How Love Looked For Hell. - Poem by Sidney Lanier
'To heal his heart of long-time pain
One day Prince Love for to travel was fain
With Ministers Mind and Sense.
`Now what to thee most strange may be?'
Quoth Mind and Sense. `All things above,
One curious thing I first would see --
Hell,' quoth Love.
'Then Mind rode in and Sense rode out:
They searched the ways of man about.
First frightfully groaneth Sense.
`'Tis here, 'tis here,' and spurreth in fear
To the top of the hill that hangeth above
And plucketh the Prince: `Come, come, 'tis here --'
`Where?' quoth Love --
'`Not far, not far,' said shivering Sense
As they rode on. `A short way hence,
-- But seventy paces hence:
Look, King, dost see where suddenly
This road doth dip from the height above?
Cold blew a mouldy wind by me'
(`Cold?' quoth Love)
'`As I rode down, and the River was black,
And yon-side, lo! an endless wrack
And rabble of souls,' sighed Sense,
`Their eyes upturned and begged and burned
In brimstone lakes, and a Hand above
Beat back the hands that upward yearned --'
`Nay!' quoth Love --
'`Yea, yea, sweet Prince; thyself shalt see,
Wilt thou but down this slope with me;
'Tis palpable,' whispered Sense.
-- At the foot of the hill a living rill
Shone, and the lilies shone white above;
`But now 'twas black, 'twas a river, this rill,'
(`Black?' quoth Love)
'`Ay, black, but lo! the lilies grow,
And yon-side where was woe, was woe,
-- Where the rabble of souls,' cried Sense,
`Did shrivel and turn and beg and burn,
Thrust back in the brimstone from above --
Is banked of violet, rose, and fern:'
`How?' quoth Love:
'`For lakes of pain, yon pleasant plain
Of woods and grass and yellow grain
Doth ravish the soul and sense:
And never a sigh beneath the sky,
And folk that smile and gaze above --'
`But saw'st thou here, with thine own eye,
Hell?' quoth Love.
'`I saw true hell with mine own eye,
True hell, or light hath told a lie,
True, verily,' quoth stout Sense.
Then Love rode round and searched the ground,
The caves below, the hills above;
`But I cannot find where thou hast found
Hell,' quoth Love.
'There, while they stood in a green wood
And marvelled still on Ill and Good,
Came suddenly Minister Mind.
`In the heart of sin doth hell begin:
'Tis not below, 'tis not above,
It lieth within, it lieth within:'
(`Where?' quoth Love)
'`I saw a man sit by a corse;
`Hell's in the murderer's breast: remorse!'
Thus clamored his mind to his mind:
Not fleshly dole is the sinner's goal,
Hell's not below, nor yet above,
'Tis fixed in the ever-damned soul --'
`Fixed?' quoth Love --
'`Fixed: follow me, would'st thou but see:
He weepeth under yon willow tree,
Fast chained to his corse,' quoth Mind.
Full soon they passed, for they rode fast,
Where the piteous willow bent above.
`Now shall I see at last, at last,
Hell,' quoth Love.
'There when they came Mind suffered shame:
`These be the same and not the same,'
A-wondering whispered Mind.
Lo, face by face two spirits pace
Where the blissful willow waves above:
One saith: `Do me a friendly grace --'
(`Grace!' quoth Love)
'`Read me two Dreams that linger long,
Dim as returns of old-time song
That flicker about the mind.
I dreamed (how deep in mortal sleep!)
I struck thee dead, then stood above,
With tears that none but dreamers weep;'
`Dreams,' quoth Love;
'`In dreams, again, I plucked a flower
That clung with pain and stung with power,
Yea, nettled me, body and mind.'
`'Twas the nettle of sin, 'twas medicine;
No need nor seed of it here Above;
In dreams of hate true loves begin.'
`True,' quoth Love.
'`Now strange,' quoth Sense, and `Strange,' quoth Mind,
`We saw it, and yet 'tis hard to find,
-- But we saw it,' quoth Sense and Mind.
Stretched on the ground, beautiful-crowned
Of the piteous willow that wreathed above,
`But I cannot find where ye have found
Hell,' quoth Love.'
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