The Sleep of the Hyacinth.

An Egyptian Poem.

(Concluded from No. 6.)

IV. The Entombment of the Queen and
the Flower.

There is mourning in the land of Pharaoh
over the dead Princess, whose swathing and
entombment, Egyptian-wise, with the hya-
einth-bulb in her hand, are described—the
description leading to a glimpse of the Royal
Necropolis, or Burying-place, with its rows of
the dead who had preceded her, and, then, by
transition, to an address of the Mummy to its
departed soul.
Woe was in the land of Egypt,1
Grief was on the monarch’s throne ;2
Aged Pharaoh, sad and childless,3
Uttered sob and uttered groan ;4
Death had won his dearest treasure,5
Desolate he stood alone.6
From his hand he thrust the sceptre,7
From his brow he plucked the crown ;8
Royal robe and priestly vesture,9
Warrior sword, he flung them down ;10
Sackcloth round his loins was girt,11
Ashes on his head were strown.12
Woe was in the land of Egypt,13
On the loftiest and the least ;14
Woe on king and woe on people,15
Bond and freeman, prince and priest ;16
Day and night they uttered wailings,17
Lamentations never ceased.18
At length the king rose, and he lifted
his head,
And he spake but three words, “ Bury
my dead.”
Her delicate body with water they
And they combed the long locks of
her hair,
And her marble-like limbs with linen
they swathed,
Imbued with rich spices, and unguents
To keep off the breath of the envious
They folded her hands for their age-
long prayer ;
They laid on her breast,27
For its age-long rest,28
The bulb of the hyacinth root ;29
And, with pious intent and reverend
They wound from the head to the
The long linen bandages, crossing them
Till each motionless limb in its vestment
was bound,
And she lay folded up,34
Like a flower in its cup35
Which has never awakened, and knows
but repose,
Like the bud never blown of the sleeping
white rose.
So they embalmed that lovely form,38
And made that queenly face immortal,39
Shutting from his prey the worm,40
And barring close the admitting
portal ;
And Decay could not enter.42
The sycamore tree in the garden fell,43
She would love it they thought in
the tomb ;
They hollowed it out, a gloomy deep cell,45
A dark, dreary lodge where no queen
would dwell ;
But she made no complaint, it suited
her well ;
There was small enough space, and
yet wide enough room ;
The dead are content with a narrow
And they are not afraid of the gloom.50


There were no tossing arms51
And no aching heads ;52
All their pillows were soft53
And downy their beds.54
None weary and wakeful lay55
Counting each hour,56
Missing the drowsy juice57
Wrung from the poppy flower.58
None looked for the light ;59
None longed for the day,60
Grew tired of their couches,61
Or wished them away.62
The babe lay hushed to a calmer rest63
Than ever mother’s loving breast64
Or fondling arms in life had given,65
Or lullaby that rose to heaven66
And brought the angels down to guard
the cradle-nest.
The husband and the wife,68
As once in life,69
Slept side by side,70
Undreaming of the cares the morning
might betide.
