Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ATHENS, by AUGUSTA DAVIES WEBSTER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ATHENS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dimmed eye of greece, sad city of great dead
Last Line: Yea, mourn thy faded might with venerating ruth.
Alternate Author Name(s): Home, Cecil; Webster, Mrs. Julia Augusta
Subject(s): Athens, Greece


DIMMED eye of Greece, sad city of great dead,
Thyself nor wholly dead, nor drawing breath
Wholly in life; crowned yet with spectre wreath
From thine old bridegroom Past, and newly wed
To the young Present, that walks seeking yet
The laurelled crown he shall, world-witnessed, set
Upon thy brow, ere yet thy lawful fere;
Have his love songs no music in thine ear?
Is thy heart buried in the hollow tomb?
Is thy strength faded in the misty gloom,
The golden mist of time, where rainbowed shine
Thy glory, and the glories like to thine,
An iris archway through the veil they only make divine.


For what is ancient time, the untried youth
Of the vexed world that vexèd learns out truth,
That it such spirit-awe from us should claim?
That half-despair wakes at its name,
Lest we, though more be less than it,
We, that in garnered store from others seem
Wiser in our worldly wit,
Be weaker in soul wisdom, and but dream?
What but that through its vesture gleam
The wealths of perished years,
The love, the courage, the renown
Of noble deaths, of noble lives,
Such jewels as thy treasure gives,
Sad Athens, with thine eyes cast down!
Not for thy lost cast down, and fired with tears,
Their glory passes not like them away,
Oh, weeping! for thou hast no more such sons as they.


School of the world, I tram to thee
As thou wast in thy prime,
Glad as thy sunlit clime,
Lovely and free
As thy bounding sea,
And wild in thine ire as when whirlwinds' fray
Howls from on high,
And hurls the white waves in the surging bay;
Till they froth mad fury in seething spray
At the sky.
I see thee when thy right arm, bared in war,
Made pale the jewelled despot from afar,
And a vague dread
Fell on the shuddering armies at thy gate,
When the proud Persian in his purpled state
Grew faint and fled
From the fierce vengeance of thy righteous hate,
And thy free shores were ghastly with his dead.


I turn to thee as thou wast then,
When all thy sons were men.
Long ages count the time, and there may be
Haply again such mother-joy for thee:
But when? Thou waitest long
Ere such another son to thee be given
As he, the swan-voiced with the eagle song,
The Christian sage that knew no Christ,
Shrouded in Wisdom's veil unpriced,
Preaching like an ambassador from Heaven;
Or he, sharp speechèd, whose grand, lowly boast
Was not to know:
Thy sage unbeautiful, whose laurelled ghost
Gives thee not pride alone, but just, repenting woe.


Long waitest thou, in silence listening
Ere Echo's harp once more be silver-strung,
And thrilling ring
Rich with the music from such Orphic tongue
As his, thy king of words.
Thy lonely Pnyx stands desolate,
Its orators all day the trilling birds;
But when the pale eve darkens late,
Shadows its worn steps crowd,
Ghosts of its masters long ago,
And gaze with strange eyes, mournful proud,
On the deep sea far below;
Down where the sighing waves enfold
The isle that names the proudest gem
Of Athens' warrior diadem,
And phantom voices murmur low:
"Goddess blue-eyed, goddess great-souled,
Once more to thy chaste bosom hold
Thy city, thine in days of old."


In vain the phantom-cry,
Her glory has gone by:
City, that erst has heard the voice
Of the great Gentile saint,
Canst thou no more rejoice?
Is thy dulled spirit faint,
Now that a greater God has named thee his,
Than Zeus of fabled might?
And does the sunlight of a holier bliss
Gild but thy night?
Ah! though the years have veiled thine ancient creed,
Has the Maid Mother's gentle smile indeed
Less soul-inspiring power,
Than her stern beauty with the azure eyes,
That seemed to thee to gaze from thy pure skies
In thy strong hour?


And yet we will not mock thee in thy fall,
Though thou shouldst never rise again;
But rather joy thy life was lived at all,
And not in vain.
Let none despise the mouldering wall,
That was a mighty palace in past days;
Let no man pain,
With idle taunts at the time-dazzled gaze,
The heart of the blind mother of his youth,
Once so strong beautiful: and thou,
Erst the wise learner of undying truth,
The ancient teacher of the yet young earth,
Pale Athens, to thine age we bow
With saddened reverence for thy fallen worth,
Yea, mourn thy faded might with venerating ruth.

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