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Title: Helen Redeemed and Other Poems
Author: Hewlett, Maurice, 1861-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Helen Redeemed and Other Poems" ***

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 HELEN REDEEMED

 AND OTHER POEMS


 BY
 MAURICE HEWLETT


 Δῶρον Ἔρως Ἀΐδῃ



 MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
 ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
 1913



Transcriber's Note

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Archaic
spellings have been retained. Greek text appears as originally printed.



DEDICATION


    Love owes tribute unto Death,
    Being but a flower of breath,
    Ev'n as thy fair body is
    Moment's figure of the bliss
    Dwelling in the mind of God
    When He called thee from the sod,
    Like a crocus up to start,
    Gray-eyed with a golden heart,
    Out of earth, and point our sight
    To thy eternal home of light.

    Here on earth is all we know:
    To let our love as steadfast blow,
    Open-hearted to the sun,
    Folded down when our day's done,
    As thy flower that bids it be
    Flower of thy charity.
    'Tis not ours to boast or pray
    Breath from us shall outlive clay;
    'Tis not thine, thou Pitiful,
    Set me task beyond my rule.

    Yet as young men carve on trees
    Lovely names, and find in these
    Solace in the after time,
    So to have hid thee in my rhyme
    Shall be comfort when I take
    The lonely road. Then, for my sake,
    Keep thou this my graven sigh,
    And, that I may not all die,
    Open it, and hear it tell,
    Here was one who loved thee well.

_October 6, 1912._



CONTENTS

                                         PAGE

 HELEN REDEEMED                             1
 HYPSIPYLE                                123
 OREITHYIA                                149
 CLYTIÉ                                   155
 LAI OF GOBERTZ                           159
 THE SAINTS' MAYING                       169
 THE ARGIVE WOMEN                         173
 GNATHO                                   187
 TO THE GODS OF THE COUNTRY               193
 FOURTEEN SONNETS--
     ALMA SDEGNOSA                        197
     THE WINDS' POSSESSION                198
     ASPETTO REALE                        199
     KIN CONFESSED                        200
     QUEL GIORNO PIÙ                      201
     ABSENCE                              202
     PRESENCE                             203
     DREAM ANGUISH                        204
     HYMNIA-BEATRIX                       206
     LUX E TENEBRIS                       207
     DUTY                                 208
     WAGES                                209
     EYE-SERVICE                          210
     CLOISTER THOUGHTS                    211
 THE CHAMBER IDYLL                        213
 EPIGRAMMATA--
     THE OLD HOUSE                        217
     BLUE IRIS                            217
     THE ROSEBUD                          218
     SPRING ON THE DOWN                   218
     SNOWY NIGHT                          219
     EVENING MOOD                         219
     THE PARTING                          220
 DEDICATION OF A BOOK                     221



NOTE


Three of the Poems here published have appeared in book form already, in
the Volume called _Songs and Meditations_, long out of print.



HELEN REDEEMED


PROEM

    Sing of the end of Troy, and of that flood
    Of passion by the blood
    Of heroes consecrate, by poet's craft
    Hallowed, if that thin waft
    Of godhead blown upon thee stretch thy song
    To span such store of strong
    And splendid vision of immortal themes
    Late harvested in dreams,
    Albeit long years laid up in tilth. Most meet
    Thou sing that slim and sweet
    Fair woman for whose bosom and delight
    Paris, as well he might,
    Wrought all the woe, and held her to his cost
    And Troy's, and won and lost
    Perforce; for who could look on her or feel
    Her near and not dare steal
    One hour of her, or hope to hold in bars
    Such wonder of the stars
    Undimmed? As soon expect to cage the rose
    Of dawn which comes and goes
    Fitful, or leash the shadows of the hills,
    Or music of upland rills
    As Helen's beauty and not tarnish it
    With thy poor market wit,
    Adept to hue the wanton in the wild,
    Defile the undefiled!
    Yet by the oath thou swearedst, standing high
    Where piled rocks testify
    The holy dust, and from Therapnai's hold
    Over the rippling wold
    Didst look upon Amyklai's, where sunrise
    First dawned in Helen's eyes,
    Take up thy tale, good poet, strain thine art
    To sing her rendered heart,
    Given last to him who loved her first, nor swerved
    From loving, but was nerved
    To see through years of robbery and shame
    Her spirit, a clear flame,
    Eloquent of her birthright. Tell his peace,
    And hers who at last found ease
    In white-arm'd Heré, holy husbander
    Of purer fire than e'er
    To wife gave Kypris. Helen, and Thee sing
    In whom her beauties ring,
    Fair body of fair mind fair acolyte,
    Star of my day and night!

_18th September 1912._


FIRST STAVE

THE DEATH OF ACHILLES

    Where Simoeis and Xanthos, holy streams,
    Flow brimming on the level, and chance gleams
    Betray far Ida through a rended cloud
    And hint the awful home of Zeus, whose shroud
    The thunder is--'twixt Ida and the main
    Behold gray Ilios, Priam's fee, the plain
    About her like a carpet; from whose height
    The watchman, ten years watching, every night
    Counteth the beacon fires and sees no less
    Their number as the years wax and duress
    Of hunger thins the townsmen day by day--
    More than the Greeks kill plague and famine slay.
      Here in their wind-swept city, ten long years
    Beset and in this tenth in blood and tears
    And havocry to fall, old Priam's sons
    Guard still their gods, their wives and little ones,
    Guard Helen still, for whose fair womanhood
    The sin was done, woe wrought, and all the blood
    Of Danaan and Dardan in their pride
    Shed; nor yet so the end, for Heré cried
    Shrill on the heights more vengeance on wrong done,
    And Greek or Trojan paid it. Late or soon
    By sword or bitter arrow they went hence,
    Each with their goodliest paying one man's offence.
    Goodliest in Troy fell Hector; back to Greek
    Then swung the doomstroke, and to Dis the bleak
    Must pass great Hector's slayer. Zeus on high,
    Hidden from men, held up the scales; the sky
    Told Thetis that her son must go the way
    He sent Queen Hecuba's--himself must pay,
    Himself though young, splendid Achilles' self,
    The price of manslaying, with blood for pelf.
      A grief immortal took her, and she grieved
    Deep in sea-cave, whereover restless heaved
    The wine-dark ocean--silently, not moving,
    Tearless, a god. O Gods, however loving,
    That is a lonely grief that must go dry
    About the graves where the beloved lie,
    And knows too much to doubt if death ends all
    Pleasure in strength of limb, joy musical,
    Mother-love, maiden-love, which never more
    Must the dead look for on the further shore
    Of Acheron, and past the willow-wood
    Of Proserpine!
                    But when he understood,
    Achilles, that his end was near at hand,
    Darkling he heard the news, and on the strand
    Beyond the ships he stood awhile, then cried
    The Sea-God that high-hearted and clear-eyed
    He might go down; and this for utmost grace
    He asked, that not by battle might his face
    Be marred, nor fighting might some Dardan best
    Him who had conquered ever. For the rest,
    Fate, which had given, might take, as fate should be.
    So prayed he, and Poseidon out of the sea,
    There where the deep blue into sand doth fade
    And the long wave rolls in, a bar of jade,
    Sent him a portent in that sea-blue bird
    Swifter than light, the halcyon; and men heard
    The trumpet of his praise: "Shaker of Earth,
    Hail to thee! Now I fare to death in mirth,
    As to a banquet!"
                      So when day was come
    Lightly arose the prince to meet his doom,
    And kissed Briseïs where she lay abed
    And never more by hers might rest his head:
    "Farewell, my dear, farewell, my joy," said he;
    "Farewell to all delights 'twixt thee and me!
    For now I take a road whose harsh alarms
    Forbid so sweet a burden to my arms."
    Then his clean limbs his weeping squires bedight
    In all the mail Hephaistos served his might
    Withal, of breastplate shining like the sun
    Upon flood-water, three-topped helm whereon
    Gleamed the gold basilisk, and goodly greaves.
    These bore he without word; but when from sheaves
    Of spears they picked the great ash Pelian
    Poseidon gave to Peleus, God to a man,
    For no man's manège else--than all men's fear:
    "Dry and cold fighting for thee this day, my spear,"
    Quoth he. And so when one the golden shield
    Immortal, daedal, for no one else to wield,
    Cast o'er his head, he frowned: "On thy bright face
    Let me see who shall dare a dint," he says,
    And stood in thought full-armed; thereafter poured
    Libation at the tent-door to the Lord
    Of earth and sky, and prayed, saying: "O Thou
    That hauntest dark Dodona, hear me now,
    Since that the shadowing arm of Time is flung
    Far over me, but cloudeth me full young.
    Scatheless I vow them. Let one Trojan cast
    His spear and loose my spirit. Rage is past
    Though I go forth my most provocative
    Adventure: 'tis not I that seek. Receive
    My prayer Thou as I have earned it--lo,
    Dying I stand, and hail Thee as I go
    Lord of the Ægis, wonderful, most great!"
      Which done, he took his stand, and bid his mate
    Urge on the steeds; and all the Achaian host
    Followed him, not with outcry or loud boast
    Of deeds to do or done, but silent, grim
    As to a shambles--so they followed him,
    Eyeing that nodding crest and swaying spear
    Shake with the chariot. Solemn thus they near
    The Trojan walls, slow-moving, as by a Fate
    Driven; and thus before the Skaian Gate
    Stands he in pomp of dreadful calm, to die,
    As once in dreadful haste to slay.
                                        Thereby
    The walls were thick with men, and in the towers
    Women stood gazing, clustered close as flowers
    That blur the rocks in some high mountain pass
    With delicate hues; but like the gray hill-grass
    Which the wind sweepeth, till in waves of light
    It tideth backwards--so all gray or white
    Showed they, as sudden surges moved them cloak
    Their heads, or bare their faces. And none spoke
    Among them, for there stood not woman there
    But mourned her dead, or sensed not in the air
    Her pendent doom of death, or worse than death.
    Frail as flowers were their faces, and all breath
    Came short and quick, as on this dreadful show
    Staring, they pondered it done far below
    As on a stage where the thin players seem
    Unkith to them who watch, the stuff of dream.
    Nor else about the plain showed living thing
    Save high in the blue where sailed on outspread wing
    A vulture bird intent, with mighty span
    Of pinion.
                In the hush spake the dead man,
    Hollow-voiced, terrible: "Ye tribes of Troy,
    Here stand I out for death, and ye for joy
    Of killing as ye will, by cast of spear,
    By bowshot or with sword. If any peer
    Of Hector or Sarpedon care the bout
    Which they both tried aforetime let him out
    With speed, and bring his many against one,
    Fearing no treachery, for there shall be none
    To aid me, God nor man; nor yet will I
    Stir finger in the business, but will die
    By murder sooner than in battle fall
    Under some Trojan hand."
                              Breathless stood all,
    Not moving out; but Paris on the roof
    Of his high house, where snug he sat aloof,
    Drew taut the bowstring home, and notched a shaft,
    Soft whistling to himself, what time with craft
    Of peering eyes and narrow twisted face
    He sought an aim.
                      Swift from her hiding-place
    Came burning Helen then, in her blue eyes
    A fire unquenchable, but cold as ice
    That scorcheth ere it strike a mortal chill
    Upon the heart. "Darest thou...?"
                                      Smiling still,
    He heeded not her warning, nor he read
    The terror of her eyes, but drew and sped
    A screaming arrow, deadly, swerving not--
    Then stood to watch the ruin he had wrought.
      He heard the sob of breath o'er all the host
    Of hushing men; he marked, but then he lost,
    The blood-spurt at the shaft-head; for the crest
    Upheaved, the shoulders stiffen'd, ere to the breast
    Bent down the head, as though the glazing sight
    Curious would mark the death-spot. Still upright
    Stood he; but as a tree that on the side
    Of Ida yields to axe her soaring pride
    And lightlier waves her leafy crown, and swings
    From side to side--so on his crest the wings
    Erect seemed shaking upwards, and to sag
    The spear's point, and the burden'd head to wag
    Before the stricken body felt the stroke,
    Or the strong knees grew lax, or the heart broke.
      Breathless they waited; then the failing man
    Stiffened anew his neck, and changed and wan
    Looked for the last time in the face of day,
    And seemed to dare the Gods such might to slay
    As this, the sanguine splendid thing he was,
    Withal now gray of face and pinched. Alas,
    For pride of life! Now he had heard his knell.
    His spirit passed, and crashing down he fell,
    Mighty Achilles, and struck the earth, and lay
    A huddled mass, a bulk of bronze and clay
    Bestuck with gilt and glitter, like a toy.
    There dropt a forest hush on watching Troy,
    Upon the plain and watching ranks of men;
    And from a tower some woman keened him then
    With long thin cry that wavered in the air--
    As once before one wailed her Hector there.


SECOND STAVE

MENELAUS' DREAM: HELEN ON THE WALL

      So he who wore his honour like a wreath
    About his brows went the dark way of death;
    Which being done, that deed of ruth and doom
    Gave breath to Troy; but on the Achaians gloom
    Settled like pall of cloud upon a land
    That swoons beneath it. Desperate they scanned
    Each other, saying: "Now we are left by God,"
    And in the huts behind the wall abode,
    Heeding not Diomede, Idomeneus,
    Nor keen Odysseus, nor that friend of Zeus
    Mykenai's king, nor that robbed Menelaus,
    Nor bowman Teukros, Nestor wise, nor Aias--
    Huge Aias, cursed in death! Peleides bare
    Himself with pride, but he went raving there.
    For in the high assembly Thetis made
    In honour of her son, to waft his shade
    In peace to Hades' house, after the fire
    Twice a man's height for him who did suspire
    Twice a man's heart and render it to Heaven
    Who gave it, after offerings paid and given,
    And games of men and horses, she brought forth
    His regal arms for hero of most worth
    In the broad Danaan host, who was adjudged
    Odysseus by all voices. Aias grudged
    The vote and wandered brooding, drawn apart
    From his room-fellows, seeding in his heart
    Envy, which biting inwards did corrode
    His mettle, and his ill blood plied the goad
    Upon his brain, until the wretch made mad
    Went muttering his wrongs, ill-trimmed, ill-clad,
    Sightless and careless, with slack mouth awry,
    And working tongue, and danger in the eye;
    And oft would stare at Heaven and laugh his scorn:
    "O fools, think not to trick me!" then forlorn
    Would gaze about green earth or out to sea:
    "This is the end of man in his degree"--
    Thus would he moralise in those bare lands
    With hopeless brows and tossing up of hands--
    "To sow in sweat and see another reap!"
    Then, pitying himself, he'd fall to weep
    His desolation, scorned by Gods, by men
    Slighted; but in a flash he'd rage again
    And shake his naked sword at unseen foes,
    And dare them bring Odysseus to his blows:
    Or let the man but flaunt himself in arms...!
      So threatening God knows what of savage harms,
    On him the oxen patient in the marsh,
    Knee-deep in rushes, gazed to hear his harsh
    Outcry; and them his madness taught for Greeks,
    So on their dumb immensity he wreaks
    His vengeance, driving in the press with shout
    Of "Aias! Aias!" hurtling, carving out
    A way with mighty swordstroke, cut and thrust,
    And makes a shambles in his witless lust;
    And in the midst, bloodshot, with blank wild eyes
    Stands frothing at the lips, and after lies
    All reeking in his madman's battlefield,
    And sleeps nightlong. But with the dawn's revealed
    The pity of his folly; then he sees
    Himself at his fool's work. With shaking knees
    He stands amid his slaughter, and his own
    Adds to the wreck, plunging without a groan
    Upon his planted sword. So Aias died
    Lonely; and he who, never from his side
    Removed, had shared his fame, the Lokrian,
    Abode the fate foreordered in the plan
    Which the Blind Women ignorantly weave.

      But think not on the dead, who die and leave
    A memory more fragrant than their deeds,
    But to the remnant rather and their needs
    Give thought with me. What comfort in their swords
    Have they, robbed of the might of two such lords
    As Peleus' son and Telamon's? What art
    Can drive the blood back to the stricken heart?
    Like huddled sheep cowed obstinate, as dull
    As oxen impotent the wain to pull
    Out of a rut, which, failing at first lunge,
    Answer not voice nor goad, but sideways plunge
    Or backward urge with lowered heads, or stand
    Dumb monuments of sufferance--so unmanned
    The Achaians brooded, nor their chiefs had care
    To drive them forth, since they too knew despair,
    And neither saw in battle nor retreat
    A way of honour.
                      And the plain grew sweet
    Again with living green; the spring o' the year
    Came in with flush of flower and bird-call clear;
    And Nature, for whom nothing wrought is vain,
    Out of shed blood caused grass to spring amain,
    And seemed with tender irony to flout
    Man's folly and pain when twixt dead spears sprang out
    The crocus-point and pied the plain with fires
    More gracious than his beacons; and from pyres
    Of burnt dead men the asphodel uprose
    Like fleecy clouds flushed with the morning rose,
    A holy pall to hide his folly and pain.
      Thus upon earth hope fell like a new rain,
    And by and by the pent folk within walls
    Took heart and ploughed the glebe and from the stalls
    Led out their kine to pasture. Goats and sheep
    Cropt at their ease, and herd-boys now did keep
    Watch, where before stood armèd sentinels;
    And battle-grounds were musical with bells
    Of feeding beasts. Afar, high-beacht, the ships
    Loomed through the tender mist, their prows--like lips
    Of thirsty birds which, lacking water, cry
    Salvation out of Heaven--flung on high:
    Which marking, Ilios deemed her worst of road
    Was travelled, and held Paris for a God
    Who winged the shaft that brought them all this peace.

      He in their love went sunning, took his ease
    In house and hall, at council or at feast,
    Careless of what was greatest or what least
    Of all his deeds, so only by his side
    She lay, the blush-rose Helen, stolen bride,
    The lovely harbour of his arms. But she,
    A thrall, now her own thralldom plain could see,
    And sick of dalliance, loathed herself, and him
    Who had beguiled her. Now through eyes made dim
    With tears she looked towards the salt sea-beach
    Where stood the ships, and sought for sign in each
    If it might be her people's, and so hers,
    Poor alien!--Argive now herself she avers
    And proudly slave of Paris and no wife:
    Minion she calls herself; and when to strife
    Of love he claims her, secret her heart surges
    Back to her lord; and when to kiss he urges,
    And when to play he woos her with soft words,
    Secret her fond heart calleth, like a bird's,
    Towards that honoured mate who honoured her,
    Making her wife indeed, not paramour,
    Mother, and sharer of his hearth and all
    His gear. Thus every night: and on the wall
    She watches every dawn for what dawn brings.
      And the strong spirit of her took new wings
    And left her lovely body in the arms
    Of him who doted, conning o'er her charms,
    And witless held a shell; but forth as light
    As the first sigh of dawn her spirit took flight
    Across the dusky plain to where fires gleamed
    And muffled guards stood sentry; and it streamed
    Within the hut, and hovered like a wraith,
    A presence felt, not seen, as when gray Death
    Seems to the dying man a bedside guest,
    But to the watchers cannot be exprest.
    So hovered Helen in a dream, and yearned
    Over the sleeper as he moaned and turned,
    Renewing his day's torment in his sleep;
    Who presently starts up and sighing deep,
    Searches the entry, if haply in the skies
    The day begin to stir. Lo there, her eyes
    Like waning stars! Lo there, her pale sad face
    Becurtained in loose hair! Now he can trace
    Athwart that gleaming moon her mouth's droopt bow
    To tell all truth about her, and her woe
    And dreadful store of knowledge. As one shockt
    To worse than death lookt she, with horror lockt
    Behind her tremulous tragic-moving lips:
    "O love, O love," saith he, and saying, slips
    Out of the bed: "Who hath dared do thee wrong?"
    No answer hath she, but she looks him long
    And deep, and looking, fades. He sleeps no more,
    But up and down he pads the beaten floor,
    And all that day his heart's wild crying hears,
    And can thank God for gracious dew of tears
    And tender thoughts of her, not thoughts of shame.
    So came the next night, and with night she came,
    Dream-Helen; and he knew then he must go
    Whence she had come. His need would have it so--
    And her need. Never must she call in vain.
      Now takes he way alone over the plain
    Where dark yet hovers like a catafalque
    And all life swoons, and only dead thing walk,
    Uneasy sprites denied a resting space,
    That shudder as they flit from place to place,
    Like bats of flaggy wing that make night blink
    With endless quest: so do those dead, men think,
    Who fall and are unserved by funeral rite.
    These passes he, and nears the walls of might
    Which Godhead built for proud Laomedon,
    And knows the house of Paris built thereon,
    Terraced and set with gadding vines and trees
    And ever falling water, for the ease
    Of that sweet indweller he held in store.
    Thither he turns him quaking, but before
    Him dares not look, lest he should see her there
    Aglimmer through the dusk and, unaware,
    Discover her fill some mere homely part
    Intolerably familiar to his heart,
    And deeply there enshrined and glorified,
    Laid up with bygone bliss. Yet on he hied,
    Being called, and ever closer on he came
    As if no wrong nor misery nor shame
    Could harder be than not to see her--Nay,
    Even if within that smooth thief's arms she lay
    Besmothered in his kisses--rather so
    Had he stood stabbed to see, than on to go
    His round of lonely exile!
                                Now he stands
    Beneath her house, and on his spear his hands
    Rest, and upon his hands he grounds his chin,
    And motionless abides till day come in;
    Pure of his vice, that he might ease her woe,
    Not brand her with his own. Not yet the glow
    Of false dawn throbbed, nor yet the silent town
    Stood washt in light, clear-printed to the crown
    In the cold upper air. Dark loomed the walls,
    Ghostly the trees, and still shuddered the calls
    Of owl to owl from unseen towers. Afar
    A dog barked. High and hidden in the haar
    Which blew in from the sea a heron cried
    Honk! and he heard his wings, but not espied
    The heavy flight. Slow, slow the orb was filled
    With light, and with the light his heart was thrilled
    With opening music, faint, expectant, sharp
    As the first chords one picks out from the harp
    To prelude paean. Venturing all, he lift
    His eyes, and there encurtained in a drift
    Of sea-blue mantle close-drawn, he espies
    Helen above him watching, her grave eyes
    Upon him fixt, blue homes of mystery
    Unfathomable, eternal as the sea,
    And as unresting.
                      So in that still place,
    In that still hour stood those two face to face.


