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Prometheus Bound, and other poems/A Lament for Adonis

 

A LAMENT FOR ADONIS.

 

 

A LAMENT FOR ADONIS.

FROM THE GREEK OF BION.




I.

I MOURN for Adonis—Adonis is dead!
Fair Adonis is dead, and the Loves are lamenting.
Sleep, Cypris, no more, on thy purple strewed bed;
Arise, wretch stoled in black,—beat thy breast unrelenting,
And shriek to the worlds, "Fair Adonis is dead."


II.

I mourn for Adonis—the Loves are lamenting.
He lies on the hills, in his beauty and death,—
The white tusk of a boar has transpierced his white thigh;
And his Cypris grows mad at the thin gasping breath,
While the black blood drips down on the pale ivory:
And his eye-balls lie quenched with the weight of his brows.
The rose fades from his lips, and, upon them just parted,
The kiss dies which Cypris consents not to lose,
Though the kiss of the Dead cannot make her glad-hearted —
He knows not who kisses him dead in the dews.

 

III.

I mourn for Adonis—the Loves are lamenting.
Deep, deep in the thigh, is Adonis's wound;
But a deeper, is Cypris's bosom presenting—
The youth lieth dead, while his dogs howl around,
And the nymphs weep aloud from the mists of the hill,—
And the poor Aphrodite, with tresses unbound,
All dishevelled, unsandalled, shrieks mournful and shrill
Through the dusk of the groves. The thorns, tearing her feet,
Gather up the red flower of her blood, which is holy,
Each footstep she takes; and the valleys repeat
The sharp cry which she utters, and draw it out slowly.
She calls on her spouse, her Assyrian; on him
Her own youth; while the dark blood spreads over his body—
The chest taking hue, from the gash in the limb,
And the bosom, once ivory, turning to ruddy.


IV.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! the Loves are lamenting:—
She lost her fair spouse, and so lost her fair smile—
When he lived she was fair, by the whole world's consenting,
Whose fairness is dead with him! woe worth the while!
All the mountains above and the oaklands below
Murmur, ah, ah Adonis! the streams overflow
Aphrodite's deep wail,—river-fountains in pity
Weep soft in the hills; and the flowers, as they blow,
Redden outward with sorrow; while all hear her go
With the song of her sadness, through mountain and city.


V.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! Adonis is dead:
Fair Adonis is dead—Echo answers, Adonis!
Who weeps not for Cypris, when, bowing her head,
She stares at the wound where it gapes and astonies?
—When, ah, ah!—she saw how the blood ran away
And empurpled the thigh; and, with wild hands flung out,
Said with sobs, "Stay, Adonis! unhappy one, stay,—
Let me feel thee once more—let me ring thee about
With the clasp of my arms, and press kiss into kiss!
Wait a little, Adonis, and kiss me again,
For the last time, beloved; and but so much of this,
That the kiss may learn life from the warmth of the strain!
—Till thy breath shall exude from thy soul to my mouth;
To my heart; and, the loye-charm I once more receiving,
May drink thy love in it, and keep, of a truth,
That one kiss in the place of Adonis the living.
Thou fliest me, mournful one, fliest me far,
My Adonis; and seekest the Acheron portal—
To Hell's cruel King, goest down with a scar,
While I weep, and live on like a wretched immortal,
And follow no step;—O Persephone, take him,
My husband!—thou'rt better and brighter than I;
So all beauty flows down to thee! I cannot make him
Look up at my grief; there's despair in my cry,
Since I wail for Adorns, who died to me . . died to me . .
—Then, I fear thee!—Art thou dead, my Adored?
Passion ends like a dream in the sleep that's denied to me.—
Cypris is widowed; the Loves seek their lord
All the house through in vain! Charm of cestus has ceased
With thy clasp!—O too bold in the hunt, past preventing;
Ay, mad: thou so fair . . . to have strife with a beast!"—
Thus did Cypris wail on—and the Loves are lamenting.


VI.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! Adonis is dead,—
She wept tear after tear, with the blood which was shed;
And both turned into flowers for the earth's garden-close;
Her tears, to the wind-flower,—his blood, to the rose.


VII.

I mourn for Adonis—Adonis is dead.
Weep no more in the woods, Cytherea, thy lover!
So, well; make a place for his corse in thy bed,
With the purples thou sleepest in, under and over.
He's fair though a corse—a fair corse . . like a sleeper—
Lay soft in the silks he had pleasure to fold,
When, beside thee at night, holy dreams deep and deeper
Enclosed his young life on the couch made of gold!
Love him still, poor Adonis! cast on him together
The crowns and the flowers! since he died from the place
Why let all die with him—let the blossoms go wither;
Rain myrtles and olive-buds down on his face:
Rain the myrrh down, let all that is best fall a-pining,
For thy myrrh, his life, from thy keeping is swept!—
—Pale he lay, thine Adonis, in purples reclining—
The Loves raised their voices around him and wept.
They have shorn their bright curls off to cast on Adonis:
One treads on his bow,—on his arrows, another,—
One breaks up a well-feathered quiver; and one is,
Bent low on a sandal, untying the strings;
And one carries the vases of gold from the springs,
While one washes the wound; and behind them a brother
Fans down on the body sweet airs with his wings.


VIII.

Cytherea herself, now, the Loves are lamenting.
Each torch at the door, Hymenæus blew out;
And the marriage-wreath dropping its leaves as repenting,
No more "Hymen, Hymen," is chanted about,
But the ai ai instead—"ai alas" is begun
For Adonis, and then follows "ai Hymenæus!"
The Graces are weeping for Cinyris' son
Sobbing low, each to each, "His fair eyes cannot see us!"—
Their wail strikes more shrill than the sadder Dione's;
The Fates mourn aloud for Adonis, Adonis,
Deep chanting! he hears not a word that they say:
He would hear, but Persephone has him in keeping.
—Cease moan, Cytherea—leave pomps for to-day,
And weep new when a new year refits thee for weeping.

 


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.