Leto and Niobe were friends full dear


    Λάτω καὶ Νιόβα μάλα μὲν φίλαι ἦσαν ἔταιραι·

    LETO and Niobe were friends full dear : 
          Then were they foes 
          As only those 
    Can be who once were near 
    Each to the other's heart, 
    Who could not breathe apart,
    Nor shed a lonely tear. 

    Leto and Niobe were virgins then, 
           Nor knew the strange, 
           Deep-severing change 
    That comes to women when 
    Elected, raised above 
    All else, they thrill with love, 
    The love of gods or men. 
    From forth seven-gated Thebes Amphion sped, 
           And by his side 
           Bore off as bride 
    Fair Niobe ; more dread 
    The wooer who unknown 
    From thunder-guarded throne 
    Rose her shy friend to wed. 

    And when they met once more Leto had borne 
         With willing pain 
         To Zeus her twain 
    On Delos' beach, forlorn. 
    But Niobe, elate 
    With her more bounteous fate, 
    Heard of the two with scorn : 

    For she had nine fair sons, nine daughters fair, 
          And this she told 
          With comment bold, 
    And jeered at Leto's pair. 
    Ah, shameless were the taunts, 
    Unbearable her vaunts, 
    And over-weening air. 

    Apollo and his sister both divine, 
          Insulted, fierce, 
          With darts to pierce 
    The Theban brood combine ; 
    Then girls and boys sink dead 
    As pitiless o'erhead 
    The vengeful archers shine. 

    And Niobe in anguish sees her own 
          Injurious friend 
          Aside commend 
    The deed—and makes no moan : 
    'Tis not her stricken flock, 
    Hate's violating shock 
    Turns her fond heart to stone. 

    Leto and Niobe—ah !—once were friends 
           Youth's tender way, 
          Together lay, 
    Quarrelled, and made amends ; 
    Though clinging children fall 
    Around, this to recall 
    Maternal grief transcends.