Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
From “Orion: An Epic Poem”
 
Richard Henry Horne (1802–84)
 
 
Meeting of Orion and Artemis
 
 
  AFAR the hunt in vales below has sped,
But now behind the wooded mount ascends,
Threading its upward mazes of rough boughs,
Moss’d trunks and thickets, still invisible,
Although its jocund music fills the air        5
With cries and laughing echoes, mellow’d all
By intervening woods and the deep hills.
 
  The scene in front two sloping mountain-sides
Display’d; in shadow one, and one in light
The loftiest on its summit now sustain’d        10
The sun-beams, raying like a mighty wheel
Half seen, which left the front-ward surface dark
In its full breadth of shade; the coming sun
Hidden as yet behind: the other mount,
Slanting oppos’d, swept with an eastward face,        15
Catching the golden light. Now, while the peal
Of the ascending chase told that the rout
Still midway rent the thickets, suddenly
Along the broad and sunny slope appear’d
The shadow of a stag that fled across,        20
Follow’d by a Giant’s shadow with a spear!
 
  “Hunter of Shadows, thou thyself a Shade,”
Be comforted in this,—that substance holds
No higher attributes; one sovereign law
Alike develops both, and each shall hunt        25
Its proper object, each in turn commanding
The primal impulse, till gaunt Time become
A Shadow cast on Space—to fluctuate,
Waiting the breath of the Creative Power
To give new types for substance yet unknown:        30
So from faint nebulæ bright worlds are born;
So worlds return to vapor. Dreams design
Most solid lasting things, and from the eye
That searches life, death evermore retreats.
 
  Substance unseen, pure mythos, or mirage,        35
The shadowy chase has vanish’d; round the swell
Of the near mountain sweeps a bounding stag;
Round whirls a god-like Giant close behind;
O’er a fallen trunk the stag with slippery hoofs
Stumbles—his sleek knees lightly touch the grass—        40
Upward he springs—but in his forward leap,
The Giant’s hand hath caught him fast beneath
One shoulder tuft, and, lifted high in air,
Sustains! Now Phoibos’ chariot rising bursts
Over the summits with a circling blaze,        45
Gilding those frantic antlers, and the head
Of that so glorious Giant in his youth,
Who, as he turns, the form succinct beholds
Of Artemis,—her bow, with points drawn back,
A golden hue on her white rounded breast        50
Reflecting, while the arrow’s ample barb
Gleams o’er her hand, and at his heart is aim’d.
 
  The Giant lower’d his arm—away the stag
Breast forward plunged into a thicket near;
The Goddess paus’d, and dropp’d her arrow’s point—        55
Rais’d it again—and then again relax’d
Her tension, and while slow the shaft came gliding
Over the centre of the bow, beside
Her hand, and gently droop’d, so did the knee
Of that heroic shape do reverence        60
Before the Goddess. Their clear eyes had ceas’d
To flash, and gaz’d with earnest softening light.
 
DISTRAUGHT FOR MEROPÉ.

        O Meropé!
And where art thou, while idly thus I rave?
Runs there no hope—no fever through thy veins,        65
Like that which leaps and courses round my heart?
Shall I resign thee, passion-perfect maid,
Who in mortality’s most finish’d work
Rank’st highest—and lov’st me, even as I love?
Rather possess thee with a tenfold stress        70
Of love ungovernable, being denied!
’Gainst fraud what should I cast down in reply?
What but a sword, since force must do me right,
And strength was given unto me with my birth,
In mine own hand, and by ascendancy        75
Over my giant brethren. Two remain,
Whom prayers to dark Hephaistos and my sire
Poseidon, shall awaken into life;
And we will tear up gates, and scatter towers,
Until I bear off Meropé. Sing on!        80
Sing on, great tempest! in the darkness sing!
Thy madness is a music that brings calm
Into my central soul; and from its waves
That now with joy begin to heave and gush,
The burning Image of all life’s desire,        85
Like an absorbing fire-breath’d phantom-god,
Rises and floats!—here touching on the foam,
There hovering over it; ascending swift
Starward, then swooping down the hemisphere
Upon the lengthening javelins of the blast.        90
Why paus’d I in the palace-groves to dream
Of bliss, with all its substance in my reach?
Why not at once, with thee enfolded, whirl
Deep down the abyss of ecstasy, to melt
All brain and being where no reason is,        95
Or else the source of reason? But the roar
Of Time’s great wings, which ne’er had driven me
By dread events, nor broken-down old age,
Back on myself, the close experience
Of false mankind, with whispers cold and dry        100
As snake-songs midst stone hollows, thus has taught me,
The giant hunter, laugh’d at by the world,
Not to forget the substance in the dream
Which breeds it. Both must melt and merge in one.
Now shall I overcome thee, body and soul,        105
And like a new-made element brood o’er thee
With all devouring murmurs! Come, my love!
Come, life’s blood-tempest!—come, thou blinding storm,
And clasp the rigid pine—this mortal frame
Wrap with thy whirlwinds, rend and wrestle down,        110
And let my being solve its destiny,
Defying, seeking, thine extremest power;
Famish’d and thirsty for the absorbing doom
Of that immortal death which leads to life,
And gives a glimpse of Heaven’s parental scheme.        115
 
