And all may work their will upon the town.
NOW of Bellerophon must it be said
That, what by wisdom, what by hardihead,
His task was done, and great praise gained thereby ;
So he at last, midst shouts and minstrelsy.
In the first days of spring, passed up once more
Unto the palace from the thronging shore.
Him Proetus met half-way, and, in the face
Of all the people, in a straight embrace
Held him awhile, and called him his dear son,
Praising the Gods for all that he had done ;
Then hand in hand did they go up the street.
134 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
And on their heads folk cast the spring-flowers sweet,
And bands of maids met them with joyous song
And gracious pageants as they went along :
And all this for the brave Corinthian's sake —
Such joy did his return in all hearts make.
But though the man, once from his home driven
Was so much loved and held of so much worth,
And though he throve thereby, and seemed to be
Scarcely a man but some divinity
To people's eyes, yet in his soul no less
There lingered still a little heaviness,
And therefrom hardly could he cast away
The memory of that sunny autumn day
And of the fear it brought ; and one more fear
He had besides, and as they drew anear
The palace, therewith somewhat faltering.
He needs must turn a while, and of the King
Ask how the Lycian fared : the King laughed low.
And said :
" Nay, surely she is well enow.
As her wont is to be, for, sooth to say.
She for herself is ever wont to pray.
And heedeth nothing other grief and AVTong :
And be thou sure, my son, that such live long
And lead sweet lives ; but those who ever think
How he and she may fare, and still must shrink
From sweeping any foe from out the way,
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. 135
These — living other people's lives, I say,
Besides their own, and most of them forlorn —
May hap to find their lives of comfort shorn
And short enow — let pass, for as to me,
I weep for others' troubles certainly.
But for mine own would weep a little more.
And so I jog on somehow to the shore
Whence I shall not return — Thou laughest — well,
I deem I was not made for heaven or hell,
But simply for the earth ; but thou, O son,
I deem of heaven, and all hearts hast thou won —
Yea, and this morn the Queen is merrier,
Because she knoweth that thou art anear."
The Prince smiled at his words and gladder felt,
Yet somewhat of his old fear by him dwelt
And shamed him midst his honour. But withal,
With shouts and music, entered they the hall,
And there great feast was made ; but ere the night
Had 'gun to put an end to men's delight,
A maid came up the hall with hurrying feet,
And there in lowly wise the King did greet,
And bid him know that Sthenoboea had will
The joyance of that high-tide to fulfil,
And Prince Bellerophon to welcome home ;
And even as she spoke the Queen was come
Unto the door, and through the hall she passed.
And round about her ever looks she cast,
As though her maidens, howsoever fair
1 3 6 THE EAR THL V PARADISE.
And lovesome unto common eyes they were,
Were fashioned in another wise than she,
They made for time, she for eternity ;
So 'twxt the awed and wondering folk she moved,
Hapless and proud, glorious and unbeloved,
And hating all folk but her love alone :
And he a shadow seemed, one moment shown
Unto her longing eyes, then snatched away
Ere yet her heart could win one glorious day.
Cruel and happy was she deemed of men —
Cruel she was, but though tormented then
By love, still happier than she ere had been.
Now when she saw the Prince, with such-like mien
She greeted him but as a Queen might greet
Her husband's friend fresh from a glorious feat ;
Frank-seeming were her words, and in her face
No sign of all that storm the Prince could trace
That had swept over her— and yet therefore
Amidst his joy he did but fear her more.
So time slipped by, and still was she the same,
Till he 'gan deem she had forgot the shame
Of having shameful gifts cast back to her,
That scorned love was a burden light to bear.
Yea, and the moody ways that once she had
Seemed changing into life all frank and glad ;
She saw him oft now, and alone at whiles ;
But still, despite her kind words and her smiles,
No word of love fell from her any more.
SELLER OPHON AT AEG OS. 137
But when the kish green spring was now passed o'er,
And the green lily-buds were growing white,
A feast they held for pastime and delight
Within the odorous pleasance on a tide,
And down the hours the feast in joy did glide.
Venus they worshipped there, her image shone
Above the folk from thoughts of hard life won ;
About her went the girls in ordered bands.
And scattered flowers from out their slender hands,
And with their eager voices, sweet but shrill,
Betwixt the o'erladen trees the air did fill ;
Or, careless what their dainty limbs might meet,
Ungirded and unshod, with hurrying feet,
Mocked cold Diana's race betwixt the trees.
