Part 2 out of 3
Sixty good oars, and left him there to reach
Afoot bleak Phasis and the Colchian beach.
The Love of AEschines.
Hail, sir Thyonichus.
AEschines, to you.
I have missed thee.
Missed me! Why what ails him now?
My friend, I am ill at ease.
Then this explains
Thy leanness, and thy prodigal moustache
And dried-up curls. Thy counterpart I saw,
A wan Pythagorean, yesterday.
He said he came from Athens: shoes he had none:
He pined, I'll warrant,--for a quartern loaf.
Sir, you will joke--But I've been outraged, sore,
And by Cynisca. I shall go stark mad
Ere you suspect--a hair would turn the scale.
Such thou wert always, AEschines my friend.
In lazy mood or trenchant, at thy whim
The world must wag. But what's thy grievance now?
That Argive, Apis the Thessalian Knight,
Myself, and gallant Cleonicus, supped
Within my grounds. Two pullets I had slain,
And a prime pig: and broached my Biblian wine;
'Twas four years old, but fragrant as when new.
Truffles were served to us: and the drink was good.
Well, we got on, and each must drain a cup
To whom he fancied; only each must name.
We named, and took our liquor as ordained;
But she sate silent--this before my face.
Fancy my feelings! "Wilt not speak? Hast seen
A wolf?" some wag said. "Shrewdly guessed," quoth she,
And blushed--her blushes might have fired a torch.
A wolf _had_ charmed her: Wolf her neighbour's son,
Goodly and tall, and fair in divers eyes:
For his illustrious sake it was she pined.
This had been breathed, just idly, in my ear:
Shame on my beard, I ne'er pursued the hint.
Well, when we four were deep amid our cups,
The Knight must sing 'The Wolf' (a local song)
Right through for mischief. All at once she wept
Hot tears as girls of six years old might weep,
Clinging and clamouring round their mother's lap.
And I, (you know my humour, friend of mine,)
Drove at his face, one, two! She gathered up
Her robes and vanished straightway through the door.
"And so I fail to please, false lady mine?
Another lies more welcome in thy lap?
Go warm that other's heart: he'll say thy tears
Are liquid pearls." And as a swallow flies
Forth in a hurry, here or there to find
A mouthful for her brood among the eaves:
From her soft sofa passing-swift she fled
Through folding-doors and hall, with random feet:
_'The stag had gained his heath':_ you know the rest.
Three weeks, a month, nine days and ten to that,
To-day's the eleventh: and 'tis just two months
All but two days, since she and I were two.
Hence is my beard of more than Thracian growth.
Now Wolf is all to her: Wolf enters in
At midnight; I am a cypher in her eyes;
The poor Megarian, nowhere in the race.
All would go right, if I could once _unlove_:
But now, you wot, the rat hath tasted tar.
And what may cure a swain at his wit's end
I know not: Simus, (true,) a mate of mine,
Loved Epichalcus' daughter, and took ship
And came home cured. I too will sail the seas.
Worse men, it may be better, are afloat,
I shall still prove an average man-at-arms.
Now may thy love run smoothly, AEschines!
But should'st thou really mean a voyage out,
The freeman's best paymaster's Ptolemy.
What is he else?
A gentleman: a man
Of wit and taste; the top of company;
Loyal to ladies; one whose eye is keen
For friends, and keener still for enemies.
Large in his bounties, he, in kingly sort,
Denies a boon to none: but, AEschines,
One should not ask too often. This premised,
If thou wilt clasp the military cloak
O'er thy right shoulder, and with legs astride
Await the onward rush of shielded men:
Hie thee to Egypt. Age overtakes us all;
Our temples first; then on o'er cheek and chin,
Slowly and surely, creep the frosts of Time.
Up and do somewhat, ere thy limbs are sere.
The Festival of Adonis.
Yes, Gorgo dear! At last!
That you're here now's a marvel! See to a chair,
A cushion, Eunoae!
I lack naught.
Oh, what a thing is spirit! Here I am,
Praxinoae, safe at last from all that crowd
And all those chariots--every street a mass
Of boots and uniforms! And the road, my dear,
Seemed endless--you live now so far away!
This land's-end den--I cannot call it house--
My madcap hired to keep us twain apart
And stir up strife. 'Twas like him, odious pest!
Nay call not, dear, your lord, your Deinon, names
To the babe's face. Look how it stares at you!
There, baby dear, she never meant Papa!
It understands, by'r lady! Dear Papa!
Well, yesterday (that means what day you like)
'Papa' had rouge and hair-powder to buy;
He brought back salt! this oaf of six-foot-one!
Just such another is that pickpocket
My Diocleides. He bought t'other day
Six fleeces at seven drachms, his last exploit.
What were they? scraps of worn-out pedlar's-bags,
Sheer trash.--But put your cloak and mantle on;
And we'll to Ptolemy's, the sumptuous king,
To see the _Adonis_. As I hear, the queen
Provides us something gorgeous.
Ay, the grand
Can do things grandly.
When you've seen yourself,
What tales you'll have to tell to those who've not.
'Twere time we started!
All time's holiday
With idlers! Eunoae, pampered minx, the jug!
Set it down here--you cats would sleep all day
On cushions--Stir yourself, fetch water, quick!
Water's our first want. How she holds the jug!
Now, pour--not, cormorant, in that wasteful way--
You've drenched my dress, bad luck t'you! There, enough:
I have made such toilet as my fates allowed.
Now for the key o' the plate-chest. Bring it, quick!
My dear, that full pelisse becomes you well.
What did it stand you in, straight off the loom?
Don't ask me, Gorgo: two good pounds and more.
Then I gave all my mind to trimming it.
Well, 'tis a great success.
I think it is.
My mantle, Eunoae, and my parasol!
Arrange me nicely. Babe, you'll bide at home!
Horses would bite you--Boo!--Yes, cry your fill,
But we won't have you maimed. Now let's be off.
You, Phrygia, take and nurse the tiny thing:
Call the dog in: make fast the outer door!
Gods! what a crowd! How, when shall we get past
This nuisance, these unending ant-like swarms?
Yet, Ptolemy, we owe thee thanks for much
Since heaven received thy sire! No miscreant now
Creeps Thug-like up, to maul the passer-by.
What games men played erewhile--men shaped in crime,
Birds of a feather, rascals every one!
--We're done for, Gorgo darling--here they are,
The Royal horse! Sweet sir, don't trample me!
That bay--the savage!--reared up straight on end!
Fly, Eunoae, can't you? Doggedly she stands.
He'll be his rider's death!--How glad I am
My babe's at home.
Praxinoae, never mind!
See, we're before them now, and they're in line.
There, I'm myself. But from a child I feared
Horses, and slimy snakes. But haste we on:
A surging multitude is close behind.
GORGO [_to Old Lady_].
From the palace, mother?
Is it fair
Trying brought the Greeks to Troy.
Young ladies, they must try who would succeed.
The crone hath said her oracle and gone.
Women know all--how Adam married Eve.
--Praxinoae, look what crowds are round the door!
Fearful! Your hand, please, Gorgo. Eunoae, you
Hold Eutychis--hold tight or you'll be lost.
We'll enter in a body--hold us fast!
Oh dear, my muslin dress is torn in two,
Gorgo, already! Pray, good gentleman,
(And happiness be yours) respect my robe!
I could not if I would--nathless I will.
They come in hundreds, and they push like swine.
Lady, take courage: it is all well now.
And now and ever be it well with thee,
Sweet man, for shielding us! An honest soul
And kindly. Oh! they're smothering Eunoae:
Push, coward! That's right! 'All in,' the bridegroom said
And locked the door upon himself and bride.
Praxinoae, look! Note well this broidery first.
How exquisitely fine--too good for earth!
Empress Athene, what strange sempstress wrought
Such work? What painter painted, realized
Such pictures? Just like life they stand or move,
Facts and not fancies! What a thing is man!
How bright, how lifelike on his silvern couch
Lies, with youth's bloom scarce shadowing his cheek,
That dear Adonis, lovely e'en in death!
Bad luck t'you, cease your senseless pigeon's prate!
Their brogue is killing--every word a drawl!
Where did he spring from? Is our prattle aught
To you, Sir? Order your own slaves about:
You're ordering Syracusan ladies now!
Corinthians bred (to tell you one fact more)
As was Bellerophon: islanders in speech,
For Dorians may talk Doric, I presume?
Persephone! none lords it over me,
Save one! No scullion's-wage for us from _you_!
