A monologue by Theocritus

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Theocritus. Trans. C. S. Calverley. London: Bell and Daldyl, 1869.

SORCERESS: Where are the bay-leaves, Thestylis, and the charms?
Fetch all; with fiery wool the caldron crown;
Let glamour win me back my false lord’s heart!
Twelve days the wretch hath not come nigh to me,
Nor made enquiry if I die or live,
Nor clamoured (oh unkindness!) at my door.
Sure his swift fancy wanders otherwhere,
The slave of Aphrodite and of Love.
But I’ll charm him now with charms.
So shine out fair, O moon! To thee I sing
My soft low song: to thee and Hecate
The dweller in the shades, at whose approach
E’en the dogs quake, as on she moves through blood
And darkness and the barrows of the slain.
All hail, dread Hecate: companion me
Unto the end, and work me witcheries
Potent as Circe or Medea wrought,
Or Perimede of the golden hair!
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
First we ignite the grain. Nay, pile it on:
Where are thy wits flown, timorous Thestylis?
Shall I be flouted, I, by such as thou?
Pile, and still say, ‘This pile is of his bones.’
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
Delphis racks me: I burn him in these bays.
As, flame-enkindled, they lift up their voice,
Blaze once, and not a trace is left behind:
So waste his flesh to powder in yon fire!
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
E’en as I melt, not uninspired, the wax,
May Mindian Delphis melt this hour with love:
And, swiftly as this brazen wheel whirls round,
May Aphrodite whirl him to my door.
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
Next burn the husks. Hell’s adamantine floor
And aught that else stands firm can Artemis move.
Thestylis, the hounds bay up and down the town:
The goddess stands i’ the crossroads: sound the gongs.
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
Hushed are the voices of the winds and seas;
But O not hushed the voice of my despair.
He burns my being up, who left me here
No wife, no maiden, in my misery.
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
Thrice I pour out; speak thrice, sweet mistress, thus:
“What face soe’er hangs o’er him be forgot
Clean as, in Dia, Theseus (legends say)
Forgat his Ariadne’s locks of love.”
Turn, magic, wheel, draw homeward him I love.
The coltsfoot grows in Arcady, the weed
That drives the mountain-colts and swift mares wild.
Like them may Delphis rave: so, maniac-wise,
Race from his burnished brethren home to me.
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
He lost this tassel from his robe; which I
Shred thus, and cast it on the raging flames.
Ah baleful Love! why, like the marsh-born leech,
Cling to my flesh, and drain my dark veins dry?
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.
From a crushed eft tomorrow he shall drink
Death! But now, Thestylis, take these herbs and smear
That threshold o’er, whereto at heart I cling
Still, still–albeit he thinks scorn of me–
And spit, and say, ”Tis Delphis’ bones I smear.’
Turn, magic wheel, draw homeward him I love.

(Bethink thee, mistress Moon, whence came my love.)
“Scares, mischief-mad, the maiden from her bower,
The bride from her warm couch.” He spake: and I,
A willing listener, sat, my hand in his,
Among the cushions, and his cheek touched mine,
Each hotter than its wont, and we discoursed
In soft low language. Need I prate to thee,
Sweet Moon, of all we said and all we did?
Till yesterday he found no fault with me,
Nor I with him. But lo, to-day there came
Philista’s mother–hers who flutes to me–
With her Melampo’s; just when up the sky
Gallop the mares that chariot rose-limbed Dawn:
And divers tales she brought me, with the rest
How Delphis loved, she knew not rightly whom:
But this she knew; that of the rich wine, aye
He poured ‘to Love;’ and at the last had fled,
To line, she deemed, the fair one’s hall with flowers.
Such was my visitor’s tale, and it was true:
For thrice, nay four times, daily he would stroll
Hither, leave here full oft his Dorian flask:
Now–’tis a fortnight since I saw his face.
Doth he then treasure something sweet elsewhere?
Am I forgot? I’ll charm him now with charms.
But let him try me more, and by the Fates
He’ll soon be knocking at the gates of hell.
Spells of such power are in this chest of mine,
Learned, lady, from mine host in Palestine.

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