The bridegroom and the bride72
Their fill of love might take ;73
None kept the lovers now apart ;74
Yet neither to the other spake,75
And heart leapt not to heart :76
Death had wooed both,77
And come in room78
To him of loving bride,79
To her of fond bridegroom ;80
Yet they slept sweetly81
With closéd eyes,82
And knew not Death had cheated
And won the prize.84
None knelt to the king, yet none were
ashamed ;
None prayed unto God, yet no one
blamed ;
None weighed out silver or counted
gold ;
Nothing was bought, and nothing sold ;88
None would give, and none would take,89
No one answered, and no one spake.90
There were crowds on crowds, and yet
no din,
Sinner on sinner, and yet no sin ;92
Poverty was not, nor any wealth,93
None knew sickness, and none knew
health ;
None felt blindness, and none saw light,95
There were millions of eyes and yet no
sight ;
Millions of ears and yet no hearing,97
Millions of hearts, and yet no fearing ;98
None knew joy, and none knew sorrow ;99
Yesterday was the same as to-day and
None felt hunger, none felt thirst,101
No one blessed, and no one cursed,102
None wasted the hours, and none saved
None did any good, or committed crime ;104
Grief and woe, and guilt and care,105
Fiery passion and sullen despair,106
Were all unknown and unthought of
there :
Joy and love, and peace and bliss,108
Holy affection and kindly kiss,109
Were strangers there to all, I wiss.110
The soldier laid aside his spear,111
And was a man of peace ;112
The slave forgot to fear,113
And sighed not for release ;114
The widow dried her tear115
And thought not of her lord’s decease.116
The subtle brain117
Of the curious priest,118
To strive and strain119
With thought had ceased.120
Lips that like angels’ sung121
Moved not the air,122
And the eloquent tongue123
Lay dumb in its lair,124
Behind the closed gate of the teeth :125
The flute-like throat126
Uttered no note,127
And the bosom swelled not with the
No mourning nor crying,129
No sobbing nor sighing,130
None weeping over the dead or the
Were heard on the way :132
No singing, no laughing,133
No joying, no dafting,134
No reveller’s glee when carousing and
Nor children at play :136
None shouted, none whispered ; there
rose not a hum
In that great city of the deaf and dumb.138
They left her there among the rows139
Of royal dead to find repose,140
Where Silence with her soundless wings141
Hovers o’er sleeping queens and kings,142
And each in dumbness steeps :143
And Darkness with her sightless eye,144
Gazes down through a starless sky,145
And all from waking keeps.146


Soul, I loved thee ;147
Thou wert beautiful :148
Soul, I served thee ;149
I was dutiful :150
We had been so long together,151
In the fair and the foul weather ;152
We had known such joys and tears153
That my love grew with the years.154
I was not an enemy155
Unto thy salvation ;156
If I sinned, I sinned with thee,157
Yielding to temptation ;158
Thou wert wiser,159
Thou wert stronger ;160
I was never thy despiser ;161
Wilfully I was no wronger162
Wronging thee I wronged myself.163
I am but a broken cage,164
And the eagle’s fled ;165
Think you he will quell his rage,166
Bend his high and haughty head,167
Leave the air at one fell swoop,168
And with folded pinions stoop169
Underneath these bars ; to droop170
Once again, with sullen eye171
Gazing at the far-off sky ?172
He has gone his way, and I173
Grudge him not his liberty.174
Does the wanton butterfly175
Long for her aurelia sleep,176
Sicken of the sunlit sky,177
Shrivel up her wings and creep178
From the untasted rose’s chalice,179
Back into her chrysalis ?180
Does she on the wing deplore181
She can be a worm no more ?182
The melodious, happy bee,183
Will she backward ring her bell,184
Grieving for a life so free,185
Wishing back the narrow cell186
Where a cloistered nun she lay,187
Knowing not the night from day ?188
Lithe and subtle serpents turning189
Wheresoe’er they will,190
Are they full of sad repining191
That they cannot now be still,192
Coiled in the maternal prison193
Out of which they have arisen ?194
Earth to earth, and dust to dust,195
Ashes unto ashes must ;196
Death precedeth birth.197
Infant gladness198
Ends in madness,199
And from blackest roots of sadness200
Rise the brightest flowers of mirth.201
