Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AT DENDERA, by AMELIA JOSEPHINE BURR



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AT DENDERA, by            
First Line: Here in this narrow chamber, where one ray
Last Line: Antony's galley swelled her amber sails.
Subject(s): Cleopatra, Queen Of Egypt (69-30 B.c.); Dandarah, Egypt; Temples; Mosques


HERE in this narrow chamber, where one ray
Quickens the jewel-coloured walls, I stand
Alone, a Queen, to speak to thee, a Queen.
I, Cleopatra, lift my face to meet
Thy silent face, Hathor, in this thy house,
Hither I came through fields of mellow green
Where prostrate peasants lifted peering eyes
To see the Great Queen's passing; labour fell
Stricken to silence at the sight of me.
Only the patient saqquias wailed on
As round and round the blindfold bullocks trod --
And yet I knew behind me they arose
Like trampled grain, and went about their toil,
Even as my courtiers when my shadow falls
No more upon them, turn them to their sport.
That world -- what has that world to do with me?
Here in thy temple, here am I at home,
For thou and I are one at heart. To thee
Hath ever been my longing, though at first
I knew it not. Earth was too beautiful --
I could not see beyond -- and all of me
That was of earth, cried out for earth's delight.
I was athirst for life, and royally
I took what I deemed life -- ay, like a Queen
I crushed the grapes of mortal joy and drank
The wine thereof, and still I was athirst.
Again I sought new vintage, and again,
While to my fingers clung the lees like blood.
Hathor, thou Merciless! I give thee thanks,
Through all those drunken days I thirsted still!
And yet I was so slow to understand,
Nor knew that when on passion's very mouth
I trembled and grew cold, it was thy face
That came between, slaying the transient joy
With thine immortal breath; and so I fled
From lover unto lover, till at last
I knew that not in man was my desire
Nor in the fruit of man. I came to thee,
Hathor, at last, as now I come to thee.
It is enough that I am beautiful
For Beauty's sake -- I ask not that men's eyes
Caress my loveliness, nor that a child
Should bear it like a banner down the years.
Enough for me that I myself have lived
And looked upon thy face of mystery,
Thou Gladness of the gods. . . . I am content.
Have I not proved what earth-bound hearts call joy?
Love . . . what is love? Have I not known desire, --
Yea, have I not brought forth a son? And yet
My heart was still athirst. Thou knowest, thou,
Smiling that still wise smile of thine. Thou too
Hast borne a Horus, yet we worship thee
Not babe at breast, like Isis, but alone,
Mateless, unconquerable, -- there is not one
Of all the gods may dare to call thee his,
Mistress of whom thou wilt, but slave of none.
Therefore, since thou hast shown to me thy way,
Free as the desert wind, I lift to thee
My hands, and in them, Egypt. Unto thee
Will I raise up a temple, fairer far
Than even this; to thee will I raise up
Myself in perfect beauty, perfect power,
My foot upon the weakness of mankind,
Spurning it while it lifts me. Men shall see
Hathor in Cleopatra, and bow down
Smitten to worship that shall know no end,
Yea, even Rome! Thou seest . . . and shalt see. . . .

AND nearing cloudlike o'er the lower blue,
Antony's galley swelled her amber sails.





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