The Death of Procris

Image: Piero di Cosimo, A Satyr Mourning over a Nymph (c.1495). Oil on poplar. 65.4 x 183.2 cm. The National Gallery, London, 1862. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-di-cosimo-a-satyr-mourning-over-a-nymph, 16 September 2015.  

Piero di Cosimo

The National Gallery
 

AH, foolish Procris !—short and brown 
She lies upon the leafy, littoral plain ; 
Her scarlet cloak, her veil have both slipped down 
And rest 
Across her loins ; the naked feet are bound 
With sandals of dull gold, their thongs being wide 
And interlaced ; the body's swelling side 
Crushes the arm ; each sterile breast 
Is grey ; upon the throat there is a stain 
Of blood and on the hand along the ground. 
She gave no mortal cry,
But voiceless and consumed by drouth, 
Far from the town she might not gain, 
Beside a river-mouth 
She dragged herself to die. 

Her auburn tresses part or coil 
Below a wimple of most sombre blue ; 
They fleck the green of the luxuriant soil 
Or drift 
Thinly athwart the outline of her ear. 
Time has been passing since she last drew breath ; 
She has the humble, clay-cold look of death 
Within the open world ; no rift 
Has come between the eyelids, of a hue 
Monotonous—a paleness drear. 
Her brows attest no thought ; 
Her lips, that quick destruction stains, 
Shall never kiss her husband, never sue 
For pardon : she remains 
A quarry none has sought. 

And thus she lies half-veiled, half-bare, 
Deep in the midst of nature that abides 
Inapprehensive she is lying there, 
So wan ; 
The flowers, the silver estuary afar— 
These daisies, plantains, all the white and red 
Field-blossoms through the leaves and grasses spread; 
The water with its pelican, 
Its flight of sails and its blue countrysides— 
Unto themselves they are : 
The dogs sport on the sand, 
The herons curve above the reeds 
Or one by one descend the air, 
While lifelessly she bleeds 
From throat and dabbled hand. 

Russet and large against the sky, 
Two figures at her head and feet are seen ; 
One is a solemn hound, one utterly 
A faun, 
A creature of wild fashion, with black fell 
On which a fleshy, furred ear loops out ; 
Under his chin the boorish bristles sprout 
Distinct ; an onyx-banded horn 
Springs from each temple ; slender legs between 
The herbage peep and well- 
Fleeced thighs ; his left hand grips 
Her shoulder and the right along 
Her forehead moves : his mellow eye 
Is indecisive ; strong, 
Coarse pity swells his lips

The tall dog's vigil and the gaze 
Of the wild man, by eagerness bent low, 
Have each a like expression of amaze 
And deep, 
Respectful yearning : these two watchers pass 
Out of themselves, though only to attain 
Incomprehensible, half-wakened pain. 
They cannot think nor weep 
Above this perished jealousy and woe, 
This prostrate, human mass ; 
But with vague souls they sit 
And gaze, while tide and bloom and bird 
Live on in their familiar ways, 
By mortal grief unstirred 
And never sad with it. 

Yet autumn comes, there is the light 
Born of October's lateness in the sky 
And on the sea-side ; leaves have taken flight 
From yon, 
Slim seedling-birch on the rivage, the flock 
Of herons has the quiet of solitude, 
That comes when chills on sunny air intrude ; 
The little ships must soon be gone, 
And soon the pale and ruddy flowers shall die, 
Save the untransient plants that block 
Their green out, ebon-clear, 
Against the distance, while they drop, 
On hound and satyr settled nigh, 
Red tassels that shall stop 
Till windy snows appear. 

 

Piero di Cosimo

The National Gallery
 

AH, foolish Procris !—short and brown 
She lies upon the leafy, littoral plain ; 
Her scarlet cloak, her veil have both slipped down 
And rest 
Across her loins ; the naked feet are bound 
With sandals of dull gold, their thongs being wide 
And interlaced ; the body's swelling side 
Crushes the arm ; each sterile breast 
Is grey ; upon the throat there is a stain 
Of blood and on the hand along the ground. 
She gave no mortal cry,
But voiceless and consumed by drouth, 
Far from the town she might not gain, 
Beside a river-mouth 
She dragged herself to die. 

Her auburn tresses part or coil 
Below a wimple of most sombre blue ; 
They fleck the green of the luxuriant soil 
Or drift 
Thinly athwart the outline of her ear. 
Time has been passing since she last drew breath ; 
She has the humble, clay-cold look of death 
Within the open world ; no rift 
Has come between the eyelids, of a hue 
Monotonous—a paleness drear. 
Her brows attest no thought ; 
Her lips, that quick destruction stains, 
Shall never kiss her husband, never sue 
For pardon : she remains 
A quarry none has sought. 

And thus she lies half-veiled, half-bare, 
Deep in the midst of nature that abides 
Inapprehensive she is lying there, 
So wan ; 
The flowers, the silver estuary afar— 
These daisies, plantains, all the white and red 
Field-blossoms through the leaves and grasses spread; 
The water with its pelican, 
Its flight of sails and its blue countrysides— 
Unto themselves they are : 
The dogs sport on the sand, 
The herons curve above the reeds 
Or one by one descend the air, 
While lifelessly she bleeds 
From throat and dabbled hand. 

Russet and large against the sky, 
Two figures at her head and feet are seen ; 
One is a solemn hound, one utterly 
A faun, 
A creature of wild fashion, with black fell 
On which a fleshy, furred ear loops out ; 
Under his chin the boorish bristles sprout 
Distinct ; an onyx-banded horn 
Springs from each temple ; slender legs between 
The herbage peep and well- 
Fleeced thighs ; his left hand grips 
Her shoulder and the right along 
Her forehead moves : his mellow eye 
Is indecisive ; strong, 
Coarse pity swells his lips

The tall dog's vigil and the gaze 
Of the wild man, by eagerness bent low, 
Have each a like expression of amaze 
And deep, 
Respectful yearning : these two watchers pass 
Out of themselves, though only to attain 
Incomprehensible, half-wakened pain. 
They cannot think nor weep 
Above this perished jealousy and woe, 
This prostrate, human mass ; 
But with vague souls they sit 
And gaze, while tide and bloom and bird 
Live on in their familiar ways, 
By mortal grief unstirred 
And never sad with it. 

Yet autumn comes, there is the light 
Born of October's lateness in the sky 
And on the sea-side ; leaves have taken flight 
From yon, 
Slim seedling-birch on the rivage, the flock 
Of herons has the quiet of solitude, 
That comes when chills on sunny air intrude ; 
The little ships must soon be gone, 
And soon the pale and ruddy flowers shall die, 
Save the untransient plants that block 
Their green out, ebon-clear, 
Against the distance, while they drop, 
On hound and satyr settled nigh, 
Red tassels that shall stop 
Till windy snows appear.