"We sail'd beyond the great gates of the World,
That shut in all we know,--into the Deep
Unknown; and on and on, by day and night,
We fled along the unruffled Ocean-floor,
Borne by light, happy winds, till hope began
To freeze to fear; for there was ne'er a change,
Nor rock, nor isle, to speak the azure vast,
That with the blue heaven made a single orb
Unfathomable, above us and below.
Our men cried, 'Wither wend we?' and began
To whisper, and to mutter, and to snarl.
Methought they yearn'd to fling me to the sharks
And krakens; but I said, 'Have patience yet
A single day, and bear with me, for I
Have mystic warrant for the things I do.
I saw in dream a land that none have seen.
A voice said, 'Seven days' sail shall bring thee there';
And this is but the sixth.' They scowl'd on me;
And 'If another morn,' said one, 'shall break
Without thy dream's fulfilment'--as he spake,
The wind blew fresher, and the ship sped on.
I rose, and pointed with my trembling hand
To where at intervals a mountain-peak
Clave the far-rolling purple, and shone out
Brighter with every moment, as we glanced
Along the seas: and then a shout arose,
And all hands to their travail turn'd again
With an obedient awe, and better will.
The seventh day all the day we sail'd, till eve
Flush'd the grey main, and, at the set of sun,
Over the waves that roll'd into the flame
Of the wide West, I saw an island lone
Far off grow dark against the flood and fire,
Like some great battle tower. There lay a cloud
Upon its topmost summit, burning red,
That seem'd a giant with uplifted arms;
He seem'd to blow a trumpet from on high,
And wave a banner. On the morrow morn,
The morning of the eighth day, at the dawn,
Were we spellbound, or did a choral strain,
Solemn and sweet, float to us o'er the sea,
As tho' the guardian spirits of the place
Had bad us welcome to it? On we fared
Nearer and nearer to that nameless isle:
And now we saw its beauty waken up
With every moment, and our gladness rose.
On either hand seashore, with gardens back'd,
And high with plumed forests, higher still
With silver mountain thrones that turn'd to gold
At the first sunburst; and, midway between
The shores and woods, a piled city ranged,
Terrace on terrace, citadel and tower,
And dome and pinnacle; soft shadows fell
From summer clouds upon that happy realm,
Kissing the lights with coolness, and anon
Between them great shafts of translucent gold
Made the deep valleys and tall cliffs to burn
With gem-like clearness.
As we near'd the strand,
We saw the ramparts and the city-wall
Throng'd with the multitudes; but not a voice
Clave the clear air; and, when the anchor fell,
Two or three pass'd down to us with grave mien,
And eyes of wonder, and some words were spoken
In a strange speech; and then they sign'd to one
Who stood apart, a man of stately build
And many years; and with a peaceful smile
He bad us welcome, uttering friendly words
In the same tongue. I thought it strange at first;
But, listening eagerly, it seem'd I heard
Some old old utterance of the golden notes
Of Hellas; and, in hearing more and more,
I shaped the speaker's thought in antique words,
As one by gazing on a mother's face
Long lost may trace the semblance of his own.
And clearly and more clear, as he discoursed,
Rose the full stature of the archaic tongue,
Majestical, as are the massive girth,
And gnarled boughs, of some ancestral oak,
That far above the valley's leaves and streams
Murmurs apart, and whispers of the Past.
'Approach and fear not, whosoe'er thou art,
And whencesoe'er,' he said, 'and wonder not,
Tho' we must wonder; for behold thou standest
On the last remnant of the ancient world,
That was the nurse of nations, ere the deep,
Like Death itself, in one night swallow'd it,
Hungrier than Death who leaves our bones entire,
It left no fragment but this lonely isle.
This dreadful doom I will relate to thee
Some time when I have shown thee other things.
I bid thee welcome; 'tis a day foretold
By the old oracles whose voice I am,
Ministering in the temple night and day.
Thou art the man to whom the Gods have made
A way to us across the dreadful deep,
The first of all for many thousand years.
And, were it not that I am heir to them
From whom the nations flow'd, thou hadst not breathed
The spirit of my speech, nor I of thine;
And thou hadst been, on these remotest shores,
As one who wanders down among the dead,
The silent shades; but in the early time
Flocking from east and west, and north and south,
The sons and daughters of far hills and isles
Sought this world's paradise, Atlantis fair,
That lay where now the ruthless ocean rolls.
But since that day, when, looking towards the West,
We saw but the wild waters, toward the East,
And saw but the wild waters, none have dared
The angry deep to visit us, save one,
Like thee, a Greek, who, generations past,
Was cast by evil winds upon these shores,
And never parted more, but lived and died
Among us, and forgot his fatherland,
For love of the sweet refuge he had found;
And sons and daughters were born to him here.
One of his kindred among us still;
Though ages are roll'd by, he hath not yet
Forgot their tongue and thine, and he may well
Serve as interpreter 'twixt thee and us.
