Harriet Monroe, ed. (18601936). Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 191222.
By H. D.
As from a temple service, tall and dignified, with slow pace, each a queen, the sixteen matrons from the temple of Hera pass before the curtaina dark purple hung between Ionic columnsof the porch or open hall of a palace. Their hair is bound as the marble hair of the temple Hera. Each wears a crown or diadem of gold. They singthe music is temple music, deep, simple, chanting notes:
The music, with its deep chanting notes, dies away. The curtain hangs motionless in rich, full folds. Then from this background of darkness, dignity and solemn repose, a flute gradually detaches itself, becomes clearer and clearer, pipes alone one shrill, simple little melody. From the distance, four childrens voices blend with the flute, and four very little girls pass singly before the curtain, small maids or attendants of the sixteen matrons. Their hair is short and curls at the back of their heads like the hair of the chryselephantine Hermes. They sing:
When the little girls have passed before the curtain, a wood-wind weaves a richer note into the flute melody; then the two blend into one song. But as the wood-wind grows in mellowness and richness, the flute gradually dies away into a secondary theme and the wood-wind alone evolves the melody of a new song. Two by twolike two sets of medallions with twin profiles distinct, one head slightly higher, bent forward a littlethe four figures of four slight, rather fragile taller children, are outlined with sharp white contour against the curtain. The hair is smooth against the heads, falling to the shoulders but slightly waved against the nape of the neck. They are looking down, each at a spray of winter-rose. The tunics fall to the knees in sharp marble folds. They sing:
As the wistful notes of the wood-wind gradually die away, there comes a sudden, shrill, swift piping. Free and wild, like the wood-maidens of Artemis, is this last group of fourvery straight with heads tossed back. They sing in rich, free, swift notes. They move swiftly before the curtain in contrast to the slow, important pace of the first two groups. Their hair is loose and rayed out like that of the sun-god. They are boyish in shape and gesture. They carry hyacinths in baskets, strapped like quivers to their backs. They reach to draw the flower sprays from the baskets, as the Huntress her arrows. As they dart swiftly to and fro before the curtain, they are youth, they are springthey are the Chelidonia, their song is the swallow-song of joy:
There is a pause. Flute, pipe and wood-wind blend in a full, rich movement. There is no definite melody but full, powerful rhythm like soft but steady wind above forest trees. Into this, like rain, gradually creeps the note of strings. As the strings grow stronger and finally dominate the whole, the bride-chorus passes before the curtain. There may be any number in this chorus. The figurestall young women, clothed in long white tunicsfollow one another closely, yet are all distinct like a procession of a temple frieze. The bride in the center is not at first distinguishable from her maidens; but as they begin their song, the maidens draw apart into two groups, leaving the veiled symbolic figure standing alone in the center. The two groups range themselves to right and left like officiating priestesses. The veiled figure stands with her back against the curtain, the others being in profile. Her head is swathed in folds of diaphanous white, through which the features are visible, like the veiled Tanagra. When the song is finished, the group to the brides left turns about; also the bride, so that all face in one direction. In processional form they pass out, the figure of the bride again merging, not distinguishable from the maidens.
The rather hard, hieratic precision of the musicits stately pause and beatis broken now into irregular lilt and rhythm of strings. Four tall young women, very young matrons, enter in a group. They stand clear and fair, but this little group entirely lacks the austere precision of the procession of maidens just preceding them. They pause in the center of the stage; turn, one three-quarter, two in profile and the fourth full face; they stand, turned as if confiding in each other like a Tanagra group. They sing lightly, their flower trays under their arms.
The harp chords become again more regular in simple definite rhythm. The music is not so intense as the bride-chorus; and quieter, more sedate, than the notes preceding the entrance of the last group. Five or six slightly older serene young women enter in processional form; each holding before her, with precise bending of arms, coverlets and linen, carefully folded, as if for the bride couch. The garments are purple, scarlet and deep blue, with edge of gold. They sing to simple blending of wood-wind and harp.
The wood-winds become more rich and resonant. A tall youth crosses the stage as if seeking the bride door. The music becomes very rich, full of color. The figure itself is a flame, an exaggerated symbol; the hair a flame; the wings, deep red or purple, stand out against the curtains in a contrasting or almost clashing shade of purple. The tunic falls almost to the knees, again a rich purple or crimson. The knees are bare; the sandals elaborately strapped over and over. The curtain seems a rich purple cloud, the figure, still brighter, like a flamboyant bird, half emerged in the sunset. Love pauses just outside the brides door with his gift, a tuft of black-purple cyclamen. He sings to the accompaniment of wood-winds, in a rich, resonant voice:
Love passes out with a crash of cymbals. There is a momentary pause and the music falls into its calm, wave-like rhythm. A band of boys passes before the curtain. They pass from side to side, crossing and re-crossing; but their figures never confuse one another, the outlines are never blurred. They stand out against the curtain with symbolic gesture, stooping as if to gather up the wreaths, or swaying with long stiff branch as if to sweep the fallen petals from the floor. There is no marked melody from the instruments, but the boys voices, humming lightly as they enter, gradually evolve a little dance song. There are no words but the lilt up and down of the boys tenor voices. Then, as if they had finished the task of gathering up the wreaths and sweeping the petals, they stand in groups of two before the pillars where the torches have been placed. They lift the torches from the brackets. They hold them aloft between them, one torch to each two boys. Their figures are cut against the curtain like the simple, triangular design on the base of a vase or friezethe boys heads on a level, the torches above them. They sing in clear half-subdued voices.
At the end of the song, the torches flicker out and the figures are no longer distinguishable in the darkness. They pass out like shadows. The purple curtain hangs black and heavy. The music dies away and is finally cut short with a few deep, muted chords.