Acon and Rhodope; or, Inconstancy

Original Text: 
Walter Savage Landor, The Hellenics (1847).
2Of measured pace tho' varying mien all twelve,
3Some froward, some sedater, some adorn'd
4For festival, some reckless of attire.
5The snow had left the mountain-top; fresh flowers
6Had withered in the meadow; fig and prune
7Hung wrinkling; the last apple glow'd amid
8Its freckled leaves; and weary oxen blinkt
9Between the trodden corn and twisted vine,
10Under whose bunches stood the empty crate,
11To creak ere long beneath them carried home.
12This was the season when twelve months before,
13O gentle Hamadryad, true to love!
14Thy mansion, thy dim mansion in the wood
15Was blasted and laid desolate: but none
16Dared violate its precincts, none dared pluck
17The moss beneath it, which alone remain'd
18Of what was thine.
19                               Old Thallinos sat mute
20In solitary sadness. The strange tale
21(Not until Rhaicos died, but then the whole)
22Echion had related, whom no force
23Could ever make look back upon the oaks.
24The father said "Echion! thou must weigh,
25Carefully, and with steady hand, enough
26(Although no longer comes the store as once!)
27Of wax to burn all day and night upon
28That hollow stone where milk and honey lie:
29So may the Gods, so may the dead, be pleas'd!"
30Thallinos bore it thither in the morn,
31And lighted it and left it.
32                                      First of those
33Who visited upon this solemn day
34The Hamadryad's oak, were Rhodope
35And Acon; of one age, one hope, one trust.
36Graceful was she as was the nymph whose fate
37She sorrowed for: he slender, pale, and first
38Lapt by the flame of love: his father's lands
39Were fertile, herds lowed over them afar.
40Now stood the two aside the hollow stone
41And lookt with stedfast eyes toward the oak
42Shivered and black and bare.
43                                               "May never we
44Love as they loved!" said Acon. She at this
45Smiled, for he said not what he meant to say,
46And thought not of its bliss, but of its end.
47He caught the flying smile, and blusht, and vow'd
48Nor time nor other power, whereto the might
49Of love hath yielded and may yield again,
50Should alter his.
51                           The father of the youth
52Wanted not beauty for him, wanted not
53Song, that could lift earth's weight from off his heart,
54Discretion, that could guide him thro' the world,
55Innocence, that could clear his way to heaven;
56Silver and gold and land, not green before
57The ancestral gate, but purple under skies
58Bending far off, he wanted for his heir.
59     Fathers have given life, but virgin heart
60They never gave; and dare they then control
61Or check it harshly? dare they break a bond
62Girt round it by the holiest Power on high?
63     Acon was grieved, he said, grieved bitterly,
64But Acon had complied . . 'twas dutiful!
65     Crush thy own heart, Man! Man! but fear to wound
66The gentler, that relies on thee alone,
67By thee created, weak or strong by thee;
68Touch it not but for worship; watch before
69Its sanctuary; nor leave it till are closed
70The temple-doors and the last lamp is spent.
71     Rhodope, in her soul's waste solitude,
72Sate mournful by the dull-resounding sea,
73Often not hearing it, and many tears
74Had the cold breezes hardened on her cheek.
75Meanwhile he sauntered in the wood of oaks,
76Nor shun'd to look upon the hollow stone
77That held the milk and honey, nor to lay
78His plighted hand where recently 'twas laid
79Opposite hers, when finger playfully
80Advanced and pusht back finger, on each side.
81He did not think of this, as she would do
82If she were there alone.
83                                      The day was hot;
84The moss invited him; it cool'd his cheek,
85It cool'd his hands; he thrust them into it
86And sank to slumber. Never was there dream
87Divine as his. He saw the Hamadryad.
88She took him by the arm and led him on
89Along a valley, where profusely grew
90The smaller lilies with their pendent bells,
91And, hiding under mint, chill drosera,
92The violet shy of butting cyclamen,
93The feathery fern, and, browser of moist banks,
94Her offspring round her, the soft strawberry;
95The quivering spray of ruddy tamarisk,
96The oleander's light-hair'd progeny
97Breathing bright freshness in each other's face,
98And graceful rose, bending her brow, with cup
99Of fragrance and of beauty, boon for Gods.
100The fragrance fill'd his breast with such delight
101His senses were bewildered, and he thought
102He saw again the face he most had loved.
103He stopt: the Hamadryad at his side
104Now stood between; then drew him farther off:
105He went, compliant as before: but soon
106Verdure had ceast: altho' the ground was smooth,
107Nothing was there delightful. At this change
108He would have spoken, but his guide represt
109All questioning, and said,
110                                        "Weak youth! what brought
111Thy footstep to this wood, my native haunt,
112My life-long residence? this bank, where first
113I sate with him . . the faithful (now I know,
114Too late!) the faithful Rhaicos. Haste thee home;
115Be happy, if thou canst; but come no more
116Where those whom death alone could sever, died."
117     He started up: the moss whereon he slept
118Was dried and withered: deadlier paleness spread
119Over his cheek; he sickened: and the sire
120Had land enough; it held his only son.

Notes

1] This follows "The Hamadryad," in which a mortal, Rhaicos, dies of grief over the estrangement of a wood-nymph with whom he is in love. Thallinos is his father and Echion an old servant. These and the other characters are invented by Landor. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1847
RPO poem Editors: 
H. Kerpneck
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.8.
Rhyme: 
Form: