Œnone

Original Text: 
Alfred lord Tennyson, Poems (London: E. Moxon, 1833). B-11 3233 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Revised heavily for Poems (Boston: W. D. Ticknor, 1842). PR 5550 E42a Victoria College Library (Toronto). Alfred lord Tennyson, Works (London: Macmillan, 1891). tenn T366 A1 1891a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2Than all the valleys of Ionian hills.
3The swimming vapour slopes athwart the glen,
4Puts forth an arm, and creeps from pine to pine,
5And loiters, slowly drawn. On either hand
6The lawns and meadow-ledges midway down
7Hang rich in flowers, and far below them roars
8The long brook falling thro' the clov'n ravine
9In cataract after cataract to the sea.
11Stands up and takes the morning: but in front
12The gorges, opening wide apart, reveal
13Troas and Ilion's column'd citadel,
14The crown of Troas.
15                                    Hither came at noon
16Mournful Œnone, wandering forlorn
17Of Paris, once her playmate on the hills.
18Her cheek had lost the rose, and round her neck
19Floated her hair or seem'd to float in rest.
20She, leaning on a fragment twined with vine,
21Sang to the stillness, till the mountain-shade
22Sloped downward to her seat from the upper cliff.
23"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
24Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
25For now the noonday quiet holds the hill:
26The grasshopper is silent in the grass:
27The lizard, with his shadow on the stone,
28Rests like a shadow, and the winds are dead.
29The purple flower droops: the golden bee
30Is lily-cradled: I alone awake.
31My eyes are full of tears, my heart of love,
32My heart is breaking, and my eyes are dim,
33And I am all aweary of my life.
34"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
35Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
36Hear me, O Earth, hear me, O Hills, O Caves
37That house the cold crown'd snake! O mountain brooks,
38I am the daughter of a River-God,
39Hear me, for I will speak, and build up all
40My sorrow with my song, as yonder walls
42A cloud that gather'd shape: for it may be
43That, while I speak of it, a little while
44My heart may wander from its deeper woe.
45    "O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
46Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
47I waited underneath the dawning hills,
48Aloft the mountain lawn was dewy-dark,
49And dewy-dark aloft the mountain pine:
50Beautiful Paris, evil-hearted Paris,
51Leading a jet-black goat white-horn'd, white-hooved,
53    "O mother Ida, harken ere I die.
54Far-off the torrent call'd me from the cleft:
55Far up the solitary morning smote
56The streaks of virgin snow. With down-dropt eyes
57I sat alone: white-breasted like a star
58Fronting the dawn he moved; a leopard skin
59Droop'd from his shoulder, but his sunny hair
60Cluster'd about his temples like a God's:
61And his cheek brighten'd as the foam-bow brightens
62When the wind blows the foam, and all my heart
63Went forth to embrace him coming ere he came.
64    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
65He smiled, and opening out his milk-white palm
67That smelt ambrosially, and while I look'd
68And listen'd, the full-flowing river of speech
69Came down upon my heart.
70                                           `My own Œnone,
71Beautiful-brow'd Œnone, my own soul,
72Behold this fruit, whose gleaming rind ingrav'n
73"For the most fair," would seem to award it thine,
75The knolls of Ida, loveliest in all grace
77    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
78He prest the blossom of his lips to mine,
79And added 'This was cast upon the board,
80When all the full-faced presence of the Gods
82Rose feud, with question unto whom 'twere due:
84Delivering that to me, by common voice
87This meed of fairest. Thou, within the cave
88Behind yon whispering tuft of oldest pine,
89Mayst well behold them unbeheld, unheard
90Hear all, and see thy Paris judge of Gods.'
91"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
92It was the deep midnoon: one silvery cloud
93Had lost his way between the piney sides
94Of this long glen. Then to the bower they came,
95Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower,
96And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
98Lotos and lilies: and a wind arose,
99And overhead the wandering ivy and vine,
100This way and that, in many a wild festoon
101Ran riot, garlanding the gnarled boughs
102With bunch and berry and flower thro' and thro'.
103    "O mother Ida, harken ere I die.
105And o'er him flow'd a golden cloud, and lean'd
106Upon him, slowly dropping fragrant dew.