IN FOREST DEPTHS

  Within the isle, far from the walks of men,
Where jocund chase was never heard, nor hoof
Of Satyr broke the moss, nor any bird
Sang, save at times the nightingale—but only
In his prolong’d and swelling tones, nor e’er        120
With wild joy and hoarse laughing melody,
Closing the ecstasy, as is his wont,—
A forest, separate and far withdrawn
From all the rest, there grew. Old as the earth,
Of cedar was it, lofty in its glooms        125
When the sun hung o’erhead, and, in its darkness,
Like Night when giving birth to Time’s first pulse.
Silence had ever dwelt there; but of late
Came faint sounds, with a cadence droning low,
From the far depths, as of a cataract        130
Whose echoes midst incumbent foliage died.
From one high mountain gush’d a flowing stream,
Which through the forest pass’d, and found a fall
Within, none knew where, then roll’d tow’rds the sea.
 
  There, underneath the boughs, mark where the gleam        135
Of sunrise through the roofing’s chasm is thrown
Upon a grassy plot below, whereon
The shadow of a stag stoops to the stream
Swift rolling tow’rds the cataract, and drinks deeply.
Throughout the day unceasingly it drinks,        140
While ever and anon the nightingale,
Not waiting for the evening, swells his hymn—
His one sustain’d and heaven-aspiring tone—
And when the sun hath vanish’d utterly,
Arm over arm the cedars spread their shade,        145
With arching wrist and long extended hands,
And graveward fingers lengthening in the moon,
Above that shadowy stag whose antlers still
Hang o’er the stream. Now came a richton’d voice
Out of the forest depths, and sang this lay,        150
With deep speech intervall’d and tender pause.
 
  “If we have lost the world what gain is ours!
Hast thou not built a palace of more grace
Than marble towers? These trunks are pillars rare,
Whose roof embowers with far more grandeur. Say,        155
Hast thou not found a bliss with Meropé,
As full of rapture as existence new?
’T is thus with me. I know that thou art bless’d.
Our inmost powers, fresh wing’d, shall soar and dream
In realms of Elysian gleam, whose air—light—flowers,        160
Will ever be, though vague, most fair, most sweet,
Better than memory.—Look yonder, love!
What solemn image through the trunks is straying?
And now he doth not move, yet never turns
On us his visage of rapt vacancy!        165
It is Oblivion. In his hand—though nought
Knows he of this—a dusky purple flower
Droops over its tall stem. Again, ah see!
He wanders into mist, and now is lost.
Within his brain what lovely realms of death        170
Are pictur’d, and what knowledge through the doors
Of his forgetfulness of all the earth
A path may gain? Then turn thee, love, to me:
Was I not worth thy winning, and thy toil,
O earth-born son of Ocean? Melt to rain.”        175
 
EOS

Level with the summit of that eastern mount,
By slow approach, and like a promontory
Which seems to glide and meet a coming ship,
The pale-gold platform of the morning came
Towards the gliding mount. Against a sky        180
Of delicate purple, snow-bright courts and halls,
Touch’d with light silvery green, gleaming across,
Fronted by pillars vast, cloud-capitall’d,
With shafts of changeful pearl, all rear’d upon
An isle of clear aerial gold, came floating;        185
And in the centre, clad in fleecy white,
With lucid lilies in her golden hair,
Eos, sweet Goddess of the Morning, stood.
 
  From the bright peak of that surrounded mount,
One step sufficed to gain the tremulous floor        190
Whereon the palace of the Morning shone,
Scarcely a bow-shot distant; but that step,
Orion’s humbled and still mortal feet
Dared not adventure. In the Goddess’ face
Imploringly he gaz’d. “Advance!” she said,        195
In tones more sweet than when some heavenly bird,
Hid in a rosy cloud, its morning hymn
Warbles unseen, wet with delicious dews,
And to earth’s flowers, all looking up in prayer,
Tells of the coming bliss. “Believe—advance!        200
Or, as the spheres move onward with their song
That calls me to awaken other lands,
That moment will escape which ne’er returns.”
Forward Orion stepp’d: the platform bright
Shook like the reflex of a star in water        205
Mov’d by the breeze, throughout its whole expanse;
And even the palace glisten’d fitfully,
As with electric shiver it sent forth
Odors of flowers divine and all fresh life.
Still stood he where he stepp’d, nor to return        210
Attempted. To essay one pace beyond
He felt no power—yet onward he advanced
Safe to the Goddess, who, with hand outstretch’d,
Into the palace led him. Grace and strength,
With sense of happy change to finer earth,        215
Freshness of nature, and belief in good,
Came flowing o’er his soul, and he was bless’d.
 
