Prometheus Unbound

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25

ASIA
FROM all the blasts of heaven thou hast descended;

Yes, like a spirit, like a thought, which makes

Unwonted tears throng to the horny eyes,

And beatings haunt the desolated heart,

Which should have learned repose; thou hast descended

Cradled in tempests; thou dost wake, O Spring!

O child of many winds! As suddenly

Thou comest as the memory of a dream,

Which now is sad because it hath been sweet;

Like genius, or like joy which riseth up

As from the earth, clothing with golden clouds

The desert of our life.

This is the season, this the day, the hour;

At sunrise thou shouldst come, sweet sister mine,

Too long desired, too long delaying, come!

How like death-worms the wingless moments crawl!

The point of one white star is quivering still

Deep in the orange light of widening morn

Beyond the purple mountains; through a chasm

Of wind-divided mist the darker lake

Reflects it; now it wanes; it gleams again

As the waves fade, and as the burning threads

Of woven cloud unravel in pale air;

'T is lost! and through yon peaks of cloudlike snow

The roseate sunlight quivers; hear I not

The Æolian music of her sea-green plumes

Winnowing the crimson dawn?

26

PANTHEA enters

I feel, I see

Those eyes which burn through smiles that fade in tears,

Like stars half-quenched in mists of silver dew.

Belovèd and most beautiful, who wearest

The shadow of that soul by which I live,

How late thou art! the spherèd sun had climbed

The sea; my heart was sick with hope, before

The printless air felt thy belated plumes.

PANTHEA
Pardon, great Sister! but my wings were faint

With the delight of a remembered dream,

As are the noontide plumes of summer winds

Satiate with sweet flowers. I was wont to sleep

Peacefully, and awake refreshed and calm,

Before the sacred Titan's fall and thy

Unhappy love had made, through use and pity,

Both love and woe familiar to my heart

As they had grown to thine: erewhile I slept

Under the glaucous caverns of old Ocean

Within dim bowers of green and purple moss,

Our young Ione's soft and milky arms

Locked then, as now, behind my dark, moist hair,

While my shut eyes and cheek were pressed within

The folded depth of her life-breathing bosom:

But not as now, since I am made the wind

Which fails beneath the music that I bear

Of thy most wordless converse; since dissolved

Into the sense with which love talks, my rest

Was troubled and yet sweet; my waking hours

Too full of care and pain.

ASIA
Lift up thine eyes,

And let me read thy dream.

27

PANTHEA
As I have said,

With our sea-sister at his feet I slept.

The mountain mists, condensing at our voice

Under the moon, had spread their snowy flakes,

From the keen ice shielding our linkèd sleep.

Then two dreams came. One I remember not.

But in the other his pale wound-worn limbs

Fell from Prometheus, and the azure night

Grew radiant with the glory of that form

Which lives unchanged within, and his voice fell

Like music which makes giddy the dim brain,

Faint with intoxication of keen joy:

'Sister of her whose footsteps pave the world

With loveliness--more fair than aught but her,

Whose shadow thou art--lift thine eyes on me.'

I lifted them; the overpowering light

Of that immortal shape was shadowed o'er

By love; which, from his soft and flowing limbs,

And passion-parted lips, and keen, faint eyes,

Steamed forth like vaporous fire; an atmosphere

Which wrapped me in its all-dissolving power,

As the warm ether of the morning sun

Wraps ere it drinks some cloud of wandering dew.

I saw not, heard not, moved not, only felt

His presence flow and mingle through my blood

Till it became his life, and his grew mine,

And I was thus absorbed, until it passed,

And like the vapors when the sun sinks down,

Gathering again in drops upon the pines,

And tremulous as they, in the deep night

My being was condensed; and as the rays

Of thought were slowly gathered, I could hear

His voice, whose accents lingered ere they died

Like footsteps of weak melody; thy name

Among the many sounds alone I heard

Of what might be articulate; though still

I listened through the night when sound was none.

Ione wakened then, and said to me:

'Canst thou divine what troubles me tonight?

I always knew what I desired before,

Nor ever found delight to wish in vain.

But now I cannot tell thee what I seek;

I know not; something sweet, since it is sweet

Even to desire; it is thy sport, false sister;

Thou hast discovered some enchantment old,

Whose spells have stolen my spirit as I slept

And mingled it with thine; for when just now

We kissed, I felt within thy parted lips

The sweet air that sustained me; and the warmth

Of the life-blood, for loss of which I faint,

Quivered between our intertwining arms.'

