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The New Sirens
by [?]


In the cedarn shadow sleeping,
Where cool grass and fragrant glooms
Forth at noon had lured me, creeping
From your darken’d palace rooms–
I, who in your train at morning
Stroll’d and sang with joyful mind,
Heard, in slumber, sounds of warning;
Heard the hoarse boughs labour in the wind.

Who are they, O pensive Graces,
–For I dream’d they wore your forms–
Who on shores and sea-wash’d places
Scoop the shelves and fret the storms?
Who, when ships are that way tending,
Troop across the flushing sands,
To all reefs and narrows wending,
With blown tresses, and with beckoning hands?

Yet I see, the howling levels
Of the deep are not your lair;
And your tragic-vaunted revels
Are less lonely than they were.
Like those Kings with treasure steering
From the jewell’d lands of dawn,
Troops, with gold and gifts, appearing,
Stream all day through your enchanted lawn.

And we too, from upland valleys,
Where some Muse with half-curved frown
Leans her ear to your mad sallies
Which the charm’d winds never drown;
By faint music guided, ranging
The scared glens, we wander’d on,
Left our awful laurels hanging,
And came heap’d with myrtles to your throne.

From the dragon-warder’d fountains
Where the springs of knowledge are,
From the watchers on the mountains,
And the bright and morning star;
We are exiles, we are falling,
We have lost them at your call–
O ye false ones, at your calling
Seeking ceiled chambers and a palace-hall!

Are the accents of your luring
More melodious than of yore?
Are those frail forms more enduring
Than the charms Ulysses bore?
That we sought you with rejoicings,
Till at evening we descry
At a pause of Siren voicings
These vext branches and this howling sky?…

* * * * *

Oh, your pardon! The uncouthness
Of that primal age is gone,
And the skin of dazzling smoothness
Screens not now a heart of stone.
Love has flush’d those cruel faces;
And those slacken’d arms forgo
The delight of death-embraces,
And yon whitening bone-mounds do not grow.

“Ah,” you say; “the large appearance
Of man’s labour is but vain,
And we plead as staunch adherence
Due to pleasure as to pain.”
Pointing to earth’s careworn creatures,
“Come,” you murmur with a sigh:
“Ah! we own diviner features,
Loftier bearing, and a prouder eye.

“Come,” you say, “the hours were dreary;
Dull did life in torpor fade;
Time is lame, and we grew weary
In the slumbrous cedarn shade.
Round our hearts with long caresses,
With low sighings, Silence stole,
And her load of steaming tresses
Fell, like Ossa, on the climbing soul.

“Come,” you say, “the soul is fainting
Till she search and learn her own,
And the wisdom of man’s painting
Leaves her riddle half unknown.
Come,” you say, “the brain is seeking,
While the sovran heart is dead;
Yet this glean’d, when Gods were speaking,
Rarer secrets than the toiling head.

“Come,” you say, “opinion trembles,
Judgment shifts, convictions go;
Life dries up, the heart dissembles–
Only, what we feel, we know.
Hath your wisdom felt emotions?
Will it weep our burning tears?
Hath it drunk of our love-potions
Crowning moments with the wealth of years?”

–I am dumb. Alas, too soon all
Man’s grave reasons disappear!
Yet, I think, at God’s tribunal
Some large answer you shall hear.
But, for me, my thoughts are straying
Where at sunrise, through your vines,
On these lawns I saw you playing,
Hanging garlands on your odorous pines;
When your showering locks enwound you,
And your heavenly eyes shone through;
When the pine-boughs yielded round you,
And your brows were starr’d with dew;
And immortal forms, to meet you,
Down the statued alleys came,
And through golden horns, to greet you,
Blew such music as a God may frame.