abandoned giant jar
a spider galaxy
It Comes - Part 4
(It is suggested that the reader reads Parts 1,2 & 3 first)
Dr Roger Maitland moved
to the microphone to start his address.
He cleared his throat and then spoke
in a soft but commanding voice.
Ladies and gentlemen,
many of you have voiced theories
about the disappearances of the many ships.
I have now the evidence of the creature,
which is causing the carnage on the seas
and a possible explanation
as to why it only seems to attack at night.
At first the blue light that witnesses had seen puzzled me,
then it struck me that the light
might be a florescent lure.
It has been known for quite some time
that fishes from the great depths
use florescent lures to attract mates as well as food.
I believe that the creature is from the deep abysses yet uncharted. My theory is that as it travelled to the surface
its body expanded growing in size.
Something within its genetic make up
could have expanded it from eight feet to eighty feet,
a monstrous creature.
Shouts of impossible! Impossible!
Echoed around the room.
No creature known to man
could survive a decent from the deep abysses.
It would explode on the way up.
Remember the pressure Dr
is far greater the deeper you go.
I agree it seems impossible;
however, this giant creature does exist.
Maitland removed two small bottles
from his jacket pockets and held them up.
One contained a black substance
the colour of black ink
and the other a black jelly.
This bottle contains the ink substance
excreted by squids when they are attacked.
This second bottle contains the substance
I found aboard the lifeboat of the Sulu Spray.
I have examined the contents
and found that is has a similar genetic structure
to the ink excreted by squids and
also a similar genetic form
to those found in a spider’s web.
There were gasps of disbelief.
Are you trying to tell us a giant form of spider
is causing the ships to disappear?
26 September 2009
To be continued
The Witch of Hebron
A Rabbinical Legend
From morn until the setting of the sun
The rabbi Joseph on his knees had prayed,
And, as he rose with spirit meek and strong,
An Indian page his presence sought, and bowed
Before him, saying that a lady lay
Sick unto death, tormented grievously,
Who begged the comfort of his holy prayers.
The rabbi, ever to the call of grief
Open as day, arose; and girding straight
His robe about him, with the page went forth;
Who swiftly led him deep into the woods
That hung, heap over heap, like broken clouds
On Hebron’s southern terraces; when lo!
Across a glade a stately pile he saw,
With gleaming front, and many-pillared porch
Fretted with sculptured vinage, flowers and fruit,
And carven figures wrought with wondrous art
As by some Phidian hand.
For a wide space in front, and belting all
The splendid structure with a finer grace,
A glowing garden smiled; its breezes bore
Airs as from paradise, so rich the scent
That breathed from shrubs and flowers; and fair the growths
Of higher verdure, gemm’d with silver blooms,
Which glassed themselves in fountains gleaming light
Each like a shield of pearl.
Within the halls
Strange splendour met the rabbi’s careless eyes,
Halls wonderful in their magnificance,
With pictured walls, and columns gleaming white
Like Carmel’s snow, or blue-veined as with life;
Through corridors he passed with tissues hung
Inwrought with threaded gold by Sidon’s art,
Or rich as sunset clouds with Tyrian dye;
Past lofty chambers, where the gorgeous gleam
Of jewels, and the stainèd radiance
Of golden lamps, showed many a treasure rare
Of Indian and Armenian workmanship
Which might have seemed a wonder of the world:
And trains of servitors of every clime,
Greeks, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians,
In richest raiment thronged the spacious halls.
The page led on, the rabbi following close,
And reached a still and distant chamber, where
In more than orient pomp, and dazzling all
The else-unrivalled splendour of the rest,
A queenly woman lay; so beautiful,
That though upon her moon-bright visage, pain
And langour like eclipsing shadows gloomed,
The rabbi’s aged heart with tremor thrilled;
Then o’er her face a hectic colour passed,
Only to leave that pallor which portends
The nearness of the tomb.
From youth to age
The rabbi Joseph still had sought in herbs
And minerals the virtues they possess,
And now of his medicaments he chose
What seemed most needful in her sore estate;
“Alas, not these,” the dying woman said,
“A malady like mine thou canst not cure,
’Tis fatal as the funeral march of Time!
But that I might at length discharge my mind
Of a dread secret, that hath been to me
An ever-haunting and most ghostly fear,
Darkening my whole life like an ominous cloud
And which must end it ere the morning come,
Therefore did I entreat thy presence here.”
The rabbi answered, “If indeed it stand
Within my power to serve thee, speak at once
All that thy heart would say. But if ’tis vain,
If this thy sin hath any mortal taint,
Forbear, O woman, to acquaint my soul
With aught that could thenceforth with horror chase
The memory of a man of Israel.”
“I am,” she said “the daughter of thy friend
Rabbi Ben Bachai—be his memory blest!
Once at thy side a laughing child I played;
I married with an Arab Prince, a man
Of lofty lineage, one of Ishmael’s race;
Not great in gear. Behold’st thou this abode?
Did ever yet the tent-born Arab build
Thus for his pride or pleasure? See’st thou
These riches? An no! Such were ne’er amassed
By the grey desert’s wild and wandering son;
Deadly the game by which I won them all!
And with a burning bitterness at best
Have I enjoyed them! And how gladly now
Would I, too late, forego them all, to mend
My broken peace with a repentant heed
In abject poverty!”
She ceased, and lay
Calm in her loveliness, with dreamy looks
Roaming, perhaps, in thought the fateful past;
Then suddenly her beauteous countenance grew
Bedimm’d and drear, then dark with mortal pangs,
While fierce convulsions shook her tortured frame,
And from her foaming lips such words o’erran,
That rabbi Joseph sank upon his knees,
And bowed his head a space in horror down
While ardent, pitying prayers for her great woe
Rose from his soul; when, lo! The woman’s face
Was cloudless as a summer heaven! The late
Dark brow was bright, the late pale cheek suffused
With roseate bloom; and, wondrous more than all,
Here weary eyes were changed to splendours now
That shot electric influence, and her lips
Were full and crimson, curled with stormy pride.
The doubting rabbi stood in wild amaze
To see the dying woman bold and fierce
In bright audacity of passion’s power.
“These are the common changes,” then she said,
“Of the fell ailment, that with torments strange,
Which search my deepest life, is tearing up
The dark foundations of my mortal state,
And sinking all its structures, hour by hour,
Into the dust of death. For nothing now
Is left me but to meet my nearing doom
As best I may in silent suffering.”
Then as he heard her words and saw her face,
The rabbi in his wisdom knew some strong
Indwelling evil spirit troubled her,
And straighway for an unction sent, wherewith
The famous ancestor whose name he bore,
Herod the Great’s chief hakim, had expelled
The daemon haunter of the dying king.
With this he touched her forehead and her eyes
And all her finger-tips. Forthwith he made
Within a consecrated crucible
A fire of citron-wood and cinnamon;
Then splashed the flames with incense, mingling all
With the strong influence of fervent prayer;
And, as the smoke arose, he bowed her head
Into its coils, that so she might inhale
Its salutary odour—till the fiend
That dwelt within her should be exorcised.
Her face once more grew pale with pain; she writhed
In burning torment, uttering many words
Of most unhallowed meaning! Yet her eyes
Were fixed the while, and motionless her lips!
Whereby the rabbi certainly perceived
’Twas not the woman of herself that spake,
But the dread spirit that possessed her soul,
And thus it cried aloud.
“WHY am I here, in this my last resort,
Perturbed with incense and anointings? Why
Compelled to listen to the sound of prayers
That smite me through as with the fire of God?
O pain, pain, pain! Is not this chamber full
Of the implacable stern punishers?
Full of avenging angels, holding each
A scourge of thunder in his potent hand,
Ready to lighten forth! And then, thus armed,
For ever chase and wound us as we fly!
Nor end with this—but, in each wound they make,
Pour venom sweltered from that tree As-gard,
Whose deadly shadow in its blackness falls
Over the lake of everlasting doom!
“Five hundred years ago, I, who thus speak,
Was an Egyptian of the splendid court
Of Ptolemy Philadelphus. To the top
Of mountainous power, though roughened with unrest,
And girt with dangers as with thunder-clouds,
Had I resolved by all resorts to climb;
By truth and falsehood, right and wrong alike;
And I did climb! Then firmly built in power
Second alone to my imperial lord’s,
I crowned with its impunity my lust
Of beauty, sowing broadcast everywhere
Such sensual baits wide round me, as should lure
Through pleasure, or through interest entrap,
The fairest daughters of the land, and lo!
Their lustrous eyes surcharged with passionate light
The chambers of my harem! But at length
Wearied of these, though sweet, I set my heart
On riches, heaped to such a fabulous sum
As never one man’s hoard in all the world
Might match; and to acquire them, steeped my life
In every public, every private wrong,
In lies, frauds, secret murders; till at last
A favoured minion I had trusted most,
And highest raised, unveiled before the king
The dark abysmal badness of my life;
But dearly did he rue it; nor till then
Guessed I how deadly grateful was revenge!
I stole into his chamber as he slept,
And with a sword, whose double edge for hours
I had whetted for the purpose of the deed,
There staked him through the midriff to his bed.
I fled; but first I sent, as oft before,
A present to the household of the man
Who had in secret my betrayer bribed.
Twas scented wine, and rich Damascus cakes;
On these he feasted, and fell sudden down,
Rolling and panting in his dying pangs,
A poisoned desert dog!
“But I had fled.
A swift ship bore me, which my forecast long
Had kept prepared against such need as this.
Over the waves three days she proudly rode;
Then came a mighty storm, and trampled all
Her masted bravery flat, and still drove on
The wave-swept ruin towards a reefy shore!
Meanwhile amongst the terror-stricken crew
An ominous murmur went from mouth to mouth;
They grouped themselves in councils, and, ere long,
Grew loud and furious with surmises wild,
And maniac menaces, all aimed at me!
My fugitive head it was at which so loud
The thunder bellowed! The wild-shrieking winds
And roaring waters held in vengeful chase
Me only! Me! Whose signal crimes alone
Had brought on us this anger of the gods!
And thus reproaching me with glaring eyes,
They would have seized and slain me, but I sprang
Back from amongst them, and, outstriking, stabbed
With sudden blow their leader to the heart;
Then, with my poniard scaring off the rest,
Leaped from the deck, and swimming reached the shore,
From which, in savage triumph, I beheld
The battered ship, with all her howling crew,
Heel, and go down, amid the whelming waves.
“Inland my course now lay for many days,
O’er barren hills and glens, whose herbless scopes
Never grew luminous with a water gleam,
Or heard the pleasant bubble of a brook,
For vast around the Afric desert stretched.
Starving and sun-scorched and afire with thirst,
I wandered ever on, until I came
To where, amid the dun and level waste,
In frightful loneliness, a mouldered group
Of ancient tombs stood ghostly. Here at last,
Utterly spent, in my despair I lay
Down on the burning sand, to gasp and die!
When from among the stones a withered man,
Old-seeming as the desert where he lived,
Came and stood by me, saying ‘get thee up!
Not much have I to give, but these at least
I offer to thy need, water and bread.’
“Then I arose and followed to his cell,—
A dismal cell, that seemed itself a tomb,
So lightless was it, and so foul with damp,
And at its entrance there were skulls and bones.
Long and deep drank I of the hermit’s draught,
And munched full greedily the hermit’s bread;
But with the strength which thence my frame derived,
Fierce rage devoured me, and I cursed my fate!
Whereat the withered creature laughed in scorn,
And mocked me with the malice of his eyes,
That sometimes, like a snake’s, shrank small, and then
Enlarging blazed as with infernal fire!
Then, on a sudden, with an oath that seemed
To wake a stir in the grey musty tombs,
As if their silence shuddered, he averred
That he could life me once more to the height
Of all my wishes—nay, even higher, but
On one condition only. Dared I swear,
By the dread angel of the second death,
I would be wholly his, both body and soul,
After a hundred years?
“Why should I not?
I answered, quivering with a stormy haste,
A rampart unreluctance! For so great
Was still my fury against all mankind,
And my desire of pomp and riches yet
So monstrous, that I felt I could have drunk
Blood, fire, or worse, to wear again the power
That fortune, working through my enemies’ hands,
Had stript away from me. So, word by word,
I swore the oath as he repeated it;
Nor much it moved me, in my eagerness,
To feel a damp and earthy odour break
Out of each tomb, from which there darkling rose
At every word a hissing as of snakes;
And yet the fell of hair upon my scalp
Rose bristling under a cold creeping thrill:
But I failed not, I swore the dread oath through,
And then the tombs grew silent as their dead.
But through my veins a feeling of strong youth
Coursed bold along, and summered in my heart,
Till there before him in my pride I stood
In stately strength, and swift as is the wind,
Magnificant as a desert-nurtured steed
Of princeliest pedigree, with nostrils wide
Dilated, and with eyes effusing flame.
‘Begone,’ he said, ’and live thy hundred years
Of splendour, power, pleasure, ease.’ His voice
Sighed off into the distance. He was gone:
Only a single raven, far aloft,
Was beating outwards with its sable wings;
The tombs had vanished, and the desert grey
Merged its whole circle with the bending sky.
“OUT of these wilds to Egypt I returned:
Men thought that I had perished with the ship,
And no one knew me now, because my face
And form were greatly changed,—from passing fair
To fairer yet; from manly, to a pile
So nobly built, that in all eyes I seemed
Beauteous as Thammuz! And my heart was changed;
Ambition wilder than a leopard’s thirst
For blood of roe, or flying hart, possessed
My spirit, like the madness of a god!
But this I yet even in its fiercest strain
Could curb and guide with sovereign strength of will.
From small beginnings onward still I worked,
Stepping as up a stair from rival head
To rival head,—from high to higher still,
Unto the loftiest post that might be held
Under the Ptolemies; and meantime paid
Each old unsettled score, defeating those
Who erst had worked against me, sweeping them
Out of all posts, all places; for though time
And change had wide dispersed them through the land,
The sleuth-hounds of my vengeance found them out!
Which things not being in a corner done,
What wonder was it that all Egypt now,
From end to end, even like a shaken hive,
Buzzed as disturbed with my portentous fame?
“And what to me were secret enemies?
Had I not also spies, who could pin down
A whisper in the dark and keep it there?
Could dash a covert frown by the same means
An open charge had challenged? Hence my name
Became a sound that struck through every heart
Ineffable dismay! And yet behold
There more I trampled on mankind, the more
Did fawning flatterers praise me as I swept
Like a magnificant meteor through the land!
The more I hurled the mighty from their seats,
And triumphed o’er them prostrate in the dust,
The human hounds that licked my master hand
But multiplied the more! And still I strode
From bad to worse, corrupting as I went,
Making the lowly ones more abject yet;
Awing as with a thunder-bearing hand
The high and affluent; while I bound the strong
To basest service, even with chains of gold.
All hated, cursed and feared me, for in vain
Daggers were levelled at my brazen heart—
They glanced, and slew some minion at my side
Poison was harmless as a heifer’s milk
When I had sipped it with my lips of scorn;
All that paraded pomp and smiling power
Could draw against me from the envious hearts
Of men in will as wicked as myself
I challenged, I encountered, and o’erthrew!
“But, after many years, exhaustion sere
Spread through the branches of my tree of life;
My forces flagged, my senses more and more
Were blunted, and incapable of joy;
The splendours of my rank availed me not;
A poverty as naked as a slave’s
Peered from them mockingly. The pride of power
That glowed so strong within me in my youth
Was now like something dying at my heart.
To cheat or stimulate my jaded taste,
Feasts, choice or sumptuous, were devised in vain;
there was disfavour, there was fraud within,
Like that which filled the fair-appearing rind
Of those delusive apples that of old
Grew on the Dead Sea shore.
“And yet, though thus
All that gave pleasure to my younger life
Was withering from my path like summer grass,
I still had one intense sensation, which
Grew ever keener as my years increased—
A hatred of mankind; to pamper which
I gloated, with a burning in my soul,
Over their degradation; and like one
Merry with wine, I revelled day by day
In scattering baits that should corrupt them more:
The covetous I sharpened into thieves,
Urged the vindictive, hardened the malign,
Whetted the ruffian with self-interest,
And flung him then, a burning brand, abroad.
And the decadence of the state in which
My fortunes had recast me, served me well.
Excess reeled shameless in the court itself,
Or, staggering thence, was rivalled by the wild
Mad looseness of the crowd. Down to its death
The old Greek dynasty was sinking fast;
Waste and pale want, extortion, meanness, fraud—
These, welling outwards from the throne itself,
Spread through the land.
“But now there seized my soul
A new ambition—from his feeble throne
To hurl the king, and mount thereon myself!
To this end still I lured him into ill,
And daily wove around him cunning snares,
That reached and trammelled too his fawning court;
And all went well, the end at last was near,
But in my triumph one thing I forgot—
My name was measured. At a banquet held
In the king’s chamber, lo! A guest appeared,
Chief of a Bactrian tribe, who tendered gold
To pay for some great wrong his desert horde
Had done our caravans; his age, men said,
Was wonderful; his craft more wondrous still;
For this his fame had spread through many lands,
And the dark seekers of forbidden lore
Knew his decrepit wretch to be their lord.
“The first glance that I met of his weird eye
Had sent into my soul a fearful doubt
That I had seen that cramp-shrunk withered form
And strange bright eye in some forgotten past.
But at the dry croak of his raven voice
Remembrance wok; I knew that I beheld
The old man of the tombs: I saw, and fell
Into the outer darkness of despair.
