Menu Close



                        Still, brilliant with bright brass, the tower derides
                        The sun’s gold shafts ; which strike and on all sides,
                        Like ridicule-lit laughter, spread ; and some
                        In bravery bend back whence they have come,
                        And try their strength with those that come direct,
                        With first impetuous potency unchecked,
                        From the god’s bow. For this the heat is great
                        O’er all the land of Argolis of late.
                        The king, Acrisius, hopes his tower may prove
                        Impregnable to liquid light and love
                        Rolled round it in a golden ocean-tide
                        Whose ebb is a June night : and so all dried
                        And dusty have the ways become ; the fields,
                        They wind among, with grain a rich soil yields
                        Should glow, not thus discover to the eye,
                        Between scant straws, their crops, what black cracks lie
                        And lengthen snake-like on baked brittle earth.
                        Nor dewed nor girlish comes the Dawn, a birth
                        Militant ; not a sole dwarfed hare-bell dares
                        To laugh : Night’s tearless glitter naught repairs.
                        Old Inachus scarce finds the strength to stretch
                        On his hot bed—stirs like a fevered wretch,
                        And limps round stones—so feebly seaward creeps.
                        While in the tower-top small Danae sleeps,
                        Unconscious how a god close, closer steals
                        Across her painted prison-floor, nor feels
                        His burning kiss the hand he reaches first.
                        She sleeps half-swooned: with sweat her brow has burst;
                        Pale lips apart show teeth like maids in bower,
                        Nor past them has her sweet breath stirred this hour.

                        Leaves lap and overlap, and trees ; the lily,
                        Deep-delled and fragile, grows up very stilly,
                        Decked with bead-bells adroop, yet so abashed,
                        She sees but couch-moss by rill-frolic splashed.
                        So silken shade and shawls of varied hue
                        Hid Danaë’s limbs which whiter daily grew;
                        And nothing saw she, save her room’s few things,
                        Beside the well-conned window-view; and brings
                        Each year no increase to her life’s thin store
                        Of sights—the only one not known before
                        A larger loveliness, that might be found
                        By searching the great mirror’s polished round :
                        Which had advent so imperceptible
                        It dwelt unnoticed there ; although, whimful,
                        She loved to see—no soil of levity

1                                                                                                In

                        In her fresh silent mind—in nudity,
                        No flush-faced shame dared hinder to enjoy,
                        Her beauty—purely with no least alloy
                        Of vanity, since she had never seen
                        Eyes like to those which modest maidens screen
                        Themselves from, neither knew that any girls
                        There were less fair than she, or who wore curls
                        Less copious or of poorer purple sheen
                        On lustre-lacking black. Oft would she lean
                        As through a thunder-rain, while combing it,
                        Nor then alone before her mirror sit;
                        For when—cool after washing with well-water,
                        Nurse daily stooping up the steep stair brought her—
                        She gravely sat to musingly commune
                        With her companion-self a June forenoon,
                        To gain a smile’s return sometimes she smiled.
                        Since off her nurse’s knee at first, beguiled,
                        When little, by the bright resemblance to
                        Her young glad life, she tottered towards the new-
                        Perceived child, whose fresh rosy limbs resembled
                        Eros’ own in deep-dimpled mould, and trembled
                        Like cress-framed skies gladdened to recognise
                        Another blue,—deception friendly-wise
                        Lingered, though she no longer patted, pleased
                        To meet a pud like hers, and, seized
                        With love, put out her lips to join the lips
                        Out-thrust to them: no Years’ hand quite down-strips
                        The veil with child-dreams broidered ; in her head
                        Still someway separate existence led
                        The twin, and not so much more silent, sister
                        With her up-grown. Not once had she yet missed her,
                        As o’er their earliest chubby limbs had come
                        A gradual change, a whimsical, winsome
                        Awkwardness peeping out till plumpness went :
                        O’er salient points a certain tightness lent
                        A peevish pinched appearance; in sight too
                        Their shoulder-blades moved looselier ; a new
                        Sly meagreness had crept o’er them ; as shoots,
                        They sprouted up to taller growth ; like roots
                        Sent down into dark mould, grew whiter daily.
                        Strange inner effervescence sparkled gaily
                        Out through their eyes. The undecided place
                        Of budding breasts, dissimulating grace
                        As March flakes feign the snowdrop’s calm, shows forms
                        Hazy like mushrooms when the night-time warms,
                        That globe and gleam, yet leave the stars in doubt
                        If on the dewy slopes they shift about.

