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Helen Redeemed and Other Poems
by Maurice Hewlett
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HELEN REDEEMED

AND OTHER POEMS

BY MAURICE HEWLETT

{Doron Eros Aide}



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



Transcriber's Note

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Archaic spellings have been retained. Greek words have been transliterated and are shown between {braces}. The oe ligature has been transcribed as [oe].



DEDICATION

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

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

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

October 6, 1912.



CONTENTS

PAGE

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



NOTE

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



HELEN REDEEMED

PROEM

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

18th September 1912.

FIRST STAVE

THE DEATH OF ACHILLES

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

SECOND STAVE

MENELAUS' DREAM: HELEN ON THE WALL

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

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

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

THIRD STAVE

MENELAUS SPEAKS WITH HELEN

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

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

FOURTH STAVE

THE APOLOGY OF HELEN

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

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

FIFTH STAVE

A COUNCIL OF THE ACHAIANS: THE EMBASSY OF ODYSSEUS

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

SIXTH STAVE

HELEN AND PARIS; ODYSSEUS AND HELEN

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

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

SEVENTH STAVE

THEY BUILD THE HORSE AND ENTER IN

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

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

EIGHTH STAVE

THE HORSE IN TROY; THE PASSION OF KASSANDRA

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

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

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

NINTH STAVE

THE GODS FORSAKE TROY

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

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

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

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

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

TENTH STAVE

ODYSSEUS COMES AGAIN TO PARIS' HOUSE

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

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