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A VERSION SUGGESTED BY THE SO-NAMED PICTURE OF
PIERO DI COSIMO, IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY.
ROCRIS, the nymph, had wedded Cephalus :-
He, till the spring had warmed to slow-winged
Heavy with June, untired and amorous,
Named her his love ; but now, in unknown ways,
His heart was gone; and evermore his gaze
Turned from her own, and ever farther ranged
His woodland war; while she, in dull amaze,
Beholding with the hours her husband changed, Sighed for his lost caress, by some hard god estranged,
So, on a day, she rose and found him not.
Alone, with wet, sad eye, she watched the shade
Brighten below a soft-rayed sun that shot
Arrows of light through all the deep-leaved glade ;
Then, with weak hands, she knotted up the braid
Of her brown hair, and o'er her shoulders cast
Her crimson weed ; with faltering fingers made
Her golden girdle's clasp to join, and past
Down to the trackless wood, full pale and overcast.
And all day long her slight spear devious flew,
And harmless swerved her arrows from their aim,
For ever, as the ivory bow she drew,
Before her ran the still unwounded game.
Then, at the last, a hunter's cry there came,
And, lo, a hart that panted with the chase ;
Thereat her cheek was lightened as with flame,
And swift she gat her to a leafy place,
Thinking, “I yet may chance unseen to see his face.”
Leaping he went, this hunter Cephalus,
Bent in his hand his cornel bow he bare,
Supple he was, round-limbed and vigorous,
Fleet as his dogs, a lean Laconian pair.
He, when he spied the brown of Procris' hair
Move in the covert, deeming that apart
Some fawn lay hidden, loosed an arrow there ;
Nor cared to turn and seek the speeded dart, Bounding above the fern, fast following up the hart.
But Procris lay among the white wind-flowers,
Shot in the throat. From out the little wound
The slow blood drained, as drops in autumn showers
Drip from the leaves upon the sodden ground.
None saw her die but Lelaps, the swift hound,
That watched her dumbly with a wistful fear,
Till, at the dawn, the horned wood-men found
And bore her gently on a sylvan bier,
To lie beside the sea,-with many an uncouth tear.
THE PRAYER OF THE SWINE TO
HUDDLING they came, with shag sides caked of
mire, With hoofs fresh sullied from the troughs o'er
With wrinkling snouts,-yet eyes in which desire
Of some strange thing unutterably burned,
Unquenchable ; and still where'er She turned
They rose about her, striving each o'er each,
With restless, fierce importuning that yearned
Through those brute masks some piteous tale to teach, Yet lacked the words thereto, denied the power of speech.
For these-Eurylochus alone escaping-
In truth, that small exploring band had been,
Whom wise Odysseus, dim precaution shaping,
Ever at heart, of peril unforeseen,
Had sent inland ;-whom then the islet-Queen,-
The fair disastrous daughter of the Sun,-
Had turned to likeness of the beast unclean,
With evil wand transforming one by one
To shapes of loathly swine, imbruted and undone.
But “the men's minds remained,” and these for ever
Made hungry suppliance through the fire-red eyes;
Still searching aye, with impotent endeavour,
To find, if yet, in any look, there lies
A saving hope, or if they might surprise
In that cold face soft pity's spark concealed,
Which she, still scorning, evermore denies ;
Nor was there in her any ruth revealed
To whom with such mute speech and dumb words they
What hope is ours—what hope! To find no mercy
After much war, and many travails done?—
Ah, kinder far than thy fell philtres, Circe,
The ravening Cyclops and the Læstrigon!
And O, thrice cursèd be Laertes' son,
By whom, at last, we watch the days decline
With no fair ending of the quest begun,
Condemned in styes to weary and to pine
And with men's hearts to beat through this foul front of
For us not now,--for us, alas! no more
The old green glamour of the glancing sea ;
For us not now the laughter of the oar,-
The strong-ribbed keel wherein our comrades be;
Not now, at even, any more shall we,
By low-browed banks and reedy river places,
Watch the beast hurry and the wild fowl flee ;
Or steering shoreward, in the upland spaces
Have sight of curling smoke and fair-skinned foreign faces.
Alas for us !--for whom the columned houses
We left afore-time, cheerless must abide ;
Cheerless the hearth where now no guest carouses,---
No minstrel raises song at eventide ;
And O, more cheerless than aught else beside,
The wistful hearts with heavy longing full ;-
The wife that watched us on the waning tide, -
The sire whose eyes with weariness are dull,-
The mother whose slow tears fall on the carded wool.
If swine we be,-if we indeed be swine,
Daughter of Persé, make us swine indeed,
Well-pleased on litter-straw to lie supine, -
Well-pleased on mast and acorn-shales to feed,
Stirred by all instincts of the bestial breed ;
But O Unmerciful! O Pitiless!
Leave us not thus with sick men's hearts to bleed !
To waste long days in yearning, dumb distress
And memory of things gone, and utter hopelessness !
Leave us at least, if not the things we were,
At least consentient to the thing we be ;