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Hero And Leander
by [?]


“O King of waves, and brother of high Jove,
Preserve my sumless venture there afloat;
A woman’s heart, and its whole wealth of love,
Are all embark’d upon that little boat;
Nay!–but two loves, two lives, a double fate,–
A perilous voyage for so dear a freight.”


“If impious mariners be stain’d with crime,
Shake not in awful rage thy hoary locks;
Lay by thy storms until another time,
Lest my frail bark be dash’d against the rocks:
O rather smooth thy deeps, that he may fly
Like Love himself, upon a seeming sky!”


“Let all thy herded monsters sleep beneath,
Nor gore him with crook’d tusks, or wreathed horns;
Let no fierce sharks destroy him with their teeth,
Nor spine-fish wound him with their venom’d thorns;
But if he faint, and timely succor lack,
Let ruthful dolphins rest him on their back.”


“Let no false dimpling whirlpools suck him in,
Nor slimy quicksands smother his sweet breath;
Let no jagg’d corals tear his tender skin,
Nor mountain billows bury him in death”;–
And with that thought forestalling her own fears,
She drowned his painted image in her tears.


By this, the climbing Sun, with rest repair’d,
Look’d through the gold embrasures of the sky,
And ask’d the drowsy world how she had fared;–
The drowsy world shone brighten’d in reply;
And smiling off her fogs, his slanting beam
Spied young Leander in the middle stream.


His face was pallid, but the hectic morn
Had hung a lying crimson on his cheeks,
And slanderous sparkles in his eyes forlorn;
So death lies ambush’d in consumptive streaks;
But inward grief was writhing o’er its task,
As heart-sick jesters weep behind the mask.


He thought of Hero and the lost delight,
Her last embracings, and the space between;
He thought of Hero and the future night,
Her speechless rapture and enamor’d mien,
When, lo! before him, scarce two galleys’ space,
His thoughts confronted with another face!


Her aspect’s like a moon, divinely fair,
But makes the midnight darker that it lies on;
‘Tis so beclouded with her coal-black hair
That densely skirts her luminous horizon,
Making her doubly fair, thus darkly set,
As marble lies advantaged upon jet.


She’s all too bright, too argent, and too pale,
To be a woman;–but a woman’s double,
Reflected, on the wave so faint and frail,
She tops the billows like an air-blown bubble;
Or dim creation of a morning dream,
Fair as the wave-bleached lily of the stream.


The very rumor strikes his seeing dead:
Great beauty like great fear first stuns the sense:
He knows not if her lips be blue or red,
Nor of her eyes can give true evidence:
Like murder’s witness swooning in the court,
His sight falls senseless by its own report.


Anon resuming, it declares her eyes
Are tint with azure, like two crystal wells
That drink the blue complexion of the skies,
Or pearls outpeeping from their silvery shells:
Her polish’d brow, it is an ample plain,
To lodge vast contemplations of the main.


Her lips might corals seem, but corals near
Stray through her hair like blossoms on a bower;
And o’er the weaker red still domineer,
And make it pale by tribute to more power;
Her rounded cheeks are of still paler hue,
Touch’d by the bloom of water, tender blue.


Thus he beholds her rocking on the water,
Under the glossy umbrage of her hair,
Like pearly Amphitrite’s fairest daughter,
Naiad, or Nereid,–or Syren fair,
Mislodging music in her pitiless breast,
A nightingale within a falcon’s nest.