The Poetical Works Of Robert Bridges Part 75

Barely he-knew him again cow'ring shamefastly' an' hiding His dire plight, & thus he 'his old companyon accosted.

'n.o.blest Deiphobus, great Teucer's intrepid offspring, 500 Who was it, inhuman, coveted so cruel a vengeance?

Who can hav' adventur'd on thee? That last terrible night Thou wert said to hav' exceeded thy bravery, an' only On thy faln enemies wert faln by weariness o'ercome.

Wherefor' upon the belov'd sea-sh.o.r.e thine empty sepulchral Mound I erected, aloud on thy ghost tearfully calling.

Name and shield keep for-thee the place; but thy body, dear friend, Found I not, to commit to the land ere sadly' I left it.'

Then the son of Priam ['] 'I thought not, friend, to reproach thee: Thou didst all to the full, ev'n my shade's service, accomplish. 510 'Twas that uninterdicted adultress from Lacedaemon Drave-me to doom, & planted in h.e.l.l, her trophy triumphant.

On that night,--how vain a security and merrymaking Then sullied us thou know'st, yea must too keenly remember,-- When the ill-omened horse o'erleapt Troy's lofty defences, Dragg'd in amidst our town pregnant with a burden of arm'd men.

She then, her Phrygian women in feign'd phrenzy collecting, All with torches aflame, in wild Bacchic orgy paraded, Flaring a signal aloft to her ambusht confederate Greeks.

I from a world of care had fled with weariful eyelids 520 Unto my unhappy chamber', an' lay fast lockt in oblivyon, Sunk to the depth of rest as a child that nought will awaken.

Meanwhile that paragon helpmate had robb'd me of all arms, E'en from aneath the pillow my blade of trust purloining;-- Then to the gate; wide flings she it op'n an' calls Menelaus.

Would not a so great service attach her faithful adorer?

Might not it extinguish the repute of her earlier illdeeds?

Brief-be the tale. Menelaus arrives: in company there came His crime-counsellor aeolides. So, and more also Deal-ye', O G.o.ds, to the Greeks! an' if I call justly upon you.-- 530 But thou; what fortune hitherward, in turn prithy tell me, Sent-thee alive, whether erring upon the bewildering Ocean, Or high-prompted of heav'n, or by Fate wearily hunted, That to the sunless abodes and dusky demesnes thou approachest?'

Ev'n as awhile they thus converse it is already mid-day Unperceiv'd, but aloft earth's star had turn'd to declining.

And haply' aeneas his time in parley had outgone, Had not then the Sibyl with word of warning avized him.

'Night hieth, aeneas; in tears our journey delayeth.

See our road, that it here in twain disparteth asunder; 540 This to the right, skirting by th' high city-fortresses of Dis, Endeth in Elysium, our path; but that to the leftward Only receives their feet who wend to eternal affliction.'

Deiphobus then again, 'Speak not, great priestess, in anger; I will away to refill my number among th' unfortun'd.

Thou, my champyon, adieu! Go where thy glory awaits thee!'

When these words he 'had spok'n, he-turn'd and hastily was fled.

aeneas then look'd where leftward, under a mountain, Outspread a wide city lay, threefold with fortresses engirt, Lickt by a Tartarean river of live fire, the torrent[^ia]l 550 Red Phlegethon, and huge boulders his roundy bubbles be: Right i' the front stareth the columnar gate adamantine, Such that no battering warfare of men or immortals E'er might shake; blank-faced to the cloud its bastion upstands.

Tisiphone thereby in a bloodspotty robe sitteth alway Night and day guarding sleeplessly the desperat entrance, Wherefrom an awestirring groan-cry and fierce clamour outburst, Sharp lashes, insane yells, dragg'd chains and clanking of iron.

aeneas drew back, his heart by' his hearing affrighted: 'What manner of criminals, my guide, now tell-me,' he-question'd, 560 'Or what their penalties? what this great wail that ariseth?'

