‘Cleopatra to the Asp’

Der Tod der Kleopatra by Hans Makart

The bright mirror I braved; the devil in it
Loved me like my soul; my soul
Now that I seek myself in a Serpent
My smile is fatal.

Nile moves in me; my thighs splay
Into the squalled Mediterranean.
My brain hides in that Abyssinia
Lost armies foundered towards.

Desert and river unwrinkle again
Seeming to bring them the waters
that make drunk. Caesar, Pompey, Antony I drank.
Now let the snake reign.

A half-deity out of Capricorn this rigid Augustus mounts
With his sword virginal indeed!
And has shorn summarily
The moon-horned river

From my bed. May the moon ruin him with virginity!
Drink me, now, whole, with coiled Egypt’s past
Then from my Delta swim
Like a fish toward Rome.

-Ted Hughes

A high resolution version of the image can be acquired here.

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