News of the Sun
The noon is on the cattle-track;
the air is void of sound,
except where crows, poised burning-black,
cry to the dusty ground.
Through mulga and mirage go none
but brazen Boolee now,
scorning the mercy of the sun
beneath the niggard bough.
But suddenly the mulga stirs;
the hot leaves flash like stars;
and, threading song on wing-beat whirrs,
burst flights of gay galahs.
In The Middle Of A Hot Sunny Day
the night has offered
but that darkness that it feeds
whole and dreary
noon time is harsh
with an impending kill
the mind indeed is
a rain that comes in the
middle of a hot
When the honey-dew clings to leaves
When the honey-dew clings to leaves,
when butterflies are kissing flowers,
when every morning
there is something new and fresh to observe,
when the Godly presence
does something secret to man
and then I know that you my Darling
was specially created for me
and it's as if I find new joy
when daily I wander like a child.
The Bright Stars Sing A Song Of Joy
The bright stars sing a song of joy,
they are telling the world when you are coming to me
en continually one of them are jumping,
flowering blue-white in the heaven.
Continually the wind mentions your beautiful name,
softly it whispers our secrets to branches,
it witnesses our being together while it blows
and its pitch dark night
when your teeth glitter while you laugh in joy.
Taking The Narrow Path
this is the narrow path
one gets elbow to elbow
in a party of masks
one talks to someone
without a name
with no place to stay
this is the narrow path
it only you that fits in
and all they say when they pass
this is the narrow path of silence
questions hang like stars in the skies
you are a grain of sand
below a full moon
you look for light and comfort
there is so much
but you have none
The Shady Trees Spread Their Leaves Ever Sleek
The shady trees spread their leaves ever sleek
As we frolic in fields with sunny cries,
And rain runs nimbly through our hair and sighs
Runny smiles in the flowing down our cheek.
And love, once mighty, somehow does not speak
In words, but in looks that spill from the eyes,
In things to be done before the day dies,
When beauty again stands close to seek
Lovers gone in love and loved before dawn
Spreads its sparkling rays in our hearts,
And fills the recesses as fresh love starts.
Oh, it was so. But now this truth I mourn.
The years fled by so quick and turned to dust
Those days and nights of love and lust.
The Harlem Dancer
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.
- quotes about abundance
- quotes about picnic
- quotes about money
- quotes about dance
- quotes about boys
- quotes about girls
- quotes about wine
- quotes about perfection
THE GALACTIC SPIRALS OF DEAD LEAVES...Part I
THE GALACTIC SPIRALS OF DEAD LEAVES
OCTOBER IS A GREGARIOUS MONTH
October is a gregarious month;
all things seeking shelter.
Watching the tidal ebb of twilight
drawing its last breath of birds,
I know winter is approaching;
Reversing the spin of planets
like baseballs, having arced since spring,
Gravity is returning, condensing,
like clouds in my eyes.
Twilight leaves the extremities...
fingers, cold to the touch.
Mothers walk, clenching the air
children’s voices cannot rise over.
Then, like a snow-globe shaken,
The elements of summer are preserved, like Amber
in the crystal flakes of the first frost, falling....
Copyright ©2007 John Thomas Tansey
- quotes about galaxy
- quotes about drawing
- quotes about frost
- quotes about voice
- quotes about winter
- quotes about birds
- quotes about summer
- quotes about walking
The World Is My Therapist And I'm In Counseling Right Now
Got my share of ugly, done did and said things I ain't proud of, I mean some ugly things, but what a real man does is ask God for forgiveness and whoever he have wrong.
We ain't perfect, we gonna make wrong decisions and sometimes even hurt people we love
For whatever reason it maybe, we do or say things that affect our lives forever and it sometimes changes our lives putting us a different course
The world is my therapist and I'm in counseling right now
Got a lot of hurt, anger, and frustrations in my life, the war in Liberia how traumatizing it was, life in America how hard and trial it can sometime be, interpersonal problems, such as people trying to break up your parents marriage, and then on top of that your own personal love problems and battling financial confidence
The world is my therapist and I'm in counseling right now
We may sometimes bend all the the way to the end but I never break, I never break......
Stronger than any rubber band or any bamboo reef, or better a diamond in a rough, I was made through extreme heat pressure, made harder than African Ivory and Tennessee marble
The world is my therapist and I'm in counseling right now
Yeah, tell me what's wrong with me, pick me out, pick me in, dissect me, tell me what I did wrong and tell me where I went wrong,
So at the end of day when all else fails and people right you off, God will be the only there and to hear you out
Perfection is what I am really striving for honestly. All these sleepless nights for different reasons,
So don't judge me for my flurries because I don't have any worries, as we say in Liberia, seeke fa fair, what's for you shall see your face
The world is my therapist and I'm in counseling right now
Set me out forewarned
While the heather glistened,
Tramped the starbright road
While my lady listened,
Soldiers at the doors,
Muskets at the casement,
All Kilmarnock groaned,
Milady in the basement.
There the road to Ayr
There the road to Dumfries
Torn by here or there
Mauchline; there lay Humphries:
‘Where’s the Laird o’ Fife? ’
Pikemen swarm all over,
All the red stained coats
By Portsmouth, and by Dover.
‘Take the road, ’ she said,
‘Take it, I’ll come after,
Find the Laird o’ Fife,
Lead us back to laughter,
Tell them Scotland’s sons
Have been led to slaughter,
Let them beat their drums
And save the old Laird’s daughter.’
On to Auckinleck
While the moon shines brightly
Cumnock came and went,
The horse drops dead beside me;
Sleep I by the light,
Tramp by wood and water
Lonely, night by night
For the old Laird’s daughter.
Eyes that gleamed like stars
Lips that would despair me,
Hands so soft and fair,
Heart that would not spare me
Sat at Marchburns stream
Met a man called Donald:
‘The army’s in some dream,
The Laird is at Kirconnel.’
One more night on foot
I found the army lying –
‘Where’s the Laird of Fife? ’
‘In grief, the Laird is dying! ’
Then I saw his head
Bowed and grey and broken,
‘A horseman brought the news,
And news has brought a token.’
He showed me where the brooch
Was stained with bitter blood there,
From where Milady lay
He’d took it from her throat there,
And there the clasp was broke
Just where the pike had thrust it,
Had entered at her throat
And there the blood had rust it.
Late, by Kirk and brae
These nights there, have I wandered,
Each eve I sit and pray
For love so basely squandered;
I have worn the red,
Lain long in the heather,
Sought Milady’s bed
And loved her as no other.
‘Take the road, ’ she said,
But I had long betrayed her,
Left her with the dead,
With Humphries men, dismayed her,
On some night as this
And where my love is lying
Death will come as bliss,
And red will stain my piping.
13 August 1996
A Spring Piece Left In The Middle
Taut, thick fingers punch
the teeth of my typewriter.
