dido in ilyria

too long upon this windswept shore
my heart breaking in gales of song
have i poured out my fierce complaints
in dorian hymns to the unlistening gods.

too long have i sung my souls lamenting
into the wild oblivion of the warring skies,
but found no release for the fury in my heart,
o earth-contending air, my only companion.

upon my wide, unseeing eyes, suns set,
suns rise, as if in a dream or time imploded
to a mayfly bejewelled upon a reeded bank
where it passes its life in a day, day in a life.

in my burning pain i am beyond times reach,
his hateful tyranny, but call out day and night
like the rocks under the cruel lash of the tides
and senseless as them to the seas reproach.

i did not ask him to come,
i did not ask him to wash up on my shore
like some half-drowned creature
vomited up by the storm-sick sea.
i was not looking for a man,
i am not some foolish girl
who dreams her life’s fulfilment
lies in the heart of some sea-lost greek.
no, i had my kingdom, my subjects and domain,
i felt no great need to abdicate my powers,
my lands, my heart, to this random, helpless man.
but still he came, half dead, pathetic,
delivered to my door on the back of an oxcart
by those that found him,
simple men who seeing gold,
imagined him a prince and capable only
of discoursing with a queen.

so in he came.
for a week i didnt see him,
or think of him,
but he rested in my royal rooms
while my physicians brought him back
gradually to life and health,
my slaves disappearing day and night
in an endless train of meat and wine,
and bread and sweets,
until i assumed he was pulling through,
and that soon he would be gone.

but then he came to thank me.
and i have to say he cleaned up well,
in his best parade day armour
scoured and shining,
him, all muscles and smile.
and i winced a little to see him,
i felt like i’d been stabbed,
like his sword touched me deeply
on some sweetly tender spot.
but i told him i was happy
that my house had restored his life,
and that its fine, i could afford it,
for what better use is wealth?

but then he started talking,
spinning me this endless skein
in a voice as smooth as orpheus
of his struggles on the endless main.
and there was poetry and rhyme in it
telling of heroes and the slain,
it came in like some infecting tide
but its potency remained,
and oh suddenly he was weepy
and his heart was open wide,
for ilium the brave his song,
for his city and its grave,
and how long he had longed for them,
his lost city and its towers,
then he said how much he liked mine
and how he’d like to make them ‘ours’.
that he should set to building
more towers to adorn the site,
that he would seek out scented cedar,
and stone to resist all might.
he said we should go hunting,
that he had this brand-new suit,
of bronze and gold and silver
(invincible to boot).

so i agreed this foolish sortie,
this grande follie du coeure,
and i knew that i’d regret it
’til the fields of nevermore,
but i met him in the morning
and together we did ride,
and he really looked the warrior,
and i really looked the bride
in my white gown flowing foolish,
my oh so alluring garb,
and we rode out in the morning
’til he caught me on his barb.

then he kissed me so suddenly
after the rain had made us hide,
inside that secret, silven grove,
our love it burst alive.
and the flames leapt up inside my heart,
and licked my very limbs,
til all i could really think about
was love and loving him.

and we were doing all so wonderfully,
we were doing all so well,
and all around my city towers went up
faster than tongue can tell,
and we were doing all so wonderfully,
we were doing all so well,
til he came to me one morning
with this dream he had to tell,
he said something dire and boding
in the theatre of a dream,
some know-all god have given him
and that soon he had to leave,
and found a famous city
in the shadow of some hills,
and he really didnt want to,
but do the gods deceive?

so he said ‘thanks for everything,
its really been quite nice,
thank you for the mornings,
the evenings and the nights
of quiet arcadian splendour,
of soft carthaginian charm,
and all your loving gentleness,
your everlasting balm’.

so i let him go, i cried some,
he really had some charm,
but i pulled myself together,
didn’t want to do me harm,
and he sailed out on the proud blue sea,
his sails, his prow, his crew,
forging on for italy,
to do what he must do,
and i was sick and I was sorry,
and i lost a little weight,
but it really was nothing
that in time would not abate.
so i took to self-improvement
and added knowledge to my charm,
and rode out of an evening
and managed some new farms.
he did something in italy,
despite its native crew,
he sent me once a messenger
that said ‘i still love you’.
but the poets need me tragic,
to reinforce the fates,
the bitter irony of existence,
the cruel ending that awaits

so…

too long upon this windswept shore
my heart breaking in gales of song
have i poured out my fierce complaints
in dorian hymns to the unlistening gods.

too long have i sung my souls lamenting
into the wild oblivion of the warring skies,
but found no release for the fury in my heart,
o earth-contending air, my only companion.

upon my wide, unseeing eyes, suns set,
suns rise, as if in a dream or time imploded
to a mayfly bejewelled upon a reedy bank
where it passes its life in a day, day in a life.

in my burning pain i am beyond times reach,
his hateful tyranny, but call out day and night
like the rocks under the cruel lash of the tides
and senseless as them to the seas reproach.

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