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Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy (complete text)


Tous zontas eu dran. katthanon de pas aner
Ge kai skia. to meden eis ouden repei

EUR. Fr. Mel. 20 (537)

TO THE MEMORY

OF

WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR

I NOW DEDICATE, WITH EQUAL AFFECTION, REVERENCE, AND REGRET, A POEM INSCRIBED TO HIM WHILE YET ALIVE IN WORDS WHICH ARE NOW RETAINED BECAUSE THEY WERE LAID BEFORE HIM; AND TO WHICH, RATHER THAN CANCEL THEM, I HAVE ADDED SUCH OTHERS AS WERE EVOKED BY THE NEWS OF HIS DEATH: THAT THOUGH LOSING THE PLEASURE I MAY NOT LOSE THE HONOUR OF INSCRIBING IN FRONT OF MY WORK THE HIGHEST OF CONTEMPORARY NAMES.

oixeo de Boreethen apotropos' alla se Numphai
   egagon aspasian edupnooi kath' ala,
plerousai melitos theothen stoma, me ti Poseidon
   blapsei, en osin exon sen meligerun opa.
toios aoidos ephus: emeis d' eti klaiomen, oi sou
   deuometh' oixomenou, kai se pothoumen aei.
eipe de Pieridon tis anastrephtheisa pros allen:
   elthen, idou, panton philtatos elthe broton,
stemmata drepsamenos neothelea xersi geraiais,
   kai polion daphnais amphekalupse kara,
edu ti Sikelikais epi pektisin, edu ti xordais,
   aisomenos: pollen gar meteballe luran,
pollaki d' en bessaisi kathemenon euren Apollon,
   anthesi d' estepsen, terpna d' edoke legein,
Pana t' aeimneston te Pitun Koruthon te dusedron,
   en t' ephilese thean thnetos Amadruada:
pontou d' en megaroisin ekoimise Kumodameian,
   ten t' Agamemnonian paid' apedoke patri,
pros d' ierous Delphous theoplekton epempsen Oresten,
   teiromenon stugerais entha kai entha theais.
oixeo de kai aneuthe philon kai aneuthen aoides,
   drepsomenos malakes anthea Persephones.
oixeo: kouk et' esei, kouk au pote soi paredoumai
   azomenos, xeiron xersi thigon osiais:
nun d' au mnesamenon glukupikros upeluthen aidos,
   oia tuxon oiou pros sethen oios exo:
oupote sois, geron, omma philois philon ommasi terpso,
   ses, geron, apsamenos, philtate, dechiteras.
e psaphara konis, e psapharos bios esti: ti touton
   meion ephemerion; ou konis alla bios.
alla moi eduteros ge peleis polu ton et' eonton,
   epleo gar: soi men tauta thanonti phero,
paura men, all' apo keros etetuma: med' apotrephtheis,
   pros de balon eti nun esuxon omma dexou.
ou gar exo, mega de ti thelon, sethen achia dounai,
   thaptomenou per apon: ou gar enestin emoi:
oude melikretou parexein ganos : ei gar eneie
   kai se xeroin psausai kai se pot' authis idein,
dakrusi te spondais te kara philon amphipoleuein
   ophthalmous th' ierous sous ieron te demas.
eith' ophelon: mala gar tad' an ampauseie merimnes:
   nun de prosothen aneu sematos oikton ago:
oud' epitumbidion threno melos, all' apamuntheis,
   all' apaneuthen exon amphidakruta pathe.
alla su xaire thanon, kai exon geras isthi pros andron
   pros te theon, enerois ei tis epesti theos.
xaire geron, phile xaire pater, polu phertat' aoidon
   on idomen, polu de phertat' aeisomenon:
xaire, kai olbon exois, oion ge thanontes exousin,
   esuxian exthras kai philotetos ater.
sematos oixomenou soi mnemat' es usteron estai,
   soi te phile mneme mnematos oixomenou:
on Xarites klaiousi theai, klaiei d' Aphrodite
   kallixorois Mouson terpsamene stephanois.
ou gar apach ierous pote geras etripsen aoidous:
   tende to son phainei mnema tod' aglaian.
e philos es makaressi brotos, soi d' ei tini Numphai
   dora potheina nemein, ustata dor', edosan.
tas nun xalkeos upnos ebe kai anenemos aion,
   kai sunthaptomenai moiran exousi mian.
eudeis kai su, kalon kai agakluton en xthoni koilei
   upnon ephikomenos, ses aponosphi patras,
tele para chanthou Tursenikon oidma katheudeis
   namatos, e d' eti se maia se gaia pothei,
all' apexeis, kai prosthe philoptolis on per apeipas:
   eude: makar d' emin oud' amegartos esei.
baios epixthonion ge xronos kai moira kratesei,
   tous de pot' euphrosune tous de pot' algos exei:
pollaki d' e blaptei phaos e skotos amphikaluptei
   muromenous, daknei d' upnos egregorotas:
oud' eth' ot' en tumboisi katedrathen omma thanonton
   e skotos e ti phaos dechetai eeliou:
oud' onar ennuxion kai enupnion oud' upar estai
   e pote terpomenois e pot' oduromenois:
all' ena pantes aei thakon sunexousi kai edran
   anti brotes abroton, kallimon anti kakes.

THE ARGUMENT

Althæa, daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis, queen of Calydon, being with child of Meleager her first-born son, dreamed that she brought forth a brand burning; and upon his birth came the three Fates and prophesied of him three things, namely these; that he should have great strength of his hands, and good fortune in this life, and that he should live no longer when the brand then in the fire were consumed: wherefore his mother plucked it forth and kept it by her. And the child being a man grown sailed with Jason after the fleece of gold, and won himself great praise of all men living; and when the tribes of the north and west made war upon Ætolia, he fought against their army and scattered it. But Artemis, having at the first stirred up these tribes to war against Œneus king of Calydon, because he had offered sacrifice to all the gods saving her alone, but her he had forgotten to honour, was yet more wroth because of the destruction of this army, and sent upon the land of Calydon a wild boar which slew many and wasted all their increase, but him could none slay, and many went against him and perished. Then were all the chief men of Greece gathered together, and among them Atalanta daughter of Iasius the Arcadian, a virgin; for whose sake Artemis let slay the boar, seeing she favoured the maiden greatly; and Meleager having despatched it gave the spoil thereof to Atalanta, as one beyond measure enamoured of her; but the brethren of Althæa his mother, Toxeus and Plexippus, with such others as misliked that she only should bear off the praise whereas many had borne the labour, laid wait for her to take away her spoil; but Meleager fought against them and slew them: whom when Althæa their sister beheld and knew to be slain of her son, she waxed for wrath and sorrow like as one mad, and taking the brand whereby the measure of her son's life was meted to him, she cast it upon a fire; and with the wasting thereof his life likewise wasted away, that being brought back to his father's house he died in a brief space; and his mother also endured not long after for very sorrow; and this was his end, and the end of that hunting.

THE PERSONS

CHIEF HUNTSMAN
CHORUS
ALTHÆA
MELEAGER
ŒNEUS
ATALANTA
TOXEUS
PLEXIPPUS
HERALD
MESSENGER
SECOND MESSENGER

isto d' ostis oux upopteros
phrontisin daeis,
tan a paidolumas talaina THestias mesato
purdae tina pronoian,
kataithousa paidos daphoinon
dalon elik', epei molon
matrothen keladese;
summetron te diai biou
moirokranton es amar.

Æsch. Cho. 602-612.

ATALANTA IN CALYDON

CHIEF HUNTSMAN
              1Maiden, and mistress of the months and stars
              2Now folded in the flowerless fields of heaven,
              3Goddess whom all gods love with threefold heart,
              4Being treble in thy divided deity,
              5A light for dead men and dark hours, a foot
              6Swift on the hills as morning, and a hand
              7To all things fierce and fleet that roar and range
              8Mortal, with gentler shafts than snow or sleep;
              9Hear now and help and lift no violent hand,
            10But favourable and fair as thine eye's beam
            11Hidden and shown in heaven; for I all night
            12Amid the king's hounds and the hunting men
            13Have wrought and worshipped toward thee; nor shall man
            14See goodlier hounds or deadlier edge of spears;
            15But for the end, that lies unreached at yet
            16Between the hands and on the knees of gods.
            17O fair-faced sun, killing the stars and dews
            18And dreams and desolation of the night!
            19Rise up, shine, stretch thine hand out, with thy bow
            20Touch the most dimmest height of trembling heaven,
            21And burn and break the dark about thy ways,
            22Shot through and through with arrows; let thine hair
            23Lighten as flame above that flameless shell
            24Which was the moon, and thine eyes fill the world
            25And thy lips kindle with swift beams; let earth
            26Laugh, and the long sea fiery from thy feet
            27Through all the roar and ripple of streaming springs
            28And foam in reddening flakes and flying flowers
            29Shaken from hands and blown from lips of nymphs
            30Whose hair or breast divides the wandering wave
            31With salt close tresses cleaving lock to lock,
            32All gold, or shuddering and unfurrowed snow;
            33And all the winds about thee with their wings,
            34And fountain-heads of all the watered world;
            35Each horn of Acheloüs, and the green
            36Euenus, wedded with the straitening sea.
            37For in fair time thou comest; come also thou,
            38Twin-born with him, and virgin, Artemis,
            39And give our spears their spoil, the wild boar's hide,
            40Sent in thine anger against us for sin done
            41And bloodless altars without wine or fire.
            42Him now consume thou; for thy sacrifice
            43With sanguine-shining steam divides the dawn,
            44And one, the maiden rose of all thy maids,
            45Arcadian Atalanta, snowy-souled,
            46Fair as the snow and footed as the wind,
            47From Ladon and well-wooded Mænalus
            48Over the firm hills and the fleeting sea
            49Hast thou drawn hither, and many an armèd king,
            50Heroes, the crown of men, like gods in fight.
            51Moreover out of all the Ætolian land,
            52From the full-flowered Lelantian pasturage
            53To what of fruitful field the son of Zeus
            54Won from the roaring river and labouring sea
            55When the wild god shrank in his horn and fled
            56And foamed and lessened through his wrathful fords,
            57Leaving clear lands that steamed with sudden sun,
            58These virgins with the lightening of the day
            59Bring thee fresh wreaths and their own sweeter hair,
            60Luxurious locks and flower-like mixed with flowers,
            61Clean offering, and chaste hymns; but me the time
            62Divides from these things; whom do thou not less
            63Help and give honour, and to mine hounds good speed,
            64And edge to spears, and luck to each man's hand.

CHORUS
            65When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces,
            66    The mother of months in meadow or plain
            67Fills the shadows and windy places
            68    With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;
            69And the brown bright nightingale amorous
            70Is half assuaged for Itylus,
            71For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces,
            72    The tongueless vigil, and all the pain.

            73Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
            74    Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
            75With a noise of winds and many rivers,
            76    With a clamour of waters, and with might;
            77Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
            78Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
            79For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
            80    Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.

            81Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her,
            82    Fold our hands round her knees, and cling?
            83O that man's heart were as fire and could spring to her,
            84    Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring!
            85For the stars and the winds are unto her
            86As raiment, as songs of the harp-player;
            87For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her,
            88    And the southwest-wind and the west-wind sing.

            89For winter's rains and ruins are over,
            90    And all the season of snows and sins;
            91The days dividing lover and lover,
            92    The light that loses, the night that wins;
            93And time remembered is grief forgotten,
            94And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
            95And in green underwood and cover
            96    Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

            97The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
            98    Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,
            99The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
          100    From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;
          101And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
          102And the oat is heard above the lyre,
          103And the hoofèd heel of a satyr crushes
          104    The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root.

          105And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night,
          106    Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,
          107Follows with dancing and fills with delight
          108    The Mænad and the Bassarid;
          109And soft as lips that laugh and hide
          110The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
          111And screen from seeing and leave in sight
          112    The god pursuing, the maiden hid.

          113The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair
          114    Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;
          115The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
          116    Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
          117The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
          118But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
          119To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
          120    The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.

ALTHÆA
          121What do ye singing? what is this ye sing?

CHORUS
          122Flowers bring we, and pure lips that please the gods,
          123And raiment meet for service: lest the day
          124Turn sharp with all its honey in our lips.

ALTHÆA
          125Night, a black hound, follows the white fawn day,
          126Swifter than dreams the white flown feet of sleep;
          127Will ye pray back the night with any prayers?
          128And though the spring put back a little while
          129Winter, and snows that plague all men for sin,
          130And the iron time of cursing, yet I know
          131Spring shall be ruined with the rain, and storm
          132Eat up like fire the ashen autumn days.
          133I marvel what men do with prayers awake
          134Who dream and die with dreaming; any god,
          135Yea the least god of all things called divine,
          136Is more than sleep and waking; yet we say,
          137Perchance by praying a man shall match his god.
          138For if sleep have no mercy, and man's dreams
          139Bite to the blood and burn into the bone,
          140What shall this man do waking? By the gods,
          141He shall not pray to dream sweet things to-night,
          142Having dreamt once more bitter things than death.

CHORUS
          143Queen, but what is it that hath burnt thine heart?
          144For thy speech flickers like a blown-out flame.

ALTHÆA
          145Look, ye say well, and know not what ye say;
          146For all my sleep is turned into a fire,
          147And all my dreams to stuff that kindles it.

CHORUS
          148Yet one doth well being patient of the gods.

ALTHÆA
          149Yea, lest they smite us with some four-foot plague.

CHORUS
          150But when time spreads find out some herb for it.

ALTHÆA
          151And with their healing herbs infect our blood.

CHORUS
          152What ails thee to be jealous of their ways?

ALTHÆA
          153What if they give us poisonous drinks for wine?

CHORUS
          154They have their will; much talking mends it not.

ALTHÆA
          155And gall for milk, and cursing for a prayer?

CHORUS
          156Have they not given life, and the end of life?

ALTHÆA
          157Lo, where they heal, they help not; thus they do,
          158They mock us with a little piteousness,
          159And we say prayers, and weep; but at the last,
          160Sparing awhile, they smite and spare no whit.

CHORUS
          161Small praise man gets dispraising the high gods:
          162What have they done that thou dishonourest them?

ALTHÆA
          163First Artemis for all this harried land
          164I praise not, and for wasting of the boar
          165That mars with tooth and tusk and fiery feet
          166Green pasturage and the grace of standing corn
          167And meadow and marsh with springs and unblown leaves,
          168Flocks and swift herds and all that bite sweet grass,
          169I praise her not; what things are these to praise?