Three words are down on paper
And me -- poet, proofreader,
the man who's forced to read
two thousand bad lines
for two liras--
has come, am I
still sitting here
like a ragged
My head puts on its cap by itself,
I fly out of the printer's,
I'm on the street.
The lead dirt of the composing room
on my face,
seventy-five cents in my pocket.
SPRING IN THE AIR...
In the barbershops
the sallow cheeks
of the pariah of Publishers Row.
And in the store windows
flash like sunstruck mirrors.
I don't have even a book of ABC's
that lives on this street
and carries my name on its door!
But what the hell...
I don't look back,
the lead dirt of the composing room
on my face,
seventy-five cents in my pocket,
SPRING IN THE AIR...
The piece got left in the middle.
It rained and swamped the lines.
But oh! what I would have written...
The starving writer sitting on his three-thousand-page
wouldn't stare at the window of the kebab joint
but with his shining eyes would take
the Armenian bookseller's dark plump daughter by storm...
The sea would start smelling sweet.
Spring would rear up
like a sweating red mare
and, leaping onto its bare back,
I'd ride it
into the water.
my typewriter would follow me
every step of the way.
"Oh, don't do it!
Leave me alone for an hour..."
my head-my hair failing out--
would shout into the distance:
"I AM IN LOVE..."
both blind and lame Cupid
said, Love this girl,"
I was going to write;
I couldn't say it
but still can!
if the lines I wrote got swamped,
if I have twenty-five cents left in my pocket,
what the hell...
Hey, spring is here spring is here spring
spring is here!
My blood is budding inside me!
20 and 21 April 1929
Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)
Remarks On The Bright And Dark Side
But may a Rural Pen try to set forth
Such a Great Fathers Ancient Grace and worth
I undertake a no less Arduous Theme
Then the Old Sages found the Chaldae Dream
'Tis more then Tythes of a profound respect
That must be paid such a Melchizedeck
Oxford this light with tongues and Arts doth trim
And then his Northern Town doth Challeng him
His Time and Strength he Center'd there in this
To do good works, and be what now he is.
His fulgent Virtues there and learned Strains
Tall comely Presence, Life unsoil'd with Stains
Things most on WORTHIES in their Stories writ
Did him to move in Orbs of Service fitt
Things more peculiar yet, my muse intend
Say stranger things then these, so weep and End
When he forsook first his Oxonian Cell
Some Scores at once from Popish darkness fell
So this Reformer studied! rare first fruits!
Shakeing a Crab-tree thus by hot disputes
The acid juice by miracle turn'd wine
And rais'd the Spirits of our young Divine
Hearers like Doves flock'd with contentios wing
Who should be first, feed most: most homeward bring
Laden with honey like Hyblaean Bees
They knead it into combs upon their knees.
Why he from Europes pleasant Garden fled
In the Next Age will be with horrour said
Braintree was of this Jewel then possest
Untill himself he labour'd into Rest
His Inventory then with Johns was took
His rough Coat, Girdle with the Sacred Book
When Reverend Knowles and he sail'd hand in hand
To Christ, Espousing the Virginian Land
Upon a ledge of Craggy Rocks near stav'd
His Bible in his bosome thrusting sav'd
The Bible, the best cordial of his Heart
Come floods, come flames (cry'd he) we'l never part
A constellation of great converts there
Shone round him and his Heav'nly Glory where
With a Rare Skill in hearts, this Doctor cou'd
Steal into them words that should do them good
His Balsom's from the Tree of Life distill'd
Hearts cleans'd and heal'd, and with rich comforts fill'd
But here's the wo! Balsoms which others cur'd
Would in his Own Turn hardly be endur'd
Apollyon Owing him a cursed Spleen
Who an Apollos in the Church had been
Dreading his Traffick here would be undone
By Numerous proselites he daily won
Accus'd him of Imaginary faults
And push'd him down so into dismal Vaults
Vaults where he kept long Ember weeks of grief
'Till Heav'n alarm'd sent him in relief
Then was a Daniel in the lyons Den
A man, oh how belov'd of God and men
By his beds-side an Hebrew sword there lay
With which at last he drove the Devil away.
Quaker's too durst not bear his keen replies
But fearing it half drawn the trembler flyes
Like Lazarus new rais'd from Death appears
The Saint that had been dead for many years
Our Nehemiah said, shall such as I
Desert my flock, and like a Coward fly
Long had the Churches begg'd the Saints release
Releas'd at last, he dies in Glorious peace
The Night is not so long, but phosphors ray
Approaching Glories doth on high display
Faith's Eye in him discern'd the Morning Star
His heart leap'd; Sure the Sun cannot be far
In Extasies of Joy, he Ravish'd Cryes
Love, Love the Lamb, the Lamb, in whome he dies.
Apparitions Of The Muse
Apparitions of the muse
hanging her stars
from the end of my nose
like an exotic fragrance of night
more revealing than the light.
There. That's mine.
The constellation of the donkey,
and there beside it, do you see
that red-haired star
blazing like a woman with a carrot and a stick?
I've followed that star for fifty years
always a mountain away from the valley
like a passionate Sisyphus
rolling the earth up a hill like a stone
happy with my own absurdity,
happy to go mad for her sake alone.
Elixirs of moonlight
mingled with strange waters
and I drank until I drowned
in the ferocity of my own delirium
like a myth that's forgotten
which stars it belongs to.
I've never been much of a martyr
and bored with lies
I've always been two hells shy of a messiah
but I have fallen on the thorns of the moon
more than once
after my long descent
down the burning ladders
of God's last word on the matter.
So there's no splinter of the true cross
to needle the issue
like a compass or a crucifix.
And it still puzzles me
why it's always my blood
that rushes to the end of my emergency
like a volunteer army
but it's always somebody else's flag
that gets raised above the rubble.
Pyrrhic victories at best
when I'm not feeling cursed or blessed
by any kind of mystic meaning
convincing me I can firewalk
barefoot on stars
when I can't even get
this blue pebble of a planet
out of my heart like a shoe.
But even letting go of all their leaves
like starmaps home from spiritual refugees
the trees can only go so far
as the wind and streams will let them.
And then there's a darkness that doesn't taste of stars.
And decisions that cut like the smiles of broken mirrors.
And turmoil in the snakepits of desire
that are thrown like angry acids
in the eyes of the seers
who saint the rain with their sorrows
like old calendars of crossed-out tomorrows
playing x's and o's with the moon.
It's a freak of enlightenment
to turn love into a discipline
inspiration into a law
and godless wonder into superstitious awe.
So I listen and say nothing,
see and don't reveal,
understand but never think I know
the gates that pass through me
when I call out to the wild geese in the fall
and I am startled by the loneliness of the answer.
