HO, Silenus!—no one here!
The kitchen empty, the flocks in stalls,
The red fire flickering over the walls,
And—a young kid spitted—dainty cheer!
Ho, Silenus!—tipsy old reveller,
Where art thou hiding, you tipsy old hound you, [l.vii]
With thy beard of a goat and thine eyes of a lamb? [l.viii]
He mocks me! Where are you, confound you?
Patience, sweet master, here I am!—
Rise! or with my great fist I’ll put an end to thee;
The dregs of my great flagon have been warming thee—
Thou’rt drunk, sow-ears. I find there’s no reforming thee,
Tho’ six round moons I’ve tried to be a friend to thee.
Once more divinely warming those old veins,
Chirping like grasshoppers at every pore,
Foaming as warm as milk among thy brains,
Gushing like sunshine in thine heart’s dry core,
Runs the pink nectar of my vines. It stains,
Flowing from that bald head, this grassy floor—
Too sweet for earth to drink, unmeet for thee,
Fit only to be quaffed by gods like me!
Jump up, then, quickly. Nay, no more.
Follow me to this rocky eminence,
Cool-cushion’d with the yellow moss, from whence 103
We can at ease behold
The cloud-stain’d greenness of the ocean sleek,
Rounding its glassy waves into the creek,
Speckled with sparkling jewels manifold,
And, far away, one melting patch of gold.
Now, sit!—Nay, nearer, higher—here, above
My shoulder. Turn thy face to mine, Silenus!
Fear not:—being fill’d with the sweet milk of Venus,
Thou’rt a fit counsellor for one in love;
And, as I’m in a talking humour, why—
Suppose we chat a little at our leisure.
One alone beneath the sky,
Old man, is worthy of the conversation
And serious consideration
Of such a god as I!
Now, guess the name of that sweet thing?
Bacchus, the god to whom these aged knees
Bend gloriously impotent so often,
And in whose luscious pool
I dip hot mouth and eyes, and soak and soften
The yoke of thy strong rule.
A thing a thousand times more beautiful!
I know no thing more beautiful than he
When, dripping odours cool,
Deep-purpled, like a honey-bosom’d flower
For which the red mouth buzzes like a bee,
He bursts from thy deep caverns gushingly,
And throws his pleasure round him in a shower,
And sparkles, sparkles, like the eyes that see,
In sunshine, murmuring for very glee
And bursting foamy bubbles until sour [l.xvi]
Lips tremble into moist anticipation
Of his rich exultation!
Has little Bacchus, whom ye praise so, power
To unnerve these mighty limbs, make this one Eye
Rain impotent tears, hurl this gigantic bulk
Down on its stubborn knees—nay, make me skulk
And fume and fret, and simper oaths, and sigh,
Like tiny mortal milking-maids who sulk
In dairies, frothing yellow like their cream?
Could Bacchus, once let loose to fight and fly,
Do all these things to sinewy Polypheme?
By this right hand, you lie!—
I am a god, great-statured, strong, and born
Out of Poseidon’s nervy loins divine!
I laugh the wrath of Zeus himself to scorn;
And when I rise erect on Aetna’s horn
My shadow on the faint sea-hyaline
Falls like a cloud wherein the winds drop still
And white-wing’d ships move slowly without will.
Shall bulk so wondrous and so grand as mine 106
Yield to the miserable god of wine?
Never!—by Pallas’ spear,
At whose sharp touch the plump god leaps and flies,
While startled Revel shrieks with haggard eyes!
Never, by Hermes, whom the drunken fear,
But whose quick fingers pilfer not the wise!
Whom shall we praise, O Cyclops?
Thou shalt hear—
Tell me, didst thou ever see a,—
Ever see a, ever hear a,—
Either far away or near, a—
Nymph so sweet as Galatea?
’Tis false, old man! she is not fair;—
Those weeds that under ocean rot at ease
Into dark dreams o’ the flowery earth, and there
Put purples in the sea-nymph’s sunny hair
Are fairer: she is changeable as these.
She is as wanton as the perfumed fays
That dimple on the windless sea and dally,
With the puff’d sails of ships becalm’d for days.
True, Cyclops, she is fickle; and by her
Whose amorous breath blew the Greek host to Troy,
I have seen fairer!
