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Lamia   By: (1795-1821)

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LAMIA

By John Keats

Part 1

Upon a time, before the faery broods Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods, Before King Oberon's bright diadem, Sceptre, and mantle, clasp'd with dewy gem, Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip'd lawns, The ever smitten Hermes empty left His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft: From high Olympus had he stolen light, On this side of Jove's clouds, to escape the sight Of his great summoner, and made retreat Into a forest on the shores of Crete. For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt A nymph, to whom all hoofed Satyrs knelt; At whose white feet the languid Tritons poured Pearls, while on land they wither'd and adored. Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont, And in those meads where sometime she might haunt, Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse, Though Fancy's casket were unlock'd to choose. Ah, what a world of love was at her feet! So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat Burnt from his winged heels to either ear, That from a whiteness, as the lily clear, Blush'd into roses 'mid his golden hair, Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare. From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew, Breathing upon the flowers his passion new, And wound with many a river to its head, To find where this sweet nymph prepar'd her secret bed: In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found, And so he rested, on the lonely ground, Pensive, and full of painful jealousies Of the Wood Gods, and even the very trees. There as he stood, he heard a mournful voice, Such as once heard, in gentle heart, destroys All pain but pity: thus the lone voice spake: "When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake! When move in a sweet body fit for life, And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife Of hearts and lips! Ah, miserable me!" The God, dove footed, glided silently Round bush and tree, soft brushing, in his speed, The taller grasses and full flowering weed, Until he found a palpitating snake, Bright, and cirque couchant in a dusky brake.

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue, Vermilion spotted, golden, green, and blue; Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard, Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd; And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed, Dissolv'd, or brighter shone, or interwreathed Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries So rainbow sided, touch'd with miseries, She seem'd, at once, some penanced lady elf, Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self. Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar: Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter sweet! She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete: And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair? As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air. Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love's sake, And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay, Like a stoop'd falcon ere he takes his prey.

"Fair Hermes, crown'd with feathers, fluttering light, I had a splendid dream of thee last night: I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold, Among the Gods, upon Olympus old, The only sad one; for thou didst not hear The soft, lute finger'd Muses chaunting clear, Nor even Apollo when he sang alone, Deaf to his throbbing throat's long, long melodious moan. I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes, Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks, And, swiftly as a bright Phoebean dart, Strike for the Cretan isle; and here thou art! Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid?" Whereat the star of Lethe not delay'd His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired: "Thou smooth lipp'd serpent, surely high inspired! Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes, Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise, Telling me only where my nymph is fled, Where she doth breathe!" "Bright planet, thou hast said," Return'd the snake, "but seal with oaths, fair God!" "I swear," said Hermes, "by my serpent rod, And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown!" Light flew his earnest words, among the blossoms blown... Continue reading book >>




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