Page images

Revives the milkèd cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed. 35
But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:

I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my place?”
"Queen of the vales,” the lily answered, “ask the tender cloud,
And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
And why it scatters its bright beauty through the humid air. 40
Descend, O little cloud, and hover before the eyes of Thel.”
The cloud descended; and the lily bowed her modest head,
And went to mind her numerous charge among the verdant

[ocr errors]

"O little cloud," the virgin said, "I charge thee tell to me
Why thou complainest not, when in one hour thou fad'st away; 45
Then we shall seek thee, but not find. Ah, Thel is like to thee:
I pass away; yet I complain, and no one hears my voice."
The cloud then showed his golden head, and his bright form


Hovering and glittering on the air, before the face of Thel. "O virgin, know'st thou not our steeds drink of the golden



Where Luvah doth renew his horses? Look'st thou on my youth,

And fearest thou because I vanish and am seen no more?
Nothing remains. O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away,
It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy.
Unseen, descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers, 55
And court the fair-eyed Dew to take me to her shining tent:
The weeping virgin, trembling, kneels before the risen sun,
Till we arise, linked in a golden band, and never part,

But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers."
"Dost thou, O little cloud? I fear that I am not like thee:
For I walk through the vales of Har, and smell the sweetest

But I feed not the little flowers; I hear the warbling birds,
But I feed not the warbling birds—they fly and seek their food.
But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away,
And all shall say, 'Without a use this shining woman lived,
Or did she only live to be at death the food of worms?'
The cloud reclined upon his airy throne, and answered thus:
"Then if thou art the food of worms, O virgin of the skies,




How great thy use, how great thy blessing! Everything that lives


Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its

Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen!"
The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the lily's leaf,
And the bright cloud sailed on to find his partner in the vale.


Then Thel, astonished, viewed the worm upon its dewy bed.
"Art thou a worm, image of weakness? art thou but a worm?
I see thee, like an infant, wrapped in the lily's leaf.

Ah, weep not, little voice! thou canst not speak, but thou canst


Is this a worm? I see thee lie helpless and naked, weeping,
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles." 80
The clod of clay heard the worm's voice, and raised her pitying



She bowed over the weeping infant, and her life exhaled
In milky fondness; then on Thel she fixed her humble eyes:
"O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves.
Thou seest me, the meanest thing, and so I am indeed.
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark;
But He That loves the lowly pours His oil upon my head,
And kisses me, and binds His nuptial bands around my breast,
And says, 'Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee,
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away.'
But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love!"
The daughter of beauty wiped her pitying tears with her white




And said: "Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep.
That God would love a worm I knew, and punish the evil foot 95
That wilful bruised its helpless form; but that He cherished it
With milk and oil, I never knew, and therefore did I weep.
And I complained in the mild air, because I fade away,
And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot."
"Queen of the vales," the matron clay answered, "I heard thy



And all thy moans flew o'er my roof, but I have called them down.

Wilt thou, O queen, enter my house? 'Tis given thee to enter, And to return: fear nothing; enter with thy virgin feet.”


The eternal gates' terrific porter lifted the northern bar;
Thel entered in, and saw the secrets of the land unknown.
She saw the couches of the dead, and where the fibrous root
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists;
A land of sorrows and of tears, where never smile was seen.
She wandered in the land of clouds, through valleys dark,

Dolours and lamentations, wailing oft beside a dewy grave.
She stood in silence, listening to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave-plot she came, and there she sat down,
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit:
"Why cannot the ear be closed to its own destruction?

Or the glistening eye to the poison of a smile?
Why are eyelids stored with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting-men in ambush lie,


I saw a chapel all of gold,
That none did dare to enter in;
And many, weeping, stood without,
Weeping, mourning, worshipping.


I saw a serpent rise between
The white pillars of the door,
And he forced and forced and forced,
Down the golden hinges tore;



Or an eye of gifts and graces showering fruits and coinèd gold?
Why a tongue impressed with honey from every wind?
Why an ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a nostril wide-inhaling terror, trembling, and affright? . . .
The virgin started from her seat, and with a shriek
Fled back unhindered till she came into the vales of Har.





And along the pavement sweet,
Set with pearls and rubies bright,
All his shining length he drew,
Till upon the altar white

Vomiting his poison out

On the bread and on the wine.

So I turned into a sty,

And laid me down among the swine.

About 1793.


Tiger tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He Who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger! tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?








I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this chapel were shut,
And "Thou shalt not" writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore:

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tombstones where flowers should be;


I travelled through a land of men,
A land of men and women too,
And heard and saw such dreadful things
As cold earth-wanderers never knew.

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys and desires.


For there the babe is born in joy
That was begotten in dire woe;
Just as we reap in joy the fruit
Which we in bitter tears did sow.

And if the babe is born a boy,
He's given to a woman old,
Who nails him down upon a rock,
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold.

She binds iron thorns around his head;
She pierces both his hands and feet;
She cuts his heart out at his side,
To make it feel both cold and heat.


Her fingers number every nerve,
Just as a miser counts his gold;
She lives upon his shrieks and cries,
And she grows young as he grows old:






« PreviousContinue »