Hush, dear. The Argive's daughter's going to sing
_The Adonis_: that accomplished vocalist
Who has no rival in "_The Sailor's Grave_."
Observe her attitudinizing now.
Queen, who lov'st Golgi and the Sicel hill
And Ida; Aphrodite radiant-eyed;
The stealthy-footed Hours from Acheron's rill
Brought once again Adonis to thy side
How changed in twelve short months! They travel slow,
Those precious Hours: we hail their advent still,
For blessings do they bring to all below.
O Sea-born! thou didst erst, or legend lies,
Shed on a woman's soul thy grace benign,
And Berenice's dust immortalize.
O called by many names, at many a shrine!
For thy sweet sake doth Berenice's child
(Herself a second Helen) deck with all
That's fair, Adonis. On his right are piled
Ripe apples fallen from the oak-tree tall;
And silver caskets at his left support
Toy-gardens, Syrian scents enshrined in gold
And alabaster, cakes of every sort
That in their ovens the pastrywomen mould,
When with white meal they mix all flowers that bloom,
Oil-cakes and honey-cakes. There stand portrayed
Each bird, each butterfly; and in the gloom
Of foliage climbing high, and downward weighed
By graceful blossoms, do the young Loves play
Like nightingales, and perch on every tree,
And flit, to try their wings, from spray to spray.
Then see the gold, the ebony! Only see
The ivory-carven eagles, bearing up
To Zeus the boy who fills his royal cup!
Soft as a dream, such tapestry gleams o'erhead
As the Milesian's self would gaze on, charmed.
But sweet Adonis hath his own sweet bed:
Next Aphrodite sleeps the roseate-armed,
A bridegroom of eighteen or nineteen years.
Kiss the smooth boyish lip--there's no sting there!
The bride hath found her own: all bliss be hers!
And him at dewy dawn we'll troop to bear
Down where the breakers hiss against the shore:
There, with dishevelled dress and unbound hair,
Bare-bosomed all, our descant wild we'll pour:
"Thou haunt'st, Adonis, earth and heaven in turn,
Alone of heroes. Agamemnon ne'er
Could compass this, nor Aias stout and stern:
Not Hector, eldest-born of her who bare
Ten sons, not Patrocles, nor safe-returned
From Ilion Pyrrhus, such distinction earned:
Nor, elder yet, the Lapithae, the sons
Of Pelops and Deucalion; or the crown
Of Greece, Pelasgians. Gracious may'st thou be,
Adonis, now: pour new-year's blessings down!
Right welcome dost thou come, Adonis dear:
Come when thou wilt, thou'lt find a welcome here."
'Tis fine, Praxinoae! How I envy her
Her learning, and still more her luscious voice!
We must go home: my husband's supperless:
And, in that state, the man's just vinegar.
Don't cross his path when hungry! So farewell,
Adonis, and be housed 'mid welfare aye!
The Value of Song.
What fires the Muse's, what the minstrel's lays?
Hers some immortal's, ours some hero's praise,
Heaven is her theme, as heavenly was her birth:
We, of earth earthy, sing the sons of earth.
Yet who, of all that see the gray morn rise,
Lifts not his latch and hails with eager eyes
My Songs, yet sends them guerdonless away?
Barefoot and angry homeward journey they,
Taunt him who sent them on that idle quest,
Then crouch them deep within their empty chest,
(When wageless they return, their dismal bed)
And hide on their chill knees once more their patient head.
Where are those good old times? Who thanks us, who,
For our good word? Men list not now to do
Great deeds and worthy of the minstrel's verse:
Vassals of gain, their hand is on their purse,
Their eyes on lucre: ne'er a rusty nail
They'll give in kindness; this being aye their tale:--
"Kin before kith; to prosper is my prayer;
Poets, we know, are heaven's peculiar care.
We've Homer; and what other's worth a thought?
I call him chief of bards who costs me naught."
Yet what if all your chests with gold are lined?
Is this enjoying wealth? Oh fools and blind!
Part on your heart's desire, on minstrels spend
Part; and your kindred and your kind befriend:
And daily to the gods bid altar-fires ascend.
Nor be ye churlish hosts, but glad the heart
Of guests with wine, when they must needs depart:
And reverence most the priests of sacred song:
So, when hell hides you, shall your names live long;
Not doomed to wail on Acheron's sunless sands,
Like some poor hind, the inward of whose hands
The spade hath gnarled and knotted, born to groan,
Poor sire's poor offspring, hapless Penury's own!
Their monthly dole erewhile unnumbered thralls
Sought in Antiochus', in Aleuas' halls;
On to the Scopadae's byres in endless line
The calves ran lowing with the horned kine;
And, marshalled by the good Creondae's swains
Myriads of choice sheep basked on Cranron's plains.
Yet had their joyaunce ended, on the day
When their sweet spirit dispossessed its clay,
To hated Acheron's ample barge resigned.
Nameless, their stored-up luxury left behind,
With the lorn dead through ages had they lain,
Had not a minstrel bade them live again:--
Had not in woven words the Ceian sire
Holding sweet converse with his full-toned lyre
Made even their swift steeds for aye renowned,
When from the sacred lists they came home crowned.
Forgot were Lycia's chiefs, and Hector's hair
Of gold, and Cycnus femininely fair;
But that bards bring old battles back to mind.
Odysseus--he who roamed amongst mankind
A hundred years and more, reached utmost hell
Alive, and 'scaped the giant's hideous cell--
Had lived and died: Eumaeus and his swine;
Philoetius, busy with his herded kine;
And great Laertes' self, had passed away,
Were not their names preserved in Homer's lay.
Through song alone may man true glory taste;
The dead man's riches his survivors waste.
But count the waves, with yon gray wind-swept main
Borne shoreward: from a red brick wash his stain
In some pool's violet depths: 'twill task thee yet
To reach the heart on baleful avarice set.
To such I say 'Fare well': let theirs be store
Of wealth; but let them always crave for more:
Horses and mules inferior things _I_ find
To the esteem and love of all mankind.
But to what mortal's roof may I repair,
I and my Muse, and find a welcome there?
I and my Muse: for minstrels fare but ill,
Reft of those maids, who know the mightiest's will.
The cycle of the years, it flags not yet;
In many a chariot many a steed shall sweat:
And one, to manhood grown, my lays shall claim,
Whose deeds shall rival great Achilles' fame,
Who from stout Aias might have won the prize
On Simois' plain, where Phrygian Ilus lies.
Now, in their sunset home on Libya's heel,
Phoenicia's sons unwonted chillness feel:
Now, with his targe of willow at his breast,
The Syracusan bears his spear in rest,
Amongst these Hiero arms him for the war,
Eager to fight as warriors fought of yore;
The plumes float darkling o'er his helmed brow.
O Zeus, the sire most glorious; and O thou,
Empress Athene; and thou, damsel fair,
Who with thy mother wast decreed to bear
Rule o'er rich Corinth, o'er that city of pride
Beside whose walls Anapus' waters glide:--
May ill winds waft across the Southern sea
(Of late a legion, now but two or three,)
Far from our isle, our foes; the doom to tell,
To wife and child, of those they loved so well;
While the old race enjoy once more the lands
Spoiled and insulted erst by alien hands!
And fair and fruitful may their cornlands be!
Their flocks in thousands bleat upon the lea,
Fat and full-fed; their kine, as home they wind,
The lagging traveller of his rest remind!
With might and main their fallows let them till:
Till comes the seedtime, and cicalas trill
(Hid from the toilers of the hot midday
In the thick leafage) on the topmost spray!
O'er shield and spear their webs let spiders spin,
And none so much as name the battle-din!
Then Hiero's lofty deeds may minstrels bear
Beyond the Scythian ocean-main, and where
Within those ample walls, with asphalt made
Time-proof, Semiramis her empire swayed.
I am but a single voice: but many a bard
Beside me do those heavenly maids regard:
May those all love to sing, 'mid earth's acclaim,
Of Sicel Arethuse, and Hiero's fame.
O Graces, royal nurselings, who hold dear
The Minyae's city, once the Theban's fear:
Unbidden I tarry, whither bidden I fare
My Muse my comrade. And be ye too there,
Sisters divine! Were ye and song forgot,
What grace had earth? With you be aye my lot!
The Praise of Ptolemy.
With Zeus begin, sweet sisters, end with Zeus,
When ye would sing the sovereign of the skies:
But first among mankind rank Ptolemy;
First, last, and midmost; being past compare.
