Simaetha

- 1886-1961

Drenched with purple,
drenched with dye, my wool,
bind you the wheel-spokes—
turn, turn, turn my wheel!

Drenched with purple,
steeped in the red pulp
of bursting sea-sloes—
turn, turn, turn my wheel!

(Ah did he think
I did not know,
I did not feel—
what wrack, what weal for him:
golden one, golden one,
turn again Aphrodite with the yellow zone,
I am cursed, cursed, undone!
Ah and my face, Aphrodite,
beside your gold,
is cut out of white stone!)

Laurel blossom and the red seed
of the red vervain weed,
burn, crackle in the fire,
burn, crackle for my need!
Laurel leaf, O fruited
branch of bay,
burn, burn away
thought, memory and hurt!

(Ah when he comes,
stumbling across my sill,
will he find me still,
fragrant as the white privet,
or as a bone,
polished in wet and sun,
worried of wild beaks,
and of the whelps' teeth—
worried of flesh,
left to bleach under the sun,
white as ash bled of heat,
white as hail blazing in sheet-lightning,
white as forked lightning
rending the sleet?)

More by H. D.

Stars Wheel in Purple

Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.

At Baia

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff--
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous--perilous--
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

"Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,"

or

"Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this."

Helen in Egypt, Eidolon, Book III: 4

Helen herself seems almost ready for this sacrifice--at least, for the immolation of herself before this greatest love of Achilles, his dedication to "his own ship" and the figurehead, "an idol or eidolon . . . a mermaid, Thetis upon the prow."

Did her eyes slant in the old way?
was she Greek or Egyptian?
had some Phoenician sailor wrought her?

was she oak-wood or cedar?
had she been cut from an awkward block
of ship-wood at the ship-builders,

and afterwards riveted there,
or had the prow itself been shaped
to her mermaid body,

curved to her mermaid hair?
was there a dash of paint
in the beginning, in the garment-fold,

did the blue afterwards wear away?
did they re-touch her arms, her shoulders?
did anyone touch her ever?

Had she other zealot and lover,
or did he alone worship her?
did she wear a girdle of sea-weed

or a painted crown?  how often
did her high breasts meet the spray,
how often dive down?