Walter Richard Cassels

(1826-1907 / England)

Orpheus


About the land I wander, all forlorn,
About the land, with sorrow-quenched eyes;
Seeking my love among the silent woods;
Seeking her by the fountains and the streams;
Calling her name unto lone mountain tops;
Sending it flying on the clouds to heaven.
I drop my tears amid the dews at morn;
I trouble all the night with prayers and sighs,
That, like a veil thick set with golden stars,
Hideth my woe, but cannot silence it;
Yet never more at morning, noon, or night,
Cometh there answer back, Eurydice,
Thy voice speaks never more, Eurydice;
O far, death-stricken, lost Eurydice!

Hear'st thou my weary cries, Eurydice?
Hearing, but answering not from out the past,
Wrapp'd in thy robe of everlasting light,
Round which the accents flutter faintingly,
Like larks slow panting upward to the sun?
Or roll the golden sands of day away,
And never more the voice of my despair
Trickles among them o'er thine unmoved ear,
Though every grove doth multiply the sound,
And all the land sigh forth 'Eurydice'?

My heart is all untamed for evermore;
The strings hang loose and warp'd for evermore;
The rocks resound not with my olden songs,
Nor melt in echoes on the tranced breeze;
The streams flow on to music all their own;
The magic of my lyre hath pass'd away,
For Love ne'er sweeps sweet music from its chords;
For thou art pass'd away, Eurydice;
Thou tuner of my song, Eurydice;
And there is nought to guide the erring tones
That once breath'd but of thee, Eurydice;
That made each breeze sweet with Eurydice;
And taught each fountain and each running stream
To sing of thee, O lost Eurydice!

The serpent saw thee, O Eurydice!
The serpent slew thee, O Eurydice!
Stealing amongst the grass, Eurydice;
The long rank grass, that stretched Briarian arms
To clasp thee to itself, Eurydice!
And soon they laid thee from the sight of men;
Laid thee beneath the rankly waving grass;
Opening Earth's portals wide to let thee wend
Forth to Plutonian realms of gloom away;
And never more about the waiting land
Stray'd thy light steps at morn or shady eve.
No fountain hid thine image in its heart;
No flowers leapt up to wreathe thy golden hair;
No more the fawns within the forest glade
Follow'd a foot more lightsome than their own;
The moon stole through the night in dim surprise;
And all the stars look'd pale with wondering;
For thou cam'st not, O lost Eurydice!
Earth found thee not, O lost Eurydice!
Love found thee not, O lost Eurydice!

I could not stay where thou wert not, forlorn;
I could not live, O lost Eurydice!--
Not Acheron itself could fright me back
From where thy footsteps wander'd, best beloved!
And so I sought thee e'en at Hades' gate,
Charm'd wide its leaves with melody of woe,
And dared the grave to keep me from thine arms;
I flow'd away upon a stream of song,
E'en to dark Pluto's grimly guarded throne,
Melting the cruel Cerberus himself,
The Parcae, and snake-lock'd Eumenides,
To pity of my measureless despair.
I sang thy beauty, O Eurydice!
I sigh'd my love forth, O Eurydice!
With tears and weary sighs, Eurydice!
And at thy name the pains of Hell grew light;
Ixion's wheel stopp'd in its weary rounds,
The rock of Sisyphus forgot to roll,
And draughts of comfort flow'd o'er Tantalus:--
Then from old Dis's hands the keys slipp'd down,
And words of hope and pity spake he forth.
He promised thee again if I would go,
Never back-looking, from those realms of gloom,
Those realms of gloom where thou wert, best beloved.

How could I leave thee thus, Eurydice?
Without one look, one glance, Eurydice?
And I perchance no more to gaze on thee,
Snared by some fatal falsehood from thy side?
Yet strove I hard; until at length I came
Where Lethe flow'd before me, faint and dim;
Ye gods! how could I cross it from my love,
That might wash out her memory for aye;
That I should live and dream of her no more;
That I should live and love her never more;
That I should sing no more, Eurydice;
That I should leave her in the grip of Hell,
Nor bear her forth e'en on the wings of thought.
And so I turn'd to gaze, Eurydice!
I turn'd to clasp thee, O Eurydice!--
And lo! thy form straightway dissolved away;
Thy beauty in the light dissolved away;
And Hades and all things dissolved away;
Until I found me on thy cold, cold grave,
Amid the grass that I would grew o'er me,
Clasping us close within one narrow home,
Where I no more might wake and find thee gone.--
The earth oped not unto my frantic cries;
The portals closed thee from me evermore--
Else had I melted Hell itself with prayers,
And borne thee back to Earth triumphantly.

I cried, heart-stricken, on Proserpina;
I rent the rocks around with endless prayers;
I told her all the story of our love,
I launch'd my sorrows on her woman's heart;
I sought her through the barren winter-time,
The woful winter-time for Earth and me;
And, 'Oh!' I thought, 'her soul will soon relent,
And rush in crystal torrents from her eyes,
Till in the joy of sympathetic tears,
She woo my love from Pluto's stony heart.'
I waited, and I question'd long the Spring;
I question'd every flower and budding spray,
If thou didst come among them back again;
I conjured each bright blossom, each green leaf,
That, leaving Earth, she bears full-arm'd to Dis,
But backward flingeth ere her glad return,
That every step of glorious liberty,
Fall upon flowers throughout the happy land;
But never came response, Eurydice,--
The flowers were dumb, O lost Eurydice!
They would not see thee spring from Earth like them,
Outshining all their fainter loveliness,
And so they left me to my lorn despair;
She left me lorn, O false Proserpina!
And never more may I behold thee here,
In Spring or Summer, O Eurydice!
By day or night, O lost Eurydice!

They shall not keep me from thee, O beloved!
Dis shall not keep me from thee, O beloved;
But I shall shake his gates in my despair,
Until they open wide to let me pass;
I'll take my life up like a mighty rock,
And so beat breaches in the walls of Time;
I'll cast existence from me like a wrestler's robes,
And with my supple, naked soul throw Fate;
I'll snap the shackles whose Promethean links
Bind down my soul unto this narrow earth.--
Dost hear my voice dim floating to thee now,
Along the waves that ripple at my feet?
Thus do I come to thee, Eurydice,
Through waving water-floods, Eurydice,
I come, I come, beloved Eurydice!

Submitted: Monday, October 11, 2010

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