Where the long grass and sorrel kissed their knees,
About the borders of the neighbouring field ;
Or in the garden were content to yield
Unto the sun, and by the fountain-side.
Panting, love's growing languor would abide.
Surely the Goddess in the warm wind breathed,
Surely her fingers wrought the flowers that wreathed
The painted trellises — some added grace
Her spirit gave to every limb and face.
Some added scent to raiment long laid hid
Beneath the stained chest's carven cypress lid ;
Fairer the girdle round the warm side clung.
Fairer the dainty folds beneath it hung,
Fairer the gold upon the bosom lay
Than was their wont ere that bewildering day.
138 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
\Mien fear and shame, twin rulers of the earth,
Sat hoodwinked in the maze of short-Hved mirth.
Songs cleft the air, and little words therein
Were clean changed now, and told of honeyed sin.
And passionate words seemed fire, and words, that had
Grave meaning once, were changed, and only bade
The listeners' hearts to thoughts they could not name.
Shame changed to strong desire, desire seemed shame,
And trembled ; and such words the lover heard
As in the middle of the night afeard
He once was wont alone to whisper low
Unto himself, for fear the day should know
^Vhat his love really was ; the longing eyes
That unabashed were wont to make arise
The blush of shame to bosom and grave brow,
Beholding all their fill, were downcast now ;
The eager heart shrank back, the cold was moved,
Wooed was the wooer, the lover was beloved.
But yet indeed from wise Bellerophon
Right little by Queen Venus' wiles was won :
Joyous he was, but nowise would forget
That long and changing might his life be yet.
Nor deemed he had to do ^vith such things now.
So let all pass, e'en as a painted show.
But the Queen hoped belike, and many a prayer
That mom had made to Venus' image fair ;
And as the day wore, hushed she grew at whiles
And pale ; and sick and scornful were her smiles,
BELLEROPHON AT AUG OS. 139
Nor knew her heart what words her lips might say.
So through its changing hours went by the day,
And when at last they sang the sun a-down,
And, singing, watched the moon rise, and the town
Was babbling through the clear eve, saddened now,
And faint and weary went, with footsteps slow,
The lover and beloved, to e'en such rest
As they might win ; and soon the daisies, pressed
By oft-kissed dainty feet and panting side,
Now with the dew were growing satisfied,
And sick blind passion now no more might spoil
The place made beautiful by patient toil
Of many a man. And now Bellerophon
Slept light and sweetly as the night wore on,
Nor dreamed about the morrow ; but the Queen
Rose from her bed, and, like a sin unseen,
Stole from the house, and, barefoot as she was.
Through the dark belt of whispering trees did pass
That girt the fair feast's pleasant place around :
And when she came unto that spot of ground
Whereas she deemed Bellerophon had lain.
Then low adown she lay, and as for pain
She moaned, and on the dew she laid her cheek.
Then raised her head, and cried :
" Now may I speak,
Now may I speak, since none can hear me now
But thou, O Love, thou of the bitter bow.
Didst thou not see, O Cithersea's son,
I40 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Thine image, that men call Bellerophon ?
Thine image, with the heart of stone, the eyes
Of fire, those forgers of all miseries ?
And shall I bear thy burden all alone.
In silent places making my low moan ?
Nay, but once more I try it — help thou me,
Or on the earth a strange deed shalt thou see.
Lo, now ! thou knowest what my w^ill has been :
Day after day his fair face have I seen
And made no sign — thus had I won him soon.
But thou, the dreadful sun, the cruel moon,
The scents, the flowers, the half-veiled nakedness
Of wanton girls, my heart did so oppress,
That now the chain is broken — Didst thou see
How when he turned his cruel face on me
He laughed? — he laughed, nor would behold my
He laughed, to think at last he had a part
In joyous life without me : here, e'en here.
He drank, rejoicing much, still drawing near,
As the fool thought, to riches and renown.
And such an one wilt thou not cast adown
When thou rememberest how he came to me
With wan worn cheek ? — Ah, sweet he was to see !
I loved him then — how can I love him now,
So changed, so changed ?
" But thou — what doest thou ?
Hast thou forgotten how thy temples stand.
Made rich with gifts, in many a luckless land ?
