How wonderful is Death, Death and his brother Sleep! One, pale as yonder waning moon With lips of lurid blue; The other, rosy as the morn When throned on ocean's wave It blushes o'er the world: Yet both so passing wonderful!
Hath then the gloomy Power Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres Seized on her sinless soul? Must then that peerless form Which love and admiration cannot view Without a beating heart, those azure veins Which steal like streams along a field of snow, That lovely outline, which is fair As breathing marble, perish? Must putrefaction's breath Leave nothing of this heavenly sight But loathsomeness and ruin? Spare nothing but a gloomy theme, On which the lightest heart might moralize? Or is it only a sweet slumber Stealing o'er sensation, Which the breath of roseate morning Chaseth into darkness? Will Ianthe wake again, And give that faithful bosom joy Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch Light, life and rapture from her smile?
Yes! she will wake again, Although her glowing limbs are motionless, And silent those sweet lips, Once breathing eloquence, That might have soothed a tiger's rage, Or thawed the cold heart of a conqueror. Her dewy eyes are closed, And on their lids, whose texture fine Scarce hides the dark blue orbs beneath, The baby Sleep is pillowed: Her golden tresses shade The bosom's stainless pride, Curling like tendrils of the parasite Around a marble column.
Hark! whence that rushing sound? 'Tis like the wondrous strain That round a lonely ruin swells, Which, wandering on the echoing shore, The enthusiast hears at evening: 'Tis softer than the west wind's sigh; 'Tis wilder than the unmeasured notes Of that strange lyre whose strings The genii of the breezes sweep: Those lines of rainbow light Are like the moonbeams when they fall Through some cathedral window, but the tints Are such as may not find Comparison on earth.
Behold the chariot of the Fairy Queen! Celestial coursers paw the unyielding air; Their filmy pennons at her word they furl, And stop obedient to the reins of light: These the Queen of Spells drew in, She spread a charm around the spot, And leaning graceful from the aethereal car, Long did she gaze, and silently, Upon the slumbering maid.
Oh! not the visioned poet in his dreams, When silvery clouds float through the 'wildered brain, When every sight of lovely, wild and grand Astonishes, enraptures, elevates, When fancy at a glance combines The wondrous and the beautiful,— So bright, so fair, so wild a shape Hath ever yet beheld, As that which reined the coursers of the air, And poured the magic of her gaze Upon the maiden's sleep.
The broad and yellow moon Shone dimly through her form— That form of faultless symmetry; The pearly and pellucid car Moved not the moonlight's line: 'Twas not an earthly pageant: Those who had looked upon the sight, Passing all human glory, Saw not the yellow moon, Saw not the mortal scene, Heard not the night-wind's rush, Heard not an earthly sound, Saw but the fairy pageant, Heard but the heavenly strains That filled the lonely dwelling.
The Fairy's frame was slight, yon fibrous cloud, That catches but the palest tinge of even, And which the straining eye can hardly seize When melting into eastern twilight's shadow, Were scarce so thin, so slight; but the fair star That gems the glittering coronet of morn, Sheds not a light so mild, so powerful, As that which, bursting from the Fairy's form, Spread a purpureal halo round the scene, Yet with an undulating motion, Swayed to her outline gracefully.
From her celestial car The Fairy Queen descended, And thrice she waved her wand Circled with wreaths of amaranth: Her thin and misty form Moved with the moving air, And the clear silver tones, As thus she spoke, were such As are unheard by all but gifted ear.
FAIRY: 'Stars! your balmiest influence shed! Elements! your wrath suspend! Sleep, Ocean, in the rocky bounds That circle thy domain! Let not a breath be seen to stir Around yon grass-grown ruin's height, Let even the restless gossamer Sleep on the moveless air! Soul of Ianthe! thou, Judged alone worthy of the envied boon, That waits the good and the sincere; that waits Those who have struggled, and with resolute will Vanquished earth's pride and meanness, burst the chains, The icy chains of custom, and have shone The day-stars of their age;—Soul of Ianthe! Awake! arise!'
Sudden arose Ianthe's Soul; it stood All beautiful in naked purity, The perfect semblance of its bodily frame. Instinct with inexpressible beauty and grace, Each stain of earthliness Had passed away, it reassumed Its native dignity, and stood Immortal amid ruin.