THIRD STAVE

MENELAUS SPEAKS WITH HELEN

      But when he had her there, sharp root of ill
    To him and his, safeguarded from him still,
    Too sweet to be forgotten, too much marred
    By usage to be what she seemed, bescarred,
    Behandled, too much lost and too much won,
    Mock image making horrible the sun
    That once had shown her pure for his demesne,
    And still revealed her lovely, and unclean--
    Despair turned into stone what had been kind,
    And bitter surged his griefs, to flood his mind.
    "O ruinous face," said he, "O evil head,
    Art thou so early from the wicked bed?
    So prompt to slough the snugness of thy vice?
    Or is it that in luxury thou art nice
    Become, and dalliest?" Low her head she hung
    And moved her lips. As when the night is young
    The hollow wind presages storm, his moan
    Came wailing at her. "Ten years here, alone,
    And in that time to have seen thee thrice!"
                                                But she:
    "Often and often have I chanced to see
    My lord pass."
                    His heart leapt, as leaps the child
    Enwombed: "Hast thou--?"
                              Faintly her quick eyes smiled:
    "At this time my house sleepeth, but I wake;
    So have time to myself when I can take
    New air, and old thought."
                                As a man who skills
    To read high hope out of dark oracles,
    So gleamed his eyes; so fierce and quick said he:
    "Lady, O God! Now would that I could be
    Beside thee there, breathing thy breath, thy thought
    Gathering!" Silent stood she, memory-fraught,
    Nor looked his way. But he must know her soul,
    So harpt upon her heart. "Is this the whole
    That thou wouldst have me think, that thou com'st here
    Alone to be?"
                  She blushed and dared to peer
    Downward. "Is it so wonderful," she said,
    "If I desire it?" He: "Nay, by my head,
    Not so; but wonderful I think it is
    In any man to suffer it." The hiss
    Of passion stript all vesture from his tones
    And showed the King man naked to the bones,
    Man naked to the body's utterance.
      She turned her head, but felt his burning glance
    Scorch, and his words leap up. "Dost thou desire
    I leave thee then? Answer me that."
                                        "Nay, sire,
    Not so." And he: "Bid me to stay while sleeps
    Thy house," he said, "so stay I." Her eyes' deeps
    Flooded his soul and drowned him in despair,
    Despair and rage. "Behold now, ten years' wear
    Between us and our love! Now if I cast
    My spear and rove the snow-mound of thy breast,
    Were that a marvel?"
                          Long she lookt and grave,
    Pondering his face and searching. "Not so brave
    My lord as that would prove him. Nay, and I know
    He would not do it." And the truth was so;
    And well he knew the reason: better she.
      Yet for a little in that vacancy
    Of silence and unshadowing light they stood,
    Those long-divided, speechless. His first mood
    With bitter grudge was choked, but hers was mild,
    As fearing his. At last she named the child,
    Asking, Was all well? Short he told her, Yes,
    The child was well. She fingered in her dress
    And watched her hand at play there.
                                        "Here," she said,
    "There is no child," and sighed. Into his dead
    And wasted heart there leaped a flame and caught
    His hollow eyes. "Rememberest thou naught,
    Nothing regrettest, nothing holdst in grief
    Of all our joy together ere that thief
    Came rifling in?" For all her answer she
    Lookt long upon him, long and earnestly;
    And misty grew her eyes, and slowly filled.
    Slowly the great tears brimmed, and slowly rilled
    Adown her cheeks. So presently she hid
    Those wells of grief, and hung her lovely head;
    And he had no more words, but only a cry
    At heart too deep for utterance, and too high
    For tears.

      And now came Paris from the house
    Into the sun, rosy and amorous,
    As when the sun himself from the sea-rim
    Lifteth, and gloweth on the earth grown dim
    With waiting; and he piped a low clear call
    As mellow as the thrush's at the fall
    Of day from some near thicket. At whose sound
    Rose up caught Helen and blushing turned her round
    To face him; but in going, ere she met
    The prince, her hand along the parapet
    She trailed, palm out, for sign to who below
    Rent at himself, nor had the wit to know
    In that dumb signal eloquence, and hope
    Therein beyond his sick heart's utmost scope.
    Throbbing he stood as when a quick-blown peat,
    Now white, now red, burns inly--O wild heat,
    O ravenous race of men, who'd barter Space
    And Time for one short snatch of instant grace!
      Withal, next day, drawn by his dear desire,
    When as the young green burned like emerald fire
    In the cold light, back to the tryst he came;
    But she was sooner there, and called his name
    Softly as cooing dove her bosom's mate;
    And showed her eyes to him, which half sedate
    To be so sought revealed her, half in doubt
    Lest he should deem her bold to meet the bout
    With too much readiness. But high he flaunted
    Her name towards the sky. "Thou God-enchanted,
    Thou miracle of dawn, thou Heart of the Rose,
    Hail thou!" On his own eloquence he grows
    The lover he proclaims. "O love," he saith,
    "I would not leave thee for a moment's breath,
    Nor once these ten long years had left thy side
    Had it been possible to stay!"
                                    She sighed,
    She wondered o'er his face, she looked her fill,
    Museful, still doubting, smiling half, athrill,
    All virgin to his praise. "O wonderful,"
    She said, "Such store of love for one so foul
    As I am now!"
                  O fatal hot-and-cold,
    O love, whose iris wings not long can hold
    The upper air! Sudden her thought smote hot
    On him. "Thou sayest! True it is, God wot!
    Warm from his bed, and tears for thy unworth;
    Warm from his bed, and tears to meet my mirth;
    Then back to his bed ere yet thy tears be dry!"
      She heard not, but she knew his agony
    Of burning vision, and kept back her tears
    Until his pity moved in tune with hers
    Towards herself. But he from thunderous brows
    Frowned on. "No more I see thee by this house,
    Except to slay thee when the hour decree
    An end to this vile nest of cuckoldry
    And holy vows made hateful, save thou speak
    To each my question sooth. Keep dry thy cheek
    From tears, hide up thy beauty with thy grief--
    Or let him have his joy of them, thy thief,
    What time he may. Answer me thou, or vain
    Till thine hour strike to look for me again."
      With hanging head and quiet hanging hands,
    With lip atremble, as caught in fault she stands,
    Scarce might he hear her whispered message:
                                                "Ask,
    Lord, and I answer thee."
                              Strung to his task:
    "Tell me now all," he said, "from that far day
    Whenas embracing thee, I stood to pray,
    And poured forth wine unto the thirsty earth
    To Zeus and to Poseidon, in whose girth
    Lie sea and land; to Gaia next, their spouse,
    And next to Heré, mistress of my house,
    Traitress, and thine, for grace upon my faring:
    For thou wert by to hear me, false arm bearing
    Upon my shoulder, glowing, lying cheek
    Next unto mine. Ay, and thou prayedst, with meek
    Fair seeming, prosperous send-off and return.
    Tell me what then, tell all, and let me learn
    With what pretence that dog-souled slaked his thirst
    In thy sweet liquor. Tell me that the first."
      Then Helen lifted up her head, and beamed
    Clear light upon him from her eyes, which seemed
    That blue which, lying on the white sea-bed
    And gazing up, the sunbeam overhead
    Would show, with green entinctured, and the warp
    Inwoven of golden shafts, blended yet sharp;
    So that a glory mild and radiant
    Transfigured them. Upon him fell aslant
    That lovely light, while in her cheeks the hue
    Of throbbing dawn came sudden. So he knew
    Her best before she spoke; for when she spoke
    It was as if the nightingale should croak
    In April midst the first young leaves, so bleak,
    So harsh she schooled her throat, that it should speak
    Dry matter and hard logic--as if she
    Were careful lest self-pity urged a plea
    Which was not hers to make; or as one faint
    And desperate lays down all his argument
    Like bricks upon a field, let who will make
    A house of them; so drily Helen spake
    With a flat voice. "Thou hadst been nine days gone,
    Came my lord Alexandros, Priam's son,
    And hailed me in the hall whereas I sat,
    And claimed his guest-right, which not wondering at
    I gave as fitting was. Then came the day
    I was beguiled. What more is there to say?"
      Fixt on her fingers playing on the wall
    Her eyes were. But the King said: "Tell me all.
    Thou wert beguiled: by his desire beguiled,
    Or by thine own?" She shook her head and smiled
    Most sadly, pitying herself. "Who knoweth
    The ways of Love, whence cometh, whither goeth
    The heart's low whimper? This I know, he loved
    Me then, and pleasured only where I moved
    About the house. And I had pleasure too
    To know of me he had it. Then we knew
    The day at hand when he must take the road
    And leave me; and its eve we close abode
    Within the house, and spake not. But I wept."
    She stayed, and whispering down her next word crept:
    "I was beguiled, beguiled." And then her lip
    She bit, and rueful showed her partnership
    In sinful dealing.
                        But he, in his esteem
    Bleeding and raw, urged on. "To Kranai's deme
    He took thee then?"
                        Speechless she bent her head
    Towards her tender breasts whereon, soft shed
    As upon low quiet hills, the dawn light played,
    And limned their gentle curves or sank in shade.
    So gazing, stood she silent, but the King
    Urged on. "From thence to Ilios, thou willing,
    He took thee?"
                    Then, "I was beguiled," again
    She said; and he, who felt a worthier strain
    Stir in his gall compassion, and uplift
    Him out of knowledge, saw a blessed rift
    Upon his dark horizon, as tow'rds night
    The low clouds break and shafted shows the light.
    "Ten years beguiled!" he said, "but now it seems
    Thou art----" She shook her head. "Nay, now come dreams;
    Nay, now I think, remember, now I see."
      "What callest thou to mind?" "Hermione,"
    She said, "our child, and Sparta my own land,
    And all the honour that lay to my hand
    Had I but chosen it, as now I would"--
    And sudden hid her face up in her hood,
    Her courage ebbed in grief, all hardness drowned
    In bitter weeping.
                        Noble pity crowned
    The greater man in him; so for a space
    They wept together, she for loss; for grace
    Of gain wept he. "No more," he said, "my sweet,
    Tell me no more."
                      "Ah, hear the whole of it
    Before my hour is gone," she cried. But he
    Groaning, "I dare not stay here lest I see
    Him take thee again."
                          Both hands to fold her breast,
    She shook her head; like as the sun through mist
    Shone triumph in her eyes. "Have no more fear
    Of him or any----" Then, hearing a stir
    Within the house, her finger toucht her lip,
    And one fixt look she gave of fellowship
    Assured--then turned and quickly went her way;
    And his light vanisht with her for that day.


FOURTH STAVE

THE APOLOGY OF HELEN

      O singing heart, O twice-undaunted lover!
    O ever to be blest, twice blest moreover!
    Twice over win the world in one girl's eyes,
    Twice over lift her name up to the skies;
    Twice to hope all things, so to be twice born--
    For he lives not who cannot front the morn
    Saying, "This day I live as never yet
    Lived striving man on earth!" What if the fret
    Of loss and ten years' agonizing snow
    Thy hairs or leave their tracery on thy brow,
    Each line beslotted by the demon hounds
    Hunting thee down o' nights? Laugh at thy wounds,
    Laugh at thy eld, strong lover, whose blood flows
    Clear from the fountain, singing as it goes,
    "She loves, and so I live and shall not die!
    Love on, love her: 'tis immortality."
      Once more before the sun he greeted her:
    She glowed her joy; her mood was calm and clear
    As mellow evening's whenas, like a priest,
    Rain has absolved the world, and golden mist
    Hangs over all like benediction.
    In her proud eyes sat triumph on a throne,
    To know herself beloved, her lover by,
    So near the consummation. Womanly
    She dallied with the moment when, all wife,
    Upon his breast she'd lie and cast her life,
    Cast body, soul and spirit in one gest
    Supreme of giving. Glorying in his quest
    Of her, now let her hide what he must glean,
    But not know yet. Ah, sweet to feel his keen
    Long eye-search, like the touch of eager fingers,
    And sweet to thrill beneath such hot blush-bringers;
    To fence with such a swordsman hazardous
    And sweet. "Belov'd, thou art glad of me!" Then thus
    Antiphonal to him she breathes, "Thou sayest!"
      "I see thy light and hail it!"
                                      "Thou begayest
    My poor light."
                    "Knowest thou not that thou art loved?"
      "And am I loved then?"
                              "If thou'ldst have it proved,
    Look in my eyes. Would thine were open book!"
      "Palimpsest I," she said, and would not look.
      But he was grappling now with truth, would have it,
    What though it cost him all his gain. She gave it,
    Looking him along. "O lady mine," he said,
    "Now are my clouds disperséd every shred;
    For thou art mine; I think thou lovest me.
    Speak, is that true?"
                          She could not, or may be
    She would not hold her gaze, but let it fall,
    And watched her fingers idling on the wall,
    And so remained; but urged to it by the spell
    He cast, she whispered down, "I cannot tell
    Thee here, and thus apart"--which when he had
    In its full import drove him well-nigh mad
    With longing. "Call me and I come!"
                                        But fear
    Flamed in her eyes: "No, no, 'tis death! He's here
    At hand. 'Tis death for thee, and worse than death--"
    She ended so--"for both of us."
                                    And breath
    Failed him, for well he knew now what she meant,
    And sighed his thanks to Gods beneficent.
      Thereafter in sweet use of lovers' talk,
    In boon spring weather, whenas lovers walk
    Handfasted through the meadows pied, and wet
    With dew from flower and leaf, these lovers met--
    Two bodies separate, one wild heart between,
    Day after day, these two long-severed been;
    And of this mating of the eye and tongue
    There grew desire passionate and strong
    For body's mating and its testimony,
    Hearts' intimacy, perfect, full and free.
      And Helen for her heart's ease did deny
    Her girdled Goddess of the beamy eye,
    Saying, "Come you down, Mistress of sleek loves
    And panting nights: your service of bought doves
    And honey-hearted wine may cost too dear.
    What hast thou done for me since first my ear
    With thy sly music thou didst sign and seal
    Apprentice to thy mystery, teach me feel
    Thy fierce divinity in the trembling touch
    Of open lips? Served I not thee too much
    In Kranai and in Sparta my demesne,
    Too much in wide-wayed Ilios, Eastern Queen?
    Yes, but it was too much a thousandfold,
    For what was I but leman bought and sold?
      "For woman craved what mercy hath man brought,
    What face a woman for a woman sought?
    What mercy or what face? And what saith she,
    The hunted, scornéd wretch? Boast that she be
    Coveted, hankered, spat on? One to gloat,
    The rest to snarl without! If man play goat,
    What must she play? Her glory is it to draw
    On greedy eye, sting greedy lip and paw,
    And find the crown of her desire therein?
    Hath she no rarer bliss than all this sin,
    Is she for dandling, kissing, hidden up
    For hungry hands to stroke or lips to sup?
    Hath she then nothing of her own, no mirth
    In honesty, nor eyes to worship worth,
    Nor pride except in that which makes men dogs,
    Nor loathing for the vice wherein, like logs
    That float beneath the sun, lie fair women
    Submiss, inert receptacles for sin?
    Is this her all? Hath she no heart, nor care
    Therefor? No womb, nor hope therein to bear
    Fruit of her heart's insurgence? Is her face,
    Are these her breasts for fondling, not to grace
    Her heart's high honour, swell to nurture it,
    That it too grow? Hath she no mother-wit,
    Nor sense for living things and innocent,
    Nor leap of joy for this good world's content
    Of sun and wind, of flower and leaf, and song
    Of bird, or shout of children as they throng
    The world of mated men and women? Nay,
    Persuade me not, O Kypris; but I say
    Evil hath been the lore which thou hast taught--
    For many have loved my face, and many sought
    My breast, and thought it joy supping thereat
    Sweetness and dear delight; but out of that
    What hath there come to them, to me and all
    Mine but hot shame? Not milk, but bitter gall."

      So in her high passion she rent herself
    And rocked, or hid her face upon the shelf
    Of the grim wall, lest he should see the whole
    Inexpiable sorrow of her soul.
    But he by pity pure made bountiful
    Lent her excuse, by every means to lull
    Her agony. Said he, "Of mortals who
    Can e'er withstand the way she wills them to,
    Kypris the forceful Goddess? Nay, dear child,
    Thou wert constrained."
                            She said, "I was beguiled
    And clung to him until the day-dawn broke
    When I could read as in the roll of a book
    His open heart. And then my own heart reeled
    To know him craven, dog, not man, revealed
    A panting drudge of lust, who held me here
    Caged vessel. Nay, come close. I loved him dear,
    Too dear, I know; but never till he came
    Had known the leap of joy, the fire of flame
    Upon the heart he gave me, Paris the bright,
    Whose memory was music and his sight
    Fragrance, whose nearness made my footfall dance,
    Whose touch was fever, and his burning glance
    Faintness and blindness; in whose light my life
    Centred; who was the sun, and I, false wife,
    The foolish flower that turns whereso he wheels
    Over the broad earth's canopy, and steals
    Colour from his strong beam, but at the last
    Whenas the night comes and the day is past
    Droops, burnt at the heart. So loved I him, and so
    Waxed bold to dare the deed that brought this woe."
      And there she changed, and bitter was her cry:
    "Ah, lord, far better had it been to die
    Ere I had cast this pain on thee, and shame
    On me, and wrought such outrage on our name.
    Natheless I live----"
                          "Ay, and give life!" he said;
    "Yet this thing more I'd have thee tell--what led
    Thy thought to me? From him, what turned thy troth--
    Such troth as there could be?"
                                    She cried, "The oath!
    The oath ye sware before the Lords of Heaven,
    The sacrifice, the pledges taken and given
    When thou and Paris met upon the plain,
    And all the host sat down to watch you twain
    Do battle, which should have me. For my part,
    They took me forth to watch; as in the mart
    A heifer feels the giver of the feast
    Pinch in her flank, and hears the chaffer twist
    This way and that for so much fat or lean--
    Even so was I, a queen, child of a queen."
      She bit her lip until the blood ran free,
    And in her eyes he markt deep injury
    Scald as the salt tears welled; but "Listen yet,"
    She said: "Ye fought, and Paris fell beset
    Under thy spurning heel, yet felt no whit
    The bitterness as I must come to it;
    For she, his Goddess, hid him up in mists
    And brought him beat and broken from the lists
    Here to his chamber. But I stood and burned,
    Shameful to be by one lost, by one earned,
    A prize for games, a slave, a bandied thing--
    Since as the oath was made so must I swing
    From bed to bed. But while I stood and wept,
    Melted in fruitless sorrow, up she crept
    For me, his Goddess, gliding like a snake,
    Who wreathed her arms and whispering me go make
    The nuptial couch, 'What oath binds love?' did say.
    Loathing him, I must go. He had his way,
    As well he might who paid that goodly price,
    Honour, truth, courage, all, to have his vice:
    The which forsook him when those fair things fled;
    For though my body hath lain in his bed,
    My heart abhors it. And now in truth I wis
    My lord's true heart is where my own heart is,
    The two together welded and made whole;
    And I will go to him and give my soul
    And shamed and faded body to his nod,
    To spurn or take; and he shall be my God."
      Whereat made virgin, as all women are
    By love's white purging fire which leaves no scar
    Where all was soiled and seamed before the torch
    Of Eros toucht the heart, and the keen scorch
    Lickt up the foul misuse of vase so fair
    As woman's body, Helen flusht and fair
    Leaned from the wall a fire-hued seraph's face
    And in one rapt long look gave and took Grace.
    Deep in her eyes he saw the light divine,
    Quick in him ran fierce joy of it like wine:
    Light unto light made answer, as a flag
    Answers when men tell tidings from one crag
    Unto another, and from peak to peak
    The good news flashes. Scarcely could he speak
    Measurable words, so high his wild thought whirled:
    "Bride, Goddess, Helen, O Wonder of the World,
    Shall I come for thee?"
                            Her tender words came soft
    As dropping rose petals on garden croft
    Down from the wall's sheer height--"Come soon, come soon."
    And homing to the lines those drummed his tune.


