Charmides

The Dream of Poor Bazin

Jerry Stratton

What if the Three Musketeers were journalists in Washington, DC? What if journalists were swashbuckling, swaggering, hard-drinking warriors of truth? Find out in Jerry Stratton’s The Dream of Poor Bazin.

I

    • He was a Grecian lad, who coming home
    • With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
    • Stood at his galley’s prow, and let the foam
    • Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
    • And holding wind and wave in boy’s despite
    • Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and
    • stormy night.
    • Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
    • Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
    • And hoisted sail, and strained the creeking gear,
    • And bade the pilot head her lustily
    • Against the nor-west gale, and all day long
    • Held on his way, and marked the rowers’ time with
    • measured song.
    • And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
    • Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
    • And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
    • And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
    • And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
    • Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals
    • brazen-soled.
    • And a rich robe stained with the fishes’ juice
    • Which of some swarthy trader he had bought
    • Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
    • And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
    • And by the questioning merchants made his way
    • Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the
    • laboring day
    • Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
    • Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
    • Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
    • Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
    • Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
    • The firstling of their little flock, and the shy
    • shepherd fling
    • The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
    • His studded crook against the temple wall
    • To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
    • Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
    • And then the clear-voiced maidens ’gan to sing,
    • And to the altar each man brought some goodly
    • offering,
    • A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
    • A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
    • Of hounds in chase, a waxen honeycomb
    • Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee
    • Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
    • Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce
    • and white-tusked spoil
    • Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
    • To please Athena, and the dappled hide
    • Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
    • Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
    • And from the pillared precinct one by one
    • Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their
    • simple vows had done.
    • And the old priest put out the waning fires
    • Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed
    • For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
    • Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
    • In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
    • And with stout hands the warder closed the gates
    • of polished brass.
    • Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
    • And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
    • And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
    • As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
    • And seemed to be in some entranced swoon
    • Till through the open roof above the full and
    • brimming moon
    • Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
    • When from his nook upleapt the venturous lad,
    • And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
    • Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
    • And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
    • From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and
    • ruin flared
    • Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
    • The Gorgon’s head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
    • And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
    • And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
    • In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
    • The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill
    • amaze.
    • The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
    • Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
    • The net for tunnies, heard a brazen tramp
    • Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
    • Divide the folded curtains of the night,
    • And knelt upon the little poop, and prayed in
    • holy fright.
    • And guilty lovers in their venery
    • Forgat a little while their stolen sweets,
    • Deeming they heard dread Dian’s bitter cry;
    • And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
    • Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
    • Or strained black-bearded throats across the
    • dusky parapet.
    • For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
    • And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
    • And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
    • Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
    • And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
    • And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the
    • cavalcade.
    • Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
    • And well content at such a price to see
    • That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood.
    • The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
    • Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
    • Since Troy’s young shepherd prince had seen so
    • wonderful a sight.
    • Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
    • Grew silent, and the horses ceased to neigh,
    • And off his brow he tossed the clustering hair,
    • And from his limbs he threw the cloak away,
    • For whom would not such love make desperate,
    • And nigher came, and touched her throat, and with
    • hands violate
    • Undid the cuirass, and the crocus gown,
    • And bared the breasts of polished ivory,
    • Till from the waist the peplos falling down
    • Left visible the secret mystery
    • Which no lover will Athena show,
    • The grand cool flanks, the crescent thighs, the
    • bossy hills of snow.
    • Those who have never known a lover’s sin
    • Let them not read my ditty, it will be
    • To their dull ears so musicless and thin
    • That they will have no joy of it, but ye
    • To whose wan cheeks now creeps the lingering smile,
    • Ye who have learned who Eros is,-
    • O listen yet a-while.
    • A little space he let his greedy eyes
    • Rest on the burnished image, till mere sight
    • Half swooned for surfeit of such luxuries,
    • And then his lips in hungering delight
    • Fed on her lips, and round the towered neck
    • He flung his arms, nor cared at all his passion’s
    • will to check.
    • Never I ween did lover hold such tryst,
    • For all night long he murmured honeyed word,
    • And saw her sweet unravished limbs, and kissed
    • Her pale and argent body undisturbed,
    • And paddled with the polished throat, and pressed
    • His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast.
