Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WEDDING, by CONRAD AIKEN



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THE WEDDING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: At noon, tithonus, withered by his singing
Last Line: Woke from the nap, forgetting him; and ate him.
Subject(s): Insects; Love - Nature Of; Mythology - Classical; Spiders; Bugs


At noon, Tithonus, withered by his singing,
Climbing the oatstalk with his hairy legs,
Met grey Arachne, poisoned and shrunk down
By her own beauty; pride had shrivelled both.
In the white web -- where seven flies hung wrapped --
She heard his footstep; hurried to him; bound him;
Enshrouded him in silk; then poisoned him.
Twice shrieked Tithonus, feebly; then was still.
Arachne loved him. Did he love Arachne?
She watched him with red eyes, venomous sparks,
And the furred claws outspread . . . ."O sweet Tithonus!
Darling! Be kind, and sing that song again!
Shake the bright web again with that deep fiddling!
Are you much poisoned? sleeping? do you dream?
Darling Tithonus!"
And Tithonus, weakly
Moving one hairy shin against the other
Within his silken sack, contrived to fiddle
A little tune, half-hearted: "Shrewd Arachne!
Whom pride in beauty withered to this shape
As pride in singing shrivelled me to mine --
Unwrap me, let me go -- and let me limp,
With what poor strength your venom leaves me, down
This oatstalk, and away."
Arachne, angry,
Stung him again, twirling him with rough paws,
The red eyes keen. "What! You would dare to leave me?
Unkind Tithonus! Sooner I'll kill and eat you
Than let you go. But sing that tune again --
So plaintive was it!"
And Tithonus faintly
Moved the poor fiddles, which were growing cold,
And sang: "Arachne, goddess envied of gods,
Beauty's eclipse eclipsed by angry beauty,
Have pity, do not ask the withered heart
To sing too long for you! My strength goes out,
Too late we meet for love. Oh, be content
With friendship, which the noon sun once may kindle
To give one flash of passion like a dewdrop,
Before it goes . . . Be reasonable, -- Arachne!"

Arachne heard the song grow weaker, dwindle
To first a rustle, and then half a rustle,
And last a tick, so small no ear could hear it
Save hers, a spider's ear. And her small heart
(Rusted away, like his, to a pinch of dust)
Gleamed once, like his, and died. She clasped him tightly
And sunk her fangs in him. Tithonus dead,
She slept awhile, her last sensation gone;
Woke from the nap, forgetting him; and ate him.




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