FIFTH STAVE

A COUNCIL OF THE ACHAIANS: THE EMBASSY OF ODYSSEUS

      Now calleth he assembly of the chiefs,
    Princes and kings and captains, them whose griefs
    To ease his own like treasure had been lent;
    Who came and sat at board within the tent
    Of him they hailed host-father and their lord
    For this adventure, in aught else abhorred
    Of all true men. He sits above the rest,
    The fox-red Agamemnon, round his crest
    The circlet of his kingship over kings,
    And at his thigh the sword gold-hilted swings
    Which Zeus gave Atreus once; and in his heart
    That gnawing doubt which twice had checkt his start
    For high emprise, having twice egged him to it,
    As stout Odysseus knew who had to rue it.
      Beside him Nestor sat, Nestor the old,
    White as the winter moon, with logic cold
    Instilled, as if the blood in him had fled
    And in his veins clear spirit ran instead,
    Which made men reasons and not fired their sprites.
    And next Idomeneus of countless fights,
    Shrewd leader of the Cretans; by his side
    Keen-flashing Diomedes in his pride,
    The young, the wild in onset, whose war-shrill,
    Next after Peleus' son's, held all Troy still,
    And stayed the gray crows at their ravelling
    Of dead men's bones. Into debate full fling
    Went he, adone with tapping of the foot
    And drumming on the board. Had but his suit
    Been granted--so he said--the war were done
    And Troy a name ere full three years had gone:
    For as for Helen and her daintiness,
    Troy held a mort of women who no less
    Than she could pleasure night when work was over
    And men came home ready to play the lover;
    And in housework would better her. Let Helen
    Be laid by Paris, villain, and dead villain--
    Dead long ago if he had taken the field
    Instead of Menelaus. Then no shield
    Had Kypris' golden body been, acquist
    With his sword-arm already, near the wrist!
      So Diomedes. Next him sat a man
    With all his woe to come, the Lokrian
    Aias, son of Oïleus, bearded swart,
    Pale, with his little eyes, and legs too short
    And arms too long, a giant when he sat,
    Dwarf else, and in the fight a tiger-cat.
    But mark his neighbour, mark him well: to him
    Falleth the lot to lay a charge more grim
    On woman fair than even Althaia felt
    Like lead upon her heartstrings, when she knelt
    And blew to flame the brand that held the life
    Of her own son; or Procne with the knife,
    Who slew and dressed her child to be a meal
    To his own father. But this man's thews were steel,
    And steely were the nerves about his heart,
    As they had need. Mark him, and mark the part
    He plays hereafter. Odysseus is his name,
    The wily Ithacan, deathless in his fame
    And in his substance deathless, since he goes
    Immortal forth and back wherever blows
    The thunder of thy rhythm, O blind King,
    First of the tribe of them with songs to sing,
    Fountain of storied music and its end--
    For who the poet since who doth not tend
    To essay thy leaping measure, or call down
    Thy nodded approbation for his crown
    And all his wages?
                        Other chiefs sat there
    In order due: as Pyrrhos, very fair
    And young, with high bright colour, and the hue
    Of evening in his eyes of violet-blue--
    Son of Achilles he, and new to war.
    Then Antiklos and Teukros, best by far
    Of all the bowmen in the host. And last
    Menestheus the Athenian dikast,
    Who led the folk from Pallas's fair home.
      To them spake Menelaus, being come
    Into assembly last, and taken in hand
    The spokesman's staff: "Ye princes of our land,
    Adventurous Achaians, stout of heart,
    Good news I bring, that now we may depart
    Each to his home and kindred, each to his hearth
    And wife and children dear and well-tilled garth,
    Contented with the honour he has brought
    To me and mine, since I have what we've sought
    With bitter pain and loss. Yea, even now
    Hath Heré crowned your strife and earned my vow
    Made these ten years come harvest, having drawn
    The veil from off those eyes than which not dawn
    Holds sweeter light nor holier, once they see.
    Yea, chieftains, Helen's heart comes back to me;
    And fast she watches now hard by the wall
    Of the wicked house, and ere the cock shall call
    Another morn I have her in my arms
    Redeemed for Sparta, pure of Trojan harms,
    Whole-hearted and clean-hearted as she came
    First, before Paris and his deed of shame
    Threatened my house with wreck, and on his own
    Have brought no joy. This night, disguised, alone,
    I stand within the city, waiting day;
    Then when men sleep, all in the shadowless gray,
    Robbing the robber, I drop down with her
    Over the wall--and lo! the end of the war!"
      Thus great of heart and high of heart he spake,
    And trembling ceased. Awhile none cared to break
    The silence, like unto that breathless hush
    That holds a forest ere the great winds rush
    Up from the sea-gulf, bringing furious rain
    Like mist to drown all nature, blot the plain
    In one great sheet of water without form.
    So held the chiefs. Then Diomede brake in storm.
      Ever the first he was to fling his spear
    Into the press of battle; dread his cheer,
    Like the long howling of a wolf at eve
    Or clamour of the sea-birds when they grieve
    And hanker the out-scouring of the net
    Hidden behind the darkness and the wet
    Of tempest-ridden nights. "Princes," he cried,
    "What say ye to this wooer of his bride,
    For whom it seems ten nations and their best
    Have fought ten years to bring her back to nest?
    Is this your meed of honour? Was it for this
    You flung forth fortune--to ensure him his?
    And he made snug at home, we seek our lands
    Barer than we left them, with emptier hands,
    And some with fewer members, shed that he
    Might fare as soft and trim as formerly!
    Not so went I adventuring, good friend;
    Not so look I this business to have end:
    Nay, but I fight to live, not live to fight,
    And so will live by day as thou by night,
    Sating my eyes with havoc on this race
    Of robbers of the hearth; see their strong place
    Brought level with the herbage and the weed,
    That where they revelled once shrew-mice may feed,
    And moles make palaces, and bats keep house.
    And if thou art of spleen so slow to rouse
    As quit thy score by thieving from a thief
    And leave him scatheless else, thou art no chief
    For Tydeus' son, who sees no end of strife
    But in his own or in his foeman's life."
      So he. Then Pyrrhos spake: "By that great shade
    Wherein I stand, which thy false Paris made
    Who slew my father, think not so to have done
    With Troy and Priam; for Peleides' son
    Must slake the sword that cries, and still the ghost
    Of him that haunts the ingles of this coast,
    Murdered and unacquit while that man's father
    Liveth."
      Then leapt up two, and both together
    Cried, "Give us Troy to sack, give us our fill
    Of gold and bronze; give us to burn and kill!"
    And Aias said, "Are there no women then
    In Troy, but only her? And are we men
    Or virgins of Athené?" And the dream
    Of her who served that dauntless One made gleam
    His shifting eyes, and stretcht his fleshy lips
    Behind his beard.
                      Then stood that prince of ships
    And shipmen, great Odysseus; with one hand
    He held the staff, with one he took command;
    And thus in measured tones, with word intent
    Upon the deed, fierce but not vehement,
    Drave in his dreadful message. At his sight
    Clamour died down, even as the wind at night
    Falls and is husht at rising of the moon.
    "Ye chieftains of Achaia, not so soon
    Is strife of ten years rounded to a close,
    Neither so are men seated, friends or foes.
    For say thus lightly we renounced the meed
    Of our long travail, gave so little heed
    To our great dead as find in one man's joy
    Full recompense for all we've sunk in Troy--
    Wives desolate, children fatherless, lands, gear,
    Stock without master, wasting year by year;
    Youth past, age creeping on, friends, brothers, sons
    Lost in the void, gone where no respite runs
    For sorrow, but the darkness covers all--
    What name should we bequeath our sons but thrall,
    Or what beside a name, who let go by
    Ilios the rich for others' usury?
    And have the blessed Gods no say in this?
    Think you they be won over by a kiss--
    Heré the Queen, she, the unwearied aid
    Of all our striving, Pallas the war-maid?
    Have they not vowed, and will ye scant their hate,
    Havoc on Ilios from gate to gate,
    And for her towers abasement to the dust?
    Behold, O King, lust shall be paid with lust,
    And treachery with treachery, and for blood
    Blood shall be shed. Therefore let loose the flood
    Of our pent passion; break her gates in, raze
    The walls of her, cumber her pleasant ways
    With dead men; set on havoc, sate with spoil
    Men ravening; get corn and wine and oil,
    Women to clasp in love, gold, silken things,
    Harness of flashing bronze, swords, meed of kings,
    Chariots and horses swifter than the wind
    Which, coursing Ida, leaves ruin behind
    Of snapt tall trees: not faster shall they fall
    Than Trojan spears once we are on the wall.
    So only shall ye close this agelong strife,
    Nor by redemption of a too fair wife,
    Now smiling, now averse, now hot, now cold,
    O Menelaus, may the tale be told!
    Nay, but by slaying of Achilles' slayer,
    By the betrayal of the bed-betrayer,
    By not withholding from the spoils of war
    Men freeborn, nor from them that beaten are
    Their rueful wages. Ilios must fall."
      He said, and sat, and heard the acclaim of all,
    Save of the sons of Atreus, who sat glum,
    One flusht, one white as parchment, and both dumb;
    One raging to be contraried, one torn
    By those two passions wherewith he was born,
    The lust for body's ease and lust of gain.
      Then slow he rose, Mykenai's king of men,
    Gentle his voice to hear. "Laertes' son,"
    He said, but 'twas Nestor he looked upon,
    The wise old man who sat beside his chair,
    Mild now who once, a lion, kept his lair
    Untoucht of any, or if e'er he left it,
    Left it for prey, and held that when he reft it
    From foe, or over friend made stronger claim:
    "Laertes' son," the king said, "all men's fame
    Reports thee just and fertile in device;
    And as the friend of God great is thy price
    To us of Argos; for without the Gods
    How should we look to trace the limitless roads
    That weave a criss-cross 'twixt us and our home?
    Go to now, some will stay and other some
    Take to the sea-ways, hasty to depart,
    Not warfaring as men fare to the mart,
    To best a neighbour in some chaffering bout;
    But honour is the prize wherefor they go out,
    And having that, dishonoured are content
    To leave the foe--that is best punishment.
    Natheless since men there be, Argives of worth,
    Who needs must shed more blood ere they go forth--
    As if of blood enough had not been spilt!--
    Devise thou with my brother if thou wilt,
    Noble Odysseus, seeking how compose
    His honour with thy judgment. Well he knows
    Thy singleness of heart, deep ponderer,
    Lover of a fair wife, and sure of her.
    Come, let this be the sum of our debate."
      "Content you," Menelaus said, "I wait
    Upon thy word, thou fosterling of Zeus."
      Then said Odysseus, "Be it as you choose,
    Ye sons of Atreus. Then, advised, I say
    Let me win into Troy as best I may,
    Seek out the lovely lady of our land
    And learn of her the watchwords, see how stand
    The sentries, how the warders of the gates;
    The strength, how much it is; what prize awaits
    To crown our long endeavour. These things learned,
    Back to the ships I come ere yet are burned
    The watch-fires of the night, before the sun
    Hath urged his steeds the course they are to run
    Out of the golden gateways of the East."
      Which all agreed, and Helen's lord not least.


SIXTH STAVE

HELEN AND PARIS; ODYSSEUS AND HELEN

      Like as the sweet free air, when maids the doors
    And windows open wide, wanders the floors
    And all the passage ways about the house,
    Keen marshal of the sun, or serious
    The cool gray light of morning 'gins to peer
    Ere yet the household stirs, or chanticlere
    Calls hinds to labour but hints not the glee
    Nor full-flood glory of the day to be
    When round about the hill the sun shall swim
    And burn a sea-path--so demure and slim
    Went Helen on her business with swift feet
    And light, yet recollected, and her sweet
    Secret held hid, that she was loved where need
    Called her to mate, and that she loved indeed--
    Ah, sacred calm of wedlock, passion white
    Of lovers knit in Heré's holy light!
      But while in early morn she wonned alone
    And Paris slept, shrill rose her singing tone,
    And brave the light on kindled cheeks and eyes:
    Brave as her hope is, brave the flag she flies.
      Then, as the hour drew on when the sun's rim
    Should burn a sheet of gold to herald him
    On Ida's snowy crest, lithe as a pard
    For some lord's pleasuring encaged and barred
    She paced the hall soft-footed up and down,
    Lightly and feverishly with quick frown
    Peered shrewdly this way, that way, like a bird
    That on the winter grass is aye deterred
    His food-searching by hint of unknown snare
    In thicket, holt or bush, or lawn too bare;
    Anon stopped, lip to finger, while the tide
    Beat from her heart against her shielded side--
    Now closely girdled went she like a maid--
    And then slipt to the window, where she stayed
    But minutes three or four; for soon she past
    Out to the terrace, there to be at last
    Downgazing on her glory, which her king
    Reflected up in every motioning
    And flux of his high passion. Only here
    She triumphed, nor cared she to ask how near
    The end of Troy, nor hazarded a guess
    What deeds must do ere that could come to pass.
    To her the instant homage held all joy--
    And what to her was Sparta, or what Troy
    Beside the bliss of that?
                              Or Paris, what
    Was he, who daily, nightly plained his lot
    To have risked all the world and ten years loved
    This woman, now to find her nothing moved
    By what he had done with her, what desired
    To do? And more she chilled the less he tired,
    And more he ventured less she cared recall
    What was to her of nothing worth, or all:
    All if the King required it of her, nought
    If he who now could take it. It was bought,
    And his by bargain: let him have it then;
    But let it be for giving once again,
    And all the rubies in the world's deep heart
    Could fetch no price beside it.
                                    Yet apart
    She brooded on the man who held her chained,
    Minister to his pleasure, and disdained
    Him more the more herself she must disparage,
    Reflecting on him all her hateful carriage,
    So old, incredible, so flat, so stale,
    No more to be recalled than old wife's tale;
    And scorned him, saw him neither high nor low,
    Not villain and not hero, who would go
    Midway 'twixt baseness and nobility,
    And not be fierce, if fierceness hurt a flea
    Before his eyes. The man loved one thing more
    Than all the world, and made his mind a whore
    To minister his heart's need, for a price.
      All which she loathed, yet chose not to be nice
    With the snug-revelling wretch, her master yet,
    Whose leaguer, though she scorned it, was no fret;
    But lift on wings of her exalted mood,
    She let him touch and finger what he would,
    Unconscious of his being--as he saw,
    And with a groan, whipt sharp upon the raw
    Of his esteem, "Ah, cruel art thou turned,"
    Would cry, "Ah, frosty fire, where I am burned,
    Yet dying bless the flame that is my bane!"
    With which to clasp her closer was he fain,
    To touch in love, and feast his eyes to see
    Her quiver at his touch, and laugh to be
    The plucker of such chords of such a rote;
    And laughing stoop and kiss her milky throat,
    Then see her shut eyes hide what he had done.
    "Nay, shut them not upon me, nay, nor shun
    My worship!" So he said; but she, "They fade,
    But are not yet so old as thou hast made
    The soul thou pinnest here beneath my breasts
    Which you have loved too well." His hand he rests
    Over one fair white bosom like a cup,
    And leaning, of her lips his own must sup;
    But she will not, but gently doth refuse it,
    Without a reason, save she doth not choose it.
      Then when he flung away, she sat alone
    And nursed her hope and sorrow, both in one
    Perturbéd bosom; and her fingers wove
    White webs as far afield her wits did rove
    Perpending and perpending. So frail, so fair,
    So faint she seemed, a wraith you had said there,
    A woman dead, and not in lovely flesh.
    But all the while she writhed within the mesh
    Of circumstance, and fiercely flamed her rage:
    "O slave, O minion, thing kept in a cage
    For this sleek master's handling!" So she fumed
    What time her wide eyes sought all ways, or loomed
    Like winter lakes dark in a field of snow,
    And still; nor lifted they their pall of woe
    Responsive to her heart, nor flashed the thrill
    That knew, which said, "A true man loveth me still."

      That same night, as she used, fair Helen went
    Among the suppliants in the hall, and lent
    To each who craved the bounty of her grace,
    Her gentle touch on wounds, her pitiful face
    To beaten eyes' dumb eloquence, that art
    She above all could use, to stroke the heart
    And plead compassion in bestowing it.
    So with her handmaids busy did she flit
    From man to man, 'mid outlaws, broken blades,
    Robbed husbandmen, their robbers, phantoms, shades
    Of what were men till hunger made them less
    Than man can be and still know uprightness;
    And whom she spake with kindly words and cheer
    In him the light of hope began to peer
    And glimmer in his eyes; and him she fed
    And nourisht, then sent homeward comforted
    A little, to endure a little more.
      Now among these, hard by the outer door,
    She marked a man unbent whose sturdy look
    Never left hers for long, whose shepherd's hook
    Seemed not a staff to prop him, whose bright eyes
    Burned steadily, as fire when the wind dies.
    Great in the girth was he, but not so tall
    By a full hand as many whom the wall
    Showed like gaunt channel-posts by an ebb tide
    Left stranded in a world of ooze. Beside
    His knees she kneeled, and to his wounded feet
    Applied her balms; but he, from his low seat
    Against the wall, leaned out and in her ear
    Whispered, but so that no one else could hear,
    "Other than my wounds are there for thy pains,
    Lady, and deeper. One, a grievous, drains
    The great heart of a king, and one is fresh,
    Though ten years old, in the sweet innocent flesh
    Of a young child."
                        Nothing said she, but stoopt
    The closer to her task. He thought she droopt
    Her head, he knew she trembled, that her shoulder
    Twitcht as she wrought her task; so he grew bolder,
    Saying, "But thou art pitiful! I know
    That thou wilt wash their wounds."
                                        She whispered "Oh,
    Be sure of me!"
                    Then he, "Let us have speech
    Secret together out of range or reach
    Of prying ears, if such a chance may be."
      Then she said, "Towards morning look for me
    Here, when the city sleeps, before the sun."
      So till the glimmer of dawn this hardy one
    Keepeth the watch in Paris' house. All night
    With hard unwinking eyes he sat upright,
    While all about the sleepers lay, like stones
    Littered upon a hill-top, save that moans,
    Sighings and "Gods, have pity!" showed that they
    By night rehearsed the miseries of day,
    And by bread lived not but by hope deferred.
      Grimly he suffered till such time he heard
    Helen's light foot and faint and gray in the mist
    Descried her slim veiled outline, saw her twist
    And slip between the sleepers on the ground,
    Atiptoe coming, swift, with scarce a sound,
    Not faltering in fear. No fear she had.
    From head to foot a sea-blue mantle clad
    Her lovely shape, from which her pale keen face
    Shone like the moon in frosty sky. No case
    Was his to waver, for her eyes spake true
    As Heaven upon the world. Him then she drew
    To follow her, out of the house, to where
    The ilex trees stood darkly, and the air
    Struck sharp and chill before the dawn's first breath.
    There stood a little altar underneath
    An image: Artemis the quick deerslayer,
    High-girdled and barekneed; to Whom in prayer
    First bowed, then stood erect with lifted hands,
    Palms upward, Helen. "Lady of open lands
    And lakes and windy heights," prayed she, "so do
    To me as to Amphion's wife when blew
    The wind of thy high anger, and she stared
    On sudden death that not one dear life spared
    Of all she had--so do to me if false
    I prove unto this Argive!"
                                Then the walls
    And gates of Ilios she traced in the sand,
    And told him of the watch-towers, and how manned
    The gates at night; and where the treasure was,
    And where the houses of the chiefs. But as
    She faltered in the tale, "Show now," said he,
    "Where Priam's golden palace is."
                                      But she
    Said, "Nay, not that; for since the day of shame
    That brought me in, no word or look of blame
    Hath he cast on me. Nay, when Hector died
    And all the city turned on me and cried
    My name, as to an outcast dog men fling
    Howling and scorn, not one word said the King.
    And when they hissed me in the shrines of the Gods,
    And women egged their children on with nods
    To foul the house-wall, or in passing spat
    Towards it, he, the old King, came and sat
    Daily with me, and often on my hair
    Would lay a gentle hand. Him thou shalt spare
    For my sake who betray him."
                                  Odysseus said,
    "Well, thou shalt speak no more of him. His bed
    Is not of thy making, nor mine, but his
    Who hath thee here a cageling, thy Paris.
    Him he begat as well as Hector. Now
    Let Priam look to reap what he did sow."
      But when glad light brimmed o'er the cup of earth
    And shrill birds called forth men to grief or mirth
    As might afford their labour under the sun,
    Helen advised how best to get him gone,
    And fetched a roll of cord, the which made fast
    About a stanchion, about him next she cast,
    About and about until the whole was round
    His body, and the end to his arm she bound:
    Then showed him in the wall where best foothold
    Might be, and watcht him down as fold by fold
    He paid the cable out; and as he paid
    So did she twist it, till the coil was made
    As it had been at first. Then watcht she him
    Stride o'er the plain until he twinkled dim
    And sank into the mist.
                            That day came not
    King Menelaus to the trysting spot;
    But ere Odysseus left her she had ta'en
    A crocus flower which on her breast had lain,
    And toucht it with her lips. "Give this," said she,
    "To my good lord who hath seen the flower in me."


SEVENTH STAVE

THEY BUILD THE HORSE AND ENTER IN

      What weariness of wind and wave and foam
    Was to be for Odysseus ere his home
    Of scrub and crag and scanty pasturage
    He saw again! What stress of pilgrimage
    Through roaring waterways and cities of men,
    What sojourn among folk beyond the ken
    Of mortal seafarers in homelier seas,
    More trodden lands! Sure, none had earned his ease
    As he, that windless morning when he drew
    Near silent Ithaca, gray in misty blue,
    And wondered on the old familiar scene,
    Which was to him as it had never been
    Aforetime. Say, had he but had inkling
    That in this hour all that long wandering
    Of his was self-ensured, had he been bold
    To plan and carry what must now be told
    Of this too hardy champion? Solve it you
    Whose chronicling is over. Mine's to do.
      All day until the setting of the sun,
    Devising how to use what he had won
    Odysseus stood; for nothing within walls
    Was hid, he knew the very trumpet-calls
    Wherewith they turned the guard out, and the cries
    The sentries used to hearten or advise
    The city in the watches of the night.
    Once in, no hope for Ilios; but his plight
    No better stood for that, since no way in
    Could he conceive, nor entry hope to win
    For any force enough to seize the gate
    And open for the host.
                            But then some Fate,
    Or, some men say, Athené the gray-eyed,
    Ever his friend, never far from his side,
    Prompted him look about him. Then he heeds
    A stork set motionless in the dry reeds
    That lift their withered arms, a skeleton host,
    Long after winter and her aching frost
    Are gone, and rattle in the spring's soft breeze
    Dry bones, as if to daunt the budding trees
    And warn them of the summer's wrath to come.
    Still sat the bird, as fast asleep or numb
    With cold, her head half-buried in her breast,
    With close-shut eyes: a dead bird on the nest,
    Arrow-shot--for behold! a wound she bore
    Mid-breast, which stooping to, to see the more,
    Lo, forth from it came busy, one by one,
    Light-moving ants! So she to her death had gone
    These many days; and there where she lost life
    Her carrion shell with it again was rife.
    So teems the earth, that ere our clay be rotten
    New hosts sweep clean the hearth, our deeds forgotten.
      But stooping still, Odysseus saw her not
    Nor her brisk tenantry; afar his thought,
    And after it his vision, crossed the plain
    And lit on Ilios, dim and lapt in rain,
    Piled up like blocks which Titans rear to mark
    Where hero of their breed sits stiff and stark,
    Spear in dead hand, and dead chin on dead knees;
    And "Ha," cried he, "proud hinderer of our ease,
    Now hold I thee within my hollowed hand!"
      Straightway returning, Troy's destruction planned,
    He sends for one Epeios, craftsman good,
    And bids him frame him out a horse in wood,
    Big-bellied as a ship of sixty oars
    Such as men use for traffic, not in wars,
    Nor piracy, but roomy, deep in the hold,
    Where men may shelter if needs be from cold,
    Or sleep between their watches. "Scant not you,"
    He said, "your timber not your sweat. Drive through
    This horse for me, Epeios, as if we
    Awaited it to give the word for sea
    And Hellas and our wives and children dear;
    For this is true, without it we stay here
    Another ten-year shift, if by main force
    We would take Troy, but ten days with my horse."
      So to their task Epeios and his teams
    Went valiantly, and heaved and hauled great beams
    Of timber from far Ida, and hacked amain
    And rought the framework out. Then to it again
    They went with adzes and their smoothing tools,
    And made all shapely; next bored for their dools
    With augurs, and made good stock on to stock
    With mortise and with dovetail. Last, they lock
    The frames with clamps, the nether to the upper,
    And body forth a horse from crest to crupper
    In outline.
                Now their ribbing must be shaped
    With axe to take the round, first rought, then scraped
    With adzes, then deep-mortised in the frame
    To bear the weight of so much mass, whose fame
    When all was won, the Earth herself might quake,
    Supporting on her broad breast. Now they take
    Planks sawn and smoothed, and set them over steam
    Of cauldrons to be supple. These to the beam
    Above they rivet fast, and bend them down
    Till from the belly more they seem to have grown
    Than in it to be ended, so well sunk
    And grooved they be. There's for the horse's trunk.
    But as for head and legs, these from the block
    Epeios carved, and fixed them on the stock
    With long pins spigotted and clamps of steel;
    And then the tail, downsweeping to the heel,
    He carved and rivetted in place. Yet more
    He did; for cunningly he made a door
    Beneath the belly of him, in a part
    Where Nature lends her aid to sculptor's art,
    And few would have the thought to look for it,
    Or eyes so keen to find, if they'd the wit.
      Greatly stood he, hogmaned, with wrinkled néck
    And wrying jaw, as though upon the check
    One rode him. On three legs he stood, with one
    Pawing the air, as if his course to run
    Was overdue. Almost you heard the champ
    And clatter of the bit, almost the stamp
    And scrape of hoof; almost his fretful crest
    He seemed to toss on high. So much confest
    The wondering host. "But where's the man to ride?"
    They askt. Odysseus said, "He'll go inside.
    Yet there shall seem a rider--nay, let two
    Bespan so brave a back," Epeios anew
    He spurred, and had his horsemen as he would,
    Two noble youths, star-frontletted, but nude
    Of clothing, and unarmed, who sat as though
    Centaurs not men, and with their knees did show
    The road to travel. Next Odysseus bid,
    "Gild thou me him, Epeios"; which he did,
    And burnisht after, till he blazed afar
    Like that great image which men hail for a star
    Of omen holy, image without peer,
    Chryselephantine Athené with her spear,
    Shining o'er Athens; to which their course they set
    When homeward faring through the seaways wet
    From Poros or from Nauplia, or some
    From the Eubœan gulf, or where the foam
    Washes the feet of Sounion, on whose brow
    Like a white crown the shafts burn even now.
      Such was the shaping of the Horse of Wood,
    The bane of Ilios.
                        Ordered now they stood
    Midway between the ships and Troy, and cast
    The lots, who should go in from first to last
    Of all the chieftains chosen. And the lot
    Leapt out of Diomede, so in he got
    And sat up in the neck. Next Aias went,
    Clasping his shins and blinking as he bent,
    Working the ridges of his villainous brow,
    Like puzzled, patient monkey on a bough
    That peers with bald, far-seeing eyes, whose scope
    And steadfastness seem there to mock our hope;
    Next Antiklos, and next Meriones
    The Cretan; next good Teukros. After these
    Went Pyrrhos, Agamemnon, King of men,
    Menestheus and Idomeneus, and then
    King Menelaus; and Odysseus last
    Entered the desperate doorway, and made fast.
      And all the Achaian remnant, seeing their best
    To this great venture finally addrest,
    Stood awed in silence; but Nestor the old
    Bade bring the victims, and these on the wold
    In sight of Troy he slew, and so uplift
    The smoke of fire, and bloodsmoke, as a gift
    Acceptable to Him he hailed by name
    Kronion, sky-dweller, who giveth fame,
    Lord of the thunder; to Heré next, and Her,
    The Maid of War and holy harbinger
    Of Father Zeus, who bears the Ægis dread
    And shakes it when the storm peals overhead
    And lightning splits the firmament with fire;
    Nor yet forgat Poseidon, dark-haired sire
    Of all the seas, and of great Ocean's flow,
    The girdler of the world. So back with slow
    And pondered steps they all returned, and dark
    Swallowed up Troy, and Horse, and them who stark
    Abode within it. And the great stars shone
    Out over sea and land; and speaking none,
    Nursing his arms, nursing within his breast
    His enterprise, each hero sat at rest
    Ignorant of the world of day and night,
    Or whether he should live to see the light,
    Or see it but to perish in this cage.
    Only Odysseus felt his heart engage
    The blithelier for the peril. He was stuff
    That thrives by daring, nor can dare enough.

