The Ancient Idyl


Mother . Daughter! why roamest thou again so late
Along the damp and solitary shore?
Europa . I know not. I am tired of distaf, woof,
Mother . Yet thou culledst flowers all morn,
And idledst in the woods, mocking shrill birds,
Or clapping hands at limping hares, who stampt
Angrily, and scour'd off.
Europa . I am grown tired
Of hares and birds. O mother! had you seen
That lovely creature! It was not a cow,
And, if it was an ox, it was unlike
My father's oxen with the hair rubb'd off
Their necks.
Mother . A cow it was.
Europa . Cow it might be . .
And yet . . and yet . . I saw no calf, no font
Of milk: I wish I had; how pleasant 'twere
To draw it and to drink!
Mother . Europa! child!
Have we no maiden for such offices?
No whistling boy? Kings' daughters may cull flowers,
To place them on the altar of the Gods
And wear them at their festivals. Who knows
But some one of these very Gods may deign
To wooe thee? maidens they have wooed less fair.
Europa . The Gods are very gracious: some of them
Not very constant.
Mother . Hush!
Europa . Nay, Zeus himself
Hath wandered, and deluded more than one.
Mother . Fables! profanest fables!
Europa . Let us hope so.
But I should be afraid of him, and run
As lapwings do when we approach the nest.
Mother . None can escape the Gods when they pursue.
Europa . They know my mind, and will not follow me.
Mother . Consider: some are stars whom they have loved,
Others, the very least of them, are flowers.
Europa . I would not be a star in winter nights,
In summer days I would not be a flower;
Flowers seldom live thro' half their time, torn off,
Twirl'd round, and indolently cast aside.
Now, mother, can you tell me what became
Of those who were no flowers, but bent their heads
As pliantly as flowers do?
Mother . They are gone
To Hades.
Europa . And left there by Gods they loved
And were beloved by! Be not such my doom!
Cruel are men, but crueler are Gods.
Mother . Peace! peace! Some royal, some heroic, youth
May ask thy father for thy dower and thee.
Europa . I know not any such, if such there live;
Royal there may be, but heroic . . where?
O mother! look! look! look!
Mother . Thou turnest pale;
What ails thee?
Europa . Who in all the house hath dared
To winde those garlands round that grand white brow?
So mild, so loving! Mother! let me run
And tear them off him: let me gather more
And sweeter.
Mother . Truly 'tis a noble beast.
See! he comes forward! see, he rips them off,
Europa . He should not wear them if he would.
Stay there, thou noble creature! Woe is me!
There are but sandrose, tyme, and snapdragon
Along the shore as far as I can see.
O mother! help me on his back; he licks
My foot. Ah! what sweet breath! Now on his side
He lies on purpose for it. Help me up.
Mother . Well, child! Indeed he is gentle. Gods above!
He takes the water! Hold him tight, Europa!
'Tis well that thou canst swim.
Leap off, mad girl!
She laughs! He lows so loud she hears not me . .
But she looks sadder, or my sight is dim . .
Against his nostril fondly hangs her hand
While his eye glistens over it, fondly too.
It will be night, dark night, ere she returns.
And that new scarf! the spray will ruin it.
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