I am but the quiver, useless202
When the bolts are shot ;203
But the dangling mocking scabbard204
Where the sword is not.205
I am like a shattered bark206
Flung high up upon the shore ;207
Gone are streamers, sails, and mast,208
Steering helm and labouring oar.209
River-joys, ye all are past ;210
I shall breast the Nile no more.211
I was once a lamp of life,212
Shining in upon the soul ;213
But I was a lamp of clay :214
Death and I had bitter strife ;215
He hath pierced the golden bowl,216
And he sent my soul astray.217
It is an immortal thing,218
Far beyond his venomed sting,219
But my life was his to win,220
And I must the forfeit pay ;221
So he poured the precious oil222
Of my very life away.223
If my soul should seek for me,224
It would find me dark ;225
In my leaking cup would see226
Death the quencher’s mark :227
Angels could not light in me228
Now the feeblest spark :229
I am broken, empty, cold ;230
Oil of life I could not hold.231
Soul and body cannot mate,232
Unless Life doth join their hands ;233
And the fell divorcer sweareth234
By the royal crown he weareth235
And the awful sword he beareth,236
That a king’s are his commands.237
Soul and body, Life shall never,238
When my smiting sword doth sever,239
Join again in wedlock’s bands.”240
I was once the trusted casket241
Of a priceless, wondrous gem :242
With a closed lid243
I kept it hid,244
Till God wanted245
It for his own diadem.246
Unto Death He gave the key,247
But he stayed not to unlock it ;248
If the jewel were but free,249
He, the fierce one, what cared he250
For the casket, though he broke it ?251
Mortal throes and cruel pangs252
Tore me open with their fangs,253
And God took the gem to set :254
But to put his mark on me255
Death did not forget.256
With his crushing, cruel heel,257
He impressed on me his seal,258
And on it these words were cut,259
When I open, none may shut260
Save the King, whose key I bear.ˮ261
If that gem again from heaven262
Were entrusted to my care,263
I could not enfold and keep it264
From the chill, corrupting air ;265
Could not hide it out of sight266
Of the peering prying light :—267
Crushed and shattered, mean and vile,268
I am fit only for the funeral pile.269
I am not a harp whose strings270
Wait but for the quivering wings271
Of the breathing Spirit-wind272
Over them its way to find,273
Thrilling them with its fond greeting274
Till they answer back . . . . repeating275
Tone for tone ;276
Adding others of their own.277
All my chords are tangled, broken,278
And their breaking is a token279
That, if now the wind-like spirit280
Should come longing back to me,281
It would vainly try to elicit282
Note or any melody.283
Life once by me stood and wound284
Each string to its sweetest sound,285
But Death stole the winding key,286
And it would be woe to me287
If my soul from heaven should come288
But to find me hushed and mute,289
Soundless as a shattered drum,290
Voiceless as an unblown flute,291
Speechless as a tongueless bell,292
Silent as an unstrung lute,293
Dumber than a dead sea shell :294
I could not even as a lisper295
Utter back the faintest whisper,296
Were it but to say farewell.297
Archangelic trumpet sounding,298
Thou shalt wake us all ;299
On the startled universe300
Shall thy summons fall ;301
And the sympathising planets302
Shall obey thy call,303
Weeping o’er their sinful sister,304
Stretched beneath her funeral pall.305
Earth, thou wert baptized in light,306
When the Spirit brooded o’er thee ;307
Fair thou wert in God’s own sight,308
And a life of joy before thee ;309
But thy day was turned to night,310
And an awful change came o’er thee.311
Then thou wert baptized again ;312
In the avenging, cleansing flood,313
Afterward for guilty men314
Christ baptized thee with wae blood ;315
Yet to efface the stain of crime316
God shall light thy funeral pyre,317
And the fourth and final time318
Thou shalt be baptized with fire.319

V. The Sleep.

Over the Necropolis and the land of Egypt,
the seasons and the centuries pass, producing
their changes in Nature, celestial and terres-
trial, and in all human history ; everywhere
there is the same unvarying alternation of Life
and Death ; and through all this monotony of
change the Dead sleep, awaiting with irrepres-
sible yearnings their Resurrection.