2                                                                                                When

                        When moulds the potter on his whirling wheel
                        Dumb clay, a hint of final curves will steal
                        From clever hands in sapience sure ; just so
                        Quaint querulous suggestions of a flow
                        Of contour simpler, more capacious, slips
                        From God’s thumb when he moulds a woman’s hips.
                        Her thighs will lengthen faster than they round,
                        Till their delightful devious line be found.
                        The heels, too narrow, of the little feet
                        Will give her steps a wayward wav’ring sweet.
                        As when, unpropped, the heavy dahlias lean,
                        Her head nods, nods. A mere caged white-mouse, seen
                        Through close-strung wires, will writhe its sleek length high,
                        And hold with pinky paws, and seem to sigh
                        As, sniffing tainted air, it seeks a vent
                        From prison ; and then scurries back, as bent
                        On finding in the oft-searched farther end
                        Some small escape ; and, since its birth there penned,
                        Yet lives on, never losing childish hope
                        Somehow eventually its sense may cope
                        With most perplexing life-imprisonment:
                        Thus Danaë, with like hopeful discontent,
                        Led to and fro her white shape in her life’s
                        Wall-hampered home ; and still this useless strife’s
                        Fatigue can barely disappoint a mind
                        So scantly versed in freedom, or unblind
                        To fate’s fell force eyes closed by charity
                        To real and might-be sights’ disparity.

                        Now, like whole fallen statues on old lawns,
                        Deep puzzles for the country-minded fauns
                        Who peep, the sisters sleep. While mimic sun
                        Up one outstretched arm, cautious, crawls, up one
                        Real sun-lips yearn, aquiver yet to scare,
                        So lose, their prize; who Zeus is well aware
                        Lies not apurpose in his path. From fear,
                        He e’en forbids the swallows twitter near.
                        For daily—when, bold grown, some hour entered
                        In at her casement high, he has e’en dared
                        Come close up to the tall embroid’ring frame—
                        Just as his fingers set her wools aflame,
                        She started up to move more in the shade ;
                        Still on he crept, and still she was afraid
                        To feel his touch ; so his light widened, till
                        Was left, except beneath the window-sill,
                        No shade ; there crouched she in the broad’ning belt
                        And watched the crimson of his last rays melt.

3                                                                                                She

                        She liked to see and dodge him round the room,
                        Which was great fun ; he gone, all grew to gloom.

                        ’Twas then of old her nurse would lift her where
                        She might well watch old darkness overbear
                        The youthful light whom all things plead for—sheep
                        Who bleat and lowing herds and, half asleep,
                        Birds, ever loath to note how day’s cup fills
                        With joy ; and stables, then, and woods and hills
                        Hush up ; nymphs, centaurs, folk with tails and horns,
                        Settle themselves in nooks near lulling bourns.
                        Then, floated to her head, came children’s chatter,
                        And she, it may be, startled by such clatter,
                        Would let her eyes droop down to dark’ning earth,
                        And watch them playing in their noisy mirth.
                        Perchance they, quarrelling, fell by the ears
                        For some small sudden play-chance ; then her tears
                        Ran fast, and such upheaving sobs would rend
                        Her slight frail frame as would not know an end,
                        Till she was tucked up in her neat white bed;
                        When would commence a coursing through her head
                        Of wond’ring queries, how their love and hate
                        Were roused, till stunned by sleep importunate.

