Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The Mistress of Vision
By Francis Thompson (1859–1907)
 
        SECRET was the garden;
        Set i’ the pathless awe
        Where no star its breath can draw.
        Life, that is its warden,
Sits behind the fosse of death. Mine eyes saw not, and I saw.        5
 
        It was a mazeful wonder;
        Thrice three times it was enwall’d
        With an emerald—
        Sealèd so asunder.
All its birds in middle air hung a-dream, their music thrall’d.        10
 
        The Lady of fair weeping,
        At the garden’s core,
        Sang a song of sweet and sore
        And the after-sleeping;
In the land of Luthany, and the tracts of Elenore.        15
 
        With sweet-pang’d singing
        Sang she through a dream-night’s day;
        That the bowers might stay,
        Birds bate their winging,
Nor the wall of emerald float in wreathèd haze away.        20
 
        The lily kept its gleaming,
        In her tears (divine conservers!)
        Washèd with sad art;
        And the flowers of dreaming
        Palèd not their fervours,        25
        For her blood flow’d through their nervures;
And the roses were most red, for she dipt them in her heart.
 
        There was never moon,
        Save the white sufficing woman:
        Light most heavenly-human—        30
        Like the unseen form of sound,
        Sensed invisibly in tune,—
        With a sun-derivèd stole
        Did inaureole
        All her lovely body round;        35
Lovelily her lucid body with that light was interstrewn.
 
        The sun which lit that garden wholly,
        Low and vibrant visible,
        Temper’d glory woke;
        And it seemèd solely        40
        Like a silver thurible
        Solemnly swung, slowly,
Fuming clouds of golden fire for a cloud of incense-smoke.
 
        But woe ’s me, and woe ’s me,
        For the secrets of her eyes!        45
        In my visions fearfully
        They are ever shown to be
        As fringèd pools, whereof each lies
        Pallid-dark beneath the skies
        Of a night that is        50
        But one blear necropolis.
And her eyes a little tremble, in the wind of her own sighs.
 
        Many changes rise on
        Their phantasmal mysteries.
        They grow to an horizon        55
        Where earth and heaven meet;
        And like a wing that dies on
        The vague twilight-verges,
        Many a sinking dream doth fleet
        Lessening down their secrecies.        60
        And, as dusk with day converges,
        Their orbs are troublously
Over-gloom’d and over-glow’d with hope and fear of things to be.
 
        There is a peak on Himalay,
        And on the peak undeluged snow,        65
        And on the snow not eagles stray;
        There if your strong feet could go,—
        Looking over tow’rd Cathay
        From the never-deluged snow—
        Farthest ken might not survey        70
Where the peoples underground dwell whom antique fables know.
 
        East, ah, east of Himalay,
        Dwell the nations underground;
        Hiding from the shock of Day,
        For the sun’s uprising-sound:        75
        Dare not issue from the ground
        At the tumults of the Day,
        So fearfully the sun doth sound
        Clanging up beyond Cathay;
For the great earthquaking sunrise rolling up beyond Cathay.        80
 
        Lend me, O lend me
        The terrors of that sound,
        That its music may attend me,
        Wrap my chant in thunders round;
While I tell the ancient secrets in that Lady’s singing found.        85
 
        On Ararat there grew a vine,
        When Asia from her bathing rose;
        Our first sailor made a twine
        Thereof for his prefiguring brows.
        Canst divine        90
Where, upon our dusty earth, of that vine a cluster grows?
 
        On Golgotha there grew a thorn
        Round the long-prefigured Brows.
        Mourn, O mourn!
For the vine have we the spine? Is this all the Heaven allows?        95
 
        On Calvary was shook a spear;
        Press the point into thy heart—
        Joy and fear!
All the spines upon the thorn into curling tendrils start.
 
        O dismay!        100
        I, a wingless mortal, sporting
        With the tresses of the sun?
        I, that dare my hand to lay
        On the thunder in its snorting?
        Ere begun,        105
Falls my singed song down the sky, even the old Icarian way.
 
        From the fall precipitant
        These dim snatches of her chant
        Only have remained mine;—
        That from spear and thorn alone        110
        May be grown
For the front of saint or singer any divinizing twine.
 
        Her song said that no springing
        Paradise but evermore
        Hangeth on a singing        115
        That has chords of weeping,
        And that sings the after-sleeping
        To souls which wake too sore.
‘But woe the singer, woe!’ she said; ‘beyond the dead his singing-lore,
        All its art of sweet and sore        120
        He learns, in Elenore!’
 
        Where is the land of Luthany,
        Where is the tract of Elenore?
        I am bound therefor.
 
        ‘Pierce thy heart to find the key;        125
        With thee take
        Only what none else would keep;
        Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
        Learn to wake when thou dost sleep.
        Learn to water joy with tears,        130
        Learn from fears to vanquish fears;
        To hope, for thou dar’st not despair,
        Exult, for that thou dar’st not grieve;
        Plough thou the rock until it bear;
        Know, for thou else couldst not believe;        135
        Lose, that the lost thou may’st receive;
        Die, for none other way canst live.
        When earth and heaven lay down their veil,
        And that apocalypse turns thee pale;
        When thy seeing blindeth thee        140
        To what thy fellow-mortals see;
        When their sight to thee is sightless;
        Their living, death; their light, most lightless;
        Search no more—
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.’        145
 
        Where is the land of Luthany,
        And where the region Elenore?
        I do faint therefor.
 
        ‘When to the new eyes of thee
        All things by immortal power,        150
        Near or far,
        Hiddenly
        To each other linkèd are,
        That thou canst not stir a flower
        Without troubling of a star;        155
        When thy song is shield and mirror
        To the fair snake-curlèd Pain,
        Where thou dar’st affront her terror
        That on her thou may’st attain
        Perséan conquest; seek no more,        160
        O seek no more!
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.’
 
        So sang she, so wept she,
        Through a dream-night’s day;
        And with her magic singing kept she—        165
        Mystical in music—
        That garden of enchanting
        In visionary May;
        Swayless for my spirit’s haunting,
Thrice-threefold wall’d with emerald from our mortal mornings grey.        170
 
        And as a necromancer
        Raises from the rose-ash
        The ghost of the rose;
        My heart so made answer
        To her voice’s silver plash,—        175
        Stirr’d in reddening flash,
And from out its mortal ruins the purpureal phantom blows.
 
        Her tears made dulcet fretting,
        Her voice had no word,
        More than thunder or the bird.        180
        Yet, unforgetting,
The ravish’d soul her meanings knew. Mine ears heard not, and I heard.
 
        When she shall unwind
        All those wiles she wound about me,
        Tears shall break from out me,        185
        That I cannot find
Music in the holy poets to my wistful want, I doubt me!
 
 
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