Sit Warmly Here With Me Awhile
Sit warmly here with me awhile
and I will smother you in fireflies
until your aura looks like
a dandelion constellation
or a globular cluster of first magnitude stars.
My scars have exhumed the knives of old wounds.
And though I confide in the void
like an echo returning to its own voice
or a breath to the sacred groves of the lungs at sunset
and superseded my quota of regrets
to make an expandable universe liveable
every firefly of insight's
got the engine of a dragon behind it
and it burns like a dark clarity within me.
Wrap your silence and mystery around me
like a chrysalis or cloak
and let me rest in your indivisibility awhile
until I disappear deep in your eyes
like a nightbird into its longing.
Let me sit around the lonely fire of your heart
as if I were the only house of the zodiac
who comes to you like an illicit love affair
with its lights still on
long after all the others have gone out.
My solitude is bruised by an abyss
that keeps digging deeper into me
and sometimes it feels as if
it's looking for water and a well
and then other times it's a midnight burial
of someone I can only catch a glimpse of
once and a while under a full moon
that looks like an undertaker
through the leafless veils of the weeping willows
digging his own grave
but feels just like a spade hitting my skull
like a strange form of paydirt
buried like the black pearl of the new moon
in a hope chest of star mud.
Take the coin from under my tongue
like the last sacred syllable
of my unconditional humanity
and throw it down this black hole in my heart
like the moon in a wishing well
and embrace me as if I were not dead awhile.
Out of the ashes the smoke and the flames
like two candles under the stars
let's make up myths of origin
where the gods have no names
until the wildflowers that have outgrown
the gates of the Garden of Eden
look back at where they come from
like a long way away
and give them one
like the elders of an Ojibway tribe
decide on the names of the new born
each according to the totem of a dream.
Pull this thorn from my eye
like the eyelash of the last crescent of the moon
and let me see you face to face
without a thousand and one tears between us.
I shall glorify you like a mosque in lapis lazuli
that can no more contain your image
than the day the night
or one constellation
the whole of the Milky Way.
I shall paint your portrait in picture-music
like the moon reflected on the black water gardens
of the Taj Mahal in mystic hues
of nocturnal waterlilies and cobalt blues
to highlight your eyelids when you sleep
and on your lips rose drops of blood
to wake you like a kiss from your dream
when the waterbirds rise from the lake.
Receive me like a sword into your depths
I throw in tribute from a bridge that crosses over
to the other side of myself
as if you were the far shore of my mindstream
come near to sit with me here awhile
and reminisce like water
on the things that have been and passed
as we listen to the tender laughter of the waves.
I will lift up my shirt
and show you the scars of all the holy wars
I've fought with myself like a faithful heretic
who knew he was doomed to lose
and the spots where the spearheads of insight
penetrated my heart like a voodoo doll
baptized in hot whiskey and cold blood
to take a message to the gods
about human suffering
in a language they could understand
wasn't just the echo of their own voices.
Sit with me here awhile like a face beside a mirror
looking out upon the same starfields
without a trace of our own reflections in the view
and I will teach you
the healing powers of a wounded mouth
like the secret grammar of a grail that seeks itself.
- quotes about heresy
- quotes about gardens
- quotes about Moon
- quotes about peace
- quotes about elders
- quotes about language
- quotes about cross
- quotes about engines
- quotes about dolls
Silence here, long whispers of moonlight
suggesting things invisible appear,
occult constellations I read in reverse
on the chilly night air. Wildflowers
in the high abandoned starfields
soaked in the dew of ten thousand eyes
as the lone nighthawk of my overview of life
tilts its wings toward you as if the wrist
of the falconer were the bough of a tree
in the sacred groves on the island of Mona,
though I know you sleep in the shadows
of the mountains of Arizona.
Hear me, sweet one, do you in your dream?
I've filled your pillow with clouds
and the whimsy of mystical flight feathers
to replace the hard rock of the world
you lay your head down upon,
and pull the sword out of the wound
like the thorn of a star
from the palm of your hand,
from the kissing stone of your meteoritic heart.
And I circumambulate it thrice
like a rogue planet with shepherd moons
like lambs that lie down with the wolf
as if you were all directions of prayer at once
and I was marking out magic circles around
your house of life like a wolf star on the wind
high above the timberline
in an agony of longing to touch you
like candlelight in the secret shrine
where you go to heal the eyes of the flowers
the blazing of the desert sun
blinds like midnight at noon.
Too long I've been a lighthouse on the moon
for shipwrecks well past warning.
Too long I've been a night light in a morgue
to usher the ghosts of the dead to the best seats
in the darkened theatre of classic reruns
of the karmic movies they made
like double features of their lives.
Too long I've been the antidote of those
who were snake-bit by happy endings
that were mesmerized stone cold in the eyes
of snakeoil salesmen in a cult of spitting cobras.
Too long I've been the nightwatchman
who walks the long lonely halls
in a library of Coles notes and cheat sheets
where the ingenuous come to apprentice themselves
to the arcane grammars of an antiquated magic
that long ago dropped out of nightschool.
Too long I've been shedding
these old musty graduate robes
to walk alone in the skin of dragons
who know that true enlightenment
doesn't maintain a teacher, as the masters say,
making a deep bow
and then going their own way
knowing their small magic is merely
the porchlight to a palace of wisdom
where you leave your eyes on the threshold
of a doorway into a zodiac of eclipses
where all the house lights have been turned off
and aren't the signs of anything
you can see better in the dark than you can
by the light of fireflies trying
to organize their insights
into a constellation of first magnitude stars.
Existential mobiles! Humanizing chandeliers!
Who asks for passports from the mirrors
that coyote us through the desert
like mirages without any tears?
I'm a mountain range of ice bergs on the move.
I'm breaking up camp like a star cluster
to follow a gazelle across
the grasslands of the Sahara
long before paradise poured like sand
between the fingers of an hourglass
to tell it how beautiful it is
when it runs like a flash flood over the rocks
of a dry creek bed with a frayed delta
of lines around its eyes
like a waterclock of life
that knows it's never too late to meet the sea.
And how much thrives in the wake of the journey.
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about eclipse
- quotes about Arizona
- quotes about libraries
- quotes about theatre
- quotes about school
- quotes about mountains
- quotes about cinema
Into the skies, one summer's day,
I sent a little Thought away;
Up to where, in the blue round,
The sun sat shining without sound.
Then my Thought came back to me.—
Little Thought, what did you see
In the regions whence you come?
And when I spoke, my Thought was dumb.
But she breathed of what was there,
In the pure bright upper air;
And, because my Thought so shone,
I knew she had been shone upon.
Next, by night a Thought I sent
Up into the firmament;
When the eager stars were out,
And the still moon shone about.
And my Thought went past the moon
In between the stars, but soon
Held her breath and durst not stir,
For the fear that covered her;
Then she thought, in this demur:
'Dare I look beneath the shade,
Into where the worlds are made;
Where the suns and stars are wrought?
Shall I meet another Thought?
'Will that other Thought have wings?
Shall I meet strange, heavenly things?
Thought of Thoughts, and Light of Lights,
Breath of Breaths, and Night of Nights?'
Then my Thought began to hark
In the illuminated dark,
Till the silence, over, under,
Made her heart beat more than thunder.
And my Thought, came trembling back,
But with something on her track,
And with something at her side;
Nor till she has lived and died,
Lived and died, and lived again,
Will that awful thing seem plain.
The Plea Of The Midsummer Fairies
'Twas in that mellow season of the year
When the hot sun singes the yellow leaves
Till they be gold,—and with a broader sphere
The Moon looks down on Ceres and her sheaves;
When more abundantly the spider weaves,
And the cold wind breathes from a chillier clime;—
That forth I fared, on one of those still eves,
Touch'd with the dewy sadness of the time,
To think how the bright months had spent their prime,
So that, wherever I address'd my way,
I seem'd to track the melancholy feet
Of him that is the Father of Decay,
And spoils at once the sour weed and the sweet;—
Wherefore regretfully I made retreat
To some unwasted regions of my brain,
Charm'd with the light of summer and the heat,
And bade that bounteous season bloom again,
And sprout fresh flowers in mine own domain.
It was a shady and sequester'd scene,
Like those famed gardens of Boccaccio,
Planted with his own laurels evergreen,
And roses that for endless summer blow;
And there were fountain springs to overflow
Their marble basins,—and cool green arcades
Of tall o'erarching sycamores, to throw
Athwart the dappled path their dancing shades,—
With timid coneys cropping the green blades.
And there were crystal pools, peopled with fish,
Argent and gold; and some of Tyrian skin,
Some crimson-barr'd;—and ever at a wish
They rose obsequious till the wave grew thin
As glass upon their backs, and then dived in,
Quenching their ardent scales in watery gloom;
Whilst others with fresh hues row'd forth to win
My changeable regard,—for so we doom
Things born of thought to vanish or to bloom.
And there were many birds of many dyes,
From tree to tree still faring to and fro,
And stately peacocks with their splendid eyes,
And gorgeous pheasants with their golden glow,
Like Iris just bedabbled in her bow,
Beside some vocalists, without a name,
That oft on fairy errands come and go,
With accents magical;—and all were tame,
And peckled at my hand where'er I came.
And for my sylvan company, in lieu
Of Pampinea with her lively peers,
Sate Queen Titania with her pretty crew,
All in their liveries quaint, with elfin gears,
For she was gracious to my childish years,
And made me free of her enchanted round;
Wherefore this dreamy scene she still endears,
And plants her court upon a verdant mound,
Fenced with umbrageous woods and groves profound.
'Ah me,' she cries, 'was ever moonlight seen
So clear and tender for our midnight trips?
Go some one forth, and with a trump convene
My lieges all!'—Away the goblin skips
A pace or two apart, and deftly strips
The ruddy skin from a sweet rose's cheek,
Then blows the shuddering leaf between his lips,
Making it utter forth a shrill small shriek,
Like a fray'd bird in the gray owlet's beak.
And lo! upon my fix'd delighted ken
Appear'd the loyal Fays.—Some by degrees
Crept from the primrose buds that open'd then,
Ana some from bell-shaped blossoms like the bees,
Some from the dewy meads, and rushy leas,
Flew up like chafers when the rustics pass;
Some from the rivers, others from tall trees
Dropp'd, like shed blossoms, silent to the grass,
Spirits and elfins small, of every class.
Peri and Pixy, and quaint Puck the Antic,
Brought Robin Goodfellow, that merry swain;
And stealthy Mab, queen of old realms romantic,
Came too, from distance, in her tiny wain,
Fresh dripping from a cloud—some bloomy rain,
Then circling the bright Moon, had wash'd her car,
And still bedew'd it with a various stain:
Lastly came Ariel, shooting from a star,
Who bears all fairy embassies afar.
But Oberon, that night elsewhere exiled,
Was absent, whether some distemper'd spleen
Kept him and his fair mate unreconciled,
Or warfare with the Gnome (whose race had been
Sometime obnoxious), kept him from his queen,
And made her now peruse the starry skies
Prophetical, with such an absent mien;
Howbeit, the tears stole often to her eyes,
And oft the Moon was incensed with her sighs—
Which made the elves sport drearily, and soon
Their hushing dances languish'd to a stand,
Like midnight leaves, when, as the Zephyrs swoon,
All on their drooping stems they sink unfann'd,—
So into silence droop'd the fairy band,
To see their empress dear so pale and still,
Crowding her softly round on either hand,
As pale as frosty snowdrops, and as chill,
To whom the sceptred dame reveals her ill.
'Alas,' quoth she, 'ye know our fairy lives
Are leased upon the fickle faith of men;
Not measured out against Fate's mortal knives,
Like human gosamers,—we perish when
We fade and are forgot in worldly kens—
Though poesy has thus prolong'd our date,
Thanks be to the sweet Bard's auspicious pen
That rescued us so long!—howbeit of late
I feel some dark misgivings of our fate.'
'And this dull day my melancholy sleep
Hath been so thronged with images of woe,
That even now I cannot choose but weep
To think this was some sad prophetic show
Of future horror to befall us so,
Of mortal wreck and uttermost distress,
Yea, our poor empire's fall and overthrow,
For this was my long vision's dreadful stress,
And when I waked my trouble was not less.'
'Whenever to the clouds I tried to seek,
Such leaden weight dragg'd these Icarian wings,
My faithless wand was wavering and weak,
And slimy toads had trespass'd in our rings—
The birds refused to sing for me—all things
Disown'd their old allegiance to our spells;
The rude bees prick'd me with their rebel stings;
And, when I pass'd, the valley-lily's bells
Rang out, methought, most melancholy knells.'
'And ever on the faint and flagging air
A doleful spirit with a dreary note
Cried in my fearful ear, 'Prepare! prepare!'
Which soon I knew came from a raven's throat,
Perch'd on a cypress-bough not far remote,—
A cursed bird, too crafty to be shot,
That alway cometh with his soot-black coat
To make hearts dreary:—for he is a blot
Upon the book of life, as well ye wot!—'
'Wherefore some while I bribed him to be mute,
With bitter acorns stuffing his foul maw,
Which barely I appeased, when some fresh bruit
Startled me all aheap!—and soon I saw
The horridest shape that ever raised my awe,—
A monstrous giant, very huge and tall,
Such as in elder times, devoid of law,
With wicked might grieved the primeval ball,
And this was sure the deadliest of them all!'
'Gaunt was he as a wolf of Languedoc,
With bloody jaws, and frost upon his crown
So from his barren poll one hoary lock
Over his wrinkled front fell far adown,
Well nigh to where his frosty brows did frown
Like jagged icicles at cottage eaves;
And for his coronal he wore some brown
And bristled ears gather'd from Ceres' sheaves,
Entwined with certain sere and russet leaves.'
'And lo! upon a mast rear'd far aloft,
He bore a very bright and crescent blade,
The which he waved so dreadfully, and oft,
In meditative spite, that, sore dismay'd,
I crept into an acorn-cup for shade;
Meanwhile the horrid effigy went by:
I trow his look was dreadful, for it made
The trembling birds betake them to the sky,
For every leaf was lifted by his sigh.'
'And ever, as he sigh'd, his foggy breath
Blurr'd out the landscape like a flight of smoke:
Thence knew I this was either dreary Death
Or Time, who leads all creatures to his stroke.
Ah wretched me!'—Here, even as she spoke,
The melancholy Shape came gliding in,
And lean'd his back against an antique oak,
Folding his wings, that were so fine and thin,
They scarce were seen against the Dryad's skin.
Then what a fear seized all the little rout!
Look how a flock of panick'd sheep will stare—
And huddle close—and start—and wheel about,
Watching the roaming mongrel here and there,—
So did that sudden Apparition scare
All close aheap those small affrighted things;
Nor sought they now the safety of the air,
As if some leaden spell withheld their wings;
But who can fly that ancientest of Kings?
Whom now the Queen, with a forestalling tear
And previous sigh, beginneth to entreat,
Bidding him spare, for love, her lieges dear:
'Alas!' quoth she, 'is there no nodding wheat
Ripe for thy crooked weapon, and more meet,—
Or wither'd leaves to ravish from the tree,—
Or crumbling battlements for thy defeat?
Think but what vaunting monuments there be
Builded in spite and mockery of thee.'
'O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Cæsars with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless—raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition's overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time,—
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.'
'Frail feeble spirits!—the children of a dream!
Leased on the sufferance of fickle men,
Like motes dependent on the sunny beam,
Living but in the sun's indulgent ken,
And when that light withdraws, withdrawing then;—
So do we flutter in the glance of youth
And fervid fancy,—and so perish when
The eye of faith grows aged;—in sad truth,
Feeling thy sway, O Time! though not thy tooth!'
'Where be those old divinities forlorn,
That dwelt in trees, or haunted in a stream?
Alas! their memories are dimm'd and torn,
Like the remainder tatters of a dream:
So will it fare with our poor thrones, I deem;—
For us the same dark trench Oblivion delves,
That holds the wastes of every human scheme.
O spare us then,—and these our pretty elves,—
We soon, alas! shall perish of ourselves!'
Now as she ended, with a sigh, to name
Those old Olympians, scatter'd by the whirl
Of Fortune's giddy wheel and brought to shame,
Methought a scornful and malignant curl
Show'd on the lips of that malicious churl,
To think what noble havocs he had made;
So that I fear'd he all at once would hurl
The harmless fairies into endless shade,—
Howbeit he stopp'd awhile to whet his blade.
Pity it was to hear the elfins' wail
Rise up in concert from their mingled dread,
Pity it was to see them, all so pale,
Gaze on the grass as for a dying bed;—
But Puck was seated on a spider's thread,
That hung between two branches of a briar,
And 'gan to swing and gambol, heels o'er head,
Like any Southwark tumbler on a wire,
For him no present grief could long inspire.
Meanwhile the Queen with many piteous drops,
Falling like tiny sparks full fast and free,
Bedews a pathway from her throne;—and stops
Before the foot of her arch enemy,
And with her little arms enfolds his knee,
That shows more grisly from that fair embrace;
But she will ne'er depart. 'Alas!' quoth she,
'My painful fingers I will here enlace
Till I have gain'd your pity for our race.'
'What have we ever done to earn this grudge,
And hate—(if not too humble for thy hating?)—
Look o'er our labors and our lives, and judge
If there be any ills of our creating;
For we are very kindly creatures, dating
With nature's charities still sweet and bland:—
O think this murder worthy of debating!'
Herewith she makes a signal with her hand,
To beckon some one from the Fairy band.
Anon I saw one of those elfin things,
Clad all in white like any chorister,
Come fluttering forth on his melodious wings,
That made soft music at each little stir,
But something louder than a bee's demur
Before he lights upon a bunch of broom,
And thus 'gan he with Saturn to confer,—
And O his voice was sweet, touch'd with the gloom
Of that sad theme that argued of his doom!
Quoth he, 'We make all melodies our care,
That no false discords may offend the Sun,
Music's great master—tuning everywhere
All pastoral sounds and melodies, each one
Duly to place and season, so that none
May harshly interfere. We rouse at morn
The shrill sweet lark; and when the day is done,
Hush silent pauses for the bird forlorn,
That singeth with her breast against a thorn.'
'We gather in loud choirs the twittering race,
That make a chorus with their single note;
And tend on new-fledged birds in every place,
That duly they may get their tunes by rote;
And oft, like echoes, answering remote,
We hide in thickets from the feather'd throng,
And strain in rivalship each throbbing throat,
Singing in shrill responses all day long,
Whilst the glad truant listens to our song.'
'Wherefore, great King of Years, as thou dost love
The raining music from a morning cloud,
When vanish'd larks are carolling above,
To wake Apollo with their pipings loud;—
If ever thou hast heard in leafy shroud
The sweet and plaintive Sappho of the dell,
Show thy sweet mercy on this little crowd,
And we will muffle up the sheepfold bell
Whene'er thou listenest to Philomel.'
Then Saturn thus;—'Sweet is the merry lark,
That carols in man's ear so clear and strong;
And youth must love to listen in the dark
That tuneful elegy of Tereus' wrong;
But I have heard that ancient strain too long,
For sweet is sweet but when a little strange,
And I grow weary for some newer song;
For wherefore had I wings, unless to range
Through all things mutable, from change to change?'
'But would'st thou hear the melodies of Time,
Listen when sleep and drowsy darkness roll
Over hush'd cities, and the midnight chime
Sounds from their hundred clocks, and deep bells toll
Like a last knell over the dead world's soul,
Saying, 'Time shall be final of all things,
Whose late, last voice must elegize the whole,'—
O then I clap aloft my brave broad wings,
And make the wide air tremble while it rings!'
Then next a fair Eve-Fay made meek address,
Saying, 'We be the handmaids of the Spring;
In sign whereof, May, the quaint broideress,
Hath wrought her samplers on our gauzy wing.
We tend upon buds birth and blossoming,
And count the leafy tributes that they owe—
As, so much to the earth—so much to fling
In showers to the brook—so much to go
In whirlwinds to the clouds that made them grow.'
'The pastoral cowslips are our little pets,
And daisy stars, whose firmament is green;
Pansies, and those veil'd nuns, meek violets,
Sighing to that warm world from which they screen;
And golden daffodils, pluck'd for May's Queen;
And lonely harebells, quaking on the heath;
And Hyacinth, long since a fair youth seen,
Whose tuneful voice, turn'd fragrance in his breath,
Kiss'd by sad Zephyr, guilty of his death.'
'The widow'd primrose weeping to the moon
And saffron crocus in whose chalice bright
A cool libation hoarded for the noon
Is kept—and she that purifies the light,
The virgin lily, faithful to her white,
Whereon Eve wept in Eden for her shame;
And the most dainty rose, Aurora's spright,
Our every godchild, by whatever name—
Spares us our lives, for we did nurse the same!'
Then that old Mower stamp'd his heel, and struck
His hurtful scythe against the harmless ground,
Saying, 'Ye foolish imps, when am I stuck
With gaudy buds, or like a wooer crown'd
With flow'ry chaplets, save when they are found
Withered?—Whenever have I pluck'd a rose,
Except to scatter its vain leaves around?
For so all gloss of beauty I oppose,
And bring decay on every flow'r that blows.'
'Or when am I so wroth as when I view
The wanton pride of Summer;—how she decks
The birthday world with blossoms ever-new,
As if Time had not lived, and heap'd great wrecks
Of years on years?—O then I bravely vex
And catch the gay Months in their gaudy plight,
And slay them with the wreaths about their necks,
Like foolish heifers in the holy rite,
And raise great trophies to my ancient might.'
Then saith another, 'We are kindly things,
And like her offspring nestle with the dove,—
Witness these hearts embroidered on our wings,
To show our constant patronage of love:—
We sit at even, in sweet bow'rs above
Lovers, and shake rich odors on the air,
To mingle with their sighs; and still remove
The startling owl, and bid the bat forbear
Their privacy, and haunt some other where.'
'And we are near the mother when she sits
Beside her infant in its wicker bed;
And we are in the fairy scene that flits
Across its tender brain: sweet dreams we shed,
And whilst the tender little soul is fled,
Away, to sport with our young elves, the while
We touch the dimpled cheek with roses red,
And tickle the soft lips until they smile,
So that their careful parents they beguile.'
'O then, if ever thou hast breathed a vow
At Love's dear portal, or at pale moon-rise
Crush'd the dear curl on a regardful brow,
That did not frown thee from thy honey prize—
If ever thy sweet son sat on thy thighs,
And wooed thee from thy careful thoughts within
To watch the harmless beauty of his eyes,
Or glad thy fingers on his smooth soft skin,
For Love's dear sake, let us thy pity win!'
Then Saturn fiercely thus:—'What joy have I
In tender babes, that have devour'd mine own,
Whenever to the light I heard them cry,
Till foolish Rhea cheated me with stone?
Whereon, till now, is my great hunger shown,
In monstrous dint of my enormous tooth;
And—but the peopled world is too full grown
For hunger's edge—I would consume all youth
At one great meal, without delay or ruth!'
'For I am well nigh crazed and wild to hear
How boastful fathers taunt me with their breed,
Saying, 'We shall not die nor disappear,
But, in these other selves, ourselves succeed
Ev'n as ripe flowers pass into their seed
Only to be renew'd from prime to prime,'
All of which boastings I am forced to read,
Besides a thousand challenges to Time,
Which bragging lovers have compiled in rhyme.'
'Wherefore, when they are sweetly met o' nights,
There will I steal and with my hurried hand
Startle them suddenly from their delights
Before the next encounter hath been plann'd,
Ravishing hours in little minutes spann'd;
But when they say farewell, and grieve apart,
Then like a leaden statue I will stand,
Meanwhile their many tears encrust my dart,
And with a ragged edge cut heart from heart.'
Then next a merry Woodsman, clad in green,
Step vanward from his mates, that idly stood
Each at his proper ease, as they had been
Nursed in the liberty of old Shérwood,
And wore the livery of Robin Hood,
Who wont in forest shades to dine and sup,—
So came this chief right frankly, and made good
His haunch against his axe, and thus spoke up,
Doffing his cap, which was an acorn's cup:—
'We be small foresters and gay, who tend
On trees, and all their furniture of green,
Training the young boughs airily to bend,
And show blue snatches of the sky between;—
Or knit more close intricacies, to screen
Birds' crafty dwellings, as may hide them best,
But most the timid blackbird's—she that, seen,
Will bear black poisonous berries to her nest,
Lest man should cage the darlings of her breast.'
'We bend each tree in proper attitude,
And founting willows train in silvery falls;
We frame all shady roofs and arches rude,
And verdant aisles leading to Dryads' halls,
Or deep recesses where the Echo calls;—
We shape all plumy trees against the sky,
And carve tall elms' Corinthian capitals,—
When sometimes, as our tiny hatchets ply,
Men say, the tapping woodpecker is nigh.'
'Sometimes we scoop the squirrel's hollow cell,
And sometimes carve quaint letters on trees' rind,
That haply some lone musing wight may spell
Dainty Aminta,—Gentle Rosalind,—
Or chastest Laura,—sweetly call'd to mind
In sylvan solitudes, ere he lies down;—
And sometimes we enrich gray stems with twined
And vagrant ivy,—or rich moss, whose brown
Burns into gold as the warm sun goes down.'
'And, lastly, for mirth's sake and Christmas cheer,
We bear the seedling berries, for increase,
To graft the Druid oaks, from year to year,
Careful that mistletoe may never cease;—
Wherefore, if thou dost prize the shady peace
Of sombre forests, or to see light break
Through sylvan cloisters, and in spring release
Thy spirit amongst leaves from careful ake,
Spare us our lives for the Green Dryad's sake.'
Then Saturn, with a frown:—'Go forth, and fell
Oak for your coffins, and thenceforth lay by
Your axes for the rust, and bid farewell
To all sweet birds, and the blue peeps of sky
Through tangled branches, for ye shall not spy
The next green generation of the tree;
But hence with the dead leaves, whene'e they fly,—
Which in the bleak air I would rather see,
Than flights of the most tuneful birds that be.'
'For I dislike all prime, and verdant pets,
Ivy except, that on the aged wall
Prays with its worm-like roots, and daily frets
The crumbled tower it seems to league withal,
King-like, worn down by its own coronal:—
Neither in forest haunts love I to won,
Before the golden plumage 'gins to fall,
And leaves the brown bleak limbs with few leaves on,
Or bare—like Nature in her skeleton.'
'For then sit I amongst the crooked boughs,
Wooing dull Memory with kindred sighs;
And there in rustling nuptials we espouse,
Smit by the sadness in each other's eyes;—
But Hope must have green bowers and blue skies,
And must be courted with the gauds of Spring;
Whilst Youth leans god-like on her lap, and cries,
'What shall we always do, but love and sing?'—
And Time is reckon'd a discarded thing.'
Here in my dream it made me fret to see
How Puck, the antic, all this dreary while
Had blithely jested with calamity,
With mis-timed mirth mocking the doleful style
Of his sad comrades, till it raised my bile
To see him so reflect their grief aside,
Turning their solemn looks to have a smile—
Like a straight stick shown crooked in the tide;—
But soon a novel advocate I spied.
Quoth he—'We teach all natures to fulfil
Their fore-appointed crafts, and instincts meet,—
The bee's sweet alchemy,—the spider's skill,—
The pismire's care to garner up his wheat,—
And rustic masonry to swallows fleet,—
The lapwing's cunning to preserve her nest,—
But most, that lesser pelican, the sweet
And shrilly ruddock, with its bleeding breast,
Its tender pity of poor babes distrest.'
'Sometimes we cast our shapes, and in sleek skins
Delve with the timid mole, that aptly delves
From our example; so the spider spins,
And eke the silk-worm, pattern'd by ourselves:
Sometimes we travail on the summer shelves
Of early bees, and busy toils commence,
Watch'd of wise men, that know not we are elves,
But gaze and marvel at our stretch of sense,
And praise our human-like intelligence.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in that old tale,
And plaintive dirges the late robins sing,
What time the leaves are scatter'd by the gale,
Mindful of that old forest burying;—
As thou dost love to watch each tiny thing,
For whom our craft most curiously contrives,
If thou hast caught a bee upon the wing,
To take his honey-bag,—spare us our lives,
And we will pay the ransom in full hives.'
'Now by my glass,' quoth Time, 'ye do offend
In teaching the brown bees that careful lore,
And frugal ants, whose millions would have end,
But they lay up for need a timely store,
And travail with the seasons evermore;
Whereas Great Mammoth long hath pass'd away,
And none but I can tell what hide he wore;
Whilst purblind men, the creatures of a day,
In riddling wonder his great bones survey.'
Then came an elf, right beauteous to behold,
Whose coat was like a brooklet that the sun
Hath all embroider'd with its crooked gold,
It was so quaintly wrought and overrun
With spangled traceries,—most meet for one
That was a warden of the pearly streams;—
And as he stept out of the shadows dun,
His jewels sparkled in the pale moon's gleams,
And shot into the air their pointed beams.
Quoth he,—'We bear the gold and silver keys
Of bubbling springs and fountains, that below
Course thro' the veiny earth,—which when they freeze
Into hard crysolites, we bid to flow,
Creeping like subtle snakes, when, as they go,
We guide their windings to melodious falls,
At whose soft murmurings, so sweet and low,
Poets have tuned their smoothest madrigals,
To sing to ladies in their banquet-halls.'
'And when the hot sun with his steadfast heat
Parches the river god,—whose dusty urn
Drips miserly, till soon his crystal feet
Against his pebbly floor wax faint and burn
And languid fish, unpoised, grow sick and yearn,—
Then scoop we hollows in some sandy nook,
And little channels dig, wherein we turn
The thread-worn rivulet, that all forsook
The Naiad-lily, pining for her brook.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in cool green meads,
With living sapphires daintily inlaid,—
In all soft songs of waters and their reeds,—
And all reflections in a streamlet made,
Haply of thy own love, that, disarray'd,
Kills the fair lily with a livelier white,—
By silver trouts upspringing from green shade,
And winking stars reduplicate at night,
Spare us, poor ministers to such delight.'
Howbeit his pleading and his gentle looks
Moved not the spiteful Shade:—Quoth he, 'Your taste
Shoots wide of mine, for I despise the brooks
And slavish rivulets that run to waste
In noontide sweats, or, like poor vassals, haste
To swell the vast dominion of the sea,
In whose great presence I am held disgraced,
And neighbor'd with a king that rivals me
In ancient might and hoary majesty.'
'Whereas I ruled in Chaos, and still keep
The awful secrets of that ancient dearth,
Before the briny fountains of the deep
Brimm'd up the hollow cavities of earth;—
I saw each trickling Sea-God at his birth,
Each pearly Naiad with her oozy locks,
And infant Titans of enormous girth,
Whose huge young feet yet stumbled on the rocks,
Stunning the early world with frequent shocks.'
'Where now is Titan, with his cumbrous brood,
That scared the world?—By this sharp scythe they fell,
And half the sky was curdled with their blood:
So have all primal giants sigh'd farewell.
No wardens now by sedgy fountains dwell,
Nor pearly Naiads. All their days are done
That strove with Time, untimely, to excel;
Wherefore I razed their progenies, and none
But my great shadow intercepts the sun!'
Then saith the timid Fay—'Oh, mighty Time!
Well hast thou wrought the cruel Titans' fall,
For they were stain'd with many a bloody crime:
Great giants work great wrongs,—but we are small,
For love goes lowly;—but Oppression's tall,
And with surpassing strides goes foremost still
Where love indeed can hardly reach at all;
Like a poor dwarf o'erburthen'd with good will,
That labors to efface the tracks of ill.—'
'Man even strives with Man, but we eschew
The guilty feud, and all fierce strifes abhor;
Nay, we are gentle as the sweet heaven's dew,
Beside the red and horrid drops of war,
Weeping the cruel hates men battle for,
Which worldly bosoms nourish in our spite:
For in the gentle breast we ne'er withdraw,
But only when all love hath taken flight,
And youth's warm gracious heart is hardened quite.'
'So are our gentle natures intertwined
With sweet humanities, and closely knit
In kindly sympathy with human kind.
Witness how we befriend, with elfin wit,
All hopeless maids and lovers,—nor omit
Magical succors unto hearts forlorn:—
We charm man's life, and do not perish it;—
So judge us by the helps we showed this morn,
To one who held his wretched days in scorn.'
''Twas nigh sweet Amwell;—for the Queen had task'd
Our skill to-day amidst the silver Lea,
Whereon the noontide sun had not yet bask'd,
Wherefore some patient man we thought to see,
Planted in moss-grown rushes to the knee,
Beside the cloudy margin cold and dim;—
Howbeit no patient fisherman was he
That cast his sudden shadow from the brim,
Making us leave our toils to gaze on him.'
'His face was ashy pale, and leaden care
Had sunk the levell'd arches of his brow,
Once bridges for his joyous thoughts to fare
Over those melancholy springs and slow,
That from his piteous eyes began to flow,
And fell anon into the chilly stream;
Which, as his mimick'd image show'd below,
Wrinkled his face with many a needless seam,
Making grief sadder in its own esteem.'
'And lo! upon the air we saw him stretch
His passionate arms; and, in a wayward strain,
He 'gan to elegize that fellow wretch
That with mute gestures answer'd him again,
Saying, 'Poor slave, how long wilt thou remain
Life's sad weak captive in a prison strong,
Hoping with tears to rust away thy chain,
In bitter servitude to worldly wrong?—
Thou wear'st that mortal livery too long!''
'This, with more spleenful speeches and some tears,
When he had spent upon the imaged wave,
Speedily I convened my elfin peers
Under the lily-cups, that we might save
This woeful mortal from a wilful grave
By shrewd diversions of his mind's regret,
Seeing he was mere Melancholy's slave,
That sank wherever a dark cloud he met,
And straight was tangled in her secret net.'
'Therefore, as still he watch'd the water's flow,
Daintily we transform'd, and with bright fins
Came glancing through the gloom; some from below
Rose like dim fancies when a dream begins,
Snatching the light upon their purple skins;
Then under the broad leaves made slow retire:
One like a golden galley bravely wins
Its radiant course,—another glows like fire,—
Making that wayward man our pranks admire.'
'And so he banish'd thought, and quite forgot
All contemplation of that wretched face;
And so we wiled him from that lonely spot
Along the river's brink; till, by heaven's grace,
He met a gentle haunter of the place,
Full of sweet wisdom gather'd from the brooks,
Who there discuss'd his melancholy case
With wholesome texts learned from kind nature's books,
Meanwhile he newly trimm'd his lines and hooks.'
Herewith the Fairy ceased. Quoth Ariel now—
'Let me remember how I saved a man,
Whose fatal noose was fastened on a bough,
Intended to abridge his sad life's span;
For haply I was by when he began
His stern soliloquy in life dispraise,
And overheard his melancholy plan,
How he had made a vow to end his days,
And therefore follow'd him in all his ways.'
'Through brake and tangled copse, for much he loathed
All populous haunts, and roam'd in forests rude,
To hide himself from man. But I had clothed
My delicate limbs with plumes, and still pursued,
Where only foxes and wild cats intrude,
Till we were come beside an ancient tree
Late blasted by a storm. Here he renew'd
His loud complaints,—choosing that spot to be
The scene of his last horrid tragedy.'
'It was a wild and melancholy glen,
Made gloomy by tall firs and cypress dark,
Whose roots, like any bones of buried men,
Push'd through the rotten sod for fear's remark;
A hundred horrid stems, jagged and stark,
Wrestled with crooked arms in hideous fray,
Besides sleek ashes with their dappled bark,
Like crafty serpents climbing for a prey,
With many blasted oaks moss-grown and gray.'
'But here upon his final desperate clause
Suddenly I pronounced so sweet a strain,
Like a pang'd nightingale, it made him pause,
Till half the frenzy of his grief was slain,
The sad remainder oozing from his brain
In timely ecstasies of healing tears,
Which through his ardent eyes began to drain;—
Meanwhile the deadly Fates unclosed their shears:—
So pity me and all my fated peers!'
Thus Ariel ended, and was some time hush'd:
When with the hoary shape a fresh tongue pleads,
And red as rose the gentle Fairy blush'd
To read the records of her own good deeds:—
'It chanced,' quoth she, 'in seeking through the meads
For honied cowslips, sweetest in the morn,
Whilst yet the buds were hung with dewy beads.'
And Echo answered to the huntsman's horn,
We found a babe left in the swaths forlorn.
'A little, sorrowful, deserted thing,
Begot of love, and yet no love begetting;
Guiltless of shame, and yet for shame to wring;
And too soon banish'd from a mother's petting,
To churlish nurture and the wide world's fretting,
For alien pity and unnatural care;—
Alas! to see how the cold dew kept wetting
His childish coats, and dabbled all his hair,
Like gossamers across his forehead fair.'
'His pretty pouting mouth, witless of speech,
Lay half-way open like a rose-lipp'd shell;
And his young cheek was softer than a peach,
Whereon his tears, for roundness, could not dwell,
But quickly roll'd themselves to pearls, and fell,
Some on the grass, and some against his hand,
Or haply wander'd to the dimpled well,
Which love beside his mouth had sweetly plann'd,
Yet not for tears, but mirth and smilings bland.'
'Pity it was to see those frequent tears
Falling regardless from his friendless eyes;
There was such beauty in those twin blue spheres,
As any mother's heart might leap to prize;
Blue were they, like the zenith of the skies
Softened betwixt two clouds, both clear and mild;—
Just touched with thought, and yet not over wise,
They show'd the gentle spirit of a child,
Not yet by care or any craft defiled.'
'Pity it was to see the ardent sun
Scorching his helpless limbs—it shone so warm;
For kindly shade or shelter he had none,
Nor mother's gentle breast, come fair or storm.
Meanwhile I bade my pitying mates transform
Like grasshoppers, and then, with shrilly cries,
All round the infant noisily we swarm,
Haply some passing rustic to advise—
Whilst providential Heaven our care espies.'
'And sends full soon a tender-hearted hind,
Who, wond'ring at our loud unusual note,
Strays curiously aside, and so doth find
The orphan child laid in the grass remote,
And laps the foundling in his russet coat,
Who thence was nurtured in his kindly cot:—
But how he prosper'd let proud London quote,
How wise, how rich, and how renown'd he got,
And chief of all her citizens, I wot.'
