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For thou hast only thou - raised me and mine
Up again to this light and life!" Then asked
Tremblingly, how was trod the perilous path
Out of the dark into the light and life :
How it had happened with Alkestis there.

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How he engaged in combat with that king
O' the dæmons: how the field of contest lay

By the tomb's self: how he sprang from ambuscade,
Captured Death, caught him in that pair of hands.

But all the time, Alkestis moved not once
Out of the set gaze and the silent smile;
And a cold fear ran through Admetos' frame:
Why does she stand and front me, silent thus ?"

Herakles solemnly replied, "Not yet

Is it allowable thou hear the things
She has to tell thee; let evanish quite
That consecration to the lower Gods,

And on our upper world the third day rise!

Lead her in, meanwhile; good and true thou art,
Good, true, remain thou! Practise piety
To stranger-guests the old way! So, farewell!
Since forth I fare, fulfil my urgent task
Set by the king, the son of Sthenelos."


Fain would Admetos keep that splendid smile
Ever to light him. Stay with us, thou heart!
Remain our house-friend!"

"At some other day!

Now, of necessity, I haste!" smiled he.

"But may'st thou prosper, go forth on a foot
Sure to return! Through all the tetrarchy,
Command my subjects that they institute
Thanksgiving-dances for the glad event,
And bid each altar smoke with sacrifice!
For we are minded to begin a fresh
Existence, better than the life before;
Seeing I own myself supremely blest."

Whereupon all the friendly moralists

Drew this conclusion: chirped, each beard to each: "Manifold are thy shapings, Providence!

Many a hopeless matter Gods arrange.

What we expected, never came to pass:
What we did not expect, Gods brought to bear;
So have things gone, this whole experience through!”

Ah, but if you had seen the play itself!
They say, my poet failed to get the prize:
Sophokles got the prize, great name! They say,
Sophokles also means to make a piece,

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Model a new Admetos, a new wife :

Success to him! One thing has many sides.

The great name!

But no good supplants a good,

Nor beauty undoes beauty. Sophokles
Will carve and carry a fresh cup, brimful
Of beauty and good, firm to the altar-foot,
And glorify the Dionusiac shrine:

Not clash against this crater, in the place

Where the God put it when his mouth had drained, To the last dregs, libation lifeblood-like,

And praised Euripides forevermore

The Human with his droppings of warm tears.

Still, since one thing may have so many sides,
I think I see how, far from Sophokles,

You, I, or any one might mould a new

Admetos, new Alkestis.

Ah, that brave

Bounty of poets, the one royal race

That ever was, or will be, in this world!
They give no gift that bounds itself and ends
I' the giving and the taking: theirs so breeds
I' the heart and soul o' the taker, so transmutes
The man who only was a man before,

That he grows godlike in his turn, can give
He also share the poets' privilege,


Bring forth new good, new beauty, from the old.
As though the cup that gave the wine, gave, too,
The God's prolific giver of the grape,

That vine, was wont to find out, fawn around
His footstep, springing still to bless the dearth,
At bidding of a Mainad. So with me:

For I have drunk this poem, quenched my thirst,
Satisfied heart and soul
yet more remains!

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Could we too make a poem? Try at least,
Inside the head, what shape the rose-mists take!

When God Apollon took, for punishment,
A mortal form and sold himself a slave
To King Admetos till a term should end,
Not only did he make, in servitude,

Such music, while he fed the flocks and herds,
As saved the pasturage from wrong or fright,
Curing rough creatures of ungentleness:
Much more did that melodious wisdom work
Within the heart o' the master: there, ran wild
Many a lust and greed that grow to strength
By preying on the native pity and care,
Would else, all undisturbed, possess the land.

And these, the God so tamed, with golden tongue,
That, in the plenitude of youth and power,
Admetos vowed himself to rule thenceforth
In Pherai solely for his people's sake,
Subduing to such end each lust and greed
That dominates the natural charity.

And so the struggle ended. Right ruled might:
And soft yet brave, and good yet wise, the man
Stood up to be a monarch; having learned
The worth of life, life's worth would he bestow
On all whose lot was cast, to live or die,
As he determined for the multitude.
So stands a statue: pedestalled sublime,
Only that it may wave the thunder off,

And ward, from winds that vex, a world below.