    • It was as if Numidian javelins
    • Pierced through and through his wild and whirling brain,
    • And his nerves thrilled like throbbing violins
    • In exquisite pulsation, and the pain
    • Was such sweet anguish that he never drew
    • His lips from hers till overhead the lark of warning flew.
    • They who have never seen the daylight peer
    • Into a darkened room, and drawn the curtain,
    • And with dull eyes and wearied from some dear
    • And worshipped body risen, they for certain
    • Will never know of what I try to sing,
    • How long the last kiss was, how fond and late his
    • lingering.
    • The moon was girdled with a crystal rim,
    • The sign which shipmen say is ominous
    • Of wrath in heaven, the wan stars were dim
    • And the low lightening cast was tremulous
    • With the faint fluttering wings of flying dawn,
    • Ere from the silent sombre shrine this lover had
    • withdrawn.
    • Down the steep rock with hurried feet and fast
    • Clomb the brave lad, and reached the cave of Pan,
    • And heard the goat-foot snoring as he passed,
    • And leapt upon a grassy knoll and ran
    • Like a young fawn unto an olive wood
    • Which in a shady valley by the well-built city stood.
    • And sought a little stream, which well he knew,
    • For oftentimes with boyish careless shout
    • The green and crested grebe he would pursue,
    • Or snare in woven net the silver trout,
    • And down amid the startled reeds he lay
    • Panting in breathless sweet affright, and waited
    • for the day.
    • On the green bank he lay, and let one hand
    • Dip in the cool dark eddies listlessly,
    • And soon the breath of morning came and fanned
    • His hot flushed cheeks, or lifted wantonly
    • The tangled curls from off his forehead, while
    • He on the running water gazed with strange and
    • secret smile.
    • And soon the shepherd in rough woollen cloak
    • With his long crook undid the wattled cotes,
    • And from the stack a thin blue wreath of smoke
    • Curled through the air across the ripening oats,
    • And on the hill the yellow house-dog bayed
    • As through the crisp and rustling fern the heavy
    • cattle strayed.
    • And when the light-foot mower went a-field
    • Across the meadows laced with threaded dew,
    • And the sheep bleated on the misty weald,
    • And from its nest the wakening corn-crake flew,
    • Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
    • And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,
    • Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
    • “It is young Hylas, that false runaway
    • Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
    • Forgetting Herakles,” but others, “Nay,
    • It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
    • Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman
    • can allure.”
    • And when they nearer cane a third one cried,
    • “It is young Dionysos who has hid
    • His spear and fawnskin by the river side
    • Weary of hunting with the Bassarid,
    • And wise indeed were we away to fly,
    • They live not long who on the gods immortal
    • come to spy.”
    • So turned they back, and feared to look behind,
    • And told the timid swain how they had seen
    • Amid the reeds some woodland God reclined,
    • And no man dared to cross the open green,
    • And on that day no olive-tree was slain,
    • Nor rushes cut, but all deserted was the fair domain.
    • Save when the neat-herd’s lad, his empty pail
    • Well slung upon his back, with leap and bound
    • Raced on the other side, and stopped to hail
    • Hoping that he some comrade new had found,
    • And gat no answer, and then half afraid
    • Passed on his simple way, or down the still and
    • silent glade.
    • A little girl ran laughing from the farm
    • Not thinking of love’s secret mysteries,
    • And when she saw the white and gleaming arm
    • And all his manlihood, with longing eyes
    • Whose passion mocked her sweet virginity
    • Watched him a-while, and then stole back sadly
    • and wearily.
    • Far off he heard the city’s hum and noise,
    • And now and then the shriller laughter where
    • The passionate purity of brown-limbed boys
    • Wrestled or raced in the clear healthful air,
    • And now and then a little tinkling bell
    • As the shorn wether led the sheep down to the
    • mossy well.
    • Through the gray willows danced the fretful gnat,
    • The grasshopper chirped idly from the tree,
    • In sleek and oily coat the water-rat
    • Breasting the little ripples manfully
    • Made for the wild-duck’s nest, from bough to bough
    • Hopped the shy finch, and the huge tortoise crept
    • across the slough.
