Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813–1865)
VAINLY were the words of parting spoken;
  Evermore must Charon turn from me.
Still my thread of life remains unbroken,
  And unbroken it must ever be!
      Only they may rest        5
      Whom the Fates’ behest
  From their mortal mansion setteth free.
I have seen the robes of Hermes glisten—
  Seen him wave afar his serpent wand;
But to me the Herald would not listen        10
  When the dead swept by at his command.
      Not with that pale crew
      Durst I venture too:
  Ever shut for me the quiet land!
Day and night before the dreary portal        15
  Phantom shapes, the guards of Hades, lie:
None of heavenly kind, nor yet of mortal,
  May unchallenged pass the warders by.
      None that path may go
      If he cannot show        20
  His last passport to eternity.
Cruel was the spirit-power thou gavest!
  Fatal, O Apollo, was thy love!
Pythian, Archer, brightest God and bravest,
  Hear, O hear me from thy throne above!        25
      Let me not, I pray,
      Thus be cast away:
  Plead for me, thy slave—O plead to Jove!
I have heard thee with the Muses singing—
  Heard that full melodious voice of thine        30
Silver-clear throughout the ether ringing—
  Seen thy locks in golden clusters shine:
      And thine eye, so bright
      With its innate light,
  Hath ere now been bent so low as mine.        35
Hast thou lost the wish, the will, to cherish
  Those who trusted in thy godlike power?
Hyacinthus did not wholly perish!
  Still he lives the firstling of thy bower:
      Still he feels thy rays,        40
      Fondly meets thy gaze,
  Tho’ but now the spirit of a flower.

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