      Three days, three nights before the Skaian Gate
    Sat they within their ambush, apt for fate;
    Three days, three nights, the Trojans swarmed the walls
    And towers or held high council in their halls
    What this portended, this o'erweening mass
    Reared up so high no man stretching could pass
    His hand over the crupper, of such girth
    Of haunch, to span the pair no man on earth
    Could compass with both arms. But most their eyes
    Were for the riders who in godlike guise
    Went naked into battle, as Gods use,
    Untrammel'd by our shifts of shields and shoes,
    As if we dread the earth whereof we are.
    Sons of God, these: for bore not each a star
    Ablaze upon his forelock? Lo, they say,
    Kastor and Polydeukes, who but they,
    Come in to save their sister at the last,
    And war for Troy, and root King Priam fast
    In his demesne, him and his heirs for ever!
    Now call they soothsayers to make endeavour
    With engines of their craft to read the thing;
    But others urge them hale it to the King--
    "Let him dispose," they say, "of it and us,
    And order as he will, from Pergamos
    To heave it o'er the sheer and bring to wreck;
    Or burn with fire; or harbour to bedeck
    The temple of some God: of three ways one.
    Here it cannot abide to flout the sun
    With arrogant flash for every beam of his."
      Herewith agreed the men of mysteries,
    Raking the bloodsick earth to have the truth,
    And getting what they lookt for, as in sooth
    A man will do. So then they all fell to't
    To hale with cords and lever foot by foot
    The portent; and as frenzy frenzy breeds,
    And what one has another thinks he needs,
    So to a straining twenty other score
    Lent hands, and ever from the concourse more
    Of them, who hauled as if Troy's life depended
    On hastening forward that wherein it ended.
      So came the Horse to Troy, so was filled up
    With retribution that sweet loving-cup
    Paris had drunk to Helen overseas--
    The cup which whoso drains must taste the lees.


EIGHTH STAVE

THE HORSE IN TROY; THE PASSION OF KASSANDRA

      High over Troy the windy citadel,
    Pergamos, towereth, where is the cell
    And precinct of Athené. There, till reived,
    They kept the Pallium, sacred and still grieved
    By all who held the city consecrate
    To Her, as first it was, till she learned hate
    For what had once been lovely, and let in
    The golden Aphrodité, and sweet sin
    To ensnare Prince Paris and send him awooing
    A too-fair wife, to be his own undoing
    And Troy's and all the line's of Dardanos,
    That traced from Zeus to him, from him to Tros,
    From Tros to Ilos, to Laomedon,
    Who begat Priam as his second son.
    But out of Troy Assarakos too came,
    From whom came Kapys; and from him the fame
    Of good Anchises, with whom Kypris lay
    In love and got Aineias. He, that day
    Of dreadful wrath, safe only out did come,
    And builded great Troy's line in greater Rome.
      Now to the forecourt flock the Trojan folk
    To view the portent. Now they bring to yoke
    Priam's white horses, that the stricken king
    Himself may see the wonder-working thing,
    Himself invoke with his frail trembling voice
    The good Twin Brethren for his aid and Troy's.
    So presently before it Priam stands,
    Father and King of Troy, with feeble hands
    And mild pale eyes wherein Grief like a ghost
    Sits; and about him all he has not lost
    Of all his children gather, with grief-worn
    Andromaché and her first, and last, born,
    The boy Astyanax. And there apart
    The wise Aineias stands, of steadfast heart
    But not acceptable--for some old grudge
    Inherited--Aineias, silent judge
    Of folly, as he had been since the sin
    Of Paris knelled the last days to begin.
    But he himself, that Paris, came not out,
    But kept his house in these his days of doubt,
    Uncertain of his footing, being of those
    On whom the faintest breath of censure blows
    Chill as the wind that from the frozen North
    Palsies the fount o' the blood. He dared not forth
    Lest men should see--and how not see? he thought--
    That Helen held him lightlier than she ought.
      But Helen came there, gentle as of old,
    Self-held, sufficient to herself, not bold,
    Not modest nor immodest, taking none
    For judge or jury of what she may have done;
    But doing all she was to do, sedate,
    Intent upon it and deliberate.
    As she had been at first, so was she now
    When she had put behind her her old vow
    And had no pride but thinking of her new.
    But she was lovelier, of more burning hue,
    And in her eyes there shone, for who could see,
    A flickering light, half scare and half of glee,
    Which made those iris'd orbs to wax and wane
    Like to the light of April days, when rain
    And sun contend the sovereignty. She kept
    Beside the King, and only closer crept
    To let him feel her there when some harsh word
    Or look made her heart waver. Many she heard,
    And much she saw, but knew the King her friend,
    Him only since great Hector met his end.
    And while so pensive and demure she stood,
    With one thin hand just peeping at her hood,
    The which close-folded her from head to knee,
    Her heart within her bosom hailed her--"Free!
    Free from thy thralldom, free to save, to give,
    To love, be loved again, and die to live!"
    So she--yet who had said, to see her there,
    The sweet-faced woman, blue-eyed, still and fair
    As windless dawn in some quiet mountain place,
    To such a music let her passion race?

      Now hath the King his witless welcome paid,
    And now invoked the gods, and the cold shade
    Which once was Hector; now, being upheld
    By two his sons, with shaking hands of eld
    The knees of those two carved and gilded youths
    He touches while he prays, and praying soothes
    The crying heart of Helen. But not so
    Kassandra views him pray, that well of woe
    Kassandra, she whom Loxias deceived
    With gift to see, and not to be believed;
    To read within the heart of Time all truth
    And see men blindly blunder, to have ruth,
    To burn, to cry, "Out, haro!" and be a mock--
    Ah, and to know within this gross wood-block
    The fate of all her kindred, and her own,
    Unthinkable! Now with her terror blown
    Upon her face, to blanch it like a sheet,
    Now with bare frozen eyes which only greet
    The viewless neighbours of our world she strips
    The veil and shrieketh Troy's apocalypse:
    "Woe to thee, Ilios! The fire, the fire! And rain,
    Rain like to blood and tears to drown the plain
    And cover all the earth up in a shroud,
    One great death-clout for thee, Ilios the proud!
    Touch not, handle not----" Outraged then she turned
    To Helen--"O thou, for whom Troy shall be burned,
    O ruinous face, O breasts made hard with gall,
    Now are ye satisfied? Ye shall have all,
    All Priam's sons and daughters, all his race
    Gone quick to death, hailing thee, ruinous face!"
      Her tragic mask she turned upon all men:
    "The lion shall have Troy, to make his den
    Within her pleasant courts, in Priam's high seat
    Shall blink the vulture, sated of his meat;
    And in the temples emptied of their Gods
    Bats shall make quick the night, and panting toads
    Make day a loathing to the light it brings.
    Listen! Listen! they flock out; heed their wings.
    The Gods flee forth of this accursèd haunt,
    And leave the memory of it an old chant,
    A nursery song, an idle tale that's told
    To children when your own sons are grown old
    In Argive bonds, and have no other joy
    Than whispering to their offspring tales of Troy."
      Whereat she laught--O bitter sound to hear!
    And struggled with herself, and grinned with fear
    And misery lest even now her fate
    Should catch her and she be believed too late.
    "Is't possible, O Gods! Are ye so doomed
    As not to know this Horse a mare, enwombed
    Of men and swords? Know ye not there unseen
    The Argive princes wait their dam shall yean?
    Anon creeps Sparta forth, to find his balm
    In that vile woman; forth with itching palm
    Mykenai creeps, snuffing what may be won
    By filching; forth Pyrrhos the braggart's son
    That dared do violence to Hector dead,
    But while he lived called Gods to serve his stead;
    Forth Aias like a beast, to mangle me--
    These things ye will not credit, but I see."
    Then once again, and last, she turned her switch
    On Helen, hissing, "Out upon thee, witch,
    Smooth-handed traitress, speak thy secrets out
    That we may know thee, how thou goest about
    Caressing, with a hand that hides a knife,
    That which shall prove false paramour, false wife,
    Fair as the sun is fair that smiles and slays"--
    And then, "O ruinous face, O ruinous face!"
    But nothing more, for sudden all was gone,
    Spent by her passion. Muttering, faint and wan
    Down to the earth she sank, and to and fro
    Rocking, drew close her hood, and shrouded so,
    Her wild voice drowning, died in moans away.
      But Helen stood bright-eyed as glancing day,
    Near by the Horse, and with a straying hand
    Did stroke it here and there, and listening stand,
    Leaning her head towards its gilded flank,
    And strain to hear men's breath behind the plank;
    And she had whispered if she dared some word
    Of promise; but afraid to be o'erheard,
    Leaned her head close and toucht it with her cheek,
    Then drew again to Priam, schooled and meek.
    But Menelaus felt her touch, and mum
    Sat on, nursing his mighty throw to come;
    And Aias started, with some cry uncouth
    And vile, but fast Odysseus o'er his mouth
    Clapt hand, and checkt his foul perseverance
    To seek in every deed his own essence.

      Now when the ways were darkened, and the sun
    Sank red to sea, and homeward all had gone
    Save that distraught Kassandra, who still served
    The temple whence the Goddess long had swerved,
    Athené, hating Troy and loving them
    Who craved to snatch and make a diadem
    Of Priam's regal crown for other brows--
    She, though foredoomed she knew, held to her vows,
    And duly paid the thankless evening rite--
    There came to Paris' house late in the night
    Deïphobus his brother, young and trim,
    For speech with fair-tressed Helen, for whose slim
    And budded grace long had he sighed in vain;
    And found her in full hall, and showed his pain
    And need of her. To whom when she draws close
    In hot and urgent crying words he shows
    His case, hers now, that here she tarry not
    Lest evil hap more dread than she can wot:
    "For this," he says, "is Troy's extremest hour."
    But when to that she bowed her head, the power
    Of his high vision made him vehement:
    "Dark sets the sun," he cried, "and day is spent";
    But she said, "Nay, the sun will rise with day,
    And I shall bathe in light, lift hands and pray."
      "Thou lift up hands, bound down to a new lord!"
    He mocked; then whispered, "Lady, with a sword
    I cut thy bonds if so thou wilt."
                                      Apart
    She moved: "No sword, but a cry of the heart
    Shall loose me."
                      Then he said, "Hear what I cry
    From my heart unto thine: fly, Helen, fly!"
    Whereat she shook her head and sighed, "Even so,
    Brother, I fly where thou canst never go.
    Far go I, out of ken of thee and thy peers."
      He knew not what she would, but said, "Thy fears
    Are of the Gods and holy dooms and Fate,
    But mine the present menace in the gate.
    This I would save thee."
                              "I fear it not," said she,
    "But wait it here."
                        He cried, "Here shalt thou see
    Thy Spartan, and his bitter sword-point feel
    Against thy bosom."
                        "I bare it to the steel,"
    Saith she. He then, "If ever man deserved thee
    By service, I am he, who'd die to serve thee."
      Glowing she heard him, being quickly moved
    By kindness, loving ever where she was loved.
    But now her heart was fain for rest; the night
    Called her to sleep and dreams. So with a light
    And gentle hand upon him, "Brother, farewell,"
    She said, "I stay the issue, and foretell
    Honour therein at least."
                              Then at the door
    She kissed him. And she saw his face no more.


NINTH STAVE

THE GODS FORSAKE TROY

      Now Dawn came weeping forth, and on the crest
    Of Ida faced a chill wind from the West.
    Forth from the gray sea wrack-laden it blew
    And howled among the towers, and stronger grew
    As crept unseen the sun his path of light.
    Then she who in the temple all that night
    Had kept her rueful watch, the prophetess
    Kassandra, peering sharply, heard the press
    And rush of flight above her, and with sick
    Foreboding waited; and the air grew thick
    With flying shapes immortal overhead.
      As in late Autumn, when the leaves are shed
    And dismal flit about the empty ways,
    And country folk provide against dark days,
    And heap the woodstack, and their stores repair,
    Attent you know the quickening of the air,
    And closer yet the swish and sweep and swing
    Of wings innumerable, emulous to bring
    The birds to broader skies and kindlier sun,
    And know indeed that winter is begun--
    So seeing first, then hearing, she knew the hour
    Was come when Troy must fall, and not a tower
    Be left to front the morrow. And she covered
    Her head and mourned, while one by one they hovered
    Above their shrines, then flockt and faced the dawn.

      First, in her car of shell and amber, drawn
    By clustering doves with burnisht wings, a-throng,
    Passes Queen Aphrodité, and her song
    Is sweet and sharp: "I gave my sacred zone
    To warm thy bosom, Helen which by none
    That live by labour and in tears are born
    And sighing go their ways, has e'er been worn.
    It kindled in thine eyes the lovelight, showed
    Thy burning self in his. Thy body glowed
    With beauty like to mine: mine thy love-laughter
    Thy cooing in the night, thy deep sleep after,
    Thy rapture of the morning, love renewed;
    And all the shadowed day to sit and brood
    On what has been and what should be again:
    Thou wilt not? Nay, I proffer not in vain
    My gifts, for I am all or will be nought.
    Lo, where I am can be no other thought."
      Thus to the wooded heights of Ida she
    Was drawn, hid in that pearly galaxy
    Of snow-white pigeons.
                            Next upon the height
    Of Pergamos uplift a beam of light
    That for its core enshrined a naked youth,
    Golden and fierce. She knew the God sans ruth,
    Him who had given woeful prescience to her,
    Apollo, once her lover and her wooer;
    Who stood as one stands glorying in his grace
    And strength, full in the sun, though on her place
    Within the temple court no sun at all
    Shone, nor as yet upon the topmost wall
    Was any tinge of him, but all showed gray
    And sodden in the wind and blown sea-spray.
    Not to him dared she lift her voice in prayer,
    Nor scarce her eyes to see him.
                                    To him there
    Came swift a spirit in shape of virgin slim,
    With snooded hair and kirtle belted trim,
    Short to the knee; and in her face the gale
    Had blown bright sanguine colour. Free and hale
    She was; and in her hand she held a bow
    Unstrung, and o'er her shoulders there did go
    A baldrick that made sharp the cleft betwixt
    Her sudden breasts--to that a quiver fixt,
    Showing gold arrow-points. No God there is
    In Heaven more swift than Delian Artemis,
    The young, the pure health-giver of the Earth,
    Who loveth all things born, and brings to birth,
    And after slays with merciful sudden death--
    In whom is gladness all and wholesome breath,
    And to whom all the praise of him who writes,
    Ever.
          These two she saw like meteorites
    Flare down the wind and burn afar, then fade.
    And Leto next, a mother grave and staid,
    Drave out her chariot, which two winged stags drew,
    Swift following, robed in gown of inky blue,
    And hooded; and her hand which held the hood
    Gleamed like a patch of snow left in a wood
    Where hyacinths bring down to earth the sky.
      And in her wake a winging company,
    Dense as the cloud of gulls which from a rock
    At sea lifts up in myriads, if the knock
    Of oars assail their peace, she saw, and mourned
    The household gods. For outward they too turned,
    The spirits of the streams and water-brooks,
    And nymphs who haunt the pastures, or in nooks
    Of woodlands dwell. There like a lag of geese
    Flew in long straying lines the Oreades
    That in wild dunes and commons have their haunt;
    There sped the Hamadryads; there aslant,
    As from the sea, but wheeling ere they crost
    Their sisters, thronged the river-nymphs, a host;
    And now the Gods of homestead and the hearth,
    Like sad-faced mourning women, left the garth
    Where each had dwelt since Troy was stablishéd,
    And been the holy influence over bed
    And board and daily work under the sun
    And nightlong slumber when day's work was done:
    They rose, and like a driven mist of rain
    Forsook the doomed high city and the plain,
    And drifted eastaway; and as they went
    Heaviness spread o'er Ilios like a tent,
    And past not off, but brooded all day long.

      But ever coursed new spirits to the throng
    That packt the ways of Heaven. From the plain,
    From mere and holt and hollow rose amain
    The haunters of the silence; from the streams
    And wells of water, from the country demes,
    From plough and pasture, bottom, ridge and crest
    The rustic Gods rose up and joined the rest.
    Like a long wisp of cloud from out his banks
    Streamed Xanthos, that swift river, to the ranks
    Of flying shapes; and driven by that same mind
    That urged him to it came Simoeis behind,
    And other Gods and other, of stream and tree
    And hill and vale--for nothing there can be
    On earth or under Heaven, but hath in it
    Essence whereby alone its form may hit
    Our apprehension, channelled in the sense
    Which feedeth us, that we through vision dense
    See Gods as trees walking, or in the wind
    That singeth in the bents guess what's behind
    Its wailing music.
                        And now the unearthly flock,
    Emptying every water, wood, bare rock
    And pasture, beset Ida, and their wings
    Beat o'er the forest which about her springs
    And makes a sea of verdure, whence she lifts
    Her soaring peaks to bathe them in the drifts
    Of cloud, and rare reveal them unto men--
    For Zeus there hath his dwelling, out of ken
    Of men alike and gods. But now the brows,
    The breasting summits, still eternal snows,
    And all the faces of the mountain held
    A concourse like in number to the field
    Of Heaven upon some breathless summer night
    Printed with myriad stars, some burning bright,
    Some massed in galaxy, a cloudy scar,
    And others faint, as infinitely far.
    There rankt the Gods of Heaven, Earth, and Sea,
    Brethren of them now hastening from the fee
    Of stricken Priam. Out of his deep cloud
    Zeus flamed his levin, and his thunder loud
    Volleyed his welcome. With uplifted hands
    Acclaiming, God's oncoming each God stands
    To greet. And thus the Hierarchy at one
    Sits to behold the bitter business done
    Which Paris by his luxury bestirred.

      But in the city, like a stricken bird
    Grieving her desolation and despair,
    As voiceless and as lustreless, astare
    For imminent Death, Kassandra croucht beneath
    Her very doom, herself the bride of Death;
    For in the temple's forecourt reared the mass
    Of that which was to bring the woe to pass,
    And hidden in him both her murderers
    Wrung at their nails.
                          And slow the long day wears
    While all the city broods. The chiefs keep house,
    Or gather on the wall, or make carouse
    To simulate a freedom they feel not;
    And at street corners men in shift or plot
    Whisper together, or in the market-place
    Gather, and peer each other in the face
    Furtively, seeking comfort against care;
    Whose eyes, meeting by chance, shift otherwhere
    In haste. But in the houses, behind doors
    Shuttered and barred, the women scrub their floors,
    Or ply their looms as busily: for they
    Ever cure care with care, and if a day
    Be heavy lighten it with heavier task;
    And for their griefs wear beauty like a mask,
    And answer heart's presaging with a song
    On their brave lips, and render right for wrong.
    Little, by outward seeming, do they know
    Of doom at hand, of fate or blood or woe,
    Nor how their children, playing by their knees,
    Must end this day of busyness-at-ease
    In shrieking night, with clamour for their bread,
    And a red bath, and a cold stone for a bed
    Under the staring moon.

                            Now sinks the sun
    Blood-red into the heavy sea and dun,
    And forth from him, as he were stuck with swords,
    Great streams of light go upward. Then the lords
    Of havoc and unrest prepare their storms,
    And o'er the silent city, vulture forms--
    Eris and Enyo, Alké, Ioké,
    The biter, the sharp-bitten, the mad, the fey--
    Hover and light on pinnacle and tower:
    The gray Erinnyes, watchful for the hour
    When Haro be the wail. And down the sky
    Like a white squall flung Até with a cry
    That sounded like the wind in a ship's shrouds,
    As shrill and wild at once. The driving clouds
    Surging together, blotted out the sea,
    The beachéd ships, the plain with mound and tree,
    And slantwise came the sheeted rain, and fast
    The darkness settled in. Kassandra cast
    Her mantle o'er her head, and with slow feet
    Entered her shrine deserted, there to greet
    Her fate when it should come; and merciful Sleep
    Befriended her.
                    Now from his lair did creep
    Odysseus forth unarmed, his sword and spear
    There in the Horse, and warily to peer
    And spy his whereabouts the Ithacan
    Went doubtful. Then his dreadful work began,
    As down the bare way of steep Pergamos
    Under the dark he sought for Paris' house.


