Thou would’st make believe that yonder, world-wide
spaces lie within,
Wood and meadow, lake and brooklet; what strange fable spinnest thou!
Yea, in sooth, ye inexperienced, there lie regions
Hall on hall, and court on court; in my musings these I track.
Suddenly a peal of laughter echoes through the cavern’d spaces;
In I gaze, a boy is springing from the bosom of the woman
To the man, from sire to mother: the caressing and the fondling,
All love’s foolish playfulnesses, mirthful cry and shout of rapture,
Alternating, deafen me.
Naked, without wings, a genius, like a faun, with nothing bestial,
On the solid ground he springeth; but the ground, with counter-action,
Up to ether sends him flying; with the second, third rebounding
Touches he the vaulted roof.
Anxiously the mother calleth: Spring amain, and at thy pleasure;
But beware, think not of flying, unto thee is flight denied.
And so warns the faithful father: In the earth the force elastic
Lies, aloft that sends thee bounding; let thy toe but touch the surface,
Like the son of earth, Antaeus, straightway is thy strength renewed.
And so o’er these rocky masses, on from dizzy ledge to ledge,
Leaps he ever, hither, thither, springing like a stricken ball.
But in cleft of rugged cavern suddenly from sight he vanished;
And now lost to us he seemeth, mother waileth, sire consoleth,
Anxiously I shrug my shoulders. But again, behold, what vision!
Lie there treasures hidden yonder? Raiment broidered o’er with flowers
He becomingly hath donned;
Tassels from his arms are waving, ribbons flutter on his bosom,
In his hand the lyre all-golden, wholly like a tiny Phoebus,
Boldly to the edge he steppeth, to the precipice; we wonder,
And the parents, full of rapture, cast them on each other’s heart;
For around his brow what splendor! Who can tell what there is shining?
Gold-work is it, or the flaming of surpassing spirit-power?
Thus he moveth, with such gesture, e’en as boy himself announcing
Future master of all beauty, through whose limbs, whose every member,
Flow the melodies eternal: and so shall ye hearken to him,
And so shall ye gaze upon him, to your special wonderment.
This call’st thou marvelous,
Daughter of Creta?
Unto the bard’s pregnant word
Hast thou perchance never listened?
Hast thou not heard of Ionia’s,
Ne’er been instructed in Hellas’
Legends, from ages primeval,
Godlike, heroical treasure?
All, that still happeneth
Now in the present,
Sorrowful echo ’tis,
Of days ancestral, more noble;
Equals not in sooth thy story
That which beautiful fiction,