Not for us only, Nicias, (vain the dream,)
Sprung from what god soe'er, was Eros born:
Not to us only grace doth graceful seem,
Frail things who wot not of the coming morn.
No--for Amphitryon's iron-hearted son,
Who braved the lion, was the slave of one:--
A fair curled creature, Hylas was his name.
He taught him, as a father might his child,
All songs whereby himself had risen to fame;
Nor ever from his side would be beguiled
When noon was high, nor when white steeds convey
Back to heaven's gates the chariot of the day,
Nor when the hen's shrill brood becomes aware
Of bed-time, as the mother's flapping wings
Shadow the dust-browned beam. 'Twas all his care
To shape unto his own imaginings
And to the harness train his favourite youth,
Till he became a man in very truth.
Meanwhile, when kingly Jason steered in quest
Of the Gold Fleece, and chieftains at his side
Chosen from all cities, proffering each her best,
To rich Iolchos came that warrior tried,
And joined him unto trim-built Argo's crew;
And with Alcmena's son came Hylas too.
Through the great gulf shot Argo like a bird--
And by-and-bye reached Phasis, ne'er o'erta'en
By those in-rushing rocks, that have not stirred
Since then, but bask, twin monsters, on the main.
But now, when waned the spring, and lambs were fed
In far-off fields, and Pleiads gleamed overhead,
That cream and flower of knighthood looked to sail.
They came, within broad Argo safely stowed,
(When for three days had blown the southern gale)
To Hellespont, and in Propontis rode
At anchor, where Cianian oxen now
Broaden the furrows with the busy plough.
They leapt ashore, and, keeping rank, prepared
Their evening meal: a grassy meadow spread
Before their eyes, and many a warrior shared
(Thanks to its verdurous stores) one lowly bed.
And while they cut tall marigolds from their stem
And sworded bulrush, Hylas slipt from them.
Water the fair lad wont to seek and bring
To Heracles and stalwart Telamon,
(The comrades aye partook each other's fare,)
Bearing a brazen pitcher. And anon,
Where the ground dipt, a fountain he espied,
And rushes growing green about its side.
There rose the sea-blue swallow-wort, and there
The pale-hued maidenhair, with parsley green
And vagrant marsh-flowers; and a revel rare
In the pool's midst the water-nymphs were seen
To hold, those maidens of unslumbrous eyes
Whom the belated peasant sees and flies.
And fast did Malis and Eunica cling,
And young Nychea with her April face,
To the lad's hand, as stooping o'er the spring
He dipt his pitcher. For the young Greek's grace
Made their soft senses reel; and down he fell,
All of a sudden, into that black well.
So drops a red star suddenly from sky
To sea--and quoth some sailor to his mate:
"Up with the tackle, boy! the breeze is high."
Him the nymphs pillowed, all disconsolate,
On their sweet laps, and with soft words beguiled;
But Heracles was troubled for the child.
Forth went he; Scythian-wise his bow he bore
And the great club that never quits his side;
And thrice called 'Hylas'--ne'er came lustier roar
From that deep chest. Thrice Hylas heard and tried
To answer, but in tones you scarce might hear;
The water made them distant though so near.
And as a lion, when he hears the bleat
Of fawns among the mountains far away,
A murderous lion, and with hurrying feet
Bounds from his lair to his predestined prey:
So plunged the strong man in the untrodden brake--
(Lovers are maniacs)--for his darling's sake.
He scoured far fields--what hill or oaken glen
Remembers not that pilgrimage of pain?
His troth to Jason was forgotten then.
Long time the good ship tarried for those twain
With hoisted sails; night came and still they cleared
The hatches, but no Heracles appeared.
On he was wandering, reckless where he trod,
So mad a passion on his vitals preyed:
While Hylas had become a blessed god.
But the crew cursed the runaway who had stayed
Sixty good oars, and left him there to reach
Afoot bleak Phasis and the Colchian beach.
Last updated January 14, 2019