[PHORKYAS stepping on the threshold, between the door-posts.]
Much have I lived through, although my tresses
Youthfully waver still round my temples;
Manifold horrors have mine eyes witnessed;
Warfare’s dire anguish, Ilion’s night,
When it fell;
Through the o’erclouded, dust over-shadow’d
Tumult of war, to gods have I hearken’d,
Fearfully shouting; hearken’d while discord’s
Brazen voices clang through the field
Ah, yet standing were Ilion’s Ramparts; nathless the glowing flames Shot from neighbor to neighbor roof, Ever spreading from here and there, with their tempest’s fiery blast, Over the night-darkened city.—
Flying, saw I through smoke and glare,
And the flash of the tongued flames,
Dreadful, threatening gods draw near;
Wondrous figures, of giant mould,
Onward striding through the weird
Gloom of fire-luminous vapor.
Saw I them, or did my mind,
Anguish-torn, itself body forth
Phantoms so terrible—never more
Can I tell; but that I this
Horrible shape with eyes behold,
This of a surety know I!
Yea, with my hands could clutch it even,
Did not fear, from the perilous
Venture, ever withhold me.
Tell me, of Phorkyas’
Daughters which art thou?
For to that family
Thee must I liken.
Art thou, may be, one of the gray-born?
One eye only, and but one tooth
Using still alternately?
One of the Graiae art thou?
Darest thou, Horror,
Thus beside beauty,
Or to the searching glance
Phoebus’ unveil thee?
Nathless step thou forward undaunted;
For the horrible sees he not,
As his hallowed glances yet
Never gazed upon shadows.
But a tragical fate, alas,
Us, poor mortals, constrains to bear
Anguish of vision, unspeakable,
Which the contemptible, ever-detestable,
Doth in lovers of beauty wake!
Yea, so hearken then, if thou dar’st
Us to encounter, hear our curse,
Hark to each imprecation’s threat,
Out of the curse-breathing lips of the happy ones,
Who by the gods created are!
Trite is the word, yet high and true remains the sense:
That Shame and Beauty ne’er together, hand in hand,
Their onward way pursue, earth’s verdant path along.
Deep-rooted in these twain dwelleth an ancient grudge,
So that, where’er they happen on their way to meet,
Upon her hated rival turneth each her back;
Then onward speeds her course with greater vehemence,
Shame filled with sorrow, Beauty insolent of mood,
Till her at length embraces Orcus’ hollow night,
Unless old age erewhile her haughtiness hath tamed.
You find I now, ye wantons, from a foreign shore,
With insolence o’erflowing, like the clamorous flight
Of cranes, with shrilly scream that high above our heads,
A long and moving cloud, croaking send down their noise,
Which the lone pilgrim lures wending his silent way,
Aloft to turn his gaze; yet on their course they fare,
He also upon his: so will it be with us.