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Poem by Paul Hamilton Hayne


Aethra


It is a sweet tradition, with a soul
Of tenderest pathos! Hearken, love!for all
The sacred undercurrents of the heart
Thrill to its cordial music:
Once a chief,
Philantus, king of Sparta, left the stern
And bleak defiles of his unfruitful land
Girt by a band of eager colonists
To seek new homes on fair Italian plains.
Apollo's oracle had darkly spoken:
"Where'er from cloudless skies a plenteous shower
Outpours, the Fates decree that ye should pause
And rear your household deities!"
Racked by doubt
Philantus traversedwith his faithful band
Full many a bounteous realm; but still defeat
Darkened his banners, and the strong-walled towns
His desperate sieges grimly laughed to scorn!
Weighed down by anxious thoughts, one sultry eve
The warriorhis rude helmet cast aside
Rested his weary head upon the lap
Of his fair wife, who loved him tenderly;
And there he drank a generous draught of sleep.
She, gazing on his brow, all worn with toil,
And his dark locks, which pain had silvered over
With glistening touches of a frosty rime,
Wept on the sudden bitterly; her tears
Fell on his face, and, wondering, he woke.
"O blest art thou, my Aethra, my clear sky."
He cried exultant, "from whose pitying blue
A heart-rain falls to fertilize my fate:
Lo! the deep riddle's solvedthe gods spake truth!"

So the next night he stormed Tarentum, took
The enemy's host at vantage, and o'erthrew
His mightiest captains. Thence with kindly sway
He ruled those pleasant regions he had won,
But dearer even than his rich demesnes
The love of her whose gentle tears unlocked
The close-shut mystery of the Oracle!



Paul Hamilton Hayne


Paul Hamilton Hayne's other poems:
  1. A Morning after Storm
  2. The Old Man of the Sea
  3. A New Version of Why the Robins Breast Is Red
  4. In Harbor
  5. A Mountain Fantasy


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