The Poetry Corner

Hyperion, A Vision : Attempted Reconstruction Of The Poem

By John Keats

CANTO I. Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave A paradise for a sect; the savage, too, From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep Guesses at heaven; pity these have not Trac'd upon vellum or wild Indian leaf The shadows of melodious utterance, But bare of laurel they live, dream, and die; For Poesy alone can tell her dreams, With the fine spell of words alone can save Imagination from the sable chain And dumb enchantment. Who alive can say, "Thou art no Poet, may'st not tell thy dreams?" Since every man whose soul is not a clod Hath visions and would speak, if he had loved, And been well nurtured in his mother tongue. Whether the dream now purpos'd to rehearse Be poet's or fanatic's will be known When this warm scribe, my hand, is in the grave. Methought I stood where trees of every clime, Palm, myrtle, oak, and sycamore, and beech, With plantane and spice-blossoms, made a screen, In neighbourhood of fountains (by the noise Soft-showering in mine ears), and (by the touch Of scent) not far from roses. Twining round I saw an arbour with a drooping roof Of trellis vines, and bells, and larger blooms, Like floral censers, swinging light in air; Before its wreathed doorway, on a mound Of moss, was spread a feast of summer fruits, Which, nearer seen, seem'd refuse of a meal By angel tasted or our Mother Eve; For empty shells were scatter'd on the grass, And grapestalks but half-bare, and remnants more Sweet-smelling, whose pure kinds I could not know. Still was more plenty than the fabled horn Thrice emptied could pour forth at banqueting, For Prosperine return'd to her own fields, Where the white heifers low. And appetite, More yearning than on earth I ever felt, Growing within, I ate deliciously, And, after not long, thirsted; for thereby Stood a cool vessel of transparent juice Sipp'd by the wander'd bee, the which I took, And pledging all the mortals of the world, And all the dead whose names are in our lips, Drank. That full draught is parent of my theme. No Asian poppy nor elixir fine Of the soon-fading, jealous, Caliphat, No poison gender'd in close monkish cell, To thin the scarlet conclave of old men, Could so have rapt unwilling life away. Among the fragment husks and berries crush'd Upon the grass, I struggled hard against The domineering potion, but in vain. The cloudy swoon came on, and down I sank, Like a Silenus on an antique vase. How long I slumber'd 'tis a chance to guess. When sense of life return'd, I started up As if with wings, but the fair trees were gone, The mossy mound and arbour were no more; I look'd around upon the curved sides Of an old sanctuary, with roof august, Builded so high, it seem'd that filmed clouds Might spread beneath as o'er the stars of heaven. So old the place was, I remember'd none The like upon the earth: what I had seen Of grey cathedrals, buttress'd walls, rent towers, The superannuations of sunk realms, Or Nature's rocks toil'd hard in waves and winds, Seem'd but the faulture of decrepit things To that eternal domed monument. Upon the marble at my feet there lay Store of strange vessels and large draperies, Which needs have been of dyed asbestos wove, Or in that place the moth could not corrupt, So white the linen, so, in some, distinct Ran imageries from a sombre loom. All in a mingled heap confus'd there lay Robes, golden tongs, censer and chafing-dish, Girdles, and chains, and holy jewelries. Turning from these with awe, once more I raised My eyes to fathom the space every way: The embossed roof, the silent massy range Of columns north and south, ending in mist Of nothing; then to eastward, where black gates Were shut against the sunrise evermore; Then to the west I look'd, and saw far off An image, huge of feature as a cloud, At level of whose feet an altar slept, To be approach'd on either side by steps And marble balustrade, and patient travail To count with toil the innumerable degrees. Towards the altar sober-pac'd I went, Repressing haste as too unholy there; And, coming nearer, saw beside the shrine One ministering; and there arose a flame When in mid-day the sickening east-wind Shifts sudden to the south, the small warm rain Melts out of the frozen incense from all flowers, And fills the air with so much pleasant health That even the dying man forgets his shroud; Even so that lofty sacrificial fire, Sending forth Maian incense, spread around Forgetfulness of everything but bliss, And clouded all the altar with soft smoke; From whose white fragrant curtains thus I heard Language pronounc'd: "If thou canst not ascend These steps, die on that marble where thou art. Thy flesh, near cousin to the common dust, Will parch for lack of nutriment; thy bones Will wither in few years, and vanish so That not the quickest eye could find a grain Of what thou now art on that pavement cold. The sands of thy short life are spent this hour, And no hand in the universe can turn Thy hourglass, if these gummed leaves be burnt Ere thou canst mount up these immortal steps." I heard, I look'd: two senses both at once, So fine, so subtle, felt the tyranny Of that fierce threat and the hard task proposed. Prodigious seem'd the toil; the leaves were yet Burning, when suddenly a palsied chill Struck from the paved level up my limbs. And was ascending quick to put cold grasp Upon those streams that pulse beside