Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WINNING OF POMONA, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE WINNING OF POMONA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Over the island of enchantment came
Last Line: And I am not afraid!
Subject(s): Pomona (Goddess)


I.

Over the island of enchantment came
A summer breeze that morning breathing myrtle
And musk, and noonday steeped the hills in sun.
The hillside orchards glowed. Most glowed that one
The warm, delicious wood-nymph made to flame
With lustrous fruits, where every plot was fertile.

A stirring in the pleasant wood was heard.
The bees about Sylvanus teased. His robe,
An undressed doe's-pelt, lay about his knees.
Low overhead a yellow-breasted bird
Pecked grapes, split, spilt each bursting purple globe,
And chirruped to the foliage-rustling trees.

It was a day of golden distances,
Of floating echoes, of vague sweet alarms.
The wanderer felt a hush of startled laughter,
Passing some covert; and the hint ran after,
Twitching his heart, that in pooled silences
Flushed dryads bathed, and dried, and sunned their charms.

The sea lay dreaming round that pleasant isle,
Holding it to her bosom's rise and fall,
Her treasure-coffer for all heaven to bless;
As some enchanted lady, fixed of smile,
Blue slopes of mountains for her couch's pall,
Fingers a casket of mysteriousness.

Vineyards and orchards, all imperial-stained,
Spread over open hillsides; greenwood clomb
Most darkly green about them and above.
From tawny sands, rock-prisoned, surfy-maned,
Lifted the land's low contours 'gainst a dome
Of royal blue, bound in the arms of love.

Midway the central mount, hung, marble-walled,
Pomona's intimate close; her fruits and grains
Such as nor Greece, Phoenicia, Araby
Nor Palestine might boast. Thrice-fortunate she!
A virgin, as by Artemis enthralled
To minister pale flames in paler fanes.

Slant eyes had peered, slit ears pricked o'er the cope
That guarded her, shagged goat-thighs clung and climbed
The boles without, to spy upon her there
Binding weak shoots, trending each sapling's slope,
Pruning (that infant satyrs pantomimed),
Musing, most busied, lilting unaware.

For many had wooed her.
Love for her loveliness
Drew them bliss-tortured
Here to her orchard.
Woodlands pursued her.
Leafage and grasses
Fluttered, "She passes!"
Pan and all Cyprus
Knelt when they viewed her.

For her lips' blossom,
Ease of her bosom,
Clasp of her bloom,
Fauns wandered madly,
Satyrs piped sadly.
Laughing and lissom
Wandered she gladly;
Sunshine and burgeoning,
Subtle perfume!

Oh, her dear laughter,
Tender -- imperious!
Oh, her sweet, serious
Moods flowing after!
Little unnoted
Curls of her tresses
Drew their devoted
Hearts to their lips.
Oh, her kind, careful
Duties despairful!
The birds jewel-throated
She sang to eclipse!

Ripe-graped, red-appled,
Yellowly dappled
Of spilth from the sun
Lay the green clover
Her blithe feet passed over.
Here in the orchard,
Dryadly nurtured,
Fleet would she run;
Tenderly bend her,
Lightly ascend her
For ripenings begun.
Oh, how those peering
Pined for her nearing!
Loving nor fearing,
Still knew she none.

II.

Noon-day swooned to afternoon.
Open vested,
Rosy breasted,
Still Pomona toiled to prune,
Dress and tend her vines and trees.

Stealthy stepped the shadows overt.
Dear desire
Quick with fire
Pierced Vertumnus in the covert,
Fanned him like a desert breeze.

Oft with hay-band, goad, or ladder,
Role-assuming, --
To that blooming
Close, that bloomed no lovelier, gladder
Fruit or flower than was she, --

Passed as husbander or reaper,
Had he entered,
Passion centered
Not on trellis, weed, or creeper,
But his heart's divinity!

Summer saddened. Life shrunk withered.
Sung nor bloomed the silence round him.
Would she stoop if thus she found him?
Lift him to her love clear-ethered?

