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In Abydos dwelt the manly Leander, who, as luck would have it, bethought himself one day of the festival of Venus in Sestos, and thither fared to do obeisance to the goddess.
On this feast-day,- O cursed day and hour! -
Went Hero thorough Sestos, from her tower
To Venus' temple, where unhappily,
As after chanc'd, they did each other spy.
So fair a church as this had Venus none;
The walls were of discolored jasper-stone, ...
And in the midst a silver altar stood :
There Hero, sacrificing turtle's blood,
Vail'd to the ground, veiling her eyelids close;
And modestly they opened as she rose :
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head;
And thus Leander was enamoured.
Stone-still he stood, and evermore he gaz'd,
Till with the fire, that from his countenance blaz’d,
Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook :
Such power and virtue hath an amorous look.
It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overrul'd by fate.
When two are stript long e'er the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect :
The reason no man knows; let it suffice,
What we behold is censur'd by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
He kneel'd; but unto her devoutly prayed :
Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said,
• Were I the saint he worships, I would hear him';
And, as she spake those words, came somewhat near him.
He started up; she blush'd as one asham'd;
Wherewith Leander much more was inflam’d.
He touch'd her hand; in touching it she trembled :
Love deeply grounded, hardly is dissembled. ...
So they conversed by touch of hands, till Leander, plucking up courage, began to plead with words, with sighs and tears.
These arguments he us'di, and many more;
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded, but her words made war:
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus having swallow'd Cupid's golden hook,
The more she striv'd, the deeper was she strook:
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still,
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paus'd awhile, at last she said,
* Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid?
Ay me! such words as these should I abhor,
And yet I like them for the orator.'
With that Leander stoop'd to have embrac'd her,
But from his spreading arms away she cast her,
And thus bespake him : 'Gentle youth, forbear
To touch the sacred garments which I wear.' ...
Then she told him of the turret by the murmuring sea where all day long she tended Venus' swans and sparrows :
Come thither.' As she spake this, her tongue tripp'd,
For unawares, Come thither,' from her slipp'd;
And suddenly her former colour changid,
And here and there her eyes through anger rang'd;
And, like a planet moving several ways
At one self instant, she, poor soul, assays,
Loving, not to love at all, and every part
Strove to resist the motions of her heart:
And hands so pure, so innocent, nay, such
As might have made Heaven stoop to have a touch, hy
Did she uphold to Venus, and again
Vow'd spotless chastity; but all in vain;
Cupid beats down her prayers with his wings. ...
For a season all went well. Guided by a torch which his mistress reared upon the tower, he was wont of nights to swim the strait, that he might enjoy her company. But one night a tempest arose, and the sea was rough; his strength failed, and he
was drowned. The waves bore his body to the European shore, where Hero became aware of his death, and in her despair cast herself into the sea and perished.
A picture of the drowning Leander is thus described by Keats:
Come hither all sweet maidens soberly,
Down looking aye, and with a chasten'd light,
Hid in the fringes of your eyelids white,
And meekly let your fair hands joined be,
As if so gentle that ye could not see,
Untouch'd, a victim of your beauty bright,
Sinking away to his young spirit's night,
Sinking bewilder'd 'mid the dreary sea.
'Tis young Leander toiling to his death.
. Nigh swooning he doth purse his weary lips
For Hero's cheek, and smiles against her smile.
O horrid dream! see how his body dips
Dead-heavy; arms and shoulders gleam awhile;
He's gone; up bubbles all his amorous breath!
$ 97. Pygmalion and the Statue.? — Pygmalion saw so much to blame in women, that he came at last to abhor the sex and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor, and had made with wonderful skill a statue of ivory, so beautiful that no living woman was to compare with it. It was indeed the perfect semblance of a maiden that seemed to be alive, and that was prevented from moving only by modesty. His art was so perfect that it concealed itself, and its product looked like the workmanship of nature. Pygmalion at last fell in love with his counterfeit creation. Oftentimes he laid his hand upon it as if to assure himself whether it were living or not, and could not even then believe that it was only ivory.
The festival of Venus was at hand, — a festival celebrated with great pomp at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and the odor of incense filled the air. When Pygmalion had
performed his part in the solemnities, he stood before the altar and, according to one of our poets, timidly said :
"O Aphrodite, kind and fair,
That what thou wilt canst give,
Oh, listen to a sculptor's prayer,
And bid mine image live!
For me the ivory and gold
That clothe her cedar frame
Are beautiful, indeed, but cold;
Ah, touch them with thy flame!
Oh, bid her move those lips of rose,
Bid Aoat that golden hair,
And let her choose me, as I chose,
This fairest of the fair!
And then an altar in thy court
I'll offer, decked with gold;
And there thy servants shall resort,
Thy doves be bought and sold !” 1
According to another version of the story, he said not," bid mine image live,” but “ one like my ivory virgin.” At any rate, with such a prayer, he threw incense on the flame of the altar. Whereupon Venus, as an omen of her favor, caused the flame to shoot up thrice a fiery point into the air.
When Pygmalion reached his home, to his amazement he saw before him his statue garlanded with flowers.
Yet while he stood, and knew not what to do
With yearning, a strange thrill of hope there came,
A shaft of new desire now pierced him through,
And therewithal a soft voice called his name,
And when he turned, with eager eyes aflame,
He saw betwixt him and the setting sun
The lively image of his loved one.
He trembled at the sight, for though her eyes,
Her very lips, were such as he had made,
And inough her tresses fell but in such guise
As he had wrought them, now was she arrayed
1 Andrew Lang, The New Pygmalion.
In that fair garment that the priests had laid
Upon the goddess on that very morn,
Dyed like the setting sun upon the corn.
Speechless he stood, but she now drew anear,
Simple and sweet as she was wont to be,
And once again her silver voice rang clear,
Filling his soul with great felicity,
And thus she spoke, “Wilt thou not come to me,
O dear companion of my new found life,
For I am called thy lover and thy wife? ...
“My sweet,” she said, “ as yet I am not wise,
Or stored with words aright the tale to tell,
But listen: when I opened first mine eyes
I stood within the niche thou knowest well,
And from my hand a heavy thing there fell
Carved like these flowers, nor could I see things clear,
But with a strange, confusèd noise could hear.
“At last mine eyes could see a woman fair,
But awful as this round white moon o'erhead,
So that I trembled when I saw her there,
For with my life was born some touch of dread,
And therewithal I heard her voice that said,
Come down and learn to love and be alive,
For thee, a well-prized gist, to-day I give.'"1
A fuller account of Venus' address to the statue is the following:
“O maiden, in mine image made !
O grace that shouldst endure !
While temples fall, and empires fade,
Exchange this endless life of art
For beauty that must die,
And blossom with a beating heart
Change, golden tresses of her hair,
To gold that turns to gray;
1 From William Morris, Pygmalion and the Image, in The Earthly Paradise.