Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/Egeria


A dream of that dim legendary time
When the gods talked with mortals, and could leave
Their starry home to gaze on women’s eyes.

On a fair summer’s morn, when all was still,
Save the reed’s rustling in the breeze, which fell
Like distant voices murmuring on the ear,
Or the shrill halcyon, which sailed slowly by,
Tipping his wings with purple in the sun;
Once ’neath the golden linden’s glimmering shade,
Upon the deep-red summer grass there sat
Numa, and near the beating of his heart,
With velvet limbs, white as the ocean foam,
A nymph of more than mortal mien, whose love
Was all too great for heaven, and so she longed
To perfect it with sorrow in this world.
There, often, she would open Nature’s book,
Interpreting its mystic eloquence,
Telling him secrets of each living thing,
From the grey torrent to the clinging moss,—
Or listen, tremulous, in a bright excess
Of rosy modesty, the while he spoke,
With wistful eagerness; more often full
Of gentler thoughts than any this earth knows
She sang, Cassandra-like, with dim faint eyes,
Whose lids dropped gathered nectar, while the leaves
Of amaranth were waving on her brow,
How the great golden age had passed away,
And how the harmonious chords of peace and love
Should be unstrung, and sound again no more.

So Numa, by the music of her voice,
In such sweet sorrow was imparadised,
That life was like a dream; till in his soul
Those sacred germs of nobler birth than dust
Grew strong beneath her smiling influence,
And left fair deeds of fame to future time.
Thus would they talk in language kind and low
Like lovers watched, though there was none to hear,
And heeded not the hours, till her grey eyes
Grew darker in the twilight, and the dew
Shone in her hair like drops of silver rain;
Till the warm sunset faded, and the stars
Peeped forth to watch the dying of the day.

J. M.