Venus Letalis

By George Sterling

Before the least of stars had fled,
  Beside the sea I saw her stand,
And she had ivy 'round her head,
  And she had cypress in her hand.

Her beauty was too great for men;
  And all the gods are dead, men say.
(Lady, wake thou the gods again
  And give their passion to dismay!)

There was no sound along the night
  But what the broken billow gave;
And on the sands to left and right
  Were footprints leading to the wave.

There the dark sea, where swimmers drown,
  Effaced in foam each outward track;
So many, passing dimly down!
  So many feet—and none came back!

I know I knelt; but whispered she,
  Or was it but a sea-wind's breath?
Softly the music came to me:
  "Lo! I am Love, Love that is Death!"

And in that dream I had of her
  (Happy or not, what night shall say?)
A sea-wind made the cypress stir,
  And I, too, found the seaward way.

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