'Witness his goodly vessels on the Thames,
Whose holds were fraught with costly merchandise,—
Jewels from Ind, and pearls for courtly dames,
And gorgeous silks that Samarcand supplies:
Witness that Royal Bourse he bade arise,
The mart of merchants from the East and West:
Whose slender summit, pointing to the skies,
Still bears, in token of his grateful breast,
The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest—'
'The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest,
That all the summer, with a tuneful wing,
Makes merry chirpings in its grassy nest,
Inspirited with dew to leap and sing:—
So let us also live, eternal King!
Partakers of the green and pleasant earth:—
Pity it is to slay the meanest thing,
That, like a mote, shines in the smile of mirth:—
Enough there is of joy's decrease and dearth!'
'Enough of pleasure, and delight, and beauty,
Perish'd and gone, and hasting to decay;—
Enough to sadden even thee, whose duty
Or spite it is to havoc and to slay:
Too many a lovely race razed quite away,
Hath left large gaps in life and human loving;—
Here then begin thy cruel war to stay,
And spare fresh sighs, and tears, and groans, reproving
Thy desolating hand for our removing.'
Now here I heard a shrill and sudden cry,
And, looking up, I saw the antic Puck
Grappling with Time, who clutch'd him like a fly,
Victim of his own sport,—the jester's luck!
He, whilst his fellows grieved, poor wight, had stuck
His freakish gauds upon the Ancient's brow,
And now his ear, and now his beard, would pluck;
Whereas the angry churl had snatched him now,
Crying, 'Thou impish mischief, who art thou?'
'Alas!' quoth Puck, 'a little random elf,
Born in the sport of nature, like a weed,
For simple sweet enjoyment of myself,
But for no other purpose, worth, or need;
And yet withal of a most happy breed;
And there is Robin Goodfellow besides,
My partner dear in many a prankish deed
To make dame Laughter hold her jolly sides,
Like merry mummers twain on holy tides.'
''Tis we that bob the angler's idle cork,
Till e'en the patient man breathes half a curse;
We steal the morsel from the gossip's fork,
And curdling looks with secret straws disperse,
Or stop the sneezing chanter at mid verse:
And when an infant's beauty prospers ill,
We change, some mothers say, the child at nurse:
But any graver purpose to fulfil,
We have not wit enough, and scarce the will.'
'We never let the canker melancholy
To gather on our faces like a rust,
But glass our features with some change of folly,
Taking life's fabled miseries on trust,
But only sorrowing when sorrow must:
We ruminate no sage's solemn cud,
But own ourselves a pinch of lively dust
To frisk upon a wind,—whereas the flood
Of tears would turn us into heavy mud.'
'Beshrew those sad interpreters of nature,
Who gloze her lively universal law,
As if she had not form'd our cheerful feature
To be so tickled with the slightest straw!
So let them vex their mumbling mouths, and draw
The corners downward, like a wat'ry moon,
And deal in gusty sighs and rainy flaw—
We will not woo foul weather all too soon,
Or nurse November on the lap of June.'
'For ours are winging sprites, like any bird,
That shun all stagnant settlements of grief;
And even in our rest our hearts are stirr'd,
Like insects settled on a dancing leaf:—
This is our small philosophy in brief,
Which thus to teach hath set me all agape:
But dost thou relish it? O hoary chief!
Unclasp thy crooked fingers from my nape,
And I will show thee many a pleasant scrape.'
Then Saturn thus:—shaking his crooked blade
O'erhead, which made aloft a lightning flash
In all the fairies' eyes, dismally fray'd!
His ensuing voice came like the thunder crash—
Meanwhile the bolt shatters some pine or ash—
'Thou feeble, wanton, foolish, fickle thing!
Whom nought can frighten, sadden, or abash,—
To hope my solemn countenance to wring
To idiot smiles!—but I will prune thy wing!'
'Lo! this most awful handle of my scythe
Stood once a May-pole, with a flowery crown,
Which rustics danced around, and maidens blithe,
To wanton pipings;—but I pluck'd it down,
And robed the May Queen in a churchyard gown,
Turning her buds to rosemary and rue;
And all their merry minstrelsy did drown,
And laid each lusty leaper in the dew;—
So thou shalt fare—and every jovial crew!'
Here he lets go the struggling imp, to clutch.
His mortal engine with each grisly hand,
Which frights the elfin progeny so much,
They huddle in a heap, and trembling stand
All round Titania, like the queen bee's band,
With sighs and tears and very shrieks of woe!—
Meanwhile, some moving argument I plann'd,
To make the stern Shade merciful,—when lo!
He drops his fatal scythe without a blow!
For, just at need, a timely Apparition
Steps in between, to bear the awful brunt;
Making him change his horrible position,
To marvel at this comer, brave and blunt,
That dares Time's irresistible affront,
Whose strokes have scarr'd even the gods of old;—
Whereas this seem'd a mortal, at mere hunt
For coneys, lighted by the moonshine cold,
Or stalker of stray deer, stealthy and bold.
Who, turning to the small assembled fays,
Doffs to the lily queen his courteous cap,
And holds her beauty for a while in gaze,
With bright eyes kindling at this pleasant hap;
And thence upon the fair moon's silver map,
As if in question of this magic chance,
Laid like a dream upon the green earth's lap;
And then upon old Saturn turns askance,
Exclaiming, with a glad and kindly glance:—
'Oh, these be Fancy's revelers by night!
Stealthy companions of the downy moth—
Diana's motes, that flit in her pale light,
Shunners of sunbeams in diurnal sloth;—
These be the feasters on night's silver cloth;—
The gnat with shrilly trump is their convener,
Forth from their flowery chambers, nothing loth,
With lulling tunes to charm the air serener,
Or dance upon the grass to make it greener.'
'These be the pretty genii of the flow'rs,
Daintily fed with honey and pure dew—
Midsummer's phantoms in her dreaming hours,
King Oberon, and all his merry crew,
The darling puppets of romance's view;
Fairies, and sprites, and goblin elves we call them,
Famous for patronage of lovers true;—
No harm they act, neither shall harm befall them,
So do not thus with crabbed frowns appal them.'
O what a cry was Saturn's then!—it made
The fairies quake. 'What care I for their pranks,
However they may lovers choose to aid,
Or dance their roundelays on flow'ry banks?—
Long must they dance before they earn my thanks,—
So step aside, to some far safer spot,
Whilst with my hungry scythe I mow their ranks,
And leave them in the sun, like weeds, to rot,
And with the next day's sun to be forgot.'
Anon, he raised afresh his weapon keen;
But still the gracious Shade disarm'd his aim,
Stepping with brave alacrity between,
And made his sore arm powerless and tame.
His be perpetual glory, for the shame
Of hoary Saturn in that grand defeat!—
But I must tell how here Titania, came
With all her kneeling lieges, to entreat
His kindly succor, in sad tones, but sweet.
Saying, 'Thou seest a wretched queen before thee,
The fading power of a failing land,
Who for a kingdom kneeleth to implore thee,
Now menaced by this tyrant's spoiling hand;
No one but thee can hopefully withstand
That crooked blade, he longeth so to lift.
I pray thee blind him with his own vile sand,
Which only times all ruins by its drift,
Or prune his eagle wings that are so swift.'
'Or take him by that sole and grizzled tuft,
That hangs upon his bald and barren crown;
And we will sing to see him so rebuff'd,
And lend our little mights to pull him down,
And make brave sport of his malicious frown,
For all his boastful mockery o'er men.
For thou wast born, I know, for this renown,
By my most magical and inward ken,
That readeth ev'n at Fate's forestalling pen.'
'Nay, by the golden lustre of thine eye,
And by thy brow's most fair and ample span,
Thought's glorious palace, framed for fancies high,
And by thy cheek thus passionately wan,
I know the signs of an immortal man,—
Nature's chief darling, and illustrious mate,
Destined to foil old Death's oblivious plan,
And shine untarnish'd by the fogs of Fate,
Time's famous rival till the final date!'
'O shield us then from this usurping Time,
And we will visit thee in moonlight dreams;
And teach thee tunes, to wed unto thy rhyme,
And dance about thee in all midnight gleams,
Giving thee glimpses of our magic schemes,
Such as no mortal's eye hath ever seen;
And, for thy love to us in our extremes,
Will ever keep thy chaplet fresh and green,
Such as no poet's wreath hath ever been!'
'And we'll distil thee aromatic dews,
To charm thy sense, when there shall be no flow'rs;
And flavor'd syrups in thy drinks infuse,
And teach the nightingale to haunt thy bow'rs,
And with our games divert thy weariest hours,
With all that elfin wits can e'er devise.
And, this churl dead, there'll be no hasting hours
To rob thee of thy joys, as now joy flies':—
Here she was stopp'd by Saturn's furious cries.]
Whom, therefore, the kind Shade rebukes anew,
Saying, 'Thou haggard Sin, go forth, and scoop
Thy hollow coffin in some churchyard yew,
Or make th' autumnal flow'rs turn pale, and droop;
Or fell the bearded corn, till gleaners stoop
Under fat sheaves,—or blast the piny grove;—
But here thou shall not harm this pretty group,
Whose lives are not so frail and feebly wove,
But leased on Nature's loveliness and love.'
''Tis these that free the small entangled fly,
Caught in the venom'd spider's crafty snare;—
These be the petty surgeons that apply
The healing balsams to the wounded hare,
Bedded in bloody fern, no creature's care!—
These be providers for the orphan brood,
Whose tender mother hath been slain in air,
Quitting with gaping bill her darling's food,
Hard by the verge of her domestic wood.'
''Tis these befriend the timid trembling stag,
When, with a bursting heart beset with fears,
He feels his saving speed begin to flag;
For then they quench the fatal taint with tears,
And prompt fresh shifts in his alarum'd ears,
So piteously they view all bloody morts;
Or if the gunner, with his arms, appears,
Like noisy pyes and jays, with harsh reports,
They warn the wild fowl of his deadly sports.'
'For these are kindly ministers of nature,
To soothe all covert hurts and dumb distress;
Pretty they be, and very small of stature,—
For mercy still consorts with littleness;—
Wherefore the sum of good is still the less,
And mischief grossest in this world of wrong;—
So do these charitable dwarfs redress
The tenfold ravages of giants strong,
To whom great malice and great might belong.'
'Likewise to them are Poets much beholden
For secret favors in the midnight glooms;
Brave Spenser quaff'd out of their goblets golden,
And saw their tables spread of prompt mushrooms,
And heard their horns of honeysuckle blooms
Sounding upon the air most soothing soft,
Like humming bees busy about the brooms,—
And glanced this fair queen's witchery full oft,
And in her magic wain soar'd far aloft.'
'Nay I myself, though mortal, once was nursed
By fairy gossips, friendly at my birth,
And in my childish ear glib Mab rehearsed
Her breezy travels round our planet's girth,
Telling me wonders of the moon and earth;
My gramarye at her grave lap I conn'd,
Where Puck hath been convened to make me mirth;
I have had from Queen Titania tokens fond,
And toy'd with Oberon's permitted wand.'
'With figs and plums and Persian dates they fed me,
And delicate cates after my sunset meal,
And took me by my childish hand, and led me
By craggy rocks crested with keeps of steel,
Whose awful bases deep dark woods conceal,
Staining some dead lake with their verdant dyes.
And when the West sparkled at Phoebus' wheel,
With fairy euphrasy they purged mine eyes,
To let me see their cities in the skies.'
''Twas they first school'd my young imagination
To take its flights like any new-fledged bird,
And show'd the span of winged meditation
Stretch'd wider than things grossly seen or heard.
With sweet swift Ariel how I soar'd and stirr'd
The fragrant blooms of spiritual bow'rs!
'Twas they endear'd what I have still preferr'd,
Nature's blest attributes and balmy pow'rs,
Her hills and vales and brooks, sweet birds and flow'rs.'
'Wherefore with all true loyalty and duty
Will I regard them in my honoring rhyme,
With love for love, and homages to beauty,
And magic thoughts gather'd in night's cool clime,
With studious verse trancing the dragon Time,
Strong as old Merlin's necromantic spells;
So these dear monarchs of the summer's prime
Shall live unstartled by his dreadful yells,
Till shrill larks warn them to their flowery cells.'
Look how a poison'd man turns livid black,
Drugg'd with a cup of deadly hellebore,
That sets his horrid features all at rack,—
So seem'd these words into the ear to pour
Of ghastly Saturn, answering with a roar
Of mortal pain and spite and utmost rage,
Wherewith his grisly arm he raised once more,
And bade the cluster'd sinews all engage,
As if at one fell stroke to wreck an age.
Whereas the blade flash'd on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumb'd, and stood ajar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of doom,
Whetting its edge on some old Cæsar's tomb.
Howbeit he vanish'd in the forest shade,
Distantly heard as if some grumbling pard,
And, like Nymph Echo, to a sound decay'd;—
Meanwhile the fays cluster'd the gracious Bard,
The darling centre of their dear regard:
Besides of sundry dances on the green,
Never was mortal man so brightly starr'd,
Or won such pretty homages, I ween.
'Nod to him, Elves!' cries the melodious queen.
'Nod to him, Elves, and flutter round about him,
And quite enclose him with your pretty crowd,
And touch him lovingly, for that, without him,
The silkworm now had spun our dreary shroud;—
But he hath all dispersed Death's tearful cloud,
And Time's dread effigy scared quite away:
Bow to him then, as though to me ye bow'd,
And his dear wishes prosper and obey
Wherever love and wit can find a way!'
''Noint him with fairy dews of magic savors,
Shaken from orient buds still pearly wet,
Roses and spicy pinks,—and, of all favors,
Plant in his walks the purple violet,
And meadow-sweet under the hedges set,
To mingle breaths with dainty eglantine
And honeysuckles sweet,—nor yet forget
Some pastoral flowery chaplets to entwine,
To vie the thoughts about his brow benign!'
'Let no wild things astonish him or fear him,
But tell them all how mild he is of heart,
Till e'en the timid hares go frankly near him,
And eke the dappled does, yet never start;
Nor shall their fawns into the thickets dart,
Nor wrens forsake their nests among the leaves,
Nor speckled thrushes flutter far apart;—
But bid the sacred swallow haunt his eaves,
To guard his roof from lightning and from thieves.'
'Or when he goes the nimble squirrel's visitor,
Let the brown hermit bring his hoarded nuts,
For, tell him, this is Nature's kind Inquisitor,—
Though man keeps cautious doors that conscience shuts,
For conscious wrong all curious quest rebuts,—
Nor yet shall bees uncase their jealous stings,
However he may watch their straw-built huts;—
So let him learn the crafts of all small things,
Which he will hint most aptly when he sings.'
Here she leaves off, and with a graceful hand
Waves thrice three splendid circles round his head;
Which, though deserted by the radiant wand,
Wears still the glory which her waving shed,
Such as erst crown'd the old Apostle's head,
To show the thoughts there harbor'd were divine,
And on immortal contemplations fed:—
Goodly it was to see that glory shine
Around a brow so lofty and benign!—
Goodly it was to see the elfin brood
Contend for kisses of his gentle hand,
That had their mortal enemy withstood,
And stay'd their lives, fast ebbing with the sand.
Long while this strife engaged the pretty band;
But now bold Chanticleer, from farm to farm,
Challenged the dawn creeping o'er eastern land,
And well the fairies knew that shrill alarm,
Which sounds the knell of every elfish charm.
And soon the rolling mist, that 'gan arise
From plashy mead and undiscover'd stream,
Earth's morning incense to the early skies,
Crept o'er the failing landscape of my dream.
Soon faded then the Phantom of my theme—
A shapeless shade, that fancy disavowed,
And shrank to nothing in the mist extreme,
Then flew Titania,—and her little crowd,
Like flocking linnets, vanished in a cloud.
Lighting It Up And Blowing It Out
Lighting it up and blowing it out
I try to make my way through the dark
by beginning at the end
as if the coming and the going
were the same door
or good-bye were the first thing
you would say to a friend.
I approach things like a night stream
as if my death were already achieved
and behind me.
And all the atoms of my being
dancing like frenzied gnats
in the sunset glow of a last eye-beam
are certifiably primordial
and any one of them
when they lose it in the light
could begin a world.
And what can you say more of a life
that dreams of what it is
than it's the taste of the same wine
in many different cups?
And as any fox knows
the grape is always sweetest
when you can taste it with your eyes.
Though why foxes eat grapes is anyone's guess
but life makes itself up as it goes
like music in a fish's earlobes.
It feathers its themes in fire and light
and goes up in smoke
like the ghost of a tree
looking for habitable planets among the stars.
New wounds with innocent root-room for old scars.
Chalking the cue to bank the long shot
you're trying to spin off into
the deep, dark pockets
of your game-winning afterlife.
And I don't believe in much anymore
though that hasn't stopped me from crying
like a slow window trying to keep
the stars from leaking out of me
as if there were a black hole
somewhere in my heart
waiting for an iris to make it an eye
whose seeing might be a new way of healing
what can't be healed.
Once here. Here forever.
But whether we're the eternal children of forever
or just another breath on the night air
that doesn't even know we live,
even death is just another way of killing time here.
When everywhere's the center of everything else,
the centre holds,
things don't fall apart.
And that's the mystic art
of knowing how to make the most out of existence
by offering no resistance
to the rocks in your own mindstream
that part the waters like the thoughts
of an exile in the promised land
who can't go back the way she came.
The river can't step into the same you twice.
And in every direction
your eyes have ever burned like stars
you can see the dark jewel of your own life
from the inside
before it breaks into light.
Sometimes I'm the lonely sign
on the only path to nowhere
and others I'm positively amniotic
with the schools of my blue lucidity
the albino dolphins of the moon leap through
without a chance of changing their colour.
A flower of prophetic blood bleaches my skull.
I swallow the snakefire of my last eclipse
like a lump of coal
I'm trying to turn into a diamond
that doesn't burn
and never sloughs its skin.
Reality isn't a religion or a science,
or the back and front of a mirror
that doesn't know whose eyes its looking through.
Religion: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Science: how many pins can dance on the head of an angel?
Totem poles on a telephone booth where no one ever picks up.
Voodoo dolls that hex the cause of their effects.
The apple bloom on the tree of knowledge
lets go of its flightless wings
and follows the wind
like the eyelids of unfeathered angels
who opened their eyes like flawless fruit
as they fell toward paradise
without a parachute of smokey virtue
or the scale of a snake for a vice.
Emergence into the open
like a hidden secret revealed
is the engine of evolution
that empowers the dark matter
of this incorporeal starmud
to arise like the high note of a bird
that's flown beyond the night in its voice
like light beyond its myth of origin.
And the peduncle is lost in the ensuing phylum
as a madman is lost in the scream
that woke up the asylum,
or a god is lost in his own creation.
And the mountains listen
to the holy voices
in the valleys of their shadows
they deepen as they arise
like the guests of an echoless calling
to greet the unknown host.
It's what the moon feels
when she fondles her locket of water
and memories pull at her heartstrings
like tides on earth
and music is the way she recalls
the sirens that used to sing
like the brides of empty lifeboats
that prayed like smashed guitars
for the night to sow the seedless sea with stars.
And in every fish that swims through fire
like the sacred response of life
to the longing in its own desire
she knows they got their wish.
Fireflies in the ashes of the phoenix tree.
And the eggs of cosmic words
like serpents in a bird's nest
learning to fly like dragons
that have just swallowed the moon.
And it's one thing to pull the sword from the stone
but it's a greater power than magic and proof
with no urge to rule
that summons the butterfly from its cocoon
by giving the fool who inches toward the truth
along the green branch toward the apple-bloom
that already tastes like the forbidden fruit
of some radical insight
the whole orchard in a pair of wings
and more than enough night and light on its palette
to start a revolution in seeing among the flowers
who still labour in the chains of their roots
to turn their earthbound lucidities into stars
who might look back for a change
with eyes that have gathered like water out of the shining
and taste the light in the honey
that kissed their eyelids into gold
long before the night was old
and it wasn't enough just to see them.
When you opened your eyes
in the burning clarity of your lone vision
before this matrix of space and time
gave birth to the world
you were free to be whatever you could see.
That's when the light first spoke to you
in the mother-tongue of your seeing
and your voice broke
like a secret name in the mirror
that didn't know who you were
and the moon on nightwater
the thief at the window
your breath like stars on the cold, night air
summoned the whole of being
in every particulate shard
and radiant plinth of the mirror
to drive your shining into the shadows
so myriad things can appear as they are.
Many eyes open. Night. An eclipse. One star.
And the darkness an anti-romantic
in love with the moon from afar.
The Undying One- Canto III
'THERE is a sound the autumn wind doth make
Howling and moaning, listlessly and low:
Methinks that to a heart that ought to break
All the earth's voices seem to murmur so.
The visions that crost
Our path in light--
The things that we lost
In the dim dark night--
The faces for which we vainly yearn--
The voices whose tones will not return--
That low sad wailing breeze doth bring
Borne on its swift and rushing wing.
Have ye sat alone when that wind was loud,
And the moon shone dim from the wintry cloud?
When the fire was quench'd on your lonely hearth,
And the voices were still which spoke of mirth?
If such an evening, tho' but one,
It hath been yours to spend alone--
Never,--though years may roll along
Cheer'd by the merry dance and song;
Though you mark'd not that bleak wind's sound before,
When louder perchance it used to roar--
Never shall sound of that wintry gale
Be aught to you but a voice of wail!
So o'er the careless heart and eye
The storms of the world go sweeping by;
But oh! when once we have learn'd to weep,
Well doth sorrow his stern watch keep.
Let one of our airy joys decay--
Let one of our blossoms fade away--
And all the griefs that others share
Seem ours, as well as theirs, to bear:
And the sound of wail, like that rushing wind
Shall bring all our own deep woe to mind!
'I went through the world, but I paused not now
At the gladsome heart and the joyous brow:
I went through the world, and I stay'd to mark
Where the heart was sore, and the spirit dark:
And the grief of others, though sad to see,
Was fraught with a demon's joy to me!
'I saw the inconstant lover come to take
Farewell of her he loved in better days,
And, coldly careless, watch the heart-strings break--
Which beat so fondly at his words of praise.
She was a faded, painted, guilt-bow'd thing,
Seeking to mock the hues of early spring,
When misery and years had done their worst
To wither her away. The big tears burst
From out her flashing eyes, which turn'd on him
With agony, reproach, and fear, while dim
Each object swam in her uncertain sight,
And nature's glories took the hue of night.
There was, in spite of all her passion's storm,
A wild revolting beauty in her form;
A beauty as of sin, when first she comes
To tempt us from our calm and pleasant homes.
Her voice, with the appealing tone it took,
Her soft clear voice, belied her fearless look:
And woman's tenderness seem'd still to dwell
In that full bosom's agonizing swell.
And he stood there, the worshipp'd one of years--
Sick of her fondness--angry at her tears;
Choking the loathing words which rose within
The heart whose passion tempted her to sin;
While with a strange sad smile lost hours she mourns,
And prays and weeps, and weeps and prays by turns.
A moment yet he paused, and sigh'd--a sigh
Of deep, deep bitterness; and on his eye
Love's gentle shadow rested for a space--
And faded feelings brighten'd o'er his face.
'Twas but a moment, and he turn'd in wrath
To quench the sunshine on her lonely path.
And his lip curl'd, as on that alter'd cheek
His cold glance rested--while, all faint and weak,
With tearful sad imploring gaze she stood,
Watching with trembling heart his changeful mood;
Her thin lips parted with a ghastly smile,
She strove to please--yet felt she fail'd the while.
And thus his words burst forth:' And dost thou dare
Reproach me with the burden of thy care?
Accuse thy self-will'd heart, where passion reign'd;
Some other hand the lily might have stain'd,
For thou didst listen when none else approved,
Proud in thy strength, and eager to be loved.
Rose of the morning, how thy leaves are gone!
How art thou faded since the sunrise shone!
Think not my presence was the cause of all--
Oh no, thy folly would have made thee fall:
Alike thy woe--alike the cause of blame--
Another tempter, but thine act the same.
And tell me not of all I said or swore:
Poor wretch! art thou as in the days of yore?
Thing of the wanton heart and faded brow,
Whate'er I said or did--I loathe thee now!'
The frozen tears sank back beneath the lid,
Whose long black lashes half their sadness hid--
And with a calm and stedfast look, which spoke
Unutterable scorn, her spirit woke:--
'And thou art he, for whom my young heart gave
All hope of pardon on this side the grave!
For whom I still have struggled on, for years,
Through days of bitterness and nights of tears!--
True, I am changed since that bright summer's day,
When first from home love lured my steps to stray:
And true it is that art hath sought to hide
The work of woe which all my words belied;--
But for whose sake have I with watchful care,
Though sick at heart, endeavour'd to be fair?
For whom, when daylight broke along the skies,
Have I with fear survey'd my weeping eyes?
For whom, with trembling fingers sought to dress
Each woe-worn feature with mock loveliness?
Chased the pale sickness from my darken'd brow,
And strove to listen, calm--as I do now?
For whom--if not for thee?--Oh! had I been
Pure as the stainless lily--were each scene
Of guilt and passion blotted from that book
Where weepingly and sad the angels look--
Did I stand here the calm approved wife,
Bound to thee by the chain that binds for life--
Could I have loved thee more? The dream is past--
I who forsook, am lonely at the last!
One hour ago the thought that we must part,
And part for ever, would have broke my heart:
But now--I cast thee from me! Go and seek
To pale the roses on a fresher cheek.
Why lingerest thou? Dost fear, when thou art gone,
My woman's heart will wake, and live alone?
Fear not--the specious tongue whose well-feign'd tale
Hath lured the dove to leave her native vale,
May use its art some other to beguile;
And the approving world--will only smile.
But she who sins, and suffers for that sin,
Who throws the dangerous die, and doth not win--
Loves once--and loves no more!' He glided by,
And she turn'd from him with a shuddering sigh.
'I saw the widower mournful stand,
Gazing out on the sea and the land;
O'er the yellow corn and the waving trees,
And the blue stream rippling in the breeze.
Oh! beautiful seem the earth and sky--
Why doth he heave that bitter sigh?
Vain are the sunshine and brightness to him--
His heart is heavy, his eyes are dim.
His thoughts are not with the moaning sea,
Though his gaze be fix'd on it vacantly:
His thoughts are far, where the dark boughs wave
O'er the silent rest of his Mary's grave.
He starts, and brushes away the tear;
For the soft small voices are in his ear,
Of the bright-hair'd angels his Mary left
To comfort her lonely and long bereft.
With a gush of sorrow he turns to press
His little ones close with a fond caress,
And they sigh--oh! not because Mary sleeps,
For she is forgotten--but that HE weeps.
Yes! she is forgotten--the patient love,
The tenderness of that meek-eyed dove,
The voice that rose on the evening air
To bid them kneel to the God of prayer,
The joyous tones that greeted them, when
After a while she came again--
The pressure soft of her rose-leaf cheek--
The touch of her hand, as white and weak
She laid it low on each shining head,
And bless'd the sons of the early dead:
All is forgotten--all past away
Like the fading close of a summer's day:
Or the sound of her voice (though they scarce can tell
Whose voice it was, that they loved so well)
Comes with their laughter, a short sweet dream--
As the breeze blows over the gentle stream,
Rippling a moment its quiet breast,
And leaving it then to its sunny rest.
But he!--oh! deep in his inmost soul,
Which hath drunk to the dregs of sorrow's bowl--
Her look--and her smile--the lightest word
Of the musical voice he so often heard,
And never may hear on earth again,
Though he love it more than he loved it then--
Are buried--to rise at times unbid
And force hot tears to the burning lid:
The mother that bore her may learn to forget,
But he will remember and weep for her yet!
Oh! while the heart where her head hath lain
In its hours of joy, in its sighs of pain;
While the hand which so oft hath been clasp'd in hers
In the twilight hour, when nothing stirs--
Beat with the deep, full pulse of life--
Can he forget his gentle wife?
Many may love him, and he in truth
May love; but not with the love of his youth:
Ever amid his joy will come
A stealing sigh for that long-loved home,
And her step and her voice will go gliding by
In the desolate halls of his memory!
'I saw a father weeping, when the last
Of all his dear ones from his sight had past--
The young lamb, in his solitary fold,
Who should have buried him, for he was old.
Silently she had pass'd away from earth,
Beloved by none but him who gave her birth:
And now he sat, with haggard look and wild,
By the lone tomb of his forgotten child:--
'None remember thee! thou whose heart
Pour'd love on all around.
Thy name no anguish can impart--
'Tis a forgotten sound.
Thine old companions pass me by
With a cold bright smile, and a vacant eye--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! thou wert not
Beauteous as some things are;
No glory beam'd upon thy lot,
My pale and quiet star.
Like a winter bud that too soon hath burst,
Thy cheek was fading from the first--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! they could spy
Nought, when they gazed on thee,
But thy soul's deep love in thy quiet eye--
It hath pass'd from their memory.
The gifts of genius were not thine
Proudly before the world to shine--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! now thou'rt gone,
Or they could not choose but weep,--
When they think of thee, my gentle one,
In thy long and lonely sleep.
Fain would I murmur thy name, and tell
How fondly together we used to dwell--
But none remember thee
'I saw a husband, and a guilty wife,
Who once made all the sunshine of his life,
Kneeling upon the threshold of her home,
Where heavily her weary feet had come:
A faded form, a humble brow, are hers--
The livery which sinful sorrow wears;
While with deep agony she lifts her eyes,
And prays him to forgive her, ere she dies!
Long days--long days swell in his broken heart,
When death had seem'd less bitter than to part--
When in her innocence her hush'd lip spoke
The faint confession of the love he woke;
And the first kiss on that pure cheek impress'd,
Made her shrink, trembling, from his faithful breast.
And after years when her light footstep made
Most precious music--when in sun or shade
She was the same bright, happy, loving thing--
Low at his feet she now lies withering!
His half-stretch'd hand already bids her be
Forgiven and at peace--his kindly eye
Is turn'd on her through tears, to think that she,
His purely-loved, should bide such agony.
Already on his tongue the quivering word
Of comfort trembles, though as yet unheard;
Already he hath bent o'er that pale face:
Why starts he, groaning, from her wild embrace?
Oh! as she clasp'd his knees, her full heart woke
To all its tenderness--a murmur broke
Forth from her lip; the cherish'd name of one
Whose image dwelt when purity was gone,
Secure amid the ruins of lost things,
Filling her soul with soft imaginings,
Like a lone flower within the moss-grown halls
Where echo vainly unto echo calls.
Deep wrath, and agony, and vain despair,
Are painted on his brow who hears her prayer.
'Breathe not her name--it is a sound
Of fearfulness and dread.
Seest thou no trace of tears around?
Yet have salt tears been shed!
Thy babe who nestled at thy breast,
And laugh'd upon thy knee;
That creature of the quiet rest,
Thy child--was too like thee!
The careless fawn that lightly springs--
The rosebud in the dew--
The fair of nature's fairy things--
Like them thy daughter grew.
And then she left her father's side,
Not, woman! as a happy bride,
With a tearful smile, half sad, half meek;
The flush of guilt was on her cheek:
And in the desert wilds I sought--
And in the haunts of men.
Woman! what thou hast felt is naught
To what I suffer'd then.
I thought that--but it may not be--
I thought I could have pardon'd thee;
But when I dream of her, and think
Thy steps led on to ruin's brink--
Oh she is gone, and thou art here
Where ye both were of yore--
To mock with late-repentant tear
Hopes which may come no more!
Hadst thou, frail wretch, been by her still,
To shield her gentle head from ill--
To do thy mother's part--but go--
I will not curse thee, in my woe :
Only, depart!--and haply when
Lonely and left I die,
Thy pardon'd form shall rise again
And claim one parting sigh!'
He closed on her the portal of her home,
Where never more her weary feet may come--
And their wrung hearts are sever'd till that day
When God shall hear, and judge the things of clay.
'I saw the parricide raving stand,
With a rolling eye, and a bloody hand;
Through his thick chill veins the curdling stream
Flows dark and languid. No sunny beam
Can wake the deep pulse of his heart to joy,
Since he raised his murderous hand to destroy.
By day, by night, no pause is given
Of hope to the soul accursed by Heaven.
Through the riotous feast; through his own dull groans;
Through the musical sound of his loved one's tones;
Through the whispering breath of the evening air,
Faulters the old man's dying prayer.
Few were the words he spoke as he sank;
And the greedy poniard his life-blood drank:
'Spare me, my son, I will yield thee all.'
Oh, what would the murderer give to recall
One murmuring sigh to that silent tongue,
Which in infancy sought his ear to please;
One pulse of life, to the hands that clung
Feebly and tremblingly round his knees!
In vain! he hath won the gold he sought;
And the burning agony of thought
Shall haunt him still, till he lays his head
With a shuddering groan on his dying bed!
'I saw a young head bow'd in its deep woe,
Ev'n unto death; and sad, and faint, and slow,
As she sat lonely in her hall of tears,
Her lips address'd some shade of other years:
'Oh! dear to the eyes that are weeping
Was thy form, my lost love:
Though the heart where thine image is sleeping
Its truth might not prove.
I have wept and turn'd from thee, for fear thou shouldst trace
All the love that I bore thee, deep writ on my face.
But oh! could we once more be meeting,
As then, love, we met:
Could I feel that fond heart of thine beating,
Close, close, to mine yet:
I would cling to thee, dearest, nor fear thou shouldst guess
How deeply thy welcome had power to bless,
Oh! tis not for a day, or an hour,
I part from thee now,
To weep and shake off, like a flower,
The tears from my brow:
'Tis to sit dreaming idly of days that are gone,
And start up to remember--that I am alone.
They say that my heart hath recover'd
The deep bitter blow;
That the cloud which for long days hath hover'd,
Is gone from my brow;
That my eyes do not weep, and my lips wear a smile;
It is true --but I do not forget thee the while.
Oh, they know not, amidst all my gladness,
Thy shadow is there:
They feel not the deep thrill of sadness,
Nor the soul's lone despair.
They see not the sudden quick pang, when thy name
Is carelessly utter'd, to praise or to blame!
If to gaze on each long-treasured token
Till bitter tears flow,
And to wonder my heart is not broken
By the weight of its woe:
To join in the world's loud and 'wildering din,
While a passionate feeling is choking within:
If to yearn, in the arms that once bound thee,
To lean down my head;
With the dear ones who used to come round thee,
Salt tear-drops to shed:
If to list to the voice that is like thine, in vain;
And feel its dim echo ring wild through my brain:
If to dream there were pleasure in meeting
Those who once were with thee:
To murmur a sad farewell greeting,
Then sink on my knee;
With my straining hands clasp'd to the Heavens in prayer,
And my choked bosom heaving with grief and despair:
If to sit and to think of thee only,
While they laugh round the hearth;
And feel my full heart grow more lonely
At the sound of their mirth:--
If this be forgetting thee, dear one and good--
Forget thee--forget thee--Oh God! that I could!'
'I saw the child of parents poor,
Dreaming with pain of her cottage door;
Which she left for the splendour which may not cheer--
Pomp hath not power to dry one tear.
The palace--the sunshine--what are they to her
'Mid the heart's full throb, and the bosom's stir?
The picture that rises bedimm'd with tears,
Is an aged woman, bow'd down by years;
Sitting alone in her evening's close,
And feebly weeping for many woes.
Her thin hands are weaving the endless thread,
Her faded eyes gaze where her daughter fled,
O'er the moss-grown copse and the wooded hill:
'Oh! would that I were with my mother still!
That I were with her who rear'd me up--
(And I fill'd to the brim her sorrow's cup)--
That I were with her who taught me to pray
At the morning's dawn and the close of day--
That I were with her whose harshest look
Was half of sorrow and half rebuke.
Oh! the depth of my sin I never could see,
But I feel it now, with the babe on my knee.'
The high proud gaze of her scornful eye
Is quench'd with the tears for days gone by;
And her little one starts from its broken rest,
Woke by the sobs of that heaving breast.
She gazes with fear on its undimm'd brow--
What are the thoughts that lurk below?
Perchance, like her own, the day will come
When its name shall be hush'd in its parent home;
When the hearts that cherish its lightest tone,
Shall wish that the sound from earth were gone.
Perchance it is doom'd to an early grave,
Or a struggling death on the stormy wave;
Or the fair little dimpled hand that clings
So fast in her soft hair's shining rings,
May be dark with the blood of his fellow-men,
And the clanking chain hang round it then.
Haply, forgetting her patient care,
The young, bright creature slumbering there,
Shall forsake her--as she hath forsaken them--
For a heavy heart and a diadem!
She clasps it strong with a burning kiss--
'Oh God! in thy mercy, spare me this.''
'I saw a widow, by her cherish'd son,
Ere all of light, and life, and hope, was gone--
When the last dying glance was faintly raised,
Ere death with withering power the brightness glazed
Of those deep heavenly eyes: a glance which seem'd
To ask her, if the world where he had dream'd
Such dreams of happiness with her, must be
Forsaken in the spring-tide of his glee:
If he indeed must die. I saw her take
His hand, and gaze, as if her heart would break,
On his pale brow and languid limbs of grace,
And wipe the death-dew gently from his face.
I saw her after, when the unconscious clay,
Deaf to her wild appeals, all mutely lay,
With brow upturn'd, and parted lips, whose hue
Was scarce more pale than hers, who met my view.
She stood, and wept not in her deep despair,
But press'd her lips upon his shining hair
With a long bitter kiss, and then with grief--
Like hers of old, who pray'd and found relief--
She groan'd to God, and watch'd to see him stir,
But, ah! no prophet came, to raise him up for her!
'I saw the orphan go forth in dread
Through the pitiless world, and turn to gaze
Once more on the dark and narrow bed
Where sleep the authors of her days.
Well may she weep them, for never more,
After she turns from that cottage door,
Will her young heart beat to a kindly word,
Such as in early days she heard:
Or her young eye shine, as she hastens her pace
To bask in the light of a loved one's face.
Her lot is cast;
Her hope is past;
The careless, the cold, and the cruel may come
To gaze on the orphan, and pass her by:
But a word, or a sound, or a look of home--
For them she must bow her head, and die!
'I saw the dark and city-clouded spot,
Where, by his busy patrons all forgot,
The young sad poet dreams of better days,
And gives his genius forth in darken'd rays.
Chill o'er his soul, gaunt poverty hath thrown
Her veil of shadows, as he sighs alone;
And, withering up the springs and streams of youth,
Left him to feel misfortune's bitter truth,
And own with deep, impassion'd bitterness,
Who would describe--must faintly feel, distress.