Answering him the divine priestess, 'Brave hero of Il[iu]m, O'er that guilty threshold no breath of purity may come: But Hecate, who gave-me to rule i' the groves of Avernus, Herself led me around, & taught heav'n's high retribution.

Here Cretan Rhadamanthus in unblest empery reigneth, Secret crime to punish,--full surely he-wringeth avowal Even of all that on earth, by vain impunity harden'd, Men sinning have put away from thought till[v]impenitent death.

On those convicted tremblers then leapeth avenging 570 Tisiphone with keen flesh-whips and vipery scourges, And of her implacable sisters inviteth attendance.'

--Now sudden on screeching hinges that portal accursed Flung wide its barriers.--'In what dire custody, mark thou, Is the threshold! guarded by how grim sentry the doorway!

More terrible than they the ravin'd insatiable Hydra That sitteth angry within. Know too that Tartarus itself Dives sheer gaping aneath in gloomy profundity downward Twice that height that a man looketh-up t'ward airy Olympus.

Lowest there those children of Earth, t.i.tanian elders, 580 In the abyss, where once they fell hurl'd, yet wallowing lie.

There the Aloidae saw I, th' ungainly rebel twins Primaeval, that a.s.say'd to devastate th' Empyraean With huge hands, and rob from Jove his kingdom immortal.

And there Salmoneus I saw, rend'ring heavy payment, For that he idly' had mockt heav'n's fire and thunder electric; With chariot many-yoked and torches brandishing on high Driving among 'his Graian folk in Olympian Elis; Exultant as a G.o.d he rode in blasphemy worshipt. 589 Fool, who th' unreckoning tempest and deadly dreaded bolt Thought to mimic with bra.s.s and confus'd trample of horses!

But 'him th' Omnipotent, from amidst his cloudy pavilyon, Blasted, an' eke his rattling car and smoky pretences Extinguish'd at a stroke, scattering ' his dust to the whirlwind.

There too huge t.i.tyos, whom Earth that gendereth all things Once foster'd, spreadeth-out o'er nine full roods his immense limbs.

On him a wild vulture with hook-beak greedily gorgeth His liver upsprouting quick as that h.e.l.l-chicken eateth.

She diggeth and dwelleth under the vast ribs, her b.l.o.o.d.y bare neck Lifting anon: ne'er loathes-she the food, ne'er fails the renewal. 600 Where wer' an end their names to relate, their crimes and torments?

Some o'er whom a hanging black rock, slipping at very point of Falling, ever threateneth: Couches luxurious invite Softly-cushion'd to repose: Tables for banqueting outlaid Tempt them ever-famishing: hard by them a Fury regardeth, And should they but a hand uplift, trembling to the dainties, She with live firebrand and direful yell springeth on them.

Their crimes,--not to' hav lov'd a brother while love was allow'd them; Or to' hav struck their father, or inveigled a dependant; 609 Or who chancing alone on wealth prey'd l.u.s.tfully thereon, Nor made share with others, no greater company than they: Some for adultery slain; some their bright swords had offended Drawn i' the wrong: or a master's trust with perfidy had met: Dungeon'd their penalties they await. Look not to be answer'd What that doom, nor th' end of these men think to determine.

Some aye roll heavy rocks, some whirl dizzy on the revolving Spokes of a pendant wheel: sitteth and to eternity shall sit Unfortun'd Theseus; while sad Phlegias saddeneth h.e.l.l With vain oyez to' all loud crying a tardy repentance, "Walk, O man, i' the fear of G.o.d, and learn to be righteous!"

Here another, who sold for gold his country, promoting 621 Her tyrant; or annull'd for a base bribe th' inviolate law.

This one had unfather'd his blood with b.e.s.t.i.a.l incest: All some fearful crime had dared & vaunted achievement.