I answered not, for the Eastern star grew pale,

But fled to thee.

28

ASIA
Thou speakest, but thy words

Are as the air; I feel them not. Oh, lift

Thine eyes, that I may read his written soul!

PANTHEA
I lift them, though they droop beneath the load

Of that they would express; what canst thou see

But thine own fairest shadow imaged there?

ASIA
Thine eyes are like the deep, blue, boundless heaven

Contracted to two circles underneath

Their long, fine lashes; dark, far, measureless,

Orb within orb, and line through line inwoven.

PANTHEA
Why lookest thou as if a spirit passed?

ASIA
There is a change; beyond their inmost depth

I see a shade, a shape: 't is He, arrayed

In the soft light of his own smiles, which spread

Like radiance from the cloud-surrounded moon.

Prometheus, it is thine! depart not yet!

Say not those smiles that we shall meet again

Within that bright pavilion which their beams

Shall build on the waste world? The dream is told.

What shape is that between us? Its rude hair

Roughens the wind that lifts it, its regard

Is wild and quick, yet 't is a thing of air,

For through its gray robe gleams the golden dew

Whose stars the noon has quenched not.

DREAM
Follow! Follow!

PANTHEA
It is mine other dream.

ASIA
It disappears.

PANTHEA
It passes now into my mind. Methought

As we sate here, the flower-infolding buds

Burst on yon lightning-blasted almond tree;

When swift from the white Scythian wilderness

A wind swept forth wrinkling the Earth with frost;

I looked, and all the blossoms were blown down;

But on each leaf was stamped, as the blue bells

Of Hyacinth tell Apollo's written grief,

OH, FOLLOW, FOLLOW!

29

ASIA
As you speak, your words

Fill, pause by pause, my own forgotten sleep

With shapes. Methought among the lawns together

We wandered, underneath the young gray dawn,

And multitudes of dense white fleecy clouds

Were wandering in thick flocks along the mountains,

Shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind;

And the white dew on the new-bladed grass,

Just piercing the dark earth, hung silently;

And there was more which I remember not;

But on the shadows of the morning clouds,

Athwart the purple mountain slope, was written

FOLLOW, OH, FOLLOW! as they vanished by;

And on each herb, from which Heaven's dew had fallen,

The like was stamped, as with a withering fire;

A wind arose among the pines; it shook

The clinging music from their boughs, and then

Low, sweet, faint sounds, like the farewell of ghosts,

Were heard: OH, FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW ME!

And then I said, 'Panthea, look on me.'

But in the depth of those belovèd eyes

Still I saw, FOLLOW, FOLLOW!

ECHO
Follow, follow!

PANTHEA
The crags, this clear spring morning, mock our voices,

As they were spirit-tongued.

ASIA
It is some being

Around the crags. What fine clear sounds!

Oh, list!

ECHOES, unseen

Echoes we: listen!

We cannot stay:

As dew-stars glisten

Then fade away--

Child of Ocean!

30

ASIA
Hark! Spirits speak. The liquid responses

Of their aërial tongues yet sound.

PANTHEA
I hear.

ECHOES
Oh, follow, follow,

As our voice recedeth

Through the caverns hollow,

Where the forest spreadeth;

(More distant)

Oh, follow, follow!

Through the caverns hollow,

As the song floats thou pursue,

Where the wild bee never flew,

Through the noontide darkness deep,

By the odor-breathing sleep

Of faint night-flowers, and the waves

At the fountain-lighted caves,

While our music, wild and sweet,

Mocks thy gently falling feet,

Child of Ocean!

ASIA
Shall we pursue the sound? It grows more faint

And distant.

PANTHEA
List! the strain floats nearer now.

ECHOES
In the world unknown

Sleeps a voice unspoken;

By thy step alone

Can its rest be broken;

Child of Ocean!

ASIA
How the notes sink upon the ebbing wind!

ECHOES
Oh, follow, follow!

Through the caverns hollow,

As the song floats thou pursue,

By the woodland noontide dew;

By the forests, lakes, and fountains,

Through the many-folded mountains;

To the rents, and gulfs, and chasms,

Where the Earth reposed from spasms,

On the day when He and thou

Parted, to commingle now;

Child of Ocean!

31

ASIA
Come, sweet Panthea, link thy hand in mine,

And follow, ere the voices fade away.