To Cleïs

“I have a fair daughter with a form like a golden flower,
Cleïs, the beloved.”
—Sapphic fragment

When the dusk was wet with dew,
Cleïs, did the muses nine
Listen in a silent line
While your mother sang to you?

Did they weep or did they smile
When she crooned to still your cries,
She, a muse in human guise,
Who forsook her lyre awhile?

Did you feel her wild heart beat?
Did the warmth of all the sun
Through your little body run
When she kissed your hands and feet?

Did your fingers, babywise,
Touch her face and touch her hair,
Did you think your mother fair,
Could you bear her burning eyes?

Are the songs that soothed your fears
Vanished like a vanished flame,
Save the line where shines your name
Starlike down the graying years?

Cleïs speaks no word to me,
For the land where she has gone
Lieth mute at dusk and dawn
Like a windless tideless sea.

Read another poem