Slowly he wanders, with a languid pace,
To the small window of his hiding-place;
Pressing with straining force, all vainly now,
His hot, weak fingers on his throbbing brow;
And seeking for bright thoughts, which care and pain
Have driven from his dim and 'wilder'd brain.
He breathes a moment that unclouded air,
And gazes on the face of nature there--
Longing for fresh wild flowers and verdant fields,
And all the joys the open sunshine yields:
Then turning, he doth rest his heavy eye
Where his torn papers in confusion lie,
And raves awhile, and seats himself again,
To toil and strive for thoughts and words, in vain:
Till he can bid his drooping fancy feel,
And barter genius, for a scanty meal!
'I've been where fell disease a war hath waged
Against young joy,--where pestilence hath raged,
And beauty hath departed from the earth
With none to weep her.--I have seen the birth
Of the lorn infant, greeted but with tears,
And dim forebodings, and remorseful fears,
When to the weary one the grave would show
Less dreadful than a long long life of woe.
I've been in prisons, where in lone despair,
Barr'd from God's precious gifts, the sun and air,
The debtor pines, for a little gold,
His fellow man in iron chains would hold:
There have I seen the bright inquiring eye
Fade into dull and listless vacancy;
There have I seen the meek grow stern and wild;
And the strong man sit weeping like a child;
Till God's poor tortured creatures in their heart
Were fain to Curse their Maker, and depart.
All have I seen--and I have watch'd apart
The fruitless struggles of a breaking heart,
Bruised, crush'd, and wounded by the spoiler's power,
And left to wither like a trodden flower;
Till I have learnt with ease each thought to trace
That flush'd across the fair and fading face,
And known the source of tears, which day by day
Weakness hath shed, and pride hath brush'd away.
'It was in Erin--in the autumn time,
By the broad Shannon's banks of beauty roaming;
I saw a scene of mingled woe and crime--
Oh! ev'n to my sear'd eyes the tears seem'd coming!
It was a mother standing gaunt and wild,
Working her soul to murder her young child,
Who lay unconscious in its soft repose
Upon the breast, that heaved with many woes.
She stood beside the waters, but her eyes
Were not upon the river, nor the skies,
Nor on the fading things of earth. Her soul
Was rapt in bitterness--and evening stole
Chill o'er her form, while yet with nerveless hand
She sought to throw her burden from the land.
'Twas pitiful to see her strive in vain,
Rise sternly up, then melt to love again;
With horrible energy, and lip compress'd,
Hold forth her child--then strain it to her breast
Convulsively; as if some gentle thought
Of all its helpless beauty first was brought
Into her 'wilder'd mind--the soft faint smiles,
Whose charm the mother of her tears beguiles,
Which speak not aught of mirth or merriment,
But of full confidence, and deep content,
And ignorance of woe:--the murmur'd sounds
Which were to her a language, rise up now--
And, like a torrent bursting from its bounds,
Swell in her heart, and shoot across her brow.
Oh! she who plans its death in her despair,
Hath tended it with fond and watchful care;
Hath borne it wearily for many a mile,
Repaid with one fond glance, or gentle smile:
Hath watch'd through long dark nights with patient love,
When some light sickness struck her nestling dove;
And yearn'd to bear its pain, when that meek eye
Turn'd on her, with appealing agony!
Look on her now!--that faint and feverish start
Hath waken'd all the mother in her heart:
That feeble cry hath thrill'd her very frame :--
Was it for murder such a soft heart came?
She will not do it--Fool! the spirit there
Is stronger far than love--it is despair!
Mothers alone may read that mother's woe:
Her heart may break--but she will strike the blow.
Once more she pauses; bending o'er its face,
Calm and unconscious in its timid grace;
Then murmurs to it by the chilly wave,
Ere one strong effort dooms it to the grave:--
'Thou of the sinless breast!
Which passion hath not heaved, nor dark remorse
Swell'd with its full and agonizing curse--
Lo! thou art come to rest!
'Warm is thy guileless heart,
Whose slight quick pulses soon shall beat no more:
Hear'st thou the strong trees rock?--the loud winds roar?
I and my child must part!
'Deep 'neath the sullen sky,
And the dark waters which do boil and foam,
Greedy to take thee to their silent home--
My little one must lie!
'Peace to thy harmless soul!
There is a heaven where thou mayst dwell in peace;
Where the dark howling of the waters cease,
Which o'er thy young head roll.
'There, in the blue still night,
Thou'lt watch, where stars are gleaming from the sky,
O'er the dark spot where thou wert doom'd to die,
And smile, a cherub bright.'
'A plash upon the waves--a low
Half-stifled sob, which seem'd as though
The choked breath fought against the stream--
And all was silent as a dream.
Then rose the shriek that might not stay,
Though much that soul had braved;
And ere its echo died away,
Her little one was saved.
Sudden I plunged, and panting caught
The bright and floating hair,
Which on the waters lustre brought,
As if 'twere sunshine there.
I stood beside that form of want and sin,
That miserable woman in her tears;
Who wept, as though she had not cast it in
To perish with the sorrows of past years.
She thank'd me with a bitter thankfulness,
And thus I spoke: 'Oh! woman, if it is
Sickness and poverty, and lone distress,
That prompted thee to do a deed like this,
Take gold, and wander forth, and let me be
A parent to the child renounced by thee!'
Greedily did she gaze upon the gold,
With a wild avarice in her hollow eye;
And stretch'd her thin damp fingers, clammy cold,
To seize the glittering ore with ecstasy.
But when I claim'd the little helpless thing,
For whose young life that gold had paid the worth;
Close to the breast where it lay shivering,
She strain'd it gaspingly, and then burst forth:--
'I would have slain it! Fool! 'tis true I would;
Because I saw it pine, and had no food:
Because I could not bear its faint frail cry,
Which told my brain such tales of agony:
Because its dumb petitioning glances said,
Am I thy child? and canst not give me bread?
Because, while faint and droopingly it lay
Within my failing arms from day to day,
The tigress rose within my soul--I could
Have slain a man, and bid it lap his blood!
My little one!--my uncomplaining child!
Whose lengthen'd misery drove thy mother wild,
Did they believe that aught but death could part
These nestling limbs from her poor tortured heart?--
No! had the slimy waters gurgled o'er
Thy corpse, and wash'd the slippery reed-grown shore,
Leaving no trace, except in my despair,
Of what had once disturb'd the stillness there--
I could have gazed upon it, and not wept;
For calmly then my little one had slept.
No nightly moans would then have wrung my soul;
No daylight withering bid the tear-drop roll.
In my dark hours of misery and want,
The memory of thy pallid face might haunt,
Not, not to wring my heart with vain regret,
But to remind what thou hadst suffer'd yet,
If from life's wretchedness I had not freed
Thy grateful soul, which thank'd me for the deed.
I lost thee--but I have thee here again,
Close to the heart which now can feel no pain.
Cling to me!--let me feel that velvet cheek--
Look at me, with those eyes so dove-like meek!
Press thy pale lips to mine, and let me be
Repaid for all I have endured for thee.
Part from thee!--never! while this arm hath strength
To hold thee to the bosom where thou liest:
Praise be to God, bright days have dawn'd at length!
I need not watch thy struggles as thou diest.
Part from thee! never--no, my pale sweet flower!
The wealth of worlds would bribe my heart in vain,
Though 'twere to give thee up for one short hour--
Take back thy gold--I have my babe again!
Yet give me food, and I will clasp thy knees,
And night and day will kneel for thee to Heaven;
Else will a lingering death of slow disease,
Or famine gaunt, be all that thou hast given.
And when I die-- then, then be kind'--She ceased:
Her parted lips were tinged with crimson gore,
Her faint hand half, and only half, released
The unconscious form she had been weeping o'er:
Worn nature could not bear the sudden strife;
I look'd upon her--but there was no life!
'That little outcast grew a fairy girl,
A beautiful, a most beloved one.
There was a charm in every separate curl
Whose rings of jet hung glistening in the sun,
Which warm'd her marble brow. There was a grace
Peculiar to herself, ev'n from the first:
Shadows and thoughtfulness you seem'd to trace
Upon that brow, and then a sudden burst
Of sunniness and laughter sparkled out,
And spread their rays of joyfulness about.
Like the wild music of her native land,
Which wakes to joy beneath the minstrel's hand,
Yet at its close gives forth a lingering tone--
Sad, as if mourning that its mirth is gone,
And leaves that note to dwell within your heart,
When all the sounds of joyfulness depart:
So in her heart's full chords there seem'd to be
A strange and wild, but lovely melody:
Half grief--half gladness--but the sadness still
Hanging like shadows on a summer rill.
And when her soul from its deep silence woke,
And from her lip sweet note of answer broke,
Memory in vain would seek the smile that play'd
With her slow words, like one beam in the shade;
Her sorrow hung upon your heart for years--
And all her sweet smiles darken'd into tears.
I loved her, as a father loves his child:
For she was dutiful, and fond, and mild,
As children should be--and she ripen'd on
Like a young rosebud opening to the sun;
Till the full light of womanhood was shed,
Like a soft glory, round about her head.
In all my wanderings, through good and ill,
In storm and sunshine, she was with me still:
Not like a cold sad shadow, forced to glide
Weary--unloved--unnoticed, by my side:
But with her whole heart's worship, ever near,
To love, to smile, to comfort, and to cheer.
Her gentle soul would fear to hurt a worm;
Yet danger found her unappall'd and firm:
Her lip might blanch, but her unalter'd eye
Said, I am ready for thy sake to die.
She stood by me and fear'd not, in that place
When the scared remnant of my wretched race
Gave England's Richard gifts, to let them be
All unmolested in their misery:
And while their jewels sparkled on his hand,
His traitor lips gave forth the dark command
Which, midst a drunken nation's loud carouse,
Sent unexpected death from house to house,
Bade strong arms strike, where none their force withstood,
And woman's wail be quench'd in woman's blood.
She stood by me and fear'd not, when again,
A bloody death cut short a life of pain;
When, with red glaring eyes and desperate force,
Brother laid brother low, a prostrate corse,
Rather than yield their bodies up to those,
In word, in act, and in religion--foes.
She gazed and fainted not, while all around
They lay like slaughter'd cattle on the ground;
With the wide gash in each extended throat,
Calling for vengeance to the God who smote
On Israel's side, ere Israel fell away,
And in her guilt was made the stranger's prey.
'And after that, we dwelt in many lands,
And wander'd through the desert's burning sands;
Where, strange to say, young Miriam sigh'd to be:
Where nature lay stretch'd out so silently
Beneath the glorious sun, and here and there
The fountains bubbled up, as fresh and fair
As if the earth were fill'd with them, and none
In their last agonizing thirst sank down,
With eyes turn'd sadly to far distant dreams
Of unseen gushing waters, and cool streams.
'There is a little island all alone
In the blue Mediterranean; and we went
Where never yet a human foot had gone,
And dwelt there, and young Miriam was content.
There was a natural fountain, where no ray
Of light or warmth had ever found its way,
Thick clustered o'er with flowers; and there she made
A bower of deep retirement and shade;
And proud she was, when, rosy with the glow
Of triumph and exertion, she could show
Her palace of green leaves,--and watch my eyes
For the expected glance of pleased surprise.
Oh! she was beautiful!--if ever earth
To aught of breathing loveliness gave birth.
'One evening--one sweet evening, as we stood,
Silently gazing on the silent flood:
A sudden thought rose swelling in my heart:
Ought my sweet Miriam thus to dwell apart
From human kind? So good, so pure, so bright,
So form'd to be a fervent heart's delight;
Was she to waste the power and will to bless
In ministering to my loneliness?
And then a moment's glance took in her life--
I saw my Miriam a blessed wife;
I saw her with fair children round her knee,
I heard their voices in that home of glee,
And turn'd to gaze on her:--if ever yet,
Turning with shadowy hope, and vain regret,
And consciousness of secret guilt or woe,
Thine eyes have rested on the open brow
Of sinless childhood--thou hast known what I
Felt, when my glance met Miriam's cloudless eye.
Oh! Thought, thou mould where misery is cast--
Thou joiner of the present with the past--
Eternal torturer! wherefore can we not
Through all our life be careless of our lot
As in our early years?--No cares to come
Threw their vain shadow o'er her bosom's home;
No bitter sorrow, with its vain recall,
Poison'd her hope--the present hour was all.
I gazed on her--and as a slow smile broke
Of meek affection round her rosy mouth,
I thought the simple words my heart would choke,
'Would Miriam weep to leave the sunny south?'
Silent she stood--then, in a tone scarce heard,
Faulter'd forth, 'father!' Oh! it wrung, that word;
And snatching her with haste unto my breast,
Where in her childhood's hour of sunny rest
Calmly her innocent head had often slept,
With a strange sense of misery--I wept.
'Oh! weary days, oh! weary days,
Of flattery and empty praise,
When in the tainted haunts of men
My Miriam was brought again.
With vacant gaze and gentle sigh,
She turned her from them mournfully;
As if she rather felt, than saw,
That they were near:--they scarce could draw
A word of answer from her tongue,
Where once such merry music rung,
Save when the island was their theme--
And then, as waking from a dream,
Her soft eye lighted for a while,
And round her mouth a playful smile
Stole for a moment, and then fled,
As if the hope within were dead.
Where'er I gazed, where'er I went,
Her earnest look was on me bent
Stealthily, as she wish'd to trace
Her term of exile on my face.
And many sought her hand in vain.
With pleading voice, and look of pain.
Weepingly she would turn away
When I besought her to be gay;
And resolutely firm, withstood
The noble and the great of blood;
Though they woo'd humbly, as they woo
Who scarcely hope for what they sue.
Oh! glad was Miriam, when at last
I deem'd our term of absence past:
And as her light foot quickly sprang
From out our bark, 'twas thus she sang:--
'The world! the sunny world! I love
To roam untired, till evening throws
Sweet shadows through the pleasant grove,
And bees are murmuring on the rose.
I love to see the changeful flowers
Lie blushing in the glowing day--
Bend down their heads to 'scape the showers,
Then shake the chilly drops away.
'The world! the sunny world! oh bright
And beautiful indeed thou art--
The brilliant day, the dark-blue night,
Bring joy--but not to every heart.
No! till, like flowers, those hearts can fling
Grief's drops from off their folded leaves,
'Twill only smile in hope's bright spring,
And darken when the spirit grieves.'
'She was return'd; but yet she grew not glad;
Her cheek wore not the freshness which it had.
The withering of the world, like the wild storm
Over a tender blossom, left her form
With traces of the havoc that had been,
Ev'n in the sunny calm, and placid scene.
Her brow was darken'd with a gentle cloud;
Her step was slower, and her laugh less loud;
And oft her sweet voice faulter'd, though she said
Nothing in which deep meaning could be read.
I watch'd her gestures when she saw me not,
And once--(oh! will that evening be forgot?)
I stole upon her, when she little thought
Aught but the moaning wind her whispers caught.
'She sat within her bower, where the sun
Linger'd, as loth to think his task was done:
And languidly she raised her heavy gaze,
To meet the splendour of his parting rays.
O'er the smooth cheek which rested on her hand;
Down the rich curls by evening breezes fann'd;
Upon the full red lip, and rounded arm,
The swan-like neck, so snowy, yet so warm--
Each charm the rosy light was wandering o'er,
Brightening what seem'd all-beautiful before.
I paused a moment, gazing yet unseen
Beneath the sleeping shadows dark and green;
And thought, how strange that one so form'd to bless
Should better love to live in loneliness.
Pure, but not passionless, was that soft brow
So warmly gilded by the sunset now;
And in her glistening eye there shone a tear,
Like those we shed when dreaming--for some dear
But lost illusion, which returns awhile
Our nights to brighten with remember'd smile,
And yet we feel is lost, though sleep, strong sleep,
Chains the swoln lid, that fain would wake and weep.
I sat me down beside her; round the zone
That clasp'd her slender waist my arm was thrown:
And the bright ringlets of her shining hair
My fond hand parted on her forehead fair;
And thus I spoke, as with a smile and sigh
She murmur'd forth a welcome timidly:
'Again within the desert and at rest,
Say, does my Miriam find herself more blest,
Than when gay throngs in fond devotion hung
Upon the sportive accents of her tongue?
Is all which made the city seem so gay,
The song, the dance, all dream-like pass'd away?
The sighs, the vows, the worshipping forgot?
And art thou happier in this lonely spot?
Is there no form, all vision-like enshrined
Deep 'mid the treasures of thy guileless mind?
And, deaf to every pure and faithful sigh,
Say, would my desert rose-bud lonely die?'
High, 'neath the arm which carelessly caress'd,
Rose the quick beatings of that gentle breast;
And the slight pulses of her fair young hand,
Which lay so stirlessly within my own,
Trembled and stopp'd, and trembled, as I scann'd
The flushing cheek on which my glance was thrown.
'She loves,' said I; while selfish bitter grief
Swell'd in my soul;--'she loves, and I must live
Alone again, more wretched for the brief
Bright sunshine which her presence used to give.'
And then with sadden'd tones, (which, though I strove
To make them playful, tremulously came)
I murmur'd:'Yes! he lives, whom thou canst love.
His name, dear Miriam--whisper me his name.'
There was a pause, and audibly she drew
Her heaving breath; and faint and fainter grew
The hand that lay in mine; and o'er her brow
Flush'd shadows chased each other to and fro:
Till like a scorch'd-up flower, with languid grace
That young head droop'd, but sought no resting-place.
'Dreams pass'd across my soul--dreams of old days--
Of forms which in the quiet grave lay sleeping;
Of eyes which death had stripp'd of all their rays,
And weary life had quench'd with bitter weeping:
Dreams of the days when, human still, my heart
Refused to feel immortal, and kept clinging
To transient joys, which came and did depart
As fresh flowers wither, which young hands are flinging.
Dreams of the days I loved, and was beloved--
When some young heart for me its sighs was giving,
And fond lips murmur'd forth the vow that proved
Its truth in death, its tenderness when living:
And dreaming thus, I sigh'd. Answering, there came
A deep, low, tremulous sob, which thrill'd my frame.
A moment, that young form shrunk back abash'd
At its own feelings; and all vainly dash'd
The tear aside, which speedily return'd
To quench the cheek where fleeting blushes burn'd.
A moment, while I sought her fears to stay,
The timid girl in silence shrank away--
A moment, from my grasp her hand withdrew--
A moment, hid her features from my view--
Then rising, sank with tears upon my breast,
Her struggles and her love at once confess'd.
'Years--sorrow--death--the hopes that leave me lone,
All I have suffer'd, and must suffer on;
The love of other bright things which may pass
In half eclipse, beyond the darken'd glass
Through which my tearful soul hath learnt to gaze--
The fond delusions of all future days:--
All that this world can bring, hath not the power
To blot from memory that delicious hour.
She, who I thought would leave me desolate--
For whom I brooded o'er a future fate;
She, who had wander'd through each sunny land,
Yet found no heart that could her love command--
She lay within my arms, my own--my own--
Unsought, unwoo'd, but oh! too surely won.
'She was not one of many words and vows,
And breathings of her love, and eager shows
Of warm affection;--in her quiet eye,
Which gazed on all she worshipp'd silently,
There dwelt deep confidence in what she loved,
And nothing more--till some slight action proved
My ceaseless thought of her: then her heart woke,
And fervent feeling like a sunrise broke
O'er her illumined face. Her love for me
Was pure and deep, and hidden as the fount
Which floweth 'neath our footsteps gushingly,
And of whose wanderings none may take account;
And like those waters, when the fountain burst
To light and sunshine, which lay dark at first,
Quietly deep, it still kept flowing on--
Not the less pure for being look'd upon.
'And then she loved all things, and all loved her.
Each sound that mingleth in the busy stir
Of nature, was to her young bosom rife
With the intelligence of human life.
Edith, my playful Edith, when her heart
Tenderly woke to do its woman's part,
Fill'd with a sentiment so strong and new,
Each childish passion from her mind withdrew,
And looking round upon the world beheld
Her Isbal only. By deep sorrow quell'd,
Xarifa's was a melancholy love.
The plashing waters, the blue sky above,
The echo speaking from the distant hill,
The murmurs indistinct which sweetly fill
The evening air--all had for her a tone
Of mournful music--and I stood alone
The one thing that could bid her heart rejoice
With the deep comfort of a human voice.
Not so, young Miriam. Love, within her breast,
Had been a welcome and familiar guest
Ev'n from her childhood:--I was link'd with all
The sunny things that to her lot might fall;
The past--the present--and the future, were
Replete with joys in which I had my share.
Nothing had been, or ever could be, felt
Singly, within the heart where such love dwelt--
Her birds, her trees, her favourite walks, her flowers,
She knew them not as hers--they were all ours.
And thus she loved in her imaginings
Our earth, and all its dumb and living things;
Oft whispering in her momentary glee,
It was the world I dwelt in; part of me:
And, bound by a sweet charm she might not break,
She look'd upon that world, and loved it for my sake.
'How shall I tell it? Linda, a dark pain
Is in my heart, and in my burning brain.--
Where is she?--where is Miriam?--who art thou?
Oh! wipe the death-dew from her pallid brow;
I dare not touch her! See, how still she lies,
Closing in weakness her averted eyes:
Gaspingly struggling for her gentle breath--
And stretching out her quivering limbs in death!
Will no one save her? Fool!--the shadow there
Is the creation of thine own despair.
No love, no agony, is in her heart:
In sin, in suffering, she hath now no part.
She is gone from thee--sooner doom'd to go
Than Nature meant; but thou didst will it so.
'Oh, Linda! the remembrance of that day,
When sad Xarifa's spirit pass'd away,
Haunted me ever with a power that thou,
Who hast not sinn'd or suffer'd, canst not know.
My joys were turn'd to miseries, and wrought
My heart into delirium; I thought
That, as she wept, so Miriam would weep,
And start and murmur in her troubled sleep:
That, as she doubted, Miriam too would find
A dark suspicion steal across her mind:
That, as she faded, Miriam too would fade,
And lose the smile that round her full lips play'd:
That as she perish'd--Miriam too would die,
And chide me with her last reproachful sigh.
Often when gazing on her open brow,
And the pure crimson of her soft cheek's glow--
Sudden, a dark unhappy change would seem
To fall upon her features like a dream.
In vain her merry voice, with laughing tone,
Bade the dim shadow from my heart begone:
Pale--pale and sorrowful--she seem'd to rise,
Death on her cheek, and darkness in her eyes;
The roundness of her form was gone, and care
Had blanch'd the tresses of her glossy hair.
Wan and reproachful, mournfully and mild
Her thin lips moved, and with an effort smiled.
And when with writhing agony I woke
From the delusion, and the dark spell broke;
And Miriam stood there, smiling brilliantly,
Shuddering, I said, 'And yet these things must be.'
Must be;--that young confiding heart must shrink
From my caress; the joyous eyes which drink
Light from the sunshine that doth play within,
Must grovel downcast with a sense of sin;
Or, startled into consciousness, will gaze
Bewilderingly upon the sunset rays;
And, meeting mine, with sorrow wild and deep,
Heart and eyes sinking, turn again to weep.
Yes, these things must be: if, when years have pass'd,
Each leaving her more fading than the last,
She turns to the companion of her track,
And, while her wandering thoughts roam sadly back,
Seeks in her soul the reason why his form
Laughs at the slow decay or ruffling storm,
That hath wreck'd better things;--while on her sight,
With the deep horrible glare, and certain light
Of hell to a lost soul, the slow truth breaks;
Till, as one wounded in his sleep, awakes
To writhe, and shriek, and perish--silently:
Her heart is roused--to comprehend and die.
'To die!--and wherefore should she not depart
Ere doubt hath agonized the trusting heart?
Wherefore not pass away from earth, ere yet
Its mossy bosom with her tears is wet?--
It was a summer's morning, when the first
Glance of that dreadful haunting vision burst
Upon my mind:--I doom'd her then to die,
For then I pictured to my heart and eye
A world where Miriam was not:--often after,
Amid the joyous ringing of her laughter,
In sunshine and in shade, those thoughts return'd,
Madden'd my brain, and in my bosom burn'd.
Oh, God! how bitter were those idle hours,
When softly bending o'er her fragrant flowers,
She form'd her innocent plans, and playfully
Spoke of that future which was not to be!
How bitter were her smiles--her perfect love--
Her deep reliance, which no frowns could move,
On the affections of my murderous heart,
Where the thought brooded,--when shall she depart?
As Jephthah gazed upon her smiling face,
Who bounded forth to claim his first embrace;
And felt, with breathless and bewilder'd pause,
Her early death foredoom'd--her love the cause:
As Jephthah struggled with the vow that still
Bound his pain'd soul against his own free will;
And heard her fond and meekly-worded prayer,
To climb the well-known hills, and wander there,
Weeping to think that in her virgin pride
The beautiful must perish--no man's bride;
And that her name must die away from earth;
And that her voice must leave the halls of mirth,
And they be not less mirthful: so to me
It was to gaze on Miriam silently:
Miriam, who loved me; who, if I had said,
'Lo! thou must perish--bow thy gentle head,'--
Would have repress'd each faint life-longing sigh,
Bared her white bosom, and knelt down to die,
Without a murmur.--So when she upraised
Her quiet eyes, and on my features gazed,
Asking me to come forth and roam with her
Around her favourite haunts, the maddening stir
Of agony and vain resolve would rend
My bosom, and to earth my proud head bend.
It seem'd to me as if that gentle prayer
She breathed--to bid farewell to all her share
Of life and sunshine; to behold again
The high bright happy hills and outstretch'd plain;
And then--come back and die. I left that isle,
And Miriam follow'd with a tearful smile,
Glad to be with me, sorrowful to go
From the dear scene of joy and transient woe.
As Eve to Eden--towards that land of rest
She gazed, then turn'd, and wept upon my breast.
To Italy's sweet shores we bent our course;
And for a while my grief and my remorse,
And all my fearful thoughts, forsook me, when
We mingled in the busy haunts of men.
But oh! the hour was fix'd--though long delay'd;
Like the poor felon's doom, which some reprieve hath stay'd.
'One night a dream disturb'd my frenzied soul.
Methought, to Miriam I confess'd the whole
Of what thou know'st, and watch'd her young glad face,
That on her brow her feelings I might trace.
Methought that, as I gazed, the flushing red
Once more upon her cheek and bosom spread,
As when she told her love; and then--and then--
(How strongly does that vision rise again!)
Each hue of life by gradual shades withdrew,
Till ev'n her dark blue eyes seem'd fading too.
Paler and paler--whiter and more white--
Gazing upon me in the ghastly light,
Her features grew; till all at length did seem
Like moving marble, in that sickly dream,
Except the faded eyes; they faintly kept
The hue of life, and look'd on me, and wept.
And still she spoke not, but stood weeping there,
Till I was madden'd with mine own despair--
And woke. She lay beside me, who was soon
To perish by my hand: the pale clear moon
O'er her fair form a marble whiteness threw,
And wild within my heart the madness grew.
I rush'd from out that chamber, and I stood
By the dim waters of the moon-lit flood;
And in that hour of frantic misery,
I thought my vision told how she would die,
Pining and weeping.--I return'd again,
And gazed upon her with a sickening pain.
Her fair soft arms were flung above her head,
And the deep rose of sleep her cheek was tinging:
The tear which all who follow me must shed,
Slept 'neath the lashes which those orbs were fringing.
And there she lay--so still, so statue-like--
I stagger'd to her--
I lifted up my desperate arm to strike--
Linda--I slew her!
Once--only once--she faintly strove to rise;
Once--only once--she call'd upon my name;
And o'er the dark blue heaven of those eyes,
Death, with its midnight shadows, slowly came.
That tone's despairing echo died away;
The last faint quivering pulsation ceased
To thrill that form of beauty, as it lay
From all the storms and cares of life released:
And I sat by the dead. Fast o'er my soul
A dream of memory's treasured relics stole.
And the day rose before me, and the hour,
When Miriam sat within her own sweet bower,
The red rich sunset lighting on her cheek;
Afraid to trust herself to move or speak,
Conscious and shrinking--while I strove to trace
Her bosom's secret on her guileless face.
I turn'd to press her to my burning heart--
I that had slain her--Wherefore did I start?
Cold, pure, and pale, that glowing cheek was laid,
And motionless each marble limb was lying;
Closed were those eyes which tears of passion shed,
And hush'd the voice that call'd on me in dying.
Gone!--gone!--that frozen bosom never more,
Press'd to mine own, in rapture shall be beating:
Gone!--gone!--her love, her struggles--all was o'er,
Life--weary life, would bring for us no meeting!
'They bore her from me, and they laid her low,
With all her beauty, in the cheerless tomb;
And dragg'd me forth, all weak with pain and woe,
Heedless of death, to meet a murderer's doom.
The wheel--the torturing wheel--was placed to tear
Each quivering limb, and wring forth drops of pain;
And they did mock me in my mute despair,
And point to it, and frown--but all in vain.
The hour at length arrived--a bright sweet day
Rose o'er the world of torture, and of crime;
And human blood-hounds and wild birds of prey
Waited with eagerness their feasting time.
And as I gazed, a wild hope sprang within
My feverish breast:--perchance this dreadful death
And my past sufferings might efface my sin;
And I might now resign my weary breath.
And as the blessed thought flash'd o'er my mind,
I gazed around, and smiled.--To die--to die--
Oh little thought those wolves of human kind,
What rapture in that word may sometimes lie!
They stripp'd my unresisting limbs, and bound;
And the huge ponderous engine gave a sound
Like a dull heavy echo of the moans,
The exhausted cries, the deep and sullen groans,
Of all its many victims. Through each vein
Thrill'd the strange sense of swift and certain pain;
And each strong muscle from the blood-stain'd rack,
Conscious of suffering, quiveringly shrank back.
But I rejoiced--I say I did rejoice:
And when from the loud multitude a voice
Cried 'Death!' I wildly echoed it, and said
'Death! Death! oh, lay me soon among the dead.'
And they did gaze on me with fiendish stare,
Half curiosity, and half the glare
Of bloody appetite; while to and fro,
Nearer and nearer, wheel'd the carrion crow,
As seeking where to strike.--A pause, and hark!
The signal sound!
When sudden as a dream, the heavens grew dark
On all around:
And the loud blast came sweeping in its wrath,
Scattering wide desolation o'er its path:
And the hoarse thunder struggled on its way;
And livid lightning mock'd the darken'd day
With its faint hellish lights.--They fled, that crowd,
With fearful shrieks, and cries, and murmurs loud,
And left me bound. The awful thunder crash'd
Above my head; and in my up-turn'd eyes
The gleams of forked fire brightly flash'd,
Then died along the dark and threatening skies:
And the wild howling of the fearful wind
Madden'd my ringing brain; while, swiftly driven,
The torrent showers fell all thick and blind,
Till mingling seem'd the earth and angry heaven,
A flash--a sound--a shock--and I was free--
Prostrate beside me lay the shiver'd wheel
In broken fragments--I groan'd heavily,
And for a while I ceased to breathe or feel.
'And I arose again, to know that death
Was not yet granted--that the feverish hope
Of yielding up in torture my cursed breath
Was quench'd for ever; and the boundless scope
Of weary life burst on my soul again,
Like the dim distance of the heaving main
On some lost mariner's faint failing eyes;
Who, fondly dreaming of his native shore,
(While in his throat the gurgling waters rise)
Fancies he breathes that welcome air once more,
And far across the bleak lone billows sees
Its blue cool rivers, and its shady trees;
Till when, upraised a moment by the wave,
He views the watery waste, and sickening draws
One long last gasping sigh for a green grave,
Ere helplessly he sinks in Ocean's yawning jaws.
'Night fell around. The quiet dews were weeping
Silently on the dark and mournful earth;
And Sorrow pale its sleepless watch was keeping,
And slumber weigh'd the closing lid of mirth;
While the full round-orb'd moon look'd calmly down
From her thin cloud, as from a light-wreathed crown:
And I went out beneath her silver beams;
And through my 'wilder'd brain there pass'd dark dreams
Of Miriam, and of misery, and death;
And of that tomb, and what lay hid beneath:
And I did lay my head upon that grave,
Weepingly calling on her gentle name;
And to the winds my grieving spirit gave
In words which half without my knowledge came:--
'Thou art gone, with all thy loveliness,
To the silence of the tomb,
Where the voice of friends can never bless,
Nor the cool sweet breezes come;
Deep, deep beneath the flowers bright,
Beneath the dark blue sky,
Which may not send its joyous light
To gladden those who die.
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone, and gone for ever--thou
In whom my life was bound:
The seal of death is on thy brow,
And in thy breast a wound.
Who could have slain thee, thou who wert
So helpless and so fair?
When strong arms rose to do thee hurt,
Why was not Isbal there?
Didst thou not call upon him in thy woe?
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone!--Oh! fain my heart would rest,
And dream--but thou art gone;
The head that lay upon my breast
Is hid beneath that stone.
And art thou there? and wilt thou ne'er
Rise up from that dark place,
And, shaking back thy glossy hair,
Laugh gladly in my face?
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
I loved thee--wherefore, wherefore didst thou go?
'Return, return! Oh! if the rack--
If nature's death-like strife,
Borne silently, could bring thee back
Once more to light, and life:
Ev'n if those lips that used to wreathe
Smiles that a glory shed,
Ne'er parted but in scorn, to breathe
Dark curses on my head:--
Oh! I could bear it all, nor think it woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Once more--once more--oh! yet once more!
If I could see thee stand,
A breathing creature, as before
I smote thee with this hand.
If that dear voice--oh! must these groans,
This agony be vain?
Will no one lift the ponderous stones,
And let thee rise again?
Thou wert not wont in life to work me woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?'
'And then I reason'd--Wherefore should the sod
Hold all of her, which hath not gone to God?
I have the power again that form to see--
I have the wish once more with her to be:
And wherefore should we fear to look upon
What, from our sight, some few short hours is gone?
Wherefore the thrill our senses which comes o'er
At sight of what shall breathe and feel no more?
Oh! Miriam, can there be indeed a place
Where I must dread to look upon thy face?--
And then I knelt, and desperately did tear
Thinking sometimes I may have gone in too far
and rendered myself mad on metaphors, thinking sometimes
the river’s turning has degraded into a metaphysical noose
and I’m the prime candidate for some kind of exotic extinction,
with or without enlightenment, and considering too
the exponential myriads of incommunicable interpretations,
as many as the radiant directions of a single shining, though even that
is saying too much, too little, or nothing at all,
I sit here in front of a computer screen,
smoking, drinking black coffee, priming the morning
like an eerie stranger to spring, even the willow
under the church spire, exalting
in its being poured out of something into something
like a waterclock. Over my life, as far back as I can remember,
even in daylight, even in the green morning,
I have always walked under a dark shadow of sky, a long night
that has fallen like a palladium, or radioactive dust
from an ancient, nuclear winter I must have survived
to wonder what food-chain I’m part of now. Who
can understand the myriad selves in a single moment,
the thousands of temples
whose foundations are sapped and torched in a blink of the void
when slavery changes masters and one by one
we become part of the new linkage, precisely
where we are most empty, most apprehensively free,
contriving a bond we can belong to, something
proportional to our courage to be, to create
a delusion that might convince us for awhile that understanding
is not beyond our capacity to make things up
and forget it all began as a kind of play.
In the brevity of always, I am the dark clarity
of the unnamed witness who is and isn’t me,
and I am the actor cast into the stage lights
of the dream and the dreamer, not the thread
of the tiniest spider between them. What
I see of myself, when I’m the cowled observer,
is a long night alone with time and the stars
among the vast indiscriminate deserts
that particulate our despairing monuments and distinctions.
I drink from my own muddy well of wisdom,
looking deeply into the perversion of my reflection
for any sign of love, for any
sign of assent in the light of my glacial seeing. Never
have I been assured of anyone or any part
I’ve ever played to the single occupied seat in the house
that neither applauds nor condemns
from the cold intimacy of its throne
the antics of these crucial delusions, deliberate or spontaneous,
that adorn the mental marquees, the garish neon
of the all-night feature that is me.
The same appalling silence greets the hero
as commends the clown, the theater itself
the owl of an inconclusive afterlife
enacted alike in a brothel or a shrine. No word
from the other side
has ever flowered here, no
ground of being ever sprouted keys to unlock
the efflorescence of this urgent spring, to liberate
the farce of my unknowing
from these straitjackets of affirmation and denial
and let me live sufficiently beyond both
on the nothing I am and the nothing I am not.
The Night Comes On
The night comes on like a bayonet in the eye of a baby. The mirror shatters. Shards of shining try to get their act together like small Balkan countries practicing their traditional viciousness. And yes, the world is dark, brutal, treacherous and you're walking skinless through a field of nettles, your heart exposed like an igneous stone to the dead nun weeping in the acid rain. Buried alive in your own avalanche of judgment and delusion, do you hope to send down roots? Poor baby, you think I'm cruel, that when I tell you the diamond is mud, I'm trying to transplant you into some mythic crystal clarity you have not yet attained. Wrong where there is no wrong, because you're there already. Isn't it obvious your roots are in the sky; isn't it perfectly clear that everything is perfectly clear. Don't talk to me about confusion and chaos and the seven crossroads to nowhere that lie before you like a crippled starfish. I've pushed deathcarts in the morning through the back-alleys of Calcutta and evicted squatters from the satin slums of the cemetery. There is no sin or virtue in my seeing, no little coffin of concept waiting at the end of the boat-tour for a corpse.
You're not innocent; you're not corrupt. You drink the purple blood of night like everyone else and think it's a secret. You love the criminal because you think it's more sublime than intelligence, but you don't see that you're only a butterfly in the dragon's mouth; you don't understand that ritualizing heresy is not a bridge to the other side, not the crossing of any real taboo. Be absolutely certain, you're the only firefly in this man's dark vastness, but you've cranked your own ambivalence too long not to go through withdrawal into the deep assurance of the unseen light that wants to befriend you like a small green planet glowing with life. And screw the man who thinks he's a guru when he says this; burn the mask he wears to his own funeral along with the rest of his tainted marrow. Why cavil?
