The Cloud reclin'd upon his airy throne, and answer'd thus:--
`Then if thou art the food of worms, O Virgin of the skies,
How great thy use, how great thy blessing!
Everything that lives
Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
The weak Worm from its lowly
bed, and thou shalt hear its voice
Come forth, Worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive Queen.'
The helpless Worm arose, and sat upon the Lily's leaf,
And the bright Cloud sail'd on, to find his partner
in the vale.
Then Thel astonish'd view'd the Worm upon its dewy bed.
`Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
I see thee like an infant wrappèd in the
Ah! weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou canst weep.
Is this a Worm? I see
thee lay helpless and naked, weeping,
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles.'
The Clod of Clay heard the Worm's voice and rais'd her pitying head:
She bow'd over the weeping infant,
and her life exhal'd
In milky fondness: then on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes.
`O Beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves.
Thou seest me, the meanest thing, and so I am
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark;
But He, that loves the lowly, pours His oil upon
And kisses me, and binds His nuptial bands around my breast,
And says: "Thou mother of my
children, I have lovèd thee,
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away."
But how this is, sweet
Maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.'
of Beauty wip'd her pitying tears with her white veil,
And said: `Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I
That God would love a worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
That wilful bruis'd its helpless form; but
that He cherish'd it
With milk and oil I never knew, and therefore did I weep;
And I complain'd in the mild
air, because I fade away,
And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot.'
`Queen of the vales,' the matron Clay answer'd, `I heard thy sighs,
And all thy moans flew o'er my roof,
but I have call'd them down.
Wilt thou, O Queen, enter my house? 'Tis given thee to enter
And to return: fear
nothing, enter with thy virgin feet.'
The eternal gates' terrific Porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in and saw the secrets of the land
She saw the couches of the dead, and where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes
deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows and of tears where never smile was seen.
She wander'd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, list'ning
Dolours and lamentations; waiting oft beside
a dewy grave
She stood in silence, list'ning to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave-plot she
came, and there she sat down,
And heard this voice of sorrow breathèd from the hollow pit.
`Why cannot the Ear be closèd to its own destruction?
Or the glist'ning Eye to the poison of a smile?
are Eyelids stor'd with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie,
Or an Eye of
gifts and graces show'ring fruits and coinèd gold?
Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling, and affright?
a tender curb upon the youthful, burning boy?
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?'
The Virgin started from her seat, and with a shriek
Fled back unhinder'd till she came into the vales of