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. 141
Hast thou forgotten what strange rites are done
To gain thy goodwill underneath the sun? —
Thou art asleep, then ! Wake ! — the world will end
Because thou sleepest — e'en now doth it wend
Unto the sickening end of all delights ;
Black, black the days are, dull grey are the nights,
No more the night hides shame, no more the day
Unto the rose-strewn chamber lights the way ;
And folk begin to curse thee, '■Love is gone,
Grey shall the earth be, filled with rocks alone,
Because the generations shall die out ;
Grey shall the earth be, lo7iely, wrapped about
With cloudy memories of the moans of men. ^
Thus, thus they curse. Shall I not curse thee then,
Thou who tormentest me and leav'st me lone,
Nor thinkest once of all that thou hast done?- —
Spare me ! What cruel God taught men to speak.
To cast forth words that for all good are weak
And strong for all undoing ? — thou know'st this,
O lovely one ! take not all hope of bliss
Away from me, because my eager prayer
Grows like unto a curse. O great and fair,
Hearken a little, for to-morn must I
Speak once again of love to him, or die ;
Hast thou no dream to send him, such as thou
Hast shown to me so many a time or now ?
Wilt thou not make him weep without a cause,
As I have done, as sleep her dark veil draws
From off his head ? or his awaking meet
1 4 2 THE EARTH L V PARADISE.
With lovely images, so soft and sweet
That they, forgotten quite, yet leave behind
Great yearning for bright eyes and touches kind.
Alas, alas ! wilt thou not change mine eyes,
Or else blind his, the cold, the over-wise ?
O Love, he knows my heart, and what it is —
No fool he is to cast away his bliss
On such as me : nay, rather he will take
Some grey-eyed girl to love him for his sake,
Not for her own — he knows me, and therefore
I, grovelling here where he has lain, the more
Must burn for him — he knows me; and thou, too.
Better than I, knowest what I shall do.
O Love, thou knowest all, yet since I live
A little joyance hope to me doth give ;
Wilt thou not grant me now some sign, O Love ;
Wilt thou not redden this dark sky, or move
Those stark hard walls, or make the spotted thrush
Cry as in morn through this dark scented hush?"
She ceased, and leaned back, kneeling, and all spent
And panting, with her trembling fingers rent
The linen from her breast, and, with shut eyes.
Waited awhile as for some great surprise,
But yet heard nothing stranger or more loud
Than the leaves' rustle ; a long bank of cloud
Lay in the south, low down, and scarcely seen
'Gainst the grey sky, and when at last the Queen
Opened her eyes, she started eagerly,
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. 143
Although the strangest thing her eyes could see
Was but the summer lightning playing there ;
Then she put back her over-hanging hair,
And in a hard and grating voice she said :
*' O Sthenoboea, art thou then afraid
Of a god's presence ? — did a god e'er come
To help a good and just man when his home
Was turned to hell ? I was but praying here
Unto myself, who to myself am dear
Alone of all things, mine own self to aid.
And therewithal I needs must grow afraid
E'en of myself — O wretch, unholpen still,
To-morrow early thou shalt surely fill
The measure of thy woe — and then — and then —
Alas for me ! What cruellest man of men
Had made me this, and left me even thus?"
Unto the sky wild eyes and piteous
She turned, and gat unto her feet once more.
And, led by use, came back unto the door
Whence she went out, and with no stealthy tread,
Careless of all things, gat her to her bed.
And there at last, in grief and care's despite,
Slept till the world had long forgotten night.
Bellerophon arose the morrow mom
Unlike the man that once had been forlorn ;
Bright-eyed and merry was he, and such fear
As yet clung round him did but make joy dear,
144 THE EARTHL V PARADISE.
And more in hope he was, and knew not why,
Than any day that yet had passed him by.
Now ere the freshness of the morn had died,
Restless with happiness, he thought to ride
Unto a ship, that in a little bay
Anigh to Phlius, bound for outlands, lay,
Unto whose Phrygian master had the King
Given commands to buy him many a thing.
And soon he sailed, since fair was grown the wind.
But as Bellerophon in such a mind
Passed slow along the marble cloister-wall.
He heard a voice his name behind him call,
And turning, saw the Thracian maiden fair,
Leucippe, coming swiftly toward him there,
Who when she reached him stayed, and drawing
As one who rests, said, " Sir, my mistress saith
That she aAvhile is fain to speak with thee
Before thou goest down unto the sea ;
And in her bower for thee doth she abide."
He gave her some light word, and side by side
The twain passed toward the bower, he all the while
Noting the Thracian with a well-pleased smile ;
For his fear slept, or he felt strong enow
Things good and ill unto his will to bow.
Yet was the gentle Thracian pale that day.
And still she seemed as she some word would say
Unto him, that her lips durst not to frame ;
And when unto the Queen's bower-door they came,
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 145
And he passed tliere, and it was shut on him,
She lingered still, and through her body slim
A tremor ran, her pale face waxed all red.
