Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ARTEMIS ON LATMOS, by AMELIA JOSEPHINE BURR



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ARTEMIS ON LATMOS, by            
First Line: I called him to the mountain and he came
Last Line: I bid thee no farewell, endymion.
Subject(s): Artemis; Mythology - Classical


I called him to the mountain and he came.
The valley drew him -- ah, could I not see
How slowly and reluctantly at first
His feet were turned from the familiar ways?
Until I stooped to him and put aside
The dimness of his sight that hid my face;
Then he came gladly, but with arms outstretched,
Hasting with quickened breath and burning eyes,
As man to woman, but I led him still
A pace ahead, always a pace ahead
And out of reach -- and so he followed me.
Now he is mine; his body lies asleep,
With every slender limb in perfect peace
Lax as a child's, and on the boyish cheek
The lashes lie unmoving; but his soul --
His soul stands up as one who puts aside
His garments at the games, to run his course
In naked beauty of unhampered strength.
So do I love thee best, Endymion!
Clad in these cast-off weeds, however fair,
Thy kisses would have made of Artemis
Only a woman. Now thou art a god,
To breathe new life upon the needy world
And look with clear, all-comprehending eyes
Through every cloud that men have made themselves,
Crying "This way!" with calm authority
And making darkness bright -- even as I
Among the stars, on earth Endymion.
Ours is the commerce of immortal love --
Hearts lifted and assuaged -- the hand of wrong
Palsied in act to strike -- healing of pain
And quickening of poverty to hope --
Mercy in souls that knew it not, and joy
In the dulled eyes of weepers; by these things
Thou godlike dost attest thy love for me,
A goddess, and thou feelest in thy strength
My tenderness, and knowest me thine own.
Yet thou wert born a man and not a god.
Strange -- had I left thee in the valley there
Thou wouldst have stayed a shepherd, rising slow
With yawns and stretchings of unwilling limbs,
And eyes too heavy to behold the dawn;
Until the fervid touch of eager noon
Kindled thy blood to human passion -- nay,
How had I borne to see thee dancing then
Among the herd-girls, thrilled by sudden sight
Of swaying arms and soft young bosoms, dazed
By some warm gust of unexpected curls
Across thine eyes? Or else, when all the world
Lay swooned in summer trance, amid the shade
Dappled with shifting splendor, heralded
By shrill sonorous music of the wood,
Pursuing the flushed ivory of some fair
Not all-elusive dryad? Squandering
Thy strength and youth and beauty, in the arms
Of what is of the earth and can endure
No longer than the earth? To watch thee grow
Heavy of foot and gnarled of hand, a churl
Deep drinking with the rest at harvest-home,
Taking to bed and board a docile mate
To give thee food and children at the will
Of thy gross thoughtless body, and at last
To see thee die, worn out, yet clinging still
To that uncomely garment stained with use
And shapeless grown with age and careless wear --
That garment men would call Endymion?
Across the starry spaces comes to me
My liberated lover's cry of joy:
"This is the better way, my love!" -- and yet
That red mouth moves as to a woman's kiss,
The arm goes tensely out as if to draw
To the strong breast quick-shaken with a sigh
The dryad's yielding laughter, and the hand
Curves as about a little hand that steals
Home to its palm -- a little clinging hand.
Sleep, body, sleep! Art thou Endymion?
Endymion is a god and far away.
Insensate thing, what right is thine to dream
Dreams of the valley when thy soul is gone?
Has thou indeed a life that is thine own?
Nay, hast thou rights as well? -- I pity thee.
For my Endymion shall not taste of death;
The measureless eternities are his
Wherein to spend his ever-crescent strength.
His beauty grows forever with the still
Immortal growth of the unhastening gods,
Who smile to see the worlds drop into dust,
Knowing what is to come. But what of thee,
Endymion the mortal? Thou must grow
Less beautiful, not more, as year by year
Binds leaden sandals on thy dragging feet.
The vision that beholds what men call Time
A little dancing mote which quivers down
Among a thousand others through a beam
Of light supernal, to be lost in dark --
That vision is the god's, and without end
His time for loving, as his power for love
Without a limit. Ah, but what of thee,
Endymion the mortal? Thou canst love
Only a little, and a little while,
And in one little unexpanding way.
Earth bounds thee, as it holds thee at the last,
And if thou go unfruitful to the dust,
That is thine end. There trembles on my lips
The smile that is the weeping of the gods
To think how I have cheated thee, poor thing
Of clay; how eagerly thy hands went out
To clasp me -- Artemis -- a pace ahead,
Always a pace ahead and out of reach.
Poor fool, can mortal arms take Artemis?
Thou shouldst have followed Aphrodite -- nay,
Flesh as thou art, thine was a nobler choice;
Thou wouldst not seek a wanton, though divine --
Thy stammering lips would woo no less than hers
Who is a virgin even to the gods.
Haply didst even think to have of me
The comfort of the hearth and hear my voice
From lips like thine cry "Father" at thy knees --
And lo, I give thee nothing but long sleep
Disquieted with dreams.

The world is still --
The heavens wheel above me where I stand
Poised between earth and sky. From far away
It seems that I can hear the sleepless hearts
Of all the cheated dreamers of the world.
The hearts that found the perfect love too late
To clasp and hold it close -- those sadder hearts
Who thought to realize transcendently
Body and soul -- to prison Artemis
A bride -- and fared as thou, Endymion
The mortal. Bitter waste of dreams and tears!
O Father Zeus, why didst thou fashion men
Of body and of spirit if the twain
Must torture each the other evermore?
Zeus does not answer -- and the skies wheel on.
Their eyes are calm with seeing overmuch,
Those stars -- but I, since I am of the gods,
I grieve in vision for the pains of men.
Such waste of dreams and tears -- and yet -- and yet
Is it all waste? Blessed indeed is he
Who deems that he has seen God face to face.
Whether the dream be very truth or not,
Blessed is he if it be truth for him.
The heart that found the perfect love too late,
Perchance, had love been free to clasp and hold,
It had proved less than perfect. Now that heart
Goes glorious, having seen divinity
Unveiled, a hallowed creature through the years.
And thou, my sleeper -- yea, I call thee mine
Although thy dreams have never known my face.
What shall I do -- shall I awaken thee
Or shall I hold thee here with poppies bound
Shut from thine earth, thine only heritage,
And leave my lover free to range the stars?

Standest thou here, Endymion the god,
With sad, sweet eyes upon me? Thou didst hear
My thought while still I locked it in my heart,
Reluctant to release it. O my love,
Zeus is our father -- where he giveth life
Shall we give death? Take unto thee again
Thy cast-off garment -- stooping from the god,
Endue thee with thy body. Go once more
Into the valley, to the flocks and herds,
The rustic festival, the hearth at night.
Go clothed among mankind, Endymion,
Thou who hast walked with Artemis free-limbed
Upon the heights of heaven. Thou shalt fulfil
The simple tale of thy mortality,
Thou who hast been divine. Live out thy life --
The things of earth cannot ignobly come
Ever again, my lover, unto thee.
And for the sake of her, the child of Zeus
Who gave thee godhead, thou shalt tenderly
Cherish and reverence her whom thou dost choose
To be thy wife -- and thou shalt carry forth
Thy children to behold me pass on high
And teach them little songs of Artemis.
Thine earthly vesture shall conform itself
To thy true body's beauty, till at last
It fall from thee -- thou hardly knowest how
Nor carest -- and thou face me once again
Upon these heights, my lover and my god --
The truer god because the truer man.

I bid thee no farewell, Endymion.





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