I've seen you in the nightstream down the mountain,
the river and the sea
that sits below the salt
at her own table,
and I still suspect it was you
that turned my bitter tears
into the brittle chandeliers
that fell like ice-storms in a fountain
to silence the voices of the mirrors
the birds kept flying into
like windows at war with the sky.
I was out of the egg.
I was out of my mind at last
like a gift I didn't deserve
and the universe was full of your absence
because you were the embodiment of my longing,
the darkness in the light
that stood aloof from the meaning of everything
as if your only proof were your eyes
and that were enough
to answer the empty skies with stars.
You may put on flesh and blood
and in your human proportions confess
you don't believe this,
but you can never be attained,
never be embraced
never be contained
by any avatar of who you are
because like space in all directions
you are limitless
and even time is consumed
in the root fires that grabbed you by the ankle
and pulled you underground
to dress a goddess of light
in the nocturnal jewels of the dead.
And it is not a prerogative of the beatifically born
to be demonically wrong,
but I have heard the skulls in the song
that allures the unwary sailors
to the lunar horns of your fishbone harps
to smash them on the rocks
as if you took a tragic delight
in the sheer delinquency of your power
to arouse and extinguish desire.
Anyone can come up
with a meaning for life
but you are the muse
of meaning itself,
the meaning of meaning
when anyone asks
without expecting an answer.
What woman that I've loved
like a river reaching the sea
have you not been
over these long, intense years
of radiant tenderness
and creative commotion
and an ominous darkness out over the ocean
when the moon turned around
like a bride in bed
and revealed the far side
she kept to herself like stars?
And it's still a shock and a marvel to me
when you disappear into the air
like a breath someone neglected to take
when it bloomed on the window.
I don't doubt your capacity to devastate
and I have the urns and the burns
and the ashes to prove it
and know on a whim of your arrogance
you could leave the phoenix out in the cold
and douse the dragon like a torch
in your fire-proof waters.
But lately, out of the flesh,
I look for you behind the eyes
of every woman I meet
and it's rare that I find one
whose blood and passions
you've worn as your own,
whose mind is a jewel of yours
that flows like a star sapphire
down a dark mirror
older than the meaning of life
that relflects you in the light of a black sun.
And I know enough not to ask
about those lockets of blood
you hang like thorns
around the neck of your mystic rose
like the first and last crescents of the moon.
I opened one once to see
whose picture you carried inside
like a butterfly you were working on
like message in a bottle you never sent
like a ship to the rescue
and I'm still not certain
I was demon enough
to survive the miracles
you released upon me
like a hive of angry angels
but I came to know
what the loss of heaven meant
when I ran from the garden
through the closing gates
of the harp you stuck in my throat
like a voicebox of sacred syllables
and came up on the short end of a wishbone
like another rib I was happy to lose
like third on a match
in trench warfare with any muse of a woman
who catches me blindfolded out in the open
in the crosshairs of an inspiration
she knows I can't help but surrender to
like a white Russian iris of a poem
to a firing squad of stars aimed at my heart
just to see if I were as ready to die for her
when she put her finger
like a moment of truth
on the trigger of the moon
up to my temple
as I claimed in thousands
of Zen haikus and enlightened alibis
that fell like Japanese plum blossoms at her feet
I was ready and willing to die for any art
where she wasn't the medium
that fired me up with mystic urgency
to write long loveletters
like a moth in a window
to the candles she inspired in my heart
like the fairest flames of life I have ever expired in.
I Feel The Thorns Of The Rose Making Inkwells Of My Eyes
I feel the thorns of the rose making inkwells of my eyes.
It's me that hurts. But without meaning to,
I'm bleeding for everyone. A watershed of blood and tears.
A reservoir of pain. Not all my own, I drink
before anyone like a hummingbird, or a canary in the mine,
to make sure it isn't toxic. No goat skull in a well
of rotten water. No blood on the horns of the moon.
What a disgrace it is to be a human sometimes.
What a sorrow when your heart wobbles like a drunk bell
and there are perturbations and precessions in your orbit
it's hard to explain except as the flawed configuration of a dream
with your waking life, though they're both just two waves
of the same sea of awareness, feathers and scales.
Oxymoronic maple keys vertiginous as Sufis
at the crossroads of everywhere and here. My heart
is a bone-box full of elegies for Arctic swans
shrinking like ice-bergs from global warming.
And I'm not as mindless in love as I should be,
though a muse is still pure oxygen distilled
from a thousand undiscovered plants in the Amazon
as beguiling as the ghosts of the fragrances
along the Perfume Trail. And sometimes, I swear,
I can smell the weeping of wild blackberries
eclipsed by the shadows of voracious crows
pecking out their eyes like dark jewels
in a crown of thorns. And there's a feeling
with too low a frequency for words like the afterbirth
of an orphaned universe that resonates within me
like the poignancy of the embrace of one
of the saddest graces of compassion limning its tears
with a star's worth of beauty glowing through the clouds.
And goodness arises within me like a loaf of bread
left out to cool on an August windowsill, and I'd
break it into as many pieces as my heart to share it
if only for one instant, with the hungry and the suffering
as I've heard several people did inconceivably even in Auschwitz,
just to make things better a little bit, if I could,
though I feel like fog trying to put out a forest fire,
knowing among the selfish and indifferent,
a gift is a kind of minority protest
that you have to keep an eye on before it gets out of hand.
Reality's just a truce people make with the way things seem
and what they don't understand, a consensus
of poll-watching dilettantes who average out the crucials
in advance of random happenstance. Perhaps.
Reality can be any kind of copulative verb it wants,
The chimerical fire is whatever you imagine it to be,
but what it does, whether you agree or disagree,
is what moves me to underground rivers of tears
that flare up like the pale fountains and grails of the morning glory
to want to put it out, snuff it like a black candle,
or smother it in a pillow of its own smoke.
To die, yes, the wildflowers can do that better than us,
and the animals enter death as if they were observing
the protocol of an instinctive nobility greater than ours
but to die, to suffer and die inexplicably, to see
the labour of billions of light years of stars, enduring
extinction after extinction to express their shining in us
as if we were the content of the message
they sent on ahead of themselves and we can read
so much so intimately like the ancestry of the universe into it
like a child's eyes, or the luster of a lover's hair
in a moonrise, or the second innocence of an old man
who smiled upon us because he knew he was younger
than we were, and the return journey
was better than the first because from cradle to grave,
he knew the beginning walks with us all the way
like a star through the leafless trees
that's following us home at night down
one long, shapeshifting road of shadows and dreams
to one particular gateless gate that unlocks us from our chains.
To die in ignorance of why, though we guess convincingly.
To love deeply and see what we've cared for,
unspared and squandered as if time had no more use for it
and there was nothing rare or precious that wasn't rendered
more fatally vulnerable than a bubble in a world of thorns
for the cherishing of it. In the brevity of our becoming
who could ever claim they were who
they were supposed to be in the eyes of the mystery
of what we're doing here in the first place
trying to wake up in time to find out why we doubt
our own presence sufficiently to labour a lifetime
to love the unknown well enough like a stranger in passing
we've never met, to enlighten our disappearance?
