This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
the mingled bodies of the pair unite
and fashion in a single human form.
So one might see two branches underneath
a single rind uniting grow as one:
so, these two bodies in a firm embrace
no more are twain, but with a two-fold form
nor man nor woman may be called—Though both
in seeming they are neither one of twain.
When that Hermaphroditus felt the change,
so wrought upon him by the languid fount,
considered that he entered it a man,
and now his limbs relaxing in the stream
he is not wholly male, but only half,—
he lifted up his hands and thus implored,
albeit with no manly voice; “Hear me
O father! hear me mother! grant to me
this boon; to me whose name is yours, your son;
whoso shall enter in this fount a man
must leave its waters only half a man.”
Moved by the words of their bi-natured son
both parents yield assent: they taint the fount
with essences of dual-working powers.
Now though the daughters of King Minyas
have made an end of telling tales, they make
no end of labour; for they so despise
the deity, and desecrate his feast.
While busily engaged, with sudden beat
they hear resounding tambourines; and pipes
and crooked horns and tinkling brass renew,
unseen, the note; saffron and myrrh dissolve
in dulcet odours; and, beyond belief,
the woven webs, dependent on the loom,
take tints of green, put forth new ivy leaves,
or change to grape-vines verdant. There the thread
is twisted into tendrils, there the warp
is fashioned into many-moving leaves—
the purple lends its splendour to the grape.
And now the day is past; it is the hour
when night ambiguous merges into day,
which dubious owns nor light nor dun obscure;
and suddenly the house begins to shake,
and torches oil-dipped seem to flare around,
and fires a-glow to shine in every room,
and phantoms, feigned of savage beasts, to howl.—
Full of affright amid the smoking halls
the sisters vainly hide, and wheresoever
they deem security from flaming fires,
fearfully flit. And while they seek to hide,
a membrane stretches over every limb,
and light wings open from their slender arms.
In the weird darkness they are unaware
what measure wrought to change their wonted shape.
No plumous vans avail to lift their flight,
yet fair they balance on membraneous wing.
Whenever they would speak a tiny voice,
diminutive, apportioned to their size,
in squeaking note complains. Adread the light,
their haunts avoid by day the leafy woods,
for sombre attics, where secure they rest
till forth the dun obscure their wings may stretch
at hour of Vesper;—this accords their name.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.