Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Cranes Of Ibycus (a ballad)
by [?]

Once to the song and chariot-fight,
Where all the tribes of Greece unite
On Corinth’s isthmus joyously,
The god-loved Ibycus drew nigh.
On him Apollo had bestowed
The gift of song and strains inspired;
So, with light staff, he took his road
From Rhegium, by the godhead fired.

Acrocorinth, on mountain high,
Now burns upon the wanderer’s eye,
And he begins, with pious dread,
Poseidon’s grove of firs to tread.
Naught moves around him, save a swarm
Of cranes, who guide him on his way;
Who from far southern regions warm
Have hither come in squadron gray.

“Thou friendly band, all hail to thee!
Who led’st me safely o’er the sea!
I deem thee as a favoring sign,–
My destiny resembles thine.
Both come from a far distant coast,
Both pray for some kind sheltering place;–
Propitious toward us be the host
Who from the stranger wards disgrace!”

And on he hastes, in joyous wood,
And reaches soon the middle wood
When, on a narrow bridge, by force
Two murderers sudden bar his course.
He must prepare him for the fray,
But soon his wearied hand sinks low;
Inured the gentle lyre to play,
It ne’er has strung the deadly bow.

On gods and men for aid he cries,–
No savior to his prayer replies;
However far his voice he sends,
Naught living to his cry attends.
“And must I in a foreign land,
Unwept, deserted, perish here,
Falling beneath a murderous hand,
Where no avenger can appear?”

Deep-wounded, down he sinks at last,
When, lo! the cranes’ wings rustle past.
He hears,–though he no more can see,–
Their voices screaming fearfully.
“By you, ye cranes, that soar on high,
If not another voice is heard,
Be borne to heaven my murder-cry!”
He speaks, and dies, too, with the word.

The naked corpse, ere long, is found,
And, though defaced by many a wound,
His host in Corinth soon could tell
The features that he loved so well.
“And is it thus I find thee now,
Who hoped the pine’s victorious crown
To place upon the singer’s brow,
Illumined by his bright renown?”

The news is heard with grief by all
Met at Poseidon’s festival;
All Greece is conscious of the smart,
He leaves a void in every heart;
And to the Prytanis [1] swift hie
The people, and they urge him on
The dead man’s manes to pacify
And with the murderer’s blood atone.

But where’s the trace that from the throng
The people’s streaming crowds among,
Allured there by the sports so bright,
Can bring the villain back to light?
By craven robbers was he slain?
Or by some envious hidden foe?
That Helios only can explain,
Whose rays illume all things below.

Perchance, with shameless step and proud,
He threads e’en now the Grecian crowd–
Whilst vengeance follows in pursuit,
Gloats over his transgression’s fruit.
The very gods perchance he braves
Upon the threshold of their fane,–
Joins boldly in the human waves
That haste yon theatre to gain.

For there the Grecian tribes appear,
Fast pouring in from far and near;
On close-packed benches sit they there,–
The stage the weight can scarcely bear.
Like ocean-billows’ hollow roar,
The teaming crowds of living man
Toward the cerulean heavens upsoar,
In bow of ever-widening span.

Who knows the nation, who the name,
Of all who there together came?
From Theseus’ town, from Aulis’ strand
From Phocis, from the Spartan land,
From Asia’s distant coast, they wend,
From every island of the sea,
And from the stage they hear ascend
The chorus’s dread melody.