Paul Hamilton Hayne Poems >>
Daphles. An Argive Story

ONCE on the throne of Argos sat a maid,
Daphles the fair; serene and unafraid
She ruled her realm, for the rough folk were brought
To worship one they deemed divinely wrought,
In beauty and mild graciousness of heart:
Nobles and courtiers, too, espoused her part,
So that the sweet young face all thronged to see
Glanced from her throne-room's silken canopy
(Broidered with leaves, and many a snow-white dove),
Rosily conscious of her people's love.
Only the chief of a far frontier clan,
A haughty, bold, ambitious nobleman,
By law her vassal, but self-worn to be
From subject-tithe and tribute boldly free,
And scorning most this weak girl-sovereign's reign,
Now from the mountain fastness to the plain
Summoned his savage legions to the fight,--
Wherein he hoped to wrench the imperial might
From Daphles, and confirm his claim thereto.
But Doracles, the insurgent chief, could know
Naught of the secret charm, the subtle stress
Of be beauty wed to warm unselfishness,
Which, in her hour of trial, wrapped the Queen
Safely apart in golden air serene
Of deep devotion, and food faith of those
The steadfast hearts betwixt her and her foes.
The oldest courtier, schooled in statecraft guile,
Some loyal fire at her entrancing smile
Felt strangely kindled in his outworn soul;
Far more the warrior youths her soft control
Moulded to noble deeds, till all the land,
Aroused at Love's and Honor's joint command,
Bristled with steel and rang with sounds of war.

Still rashly trusting in his fortunate star,
This arrogant thrall who fain would grasp a crown,
Backed by half-barbarous hordes, marched swiftly down
'Twixt the hill ramparts and the Western sea.
First, blazing homesteads greet him, whence did flee
The frightened hinds through fires themselves had lit
'Mid the ripe grain, lest foes should reap of it;
Or here and there, some groups of aged folk,
Women and men bent down beneath the yoke
Of cruel years and babbling idiot speech.
"Methinks," cried Doracles, "our arms will reach
The realm's unshielded heart, for lo! the breath,
The mere hot fume of rapine and of death
Which flames before our legions like a blight
Withers this people's valor and their might."

The fifes played shriller; the wild trumpet's blast
Smote the great host and thrilled them as it passed;
While clashing shields, and spears which caught the morn,
And splendid banners in strong hands upborne,
And plum