Those mighty ones of old, half men half gods,
Wrought deeds that shine in many a subtle strain;
I, no unpractised minstrel, sing but him;
Divinest ears disdain not minstrelsy.
But as a woodman sees green Ida rise
Pine above pine, and ponders which to fell
First of those myriads; even so I pause
Where to begin the chapter of his praise:
For thousand and ten thousand are the gifts
Wherewith high heaven hath graced the kingliest king.
Was not he born to compass noblest ends,
Lagus' own son, so soon as he matured
Schemes such as ne'er had dawned on meaner minds?
Zeus doth esteem him as the blessed gods;
In the sire's courts his golden mansion stands.
And near him Alexander sits and smiles,
The turbaned Persian's dread; and, fronting both,
Rises the stedfast adamantine seat
Erst fashioned for the bull-slayer Heracles.
Who there holds revels with his heavenly mates,
And sees, with joy exceeding, children rise
On children; for that Zeus exempts from age
And death their frames who sprang from Heracles:
And Ptolemy, like Alexander, claims
From him; his gallant son their common sire.
And when, the banquet o'er, the Strong Man wends,
Cloyed with rich nectar, home unto his wife,
This kinsman hath in charge his cherished shafts
And bow; and that his gnarled and knotted club;
And both to white-limbed Hebe's bower of bliss
Convoy the bearded warrior and his arms.
Then how among wise ladies--blest the pair
That reared her!--peerless Berenice shone!
Dione's sacred child, the Cyprian queen,
O'er that sweet bosom passed her taper hands:
And hence, 'tis said, no man loved woman e'er
As Ptolemy loved her. She o'er-repaid
His love; so, nothing doubting, he could leave
His substance in his loyal children's care,
And rest with her, fond husband with fond wife.
She that loves not bears sons, but all unlike
Their father: for her heart was otherwhere.
O Aphrodite, matchless e'en in heaven
For beauty, thou didst love her; wouldst not let
Thy Berenice cross the wailful waves:
But thy hand snatched her--to the blue lake bound
Else, and the dead's grim ferryman--and enshrined
With thee, to share thy honours. There she sits,
To mortals ever kind, and passion soft
Inspires, and makes the lover's burden light.
The dark-browed Argive, linked with Tydeus, bare
Diomed the slayer, famed in Calydon:
And deep-veiled Thetis unto Peleus gave
The javelineer Achilles. Thou wast born
Of Berenice, Ptolemy by name
And by descent, a warrior's warrior child.
Cos from its mother's arms her babe received,
Its destined nursery, on its natal day:
'Twas there Antigone's daughter in her pangs
Cried to the goddess that could bid them cease:
Who soon was at her side, and lo! her limbs
Forgat their anguish, and a child was born
Fair, its sire's self. Cos saw, and shouted loud;
Handled the babe all tenderly, and spake:
"Wake, babe, to bliss: prize me, as Phoebus doth
His azure-sphered Delos: grace the hill
Of Triops, and the Dorians' sister shores,
As king Apollo his Rhenaea's isle."
So spake the isle. An eagle high overhead
Poised in the clouds screamed thrice, the prophet-bird
Of Zeus, and sent by him. For awful kings
All are his care, those chiefliest on whose birth
He smiled: exceeding glory waits on them:
Theirs is the sovereignty of land and sea.
But if a myriad realms spread far and wide
O'er earth, if myriad nations till the soil
To which heaven's rain gives increase: yet what land
Is green as low-lying Egypt, when the Nile
Wells forth and piecemeal breaks the sodden glebe?
Where are like cities, peopled by like men?
Lo he hath seen three hundred towns arise,
Three thousand, yea three myriad; and o'er all
He rules, the prince of heroes, Ptolemy.
Claims half Phoenicia, and half Araby,
Syria and Libya, and the AEthiops murk;
Sways the Pamphylian and Cilician braves,
The Lycian and the Carian trained to war,
And all the isles: for never fleet like his
Rode upon ocean: land and sea alike
And sounding rivers hail king Ptolemy.
Many are his horsemen, many his targeteers,
Whose burdened breast is bright with clashing steel:
Light are all royal treasuries, weighed with his.
For wealth from all climes travels day by day
To his rich realm, a hive of prosperous peace.
No foeman's tramp scares monster-peopled Nile,
Waking to war her far-off villages:
No armed robber from his war-ship leaps
To spoil the herds of Egypt. Such a prince
Sits throned in her broad plains, in whose right arm
Quivers the spear, the bright-haired Ptolemy.
Like a true king, he guards with might and main
The wealth his sires' arm won him and his own.
Nor strown all idly o'er his sumptuous halls
Lie piles that seem the work of labouring ants.
The holy homes of gods are rich therewith;
Theirs are the firstfruits, earnest aye of more.
And freely mighty kings thereof partake,
Freely great cities, freely honoured friends.
None entered e'er the sacred lists of song,
Whose lips could breathe sweet music, but he gained
Fair guerdon at the hand of Ptolemy.
And Ptolemy do music's votaries hymn
For his good gifts--hath man a fairer lot
Than to have earned much fame among mankind?
The Atridae's name abides, while all the wealth
Won from the sack of Priam's stately home
A mist closed o'er it, to be seen no more.
Ptolemy, he only, treads a path whose dust
Burns with the footprints of his ancestors,
And overlays those footprints with his own.
He raised rich shrines to mother and to sire,
There reared their forms in ivory and gold,
Passing in beauty, to befriend mankind.
Thighs of fat oxen oftentimes he burns
On crimsoning altars, as the months roll on,
Ay he and his staunch wife. No fairer bride
E'er clasped her lord in royal palaces:
And her heart's love her brother-husband won.
In such blest union joined the immortal pair
Whom queenly Rhea bore, and heaven obeys:
One couch the maiden of the rainbow decks
With myrrh-dipt hands for Hera and for Zeus.
Now farewell, prince! I rank thee aye with gods:
And read this lesson to the afterdays,
Mayhap they'll prize it: 'Honour is of Zeus.'
The Bridal of Helen.
Whilom, in Lacedaemon,
Tript many a maiden fair
To gold-tressed Menelaus' halls,
With hyacinths in her hair:
Twelve to the Painted Chamber,
The queenliest in the land,
The clustered loveliness of Greece,
Came dancing hand in hand.
For Helen, Tyndarus' daughter,
Had just been wooed and won,
Helen the darling of the world,
By Atreus' younger son:
With woven steps they beat the floor
In unison, and sang
Their bridal-hymn of triumph
Till all the palace rang.
"Slumberest so soon, sweet bridegroom?
Art thou o'erfond of sleep?
Or hast thou leadenweighted limbs?
Or hadst thou drunk too deep
When thou didst fling thee to thy lair?
Betimes thou should'st have sped,
If sleep were all thy purpose,
Unto thy bachelor's bed:
And left her in her mother's arms
To nestle, and to play
A girl among her girlish mates
Till deep into the day:--
For not alone for this night,
Nor for the next alone,
But through the days and through the years
Thou hast her for thine own.
"Nay! heaven, O happy bridegroom,
Smiled as thou enteredst in
To Sparta, like thy brother kings,
And told thee thou should'st win!
What hero son-in-law of Zeus
Hath e'er aspired to be?
Yet lo! one coverlet enfolds
The child of Zeus, and thee.
Ne'er did a thing so lovely
Roam the Achaian lea.
"And who shall match her offspring,
If babes are like their mother?
For we were playmates once, and ran
And raced with one another
(All varnished, warrior fashion)
Along Eurotas' tide,
Thrice eighty gentle maidens,
Each in her girlhood's pride:
Yet none of all seemed faultless,
If placed by Helen's side.
"As peers the nascent Morning
Over thy shades, O Night,
When Winter disenchains the land,
And Spring goes forth in white:
So Helen shone above us,
All loveliness and light.
"As climbs aloft some cypress,
Garden or glade to grace;
As the Thessalian courser lends
A lustre to the race:
So bright o'er Lacedaemon
Shone Helen's rosebud face.
"And who into the basket e'er
The yarn so deftly drew,
Or through the mazes of the web
So well the shuttle threw,
And severed from the framework
As closelywov'n a warp:--
And who could wake with masterhand
Such music from the harp,
To broadlimbed Pallas tuning
And Artemis her lay--
As Helen, Helen in whose eyes
The Loves for ever play?
"O bright, O beautiful, for thee
Are matron-cares begun.
We to green paths and blossomed meads
With dawn of morn must run,
And cull a breathing chaplet;
And still our dream shall be,
Helen, of thee, as weanling lambs
Yearn in the pasture for the dams
That nursed their infancy.
