Saturday, August 20, 2011


They Kill Us for Their Sport

John Leicester Warren, Philoctetes: A Metrical Drama after the Antique (London: Strahan & Co., 1871), pp. 27-33 (Chorus):
Throned are the gods, and in
Lordliest precinct
Eternally seated.
And under their dwellings
Of amber the beautiful
Clouds go for ever.

Who shall dethrone them,
Who bring them to weeping?
Tho' all earth cry to them
Shall they reply?
"Dust are the nations,
They wail for a little:
Why should we meddle
With these, whom to-morrow
Blinds into silence,
And where is their anguish?
But our immortal
Beatitudes always
Remain, and our spirits
Are nourished on ichor
Divinely eternal,
From pleasure to pleasure
Renewed. Like a mighty
Great music advancing
To climax of ardours,
Thro' vistas of ages
We know we must be:
And we ponder far-thoughted
Beyond them, beyond them,
On cloudy diminishing
Eons, half moulded
To time from the nebulous
Skirts of the darkness."

Can sorrow penetrate
Even the blest abodes
Where they have builded them
Halls without care,
Citadels azurine
Up in the fleecy sphere?
Can that immortal sleep
Own unfulfilled desire,
Aping imperfect
Unexcellent men?

Gently the daylight goes
Out in the pastures,
Spring comes like a bee
To brush open the flowers.
Care they up there, if
We perish or flourish?
Sucking the dregs of
An exquisite sleep,
How should they heed
The mere anguish of slaves?

Mighty our masters and
Very revengeful,
Throned in the eminent
Ambers of twilight,
Helming the seasons in
Pastime they sit;
Tossing a plague on some
Fortunate island,
Carelessly tossing it,
Watching it go
Strike and exterminate—
Sweet is the cry to them—
As when some hunter
Exultingly hears
The scream of the hare as
His arrow bites under
The fur to the vitals.

O, mightily seated and
Throned are our masters,
And steadily rooted;
Their heels they have set
On Titans in anguish
And trodden the faces
Of these at their mercy
Down into the marl-pits
Of fiery darkness,
As men into clay tread
A worm's throbbing rings.

They cry to the nations,
"We strike, if ye pray not.
We bend down our eyes along
Temple and grove,
Searching the incense-curl
And the live smell of blood;
Hating the worshipper,
Craving his prayer."

And the earth answers them
Moaning, and drowsily
Smile they with slow blue orbs,
But the smile reaches
Scarce down to their lip-line.
They care not what comes
To the creature below them.
To a god can it matter
What mortals endure?
We pity the ant-toil
And bless the bees gathering,
But these compassionate
Nothing of ours.

Throned are the gods and in
Lordly dominion
Eternally seated.
And under their dwellings
Of amber the beautiful
Clouds climb for ever.

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