News From Olympia

OLYMPIA? Yes, strange tidings from the city
Which pious mortals builded, stone by stone,
For those old gods of Hellas, half in pity
Of their storm-mantled height and dwelling lone, —
Their seat upon the mountain overhanging
Where Zeus withdrew behind the rolling cloud,
Where crowned Apollo sang, the phorminx twanging,
And at Poseidon’s word the forests bowed.
Ay, but that fated day
When from the plain Olympia passed away;
When ceased the oracles, and long unwept
Amid their fanes the gods deserted fell,
While sacerdotal ages, as they slept,
The ruin covered well!
The pale Jew flung his cross, thus one has written,
Among them as they sat at the high feast,
And saw the gods, before that token smitten,
Fade slowly, while His presence still increased,
Until the seas Ionian and Ægæan
Gave out a cry that Pan himself was dead,
And all was still: thenceforth no more the pæan,
No more by men the prayer to Zeus was said.
Sank, like a falling star,
Hephaistos in the Lemnian waters far; The silvery Huntress fled the darkened sky;
Dim grew Athene’s helm, Apollo’s crown;
Alpheios’ nymphs stood wan and trembling by
When Hera’s fane went down.
News! what news? Has it in truth then ended,
The term appointed for that wondrous sleep?
Has Earth so well her fairest brood defended
Within her bosom? Was their slumber deep
Not this our dreamless rest that knows no waking,
But that to which the years are as a day?
What! are they coming back, their prison breaking,—
These gods of Homer’s chant, of Pindar’s lay?
Are they coming back in might,
Olympia’s gods, to claim their ancient right?
Shall then the sacred majesty of old,
The grace that holy was, the noble rage,
Temper our strife, abate our greed for gold,
Make fine the modern age?
Yes, they are coming back, to light returning!
Bold are the hearts and void of fear the hands
That toil, the lords of War and Spoil unurniug,
Or of their sisters fair that break the bands;
That loose the sovran mistress of desire,
Queen Aphrodite, to possess the earth
Once more; that dare renew dread Hera’s ire,
And rouse old Pan to wantonness of mirth.
The herald Niké, first,
From the dim resting-place unfettered burst,
Winged victor over fate and time and death!
Zeus follows next, and all his children then;
Phoibos awakes and draws a joyous breath,
And Love returns to men.
Ah, let them come, the glorious Immortals,
Rulers no more, but with mankind to dwell,
The dear companions of our hearts and portals,
Voiceless, unworshiped, yet beloved right well!
Pallas shall sit enthroned in wisdom’s station,
Eros and Psyche be forever wed,
And still the primal loveliest creation
Yield new delight from ancient beauty bred.
Triumphant as of old,
Changeless while Art and Song their warrant hold,
The visions of our childhood haunt us still,
Still Hellas sways us with her charm supreme.
The morn is past, but Man has not the will
To banish yet the dream.

Edmund C. Stedman.

  1. One after the other the figures described by Pausanias are dragged from the earth. Niké has been found ; the head of Kladeos is there ; Myrtilos is announced, and Zeus will soon emerge. This is earnest of What may follow.” (Dispatch to the London Times.)