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Venus et Mars. Leucothoe. Clytie.


So ended she; at once Leuconoe
took the narrator's thread; and as she spoke
her sisters all were silent.

“Even the Sun
that rules the world was captive made of Love.
My theme shall be a love-song of the Sun.
'Tis said the Lord of Day, whose wakeful eye
beholds at once whatever may transpire,
witnessed the loves of Mars and Venus. Grieved
to know the wrong, he called the son of Juno,
Vulcan, and gave full knowledge of the deed,
showing how Mars and Venus shamed his love,
as they defiled his bed. Vulcan amazed,—
the nimble-thoughted Vulcan lost his wits,
so that he dropped the work his right hand held.

But turning from all else at once he set
to file out chains of brass, delicate, fine,
from which to fashion nets invisible,
filmy of mesh and airy as the thread
of insect-web, that from the rafter swings.—

Implicit woven that they yielded soft
the slightest movement or the gentlest touch,
with cunning skill he drew them round the bed
where they were sure to dally. Presently
appeared the faithless wife, and on the couch
lay down to languish with her paramour.—
Meshed in the chains they could not thence arise,
nor could they else but lie in strict embrace,—
cunningly thus entrapped by Vulcan's wit.—

At once the Lemnian cuckold opened wide
the folding ivory doors and called the Gods,—
to witness. There they lay disgraced and bound.
I wot were many of the lighter Gods
who wished themselves in like disgraceful bonds.—
The Gods were moved to laughter: and the tale
was long most noted in the courts of Heaven.

The Cytherean Venus brooded on
the Sun's betrayal of her stolen joys,
and thought to torture him in passion's pains,
and wreak requital for the pain he caused.


Son of Hyperion! what avails thy light?
What is the profit of thy glowing heat?
Lo, thou whose flames have parched innumerous lands,
thyself art burning with another flame!
And thou whose orb should joy the universe
art gazing only on Leucothea's charms.

Thy glorious eye on one fair maid is fixed,
forgetting all besides. Too early thou
art rising from thy bed of orient skies,
too late thy setting in the western waves;
so taking time to gaze upon thy love,
thy frenzy lengthens out the wintry hour!

And often thou art darkened in eclipse,
dark shadows of this trouble in thy mind,
unwonted aspect, casting man perplexed
in abject terror. Pale thou art, though not
betwixt thee and the earth the shadowous moon
bedims thy devious way. Thy passion gives
to grief thy countenance—for her thy heart
alone is grieving—Clymene and Rhodos,
and Persa, mother of deluding Circe,
are all forgotten for thy doting hope;
even Clytie, who is yearning for thy love,
no more can charm thee; thou art so foredone.

Leucothea is the cause of many tears,
Leucothea, daughter of Eurynome,
most beauteous matron of Arabia's strand,
where spicey odours blow. Eurynome
in youthful prime excelled her mother's grace,
and, save her daughter, all excelled besides.
Leucothea's father, Orchamas was king
where Achaemenes whilom held the sway;
and Orchamas from ancient Belus' death
might count his reign the seventh in descent.

The dark-night pastures of Apollo's steeds
are hid below the western skies; when there,
and spent with toil, in lieu of nibbling herbs
they take ambrosial food: it gives their limbs
restoring strength and nourishes anew.

Now while these coursers eat celestial food
and Night resumes his reign, the god appears
disguised, unguessed, as old Eurynome
to fair Leucothea as she draws the threads,
all smoothly twisted from her spindle. There
she sits with twice six hand-maids ranged around,
and as the god beholds her at the door
he kisses her, as if a child beloved
and he her mother. And he spoke to her:
“Let thy twelve hand-maids leave us undisturbed,
for I have things of close import to tell,
and seemly, from a mother to her child.”,
so when they all withdrew the god began,
“Lo, I am he who measures the long year;
I see all things, and through me the wide world
may see all things; I am the glowing eye
of the broad universe! Thou art to me
the glory of the earth!” Filled with alarm,
from her relaxed fingers she let fall
the distaff and the spindle, but, her fear
so lovely in her beauty seemed, the God
no longer brooked delay: he changed his form
back to his wonted beauty and resumed
his bright celestial. Startled at the sight
the maid recoiled a space; but presently
the glory of the god inspired her love;
and all her timid doubts dissolved away;
without complaint she melted in his arms.

So ardently the bright Apollo loved,
that Clytie, envious of Leucothea's joy,
where evil none was known, a scandal made;
and having published wide their secret love,
leucothea's father also heard the tale.
Relentlessly and fierce, his cruel hand
buried his living daughter in the ground,
who, while her arms implored the glowing Sun,
complained. “For love of thee my life is lost.”
And as she wailed her father sowed her there.

Hyperion's Son began with piercing heat
to scatter the loose sand, a way to open,
that she might look with beauteous features forth
too late! for smothered by the compact earth,
thou canst not lift thy drooping head; alas!
A lifeless corse remains.

No sadder sight
since Phaethon was blasted by the bolt,
down-hurled by Jove, had ever grieved the God
who daily drives his winged steeds. In vain
he strives with all the magic of his rays
to warm her limbs anew. — The deed is done—
what vantage gives his might if fate deny?
He sprinkles fragrant nectar on her grave,
and lifeless corse, and as he wails exclaims,
“But naught shall hinder you to reach the skies.”

At once the maiden's body, steeped in dews
of nectar, sweet and odourate, dissolves
and adds its fragrant juices to the earth:
slowly from this a sprout of Frankincense
takes root in riched soil, and bursting through
the sandy hillock shows its top.

No more
to Clytie comes the author of sweet light,
for though her love might make excuse of grief,
and grief may plead to pardon jealous words,
his heart disdains the schemist of his woe;
and she who turned to sour the sweet of love,
from that unhallowed moment pined away.
Envious and hating all her sister Nymphs,
day after day,—and through the lonely nights,
all unprotected from the chilly breeze,
her hair dishevelled, tangled, unadorned,
she sat unmoved upon the bare hard ground.

Nine days the Nymph was nourished by the dews,
or haply by her own tears' bitter brine;—
all other nourishment was naught to her.—
She never raised herself from the bare ground,
though on the god her gaze was ever fixed;—
she turned her features towards him as he moved:
they say that afterwhile her limbs took root
and fastened to the around.

A pearly white
overspread her countenance, that turned as pale
and bloodless as the dead; but here and there
a blushing tinge resolved in violet tint;
and something like the blossom of that name
a flower concealed her face. Although a root
now holds her fast to earth, the Heliotrope
turns ever to the Sun, as if to prove
that all may change and love through all remain.

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