If the thorns think they're the crown of the rose, should the rose care, disposing of itself petal by petal, sky by sky, like the pages of an over-read book about the dangers of reading? Do you see? The wind shimmers like waves through the tall summer grass; and at night, the stars shine down on everyone alike, ignorant of their own burning legends. Deep within you, there is a hidden moon, a blind pearl, one of the lost ruby eyes of the phoenix who put himself out like a torch in the darkness of your holy waters. Why do you look outside yourself for the world you already are? Hate me if you must, but don't curse the absence of someone who loves you outside of the net. If I'm cruel, if I'm mean, if I risk the obscenity of human lovelessness to love you; don't ask me to forgive your hive of killer bees because it's so painful to get near the honey. I'm not the Titanic and you're not an ice-berg and the worst of tragedies are those that never happen. Live, if you can, beyond the billboards you call yourself; walk out into the fields of being beyond and see, truly see, what the rest of your life's been doing while you posed like a freak in a circus tent for three grams a day. Or persist in your shadows like some third generation Nazi who can't get it up enough to hate with any authority, but, likewise, is too fond of his designer straitjacket to love. What's the point of using your head for a doorstop when you're afraid to cross your own thresholds? Why lick the paper-plates for morsels of thought at a garabage-dump and call it a feast of sages? I might be stupid, I might be wrong, I might be the willing dupe of your most cherished delusion, but at least I can see you in a clear heart, your depth and beauty and agony, three flowers growing in a crevice of your well-wall. Haven't the fish already learned to walk; the birds to swim. Don't the stars drown, drunk, in you every night, and not one in the morning with a hangover? Go ahead, tattoo hell on your eyelids and pretend you're awake to the world that's hanging from the end of your nose. I love your tears when they fall; you're a steep mountain in spring, the end of an ice-age, a fountain that's learning to crawl.
But I'm not looking for your tears, and I'm almost as sorry as you that I am who I am under this gravestone in this six-storey cemetery of your fears. Do I die well or do I disappoint your witching wands when you come looking for me like a personalized parking space in the city of the dead? And don't tell me you're fragile, you're young, you're smudged across your own reflection like lipstick on a junkie's bathroom mirror. I think too much of you to believe you. Here, here's a new dagger, a clean knife, stronger metal and a more acute blade than any you've got in that soft copper arsenal of yours. I'll even provide the forge and a blacksmith and the knowledge to fashion your own. Love isn't love that doesn't offer its artery to the beloved or complains when it's being killed. O you who think the world is such a bad place, an ugly face, go ahead and try with your space-razor to separate the moonlight from the water. You want the flower and the fruit but you despise the root. You set fire to your own nerves like fuses and try to convince me it's the work of mystic terrorists. Who knows; maybe you're trying to overthrow yourself like a repressive regime and there's no place in your politics for a firing squad still loyal to the wishes of a raving queen?
When Rage Broke Down Into Tears
When rage broke down into tears
over the shattered chandeliers of stars
that crashed against your windowpane
before they thawed in the furnace
of a Promethean thief of fire
human enough to burn,
and you cried, yes you did, I was there,
I took the splinter of light out of your eye
with the corner of the sky where Venus
goes down in the west like the crumb
of a radiant dream that wanted to break
loaves and fishes with the masses
only to find you were swimming through glass;
you cried as if all the birds in the world
had died under your windowsill
like the words to the song
you were dancing to at the time.
And you picked them up one by one
and cradled them in your hand
like a midwife with a manger
and stroked their soft bodies with your finger
as if you would give their lives back to them again
by way of apology for being human
in an ice age of rain
that had lost its purpose in life
like the seeds of flowers on the moon.
And that’s when the wind, that’s always
the moment when the wind cools your eyes
like a glassblower dipping crystal blue birds
in the fountains and watersheds of the moon
and strews your path with the flight feathers
of a nightbird that can see beyond a starmap
fireflies shining in the distance.
And you suddenly realize
a thousand and one ways home ahead of you
like a Nazca landing strip
for alien artists blown off course
into the third eye of a spiritual hurricane.
And you can’t help but fly through it
like an open window into your soul
seeking repose and shelter
among the human totems
of more habitable emotions
scratching fish, birds, monkeys, spiders
jaguars, flowers, trees, fallible people out
in the desert plains of coastal Peru.
Zoomorphic geoglyphs of greeting and return
in every conceivable sign of life
as if the whole planet came out
all at the same time to say hello
and welcome back
like a vow they kept for you
until your myth of origin
returned to its fulfilment,
a nightbird singing
in a rootless tree on the moon,
as if love, rage, life, joy,
death, separation and sorrow
were all pilgrims of one voice.
A pageant of medieval notes
bearing the banners of knights
the hoods and habits of monks,
unholy vocables of middle English
on the tip of your tongue
like the wicks
of holy candles at a black mass
where a young girl dances naked
around a pale fire on the moon
as a flower blooms in the flames,
or sparrows on a stave of power lines,
when the music makes its return journey
like Canada geese in the spring
bearing the souls of the underworld back
like the eyes and stars
and new moons of the dead
to the night of the living
making love in the dark.
Pelvis to pelvis,
heart to heart,
crescent to crescent,
two halves of a broken wishbone
conjoined again into one harp,
one cithara, one guitar
in the ashes of a blue moon,
the second harvest of loaves and fishes
at the spring and autumn equinox.
Every year a new zodiac,
the growth rings in a tree.
Something protean about memory.
The dark matrix of the muse.
A wavelength with its tail in its mouth
that doesn’t ricochet off anything else.
Lamentations, bewitchment, rapture,
time in the hold of the abyss
for not mastering your own powers.
You either cast the spell for yourself
or you wind up gilled
in your own sidereal nets,
a firefly in spider webs of dark matter,
and it’s not likely
you’re being hauled into a life boat.
There are realities, there are windows,
some broken, some whole
even the moon won’t dare look through.
And there are rooms in a palace of water
that move like fish on the moon,
and starmaps that are used to start a fire.
Birds that are the sacred syllables of the sky
that nest in chimneys like hash pipes,
every one of them the Rosetta Stone
to a language of your own
only you can learn for yourself
even if you’re the only one
who was ever born to speak it.
Most people sip spit
from other people’s wishing wells
but they’re always two echos shy of an original
and it’s enough if they put a seashell up to their ears
like a hearing aid to listen to the ocean,
a tidal pool dying like a starfish
out of water and sky,
a shore-hugger that’s afraid
to go along with the ebb and neap
of the dream that gives a pulse to the moon,
your own mindstream
returning to its homeless source
to realize that life and death are both redundant.
That whatever passes away, stays.
And that which doesn’t, goes.
And there are places so deeply secret
that everybody thinks they know
what’s happening to them as it unfolds.
But this is just a way of using knowledge
to keep your eyes closed to the world.
Only a fool would build a gate
and live in a guardhouse
of sword swallowers and fire-eaters
to keep the birds out of the garden.
Or a refugee camp for turtles.
True clarity doesn’t know the light
for what it is.
Reality is as blind to its own translucency
as a painted window.
Two blades of stargrass in a hurricane.
But if you were to take them away
like the long and short straws
of something to win or loose
like the luck of the draw
and chew on them like cud
to get to the deeper meaning
you might get a gesture of it,
you might get the flavour of it
like a dry wad of gum
stuck to the bottom
of a school room desk,
but you wouldn’t get the use of it,
for any reason at all
that should or should not concern anyone.
Have you ever noticed
that time might be
an hourglass full to the brim on top
but it always begins at the peak
of an inverted pyramid
stuck like an arrowhead
in a flesh wound of sand that’s bleeding out?
What’s the point of trying
to claw your way up the heap
to the top of the bottom
when even Sisyphus knows
enough about absurdity
to realize the mountain
climbs its own reflection
all the way down like an avalanche
of all those little rocks
you used to roll up a hill
convinced you were getting somewhere.
And it’s true there’s a different universe
in every grain of sand
and every grain of sand is us.
So why go looking
for what’s already been found?
In any universe there’s no up or down.
And everywhere anywhere you are
from the smallest pebble on the beach
to the most radiant star beyond reach
the gates of the lost
are the end of the search.
And It's Not Hard To See I'm Wandering In A Dry Abyss
And it's not hard to see I'm wandering in a dry abyss
trying to squeeze tears as readily out of the stars as the desert
that turns everything that lives here into a chronic exile.
Don't know if I'm talking to a mirage, a reflection of some
aspect of the dark side of the moon I can't see from here,
an eidolon, a fractal of my self-similarity, a 3D projection
of my pineal gland emanating images into a creatively holographic space
and one of them is wearing your face like smoke from a fire
I'm sitting around like a frog at the autumnal equinox
beside a burning waterlily with a parched mouth.
Matters a lot, but that's ok. I've had visitations before
and I know this kind of seance can either go ethereal or carnate
and sometimes, though it's a lottery, not a spiritual discipline, both.
If my solitude talks to its own echo like a water sylph
in a housewell full of stars, who's to say that isn't
my kind of telescope? That some eyes can see further
than mirrors and lenses, and space is riddled with them
like the golden ratios behind galaxies and black holes
I keep throwing sunflower seeds into hoping they'll root and bloom.
I am immensely aware of my inconsequence in the world,
and the fact that there's vanity even in that. No matter.
As close to selfless as I want to get for awhile.
I paint a lot. I write even more. But the best things I see
come to me spontaneously in the early morning
before the light turns apostate at noon, and late at night
when I'm haunting the Tay River with the willows,
or watching lightning in a tantric rage above the rooftops of Perth.
And more than once I've talked my ghost
back into the grave before dawn evaporated us both
like morning stars in the mist on a lake rising
like the wild swans of the moon above the ragged elms.
Within me, where the universe lives, you're a muse
of dark energy expanding the starfields like space into the unknown,
and I'm growing new eyes like the T Tauri stars in the Pleiades,
and I'm digging up my own fossils in the bone pits
on the shepherd moons of all my most sacred annihilations,
and I'm adding a new shrine to my visual lobe
to see in the dark what shape of the universe you are,
and if you look at the moon, sometimes, as I do,
like the cold stone of an enlightened skull,
or a nocturnal scar that lucidly transcended the wound.
Right now my mouth is an occult grammar of black diamonds,
a fountain at midnight, learning to articulate your stars
like the glyphs of new metaphors that are still deciphering me
to adorn the mystery of this encounter with you
like the moon in the night mirror of the Black Taj Mahal
in sacred syllables that will leave the frogs and the nightbirds
as tongue-tied for awhile as the gargoyles and ghouls
on a Gothic cathedral. Wanted to be an archaeologist
when I was a kid and ever since I got waylaid by poetic cosmology,
I've been brushing the leaves away like the wind
from the ribs and the vertebrae of the trees
in the late Cretaceous of autumn just to get down to essentials,
and see what kind of utensils they took to the grave with them
for eras now. You see how it is with me, all oxymoronic metaphors
trying to bridge duality into a unified field theory
that includes the spiritual like a prodigal wavelength
that might make a difference to the dark matter at hand
as well as the light in the other. I'm an ambidextrous nightbird.
A discipline of longing and renewal that isn't for petty people
terrified of the truths that sting and sing within them
like dragons of rage and bliss who don't need a voice coach,
a mentor, a guru, a nightschool, an intercessor or a crutch
to be told how to hold a note like a bird disappearing into the nightsky.
An hourglass, even when it's filled with the sands of Mars,
gets bored with its own lies over the years, and I'm intrigued
by the earthly candour and sidereal wonder in the way you look at life.
Your ferociously indignant compassion for people, and the passion
to translate the mysticism of contemplation into action,
and the savagery of the solitude that snarls at them to go away
when you need to lick your own wounds, and mix up
a new potion of stem cells with starmaps so they can get
to the furthest parts of your body and mind, those outposts
on the borders between sanity and crazy wisdom
where the silence won't divulge whether everyone died
in the last assault, or just ran out of ammunition.
And I've seen your eyes narrow like crescent moons
in the eyes of a cat that wants to get to the point like a pencil-sharpener.
You're hydra-headed, sapiosexual, as you've said
and your face is as chameleonic as the birthmark of a black Isis
from Merovingian France seven centuries before
the troubadours of Occitania. You're the Aquitaine.
You're Eleanor. You're the yellow planta genesta
that grew wild all over the hills like a stubborn field fire
of radical sunshine that burns all the way down to the roots.
Then you're foxfire potted in the ashes of the urns
of your old lovers transplanted to an open windowsill where
you can give them some air and some light
and you get a chance to bloom again in your own right.
I'm a dragon, a wolf, a warrior son of Virgo,
a demonic familiar doomed to do good despite himself
by trying to lead other people away from me toward themselves,
though I admit it's an ironic sacrifice to be
so gift-wrapped with flesh that few have torn my lifemasks away
to see how I burn in excruciating immolations like a root-fire inside.
Boo hoo, for me, if the moon cuts its finger and doesn't
ask me to kiss it better. Fire doesn't burn itself and the blade
is never sharp enough to make the distinction
between the moon on the waters and its reflection,
between creative annihilation and its extinction.
I've seen swords cry like dew at the tips
of the sabres of stargrass bent towards the earth
like the hands of a clock commemorating the ravages of time
saluting its purple hearts on review in a parade-ground of flowers.
I can see deadly nightshade in you, the palette of a witch,
and the orchids you mix into the brew like the petals
of a new moon, like a lonely wish against hope,
some warlock with gravitational eyes who can bend the light
like water, is going to see the masterpiece of the mandala
that could empower his darkness like the first sight of Venus
over the occluded hills of Lanark where these shadows
only want to serve your lustre to enhance its radiance,
to make you the threshold and gold standard
of his prodigal homelessness parsecs across
at the narrowest ford in my mindstream beyond
gone, gone, gone, altogether gone beyond
where Morpheus bends the river like a flight of crows and doves
like a zodiacal, shape-shifting Etruscan king releasing them
from an aviary of fixed stars, to let the constellations
assume whatever paradigm and legend of shining they want
into the perennially true meaning of
here, here, here, altogether here and now.
Venus approaching Regulus in Leo
and a torch of burning starwheat like Spica in Virgo.
This Late In The Day
This late in the day, could I love you, could you
love me? If I made a black rose of my blood,
redshifting into the dark, and gave it to you,
not knowing what to expect, would you counter-intuit
the wounded watershed of the poetic imagery?
Younger I was a lot more dangerous than I am now,
though I wasn't trying to be. Dragons raged in me
in infernal crusades of the bad against the worst
as I stood at the flaming gates of the vulnerable
and said to their worst nightmares you shall not pass.
I used my horns and scales to empower the innocent,
trying to turn a curse into a virtue, the atrocities
of the left-handed legacy of my condemned childhood
into something even a stranger might be proud of.
In Zen it's said that nobody likes a real dragon
and even among those I came to the rescue of
like a Viking long boat with runes like scars
chiselled into stone, and well-seasoned swords
that backed up my word down to the very least detail,
even among the exiles who felt compelled to love me,
even among those who didn't want to be seen
as hypocrites of their fashionable memes if they didn't,
I could see people backing away from me
like an expanding universe running on dark energy
and that was ok, I was raised to bite the bullet
whenever my heart was liberated by amputation.
Free of me, I am unencumbered by concern.
I can solo in the night skies I return to without fear
of estranging the stars with my intensities.
Now there's more mage than king in my immensities,
and time, sorrow and death have blunted my edge
like broken glass rounded in the turmoil of the tides
and Merlin has returned Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake,
I feel more like a rodeo clown in a barrel
with a funny hat, a painted tear, and a flower on my head,
a floppy poppy in red, trying to turn the crescents
of the moon bull on me like a Mayan calendar
to keep from goring the fallen who were mounted
above me like heroes that took a fall. A dragon
sheds its deathmasks like petals of the moon.
So if I presented myself to you as I am
could you learn to love an enlightened buffoon
with the injured nobility of a distinguished demon
guarding a small boy's notion of doing
some good in the asylum of the raving world,
intrigued with the urgency of innocence
to redeem itself like a mutant gene in the fuse
of an occult chromosome that's always
about to go off like a bomb buried
in the Milky Way of a fanatical supernova?
Was a time I'd hang the heads of my enemies
like Al Ghoul from my earlobes if they dared
to threaten anything I loved that couldn't defend itself.
Was a time I'd start a fight at my own funeral
just to stand up for someone when I couldn't.
Now I'm hemorrhaging like amaranthus
on an infernal summer day and my heart
is a coal bin of all the things I used to be
and there's more tears in the diamonds than blood.
I don't dip my pen in the trough of the world,
and I don't shepherd wolves to graze on the mountain.
Even when space turns to glass, and water leaks out
of the reactor like a constrictor from an aquarium
I endure the inverted question marks
of the hooks I hang on in a deep freeze
as if just to endure were to spite in spades
the cruelty of conditions taking their natural course.
Seven come eleven, but I can look at things
through the snake eyes of frost bitten dice
and not end up piping on a stone flute.
I was born standing in the doorway of an exit
that glowed red at night like a miscarriage of the light
but still the road sign of a back way out of hell.
So if I wrote you a poem you couldn't understand
would you exalt in your power to unman me
or would you feel the tenderness of the beast
behind the eclipse of the black lion that wears
the corona of the sun for a mane, a sunspot for a face?
Would you trust that the darkness is full of eyes
and some are hunting you, and some are shy
in your presence like wolves that have been shot at
because they're wild and as cunning as life?
Would you bait the meat with poison in a leg hold trap
or would you defang me into affability
and teach me to lower my voice when the moon was full?
Would we lie in the same bed with a sword between us?
I could befriend your fireflies. I could mitigate your thorns.
I could get behind whatever you dream
like dark matter behind a light filled universe
and when you were sad, let the rain play my scales
like a harpischord or a guitar with a black hole
in the middle of it I would descend into
like an Orphic underworld to sing you back to life.
I would lift all my taboos for you and give you
an exemption in the night to approach me as you wish
and even if your hand weren't brave enough to ask
I would fill it full of jewels with magic properties
that tempt the thieves of light to risk the labyrinths
of the inviolable graves on the dark side of the moon.
I would beatify you like a grail in a secret society
of warrior saints that haven't had a drink in years.
And if your chandeliers ever had a nervous breakdown
in a lightning storm, I would dig up the bulbs
of the crystal skulls I buried in your garden for next year
and let you talk to them yourself about your fears
of what's to come, and how to heal the shattered
with the dark clarity of compassionate crazy wisdom
drifting on the oceans of your tears
like a hydra-headed lifeboat empty but for you.
I would plunder spiritual islands in the wake
of extinct volcanoes to bring you
the rarest herbs of insight prophecy could afford
to see you dancing again like a constellation
rising over my event horizon with no fear of the abyss.
I could do this, I would be this, and will and more
and mean it if you'd let me. I could be the quicksilver
water of life and you could be the white sulphur
substance of the great work, its spirit and activity.
Or the other way around, if you like, given I was born
on a Wednesday with wings on my heels and head.
I could be the dragon trickster, infernal and divine
the hermaphroditic hidden secret
buried in the earth, creature of fire and air,
and you could be the salt, the anima mundi,
the philosopher's stone, the light of the soul,
the wisdom that gives life and energy their forms,
mistress of the planets and the stars, the divine energy
that moves all things around to bring things about.
What an experiment we'd make, what an art,
what a conjunction of life and love and bodyminds
what signs we could reveal, what prophecies scry,
what freedoms take we could be burned at the stake for.
And the sand paintings we could pour through an hourglass
that would blow away like the dust of the road
and the comets that fell from their black halo
around the sun, and the lifting of waterbirds
in the pewter moonlight feathered on a lake
we could observe, and the scores of new constellations
we could form like new houses of an alternative zodiac
for the dispossessed stars of the homeless
burning their hearts out around oil drums under bridges
that span them like the Egyptian sky goddess Nut,
and the poems that would flow like spiritual transfusions
into the carnal bloodbanks of the burning rose
with a needle exchange of thorns, and the transmutations
of base metal into gold and back again, of dragonflies
gleaming like anthracite in the birth fluids of their chrysales
drying the filigreed silver of their wings in the sun,
paper clipped to the waterlilies like pencils behind their ears,
and the light years of passion and devotion
this would take to be done in unison, in chaos,
in wonder and bliss, in fingertips, eyes, skin and lips,
two alchemists in the Vas Hermeticum of a conceivable abyss.
Seeds Of Fire In A Nightsky
Seeds of fire in a nightsky root like flowers
in the ashes of my eyes I scattered on the wind
like the dust of stars I followed even into oblivion
to remain faithful to the life of the light
whatever transformations within me grew
into the starless darkness of the unknown heart
I've carried in my chest for years like the empty shrine
of a dead lantern to the last firefly to go out.
And this is a seeing without the eyes of the stranger
I no longer recognize as who I thought I was
when I could read the constellations like the Linear B
of the lost civilization that was elaborated out of me
to perish in the mountainous silence of what was abandoned
when I burned my starmaps and entered chaos
like the blackhole of the singularity
that could rejuvenate me out of nothing like a grail
I was seeking at the bottom of the deepest grave
I ever descended into, a spider at the end of its silk,
or a caterpillar like the distant rumour of a butterfly
on a tranformational pilgrimage to an unknown shrine
that crawled with it all the way back to the beginning
of the radical innocence of an radiant world,
before time overran it with arrivals and departures
as if it never meant anything in the first place
to aspire to the light in the hope of a deeper intimacy with life.
And in this darkness, there is no letting go,
or hanging on to what cannot be grasped by understanding
until you realize that understanding only ever finds itself
and the vastness of what's expanding before it
into the unknown, is not a journey with a destination
or a threshold that can be crossed into illumination
like a voice meditating in the silence of its mother-tongue.
I was looking for the light by the light
I was given to go by when the wind blew it out
like a candle I no longer needed
to make my way deeper into this homeless darkness
that does not cast a shadow of time on enlightened extinction.
How can you divine what isn't missing within yourself?
The seeker dies by the side of the road
like a cry for help in the dangerous distance
pleading to be rescued by its own echo, and it comes
but not in a language of its own, not
as the event of anything that could have been anticipated,
not as something you can bring back with you
like the taste of water to the lips of a delirious mirage
to prove there's a reality beyond delusion
where everyone drinks from the same well
the muses of wisdom summon them to without a mouth.
As unsentimental as an overnight frost on the garden,
the larkspur rimed by billions of cold stars,
as if my seeing condensed out of the air
and every insight were a sign of farewell to the mystery
that urged me to risk everything like a tribute
to the divinity of nothing that had seized upon my heart
like a sacred clown faithful to the folly of experience.
Like the footprints of space and time that stretched behind him
for lightyears like the forced smile and phony tear
of the painted lifemask that convinced him he was not dead
to the ordeals of the journey he was leading nowhere
but to where he was every moment of the way
trusting in the crazy wisdom of the laughter
that regaled him every step of the way
like the cornerstone of the absurdity
that kept looking for new hills of prophetic skulls
to roll over like dice in a bone-box.
To wander like a rogue planet on an aberrant wavelength
of dark matter that doesn't express itself like moonlight
talking to itself like the open-mouthed seed syllables
of the waterlilies at night on the Fall river
writing love poems back to the stars that inspired them.
You want to overhear what the universe
is whispering to itself like a madman in his sleep
in the unbreachable silence of a fathomless dream
of random atoms engendering the forms of awareness
like a grammar of chaos out of its own unattainability
trying to make some sense of what it's saying,
an asylum of paradigms that undermines it own existence
in the arraying of a conditioned universe?
You have to learn to learn to hear it in a language
no one has ever spoken before you, as if
you'd never heard your own voice before
from somewhere deep within you saying
let it be as the stars broke into light
like the distant echo of an unknown wonder
that perceives the source of its own extinction
in the birth of everything, in the slightest conception
of the inconceivable rooting in its own ashes on the wind.
We all listen to the eloquence of things we don't understand
like a secret we're forbidden to tell anyone,
that keeps giving us away death after death,
birth after birth to our imperceptible selves.
Imagination seeds the mind of our uninhibited potential
to flower into worlds where the fruit comes before the blossom
as the harvest precedes the seed, or the darkness
wakes the nightbird up to its longing for love and light
and all our deaths are already achieved behind us
long before anyone was born to suffer them.
And yet we suffer them like a truce with the absurdity of the act
that establishes peace like a third-eye
in the middle of a hurricane that gives meaning
to the dark abundance of our extinction gathering into light
by sacrificing our emptiness like gods to our own creations
over and over and over again, as we surrender to ourselves
like candles returning themselves like fire
to the the light that inspired them
like water to the river it was taken from.
The distance of the journey of life is a wingspan
that cannot be estimated in shadows.
And though you master all the meanings in the world
and learn to love their subtleties like the taste
of mystic wine, or enlightened tea,
you're still the guest that's never met its host face to face
because everything you say is always behind you
like the light of a star whose immediate life
is always ahead of it hidden in the darkness like a jewel
that has yet to know the light of a direct encounter.
If you want to see deeply into the shining
you have to grow your own eyes to accommodate
the perennial insight into the restive vision at hand.
And you must learn to live without knowing
what it is you've come to understand
about the ashes of the dragons in the afterlives of the stars.
Don't let the scars intimidate the innocence of your wounds
as if you could never be hurt again by what
you cherished the most in your search to find yourself
in the absence of anything you could be attached to.
Look at the fireflies emerging from the valley fog
of a passing storm like a shapeshifting constellation
dancing at its own wake like a blissed-out drunk at a funeral.
You can taste the whole history of life
like a wandering myth of origin in every sip of water
flavoured with the reflection of things that changed along the way.
Don't mourn the transformations that enabled you to stay awhile
like snow on the mountaintops, dew on the tongues
of the new leaves of the apple-tree that emerge
like the sacred syllables of lovepoems
to the unknown windfalls of the mystery they facilitate
out of the urgency of their own becoming.
Here, where we speak for awhile, in the diction of things
arranged in the mystic grammars and paradigms
of our own likeness reflected like starmaps
to the shining that ripened our eyes from within
as if the whole world were turned inside out
and you had to descend into yourself to see the stars
like an arrangement of chaos expressed in metaphors,
the liars speak clearly in the language of other men's mouths
that can be easily understood, as the tongue-tied sages
blunder like an ineffable silence into the deepening mystery
of the creative eloquence of the unsayable things
that life speaks through them like the facts of a dream
that trues their wisdom to the disparate harmonies
of the illuminated chaos deep within the heart of life
that keeps contradicting itself like a pulse among the dead.
To See The Glee In Your Eyes At Eighty
To see the glee in your eyes at eighty
as if you were about to achieve something as big
as you did at three.
And you, there, shy one, freaky adolescent
day after day in the same corner of the restaurant
like a bruised mermaid
riding the clock out like a sea turtle
until it’s time to go home again and face the music;
you who drive your pen so deeply
into the fleshy paper
of your black arts journal
as if you were carving up a body
or intensely wedging the tiny bird tracks
of your hieroglyphic footnotes
like some bitter aside
into the shin of that Ramsean gigantism
you’re standing in the shadow of
waiting for it to get dark enough
the fireflies might come out.
To see you light up like a rainbow at a black mass
when I ask if I can look
and you turn your book over like a leaf
and show me a breakthrough masterpiece
that’s good enough to start a school of crocuses
with no instruction from anyone.
To see you afraid to believe in your own excellence
the juno of your aristos
yet risking the possibility it might be a fact
you’re the mysterious matrix
of a genuinely creative act;
that you might feel
like you’ve got a lump of coal for a heart
and a La Brea tar pit for a mind
but when the mascara comes off
like a Gothic eclipse
you’re a new moon
and you’re starting to shine like a diamond.
To see the black dove in your eyes
liberated from the cages of disapproval
imposed on you by white crows in disguise
is to know
what human beings are doing on earth.
To see what softens the angry blue eyes
of the next generation
of gram masters of Gore Street
with their heads shaved like Auschwitz
or the Stalinesque inmates of the Thief’s World
with its rock pile laws
trying to stay true to the Rosetta Stone
of their prison tattoos
like the sacred syllables
of the mother tongue of darkness.
To see in the glee in their eyes
when their girlfriends take them back
that their hearts are not hard enough yet
to be immune to alienation
and for all the rocks that blister in spoons
the occasional angel still keeps its place
as Francis Thompson knew better than these
under the stones that love turns over
like eclipses of the moon
that weren’t indelible enough to last.
To see the glee in the eyes of a child
when it looks at an animal
and sees the same instinctive innocence
that’s just as wild as it is
and watch their minds go crazy
trying to give their tongues
a jump up on their amazement
at meeting a senient life form
that speaks the same language they do
and shares in the original parity
of the undifferentiated freedom
they still enraptures them in Dilmun
and the Garden of Eden.
To see such ecstasy in their eyes
is to know how much wonder is lost
how much joy in just being here with everything else
is driven out of us
as we age our way into separation
deluded by the truth
that perfects our isolation
from the small and big furry things with startling eyes
and the Bolshoi Ballet of fins and veils
that makes my gold fish Toke a dancer
or an underwater comet
high above Atlantis
like a good omen on the eve
of some catastrophic decision
to rise again with more imagination to live
than the dead have reason not to.
To see the glee in the eyes of a friend in winter
like the bouquet of good brandy
beside a warm fire mythologizing
the first drafts of the stories
that are being told and retold
by the blind poets of an oral tradition
sipping red gold
from the snifters of inspiration
they swirl like the whirlpools of the muses
warming to their palms like the head of a glass rose
with its stem between their fingers.
To see in their eyes how good it is
to recognize we’re all linked like tree rings
to the same heartwood
through all four seasons of our lives
is to make a friend of your own human nature
by remembering even in the midst
of this blitz of blazing that blinds the world
on the frantic midways of its cheap thrills
like a heart under a roof heavy with snow
the best things in life
like fires and friends
and goblets of auburn Courvoisier
still glow without diminishment.
To see the glee in the eyes of the rain
that they can behold the whole of the sky again
and all its stars
in the single dropp of a tear
though the rain doesn’t know who it’s crying for
is to understand in a flash of insight
even though you fall
like the small flower at the tip of a blade of stargrass
like a grain of sand down the slopes
of the oxymoronic mountains in an hourglass
you contain it all within yourself
and you can’t pour the universe out of the universe
anymore than you can be driven out of paradise
or be obliterated out of existence
whether humanity immolates itself
or dark energy accelerates us
into an entropy of starless ice.
To perceive the stars and the fireflies in the eyes of the rain
is to comprehend that your mystic specificity
is so unique and broad-shouldered
that down to the slightest detail
what makes you so crucially you
is that it upholds the whole of the rest of the world
in every cell and grain of gold and dirt
like a mountain of a cornerstone
that’s as boundless and high
as its bottomless valley is deep.
To look into the eyes of the stranger
the child the friend the lover the corpse
the eye of the hurricane the enemy the Medusa
the wounded white tail buck in the barbed wire fence
the black-eyed Susans the English ox-eyed daisies
or the yellow suns in the hydrogen clouds
of the New England asters
or the white eclipse of the black holes
in the eyes of the shark as it rolls to kill
or to attune the expression
to the sensibilities of the moment
as a fourteenth century German mystic once wrote
the same eye by which I see the multiverse
are all the eyes by which the multiverse sees me.
What you see
When you understand
Lost causes flaws and imperfections.
The lamp the road the night the light the journey.
You can ask the fireflies.
You can ask the galaxies.
But when you’ve exhausted all your cul de sacs
it’s going to be your own seeing
that gives you the right directions
like true north on the inside
and then reminds you in a gentle aside
that it’s impossible to be off the path
because it’s as wide as your field of vision.
When you see for yourself
who’s watching you in this dream of life
even the blind are enlightened
and as many as the ways
and as myriad as the eyes there are
to see in and through your mind
like a jewel turning in the light
it reveals like infinite insight
from the dark source of its own radiance
we rejoice in the genius
of compassion and courage
who took a Pax gene and a moonbeam
and in a moment of omnidirectional inspiration
that included all points of view at once
made it the muse of our eyes.
When you realize
that sight is a kind of love
as I once read on a poster in the sixties
when you open your eyes
like an expanding universe
even our imperfections shine
in the available dimensions of the darkness before us
and born from the very beginning of everything else
to see and be happy
eye to eye with your own vision of things
as they appear and disappear
like thorns and roses from your heart
like leptons axions and quarks
like the stem cells of your own creative potential
to enter the dark spaces of your own imageless realms
and revel like a child in the art
of making worlds within worlds
like an opening night that everyone’s invited to.
Comets bombarded the earth
and the waters of life
broke from their fire wombs
and for the children of that union
there’s never been a way
to look into the eyes of their opposite
without seeing themselves.
Whether in sorrow or joy
whether in love despair ignorance or wisdom
out of our minds
or biding our time within them
like a flower that knows when to bloom
our shadows cast on a winter night
by the approaching light of Venus
or exalted by the crazy wisdom of life
in the thriving tides of the moon
eyes in the sky
like spy satellites extraterrestrials
and Hubble telescopes
eyes in the water
eyes in the blood
eyes in the wine
eyes in the wheat the apple the pomegranate
eyes in the forbidden fruits
that make all things believable
two eyes and a third
in the word for imagination
to conceive of the inconceivable.
When you see this
through your own eyes
even the mirages the delusions the lies
confess to themselves creatively.
Don’t judge the immensity of the world within
by the grain of sand it comes in
or the density of the pyramid
by what the thieves left of its grave goods.
Imagination is a dragon fly
that can take the fallen and broken
the duff and decay
the twig the leaf the petal
and glue it into a small house of transformation
so the worm comes out breathing fire
like a burnt matchstick with wings.
Don’t waste the creative potential
of your own imperfections.
You can find holy water in a tainted well
if you know how to look for it.
The moon dips her cup
in the waters of life
because she has none
and as she raises it to her lips
what looked like a skull
turns into a long-stemmed goblet.
Doorways of light.
Doorways of night.
We open them both alike.
We part the veils of space
to see who’s wearing our face
like a mask in the guise of a universe.
When you understand
We weep rivers of stars
into our own hands
to drink from our own reflections
just to taste the light and the life
of the mysterious insight
that burns within us
when the sun shines at midnight.
God, I Hurt Sometimes For Reasons I Can Only Guess
God, I hurt sometimes for reasons I can only guess.
Don't know what it is, too much love, too little,
but it feels like I'm giving birth to fog,
or my heart is standing in the doorway
of an abandoned chrysalis asking if
we could do it all a little differently this time,
and ingather like the nebulae of the stars
instead of the circus tents of these gypsy moths
swarming the Dutch elms like fake starmaps
that don't know much about shining in the dark,
but eat mini blackholes through the leaves
that have known greener days of radiance,
and more creative things to do with the light.
I can see the stars even in daylight
from the bottom of this fathomless well
only the snakes and the frogs and the fireflies
descend into to drink from the dark watershed
of the mystery I'm swimming through
like an albino bioluminescent fish through black ink
trying to find the words to express this sorrow
that overtakes me from time to time
as if life's waterclock had confined itself
to one bucket for awhile. And time had stopped.
It's as if I could feel every wound in the world
pierce the hummingbird of my heart on the thorns
of a black rose, as if I could feel the secret grief
of the yellow star in the violet eye of the beautiful lady
who toxically weeps like the belladonna
under the chandeliers of the deadly nightshade
that cures what it kills in love
administering death like mercy to put her lover
out of his misery with an oceanic love potion
he can't help but thrive upon like nectar and ambrosia.
As if I were picking up the small body of a sparrow
in the cradle of my hands and seeing in it,
its random extinction in the face of the windowpane
that lied, the death of the sky. And it's strange
that I do, that my eyes should fill with unprompted tears
that I'm digging a hole with my bare hands
in the same bed of tiger lilies I buried my goldfish in
like the big June bugs lying on their backs
perfectly preserved out in the open on the cement sidewalk
where I stopped to bury them with a finger for a spade,
when no one was looking who might laugh at me,
and mark their graves with two blades of grass,
on my way back from rugby practise, on King's Street,
to make sure nobody stepped on them just for fun,
as if death itself weren't already enough of a desecration,
a seeming destruction, to satisfy them for awhile.
And it's silly, I know, to bury the dead
in the soil of my heart as if they were bulbs
I planted in the fall to bloom in the spring
like the bells of the blue hyacinth
and the white gold daffodils of a pagan Easter
emerging like the high priestesses of a mystery religion
that returns resurrection to the womb of a woman.
Amorphous pain, homogeneously dispersed,
like the afterbirth of the background universal hiss
that miscarried into the post-natal depression
of an emptiness that keeps reversing its spin
on the state of things like synchronous happenings
in the charged particle field of a duplicitous politician,
like a ghost in the rain, like a faraway train,
my heart's the red lantern of a Chinese box-kite
way down the line at the last stop
where no one gets off, and no one arrives,
and there are no starmaps like tourist brochures
to point out like cabbies, the hotspots
of what's shining down upon nothing tonight.
I can feel the inhuman solitude
of eighty thousand prisoners sentenced
to years of isolation in the third eye of the pen
chewing on their shadows like leg-hold traps,
and the contemplative vengeance of their keepers
walking the night rounds with socks on their feet
in the wee hours of the morning as if it were they
who had avoided capture and mastered failure
by defeating these uncaged in their sleep.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said, or was it Walter de la Mare,
tread lightly for you tread on my dreams,
some like mushrooms, some like landmines.
But it isn't the kind of pain you can factor
a cause into like fireflies into the Slough of Despond,
or the Valley of Death, after the storm has passed
like an electric chair that's just thrown the switch.
It's softer than that, inclusive, embrasive, almost
lunar in its compassion for the least of things
from flies with wings torn off like the pages
of a calendar, June bugs, to the orphanage of asteroids
that nobody wanted when the solar system
was first forming into myriad nuclear family ways.
Not the kind of sorrow that brings rain, but
pain like the condensation of hydrogen clouds
that have been lingering like ghosts of the stars
they used to be, waiting to break into light
like the constellation of a new myth of origin
to explain being exiled this far from home.
No grave in sight, but still I mourn
for all the wishing wells that
didn't get what they wanted
when they kissed the moon
like a coin they had blessed
and returned to river they had retrieved it from
only to discover the dark side of their luck
when it popped up again like a sacred syllable
under the forked tongue of a lottery ticket.
Pain without locus, pain without focus,
a blur, a smear, a smudge, an atmosphere, an aura,
cataracts in the eyes, flowers in the sky,
and everywhere I see the belongings of the Beloved,
her passion for lightning and fireflies,
scattered all over this unbegotten house of life
like battered flowers and shattered trees
and power-outages that make the stars flicker
and black out, for days at a time, like an ice-storm
in the middle of summer, passing over the distant hills,
like a glacier following its own melting
all the way to the dark night sea
as if water, as it is to a river a raindropp and a tear
whether it's painted on a clown's face or not,
or just trying to make the mascara of the poppies run,
were the only guide it could trust.
