Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
The Masque of Pandora
VII. The House of Epimetheus
LEFT to myself I wander as I will,
And as my fancy leads me, through this house,
Nor could I ask a dwelling more complete
Were I indeed the Goddess that he deems me.
No mansion of Olympus, framed to be        5
The habitation of the Immortal Gods,
Can be more beautiful. And this is mine,
And more than this, the love wherewith he crowns me.
As if impelled by powers invisible
And irresistible, my steps return        10
Unto this spacious hall. All corridors
And passages lead hither, and all doors
But open into it. Yon mysterious chest
Attracts and fascinates me. Would I knew
What there lies hidden! But the oracle        15
Forbids. Ah me! The secret then is safe.
So would it be if it were in my keeping.
A crowd of shadowy faces from the mirrors
That line these walls are watching me. I dare not
Lift up the lid. A hundred times the act        20
Would be repeated, and the secret seen
By twice a hundred incorporeal eyes.
She walks to the other side of the hall.
My feet are weary, wandering to and fro,
My eyes with seeing and my heart with waiting.
I will lie here and rest till he returns,        25
Who is my dawn, my day, my Helios.
Throws herself upon a couch, and falls asleep.
  Come from thy caverns dark and deep,
  O son of Erebus and Night;
  All sense of hearing and of sight
  Enfold in the serene delight        30
  And quietude of sleep!
  Set all thy silent sentinels
  To bar and guard the Ivory Gate,
  And keep the evil dreams of fate
  And falsehood and infernal hate        35
  Imprisoned in their cells.
  But open wide the Gate of Horn,
  Whence, beautiful as planets, rise
  The dreams of truth, with starry eyes,
  And all the wondrous prophecies        40
  And visions of the morn.
    Ye sentinels of sleep,
    It is in vain ye keep
Your drowsy watch before the Ivory Gate;
    Though closed the portal seems,        45
    The airy feet of dreams
Ye cannot thus in walls incarcerate.
    We phantoms are and dreams
    Born by Tartarean streams,
As ministers of the infernal powers;        50
    O son of Erebus
    And Night, behold! we thus
Elude your watchful warders on the towers!
    From gloomy Tartarus
    The Fates have summoned us        55
To whisper in her ear, who lies asleep,
    A tale to fan the fire
    Of her insane desire
To know a secret that the Gods would keep.
    This passion, in their ire,        60
    The Gods themselves inspire,
To vex mankind with evils manifold,
    So that disease and pain
    O’er the whole earth may reign,
And nevermore return the Age of Gold.        65
PANDORA  (waking).
A voice said in my sleep: “Do not delay:
Do not delay; the golden moments fly!
The oracle hath forbidden; yet not thee
Doth it forbid, but Epimetheus only!”
I am alone. These faces in the mirrors        70
Are but the shadows and phantoms of myself;
They cannot help nor hinder. No one sees me,
Save the all-seeing Gods, who, knowing good
And knowing evil, have created me
Such as I am, and filled me with desire        75
Of knowing good and evil like themselves.
She approaches the chest.
I hesitate no longer. Weal or woe,
Or life or death, the moment shall decide.
She lifts the lid. A dense mist rises from the chest, and fills the room. PANDORA falls senseless on the floor. Storm without.
      Yes, the moment shall decide!
      It already hath decided;        80
      And the secret once confided
      To the keeping of the Titan
      Now is flying far and wide,
      Whispered, told on every side,
      To disquiet and to frighten.        85
      Fever of the heart and brain,
      Sorrow, pestilence, and pain,
      Moans of anguish, maniac laughter,
      All the evils that hereafter
      Shall afflict and vex mankind,        90
      All into the air have risen
      From the chambers of their prison;
      Only Hope remains behind.

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