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Hero And Leander
by [?]


She holds the casket, but her simple hand
Hath spill’d its dearest jewel by the way;
She hath life’s empty garment at command,
But her own death lies covert in the prey;
As if a thief should steal a tainted vest,
Some dead man’s spoil, and sicken of his pest.


Now she compels him to her deeps below,
Hiding his face beneath her plenteous hair,
Which jealously she shakes all round her brow,
For dread of envy, though no eyes are there
But seals’, and all brute tenants of the deep,
Which heedless through the wave their journeys keep.


Down and still downward through the dusky green
She bore him, murmuring with joyous haste
In too rash ignorance, as he had been
Born to the texture of that watery waste;
That which she breathed and sigh’d, the emerald wave,
How could her pleasant home become his grave!


Down and still downward through the dusky green
She bore her treasure, with a face too nigh
To mark how life was alter’d in its mien,
Or how the light grew torpid in his eye,
Or how his pearly breath, unprison’d there,
Flew up to join the universal air.


She could not miss the throbbings of his heart,
Whilst her own pulse so wanton’d in its joy;
She could not guess he struggled to depart,
And when he strove no more, the hapless boy!
She read his mortal stillness for content,
Feeling no fear where only love was meant.


Soon she alights upon her ocean-floor,
And straight unyokes her arms from her fair prize;
Then on his lovely face begins to pore,
As if to glut her soul;–her hungry eyes
Have grown so jealous of her arms’ delight;
It seems she hath no other sense but sight.


But O sad marvel! O most bitter strange!
What dismal magic makes his cheek so pale?
Why will he not embrace,–why not exchange
Her kindly kisses;–wherefore not exhale
Some odorous message from life’s ruby gates,
Where she his first sweet embassy awaits?


Her eyes, poor watchers, fix’d upon his looks,
Are grappled with a wonder near to grief,
As one, who pores on undecipher’d books,
Strains vain surmise, and dodges with belief;
So she keeps gazing with a mazy thought,
Framing a thousand doubts that end in nought.


Too stern inscription for a page so young,
The dark translation of his look was death!
But death was written in an alien tongue,
And learning was not by to give it breath;
So one deep woe sleeps buried in its seal,
Which Time, untimely, hasteth to reveal.


Meanwhile she sits unconscious of her hap,
Nursing Death’s marble effigy, which there
With heavy head lies pillow’d in her lap,
And elbows all unhinged;–his sleeking hair
Creeps o’er her knees, and settles where his hand
Leans with lax fingers crook’d against the sand;


And there lies spread in many an oozy trail,
Like glossy weeds hung from a chalky base,
That shows no whiter than his brow is pale;
So soon the wintry death had bleach’d his face
Into cold marble,–with blue chilly shades,
Showing wherein the freezy blood pervades.


And o’er his steadfast cheek a furrow’d pain
Hath set, and stiffened like a storm in ice,
Showing by drooping lines the deadly strain
Of mortal anguish;–yet you might gaze twice
Ere Death it seem’d, and not his cousin, Sleep,
That through those creviced lids did underpeep.


But all that tender bloom about his eyes,
Is Death’s own violets, which his utmost rite
It is to scatter when the red rose dies;
For blue is chilly, and akin to white:
Also he leaves some tinges on his lips,
Which he hath kiss’d with such cold frosty nips.