Ariadne by H.D.

Ariadne in Naxos – Evelyn De Morgan

by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

(From a lost play)


You have beaten me with swords
but not with words,
and I, my lord, am thankful:

you have flayed me with an ox-thong,
not a kiss,
and I, my lord, am grateful:

you really were a panther, a wild-cat,
who tore me limb from limb;
my thanks for that.

Heaven shod, heaven sandalled and heaven found,
the long waves break,
the under-tone
comes back again,
furthering the message—
you were never dead—
I am still living—
listen to the sea,
break on the pebbles,
listen to the pine,
wait for the chant of sea-gulls
on the line
of swaying kestrels,
they will write my words,
heaven sandalled, heaven found, heaven shod:

you were no man, being God,
yet you were men,
the manifold armies and the shattered host;
you were the ghost
rising at night-fall
and the silver dawn
found you, my lover,
heaven-sandalled, and heaven-bound
waiting to leave the cities
where the ground
ran mingled blood of armies
you were those seas
of blood that ran, that ran across the sand,
O pitiful shattered land—
O land of beauty and of memory
O land of hosts
and hosts of singing voices;
land of the sated ghosts
that left being tired of blood-shed,
O bright coast
O lofting pinnacle,
Hymmetus, Lycabettus like a shell
through which the sun shines
crimson or pale opal,
O beautiful white land,
olives and wild anemone and violet
mingled among the shale,
and purple wings
of little winter-butterflies
say, here Psyche, the soul, lies.

Here is the intricate offering of my loom,
to hang from pillars
in the room,
dedicate to your altar;
here is bloom
of wide white roses
showing where Love trod,
and here is God,
set round about with stars,
and here is Mars,
lordly to save the Hero
bred of war;
here, near the floor,
is pattern of wild pansies
and a child;

bend near;
your sweet cold hands have banished
heinous fear,
your cloak was wide,
your helmet and your spear
ready to save,
ready to extirpate
a woman
banished by an island monster;
the child and she were set afloat to drift
but there was light about the little boat,
a chest
flung on the water;
these are the Dioscuri
hovering near;

There was no god
in all the circling host
who had forsaken
the outcast and lost;
your infinite loveliness,
O violet-crowned,
comes first;
but see,
the others found
old portents and old worship
drew them near;
Mars with his spear,
weary of battle
said, I will protect;
Hermes said,
magic never shall be dead;
the exquisite holiness of the sea-born
white lilies
lilies that were red;
Eros spread wings
about a child’s small bed;

I am weaving here;
the colours glow
with blue, sea-blue and violet;
I have dipped deep my thread
it will not fade,
I have long practiced stitch and counter-stitch;
the frame is firm;
the pattern clear but spaced
with subtlety
and symbol
those will know,
who have faced at the last
the ultimate,
ultimate fear;

You stand beyond me
at the temple gate,
and know not fear nor hate,
for there, emblazoned on your aegis rim,
is image of all evil,
no cruel whim
can strike beyond your cruelty
when you care to strike,
and none may dare
to counter you who know
when to withold and when to deal the blow;
and you will strike
those whom you will and where
you will
who have defamed your holiest inner shrine;
that is your care,
this mine—

only to weave
to make the pattern clear,
the woven tale
to lay upon your altar,
to hang from pillar
to exquisite
wrought pillar,
so that men stop,
at its colour,
its gods
outlined with delicate woven contour,
men stop—men speak—men stare—
there must be real gods
see, the painted gods—
how fair!

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