A GLEAM — a gleam — from Ida’s height,
By the Fire-god sent, it came;
From watch to watch it leapt, that light,
As a rider rode the flame!
It shot through the startled sky,
And the torch of that blazing glory
Old Lemnos caught on high,
On its holy promontory,
And sent it on, the jocund sign,
To Athos, Mount of Jove divine.
Wildly the while, it rose from the isle,
So that the might of the journeying Light
Skimmed over the back of the gleaming brine!
Farther and faster speeds it on,
Till the watch that keeps Macistus steep
See it burst like a blazing Sun!
Doth Macistus sleep
On his tower-clad steep?
No! rapid and red doth the wild fire sweep;
It flashes afar on the wayward stream
Of the wild Euripus, the rushing beam!
It rouses the light on Messapion’s height,
And they feed its breath with the withered heath.
But it may not stay!
And away — away –
It bounds in its freshening might.
Silent and soon,
Like a broadened moon,
It passes in sheen, Asopus green,
And bursts on Cithaeron gray!
The warder wakes to the Signal-rays,
And it swoops from the hill with a broader blaze.
On, on the fiery Glory rode;
Thy lonely lake, Gorgopis, glowed!
To Megara’s Mount it came;
They feed it again
And it streams amain–
A giant beard of Flame!
The headland cliffs that darkly down
O’er the Saronic waters frown,
Are passed with the Swift One’s lurid stride,
And the huge rock glares on the glaring tide.
With mightier march and fiercer power
It gained Arachne’s neighboring tower;
Thence on our Argive roof its rest it won,
Of Ida’s fire the long-descended Son!
Bright Harbinger of glory and of joy!
So first and last with equal honor crowned,
In solemn feasts the race-torch circles round. –
And these my heralds! — this my SIGN OF PEACE;
Lo! while we breathe, the victor lords of Greece
Stalk, in stern tumult, through the halls of Troy!
This English translation, by Edward Bulwer Lytton, of ‘The Beacon Fires’ is reprinted from Greek Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1893.