And now, and now â those spoken words must be
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 5 -
A part of her, an unwrought misery
That would not let her rest till all was o'er, â
Nay, nay, no rest upon the shadowy shore.
Slowly she left the chamber, none the less
With measured steps her feet the floor did press
As a Queen's should, nor fainted she at all,
But straight unto the door 'twixt Avail and wall
She went, and still perchance had forced a smile
Had she met any one ; and all the while
Set in such torment as men cannot name,
If she did think, wondered that still the same
Were all things round her as they had been erst- â
That the house fell not â that the feet accurst
To carry her yet left no sign in blood
Of where the wretchedest on earth had stood â
That round about her still her raiment clung â
That no great sudden pain her body stung,
No inward flame her false white limbs would burn,
Or into horror all her beauty turn â
That still the gentle sounds of night were there
As she had known them : the light summer air
Within the thick-leaved trees, as she passed by
Some open window, and the nightbird's cry
From far ; the gnat's thin pipe about her head.
The wheeling moth delaying to be dead
Within the taper's flame â yea, certainly
Shall things about her as they have been be.
And even that a torment now has grown.
1 5 4 THE EAR THL V PARADISE.
Yet must she reap the grain that she has sown ;
No thought of turning back was in her heart,
No more in those past days can she have part ;
Nay, when her gUmmering bower she came unto,
She muttered through the dusk, "As I would do
So have I done â so would I do again."
Lo, thus in unimaginable pain
Leave we her now, and to the King turn back ;
Who stood there overwhelmed by sudden lack
Of what he leaned on â with his life left bare
Of a great pleasure that was growing there.
A storm of rage swept through his heart, to think
That he of such a cup as this must drink ;
For if he doubted aught, this was his doubt,
That all the tale was not told fully out â
That for Bellerophon the Queen's great scorn
And loathing was a thing but newly born â
That bitter hate was but a lover's hate.
Which even yet beneath the hand of fate
Might turn to hottest love. He groaned thereat.
And staggering back, upon the bed he sat ;
His bright sword from his hand had fallen down
When that last dreadful word at him was thrown,
And now, with head sunk 'twixt his hands, he sought
Some outlet from the weary girth of thought
That hemmed him in.
" And must I slay him then.
Him whom I loved above all earthly men ?
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 5 5
Behold, if now I slept here, and next morn,
Ere the day's memory should be fully born
From out of sleep, men came and said to me,
' Sire, the Corinthian draweth nigh to thee,'
My first thought would be joy that he had come.
And yet I am a King, nor shall my home
Become a brothel before all men's eyes.
He who drinks deadly poison surely dies,
And he hath drunk, and must abide the end.
Yet hath the image of him been my friend â
What shall I do ? Not lightly can I bear
The voice of men about these things to hear ;
' He trusted him, he thought himself right wise
To look into men's souls through lips and eyes â
â Behold the end ! â ' Yea, and most certainly
I will not bear once more his face to see ;
Nor in the land where he was purified
Shall grass or marble by his blood be dyed,
Since he must go â green grew a bough of spring
Amidst the barren death of many a thing ;
Not barren it, since poison fruits it bore â
Behold now, I, who loved my life of yore,
Begin to weary that I e'er was born ;
But let it pass â rather let good men mourn ;
Great men, the earth's salt, wear their lives away
In weeping for the ne'er-returning day :
For surely all is good enough for me.
"And yet alas ! what truth there seemed in thee â
â What can I do? Micht he not die in war?
1 5 6 THE EAR THL Y PARADISE.
Nay, but at peace through him my borders are.
He shall not die here â the deep sea were good
To hide the story of his untamed blood â
Or, furtherâ O thou fool, that so must make
My life so dull, e'en for a woman's sake !
There in that land, then, shall thy bones have rest
Beneath the sod her worshipped feet have pressed.
In Lycia shalt thou die ; her father's hand
Shall draw the sword, or his lips give command
To make an end of thee â So shall it be.
And that swift Phrygian ready now for sea
Shall bear thee hence â Would I had known thee not ;
A new pain hast thou been â a heavy lot
My life in early morn to me shall seem,
When I have dreamed that all was but a dream,
And waked to truth again and lonely life.
" Let be ; now must I forge the hidden knife
Against thee, and I would the thing were done.
Thou mayst not die so ; thou art such an one
As the Gods love, whatever thou mayst do.
