Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Edmund Clarence Stedman. 1833–1906
 
185. Hypatia
 
'T IS fifteen hundred years, you say, 
  Since that fair teacher died 
In learnèd Alexandria 
  By the stone altar's side:— 
The wild monks slew her, as she lay         5
  At the feet of the Crucified. 
  
Yet in a prairie-town, one night, 
  I found her lecture-hall, 
Where bench and dais stood aright, 
  And statues graced the wall,  10
And pendent brazen lamps the light 
  Of classic days let fall. 
  
A throng that watched the speaker's face 
  And on her accents hung, 
Was gathered there: the strength, the grace  15
  Of lands where life is young 
Ceased not, I saw, with that blithe race 
  From old Pelasgia sprung. 
  
No civic crown the sibyl wore, 
  Nor academic tire,  20
But shining skirts, that trailed the floor 
  And made her stature higher; 
A written scroll the lecturn bore, 
  And flowers bloomed anigh her. 
  
The wealth her honeyed speech had won  25
  Adorned her in our sight; 
The silkworm for her sake had spun 
  His cincture, day and night; 
With broider-work and Honiton 
  Her open sleeves were bright.  30
  
But still Hypatia's self I knew, 
  And saw, with dreamy wonder, 
The form of her whom Cyril slew 
  (See Kingsley's novel, yonder) 
Some fifteen centuries since, 't is true,  35
  And half a world asunder. 
  
Her hair was coifed Athenian-wise, 
  With one loose tress down-flowing; 
Apollo's rapture lit her eyes, 
  His utterance bestowing,—  40
A silver flute's clear harmonies 
  On which a god was blowing. 
  
Yet not of Plato's sounding spheres, 
  And universal Pan, 
She spoke; but searched historic years,  45
  The sisterhood to scan 
Of women,—girt with ills and fears,— 
  Slaves to the tyrant, Man. 
  
Their crosiered banner she unfurled, 
  And onward pushed her quest  50
Through golden ages of a world 
  By their deliverance blest:— 
At all who stay their hands she hurled 
  Defiance from her breast. 
  
I saw her burning words infuse  55
  A warmth through many a heart, 
As still, in bright successive views, 
  She drew her sex's part; 
Discoursing, like the Lesbian Muse, 
  On work, and song, and art.  60
  
Why vaunt, I thought, the past, or say 
  The later is the less? 
Our Sappho sang but yesterday, 
  Of whom two climes confess 
Heaven's flame within her wore away  65
  Her earthly loveliness. 
  
So let thy wild heart ripple on, 
  Brave girl, through vale and city! 
Spare, of its listless moments, one 
  To this, thy poet's ditty;  70
Nor long forbear, when all is done, 
  Thine own sweet self to pity. 
  
The priestess of the Sestian tower, 
  Whose knight the sea swam over, 
Among her votaries' gifts no flower  75
  Of heart's-ease could discover: 
She died, but in no evil hour, 
  Who, dying, clasped her lover. 
  
The rose-tree has its perfect life 
  When the full rose is blown;  80
Some height of womanhood the wife 
  Beyond thy dream has known; 
Set not thy head and heart at strife 
  To keep thee from thine own. 
  
Hypatia! thine essence rare  85
  The rarer joy should merit: 
Possess thee of the common share 
  Which lesser souls inherit: 
All gods to thee their garlands bear,— 
  Take one from Love and wear it!  90
 
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