Erinna, serene in sunlight, lay on the rock.
The young sea touched her, the gay, the nimble betrayer.
On Earth unrivalled in song, this low flute-player
Could entice, make music and pictures, menace, and mock.
Her eyes were full of the vision her book revealed,
Her head of that secret music. Content was she
To trust for protection against the charming sea
Unforgettable words on the vellum her hand had sealed.
All myths sprang bright in the foam and sparkled with salt.
The forbidden waters flashed to her, beautiful.
In a wave she could see Europa riding her bull.
In the next the god of temptation denied the assault.
Chaste, she unrobed. Her clasp she rose to untwist.
The waters danced, exulting because of her choice.
Old Nereus smiled, and with ceremonious voice
He recalled a nymph and her stripling before they kissed.
And now the waters were left her, innocent
As lambs in darkness dropped in the Winter snow.
Her fingers touched the water like mistletoe.
She caressed the nativity prudence could not prevent.
Prone on the sea the sun, like a great tree felled,
Announced with music of shells a mysterious day
Restoring Mars to the girl born out of the spray,
Unawakened yet by the conch amorini held.
She peered, and the water copied her finger’s thread
On tinted cowries, lit the incarnate pearl.
A rainbow dived through the spray, and the marvelling girl
Heard cherubs flying, where petals on air were shed.
And Thetis moved from her shell, and the spiral dark
Kept, unseen, the sound of approaching feet.
Naked her lover stood, and she saw them meet
Where dolphins sported, spun through a perfect arc.
She returned from the rich, voluptuous sea to the cave,
And, gathering her raiment, laid on a ledge near a crock,
She watched in reflection the clouds move over the
rock, And she touched the shadowed water, cold as the grave.
Yet there was her book, her treasure. Quick as a spring
It shone, marrying myth to darkness. Carrying it now,
Climbing the difficult path to the cliff’s green brow,
She sighed to recapture the music no sea could sing.
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