Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 20. September 3, 1968
The Tower on the Bosphorus
The Tower on the Bosphorus
This is the first eight parts of Niel Wright's translation of the second half of The Loves of Hero and Leander by the fourth-century Greek poet Musaeus. The first half is translated by Marlowe.
So lovely and so dear
To him was Hero that he would dare
The ocean, even an ocean on fire;
Not at all would he fear
Its billows, whatever their size.
But he would attempt those seas,
And heedless what winds or tides forbid,
Swim to his Hero's bed.
Not rhetoric this, for the lovers lived
Each on a shore that the Hellespont laved.
He at Abydos, at Sestos she.
Then let but his beloved show
A torch by night in her tower on high
To be his guide, and thereby he
Would swim the straits and reach his haven.
He would not regard any star in heaven,
Bootes cat or fell Orion;
Her star alone would he set his eye on.
"Dear Hero, you must make
That light which serves as my landmark
Your constant care. Your guard
Must most of all be good
When winter's ruinous weather casts
Tumult over the straits and coasts.
Then must you keep best watch
Over that single torch upon which
My life depends, that the storm not dout
It, or I am dead sans doubt."
Alone on the shore with the waves leaping
And tumbling before him, as lacking in rest
As his love-agitated breast, Leander when all the world is sleeping
Ready and all loo eager to leave
The safety of the shore, keeps watch
Across the waves tor the torchlight which
Is to summon him, so he thinks, to love,
Little he thinks that the light will deprive
Him of his life, but so it will prove.
The lovely Hero has made her ascent
Into the tower and set the lamp.
The young Leander is quick to glimpse
That signal over the water sent.
A fire to match the one he sees
Suddenly Lcander feels.
Then on his aghast ears there falls
The gigantic roar of the surging seas.
Love is cruel, For see, love urges
Leander into the ocean's surges.
The man is on fire. Then how can water
And fire together quarter?
Yet Leander is strong in courage,
And dares to trust the waves for carriage.
He does not let the threats of winter
Make him afraid to enter.
Did not the lovely Venus safely
Rise from the ocean's troubled surf?
Leander from both may she deliver,
The sea, and the pangs of a lover.
I saw it all and so I know
All that befell, said Ino.
His vesture off, Then with it tied
About his head, he leapt into the tide,
And struck out boldly from the coast,
Himself the pilot and the ship.
By that bright light he sailed,
That beacon over which
Hero kept constant watch
Against the sharp
Night winds that assailed.
Against each blast that blows
She screened the torch's blaze,
Until at last on to that coast
She saw the surges cast
Leander, safe from he sea's harms.
Then she ran to him with open arms.
Home through the dim
Landscape she led the boy, both dumb
With joy, and brought him to her bed, high
In the tower. There from his body,
Still panting with its strenuous
She cleansed the ooze
Of the rough seas.
Then smiling an ingenuous
Smile, to her white breast
The youth she pressed,
And bade him take his ease.
"Too long, lover and bridegroom,
Have you suffered on the grim
Bosom of the sea.
Now let sweet joy succeed,
And after your hard labours rest
On my while breast."
There were no guests, there were not any
Witnesses to that ceremony.
No widespread invitation brought
The dancers out to celebrate.
There was no music, hymn, or anthem
To sound congratulations on them.
There was no priest with prayer and chants
Invoking heaven against mischance.
No well-wishers were there, no parents,
Friends or relations made an appearance.
A dark and silent night concealed
The service where their love was sealed.