Was like those beasts that slaughter cruelly
Their wounded fellows ā truth she knew not of,
And fain had killed folk babbling over love ;
Justice she thought of as a thing that might
Balk some desire of hers, before the night
Of death should end it all : nor hope she knew,
Nor what fear was, how ill soe'er life grew.
This wasdom had she more than most of folk.
That through the painted cloud of lies she broke
To gain what brought her pleasure for awhile,
However men might call it nought and vile ;
Nor was she one to make a piteous groan
O'er bitter pain amid her pleasure groAvn.
But she was one of those wrought by the gods
To be to foolish men as sharpest rods
To scourge their folly ; wrought so daintily
That scarcely could a man her body see
Without awaking strife 'twixt good and ill
Within him ; and her sweet, soft voice would fill
Men's hearts with strange desires, and her great eyes,
Truthful to show her to the cold and wise
E'en as she was, would make some cast aside
Whatever wisdom in their breasts might hide,
And still despite what long ill days might prove,
They called her languid hate the soul of love.
But now that fire that to her eyes arose
BELLEROPHON A T AEG OS. 1 1 5
She cast aback awhile to lie all close
About her heart ; her full lips trembled not,
And from her cheek faded the crimson spot
That erst increased thereon.
" O Prince," she said,
" Strive to get back again thy goodlihead ;
Life flitteth fast, and while it still abides,
Our folly many a good thing from us hides,
That else would pierce our hearts with its delight
Unto the quick, in all the Gods' despite."
He gazed upon her wondering, for again
That new-born hope, that sweet and bitter pain.
Flushed her smooth cheek, and glittered in her eyes,
And wrought within her lips ; yet was she wise,
And gazing on his pale and wondering face.
In his frank eyes she did not fail to trace
A trouble like unto a growing hate.
That, yet unknown to him, her love did wait ;
Then once more did she smother up that flame,
Calm grew she, from her lips a false voice came.
" Yea, and bethink thee, mayst thou not be born
To raise the crushed and succour the forlorn.
And in the place of sorrow to set mirth.
Gaining a great name through the wondering earth ?
Now surely has my lord the King done well
To bring thee here thy tale to me to tell ;
Come, then, for nearby such a bower there is
1 1 6 THE EARTHL V FA RADISE.
As most men deem to be a place of bliss ;
There, when thy tale is o'er that I am fain
To hearken, may sweet music ease thy pain
Amidst our feast ; or of these maids shall one
Read of some piteous thing the Gods have done
To us poor folk upon the earth that dwell.
Yea, and the reader will I choose so well.
That such an one herself shall seem to be
As she of whom the tale tells piteously.
And thou shalt hear when all is past and o'er,
And with its sorrow still thine heart is sore,
The Lydian flutes come nigher and more nigh,
Till glittering raiment cometh presently.
And thou behold'st the dance of the slim girls,
Wavering and strange as the leaf-wreath that whirls
Down in the marble court we walk in here
Mid sad October, when the rain draws near :
So delicate there^\dth, that when all sound
Of sobbing flute has left the air around,
And, panting, lean the dancers against wall
And well-A\Tought pillar, you hear nought at all
But their deep breathing, so are all men stilled.
So full their hearts with all that beauty filled."
Coldly and falsely was her speech begun,
But she waxed warm ere all the tale was done ;
Nay, something soft was in her voice at last,
As round his soul her net she strove to cast
Almost despite herself.
BELLEROPHON A T AEG OS. 1 1 7
Unmoved he stood,
But that some thought did cross his weary mood
That made him knit his brow, and therewith came
A flush across his face as if of shame
Because of that new thought ; but when an end
Her speech had, then he spake :
" What love or friend
Can do me good ? God-hated shall I be.
And bring to no man aught but misery ;
And thou, O royal man, and thou, O Queen,
Who heretofore in bliss and mirth have been.
Hearken my words, and on your heads be all
The trouble that from me shall surely fall
If I abide with you : yet doubt it not
That this your love shall never be forgot
Wherewith ye strive to win a helpless man,
And ever will I labour as I can
To make my ill forebodings come to nought."
But midst these things, pleased by some hidden
The King smiled, turning curious eyes on them.
And smoothing down his raiment's golden hem
As one who hearkens music ; then said he,
" Wilt thou give word for our festivity,
O Sthenoboea ? But come thou, O guest.
And by the great sea we will take our rest.
Speaking few words."
So from her golden throne
1 1 8 THE EA R THL V PARADISE.