    • On the faint wind floated the silky seeds,
    • As the bright scythe swept through the waving grass,
    • The ousel-cock splashed circles in the reeds
    • And flecked with silver whorls the forest’s glass,
    • Which scarce had caught again its imagery
    • Ere from its bed the dusky tench leapt at the dragon-fly.
    • But little care had he for anything
    • Though up and down the beech the squirrel played,
    • And from the copse the linnet ’gan to sing
    • To her brown mate her sweetest serenade,
    • Ah! little care indeed, for he had seen
    • The breasts of Pallas and the naked wonder of the Queen.
    • But when the herdsman called his straggling goats
    • With whistling pipe across the rocky road,
    • And the shard-beetle with its trumpet-notes
    • Boomed through the darkening woods, and seemed to bode
    • Of coming storm, and the belated crane
    • Passed homeward like a shadow, and the dull big drops of
    • rain
    • Fell on the pattering fig-leaves, up he rose,
    • And from the gloomy forest went his way
    • Past sombre homestead and wet orchard-close,
    • And came at last unto a little quay,
    • And called his mates a-board, and took his seat
    • On the high poop, and pushed from land, and loosed
    • the dripping sheet,
    • And steered across the bay, and when nine suns
    • Passed down the long and laddered way of gold,
    • And nine pale moons had breathed their orisons
    • To the chaste stars their confessors, or told
    • Their dearest secret to the downy moth
    • That will not fly at noonday, through the foam and
    • surging froth
    • Came a great owl with yellow sulphurous eyes
    • And lit upon the ship, whose timbers creaked
    • As though the lading of three argosies
    • Were in the hold, and flopped its wings, and shrieked,
    • And darkness straightway stole across the deep,
    • Sheathed was Orion’s sword, dread Mars himself fled down
    • the steep,
    • And the moon hid behind a tawny mask
    • Of drifting cloud, and from the ocean’s marge
    • Rose the red plume, the huge and horned casque,
    • The seven cubit spear, the brazen targe!
    • And clad in bright and burnished panoply
    • Athena strode across the stretch of sick and
    • shivering sea!
    • To the dull sailors’ sight her loosened locks
    • Seemed like the jagged storm-rack, and her feet
    • Only the spume that floats on hidden rocks,
    • And marking how the rising waters beat
    • Against the rolling ship, the pilot cried
    • To the young helmsman at the stern to luff to
    • windward side.
    • But he, the over-bold adulterer,
    • A dear profaner of great mysteries,
    • An ardent amorous idolater,
    • When he beheld those grand relentless eyes
    • Laughed loud for joy, and crying out “I come”
    • Leapt from the lofty poop into the chill and
    • churning foam.
    • Then fell from the high heaven one bright star,
    • One dancer left the circling galaxy,
    • And back to Athens on her clattering car
    • In all the pride of venged divinity
    • Pale Pallas swept with shrill and steely clank,
    • And a few gurgling bubbles rose where her boy lover sank.
    • And the mast shuddered as the gaunt owl flew,
    • With mocking hoots after the wrathful Queen,
    • And the old pilot bade the trembling crew
    • Hoist the big sail, and told how he had seen
    • Close to the stern a dim and giant form,
    • And like a dripping swallow the stout ship dashed
    • through the storm.
    • And no man dared to speak of Charmides
    • Deeming that he some evil thing had wrought,
    • And when they reached the strait Symplegades
    • They beached their galley on the shore, and sought
    • The toll-gate of the city hastily,
    • And in the market showed their brown and pictured pottery.

II

    • But some good Triton-god had ruth, and bare
    • The boy’s drowned body back to Grecian land,
    • And mermaids combed his dank and dripping hair
    • And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clinching hand,
    • Some brought sweet spices from far Araby,
    • And others made the halcyon sing her softest lullaby.