107Then first I heard the voice of her, to whom
108Coming thro' Heaven, like a light that grows
109Larger and clearer, with one mind the Gods
110Rise up for reverence. She to Paris made
111Proffer of royal power, ample rule
112Unquestion'd, overflowing revenue
113Wherewith to embellish state, 'from many a vale
114And river-sunder'd champaign clothed with corn,
115Or labour'd mine undrainable of ore.
116Honour,' she said, 'and homage, tax and toll,
117From many an inland town and haven large,
118Mast-throng'd beneath her shadowing citadel
119In glassy bays among her tallest towers.'
120    "O mother Ida, harken ere I die.
121Still she spake on and still she spake of power,
122'Which in all action is the end of all;
123Power fitted to the season; wisdom-bred
124And throned of wisdom--from all neighbour crowns
125Alliance and allegiance, till thy hand
126Fail from the sceptre-staff. Such boon from me,
127From me, Heaven's Queen, Paris, to thee king-born,
129Should come most welcome, seeing men, in power
130Only, are likest Gods, who have attain'd
131Rest in a happy place and quiet seats
132Above the thunder, with undying bliss
133In knowledge of their own supremacy.'
134    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
135She ceased, and Paris held the costly fruit
136Out at arm's-length, so much the thought of power
137Flatter'd his spirit; but Pallas where she stood
138Somewhat apart, her clear and bared limbs
139O'erthwarted with the brazen-headed spear
140Upon her pearly shoulder leaning cold,
141The while, above, her full and earnest eye
142Over her snow-cold breast and angry cheek
143Kept watch, waiting decision, made reply.
144    "`Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
145These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
146Yet not for power (power of herself
147Would come uncall'd for) but to live by law,
148Acting the law we live by without fear;
149And, because right is right, to follow right
150Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.'
151    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
152Again she said: 'I woo thee not with gifts.
153Sequel of guerdon could not alter me
154To fairer. Judge thou me by what I am,
155So shalt thou find me fairest.
156                                             Yet, indeed,
157If gazing on divinity disrobed
158Thy mortal eyes are frail to judge of fair,
159Unbias'd by self-profit, oh! rest thee sure
160That I shall love thee well and cleave to thee,
161So that my vigour, wedded to thy blood,
162Shall strike within thy pulses, like a God's,
163To push thee forward thro' a life of shocks,
164Dangers, and deeds, until endurance grow
165Sinew'd with action, and the full-grown will,
166Circled thro' all experiences, pure law,
167Commeasure perfect freedom.'
168                                                Here she ceas'd
169And Paris ponder'd, and I cried, 'O Paris,
170Give it to Pallas!' but he heard me not,
171Or hearing would not hear me, woe is me!
172    "O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
173Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
176With rosy slender fingers backward drew
177From her warm brows and bosom her deep hair
178Ambrosial, golden round her lucid throat
179And shoulder: from the violets her light foot
180Shone rosy-white, and o'er her rounded form
181Between the shadows of the vine-bunches
182Floated the glowing sunlights, as she moved.
183    "Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
184She with a subtle smile in her mild eyes,
185The herald of her triumph, drawing nigh
186Half-whisper'd in his ear, 'I promise thee
188She spoke and laugh'd: I shut my sight for fear:
189But when I look'd, Paris had raised his arm,
190And I beheld great Herè's angry eyes,
191As she withdrew into the golden cloud,
192And I was left alone within the bower;
193And from that time to this I am alone,
194And I shall be alone until I die.
195    "Yet, mother Ida, harken ere I die.
196Fairest--why fairest wife? am I not fair?
197My love hath told me so a thousand times.
198Methinks I must be fair, for yesterday,
199When I past by, a wild and wanton pard,
200Eyed like the evening star, with playful tail
201Crouch'd fawning in the weed. Most loving is she?
202Ah me, my mountain shepherd, that my arms
203Were wound about thee, and my hot lips prest
204Close, close to thine in that quick-falling dew
205Of fruitful kisses, thick as Autumn rains
206Flash in the pools of whirling Simois!
207    "O mother, hear me yet before I die.
209My tall dark pines, that plumed the craggy ledge
210High over the blue gorge, and all between
211The snowy peak and snow-white cataract
212Foster'd the callow eaglet--from beneath
213Whose thick mysterious boughs in the dark morn
214The panther's roar came muffled, while I sat
215Low in the valley. Never, never more
216Shall lone Œnone see the morning mist
217Sweep thro' them; never see them overlaid
218With narrow moon-lit slips of silver cloud,
219Between the loud stream and the trembling stars.
