The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
Edited by Charlotte Mason.
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Lament of Niobe.
by Caryl J. Battersby
Volume 1, 1890, pg. 758
Amphion wooed and won me in the days
When Pan made shepherd-music on the hill,
And Love walked singing in the open ways,
With eyes unblinded still.
I was the daughter of a king, and he,
Heir to a kingdom. Ah! those happy years,
Where we lived and loved beside yon sea
That now receives my tears!
I bore him children glad and strong and fair,
With voices like a bird's voice in the spring,
With faces like the face of flowers, and hair
Bright as the golden ring
Their grandsire wore. I see them even now--
My children--running on the soft wet sands,
Or in the orchard leaping at some bough
That rises from their hands,
Then earthward flings a ruddy-fruited rain
About them laughing.--Visions of the past!
Visions that for a little lull the pain
Wherein my soil is cast!
I was a tender mother, but unwise,
Still musing on my children all day long,
Because they were so comely to the eyes,
So joyous and so strong.
My soul forecast misery. Not then
Had I been taught how out of gladness flow
As drear disasters on the lives of men
As ever spring from woe.
And thus, all heedless, round my life I drew
The curtains of my dream, and let my pride
Grow even as my children's beauty grew.
And yearn for things denied,
Till in the end I braved the gods and spake:--
"O Zeus, who art the ruler of us all,
"If fair Latona for her children's sake
"Treads the celestial hall,
"If she, because Apollo is her son,
"And Artemis her daughter, climbs the seat
"Of worship where the streams of Nilus run
"Clear-shining in the heat,
"Why should not I, the mother of a birth
"In a number more, in beauty equal, claim
"Room by her side in heaven, and on earth
"An everlasting name?"
I paused; and, with my chin set in my hand,
Looked on my children playing.--Suddenly
A darkness gathered over all the land,
And hid the moaning sea;
Then like the birds whom terror of the sky
Drove windward in a flickering, twittering mass,
Came all my children with a startled cry
Through the deep-flowered grass;
But one, the youngest-born and loved the best,
Relled as he ran, and fell with arms outspread;
And when I caught him upward to my breast;
I knew that he was dead.
O in what words shall I unfold the tale,
The mournful tale which still the folk repeat,
How, one by one, my children, writhing pale,
Dropt dead around me feet?
At last I swooned, thrice-happy in my swoon,
Because I deemed it death. I hoped too much;
The Gods were all too wroth to grant such boon
To one whose sin was such.
My life returned. Soft shone the summer sky,
Sweet sang the bird upon the summer bough,
And with a scent of hill-side dittany
The wind blew on my brow.
As while, as one who in the dawning light
Lies betwixt sleep and waking, so I lay;
Then came the thought that was the last at night,
The earliest in the day,
My children; and I looked around to see
If they were near, and looking I descried
Their bodies scattered pale upon the lea
Where they had fallen and died.
Then I remembered all, and rose, and fled,
Fled, never heeding whither,-- on, right on,
Away from that grim meadow of the dead,
Those bodies stark and wan.
Wildly I ran beneath yon forest old,
Wildly by jutty root and clinging briar,
Now in the bracken where the snakes lay cold,
Now in dark pool and mire;
Then up this mount the scourges of my sin
Lashed me and drove me, till at length I fell,
Bleeding and faint, in this lone place, wherein
Ages after age I dwell.
And now rain may drift against my eyes,
The sleety gust swirl round about my form,--
I feel them now, though he scared eagle cries,
A lost thing in the storm.
For I am stone;-- yet, by the heavenly will,
My soul endures within this rocky grain,
Still conscious of its love, its guilt, and still
Shot through and through with pain.
Therefore I weep, weep ever, and my tears
Run seaward with a lamentable flow,
So that who listens in the stillness hears
The story of my woe.
Typed by happi May 2017