    • And when he neared his old Athenian home,
    • A mighty billow rose up suddenly
    • Upon whose oily back the clotted foam
    • Lay diapered in some strange fantasy,
    • And clasping him unto its glassy breast,
    • Swept landward, like a white-maned Steed upon
    • a venturous quest!
    • Now where Colonos leans unto the sea
    • There lies a long and level stretch of lawn,
    • The rabbit knows it, and the mountain bee
    • For it deserts Hymettus, and the Faun
    • Is not afraid, for never through the day
    • Comes a cry ruder than the shout of shepherd
    • lads at play.
    • But often from the thorny labyrinth
    • And tangled branches of the circling wood
    • The stealthy hunter sees young Hyacinth
    • Hurling the polished disk, and draws his hood
    • Over his guilty gaze, and creeps away,
    • Nor dares to wind his horn, or- else at the first
    • break of day
    • The Dryads come and throw the leathern ball
    • Along the reedy shore, and circumvent
    • Some goat-eared Pan to be their seneschal
    • For fear of bold Poseidon’s ravishment,
    • And loose their girdles, with shy timorous eyes,
    • Lest from the surf his azure arms and purple beard
    • should rise.
    • On this side and on that a rocky cave,
    • Hung with yellow-bell’d laburnum, stands,
    • Smooth is the beach, save where some ebbing wave
    • Leaves its faint outline etched upon the sands,
    • As though it feared to be too soon forgot
    • By the green rush, its playfellow,- and yet, it is a spot
    • So small, that the inconstant butterfly
    • Could steal the hoarded honey from each flower
    • Ere it was noon, and still not satisfy
    • Its over-greedy love,- within an hour
    • A sailor boy, were he but rude enow
    • To land and pluck a garland for his galley’s
    • painted prow,
    • Would almost leave the little meadow bare,
    • For it knows nothing of great pageantry,
    • Only a few narcissi here and there
    • Stand separate in sweet austerity,
    • Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
    • And here aid there a daffodil waves tiny scimetars.
    • Hither the billow brought him, and was glad
    • Of such dear servitude, and where the land
    • Was virgin of all waters laid the lad
    • Upon the golden margent of the strand,
    • And like a lingering lover oft returned
    • To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense
    • fire burned,
    • Ere the wet seas had quenched that holocaust,
    • That self-fed flame, that passionate lustihead,
    • Ere grisly death with chill and nipping frost
    • Had withered up those lilies white and red
    • Which, while the boy would through the forest range,
    • Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counter-change.
    • And when at dawn the wood-nymphs, hand-in-hand,
    • Threaded the bosky dell, their satyr spied
    • The boy’s pale body stretched upon the sand,
    • And feared Poseidon’s treachery, and cried,
    • And like bright sunbeams flitting through a glade,
    • Each startled Dryad sought some safe and leafy ambuscade.
    • Save one white girl, who deemed it would not be
    • So dread a thing to feel a sea-god’s arms
    • Crushing her breasts in amorous tyranny,
    • And longed to listen to those subtle charms
    • Insidious lovers weave when they would win
    • Some fenced fortress, and stole back again, nor
    • thought it sin
    • To yield her treasure unto one so fair,
    • And lay beside him, thirsty with love’s drouth,
    • Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair,
    • And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth
    • Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid
    • Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then,
    • fond renegade,
    • Returned to fresh assault, and all day long
    • Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy,
    • And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song,
    • Then frowned to see how froward was the boy
    • Who would not with her maidenhood entwine,
    • Nor knew that three days since his eyes had
    • looked on Proserpine,
    • Nor knew what sacrilege his lips had done,
    • But said, “He will awake, I know him well,
    • He will awake at evening when the sun
    • Hangs his red shield on Corinth’s citadel,
    • This sleep is but a cruel treachery
    • To make me love him more, and in some cavern
    • of the sea
    • “Deeper than ever falls the fisher’s line
    • Already a huge Triton blows his horn,
    • And weaves a garland from the crystalline
    • And drifting ocean-tendrils to adorn
    • The emerald pillars of our bridal bed,
    • For sphered in foaming silver, and with
    • coral-crowned head.