The day that was to close my dread account
Was come at last. The long triumphant feast
Of life had ended in a funeral treat.
I was to die—to suffer with the damned
The hideous torments of the second death!
The days, weeks, months of a whole hundred years
Seemed crushed into a thought, and burning out
In that brief period which was left me now.
“Stung with fierce horror, shame, and hate I fled;
I seized my sword, to plunge its ready point
Into my maddened heart, but on my arm
I felt a strong forbidding grasp! I turned;
The withered visage of the Bactrian met
My loathing eyes; I struggled to be free
From the shrunk wretch in vain; his spidery hands
Were strong as fetters of Ephesian brass,
And all my strength, though now with madness strung,
Was as a child’s to his. He calmly smiled:
‘Forbear, thou fool! Am I not Sammael?
Whom to resist is vain, and from whom yet
Has never mercy flowed; for what to me
Are feelings which thou knowest even in men
Are found the most in fools. But wide around
A prince of lies I reign. ’Tis I that fill
the Persian palaces with lust and wrong,
Till like the darkling heads of sewers they flow
With a corruption that in fretting thence
Taints all the region round with rankest ill;
’Tis I that clot the Bactrian sand with blood;
And now I come to fling the brands of war
Through all this people, this most ill-mixed mob,
Where Afric’s savage hordes meet treacherous Greeks,
And swarming Asia’s luxury-wasted sons.
This land throughout shall be a deluge soon
Of blood and fire, till ruin stalk alone,
A grisly spectre, in its grass-grown marts.’
The fiery eyes within his withered face
Glowed like live coals, as he triumphant spake,
And his strange voice, erewhile so thin and dry,
Came as if bellowed from the vaults of doom.
Prone fell I, powerless to move or speak;
And now he was about to plunge me down
Ten thousand times ten thousand fathoms deep
Through the earth’s crust, and through the slimy beds
Of nether ocean—down! Still down, below
The darkling roots of all this upper world
Into the regions of the courts of hell!
“To stamp me downward to the convict dead
His heel was raised, when suddenly I heard
Him heave a groan of superhuman pain,
So deep twas drawn! And as he groaned, I saw
A mighty downburst of celestial light
Enwrap his shrivelled form from head to foot,
As with a robe within whose venomous folds
He writhed in torment. Then above him stood
A shining shape, unspeakably sublime,
And gazed upon him! One of the high sons
Of Paradise, who still keep watch and ward
O’er Israel’s progeny, where’er dispersed;
And now they fought for me with arms that filled
The air wide round with flashes and swift gleams
Of dazzling light; full soon the Evil One
Fell conquered. Then forth sprang he from the ground
And with dark curses wrapped him in a cloud
That moved aloft, low thundering as it went.
“And then the shining son of paradise
Came where I lay and spoke, his glorious face
Severe with wrath, and yet divinely fair—
‘O Child of Guilt! Should vengeance not be wrought
On thee as well? On Sammael’s willing slave?’
I clasped his radiant knees—I wept—I groaned—
I beat my bosom in my wild distress.
At last the sacred Presence, who had held
The blow suspended still, spoke thus: ‘Thou’rt spared;
From no weak pity, but because thou art
Descended from the line of Israel:
For that cause spared;—yet must thou at my hand
Find some meet punishment.’ And as he spake,
He laid his hand with a life-crushing weight
Upon my forehead—and I fell, as dead!
“AWAKING as from sleep, I bounded up,
Stung with a feeling of enormous strength,
Though yet half wild with horror. Onward then
Ramping I went, out through the palace gates,
Down the long streets, and into the highways,
Forth to the wilds, amazed at my own speed!
And now afar, in long-drawn line appeared
A caravan upon its outward way
Over the desert of Pentapolis.
And strange the instinct seemed that urged me then
to rush amongst them—and devour: for I
Was fierce with hunger, and inflamed with thirst.
“Amidst a laggard company I leaped
That rested yet beside a cooling spring;
One of those clear springs that, like giant pearls,
Inlay the burning borders of the grey
Enormous desert. All at once they rose!
Some fled, some threw themselves amongst the brakes,
Some seized their swords and lances; this to see
Filled me at once with a mysterious rage
And savage joy! The sternness of their looks,
Their fearful cries, the gleaming of their spears
Seemed to insult me, and I rushed on them.
Then sudden spasms of pain searched deep my side,
Wherein a fell lance quivered. On I rushed;
I roared a roar that startled e’en myself,
So loud and hoarse and terrible its tone,
Then bounding, irresistible it seemed
As some huge fragment from a crag dislodged,
Against the puny wretch that sent the lance,
Instantly tore him, as he were a kid,
All into gory shreds! The others fled
At sight of this, nor would I chase them then,
All wearied by my flight. Besides, the well
Was gleaming in its coolness by me there.
“And as I stooped to quench my parching thirst,
Behold, reversed within the water clear,
The semblance of a monstrous lion stood!
I saw his shaggy mane, I saw his red
And glaring eyeballs rolling in amaze,
His rough and grinning lips, his long sharp fangs
All foul with gore and hung with strings of flesh!
I shrank away in horrible dismay.
But as the sun each moment fiercer grew,
I soon returned to stoop and slake my thirst.
Again was that tremendous presence there
Standing reversed, as erewhile, in the clear
And gleaming mirror of the smiling well!
The horrid truth smote like a rush of fire
Upon my brain! The dreadful thing I saw
Was my own shadow! I was a wild beast.”
“They did not fable, then, who held that oft
The guilty dead are punished in the shapes
Of beasts, if brutal were their lives as men.”
“Long lapped I the cool lymph, while still my tongue
Made drip for drip against the monstrous one,
Which, as in ugly mockery, from below
Seemed to lap up against it. But though thirst
Was quenched at length, what was there might appease
The baffled misery of my fated soul?
The thought that I no more was human, ran
Like scorpion venom through my mighty frame;
Fiercely I bounded, tearing up the sands,
That, like a drab mist, coursed me as I went
Out on my homeless track. I made my fangs
Meet in my flesh, trusting to find in pain
Some respite from the anguish of regret.
From morn to night, from night to morn, I fled,
Chased by the memory of my lost estate;
Then, worn and bleeding, in the burning sands
I lay down, as to die. In vain!—in vain!
The savage vigour of my lion-life
Might yield alone to the long tract of time.
“From hill to valley rushing after prey,
With whirlwind speed, was now my daily wont,
For all things fled before me—all things shrank
In mortal terror at my shaggy front.
Sometimes I sought those close-fenced villages,
Wherein the desert-dwellers hide their swart
And naked bodies from the scorching heats,
Hoping that I might perish by their shafts.
And often was I wounded—often bore
Their poisoned arrows in my burning flesh—
But still I lived.
“The tenor of my life
Was always this—the solitary state
Of a wild beast of prey, that hunted down
The antelope, the boar, the goat, the gorged
Their quivering flesh, and lapped their steaming blood;
Then slept till hunger, or the hunter’s cry,
Roused him again to battle or to slay,
To flight, pursuit, blood, stratagem, and wounds.
And to make this rude life more hideous yet,
I still retained a consciousness of all
The nobler habits of my eariler time,
And had a keen sense of what most had moved
My nature as a man, and knew besides
That this my punishment was fixed by One
Too mighty to be questioned, and too just
One tittle of its measure to remit.
“How long this haggard course of life went on
I might not even guess, for I had lost
The human faculty that measures time.
But still from night to night I found myself
Roaming the desert, howling at the moon,
Whose cold light always, as she poured it down,
Awoke a drear distemper in my brain:
But much I shunned the sunblaze, which at once
Inflamed me, and revealed my dread approach.
“Homelessly roaming thus for evermore,
The tempests beat on my unsheltered bulk,
In those bleak seasons when the drenching rains
Drove into covert all those gentler beasts
That were my natural prey. I swinkt beneath
The furnace heats of the midsummer sun,
When even the palm of the oasis stood
All withered, like a weed: and for how long,
Yet knew not.
“Thus the sun and moon arose
Through an interminable tract of time,
And yet though sense was dim, the view of all
My human life was ever at my beck,
Nay, opened out before me of itself
Plain as the pictures in a wizard’s glass!
I saw again the trains that round my car
Streamed countless, saw its pageants and its pomps,
Its faces fair and passionate, and felt
Lie’s eager pleasures, even its noble pangs!
Then in the anguish of my goaded heart
Would I roll howling in the burning sand.
“At length this life of horror seemed to near
Its fated bourn. The slow but sure approach
Of old decay was felt in every limb
And every function of my lion frame.
My massive strength seemed spent, my speed was gone,
The antelope escaped me! Wearily
I sought a mountain cavern, shut from day
By savage draperies of tangled briers,
And only dragged my tardy bulk abroad
When hunger urged. It chanced on such a day
I sprange amid a herd of buffaloes
And tore their leader down, who bellowing fell.
When, lo! The chief of those that drove them came
Against me, and I turned my rage on him:
But though the long lapse of so many years
Of ever-grinding wretchedness had dulled
My memory, I felt that I had seen
His withered visage twice before; and straight
A shuddering awe subdued me, and I crouched
Beneath him in the dust. My lust of blood,
My ruthless joy at sight of mortal pain,
Within me died, and if in human speech
I might have told the wild desire that filled
My being, I had prayed him once for all
To crush me out of life, and to consign
My misery to the pit of final death!
But when, all hopeless, I again looked up,
The tawney presence of the desert chief
Was gone, and I beheld the shining son
Of paradise, from whose majestic brow
There flashed the lightings of a wrath divine.
Yea, twas the angel that with Sammael
Had fought for me in Egypt; and once more
He laid his crushing had upon my front;
And earth and sky, and all that in them is,
Became to me a darkness, swimming blank
In the Eternal, round that point where now
My body lay, stretched dead upon the sand.
“AGAIN I lived—again I felt. But now
The winds of heaven seemed under me, and I
Was sweeping, like the spirit of a storm
That bellowed round me, in its murky glooms,
All heaving with a motion wide and swift
That seemed yet mightier than the darkling swells
Of ocean, wrestling with a midnight gale!
The wild winds tossed me; I was drenched throughout
With heavy moisture, and at intervals
Amid the ragged gaps of moving cloud,
Methought I caught dim glimpses of the sun
Hanging aloft, as if in drear eclipse;
But as my senses cleared, I saw my limbs
Were clothed with plumage; and long-taloned claws
Were closing eagerly with fierce desire
And sudden hunger after blood and prey!
An impulse to pursue and to destroy
Both on the earth and in the air, ran quick
Out from my heart and shivered in my wings;
And as a thing more central yet, I felt
Pregnant within me, throned o’er all, a lone
And sullen, yet majestic, glow of pride.
“’Twas plain that I, who had aforetime been
Crushed out of human being into that
Of a wild beast, had thence again passed on
Into the nature of some mighty thing
That now swept sailing on wide van-like wings,
Amid the whirls of an aërial gloom,
That out extending in one mighty cope
Hung heaving, like a black tent-roof, o’er all
The floor of Africa.
“Still on I swept,
And still as far as my keen vision went,
That now was gifted with a power that seemed
To pierce all space, I saw the vapours roll
In dreadful continuous of black
And shapeless masses, by the winds convulsed;
But soon in the remotest distance came
A change: the clouds were touched with sunny light,
And, as I nearer drew, I saw them dash,
Like the wild surges of an uproused sea
Of molten gold, against the marble sides
Of lofty mountains, which, though far below
My flight, yet pierced up through them all, and stood
With splintered cones and monster-snouted crags,
Immovable as fate. Beneath me, lo!
The grandeur of the kingdom of the air
Was circling in its magnitude! It was
A dread magnificence of which before
I might not even dream. I saw its quick
And subtle interchange of forms and hues,
Saw its black reservoirs of densest rain,
Its awful forges of the thunderstorm.
“At last, as onward still I swept, above
A milky mass of vapour far outspread,
Behold, reflected in its quiet gleam,
I saw an image that swept on with me,
Reversed as was the lion’s in the well,
With van-like wings, with eyeballs seething fire,
With taloned claws, and cruel down-bent beak,—
The mightiest eagle that had ever sailed
The seas of space since Adam named the first!
“My fated soul had passed into the form
Of that huge eagle which swept shadowed there.
Cold horror thrilled me! I was once again
Imprisoned in the being of a brute,
In the base being of a nature yet
Inferior by what infinite descent
To that poor remnant of intelligence
Which still kept with me,—like a put-back soul
Burningly conscious of its powers foregone,
Its inborn sovreignty of kind, and yet
So latent, self-less; once again to live
A life of carnage, and to sail abroad
A terror to all birds and gentle beasts
That heard the stormy rushings of my wings!
A royal bird indeed, who lived alone
In the great stillness of the mighty hills,
Or in the highest heavens.
“But in truth
Not much for many seasons had I need
To search for prey, for countless hosts of men,
Forth mustering over all the face of earth,
Cast the quick gleam of arms o’er trampled leagues
Of golden corn, and as they onward marched
They left behind them seas of raging fire,
In whose red surges cities thronged with men
And happy hamlets, homes of health and peace,
That rang erewhile with rural thankfulness,
Were whelmed in one wide doom; or in their strength
Confronted upon some set field of fight,
Their sullen masses charged with dreadful roar
That far out-yelled the fiercest yells of beasts,
And with brute madness rushed on wounds and death;
Or else about fenced cities they would pitch
Their crowded camps, and leaguer them for years,
Sowing the fields about them with a slime
Of carnage, till their growths were plagues alone.
What is the ravage made by brutes on brutes
To that man makes on man?
“With mingled pain
And joy I saw the wondrous ways of men,
(For ever when I hungered, close at hand,
Some fresh slain man lay smoking in his gore)
And though the instincts of the eagle’s life
Were fierce within me, yet I felt myself
Cast in a lot more capable of joy;
Safe from pursuit, from famine, and from wounds.
Some solaces, though few and far between,
Were added to me; and I argued thence,
In the dark musings of my eagle heart,
That not for ever was my soul condemned
To suffer in the body of a brute;
For though remembrance of the towering crimes
And matchless lusts, that filled my whole career
Of human life, worked in me evermore,
No longer did they shed about my life
So venomous a blight. Nay, I could think
How often I had looked with longing eyes
Up at the clear Egyptian heavens, and watched
The wings that cleft them, envying every bird
That, soaring in the sunshine, seemed to be
Exempt from all the grovelling cares of men.
I thought how once, when with my hunting train
I pierced that region round the cataracts,
I watched an eagle as it rose aloft
Into the lovely blue, and wished to change
My being with it as it floated on,
So inaccessible to hate or hurt,
So peaceful, at a height in heaven so safe;
And then it passed away through gorgeous clouds
Against the sunset, through the feathered flags
Of royal purple edged with burning gold.
“These fields of space were my dominion now;
Motion alone within a world so rich
Was something noble: but to move at will,
Upward or forward, or in circles vast,
Through boundless spaces with a rushing speed
No living thing might rival, and to see
The glory of the everlasting hills
Beneath me, and the myriad-peopled plains,
Broad rivers, and the towery towns that sate
Beside their spacious mouths, with out beyond
The lonely strength of the resounding seas—
This liberty began to move my sense
As something godlike; and in moving made
A sure impression that kept graining still
Into the texture of my brute estate—
Yea, graining in through all its fleshy lusts
And savage wonts.
“Hence ever more and more
The temper of a better spirit grew
Within me, as from inkling roots, and moved
E’en like an embryon in its moist recess:
A sensibility to beauteous things
As now I saw them in the heavens displayed,
And in the bright luxuriance of the earth;
Some power of just comparison, some sense
Of how a man would rank them, could he see
Those earthly grandeurs from the sovreign height
Whence I beheld them. And with this a wish
To commune even with the human race,
And pour the loftier wonders of my life
Into their ears, through a rich-worded song
Whose golden periods in mellow flow
Should witch all ears that heard them—ev’n old men s,
Ev’n jaded monarchs; not to speak of theirs,
Those spirit-lovely ones—yea, moons of love,
That rise at first in the Circassian hills—
And they should tingle all like tiny shells
Of roseate whiteness to its perfect chords.
“One day amid the mountains of the moon,
Behold a sudden storm had gatherd up
Out of my view, hid by a neighbouring height,
But which, thence wheeling with terrific force,
Wide tossed me with its gusts—aloft, and then
Downward as far; then whirlingly about,
Ev’n like a withered leaf. My strength of wing
Availed me nought, so mightily it raged;
Then suddenly, in the dim distance, lo!
I saw, as from the storm’s Plutonian heart,
A mass of white-hot light come writing forth,
And then the figure of a withered man
Seemed dropping headlong through the lurid clouds;
While full within the radiant light, again
The conquering son of paradise appeared,
Upon whose brow divine I yet might trace
Some sing of wrath. Onward the vision rushed,
Orbed in white light. I felt a stifling heat,
One cruel blasting pang, and headlong then
Fell earthward—dead; a plumb descending mass.
“WITHIN a rustic chamber, dark and low,
Thronged with wild-looking men and women strange,
I seemed to waken. Inwardly I felt
No briskness of existence, but a sense
Of languor rather, or revival slow:
And evermore the men and women came
And gazed upon me, shouting in amaze,
Then would they whirl about the room in dance,
Abandoned to their barbarous delight.
“I turned mine eyes about the low-roofed room,
Half fearing and half hoping I might see
The mighty angel that now ruled my life;
They thought I needed air, and I was borne
to a low casement. Like a picture lay
The world without. On all sides wide around
Nothing but mountains, feathered to their tops
With a dense growth of pines, and valleys filled
With a cold darkness that was lit alone
By the broad flashes of the furious streams
That leaped in thunder our of marble gaps!
Dull vapours, like a canopy of smoke,
Did so obscure the sun, that I had thought
The scene that now I saw was not of earth,
But for a golden flush that now and then
Would touch the highest ranges. What I was
I knew not, but I felt my former wants,
And oft I made vain efforts to expand
The wings I had no longer, and sail off,
And through those sullen vapours—up, and up—
Into the mighty silence of the blue.
“The day was fading, and a blare of horns,
With many voices and much trampling noise,
Heard from without, aroused me; and, ere long,
Women rushed in, each bearing some rich robe
Or some gay bauble, wherewithal they next
Arrayed me to their taste; and then they held
A mirror up before me, and I saw
My soul had this time passed into the form
Of a fair damsel. She, whose form I now
Re-animated, was—so learned I soon—
The only child of a Circassian chief,
Who had been long regarded by her house
As its chief treasure, for her beauty rare;
Reserved for him, no matter whence he came,
Whose hand could dip into the longest purse.
But envy lurks in the Circassian hills
As elsewhere, and a dose of opium,
Administered by one who had been long
The rival beauty of a neighbouring tribe,
Had served to quash a bargain quite complete
Save in the final payment of the gold,
Which had been even offered and told down,
And only not accepted, through some old
Delaying ceremony of the tribe;
And in this luckless circumstances, twas plain
That both my admirable parents saw
The unkindest turn of all.
“On all hands forth
Had scouts been sent to summon the whole tribe
To attend my obsequies, and then forthwith
Exterminate our ancient enemies
Through all their tents—such was the fierce resolve.
But while these things were pending, lo! The light
Had broken like a new morn from the eyes
Of the dead beauty; on her cheeks had dawned
A roseate colour; from her moistening lips
Low murmurs, too, had broken; whereupon
My parents in exulting hope transformed
The funeral to a general tribal feast,
And loaded me with all the ancient gauds
And ornaments they held. The Persian, too,
Had been invited to renew his suit,
And carry me at once beyond the reach
Of future opium doses.
“Soon he came
Galloping back to bear me to the arms
Of his long-bearded lord. He paid the price;
My worthy parents took a fond farewell
Of me, with tears declaring me to be
The life-light of their eyes, their rose of joy,—
Then stretched their palms out for the stranger’s gold,
And hurried off to count it o’er again—
The dear recovered treasure they so late
Had mourned as lost for ever. On that night
I was packed neatly on a camel’s back
Beside a precious case of porcelain pipes,
And carried Persia-ward, by stages safe,
From the Circassian mountains.
“At the court
I soon became the favourite of the king;
Lived sumptuously, but in perpetual fear:
For all my luxury and gold and gems,
I envied the poor slaves who swept the floors.
I was the favourite of my Persian lord
For one whole month, perhaps a little more,
And then I learned my place was to be filled;
And though I loathed him, as we loathe some cold
And reptile creature, yet I could not bear
To see a newer rival take my place,
For I was beautiful, and therefore vain:
So, that I might regain his favour past,
I now arrayed myself in airy robes,
While scarfs of purple like an orient queen’s
Barred them with brilliant tints, and gold and pearls
Confined the wavelets of my sunny hair.
“The harem all applauded, and there seemed
Even in his own dull eyes almost a flash
As of extorted joy, but this became
At the next moment a malignant scowl,
Which had its dark cause in such thoughts as these:
‘What! Did so soft and ignorant a thing
Hope to enchant again a man so wise
As he was—he! The paragon of kings!
By floating in before him like a swan,
A little better feathered than before?’
And then he waved the harem ladies forth,
And with him kept only a Nubian girl,
Whom he thought dull, and altogether his:
A conclave of those strange demoniac dwarfs
Who from their secret dens and crypts would come
On given signals forth, was summoned in:
Wizard-like beings, with enormous heads,
Splay-feet, and monstrous spider-fingered hands.
Nor was the council long; I on that night
Was to be poisoned with a pomegranate.
Then stole the Nubian girl away, and brought
Me word of all; yet her news moved me not,
So sure I felt that this was not my doom;
Or moved me only to prepare for flight
With the poor Nubian girl. Unseen I came
To my own chamber, where I packed my goods;
And whence, unseen by all, we swiftly fled.
’Twas plain and patent to my inmost self
That in this last change I had always been
Regenerating more and more; for though
I had a love of mischief in my head,
At heart I was not bad, and they who knew
Me closely, or at least the woman sort,
Loved me,—nay, served me, as the Nubian did.
And now, as no one else might sell me,—lo!
I sold myself, and found myself installed
Queen of a rude baboon-like Afric king.
“Then I was captive to a Bedouin sheik,
Was sold in the slave-mart of Astrachan,
And carried thence to India, to be crowned
A rajahpoot’s sultana; from which state
Flying at length, I fell into a worse,
Being pounced on by a Turkoman horse-stealer.
At Alexandra I became the slave
Of a harsh Roman matron, who was wont
To flog and famish me to make me good,
And when I owned myself converted, then
She flogged and famished me the more, to make
My goodness lasting; and I finally
Fell stabbed in Cairo—slaughtered by a slave.
“AFTER some short and intermediate terms
Of transmigration, all in female forms,
In which, through kindly offices performed,
It seemed the temper of my spirit much
Had humanized, and in the last of which
Twas mine to die for once a natural death,
Again I had some deep-down hold on being,
Dim as an oyster’s in its ocean-bed;
Then came a sense of light and air, of space,
Of hunger, comfort, warmth, of sight and sound
I caught at length the drift of speech, and knew
That all who came to see me and admire
Called me Ben Bachai’s daughter.
But lovely as a starry night I grew,
A maid, the glory of her father’s house,
Her mother’s dovelet, filling all her wonts
With tenderness and joy. Still as I grew,
By strange degrees the memory of all
That I had been came back upon my mind
To fill it with wild sorrow and dismay;
To know I was a cheat, nor wholly what
I seemed to my fond parents—that I was
But half their daughter, and the rest a fiend,
With a fiend’s destiny,—ah! This, I say,
Would smite me even in dreams with icy pangs
Or wordless woe, yea, even while I slept
So innocently as it seemed, and so
Securely happy in the arms of love!”
As this was said, the Rabbi looked, and saw
That now again the woman seemed to speak
As of herself, and not as heretofore
With moveless lips, and prisoned voice, that came
As from some dark duality within.
Her looks had changed, too, with the voice, and now
Again she lay, a queen-like creature, racked
With mortal sufferings, who, when these grew less,
Or for a time remitted, even thus
Took up her tale again.
“At length upgrown
To womanhood, by some mysterious pact
Existing twixt my father’s house and that
Of an Arabian prince time out of mind,
I was now wedded ere I wished, and he,
My husband, finally had come to claim
And bear me from my home, that happiest home
Which I should know no more: a man most fair
To look upon, but void of force, in truth
The weakling of a worn-out line, who yet
(What merit in a prince!) Was not depraved,
Not wicked, not the mendicant of lust,
But mild, and even affectionate and just.
My dowry was immense, and flushed with this
The prince had summoned from his vassal tribe
Five hundred horse, all spearmen, to escort
And guard us desert-ward. And as we went
These ever and anon, at signal given,
Would whirl around us like a thunder-cloud
Wind-torn, and shooting instant shafts of fire!
And thus we roamed about the Arabian wastes,
Pitching our camp amid the fairest spots.
Beneath an awning oft I lay, and gazed
Out at the cloudless ether, where it wrapt
The silent hills, like to a conscious power
Big with the soul of an eternal past.
“But long this life might last not, for the prince
Sickened and died;—died poor, his wealth and mine
Having been squandered on the hungry horde
That wont to prance about us; who ere long,
Divining my extremity, grew loud
And urgent for rewards, till on a day,
By concert as it seemed, the tribe entire
Came fiercely round me, all demanding gifts,
Gifts that I had not; as they nearer pressed,
Wearing his way among them, lo! I saw
The old man of the tombs! The Bactrian sage!
With signs of awe they made him room to pass;
He fixed me with his shrunk and serpent eyes,
Waved off the abject Arabs, and then asked
‘Why art thou poor? With needs so great upon thee?
I offer thee long life and wealth and power.’
“I turned to him and said: ‘Should I not know,
By all the past, the nature of thy gifts?
Shows and delusions, evil, sin-stained all,
And terminating in eternal loss.’
‘Well, take it as thou wilt,’ he said; ‘my gifts
Are not so weighed by all.’ And saying this
He went his way, while I retired within
My lonely tent to weep.
“Next day the tribes
Again assembled, and with threats and cries,
And insults loud, they raised a passion in me.
My blood arose: I chid them angrily,
Called them all things but men, till they, alarmed,
Fell back in sullen silence for a while,
Crouching like tigers ready for a spring.
Humbled, perplexed, and frightened, I returned
Into my tent, and there within its folds
Stood the weird Bactrian with his snaky eyes,
And wiry voice that questioned as before:
‘Why art thou poor? Why dost thou suffer wrong,
With all this petty baseness brattling round?
Am I not here to help thee? I, thy one
Sole friend—not empty, but with ample means.
Behold the secrets of the inner earth!
There, down among the rock-roots of the hills,
What seest thou there? Look, as I point, even those
Strange miscreations, as they seem to thee,
Are demoniac moilers that obey
Such arts as I possess; the gnomish brood
Of Demogorgon. See them how they moil
Amid those diamonds shafts and reefs of gold
Embedded in the oldest drifts of time,
And in the mire that was the first crude floor
And blind extension of the infant earth:
Why art thou poor, then, when such slaves as they
Might work for thee, and glut thy need with all
The matchless values which are there enwombed,
Serving thee always as they now serve me?
Nor these alone: turn thou thy looks aloft,
And watch the stars as they go swimming past.
Behold their vastness, each a world,’ he said;
‘The secrets of all these, too, thou shalt know,
The spirits of all these shall be thy slaves,
If thou wilt swear as erst amid the tombs.’
“The woe of desolation wrapped me round,
The joy to know all mysteries tempted me,
And with a shudder that shook me to the soul
I swore, as erst I swore amid the tombs.
“As on my hand he placed a signet-ring,
Suddenly loud the desert winds arose,
And blew with mighty stress among the tents;
And instantly aloft the thunder ran,
A mighty issue of miraculous light
Burst shaft-like forward, smiting him in twain,
Or so it seemed, down through the solid earth.
In vain I shrunk into a dim recess;
Before me stood the son of paradise.
Then leapt the soul to life within my heart—
Leapt into life with fear, and pain, and woe—
Anger and sadness both were on his brow.
“‘Could’st thou no trial bear—all but redeemed;
Could’st thou not rest content? A rabbi’s child!
Enjoy as best thou may this ill-won power
Over the darker agencies of time,
And bide the end, which end is punishment
But the more terrible, the more delayed;
Yet know this also, thou shalt thus no more
Be punished in a body built of clay.’
He vanished, leaving me to sharp remorse,
And harrowed with the thought of his grieved look.
‘And yet no power in heaven or hell,’ I said,
‘May now annul my deed.’
“And not one day
Of joy has brought to me my ‘ill-won power.’
I built vast palaces in quiet view
Of ancient cities, or by famous streams;
I filled my halls with men and women fair,
And with these pages of a beauty rare
Like striplings kidnapped from some skirt of heaven;
Yet sorrowful of countenance withal,
As knowing that their mortal doom is joined
With mine irrevocably, that with me
’Tis theirs to own these shows of time, with me
To live—with me to die. And as, ’tis said,
A hunted roe will evermore beat round
Towards whence he started first, I felt at length
An ardent longing for my native place;
That spot in all the earth where only I,
In tasting of it, had divined the worth
And Sabbath quality of household peace.
Then coming hither, thus constrained, I pitched
My dwelling here, even this thou seest; built fair,
And filled with splendours such as never yet
Under one roof-tree on this earth were stored.
See yon surpassing lustres! Could this orb
Show such? From Mars came that; from Venus this;
And yonder mass of sun-bright glory, that
From Mercury came, whence came these viols, too,
Instinct with fervent music such as ne’er
From earthly instruments might thrill abroad.”
Then seizing one of them, even as she spake,
Over its chords she moved her ivory hand,
And instantly the palace domes throughout
Rang resonant, as every hall and crypt
Were pulsing music from a thousand shells
That still ran confluent with a mellow slide
And intercourse of cadence: sweet, and yet
Most mournful and most weird, and oft intoned
With a wild wilfulness of power that worked
For madness more than joy. “Even such, ” she said
“Are the delights with which I most converse
In the dark loneness of my fated soul,
For all is show, not substance. All I hold
But darkens more the certainty I have
Of wrath to come, from which no change of place,
No earthly power, no power of heaven nor hell,
May shield me now. I see it shadowing forth
Even like a coming night, in whose dark folds
My soul would ask to hide itself in vain.
And now I go to meet the angel’s face;
I will not claim my hundred years of pride,
I trample underneath my feet the gift
For which I sold my soul; I will not touch
The ring of Sammael, nor use his power
To stay the torments that devour my life;
Misery, shame, remorse, and dread are mine;
Yet shall the angel see repentent eyes,
And know at last I could one trial bear;
Too late, too late.”
As thus the woman spake,
Her brow grew dark, and suddenly she shrieked
In her great agony. “Oh pray for me!
Pray, rabbi! For the daughter of thy friend!
The hour is coming, nay, the hour is come!”
There was a rustle as of wings aloft,
A sudden flicker in the lights below,
And she, who until now seemed speaking, sank
Back on her pillow and in silence lay
Beautiful in the marble calm of death.
The rabbi gazed on her, and thought the while
Of those far times, when, as a child, her grace
Had filled with pleasantness her father’s house.
Then to her servants gave in charge the corpse,
And forth he paced, much musing as he went.
At length he turned to gaze once more upon
The silent house of death. Can such things be?
All had evanished like a morning mist!
Only the woods that hung like clouds about
The steeps of Hebron, in the whitening dawn
Lay dark against the sky! Only a pool
Gleamed flat before him, where it seemed erewhile
The splendid palace had adorned the view!
Perplexed in mind, the rabbi turned again
And hurried homeward, muttering as he went:
Was it a vision? Can such marvels be?
But what in truth are all things, even those
That seem most solid—dust and air at last
- quotes about signals
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The spider web drifts,
high in the window
bright in the setting sun,
close to a world in motion.
Not immersed in the savage flow,
it is protected from wild birds
that caw in the swaying tree
at creatures bound to solid,
is sacred motion,
but the web just aimlessly stirs
in an inner breeze
always on the edge
of the living sea
held fast by stasis
The Giant Spider
In the bathroom this evening I saw the largest spider I’d ever seen,
it was the size of a saucer and it must’ve been a king or queen.
Menacingly it stood in front of me and looked me in the eye,
I think it was considering whether I should live or die.
It began tapping one of its front feet against the tiled floor,
I didn’t know what to do, I became anxious and unsure.
The spider licked its lips, as though it had decided what to do,
so I took one step backwards and then quickly another two.
I’m sure I felt the floor vibrate, as it tapped its foot once more,
it then stood in the doorway so I couldn’t get out the door
I considered jumping over it, but remembered that they also leap,
but then my brother walked in, and crushed it beneath his feet.
The Jar In The Garden
it is earthen
and bound to the emptiness of the air
that fills it,
it contains nothing but to you
it is important,
more important even to the beauty
of my words,
it easily breaks to the pressures of the weathers
on a quick change it may perish
you claim to love even more its natural fragility
to me this jar had always been a worthless form
a useless shape
yet its curve and its flattened base
have become symbols of your persistence
it is hollow it is plain earth
solidified by an artist
by the gentleness of its hands
by the cruel tests of fire
and by the silence of its years
your love is like it and you are asking me
if it is time for me to forget you
for us to part ways for i have loved the clouds more
the way they float the way they turn blue and then fade away
A Noiseless Patient Spider
there are creatures
that could take you
into another world
without having to move
even an inch
for instance, a giant spider web
between two trees
blobs of lights strewn all over
and that greyish black creature
its legs spread so uniformly
one wonders where it has acquired
such pristine skill
talk about discipline?
you can get it from the spider
that could for hours meditate on its net
legs angled so tidily
it would take years for a dancer
to perfect a similar show
and as you watch
you could feel it pull
the world into its realm,
reinforced quietness, stillness
that the spider zealously guards against
hour after hour it sits in meditation
and each hour adds intensity
to that rooted calmness
so that when it moves
with the arrival of a moth
it turns the world
with each of its steps
floating over its wondrous web
pulling us into another world
the world filled with that maze
of desires, rat race, survival quests
The Spider's Web
The spider weaves a web so it can catch its prey
wherever it is convenient to take its hunger away.
An intricate net so finely built yet strong to withhold
all those creatures of nature that get caught in its fold.
The spider knows it will most likely do its job well
and so in the course of the day only time will tell.
It is only when something bigger comes along the way
that the web will break and from its foundations stray.
It’s made to withstand the elements of wind, rain or shine
though it appears in structure to be very delicate and fine.
It never ceases to amaze me with what precision it is made
the work of a skilled artist and product of non-human trade.
It’s made of the same basic material as the silk of the worm
which the spider spins out of its body but is sticky and firm.
The purpose behind the two though has a different motive
being to the both of them uniquely characteristic or native.