No islander of ours hath found his way
To other shores; ah me! we know not aught
Who once knew all things; we who had all powers
And blisses of the earth are smitten down;
Nor know we if the whole world, like our own,
Hath perish'd in the waters. In old time
Our fleets went outward, freighted with our wealth,
Our sons and daughters with them, and all lands
Owe life to ours. I know not whence thou art;
But this I know, that thy melodious tongue
Sure is the tender offspring of our own.'
"While yet he spoke a herald cross'd the way,
And bad us to the regal banquet-chamber.
And soon we mounted by a marble stair
Up to the palace of the living King,
The last of the Atlantes, heritor
Of that one island, the fair jewel left
To witness to past riches, heritor
Of silent memories, whose dim twilights cast
All actual into darkness. He rose up
To bid us welcome, and the guests came in,
And took their places; to the foremost seats
We were led up by silent seneschals.
From unseen alcoves rose the sound of harps
And voices in low-breathed harmonies,
That, from the shadows, reach'd us, sad and sweet,
And seem'd to swoon as tenderly away,
As summer seas that fall along the shore
Thro' silvery whispers into silences;
As memories dying back thro' sumless years.
The carven vessels on the banquet-table
Were wrought in weird, sweet fashions; and the shapes,
Crusting the gold and silver, show'd us things
We fondly dreamt of as Hellenic lore,
Hellenic poesy, Hellenic art;
And yet were older than our race entire,
Dating from dimmest æons of the dawn
Of very Time itself. All I beheld
Showed me the might and magistery of men,
The vanished ancestors of those I saw.
The sculptures set in niche or pedestal;
The pictured phantasies along the walls;
The wreathen scroll-work on the roof, afire
With rainbow colours, and the writhen gold
Of the tall urns and jewell'd chalices;
The musical sweet voices of the singers,
Who sang the songs of ages that had reap'd
The harvest of all good things long ago;
The unknown instruments, of gracious mould,
For wind or string; all round me made me feel
Like some hoar patriarch of an hundred years,
Whose soul is dark to all beyond the day,
When for a moment memory glances forth,
Like a last glory from the setting sun
Firing the peaks of snow, and shows him deeds
Done in the warlike prowess of his youth;
He starts, and weeps, and wonders at himself,
And sighs that all is fled for ever by,
All but his weary frame and vain regrets.
And when the cupbearers with silent grace
Bore round in graven ewers the bright blood
Of island vintages, long hid away
In sunless grots, until the prison'd fires,
As 'twere rejoicing in their freedom, leapt
Out of long years of darkness into day,
And gave the sun back all its stolen gold,
Methought the fragrance of the amber drops,
And purple, rose up in my sense, like steam
Of orient mists shot thro' with sparks of dawn
Innumerable, and thro' my heart and brain
Wander'd sweet phantoms, born of the delight
Of that old wine breathing of paradises,
And the first world of loving hearts and free.
"And when the feast was ended, and the hearts
Of men wax'd jocund with the golden wine,
The heir of the Atlantes, with a smile
Bending toward my grandsire: 'Stranger, speak;
All other tongues will hush; I pray thee speak
of that thou knowest, and hast seen; for we
Are lost to space and time since that great day.
And if a winged messenger came down
From the Immortals, he were not more rare
Than thou art fresh from the great outer world.'
'O King,' he answer'd, 'it would fill the days,
And months, and years of yet another life
As long as mine lived back into the past,
If I should tell thee all the marvelous things
That I have mark'd since boyhood. Then I spake,'
My grandsire said, 'of all my busy life,
My many wanderings by land and sea,
Thro' Persia, Egypt, Araby, and Ind;
Of Scythian ruins, seeming old as time,
Of many tongues whose diverse utterance raised
Barriers 'twixt race and race, and man and man.
And then he show'd me how the differing forms
Of this diversity were but the strands
Of the one cable anchor'd in the deeps
Of fathomless antiquity; once more
He show'd me how to wind the scatter'd threads
Into the primal unity. And once,
Spurr'd on by busy cares of life, I said,
I went down into Egypt, and I saw
Mysterious, imperishable stones
Of structures, older than all memories
Of generations of the living race
Of mortal men, whereof no record lived
In scroll or legend.' With astonished eyes
King Atlas said, ''Tis ev'n as I had dreamt.
Thy memory pictures to me the old land
In its first beauty; all that thou hast seen
Of regal structure, pillar'd temple, tomb
Pyramidal, is but the shadow cast
From the old world, how fair soe'er they seem.
And if the spirit of thine Hellas wrought
The thoughts, inherited thro' countless years,
Into all lovely fashions, 'twas no more
Than the first instincts breath'd from sire to son,
Of the first generations; nay far less,
And ever dimmer, as the interval
'Twixt past and present widen'd thro' the years;
And only then to be reborn in full
Perfection of their beauty, when the days
Of these sad years of lamentation cease;
When the great manhood of the world shall come,
Crown'd with that glory, which the Gods shall give,
Unknown to all the ages that have been.
