I READ in an old book the myth
Of the Hellenian damsel with
The magic needle, when there fell
On me a power-a mystic spell-
I could not well to others tell,
But all at once my soul was swept
Into a sphere where sorrow kept
Her vigils sad. There on my ear
Awoke in accents deep, yet clear:

'The guerdon of my heavy sin
Forever thus I toil and spin
The fatal cord, the lash accursed,
By which my heavy woe is nursed.'

'From whence this wail?' I inly asked,
When thro' the gloom I saw unmasked
One, from whose thin wan face and look,
I for the needle-worker took;
And lifting up my voice I said:
'And art thou she of whom I've read-
Arachne's self?' No answer made
The image pale, nor turned, nor fled
Nor into air, thin air dissolved:
But while within my thoughts revolved,
A something on my vision loom'd,
Tho' what it was might be presumed
Not clearly seen, at least by one
Still bound to earth by flesh and bone;
But whatsoe'er it was or meant,
Anon thereon her gaze was bent,
And this way that, her white hands went,
Whilst to their motion keeping time,
Re-woke upon my ear the chime:

'The guerdon of my ebon sin,
Forever thus I toil and spin,
The fatal cord, the lash accursed,
By which my heavy woe is nursed.

'The sun and moon, they come and go,
The ocean's waters ebb and flow;
My baleful star must even burn,
My swollen tide know no return.

'Woe, woe the day, woe, woe the day
I first did feel that piercing ray,
Beneath whose magic touch, behold,
The rock's converted into gold.

'Ah, from that hour did earth become
To me a glad, a jewell'd home;
Where-e'er I turned enrapt I viewed,
A living fact the fair and good.

'Where-e'er I turned enrapt I viewed,
A living fact the fair and good,
Which to my spirit's chambers sped,
And with the inner beauty wed.

'As casquets in which gems are shrined,
So from the lustre of my mind,
My body borrowed splendour, till
My presence stood a living will.

'Entranced I took the web and wrought
A vision so with beauty fraught,
The gazer held his breath and crept
Into himself, and smiled and wept.

'Delusive tears, delusive smiles,
What were you but the serpent's toils?-
The nectar sparkling in yon cup,
To writhe the lips that quaff it up?

'Flushed with success, I then did cast
A scornful glance upon the past,
And from that moment I began
A course which ended in this ban.

'The very God within me burns;
My soul a mortal triumph spurns;
Not mortals, o'er immortals must
I stride, or perish in the dust.

'Thus frantically cried I, when
Was flashed upon my inner ken
Minerva's might and sheen, and I,-
What was there left me but to die?

'A meteor in the night, her might,
And sheen is flashed upon my sight;
But as the night by meteor cleft,
My soul again in gloom is left,

'I view the den in which I crawl,
I view what doth my soul appal;
But ah, ere I my plight can mend,
All hope to me hath found an end.

'And now instead of sylvan ground,
Where grief was lost, where joy was found
My path is such each step I take,
Awakes the hissing of the snake.

'My night is still by horrors throng'd,
My day is but that night prolong'd
The sun may set, the sun may rise,
No soothing slumber seals my eyes.

'Around, beneath, and over-head,
The finger of the Living Dread
Has fix'd a curse which see-What's this
Would thus o'er-brim my heart with bliss?

'Yes, yes my hand that vision traced,
Mine ivory brow with wreaths are graced;
Aloud my pean's sung, aloud,
And she my rival's head down bowed.

'No, never since the world begun,
Was ever such a triumph won
By mortal or immortal-sped
My dream? or dream I now instead?

'The sun and moon they come and go,
The ocean's waters ebb and flow,
My baleful star must ever burn,
My swollen tide know no return.

'And, such the guerdon of my sin
Thus, thus to toil, and thus to spin
The fatal cord, the lash accursed,
By which my heavy woe is nursed.'

Thus mourned the damsel; while she
Back into sense my soul return'd;
At which receded from my sight
The needle-worker's image. Light
Was breaking in the orient, yet,
Not till again the sun had set,
Could I forget her wail-nor then,
Nay, even till this hour, the strain -
'The guerdon of my heavy sin
Forever this I toil and spin,'
Will break upon my inner ear,
And down my cheek will steal a tear,
For one whom Fame in days of old
Crowned with her brightest wreath, and
And brave, and wise, alike proclaimed
The glory of that gift which framed
What their own triumphs shamed.