And then,
E'en to the sense o' the marble,

as if a whisper found its way

The royalty of its resolve, that head

"Vain thy vow!

Shall hide within the dust ere day be done :

That arm, its outstretch of beneficence,

Shall have a speedy ending on the earth:

Lie patient, prone, while light some cricket leaps
And takes possession of the masterpiece,

To sit, sing louder as more near the sun.
For why? A flaw was in the pedestal;

Who knows? A worm's work! Sapped, the certain fate O' the statue is to fall, and thine to die!"

Whereat the monarch, calm, addressed himself

To die, but bitterly the soul outbroke

"O prodigality of life, blind waste

I' the world, of power profuse without the will
To make life do its work, deserve its day!
My ancestors pursued their pleasure, poured
The blood o' the people out in idle war,
Or took occasion of some weary peace

To bid men dig down deep or build up high,
Spend bone and marrow that the king might feast
Intrenched and buttressed from the vulgar gaze.
Yet they all lived, nay, lingered to old age:

As though Zeus loved that they should laugh to scorn
The vanity of seeking other ends,

In rule, than just the ruler's pastime. They

Lived; I must die."

And, as some long last moan

Of a minor suddenly is propped beneath

By note which, new-struck, turns the wail, that was, Into a wonder and a triumph, so

Began Alkestis :


Nay, thou art to live!
The glory that, in the disguise of flesh,
Was helpful to our house, he prophesied
The coming fate: whereon, I pleaded sore
That he, I guessed a God, who to his couch
Amid the clouds must go and come again,
While we were darkling,

since he loved us both,

He should permit thee, at whatever price,
To live and carry out to heart's content
Soul's purpose, turn each thought to very deed,
Nor let Zeus lose the monarch meant in thee."

To which Apollon, with a sunset smile,
Sadly - "And so should mortals arbitrate!
It were unseemly if they aped us Gods,
And, mindful of our chain of consequence,
Lost care of the immediate earthly link:
Forewent the comfort of life's little hour,
In prospect of some cold abysmal blank
Alien eternity, - unlike the time

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our eternity

They know, and understand to practise with,
no heart's blood, bright
And warm outpoured in its behoof, would tinge
Never so palely, warm a whit the more :
Whereas retained and treasured - left to beat
Joyously on, a life's length, in the breast

O' the loved and loving, it would throb itself
Through, and suffuse the earthly tenement,
Transform it, even as your mansion here

Is love-transformed into a temple-home
Where I, a God, forget the Olumpian glow,
I' the feel of human richness like the rose:
Your hopes and fears, so blind and yet so sweet
With death about them. Therefore, well in thee
To look, not on eternity, but time:

To apprehend that, should Admetos die,
All, we Gods purposed in him, dies as sure:
That, life's link snapping, all our chain is lost.
And yet a mortal glance might pierce, methinks,
Deeper into the seeming dark of things,

And learn, no fruit, man's life can bear, will fade :
Learn, if Admetos die now, so much more
Will pity for the frailness found in flesh,
Will terror at the earthly chance and change
Frustrating wisest scheme of noblest soul,
Will these go wake the seeds of good asleep
Throughout the world: as oft a rough wind sheds
The unripe promise of some field-flower, — true!
But loosens too the level, and lets breathe
A thousand captives for the year to come.
Nevertheless, obtain thy prayer, stay fate!
Admetos lives if thou wilt die for him!"

"So was the pact concluded that I die,

And thou live on, live for thyself, for me,
For all the world. Embrace and bid me hail,
Husband, because I have the victory:

Am, heart, soul, head to foot, one happiness!"

Whereto Admetos, in a passionate cry:
"Never, by that true word Apollon spoke!
All the unwise wish is unwished, oh wife!
Let purposes of Zeus fulfil themselves,

If not through me, then through some other man!
Still, in myself he had a purpose too,
Inalienably mine, to end with me:

This purpose that, throughout my earthly life,
Mine should be mingled and made up with thine, -
And we two prove one force and play one part
And do one thing. Since death divides the pair,
'Tis well that I depart and thou remain
Who wast to me as spirit is to flesh:
Let the flesh perish, be perceived no more,
So thou, the spirit that informed the flesh,
Bend yet awhile, a very flame above

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