When this alone of all things then seemed wise,
To know how sweet life was, how dear the earth.
And only fluttering hope stayed present mirth â€”
Ah, how I babble ! What a thing man is,
Who, falling unto misery out of bliss,
Thinks that new wisdom but the sole thing then
That binds the many ways of toiling men 1
" In one fair chamber did we sleep a-night,
I and my brother â€” there, 'tvvixt light and light,
Three nights together did I dream a dream.
Where lying on my bed I still did seem
E'en as I was indeed, when a cold hand
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 95
Was laid upon me, and a shape did stand
By my bed-head, a woman clad in grey,
Like to the lingering time 'twixt night and day,
And veiled her face was, and her tall gaunt form.
She drew me from my peaceful bed and warm,
And led me, shuddering, bare-foot, o'er the floor,
Until, with beating heart, I stood before
My brother's bed, and knew what I should do ;
For from beneath her shadowy robe she drew
A well-steeled feathered dart, and that must I,
Casting all will aside, clutch mightily.
And, still unable with her will to strive,
E'en as her veiled hand pointed, madly drive
Into the heart of mine own mother's son,
Striving to scream as that ill deed was done.
" No cry came forth, but even with the stroke.
With sick and fainting heart, I nigh awoke.
And when the dream again o'er me was cast,
Chamber, and all I knew, away had passed,
Nor saw I more the ghost : alone I stood
In a strange land, anigh an oaken wood
High on a hill ; and far below my feet
The white walls of a glorious town did meet
A yellow strand and ship-beset green sea ;
And all methought was as a toy for me,
For I was king thereof and great enow.
" But as I stood upon that hill's green brow,
96 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Rejoicing much, yet yearning much indeed
For something past that still my heart must need,
Once more was all changed ; by the windy sea
Did men hold games with great solemnity
In honour of some hero past away,
Whose body dead upon a huge pile lay
Waiting the torch, and people far and wide
About the strand a name I knew not cried,
Lamenting him who once had been their king ;
But when I saw the face of the dead thing
Over whose head so many a cry was thrown
On to the wind, I knew it for mine own.
" Cold pangs shot through me then, sleep's bonds I
Shuddering with terror in my bed I woke.
And when thought came again, a weight of fear
Lay on my heart and still grew heavier
But when the next night and the third night came,
And still in sleep my visions were the same,
No longer in mine own heart could I hold
The story of that marvel quite untold.
For fear possessed me : good at first it seemed
That I should tell the dream so strangely dreamed
Unto my brother ; then I feared that he
Might for that tale look with changed eyes on me
As deeming that some secret hope had wrought
Within my false heart, and that pageant brought
Before mine eyes ; or he might flee the land
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 97
To save our house from some accursed hand ;
And either way that dream seemed hard to tell
That yet, untold, made for my soul a hell.
" But of a certain elder now I thought,
Who much of lore to both of us had taught
And loved us well ; Diana's priest was he,
And in the wild woods served her faithfully.
Dwelling with few folk in her woodland shrine.
That from the hillside such a man sees shine
As goes from Corinth unto Sicyon.
" And now amid these thoughts was night nigh done,
And the dawn glimmered ; I grew hot to go
To that old priest these troublous things to show ;
So from my bed I rose up silently.
And with all haste I did my weed on me,
And went unto the door ; but as I passed
The fair porch through, I saw how 'gainst the last
Brass-adorned pillar lay a feathered dart ;
And therewith came new fear into my heart.
For as the dart that I in dreams had seen
So was it fashioned, and with feathers green :
And scarlet was the hinder end bedight.
And round the shaft were bands of silver white.
Then scarcely did I know if still I dreamed.
Yet, looking at the shaft, withal it seemed
Good unto me to take it in my hand.
That the old man the more might understand
How real my dream had been in very deed,
98 THE EAR THL Y PA RADISE.
And give me counsel better to my need.
"With that I caught* it up, and went my way,
And almost ere the sun had made it day
Was I within the woods, and hastening on.
Afire until the old man's house was won,
And like a man who walks in sleep I went,
Nor noted aught amid my strong intent.
" But when I reached the little forest fane
I found my labour had but been in vain ;
For there the priest's folk told me he had gone
The eve before to Corinth, all alone,
And on some weighty matter, as they deemed ;
For measurelessly troubled still he seemed.
His trouble troubled me, because I thought
That unto him sure knowledge had been brought
Of some great danger hanging over me,
And that he thither went my face to see.
