Fragment 41

1

Am I blind alas,
am I blind?
I too have followed
her path
I too have bent at her feet
I too have wakened to pluck
amaranth in the straight shaft,
amaranth purple in the cup,
scorched at the edge to white.
Am I blind?
am I the less ready for her sacrifice?
am I the less eager to give
what she asks,
she the shameless and radiant?
Am I quite lost,
I towering above you and her glance
walking with swifter pace,
with clearer sight,
with intensity
beside which you two
are as spent ash?
Nay, I give back to the goddess the gift
she tendered me in a moment
of great bounty
I return it. I lay it again
on the white slab of her house,
the beauty she cast out
one moment, careless.
Nor do I cry out:
— why did I stoop?
why did I turn aside
one moment from the rocks
marking the sea-path?
Aphrodite, shameless and radiant,
have pity, turn, answer us. —
Ah no — though I stumble toward
her altar-step,
though my flesh is scorched and rent,
shattered, cut apart,
slashed open;
though my heels press my own wet life
black, dark to purple,
on the smooth, rose-streaked
threshold of her pavement

2

Am I blind alas, deaf too
that my ears lost all this?
nay, O my lover,
shameless and still radiant,
I tell you this:
I was not asleep,
I did not lie asleep on those hot rocks
while you waited.
I was not unaware when I glanced
out toward the sea
watching the purple ships
I was not blind when I turned
I was not indifferent when I strayed aside
or loitered as we three went
or seemed to turn a moment from the path
for that same amaranth.
I was not dull and dead when I fell
back on our couch at night.
I was not indifferent when I turned
and lay quiet
I was not dead in my sleep.

3

Lady of all beauty,
I give you this:
say I have offered small sacrifice,
say I am unworthy your touch,
but say not:
— she turned to some cold, calm god,
silent, pitiful, in preference. —
Lady of all beauty,
I give you this:
say not:
— she deserted my altar-step,
the fire on my white hearth
was too great,
she fell back at my first glance. —
Lady, radiant and shameless,
I have brought small wreaths,
(they were a child's gift,)
I have offered myrrh-leaf,
crisp lentisk,
I have laid rose-petal
and white rock-rose from the beach
But I give now a greater,
I give life and spirit with this
I render a grace
no one has dared to speak,
lest men at your altar greet him
as slave, callous to your art;
I dare more than the singer
offering her lute,
the girl her stained veils,
the woman her swathes of birth,
or pencil and chalk,
mirror and unguent box
I offer more than the lad
singing at your steps,
praise of himself,
his mirror his friend's face,
more than any girl,
I offer you this:
(grant only strength
that I withdraw not my gift,)
I give you my praise and this:
the love of my lover
for his mistress.
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