In thy discourse, methinks, I meet again
Mine ancestry, whose noble land was lost
These many thousand years, the self-same race,
Whose mighty deeds are chanted by us yet
In this lone isle, the only remnant left
To witness for the truth of the great days.
Oh! when I hear thy voice, I feel as they
Who pass thro' some far city they have dreamt
Long years before, and now remember nought,
But know they look on a familiar thing.'
Again my grandsire spake before the King:
'And when I saw the proud Egyptian Lords,
And the high chief of armies, and the first
In council, and the women wise and fair,
I spoke to them of Athens, Corinth, Thebes,
Bright eyes of Hellas, and of our renown.
They said, 'A greater Athens stood where now
She stands, a people wiser than ye are,
Who boast yourselves supreme; and, where the proud
Acropolis looks over the blue sea,
A fairer city shone, whose noble sons
Seem'd very Gods on earth--so moulded they,
So dower'd with mind--each brotherhood in arts
Or arms wrought earnestly, and with that love
That grows perfection; their heroic men
Subdued the nations, and their wisdom ruled;
Their priests of holy things, their ministers
Of justice, and their lawgivers were fill'd
With the pure spirit of truth.' 'I wonder not,'
King Atlas said, 'for when the land, that sank
Beneath the waters, was the chief on earth,
Great hosts went out from it, and fill'd the earth
Eastward; thine ancestors were sons of ours.'
My grandsire said, 'The Egyptians told me this,--
Alas! 'tis sad, yet vain, to think of it--
That foremost race, the cities of that time,
The primal Athens with its glory fell
The selfsame hour when earthquake, storm, and sea
Bore down the great Atlantis.' He replied,
'Oh thou art from the remnant that escaped
When desolations at the fated time
Wasted these regions, and thy fatherland.'
'They told me also this,' my grandsire said,
'Of old, where now the long Piræus runs
Down to the waters, only fishers' huts
Stood on the shore beside their little barks;
Upon the heights the shepherd's tent, and flock.'
King Atlas said, 'We knew not if thy land
Were desolate, or still inhabited;
For, since the doom that swallow'd up our world,
The sons of the first race, whom thou hast found
Dwelling in this far isle, are drown'd in night,
As their forefathers in the flood; since then
All things are hid from us, the world is lost;
No voice from it hath reach'd us o'er the seas;
No living sign hath pass'd from us to them.
But now I know thou art a brother, saved
From the great wreck, as we are; and thy tongue,
Tho' varied, claims a kinship unto ours.'
"He ended, and tumultuous voices rose.
And, when they ceased, the monarch raised his hand,
And call'd upon his chief of bards, a man
Who seem'd to press beneath his breast and brows
Secrets of the old cycles, ere the lights
Of other lands were kindled, that are now
The world's great capitals; and he began
In tones not low nor loud, that struck the ear,
As twilight strikes the eye when the full moon
Rises at sunset, and the air is still
And shadowless, a tender, tuneful voice,
Wherein were mingled solemn things and sweet,
That won as with a charm the sense and soul.
'Of old, when the great Gods who rule the Earth
Shared it between them without strife, the King
Of Waters, Poseidon, throned himself
Upon the blest Atlantis, now no more,
All but this little remnant, this lone isle,
And took unto himself a bride, among
The fairest of men's daughters. On a mount,
That dropt with gentle slope toward the plain,
Like which no garden out of all the earth
Was ever seen for beauty, Evenor dwelt,
And Leucippe his wife, and their one child
Fair Clito, fairest among women. He,
The monarch of the waters, look'd on her,
And loved her, and he took her for his bride,
Her parents dying; and he fenced the mount,
And circled it with zones of land and sea,
Three zones of water, and two zones of land
Alternately, each separate from each
By equal spaces, that this realm might be
For ever unassailable by man;
For in that day no ship with sail or oar
Breasted the seas. He by his godlike power
Made all things round about him beautiful.
He bad, and lo! twin fountains sprang to life
Out of the centre of the pleasant land,
Tepid, and cold, and breathed fertility
On hill and valley; all fair fruits, that serve
For uses and delights, boon Nature shower'd
From lavish horn. Four sons the Monarch had,
And by division of the realm entire
Into ten portions, he bestow'd on him,
Who was the firstborn, all his mother own'd,
The largest and the best, and made him king
Over the others who were also chiefs,
Each o'er a noble race and godly realm.
He gave them names; the eldest, Atlas, gave
His to the whole Atlantis; to the rest,
Who were born after, for their shares he gave
The regions lying eastward, toward the gates
And pillars of Alcides; this lone isle,
Last fragment of a world-wide continent,
Which thou hast reach'd, lies midway 'twixt the East
And further West; and here, it seems, was raised
The central city of the sunken world;
For the vast ruins and the scatter'd piles
Of the old temples tell of its renown.