She passed to do what things must needs be done,
And with firm feet amid her maids she went
On this new tyrannous sweetness all intent ;
So did it work in her, that scarcely she
JSIight bear the world now, as she turned to see
The stranger and the King a-going down
By marble stairs unto the foreshores brown.
So slipped the morn away, and when the sun
His downward course some three hours had begun,
Summoned by sound of horns they took their way
Unto a bower that looking westward lay,
Yet was by trellised roses shaded so
That little of the hot sun did it know
But what the lime-trees' honey-sweet scent told.
And their wide wind-stirred leaves, turned into gold
Against the bright rays of the afternoon.
So to that chamber came the fair Queen soon,
Well harbingered by flutes ; nor had she spared
To veil her limbs in raiment that had fared
O'er many a sea, before it had the hap
The Lycian's smooth skin in its folds to lap.
But as she entered there in queenly guise,
With firm and haughty step, and careless eyes
Over the half-hid beauty of her breast.
One moment on the exile did they rest,
And softened to a meek, imploring gaze ā
One moment only ; as with great amaze
His eyes beheld her, doubtful what was there.
BELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 119
All had gone thence, but the proud empty stare
That she was wont to turn on everything.
Withal she sat her down beside the King,
And the feast passed with much of such delight
As makes to happy men the world seem bright,
But from the hapless draws but hate and scorn.
Because the Gods both happy and forlorn
Have set in one world, each to each to be
A vain rebuke, a bitter memory.
Yet the Queen held her word, and when that they
Had heard the music sing adown the day.
After the dancing women had but left
Sweet honeyed scents behind, or roses, reft
By their own hands from head or middle small,
Then came with hurried steps into the hall
The reader and her scroll ; sweet-eyed was she,
And timid as some loving memory
Midst the world's clamour : clad in gown of wool
She sat herself adown upon a stool
Anigh the proud feet of the Lycian Queen,
And straight, as if no soul she there had seen,
With slender hand put back her golden hair,
And 'gan to read from off the parchment fair.
In a low voice, and trembling at the first.
She read a tale of lovers' lives accurst
By cruel Gods and careless foolish men :
Like dainty music was her voice, and when
From out her heart she sighed, as she must read
Of folk unholpen in their utmost need,
I20 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Still must the stranger turn kind eyes on her.
At last awhile she paused, as she drew near
The bitter end of spilt and wasted bliss,
And death unblessed at last by any kiss ;
Her voice failed, and adown her book did sink,
And midst them all aw^iile she seemed to think
Of the past days herself; but still so much
Her beauty and the tale their hearts did touch,
Folk held their breath till she began again.
And something 'twixt a pleasure and a pain
It was when all the sweet tale was read o'er
And her voice quivered through the air no more.
Then round the maiden's neck King Prcetus cast
A golden chain, and from the hall she passed,
And yet confused and shamefaced ; for the Queen,
Who at the first the Prince's eyes had seen
Upon the maid, and then would look no more,
But kept her eyes fixed on the marble floor
As listening to the tale, her head now raised.
And with cold scorn upon the maiden gazed
As she bent down the golden gift to take ;
And meanwhile, for her tender beauty's sake.
Over the exile's face a pleased smile came.
But she departed to the bliss or shame
Life had for her, and all folk left the bower ;
For noAV was come the summer night's mid-hour :
The great high moon that lit the rippling sea
'Twixt the thin linden-trees shone doubtfully
BELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 12
Upon the dim grey garden ; the sea-breeze
Stooped down on the pleached alleys ; the tall trees
Over the long roofs moved their whispering leaves,
Nor woke the dusky swifts beneath the eaves.
NOW from that fair night wore the time away,
Until with lapse of many a quiet day,
And stirring times withal, Bellerophon
To love of life and hope of joy was won.
Still grave and wise he was beyond his years.
No eager man among his joyous peers
To snatch at pleasure ; careful not to cheat
His soul with vain desires all over sweet ;
A wary walker on the road of life ;
E'en as a man who in a garden, rife
With flowers, has gone unarmed, and found that there
Are evil things amid the blossoms fair,
And paid with wounds for folly : yet when he
Is whole once more, since there he needs must be.
And has no will its sweets to cast aside,
Well armed he walks there ware of beasts that hide
Beneath the shade of those vine-trellises.
Amid the grey stems of the apple-trees.
Yet at his heart, about the root of it
1 2 2 THE EARTHL V FARAD I SB.
Strange thoughts there lay, which at sweet times would
Before his eyes, as things grown palpable ;
Strange hopes that made the weltering world seem well
While he abode there : therefore was he kind
To man and maid, and all men's hearts did bind
With bonds of love, for mid the struggling folk.
The forgers and the bearers of the yoke.
Weary with %\Tonging and with wrongs, he seemed
As one on whom a light from heaven had beamed,
That changed him to a god yet being alive.
But midst all folk there did King Proetus give
Great gifts to him ; great trust in him he had.
And ever by his sight was he made glad :
For well did all things prosper in his hand,
Nor was there such another in the land
For strength or goodliness.
Now so it was.
That he on matters of the King would pass
About the country here and there, nor dwell
At Argos much, and that thing pleased him well ;
For while all else grew better, ye shall know
That greater in his heart the fear did grow
That sprung up therein on that summer e'^'e ;
And though sometimes the Queen would make believe
To heed him nought ā yea, or depart maybe
At whiles, when he the King would come to see ā
Yet was this but at whiles ; the next day came,
And scarce would she hold parley with her shame.
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 23
One noon of the late autumn, when the sun
Brightened the parthig year, so nearly done,
With rays as hot as early June might shed,
Dawn past an hour, upon the tulip-bed,
In the great pleasance, 'neath a wall of yew,
Walked the Corinthian, pondering what to do
In some great matter late given unto him.
So clad he was, that both on breast and limb
Steel glittered, though his head as yet was bare ;
But in his face was just so much of care
As seemed to show he had got that to do
He feared but little well to carry through.
But which must have his heed a little while :
And still in going would he stop and smile.
And seem to cast the shreds of thought away
In honour of the bright fresh autumn day
And all the pleasure of the lovely place.
But at the last, turning about his face
Unto the sunny garden's other side,
He saw where, down a grassy path and wide,
The Queen came, with her head bent down to earth,
As though mid thoughts she were that slew her mirtli ;
Slowly she went, with two maids following her,
Who in their delicate slim hands did bear.
The one a cithern and some verse-book old,
The other a white osier maund, to hold
Some of such flowers as still in fear and doubt
Against the sickness of the year held out.
But as they went, nigh to the Prince they drew.
1 2 4 THE EARTHL V PARADISE.
And soon the maidens' eyes his beauty knew,
And one at other glanced, smihng and glad.
For soft love of him in their hearts they had ;
Yet nought they said, nor did the Queen turn round,
But kept her eyes still bent upon the ground.
So in their walk they came to where there stood
A thin-leaved apple-tree, where, red as blood.
Yellow as gold, a little fruit hung yet,
The last rays of the fainting sun to get ;
And a tall clump of autumn flowers, cold-grey.
Beneath it, mocked the promise of the day,
And to them clung a hapless bee or twain,
A butterfly spread languid wings in vain
Unto the sun, that scarce could heat her now.
There the Queen stayed awhile her footsteps slow,
And to the flowers wandered her slender hand ;
But with her eyes cast down she still did stand.
Full of melody and peace
About her was the lingering year's decease ;
Strange spicy scents there were that yet were sweet,
Green was the grass about her gold-shod feet,
And had no memory of the dawn's white rime;
Loud was the birds' song in that windless time,
Strange the sharp crjdng of the missel-thrush
Within the close heart of the hawthorn-bush,
Strange the far-off rooks' sweet tumultuous voice
That in the high elms e'en now must rejoice
And know not why ā peace e'en if end of peace.
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 25
The while her burning heart did never cease
To give words to such longings, as she knew
To swift destruction all her glory drew.
"Ah ! mine, mine, mine !" she thought, "ah ! mine
a while !
Ah ! mine a little day, if all be vile
The coming years can bring unto my heart !
Ah ! mine this eve, if we to-morn must part !
Mine, that a sweet hour I may know at last
How soon soever all delight is passed !
Ah ! mine, mine, mine, if for a little while !''
So stood she, that her parted lips did smile
As if of one that memories make half sad,
Her breast heaved, as no stronger wish she had
Than for some careless lover, lightly won,
And soon forgot, to lay his lips thereon ;
The flower-stem that her finger-tips did hold
Was crushed not, and within her shoe of gold
Lightly her foot was laid upon the grass ;
No tremors through her dainty limbs did pass.
And healthy life alone did paint her cheek :
For if indeed at first she had felt weak,
Ere well she knew what she was bent upon.
Now at the last, when every doubt was gone.
She would not show the net unto the prey
Until she deemed that in her toils he lay.
She raised her eyes at last with a light sigh.
1 2 6 THE EA R THL Y PARADISE.
Despite herself, a flush passed suddenly
Over her face, and then all pale she grew ;
For now withal Bellerophon she knew,
Though at that very point of time the sun
Along his upraised steel-clad arm had run,
And made an earthly sun that dazzled her.
Yet cast she back her trembling hope and fear
Into her heart, and as before she went
Slowly, with head a little downward bent.
But when she had gone on a few yards space,
Once more unto the Prince she raised her face ;
Then stopped again, and turning round, she said,
From lips wherein all passion now seemed dead :
" Damsels, go home again ; thou, Mysian, go
Unto the little treasury' thou dost know
Anigh my bower, and taking this gold key,
Draw forth that ancient prophet's book for me
Which shows the stars : for that I fain would show
To Prince Bellerophon, who bides me now
Ere he goes forth to bring the island folk
Once more beneath King Proetus' equal yoke.
And thou, Leucippe, bide our coming there,
And bid our folk set forth a feast as fair
As may be done ; for we -within a while
May need thy cithern dull thoughts to beguile."
E'en as they turned she passed on carelessly
Toward the Prince, nor looked aback to see
That they were gone ; but he indeed had heard
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. 127
Through the calm air her clearly-spoken word,
And saw the maidens go, and felt as one
Who bideth, when the herald's speech is done.
The word that bids the grinded spears fall down.
But she, with slim hand folded in her gown,
Went o'er the dewy grass to where he stood.
And in despite the fire within her blood
Was calm, and smiled on him, till nigh he thought
That surely all his fear was vain and nought.
He bowed before her as she drew an ear.
But she held out her right hand, and in clear
Sweet tones she cried, " O fair Bellerophon,
Would that the victory were already won.
And thou wert back again at this thy home
We have made glad for thee : behold ! I come
To say farewell ā yet come a little way ā
For something else indeed I had to say."
And still she held his hand, but yet durst not
Clasp as she would the treasure she had got.
Then to a place together did they pass.
Where yew-trees hemmed around a jilot of grass,
And kept it scarce touched by the faint sun's rays ā
A place well made for burning summer days,
But cheerless now. There on a marble seat
She bade him sit ; while she with restless feet
Paced to and fro, while from the yew-twigs close,
With his scared cry the creeping blackbird rose.
But he, Avith eyes cast down upon the ground.
T 2 8 THE EA R THL Y PARADISE.
Deemed that his battle easier would be found
And so at last she stayed by him
And cried : " The cup is full unto the brim ;
For now thou goest where thou mayst be slain :
I speak then ā and, alas ! I speak in vain ā
Thy cold eyes tell me so ā How shall I move
Thy flinty heart my curse has made me love ?
For what have other women done, when they
Were fair as I, and love before them lay ?
Was not a look enough for them, a word
Low mumiured, midst the hum of men scarce heard ?
What have I left undone that they have done ?
What askest thou of me, O heart of stone ?"
Choked by her passion here awhile she stayed,
And he from oif the bench sprang up dismayed,
And turned on her to speak ; but she withal
Before him on her knees made haste to fall.
And cried out loud and shrilly : " Nay, nay, nay ā
Say not the word thou art about to say ;
Let me depart, and things be still as now ;
So that my dreams sweet images may show,
As they have done ā that waking I may think,
' If he, my love, from looks of love did shrink,
That was because I had not prayed him then
To be my love alone of living men ;
Because he did not know that I, a Queen,
Who hitherto but loveless life have seen.
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 29
Could kneel to him, and pray upon my knees
To give me my first pleasure, my first peace' ā
Thou knewest not ā nay, nay, thou know'st not now ā
Thou with the angry eyes and bended brow ! ā
Surely I talk my mother-tongue no more,
Therefore thou knowest not that I implore
Thy pity, that I give myself to thee,
Thy love, thy slave, thy castaway to be ā
Hear'st thou ? thy castaway ! when in a while
Thou growest weary of my loving smile !
Oh, take me, madman ! In a year or twain
I will not thwart thee if thou lov'st again,
Nor eye thee sourly when thou growest cold ;
ā Or art thou not the man that men call bold.
And fear'st thou ? Then what better time than this
For we twain to begin our life of bliss ?
Thy keel awaits thee, and to thee alone.
