Down in the depths, from the watery halls
Under the tunnels of the moss-strewn falls,
Where sunflecked shadows dance upon the walls,
The warbling thrush, now trilling, from his stony belfry calls
Out to passing fauns, tempting them to dine
At tables planted with refreshing vine,
Laced with verdant ferns and the sweet woodbine,
Where dropworts are a-gleaming and the water starworts shine.
Hidden midst the rocks, tresses flowing free,
Naiads smile coyly, mirthful in their glee,
Milking honeyed drops from the murm’ring bee
And stealing hearts and souls away from all who chance to see.
Through the rushing clear, babbling, streaming ways,
Buntings thread the reeds decked with golden blaze,
Beetle boatmen break, paddling, rippled haze
Of mellow sunlight playing on the surface where it strays
Into lofty halls with translucent dome,
Where the River God wades his marshy home,
Raising weed-draped head from the swirling foam
Which mimics undulating crests of Neptune’s waving comb
Breaking on the rocks of the distant shore,
Where his quiet realm meets Okeanos’ roar
And his daughters watching the seabirds soar,
Splash spring-fresh crystal waters from the upturned urns they pour.
Rejoicing to see them laughing at play,
Deiranos wanders each and every day
Past the Water Carrier, wending way
Along the lush green river banks and down into the bay,
Watching his daughters with the river run,
Playing with the seals diving one by one,
Riding the dolphins frolicking in fun
Neath the cloud-rigged crimson sails of a fire-dyed setting sun,
They gleam with sapphires in their tresses hung,
Voices sweet with songs like the Sirens sung,
Flirting with divinities always young,
The Godling sons of deities of pantheons far-flung.
His heart with the pride of a father leaps
Close by the tree where the turtle dove sleeps
But Lo! he starts! he stops! he peeps!
His youngest daughter Naïs weeps.
“O come, my child, my daughter fair,
What grief has caused this pain so rare?
Reveal thy heart and I shall bear
For you thy woes and every care.”
“Beloved father, I’ll explain
How none but I may feel my pain.
I love, ‘tis true, but ‘tis in vain,
My lover flees across the main.
He came one day with smiling face,
With words which caused my heart to race,
Embroidered with Homeric lace
And laughter destined to embrace
My soul which quickly did take flight
And winged its way into the night,
To dance on beams of pale moonlight;
But now behold my sorry plight.
He spoke with passion, spoke with love,
He called me his sweet turtledove,
He named for me a star above;
As evening fell, I dreamt thereof.
He was Apollo, I the moon
Who basked beneath his glow and soon
I danced to every song and tune
He played on lyre in our lagoon.
But all too soon he spoke of care,
Of griefs he found too hard to bear
Which kept him from our haunts so fair,
Galloping on the night-time mare.
His every heartache I had shared,
In truth our very souls we bared,
Into each other’s hearts we stared,
To pledge eternal love I dared.
But soon my star was on the wane,
I looked for him but ‘twas in vain,
His frequent absence all too plain,
The fauns they drove me quite insane.
They whispered they had seen him play
‘Mongst Naiads in some far-off bay,
Had heard the rustling Dryads say
That he might visit and could stay.
Then to me spoke the Anemoi;
They’d seen him ‘mongst the Hoi Polloi,
Carousing, laughing, my dear boy,
When Helen beckoned, went to Troy.
As Theseus, fleeing to seek renown,
Athena calling him to town
To claim a vulgar punic crown,
He leaves me here in tears to drown.
He fled from me across the miles
And no more seeks these sceptred isles,
For Circe now my boy beguiles,
Delilah wreathes his face with smiles.
As Dido, Virgil’s Queen so brave
Who through the Punic streets didst rave,
Then, sweet mementos drawing gaze,
With bloodied sword didst seek the grave;
As Clytie, wishing to elope
With Helios, soon lost all hope
And by the gods, when she did mope,
Was turned into the heliotrope
And helpless to her loss withstand,
Pursuing him the sky she panned;
So I like Ariadne stand
With sea-bound gaze and spurn the land.”
Sweet Naïs spoke, Deiranos raged:
“O Father Zeus, let war be waged!
May all the Furies be engaged
And may this Godling be encaged.
