Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A LEGEND, by RHYS CARPENTER



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A LEGEND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Upon a day, long, long ago
Last Line: Thus dionysus spoke.
Subject(s): Greece; Kidnapping; Legends; Mythology; Punishment; Sea; Greeks; Ocean


UPON a day, long, long ago,
Tyrrhenian sailors northward drawn,
Sailing through the Grecian dawn
Where Aegean islands glow,
Saw upon a headland seated,
Purple-robed and shining-haired,
Glorious, a youth who stared
Seaward ever. Him they greeted;
Lured him to the vessel's side,
Showed him silken stuffs and rare....
Suddenly they seized him there:
Never a word he cried.

'A king's son, a king's son,
For sombre-glowing gold!
With sweated tears and weeping fears
His ransom shall be told.
A king's son, a king's son,
Guard him safe and well!
His ransoming a shoreland king
With weight of gold shall tell.
Put to sea, and riding free
Beyond the reach of harm,
We'll bind him fast about the mast
With a fetter to each arm.'

They led him to the springing mast,
With gyves and fetters blind
Hands and feet they strove to bind,
Round his gleaming shoulders cast
Biting ropes to hold him fast.—
Laughed the whistling wind.

There he sat with smiling eyes.
From his shoulders and his thighs
All the knotted fetters fell,
Snapped as by a magic spell;
And the seamen with rude cries
Rushed upon him, seized him fast
Bound him firmer to the mast.
Still he smiled: as if in play
All the fetters fell away.

Wondering they drew apart,
Fear sank cold on every heart,
While the ship sailed on, sailed on,
O'er the blue Aegean waves,
O'er the sunlit ocean caves;
But the sailors' looks were wan
And a shadow dimmed each mind
While the laughing rippling wind
In the running wake seemed ever to make
A gurgling foam behind.

Shock! a sudden tremor shakes
Helmsman's deck and seaman's rail,
Keel and rowlock, mast and sail;
From the middle hold there breaks
Fragrant steam of odours fine,
Gushing stream of rushing wine;
On the sail
Wreaths of vine twist and twine,
Myriad shapes;
From the rail
Clustered grapes
Fringe the bark; ivy dark
Winds the mast
Into bowers rich with flowers
Deep amassed;
Over all the vessel breathes
Perfume of a thousand wreaths.—
Sudden, there,
At his side,
Shaggy hair, fearful-eyed,
Growling loud, a monstrous bear
Turns upon the seaman-crowd;
Dazed, amazed, they backward fall
And the sea engulfs them all!
Yet by wizardry divine
At the clinging touch of brine
They are turned to dolphins grey.—
But the vessel sailed away,
While the laughing singing wind
In the running wake seemed ever to make
A gurgling foam behind.

On the deep verge of night
Wrapped in a Thracian cloak,
Laughing with new delight
To the winds and waves he spoke:
'Ye were the slaves of me, the god,
Ye bowed to mine ivy rod;
Ye blew from the north and the west,
Ye winds, at my behest,
New dwellers for your caves
I gave you, ye ocean waves.'
On the deep verge of night,
Wrapped in a Thracian cloak,
Laughing with new delight
Thus Dionysus spoke.





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