Not to the wretched dastard on the throne,
Thy men will hearken ā Nay, thou shalt not speak,
My feeble reed of hope thou shalt not break ! ā
Let me be gone, thou knowest not of love.
Thou semblance of a man that nought can move !
O wise, wise man, I give thee good farewell :
Gather fresh wisdom, thinking of my hell."
She sprang up to her feet and turned away
Trembling, and no word to her could he say
For grief and pity ; and the Queen did go
A little way with doubtful steps and slow,
130 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Then turned about, and once again did stand
Before his troubled face, hand laid in hand,
And sobbing now as if her heart would break ;
But when from his grieved soul he fain would speak,
Again from midst her tears she cried, " No, no ā
Do I not know what thou wouldst bid me do ?
And yet forgive me ! ā thou art wise and good.
Surely some evil thing has turned my blood,
That even now I wished that thing to slay
That I of all things only till this day
Have loved. Ah, surely thou wilt not be slain !
Come back, and I will tell thee once again
How much I love thee, and will not forget
To say such things as might have moved thee yet.
Could I have told thee now, couldst thou have seen
These lips that love thee as they might have been.
ā Farewell, I durst not pray thee for one kiss !"
Nearer she drew to him as she spake this.
Yet, when she ended, turned about again.
And still, as hoping all was not in vain,
Lingered a little while, and then at last.
With raging heart, swiftly therefrom she passed.
But, she clean vanished now, Bellerophon
Went slowly toward the palace, all alone.
And pondering on these things : and shamed he felt,
E'en as a just man who in sleep has dealt
Unjustly; nor had all her prayers and tears
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 131
Moved love in him, but rather stirred his fears,
For ever was he wise among wise men ;
And though he doubted not her longing, when
She turned and spake soft words, he knew that she
So spake midst hope of what things yet might be,
And yet had left another kind of word,
Whereby a friendless man might well be feared ;
Lonely he felt thereat, as one accurst.
With whom all best things still must turn to worst,
And e'en sweet love curdle to bitter hate.
Yet was he one not lightly crushed by fate,
And when at last he had his helmet on.
And heard the folk cry out ' Bellerophon,'
As toward the ship he passed, kind the world seemed,
Nor love so far away indeed he deemed
When he some gentle maiden's kind grey eyes
Fixed on his own he did at whiles surprise,
Or when his godlike eyes, on some maid turned
More fair than most, set fire to thoughts that burned
On breast and brow of her. So forth he passed.
And reached the border of the sea at last,
And there took ship, and hence is gone a space.
But for the Queen, when she had left that place.
About the pleasance paths did she go still.
So 'wildered in her mind because her will
Might not be done, that at the first she knew
No more what place .she might be passing through
Than one who walks in sleep. Yet hope and sham ā¢
132 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Twain help, at last unto her spirit came ;
Yea, her bright gown, soiled with the autumn grass.
Told her the tale of what had come to pass,
And to her heart came hatred of the spot
Where she had kneeled to one who loved her not.
And even therewith his image did she see
As he had been ; then cried she furiously :
" Ah, fool ! ah, traitor ! must I love thee then,
When in the world there are so many men
My smile would drive to madness? ā for I know
What things they are that men desire so.
And which of all these bear I not with me ?
Hast thou not heart and eyes to feel and see?
Then shalt thou die, then shalt thou die, at least,
Nor sit without me at life's glorious feast.
While I fall ever unto worse and worse ā
All me ! I rave ! ā what folly now to curse
That which I love, because its loveliness
Alone has brought me unto this distress !
I know not right nor wrong, but yet through all
Know that the Gods a just man him would call ;
Nay, and I knew it, when I saw him first.
And in my heart sprang up that glorious thirst ā
And should he, not being base, yield suddenly.
And as the basest man, not loving me.
Take all I gave him, and cast all his life
Into a tangled and dishonoured strife ?
Nay, it could never be ā but now, indeed.
Somewhat with pity of me his heart may bleed,
BELLER OP HON AT ARGOS. 133
Since he is good ; and he shall think of me,
And day by day and night by night shall see
The image of that woman on her knees,
Whom men here liken to the goddesses.
And certainly shall he come back again :
Nor shall my next speech to him be so vain."
She smiled, and toward the house made swiftly on
In triumph, even as though the game were won :
For, now his face was gone, she, blind with love.
Deemed but his honour she had got to move
From its high place, before his heart should fall
A prey unto her ; e'en as when the wall
By many a stroke of stones is battered down,