Publication information
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Source: Actæon’s Defense and Other Poems
Source type: book
Document type: poem
Document title: “To Iphigenia”
Author(s): Wilson, Alice
Publisher: Richard G. Badger
Place of publication: Boston, Massachusetts
Year of publication: 1906
Pagination: 14-16

Wilson, Alice. “To Iphigenia.” Actæon’s Defense and Other Poems. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1906: pp. 14-16.
full text
William McKinley (mourning: poetry).
Named persons
“Written in memory of William McKinley.”


To Iphigenia

Ah Iphigenia! to be waiting there,
Expectant, chosen, doomed, a tragic bride
Of fate, with sad bound sacrificial hair
And blighted loveliness, and tearful pride!

Was it not sweet, to feel thy young death meant
The triumph of a nation’s answered want?
Did not thy soul bud forth in wonderment
And full of ecstasy, arise and chant?

I could so share the trembling of thy form
That shrank from parting with its gift of life!
To thy soul’s terror, too, I could conform
And loathe the deadly vision of the knife.

But, could’st thou plead and weep against thy lot?
Against the high demand of sacrifice?
Could’st strive to ’scape, with futile plan and plot
Paying the one sublime atonement price?

Would’st thou not render life’s young sweetness up
With happy cadence into deathless skies?
Not drink, unfaltering, the silent cup
Filled with the draught of future victories? [14][15]

Most exquisite, in temple column-reared,
Upon a shore sea-bordered, still and blue,
Where without wonder, happy Gods appeared
Their deathless dreams of beauty to pursue,

To die; while countless warriors waited still
For thy sweet breath to fail, thy form so fair
To lie in marble death, beyond the thrill
That lifted mighty hearts to worship there.

I would my life might gather its spent force
And blossom into so divine a death,
Could I but purchase such an evil course
Of ills with price of my one body’s breath!

But now there is no temple by the sea;
No altar carved in marble delicate;
No oracle enwrapped in mystery;
No virgin called, a victim unto fate!

Instead, an open world beneath the day
Where men are herded in a stricken mass
To watch in grief, along the mourning way
The solemn countenance of sorrow pass. [15][16]

I see men stand beside the silent dead
No touch can lift to life, no voice awake,
I feel their hearts’ deep weight of tears unshed,
I hear the grief no human words e’er spake.

And I, my Iphigenia, unlike thee
Whom the stern voice of oracle bade come,
I can but weep, uncomforted, to see
Our holy Altars lying chaste and dumb.

Oh daughter of a deathless century,
Rejoice in thine old-world belief
That let thee dying look abroad and see
Thy people saved from such a bitter grief!

While we must seek with more awakened minds,
With more of spirits’ lonely prophecy
A consolation not to be defined,
Which gives us prescience of eternity.



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