TENTH STAVE

ODYSSEUS COMES AGAIN TO PARIS' HOUSE

      There in her cage roamed Helen light and fierce,
    Unresting, with bright eyes and straining ears,
    Nor ever stayed her steps; but first the hall
    She ranged, touching the pillars; next to the wall
    Went out and shot her gaze into the murk
    Whereas the ships should lie; then to her work
    Upon the great loom turned and wove a shift,
    But idly, waiting always for some lift
    In the close-wrapping fog that might discover
    The moving hosts, the spearmen of her lover--
    Lover and husband, master and lord of life,
    Coming at last to take a slave to wife.
    And as wide-eyed she stared to feel her heart
    Leap to her side, she felt the warm tears start,
    And thankt the Goddess for the balm they brought.
    Yet to her women, withal so highly wrought
    By hope and care and waiting, she was mild
    And gentle-voiced, and playful as a child
    That sups the moment's joy, and nothing heeds
    Time past or time to come, but fills all needs
    With present kindness. She would laugh and talk,
    Take arms, suffer embraces, even walk
    The terrace 'neath the eyes of all her fate,
    And seem to heed what they might show or prate,
    As if her whole heart's heart were in this house
    And not at fearful odds and perilous.
    And should one speak of Paris, as to say,
    "Would that our lord might see thee go so gay
    About his house!" Gently she'd bend her head
    Down to her breast and pluck a vagrant thread
    Forth from her tunic's hem, and looking wise,
    Gaze at her hand which on her bosom's rise
    Lit like a butterfly and quivered there.
      Now in the dusk, with Paris otherwhere
    At council with the chieftains, into the hall
    To Helen there, was come, adventuring all,
    Odysseus in the garb of countryman,
    A herdsman from the hills, with stain of tan
    Upon his neck and arms, with staff and scrip,
    And round each leg bound crosswise went a strip
    Of good oxhide. Within the porch he came
    And louted low, and hailed her by her name,
    Among her maidens easy to be known,
    Though not so tall as most, and not full blown
    To shape and flush like a full-hearted rose;
    But like a summer wave her bosom flows
    Lax and most gentle, and her tired sweet face
    Seems pious as the moon in a blue space
    Of starless heaven, and in her eyes the hue
    Of early morning, gray through mist of blue.
    Not by a flaunted beauty is she guessed
    Queen of them all, but by the right expressed
    In her calm gaze and fearless, and that hold
    Upon her lips which Gods have. Nay, not cold,
    Thou holy one, not cold thy lips, which say
    All in a sigh, and with one word betray
    The passion of thy heart! But who can wis
    The fainting piercing message of thy kiss?
    O blest initiate--let him live to tell
    Thy godhead, show himself thy miracle!
      But when she saw him there with his head bowed
    And humble hands, deeply her fair face glowed,
    And broad across the iris swam the black
    Until her eyes showed darkling. "Friend, your lack
    Tell me," she said, "and what is mine to give
    Is yours; but little my prerogative
    Here in this house, where I am not the queen
    You call me, but another name, I ween,
    Serves me about the country you are of,
    Which Ilios gives me too, but not in love.
    Yet are we all alike in evil plight,
    And should be tender of each other's right,
    And of each other's wrongdoing, and wrongs done
    Upon us. Have you wife and little one
    Hungry at home? Have you a son afield?
    Or do you mourn? Alas, I cannot wield
    The sword you lack, nor bow nor spear afford
    To serve...."
      He said, "Nay, you can sheathe the sword,
    Slack bowstring, and make spear a hunter's toy.
    Lady, I come to end this war of Troy
    In your good pleasure."
                            With her steady eyes
    Unwinking fixt, "Let you and me devise,"
    Said she, "this happy end of bow and spear,
    So shall we serve the land. You have my ear;
    Speak then."
                  "But so," he said, "these maidens have it.
    But we save Troy alone, or never save it."
      Turning she bid them leave her with a nod,
    And they obeyed. Swift then and like a God
    She seemed, with bright all-knowing eyes and calm
    Gesture of high-held head, and open palm
    To greet. "Laertes' son, what news bringst thou?"
      "Lady," he said, "the best. The hour is now.
    We stand within the heaven-establisht walls,
    We gird the seat. Within an hour it falls,
    The seat divine of Dardanos and Tros,
    After our ten years' travail and great loss
    Of heroes not yet rested, but to rest
    Soon."
            Then she laid her hand upon her breast
    To stay it. "Who are ye that stand here-by?"
      "Desperate men," he said, "prepared to die
    If thou wilt have it so. Chief is there none
    Beside the ships but Nestor. All are gone
    Forth in the Horse. Under thy covering hand
    Thou holdest all Achaia. Here we stand,
    Epeios, Pyrrhos, Antiklos, with these
    Cretan Idomeneus, Meriones,
    Aias the Lokrian, Teukros, Diomede
    Of the loud war-cry, next thy man indeed,
    Golden-haired Menelaus the robbed King,
    And Agamemnon by him, and I who bring
    This news and must return to take what lot
    Thou choosest us; for all is thine, God wot,
    To end or mend, to make or mar at will."
      A weighty utterance, but she heard the thrill
    Within her heart, and listened only that--
    To know her love so near. So near he sat
    Hidden when she that toucht the Horse's flank
    Could have toucht him! "Odysseus!" her voice sank
    To the low tone of the soft murmuring dove
    That nests and broods, "Odysseus, heard my love
    My whisper of his name when close I stood
    And stroked the Horse?"
                            "I heard and understood,"
    He said, "and Lokrian Aias would have spoken
    Had I not clapt a hand to his mouth--else broken
    By garish day had been our house of dream,
    And our necks too. I heard a woman scream
    Near by and cry upon the Ruinous Face,
    But none made answer to her."
                                  Nought she says
    To that but "I am ready; let my lord
    Come when he will. Humbly I wait his word."
      "That word I bring," Odysseus said, "he comes.
    Await him here."
                      Her wide eyes were the homes
    Of long desire. "Ah, let me go with thee
    Even as I am; from this dark house take me
    While Paris is abroad!"
                            He shook his head.
    "Not so, but he must find thee here abed--
    And Paris here."
                      The light died out; a mask
    Of panic was her face, what time her task
    Stared on a field of white horror like blood:
    "Here! But there must be strife then!"
                                            "Well and good,"
    Said he.
              Then she, shivering and looking small,
    "And one must fall?" she said; he, "One must fall."
      Reeling she turned her pincht face other way
    And muttered with her lips, grown cold and gray,
    Then fawning came at him, and with her hands
    Besought him, but her voice made no demands,
    Only her haunted eyes were quick, and prayed,
    "Ah, not to fall through me!"
                                  "By thee," he said,
    "The deed is to be done."
                              She droopt adown
    Her lovely head; he heard her broken moan,
    "Have I not caused enough of blood-shedding,
    And enough women's tears? Is not the sting
    Sharp enough of the knife within my side?"
    No more she could.
                        Then he, "Think not to avoid
    The lot of man, who payeth the full price
    For each deed done, and riddeth vice by vice:
    Such is the curse upon him. The doom is
    By God decreed, that for thy forfeit bliss
    In Sparta thou shalt pay the price in Troy,
    Dishonour for lost honour, pain for joy;
    By what hot thought impelled, by that alone
    Win back; by violence violence atone.
    If by chicane thou fleddest, by chicane
    Win back thy blotted footprints. Out again
    With all thine arts of kisses slow and long,
    Of smiles and stroking hands, and crooning song
    Whenas full-fed with love thou lulledst asleep;
    Renew thine eyebright glances, whisper and creep
    And twine about his neck thy wreathing arms:
    As we with spears so do thou with thy charms,
    Arm thee and wait the hour of fire and smoke
    To purge this robbery. Paris by the stroke
    Of him he robbed shall wash out his old cheat
    In blood, and thou, woman, by new deceit
    Of him redeem thy first. For thus God saith,
    Traitress, thou shalt betray thy thief to death."
      He ceased, and she by misery made wild
    And witless, shook, and like a little child
    Gazed piteous, and asked, "What must I do?"
      He answered, "Hold him by thee, falsely true,
    Until the King stand armed within the house
    Ready to take his blood-price. Even thus,
    By shame alone shalt thou redeem thy shame."
      And now she claspt his knee and cried his name:
    "Mercy! I cannot do it. Let me die
    Sooner than go to him so. What, must I lie
    With one and other, make myself a whore,
    And so go back to Sparta, nevermore
    To hold my head up level with my slaves,
    Nor dare to touch my child?"
                                  Said he, "Let knaves
    Deal knavishly till freedom they can win;
    And so let sinners purge themselves of sin."
    Then fiercely looking on her where she croucht
    Fast by his knees, his whole mind he avoucht:
    "How many hast thou sent the way of death
    By thy hot fault? What ghosts like wandering breath
    Shudder and wail unhouseled on the plain,
    Shreds of Achaian honour? What hearts in pain
    Cry the night through? What souls this very night
    Fare forth? Art thou alone to sup delight,
    Alone to lap in pleasantness, who first
    And only, with thy lecher and his thirst,
    Wrought all the harm? Only for thy smooth sake
    Did Paris reive, and Menelaus ache,
    And Hector die ashamed, and Peleus' son
    Stand to the arrow, and Aias Telamon
    Find madness and self-murder for the crown
    Of all his travail?" He eyed her up and down
    Sternly, as measuring her worth in scorn.
    "Not thus may traffic any woman born
    While men endure cold nights and burning days,
    Hunger and wretchedness."
                              She stands, she says,
    "Enough--I cannot answer. Tell me plain
    What I must do."
                      "At dark," he said, "we gain
    The Gates and open them. A trumpet's blast
    Will sound the entry of the host. Hold fast
    Thy Paris then. We storm the citadel,
    High Pergamos; that won, the horn will tell
    The sack begun. But hold thou Paris bound
    Fast in thine arms. Once more the horn shall sound.
    That third is doom for him. Release him then."
      All blank she gazed. "Unarmed to face armed men?"
    "Unarmed," he said, "to meet his judgment day."

      Now was thick silence broken; now no way
    For her to shift her task nor he his fate.
    Keenly she heeds. "'Tis Paris at the gate!
    What now? Whither away? Where wilt thou hide?"
      He lookt her in the face. "Here I abide
    What he may do. Was it not truth I spake
    That all Hellas lay in thy hand? Now take
    What counsel or what comfort may avail."
      Paris stood in the door and cried her Hail.
    "Hail to thee, Rose of the World!" then saw the man,
    And knit his brows upon him, close to scan
    His features; but Odysseus had his hood
    Shadowing his face. Some time the Trojan stood
    Judging, then said, "Thou seek'st? What seekest thou?"
      "A debt is owed me. I seek payment now."
    So he was told; but he drew nearer yet.
    "I would know more of thee and of thy debt,"
    He said.
              And then Odysseus, "This thy strife
    Hath ruined all my fields which are my life,
    Brought murrain on my beasts, cold ash to my hearth,
    Emptiness to my croft. Hunger and dearth,
    Are these enough? Who pays me?"
                                    Then Paris,
    "I pay, but first will know what man it is
    I am to pay, and in what kind." So said,
    Snatching the hood, he whipt it from his head
    And lookt and knew the Ithacan. "Now by Zeus,
    Treachery here!" He swung his sword-arm loose
    Forth of his cloak and set hand to his sword;
      But Helen softly called him: "Hath my lord
    No word of greeting for his bondwoman?"
    Straightway he went to her, and left the man,
    And took her in his arms, and held her close.
    And light of foot, Odysseus quit the house.


ELEVENTH STAVE

THE BEGUILING OF PARIS

      Now Paris tipt her chin and turned her face
    Upwards to his that fondly he might trace
    The beauty of her budded lips, and stoop
    And kiss them softly; and fingered in the loop
    That held her girdle, and closer pressed, on fire,
    Towards her; for her words had stung desire
    Anew; and wooing in his fond boy's way,
    Whispered and lookt his passion; then to pray
    Began: "Ah, love, long strange to me, behold
    Thy winter past, and come the days of gold
    And pleasance of the spring! For in thine eyes
    I see his light and hail him as he flies!
    Nay, cloud him not, nor veil him"--for she made
    To turn her face, saying, "Ah, let them fade:
    The soul thou prisonest here is grayer far."
      But he would give no quarter now. "O star,
    O beacon-star, shine on me in the night
    That I may wash me in thy bath of light,
    Taking my fill of thee; so cleanséd all
    And healed, I rise renewed to front what call
    May be!" which said, with conquest in his bones
    And in his eyes assurance, in high tones
    He called her maids, bade take her and prepare
    The couch, and her to be new-wedded there;
    For long had they been strangers to their bliss.
      So by the altar standeth she submiss
    And watchful, praying silent and intense
    To a strange-figured Goddess, to his sense
    Who knew but Aphrodité. "Love, what now?
    Who is thy God? What secret rite hast thou?"
    For grave and stern above that altar stood
    Heré the Queen of Heaven.
                              In dry mood
    She answered him, "Chaste wives to her do pray
    Before they couch, Blest be the strife! You say
    We are to be new-wedded. Pour with me
    Libation that we love not fruitlessly."
      So said, she took the well-filled cup and poured,
    And prayed, saying, "O Mother, not abhorred
    Be this my service of thee. Count it not
    Offence, nor let my prayers be forgot
    When reckoning comes of things done and not done
    By me thy child, or to me, hapless one,
    Unloving paramour and unloved wife!"
      "Heré, to thee for issue of the strife!"
    Cried Paris then, and poured. So Helen went
    And let her maids adorn her to his bent.

      Then took he joy of her, and little guessed
    Or cared what she might give or get. Possest
    Her body by his body, but her mind
    Searcht terribly the issue. As one blind
    Explores the dark about him in broad day
    And fingers in the air, so as she lay
    Lax in his arms, her fainting eyes, aglaze
    For terror coming, sought escape all ways.
    Alas for her! What way for woman fair,
    Whose joy no fairer makes her than despair?
    Her burning lips that kisses could not cool,
    Her beating heart that not love made so full,
    The surging of her breast, her clinging hands:
    Here are such signs as lover understands,
    But fated Paris nowise. Her soul, distraught
    To save him, proved the net where he was caught.
    For more she anguisht lest love be his bane
    The fiercelier spurred she him, to make him fain
    Of that which had been ruinous to all.
      But all the household gathered on the wall
    While these two in discordant bed were plight,
    And watcht the Achaian fires. No beacon-light
    Showed by the shore, but countless, flickering, streamed
    Innumerable lights, wove, dipt and gleamed
    Like fireflies on a night of summer heat,
    Withal one way they moved, though many beat
    Across and back, and mingled with the rest.
    Anon a great glare kindled from the crest
    Of Ida, and was answered by a blaze
    Behind the ships, which threw up in red haze
    Huge forms of prow and beak. Then from the Mound
    Of Ilos fire shot up, from sacred ground,
    And out the mazy glory of moving lights
    One sped and flared, as of the meteorites
    In autumn some fly further, brighter courses.
    A chariot! They heard the thunder of the horses;
    And as they flew the torch left a bright wake.
    And thus to one another woman spake,
    "Lo, more lights race! They follow him, they near,
    Catch and draw level. Hark! Now you can hear
    The tramp of men!"
                        Says one, "That baleful sheen
    Is light upon their spears. The Greeks, I ween,
    Are coming up to rescue or requite."
      But then her mate: "They mass, they fill the night
    With panic terror."
                        True, that all night things
    Fled as they came. They heard the flickering wings
    Of countless birds in haste, and as they flew
    So fled the dark away. Light waxed and grew
    Until the dead of night was vivified
    And radiant opened out the countryside
    With pulsing flames of fire, which gleamed and glanced,
    Flickered, wavered, yet never stayed advance.
    As the sun rising high o'er Ida cold
    Beats a sea-path in flakes of molten gold,
    So stretcht from shore to Troy that litten stream
    That moved and shuddered, restless as a dream,
    Yet ever nearing, till on spear and shield
    They saw light like the moon on a drowned field,
    And in the glare of torches saw and read
    Gray faces, like the legions of the dead,
    Silent about the walls, and waiting there.
      But in the fragrant chamber Helen the fair
    Lay close in arms, and Paris slept, his head
    Upon her bosom, deep as any dead.

      Sudden there smote the blast of a great horn,
    Single, long-held and shuddering, and far-borne;
    And then a deathless silence. Paris stirred
    On that soft pillow, and listened while they heard
    Many men running frantically, with feet
    That slapt the stones, and voices in the street
    Of question and call--"Oh, who are ye that run?
    What of the night?" "O peace!" And some lost one
    Wailed like a woman, and her a man did curse,
    And there were scuffling, prayers, and then worse--
    A silence. But the running ended not
    While Paris lay alistening with a knot
    Of Helen's loose hair twisting round his finger.
    "O love," he murmured low, "I may not linger.
    The street's awake. Alas, thou art too kind
    To be a warrior's bride." Sighing, she twined
    Her arm about his neck and toucht his face,
    And pressed it gently back to its warm place
    Of pillowing. And Paris kissed her breast
    And slept; but her heart's riot gave no rest
    As quaking there she lay, awaiting doom.
      Then afar off rose clamour, and the room
    Was fanned with sudden light and sudden dark,
    As on a summer night in a great park
    Blazed forth you see each tuft of grass or mound,
    Anon the drowning blackness, while the sound
    Of Zeus's thunder hardens every close:
    So here the chamber glared, then dipt, and rose
    That far confuséd tumult, and now and then
    The scurrying feet of passion-driven men.
      Thrilling she waited with sick certainty
    Of doom inexorable, while the struck city
    Fought its death-grapple, and the windy height
    Of Pergamos became a shambles. White
    The holy shrines stared on a field of blood,
    And with blank eyes the emptied temples stood
    While murder raved before them, and below
    And all about the city ran the woe
    Of women for their children. Then the flame
    Burst in the citadel, and overcame
    The darkness, and the time seemed of broad day.
    And Helen stared unwinking where she lay
    Pillowing Paris.
                      Now glad and long and shrill
    The second trumpet sounds. They have the hill--
    High Troy is down, is down! Starting, he wakes
    And turns him in her arms. His face she takes
    In her two hands and turns it up to hers.
    Nothing she says, nothing she does, nor stirs
    From her still scrutiny, nor so much as blinks
    Her eyes, deep-searching, of whose blue he drinks,
    And fond believes her all his own, while she
    Marvels that aught of his she e'er could be
    In times bygone. But now he is on fire
    Again, and urges on her his desire,
    And loses all the sense of present needs
    For him in burning Troy, where Priam bleeds
    Head-smitten, trodden on his palace-floor,
    And white Kassandra yieldeth up her flower
    To Aias' lust, and of the Dardan race
    Survive he only, renegade disgrace,
    He only and Aineias the wise prince.
      But now is crying fear abroad and wins
    The very household of the shameful lover;
    Now are the streets alive, for worse in cover
    Like a trapt rat to die than fight the odds
    Under the sky. Now women shriek to the Gods,
    And men run witlessly, and in and out
    The Greeks press, burning, slaying, and the rout
    Screameth to Heaven. As at sea the mews
    Pack, their wings battling, when some fresh wrack strews
    The tideway, and in greater haste to stop
    Others from prey, will let their morsel drop,
    And all the while make harsh lament--so here
    The avid spoilers bickered in their fear
    To be manœuvred out of robbery,
    And tore the spoil, and mangled shamefully
    Bodies of men to strip them, and in haste
    To forestall ravishers left the victims chaste.
    Ares, the yelling God, and Até white
    Swept like a snow-storm over Troy that night;
    And towers rockt, and in the naked glare
    Of fire the smoke climbed to the upper air;
    And clamour was as of the dead broke loose.
      But Menelaus his stern way pursues,
    And to the wicked house with chosen band
    Cometh, his good sword naked in his hand;
    And now, while Paris loves and holds her fast
    In arms, the third horn sounds a shattering blast,
    Long-held, triumphant; and about the door
    Gathers the household, to cry, to pray, to implore,
    And at the last break in and scream the truth--
    "The Greeks! The Greeks! Save yourselves!"
                                                Then in sooth
    Starts Paris out of bed, and as he goes
    Sees in the eyes of Helen all she knows
    And all believes; and with his utter loss
    Of her rises the man in him that was
    Ere luxury had entered blood and bone
    Of him. No word he said, but let one groan,
    And turned his dying eyes to hers, and read
    Therein his fate, that to her he was dead,
    Long dead and cold in grave. Whereat he past
    Out of the door, and met his end at last
    As man, not minion.
                        But the woman fair
    Lay on her face, half buried in her hair,
    Naked and prone beneath her saving sin,
    Not yet enheartened new life to begin.


ENVOY

    But thou didst rise, Maid Helen, as from sleep,
    A final tryst to keep
    With thy true lover, in whose hands thy life
    Lay, as in arms; his wife
    In heart as well as deed; his wife, his friend,
    His soul's fount and its end!
    For such it is, the marriage of true minds,
    Each in each sanction finds;
    So if her beauty lift her out of thought
    Whither man's to be brought
    To worship her perfection on his knees,
    So in his strength she sees
    Self glorified, and two make one clear orb
    Whereinto all rays absorb
    Which stream from God and unto God return.--
    So, as he fared, I yearn
    To be, and serve my years of pain and loss
    'Neath my walled Ilios,
    With my eyes ever fixt to where, a star,
    Thou and thy sisters are,
    Helen and Beatrice, with thee embraced,
    Hands in thy hands, and arms about thy waist.

_1911-12._



HYPSIPYLE


    Queen of the shadows, Maid and Wife,
    Twifold in essence, as in life,
    The lamp of Death, the star of Birth,
    Half cradled and half mourned by Earth,
    By Hell half won, half lost! aid me
    To sing thy fond Hypsipyle,
    Thy bosom's mate who, unafraid,
    Renounced for thee what part she had
    In sun and wind upon the hill,
    In dawn about the mere, in still
    Woodlands, in kiss of lapping wave,
    In laughter, in love--all this she gave!--
    And shared thy dream-life, visited
    The sunless country of the dead,
    There to abide with thee, their Queen,
    In that gray region, shadow-seen
    By them that cast no shadows, yet
    Themselves are shadows. Nor forget,
    Koré, her love made manifest
    To thee, familiar of her breast
    And partner of her whispering mouth.

      Thee too, Our Lady of the South,
    Uranian Kypris, I invoke,
    Regent of starry space, with stroke
    Of splendid wing, in whose white wake
    Stream those who, filled with thee, forsake
    Their clinging shroudy clots, and rise,
    Lover and loved, to thy pure skies,
    To thy blue realm! O lady, touch
    My lips with rue, for she loved much.

      What poet in what cloistered nook,
    Indenting in what roll of a book
    His rhymes, can voice the tides of love?
    Nay, thrilling lark, nay, moaning dove,
    The nightingale's full-chargéd throat
    That cheereth now, and now doth gloat,
    And now recordeth bitter-sweet
    Longing, too wise to image it:
    These be your minstrels, lovers! Choose
    From their winged choir your urgent Muse;
    Let her your speechless joys relate
    Which men with words sophisticate,
    Striving by reasons make appear
    To head what heart proclaims so clear
    To heart; as if by wit to wis
    What mouth to mouth tells in a kiss,
    Or in their syllogisms dry
    Freeze a swift glance's cogency.
    Nay, but the heart's so music-fraught,
    Music is all in love, words naught.
    One heart's a rote, with music stored
    Though mute; but two hearts make a chord
    Of piercing music. One alone
    Is nothing: two make the full tone.


