Ye Gods of Greece! Bright Fictions! when
Ye ruled, of old, a happier race,
And mildly bound rejoicing men
In bonds of Beauty and of Grace;
When worship was a service light,
And duty but an easy bliss,
And white-hued fanes lit every height;
Then—what a sparkling world was this.
Creation, then but newly born,
Felt all the glowing trust of youth;
And pulses, yet, were all unworn,
And poesy was very truth;
And Gods were spread thro' earth and air,
And looked or spoke, in sight or sound;
And who but loved to worship there,
Where they were mingling all around?
Not then was yonder radiant sun
Mere globe of fire, as now they say;
But Phoebus urged his chariot on,
A guiding God!—and made the day.
Each hoary hill, each thymy mount,
Some fond presiding Oread tended;
And Naiads bent by every fount
From which a gushing stream descended.
'Twas Daphne's voice—so taught the creed—
That murmur'd from yon laurel tree;
'Twas Syrinx from the hollow reed
Out-sighed her plaintive melody.
No bird sent forth that fervent trill;
'Twas Philomel the song supplying;
And Venus wept, on yonder hill,
O'er young Adonis, gored and dying.
And then, if perfumed airs came breathing,
At eve, from off th' Ægean shore,
While little waves, their white foams wreathing,
The green-hued deeps were fleecing o'er;
From mountain-cave, beneath the rock,
'Twas Zephyrus out-sped the breeze;
'Twas Proteus—leading forth his flock
To feed along the verdant seas.
The Gods—not then they held it scorn
To mate with old Deucalion's race;
And many a Demigod was born,
Fit progeny from such embrace.
And deeper faith—intenser fire—
Fed Sculptor's chisel—Poet's pen;
What nobler themes might Art require
Than Gods—on earth, and God-like Men?
Yea! Gods then watched with loving care,
(Or such, at least, the fond belief)
E'en lifeless things of earth and air,
The cloud—the stream—the stem—the leaf.
Iris—a Goddess!—tinged the flower
With more than merely rainbow hues;
Great Jove himself sent down the shower,
Or freshened earth with healing dews.
E'en Beauty's self more beauteous seemed,
When Ganymede a God could thrall;
And Youth, to fancy, youthlier beamed,
And Souls were more heroical.
Where Hymen stood for priest, the heart
In sweeter bonds than our's was wed;
Nay—life more gently seemed to part,
When 'twas the Parcæ cut the thread.
And temples shone like palaces,
And game, and victor's coronal,
And festal dance, 'mid flowers and trees,
And song and bowl were Sacred—all.
E'en at the last doomed hour of death
No terrors scared the death-bed room;
A kiss beguiled the parting breath,
A Genius welcom'd to the tomb.
If but the willing Graces bent
O'er deed or rite with smile approving;
If but the Muses gave consent
Or cheered, perchance, with accent loving;
The Gods forebade no pleasure—then—
Nor doomed it—sin; nor held it—folly;
But deigned to share the joys of men;
The Beautiful, was still the Holy!
And while those Gods so deigned to share
Our mortal pleasures, downward bending,
We too to their Empyrean air
In noble strife were upward tending.
Ah! generous Creeds, that blossom'd forth
'Mid southern Græcia's softer bowers,
What blight-wind from our bitter North
Hath seared your hues and shrunk your flowers?
Too proud for earlier leading-strings
Our world disdains each old Ideal;
And, clogged with mere prosaic things,
Plods heavily life's sullen Real.
Idalian smiles! Jove's lofty brow!
Pan! the Wood-nymphs! all are gone!
Bright as ye were, bright Fictions!—now—
Ye live in Poet's dream—alone.