The shadow of the pyramids320
Fled round before the sun :321
By day it fled,322
It onward sped ;323
And when its daily task was done324
The moon arose, and round the plain325
The weary shadow fled again.326
The sphinx looked east,327
The sphinx looked west,328
And north and south her shadow fell ;329
How many times she sought for rest330
And found it not, no tongue may tell.331
But much it vexed the heart of greedy
That neither rain nor snow, nor frost
nor hail,
Trouble the calm of the Egyptian clime ;334
For these for him, like heavy iron
And wedge and saw, and biting tooth
and file,
Against the palaces of kings prevail,337
And crumble down the loftiest pile,338
And eat the ancient hills away,339
And make the very mountains know
And sorely he would grudge, and much
would carp,
That he could never keep his polished
His mowing sickle keen and sharp,343
For all the din and all the dust he
He cursed the mummies that they would
not rot,
He cursed the paintings that they faded
And swore to tumble Memnon from his
seat ;
But, foiled awhile, to hide his great
With his wide wings he blew the Libyan
And hid from mortal eyes the glories of
the land.
Then he would hie away351
With many a frown,352
And whet his scythe353
By grinding Babylons down ;354
And chuckle blithe,355
As, with his hands356
Sifting the sands,357
He meted in his glass358
How centuries pass,359
And say, “ I think this dust doth tell360
Whoever faileth, I work well.”361


Round the great dial of the year362
The seasons went and struck the quarters,363
Whilst the swift months, like circling
Told the twelve changes by their chang-
ing flowers ;
And the great glaciers from the moun-
tain tops,
Where the bold chamois dare not climb,367
Silently sliding down the slopes,368
Marked the slow years upon the clock
of Time.
The burst of revelry was heard no more370
Along the Nile ; nor near its reedy shore371
The pleasant plashing of the dipping oar :372
Nor cry of sailor unto sailor calling,373
Nor music of the hammer on the anvil
Nor song of women singing in the sun,375
Nor craftsmen merry when their work
is done :
The trumpet all was hushed, the harp
was still,
And ceased the hum of the revolving
mill :
The sound of solitude alone was there,379
And solemn silence reigning everywhere.380
The sun, the mighty alchymist,381
With burning ardour daily kissed382
1 Similar reference in Hood’s poems.
Earth’s dusky bosom into gold :383
And when at eve384
He took his leave,385
Again his eager lips grew bold,386
And on her dark’ning brow and breast387
His strange transmuting kiss impressed.388
The moon ! she hath hermetic skill,389
As nightly every shadow told ;390
She cannot change all things to gold,391
But she hath skill, and she hath will,392
To turn to silver blackest hill393
And deepest shade and darkest pile ;394
And night by night,395
The gloomy Nile,396
A sea of light,397
Smiled to her smile.398
A million times, by days of men,399
The earth her silver robes put off,400
Only her golden train to doff401
In shortest time again.402
Link by link, and ring by ring,403
Each day and night a link would bring :404
The sun ! a ring, all golden-bright,405
The moon ! a link, all silver white ;406
And so the twain407
Wove at the chain408
Which they have woven all the way,409
Since first was night and first was day.410
It girdleth round the earth, and then,411
Swift passing from the abodes of men,412
It all transcendeth human ken413
To trace it back, it goes so far,414
Up to the dawn of time,415
Beyond the farthest star.416
In the lost past417
It hangeth fast,418
Held by the hand of God ;419
And angels, when they wish to know420
How time is moving here below,421
Come floating down on half-spread wings,422
And see the steps our earth has trod,423
By counting the alternate rings424
That mark the day425
And mark the night,426
Since God said “ Be”427
And there was light.428
The azure sky a garden lay,429
In which at mid-day seed was sown ;430
It peeped at eve, at twilight budded,431
And, when the day had passed away,432
The buds were burst, the leaves were
And starry flowers the midnight
studded :
Quick bloomed they there,435
Too bright and fair436
