Mother of this unfathomable world! Favor my solemn song, for I have loved Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched 20 Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps, And my heart ever gazes on the depth Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed In charnels and on coffins, where black death Keeps record of the trophies won from thee, Hoping to still these obstinate questionings Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost, Thy messenger, to render up the tale Of what we are. The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, Locks its mute music in her rugged cell. By solemn vision and bright silver dream His infancy was nurtured. Every sight And sound from the vast earth and ambient air Sent to his heart its choicest impulses.
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Mother of this unfathomable world! Favor my solemn song, for I have loved Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched 20 Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps, And my heart ever gazes on the depth Of thy deep mysteries.
I have made my bed In charnels and on coffins, where black death Keeps record of the trophies won from thee, Hoping to still these obstinate questionings Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost, Thy messenger, to render up the tale Of what we are. The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, Locks its mute music in her rugged cell.
By solemn vision and bright silver dream His infancy was nurtured. Every sight And sound from the vast earth and ambient air Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. When early youth had passed, he left His cold fireside and alienated home To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands.
Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, 80 His rest and food. A vision on his sleep There came, a dream of hopes that never yet Had flushed his cheek. Her voice was like the voice of his own soul Heard in the calm of thought; its music long, Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held His inmost sense suspended in its web Of many-colored woof and shifting hues.
Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme, And lofty hopes of divine liberty, Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy, Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame A permeating fire; wild numbers then She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs Subdued by its own pathos; her fair hands Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp Strange symphony, and in their branching veins The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale. The beating of her heart was heard to fill The pauses of her music, and her breath Tumultuously accorded with those fits Of intermitted song.
Sudden she rose, As if her heart impatiently endured Its bursting burden; at the sound he turned, And saw by the warm light of their own life Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare, Her dark locks floating in the breath of night, Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly. He reared his shuddering limbs, and quelled His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet Her panting bosomshe drew back awhile, Then, yielding to the irresistible joy, With frantic gesture and short breathless cry Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep, Like a dark flood suspended in its course, Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.
Roused by the shock, he started from his trance-- The cold white light of morning, the blue moon Low in the west, the clear and garish hills, The distinct valley and the vacant woods, Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled The hues of heaven that canopied his bower Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep, The mystery and the majesty of Earth, The joy, the exultation? The spirit of sweet human love has sent A vision to the sleep of him who spurned Her choicest gifts.
He eagerly pursues Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade; He overleaps the bounds. Were limbs and breath and being intertwined Thus treacherously?
Lost, lost, forever lost In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep, That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death Conduct to thy mysterious paradise, O Sleep?
This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart; The insatiate hope which it awakened stung His brain even like despair. While daylight held The sky, the Poet kept mute conference With his still soul. At night the passion came, Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream, And shook him from his rest, and led him forth Into the darkness.
Red morning dawned upon his flight, Shedding the mockery of its vital hues Upon his cheek of death. And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair, Sered by the autumn of strange suffering, Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand Hung like dead bone within its withered skin; Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone, As in a furnace burning secretly, From his dark eyes alone.
The cottagers, Who ministered with human charity His human wants, beheld with wondering awe Their fleeting visitant. At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore He paused, a wide and melancholy waste Of putrid marshes.
A strong impulse urged His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there, Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds. It rose as he approached, and, with strong wings Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course High over the immeasurable main. And what am I that I should linger here, With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes, Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven That echoes not my thoughts?
For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly Its precious charge, and silent death exposed, Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure, With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms.
Startled by his own thoughts, he looked around. There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind. A little shallop floating near the shore Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze. The day was fair and sunny; sea and sky Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves.
As one that in a silver vision floats Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly Along the dark and ruffled waters fled The straining boat. The waves arose. The little boat Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam Down the steep cataract of a wintry river; Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave; Now leaving far behind the bursting mass That fell, convulsing ocean; safely fled-- As if that frail and wasted human form Had been an elemental god.
At midnight The moon arose; and lo! A cavern there Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on With unrelaxing speed. Sleep and death Shall not divide us long. Shall the reverting stress Of that resistless gulf embosom it?
Now shall it fall? The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods. Where the embowering trees recede, and leave A little space of green expanse, the cove Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers Forever gaze on their own drooping eyes, Reflected in the crystal calm.
The Poet longed To deck with their bright hues his withered hair, But on his heart its solitude returned, And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame, Had yet performed its ministry; it hung Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods Of night close over it.
The noonday sun Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence A narrow vale embosoms. More dark And dark the shades accumulate. The oak, Expanding its immense and knotty arms, Embraces the light beech.
The pyramids Of the tall cedar overarching frame Most solemn domes within, and far below, Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky, The ash and the acacia floating hang Tremulous and pale. Soft mossy lawns Beneath these canopies extend their swells, Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms Minute yet beautiful.