Not her the false Idalian shepherd-boy,
With silken string, like a tame heifer, led—
Nay, not lush Aphroditè, whose blue eyne, 108
Pink-lidded, smiled on their unhallow’d bed—
Is half so fair, so precious, so divine,
Exactly what I said.
Her voice hath gentle sweetness, borrowëd
From soft tide-lispings on the pebbly sand,
’Tis like the brooding doves in junipers;
White as a shell of ocean is her hand,
Wherein, like ocean sound, the pink blood stirs! [l.x]
Her hair excels the fruitage of the beech
Wherein the sun runs liquid gleam on gleam;
Her breasts are like two foamy bowls of cream, [l.xiii]
A red straw-berry in the midst of each; [l.xiv]
And the soft gold-down on her silken chin
Is like the under-side of a ripe peach—
A dimple dipping honeyly therein!
Profane them not!—For their sweet fire is
Wondrous and various as the Bow
Drawn over rainy ledges dripping low
By many-colour’d Iris—
From whose bright end, plunged the dark waters under,
Woven with the tapestries of her sea cave,
And dying hue by hue on the green wave,
They may have drunk a portion of their wonder.
But oh, what tongue can tell
Their glory inexpressible?
You seem to see the music of the ocean
Folded within them, as within a shell,
And gently stirring with a violet motion,
Until it drops unto the lips, and there
Flutters in perfumed accents on the air! [l.xv]
Nor this alone. They change as the sea changes,
In hues as various as the ringdove’s dyes:
Whatsoever sweet and strange is
Flashes across them with a quick surprise.
Now, in their troubled orbs rise multiform
Wild pictures of sky-tempest and sea-storm;
And her wild eyes droop brightly on her breast 110
Till it is troubled like a thing distrest;
But in their softest mood
You watch the pale soul tremulously brood
On those bright orbs whose fire the dark sea cools,
And there it trembles as the moonlight flows
On seas just stirr’d by their own deep repose
And throbbing, throbbing, into silver pools!
O eloquent Cyclops, pause, and breathe a space!—
Few eyes save thine, few eyes of earth, have plainly
Seen this immortal Galatea’s face;
For she thou lovest is of that fair race
Whom mortal vision dreams of, but seeks vainly—
For they comb and they comb
Their yellow locks,
Under the foam,
Among weedy rocks!
And they sing unseen
In their sea-caves green,
And gaze at the white sun overhead
Whose pale ray saddens their dripping curls,
Or the moon that glimm’ring in ocean’s bed 111
Leaves her motion for ever in pools of pearls! [l.ii]
Chirrup not, wine-sponge!—Am not I a god?
Cannot this eye peer to Olumpos’ helm?
Does not the great sea, trembling at my nod,
Hush itself humbly around this my realm?
It does, O Cyclops!
Save, of course, when I
Hurl rocks and trees down on the shuddering ships,
And, while I loom above the waves, my lips
Roar terrible defiance at the sky.
Ask not, then, the when and how;
But turn thine ancient gaze
On the broad wonder of my brow, 112
Thence drop it, in a natural amaze,
Down the steep mountain to my sinewy feet,
Round which the lambs, as small as snowflakes, bleat;
Now, tell me—am I fair?
Lie to my strength a hollow lie, Silenus!
By all the love that there exists between us,
By doves that perch on Bacchus’ vine-wreath’d ears,
I swear thou art most beautiful!
Have those blurr’d eyeballs noticed that of late
Mine air has grown more solemn, more sedate,
More bountiful to those I hold in chain
To watch my flocks, and more compassionate; 113
As if I struggled underneath the weight
Of some indefinite pain?
That I have learn’d to tremble and to blush,
To droop this eyelid modestly, to flush
All over at the tiniest whispering sound,
To pick small dainty steps upon the ground
As if I saw and seeing fear’d to crush
Some crawling insect or the crimson-crown’d
Small daisy-flower that, whensoe’er I pass,
Shuts up its little leaves upon the grass
And thinks the shadowy eve has stolen down!
Cyclops!—These things I saw, but fear’d to question;
Nay, with a blush I own it—do not frown!—
I set thy trouble down as indigestion.
