Circe Laments

I’m so tired.  I can’t write anything today, so I will give you a poem.  It’s a love poem, about a woman who could have any man, but longed for one. (The sly Odysseus, of course.) This is “Circe” by H.D.

It was easy enough
to bend them to my wish,
it was easy enough
to alter them with a touch,
but you
adrift on the great sea,
how shall I call you back?

Cedar and white ash,
rock-cedar and sand plants
and tamarisk
red cedar and white cedar
and black cedar from the inmost forest,
fragrance upon fragrance
and all of my sea-magic is for nought.

It was easy enough –
a thought called them
from the sharp edges of the earth;
they prayed for a touch,
they cried for the sight of my face,
they entreated me
till in pity
I turned each to his own self.

Panther and panther,
then a black leopard
follows close –
black panther and red
and a great hound,
a god-like beast,
cut the sand in a clear ring
and shut me from the earth,
and cover the sea-sound
with their throats,
and the sea-roar with their own barks
and bellowing and snarls,
and the sea-stars
and the swirl of the sand,
and the rock-tamarisk
and the wind resonance –
but not your voice.

It is easy enough to call men
from the edges of the earth.
It is easy enough to summon them to my feet
with a thought –
it is beautiful to see the tall panther
and the sleek deer-hounds
circle in the dark.
It is easy enough
to make cedar and white ash fumes
into palaces
and to cover the sea-caves
with ivory and onyx.

But I would give up
rock-fringes of coral
and the inmost chamber
of my island palace
and my own gifts
and the whole region
of my power and magic
for your glance.

And this is my favorite image of Circe, as a sort of alchemist.  A transmuter of things – and people. By John William Waterhouse, of course.

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4 Responses to Circe Laments

  1. nina orlovskaya says:

    A beautiful poem about beautiful feelings when one is willing to give everything up, perhaps including own life ‘power and magic’ “for your glance”.

  2. Nivair says:

    I love when you share poems, as well as when you write. 🙂

  3. Alice says:

    This is a lament for a lost lover–a feeling we’ve all shared. But Circe needn’t give up; sometimes in the real world all the dots connect and lovers return.

  4. Glad you all like the poem! 🙂 It’s one of my favorites by H.D. Maybe I’ll write an alternative version in which Circe does eventually get her Odysseus . . .

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