Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WANDERER: 5. IN HOLLAND: MYSTERY, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON



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THE WANDERER: 5. IN HOLLAND: MYSTERY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The hour was one of mystery
Last Line: A song too sad for rhyme.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Netherlands; Travel; Holland; Dutch People; Journeys; Trips


THE hour was one of mystery,
When we were sailing, I and she,
Down the dark, the silent stream.
The stars above were pale with love,
And a wizard wind did faintly move,
Like a whisper through a dream.

Her head was on my breast,
Her loving little head!
Her hand in mine was prest,
And not a word we said;
But round and round the night we wound,
Till we came at last to the Isle of Fays;
And, all the while, from the magic isle,
Came that music, that music of other days!

The lamps in the garden gleamed.
The Palace was all alight.
The sound of the viols streamed
Through the windows over the night.
We saw the dancers pass
At the windows, two by two.
The dew was on the grass,
And the glow-worm in the dew.

We came through the grass to the cypress-tree.
We stood in its shadow, I and she.
"Thy face is pale, thine eyes are wild.
What aileth thee, what aileth thee?"

"Naught aileth me," she murmured mild,
"Only the moonlight makes me pale;
The moonlight, shining through the veil
Of this black cypress-tree."

"By yonder moon, whose light so soon
Will fade upon the gloom,
And this black tree, whose mystery
Is mingled with the tomb, --
By Love's brief moon, and Death's dark tree,
Lovest thou me?"

Upon my breast she leaned her head;
"By yonder moon and tree,
I swear that all my soul," she said,
"Is given to thee."

"I know not what thy soul may be,
Nor canst thou make it mine.
Yon stars may all be worlds: for me
Enough to know they shine.
Thou art mine evening star. I know
At dawn star-distant thou wilt be:
I shall not hear thee murmuring low;
Thy face I shall not see.
I love thy beauty: 't will not stay:
Let it be all mine while it may.
I have no bliss save in the kiss
Thou givest me."

We came to the statue carved in stone,
Over the fountain. We stood there alone.
"What aileth thee, that thou dost sigh?
And why is thy hand so cold?"
"'T is the fountain that sighs," ... she said, "not I;
And the statue, whose hand thou dost hold."

"By yonder fount, that flows forever,
And this statue, that cannot move, --
By the fountain of Time, that ceases never,
And the fixedness of Love, --
By motion and immutability
Lovest thou me?"

"By the fountain of Time, with its ceaseless flow,
And the image of Love that rests," sighed she,
"I love thee, I swear, come joy, come woe,
For eternity!"

"Eternity is a word so long
That I cannot spell it now:
For the nightingale is singing her song
From yon pomegranate bough.
Let it mean what it may -- Eternity,
If thou lovest me now as I love thee,
As I love thee!"

We came to the Palace. We mounted the stair.
The great hall-doors wide open were.
And all the dancers that danced in the hall
Greeted us to the festival.

There were ladies, as fair as fair might be,
But not one of them all was fair as she.
There were knights, that looked at them lovingly,
But not one of them all was loving as I.

Only, each noble cavalier
Had his throat red-lined from ear to ear;
'T was a collar of merit, I have heard,
Which a Queen upon each had once conferred.
And each lovely lady that oped her lip
Let a little mouse's tail outslip;
'T was the fashion there, I know not why,
But fashions are changing constantly.
From the crescented naphtha lamps each ray
Streamed into a still enchanted blaze; --
And forth from the deep-toned orchestra
That music, that music of other days!

My arm enlaced her winsome waist,
And down the dance we flew:
We flew, we raced: our lips embraced:
And our breath was mingled too.
Round, and round, to a magic sound --
(A wizard waltz to a wizard air!)
Round and round, we whirled, we wound,
In a circle light and fine:
My cheek was fanned by her fragrant hair,
And her bosom beat on mine:
And all the while, in the winding ways,
That music, that music of other days,
With its melodies divine!

The palace clock stands in the hall,
And talks, unheard, of the flight of time:
With a face too pale for a festival
It telleth a tale too sad for rhyme.

The palace clock, with a silver note,
Is chanting the death of the hour that dies.
"What aileth thee? for I see float
A shade into thine eyes."

"Naught aileth me," ... low murmured she,
"I am faint with the dance, my love,
Give me thine arm: the air is warm:
Lead me unto the grove."

We wandered into the grove. We found
A bower by woodbine woven round.

Upon my breast she leaned her head:
I drew her into the bower apart.
"I swear to thee, my love," she said,
"Thou hast my heart!"

