Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
‘One day, at noontide, when the chase was done’ (from Orion)
By Richard Henry Hengist Horne (1802–1884)
(From Book I, Canto II)

  ONE day, at noontide, when the chase was done,
Which with unresting speed since dawn had held,
The woods were all with golden fires alive,
And heavy limbs tingled with glowing heat.
Sylvans and Fauns at full length cast them down,        5
And cooled their flame-red faces in the grass,
Or o’er a streamlet bent, and dipped their heads
Deep as the top hair of their pointed ears;
While Nymphs and Oceanides retired
To grots and sacred groves, with loitering steps,        10
And bosoms swelled and throbbing, like a bird’s
Held between human hands. The hounds with tongues
Crimson, and lolling hot upon the green,
And outstretched noses, flatly crouched; their skins
Clouded or spotted, like the field-bean’s flower,        15
Or tiger-lily, painted the wide lawns.
  Orion wandered deep into a vale
Alone; from all the rest his steps he bent,
Thoughtful, yet with no object in his mind;
Languid, yet restless. Near a hazel copse,        20
Whose ripe nuts hung in clusters twined with grapes,
He paused, down gazing, till upon his sense
A fragrance stole, as of ambrosia wafted
Through the warm shades by some divinity
Amid the woods. With gradual step he moved        25
Onward, and soon the poppied entrance found
Of a secluded bower. He entered straight,
Unconsciously attracted, and beheld
His Goddess love, who slept—her robe cast off,
Her sandals, bow and quiver, thrown aside,        30
Yet with her hair still braided, and her brow
Decked with her crescent light. Awed and alarmed
By loving reverence—which dreads offence
E’en though the wrong were never known, and feels
Its heart’s religion for religion’s self,        35
Besides its object’s claim—swift he retired.
  The entrance gain’d, what thoughts, what visions his!
What danger had he ’scaped, what innocent crime,
Which Artemis might yet have felt so deep!
He blest the God of Sleep who thus had held        40
Her senses! Yet, what loveliness had glanced
Before his mind—scarce seen! Might it not be
Illusion?—some bright shadow of a hope
First dawning? Would not sleep’s God still exert
Safe influence, if he once more stole back        45
And gazed an instant? ’Twere not well to do,
And would o’erstain with doubt the accident
Which first had led him there. He dare not risk
The chance ’twere not illusion—oh, if true!
While thus he murmured hesitating, slow,        50
As slow and hesitating he returned
Instinctively, and on the Goddess gazed!
  With adoration and delicious fear,
Lingering he stood; then pace by pace retired,
Till in the hazel copse sighing he paused,        55
And with most earnest face, and vacant eye,
And brow perplexed, stared at a tree. His hands
Were clenched; his burning feet pressed down the soil,
And changed their place. Suddenly he turned round,
And made his way direct into the bower.        60
  There was a slumb’rous silence in the air,
By noon-tide’s sultry murmurs from without
Made more oblivious. Not a pipe was heard
From field or wood; but the grave beetle’s drone
Passed near the entrance; once the cuckoo called        65
O’er distant meads, and once a horn began
Melodious plaint, then died away. A sound
Of murmurous music yet was in the breeze,
For silver gnats that harp on glassy strings,
And rise and fall in sparkling clouds, sustained        70
Their dizzy dances o’er the seething meads.
With brain as dizzy stood Orion now
I’ the quivering bower. There rapturous he beheld,
As in a trance, not conscious of himself,
The perfect sculpture of that naked form,        75
Whose Parian whiteness and clear outline gleamed
In its own hue, nor from the foliage took
One tint, nor from his ample frame one shade.
Her lovely hair hung drooping, half unbound,—
Fair silken braids, fawn-tinted delicately,        80
That on one shoulder lodge their opening coil.
Her large round arms of dazzling beauty lay
In matchless symmetry and inviolate grace,
Along the mossy floor. At length he dropped
Softly upon his knees, his clasped hands raised        85
Above his head, till by resistless impulse
His arms descending, were expanded wide—
Swift as a flash, erect the Goddess rose!
  Her eyes shot through Orion, and he felt
Within his breast an icy dart. Confronted,        90
Mutely they stood, but all the bower was filled
With rising mist that chilled him to the bone,
Colder, as more obscure the space became;
And ere the last collected shape he saw
Of Artemis, dispersing fast amid        95
Dense vapoury clouds, the aching wintriness
Had risen to his teeth, and fixed his eyes,
Like glistening stones in the congealing air.

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