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                            The heavy air hangs faint
                        And tangled ; so no bird complaint
                        Athwarts it; songs of beetles swoon
                        Upon the heavy afternoon.

                            Leda, for greed of shade,
                        And eager faltering through the glade
                        Of stammering, pleading feet, lets fall
                        The fetter of her purple pall ;

                            And, folding her bright hair
                        Within the twin frail fillet, bare
                        Lays all the treasure of her neck,
                        Adorned with one blue jewel fleck

                            Hung to a tender cord,
                        The circling crease, which doth afford
                        Steadfast, exact similitude :
                        The ring of Venus and her brood.

                            The gleaming grass lies prone :
                        The yews seem bronze, the poplars stone.
                        The very flowers at Leda’s feet
                        Distil a desolating heat.

                            Refreshing shade is not.
                        The darkness of the mossy plot
                        The willows shelter, doth oppress
                        The air with added heaviness.

                            All palpitant and dazed,
                        Across the lawn doth Leda haste,
                        To where the dreaming water lies ;
                        Therein to cool her mirrored eyes.

                            A bubbly fount makes wet
                        The low contiguous parapet ;
                        Recumbent in a wealth of green,
                        Against the same doth Leda lean.

                            The fountain’s splash beyond,
                        In stiller reaches of the pond,
                        Where weakest ripples spend their strength,
                        Despairing to attain its length,

                            The awful heavens burn
                        Repeated in the hollows ; yearn
                        With ruddier purpose, to unfold
                        The swelling destiny they hold.

13                                                                                                And,

                            And, in a certain place,
                        Suspended on the water’s face,
                        The doubled swans sit motionless,
                        For ease against the summer stress.

                            Yet, lo, why stoop their crests
                        Contritely to their fluttering breasts,
                        Which hurrying wavelets break upon ?
                        Hush, Leda, whence this goodly swan,

                            This new majestic third,
                        Unmated, as becomes a bird
                        So proud imperious ? (For so fair
                        A fowl were matchless anywhere.)

                            Incomparable down
                        Of breast, and red-billed royal frown,
                        And gradual wings outspread to fold,
                        And back most lustrous to behold,

                            Are but the little part
                        Of his enticement, which doth start
                        From jocund curl of every plume,
                        A stalwart song, a cool perfume.

        THE SWAN :
                            Though grasses deep
                            Contrive to keep
                        Whole for memory, and cherish
                            The print thy form
                            Leave deep and warm,
                        Leda, lady, grasses perish.

                            Essay the pool,
                            O beautiful
                        Leda, for a softer cushion ;
                            Glorious float
                            About thy throat,
                        Pillow fair, thy hair’s profusion.

                            Thine arm let deck
                            My willing neck,
                        Naught let trouble or afear thee ;
                            So on the tide
                            Against his side
                        Haughtily thy swan shall bear thee

14                                                                                                Into

                            Into a nook
                            Of gorgeous look,
                        Gay with strange and varied shadow,
                            Whereof the floor
                            Is even more
                        Flowered than the Elysian meadow.

                            With which the swan floats near ;
                        And bidding Leda not to fear
                        Adventure with him, by the beck
                        Of his keen eyes and writhing neck,

                            Enticeth till her breast
                        Beyond the parapet doth rest ;
                        Until a timid hand leans out
                        And folds his downy breast about.

                            Over the margin slips
                        The lithe blithe line of Leda’s hips ;
                        And straightway hence the swan doth speed,
                        Exultant for his rapturous deed,

                            The glory of their course :
                        Whence his quick gesture and his force
                        Excite the like in Leda’s limbs,
                        Who, like a sturdy swimmer, swims

                            Beside her feathered lord,
                        And swift assistance doth afford.
                        Athwart where pendant vines above
                        Curtain a shallow water grove,

                            The swan and Leda break
                        Triumphant from the spreading lake ;
                        And pause beneath acacias’ shade,
                        Which drops perfume, a sheer cascade.

                            Till sudden lightnings split
                        The burning sky, and empty it ;
                        And raucously as eagles cry
                        An eagle screamed across the sky.

                                                                                                JOHN GRAY.


MLA citation:

Gray, John. “Leda.” The Dial, vol. 5, 1897, pp. 13-15. Dial Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.