By the example of certain Grecian mariners, who, being safely returned from the war about Troy, leave yet again their old lands and gods, seeking they know not what, and choosing neither to abide in the fair Phaeacian island, nor to dwell and die with the Sirens, at length end miserably in a desert country by the sea, is set forth the Vanity of Melancholy. And by the land of Phaeacia is to be understood the place of Art and of fair Pleasures; and by Circe’s Isle, the place of bodily delights, whereof men, falling aweary, attain to Eld, and to the darkness of that age. Which thing Master Francoys Rabelais feigned, under the similitude of the Isle of the Macraeones.
There is a land in the remotest day,
Where the soft night is born, and sunset dies;
The eastern shore sees faint tides fade away,
That wash the lands where laughter, tears, and sighs
Make life,—the lands below the blue of common skies.
But in the west is a mysterious sea,
(What sails have seen it, or what shipmen known?)
With coasts enchanted where the Sirens be,
With islands where a Goddess walks alone,
And in the cedar trees the magic winds make moan.
Eastward the human cares of house and home,
Cities, and ships, and unknown gods, and loves;
Westward, strange maidens fairer than the foam,
And lawless lives of men, and haunted groves,
Wherein a god may dwell, and where the Dryad roves.
The gods are careless of the days and death
Of toilsome men, beyond the western seas;
The gods are heedless of their painful breath,
And love them not, for they are not as these;
But in the golden west they live and lie at ease.
Yet the Phaeacians well they love, who live
At the light’s limit, passing careless hours,
Most like the gods; and they have gifts to give,
Even wine, and fountains musical, and flowers,
And song, and if they will, swift ships, and magic powers.
It is a quiet midland; in the cool
Of the twilight comes the god, though no man prayed,
To watch the maids and young men beautiful
Dance, and they see him, and are not afraid,
For they are neat of kin to gods, and undismayed.
Ah, would the bright red prows might bring us nigh
The dreamy isles that the Immortals keep!
But with a mist they hide them wondrously,
And far the path and dim to where they sleep,—
The loved, the shadowy lands, along the shadowy deep.
The languid sunset, mother of roses,
Lingers, a light on the magic seas,
The wide fire flames, as a flower uncloses,
Heavy with odour, and loose to the breeze.
The red rose clouds, without law or leader,
Gather and float in the airy plain;
The nightingale sings to the dewy cedar,
The cedar scatters his scent to the main.