Apollo and Daphne, I

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(After the painting by Tiepolo)

Running, still running through a racing wind,
She hears the unhurried footsteps close behind;
Panting and labouring, stumbling as she goes,
Her hopeless flight is over, as she knows;

Her prayer for help rasps choking from her breast;
His arms enclose her and she is possessed;
But, as she turns, the shriek of horror dies
And the god holds her with his golden eyes.

His mouth is smiling and his voice is kind;
Alas, along her flanks the woody rind
Spreads, and her arms are cased in stiffening sleeves;
Her toes take root; her fingers sprout with leaves.

And now his lips, in turn, with horror gape;
Bitter remorse and grief accuse his rape.
He turns away, but still her voice he hears
From sobbing boughs that blind his eyes with tears,

Not knowing that the last pang of her despair
Was when she saw the bay leaves in his hair
And thought: I love, I love him, late, too late!
And through my senseless prayer he shares my fate.

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