CHORUS
          170But when the king did sacrifice, and gave
          171Each god fair dues of wheat and blood and wine,
          172Her not with bloodshed nor burnt-offering
          173Revered he, nor with salt or cloven cake;
          174Wherefore being wroth she plagued the land; but now
          175Takes off from us fate and her heavy things.
          176Which deed of these twain were not good to praise?
          177For a just deed looks always either way
          178With blameless eyes, and mercy is no fault.

ALTHÆA
          179Yea, but a curse she hath sent above all these
          180To hurt us where she healed us; and hath lit
          181Fire where the old fire went out, and where the wind
          182Slackened, hath blown on us with deadlier air.

CHORUS
          183What storm is this that tightens all our sail?

ALTHÆA
          184Love, a thwart sea-wind full of rain and foam.

CHORUS
          185Whence blown, and born under what stormier star?

ALTHÆA
          186Southward across Euenus from the sea.

CHORUS
          187Thy speech turns toward Arcadia like blown wind.

ALTHÆA
          188Sharp as the north sets when the snows are out.

CHORUS
          189Nay, for this maiden hath no touch of love.

ALTHÆA
          190I would she had sought in some cold gulf of sea
          191Love, or in dens where strange beasts lurk, or fire,
          192Or snows on the extreme hills, or iron land
          193Where no spring is; I would she had sought therein
          194And found, or ever love had found her here.

CHORUS
          195She is holier than all holy days or things,
          196The sprinkled water or fume of perfect fire;
          197Chaste, dedicated to pure prayers, and filled
          198With higher thoughts than heaven; a maiden clean,
          199Pure iron, fashioned for a sword; and man
          200She loves not; what should one such do with love?

ALTHÆA
          201Look you, I speak not as one light of wit,
          202But as a queen speaks, being heart-vexed; for oft
          203I hear my brothers wrangling in mid hall,
          204And am not moved; and my son chiding them,
          205And these things nowise move me, but I know
          206Foolish and wise men must be to the end,
          207And feed myself with patience; but this most,
          208This moves me, that for wise men as for fools
          209Love is one thing, an evil thing, and turns
          210Choice words and wisdom into fire and air.
          211And in the end shall no joy come, but grief,
          212Sharp words and soul's division and fresh tears
          213Flower-wise upon the old root of tears brought forth,
          214Fruit-wise upon the old flower of tears sprung up,
          215Pitiful sighs, and much regrafted pain.
          216These things are in my presage, and myself
          217Am part of them and know not; but in dreams
          218The gods are heavy on me, and all the fates
          219Shed fire across my eyelids mixed with night,
          220And burn me blind, and disilluminate
          221My sense of seeing, and my perspicuous soul
          222Darken with vision; seeing I see not, hear
          223And hearing am not holpen, but mine eyes
          224Stain many tender broideries in the bed
          225Drawn up about my face that I may weep
          226And the king wake not; and my brows and lips
          227Tremble and sob in sleeping, like swift flames
          228That tremble, or water when it sobs with heat
          229Kindled from under; and my tears fill my breast
          230And speck the fair dyed pillows round the king
          231With barren showers and salter than the sea,
          232Such dreams divide me dreaming; for long since
          233I dreamed that out of this my womb had sprung
          234Fire and a firebrand; this was ere my son,
          235Meleager, a goodly flower in fields of fight,
          236Felt the light touch him coming forth, and wailed
          237Childlike; but yet he was not; and in time
          238I bare him, and my heart was great; for yet
          239So royally was never strong man born,
          240Nor queen so nobly bore as noble a thing
          241As this my son was: such a birth God sent
          242And such a grace to bear it. Then came in
          243Three weaving women, and span each a thread,
          244Saying This for strength and That for luck, and one
          245Saying Till the brand upon the hearth burn down,
          246So long shall this man see good days and live.
          247And I with gathered raiment from the bed
          248Sprang, and drew forth the brand, and cast on it
          249Water, and trod the flame bare-foot, and crushed
          250With naked hand spark beaten out of spark
          251And blew against and quenched it; for I said,
          252These are the most high Fates that dwell with us,
          253And we find favour a little in their sight,
          254A little, and more we miss of, and much time
          255Foils us; howbeit they have pitied me, O son,
          256And thee most piteous, thee a tenderer thing
          257Than any flower of fleshly seed alive.
          258Wherefore I kissed and hid him with my hands,
          259And covered under arms and hair, and wept,
          260And feared to touch him with my tears, and laughed;
          261So light a thing was this man, grown so great
          262Men cast their heads back, seeing against the sun
          263Blaze the armed man carven on his shield, and hear
          264The laughter of little bells along the brace
          265Ring, as birds singing or flutes blown, and watch,
          266High up, the cloven shadow of either plume
          267Divide the bright light of the brass, and make
          268His helmet as a windy and wintering moon
          269Seen through blown cloud and plume-like drift, when ships
          270Drive, and men strive with all the sea, and oars
          271Break, and the beaks dip under, drinking death;
          272Yet was he then but a span long, and moaned
          273With inarticulate mouth inseparate words,
          274And with blind lips and fingers wrung my breast
          275Hard, and thrust out with foolish hands and feet,
          276Murmuring; but those grey women with bound hair
          277Who fright the gods frighted not him; he laughed
          278Seeing them, and pushed out hands to feel and haul
          279Distaff and thread, intangible; but they
          280Passed, and I hid the brand, and in my heart
          281Laughed likewise, having all my will of heaven.
          282But now I know not if to left or right
          283The gods have drawn us hither; for again
          284I dreamt, and saw the black brand burst on fire
          285As a branch bursts in flower, and saw the flame
          286Fade flower-wise, and Death came and with dry lips
          287Blew the charred ash into my breast; and Love
          288Trampled the ember and crushed it with swift feet.
          289This I have also at heart; that not for me,
          290Not for me only or son of mine, O girls,
          291The gods have wrought life, and desire of life,
          292Heart's love and heart's division; but for all
          293There shines one sun and one wind blows till night.
          294And when night comes the wind sinks and the sun,
          295And there is no light after, and no storm,
          296But sleep and much forgetfulness of things.
          297In such wise I gat knowledge of the gods
          298Years hence, and heard high sayings of one most wise,
          299Eurythemis my mother, who beheld
          300With eyes alive and spake with lips of these
          301As one on earth disfleshed and disallied
          302From breath or blood corruptible; such gifts
          303Time gave her, and an equal soul to these
          304And equal face to all things; thus she said.
          305But whatsoever intolerable or glad
          306The swift hours weave and unweave, I go hence
          307Full of mine own soul, perfect of myself,
          308Toward mine and me sufficient; and what chance
          309The gods cast lots for and shake out on us,
          310That shall we take, and that much bear withal.
          311And now, before these gather to the hunt,
          312I will go arm my son and bring him forth,
          313Lest love or some man's anger work him harm.

CHORUS
          314Before the beginning of years
          315    There came to the making of man
          316Time, with a gift of tears;
          317    Grief, with a glass that ran;
          318Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
          319    Summer, with flowers that fell;
          320Remembrance fallen from heaven,
          321    And madness risen from hell;
          322Strength without hands to smite;
          323    Love that endures for a breath:
          324Night, the shadow of light,
          325    And life, the shadow of death.
          326And the high gods took in hand
          327    Fire, and the falling of tears,
          328And a measure of sliding sand
          329    From under the feet of the years;
          330And froth and drift of the sea;
          331    And dust of the labouring earth;
          332And bodies of things to be
          333    In the houses of death and of birth;
          334And wrought with weeping and laughter,
          335    And fashioned with loathing and love
          336With life before and after
          337    And death beneath and above,
          338For a day and a night and a morrow,
          339    That his strength might endure for a span
          340With travail and heavy sorrow,
          341    The holy spirit of man.

          342From the winds of the north and the south
          343    They gathered as unto strife;
          344They breathed upon his mouth,
          345    They filled his body with life;
          346Eyesight and speech they wrought
          347    For the veils of the soul therein,
          348A time for labour and thought,
          349    A time to serve and to sin;
          350They gave him light in his ways,
          351    And love, and a space for delight,
          352And beauty and length of days,
          353    And night, and sleep in the night.
          354His speech is a burning fire;
          355    With his lips he travaileth;
          356In his heart is a blind desire,
          357    In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
          358He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
          359    Sows, and he shall not reap;
          360His life is a watch or a vision
          361    Between a sleep and a sleep.

MELEAGER
          362O sweet new heaven and air without a star,
          363Fair day, be fair and welcome, as to men
          364With deeds to do and praise to pluck from thee.
          365Come forth a child, born with clear sound and light,
          366With laughter and swift limbs and prosperous looks;
          367That this great hunt with heroes for the hounds
          368May leave thee memorable and us well sped.

ALTHÆA
          369Son, first I praise thy prayer, then bid thee speed;
          370But the gods hear men's hands before their lips,
          371And heed beyond all crying and sacrifice
          372Light of things done and noise of labouring men.
          373But thou, being armed and perfect for the deed,
          374Abide; for like rain-flakes in a wind they grow,
          375The men thy fellows, and the choice of the world,
          376Bound to root out the tuskèd plague, and leave
          377Thanks and safe days and peace in Calydon.

MELEAGER
          378For the whole city and all the low-lying land
          379Flames, and the soft air sounds with them that come;
          380The gods give all these fruit of all their works.

ALTHÆA
          381Set thine eye thither and fix thy spirit and say
          382Whom there thou knowest; for sharp mixed shadow and wind
          383Blown up between the morning and the mist,
          384With steam of steeds and flash of bridle or wheel,
          385And fire, and parcels of the broken dawn,
          386And dust divided by hard light, and spears
          387That shine and shift as the edge of wild beasts' eyes,
          388Smite upon mine; so fiery their blind edge
          389Burns, and bright points break up and baffle day.

MELEAGER
          390The first, for many I know not, being far off,
          391Peleus the Larissæan, couched with whom
          392Sleeps the white sea-bred wife and silver-shod,
          393Fair as fled foam, a goddess; and their son
          394Most swift and splendid of men's children born,
          395Most like a god, full of the future fame.

ALTHÆA
          396Who are these shining like one sundered star?

MELEAGER
          397Thy sister's sons, a double flower of men.

ALTHÆA
          398O sweetest kin to me in all the world,
          399O twin-born blood of Leda, gracious heads
          400Like kindled lights in untempestuous heaven,
          401Fair flower-like stars on the iron foam of fight,
          402With what glad heart and kindliness of soul,
          403Even to the staining of both eyes with tears
          404And kindling of warm eyelids with desire,
          405A great way off I greet you, and rejoice
          406Seeing you so fair, and moulded like as gods.
          407Far off ye come, and least in years of these,
          408But lordliest, but worth love to look upon.

MELEAGER
          409Even such (for sailing hither I saw far hence,
          410And where Eurotas hollows his moist rock
          411Nigh Sparta with a strenuous-hearted stream)
          412Even such I saw their sisters; one swan-white,
          413The little Helen, and less fair than she
          414Fair Clytæmnestra, grave as pasturing fawns
          415Who feed and fear some arrow; but at whiles,
          416As one smitten with love or wrung with joy,
          417She laughs and lightens with her eyes, and then
          418Weeps; whereat Helen, having laughed, weeps too,
          419And the other chides her, and she being chid speaks nought,
          420But cheeks and lips and eyelids kisses her,
          421Laughing; so fare they, as in their bloomless bud
          422And full of unblown life, the blood of gods.

ALTHÆA
          423Sweet days befall them and good loves and lords,
          424And tender and temperate honours of the hearth,
          425Peace, and a perfect life and blameless bed.
          426But who shows next an eagle wrought in gold,
          427That flames and beats broad wings against the sun
          428And with void mouth gapes after emptier prey?

MELEAGER
          429Know by that sign the reign of Telamon
          430Between the fierce mouths of the encountering brine
          431On the strait reefs of twice-washed Salamis.

ALTHÆA
          432For like one great of hand he bears himself,
          433Vine-chapleted, with savours of the sea,
          434Glittering as wine and moving as a wave.
          435But who girt round there roughly follows him?

MELEAGER
          436Ancæus, great of hand, an iron bulk,
          437Two-edged for fight as the axe against his arm,
          438Who drives against the surge of stormy spears
          439Full-sailed; him Cepheus follows, his twin-born,
          440Chief name next his of all Arcadian men.

ALTHÆA
          441Praise be with men abroad; chaste lives with us,
          442Home-keeping days and household reverences.

MELEAGER
          443Next by the left unsandalled foot know thou
          444The sail and oar of this Ætolian land,
          445Thy brethren, Toxeus and the violent-souled
          446Plexippus, over-swift with hand and tongue;
          447For hands are fruitful, but the ignorant mouth
          448Blows and corrupts their work with barren breath.

ALTHÆA
          449Speech too bears fruit, being worthy; and air blows down
          450Things poisonous, and high-seated violences,
          451And with charmed words and songs have men put out
          452Wild evil, and the fire of tyrannies.

MELEAGER
          453Yea, all things have they, save the gods and love.

ALTHÆA
          454Love thou the law and cleave to things ordained.

MELEAGER
          455Law lives upon their lips whom these applaud.

ALTHÆA
          456How sayest thou these? what god applauds new things?

MELEAGER
          457Zeus, who hath fear and custom under foot.

ALTHÆA
          458But loves not laws thrown down and lives awry.

MELEAGER
          459Yet is not less himself than his own law.

ALTHÆA
          460Nor shifts and shuffles old things up and down.

MELEAGER
          461But what he will remoulds and discreates.

ALTHÆA
          462Much, but not this, that each thing live its life.

MELEAGER
          463Nor only live, but lighten and lift up higher.

ALTHÆA
          464Pride breaks itself, and too much gained is gone.

MELEAGER
          465Things gained are gone, but great things done endure.