"For thee the lowly lotus-bed
We'll spoil, and plait a crown
To hang upon the shadowy plane;
For thee will we drop down
('Neath that same shadowy platan)
Oil from our silver urn;
And carven on the bark shall be
This sentence, 'HALLOW HELEN'S TREE';
In Dorian letters, legibly
For all men to discern.
"Now farewell, bride, and bridegroom
Blest in thy new-found sire!
May Leto, mother of the brave,
Bring babes at your desire,
And holy Cypris either's breast
With mutual transport fire:
And Zeus the son of Cronos
Grant blessings without end,
From princely sire to princely son
For ever to descend.
"Sleep on, and love and longing
Breathe in each other's breast;
But fail not when the morn returns
To rouse you from your rest:
With dawn shall we be stirring,
When, lifting high his fair
And feathered neck, the earliest bird
To clarion to the dawn is heard.
O god of brides and bridals,
Sing 'Happy, happy pair!'"
Love Stealing Honey.
Once thievish Love the honeyed hives would rob,
When a bee stung him: soon he felt a throb
Through all his finger-tips, and, wild with pain,
Blew on his hands and stamped and jumped in vain.
To Aphrodite then he told his woe:
'How can a thing so tiny hurt one so?'
She smiled and said; 'Why thou'rt a tiny thing,
As is the bee; yet sorely thou canst sting.'
Town and Country
Once I would kiss Eunice. "Back," quoth she,
And screamed and stormed; "a sorry clown kiss me?
Your country compliments, I like not such;
No lips but gentles' would I deign to touch.
Ne'er dream of kissing me: alike I shun
Your face, your language, and your tigerish fun.
How winning are your tones, how fine your air!
Your beard how silken and how sweet your hair!
Pah! you've a sick man's lips, a blackamoor's hand:
Your breath's defilement. Leave me, I command."
Thrice spat she on her robe, and, muttering low,
Scanned me, with half-shut eyes, from top to toe:
Brought all her woman's witcheries into play,
Still smiling in a set sarcastic way,
Till my blood boiled, my visage crimson grew
With indignation, as a rose with dew:
And so she left me, inly to repine
That such as she could flout such charms as mine.
O shepherds, tell me true! Am I not fair?
Am I transformed? For lately I did wear
Grace as a garment; and my cheeks, o'er them
Ran the rich growth like ivy round the stem.
Like fern my tresses o'er my temples streamed;
O'er my dark eyebrows, white my forehead gleamed:
My eyes were of Athene's radiant blue,
My mouth was milk, its accents honeydew.
Then I could sing--my tones were soft indeed!--
To pipe or flute or flageolet or reed:
And me did every maid that roams the fell
Kiss and call fair: not so this city belle.
She scorns the herdsman; knows not how divine
Bacchus ranged once the valleys with his kine;
How Cypris, maddened for a herdsman's sake,
Deigned upon Phrygia's mountains to partake
His cares: and wooed, and wept, Adonis in the brake.
What was Endymion, sweet Selene's love?
A herdsman's lad. Yet came she from above,
Down to green Latmos, by his side to sleep.
And did not Rhea for a herdsman weep?
Didst not thou, Zeus, become a wandering bird,
To win the love of one who drove a herd?
Selene, Cybele, Cypris, all loved swains:
Eunice, loftier-bred, their kiss disdains.
Henceforth, by hill or hall, thy love disown,
Cypris, and sleep the livelong night alone.
_ASPHALION, A COMRADE._
Want quickens wit: Want's pupils needs must work,
O Diophantus: for the child of toil
Is grudged his very sleep by carking cares:
Or, if he taste the blessedness of night,
Thought for the morrow soon warns slumber off.
Two ancient fishers once lay side by side
On piled-up sea-wrack in their wattled hut,
Its leafy wall their curtain. Near them lay
The weapons of their trade, basket and rod,
Hooks, weed-encumbered nets, and cords and oars,
And, propped on rollers, an infirm old boat.
Their pillow was a scanty mat, eked out
With caps and garments: such the ways and means,
Such the whole treasury of the fishermen.
They knew no luxuries: owned nor door nor dog;
Their craft their all, their mistress Poverty:
Their only neighbour Ocean, who for aye
Bound their lorn hut came floating lazily.
Ere the moon's chariot was in mid-career,
The fishers girt them for their customed toil,
And banished slumber from unwilling eyes,
And roused their dreamy intellects with speech:--
"They say that soon flit summer-nights away,
Because all lingering is the summer day:
Friend, it is false; for dream on dream have I
Dreamed, and the dawn still reddens not the sky.
How? am I wandering? or does night pass slow?"
"Asphalion, scout not the sweet summer so.
'Tis not that wilful seasons have gone wrong,
But care maims slumber, and the nights seem long."
"Didst thou e'er study dreams? For visions fair
I saw last night; and fairly thou should'st share
The wealth I dream of, as the fish I catch.
Now, for sheer sense, I reckon few thy match;
And, for a vision, he whose motherwit
Is his sole tutor best interprets it.
And now we've time the matter to discuss:
For who could labour, lying here (like us)
Pillowed on leaves and neighboured by the deep,
Or sleeping amid thorns no easy sleep?
In rich men's halls the lamps are burning yet;
But fish come alway to the rich man's net."
"To me the vision of the night relate;
Speak, and reveal the riddle to thy mate."
"Last evening, as I plied my watery trade,
(Not on an o'erfull stomach--we had made
Betimes a meagre meal, as you can vouch,)
I fell asleep; and lo! I seemed to crouch
Among the boulders, and for fish to wait,
Still dangling, rod in hand, my vagrant bait.
A fat fellow caught it: (e'en in sleep I'm bound
To dream of fishing, as of crusts the hound:)
Fast clung he to the hooks; his blood outwelled;
Bent with his struggling was the rod I held:
I tugged and tugged: my efforts made me ache:
'How, with a line thus slight, this monster take?'
Then gently, just to warn him he was caught,
I twitched him once; then slacked and then made taut
My line, for now he offered not to ran;
A glance soon showed me all my task was done.
'Twas a gold fish, pure metal every inch
That I had captured. I began to flinch:
'What if this beauty be the sea-king's joy,
Or azure Amphitrite's treasured toy!'
With care I disengaged him--not to rip
With hasty hook the gilding from his lip:
And with a tow-line landed him, and swore
Never to set my foot on ocean more,
But with my gold live royally ashore.
So I awoke: and, comrade, lend me now
Thy wits, for I am troubled for my vow."
"Ne'er quake: you're pledged to nothing, for no prize
You gained or gazed on. Dreams are nought but lies.
Yet may this dream bear fruit; if, wide-awake
And not in dreams, you'll fish the neighbouring lake.
Fish that are meat you'll there mayhap behold,
Not die of famine, amid dreams of gold."
The Sons of Leda
The pair I sing, that AEgis-armed Zeus
Gave unto Leda; Castor and the dread
Of bruisers Polydeuces, whensoe'er
His harnessed hands were lifted for the fray.
Twice and again I sing the manly sons
Of Leda, those Twin Brethren, Sparta's own:
Who shield the soldier on the deadly scarp,
The horse wild-plunging o'er the crimson field,
The ship that, disregarding in her pride
Star-set and star-rise, meets disastrous gales:--
Such gales as pile the billows mountain-high,
E'en at their own wild will, round stem or stern:
Dash o'er the hold, the timbers rive in twain,
Till mast and tackle dangle in mid-air
Shivered like toys, and, as the night wears on,
The rain of heaven falls fast, and, lashed by wind
And iron hail, broad ocean rings again.
Then can they draw from out the nether abyss
Both craft and crew, each deeming he must die:
Lo the winds cease, and o'er the burnished deep
Comes stillness; this way flee the clouds and that;
And shine out clear the Great Bear and the Less,
And, 'twixt the Asses dimly seen, the Crib
Foretells fair voyage to the mariner.
O saviours, O companions of mankind,
Matchless on horse or harp, in lists or lay;
Which of ye twain demands my earliest song?
Of both I sing; of Polydeuces first.
Argo, escaped the two inrushing rocks,
And snow-clad Pontus with his baleful jaws,
Came to Bebrycia with her heaven-sprung freight;
There by one ladder disembarked a host
Of Heroes from the decks of Jason's ship.
