Exploring The Word In Colour and Speech

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Andromeda continued

Watered her bosom with weeping, and longed for her home and her mother.

Beautiful, eager, he wooed her, and kissed off her tears as he hovered,

Roving at will, as a bee, on the brows of a rock nymph-haunted,

Garlanded over with vine, and acanthus, and clambering roses,

Cool in the fierce still noon, where streams glance clear in the mossbeds,

Hums on from blossom to blossom, and mingles the sweets as he tastes them.

Beautiful, eager, he kissed her, and clasped her yet closer and closer,

Praying her still to speak – ‘Not cruel nor rough did my mother

Bear me to broad-browed Zeus in the depths of the bass-covered dungeon;

Neither in vain, as I think, have I talked with the cunning of Hermes,

Face unto face, as a friend; or from grey-eyed Pallas Athené

Learnt what is fit, and respecting myself, to respect in my dealings

Those whom the gods should love; so fear not; to chaste espousals

Only I woo thee, and swear, that a queen, and alone without rival

By me thou sittest in Argos of Hellas, throne of my fathers,

Worshipped by fair-haired kings: why callest thou still on thy mother?

Why did she leave thee thus here? For no foeman has bound thee; no foeman

Winning with strokes of the sword such a prize, would so leave it behind him.’

Just as at first some colt, wild-eyed, with quivering nostril,

Plunges in fear of the curb, and the fluttering robes of the rider;

Soon, grown bold by despair, submits to the will of his master,

Tamer and tamer each hour, and at least, in the pride of obedience,

Answers the heel with a curvet, and arches his neck to be fondled,

Cowed by the need that maid grew tame; while the hero indignant

Tore at the fetters which held her: the brass, too cunningly tempered,

Held to the rock by the nail, deep wedged: till the boy, red with anger,

Drew from his ivory thigh, keep flashing, a falchion of diamond –

‘Now let the work of the smith try strength with the arms of Immortals!’

Dazzling it fell; and the blade, as the vine-hook shears off the vine-bough,

Carved through the strength of the brass, till her arms fell soft on his shoulder.

Once she essayed to escape: but the ring of the water was round her,

Round her the ring of his arms; and despairing she sank on his bosom.

Then, like a fawn when startled, she looked with a shriek to the seaward.

‘Touch me not, wretch that I am! For accursed, a shame and a hissing,

Guiltless, accurst no less, I await the revenge of the sea-gods.

Yonder it comes! Ah go! Let me perish unseen, if I perish!

Piecemeal! Enough to endure by myself in the light of the sunshine

Guiltless, the death of a kid!’ But the boy still lingered around her

Loth, like a boy, to forego her, and waken the cliffs with his laughter.

‘Yon is the foe, then? A beast of the sea? I had deemed him immortal.

Titan, or Proteus’ self, or Nereus, foeman of sailors:

Yet would I fight with them all, but Poseidon, shaker of mountains,

Uncle of mine, whom I fear, as is fit; for her haunts on Olympus,

Holding the third of the world; and the gods all rise at his coming.

Unto none else will I yield, god-helped: how then to a monster,

Child of the earth and of night, unreasoning, shapeless, accursed?’

‘Art thou, too, then a god?’ ‘No god I,’ smiling he answered;

‘Mortal as thou, yet divine: but mortal the herds of the ocean,

Equal to men in that only, and less in all else; for they nourish

Blindly the life of the lips, untaught by the gods, without wisdom:

Shame if I fled before such!’

In her heart new life was enkindled,

Worship and trust, fair parents of love: but she answered him sighing.

‘Beautiful, why wilt thou die? Is the light of the sun, then, so worthless,

Worthless to sport with thy fellows in flowery glades of the forest,

Under the broad green oaks, where never again shall I wander,

Tossing the ball with my maidens, or wreathing the altar in garlands,

Careless, with dances and songs, till the glens rang loud to our laughter.

Too full of death the sad earth is already: the halls full of weepers,

Quarried by tombs all cliffs and the bones gleam white on the sea-floor,

Numberless, gnawn by the herds who attend on the pitiless sea-gods,

Even as mine will be son: and yet noble it seems to me, dying,

Giving my life for a people, to save to the arms of their lovers

Maidens and youths for a while: thee, fairest of all, shall I slay thee?

Add not thy bones to the many, thus angering idly the dread ones!

Either the monster will crush, or the sea-queen’s self overwhelm thee,

Vengeful, in tempest and foam, and the thundering walls of the surges.

Why wilt thou follow me down? can we love in the black blank darkness?

Love in the realms of the dead, in the land where all is forgotten?

Why wilt thou follow me down? is it joy, on the desolate oozes,

Meagre to flit, grey ghosts in the depths of the grey salt water?

Beautiful! why wilt thou die, and defraud fair girls of thy manhood?

Surely one waits for thee longing, affair in the isles of the ocean.

Go thy way; I mine; for the gods grudge pleasure to mortals.’