ALTHÆA
          466Child, if a man serve law through all his life
          467And with his whole heart worship, him all gods
          468Praise; but who loves it only with his lips,
          469And not in heart and deed desiring it
          470Hides a perverse will with obsequious words,
          471Him heaven infatuates and his twin-born fate
          472Tracks, and gains on him, scenting sins far off,
          473And the swift hounds of violent death devour.
          474Be man at one with equal-minded gods,
          475So shall he prosper; not through laws torn up,
          476Violated rule and a new face of things.
          477A woman armed makes war upon herself,
          478Unwomanlike, and treads down use and wont
          479And the sweet common honour that she hath,
          480Love, and the cry of children, and the hand
          481Trothplight and mutual mouth of marriages.
          482This doth she, being unloved; whom if one love,
          483Not fire nor iron and the wide-mouthed wars
          484Are deadlier than her lips or braided hair.
          485For of the one comes poison, and a curse
          486Falls from the other and burns the lives of men.
          487But thou, son, be not filled with evil dreams,
          488Nor with desire of these things; for with time
          489Blind love burns out; but if one feed it full
          490Till some discolouring stain dyes all his life,
          491He shall keep nothing praiseworthy, nor die
          492The sweet wise death of old men honourable,
          493Who have lived out all the length of all their years
          494Blameless, and seen well-pleased the face of gods,
          495And without shame and without fear have wrought
          496Things memorable, and while their days held out
          497In sight of all men and the sun's great light
          498Have gat them glory and given of their own praise
          499To the earth that bare them and the day that bred,
          500Home friends and far-off hospitalities,
          501And filled with gracious and memorial fame
          502Lands loved of summer or washed by violent seas,
          503Towns populous and many unfooted ways,
          504And alien lips and native with their own.
          505But when white age and venerable death
          506Mow down the strength and life within their limbs,
          507Drain out the blood and darken their clear eyes,
          508Immortal honour is on them, having past
          509Through splendid life and death desirable
          510To the clear seat and remote throne of souls,
          511Lands indiscoverable in the unheard-of west,
          512Round which the strong stream of a sacred sea
          513Rolls without wind for ever, and the snow
          514There shows not her white wings and windy feet,
          515Nor thunder nor swift rain saith anything,
          516Nor the sun burns, but all things rest and thrive;
          517And these, filled full of days, divine and dead,
          518Sages and singers fiery from the god,
          519And such as loved their land and all things good
          520And, best beloved of best men, liberty,
          521Free lives and lips, free hands of men free-born,
          522And whatsoever on earth was honourable
          523And whosoever of all the ephemeral seed,
          524Live there a life no liker to the gods
          525But nearer than their life of terrene days.
          526Love thou such life and look for such a death.
          527But from the light and fiery dreams of love
          528Spring heavy sorrows and a sleepless life,
          529Visions not dreams, whose lids no charm shall close
          530Nor song assuage them waking; and swift death
          531Crushes with sterile feet the unripening ear,
          532Treads out the timeless vintage; whom do thou
          533Eschewing embrace the luck of this thy life,
          534Not without honour; and it shall bear to thee
          535Such fruit as men reap from spent hours and wear,
          536Few men, but happy; of whom be thou, O son,
          537Happiest, if thou submit thy soul to fate,
          538And set thine eyes and heart on hopes high-born
          539And divine deeds and abstinence divine.
          540So shalt thou be toward all men all thy days
          541As light and might communicable, and burn
          542From heaven among the stars above the hours,
          543And break not as a man breaks nor burn down:
          544For to whom other of all heroic names
          545Have the gods given his life in hand as thine?
          546And gloriously hast thou lived, and made thy life
          547To me that bare thee and to all men born
          548Thankworthy, a praise for ever; and hast won fame
          549When wild wars broke all round thy father's house,
          550And the mad people of windy mountain ways
          551Laid spears against us like a sea, and all
          552Ætolia thundered with Thessalian hoofs;
          553Yet these, as wind baffles the foam, and beats
          554Straight back the relaxed ripple, didst thou break
          555And loosen all their lances, till undone
          556And man from man they fell; for ye twain stood
          557God against god, Ares and Artemis,
          558And thou the mightier; wherefore she unleashed
          559A sharp-toothed curse thou too shalt overcome;
          560For in the greener blossom of thy life
          561Ere the full blade caught flower, and when time gave
          562Respite, thou didst not slacken soul nor sleep,
          563But with great hand and heart seek praise of men
          564Out of sharp straits and many a grievous thing,
          565Seeing the strange foam of undivided seas
          566On channels never sailed in, and by shores
          567Where the old winds cease not blowing, and all the night
          568Thunders, and day is no delight to men.

CHORUS
          569Meleager, a noble wisdom and fair words
          570The gods have given this woman; hear thou these.

MELEAGER
          571O mother, I am not fain to strive in speech
          572Nor set my mouth against thee, who art wise
          573Even as they say and full of sacred words.
          574But one thing I know surely, and cleave to this;
          575That though I be not subtle of wit as thou
          576Nor womanlike to weave sweet words, and melt
          577Mutable minds of wise men as with fire,
          578I too, doing justly and reverencing the gods,
          579Shall not want wit to see what things be right.
          580For whom they love and whom reject, being gods,
          581There is no man but seeth, and in good time
          582Submits himself, refraining all his heart.
          583And I too as thou sayest have seen great things;
          584Seen otherwhere, but chiefly when the sail
          585First caught between stretched ropes the roaring west,
          586And all our oars smote eastward, and the wind
          587First flung round faces of seafaring men
          588White splendid snow-flakes of the sundering foam,
          589And the first furrow in virginal green sea
          590Followed the plunging ploughshare of hewn pine,
          591And closed, as when deep sleep subdues man's breath
          592Lips close and heart subsides; and closing, shone
          593Sunlike with many a Nereid's hair, and moved
          594Round many a trembling mouth of doubtful gods,
          595Risen out of sunless and sonorous gulfs
          596Through waning water and into shallow light,
          597That watched us; and when flying the dove was snared
          598As with men's hands, but we shot after and sped
          599Clear through the irremeable Symplegades;
          600And chiefliest when hoar beach and herbless cliff
          601Stood out ahead from Colchis, and we heard
          602Clefts hoarse with wind, and saw through narrowing reefs
          603The lightning of the intolerable wave
          604Flash, and the white wet flame of breakers burn
          605Far under a kindling south-wind, as a lamp
          606Burns and bends all its blowing flame one way;
          607Wild heights untravelled of the wind, and vales
          608Cloven seaward by their violent streams, and white
          609With bitter flowers and bright salt scurf of brine;
          610Heard sweep their sharp swift gales, and bowing birdwise
          611Shriek with birds' voices, and with furious feet
          612Tread loose the long skirts of a storm; and saw
          613The whole white Euxine clash together and fall
          614Full-mouthed, and thunderous from a thousand throats:
          615Yet we drew thither and won the fleece and won
          616Medea, deadlier than the sea; but there
          617Seeing many a wonder and fearful things to men
          618I saw not one thing like this one seen here,
          619Most fair and fearful, feminine, a god,
          620Faultless; whom I that love not, being unlike,
          621Fear, and give honour, and choose from all the gods.

ŒNEUS
          622Lady, the daughter of Thestius, and thou, son,
          623Not ignorant of your strife nor light of wit,
          624Scared with vain dreams and fluttering like spent fire,
          625I come to judge between you, but a king
          626Full of past days and wise from years endured.
          627Nor thee I praise, who art fain to undo things done:
          628Nor thee, who art swift to esteem them overmuch.
          629For what the hours have given is given, and this
          630Changeless; howbeit these change, and in good time
          631Devise new things and good, not one thing still.
          632Us have they sent now at our need for help
          633Among men armed a woman, foreign born,
          634Virgin, not like the natural flower of things
          635That grows and bears and brings forth fruit and dies;
          636Unlovable, no light for a husband's house,
          637Espoused; a glory among unwedded girls,
          638And chosen of gods who reverence maidenhood.
          639These too we honour in honouring her; but thou,
          640Abstain thy feet from following, and thine eyes
          641From amorous touch; nor set toward hers thine heart,
          642Son, lest hate bear no deadlier fruit than love.

ALTHÆA
          643O king, thou art wise, but wisdom halts; and just,
          644But the gods love not justice more than fate,
          645And smite the righteous and the violent mouth,
          646And mix with insolent blood the reverent man's,
          647And bruise the holier as the lying lips.
          648Enough; for wise words fail me, and my heart
          649Takes fire and trembles flamewise, O my son,
          650O child, for thine head's sake; mine eyes wax thick,
          651Turning toward thee, so goodly a weaponed man,
          652So glorious; and for love of thine own eyes
          653They are darkened, and tears burn them, fierce as fire,
          654And my lips pause and my soul sinks with love.
          655But by thine hand, by thy sweet life and eyes,
          656By thy great heart and these clasped knees, O son,
          657I pray thee that thou slay me not with thee.
          658For there was never a mother woman-born
          659Loved her sons better; and never a queen of men
          660More perfect in her heart toward whom she loved.
          661For what lies light on many and they forget,
          662Small things and transitory as a wind o' the sea,
          663I forget never; I have seen thee all thine years
          664A man in arms, strong and a joy to men
          665Seeing thine head glitter and thine hand burn its way
          666Through a heavy and iron furrow of sundering spears;
          667But always also a flower of three suns old,
          668The small one thing that lying drew down my life
          669To lie with thee and feed thee; a child and weak,
          670Mine, a delight to no man, sweet to me.
          671Who then sought to thee? who gat help? who knew
          672If thou wert goodly? nay, no man at all.
          673Or what sea saw thee, or sounded with thine oar,
          674Child? or what strange land shone with war through thee?
          675But fair for me thou wert, O little life,
          676Fruitless, the fruit of mine own flesh, and blind,
          677More than much gold, ungrown, a foolish flower.
          678For silver nor bright snow nor feather of foam
          679Was whiter, and no gold yellower than thine hair,
          680O child, my child; and now thou art lordlier grown,
          681Not lovelier, nor a new thing in mine eyes,
          682I charge thee by thy soul and this my breast,
          683Fear thou the gods and me and thine own heart,
          684Lest all these turn against thee; for who knows
          685What wind upon what wave of altering time
          686Shall speak a storm and blow calamity?
          687And there is nothing stabile in the world
          688But the gods break it; yet not less, fair son,
          689If but one thing be stronger, if one endure,
          690Surely the bitter and the rooted love
          691That burns between us, going from me to thee,
          692Shall more endure than all things. What dost thou,
          693Following strange loves? why wilt thou kill mine heart?
          694Lo, I talk wild and windy words, and fall
          695From my clear wits, and seem of mine own self
          696Dethroned, dispraised, disseated; and my mind,
          697That was my crown, breaks, and mine heart is gone,
          698And I am naked of my soul, and stand
          699Ashamed, as a mean woman; take thou thought:
          700Live if thou wilt, and if thou wilt not, look,
          701The gods have given thee life to lose or keep,
          702Thou shalt not die as men die, but thine end
          703Fallen upon thee shall break me unaware.

MELEAGER
          704Queen, my whole heart is molten with thy tears,
          705And my limbs yearn with pity of thee, and love
          706Compels with grief mine eyes and labouring breath;
          707For what thou art I know thee, and this thy breast
          708And thy fair eyes I worship, and am bound
          709Toward thee in spirit and love thee in all my soul.
          710For there is nothing terribler to men
          711Than the sweet face of mothers, and the might.
          712But what shall be let be; for us the day
          713Once only lives a little, and is not found.
          714Time and the fruitful hour are more than we,
          715And these lay hold upon us; but thou, God,
          716Zeus, the sole steersman of the helm of things,
          717Father, be swift to see us, and as thou wilt
          718Help: or if adverse, as thou wilt, refrain.

CHORUS
          719We have seen thee, O Love, thou art fair; thou art goodly, O Love;
          720Thy wings make light in the air as the wings of a dove.
          721Thy feet are as winds that divide the stream of the sea;
          722Earth is thy covering to hide thee, the garment of thee.
          723Thou art swift and subtle and blind as a flame of fire;
          724Before thee the laughter, behind thee the tears of desire;
          725And twain go forth beside thee, a man with a maid;
          726Her eyes are the eyes of a bride whom delight makes afraid;
          727As the breath in the buds that stir is her bridal breath:
          728But Fate is the name of her; and his name is Death.

          729For an evil blossom was born
          730    Of sea-foam and the frothing of blood,
          731        Blood-red and bitter of fruit,
          732            And the seed of it laughter and tears,
          733And the leaves of it madness and scorn;
          734    A bitter flower from the bud,
          735        Sprung of the sea without root,
          736            Sprung without graft from the years.

          737The weft of the world was untorn
          738    That is woven of the day on the night,
          739    The hair of the hours was not white
          740Nor the raiment of time overworn,
          741    When a wonder, a world's delight,
          742A perilous goddess was born;
          743    And the waves of the sea as she came
          744Clove, and the foam at her feet,
          745        Fawning, rejoiced to bring forth
          746    A fleshly blossom, a flame
          747Filling the heavens with heat
          748        To the cold white ends of the north.

          749And in air the clamorous birds,
          750    And men upon earth that hear
          751Sweet articulate words
          752        Sweetly divided apart,
          753    And in shallow and channel and mere
          754The rapid and footless herds,
          755        Rejoiced, being foolish of heart.

          756For all they said upon earth,
          757    She is fair, she is white like a dove,
          758        And the life of the world in her breath
          759Breathes, and is born at her birth;
          760    For they knew thee for mother of love,
          761        And knew thee not mother of death.
          762What hadst thou to do being born,
          763    Mother, when winds were at ease,
          764As a flower of the springtime of corn,
          765    A flower of the foam of the seas?
          766For bitter thou wast from thy birth,
          767    Aphrodite, a mother of strife;
          768For before thee some rest was on earth,
          769        A little respite from tears;
          770    A little pleasure of life;
          771For life was not then as thou art,
          772        But as one that waxeth in years
          773    Sweet-spoken, a fruitful wife;
          774        Earth had no thorn, and desire
          775No sting, neither death any dart;
          776    What hadst thou to do amongst these,
          777        Thou, clothed with a burning fire,
          778Thou, girt with sorrow of heart,
          779    Thou, sprung of the seed of the seas
          780As an ear from a seed of corn,
          781        As a brand plucked forth of a pyre,
          782As a ray shed forth of the morn,
          783    For division of soul and disease,
          784For a dart and a sting and a thorn?
          785What ailed thee then to be born?

          786Was there not evil enough,
          787    Mother, and anguish on earth
          788    Born with a man at his birth,
          789Wastes underfoot, and above
          790    Storm out of heaven, and dearth
          791Shaken down from the shining thereof,
          792        Wrecks from afar overseas
          793    And peril of shallow and firth,
          794        And tears that spring and increase
          795    In the barren places of mirth,
          796That thou, having wings as a dove,
          797    Being girt with desire for a girth,
          798        That thou must come after these,
          799That thou must lay on him love?