All these, for æons kings of land and sea,
Thro' many generations spread their rule
Far ev'n as Egypt and Tyrrhenia;
But he named Atlas was the king of kings,
The Atlantis race the foremost. Each king left
His sceptre to his firstborn, as at first.
Each piled up such wealth as in other lands
Was heretofore unknown, perchance henceforth
Shall never be again. All goods of life,
Such as great cities boast of, or elsewhere
Are gather'd, were brought to them, and their power
Served them to reach the riches of far shores.
But most their pleasant birthplace minister'd,
Ores of all metals cavern'd in the earth,
And orichalcum precious next to gold;
All woods that serve for house-work; food of beasts
Both tame and wild, for those that dwelt by pools
And lakes, on hill and plain, and lord of all
The surging elephant; all fragrant plants,
Which the earth bears today, or roots, or herbs,
Rare barks, or weeping odorous gums; all fruits,
And flowers; and such rare sweets as are the charm
Of banquet-tables; syrups for the sick;
All these grew up beneath the blissful breath
Of that one clime; lovely, and wonderful,
And inexhaustible! They saw the wealth
Of that great country, and began to build
Cities with ports, temples, and palaces,
Throughout the land; the imperial capital
Shone on this island's western side, not here
Where this poor shadow-city, yearly less,
Dies of old age; while the great vanish'd one,
After its countless ages, wax'd in strength
And beauty; thither thou shalt go with me,
And I will show thee where, in ancient time,
Bridges had spann'd the water-zones, and link'd
The sea and land together, till the heights
Of the Acropolis and palace courts
Had seaward issues. The imperial house
Grew out of the first temple of the God;
Each king received it from his ancestor,
And, piling it with riches, and with arts,
Each left the structure nobler than he found.
Out of the sea they led a watercourse
A hundred feet in depth, three furlongs wide,
That, from the inmost city, reach'd unto
The utmost zone of waters, which became
A haven opening seaward, space enough
To harbour lordliest vessels. All about
The city ran a wall of rock-hewn stones,
With towers and gates at intervals; along
The bridges curving o'er the water-zones.
'Twas a strange sight to see the city then,
With its tall fanes of mingled marbles wrought;
Its zones, and its imperial palace heights;
Its gates, and towers, and temples; and to see
Its bridges raying seaward, and its walls
Dazzling with plates of brass towards the main,
And, toward the land, with fair white metal arm'd;
And all the walls of the Acropolis
Blazing with orichalcum in the sun!
Upon a central summit, high above
The circling capital, the palace stood,
Still from the western heights it may be seen
Midsea, a solitary witness left
To the first God-built city; its tall crest
Rugged, and shatter'd by the hand of Time,
Once lifted up its pinnacles of gold.
Right in the midst a temple, dedicate
To Clito and Poseidon, stood inwall'd
Within a golden circle; here were born
The first ten kings; here were the offerings brought,
Gather'd from the ten fair provinces,
And sacrificed to them. Three furlongs deep
The temple stood, three plethra broad, in height
Proportional, and shadow'd all the place
With its vast spaces and barbaric state.
All the outer faces of the fane
Were laid with silver, but the pinnacles
Were golden; and, within, the domed roof
Was wrought with ivory carved work, inlaid
With gold and orichalcum; all the parts,
Walls, pillars, pavements, glisten'd with the same.
Within were golden statues; first the God
Himself, aloft in wondrous chariot drawn
By six wing'd horses, held the reins, and reach'd
With his great stature to the roof itself;
And round him sea-nymphs on their dolphins rode,
A hundred Nereids; other sculptures shone
Raised to the memory of heroic men.
Outside the temple golden images
Of all the race descended from the king,
Both male and female; famous citizens,
And names of honour out of other lands.
Then the great altar, wrought with precious art,
Equal in size and beauty to the rest.
So the vast palace, with its temple, seem'd
A symbol of the glory and the power
Of that old empire God-inherited!'
"He ceased; and then the monarch Atlas turn'd
To the grave priest, his guide, 'O father, speak,
And let this stranger hear what thou hast heard,
Hear things, of this, and yet beyond, this world;
Such rare realities, if they be real,
As seem like dream.' 'O King,' the priest replied,
'Thou bid'st me tell again of that drear night.
I sorrow to relate, yet will obey.
Once, as I mused upon that dreadful time,
When all the glory of a godlike race,
The treasures of a nation, first of men,
With all its crested cities, hills, and vales,
Forests, and fields, and gardens, sank beneath
Deep waters, all that Time had built with care
For ever vanish'd in one single night,
I marvell'd and I said unto myself,
'Can such things be, and the great God of Gods
Look on, and say 'tis well?' Who, think ye, first
Made answer to my musings? He alone,
The King of Kings, who was the last to part,
Came back the first, and told me of these things.
