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There is an instinct in the human heart

Which makes that all the fables it hath coined,
To justify the reign of its belief

And strengthen it by beauty's right divine,
Veil in their inner cells a mystic gift,

Which, like the hazle twig, in faithful hands,
Points surely to the hidden springs of truth.
For, as in nature naught is made in vain,

But all things have within their hull of use
A wisdom and a meaning which may speak

Of spiritual secrets to the ear

Of spirit; so, in whatsoe'er the heart

Hath fashioned for a solace to itself,

To make its inspirations suit its creed,

And from the niggard hands of falsehood wring

Its needful food of truth, there ever is

A sympathy with Nature, which reveals,

Not less than her own works, pure gleams of light

And earnest parables of inward lore.
Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
As full of freedom, youth, and beauty still

As the immortal freshness of that grace
Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze.

A youth named Rhocus, 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 "Rhocus!" "T was as if the leaves,

Stirred by a passing breath, had murmured it,
And, while he paused bewildered, yet again
It murmured "Rhocus!" 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.
"Rhœcus, I am the Dryad of this tree,"
Thus she began, dropping her low-toned words
Serene, and full, and clear, as drops of dew,
"And with it I am doomed to live and die;
The rain and sunshine are my caterers,
Nor have I other bliss than simple life ;
Now ask me what thou wilt, that I can give,
And with a thankful joy it shall be thine."

Then Rhocus, with a flutter at the heart, Yet, by the prompting of such beauty, bold, Answered: “What is there that can satisfy The endless craving of the soul but love? Give me thy love, or but the hope of that Which must be evermore my spirit's goal." After a little pause she said again, But with a glimpse of sadness in her tone, "I give it, Rhœcus, though a perilous gift; An hour before the sunset meet me here." 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
But the low trickling rustle of the leaves,
And far away upon an emerald slope
The falter of an idle shepherd's pipe.

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 Rhocus 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 Rhœcus 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,
Like the contented peasant of a vale,

Deemed it the world, and never looked beyond.
So, haply meeting in the afternoon

Some comrades who were playing at the dice,
He joined them and forgot all else beside.

The dice were rattling at the merriest, And Rhocus, 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 Rhocus 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 Rhacus did beat him off with growing wrath. Then through the window flew the wounded bee, And Rhocus, tracking him with angry eyes, Saw a sharp mountain-peak of Thessaly

Against the red disc of the setting sun,

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