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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities: Dardanelles (Hellespont)

Hero and Leander

By Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)

BUT he, Leander, almost half across,

Threw his blithe locks behind him with a toss,

And hailed the light victoriously, secure

Of clasping his kind love, so sweet and sure;

When suddenly, a blast, as if in wrath,

Sheer from the hills, came headlong on his path;

Then started off; and driving round the sea,

Dashed up the panting waters roaringly.

The youth at once was thrust beneath the main

With blinded eyes, but quickly rose again,

And with a smile at heart, and stouter pride,

Surmounted, like a god, the rearing tide.

But what? The torch gone out! So long too! See,

He thinks it comes! Ah, yes,—’t is she! ’t is she!

Again he springs; and though the winds arise

Fiercer and fiercer, swims with ardent eyes;

And always, though with ruffian waves dashed hard,

Turns thither with glad groan his stout regard;

And always, though his sense seems washed away,

Emerges, fighting towards the cordial ray.

But driven about at last, and drenched the while,

The noble boy loses that inward smile.

For now, from one black atmosphere, the rain

Sweeps into stubborn mixture with the main;

And the brute wind, unmuffling all its roar,

Storms; and the light, gone out, is seen no more.

Then dreadful thoughts of death, of waves heaped on him,

And friends and parting daylight rush upon him.

He thinks of prayers to Neptune and his daughters,

And Venus, Hero’s queen, sprung from the waters;

And then of Hero only,—how she fares,

And what she ’ll feel, when the blank morn appears;

And at that thought he stiffens once again

His limbs, and pants, and strains, and climbs—in vain.

Fierce draughts he swallows of the wilful wave,

His tossing hands are lax, his blind look grave,

Till the poor youth (and yet no coward he)

Spoke once her name, and, yielding wearily,

Wept in the middle of the scornful sea.

I need not tell how Hero, when her light

Would burn no longer, passed that dreadful night;

How she exclaimed, and wept, and could not sit

One instant in one place; nor how she lit

The torch a hundred times, and when she found

’T was all in vain, her gentle head turned round

Almost with rage; and in her fond despair

She tried to call him through the deafening air.

But when he came not,—when from hour to hour

He came not,—though the storm had spent its power,

And when the casement, at the dawn of light,

Began to show a square of ghastly white,

She went up to the tower, and straining out

To search the seas, downwards, and round about,

She saw at last,—she saw her lord indeed

Floating, and washed about, like a vile weed;—

On which such strength of passion and dismay

Seized her, and such an impotence to stay,

That from the turret, like a stricken dove,

With fluttering arms she leaped, and joined her drowned love.