The ancient spirit from the other world
Spoke thro' the voice of an entranced maid,
As I served in the temple on that day.
For know, my son, the wise, from eldest time,
From unrecorded years of the world's prime,
Inherit magic arts, and power to charm,
Thro' might of fixed will, and waved arms,
The trembling framework of the delicate life
Of the pure-minded maid, or guileless boy,
To seeming death--for, if we will, the life
Comes as it went--and when the body lies,
As tho' the spirit had departed thence,
That spirit rises into godlike strength,
And space and time fly from it, or the Gods
Utter their voices thro' the mortal tongue;
I know not which; and then oracular speech
Lays bare the past and future. On that day,
Methinks, no power had wrought the wondrous thing,
But the soul's self. I call'd to me a maid,
And laid her in that supernatural swoon,
Sleep likest death, that sets the spirits free,
With power to compass all things, and to range
From end to end of all this World, and leap
The walls of Time. I bad her call up one
Of the first Atlanteans--the great race
That pass'd away for ever--and he came.
Lo! in a moment, the enchanted one
Lapsed into deep oblivion of this life,
Herself, and all around her, as one blind;
And through the unconscious utterance spoke the King.
'Listen, O man: I am of those who saw
That night of desolations, and of doom,
When darkness in its folds wrapt up despairs,
And frantic fears, pierced by lamenting cries,
And cursings vain. On our primeval land
Its many peoples,--like the crowd that stand
Upon the deck of a becalmed bark,
And call unto the winds, tho' not a breath
Makes answer, and the helpless sails are still,
Till in a moment swoops the hurricane,
And the wild waters, and the end is come--
Its many peoples on that fatal night
Made merry, heedless of the morrow-morn.
The nation held its holiest festival;
I was among the revellers, and with me
Were many guests. On high enthroned I sat,
I, of the stem of Atlas, king of kings,
Proud of my state, proud of my guests, myself,
And the high festival that gather'd us.
I call'd to the musicians, young and old,
The company of harpers with their harps,
The singing men, and singing maids; and all
Timbrels, and flutes, and viols made a sound
Of gladness, and gave forth the hymned praise
Of our great country, foremost on the earth
For honour and for riches; and I sat
High on my throne above the banquet-table,
The King of all that land. And, while I heard
The banded harmonies and voices roll
Delight, like sunlit waters, and the priest
Stood by the alter, and the flames went up,
And all the guests arose, and with a shout
Peal'd into the still darkness the vain words
'Long live the King of Kings,' and in my hands
I held the golden chalice wreathed with flowers,
Just as the triumph and the music ceased,
It seem'd an answer came from far below
Thro' the black night. Whether it was the sound
Of echoes doubling and redoubling still
From cliff and tower, or from the city cries
Of revelry, we knew not for a while.
But nearer, and still nearer rose the sound.
And now it was not music, or delight,
But horror mingled with astonishment,
And hopeless desolation. As I rose
In fear and in confusion, lo! a tongue
Of fire leapt from the altar suddenly,
And cast a glare into the outer dark;
And what was that we saw? O holy Gods,
Though I be now crown'd with Elysian peace,
Immortal calm, and gladness undisturb'd,
Still does the memory of that night of fears
come back to me, and shake me as at first,
For a brief moment, till the blessed sight
Of happy faces, that will change no more,
If not to added beauty, on whom death
No more can fall, and happy songs remove
The frightful shadows. What was it we saw
From our high palace on the central mount?
Great Gods! the flame-light show'd us but the last,
As 'twere the last uplifted, piteous arms
Of that great city, in its few tall towers
Still toppling o'er the flood, its terraces
Crowded with fearful, supplicating hosts,
Whose utter woe went up in one great cry
And then was silent; for where they had been
The waters drawn in by the whirling gulph
Roll'd as a cataract, nearer to us, nearer.
The mountain summits far along the West,
Whereon the stars of old were wont to stay
In crowns of light, were sunk beyond our sight;
And now the surging mountain waters took
The place of their old thrones. With mazed eyes
And moveless limbs we look'd upon the wreck
Of that great realm--as from a topmast looks
The captain of a ship, the last man left
Upon the sinking vessel with its freight,
And gasping crew, knowing that he must be
With them a moment after--and the sound
Of the near waters show'd me I too, I
Was call'd to death. Into the royal halls
The stormy deluge burst at length, and quench'd
The golden lamps, and altar fires; a noise
Roll'd like a circling thunder in mine ears,
Then dark, dark, dark! I saw, I heard no more!
