Idyll XXIII. Love Avenged

by Theocritus


A lad deep-dipt in passion pined for one
Whose mood was froward as her face was fair.
Lovers she loathed, for tenderness she had none:
Ne'er knew what Love was like, nor how he bare
A bow, and arrows to make young maids smart:
Proof to all speech, all access, seemed her heart.
So he found naught his furnace to allay;
No quiver of lips, no lighting of kind eyes,
Nor rose-flushed cheek; no talk, no lover's play
Was deigned him: but as forest-beasts are shy
Of hound and hunter, with this wight dealt she;
Fierce was her lip, her eyes gleamed ominously.
Her tyrant's-heart was imaged in her face,
That flushed, then altering put on blank disdain.
Yet, even then, her anger had its grace,
And made her lover fall in love again.
At last, unable to endure his flame,
To the fell threshold all in tears he came:
Kissed it, and lifted up his voice and said:
"O heart of stone, O curst and cruel maid
Unworthy of all love, by lions bred,
See, my last offering at thy feet is laid,
The halter that shall hang me! So no more
For my sake, lady, need thy heart be sore.
Whither thou doom'st me, thither must I fare.
There is a path, that whoso treads hath ease
(Men say) from love; Forgetfulness is there.
But if I drain that chalice to the lees,
I may not quench the love I have for you;
Now at your gates I cast my long adieu.
Your future I foresee. The rose is gay,
And passing-sweet the violet of the spring:
Yet time despoils them, and they soon decay.
The lily droops and dies, that lustrous thing;
The solid-seeming snowdrift melts full fast;
And maiden's bloom is rare, but may not last.
The time shall come, when you shall feel as I;
And, with seared heart, weep many a bitter tear.
But, maiden, grant one farewell courtesy.
When you come forth, and see me hanging here,
E'en at your door, forget not my hard case;
But pause and weep me for a moment's space.
And drop one tear, and cut me down, and spread
O'er me some garment, for a funeral pall,
That wrapped thy limbs: and kiss me--let the dead
Be privileged thus highly--last of all.
You need not fear me: not if your disdain
Changed into fondness could I live again.
And scoop a grave, to hide my loves and me:
And thrice, at parting, say, 'My friend's no more:'
Add if you list, 'a faithful friend was he;'
And write this epitaph, scratched upon your door:
_Stranger, Love slew him. Pass not by, until
Thou hast paused and said, 'His mistress used him ill_.'"
This said, he grasped a stone: that ghastly stone
At the mid threshold 'neath the wall he laid,
And o'er the beam the light cord soon was thrown,
And his neck noosed. In air the body swayed,
Its footstool spurned away. Forth came once more
The maid, and saw him hanging at her door.
No struggle of heart it cost her, ne'er a tear
She wept o'er that young life, nor shunned to soil,
By contact with the corpse, her woman's-gear.
But on she went to watch the athletes' toil,
Then made for her loved haunt, the riverside:
And there she met the god she had defied.
For on a marble pedestal Eros stood
Fronting the pool: the statue leaped, and smote
And slew that miscreant. All the stream ran blood;
And to the top a girl's cry seemed to float.
Rejoice, O lovers, since the scorner fell;
And, maids, be kind; for Love deals justice well.

Last updated January 14, 2019