On the low beach, to leeward of the cliff,
They leapt, and piled their beds, and lit their fires:
Castor meanwhile, the bridler of the steed,
And Polydeuces of the nut-brown face,
Had wandered from their mates; and, wildered both,
Searched through the boskage of the hill, and found
Hard by a slab of rock a bubbling spring
Brimful of purest water. In the depths
Below, like crystal or like silver gleamed
The pebbles: high above it pine and plane
And poplar rose, and cypress tipt with green;
With all rich flowers that throng the mead, when wanes
The Spring, sweet workshops of the furry bee.
There sat and sunned him one of giant bulk
And grisly mien: hard knocks had stov'n his ears:
Broad were his shoulders, vast his orbed chest;
Like a wrought statue rose his iron frame:
And nigh the shoulder on each brawny arm
Stood out the muscles, huge as rolling stones
Caught by some rain-swoln river and shapen smooth
By its wild eddyings: and o'er nape and spine
Hung, balanced by the claws, a lion's skin.
Him Leda's conquering son accosted first:--
Luck to thee, friend unknown! Who own this shore?
Luck, quotha, to see men ne'er seen before!
Fear not, no base or base-born herd are we.
Nothing I fear, nor need learn this from thee.
What art thou? brutish churl, or o'erproud king?
E'en what thou see'st: and I am not trespassing.
Visit our land, take gifts from us, and go.
I seek naught from thee and can naught bestow.
Not e'en such grace as from yon spring to sip?
Try, if parched thirst sits languid on thy lip.
Can silver move thee? or if not, what can?
Stand up and fight me singly, man with man.
With fists? or fist and foot, eye covering eye?
Fall to with fists; and all thy cunning try.
This arm, these gauntlets, who shall dare withstand?
I: and "the Bruiser" lifts no woman's-hand.
Wilt thou, to crown our strife, some meed assign?
Thou shalt be called my master, or I thine.
By crimson-crested cocks such games are won.
Lions or cocks, we'll play this game or none.
He spoke, and clutched a hollow shell, and blew
His clarion. Straightway to the shadowy pine
Clustering they came, as loud it pealed and long,
Bebrycia's bearded sons; and Castor too,
The peerless in the lists, went forth and called
From the Magnesian ship the Heroes all.
Then either warrior armed with coils of hide
His hands, and round his limbs bound ponderous bands,
And, breathing bloodshed, stept into the ring.
First there was much manoeuvring, who should catch
The sunlight on his rear: but thou didst foil,
O Polydeuces, valour by address;
And full on Amycus' face the hot noon smote.
He in hot wrath strode forward, threatening war;
Straightway the Tyndarid smote him, as he closed,
Full on the chin: more furious waxed he still,
And, earthward bent, dealt blindly random blows.
Bebrycia shouted loud, the Greeks too cheered
Their champion: fearing lest in that scant space
This Tityus by sheer weight should bear him down.
But, shifting yet still there, the son of Zeus
Scored him with swift exchange of left and right,
And checked the onrush of the sea-god's child
Parlous albeit: till, reeling with his wounds,
He stood, and from his lips spat crimson blood.
Cheered yet again the princes, when they saw
The lips and jowl all seamed with piteous scars,
And the swoln visage and the half-closed eyes.
Still the prince teased him, feinting here or there
A thrust; and when he saw him helpless all,
Let drive beneath his eyelids at his nose,
And laid it bare to the bone. The stricken man
Measured his length supine amid the fern.
Keen was the fighting when he rose again,
Deadly the blows their sturdy gauntlets dealt.
But while Bebrycia's chieftain sparred round chest
And utmost shoulder, the resistless foe
Made his whole face one mass of hideous wounds.
While the one sweated all his bulk away,
And, late a giant, seemed a pigmy now,
The other's limbs waxed ever as he fought
In semblance and in size. But in what wise
The child of Zeus brought low that man of greed,
Tell, Muse, for thine is knowledge: I unfold
A secret not mine own; at thy behest
Speak or am dumb, nor speak but as thou wilt.
Amycus, athirst to do some doughty deed,
Stooping aslant from Polydeuces' lunge
Locked their left hands; and, stepping out, upheaved
From his right hip his ponderous other-arm.
And hit and harmed had been Amyclae's king;
But, ducking low, he smote with one stout fist
The foe's left temple--fast the life-blood streamed
From the grim rift--and on his shoulder fell.
While with his left he reached the mouth, and made
The set teeth tingle; and, redoubling aye
His plashing blows, made havoc of his face
And crashed into his cheeks, till all abroad
He lay, and throwing up his arms disclaimed
The strife, for he was even at death's door.
No wrong the vanquished suffered at thy hands,
O Polydeuces; but he sware an oath,
Calling his sire Poseidon from the depths,
Ne'er to do violence to a stranger more.
Thy tale, O prince, is told. Now sing I thee,
Castor the Tyndarid, lord of rushing horse
And shaking javelin, corsleted in brass.
The sons of Zeus had borne two maids away,
Leucippus' daughters. Straight in hot pursuit
Went the two brethren, sons of Aphareus,
Lynceus and Idas bold, their plighted lords.
And when the tomb of Aphareus was gained,
All leapt from out their cars, and front to front
Stood, with their ponderous spears and orbed shields.
First Lynceus shouted loud from 'neath his helm:
"Whence, sirs, this lust for strife? Why, sword in hand,
Raise ye this coil about your neighbours' wives?
To us Leucippus these his daughters gave,
Long ere ye saw them: they are ours on oath.
Ye, coveting (to your shame) your neighbour's bed
And kine and asses and whatever is his,
Suborned the man and stole our wives by bribes.
How often spake I thus before your face,
Yea I myself, though scant I am of phrase:
'Not thus, fair sirs, do honourable men
Seek to woo wives whose troth is given elsewhere.
Lo, broad is Sparta, broad the hunting-grounds
Of Elis: fleecy Arcady is broad,
And Argos and Messene and the towns
To westward, and the long Sisyphian reach.
There 'neath her parents' roof dwells many a maid
Second to none in godliness or wit:
Wed of all these, and welcome, whom ye will,
For all men court the kinship of the brave;
And ye are as your sires, and they whose blood
Runs in your mother's veins, the flower of war.
Nay, sirs, but let us bring this thing to pass;
Then, taking counsel, choose meet brides for you.'
So I ran on; but o'er the shifting seas
The wind's breath blew my words, that found no grace
With you, for ye defied the charmer's voice.
Yet listen to me now if ne'er before:
Lo! we are kinsmen by the father's side.
But if ye lust for war, if strife must break
Forth among kin, and bloodshed quench our feud,
Bold Polydeuces then shall hold his hands
And his cousin Idas from the abhorred fray:
While I and Castor, the two younger-born,
Try war's arbitrament; so spare our sires
Sorrow exceeding. In one house one dead
Sufficeth: let the others glad their mates,
To the bride-chamber passing, not the grave,
And o'er yon maids sing jubilee. Well it were
At cost so small to lay so huge a strife."
He spoke--his words heaven gave not to the winds.
They, the two first-born, disarrayed and piled
Their arms, while Lynceus stept into the ring,
And at his shield's rim shook his stalwart spear.
And Castor likewise poised his quivering lance;
High waved the plume on either warrior's helm.
First each at other thrust with busy spear
Where'er he spied an inch of flesh exposed:
But lo! both spearpoints in their wicker shields
Lodged ere a blow was struck, and snapt in twain.
Then they unsheathed their swords, and framed new modes
Of slaughter: pause or respite there was none.
Oft Castor on broad shield and plumed helm
Lit, and oft keen-eyed Lynceus pierced his shield,
Or grazed his crest of crimson. But anon,
As Lynceus aimed his blade at Castor's knee,
Back with the left sprang Castor and struck off
His fingers: from the maimed limb dropped the sword.
And, flying straightway, for his father's tomb
He made, where gallant Idas sat and saw
The battle of the brethren. But the child
Of Zeus rushed in, and with his broadsword drave
Through flank and navel, sundering with swift stroke
His vitals: Lynceus tottered and he fell,
And o'er his eyelids rushed the dreamless sleep.
Nor did their mother see her elder son
Come a fair bridegroom to his Cretan home.
For Idas wrenched from off the dead man's tomb
A jutting slab, to hurl it at the man
Who had slain his brother. Then did Zeus bring aid,
And struck the marble fabric from his grasp,
And with red lightning burned his frame to dust.
So doth he fight with odds who dares provoke
The Tyndarids, mighty sons of mighty sire.
Now farewell, Leda's children: prosper aye
The songs I sing. What minstrel loves not well
The Tyndarids, and Helen, and the chiefs
That trod Troy down for Menelaeus' sake?