Upon the couch the body lay Wrapped in the depth of slumber: Its features were fixed and meaningless, Yet animal life was there, And every organ yet performed Its natural functions: 'twas a sight Of wonder to behold the body and soul. The self-same lineaments, the same Marks of identity were there: Yet, oh, how different! One aspires to Heaven, Pants for its sempiternal heritage, And ever-changing, ever-rising still, Wantons in endless being. The other, for a time the unwilling sport Of circumstance and passion, struggles on; Fleets through its sad duration rapidly: Then, like an useless and worn-out machine, Rots, perishes, and passes.
FAIRY: 'Spirit! who hast dived so deep; Spirit! who hast soared so high; Thou the fearless, thou the mild, Accept the boon thy worth hath earned, Ascend the car with me.'
SPIRIT: 'Do I dream? Is this new feeling But a visioned ghost of slumber? If indeed I am a soul, A free, a disembodied soul, Speak again to me.'
FAIRY: 'I am the Fairy MAB: to me 'tis given The wonders of the human world to keep: The secrets of the immeasurable past, In the unfailing consciences of men, Those stern, unflattering chroniclers, I find: The future, from the causes which arise In each event, I gather: not the sting Which retributive memory implants In the hard bosom of the selfish man; Nor that ecstatic and exulting throb Which virtue's votary feels when he sums up The thoughts and actions of a well-spent day, Are unforeseen, unregistered by me: And it is yet permitted me, to rend The veil of mortal frailty, that the spirit, Clothed in its changeless purity, may know How soonest to accomplish the great end For which it hath its being, and may taste That peace, which in the end all life will share. This is the meed of virtue; happy Soul, Ascend the car with me!'
The chains of earth's immurement Fell from Ianthe's spirit; They shrank and brake like bandages of straw Beneath a wakened giant's strength. She knew her glorious change, And felt in apprehension uncontrolled New raptures opening round: Each day-dream of her mortal life, Each frenzied vision of the slumbers That closed each well-spent day, Seemed now to meet reality.
The Fairy and the Soul proceeded; The silver clouds disparted; And as the car of magic they ascended, Again the speechless music swelled, Again the coursers of the air Unfurled their azure pennons, and the Queen Shaking the beamy reins Bade them pursue their way.
The magic car moved on. The night was fair, and countless stars Studded Heaven's dark blue vault,— Just o'er the eastern wave Peeped the first faint smile of morn:— The magic car moved on— From the celestial hoofs The atmosphere in flaming sparkles flew, And where the burning wheels Eddied above the mountain's loftiest peak, Was traced a line of lightning. Now it flew far above a rock, The utmost verge of earth, The rival of the Andes, whose dark brow Lowered o'er the silver sea.
Far, far below the chariot's path, Calm as a slumbering babe, Tremendous Ocean lay. The mirror of its stillness showed The pale and waning stars, The chariot's fiery track, And the gray light of morn Tinging those fleecy clouds That canopied the dawn. Seemed it, that the chariot's way Lay through the midst of an immense concave, Radiant with million constellations, tinged With shades of infinite colour, And semicircled with a belt Flashing incessant meteors.
The magic car moved on. As they approached their goal The coursers seemed to gather speed; The sea no longer was distinguished; earth Appeared a vast and shadowy sphere; The sun's unclouded orb Rolled through the black concave; Its rays of rapid light Parted around the chariot's swifter course, And fell, like ocean's feathery spray Dashed from the boiling surge Before a vessel's prow.
The magic car moved on. Earth's distant orb appeared The smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; Whilst round the chariot's way Innumerable systems rolled, And countless spheres diffused An ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some Were horned like the crescent moon; Some shed a mild and silver beam Like Hesperus o'er the western sea; Some dashed athwart with trains of flame, Like worlds to death and ruin driven; Some shone like suns, and, as the chariot passed, Eclipsed all other light.
Spirit of Nature! here! In this interminable wilderness Of worlds, at whose immensity Even soaring fancy staggers, Here is thy fitting temple. Yet not the lightest leaf That quivers to the passing breeze Is less instinct with thee: Yet not the meanest worm That lurks in graves and fattens on the dead Less shares thy eternal breath. Spirit of Nature! thou! Imperishable as this scene, Here is thy fitting temple.