Burnished-head / By burnished-head


By burnished-head,
Pierides sought the bride:
They touched the flute-stops
And the lyre-strings for the dance,

They made the syrinx-notes
Shrill through the reed-stalk
They cut gold sandal-prints
Across Pelion
Toward the gods' feast.

They called Pelios
From steep centaur-paths,
And Thetis
Among forest trees:
They chanted at the feast
Where Phrygian Ganymede,
Loved of Zeus,
Caught the measure of wine
In the circle of the golden cups.

While fifty sea-spirits
Moved and paused
To mark the beat
Of chanted words
Where light flashed
Below them on the sand.


A centaur-herd,
Wild-horses, crowned with grass,
Swept among the feasting gods
With fir-shoots
Toward the wine-jars
And Chiron,
Inspired by the rites of song,
Cried with a loud voice:

“From Thessaly,
The great light
Whom Thetis will beget”
(He spoke his name)
“Will come with the Myrmidons
Spearsmen and hosts with shields,
Golden and metal-wrought,
To scatter fire
Over Priam's beautiful land.”

Therefore the spirits blessed
The fair-fathered,
The Nereid,
And chanted at Pelios' feast.


( To Iphigeneia )
Your hair is scattered light:
The Greeks will bind it with petals.

And like a little beast,
Dappled and without horns,
That scampered on the hill-rocks,
They will leave you
With stained throat—
Though you never cropped hill-grass
To the reed-cry
And the shepherd's note.

Some Greek hero is cheated
And your mother's court
Of its bride.

And we ask this—where truth is,
Of what use is valour and is worth?
For evil has conquered the race,
There is no power but in base men,
Nor any man whom the gods do not hate.
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