                        So tall and slender later on she grew
                        That, planted on a footstool, she could view
                        The many lanes that led up through the fields,
                        In which—towards where a deeper shadow shields
                        First-fallen leaves, while the withdrawing sky
                        Pities feet slow in dust—two wandered by
                        Who late, in most reposeful country life,
                        Have found unrest and something of the strife
                        Of hearts, which cruel Eros loves to see.
                        What balm was theirs to soothe? as peacefully
                        They went, arm-linked, what made them so content
                        In silence thus to walk, together leant?
                        Boundless and vague, deep wishes welled in her;
                        Wide grew her eyes ; and through the echoing air
                        A memory—sad, single, precious scrap
                        Of love-lore—sang,—while round her eyes she’ld wrap
                        Her hair to blind them,—what she once had heard
                        A poor girl sing:—so sorrow’s tide recurred.
                        “Haste thee, haste thee to my arms;
                        Hang they, voided of thy charms.
                        Marry me!”

4                                                                                                Like

                        Like some sick leaf, a fierce wind hunts alone
                        Proving its gold rings false on stem and stone,
                        This feather from Love’s wing to Danaë blew.
                        Ignorant of his name was she, nor knew
                        Aught of his antic gambols with the maids,
                        As, when she questions, her old nurse upbraids.
                        For the crook’d crone has had instruction strict,
                        To see how ’tis she lets herself be tricked
                        To talk of love, men’s manners, women’s wiles;
                        Therefore, well-taught how innocence beguiles
                        The weak lips to unwise discovery,
                        Has bound her tongue to stay most silently
                        Within her mouth, till grown so taciturn
                        Her gossip’s-heart has learnt to never yearn
                        For converse, though she truly loves the child—
                        Who, the song sung, let loose her hair and smiled.
                        Soon lifted eyes were tempted off anew
                        Among the stars, those eyes most simply true,
                        Thought but small holes drilled through a roof, the sky:
                        What should she know of gods or destiny,
                        Of Zeus, sky-king, or Kypris and her doves ?
                        What was to tell of them except their loves ?
                        No prayer she said ; nor had she learnt to muse
                        How life’s a dream, or of the soul that sues
                        For speech from out the frigid lips of fate ;
                        Nor knew she aught of the omniscience great,
                        Or how her small mind some w r ould father so.
                        Yet there of mystery was what she might know,
                        Who had found tokens in her tiny round,
                        That little limit of her life was ground
                        Sufficient for a larger lovelier growth,
                        Attaching meanings to the light: how loath
                        It was to shine, she thought, by such small holes,
                        When the vast void, through which the day’s sun rolls,
                        It could flood, driving forth the sad dark sea
                        Of night ; yet could not clothe her sweet fancy
                        In words. Since her vocabulary small,
                        Drafted from out her nurse’s, could not call
                        Her thoughts by name, she smiled them to her side,
                        A mind’s eye-harvest sweeter, not more wide,
                        Than filled a miser barrel’s critic-round
                        Of sky-blue. Disentangled and unwound,
                        Her idea of the home of blessedness,
                        Whence stars shone, could not bind such vague distress
                        As bosky gardens feed in glow-worm eyes,
                        Peering through gloom, whence if a tuft arise,
                        ’Tis shown by light which haunts them like a ghost,

5                                                                                                Those

                        Those few tufts just the things her life loves most.
                        Her swoon’s dream is, that she, transported thither,
                        Loves, wanders, close-companioned, near a river;
                        Un-characterized the friend, whose arms embrace her
                        Slow pacing down a path star-daisies trace there.
                        Meanwhile, at home and far from such a place,
                        The sun, stretched o’er her, showers on her face
                        Kisses, that meet no blush, nor dint the snow :
                        Thus summer wastes, for all the high peaks know.

