so.”
He answer’d, bending to her open eyes,
Where he was mirror’d small in paradise,
“My silver planet, both of eve and morn!
“Why will you plead yourself so sad forlorn,
“While I am striving how to fill my heart
“With deeper crimson, and a double smart?
“How to entangle, trammel up and snare
“Your soul in mine, and labyrinth you there
“Like the hid scent in an unbudded rose?
“Ay, a sweet kiss—you see your mighty woes.
“My thoughts! shall I unveil them? Listen then!
“What mortal hath a prize, that other men
“May be confounded and abash’d withal,
“But lets it sometimes pace abroad majestical,
“And triumph, as in thee I should rejoice
“Amid the hoarse alarm of Corinth’s voice.
“Let my foes choke, and my friends shout afar,
“While through the thronged streets your bridal car
“Wheels round its dazzling spokes.”—The lady’s cheek
Trembled; she nothing said, but, pale and meek,
Arose and knelt before him, wept a rain
Of sorrows at his words; at last with pain
Beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung,
To change his purpose. He thereat was stung,
Perverse, with stronger fancy to reclaim
Her wild and timid nature to his aim:
Besides, for all his love, in self despite,
Against his better self, he took delight
Luxurious in her sorrows, soft and new.
His passion, cruel grown, took on a hue
Fierce and sanguineous as ’twas possible
In one whose brow had no dark veins to swell.
Fine was the mitigated fury, like
Apollo’s presence when in act to strike
The serpent—Ha, the serpent! certes, she
Was none. She burnt, she lov’d the tyranny,
And, all subdued, consented to the hour
When to the bridal he should lead his paramour.
Whispering in midnight silence, said the youth,
“Sure some sweet name thou hast, though, by my truth,
“I have not ask’d it, ever thinking thee
“Not mortal, but of heavenly progeny,
“As still I do. Hast any mortal name,
“Fit appellation for this dazzling frame?
“Or friends or kinsfolk on the citied earth,
“To share our marriage feast and nuptial mirth?”
“I have no friends,” said Lamia, “no, not one;
“My presence in wide Corinth hardly known:
“My parents’ bones are in their dusty urns
“Sepulchred, where no kindled incense burns,
“Seeing all their luckless race are dead, save me,
“And I neglect the holy rite for thee.
“Even as you list invite your many guests;
“But if, as now it seems, your vision rests
“With any pleasure on me, do not bid
“Old Apollonius—from him keep me hid.”
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