There Came Three Queens From Heaven

IT so befell that, once upon a time,
Before the shepherd Paris, as he roved,
Guarding his flocks, upon a slope of Ida,
There came three queens from heaven, to contest
The palm of man’s approval, and they spake:
“ Which of us three is fairest, — which best worth
The winning? Choose! And as thy choice shall fall,
Bestow the prize.”
Then in his hand they placed
The apple of red gold, which Eris cast
Upon the banquet-table of the gods.
And first the royal Hera, spouse of Jove,
Preferred her suit:
“ O Paris, hear me well!
Lo, this fair apple is thy golden youth,
Which, so thou barter wisely, wins for thee
Thy heart’s most secret wish. But be thou warned, —
Once, and once only, shalt thou name thy choice,
And then keep silence. I am Hera, I,
And with this gift of gifts I make thee mine.”
She ceased, and flashed before his dazzled sight
A naked sword, and on the blade was writ,
“ Power! ” But Paris mused a little space,
And turned aside, and answered, “Let me hear.”
Then spake the second, hollow-eyed and pale,
With sad, stern voice:
“ I am Athena, I,
And these my attributes among the gods, —
Knowledge, self-wisdom, virtue, self-control.
Short is my wooing. Wilt thou reign with me?
Take up thy sceptre.”
At his feet she cast
A reed, in fashion like a poet’s pen,
And on the shaft, graven in lines of fire,
A word of rapture, — “ Fame!” But Paris mused,
And turned aside, and answered, “ Let me hear.”
Then third, the last and fairest yet of all,
The subtle Aphrodite, ocean-born,
Arose, and stood, a flower amid the flowers.
No word she spake, but waved her hand; and lo !
Instant, as in a dream of sorcery,
Half clad, at some fair vintage festival,
And leered upon by satyrs of the wood,
The Grecian Helen, floating through the dance
Of Bacchus, crowned with poppies of the field,—
Fairer than sin, her hair unbound, her eyes
Sultry with lightnings, and her lips apart,
, As one who murmurs, “ Follow! follow! follow! ”
And ever onward, “ Follow! ” fainter still,
Still farther, fainter ; till the vision paled,
And left him straining after, hands and eyes.
Then through the silence throbbed a tender voice:
“ Behold my gift! ”
And Paris said, “ I choose!”
Yea, with a mighty, passionate, strong cry:
“ Sweet are the dreams of Power; sweet is Fame:
But, sweeter yet than all sweet things that be,
Whether on earth, in heaven, sea, or air,
O Love, take thou my youth!”
And thereupon,
Whilst yet he spurned in air the golden sphere,
Whirled downward by a shrill and bitter wind
That waked the yelping foxes of the gorge,
And drave the screaming eagle to the crag,
And rapt away the daylight like a scroll,
Night fell on Ida, — night and loneliness,
Without the light of moon, or any star,
Save where above a rampart to the east
Red Mars came reeling, drunken from his wars,
And turned against the earth his bloody shield.
W. W. Young.