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Whether by thought mapped out, or lighted on
Through lofty visitation felt in sleep;
And readily he drew near unto his sire
And spake, appealing to that swerveless oath :-

"My father, for thy words rhyme well with hope
Not questionless till now, if this be true,
And I thy child indeed, sprung from thy loins,
Shame were it to respond unroyally
To thy most royal prelude, and to ask
Aught facile or profanely pitched too low
For thy large heart and the reflected pomp
Whereof to-day I am called an inheritor.
That were an argument of craven blood,
Not worthy my great lineage. But do thou
Make me but once the splendid charioteer
Vicegerent of thy wain, the lamp of worlds;
So shall my vast renown of embassage
Flash wide conviction both on gods and men,
And those false tongues put down eternally
Who vex the child of the Eternal Sun."

He ended; but the brows of Phoebus lowered; And, stung with the anguish of a god, he spake :


Child, thou hast asked a hard and a perilous thing, A thing to be denied even to Zeus.

Woe worth the moment when I swore by Styx

To this most dire completion of a will

So wayward! Thou hast asked a boonless boon,
Not knowing that thou dost aspire to die,
Scared with a ruinous elemental roar
Too late, and sepulchred in floods of fire.
For who of mortal or immortal brood
May wield at will the horses of the Sun,
Not lightly tamed, even by me, their lord?
O glean a little wisdom while thou mayest!
Is there not somewhere something to be found,
Sufficient to wipe out this fatal boon?"

So Phoebus; but the child of Clymene
Stood firm, appealing to the swerveless oath ;
And all night long Apollo, with knit brows,
Heavy of soul and sore disquieted,
Through his wide palace wandered up and down ;
And, like the erring phantasm of a man
Slain traitorously and cast into the deep,
Who, for the dread want of a little earth,
Cannot find rest, so rest was none for him.
But the other, dreaming of the day's emprise,
Couched without care and in the bloom of sleep,
Lay till the early twilight, then rose up
Flushed for the boon, and found his glorious sire
Pacing beneath a pillared portico,

Still pausing when he passed the silver plains
Of two huge valves, embossed with graven gold,
Work of Hephæstus, and descript with all

Which earth and heaven and Nereid-haunted deep Foster in wave or field or azure sky.

And ever as he paused he sighed, as if

Boding but little good to anything

In earth or heaven or Nereid-haunted deep.

Soon conscious of his child, he turned, and there
Urging divine dissuasion, half in tears,

Spake; but that other would not. And they moved
Together, led by rosy-fingered Dawn,

In silence, till they reached the empyreal gates,
Which, to weird lutes receding, gave to view
Authentic heaven surpassing voice or dream;
For lo! the awful chariot of the Sun,
Flaring upon their front, itself a sun,
Wrought from metallic ores unutterable;
And all the streaming surface intersown
With rainbow-flames of keen-eyed jewellery,
And the long burnished axle thick with gold,
And wheels, a countless order, each like each,
Armed with a central star, and diamond-rimmed,
Blinding to men, save whom the gods keep whole.
For as with us plain earth is soiled and dull,
Matched with the marquetry of Indian kings,
So blurred and swarthy to celestial gems
Are earth-born ruby, pearl, or amethyst,
Opal, and tender sapphire, queen of stones.
Far up the vault a dazzling pavement, arched
Of diamond, chymic wonder, tracked with lines
Thrice-glistering, the diurnal route of wheels,
Scaled to the zenith; and on either side
The myriad constellations sprang like flowers
Glassed in the cloudless hyaline. Anon
Came forth that famous team, caparisoned,
Four, and each fulminous with glancing flame,
Yet childlike, each, to the light-handed Hours
Who held him. Twain about the golden pole,
Obsequious to long use, their station took,
And twain, with gleaming traces, in the van,
And in a moment they were linked for speed.

But Phaethon stood silent-that white reach Thwarting the blue serene, a belt of fire, And all the flaming equipage unrolled, In their essential lustre, form, and size, So far transcended the pale counterfeit Nursed in his dream and once he half drew back For terror; nor the faint recoil escaped The Sun-god, who made parley yet once more :—

"Son, for thine hour is coming, not yet come,
Let for dear life a noble prudence trench
On blind unwisdom rushing to its doom.
Fly from this venture-for I know that Death
Will ride at thy right hand upon the Car.
Yet, yet, take warning; ask another boon."

He ended; but the child of Clymene,

Through shame and curst ambition, stood to his quest.
And the god, condescending to his child,
Smeared face and hands and raiment with a chrism
Known to none else, most sovereign to repel
Tempestuous inroad of the fiery clime
Breathed by that fierce quaternian in the front,
And dashed in billowy flame from the echoing wheels.
Then, breathing on the brows, made all his mien
Godlike, severe, and large to look upon,
And placed the glittering reinage in his hands,
And helped him to his throne upon the Car;
But, ere he parted, spake a farewell word :-

"Slack not the rein, nor from tense watch decline Thine eyelids, lest thou find a doom not sought, Maugre this fireproof chrism and godlike mien. For know that underneath thee, where thou goest, Swims earth, far-planted in the vacuous gulf, Whose yawning interval both knees and brain Sickens. A league above this pontal ark, Now seeming one with heaven, the dizzy sphere Rolls a pernicious round, swarming with starsBale overhead, and deep bale at thy feet,In temperate self-distrust thy safety dwells. Swerve not a hair lest thou abandon life; The heaven's revolving fabric all day long, Here in palatial splendour shall waft round, Skirting the wide horizon, till I meet, If the Fates will, thy duly westering wheels, So night shall be divine indeed, while we Slide with melodious music, unaware, Back to these roseate realms, where men behold Daily the soft sweet horizontal lights Slow-deepening into spears of tender flame. Farewell! may happy omens speed thy path!"