"Ah, leave thy little heart at rest!
For it is so light, I think, so light,
Some wind would blow it away to-night,
If it were not safe in thy breast.
But the wondrous brightness on thine hair
Did never seem more bright:
And thy beauty never looked more fair
Than thy beauty looks to-night:
And this dim hour, and this wild bower,
Were made for our delight:
Here we will stay, until the day,
In yon dark east grows white."
"This may not be," ... she answered me,
"For I was lately wed
With a diamond ring to an Ogre-king,
And I am his wife," ... she said.
"My husband is old; but his crown is of gold:
And he hath a cruel eye:
And his arm is long, and his hand is strong,
And his body is seven ells high:
And alas! I fear, if he found us here,
That we both should surely die.

"All day I take my harp, and play
To him on a golden string:
Thorough the weary livelong day
I play to him, and sing:
I sing to him till his white hair
Begins to curl and creep:
And his wrinkles old slowly unfold,
And his brows grow smooth as sleep.
But at night, when he calls for his golden cup,
Into his wine I pour
A juice which he drinks duly up,
And sleeps till the night is o'er.
For one moment I wait: I look at him straight,
And tell him for once how much I detest him:
I have no fear lest he should hear,
The drug he hath drained hath so opprest him.
Then, finger on lip, away I slip,
And down the hills, till I reach the stream:
I call to thee clear, till the boat appear,
And we sail together through dark and dream.
And sweet it is, in this Isle of Fays,
To wander at will through a garden of flowers,
While the flowers that bloom, and the lamps that blaze,
And the very nightingales seem ours!
And sweeter it is, in the winding ways
Of the waltz, while the music falls in showers,
While the minstrel plays, and the moment stays,
And the sweet brief rapture of love is ours!

"But the night is far spent; and before the first rent
In you dark blue sky overhead,
My husband will wake, and the spell will break,
And peril is near," ... she said.
"For if he should wake, and not find me,
By bower and brake, thorough bush and tree,
He will come to seek me here;
And the Palace of Fays, in one vast blaze,
Will sink and disappear;
And the nightingales will die in the vales,
And all will be changed and drear!
For the fays and elves can take care of themselves:
They will slip on their slippers, and go:
In their little green cloaks they will hide in the oaks,
And the forests and brakes, for their sweet sakes,
Will cover and keep them, I know.
And the knights, with their spurs, and velvets and furs,
Will take off their heads, each one,
And to horse, and away, as fast as they may,
Over brook, and bramble, and stone;
And each dame of the house has a little dun mouse,
That will whisper her when to be gone;
But we, my love, in this desolate grove,
We shall be left alone;
And my husband will find us, take us and bind us:
In his cave he will lock me up,
And pledge me for spite in thy blood by night
When he drains down his golden cup."

"Thy husband, dear, is a monster, 't is clear,
But just now I will not tarry
Thy choice to dispute -- how on earth such a brute
Thou hadst ever the fancy to marry.
For wherefore, meanwhile, are we two here,
In a fairy island under a spell,
By night, in a magical atmosphere,
In a lone enchanted dell,
If we are to say and do no more
Than is said and done by the dull daylight,
In that dry old world, where both must ignore,
To-morrow, the dream of to-night."
Her head drooped on my breast,
Fair foolish little head!
Her lips to mine were prest.
Never a word was said.

If it were but a dream of the night,
A dream that I dreamed in sleep --
Why, then, is my face so white,
And this wound so red and deep?
But whatever it was, it all took place
In a land where never your steps will go,
Though they wander, wherever they will, through space;
In an hour you never will know,
Though you should outlive the crow
That is like to outlive your race.

And if it were but a dream, it broke
Too soon, albeit too late I woke,
Waked by the smart of a sounding stroke
Which has so confused my wits,
That I cannot remember, and never shall,
What was the close of that festival,
Nor how the Palace was shattered to bits:
For all that, just now, I think I know,
Is what is the force of an Ogre's blow,
As my head, by starts and fits,
Aches and throbs; and, when I look round,
All that I hear is the sickening sound
Of the nurse's watch, and the doctor's boots,
Instead of the magical fairy flutes;
And ah that I see, in my love's lost place,
Is that gin-drinking hag, with her nutcracker face,
By the hearth's half-burned out wood:
And the only stream is this stream of blood
That flows from me, red and wide:
Yet still I hear, -- as sharp and clear,
In the horrible, horrible silence outside,
The clock that stands in the empty hall,
And talks to my soul of the flight of time;
With a face like a face at a funeral,
Telling a tale too sad for rhyme:
And still I hear, with as little cheer,
In the yet more horrible silence inside,
Chanted, perchance, by elves and fays,
From some far island, out of my gaze,
Where a house has fallen, and some one has died,
That music, that music of other days,
With its minstrelsy undescried!
For Time, which surviveth everything,
And Memory which surviveth Time: --
These two sit by my side, and sing,
A song too sad for rhyme.





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