          800Thou shouldst not so have been born:
          801    But death should have risen with thee,
          802        Mother, and visible fear,
          803            Grief, and the wringing of hands,
          804And noise of many that mourn;
          805    The smitten bosom, the knee
          806        Bowed, and in each man's ear
          807            A cry as of perishing lands,
          808A moan as of people in prison,
          809    A tumult of infinite griefs;
          810        And thunder of storm on the sands,
          811    And wailing of wives on the shore;
          812And under thee newly arisen
          813    Loud shoals and shipwrecking reefs,
          814        Fierce air and violent light;
          815    Sail rent and sundering oar,
          816        Darkness, and noises of night;
          817Clashing of streams in the sea,
          818    Wave against wave as a sword,
          819        Clamour of currents, and foam;
          820            Rains making ruin on earth,
          821        Winds that wax ravenous and roam
          822    As wolves in a wolfish horde;
          823Fruits growing faint in the tree,
          824            And blind things dead in their birth;
          825        Famine, and blighting of corn,
          826        When thy time was come to be born.
          827All these we know of; but thee
          828    Who shall discern or declare?
          829In the uttermost ends of the sea
          830    The light of thine eyelids and hair,
          831        The light of thy bosom as fire
          832            Between the wheel of the sun
          833    And the flying flames of the air?
          834        Wilt thou turn thee not yet nor have pity,
          835But abide with despair and desire
          836    And the crying of armies undone,
          837            Lamentation of one with another
          838        And breaking of city by city;
          839    The dividing of friend against friend,
          840            The severing of brother and brother;
          841    Wilt thou utterly bring to an end?
          842            Have mercy, mother!

          843For against all men from of old
          844    Thou hast set thine hand as a curse,
          845        And cast out gods from their places.
          846            These things are spoken of thee.
          847Strong kings and goodly with gold
          848    Thou hast found out arrows to pierce,
          849        And made their kingdoms and races
          850            As dust and surf of the sea.
          851All these, overburdened with woes
          852    And with length of their days waxen weak,
          853        Thou slewest; and sentest moreover
          854            Upon Tyro an evil thing,
          855Rent hair and a fetter and blows
          856    Making bloody the flower of the cheek,
          857        Though she lay by a god as a lover,
          858            Though fair, and the seed of a king.
          859For of old, being full of thy fire,
          860    She endured not longer to wear
          861        On her bosom a saffron vest,
          862            On her shoulder an ashwood quiver;
          863Being mixed and made one through desire
          864    With Enipeus, and all her hair
          865        Made moist with his mouth, and her breast
          866            Filled full of the foam of the river.

ATALANTA
          867Sun, and clear light among green hills, and day
          868Late risen and long sought after, and you just gods
          869Whose hands divide anguish and recompense,
          870But first the sun's white sister, a maid in heaven,
          871On earth of all maids worshipped -- hail, and hear,
          872And witness with me if not without sign sent,
          873Not without rule and reverence, I a maid
          874Hallowed, and huntress holy as whom I serve,
          875Here in your sight and eyeshot of these men
          876Stand, girt as they toward hunting, and my shafts
          877Drawn; wherefore all ye stand up on my side,
          878If I be pure and all ye righteous gods,
          879Lest one revile me, a woman, yet no wife,
          880That bear a spear for spindle, and this bow strung
          881For a web woven; and with pure lips salute
          882Heaven, and the face of all the gods, and dawn
          883Filling with maiden flames and maiden flowers
          884The starless fold o' the stars, and making sweet
          885The warm wan heights of the air, moon-trodden ways
          886And breathless gates and extreme hills of heaven.
          887Whom, having offered water and bloodless gifts,
          888Flowers, and a golden circlet of pure hair,
          889Next Artemis I bid be favourable
          890And make this day all golden, hers and ours,
          891Gracious and good and white to the unblamed end.
          892But thou, O well-beloved, of all my days
          893Bid it be fruitful, and a crown for all,
          894To bring forth leaves and bind round all my hair
          895With perfect chaplets woven for thine of thee.
          896For not without the word of thy chaste mouth,
          897For not without law given and clean command,
          898Across the white straits of the running sea
          899From Elis even to the Acheloïan horn,
          900I with clear winds came hither and gentle gods,
          901Far off my father's house, and left uncheered
          902Iasius, and uncheered the Arcadian hills
          903And all their green-haired waters, and all woods
          904Disconsolate, to hear no horn of mine
          905Blown, and behold no flash of swift white feet.

MELEAGER
          906For thy name's sake and awe toward thy chaste head,
          907O holiest Atalanta, no man dares
          908Praise thee, though fairer than whom all men praise,
          909And godlike for thy grace of hallowed hair
          910And holy habit of thine eyes, and feet
          911That make the blown foam neither swift nor white
          912Though the wind winnow and whirl it; yet we praise
          913Gods, found because of thee adorable
          914And for thy sake praiseworthiest from all men:
          915Thee therefore we praise also, thee as these,
          916Pure, and a light lit at the hands of gods.

TOXEUS
          917How long will ye whet spears with eloquence,
          918Fight, and kill beasts dry-handed with sweet words?
          919Cease, or talk still and slay thy boars at home.

PLEXIPPUS
          920Why, if she ride among us for a man,
          921Sit thou for her and spin; a man grown girl
          922Is worth a woman weaponed; sit thou here.

MELEAGER
          923Peace, and be wise; no gods love idle speech.

PLEXIPPUS
          924Nor any man a man's mouth woman-tongued.

MELEAGER
          925For my lips bite not sharper than mine hands.

PLEXIPPUS
          926Nay, both bite soft, but no whit softly mine.

MELEAGER
          927Keep thine hands clean; they have time enough to stain.

PLEXIPPUS
          928For thine shall rest and wax not red to-day.

MELEAGER
          929Have all thy will of words; talk out thine heart.

ALTHÆA
          930Refrain your lips, O brethren, and my son,
          931Lest words turn snakes and bite you uttering them.

TOXEUS
          932Except she give her blood before the gods,
          933What profit shall a maid be among men?

PLEXIPPUS
          934Let her come crowned and stretch her throat for a knife,
          935Bleat out her spirit and die, and so shall men
          936Through her too prosper and through prosperous gods,
          937But nowise through her living; shall she live
          938A flower-bud of the flower-bed, or sweet fruit
          939For kisses and the honey-making mouth,
          940And play the shield for strong men and the spear?
          941Then shall the heifer and her mate lock horns,
          942And the bride overbear the groom, and men
          943Gods; for no less division sunders these;
          944Since all things made are seasonable in time,
          945But if one alter unseasonable are all.
          946But thou, O Zeus, hear me that I may slay
          947This beast before thee and no man halve with me
          948Nor woman, lest these mock thee, though a god,
          949Who hast made men strong, and thou being wise be held
          950Foolish; for wise is that thing which endures.

ATALANTA
          951Men, and the chosen of all this people, and thou,
          952King, I beseech you a little bear with me.
          953For if my life be shameful that I live,
          954Let the gods witness and their wrath; but these
          955Cast no such word against me. Thou, O mine,
          956O holy, O happy goddess, if I sin
          957Changing the words of women and the works
          958For spears and strange men's faces, hast not thou
          959One shaft of all thy sudden seven that pierced
          960Seven through the bosom or shining throat or side,
          961All couched about one mother's loosening knees,
          962All holy born, engraffed of Tantalus?
          963But if toward any of you I am overbold
          964That take thus much upon me, let him think
          965How I, for all my forest holiness,
          966Fame, and this armed and iron maidenhood,
          967Pay thus much also; I shall have no man's love
          968For ever, and no face of children born
          969Or feeding lips upon me or fastening eyes
          970For ever, nor being dead shall kings my sons
          971Mourn me and bury, and tears on daughters' cheeks
          972Burn; but a cold and sacred life, but strange,
          973But far from dances and the back-blowing torch,
          974Far off from flowers or any bed of man,
          975Shall my life be for ever: me the snows
          976That face the first o' the morning, and cold hills
          977Full of the land-wind and sea-travelling storms
          978And many a wandering wing of noisy nights
          979That know the thunder and hear the thickening wolves --
          980Me the utmost pine and footless frost of woods
          981That talk with many winds and gods, the hours
          982Re-risen, and white divisions of the dawn,
          983Springs thousand-tongued with the intermitting reed
          984And streams that murmur of the mother snow --
          985Me these allure, and know me; but no man
          986Knows, and my goddess only. Lo now, see
          987If one of all you these things vex at all.
          988Would God that any of you had all the praise
          989And I no manner of memory when I die,
          990So might I show before her perfect eyes
          991Pure, whom I follow, a maiden to my death.
          992But for the rest let all have all they will;
          993For is it a grief to you that I have part,
          994Being woman merely, in your male might and deeds
          995Done by main strength? yet in my body is throned
          996As great a heart, and in my spirit, O men,
          997I have not less of godlike. Evil it were
          998That one a coward should mix with you, one hand
          999Fearful, one eye abase itself; and these
        1000Well might ye hate and well revile, not me.
        1001For not the difference of the several flesh
        1002Being vile or noble or beautiful or base
        1003Makes praiseworthy, but purer spirit and heart
        1004Higher than these meaner mouths and limbs, that feed,
        1005Rise, rest, and are and are not; and for me,
        1006What should I say? but by the gods of the world
        1007And this my maiden body, by all oaths
        1008That bind the tongue of men and the evil will,
        1009I am not mighty-minded, nor desire
        1010Crowns, nor the spoil of slain things nor the fame;
        1011Feed ye on these, eat and wax fat; cry out,
        1012Laugh, having eaten, and leap without a lyre,
        1013Sing, mix the wind with clamour, smite and shake
        1014Sonorous timbrels and tumultuous hair,
        1015And fill the dance up with tempestuous feet,
        1016For I will none; but having prayed my prayers
        1017And made thank-offering for prosperities,
        1018I shall go hence and no man see me more.
        1019What thing is this for you to shout me down,
        1020What, for a man to grudge me this my life
        1021As it were envious of all yours, and I
        1022A thief of reputations? nay, for now,
        1023If there be any highest in heaven, a god
        1024Above all thrones and thunders of the gods
        1025Throned, and the wheel of the world roll under him,
        1026Judge he between me and all of you, and see
        1027If I transgress at all: but ye, refrain
        1028Transgressing hands and reinless mouths, and keep
        1029Silence, lest by much foam of violent words
        1030And proper poison of your lips ye die.

ŒNEUS
        1031O flower of Tegea, maiden, fleetest foot
        1032And holiest head of women, have good cheer
        1033Of thy good words: but ye, depart with her
        1034In peace and reverence, each with blameless eye
        1035Following his fate; exalt your hands and hearts,
        1036Strike, cease not, arrow on arrow and wound on wound,
        1037And go with gods and with the gods return.

CHORUS
        1038Who hath given man speech? or who hath set therein
        1039A thorn for peril and a snare for sin?
        1040For in the word his life is and his breath,
        1041    And in the word his death,
        1042That madness and the infatuate heart may breed
        1043    From the word's womb the deed
        1044And life bring one thing forth ere all pass by,
        1045Even one thing which is ours yet cannot die --
        1046Death. Hast thou seen him ever anywhere,
        1047Time's twin-born brother, imperishable as he
        1048Is perishable and plaintive, clothed with care
        1049    And mutable as sand,
        1050But death is strong and full of blood and fair
        1051And perdurable and like a lord of land?
        1052Nay, time thou seest not, death thou wilt not see
        1053Till life's right hand be loosened from thine hand
        1054    And thy life-days from thee.
        1055For the gods very subtly fashion
        1056    Madness with sadness upon earth:
        1057Not knowing in any wise compassion,
        1058    Nor holding pity of any worth;
        1059And many things they have given and taken,
        1060    And wrought and ruined many things;
        1061The firm land have they loosed and shaken,
        1062    And sealed the sea with all her springs;
        1063They have wearied time with heavy burdens
        1064And vexed the lips of life with breath:
        1065Set men to labour and given them guerdons,
        1066    Death, and great darkness after death:
        1067Put moans into the bridal measure
        1068    And on the bridal wools a stain;
        1069And circled pain about with pleasure,
        1070    And girdled pleasure about with pain;
        1071And strewed one marriage-bed with tears and fire
        1072For extreme loathing and supreme desire.

        1073What shall be done with all these tears of ours?
        1074    Shall they make watersprings in the fair heaven
        1075To bathe the brows of morning? or like flowers
        1076Be shed and shine before the starriest hours,
        1077    Or made the raiment of the weeping Seven?
        1078Or rather, O our masters, shall they be
        1079Food for the famine of the grievous sea,
        1080    A great well-head of lamentation
        1081Satiating the sad gods? or fall and flow
        1082Among the years and seasons to and fro,
        1083    And wash their feet with tribulation
        1084And fill them full with grieving ere they go?
        1085    Alas, our lords, and yet alas again,
        1086Seeing all your iron heaven is gilt as gold
        1087    But all we smite thereat in vain;
        1088Smite the gates barred with groanings manifold,
        1089    But all the floors are paven with our pain.
        1090Yea, and with weariness of lips and eyes,
        1091With breaking of the bosom, and with sighs,
        1092    We labour, and are clad and fed with grief
        1093And filled with days we would not fain behold
        1094And nights we would not hear of; we wax old,
        1095    All we wax old and wither like a leaf.
        1096We are outcast, strayed between bright sun and moon;
        1097    Our light and darkness are as leaves of flowers,
        1098Black flowers and white, that perish; and the noon
        1099    As midnight, and the night as daylight hours.
        1100    A little fruit a little while is ours,
        1101        And the worm finds it soon.

        1102But up in heaven the high gods one by one
        1103    Lay hands upon the draught that quickeneth,
        1104Fulfilled with all tears shed and all things done,
        1105    And stir with soft imperishable breath
        1106    The bubbling bitterness of life and death,
        1107And hold it to our lips and laugh; but they
        1108Preserve their lips from tasting night or day,
        1109    Lest they too change and sleep, the fates that spun,
        1110The lips that made us and the hands that slay;
        1111    Lest all these change, and heaven bow down to none,
        1112Change and be subject to the secular sway
        1113    And terrene revolution of the sun.
        1114Therefore they thrust it from them, putting time away.

        1115I would the wine of time, made sharp and sweet
        1116    With multitudinous days and nights and tears
        1117    And many mixing savours of strange years,
        1118Were no more trodden of them under feet,
        1119    Cast out and spilt about their holy places:
        1120That life were given them as a fruit to eat
        1121And death to drink as water; that the light
        1122Might ebb, drawn backward from their eyes, and night
        1123    Hide for one hour the imperishable faces.
        1124That they might rise up sad in heaven, and know
        1125Sorrow and sleep, one paler than young snow,
        1126    One cold as blight of dew and ruinous rain;
        1127Rise up and rest and suffer a little, and be
        1128Awhile as all things born with us and we,
        1129    And grieve as men, and like slain men be slain.