I wouldn’t like to be one of those creatures caught in the web
struggling desperately to get away and feeling its own life ebb.
The length and trouble some creatures go to in life to survive
is part of the drama that goes on in nature to keep them alive.
The spider’s web hangs securely moving gently with the breeze
and is fastened onto stationary objects that support it with ease.
Its creator waits patiently at the centre for the right time to come
when the web gives signs that food has arrived again hmm…yum.
If you then happen to see a spider’s web that’s along your way
don’t go and deliberately pull it down as it is a crime I must say.
Unless abandoned or an interference let it catch the spider’s main feed
which is based on its natural instinct of survival and not that of greed.
The Virtuoso: In Imitation of Spenser's Style And Stanza
Whilom by silver Thames's gentle stream,
In London town there dwelt a subtile wight;
A wight of mickle wealth, and mickle fame,
Book-learn'd and quaint: a Virtuoso hight.
Uncommon things, and rare, were his delight;
From musings deep his brain ne'er gotten ease,
Nor ceased he from study, day or night;
Until (advancing onward by degrees)
He knew whatever breeds on earth, or air, or seas.
He many a creature did anatomize,
Almost unpeopling water, air, and land;
Beasts, fishes, birds, snails, caterpillars, flies,
Were laid full low by his relentless hand,
That oft with gory crimson was distain'd:
He many a dog destroy'd, and many a cat;
Of fleas his bed, of frogs the marshes drain'd,
Could tellen if a mite were lean or fat,
And read a lecture o'er the entrails of a gnat.
He knew the various modes of ancient times,
Their arts and fashions of each different guise,
Their weddings, funerals, punishments for crimes,
Their strength, their learning eke, and rarities;
Of old habiliments, each sort and size,
Male, female, high and low, to him were known;
Each gladiator-dress, and stage disguise;
With learned, clerkly phrase he could have shown
How the Greek tunic differ'd from the Roman gown.
A curious medallist, I wot, he was,
And boasted many a course of ancient coin;
Well as his wife's he knewen every face,
From Julius Cæsar down to Constantine:
For some rare sculpture he would oft ypine,
(As green-sick damosels for husbands do
And when obtained, with enraptur'd eyne,
He'd run it o'er and o'er with greedy view,
And look, and look again, as he would look it thro'.
His rich museum, of dimensions fair,
With goods that spoke the owner's mind was fraught:
Things ancient, curious, value-worth, and rare,
From sea and land, from Greece and Rome were brought
Which he with mighty sums of gold had bought:
On these all tides with joyous eyes he por'd;
And, sooth to say, himself he greater thought,
When he beheld his cabinets thus stor'd,
Than if he'd been of Albion's wealthy cities lord.
Here in a corner stood a rich 'scrutoire,
With many a curiosity replete;
In seemly order furnished every drawer,
Products of art or nature as was meet;
Air-pumps and prisms were plac'd beneath his feet,
A Memphian mummy-king hung o'er his head;
Here phials with live insects small and great,
There stood a tripod of the Pythian maid;
Above, a crocodile diffus'd a grateful shade.
Fast by the window did a table stand,
Where hodiern and antique rarities,
From Egypt, Greece, and Rome, from sea and land,
Were thick-besprent of every sort and size:
Here a Bahaman-spider's carcass lies,
There a dire serpent's golden skin doth shine:
Here Indian feathers, fruits, and glittering flies;
There gums and amber found beneath the line,
The beak of Ibis here, and there an Antonine.
Close at his back, or whispering in his ear,
There stood a spright ycleped Phantasy;
Which, wheresoe'er he went, was always near:
Her look was wild, and roving was her eye;
Her hair was clad with flowers of every dye;
Her glistering robes were of more various hue,
Than the fair bow that paints the clouded sky,
Or all the spangled drops of morning dew;
Their colour changing still at every different view.
Yet in this shape all tydes she did not stay,
Various as the chameleon that she bore:
Now a grand monarch with a crown of hay,
Now mendicant in silks and golden ore:
A statesman now, equipp'd to chase the boar,
Or cowled monk, lean, feeble, and unfed;
A clown-like lord, or swain of courtly lore;
Now scribbling dunce in sacred laurel clad,
Or papal father now, in homely weeds array'd.
The wight whose brain this phantom's power doth fill,
On whom she doth with constant care attend,
Will for a dreadful giant take a mill,
Or a grand palace in a hogsty find:
(From her dire influence me may Heaven defend!)
All things with vitiated sight he spies:
Neglects his family, forgets his friend,
Seeks painted trifles and fantastic toys,
And eagerly pursues imaginary joys.
Never Wanted To Work That Hard To Be Beautiful
Never wanted to work that hard to be beautiful
inside or out, be the rare fossil of a mirror
in the red velvet drawer of a jewellery tower
that slides out like a tiny coffin in a morgue.
Not out to prove that waterlilies have the bones
of astral hummingbirds. Love flowers,
but not in cults. Love the moon enough
not to make a religion of it, life enough
not to resist what it's trying to put me through
whether I'm howling in pain, set afire,
or mystically exalted by vital bliss
or about to scatter my ashes from any of the bridges
that arc like grey rainbows of partially kept truces
with the lies of the lines in between.
Sometimes I'm mining mini black holes
inside the solar system looking for
new motherlodes of metaphor inside
the eye sockets of a skull crawling with Aztecs
like red army ants attending to their gods,
or go panning for stars well beyond the heliosphere
the way I used to catch fireflies as a boy
just to watch them glow a moment and let them go
like an intimate insight into what I still don't know
but never failed to be enlightened by upon their release.
People outside my open window, laughing, talking,
setting up giddy long shots like sexual moves
on a hot summer night with a beer in its hand,
and the drunk demotic of a little English on the cue,
and alarmed car horns throbbing like ear aches in park,
and it's all so intriguingly silly it's got to be human
and I wonder if a thousand years from now will think
this is what we had to be like. And as soon as I
glimpse that, the whole scene is deepened by time
in the eyes behind a veil of eternity I lifted
while I was alive to see that everything here is indelible.
There's a perpetuity in our apparent randomness
in the passing of the moment, that spontaneously
preserves us for greater things than we can imagine
like the Conservation of Data Principle
that holds good even in the singular depths
of a black hole listening like a poet through an open window.
A smudge of life on my poem, but I don't mind
the fingerprints at all. What's a star without planets?
What's a shepherd ushering moons toward
the high blue grasslands without a black sheep
that wanders off by itself once and awhile
to check out other things along the way?
My poems pick things up in their flowing
like rivers pick up leaves and tributaries
and small flotillas of blossoms in the spring,
the occult alphabets of calligraphic oil snakes,
and mingles them all into the picture-music
of the mindstream, the motifs of a symphony,
or the themes of a play, that picks things up
and puts them down again like the moonrise
of a rock on a beach. Few of life's harmonies
are symmetrically balanced crystallographers.
Nights when I look into the eyes of the stars
and even the lenses of my telescope break into tears.
You can take life out of it like a fly in the toilet bowl,
a bumble bee in a jar, a star out of your eye
a spider on a long-handled broom, or the crumb
of a leftover dream from the night before,
or you can leave it in if it wants to come along for the ride.
I've heard for so long from people who say they know
that everything is one, I don't worry about disconnections.
It's the fallible continuity of life that sings
like a nightbird from the dead branch and green alike
most beautifully to me, the way the light and the rain
and love when it's real, make unions of disparate things
that depend upon each other for life like metaphors.
I revel in the crazy wisdom of the oxymoronic contradictions
that bond me to the universe like the small volcanoes
of the ground wasps that erupt between the fault lines
along the continental plates of the sidewalks
and apprentice me to landscaping with lava on the moon.
The circle's wounded deeper into its roundness
once it's broken by a branch, the stillness more profound
for the stone that's dropped into it. Love, when it's new,
trued by separation. The earth itself, an alloy
of the elemental table. To be truly original creatively
is to seek the low place like the sea and let
everything run down into you like myriad streams
that are neither many nor one, pure nor polluted,
and out of that mingling which is the whole of you,
raise them like weather from the bells of the flowers
to the robes of snow on the mountain tops
and know that with every cloud, every raindrop, storm,
every bolt of lightning, and all the life thereby engendered
is you returning like a shape shifter to your own depths
and everything comes along for the ride as if
they were always on your side, like your eyes are.
Someone Lingers In Your Absence Like An Icon
Someone lingers in your absence like an icon, a gate
to an open field where the white horse
that stood in the tall grass, grazing on its solitude
like a phase of the moon come to earth
is gone. A bird, a purple martin with so much
distance and disappearance in it wings
and the open vastness of the skies it was absorbed by
I can barely hear you singing from here
over the raving of an unkempt wind on a crazy night
when the ghosts are rioting in their graves
like old leaves without attachments at the feet of the new
and gravity receives the grave goods of the tree
as do I these strange epiphanies of you
that haunt me retroactively like apple-bloom.
And the depth of the emptiness that informs
the substance of my imaginings, devastates me
like an eclipse slowly swallowing my heart
like a black cataract of snake skin I keep
trying to shake like a cosmic egg without much luck.
As if I were bleeding out like a rose after
the green thorns have hardened into fangs
that are killing and curing me at the same time.
Some nights I just want to join my emptiness to yours
and be done with it, no more of this, no more.
No more of watching the beauty of the world
burn out into a dark radiance that makes me
want to gouge my eyes out so I can see it without wincing.
Without feeling so wounded by the abundance of the rose
that blooms and disappears like the auroral apparitions
of a widow in veils of spider webs and black lightning,
thinking it might be you under there somewhere I can't go
without losing you again. Check-mate. Pain.
And it isn't anything either of us can do anything about.
It just goes down that way. The absence of your shining,
small nonrenewable gestures of your heart and hands
vividly recalled like modest butterfly volumes of poetry
blowing down an abandoned street at night in the rain, you
sewing a patch on my heart with the delicacy of a needle
mending a flying carpet grounded like a wavelength of light.
As I am now that you've become that rip in my heart
all the stars are pouring out of like a puncture wound
I let go right through me like needles and gamma rays
piercing the heart of a voodoo doll of dark matter
that makes me feel like wooden puppet of light
carved out of one of these black walnut trees.
Endure. Participate. See. Wonder.
Praise. Celebrate. Mourn. Do the next best thing.
And when you're hurting your worst, sing.
And even when I'm soldiering my way through stone
like a flying fish in the wrong medium,
or walking alone with the Alone through the woods,
just to meet you where you ask me to when you call
and I come like a burning bridge down to the river,
wondering if I might have lived here once in another lifetime,
I do say these things to myself like medicinal chants
and preventative medicine, healing totems with benign effect
hung in the medicine bag slung around my neck.
Sweet grass and a pinch of sacred earth, just in case
I forget how to dance on my own grave
with grace and flare and style and an enigmatic smile
that really means it if it really means anything at all.
Or not succumb to this ice-age of a bell
my tongue is stuck to like a child's to a wire fence,
or this black diamond nightbird
that cuts my darkness to the quick
because it's got nothing to sing about
that can answer the call of the living for someone
on a foggy hill to come to the rescue of the empty lifeboat
drifting like the corpse of a dead swan downriver,
except the dead air of this strange place
where space is indelibly bruised by the passing
of the beauty it once contained like stars in a Mason jar.
Like a candle in the lantern of a skull
I've carried before me like a nightwatchman
on the edge of a dangerous precipice for lightyears
until I lost my footing and fell in one night,
as I once did into love, and learned to see in the dark
I was growing wings where I had none before
and looking up from the bottom of an empty wishing well
noticed the dead still blooming like stars
in the white shadows of the sun at midnight.
And out of the corners of my eyes
when what I can't see what need to know about being alive
comes looking for me like the sacred syllable
on the lips of a pearl diver on the moon in total eclipse
like a kiss out of nowhere, comes like the singing bird
to the dead branch in my heart
that's having trouble remembering how to blossom
after a long winter, as if you'd summoned me to the trees
like a purple passage in the Book of the Dead,
to teach me how to take the pain
and through the alchemy of the grief
that flows through my heartwood like light and rain
turn it into life again, as if every leaf
were a new loveletter from the dead
I've been saving for years like expurgated starmaps
illustrated by exiled constellations in Braille
to a spiritual lost and found at my fingertips
where they know who you are, and they've seen you
like a soft moonrise glowing through the willows
down by the river that weeps like a black mirror
for the stars and waterbirds in passing
that appear and disappear each in its time
and you wait for me like the longing of the dead
to make some kind of sign, however simple and austere,
the withered star of a wild rose without a flower,
that let's me know you're near, you're here
rooted in me on earth where we've both come
to renew our shining from the bottom up to the blossom.
I could say anything, and you wouldn’t know.
There is no one else.
Stand me on a chair, and call me Hope.
Loving is easy when you breathe God.
So many lives: I want to live them all.
Everyday with you holds an exquisite unoriginality.
Think: rational milk without guile.
A macaw squawks in my throat.
I’ve pilfered someone else’s passion.
He’s singin’ in Swahili & strummin’ a guitar.
A jar of ice jade melted.
You’re not welcome here.
I wish I could feel sincere.
The world is flat and I am a garden.
Sir, addressing the floor in such a manner is inappropriate.
Sulk—now there’s a mood in which to sink.
Too often I dwell atop a brink of petulance.
Come away with me. Be a gazelle.
She cried into the night.
What is right?
She cried into the light.
“Do you know what I feel when I pass by a mission? ”
She wears red silk scarves and carves birch boxes.
To each of 40 faces, he prayed, “I am you.”
Ich bin du.
What have you been through?
Here’s the unwelcome twist of the exhibitionist.
Today, we make the same decision again.
Such love is wearisome, a well without a bucket…
The rustling is too delicate, too distant…
Wonderment is a flesh thing, which crawls out of the cold.
Spatial slurs in a sphere of stars: listen.
I put chili peppers in sugar cookies.
She ignores me, so I chatter to the room.
I blame it on the air pressure, playing accordion with my brain cells.
I have no competition when it comes to barefoot races in the snow.
Nevertheless, I always end up burying dead soldiers.
How terrifying to be abandoned.
One cannot help but think of snakes.
My first wedding: I was the groom.
His hair shone like buttercups.
We are French, and fried green tomatoes taste like oysters in a rainstorm.
Truths: all mine smack me in the face.
Not every look is a leer; not every smile is a threat.
You forget and are forgotten.
Drama whirls, a kite in Kill Devil Hills wind.
Reading this, you are angry.
My teeth are chattering, and I cannot take back the trembling.
My mind is cluttered with cotton drifts.
It tickles my throat when I try to tease it into voice.
We are songs we are planets we are gypsies weaving peace.
Meaningless, meaningless, these words are empty; you are empty.
Whole empty cups respond; all categories dissolve.
You piss, you pass into the ground.
Must I let it die, this love?
How do you exist in so small a space?
A mask for every season, death without a reason.
The task of treason—not thinking.
They go on drinking stinking; we are shrinking out of rational into national.
I weep into a bowl of milk.
Murky, marginalized, we accept fear, the cost of the lost.
I clutch at cluelessness.
Mathematics does just this.
To be in pain is to be certain; to hear about pain is to be in doubt.
Terms of agency and damage: weapon and wound.
Life half loses—eventually the pushing stops.
Remember to brush your teeth.
Look at how I squandor you on the periphery of thought.
Once upon a time in Columbia, a woman said a man said her spirit.
I’ve been fighting the wrong, the wrong rage; we’re on a different page.
Until we are all free, no one is free.
April: I am not this man. I imagine herself munching on daisies.
(He eats cod and schemes in the park.)
Birth—wading through weeds, axiomatic, with a natural poverty of force.
Concept: writing of you, do I rob you of your voice?
Speak now of yourself. I will listen.
Stop using me for your erasures.
The narrative of my doubt is scattered throughout this consciousness.
We give failure the face of a bull’s eye: name the missed target, sin.
Which came first: the man, or the fruit in his throat?
Androgynous: similar in shape to an avocado.
They’re all products if you deconstruct—strain out the cruder forms, which clog the heart.
When it breaks, it shatters like inefficient light.
Trying to reconstruct speech into sense.
What does it mean, this writing on the body?
Voice got stolen by a violin, larynx now that of a bird.
You rely on the storm.
Thinking is as thinking does, and what does thinking do?
Religion is the consumer.
“She is offended. But so charming! ”
Stop being counter-intuitive, the crickets, the leaves, beseech love, love.
Failure must be an inventor who has lost faith in his hands.
You can run off, leave us here treading water; or stay, make some waves of your own.
Be angrier than you are.
Melt the clocks.
Anger without blame, without an anvil, demands cooperation.
Are certain emotions lost in the absence of certain sounds?
Waiting: a principal of bodily, psychological, and moral tension.
We are bound to the notions of love and loss.
Maintaining peace is a war, but it is a smouldering, internal one—
What then, is inner peace?
What you gave away—that is yours.
“Sometimes I think of him as a friend. Sometimes I think of him as an armed robber.”
Sometimes I wish I were a metaphor.
Pessimists die young. Join the shrugging daisies.
For half a year, I’ve been living in a free form brainstorm.
“When I die, I don’t rejoin…I just stop waiting.”
He was blank or white or both, a gun or a shovel.
We are cardinals, each of us.
I, a wench floating when I should not.
Forest, may I sit in you a while?
Let’s start by soothing the voracious gaping red rush.
Holy bulbous jittery rock.
Power equals time into energy.
Displacement: work divided by weight.
Now predict the hertz of hurts.