The bard of Chios wrought your royal deeds
Into his lays, who sang of Priam's state,
And fights 'neath Ilion's walls; of sailor Greeks,
And of Achilles towering in the strife.
Yet take from me whate'er of clear sweet song
The Muse accords me, even all my store!
The gods' most precious gift is minstrelsy.
A lad deep-dipt in passion pined for one
Whose mood was froward as her face was fair.
Lovers she loathed, for tenderness she had none:
Ne'er knew what Love was like, nor how he bare
A bow, and arrows to make young maids smart:
Proof to all speech, all access, seemed her heart.
So he found naught his furnace to allay;
No quiver of lips, no lighting of kind eyes,
Nor rose-flushed cheek; no talk, no lover's play
Was deigned him: but as forest-beasts are shy
Of hound and hunter, with this wight dealt she;
Fierce was her lip, her eyes gleamed ominously.
Her tyrant's-heart was imaged in her face,
That flushed, then altering put on blank disdain.
Yet, even then, her anger had its grace,
And made her lover fall in love again.
At last, unable to endure his flame,
To the fell threshold all in tears he came:
Kissed it, and lifted up his voice and said:
"O heart of stone, O curst and cruel maid
Unworthy of all love, by lions bred,
See, my last offering at thy feet is laid,
The halter that shall hang me! So no more
For my sake, lady, need thy heart be sore.
Whither thou doom'st me, thither must I fare.
There is a path, that whoso treads hath ease
(Men say) from love; Forgetfulness is there.
But if I drain that chalice to the lees,
I may not quench the love I have for you;
Now at your gates I cast my long adieu.
Your future I foresee. The rose is gay,
And passing-sweet the violet of the spring:
Yet time despoils them, and they soon decay.
The lily droops and dies, that lustrous thing;
The solid-seeming snowdrift melts full fast;
And maiden's bloom is rare, but may not last.
The time shall come, when you shall feel as I;
And, with seared heart, weep many a bitter tear.
But, maiden, grant one farewell courtesy.
When you come forth, and see me hanging here,
E'en at your door, forget not my hard case;
But pause and weep me for a moment's space.
And drop one tear, and cut me down, and spread
O'er me some garment, for a funeral pall,
That wrapped thy limbs: and kiss me--let the dead
Be privileged thus highly--last of all.
You need not fear me: not if your disdain
Changed into fondness could I live again.
And scoop a grave, to hide my loves and me:
And thrice, at parting, say, 'My friend's no more:'
Add if you list, 'a faithful friend was he;'
And write this epitaph, scratched upon your door:
_Stranger, Love slew him. Pass not by, until
Thou hast paused and said, 'His mistress used him ill_.'"
This said, he grasped a stone: that ghastly stone
At the mid threshold 'neath the wall he laid,
And o'er the beam the light cord soon was thrown,
And his neck noosed. In air the body swayed,
Its footstool spurned away. Forth came once more
The maid, and saw him hanging at her door.
No struggle of heart it cost her, ne'er a tear
She wept o'er that young life, nor shunned to soil,
By contact with the corpse, her woman's-gear.
But on she went to watch the athletes' toil,
Then made for her loved haunt, the riverside:
And there she met the god she had defied.
For on a marble pedestal Eros stood
Fronting the pool: the statue leaped, and smote
And slew that miscreant. All the stream ran blood;
And to the top a girl's cry seemed to float.
Rejoice, O lovers, since the scorner fell;
And, maids, be kind; for Love deals justice well.
The Infant Heracles.
Alcmena once had washed and given the breast
To Heracles, a babe of ten months old,
And Iphicles his junior by a night;
And cradled both within a brazen shield,
A gorgeous trophy, which Amphitryon erst
Had stript from Pterelaeus fall'n in fight.
She stroked their baby brows, and thus she said:
"Sleep, children mine, a light luxurious sleep,
Brother with brother: sleep, my boys, my life:
Blest in your slumber, in your waking blest!"
She spake and rocked the shield; and in his arms
Sleep took them. But at midnight, when the Bear
Wheels to his setting, in Orion's front
Whose shoulder then beams broadest; Hera sent,
Mistress of wiles, two huge and hideous things,
Snakes with their scales of azure all on end,
To the broad portal of the chamber-door,
All to devour the infant Heracles.
They, all their length uncoiled upon the floor,
Writhed on to their blood-feast; a baleful light
Gleamed in their eyes, rank venom they spat forth.
But when with lambent tongues they neared the cot,
Alcmena's babes (for Zeus was watching all)
Woke, and throughout the chamber there was light.
Then Iphicles--so soon as he descried
The fell brutes peering o'er the hollow shield,
And saw their merciless fangs--cried lustily,
And kicked away his coverlet of down,
Fain to escape. But Heracles, he clung
Round them with warlike hands, in iron grasp
Prisoning the two: his clutch upon their throat,
The deadly snake's laboratory, where
He brews such poisons as e'en heaven abhors.
They twined and twisted round the babe that, born
After long travail, ne'er had shed a tear
E'en in his nursery; soon to quit their hold,
For powerless seemed their spines. Alcmena heard,
While her lord slept, the crying, and awoke.
"Amphitryon, up: chill fears take hold on me.
Up: stay not to put sandals on thy feet.
Hear'st thou our child, our younger, how he cries?
Seest thou yon walls illumed at dead of night,
But not by morn's pure beam? I know, I know,
Sweet lord, that some strange thing is happening here."
She spake; and he, upleaping at her call,
Made swiftly for the sword of quaint device
That aye hung dangling o'er his cedarn couch:
And he was reaching at his span-new belt,
The scabbard (one huge piece of lotus-wood)
Poised on his arm; when suddenly the night
Spread out her hands, and all was dark again.
Then cried he to his slaves, whose sleep was deep:
"Quick, slaves of mine; fetch fire from yonder hearth:
And force with all your strength the doorbolts back!
Up, loyal-hearted slaves: the master calls."
Forth came at once the slaves with lighted lamps.
The house was all astir with hurrying feet.
But when they saw the suckling Heracles
With the two brutes grasped firm in his soft hands,
They shouted with one voice. But he must show
The reptiles to Amphitryon; held aloft
His hands in childish glee, and laughed and laid
At his sire's feet the monsters still in death.
Then did Alcmena to her bosom take
The terror-blanched and passionate Iphicles:
Cradling the other in a lambswool quilt,
Her lord once more bethought him of his rest.
Now cocks had thrice sung out that night was e'er.
Then went Alcmena forth and told the thing
To Teiresias the seer, whose words were truth,
And bade him rede her what the end should be:--
'And if the gods bode mischief, hide it not,
Pitying, from me: man shall not thus avoid
The doom that Fate upon her distaff spins.
Son of Eueres, thou hast ears to hear.'
Thus spake the queen, and thus he made reply:
"Mother of monarchs, Perseus' child, take heart;
And look but on the fairer side of things.
For by the precious light that long ago
Left tenantless these eyes, I swear that oft
Achaia's maidens, as when eve is high
They mould the silken yarn upon their lap,
Shall tell Alcmena's story: blest art thou
Of women. Such a man in this thy son
Shall one day scale the star-encumbered heaven:
His amplitude of chest bespeaks him lord
Of all the forest beasts and all mankind.
Twelve tasks accomplished he must dwell with Zeus;
His flesh given over to Trachinian fires;
And son-in-law be hailed of those same gods
Who sent yon skulking brutes to slay thy babe.
Lo! the day cometh when the fawn shall couch
In the wolfs lair, nor fear the spiky teeth
That would not harm him. But, O lady, keep
Yon smouldering fire alive; prepare you piles
Of fuel, bramble-sprays or fern or furze
Or pear-boughs dried with swinging in the wind:
And let the kindled wild-wood burn those snakes
At midnight, when they looked to slay thy babe.
And let at dawn some handmaid gather up
The ashes of the fire, and diligently
Convey and cast each remnant o'er the stream
Faced by clov'n rocks, our boundary: then return
Nor look behind. And purify your home
First with sheer sulphur, rain upon it then,
(Chaplets of olive wound about your heads,)
Innocuous water, and the customed salt.
Lastly, to Zeus almighty slay a boar:
So shall ye vanquish all your enemies."
Spake Teiresias, and wheeling (though his years
Weighed on him sorely) gained his ivory car.
And Heracles as some young orchard-tree
Grew up, Amphitryon his reputed sire.