the throat. I shriek'd, and the sharp anguish of my shriek Stung my own ears; I strove hard to escape The numbness, strove to gain the lowest step. Slow, heavy, deadly was my pace: the cold Grew stifling, suffocating at the heart; And when I clasp'd my hands I felt them not. One minute before death my ic'd foot touch'd The lowest stair; and, as it touch'd, life seem'd To pour in at the toes; I mounted up As once fair angels on a ladder flew From the green turf to heaven. "Holy Power," Cry'd I, approaching near the horned shrine, "What am I that another death come not To choke my utterance, sacrilegious, here?" Then said the veiled shadow: "Thou hast felt What 'tis to die and live again before Thy fated hour; that thou hadst power to do so Is thine own safety; thou hast dated on Thy doom." "High Prophetess," said I, "purge off, Benign, if so it please thee, my mind's film." "None can usurp this height," return'd that shade, "But those to whom the miseries of the world Are misery, and will not let them rest. All else who find a haven in the world, Where they may thoughtless sleep away their days, If by a chance into this fane they come, Rot on the pavement where thou rottedst half." "Are there not thousands in the world," said I, Encourag'd by the sooth voice of the shade, "Who love their fellows even to the death, Who feel the giant agony of the world, And more, like slaves to poor humanity, Labour for mortal good? I sure should see Other men here, but I am here alone." "Those whom thou spakest of are no visionaries," Rejoin'd that voice; "they are no dreamers weak; They seek no wonder but the human face, No music but a happy-noted voice: They come not here, they have no thought to come; And thou art here, for thou art less than they. What benefit canst thou do, or all thy tribe, To the great world? Thou art a dreaming thing, A fever of thyself: think of the earth; What bliss, even in hope, is there for thee? What haven? every creature hath its home, Every sole man hath days of joy and pain, Whether his labours be sublime or low, The pain alone, the joy alone, distinct: Only the dreamer venoms all his days, Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve. Therefore, that happiness be somewhat shared, Such things as thou art are admitted oft Into like gardens thou didst pass erewhile, And suffer'd in these temples: for that cause Thou standest safe beneath this statue's knees." "That I am favour'd for unworthiness, But such propitious parley medicined In sickness not ignoble, I rejoice, Aye, and could weep for love of such award." So answer'd I, continuing, "If it please, Majestic shadow, tell me where I am, Whose altar this, for whom this incense curls; What image this whose face I cannot see For the broad marble knees; and who thou art, Of accent feminine so courteous?" Then the tall shade, in drooping linen veil'd, Spoke out, so much more earnest, that her breath Stirr'd the thin folds of gauze that drooping hung About a golden censer from her hand Pendent; and by her voice I knew she shed Long-treasured tears. "This temple, sad and lone, Is all spar'd from the thunder of a war Foughten long since by giant hierarchy Against rebellion: this old image here, Whose carved features wrinkled as he fell, Is Saturn's; I, Moneta, left supreme, Sole goddess of this desolation." I had no words to answer, for my tongue, Useless, could find about its roofed home No syllable of a fit majesty To make rejoinder of Moneta's mourn: There was a silence, while the altar's blaze Was fainting for sweet food. I look'd thereon, And on the paved floor, where nigh were piled Faggots of cinnamon, and many heaps Of other crisped spicewood: then again I look'd upon the altar, and its horns Whiten'd with ashes, and its languorous flame, And then upon the offerings again; And so, by turns, till sad Moneta cry'd: "The sacrifice is done, but not the less Will I be kind to thee for thy good will. My power, which to me is still a curse, Shall be to thee a wonder; for the scenes Still swooning vivid through my globbed brain, With an electral changing misery, Thou shalt with these dull mortal eyes behold Free from all pain, if wonder pain thee not." As near as an immortal's sphered words Could to a mother's soften were these last: And yet I had a terror of her robes, And chiefly of the veils that from her brow Hung pale, and curtain'd her in mysteries, That made my heart too small to hold its blood. This saw that Goddess, and with sacred hand Parted the veils. Then saw I a wan face, Not pin'd by human sorrows, but bright-blanch'd By an immortal sickness which kills not; It works a constant change, which happy death Can put no end to; deathwards progressing To no death was that visage; it had past The lilly and the snow; and beyond these I must not think now, though I saw that face. But for her eyes I should have fled away; They held me back with a benignant light, Soft, mitigated by divinest lids Half-clos'd, and visionless entire they seem'd Of all external things; they saw me not, But in blank splendour beam'd, like the mild moon, Who comforts those she sees not, who knows not What eyes are upward cast. As I had found A grain of gold upon a mountain's side, And, twing'd with avarice, strain'd out my eyes To search its sullen entrails rich with ore, So, at the sad view of Moneta's brow, I ask'd to see what things the hollow brow Behind environ'd: what high tragedy In the dark secret chambers