What doorways of farewell must linger in us yet
for all the graves we've already filled
with everything we've ever loved, autumn after autumn,
like wild grapes or a waterclock of hearts,
each trying to fill another's bucket of emptiness
with the rush of their own blood
like the emergency exit out of a burning theater
featuring a seasonal re-run of the lies
we tell ourselves in the dark to make it through another night?
Yet here we are, like it or not. Unborn. Unperishing.
Delivered and flawed. Mortality longing for eternity
like a darkness it's already the ore of waiting to be refined
like stars emerging in the night, flowers
from the starmud of the earth and though
we have unbelievable conceptions of ourselves
that are capable of breathing in the light
of mystic atmospheres one planet isn't enough to cling to,
most of us still candle back to the earth we arose from
like weather balloons with the tail of a comet between our legs.
As a playwright looking back in anger once said.
Poor bears. Poor squirrels. Compassion kisses the burn.
We get lost in ourselves looking for the grails of better days.
The secret's out in the open which is the best place to hide,
if you had a mind to, in this spiritual lost and found.
Now you see it. Now you don't. It sees you.
And you draw the blind. But the sunflowers
turn with the sun, and the waterbirds wait for the moonrise
and in the autumn of our lives, the flowers are extinguished
like the blue fires of the wild irises along the Tay River,
and there's a scent of smoke in the air
that makes your soul weep for the evanescence of life
and how there's even a palpable beauty in the passage
of the fallen leaves among our gravestones
that's always a prelude to the great unknowns ahead
that can't shake the habit of haunting us like a ghost
from the future, summoned to this seance of now
by a mind reader channelling the wavelengths of the stars
light years before either they or we will even know we're dead.
The White Doe Of Rylstone, Or, The Fate Of The Nortons - Canto Sixth
WHY comes not Francis?--From the doleful City
He fled,--and, in his flight, could hear
The death-sounds of the Minster-bell:
That sullen stroke pronounced farewell
To Marmaduke, cut off from pity!
To Ambrose that! and then a knell
For him, the sweet half-opened Flower!
For all--all dying in one hour!
--Why comes not Francis? Thoughts of love
Should bear him to his Sister dear
With the fleet motion of a dove;
Yea, like a heavenly messenger
Of speediest wing, should he appear.
Why comes he not?--for westward fast
Along the plain of York he past;
Reckless of what impels or leads,
Unchecked he hurries on;--nor heeds
The sorrow, through the Villages,
Spread by triumphant cruelties
Of vengeful military force,
And punishment without remorse.
He marked not, heard not, as he fled
All but the suffering heart was dead
For him abandoned to blank awe,
To vacancy, and horror strong:
And the first object which he saw,
With conscious sight, as he swept along--
It was the Banner in his hand!
He felt--and made a sudden stand.
He looked about like one betrayed:
What hath he done? what promise made?
Oh weak, weak moment! to what end
Can such a vain oblation tend,
And he the Bearer?--Can he go
Carrying this instrument of woe,
And find, find anywhere, a right
To excuse him in his Country's sight?
No; will not all men deem the change
A downward course, perverse and strange?
Here is it;--but how? when? must she,
The unoffending Emily,
Again this piteous object see?
Such conflict long did he maintain,
Nor liberty nor rest could gain:
His own life into danger brought
By this sad burden--even that thought,
Exciting self-suspicion strong
Swayed the brave man to his wrong.
And how--unless it were the sense
Of all-disposing Providence,
Its will unquestionably shown--
How has the Banner clung so fast
To a palsied, and unconscious hand;
Clung to the hand to which it passed
Without impediment? And why,
But that Heaven's purpose might be known,
Doth now no hindrance meet his eye,
No intervention, to withstand
Fulfilment of a Father's prayer
Breathed to a Son forgiven, and blest
When all resentments were at rest,
And life in death laid the heart bare?--
Then, like a spectre sweeping by,
Rushed through his mind the prophecy
Of utter desolation made
To Emily in the yew-tree shade:
He sighed, submitting will and power
To the stern embrace of that grasping hour.
'No choice is left, the deed is mine--
Dead are they, dead!--and I will go,
And, for their sakes, come weal or woe,
Will lay the Relic on the shrine.'
So forward with a steady will
He went, and traversed plain and hill;
And up the vale of Wharf his way
Pursued;--and, at the dawn of day,
Attained a summit whence his eyes
Could see the Tower of Bolton rise.
There Francis for a moment's space
Made halt--but hark! a noise behind
Of horsemen at an eager pace!
He heard, and with misgiving mind.
--'Tis Sir George Bowes who leads the Band:
They come, by cruel Sussex sent;
Who, when the Nortons from the hand
Of death had drunk their punishment,
Bethought him, angry and ashamed,
How Francis, with the Banner claimed
As his own charge, had disappeared,
By all the standers-by revered.
His whole bold carriage (which had quelled
Thus far the Opposer, and repelled
All censure, enterprise so bright
That even bad men had vainly striven
Against that overcoming light)
Was then reviewed, and prompt word given,
That to what place soever fled
He should be seized, alive or dead.
The troop of horse have gained the height
Where Francis stood in open sight.
They hem him round--'Behold the proof,'
They cried, 'the Ensign in his hand!
'He' did not arm, he walked aloof!
For why?--to save his Father's land;--
Worst Traitor of them all is he,
A Traitor dark and cowardly!'
'I am no Traitor,' Francis said,
'Though this unhappy freight I bear;
And must not part with. But beware;--
Err not by hasty zeal misled,
Nor do a suffering Spirit wrong,
Whose self-reproaches are too strong!'
At this he from the beaten road
Retreated towards a brake of thorn,
That like a place of vantage showed;
And there stood bravely, though forlorn.
In self-defence with warlike brow
He stood,--nor weaponless was now;
He from a Soldier's hand had snatched
A spear,--and, so protected, watched
The Assailants, turning round and round;
But from behind with treacherous wound
A Spearman brought him to the ground.
The guardian lance, as Francis fell,
Dropped from him; but his other hand
The Banner clenched; till, from out the Band,
One, the most eager for the prize,
Rushed in; and--while, O grief to tell!
A glimmering sense still left, with eyes
Unclosed the noble Francis lay--
Seized it, as hunters seize their prey;
But not before the warm life-blood
Had tinged more deeply, as it flowed,
The wounds the broidered Banner showed,
Thy fatal work, O Maiden, innocent as good!
Proudly the Horsemen bore away
The Standard; and where Francis lay
There was he left alone, unwept,
And for two days unnoticed slept.
For at that time bewildering fear
Possessed the country, far and near;
But, on the third day, passing by
One of the Norton Tenantry
Espied the uncovered Corse; the Man
Shrunk as he recognised the face,
And to the nearest homesteads ran
And called the people to the place.