Perchance they pay small heed to false or true
In such as we are. But the lamps burn low,
The night wears, grey the eastern sky doth grow ;
I must forget thee ; fellow, fare thee well,
Who might have turned my feet from lonely hell !"
So saying, slowly, as a man who needs
Must do a deed that woe and evil breeds,
He rose, and took his writing tools to him.
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 5 7
And ere the day had made the tapers dim,
Two letters with his own hand had he made,
And open was the first one, and it said
These words :
Unto the luise Bcllei-ophon â
To Lycia the Gods call thee, O my son ;
So when thou hast this letter in thine hand,
Abide no longer in the Argive land
Than if thou fleddest some avenging man,
But make good speed to that swift Phrygian
Who for the southlands saileth this same day.
Take thou this gold for furtherance and stay,
A?id this for his reivard who rules the keel.
And for a token show him this my seal.
This casket to the Lyciaji king bear forth.
That hath iii it a thing of greatest worth ;
And let no hand be laid on it but thine
Till it! /abates' hands its gold doth shine.
Then bid him mind how that he had of 77ie
WheJi last I saw his face the fellow key
To that which in mine hands doth open it â
Awhile the King had stayed when this was writ,
And on the gathering greyness of the morn
Long fixed his eyes, unseeing and forlorn.
Then o'er the tablets moved his hand again.
Mayst thou do well among these outland men.
Perchance my face thou never more shalt see,
158 THE EARTHL Y PARADISE.
Perchance hut little fnore remains to thee
0/ thy loved life â thou wert not o?ie to cry
Curses on all because life passeth by.
If ivoc befalls thee there, think none the less
That I ereivhile have wrought thee happiness ;
Farewell I and ask thou not to see me first :
Life 7uorsens here, and ere it reach the worst.
Unto the Jove that may be would I speak
To help my people, wandering blifid atid weak.
Another letter by the King's side lay,
But closed and sealed ; so in the twilight grey
Now did he rise, and summoned presently
A slumbering chamberlain that was thereby,
And bade him toward the treasury lead, and take
Two leathern bags for that same errand's sake ;
So forth the twain went to that golden place ;
But when they were therein, a mournful face
Still the King seemed to see, e'en as it was
When he from room to room with him did pass
Who now had wronged him ; then the gold waxed dim,
For bitter pain his vexed heart wrought for him,
And filled with unused tears his hard wise eyes.
But choking back the thronging memories,
He laid the letter that he erst did hold
Within a casket wrought of steel and gold.
Which straight he locked ; then bade his fellow fill
The bags he bore from a great golden hill,
Then to his room, made cold with morn, returned ;
BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. 159
And since for change and some swift deed he yearned,
He bade his chamberlain bring hunter's weed,
And saddle him straightway his fleetest steed :
" And see," said he, " before the Prince arise
Ye show this letter to his waking eyes,
And give into his hands these things ye see ;
And make good speed, the time grows short for me."
So spake he, and there grew on him a thought
That thither might Bellerophon be brought
Ere he could get him gone ; and therewithal
At last the low sun topped the garden-wall,
And o'er the dewy turf long shadows threw ;
Then, being new clad, the porch he hurried to,
And paced betwixt its pillars feverishly,
Until he heard the horse-boys' cheery cry
And the sharp clatter of the well-shod feet ;
Then he ran out, the joyous steed to meet.
And mounted, and rode forth, he scarce knew where.
Until the town was passed, and 'twixt the fair
Green corn-fields of the June-tide he drew rein.
To ponder on his life, so spoiled and vain.
But when Bellerophon awoke that morn,
Weary he felt, as though he long had borne
Some heavy load, and his perplexed heart
Must chide the life wherein he had a part.
But ere he gat him down to meet the day
With its new troubles, 'thwart his weary way
Was come that chamberlain, who bade him read,
i6o THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
And say what other thing he yet might need.
He read, and knit his anxious brows in thouglit,
For in his mind great doubt that letter brought
If yet he were in friendship with the King ;
And therewith came a dark imagining
Of unseen dangers, and great anger grew
Within his soul, as if the worst were true
Of all he thought might be ; and in his mind
It was, that going, he might leave behind
A bitter word to pay for broken troth :
And still the King's man saw that he was wroth,
And watched him curiously, till he had read
The letter thrice, but nought to him he said.
At last he spake, " Sir. even as the King
Now bids me, will I make no tarrj-ing ;
And as I came to Argos, even so.
Unfriended, bearing nothing, will I go ;
And few farewells are best to-day, I deem,
For like a banished man I would not seem
Among these folk that love me : get we gone,
And tell the King his full will shall be done."
So forth they ride, and ever as the way
Lengthened behind them, and the summer day
Grew hotter on the lovely teeming earth.
The fresh soft air and sounds and sights of mirth
Wrought on Bellerophon, until it seemed
That things might not be e'en as he had deemed
At first. " What thoughts are mine ; have I not had
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 1 6 1
Gifts from his hands â hath he not made me glad
When I was sorry? Therefore will I take
What chance there lies herein for honour's sake.
Nay, more, and may not friendship lie herein ? â
May he not drive me forth from shame and sin
And evil fate ? Well, howsoe'er it is,
But little evil do I see in this :
Yea, I may see his face again once more,
And crowned with honour come back to this shore,
For now I fear nought â if he thinks to see
Some evil thing that nowise is in me.
Another day the truth of all will show.
Let pass, again from out the place I go
Wherein the sport of fortune I have tried ;
If it has failed me, yet the world is wide
And I am young. Now go I forth alone
To do what in my life must needs be done,
And in my own hands lies my fate, I think,
And I shall mix the cup that I must drink :
So be it ; thus the world is merrier.
And I shall be a better man than here."
Amid these thoughts, unto the ship he came,
And higher yet sprang up the new-stirred flame
Of great desires when first he saw the sea
Leap up against her black sides lovingly.
And heard the sails flap, and the voice of folk,
Who at the sight of him in shouts outbroke.
Since they withal were eager to be gone.
1 62 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
And now were all things done that should be done ;
The money rendered up, the King's seal shown,
Unto the master all his will made known,
And on the deck stood the Corinthian.
As up the mast clattering the great rings ran.
And back the hawser to the ship was cast,
The helmsman took the tiller, and at last
The head swung round, trimly the great sail drew,
The broad bows pierced the land of fishes through.
Unheard the red wine fell from out the cup
Into the noisy sea ; and then rose up
The cloud of incense-smoke a little way.
But driven from the prow, with the white spray
It mingled, and a little dimmed the crowd
Of white-head waves ; then rose the sea-song loud,
AVhile on the stem still stood Bellerophon,
Bidding farewell to what of life was gone,
Pensive, but smiling somewhat to behold
The lengthening wake, and field, and hill, and wold,
And white-walled Argos growing small astern.
That he the pleasure of the gods might learn.
SELLER OPHON AT ARGOS. 163
BUT when the King's man, with a doubtful smile,
Had watched the parting sails a little while,
He turned about, revolving many things
Within his mind, of the weak hearts of kings,
Because the Prince's glory seemed grown dim,
And nowise grand this parting seemed to him ;
" For day-long leave-taking there should liave been,"
He grumbled, "and fair tables well beseen
Should have been spread the gilded ship anigh.
And many a perfect beast been slain thereby
Unto the gods â Had this Bellerophon
Too great fame for the King of Argos won ? â
I will be lowly, for no little bliss
I have in Argos, a good place it is â
Or else what thing has happed ?"
Howe'er it was,
Slowly again to Argos did he pass,
And here and there he spake upon that day
Of how Bellerophon had gone away,
Perchance as one who would no more return ;
And sore hearts were there, who thereat must yearn
To see the face that let a weak hope live ;
And folk still doomed with many things to strive,
Who found him helpful â few indeed were there
Who did not pray that well he still might fare
Whereso he was, and few forgot him cjuite
For many a day and many a changing night.
1 64 THE EAR THL V PARADISE.
But Sthenobcea, when she knew that morn
That she was not alone of love forlorn,
But of the thing too that fed love in her,
Yet coldly at the first her lot did bear
In outward seeming : in no other wise
She sat among her maids than when his eyes
Had first met hers. " No babble shall there be
In this fool's land concerning him and me.
Gone is he, â let him die and be forgot :
Cold is my heart that yesterday was hot,
Quenched is the fervent flame of yesterday ;
Past is the time when I had cast away,
If he had bidden me, name, and fame, and all :
Now in this dull world e'en let things befall
As they are fated ; I am stirred no more
By any hap â hope, hate, and love are o'er."
So spake she in the morn, when, still a Queen,
She sat among her folk as she had been,
Dreaded, unloved ; yet as the day wore on
She felt as though it never would be done.
And now she took to wandering restlessly,
And set her face to go unto the sea.
But soon turned back, and through the palace ranged,
And thought she thought not of him, and yet changed
Her face began to grow ; and if she spoke,
As one untroubled, aught unto her folk.
Her speech grew wild and broken ere its end ;
And as about the place she still did wend.
More than its wonted chill her presence threw
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 165
On those who of her coming footsteps knew â
Yea, as she passed by some, she even thought
A look like pity to their eyes was brought.
And then, amidst her craving agony.
Must she grow red with wrath that such could be.
Now came the night, and she must cast aside
All semblance of her coldness and her pride,
And find tlie weary night was longer yet
Than was the day, and harder to forget
The thoughts that came therewith. How can I tell
In any words the torment of that hell.
That she for her own soul had fashioned so.
That from it never any path did go
To lands of rest, no window was therein,
Through which there shone a hope of happier sin ;
But close the fiery walls about her glared,
And on one dreadful picture still she stared,
Intent on that desire, that dreadful love.
The dullness of her savage heart that clove
With wasting fire, a bane to her, and all
Who in the net of her vain life might fall.
The next day wore, and thereto followed night,
And changed through dark and dusk and dawn to light;
And when at last high-risen was the sun.
The women came to do what should be done
In the Queen's chamber : water for the bath
They brouglit, and dainties such as Venus lialh ;
i66 THE EARTHLY PARADISE.
Gold combs, embroidered cloths, pearl-threaded strings,
Such unguents as the hidden river brings
Through strange-wrought caverns down into a sea
Where seldom any keel of man may be ;
Fine Indian webs, the work of many a year,
And incense that the bleeding tree doth bear
Lone in the desert; â yea, and fear withal
Of what new thing upon that day might fall
From her they served, for on the day now dead
Wild words, strange threatenings had her writhed lips
But when within the chamber door they were,
A new hope grew mthin them, a new fear.
For empty 'neath the golden canopy
The bed lay, and when one maid drew anigh.
She saw that all untouched the linen was
As for that night ; so when it came to pass
That in no chamber of that house of gold
Might any one the Lycian's face behold,
Nor any sign of her, then therewithal
To others of the household did they call.
And asked if they had tidings of the Queen ;
And when they found that she had not been seen
Since at the end of day to bed she passed.
Within their troubled minds the thing they cast,
And thus remembered that at whiles of late
She had been wont the rising sun to wait
Within the close below her boAver ; so then
They called together others, maids and men,
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 167
And passed with troubled eyes adown the stair ;
And coming to the postern-door that there
Led out into the pleasance, that they found
Still open, and thereby upon the ground,
And on a jagged bough of creeping vine,
Gold threads they saw, and silken broidery fine.
That well they knew torn from the Lycian's gown ;
Therewith with hasty feet were trodden down
The beds of summer flowers that lay between
The outer wicket of that garden green
And the bower-door â feet that had heeded nought
By what wild ways they to their end were brought ;
Then by the gate where the faint sweetbriar-rose
Grew thick about the edges of the close.
Had one pushed through their boughs in such a way
That fragments of a dainty thin array
Yet fluttered on the thorns in the light breeze,
Nor might they doubt who once had carried these.
But when the pleasance-gate they had passed through,
At first within the lingering strip of dew
Beneath the wall, footprints they well could see ;
But as the shadow failed them presently,
And little could the close-cropped summer grass
Tell them of feet that might have chanced to pass
Thereby before the dawn, their steps they stayed,
And this and that thing there betwixt them weighed
With many words ; then splitting up their band.
Some took the way unto the well-tilled land.
Some seaward went, and some must turn their feet
1 68 THE EA R THL Y PARADISE.
Unto the wood : yet did not any meet
A further sign ; and though some turned again
To tell the tale at once, yet all in vain
Did horsemen scour the country far and wide,
And vainly was the sleuth-hounds' mettle tried â
â Gone was the Lycian, and in such a guise
That silence seemed the best word for the wise.
But many a babbling tongue in Argos was,
Who for no gold had let such matters pass ;
And some there were who, mindful of her face
As down the street she passed in queenly grace,
Said that some god had seen her even as they,
And with no will that longer she should stay
Midst dying men, had taken her to his home â
" And we are left behind," they said ; but some,
Who had been nigher to her, said that she,
Smitten by some benign divinity
Who loved the world and lovely Argos well.
Had fled with changed heart far from man to dwell
Yea, and might be a goddess even yet.
But other folk, well ready to forget
Her bitter soul, and well content to bear
The changed life that she erst had filled with care.
Smiled, and said yea to better and to worse,
But inly thought that many a heart-felt curse
Her careless ears had heard upon the earth
Had not returned to where it had its birth.
The Gods are kind, and hope to men they give
BELLEROPHON A T ARGOS. 169
That they their httle span on earth may Hve,
Nor yet faint utterly ; the Gods are kind,
And will not suffer men all things to find
They search for, nor the depth of all to know
They fain would learn : and it was even so
With Sthenoboea ; for a fisher old
That day a tale unto his carline told.
E'en such as this :
" When I last night had laid
The boat up 'neath the high cliff, and had made
All things about it trim, and left thee here.
Even as thou knowest, I set out to bear
Those mullets unto Argos. Nought befell
At first whereof is any need to tell.
But when the night had now grown very old,
And, as my wont is, I was waxing bold,
And thinking of the bright returning day.
That drives the sprites of wood and wave away,
As the path leads, I entered the beech-wood
Which, close to where the ancient palace stood,
Clothes the cliff's edge ; I entered warily.
Yet thought no evil thing therein to see.
Scarce lighter than dark night it was therein.
Though swift without the day on night did win.
So I went on, I say, and had no fear.
So nigh to day ; but getting midmost, where
Thinner it grows and lighter, toward the sea,
I stayed my whistling, for it seemed to me
The wind moaned louder than it should have done,
1 7 o THE EAR THL V PARADISE.
Because of wind without was well-nigh none.
When I stood still it ended, and again,
E'en as I moved, I seemed to hear it plain.
Trembling, I stopped once more, and heard indeed
A sound as though one moaned in bitter need.
Clearer than was the moaning of the surf,
Now muffled by a rising bank of turf
On the cliff's edge ; fear-stricken, yet in doubt,
Through the grey glimmer now I peered about.
And turned unto the sea : then my heart sank,
For by the tree the nighest to that bank
A white thing stood, like, as I now could see,
The daughters of us sons of misery,
Though such I deemed her not â and yet had I
No will or power to turn about and fly ;
And now it moaned and moaned, and seemed to
Against the tree its body long and lithe.
Long gazed I, while still colourless and grey,
But swift enow, drew on the dawn of day ;
But as I trembled there, at last I heard
How in a low voice it gave forth this word :
*' What say'st thou ? â 'Live on still â I loved thee not
The while I lived ; my bane from thee I got :
And canst thou think that I shall love thee, then,
Wliere no will is, or power to so?is of 7nen V
I know fiot, thou mayst hate me, yet I coi7ie
That I ttiay look on thee in that new home
BELLEROPHON A T AEG OS. 1 7 1
My hands built for thee: if the priests speak truths
What heart thou hast may yet be stirred by ruth,
When thy changed eyes behold the traitorous Queen
Tormented for the vile thing she has been â
If, as the books say, e'en such ways they have
As we 071 this explored side of the grave.
Yea, thou ?>iayst pity then mine agony,
When no more evil I can do to thee.
Here o?i the earth I could not weep e?iow,
Or shoiu thee all my miseiy here, and thou
Must ever look upon me as a Queen,
Thy mistress and thy fear. Couldst thou have seen
My wea7'y ways upon this lo?ig, long night â
Couldst thou behold the coming day's new sight.
When round this tree the folk come gathering
To see the wife and daughter of a King,
Slain by her own hand, and in such a wise â
O thou I hoped for once, might not thine eyes
Have softeticd had they seen me shivering here.
Alone, utiholpcn, sick with my first fear,
Beat down by coming shafue, and mocked by these
Gay fluttering rags of dainty braveries
That decked my state; by gold, and pearl, and gent,
Over my wretched breast, set ifi the hem
Tfiis night has torn, and der my bleeding feet ;
Mocked by this glittering girdle, nowise meet
To do the hangttian^s office ? â Couldst thou see
That even so I needs must think of thee â
Whom I have slain, luhosc eyes I have made blind,
1 7 2 THE EAR THL V PARADISE.
Whose feet I stayed that me they might not find ^
That I might ?iot be helped of any one ?
" The day was dawning when her words were done,
And to her waist I saw her set her hand,
And take the girdle thence, and therewith stand
With arms that moved above her head a space
Within the tree ; and still she had her face
Turned from me, and I stirred not, minding me
Of tales of treacherous women of the sea,