I

      On Enna's uplands, on a lea
    Between the mountains and the sea,
    Shadowed anon by wandering cloud,
    Or flickering wings of birds a-crowd,
    And now all golden in the sun,
    See Koré, see her maidens run
    Hither and thither through those hours
    Of dawn among the wide-eyed flowers,
    While gentian, crocus, asphodel
    (With rosy star in each white bell),
    Anemone, blood-red with rings
    Of paler fire, that plant that swings
    A crimson cluster in the wind
    They pluck, or sit anon to bind
    Of these earth-stars a coronet
    For their smooth-tresséd Queen, who yet
    Strays with her darling interlaced,
    Hypsipyle the grave, the chaste--
    Her whose gray shadow-life with his
    Who singeth now for ever is.
      She, little slim thing, Koré's mate,
    Child-faced, gray-eyed, of sober gait,
    Of burning mind and passion pent
    To image-making, ever went
    Where wonned her Mistress; for those two
    By their hearts' grace together grew,
    The one to need, the one to give
    (As women must if they would live,
    Who substance win by waste of self
    And only spend to hoard their pelf:
    "O heart, take all of mine!" "O heart,
    That which thou tak'st of thee is part--
    No robbery therefore: mine is thine,
    Take then!"): so she and Proserpine
    Intercommunion'd each bright day,
    And when night fell together lay
    Cradled in arms, or cheek to cheek
    Whispered the darkness out. Thou meek
    And gentle vision! let me tell
    Thy beauties o'er I love so well:
    Thy sweet low bosom's rise and fall,
    Pulsing thy heart's clear madrigal;
    Or how the blue beam from thine eyes
    Imageth all love's urgencies;
    Thy lips' frail fragrance, as of flowers
    Remembered in penurious hours
    Of winter-exile; of thy brow,
    Not written as thy breast of snow
    With love's faint charact'ry, for his wing
    Leaves not the heart long! Last I sing
    Thy thin quick fingers, in whose pleaching
    Lieth all healing, all good teaching--
    Wherewith, touching my discontent,
    I know how thou art eloquent!
      Remember'd joy, Hypsipyle!
    Now may that serve to comfort me,
    While I, O Maiden dedicate,
    Seek voice for singing thy gray Fate!

      Now, as they went, one heart in two,
    Brusht to the knees by flowers, by dew
    Anointed, by the wind caressed,
    By the light kissed on eyes and breast,
    'Twas Koré talked; Hypsipyle
    Listened, with eyes far-set, for she
    Of speech was frugal, voicing low
    And rare her heart's deep underflow--
    Content to lie, like fallow sweet
    For rain or sun to cherish it,
    Or scattered seed substance to find
    In her deep-funded, quiet mind.
    And thus the Goddess: "Blest art thou,
    Hypsipyle, who canst not know
    Until the hour strikes what must come
    To pass! But I foresee the doom
    And stay to meet it. Even here
    The place, and now the hour!" Then fear
    Took her who spake so fearless, cold
    Threaded her thronging veins--behold!
    A hand on either shoulder stirs
    That slim, sweet body close to hers,
    And need fires need till, lip with lip,
    They seal and sign their fellowship,
    While Koré, godhead all forgot,
    Clings whispering, "Child, leave me not
    Whenas to darkness and the dead
    I go!" And clear the answer sped
    From warm mouth murmuring kiss and cheer,
    "Never I leave thee, O my dear!"
    Thereafter stand they beatingly,
    Not speaking; and the hour draws nigh.

      And all the land shows passing fair,
    Fair the broad sea, the living air,
    The misty mountain-sides, the lake
    Flecked blue and purple! To forsake
    These, and those bright flower-gatherers
    Scattered about this land of theirs,
    That stoop or run, that kneel to pick,
    That cry each other to come quick
    And see new treasure, unseen yet!
    Remembered joy--ah, how forget!

      But mark how all must come to pass
    As was foreknowledged. In the grass
    Whereas the Goddess and her mate
    Stood, one and other, prompt for fate--
    Listless the first and heavy-eyed,
    Astrain the second--she espied
    That strange white flower, unseen before,
    With chalice pale, which thin stalk bore
    And swung, as hanging by a hair,
    So fine it seemed afloat in air,
    Unlinkt and wafted for the feast
    Of some blest mystic, without priest
    Or acolyte to tender it:
    Whereto the maid did stoop and fit
    Her hand about its silken cup
    To close it, that her mouth might sup
    The honey-drop within. The bloom
    Saw Koré then, and knew her doom
    Foretold in it; and stood in trance
    Fixéd and still. No nigromance
    Used she, but read the fate it bore
    In seedless womb and petals frore.
    Chill blew the wind, waiting stood She,
    Waiting her mate, Hypsipyle.

      Then in clear sky the thunder tolled
    Sudden, and all the mountains rolled
    The dreadful summons round, and still
    Lay all the lands, only the rill
    Made tinkling music. Once more drave
    Peal upon peal--and lo! a grave
    Yawned in the Earth, and gushing smoke
    Belched out, as driven, and hung, and broke
    With sullen puff; like tongues the flame
    Leapt following. Thence Aïdoneus came,
    Swart-bearded king, with iron crown'd,
    In iron mailed, his chariot bound
    About with iron, holding back
    Amain two steeds of glistering black
    And eyeballs white-rimmed fearfully,
    And nostrils red, and crests flying free;
    Who held them pawing at the verge,
    Tossing their spume up, as the surge
    Flung high against some seaward bluff.
    Nothing he spake, or smooth or gruff,
    But drave his errand, gazing down
    Upon the Maid, whose blown back gown
    Revealed her maiden. Still and proud
    Stood she among her nymphs, unbowed
    Her comely head, undimmed her eye,
    Inseparate her lips and dry,
    Facing his challenge of her state,
    Neither denying, nor desperate,
    Pleading no mercy, seeing none,
    Her wild heart masked in face of stone.
    But they, her bevy, clustered thick
    As huddled sheep, set their eyes quick,
    And held each other, hand or waist,
    Paling or flushing as fear raced
    Thronging their veins--they knew not, they,
    The gathered fates that broke this day,

      And all the land seemed passing fair
    To one who knew, and waited there.

    "Goddess and Maid," then said the King,
    "Long have I sought this day should bring
    An end of torment. Know me thou
    God postulant, with whom below
    A world awaits her queen, while here
    I seek and find one without peer;
    Nor deem her heedless nor unschooled
    In what in Heaven is writ and ruled.
    Decreed of old my bride-right was,
    Decreed thy Mother's pain and loss,
    Decreed thy loathing, and decreed
    That which thou shunnest to be thy need;
    For thou shalt love me, Lady, yet,
    Though little liking now, and fret
    Of jealous care shall grave thy heart
    And draw thee back when time's to part--
    If fond Demeter have her will
    Against thine own."

                        The Maid stood still
    And guarded watched, and her proud eyes'
    Scrutiny bade his own advise
    Whether indeed their solemn stare
    Saw Destiny and read it there
    Beyond her suitor, or within
    Her own heart heard the message ring.
    Awhile she gazed: her stern aspect,
    Young and yet fraught with Godhead, checkt
    Both Him who claimed, and her who'd cling,
    And them who wondered. "O great King,"
    She said, and mournful was her crying
    As when night-winds set pine-trees sighing,
    "King of the folk beyond the tide
    Of sleep, behold thy chosen bride
    Not shunning thee, nor seeking. Take
    That which Gods neither mar nor make,
    But only They, the Three, who spin
    The threads which hem and mesh us in,
    Both Gods and men, till she who peers
    The longest cuts them with her shears.
    Take, take, Aïdoneus, and take her,
    My fosterling."
                    Then He, "O star
    Of Earth, O Beacon of my days,
    Light of my nights, whose beamy rays
    Shall pierce the foggy cerement
    Wherein my dead grope and lament
    Beyond all loss the loss of light,
    Come! and be pleasant in my sight
    This thy beloved. Perchance she too
    Shall find a suitor come to woo;
    For love men leave not with their bones--
    That is the soul's, and half atones
    And half makes bitterer their loss,
    Remembering what their fortune was."
      Trembling Hypsipyle uplift
    Her eyes towards the hills, where swift
    The shadows flew, but no more fleet
    Than often she with flying feet
    And flying raiment, she with these
    Her mates, whom now estranged she sees--
    As if the shadow-world had spread
    About her now, and she was dead--
    Her mates no more! cut off by fear
    From these two fearless ones. A tear
    Welled up and hovered, hung a gem
    Upon her eyelid's dusky hem,
    As raindrops linkt and strung arow
    Broider with stars the winter bough.
    This was her requiem and farewell
    To them, thus rang she her own knell;
    Nor more gave she, nor more asked they,
    But took and went the fairy way.
      For thus with unshed tears made blind
    Went she: thus go the fairy kind
    Whither fate driveth; not as we
    Who fight with it, and deem us free
    Therefore, and after pine, or strain
    Against our prison bars in vain.
    For to them Fate is Lord of Life
    And Death, and idle is a strife
    With such a master. They not know
    Life past, life coming, but life now;
    Nor back look they to long, nor forth
    To hope, but sup the minute's worth
    With draught so quick and keen that each
    Moment gives more than we could reach
    In all our term of three-score years,
    Whereof full score we give to fears
    Of losing them, and other score
    Dreaming how fill the twenty more.
      Now is the hour, Bride of the Night!
    The chariot turns, the great steeds fight
    The rocky entry; flies the dust
    Behind the wheels at each fierce thrust
    Of giant shoulder, at each lunge
    Of giant haunch. Down, down they plunge
    Into the dark, with rioting mane,
    And the earth's door shuts-to again.
    Now fly, ye Oreads, strain your arms,
    Let eyes and hair voice your alarms--
    Hair blown back, mouths astretch for fear,
    Strained eyeballs--cry that Mother dear
    Her daughter's rape; fly like the gale
    That down the valleys drives the hail
    In scurrying sheets, and lays the corn
    Flat, which when man of woman born
    Seeth, he bows him to the grass,
    Whispering in hush, _The Oreads pass_.
    (In shock he knows ye, and in mirth,
    Since he is kindred of that earth
    Which bore ye in her secret stress,
    Images of her loveliness,
    To her dear paramour the Wind.)
    Follow me now that car behind.


II

      O ye that know the fairy throng,
    And heed their secret under-song;
    In flower or leaf's still ecstasy
    Of birth and bud their passion see,
    In wind or calm, in driving rain
    Or frozen snow discern them strain
    To utter and to be; who lie
    At dawn in dewy brakes to spy
    The rapture of their flying feet--
    Follow me now those coursers fleet,
    Sucked in their wake, down ruining
    Through channelled night, where only sing
    The shrill gusts streaming through the hair
    Of them who sway and bend them there,
    And peer in vain with shielded eyes
    To rend the dark. Clinging it lies,
    Thick as wet gossamer that shrouds
    October brushwoods, or low clouds
    That from the mountain tops roll down
    Into the lowland vales, to drown
    Men's voices and to choke their breath
    And make a silence like to death.
    But this was hot and dry; it came
    And smote them, like the gush of flame
    Fanned in a smithy, that outpours
    And floods with fire the open doors.
      Downward their course was, swift as flight
    Of meteor flaring through the night,
    Steady and dreadful, with no sound
    Of wheels or hoofs upon the ground,
    Nor jolt, nor jar; for once past through
    Earth's portals, steeds and chariot flew
    On wings invisible and strong
    And even-oaring, such as throng
    The nights when birds of passage sweep
    O'er cities and the folk asleep:
    Such was their awful flight. Afar
    Showed Hades glimmering like a star
    Seen red through fog: and as they sped
    To that, the frontiers of the dead
    Revealed their sullen leagues and bare,
    And sad forms flitting here and there,
    Or clustered, waiting who might come
    Their empty ways with news of home.
    Yet all one course at length must hold,
    Or late or soon, and all be tolled
    By Charon in his dark-prowed boat.
    Thither was swept the chariot
    And crossed dry-wheeled the coiling flood
    Of Styx, and o'er the willow wood
    And slim gray poplars which do hem
    The further shore, Hell's diadem--
    So by the tower foursquare and great
    Where King Aïdoneus keeps his state
    And rules his bodyless thralls they stand.

      Dark ridge and hollow showed the land
    Fold over fold, like waves of soot
    Fixt in an anguish of pursuit
    For evermore, so far as eye
    Could range; and all was hot and dry
    As furnace is which all about
    Etna scorcheth in days of drouth,
    And showeth dun and sinister
    That fair isle linked to main so fair.
    Nor tree nor herbage grew, nor sang
    Water among the rocks: hard rang
    The heel on metal, or on crust
    Grew tender, or went soft in dust;
    Neither for beast nor bird nor snake
    Was harbourage; nor could such slake
    Their thirst, nor from the bitter heat
    Hide, since the sun not furnished it;
    But airless, shadowless and dense
    The land lay swooning, dead to sense
    Beneath that vault of stuprous black,
    Motionless hanging, without wrack
    Of cloud to break and pass, nor rent
    To hint the blue. Like the foul tent
    A foul night makes, it sagged; for stars
    Showed hopeless faces, with two scars
    In each, their eyes' immortal woe,
    Ever to seek and never know:
    In all that still immensity
    These only moved--these and the sea,
    Which dun and sullen heaved, with surge
    And swell unseen, save at the verge
    Where fainted off the black to gray
    And showed such light as on a day
    Of sun's eclipse men tremble at.

      Here the dead people moved or sat,
    Casting no shadow, hailing none
    Boldly; but in fierce undertone
    They plied each other, or on-sped
    Their way with signal of the head
    For answer, or arms desperate
    Flung up, or shrug disconsolate.
    And this the quest of every one:
    "What hope have ye?" And answer, "None."
    Never passed shadow shadow but
    That answer got to question put.
    In that they lived, in that, alas!
    Lovely and hapless, Thou must pass
    Thy days, with this for added lot--
    Aching, to nurse things unforgot.

      Remember'd joy, Hypsipyle!
    The Oread choir, the Oread glee:
    The nimble air of quickening hills,
    The sweet dawn light that floods and fills
    The hollowed valleys; the dawn wind
    That bids the world wake, and on blind
    Eyelids of sleeping mortals lays
    Cool palms that urge them see and praise
    The Day-God coming with the sun
    To hearten toil! He warned you run
    And hide your beauties deep in brake
    Of fern or briar, or reed of lake,
    Or in wet crevice of the rock,
    There to abide until the clock
    You reckon by, with shadowy hands,
    Lay benediction on the lands
    And landsmen, and the eve-jar's croak
    Summon ye, lightfoot fairy folk,
    To your activity full tide
    Over the empty earth and wide.
    Here be your food, fair nymph, and coy
    Of mortal ken--remember'd joy!

      Remember'd joy! Ah, stormy nights,
    Ah, the mad revel when wind fights
    With wind, and slantwise comes the rain
    And shatters at the window-pane,
    To wake the hind, who little knows
    Whose fingers drum those passionate blows,
    Nor what swift indwellers of air
    Ye be who hide in forms so fair
    Your wayward motions, cruel to us,
    While lovely, and dispiteous!
    Ah, nights of flying scud and rout
    When scared the slim young moon rides out
    In her lagoon of open sky,
    Or older, marks your revelry
    As calm and large she oars above
    Your drifting lives of ruth or love.
    Boon were those nights of dusted gold
    And glint of fireflies! Boon the cold
    And witching frost! All's one, all's one
    To thee, whose nights and days go on
    Now in one span of changeless dusk
    On one earth, crackling like the husk
    Of the dropt mast in winter wood:
    Remember'd joy--'tis all thy food,
    Hypsipyle, to whose fond sprite
    I vow my praise while I have light.

      Dumbly she wandered there, as pale
    With lack of light, with form as frail
    As those poor hollow congeners
    Whose searching eyes encountered hers,
    Petitioning as mute as she
    Some grain of hope, where none might be,
    Daring not yet to voice their moan
    To her whose case was not their own;
    For where they go like breath in a shell
    That wails, my love goes quick in Hell.

      Alas, for her, the sweet and slim!
    Slowly she pines; her eyes grow dim
    With seeking; her smooth, sudden breasts
    Hang languidly; those little nests
    For kisses which her dimples were,
    In cheeks graved hollow now by care
    Vanish, and sharply thrusts her chin,
    And sharp her bones of arm and shin.
    Reproach she looks, about, above,
    Denied her light, denied her love,
    Denied for what she sacrificed,
    Doomed to be fruitless agonist.
    (O God, and I must see her fade,
    Must see and anguish--in my shade!)
      Nor help nor comfort gat she now
    From her whose need called forth her vow;
    For close in arms Queen Koré dwelt
    In that great tower Aïdoneus built
    To cherish her; deep in his bed,
    Loved as the Gods love whom they wed;
    Turned from pale maiden to pale wife,
    Pale now with love's insatiate strife
    First to appease, and then renew
    The wild desire to mingle two
    Natures, to long, to seek, to shun,
    To have, to give, to make two one
    That must be two if they would each
    Learn all the lore that love can teach.
    So strove the mistress, while the maid
    Went alien among the dead,
    Unspoken, speaking none, but watcht
    By them who knew themselves outmatcht
    By her, translated whole, nor guessed
    What miseries gnawed within that breast,
    Which could be toucht, which could give meat
    To babe; which was not eye-deceit
    As theirs, poor phantoms. So went she
    Grudged but unscathed beside the sea,
    Or sat alone by that sad strand
    Nursing her worn cheek in her hand;
    And did not mark, as day on day
    Lengthened the arch of changeless gray,
    How she was shadowed, how to her
    Stretcht arms another prisoner;
    Nor knew herself desirable
    By any thankless guest of Hell--
    Withal each phantom seemed no less
    Whole-natured to her heedlessness.

      Midway her round of solitude
    She used to haunt a dead sea-wood
    Where among boulders lifeless trees
    Stuck rigid fingers to the breeze--
    That stream of faint hot air that flits
    Aimless at noon. 'Tis there she sits
    Hour after hour, and as a dove
    Croons when her breast is ripe for love,
    So sings this exile, quiet, sad chants
    Of love, yet knows not what she wants;
    And singing there in undertone,
    Is one day answered by the moan
    Of hidden mourner; but no fear
    Hath she for sound so true, though near;
    Nay, but sings out her elegy,
    Which, like an echo, answers he.
    Again she sings; he suits her mood,
    Nor breaks upon her solitude:
    So she, choragus, calls the tune,
    And as she leads he follows soon.
    As bird with bird vies in the brake,
    She sings no note he will not take--
    As when she pleads, "Ah, my lost love,
    The night is dark thou art not of,"
    Quick cometh answering the phrase,
    "O love, let all our nights be days!"
    This, rapt, with beating heart, she heeds
    And follows, "Sweet love, my heart bleeds!
    Come, stay the wound thyself didst give";
    Then he, "I come to bid thee live."
    And so they carol, and her heart
    Swells to believe his counterpart,
    And strophé striketh clear, which he
    Caps with his brave antistrophe;
    And as a maiden waxes bold,
    And opens what should not be told
    When all her auditory she sees
    Within her mirror, so to trees
    And rocks, and sullen sounding main
    She empties all her passioned pain;
    And "love, love, love," her burden is,
    And "I am starving for thee," his.
    Moved, melted, all on fire she stands,
    Holding abroad her quivering hands,
    Raises her sweet eyes faint with tears
    And dares to seek him whom she hears;
    And from her parted lips a sigh
    Stealeth, as knowing he is nigh
    And her fate on her--then she'd shun
    That which she seeks; but the thing's done.

      Hollow-voiced, dim, spake her a shade,
    "O thou that comest, nymph or maid--
    If nymph, then maiden, since for aye
    Virgin is immortality,
    Nor love can change what Death cannot--
    Look on me by love new-begot;
    Look on me, child new-born, nor start
    To see my form who knowest my heart;
    For it is thine. O Mother and Wife,
    Take then my love--thou gavest it life!"

      So spake one close: to whom she lent
    The wonder of her eyes' content--
    That lucent gray, as if moonlight
    Shone through a sapphire in the night--
    And saw him faintly imaged, rare
    As wisp of cloud on hillside bare,
    A filamental form, a wraith
    Shaped like that man who in the faith
    Of one puts all his hope: who stood
    Trembling in her near neighbourhood,
    A thing of haunted eyes, of slim
    And youthful seeming; yet not dim,
    Yet not unmanly in his fashion
    Of speech, nor impotent of passion--
    The which his tones gave earnest of
    And his aspéct of hopeless love;
    Who, drawing nearer, came to stand
    So close beside her that one hand
    Lit on her shoulder--yet no touch
    She felt: "O maiden overmuch,"
    He grieved, "O body far too sweet
    For such as I, frail counterfeit
    Of man, who yet was once a man,
    Cut off before the midmost span
    Of mortal life was but half run,
    Or ere to love he had found one
    Like thee--yet happy in that fate,
    That waiting, he is fortunate:
    For better far in Hell to fare
    With thee than commerce otherwhere,
    Sharing the snug and fat outlook
    Of bed and board and ingle-nook
    With earth-bound woman, earth-born child.
    Nay, but high love is free and wild
    And centreth not in mortal things;
    But to the soul giveth he wings,
    And with the soul strikes partnership,
    So may two let corruption slip
    And breasting level, with far eyes
    Lifted, seek haven in the skies,
    Untrammel'd by the earthly mesh.
    O thou," said he, "of fairy flesh,
    Immortal prisoner, take of me
    Love! 'tis my heritage in fee;
    For I am very part thereof,
    And share the godhead."
                            So his love
    Pled he with tones in love well-skilled
    Which on her bosom beat and thrilled,
    And pierced. No word nor look she had
    To voice her heart, or sad or glad.
    Rapt stood she, wooed by eager word
    And by her need, whose cry she heard
    Above his crying; but she guessed
    She was desired, beset, possessed
    Already, handfasted to sight,
    And yielding so, her heart she plight.

      Thus was her mating: of the eyes
    And ears, and her love half surmise,
    Detected by her burning face
    Which saw, not felt, his fierce embrace.
    For on her own she knew no hand
    When caging it he seemed to stand,
    And round her waist felt not the warm
    Sheltered peace of the belting arm
    She saw him clasp withal. When rained
    His words upon her, or eyes strained
    As though her inmost shrine to pierce
    Where hid her heart of hearts, her ears
    Conceived, although her body sweet
    Might never feel a young life beat
    And leap within it. Ah, what cry
    That mistress e'er heard poet sigh
    Could voice thy beauty? Or what chant
    Of music be thy ministrant?
    Since thou art Music, poesy
    Must both thy spouse and increase be!

      In the hot dust, where lizards crouch
    And pant, he made her bridal couch;
    Thither down drew her to his side
    And, phantom, taught her to be bride
    With words so ardent, looks so hot
    She needs must feel what she had not,
    Guess herself in beleaguered bed
    And throb response. Thus she was wed.
    As she whom Zeus loved in a cloud,
    So lay she in her lover's shroud,
    And o'er her members crept the chill
    We know when mist creeps up a hill
    Out of the vale at eve. As grows
    The ivy, rooting as it goes,
    In such a quick close envelope
    She lay aswoon, nor guessed the scope
    Nor tether of his hot intent,
    Nor what to that inert she lent,
    Save when at last with half-turned head
    And glimmering eyes, encompasséd
    She saw herself, a bride possest
    By ghostly bridegroom, held and prest
    To unfelt bosom, saw his mouth
    Against her own, which to his drouth
    Gave no allay that she could sense,
    Nor took of her sweet recompense.
    So moved by pity, stirred by rue,
    Out of their onslaught young love grew.
    Love that with delicate tongues of fire
    Can kindle hearts inflamed desire
    In her for him who needed it;
    And so she claimed and by eyes' wit
    Had what she would: and now made war,
    Being, as all sweet women are,
    Prudes till Love calls them, and then fierce
    In love's high calling. Thus with her ears
    She fed on love, and to her eyes
    Lent deeds of passionate emprise--
    Till at the last, the shadowy strife
    Ended, she owned herself all wife.

      High mating of the mind! O love,
    Since this must be, on this she throve!
    Remember'd joy, Hypsipyle,
    Since this must be, O love, let be!