For neither unmilk’d kids, nor lambs stall-fed, [l.xvi]
Nor sucking-swine with pippins in their teeth,
Nor ox-thighs with green herbs engarlanded,
Nor foamy curds wherein hot apples seethe
Nay, not the parsley-flavour’d tongues of sheep,
Could tempt o’ late thy dainty appetite;
But lying on the mountain out of sight 114
Of melancholy thou hast drunken deep;
While down among the yellow pastures moaning
With lambs new-yean’d, where thy cool streamlets run,
We saw thee loom above us, mighty one!
And heard thee, like the monstrous seas intoning,
Ay me! ay me!
Be calm, sweet Polypheme!
The eagle poised o’er yonder cropping lamb
Flew scared, at that big cry.
Ay me! I am
Lost, swallow’d up, absorbed into a dream!
Thro’ the swift current of my frame gigantic
Eddies a frantic
Consuming fire. I am not what I seem.
For Galatea I refuse all food,
For Galatea I grow weak and wild 115
And petulant-featured as a sickly child;
For Galatea I, in desperate mood,
Seek out green places in this solitude,
And close my eyes, and think I am a curl
Tingling, tingling, lightly
Against the snow-heap’d bosom swelling whitely!
One should not break his heart for any girl.
Ay me! I close my eyes in a sweet woe,
And dream that I am little, fair, and sweet,
For a small goddess’s embraces meet,
Nor huge, nor rough. It was not always so!
Of old, Silenus, this great awful Me
Was swoll’n with glory at the contemplation
Of its enormity in yonder sea;
I revell’d in the roar and consternation,
When, grasping rocks with frantic acclamation,
Round this frowning, Ætna-crowning head I whirl’d them,
Tremendously, stupendously, and hurl’d them
On the passing fleets below; 116
And from under came the thunder of vessels crush’d asunder,
And the shriek, faint and weak, of the mortals in their wonder,
And the sea rolled underneath, and the winds began to blow,
And above the desolation, drunk with rage, I took my station,
With my waving arms expanded and my crimson eye aglow,
And to earth’s reverberation,
Roar’d “Ho! ho! ho!”
Cyclops! sweet Cyclops!—
I am as weak as the eagle’s callow young;
Yet listen, mild old man, and interfere not.
One summer-day, when earth and heaven rung
With thunders, and the hissing lightning stung
With forkëd meteor tongue
The green smooth living ocean till it shriek’d— 117
I stood aloft on Ætna’s horn and wreak’d
My cruel humour with a monstrous glee:
When lo! from out the rainy void did flit
Bright Iris, and with tremulous foot alit
On this my mountain, touching even me
With her faint glory: for a moment, she
Paused shudd’ring high above me: then with fleet
Footstep slid downward till she reach’d my feet;
And there, with many-tinctured wings serene,
She waved the seas to silence, and, beguiled
By her mild message, the dark ocean smiled—
A palpitating lapse of oily green,
With silvery glimmers here and there between
The shadows of the clouds that, dewy and mild,
Parted and flutter’d:—when, with radiant head
Plunging among the bulbous mists, she fled. [l.xvii]
But, as the vapours fleam’d away, behold!
I saw far down upon the brown sea-strand
A nymph who held aloft in pearly hand
A white-tooth’d comb, and comb’d her locks of gold
Over a dank and shipwreck’d sailor-lad,—
On whose damp eyelids a faint radiance lay, [l.xxiii]
Robb’d from some little homestead far away, 118
Some silent hearth that wearily would wait,
For that faint smile which left it desolate,
And hush itself and watch and yearn and pray.
Oh! tenderly she comb’d her locks of gold,
Over that gently-sleeping sailor-lad,
Stretch’d ’mid the purple dulse and rockweed cold;
And all the while she sang a ditty sad,
To deep division of the wave that roll’d
Up to her feet, like a huge snake that springs
At two bright butterflies with golden wings:
Marinere, O Marinere,
Look upon me, with no fear,
Look, and see, and hear:
Underneath the white-tooth’d waves,
Sleep your comrades in their caves;
Coral grottoes are their bed,
Purple plants stir overhead,
All around black weeds are twined,
Frozen still without a wind;
And the sea-nymphs in distress 119
Pluck dark flowers all odourless,
Growing deep in caverns clear,
Gently to bestrew their bier.
