Niobe

By Alfred Noyes 1880–1958 Alfred Noyes
How like the sky she bends above her child,
   One with the great horizon of her pain!
No sob from our low seas where woe runs wild,
   No weeping cloud, no momentary rain,
Can mar the heaven-high visage of her grief,
   That frozen anguish, proud, majestic, dumb.
      She stoops in pity above the labouring earth,
            Knowing how fond, how brief
   Is all its hope, past, present, and to come,
      She stoops in pity, and yearns to assuage its dearth.

Through that fair face the whole dark universe
   Speaks, as a thorn-tree speaks thro’ one white flower;
And all those wrenched Promethean souls that curse
   The gods, but cannot die before their hour,
Find utterance in her beauty. That fair head
   Bows over all earth’s graves. It was her cry
      Men heard in Rama when the twisted ways
            With children’s blood ran red.
   Her silence towers to Silences on high;
      And, in her face, the whole earth’s anguish prays.

It is the pity, the pity of human love
   That strains her face, upturned to meet the doom,
And her deep bosom, like a snow-white dove
   Frozen upon its nest, ne’er to resume
Its happy breathing o’er the golden brace
   That she must shield till death. Death, death alone
      Can break the anguished horror of that spell.
            The sorrow on her face
   Is sealed: the living flesh is turned to stone;
      She knows all, all, that Life and Time can tell.

Ah, yet, her woman’s love, so vast, so tender,
    Her woman’s body, hurt by every dart,
Braving the thunder, still, still hide the slender
   Soft frightened child beneath her mighty heart.
She is all one mute immortal cry, one brief
   Infinite pang of such victorious pain
      That she transcends the heavens and bows them down!
            The majesty of grief
   Is hers, and her dominion must remain
      Eternal. Grief alone can wear that crown.

Source: Collected Poems (1947)

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Poet Alfred Noyes 1880–1958

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Heroes & Patriotism, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Alfred  Noyes

Biography

Alfred Noyes was born in England and attended Oxford, where he left before completing his degree. He published his first book of poems, The Loom of Years, at age 21, and published five more volumes of poetry in the next five years. In 1914, he began teaching at Princeton University, and became noted for his criticisms of such Modernist writers as James Joyce. Though his early work often evokes fantastic, dream-like, storybook . . .

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SUBJECT Heroes & Patriotism, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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