Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CLEOPATRA, by WILLIAM WETMORE STORY



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CLEOPATRA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Here, charmian, take my bracelets
Last Line: And love as you loved me then!
Subject(s): Cleopatra, Queen Of Egypt (69-30 B.c.); Love


HERE Charmian, take my bracelets:
They bar with a purple stain
My arms; turn over my pillows --
They are hot where I have lain:
Open the lattice wider,
A gauze o'er my bosom throw,
And let me inhale the odors
That over the garden blow.
I dreamed I was with my Antony,
And in his arms I lay;
Ah, me! the vision has vanished --
The music has died away.
The flame and the perfume have perished --
As this spiced aromatic pastille
That wound the blue smoke of its odor
Is now but an ashy hill.
Scatter upon me rose leaves,
They cool me after my sleep,
And with sandal odors fan me
Till into my veins they creep;
Reach down the lute, and play me
A melancholy tune,
To rhyme with the dream that has vanished
And the slumbering afternoon.
There, drowsing in golden sunlight,
Loiters the slow smooth Nile,
Through slender papyri, that cover
The wary crocodile.
The lotus lolls on the water,
And opens its heart of gold,
And over its broad leaf pavement
Never a ripple is rolled.
The twilight breeze is too lazy
Those feathery palms to wave,
And yon little cloud is motionless
As a stone above a grave.
Ah, me! this lifeless nature
Oppresses my heart and brain!
Oh! for a storm and thunder --
For lightning and wild fierce rain!
Fling down that lute -- I hate it!
Take rather his buckler and sword,
And crash them and slash them together
Till this sleeping world is stirred.
Hark! to my Indian beauty --
My cockatoo, creamy white,
With roses under his feathers --
That flashes across the light.
Look! listen! as backward and forward
To his hoop of gold he clings,
How he trembles, with crest uplifted,
And shrieks as he madly swings!
Oh, cockatoo, shriek for Antony!
Cry, "Come, my love, come home!"
Shriek, "Antony! Antony! Antony!"
Till he hears you even in Rome.
There -- leave me, and take from my chamber
That stupid little gazelle,
With its bright black eyes so meaningless,
And its silly tinkling bell!
Take him, -- my nerves he vexes --
The thing without blood or brain,
Or, by the body of Isis,
I'll snap his thin neck in twain!
Leave me to gaze at the landscape
Mistily stretching away,
Where the afternoon's opaline tremors
O'er the mountains quivering play;
Till the fiercer splendor of sunset
Pours from the west its fire,
And melted, as in a crucible,
Their earthly forms expire;
And the bald blear skull of the desert
With glowing mountains is crowned,
That burning like molten jewels
Circle its temples round.
I will lie and dream of the past time,
Eons of thought away,
And through the jungle of memory
Loosen my fancy to play;
When, a smooth and velvety tiger,
Ribbed with yellow and black,
Supple and cushion-footed
I wandered, where never the track
Of a human creature had rustled
The silence of mighty woods,
And, fierce in a tyrannous freedom,
I knew but the law of my moods.
The elephant, trumpeting, started,
When he heard my footstep near,
And the spotted giraffes fled wildly
In a yellow cloud of fear.
I sucked in the noontide splendor,
Quivering along the glade,
Or yawning, panting, and dreaming,
Basked in the tamarisk shade,
Till I heard my wild mate roaring,
As the shadows of night came on
To brood in the trees; thick branches,
And the shadow of sleep was gone;
Then I roused, and roared in answer,
And unsheathed from my cushioned feet
My curving claws, and stretched me,
And wandered my mate to greet.
We toyed in the amber moonlight,
Upon the warm flat sand,
And struck at each other our massive arms --
How powerful he was and grand!
His yellow eyes flashed fiercely
As he crouched and gazed at me,
And his quivering tail, like a serpent,
Twitched curving nervously.
Then like a storm he seized me,
With a wild triumphant cry,
And we met, as two clouds in heaven
When the thunder before them fly.
We grappled and struggled together,
For his love like his rage was rude;
And his teeth in the swelling folds of my neck
At times, in our play, drew blood.
Often another suitor --
For I was flexile and fair --
Fought for me in the moonlight,
While I lay couching there,
Till his blood was drained by the desert;
And, ruffled with triumph and power,
He licked me and lay beside me
To breathe him a vast half-hour.
Then down to the fountain we loitered,
Where the antelopes came to drink;
Like a bolt we sprang upon them,
Ere they had time to shrink.
We drank their blood and crushed them,
And tore them limb from limb,
And the hungriest lion doubted
Ere he disputed with him.
That was a life to live for!
Not this weak human life,
With its frivolous bloodless passions,
Its poor and petty strife!
Come to my arms, my hero!
The shadows of twilight grow,
And the tiger's ancient fierceness
In my veins begins to flow.
Come not cringing to sue me!
Take me with triumph and power,
As a warrior storms a fortress!
I will not shrink or cower.
Come, as you came in the desert,
Ere we were women and men,
When the tiger passions were in us,
And love as you loved me then!




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