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There is an instinct in the human heart
Which makes that all the fables it hath coined,
As the immortal freshness of that grace
A youth named Rhæcus, wandering in the wood, Saw an old oak just trembling to its fall, And, feeling pity of so fair a tree, He propped its gray trunk with admiring care, And with a thoughtless footstep loitered on. But, as he turned, he heard a voice behind That murmured “Rhæcus !” 'T was as if the leaves, Stirred by a passing breath, had murmured it, And, while he paused bewildered, yet again It murmured " Rhæcus !” softer than a breeze. He started and beheld with dizzy eyes What seemed the substance of a happy dream Stand there before him, spreading a warm glow Within the green glooms of the shadowy oak. It seemed a woman's shape, yet all too fair To be a woman, and with eyes too meek For
any that were wont to mate with gods. All naked like a goddess stood she there, And like a goddess all too beautiful
To feel the guilt-born earthliness of shame.
Then Rhæcus, with a flutter at the heart,
And straightway there was nothing he could see But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak,
And not a sound came to his straining ears
Now, in those days of simpleness and faith, Men did not think that happy things were dreams Because they overstepped the narrow bourne Of likelihood, but reverently deemed Nothing too wondrous or too beautiful To be the guerdon of a daring heart. So Rhæcus made no doubt that he was blest, And all along unto the city's gate Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked, The clear, broad sky looked bluer than its wont, And he could scarce believe he had not wings, Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins Instead of blood, so light he felt and strange.
Young Rhæcus had a faithful heart enough, But one that in the present dwelt too much, And, taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er
Chance gave of joy, was wholly bound in that,
The dice were rattling at the merriest, And Rhæcus, who had met but sorry luck, Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw, When through the room there hummed a yellow bee That buzzed about his ear with down-dropped legs As if to light. And Rhæcus laughed and said, Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss,
By Venus ! does he take me for a rose ? And brushed him off with rough, impatient hand. But still the bee came back, and thrice again Rhæcus did beat him off with growing wrath. Then through the window flew the wounded bee, And Rhæcus, tracking him with angry eyes, Saw a sharp mountain-peak of Thessaly Against the red disc of the setting sun,