Diana of Ephesus

Ephesus stands—you may find it still—
On the lee of a verdurous, pine-clad hill,
And once in a twelve-month, the folk below
Flock to the pines and the upland snow—
Flee from the sunshine, the glare, and the dust,
For the good of their souls—as is right and just.

She fell from Heaven—as all aver,
From the lap of Olympian Jupiter; 
And so descended to govern us 
Men of the City of Ephesus.

She ground us under Her dainty heel,
She bound us slaves to Her chariot-wheel, 
She levied taxes and toll and cess
For Her sumptuous shrine and Her golden dress; 
And we paid them merrily—ever thus
Is the use of the People of Ephesus.

And the years went on, as the years must do, 
But our great Diana was always new—
Fresh and blooming, and young and fair, 
With azure eyes and with aureate hair; 
While all the people who came and went
Offered Her praise to Her heart's content.
So we said in our pride, as the years rolled by;—
'Our Great Diana can never die!'

But once—ah me!—when Her shrine was lit 
And we danced to the Goddess who governed it, 
When the music thundered and, far and wide, 
Our lamps made day on the mountain-side,
When the incense thickened, the trumpets brayed,
Came the terrible vengeance of Time delayed!
The clear voice faltered—the lithe form stooped—
The white hands wavered—the bright head drooped— 
The trumpets quavered, the lights burned blue,
And the Goddess died—as Goddesses do.
And all we could see in the twilight dim
Was a visage meagre and pointed and grim—
A hard, lined brow, and a mouth grown old,
And a ripple of bad, discoloured gold
From the folds of the chiton; and so we cried:—
'What shall we do now Diana hath died?'
Wherefore we mourned till the morrow—thus
True to its idols is Ephesus.

Then we dragged Her out of the City's bound,
And cast Her into the Stranger's Ground.
We cleansed the shrine from the offerings stale, 
We gilt the pillars and altar-rail,
We lit fresh fires and called on Jove 
For another Diana to praise and love; 
And e'en as our call went up on high, 
Another Diana dropped out of the sky,
Stepping at once to the old one's place
With the light of the Godship about her face. 
And we gave Her power to govern us
Men of the City of Ephesus.

The City is old as the pines above, 
Old as the mountains, as old as Love; 
And I am as old as a man may be
Ere he pass from the pines to the Unknown Sea, 
And I serve, as I served in the years gone by,
The Great Diana who fell from the sky.
The yoke of Her priesthood is heavy to bear 
Though the Great Diana be always fair. 
But, after a season, and none know when, 
Our Goddess must die in the sight of men .
We must bear Her forth to the grave that waits
In the ground Unclean, by the Temple gates, 
While Her name is forgot and Her face likewise, 
For another Diana drops out of the skies,
And we make obeisance and hail Her thus:—
'Queen of the City of Ephesus'.

And howso clearly I know the end
Of the love we give and the money we spend; 
And howso clearly Diana foresees
That terrible day when the trumpets cease;
And howso clearly the grave be made,
Where the bones of our old-time Queens are laid;
And howso clearly the City knows
Whither the path to Her Temple goes,
These things are certain—I still obey 
The great Diana who rules today, 
The City with me, and She in state
Looks out o'er the path to the Temple gate, 
And takes our homage and hears us cry:— 
'Our Great Diana can never die!'
For this is our custom.
                                        Endeth thus
The tale of Diana of Ephesus.

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