Time cannot be told. The ocean listens to what cannot be said.
Every hour I call out to you, ambivalent, a glorified pendulum.
The secret is swinging: the back and forth convinces you to move forward.
Professional loneliness is an irony too far, even for me.
Scattering cigarette butts in a bed merging with March.
The gulls have been crying, the crows flying, for hours.
The sky rusts; lily-white smoke dusts the horizon.
You’re locked in a room with nothing but news, listening to blues.
The pathway narrows, as thorn become arrows.
What do you want from me?
Post-exilic embodiment closes canon walls.
Themes of vanity: kitten spitting rainbow.
They fear you more than you do them.
Curses flung from the flag of your tongue blow like a blessing from the Himalayas.
I have a preference for a lack of style.
All groovy yellow plump mess.
The heart knows ow—low bow, slow wow.
There’s a certain sadness to soft ground.
There can be no queen.
What I see is not what I mean.
Robert the Bruce belonged in a noose.
Everyone can rhyme, but who has the time?
I like thinking of you thinking of clouds.
I have no father or mother, and one day you will understand.
The Missionary - Canto Fifth
'Tis dawn:--the distant Andes' rocky spires,
One after one, have caught the orient fires.
Where the dun condor shoots his upward flight,
His wings are touched with momentary light.
Meantime, beneath the mountains' glittering heads,
A boundless ocean of gray vapour spreads,
That o'er the champaign, stretching far below,
Moves now, in clustered masses, rising slow,
Till all the living landscape is displayed
In various pomp of colour, light, and shade,
Hills, forests, rivers, lakes, and level plain,
Lessening in sunshine to the southern main.
The Llama's fleece fumes with ascending dew;
The gem-like humming-birds their toils renew;
And there, by the wild river's devious side,
The tall flamingo, in its crimson pride,
Stalks on, in richest plumage bright arrayed,
With snowy neck superb, and legs of lengthening shade.
Sad maid, for others may the valleys ring,
For other ears the birds of morning sing;
For other eyes the palms in beauty wave,
Dark is thy prison in the ocean-cave!
Amid that winding cavern's inmost shade,
A dripping rill its ceaseless murmur made:
Masses of dim-discovered crags aloof,
Hung, threatening, from the vast and vaulted roof:
And through a fissure, in its glimmering height,
Seen like a star, appeared the distant light;
Beneath the opening, where the sunbeams shine,
Far down, the rock-weed hung its slender twine.
Here, pale and bound, the Spanish captive lay,
Till morn on morn, in silence, passed away;
When once, as o'er her sleeping child she hung,
And sad her evening supplication sung;
Like a small gem, amidst the gloom of night,
A glow-worm shot its green and trembling light,--
And, 'mid the moss and craggy fragments, shed
Faint lustre o'er her sleeping infant's head;
And hark! a voice--a woman's voice, its sound
Dies in faint echoes, 'mid the vault profound:
Let us pity the poor white maid!
She has no mother near!
No friend to dry her tear!
Upon the cold earth she is laid:
Let us pity the poor white maid!
It seemed the burden of a song of woe;
And see, across the gloom an Indian girl move slow!
Her nearer look is sorrowful, yet mild,
Her hanging locks are wreathed with rock-weed wild;
Gently she spoke, Poor Christian, dry thy tear:
Art thou afraid? all are not cruel here.
Oh! still more wretched may my portion be,
Stranger, if I could injure thine and thee!
And, lo! I bring, from banks and thickets wild,
Wood-strawberries, and honey for thy child.
Whence, who art thou, who, in this fearful place,
Does comfort speak to one of Spanish race?
It is an Indian maid, who chanced to hear
Thy tale of sorrow, as she wandered near:
I loved a white man once; but he is flown,
And now I wander heartless and alone.
I traced the dark and winding way beneath:
But well I know to lead thee hence were death.
Oh, say! what fortunes cast thee o'er the wave,
On these sad shores perhaps to find a grave?
Three years have passed since a fond husband left
Me and this infant, of his love bereft;
Him I have followed; need I tell thee more,
Cast helpless, friendless, hopeless, on this shore.
Oh! did he love thee, then? Let death betide,
Yes, from this cavern I will be thy guide.
Nay, do not shrink! from Caracalla's bay,
Ev'n now, the Spaniards wind their march this way.
As late in yester eve I paced the shore
I heard their signal-guns at distance roar.
Wilt thou not follow? He will shield thy child,--
The Christian's God,--through passes dark and wild
He will direct thy way! Come, follow me;
Oh, yet be loved, be happy, and be free!
But I, an outcast on my native plain,
The poor Olola ne'er shall smile again!
So guiding from the cave, when all was still,
And pointing to the furthest glimmering hill,
The Indian led, till, on Itata's side,
The Spanish camp and night-fires they descried:
Then on the stranger's neck that wild maid fell,
And said, Thy own gods prosper thee, farewell!
The owl is hooting overhead; below,
On dusky wing, the vampire-bat sails slow.
Ongolmo stood before the cave of night,
Where the great wizard sat:--a lurid light
Was on his face; twelve giant shadows frowned,
His mute and dreadful ministers, around.
Each eye-ball, as in life, was seen to roll,
Each lip to move; but not a living soul
Was there, save bold Ongolmo and the seer.
The warrior half advanced his lifted spear,
Then spoke: Dread master of the mighty lore!
Say, shall the Spaniards welter in their gore?
Let these dark ministers the answer tell,
Replied the master of the mighty spell.
Then every giant-shadow, as it stood,
Lifted on high a skull that dropped with blood.
Yet more, the impatient warrior cried; yet more!
Say, shall I live, and drink the tyrant's gore?
'Twas silence. Speak! he cried: none made reply.
At once strange thunder shook the distant sky,
And all was o'er; the grisly shapes are flown,
And the grim warrior stands in the wild woods alone.
St Pedro's church had rung its midnight chimes,
And the gray friars were chanting at their primes,
When winds, as of a rushing hurricane,
Shook the tall windows of the towered fane;--
Sounds more than earthly with the storm arose,
And a dire troop are passed to Andes' snows,
Where mighty spirits in mysterious ring
Their dread prophetic incantations sing,
Round Chillan's crater-smoke, whose lurid light
Streams high against the hollow cope of night.
Thy genius, Andes, towering o'er the rest,
Rose vast, and thus a phantom-shape addressed:
Who comes so swift amid the storm?
Ha! I know thy bloodless form,
I know thee, angel, who thou art,
By the hissing of thy dart!
'Tis Death, the king! the rocks around,
Hark! echo back the fearful sound;--
'Tis Death, the king! away, away!
The famished vulture scents its prey.
Spectre, hence! we cannot die--
Thy withering weapons we defy;
Dire and potent as thou art!
Then spoke the phantom of the uplifted dart:
Spirits who in darkness dwell,
I heard far off your secret spell!
Enough, on yonder fatal shore,
My fiends have drank your children's gore;
Lo! I come, and doom to fate
The murderers, and the foe you hate!
Of all who shook their hostile spears,
And marked their way through blood and tears,
(Now sleeping still on yonder plain)
But one--one only shall remain,
Ere thrice the morn shall shine again.
Then sang the mighty spirits. Thee, they sing,
Hail to thee, Death, all hail to Death, the king!
The penguin flaps her wings in gore,
Devoted Spain, along the shore.
Whence that shriek? with ghastly eyes,
Thy victor-chief abandoned lies!
Victor of the southern world,
Whose crimson banners were unfurled
O'er the silence of the waves,--
O'er a land of bleeding slaves!
Victor, where is now thy boast;
Thine iron steeds, thy mailed host?
Hark! hark! even now I hear his cries!--
Spirits, hence!--he dies! he dies!
At last you're tired of this elderly world
Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower this morning the bridges are bleating
You're fed up living with antiquity
Even the automobiles are antiques
Religion alone remains entirely new religion
Remains as simple as an airport hangar
In all Europe only you O Christianism are not old
The most modem European Pope Pius X it's you
The windows watch and shame has sealed
The confessionals against you this morning
Flyers catalogs hoardings sing aloud
Here's poetry this morning and for prose you're reading the tabloids
Disposable paperbacks filled with crimes and police
Biographies of great men a thousand various titles
I saw a pretty street this morning I forgot the name
New and cleanly it was the sun's clarion
Executives laborers exquisite stenographers
Criss-cross Monday through Saturday four times daily
Three times every morning sirens groan
At the lunch hour a rabid bell barks
The lettering on the walls and billboards
the doorplates and posters twitters parakeet-style
I love the swank of that street
Situated in Paris between the rue Aumont-Thieville and the avenue des Ternes
Here's the young street and you're still a baby
Dressed by your mother in blue and white only
You're very pious and with your oldest friend Rene Dalize
Nothing is more fun than Masses and Litanies
It's nine o'clock the gaslight is low you leave your bed
You pray all night in the school chapel
Meanwhile an eternal adorable amethyst depth
Christ's flamboyant halo spins forever
Behold the beautiful lily of worship
Behold the red-haired torch inextinguishable
Behold the pale son and scarlet of the dolorous Mother
Behold the tree forever tufted with prayer
Behold the double gallows honor and eternity
Behold the six-pointed star
Behold the God who dies on Friday and rises on Sunday
Behold the Christ who flies higher than aviators
He holds the world's record for altitude
Christ pupil of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries knows its stuff
And bird-changed this century like Jesus climbs the sky
Devils in the abyss look up to watch
They say this century mimics Simon Magus in Judea
It takes a thief to catch a thief they cry
Angels flutter around the pretty trapeze act
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana
Hover as close to the airplane as they can
Sometimes they give way to other men hauling the Eucharist
Priests eternally climbing the elevating Host
The plane descends at last its wings unfolded
bursts into a million swallows
Full speed come the crows the owls and falcons
From Africa ibis storks flamingoes
The Roc-bird famous with writers and poets
Glides Adam's skull the original head in its talons
The horizon screams an eagle pouncing
And from America there comes a hummingbird
From China sinuous peehees
Who have only one wing and who fly in couples
And here's a dove immaculate spirit
Escorted by lyre-bird and shimmery peacock
Phoenix the pyre the self-resurrected
Obscures everything ardently briefly with ash
The sirens abandon their perilous channels
Each one singing more beautifully arrives
Everyone eagle Phoenix Chinese peehees
Eager to befriend a machine that flies
You are walking in Paris alone inside a crowd
Herds of buses bellow and come too close
Love-anguish clutches your throat
You must never again be loved
In the Dark Ages you would have entered a monastery
You are ashamed to overhear yourself praying
You laugh at yourself and the laughter crackles like hellfire
The sparks gild the ground and background of your life
Your life is a painting in a dark museum
And sometimes you examine it closely
You are walking in Paris the women are bloodsoaked
It was and I have no wish to remember it was the end of beauty
In Chartres from her entourage of flames Our Lady beamed at me
The blood of your Sacred Heart drenched me in Montmartre
I'm sick of hearing blissful promises
The love I feel is a venereal disease
And the image possessing you in your pain your insomnia
Vanishes and it is always near you
And now you are on the Riviera
Under lemon trees that never stop blooming
You are boating with friends
One is from Nice one is from Menton two from La Turbie
We are staring terrified at giant squid
At fish the symbols of Jesus swimming through seaweed
You are in the garden at an inn outside of Prague
You are completely happy a rose is on the table
And instead of getting on with your short-story
You watch the rosebug sleeping in the rose's heart
Appalled you see yourself reproduced in the agates of Saint Vitus
You were sad near to death to see yourself there
You looked as bewildered as Lazarus
In the Jewish ghetto the clock runs backwards
And you go backwards also through a slow life
Climbing the Hradchen listening at nightfall
To Bohemian songs in the singing taverns
You in Marseilles among the watermelons
Yu in Coblenz at the Hotel Gigantic
You in Rome beneath a Japanese tree
You in Amsterdam with a girl you find pretty who is ugly
She's engaged to marry a student from Leyden
Where you can rent rooms in Latin Cubicula locanda
I remember spending three days there and three in Gouda
You are in Paris hauled before the magistrate
You are under arrest you are a criminal now
You went on sorrowful and giddy travels
Ignorant still of dishonesty and old age
Love afflicted you at twenty and again at thirty
I've lived like a fool and I've wasted my time
You dare not look at your hands I want to weep all the time
On you on the one I love on everything that frightened you
And now you are crying at the sight of refugees
Who believe in God who pray whose women nurse babies
The hall of the train station is filled with the refugee-smell
Like the Magi refugees believe in their star
They expect to find silver mines in the Argentine
And to return like kings to their abandoned countries
One family carries a red eiderdown you carry your heart
Eiderdown and dreams are equally fantastic
Some of the refugees stay on in Paris settling
Into slums on the rue des Rosiers or the rue des Ecouffes
I have seen them often at dusk they breathe at their doorways
They budge from home as reluctantly as chessmen
They are chiefly Jewish the women wear wigs
And haunt backrooms of little shops in little chairs
You're standing at the metal counter of some dive
Drinking wretched coffee where the wretched live
You are in a cavernous restaurant at night
These women are not evil they are used-up regretful
Each has tormented someone even the ugliest
She is the daughter of a police sergeant from Jersey
Her hands I'd never noticed are hard and cracked
My pity aches along the seams of her belly
I humble my mouth to her grotesque laughter
You're alone when morning comes
The milkmen jingle bottles in the street
Night beautiful courtesan the night withdraws
Fraudulent Ferdine or careful Leah
And you drink an alcohol as caustic as your life
Your life you drink as alcohol
You walk to Auteuil you want to go on foot to sleep
At home among your South Sea and Guinean fetishes
Christs of another shape another faith
Subordinate Christs of uncertain hopes
Sun cut throated
Unlost When I'm Writing
Unlost when I'm writing, the going's enough
and any path will do for the shining. Everywhere
space for the mind to move of its own accord,
dead bodies in the tide, waterbirds returning to the lake.
The pictures crowd together in the flames
and a flower blooms in the fire the fire cannot burn
and myriad themes are mingled in the same fragrance.
How else say it? I'm an alloy of stars, a weld
of metaphors that healed stronger than the original wound.
I don't wholly understand this, but I'm changing
bodies on the fly, dying even as I grow,
and the more radiant I become the less visible I am.
The mindstream in its flowing is a flying carpet
woven of eddies and currents, of thought, of feeling
the heaving, fall, and rush of many waters
animated by the going, inspired by the approach,
and some bring an easel, a loom, a telescope
and when the moon is shining, there are feathers
scattered on ten thousand lakes at once
as the night writes starmaps on the eye of the seeker
all but the most middling minds follow like a dancer.
I live between the coming and going like a gate,
like the breath in my throat, the systole and diastole,
the ebb and neap of my heart, between the open sky
and the canning jar of a telescope full of fireflies
like a prism in a spider mount bending light through my eye
like a goldfish in water. The full moon, a coin
lost in the river that cannot be retrieved from the river
unless you grasp it without using your hands.
The way a bird on the wind enlarges a space within
and you can hold it a moment like the sky it disappears into.
Comes a swallow at dusk and a nation at noon
and you feel the easy parity of the two as if
they were both of the one intangible fleeting substance,
a birth-sac of dew about to let its water break
and bring forth the world as the youngest child of all.
An abacus of tears, worlds within worlds,
oxymoronic unions dispersing like somnambulant bells
into more inclusive realms of understanding
where every grain of sand is the cornerstone
of the cosmos elaborated out of it as if
neither small nor large, partial nor whole
one word is a myth of origin, and two,
the whole of its long history without end.
Transformative stillness, kinetic mutability,
I refine the ore of an old wisdom
in the crucible of my heart and pour it out like stars
into the available vacancies of space and time
waiting like a waterclock of begging bowls
for their emptiness to shape the tools they'll use
to plough the moon with a sail and a rudder into fish.
How life gets around is the way I'm moved to think
in fireflies and maple keys, nebular intuitions
of the Pleiades rooting like rain in clouds
and clouds of unknowing where there's nothing
to take on faith but the small voice on the hidden hill
calling out to you like an empty lifeboat
drifting through the autumn fog an eerie morning.
I lay my madness bare and offer you a scalpel
like the bud of a narcissus, and say cut here, cut there,
slash at me like a corpse in a surgical theater,
remove my skull cap like the lid of a cookie jar,
break it open like a fortune-cookie or a surrealistic lullaby,
a lottery you couldn't lose, or American pie,
and don't say anything teleological to me
about what you find, if there's anything to find at all.
And then add me to the sum of educational body parts
on a river barge that's going to scrape them off the plate
far out at sea in a feeding frenzy of marine life.
Star meat, my flesh, I'm adorned by the mud of the earth,
and my mind, who could find that, when
there's so many more places to look than to hide?
Lightyears back I blundered into the open
like a tree on a hill in a field, running from something
ahead of me, when I discovered in a flash
of Druidic tragedy just how vulnerable words were
to the emotions I invested in them like ashes in urns.
Great dragons of passion that imploded on themselves
like caldera and women and meteors on the moon,
kissing stones subsumed in their own wombs
like nanodiamonds of insight into the impact.
And I might seem a lot gladder than I used to be
but there's still too much to forget to be happy.
And I'm not truly certain I have the right to flaunt
the strange gifts that have given me the most joy
when the night comes on like the pheromone of a firefly
and I hear the unmighty groaning in their rooms to endure.
