The Witch of Atlas

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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 How, my dear Mary,—are you critic-bitten
 (For vipers kill, though dead) by some review,
 That you condemn these verses I have written,
 Because they tell no story, false or true?
 What, though no mice are caught by a young kitten, _5
 May it not leap and play as grown cats do,
 Till its claws come? Prithee, for this one time,
 Content thee with a visionary rhyme.

 What hand would crush the silken-winged fly,
 The youngest of inconstant April's minions, _10
 Because it cannot climb the purest sky,
 Where the swan sings, amid the sun's dominions?
 Not thine. Thou knowest 'tis its doom to die,
 When Day shall hide within her twilight pinions
 The lucent eyes, and the eternal smile, _15
 Serene as thine, which lent it life awhile.

 To thy fair feet a winged Vision came,
 Whose date should have been longer than a day,
 And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,
 And in thy sight its fading plumes display; _20
 The watery bow burned in the evening flame.
 But the shower fell, the swift Sun went his way—
 And that is dead.—O, let me not believe
 That anything of mine is fit to live!

 Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years _25
 Considering and retouching Peter Bell;
 Watering his laurels with the killing tears
 Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to Hell
 Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the spheres
 Of Heaven, with dewy leaves and flowers; this well _30
 May be, for Heaven and Earth conspire to foil
 The over-busy gardener's blundering toil.

 My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature
 As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise
 Clothes for our grandsons—but she matches Peter, _35
 Though he took nineteen years, and she three days
 In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre
 She wears; he, proud as dandy with his stays,
 Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress
 Like King Lear's 'looped and windowed raggedness.' _40

 If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow
 Scorched by Hell's hyperequatorial climate
 Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow:
 A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at;
 In shape a Scaramouch, in hue Othello. _45
 If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate
 Can shrive you of that sin,—if sin there be
 In love, when it becomes idolatry.


 Before those cruel Twins, whom at one birth
 Incestuous Change bore to her father Time, _50
 Error and Truth, had hunted from the Earth
 All those bright natures which adorned its prime,
 And left us nothing to believe in, worth
 The pains of putting into learned rhyme,
 A lady-witch there lived on Atlas' mountain _55
 Within a cavern, by a secret fountain.

 Her mother was one of the Atlantides:
 The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden
 In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas
 So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden _60
 In the warm shadow of her loveliness;—
 He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden
 The chamber of gray rock in which she lay—
 She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.

 'Tis said, she first was changed into a vapour, _65
 And then into a cloud, such clouds as flit,
 Like splendour-winged moths about a taper,
 Round the red west when the sun dies in it:
 And then into a meteor, such as caper
 On hill-tops when the moon is in a fit: _70
 Then, into one of those mysterious stars
 Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars....