HELEN OF TROY
I am that Helen, that very Helen
Of Leda, born in the days of old:
Men’s hearts as inns that I might dwell in:
Houseless I wander to-night, and cold.
Because man loved me, no God takes pity:
My ghost goes wailing where I was Queen!
Alas! my chamber in Troy’s tall city,
My golden couches, my hangings green!
Wasted with fire are the halls they built me,
And sown with salt are the streets I trod,
Where flowers they scattered and spices spilt me—
Alas, that Zeus is a jealous God!
Softly I went on my sandals golden;
Of love and pleasure I took my fill;
With Paris’ kisses my lips were holden,
Nor guessed I, when life went at my will,
That the fates behind me went softlier still.
AN ETRUSCAN RING
Where, girt with orchard and with oliveyard,
The white hill-fortress glimmers on the hill,
Day after day an ancient goldsmith’s skill
Guided the copper graver, tempered hard
By some lost secret, while he shaped the sard
Slowly to beauty, and his tiny drill,
Edged with corundum, ground its way until
The gem lay perfect for the ring to guard.
Then seeing the stone complete to his desire,
With mystic imagery carven thus,
And dark Egyptian symbols fabulous,
He drew through it the delicate golden wire,
And bent the fastening; and the Etrurian sun
Sank behind Ilva, and the work was done.
What dark-haired daughter of a Lucumo
Bore on her slim white finger to the grave
This the first gift her Tyrrhene lover gave,
Those five-and-twenty centuries ago?
What shadowy dreams might haunt it, lying low
So long, while kings and armies, wave on wave,
Above the rock-tomb’s buried architrave
Went trampling million-footed to and fro?
Who knows? but well it is so frail a thing,
Unharmed by conquering Time’s supremacy,
Still should be fair, though scarce less old than Rome.
Now once again at rest from wandering
Across the high Alps and the dreadful sea,
In utmost England let it find a home.
—J. W. Mackail
ORPHEUS WITH HIS LUTE
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music, plants and flowers
Ever sprung: as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep or hearing, die.