Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extracts from The Life and Death of Jason: Medea at Corinth
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
  SHE ceased, and moaning to herself she said:—
“Ah! when will all be ended? If the dead
Have unto them some little memory left
Of things that while they lived Fate from them reft,
Ere life itself was reft from them at last,        5
Yet would to God these days at least were past,
And all be done that here must needs be done!
  “Ah! shall I, living underneath the sun,
I wonder, wish for anything again,
Or ever know what pleasure means, and pain?—        10
—And for these deeds I do; and thou the first,
O woman, whose young beauty has so cursed
My hapless life, at least I save thee this—
The slow descent to misery from bliss,
With bitter torment growing day by day,        15
And faint hope lessening till it fades away
Into dull waiting for the certain blow.
But thou, who nought of coming fate dost know,
One overwhelming fear, one agony,
And in a little minute shalt thou be        20
Where thou wouldst be in threescore years at most,
And surely but a poor gift thou hast lost.
The new-made slave, the toiler on the sea,
The once rich fallen into poverty,
In one hour knows more grief than thou canst know;        25
And many an one there is who fain would go
And try their fortune in the unknown life
If they could win some ending to this strife,
Unlooked-for, sudden, as thine end shall be.
Kindly I deal with thee, mine enemy;        30
Since swift forgetfulness to thee I send.
But thou shalt die—his eyes shall see thine end—
Ah! if thy death alone could end it all!
 
  “But ye—shall I behold you when leaves fall,
In some sad evening of the autumn-tide?        35
Or shall I have you sitting by my side
Amidst the feast, so that folk stare and say,
‘Sure the grey wolf has seen the queen to-day?’
What! when I kneel in temples of the Gods,
Must I bethink me of the upturned sods,        40
And hear a voice say: ‘Mother, wilt thou come
And see us resting in our new-made home,
Since thou wert used to make us lie full soft,
Smoothing our pillows many a time and oft?
O mother, now no dainty food we need,        45
Whereof thou once wert wont to have such heed.
O mother, now we need no gown of gold,
Nor in the winter time do we grow cold;
Thy hands would bathe us when we were thine own,
Now doth the rain wash every shining bone.        50
No pedagogue we need, for surely heaven
Lies spread above us, with the planets seven,
To teach us all its lore.’
                    “Ah! day by day
Would I have hearkened all the folk would say.
Ah! in the sweet beginning of your days        55
Would I have garnered every word of praise.
‘What fearless backers of the untamed steed!’
‘What matchless spears, what loyal friends at need!’
‘What noble hearts, how bountiful and free!’
‘How like their father on the troublous sea!’        60
  “O sons, with what sweet counsels and what tears
Would I have hearkened to the hopes and fears
Of your first loves: what rapture had it been
Your dear returning footsteps to have seen
Amidst the happy warriors of the land;        65
But now—but now—this is a little hand
Too often kissed since love did first begin
To win such curses as it yet shall win,
When after all bad deeds there comes a worse;
Praise to the Gods! ye know not how to curse.        70
  “But when in some dim land we meet again
Will ye remember all the loss and pain?
Will ye the form of children keep for aye
With thoughts of men? and ‘Mother,’ will ye say,
‘Why didst thou slay us ere we came to know        75
That men die? hadst thou waited until now,
An easy thing it had been then to die,
For in the thought of immortality
Do children play about the flowery meads,
And win their heaven with a crown of weeds.’        80
  “O children! that I would have died to save,
How fair a life of pleasure might ye have,
But for your mother:—nay, for thee, for thee,
For thee who might’st have lived so happily;
For thee, O traitor! who didst bring them here        85
Into this cruel world, this lovely bier
Of youth and love, and joy and happiness,
That unforeseeing happy fools still bless.”
 
 
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