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Leaves from Australian Forests (1869). Merope
Far in the ways of the hyaline wastes—in the face of the splendid Six of the sisters—the star-dowered sisters ineffably bright, Merope sitteth, the shadow-like wife of a monarch unfriended Of Ades—of Orcus, the fierce, the implacable god of the night. Merope—fugitive Merope! lost to thyself and thy lover, Cast, like a dream, out of thought, with the moons which have passed into sleep, What shall avail thee? Alcyone's tears, or the sight to discover Of Sisyphus pallid for thee by the blue, bitter lights of the deep— Pallid, but patient for sorrow? Oh, thou of the fire and the water, Half with the flame of the sunset, and kin to the streams of the sea, Hast thou the songs of old times for desire of thy dark-featured daughter, Sweet with the lips of thy yearning, O Aethra! with tokens of thee— Songs that would lull her, like kisses forgotten of silence where speech was Less than the silence that bound it as passion is bound by a ban; Seeing we know of thee, Mother, we turning and hearing how each was Wrapt in the other ere Merope faltered and fell for a man? Mortal she clave to, forgetting her birthright, forgetting the lordlike Sons of the many-winged Father, and chiefs of the plume and the star, Therefore, because that her sin was the grief of the grand and the godlike, Sitteth thy child than a morning-moon bleaker, the faded, and far. Ringed with the flower-like Six of the Seven, arrayed and anointed Ever with beautiful pity, she watches, she weeps, and she wanes, Blind as a flame on the hills of the Winter in hours appointed For the life of the foam and the thunder— the strength of the imminent rains. Who hath a portion, Alcyone, like her? Asterope, fairer Than sunset on snow, and beloved of all brightness, say what is there left Sadder and paler than Pleione's daughter, disconsolate bearer Of trouble that smites like a sword of the gods to the break of the heft? Demeter, and Dryope, known to the forests, the falls, and the fountains, Yearly, because of their walking and wailing and wringing of hands, Are they as one with this woman?—of Hyrie, wild in the mountains, Breaking her heart in the frosts and the fires of the uttermost lands? These have their bitterness. This, for Persephone, that for Oechalian Homes, and the lights of a kindness blown out with the stress of her shame: One for her child, and one for her sin; but thou above all art an alien, Girt with the halos that vex thee, and wrapt in a grief beyond name. Yet sayeth Sisyphus—Sisyphus, stricken and chained of the minioned Kings of great darkness, and trodden in dust by the feet of the Fates— "Sweet are the ways of thy watching, and pallid and perished and pinioned, Moon amongst maidens, I leap for thy love like a god at the gates— Leap for the dreams of a rose of the heavens, and beat at the portals Paved with the pain of unsatisfied pleadings for thee and for thine! But Zeus is immutable Master, and these are the walls the immortals Build for our sighing, and who may set lips at the lords and repine? Therefore," he saith, "I am sick for thee, Merope, faint for the tender Touch of thy mouth, and the eyes like the lights of an altar to me; But, lo, thou art far; and thy face is a still and a sorrowful splendour! And the storm is abroad with the rain on the perilous straits of the sea."
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