|In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam of Troy. She was given the ability to foresee the future by the god Apollo, but also cursed because the populace would not believe her prophecies, including her warnings about the Trojan Horse and the destruction of Troy. Another daughter of Priam, Polyxena, was to marry the Greek leader Achilles, son of Thetis, which was to be the occasion of a peace treaty between Greece and Troy. Hymen was the god of weddings, Proserpina was the queen of the underworld, and Eris was the goddess of discord and sister of Ares, god of war. Ilion was the ancient name for Troy (as in the Illiad.)|
Joy in Trojan congregations
Dwelt, before the fortress fell,
There were hymns of jubilation
Where the golden harp-strings swell.
All the people rested, weary
From the conflict fraught with tears,
Great Achilles sought to marry
Royal Priam's daughter fair.
And adorned with wreathes of myrtle
They went surging line by line,
To the gods' exalted temples
And Apollo's holy shrine.
To the passageways they'd taken
In a writhing bacchanal,
And to sorrow was forsaken
Just the saddest heart of all.
Joyless there amidst joy's fullness,
All alone she went to rove,
Just Cassandra shared the stillness
Of Apollo's myrtle grove.
To the forest's deepest quarter
Did the silent seeress flee,
Flung the headband of her order
To the ground most angrily:
"Everywhere is joy inherent,
Hearts rejoice throughout the lands,
Hope inspires my aging parents
And adorned my sister stands.
I alone must stay with sorrow,
Sweet delusion flies from me,
And approaching on the morrow
Dark disaster I foresee.
There's a torch that I see glowing,
But it's not in Hymen's hand,
Toward the clouds I see it growing
But it lights no wedding band.
Festivals are making ready
Yet my troubled spirit hears
Godly footsteps, swift and steady,
Bringing tragedy and tears.
And they scold my lamentations
And they mock me for my pain,
I must bear my heart's vexations
On the lonely desert plain,
Happy folk avoid me cooly
And the cheerful call me fraud!
Thou hast burdened me so cruelly,
O Apollo! Wicked god!
So that I might speak thy tidings
I received a prescient mind,
Why then must I be abiding
In the city of the blind?
Why have I prophetic fire
Yet can't hinder what I fear?
What's decreed must now transpire,
And the fearsome thing draws near.
When it hides the lurking terror,
Is it wise to lift the veil?
Human lives are only error
And with knowledge, death prevails.
Take away the bloody vision,
Take this wretched clarity,
Terrible! to be the living
Vessel of thy verity.
Give me back my darkened senses,
I'll be gladly blind by choice,
No sweet song from me commences
Since I first became thy voice.
Thou didst give the Future to me
Yet the Moment now I lack,
I have lost my Present truly,
Take thy false gift - take it back!
Never have I decorated
With the bridal crown my hair,
Since when I was consecrated
At thy doleful altar there.
All my youth was only weeping,
All I knew was bitter smart,
With the loved ones I was keeping,
Every hardship hurt my heart.
All around I see them wheeling,
Youthful playmates I have known,
Living, loving with such feeling,
Troubled heart was mine alone.
Springtime is for me no treasure
That the earth so festive keeps,
Who can live his life with pleasure
After gazing in thy deeps!
Blessings I give Polyxena.
Balmy love writ on her face,
For the greatest Greek she means to
Welcome with a bride's embrace.
How her breast with pride is swelling,
She can hardly grasp her bliss,
Even Ye, in heaven dwelling,
She doth not count blest like this.
And the suitor who entrances,
Whom I choose most longingly,
He implores with lovely glances
Fired by passion's fervency.
Visiting his habitation,
Oh, it would be my delight,
Yet a shadow of damnation
Steps between us in the night.
Pallid larvas from down yonder
Proserpina sends to me,
And wherever I may wander
All her spirits I must see.
In my childhood recreations
They would gruesomely intrude,
With such dread abominations
I may have no blithesome mood.
And I see the death-blade gleaming
And the glowing murderer's eye,
Nowhere, left nor right, 'tis seeming,
May I from this horror fly.
Seeing, knowing, never flinching,
I may not avert my gaze,
Now my fate comes closer inching,
All alone I'll end my days." --
And as yet her words did echo,
Hark! There comes an eerie sound,
From the portal of the temple,
Thetis' son, dead on the ground!