--How desolate is Rylstone-hall!
This was the instant thought of all;
And if the lonely Lady there
Should be; to her they cannot bear
This weight of anguish and despair.
So, when upon sad thoughts had prest
Thoughts sadder still, they deemed it best
That, if the Priest should yield assent
And no one hinder their intent,
Then, they, for Christian pity's sake,
In holy ground a grave would make;
And straightway buried he should be
In the Churchyard of the Priory.
Apart, some little space, was made
The grave where Francis must be laid.
In no confusion or neglect
This did they,--but in pure respect
That he was born of gentle blood;
And that there was no neighbourhood
Of kindred for him in that ground:
So to the Churchyard they are bound,
Bearing the body on a bier;
And psalms they sing--a holy sound
That hill and vale with sadness hear.
But Emily hath raised her head,
And is again disquieted;
She must behold!--so many gone,
Where is the solitary One?
And forth from Rylstone-hall stepped she,--
To seek her Brother forth she went,
And tremblingly her course she bent
Toward Bolton's ruined Priory.
She comes, and in the vale hath heard
The funeral dirge;--she sees the knot
Of people, sees them in one spot--
And darting like a wounded bird
She reached the grave, and with her breast
Upon the ground received the rest,--
The consummation, the whole ruth
And sorrow of this final truth!
The Prelude, Book 2: School-time (Continued)
. Thus far, O Friend! have we, though leaving much
Unvisited, endeavour'd to retrace
My life through its first years, and measured back
The way I travell'd when I first began
To love the woods and fields; the passion yet
Was in its birth, sustain'd, as might befal,
By nourishment that came unsought, for still,
From week to week, from month to month, we liv'd
A round of tumult: duly were our games
Prolong'd in summer till the day-light fail'd;
No chair remain'd before the doors, the bench
And threshold steps were empty; fast asleep
The Labourer, and the old Man who had sate,
A later lingerer, yet the revelry
Continued, and the loud uproar: at last,
When all the ground was dark, and the huge clouds
Were edged with twinkling stars, to bed we went,
With weary joints, and with a beating mind.
Ah! is there one who ever has been young,
Nor needs a monitory voice to tame
The pride of virtue, and of intellect?
And is there one, the wisest and the best
Of all mankind, who does not sometimes wish
For things which cannot be, who would not give,
If so he might, to duty and to truth
The eagerness of infantine desire?
A tranquillizing spirit presses now
On my corporeal frame: so wide appears
The vacancy between me and those days,
Which yet have such self-presence in my mind
That, sometimes, when I think of them, I seem
Two consciousnesses, conscious of myself
And of some other Being. A grey Stone
Of native rock, left midway in the Square
Of our small market Village, was the home
And centre of these joys, and when, return'd
After long absence, thither I repair'd,
I found that it was split, and gone to build
A smart Assembly-room that perk'd and flar'd
With wash and rough-cast elbowing the ground
Which had been ours. But let the fiddle scream,
And be ye happy! yet, my Friends! I know
That more than one of you will think with me
Of those soft starry nights, and that old Dame
From whom the stone was nam'd who there had sate
And watch'd her Table with its huckster's wares
Assiduous, thro' the length of sixty years.
We ran a boisterous race; the year span round
With giddy motion. But the time approach'd
That brought with it a regular desire
For calmer pleasures, when the beauteous forms
Of Nature were collaterally attach'd
To every scheme of holiday delight,
And every boyish sport, less grateful else,
And languidly pursued. When summer came
It was the pastime of our afternoons
To beat along the plain of Windermere
With rival oars, and the selected bourne
Was now an Island musical with birds
That sang for ever; now a Sister Isle
Beneath the oaks' umbrageous covert, sown
With lillies of the valley, like a field;
And now a third small Island where remain'd
An old stone Table, and a moulder'd Cave,
A Hermit's history. In such a race,
So ended, disappointment could be none,
Uneasiness, or pain, or jealousy:
We rested in the shade, all pleas'd alike,
Conquer'd and Conqueror. Thus the pride of strength,
And the vain-glory of superior skill
Were interfus'd with objects which subdu'd
And temper'd them, and gradually produc'd
A quiet independence of the heart.
And to my Friend, who knows me, I may add,
Unapprehensive of reproof, that hence
Ensu'd a diffidence and modesty,
And I was taught to feel, perhaps too much,
The self-sufficing power of solitude.
No delicate viands sapp'd our bodily strength;
More than we wish'd we knew the blessing then
Of vigorous hunger, for our daily meals
Were frugal, Sabine fare! and then, exclude
A little weekly stipend, and we lived
Through three divisions of the quarter'd year
In pennyless poverty. But now, to School
Return'd, from the half-yearly holidays,
We came with purses more profusely fill'd,
Allowance which abundantly suffic'd
To gratify the palate with repasts
More costly than the Dame of whom I spake,
That ancient Woman, and her board supplied.
Hence inroads into distant Vales, and long
Excursions far away among the hills,
Hence rustic dinners on the cool green ground,
Or in the woods, or near a river side,
Or by some shady fountain, while soft airs
Among the leaves were stirring, and the sun
Unfelt, shone sweetly round us in our joy.
Nor is my aim neglected, if I tell
How twice in the long length of those half-years
We from our funds, perhaps, with bolder hand
Drew largely, anxious for one day, at least,
To feel the motion of the galloping Steed;
And with the good old Inn-keeper, in truth,
On such occasion sometimes we employ'd
Sly subterfuge; for the intended bound
Of the day's journey was too distant far
For any cautious man, a Structure famed
Beyond its neighbourhood, the antique Walls
Of that large Abbey which within the vale
Of Nightshade, to St. Mary's honour built,
Stands yet, a mouldering Pile, with fractured Arch,
Belfry, and Images, and living Trees,
A holy Scene! along the smooth green turf
Our Horses grazed: to more than inland peace
Left by the sea wind passing overhead
(Though wind of roughest temper) trees and towers
May in that Valley oftentimes be seen,
Both silent and both motionless alike;
Such is the shelter that is there, and such
The safeguard for repose and quietness.
Our steeds remounted, and the summons given,
With whip and spur we by the Chauntry flew
In uncouth race, and left the cross-legg'd Knight,
And the stone-Abbot, and that single Wren
Which one day sang so sweetly in the Nave
Of the old Church, that, though from recent showers
The earth was comfortless, and, touch'd by faint
Internal breezes, sobbings of the place,
And respirations, from the roofless walls
The shuddering ivy dripp'd large drops, yet still,
So sweetly 'mid the gloom the invisible Bird
Sang to itself, that there I could have made
My dwelling-place, and liv'd for ever there
To hear such music. Through the Walls we flew
And down the valley, and a circuit made
In wantonness of heart, through rough and smooth
We scamper'd homeward. Oh! ye Rocks and Streams,
And that still Spirit of the evening air!