And these are the green swords of the gladiolas
and wild violet irises down by the river
where the waterlilies and the corpses flow by
like floats in a parade of burning flowers
that make the river's eyes run with grief and bliss,
hello, farewell, good-by, as if you just saw
the silouhette of a bird fly across the moon
with a few beats of its wings, a small pulse,
the brief thought moment of a passing wavelength,
like my own, a braille dot on the starmap of a blind star,
with the emotions and aspirations of a Cepheid variable
trying to keep pace with the measure of the death march
beating on the drum of my heart
like dollops of funereal rain on a tin roof.
And what do you learn when you die like this
for the things you lived in the name of too long
to bear the loss of the world mountain
on the turtle of your heart when the black swan
of the new moon has been snapped up from below
as if the only way you can come to the end of things
is to run out of beginnings, and that hasn't happened yet
since the universe first broke into stars and went prime time.
All opening nights. Everyone of them. And there are
scimitars of the moon at last crescent and poems and lovers
you can cut your wrists on like the brass moonrise
of a tuna fish can, if you don't really want to talk
to the ambulance about anything unreal as reality.
And you can be rushed to the emergency ward,
like a rose that's bleeding out, and there'll
you'll meet a nurse, not a nun, at the end
of a long tunnel of light that isn't estranged from death
but embodies the female principle of life
with a smile like a silver herb of the moon
and she'll inser the other fang of the snake that heals
into your vein like a boomslang of blood
hanging on the branch of a a chromium tree
with mandalic wheels that wobble like planets down the hall.
And there she'll teach you as you heal
that just as your lungs have learned to trust
the oxygen in the air that others are breathing along with you
like the Amazon jungle, fish in the sea, the flower
of the candle that blooms in fire, so your heart
that imbibes the skull cup of the moon down to its lees
to read the partial eclipses of your prophecies and dreams
like shipwrecks at the bottom of lunar seas
that have been drained of water,
drained of atmosphere and wine
looking for signs in dry creekbeds
like the lifelines on the palms of your hands,
must water the dust at your feet,
the stars above your head like the Milky Way,
the Road of Ghosts, your passage on earth,
with as many boodstreams in life
as it takes to float your lifeboat
on a bubble of the moon at high tide.
Such is life. Such is the flashflood of love
that makes the seven year long sleep of the frogs
up to their voices in starmud, sing
that their dream has finally come alive again,
and the voodoo doll of the cactus pierced with thorns,
flowers, and the serpent revels in the rain
that falls on its scales like the petals of a marigold
or the keys of a piano with its eighty-eights straight
and plays such music as it's never heard before
its scales turn into the feathers of a bird, or if
it's enlightened, the wings of a dragon of serpent fire
running up your spine like the sign of a healer
coiled around the axis of the earth like a caduceus
because even a single blade of grass here
is a strong enough medicine to give
the whole world vertigo like a Sufi
at a crossroads on the moon
dancing alone with dust devils
when things begin to overflow again
like a cup, like a heart with a crack and a broken handle,
like a watershed in a hourglass,
or a mirage in a desert of stars
because love, when it leaves home,
always forgets to turn the faucet off
like the four rivers flowing out of Eden
to water the root fires in the star gardens of paradise
when love jumps up stream like a salmon
coming home to the womb it will be buried in
like a loveletter from the sea to the moon.
Things I Must Say To You The Crystal Said
Things I must say to you the crystal said.
Jewels I must turn in the light.
Things I have gathered
like wild herbs from the starfields
to make a cool poultice of the moon
to draw the pain out of the wound
like a child that got turned around
when she was born
on the nightside of her blue eyes
to colour outside the lines of her constellation
like one of the original watersheds of Aquarius
that didn't take to the bottle and spoon of lesser wells
that warily sip from themselves
as if they were testing for poison,
but poured herself out
in an elation of so many lifelines
so many rivers vital with beginnings
the world mountain discovered her
like gold in the stone
gold in the mindstream
gold in the ore of its bones
gold that shone even in the darkest of valleys
wherever she flowed
like the white moon
when it wants to be mistaken for a swan
and sheds her eyelids like the petals of a waterlily
that's gone, gone, gone beyond herself
like a waterbird into the undetectable mystery of things
that lifts us up from our own reflections
and calls us to exceed ourselves
by flying beyond our own wings
past the last lake at the end of the universe
we could bask in like a keyhole
in the third eye of an unrelenting sky.
There. That's a breathful.
A dust-devil in a gust of stars.
A precipitous river of my own.
But I like listening to the green mountains
talk about things that are perennially true
that no one ever believes.
There's inspiration in the fires
that inspires their leaves
to burn like old myths
and poems that went up in flames
true to the muse of autumn
that has forgotten their names.
And I'm listening to this little world mountain
this dolmen of a crystal you gave me
this palace of mirrors
that sits above my desk
and tells me things about you
only an older spirit than the road I'm on could know.
It whispers to me at night
like a fragrance of light
from the unseen flowers
behind your eyes
flowing down from the high fields
and unscalable facets
of the mystic mountain you live upon
Abruptly enlightened medieval Rinzai Zen masters
did the same
in the mountains of Japan
as if they were rooting their pupils
like worlds within worlds
within a grain of sand
like the cornerstone of it all.
Trees are the future memories
of a prophetic skull
that stays true to its ancestors
like pines in the fall.
Anyone who plants a tree
raises a temple to the wisdom of birds
who will speak to you
in the native tongue of a new language
in voices older than words.
Anyone who plants a tree
attains what lives beyond them like an afterlife
that's always rooted in now
and even the dead branch
that holds the autumn crow in the rain
when things are bleak with the passage of things
will turn into a strong rafter in the house of life
and the moon will add its blossom to it
and the sun its butterfly
and everything that grows
will greet you as a child of its own.
And life will hold you up
like a candle
like a Douglas fir
like a star
like the tiered pagoda
of a pine-cone
like a mirror
like a bird
like a quiet smile
in the sweetest of solitudes
and well-pleased with what you've sown
hang you like a thousand shining chandeliers of rain
in the sacred groves of the Pleiades
to show you what has grown over the years
from the labours you undertook
from the tears you shed
to green the wounded mountain back to health
by adding your life to its life
is you returning
like a prodigal daughter of water
to the mystic springs
of your own starcrazy source.
Ride the wave.
Ride the snake.
Ride the wind.
Ride the fire.
Ride your own eyebeam
like a sword that delivers
the boon of life
like the first word
of a new universe
that's just heard its name called
like an endless beginning.
You are comet. You are wheat. You are starwheat.
You're a comet in the starwheat
making crop circles.
Aquarians can take their skin off
and put it on again like water
and pour themselves out forever
like the sea in every dropp
so when the tide returns
it's never empty-handed.
I see a naked watersnake
swimming through the moonlight
like the path of something perpetually true
and inconceivably beautiful
as if time itself had learned to move like that
and every ripple was an era
widening its wingspan in its wake.
Hic sunt dracones.
That's how dragons learned to fly.
The highest and the lowest all in one.
The snake in the claws of the eagle.
Wisdom in the lawlessness of insight.
For those who haven't opened
the eyes in their blood yet
to see the bloodflowers
talking to each other
like variations of the same light
these visions are the lost dream grammar
of an ancient madness
you can't recover from like a fever.
But to those who know the fireflies
are lamps on the road
the stars are not useless
and everywhere is the clarity and passage
of a river that forever arrives.
And I can see the wounded child
who's brave about her pain
but feels like a ladder in the rain
no one will hold for her
to climb down like the moon from her window.
And those that should have been waiting down below
to catch her if she falls
have scattered like stars
on the insides of her eyelids when she blinks.
Abandonment is that hollow shell
you find washed up somewhere on a beach
and raise to your ear
to hear the sea far off
like a life that's going on without you.
Even the sea can't fill that cup.
Only another emptiness
could feel at home
in the homelessness of that space.
Abandonment is getting up every morning
and putting your face on inside out
and thinking of it as some kind of good luck
you're on the other side of the universe
all on your own.
And though you howl like a wolf on the wind
the moon still cannot hear you.
That's how longing is born
in the fires of separation;
that's how the universe is called
every moment out of the nothingness
like someone to love,
and the deeper and darker the emptiness
the higher and brighter the mountain.
The watershed holds the fountain up
like a bouquet to the rain.
Emptiness doesn't stand like a god
in the shadow of an unknown definition.
It's the selflessness of everything that is.
Unborn it lives without distinction in the heart of things.
Unperishing it dies for everyone
without leaving anyone out.
When insight blossoms
like the moon
on a dead branch
compassion's the fruit
that's always in reach.
Life doesn't practise
what the heartless teach.
I'm sitting at the feet
of your little crystal buddha
enthroned in full lotus position
as he turns my heart in the light
like a jewel in the eye of a diamond-cutter.
And the sky is generous with tears
as it clarifies the windows of perception
with eyes as old and wise
as the sun at midnight.
And every thought I have of you is a fierce peace.
And every feeling a black mirror
deeper than white
that has extinguished my face
like one of last night's stars
in the bliss of a greater illumination.
The mystic specificity of my mind
pales like the moon
in a blinding abyss
of no-minded indistinction.
And the stars that shone down on nothing for so long
like an indecipherable language
are now looking up at you
like the fountainmouth
high above the treeline
in the mountains
of an Aquarian understanding
of what they've always meant to say.
There are no echoes in the voices of love.
No avalanche of Rosetta Stones.
No scoffing crows.
No genuflections of the dove.
There are no shadows hiding like daggers
under the cloaks of day
to get even at noon
for things that happened at midnight.
Love is a feather
from a passing bird in flight
life puts into the scales
and the earth turns eastward toward the light
and death takes its finger off the measure
of life's most cherished treasure.
And now the buddha turns into
two lovers sitting upright
face to face
in a lotus embrace
of enlightened connubium
in a coincidence of the contradictories
as if two were not the extinction of one.
And when desire opens its flames like petals
and blooms like a phoenix
there are no strangers in the fire.
And love doesn't burn its feet
by making a firewalk
of the nameless constellation
rising from the dark innocence
of its sweet dreamless sleep
like the thirteenth house of the zodiac
with two people home from everywhere
with myths of their own
like Venus and Mars
turning the lights on and off
like lovers and stars
while the neighbours stare in amazement
through closed windows and locked doors
at the bright vacancy of the rumours
the dark abundance of the night
that knows all we are and do
and will and have done
is true to the overproof joy I take
in this lyric of a jewel in the light.
It turns me like your eyes
turning the key in the dark gate
of a mystic moonrise
where fate elaborates the worlds
like pearls from grains of sand
and time refires its last hour
like a master glass blower
to make more space
for stars in the desert at night
by breathing on the flames
that feather the ashes of the moths
in the urns of our names
with the wings
of a dragon
the wings of a phoenix
the wings of a sphinx in the rain
planting trees on the slopes of a pyramid
to watch the dead mountain grow green again
and know all the secret paths down into its afterlife
like a river running through the wilderness
or this theme of stars on the mindstream
beguiled by the mystic wiles
of a cougar caught in the moonlight
like a jewel in the eye of a dreamcatcher.
Or the seasoned seer in a mirror like me
enraptured by the anarchic fireflies
like the mandalic stars
of a new constellation
only the enlightened can see
enflamed like a prophecy
empowered by love
to rise in the night of your name.
Going Through A Dark Time
Going through a dark time. Antares, the red ant,
the bitter berry in the heart of Scorpio. Why not
blame it on the stars? How could they deny it?
Living penumbrally in the eclipse of a celestial body.
I want to paint my first old rusty bike that I found
languishing under the neighbour's stairs, its
deflated tires, spider looms and jinxed prayer wheels
that hadn't turned for years, want to paint it
with model airplane enamels again and run
a perfect red stripe down the middle of a black fender
gleaming like anthracite in the blue-yellow sun.
How many worlds away I am from that pure moment.
Dark in my heart, gnawing on the skulls of dragons
that have finally become like the moon
that's never known rain, a frozen watershed
in a locket of ice and no light bulb in the well.
I'm striding down the corridors of a well-polished hell
and I'm turning the portraits of my heroes toward the wall.
Why not? I've got no use for their eyes anymore.
I've drained the lies out of the samples of their deaths.
I've chewed the flavour out of what it was they had to teach.
I've trashed my best features in dangerous neighbourhoods.
I've broken my own brain like bread with them,
offered them my blood like a rose with teeth
and watched them evaporate like stars in the sun
as if they never really knew they had my devotion.
What I made of them to set my own potential an example.
Something unattainable to aspire to
so I would be sure to lose as they did
preferring a brilliant failure to a mediocre triumph.
I think the quality of a human is a direct function
of the depth of their suffering. And I loved the ones
who cried out so beautifully in their agony
the night birds didn't dare lift their tiny voices
up again for fear of being put to shame
for the pettiness of their desire. Or the wolves
ever howl at the moon again without being aware
of the absurdity of their longing for an old stone.
I have danced barefoot on the splinters
of the winter chandeliers that brought the trees down
like a palace of tears in a brutal ice storm.
I've heard the Pleiades crash like silverware
all over the ground of a botched burglary
and seen the junkies run like collapsed veins
to pick the spoons up like fences and crows.
Going through a dark time. The shamans
are dying in the treetops from the shock
of what they had to see and live to be
if they wanted to die thoroughly back into life again,
apprenticed to their own foreseeable pain like savage healers.
Winged serpents angered by the humiliation of the flesh
like a rose too beautiful not to be abused
by those who desecrate life out of their own self-hatred
that they are possessed by what they despise the most
and beauty will have nothing to do with their power
that isn't forced, or broken, or garbaged.
The mirrors of the spirit freak and flake away
from the ideals of their silver lining in horror.
Funny how you can come to look upon
even the most passionate of loveletters
with the eyes of a three hundred million year old reptile
as if life could not be borne any other way than as a thorn
through the heart of a voodoo doll
that cursed the good in life for the passing of it.
What have I not buried in this desert of stars
as if one night I would be able to come back to it
and ask it what it dreamed of in my absence?
To see if the afterlife of a mirage tasted
like water, blood, or wine, or more real than death,
the tears of someone who had aged into understanding
when the windows that looked out on life
like a valence of silicon dioxide slow down
like glaciers of glass, and the mirrors speed up
as if they were running out of time for reflection.
Ask a man what he misses the most and listen to the echo
of how long it takes to reach his ears and if
there's an ocean in his eyes he drowns in
and I'll reintroduce you to someone you already know
talking to themselves in the dark to keep from going mad.
Who toys with the smiles of their approaching assassins
like the slash of a snake's mouth breaking into blossom?
Life is the puncture wound of the staple
that was meant to mend it like a bridge
that sat cross-legged on a lotus in meditation.
And it's easy enough to look at the fireflies after a storm
and the stars so out of touch with the world as it is
you long for the innocence of the childhood distances
you traversed every night you crawled out of your sleep
to approach the mystery of your own solitude
like an estranged familiar calling you to come alone
to the furthest extremes of the night and beyond.
Going through a dark time. Too many gates.
Too many doors. Too many worn thresholds
Too many threadbare carpets under the one-sided window.
Too many dead birds killed by a lack of transparency.
And still, I refuse the blindfold when I'm standing
in front of a firing squad of stars
armed with the latest telescopes.
I've always been one of those who prided myself
upon my strength to see it coming from afar off
and stare at my own death in the third eye of it.
And what monument could you possibly raise
befitting someone who made exile and rebellion
the two monolithic cornerstones of their life
if not a rogue planet beyond the reach of gravity
looking for a star they could thrive in the light of
without the slightest shadow of ulterior spontaneity?
Going through a dark time. I will not put my eyes out
by turning up the light on what befalls me,
as if there were something I could save myself from.
I will eat every detail of the pain and not waste
one unmarrowed bone of it. I will consume it whole
like a prophet in the belly of the whale, make the message
flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, and then
I'll spit it out like a bullet I pulled out of my heart
with my teeth, my soul, the elegance of my desolation.
I'll make key chains for the blind out of spite
and striate the rocks of this cold prison with the runes
of the horned ones who linger here with me.
I'll be a mile-high corrective lens of ice
and putting one hand over my third eye
I'll read the writing on the wall from memory
and renounce every sacred syllable of it like heretic
that thrives on fire, that scatters his ashes in triumph
and feathers the wind like a gnostic phoenix
with gospels of my own where there's not one imperative.
Pain demands my obedience, threatens to break me.
I smash myself on the rocks like an empty wine goblet
and say, you can break what remains. You can grind
me down to dust, if you like, you can step over me
like Spinoza lying down in the threshold of the synagogue
to atone for what he opened the world's eyes up to,
but my vision of life, though a squall of stars, remains my own
and the seeing isn't in my eyes, and the one who suffers
isn't in chains, nor the door locked on my heart
for fear of the night, for fear of turning to stone
when I look the snake pit in the eye with a microscope,
and observe the minutiae of the heart's addictive attention to detail.
Though every word be a thorn through my tongue,
Yet will I sing of the agony of lemons and roses
bleeding on the razorwire in No Man's Land for mercy,
and those compelled by the whips of circumstance
to dance themselves to death because it amuses the cripples,
and the little, amoebic man who never amounted to anything
and his wife who has aged like salt in a conquered city
still thinking she's a garden ornament, I will sing
in the name of what even the worst must endure,
just to set this methane moon afire in the darkness
like a furnace in an abandoned school of unregenerate clowns.
Going through a dark time. A rite of ordeals,
the brutal pit of the mystery you can break your teeth on
like a koan or an iron-nickel tektite in Antarctica
to get at the life inside your own panspermic mind.
I should happily break my flesh like bread upon the waters
for the fish and the birds, and save the life
of an unworthy man from drowning
like bad meat in a well, or lose
my own precarious foothold on the precipice of an abyss
that humbles me to the point of no return. I should do this
for the thought-trains of the birds that shall come after me
high and late at night through the bars of my longing,
yearning to return to my ancestral homelessness
like a wandering planet that doesn't give off any light of its own
but shines with life, despite the odds, shines
tenaciously with life through all these transformations
I take on like a river in its own running,
pouring myself out of one life wholly into another
like an igneous fireclock on the nightshift
that keeps adding more carbon to my steel.
Going through a dark time, I will not suffer
this passage passively like smoke, I will not plead
to abstract my senses from reality to deaden the pain
or thin my blood with holy water from a dirty fountain.
This dark child of my life shall not be an orphan.
I will not disown the pain, I will not drive
myself out into the wilderness like a scapegoat
to wash the soot off the temple I cry in
though they were my doves that were stained
in their own blood in the name of a useless sacrifice
to a unity that includes as much of separation
as of love that welds a stronger bond
that doesn't scar the spirit, or dull the eyes,
or deaden the tongue to the taste of the stars
on the lips of the people who pass through our lives
like thresholds on their way to somewhere else
than this palatial homelessness we dwell in alone
throwing boundary stones like asteroids through the mirrors
just to keep things abundantly clear and open between us.
Going through a dark time. Swimming through a tar pit.
Another doorway without an exit or an entrance.
Another keel-hauling on the hull of the moon
trying to maintain discipline aboard a shipwreck.
And the unbearable sadness that crushes your heart
like a pop can in the depths of an unrevealing ocean.
Your face is a skin graft on a burn victim.
People reach out for you, but only with their hands
when there's nothing at all, nothing at all to grasp
of what has already come and gone for good or bad,
who can tell? I'm centered like rain in my falling.
And there's something vaguely radioactive about the way
I glow in the dark, though there are dozens of dead fireflies
on my windowsill that dropped like exhausted stars.
I move into the available dimension of a future
that hasn't won my confidence, and the past
is the burnt foundation of a crack house in the zodiac
cooking rocks like a meteor shower with its radiant
in the eyes of everyone I meet who's trying to shoot the stars out.
Going through a dark time. A bardo state. Nirvanic doubt.
The new moon no brighter than the last eclipse.
I hear the disembodied thunder of my amplified heart
making its way toward me like an enlightened storm front.
I've always chosen the hardest teachers to ignore
and where the road divides, I've gone both ways at once
just to give my earthbound guides a chance of a wishbone
to find their way back on their own by following
the choices they made to get here like an avalanche.
I'm as effortless about my despair as I am about bliss.
I treat them both as if they were none of my business.
The birds and apples come to this rootless tree
of their own accord and the tree does not protest
the unleaving of an earthly excellence
that blossomed awhile in the human heart and was gone.
A windfall of loss. The dead flower frosted with winter stars
in a dream where the waterclocks are frozen in time
and this is perfect and that is perfect and if you take
perfect from perfect, it's still as perfect as it was then
and as it is now and shall be tomorrow.
I watch the moonrise without breathless aspirations.
I observe the sunset without lingering disappointments.
What I have received in joy, I will not deceive in sorrow.
Temora - Book I
Cairbar, the son of Borbar-duthul, lord of Atha, in Connaught, the most Potent chief of the race of the Fir-bolg, having murdered, at Temora, the royal palace, Cormac, the son of Artho, the young king of Ireland, usurped the throne. Cormac was lineally descended from Conar, the son of Trenmor, the great-grandfather of Fingal, king of those Caledonians who inhabited the western coast of Scotland. Fingal resented the behavior of Cairbar, and resolved to pass over into Ireland with an army, to re-establish the royal family on the Irish throne. Early intelligence of his designs coming to Cairbar, he assembled some of his tribes in Ulster, and at the same time ordered his brother Cathmor to follow him speedily with an army from Temora. Such was the situation of affairs when the Caledonian invaders appeared on the coast of Ulster.
The poem opens in the morning. Cairbar is represented as retired from the rest of the army, when one of his scouts brought him news of the landing of Fingal. He assembles a council of his chiefs. Foldath, the chief of Moma, haughtily despises the enemy; and is reprimanded warmly by Malthos. Cairbar, after hearing their debate, orders a feast to be prepared, to which, by his bard Olla, he invites Oscar, the son of Ossian; resolving to pick a quarrel with that hero, and so have some pretext for killing him. Oscar came to the feast; the quarrel happened; the followers of both fought, and Cairbar and Oscar fell by mutual wounds. The noise of the battle reached Fingal's army. The king came on to the relief of Oscar, and the Irish fell back to the army of Cathmor, who was advanced to the banks of the river Lubar, on the heath of Moi-lena. Fingal, after mourning over his grandson, ordered Ullin, the chief of his bards, to carry his body to Morven, to be there interred. Night coming on, Althan, the son of Conachar, relates to the king the particulars of the murder of Cormac. Fillan, the son of Fingal, is sent to observe the motions of Cathmor, by night, which concludes the action of the first day. The scene of this book is a plain, near the hill of Mora, which rose on the borders of the heath of Moi-lena in Ulster.
THE blue waves of Erin roll in light. The mountains are covered with day. Trees shake their dusky heads in the breeze. Gray torrents pour their noisy streams. Two green hills, with aged oaks, surround a narrow plain. The blue course of a stream is there. On its banks stood Cairbar of Atha. His spear supports the king: the red eye of his fear is sad. Cormac rises in his soul, with all his ghastly wounds. The gray form of the youth appears in darkness. Blood pours from his airy side. Cairbar thrice threw his spear on earth. Thrice he stroked his beard. His steps are short. He often stops. He tosses his sinewy arms. He is like a cloud in the desert, varying its form to every blast. The valleys are sad around, and fear, by turns, the shower! The king at length resumed his soul. He took his pointed spear. He turned his eye to Moi-lena. The scouts of blue ocean came. They came with steps of fear, and often looked behind. Cairbar knew that the mighty were near. He called his gloomy chiefs.
The sounding steps of his warriors came. They drew at once their swords. There Morlath stood with darkened face. Hidalla's long hair sighs in the wind. Red-haired Cormar bends on his spear, and rolls his sidelong-looking eyes. Wild is the look of Malthos, from beneath two shaggy brows. Foldath stands, like an oozy rock, that covers its dark sides with foam. His spear is like Slimora's fir, that meets the wind of heaven. His shield is marked with the strokes of battle. His red eye despises danger. These, and a thousand other chiefs, surrounded the king of Erin, when the scout of ocean came, Mor-annal, from streamy Moi-lena, His eyes hang forward from his face. His lips are trembling pale!
"Do the chiefs of Erin stand," he said, "silent as the grove of evening? Stand they, like a silent wood, and Fingal on the coast? Fingal, who is terrible in battle, the king of streamy Morven!" "Hast thou seen the warrior?" said Cairbar with a sigh. "Are his heroes many on the coast? Lifts he the spear of battle? or comes the king in peace?" "In peace be comes not, king of Erin; I have seen his forward spear. It is a meteor of death. The blood of thousands is on its steel. He came first to the shore, strong in the gray hair of age. Full rose his sinewy limbs, as he strode in his might. That sword is by his side, which gives no second wound. His shield is terrible, like the bloody moon, ascending through a storm. Then came Ossian, king of songs. Then Morni's son, the first of men. Connal leaps forward on his spear. Dermid spreads his dark-brown locks. Fillan bends his bow, the young hunter of streamy Moruth. But who is that before them, like the terrible course of a stream? It is the son of Ossian, bright between his locks! His long hair falls on his back. His dark brows are half enclosed in steel. His sword hangs loose on his side. His spear glitters as he moves. I fled from his terrible eyes, king of high Temora!"
"Then fly, thou feeble man," said Foldath's gloomy wrath. "Fly to the gray streams of thy land, son of the little soul! Have not I seen that Oscar? I beheld the chief in war. He is of the mighty in danger: but there are others who lift the spear. Erin has many sons as brave, king of Temora of groves. Let Foldath meet him in his strength. Let me stop this mighty stream. My spear is covered with blood. My shield is like the wall of Tura!"
"Shall Foldath alone meet the foe?" replied the dark-browed Malthos? "Are they not on our coast, like the waters of many streams? Are not these the chiefs who vanquished Swaran, when the sons of green Erin fled? Shall Foldath meet their bravest hero? Foldath of the heart of pride! Take the strength of the people! and let Malthos come. My sword is red with slaughter, but who has heard my words?"
"Sons of green Erin," said Hidalla, "let not Fingal hear your words. The foe might rejoice, and his arm be strong in the land. Ye are brave, O warriors! Ye are tempests in war. Ye are like storms, which meet the rocks without fear, and overturn the woods! But let us move in our strength, slow as a gathered cloud! Then shall the mighty tremble; the spear shall fall from the hand of the valiant. We see the cloud of death, they will say, while shadows fly over their face. Fingal will mourn in his age. He shall behold his flying fame. The steps of his chiefs will cease in Morven. The moss of years shall grow in Selma!"
Cairbar heard their words in silence, like the cloud of a shower: it stands dark on Cromla, till the lightning bursts its side. The valley gleams with heaven's flame; the spirits of the storm rejoice. So stood the silent king of Temora; at length his words broke forth. "Spread the feast on Moi-lena. Let my hundred bards attend. Thou red-haired Olla, take the harp of the king. Go to Oscar, chief of swords. Bid Oscar to our joy. To-day we feast and hear the song; to-morrow break the spears! Tell him that I have raised the tomb of Cathol; that bards gave his friend to the winds. Tell him that Cairbar has heard of his fame, at the stream of resounding Carun. Cathmor, my brother, is not here. He is not here with his thousands, and our arms are weak. Cathmor is a foe to strife at the feast! His soul is bright as that sun! But Cairbar must fight with Oscar, chiefs of woody Temora, His words for Cathol were many! the wrath of Cairbar burns! He shall fall on Moi-lena. My fame shall rise in blood!"
Their faces brightened round with joy. They spread over Moi-lena. The feast of shells is prepared. The songs of bards arise. The chiefs of Selma heard their joy. We thought that mighty Cathmor came. Cathmor, the friend of strangers! the brother of red-haired Cairbar. Their souls were not the same. The light of heaven was in the bosom of Cathmor. His towers rose on the banks of Atha: seven paths led to his halls. Seven chiefs stood on the paths, and called the stranger to the feast! But Cathmor dwelt in the wood, to shun the voice of praise!
Olla came with his songs. Oscar went to Cairbar's feast. Three hundred warriors strode along Moi-lena of the streams. The gray dogs bounded on the heath: their howling reached afar. Fingal saw the departing hero. The soul of the king was sad. He dreaded Cairbar's gloomy thoughts, amidst the feast of shells. My son raised high the spear of Cormac. A hundred bards met him with songs. Cairbar concealed, with smiles, the death that was dark in his soul. The feast is spread. The shells resound. Joy brightens the face of the host. But it was like the parting beam of the sun, when he is to hide his red head in a storm!
Cairbar rises in his arms. Darkness gathers on his brow. The hundred harps cease at once. The clang of shields is heard. Far distant on the heath Olla raised a song of wo. My son knew the sign of death; and rising seized his spear. "Oscar," said the dark-red Cairbar, "I behold the spear of Erin. The spear of Temora glitters in thy hand, son of woody Morven! It was the pride of a hundred kings. The death of heroes of old. Yield it, son of Ossian, yield it to car-borne Cairbar!"
"Shall I yield," Oscar replied, "the gift of Erin's injured king; the gift of fair-haired Cormac, when Oscar scattered his foes? I came to Cormac's halls of joy, when Swaran fled from Fingal. Gladness rose in the face of youth. He gave the spear of Temora. Nor did he give it to the feeble: neither to the weak in soul. The darkness of thy face is no storm to me: nor are thine eyes the flame of death. Do I fear thy clanging shield? Tremble I at Olla's song? No Cairbar, frighten the feeble; Oscar is a rock!"
"Wilt thou not yield the spear?" replied the rising pride of Cairbar." Are thy words so mighty, because Fingal is near? Fingal with aged locks, from Morven's hundred groves! He has fought with little men. But he must vanish before Cairbar, like a thin pillar of mist before the winds of Atha!" — "Were he who fought with little men, near Atha's haughty chief, Atha's chief would yield green Erin to avoid his rage! Speak not of the mighty, O Cairbar! Turn thy sword on me. Our strength is equal: but Fingal is renowned! the first of mortal men!"
Their people saw the darkening chiefs. Their crowding steps are heard. Their eyes roll in fire. A thousand swords are half unsheathed. Red-haired Olla raised the song of battle. The trembling joy of Oscar's soul arose: the wonted joy of his soul when Fingal's horn was heard. Dark as the swelling wave of ocean before the rising winds, when it bends its head near the coast, came on the host of Cairbar!
Daughter of Toscar! why that tear? He is not fallen yet. Many were the deaths of his arm before my hero fell!
Behold they fall before my son, like groves in the desert; when an angry ghost rushes through night, and takes their green heads in his hand! Morlath falls. Maronnan dies. Conachar trembles in his blood. Cairbar shrinks before Oscar's sword! He creeps in darkness behind a stone. He lifts the spear in secret, he pierces my Oscar's side! He falls forward on his shield, his knee sustains the chief. But still his spear is in his hand! See, gloomy Cairbar falls! The steel pierced his forehead, and divided his red hair behind. He lay like a shattered rock, which Cromla shakes from its shaggy side, when the green-valleyed Erin shakes its mountains from sea to sea!
But never more shall Oscar rise! He leans on his bossy shield. His spear is in his terrible hand. Erin's sons stand distant and dark. Their shouts arise, like crowded streams. Moi-lena echoes wide. Fingal heard the sound. He took the spear of Selma. His steps are before us on the heath. He spoke the words of wo. "I hear the noise of war. Young Oscar is alone. Rise, sons of Morven: join the hero's sword!"
Ossian rushed along the heath. Fillan bounded over Moi-lena. Fingal strode in his strength. The light of his shield is terrible. The sons of Erin saw it far distant. They trembled in their souls. They knew that the wrath of the king arose: and they foresaw their death. We first arrived. We fought. Erin's chiefs withstood our rage. But when the king came, in the sound of his course, what heart of steel could stand? Erin fled over Moi-lena. Death pursued their flight. We saw Oscar on his shield. We saw his blood around. Silence darkened on every face. Each turned his back and wept. The king strove to hide his tears. His gray beard whistled in the wind. He bends his head above the chief. His words are mixed with sighs.
"Art thou fallen, O Oscar! in the midst of thy course? the heart of the aged beats over thee! He sees thy coming wars! The wars which ought to come he sees! They are cut off from thy fame! When shall joy dwell at Selma? When shall grief depart from Morven? My sons fall by degrees: Fingal is the last of his race. My fame begins to pass away. Mine age will be without friends. I shall sit a gray cloud in my hall. I shall not hear the return of a son, in his sounding arms. Weep, ye heroes of Morven! never more shall Oscar rise!"
And they did weep, O Fingal! Dear was the hero to their souls. He went out to battle, and the foes vanished. He returned in peace, amidst their joy. No father mourned his son slain in youth: no brother his brother of love. They fell without tears, for the chief of the people is low! Bran is howling at his feet: gloomy Luath is sad; for he had often led them to the chase; to the bounding roe of the desert!
When Oscar saw his friends around, his heaving breast arose. "The groans," he said, "of aged chiefs; the howling of my dogs; the sudden bursts of the song of grief, have melted Oscar's soul. My soul, that never melted before. It was like the steel of my sword. Ossian, carry me to my hills! Raise the stones of my renown. Place the horn of a deer: place my sword by my side; The torrent hereafter may raise the earth: the hunter may find the steel, and say, 'This has been Oscar's sword, the pride of other years!'" "Fallest thou, son of my fame? shall I never see thee, Oscar? When others hear of their sons, shall I not hear of thee? The moss is on thy four gray stones. The mournful wind is there. The battle shall be fought without thee. Thou shalt not pursue the dark-brown hinds. When the warrior returns from battles, and tells of other lands; 'I have seen a tomb,' he will say, 'by the roaring stream, the dark dwelling of a chief. He fell by car-borne Oscar, the first of mortal men.' I, perhaps, shall hear his voice. A beam of joy will rise in my soul."
Night would have descended in sorrow, and morning returned in the shadow of grief. Our chiefs would have stood, like cold-dropping rocks on Moi-lena, and have forgot the war; did not the king disperse his grief, and raise his mighty voice. The chiefs, as new-wakened from dreams, lift up their heads around.
"How long on Moi-lena shall we weep? How long pour in Erin our tears? The mighty will not return. Oscar shall not rise in his strength. The valiant must fall in their day, and be no more known on their hills. Where are our fathers, O warriors! the chiefs of the times of old? They have set, like stars that have shone. We only hear the sound of their praise. But they were renowned in their years: the terror of other times. Thus shall we pass away, in the day of our fall. Then let us be renowned when we may; and leave our fame behind us, like the last beams of the sun, when he hides his red head in the west. The traveller mourns his absence, thinking of the flame of his beams. Ullin, my aged bard! take thou the ship of the king. Carry Oscar to Selma of harps. Let the daughters of Morven weep. We must fight in Erin, for the race of fallen Cormac. The days of my years begin to fail. I feel the weakness of my arm. My fathers bend from their clouds, to receive their gray-haired son. But before I go hence, one beam of fame shall rise. My days shall end, as my years began, in fame. My life shall be one stream of light to bards of other times!"
Ullin raised his white sails. The wind of the south came forth. He bounded on the waves towards Selma. I remained in my grief, but my words were not heard. The feast is spread on Moi-lena. A hundred heroes reared the tomb of Cairbar. No song is raised over the chief. His soul has been dark and bloody. The bards remembered the fall of Cormac! what could they say in Cairbar's praise?
Night came rolling down. The light of a hundred oaks arose. Fingal sat beneath a tree. Old Althan stood in the midst. He told the tale of fallen Cormac. Althan the son of Conachar, the friend of car-borne Cuthullin. He dwelt with Cormac in windy Temora, when Semo's son fell at Lego's stream. The tale of Althan was mournful. The tear was in his eye when he spoke.
"The setting sun was yellow on Dora. Gray evening began to descend. Temora's woods shook with the blast of the inconstant wind. A cloud gathered in the west. A red star looked from behind its edge. I stood in the wood alone. I saw a ghost on the darkening air! His stride extended from hill to hill. His shield was dim on his side. It was the son of Semo! I knew the warrior's face. But he passed away in his blast; and all was dark around! My soul was sad. I went to the hall of shells. A thousand lights arose. The hundred bards had strung the harp. Cormac stood in the midst, like the morning star, when it rejoices on the eastern hill, and its young beams are bathed in showers. Bright and silent is its progress aloft, but the cloud that shall hide it is near! The sword of Artho was in the hand of the king. He looked with joy on its polished studs; thrice he attempted to draw it, and thrice he failed; his yellow locks are spread on his shoulders! his cheeks of youth are red. I mourned over the beam of youth, for he was soon to set!
"'Althan!' He said with a smile, ' didst thou behold my father? Heavy is the sword of the king; surely his arm was strong. O that I were like him in battle, when the rage of his wrath arose! then would I have met, with Cuthullin, the car-borne son of Cantéla! But years may come on, O Althan! and my arm be strong. Hast thou heard of Semo's son, the ruler of high Temora? he might have returned with his fame. He promised to return to-night. My bards wait him with songs. My feast is spread in the hall of kings.'
"I heard Cormac in silence. My tears began to flow. I hid them with my aged locks. The king perceived my grief. 'Son of Conachar!' he said, 'is the son of Semo low? Why bursts the sigh in secret? Why descends the tear? Comes the car-borne Torlath? Comes the sounds of red-haired Cairbar? They come! for I behold thy grief. Mossy Tura's chief is low! Shall I not rush to battle? But I cannot lift the spear! O had mine arm the strength of Cuthullin, soon would Cairbar fly; the fame of my fathers would be renewed; and the deeds of other times!'
"He took his bow. The tears flow down from both his sparkling eyes. Grief saddens round. The bards bend forward, from their hundred harps. The lone blast touched their trembling strings. The sound is sad and low! a voice is heard at a distance, as of one in grief. It was Carril of other times, who came from dark Slimora. He told of the fall of Cuthullin. He told of his mighty deeds. The people were scattered round his tomb. Their arms lay on the ground. They had forgot the war, for he their sire, was seen no more!
