Henry Kendall

(18 April 1839 – 1 August 1882 / Ulladulla, New South Wales)

Galatea - Poem by Henry Kendall

A SILVER slope, a fall of firs, a league of gleaming grasses,
And fiery cones, and sultry spurs, and swarthy pits and passes!

The long-haired Cyclops bated breath, and bit his lip and hearkened,
And dug and dragged the stone of death, by ways that dipped and darkened.

Across a tract of furnaced flints there came a wind of water,
From yellow banks with tender hints of Tethys’ white-armed daughter.

She sat amongst wild singing weeds, by beds of myrrh and moly;
And Acis made a flute of reeds, and drew its accents slowly;

And taught its spirit subtle sounds that leapt beyond suppression,
And paused and panted on the bounds of fierce and fitful passion.

Then he who shaped the cunning tune, by keen desire made bolder,
Fell fainting, like a fervent noon, upon the sea-nymph’s shoulder.

Sicilian suns had laid a dower of light and life about her:
Her beauty was a gracious flower—the heart fell dead without her.

“Ah, Galate,” said Polypheme, “I would that I could find thee
Some finest tone of hill or stream, wherewith to lull and bind thee!

“What lyre is left of marvellous range, whose subtle strings, containing
Some note supreme, might catch and change, or set thy passion waning?—

“Thy passion for the fair-haired youth whose fleet, light feet perplex me
By ledges rude, on paths uncouth, and broken ways that vex me?

“Ah, turn to me! else violent sleep shall track the cunning lover;
And thou wilt wait and thou wilt weep when I his haunts discover.”

But golden Galatea laughed, and Thosa’s son, like thunder,
Broke through a rifty runnel shaft, and dashed its rocks asunder,

And poised the bulk, and hurled the stone, and crushed the hidden Acis,
And struck with sorrow drear and lone the sweetest of all faces.

To Zeus, the mighty Father, she, with plaint and prayer, departed:
Then from fierce Aetna to the sea a fountained water started—

A lucent stream of lutes and lights—cool haunt of flower and feather,
Whose silver days and yellow nights made years of hallowed weather.

Here Galatea used to come, and rest beside the river;
Because, in faint, soft, blowing foam, her shepherd lived for ever.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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