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Swiftly as dolphins glide, or swifter yet,
With dead Leander in her fond arms' fold,
She cleaves the meshes of that radiant net
The sun hath twined above of liquid gold,
Nor slacks till on the margin of the land
She lays his body on the glowing sand.
*There, like a pearly waif, just past the reach
Of foamy billows he lies cast. Just then,
Some listless fishers, straying down the beach,
Spy out this wonder. Thence the curious men,
Low crouching, creep into a thicket brake,
And watch her doings till their rude hearts ache.
First she begins to chafe him till she faints,
Then falls upon his mouth with kisses many,
And sometimes pauses in her own complaints
To list his breathing, but there is not any,
Then looks into his eyes where no light dwells;
Light makes no pictures in such muddy wells.
The hot sun parches his discovered eyes,
The hot sun beats on his discolored limbs,
The sand is oozy whereupon he lies,
Soiling his fairness; then away she swims,
Meaning to gather him a daintier bed,
Plucking the cool fresh weeds, brown, green, and rede
But, simple-witted thief, while she dives under,
Another robs her of her amorous theft ;
The ambushed fishermen creep forth to plunder,
And steal the unwatched treasure she has left;
Only his void impression dints the sands :
Leander is purloined by stealthy hands!
Lo! how she shudders off the beaded wave!
Like Grief all over tears, and senseless falls,
His void imprint seems hollowed for her grave;
Then, rising on her knees, looks round and calls
On Hero ! Hero ! - having learned this name
Of his last breath, she calls him by the same.
Then with her frantic hands she rends her hairs,
And casts them forth, sad keepsakes, to the wind,
As if in plucking those she plucked her cares;
But grief lies deeper, and remains behind
Like a barbed arrow, rankling in her brain,
Turning her very thoughts to throbs of pain.
Anon her tangled locks are left alone,
And down upon the sand she meekly sits,
Hard by the foam, as humble as a stone,
Like an enchanted maid beside her wits,
That ponders with a look serene and tragic,
Stunned by the mighty mystery of magic.
Or think of Ariadne's utter trance,
Crazed by the flight of that disloyal traitor,
Who left her gazing on the green expanse
That swallowed up his track, --- yet this would mate 1
Even in the cloudy summit of her woe,
When o'er the far sea-brim she saw him go.
For even so she bows, and bends her gaze
O'er the eternal waste, as if to sum
Its waves by weary thousands all her days,
Dismally doomed! meanwhile the billows come,
And coldly dabble with her quiet feet,
Like any bleaching stones they wont to greet
And thence into her lap have boldly sprung,
Washing her weedy tresses to and fro,
That round her crouching knees have darkly hung;
But she sits careless of waves' ebb and flow,
Like a lone beacon on a desert coast,
Showing where all her hope was wrecked and lost.
Yet whether in the sea or vaulted sky,
She knoweth not her love's abrupt resort,
So like a shape of dreams he left her eye,
Winking with doubt. Meanwhile, the churls' report
Has thronged the beach with many a curious face,
That peeps upon her from its hiding-place.
And here a head, and there a brow half seen,
Dodges behind a rock. Here on his hands
A mariner his crumpled cheeks doth lean
Over a rugged crest. Another stands,
Holding his harmful arrow at the head,
Still checked by human caution and strange dread.
One stops his ears,
another close beholder Whispers unto the next his grave surmise; This crouches down, and just above his shoulder, A woman's pity saddens in her eyes, And prompts her to befriend that lonely grief, With all sweet helps of sisterly relief.
And down the sunny beach she pacès slowly,
With many doubtful pauses by the way;
Grief hath an influence so hushed and holy, -
Making her twice attempt, ere she can lay
Her hand upon that sea-maid's shoulder white,
Which makes her startle up in wild affright.
And, like a seal, she leaps into the wave,
That drowns the shrill remainder of her scream;
Anon the sea fills up the watery cave,
And seals her exit with a foamy seam,
Leaving those baffled gazers on the beach,
Turning in uncouth wonder each to each.
Some watch, some call, some see her head emerges
Wherever a brown weed falls through the foam;
Some point to white eruptions of the surge :
But she is vanished to her shady home,
Under the deep, inscrutable, and there
Weeps in a midnight made of her own hair.
Now here the sighing winds, before uuheard,
Forth from their cloudy caves begin to blow,
Till all the surface of the deep is stirred,
Like to the panting grief it hides below;
And heaven is covered with a stormy rack
Soiling the waters with its inky black.
The screaming fowl resigns her finny prey,
And labors shoreward with a bending wing,
Rowing against the wind her toilsome way ;
Meanwhile, the curling billows chafe, and fling
Their dewy frost still further on the stones,
That answer to the wind with hollow groans.
And here and there a fisher's far-off bark
Flies with the sun's last glimpse upon its sail,
Like a bright flame amid the waters dark,
Watched with the hope and fear of maidens pale,
And anxious mothers that upturn their brows,
Freighting the gusty wind with frequent vows,
For that the horrid deep has no sure track
To guide love safe into his homely haven.
And, lo! the storm grows blacker in its wrath,
O'er the dark billow brooding like a raven,
That bodes of death and widow's sorrowing,
Under the dusty covert of his wing.
And so day ended. But no vesper spark
Hung forth its heavenly sign ; but sheets of flame
Played round the savage features of the dark,
Making night horrible. That night, there came
A weeping maiden to high Sestos' steep,
And tore her hair and gazed upon the deep,
And waved aloft her bright and ruddy torch,
Whose flame the boastful wind so rudely fanned,
That oft it would recoil, and basely scorch
The tender covert of her sheltering hand;
Which yet, for love's dear sake, disdained retire,
And, like a glorying martyr, braved the fire.
For that was love's own sign and beacon guide
Across the Hellespont's wide weary space,
Wherein he nightly struggled with the tide ;
Look what a red it forges on her face,
As if she blushed at holding such a light,
Even in the unseen presence of the night!
Whereas her tragic cheek is truly pale,
And colder than the rude and ruffian air
That howls into her ear a horrid tale
Of storm, and wreck, and uttermost despair,
Saying, “ Leander floats amid the surge,
And those are dismal waves that sing his dirge.”