of her skull Was acting, that could give so dread a stress To her cold lips, and fill with such a light Her planetary eyes, and touch her voice With such a sorrow? "Shade of Memory!" Cried I, with act adorant at her feet, "By all the gloom hung round thy fallen house, By this last temple, by the golden age, By Great Apollo, thy dear Foster-child, And by thyself, forlorn divinity, The pale Omega of a wither'd race, Let me behold, according as thou saidst, What in thy brain so ferments to and fro!" No sooner had this conjuration past My devout lips, than side by side we stood (Like a stunt bramble by a solemn pine) Deep in the shady sadness of a vale Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn, Far from the fiery noon and eve's one star. Onward I look'd beneath the gloomy boughs, And saw what first I thought an image huge, Like to the image pedestall'd so high In Saturn's temple; then Moneta's voice Came brief upon mine ear. "So Saturn sat When he had lost his realms;" whereon there grew A power within me of enormous ken To see as a god sees, and take the depth Of things as nimbly as the outward eye Can size and shape pervade. The lofty theme Of those few words hung vast before my mind With half-unravell'd web. I sat myself Upon an eagle's watch, that I might see, And seeing ne'er forget. No stir of life Was in this shrouded vale, not so much air As in the zoning of a summer's day Robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass; But where the dead leaf fell there did it rest. A stream went noiseless by, still deaden'd more By reason of the fallen divinity Spreading more shade; the Naiad 'mid her reeds Prest her cold finger closer to her lips. Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went No further than to where old Saturn's feet Had rested, and there slept how long a sleep! Degraded, cold, upon the sodden ground His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead, Unsceptred, and his realmless eyes were closed; While his bow'd head seem'd listening to the Earth, His ancient mother, for some comfort yet. It seem'd no force could wake him from his place; But there came one who, with a kindred hand, Touch'd his wide shoulders, after bending low With reverence, though to one who knew it not. Then came the griev'd voice of Mnemosyne, And griev'd I hearken'd. "That divinity Whom thou saw'st step from yon forlornest wood, And with slow pace approach our fallen king, Is Thea, softest-natured of our brood." I mark'd the Goddess, in fair statuary Surpassing wan Moneta by the head, And in her sorrow nearer woman's tears. There was a list'ning fear in her regard, As if calamity had but begun; As if the venom'd clouds of evil days Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear Was with its stored thunder labouring up, One hand she press'd upon that aching spot Where beats the human heart, as if just there, Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain; The other upon Saturn's bended neck She laid, and to the level of his ear Leaning, with parted lips some words she spoke In solemn tenour and deep organ-tone; Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue Would come in this like accenting; how frail To that large utterance of the early gods! "Saturn, look up! and for what, poor lost king? I have no comfort for thee; no, not one; I cannot say, wherefore thus sleepest thou? For Heaven is parted from thee, and the Earth Knows thee not, so afflicted, for a god. The Ocean, too, with all its solemn noise, Has from thy sceptre pass'd; and all the air Is emptied of thy hoary majesty. Thy thunder, captious at the new command, Rumbles reluctant o'er our fallen house; And thy sharp lightning, in unpractis'd hands, Scourges and burns our once serene domain. "With such remorseless speed still come new woes, That unbelief has not a space to breathe. Saturn! sleep on: me thoughtless, why should I Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude? Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes? Saturn! sleep on, while at thy feet I weep." As when upon a tranced summer-night Forests, branch-charmed by the earnest stars, Dream, and so dream all night without a noise, Save from one gradual solitary gust Swelling upon the silence, dying off, As if the ebbing air had but one wave, So came these words and went; the while in tears She prest her fair large forehead to the earth, Just where her fallen hair might spread in curls, A soft and silken net for Saturn's feet. Long, long these two were postured motionless, Like sculpture builded-up upon the grave Or their own power. A long awful time I look'd upon them: still they were the same; The frozen God still bending to the earth, And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet; Moneta silent. Without stay or prop But my own weak mortality, I bore The load of this eternal quietude, The unchanging gloom and the three fixed shapes Ponderous upon my senses, a whole moon; For by my burning brain I measured sure Her silver seasons shedded on the night. And every day by day methought I grew More gaunt and ghostly. Oftentimes I pray'd Intense, that death would take me from the vale And all its burthens; gasping with despair Of change, hour after hour I curs'd myself, Until old Saturn rais'd his faded eyes, And look'd around and saw his kingdom gone, And all the gloom and sorrow of the place, And that fair kneeling Goddess at his feet. As the moist scent of flowers, and