        1130For now we know not of them; but one saith
        1131    The gods are gracious, praising God; and one,
        1132When hast thou seen? or hast thou felt his breath
        1133    Touch, nor consume thine eyelids as the sun,
        1134Nor fill thee to the lips with fiery death?
        1135    None hath beheld him, none
        1136Seen above other gods and shapes of things,
        1137Swift without feet and flying without wings,
        1138Intolerable, not clad with death or life,
        1139    Insatiable, not known of night or day,
        1140The lord of love and loathing and of strife
        1141    Who gives a star and takes a sun away;
        1142Who shapes the soul, and makes her a barren wife
        1143    To the earthly body and grievous growth of clay;
        1144Who turns the large limbs to a little flame
        1145    And binds the great sea with a little sand;
        1146Who makes desire, and slays desire with shame;
        1147    Who shakes the heaven as ashes in his hand;
        1148Who, seeing the light and shadow for the same,
        1149    Bids day waste night as fire devours a brand,
        1150Smites without sword, and scourges without rod;
        1151    The supreme evil, God.
        1152Yea, with thine hate, O God, thou hast covered us,
        1153    One saith, and hidden our eyes away from sight,
        1154And made us transitory and hazardous,
        1155    Light things and slight;
        1156Yet have men praised thee, saying, He hath made man thus,
        1157    And he doeth right.
        1158Thou hast kissed us, and hast smitten; thou hast laid
        1159Upon us with thy left hand life, and said,
        1160Live: and again thou hast said, Yield up your breath,
        1161And with thy right hand laid upon us death.
        1162Thou hast sent us sleep, and stricken sleep with dreams,
        1163    Saying, Joy is not, but love of joy shall be;
        1164Thou hast made sweet springs for all the pleasant streams,
        1165    In the end thou hast made them bitter with the sea.
        1166Thou hast fed one rose with dust of many men;
        1167    Thou hast marred one face with fire of many tears;
        1168Thou hast taken love, and given us sorrow again;
        1169    With pain thou hast filled us full to the eyes and ears.
        1170Therefore because thou art strong, our father, and we
        1171    Feeble; and thou art against us, and thine hand
        1172Constrains us in the shallows of the sea
        1173    And breaks us at the limits of the land;
        1174Because thou hast bent thy lightnings as a bow,
        1175    And loosed the hours like arrows; and let fall
        1176Sins and wild words and many a wingèd woe
        1177    And wars among us, and one end of all;
        1178Because thou hast made the thunder, and thy feet
        1179    Are as a rushing water when the skies
        1180Break, but thy face as an exceeding heat
        1181    And flames of fire the eyelids of thine eyes;
        1182Because thou art over all who are over us;
        1183    Because thy name is life and our name death;
        1184Because thou art cruel and men are piteous,
        1185    And our hands labour and thine hand scattereth;
        1186Lo, with hearts rent and knees made tremulous,
        1187    Lo, with ephemeral lips and casual breath,
        1188        At least we witness of thee ere we die
        1189That these things are not otherwise, but thus;
        1190    That each man in his heart sigheth, and saith,
        1191        That all men even as I,
        1192All we are against thee, against thee, O God most high.

        1193    But ye, keep ye on earth
        1194    Your lips from over-speech,
        1195Loud words and longing are so little worth;
        1196    And the end is hard to reach.
        1197For silence after grievous things is good,
        1198    And reverence, and the fear that makes men whole,
        1199And shame, and righteous governance of blood,
        1200    And lordship of the soul.
        1201But from sharp words and wits men pluck no fruit,
        1202And gathering thorns they shake the tree at root;
        1203For words divide and rend;
        1204But silence is most noble till the end.

ALTHÆA
        1205I heard within the house a cry of news
        1206And came forth eastward hither, where the dawn
        1207Cheers first these warder gods that face the sun
        1208And next our eyes unrisen; for unaware
        1209Came clashes of swift hoofs and trampling feet
        1210And through the windy pillared corridor
        1211Light sharper than the frequent flames of day
        1212That daily fill it from the fiery dawn;
        1213Gleams, and a thunder of people that cried out,
        1214And dust and hurrying horsemen; lo their chief,
        1215That rode with Œneus rein by rein, returned.
        1216What cheer, O herald of my lord the king?

HERALD
        1217Lady, good cheer and great; the boar is slain.

CHORUS
        1218Praised be all gods that look toward Calydon.

ALTHÆA
        1219Good news and brief; but by whose happier hand?

HERALD
        1220A maiden's and a prophet's and thy son's.

ALTHÆA
        1221Well fare the spear that severed him and life.

HERALD
        1222Thine own, and not an alien, hast thou blest.

ALTHÆA
        1223Twice be thou too for my sake blest and his.

HERALD
        1224At the king's word I rode afoam for thine.

ALTHÆA
        1225Thou sayest he tarrieth till they bring the spoil?

HERALD
        1226Hard by the quarry, where they breathe, O queen.

ALTHÆA
        1227Speak thou their chance; but some bring flowers and crown
        1228These gods and all the lintel, and shed wine,
        1229Fetch sacrifice and slay; for heaven is good.

HERALD
        1230Some furlongs northward where the brakes begin
        1231West of that narrowing range of warrior hills
        1232Whose brooks have bled with battle when thy son
        1233Smote Acarnania, there all they made halt,
        1234And with keen eye took note of spear and hound,
        1235Royally ranked; Laertes island-born,
        1236The young Gerenian Nestor, Panopeus,
        1237And Cepheus and Ancæus, mightiest thewed,
        1238Arcadians; next, and evil-eyed of these,
        1239Arcadian Atalanta, with twain hounds
        1240Lengthening the leash, and under nose and brow
        1241Glittering with lipless tooth and fire-swift eye;
        1242But from her white braced shoulder the plumed shafts
        1243Rang, and the bow shone from her side; next her
        1244Meleager, like a sun in spring that strikes
        1245Branch into leaf and bloom into the world,
        1246A glory among men meaner; Iphicles,
        1247And following him that slew the biform bull
        1248Pirithous, and divine Eurytion,
        1249And, bride-bound to the gods, Æacides.
        1250Then Telamon his brother, and Argive-born
        1251The seer and sayer of visions and of truth,
        1252Amphiaraus; and a four-fold strength,
        1253Thine, even thy mother's and thy sister's sons.
        1254And recent from the roar of foreign foam
        1255Jason, and Dryas twin-begot with war,
        1256A blossom of bright battle, sword and man
        1257Shining; and Idas, and the keenest eye
        1258Of Lynceus, and Admetus twice-espoused,
        1259And Hippasus and Hyleus, great in heart.
        1260These having halted bade blow horns, and rode
        1261Through woods and waste lands cleft by stormy streams,
        1262Past yew-trees and the heavy hair of pines,
        1263And where the dew is thickest under oaks,
        1264This way and that; but questing up and down
        1265They saw no trail nor scented; and one said,
        1266Plexippus, Help, or help not, Artemis,
        1267And we will flay thy boarskin with male hands;
        1268But saying, he ceased and said not that he would,
        1269Seeing where the green ooze of a sun-struck marsh
        1270Shook with a thousand reeds untunable,
        1271And in their moist and multitudinous flower
        1272Slept no soft sleep, with violent visions fed,
        1273The blind bulk of the immeasurable beast.
        1274And seeing, he shuddered with sharp lust of praise
        1275Through all his limbs, and launched a double dart.
        1276And missed; for much desire divided him,
        1277Too hot of spirit and feebler than his will,
        1278That his hand failed, though fervent; and the shaft,
        1279Sundering the rushes, in a tamarisk stem
        1280Shook, and stuck fast; then all abode save one,
        1281The Arcadian Atalanta; from her side
        1282Sprang her hounds, labouring at the leash, and slipped,
        1283And plashed ear-deep with plunging feet; but she
        1284Saying, Speed it as I send it for thy sake,
        1285Goddess, drew bow and loosed; the sudden string
        1286Rang, and sprang inward, and the waterish air
        1287Hissed, and the moist plumes of the songless reeds
        1288Moved as a wave which the wind moves no more.
        1289But the boar heaved half out of ooze and slime
        1290His tense flank trembling round the barbèd wound,
        1291Hateful; and fiery with invasive eyes
        1292And bristling with intolerable hair
        1293Plunged, and the hounds clung, and green flowers and white
        1294Reddened and broke all round them where they came.
        1295And charging with sheer tusk he drove, and smote
        1296Hyleus; and sharp death caught his sudden soul,
        1297And violent sleep shed night upon his eyes.
        1298Then Peleus, with strong strain of hand and heart,
        1299Shot; but the sidelong arrow slid, and slew
        1300His comrade born and loving countryman,
        1301Under the left arm smitten, as he no less
        1302Poised a like arrow; and bright blood brake afoam,
        1303And falling, and weighed back by clamorous arms,
        1304Sharp rang the dead limbs of Eurytion.
        1305Then one shot happier, the Cadmean seer,
        1306Amphiaraus; for his sacred shaft
        1307Pierced the red circlet of one ravening eye
        1308Beneath the brute brows of the sanguine boar,
        1309Now bloodier from one slain; but he so galled
        1310Sprang straight, and rearing cried no lesser cry
        1311Than thunder and the roar of wintering streams
        1312That mix their own foam with the yellower sea;
        1313And as a tower that falls by fire in fight
        1314With ruin of walls and all its archery,
        1315And breaks the iron flower of war beneath,
        1316Crushing charred limbs and molten arms of men;
        1317So through crushed branches and the reddening brake
        1318Clamoured and crashed the fervour of his feet,
        1319And trampled, springing sideways from the tusk,
        1320Too tardy a moving mould of heavy strength,
        1321Ancæus; and as flakes of weak-winged snow
        1322Break, all the hard thews of his heaving limbs
        1323Broke, and rent flesh fell every way, and blood
        1324Flew, and fierce fragments of no more a man.
        1325Then all the heroes drew sharp breath, and gazed,
        1326And smote not; but Meleager, but thy son,
        1327Right in the wild way of the coming curse
        1328Rock-rooted, fair with fierce and fastened lips,
        1329Clear eyes, and springing muscle and shortening limb --
        1330With chin aslant indrawn to a tightening throat,
        1331Grave, and with gathered sinews, like a god, --
        1332Aimed on the left side his well-handled spear
        1333Grasped where the ash was knottiest hewn, and smote,
        1334And with no missile wound, the monstrous boar
        1335Right in the hairiest hollow of his hide
        1336Under the last rib, sheer through bulk and bone,
        1337Deep in; and deeply smitten, and to death,
        1338The heavy horror with his hanging shafts
        1339Leapt, and fell furiously, and from raging lips
        1340Foamed out the latest wrath of all his life.
        1341And all they praised the gods with mightier heart,
        1342Zeus and all gods, but chiefliest Artemis,
        1343Seeing; but Meleager bade whet knives and flay,
        1344Strip and stretch out the splendour of the spoil;
        1345And hot and horrid from the work all these
        1346Sat, and drew breath and drank and made great cheer
        1347And washed the hard sweat off their calmer brows.
        1348For much sweet grass grew higher than grew the reed,
        1349And good for slumber, and every holier herb,
        1350Narcissus, and the low-lying melilote,
        1351And all of goodliest blade and bloom that springs
        1352Where, hid by heavier hyacinth, violet buds
        1353Blossom and burn; and fire of yellower flowers
        1354And light of crescent lilies, and such leaves
        1355As fear the Faun's and know the Dryad's foot;
        1356Olive and ivy and poplar dedicate,
        1357And many a well-spring overwatched of these.
        1358There now they rest; but me the king bade bear
        1359Good tidings to rejoice this town and thee.
        1360Wherefore be glad, and all ye give much thanks,
        1361For fallen is all the trouble of Calydon.

ALTHÆA
        1362Laud ye the gods; for this they have given is good,
        1363And what shall be they hide until their time.
        1364Much good and somewhat grievous hast thou said,
        1365And either well; but let all sad things be,
        1366Till all have made before the prosperous gods
        1367Burnt-offering, and poured out the floral wine.
        1368Look fair, O gods, and favourable; for we
        1369Praise you with no false heart or flattering mouth,
        1370Being merciful, but with pure souls and prayer.

HERALD
        1371Thou hast prayed well; for whoso fears not these,
        1372But once being prosperous waxes huge of heart,
        1373Him shall some new thing unaware destroy.

CHORUS
        1374O that I now, I too were
        1375By deep wells and water-floods,
        1376Streams of ancient hills, and where
        1377All the wan green places bear
        1378Blossoms cleaving to the sod,
        1379Fruitless fruit, and grasses fair,
        1380Or such darkest ivy-buds
        1381As divide thy yellow hair,
        1382Bacchus, and their leaves that nod
        1383Round thy fawnskin brush the bare
        1384Snow-soft shoulders of a god;
        1385There the year is sweet, and there
        1386Earth is full of secret springs,
        1387And the fervent rose-cheeked hours,
        1388Those that marry dawn and noon,
        1389There are sunless, there look pale
        1390In dim leaves and hidden air,
        1391Pale as grass or latter flowers
        1392Or the wild vine's wan wet rings
        1393Full of dew beneath the moon,
        1394And all day the nightingale
        1395Sleeps, and all night sings;
        1396There in cold remote recesses
        1397That nor alien eyes assail,
        1398Feet, nor imminence of wings,
        1399Nor a wind nor any tune,
        1400Thou, O queen and holiest,
        1401Flower the whitest of all things,
        1402With reluctant lengthening tresses
        1403And with sudden splendid breast
        1404Save of maidens unbeholden,
        1405There art wont to enter, there
        1406Thy divine swift limbs and golden
        1407Maiden growth of unbound hair,
        1408Bathed in waters white,
        1409Shine, and many a maid's by thee
        1410In moist woodland or the hilly
        1411Flowerless brakes where wells abound
        1412Out of all men's sight;
        1413Or in lower pools that see
        1414All their marges clothed all round
        1415With the innumerable lily,
        1416Whence the golden-girdled bee
        1417Flits through flowering rush to fret
        1418White or duskier violet,
        1419Fair as those that in far years
        1420With their buds left luminous
        1421And their little leaves made wet,
        1422From the warmer dew of tears,
        1423Mother's tears in extreme need,
        1424Hid the limbs of Iamus,
        1425Of thy brother's seed;
        1426For his heart was piteous
        1427Toward him, even as thine heart now
        1428Pitiful toward us;
        1429Thine, O goddess, turning hither
        1430A benignant blameless brow;
        1431Seeing enough of evil done
        1432And lives withered as leaves wither
        1433In the blasting of the sun;
        1434Seeing enough of hunters dead,
        1435Ruin enough of all our year,
        1436Herds and harvests slain and shed,
        1437Herdsmen stricken many an one,
        1438Fruits and flocks consumed together,
        1439And great length of deadly days.
        1440Yet with reverent lips and fear
        1441Turn we toward thee, turn and praise
        1442For this lightening of clear weather
        1443And prosperities begun.
        1444For not seldom, when all air
        1445As bright water without breath
        1446Shines, and when men fear not, fate
        1447Without thunder unaware
        1448Breaks, and brings down death.
        1449Joy with grief ye great gods give,
        1450Good with bad, and overbear
        1451All the pride of us that live,
        1452All the high estate,
        1453As ye long since overbore,
        1454As in old time long before,
        1455Many a strong man and a great,
        1456All that were.
        1457But do thou, sweet, otherwise,
        1458Having heed of all our prayer,
        1459Taking note of all our sighs;
        1460We beseech thee by thy light,
        1461By thy bow, and thy sweet eyes,
        1462And the kingdom of the night,
        1463Be thou favourable and fair;
        1464By thine arrows and thy might
        1465And Orion overthrown;
        1466By the maiden thy delight,
        1467By the indissoluble zone
        1468And the sacred hair.