Even in this joyous time I sometimes felt
Your presence, when with slacken'd step we breath'd
Along the sides of the steep hills, or when,
Lighted by gleams of moonlight from the sea,
We beat with thundering hoofs the level sand.
Upon the Eastern Shore of Windermere,
Above the crescent of a pleasant Bay,
There stood an Inn, no homely-featured Shed,
Brother of the surrounding Cottages,
But 'twas a splendid place, the door beset
With Chaises, Grooms, and Liveries, and within
Decanters, Glasses, and the blood-red Wine.
In ancient times, or ere the Hall was built
On the large Island, had this Dwelling been
More worthy of a Poet's love, a Hut,
Proud of its one bright fire, and sycamore shade.
But though the rhymes were gone which once inscribed
The threshold, and large golden characters
On the blue-frosted Signboard had usurp'd
The place of the old Lion, in contempt
And mockery of the rustic painter's hand,
Yet to this hour the spot to me is dear
With all its foolish pomp. The garden lay
Upon a slope surmounted by the plain
Of a small Bowling-green; beneath us stood
A grove; with gleams of water through the trees
And over the tree-tops; nor did we want
Refreshment, strawberries and mellow cream.
And there, through half an afternoon, we play'd
On the smooth platform, and the shouts we sent
Made all the mountains ring. But ere the fall
Of night, when in our pinnace we return'd
Over the dusky Lake, and to the beach
Of some small Island steer'd our course with one,
The Minstrel of our troop, and left him there,
And row'd off gently, while he blew his flute
Alone upon the rock; Oh! then the calm
And dead still water lay upon my mind
Even with a weight of pleasure, and the sky
Never before so beautiful, sank down
Into my heart, and held me like a dream.
Thus daily were my sympathies enlarged,
And thus the common range of visible things
Grew dear to me: already I began
To love the sun, a Boy I lov'd the sun,
Not as I since have lov'd him, as a pledge
And surety of our earthly life, a light
Which while we view we feel we are alive;
But, for this cause, that I had seen him lay
His beauty on the morning hills, had seen
The western mountain touch his setting orb,
In many a thoughtless hour, when, from excess
Of happiness, my blood appear'd to flow
With its own pleasure, and I breath'd with joy.
And from like feelings, humble though intense,
To patriotic and domestic love
Analogous, the moon to me was dear;
For I would dream away my purposes,
Standing to look upon her while she hung
Midway between the hills, as if she knew
No other region; but belong'd to thee,
Yea, appertain'd by a peculiar right
To thee and thy grey huts, my darling Vale!
Those incidental charms which first attach'd
My heart to rural objects, day by day
Grew weaker, and I hasten on to tell
How Nature, intervenient till this time,
And secondary, now at length was sought
For her own sake. But who shall parcel out
His intellect, by geometric rules,
Split, like a province, into round and square?
Who knows the individual hour in which
His habits were first sown, even as a seed,
Who that shall point, as with a wand, and say,
'This portion of the river of my mind
Came from yon fountain?' Thou, my Friend! art one
More deeply read in thy own thoughts; to thee
Science appears but, what in truth she is,
Not as our glory and our absolute boast,
But as a succedaneum, and a prop
To our infirmity. Thou art no slave
Of that false secondary power, by which,
In weakness, we create distinctions, then
Deem that our puny boundaries are things
Which we perceive, and not which we have made.
To thee, unblinded by these outward shows,
The unity of all has been reveal'd
And thou wilt doubt with me, less aptly skill'd
Than many are to class the cabinet
Of their sensations, and, in voluble phrase,
Run through the history and birth of each,
As of a single independent thing.
Hard task to analyse a soul, in which,
Not only general habits and desires,
But each most obvious and particular thought,
Not in a mystical and idle sense,
But in the words of reason deeply weigh'd,
Hath no beginning. Bless'd the infant Babe,
(For with my best conjectures I would trace
The progress of our Being) blest the Babe,
Nurs'd in his Mother's arms, the Babe who sleeps
Upon his Mother's breast, who, when his soul
Claims manifest kindred with an earthly soul,
Doth gather passion from his Mother's eye!
Such feelings pass into his torpid life
Like an awakening breeze, and hence his mind
Even [in the first trial of its powers]
Is prompt and watchful, eager to combine
In one appearance, all the elements
And parts of the same object, else detach'd
And loth to coalesce. Thus, day by day,
Subjected to the discipline of love,
His organs and recipient faculties
Are quicken'd, are more vigorous, his mind spreads,
Tenacious of the forms which it receives.
In one beloved presence, nay and more,
In that most apprehensive habitude
And those sensations which have been deriv'd
From this beloved Presence, there exists
A virtue which irradiates and exalts
All objects through all intercourse of sense.
No outcast he, bewilder'd and depress'd;
Along his infant veins are interfus'd
The gravitation and the filial bond
Of nature, that connect him with the world.
Emphatically such a Being lives,
An inmate of this active universe;
From nature largely he receives; nor so
Is satisfied, but largely gives again,
For feeling has to him imparted strength,
And powerful in all sentiments of grief,
Of exultation, fear, and joy, his mind,
Even as an agent of the one great mind,
Creates, creator and receiver both,
Working but in alliance with the works
Which it beholds.--Such, verily, is the first
Poetic spirit of our human life;
By uniform control of after years
In most abated or suppress'd, in some,
Through every change of growth or of decay,
Pre-eminent till death. From early days,
Beginning not long after that first time
In which, a Babe, by intercourse of touch,
I held mute dialogues with my Mother's heart
I have endeavour'd to display the means
Whereby this infant sensibility,
Great birthright of our Being, was in me
Augmented and sustain'd. Yet is a path
More difficult before me, and I fear
That in its broken windings we shall need
The chamois' sinews, and the eagle's wing:
For now a trouble came into my mind
From unknown causes. I was left alone,
Seeking the visible world, nor knowing why.
The props of my affections were remov'd,
And yet the building stood, as if sustain'd
By its own spirit! All that I beheld
Was dear to me, and from this cause it came,
That now to Nature's finer influxes
My mind lay open, to that more exact
And intimate communion which our hearts
Maintain with the minuter properties
Of objects which already are belov'd,
And of those only. Many are the joys
Of youth; but oh! what happiness to live
When every hour brings palpable access
Of knowledge, when all knowledge is delight,
And sorrow is not there. The seasons came,
And every season to my notice brought
A store of transitory qualities
Which, but for this most watchful power of love
Had been neglected, left a register
Of permanent relations, else unknown,
Hence life, and change, and beauty, solitude
More active, even, than 'best society',
Society made sweet as solitude
By silent inobtrusive sympathies,
And gentle agitations of the mind
From manifold distinctions, difference
Perceived in things, where to the common eye,
No difference is; and hence, from the same source
Sublimer joy; for I would walk alone,
In storm and tempest, or in starlight nights
Beneath the quiet Heavens; and, at that time,
Have felt whate'er there is of power in sound
To breathe an elevated mood, by form
Or image unprofaned; and I would stand,
Beneath some rock, listening to sounds that are
The ghostly language of the ancient earth,
Or make their dim abode in distant winds.
