The Voyage of Telegonus

Henry Kendall 1839 (Australia) – 1882 (Sydney)

Ill fares it with the man whose lips are set
To bitter themes and words that spite the gods;
For, seeing how the son of Saturn sways
With eyes and ears for all, this one shall halt
As on hard, hurtful hills; his days shall know
The plaintive front of sorrow; level looks
With cries ill-favoured shall be dealt to him;
And ~this~ shall be that he may think of peace
As one might think of alienated lips
Of sweetness touched for once in kind, warm dreams.
Yea, fathers of the high and holy face,
This soul thus sinning shall have cause to sob
'Ah, ah,' for sleep, and space enough to learn
The wan, wild Hyrie's aggregated song
That starts the dwellers in distorted heights,
With all the meaning of perpetual sighs
Heard in the mountain deserts of the world,
And where the green-haired waters glide between
The thin, lank weeds and mallows of the marsh.
But thou to whom these things are like to shapes
That come of darkness - thou whose life slips past
Regarding rather these with mute fast mouth -
Hear none the less how fleet Telegonus,
The brass-clad hunter, first took oar and smote
Swift eastward-going seas, with face direct
For narrowing channels and the twofold coasts
Past Colchis and the fierce Symplegades,
And utmost islands, washed by streams unknown.

For in a time when Phasis whitened wide
And drove with violent waters blown of wind
Against the bare, salt limits of the land,
It came to pass that, joined with Cytheraea,
The black-browed Ares, chafing for the wrong
Ulysses did him on the plains of Troy,
Set heart against the king; and when the storms
Sang high in thunder and the Thracian rain,
The god bethought him of a pale-mouthed priest
Of Thebae, kin to ancient Chariclo,
And of an omen which the prophet gave
That touched on death and grief to Ithaca;
Then, knowing how a heavy-handed fate
Had laid itself on Circe's brass-clad son,
He pricked the hunter with a lust that turned
All thoughts to travel and the seas remote;
But chiefly now he stirred Telegonus
To longings for his father's exiled face,
And dreams of rest and honey-hearted love
And quiet death with much of funeral flame
Far in the mountains of a favoured land
Beyond the wars and wailings of the waves.

So, past the ridges where the coast abrupt
Dips greyly westward, Circe's strong-armed son
Swept down the foam of sharp-divided straits
And faced the stress of opening seas. Sheer out
The vessel drave; but three long moons the gale
Moaned round; and swift, strong streams of fire revealed
The labouring rowers and the lightening surf,
Pale watchers deafened of sonorous storm,
And dipping decks and rents of ruined sails.
Yea, when the hollow ocean-driven ship
Wheeled sideways, like a chariot cloven through
In hard hot battle, and the night came up
Against strange headlands lying east and north,
Behold a black, wild wind with death to all
Ran shoreward, charged with flame and thunder-smoke,
Which blew the waters into wastes of white,
And broke the bark, as lightning breaks the pine;
Whereat the sea in fearful circles showed
Unpitied faces turned from Zeus and light -
Wan swimmers wasted with their agony,
And hopeless eyes and moaning mouths of men.
But one held by the fragments of the wreck,
And Ares knew him for Telegonus,
Whom heavy-handed Fate had chained to deeds
Of dreadful note with sin beyond a name.
So, seeing this, the black-browed lord of war,
Arrayed about by Jove's authentic light,
Shot down amongst the shattered clouds and called
With mighty strain, betwixt the gaps of storm
'Oceanus! Oceanus!' Whereat
The surf sprang white, as when a keel divides
The gleaming centre of a gathered wave;
And, ringed with flakes of splendid fire of foam,
The son of Terra rose half-way and blew
The triple trumpet of the water-gods,
At which great winds fell back and all the sea
Grew dumb, as on the land a war-feast breaks
When deep sleep falls upon the souls of men.
Then Ares of the night-like brow made known
The brass-clad hunter of the facile feet,
Hard clinging to the slippery logs of pine,
And told the omen to the hoary god
That touched on death and grief to Ithaca;
Wherefore Oceanus, with help of hand,
Bore by the chin the warrior of the North,
A moaning mass, across the shallowing surge,
And cast him on the rocks of alien shores
Against a wintry morning shot with storm.

Hear also, thou, how mighty gods sustain
The men set out to work the ends of Fate
Which fill the world with tales of many tears
And vex the sad face of humanity:
Six days and ni
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Henry Kendall

Thomas Henry Kendall was a nineteenth-century Australian author and bush poet, who was particularly known for his poems and tales set in a natural environment setting. more…

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    "The Voyage of Telegonus" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 24 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/17600/the-voyage-of-telegonus>.

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