The Tomb of Penthesilea


The Hero’s tomb is gone;
Yet here beside,
A solitary stone
Speaks for the Hero’s bride.
Trace, Traveller, with the tried
And dusty staff
Her epitaph:

“Stranger, here rusts the bright
Bare weapon won,
That day he faced in fight
The brutish horde alone,
And took from an unknown
The wound, and me.

“The man who masters men,
Knows but his star.
Love must complete him then;
He learns from sword and scar
The purpose of his war,
And with firm tread
Tramps on the dead.

“In pride he drew his breath
Who mastered me:
So glorious the sheath,
That jewelled panoply,
How splendid then must be
The soul, the thin
True blade within!

“It was my pride to lie
And lightly press
Against a marching thigh;
To have his hand embrace
My armature of grace;
To watch, to keep
His helpless sleep;

“To flash in the loud war
On flesh; to feel
The bitter life-blood pour
Raging along the steel;
To know, and to conceal
My gift to know
His final foe;

“To triumph then in fate—
The great hour come,
The blade spoke out elate;
The hidden wound was dumb.
He knew, as death struck home,
In that, in this
Lay the sword’s bliss.”

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