Fiery fetters fiercely bound me,
Globes of golden fire rolled round me,
Jets of violet-colored flame
From ruby-crested mountains came,
And, floating upward, wreathed on high
Like gorgeous serpents through the sky,
To whose rich coils the stars of night
Clung and became like scales of light;
A crimson sea before me blushed,
To which ten thousand rivers rushed,--
Ten thousand rivers, all of flame,--
And as they hissing onward came,
Their burning waters seemed to pour
Along an opalescent shore,
While, in that red deep, far away,
A myriad opal islands lay.
With eager, wistful gaze I turned
To where their dazzling splendors burned;
With fearful struggles, stung by pain,
I rent my fiery bonds in twain
And madly (when my limbs were free)
Plunged headlong in that lurid sea,
Whose red and seething billows seemed
To mock me as they hissed and screamed;
While tortured thus, scorched to the bone,
I drifted on with ceaseless moan,
Till near those opal islands cast,
When (dreaming all my anguish past)
I grasped a smooth and glittering shore
In vain, then drifted on once more;
On, on, till countless isles were past,
And then a boiling wave at last
Spurned, flung me from its blazing crest,
To be at least one moment blest,
Upon an isle which shone for me
The fairest in that wondrous sea;
But on its cool and polished shore
My agony scarce ceased before
This beautiful and long-sought goal,
The El Dorado of my soul,
For which I yearned with wild desire,
Was thronged with skeletons of fire!
That danced around me, shrieked my name,
And scorched me with their tongues of flame,
Till (in unutterable pain)
I prayed that lava sea in vain
To bear me from a haunted land,
To save me from the demon band,
That seized me with a fiendish laugh,
And cups of fire then bade me quaff,
Until the withered flesh all peeled
From my parched bones and left revealed
A skeleton like theirs! a shell,
Red as the hottest flames of hell!
Then loud we laughed, and wide and far
Rang out that fiendish laugh, "Ha, ha!"
In every wave an echo seemed,
Until the sea with laughter screamed;
The blazing billows leaped on high
And roared their laughter to the sky,
Whose star-scaled serpents from afar
Hissed back a mocking laugh, "Ha, ha!"
We tossed our flaming goblets up,
And danced and laughed, till every cup
Was drained, and still, though wrung with pain,
We quaffed and danced and laughed again,
Till, faint with agony, a chill
Of horror through my frame did thrill.
The fire-fiends left me doubly curst,
Cold! freezing! yet consumed by thirst.
I wore a form of flesh again,
And cried for water, but in vain;
And then an icy slumber fell
Upon me, till the gushing swell
Of mountain torrents, in their strife,
Awakened me to light and life,--
To light and life, for now I stood
Beside a cool, deep shaded flood,
Upon a shore so passing fair
Its beauty brightened my despair
A moment, while the hope was nursed
That I might quench my frantic thirst.
Enchanting pictures! bright and fine,
Enamelled on my heart they shine,--
That fresh, green shore, that clear, deep tide,
Whose waves o'er rocks of sapphire glide,
Until at last, with wildest leap,
Into a gulf more broad and deep
Than ten Niagaras swift they whirl
O'er crystal spars and crags of pearl!
But, lo! when on that moss-grown brink
I stooped my aching head to drink,
And, sinking there a lotus-cup,
Raised it in trembling gladness up,
My parching lips gave forth a groan
To find the water turned to stone!
A chalice heaped with sapphires bright,
To mock me with their liquid light,
Jewels a king might proudly wear,
But which I cursed in my despair,
And then, with bitter anguish, flung
Back to the tide from which they sprung;
The lotus bloom I would have torn
To atoms, but (as if in scorn
Of my fierce rage, by some weird power)
I found an alabaster flower,
Whose leaves and stem with matchless sheen
Of emerald shone superbly green.
I climbed along the crags of pearl,
To head the waters in their whirl,
But when I bent in madness down
To where the white spray, like a crown
Of glory on the torrent gleamed
(Though o'er my brow its moisture streamed),
With lips apart that longed to feel
A dewy freshness through them steal,
Upon my parched and swollen tongue
A shower of diamond gems was flung.
Oh! what were gems to one who yearned
For water-drops, and would have spurned
Their wealth, to sip the dew that sleeps
Within the harebells' azure deeps?
