Prometheus Bound, and other poems/Hector in the Garden
HECTOR IN THE GARDEN.
NINE years old! The first of any
Seem the happiest years that come:—
Yet when I was nine, I said
No such word!—I thought, instead,
That the Greeks had used as many
In besieging Ilium.
Nine green years had scarcely brought me
To my childhood's haunted spring:—
I had life, like flowers and bees,
In betwixt the country trees;
And the sun, the pleasure, taught me
Which he teacheth every thing.
If the rain fell, there was sorrow;—
Little head, leant on the pane,
Little finger drawing down it
The long trailing drops upon it,—
And the "Rain, rain, come to-morrow,"
Said for charm against the rain.
Such a charm was right Canidian,
Though you meet it with a jeer!
If I said it long enough,
Then the rain hummed dimly off,
And the thrush, with his pure Lydian,
Was left only, to the ear:
And the sun and I together
Went a-rushing out of doors:
We, our tender spirits, drew
Over hill and dale in view,
Glimmering hither, glimmering thither,
In the footsteps of the showers.
Underneath the chestnuts dripping,
Through the grasses wet and fair,
Straight I sought my garden-ground,
With the laurel on the mound,
And the pear-tree oversweeping
A side-shadow of green air.
In the garden, lay supinely
A huge giant, wrought of spade!
Arms and legs were stretched at length,
In a passive giant strength,—
And the meadow turf, cut finely,
Round them laid and interlaid.
Call him Hector, son of Priam!
Such his title and degree.
With my rake I smoothed his brow;
Both his cheeks I weeded through:
But a rhymer such as I am,
Scarce can sing his dignity.
Eyes of gentianellas azure,
Staring; winking at the skies;
Nose of gillyflowers and box;
Scented grasses, put for locks—
Which a little breeze, at pleasure,
Set a-waving round his eyes.
Brazen helm of daffodillies,
With a glitter toward the light;
Purple violets, for the mouth,
Breathing perfumes west and south;
And a sword of flashing lilies,
Holden ready for the fight.
And a breastplate, made of daisies,
Closely fitting, leaf by leaf;
Drawn for belt about the waist;
While the brown bees, humming praises,
Shot their arrows round the chief.
And who knows, (I sometimes wondered,)
If the disembodied soul
Of old Hector, once of Troy,
Might not take a dreary joy
Here to enter—if it thundered,
Rolling up the thunder-roll?
Rolling this way, from Troy-ruin,
In this body rude and rife,
He might enter, and take rest
'Neath the daisies of the breast—
They, with tender roots, renewing
His heroic heart to life.
Who could know? I sometimes started
At a motion or a sound!
Did his mouth speak—naming Troy,
With an ο·το·το·το·τοι?
Did the pulse of the Strong-hearted
Make the daisies tremble round?
It was hard to answer, often:
But the birds sang in the tree—
But the little birds sang bold,
In the pear-tree green and old;
And my terror seemed to soften,
Through the courage of their glee.
Oh, the birds, the tree, the ruddy
And white blossoms, sleek with rain!
Oh, my garden, rich with pansies!
Oh, my childhood's bright romances!
All revive, like Hector's body,
And I see them stir again!
And despite life's changes—chances,
And despite the deathbell's toll,
They press on me in full seeming!—
Help, some angel! stay this dreaming!
As the birds sang in the branches,
Sing God's patience through my soul!
That no dreamer, no neglecter,
Of the present's work unsped,
I may wake up and be doing,
Life's heroic ends pursuing,
Though my past is dead as Hector,
And though Hector is twice dead.