There is laughter soft and free 



    THERE is laughter soft and free 
    'Neath the pines of Thessaly, 
    Thrilling echoes, thrilling cries 
    Of pursuit, delight, surprise ; 
    Dryope beneath the trees 
    With the Hamadryades 
    Plays upon the mountain-side : 
    Now they meet, and now they hide. 

    On the hot and sandy ground, 
    Crumbling still as still they bound, 
    Crouches, basks a tortoise ; all 
    But the mortal maiden fall 
    Back in trepidation ; she 
    Takes the creature on her knee, 
    Strokes the ardent shell, and lays 
    Even her cheek against its blaze, 

    Till she calms her playmates' fear ; 
    Suddenly beside her ear 
    Flashes forth a tongue ; the beast 
    Changes, and with shape released 
    Grows into a serpent bright, 
    Covetous, subduing, tight 
    Round her body backward bent In forlorn astonishment. 

    With their convoluted strain 
    His upreaching coils attain 
    Full ascendency—her breast 
    By their passion is compressed 
    Till her breath in terror fails ; 
    'Mid the flicker of the scales, 
    Half she seems to hear, half sees 
    How each frighted comrade flees. 

    And alone beneath the pine, 
    With the serpent's heavy twine 
    On her form, she almost dies : 
    But a magic from his eyes 
    Keeps her living, and entranced 
    At the wonder that has chanced, 
    As she feels a god within 
    Fiery looks that thrill and win. 

    'Tis Apollo in disguise 
    Holds possession of his prize. 
    Thus he binds in fetters dire 
    Those for whom he knows desire ; 
    Mortal loves or poets—all 
    He must dominate, enthrall 
    By the rapture of his sway, 
    Which shall either bless or slay. 

    So she shudders with a joy 
    Which no childish fears alloy, 
    For the spell is round her now 
    Which has made old prophets bow 
    Tremulous and wild. An hour 
    Must she glow beneath his power, 
    Then a dryad shy and strange 
    Through the firs thereafter range. 

    For she joins the troop of those 
    Dedicate to joy and woes, 
    Whom by stricture of his love 
    Leto's son has raised above 
    Other mortals, who, endowed 
    With existence unallowed 
    To their fellows, wander free 
    Girt with earth's own mystery.