Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
Sapphic Ode LIX: “Night fell: Selene proud and pale”
By Michael Field (Katherine Harris Bradley) (1846–1914)
 
(From Long Ago, 1889)

NIGHT fell: Selene proud and pale
Rose and put on her archèd veil,
And lifting to her brow the crescent small,
The firm, young curve she deigns to wear,
Went forth into the silent air,        5
And noiseless brought her white team from the stall.
 
Cold was her figure, and her breast
Secure and hard; her eyes confessed
No yearning; she was whole from love, and strong
With undivided mind. Thus she        10
In her complete virginity
Austerely brilliant urged her steeds along;
 
Until she came where Latmos sent
Its rocks into her path; she bent
To see how she should guide the wheels aright,        15
When, just where gentler darkness made
A cave apparent by its shade,
The loveliest mortal form grew on her sight.
 
She dropt the reins, the horses reared
In tumult as the hand that steered        20
That course grew impotent—a moment’s change!
As her intact and tranquil life
Was devastated by a strife
She could not master, tyrannous and strange.
 
Fear fell upon her, and the wild        25
Revolt of chastity beguiled,
Of pureness grown a passion against fate;
Yet an inevitable joy,
As her slant chariot toward the boy
Rolled down, o’ercame her fierce recoil and hate.        30
 
He had flung by his shepherd’s dress,
And in the grace of weariness
Lay simple, calm, and happy, unaware
The flashing beauty of his form
Was filling the soft clouds with storm,        35
And tempting Thia’s stately child to bare
 
Her face and worship. Oh, she drooped
Her long wings round her, as she stooped
Close to his cheek, his eyes, his very breath!
But ere, in that profound eclipse,        40
She brake the fountain of her lips
O’er her beloved, in swoon as deep as death
 
She laid him; then securely spent
Her virgin frenzy innocent,
Then took her maiden pleasure unespied;        45
And, sealing the dark cavern where
He lay asleep, resumed her care,
With steady hand her steeds through heaven to guide.
 
But nightly form Meander’s stream
Southward she turns her snowy team        50
Behind the further slope of Latmos’ height,
Pierces unseen a mountain-rift,
Then climbs the air, effulgent, swift,
And fills the lovely river-bed with light.
 
 
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