Prometheus Unbound

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43

SPIRIT
On the brink of the night and the morning

My coursers are wont to respire;

But the Earth has just whispered a warning

That their flight must be swifter than fire;

They shall drink the hot speed of desire!

ASIA
Thou breathest on their nostrils, but my breath

Would give them swifter speed.

SPIRIT
Alas! it could not

PANTHEA
O Spirit! pause, and tell whence is the light

Which fills the cloud? the sun is yet unrisen.

SPIRIT
The sun will rise not until noon. Apollo

Is held in heaven by wonder; and the light

Which fills this vapor, as the aërial hue

Of fountain-gazing roses fills the water,

Flows from thy mighty sister.

PANTHEA
Yes, I feel--

ASIA
What is it with thee, sister? Thou art pale.

PANTHEA
How thou art changed! I dare not look on thee;

I feel but see thee not. I scarce endure

The radiance of thy beauty. Some good change

Is working in the elements, which suffer

Thy presence thus unveiled. The Nereids tell

That on the day when the clear hyaline

Was cloven at thy uprise, and thou didst stand

Within a veinèd shell, which floated on

Over the calm floor of the crystal sea,

Among the Ægean isles, and by the shores

Which bear thy name,--love, like the atmosphere

Of the sun's fire filling the living world,

Burst from thee, and illumined earth and heaven

And the deep ocean and the sunless caves

And all that dwells within them; till grief cast

Eclipse upon the soul from which it came.

Such art thou now; nor is it I alone,

Thy sister, thy companion, thine own chosen one,

But the whole world which seeks thy sympathy.

Hearest thou not sounds i' the air which speak the love

Of all articulate beings? Feelest thou not

The inanimate winds enamoured of thee? List!

44

ASIA
Thy words are sweeter than aught else but his

Whose echoes they are; yet all love is sweet,

Given or returned. Common as light is love,

And its familiar voice wearies not ever.

Like the wide heaven, the all-sustaining air,

It makes the reptile equal to the God;

They who inspire it most are fortunate,

As I am now; but those who feel it most

Are happier still, after long sufferings,

As I shall soon become.

PANTHEA
List! Spirits speak.

VOICE in the air, singing

Life of Life, thy lips enkindle

With their love the breath between them;

And thy smiles before they dwindle

Make the cold air fire; then screen them

In those looks, where whoso gazes

Faints, entangled in their mazes.

Child of Light! thy limbs are burning

Through the vest which seems to hide them;

As the radiant lines of morning

Through the clouds, ere they divide them;

And this atmosphere divinest

Shrouds thee wheresoe'er thou shinest.

Fair are others; none beholds thee,

But thy voice sounds low and tender

Like the fairest, for it folds thee

From the sight, that liquid splendor,

And all feel, yet see thee never,

As I feel now, lost forever!

Lamp of Earth! where'er thou movest

Its dim shapes are clad with brightness,

And the souls of whom thou lovest

Walk upon the winds with lightness,

Till they fail, as I am failing,

Dizzy, lost, yet unbewailing!

45

ASIA
My soul is an enchanted boat,

Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float

Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;

And thine doth like an angel sit

Beside a helm conducting it,

Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.

It seems to float ever, forever,

Upon that many-winding river,

Between mountains, woods, abysses,

A paradise of wildernesses!

Till, like one in slumber bound,

Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,

Into a sea profound of ever-spreading sound.

Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions

In music's most serene dominions;

Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.

And we sail on, away, afar,

Without a course, without a star,

But, by the instinct of sweet music driven;

Till through Elysian garden islets

By thee most beautiful of pilots,

Where never mortal pinnace glided,

The boat of my desire is guided;

Realms where the air we breathe is love,

Which in the winds on the waves doth move,

Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.

We have passed Age's icy caves,

And Manhood's dark and tossing waves,

And Youth's smooth ocean, smiling to betray;

Beyond the glassy gulfs we flee

Of shadow-peopled Infancy,

Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day;

A paradise of vaulted bowers

Lit by downward-gazing flowers,

And watery paths that wind between

Wildernesses calm and green,

Peopled by shapes too bright to see,

And rest, having beheld; somewhat like thee;

Which walk upon the sea, and chant melodiously!