Thence did I drink the visionary power.
I deem not profitless those fleeting moods
Of shadowy exultation: not for this,
That they are kindred to our purer mind
And intellectual life; but that the soul,
Remembering how she felt, but what she felt
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense
Of possible sublimity, to which,
With growing faculties she doth aspire,
With faculties still growing, feeling still
That whatsoever point they gain, they still
Have something to pursue. And not alone,
In grandeur and in tumult, but no less
In tranquil scenes, that universal power
And fitness in the latent qualities
And essences of things, by which the mind
Is mov'd by feelings of delight, to me
Came strengthen'd with a superadded soul,
A virtue not its own. My morning walks
Were early; oft, before the hours of School
I travell'd round our little Lake, five miles
Of pleasant wandering, happy time! more dear
For this, that one was by my side, a Friend
Then passionately lov'd; with heart how full
Will he peruse these lines, this page, perhaps
A blank to other men! for many years
Have since flow'd in between us; and our minds,
Both silent to each other, at this time
We live as if those hours had never been.
Nor seldom did I lift our cottage latch
Far earlier, and before the vernal thrush
Was audible, among the hills I sate
Alone, upon some jutting eminence
At the first hour of morning, when the Vale
Lay quiet in an utter solitude.
How shall I trace the history, where seek
The origin of what I then have felt?
Oft in these moments such a holy calm
Did overspread my soul, that I forgot
That I had bodily eyes, and what I saw
Appear'd like something in myself, a dream,
A prospect in my mind. 'Twere long to tell
What spring and autumn, what the winter snows,
And what the summer shade, what day and night,
The evening and the morning, what my dreams
And what my waking thoughts supplied, to nurse
That spirit of religious love in which
I walked with Nature. But let this, at least
Be not forgotten, that I still retain'd
My first creative sensibility,
That by the regular action of the world
My soul was unsubdu'd. A plastic power
Abode with me, a forming hand, at times
Rebellious, acting in a devious mood,
A local spirit of its own, at war
With general tendency, but for the most
Subservient strictly to the external things
With which it commun'd. An auxiliar light
Came from my mind which on the setting sun
Bestow'd new splendor, the melodious birds,
The gentle breezes, fountains that ran on,
Murmuring so sweetly in themselves, obey'd
A like dominion; and the midnight storm
Grew darker in the presence of my eye.
Hence by obeisance, my devotion hence,
And hence my transport. Nor should this, perchance,
Pass unrecorded, that I still have lov'd
The exercise and produce of a toil
Than analytic industry to me
More pleasing, and whose character I deem
Is more poetic as resembling more
Creative agency. I mean to speak
Of that interminable building rear'd
By observation of affinities
In objects where no brotherhood exists
To common minds. My seventeenth year was come
And, whether from this habit, rooted now
So deeply in my mind, or from excess
Of the great social principle of life,
Coercing all things into sympathy,
To unorganic natures I transferr'd
My own enjoyments, or, the power of truth
Coming in revelation, I convers'd
With things that really are, I, at this time
Saw blessings spread around me like a sea.
Thus did my days pass on, and now at length
From Nature and her overflowing soul
I had receiv'd so much that all my thoughts
Were steep'd in feeling; I was only then
Contented when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O'er all that moves, and all that seemeth still,
O'er all, that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart,
O'er all that leaps, and runs, and shouts, and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air, o'er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself
And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not
If such my transports were; for in all things
I saw one life, and felt that it was joy.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible then when the fleshly ear,
O'ercome by grosser prelude of that strain,
Forgot its functions, and slept undisturb'd.
If this be error, and another faith
Find easier access to the pious mind,
Yet were I grossly destitute of all
Those human sentiments which make this earth
So dear, if I should fail, with grateful voice
To speak of you, Ye Mountains and Ye Lakes,
And sounding Cataracts! Ye Mists and Winds
That dwell among the hills where I was born.
If, in my youth, I have been pure in heart,
If, mingling with the world, I am content
With my own modest pleasures, and have liv'd,
With God and Nature communing, remov'd
From little enmities and low desires,
The gift is yours; if in these times of fear,
This melancholy waste of hopes o'erthrown,
If, 'mid indifference and apathy
And wicked exultation, when good men,
On every side fall off we know not how,
To selfishness, disguis'd in gentle names
Of peace, and quiet, and domestic love,
Yet mingled, not unwillingly, with sneers
On visionary minds; if in this time
Of dereliction and dismay, I yet
Despair not of our nature; but retain
A more than Roman confidence, a faith
That fails not, in all sorrow my support,
The blessing of my life, the gift is yours,
Ye mountains! thine, O Nature! Thou hast fed
My lofty speculations; and in thee,
For this uneasy heart of ours I find
A never-failing principle of joy,
And purest passion. Thou, my Friend! wert rear'd
In the great City, 'mid far other scenes;
But we, by different roads at length have gain'd
The self-same bourne. And for this cause to Thee
I speak, unapprehensive of contempt,
The insinuated scoff of coward tongues,
And all that silent language which so oft
In conversation betwixt man and man
Blots from the human countenance all trace
Of beauty and of love. For Thou hast sought
The truth in solitude, and Thou art one,
The most intense of Nature's worshippers
In many things my Brother, chiefly here
In this my deep devotion. Fare Thee well!
Health, and the quiet of a healthful mind
Attend thee! seeking oft the haunts of men,
And yet more often living with Thyself,
And for Thyself, so haply shall thy days
Be many, and a blessing to mankind.
On A Cattle Track
Where the strength of dry thunder splits hill-rocks asunder,
And the shouts of the desert-wind break,
By the gullies of deepness and ridges of steepness,
Lo, the cattle track twists like a snake!
Like a sea of dead embers, burnt white by Decembers,
A plain to the left of it lies;
And six fleeting horses dash down the creek courses
With the terror of thirst in their eyes.
The false strength of fever, that deadly deceiver,
Gives foot to each famishing beast;
And over lands rotten, by rain-winds forgotten,
The mirage gleams out in the east.
Ah! the waters are hidden from riders and ridden
In a stream where the cattle track dips;
And Death on their faces is scoring fierce traces,
And the drought is a fire on their lips.
It is far to the station, and gaunt Desolation
Is a spectre that glooms in the way;
Like a red smoke the air is, like a hell-light its glare is,
And as flame are the feet of the day.
The wastes are like metal that forges unsettle
When the heat of the furnace is white;
And the cool breeze that bloweth when an English sun goeth,
Is unknown to the wild desert night.