Old Linus taught him letters, Phoebus' child,
A dauntless toiler by the midnight lamp.
Each fall whereby the sons of Argos fell,
The flingers by cross-buttock, each his man
By feats of wrestling: all that boxers e'er,
Grim in their gauntlets, have devised, or they
Who wage mixed warfare and, adepts in art,
Upon the foe fall headlong: all such lore
Phocian Harpalicus gave him, Hermes' son:
Whom no man might behold while yet far off
And wait his armed onset undismayed:
A brow so truculent roofed so stern a face.
To launch, and steer in safety round the goal,
Chariot and steed, and damage ne'er a wheel,
This the lad learned of fond Amphitryon's self.
Many a fair prize from listed warriors he
Had won on Argive racegrounds; yet the car
Whereon he sat came still unshattered home,
What gaps were in his harness time had made.
Then with couched lance to reach the foe, his targe
Covering his rear, and bide the biting sword;
Or, on the warpath, place his ambuscade,
Marshal his lines and rally his cavaliers;
This knightly Castor learned him, erst exiled
From Argos, when her realms with all their wealth
Of vineyards fell to Tydeus, who received
Her and her chariots at Adrastus' hand.
Amongst the Heroes none was Castor's match
Till age had dimmed the glory of his youth.
Such tutors this fond mother gave her son.
The stripling's bed was at his father's side,
One after his own heart, a lion's skin.
His dinner, roast meat, with a loaf that filled
A Dorian basket, you might soothly say
Had satisfied a delver; and to close
The day he took, sans fire, a scanty meal.
A simple frock went halfway down his leg:
* * * * *
Heracles the Lion Slayer.
* * * * *
To whom thus spake the herdsman of the herd,
Pausing a moment from his handiwork:
"Friend, I will solve thy questions, for I fear
The angry looks of Hermes of the roads.
No dweller in the skies is wroth as he,
With him who saith the asking traveller nay.
"The flocks Augeas owns, our gracious lord,
One pasture pastures not, nor one fence bounds.
They wander, look you, some by Elissus' banks
Or god-beloved Alpheus' sacred stream,
Some by Buprasion, where the grape abounds,
Some here: their folds stand separate. But before
His herds, though they be myriad, yonder glades
That belt the broad lake round lie fresh and fair
For ever: for the low-lying meadows take
The dew, and teem with herbage honeysweet,
To lend new vigour to the horned kine.
Here on thy right their stalls thou canst descry
By the flowing river, for all eyes to see:
Here, where the platans blossom all the year,
And glimmers green the olive that enshrines
Rural Apollo, most august of gods.
Hard by, fair mansions have been reared for us
His herdsmen; us who guard with might and main
His riches that are more than tongue may tell:
Casting our seed o'er fallows thrice upturn'd
Or four times by the share; the bounds whereof
Well do the delvers know, whose busy feet
Troop to his wine-vats in fair summer-time.
Yea, all these acres wise Augeas owns,
These corn-clad uplands and these orchards green,
Far as yon ledges whence the cataracts leap.
Here do we haunt, here toil, as is the wont
Of labourers in the fields, the livelong day.
But prythee tell me thou--so shalt thou best
Serve thine own interests--wherefore art thou here?
Seeking Augeas, or mayhap some slave
That serves him? I can tell thee and I will
All thou would'st know: for of no churlish blood
Thou earnest, nor wert nurtured as a churl:
That read I in thy stateliness of form;
The sons of heaven move thus among mankind."
Then answered him the warrior son of Zeus.
"Yea, veteran, I would see the Epean King
Augeas; surely for this end I came.
If he bides there amongst his citizens,
Ruling the folk, determining the laws,
Look, father; bid some serf to be my guide,
Some honoured master-worker in the fields,
Who to shrewd questions shrewdly can reply.
Are not we made dependent each on each?"
To him the good old swain made answer thus:
"Stranger, some god hath timed thy visit here,
And given thee straightway all thy heart's desire.
Hither Augeas, offspring of the Sun,
Came, with young Phyleus splendid in his strength,
But yesterday from the city, to review
(Not in one day) his multitudinous wealth,
Methinks e'en princes say within themselves,
'The safeguard of the flock's the master's eye.'
But haste, we'll seek him: to my own fold I
Will pilot thee; there haply find the King."
He said and went in front: but pondered much
(As he surveyed the lion-skin and the club,
Itself an armful) whence this stranger came;
And fain had asked. But fear recalled the words
That trembled on his lip, the fear to say
Aught that his fiery friend might take amiss.
For who can fathom all his fellow's mind?
The dogs perceived their coming, yet far off:
They scented flesh, they heard the thud of feet:
And with wild gallop, baying furiously,
Ran at Amphitryon's son: but feebly whined
And fawned upon the old man at his side.
Then Heracles, just lifting from the ground
A pebble, scared them home, and with hard words
Cursed the whole pack; and having stopped their din
(Inly rejoiced, nathless, to see them guard
So well an absent master's house) he spake:
"Lo! what a friend the royal gods have given
Man in the dog! A trusty servant he!
Had he withal an understanding heart,
To teach him when to rage and when forbear,
What brute could claim like praise? But, lacking wit,
'Tis but a passionate random-raving thing."
He spake: the dogs ran scurrying to their lairs.
And now the sun wheeled round his westering car
And led still evening on: from every field
Came thronging the fat flocks to bield and byre.
Then in their thousands, drove on drove, the kine
Came into view; as rainclouds, onward driven
By stress of gales, the west or mighty north,
Come up o'er all the heaven; and none may count
And naught may stay them as they sweep through air;
Such multitudes the storm's strength drives ahead,
Such multitudes climb surging in the rear--
So in swift sequence drove succeeded drove,
And all the champaign, all the highways swarmed
With tramping oxen; all the sumptuous leas
Rang with their lowing. Soon enough the stalls
Were populous with the laggard-footed kine,
Soon did the sheep lie folded in their folds.
Then of that legion none stood idle, none
Gaped listless at the herd, with naught to do:
But one drew near and milked them, binding clogs
Of wood with leathern thongs around their feet:
One brought, all hungering for the milk they loved,
The longing young ones to the longing dams.
One held the pail, one pressed the dainty cheese,
Or drove the bulls home, sundered from the kine.
Pacing from stall to stall, Augeas saw
What revenue his herdsman brought him in.
With him his son surveyed the royal wealth,
And, strong of limb and purpose, Heracles.
Then, though the heart within him was as steel,
Framed to withstand all shocks, Amphitryon's son
Gazed in amazement on those thronging kine;
For none had deemed or dreamed that one, or ten,
Whose wealth was more than regal, owned those tribes:
Such huge largess the Sun had given his child,
First of mankind for multitude of flocks.
The Sun himself gave increase day by day
To his child's herds: whatever diseases spoil
The farmer, came not there; his kine increased
In multitude and value year by year:
None cast her young, or bare unfruitful males.
Three hundred bulls, white-pasterned, crumple-horned,
Ranged amid these, and eke two hundred roans,
Sires of a race to be: and twelve besides
Herded amongst them, sacred to the Sun.
Their skin was white as swansdown, and they moved
Like kings amid the beasts of laggard foot.
Scorning the herd in uttermost disdain
They cropped the green grass in untrodden fields:
And when from the dense jungle to the plain
Leapt a wild beast, in quest of vagrant cows;
Scenting him first, the twelve went forth to war.
Stern was their bellowing, in their eye sat death,
Foremost of all for mettle and for might
And pride of heart loomed Phaeton: him the swains
Regarded as a star; so bright he shone
Among the herd, the cynosure of eyes.
He, soon as he descried the sun-dried skin
Of the grim lion, made at Heracles
(Whose eye was on him)--fain to make his crest
And sturdy brow acquainted with his flanks.
Straight the prince grasped him with no tender grasp
By the left horn, and bowed that giant bulk
To earth, neck foremost: then, by pressure brought
To bear upon his shoulder, forced him back.
The web of muscles that enwraps the nerves
Stood out from the brute's fore-arm plain to see.
Marvelled the King, and Phyleus his brave son,
At the strange prowess of Amphitryon's child.
Then townwards, leaving straight that rich champaign,
Stout Heracles his comrade, Phyleus fared;
And soon as they had gained the paven road,
Making their way hotfooted o'er a path
(Not o'er-conspicuous in the dim green wood)
That left the farm and threaded through the vines,
Out-spake unto the child of Zeus most high,
Who followed in his steps, Augeas' son,
O'er his right shoulder glancing pleasantly.