He ended; and the Hours with one accord Stept sideways, and let go the willing steeds.

Then soberly and well did Phaethon Hoard up and use that warning of the god, "Slack not the rein, nor from tense watch decline Thine eyelids' -so he watching slacked not rein, But, from the godlike increase given to him, Maintained an equal nerve, though sore afraid. Nor even thus with all his power had curbed That chivalry divine, but that the god Infused a soul more governably mild For that one voyage, making their defect Somewhat incline, for easier vassalage, To his son's lifted virtue. So he passed Safe on his course, and all the heaven drank light, And, touched with splendour, wine-dark ocean smiled, Heaving with ships, black hull and snow-white sail And each land went to its accustomed workOf peace where peace, and war where there was war. Nor omen of disaster rose at all,


Till, as he neared the blazing cope of noon,
Where the steeds flagged a little, as is there wont,
For steeper seems a hill just ere the bend-
Even at the point where Nature seems to pause
And listen while the sultry hour goes by-
Flat weariness ached through him, and he thought
How boonless were the boon if this were all ;
Nor did he cease repeating to himself,
"How worthless is the boon if this be all!"
Broad is the way; the steeds are tame enough;
Till, hungered with hot zeal, he seized the thong;
Then whirled it, curling it beneath the flank
Of the two vanward; thence with sharp recoil
Crossing the arched necks of the hindmost two.
And lo! the sudden insult dug like steel
Into the one heart of the fiery four.
They in a moment knew the vulgar hands
That held them, and their lordly eyes wept fire
For anger at the ungenerous pilotage;

And each dilated nostril panted fire,

And the sides, heaving through their sleek expanse,
Stared with a noble horror, foaming fire;
While, raving up the causeway, hoof and wheel,
With screams and anvil-thunder, a deafening din,
Rained earthward and to heaven a storm of fire.
So to the summit, from whose brows the team,
Thrice-maddening, prone adown the diamond arc
Swept, and a triple whirlwind of white fire,
Blown skyward, sloped upon the charioteer,
Whom yet the chrism preserved invulnerable,
Nor even his eyelids faltered in white fire.
But, as a sick man stares, who, from some wound
Smit with red fever and delirious dream,
Thinks himself bound upon a wheel of fire,
Whirling, whirling for ever, and passes through
Cycles of anguish ere his eye can wink-
So, with like fascination, in the eyes
Of Phaethon was fixed a straining stare,
Yea, one to be remembered afterwards
By any that had seen it, man or god.

And though his brain shook, yet he could not wink;
And though his brain reeled, yet he could not fall.
Fixed were his feet, and o'er the ebbing reins
Drooped the spent fingers from the nerveless wrist.
Yet motionless, and with no quivering drooped,
He standing like a statue of pale Fear;
While louder and more loud the affrighted stars
Cried from their burning vault, or seemed to cry,
Doom in his ears, and anger and fell revenge.

Then Ganges, and a troop of Eastern streams,
Fled backward, each one to his cradle cave;
Then the tall glaciers of the Polar Zone
Flushed crimson to the roots of their cold realm;
For all the fir-crowned Scandinavian hills
Night-shrouded half the months, tier over tier,
Blazed in the gloomy North, like beacon-hells

Lit for world-wasting Furies who bear down
In convoy, with wild omens of the end.
And all the peopled plains sent up a smoke
Of harvests reaped by fire, and flaming towns,
Till the hot clamour of those masterless wheels
Rang deadlier, mingled with the loud-voiced curse
Of men by myriads overcome with hell.
And a long cry came to the ears of Zeus,
Where in full conclave of the gods he sat ;
And, while he doubted, a great rainy heat
Fell slant and sudden on the Olympian walls,
And all the ceiling glared like molten gold,
And the rich cloisters like a forest glowed
Of resinous pines, with every trunk ablaze.
And Zeus and all the gods rose up together,
And saw the wide earth smoke, and the Sun's car,
Wrecked by false rule of ignominious hands,
Flare from the crystal zenith a long white glare.
And lo! a change in the great Father's eye
Flashed darkly, and his face a moment writhed
With anger, as when taint of iron-rust
Writhes hideously a drinker's lips, anon
Whitened with cold inexorable wrath.

Mute stood the gods, while each in blank suspense
Stared on his fellow, wondering what should come.
He, turning to a sheaf of thunderbolts

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Which lay there, piled for use, in the council-hall,
Chose one, thrice tempered, in itself a sheaf,
Needing no second to enforce the doom;
Then leaning from his tower-" So perish all
Wild upstarts swoln with empire not their own
Shot once. And Phaethon, caught in mid career,
And hurled from the Sun to utter sunlessness,
Like a flame-bearded comet, with ghastliest hiss,
Fell headlong in the amazed Eridanus,
Monarch of streams, who on the Italian fields
Let loose, and far beyond his flowery lips
Foam-white, ran ruinous to the Adrian deep;
And still the unbalanced chariot flared right on,
Till, from the main line swerving, the vast heap
Fenceless, and falling a stupendous fall,
Horses and chariot, in the Western Sea
Plunged, and the rushing shower of that fell hiss,
Heard ghastlier than a myriad-throated storm
Of Pythons strangled in their noisome lair,
Seemed to drink up with lips the shuddering world.

Scarce had the sound expired, ere gods and men Heard wonderingly a beat of iron wings;

For Darkness, with a beat of iron wings,

Vaunting herself sole mistress of the world,

Sprang from that watery pyre; and heaven grew black

Before her, and man's earth, being breathed upon,

Smouldered in silence till the fires died out.
Dark was that night and long, as is the length
Of two nights and a summer day between,
And all the while men saw not with their eyes

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