William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813 - 1865 / Scotland)
'Wilt not lay thee down in quiet slumber?
Weary dost thou seem, and ill at rest;
Sleep will bring thee dreams in starry number-
Let him come to thee and be thy guest.
Midnight now is past-
Husband! come at last-
Lay thy throbbing head upon my breast.'
'Weary am I, but my soul is waking;
Fain I'd lay me gently by thy side,
But my spirit then, its home forsaking,
Through the realms of space would wander wide-
What would be thy lot,
If I came not back to thee, my bride?'
'Music, like the lute of young Apollo,
Vibrates even now within mine ear;
Soft and silver voices bid me follow,
Yet my soul is dull and will not hear.
Waking it will stay:
Let me watch till day-
Fainter will they come, and disappear.'
'Speak not thus to me, my own-my dearest!
These are but the phantoms of thy brain;
Nothing can befall thee which thou fearest,
Thou shalt wake to love and life again.
Were this sleep thy last,
I should hold thee fast,
Thou shouldst strive against me but in vain.'
'Eros will protect us, and will hover,
Guardian-like, above thee all the night,
Jealous of thee, as of some fond lover
Chiding back the rosy-fingered light-
He will be thine aid:
Canst thou feel afraid
torch above us burneth bright?'
'Lo! the cressets of the night are waning-
Old Orion hastens from the sky;
Only thou of all things art remaining
Unrefreshed by slumber-thou and I.
Sound and sense are still;
Even the distant rill
Murmurs fainter now, and languidly.'
'Come and rest thee, husband!'-And no longer
Could the young man that fond call resist:
Vainly was he warned, for love was stronger-
Warmly did he press her to his breast.
Warmly met she his;
Kiss succeeded kiss,
Till their eyelids closed with sleep oppressed.
Soon Aurora left her early pillow,
And the heavens grew rosy-rich, and rare;
Laughed the dewy plain and glassy billow,
For the Golden God himself was there;
And the vapour-screen
Rose the hills between,
Steaming up, like incense, in the air.
O'er her husband sate Ione bending-
Marble-like and marble-hued he lay;
Underneath her raven locks descending,
Paler seemed his face, and ashen gray,
And so white his brow-
White and cold as snow-
'Husband! Gods! his soul hath passed away!'
Raise ye up the pile with gloomy shadow-
Heap it with the mournful cypress-bough!-
And they raised the pile upon the meadow,
And they heaped the mournful cypress too;
And they laid the dead
On his funeral bed,
And they kindled up the flames below.
Swiftly rose they, and the corse surrounded,
Spreading out a pall into the air;
And the sharp and sudden crackling sounded
Mournfully to all the watchers there.
Soon their force was spent,
And the body blent
With the embers' slow-expiring glare.
Night again was come; but oh, how lonely
To the mourner did that night appear!
Peace nor rest it brought, but sorrow only,
Vain repinings and unwonted fear.
Dimly burned the lamp-
Chill the air and damp-
And the winds without were moaning drear.
Hush! a voice in solemn whispers speaking
Breaks within the twilight of the room;
And Ione, loud and wildly shrieking,
Starts and gazes through the ghastly gloom.
Nothing sees she there-
All is empty air,
All is empty as a rifled tomb.
Once again the voice beside her sounded,
Low, and faint, and solemn was its tone-
'Nor by form nor shade am I surrounded,
Fleshly home and dwelling have I none.
They are passed away-
Woe is me! to-day
Hath robbed me of myself, and made me lone.'
'Vainly were the words of parting spoken;
Evermore must Charon turn from me.
Still my thread of life remains unbroken,
And unbroken ever it must be;
Only they may rest
Whom the Fates' behest
From their mortal mansion setteth free.'
'I have seen the robes of Hermes glisten-
Seen him wave afar his serpent-wand;
But to me the Herald would not listen-
When the dead swept by at his command,
Not with that pale crew
Durst I venture too-
Ever shut for me the quiet land.'
'Day and night before the dreary portal,
Phantom-shapes, the guards of Hades, lie;
None of heavenly kind, nor yet of mortal,
May unchallenged pass the warders by.
None that path may go,
If he cannot show
His last passport to eternity.'
'Cruel was the spirit-power thou gavest-
Fatal, O Apollo, was thy love!
Pythian! Archer! brightest God and bravest,
Hear, O hear me from thy throne above!
Let me not, I pray,
Thus be cast away:
Plead for me-thy slave-O plead to Jove!'
'I have heard thee with the Muses singing-
Heard that full, melodious voice of thine,
Silver-clear throughout the ether ringing-
Seen thy locks in golden clusters shine;
And thine eye, so bright
With its innate light,
Hath ere now been bent so low as mine.'
'Hast thou lost the wish-the will-to cherish
Those who trusted in thy godlike power?
Hyacinthus did not wholly perish;
Still he lives, the firstling of thy bower;
Still he feels thy rays,
Fondly meets thy gaze,
Though but now the spirit of a flower.'
'Hear me, Phoebus! Hear me and deliver!
Lo! the morning breaketh from afar-
God! thou comest bright and great as ever-
Night goes back before thy burning car;
All her lamps are gone-
Lingers still for thee-the blessed star!'
'Hear me, Phoebus!'-And therewith descended
Through the window-arch a glory-gleam,
All effulgent-and with music blended,
For such solemn sounds arose as stream
From the Memnon-lyre,
When the morning fire
Gilds the giant's forehead with its beam.
'Thou hast heard thy servant's prayer, Apollo;
Thou dost call me, mighty God of Day!
Fare-thee-well, Ione!'-And more hollow
Came the phantom-voice, then died away.
When the slaves arose,
Not in calm repose,
Not in sleep, but death, their mistress lay.
Comments about this poem (Hermotimus by William Edmondstoune Aytoun )
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