Littell's Living Age/Volume 133/Issue 1722/Greece and England


Would this sunshine be completer,
Or these violets smell sweeter,
Or the birds sing more in metre,
If it all were years ago,
When the melted mountain-snow
Heard in Enna all the woe
Of the poor forlorn Demeter?

Would a stronger life pulse o'er us
If a panther-chariot bore us,
If we saw, enthroned before us,
Ride the leopard-footed god,
With a fir-cone tip the rod,
Whirl the thyrsus round, and nod
To a drunken Maenad-chorus?

Bloomed there richer, redder roses
Where the Lesbian earth incloses
All of Sappho? where reposes
Meleager, laid to sleep
By the olive-girdled deep;
Where the Syrian maidens weep,
Bringing serpolet in posies?

Ah! it may be! Greece had leisure
For a world of faded pleasure;
We must tread a tamer measure,
To a milder, homelier lyre;
We must tend a paler fire,
Lay less perfume on the pyre,
Be content with poorer treasure!

Were the brown-limbed lovers bolder?
Venus younger, Cupid older?
Down the wood-nymph's warm white shoulder
Trailed a purpler, madder vine?
Were the poets more divine?
Brew we no such golden wine
Here, where summer suns are colder?

Yet for us too life has flowers,
Time a glass of joyous hours,
Interchange of sun and showers,
And a wealth of leafy glades,
Meant for loving men and maids,
Full of warm green lights and shades,
Trellis-work of wild-wood bowers.

So while English suns are keeping
Count of sowing-time and reaping,
We've no need to waste our weeping,
Though the glad Greeks lounged at ease
Underneath their olive-trees,
And the Sophoclean bees
Swarmed on lips of poets sleeping!

Temple Bar.Edmund W. Gosse.