For as a gardener turning back his head To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows With careless scythe too near some flower bed, And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose, And with the flower's loosened loneliness Strews the brown mould; or as some shepherd lad in wantonness
Driving his little flock along the mead Treads down two daffodils, which side by aide Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede And made the gaudy moth forget its pride, Treads down their brimming golden chalices Under light feet which were not made for such rude ravages;
Or as a schoolboy tired of his book Flings himself down upon the reedy grass And plucks two water-lilies from the brook, And for a time forgets the hour glass, Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way, And lets the hot sun kill them, even go these lovers lay.
And Venus cried, 'It is dread Artemis Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty, Or else that mightier maid whose care it is To guard her strong and stainless majesty Upon the hill Athenian, - alas! That they who loved so well unloved into Death's house should pass.'
So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl In the great golden waggon tenderly (Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl Just threaded with a blue vein's tapestry Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest)
And then each pigeon spread its milky van, The bright car soared into the dawning sky, And like a cloud the aerial caravan Passed over the AEgean silently, Till the faint air was troubled with the song From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long.
But when the doves had reached their wonted goal Where the wide stair of orbed marble dips Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul Just shook the trembling petals of her lips And passed into the void, and Venus knew That one fair maid the less would walk amid her retinue,
And bade her servants carve a cedar chest With all the wonder of this history, Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky On the low hills of Paphos, and the Faun Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on till dawn.