grass, and leaves, Fills forest-dells with a pervading air, Known to the woodland nostril, so the words Of Saturn fill'd the mossy glooms around, Even to the hollows of time-eaten oaks, And to the windings of the foxes' hole, With sad, low tones, while thus he spoke, and sent Strange moanings to the solitary Pan. "Moan, brethren, moan, for we are swallow'd up And buried from all godlike exercise Of influence benign on planets pale, And peaceful sway upon man's harvesting, And all those acts which Deity supreme Doth ease its heart of love in. Moan and wail; Moan, brethren, moan; for lo, the rebel spheres Spin round; the stars their ancient courses keep; Clouds still with shadowy moisture haunt the earth, Still suck their fill of light from sun and moon; Still buds the tree, and still the seashores murmur; There is no death in all the universe, No smell of death. There shall be death. Moan, moan, Moan, Cybele, moan; for thy pernicious babes Weak as the reed, weak, feeble as my voice. Oh! Oh! the pain, the pain of feebleness; Moan, moan, for still I thaw; or give me help; Throw down those imps, and give me victory. Let me hear other groans, and trumpets blown Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival, From the gold peaks of heaven's high-piled clouds; Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be Beautiful things made new, for the surprise Of the sky-children." So he feebly ceased, With such a poor and sickly-sounding pause, Methought I heard some old man of the earth Bewailing earthly loss; nor could my eyes And ears act with that unison of sense Which marries sweet sound with the grace of form, And dolorous accent from a tragic harp With large-limb'd visions. More I scrutinized. Still fixt he sat beneath the sable trees, Whose arms spread straggling in wild serpent forms With leaves all hush'd; his awful presence there (Now all was silent) gave a deadly lie To what I erewhile heard: only his lips Trembled amid the white curls of his beard; They told the truth, though round the snowy locks Hung nobly, as upon the face of heaven A mid-day fleece of clouds. Thea arose, And stretcht her white arm through the hollow dark, Pointing some whither: whereat he too rose, Like a vast giant, seen by men at sea To grow pale from the waves at dull midnight. They melted from my sight into the woods; Ere I could turn, Moneta cry'd, "These twain Are speeding to the families of grief, Where, rooft in by black rocks, they waste in pain And darkness, for no hope." And she spake on, As ye may read who can unwearied pass Onward from the antechamber of this dream, Where, even at the open doors, awhile I must delay, and glean my memory Of her high phrase, perhaps no further dare. CANTO II. "Mortal, that thou may'st understand aright, I humanize my sayings to thine ear, Making comparisons of earthly things; Or thou might'st better listen to the wind, Whose language is to thee a barren noise, Though it blows legend-laden thro' the trees. In melancholy realms big tears are shed, More sorrow like to this, and such like woe, Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe. The Titans fierce, self-hid or prison-bound, Groan for the old allegiance once more, Listening in their doom for Saturn's voice. But one of the whole eagle-brood still keeps His sovereignty, and rule, and majesty: Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire Still sits, still snuffs the incense teeming up From Man to the Sun's God, yet insecure. For as upon the earth dire prodigies Fright and perplex, so also shudders he; Not at dog's howl or gloom-bird's hated screech, Or the familiar visiting of one Upon the first toll of his passing bell, Or prophesyings of the midnight lamp; But horrors, portioned to a giant nerve, Make great Hyperion ache. His palace bright, Bastion'd with pyramids of shining gold, And touch'd with shade of bronzed obelisks, Glares a blood-red thro' all the thousand courts, Arches, and domes, and fiery galleries; And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds Flash angerly; when he would taste the wreaths Of incense, breath'd aloft from sacred hills, Instead of sweets, his ample palate takes Savour of poisonous brass and metals sick; Wherefore when harbour'd in the sleepy West, After the full completion of fair day, For rest divine upon exalted couch, And slumber in the arms of melody, He paces through the pleasant hours of ease, With strides colossal, on from hall to hall, While far within each aisle and deep recess His winged minions in close clusters stand Amaz'd, and full of fear; like anxious men, Who on a wide plain gather in sad troops, When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers. Even now where Saturn, rous'd from icy trance, Goes step for step with Thea from yon woods, Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear, Is sloping to the threshold of the West. Thither we tend." Now in the clear light I stood, Reliev'd from the dusk vale. Mnemosyne Was sitting on a square-edg'd polish'd stone, That in its lucid depth reflected pure Her priestess' garments. My quick eyes ran on From stately nave to nave, from vault to vault, Through bow'rs of fragrant and enwreathed light, And diamond-paved lustrous long arcades. Anon rush'd by the bright Hyperion; His flaming robes stream'd out beyond his heels, And gave a roar as if of earthy fire, That scar'd away the meek ethereal hours, And made their dove-wings tremble. On he flared.