Under the sea
They sleep—ah me!
They have slept for many a year.
Marinere, O Marinere,
Wake not, wake not,
Slumber break not,
Close your eyelids with no fear,
Do not see, nor hear!
Far above the silence deep,
Where your gentle comrades sleep,
Rolls the sea and foams the storm,
Horrors thicken, terrors swarm,
And the sea-nymphs, lightning-led,
Flash about white-garmented;
But below the Storm-god’s frown,
Sleep the shipwreck’d fathoms down—
Ocean-flowers are on the bier,
Foam-bells hang in every ear!
Under the sea 120
They sleep—ah me!
They shall sleep for many a year.
That was the song she sang?
It was. But ill
Those tender accents fill
This rocky breast, whose distant roar
Frightens those white waves seaward from the shore.
For they trembled, tinkling, twining,
For melodious combining,
While her yellow locks fell shining
To her knees,
While the Storm with bright eyes glistening,
Thro’ its cloud-veil looking at her,
Delay’d breathlessly and listening [l.xv]
On the ledges of the seas: [l.xvi]
And in the sun she sat her,
While her voice went pitter-patter,
Pitter-patter, like the clatter
Of bright rain on boughs of trees! 121
Then ho! with my great stride,
Down the steep mountain side,
I sprang unto her, with mine arms extended!
Her bright locks gleam’d afraid,
Like a sunbeam trapt in shade,
In my deep shadow, and the music ended:
And she rose erect to fly,
Panting, moaning, and her cry
Met the lifted cry of Ocean, and they blended!
While earth reel’d under,
Downward I bore,
With step of thunder,
On to the shore;
And in shrieking amaze,
With eyes fasten’d in fear—
Like a star’s firm gaze
When a cloud draws near—
On the horror that came
With an eye of flame,
She leapt to the water,
And her bright locks shone
And tript and distraught her, 122
But the water caught her
And push’d her on!
From billow to billow,
With wild locks streaming
And tangling oft;
From billow to billow,
Dark-green, or gleaming
Like doves’ wings soft,
From billow to billow,
Panting and screaming,
With white hands beaming
And waving aloft!
Then, coming hideous
On to the tide,
I spurn’d the perfidious
And follow’d her, dashing
Thro’ storm sublime,
On the seaweed’s slippery slime!
The billows clomb up,
With flash of foam up, 123
My loins and thighs;
Till they gleam’d and fleam’d,
With clangor and anger,
And around me upstream’d
With their wild white eyes!
Till panting, choking,
Dripping and soaking,
With nostrils smoking,
I halted, spitting,
And saw her sitting
Where gulls were flitting
Far out on the deep;
And all around her with gentle motion
One smooth soft part of the murmurous ocean
Had gone to sleep!
Then waving her hands,
And shaking her locks,
To the ocean sands,
To the purple rocks
Under the foam,
To the sea-caves brown,
She sank to her home, 124
Down! down! down! down!
And the sea grew black
In her shining track,
And the waters green
And the one thing seen
Was the steadfast star
Of my round Eye red,
With a pain intense
In my rocky head,
Mid the white foam wreathing
And the great sea seething
Down to deep breathing,
Like a monster panting, on its sandy bed!
Most musical Cyclops!
Hush!—Unto the beach
I wearily strode, with great head bow’d, and dragg’d 125
Foot-echoes after me; and with no speech,
On yonder shore, weedy and wet and cragg’d,
I stood, and in an agony of pain
Look’d out with widening eyeball on the main.
Lo! far away a white wind glided dim
O’er the cloud-cover’d bright’ning ocean-rim,
And violet shadows here and there were trail’d
Over the waters: then behold the sun
Flasht pale across the waste, and one by one,
Like sea-gulls dripping rain, rose ships white-sail’d.
All else was silence, save monotonous moan
Of the broad-chested billows, till the warm
Light kindled all things, and I loomed alone—
The one huge cloud remaining of the storm;
And in the awfulness of that strange hour
A change came over my big throbbing breast,
And the soft picture of the calm had power
To move my mountainous bulk with vague unrest!—
Weep not, O Cyclops—lest thy tears should roll
Down oceanward and brain the grazing sheep!
