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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Annie Adams Fields (1834–1915)


I AM Helen of Argos,

I am Helen of Sparta,

I, the daughter of Egypt,

I, the inflamer of Troy:

See me, Helen, still shining,

There where shines great Achilles:

Blossoms of summer I bring ye

Born not of shadows or dreams.

Early from Argos he bore me,

Theseus, inconstant of lovers:

Early in Argos he bound me,

He, Menelaus the King;

Queen of the court and of feasting,

Queen of the heart and the temple,

Goddess and priestess and mother,

Holding Hermione’s hand.

There in the chambers of purple,

Fair as the statue he gathered

Worshiped by great Menelaus,

I, his Helen, remained;

Pure as when Theseus snatched me

First from the temple of Dian,

Dancing the dances of childhood,

Bare to her ivory floors.

Theseus snatched me and held me,

Hiding me far in Aphidnai;

Quickly I slipped from his covert,

I, no longer enslaved.

Ah! Menelaus the gentle,

Gently but strongly he bound me:

Lo! with the ships I departed,—

Ships that were sailing for Troy.

Paris had beckoned me hither;—

Waves were leaping around me,

Whispering of freedom and gladness,

Paris whispered of love:

Thus in the meshes entangled

Woven by hard Aphrodite,

Lost was I, slave to her service,

She, the compeller of men.

There on the turrets of Troia,

Watching the combat of heroes,

There in the eye of the noble,

Sent she a woman to me;

Calling me hence to serve Paris,

He, the lascivious, the perfumed,—

She, the compeller, she drove me

Hence in the faces of all.

Slave was I, bound was I, Helen!

Once the queen of the hearth-side;

Bond was I, scorned, yet the mother,

Queen of Hermione’s heart:

Gazing on Hector the princely,—

Dead, and Andromache weeping,

Tears were not mine! Alas, deeper

Lay my smart and my pain.

Hector, my brother beloved!

Dear to me, far above others,

Here on thy body lamenting

I too echo thy praise!

Listen, Andromache, listen!

Out of the deepness of silence

Calleth a voice unto thee:—

“Calm, O beloved, O dear one,

Calm are the valleys of Orcus,

Restful the streams and dim alleys

Shut from the clamor of men;

Restful to him who has labored,

Labored and loved and is waiting,—

Waiting to hold in his bosom

Child and mother again.”

Hear me, Andromache, listen!

This is for thee; but for Helen

All is voiceless and barren,

Silent the valley of shades;

Faded her joy with the blossoms,

Dead on the heart of the summer!

Kypris, goddess, ah! free me,

Slave and child of thy will.

Long through the ages I suffered,

Suffered the calling of lovers;

Down through the ages I followed,

Won by the bidding of Faust:

Strong, unsubdued, and immortal,

I. the young mother of Sparta,

Stand here and bring ye these blossoms,

Fresh as the children of spring.

Down to the ships went the captives,

Unwilling procession of sorrow,

Cassandra behind Agamemnon,

Andromache bound with the rest:

I, Helen, walked with my husband;

Level my glance of pure azure,

Rosy my cheeks, lest the Spartans

Think less well of their king.

Helen, that years could not alter,

Nor bees that deflower the lilies,—

Helen, child of immortals,

Holding the reins of his steed:

Thus through the gateway of Sparta,

When the fires of Troy were extinguished,

Proud in his gladness and glory,

Proudly I brought them their king.

One sang, “Base was their Helen!”—

I, standing far above splendor,

Calm in the circle of godhead,

Moved not by striving of men,

Heard thus Stesichorus the singer,—

Mad raver, a poet, a mortal,—

While the gods and the heroes immortal

Struck the perjurer blind with their glance.

No longer he seeth where beauty

Abideth untouched of the earth-stained;

No more shall he mark in her coming

Persephone’s noiseless feet:

No more, when Helen approacheth,

Shall he know the star of her forehead,

And Helen the false shall decoy him

With wiles and tales of her own.

Lovers, ah, lovers inconstant!

Ye have slain but the form and the semblance.

Know ye your Helen has vanished

And sleeps on a hero’s breast.

Hers is the fire undying,

The light and the flame of the singer,

The mariner’s lamp and his beacon,

His harbor of home and his rest.