Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Asia Minor: Abydos


By Musæus the Grammarian

(From Hero and Leander)
Translated by C. A. Elton

OPPOSING, Sestos and Abydos stood;

Two neighboring cities parted by the flood.

At both, sure-aiming, Cupid fledged the dart;

Here fired a youth’s, and there a virgin’s heart:

This on Abydos’, that on Sestos’ shore:

Leander, Hero, were the names they bore.

The lovely youth and maid were known afar,

Each of their native town the beauteous star,

In graces matched: if thither tend your way

Inquire the turret whence the torchlight ray

Ushered the youth, while stood the maiden high;

Or let the surge-reëchoing frith reply

Of old Abydos, that with hollow roar

Shall yet Leander’s love and death deplore.


’T was night; when wintry blasts thick-gathering roar

In darted whirlwind rushing on the shore:

Leander, hopeful of his wonted bride,

Was borne aloft upon the sounding tide.

Wave rolled on wave: in heaps the waters stood;

Sea clashed with air; and, howling o’er the flood,

From every point the warring winds were driven,

And the loud deeps dashed roaring to the heaven.

Leander struggled with the whirlpool main,

And oft to sea-sprung Venus cried in vain,

And him, the godhead of the watery reign.

None succoring hastened to the lover’s call,

Nor Love could conquer Fate, though conquering all.

’Gainst his opposing breast, in rushing heaps,

Burst with swift shock the accumulated deeps:

Stiff hung his nerveless feet: his hands, long spread

Restless amidst the waves, dropped numbed and dead:

Sudden the involuntary waters rushed,

And down his gasping throat the brine-floods gushed;

The bitter wind now quenched the light above,

And, so extinguished, fled Leander’s life and love.

But while he lingered still, the watchful maid,

With terrors wavering, on the tower delayed.

The morning came,—no husband met her view:

O’er the wide seas her wandering sight she threw:

If haply, since the torch was quenched in shade,

Her bridegroom o’er the waters, devious, strayed.

When, at the turret’s foot, her glance described

His rock-torn corse cast upward by the tide,

She rent the broidered robe her breast around,

And headlong from the tower she fell with rushing sound.

Thus on her lifeless husband Hero died,

Nor death’s last anguish could their loves divide.