A Dream of Elysium

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Elysium (1906, Léon Bakst)

A Dream of Elysium

PHOEBUS, expell'd by the approaching night,
Blush'd, and for shame clos'd in his bashful light,
While I, with leaden Mopheus overcome,
The Muse whom I adore, enter'd the room.
Her hair, with looser curiosity,
Did on her comely back dishevelle'd lie;
Her eyes with such attractive beauty shone,
As might have wak'd sleeping Endymon.
She bade me rife, and promis'd I should see
Those fields, those mansions of felicity,
We mortals admire at: speaking thus,
She lifts me upon wing'd Pegasus
On whom I rode, knowing wherever she
Did go, that place must needs a temple be.

No sooner was my flying courser come
To the bless'd dwellings of Elysium,
When straight a thousand unknown joys resort,
And hemm'd me round; chaste Love's innocuous sport!
A thousand sweets bought with no following gall,
Joys, not like ours, short, but perpetual.
How manu objects charm my wand'ring eye,
And bid my soul gaze there eternally?
Here in full streams, Bacchus! thy liquor flows,
Nor knows to ebb: here Jove's broad tree bestows
Distilling honey: here doth nectar pass
With copious current thro' the verdant grass:
Here Hyacinth his fate writ in his looks,
And though, Narciusses! loving still the brooks,
Once lovely boys; And Acis, now a flower,
Are nourish'd, with that rarer herb, whose power
Created thee, War's potent God: here grows
The spotless lily and the blushing rose;
And all those diverse ornaments abound,
That variously may paint the gaudy ground.
No willow, Sorrow's garland, there hath room,
No cypress, sad attendant of a tomb:
None but Apollo's tree, and th' ivy twine
Embracing the stout oak, the fruitful vine,
And trees with golden apples loaded down,
On whole fair tops sweet Philomel alone,
Unmindful of her former misery,
Tunes with her voice a ravishing harmony,
Whilst all the murm'ring brooks that glide along,
Make up a burden to her pleasing song.
No screech0owl, sad companion of the night,
No hideous raven, with prodigious flight,
Presaging future ill: nor, Progne! thee
Yet spotted with young Itys' tragedy,
Those sacred bow'rs receive. There's nothing there
That is not pure, all innocent, and rare.
Turning my greedy sight another way,
Under a row of storm-contemning bay,
I saw the Thracian singer with his lyre
Teach the deaf stones to hear him and admire:
Him the whole poets' chorus compass'd sound,
All whom the oak, all whom the laurel, crown'd.
There banish'd Ovid had a lasting home,
Better than thou couldst give, ungrateful Rome!
And Lucan (spight of Nero) in each vein
Had ev'ry drop of his spilt blood again.
Homer, Sol's first-born, was not poor or blind,
But saw as well in body as in mind.
Tully, grave Cato, Solon, and the rest
Of Greece's admir'd wise men, here possess'd
A large reward for their past deeds, and gain
A life as everlasting as their fame.

By these the valiant heroes take their place,
All who stern Death and perils did embrace
For Virtue's cause. Great Alexander there
Laughs at the earth's small empire, and does wear
A nobler crown than the whole world could give.
There did Horatius, Cocles, Sceva, live,
And valiant Decius, who now freely cease
From war, and purchase an eternal peace.

Next them, beneath a myrtle bow'r, where doves
And galless pigeons build their nests, all Love's
True faithful servants, with an am'rous kiss,
And soft embrace, enjoy their greediest wish.
Leander with his beauteous Hero plays,
Nor are they parted with dividing seas.
Porcia enjoys her Brutus, Death no more
Can now divorce their wedding, as before.
Thisbe her Pyramus kiss'd, his Thisbe he
Embrac'd, each bless'd with th' other's company:
And every couple always dancing, sing
Eternal pleasures to Elysium's king.
But see how soon these pleasures fade away,
How near to ev'ning is Delight's short day!
The watching bird, true nuncius of the light,
Straight crow'd, and all then vanish'd from my sight:
My very Muse herself forsook me too.
My grief and wonder wak'd; what should I do?
Oh! let me follow thee, said I, and go
From life, that I may dream for ever so.
With that my flying Muse I thought to clasp
Within my arms, but did a shadow grasp.
Thus chiefest joys glide with the swiftest stream,
And all our greatest pleasure's but a dream.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.