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The Helot



I.

Low the sun beat on the land,
Red on vine and plain and wood;
With the wine-cup in his hand,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood.

II.

Quench'd the fierce Achean gaze,
Dorian foemen paus'd before,
Where cold Sparta snatch'd her bays
At Achaea's stubborn door.

III.

Still with thews of iron bound,
Vastly the Achean rose,
Godward from the brazen ground,
High before his Spartan foes.

IV.

Still the strength his fathers knew
(Dauntless when the foe they fac'd)
Vein and muscle bounded through,
Tense his Helot sinews brac'd.

V.

Still the constant womb of Earth,
Blindly moulded all her part;
As, when to a lordly birth,
Achean freemen left her heart.

VI.

Still, insensate mother, bore
Goodly sons for Helot graves;
Iron necks that meekly wore
Sparta's yoke as Sparta's slaves.

VII.

Still, O God mock'd mother! she
Smil'd upon her sons of clay:
Nurs'd them on her breast and knee,
Shameless in the shameful day.

VIII.

Knew not old Achea's fires
Burnt no more in souls or veins--
Godlike hosts of high desires
Died to clank of Spartan chains.

IX.

Low the sun beat on the land,
Purple slope and olive wood;
With the wine cup in his hand,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood.

X.

As long, gnarl'd roots enclasp
Some red boulder, fierce entwine
His strong fingers, in their grasp
Bowl of bright Caecuban wine.

XI.

From far Marsh of Amyclae,
Sentried by lank poplars tall--
Thro' the red slant of the day,
Shrill pipes did lament and call.

XII.

Pierc'd the swaying air sharp pines,
Thyrsi-like, the gilded ground
Clasp'd black shadows of brown vines,
Swallows beat their mystic round.

XIII.

Day was at her high unrest;
Fever'd with the wine of light,
Loosing all her golden vest,
Reel'd she towards the coming night.

XIV.

Fierce and full her pulses beat;
Bacchic throbs the dry earth shook;
Stirr'd the hot air wild and sweet;
Madden'd ev'ry vine-dark brook.

XV.

Had a red grape never burst,
All its heart of fire out;
To the red vat all a thirst,
To the treader's song and shout:

XVI.

Had the red grape died a grape;
Nor, sleek daughter of the vine,
Found her unknown soul take shape
In the wild flow of the wine:

XVII.

Still had reel'd the yellow haze:
Still had puls'd the sun pierc'd sod
Still had throbb'd the vine clad days:
To the pulses of their God.

XVIII.

Fierce the dry lips of the earth
Quaff'd the subtle Bacchic soul:
Felt its rage and felt its mirth,
Wreath'd as for the banquet bowl.

XIX.

Sapphire-breasted Bacchic priest
Stood the sky above the lands;
Sun and Moon at East and West,
Brazen cymbals in his hands.

XX.

Temples, altars, smote no more,
Sharply white as brows of Gods:
From the long, sleek, yellow shore,
Oliv'd hill or dusky sod,

XXI.

Gaz'd the anger'd Gods, while he,
Bacchus, made their temples his;
Flushed their marble silently
With the red light of his kiss.

XXII.

Red the arches of his feet
Spann'd grape-gleaming vales; the earth
Reel'd from grove to marble street,
Mad with echoes of his mirth.

XXIII.

Nostrils widen'd to the air,
As above the wine brimm'd bowl:
Men and women everywhere
Breath'd the fierce, sweet Bacchic soul.

XXIV.

Flow'd the vat and roar'd the beam,
Laugh'd the must; while far and shrill,
Sweet as notes in Pan-born dream,
Loud pipes sang by vale and hill.

XXV.

Earth was full of mad unrest,
While red Bacchus held his state;
And her brown vine-girdl'd breast
Shook to his wild joy and hate.

XXVI.

Strife crouch'd red ey'd in the vine
In its tendrils Eros strayed;
Anger rode upon the wine;
Laughter on the cup-lip play'd.

XXVII.

Day was at her chief unrest--
Red the light on plain and wood
Slavish ey'd and still of breast,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood:

XXVIII.

Wide his hairy nostrils blew,
Maddning incense breathing up;
Oak to iron sinews grew,
Round the rich Caecuban cup.

XXIX.

'Drink, dull slave!' the Spartan said,
'Drink, until the Hel
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:35 min read
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Quick analysis:

Scheme AbaB cdcd efef ghgh ijij dkdk lmlm nono AbaB pqpq mrmr sese tutu vwvw xyxy pqpq czcz i1 i1 x2 t2 dxdz lxlx vivi 3 1 3 1 4 5 4 5 t6 t6 q7 q7 tbtb gpgp xm
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,644
Words 676
Stanzas 29
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2

Isabella Valancy Crawford

Isabella Valancy Crawford was an Irish-born Canadian writer and poet. more…

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    "The Helot" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 31 Jan. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/19934/the-helot>.

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    Who wrote the poem ״Invictus״?
    • A. Thomas Hardy
    • B. Sylvia Plath
    • C. Oscar Wilde
    • D. William Ernest Henley