_1911._



OREITHYIA


    Oreithyia, by the North Wind carried
    To stormy Thrace from Athens where you tarried
    Down by Ilissus all a blowy day
    Among the asphodels, how rapt away
    Thither, and in what frozen bed wert married?

    "I was a King's tall daughter still unwed,
    Slim and desirable my locks to shed
    Free from the fillet. He my maiden belt
    Undid with busy fingers hid but felt,
    And made me wife upon no marriage bed.

    "As idly there I lay alone he came
    And blew upon my side, and beat a flame
    Into my cheeks, and kindled both my eyes.
    I suffered him who took no bodily guise:
    The light clouds know whether I was to blame.

    "Into my mouth he blew an amorous breath;
    I panted, but lay still, as quiet as death.
    The whispering planes and sighing grasses know
    Whether it was the wind that loved me so:
    I know not--only this, 'O love,' he saith,

    "'O long beset with love, and overloved,
    O easy saint, untempted and unproved,
    O walking stilly virgin ways in hiding,
    Come out, thou art too choice for such abiding!
    She never valued ease who never roved.

    "'Thou mayst not see thy lover, but he now
    Is here, and claimeth thy low moonlit brow,
    Thy wonderful eyes, and lips that part and pout,
    And polished throat that like a flower shoots out
    From thy dark vesture folded and crossed low.'

    "With that he had his way and went his way;
    For Gods have mastery, and a maiden's nay
    Grows faint ere it is whispered all. I sped
    Homeward with startled face and tiptoe tread,
    And up the stair, and in my chamber lay.

    "Crouching I lay and quaked, and heard the wind
    Wail round the house like a mad thing confined,
    And had no rest; turn wheresoe'er I would
    This urgent lover stormed my solitude
    And beat against the haven of my mind.

    "And over all a clamour and dis-ease
    Filled earth and air, and shuddered in my knees
    So that I could not stand, but by the wall
    Leaned pitifully breathing. Still his call
    Volleyed against the house and tore the trees.

    "Then out my turret-window as I might
    I leaned my body to the blind wet night;
    That eager lover leapt me, circled round,
    Wreathed, folded, held me prisoner, wrapt and bound
    In manacles of terror and delight.

    "That night he sealed me to him, and I went
    Thenceforth his leman, submiss and content;
    So from the hall and feast, whenas I heard
    His clear voice call, I flitted like a bird
    That beats the brake, and garnered what he lent.

    "I was no maid that was no wife; my days
    Went by in dreams whose lights are golden haze
    And skies are crimson. Laughing not, nor crying,
    I strayed all witless with my loose hair flying,
    Bearing that load that women think their praise.

    "And felt my breasts grow heavy with that food
    That women laugh to feel and think it good;
    But I went shamefast, hanging down my head,
    With girdle all too strait to serve my stead,
    And bore an unguessed burden in my blood.

    "There was a winter night he came again
    And shook the window, till cried out my pain
    Unto him, saying, 'Lord, I dare not live!
    Lord, I must die of that which thou didst give!
    Pity me, Lord!' and fell. The winter rain

    "Beat at the casement, burst it, and the wind
    Filled all the room, and swept me white and blind
    Into the night. I heard the sound of seas
    Beleaguer earth, I heard the roaring trees
    Singing together. We left them far behind.

    "And so he bore me into stormy Thrace,
    Me and my load, and kissed back to my face
    The sweet new blood of youth, and to my limbs
    The wine of life; and there I bore him twins,
    Zethes and Calaïs, in a rock-bound place."

    Oreithyia, by the North Wind carried
    To stormy Thrace, think you of how you tarried
    And let him woo and wed? "Ah, no, for now
    He's kissed all Athens from my open brow.
    I am the Wind's wife, wooed and won and married."

_1897._



CLYTIÉ


    Hearken, O passers, what thing
    Fortuned in Hellas. A maid,
    Lissom and white as the roe,
    Lived recess'd in a glade.
    Clytié, Hamadryad,
    She was called that I sing--
    Flower so fair, so frail, that to bring her a woe,
    Surely a pitiful thing!

    A wild bright creature of trees,
    Brooks, and the sun among leaves,
    Clytié, grown to be maid:
    Ah, she had eyes like the sea's
    Iris of green and blue!
    White as sea-foam her brows,
    And her hair reedy and gold:
    So she grew and waxt supple and fit to be spouse
    In a king's palace of old.

    All in a kirtle of green,
    With her tangle of red-gold hair,
    In the live heart of an oak,
    Clytié, harbouring there,
    Thronéd there as a queen,
    Clytié wondering woke:
    Ah, child, what set thee too high for thy sweet demesne,
    And who ponder'd the doleful stroke?

    For the child that was maiden grown,
    The queen of the forest places,
    Clytié, Hamadryad,
    Tired of the joy she had,
    And the kingdom that was her own;
    And tired of the quick wood-races,
    And joy of herself in the pool when she wonder'd down,
    And tired of her budded graces.

    And the child lookt up to the Sun
    And the burning track of his car
    In the broad serene above her:
    "O King Sun, be thou my lover,
    For my beauty is just begun.
    I am fresh and fair as a star;
    Come, lie where the lilies are:
    Behold, I am fair and dainty and white all over,
    And I waste in the wood unknown!"

    Rose-flusht, daring, she strain'd
    Her young arms up, and she voiced
    The wild desire of her heart.
    The woodland heard her, the faun,
    The satyr, and things that start,
    Peering, heard her; the dove, crooning, complain'd
    In the pine-tree by the lawn.
    Only the runnel rejoiced
    In his rushy hollow apart
    To see her beauty flash up
    White and red as the dawn.

    Sorrow, ye passers-by,
    The quick lift of her word,
    The crimson blush of her pride!
    Heard her the heavens' lord
    In his flaming seat in the sky:
    "Overbold of her years that will not be denied;
    She would be the Sun-God's bride!"
    His brow it was like the flat of a sword,
    And levin the glance of his side.

    And he bent unto her, and his mouth
    Burnt her like coals of fire;
    He gazed with passionate eyes,
    Like flame that kindles and dries,
    And his breath suckt hers as the white rage of the South
    Draws life; his desire
    Was like to a tiger's drouth.
    What shall the slim maiden avail?
    Alas, and alas for her youth!

    Tremble, O maids, that would set
    Your love-longing to the Sun!
    For Clytié mourn, and take heed
    How she loved her king and did bleed
    Ere kissing had yet begun.
    For lo! one shaft from his terrible eyes she met,
    And it burnt to her soul, and anon
    She paled, and the fever-fret
    Did bite to her bones; and wan
    She fell to rueing the deed.

    Mark ye, maidens, and cower!
    Lo, for an end of breath,
    Clytié, hardy and frail,
    Anguisht after her death.
    For the Sun-flower droops and is pale
    When her king hideth his power,
    And ever draggeth the woe of her piteous tale,
    As a woman that laboureth
    Yet never reacheth the hour:
    So Clytié yearns to the Sun, for her wraith
    Moans in the bow'd sunflower.

    Clytié, Hamadryad,
    Called was she that I sing:
    Flower so fair and frail that to work her this woe,
    Surely a pitiful thing!

_1894._



LAI OF GOBERTZ[1]


    Of courteous Limozin wight,
    Gobertz, I will indite:
    From Poicebot had he his right
          Of gentlehood;
    Made monk in his own despite
    In San Léonart the white,
    Withal to sing and to write
          _Coblas_ he could.

    Learning had he, and rare
    Music, and _gai saber_:
    No monk with him to compare
          In that monast'ry.
    Full lusty he was to bear
    Cowl and chaplet of hair
    God willeth monks for to wear
          For sanctity.

    There in dortoir as he lay,
    To this Gobertz, by my fay,
    Came fair women to play
          In his sleep;
    Then he had old to pray,
    Fresh and silken came they,
    With eyen saucy and gray
          That set him weep.

    May was the month, and soft
    The singing nights; up aloft
    The quarter moon swam and scoffed
          His unease.
    Rose this Gobertz, and doffed
    His habit, and left that croft,
    Crying _Eleison_ oft
          At Venus' knees.

    Heartly the road and the town
    Mauléon, over the down,
    Sought he, and the renown
          Of Savaric;
    To that good knight he knelt down,
    Asking of him in bown
    Almesse of laurel crown
          For his music.

    Fair him Savaric spake,
    "If _coblas_ you know to make,
    Song and music to wake
          For your part,
    Horse and lute shall you take
    Of _Jongleur_, lightly forsake
    Cloister for woodland brake
          With good heart."

    Down the high month of May
    Now rideth Gobertz his way
    To Aix, to Puy, to Alais,
          To Albi the old;
    In Toulouse mindeth to stay
    With Count Simon the Gay,
    There to abide what day
          Love shall hold.

    Shrill riseth his song:
    _Cobla_, _lai_, or _tenzon_,
    None can render him wrong
          In that _meinie_--
    Love alone, that erelong
    Showed him in all that throng
    Of ladies Tibors the young,
          None but she.

    She was high-hearted and fair,
    Low-breasted, with hair
    Gilded, and eyes of vair
          In burning face:
    On her Gobertz astare,
    Looking, stood quaking there
    To see so debonnair
          Hold her place.

    Proud _donzela_ and free,
    To clip nor to kiss had she
    Talént, nor for minstrelsy
          Was she fain;
    Mistress never would be,
    Nor master have; but her fee
    She vowed to sweet Chastity,
          Her suzerain.

    Then this Gobertz anon
    Returneth to Mauléon,
    To Savaric maketh moan
          On his knees.
    Other pray'r hath he none
    Save this, "Sir, let me begone
    Whence I came, since fordone
          My expertise."

    Quod Savaric, "Hast thou sped
    So ill in _amors_?" Answeréd
    This Gobertz, "By my head,
          She scorneth me."
    "_Hauberc_ and arms then, instead
    Of lute and begarlanded
    Poll, take you," he said,
          "For errantry."

    Now rides he out, a dubbed knight,
    The Spanish road, for to fight
    Paynimry; day and night
          Urgeth he;
    In Saragoza the bright,
    And Pampluna with might
    Seeketh he what respite
          For grief there be.

    War-dimmed grew his gear,
    Grim his visage; in fear
    Listened Mahound his cheer
          Deep in Hell.
    Fled his legions to hear
    Gobertz the knight draw near.
    Now he closeth the year
          In Compostell.

    Offering there hath he made
    Saint James, candles him paid,
    Gold on the shrine hath laid;
          Now Gobertz
    Is for Toulouse, where that maid
    Tibors wonned unafraid
    Of Love and his accolade
          That breaketh hearts.

    He rode north and by east,
    Nor rider spared he nor beast,
    Nor tempered spur till at least
          Forth of Spain;
    Not for mass-bell nor priest,
    For fast-day nor yet for feast
    Stayed he, till voyage ceased
          In Aquitaine.

    Now remaineth to tell
    What this Gobertz befell
    When that he sought hostel
          In his land.
    Dined he well, drank he well,
    Envy then had somedeal
    With women free in _bordel_
          For to spend.

    In poor _alberc_ goeth he
    Where bought pleasure may be,
    Careless proffereth fee
          For his bliss.
    O Gobertz, look to thee.
    Such a sight shalt thou see
    Will make the red blood to flee
          Thy heart, ywis.

    Fair woman they bring him in
    Shamefast in her burning sin,
    All afire is his skin
          _Par amors_.
    Look not of her look to win,
    Dare not lift up her chin,
    Gobertz; in that soiled fond thing
          Lo, Tibors!

    "O love, O love, out, alas!
    That it should come to this pass,
    And thou be even as I was
          In green youth,
    Whenas delight and solace
    Served I with wantonness,
    And burned anon like the grass
          To this ruth!"

    But then lift she her sad eyes,
    Gray like wet morning skies,
    That wait the sun to arise,
          Tears to amend.
    "Gobertz, _amic_," so she cries,
    "By Jesus' agonies
    Hither come I by lies
          Of false friend.

    "Sir Richart de Laund he hight,
    Who fair promised me plight
    Of word and ring, on a night
          Of no fame;
    So then evilly bright
    Had his will and delight
    Of me, and fled unrequite
          For my shame!

    "Alas, and now to my thought
    Flieth the woe that I wrought
    Thee, Gobertz, that distraught
          Thou didst fare.
    Now a vile thing of nought
    Fare I that once was so haught
    And free, and could not be taught
          By thy care."

    But Gobertz seeth no less
    Her honour and her sweetness,
    Soon her small hand to kiss
          Taketh he,
    Saying, "Now for that stress
    Drave thee here thou shalt bless
    God, for so ending this
          Thy penury."

    Yet she would bid him away,
    Seeking her sooth to say,
    In what woful array
          She was cast.
    "Nay," said he, "but, sweet may,
    Here must we bide until day:
    Then to church and to pray
          Go we fast."

    Now then to all his talént,
    Seeing how he was bent,
    Him the comfort she lent
          Of her mind.
    Cried Gobertz, well content,
    "If love by dreariment
    Cometh, that was well spent,
          As I find."

    Thereafter somewhat they slept,
    When to his arms she had crept
    For comfort, and freely wept
          Sin away.
    Up betimes then he leapt,
    Calling her name: forth she stept
    Meek, disposed, to accept
          What he say.

    By hill road taketh he her
    To the gray nuns of Beaucaire,
    There to shred off her hair
          And take veil.
    Himself to cloister will fare
    Monk to be, with good care
    For their two souls. May his pray'r
          Them avail!

_1911._

[1] I owe the substance of this _lai_ to my friend Ezra Pound, who
unearthed it, ψαμάθῳ εἰλυμένα πολλῇ, in some Provençal repertory.



THE SAINTS' MAYING


    Since green earth is awake
    Let us now pastime take,
    Not serving wantonness
    Too well, nor niggardness,
    Which monks of men would make.

    But clothed like earth in green,
    With jocund hearts and clean,
    We will take hands and go
    Singing where quietly blow
    The flowers of Spring's demesne.

    The cuckoo haileth loud
    The open sky; no cloud
    Doth fleck the earth's blue tent;
    The land laughs, well content
    To put off winter shroud.

    Now, since 'tis Easter Day,
    All Christians may have play;
    The young Saints, all agaze
    For Christ in Heaven's maze,
    May laugh who wont to pray.

    Then welcome to our round
    They light on homely ground:--
    Agnes, Saint Cecily,
    Agatha, Dorothy,
    Margaret, Hildegonde;

    Next come with Barbara
    Lucy and Ursula;
    And last, queen of the Nine,
    Clear-eyed Saint Catherine
    Joyful arrayeth her.

    Then chooseth each her lad,
    And after frolic had
    Of dance and carolling
    And playing in a ring,
    Seek all the woodland shade.

    And there for each his lass
    Her man a nosegay has,
    Which better than word spoken
    Might stand to be her token
    And emblem of her grace.

    For Cecily, who bent
    Her slim white neck and went
    To Heaven a virgin still,
    The nodding daffodil,
    That bends but is not shent.

    Lucy, whose wounded eyes
    Opened in Heaven star-wise,
    The lady-smock, whose light
    Doth prank the grass with white,
    Taketh for badge and prize.

    Because for Lord Christ's hest
    Men shore thy warm bright breast,
    Agatha, see thy part
    Showed in the burning heart
    Of the white crocus best.

    What fate was Barbara's
    Shut in the tower of brass,
    We figure and hold up
    Within the stiff king-cup
    That crowns the meadow grass.

    Agnes, than whose King Death
    Stayed no more delicate breath
    On earth, we give for dower
    Wood-sorrel, that frail flower
    That Spring first quickeneth.

    Dorothy, whose shrill voice
    Bade Heathendom rejoice,
    The sweet-breath'd cowslip hath;
    And Margaret, who in death
    Saw Heaven, her pearly choice.

    Then she of virgin brood
    Whom Prince of Britain woo'd,
    Ursula, takes by favour
    The hyacinth whose savour
    Enskies the sunny wood.

    Hildegonde, whose spirit high
    The Cross did not deny,
    Yet blusht to feel the shame,
    Anemones must claim,
    Whose roses early die.

    Last, she who gave in pledge
    Her neck to the wheel's edge,
    Taketh the fresh primrose
    Which (even as she her foes)
    Redeems the wintry hedge.

    So garlanded, entwined,
    Each as may prompt her mind,
    The Saints renew for Earth
    And Heaven such seemly mirth
    As God once had design'd.

    And when the day is done,
    And veil'd the goodly Sun,
    Each man his maid by right
    Doth kiss and bid Good-night;
    And home goes every one.

    The maids to Heaven do hie
    To serve God soberly;
    The lads, their loves in Heaven,
    What lowly work is given
    They do, to win the sky.

_1896._



THE ARGIVE WOMEN[2]

 CHTHONOË          MYRTILLA
 RHODOPE           PASIPHASSA
 GORGO             SITYS

       *       *       *       *       *

SCENE

The women's house in the House of Paris in Troy.

TIME.--The Tenth year of the War.

       *       *       *       *       *

 _Helen's women are lying alone in the twilight
     hour. Chthonoë presently rises and throws a
     little incense upon the altar flame. Then she
     begins to speak to the Image of Aphrodite in
     a low and tired voice._


                CHTHONOË

    Goddess of burning and little rest,
    By the hand swaying on thy breast,
    By glancing eye and slow sweet smile
    Tell me what long look or what guile
    Of thine it was that like a spear
    Pierced her heart, who caged me here
    In this close house, to be with her
    Mistress at once and prisoner!
      Far from earth and her pleasant ways
    I lie, whose nights are as my days
    In this dim house, where on the wall
    I watch the shadows rise and fall
    And know not what is reckt or done
    By men and horses out in the sun,
    Nor heed their traffic, nor their cheer
    As forth they go or back, but hear
    The fountain plash into the pond,
    The brooding doves, and sighs of fond
    Lovers whose lips yearn as they sever
    For longer joy, joy such as never
    Hath man but in the mind. But what
    Men do without, that I know not
    Who see them but as shadows thrown
    Upon a screen. I see them blown
    Like clouds of flies about the plain
    Where the winds sweep them and make vain
    Their panoplies. They hem the verge
    Of this high wall to guard us--urge
    Galloping horses into war
    And meet in shock of battle, far
    Below us and our dreams: withal
    Ten years have past us in this thrall
    Since Helen came with eyes agleam
    To Troy, and trod the ways of dream.


                GORGO

    Men came about us, crying, "The Greeks!
    Ships out at sea with high-held peaks
    Like questing birds!" But I lay still
    Kissing, nor turned.


                RHODOPE

                          So I, until
    The herald broke into my sleep,
    Crying Agamemnon on the deep
    With ships from high Mykenai. Then
    I minded he was King of Men--
    But not of women in the arms
    They loved.


                MYRTILLA

                I heard their shrill alarms
    Faint and far off, like an old fame.
    Below this guarded house men came--
    Chariots and horses clasht; they cried
    King Agamemnon in his pride,
    Or Hector, or young Diomede;
    But I was kissing, could not heed
    Aught save the eyes that held mine bound.
    Anon a hush--anon the sound
    Of hooves resistless, pounding--a cry,
    "Achilles! Save yourselves!" But I--
    Clinging I lay, and sighed in sign
    That love must weary at last, even mine--
    Even mine, Sweetheart!


                PASIPHASSA

                            Who watcht when flared
    Lord Hector like a meteor, dared
    The high stockade and fired the ships?
    I watcht his lips who had had my lips.


                SITYS

    And when he slew Menoikios' son,
    Sister, what then?


                PASIPHASSA

                        My cheek was wan
    For lack of kissing--so I blew
    On slumbering lids to draw anew
    The eyes of him who had loved me well,
    But now was faint.


                CHTHONOË

                        O Kypris, tell
    The deeds of men, not lovers!


                RHODOPE

                                  Here
    Came one all palsied in his fear,
    Chattering and white, to Paris abed,
    Flusht in his sleep--told Hector dead,
    Dead and dishonoured, while he slept.
    He sighed and turned. But Helen wept.


                GORGO

    Not I. I turned and felt warm draught
    Of breath upon my cheek, and laught
    Softly, and snuggling, slept.


                CHTHONOË

                                  Fie, fie!
    Goddess, drugged in thy dreams we lie,
    Logs, not women, logs in the sun!


                SITYS

    Thou art sated. So fretteth One,
    The very fount of Love's sweet well,
    The chord of Love made visible,
    Sickened of her own loveliness,
    Haggard as hawk too long in jess,
    Aching for flight.


                MYRTILLA

                        Recall the bout
    When Paris armed him and went out
    Into the lists, and all men thronged
    To see----


                SITYS

                Lord Paris and him he wronged
    Fight for her, who should have her! We stood
    Upon the walls, and she with her hood
    Close to her cheek. But I saw the flicker
    In her blue eyes!


                PASIPHASSA

                      But I was quicker,
    And saw the man she looked upon,
    And after what her blue eyes shone
    Like cyanus in morning light.


                GORGO

    Husband and lover she saw fight,
    Man to man, with death between.


                RHODOPE

    Hatred coucht, as long and lean
    As a lone wolf, on her man's crest--


                PASIPHASSA

    And bit the Trojan!


                CHTHONOË

                        Thine was the rest,
    Goddess! And Helen lit the fire,
    With her disdain, of his desire.


                MYRTILLA

    Her eyes burned like the frosty stars
    Of winter midnight.


                PASIPHASSA

                        His the scars!
    Bitten in his wax-pale cheek.


                CHTHONOË

    Nay, in his heart----


                SITYS

                          Nay, in his bleak
    And writhen smile you see it!


                GORGO

                                  Nay!
    In his sick soul.


                RHODOPE

                      Let him go his way!
    Hear my thought of a happier thing--
    Sparta's trees in flood of spring
    Where Eurotas' banks abrim
    Drown the reeds, and foam-clots swim
    Like a scattered brood of duck!


                MYRTILLA

    Flowers anod! White flowers to pluck,
    Stiffened in the foamy curds!
    Ah, the green thickets quick with birds!


                SITYS

    Calling Itys! Itys! Itys!


                PASIPHASSA

    She calls not here--her house it is
    In Sparta!


                RHODOPE (_with a sob_)

                Peace!


                CHTHONOË

                        From my heart a cry--
    Send me back, Goddess, ere I die
    To those dear places and clean things--
    To see my people, feel the wings
    Of the gray night fold over me,
    And touch my mother's knees, and be
    Her child, as long ago I was
    Before I lay burning in Ilios!

                [_They hide their faces in their knees.
                      Then one by one they sing._]

    Let me sing an old sweet air,
    Mother of Argos, to Thee,
    For hope in my heart is fair
    As light on the hills seen from afar at sea;
    And my weary eyes turn there
    As to the haven where my soul would be.


                RHODOPE

    I will arise and make choice
    The house of my tumbled breast,
    For she cometh, I hear the voice
    Of her wings of healing, and she shall be my guest;
    And my joys shall be her joys,
    And my home her home, O wind of the South West!


                GORGO

    As a bird that listens and thrills,
    Hidden deep in the night,
    For the sound of the little rills
    That run musically towards the light;
    As a hart to the high hills
    Turneth his dying eyes, my soul takes flight.