Not to be taken soon away :437
Thick through the air438
Rained they,439
In blazing showers,440
Their meteor-flowers,441
And withered at the dawn of day.442
They were not blotted from the sky !443
They faded, but they did not die :444
Each in its azure-curtained bed445
In stillest slumber slept ;446
Whilst, glancing far,447
The evening star448
A wakeful vigil kept,449
Till, when the setting sun withdrew,450
The appointed sign was given,451
And each grew up and bloomed anew,452
And glorified the face of heaven.453
Swift comets fled across the sky,454
Like murderers from the wrath of God,455
With frenzied look, and fiery eye456
(For swift behind the avenger trod),457
And long, dishevelled, trailing hair,458
Seeking in vain to find a lair,459
Where they could hide their great de-
They sought the very bounds of space,461
But dared not for a moment stay ;462
The dread Avenger’s awful face463
Waited before them on the way :464
They turned, their footsteps to retrace ;465
They thought they flagged not in the race,466
But shuddered as a mighty force,467
Which none could see, but all could
Checking their wild eccentric course,469
Bade them in lesser circles wheel :470
The judgment had gone forth that they471
Should feed the burning sun :472
They felt that vengeance had begun473
Which, though it suffered long delay,474
Would sternly smite and surely slay475
When their appointed race was run.476
And some there were of gentler sort,477
With slower step, of lowlier port,478
With smoother locks and calmer eye,479
Who, shooting by the startled sky,480
Or gleaming through the midday blue,481
On errands sent which no one knew,482
Came—none knew whence ; went—none
knew where,
The gipsies of the upper air.484
So whirled those stars, whilst worlds of
Died ere the time of their returning ;486
Yet they failed not to come again,487
With unquenched tresses fiercely burn-
And, round a smaller area turning,489
Flew like doomed things to meet
the ire
That gave them to eternal fire.491
And, as they left the sleeping pair,492
They found them still at each return-
Down in the darkness, keeping there494
An everlasting mourning.495
They would have thought the baleful
Of comets a delightful sight,497
And joyed to gaze up at their hair,498
Waving malignant in the air.499
But not the faintest flickering gleam500
Of all their blinding glare,501
Not one adventurous errant beam,502
Could grope its way adown the stair503
That led to their sepulchral room,504
Or find a chink within their tomb,505
By which to show to spell-bound eyes506
The terrors of the midnight skies.507
The ibis gravely stalking508
As a self-appointed warden,509
Through every valley walking,510
Went through and through the gar-
And with his curvèd bill,512
Like a reaper’s sickle hook,513
On every noxious thing514
A speedy vengeance took.515
White pelicans came sailing516
Like galleys down the stream ;517
And the peacock raised the wailing518
Of his melancholy scream,519
From the lofty temple-summits520
Where he loved to take his stand,521
As if to catch a glimpse522
Of his far-distant land.523
And the sober matron geese,524
Now swimming and now wading,525
Now paddling in the mud,526
And now on shore parading,527
Moved, discoursing to each other528
With their mellow trumpet-voices,529
Each with native music telling530
Of a creature that rejoices ;531
Till some leader’s shrillest signal,532
As of sudden foe invading,533
Stopped the babble of their tongues,534
And their careless promenading,535
And they rose in steady phalanx536
Unfurling in the air,537
Like the banners of an army538
When they hear the trumpet’s blare ;539
And now they kept together540
Like a fleet of ships at sea,541
When they fear not stormy weather542
Or foe from whom to flee ;543
And then they scattered far and wide,544
Like ships before a gale,545
When naked masts stand up on deck546
With scarce a single sail ;547
And now their phalanx like a wedge548
Went cleaving through the air,549
And then it was a hollow ring,550
And then a hollow square.551
So ! free through sea, and earth, and
With web, and foot, and wing,553
They lowly walked, or soared on, high,554