220    "O mother, hear me yet before I die.
221I wish that somewhere in the ruin'd folds,
222Among the fragments tumbled from the glens,
223Or the dry thickets, I could meet with her
225Into the fair Pele{:i}an banquet-hall,
226And cast the golden fruit upon the board,
227And bred this change; that I might speak my mind,
228And tell her to her face how much I hate
229Her presence, hated both of Gods and men.
230    "O mother, hear me yet before I die.
231Hath he not sworn his love a thousand times,
232In this green valley, under this green hill,
233Ev'n on this hand, and sitting on this stone?
234Seal'd it with kisses? water'd it with tears?
235O happy tears, and how unlike to these!
236O happy Heaven, how canst thou see my face?
237O happy earth, how canst thou bear my weight?
238O death, death, death, thou ever-floating cloud,
239There are enough unhappy on this earth,
240Pass by the happy souls, that love to live:
241I pray thee, pass before my light of life,
242And shadow all my soul, that I may die.
243Thou weighest heavy on the heart within,
244Weigh heavy on my eyelids: let me die.
245    "O mother, hear me yet before I die.
246I will not die alone, for fiery thoughts
247Do shape themselves within me, more and more,
248Whereof I catch the issue, as I hear
249Dead sounds at night come from the inmost hills,
250Like footsteps upon wool. I dimly see
251My far-off doubtful purpose, as a mother
252Conjectures of the features of her child
253Ere it is born: her child!--a shudder comes
254Across me: never child be born of me,
255Unblest, to vex me with his father's eyes!
256    "O mother, hear me yet before I die.
257Hear me, O earth. I will not die alone,
258Lest their shrill happy laughter come to me
259Walking the cold and starless road of death
260Uncomforted, leaving my ancient love
261With the Greek woman. I will rise and go
262Down into Troy, and ere the stars come forth
264A fire dances before her, and a sound
265Rings ever in her ears of armed men.
266What this may be I know not, but I know
267That, wheresoe'er I am by night and day,
268All earth and air seem only burning fire."

Notes

1] The first of Tennyson's poems to treat classical myths, it is based chiefly on Ovid's Heroides V. The classical legend tells of the nymph Œnone, daughter of Mt. Ida and the river-god Simois, who laments her desertion by her husband Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. Paris has left to seek out Helen.
Ida: mountain range near ancient Troy. Back to Line
10] Gargarus: highest peak of Mt. Ida. Back to Line
41] Rose slowly to a music: Troy was said to have been reared to music. Back to Line
52] Simois: a river near Troy. Back to Line
66] Hesperian gold: the golden apples guarded by the Hesperides in the gardens of the West. Back to Line
74] Oread: a mountam nymph. Back to Line
76] married brows: eyebrows that meet, considered a mark of beauty. Back to Line
81] Peleus: King of Thessaly, who invited all the gods to attend his wedding to the sea-nymph Thetis, except Eris, the goddess of discord. In anger and revenge, Eris cast upon the table a golden apple bearing the label, "For the fairest." The resultant quarrel among the goddesses led to the Trojan war. Back to Line
83] Iris: messenger of the gods. Back to Line
85] Heré: Juno, wife of Jupiter. Back to Line
86] Pallas: Minerva, goddess of wisdom.
Aphrodite: Venus, goddess of love and beauty. Back to Line
97] amaracus: marjoram. Back to Line
104] peacock: sacred to Heré, or Juno. Back to Line
128] king-born: Paris, son of King Priam, lived as a shepherd. At his birth it had been prophesied that he would bring ruin to Troy. Left on Mt. Ida to perish, he had been rescued and brought up by a shepherd. Back to Line
174] Idalian: Idalium in Cyprus was a favorite haunt of Aphrodite. Back to Line
175] Paphian wells. It was to Paphos in Cyprus that Aphrodite came after her birth from the foam of the sea. Back to Line
187] Helen: wife of Menelaus, King of Lacedaemon. Her elopement with Paris, son of Priam, was the cause of the Trojan war. Back to Line
208] They came: Trojan ship-builders in search of timber. Back to Line
224] The Abominable: Eris, the goddess of strife. Back to Line
263] Cassandra: daughter of Priam, endowed with prophetic powers by Apollo, but fated never to be believed. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1833
RPO poem Editors: 
H. M. McLuhan
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.34.
Rhyme: