Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LOST PLEIAD, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE LOST PLEIAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A story from the stars; or rather one
Last Line: But turns to death on touching earth.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Pleiades (Constellation)


A story from the stars; or rather one
Of starry fable from the olden time,
When young Imagination was as fresh
As the fair world it peopled with itself.
The Poet's spirit does so love to link
Its feelings, thoughts, with nature's loveliness:
And hence the twilight grove, the lonely spring,
The ocean-caves, the distant planets, all
Were fill'd with radiant creatures; and the heart
Became interpreter, and language made
From its own warm sad sympathies, for those
Of whom the dream was beauty.

HE was weary of flinging the feather'd reed,
He was weary of curbing his raven steed;
He heard the gay din from the palace hall,
But he was not in mood for the festival.
There was that crimson, the last on the sky,
Blushes that fade in the moon's cold eye;
The sigh of the flowers arose sweet on the air,
For the breath of the twilight was wandering there.
He look'd to the west, and the tranquil main
Was branch'd with many a life-like vein;
Hues of the rosebud the clouds had cast,
Like a cheek on its mirror in gliding past.
It tempted him forth, -- to the lulling gale
Prince CYRIS has open'd his silken sail,
And the little boat went over the sea
Like foam, for it was of ivorie,
And carved and shaped like a wreathed shell,
And it was lined with the rose as well;
For the couch was made of those plumes that fling
The one warm tint 'neath the wood-dove's wing.
O'er the purple sail the golden flowers run,
For it was wrought for a monarch's son;
And as it pass'd on, the air was fill'd
With odours, for only waters distill'd
From clove, and sandal, and cinnamon,
E'er wash'd that boat when its task was done:
Twas left in the care of maidens three;
Lovely they were as maidens should be;
And in the soft airs that around it flew,
Perhaps their own breath left a perfume too.
-- There lay Prince CYRIS, and his mood
Made harmony with the solitude.
-- Oh, pleasant is it for the heart
To gather up itself apart;
To think its own thoughts, and to be
Free, as none ever yet were free,
When, prisoners to their gilded thrall,
Vain crowd meets crowd in lighted hall;
With frozen feelings, tutor'd eye,
And smile which is itself a lie.
-- Oh, but for lonely hours like these,
Would every finer current freeze;
Those kindlier impulses that glow,
Those clear and diamond streams that flow
Only in crystal, while their birth
Is all unsoil'd with stain of earth.
Ever the Lover hath gainsay'd
The creed his once religion made, --
That pure, that high, that holy creed.
Without which love is vain indeed;
While that which was a veiled shrine
Whose faith was only not divine,
Becomes a vague, forgotten dream, --
A thing of scorn -- an idle theme.
Denied, degraded, and represt,
Love dies beneath the heartless jest.
Oh vain! for not with such can be
One trace of his divinity.
Ever from poet's lute hath flown
The sweetness of its early tone,
When from its wild flight it hath bow'd,
To seek for homage mid the crowd;
Be the one wonder of the night,
As if the soul could be a sight;
As all his burning numbers speak
Were written upon brow and cheek;
And he, forsooth, must learn its part,
Must choose his words, and school his heart
To one set mould, and pay again
Flattery with flattery as vain;
Till, mixing with the throng too much,
The cold, the vain, he feels as such;
Then marvels that his silent lute
Beneath that worldly hand is mute.
-- Away! these scenes are not for thee;
Go dream beneath some lonely tree;
Away to some far woodland spring,
Dash down thy tinsel crown, and wring
The scented unguents from thine hair:
If thou dost hope that crown to share
The laurell'd bards immortal wear;
Muse thou o'er leaf and drooping flower,
Wander at evening's haunted hour;
Listen the stockdove's plaining song
Until it bear thy soul along;
Then call upon thy freed lute's strain,
And it will answer thee again.
Oh mine own song, did I not hold
Such faith as held the bards of old, --
That one eternal hope of fame
Which sanctifies the poet's name, --
I'd break my lyre in high disdain,
And hold my gift of song as vain
As those forced flowers which only bloom
One hot night for a banquet room.
-- But I have wander'd from my tale, --
The ivory bark, the purple sail,
That bore Prince CYRIS o'er the sea, --
Content with that slow ebb to be
Danced on the wave. By nightfall shaded
The red lights from the clouds are faded:
Leaving one palest amber line
To mark the last of day's decline;
And all o'er heaven is that clear blue
The stars so love to wander through.
They're rising from the silent deep,
Like bright eyes opening after sleep.
Young CYRIS watch'd them till their ray
Grew sad -- so far they were away.
He felt so earthly, thus to see
What he might never hope to be.
He thought upon earth's loveliest eyes;
What were they to those shining there
He thought upon earth's sweetest sighs:
What were they to the lulling air?
"Oh no, my heart," he mournful sigh'd,
"To thee is that dear boon denied;
That wildering dream whose fair deceit
Makes languid earth a temple meet
For light, such light as dwells above, --
I have no faith in thee, false love!
I've knelt at many a beauteous shrine,
And call'd, but thought them not, divine.
I've dived in many a beating heart,
But search'd them only to depart;
For selfish care, or heartless pride,
Were all they ever had to hide.
I'm weary, weary: -- one by one,
The life-charms of my youth are gone.
I had a dream of stirring fame, --
It was a promise, and a name,
Thrice glorious, shining from afar,
But nearer earth had touch'd the star;
With toil and trouble won from many,
Yet trembling on the breath of any.
The bard, the warrior, and the sage,
What win they but one lying page,
Where deeds and words, at hazard thrown,
May be or may not be their own?
And pleasure, lighted halls, red wine,
Bright smiles, gay words, have all been mine:
They only left what haunts me now, --
A wasted heart, a weary brow.
Ye distant stars, so calm, so bright,
Would I had portion in your light,
Could read the secrets of your birth, --
Aught, anything but this dull earth!"
-- It was not long, ere, still and deep,
Those restless eyes were closed in sleep.
There lay he like a statue pale,
His canopy that silken sail.
There lay he as Endymion slept
When Dian came to him, and wept
Beside the sleep she might not break.
Love, thus we sorrow for thy sake.
There lay he: -- well might CYRIS seem
The being of a poet's dream.
Ay, beautiful as a star in the sky,
When the clouds are gloom, and the storm is high,
But still in defiance keep shining on,
Till the shades are past, and the wind is done.
His hair was gold, like the pheasant's wing,
And curl'd like the hyacinth flower in spring;
And his eye was that blue so clear, so dark,
Like the falcon's when flying his highest mark;
And, telling a tale of gallant war,
On his brow was a slight but glorious scar.
His voice had that low and lute-like sound,
Whose echo within the heart is found.
His very faults were those that win
Too dazzling and ready an entrance in.
Daring and fiery, wild to range,
Reckless of what might ensue from the change;
Too eager for pleasures to fill up the void,
Till the very impatience their nature destroy'd;
Restless, inconstant, he sought to possess, --
The danger was dar'd, and the charm grew less.
But, oh! these were only youth's meteor fires,
The ignis blaze that with youth expires.
No, never! -- the heart should child-like be train'd,
And its wilful waywardness somewhat enchain'd.
-- Was it the spell of morning dew
That o'er his lids its influence threw,
Clearing those earthly mists away,
That erst like veils before them lay?
Whether fair dream, or actual sight,
It was a vision of delight;
For free to his charm'd eyes were given
The spirits of the starry heaven.
It was that hour, when each faint dye
Of rose upon the morning's cheek
Warns the bright watchers of the sky
Their other ocean home to seek.
He saw the Archer with his bow
Guide now his radiant car below;
He saw the shining Serpent fold
Beneath the wave his scales of gold.
-- But, of all the pageants nigh,
Only one fix'd CYRIS' eye:
Borne by music on their way,
Every chord a living ray,
Sinking on a song-like breeze,
The lyre of the Pleiades,
With its seven fair sisters bent
O'er their starry instrument;
Each a star upon her brow,
Somewhat dim in daylight's glow,
That clasp'd the flashing coronet
On their midnight tresses set.
-- All were young, all very fair; --
But one, -- oh! CYRIS gazed but there,
Each other lip wore sterner mould, --
Fair, but so proud, -- bright, but so cold;
And clear pale cheek, and radiant eye,
Wore neither blush, nor smile, nor sigh,
Those sweet signs of humanity.
But o'er CYRENE'S cheek the rose,
Like moon-touch'd water, ebbs and flows;
And eyes that droop like Summer flowers
Told they could change with shine and showers.
-- The starry lyre has reach'd the sea,
Started young CYRIS to his knee:
Surely her dark eyes met his own;
But, ah! the lovely dream is flown.
