Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Œnone, or the Choice of Paris
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
 
(See full text.)
*        *        *        *        *
  “DEAR mother Ida, harken ere I die.
He smiled, and opening out his milk-white palm
Disclosed a fruit of true Hesperian gold,
That smelt ambrosially, and while I looked
And listened, the full-flowing river of speech        5
Came down upon my heart.
                “‘My own Œnone,
Beautiful-browed Œnone, my own soul,
Behold this fruit, whose gleaming rind ingraven
“For the most fair,” would seem to award it thine,
As lovelier than whatever Oread haunt        10
The knolls of Ida, loveliest in all grace
Of movement, and the charm of married brows.’
 
  “Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
He prest the blossom of his lips to mine,
And added, ‘This was cast upon the board,        15
When all the full-faced presence of the Gods
Ranged in the halls of Peleus; whereupon
Rose feud, with question unto whom ’twere due:
But light-foot Iris brought it yester-eve,
Delivering, that to me, by common voice,        20
Elected umpire, Heré comes to-day,
Pallas and Aphrodité, claiming each
This meed of fairest. Thou, within the cave
Behind yon whispering tuft of oldest pine,
Mayst well behold them unbeheld, unheard        25
Hear all, and see thy Paris judge of Gods.’
 
  “Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
It was the deep midnoon: one silvery cloud
Had lost his way between the piney sides
Of this long glen. Then to the bower they came,        30
Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower,
And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
Violet, amaracus, and asphodel,
Lotos and lilies: and a wind arose,
And overhead the wandering ivy and vine,        35
This way and that, in many a wild festoon
Ran riot, garlanding the gnarled boughs
With bunch and berry and flower through and through.
 
  “O mother Ida, harken ere I die.
On the tree-tops a crested peacock lit,        40
And o’er him flowed a golden cloud, and leaned
Upon him, slowly dropping fragrant dew.
Then first I heard the voice of her, to whom
Coming through Heaven, like a light that grows
Larger and clearer, with one mind the Gods        45
Rise up for reverence. She to Paris made
Proffer of royal power, ample rule
Unquestioned, overflowing revenue
Wherewith to embellish state, ‘from many a vale
And river-sundered champaign clothed with corn,        50
Or labored mines undrainable of ore.
Honor,’ she said, ‘and homage, tax and toll,
From many an inland town and haven large,
Mast-thronged beneath her shadowing citadel
In glassy bays among her tallest towers.’        55
 
  “O mother Ida, harken ere I die.
Still she spake on and still she spake of power,
‘Which in all action is the end of all;
Power fitted to the season; wisdom-bred
And throned of wisdom—from all neighbor crowns        60
Alliance and allegiance, till thy hand
Fail from the sceptre-staff. Such boon from me,
From me, Heaven’s Queen, Paris, to thee king-born,
A shepherd all thy life, but yet king-born,
Should come most welcome, seeing men, in power,        65
Only, are likest gods, who have attained
Rest in a happy place and quiet seats
Above the thunder, with undying bliss
In knowledge of their own supremacy.’
 
  “Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.        70
She ceased, and Paris held the costly fruit
Out at arm’s-length, so much the thought of power
Flattered his spirit; but Pallas where she stood
Somewhat apart, her clear and bared limbs
O’erthwarted with the brazen-headed spear        75
Upon her pearly shoulder leaning cold,
The while, above, her full and earnest eye
Over her snow-cold breast and angry cheek
Kept watch, waiting decision, made reply.
 
  “‘Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,        80
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
Yet not for power (power of herself
Would come uncalled for), but to live by law,
Acting the law we live by without fear;
And, because right is right, to follow right        85
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.’
 
  “Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
Again she said: ‘I woo thee not with gifts.
Sequel of guerdon could not alter me
To fairer. Judge thou me by what I am,        90
So shalt thou find me fairest.
                        Yet, indeed,
If gazing on divinity disrobed
Thy mortal eyes are frail to judge of fair,
Unbiased by self-profit, oh! rest thee sure
That I shall love thee well and cleave to thee,        95
So that my vigor, wedded to thy blood,
Shall strike within thy pulses, like a God’s,
To push thee forward through a life of shocks,
Dangers, and deeds, until endurance grow
Sinewed with action, and the full-grown will,        100
Circled through all experiences, pure law,
Commeasure perfect freedom.’
                “Here she ceased,
And Paris pondered, and I cried, ‘O Paris,
Give it to Pallas!’ but he heard me not,
Or hearing would not hear me, woe is me!        105
 
  “O mother Ida, many-fountained Ida,
Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
Idalian Aphrodité beautiful,
Fresh as the foam, new-bathed in Paphian wells,
With rosy slender fingers backward drew        110
From her warm brows and bosom her deep hair
Ambrosial, golden round her lucid throat
And shoulder: from the violets her light foot
Shone rosy-white, and o’er her rounded form
Between the shadows of the vine-bunches        115
Floated the glowing sunlights, as she moved.
 
  “Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
She with a subtle smile in her mild eyes,
The herald of her triumph, drawing nigh
Half-whispered in his ear, ‘I promise thee        120
The fairest and most loving wife in Greece,’
She spoke and laughed: I shut my sight for fear:
But when I looked, Paris had raised his arm,
And I beheld great Heré’s angry eyes,
As she withdrew into the golden cloud,        125
And I was left alone within the bower,
And from that time to this I am alone,
And I shall be alone until I die.”
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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