What mind could harbour the offence of such recollection, Or lend welcoming ear to the tale of iniquity and shame, And to the pains wherewith such deeds are justly requited?

Ev'n when thus she' had spok'n, the priestess dear to Apollo, 'But, ready, come let us on, perform-we the order appointed!

Hast'n-we (saith-she), the wall forged on Cyclopian anvils Now I see, an' th' archway in aetna's furnace attemper'd, 631 Where my lore biddeth us to depose our high-privileg'd gift.'

Then together they trace i' the drooping dimness a footpath, Whereby, faring across, they arrive at th' arches of iron.

aeneas stept into the porch, and duly besprinkling His body with clear water affixt his bough to the lintel; And, having all perform'd at length with ritual exact, They came out on a lovely pleasance, that dream'd-of oasis, Fortunate isle, the abode o' the blest, their fair Happy Woodland.

Here is an ampler sky, those meads ar' azur'd by a gentler Sun than th' Earth, an' a new starworld their darkness adorneth. 641 Some were matching afoot their speed on a gra.s.sy arena, In playful combat some wrestling upon the yellow sand, Part in a dance-rhythm or poetry's fine phantasy engage; While full-toga'd anear their high-priest musical Orpheus Bade his prime sev'n tones in varied harmony discourse, Now with finger, anon sounding with an ivory plectrum.

And here aeneas met Teucer's fortunate offspring, High-spirited heroes, fair-favor'd sons o' the morning, a.s.sarac and Ilos ' and Dardan founder of Il[^iu]m: 650 Their radiant chariots he' espied rank't empty afar off, Their spears planted afield, their horses wandering at large, Grazing around:--as on earth their joy had been, whether armour Or chariot had charmed them, or if 'twer' good manage and care Of the gallant warhorse, the delight liv'd here unabated; Lo! then others, that about the meadow sat feasting in idless, And chanting for joy a familyar paean of old earth, By fragrant laurel o'ercanopied, where 'twixt enamel'd banks Bountiful Erida.n.u.s glides throu' their bosky retirement.

Here were men who bled for honour, their country defending; 660 Priests, whose lives wer' a flame of chast.i.ty on G.o.d's altar; Holy poets, content to await their crown of Apollo; Discoverers, whose labour had aided life or enn.o.bled; Or who fair memories had left though kindly deserving.

On their brow a fillet pearl-white distinguisheth all these: Whom the Sibyl, for they drew round, in question accosted, And most Musaeus, who tower'd n.o.ble among them, Center of all that sea of bright faces looking upward.

'Tell, happy souls, and thou poet and high mystic ill.u.s.trious, Where dwelleth Anchises? what home hath he? for 'tis in his quest 670 We hither have made journey across h.e.l.l's watery marches.'

Therto with brief parley rejoin'd that mystic of old-time.

'In no certain abode we-remain: by turn the forest glade Haunt-we, lilied stream-bank, sunny mead; and o'er valley and rock At will rove-we: but if ye aright your purpose arede me, Mount-ye the hill: myself will prove how easy the pathway.'

Speaking he led: and come to the upland, sheweth a fair plain Gleaming aneath; and they, with grateful adieu, the descent made.

Now Lord Anchises was down i' the green valley musing, Where the spirits confin'd that await mortal resurrection 680 While diligently he-mark'd, his thought had turn'd to his own kin, Whose numbers he-reckon'd, an' of all their progeny foretold Their fate and fortune, their ripen'd temper an' action.

He then, when he' espied aeneas t'ward him approaching O'er the meadow, both hands uprais'd and ran to receive him, Tears in his eyes, while thus his voice in high pa.s.sion outbrake.

'Ah, thou'rt come, thou'rt come! at length thy dearly belov'd grace Conquering all hath won-thee the way. 'Tis allow'd to behold thee, O my son,--yea again the familyar raptur' of our speech.

Nay, I look't for 't thus, counting patiently the moments, 690 And ever expected; nor did fond fancy betray me.