Ay me, ay me, the passion in my soul!
Ay me, her glory haunts me, and I weep!—
O, I would give away the world to be
As soft, as sweet, as fleecy-limb’d as she,
As tiny and as tender and as white
As her mild loveliness!
With two soft eyes such as mere men possess,
Two pretty little dewy eyes, that might
Interpret me aright!
Amazement!—Polypheme, whom vast Poseidon
Spawn’d upon Thoosa in the salted brine,
Thou who canst strangle fleets, and sit astride on
Ætna and roar thine origin divine!
Wrong not thyself, thy beauty, and thy sire!
See! where thy mighty shadow stretches wide
Down the steep mountain side,
And see! that eyeball of immortal fire!
Had wanton Helen, Paris’ love-sick toy,
Beheld thee, Polypheme,
Hill-haunting Echo had not found a theme 127
In ruin and the ten years’ war of Troy!
And is it so?
By Ganymede bright eyed,
Enough—let us return. I stood,
When she had flown, in meditative mood;
Then, raising up my resinous hands, I cried:
“O thou from whose huge loins I darkling came,
King of all ocean and its wondrous races,
Return, return, the nymph to my embraces,
Or, thro’ thy lips ooze-dripping, name her name!”
And o’er the sands did a low murmur creep,
Whispering ‘Galatea;’ and, deep-pain’d,
I vaguely knew, like one who dreams in sleep,
She was a goddess of the sacred deep,
Not to be lightly woo’d or roughly gain’d.
O pitiful! and you—
In the dim birth
Of the strange love that stirs my hid blood’s fountains,
As unborn earthquakes trouble springs in mountains,
I look’d abroad upon the fair green earth;
And lo, all things that lived, all things that stirr’d,
Unto the very daisy closing up
In my great shade its crimson-tippëd cup,
And the small lambs, and every little bird,
Seem’d to abhor and dread, avoid and fear me;
And in an agony of hate for all,
I cried “How can a thing so sweet, so small,
So gentle, love me—or be happy near me?”
Whereon I sadly clomb the cliffs and made
A looking-glass of yonder ocean, where
Startled by my long shade
The silver-bellied fishes rose afraid;
But with a lover’s hand I smooth’d my hair
To sleekness, parting it with care,
And husht the rugged sorrow of my brow—
Then, stooping softly o’er the dimpled mirror, 129
I shaped my face to a sweet smile—as now!
O agony! help, help, ye gods! O terror!
What ails thee? Ha!
O Ocean’s child—
Cyclops! My heart, with admiration rent,
Fainted and cried with its deep ravishment
Because you look’d so beauteous when you smiled!
Thou liest!—and (ay me) you shrunk in fear
As silly younglings shrink at something hateful;
Yet tremble not:—to a lorn lover’s ear,
E’en flattery so base as thine is grateful.
Ay me, ay me—I am
A great sad mountain in whose depths doth roam 130
My small soul, wandering like a gentle lamb
That bleats from place to place and has no home;
But prison’d among rocks
Can just behold afar
A land where honey-flowing rivers are
And gentle shepherds with their gentle flocks:
For even so my timid soul looks round
On beauteous living things—that creep and seem,
To this vast Eye, like insects on the ground—
From whose companionship ’tis shut and bound
Within this mountain of a Polypheme!
Most melancholy Cyclops, be consoled!
My heart is like those blubbery crimson blots
That float on the dank tide in oozy spots;
It is as mild as patient flocks in fold.
I am as lonely as the snowy peak
Of Dardonos, and, like an eagle, Love [l.xviii]
Stoops o’er me, helpless, from its eyrie above,
And grasps that lamb, my Soul, within its beak.
Nay, on the margin of the waters where 131
She comes and goes like a swift gull, I sit
Above these flocks, and rake my little wit
To pipe upon the misty mountain air
Ditties as tender as a shepherd man,
Perch’d on a little hillock, half asleep,
Surrounded by his silly stainless sheep,
Pipes with mild pleasure and no definite plan
In fields Arcadian. [He sings.
White is the little hand of Galatea,
That combs her yellow locks with dainty care;
Bright is the fluttering hand of Galatea,
When tangled, like a dove, in sunny hair.
