The Chimaera

By Arthur Symons

I dreamed that the Chimaera came,
A wandering angel, white with flame
From some cloud’s height or moonless deep,
And bent above me in the sleep
We dream in cradles, mused, and smiled
Subtly, and said to me: “O child,
Born under Venus, to be love’s,
Under the Moon, that whitely moves,
Chaste and inconstant, over heaven;
Child, who to Herschel has been given,
The star of Strange desire, all these
Are busy with your destinies.
You shall desire immortal things,
And, in too swift imaginings,
Tire out desire, who has but wings.
You shall desire love, you shall track
The young God home; then, shrinking back,
Like Psyche from his naked face,
Desert him at the meeting-place.
You shall desire fame, yet despise
The bent knees, the insolent cries
And loud hands of the multitude.
You shall desire joy’s daily food
And hope’s unalterable home,
Yet refuse peace. And there shall come
Every desire you have implored,
And shall kneel down, saying Lord, Lord,
And wait your pleasure. But you, tired
Of all desires you have desired,
Shall say, I know you not, and thrust
Scornfully back into the dust
These servitors importunate,
Then, from the silence where I wait,
A blind old madness shall return,
And shall lay hold on you and burn
Your veins with bitter life; for this
Kings have lost kingdoms in a kiss,
And wise men kingdoms of the mind,
And have gone forth, naked and blind,
With dancing and with insane mirth,
Into the waste ways of the earth.
You shall seek out the Cloven Hill,
Where the wide gates are open Still,
The tables set, nor have they ceased,
The fearers feasting at the feast.
Then shall that dusk of shadowy air
(Because for you one light is there)
Blossom in white-rose flame for you.
And the old sun and air and dew
And freshness of the world, and change
Of seasons and cold Stars, grow Strange;
Then, suddenly, you shall be hurled,
Forth from thence, back into the world,
Then shall your veins, remembering
That sweet, intolerable thing
Which shook their pulses with its breath,
Desire the shadow of that death;
And it shall not be given you back.
Then shall you seek the hidden track
A mist has covered from your eyes
Since like a veil about you lies
The bright imprisonment of day.
Child-, child, you shall not find the way.”

Chimaera, I have been among
The loving people, who yet throng
The twilight about Tannhäuser;
And I have seen the face of her
Whose sorrow, older than that grace
Which in her face is Beauty’s face,
Fights in her battled soul for God.
And the earth, knowing I have trod
Ways not Its ways, those ways not meet,
Sets all its Stones against my feet.
Let me return, Chimaera! Still
I seek for the accursed hill,
The most fair gate of Hell. Some day,
Chimaera, I shall find the way!

Ah, if I might but find it not!
Are there not other ways forgot
Which lead to other lands than this
Of the immeasurable abyss?
I would that I could one day close
Mine eyes in some divine repose;
That I could shape to my control
A palace for my restless soul.
With dreams of order I would build,
My comely palace should be filled With dreams of colour and bright sound,
And twilight should enfold it round,
Setting a veil against the sun.
Then, like mute servants, one by one,
Dreams should bring in to me, and lay
Before my feet, and bear away,
Beautiful things of earth, but changed,
Made pallid, delicate, estranged
From the gold light, the glittering air.
There should my soul find refuge, there
Life and my dream of life be one.
Too late! The music has begun
Which calls me in the air; there floats
A sound of voices, the wild notes
(Is it in air, is it from earth?)
Which were the wine-song of our mirth.
They call me if a moment’s peace
Rock memory to sleep; then cease.

Chimaera, I will Strive no more.
All things, as they have been before,
Shall be, until the end of days,
Nor shall our crying change the ways
Our feet must walk in. I will Strive
No more, content to be alive,
Hoping no hopes, accepting all,
Quiet behind the prison-wall
Which with thine own self shuts me in.
Why Strive in vain? why not begin
To make my prison fair to see,
And half forget my slavery?
Shall not the universal Stars
Visit me through my prison-bars?
But it is you, Chimaera, you,
Whose low continual whisper through
Those prison-bars the whole day long
Comes to me, murmuring: “Up, be Strong
Cast off your chains, come forth, behold
A way of roses and of gold;
Winter is over, and the spring
In the world’s heart is blossoming;
It is the time of lilies. Come!”
O impotent voice abhorred, be dumb!
Why is it that I cannot find
Bounds to my ardours unconfined,
Why, empty of sin and void of grace,
Do I behold only my face
In the white mirror of the world,
Vainly, and without respite, hurled
Like the torn winds about the void;
Why thirsting still for unenjoyed
Delights and undiscovered springs,
Desiring in all mortal things
To hear and hold and taste and see
Mortal impossibility?
All men, not wholly drowned in life,
Suffer the rapture and the Strife
Of their Chimaera: some men chain
That airy monster of the brain,
And he is Ariel to them; some
Endure his bondage. Yet there come,
To all these, phantoms of release,
Even these possess the secret peace
Which is both memory and hope.
But I have rendered all things up;
White angel, wandering from afar,
I know you now, the thing you are,
I know I am myself mine own
Chimaera, chained, famished, alone,
Whose anger, heartens him afresh
To feed upon his very flesh,
Till anguish bid delight to pause;
And I must suffer him because
Until the hour when God shall send
Suddenly the reluctant end
He with my breath must draw his breath.
O bondslave, bondslave unto death,
Might I but hope that death should free
This self from its eternity!

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