From what lands, my son, from what life-dangering ocean Art-thou arrived? full mighty perils thy path hav' opposed: And how nearly the dark Libyan thy destiny o'erthrew!'

Then 'he, 'Thy spirit, O my sire, 'twas thy spirit often Sadly appearing aroused-me to seek thy fair habitation.

My fleet moors i' the blue Tyrrhene: all with-me goeth well.

Grant-me to touch thy hand as of old, and thy body embrace.'

Speaking, awhile in tears his feeling mutinied, and when For the longing contact of mortal affection, he out-held 700 His strong arms, the figure sustain'd them not: 'twas as empty E'en as a windworn cloud, or a phantom of irrelevant sleep.

On the level bosom of this vale more thickly the tall trees Grow, an' aneath quivering poplars and whispering alders Lethe's dreamy river throu' peaceful scenery windeth.

Whereby now flitted in vast swarms many people of all lands, As when in early summer 'honey-bees on a flowery pasture Pill the blossoms, hurrying to' an' fro,--innumerous are they, Revisiting the ravish'd lily cups, while all the meadow hums.

aeneas was turn'd to the sight, and marvelling inquired, 710 'Say, sir, what the river that there i' the vale-bottom I see?

And who they that thickly along its bank have a.s.sembled?'

Then Lord Anchises, 'The spirits for whom a second life And body are destined ar' arriving thirsty to Lethe, And here drink th' unmindful draught from wells of oblivyon.

My heart greatly desired of this very thing to acquaint thee, Yea, and show-thee the men to-be-born, our glory her'after, So to gladden thine heart where now thy voyaging endeth.'

'Must it then be-believ'd, my sire, that a soul which attaineth Elysium will again submit to her old body-burden? 720 Is this well? what hap can awake such dire longing in them?'

'I will tell thee', O son, nor keep thy wonder awaiting,'

Answereth Anchises, and all expoundeth in order.

Know first that the heavens, and th' Earth, and s.p.a.ce fluid or void, Night's pallid orb, day's Sun, and all his starry coaevals, Are by one spirit inly quickened, and, mingling in each part, Mind informs the matter, nature's complexity ruling.

Thence the living creatures, man, brute, and ev'ry feather'd fowl, And what breedeth in Ocean aneath her surface of argent: Their seed knoweth a fiery vigour, 'tis of airy divine birth, 730 In so far as unimpeded by an alien evil, Nor dull'd by the body's framework condemn'd to corruption.

Hence the desires and vain tremblings that a.s.sail them, unable Darkly prison'd to arise to celestial exaltation; Nor when death summoneth them anon earth-life to relinquish, Can they in all discard their stain, nor wholly away with Mortality's plaguespots. It must-be that, O, many wild graffs Deeply at 'heart engrain'd have rooted strangely upon them: Wherefore must suffering purge them, yea, Justice atone them With penalties heavy as their guilt: some purify exposed 740 Hung to the viewless winds, or others long watery searchings Low i' the deep wash clean, some bathe in f[^ie]ry renewal: Each cometh unto his own retribution,--if after in ample Elysium we attain, but a few, to the fair Happy Woodland, Yet slow time still worketh on us to remove the defilement, Till it hath eaten away the acquir'd dross, leaving again free That first f[^ie]ry vigour, the celest[^ia]l virtue of our life.

All whom here thou s[^ee]st, hav' accomplished purification: Unto the stream of Lethe a G.o.d their company calleth, That forgetful of old failure, pain & disappointment, 750 They may again into' earthly bodies with glad courage enter.'

Twin be the gates o' the house of sleep: as fable opineth 893 One is of horn, and thence for a true dream outlet is easy: Fair the other, shining perfected of ivory carven; But false are the visions that thereby find pa.s.sage upward.

Soon then as Anchises had spok'n, he-led the Sibyl forth And his son, and both dismisst from th' ivory portal.

FINISH

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