Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

Azrael: A Dream Of Pleasure - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

'Azrael, the angel of death.'

MOURN for Annabel!
The village bell is tolling, and she will
Never arise from where she lieth stil,
Cold and so lovely, flowers white and red,
Old dames and tender damozels have shed
Tearful, all over her, in shadowy air
Alive with perfume curling blue and rare,
Jewels and gold and jasper glowing deep
As in a dreamland of a solemn sleep,
With solemn music plaining while the mourners weep.

Fair Azrael, with Annabel the child
Of Southern suns, a panther supple and wild,
Mellow and beautiful, the while one tarried
Far hence, a man she never loved but married,
Wandered in sweet communion day and night
Within her garden, shielded from the light
Of suns too violent, under pensile palm,
And aromatic, glossy-leaved calm
Orange, with lemon wedding boughs above;
In whose green twilight bridal blooms of love
Bud, and expand their petals, till they shed
Lavish white coronals on either head,
On lustrous ebony and golden head.
They wandered where a soft Æolian sea
Fills far off with profound tranquillity
Half of the interval, which lies between
Shadowy cypresses and pines that lean
Over the sunlight; half is filled with air
Azure as ocean; near, a fountain fair
Singing springs ever thwart blue air and main,
A shifting snowcloud, twinkling into rain,
Drifting to fume that feeds earth's emerald:
Anon their dreamy vision is enthralled
With scintillating of a ruffled ocean
Among thin olive-foliage in motion:
Seaward from flowers around their feet a lawn
Slopes; all the greenery's a haunt of fawn,
Or nymph marmoreal: from shade to shade
On the sea-lustre glows and glides to fade,
Swiftly and silent, many a wing-like sail
Of bark aerial; never seems to fail
Some new surprise of freshly-flowing joy,
Eros and Psyche in white marble embrace,
Whom lustrous-leaved camellias enlace:
In light and shadow of a terebinth,
Elsewhere, upon a myrtle-inwoven plinth,
Heavenly Hebe her perennial charm
Unfolds; young Dionysos a lithe arm
Curls over love-locks, and a rounded form,
In fair profusion of lit vine-leaves warm.
When either Phidian image glows in roses
Lavish around them, or at eve reposes
Flushed with a glory, breatheth every one
Alive, a new bride of Pygmalion-
Sweet Mitylene, isle of love and song,
Two fair young lovers for an hour prolong
Reverberate modulations from the lyre,
Whose soul still haunts thee with voluptuous fire!
Sappho, Arion, and Terpander breathe
O'er hill and valley; lawny mists enwreathe
Faintly before all lovers oversea
A mountain, hued like flowers of memory;
Where Aphrodite, born of Paphian foam,
Found the fair shepherd in his piny home,
And where, on Ida, an imperial Bird
Ravished a fairer from his pipes and herd.

They read or sang sweet songs, and oft a star
Thrilled a roseate eve to her guitar.
She wore pomegranate crimson in her hair,
Around her waist and shoulders only rare
Silk from Olympian looms, like gossamer;
While languid pearls lay heavingly on her
Virginal bosom; ambergris and myrrh
Enkindling breathe from ocean-blue enamel,
Whose misty fervours golden lids entrammel:
And while they taste a bright Methymnian wine,
Amber-inhaled ambrosial fumes entwine
Delicious dream around them: fingers fine
Fill often his half-laughing, amorous lips
With pleasant, garnet-hued pomegranate pips,
Or luscious, lucent dainties that her skill
Can from sweet, crimson-hearted fruits distil.
If with his wanton mouth he gently bite,
But very gently will she feign to smite.
Three interlaced half-moons of diamond
Thrill for rich ecstasy to link, with frond
Of fern-wrought rubies, on her balmy breast
Her silk translucency of filmy vest.
He wore a slumbrous oriental gold
Dusky with silk inwoven, half unrolled
From a white bosom of ideal mould.

Once when a silver-clanging chime
Told the stealthy flight of time,
They left a cedar-raftered chamber,
Where oil in opaline and amber
Gleamed, as mildest lamps are able,
Over furs of lynx and sable;
Crimson wools, Iranian fur
Of panther, pard, or minever.
And while they went, some drowsy doves
In holm and laurel flew like loves
Over them; the mild fire-flies
Gleamed before their happy eyes.

Fair was the night when youth and lady stept
From where their lemon-tinted villa slept,
With balustrade and roofing palely grey,
Laved of the moon, beneath a grove that lay
Under enchantment, to a hushful bower
Of bay and asphodel, with passion flower
Inwoven: it was warm and dusk therein,
And delicate foliage made a shadowy thin
Lacework suspended in aerial blue
Silvery twilight, over where they two,
Muffled in mossful secrecy, reclined
Nigh one another, Azrael behind.

'In the tree
A murmur, as of indolent shed sea
On sands at midnight ceasing slumbrously!
Through dim, uncoloured leaves
An elfin glimmer cleaves
A varying way from realms of mystery.'
So sang she softly to her soft guitar,
And ceased; and both were silent, hearing far
The bubbling fountain, and a nightingale,
That seemed to flow at intervals and fail.
Her face for him was pencilled pure and fine
Athwart the gloaming; and, 'O lady mine,'
He whispered, 'how adorable are you
To-night! forgive me!' till there softly grew
A tender arm around her form, and she
Yielded and leaned on him responsively,
Until his blood ran fire when she pressed
Her dewy, ripe young lips upon his breast,
Moonwhite in moonlight; for a ray had come
To nestle in the fair, congenial home.
Then mouth burned mouth, her undulating charms
Yielding to his luxurious young arms.
Later, in sweet confusion's disarray,
Hand in hand stole they to a little bay,
Where a pale foam stole out of a grey sea,
And kissed the pale rock ever murmurously.
Cypress leaned mournful over, and a throng
Of hushful moonwhite houses lay along
Yon circling shoreside, minarets, how fair!
Arising tall and slender into air:
A chaunt was wafted from a fisher's boat,
Dozing upon the pearl with nets afloat.
Shadowy, folding mountains from the sea
Rise to enclose the bay's chalcedony:
Ida beyond, dim silvered of the moon,
Soars with her snow in some enchanted swoon:
Delicate shells with whorl, and valve, and spire
Gleam in a rhythmic phosphorescent fire.
Silently dreams near yonder myrtle brake
An egret, plumed as with a soft snowflake,
Like a pure soul by some celestial lake.
Lo! now the lovers dainty limbs will lave
In the delicious coolness of the wave.

'I with thee,
By fringes of the pale, enamoured sea,
On the shore's bosom dying dreamfully,
Singing in the leaves,
Love it is who weaves
Around our hearts a heavenly mystery!'
Then as they neared their villa, in a tunnel
Of oranges where purls a crystal runnel,
A rustle in the trees she thought she heard,
And deemed she saw a shadow; ''Tis a bird,'
He whispered, after pausing: 'all's a dream!'
She murmured, 'Ah! how heavenly a dream!' . . .
. . . Out of the shadow flashed a steely gleam:
Her own death-shriek awoke her, and she fell
At the feet of her angel Azrael.

Mourn for Annabel!
The village bell is tolling, and she will
Never arise from where she lieth still,
Cold and so lovely, flowers white and red,
Old dames and tender damozels have shed
Tearful, all over her, in shadowy air
Alive with perfume curling blue and rare,
Jewels and gold and jasper glowing deep
As in a dreamland of a solemn sleep,
With solemn music plaining while the mourners weep.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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