Paternal love makes me irate,
‘Tis not divine to desecrate;
Thy will divine I shall await,
But meantime I shall seal his fate
And loose the torrents if in haste
He seeks to venture past my gate;
My sacred waters in full spate
Shall cleanse his sin and then abate.
Zeus omnipotent, hear my prayer,
My daughter tears her weed-strewn hair,
Her tears now stain her face so fair,
Her water-standing eyes despair.”
“O father mine, O Father Zeus,
To feign great hatred is no use;
I wouldst not cage him like a goose
Bereft of wings, but leave him loose.”
Majestic, Zeus at straws does clutch:
“ My loves and amours are not such
That I might judge him over much,
For oft I’ve strayed from Hera’s touch.
Yet Venus bids me venge this woe,
So I must to her will bow low
Lest to my paramours below,
She curses me to look a crow.
So I for my part now decree
This gosling won’t from Naïs flee,
But rather, caged by love, will he
Be doomed to never wander free.
So may he reap as he does sow,
By love’s own missile soon laid low,
One arrow fired from Cupid’s bow,
With love for Naïs then he’ll glow.
Your daughter’s heart has called a truce,
His neck will never feel a noose
But those who flock for words profuse,
Will hear the honking of a goose,
Will see soft down upon his cheek
And then when he begins to speak,
They’ll fancy that they see a beak!
Your godling has a fit of pique.
Of fawning crowds he soon will tire;
To fan his heart, with love on fire,
He’ll seek the source of his desire
By playing tunes on Delphic lyre.
His soul is oh, so cold and bleak,
One solace will I let him seek;
To sit by Naïs beak to cheek
And thus your vengeance will you wreak,
For never may he touch his love.
So place thy sky-high gate above
The tree where roosts the turtle dove
And by the stately false foxglove.
My curse will strike him in full flow,
The times are mine, not his, to know,
But when the crowd packs up to go,
His love for Naïs will o’erflow.
My curse will last until that day
He no more seeks love to betray
But pleads and vows with her to stay,
Renouncing all verbose display.
Then will his tortured soul find peace,
Be freed from futile vain caprice;
The yearnings of his heart will cease
When I this godling do release,
No more to wander with the tide
But seek the tranquil riverside.
Then Naïs’ll dance, no more to chide,
Then will her wellsprung tears be dried,
Blown far away into the sky,
Carried aloft to mountains high
By high-soaring cousins the swift Aurae,
Fleet-footed, winging where the eagles fly.”
Down in the valley, the River God’s realm
O’erflows with bounty, Pan is at the helm,
Linnet song sings out from the sad wych elm
And spreading fragrant water lilies streamlets overwhelm.
Otters glide down and feast on rock-cracked clams,
Busy little beavers bustle round dams,
Gold-tinted fleeces glitter on the rams
In the streamside meadows and the gambolling little lambs
Frolic with garlands trailing from their flanks,
Water voles scurry up the river banks,
Water sprites revel playing silly pranks
Amongst the water soldiers which line up in serried rank.
The Naiads, dancing, skip along the lea,
Ofttimes halting beneath the old goose tree,
Waiting for the day when by Zeus’ decree,
The goose which comes a-courting doesn’t seek to go to sea.
Their grieving sister does their play forswear,
In darkened days she tends her garden fair,
Watering with tears welling from despair -
Her pasture blooms with grasses wild, full plenty and to spare -
Recalling days which Venus did bequeath,
When they supped coralled cups of golden meathe
Where shimmering water falls far beneath,
When with rainbow-coloured blossoms his head she used to wreathe.
Whilst carefree sisters noble centaurs tease,
Catching bubbles which float upon the breeze,
Her longing-filled eyes never seem to cease
Skimming o’er the skywaves as Ariadne’s once the sea’s.
Always mindful that she herself didst sow
The fateful seed which Zeus saw fit to grow,
The harvest to reap, the grasses to mow
She labours single-handedly, but time goes, oh, so slow...
Yet eternal springs of hope are ne’er sealed
For Moira’s judgement sometimes is repealed;
Naïs casts seeds of flowers of the field
And lo, a golden landing strip, sunflowered, is revealed.
© Heloisa Hodierna