Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ARGONAUTS (ARGONATUICA): REMORSE, by APOLLONIUS RHODIUS

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First Line: Night mantled earth in gloom, while mariners
Last Line: Lit her, and men in town were moving.
Alternate Author Name(s): Apollonius Of Rhodes

NIGHT mantled earth in gloom, while mariners
Orion and the Bear watched on the deep
Sailing, and now the wish of wayfarers
And keepers of the gate was all for sleep;
Now mothers lay in trance, though sons were dead,
And through the city not a dog would bark,
No chattering rose: the night was hushed and dark.
Nor yet Medea slept,
Watching for love of Jason, dreading still
The field of Ares, set for grim mischancing
When the great bulls should kill.
Rapid the heart within her bosom leapt,
As troubled as reflected sunbeam glancing
Indoors off water pouring into vat
Or pail, -- this way and that
With twist and turn and glitter
Flutters the shining dart:
So in her breast quivered the troubled heart.
Her pitiful eyes ran tears, the grief within
Hurting her, smouldering in the flesh the thin
Sinews, and deep through the neck's nape inuring,
Where sorrow is most bitter
When love visits the heart with pain enduring.
Now she would give her charm, the bulls allaying,
Now would not give, and now herself was slaying,
Now would not die herself, nor the charm give,
But wait in patience, bear her doom alive.
Doubting she sat, and cried:
'Alas, where stand I in the path of sorrows?
My mood avails me not, and no relief
Comes in my woe, but always burning grief.
Would Artemis had pierced me with sharp arrows
Before my eyes might see!
Before the two sons of Chalciope
Came to Achaean country, heaven-sent
Or by a fury sent, our hurt and harm!
If death in the ploughland waits him, let him die
There striving! How shall I
Deceive my parents as I mix the charm?
What plea, what scheme will serve for my defending?
What cunning trick? And shall I in some place
Hold him, when none is there for company?
Not that I think his death will be the ending
Of these my woes -- ill-fated, I must face
Calamity, the day his life is severed.
But honour let me lose!
Lose royalty! By impulse mine delivered
Let him go scatheless, whither he may choose!
Yet I, the day that he achieves the labour,
Would kill myself, neck hanging from a rafter,
Or mingle drugs that make an end of living.
Dead also they will mock me ever after, --
Cities far off will ring with me, reviling
My evil fate, and each one to her neighbour
Women of Colchis then shall talk me over
Despitefully, "she who loved a foreign lover
So much and died, her parents' house defiling,
Whom passion overcame" . . .
Mine shall be every shame, woe for my plight!
Were it not better done this very night
To die by some dark death, and to be freed
Here in this house from all their taunted shame,
Before I do the hateful nameless deed?'

She stopped, and to the casket moved away,
Where many potions good and deadly lay.
She took it on her knees and wept; her gown
Was wet with her tears falling
In torrents: she her doom bewailed, in haste
To choose out venomous potions and to taste.
Now she began to slip the fastenings down,
Unhappy maiden, eager to take out;
But a fierce terror came of Death appalling,
Moved sudden in her heart.
Long time she waited in a dumb misgiving,
Thronged by the little cares that make life gay,
Dreaming of all the joys among the living,
Of happy playmates, -- as a maiden may.
And now the sun, the truer that she weighed
Her thoughts, appeared more lovely than before;
Then from her knees the casket down she laid,
By will of Hera changed; nor ever more
Doubted, but wished the dayspring to be swift,
That she might give the charm, her promised gift,
And look upon his eyes.
Often she drew the door bolts back in grooving,
Looking for light; then welcome the sunrise
Lit her, and men in town were moving.

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