Poems (1898)/Daphnis

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DAPHNIS

Hail, Solitude! hail, maiden coy and sweet!
The vesper veil descends,—hail, nymph discreet!
We would awhile forget the din and roar
Of feverous life, contending evermore,—
Lead to thy hush’d retreat!


Where shall we find thee, who desire thee so?
Where midst the lengthening shadows dost thou go?
Where slumberest thou when stars the night adorn?
Where glide thy feet at morn?


Seek they that rugged promontory
Where Athos towers lone above the sea?
Stray they where 'gainst the mountains hoary
Axenos moaning beats incessantly?
Or all the day in some shy sylvan nook,
Where cowslips pale and daffadillies blow,
Tread they the mellow turf, or weedy brook
Whose wimpling waters prattle as they flow?


Goddess with breath of balm,
What dear contentments nestle in thy calm!
The leveret and the fawn pursue
Thy paths through coverts dim, the halcyon blue,
By seas Ægean, griev'd remembrance heals
As she thy joyance feels;
And far below the merry-twinkling waves,
Bright Thetis breathes thy praise in orient caves.


And here, in this delightful wood,
Where saucy elves and winsome fairies bide,
We, also, would draw near thee, Solitude,
And lay our cares aside:
Draw near thee, nymph demure, and drain,
From flowery cups that know no touch profane,
The dews, delicious brimming;
Recline where poppies, purple-hued,
Droop low in lovely lassitude,
While belted bees in amorous mood
O'er thymy beds are swimming,
Or, musing 'neath some drowsy hemlock, gain
The sweet Morphæan anodyne for pain.


Long, long ago, to such seclusion,
Filled with accusing shame and grieved confusion,
Life's noontide dark, its promise dead,
The youthful Daphnis fled.
Child of the God, how could he brook
That curious eyes should gaping look
Upon the sightless face,
Where, deeply written, burned his deep disgrace?
Fearful of wrongs he could not see,
He brought his bruisèd heart to thee.


And thou with solemn stillness didst caress him.
Forbearing to afflict with comfort crude,
Mistimed advice or cheap solicitude,
Thou with thy mild tranquillity didst bless him.
Thou didst not offer fond, unmeaning words,
But whisperings of leaves, and notes of birds,
And breathings of fresh flowers; things which stole
Through the unlighted chambers of his soul,
And made him—how, he knew not—less alone.
Like dreams that come where misery hath slept,
Recalling tender hopes, and pleasures flown,
He welcomed them and wept.


Then with unsteady hand from out his breast
He drew the pipe of Pan,—the reedy flute
That long neglected in inglorious rest,
Dark, like his vision, lay there cold and mute.
Up to his quivering lips he raised it slowly,
A moment paused, then blew a fainting strain:
His rigid brow relaxed, his head drooped lowly,
He felt the old, the sweet, immortal pain!
Again the mellow, melting notes he tried,—
Again meek Echo caught her breath and sighed.


Then freer, stronger, lovelier grew the lay;
Incertain fears fled guiltily away;
The lilies, listening, paled, the breeze grew whist,
The violets flushed to deeper amethyst,
The restless Hours, departing, longed to stay.
And he forgot his melancholy state,
Fair Nomia's blissful love and fatal hate,—
In the rapt exaltation of his mind,
Forgot that he was blind;
And poured that moving music in thine ear,
Which still Sicilian shepherds in the dawn
And deepening twilight, from some balmy lawn
Or grove of Ætna, fondly think they hear.