James Lister Cuthbertson

(8 May 1851 – 18 January 1910 / Glasgow, Scotland)

Ode to Apollo


"Tandem venias precamur
   Nube candentes humeros amictus
   Augur Apollo."

   Lord of the golden lyre
   Fraught with the Dorian fire,
   Oh! fair-haired child of Leto, come again;
   And if no longer smile
   Delphi or Delos' isle,
   Come from the depth of thine Aetnean glen,
   Where in the black ravine
   Thunders the foaming green
   Of waters writhing far from mortals' ken;
   Come o'er the sparkling brine,
   And bring thy train divine --
The sweet-voiced and immortal violet-crowned Nine.

   For here are richer meads,
   And here are goodlier steeds
   Than ever graced the glorious land of Greece;
   Here waves the yellow corn,
   Here is the olive born --
   The gray-green gracious harbinger of peace;
   Here too hath taken root
   A tree with golden fruit,
   In purple clusters hangs the vine's increase,
   And all the earth doth wear
   The dry clear Attic air
That lifts the soul to liberty, and frees the heart from care.

   Or if thy wilder mood
   Incline to solitude,
   Eternal verdure girds the lonely hills,
   Through the green gloom of ferns
   Softly the sunset burns,
   Cold from the granite flow the mountain rills;
   And there are inner shrines
   Made by the slumberous pines,
   Where the rapt heart with contemplation fills,
   And from wave-stricken shores
   Deep wistful music pours
And floods the tempest-shaken forest corridors.

   Oh, give the gift of gold
   The human heart to hold
   With liquid glamour of the Lesbian line;
   With Pindar's lava glow,
   With Sophocles' calm flow,
   Or Aeschylean rapture airy fine;
   Or with thy music's close
   Thy last autumnal rose
   Theocritus of Sicily, divine;
   O Pythian Archer strong,
   Time cannot do thee wrong,
With thee they live for ever, thy nightingales of song.

   We too are island-born;
   Oh, leave us not in scorn --
   A songless people never yet was great.
   We, suppliants at thy feet,
   Await thy muses sweet
   Amid the laurels at thy temple gate,
   Crownless and voiceless yet,
   But on our brows is set
   The dim unwritten prophecy of fate,
   To mould from out of mud
   An empire with our blood,
To wage eternal warfare with the fire and flood.

   Lord of the minstrel choir,
   Oh, grant our hearts' desire,
   To sing of truth invincible in might,
   Of love surpassing death
   That fears no fiery breath,
   Of ancient inborn reverence for right,
   Of that sea-woven spell
   That from Trafalgar fell
   And keeps the star of duty in our sight:
   Oh, give the sacred fire,
   And our weak lips inspire
With laurels of thy song and lightnings of thy lyre.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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