Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
Life’s Hebe
James Thomson (1834–82)
IN the early morning-shine
Of a certain day divine,
I beheld a Maiden stand
With a pitcher in her hand;
Whence she pour’d into a cup,        5
Until it was half fill’d up,
Nectar that was golden light
In the cup of crystal bright.
And the first who took the cup
With pure water fill’d it up;        10
As he drank then, it was more
Ruddy golden then before:
And he leap’d and danced and sang
As to Bacchic cymbals’ clang.
But the next who took the cup        15
With the red wine fill’d it up;
What he drank then was in hue
Of a heavy sombre blue:
First he reel’d and then he crept,
Then lay faint but never slept.        20
And the next who took the cup
With the white milk fill’d it up;
What he drank at first seem’d blood,
Then turn’d thick and brown as mud:
And he mov’d away as slow        25
As a weary ox may go.
But the next who took the cup
With sweet honey fill’d it up;
Nathless that which he did drink
Was thin fluid black as ink:        30
As he went he stumbled soon,
And lay still in deathlike swoon.
She the while without a word
Unto all the cup preferr’d;
Blandly smil’d and sweetly laugh’d        35
As each mingled his own draught.
And the next who took the cup
To the sunshine held it up,
Gave it back and did not taste;
It was empty when replaced:        40
First he bow’d a reverent bow,
Then he kiss’d her on the brow.
But the next who took the cup
Without mixture drank it up;
When she took it back from him        45
It was full unto the brim:
He with a right bold embrace
Kiss’d her sweet lips face to face.
Then she sang with blithest cheer:
Who has thirst, come here, come here!        50
Nectar that is golden light
In the cup of crystal bright,
Nectar that is sunny fire
Warm as warmest heart’s desire:
Pitcher never lacketh more,        55
Arm is never tir’d to pour:
Honey, water, milk, or wine
Mingle with the draught divine,
Drink it pure, or drink it not;
Each is free to choose his lot;        60
Am I old? or am I cold?
Only two have kiss’d me bold!
She was young and fair and gay
As that young and glorious day.


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