    • “We two will sit upon a throne of pearl,
    • And a blue wave will be our canopy,
    • And at our feet the water-snakes will curl
    • In all their amethystine panoply
    • Of diamonded man, and we will mark
    • The mullets swimming by the mast of some
    • storm-foundered bark,
    • “Vermilion-finned with eyes of bossy gold
    • Like flakes of crimson light, and the great deep
    • His glassy-portaled chamber will unfold,
    • And we will see the painted dolphins sleep
    • Cradled by murmuring halcyons on the rocks
    • Where Proteus in quaint suit of green pastures his
    • monstrous flocks.
    • “And tremulous opal hued anemones
    • Will wave their purple fringes where we tread
    • Upon the mirrored floor, and argosies
    • Of fishes flecked with tawny scales will thread
    • The drifting cordage of the shattered wreck,
    • And honey-colored amber beads our twining limbs
    • will deck.”
    • But when that baffled Lord of War the Sun
    • With gaudy pennon flying passed away
    • Into his brazen House, and one by one
    • The little yellow stars began to stray
    • Across the field of heaven, ah! then indeed
    • She feared his lips upon her lips would never
    • care to feed,
    • And cried, “Awake, already the pale moon
    • Washes the trees with silver, and the wave
    • Creeps gray and chilly up this sandy dune,
    • The croaking frogs are out, and from the cave
    • The night-jar shrieks, the fluttering bats repass,
    • And the brown stoat with hollow flanks creeps
    • through the dusky grass.
    • “Nay, though thou art a God, be not so coy,
    • For in yon stream there is a little reed
    • That often whispers how a lovely boy
    • Lay with her once upon a grassy mead,
    • Who when his cruel pleasure he had done
    • Spread wings of rustling gold and soared aloft
    • into the sun.
    • “Be not so coy, the laurel trembles still
    • With great Apollo’s kisses, and the fir
    • Whose clustering sisters fringe the sea-ward hill
    • Hath many a tale of that bold ravisher
    • Whom men call Boreas, and I have seen
    • The mocking eyes of Hermes through the poplar’s
    • silvery sheen.
    • “Even the jealous Naiads call me fair,
    • And every morn a young and ruddy swain
    • Wooes me with apples and with locks of hair,
    • And seeks to soothe my virginal disdain
    • By all the gifts the gentle wood-nymphs love;
    • But yesterday he brought to me an iris-plumaged dove
    • “With little crimson feet, which with its store
    • Of seven spotted eggs the cruel lad
    • Had stolen from the lofty sycamore
    • At daybreak when her amorous comrade had
    • Flown off in search of berried juniper
    • Which most they love; the fretful wasp, that
    • earliest vintager
    • “Of the blue grapes, hath not persistency
    • So constant as this simple shepherd-boy
    • For my poor lips, his joyous purity
    • And laughing sunny eyes might well decoy
    • A Dryad from her oath to Artemis;
    • For very beautiful is he, his mouth was made
    • to kiss.
    • “His argent forehead, like a rising moon
    • Over the dusky hills of meeting brows,
    • Is crescent shaped, the hot and Tyrian noon
    • Leads from the myrtle-grove no goodlier spouse
    • For Cytheraea, the first silky down
    • Fringes his blushing cheeks, and his young limbs
    • are strong and brown:
    • “And he is rich, and fat and fleecy herds
    • Of bleating sheep upon his meadows lie,
    • And many an earthen bowl of yellow curds
    • Is in his homestead for the thievish fly
    • To swim and drown in, the pink clover mead
    • Keeps its sweet store for him, and he can pipe
    • on oaten reed.
    • “And yet I love him not, it was for thee
    • I kept my love, I knew that thou would’st come
    • To rid me of this pallid chastity;
    • Thou fairest flower of the flowerless foam
    • Of all the wide Aegean, brightest star
    • Of ocean’s azure heavens where the mirrored planets are!
    • “I knew that thou would’st come, for when at first
    • The dry wood burgeoned, and the sap of Spring
    • Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst
    • To myriad multitudinous blossoming
    • Which mocked the midnight with its mimic moons
    • That did not dread the dawn, and first the thrushes’
    • rapturous tunes
    • “Startled the squirrel from its granary,
    • And cuckoo flowers fringed the narrow lane,
    • Through my young leaves a sensuous ecstasy
    • Crept like new wine, and every mossy vein
    • Throbbed with the fitful pulse of amorous blood,
    • And the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem’s
    • maidenhood.
    • “The trooping fawns at evening came and laid
    • Their cool black noses on my lowest boughs
    • And on my topmost branch the blackbird made
    • A little nest of grasses for his spouse,
    • And now and then a twittering wren would light
    • On a thin twig which hardly bare the weight of
    • such delight.
    • “I was the Attic shepherd’s trysting place,
    • Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
    • And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
    • The timorous girl, till tired out with play
    • She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,
    • And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such
    • delightful snare.
    • “Then come away unto my ambuscade
    • Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
    • For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
    • Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify
    • The dearest rites of love, there in the cool
    • And green recesses of its furthest depth there is a pool,
    • “The ouzel’s haunt, the wild bee’s pasturage;
    • For round its rim great creamy lilies float
    • Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,
    • Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
    • Steered by a dragon-fly,- be not afraid
    • To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the
    • place were made
    • “For lovers such as we, the Cyprian Queen,
    • One arm around her boyish paramour,
    • Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
    • The moon strip off her misty vestiture
    • For young Endymion’s eyes, be not afraid,
    • The panther feet of Dian never tread that
    • secret glade.
    • “Nay, if thou wil’st, back to the beating brine,
    • Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
    • And all day beneath the hyaline
    • Huge vault of Neptune’s watery portico,
    • And watch the purple monsters of the deep
    • Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen
    • Xiphias leap.
    • “For if my mistress find me lying here
    • She will not ruth or gentle pity show,
    • But lay her boar-spear down, and with austere
    • Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
    • And draw the feathered notch against her breast,
    • And loose the arched cord, ay, even now upon the
    • quest
    • “I hear her hurrying feet,- awake, awake,
    • Thou laggard in love’s battle! once at least
    • Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake
    • My parched being with the nectarous feast
    • Which even Gods affect! O come Love come,
    • Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine
    • azure home.”
    • Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
    • Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
    • Grew conscious of a God, and the gray seas
    • Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
    • Blew from some tasseled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed
    • And like a flame a barbed reed flew whizzing down
    • the glade.
    • And where the little flowers of her breast
    • Just brake in to their milky blossoming,
    • This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
    • Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
    • And plowed a bloody furrow with its dart,
    • And dug a long red road, and cleft with winged
    • death her heart.
    • Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry
    • On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid,
    • Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
    • And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
    • And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
    • And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her
    • throbbing side.
    • Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
    • And very pitiful to see her die
    • Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
    • The joy of passion, that dread mystery
    • Which not to know is not to live at all,
    • And yet to know is to be held in death’s most
    • deadly thrall.
    • But as it hapt the Queen of Cythere,
    • Who with Adonis all night long had lain
    • Within some shepherd’s hut in Arcady,
    • On team of silver doves and gilded wane
    • Was journeying Paphos-ward, high up afar
    • From mortal ken between the mountains and
    • the morning star,
    • And when low down she spied the hapless pair,
    • And heard the Oread’s faint despairing cry,
    • Whose cadence seemed to play upon the air
    • As though it were a viol, hastily
    • She bade her pigeons fold each straining plume,
    • And dropt to earth, and reached the strand, and saw
    • their dolorous doom.
    • For as a gardener turning back his head
    • To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows
    • With careless scythe too near some flower bed,
    • And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose,
    • And with the flower’s loosened loveliness
    • Strews the brown mold, or as some shepherd lad
    • in wantonness
    • Driving his little flock along the mead
    • Treads down two daffodils which side by side
    • Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede
    • And made the gaudy moth forget its pride,
    • Treads down their brimming golden chalices
    • Under light feet which were not made for such
    • rude ravages,
    • Or as a schoolboy tired of his book
    • Flings himself down upon the reedy grass
    • And plucks two water-lilies from the brook,
    • And for a time forgets the hour glass,
    • Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way,
    • And lets the hot sun kill them, even so these
    • lovers lay,
    • And Venus cried, “It is dread Artemis
    • Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty,
    • Or else that mightier mayde whose care it is
    • To guard her strong and stainless majesty
    • Upon the hill Athenian,- alas!
