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THE LAST SONG OF ARION, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Look not upon me thus impatiently
Last Line: Farewell to light,—to life,—to love,—to thee.
Subject(s): Arion (7th Century B.c.); Dolphins; Homecoming; Legends, Greek; Porpoises


I.

LOOK not upon me thus impatiently,
Ye children of the deep;
My fingers fail, and tremble as they try
To stir the silver sleep with song,
Which underneath the surge ye sweep,
These lulled and listless chords must keep—
Alas—how long!

II.

The salt sea wind has touched my harp; its thrill
Follows the passing plectrum, low and chill,
Woe for the wakened pulse of Ocean's breath,
That injures these with silence—me with death.
Oh wherefore stirred the wind on Pindu's chain,
When joyful morning called me to the main?
Flashed the keen oars—our canvas filled and free,
Shook like white fire along the purple sea,
Fast from the helm the shattering surges flew,
Pale gleamed our path along their cloven blue;
And orient path, wild wind and purple wave,
Pointed and urged and guided to the grave.

III.

Ye winds! by far Methymna's steep,
I loved your voices long,
And gave your spirits power to keep
Wild syllables of song,
When, folded in the crimson shade
That veils Olympus' cloud-like whiteness,
The slumber of your life was laid
In the lull of its own lightness,
Poised on the voiceless ebb and flow
Of the beamy-billowed summer snow,
Still at my call ye came—
Through the thin wreaths of undulating flame
That panting in their heavenly home,
With crimson shadows flush the foam
Of Adramyttium, round the ravined hill,
Awakened with one deep and living thrill,
Ye came and with your steep descent,
The hollow forests waved and bent,
Their leaf-lulled echoes caught the winding call.
Through incensed glade and rosy dell,
Mixed with the breath-like pause and swell
Of waters following in eternal fall,
In azure waves, that just betray
The music quivering in their spray
Beneath its silent seven-fold arch of day
High in pale precipices hung
The lifeless rocks of rigid marble rung,
Waving the cedar crests along their brows sublime,
Swift ocean heard beneath, and flung
His tranced and trembling waves in measured time
Along his golden sands with faintly falling chime.

IV.

Alas! had ye forgot the joy I gave,
That ye did hearken to my call this day?
Oh! had ye slumbered—when your sleep could save,
I would have fed you with sweet sound for aye,
Now ye have risen to bear my silent soul away.

V.

I heard ye murmur through the Etnæn caves,
When joyful dawn had touched the topmost dome,
I saw ye light along the mountain waves
Far to the east, your beacon fires of foam,
And deemed ye rose to bear your weary minstrel home.
Home? it shall be that home indeed,
Where tears attend and shadows lead
The steps of man's return;
Home! woe is me, no home I need,
Except the urn.
Behold—beyond these billows' flow,
I see Methymna's mountains glow;
Long, long desired, their peaks of light
Flash on my sickened soul and sight,
And heart and eye almost possess
Their vales of long lost pleasantness;
But eye and heart, before they greet
That land, shall cease to burn and beat.
I see, between the sea and land,
The winding belt of golden sand;
But never may my footsteps reach
The brightness of that Lesbian beach,
Unless, with pale and listless limb,
Stretched by the water's utmost brim,
Naked, beneath my native sky,
With bloodless brow, and darkened eye,
An unregarded ghastly heap,
For bird to tear and surge to sweep,
Too deadly calm—too coldly weak
To reck of billow, or of beak.

IV.

My native isle! When I have been
Reft of my love, and far from thee
My dreams have traced, my soul hath seen
Thy shadow on the sea,
And waked in joy, but not to seek
Thy winding strand, or purple peak.
For strand and peak had waned away
Before the desolating day,
On Acro-Corinth redly risen,
That burned above Ægina's bay,
And laughed upon my palace prison.
How soft on other eyes it shone,
When light, and land, were all their own,
I looked across the eastern brine,
I knew that morning was not mine.

VII.