                MYRTILLA

    Ah, to be folded deep
    In the shade of Taygetus,
    In my mother's arms to sleep
    Even as a child when I lay harboured thus!
    Oh, that I were as thy sheep,
    Lacedaemon, my land, cradle and nurse of us!


                PASIPHASSA

    In Argos they sow the grain,
    In Troy blood is their sowing;
    There a green mantle covers the plain
    Where the sweet green corn and sweet short grass are growing;
    But here passion and pain--
    Blood and dust upon earth, and a hot wind blowing.


                SITYS

    To the hold on the far red hill
    From the hold on the wide green lea,
    Over the running water, follow who will
    Therapnae's hawk with the dove of Amyklae.
    But I would lie husht and still,
    And feel the new grass growing quick over me!

          [_The scene grows dark as they sit.
              Their eyes are full of tears.
              Presently one looks up, listening,
              then another, then another. They
              are all alert._]


                CHTHONOË

    Who prayeth peace? I feel her peace
    Steal through me as a quiet air
    Enters the house with sweet increase
    Of light to healing, praise to prayer!


                RHODOPE

    What do I know of guiltiness
    When she is here, and with grave eyes
    Seeketh the ways of quietness
    And lampeth them?


                GORGO

                      Arise, arise!

                      [_They all stand waiting._]


                MYRTILLA

    Hark! Her footfall like the dew--


                PASIPHASSA

    As a flower by frost made sere
    Long before the sun breaks through,
    Feeleth him, I know her near.

                    [_Helen stands in the doorway._]


                CHTHONOË

    This is she, the source of light,
    Source of light and end of it,
    Argive Helen, slim and sweet,
    For whose bosom and delight,
    For whose eyes, those wells of peace,
    Paris wrought, as well he might,
    Ten years' woe for Troy and Greece.


                RHODOPE

    Starry wonder that she was,
    Caged like sea-bird in his arms,
    See her passion thrill, then pass
    From him who, doting on her charms,
    So became abominable.
    Watch her bosom dip and swell,
    See her nostrils fan and curve
    At his touch who loved not well,
    But loved too much, who broke the spell;
    Watch her proud head stiffen and swerve.


                GORGO

    Upon the wall with claspt white hands
    See her vigil keep intent,
    Argive Helen, lo! she stands
    Looking seaward where the fires
    Hem the shore innumerable;
    Sign of that avenging host,
    All Achaia's chivalry,
    Past the tongue of man to tell,
    Peers and kindred of her sires
    Come to win back Helen lost.


                MYRTILLA

    There to her in that gray hour,
    That gray hour before the sun,
    Cometh he she waiteth for,
    Menelaus like a ghost,
    Like a dry leaf tempest-tost,
    Stalking restless, her reproach.


                PASIPHASSA

    There alone, those two, long severed been,
    Eye each other, one wild heart between.


                SITYS

    "O thou ruinous face,
    O thou fatally fair,
    O the pity of thee!
    What dost thou there,
    Watching the madness of me?"


                CHTHONOË

    Him seemed her eyes were pools of dark
    To drown him, yet no word she spake;
    But gazing, grave as a lonely house,
    All her wonder thrilled to wake.


                RHODOPE

    "By thy roses and snow,
    By thy sun-litten hair,
    By thy low bosom and slow
    Pondered kisses, O hear!

    "By thy glimmering eyes,
    By thy burning cheek,
    By thy murmuring sighs,
    Speak, Helen, O speak!

    "Ruinous Face, O Ruinous Face,
    Art thou come so early," he said,
    "So early forth from the wicked bed?"


                GORGO

    Him she pondered, grave and still,
    Stirring not from her safe place:
    He marked the glow, he felt the thrill,
    He saw the dawn new in her face.


                MYRTILLA

    Within her low voice wailed the tone
    Of one who grieves and prays for death:
    "Lord, I am come to be alone,
    Alone here with my sorrow," she saith.


                PASIPHASSA

    "False wife, what pity was thine
    For hearth and altar, for man and child?
    What is thy sorrow worth unto mine?"
    She rocked, moaning, "I was beguiled!"


                SITYS

    Ten years' woe for Troy and Greece
    By her begun, the slim, the sweet,
    Ended by her in final peace
    Of him who loved her first of all;
    Nor ever swerved from his high passion,
    But through misery and shame
    Saw her spirit like a flame
    Eloquent of her sacred fashion--
    Hers whose eyes are homes of light,
    To which she tends, from which she came.

_1912._

[2] _Helen Redeemed_, the first poem in this book, was originally
conceived as a drama. Here is a scene from it, the first after the
Prologue, which would have been spoken by Odysseus. The action of the
play would have begun with the entry of Helen.



GNATHO


    Gnatho, Satyr, homing at dusk,
    Trotting home like a tired dog,
    By mountain slopes 'twixt the junipers
    And flamed oleanders near the sea,
    Found a girl-child asleep in a fleece,
    Frail as wax, golden and rose;
    Whereat at first he skipt aside
    And stayed him, nosing and peering, whereto
    Next he crept, softly breathing,
    Blinking his fear. None was there
    To guard; the sun had dipt in the sea,
    Faint fire empurpled the flow
    Of heaving water; no speck, no hint
    Of oar or wing on the main, on the deep
    Sky, empty as a great shell,
    Fainting in its own glory. This thing,
    This rare breath, this miracle--
    Alone with him in the world! His
    To wonder, fall to, with craning eyes
    Fearfully daring; next, since it moved not,
    Stooping, to handle, to stroke, to peer upon
    Closely, nosing its tender length,
    Doglike snuffing--at last to kiss
    In reverence wonderful, lightlier far
    Than thistledown falls, brushing the Earth.
    But the child awoke and, watching him, cried not,
    Cruddled visage, choppy hands,
    Blinking eyes, red-litten, astare,
    Horns and feet--nay, crowed and strained
    To reach this wonder.
                          As one a glass
    Light as foam, hued like the foam,
    A breath-bubble of fire, will carry,
    He in arms lifted his freight,
    Looking wonderfully upon it
    With scarce a breath, and humbleness
    To be so brute ebbed to the flood
    Of pride in his new assuréd worth--
    Trusted so, who could be vile?

    So to his cave in the wood he bore her,
    Fleeting swift as a fear thro' the dark trees.

    There in the silence of tall trees,
    Under the soaring shafts,
    Far beneath the canopied leafage,
    In the forest whisper, the thick silences;
    Or on the wastes
    Of sheltered mountains where the spires
    Of solemn cypress frame the descent
    Upon the blue, and open to sea--
    Here grew Ianthe maiden slim
    With none to spy but this gnarled man-brute;
    Most fair, most hid, like a wood-flower
    Slim for lack of light; so she grew
    In flowering line of limb
    And flower of face, retired and shy,
    Urged by the bland air; unknown,
    Lonely and lovely, husbanding
    Her great possessions--hers now,
    Another's when he cared to claim them.
    For thus went life: to lead the herds
    Of pricking deer she saw the great stags
    Battle in empty glades, then mate;
    Thus on the mountains chose the bears,
    And in the woods she heard the wolves
    Anguishing in their loves
    Thro' the dense nights, far in the forest.
    And so collected went she, and sure
    Her time would come and with it her master.

    But Gnatho watcht her under his brows
    When she lay heedless, spilling beauty--
    How ever lovelier, suppler, sleeker,
    How more desirable, how near;
    How rightly his, how surely his--
    Then gnaw'd his cheek and turn'd his head.

    For unsuspect, some dim forbidding
    Rose within him and knockt at his heart
    And said, Not thine, but for reverence.
    And some wild horror desperate drove him,
    Suing a pardon from unknown Gods
    For untold trespass, to seek the sea,
    Upon whose shore, to whose cool breathing
    He'd stretch his arms, broken with strife
    Of self and self; and all that water
    Steadfast lapt and surged. Came tears
    To furrow his cheeks, came strength to return
    To her, and bear with longer breath
    Her sweet familiarities, blind
    Obedience to nascent blind desire--
    Till again he lookt and burn'd again.

    Thus his black ferment boil'd. O' nights
    He'd dream and revel frenziedly
    As with the love-stung nymphs. Awake,
    In a chill sweat, he'd tear at himself,
    Claw at his flesh and leap in the brook,
    Drench the red embers of his vice
    Into a mass abhorred. Clean then,
    He'd seek his bed and pass unscath'd
    The bower of fern where the sleek limbs
    Of white Ianthe, mesht in her hair,
    Lay lax in sleep. But Gnatho now
    Saw only God, as on some still peak
    Snowy and lonely under the stars
    We look, and see God in all that calm.

    One night of glamour, under a moon
    That seemed to steep the air with gold,
    They two sat stilly and watcht the sea
    Tremulously heaving over a path
    Of light like a river of molten gold.
    Warm blew the breeze to land; she lean'd
    Her idle head, idly played
    Her fingers in his belt, and he
    Embracing held her, yielding, subdued;
    Sideways saw the curve of her cheek,
    Downcast lashes, droopt lip
    Which seem'd to court his pleasure--
                                          Then
    On waves of fire came racing his needs
    With zest of rage to possess and tear
    That which his frenzy, maskt as love,
    Courted: so he lean'd to her ear,
    Thrilled in torrents hoarse his case--
    "Love, I burn, I burn!
    Slake me, love!" He raved in whisper.
    And she lookt up with her wide full eyes,
    Saying, "My love!" and yielded herself.

    Deep night settled on hill and plain,
    The moon went out, the concourse of stars
    Lay strewn above, and with golden eyes
    Peered on them lockt. Far and faint
    The great stags belled; far and faint
    Quested the wolves; the leopards' howling
    Lent desolation to night; and low
    The night-jar purr'd. At sea one light
    Swayed restlessly, and on the rocks
    Sounded the tireless lapping deep.
    Lockt they lay thro' all the silences.

      Dawn stole in with whimper of rain
    And a wailing wind from the sea--
    Gray sea, gray dawn and scurrying clouds
    And scud of rain. The fisher boat,
    The sands, the headlands fringed with broom
    And tamarisk were blotted.
                                Alone,
    Caged in the mist of earth
    That beat his torment back to himself,
    So that in vain he sought for the Gods,
    And lifted up hands in vain
    To witness this white wreck prone and still--
    Gnatho the Satyr blinkt on his work.

_1898-1912._



TO THE GODS OF THE COUNTRY


    Sun and Moon, shine upon me;
      Make glad my days and clear my nights!

    O Earth, whose child I am,
      Grant me thy patience!

    O Heaven, whose heir I may be,
      Keep quick my hope!

    Your steadfastness I need, O Hills;
      O Rain, thy kindness!

    Snow, keep me pure;
      O Fire, teach me thy pride!

    From you, ye Winds, I ask your blitheness!

_1909._



FOURTEEN SONNETS

1896


ALMA SDEGNOSA

    Not that dull spleen which serves i' the world for scorn,
      Is hers I watch from far off, worshipping
      As in remote Chaldaea the ancient king
    Adored the star that heralded the morn.
    Her proud content she bears as a flag is borne
      Tincted the hue royal; or as a wing
      It lifts her soaring, near the daylight spring,
    Whence, if she lift, our days must pass forlorn.

    The pure deriving of her spirit-state
    Is so remote from men and their believing,
    They shrink when she is cold, and estimate
    That hardness which is but a God's dismay:
    As when the Heaven-sent sprite thro' Hell sped cleaving,
    Only the gross air checkt him on his way.


THE WINDS' POSSESSION

    When winds blow high and leaves begin to fall,
      And the wan sunlight flits before the blast;
    When fields are brown and crops are garnered all,
      And rooks, like mastered ships, drift wide and fast;
    Maid Artemis, that feeleth her young blood
      Leap like a freshet river for the sea,
    Speedeth abroad with hair blown in a flood
      To snuff the salt west wind and wanton free.

    Then would you know how brave she is, how high
    Her ancestry, how kindred to the wind,
    Mark but her flashing feet, her ravisht eye
    That takes the boist'rous weather and feels it kind:
    And hear her eager voice, how tuned it is
    To Autumn's clarion shrill for Artemis.


ASPETTO REALE

    That hour when thou and Grief were first acquainted
      Thou wrotest, "Come, for I have lookt on death."
      Piteous I held my indeterminate breath
    And sought thee out, and saw how he had painted
    Thine eyes with rings of black; yet never fainted
      Thy radiant immortality underneath
      Such stress of dark; but then, as one that saith,
    "I know Love liveth," sat on by death untainted.

    O to whom Grief too poignant was and dry
    To sow in thee a fountain crop of tears!
    O youth, O pride, set too remote and high
    For touch of solace that gives grace to men!
    Thy life must be our death, thy hopes our fears:
    We weep, thou lookest strangely--we know thee then!


KIN CONFESSED

    Long loving, all our love was husbanded
      Until one morning on the brown hillside,
      One misty Autumn morn when Sun did hide
    His radiance, yet was felt. No words we said,
      But in one flash transfigured, glorified,
    All her heart's tumult beating white and red,
      She fell prone on her face and hid her wide
    Over-brimmed eyes in dewy fern.
                                    I prayed,
    Then spake, "In us two now is manifest
    That throbbing kindred whereof thou art graft
    And I the grafted, in this holy place."
    She, turning half, with sober shame confest
    Discovery, then hid her rosy face.
    I read her wilding heart, and my heart laught.


QUEL GIORNO PIÙ ...

    That day--it was the last of many days,
      Nor could we know when such days might be given
    Again--we read how Dante trod the ways
      Of utmost Hell, and how his heart was riven
      By sad Francesca, whose sin was forgiven
    So far that, on her Paolo fixing gaze,
      She supt on his again, and thought it Heaven,
    She knew her gentler fate and felt it praise.

    We read that lovers' tale; each lookt at each;
    But one was fearless, innocent of guile;
    So did the other learn what she could teach:
    We read no more, we kiss'd not, but a smile
    Of proud possession flasht, hover'd a while
    'Twixt soul and soul. There was no need for speech.


ABSENCE

    When she had left us but a little while
      Methought I sensed her spirit here and there
      About my house: upon the empty stair
    Her robe brusht softly; o'er her chamber still
    There lay her fragrant presence to beguile
      Numb heart, dead heart. I knelt before her chair,
      And praying felt her hand laid on my hair,
    Felt her sweet breath, and guess'd her wistful smile.

    Then thro' my tears I lookt about the room,
    But she was gone. I heard my heart beat fast;
    The street was silent; I could not see her now.
    Sorrow and I took up our load, and past
    To where our station was with heads bent low,
    And autumn's death-moan shiver'd thro' the gloom.


PRESENCE

    When she had left us but a little while,
      I still could hear the ringing of her voice,
    Still see athwart the dusk her shy half-smile
      And that sweet trust wherein I most rejoice.

    Then in her self-same tones I heard, "Go thou,
      Set to that work appointed thee to do,
    Remembering I am with thee here and now,
      Watchful as ever. See, my eyes shine true!"

    I lookt, and saw the concourse of clear stars,
      Steadfast, of limpid candour, and could discover
    Her soul look on me thro' the prison-bars
      Which slunk like sin from such an honest Lover:

    And thro' the vigil-pauses of that night
    She beam'd on me; and my soul felt her light.


DREAM ANGUISH

    My thought of thee is tortured in my sleep--
      Sometimes thou art near beside me, but a cloud
    Doth grudge me thy pale face, and rise to creep
      Slowly about thee, to lap thee in a shroud;
    And I, as standing by my dead, to weep
      Desirous, cannot weep, nor cry aloud.
      Or we must face the clamouring of a crowd
    Hissing our shame; and I who ought to keep
      Thine honour safe and my betrayed heart proud,
    Knowing thee true, must watch a chill doubt leap
      The tired faith of thee, and thy head bow'd,
    Nor budge while the gross world holdeth thee cheap!

    Or there are frost-bound meetings, and reproach
    At parting, furtive snatches full of fear;
    Love grown a pain; we bleed to kiss, and kiss
    Because we bleed for love; the time doth broach
    Shame, and shame teareth at us till we tear
    Our hearts to shreds--yet wilder love for this!


HYMNIA-BEATRIX

    Before you pass and leave me gaunt and chill
      Alone to do what I have joyed in doing
    In your glad sight, suffer me, nor take ill
      If I confess you prize and me pursuing.
      As the rapt Tuscan lifted up his eyes
    Whither his Lady led, and lived with her,
      Strong in her strength, and in her wisdom wise,
    Love-taught with song to be her thurifer;
      So I, that may no nearer stand than he
    To minister about the holy place,
    Am well content to watch my Heaven in thee
    And read my Credo in thy sacred face.
      For even as Beatrix Dante's wreath did bind,
    So, Hymnia, hast thou imparadised my mind.


LUX E TENEBRIS

    I thank all Gods that I can let thee go,
      Lady, without one thought, one base desire
      To tarnish that clear vision I gained by fire,
    One stain in me I would not have thee know.
    That is great might indeed that moves me so
      To look upon thy Form, and yet aspire
      To look not there, rather than I should mire
    That wingéd Spirit that haunts and guards thy brow.

    So now I see thee go, secure in this
    That what I have is thee, that whole of thee
    Whereof thy fair infashioning is sign:
    For I see Honour, Love, and Wholesomeness,
    And striving ever to reach them, and to be
    As they, I keep thee still; for they are thine.


DUTY

    Oh, I am weak to serve thee as I ought;
      My shroud of flesh obscures thy deity,
      So thy sweet Spirit that should embolden me
    To shake my wings out wide, serves me for nought,
    But receives tarnish, vile dishonour, wrought
      By that thou earnest to bless--O agony
      And unendurable shame! that, loving thee,
    I dare not love, fearing my poisonous thought!

      Man is too vile for any such high grace,
    For that he seeks to honour he can but mar;
      So had I rather shun thy starry face
    And fly the exultation to know thee near--
    For if one glance from me wrought thee a scar
    'Twould not be death, but life that I should fear.


WAGES

    Sometimes the spirit that never leaves me quite
      Taps at my heart when thou art in the way,
      Saying, Now thy Queen cometh: therefore pray,
    Lest she should see thee vile, and at the sight
    Shiver and fly back piteous to the light
      That wanes when she is absent. Then, as I may,
      I wash my soilèd hands and muttering, say,
    Lord, make me clean; robe Thou me in Thy white!

      So for a brief space, clad in ecstasy,
    Pure, disembodied, I fall to kiss thy feet,
    And sense thy glory throbbing round about;
    Whereafter, rising, I hold thee in a sweet
    And gentle converse that lifts me up to be,
    When thou art gone, strange to the gross world's rout.


EYE-SERVICE

    Meseems thine eyes are two still-folded lakes
      Wherein deep water reflects the guardian sky,
      Searching wherein I see how Heaven is nigh
    And our broad Earth at peace. So my Love takes
    My soul's thin hands and, chafing them, she makes
      My life's blood lusty and my life's hope high
      For the strong lips and eyes of Poesy,
    To hold the world well squandered for their sakes.

    I looked thee full this day: thine unveiled eyes
      Rayed their swift-searching magic forth; and then
      I felt all strength that love can put in men
    Whenas they know that loveliness is wise.
    For love can be content with no less prize,
      To lift us up beyond our mortal ken.


CLOISTER THOUGHTS

(AT WESTMINSTER)

    Within these long gray shadows many dead
      Lie waiting: we wait with them. Do you believe
      That at the last the threadbare soul will give
    All his shifts over, and stand dishevellèd,
    Naked in truth? Then we shall hear it said,
      "Ye two have waited long, daring to live
      Grimly through days tormented; now reprieve
    Awaiteth you with all these ancient dead!"

    The slope sun letteth down thro' our dark bars
    His ladder from the skies. Hand fast in hand,
    With quiet hearts and footsteps quiet and slow,
    Like children venturous in an unknown land
    We will come to the fields whose flowers are stars,
    And kneeling ask, "Lord, wilt Thou crown us now?"



THE CHAMBER IDYLL


    The blue night falleth, the moon
    Is over the hill; make fast,
    Fasten the latch, I am tired: come soon,
    Come! I would sleep at last
    In your bosom, my love, my love!

    The airy chamber above
    Has the lattice ajar, that night
    May breathe upon you and me, my love,
    And the moon bless our marriage-rite--
    Come, lassy, to bed, to bed!

    The roof-thatch overhead
    Shall cover the stars' bright eyes;
    The fleecy quilt shall be coverlid
    For your meek virginities,
    And your wedding, my bride, my bride!

    See, we are side to side,
    Virgin in deed and name--
    Come, for love will not be denied,
    Tarry not, have no shame:
    Are we not man and bride?

_1894._



EPIGRAMMATA

1910


THE OLD HOUSE

    Mossy gray stands the House, four-square to the wind,
    Embosomed in the hills. The garden old
    Of yew and box and fishpond speaks her mind,
    Sweet-ordered, quaint, recluse, fold within fold
    Of quietness; but true and choice and kind--
    A sober casket for a heart of gold.


BLUE IRIS

    Blue is the Adrian sea, and darkly blue
    The Ægean; and the shafted sun thro' them,
    That fishes grope to, gives the beamy hue
    Rayed from her iris's deep diadem.


THE ROSEBUD

    In June I brought her roses, and she cupt
    One slim bud in her hand and cherisht it,
    And put it to her mouth. Rose and she supt
    Each other's sweetness; but the flower was lit
    By her kind eyes, and glowed. Then in her breast
    She laid it blushing, warm and doubly blest.


SPRING ON THE DOWN

    When Spring blows o'er the land, and sunlight flies
    Across the hills, we take the upland way.
    I have her waist, the wooing wind her eyes
    And lips and cheeks. His kissing makes her gay
    As flowers. "Thou hast two lovers, O my dear,"
    Say I; and she, "He takes what thou dost fear."


SNOWY NIGHT

    The snow lies deep, ice-fringes hem the thatch;
    I knock my shoes, my Love lifts me the latch,
    Shows me her eyes--O frozen stars, they shine
    Kindly! I clasp her. Quick! her lips are mine.


EVENING MOOD

    Late, when the sun was smouldering down the west,
    She took my arm and laid her cheek to me;
    The fainting twilight held her, and I guess'd
    All she would tell, but could not let me see--
    Wonder and joy, the rising of her breast,
    And confidence, and still expectancy.


THE PARTING

    Breathless was she and would not have us part:
    "Adieu, my Saint," I said, "'tis come to this."
    But she leaned to me, one hand at her heart,
    And all her soul sighed trembling in a kiss.



DEDICATION OF A BOOK


    To the Fountain of my long Dream,
    To the Chalice of all my Sorrow,
    To the Lamp held up, and the Stream
    Of Light that beacons the Morrow;

    To the Bow, the Quiver and Dart,
    To the Bridle-rein, to the Yoke
    Proudly upborne, to the Heart
    On Fire, to the Mercy-stroke;

    To Apollo herding his Cattle,
    To Proserpina grave in Dis;
    To the high Head in the Battle,
    And the Crown--I consecrate this.

_1911._



_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.



 BY MAURICE HEWLETT

 THE AGONISTS

 A TRILOGY OF GOD AND MAN

 MINOS KING OF CRETE, ARIADNE IN NAXOS,
 THE DEATH OF HIPPOLYTUS

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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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