Landon in The Literary Gazette 1823/Leander and Hero

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For other versions of this work, see Leander and Hero.
Poems  (1823)  by Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Leander and Hero

Literary Gazette, 22nd February 1823, Page 124


It is a tale that many songs have told,
And old, if tale of love can e'er be old;
Yet dear to me this lingering o'er the fate
Of two so young, so true, so passionate!
And thou, the idol of my harp, the Soul
Of poetry, to me my hope, my whole
Happiness of existence, there will be
Some gentlest tones that I have caught from thee!
Will not each heart-pulse vibrate, as I tell
Of faith even unto death unchangeable!
Leander and his Hero! they should be,
When youthful lovers talk of constancy,
Invoked. Oh, for one breath of softest song,
Such as on summer evenings floats along,
To murmur low their history! every word
That whispers of them, should be like those heard
At moonlight casements, when th' awakened maid
Sighs her soft answer to the serenade. - - -
    She stood beside the altar, like the Queen,
The bright-eyed Queen that she was worshipping.
Her hair was bound with roses, which did fling
    A perfume round, for she that morn had been
To gather roses, that were clustering now
Amid the shadowy curls upon her brow.
One of the loveliest daughters of that land,
Divinest Greece! that taught the painter's hand
    To give eternity to loveliness;
One of those dark-eyed maids, to whom belong
The glory and the beauty of each Song
    Thy poets breathed, for it was theirs to bless
With life the pencil and the lyre's dreams,
Giving reality to visioned gleams
Of bright divinities. Amid the crowd
That in the presence of young Hero bowed,
Was one who knelt with fond idolatry,
As if in homage to some deity,
Gazing upon her as each gaze he took
Must be the very last—that intense look
That none but lovers give, when they would trace
On their heart's tablets some adored face.
The radiant Priestess from the temple past:
Yet there Leander staid, to catch the last
Wave of her fragrant hair, the last low fall
Of her white feet, so light and musical;

    And then he wandered silent to a grove,
To feed upon the full heart's ecstasy.
The moon was sailing o'er the deep blue sky,
    Each moment shedding fuller light above,
As the pale crimson from the west departs.
Ah, this is just the hour for passionate hearts
To linger over dreams of happiness,
All of young love's delicious loveliness!
    The cypress waved upon the evening air
Like the long tresses of a beauty's hair;
And close beside was laurel; and the pale
Snow blossoms of the myrtle tree, so frail
And delicate, like woman; 'mid the shade
Rose the white pillars of the colonnade
Around the marble temple, where the Queen
Of Love was worshipped, and there was seen,
Where the grove ended, the so glorious sea
Now in its azure sleep's tranquillity.
He saw a white veil wave,—his heart beat high:
He heard a voice, and then a low toned sigh.
Gently he stole amid the shading trees—
It is his love—his Hero that he sees!
Her hand lay motionless upon the lute,
Which thrilled beneath the touch, her lip was mute,
Only her eyes were speaking; dew and light
There blended like the hyacinth, when night
Has wept upon its bosom; she did seem
As consciousness were lost in some sweet dream—
That dream was love! Blushes were on her cheek,
And what, save love, do blushes ever speak?
Her lips were parted, as one moment more,
And then the heart would yield its hidden store.
'Twas so at length her thought found utterance:
Light, feeling, flashed from her awakened glance--
She paused--then gazed on one pale star above,
Poured to her lute the burning words of love!
Leander heard his name! How more than sweet
That moment, as he knelt at Hero's feet,
Breathing his passion in each thrilling word,
Only by lovers said, by lovers heard.

    That night they parted—but they met again;
The blue sea rolled between them—but in vain!
Leander had no fear—he cleft the wave—
What is the peril fond hearts will not brave!
Delicious were their moonlight wanderings,
Delicious were the kind and gentle things
Each to the other breathed; a starry sky,
Music and flowers,—this is love's luxury:
The measure of its happiness is full,
When all round like it is beautiful.[2]
There were sweet birds to count the hours, and roses,
Like those which on a blushing cheek reposes;
Violets fresh as violets could be;
Stars overhead, with each a history
Of love told by its light; and waving trees,
And perfumed breathings upon every breeze:
These were beside them when they met. And day,
Though each was from the other far away,
Had still its pleasant memories; they might
Think what they had forgotten the last night,
And make the tender thing they had to say
More warm and welcome from its short delay.
And then their love was secret,—oh, it is
Most exquisite to have a fount of bliss
Sacred to us alone, no other eye
Conscious of our enchanted mystery,
Ourselves the sole possessors of a spell
Giving us happiness unutterable!

I would compare this secrecy and shade
To that fair island, whither Love conveyed
His Psyche, where she lived remote from all:
Life one long, lone, and lovely festival;
But when the charm, concealment's charm, was known,
Oh then good by to love, for love was flown!
Love's wings are all too delicate to bear
The open gaze, the common sun and air. - - -
    There have been roses round my lute; but now
I must forsake them for the cypress bough.
Now is my tale of tears:—One night the sky,
As if with passion darkened angrily,
And gusts of wind swept o'er the troubled main
Like hasty threats, and then were calm again:
That night young Hero by her beacon kept
Her silent watch, and blamed the night, and wept,
And scarcely dared to look upon the sky:
Yet lulling still her fond anxiety—
With, "Surely in such a storm he cannot brave,
If but for my sake only, wind and wave." - - -
At length Aurora led young Day and blushed,
In her sweet presence sea and sky were hushed;
What is there beauty cannot charm? her power
Is felt alike, in storm and sunshine hour;
And light and soft the breeze which waved the veil
Of Hero, as she wandered, lone and pale,
Her heart sick with its terror, and her eye
Roving in tearful, dim uncertainty.
Not long uncertain,—she marked something glide,
Shadowy and indistinct, upon the tide—
On rushed she in that desperate energy,
Which only has to know, and, knowing, die—
It was Leander!L. E. L.

  1. Appears in the Vow of the Peacock and Other Poems (1835)
  2. The Vow of the Peacock has 'When all around shares its own enchanted lull.' here.