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BALAUSTION'S ADVENTURE

INCLUDING

A TRANSCRIPT FROM EURIPIDES

Our Euripides, the Human,

With his droppings of warm tears,
And his touches of things common
Till they rose to touch the spheres.

TO THE COUNTESS COWPER.

If I mention the simple truth, that this poem absolutely owes its existence to you, who not only suggested, but imposed on me as a task, what has proved the most delightful of May-month amusements, I shall seem honest, indeed, but hardly prudent; for, how good and beautiful ought such a poem to be!

Euripides might fear little; but I, also, have an interest in the performance; and what wonder if I beg you to suffer that it make, in another and far easier sense, its nearest possible approach to those Greek qualities of goodness and beauty, by laying itself gratefully at your feet?

LONDON, July 23, 1871.

ABOUT that strangest, saddest, sweetest song
I, when a girl, heard in Kameiros once,

And, after, saved my life by? Oh, so glad
To tell you the adventure!

Petalé,

Phullis, Charopé, Chrusion! You must know,

This "after" fell in that unhappy time

When poor reluctant Nikias, pushed by fate,

Went falteringly against Syracuse;

And there shamed Athens, lost her ships and men,

And gained a grave, or death without a grave.

I was at Rhodes

the isle, not Rhodes the town,

Mine was Kameiros when the news arrived:

Our people rose in tumult, cried, "No more

R. B.

at worst,

Duty to Athens, let us join the League
And side with Sparta, share the spoil,
Abjure a headship that will ruin Greece!"
And so, they sent to Knidos for a fleet
To come and help revolters. Ere help came,
Girl as I was, and never out of Rhodes
The whole of my first fourteen years of life,
But nourished with Ilissian mother's-milk,
I passionately cried to who would hear
And those who loved me at Kameiros - "No!
Never throw Athens off for Sparta's sake -
Never disloyal to the life and light

Of the whole world worth calling world at all!
Rather go
die at Athens, lie outstretched

For feet to trample on, before the gate

Of Diomedes or the Hippadai,

Before the temples and among the tombs,

Than tolerate the grim felicity

Of harsh Lakonia! Ours the fasts and feasts,

Choës and Chutroi; ours the sacred grove,

Agora, Dikasteria, Poikilé,

Pnux, Keramikos; Salamis in sight,
Psuttalia, Marathon itself, not far!
Ours the great Dionusiac theatre,
And tragic triad of immortal fames,
Aischulos, Sophokles, Euripides!

To Athens, all of us that have a soul,

Follow me!" And I wrought so with my prayer,
That certain of my kinsfolk crossed the strait
And found a ship at Kaunos; well-disposed

Because the Captain

where did he draw breath

First but within Psuttalia? Thither fled A few like-minded as ourselves. We turned The glad prow westward, soon were out at sea, Pushing, brave ship with the vermilion cheek, Proud for our heart's true harbor. But a wind Lay ambushed by Point Malea of bad fame, And leapt out, bent us from our course. Next day Broke stormless, and so next blue day and next. "But whither bound in this white waste? we plagued The pilot's old experience: "Cos or Crete?" Because he promised us the land ahead.

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While we strained eyes to share in what he saw, The Captain's shout startled us; round we rushed: What hung behind us but a pirate-ship

Panting for the good prize!

"Row! harder row!

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Row for dear life!" the Captain cried: "'t is Crete,
Friendly Crete looming large there! Beat this craft
That's but a keles, one-benched pirate-bark,
Lokrian, or that bad breed off Thessaly!
Only, so cruel are such water-thieves,

No man of you, no woman, child, or slave,

But falls their prey, once let them board our boat!"
So, furiously our oarsmen rowed and rowed;

And when the oars flagged somewhat, dash and dip,
As we approached the coast and safety, so
That we could hear behind us plain the threats
And curses of the pirate panting up

In one more throe and passion of pursuit,
Seeing our oars flag in the rise and fall,
I sprang upon the altar by the mast
And sang aloft some genius prompting me
That song of ours which saved at Salamis :
"O sons of Greeks, go, set your country free,
Free your wives, free your children, free the fanes
O' the Gods, your fathers founded, sepulchres
They sleep in! Or save all, or all be lost!"
Then, in a frenzy, so the noble oars

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Churned the black water white, that well away
We drew, soon saw land rise, saw hills grow up,
Saw spread itself a sea-wide town with towers,
Not fifty stadia distant; and, betwixt

A large bay and a small, the islet-bar,
Even Ortugia's self- oh, luckless we !
For here was Sicily and Syracuse :
We ran upon the lion from the wolf.

