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James Russell Lowell (Джеймс Расселл Лоуэлл)


Rhoecus


A YOUTH named Rhoecus, wandering in the wood,
Saw an old oak, just trembling to its fall,
And, feeling pity of so fair a tree,
He propped its gray trunk with admiring care,
And with a thoughtless footstep loitered on.
But, as he turned, he heard a voice behind
That murmured, "Rhoecus!" 'T was as if the leaves,
Stirred by a passing breath, had murmured it,
And, while he paused bewildered, yet again
It murmured "Rhoecus!" softer than a breeze.

He started and beheld with dizzy eyes
What seemed the substance of a happy dream
Stand there before him, spreading a warm glow
Within the green glooms of the shadowy oak.
It seemed a woman's shape, yet all too fair
To be a woman, and with eyes too meek
For any that were wont to mate with gods.
All naked like a goddess stood she there,
And like a goddess all too beautiful
To feel the earth-born guiltiness of shame.
"Rhoecus, I am the Dryad of this tree,"
Thus she began, dropping her low-toned words
Serene, and full, and clear, as drops of dew,
"And with it I am doomed to live and die;
The rain and sunshine are my caterers,
Nor have I other bliss than simple life;
Now ask me what thou wilt, that I can give,
And with a thankful joy it shall be thine."

Then Rhoecus, with a flutter at the heart,
Yet, by the prompting of such beauty, bold,
Answered: "What is there that can satisfy
The endless craving of the soul but love?
Give me thy love, or but the hope of that
Which must be evermore my spirit's goal."
After a little pause she said again,
But with a glimpse of sadness in her tone,
"I give it, Rhoecus, though a perilous gift;
An hour before the sunset meet me here."
And straightway there was nothing he could see
But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak,
And not a sound came to his straining ears
But the low trickling rustle of the leaves,
And far away upon an emerald slope
The falter of an idle shepherd's pipe.

   .   .   .   .   .

Young Rhoecus had a faithful heart enough,
But one that in the present dwelt too much,
And, taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er
Chance gave of joy, was wholly bound in that,
Like the contented peasant of a vale,
Deemed it the world, and never looked beyond.
So, haply meeting in the afternoon
Some comrades who were playing at dice,
He joined them, and forgot all else beside.

The dice were rattling at the merriest,
And Rhoecus, who had met but sorry luck,
Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw,
When through the room hummed a yellow bee
That buzzed around his ear with down-dropped legs
As if to light. And Rhoecus laughed and said,
Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss,
"By Venus! does he take me for a rose?"
And brushed him off with rough,, impatient hand.
But still the bee came back, and thrice again
Rhoecus did beat him off with growing wrath.

Then through the window flew the wounded bee,
And Rhoecus, tracking him with angry eyes
Saw a sharp mountain-peak of Thessaly
Against the red disk of the setting sun,--
And instantly the blood sank from his heart,
As if its very walls had caved away.
Without a word he turnd, and, rushing forth,
Ran madly through the city and the gate,
And o'er the plain, which was now the wood's long shade,
By the low sun thrown forward broad and dim,
Darkened wellnigh unto the city's wall.

Quite spent and out of breath he reached the tree,
And, listening fearfully, he heard once more
The low voice murmur, "Rhoecus!" close at hand:
Whereat he looked around him, but could see
Naught but the deepening glooms beneath the oak.
Then sighed the voice, "O Rhoecus! nevermore
Shalt thou behold me or by day or night,
Me, who would fain have blessed thee with a love
More ripe and bounteous than ever yet
Filled up with nectar any mortal heart;
But thou didst scorn my humble messenger,
And sent'st him back to me with bruiséd wings.
We spirits only show to gentle eyes,
We ever ask an undivided love.
And he who scorns the least of Nature's works
Is thencefoth shut out and exiled from all.
Farewell! for thou canst never see me more." 



James Russell Lowell's other poems:
  1. She Came and Went
  2. СватовствоThe Courtin'
  3. Наружи и внутриWithout and Within


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