That I am infamous, I know. But even now,
Now when I learn I am to gods no more
Than to the lust of men, I will not be
Who means so greatly to serve pride,
That the service of the world is a thing loath’d,
Is desperate, avoided by mankind,
Unpleasing to the gods. We, who look down,
Know that the world and pride may both be served.
Yet also that it was too hard for thee
We know, and pardon. Thou shalt tell me now
Why thou refusest the life given thee.
Because I will not, woman should be sin
Amid man’s life. You gods have given man
Desire that too much knows itself; and thence
He is all confounded by the pleasure of us.
How sweetly doth the heart of man begin
Desiring us, how like music and the green
First happiness of the year! But this can grow
To uncontrollably crowding lust, beyond
All power of delight to utter, thence
Inwardly turned to anger and detesting!
Till, looking on us with strange eyes, man finds
We are not his desire: it was but sex
Inflamed, so that it roused the breaking forth
Of secret fury in him, consuming life,
Yea, even the life that would reach up to know
The heaven of gods above it.
And what, for this,
Dost thou refuse?
I refuse woman’s beauty!
Not merely to be feasting with delight
Man’s senses, I refuse; but even his heart
I will not serve. Are we to be for ever
Love’s passion in man, and never love itself?
Always the instrument, never the music?
I have not done with man.—Thou sayest true,
Women are as a sin in life: for that
The gods have made mankind in double sex.
Sin of desiring woman is to be
The knowledgeable light within man’s soul,
Whereby he kills the darken’d ache of being.
But shall I leave him there? or shall I leave
Woman amid these hungers? Nay: I hold
The rages of these fires as a soft clay
Obedient to my handling; there shall be
Of man desiring, and of woman desired,
A single ecstasy divinely formed,
Two souls knowing themselves as one amazement.
All that thou hatest to arouse in man
Prepareth him for this; and thou thyself
Art by thy very hate prepared: wherefore
The gods forgive thee, seeing what comes of thee.
Behold now! of my godhead I will make
Thy senses burn with vision, storying
The spirit of woman growing from loved to love.
The First Vision: Helen.
Helen am I, a name astonishing
The world, a fame that rings against the sky,
Like an alarm of brass smitten to sound
The news of war against the stone of mountains.
I move in power through the minds of men,
And have no power to hold my power back.
Men’s passions fawn upon my feet, as waves