Next morn the dwellers in the farthest east,
The remnant isle that we inhabit now,
Look'd toward the west where they were wont to feast
Their eyes with this world's beauty to the full,
Bathe in deep shade of mountain purples, range
O'er rivers, widening from them, and behold
The far-off woodlands, bending silently
To the first airs, and trembling gold of dawn;
And see the lordly city in the sun,
With all its sheeny towers, and arched zones,
And crested with its tall Acropolis,
Palace, and temple. And, as a man who lays
His trembling hand upon his open eyes,
Suddenly blinded--as though aught again
Could quicken the dead sense to living things--
So stared they, as tho' living eyes once more
Could quicken the dead sense to living things--
So stared they, as tho' living eyes once more
Could quicken into being that dead world;
Then shouted with dismay. And a great host,
Thousands of thousands, stood along the steeps,
Whence the old land was sever'd, looking down
Into the boiling gulphs far underneath,
That flung themselves against the marble walls,
As tho' to bid them follow; and, across
The dreadful deeps, thenceforward nevermore
Rose pinnacle or tower above the sea.
Only, on summer days, when the blue plain
Is smooth as mountain tarn, and the clear below,
As the blue air above or sapphire gem,
Some say the tall peaks of high mountains gleam,
Whereon once throned temples and palaces;
Great hosts appear and vanish, and a sound
Of voices fainting through the dread abyss
Heard far and farther down, till all is still.'
"The Highpriest paused awhile, then spoke again,
His solemn utterance deepen'd into awe.
'But, when I thought how wondrous was the work
Wrought in the spirit of a simple maid,
How straightway she became an oracle
Uttering unearthly voices, 'Sure,' I cried,
'If he who spake the awful words I heard
Be the last King of Kings, he lives, he lives!
Nothing is lost, though all things may be changed,
The mortal to immortal, dust to ash
Wherein we are imprison'd, and held down,
To light and liberty, the wings of life.
And, if they live, who perish'd in that night,
Will he not tell me of their present home,
And if they wander, as the poets say,
Starving on vain regrets, and tasting nought
But sapless memories, while they strive to mock
Their mortal triumphs, as a shadow does
The palm-tree that rejoices in the sun?
So that the hapless poet faintly sings
To ghostly chords, that mimic his lost lyre
And tuneful voice, as a last echo gives
A trumpet sound; the captain that led on
His thousands, runs on airy walls and towers
Thin as the vapours of a dream, and strikes
Upon phantasmal armour with a sword
Frail as an infant's fighting with a reed;
The judge sets free his prisoner, or condemns,
Tho' nothing be arraign'd but empty air;
The captive trembles, and the monarch nods,
Though each to each be nothing more than mist,
Or moonlight shaping shadows unto life.'
I was resolved; again I call'd the maid.
I laid her in the supernatural swoon;
I bad her call up him who came before;
I bad her follow wheresoe'er he went.
Pale as the dead, and speechless for a while,
At length she utter'd with a fearful voice;
'Oh! what is this? See! I am rapt away,
I know not wither, on a boundless sea.
My little bark leaps o'er the snow-white crests
Of the great waves, as tho' the Gods themselves
Were wafting me far off from sight of shore
To show me a new world: how swift my flight!
My bark is drifted underneath the shade
Of old-world ruins, that, methinks, have been
Sometime a kingly palace. I see an arch
O'ershadowing, that opens far within
Thro' twilight into night; the granite base
Of the tall pine, the very lowest towers
Above the highest watermark, and all
The fury of the stormwind and the sea
Roars underneath the giant walls above,
And scarce the spray spills on its marble floors,
For the stern buttress of the moveless rock
Flings the torn waters from it. Now I lie
On calmest azure, and the winds are still.
And, as I marvel musing on my state,
Right where the rocky platform slopes away
Toward the ocean, on the edge itself,
I see a shape, as of a crowned King,
Taller than mortal men. He makes a sign
That I should moor my shallop to the rock,
And mount to meet him--nay, I must obey--
For unimagined forces compass me,
And I am drawn against my strength and will
To stand before him, as a strengthless child.
The crowned giant turns to me, and smiles,
Fastening his eyes upon me; and those eyes
Have such a potent magic that their glance
Informs me with his knowledge; so I know
This is the skeleton of the great house
Of the Atlantean kings, whereof he was.
And now he shows me what to outward eyes
Was never seen; for the old walls and floors
Are broken up; the mountain, that sank down
With the first city, leaving only this,
Huge fragments of its once magnificence
Surmounting it down to this very day,
Is open'd to my view, becomes a stair
Descending to the earth beneath the sea.
He signs to me to follow him; we pass
Under an archway, and his steps are swift,
Downward, it seems, for ever; for the slope,
Methinks, sinks underneath the deep still seas,
Into such darkness as we dreamt not of,
Were it not that a light around him flows,
And shoots up from the starpoints of his crown.