Sobbing she ended her moan, as her neck, like a storm-bent lily,

Drooped with the weight of her woe, and her limbs sank, weary with watching,

Soft on the hard-ledged rock: but the boy, with his eye on the monster,

Clasped her, and stood, like a god; and his lips curved proud as he answered –

‘Great are the pitiless sea-gods: but greater the Lords of Olympus;

Greater the ægis-wielder, and greater is she who attends him.

Clear-eyed Justice her name is, the counsellor, loved of Athené;

Helper of heroes, who dare, in the god-given might of their manhood,

Greatly to do and to suffer, and far in the fens and the forests

Smite the devourers of men, Heaven-hated, brood of the giants,

Twyformed, strange, without like, who obey not the golden-haired Rulers.

Vainly rebelling they rage, till they die by the swords of the heroes,

Even as this must die; for I burn with the wrath of my father,

Wandering, led by Athené; and dare whatsoever betides me.

Led by Athené I won from the greay-haired terrible sisters

Secrets hidden from men, when I found them asleep on the sand-hills,

Keeping their eye and their tooth, till they showed me the periloud pathway

Over the waterless ocean, the valley that led to the Gorgon.

Her too I slew in my craft, Medusa, the beautiful horro;

Taught by Athené I slew her, and saw not herself, but her image,

Watching the mirror of brass, in the shield which a goddess had lent me.

Cleaving her brass-scaled throat, as she lay with her adders around her,

Fearless I bore off her head, in the folds of the mystical goat-skin

Hide of Amaltheié, fair nurse of the ægis-wielder.

Hither I bear it, a gift to the gods, and a death to my foemen,

Freezing the seer to stone; to hide thine eyes from the horror.

Kiss me but once, and I go.’

Then lifting her neck, like a sea-bird

Peering up over the wave, from the foam-white swells of her bosom,

Blushing she kissed him: afar, on the topmost Idalian summit

Laughed in the joy of her heart, far-seeing, the queen Aphrodite.

Loosing his arms from her waist he flew upward, awaiting the sea-beast.

Onward it came from the southward, as bulky and black as a galley,

Lazily coasting along, as the fish fled leaping before it;

Lazily breasting the ripple, and watching by sandbar and headland,

Listening for laughter of maidens at bleaching, or song of the fisher,

Children at play on the pebbles, or cattle that pawed on the sand-hills,

Rolling and dripping it came, where bedded in glistening purple

Cold on the cold sea-weeds lay the long white sides of the maiden,

Trembling, her face in her hands, and her tresses afloat on the water.

As when an osprey aloft, dark-eyebrowed, royally crested,

Flags on by creek and by cove, and in scorn of the anger of Nereus

Ranges, the king of the shore; if he see on a glittering shallow,

Chasing the bass and the mullet, the fin of a wallowing dolphin,

Halting, he wheels round slowly, in doubt at the weight of his quarry,

Whether to clutch it alive, or to fall on the wretch like a plummet,

Stunning with terrible talon, the life of the brain in the hindhead:

Then rushes up with a scream, and stooping the wrath of his eyebrows

Falls from the sky, like a star, while the wind rattles hoarse in his pinions.

Over him closes the foam for a moment; and then from the sand-bed

Rolls up the great fish, dead, and his side gleams white in the sunshine.

Thus fell the boy on the beast, unveiling the face of the Gorgon;

Thus fell the boy on the beats; thus rolled up the beast in his horror,

Once, as the dead eyes glared into his; then his sides, death-sharpened,

Stiffened and stood, brown rock, in the wash of the wandering water.

Beautiful, eager, triumphant, he leapt back again to his treasure;

Leapt back again, fell blest, toward arms spread wide to receive him.

Brimful of honour he clasped her, and brimful of love she caressed him,

Answering lip with lip; while above them the queen Aphrodité

Poured on their foreheads and limbs, unseen, ambrosial odours,

Givers of longing, and rapture, and chaste content in espousals.

Happy whom ere they be wedded anoints she, the Queen Aphrodité!

Laughing she called to her sister, the chaste Tritonid Athené,

‘Seest thou yonder thy puil, thou maid of the ægis-wielder?

How he has turned himself wholly to love, and caresses a damsel,

Dreaming no longer of honour, or danger, or Pallas Athené?

Sweeter, it seems, to the young my gifts are; so yield me the stripling;

Yield him me now, les he die in his prime, like hapless Adonis.’

Smiling she ansered in turn, that chaste Tritonid Athené:

‘Dear unto me, no less than to thee, is the wedlock of heroes;

Dear, who can worthily win him a wife not unworthy; and noble,

Pure with the pure to beget brave children, the like of their father.

Happy, who thus stands linked to the heroes who were, and who shall be;

Girdled with holiest awe, not sparing of self; for his mother

Watches his steps with the eyes of the gods; and his wife and his children

Move him to plan and to do in the farm and the camp and the council.

