Daphne [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869).]

Daphne.

Daphne! Ladon’s daughter, Daphne! Set thyself in silver light,
Take thy thoughts of fairest texture, weave them into words of white —
Weave the rhyme of rose-lipped Daphne, nymph of wooded stream and shade,
Flying love of bright Apollo, — fleeting type of faultless maid!
She, when followed from the forelands by the lord of lyre and lute,
Sped towards far-singing waters, past deep gardens flushed with fruit;
Took the path against Peneus, panted by its yellow banks;
Turned, and looked, and flew the faster through grey-tufted thicket ranks;
Flashed amongst high flowered sedges: leaped across the brook, and ran
Down to where the fourfold shadows of a nether glade began;
There she dropped, like falling Hesper, heavy hair of radiant head
Hiding all the young abundance of her beauty’s white and red.

Came the yellow-tressed Far-darter — came the god whose feet are fire,
On his lips the name of Daphne, in his eyes a great desire;
Fond, full lips of lord and lover, sad because of suit denied;
Clear, grey eyes made keen by passion, panting, pained, unsatisfied.
Here he turned, and there he halted, now he paused, and now he flew,
Swifter than his sister’s arrows, through soft dells of dreamy dew.
Vext with gleams of Ladon’s daughter, dashed along the son of Jove,
Fast upon flower-trammelled Daphne fleeting on from grove to grove;
Flights of seawind hard behind him, breaths of bleak and whistling straits;
Drifts of driving cloud above him, like a troop of fierce-eyed fates!
So he reached the water-shallows; then he stayed his steps, and heard
Daphne drop upon the grasses, fluttering like a wounded bird.

Was there help for Ladon’s daughter? Saturn’s son is high and just:
Did he come between her beauty and the fierce Far-darter’s lust?
As she lay, the helpless maiden, caught and bound in fast eclipse,
Did the lips of god drain pleasure from her sweet and swooning lips?
Now that these and all Love’s treasures blushed, before the spoiler, bare,
Was the wrong that shall be nameless done, and seen, and suffered there?
No! for Zeus is King and Father. Weary nymph and fiery god,
Bend the knee alike before him — he is kind, and he is lord!
Therefore sing how clear-browed Pallas — Pallas, friend of prayerful maid,
Lifted dazzling Daphne lightly, bore her down the breathless glade,
Did the thing that Zeus commanded: so it came to pass that he
Who had chased a white-armed virgin, caught at her, and clasped a tree.



Source:
Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 13-15

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