Edmund W. Gosse (1849-1928)

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On a Lute Found in a Sarcophagus

What curled and scented sun-girls, almond-eyed,
With lotus blossoms in their hands and hair,
Have made their swarthy lovers call them fair,
With these spent strings, when brutes were deified,
And Memnon in the sunrise sprang and cried,
And love-winds smote Bubastis, and the bare
Black breasts of carven Pasht received the prayer
Of suppliants bearing gifts from far and wide!
This lute has outsung Egypt; all the lives
Of violent passion, and the vast calm art
That lasts in granite only, all lie dead;
This little bird of song alone survives,
As fresh as when its fluting smote the heart
Last time the brown slave wore it garlanded.


(A Sonnet in Dialogue)

Phœbus. What voice is this that wails above the deep?
Alcyone. A wife's, that mourns her fate and loveless days.
Phœbus. What love lies buried in these waterways?
Alcyone. A husband's, hurried to eternal sleep.
Phœbus. Cease, O beloved, cease to wail and weep!
Alcyone. Wherefore?
Phœbus.                    The waters in a fiery blaze
               Proclaim the godhead of my healing rays.
Alcyone. No god can sow where fate hath stood to reap.
Phœbus. Hold, wringing hands! cease, piteous tears, to fall.
Alcyone. But grief must rain and glut the passionate sea.
Phœbus. Thou shall forget this ocean and thy wrong,
               And I will bless the dead, though past recall.
Alcyone. What can'st thou give to me or him in me?
Phœbus. A name in story and a light in song.

The Tomb of Sophocles

A bounding satyr, golden in the beard,
That leaps with goat-feet high into the air,
And crushes from the thyme an odour rare,
Keeps watch around the marble tomb revered
Of Sophocles, the poet loved and feared,
Whose mighty voice once called out of her lair
The Dorian muse severe, with braided hair,
Who loved the thyrsus and wild dances weird.
Here all day long the pious bees can pour
Libations of their honey; round this tomb
The Dionysiac ivy loves to roam;
The satyr laughs; but He awakes no more,
Wrapped up in silence at the grave's cold core,
Nor sees the sun wheel round in the white dome.