While I was seeking him ; and therewithal
Great fear and heaviness on me did fall ;
And all the life I once had thought so sweet
Now seemed a troublous thing and hard to meet.
" So cityward again I set my face.
And through the woodland glades I rode apace.
And halfway betwixt dawn and noon had I
Unto the wood's edge once more come anigh ;
And now upon the wind I seemed to hear
The sound of mingled voices drawing near ;
Whereon I stayed to hearken and cried out,
But feeble was the sound from my parched throat
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 99
And listening afterward I heard not now
Those sounds, and timorous did my faint heart grow,
And tales of woodfolk my vexed mind did take.
But just as I the well-wrought reins would shake,
Grown nigher did I hear those sounds again,
And drew aback the hand that held the rein.
And even therevvith stalked forth into the way
From out the thicket a huge wolf and grey,
And stood with yellow eyes that glared on me ;
And I stared too ; my folly made me see
No wolf, but some dread deity, in him ;
But trembling as I was in every limb,
E'en as his growling smote upon my heart,
Tighter my fingers clutched the dreadful dart,
I made a shift in stirrups up to stand.
And hurled the quivering shaft from out my hand ;
Then fire seemed all around me, and a pang
Crushed down my heart as from the thicket rang
A dreadful cry : clear saw I, even as he
Who meets the Father's visage suddenly ;
No wolf was there ; but o'er the herbage ran
With staggering steps a pale and bleeding man :
His left hand on the shaft, whose banded wood
Over the barbs within his bosom stood,
His right hand raised against me, as he fell
Close to my horse-hoofs ; and I knew full well
That this my brother's last farewell should be,
And thus his face henceforward should I see.
loo THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
" What else ? it matters not ; the priest I saw,
And armed men from the thicket toward me draw,
With scared eyes fixed on mine ; I drew my sword,
And sat there, waiting for a dreadful word.
Bidding the rush of many men on me ;
But they began to draw round silently.
And ere the circle yet was fully made,
I, who at first might even thus have stayed
For death and curses, felt the love of life
Stir up my heart again to hope and strife ;
Yea, even withal I saw in one bright gleam
The latter ending of my dreaded dream.
So, crying out, strongly my horse I spurred,
And as he, rearing up, dashed forth, I heard
Clatter of arms and cries, a spear flew o'er
My bended head, a well-aimed arrow tore
My helm therefrom ; yet then a cry there came :
' Take him alive, nor bring a double shame
Upon the great house ! ' Even therewith I drave
Against a mighty man as wave meets wave ;
Back flew my right arm, and my sword was gone,
Whirled off" as from a sling the wave-worn stone,
And my horse reeled, but he before me lay
Rolled over, horse and man, and in my way
Was no one now, as I spurred madly on :
And so in no long time the race I won,
For nobly was I mounted ; and I deem
That to the most of those men did it seem
No evil thing that I should 'scape away.
BELLE R OPHON AT AEG OS. i o i
" O King, I think this happed but yesterday,
And now already do I deem that I
Did no good deed in seeking not to die.
For I am weary, and the Gods made me
A luckless man among all folk to be â€”
I care not if their purpose I undo.
Since now I doubt not that the thing is so â€”
â€” And yet am I so made, that, having life,
Must I, though ever worsted in the strife,
Cling to it still too much to gain the rest
Which yet I know of all things is the best.
Then slay me. King ! lo now, I pray for this.
And no least portion of thy hoarded bliss ;
Slay me, and let the oak -boughs say their say
Over my bones through the wild winter day !
Slay me, for I am fain thereto to go,
Where no talk is of either bliss or woe."
â€¢' Nay," said the King, "didst thou not eat and drink
When hunger drave thee e'ennow ? yea, and shrink
When my men's spears were pointed at thy breast ?
Be patient ; thou indeed shalt gain thy rest.
But many a thing has got to come ere then :
For all things die, and thou midst other men
Shalt scarce remember thou hast had a friend.
At worst before thou comest to the end
Joy shalt thou have, and sorrow : wherefore come ;
^^'ith me thou well mayst have no hapless home.
Dread not the Gods ; ere long time has gone by
102 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Thy soul from all guilt will we purify,
And sure no heavy curse shall lie on thee.
Nay, did their anger cause this thing to be ?
Perchance in heaven they smile upon thy gain â€”
â€” Lo, for a little while a burning pain.
Then yearning unfulfilled a little space,
Then tender memories of a well-loved face
In quiet hours, and then â€” forgetfulness â€”
How hadst thou rather borne, still less and less
To love what thou hadst loved, till it became
A thing to be forgotten, a great shame
To think thou shouldst have wasted life thereon ?