And her lips moved as though some word they said
She durst not utter loud ; then she looked down
Upon her bare feet and her slave's wool gown,
And to her daily task straight took her way.
Now on his throne King Proetus judged that day.
And heard things dull, things strange, but when at last
The summer noon now by an hour had passed,
He went to meat, and thought to see thereat
Bellerophon's frank face, who ever sat
At his right hand ; but empty was his place.
And when the King, who fain had seen his face,
Asked whither he was gone, a certain man
Said : '' King, I saw the brave Corinthian,
Two hours agone, pass through the outer door,
And in his face there seemed a trouble sore.
So that I needs must ask him what was Avrong ;
But staring at me as he went along.
Silent he passed, as if he heard me not ;
Afoot he was, nor weapon had he got."
The King's face clouded, but the meal being done
In his fair chariot did he get him gone
Unto the haven, where the Phrygian ship
Was waiting his last word her ropes to slip ;
Restless he was, and wished that night were come.
But ere he left the fair porch of his home,
146 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Unto the Queen a messenger he sent,
And bade her know whereunto now he went,
And prayed her go with him ; but presently-
Back came the messenger, and said that she
Was ill at ease and in her bower would bide,
For scarcely she upon that day might ride.
So at that word of hers the Argive King
Went on his way, but somewhat muttering,
For heavy thoughts were gathering round his heart ;
But when he came where, ready to depart,
The ship lay, with the bright-eyed master there
Some talk he had, who said the wind was fair
And all things ready; then the King said, " Friend,
To-morrow's noon I deem will make an end
Of this thy lingering ; I will send to thee
A messenger to tell the certainty
Of my last \vishes, who shall bring thee gold
And this same ring that now thou dost behold
Upon my finger, for a token sure —
Farewell, and may thy good days long endure."
He turned, but backward sent his eyes awhile,
Sighing, though on his lips there was a smile ;
The half-raised sail that clung unto the mast.
The tinkling ripple 'gainst the black side cast,
The thin blue smoke that from the poop arose,
The northland dog that midst of ropes did doze,
The barefoot shipmen's eyes upon him bent,
Curious and half-defiant, as they went
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 147
About their work — all these things raised in him
Desire for roving — stirred up thoughts that, dim
At this time, clear at that, still oft he had,
That there his life was not so overglad ;
And as toward Argos now he rode along
By the grey sea, the shipmen's broken song
Smote on his ear and with the low surf's fall
Mingled, and seemed to him perchance to call
To freedom and a life not lived in vain.
But even so his palace did he gain,
And the dull listless day slipped into night.
And smothering troublous thoughts e'en as he might.
Did he betake himself to bed, and there
Lay half-asleep beneath the tester fair.
Waiting until the low-voiced flutes gave sign
That thither drew the Lycian's feet divine —
For so the wont was, that she still was led
Unto her chamber as a bride new-wed.
Of that sweet sound nought heard the King at all.
But straightway into a short sleep did fall,
Then woke as one who knoweth certainly
That all the hours he now shall hear pass by.
Nor sleep until the sun is up again.
So, waking, did he hear a cry of pain
Within the chamber, and thereat adrad
He turned him round, and saw the Queen, so clad
That on her was her raiment richly wrought.
148 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Yet in such case as though hard fate had brought
Some bane of Kings into the royal place,
And with that far-removed and dainty grace
The rough hands of some outland foe had dealt ;
For dragged athwart her was the jewelled belt,
Rent and disordered the Phoenician gown,
The linen from her shoulders dragged adown,
Her arms and glorious bosom made half-bare.
And furthermore such shameful signs were there,
As though not long past hands had there been laid
Heavier than touches of the tiring-maid.
So swiftly through the place from end to end
She paced, but yet stopped now and then to send
I>ow bitter moans forth on the scented air ;
And through the King's heart shot a bitter fear,
Nor could he move- — he had believed her cold,
And wise to draw herself from pleasure's hold
When it began to sting the heart— but now
AVhat shameful thing would these last minutes show ?
Now as she went a look askance she cast
Upon the King, and turning at the last,
With strange eyes drew anigh the royal bed,
And, with clasped hands, before him stood, and said :
" Thou wakest, then ? thou wonderest at this sight ?
I have a tale to tell to thee this night
I cannot utter, unless words are taught
Unto my lips to draw forth all my thought —
SELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 149
Thou wonderest at my words ? Then ask, then ask !
The sooner will be done my heavy task."
