Artemis to Actaeon, and Other Verses

#Poetry #American
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Excerpt ARTEMIS TO ACTAEON   THOU couldst not look on me and live: so runs  The mortal legend—thou that couldst not live  Nor look on me (so the divine decree)!  That saw'st me in the cloud, the wave, the bough,  The clod commoved with April, and the shapes  Lurking 'twixt lid and eye-ball in the dark.  Mocked I thee not in every guise of life,  Hid in girls' eyes, a naiad in her well,  Wooed through their laughter, and like echo fled,  Luring thee down the primal silences  Where the heart hushes and the flesh is dumb?  Nay, was not I the tide that drew thee out  Relentlessly from the detaining shore,  Forth from the home-lights and the hailing voices,  Forth from the last faint headland's failing line,  Till I enveloped thee from verge to verge  And hid thee in the hollow of my being?  And still, because between us hung the veil,  The myriad-tinted veil of sense, thy feet  Refused their rest, thy hands the gifts of life,  Thy heart its losses, lest some lesser face  Should blur mine image in thine upturned soul  Ere death had stamped it there. This was thy thought.  And mine?   The gods, they say, have all: not so!  This have they—flocks on every hill, the blue  Spirals of incense and the amber drip  Of lucid honey-comb on sylvan shrines,  First-chosen weanlings, doves immaculate,  Twin-cooing in the osier-plaited cage,  And ivy-garlands glaucous with the dew:  Man's wealth, man's servitude, but not himself!  And so they pale, for lack of warmth they wane,  Freeze to the marble of their images,  And, pinnacled on man's subserviency,  Through the thick sacrificial haze discern  Unheeding lives and loves, as some cold peak  Through icy mists may enviously descry  Warm vales unzoned to the all-fruitful sun.  So they along an immortality  Of endless-envistaed homage strain their gaze,  If haply some rash votary, empty-urned,  But light of foot, with all-adventuring hand,  Break rank, fling past the people and the priest,  Up the last step, on to the inmost shrine,  And there, the sacred curtain in his clutch,  Drop dead of seeing—while the others prayed!  Yes, this we wait for, this renews us, this  Incarnates us, pale people of your dreams,  Who are but what you make us, wood or stone,  Or cold chryselephantine hung with gems,  Or else the beating purpose of your life,  Your sword, your clay, the note your pipe pursues,  The face that haunts your pillow, or the light  Scarce visible over leagues of labouring sea!  O thus through use to reign again, to drink  The cup of peradventure to the lees,  For one dear instant disimmortalised  In giving immortality!  So dream the gods upon their listless thrones.  Yet sometimes, when the votary appears,  With death-affronting forehead and glad eyes,  Too young, they rather muse, too frail thou art,  And shall we rob some girl of saffron veil  And nuptial garland for so slight a thing...?
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