Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Asia Minor: Cyprus, the Island
Clytè
Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
 
ON the sea-shore at Cyprus stood
  A little sheltered rustic altar
Where those whom Venus loved could come
  And pious prayers and praises falter.
’T was humble, yet the Golden Age,        5
  Ere tyrants were, had kept it guarded,
And centuries long that little fane
  A sheltering plane had greenly warded.
 
Up to its marble steps the waves
  Came creeping, courtier-like, in whispers;        10
The zephyrs spoke among the boughs,
  Like lovers, or like infant lispers;
Dark violets purpled all the turf
  Beneath that plane-tree’s soft green shadow,
Nowhere the amaranth grew so fair        15
  As just within that sea-side meadow.
 
Phædon, a sculptor, Lemnian born,
  Had toiled for years to deck that altar
With his best art; no lust for gold
  Or bad men’s scorn could make him falter;        20
So he had carved his dead love’s face
  As Clytè—praying still in anguish
That for one hour she might return
  From those dark shades where sad souls languish.
 
“’T is done!” one eve the sculptor cried,        25
  And knelt in prayer to Aphroditè.
His dream stood petrified at last,
  That marble nymph,—his gentle Clytè.
The goddess heard him as he knelt,
  And, smiled from rosy clouds, consenting.        30
The maid was ferried back to earth,
  Pluto for one short hour relenting.
 
That swelling breast—the lover’s pillow—
  Was now of Parian crystal whiteness;
Those Juno arms, that Jove might fold,        35
  Were of a smooth and radiant lightness;
Her hair in rippling wave on wave
  Crowned a fair head so sweetly mournful;
The eyes were full of tender grief,
  The full-lipped mouth was witching scornful.        40
 
The room was dark where Phædon knelt,
  But as he prayed the moonbeams entered,
And, like a crown of glory pure,
  Upon the brow of Clytè centred;
Then down her face they gently stole,        45
  With silver all her raiment sheathing.
His prayer was answered; Phædon cried,
  “She lives! she lives! I hear her breathing!”
 
Like one who, rising from a trance,
  Reluctant wakes, and half in sorrow,        50
Clytè stepped from that pedestal,—
  Death had been vanquished till the morrow.
She kissed her lover’s burning brow,
  Her soft white arms around him lacing;
Venus had sent her from the dead        55
  To soothe him with her sweet embracing.
*        *        *        *        *
But when day dawned and he awoke,
  That rainbow-dream had passed forever:
The nymph had turned to stone again,
  To wake to life and beauty—never.        60
With a deep sigh he kissed the lips
  Of that sweet nymph, once more reposing:
Then seized his shaping steel and clay,
  To toil till life’s long day was closing.
 
He wept not, but, in patience strong,        65
  Thought of the blissful reuniting,
As soldiers do of rest and sleep
  After a long day’s toilsome fighting;
And in his art content he toiled
  To deck that fane of Aphroditè,        70
And by him, as he labored, stood
  His statue of the gentle Clytè.
 
 
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