No trick to this. No elixir, no potion, no Latinate abstraction,
no apprentice, master, or skill, I could be making
straw hats among the enlightened conifers of Japan
on a mountainside where the old stones break into laughter
and the samurai class of the grass wants me to teach it
how to fight without regard to winning or losing
no matter how many times I'm killed unceremoniously
like the Buddha in the way of some fool's redemption.
And if the king comes to your house, don't
put out a serving, put out a feast, and move on
empty-handed as a man who's given it all away
just to spite the keepers at the gate searching your exit.
You can buff a Druid into a gleeman like cut cocaine
and then you can step on it again like a court jester
and if you really want to feel sacrilegiously holy
you can burn him like a martyr at the stake of a cause
that accuses him of going to extremes to avoid the law
and then invite him to a reading to scatter his ashes on the wind.
And then beatify his spirit like a white stag you hit with an arrow
fletched by sparrows with the charisma of crows.
And that's an end of what was so mysterious about him.
That's an end of his ambiguous glaises, alphabetic trees
and golden sickles castrating fertility gods so there
was dew on the grass in the morning when the moon
gave birth to a swan in heat before the wheat
could turn from green to gold, and the Fertile Crescent
was fecund with dismemberment and bleeding mistletoe.
Death of a poet. What a small shadow among the gloom.
The eclipse of a lunar pearl in a coalpit.
And the greatness of the perennial mystery
that seeped into his blood like the effluvium
of the dark mother's afterbirth, merely the cosmic hearsay
of what he hoped it would be, up close and intimately.
And his star, now, a cold furnace, and all the warmth
of his violated human nature, a curious atrocity
of the times that are these times just as readily.
I salute the madman addled by creative chaos
like a spear of light in a storm, like a spiritual warrior
who fell upon his own heart like a hand grenade
to save some ingrate his delinquent day of reckoning,
to temper the karma by rounding out the crucials
with compassion and liberated tolerance
as swiftly as his savage indignation killed
the nude empress of pornographic frogs with a kiss
back into her old life in the nunnery of a neurotic narcissus.
And he looked for the moon in a window of a room
in a brothel of experienced muses who didn't
beat around the bush when it came time to ovulate.
St. Francis dances in the dust at the crossroads with the Sufis,
talking to the birds like David, and consulting the wolves.
Rasputin gorges on the flesh of the rainbow light body
glowing in a mystical aura of sex and death
like the dark rapture that embraces him
in the circular bow of the angel of infernal revelations.
And his accusers whip his eyes
like bi-valved goose barnacles
flagellating their feather dusters in the corals.
But there are some things that move inevitably like glaciers.
Elegy For Whatever Had A Pattern In It
Now that the Summer of Love has become the moss of tunnels
And the shadowy mouths of tunnels & all the tunnels lead into the city,
I'm going to put the one largely forgotten, swaying figure of Ediesto Huerta
Right in front of you so you can watch him swamp fruit
Out of an orchard in the heat of an August afternoon, I'm going to let you
Keep your eyes on him as he lifts & swings fifty-pound boxes of late
Elberta peaches up to me where I'm standing on a flatbed trailer & breathing in
Tractor exhaust so thick it bends the air, bends things seen through it
So that they seem to swim through the air.
It is a lousy job, & no one has to do it, & we do it.
We do it so that I can show you even what isn't there,
What's hidden. And signed by Time itself. And set spinning,
And is only a spider, after all, with its net waiting for what falls,
For what flies into it, & ages, & turns gray in a matter of minutes. The web
Is nothing's blueprint, bleached by the sun & whitened by it, it's what's left
After we've vanished, after we become what falls apart when anyone
Touches it, eyelash & collarbone dissolving into air, & time touching
The boxes we are wrapped in like gifts & splintering them
Into wood again, at the edge of a wood.
Black Widow is a name no one ever tinkered with or tried to change.
If you turn her on her back you can see the blood red hourglass figure
She carries on her belly,
Small as the design of a pirate I saw once on a tab of blotter acid
Before I took half of it, & a friend took the other, & then the two of us
Walked down to the empty post office beside the lake to look,
For some reason, at the wanted posters. We liked a little drama
In the ordinary then. Now a spider's enough.
And this one, in the legend she inhabits, is famous, & the male dies.
She eats its head after the eggs are fertilized.
It's the hourglass on her belly I remember, & the way the figure of it,
Figure eight of Time & Infinity, looked like something designed,
Etched or embossed upon the slick undershell, & the way there was,
The first time I saw it, a stillness in the pattern that was not
The stillness of the leaves or the stillness of the sky over the leaves.
After the male dies she goes off & the eggs
Live in the fraying sail
Of an abandoned web strung up in the corner of a picking box or beneath
Some slowly yellowing grape leaf among hundreds of other
Leaves, in autumn, the eggs smaller than the o in this typescript
Or a handwritten apostrophe in ink.
What do they represent but emptiness, some gold camp settlement
In the Sierras swept clean by smallpox, & wind?
Canal school with its three rooms, its bell & the rope you rang it with
And no one there in the empty sunlight, ring & after ring & echo.
It magnifies & I can't explain it.
Piedra, Conejo, Parlier. Stars & towns, blown fire & wind.
Deneb & Altair, invisible kindling, nothing above nothing.
It magnifies & I can't explain it.
Expressionless spinster, carrying Time's signature preserved & signed
In blood & hidden beneath you, you move two steps
To the right & hold still, then one step to the left,
And hold still again, motionless as the web you wait in.
Motionless as the story you wait in & inhabit but did not spin
And did not repeat. You wait in the beehive hairdo of the girl
Sitting across from me in class, wait in your eggs,
Wait in the hair the girl teases & sprays once more at recess.
Lipstick, heels, tight sweater, leather anklet.
The story has no point but stillness itself, absence in a school desk,
The hacked and scratched names visible in the varnished wood,
No one there, the bell with its ring & after ring & echo.
In class, I remember, she would look back at me with a gaze deeper
Than calm, blanker than a pond's scummed & motionless surface,
Beneath which there was nothing, nothing taking the shape of someone
Who had already drowned but could not die, & so sat in class
Because she had to, because that was the law.
Mrs. Avery went on & on at the blackboard so we could know
Who Magellan & Vizcaino had been, or sometimes she would make
The boy who spoke only Spanish read from a book,
Watch him as he used his forefinger to point at each syllable
He would read, read & mispronounce, & stumble over, & go on.
And this isn't much of a story either, but it's one I know:
One afternoon in August, two black widow spiders bit Ediesto Huerta.
He killed them both & went on working,
Went on swinging the boxes up to me. In a few minutes the sweat
Bathed his face until it glistened, & still he went on working;
And when I asked him to stop he would not & instead
Seemed to begin to dance slowly in the rhythms of the work,
Swing & heft & turning back for another box, then
Swing, heft, & turning back again. And within a half hour or so,
Without him resting once but merely swinging box after box
Of peaches up to me in the heat, the fever broke.
In the middle of turning away again, he stopped dancing,
He stopped working. He seemed to be listening to something, & then
He passed out & fell flat on his back. It looked as if he had gone to sleep
For a moment. I let the idling tractor sputter & die, & by the time
I reached him, he had awakened, &, in the next moment, his face
Began twitching, his arms & legs danced to something without music
And then stiffened, his jaws clenched & his eyes fluttered open
And turned a pure white. I made a stick from a peach limb & tore
The leaves & shoots off it & stuck it between his teeth
As I heard one was supposed to, &, in this way, almost
Killed him by suffocation, & so took the stick out & threw it away.
And later lifted him by the one arm he extended to me & pulled him up onto
The bed of the trailer. He dangled his legs off the rear of it.
We sat there, saying nothing.
It was so quiet we could hear the birds around us in the trees.
And then he turned to me, &, addressing me in a name as old as childhood,
Said, 'Hey Cowboy, you wanna cigarette?'
In the story, no one can remember whether it was car theft or burglary,
But in fact, Ediesto Huerta was tried & convicted of something, & so, afterward,
Became motionless & silent in the web spun around him by misfortune.
In the penitentiary the lights stay on forever,
Cell after cell after cell, they call their names out, caught in time.
Ring, & after ring, & echo.
In the story, the girl always dies of spider bites,
When in fact she disappeared by breaking into the jagged pieces of glass
Littering the roadsides & glinting in the empty light that shines there. 6
All we are is representation, what we appear to be & are, & are not,
And representation is all we remember,
Something hesitating & looking back & caught for a moment.
God in the design on a spider's belly, standing for time & infinity,
Looks back, looks back just once, then never again.
We go without a trace, I am thinking. We go & there's no one there,
No one to meet us on the long drive lined with orange trees,
Cypresses, the bleaching fronds of palm trees,
And though the town is still there when I return to it, when I'm gone
The track is empty beside the station, & the station is boarded up,
Boarded over, the town is overgrown with leaves, with weeds
Tall as windowsills, window glass out & dark inside the shops.
The classrooms & school are gone & the bell, & the rope
To ring it with, & the boy reading form the book, forefinger
On a syllable he can't pronounce & stumbles over again & again.
All we are is representation, what we are & are not,
Clear & then going dark again, all we are
Is the design or insignia that misrepresents what we are, & stays
Behind, & looks back at us without expression, empty road in sunlight.
I once drove in a '48 Jimmy truck with three tons of fruit
On it & the flooring beneath the clutch so worn away I could see
The road go past beneath me, the oil flecked light & shadow
Picking up speed. Angel & Johnny Dominguez, Ediesto Huerta,
Jaime Vaca & Coronado Solares, Querido Flacco
And the one called Dead Rat & the one called Camelias;
We go without a trace, I am thinking.
Today you were lying in bed, drinking tea, reading the newspaper,
A look of concentration on your face, of absorption in some
Story or other.
It looked so peaceful, you reading, the bed, the sunlight over everything.
There is a blueprint of something never finished, something I'll never
Find my way out of, some web where the light rocks, back & forth,
Holding me in a time that's gone, bee at the windowsill & the cold
Coming back as it has to, tapping at the glass.
The figure in the hourglass & the body swinging in the rhythm of its work.
The body reclining in bed, forgetting what it is, & who.
While the night goes on with its work, the stars & the shapes they make,
Cold vein in the leaf & in the wind,
What are we but what we offer up?
Gifts we give, things for oblivion to look at, & puzzle over, & set aside.
Oblivion resting his cheek against a child's striped rubber ball
In the photograph I have of him, head on the table & resting his cheek
Against the cool surface of the ball, the one that is finished spinning, the one
He won't give back.
Oblivion who has my face in the photograph, my cheek resting
Against a child's striped ball.
Oblivion with his blown fires, & empty towns...
Oblivion who would be nothing without us, I am thinking,
As if we're put on the earth to forget the ending, & wander.
And walk alone. And walk in the midst of great crowds,
And never come back.
Marmion: Introduction to Canto II.
The scenes are desert now, and bare,
Where flourished once a forest fair
When these waste glens with copse were lined,
And peopled with the hart and hind.
Yon thorn-perchance whose prickly spears
Have fenced him for three hundred years,
While fell around his green compeers -
Yon lonely thorn, would he could tell
The changes of his parent dell,
Since he, so grey and stubborn now,
Waved in each breeze a sapling bough:
Would he could tell how deep the shade
A thousand mingled branches made;
How broad the shadows of the oak,
How clung the rowan to the rock,
And through the foliage showed his head,
With narrow leaves and berries red;
What pines on every mountain sprung,
O'er every dell what birches hung,
In every breeze what aspens shook,
What alders shaded every brook!
'Here, in my shade,' methinks he'd say,
'The mighty stag at noontide lay:
The wolf I've seen, a fiercer game
(The neighbouring dingle bears his name),
With lurching step around me prowl,
And stop, against the moon to howl;
The mountain-boar, on battle set,
His tusks upon my stem would whet;
While doe, and roe, and red-deer good,
Have bounded by, through gay greenwood.
Then oft, from Newark's riven tower,
Sallied a Scottish monarch's power:
A thousand vassals mustered round,
With horse, and hawk, and horn, and hound;
And I might see the youth intent,
Guard every pass with crossbow bent;
And through the brake the rangers stalk,
And falc'ners hold the ready hawk;
And foresters in greenwood trim,
Lead in the leash the gazehounds grim,
Attentive as the bratchet's bay
From the dark covert drove the prey,
To slip them as he broke away.
The startled quarry bounds amain,
As fast the gallant greyhounds strain;
Whistles the arrow from the bow,
Answers the arquebuss below;
While all the rocking hills reply,
To hoof-clang, hound, and hunter's cry,
And bugles ringing lightsomely.'
Of such proud huntings many tales
Yet linger in our lonely dales,
Up pathless Ettrick and on Yarrow,
Where erst the outlaw drew his arrow.
But not more blithe that silvan court,
Than we have been at humbler sport;
Though small our pomp, and mean our game
Our mirth, dear Mariott, was the same.
Remember'st thou my greyhounds true?
O'er holt or hill there never flew,
From slip or leash there never sprang,
More fleet of foot, or sure of fang.
Nor dull, between each merry chase,
Passed by the intermitted space;
For we had fair resource in store,
In Classic and in Gothic lore:
We marked each memorable scene,
And held poetic talk between;
Nor hill nor brook we paced along
But had its legend or its song.
All silent now-for now are still
Thy bowers, untenanted Bowhill!
No longer, from thy mountains dun,
The yeoman hears the well-known gun,
And while his honest heart glows Warm,
At thought of his paternal farm,
Round to his mates a brimmer fills,
And drinks, 'The Chieftain of the Hills!'
No fairy forms, in Yarrow's bowers,
Trip o'er the walks, or tend the flowers,
Fair as the elves whom Janet saw
By moonlight dance on Carterhaugh;
No youthful baron's left to grace
The forest-sheriff's lonely chase,
And ape, in manly step and tone,
The majesty of Oberon:
And she is gone, whose lovely face
Is but her least and lowest grace;
Though if to sylphid queen 'twere given
To show our earth the charms of Heaven,
She could not glide along the air,
With form more light, or face more fair.
No more the widow's deafened ear
Grows quick that lady's step to hear:
At noontide she expects her not,
Nor busies her to trim the cot:
Pensive she turns her humming wheel,
Or pensive cooks her orphans' meal;
Yet blesses, ere she deals their bread,
The gentle hand by which they're fed.
From Yair,-which hills so closely bind,
Scarce can the Tweed his passage find,
Though much he fret, and chafe, and toil,
Till all his eddying currents boil, -
Her long descended lord is gone,
And left us by the stream alone.
And much I miss those sportive boys,
Companions of my mountain joys,
Just at the age 'twixt boy and youth,
When thought is speech, and speech is truth.
Close to my side, with what delight
They pressed to hear of Wallace wight,
When, pointing to his airy mound,
I called his ramparts holy ground!
Kindled their brows to hear me speak;
And I have smiled, to feel my cheek,
Despite the difference of our years,
Return again the glow of theirs.
Ah, happy boys! such feelings pure,
They will not, cannot, long endure;
Condemned to stem the world's rude tide,
You may not linger by the side;
For Fate shall thrust you from the shore,
And Passion ply the sail and oar.
Yet cherish the remembrance still,
Of the lone mountain and the rill;
For trust, dear boys, the time will come
When fiercer transport shall be dumb,
And you will think right frequently,
But, well I hope, without a sigh,
On the free hours that we have spent
Together, on the brown hill's bent.
When, musing on companions gone,
We doubly feel ourselves alone,
Something, my friend, we yet may gain;
There is a pleasure in this pain:
It soothes the love of lonely rest,
Deep in each gentler heart impressed.
'Tis silent amid worldly toils,
And stifled soon by mental broils;
But, in a bosom thus prepared,
Its still small voice is often heard,
Whispering a mingled sentiment,
'Twixt resignation and content.
Oft in my mind such thoughts awake,
By lone Saint Mary's silent lake;
Thou know'st it well,-nor fen, nor sedge,
Pollute the pure lake's crystal edge;
Abrupt and sheer, the mountains sink
At once upon the level brink;
And just a trace of silver sand
Marks where the water meets the land.
Far in the mirror, bright and blue,
Each hill's huge outline you may view;
Shaggy with heath, but lonely bare,
Nor tree, nor bush, nor brake, is there,
Save where of land yon slender line
Bears thwart the lake the scattered pine.
Yet even this nakedness has power,
And aids the feeling of the hour:
Nor thicket, dell, nor copse you spy,
Where living thing concealed might lie;
Nor point, retiring, hides a dell,
Where swain, or woodman lone, might dwell;
There's nothing left to fancy's guess,
You see that all is loneliness:
And silence aids-though the steep hills
Send to the lake a thousand rills;
In summer tide, so soft they weep,
The sound but lulls the ear asleep;
Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude,
So stilly is the solitude.
Nought living meets the eye or ear,
But well I ween the dead are near;
For though, in feudal strife, a foe
Hath lain our Lady's chapel low,
Yet still beneath the hallowed soil,
The peasant rests him from his toil,
And, dying, bids his bones be laid,
Where erst his simple fathers prayed.
If age had tamed the passion's strife,
And fate had cut my ties to life,
Here, have I thought, 'twere sweet to dwell
And rear again the chaplain's cell,
Like that same peaceful hermitage
Where Milton longed to spend his age.