Upright in bed the King sat, pale with doubt
And gathering fear; his right hand he stretched out
To take the Queen's hand, but aback she drew.
Shuddering ; and half he deemed the truth he knew,
As o'er her pale face and her bosom came
Beneath his gaze a flush as if of shame :
"Wilt thou not speak, and make an end?" she cried.
Then he spake slowly, " Why dost thou abide
Without my bed to-night ? why dost thou groan,
Whom I ere now no love-sick girl have known?"
She covered up her face at that last word ;
The thick folds of her linen gown were stirred
As her limbs writhed beneath them — nought she said,
As though the word was not remembered
She had to say ; and, loth the worst to hear.
The King awhile was tongue-tied by his fear.
At last the words came : " Thou bad'st ask of thee
Why thou to-night my playmate wouklst not be —
What hast thou done ? Speak quickly of the thing ! "
She drew her hands away, and cried, " O King,
Art thou awake yet, that this shameful guise
Seems nothing strange unto thy drowsy eyes.
Wilt thou not ask why this and this is torn ?
1 5 o THE EARTHL Y PARADISE.
Why this is bruised ? Lo, since the long-passed mom
Thus have I sat, that thou e'en this might see,
And ask what madness there has been in me.
Thus have I sat, and cursed the God who made
The day so long, the night so long delayed.
" Ask ! thou art happy that the Lycian sod
Unwearied oft my virgin feet have trod
From dawn to dusk ; that in the Lycian wood
Before wild things untrembling I have stood ;
That this right arm so oft the javelin threw —
These fingers rather the grey bowstring kne'sv
Than the gold needle : even so, indeed,
Of more than woman's strength had I had need
If with a real man I had striven to-day ;
But he who would have shamed thee went his way
like a scourged woman — thou wilt spare him, then —
Lay do"s\Ti thy sword ! — that is for manly men."
For while she spake, and in her eyes did bum
The fires of hate, the King's face had waxed stern.
And ere her bitter speech was fully o'er.
He had arisen, and from off" the floor
Had gat his proven sword into his hand,
And eager by the trembling Queen did stand.
And cried, " Nay, hold ! for surely I know well
What tale it is thy lips to-night would tell ;
Therefore my sword befits me, the tried friend
That many a troublous thing has brought to end.
Yet fear not, for another friend have 1
SELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 151
To help me deal with this new villany,
Even the godlike man Bellerophon ;
So with one word thy heavy task is done.
— O Sthenoboea, speak the name of him
Who wrought this deed, then let that name wax dim
Within thy mind till it is dead and past ;
For, certes, yesterday he saw the last
Of setting suns his doomed eyes shall behold."
Pale as a corpse she waxed, and stony cold
Amidst these words ; silent awhile she was
After the last word from the King did pass,
But in a low voice at the last she said :
'' Yea, for this deed of his must he be dead ?
And must he be at peace, because he strove
To take from me honour, and peace, and love ?
Must a great King do thus ? or hast thou not
Some lightless place in mighty Argos got
Where nought can hap to break the memory
Of what he hoped in other days might be ;
For great he has been, and of noble birth
As any man who dwelleth on the earth.
— Thou hast forgotten that the dead shall rest,
Whate'er they wrought on earth of worst or best."
But the King gazed upon her gloomily.
And said, " Nay, nay ; — the man shall surely die —
His hope die with him, is it not enow ?
But no such mind I bear in me as thou,
1 5 2 THE EAR THL Y PARADISE.
Who speakest not as a great Queen should speak,
But rather as a girl made mad and weak
By hope delayed and love cast back again,
Who knoweth not her words are words and \-ain.
Content thee, thou art loved and honoured still —
Speak forth the name of him who wrought the ill,
For I am fain to meet Bellerophon,
So that we twain may do what must be done."
He spake, but mid the tumult of her mind
She heard him not, and deaf she was and blind
To all without, nor kneAv she if her feet
The marble cold or red-hot iron did meet.
She moved not and she felt not, but a sound
Came from her lips, and smote the air around
With slow hard words :
" Ah ! thou hast named him then
Twice in this hour alone of earthly men ; —
That same Bellerophon, that all folk love.
In manly wise this morn against me strove ! "
Ah, how the world was changed, as she went by
The King, bewildered with new miser}' —
Ah, and how little time it w-as agone
When all that deed of hers was not yet done,
When yet she might have died for him, and made
A little love her lonely tomb to shade
Spring up within his heart' — when hope there was
Of many a thing that yet might come to pass —