                        Her life, love-stinted over-much,—for, save
                        Her nurse, no one to love, or that could crave
                        Her love, she knew—had let heart-worship fall
                        Portioned to dead things—as some silken shawl,
                        That she would hold against her cheek, kiss it,
                        Space out, and bid its folds her fancy fit;
                        Till thus an afternoon was whiled away,
                        Fondling its foolish yards. Another day
                        Brought flowers that came in pitchers, or a load
                        Plumping an apron, or else singly stowed
                        In with the butter, sprinkled o’er the fruit,
                        Or making dewy nests for eggs. First mute
                        For gladness, next with clapping hands on feet
                        That totter with impatience, see her greet
                        With airy kisses little friends—small eyes
                        Glorious with gazing on the liberal skies,
                        Sent by the open-hearted folk who wonder
                        “How fares small prisoner princess penned up yonder?”
                        Next in her favour stood some exile shells—
                        Large lips, agape with wonder-working spells
                        Which the ear hearing, vainly the mind strove
                        To dredge a meaning from. So, oft she wove
                        With nets and toils of hair one to her ear,
                        Deep in that cushion sunk she found most dear,
                        Her feet out-thrust on th’ mat most to her mind
                        Because, ’mid green waved lines, it showed a kind
                        Of ready needle-pictured likeness to
                        Her whole bare body, over which there flew
                        Much smaller portraits of herself, as she
                        Is to her mind brought back by memory.
                        As thus she sits, her treasures piled about,
                        Words foil her ears that, in a sailor’s, shout—
                        “ Aphrodite,
                        Each wave mothers
                        Thine almighty
                        Form; uncovers
                        It each breeze,

6                                                                                                Thee

                        Thee to please,
                        And to tease
                        All thy lovers.”

                        Sun down, the thick swoon from her body lifted:
                        So, with trailed wings, is some slow eagle shifted
                        By fed uneasiness. A vivid grey
                        Blinded her ; night’s cold coming drove away
                        Her sense once more : she slept, while pain did drum
                        With muffled hands her temples dull and numb.
                        Confusedly capricious dreams have wrung
                        Those tones from her with which that girl had sung,
                        While, like sea-chants climb twisted stairs to bed,
                        Male words through dainty doors have reached her head.

                        And from that night, as some fond woman sits
                        Beside her love, she with the sun, when its
                        First matin wealth plunged on her shoulder, till,
                        Having bathed and blessed her, it slipped o’er the sill.
                        So changed she was, life wholly seemed becalmed.
                        All summer-wonts, too, lingered unalarmed ;
                        For the fierce forest-fires of autumn sped
                        Slower, glowed larger with less hectic red,
                        To equal the great glow of July gold.
                        It seemed that ne’er, they fallen low, their cold
                        White ashes would be huddling round the farms
                        And choking in at doors. On false alarms
                        Birds flew to sea: still the bland weather stayed;
                        Oft, too, the roof of clouds, rent through or frayed,
                        On winter’s lap let warm boons drop, to cheer
                        Men’s hearts. Such fondling had the tower dear,
                        Where each and all those gleams are welcomed like
                        A lover’s letter.

                                                      When young breezes strike
                        A tune, and Spring, spry wanton, comes, her nurse
                        Looks puzzled, makes her pinched up lips to purse
                        And her eyes blink, bewildered, at the maid,
                        Who goldly glimmers in the gleam,—afraid
                        They have not told her of the thing aright.
                        She falls to rubbing them with all her might;
                        For, what! a woman with child, no maid, she saw
                        Sit where the maid had sat a year before.
                        She fain had got to scolding but delayed,
                        So clear the eyes she met; and then she prayed
                        She might be much mistaken, and still knew
                        She was not; such a queer knot how undo?
                        For she had ne’er an instant left the tower,

