Iphis and Anaxarete
Iphis and Anaxarete
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The olive-groves, clothing the dusky hills,
Loomed dimly through the gathering gloom of night,
And the spent waves that broke below the town
Plained moaning in the darkness.
Dank and cold,
The dead pale night lay heavy on the earth,
When through the gusty streets of Salamis,
Thus, long and long ago, a lover cried,—
"Sleepest thou, love ?—my love? I call thee mine,
Nor dread the flashing of thy haughty glance
May blast me for the words. I fear no more
Thy scorn; for 'tis the last time I shall plead
For pity to a heart that knows no ruth.
My spirit is bowed low. Accurs'd am I,
Else sure my love had touched thine icy heart.
Perchance the gods, the jealous pitiless gods,
Resent that I should worship at a shrine
Not theirs, and with thy hate have punished me.
Yet have I sought with prayers and offerings
To win their aid!
Oh, why art thou so cold!
True, I am poor and low, and thou art fair
As she who on Mount Ida won the meed
Of beauty from (Enone's faithless love,
And royal art thou, sprung from Teucer's line;
But, beautiful and proud as thou may'st be,
Remember that love-guided Dian came
To the lone hill where young Endymion slept.
And I have spent my life in loving thee,
My queen, my love!
My dreams are all of thee!
I see thee ever as I saw thee first,
Amid the bright procession of our maids,
Hearing the sacrifice to Venus' shrine.
I see thy little sandalled feet, thy curls
Floating below thy zone, thy gold-hemmed robes
Showing the beauties of the shape they veiled.
Rememberest thou when the red bolt of heaven
Shattered the temple, and the flames rose high;
And those who loved thee best could but implore
That Heaven would send the aid man dared not give?
Who braved the raging fire, the blinding smoke?
Who fought with Death to save thee from his grasp,
Or, being conquered, die embracing thee?
Oh. girl ! one hair from tby flow'r-crowniid head
Is dearer than all boons apart from thee;
Yet thou dost hate me! Well, 'tis past, 'tis past!
And nevermore upon thine hour of rest
Shall plaint or prayer of mine break.
Beneath thy window, through the long lone night,
Shall I pour forth my heart's wild misery.
Never again shall laughing youths and maids
Point mockingly and flout me as I pass,
For cherishing a love that is despised.
My steps shall follow thine no more, no more!
At game or festival thou shalt not need
To hold thy perfumed garments, lest my hand
Should touch them covertly; so be at peace—
My death shall make atonement for my life.
No answer yet? The sobbing of the sea,
Borne on the moaning wind along the streets,
Is all I hear; no eyes look down on me,
Save the cold eyes of heaven—the far-off stars.
Not colder or more distant they than thou.
Farewell! I have a mother, old and weak,
Who loved me as they love whose lives afford
But one sole object they may call their own;
And in the madness of my worshipping
I have forgotten that I was her all.
Perchance she may upbraid thy cruelty,
And ask thee for the life so dear to her,
Which thou didst trample 'neath thy dancing feet.
If thus, be gentle to her agony.
And now, sleep on, sleep on, till morn shall break
And bring thy bridegroom with his joyous train,
To deck thy door with garlands.
I cannot live to see my idol shrined
Amid the Lares of another's home—
The mother of his children."
The sad low voice was hushed, and the night waned,
Till o'er the hill-tops came the shivering dawn,
And the stars melted in the bright'nitig skies.
But when the east was robed to greet the sun
With gold and crimson, up the stony street
Came glad young voices and impatient feet
To greet the destined bride; and when they came
They found what had been Iphis, and was now
A ghastly thing to pale the brightest cheek,
And haunt the dreams of many a night to come;
But she whose pride had brought him to his doom
Smiled coldly on the rigid upturned face,
Crowned with the dewy curls of gold-bright hair ;—
And with that smile the punishment of Heaven
Fell on her warm young life.
Old legends tell
That on the shore of Cyprus is a rock
Warring with winds and waves for evermore;
And to this hard, cold, sea-worn monument
The wrath of Jove changed her whom Iphis loved.
Mary C. F. Münster.