Ode to Apollo

James L. Cuthbertson

“Tandem venias precamur
Nube candentes humeros amictus
Augur Apollo.”

        LORD of the golden lyre
        Fraught with the Dorian fire,
    Oh! fair-haired child of Leto, come again;
        And if no longer smile
        Delphi or Delos’ isle,
    Come from the depth of thine Aetnean glen,
        Where in the black ravine
        Thunders the foaming green
    Of waters writhing far from mortals’ ken;
        Come o’er the sparkling brine,
        And bring thy train divine—
The sweet-voiced and immortal violet-crownèd Nine.

        For here are richer meads,
        And here are goodlier steeds
    Than ever graced the glorious land of Greece;
        Here waves the yellow corn,
        Here is the olive born—
    The gray-green gracious harbinger of peace;
        Here too hath taken root
        A tree with golden fruit,
    In purple clusters hangs the vine’s increase,
        And all the earth doth wear
        The dry clear Attic air
That lifts the soul to liberty, and frees the heart from care.

        Or if thy wilder mood
        Incline to solitude,
    Eternal verdure girds the lonely hills,
        Through the green gloom of ferns
        Softly the sunset burns,
    Cold from the granite flow the mountain rills;
        And there are inner shrines
        Made by the slumberous pines,
    Where the rapt heart with contemplation fills,
        And from wave-stricken shores
        Deep wistful music pours
And floods the tempest-shaken forest corridors.

        Oh, give the gift of gold
        The human heart to hold
    With liquid glamour of the Lesbian line;
        With Pindar’s lava glow,
        With Sophocles’ calm flow,
    Or Aeschylean rapture airy fine;
        Or with thy music’s close
        Thy last autumnal rose
    Theocritus of Sicily, divine;
        O Pythian Archer strong,
        Time cannot do thee wrong,
With thee they live for ever, thy nightingales of song.

        We too are island-born;
        Oh, leave us not in scorn—
    A songless people never yet was great.
        We, suppliants at thy feet,
        Await thy muses sweet
    Amid the laurels at thy temple gate,
        Crownless and voiceless yet,
        But on our brows is set
    The dim unwritten prophecy of fate,
        To mould from out of mud
        An empire with our blood,
To wage eternal warfare with the fire and flood.

        Lord of the minstrel choir,
        Oh, grant our hearts’ desire,
    To sing of truth invincible in might,
        Of love surpassing death
        That fears no fiery breath,
    Of ancient inborn reverence for right,
        Of that sea-woven spell
        That from Trafalgar fell
    And keeps the star of duty in our sight:
        Oh, give the sacred fire,
        And our weak lips inspire
With laurels of thy song and lightnings of thy lyre.

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