MESSENGER
        1469Maidens, if ye will sing now, shift your song,
        1470Bow down, cry, wail for pity; is this a time
        1471For singing? nay, for strewing of dust and ash,
        1472Rent raiment, and for bruising of the breast.

CHORUS
        1473What new thing wolf-like lurks behind thy words?
        1474What snake's tongue in thy lips? what fire in the eyes?

MESSENGER
        1475Bring me before the queen and I will speak.

CHORUS
        1476Lo, she comes forth as from thank-offering made.

MESSENGER
        1477A barren offering for a bitter gift.

ALTHÆA
        1478What are these borne on branches, and the face
        1479Covered? no mean men living, but now slain
        1480Such honour have they, if any dwell with death.

MESSENGER
        1481Queen, thy twain brethren and thy mother's sons.

ALTHÆA
        1482Lay down your dead till I behold their blood
        1483If it be mine indeed, and I will weep.

MESSENGER
        1484Weep if thou wilt, for these men shall no more.

ALTHÆA
        1485O brethren, O my father's sons, of me
        1486Well loved and well reputed, I should weep
        1487Tears dearer than the dear blood drawn from you
        1488But that I know you not uncomforted,
        1489Sleeping no shameful sleep, however slain,
        1490For my son surely hath avenged you dead.

MESSENGER
        1491Nay, should thine own seed slay himself, O queen?

ALTHÆA
        1492Thy double word brings forth a double death.

MESSENGER
        1493Know this then singly, by one hand they fell.

ALTHÆA
        1494What mutterest thou with thine ambiguous mouth?

MESSENGER
        1495Slain by thy son's hand; is that saying so hard?

ALTHÆA
        1496Our time is come upon us: it is here.

CHORUS
        1497O miserable, and spoiled at thine own hand.

ALTHÆA
        1498Wert thou not called Meleager from this womb?

CHORUS
        1499A grievous huntsman hath it bred to thee.

ALTHÆA
        1500Wert thou born fire, and shalt thou not devour?

CHORUS
        1501The fire thou madest, will it consume even thee?

ALTHÆA
        1502My dreams are fallen upon me; burn thou too.

CHORUS
        1503Not without God are visions born and die.

ALTHÆA
        1504The gods are many about me; I am one.

CHORUS
        1505She groans as men wrestling with heavier gods.

ALTHÆA
        1506They rend me, they divide me, they destroy.

CHORUS
        1507Or one labouring in travail of strange births.

ALTHÆA
        1508They are strong, they are strong; I am broken, and these prevail.

CHORUS
        1509The god is great against her; she will die.

ALTHÆA
        1510Yea, but not now; for my heart too is great.
        1511I would I were not here in sight of the sun.
        1512But thou, speak all thou sawest, and I will die.

MESSENGER
        1513O queen, for queenlike hast thou borne thyself,
        1514A little word may hold so great mischance.
        1515For in division of the sanguine spoil
        1516These men thy brethren wrangling bade yield up
        1517The boar's head and the horror of the hide
        1518That this might stand a wonder in Calydon,
        1519Hallowed; and some drew toward them; but thy son
        1520With great hands grasping all that weight of hair
        1521Cast down the dead heap clanging and collapsed
        1522At female feet, saying This thy spoil not mine,
        1523Maiden, thine own hand for thyself hath reaped,
        1524And all this praise God gives thee: she thereat
        1525Laughed, as when dawn touches the sacred night
        1526The sky sees laugh and redden and divide
        1527Dim lips and eyelids virgin of the sun,
        1528Hers, and the warm slow breasts of morning heave,
        1529Fruitful, and flushed with flame from lamp-lit hours,
        1530And maiden undulation of clear hair
        1531Colour the clouds; so laughed she from pure heart,
        1532Lit with a low blush to the braided hair,
        1533And rose-coloured and cold like very dawn,
        1534Golden and godlike, chastely with chaste lips,
        1535A faint grave laugh; and all they held their peace,
        1536And she passed by them. Then one cried Lo now,
        1537Shall not the Arcadian shoot out lips at us,
        1538Saying all we were despoiled by this one girl?
        1539And all they rode against her violently
        1540And cast the fresh crown from her hair, and now
        1541They had rent her spoil away, dishonouring her,
        1542Save that Meleager, as a tame lion chafed,
        1543Bore on them, broke them, and as fire cleaves wood
        1544So clove and drove them, smitten in twain; but she
        1545Smote not nor heaved up hand; and this man first,
        1546Plexippus, crying out This for love's sake, sweet,
        1547Drove at Meleager, who with spear straightening
        1548Pierced his cheek through; then Toxeus made for him,
        1549Dumb, but his spear spake; vain and violent words.
        1550Fruitless; for him too stricken through both sides
        1551The earth felt falling, and his horse's foam
        1552Blanched thy son's face, his slayer; and these being slain,
        1553None moved nor spake; but Œneus bade bear hence
        1554These made of heaven infatuate in their deaths,
        1555Foolish; for these would baffle fate, and fell.
        1556And they passed on, and all men honoured her,
        1557Being honourable, as one revered of heaven.

ALTHÆA
        1558What say you, women? is all this not well done?

CHORUS
        1559No man doth well but God hath part in him.

ALTHÆA
        1560But no part here; for these my brethren born
        1561Ye have no part in, these ye know not of
        1562As I that was their sister, a sacrifice
        1563Slain in their slaying. I would I had died for these;
        1564For this man dead walked with me, child by child,
        1565And made a weak staff for my feebler feet
        1566With his own tender wrist and hand, and held
        1567And led me softly and shewed me gold and steel
        1568And shining shapes of mirror and bright crown
        1569And all things fair; and threw light spears, and brought
        1570Young hounds to huddle at my feet and thrust
        1571Tame heads against my little maiden breasts
        1572And please me with great eyes; and those days went
        1573And these are bitter and I a barren queen
        1574And sister miserable, a grievous thing
        1575And mother of many curses; and she too,
        1576My sister Leda, sitting overseas
        1577With fair fruits round her, and her faultless lord,
        1578Shall curse me, saying A sorrow and not a son,
        1579Sister, thou barest, even a burning fire,
        1580A brand consuming thine own soul and me.
        1581But ye now, sons of Thestius, make good cheer,
        1582For ye shall have such wood to funeral fire
        1583As no king hath; and flame that once burnt down
        1584Oil shall not quicken or breath relume or wine
        1585Refresh again; much costlier than fine gold,
        1586And more than many lives of wandering men.

CHORUS
        1587O queen, thou hast yet with thee love-worthy things,
        1588Thine husband, and the great strength of thy son.

ALTHÆA
        1589Who shall get brothers for me while I live?
        1590Who bear them? who bring forth in lieu of these?
        1591Are not our fathers and our brethren one,
        1592And no man like them? are not mine here slain?
        1593Have we not hung together, he and I,
        1594Flowerwise feeding as the feeding bees,
        1595With mother-milk for honey? and this man too,
        1596Dead, with my son's spear thrust between his sides,
        1597Hath he not seen us, later born than he,
        1598Laugh with lips filled, and laughed again for love?
        1599There were no sons then in the world, nor spears,
        1600Nor deadly births of women; but the gods
        1601Allowed us, and our days were clear of these.
        1602I would I had died unwedded, and brought forth
        1603No swords to vex the world; for these that spake
        1604Sweet words long since and loved me will not speak
        1605Nor love nor look upon me; and all my life
        1606I shall not hear nor see them living men.
        1607But I too living, how shall I now live?
        1608What life shall this be with my son, to know
        1609What hath been and desire what will not be,
        1610Look for dead eyes and listen for dead lips,
        1611And kill mine own heart with remembering them,
        1612And with those eyes that see their slayer alive
        1613Weep, and wring hands that clasp him by the hand?
        1614How shall I bear my dreams of them, to hear
        1615False voices, feel the kisses of false mouths
        1616And footless sound of perished feet, and then
        1617Wake and hear only it may be their own hounds
        1618Whine masterless in miserable sleep,
        1619And see their boar-spears and their beds and seats
        1620And all the gear and housings of their lives
        1621And not the men? shall hounds and horses mourn,
        1622Pine with strange eyes, and prick up hungry ears,
        1623Famish and fail at heart for their dear lords,
        1624And I not heed at all? and those blind things
        1625Fall off from life for love's sake, and I live?
        1626Surely some death is better than some life,
        1627Better one death for him and these and me
        1628For if the gods had slain them it may be
        1629I had endured it; if they had fallen by war
        1630Or by the nets and knives of privy death
        1631And by hired hands while sleeping, this thing too
        1632I had set my soul to suffer; or this hunt,
        1633Had this despatched them, under tusk or tooth
        1634Torn, sanguine, trodden, broken; for all deaths
        1635Or honourable or with facile feet avenged
        1636And hands of swift gods following, all save this,
        1637Are bearable; but not for their sweet land
        1638Fighting, but not a sacrifice, lo these
        1639Dead; for I had not then shed all mine heart
        1640Out at mine eyes: then either with good speed,
        1641Being just, I had slain their slayer atoningly,
        1642Or strewn with flowers their fire and on their tombs
        1643Hung crowns, and over them a song, and seen
        1644Their praise outflame their ashes: for all men,
        1645All maidens, had come thither, and from pure lips
        1646Shed songs upon them, from heroic eyes
        1647Tears; and their death had been a deathless life;
        1648But now, by no man hired nor alien sword,
        1649By their own kindred are they fallen, in peace,
        1650After much peril, friendless among friends,
        1651By hateful hands they loved; and how shall mine
        1652Touch these returning red and not from war,
        1653These fatal from the vintage of men's veins,
        1654Dead men my brethren? how shall these wash off
        1655No festal stains of undelightful wine,
        1656How mix the blood, my blood on them, with me,
        1657Holding mine hand? or how shall I say, son,
        1658That am no sister? but by night and day
        1659Shall we not sit and hate each other, and think
        1660Things hate-worthy? not live with shamefast eyes,
        1661Brow-beaten, treading soft with fearful feet,
        1662Each unupbraided, each without rebuke
        1663Convicted, and without a word reviled
        1664Each of another? and I shall let thee live
        1665And see thee strong and hear men for thy sake
        1666Praise me, but these thou wouldest not let live
        1667No man shall praise for ever? these shall lie
        1668Dead, unbeloved, unholpen, all through thee?
        1669Sweet were they toward me living, and mine heart
        1670Desired them, but was then well satisfied,
        1671That now is as men hungered; and these dead
        1672I shall want always to the day I die.
        1673For all things else and all men may renew;
        1674Yea, son for son the gods may give and take,
        1675But never a brother or sister any more.

CHORUS
        1676Nay, for the son lies close about thine heart,
        1677Full of thy milk, warm from thy womb, and drains
        1678Life and the blood of life and all thy fruit,
        1679Eats thee and drinks thee as who breaks bread and eats,
        1680Treads wine and drinks, thyself, a sect of thee;
        1681And if he feed not, shall not thy flesh faint?
        1682Or drink not, are not thy lips dead for thirst?
        1683This thing moves more than all things, even thy son,
        1684That thou cleave to him; and he shall honour thee,
        1685Thy womb that bare him and the breasts he knew,
        1686Reverencing most for thy sake all his gods.

ALTHÆA
        1687But these the gods too gave me, and these my son,
        1688Not reverencing his gods nor mine own heart
        1689Nor the old sweet years nor all venerable things,
        1690But cruel, and in his ravin like a beast,
        1691Hath taken away to slay them: yea, and she
        1692She the strange woman, she the flower, the sword,
        1693Red from spilt blood, a mortal flower to men,
        1694Adorable, detestable -- even she
        1695Saw with strange eyes and with strange lips rejoiced,
        1696Seeing these mine own slain of mine own, and me
        1697Made miserable above all miseries made,
        1698A grief among all women in the world,
        1699A name to be washed out with all men's tears.

CHORUS
        1700Strengthen thy spirit; is this not also a god,
        1701Chance, and the wheel of all necessities?
        1702Hard things have fallen upon us from harsh gods,
        1703Whom lest worse hap rebuke we not for these.

ALTHÆA
        1704My spirit is strong against itself, and I
        1705For these things' sake cry out on mine own soul
        1706That it endures outrage, and dolorous days,
        1707And life, and this inexpiable impotence.
        1708Weak am I, weak and shameful; my breath drawn
        1709Shames me, and monstrous things and violent gods.
        1710What shall atone? what heal me? what bring back
        1711Strength to the foot, light to the face? what herb
        1712Assuage me? what restore me? what release?
        1713What strange thing eaten or drunken, O great gods,
        1714Make me as you or as the beasts that feed,
        1715Slay and divide and cherish their own hearts?
        1716For these ye show us; and we less than these
        1717Have not wherewith to live as all these things
        1718Which all their lives fare after their own kind
        1719As who doth well rejoicing; but we ill,
        1720Weeping or laughing, we whom eyesight fails,
        1721Knowledge and light of face and perfect heart,
        1722And hands we lack, and wit; and all our days
        1723Sin, and have hunger, and die infatuated.
        1724For madness have ye given us and not health,
        1725And sins whereof we know not; and for these
        1726Death, and sudden destruction unaware.
        1727What shall we say now? what thing comes of us?

CHORUS
        1728Alas, for all this all men undergo.