7                                                                                                Scarcely

                        Scarcely the room for much more than an hour.
                        Who could have done this thing ? O ye great gods!
                        Walls, locks, and all man’s cares make little odds
                        To you, when once ye have a mind a thing
                        Shall be: well may a man stare, whistle, sing,
                        And blow upon his nails, if ye have entered
                        With him a race on which perhaps had centered
                        Dozens of spangled hopes—or life ; ’tis one,
                        And the race won before ’tis ever run.
                        So, when a boy-child came to light, her father
                        Had to be told he was grandsire; though rather
                        His ears had heard his daughter, pined away
                        In prison lone, was gone to swell, that day,
                        The dim ranks of his dead, who wait in earth’s
                        Strongholds, all kings, or issue by their births
                        Of kings, or queens, or queenly-motheréd.
                        He felt as though an ire-forged bolt o’erhead
                        Was hurtling with intention, like the disc
                        Young men in rivalry hurl, whereby great risk
                        Is run by such as watch : so, all at once,
                        Fear, worst midwife for action, did ensconce
                        Herself within the unheroic head
                        Of king Acrisius. Thus, straightway, from bed
                        They drag poor Danaë, waked to foreign sights:—
                        The dead night bruised and wounded by torch-lights;
                        Rooms loud with jest, where girls dance wagers bare,
                        Where wine-cups crashing wound no thrifty care ;
                        Close-huddled houses, lanes whence unfed howls
                        Of unowned dogs disturb. All, which befouls
                        A town, behind at length is left; the heels
                        Of the guard, arm-weighted, clog in clay; she feels
                        A fresh wet wind, and hears the weltering wash
                        Of waters ; then is lifted up, feet splash,
                        And, when, set down again, she raised her eyes,
                        She saw the simple stars, that in surprise
                        Were crowded close together, and she, dazed,
                        Lay like a fallen wing’d-thing ; while the raised
                        Male voices dwindled till the dipping oars
                        Could make their rhythm felt. Then low-banked shores
                        Parade black blotted groups of ilex-trees
                        (The chest was hewn from such stout trunks as these,
                        She floats in)—pyramids processional
                        Of night-obliterated leaves, ranged tall
                        Like mutes ; while, like white lines of silent tombs,
                        On either side behind the night-mist glooms;
                        And like some broken-hearted woman bent,
                        That heaves her hair with sobs,—as on she went—

8                                                                                                A willow

                        A willow kneels among them here and there.
                        The water wakes and louder wails to her—
                        Nay, wails with old choked sorrows now no more:
                        Triumphant shouts, borne from a sonorous shore,
                        Break on her ears; and happy hurried airs
                        Make haste—lest she, when shaken unawares
                        On Aphrodite’s cradle-rockers, fear—
                        To whisper good-will tidings in her ear.
                        A boat had laboured with the chest in tow:
                        Dull wooden sounds faint; homeward it does go.
                        All this long time she held her baby tight,
                        And stared the poor stars out with all her might:
                        Now, looking down, she sees his waking eyes
                        Claim—as his curled gold locks the sun—the skies
                        In parentage. She dandles in the air
                        The pretty wanton; who then clips her hair
                        In fist-fulls, crows, and o’er her shoulder spies
                        Hermes with Zephyrs wing’d like dragon-flies,
                        Who, watchful how such frolic crew behaves,
                        Pilots them o’er blue inly-varied waves.
                        So many blues, yet each unlike the other,
                        Grow all greens, when a Zephyr flies his brother.
                        In vain the gallant Hermes doffs his hat;
                        For jealous Zeus gave strict commandment, that
                        His messenger should do his duty, dight
                        In form impalpable to mortal sight:
                        Yet, well seen of the baby demi-god,
                        He from the merry knave receives a nod
                        Now and again. The far grey tower stands
                        Against the north, as left by Night’s rash hands
                        On brilliant-breasted Dawn a bruise of blue,
                        To fade as her hale pulse revives anew.
                        This god-freed, god-loved woman hail aloud,
                        Breezes ! your king the sun mounts o’er a cloud.
                        Swell your big-chested conchs, strain trumpet-throats;
                        He hears and knows you, though she little notes.
                        Still the sad silent home, that distance veils,
                        Each moment bears behind, as on she sails
                        To new life, lit with large affinities ;
                        And for her son Perseus what destinies
                        Await, beyond the sounding straits that sunder
                        Dead past from future life! Still sailing under
                        The blood-thick blue, at length Seriphos, reared
                        Above a million moving waves, appeared.

                                                                        T. STURGE MOORE


MLA citation:

Moore, T. Sturge. “Danaë.” The Dial, vol. 3, 1893, pp. 1-9. Dial Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.