One darkest glen Sends from its woods of musk-rose twined with jasmine A soul-dissolving odor to invite To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades, Like vaporous shapes half-seen; beyond, a well, Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave, Images all the woven boughs above, And each depending leaf, and every speck Of azure sky darting between their chasms; Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves Its portraiture, but some inconstant star, Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair, Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon, Or gorgeous insect floating motionless, Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon.
Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld Their own wan light through the reflected lines Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth Of that still fountain; as the human heart, Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave, Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard The motion of the leaves--the grass that sprung Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel An unaccustomed presence--and the sound Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs Of that dark fountain rose.
A Spirit seemed To stand beside him--clothed in no bright robes Of shadowy silver or enshrining light, Borrowed from aught the visible world affords Of grace, or majesty, or mystery; But undulating woods, and silent well, And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming, Held commune with him, as if he and it Were all that was; only--when his regard Was raised by intense pensiveness--two eyes, Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought, And seemed with their serene and azure smiles To beckon him.
Obedient to the light That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing The windings of the dell. The rivulet, Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell Among the moss with hollow harmony Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones It danced, like childhood laughing as it went; Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings crept, Reflecting every herb and drooping bud That overhung its quietness.
Whose source is inaccessibly profound, Whither do thy mysterious waters tend? Thou imagest my life. As one Roused by some joyous madness from the couch Of fever, he did move; yet not like him Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame Of his frail exultation shall be spent, He must descend.
A gradual change was here Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away, The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes Had shone, gleam stony orbsso from his steps Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds And musical motions.
Calm he still pursued The stream, that with a larger volume now Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there Fretted a path through its descending curves With its wintry speed.
The near scene, In naked and severe simplicity, Made contrast with the universe. Even on the edge of that vast mountain, Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks, It overlooked in its serenity The dark earth and the bending vault of stars.
It was a tranquil spot that seemed to smile Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped The fissured stones with its entwining arms, And did embower with leaves forever green And berries dark the smooth and even space Of its inviolated floor; and here The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore In wanton sport those bright leaves whose decay, Red, yellow, or ethereally pale, Rivals the pride of summer.
One step, One human step alone, has ever broken The stillness of its solitude; one voice Alone inspired its echoes;--even that voice Which hither came, floating among the winds, And led the loveliest among human forms To make their wild haunts the depository Of all the grace and beauty that endued Its motions, render up its majesty, Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm, And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould, Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss, Commit the colors of that varying cheek, That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes.
Ruin calls His brother Death! A rare and regal prey He hath prepared, prowling around the world; Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms, Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine The unheeded tribute of a broken heart. Yet a little, ere it fled, Did he resign his high and holy soul To images of the majestic past, That paused within his passive being now, Like winds that bear sweet music, when they breathe Through some dim latticed chamber.
He did place His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk Of the old pine; upon an ivied stone Reclined his languid head; his limbs did rest, Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink Of that obscurest chasm;--and thus he lay, Surrendering to their final impulses The hovering powers of life. Hope and Despair, The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear Marred his repose; the influxes of sense And his own being, unalloyed by pain, Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed The stream of thought, till he lay breathing there At peace, and faintly smiling.
It paused--it fluttered. But when heaven remained Utterly black, the murky shades involved An image silent, cold, and motionless, As their own voiceless earth and vacant air. Oh, that God, Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice Which but one living man has drained, who now, Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels No proud exemption in the blighting curse He bears, over the world wanders forever, Lone as incarnate death!
Oh, that the dream Of dark magician in his visioned cave, Raking the cinders of a crucible For life and power, even when his feeble hand Shakes in its last decay, were the true law Of this so lovely world!
But thou art fled, Like some frail exhalation, which the dawn Robes in its golden beams,--ah! The brave, the gentle and the beautiful, The child of grace and genius. Now thou art not!
Summary[ edit ] In Alastor the speaker ostensibly recounts the life of a Poet who zealously pursues the most obscure part of nature in search of "strange truths in undiscovered lands", journeying to the Caucasus Mountains "the ethereal cliffs of Caucasus" , Persia, "Arabie", Cashmire, and "the wild Carmanian waste". The Poet rejects an "Arab maiden" in his search for an idealised embodiment of a woman. As the Poet wanders one night, he dreams of a "veiled maid". This veiled vision brings with her an intimation of the supernatural world that lies beyond nature. This dream vision serves as a mediator between the natural and supernatural domains by being both spirit and an element of human love.
Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude
Mutability [ edit ] The poem first appeared in the collection Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude: And Other Poems, published by Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy in London:  We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon; How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver, Streaking the darkness radiantly! We rest. Themes[ edit ] The poem consists of four quatrains in abab iambic pentameter. The themes of transformation and metamorphosis and the transitory and ephemeral nature of human life and the works of mankind were also addressed in " Ozymandias " and " The Cloud " Human lives are as vaporous as clouds or untuned lyres that, discarded, have become like an Aeolian harp that is susceptible to every passing wind gust.