—Why? I still fear: what makes
your speech so brave?
—Admetus cast that dear wife to the grave
Alone, with none to see?
—I see no bowl of clear spring water.
It ever stands before the dread
Door where a dead man rests.
—No lock of shorn hair! Every daughter
Of woman shears it for the dead.
No sound of bruised breasts!
—Yet ’tis this very day ...—This
—The Queen should pass and lie beneath the clay.
—It hurts my life, my heart!—All honest hearts
Must sorrow for a brightness that departs,
A good life worn away.
To wander o’er leagues of land,
To search over wastes of sea,
Where the Prophets of Lycia stand,
Or where Ammon’s daughters three
Make runes in the rainless sand,
For magic to make her free—
Ah, vain! for the end is here;
Sudden it comes and sheer.
What lamb on the altar-strand
Stricken shall comfort me?
Only, only one, I know:
Apollo’s son was he,
Who healed men long ago.
Were he but on earth to see,
She would rise from the dark below
And the gates of eternity.
For men whom the Gods had slain
He pitied and raised again;
Till God’s fire laid him low,
And now, what help have we?
All’s done that can be. Every vow
Full paid; and every altar’s brow
Full crowned with spice of sacrifice.
No help remains nor respite now.
Enter from the Castle a HANDMAID, almost in tears.
But see, a handmaid cometh, and the tear
Wet on her cheek! What tiding shall we hear?...
Thy grief is natural, daughter, if some ill
Hath fallen to-day. Say, is she living still
Or dead, your mistress? Speak, if speak you may.
Alive. No, dead.... Oh, read it either way.
Nay, daughter, can the same soul live and die?
Her life is broken; death is in her eye.
Poor King, to think what she was, and what thou!
He never knew her worth.... He will know it now.
There is no hope, methinks, to save her still?
The hour is come, and breaks all human will.
She hath such tendance as the dying crave?
For sure: and rich robes ready for her grave.
’Fore God, she dies high-hearted, aye, and far
In honour raised above all wives that are!
Far above all! How other? What must she,
Who seeketh to surpass this woman, be?
Or how could any wife more shining make
Her lord’s love, than by dying for his sake?
But thus much all the city knows. ’Tis here,
In her own rooms, the tale will touch thine ear
With strangeness. When she knew the day was come,