Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CHRYSAOR, by WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR



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CHRYSAOR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Come, I beseech ye, muses! Who retired
Last Line: Broad egis, trembledst on thy heavenly throne.


COME, I beseech ye, Muses! who, retired
Deep in the shady glens by Helicon,
Yet know the realms of Ocean, know the laws
Of his wide empire, and throughout his court
Know every Nymph, and call them each by name;
Who from your sacred mountain see afar
O'er earth and heaven, and hear and memorise
The crimes of men and counsels of the Gods;
Sing of those crimes and of those counsels, sing
Of Gades sever'd from the fruitful main,
And what befell, and from what mighty hand,
Chrysaor, wielder of the golden sword.
'Twas when the high Olympus shook with fear,
Lest all his temples, all his groves, be crusht
By Pelion piled on Ossa: but the sire
Of mortals and immortals waved his arm
Around, and all below was wild dismay:
Again, 'twas agony: again, 'twas peace.
Chrysaor still in Gades tarrying,
Hurl'd into ether, tinging, as it flew,
With sudden fire the clouds round Saturn's throne,
No pine surrendered by retreating Pan,
Nor ash, nor poplar pale: but swoln with pride
Stood towering from the citadel; his spear
One hand was rested on, and one with rage
Shut hard, and firmly fixt against his side;
His frowning visage, flusht with insolence,
Rais'd up oblique to heaven. "O thou," he cried,
"Whom nations kneel to, not whom nations know,
Hear me, and answer, if indeed thou canst,
The last appeal I deign thee or allow.
Tell me, and quickly, why should I adore,
Adored myself by millions? why invoke,
Invoked with all thy attributes? Men wrong
By their prostrations, prayers, and sacrifice,
Either the Gods, their rulers, or themselves:
But flame and thunder fright them from the Gods;
Themselves they can not, dare not, they are ours;
Us, dare they, can they, us? But triumph, Jove!
Man for one moment hath engaged his lord,
Henceforth let merchants value him, not kings.
No! lower thy sceptre, and hear Atrobal,
And judge aright to whom men sacrifice.
'My children,' said the sage and pious priest,
'Mark there the altar! though the fumes aspire
Twelve cubits ere a nostril they regale,
'Tis myrrh for Titans, 'tis but air for Gods.'
Time changes, Nature changes, I am changed!
Fronting the furious lustre of the sun,
I yielded to his piercing swift-shot beams
Only when quite meridan, then abased
These orbits to the ground, and there survey'd
My shadow: strange and horrid to relate!
My very shadow almost disappear'd!
Restore it, or by earth and hell I swear
With blood enough will I refascinate
The cursed incantation: thou restore,
And largely; or my brethren, all combined,
Shall rouse thee from thy lethargies, and drive
Far from thy cloud-soft pillow, minion-prest,
Those leering lassitudes that follow Love."
The smile of disappointment and disdain
Sat sallow on his pausing lip half-closed;
But, neither headlong importunity
Nor gibing threat of reed-propt insolence
Let loose the blast of vengeance: heaven shone bright,
And proud Chrysaor spurn'd the prostrate land.
But the triumphant Thunderer, now mankind
(Criminal mostly for enduring crimes)
Provoked his indignation, thus besought
His trident-sceptred brother, triton-borne.
"O Neptune! cease henceforward to repine.
They are not cruel, no; the Destinies
Intent upon their loom, unoccupied
With aught beyond its moody murmuring sound,
Will neither see thee weep nor hear thee sigh:
And wherefore weep, O Neptune, wherefore sigh!
Ambition? 'tis unworthy of a God,
Unworthy of a brother! I am Jove,
Thou Neptune: happier in uncitied realms,
In coral hall or grotto samphire-ceil'd,
Amid the song of Nymphs and ring of shells
Thou smoothest at thy will the pliant wave
Or liftest it to heaven. I also can
Whatever best beseems me, nor for aid
Unless I loved thee, Neptune, would I call.
Though absent, thou hast heard and hast beheld
The profanation of that monstrous race,
That race of earth-born giants; one survives;
The rapid-footed Rhodan mountain-rear'd
Beheld the rest defeated; still remain
Scatter'd throughout interminable fields,
Sandy and sultry, and each hopeless path
Choakt up with crawling briars and bristling thorns,
The flinty trophies of their foul disgrace.
Chrysaor, wielder of the golden sword,
Still hails as brethren men of stouter heart,
But, wise confederate, shuns Phlegraean fields.
No warrior he, yet who so fond of war,
Unfeeling, scarce ferocious; flattery's dupe,
He fancies that the Gods themselves are his;
Impious, but most in prayer. Now re-assert
Thy friendship, raise thy trident, strike the rock,
Sever him from mankind." Then thus replied
The Nymph-surrounded monarch of the main.
"Empire bemoan I not, however shared,
Nor Fortune frail, nor stubborn Fate, accuse:
No! mortals I bemoan! when Avarice,
Ploughing these fruitless furrows, shall awake
The basking Demons and the dormant Crimes,
Horrible, strong, resistless, and transform
Meekness to Madness, Patience to Despair.
What is Ambition? what but Avarice?
But Avarice in richer guise array'd,
Stalking erect, loud-spoken, lion-mien'd,
Her brow uncrost by care, but deeply markt,
And darting downward 'twixt her eyes hard-lasht
The wrinkle of command. Could ever I
So foul a fiend, so fondly too, caress?
Judge me not harshly, judge me by my deeds."