Sweet is Galatea—sweet is Galatea—
Ay, so sweet!
Complete is Galatea, from her feathery fingers fair
To her small white mice of feet!
The billows huge and hoar cease to rumble and to roar,
When the white hands wave above them, like doves that shine and soar,
And, as gentle, from the shore, I adore, and implore Galatea!
Ho, that these limbs were meet for Galatea 132
With soft pink kisses sweetly to enfold!
Ho, had I two small eyes, that Galatea
Might there my gentle gentle heart behold!
Dear is Galatea—dear is Galatea—
Ay, so dear!
No peer has Galatea, but her bosom is so cold
And her eyes so full of fear!
When the great seas wildly rise, there is terror in her eyes,
And she trembles in sweet wonder, like a bird that storms surprise,—
And before my tender cries, and my sighs, swiftly flies Galatea!
Under the white sea-storm sits Galatea,
While overhead the sea-birds scream in flocks,
In deep-green darkness sitteth Galatea,
Combing out sunshine from her golden locks!
Fair sits Galatea—fair sits Galatea—
Ay, so fair!
Ho, there sits Galatea, in the shade of purple rocks,
Mid the fountain of her hair!
Ho, would I were the waves, on whose crest the tempest raves, 133
So might I still the tempest that my raging bulk outbraves,
For the dark-green stillness laves, and enslaves, and encaves
Comfort, O Cyclops, comfort! There is sure
Some remedy for such a wound as this:
Red wine, I say again: the plump God’s kiss
Is sweeter far than honey, rich and pure.
Alas, not he whose temples Artemis
Bound with weird herbs and poison-snakes that hiss
But sting not—wise Asclepios—could cure!
For evermore, Silenus, when my brain
Lies in a dream just conscious of its pain,
And my full heart throbs tenderly and rockingly,
Far out upon the bosom of the main
She flashes up, green-kirtled, and laughs mockingly.
Thrice has her smile enticed me to the chin
Thro’ the great waves that round me bite and bark,
And gleam’d away and left me in the dark. 134
Alas, that I must woo and never win!
Alas, that I am foul while she is fair!
Alas, that this red Eye, my only one,
Like a brown lizard looking on the sun,
Turns green in her bright mist of yellow hair!
Majestic Cyclops! Heir of the huge Sea!
God-like,—like those great heavens that oversheen us!
One-eyed, like the bright Day! Wilt thou by me,
Thy servant, be advised?
Speak on, Silenus.
Behold!—Beneath the many-tinctured west hid,
Fades Phoibos crimson-crested,
And the faint image of his parting light
On the deep Sea broad-breasted
Fades glassily; while down the mountain height
Behind us, slides the purple shadow’d Night.
Come in!—and from your cellar iced by springs
Drag forth the god of wine, 135
And listen to him as he chirps and sings
His songs delicious, dulcet, and divine:
Throned in the brain, magnificently wise,
And blowing warmly out thro’ kindled eyes
All vapours vapid, vain, and vague. [l.vi]
Seek the god’s counsel, Cyclops, I beseech thee;
’Tis he alone, if once his magic reach thee,
Can cure Love’s panting heat or shivering ague. [l.ix]
He cannot make me fair!
Phoo!—He will teach thee
To lift thy dreamy gaze from the soft sod,
And rise erect, big-hearted, self-reliant,
On Ætna’s horn, with leathern lungs defiant—
No minnow-hearted grampus of a god!
And—then in the quick flush and exultation
Of that proud inspiration,
Wine in his nostrils, Polypheme will be
In Polypheme’s own estimation
A match for any girl on land or sea. 136
Then, furiously, gloriously rash,
Grasp Opportunity, that, passing by
On the sheet-lightning with a moment’s flash,
Haunts us for ever with its meteor eye;
And—grasp the thing thou pantest for in vain,
Ay, hold her fast, and for a space intreat her— [l.vii]
But, if she still be deaf to thy sad pain,
Why, hearken to the mad god in thy brain,
And make a meal of trouble—that is, eat her!
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 101, l. vii: Where are you hiding, you tipsy old hound you,
Page 101, l. viii: With your beard of a goat and your eyes of a lamb?