    • That they who loved so well unloved into Death’s
    • house should pass.”
    • So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl
    • In the great golden waggon tenderly,
    • Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl
    • Just threaded with a blue vein’s tapestry
    • Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast
    • Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest.
    • And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
    • The bright car soared into the dawning sky
    • And like a cloud the aerial caravan
    • Passed over the Aegean silently,
    • Till the faint air was troubled with the song
    • From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz
    • all night long.
    • But when the doves had reached their wonted goal
    • Where the wide stair of orbed marble dips
    • Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul
    • Just shook the trembling petals of her lips
    • And passed into the void, and Venus knew
    • That one fair maid the less would walk amid her
    • retinue,
    • And bade her servants carve a cedar chest
    • With all the wonder of this history,
    • Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest
    • Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky
    • On the low hills of Paphos, and the fawn
    • Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on
    • till dawn.
    • Nor failed they to obey her hest, and ere
    • The morning bee had stung the daffodil
    • With tiny fretful spear, or from its lair
    • The waking stag had leapt across the rill
    • And roused the ousel, or the lizard crept
    • Athwart the sunny rock, beneath the grass their
    • bodies slept.
    • And when day brake, within that silver shrine
    • Fed by the flames of cressets tremulous,
    • Queen Venus knelt and prayed to Proserpine
    • That she whose beauty made Death amorous
    • Should beg a guerdon from her pallid Lord,
    • And let desire pass across dread Charon’s icy ford.

III

    • In melancholy moonless Acheron,
    • Far from the goodly earth and joyous day,
    • Where no spring ever buds, nor ripening sun
    • Weighs down the apple trees, nor flowery May
    • Checkers with chestnut blooms the grassy floor,
    • Where thrushes never sing, and piping linnets mate
    • no more,
    • There by a dim and dark Lethaean well,
    • Young Charmides was lying wearily
    • He plucked the blossoms from the asphodel,
    • And with its little rifled treasury
    • Strewed the dull waters of the dusky stream,
    • And watched the white stars founder, and the land
    • was like a dream.
    • When as he gazed into the watery glass
    • And through his brown hair’s curly tangles scanned
    • His own wan face, a shadow seemed to pass
    • Across the mirror, and a little hand
    • Stole into his, and warm lips timidly
    • Brushed his pale cheeks, and breathed their secret
    • forth into a sigh.
    • Then turned he around his weary eyes and saw,
    • And ever nigher still their faces came,
    • And nigher ever did their young mouths draw
    • Until they seemed one perfect rose of flame,
    • And longing arms around her neck he cast,
    • And felt her throbbing bosom, and his breath came
    • hot and fast,
    • And all his hoarded sweets were hers to kiss,
    • And all her maidenhood was his to slay,
    • And limb to limb in long and rapturous bliss
    • Their passion waxed and waned,- O why essay
    • To pipe again of love too venturous reed!
    • Enough, enough that Eros laughed upon that
    • flowerless mead,
    • Too venturous poesy O why essay
    • To pipe again of passion! fold thy wings
    • O’er daring Icarus and bid thy lay
    • Sleep hidden in the lyre’s silent strings,
    • Till thou hast found the old Castilian rill,
    • Or from the Lesbian waters plucked drowned
    • Sappho’s golden quill!
    • Enough, enough that he whose life had been
    • A fiery pulse of sin, a splendid shame,
    • Could in the loveless land of Hades glean
    • One scorching harvest from those fields of flame
    • Where passion walks with naked unshod feet
    • And is not wounded,- ah! enough that once their lips
    • could meet
    • In that wild throb when all existences
    • Seem narrowed to one single ecstasy
    • Which dies through its own sweetness and the stress
    • Of too much pleasure, ere Persephone
    • Had made them serve her by the ebon throne
    • Of the pale God who in the fields of Enna loosed
    • her zone.