Ere we drew breath, took counsel, out there came
A galley, hailed us. "Who asks entry here

In war-time? Are you Sparta's friend or foe?" 66 Kaunians," - our Captain judged his best reply, "The mainland-seaport that belongs to Rhodes;

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Rhodes that casts in her lot now with the League,
Forsaking Athens, you have heard belike!"

Ay, but we heard all Athens in one ode

Just now! we heard her in that Aischulos!
You bring a boatful of Athenians here,
Kaunians although you be: and prudence bids,
For Kaunos' sake, why, carry them unhurt
To Kaunos, if you will: for Athens' sake,

Back must you, though ten pirates blocked the bay!
We want no colony from Athens here,

With memories of Salamis, forsooth,

To spirit up our captives, that pale crowd
I' the quarry, whom the daily pint of corn
Keeps in good order and submissiveness."
Then the gray Captain prayed them by the Gods,
And by their own knees, and their fathers' beards,
They should not wickedly thrust suppliants back,
But save the innocent on traffic bound -
Or, maybe, some Athenian family
Perishing of desire to die at home,
From that vile foe still lying on its oars,
Waiting, the issue in the distance. Vain!
Words to the wind! And we were just about
To turn and face the foe, as some tired bird
Barbarians pelt at, drive with shouts away
From shelter in what rocks, however rude,
She makes for, to escape the kindled eye,
Split beak, crook'd claw o' the creature, cormorant
Or ossifrage, that, hardly baffled, hangs

Afloat i' the foam, to take her if she turn.

So were we at destruction's very edge,

When those o' the galley, as they had discussed
A point, a question raised by somebody,

A matter mooted in a moment,

"Wait!"

Cried they (and wait we did, you may be sure),
"That song was veritable Aischulos,
Familiar to the mouth of man and boy,
Old glory how about Euripides ?.
The newer and not yet so famous bard,
He that was born upon the battle-day

While that song and the salpinx sounded him
Into the world, first sound, at Salamis

Might you know any of his verses too?"

Now, some one of the Gods inspired this speech:
Since ourselves knew what happened but last year
How, when Gulippos gained his victory

Over poor Nikias, poor Demosthenes,

And Syracuse condemned the conquered force
To dig and starve i' the quarry, branded them
Freeborn Athenians, brute-like in the front

With horse-head brands,— ah, "Region of the Steed"!
Of all these men immersed in misery,

It was found none had been advantaged so
By aught in the past life he used to prize
And pride himself concerning, no rich man
By riches, no wise man by wisdom, no

Wiser man still (as who loved more the Muse)
By storing, at brain's edge and tip of tongue,
Old glory, great plays that had long ago
Made themselves wings to fly about the world,
Not one such man was helped so at his need
As certain few that (wisest they of all)

Had, at first summons, oped heart, flung door wide
At the new knocking of Euripides,

Nor drawn the bolt with who cried "Decadence!
And, after Sophokles, be nature dumb!"
Such, - and I see in it God Bacchos' boon
To souls that recognized his latest child,
He who himself, born latest of the Gods,
Was stoutly held impostor by mankind,
Such were in safety: any who could speak
A chorus to the end, or prologize,

Roll out a rhesis, wield some golden length
Stiffened by wisdom out into a line,

Or thrust and parry in bright monostich,
Teaching Euripides to Syracuse

Any such happy man had prompt reward:

If he lay bleeding on the battlefield

They stanched his wounds and gave him drink and food;

If he were slave i' the house, for reverence

They rose up, bowed to who proved master now,

And bade him go free, thank Euripides!

Ay, and such did so many such, he said,
Returning home to Athens, sought him out,
The old bard in the solitary house,

And thanked him ere they went to sacrifice.
I say, we knew that story of last year!

Therefore, at mention of Euripides,

The Captain crowed out, "Euoi, praise the God!
Oöp, boys, bring our owl-shield to the fore!
Out with our Sacred Anchor ! Here she stands,
Balaustion! Strangers, greet the lyric girl!
Euripides? Babai! what a word there 'scaped
Your teeth's enclosure, quoth my grandsire's song!
Why, fast as snow in Thrace, the voyage through,
Has she been falling thick in flakes of him!
Frequent as figs at Kaunos, Kaunians said.
Balaustion, stand forth and confirm my speech!
Now it was some whole passion of a play ;
Now, peradventure, but a honey-drop
That slipt its comb i' the chorus. If there rose

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