Telesila

In Argos—that statue of her,
at her feet the scroll of her
love-poetry, in her hand a helmet.

War is a fevered god
who takes alike
maiden and king and clod,
and yet another one,
(ah withering peril!)
deprives alike,
with equal skill,
alike indifferently,
hoar spearsman of his shaft,
wan maiden of her zone,
even he,
Love who is great War's
very over-lord.

War bent
and kissed the forehead,
yet Love swift,
planted on chin
and tenderest cyclamen lift
of fragrant mouth,
fevered and honeyed breath,
breathing o'er and o'er
those tendrils of her hair,
soft kisses
like bright flowers

Love took
and laid the sweet,
(being extravagant,)
on lip and chin and cheek,
but, ah, he failed
even he,
before the luminous eyes
that dart
no suave appeal,
alas, impelling me
to brave incontinent,
grave Pallas' high command.

And yet the mouth!
ah Love ingratiate,
how was it you,
so poignant, swift and sure,
could not have taken all
and left me free,
free to desert the Argives,
let them burn
free yet to turn
and let the city fall:
yea, let high War
take all his vengeful way,
for what am I?
I cannot save nor stay
the city's fall

War is a fevered god,
(yet who has writ as she
the power of Love?)
War bent and kissed the forehead,
that bright brow,
ignored the chin
and the sweet mouth,
for that and the low laugh were his,
Eros ingratiate,
who sadly missed
in all the kisses count,
those eyebrows
and swart eyes,
O valiant one
who bowed
falsely and vilely trapped us
traitorous lord

And yet,
(remembrance mocks,)
should I have bent the maiden
to a kiss?
Ares the lover
or enchanting Love?
but had I moved
I feared
for that astute regard;
for that bright vision,
how might I have erred?
I might have marred and swept
another not so sweet
into my exile;
I might have kept a look
recalling many and many a woman's look,
not this alone,
astute, imperious, proud.

And yet
I turn and ask
again, again, again,
who march to death,
what was it worth,
reserve and pride and hurt?
what is it worth
to such as I
who turn to meet
the invincible Spartans'
massed and serried host?
what had it cost, a kiss?
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