Bion of Smyrna


Threnody - Poem by Bion of Smyrna

I weep for Adonais--he is dead!
Dead Adonais lies, and mourning all,
The Loves wail round his fair, low-lying head.
O Cypris, sleep no more! Let from thee fall
Thy purple vestments--hear'st thou not the call?
Let fall thy purple vestments! Lay them by!
Ah, smite thy bosom, and in sable pall
Send shivering through the air thy bitter cry
For Adonais dead, while all the Loves reply.

I weep for Adonais--weep the Loves.
Low on the mountains beauteous lies he there,
And languid through his lips the faint breath moves,
And black the blood creeps o'er his smooth thigh, where
The boar's white tooth the whiter flesh must tear.
Glazed grow his eyes beneath the eyelids wide;
Fades from his lips the rose, and dies--Despair!
The clinging kiss of Cypris at his side--
Alas, he knew not that she kissed him as he died!

I wail--responsive wail the Loves with me.
Ah, cruel, cruel is that wound of thine,
But Cypris' heart-wound aches more bitterly.
The Oreads weep; thy faithful hounds low whine;
But Cytherea's unbound tresses fine
Float on the wind; where thorns her white feet wound,
Along the oaken glades drops blood divine.
She calls her lover; he, all crimsoned round
His fair white breast with blood, hears not the piteous sound.

Alas! for Cytherea wail the Loves,
With the beloved dies her beauty too.
O fair was she, the goddess borne of doves,
While Adonais lived; but now, so true
Her love, no time her beauty can renew.
Deep-voiced the mountains mourn; the oaks reply;
And springs and rivers murmur sorrow through
The passes where she goes, the cities high;
And blossoms flush with grief as she goes desolate by.

Alas for Cytherea! he hath died--
The beauteous Adonais, he is dead!
And Echo sadly back '_is dead_' replied.
Alas for Cypris! Stooping low her head,
And opening wide her arms, she piteous said,
'O stay a little, Adonais mine!
Of all the kisses ours since we were wed,
But one last kiss, oh, give me now, and twine
Thine arms close, till I drink the latest breath of thine!

'So will I keep the kiss thou givest me
E'en as it were thyself, thou only best!
Since thou, O Adonais, far dost flee--
Oh, stay a little--leave a little rest!--
And thou wilt leave me, and wilt be the guest
Of proud Persephone, more strong than I?
All beautiful obeys her dread behest--
And I a goddess am, and _cannot_ die!
O thrice-beloved, listen!--mak'st thou no reply?

'Then dies to idle air my longing wild,
As dies a dream along the paths of night;
And Cytherea widowed is, exiled
From love itself; and now--an idle sight--
The Loves sit in my halls, and all delight
My charmed girdle moves, is all undone!
Why wouldst thou, rash one, seek the maddening fight?
Why, beauteous, wouldst thou not the combat shun?'--
Thus Cytherea--and the Loves weep, all as one.

Alas for Cytherea!--he is dead.
Her hopeless sorrow breaks in tears, that rain
Down over all the fair, beloved head,--
Like summer showers, o'er wind-down-beaten grain;
They flow as fast as flows the crimson stain
From out the wound, deep in the stiffening thigh;
And lo! in roses red the blood blooms fair,
And where the tears divine have fallen close by,
Spring up anemones, and stir all tremblingly.

I weep for Adonais--he is dead!
No more, O Cypris, weep thy wooer here!
Behold a bed of leaves! Lay down his head
As if he slept--as still, as fair, as dear,--
In softest garments let his limbs appear,
As when on golden couch his sweetest sleep
He slept the livelong night, thy heart anear;
Oh, beautiful in death though sad he keep,
No more to wake when Morning o'er the hills doth creep.

And over him the freshest flowers fling--
Ah me! all flowers are withered quite away
And drop their petals wan! yet, perfumes bring
And sprinkle round, and sweetest balsams lay;--
Nay, perish perfumes since thine shall not stay!
In purple mantle lies he, and around,
The weeping Loves his weapons disarray,
His sandals loose, with water bathe his wound,
And fan him with soft wings that move without a sound.

The Loves for Cytherea raise the wail.
Hymen from quenched torch no light can shake.
His shredded wreath lies withered all and pale;
His joyous song, alas, harsh discords break!
And saddest wail of all, the Graces wake;
'The beauteous Adonais! He is dead!'
And sigh the Muses, 'Stay but for our sake!'
Yet would he come, Persephone is dead;--
Cease, Cypris! Sad the days repeat their faithful tread!

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Poem Submitted: Monday, October 11, 2010

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