Augusta Davies Webster

Here you will find the Long Poem Circe of poet Augusta Davies Webster


The sun drops luridly into the west; 
darkness has raised her arms to draw him down 
before the time, not waiting as of wont 
till he has come to her behind the sea; 
and the smooth waves grow sullen in the gloom 
and wear their threatening purple; more and more 
the plain of waters sways and seems to rise 
convexly from its level of the shores; 
and low dull thunder rolls along the beach: 
there will be storm at last, storm, glorious storm. 

Oh welcome, welcome, though it rend my bowers, 
scattering my blossomed roses like the dust, 
splitting the shrieking branches, tossing down 
my riotous vines with their young half-tinged grapes 
like small round amethysts or beryls strung 
tumultuously in clusters, though it sate 
its ravenous spite among my goodliest pines 
standing there round and still against the sky 
that makes blue lakes between their sombre tufts, 
or harry from my silvery olive slopes 
some hoary king whose gnarled fantastic limbs 
wear crooked armour of a thousand years; 
though it will hurl high on my flowery shores 
the hostile wave that rives at the poor sward 
and drags it down the slants, that swirls its foam 
over my terraces, shakes their firm blocks 
of great bright marbles into tumbled heaps, 
and makes my preached and mossy labyrinths, 
where the small odorous blossoms grow like stars 
strewn in the milky way, a briny marsh. 
What matter? let it come and bring me change, 
breaking the sickly sweet monotony. 

I am too weary of this long bright calm; 
always the same blue sky, always the sea 
the same blue perfect likeness of the sky, 
one rose to match the other that has waned, 
to-morrow's dawn the twin of yesterday's; 
and every night the ceaseless crickets chirp 
the same long joy and the late strain of birds 
repeats their strain of all the even month; 
and changelessly the petty plashing surfs 
bubble their chiming burden round the stones; 
dusk after dusk brings the same languid trance 
upon the shadowy hills, and in the fields 
the waves of fireflies come and go the same, 
making the very flash of light and stir 
vex one like dronings of the spinning wheel. 

Give me some change. Must life be only sweet, 
all honey-pap as babes would have their food? 
And, if my heart must always be adrowse 
in a hush of stagnant sunshine, give me then 
something outside me stirring; let the storm 
break up the sluggish beauty, let it fall 
beaten below the feet of passionate winds, 
and then to-morrow waken jubilant 
in a new birth: let me see subtle joy 
of anguish and of hopes, of change and growth. 

What fate is mine who, far apart from pains 
and fears and turmoils of the cross-grained world, 
dwell, like a lonely god, in a charmed isle 
where I am first and only, and, like one 
who should love poisonous savours more than mead, 
long for a tempest on me and grow sick 
of resting, and divine free carelessness! 
Oh me, I am a woman, not a god; 
yea, those who tend me even are more than I, 
my nymphs who have the souls of flowers and birds 
singing and blossoming immortally. 

Ah me! these love a day and laugh again, 
and loving, laughing, find a full content; 
but I know nought of peace, and have not loved. 

Where is my love? Does some one cry for me, 
not knowing whom he calls? does his soul cry 
for mine to grow beside it, grow in it? 
does he beseech the gods to give him me, 
the one unknown rare woman by whose side 
no other woman, thrice as beautiful, 
should once seem fair to him; to whose voice heard 
in any common tones no sweetest sound 
of love made melody on silver lutes, 
or singing like Apollo's when the gods 
grow pale with happy listening, might be peered 
for making music to him; whom once found 
there will be no more seeking anything? 

Oh love, oh love, oh love, art not yet come 
out of the waiting shadows into life? 
art not yet come after so many years 
that I have longed for thee? Come! I am here. 

Not yet. For surely I should feel a sound 
of his far answering, if now in the world 
he sought me who will seek me--Oh ye gods 
will he not seek me? Is it all a dream? 
will there be never never such a man? 
will there be only these, these bestial things 
who wallow in my styes, or mop and mow 
among the trees, or munch in pens and byres, 
or snarl and filch behind their wattled coops; 
these things who had believed that they were men? 

Nay but he will come. Why am I so fair, 
and marvellously minded, and with sight 
which flashes suddenly on hidden things, 
as the gods see who do not need to look? 
why wear I in my eyes that stronger power 
than basilisks, whose gaze can only kill, 
to draw men's souls to me to live or die 
as I wo