Eris shakes her serpent tresses,
All the gods are quickly gone,
And the thunder cloud oppresses
Heavy over Ilion.
Ere its lofty ramparts fell;
From the golden lute so thrilling
Hymns of joy were heard to swell.
From the sad and tearful slaughter
All had laid their arms aside,
For Pelides Priam's daughter
Claimed then as his own fair bride.
Laurel branches with them bearing,
Troop on troop in bright array
To the temples were repairing,
Owning Thymbrius' sovereign sway.
Through the streets, with frantic measure,
Danced the bacchanal mad round,
And, amid the radiant pleasure,
Only one sad breast was found.
Joyless in the midst of gladness,
None to heed her, none to love,
Roamed Cassandra, plunged in sadness,
To Apollo's laurel grove.
To its dark and deep recesses
Swift the sorrowing priestess hied,
And from off her flowing tresses
Tore the sacred band, and cried:
"All around with joy is beaming,
Ev'ry heart is happy now,
And my sire is fondly dreaming,
Wreathed with flowers my sister's brow
I alone am doomed to wailing,
That sweet vision flies from me;
In my mind, these walls assailing,
Fierce destruction I can see."
"Though a torch I see all-glowing,
Yet 'tis not in Hymen's hand;
Smoke across the skies is blowing,
Yet 'tis from no votive brand.
Yonder see I feasts entrancing,
But in my prophetic soul,
Hear I now the God advancing,
Who will steep in tears the bowl!"
"And they blame my lamentation,
And they laugh my grief to scorn;
To the haunts of desolation
I must bear my woes forlorn.
All who happy are, now shun me,
And my tears with laughter see;
Heavy lies thy hand upon me,
Cruel Pythian deity!"
"Thy divine decrees foretelling,
Wherefore hast thou thrown me here,
Where the ever-blind are dwelling,
With a mind, alas, too clear?
Wherefore hast thou power thus given,
What must needs occur to know?
Wrought must be the will of Heaven—
Onward come the hour of woe!"
"When impending fate strikes terror,
Why remove the covering?
Life we have alone in error,
Knowledge with it death must bring.
Take away this prescience tearful,
Take this sight of woe from me;
Of thy truths, alas! how fearful
'Tis the mouthpiece frail to be!"
"Veil my mind once more in slumbers
Let me heedlessly rejoice;
Never have I sung glad numbers
Since I've been thy chosen voice.
Knowledge of the future giving,
Thou hast stolen the present day,
Stolen the moment's joyous living,—
Take thy false gift, then, away!"
"Ne'er with bridal train around me,
Have I wreathed my radiant brow,
Since to serve thy fane I bound me—
Bound me with a solemn vow.
Evermore in grief I languish—
All my youth in tears was spent;
And with thoughts of bitter anguish
My too-feeling heart is rent."
"Joyously my friends are playing,
All around are blest and glad,
In the paths of pleasure straying,—
My poor heart alone is sad.
Spring in vain unfolds each treasure,
Filling all the earth with bliss;
Who in life can e'er take pleasure,
When is seen its dark abyss?"
"With her heart in vision burning,
Truly blest is Polyxene,
As a bride to clasp him yearning.
Him, the noblest, best Hellene!
And her breast with rapture swelling,
All its bliss can scarcely know;
E'en the Gods in heavenly dwelling
Envying not, when dreaming so."
"He to whom my heart is plighted
Stood before my ravished eye,
And his look, by passion lighted,
Toward me turned imploringly.
With the loved one, oh, how gladly
Homeward would I take my flight
But a Stygian shadow sadly
Steps between us every night."
"Cruel Proserpine is sending
All her spectres pale to me;
Ever on my steps attending
Those dread shadowy forms I see.
Though I seek, in mirth and laughter
Refuge from that ghastly train,
Still I see them hastening after,—
Ne'er shall I know joy again."
"And I see the death-steel glancing,
And the eye of murder glare;
On, with hasty strides advancing,
Terror haunts me everywhere.
Vain I seek alleviation;—
Knowing, seeing, suffering all,
I must wait the consummation,
In a foreign land must fall."
While her solemn words are ringing,
Hark! a dull and wailing tone
From the temple's gate upspringing,—
Dead lies Thetis' mighty son!
Eris shakes her snake-locks hated,
Swiftly flies each deity,
And o'er Ilion's walls ill-fated
Thunder-clouds loom heavily!