Come then â€” thou spakest of a kingdom won
Thy dream foretold, and shall not this be too.
E'en as the dreadful deed thou cam'st to do ?
To horse ! and unto Argos let us wend.
Begin thy life afresh with me for friend.
Wide is the world, nor yet for many a day
Will every evil thing be cleared away
That bringeth scathe to men within its girth ;
Surely a man like thee can win the mirth
That cometh of the conquering of such things ;
For not in vain art thou the seed of kings
Unless thy face belie thee â€” nay, no more :
Why speak I vam words to a heart still sore
With sudden death of happiness ? yet come
And ride with us unto our lovely home."
Hipponoiis to the King's word answered nought.
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. i
But sat there brooding o'er his dreary thought,
Nor seemed to hear ; and when the Argive men
Brought up to him his battle-steed again,
Scarce witting of the company or place,
He mounted, and with set and weary face
Rode as they bade him at the King's left hand :
Nor did the sight of the fair well-tilled land,
When that they gained from out the tangled wood,
Do aught in dealing with his mournful mood ;
Nor Argos' walls as from the fields they rose,
Such good things with their mightiness to close
From chance of hurt ; scarce saw he the fair gate,
Dainty to look on, yet so huge of weight ;
Nor did the streets' well-ordered houses dro,w
His eyes to look at them ; unmoved he saw
The south-land merchants' dusky glittering train ;
About the fountain the slim maids in vain
Drew sleek arms from the water, or turned round
With shaded eyes at the great horn's hoarse sound.
The sight of the King's house, deemed of all men
A wonder mid the houses kings had then.
Drew from him but a troubled frown, as though
Men's toilsome folly he began to know ;
The carvcn Gods within the banquet-hall.
The storied hangings that bedight the wall.
Made his heart sick to think of labour vain.
Telling once more the oft-told tale of pain.
Cold in the damsel's hand his strong hand lay,
When to the steaming bath she led the way \
T04 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
And when another damsel brought for him
Raiment wherein the Tyrian dye showed dim
Amid the gold lines of the broideries,
Her face downcast because she might not please,
He heeded not. When to the hall he passed,
And by the high seat he was set at last,
Then Proetus, smiling from his mild eyes, laid
A hand upon his combed- out hair and said :
" Surely for no good luck this golden hair
Has come to Argos, and this visage fair.
To make us, who were well enow before.
Seem to our maids like churls at the hall-door,
Prying about when men to war are gone
And girls and children sit therein alone."
But nought Hipponoiis heeded the King's say.
But, turning, roughly put his hand away,
And frowning muttered, and still further drew,
As a man touched amid his dream might do.
In sooth he dreamed, and drearj^ was his dream ;
A bitter thing the world to him did seem ;
The void of life to come he peopled now
With folk of scornful eyes and brazen brow ;
And one by one he told the tale of days
Wherein an envious mock was the w^orld's praise ;
^^Tlere good deeds brought ill fame, and truth was not,
Hate was remembered, love was soon forgot ;
No face was good for long to look upon,
BELLEROPHON AT ARC OS. 1 05
And nought was worthy when it once was won ;
And narrow, helpless, friendless was the way,
That led unto the last most hopeless day
Of hopeless days, in tangled, troubled wise.
So thought he, till the tears were in his eyes
Since he was young yet, for hope lying dead.
But on his fixed eyes and his weary head
The happy King of Argos gazed awhile.
Till from his eye faded the scornful smile
That lingered on his lips ; and now he turned.
As one who long ago that task had learned,
And unto the great men about him spoke,
And was a merry king of merry folk.
So passed the feast and all men drew to sleep,
And e'en Hipponoiis his soul might steep
In sweet forgetfulness a little while ;
And somewhat did the fresh young day beguile
His treasured sorrow when he woke next morn,
And somewhat less he felt himself forlorn :
Nor did the King forget him, but straight sent
Unto the priests, and told them his intent
That this his guest should there be purified.
Since he with honour in his house should bide.
So was Jove's house made ready for that thing,
And thither amid songs and harp-playing,
White-robed and barefoot, was Hipponoiis brought ;
Who, bough in hand, for peace the God besought.
1 06 THE EA R THL Y PARADISE.
Noiseless the white bulls fell beneath the stroke
Of the gold-girdled, well-taught temple folk :
Up to the roof arose the incense-cloud ;
The chanted prayer of men, now low now loud.