Page 104, l. xvi: And bursting beaded bubbles until sour
Page 108, l. x: Wherein, with rosy light, the pink blood stirs!
Page 108, l. xiii: Her breasts are like two foaming bowls of cream,
Page 108, l. xiv: A red straw-berry in the midst of each!
Page 109, l. xv: Flutters in perfumed accents on the air;
Page 111, l. ii: Leaves her light for ever in pools of pearls!
Page 113, l. xvi: For neither dainty kids, nor lambs stall-fed,
Page 117, l. xvii: Plunging among the mountain mists, she fled.
Page 117, l. xxiii: On whose sad eyelids a faint radiance lay,
Page 120, l. xv: Hung breathlessly and listening
Page 120, l. xvi: On the seas:
Page 130, l. xviii: Of Dardanos, and, like an eagle, Love
Page 135, l. vi: All vapours vapid, vague, and vain.
Page 135, l. ix: Can cure Love’s panting heat or shivering pain.
Page 136, l. vii: Ay, hold her fast, and for a space entreat her—
A shorter version of ‘Polypheme’s Passion’ was published in The Poetical Works Vol. I (London: H. S. King & Co., 1874).]
WHITHER, Ulysses, whither dost thou roam,
Roll’d round with wind-led waves that render dark
The smoothly-spinning circle of the sea?
Lo, Troy has fallen, fallen like a tower,
And the mild sunshine of degenerate days
Drops faintly on its ruins. One by one, [l.vi]
Swift as the sparkle of a star, the ships
Have dipt up moistly from the under-world,
And plumëd warriors, standing in their prows,
Stretching out arms to wives and little ones
That crowd with seaward faces on the beach,
Have flung their armour off and leapt and swam
Ere yet the homeward keels could graze the sand.
And these—the gaunt survivors of thy peers—
Have landed, shone upon by those they love,
And faded into happy happy homes; 138
While I, the lonely woman, hugging close
The comfort of thine individual fame,
Still wait and yearn and wish towards the sea;
And all the air is hollow of my joy:
The seasons come and go, the hour-glass runs,
The day and night come punctual as of old;
But thy deep strength is in the solemn dawn,
And thy proud step is in the plumëd noon,
And thy grave voice is in the whispering eve;
And all the while, amid this dream of thee,
In restless resolution oceanward,
I sit and ply my sedentary task,
And fear that I am lonelier than I know.
Yea, love, I am alone in all the world,
The past grows dark upon me where I wait,
With eyes that hunger seaward and a cheek
Grown like the sampler coarse-complexionëd.
For in the shadow of thy coming home
I sit and weave a weary housewife’s web,
Pale as the silkworm in the cone; all day
I sit and weave this weary housewife’s web,
And in the night with fingers swift as frost 139
Unweave the weary labour of the day.
Behold how I am mock’d!—Suspicion
Mumbles my name between his toothless gums;
And while I ply my sedentary task,
They come to me, mere men of hollow clay,
Gross-mouth’d and stain’d with wine they come to me,
And whisper odious comfort, and upbraid
The love that follows thee where’er thou art,
That follows, and perchance, with thy moist cheek,
Dips on the watery bottom of the world. [l.xi]
They come, Ulysses, and they seek to rob
Thy glory of its weaker wearier half.
They tell me thou art dead; nay, they have brought
To these cold ears that bend above the web
Whispers that thou, no wiser than thy peers,
Hast pluckt upon the windy plain of Troy
A flower thou shrinest in a distant land,
A chamber’d delicacy drowsy-eyed,
Pink-lidded, wanton, like the queen who witch’d
The fatal apple out of Paris’ palm.
And I—and I—ah me, I rise my height,
In matron majesty that melts in tears, 140
And chide them from me with a tongue that long
Hath lost the trick of chiding: what avails?
They heed me not, rude men, they heed me not;
And he thou leftest here to guard me well,
He, the old man, is helpless, and his eyes
Are yellow with the money-minting lie
That thou art dead. O husband, what avails?
