Archetypal Polytheism 


October 28, 2015 / by Todd

–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

William Wordsworth, from “The world is too much with us”

Sleep’st thou, wakest thou, lord of the wind,
Mount thy steeds and gallop them blind;
And the long-tailed fiery dragon outfly,
The rocket of heaven, the bomb of the sky.

James Hogg, from “A Witch’s Chant”

“Arise!—the Sea god’s groaning shell
Cries madly from his breathless caves,
And staring rocks its echoes tell
Along the wild and shouting waves.
Arise! awake! ye other streams
That wear the plains of ruined Troy,
Ida’s dark sons, have burst their dreams,
And shake the very hills for joy.

Press’d by the King of Tides, from far
With nostril split, and bloodshot eye,
The web-foot minions of his car
Shriek at the wave, they lighten by.
The noise of total hell was there,
As fled the rebel deeps along;
A reckless, joyous prank they dare,
Though thunder fall from Neptune’s tongue.

George Darley, “The Rebellion of the Waters”

I looked for Beauty: — on a throne,
A dazzling throne of light, I found her;
And music poured its softest tone,
And flowers their sweetest breath, around her.
A score or two of idle gods,
Some dressed as Peers, and some as Peasants,
Were watching all her smiles and nods,
And making compliments, and presents.

And first young Love, the rosy boy,
Exhibited his bow and arrows,
And gave her many a pretty toy,
Torches, and bleeding hearts, and sparrows:
She told him, as he passed, she knew
Her court would scarcely do without him;
But yet — she hoped they were not true —
There were some awkward tales about him.

Wealth deemed that magic had no charm
More mighty than the gifts he brought her,
And linked around her radiant arm
Bright diamonds of the purest water:
The Goddess, with a scornful touch,
Unclasped the gaudy, galling fetter;
And said, — she thanked him very much, —
She liked a wreath of roses better.

Then Genius snatched his golden lute,
And told a tale of love and glory;
The crowd around were hushed and mute,
To hear so sad and sweet a story:
And Beauty marked the minstrel’s cheek,
So very pale — no bust was paler; —
Vowed she could listen for a week;
But really — he should change his tailor!

As died the echo of the strings,
A shadowy Phantom kneeled before her,
Looked all unutterable things,
And swore to see was to adore her:
He called her veil a cruel cloud,
Her cheek a rose, her smile a battery;
She fancied it was Wit that bowed, —
I’m almost certain it was Flattery.

There was a Beldame finding fault
With every person’s every feature,
And by the sneer, and by the halt,
I knew at once the odious creature;
‘You see,’ quoth Envy, ‘I am come
To bow — as is my bounden duty; —
They tell me Beauty is at Home; —
Impossible! that can’t be Beauty!’

I heard a murmur far and wide Of —
‘Lord! how quick the dotard passes!’
As Time threw down at Beauty’s side
The prettiest of his clocks and glasses:
But it was noticed in the throng,
How Beauty marred the maker’s cunning;
For, when she talked, the hands went wrong,
And, when she smiled, the sands stopped running.

Death, in a Doctor’s wig and gown,
Came, arm in arm with Lethe, thither,
And crowned her with a withered crown,
And hinted, Beauty too must wither!
‘Avaunt!’ she cried; ‘how came he here?
The frightful fiend — he’s my abhorrence!’ —
I went and whispered in her ear,
‘He shall not hurt you; — sit to Lawrence.’

Winthrop Mackworth Praed, “Beauty and her Visitors”

Eros, from rest in isles far-famed,
With rising Anthesterion rose,
And all Hellenic heights acclaimed

The sea one pearl, the shore one rose,
All round him all the flower-month flamed
And lightened, laughing off repose.

Earth’s heart, sublime and unashamed,
Knew, even perchance as man’s heart knows,
The thirst of all men’s nature named


Eros, a fire of heart untamed,
A light of spirit in sense that glows,
Flamed heavenward still ere earth defamed

Nor fear nor shame durst curb or close
His golden godhead, marred and maimed,
Fast round with bonds that burnt and froze.

Ere evil faith struck blind and lamed
Love, pure as fire or flowers or snows,
Earth hailed as blameless and unblamed


Eros, with shafts by thousands aimed
At laughing lovers round in rows,
Fades from their sight whose tongues proclaimed

But higher than transient shapes or shows
The light of love in life inflamed
Springs, toward no goal that these disclose.

Above those heavens which passion claimed
Shines, veiled by change that ebbs and flows,
The soul in all things born or framed,

Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Eros”