And now my feet descend no more; on, on,
I follow him thro' silent galleries
Hewn by the countless years and unseen powers
Out of the sunken mountain; and we pass,
Thro' light like moonshine, o'er millenial floors,
As of an endless temple. And at first
I see not aught around me; by and by
Behold gigantic circling halls, dim roofs
Fretted thro' cunning skill of hermit gnomes,
And set with precious gems of every hue,
That for a moment flash above my head
Like stars and fiery meteors; and the breath
Of the seawaters, and the fairy touch
Of the light-finger'd sea-nymphs have inwrought
In the great walls--that seem as treasures piled,
Until they vanish in the gulphy glooms--
Things never seen upon the sunlit earth.
And our swift motion and the wavering light
Breed dismal shadows round me, that appear
Instinct with silent passions, anger, fear,
And sorrow; and, methinks, they show me things
That once befell the ancient drowned race,
Phantoms that signal to me in dumb show.
I seem to see the earthborn giants loom,
Shaking their angry locks against the Gods.
Born between light and darkness suddenly
They vanish as a cloud. Far up I hear
Imprison'd winds, like sighs of weary ghosts,
Wandering for sunless æons thro' the night;
Or was it the great deep that moans above
Heard in the silence? Sometimes a sad form,
As of a mother weeping for her sons
Slain in her presence; or a drowning child
Stretching its arms in vain; but, as I gaze,
Ev'n in the act of vision they are lost,
And other shadows rise, and live, and die.
Onward we move, and though it be throu' gloom
Of utter night, I see the radiant sheen,
As of a lamp, from him who goes before,
The crowned one; but lo! the end is come.
I only see immeasurable height,
And breadth, a barrier of eternal rock,
Blackness of darkness; but he lifts his hand;
That wall is penetrable as the air.
He takes me by the hand, and we swim through
The shapeless mass, as though it were a cloud.
And now a change! oh! what a wondrous change!
It is another world beneath the sea.
My sight is dazed, as when the sun of morn
Bursts on a night of visions of despair.
We hear no more the thunder of the main
That rolls above, nor raving of the winds;
The ocean is translucent as a gem,
Or drop of its own waters held in light,
Or so 'twould seem. I see the vanish'd land
That once stood on the waters, and went down
With all its hills and valleys. Hark! he speaks,'
She said, 'the crowned one'; and for a space
Her tongue was silent, then again she spake.
'It is King Atlas who is now my guide,
And he hath told me all things'; 'Here,' he said,
'We dwell in the old land that we had lost,
How strange soe'er it seem to thee, 'tis true.
The cities are rebuilt, the mountains stand
In sunshine, and the vintage on the slopes,
the harvest in the valleys. This far realm
To which thy natural senses would be blind,
Ev'n couldst thou breathe and live beneath the sea,
Thy spirit looks on with its inner eyes.
The vast abysses, silent and unsunn'd,
Drew down into them all the ancient world.
But when we knew that death was only life
Stript of its mortal vesture, soon we saw
All things without your sunlight, and the deeps
Grew breathable, as the supernal air.
A cloudless, golden ether rain'd itself
On hill and plain, illumining the land
We loved before to look on with a light
Purer and sweeter. And we met again,
Not only all who went down on that night
A mighty people, but a host of those
Of earlier generations, kings, and chiefs,
High men of honour, who had sought us here,
Leaving awhile their own more blissful homes,
To give us comfort. I have brought thee here;
For I have will'd that thou shouldst see the sights
That I behold, and they who live with me,
Whose memories, fill'd with the old time, create
An earth, like that which vanish'd, throwing out
The ideal beauty and unfailing love,
That lived in memory, into outward form
Imperishable. The thing is not more strange
Than what I bid thee now recall to mind,
That thou may'st know. Hast thou not seen full oft,
In dreams and visions of the night, such wonders
As make imaginations pale and cold?
And with what senses didst thou look on them,
For eye and ear were blind and deaf, and all
Thy natural windows dark as death itself?
And hast thou not at noonday ofttimes stood
Musing, until the sights and sounds without
Were all unseen, unheard, while lovely shapes
Swept o'er thy mind's clear mirror suddenly?
Dream'st thou that in the world which thou hast left
Such pleasant pictures in the day or night
Come of thy selfhood? Trust me, they are breath'd
Into thy being by immortal ones,
As I breathe now; and so thine ears and eyes
Do hear and see around thee ev'n as mine.
And what thou seest now, because I see,
Is spirit-substance, everlasting, strong,
Because the spirit itself can never fail.'
Thus spoke King Atlas. Now I seem to stand
Upon a mountain summit, and I see
Beneath the drowned city, as of old
Its earthly denizens so oft had seen,
On sunny daybreaks when the air was still,
And all the tumult and the motion rose
Soften'd into a murmur; and I count
Its every dome and spire, as once they flash'd
In the gay morn and morning of the world;
For we look on the circumambient earth
Of kindred substance. Lo! though all is changed
From matter into spirit, yet all abides
Seeming the same; and thou may'st see full well
That spirit, by spiritual substance bound,
Looks out, as once mortality, inwall'd
By space and time; the vision that thou seest
Hath not an atom of the dust of earth.
