Hephæstus

Hephæstus, finding that his wife Aphrodite is loved by his brother Ares, voluntarily surrenders the goddess to this younger brother, whom, it is said, Aphrodite herself preferred. — A. S.

TAKE her, O Ares ! As Demeter mourned
Through many-fountained Enna, I shall grieve
Forlorn a time, and then, it may be, learn,
Some still autumnal twilight by the sea
Golden with sunlight, to remember not !
As the dark pine foregoes the pilgrim thrush,
I, sad of heart, yet unimpassioned, yield
To you this surging bosom soft with dreams,
This body fashioned of Ægean foam
And languorous moonlight. But I give you not
The eluding soul that in her broods and sleeps,
And ne’er was mine of old, nor can be yours.
It was not born of sea and moon with her,
And though it nests within her, no weak hand
Of hers shall cage it as it comes and goes,
Sorrows and wakens, sleeps, and sings again.
And so I give you but the hollow lute,
The lute alone, and not the voices low
That sang of old to some forgotten touch.
The lamp I give, but not the glimmering flame
Some alien fire must light, some alien dusk
Enisle, ere it illume your land and sea.
The shell I give you, Ares, not the song
Of murmuring winds and waves once haunting it;
The cage, but not love’s wings that come and go.
I give you them, light brother, as the earth
Gives up the dew, the mountain side the mist.
Farewell, sad face, that gleamed so like a flower
Through Paphian groves to me of old, — farewell!
Some Fate beyond our dark-robed Three ordained
This love should wear the mortal rose, and not
Our timeless amaranth. ’T was writ of old, and lay
Not once with us. As we ourselves have known,
And well your sad Dodonian mother found,
From deep to deep the sails of destined love
Are blown and tossed by tides no god controls;
And at the bud of our too golden life
Eats some small canker of mortality.
I loved her once, O Ares, —
I loved her once as waters love the wind,
I sought her once as rivers seek the sea ;
And her deep eyes, so dream-besieged, made dawn
And midnight one. Flesh of my flesh she was,
And we together knew dark days and glad.
Then fell the change. Some hand unknown to us
Shook one white petal from the perfect flower,
And all the world grew old. Ah, who shall say
When Summer dies, or when is blown the rose ?
Who, who shall know just when the quiet star
Out of the golden west is born again,
Or when the Gloaming saddens into Night ?
’T was writ, in truth, of old ; the tide of love
Has met its turn, the long horizon lures
The homing bird, the harbor calls the sail.
Home, home to your glad heart she goes, while I
Fare on alone. And yet, when you shall tread
Lightly the sunlit hills with her, and breathe
Life’s keener air, all but too exquisite,
Or look through purpling twilight on the world,
Think not my heart has followed nevermore
Those glimmering feet that walked once thus with me,
Nor dream my passion by your passion paled.
But lower than the god the temple stands ;
As deeper is the sea than any wave,
Sweeter the Summer than its asphodel,
So love far stronger than this woman is.
She from the untiring ocean took her birth,
And from torn wave and foam her first faint breath ;
Child of unrest and change, still through her sweeps
Her natal sea’s tumultuous waywardness.
And losing her, lo, one thin drifting cloud
Curls idly from the altar in that grove
Where burn the fires that know not change or death.
Yet she shall move the strange desires of men,
For in her lie dim glories that she dreams
Not of, and on her ever broods a light
Her Cyprian eyes ne’er saw. And evermore
Round her pale face shall pleading faces press;
Round her shall mortal passion beat and ebb.
Years hence, as waves on islands burst in foam,
Madly shall lives on her strange beauty break.
When she is yours, and in ambrosial glooms
You secretly would chain her kiss by kiss,
Though close you hold her in your hungering arms,
Yet will your groping soul but lean to her
Across the dusk, as hill to lonely hill ;
And in your warmest raptures you shall learn
There is a citadel surrenders not
To any captor of the outer walls ;
In sorrow you shall learn there is a light
Illumines not, a chamber it were best
To leave untrod !
O Ares, dread the word
That silences this timorous nightingale,
The touch that wakens strings too frail for hands !
For, giving her, I gain what you shall lose ;
Forsaking her, I hold her closer still.
The sea shall take a deeper sound; the stars
Stranger and more mysterious henceforth
Shall seem ; the darkening sky line of the west
For me, the solitary dreamer, now shall hold
Voices and faces that I knew not of.
More, henceforth, shall all music mean to me,
And she, through lonely musings, ever seem
As beautiful as are the dead. But you, —
You in your hand shall guard the gathered rose,
Shall hold the riven veil, the loosened chord.
So love your hour, bright god, ere it is lost,
A swan that sings its broken life away.
In that brief hour, ’t is writ, you shall hear breathe
Songs blown from some enchanted island home,
Then mourn for evermore life’s silent throats, —
Ay, seek and find the altar when its fires
Are ashes, and the worship vain regret.
A mystic law more strong than all delight
Or pain shall each delicious rapture chill,
Exacting sternly for each ecstasy ;
And when her voice enwraps you, and in arms
Luxurious your softest languor comes,
Faintly tom wings shall flutter for the sun,
Madly old dreams shall struggle toward the light,
And, drugged with opiate passion, you shall know
Dark days and shadowy moods when she may seem
To some dusk underworld enchaining you.
Yet I shall know her as she was of old,
h ashioned of moonlight and Ægean foam ;
Some visionary gleam, some glory strange,
Shall day by day engolden her lost face ;
The slow attrition of the years shall wear
No tenderest charm away, and she shall live
A lonely star, a gust of music sweet,
A voice upon the Deep, a mystery !
But in the night, I know, the lonely wind
Shall sigh of her, the restless ocean moan
Her name with immemorial murmurings,
And the sad golden summer moon shall mourn
With me, and through the gloom of rustling leaves
The shaken throats of nightingales shall bring
Her low voice back, the incense of the fields
Recall too well the odor of her hair.
But lo, the heart doth bury all her dead,
As Mother Earth her unremembered leaves.
So the sad hour shall pass, and with the dawn
Serene I shall look down, where hills and seas
Throb through their dome of brooding hyaline,
And see from Athens gold to Indus gray
New worlds awaiting me, and gladly go, —
Go down among the toilers of the earth
And seek the rest, the deeper peace that comes
Of vast endeavor and the dust of strife.
There my calm soul shall know itself, and watch
The golden-sandaled Seasons come and go,
Still godlike in its tasks of little things ;
And, woven not with grandeurs and red wars,
Wanting somewhat in gold and vermeil, shall
The Fates work out my life’s thin tapestry,
As sorrow brings me wisdom, and the pang
Of solitude, O Ares, keeps me strong.
Arthur Stringer.