Strong and young and piteous-proudly
Rose he for a last disguising,
One last cast for love's surprising!
Yet despair knelled long and loudly.

Afternoon was dusking there.
Orioles
From sprays and boles
Lyricked to the blushing air.
Red and orange burned the boughs

Laden with their clustered fruit.
Flushed and spent,
In drowsed content
Heard Pomona that low suit
Of the crone before her house!

Oped she to the hobbling one.
Tapping staff
And croaking laugh
Entered. And the deed was done!
Ancient and gray-haired disguise

Bent Vertumnus' youth and grace.
"List, my dear,
A tale to hear!"
Yet he dares not raise his face!
Yet he dares not meet her eyes!

"You, they say, have scorned to favor
Many a wistful woodland lover!"
Thrushes trilled their last above her.
Now must Artemis stoop to save her!

"One before them all is truest.
He is trueness' self however!
Nay, I fable my endeavor!
Dream awhile, oh eyes the bluest!"

III.

"It is a tale of Teucer's time.
There lived a lovely lady then
Who grew unto her lovely prime
Not unbesought of noble men.

"Iphis, a humble reaper, fell
Before her civil looks and sweet.
His heart went lashed 'twixt Heaven and Hell.
Thus Iphis loved Anaxarete!

"She, like the steel of pruning-hooks,
Was pure and bright, was keen and cold,
And went untroubled by the looks
That many gave her, shamed or bold.

"He sued her nurse. He hung with fears
Door-garlands at her portal barred.
He wrote on tablets bright with tears
His pleas for her supreme regard.

"She mocked him from her turret stark.
She laughed with laughter cold and sweet,
With eyebrows lifted in remark,
The cruel-chaste Anaxarete!

"She called her maids to mock with her.
She haughtied by him in the street.
Her heart, nor fire nor flood might stir.
Had you a heart, Anaxarete?

"To the gate-post with garlands graced
He noosed a rope, his head within:
'Here lives the chastest of the chaste.
To love her she mistook for sin!'

" 'Here then you conquer!' forth he flung.
'But I had crawled to kiss your feet!
Here is the final garland hung.
Have joy of it, Anaxarete!'

"Down mournful streets the funeral passed,
The bier borne on by shuffling men.
Unsmiling, from her tower, at last
She looked -- and flinched -- and looked again.

"The dead face had a bitter smile.
Her maidens held her from the street.
She looked -- and flinched -- and looked the while.
Look well again, Anaxarete!

"Her heart within her turned to ice.
(Only a little change was meet!)
Her blood was frozen in a trice.
She stood of stone -- Anaxarete!

"Still in the porch at Salamis
All men may see her calm endure,
As fair as one I wot of is,
A marble statue, chill and pure.

"Passion is base and Love's a fool
Who pipes to fancies fond as fleet.
It is most stately to be cool.
And cool you are, Anaxarete!

"But oh, with dawning to leap up,
To share the sunset beat for beat,
To drain gray twilight's crystal cup!
Too cool you are, Anaxarete!

"Comrade to them is only Love,
A film of sense, a golden heat!
Are these things now discerned of
Your perfect calm, Anaxarete?"

His voice died like a silver river dying
In drifted sands. Her heart had wisdom then.
Pomona chilled, and warmed, and chilled, replying
To this one man of men.

And to the lovely lifting of her eyes
That listened, to her mounting trouble's flame
That burned her brows, dropping his gray disguise
Vertumnus spoke her name.

He stood like alabaster and like fire
Upheld before her, for the sunset-light
Lay round them, and the stars shone like a tiar
On the cool brows of night.

The trees would darken, and the sunset's river
Shrink to the sources whence its glory came.
But would he stand before her eyes forever,
Her lover, crowned with flame.

"Eros!" she cried, facing the splendid heaven,
This is the hour for which my life was made!
His arms hold body, soul, -- my orchards even!
And I am not afraid!





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