Thrilled through the brazen leaves of the great door ;
Thick lay the scattered herbs upon the floor,
And in the midst at last the hero stood,
Freed of the guilt of shedding kindred blood.
And then the chief priest cried, " Bellerophon,
With this new hapless name that thou hast won,
(tO forth, go free, be happy once again.
But no more called Hipponoiis of men."
Then forth Bellerophon passed wearily.
Although so many prayers had set him free ;
Yet somewhat was he ready to forget,
And turn unto the days that might be yet.
But when before King Prcetus' throne he came,
The King called out on him by his new name ;
" O fair Bellerophon, like me, be w'ise.
And set things good to win before thine eyes,
Lands, and renown, and riches, and a life
That knows from day to day so much of strife
As makes men happy, since the age of gold
Is past, if e'er it was, as a tale told."
" O King," he said, " thou sittest in full day,
Thou strivest to put thoughts of night away ;
BELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 107
My life has not yet left the morning-tide,
And I, who find the world that seemed so wide,
Now narrowed to a little troublous space
Where help is not, astonied turn my face
Unto the coming hours, nor know at all
What thing of joy or hope to me will fall.
Be patient. King; perchance within a while
No marfeast I may be, but learn to smile
Even as thou, who lovest life so much.
Who knows but grief may vanish at a touch,
As joy does ? and a long way off is death :
Some folk seem glad even to draw their breath."
" Yea," said the King, " thou hast it, for indeed
I fain would live, like most men â€” but what need
Unto a fevered man to talk of wine ?
Thy heart shall love life when it grows like mine.
But come thou hence, and I will show to thee
What things of price the Gods have given to me.
Not good it is to harp on the frayed string ;
And thou, so seeing many a lovely thing,
Mayst hide thy weary pain a little space."
And therewith did King Prcetus from that place
Draw forth Bellerophon, and so when he
In his attire was now clad royally.
From out the precinct to his palace fair
Did the King l)ring him ; and he sliowcd Iiini there
His stables, where the war-steeds stood arow
1 oS THE EA R THL V FA RA DISE.
Over the dusty grain : then did they go
To armouries, where sword and spear and shield
Hung bloodless, ready for the fated field :
The treasury showed he, where things riclily wrought
Together into such a place were brought,
That he who stole the oxen of a God,
For all his godlike cunning scarce had trod
Untaken on its floor â€” withal he showed
The chamber where the broidered raiment glowed,
Where the spice lay, and scented unguents fit
To touch Queen Venus' skin and brighten it ;
The ivory chairs and beds of ivory
He showed him, and he bid his tired eyes see
The stories wrought on brazen doors, the flowers
And things uncouth carved on the wood of bowers ;
The painted walls that told things old and new.
Things come to pass, and things that onward drew.
But all the while Bellerophon's grave face
And soon-passed smile seemed unmeet for that place,
And ever Prcetus felt a pang of fear.
As if it told of times a-drawing near,
\\'hen all the wealth and beauty that was his
Should not avail to buy one hour of bliss.
And sometimes when he watched his wandering eyes
And heard his stammering speech, would there arise
Within his heart a feeling like to hate.
Mingled with scorn of one so crushed by fate :
For ever must the rich man hate the poor.
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 109
Now at the last they stood before a door
Adorned with silver, wrought of precious wood ;
Then Proetus laughed, and said, " O guest, thy mood
Is hard to deal with ; never any leech
Has striven as I thy sickness' heart to reach ;
And I grow weary and must get me aid."
Therewith upon the lock his hand he laid
And pushed the door aback, and then the twain
The daintiest of all passages did gain.
And as betwixt its walls they passed along
Nearer they drew unto the measured song
Of sweet-voiced women ; and the King spake then :
" Drive fire out with fire, say all wise men ;
Here mayst thou set thine eyes on such an one,
That thou no more wilt think of days agone,
But days to com.e ; for here indeed my spouse
Watches the damsels in the weaving-house,
Or in the pleasance sits above their play ;
And certes here upon no long-passed day.
Unless my eyes were bleared with coming eld,
Fair sights for such as thou have I beheld."
Across the exile's brow a frown there came.
As though his sorrow of such things thought shame,
Yet mayhap his eye brightened as he heard
The song grow louder and the hall they n eared ;
But the King smiled, and swiftlier led him on,
Until unto the door thereof they won.
THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
N0^^' noble was that hall and fair enow,
Betwixt whose slim veined pillars set arow,
And marble lattice wrought like flowering trees,
Showed the green freshness of the summer seas,
Made cheery by the sun and many a ship.
