Home Pastorals, Ballads and Lyrics/Canopus

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Above the palms, the peaks of pearly gray
That hang, like dreams, along the slumbering skies,
An urn of fire that never burns away,
I see Canopus rise.

An urn of light, a golden-hearted torch,
Voluptuous, drowsy-throbbing mid the stars,
As, incense-fed, from Aphrodite's porch
Lifted, to beacon Mars.

Is it from songs and stories of the Past,
With names and scenes that make our planet fair,—
From Babylonian splendors, vague and vast,
And flushed Arabian air:—

Or sprung from richer longings of the brain
And spices of the blood, this hot desire
To lie beneath that mellow lamp again
And breathe its languid fire?

From tales of nights when watching David saw
Its amorous ray on bright Bathsheba's head;
Or Charmian stole, the golden gauze to draw
Round Cleopatra's bed?

Or when white-breasted Paris touched the lone
Laconian isle, where stayed his flying oars,
And Helen breathed the scent of violets, blown
Along the bosky shores?

Or Kalidasa's maiden, wandering through
The moonlit jungles of the Indian lands,
While shamed mimosas from her form withdrew
Their thin and trembling hands?

For Fancy takes from Passion power to build
A brighter fane than bloodless Thought decrees,
And loves to see its spacious chambers filled
With tropic tapestries.

And, past those halls which for itself the mind
Builds, permanent as marble, and as cold,
In warm surprises of the blood we find
The sumptuous dream unfold!

There shines the leaf and bursts the blossom sheath
On hills deep-mantled in eternal June,
Or wave their whispering silver, underneath
The rainbow-cinctured moon.

Around the pillars of the palm-tree bower
The orchids cling, in rose and purple spheres;
Shield-broad the lily floats; the aloe flower
Foredates its hundred years.

Along the lines of coral, white and warm,
Breaks the white surf; hushed is the glassy air,
And only mellower murmurs tell that storm
Is raging otherwhere.

The mansion gleams with dome and arch Moresque—
Ah, bliss to lie beside the jasper urn
Of founts, and through the open arabesque
To watch Canopus burn!

To sit at feasts, and fluid odors drain
Of daintiest nectar that from grape is caught,
While faint narcotics cheat the idle brain
With phantom shapes of thought;

Or, listening to the sweet, seductive voice,
No will hath silenced, since the world began,
To weigh delight unchallenged, making choice.
Of earlier joys of man!

Permit the dream: our natures twofold are.
Sense hath its own ideals, which prepare
A rosy background for the soul's white star,
Whereon it shines more fair.

Not crystal runs, dissolved from mountain snow,
The poet's blood; but amber, musk, impart
Their scents, and gems their orbed or shivered glow,
To feed his tropic heart.

While Form and Color undivorced remain
In every planet gilded by the sun,
His craft shall forge the radiant marriage-chain
That makes them purely One!