Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
Phoebus with Admetus
By George Meredith (1828–1909)
WHEN by Zeus relenting the mandate was revoked,
  Sentencing to exile the bright Sun-God,
Mindful were the ploughmen of who the steer had yoked,
  Who: and what a track show’d the upturn’d sod!
Mindful were the shepherds, as now the noon severe        5
  Bent a burning eyebrow to brown evetide,
How the rustic flute drew the silver to the sphere,
  Sister of his own, till her rays fell wide.
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,        10
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.
Chirping none, the scarlet cicalas crouch’d in ranks:
  Slack the thistle-head piled its down-silk gray:
Scarce the stony lizard suck’d hollows in his flanks:        15
  Thick on spots of umbrage our drowsed flocks lay.
Sudden bow’d the chestnuts beneath a wind unheard,
  Lengthen’d ran the grasses, the sky grew slate:
Then amid a swift flight of wing’d seed white as curd,
  Clear of limb a Youth smote the master’s gate.        20
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.
Water, first of singers, o’er rocky mount and mead,        25
  First of earthly singers, the sun-loved rill,
Sang of him, and flooded the ripples on the reed,
  Seeking whom to waken and what ear fill.
Water, sweetest soother to kiss a wound and cool,
  Sweetest and divinest, the sky-born brook,        30
Chuckled, with a whimper, and made a mirror-pool
  Round the guest we welcomed, the strange hand shook.
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d        35
          That had thee here obscure.
Many swarms of wild bees descended on our fields:
  Stately stood the wheatstalk with head bent high:
Big of heart we labour’d at storing mighty yields,
  Wool and corn, and clusters to make men cry!        40
Hand-like rush’d the vintage; we strung the bellied skins
  Plump, and at the sealing the Youth’s voice rose:
Maidens clung in circle, on little fists their chins;
  Gentle beasties through push’d a cold long nose.
          God! of whom music        45
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.
Foot to fire in snowtime we trimm’d the slender shaft:
  Often down the pit spied the lean wolf’s teeth        50
Grin against his will, trapp’d by masterstrokes of craft;
  Helpless in his froth-wrath as green logs seethe!
Safe the tender lambs tugg’d the teats, and winter sped
  Whirl’d before the crocus, the year’s new gold.
Hung the hooky beak up aloft, the arrowhead        55
  Redden’d through his feathers for our dear fold.
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.        60
Tales we drank of giants at war with gods above:
  Rocks were they to look on, and earth climb’d air!
Tales of search for simples, and those who sought of love
  Ease because the creature was all too fair.
Pleasant ran our thinking that while our work was good,        65
  Sure as fruits for sweat would the praise come fast.
He that wrestled stoutest and tamed the billow-brood
  Danced in rings with girls, like a sail-flapp’d mast.
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,        70
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.
Lo, the herb of healing, when once the herb is known,
  Shines in shady woods bright as new-sprung flame,
Ere the string was tighten’d we heard the mellow tone,        75
  After he had taught how the sweet sounds came.
Stretch’d about his feet, labour done, ’twas as you see
  Red pomegranates tumble and burst hard rind.
So began contention to give delight and be
  Excellent in things aim’d to make life kind.        80
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d
          That had thee here obscure.
You with shelly horns, rams! and, promontory goats,        85
  You whose browsing beards dip in coldest dew!
Bulls, that walk the pastures in kingly-flashing coats!
  Laurel, ivy, vine, wreathed for feasts not few!
You that build the shade-roof, and you that court the rays,
  You that leap besprinkling the rock stream-rent:        90
He has been our fellow, the morning of our days;
  Us he chose for housemates, and this way went.
          God! of whom music
          And song and blood are pure,
          The day is never darken’d        95
          That had thee here obscure.
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