They gather on me, till the sense grows cold
And huddles in upon the steadfast heart;
And they have dragg’d a promise from my lips
To choose a murderer of my love for thee,
To choose at will from out the rest one man
To slay me with his kisses in the dark,
Whene’er the weary web at which I work
Be woven: so, all day, I weave the web;
And in the night with fingers like a thief’s
Unweave the silken sorrow of the day.
The years wear on. Telemachus, thy son,
Grows sweetly to the height of all thy hope:
More woman-like than thee, less strong of limb,
Yet worthy thee; and likest thy grave mood,
When, in old time, among these fields, thine eye 141
Would kindle on a battle far away,
And thy proud nostrils, drinking the mild breath
Of tannëd haycocks and of slanted sheaves,
Swell suddenly, as if a trumpet spake.
Hast thou forgotten how of old he loved
To toy with thy great beard, and sport with thee,
And how, in thy strong grasp, he leapt and seem’d
A lambkin dandled in a lion’s paw?
But change hath come, Troy is an old wife’s tale,
And sorrow stealeth early on thy son,
Whom sojourn with my weeping womanhood
Hath taught too soon a young man’s gentleness.
Behold now, how his burning boy-face turns
With impotent words beyond all blows of arm
On those rude men that rack thy weary wife!
Then turns to put his comfort on my cheek,
While sorrow brightens round him—as the grey
Of heaven melts to silver round a star!
Return, Ulysses, ere too late, too late:
Return, immortal warrior, return:
Return, return, and end the weary web!
For day by day I look upon the sea 142
And watch each ship that dippeth like a gull
Across the long straight line afar away
Where heaven and ocean meet; and when the winds
Swoop to the waves and lift them by the hair,
And the long storm-roar gathers, on my knees
I pray for thee. Lo, even now, the deep
Is garrulous of thy vessel tempest-tost;
And on the treeless upland grey-eyed March,
With blue and humid mantle backward blown,
Plucks the first primrose in a blustering wind.
The keels are wheel’d unto the ocean sand
And eyes look outward for the homeward bound.
And not a marinere, or man or boy,
Scum’d and salt-blooded from the boisterous sea,
Touches these shores, but straight I summon him,
And bribe with meat and drink to tell good news,
And question him of thee. But what avails?
Thou wanderest; and my love sits all alone
Upon the threshold of an empty hall.
My very heart has grown a timid mouse,
Peeping out, fearful, when the house is still.
Breathless I listen thro’ the breathless dark, 143
And hear the cock counting the leaden hours,
And, in the pauses of his cry, the deep
Swings on the flat sand with a hollow clang;
And, pale and burning-eyed, I fall asleep
When, with wild hair, across the weary wave
Stares the sick Dawn that brings thee not to me.
Ulysses, come! Ere traitors leave the mark
Of spread wine-dripping fingers on the smooth
And decent shoulders that now stoop for thee!
I am not young or happy as of old,
When, awed by thy male strength, my face grew dark
At thy grave footfall, with a serious joy,
Or when, with blushing backward-looking face,
I came a bride to thine inclement realm,
Trembling and treading fearfully on flowers.
I am not young and beauteous as of old;
And much I fear that when we meet thy face
May startle darkly at the work of years,
And turn to hide a disappointed pang,
And then, with thy grave pride, subdue itself
Into such pity as is love stone-dead.
But thou, thou too, art old, dear lord—thy hair 144
Is threaded with the silver foam—thy heart
Is weary from the blows of cruel years;
And there is many a task thy wife can do
To soothe thy sunset season and make calm
Thy journey down the slow descent to Sleep.
Return, return, Ulysses, ere I die!
Upon this desolate, desolate strand I wait,
Wearily stooping o’er the weary web—
An alabaster woman, whose fix’d eyes
Stare seaward, whether it be storm or calm.
And ever, evermore, as in a dream,
I see thee gazing hither from thy ship
In sunset regions where the still seas rot,
And stretching out great arms whose shadows fall
Gigantic on the glassy purple sea;
And ever, evermore, thou comest slow, [l.xvii]
And evermore thy coming far away
Aches on the burning heartstrings,—evermore
Thou comest not, and I am tired and old.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 137, l. vi: Sleeps faintly on its ruins. One by one,
Page 139, l. xi: Dips on the dozy bottom of the world.
Page 144, l. xvii: And ever, evermore, thou lingerest, ]
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