And none disturbed their travelling.555
They wandered at their own wild will556
Till daylight died and all was still,557
And then a summons clear and shrill558
Led them all back with weary wing,559
To rest in peace :560
Till night should cease,561
Lulled by the Nile’s low murmuring ;562
And in the garden’s ample ground563
They each a welcome haven found.564
The garden was all full of life,565
All filled with living things ;566
Life in the earth and air,567
On bird and insect wings ;568
Life swimming in the river,569
Life walking on the land,570
The life of eye and ear,571
And heart, and brain, and hand.572
Life ! in the lichen sleeping,573
Life ! in the moss half-waking,574
A drowsy vigil keeping ;575
Life ! in the green tree taking576
Its course as a river ;577
Life, making each nerve quiver578
In the eagle upward soaring :579
Life, flowing on for ever,580
Into waters ever pouring581
Into that grave of death, which we582
Count as an all-devouring sea ;583
Dark are its depths, but they cannot retain584
Aught that was living ; it will not re-
Down in the darkness it hateth to stay ;586
Upward it riseth, and cleaveth its way587
Out of Death’s midnight into Life’s day.588
Fire from God’s altar rekindleth its
Effaceth Death’s mark and removeth
his stain,
Clothes it afresh and changeth its name,591
Nerves it anew to pleasure and pain,592
And sendeth it back to the place whence
it came :—
Tither it speeds and returneth again,594
Like the wave of the lake595
And the foam of the river,596
Which as clouds from the sea597
The sun doth dissever.598
He bathes them in glory,599
He clothes them in light,600
He weaves for them garments of every
hue :
They tire of the glory,602
They steal from his sight,603
They drop on the earth as invisible dew.604
They return to the lake,605
They revisit the river,606
Like arrows shot up607
Which come back to their quiver.608
As the cloud was the sea,609
And the sea was the cloud,610
So the cradle of Life611
Is wrapped in Death’s shroud.612
The Life cometh down613
As the rain comes from heaven ;614
To flow is its law ;615
To Death it is given.616
The life riseth up617
As a cloud from Death’ sea ;618
It changeth its robe,619
From decay it is free ;620
It mocketh at Death,621
It breaketh his chain ;622
And the clouds in the sky623
Come after the rain.624
Life’s a spender,625
Death’s a keeper ;626
Life’s a watcher,627
Death’s a sleeper ;628
Life’s a sower,629
Death’s a reaper ;630
Life’s a laugher,631
Death’s a weeper ;632
Life’s an ever-flowing river,633
Death’s an ever-filling sea ;634
Death is shackled,635
Life is free ;636
Death is darkness,637
Life is light ;638
Death is blindness,639
Life is sight ;640
Life is fragrant,641
Death is noisome ;642
Death is woeful,643
Life is joysome ;644
Life is music,645
Death is soundless ;646
Death is bounded,647
Life is boundless ;648
Death is lowly,649
Life hath pride ;650
Death’s a bridegroom,651
Life’s the bride ;652
Death’s the winter,653
Life’s the spring ;654
Life’s a queen,655
But Death’s a king ;656
Life’s a blossom,657
Death’s its root ;658
Death’s a seed,659
And life’s its fruit ;660
Death is sown,661
And life upsprings ;662
Death hath fetters,663
Life hath wings.664
So in endless iteration,665
Through the long protracted ages,666
Rose their wailing alternation ;667
Like the murmur that presages668
Rising tempests, ere their fullest
fury rages,
Rose and fell670
Its plaintive swell,671
Like the mourning one doth hear,672
Listening with attentive ear673
To the sighing of a shell,674
Orphaned from its mother sea,675
Where it longs again to dwell,676
Weary of its liberty.677
So they panted for the light ;678
Yearnèd for the living day,679
Sick of silence, tired of darkness,680
Chafing at the long delay ;681
Till, when thrice a thousand years682
Drearily had passed away,683
Hope and faith fled with them too,684
And they ceased to pray.685
No one seemed to love or heed them,686
And in dull despair they waited,687
To a hopeless bondage fated,688
Till the Archangel’s voice should bid
Rise upon the Judgment Day.690
[Here the Author’s MS. ends—the intended
final part, to be called the “ Awaking,” never
having been written.]