"'But who,' said the soft-voiced Carril, 'who come like bounding roes? Their stature is like young trees in the valley, growing in a shower! Soft and ruddy are their cheeks! Fearless souls look forth from their eyes? Who but the sons of Usnoth, chief of streamy Etha? The people rise on every side, like the strength of an half-extinguished fire, when the winds come, sudden, from the desert, on their rustling wings. Sudden glows the dark brow of the hill; the passing mariner lags, on his winds. The sound of Caithbat's shield was heard. The warriors saw Cuthullin in Nathos. So rolled his sparkling eyes! his steps were such on the heath. Battles are fought at Lego. The sword of Nathos prevails. Soon shalt thou behold him in thy halls, king of Temora of groves!'
"'Soon may I behold the chief!' replied the blue-eyed king. But my soul is sad for Cuthullin His voice was pleasant in mine ear. Often have we moved, on Dora, to the chase of the dark-brown hinds. His bow was unerring on the hills. He spoke of mighty men. He told of the deeds of my fathers. I felt my rising joy. But sit thou at thy feast, O Carril! I have often heard thy voice. Sing in praise of Cuthullin. Sing of Nathos of Etha!'
"Day rose on Temora, with all the beams of the east. Crathin came to the hall, the son of old Gelláma. 'I behold,' he said, 'a cloud in the desert, king of Erin! a cloud it seemed at first, but now a crowd of men! One strides before them in his strength. His red hair flies in the wind. His shield glitters to the beam of the east. His spear is in his hand.' — 'Call him to the feast of Temora,' replied the brightening king. 'My hall is in the house of strangers, son of generous Gelláma! It is perhaps the chief of Etha, coming in all his renown. Hail, mighty stranger! art thou of the friends of Cormac? But, Carril, he is dark and unlovely. He draws his sword. Is that the son of Usnoth, bard of the times of old?'
"' It is not the son of Usnoth!' said Carril. 'It is Cairbar, thy foe.' 'Why comest thou in thy arms to Temora? chief of the gloomy brow. Let not thy sword rise against Cormac! 'Whither dost thou turn thy speed?' he passed on in darkness.. He seized the hand of the king. Cormac foresaw his death; the rage of his eyes arose. 'Retire, thou chief of Atha! Nathos comes with war. Thou art bold in Cormac's hall, for his arm is weak.' The sword entered the side of the king. He fell in the halls of his father. His fair hair is in the dust. His blood is smoking round.
"'Art thou fallen in thy halls?' said Carril, 'O son of noble Artho! The shield of Cuthullin was not near. Nor the spear of thy father. Mournful are the mountains of Erin, for the chief of the people is low! Blest be thy soul, O Cormac! Thou art darkened in thy youth!'"
"His words came to the ears of Cairbar. He closed us in the midst of darkness. He feared to stretch his sword to the bards, though his soul was dark. Long we pined alone! At length the noble Cathmor came. He heard our voice from the cave. He turned the eye of his wrath on Cairbar.
"'Brother of Cathmor,' he said, 'how long wilt thou pain my soul? Thy heart is a rock. Thy thoughts are dark and bloody! But thou art the brother of Cathmor; and Cathmor shall shine in thy war. But my soul is not like thine; thou feeble hand in fight! The light of my bosom is stained with thy deeds. Bards will not sing of my renown; they may say, "Cathmor was brave, but he fought for gloomy Cairbar. "They will pass over my tomb in silence. My fame shall not be heard. Cairbar! loose the bards. They are the sons of future times. Their voice shall be heard in other years; after the kings of Temora have failed. We came forth at the words of the chief. We saw him in his strength. He was like thy youth, O Fingal! when thou first didst lift the spear. His face was like the plain of the sun, when it is bright. No darkness travelled over his brow. But he came with his thousands to aid the red-haired Cairbar. Now he comes to revenge his death, O king of woody Morven!'
"Let Cathmor come," replied the king," I love a foe so great. His soul is bright. His arm is strong. His battles are full of fame. But the little soul is a vapor that hovers round the marshy lake. It never rises on the green hill, lest the winds should meet it there. Its dwelling is in the cave: it sends forth the dart of death! Our young heroes, O warriors! are like the renown of our fathers. They fight in youth. They fall. Their names are in song. Fingal is amid his darkening years. He must not fall, as an aged oak, across a secret stream. Near it are the steps of the hunter, as it lies beneath the wind. 'How has that tree fallen?' he says, and, whistling, strides along. Raise the song of' joy, ye bards of Morven! Let our souls forget the past. The red stars look on us from the clouds, and silently descend. Soon shall the gray beam of the morning rise, and show us the foes of Cormac. Fillan! my son, take thou the spear of the king. Go to Mora's dark-brown side. Let thine eyes travel over the heath. Observe the foes of Fingal; observe the course of generous Cathmor. I hear a distant sound, like falling rocks in the desert. But strike thou thy shield, at times, that they may not come through night, and the fame of Morven cease. I begin to be alone, my son. I dread the fall of my renown!"
The voice of bards arose. The king leaned on the shield of Trenmor. Sleep descended on his eyes. His future battles arose in his dreams. The host are sleeping around. Dark-haired Fillan observes the foe. His steps are on the distant hill. We hear, at time; his clanging shield.
Goldilocks And Goldilocks
It was Goldilocks woke up in the morn
At the first of the shearing of the corn.
There stood his mother on the hearth
And of new-leased wheat was little dearth.
There stood his sisters by the quern,
For the high-noon cakes they needs must earn.
“O tell me Goldilocks my son,
Why hast thou coloured raiment on?”
“Why should I wear the hodden grey
When I am light of heart to-day?”
“O tell us, brother, why ye wear
In reaping-tide the scarlet gear?
Why hangeth the sharp sword at thy side
When through the land ’tis the hook goes wide?”
“Gay-clad am I that men may know
The freeman’s son where’er I go.
The grinded sword at side I bear
Lest I the dastard’s word should hear.”
“O tell me Goldilocks my son,
Of whither away thou wilt be gone?”
“The morn is fair and the world is wide
And here no more will I abide.”
“O Brother, when wilt thou come again?”
“The autumn drought, and the winter rain,
The frost and the snow, and St. David’s wind,
All these that were time out of mind,
All these a many times shall be
Ere the Upland Town again I see.”
“O Goldilocks my son, farewell,
As thou wendest the world ’twixt home and hell!”
“O brother Goldilocks, farewell,
Come back with a tale for men to tell!”
So ’tis wellaway for Goldilocks,
As he left the land of the wheaten shocks.
He’s gotten him far from the Upland Town,
And he’s gone by Dale and he’s gone by Down.
He’s come to the wild-wood dark and drear,
Where never the bird’s song doth he hear.
He has slept in the moonless wood and dim
With never a voice to comfort him.
He has risen up under the little light
Where the noon is as dark as the summer night.
Six days therein has he walked alone
Till his scrip was bare and his meat was done.
On the seventh morn in the mirk, mirk wood,
He saw sight that he deemed was good.
It was as one sees a flower a-bloom
In the dusky heat of a shuttered room.
He deemed the fair thing far aloof,
And would go and put it to the proof.
But the very first step he made from the place
He met a maiden face to face.
Face to face, and so close was she
That their lips met soft and lovingly.
Sweet-mouthed she was, and fair he wist;
And again in the darksome wood they kissed.
Then first in the wood her voice he heard,
As sweet as the song of the summer bird.
“O thou fair man with the golden head,
What is the name of thee?” she said.
“My name is Goldilocks,” said he;
“O sweet-breathed, what is the name of thee?”
“O Goldilocks the Swain,” she said,
“My name is Goldilocks the Maid.”
He spake, “Love me as I love thee,
And Goldilocks one flesh shall be.”
She said, “Fair man, I wot not how
Thou lovest, but I love thee now.
But come a little hence away,
That I may see thee in the day.
For hereby is a wood-lawn clear
And good for awhile for us it were.”
Therewith she took him by the hand
And led him into the lighter land.
There on the grass they sat adown.
Clad she was in a kirtle brown.
In all the world was never maid
So fair, so evilly arrayed.
No shoes upon her feet she had
And scantly were her shoulders clad;
Through her brown kirtle’s rents full wide
Shone out the sleekness of her side.
An old scrip hung about her neck,
Nought of her raiment did she reck.
No shame of all her rents had she;
She gazed upon him eagerly.
She leaned across the grassy space
And put her hands about his face.
She said: “O hunger-pale art thou,
Yet shalt thou eat though I hunger now.”
She took him apples from her scrip,
She kissed him, cheek and chin and lip.
She took him cakes of woodland bread:
“Whiles am I hunger-pinched,” she said.
She had a gourd and a pilgrim shell;
She took him water from the well.
She stroked his breast and his scarlet gear;
She spake, “How brave thou art and dear!”
Her arms about him did she wind;
He felt her body dear and kind.
“O love,” she said, “now two are one,
And whither hence shall we be gone?”
“Shall we fare further than this wood,”
Quoth he, “I deem it dear and good?”
She shook her head, and laughed, and spake;
“Rise up! For thee, not me, I quake.
Had she been minded me to slay
Sure she had done it ere to-day.
But thou: this hour the crone shall know
That thou art come, her very foe.
No minute more on tidings wait,
Lest e’en this minute be too late.”
She led him from the sunlit green,
Going sweet-stately as a queen.
There in the dusky wood, and dim,
As forth they went, she spake to him:
“Fair man, few people have I seen
Amidst this world of woodland green:
But I would have thee tell me now
If there be many such as thou.”
“Betwixt the mountains and the sea,
O Sweet, be many such,” said he.
Athwart the glimmering air and dim
With wistful eyes she looked on him.
“But ne’er an one so shapely made
Mine eyes have looked upon,” she said.
He kissed her face, and cried in mirth:
“Where hast thou dwelt then on the earth?”
“Ever,” she said, “I dwell alone
With a hard-handed cruel crone.
And of this crone am I the thrall
To serve her still in bower and hall;
And fetch and carry in the wood,
And do whate’er she deemeth good.
But whiles a sort of folk there come
And seek my mistress at her home;
But such-like are they to behold
As make my very blood run cold.
Oft have I thought, if there be none
On earth save these, would all were done!
Forsooth, I knew it was nought so,
But that fairer folk on earth did grow.
But fain and full is the heart in me
To know that folk are like to thee.”
Then hand in hand they stood awhile
Till her tears rose up beneath his smile.
And he must fold her to his breast
To give her heart a while of rest.
Till sundered she and gazed about,
And bent her brows as one in doubt.
She spake: “The wood is growing thin,
Into the full light soon shall we win.
Now crouch we that we be not seen,
Under yon bramble-bushes green.”
Under the bramble-bush they lay
Betwixt the dusk and the open day.
“O Goldilocks my love, look forth
And let me know what thou seest of worth.”
He said: “I see a house of stone,
A castle excellently done.”
“Yea,” quoth she, “There doth the mistress dwell
What next thou seest shalt thou tell.”
“What lookest thou to see come forth?”
“Maybe a white bear of the North.”
“Then shall my sharp sword lock his mouth.”
“Nay,” she said, “or a worm of the South.”
“Then shall my sword his hot blood cool.”
“Nay, or a whelming poison-pool.”
“The trees its swelling flood shall stay,
And thrust its venomed lip away.”
“Nay, it may be a wild-fire flash
To burn thy lovely limbs to ash.”
“On mine own hallows shall I call,
And dead its flickering flame shall fall.”
“O Goldilocks my love, I fear
That ugly death shall seek us here.
Look forth, O Goldilocks my love,
That I thine hardy heart may prove.
What cometh down the stone-wrought stair
That leadeth up to the castle fair?”
“Adown the doorward stair of stone
There cometh a woman all alone.”
“Yea, that forsooth shall my mistress be:
O Goldilocks, what like is she?”
“O fair she is of her array,
As hitherward she wends her way.”
“Unlike her wont is that indeed:
Is she not foul beneath her weed?”
“O nay, nay! But most wondrous fair
Of all the women earth doth bear.”
“O Goldilocks, my heart, my heart!
Woe, woe! for now we drift apart.”
But up he sprang from the bramble-side,
And “O thou fairest one!” he cried:
And forth he ran that Queen to meet,
And fell before her gold-clad feet.
About his neck her arms she cast,
And into the fair-built house they passed.
And under the bramble-bushes lay
Unholpen, Goldilocks the may.
Thenceforth a while of time there wore,
And Goldilocks came forth no more.
Throughout that house he wandered wide,
Both up and down, from side to side.
But never he saw an evil crone,
But a full fair Queen on a golden throne.
Never a barefoot maid did he see,
But a gay and gallant company.
He sat upon the golden throne,
And beside him sat the Queen alone.
Kind she was, as she loved him well,
And many a merry tale did tell.
But nought he laughed, nor spake again,
For all his life was waste and vain.
Cold was his heart, and all afraid
To think on Goldilocks the Maid.
Withal now was the wedding dight
When he should wed that lady bright.
The night was gone, and the day was up
When they should drink the bridal cup.
And he sat at the board beside the Queen,
Amidst of a guest-folk well beseen.
But scarce was midmorn on the hall,
When down did the mirk of midnight fall.
Then up and down from the board they ran,
And man laid angry hand on man.
There was the cry, and the laughter shrill,
And every manner word of ill.
Whoso of men had hearkened it,
Had deemed he had woke up over the Pit.
Then spake the Queen o’er all the crowd,
And grim was her speech, and harsh, and loud:
“Hold now your peace, ye routing swine,
While I sit with mine own love over the wine!
For this dusk is the very deed of a foe,
Or under the sun no man I know.”
And hard she spake, and loud she cried
Till the noise of the bickering guests had died.
Then again she spake amidst of the mirk,
In a voice like an unoiled wheel at work:
“Whoso would have a goodly gift,
Let him bring aback the sun to the lift.
Let him bring aback the light and the day,
And rich and in peace he shall go his way.”
Out spake a voice was clean and clear:
“Lo, I am she to dight your gear;
But I for the deed a gift shall gain,
To sit by Goldilocks the Swain.
I shall sit at the board by the bride-groom’s side,
And be betwixt him and the bride.
I shall eat of his dish and drink of his cup,
Until for the bride-bed ye rise up.”
Then was the Queen’s word wailing-wild:
“E’en so must it be, thou Angel’s child.
Thou shalt sit by my groom till the dawn of night,
And then shalt thou wend thy ways aright.”
Said the voice, “Yet shalt thou swear an oath
That free I shall go though ye be loth.”
“How shall I swear?” the false Queen spake:
“Wherewith the sure oath shall I make?”
“Thou shalt swear by the one eye left in thine head,
And the throng of the ghosts of the evil dead.”
She swore the oath, and then she spake:
“Now let the second dawn awake.”
And e’en therewith the thing was done;
There was peace in the hall, and the light of the sun.
And again the Queen was calm and fair,
And courteous sat the guest-folk there.
Yet unto Goldilocks it seemed
As if amidst the night he dreamed;
As if he sat in a grassy place,
While slim hands framed his hungry face;
As if in the clearing of the wood
One gave him bread and apples good;
And nought he saw of the guest-folk gay,
And nought of all the Queen’s array.
Yet saw he betwixt board and door,
A slim maid tread the chequered floor.
Her gown of green so fair was wrought,
That clad her body seemed with nought
But blossoms of the summer-tide,
That wreathed her, limbs and breast and side.
And, stepping towards him daintily,
A basket in her hand had she.
And as she went, from head to feet,
Surely was she most dainty-sweet.
Love floated round her, and her eyes
Gazed from her fairness glad and wise;
But babbling-loud the guests were grown;
Unnoted was she and unknown.
Now Goldilocks she sat beside,
But nothing changed was the Queenly bride;
Yea too, and Goldilocks the Swain
Was grown but dull and dazed again.
The Queen smiled o’er the guest-rich board,
Although his wine the Maiden poured;
Though from his dish the Maiden ate,
The Queen sat happy and sedate.
But now the Maiden fell to speak
From lips that well-nigh touched his cheek:
“O Goldilocks, dost thou forget?
Or mindest thou the mirk-wood yet?
Forgettest thou the hunger-pain
And all thy young life made but vain?
How there was nought to help or aid,
But for poor Goldilocks the Maid?”
She murmured, “Each to each we two,
Our faces from the wood-mirk grew.
Hast thou forgot the grassy place,
And love betwixt us face to face?
Hast thou forgot how fair I deemed
Thy face? How fair thy garment seemed?
Thy kisses on my shoulders bare,
Through rents of the poor raiment there?
My arms that loved thee nought unkissed
All o’er from shoulder unto wrist?
Hast thou forgot how brave thou wert,
Thou with thy fathers’ weapon girt;
When underneath the bramble-bush
I quaked like river-shaken rush,
Wondering what new-wrought shape of death
Should quench my new love-quickened breath?
Or else: forget’st thou, Goldilocks,
Thine own land of the wheaten shocks?
Thy mother and thy sisters dear,
Thou said’st would bide thy true-love there?
Hast thou forgot? Hast thou forgot?
O love, my love, I move thee not.”
Silent the fair Queen sat and smiled
And heeded nought the Angel’s child,
For like an image fashioned fair
Still sat the Swain with empty stare.
These words seemed spoken not, but writ
As foolish tales through night-dreams flit.
Vague pictures passed before his sight,
As in the first dream of the night.
But the Maiden opened her basket fair,
And set two doves on the table there.
And soft they cooed, and sweet they billed
Like man and maid with love fulfilled.
Therewith the Maiden reached a hand
To a dish that on the board did stand;
And she crumbled a share of the spice-loaf brown,
And the Swain upon her hand looked down;
Then unto the fowl his eyes he turned;
And as in a dream his bowels yearned
For somewhat that he could not name;
And into his heart a hope there came.
And still he looked on the hands of the Maid,
As before the fowl the crumbs she laid.
And he murmured low, “O Goldilocks!
Were we but amid the wheaten shocks!”
Then the false Queen knit her brows and laid
A fair white hand by the hand of the Maid.
He turned his eyes away thereat,
And closer to the Maiden sat.
But the queen-bird now the carle-bird fed
Till all was gone of the sugared bread.
Then with wheedling voice for more he craved,
And the Maid a share from the spice-loaf shaved;
And the crumbs within her hollow hand
She held where the creeping doves did stand.
But Goldilocks, he looked and longed,
And saw how the carle the queen-bird wronged.
For when she came to the hand to eat
The hungry queen-bird thence he beat.
Then Goldilocks the Swain spake low:
“Foul fall thee, bird, thou doest now
As I to Goldilocks, my sweet,
Who gave my hungry mouth to eat.”
He felt her hand as he did speak,
He felt her face against his cheek.
He turned and stood in the evil hall,
And swept her up in arms withal.
Then was there hubbub wild and strange,
And swiftly all things there ’gan change.
The fair Queen into a troll was grown,
A one-eyed, bow-backed, haggard crone.
And though the hall was yet full fair,
And bright the sunshine streamed in there,
On evil shapes it fell forsooth:
Swine-heads; small red eyes void of ruth;
And bare-boned bodies of vile things,
And evil-feathered bat-felled wings.
And all these mopped and mowed and grinned,
And sent strange noises down the wind.
There stood those twain unchanged alone
To face the horror of the crone;
She crouched against them by the board;
And cried the Maid: “Thy sword, thy sword!
Thy sword, O Goldilocks! For see
She will not keep her oath to me.”
Out flashed the blade therewith. He saw
The foul thing sidelong toward them draw,
Holding within her hand a cup
Wherein some dreadful drink seethed up.
Then Goldilocks cried out and smote,
And the sharp blade sheared the evil throat.
The head fell noseling to the floor;
The liquor from the cup did pour,
And ran along a sparkling flame
That nigh unto their footsoles came.
Then empty straightway was the hall,
Save for those twain, and she withal.
So fled away the Maid and Man,
And down the stony stairway ran.
Fast fled they o’er the sunny grass
Yet but a little way did pass
Ere cried the Maid: “Now cometh forth
The snow-white ice-bear of the North;
Turn Goldilocks, and heave up sword!”
Then fast he stood upon the sward,
And faced the beast, that whined and cried,
And shook his head from side to side.
But round him the Swain danced and leaped,
And soon the grisly head he reaped.
And then the ancient blade he sheathed,
And ran unto his love sweet-breathed;
And caught her in his arms and ran
Fast from that house, the bane of man.
Yet therewithal he spake her soft
And kissed her over oft and oft,
Until from kissed and trembling mouth
She cried: “The Dragon of the South!”
He set her down and turned about,
And drew the eager edges out.
And therewith scaly coil on coil
Reared ’gainst his face the mouth aboil:
The gaping jaw and teeth of dread
Was dark ’twixt heaven and his head.
But with no fear, no thought, no word,
He thrust the thin-edged ancient sword.
And the hot blood ran from the hairy throat,
And set the summer grass afloat.
Then back he turned and caught her hand,
And never a minute did they stand.
But as they ran on toward the wood,
He deemed her swift feet fair and good.
She looked back o’er her shoulder fair:
“The whelming poison-pool is here;
And now availeth nought the blade:
O if my cherished trees might aid!
But now my feet fail. Leave me then!
And hold my memory dear of men.”
He caught her in his arms again;
Of her dear side was he full fain.
Her body in his arms was dear:
“Sweet art thou, though we perish here!”
Like quicksilver came on the flood:
But lo, the borders of the wood!
She slid from out his arms and stayed;
Round a great oak her arms she laid.
“If e’er I saved thee, lovely tree,
From axe and saw, now, succour me:
Look how the venom creeps anigh,
Help! lest thou see me writhe and die.”
She crouched beside the upheaved root,
The bubbling venom touched her foot;
Then with a sucking gasping sound
It ebbed back o’er the blighted ground.
Up then she rose and took his hand
And never a moment did they stand.
“Come, love,” she cried, “the ways I know,
How thick soe’er the thickets grow.
O love, I love thee! O thine heart!
How mighty and how kind thou art!”
Therewith they saw the tree-dusk lit,
Bright grey the great boles gleamed on it.
“O flee,” she said, “the sword is nought
Against the flickering fire-flaught.”
“But this availeth yet,” said he,
“That Hallows All our love may see.”
He turned about and faced the glare:
“O Mother, help us, kind and fair!
Now help me, true St. Nicholas,
If ever truly thine I was!”
Therewith the wild-fire waned and paled
And in the wood the light nigh failed;
And all about ’twas as the night.
He said: “Now won is all our fight,
And now meseems all were but good
If thou mightst bring us from the wood.”
She fawned upon him, face and breast;
She said: “It hangs ’twixt worst and best.
And yet, O love, if thou be true,
One thing alone thou hast to do.”
Sweetly he kissed her, cheek and chin:
“What work thou biddest will I win.”
“O love, my love, I needs must sleep;
Wilt thou my slumbering body keep,
And, toiling sorely, still bear on
The love thou seemest to have won?”
“O easy toil,” he said, “to bless
Mine arms with all thy loveliness.”
She smiled; “Yea, easy it may seem,
But harder is it than ye deem.
For hearken! Whatso thou mayst see,
Piteous as it may seem to thee,
Heed not nor hearken! bear me forth,
As though nought else were aught of worth,
For all earth’s wealth that may be found
Lay me not sleeping on the ground,
To help, to hinder, or to save!
Or there for me thou diggest a grave.”
He took her body on his arm,
Her slumbering head lay on his barm.
Then glad he bore her on the way,
And the wood grew lighter with the day.
All still it was, till suddenly
He heard a bitter wail near by.
Yet on he went until he heard
The cry become a shapen word:
“Help me, O help, thou passer by!
Turn from the path, let me not die!
I am a woman; bound and left
To perish; of all help bereft.”
Then died the voice out in a moan;
He looked upon his love, his own,
And minding all she spake to him
Strode onward through the wild-wood dim.
But lighter grew the woodland green
Till clear the shapes of things were seen.
And therewith wild halloos he heard,
And shrieks, and cries of one afeard.
Nigher it grew and yet more nigh
Till burst from out a brake near by
A woman bare of breast and limb,
Who turned a piteous face to him
E’en as she ran: for hard at heel
Followed a man with brandished steel,
And yelling mouth. Then the swain stood
One moment in the glimmering wood
Trembling, ashamed: Yet now grown wise
Deemed all a snare for ears and eyes.
So onward swiftlier still he strode
And cast all thought on his fair load.
And yet in but a little space
Back came the yelling shrieking chase,
And well-nigh gripped now by the man,
Straight unto him the woman ran;
And underneath the gleaming steel
E’en at his very feet did kneel.
She looked up; sobs were all her speech,
Yet sorely did her face beseech.
While o’er her head the chaser stared,
Shaking aloft the edges bared.
Doubted the swain, and a while did stand
As she took his coat-lap in her hand.
Upon his hand he felt her breath
Hot with the dread of present death.
Sleek was her arm on his scarlet coat,
The sobbing passion rose in his throat.
But e’en therewith he looked aside
And saw the face of the sleeping bride.
Then he tore his coat from the woman’s hand,
And never a moment there did stand.
But swiftly thence away he strode
Along the dusky forest road.
And there rose behind him laughter shrill,
And then was the windless wood all still,
He looked around o’er all the place,
But saw no image of the chase.
And as he looked the night-mirk now
O’er all the tangled wood ’gan flow.
Then stirred the sweetling that he bore,
And she slid adown from his arms once more.
Nought might he see her well-loved face;
But he felt her lips in the mirky place.
“’Tis night,” she said, “and the false day’s gone,
And we twain in the wild-wood all alone.
Night o’er the earth; so rest we here
Until to-morrow’s sun is clear.
For overcome is every foe
And home to-morrow shall we go.”
So ’neath the trees they lay, those twain,
And to them the darksome night was gain.
But when the morrow’s dawn was grey
They woke and kissed whereas they lay.
And when on their feet they came to stand
Swain Goldilocks stretched out his hand.
And he spake: “O love, my love indeed,
Where now is gone thy goodly weed?
For again thy naked feet I see,
And thy sweet sleek arms so kind to me.
Through thy rent kirtle once again
Thy shining shoulder showeth plain.”
She blushed as red as the sun-sweet rose:
“My garments gay were e’en of those
That the false Queen dight to slay my heart;
And sore indeed was their fleshly smart.
Yet must I bear them, well-beloved,
Until thy truth and troth was proved.
And this tattered coat is now for a sign
That thou hast won me to be thine.
Now wilt thou lead along thy maid
To meet thy kindred unafraid.”
As stoops the falcon on the dove
He cast himself about her love.
He kissed her over, cheek and chin,
He kissed the sweetness of her skin.
Then hand in hand they went their way
Till the wood grew light with the outer day.
At last behind them lies the wood,
And before are the Upland Acres good.
On the hill’s brow awhile they stay
At midmorn of the merry day.
He sheareth a deal from his kirtle meet,
To make her sandals for her feet.
He windeth a wreath of the beechen tree,
Lest men her shining shoulders see.
And a wreath of woodbine sweet, to hide
The rended raiment of her side;
And a crown of poppies red as wine,
Lest on her head the hot sun shine.
She kissed her love withal and smiled:
“Lead forth, O love, the Woodland Child!
Most meet and right meseems it now
That I am clad with the woodland bough.
For betwixt the oak-tree and the thorn
Meseemeth erewhile was I born.
And if my mother aught I knew
It was of the woodland folk she grew.
And O that thou art well at ease
To wed the daughter of the trees!”
Now Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Go down amidst the wheaten shocks,
But when anigh to the town they come,
Lo there is the wain a-wending home,
And many a man and maid beside,
Who tossed the sickles up, and cried:
“O Goldilocks, now whither away?
And what wilt thou with the woodland may?”
“O this is Goldilocks my bride,
And we come adown from the wild-wood side,
And unto the Fathers’ House we wend
To dwell therein till life shall end.”
“Up then on the wain, that ye may see
From afar how thy mother bideth thee.
That ye may see how kith and kin
Abide thee, bridal brave to win.”
So Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Sit high aloft on the wheaten shocks,
And fair maids sing before the wain,
For all of Goldilocks are fain.
But when they came to the Fathers’ door,
There stood his mother old and hoar.
Yet was her hair with grey but blent,
When forth from the Upland Town he went.
There by the door his sisters stood;
Full fair they were and fresh of blood;
Little they were when he went away;
Now each is meet for a young man’s may.
“O tell me, Goldilocks, my son,
What are the deeds that thou hast done?”
“I have wooed me a wife in the forest wild,
And home I bring the Woodland Child.”
“A little deed to do, O son,
So long a while as thou wert gone.”
“O mother, yet is the summer here
Now I bring aback my true-love dear.
And therewith an Evil Thing have I slain;
Yet I come with the first-come harvest-wain.”
“O Goldilocks, my son, my son!
How good is the deed that thou hast done?
But how long the time that is worn away!
Lo! white is my hair that was but grey.
And lo these sisters here, thine own,
How tall, how meet for men-folk grown!
Come, see thy kin in the feasting-hall,
And tell me if thou knowest them all!
O son, O son, we are blithe and fain;
But the autumn drought, and the winter rain,
The frost and the snow, and St. David’s wind,
All these that were, time out of mind,
All these a many times have been
Since thou the Upland Town hast seen.”
Then never a word spake Goldilocks
Till they came adown from the wheaten shocks.
And there beside his love he stood
And he saw her body sweet and good.
Then round her love his arms he cast:
“The years are as a tale gone past.
But many the years that yet shall be
Of the merry tale of thee and me.
Come, love, and look on the Fathers’ Hall,
And the folk of the kindred one and all!
For now the Fathers’ House is kind,
And all the ill is left behind.
And Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Shall dwell in the land of the Wheaten Shocks.”
The Witch Of Atlas
Before those cruel twins whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time,
Error and Truth, had hunted from the earth
All those bright natures which adorned its prime,
And left us nothing to believe in, worth
The pains of putting into learn?d rhyme,
A Lady Witch there lived on Atlas mountain
Within a cavern by a secret fountain.
Her mother was one of the Atlantides.
The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden
In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas
So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden
In the warm shadow of her loveliness;
He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden
The chamber of gray rock in which she lay.
She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.
'Tis said she first was changed into a vapor;
And then into a cloud,--such clouds as flit
(Like splendor-winged moths about a taper)
Round the red west when the Sun dies in it;
And then into a meteor, such as caper
On hill-tops when the Moon is in a fit;
Then into one of those mysterious stars
Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars.
Ten times the Mother of the Months had ben
Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden
With that bright sign the billows to indent
The sea-deserted sand--(like children chidden,
At her command they ever came and went)--
Since in that cave a dewy splendor hidden
Took shape and motion. With the living form
Of this embodied Power the cave grew warm.
A lovely Lady garmented in light
From her own beauty: deep her eyes as are
Two openings of unfathomable night
Seen through a temple's cloven roof; her hair
Dark; the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight,
Picturing her form. Her soft smiles shone afar;
And her low voice was heard like love, and drew
All living things towards this wonder new.
And first the spotted cameleopard came;
And then the wise and fearless elephant;
Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame
Of his own volumes intervolved. All gaunt
And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made tame,--
They drank before her at her sacred fount;
And every beast of beating heart grew bold,
Such gentleness and power even to behold.
The brinded lioness led forth her young,
That she might teach them how they should forego
Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know,
With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue,
How he might be as gentle as the doe.
The magic circle of her voice and eyes
All savage natures did imparadise.
And old Silenus, shaking a green stick
Of lilies, and the Wood-gods in a crew,
Came blithe as in the olive-copses thick
Cicade are, drunk with the noonday dew;
And Dryope and Faunus followed quick,
Teazing the God to sing them something new;
Till in this cave they found the Lady lone,
Sitting upon a seat of emerald stone.
And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there.
And, though none saw him,--through the adamant
Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air,
And through those living spirits like a want,--
He passed out of his everlasting lair
Where the quick heart of the great world doth pant,
And felt that wondrous Lady all alone,--
And she felt him upon her emerald throne.
And every Nymph of stream and spreading tree,
And every Shepherdess of Ocean's flocks
Who drives her white waves over the green sea,
And Ocean with the brine on his grey locks,
And quaint Priapus with his company,--
All came, much wondering how the enwombed rocks
Could have brought forth so beautiful a birth:
Her love subdued their wonder and their mirth.
The herdsmen and the mountain-maidens came,
And the rude kings of pastoral Garamant--
Their spirits shook within them, as a flame
Stirred by the air under a cavern gaunt:
Pygmies and Polyphemes, by many a name,
Centaurs and Satyrs, and such shapes as haunt
Wet clefts,--and lumps neither alive nor dead,
Dog-headed, bosom-eyed, and bird-footed.
For she was beautiful. Her beauty made
The bright world dim, and everything beside
Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade.
No thought of living spirit could abide
(Which to her looks had ever been betrayed)
On any object in the world so wide,
On any hope within the circling skies,--
But on her form, and in her inmost eyes.
Which when the Lady knew; she took her spindle,
And twined three threads of fleecy mist, and three
Long lines of light, such as the dawn may kindle
The clouds and waves and mountains with, and she
As many starbeams, ere their lamps could dwindle
In the belated moon, wound skilfully;
And with these threads a subtle veil she wove--
A shadow for the splendour of her love.
The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling
Were stored with magic treasures:--sounds of air
Which had the power all spirits of compelling,
Folded in cells of crystal silence there;
Such as we hear in youth, and think the feeling
will never die--yet, ere we are aware,
The feeling and the sound are fled and gone
And the regret they leave remains alone.
And there lay Visions swift and sweet and quaint,
Each in its thin sheath like a chrysalis;--
Some eager to burst forth; some weak and faint
With the soft burden of intensest bliss
It is their work to bear to many a saint
Whose heart adores the shrine which holiest is,
Even Love's; and others, white, green, grey, and black,
And of all shapes:--and each was at her beck.
And odours in a kind of aviary
Of ever-blooming Eden-trees she kept,
Clipped in a floating net a love-sick Fairy
Had woven from dew-beams while the moon yet slept.
As bats at the wired window of a dairy,
They beat their vans; and each was an adept--
When loosed and missioned, making wings of winds--
To stir sweet thoughts or sad in destined minds.
And liquors clear and sweet, whose healthful might
Could medicine the sick soul to happy sleep,
And change eternal death into a night
Of glorious dreams--or, if eyes needs must weep,
Could make their tears all wonder and delight--
She in her crystal phials did closely keep:
If men could drink of those clear phials, 'tis said
The living were not envied of the dead.
Her cave was stored with scrolls of strange device,
The works of some Saturnian Archimage,
Which taught the expiations at whose price
Men from the Gods might win that happy age
Too lightly lost, redeeming native vice,--
And which might quench the earth-consuming rage
Of gold and blood, till men should live and move
Harmonious as the sacred stars above:--
And how all things that seem untameable,
Not to be checked and not to be confined,
Obey the spells of Wisdom's wizard skill;
Time, earth, and fire, the ocean and the wind,
And all their shapes, and man's imperial will;--
And other scrolls whose writings did unbind
The inmost lore of love--let the profane
Tremble to ask what secrets they contain.
And wondrous works of substances unknown,
To which the enchantment of her Father's power
Had changed those ragged blocks of savage stone,
Were heaped in the recesses of her bower;
Carved lamps and chalices, and phials which shone
In their own golden beams--each like a flower
Out of whose depth a firefly shakes his light
Under a cypress in a starless night.
At first she lived alone in this wild home,
And her own thoughts were each a minister,
Clothing themselves or with the ocean-foam,
Or with the wind, or with the speed of fire,
To work whatever purposes might come
Into her mind: such power her mighty Sire
Had girt them with, whether to fly or run
Through all the regions which he shines upon.
The Ocean-nymphs and Hamadryades,
Oreads, and Naiads with long weedy locks,
Offered to do her bidding through the seas,
Under the earth, and in the hollow rocks,
And far beneath the matted roots of trees,
And in the gnarled heart of stubborn oaks;
So they might live for ever in the light
Of her sweet presence--each a satellite.
"This may not be," the Wizard Maid replied.
"The fountains where the Naiades bedew
Their shining hair at length are drained and dried;
The solid oaks forget their strength, and strew
Their latest leaf upon the mountains wide;
The boundless ocean like a drop of dew
Will be consumed; the stubborn centre must
Be scattered like a cloud of summer dust.
"And ye, with them, will perish one by one.
If I must sigh to think that this shall be,
If I must weep when the surviving Sun
Shall smile on your decay--oh ask not me
To love you till your little race is run;
I cannot die as ye must.--Over me
Your leaves shall glance--the streams in which ye dwell
Shall be my paths henceforth; and so farewell."
She spoke and wept. The dark and azure well
Sparkled beneath the shower of her bright tears,
And every little circlet where they fell
Flung to the cavern-roof inconstant spheres
And intertangled lines of light. A knell
Of sobbing voices came upon her ears
From those departing forms, o'er the serene
Of the white streams and of the forest green.
All day the Wizard Lady sat aloof;
Spelling out scrolls of dread antiquity
Under the cavern's fountain-lighted roof;
Or broidering the pictured poesy
Of some high tale upon her growing woof,
Which the sweet splendor of her smiles could dye
In hues outshining heaven--and ever she
Added some grace to the wrought poesy:--
While on her hearth lay blazing many a piece
Of sandal-wood, rare gums, and cinnamon.
Men scarcely know how beautiful fire is;
Each flame of it is as a precious stone
Dissolved in ever-moving light, and this
Belongs to each and all who gaze thereon.'
The Witch beheld it not, for in her hand
She held a woof that dimmed the burning brand.
This Lady never slept, but lay in trance
All night within the fountain--as in sleep.
Its emerald crags glowed in her beauty's glance:
Through the green splendour of the water deep
She saw the constellations reel and dance
Like fireflies--and withal did ever keep
The tenor of her contemplations calm,
With open eyes, closed feet, and folded palm.
And, when the whirlwinds and the clouds descended
From the white pinnacles of that cold hill,
She passed at dewfall to a space extended,
Where, in a lawn of flowering asphodel
Amid a wood of pines and cedars blended,
There yawned an inextinguishable well
Of crimson fire, full even to the brim,
And overflowing all the margin trim:--
Within the which she lay when the fierce war
Of wintry winds shook that innocuous liquor,
In many a mimic moon and bearded star,
O'er woods and lawns. The serpent heard it flicker
In sleep, and, dreaming still, he crept afar.
And, when the windless snow descended thicker
Than autumn-leaves, she watched it as it came
Melt on the surface of the level flame.
