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.