Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, VARIATIONS: 10, by CONRAD AIKEN



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VARIATIONS: 10, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Queen cleopatra, now grown old
Last Line: And the laugh that will not die.
Subject(s): Cleopatra, Queen Of Egypt (69-30 B.c.)


Queen Cleopatra, now grown old,
Watched the green grass turning brown . . .
The river is shrunk to half its size:
Now I will lay me down.

Queen Cleopatra called her slaves
And peered in the mirror with age-pearled eyes.
My lips are not so red as they were:
Not so the old leaf dies!

Light the torches, and fill the courts
With scarlet music, and bring to me
Vermilion to smear upon my lips,
And opals, that I may be

Once more what Cleopatra was
Before the woman became the queen . . .
She laughed, and backward tossed her head;
And horn, and tambourine,

Snarled at the hot and red-starred night,
While gasping dancers, one by one,
Whirled on the stone with yellow feet . . .
And when that dance was done

She poured cold poison into a cup
And watched the thick foam wink and seethe;
One black bubble upon her tongue
And she would cease to breathe.

She held the poison before her mouth . . .
And saw the dark tomb hewed in stone
Where a thousand nights would drift as one,
And she would sleep alone;

And lightly touched the goblet's rim,
And thought, with a pleased and narrowed eye,
Of this, and that, and Antony,
And the laugh that will not die.





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