"O stranger, as some old familiar tale
I seem to cast thy history in my mind.
For there came one to Argos, young and tall,
By birth a Greek from Helice-on-seas,
Who told this tale before a multitude:
How that an Argive in his presence slew
A fearful lion-beast, the dread and death
Of herdsmen; which inhabited a den
Or cavern by the grove of Nemean Zeus.
He may have come from sacred Argos' self,
Or Tiryns, or Mycenae: what know I?
But thus he told his tale, and said the slayer
Was (if my memory serves me) Perseus' son.
Methinks no islander had dared that deed
Save thee: the lion's skin that wraps thy ribs
Argues full well some gallant feat of arms.
But tell me, warrior, first--that I may know
If my prophetic soul speak truth or not--
Art thou the man of whom that stranger Greek
Spoke in my hearing? Have I guessed aright?
How slew you single-handed that fell beast?
How came it among rivered Nemea's glens?
For none such monster could the eagerest eye
Find in all Greece: Greece harbours bear and boar,
And deadly wolf: but not this larger game.
'Twas this that made his listeners marvel then:
They deemed he told them travellers' tales, to win
By random words applause from standers-by."
Then Phyleus from the mid-road edged away,
That both might walk abreast, and he might catch
More at his ease what fell from Heracles:
Who journeying now alongside thus began:--
"On the prior matter, O Augeas' child,
Thine own unaided wit hath ruled aright.
But all that monster's history, how it fell,
Fain would I tell thee who hast ears to hear,
Save only whence it came: for none of all
The Argive host could read that riddle right.
Some god, we dimly guessed, our niggard vows
Resenting, had upon Phoroneus' realm
Let loose this very scourge of humankind.
On peopled Pisa plunging like a flood
The brute ran riot: notably it cost
Its neighbours of Bembina woes untold.
And here Eurystheus bade me try my first
Passage of arms, and slay that fearsome thing.
So with my buxom bow and quiver lined
With arrows I set forth: my left hand held
My club, a beetling olive's stalwart trunk
And shapely, still environed in its bark:
This hand had torn from holiest Helicon
The tree entire, with all its fibrous roots.
And finding soon the lion's whereabouts,
I grasped my bow, and on the bent horn slipped
The string, and laid thereon the shaft of death.
And, now all eyes, I watched for that fell thing,
In hopes to view him ere he spied out me.
But midday came, and nowhere could I see
One footprint of the beast or hear his roar:
And, trust me, none appeared of whom to ask,
Herdsman or labourer, in the furrowed lea;
For wan dismay kept each man in his hut.
Still on I footed, searching through and through
The leafy mountain-passes, till I saw
The creature, and forthwith essayed my strength.
Gorged from some gory carcass, on he stalked
At eve towards his lair; his grizzled mane,
Shoulders, and grim glad visage, all adrip
With carnage; and he licked his bearded lips.
I, crouched among the shadows of the trees
On the green hill-top, waited his approach,
And as he came I aimed at his left flank.
The barbed shaft sped idly, nor could pierce
The flesh, but glancing dropped on the green grass.
He, wondering, raised forthwith his tawny head,
And ran his eyes o'er all the vicinage,
And snarled and gave to view his cavernous throat.
Meanwhile I levelled yet another shaft,
Ill pleased to think my first had fled in vain.
In the mid-chest I smote him, where the lungs
Are seated: still the arrow sank not in,
But fell, its errand frustrate, at his feet.
Once more was I preparing, sore chagrined,
To draw the bowstring, when the ravenous beast
Glaring around espied me, lashed his sides
With his huge tail, and opened war at once.
Swelled his vast neck, his dun locks stood on end
With rage: his spine moved sinuous as a bow,
Till all his weight hung poised on flank and loin.
And e'en as, when a chariot-builder bends
With practised skill his shafts of splintered fig,
Hot from the fire, to be his axle-wheels;
Flies the tough-rinded sapling from the hands
That shape it, at a bound recoiling far:
So from far-off the dread beast, all of a heap,
Sprang on me, hungering for my life-blood. I
Thrust with one hand my arrows in his face
And my doffed doublet, while the other raised
My seasoned cudgel o'er his crest, and drave
Full at his temples, breaking clean in twain
On the fourfooted warrior's airy scalp
My club; and ere he reached me, down he fell.
Headlong he fell, and poised on tremulous feet
Stood, his head wagging, and his eyes grown dim;
For the shrewd stroke had shattered brain and bone.
I, marking him beside himself with pain.
Fell, ere recovering he should breathe again,
At vantage on his solid sinewy neck,
My bow and woven quiver thrown aside.
With iron clasp I gripped him from the rear
(His talons else had torn me) and, my foot
Set on him, forced to earth by dint of heel
His hinder parts, my flanks entrenched the while
Behind his fore-arm; till his thews were stretched
And strained, and on his haunches stark he stood
And lifeless; hell received his monstrous ghost.
Then with myself I counselled how to strip
From off the dead beast's limbs his shaggy hide,
A task full onerous, since I found it proof
Against all blows of steel or stone or wood.
Some god at last inspired me with the thought,
With his own claws to rend the lion's skin.
With these I flayed him soon, and sheathed and armed
My limbs against the shocks of murderous war.
Thus, sir, the Nemean lion met his end,
Erewhile the constant curse of beast and man."
Agave of the vermeil-tinted cheek
And Ino and Autonoae marshalled erst
Three bands of revellers under one hill-peak.
They plucked the wild-oak's matted foliage first,
Lush ivy then, and creeping asphodel;
And reared therewith twelve shrines amid the untrodden fell:
To Semele three, to Dionysus nine.
Next, from a vase drew offerings subtly wrought,
And prayed and placed them on each fresh green shrine;
So by the god, who loved such tribute, taught.
Perched on the sheer cliff, Pentheus could espy
All, in a mastick hoar ensconced that grew thereby.
Autonoae marked him, and with, frightful cries
Flew to make havoc of those mysteries weird
That must not be profaned by vulgar eyes.
Her frenzy frenzied all. Then Pentheus feared
And fled: and in his wake those damsels three,
Each with her trailing robe up-gathered to the knee.
"What will ye, dames," quoth Pentheus. "Thou shalt guess
At what we mean, untold," Autonoae said.
Agave moaned--so moans a lioness
Over her young one--as she clutched his head:
While Ino on the carcass fairly laid
Her heel, and wrenched away shoulder and shoulder-blade.
Autonoae's turn came next: and what remained
Of flesh their damsels did among them share,
And back to Thebes they came all carnage-stained,
And planted not a king but aching there.
Warned by this tale, let no man dare defy
Great Bacchus; lest a death more awful he should die,
And when he counts nine years or scarcely ten,
Rush to his ruin. May I pass my days
Uprightly, and be loved of upright men!
And take this motto, all who covet praise:
('Twas AEgis-bearing Zeus that spake it first:)
'The godly seed fares well: the wicked's is accurst.'
Now bless ye Bacchus, whom on mountain snows,
Prisoned in his thigh till then, the Almighty laid.
And bless ye fairfaced Semele, and those
Her sisters, hymned of many a hero-maid,
Who wrought, by Bacchus fired, a deed which none
May gainsay--who shall blame that which a god hath done?
A Countryman's Wooing.
_DAPHNIS. A MAIDEN_.
How fell sage Helen? through a swain like thee.
Nay the true Helen's just now kissing me.
Satyr, ne'er boast: 'what's idler than a kiss?'
Yet in such pleasant idling there is bliss.
I'll wash my mouth: where go thy kisses then?
Wash, and return it--to be kissed again.
Go kiss your oxen, and not unwed maids.
Ne'er boast; for beauty is a dream that fades.
Past grapes are grapes: dead roses keep their smell.
Come to yon olives: I have a tale to tell.
Not I: you fooled me with smooth words before.
Come to yon elms, and hear me pipe once more.
Pipe to yourself: your piping makes me cry.
A maid, and flout the Paphian? Fie, oh fie!
She's naught to me, if Artemis' favour last.
Hush, ere she smite you and entrap you fast.
And let her smite me, trap me as she will!
Your Artemis shall be your saviour still?
Unhand me! What, again? I'll tear your lip.
Can you, could damsel e'er, give Love the slip?
You are his bondslave, but not I by Pan!
I doubt he'll give thee to a worser man.
Many have wooed me, but I fancied none.
Till among many came the destined _one_.
Wedlock is woe. Dear lad, what can I do?
Woe it is not, but joy and dancing too.
Back to Full Books