And, if we see the old Atlantis still,
'Tis that our own imperishable thought
Sets every hill and valley in its place,
As once it was; and, tho' the mountains sink,
And valleys rise on the old earth of time,
And bastion'd capitals are burnt with fire,
And regions waste with ages and are lost,
And sea and land change places, and the race
That is today, tomorrow is no more;
Oh! while the spirit of man immortal is,
The world around him, wheresoe'er he is,
Endureth with him deathless, and all change
Is but a nobler shape of things that are,
For ever perfecting, and not the end
Of good that was and nevermore shall be.'
Then she awoke, and wonder'd at herself,--
Ev'n as an infant whose undreaming soul
Deems the long night as but a moment past,
When her eyes open to the morning sun--
Remembering nought. I wonder'd more than she.
And when I show'd her written her own words,
She paled with doubt and fear, and fled away.'
He ended; and again he raised his head,
As one awakening from a troubled sleep
Suddenly, and his mournful majesty
Of look and tone gave place to a sweet smile,
Gracious, as might have been the smile of them,
Firstborn of Time and Nature, whom he praised;
Who through his fancy seem'd to live again,
As though he held the memory of those days
Lock'd in his heart and brain.
"The King arose,
The guests dispersed, the doors were open thrown.
'Come,' said my venerable guide and friend,
'Let us go forth into the City, raised
After the pattern of that elder one,
So fair, the paragon of kingly thrones,
Discrowned heir of old regalities,
Bereaved infant suckled at the breast
Of a more regal mother. O my friend!
The goodly city that thou seest now,
Although it be immemorably old,
Owns but few stones of that great capital
That lies beneath us; it hath waned to this
Thro' many ages, till it seems in truth
To be the risen spectre of the drown'd.
This realm, how fair soe'er it seems to thee,
Was but the last gem, loosen'd from the chain,
That link'd the rising to the setting sun
Across the gulphy seas, that humbly then
Kiss'd the bright feet of its imperial hills,
And ever-vernal plains.' He pass'd before
Out of the portal, and I follow'd him
Into the crowded city, through the marts,
By palaces and crumbling theatres,
Up to the central citadel, and thence
He show'd me all the face of land and sea.
I wonder'd, as I mark'd the gracious forms
And aspects of those islanders. I felt
That some great sorrow, remnant of the past,
Heirloom in every heart, transfigured them,
And, like a shadow of eclipse, bedimm'd
Their natural mirth, best gift of heaven to men,
And made their motions stealthy, as the steps
Of those who waken while a monarch sleeps;
And the best radiance of their happiest thoughts
Was but a mournful glimmer of a smile,
Like moonshine after a long summerday.
The midday tumult of the life of men,
The concourse, and the chariots, and the cries,
That stir the cities of the travell'd world,
Hellas, or Iran, Egypt, Babylon,
Were muffled to a murmur; and I saw
Fishers, and fowlers, merchants, marketmen,
Damsels that hung their panniers on their arms,
Or bore their water-urns upon their heads,
Go by me softly, as a silent scene
Shown in a picture; or a troop of ghosts
Vision'd in a dream, whose voices sound
Thin as a far-off multitude's, that call
From a high mountain. 'Wonder not,' he said,
'That sadness is the seal upon the brow
Of this doom'd race, erewhile so glad and strong.
For, as the fashion of the form comes down
Thro' countless generations, so within
The ruling passions, that possess'd the sires,
Rule o'er the sons; and so, from age to age,
This orphan isle hath mourned its mother's fate
So constantly, that on our faces dwell
The memories of our sorrows. Wonder not,
Tho' that dread day be far behind us now,
The shadow of it lingers on our souls,
As though it were a storm of yesereven.
Yearly with lamentation and with tears
And beaten breasts, and dust upon our heads,
And sad procession as a funeral pomp,
We go out from the city to the shore
Of the great sea, those waters without end,
That swallow'd up that race of godlike men
With all their realm, save only this lone isle
Whereon we stand. And when we reach the heights,
Wherefrom the last fair fragment of that land
Was sever'd, there is weeping, with the sound
Of sympathetic music. Ere we part,
We lift our arms over the threatful deep,
Whose dreadful voices call us, and we plead
to the Immortals who have charge of us,
To spare the little remnant; and we fling
Garlands upon the waters; and we burn
A fragrant offering to the Almighty One
Who fashion'd Space and Time; and all together
We sing a hymn that dies into a dirge,
Then into doleful silence. So we turn
Back to the city, and we hold the day
Sacred to sorrow, for the ancient time
Whose glory was, and nevermore may be.'
He spoke no more: and now the sun went down
Beyond the western heights, and all the land
Grew dark between the city and the hills.