ALTHÆA
        1729Wherefore I will not that these twain, O gods,
        1730Die as a dog dies, eaten of creeping things,
        1731Abominable, a loathing; but though dead
        1732Shall they have honour and such funereal flame
        1733As strews men's ashes in their enemies' face
        1734And blinds their eyes who hate them: lest men say,
        1735"Lo how they lie, and living had great kin,
        1736And none of these hath pity of them, and none
        1737Regards them lying, and none is wrung at heart,
        1738None moved in spirit for them, naked and slain,
        1739Abhorred, abased, and no tears comfort them:"
        1740And in the dark this grieve Eurythemis,
        1741Hearing how these her sons come down to her
        1742Unburied, unavenged, as kinless men,
        1743And had a queen their sister. That were shame
        1744Worse than this grief. Yet how to atone at all
        1745I know not; seeing the love of my born son,
        1746A new-made mother's new-born love, that grows
        1747From the soft child to the strong man, now soft
        1748Now strong as either, and still one sole same love,
        1749Strives with me, no light thing to strive withal;
        1750This love is deep, and natural to man's blood,
        1751And ineffaceable with many tears.
        1752Yet shall not these rebuke me though I die,
        1753Nor she in that waste world with all her dead,
        1754My mother, among the pale flocks fallen as leaves,
        1755Folds of dead people, and alien from the sun;
        1756Nor lack some bitter comfort, some poor praise,
        1757Being queen, to have borne her daughter like a queen,
        1758Righteous; and though mine own fire burn me too,
        1759She shall have honour and these her sons, though dead.
        1760But all the gods will, all they do, and we
        1761Not all we would, yet somewhat; and one choice
        1762We have, to live and do just deeds and die.

CHORUS
        1763Terrible words she communes with, and turns
        1764Swift fiery eyes in doubt against herself,
        1765And murmurs as who talks in dreams with death.

ALTHÆA
        1766For the unjust also dieth, and him all men
        1767Hate, and himself abhors the unrighteousness,
        1768And seeth his own dishonour intolerable.
        1769But I being just, doing right upon myself,
        1770Slay mine own soul, and no man born shames me.
        1771For none constrains nor shall rebuke, being done,
        1772What none compelled me doing; thus these things fare.
        1773Ah, ah, that such things should so fare; ah me,
        1774That I am found to do them and endure,
        1775Chosen and constrained to choose, and bear myself
        1776Mine own wound through mine own flesh to the heart
        1777Violently stricken, a spoiler and a spoil,
        1778A ruin ruinous, fallen on mine own son.
        1779Ah, ah, for me too as for these; alas,
        1780For that is done that shall be, and mine hand
        1781Full of the deed, and full of blood mine eyes,
        1782That shall see never nor touch anything
        1783Save blood unstanched and fire unquenchable.

CHORUS
        1784What wilt thou do? what ails thee? for the house
        1785Shakes ruinously; wilt thou bring fire for it?

ALTHÆA
        1786Fire in the roofs, and on the lintels fire.
        1787Lo ye, who stand and weave, between the doors,
        1788There; and blood drips from hand and thread, and stains
        1789Threshold and raiment and me passing in
        1790Flecked with the sudden sanguine drops of death.

CHORUS
        1791Alas that time is stronger than strong men,
        1792Fate than all gods: and these are fallen on us.

ALTHÆA
        1793A little since and I was glad; and now
        1794I never shall be glad or sad again.

CHORUS
        1795Between two joys a grief grows unaware.

ALTHÆA
        1796A little while and I shall laugh; and then
        1797I shall weep never and laugh not any more.

CHORUS
        1798What shall be said? for words are thorns to grief.
        1799Withhold thyself a little and fear the gods.

ALTHÆA
        1800Fear died when these were slain; and I am as dead,
        1801And fear is of the living; these fear none.

CHORUS
        1802Have pity upon all people for their sake.

ALTHÆA
        1803It is done now; shall I put back my day?

CHORUS
        1804An end is come, an end; this is of God.

ALTHÆA
        1805I am fire, and burn myself; keep clear of fire.

CHORUS
        1806The house is broken, is broken; it shall not stand.

ALTHÆA
        1807Woe, woe for him that breaketh; and a rod
        1808Smote it of old, and now the axe is here.

CHORUS
        1809    Not as with sundering of the earth
        1810        Nor as with cleaving of the sea
        1811    Nor fierce foreshadowings of a birth
        1812        Nor flying dreams of death to be
        1813    Nor loosening of the large world's girth
        1814    And quickening of the body of night,
        1815        And sound of thunder in men's ears
        1816    And fire of lightning in men's sight,
        1817        Fate, mother of desires and fears,
        1818        Bore unto men the law of tears;
        1819    But sudden, an unfathered flame,
        1820        And broken out of night, she shone,
        1821    She, without body, without name,
        1822        In days forgotten and foregone;
        1823    And heaven rang round her as she came
        1824    Like smitten cymbals, and lay bare;
        1825        Clouds and great stars, thunders and snows,
        1826    The blue sad fields and folds of air,
        1827        The life that breathes, the life that grows,
        1828        All wind, all fire, that burns or blows,
        1829    Even all these knew her: for she is great;
        1830        The daughter of doom, the mother of death,
        1831    The sister of sorrow; a lifelong weight
        1832        That no man's finger lighteneth,
        1833    Nor any god can lighten fate;
        1834    A landmark seen across the way
        1835        Where one race treads as the other trod;
        1836    An evil sceptre, an evil stay,
        1837        Wrought for a staff, wrought for a rod,
        1838        The bitter jealousy of God.

        1839    For death is deep as the sea,
        1840        And fate as the waves thereof.
        1841    Shall the waves take pity on thee
        1842        Or the southwind offer thee love?
        1843    Wilt thou take the night for thy day
        1844    Or the darkness for light on thy way,
        1845        Till thou say in thine heart Enough?
        1846    Behold, thou art over fair, thou art over wise;
        1847The sweetness of spring in thine hair, and the light in thine eyes.
        1848The light of the spring in thine eyes, and the sound in thine ears;
        1849Yet thine heart shall wax heavy with sighs and thine eyelids with tears.
        1850Wilt thou cover thine hair with gold, and with silver thy feet?
        1851Hast thou taken the purple to fold thee, and made thy mouth sweet?
        1852Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee shall hate;
        1853Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate.
        1854For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain;
        1855And the veil of thine head shall be grief; and the crown shall be pain.

ALTHÆA
        1856Ho, ye that wail, and ye that sing, make way
        1857Till I be come among you. Hide your tears,
        1858Ye little weepers, and your laughing lips,
        1859Ye laughers for a little; lo mine eyes
        1860That outweep heaven at rainiest, and my mouth
        1861That laughs as gods laugh at us. Fate's are we,
        1862Yet fate is ours a breathing-space; yea, mine,
        1863Fate is made mine for ever; he is my son,
        1864My bedfellow, my brother. You strong gods,
        1865Give place unto me; I am as any of you,
        1866To give life and to take life. Thou, old earth,
        1867That hast made man and unmade; thou whose mouth
        1868Looks red from the eaten fruits of thine own womb;
        1869Behold me with what lips upon what food
        1870I feed and fill my body; even with flesh
        1871Made of my body. Lo, the fire I lit
        1872I burn with fire to quench it; yea, with flame
        1873I burn up even the dust and ash thereof.

CHORUS
        1874Woman, what fire is this thou burnest with?

ALTHÆA
        1875Yea to the bone, yea to the blood and all.

CHORUS
        1876For this thy face and hair are as one fire.

ALTHÆA
        1877A tongue that licks and beats upon the dust.

CHORUS
        1878And in thine eyes are hollow light and heat.

ALTHÆA
        1879Of flame not fed with hand or frankincense.

CHORUS
        1880I fear thee for the trembling of thine eyes.

ALTHÆA
        1881Neither with love they tremble nor for fear.

CHORUS
        1882And thy mouth shuddering like a shot bird.

ALTHÆA
        1883Not as the bride's mouth when man kisses it.

CHORUS
        1884Nay, but what thing is this thing thou hast done?

ALTHÆA
        1885Look, I am silent, speak your eyes for me.

CHORUS
        1886I see a faint fire lightening from the hall.

ALTHÆA
        1887Gaze, stretch your eyes, strain till the lids drop off.

CHORUS
        1888Flushed pillars down the flickering vestibule.

ALTHÆA
        1889Stretch with your necks like birds: cry, chirp as they.

CHORUS
        1890And a long brand that blackens: and white dust.

ALTHÆA
        1891O children, what is this ye see? your eyes
        1892Are blinder than night's face at fall of moon.
        1893That is my son, my flesh, my fruit of life,
        1894My travail, and the year's weight of my womb,
        1895Meleager, a fire enkindled of mine hands
        1896And of mine hands extinguished; this is he.

CHORUS
        1897O gods, what word has flown out at thy mouth?

ALTHÆA
        1898I did this and I say this and I die.

CHORUS
        1899Death stands upon the doorway of thy lips,
        1900And in thy mouth has death set up his house.

ALTHÆA
        1901O death, a little, a little while, sweet death,
        1902Until I see the brand burnt down and die.

CHORUS
        1903She reels as any reed under the wind,
        1904And cleaves unto the ground with staggering feet.

ALTHÆA
        1905Girls, one thing will I say and hold my peace.
        1906I that did this will weep not nor cry out,
        1907Cry ye and weep: I will not call on gods,
        1908Call ye on them; I will not pity man,
        1909Shew ye your pity. I know not if I live;
        1910Save that I feel the fire upon my face
        1911And on my cheek the burning of a brand.
        1912Yea the smoke bites me, yea I drink the steam
        1913With nostril and with eyelid and with lip
        1914Insatiate and intolerant; and mine hands
        1915Burn, and fire feeds upon mine eyes; I reel
        1916As one made drunk with living, whence he draws
        1917Drunken delight; yet I, though mad for joy,
        1918Loathe my long living and am waxen red
        1919As with the shadow of shed blood; behold,
        1920I am kindled with the flames that fade in him,
        1921I am swollen with subsiding of his veins,
        1922I am flooded with his ebbing; my lit eyes
        1923Flame with the falling fire that leaves his lids
        1924Bloodless; my cheek is luminous with blood
        1925Because his face is ashen. Yet, O child,
        1926Son, first-born, fairest -- O sweet mouth, sweet eyes,
        1927That drew my life out through my suckling breast,
        1928That shone and clove mine heart through -- O soft knees
        1929Clinging, O tender treadings of soft feet,
        1930Cheeks warm with little kissings -- O child, child,
        1931What have we made each other? Lo, I felt
        1932Thy weight cleave to me, a burden of beauty, O son,
        1933Thy cradled brows and loveliest loving lips,
        1934The floral hair, the little lightening eyes,
        1935And all thy goodly glory; with mine hands
        1936Delicately I fed thee, with my tongue
        1937Tenderly spake, saying, Verily in God's time,
        1938For all the little likeness of thy limbs,
        1939Son, I shall make thee a kingly man to fight,
        1940A lordly leader; and hear before I die,
        1941"She bore the goodliest sword of all the world."
        1942Oh! oh! For all my life turns round on me;
        1943I am severed from myself, my name is gone,
        1944My name that was a healing, it is changed,
        1945My name is a consuming. From this time,
        1946Though mine eyes reach to the end of all these things,
        1947My lips shall not unfasten till I die.

SEMICHORUS
        1948She has filled with sighing the city,
        1949    And the ways thereof with tears;
        1950She arose, she girdled her sides,
        1951She set her face as a bride's;
        1952She wept, and she had no pity;
        1953    Trembled, and felt no fears.

SEMICHORUS
        1954Her eyes were clear as the sun,
        1955    Her brows were fresh as the day;
        1956She girdled herself with gold,
        1957Her robes were manifold;
        1958But the days of her worship are done,
        1959    Her praise is taken away.

SEMICHORUS
        1960For she set her hand to the fire,
        1961    With her mouth she kindled the same;
        1962As the mouth of a flute-player,
        1963So was the mouth of her;
        1964With the might of her strong desire
        1965    She blew the breath of the flame.

SEMICHORUS
        1966She set her hand to the wood,
        1967    She took the fire in her hand;
        1968As one who is nigh to death,
        1969She panted with strange breath;
        1970She opened her lips unto blood,
        1971    She breathed and kindled the brand.

SEMICHORUS
        1972As a wood-dove newly shot,
        1973    She sobbed and lifted her breast;
        1974She sighed and covered her eyes,
        1975Filling her lips with sighs;
        1976She sighed, she withdrew herself not,
        1977    She refrained not, taking not rest;

SEMICHORUS
        1978But as the wind which is drouth,
        1979    And as the air which is death,
        1980As storm that severeth ships,
        1981Her breath severing her lips,
        1982The breath came forth of her mouth
        1983    And the fire came forth of her breath.

SECOND MESSENGER
        1984Queen, and you maidens, there is come on us
        1985A thing more deadly than the face of death;
        1986Meleager the good lord is as one slain.

SEMICHORUS
        1987    Without sword, without sword is he stricken;
        1988        Slain, and slain without hand.

SECOND MESSENGER
        1989For as keen ice divided of the sun
        1990His limbs divide, and as thawed snow the flesh
        1991Thaws from off all his body to the hair.

SEMICHORUS
        1992    He wastes as the embers quicken;
        1993        With the brand he fades as a brand.

SECOND MESSENGER
        1994Even while they sang and all drew hither and he
        1995Lifted both hands to crown the Arcadian's hair
        1996And fix the looser leaves, both hands fell down.

SEMICHORUS
        1997        With rending of cheek and of hair
        1998            Lament ye, mourn for him, weep.

SECOND MESSENGER
        1999Straightway the crown slid off and smote on earth,
        2000First fallen; and he, grasping his own hair, groaned
        2001And cast his raiment round his face and fell.

SEMICHORUS
        2002        Alas for visions that were,
        2003            And soothsayings spoken in sleep.

SECOND MESSENGER
        2004But the king twitched his reins in and leapt down
        2005And caught him, crying out twice "O child" and thrice,
        2006So that men's eyelids thickened with their tears.

SEMICHORUS
        2007        Lament with a long lamentation,
        2008            Cry, for an end is at hand.

SECOND MESSENGER
        2009O son, he said, son, lift thine eyes, draw breath,
        2010Pity me; but Meleager with sharp lips
        2011Gasped, and his face waxed like as sunburnt grass.

SEMICHORUS
        2012        Cry aloud, O thou kingdom, O nation,
        2013            O stricken, a ruinous land.

SECOND MESSENGER
        2014Whereat king Œneus, straightening feeble knees,
        2015With feeble hands heaved up a lessening weight,
        2016And laid him sadly in strange hands, and wept.

SEMICHORUS
        2017        Thou art smitten, her lord, her desire,
        2018            Thy dear blood wasted as rain.

SECOND MESSENGER
        2019And they with tears and rendings of the beard
        2020Bear hither a breathing body, wept upon
        2021And lightening at each footfall, sick to death.

SEMICHORUS
        2022        Thou madest thy sword as a fire,
        2023            With fire for a sword thou art slain.

SECOND MESSENGER
        2024And lo, the feast turned funeral, and the crowns
        2025Fallen; and the huntress and the hunter trapped;
        2026And weeping and changed faces and veiled hair.

