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Ic. 1 



H. A. T. 

^ Wlui^eu^ the grAifr)(yy<^rian 








First Published in igao 


NOTHING is known of the author of Hero 
and Leander, except that he was a "gram- 
marian " or schoolmaster, named Musaeus. He 
probably lived at Alexandria, in the middle of the 
fifth century a.d. In the uncritical age of the 
Renaissance, he was naturally confused with his 
famous namesake — the legendary Musaeus whom 
the Greeks believed to be older than Homer ; 
and so a romance, well called the dying swan-note 
of Greek poetry, was antedated by at least twelve 
centuries. There was this much excuse for the 
error, that the poem is a close imitation of Homeric 
metre, diction and tone. But it is Homer with a 
difference. Apart from changes in the language 
and structure of the hexameter — for example, 
the influence of the stress-accent is beginning to 
be felt— a new spirit has crept into Greek litera- 
ture. The naive simplicity of the old Epic has 
been lost. Between Homer and Musaeus, Sappho 
and Euripides and ApoUonius have lived ; and, 
coming after Phaedra and Medea, Hero must needs 


be more self-conscious, more " modern," than 
Nausicaa. But this is not all. When Hero and 
Leander was written, Apollonius and Theocritus 
— whose age we are accustomed to call the even- 
ing of Greek poetry — were already ancient classics, 
as remote from Musaeus as Chaucer from Keats 
or Morris. A fresh form of Greek hterature — the 
romantic novel — had risen with a new emphasis 
on the psychology of love, and the " parallel 
passages," collected by German industry, show 
how deeply the erotic writers — Heliodorus, Longus 
and the rest — had sunk into the mind of Musaeus. 
In actual poetry, again, there had just been a 
striking, if not very happy development in the new 
epic of Nonnus, an Egyptian Greek who, with 
painstaking impartiality, versified the Gospel of 
St John, after relating the myths of Dionysus 
in forty-eight books. To this latter poem, perhaps, 
Musaeus owes most of all ; but he has paid his 
debt with interest, for, while few readers have 
begun and still fewer have finished the Dionysiaca, 
the Hero and Leander belongs to that class of 
poetry which is " not only admired but read." 

The story is not found in early Greek literature, 
and cannot well be older than Alexandrine times. 
German scholars have suggested an " aetiological " 
origin, in two towers that faced each other across 


the Dardanelles. This theory does not explain 
how the towers fell in love, or how one crossed the 
water to visit the other ; and it seems more helpful 
to account for the so-called " myth " of Hero and 
Leander by human nature rather than by aetiology. 
I agree with those who regard the poem as based 
on fact ; there is no difficulty in supposing a real 
Leander, who anticipated Byron in the Hellen- 
istic age. 

The distance of his swim — from one harbour 
to the other — was about three miles and a half, 
although Strabo says that the actual width of the 
straits near Abydos is less than a mile. Both 
Sestos and Abydos have been completely destroyed, 
but the site of the former was at or near Jallova, 
half-way between Crithia and Gallipoh, while the 
latter must have been at Nagara Point. Byron, 
describing his own swim, remarks that " the 
whole distance from the place whence we started 
to our landing on the other side, including the 
length we were carried by the current, was com- 
puted by those on board the frigate at upwards of 
four English miles, though the actual breadth is 
barely one." 

The story — whatever its origin or date— was 
popular in the later Greek and Roman periods. 
Virgil is the first extant authority, in a fine passage 


of the Georgics (iii. 25S) ; and CK-id found the theme 

to his taste, and in a pair of poetic letters {Heroides, 

18, 19) did justice to the pathos of the two lovers 

parted by the stormy Dardanelles. One of his 

lines — 

" idem nmngium^ nantm^ vector tro '' — 

is so remarkable a coincidence with the curious 
conceit of Musaeus — 

aiTO? ct>K epenjs, avrdoroXo?, avro/iaros n/is — 

that both O^id and Musaeus have been thought 
to borrow from some lost Alexandrine original. 
But the Greek poet, as a schoolmaster, may well 
have known and followed Ovid, with whom indeed 
he has much in common. 

Musaeus himself may not have been a great poet, 
but he could at least inspire a greater than he. 
Had Mariowe "translated" Hero and Leander, 
the present version would have been a needless 
impertinence. But Marlowe, while he began with 
a free rendering of the Greek, soon forgot his 
original and went his own magnificent way.^ 
His famous line — 

•• Who ever loved that loved not at first sight? " — 

1 Only tbe first two "Sestiads" were by Marlowe, 
Chapman (who also translated Musaeus) wrote the rest. 


has no equivalent in Musaeus, although one might 
think that the Greek poet would have welcomed 
it as the text of his tale. But, as a matter of fact, 
Musaeus would have thought it a mere common- 
place. The Alexandrines had already exploited 
the theme of love at first sight. Medea, in Apol- 
lonius, Simaetha, in Theocritus, had both been 
sudden \-ictims. Greek ladies, in their Oriental 
seclusion, had Httle opportunity for a slow court- 
ship. Even in the age and city of H\-patia, 
their retired life, before a mcirriage of convenience, 
was mainly broken by some religious procession or 
festival, where, as Ovid sa^-s, ladies could see the 
spectacle and be seen. Musaeus looks elsewhere 
for his text, and finds it more tragicallv : there 
are two powers that work their will in human life 
— Love and Fate. When they work in harmony, 
life is straightfon\-ard, perfect ; but they often 
clash ; and then, though Love is strong. Fate is 
stronger — 

So, at least, it would seem to the ordinan,- Greek, 
with his unquestioned belief in the overlordsbip 
of Fate. But the poet sees deeper. The victory 
is but a defeat disguised. There is a tragedy, 
but as in all true tragedies, nothing is here for tears. 


Even among the ruins of their Uves, the love of 
Hero and Leander is triumphant : 

" In death itself they had joy of one another." 

The poem suggests an inevitable comparison 
with its counterpart — the Pervigilium Veneris — 
in which Latin poetn.' may be said to close. There 
are differences, of course, in subject, in style, in 
metre ; but both are informed \nth something of 
the same spirit — the spirit that mourns the death of 
Love and Spring, and can yet feel and communicate 
the beauty of sorrow. As Leander and Hero are 

" Two stars equal to each other." 

these two poems are a splendid pair ; and, wth 
them, the lamps handed on by Homer and Virgil, 
long flickering and exhausted, seemed suddenlj- to 
have burst into a last brilhant flame, just before 
their lights were finally quenched, like Hero's 
lamp, by the winds of barbarism. 

The follo\%'ing translation is based, though 
not slavishly, on the text of Ludvsich (Musaios, 
Hero and Leattder, Boim, 1912). It is as hteral as 
the difference between Greek and Enghsh modes of 
poetic expression will permit. I have not attempted 
to render the very rhetorical introduction of fifteen 
lines, in which the poet invokes the Muse, and 


apostrophizes the lamp, that Zeus should have 
added to the stars. This preface is so frigid 
that one mav beUeve Musaeus to have \Mitten it a*, 
grammarian rather than poet. Its only value is to 
lay stress on the part played by the lamp in the 
tragic story : like Meleager's torch, it is the tene- 
ment of the soul, and on its safety the life of 
Leander depends. But Musaeus is no folklorist, 
to understand the nature of this mystic union. 
He would have preferred to be judged by his 
poetry, and I can onl}' hope that something of his 
poetic gift may be dimly seen in this translation. 


NEIGHBOURS that faced across the narrow- 
ing seas, 
Lay Sestos and Abydos, and on these 
Love bent his bow ; a single arrow flamed. 
Piercing two mortals : one, Leander named, 
A youth who gave Abydos her renown, 
One, Hero, a fair^irl of Sestos-town, — 
Twin-stars of those two cities ; and either shone 
As splendid as its bright companion. 
Still may the traveller see the high tower stand, 
Where once the lamp in Sestian Hero's hand 
Pointed her lover's path ; and still there ring. 
From old Abydan walls re-echoing, 
The voices of the melancholy tide, 
That tell how young Leander loved and died. 

How came the Abydan youth to long for her 
Who lived apart in Sestos, and to stir 
An answering passion ? Hero, of noble blood, 
Served Aphrodite, in pure maidenhood, 
A lovel}' priestess, where her ancestry 

Had built a tower that overtopped the sea. 



And there, a second Cytherean queen. 

She dwelt, with shamefastness and modest mien, 

Never consorting with the girHsh throng, 

Nor ever dancing, other maids among. 

Lest the fine flower of beauty should be soiled 

In spiteful hands. By jealousy undespoiled, 

She worshipped Cytherea, and adored 

Eros, the archer, and often heavenward 

Offered atoning gifts ; but even so. 

She learned the anguish of his fiery bow. 

For now was due the holy Cyprian feast, 
Wherein the Sestian folk, greatest and least. 
Honour Adonis and queen Aphrodite ; all 
Gathered, astir to keep high festival. 
From every island sea-engarlanded. 
From plains Thessalian, and the rocky head 
Of Cyprus ; none remained of womankind 
In all Cythera ; nor was left behind 
On Lebanon, in any odorous glen, 
A worshipper ; no one of neighbouring men 
Lagged, whether Phrygian or Abydan gates 
Poured out their citizens to cross the straits. 
And many a gallant came — love-smitten youth 
Cares little for the sacrifice, in truth. 
But much for the maidens sacrificing there. 
Now up the temple-aisle went Hero fair. 
And from her perfect face a radiancy 


Shone, as the clear moon in a cloudless sky. 

The snow upon her cheek was blent with red. 

Like tinges of the blush-rose ; you had said 

" Her body is a garden of red roses 

Breaking in blossom, for her robe discloses 

Each limb a flower, till, when she walks, there meet 

The white hem and the roses of her feet." 

There are three Graces only, say the wise ? 

Nay, but in either of Hero's lucent eyes 

A hundred laughter-loving Graces proved 

The servant worth her mistress. So she moved 

Fairer than woman, and herself appeared 

The avatar of the deity she revered. 

And the hearts of men were fluttered, and beat fast 

With ecstasy ; for as her light feet passed 

Over the marble pavement, in her train 

All eyes and minds and eager souls were fain 

To follow ; and one cried, marvelling, " I have 

The city that is famed as Helen's own. 
Where maiden vies with maiden in beauty rare. 
But I saw none at Sparta who might dare 
Accept the challenge of that flawless face. 
Surely a youthful goddess — a new Grace — 
Ministers to Aphrodite. I have gazed 
Till vision is weary, and am still amazed. 
Let me but win her, and then quickly die ! — 


I grudge no god his immortality 
Should I make Hero mine. And if I pray 
An impious prayer, O Goddess, filching away 
Thine own, give me her equal ! " Thus he cried. 
But most were silent, spell-bound and tongue- 
Not so Leander : passionately, he brooked 
No tame concealment of his love. He looked. 
And life, without her, seemed a thing of nought : 
Such burning fire shot from her eyes, and caught 
His heart defenceless. Beauty's arrows fly 
Swifter than any archer's : eye strikes eye 
And penetrates by this pathway to the goal. 
Where waits the prize of an enraptured soul. 
Even so by turns he wonders, blushes, trembles. 
And plucks up courage, blushing, as he dissembles 
The hope his stammering tongue dares not unfold ; 
Then Passion checks the blush, and Love grows 

Bidding the youth come near and greet the maid 
With tender looks, more eloquent to persuade 
Than spoken words. And she, his guile per- 
Rejoiced in silence, but her bosom's heaving 
Sent him the message of her soft-drawn sighs. 
As she would glance, and turn away her eyes, 
And glance again. Thus joyfully he learned 


That his love-signs were read, his love not 

But while he sought for secrecy, to gain 
His full desire, daylight began to wane 
Westward, and in the east horizon dim 
The evening star silvered the heaven's rim. 
Then, as the train of Night was sweeping near, 
Leander, venturous with abated fear, 
Came, and just touched her rosy finger-tips, 
And looked, with no word uttered ; and Hero's 

Were silent, and the fingers that he had seized 
She quickly drew away, as if displeased. 
But he, observing marks of willingness 
Beneath the anger, caught her fair-wrought dress, 
To lead her toward the temple's deepest shade. 
And Hero followed, faltering and afraid, 
With such reproaches as are woman's use ; 
" Others — not I — may do thy pleasure : loose 
My dress from thy rough lust-emboldened clutch. 
Respect my parents' anger ; nay, to touch 
Aphrodite's priestess is an evil thing, 
And virgins may not yield to wantoning." 

Her words were wrathful, but a gentler mood 
Was heralded, and the lover understood 
Love's hidden augury, and he kissed the maid 
Upon her white and fragrant neck, and said : 


" O mirror of the Cyprian queen divine, 

Athena's other self, who dost outshine 

All shining excellence of mortal birth. 

Daughter of Jove, a visitor upon earth ! 

Happy thy father, happy she who bare, 

In thee, a wonder ! Hearken to my prayer. 

Pity my plight, show thyself in true deed 

The votary of thy Goddess. Thou shouldst heed 

Her ordinance, and the mysteries— darkly sealed 

To maidenhood — wherein she stands revealed, 

Commanding an initiate minister 

To love. Therefore, if thou dost worship her, 

Bear the delightful yoke she lays on thee. 

And follow her sweet laws. Receive from me 

My vows, and — if thou wilt — my love, and take 

The booty Eros captured for thy sake. 

Thou knowest how Hermes of the Golden Rod 

Brought the strong Hercules beneath the nod 

And lightest whim of Lydian Omphale. 

Me Cytherea brings more urgently 

Than Hermes. And by another be forewarned 

— Arcadian Atalanta — when she scorned 

Meilanion, her suitor, prizing more 

Her maidenhood. But Aphrodite, sore 

At slighted honour, sent infatuate 

Desire upon disdain. Of such a fate. 

Dearest, beware ; stern is the punishment." 


' So with soft passion-luring words he bent 
The will that struggled with her heart. But 

Covered her ; with eyes downcast and cheeks 

And face that feared to encounter him, she beat 
The floor with tappings of her nervous feet, 
And drew her cloak closelier to her side. 
And still was silent — tokens that betide 
The nearness of love's self-abandoning. 
For now she felt the sweet-and-bitter sting 
Fixt by the goad that Aphrodite plies. 
And loved Leander, though her modest eyes 
Looked down, and shunned his countenance set 

On the bright vision of her neck. At last, 
With changeful flushes, and virginal cheeks aglow 
In crimson-eddying flood, she murmured low : 

" Sir, such fine talk as this would surely turn 
A stone to weeping ! How camest thou to learn 
Subtlety, and clever phrase of argument ? 
Ah me ! who brought thee hither, vainly sent ? 
How dost thou hope, a wanderer unknown, 
Untestified, to have me for thine own ? 
By ceremony, and the sacred marriage-tie ? 
My kinsfolk would forbid it. Or wilt thou try, 
As a pretended stranger, travel-worn, 


To linger here, seeking the pleasure bora 
In stolen love ? Not so may I be won. 
Tongues wag ; a secret thing in darkness done 
Is soon the gossip of the market-place. 
And yet ... I would be told thy name and race : 
My name— thou knowest— is Hero, and I dwell 
Where a tall tower, before the citadel 
Of Sestos, hangs upon the sounding sea. 
There, \sith one maiden, for all my company. 
Harsh parents keep me, sorrowing for dearth 
Of fellowship, and the joy of friendly mirth 
And song ; but to my ears cometh alone 
The v^indy water's never-ceasing moan." 