-- I need not tell how long the day
Pass'd in its weariness away;
I need not say how CYRIS' sight
Pined for the darkness of the night.
But darkness came, and with it brought
The vision which the watcher sought.
He saw the starry lyre arise --
The seven fair sisters' glittering car
Till, lost amid the distant skies,
Each only look'd a burning star.
Again, at morning's dewy hour,
He saw them seek their ocean bow'r;
Again those dark eyes met his own,
Again the lovely dream is flown.
-- Night after night thus pass'd; but now
The young moon wears less vestal brow.
Her silver veil is lined with gold;
Like a crown'd queen, she comes to hold
Her empire in the sky alone, --
No rival near her midnight throne.
Sometimes he fancied o'er the tide
He saw pale phantoms dimly glide:
The moonbeams fell o'er sea and sky,
No other light met CYRIS' eye.
The night, -- the morn, -- he watch'd in vain,
No starry lyre rose from the main.
-- And who were they, the lovely seven,
With shape of earth, and home in heaven?
Daughters of King Atlas they --
He of the enchanted sway;
He who read the mystic lines
Of the planets' wondrous signs;
He the sovereign of the air --
They were his, these daughters fair.
Six were brides in sky and sea,
To some crown'd divinity;
But his youngest, loveliest one,
Was as yet unwoo'd, unwon.
She's kneeling at her father's side:
What the boon could be denied
To that fair but tear-wash'd cheek,
That look'd so earnest, yet so meek;
To that mouth whose gentle words
Murmur like the wind-lute's chords;
To that soft and pleading eye
Who is there could suit deny?
Bent the king, with look of care,
O'er the dear one kneeling there;
Bent and kiss'd his pleading one,
Ah, that smile! her suit is won.
-- It was a little fountain made
A perfect sanctuary of shade;
The pine boughs like a roof, beneath
The tapestry of the acacia wreath.
The air was haunted: sounds, and sighs,
The falling waters' melodies;
The breath of flowers, the faint perfume
Of the green pineleaf's early bloom;
And murmurs from the music hung
Ever the woodland boughs among;
His couch of moss, his pillow flowers,
Dreaming away the listless hours --
Those dreams so vague, those dreams so vain,
Yet iron links in lover's chain. --
Prince CYRIS leant: the solitude
Suited such visionary mood;
For love hath delicate delights, --
The silence of the summer nights;
The leaves and buds, whose languid sighs
Seem like the echo of his own;
The wind which like a lute-note dies;
The shadow by the branches thrown,
Although a sweet uncertain smile
Wanders through those boughs the while,
As if the young Moon liked to know
Her fountain mirror bright below;
Linking his thoughts with all of these,
For love is full of fantasies.
-- Why starts young CYRIS from his dream?
There is a shadow on the stream,
There is an odour on the air; --
What shape of beauty fronts him there!
He knows her by her clear dark eye,
Touch'd with the light that rules the sky;
The star upon her forehead set,
Her wild hair's sparkling coronet;
Her white arms, and her silvery vest,
The lovely Pleiad stands confest.
-- I cannot sing as I have sung;
My heart is changed, my lute unstrung.
Once said I that my early chords
Were vow'd to love or sorrow's words:
But love has like an odour past,
Or echo, all too sweet to last;
And sorrow now holds lonely sway
O'er my young heart, and lute, and lay,
Be it for those whose unwaked youth
Believes that hope and love are sooth --
The loved, the happy -- let them dream
This meeting by the forest stream.
-- No more they parted till the night
Call'd on her starry host for light,
And that bright lyre arose on high
With its fair watchers to their sky.
Then came the wanderings long and lonely,
As if the world held them, them only;
The gather'd flower, which is to bear
Some gentle secret whisper'd there;
The seat beneath the forest tree;
The breathless silence, which to love
Is all that eloquence can be;
The looks ten thousand words above;
The fond deep gaze, till the fix'd eye
Casts each on each a mingled dye;
The interest roand each little word,
Though scarcely said, and scarcely heard.
Little love asks of language aid,
For never yet hath vow been made
In that young hour when love is new;
He feels at first so deep, so true,
A promise is a useless token,
When neither dreams it can be broken.
Alas! vows are his after-sign! --
We prop the tree in its decline --
The ghosts that haunt a parting hour.
With all of grief, and nought of power;
A chain half sunder'd in the making, --
The plighted vows already breaking.
