Shall see the truth?’ Behind, be what there may,
I dare the hazard—I will lift the veil—”
Loud rang his shouting voice—“and I will see!”
A lengthen’d echo, mocking, shrill’d again!
He spoke and rais’d the veil! And ask’st thou what
Unto the sacrilegious gaze lay bare?
I know not—pale and senseless, stretch’d before
The statue of the great Egyptian queen,
The priests beheld him at the dawn of day;
But what he saw, or what did there befall,
His lips reveal’d not. Ever from his heart
Was fled the sweet serenity of life,
And the deep anguish dug the early grave
“Woe—woe to him”—such were his warning words,
Answering some curious and impetuous brain,
“Woe—for her face shall charm him never more!
Woe—woe to him who treads through Guilt to TRUTH!”
* * * * *
THE IDEAL AND THE ACTUAL LIFE (1795)
Forever fair, forever calm and bright,
Life flies on plumage, zephyr-light,
For those who on the Olympian hill rejoice—
Moons wane, and races wither to the tomb,
And ’mid the universal ruin, bloom
The rosy days of Gods—
With Man, the choice,
Timid and anxious, hesitates between
The sense’s pleasure and the soul’s content;
While on celestial brows, aloft and sheen,
The beams of both are blent.
Seek’st thou on earth the life
of Gods to share,
Safe in the Realm of Death?—beware
To pluck the fruits that glitter to thine eye;
Content thyself with gazing on their glow—
Short are the joys Possession can bestow,
And in Possession sweet Desire will die.
’Twas not the ninefold chain of waves that bound
Thy daughter, Ceres, to the Stygian river—
She pluck’d the fruit of the unholy ground,
And so—was Hell’s forever!
The Weavers of the Web—the
The matter and the things of clay;
Safe from each change that Time to Matter gives,
Nature’s blest playmate, free at will to stray
With Gods a god, amidst the fields of Day,
The FORM, the ARCHETYPE, serenely lives.
Would’st thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast from thee, Earth, the bitter and the real,
High from this cramp’d and dungeon being, spring
Into the Realm of the Ideal!
Here, bathed, Perfection, in thy purest
Free from the clogs and taints of clay,
Hovers divine the Archetypal Man!
Dim as those phantom ghosts of life that gleam
And wander voiceless by the Stygian stream,—
Fair as it stands in fields Elysian,
Ere down to Flesh the Immortal doth descend:—
If doubtful ever in the Actual life
Each contest—here a victory crowns the end
Of every nobler strife.