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Helen Leah Reed: Cassandra

Cassandra

Of all the luckless women ever born,
Or ever to be born here on our earth,
Most pitied be Cassandra, from her birth
Condemned to woes unearned by her. Forlorn,
She early read great Ilium’s doom, and tried,
Clear-eyed, clear-voiced, her countrymen to warn.
But–she Apollo’s passion in high scorn
Had once repelled, and of his injured pride
The God for her had bred this punishment,–
That good, or bad, all things she prophesied
Though true as truth, should ever be decried
And flouted by the people. As she went
Far from old Priam’s gates among the crowd,
To save her country was her heart intent.
Pure, fearless, on an holy errand bent,
They called her “mad,” who was a Princess proud.
“Alas, the City falls! Beware the horse!
Woe, woe, the Greeks!” Ah! why was she endowed
With this sad gift? Able to pierce the cloud
That veils the future,–in its wasting course
She could not stop the storm. Bitter the pain
When those she loved and trusted–weak resource–
Her prophecies believed not; when the force
Of all her pleading spent itself in vain.
Poor Maid! She knew no greater agony
When dragged a slave in Agamemnon’s train.
And though she fell–by Clytemnestra slain–
She smiled on Death who eased her misery.
For oh–what grief to one of faithful heart
It is–to know the evils that must be.
Helpless their doom to make the imperilled see,
Unskilled to shield them from the fatal dart!

Helen Leah Reed
(1864–1926)
Cassandra
(Poem)

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