From such dreams all too soon we wake;
For, like the moonlight on the lake,
One passing cloud, one waving bough --
The silver light, what is it now?
Said I not that young prince was one
Who wearied when the goal was won;
To whom the charm of change was all
That bound his heart in woman's thrall?
And she now lingering at his side,
His bright, his half-immortal bride,
Though she had come with him to die,
Share earthly tear, and earthly sigh;
Left for his sake her glorious sphere,
What matter'd that? -- she now was here.
At first 't was like a frightful dream:
Why should such terror even seem?
Again, -- again, -- it cannot be.
Woe for such wasting misery!
This watching love's o'erclouding sky,
Though still believing it must clear;
This closing of the trusting eye;
The hope that darkens into fear;
The lingering change of doubt and dread;
All in the one dear presence fled.
Till days of anguish pass'd alone,
Till careless look, and alter'd tone,
Relieve us from the rack, to know
Our last of fate, our worst of woe.
-- And she, the guileless, pure, and bright,
Whose nature was her morning's light;
Who deem'd of love as it is given
The sunniest element to heaven;
Whose sweet belief in it was caught
Only from what her own heart taught --
Her woman's heart, that dreamy shrine,
Of what itself made half divine --
CYRENE, when thy shadow came
With thy first step that touch'd the earth,
It was an omen how the same
Doth sorrow haunt all mortal birth.
Thou hast but left those starry spheres
For woman's destiny of tears.
-- They parted as all lovers part, --
She with her wrong'd and breaking heart:
But he, rejoicing he is free,
Bounds like the captive from his chain,
And wilfully believing she
Hath found her liberty again:
Or if dark thoughts will cross his mind,
They are but clouds before the wind.
-- Thou false one, go! -- but deep and dread
Be minstrel curse upon thy head!
-- Go, be the first in battle line,
Where banners sweep, and falchions shine;
Go thou to lighted festival,
Be there the peerless one of all;
Let bright cheeks wear yet brighter rays
If they can catch Prince CYRIS' gaze;
Be thine in all that honour'd name.
Men hold to emulate his fame:
Yet not the less my curse shall rest,
A serpent coiling in thy breast.
Weariness, like a weed, shall spring
Wherever is thy wandering.
Thy heart a lonely shrine shall be,
Guarded by no divinity.
Thou shalt be lonely, and shalt know
It is thyself hast made thee so.
Thou hast been faithless, and shalt dread
Deceit in aught of fondness said.
Go, with the doom thou'st made thine own!
Go, false one! to thy grave -- alone. --
'Twas the red hue of twilight's hour
That lighted up the forest bower,
Where that sad Pleiad look'd her last.
The white wave of his plume is past;
She raised her listening head in vain,
To catch his echoing step again;
Then bow'd her face upon her hand,
And once or twice a burning tear
Wander'd beyond their white command,
And mingled with the waters clear.
'Tis said that ever from that day
Those waters caught their diamond ray.
-- The evening shades closed o'er the sky,
The night winds sang their melody:
They seem'd to rouse her from the dream
That chain'd her by that lonely stream.
She came when first the starry lyre
Ting'd the green wave with kindling fire;
"Come, sister," sang they, "to thy place:"
The Pleiad gazed, then hid her face.
Slowly that lyre rose while they sung, --
Alas! there is one chord unstrung.
It rose, until CYRENE'S ear
No longer could its music hear.
She sought the fountain, and flung there
The crown that bound her raven hair;
The starry crown, the sparkles died,
Darkening within its fated tide.
She sinks by that lone wave: -- 'tis past;
There the lost Pleiad breath'd her last.
No mortal hand e'er made her grave;
But one pale rose was seen to wave,
Guarding a sudden growth of flowers,
Not like those sprung in summer hours,
But pale and drooping; each appears
As if their only dew were tears.
On that sky lyre a chord is mute:
Haply one echo yet remains,
To linger on the poet's lute,
And tell in his most mournful strains,
-- A star hath left its native sky,
To touch our cold earth, and to die;
To warn the young heart how it trust
To mortal vows, whose faith is dust;
To bid the young cheek guard its bloom
From wasting by such early doom;
Warn by the histories link'd with all
That ever bow'd to passion's thrall;
Warn by all -- above -- below,
By that lost Pleiad's depth of woe,
Warn them, Love is of heavenly birth,
But turns to death on touching earth.





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