Whose black bows smoothly through the waves did
In bowls whereon old stories pictured were
Tlie bright rose-laurels trembled in the air.
That from the sea stole through the lattices,
And round them, hummed a few bewildered bees.
Midmost the pavement wrought by toil of years,
A tree was set, gold-leaved like that which bears
Unto the maids of Hesperus strange fruit ;
A many-coloured serpent from the root
Curled upward round the stem, and, reaching o'er
A four-square silver laver, did outpour
Bright glittering water from his throat of brass ;
And at each corner of the basin was
A brazen hart who seemed at point to drink ;
And these the craftsman had not made to shrink
Though in the midst Diana's feet pressed down
The forest greensward, and her girded gown
Cleared from the brambles fell about her thigh.
And eager showed her terrible bright eye.
But 'twixt the pillars and that marvellous thing
Were scattered those they had e'en now heard sing ;
BELLER OP HON AT ARGOS. i
Their song had sunk now, and a murmuring voice,
But mingled with the dicking loom's sharp noise
And splashing of the fountain, where a maid
With one hand lightly on a brass deer laid,
One clasped about her own foot, knelt to watch
Her brazen jar the tinkling water catch ;
Withal the wool-comb's sound within the fleece
Began and grew, and slowly did decrease.
And then began as still it gat new food ;
And by the loom an ancient woman stood
And grumbled o'er the web ; and on the floor
Ten spindles twisted ever ; from the store
Raised on high pillars at the gable end.
Adown a steep stair did a maiden wend.
Who in the wide folds of her gathered gown
Fresh yarn brig?it-dyed unto the loom bare down.
But on the downy cushions of a throne,
Above all this sat the fair Queen alone,
Who heeded not the work, nor noted aught ;
Nor showed indeed that there was any thought
Within her heaving breast ; but though she moved
No whit the limbs a God might well have loved,
Although her mouth was as of one who lies
In peaceful sleep ; though over her deep eyes
No shadow came to trouble her white brow,
Yet might you deem no rest was on her now ;
Rather too weary seemed she e'en to sigh
For foolish life that joyless passed her by.
1 1 2 THE EARTHL V PARADISE.
So thus the King Bellerophon led in
Just as the old song did again begin
From the slim maids, that by the loom's side spun ;
But ere it had full sway, the nighest one
Unto the door stopped singing suddenly.
And pressed her neighbour's arm, that she might see
\Miat new folk were come in ; and therewithal
An angry glance from the Queen's eyes did fall
Upon the maid ; so that Bellerophon
A cruel visage had to look upon.
When first he saw the Queen raised high above
The ordered tresses of that close of love.
But when the women knew the King indeed
They did him reverence, and with lowly heed
Made way for him, while a girl here and there
Made haste to hide what labour had made bare
Of limb or breast ; and the King smiled through all,
And now and then a wandering glance let fall
Upon some fairest face ; and so at last
Through the sweet band unto the Queen they passed.
Who rose and waited them by her fair throne
With eyes wherefrom all care once more had gone
Of life and what it brought : then the King said â€”
" O Sthenoboea, hither have I led
A man, who, from a happy life down-hurled.
Looks with sick eyes upon this happy world ;
Not knowing how to stay here or depart :
Thou know'st and I know how the wounded heart
Forgetteth pain and groweth whole again,
BELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 113
Yet is the pain that passes no less pain.
" But since this man is noble even as we,
And help begets help, and withal to me
Worthy he seems to be a great king's friend,
Now help me to begin to make an end
Of his so heavy mood ; for though indeed
This daintiness may nowise help his need.
Yet may kind words avail to make him kind
Unto himself; kind eyes may make him blind
Unto the ugly, tangled whirl of life ;
Or in some measured image of real strife
He may forget the things that he has lost.
Nor think of how he needs must yet be tost
Like other men from wave to wave of fate."
Gravely she set herself the end to wait
Of the King's speech ; and what of scorn might be
Within her heart changed nowise outwardly
Her eyes that looked with scorn on everything ;
And yet withal while still the cheery King
Let his tale flow, unto the exile's place
She glanced with scornful wonder at his face
At first, because she deemed it soft and kind ;
Yet was he fair, and she â€” she needs must find
Something that drew her to his wide grey eyes ;
And presently as with some great surprise
Her heart 'gan beat, and she must strive in vain
To crush within it a sweet rising pain,
She deemed to be that pity that she knew
1 14 THE EARTHL Y PARADISE.
As the last folly wise folk turn unto.
For pain was wont to rouse her rage, and she