She ended, and would gladly have unsaid 
The words for very shame, and veiled her head 
Beneath her cloak. But his turbulent passion 

Leander towards the hoped-for meed of love. 
For guileful Eros, once ha\ing pierced his prej^ 
Himself wUl heal the wound, and show the way 
WTiereby his slaves learn %nsdom from distress. 
So now he taught his \ictim craftiness. 
Prompting a plan — but, aU too late for rueing, 
Leander 's wisdom turned to his undoing. 
" Lady," he said, " for such a sweet reward, 
I'd brave the ocean, though it beat and roared 
And foamed vsith fire. Nightly, to thy dear bed. 


A lover sea-drenched and wave-buffeted, 

I'll swim the Hellespont, from where my home 

Lies in Abydos — no long way to come. 

One thing I ask — that on the other side 

Thy tower shall hold a lamp, my beacon-guide ; 

So shall I be love's ship, and sail aright. 

Shaping my dark course by that starry light. 

I shall not watch the slow Arcturus set, 

Nor mark Orion's piloting, nor yet 

The Wain that never sinks ; for my own star 

Will lead me safe across Love's harbour-bar. 

Only take care, lest some wind's violent breath 

Put out the light, and drag me to my death ; 

For know, that in the constancy of that flame 

I live. And now, — if thou wouldst learn my 

name — 
Thy husband is Leander." 

Thus their troth 
Was plighted, and a covenant made for both. 
For her, to hold the shining lamp, for him. 
Over the flame-lit waterpath to swim. 
So with their love declared, their trysting sped. 
But \nth desire still to be perfected. 
They went their ways — she, back to the tower ; 

but he 
Noted the landmarks round him carefully. 
Lest his night-wandering feet might lose the road, 


And then sailed homeward to his own abode 
In great Abydos. Wistfully they went, 
Longing for their love's full accomplishment, 
\Mien, much entreated, tardy night should rise. 
At length a robe of darkness wrapped the skies. 
And all men, save Leander, turned to sleep ; 
But he stood wakefully by the unquiet deep. 
Impatient, till the fatal lamp should bring 
His marriage-hour with happy summoning. 
And Hero, when the last sunbeam had dwindled. 
Lighted the lamp, and straightway love was 

Within Leander's heart. He, on sohd ground, 
Heard the wild thunder-throated waves resound, 
And shrank from plunging. But new hopes were 

To feed his soul with comfort : " Love I fear, 
And fearful is the Ocean ; yet the waves 
Are only water ; and in my heart there raves 
A burning flame. Heed thou the deadlier fire, 
My heart ! nor let the sea foil thy desire. 
What harm can water work thee, being the home 
Of Aphrodite, bom from the sea-foam? 
Hers is the Ocean, hers my agony." 
So saving, he threw off him speedily 
His tunic, and rolled it close about his hair, 
Then leapt into the sea — his only care 


To reach the lamp — voyaging in strange guise. 
Himself the ship, mariner, and merchandise. 

But in the high tower Hero, at her task 
Of safeguarding the lamp, would often mask 
Its flame from the wind-quarter, and with her 

Would screen it against a sudden gustiness. 
Until Leander fought his perilous way 
To the calm anchorage in the Sestian bay. 
And thence she brought him breathless to her 

Still flecked with spray of frothy water hoar. 
And with a mute embrace led her bridegroom 
To the dear welcome of her maiden-room. 
Therein, she bathed his body, and sprinkled him 
With oil rose-scented on each quivering limb, 
That washed away the pungent-savoured brine. 
And leaned across the bed, to intertwine 
Her arms \s-ith his, speaking soft words of love : 
" Husband, my husband ! Thou has laboured 

All others who have toiled to earn their brides ; 
Thou hast had full surfeit of the salty tides 
And rankness of the monster-peopled seas. 
Now let my arms bring to thy labour ease." 
So Hero spoke, and suffered him to imtie 
Her girdle, and they essa\-ed the mysten.- 


Of Aphrodite's grace, in wedlock true, 
Though without marriage-hymn or dances due, 
Or music round the bridal bed, or prayer 
That the Queen of Gods might smile upon the 

No torches lit the room, no nimble feet 
Of maidens whirled in the swift dance, to greet 
Their homecoming. Father or mother none 
Sang songs to Hymen ; by the bed alone 
Silence was bridesmaid, and the priestess Night, 
Dark celebrant, performed the holy rite. 
Nor dared the bridegroom linger till the morn ; 
In haste, with broken joys, untimely torn 
From Hero, and still fragrant with the breath 
Clinging to those whom Cypris favoureth. 
He rose, and swam to his own countrymen. 
But Hero stayed, escaping her parents' ken, 
A wedded wife by night, a maid by day ; 
And many prayers these two were wont to pray 
That the high sun might quicken to the west. 

So for a little while, safe and unguessed. 
The secret prospered, and the Cyprian spell. 
With its sweet working ineluctable, 
Gave their far-sundered loves a happy boon 
In darkness. But wild winter came, full soon, 
When by strong blasts, tumultuously driven. 
The sea's foundations were upheaved and riven. 


And the huddled waves fled from the tempest- 
And sailors trembled, drawing their painted ships 
High on the thirsty sands above the wrack. 
But no mad sea, Leander, could bend back 
Thy stubborn purpose, when from Hero's tower 
The bright lamp beckoning at the appointed hour 
. Flashed out its faithless, merciless command. 
Ah ! had she been content, and stayed her hand. 
Nor kindled that brief star, too quickly cooled ! 
But tyrant Fate and Passion overruled. 
And the witched lamp, promising Love's delight, 
Brought only death. 

In that dark watch of night. 
When winds are fiercest, flinging at the sea 
The deadliest javelins of their armoury, 
Leander, all-impetuous for his bride. 
Started to breast the swollen surf, and ride 
The storm-foot horse of the unmastered main. 
That carried him helpless, a rider without rein. 
Wave curled on wave ; the sea and heavenly vault 
Were mixed, and all the winds in savage assault 
Shrieked as they fought — the West wind with the 

South with the terrible North ; nor ever ceased 
The thunder of the unforgiving surge. 
And pitifully Leander called, to urge 


The aid of Her, who rose from the sea-spray 
— Pitifully cried to Him, whom seas obey, 
The lord Poseidon. Often would he entreat 
Boreas, not to forget those kisses sweet 
Of Attic Oreithyia ; but all failed : 
Love had confronted Fate, and Fate prevailed. 
On every side a barrier of waves stood 
Unscalable, and then broke in a great flood. 
That swept him hither and thither, till at length 
His feet grew impotent, and all the strength 
In his unresting arms was spent in vain. 
And the waves gripped his throat, that he should 

A bitter draught. And then a violent gust 
Blew out the lamp, unequal to its trust. 
And, with the flame, Leander's love and life. 
Meanwhile, with dull foreboding thought, his 
Watched, leaden-eyed, in sleepless vigilance. 
Till the day came— ^but on the wide expanse 
Came no sight of Leander, though her gaze. 
This way and that, ranged the long water-ways 
— If the swimmer might have missed the landing- 
The lamp being lost. 

And there, at the tower's base. 
Beneath her on the rocks, she saw him bleeding, 



And beaten into a mangled thing unheeding. 
Frenzied, she rushed, and with her garments rent, 
Leapt desperately from the high battlement 
To draw her last breath at her husband's side. 

So Love, in Death itself, was satisfied.