  ’T is always morning somewhere in the world,
And Eos rises, circling constantly
The varied regions of mankind. No pause        220
Of renovation and of freshening rays
She knows, but evermore her love breathes forth
On field and forest, as on human hope,
Health, beauty, power, thought, action, and advance.
All this Orion witness’d, and rejoiced.        225
 
AKINETOS

  ’T was eve, and Time, his vigorous course pursuing,
Met Akinetos walking by the sea.
At sight of him the Father of the Hours
Paus’d on the sand,—which shrank, grew moist, and trembled
At that unwonted pressure of the God.        230
And thus with look and accent stern, he spake:
 
  “Thou art the mortal who, with hand unmov’d,
Eastest the fruit of others’ toil; whose heart
Is but a vital engine that conveys
Blood, to no purpose, up and down thy frame;        235
Whose forehead is a large stone sepulchre
Of knowledge! and whose life but turns to waste
My measur’d hours, and earth’s material mass!”
.    .    .    .    .    .
 
Whereto the Great Unmov’d no answer made,—
And Time continued, sterner than before:        240
“O not-to-be-approv’d! thou Apathy,
Who gazest downward on that empty shell,—
Is it for thee, who bear’st the common lot
Of man, and art his brother in the fields,
From birth to funeral pyre; is it for thee,        245
Who didst derive from thy long-living sire
More knowledge than endows far better sons,
Thy lamp to burn within, and turn aside
Thy face from all humanity, or behold it
Without emotion, like some sea-shell’d thing        250
Staring around from a green hollow’d rock,
Not aiding, loving, caring—hoping aught—
Forgetting Nature, and by her forgot?”
 
  Whereto, with mildness, Akinetos said,
“Hast thou consider’d of Eternity?”        255
“Profoundly have I done so, in my youth,”
Chronos replied, and bow’d his furrow’d head;
“Most, when my tender feet from Chaos trod
Stumbling,—and, doubtful of my eyes, my hands
The dazzling air explor’d. But, since that date,        260
So many ages have I told; so many,
Fleet after fleet on newly opening seas,
Descry before me, that of late my thoughts
Have rather dwelt on all around my path,
With anxious care. Well were it thus with thee.”        265
 
  Then Akinetos calmly spake once more,
With eyes still bent upon the tide-ribb’d sands:
“And dost thou of To-morrow also think?”
Whereat, as one dismay’d by sudden thought
Of many crowding things that call him thence,        270
Time, with bent brows, went hurrying on his way.
 
  Slow tow’rds his cave the Great Unmov’d repair’d,
And, with his back against the rock, sat down
Outside, half smiling in the pleasant air;
And in the lonely silence of the place        275
He thus, at length, discours’d unto himself:
 
  “Orion, ever active and at work,
Honest and skilful, not to be surpass’d,
Drew misery on himself and those he lov’d;
Wrought his companions’ death,—and now hath found,        280
At Artemis’ hand, his own. So fares it ever
With the world’s builder. He, from wall to beam,
From pillar to roof, from shade to corporal form,
From the first vague Thought to the Temple vast,
A ceaseless contest with the crowd endures,        285
For whom he labors. Why then should we move?
Our wisdom cannot change whate’er’s decreed,
Nor e’en the acts or thoughts of brainless men:
Why then be mov’d? Best reason is most vain.
He who will do and suffer, must—and end.        290
Hence, death is not an evil, since it leads
To somewhat permanent, beyond the noise
Man maketh on the tabor of his will,
Until the small round burst, and pale he falls.
His ear is stuff’d with the grave’s earth, yet feels        295
The inaudible whispers of Eternity,
While Time runs shouting to Oblivion
In the upper fields! I would not swell that cry.”
 
  Thus Akinetos sat from day to day,
Absorb’d in indolent sublimity,        300
Reviewing thoughts and knowledge o’er and o’er;
And now he spake, now sang unto himself,
Now sank to brooding silence. From above,
While passing, Time the rock touch’d!—and it ooz’d
Petrific drops—gently at first—and slow.        305
Reclining lonely in his fix’d repose,
The Great Unmov’d unconsciously became
Attach’d to that he press’d,—and gradually—
While his thoughts drifted to no shore—a part
O’ the rock. There clung the dead excrescence, till        310
Strong hands, descended from Orion, made
Large roads, built markets, granaries, and steep walls,—
Squaring down rocks for use, and common good.
 

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