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A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


Title:     Artemis
Author: Madison Julius Cawein [More Titles by Cawein]

Oft of the hiding Oread wast thou seen
At earliest morn, a tall imperial shape,
High-buskined, dew-dripped, and on close, chaste curls,
Long blackness of thick hair, the tipsy drops
Caught from the dipping sprays of under bosks,
Kissed of thy cheek and of thy shoulder brushed,
Thy rosy cheek as haughty Hera's fair,
Thy snow-soft shoulder luminous as light.

Oft did the shaggy hills and solitudes
Of Arethusa shout and ring and reel,
Reverberate and echo merrily
With the mad chiding of thy merry hounds,
Big mouthed and musical, that on the stag,
Or bristling wild-boar furious grew in quest,
And thou, as keen, fleet-footed and clean-limbed,
Thou, thou, O goddess, with thy quivered crew,
Most loveliest maids and fit to wed with gods,
Rushed, swinging on the wind free limbs and lithe,
Long as thy radiant locks flung free to blow
And lighten in the wine-sharp air of morn.

Ai me! their throats, their lusty, dimpled throats,
That made the hills sing and the wood-ways dance
As if to Orphic strains, and gave them life!
Ai me! their bosoms' deepness and the soft,
Sweet, happy beauty of their delicate limbs,
That stormed the forest vacancies with light,
Swift daylight of their splendor and made blow,
Within the glad sonorous solitudes,
Old germs of flowerets a century cold.

The woodland Naiad whispered by her rock;
The Hamadryad, limpid-eyed and wild,
Expectant rustled by her usual oak,
And laughed in wonder; and mad Pan himself
Reeled piping fiercely down the dingled deeps
With rollicking eye that rolled a brutish lust.
And did the unwed maiden, musing where
Her father's well, beyond the god-graced hills
Bubbled and babbled, hear the full, high cry
Of the chaste huntress, while her dripping jar
Unheeded brimmed, vowed with her chastity,
And shorn gold hair to veil her virgin feet.

But, ah! not when the saucy daylight swims,
Filling the forests with a glamorous green,
Let me behold thee, goddess! but, when dim
The slow night settles on the haunted wild,
And walks in sober sark, and heatful stars
Shine out intensely and the echoy waste
Far off, far off, in shudders palpitates
Unto the Limnad's song unmerciful,
Unmerciful and mad and bitter sweet!
Then come in all thy godhead, beautiful!
Thou beautiful and gentle, as thou cam'st
To lorn Endymion, who, in Lemnos once,
Lone in the wizard magic of the wild,
Wandered a gentle boy, unfriended, sad.
It grew far off adown the stirring trees,
Thy silent beauty blossoming flowerlike,
Between the tree trunks and the lacing limbs,
Bright in the leaves that kissed for very joy
And drunkenness of glory thus revealed.
He saw it all, the naked brow and limbs,
The polished silver of thy glossy breast,
Alone, uncompanied of handmaidens;
Like some full, splendid fruit Hesperian
Not e'en for deities; thy sweet far voice
Came tinkling on his wistful ear and lisped
Like leaves that cling and slip to cling again.
And on such perilous beauty that must kill,
The poisonous favor of thy godliness,
Feasting his every sense through eyes and ears,
His soul exalted waxed and amorous,--
Like the high gods who quaff deep golden bowls
Of rosy nectar,--with immortal love,--
And what remained, ah, what remained but death!

[The end]
Madison Julius Cawein's poem: Artemis