She had a boat which some say Vulcan wrought
For Venus, as the chariot of her star;
But it was found too feeble to be fraught
With all the ardours in that sphere which are,
And so she sold it, and Apollo bought
And gave it to this daughter: from a car,
Changed to the fairest and the lightest boat
Which ever upon mortal stream did float.
And others say that, when but three hours old,
The firstborn Love out of his cradle leapt,
And clove dun chaos with his wings of gold,
And, like a horticultural adept,
Stole a strange seed, and wrapped it up in mould,
And sowed it in his mother's star, and kept
Watering it all the summer with sweet dew,
And with his wings fanning it as it grew.
The plant grew strong and green--the snowy flower
Fell, and the long and gourd-like fruit began
To turn the light and dew by inward power
To its own substance: woven tracery ran
Of light firm texture, ribbed and branching, o'er
The solid rind, like a leaf's veined fan,--
Of which Love scooped this boat, and with soft motion
Piloted it round the circumfluous ocean.
This boat she moored upon her fount, and lit
A living spirit within all its frame,
Breathing the soul of swiftness into it.
Couched on the fountain--like a panther tame
(One of the twain at Evan's feet that sit,
Or as on Vesta's sceptre a swift flame,
Or on blind Homer's heart a winged thought--
In joyous expectation lay the boat.
Then by strange art she kneaded fire and snow
Together, tempering the repugnant mass
With liquid love--all things together grow
Through which the harmony of love can pass;
And a fair Shape out of her hands did flow--
A living image which did far surpass
In beauty that bright shape of vital stone
Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.
A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect
Of either sex, yet all the grace of both.
In gentleness and strength its limbs were decked;
The bosom lightly swelled with its full youth;
The countenance was such as might select
Some artist that his skill should never die,
lmaging forth such perfect purity.
From its smooth shoulders hung two rapid wings
Fit to have borne it to the seventh sphere,
Tipped with the speed of liquid lightenings,
Dyed in the ardours of the atmosphere.
She led her creature to the boiling springs
Where the light boat was moored, and said "Sit here,"
And pointed to the prow, and took her seat
Beside the rudder with opposing feet.
And down the streams which clove those mountains vast,
Around their inland islets, and amid
The panther-peopled forests (whose shade cast
Darkness and odors, and a pleasure hid
In melancholy gloom) the pinnace passed;
By many a star-surrounded pyramid
Of icy crag cleaving the purple sky,
And caverns yawning round unfathomably.
The silver noon into that winding dell,
With slanted gleam athwart the forest-tops,
Tempered like golden evening, feebly fell;
A green and glowing light, like that which drops
From folded lilies in which glow-worms dwell
When Earth over her face Night's mantle wraps;
Between the severed mountains lay on high,
Over the stream, a narrow rift of sky.
And, ever as she went, the Image lay
With folded wings and unawakened eyes;
And o'er its gentle countenance did play
The busy dreams, as thick as summer flies,
Chasing the rapid smiles that would not stay,
And drinking the warm tears, and the sweet sighs
Inhaling, which with busy murmur vain
They has aroused from that full heart and brain.
And ever down the prone vale, like a cloud
Upon a stream of wind, the pinnace went:
Now lingering on the pools, in which abode
The calm and darkness of the deep content
In which they paused; now o'er the shallow road
Of white and dancing waters, all besprent
With sand and polished pebbles:--mortal boat
In such a shallow rapid could not float.
And down the earthquaking cataracts, which shivcr
Their snow-like waters into golden air,
Or under chasms unfathomable ever
Sepulchre them, till in their rage they tear
A subterranean portal for the river,
It fled. The circling sunbows did upbear
Its fall down the hoar precipice of spray,
Lighting it far upon its lampless way.
And, when the Wizard Lady would ascend
The labyrinths of some many-winding vale
Which to the inmost mountain upward tend,
She called "Hermaphroditus!"--and the pale
And heavy hue which slumber could extend
Over its lips and eyes, as on the gale
A rapid shadow from a slope of grass,
Into the darkness of the stream did pass
And it unfurled its heaven-coloured pinions;
With stars of fire spotting the stream below,
And from above into the Sun's dominions
Flinging a glory like the golden glow
In which Spring clothes her emerald-winged minions,
All interwoven with fine feathery snow,
And moonlight splendour of intensest rime
With which frost paints the pines in winter-time.
And then it winnowed the elysian air
Which ever hung about that Lady bright,
With its etherial vans: and, speeding there,
Like a star up the torrent of the night,
Or a swift eagle in the morning glare
Breasting the whirlwind with impetuous flight,
The pinnace, oared by those enchanted wings,
Clove the fierce streams towards their upper springs.
The water flashed,--like sunlight, by the prow
Of a noon-wandering meteor flung to heaven;
The still air seemed as if its waves did flow
In tempest down the mountains; loosely driven,
The Lady's radiant hair streamed to and fro;
Beneath, the billows, having vainly striven
Indignant and impetuous, roared to feel
The swift and steady motion of the keel.
Or, when the weary moon was in the wane,
Or in the noon of interlunar night,
The Lady Witch in visions could not chain
Her spirit; but sailed forth under the light
Of shooting stars, and bade extend amain
Its storm-outspeeding wings the Hermaphrodite;
She to the austral waters took her way,
Beyond the fabulous Thamondocana.
Where, like a meadow which no scythe has shaven,
Which rain could never bend or whirlblast shake,
With the antarctic constellations paven,
Canopus and his crew, lay the austral lake--
There she would build herself a windless haven
Out of the clouds whose moving turrets make
The bastions of the storm, when through the sky
The spirits of the tempest thundered by:--
A haven beneath whose translucent floor
The tremulous stars sparkled unfathomably;
And around which the solid vapours hoar,
Based on the level waters, to the sky
Lifted their dreadful crags, and, like a shore
Of wintry mountains, inaccessibly
Hemmed-in with rifts and precipices grey,
And hanging crags, many a cove and bay.
And, whilst the outer lake beneath the lash
Of the wind's scourge foamed like a wounded thing
And the incessant hail with stony clash
Ploughed up the waters, and the flagging wing
Of the roused cormorant in the lightningflash
Looked like the wreck of some wind-wandering
Fragment of inky thunder-smoke--this haven
Was as a gem to copy heaven engraven.
On which that Lady played her many pranks,
Circling the image of a shooting star
(Even as a tiger on Hydaspes' banks
Outspeeds the antelopes which speediest are)
In her light boat; and many quips and cranks
She played upon the water; till the car
Of the late moon, like a sick matron wan,
To journey from the misty east began.
And then she called out of the hollow turrets
Of those high clouds, white, golden, and vermilion,
The armies of her ministering spirits.
In mighty legions million after million
They came, each troop emblazoning its merits
On meteor flags; and many a proud pavilion
Of the intertexture of the atmosphere
They pitched upon the plain of the calm mere.
They framed the imperial tent of their great Queen
Of woven exhalations, underlaid
With lambent lightning-fire, as may be seen
A dome of thin and open ivory inlaid
With crimson silk. Cressets from the serene
Hung there, and on the water for her tread
A tapestry of fleece-like mist was strewn,
Dyed in the beams of the ascending moon.
And on a throne o'erlaid with starlight, caught
Upon those wandering isles of aery dew
Which highest shoals of mountain shipwreck not,
She sate, and heard all that had happened new
Between the earth and moon since they had brought
The last intelligence: and now she grew
Pale as that moon lost in the watery night,
And now she wept, and now she laughed outright.
These were tame pleasures.--She would often climb
The steepest ladder of the crudded rack
Up to some beaked cape of cloud sublime,
And like Arion on the dolphin's back
Ride singing through the shoreless air. Oft-time,
Following the serpent lightning's winding track,
She ran upon the platforms of the wind,
And laughed to hear the fireballs roar behid.
And sometimes to those streams of upper air
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round
She would ascend, and win the Spirits there
To let her join their chorus. Mortals found
That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound
Wandered upon the earth where'er she passed,
And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.
But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
To glide adown old Nilus, where he threads
Egypt and Ethiopia from the steep
Of utmost Axume until he spreads,
Like a calm flock of silver-fleeced sheep,
His waters on the plain,--and crested heads
Of cities and proud temples gleam amid,
And many a vapour-belted pyramid:--
By MÏris and the Mareotid lakes,
Strewn with faint blooms like bridal-chamber floors,
Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes
Of those huge forms;--within the brazen doors
Of the Great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast,
Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.
And where within the surface of the river
The shadows of the massy temples lie,
And never are erased, but tremble ever
Like things which every cloud can doom to die,--
Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky
With tombs and towers and fanes,--'twas her delight
To wander in the shadow of the night.
With motion like the spirit of that wind
Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet
Passed through the peopled haunts of humankind,
Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet,--
Through fane and palace-court, and labyrinth mined
With many a dark and subterranean street
Under the Nile; through chambers high and deep
She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep.
Here lay two sister-twins in infancy;
There a lone youth who in his dreams did weep;
Within, two lovers linked innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep
Like ivy from one stem; and there lay calm
Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
Not to be mirrored in a holy song,--
Distortions foul of supernatural awe,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong,
And all the code of Custom's lawless law
Written upon the brows of old and young.
"This," said the Wizard Maiden, "is the strife
Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."
And little did the sight disturb her soul.
We, the weak mariners of that wide lake,
Where'er its shores extend or billows roll,
Our course unpiloted and starless make
O'er its wild surface to an unknown goal;
But she in the calm depths her way could take,
Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide
Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.
And she saw princes couched under the glow
Of sunlike gems; and round each temple-court
In dormitories ranged, row after row,
She saw the priests asleep,--all of one sort,
For all were educated to be so.
The peasants in their huts, and in the port
The sailors she saw cradled on the waves,
And the dead lulled within their dreamless graves.
And all the forms in which those spirits lay
Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Veils in which those sweet ladies oft array
Their delicate limbs who would conceal from us
Only their scorn of all concealment: they
Move in the light of their own beauty thus.
But these and all now lay with sleep upon them,
And little thought a Witch was looking on them.
She all those human figures breathing there
Beheld as living spirits. To her eyes
The naked beauty of the soul lay bare,
And often through a rude and worn disguise
She saw the inner form most bright and fair:
And then she had a charm of strange device,
Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone,
Could make that spirit mingle with her own.
Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given
For such a charm, when Tithon became grey--
Or how much, Venus, of thy silver heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina
Had half (oh why not all?) the debt forgiven
Which dear Adonis had been doomed to pay--
To any witch who would have taught you it
The Heliad doth not know its value yet.
'Tis said in after times her spirit free
Knew what love was, and felt itself alone.
But holy Dian could not chaster be
Before she stooped to kiss Endymion
Than now this Lady,--like a sexless bee,
Tasting all blossoms and confined to none:
Among those mortal forms the Wizard Maiden
Passed with an eye serene and heart unladen.
To those she saw most beautiful she gave
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl.
They drank in their deep sleep of that sweet wave,
And lived thenceforward as if some control,
Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave
Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul,
Was as a green and overarching bower
Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.
For, on the night when they were buried, she
Restored the embalmer's ruining, and shook
The light out of the funeral-lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathy nook;
And she unwound the woven imagery
Of second childhood's swaddling-bands, and took
The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,
And threw it with contempt into a ditch,
And there the body lay, age after age,
Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying,
Like one asleep in a green hermitage,--
With gentle smiles about its eyelids playing,
And living in its dreams beyond the rage
Of death or life; while they were still arraying
In liveries ever new the rapid, blind,
And fleeting generations of mankind.
And she would write strange dreams upon the brain
Of those who were less beautiful, and make
All harsh and crooked purposes more vain
Than in the desert is the serpent's wake
Which the sand covers. All his evil gain
The miser, in such dreams, would rise and shake
Into a beggar's lap; the lying scribe
Would his own lies betray without a bribe.
The priests would write an explanation full,
Translating hieroglyphics into Greek,
How the God Apis really was a bull,
And nothing more; and bid the herald stick
The same against the temple-doors, and pull
The old cant down: they licensed all to speak
Whate'er they thought of hawks and cats and geese,
By pastoral letters to each diocese.
The king would dress an ape up in his crown
And robes, and seat him on his glorious seat,
And on the right hand of the sunlike throne
Would place a gaudy mock-bird to repeat
The chatterings of the monkey. Every one
Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet
Of their great emperor when the morning came;
And kissed--alas, how many kiss the same!
The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and
Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;
Round the red anvils you might see them stand
Like Cyclopses in Vulcan's sooty abysm,
Beating their swords to ploughshares:--in a band
The jailors sent those of the liberal schism
Free through the streets of Memphis--much, I wis,
To the annoyance of king Amasis.
And timid lovers, who had been so coy
They hardly knew whether they loved or not,
Would rise out of their rest, and take sweet joy,
To the fulfilment of their inmost thought;
And, when next day the maiden and the boy
Met one another, both, like sinners caught,
Blushed at the thing which each believed was done
Only in fancy--till the tenth moon shone;
And then the Witch would let them take no ill;
Of many thousand schemes which lovers find,
The Witch found one,--and so they took their fill
Of happiness in marriage warm and kind.
Friends who, by practice of some envious skill,
Were torn apart (a wide wound, mind from mind)
She did unite again with visions clear
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.
These were the pranks she played among the cities
Of mortal men. And what she did to Sprites
And Gods, entangling them in her sweet ditties,
To do her will, and show their subtle sleights,
I will declare another time; for it is
A tale more fit for the weird winter-nights
Than for these garish summer-days, when we
Scarcely believe much more than we can see.
The Columbiad: Book III
Actions of the Inca Capac. A general invasion of his dominions threatened by the mountain savages. Rocha, the Inca's son, sent with a few companions to offer terms of peace. His embassy. His adventure with the worshippers of the volcano. With those of the storm, on the Andes. Falls in with the savage armies. Character and speech of Zamor, their chief. Capture of Rocha and his companions. Sacrifice of the latter. Death song of Azonto. War dance. March of the savage armies down the mountains to Peru. Incan army meets them. Battle joins. Peruvians terrified by an eclipse of the sun, and routed. They fly to Cusco. Grief of Oella, supposing the darkness to be occasioned by the death of Rocha. Sun appears. Peruvians from the city wall discover Roch an altar in the savage camp. They march in haste out of the city and engage the savages. Exploits of Capac. Death of Zamor. Recovery of Rocha, and submission of the enemy.
Now twenty years these children of the skies
Beheld their gradual growing empire rise.
They ruled with rigid but with generous care,
Diffused their arts and sooth'd the rage of war,
Bade yon tall temple grace their favorite isle,
The mines unfold, the cultured valleys smile,
Those broad foundations bend their arches high,
And rear imperial Cusco to the sky;
Wealth, wisdom, force consolidate the reign
From the rude Andes to the western main.
But frequent inroads from the savage bands
Lead fire and slaughter o'er the labor'd lands;
They sack the temples, the gay fields deface,
And vow destruction to the Incan race.
The king, undaunted in defensive war,
Repels their hordes, and speeds their flight afar;
Stung with defeat, they range a wider wood,
And rouse fresh tribes for future fields of blood.
Where yon blue ridges hang their cliffs on high,
And suns infulminate the stormful sky,
The nations, temper'd to the turbid air,
Breathe deadly strife, and sigh for battle's blare;
Tis here they meditate, with one vast blow,
To crush the race that rules the plains below.
Capac with caution views the dark design,
Learns from all points what hostile myriads join.
And seeks in time by proffer'd leagues to gain
A bloodless victory, and enlarge his reign.
His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call,
Resigns his charge within the temple wall;
In whom began, with reverend forms of awe,
The functions grave of priesthood and of law,
In early youth, ere yet the ripening sun
Had three short lustres o'er his childhood run,
The prince had learnt, beneath his father's hand,
The well-framed code that sway'd the sacred land;
With rites mysterious served the Power divine,
Prepared the altar and adorn'd the shrine,
Responsive hail'd, with still returning praise,
Each circling season that the God displays,
Sooth'd with funereal hymns the parting dead,
At nuptial feasts the joyful chorus led;
While evening incense and the morning song
Rose from his hand or trembled on his tongue.
Thus form'd for empire ere he gain'd the sway,
To rule with reverence and with power obey,
Reflect the glories of the parent Sun,
And shine the Capac of his future throne,
Employed his docile years; till now from far
The rumor'd leagues proclaim approaching war;
Matured for active scenes he quits the shrine,
To aid in council or in arms to shine.
Amid the chieftains that the court compose,
In modest mien the stripling pontiff rose,
With reverence bow'd, conspicuous o'er the rest,
Approach'd the throne, and thus the sire addrest:
Great king of nations, heaven-descended sage,
Thy second heir has reach'd the destined age
To take these priestly robes; to his pure hand
I yield them pure, and wait thy kind command.
Should foes invade, permit this arm to share
The toils, the triumphs, every chance of war;
For this dread conflict all our force demands,
In one wide field to whelm the brutal bands,
Pour to the mountain gods their wonted food,
And save thy realms from future leagues of blood.
Yet oh, may sovereign mercy first ordain
Propounded compact to the savage train!
I'll go with terms of peace to spread thy sway,
And teach the blessings of the God of day.
The sire return'd: My great desire you know,
To shield from slaughter and preserve the foe,
In bands of concord all their tribes to bind,
And live the friend and guardian of mankind.
Should strife begin, thy youthful arm shall share
The toils of glory thro the walks of war;
But o'er their hills to seek alone the foes,
To gain their confidence or brave their blows,
Bend their proud souls to reason's voice divine,
Claims hardier limbs and riper years than thine.
Yet one of heavenly race the task requires,
Whose mystic rites control the solar fires;
So the sooth'd Godhead proves to faithless eyes
His love to man, his empire of the skies.
Some veteran chief, in those rough labors tried,
Shall aid thee on, and go thy faithful guide;
O'er dreary heights thy sinking limbs sustain.
Teach the dark wiles of each insidious train,
Thro all extremes of life thy voice attend,
In counsel lead thee, or in arms defend.
And three firm youths, thy chosen friends, shall go
To learn the climes and meditate the foe;
That wars of future years their skill may find,
To serve the realm and save the savage kind.
Rise then, my son, first partner of my fame,
With early toils to build thy sacred name;
In high behest, for his own legate known,
Proclaim the bounties of our sire the Sun.
Tell how his fruits beneath our culture rise,
His stars, how glorious, gem our cloudless skies;
And how to us his hand hath kindly given
His peaceful laws, the purest grace of heaven,
With power to widen his terrestrial sway,
And give our blessings where he gives the day.
Yet, should the stubborn nations still prepare
The shaft of slaughter for the barbarous war,
Tell them we know to tread the crimson plain,
And God's own children never yield to man.
But ah, my child, with steps of caution go,
The ways are hideous, and enraged the foe;
Blood stains their altars, all their feasts are blood,
Death their delight, and darkness reigns their God;
Tigers and vultures, storms and earthquakes share
Their rites of worship and their spoils of war.
Shouldst thou, my Rocha, tempt too far their ire,
Should those dear relics feed a murderous fire,
Deep sighs would rend thy wretched mother's breast,
The pale Sun sink in clouds of darkness drest,
Thy sire and mournful nations rue the day
That drew thy steps from these sad walls away.
Yet go; tis virtue calls; and realms unknown,
Won by these works, may bless thy future throne;
Millions of unborn souls in time may see
Their doom reversed, and owe their peace to thee,
Deluded sires, with murdering hands, no more
Feed fancied demons with their children's gore,
But, sway'd by happier sceptres, here behold
The rites of freedom and the shrines of gold.
Be wise, be mindful of thy realm and throne;
God speed thy labors and preserve my son!
Soon the glad prince, in robes of white array'd,
Call'd his attendants and the sire obey'd.
A diamond broad, in burning gold imprest,
Display'd the sun's bright image on his breast;
A pearl-dropt girdle bound his waist below,
And the white lautu graced his lofty brow.
They journey'd forth, o'ermarching far the mound
That flank'd the kingdom on its Andean bound;
Ridge after ridge thro vagrant hordes they past,
Where each new tribe seem'd wilder than the last;
To all they preach and prove the solar sway,
And climb fresh mountains on their tedious way.
At length, as thro disparting clouds they rise,
And hills above them still obstruct the skies,
While a dead calm o'er all the region stood?
And not a leaf could fan its parent wood,
Sudden a strange portentous noise began;
The birds fled wild, the beasts for shelter ran;
Slow, sullen, loud, with deep astounding blare,
Swell the strong tones of subterranean war;
Behind, before, beneath them groans the ground,
Earth heaves and labors with the shuddering sound;
Columns of smoke, that cap the rumbling height,
Roll reddening far thro heaven, and choke the light;
From tottering steeps descend their cliffs of snow,
The mountains reel, the valleys rend below;
The headlong streams forget their usual round,
And shrink and vanish in the gaping ground.
The sun descends; but night recals in vain
Her silent shades, to recommence her reign;
The bursting mount gapes high, a sudden glare
Coruscates wide, till all the purpling air
Breaks into flame, and wheels and roars and raves
And wraps the welkin in its folding waves;
Light sailing cinders, thro its vortex driven,
Stream high and brighten to the midst of heaven;
And, following slow, full floods of boiling ore
Swell, swoop aloft and thro the concave roar.
Torrents of molten rocks, on every side,
Lead o'er the shelves of ice their fiery tide;
Hills slide before them, skies around them burn,
Towns sink beneath and heaving plains upturn;
O'er many a league the flaming deluge hurl'd,
Sweeps total nations from the staggering world.
Meanwhile, at distance thro the livid light,
A busy concourse met their wondering sight;
The prince drew near; where lo! an altar stood,
Rude in its form, and fill'd with burning wood;
Wrapt in the flames a youth expiring lay,
And the fond father thus was heard to pray:
Receive, O dreadful Power, from feeble age,
This last pure offering to thy sateless rage;
Thrice has thy vengeance on this hated land
Claim'd a dear infant from my yielding hand;
Thrice have those lovely lips the victim prest,
And all the mother torn that tender breast;
When the dread duty stifled every sigh,
And not a tear escaped her beauteous eye.
Our fourth and last now meets the fatal doom;
Groan not, my child, thy God remands thee home;
Attend once more, thou dark infernal Name,
From yon far streaming pyramid of flame;
Snatch from his heaving flesh the blasted breath.
Sacred to thee and all the fiends of death;
Then in thy hall, with spoils of nations crown'd,
Confine thy walks beneath the rending ground;
No more on earth the embowel'd flames to pour,
And scourge my people and my race no more.
Thus Rocha heard; and to the trembling crowd
Turn'd the bright image of his beaming God.
The afflicted chief, with fear and grief opprest,
Beheld the sign, and thus the prince addrest:
From what far land, O royal stranger, say,
Ascend thy wandering steps this nightly way?
From plains like ours, by holy demons fired?
Have thy brave people in the flames expired?
And hast thou now, to stay the whelming flood,
No son to offer to the furious God?
From happier lands I came, the prince returns,
Where no red flaming flood the concave burns,
No furious God bestorms our soil and skies,
Nor yield our hands the bloody sacrifice;
But life and joy the Power delights to give,
And bids his children but rejoice and live.
Thou seest thro heaven the day-dispensing Sun
In living radiance wheel his golden throne,
O'er earth's gay surface send his genial beams,
Force from yon cliffs of ice the vernal streams;
While fruits and flowers adorn the cultured field,
And seas and lakes their copious treasures yield;
He reigns our only God. In him we trace
The friend, the father of our happy race.
Late the lone tribes, on those unlabor'd shores,
Ran wild and served imaginary Powers;
Till he, in pity, taught their feuds to cease,
Devised their laws, and fashion'd all for peace.
My sacred parents first the reign began,
Sent from his courts to guide the paths of man,
To plant his fruits, to manifest his sway,
And give their blessings where he gives the day.
The sachem proud replied: Thy garb and face
Proclaim thy lineage of superior race;
And our progenitors, no less than thine,
Sprang from a God, and own a birth divine.
From that sky-scorching mount, on floods of flame,
In elder times my great forefathers came;
There dwells the Sire, and from his dark abode
Oft claims, as now, the tribute of a God.
This victim due when willing mortals pay,
His terrors lessen and his fires decay;
While purer sleet regales the mountain air,
And our glad hosts are fired for fiercer war.
Yet know, dread chief, the pious youth rejoin'd,
Some one prime Power produced all human kind:
Some Sire supreme, whose ever-ruling soul
Creates, preserves, and regulates the whole.
That Sire supreme must roll his radiant eye
Round the wide earth and thro the boundless sky;
That all their habitants, their gods and men,
May rise unveil'd beneath his careful ken.
Could thy dark fiend, that hides his blind abode,
And cauldrons in his cave that fiery flood,
Yield the rich fruits that distant nations find?
Or praise or punish or behold mankind?
But when my God, resurging from the night,
Shall gild his chambers with the morning light,
By mystic rites he'll vindicate his throne,
And own thy servant for his duteous son.
Meantime, the chief replied, thy cares releast,
Rest here the night and share our scanty feast;
Which, driven in hasty rout, our train supplied,
When trembling earth foretold the boiling tide.
They fared, they rested; till with lucid horn
All-cheering Phosphor led the lively morn;
The prince arose, an altar rear'd in haste,
And watch'd the splendors of the reddening east.
As o'er the mountain flamed the sun's broad eye,
He call'd the host, his holy rites to try;
Then took the loaves of maize, the bounties brake,
Gave to the chief, and bade them all partake;
The hallow'd relics on the pile he placed,
With tufts of flowers the simple offering graced,
Held to the sun the image from his breast,
Whose glowing concave all the God exprest;
O'er the dried leaves the rays concentred fly,
And thus his voice ascends the listening sky:
O thou, whose splendors kindle heaven with fire.
Great Soul of nature, man's immortal Sire,
If e'er my father found thy sovereign grace,
Or thy blest will ordain'd the Incan race,
Give these lorn tribes to learn thy awful name,
Receive this offering, and the pile inflame;
So shall thy laws o'er wider bounds be known,
And earth's whole race be happy as thy own.
Thus pray'd the prince; the focal flames aspire,
The mute beholders tremble and retire,
Gaze on the miracle, full credence own,
And vow obedience to the sacred Sun.
The legates now their farther course descried,
A young cazique attending as a guide,
O'er craggy cliffs pursued their eastern way,
Trod loftier champaigns, meeting high the day,
Saw timorous tribes, in these sublime abodes,
Adore the blasts and turn the storms to gods;
While every cloud that thunders thro the skies
Claims from their hands a human sacrifice.
Awhile the youth, their better faith to gain,
Strives with his usual art, but strives in vain;
In vain he pleads the mildness of the sun;
A gale refutes him ere his speech be done;
Continual tempests from their orient blow,
And load the mountains with eternal snow.
The sun's own beam, the timid clans declare,
Drives all their evils on the tortured air;
He draws the vapors up their eastern sky,
That sail and centre round his dazzling eye;
Leads the loud storms along his midday course,
And bids the Andes meet their sweeping force;
Builds their bleak summits with an icy throne,
To shine thro heaven, a semblance of his own;
Hence the sharp sleet, these lifted lawns that wait,
And all the scourges that attend their state.
Two toilsome days the virtuous Inca strove
To social life their savage minds to move;
When the third morning glow'd serenely bright,
He led their elders to an eastern height;
The world unlimited beneath them lay,
And not a cloud obscured the rising day.
Vast Amazonia, starr'd with twinkling streams,
In azure drest, a heaven inverted seems;
Dim Paraguay extends the aching sight,
Xaraya glimmers like the moon of night,
Land, water, sky in blending borders play,
And smile and brighten to the lamp of day.
When thus the prince: What majesty divine!
What robes of gold! what flames about him shine!
There walks the God! his starry sons on high
Draw their dim veil and shrink behind the sky;
Earth with surrounding nature's born anew,
And men by millions greet the glorious view!
Who can behold his all-delighting soul
Give life and joy, and heaven and earth control,
Bid death and darkness from his presence move,
Who can behold, and not adore and love?
Those plains, immensely circling, feel his beams,
He greens the groves, he silvers gay the streams,
Swells the wild fruitage, gives the beast his food,
And mute creation hails the genial God.
But richer boons his righteous laws impart,
To aid the life and mould the social heart,
His arts of peace thro happy realms to spread,
And altars grace with sacrificial bread;
Such our distinguish'd lot, who own his sway,
Mild as his morning stars and liberal as the day.
His unknown laws, the mountain chief replied,
May serve perchance your boasted race to guide;
And yon low plains, that drink his partial ray,
At his glad shrine their just devotions pay.
But we nor fear his frown nor trust his smile;
Vain as our prayers is every anxious toil;
Our beasts are buried in his whirls of snow,
Our cabins drifted to his slaves below.
Even now his placid looks thy hopes beguile,
He lures thy raptures with a morning smile;
But soon (for so those saffron robes proclaim)
His own black tempest shall obstruct his flame,
Storm, thunder, fire, against the mountains driven,
Rake deep their sulphur'd sides, disgorging here his
He spoke; they waited, till the fervid ray
High from the noontide shot the faithless day;
When lo, far gathering under eastern skies,
Solemn and slow, the dark red vapors rise;
Full clouds, convolving on the turbid air,
Move like an ocean to the watery war.
The host, securely raised, no dangers harm,
They sit unclouded and o'erlook the storm;
While far beneath, the sky-borne waters ride,
Veil the dark deep and sheet the mountain's side;
The lightning's glancing fires, in fury curl'd,
Bend their long forky foldings o'er the world;
Torrents and broken crags and floods of rain
From steep to steep roll down their force amain,
In dreadful cataracts; the bolts confound
The tumbling clouds, and rock the solid ground.
The blasts unburden'd take their upward course,
And o'er the mountain top resume their force.
Swift thro the long white ridges from the north
The rapid whirlwinds lead their terrors forth;
High walks the storm, the circling surges rise,
And wild gyrations wheel the hovering skies;
Vast hills of snow, in sweeping columns driven,
Deluge the air and choke the void of heaven;
Floods burst their bounds, the rocks forget their place,
And the firm Andes tremble to their base.
Long gazed the host; when thus the stubborn chief,
With eyes on fire, and fill'd with sullen grief:
Behold thy careless god, secure on high,
Laughs at our woes and peaceful walks the sky,
Drives all his evils on these seats sublime,
And wafts his favors to a happier clime;
Sire of the dastard race thy words disclose,
There glads his children, here afflicts his foes.
Hence! speed thy flight! pursue him where he leads;
Lest vengeance seize thee for thy father's deeds,
Thy immolated limbs assuage the fire
Of those curst Powers, who now a gift require.
The youth in haste collects his scanty train,
And, with the sun, flies o'er the western plain;
The fading orb with plaintive voice he plies,
To guide his steps and light him down the skies.
So when the moon and all the host of even
Hang pale and trembling on the verge of heaven,
While storms ascending threat their nightly reign,
They seek their absent sire, and sink below the main.
Now to the south he turns; where one vast plain
Calls from a hundred hordes the warrior train;
Of various dress and various form they show'd;
Each wore the ensign of his local god.
From eastern hills a grisly troop descends,
Whose war song wild the shuddering concave rends;
Cloak'd in a tiger's hide their grim chief towers,
And apes the brinded god his tribe adores.
The tusky jaws grin o'er the sachem's brow,
The bald eyes glare, the paws depend below,
From his bored ears contorted serpents hung,
And drops of gore seem'd rolling on his tongue.
The northern glens pour forth the Vulture-race;
Brown tufts of quills their shaded foreheads grace;
The claws branch wide, the beak expands for blood,
And all the armor imitates the god.
The Condor, frowning from a southern plain,
Borne on a standard, leads a numerous train:
Clench'd in his talons hangs an infant dead,
His long bill pointing where the sachems tread,
His wings, tho lifeless, frighten still the wind,
And his broad tail o'ershades the file behind.
From other plains and other hills afar,
The tribes throng dreadful to the promised war;
Some twine their forelock with a crested snake,
Some wear the emblems of a stream or lake;
All from the Power they serve assume their mode,
And foam and yell to taste the Incan blood.
The prince incautious with his men drew near,
Known for an Inca by his dress and air;
Till coop'd and caught amid the warrior trains,
They bow in silence to the victor's chains.
When now the gather'd thousands throng the plain,
And echoing skies the rending shouts retain;
Zamor, the chieftain of the Tiger-band,
By choice appointed to the first command,
Shrugg'd up his brinded spoils above the rest,
And grimly frowning thus the crowd addrest:
Warriors, attend! tomorrow leads abroad
Our sacred vengeance for our brothers' blood.
On those scorch'd plains for ever must they lie,
Their bones still naked to the burning sky?
Left in the field for foreign hawks to tear,
Nor our own vultures can the banquet share.
But soon, ye mountain gods, yon dreary west
Shall sate your hunger with an ampler feast;
When the proud Sun, that terror of the plain,
Shall grieve in heaven for all his children slain,
As o'er his realm our slaughtering armies roam,
And give to your sad Powers a happier home.
Meanwhile, ye tribes, these men of solar race,
Food for the flames, your bloody rites shall grace;
Each to a different god his panting breath
Resigns in fire; this night demands their death:
All but the Inca; him reserved in state
These conquering hands ere long shall immolate
To all the Powers at once that storm the skies,
A grateful gift, before his mother's eyes.
The sachem ceased; the chiefs of every race
Lead the bold captives to their destined place;
The sun descends, the parting day expires,
And earth and heaven display their sparkling fires.
Soon the raised altars kindle round the gloom,
And call the victims to their vengeful doom;
Led to their pyres, in sullen pomp they tread,
And sing by turns the triumphs of the dead.
Amid the crowd beside his altar stood
The youth devoted to the Tiger-god;
A beauteous form he rose, of noble grace,
The only hope of his illustrious race.
His aged sire, for numerous years, had shone
The first supporter of the Incan throne;
Wise Capac loved the youth, and graced his hand
With a fair virgin from a neighboring band;
And him the legate prince, in equal prime,
Had chose to share his mission round the clime.
He mounts the pyre, the flames approach his breath.
And thus he wakes the dauntless song of death:
Dark vault of heaven, that greet his daily throne.
Where flee the glories of your absent Sun?
Ye starry hosts, who kindle from his eye,
Can you behold him in the western sky?
Or if unseen beneath his watery bed,
The wearied God reclines his radiant head,
When next his morning steps your courts inflame,
And seek on earth for young Azonto's name,
Then point these ashes, mark the smoky pile,
And say the hero suffer'd with a smile.
So shall the Power in vengeance view the place,
In crimson clothe his terror-beaming face,
Pour swift destruction on these curst abodes,
Whelm the grim tribes and all their savage gods.
But ah, forbear to tell my stooping sire
His darling hopes have fed a coward fire;
Why should he know the tortures of the brave?
Why fruitless sorrows bend him to the grave?
Nor shalt thou e'er be told, my bridal fair,
What silent pangs these panting vitals tear;
But blooming still the patient hours employ
On the blind hope of future scenes of joy.
Now haste, ye fiends of death; the Sire of day
In absent slumber gives your malice way;
While fainter light these livid flames supply,
And short-lived thousands learn of me to die,
He ceased not speaking; when the yell of war
Drowns all their death songs in a hideous jar;
The cries rebounding from the hillsides pour,
And wolves and tigers catch the distant roar.
Now more concordant all their voices join,
And round the plain they form the festive line;
When, to the music of the dismal din,
Indignant Zamor bids the dance begin.
Dim thro the shadowy fires each changing form
Moves like a cloud before an evening storm,
When o'er the moon's pale face and starry plain
The shifting shades lead on their broken train;
The mingling tribes their mazy gambols tread,
Till the last groan proclaims the victims dead,
Then part the smoky flesh, enjoy the feast,
And lose their labors in oblivious rest.
Soon as the western hills announced the morn,
And falling fires were scarcely seen to burn,
Grimm'd by the horrors of the dreadful night,
The hosts woke fiercer for the promised fight;
And dark and silent thro the frowning grove
The different tribes beneath their standards move.
Meantime the solar king collects from far
His martial bands, to meet the expected war,
Camps on the confines of an eastern plain
That skirts the steep rough limit of his reign;
He trains their ranks, their pliant force combines,
To close in columns or extend in lines,
To wheel, change front, in broken files dispart,
And draw new strength from all the warrior's art.
But now the rising sun relumes the plain,
And calls to arms the well-accustom'd train.
High in the front imperial Capac strode,
In fair effulgence like the beaming God;
A golden girdle bound his snowy vest,
A mimic sun hung sparkling on his breast;
The lautu's horned wreath his temples twined,
The bow, the quiver shade his waist behind;
Raised high in air his golden sceptre burn'd,
And hosts surrounding trembled as he turn'd.
O'er eastern hills he cast his watchful eye,
Thro the broad breaks that lengthen down the sky;
In whose blue clefts the sloping pathways bend,
Where annual floods from melting snows descend.
Now dry and deep, they lead from every height
The savage files that headlong rush to fight;
They throng and thicken thro the smoky air,
And every breach pours down the dusky war.
So when a hundred streams explore their way,
Down the same slopes, convolving to the sea,
They boil, they bend, they force their floods amain,
Swell o'er obstructing crags, and sweep the plain.
Capac beholds and waits the coming shock,
As for the billows waits the storm-beat rock;
And while for fight his ardent troops prepare,
Thus thro the ranks he breathes the soul of war:
Ye tribes that flourish in the Sun's mild reign,
Long have your flocks adorn'd the peaceful plain,
As o'er the realm his smiles persuasive flow'd,
And conquer'd all without the stain of blood;
But lo, at last that wild infuriate band
With savage war demands your happy land.
Beneath the dark immeasurable host,
Descending, swarming, how the crags are lost!
Already now their ravening eyes behold
Your star-bright temples and your gates of gold;
And to their gods in fancied goblets pour
The warm libation of your children's gore.
Move then to vengeance, meet the sons of blood,
Led by this arm and lighted by that God;
The strife is fierce, your fanes and fields the prize,
The warrior conquers or the infant dies.
Fill'd with his fire, the troops in squared array
Wait the wild hordes loose huddling to the fray;
Their pointed arrows, rising on the bow,
Look up the sky and chide the lagging foe.
Dread Zamor leads the homicidious train,
Moves from the clefts and stretches o'er the plain.
He gives the shriek; the deep convulsing sound
The hosts reecho, and the hills around
Retain the rending tumult; all the air
Clangs in the conflict of the clashing war;
But firm undaunted as a shelvy strand
That meets the surge, the bold Peruvians stand,
With steady aim the sounding bowstring ply,
And showers of arrows thicken thro the sky;
When each grim host, in closer conflict join'd,
Clench the dire ax and cast the bow behind;
Thro broken ranks sweep wide their slaughtering course.
Now struggle back, now sidelong swray the force.
Here from grim chiefs is lopt the grisly head;
All gride the dying, all deface the dead;
There scattering o'er the field in thin array,
Man tugs with man, and clubs with axes play;
With broken shafts they follow and they fly,
And yells and groans and shouts invade the sky;
Round all the shatter'd groves the ground is strow'd
With sever'd limbs and corses bathed in blood.
Long raged the strife; and where, on either side,
A friend, a father or a brother died,
No trace remain'd of what he was before,
Mangled with horrid wounds and black with gore.
Now the Peruvians, in collected might,
With one wide stroke had wing'd the savage flighty
But their bright Godhead, in his midday race,
With glooms unusual veil'd his radiant face,
Quench'd all his beams, tho cloudless, in affright,
As loth to view from heaven the finish'd fight.
A trembling twilight o'er the welkin moves,
Browns the dim void, and darkens deep the groves;
The waking stars, embolden'd at the sight,
Peep out and gem the anticipated night;
Day-birds, and beasts of light to covert fly,
And owls and wolves begin their evening cry.
The astonish'd Inca marks, with wild surprise,
Dead chills on earth, no cloud in all the skies,
His host o'ershaded in the field of blood,
Gored by his foes, deserted by his God.
Mute with amaze, they cease the war to wage,
Gaze on their leaders and forget their rage;
When pious Capac to the listening crowd
Raised high his wand and pour'd his voice aloud:
Ye chiefs and warriors of Peruvian race,
Some sore offence obscures my father's face;
What moves the Numen to desert the plain,
Nor save his children, nor behold them slain?
Fly! speed your course, regain the guardian town,
Ere darkness shroud you in a deeper frown;
The faithful walls your squadrons shall defend,
While my sad steps the sacred dome ascend,
To learn the cause, and ward the woes we fear:
Haste, haste, my sons! I guard the flying rear.
The hero spoke; the trembling tribes obey,
While deeper glooms obscure the source of day.
Sudden the savage bands collect amain,
Hang on the rear and sweep them o'er the plain;
Their shouts, redoubling with the flying war.
Drown the loud groans and torture all the air.
The hawks of heaven, that o'er the field had stood,
Scared by the tumult from the scent of blood,
Cleave the far gloom; the beasts forget their prey,
And scour the waste, and give the war its way.
Zamor elate with horrid joy beheld
The Sun depart, his children fly the field,
And raised his rending voice: Thou darkening sky,
Deepen thy damps, the fiend of death is nigh;
Behold him rising from his shadowy throne,
To veil this heaven and drive the conquer'd Sun;
The glaring Godhead yields to sacred night,
And his foil'd armies imitate his flight.
Confirm, infernal Power, thy rightful reign,
Give deadlier shades and heap the piles of slain;
Soon the young captive prince shall roll in fire,
And all his race accumulate the pyre.
Ye mountain vultures, here your food explore,
Tigers and condors, all ye gods of gore,
In these rich fields, beneath your frowning sky,
A plenteous feast shall every god supply.
Rush forward, warriors, hide the plains with dead;
Twas here our friends in former combat bled;
Strow'd thro the waste their naked bones demand
This tardy vengeance from our conquering hand.
He said; and high before the Tiger-train
With longer strides hangs forward o'er the slain,
Bends like a falling tree to reach the foe,
And o'er tall Capac aims a forceful blow.
The king beheld the ax, and with his wand
Struck the raised weapon from the sachem's hand;
Then clench'd the falling helve, and whirling round,
Fell'd a close file of heroes to the ground;
Nor stay'd, but follow'd where his people run,
Fearing to fight, forsaken by the Sun;
Till Cusco's walls salute their longing sight,
And the wide gates receive their rapid flight.
The folds are barr'd, the foes in shade conceal'd,
Like howling wolves, rave round the frighted field.
The monarch now ascends the sacred dome;
The Sun's fixt image there partakes the gloom;
Thro all the shrines, where erst on new-moon day
Swell'd the full quires of consecrated praise,
A tomb-like silence reigns; till female cries
Burst forth at last, and these sad accents rise:
Was it for this, my son to distant lands
Must trace the wilds, and tempt those lawless bands?
And does the God obscure his golden throne
In mournful darkness for my slaughter'd son?
Oh, had his beam; ere that disastrous day
That call'd the youth from these fond arms away,
Received my spirit to its native sky,
That sad Oella might have seen him die!
Where slept thy shaft of vengeance, O my God,
When those fell tigers drank his sacred blood?
Did not the pious prince, with rites divine,
Feed the pure flame in this thy hallow'd shrine;
And early learn, beneath his father's hand,
To shed thy blessings round the favor'd land?
Form'd by thy laws the royal seat to grace,
Son of thy son, and glory of his race.
Where, my lost Rocha, rests thy lovely head?
Where the rent robes thy hapless mother made?
I see thee, mid those hideous hills of snow,
Pursued and slaughter'd by the wildman foe;
Or, doom'd a feast for some pretended god,
Drench his black altar with celestial blood.
Snatch me, O Sun, to happier worlds of light-
No: shroud me, shroud me with thyself in night.
Thou hear'st me not, thou dread departed Power,
Thy face is dark, and Rocha lives no more.
Thus heard the silent king; his equal heart
Caught all her grief, and bore a father's part.
The cause, suggested by her tender moan,
The cause perchance that veil'd the midday sun,
And shouts that spoke the still approaching foe,
Fixt him suspense, in all the strength of woe.
A doubtful moment held his changing choice;
Now would he sooth her, half assumes his voice;
But greater cares the rising wish control,
And call forth all his energy of soul.
Why should he cease to ward the coming fate?
Or she be told the foes besiege the gate?
He turn'd in haste; and now their image-god
High on the spire with newborn lustre glow'd;
Swift thro the portal flew the hero's eye,
And hail'd the growing splendor in the sky.
The troops courageous at return of light
Throng round the dome, impatient for the fight;
The king descending in the portal stood,
And thus addrest the all-delighting God:
O sovereign Soul of heaven, thy changing face
Makes or destroys the glory of thy race.
If from this mortal life my child he fled,
First of thy line that ever graced the dead;
If thy bright splendor ceased on high to burn
For that loved youth who never must return.
Forgive thine armies, when in fields of blood
They lose their strength and fear the frowning God.
As now thy glory, with superior day,
Glows thro the field and leads the warrior's way,
May our exalted souls, to vengeance driven,
Burn with new brightness in the cause of heaven!
For thy slain son the murderous horde shall bleed;
We mourn the hero, but avenge the deed.
He said; and from the battlement on high
A watchful warrior raised a sudden cry:
'An Inca white on yonder altar tied-
Tis Rocha's self-the flame ascends his side.'
In sweeping haste the bursting gates unbar,
And flood the champaign with a tide of war;
A cloud of arrows leads the rapid train,
They shout, they swarm, they hide the dusty plain;
Bows, quivers, girdles strow the field behind,
And the raised axes cleave the passing wind.
The prince, confest to every warrior's sight,
Inspires each soul and centres all the fight;
Each hopes to snatch him from the kindling pyre,
Each fears his breath already flits in fire.
Here Zamor ranged his ax-men deep and wide,
Wedged like a wall, and thus the king defied:
Haste, son of Light, pour fast the winged war,
The prince, the dying prince demands your care;
Hear how his death song chides your dull delay,
Lift longer strides, bend forward to the fray,
Ere flames infolding suffocate his groan,
Child of your beaming God, a victim to our own.
This said, he raised his shaggy shoulders high,
And bade the shafts glide thicker thro the sky.
Like the broad billows of the lifted main,
Rolls into sight the long Peruvian train;
A white sail bounding, on the billows tost,
Is Capac towering o'er the furious host.
Now meet the dreadful chiefs, with eyes on fire;
Beneath their blows the parting ranks retire;
In whirlwind-sweep their meeting axes bound,
Wheel, crash in air, and plow the trembling ground;
Their sinewy limbs in fierce contortions bend,
And mutual strokes with equal force descend,
Parried with equal art, now gyring prest
High at the head, now plunging for the breast.
The king starts backward from the struggling foe,
Collects new strength, and with a circling blow
Rush'd furious on; his flinty edge, whirl'd wide,
Met Zamor's helve, and glancing grazed his side
And settled in his groin; so plunged it lay,
That scarce the king could tear his ax away.
The savage fell; when thro the Tiger-train
The driving Inca turns his force amain;
Where still compact they hem the murderous pyre,
And Rocha's voice seems faltering to expire.
The phrensied father rages, thunders wild,
Hews armies down, to save the sinking child;
The ranks fall staggering where he lifts his arm,
Or roll before him like a billowy storm;
Behind his steps collecting warriors close;
Deep centred in a circling ridge of foes
He cleaves his wasting way; the prince unties,
And thus his voice: Dread Sovereign of the skies.
Accept my living son, again bestow'd
To grace with rites the temple of his God.
Move, heroes, move; complete the work begun.
Crush the grim race, avenge your injured Sun.
The savage host, that view'd the daring deed,
And saw their nations with their leader bleed,
Raised high the shriek of horror; all the plain
Is trod with flight and cover'd with the slain.
The bold Peruvians compass round the field,
Confine their flight, and force the rest to yield;
When Capac raised his placid voice again;
Ye conquering troops, collect the vanquish'd train;
The Sun commands to stay the rage of war,
He knows to conquer, but he loves to spare.
He ceased; and where the savage leader lay
Weltering in gore, directs his eager way,
Unwraps the tiger's hide, and strives in vain
To close the wound, and mitigate the pain;
And while compassion for a foe distrest
Mixt with reproach, he thus the chief addrest:
Too long, proud prince, thy fearless heart withstood
Our sacred arms, and braved the living God;
His sovereign will commands all feuds to cease,
His realm is concord and his pleasure peace;
This copious carnage, spreading far the plain,
Insults his bounties, but confirms his reign.
Enough! tis past; thy parting breath demands
The last sad office from my yielding hands.
To share thy pains and feel thy hopeless woe,
Are rites ungrateful to a fallen foe:
Yet rest in peace; and know, a chief so brave,
When life departs, shall find an honor'd grave;
Myself in princely pomp thy tomb shall rear,
And tribes unborn thy hapless fate declare.
Insult me not with tombs! the monster cried,
Let closing clods thy coward carcase hide;
But these brave bones, unburied on the plain,
Touch not with dust, nor dare with rites profane;
Let no curst earth conceal this gory head,
Nor songs proclaim the dreadful Zamor dead,
Me, whom the hungry gods from plain to plain
Have follow'd, feasting on thy slaughter'd train,
Me wouldst thou cover? No! from yonder sky,
The wide-beak'd hawk, that now beholds me die,
Soon with his cowering train my flesh shall tear,
And wolves and tigers vindicate their share.
Receive, dread Powers (since I can slay no more),
My last glad victim, this devoved gore.
Thus pour'd the vengeful chief his fainting breath,
And lost his utterance in the gasp of death.
The sad remaining tribes confess the Power,
That sheds his bounties round Peruvia's shore;
All bow obedient to the Incan throne,
And blest Oella hails her living son.
Paradise Lost: Book 04
O, for that warning voice, which he, who saw
The Apocalypse, heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be revenged on men,
Woe to the inhabitants on earth! that now,
While time was, our first parents had been warned
The coming of their secret foe, and 'scaped,
Haply so 'scaped his mortal snare: For now
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,
The tempter ere the accuser of mankind,
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell:
Yet, not rejoicing in his speed, though bold
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt; which nigh the birth
Now rolling boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself; horrour and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The Hell within him; for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly
By change of place: Now conscience wakes despair,
That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue.
Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view
Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixes sad;
Sometimes towards Heaven, and the full-blazing sun,
Which now sat high in his meridian tower:
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began.
O thou, that, with surpassing glory crowned,
Lookest from thy sole dominion like the God
Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars
Hide their diminished heads; to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,
Of Sun! to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere;
Till pride and worse ambition threw me down
Warring in Heaven against Heaven's matchless King:
Ah, wherefore! he deserved no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.
What could be less than to afford him praise,
The easiest recompence, and pay him thanks,
How due! yet all his good proved ill in me,
And wrought but malice; lifted up so high
I sdeined subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burdensome still paying, still to owe,
Forgetful what from him I still received,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged; what burden then
O, had his powerful destiny ordained
Me some inferiour Angel, I had stood
Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised
Ambition! Yet why not some other Power
As great might have aspired, and me, though mean,
Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great
Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within
Or from without, to all temptations armed.
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?
Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse,
But Heaven's free love dealt equally to all?
Be then his love accursed, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.
Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
O, then, at last relent: Is there no place
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue
The Omnipotent. Ay me! they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vain,
Under what torments inwardly I groan,
While they adore me on the throne of Hell.
With diadem and scepter high advanced,
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery: Such joy ambition finds.
But say I could repent, and could obtain,
By act of grace, my former state; how soon
Would highth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feigned submission swore? Ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
For never can true reconcilement grow,
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse
And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my Punisher; therefore as far
From granting he, as I from begging, peace;
All hope excluded thus, behold, in stead
Mankind created, and for him this world.
So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear;
Farewell, remorse! all good to me is lost;
Evil, be thou my good; by thee at least
Divided empire with Heaven's King I hold,
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign;
As Man ere long, and this new world, shall know.
Thus while he spake, each passion dimmed his face
Thrice changed with pale, ire, envy, and despair;
Which marred his borrowed visage, and betrayed
Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld.
For heavenly minds from such distempers foul
Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware,
Each perturbation smoothed with outward calm,
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practised falsehood under saintly show,
Deep malice to conceal, couched with revenge:
Yet not enough had practised to deceive
Uriel once warned; whose eye pursued him down
The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount
Saw him disfigured, more than could befall
Spirit of happy sort; his gestures fierce
He marked and mad demeanour, then alone,
As he supposed, all unobserved, unseen.
So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
Access denied; and overhead upgrew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,
A sylvan scene, and, as the ranks ascend,
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise upsprung;
Which to our general sire gave prospect large
Into his nether empire neighbouring round.
And higher than that wall a circling row
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,
Appeared, with gay enamelled colours mixed:
On which the sun more glad impressed his beams
Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow,
When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed
That landskip: And of pure now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair: Now gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils. As when to them who fail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambick, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles:
So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend,
Who came their bane; though with them better pleased
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse
Of Tobit's son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Egypt, there fast bound.
Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none, so thick entwined,
As one continued brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed
All path of man or beast that passed that way.
One gate there only was, and that looked east
On the other side: which when the arch-felon saw,
Due entrance he disdained; and, in contempt,
At one flight bound high over-leaped all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o'er the fence with ease into the fold:
Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbs, or o'er the tiles:
So clomb this first grand thief into God's fold;
So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge
Of immortality. So little knows
Any, but God alone, to value right
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.
Beneath him with new wonder now he views,
To all delight of human sense exposed,
In narrow room, Nature's whole wealth, yea more,
A Heaven on Earth: For blissful Paradise
Of God the garden was, by him in the east
Of Eden planted; Eden stretched her line
From Auran eastward to the royal towers
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Of where the sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar: In this pleasant soil
His far more pleasant garden God ordained;
Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow
All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the tree of life,
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold; and next to life,
Our death, the tree of knowledge, grew fast by,
Knowledge of good bought dear by knowing ill.
Southward through Eden went a river large,
Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill
Passed underneath ingulfed; for God had thrown
That mountain as his garden-mould high raised
Upon the rapid current, which, through veins
Of porous earth with kindly thirst up-drawn,
Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill
Watered the garden; thence united fell
Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood,
Which from his darksome passage now appears,
And now, divided into four main streams,
Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm
And country, whereof here needs no account;
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell,
How from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy errour under pendant shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon
Poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Imbrowned the noontide bowers: Thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm,
Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind,
Hung amiable, Hesperian fables true,
If true, here only, and of delicious taste:
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks
Grazing the tender herb, were interposed,
Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose:
Another side, umbrageous grots and caves
Of cool recess, o'er which the mantling vine
Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps
Luxuriant; mean while murmuring waters fall
Down the slope hills, dispersed, or in a lake,
That to the fringed bank with myrtle crowned
Her crystal mirrour holds, unite their streams.
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on the eternal Spring. Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower by gloomy Dis
Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove
Of Daphne by Orontes, and the inspired
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle
Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,
Hid Amalthea, and her florid son
Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea's eye;
Nor where Abassin kings their issue guard,
Mount Amara, though this by some supposed
True Paradise under the Ethiop line
By Nilus' head, enclosed with shining rock,
A whole day's journey high, but wide remote
From this Assyrian garden, where the Fiend
Saw, undelighted, all delight, all kind
Of living creatures, new to sight, and strange
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad
In naked majesty seemed lords of all:
And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
(Severe, but in true filial freedom placed,)
Whence true authority in men; though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed;
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him:
His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed;
Then was not guilty shame, dishonest shame
Of nature's works, honour dishonourable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind
With shows instead, mere shows of seeming pure,
And banished from man's life his happiest life,
Simplicity and spotless innocence!
So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight
Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair,
That ever since in love's embraces met;
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.
Under a tuft of shade that on a green
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain side
They sat them down; and, after no more toil
Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed
To recommend cool Zephyr, and made ease
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite
More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell,
Nectarine fruits which the compliant boughs
Yielded them, side-long as they sat recline
On the soft downy bank damasked with flowers:
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind,
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream;
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems
Fair couple, linked in happy nuptial league,
Alone as they. About them frisking played
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase
In wood or wilderness, forest or den;
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed
His?kithetmroboscis; close the serpent sly,
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His braided train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass
Couched, and now filled with pasture gazing sat,
Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,
Declined, was hasting now with prone career
To the ocean isles, and in the ascending scale
Of Heaven the stars that usher evening rose:
When Satan still in gaze, as first he stood,
Scarce thus at length failed speech recovered sad.
O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold!
Into our room of bliss thus high advanced
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to heavenly Spirits bright
Little inferiour; whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured.
Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish, and deliver ye to woe;
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happy, but for so happy ill secured
Long to continue, and this high seat your Heaven
Ill fenced for Heaven to keep out such a foe
As now is entered; yet no purposed foe
To you, whom I could pity thus forlorn,
Though I unpitied: League with you I seek,
And mutual amity, so strait, so close,
That I with you must dwell, or you with me
Henceforth; my dwelling haply may not please,
Like this fair Paradise, your sense; yet such
Accept your Maker's work; he gave it me,
Which I as freely give: Hell shall unfold,
To entertain you two, her widest gates,
And send forth all her kings; there will be room,
Not like these narrow limits, to receive
Your numerous offspring; if no better place,
Thank him who puts me loth to this revenge
On you who wrong me not for him who wronged.
And should I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I do, yet publick reason just,
Honour and empire with revenge enlarged,
By conquering this new world, compels me now
To do what else, though damned, I should abhor.
So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
The tyrant's plea, excused his devilish deeds.
Then from his lofty stand on that high tree
Down he alights among the sportful herd
Of those four-footed kinds, himself now one,
Now other, as their shape served best his end
Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied,
To mark what of their state he more might learn,
By word or action marked. About them round
A lion now he stalks with fiery glare;
Then as a tiger, who by chance hath spied
In some purlieu two gentle fawns at play,
Straight couches close, then, rising, changes oft
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground,
Whence rushing, he might surest seize them both,
Griped in each paw: when, Adam first of men
To first of women Eve thus moving speech,
Turned him, all ear to hear new utterance flow.
Sole partner, and sole part, of all these joys,
Dearer thyself than all; needs must the Power
That made us, and for us this ample world,
Be infinitely good, and of his good
As liberal and free as infinite;
That raised us from the dust, and placed us here
In all this happiness, who at his hand
Have nothing merited, nor can perform
Aught whereof he hath need; he who requires
From us no other service than to keep
This one, this easy charge, of all the trees
In Paradise that bear delicious fruit
So various, not to taste that only tree
Of knowledge, planted by the tree of life;
So near grows death to life, whate'er death is,
Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou knowest
God hath pronounced it death to taste that tree,
The only sign of our obedience left,
Among so many signs of power and rule
Conferred upon us, and dominion given
Over all other creatures that possess
Earth, air, and sea. Then let us not think hard
One easy prohibition, who enjoy
Free leave so large to all things else, and choice
Unlimited of manifold delights:
But let us ever praise him, and extol
His bounty, following our delightful task,
To prune these growing plants, and tend these flowers,
Which were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet.
To whom thus Eve replied. O thou for whom
And from whom I was formed, flesh of thy flesh,
And without whom am to no end, my guide
And head! what thou hast said is just and right.
For we to him indeed all praises owe,
And daily thanks; I chiefly, who enjoy
So far the happier lot, enjoying thee
Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou
Like consort to thyself canst no where find.
That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awaked, and found myself reposed
Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
Pure as the expanse of Heaven; I thither went
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
On the green bank, to look into the clear
Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite
A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
Bending to look on me: I started back,
It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
Of sympathy and love: There I had fixed
Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warned me; 'What thou seest,
'What there thou seest, fair Creature, is thyself;
'With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
'And I will bring thee where no shadow stays
'Thy coming, and thy soft embraces, he
'Whose image thou art; him thou shalt enjoy
'Inseparably thine, to him shalt bear
'Multitudes like thyself, and thence be called
'Mother of human race.' What could I do,
But follow straight, invisibly thus led?
Till I espied thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a platane; yet methought less fair,
Less winning soft, less amiably mild,
Than that smooth watery image: Back I turned;
Thou following cryedst aloud, 'Return, fair Eve;
'Whom flyest thou? whom thou flyest, of him thou art,
'His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
'Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart,
'Substantial life, to have thee by my side
'Henceforth an individual solace dear;
'Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim
'My other half:' With that thy gentle hand
Seised mine: I yielded;and from that time see
How beauty is excelled by manly grace,
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair.
So spake our general mother, and with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreproved,
And meek surrender, half-embracing leaned
On our first father; half her swelling breast
Naked met his, under the flowing gold
Of her loose tresses hid: he in delight
Both of her beauty, and submissive charms,
Smiled with superiour love, as Jupiter
On Juno smiles, when he impregns the clouds
That shed Mayflowers; and pressed her matron lip
With kisses pure: Aside the Devil turned
For envy; yet with jealous leer malign
Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained.
Sight hateful, sight tormenting! thus these two,
Imparadised in one another's arms,
The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill
Of bliss on bliss; while I to Hell am thrust,
Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire,
Among our other torments not the least,
Still unfulfilled with pain of longing pines.
Yet let me not forget what I have gained
From their own mouths: All is not theirs, it seems;
One fatal tree there stands, of knowledge called,
Forbidden them to taste: Knowledge forbidden
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord
Envy them that? Can it be sin to know?
Can it be death? And do they only stand
By ignorance? Is that their happy state,
The proof of their obedience and their faith?
O fair foundation laid whereon to build
Their ruin! hence I will excite their minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with design
To keep them low, whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with Gods: aspiring to be such,
They taste and die: What likelier can ensue
But first with narrow search I must walk round
This garden, and no corner leave unspied;
A chance but chance may lead where I may meet
Some wandering Spirit of Heaven by fountain side,
Or in thick shade retired, from him to draw
What further would be learned. Live while ye may,
Yet happy pair; enjoy, till I return,
Short pleasures, for long woes are to succeed!
So saying, his proud step he scornful turned,
But with sly circumspection, and began
Through wood, through waste, o'er hill, o'er dale, his roam
Mean while in utmost longitude, where Heaven
With earth and ocean meets, the setting sun
Slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise
Levelled his evening rays: It was a rock
Of alabaster, piled up to the clouds,
Conspicuous far, winding with one ascent
Accessible from earth, one entrance high;
The rest was craggy cliff, that overhung
Still as it rose, impossible to climb.
Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat,
Chief of the angelick guards, awaiting night;
About him exercised heroick games
The unarmed youth of Heaven, but nigh at hand
Celestial armoury, shields, helms, and spears,
Hung high with diamond flaming, and with gold.
Thither came Uriel, gliding through the even
On a sun-beam, swift as a shooting star
In autumn thwarts the night, when vapours fired
Impress the air, and shows the mariner
From what point of his compass to beware
Impetuous winds: He thus began in haste.
Gabriel, to thee thy course by lot hath given
Charge and strict watch, that to this happy place
No evil thing approach or enter in.
This day at highth of noon came to my sphere
A Spirit, zealous, as he seemed, to know
More of the Almighty's works, and chiefly Man,
God's latest image: I described his way
Bent all on speed, and marked his aery gait;
But in the mount that lies from Eden north,
Where he first lighted, soon discerned his looks
Alien from Heaven, with passions foul obscured:
Mine eye pursued him still, but under shade
Lost sight of him: One of the banished crew,
I fear, hath ventured from the deep, to raise
New troubles; him thy care must be to find.
To whom the winged warriour thus returned.
Uriel, no wonder if thy perfect sight,
Amid the sun's bright circle where thou sitst,
See far and wide: In at this gate none pass
The vigilance here placed, but such as come
Well known from Heaven; and since meridian hour
No creature thence: If Spirit of other sort,
So minded, have o'er-leaped these earthly bounds
On purpose, hard thou knowest it to exclude
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.
But if within the circuit of these walks,
In whatsoever shape he lurk, of whom
Thou tellest, by morrow dawning I shall know.
So promised he; and Uriel to his charge
Returned on that bright beam, whose point now raised
Bore him slope downward to the sun now fallen
Beneath the Azores; whether the prime orb,
Incredible how swift, had thither rolled
Diurnal, or this less volubil earth,
By shorter flight to the east, had left him there
Arraying with reflected purple and gold
The clouds that on his western throne attend.
Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray
Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale;
She all night long her amorous descant sung;
Silence was pleased: Now glowed the firmament
With living sapphires: Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen unveiled her peerless light,
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.
When Adam thus to Eve. Fair Consort, the hour
Of night, and all things now retired to rest,
Mind us of like repose; since God hath set
Labour and rest, as day and night, to men
Successive; and the timely dew of sleep,
Now falling with soft slumbrous weight, inclines
Our eye-lids: Other creatures all day long
Rove idle, unemployed, and less need rest;
Man hath his daily work of body or mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways;
While other animals unactive range,
And of their doings God takes no account.
To-morrow, ere fresh morning streak the east
With first approach of light, we must be risen,
And at our pleasant labour, to reform
Yon flowery arbours, yonder alleys green,
Our walk at noon, with branches overgrown,
That mock our scant manuring, and require
More hands than ours to lop their wanton growth:
Those blossoms also, and those dropping gums,
That lie bestrown, unsightly and unsmooth,
Ask riddance, if we mean to tread with ease;
Mean while, as Nature wills, night bids us rest.
To whom thus Eve, with perfect beauty adorned
My Author and Disposer, what thou bidst
Unargued I obey: So God ordains;
God is thy law, thou mine: To know no more
Is woman's happiest knowledge, and her praise.
With thee conversing I forget all time;
All seasons, and their change, all please alike.
Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds: pleasant the sun,
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertile earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night,
With this her solemn bird, and this fair moon,
And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train:
But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising sun
On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glistering with dew; nor fragrance after showers;
Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night,
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon,
Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet.
But wherefore all night long shine these? for whom
This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?
To whom our general ancestor replied.
Daughter of God and Man, accomplished Eve,
These have their course to finish round the earth,
By morrow evening, and from land to land
In order, though to nations yet unborn,
Ministring light prepared, they set and rise;
Lest total Darkness should by night regain
Her old possession, and extinguish life
In Nature and all things; which these soft fires
Not only enlighten, but with kindly heat
Of various influence foment and warm,
Temper or nourish, or in part shed down
Their stellar virtue on all kinds that grow
On earth, made hereby apter to receive
Perfection from the sun's more potent ray.
These then, though unbeheld in deep of night,
Shine not in vain; nor think, though men were none,
That Heaven would want spectators, God want praise:
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep:
All these with ceaseless praise his works behold
Both day and night: How often from the steep
Of echoing hill or thicket have we heard
Celestial voices to the midnight air,
Sole, or responsive each to others note,
Singing their great Creator? oft in bands
While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk,
With heavenly touch of instrumental sounds
In full harmonick number joined, their songs
Divide the night, and lift our thoughts to Heaven.
Thus talking, hand in hand alone they passed
On to their blissful bower: it was a place
Chosen by the sovran Planter, when he framed
All things to Man's delightful use; the roof
Of thickest covert was inwoven shade
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side
Acanthus, and each odorous bushy shrub,
Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, roses, and jessamin,
Reared high their flourished heads between, and wrought
Mosaick; underfoot the violet,
Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay
Broidered the ground, more coloured than with stone
Of costliest emblem: Other creature here,
Bird, beast, insect, or worm, durst enter none,
Such was their awe of Man. In shadier bower
More sacred and sequestered, though but feigned,
Pan or Sylvanus never slept, nor Nymph
Nor Faunus haunted. Here, in close recess,
With flowers, garlands, and sweet-smelling herbs,
Espoused Eve decked first her nuptial bed;
And heavenly quires the hymenaean sung,
What day the genial Angel to our sire
Brought her in naked beauty more adorned,
More lovely, than Pandora, whom the Gods
Endowed with all their gifts, and O! too like
In sad event, when to the unwiser son
Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she ensnared
Mankind with her fair looks, to be avenged
On him who had stole Jove's authentick fire.
Thus, at their shady lodge arrived, both stood,
Both turned, and under open sky adored
The God that made both sky, air, earth, and heaven,
Which they beheld, the moon's resplendent globe,
And starry pole: Thou also madest the night,
Maker Omnipotent, and thou the day,
Which we, in our appointed work employed,
Have finished, happy in our mutual help
And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss
Ordained by thee; and this delicious place
For us too large, where thy abundance wants
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.
But thou hast promised from us two a race
To fill the earth, who shall with us extol
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake,
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep.
This said unanimous, and other rites
Observing none, but adoration pure
Which God likes best, into their inmost bower
Handed they went; and, eased the putting off
These troublesome disguises which we wear,
Straight side by side were laid; nor turned, I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refused:
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity, and place, and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids encrease; who bids abstain
But our Destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Hail, wedded Love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety
In Paradise of all things common else!
By thee adulterous Lust was driven from men
Among the bestial herds to range; by thee
Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,
Relations dear, and all the charities
Of father, son, and brother, first were known.
Far be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
Perpetual fountain of domestick sweets,
Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced,
Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used.
Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights
His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of harlots, loveless, joyless, unendeared,
Casual fruition; nor in court-amours,
Mixed dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball,
Or serenate, which the starved lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.
These, lulled by nightingales, embracing slept,
And on their naked limbs the flowery roof
Showered roses, which the morn repaired. Sleep on,
Blest pair; and O!yet happiest, if ye seek
No happier state, and know to know no more.
Now had night measured with her shadowy cone
Half way up hill this vast sublunar vault,
And from their ivory port the Cherubim,
Forth issuing at the accustomed hour, stood armed
To their night watches in warlike parade;
When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake.
Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the south
With strictest watch; these other wheel the north;
Our circuit meets full west. As flame they part,
Half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear.
From these, two strong and subtle Spirits he called
That near him stood, and gave them thus in charge.
Ithuriel and Zephon, with winged speed
Search through this garden, leave unsearched no nook;
But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge,
Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm.
This evening from the sun's decline arrived,
Who tells of some infernal Spirit seen
Hitherward bent (who could have thought?) escaped
The bars of Hell, on errand bad no doubt:
Such, where ye find, seise fast, and hither bring.
So saying, on he led his radiant files,
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct
In search of whom they sought: Him there they found
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve,
Assaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
Illusions, as he list, phantasms and dreams;
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
The animal spirits, that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise
At least distempered, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires,
Blown up with high conceits ingendering pride.
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touched lightly; for no falshood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness: Up he starts
Discovered and surprised. As when a spark
Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid
Fit for the tun some magazine to store
Against a rumoured war, the smutty grain,
With sudden blaze diffused, inflames the air;
So started up in his own shape the Fiend.
Back stept those two fair Angels, half amazed
So sudden to behold the grisly king;
Yet thus, unmoved with fear, accost him soon.
Which of those rebel Spirits adjudged to Hell
Comest thou, escaped thy prison? and, transformed,
Why sat'st thou like an enemy in wait,
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?
Know ye not then said Satan, filled with scorn,
Know ye not me? ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar:
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng; or, if ye know,
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain?
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn.
Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminished brightness to be known,
As when thou stoodest in Heaven upright and pure;
That glory then, when thou no more wast good,
Departed from thee; and thou resemblest now
Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul.
But come, for thou, be sure, shalt give account
To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep
This place inviolable, and these from harm.
So spake the Cherub; and his grave rebuke,
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Invincible: Abashed the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely; saw, and pined
His loss; but chiefly to find here observed
His lustre visibly impaired; yet seemed
Undaunted. If I must contend, said he,
Best with the best, the sender, not the sent,
Or all at once; more glory will be won,
Or less be lost. Thy fear, said Zephon bold,
Will save us trial what the least can do
Single against thee wicked, and thence weak.
The Fiend replied not, overcome with rage;
But, like a proud steed reined, went haughty on,
Champing his iron curb: To strive or fly
He held it vain; awe from above had quelled
His heart, not else dismayed. Now drew they nigh
The western point, where those half-rounding guards
Just met, and closing stood in squadron joined,
A waiting next command. To whom their Chief,
Gabriel, from the front thus called aloud.
O friends! I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;
And with them comes a third of regal port,
But faded splendour wan; who by his gait
And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell,
Not likely to part hence without contest;
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours.
He scarce had ended, when those two approached,
And brief related whom they brought, where found,
How busied, in what form and posture couched.
To whom with stern regard thus Gabriel spake.
Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed
To thy transgressions, and disturbed the charge
Of others, who approve not to transgress
By thy example, but have power and right
To question thy bold entrance on this place;
Employed, it seems, to violate sleep, and those
Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss!
To whom thus Satan with contemptuous brow.
Gabriel? thou hadst in Heaven the esteem of wise,
And such I held thee; but this question asked
Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain!
Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,
Though thither doomed! Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change
Torment with ease, and soonest recompense
Dole with delight, which in this place I sought;
To thee no reason, who knowest only good,
But evil hast not tried: and wilt object
His will who bounds us! Let him surer bar
His iron gates, if he intends our stay
In that dark durance: Thus much what was asked.
The rest is true, they found me where they say;
But that implies not violence or harm.
Thus he in scorn. The warlike Angel moved,
Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied.
O loss of one in Heaven to judge of wise
Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,
And now returns him from his prison 'scaped,
Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise
Or not, who ask what boldness brought him hither
Unlicensed from his bounds in Hell prescribed;
So wise he judges it to fly from pain
However, and to 'scape his punishment!
So judge thou still, presumptuous! till the wrath,
Which thou incurrest by flying, meet thy flight
Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to Hell,
Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain
Can equal anger infinite provoked.
But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all hell broke loose? or thou than they
Less hardy to endure? Courageous Chief!
The first in flight from pain! hadst thou alleged
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive.
To which the Fiend thus answered, frowning stern.
Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,
Insulting Angel! well thou knowest I stood
Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid
The blasting vollied thunder made all speed,
And seconded thy else not dreaded spear.
But still thy words at random, as before,
Argue thy inexperience what behoves
From hard assays and ill successes past
A faithful leader, not to hazard all
Through ways of danger by himself untried:
I, therefore, I alone first undertook
To wing the desolate abyss, and spy
This new created world, whereof in Hell
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find
Better abode, and my afflicted Powers
To settle here on earth, or in mid air;
Though for possession put to try once more
What thou and thy gay legions dare against;
Whose easier business were to serve their Lord
High up in Heaven, with songs to hymn his throne,
And practised distances to cringe, not fight,
To whom the warriour Angel soon replied.
To say and straight unsay, pretending first
Wise to fly pain, professing next the spy,
Argues no leader but a liear traced,
Satan, and couldst thou faithful add? O name,
O sacred name of faithfulness profaned!
Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew?
Army of Fiends, fit body to fit head.
Was this your discipline and faith engaged,
Your military obedience, to dissolve
Allegiance to the acknowledged Power supreme?
And thou, sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem
Patron of liberty, who more than thou
Once fawned, and cringed, and servily adored
Heaven's awful Monarch? wherefore, but in hope
To dispossess him, and thyself to reign?
But mark what I arreed thee now, Avant;
Fly neither whence thou fledst! If from this hour
Within these hallowed limits thou appear,
Back to the infernal pit I drag thee chained,
And seal thee so, as henceforth not to scorn
The facile gates of Hell too slightly barred.
So threatened he; but Satan to no threats
Gave heed, but waxing more in rage replied.
Then when I am thy captive talk of chains,
Proud limitary Cherub! but ere then
Far heavier load thyself expect to feel
From my prevailing arm, though Heaven's King
Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy compeers,
Us'd to the yoke, drawest his triumphant wheels
In progress through the road of Heaven star-paved.
While thus he spake, the angelick squadron bright
Turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns
Their phalanx, and began to hem him round
With ported spears, as thick as when a field
Of Ceres ripe for harvest waving bends
Her bearded grove of ears, which way the wind
Sways them; the careful plowman doubting stands,
Left on the threshing floor his hopeless sheaves
Prove chaff. On the other side, Satan, alarmed,
Collecting all his might, dilated stood,
Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremoved:
His stature reached the sky, and on his crest
Sat Horrour plumed; nor wanted in his grasp
What seemed both spear and shield: Now dreadful deeds
Might have ensued, nor only Paradise
In this commotion, but the starry cope
Of Heaven perhaps, or all the elements
At least had gone to wrack, disturbed and torn
With violence of this conflict, had not soon
The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion sign,
Wherein all things created first he weighed,
The pendulous round earth with balanced air
In counterpoise, now ponders all events,
Battles and realms: In these he put two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight:
The latter quick up flew, and kicked the beam,
Which Gabriel spying, thus bespake the Fiend.
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou knowest mine;
Neither our own, but given: What folly then
To boast what arms can do? since thine no more
Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now
To trample thee as mire: For proof look up,
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign;
Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist. The Fiend looked up, and knew
His mounted scale aloft: Nor more;but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.