But thou art near me now, dear isle!
And I can see the lightning smile
By thy broad beach, that flashes free
Along the pale lips of the sea.
Near, nearer, louder, breaking, beating,
The billows fall with ceaseless shower;
It comes,—dear isle!—our hour of meeting—
Oh God! across the soft eyes of the hour
Is thrown a black and blinding veil;
Its steps are swift, its brow is pale,
Before its face, behold—there stoop,
From their keen wings, a darkening troop
Of forms like unto it—that fade
Far in unfathomable shade,
Confused, and limitless, and hollow,
It comes, but there are none that follow,—
It pauses, as they paused, but not
Like them to pass away,
For I must share its shadowy lot,
And walk with it, where wide and grey,
That caverned twilight chokes the day,
And, underneath the horizon's starless line,
Shall drink, like feeble dew, its life and mine.

VIII.

Farewell, sweet harp! for lost and quenched
Thy swift and sounding fire shall be;
And these faint lips be mute and blenched,
That once so fondly followed thee.
Oh! deep within the winding shell
The slumbering passions haunt and dwell,
As memories of its ocean tomb
Still gush within its murmuring gloom;
But closed the lips and faint the fingers
Of fiery touch, and woven words,
To rouse the flame that clings and lingers
Along the loosened chords.
Farewell! thou silver-sounding lute,
I must not wake thy wildness more,
When I and thou lie dead, and mute,
Upon the hissing shore.

IX.

The sounds I summon fall and roll
In waves of memory o'er my soul;
And there are words I should not hear,
That murmur in my dying ear,
Distant all, but full and clear,
Like a child's footstep in its fear,
Falling in Colono's wood
When the leaves are sere;
And waves of black, tumultuous blood
Heave and gush about my heart,
Each a deep and dismal mirror
Flashing back its broken part
Of visible, and changeless terror;
And fiery foam-globes leap and shiver
Along that crimson, living river;
Its surge is hot, its banks are black,
And weak, wild thoughts that once were bright,
And dreams, and hopes of dead delight,
Drift on its desolating track,
And lie along its shore:
Oh! who shall give that brightness back,
Or those lost hopes restore?
Or bid that light of dreams be shed
On the glazed eye-balls of the dead?

X.

That light of dreams! my soul hath cherished
One dream too fondly, and too long,
Hope—dread—desire—delight have perished,
And every thought whose voice was strong
To curb the heart to good or wrong;
But that sweet dream is with me still
Like the shade of an eternal hill,
Cast on a calm and narrow lake,
That hath no room except for it—and heaven:
It doth not leave me, nor forsake;
And often with my soul hath striven
To quench or calm its worst distress,
Its silent sense of loneliness.
And must it leave me now?
Alas! dear lady, where my steps must tread,
What veils the echo or the glow
That word can leave, or smile can shed,
Among the soundless, lifeless dead?
Soft o'er my brain the lulling dew shall fall,
While I sleep on, beneath the heavy sea,
Coldly,—I shall not hear though thou shouldst call.
Deeply,—I shall not dream,—not e'en of thee.

XI.

And when my thoughts to peace depart
Beneath the unpeaceful foam,
Wilt thou remember him, whose heart
Hath ceased to be thy home?
Nor bid thy breast its love subdue
For one no longer fond nor true;
Thine ears have heard a treacherous tale,
My words were false,—my faith was frail.
I feel the grasp of death's white hand
Laid heavy on my brow,
And from the brain those fingers brand,
The chords of memory drop like sand,
And faint in muffled murmurs die,
The passionate word, the fond reply,
The deep redoubled vow.
Oh! dear Ismene flushed and bright,
Although thy beauty burn,
It cannot wake to love's delight
The crumbling ashes quenched and white,
Nor pierce the apathy of night
Within the marble urn:
Let others wear the chains I wore,
And worship at the unhonored shrine—
For me, the chain is strong no more,
No more the voice divine:
Go forth, and look on those that live,
And robe thee with the love they give,
But think no more of mine;
Or think of all that pass thee by,
With heedless heart and unveiled eye,
That none can love thee less than I.

XII.

Farewell; but do not grieve; thy pain
Would seek me where I sleep,
Thy tears would pierce like rushing rain,
The stillness of the deep.
Remember, if thou wilt, but do not weep.
Farewell, beloved hills, and native isle.
Farewell to earth's delight to heaven's smile;
Farewell to sounding air, to purple sea;
Farewell to light,—to life,—to love,—to thee.





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