new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

I am weary of listening for a sound on the stair,
For a step without, and a man’s voice, steadfast and low;
No man does well to conquer a woman so
That blind and still she waits for him, russet hair
Spread in defeated glory over the white
Pillows from which she dare not lift her head;
Stilled is the room; for the tide of her being is fled
To ebb unseen round his going, come day, come night.

Sometimes she dreams, "I am rich. I shall see him great . . .
Mine are the slender hands shall fasten well
His golden armour, what time he strives with Fate,
And a sleeve of pearls for the tourney at Tintagel.
Maid Elaine for the knight Sir Launcelot
In her ancient Astolat towers, made offerings such . . .
She died at the last, for he loved a Queen o’ermuch . . .
Yet haply her childish fingers were unforgot."

Or, "I am a little like the Saracen maid
Who learned two names, the name of her Christian love
And his homeland’s name. I would venture unafraid,
Though the beryl stars, my friends, might change above,
Crusting with jewels the hilt of an enemy sword;
Though a strange wind stung my soul, and a jeering crowd
Pressed on my heels; I would stand up, veiled and proud,
Whispering over and over the name of my lord."
Sometimes, (he knows it not,) she is girt to ride
Where the mosses, grey and golden, are fine as lace;
Where the wet brown boughs are slashed like whips on her face,
And the stormy trees wear colours of death and pride.
A dark inn threatens the woods . . . he may rest him well . . .
Sometimes, in dream, the blood of his enemy drips
From her dagger, in drops more bright than her pallid lips.
And the world lies tranced in a moonglade’s ivory spell.

Pebbles crunch on the roadway, rounded and white,
Spurned by the feet of one who passes by.
He will stand for a moment, gaze on the frosty sky
And the stars like swans in the black lagoon of night.
My heart is the lattice . . . limned there in frost and fire,
Look on the elfin flowers of a lone desire . . .
No man does well to conquer a woman so
That half she hears his step, on the dewy grass,
And the moonlit sea sweeps back to let him pass,
And her head sinks down, like a russet flag brought low.


Last updated 21 September, 2003