'Twere sweet to mark the setting day
On Bourhope's lonely top decay;
And, as it faint and feeble died
On the broad lake and mountain's side,
To say, 'Thus pleasures fade away;
Youth, talents, beauty, thus decay,
And leave us dark, forlorn, and grey;'
Then gaze on Dryhope's ruined tower,
And think on Yarrow's faded Flower:
And when that mountain-sound I heard,
Which bids us be for storm prepared,
The distant rustling of his wings,
As up his force the tempest brings,
'Twere sweet, ere yet his terrors rave,
To sit upon the wizard's grave -
That wizard-priest's, whose bones are thrust
From company of holy dust;
On which no sunbeam ever shines -
So superstition's creed divines -
Thence view the lake, with sullen roar,
Heave her broad billows to the shore;
And mark the wild swans mount the gale,
Spread wide through mist their snowy sail,
And ever stoop again, to lave
Their bosoms on the surging wave:
Then, when against the driving hail
No longer might my plaid avail,
Back to my lonely home retire,
And light my lamp, and trim my fire;
There ponder o'er some mystic lay,
Till the wild tale had all its sway,
And, in the bittern's distant shriek,
I heard unearthly voices speak,
And thought the wizard-priest was come
To claim again his ancient home!
And bade my busy fancy range,
To frame him fitting shape and strange,
Till from the task my brow I cleared,
And smiled to think that I had feared.
But chief 'twere sweet to think such life
(Though but escape from fortune's strife),
Something most matchless good and wise,
A great and grateful sacrifice;
And deem each hour to musing given
A step upon the road to heaven.
Yet him whose heart is ill at ease
Such peaceful solitudes displease;
He loves to drown his bosom's jar
Amid the elemental war:
And my black Palmer's choice had been
Some ruder and more savage scene,
Like that which frowns round dark Lochskene.
There eagles scream from isle to shore;
Down all the rocks the torrents roar;
O'er the black waves incessant driven,
Dark mists infect the summer heaven;
Through the rude barriers of the lake
Away its hurrying waters break,
Faster and whiter dash and curl,
Till down yon dark abyss they hurl.
Rises the fog-smoke white as snow,
Thunders the viewless stream below.
Diving, as if condemned to lave
Some demon's subterranean cave,
Who, prisoned by enchanter's spell,
Shakes the dark rock with groan and yell.
And well that Palmer's form and mien
Had suited with the stormy scene,
Just on the edge, straining his ken
To view the bottom of the den,
Where, deep deep down, and far within,
Toils with the rocks the roaring linn;
Then, issuing forth one foamy wave,
And wheeling round the giant's grave,
White as the snowy charger's tail
Drives down the pass of Moffatdale.
Marriott, thy harp, on Isis strung,
To many a Border theme has rung;
Then list to me, and thou shalt know
Of this mysterious man of woe.
The Life And Death Of Tom Thumb
In Arthur's court Tom Thumb did live,
A man of mickle might ;
The best of all the table round,
And eke a doughty knight.
His stature but an inch in height,
Or quarter of a span :
Then think you not this little knight
Was proved a valiant man ?
His father was a ploughman plain,
His mother milk'd the cow,
Yet how that they might have a son
They knew not what to do :
Until such time this good old man
To learned Merlin goes,
And there to him his deep desires
In secret manner shows.
How in his heart he wish'd to have
A child, in time to come,
To be his heir, though it might be
No bigger than his thumb.
Of which old Merlin thus foretold,
That he his wish should have,
And so this son of statue small
The charmer to him gave.
No blood nor bones in him should be,
In shape, and being such
That men should hear him speak, but not
His wandering shadow touch.
But so unseen to go or come,—
Whereas it pleas'd him still ;
Begot and born in half and hour,
To fit his father's will.
And in four minutes grew so fast
That he became so tall
As was the ploughman's thumb in height,
And so they did him call—
TOM THUMB, the which the fairy queen
There gave him to his name,
Who, with her train of goblins grim,
Unto his christening came.
Whereas she cloth'd him richly brave,
In garments fine and fair,
Which lasted him for many years
In seemly sort to wear.
His hat made of an oaken leaf,
His shirt a spider's web,
Both light and soft for those his limbs
That were so smally bred.
His hose and doublet thistle-down,
Together weaved full fine ;
His stockings of an apple green,
Made of the outward rind ;
His garters were two little hairs
Pull'd from his mother's eye,
His boots and shoes, a mouse's skin,
Were tann'd most curiously.
Thus like a lusty gallant, he
Adventured forth to go,
With other children in the streets,
His pretty tricks to show.
Where he for counters, pins, and points,
And cherry-stones did play,
Till he amongst those gamesters young
Had lost his stock away.
Yet could he soon renew the same,
Whereas most nimbly he
Would dive into their cherry-bags,
And their partaker be,
Unseen or felt by any one,
Until this scholar shut
This nimble youth into a box,
Wherein his pins he put.
Of whom to be reveng'd he took,
In mirth and pleasant game,
Black pots and glasses, which he hung
Upon a bright sun-beam.
The other boys to do the like
In pieces broke them quite ;
For which they were most soundly whipt ;
Whereat he laughed outright.
And so Tom Thumb restrained was,
From these his sports and play ;
And by his mother after that,
Compell'd at home to stay.
Whereas about a Christmas time,
His father a hog had kill'd ;
And Tom would see the puddings made,
For fear they should be spill'd.
He sate upon the pudding-bole,
The candle for to hold ;
Of which there is unto this day,
A pretty pastime told :
For Tom fell in, and could not be
For ever after found,
For in the blood and batter he
Was strangely lost and drown'd.
Where searching long, but all in vain,
His mother after that,
Into a pudding thrust her son,
Instead of minced-meat.
Which pudding of the largest size,
Into the kettle thrown,
Made all the rest to fly thereout,
As with a whirlwind blown :
For so it tumbled up and down,
Within the liquor there,
As if the devil had been boil'd,—
Such was his mother's fear,
That up she took the pudding straight,
And gave it at the door
Unto a tinker, which from thence
In his black budget bore ;
But as the tinker climb'd a stile,
He nearly tumbled back :
Now gip, old knave ! out cried Tom Thumb,
A-hanging on his pack.
At which the tinker 'gan to run,
And would no longer stay ;
And cast both bag and pudding down,
And thence hied fast away.
From which Tom Thumb got loose at last,
And home return'd again ;
Where he from following dangers long,
In safety did remain :
Until such time his mother went
A-milking of her kine ;
Where Tom unto a thistle fast
She linked with a twine.
A thread that held him to the same,
For fear the blustering wind
Should blow him hence,—that so she might
Her son in safety find.
But mark the hap ! a cow came by,
And up the thistle eat ;
Poor Tom withal, that, as a dock,
Was made the red cow's meat.
Who, being miss'd, his mother went
Him calling everywhere ;
Where art thou, Tom ? Where art thou, Tom ?
Quoth he, here, mother, here !
Within the red cow's stomach here,
Your son is swallowed up :
The which into her fearful heart,
Most careful dolours put.
Meanwhile the cow was troubled much,
And soon releas'd Tom Thumb ;
No rest she had till out her mouth,
In bad plight he did come.
Now after this, in sowing time,
His father would him have
Into the field to drive his plough,
And thereupon him gave—
A whip made of a barley-straw,
To drive the cattle on ;
Where, in a furrow'd land new sown,
Poor Tom was lost and gone.
Now by a raven of great strength,
Away he thence was borne,
And carried in the carrion's beak,
Even like a grain of corn,
Unto a giant's castle top,
In which he let him fall ;
Where soon the giant swallowed up
His body, clothes, and all.
But soon the giant spat him out,
Three miles into the sea ;
Whereas a fish soon took him up,
And bore him thence away.
Which lusty fish was after caught,
And to king Arthur sent ;
Where Tom was found, and made his dwarf,
Whereas his days he spent
Long time in lively jollity,
Belov'd of all the court ;
And none like Tom was then esteem'd,
Among the noble sort.
Amongst his deeds of courtship done,
His highness did command,
That he should dance a galliard brave
Upon his queen's left hand.
The which he did, and for the same
The king his signet gave,
Which Tom about his middle wore,
Long time a girdle brave.
How, after this, the king would not
Abroad for pleasure go
But still Tom Thumb must ride with him,
Placed on his saddle-bow.
Whereon a time when, as it rain'd,
Tom Thumb most nimbly crept
In at a button-hole, where he
Within his bosom slept.
And being near his highness' heart,
He crav'd a wealthy boon,
A liberal gift, the which the king
Commanded to be done.
For to relieve his father's wants,
And mother's, being old ;
Which was, so much of silver coin
As well his arms could hold.
And so away goes lusty Tom,
With threepence on his back,
A heavy burthen, which might make
His wearied limbs to crack.
So travelling two days and nights,
With labour and great pain,
He came into the house whereat
His parents did remain ;
Which was but half a mile in space
From good king Arthur's court,
The which, in eight and forty hours,
He went in weary sort.
But coming to his father's door,
He there such entrance had
As made his parents both rejoice,
And he thereat was glad.
His mother in her apron took
Her gentle son in haste,
And by the fire-side, within
A walnut-shell him placed ;
Whereas they feasted him three days
Upon a hazel-nut,
Whereon he rioted so long,
He them to charges put ;
And thereupon grew wond'rous sick,
Through eating too much meat,
Which was sufficient for a month
For this great man to eat.
But now his business call'd him forth
King Arthur's court to see,
Whereas no longer from the same
He could a stranger be.
But yet a few small April drops
Which settled in the way,
His long and weary journey forth
Did hinder and so stay.
Until his careful father took
A birding trunk in sport,
And with one blast, blew this his son
Into king Arthur's court.
Now he with tilts and tournaments
Was entertained so,
That all the best of Arthur's knights
Did him much pleasure show :
As good Sir Lancelot du Lake,
Sir Tristam, and Sir Guy ;
Yet none compar'd with brave Tom Thumb
For knightly chivalry.
In honour of which noble day,
And for his lady's sake,
A challenge in king Arthur's court
Tom Thumb did bravely make.
'Gainst whom these noble knights did run,
Sir Chinon and the rest,
Yet still Tom Thumb, with matchless might,
Did bear away the best.
At last Sir Lancelot du Lake
In manly sort came in,
And with this stout and hardy knight
A battle did begin.
Which made the courtiers all aghast,
For there that valiant man,
Through Lancelot's steed, before them all,
In nimble manner ran.
Yea, horse and all, with spear and shield,
As hardy he was seen,
But only by king Arthur's self
And his admired queen ;
Who from her finger took a ring,
Through which Tom Thumb made way,
Not touching it, in nimble sort,
As it was done in play.
He likewise cleft the smallest hair
From his fair lady's head
Not hurting her whose even hand
Him lasting honours bred.
Such were his deeds and noble acts
In Arthur's court there shone,
As like in all the world beside
Was hardly seen or known.
Now at these sports he toil'd himself,
That he a sickness took,
Through which all manly exercise
He carelessly forsook.
When lying on his bed sore sick,
King Arthur's doctor came,
With cunning skill, by physic's art,
To ease and cure the same.
His body being so slender small,
This cunning doctor took
A fine perspective glass, with which
He did in secret look—
Into his sickened body down,
And therein saw that Death
Stood ready in his wasted frame
To cease his vital breath.
His arms and legs consum'd as small
As was a spider's web,
Through which his dying hour grew on,
For all his limbs grew dead.
His face no bigger than an ant's,
Which hardly could be seen ;
The loss of which renowned knight
Much grieved the king and queen.
And so with peace and quietness
He left this earth below ;
And up into the fairy-land
His ghost did fading go.
Whereas the fairy-queen receiv'd,
With heavy mourning cheer,
The body of this valiant knight,
Whom she esteem'd so dear.
For with her dancing nymphs in green,
She fetch'd him from his bed,
With music and sweet melody,
So soon as life was fled ;
For whom king Arthur and his knights
Full forty days did mourn ;
And, in remembrance of his name,
That was so strangely born—
He built a tomb of marble gray,
And year by year did come
To celebrate ye mournful death
And burial of Tom Thumb.
Whose fame still lives in England here,
Amongst the country sort ;
Of whom our wives and children small
Tell tales of pleasant sport.
The Creek of the Four Graves [Late Version]
A settler in the olden times went forth
With four of his most bold and trusted men
Into the wilderness—went forth to seek
New streams and wider pastures for his fast
Increasing flocks and herds. O’er mountain routes
And over wild wolds clouded up with brush,
And cut with marshes perilously deep,—
So went they forth at dawn; at eve the sun,
That rose behind them as they journeyed out,
Was firing with his nether rim a range
Of unknown mountains, that like ramparts towered
Full in their front. and his last glances fell
Into the gloomy forest’s eastern glades
In golden gleams, like to the Angel’s sword,
And flashed upon the windings of a creek
That noiseless ran betwixt the pioneers
And those new Apennines—ran, shaded o’er
With boughs of the wild willow, hanging mixed
From either-bank, or duskily befringed
With upward tapering feathery swamp-oaks,
The sylvan eyelash always of remote
Australian waters, whether gleaming still
In lake or pool, or bickering along,
Between the marges of some eager stream.
Before them, thus extended, wilder grew
The scene each moment and more beautiful;
For when the sun was all but sunk below
Those barrier mountains, in the breeze that o’er
Their rough enormous backs deep-fleeced with wood
Came whispering down, the wide up-slanting sea
Of fanning leaves in the descending rays
Danced dazzlingly, tingling as if the trees
Thrilled to the roots for very happiness.
But when the sun had wholly disappeared
Behind those mountains—O what words, what hues
Might paint the wild magnificence of view
That opened westward! Out extending, lo!
The heights rose crowding, with their summits all
Dissolving as it seemed, and partly lost
In the exceeding radiancy aloft;
And thus transfigured, for awhile they stood
Like a great company of archaeons, crowned
With burning diadems, and tented o’er
With canopies of purple and of gold.
Here halting wearied now the sun was set,
Our travellers kindled for their first night’s camp
A brisk and crackling fire, which seemed to them,
A wilder creature than ’twas elsewhere wont,
Because of the surrounding savageness.
And as they supped, birds of new shape and plume
And wild strange voice came by; and up the steep
Between the climbing forest growths they saw
Perched on the bare abutments of the hills,
Where haply yet some lingering gleam fell through,
The wallaroo1 look forth. Eastward at last
The glow was wasted into formless gloom,
Night’s front; then westward the high massing woods
Steeped in a swart but mellow Indian hue,
A deep dusk loveliness, lay ridged and heaped,
Only the more distinctly for their shade,
Against the twilight hearen—a cloudless depth,
Yet luminous with sunset’s fading glow;
And thus awhile in the lit dusk they seemed
To hang like mighty pictures of themselves
In the still chambers of some vaster world.
At last, the business of the supper done,
The echoes of the solitary place
Came as in sylvan wonder wide about
To hear and imitate the voices strange,
Within the pleasant purlieus of the fire
Lifted in glee; but to be hushed erelong,
As with the darkness of the night there came
O’er the adventurers, each and all, some sense
Of danger lurking in its forest lairs.
But, nerved by habit, they all gathered round
About the well-built fire, whose nimble tongues
Sent up continually a strenuous roar
Of fierce delight, and from their fuming pipes
Drawing rude comfort, round the pleasant light
With grave discourse they planned their next day’s deeds.
Wearied at length, their couches they prepared
Of rushes, and the long green tresses pulled
From the bent boughs of the wild willows near;
Then the four men stretched out their tired limbs
Under the dark arms of the forest trees
That mixed aloft, high in the starry air,
In arcs and leafy domes whose crossing curves,
Blended with denser intergrowth of sprays,
Were seen, in mass traced out against the clear
Wide gaze of heaven; and trustful of the watch
Kept near them by their master, soon they slept,
Forgetful of the perilous wilderness
That lay around them like a spectral world;
And all things slept; the circling forest trees,
Their foremost boles carved from a crowded mass
Less visible by the watch-fire’s bladed gleams
That ran far out in the umbrageous dark
Beyond the broad red ring of constant light;
And, even the shaded mountains darkly seen,
Their bluff brows looming through the stirless air,
Looked in their stillness solemnly asleep:
Yea, thence surveyed, the universe might have seemed
Coiled in vast rest;—only that one dark cloud,
Diffused and shapen like a spider huge,
Crept as with scrawling legs along the sky
And that the stars in their bright orders, still
Cluster by cluster glowingly revealed,
As this slow cloud moved on, high over all,
Peaceful and wakeful, watched the world below.
Meanwhile the cloudless eastern heaven had grown
More luminous, and now the moon arose
Above the hill, when lo! that giant cone
Erewhile so dark, seemed inwardly aglow
With her instilled irradiance, while the trees
That fringed its outline, their huge statures dwarfed
By distance into brambles and yet all
Clearly defined against her ample orb,
Out of its very disc appeared to swell
In shadowy relief, as they had been
All sculptured from its surface as she rose.
Then her full light in silvery sequence still
Cascading forth from ridgy slope to slope,
Chased mass by mass the broken darkness down
Into the dense-brushed valleys, where it crouched,
And shrank, and struggled, like a dragon-doubt
Glooming a lonely spirit.
His lone watch
The master kept, and wakeful looked abroad
On all the solemn beauty of the world;
And by some sweet and subtle tie that joins
The loved and cherished, absent from our side,
With all that is serene and beautiful
In Nature, thoughts of home began to steal
Into his musings—when, on a sudden, hark!
A bough cracks loudly in a neighbouring brake!
Against the shade-side of a bending gum.
With a strange horror gathering to his heart,
As if his blood were charged with insect life
And writhed along in clots, he stilled himself
And listened heedfully, till his held breath
Became a pang. Nought heard he: silence there
Had recomposed her ruffled wings, and now
Deep brooded in the darkness; so that he
Again mused on, quiet and reassured.
