Landon in The New Monthly 1836/Banquet Aspasia and Pericles

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Landon in The New Monthly 1836 (1836) by Letitia Elizabeth Landon
The Banquet of Aspasia and Pericles
2397458Landon in The New Monthly 1836 — The Banquet of Aspasia and Pericles1836Letitia Elizabeth Landon

II.

The Banquet of Aspasia and Pericles.

Waken'd by the small white fingers,
    Which its chords obey,
On the air the music lingers
    Of a low and languid lay
From a soft Ionian lyre;—
Purple curtains hang the walls,
And the dying daylight falls
O'er the marble pedestals
Of the pillars that aspire,
In honour of Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.

There are statues white and solemn,
    Olden gods are they;
And the wreath'd Corinthian column
    Guardeth their array.
Lovely that acanthus wreath,
Drooping round the graceful girth:
All the fairest things of earth,
Art's creations have their birth—
Still from love and death.
They are gather'd for Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.


There are gold and silver vases
    Where carved victories shine;
While within the sunlight blazes
    Of the fragrant Teian wine,
Or the sunny Cyprian isle.
From the garlands on each brow
Take they early roses now;
And each rose-leaf bears a vow,
As they pledge the radiant smile
Of the beautiful Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.

With the spoils of nations splendid
    Is that stately feast;
By her youthful slaves attended—
    Beauties from the East,
With their large black dewy eyes.
Though their dark hair sweeps the ground,
Every heavy tress is wound
With the white sea-pearl around;
For no queen in Persia vies
With the proud Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.

One hath caught mine eye—the fairest;
    'Tis a Theban girl:
Though a downcast look thou wearest,
    And nor flower nor pearl
Winds thy auburn hair among:
With a white, unsandall'd foot,
Leaning languid on thy lute,
Weareth thy soft lip, though mute,
Smiles yet sadder than thy song.
Can grief come nigh Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride?

On an ivory couch reclining
    Doth the bride appear;
In her eyes the light is shining,
    For her chief is near;—
And her smile grows bright to gaze
On the stately Pericles,
Lord of the Athenian seas,
And of Greece's destinies.
Glorious, in those ancient days,
Was the lover of Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.

Round her small head, perfume-breathing
    Was a myrtle stem,
Fitter for her bright hair's wreathing
    Than or gold or gem;
For the myrtle breathes of love.
O'er her cheek so purely white,
From her dark eyes came such light
As is, on a summer night,
With the moon above.
Fair as moonlight was Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.


These fair visions have departed,
    Like a poet's dream,
Leaving us pale and faint-hearted
    By life's common stream,
Whence all lovelier light hath fled.
Not so: they have left behind
Memory to the kindling mind,
With bright fantasies combined.
Still the poet's dream is fed
By the beauty of Aspasia,
The bright Athenian bride.