MELEAGER
        2027        Let your hands meet
        2028            Round the weight of my head;
        2029        Lift ye my feet
        2030            As the feet of the dead;
        2031For the flesh of my body is molten, the limbs of it molten as lead.

CHORUS
        2032        O thy luminous face,
        2033            Thine imperious eyes!
        2034        O the grief, O the grace,
        2035            As of day when it dies!
        2036Who is this bending over thee, lord, with tears and suppression of sighs?

MELEAGER
        2037        Is a bride so fair?
        2038            Is a maid so meek?
        2039        With unchapleted hair,
        2040            With unfilleted cheek,
        2041Atalanta, the pure among women, whose name is as blessing to speak.

ATALANTA
        2042        I would that with feet
        2043            Unsandalled, unshod,
        2044        Overbold, overfleet,
        2045            I had swum not nor trod
        2046From Arcadia to Calydon northward, a blast of the envy of God.

MELEAGER
        2047        Unto each man his fate;
        2048            Unto each as he saith
        2049        In whose fingers the weight
        2050            Of the world is as breath;
        2051Yet I would that in clamour of battle mine hands had laid hold upon death.

CHORUS
        2052        Not with cleaving of shields
        2053            And their clash in thine ear,
        2054        When the lord of fought fields
        2055            Breaketh spearshaft from spear,
        2056Thou art broken, our lord, thou art broken, with travail and labour and fear.

MELEAGER
        2057        Would God he had found me
        2058            Beneath fresh boughs!
        2059        Would God he had bound me
        2060            Unawares in mine house,
        2061With light in mine eyes, and songs in my lips, and a crown on my brows!

CHORUS
        2062        Whence art thou sent from us?
        2063            Whither thy goal?
        2064        How art thou rent from us,
        2065            Thou that wert whole,
        2066As with severing of eyelids and eyes, as with sundering of body and soul!

MELEAGER
        2067        My heart is within me
        2068            As an ash in the fire;
        2069        Whosoever hath seen me,
        2070            Without lute, without lyre,
        2071Shall sing of me grievous things, even things that were ill to desire.

CHORUS
        2072        Who shall raise thee
        2073            From the house of the dead?
        2074        Or what man praise thee
        2075            That thy praise may be said?
        2076Alas thy beauty! alas thy body! alas thine head!

MELEAGER
        2077        But thou, O mother,
        2078            The dreamer of dreams,
        2079        Wilt thou bring forth another
        2080            To feel the sun's beams
        2081When I move among shadows a shadow, and wail by impassable streams?

ŒNEUS
        2082        What thing wilt thou leave me
        2083            Now this thing is done?
        2084        A man wilt thou give me,
        2085            A son for my son,
        2086For the light of mine eyes, the desire of my life, the desirable one?

CHORUS
        2087        Thou wert glad above others,
        2088            Yea, fair beyond word;
        2089        Thou wert glad among mothers;
        2090            For each man that heard
        2091Of thee, praise there was added unto thee, as wings to the feet of a bird.

ŒNEUS
        2092        Who shall give back
        2093            Thy face of old years
        2094        With travail made black,
        2095            Grown grey among fears,
        2096Mother of sorrow, mother of cursing, mother of tears?

MELEAGER
        2097        Though thou art as fire
        2098            Fed with fuel in vain,
        2099        My delight, my desire,
        2100            Is more chaste than the rain,
        2101More pure than the dewfall, more holy than stars are that live without stain.

ATALANTA
        2102        I would that as water
        2103            My life's blood had thawn,
        2104        Or as winter's wan daughter
        2105            Leaves lowland and lawn
        2106Spring-stricken, or ever mine eyes had beheld thee made dark in thy dawn.

CHORUS
        2107        When thou dravest the men
        2108            Of the chosen of Thrace,
        2109        None turned him again
        2110            Nor endured he thy face
        2111Clothed round with the blush of the battle, with light from a terrible place.

ŒNEUS
        2112        Thou shouldst die as he dies
        2113            For whom none sheddeth tears;
        2114        Filling thine eyes
        2115            And fulfilling thine ears
        2116With the brilliance of battle, the bloom and the beauty, the splendour of spears.

CHORUS
        2117        In the ears of the world
        2118            It is sung, it is told,
        2119        And the light thereof hurled
        2120            And the noise thereof rolled
        2121From the Acroceraunian snow to the ford of the fleece of gold.

MELEAGER
        2122        Would God ye could carry me
        2123            Forth of all these;
        2124        Heap sand and bury me
        2125            By the Chersonese
        2126Where the thundering Bosphorus answers the thunder of Pontic seas.

ŒNEUS
        2127        Dost thou mock at our praise
        2128            And the singing begun
        2129        And the men of strange days
        2130            Praising my son
        2131In the folds of the hills of home, high places of Calydon?

MELEAGER
        2132        For the dead man no home is;
        2133            Ah, better to be
        2134        What the flower of the foam is
        2135            In fields of the sea,
        2136That the sea-waves might be as my raiment, the gulf-stream a garment for me.

CHORUS
        2137        Who shall seek thee and bring
        2138            And restore thee thy day,
        2139        When the dove dipt her wing
        2140            And the oars won their way
        2141Where the narrowing Symplegades whitened the straits of Propontis with spray?

MELEAGER
        2142        Will ye crown me my tomb
        2143            Or exalt me my name,
        2144        Now my spirits consume,
        2145            Now my flesh is a flame?
        2146Let the sea slake it once, and men speak of me sleeping to praise me or shame.

CHORUS
        2147        Turn back now, turn thee,
        2148            As who turns him to wake;
        2149        Though the life in thee burn thee,
        2150            Couldst thou bathe it and slake
        2151Where the sea-ridge of Helle hangs heavier, and east upon west waters break?

MELEAGER
        2152        Would the winds blow me back
        2153            Or the waves hurl me home?
        2154        Ah, to touch in the track
        2155            Where the pine learnt to roam
        2156Cold girdles and crowns of the sea-gods, cool blossoms of water and foam!

CHORUS
        2157        The gods may release
        2158            That they made fast;
        2159        Thy soul shall have ease
        2160            In thy limbs at the last;
        2161But what shall they give thee for life, sweet life that is overpast?

MELEAGER
        2162        Not the life of men's veins,
        2163            Not of flesh that conceives;
        2164        But the grace that remains,
        2165            The fair beauty that cleaves
        2166To the life of the rains in the grasses, the life of the dews on the leaves.

CHORUS
        2167        Thou wert helmsman and chief;
        2168            Wilt thou turn in an hour,
        2169        Thy limbs to the leaf,
        2170            Thy face to the flower,
        2171Thy blood to the water, thy soul to the gods who divide and devour?

MELEAGER
        2172        The years are hungry,
        2173            They wail all their days;
        2174        The gods wax angry
        2175            And weary of praise;
        2176And who shall bridle their lips? and who shall straiten their ways?

CHORUS
        2177        The gods guard over us
        2178            With sword and with rod;
        2179        Weaving shadow to cover us,
        2180            Heaping the sod,
        2181That law may fulfil herself wholly, to darken man's face before God.

MELEAGER
        2182O holy head of Œneus, lo thy son
        2183Guiltless, yet red from alien guilt, yet foul
        2184With kinship of contaminated lives,
        2185Lo, for their blood I die; and mine own blood
        2186For bloodshedding of mine is mixed therewith,
        2187That death may not discern me from my kin.
        2188Yet with clean heart I die and faultless hand,
        2189Not shamefully; thou therefore of thy love
        2190Salute me, and bid fare among the dead
        2191Well, as the dead fare; for the best man dead
        2192Fares sadly; nathless I now faring well
        2193Pass without fear where nothing is to fear
        2194Having thy love about me and thy goodwill,
        2195O father, among dark places and men dead.

ŒNEUS
        2196Child, I salute thee with sad heart and tears,
        2197And bid thee comfort, being a perfect man
        2198In fight, and honourable in the house of peace.
        2199The gods give thee fair wage and dues of death,
        2200And me brief days and ways to come at thee.

MELEAGER
        2201Pray thou thy days be long before thy death,
        2202And full of ease and kingdom; seeing in death
        2203There is no comfort and none aftergrowth,
        2204Nor shall one thence look up and see day's dawn
        2205Nor light upon the land whither I go.
        2206Live thou and take thy fill of days and die
        2207When thy day comes; and make not much of death
        2208Lest ere thy day thou reap an evil thing.
        2209Thou too, the bitter mother and mother-plague
        2210Of this my weary body -- thou too, queen,
        2211The source and end, the sower and the scythe,
        2212The rain that ripens and the drought that slays,
        2213The sand that swallows and the spring that feeds,
        2214To make me and unmake me -- thou, I say,
        2215Althæa, since my father's ploughshare, drawn
        2216Through fatal seedland of a female field,
        2217Furrowed thy body, whence a wheaten ear
        2218Strong from the sun and fragrant from the rains
        2219I sprang and cleft the closure of thy womb,
        2220Mother, I dying with unforgetful tongue
        2221Hail thee as holy and worship thee as just
        2222Who art unjust and unholy; and with my knees
        2223Would worship, but thy fire and subtlety,
        2224Dissundering them, devour me; for these limbs
        2225Are as light dust and crumblings from mine urn
        2226Before the fire has touched them; and my face
        2227As a dead leaf or dead foot's mark on snow,
        2228And all this body a broken barren tree
        2229That was so strong, and all this flower of life
        2230Disbranched and desecrated miserably,
        2231And minished all that god-like muscle and might
        2232And lesser than a man's: for all my veins
        2233Fail me, and all mine ashen life burns down.
        2234I would thou hadst let me live; but gods averse,
        2235But fortune, and the fiery feet of change,
        2236And time, these would not, these tread out my life,
        2237These and not thou; me too thou hast loved, and I
        2238Thee; but this death was mixed with all my life,
        2239Mine end with my beginning: and this law,
        2240This only, slays me, and not my mother at all.
        2241And let no brother or sister grieve too sore,
        2242Nor melt their hearts out on me with their tears,
        2243Since extreme love and sorrowing overmuch
        2244Vex the great gods, and overloving men
        2245Slay and are slain for love's sake; and this house
        2246Shall bear much better children; why should these
        2247Weep? but in patience let them live their lives
        2248And mine pass by forgotten: thou alone,
        2249Mother, thou sole and only, thou not these,
        2250Keep me in mind a little when I die
        2251Because I was thy first-born; let thy soul
        2252Pity me, pity even me gone hence and dead,
        2253Though thou wert wroth, and though thou bear again
        2254Much happier sons, and all men later born
        2255Exceedingly excel me; yet do thou
        2256Forget not, nor think shame; I was thy son.
        2257Time was I did not shame thee; and time was
        2258I thought to live and make thee honourable
        2259With deeds as great as these men's; but they live,
        2260These, and I die; and what thing should have been
        2261Surely I know not; yet I charge thee, seeing
        2262I am dead already, love me not the less,
        2263Me, O my mother; I charge thee by these gods,
        2264My father's, and that holier breast of thine,
        2265By these that see me dying, and that which nursed,
        2266Love me not less, thy first-born: though grief come,
        2267Grief only, of me, and of all these great joy,
        2268And shall come always to thee; for thou knowest,
        2269O mother, O breasts that bare me, for ye know,
        2270O sweet head of my mother, sacred eyes,
        2271Ye know my soul albeit I sinned, ye know
        2272Albeit I kneel not neither touch thy knees,
        2273But with my lips I kneel, and with my heart
        2274I fall about thy feet and worship thee.
        2275And ye farewell now, all my friends; and ye,
        2276Kinsmen, much younger and glorious more than I,
        2277Sons of my mother's sister; and all farewell
        2278That were in Colchis with me, and bare down
        2279The waves and wars that met us: and though times
        2280Change, and though now I be not anything,
        2281Forget not me among you, what I did
        2282In my good time; for even by all those days,
        2283Those days and this, and your own living souls,
        2284And by the light and luck of you that live,
        2285And by this miserable spoil, and me
        2286Dying, I beseech you, let my name not die.
        2287But thou, dear, touch me with thy rose-like hands,
        2288And fasten up mine eyelids with thy mouth,
        2289A bitter kiss; and grasp me with thine arms,
        2290Printing with heavy lips my light waste flesh,
        2291Made light and thin by heavy-handed fate,
        2292And with thine holy maiden eyes drop dew,
        2293Drop tears for dew upon me who am dead,
        2294Me who have loved thee; seeing without sin done
        2295I am gone down to the empty weary house
        2296Where no flesh is nor beauty nor swift eyes
        2297Nor sound of mouth nor might of hands and feet.
        2298But thou, dear, hide my body with thy veil,
        2299And with thy raiment cover foot and head,
        2300And stretch thyself upon me and touch hands
        2301With hands and lips with lips: be pitiful
        2302As thou art maiden perfect; let no man
        2303Defile me to despise me, saying, This man
        2304Died woman-wise, a woman's offering, slain
        2305Through female fingers in his woof of life,
        2306Dishonourable; for thou hast honoured me.
        2307And now for God's sake kiss me once and twice
        2308And let me go; for the night gathers me,
        2309And in the night shall no man gather fruit.

ATALANTA
        2310Hail thou: but I with heavy face and feet
        2311Turn homeward and am gone out of thine eyes.

CHORUS
        2312        Who shall contend with his lords
        2313            Or cross them or do them wrong?
        2314        Who shall bind them as with cords?
        2315            Who shall tame them as with song?
        2316        Who shall smite them as with swords?
        2317            For the hands of their kingdom are strong.

Notes

720] Compare The Song of Songs, iv.1-2.

1051] perdurable: enduring.

1077] the weeping Seven: the Hyades, seven stars in the constellation Taurus, associated with the monsoon season.

1113] terrene: earthly.

1424] Iamus: son of Apollo and Evadne, whom Apollo gave prophetic powers.

1465] Orion: a the hunter-giant killed by Artemis and transformed into a constellation.

2046] Arcadia: the region of the Peloponnesus in Greece.
Calydon: &Aelig;tolian city.

2121] Acroceraunian: Ceraunian mountains in Epirus.
the ford of the fleece of gold: the Hellespont.

2125] Chersonese: Gallipoli, the peninsula north of the Hellespont.

2126] Pontic seas: the Black Sea.

2141] Symplegades: two rocky islands at the entrance to the Euxine Sea, renowned from the story of the Argonauts.
Propontis: the Sea of Marmora.

2151] Helle: the Hellespont.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): II, 235-333.
First publication date: 1865
Publication date note: Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy (London: Edward Moxon, 1865).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO (1999).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/24

Form: various


Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne