Hero and Leander

Hero and Leander

They lived within each other’s sight across
The racing waters of the Bosporus,
A lovely maid of Sestos, Hero, and
A raw lad of Abydus, named Leander.

Home to her was a tower of stone that clung
Oyster-like to the restless shore and home
To him was any chance encounter flung
Into his path, no matter what might come

Of it. A priestess, she was sworn to Venus
And seemed as lovely as that goddess to men as
She passed by them within the temple precincts,
Her patter orisons, her perfume incense.

There it was she first reached into his eyes
And pinned his heart onto a wheel of fire
And there it was he caught her by surprise,
Lordly as an eagle skating in a gyre.

“Tonight, high in your window, hold a light
That castes a golden thread across the water,”
He said and so she did, the next night too,
And the one after that, all summer through,

Her swimmer he, she his enfolding shore.
So it went on until the winter came,
Winter that hardly knows what flesh is for,
When all is cold and all things look the same.

Still every night she hungered for the surf
Yet no wave rose beneath his elbow’s curve
As far as could be seen, the moonlight sifted
In vain, in vain her anguished eyebrows lifted.

The tower after that poured out its light
At night just for the ships to sail on by
And if a man sobbed out his desperate plight
The passing rocks returned a hollow cry.





Current edit 17 August 2016

Traditionally, Leander drowns but here it is open to question – maybe he just grew tired of Hero.


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