But there again—crack upon crack! Awake!
O heaven! have hell’s worst fiends burst howling up
Into the death-doomed world? Or whence, if not
From diabolic rage, could surge a yell
So horrible as that which now affrights
The shuddering dark! Beings as fell are near!
Yea, beings in their dread inherited hate
Awful, vengeful as hell’s worst fiends, are come
In vengeance! For behold from the long grass
And nearer brakes arise the bounding forms
Of painted savages, full in the light
Thrown outward by the fire, that roused and lapped.
The rounding darknesswith its ruddy tongues
More fiercely than before, as though even it
Had felt the sudden shock the air received
From those terrific cries.
On then they came
And rushed upon the sleepers, three of whom
But started, and then weltered prone beneath
The first fell blow dealt down on each by three
Of the most stalwart of their pitiless foes
But one again, and yet again, rose up,
Rose to his knees, under the crushing strokes
Of huge clubbed nulla-nullas, till his own
Warm blood was blinding him. For he was one
Who had with misery nearly all his days
Lived lonely, and who therefore in his soul
Did hunger after hope, and thirst for what
Hope still had promised him, some taste at least
Of human good however long deferred.
And now he could not, even in dying, loose
His hold on life’s poor chances still to come,
Could not but so dispute the terrible fact
Of death, e’en in death’s presence. Strange it is,
Yet oft ’tis seen, that fortune’s pampered child
Consents to death’s untimely power with less
Reluctance, less despair, than does the wretch
Who hath been ever blown about the world,
The straw-like sport of fate’s most bitter blasts
So though the shadows of untimely death,
Inevitably under every stroke
But thickened more and more, against them still
The poor wretch struggled, nor would cease until
One last great blow, dealt down upon his head
As if in mercy, gave him to the dust,
With all his many woes and frustrate hopes.
The master, chilled with horror, saw it all;
From instinct more than conscious thought he raised
His death-charged tube, and at that murderous crew
Firing, saw one fall ox-like to the earth,
Then turned and fled. Fast fled he, but as fast
His deadly foes went thronging on his track.
Fast! for in full pursuit behind him yelled
Men whose wild speech no word for mercy hath!
And as he fled the forest beasts as well
In general terror through the brakes ahead
Crashed scattering, or with maddening speed athwart
His course came frequent. On, still on, he flies—
Flies for dear life, and still behind him hears
Nearer and nearer, the light rapid dig ,
Of many feet—nearer and nearer still.
So went the chase. Now at a sudden turn
Before him lay the steep-banked mountain creek;
Still on he kept perforce, and from a rock
That beaked the bank, a promontory bare,
Plunging right forth and shooting feet-first down,
Sunk to his middle in the flashing stream,
In which the imaged stars seemed all at once
To burst like rockets into one wide blaze.
Then wading through the ruffled waters, forth
He sprang, and seized a snake-like root that from
The opponent bank protruded, clenching there
His cold hand like a clamp of steel; and thence
He swung his dripping form aloft, the blind
And breathless haste of one who flies for life
Urging him on; up the dark ledge he climbed,
When in its face—O verily our God
Hath those in His peculiar care, for whom
The daily prayers of spotless womanhood
And helpless infancy are offered up!
There in its face a cavity he felt,
The upper earth of which in one rude mass
Was held fast bound by the enwoven roots
Of two old trees, and which, beneath the mould,
Over the dark and clammy cave below,
Twisted like knotted snakes.
’Neath these he crept,
Just as the dark forms of his hunters thronged
The steep bold rock whence he before had plunged.
Duskily visible beneath the moon
They paused a space, to mark what bent his course
Might take beyond the stream. But now no form
Amongst the moveless fringe of fern was seen
To shoot up from its outline, ’mid the boles
And mixing shadows of the taller trees,
All standing now in the keen radiance there
So ghostly still as in a solemn trance;
But nothing in the silent prospect stirred
Therefore they augured that their prey was yet
Within the nearer distance, and they all
Plunged forward till the fretted current boiled
Amongst their crowding forms from bank to bank
And searching thus the stream across, and then
Along the ledges, combing down each clump
Of long-flagged swamp-grass where it flourished high,
The whole dark line passed slowly, man by man,
Athwart the cave!
Keen was their search but vain,
There grouped in dark knots standing in the stream
That glimmered past them moaning as it went,
They marvelled; passing strange to them it seemed
Some old mysterious fable of their race,
That brooded o’er the valley and the creek,
Returned upon their minds, and fear-struck all
And silent, they withdrew. And when the sound
Of their retreating steps had died away,
As back they hurried to despoil the dead
In the stormed camp, then rose the fugitive,
Renewed his flight, nor rested from it, till
He gained the shelter of his longed-for home.
And in that glade, far in the doomful wild,
In sorrowing record of an awful hour
Of human agony and loss extreme,
Untimely spousals with a desert death,
Four grassy mounds are there beside the creek,
Bestrewn with sprays and leaves from the old trees
Which moan the ancient dirges that have caught
The heed of dying ages, and for long
The traveller passing then in safety there
Would call the place—The Creek of the Four Graves.
Grass From The Battle-Field
Of withered grass, that hast not yet revealed
Thy story, lo! I see thee once more green
And growing on the battle-field,
On that last day that ever thou didst grow!
I look down thro' thy blades and see between
A little lifted clover leaf
Stand like a cresset: and I know
If this were morn there should be seen
In its chalice such a gem
As decks no mortal diadem
Poised with a lapidary skill
Which merely living doth fulfil
And pass the exquisite strain of subtlest human will.
But in the sun it lifteth up
A dry unjewelled cup,
Therefore I see that day doth not begin;
And yet I know its beaming lord
Hath not yet passed the hill of noon,
Or thy lush blades
Would be more dry and thin,
And every blade a thirsty sword
Edged with the sharp desire that soon
Should draw the silver blood of all the shades.
I feel 't is summer. This whereon I stand
Is not a hill, nor, as I think, a vale;
The soil is soft upon the generous land,
Yet not as where the meeting streams take hand
Under the mossy mantle of the dale.
Such grass is for the meadow. If I try
To lift my heavy eyelids, as in dreams
A power is on them, and I know not why.
Thou art but part; the whole is unconfest:
Beholding thee I long to know the rest.
As one expands the bosom with a sigh,
I stretch my sight's horizon; but it seems,
Ere it can widen round the mystery,
To close in swift contraction, like the breast.
The air is held, as by a charm,
In an enforcèd silence, as like sound
As the dead man the living. 'T is so still,
I listen for it loud.
And when I force my eyes from thy sole place
And see a wider space,
In ragged glory like a torn
And golden-natured cloud,
O'er the dim field a living smoke is warm;
As in a city on a sabbath morn
The hot and summer sunshine goes abroad
Swathed in the murky air,
As if a god
Enrobed himself in common flesh and blood,
Our heavy flesh and blood,
And here and there
Thro' the dull lagging limbs of mortal make,
That keep unequal time, the swifter essence brake.
But hark a bugle horn!
And, ere it ceases, such a shock
As if the plain were iron, and thereon
An iron hammer, heavy as a hill,
Swung by a monstrous force, in stroke came down
And deafened Heaven. I feel a swound
Of every sense bestunned.
The rent ground seems to rock,
And all the definite vision, in such wise
As a dead giant borne on a swift river,
Seems sliding off for ever,
When my reviving eyes,
As one that holds a spirit by his eye
With set inexorable stare,
Fix thee: and so I catch, as by the hair,
The form of that great dream that else had drifted by.
I know not what that form may be;
The lock I hold is all I see,
And thou, small sheaf! art all the battle-field to me.
The wounded silence hath not time to heal
When see! upon thy sod
The round stroke of a charger's heel
With echoing thunder shod!
As the night-lightning shows
A mole upon a momentary face,
So, as that gnarled hoof strikes the indented place,
I see it, and it goes!
And I hear the squadrons trot thro' the heavy shell and shot,
And wheugh! but the grass is gory!
Forward ho! blow to blow, at the foe in they go,
And 'tis hieover heigho for glory!
The rushing storm is past,
But hark! upon its track the far drums beat,
And all the earth that at thy roots thou hast
Stirs, shakes, shocks, sounds, with quick strong tramp of feet
In time unlike the last.
Footing to tap of drum
The charging columns come;
And as they come their mighty martial sound
Blows on before them as a flaming fire
Blows in the wind; for, as old Mars in ire
Strode o'er the world encompassed in a cloud,
So the swift legion, o'er the quaking ground,
Strode in a noise of battle. Nigh and nigher
I heard it, like the long swell gathering loud
What-time a land-wind blowing from the main
Blows to the burst of fury and is o'er,
As if an ocean on one fatal shore
Fell in a moment whole, and threw its roar
Whole to the further sea: and as the strain
Of my strong sense cracked in the deafened ear,
And all the rushing tumult of the plain
Topped its great arch above me, a swift foot
Was struck between thy blades to the struck root,
And lifted: as into a sheath
A sudden sword is thrust and drawn again
Ere one can gasp a breath.
I was so near,
I saw the wrinkles of the leather grain,
The very cobbler's stitches, and the wear
By which I knew the wearer trod not straight;
An honest shoe it seemed that had been good
To mete the miles of any country lane,
Nor did one sign explain
'T was made to wade thro' blood.
My shoe, soft footstooled on this hearth, so far
From strife, hath such a patch, and as he past
His broken shoelace whipt his eager haste.
An honest shoe, good faith! that might have stood
Upon the threshold of a village inn
And welcomed all the world: or by the byre
And barn gone peaceful till the day closed in,
And, scraped at eve upon some homely gate,
Ah, Heaven! might sit beside a cottage fire
And touch the lazy log to softer flames than war.
Long, long, thou wert alone,
I thought thy days were done,
Flat as ignoble grass that lies out mown
By peaceful hands in June, I saw thee lie.
A worm crawled o'er thee, and the gossamer
That telegraphs Queen Mab to Oberon,
Lengthening his living message, passed thee by.
But rain fell: and thy strawed blades one by one
Began to stir and stir.
And as some moorland bird
Whom the still hunter's stalking steps have stirred,
When he stands mute, and nothing more is heard,
With slow succession and reluctant art
Grows upward from her bed,
Each move a muffled start,
And thro' the silent autumn covert red
Uplifts a throbbing head
That times the ambushed hunter's thudding heart;
Or as a snow-drop bending low
Beneath a flake of other snow
Thaws to its height when spring winds melt the skies,
And drip by drip doth mete a measured rise;
Or as the eyelids of a child's fair eyes
Lift from her lower lashes slow and pale
To arch the wonder of a fairy tale;
So thro' the western light
I saw thee slowly rearing to thy height.
Then when thou hadst regained thy state,
And while a meadow-spider with three lines
Enschemed thy three tall pillars green,
And made the enchanted air between
Mortal with shining signs,
(For the loud carrion-flies were many and late),
Betwixt thy blades and stems
There fell a hand,
Soft, small and white, and ringed with gold and gems;
And on those stones of price
I saw a proud device,
And words I could not understand.
Idly, one by one,
The knots of anguish came undone,
The fingers stretched as from a cramp of woe,
And sweet and slow
Moved to gracious shapes of rest,
Like a curl of soft pale hair
Drying in the sun.
And then they spread,
And sought a wonted greeting in the air,
Between thy blades, and with each blade
As with meeting fingers played
And tresses long and fair.
Then again at placid length it lay,
Stretched as to kisses of accustomed lips;
And again in sudden strain
Sprang, falling clenched with pain,
Till the knuckles white,
Thro' the evening gray,
Whitened and whitened as the snowy tips
Of far hills glimmer thro' the night.
But who shall tell that agony
That beat thee, beat thee into bloody clay
Red as the sards and rubies of the rings;
As when a bird, fast by the fowler's net,
A moment doth forget
His fetters, and with desperate wings
A-sudden springs and falls,
And (while from happy clouds the skylark calls)
Still feebler springs
And fainter falls,
And still untamed upon the gory ground
With failing strength renews his deadly wound?
At length the struggle ceased; and my fixed eye
Perceived that every finger wan
Did quiver like the quivering fan
Of a dying butterfly,
Nor long I watched until
Even the humming in the air was still.
Then I gazed and gazed,
Nor once my aching eyeballs raised
Till a poor bird that had a meadow nest
Came down, and like a shadow ran
Among the shadowy grass.
I followed with mine eyes; and with a strain
Pursued her, till six cubits' length beyond
Thy central sheaf, I found
A sight I could not pass.
The hacked and haggard head
Of a huge war-horse dead.
The evening haze hung o'er him like a breath,
And still in death
He stretched drawn lips of rage that grinned in vain;
A sparrow chirped upon
His wound, and in his dying slaver fed,
Or picked those teeth of stone
That bit with lifeless jaws the purple tongue of pain.
But I remembered that dead hand
I left to trace the childless lark,
And back o'er those six cubits of grass-land,
Blade by blade, and stalk by stalk,
As one doth walk
Who, mindful, counts by dark
Along the garden palings to the gate,
I felt along the vision to where late
There lay that dead hand white;
But now methought that there was something more
Than when I looked before,
And what was more was sweeter than the rest;
As when upon the moony half of night
Aurora lays a living light,
Softer than moonshine, yet more bright.
And as I looked I was aware
Another hand was on the hand,
A smaller hand, more fair
But not more white, as is the warm delight
That curves and curls and coyly glows
About the blushing heart of the white rose
More fair but not more white
Than those broad beauties that expand
And fall, and falling blanch the morning air.
Both hands lay motionless,
The living on the dead. But by and by
The living hand began to move and press
The cold dead flesh, and took its silent way
So often o'er the unrespective clay,
In such long-drawn caress
Of pleading passion, such an ecstacy
Of supplicating touch, that as they lay
So like, so unlike, twined with the fond art
And all the dear delay
And dreadful patience of a desperate heart,
Methought that to the tenement
From which it lately went,
The naked life had come back, and did try
By every gate to enter. While I thought,
With sudden clutch of new intent
The living grasp had caught
The dead compliance. Slowly thro'
The dusky air she raised it, and aloft,
While all her fingers soft
And every starting vein
Tightened as in a rack of pain,
Held it one straining moment fixed and mute,
And let it go.
And with a thud upon the sod,
It fell like falling fruit.
Then there came a cry,
Tearless, bloodless, dry
Of every sap of sorrow but its own-
It had no likeness among living cries;
And to my heart my streaming blood was blown
As if before my eyes
A dead man sprang up dead, and dead fell down.
The carrion-hunting winds that prowl the wold,
Frenzied for prey, sweep in and bear it on,
Far, far and further thro' the shrieking cold,
And still the yelling pack devour it as they run.
And silence, like a want of air,
Was round me, and my sense burned low,
And darkness darkened; and the glow
Of the living hand being gone,
The dead hand showed like a pale stone
Full fathom five
Under a quiet bay.
But still my sight did dive
To reach it where it lay,
And still the night grew dark, and by degrees
The dead thing glimmered with a drownèd light,
As faces seem and sink in depths of darkening seas.
Then, while yet
My set eyes saw it, as the sage doth set
His glass to some dim glimpse afar
That palpitates from mote to star,
It was touched and hid;
Touched and hid, as when a deep sea-weed
Hides some white sea-sorrow. All
My sight uprose, and all my soul
(As one who presses at the pane
When a city show goes by),
Crowded into the fixed eye,
And filled the starting ball.
Nor filled in vain.
I began to feel
The air had something to reveal.
Beyond the blank indifference
Was underlined another sense,
Was rained a gracious influence;
And tho' the darkness was so deep,
I knew it was not wholly dead,
Nor empty, as we feel in sleep
That some one standeth by the bed.
I beheld, as who should look
In trance upon a sealèd book.
I perceived that in a place
The night was lighter, as the face
Of an Indian Queen when love
Draws back the dark blood from her sick
Behind the sable curtain that doth not move.
No outer light was shed,
But as the mystery
Before my stronger will did slowly yield,
I saw, as in that dark hour before morn
When the shocks of harvest corn
Exhale about the midnight field
The wealth of yellow suns, and breathe a gentle day.
I saw the shape of a fair bended head,
And hair pale streaming long and low
Veiling the face I might not know,
And dabbling all the ground with sweet uncertain woe.
Much I questioned in my mind
Of her form and kind,
But my stern compelling eye
Brought no other answer from the air,
Nor did my rude hand dare
Profane that agony.
I watched apart
With such a sweet awe in my heart
As looks up dumb into the sky
When that goddess, lorn and lone,
Who slew grim winter like a polar bear,
And threw his immemorial white
Upon her granite throne,
Sits all unseen as Death,
Save for the loss of many a hidden star
And for the wintry mystery of her breath,
And at a far-sight that she sees,
Bowed by her great despair,
Bendeth her awful head upon her knees,
And all her wondrous hair
Dishevels golden down the northern night.
At length my weary gaze
Rents: and, haze in haze
Pervolving as in glad release,
I saw each separate shade
Slide from his place and fade,
And all the flowering dark did winter back
Into its undistinguished black.
So the sculptor doth in fancy make
His formèd image in the formless stone,
And while his spells compel,
Can see it there full well,
The ivory kernel in the ivory shell,
But shakes himself and all the god is gone.
And have I seen thee but an hour?
And shalt thou never tell
Thy story, oh thou broken flower,
Thou midnight asphodel
Among the battle grass?
Too soon! too soon!
But while I bid thee stay,
Night, like a cloud, dissolves into the day,
And from the city clock I hear the stroke of noon.