Upon the shore again I rushed
Where countless fruits in beauty blushed,
Pomegranates, rare and ripe, and one,
Whose rind was rifted by the sun,
Revealed unto my ravished sight
The crimson pulp. Oh! what delight
I felt, as quick, with throbbing heart,
I tore it eagerly apart,
Expecting then the fruity seed
With red and luscious juice to bleed
Like those which, at the far-off South,
Distilled their sweetness in my mouth,
Long, long ago, when as a child,
By Hope and Love and Joy beguiled,
My trusting heart had never grieved
To find itself at last deceived.
But in that strange enchanted rind
No liquid sweetness did I find,
Which (tempting, while it half concealed)
A mass of rubies now revealed,--
Of royal rubies, flashing there
To mock, and madden my despair.
I plucked an orange, when, behold!
Within my hand it turned to gold;
And when from loaded vines I tore
The purpled grapes, which there did pour
Their honeyed juices on the ground,
Clusters of amethysts I found.
If in a desert I had been,
Where gushing waters are not seen,
Nor luscious fruits (to tempt in vain),
Less terrible had been the pain
Of my fierce thirst; and as I cried
For water, fair forms seemed to glide
Beneath those haunted groves, who quaffed
From crystal cups bright draughts, and laughed
Derisive laughter, soft and clear,
As they approached me near,--so near
I almost caught their goblets bright,
When swift they turned in sudden flight,
And from afar pealed forth those swells
Of laughter clear as silver bells.
Then others came, more fair, who reaped
The dripping vines, and gayly heaped
Each one within a jasper urn
Her stores of grapes, which seemed to turn
Beneath their hands to sparkling wine,
While useless gems they shone in mine.
A vintage by a river's brink,
Yet no one offered me a drink
Of wine or water, and ere long
The chorus of a vintage song
Came stealing to me, whence those maids
Had vanished 'mid ambrosial shades.
In quick pursuit, I followed where
Their voices rippled through the air,
Till blind with anguish, cold as death,
Chilled (by the south wind's balmy breath),
Yet burnt by torturing thirst within
(Fiercer than memories of sin),
Beneath that lustrous summer sky,
I lay me down and prayed to die.
But vainly rose my mournful prayer,
The "King of Terrors" came not there;
And sudden darkness, like a spell,--
Appalling darkness,--round me fell,
Which reft the earth of light and bloom,
And steeped my soul in utter gloom.
I started up: the sun had set,
The torrent poured o'er crags of jet
Its inky waters, and o'er all
A black sky hung its funeral pall,--
So black the clouds that floated by
Looked atoms rifted from the sky.
Black barks before me then did glide,
Whose sails were blacker than the tide,
Peopled by wild and frantic ghouls,
Strange skeletons, as black as coals,
Who on those ghostly decks had met
To quaff black blood from cups of jet.
The land I found so bright and warm
Was stricken by a scathing storm;
Its fruits and flowers, of late so fair,
Hung now like ebon cinders there,
And groves which erst were green as spring
Looked blacker than the raven's wing;
So freezing cold the wind had grown
I seemed within the frozen zone,
And snow came drifting to the earth,
Black as the clouds that gave it birth.
I saw it all--though wrapped in night--
Plainly as if revealed by light.
That rayless, dense, unbroken gloom
Was suffocating as the tomb
To those who from the long trances wake,
And strive their coffin-lids to break
(Discovered, when too late to save),
Who slept, to wake within the grave!
Their agony, though keen, is brief,
But death came not to my relief.
Upon that cold and dismal brink
I stooped my head and strove to drink
The murky waves, when through the dark
Came gliding up a spectral bark;
I climbed the deck, where demons stood,
And quenched my thirst at last, in blood!
They pledged me in that draught accurst,
And still I drank, to quench my thirst.
Unmindful that our black bark swept
To where those maddened waters leapt,
Into that fathomless abyss,
Until I heard them scream and hiss
Within my ears, on, on we dashed,
While 'mid those jetty crags loud crashed
Our sinking ship--on, on we rushed,
Till masts and timbers all were crushed,
When, blind with blackness, 'mid the roar
Of inky waves, I heard no more.