Thence comes weal to a nation; but woe upon woe, when the people

Mingle in love at their will, like the brutes, not heeding the future.’

Then from her gold-strung loom, where she wrought in her chamber of cedar,

Awful and fair she arose; and she went by the glens of Olympus;

Went by the isles of the sea, and the wind never ruffled her mantle;

Went by the water of Crete, and the black-beaked fleets of the Phœnics;

Came to the sea-girt rock which is washed by the surges forever,

Bearing the wealth of the gods, for a gift to the bride of a hero.

There she met Andromeden and Persea, shaped like Immortals;

Solemn and sweet was her smile, while they hearts beat loud at her coming;

Solemn and sweet was her smile, as she spoke to the pair in her wisdom.

‘Three things hold we, the Rulers, who sit by the founts of Olympus,

Wisdom, and prowess, and beauty; and freely we pour them on mortals;

Pleased at our image in man, as a father at his in his children.

One thing only we grudge to mankind: when a hero, unthankful,

Boasts of our gifts as his own, stiffnecked, and dishonours the givers,

Turning our weapons against us. Him Até follows avenging;

Slowly she tracks him and sure, as a lyme-hound; sudden she grips him,

Crushing him, blind in his pride, for a sign and a terror to folly.

This we avenge, as is fit; in all else never weary of giving.

Come, then damsel, and know if the gods grudge pleasure to mortals.’

Loving and gentle she spoke: but the maid stood in awe, as the goddess

Plaited with soft swift finger her tresses, and decked her in jewels,

Armlet and anklet and earbell; and over her shoulders a necklace,

Heavy, enamelled, the flower of the gold and the brass of the mountain.

Trembling with joy she gazed, so well Hæphaistos had made it.

Deep in the forges of ætna, while Charis his lady beside him,

Mingled her grace in his craft, as he wrought for his sister Athené.

Then on the brows of the maiden, a veil bound Pallas Athené;

Ample it fell to her feet, deep-fringed, a wonder of weaving.

Ages and ages agone, it was wrought on the heights of Olympus,

Wrought in the gold-strung loom, by the finger of cunning Athené.

In it she wove all creatures that teem in the womb of the ocean;

Nereid, siren and triton, and dolphin, and arrowy fishes

Glittering round, many-hued, on the flame-red folds of the mantle.

In it she wove, too, a town where grey-haired kings sat in judgement;

Sceptre in hand in the market, they sat, doing right by the people,

Wise: while above watched Justice, and near, far-seeing Apollo.

Round it she wove for a fringe all herbs of the earth and the water,

Violet, asphodel, ivy, and vine-leaves, roses and lilies,

Coral and sea-fan and tangle, the blooms and the palms of the ocean:

Now from Olympus she bore it, a dower to the bride of a hero.

Over the limbs of the damsel she wrapt it: the maid still trembled,

Shading her face with her hands; for the eyes of the goddess were awful.

Then as a pine upon Ida when southwest winds blow landward,

Stately she bent to the damsel, and breathed on her: under her breathing

Taller and fairer she grew; and the goddess spoke in her wisdom.

‘Courage I give thee; the heart of a queen, and the mind of Immortals;

Godlike to talk with the gods, and to look on their eyes unshrinking;

Fearing the sun and stars no more, and the blue salt water;

Fearing us only, the lords of Olympus, friends of the heroes;

Chastely and wisely to govern thyself and thy house and thy people,

Bearing a god-like race to thy spouse, till dying I set thee

High for a star in the heavens, a sign and a hope to the seamen,

Spreading thy long white arms all night in the heights of the æther,

Hard by thy sire and the hero thy spouse, while near thee thy mother

Sits in her ivory chair, as she plaits ambrosial tresses.

All night long thou wilt shine; all day thou wilt feast on Olympus,

Happy, the guest of the gods, by thy husband, the god-begotten.’

Blissful, they turned them to go; but the fair-tressed Pallas Athené

Rose, like a pillar of tall white cloud, toward silver Olympus;

Far above ocean and shore, and the peaks of the isles and the mainland;

Where no frost nor storm is, in clear blue windless abysses,

High in the home of the summer, the seats of the happy Immortals,

Shrouded in keep deep blaze, unapproachable; there ever youthful

Hebé, Harmonié, and the daughter of Jove, Aphrodité,

Whirled in the white-linked dance with the gold-crowned Hours and the Graces,

Hand within hand, while clear piped Phœbe, queen of the woodlands.

All day long they rejoiced: but Athené still in her chamber

Bent herself over her loom, as the stars rang loud to her singing,

Chanting of order and right, and of foresight, warden of nations;

Chanting of labour and craft, and of wealth in the port and the garner;

Chanting of valour and fame, and the man who can fall with the foremost,

Fighting for children and wife, and the field which his father bequeathed him.

Sweetly and solemnly sand she, and planned new lessons for mortals:

Happy, who hearing obey her, the wise unsullied Athené.

Eversley, 1852