John Grosvenor Wilson


Apollo And Daphne

by John Grosvenor Wilson

Eve o'er the sacred vale -- in joyous mood
Apollo, fresh from war with Python, trod
The flowery sward, and from his shoulder slid
The quiver, and the bow fell from his hand,
Whereat he seized his silver lyre and sang
Of Love, the lord and god of gods and men.

So journeying, he marked where Daphne lay
Hot from the chase -- her sandals laid aside
From the bright-veined, small, slender, supple feet;
Her tunic opened to the welcome wind
That softly stirred the folds and half-displayed
The lilies and the roses of her breast
Immaculate -- thus lay she, aimlessly
Twisting her golden hair about her head,

So perfect-sweet that, struck with swift desire,
The god made straight toward her, saying fast:
O love, thy love is more than victory!
I lay my crown of conquest at thy feet --
Thy name shall tremble on my harp until
Olympus' gates are closed!

But as the fawn
Starts and takes flight at baying of the hounds,
So Daphne ran, her lithe limbs fleet with fear --
Sandalless, yet incredibly swift she fled,
And he pursued -- but, mortal, none could match
Apollo's speed -- till, panting, worn, she sank
Beside the stream Peneus, silver-waved,
And called to him who dwelt therein: O thou,
My father, shield me from Apollo's love!

For lo, the god stretched eager arms to her.

He leaned above her, that his eyes might take
Foreknowledge, and he laughed right lordlily --
But as he gazed she paled and shrank, and seemed
A thing of mist -- the river flung fierce foam
Upon her -- from the thickets flew the birds
And hovered o'er her, motionless and mute.
Then from the mist, the cloud, upon the sward,
Tall, slender, stretching heavenward, uprose
A tree unlike all others, and the god
Groaned as he knew the maiden changed and lost.

And from the river rose a solemn voice,
Hollow, as is the murmur of a shell:
O thou, who hast won glory for all time,
Fixed and eternal as the changeless stars,
Hast thou not learned that love is not to force?
Love is a shadow's shadow -- love is fine
As Summer wind, and subtle as the film
Spun by a spider on a rose's thorns,
That hands can scarcely touch, or eyes behold.
Wield thou the warrior's sword, strike harp of song,
But rest content with these -- relinquish love
To hearts that yearn, that thirst for naught beside,
Content to watch in humbleness, to spend
Immortal years in wooing.

So the voice
Spake, and Apollo moaned disconsolate,
Casting his arms in vain about the tree.
A low wind smote the leaves and stirred the boughs
To plaintive rustlings, and the red sun set,
Wherefore the sky was dim, till scattered stars
Made light, and winged-foot Mercury leapt forth,
Pointing his wand across the silent world.


Lyrics Of Life
Copyright 1886
Caxton Book Concern, Limited, New York