William Edmondstoune Aytoun

(1813 - 1865 / Scotland)

Oenone


On the holy mount of Ida,
Where the pine and cypress grow,
Sate a young and lovely woman,
Weeping ever, weeping low.
Drearily throughout the forest
Did the winds of autumn blow,
And the clouds above were flying,
And Scamander rolled below.

'Faithless Paris! cruel Paris!'
Thus the poor deserted spake-
'Wherefore thus so strangely leave me?
Why thy loving bride forsake?
Why no tender word at parting?
Why no kiss, no farewell take?
Would that I could but forget thee-
Would this throbbing heart might break!

'Is my face no longer blooming?
Are my eyes no longer bright?
Ah! my tears have made them dimmer,
And my cheeks are pale and white.
I have wept since early morning,
I will weep the livelong night;
Now I long for sullen darkness,
As I once have longed for light.

'Paris! canst thou then be cruel?
Fair, and young, and brave thou art-
Can it be that in thy bosom
Lies so cold, so hard a heart?
Children were we bred together-
She who bore me suckled thee;
I have been thine old companion,
When thou hadst no more but me.

'I have watched thee in thy slumbers,
When the shadow of a dream
Passed across thy smiling features,
Like the ripple of a stream;
And so sweetly were the visions
Pictured there with lively grace,
That I half could read their import
By the changes on thy face.

'When I sang of Ariadne,
Sang the old and mournful tale,
How her faithless lover, Theseus,
Left her to lament and wail;
Then thine eyes would fill and glisten,
Her complaint could soften thee:
Thou hast wept for Ariadne-
Theseus' self might weep for me!

'Thou may'st find another maiden
With a fairer face than mine-
With a gayer voice, and sweeter,
And a spirit liker thine:
For if e'er my beauty bound thee,
Lost and broken is the spell;
But thou canst not find another
That will love thee half so well.

'O thou hollow ship that bearest
Paris o'er the faithless deep,
Wouldst thou leave him on some island,
Where alone the waters weep?
Where no human foot is moulded
In the wet and yellow sand-
Leave him there, thou hollow vessel!
Leave him on that lonely land!

'Then his heart will surely soften,
When his foolish hopes decay,
And his older love rekindle,
As the new one dies away.
Visionary hills will haunt him,
Rising from the glassy sea,
And his thoughts will wander homewards
Unto Ida and to me.

'O! that like a little swallow
I could reach that lonely spot!
All his errors would be pardoned,
All the weary past forgot.
Never should he wander from me-
Never should he more depart,
For these arms would be his prison,
And his home would be my heart.'

Thus lamented fair Oenone,
Weeping ever, weeping low,
On the holy mount of Ida,
Where the pine and cypress grow.
In the self-same hour Cassandra
Shrieked her prophecy of woe,
And into the Spartan dwelling
Did the faithless Paris go.

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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