Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PHAEDRA REBUKES HIPPOLYTA, by HILDA DOOLITTLE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

PHAEDRA REBUKES HIPPOLYTA, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Swift and a broken rock
Last Line: Toward the shadow-side of the rocks.
Alternate Author Name(s): H. D.; Aldington, Richard, Mrs.
Subject(s): Bible

Swift and a broken rock
clatters across the steep shelf
of the mountain-slope,
sudden and swift,
and breaks as it clatters down
into the hollow breach
of the dried water-course;
far and away
(through fire, I see it,
and smoke of the dead, withered stalks
of the wild cistus-brush)
Hippolyta, frail and wild,
galloping up the slope
between great boulders
and shelves and circles of rock.

I see it, sharp, this vision,
and each fleck on the horse's flanks
of foam, the bridle and bit,
the silver -- the reins,
held fast with perfect art,
the sun, striking athwart
the silver work,
the neck, strained forward, ears alert,
and the head of the girl
flung back and her throat.
Ah, burn my fire, I ask
out of the smoke-ringed darkness
enclosing the flaming disk
of my vision --
I ask for a voice -- an answer --
was she chaste?
Who can say,
the broken ridge of the hills
was the line of a lover's shoulder,
his arm-turn, the path to the hills,
the sudden leap and swift thunder
of mountain-boulders, his laugh.

She was mad --
as no priest, no lovers' cult
could grant madness;
the wine that entered her heart
with the touch of the mountain-rocks
was white, intoxicant:
she, the lithe and remote,
was betrayed by the glint
of light on the hills,
the granite splinters of rock,
the touch of the stone
where heat melts
toward the shadow-side of the rocks.

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