Though seated then on Afric's further coast,
Yet sudden at his voice, so long unheard,
(For he had grieved and treasured up his grief)
With short kind greeting meet from every side
The Triton herds, and warm with melody
The azure concave of their curling shells.
Swift as an arrow, as the wind, as light,
He glided through the deep, and now arrived,
Leapt from his pearly beryl-studded car.
Earth trembled: the retreating tide, black-brow'd
Gather'd new strength, and rushing on, assail'd
The promontory's base: but when the God
Himself, resistless Neptune, struck one blow,
Rent were the rocks asunder, and the sky
Was darken'd with their fragments ere they fell.
Lygeia vocal, Zantho yellow-hair'd,
Spio with sparkling eyes, and Beroe
Demure, and sweet Ione, youngest-born,
Of mortal race, but grown divine by song.
Had ye seen playing round her placid neck
The sunny circles, braidless and unbound,
O! who had call'd them boders of a storm!
These, and the many sister Nereids,
Forgetful of their lays and of their loves,
All unsuspicious of the dread intent,
Stop suddenly their gambols, and with shrieks
Of terror plunge amid the closing wave;
Yet, just above, one moment more appear
Their darken'd tresses floating in the foam.
Thrown prostrate on the earth, the Sacrilege
Rais'd up his head astounded, and accurst
The stars, the destinies, the gods; his breast
Panted from consternation and dismay,
And pride untoward on himself o'erthrown.
From his distended nostrils issued gore
At intervals, wherewith his wiry locks,
Huge arms, and bulky bosom, shone beslimed:
And thrice he call'd his brethren, with a voice
More dismal than the blasts from Phlegethon
Below, that urge along ten thousand ghosts
Wafted loud-wailing o'er the fiery tide.
But answer heard he none: the men of might
Who gather'd round him formerly, the men
Whom frozen at a frown, a smile revived,
Were far: enormous mountains interposed,
Nor ever had the veil-hung pine out-spred
O'er Tethys then her wandering leafless shade:
Nor could he longer under winter stars
Suspend the watery journey nor repose
Whole nights on Ocean's billowy restless bed;
No longer, bulging through the tempest, rose
That bulky bosom; nor those oarlike hands,
Trusted ere mortal's keenest ken conceived
The bluest shore, threw back opposing tides.
Shrunken mid brutal hair his violent veins
Subsided, yet were hideous to behold
As dragons panting in the noontide brake.
At last, absorbing deep the breath of heaven,
And stifling all within his deadly grasp,
Struggling and tearing up the glebe to turn,
And from a throat that, as it throbb'd and rose,
Seem'd shaking ponderous links of dusky iron,
Uttering one anguish-forced indignant groan,
Fired with infernal rage, the spirit flew.

Nations of fair Hesperia! lo, o'erthrown
Your peace-embracing war-inciting king!
Ah! thrice twelve years and longer ye endured,
Without one effort to rise higher, one hope
That heaven would wing the secret shaft aright,
The abomination: hence 'twas Jove's command
That many hundred, many thousand more,
Freed from one despot, yet from one unfreed,
Ye crouch unblest at Superstition's feet.
Her hath he sent among ye; her the pest
Of men below and curse of Gods above:
Hers are the last, worst tortures they inflict
On all who bend to any king but them.
Born of Sicanus in the vast abyss
Where never light descended, she survived
Her parent; he omnipotence defied,
But thunderstruck fell headlong from the clouds;
She, though the radiant ether overpower'd
Her eyes, accustom'd to the gloom of night,
And quencht their lurid orbs, Religion's helm
Assuming, vibrated her Stygian torch,
Till thou, Astraea! though behind the sire's
Broad egis, trembledst on thy heavenly throne.





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