A cry of distress there! a horseman the less there!
The mock-waters shine like a moon!
It is 'Speed, and speed faster from this hole of disaster!
And hurrah for yon God-sent lagoon!'
Doth a devil deceive them? Ah, now let us leave them -
We are burdened in life with the sad;
Our portion is trouble, our joy is a bubble,
And the gladdest is never too glad.
From the pale tracts of peril, past mountain heads sterile,
To a sweet river shadowed with reeds,
Where Summer steps lightly, and Winter beams brightly,
The hoof-rutted cattle track leads.
There soft is the moonlight, and tender the noon-light;
There fiery things falter and fall;
And there may be seen, now, the gold and the green, now,
And the wings of a peace over all.
Hush, bittern and plover! Go, wind, to thy cover
Away by the snow-smitten Pole!
The rotten leaf falleth, the forest rain calleth;
And what is the end of the whole?
Some men are successful after seasons distressful
[Now, masters, the drift of my tale];
But the brink of salvation is a lair of damnation
For others who struggle, yet fail.
Fragments Pts 1, 11, 111
These broken lines for pardon crave;
I cannot end the song with art:
My grief is gray and old—her grave
Is dug so deep within my heart.
I.—Her Last Day
IT was a day of sombre heat:
The still, dense air was void of sound
And life; no wing of bird did beat
A little breeze through it—the ground
Was like live ashes to the feet.
From the black hills that loomed around
The valley many a sudden spire
Of flame shot up, and writhed, and curled,
And sank again for heaviness:
And heavy seemed to men that day
The burden of the weary world.
For evermore the sky did press
Closer upon the earth that lay
Fainting beneath, as one in dire
Dreams of the night, upon whose breast
Sits a black phantom of unrest
That holds him down. The earth and sky
Appeared unto the troubled eye
A roof of smoke, a floor of fire.
There was no water in the land.
Deep in the night of each ravine
Men, vainly searching for it, found
Dry hollows in the gaping ground,
Like sockets where clear eyes had been,
Now burnt out with a burning brand.
There was no water in the land
But the salt sea tide, that did roll
Far past the places where, till then,
The sweet streams met and flung it back;
The beds of little brooks, that stole
In spring-time down each ferny glen,
And rippled over rock and sand,
Were drier than a cattle-track.
A dull, strange languor of disease,
That ever with the heat increased,
Fell upon man, and bird, and beast;
The thin-flanked cattle gasped for breath;
The birds dropped dead from drooping trees;
And men, who drank the muddy lees
From each near-dry though deep-dug well,
Grew faint; and over all things fell
A heavy stupor, dank as Death.
Fierce Nature, glaring with a face
Of savage scorn at my despair,
Withered my heart. From cone to base
The hills were full of hollow eyes
That rayed out darkness, dead and dull;
Gray rocks grinned under ridges bare,
Like dry teeth in a mouldered skull;
And ghastly gum-tree trunks did loom
Out of black clefts and rifts of gloom,
As sheeted spectres that arise
From yawning graves at dead of night
To fill the living with affright;
And, like to witches foul that bare
Their withered arms, and bend, and cast
Dread curses on the sleeping lands
In awful legends of the past,
Red gums, with outstretched bloody hands,
Shook maledictions in the air.
Fear was around me everywhere:
The wrinkled foreheads of the rocks
Frowned on me, and methought I saw—
Deep down in dismal gulfs of awe,
Where gray death-adders have their lair,
With the fiend-bat, the flying-fox,
And dim sun-rays, down-groping far,
Pale as a dead man’s fingers are—
The grisly image of Decay,
That at the root of Life doth gnaw,
Sitting alone upon a throne
Of rotting skull and bleaching bone.
“There is an end to all our griefs:
Little the red worm of the grave
Will vex us when our days are done.”
So changed my thought: up-gazing then
On gray-piled stones that seemed the cairns
Of dead and long-forgotten chiefs—
The men of old, the poor wild men
Who, under dim lights, fought a brave,
Sad fight of Life, where hope was none,
In the vague, voiceless, far-off years—
It changed again to present pain,
And I saw Sorrow everywhere:
In blackened trees and rust-red ferns,
Blasted by bush-fires and the sun;
And by the salt-flood—salt as tears—
Where the wild apple-trees hung low,
And evermore stooped down to stare
At their drowned shadows in the wave,
Wringing their knotted hands of woe;
And the dark swamp-oaks, row on row,
Lined either bank—a sombre train
Of mourners with down-streaming hair.
THE DAY and its delights are done;
So all delights and days expire:
Down in the dim, sad West the sun
Is dying like a dying fire.
The fiercest lances of his light
Are spent; I watch him droop and die
Like a great king who falls in fight;
None dared the duel of his eye
Living, but, now his eye is dim,
The eyes of all may stare at him.
How lovely in his strength at morn
He orbed along the burning blue!
The blown gold of his flying hair
Was tangled in green-tressèd trees,
And netted in the river sand
In gleaming links of amber clear;
But all his shining locks are shorn,
His brow of its bright crown is bare,
The golden sceptre leaves his hand,
And deeper, darker, grows the hue
Of the dim purple draperies
And cloudy banners round his bier.
O beautiful, rose-hearted dawn!—
O splendid noon of gold and blue!—
Is this wan glimmer all of you?
Where are the blush and bloom ye gave
To laughing land and smiling sea?—
The swift lights that did flash and shiver
In diamond rain upon the river,
And set a star in each blue wave?
Where are the merry lights and shadows
That danced through wood and over lawn,
And flew across the dewy meadows
Like white nymphs chased by satyr lovers?
Faded and perished utterly.
All delicate and all rich colour
In flower and cloud, on lawn and lea,
On butterfly, and bird, and bee,
A little space and all are gone—
And darkness, like a raven, hovers
Above the death-bed of the day.
So, when the long, last night draws on,
And all the world grows ghastly gray,
We see our beautiful and brave
Wither, and watch with heavy sighs
The life-light dying in their eyes,
The love-light slowly fading out,
Leaving no faint hope in their place,
But only on each dear wan face
The shadow of a weary doubt,
The ashen pallor of the grave.
O gracious morn and golden noon!
With what fair dreams did ye depart—
Beloved so well and lost so soon!
I could not fold you to my breast:
I could not hide you in my heart;
I saw the watchers in the West—
Sad, shrouded shapes, with hands that wring
And phantom fingers beckoning!
Fade off the ridges, rosy light,
Fade slowly from the last gray height,
And leave no gloomy cloud to grieve
The heart of this enchanted eve!
All things beneath the still sky seem
Bound by the spell of a sweet dream;
In the dusk forest, dreamingly,
Droops slowly down each plumèd head;
The river flowing softly by
Dreams of the sea; the quiet sea
Dreams of the unseen stars; and I
Am dreaming of the dreamless dead.
The river has a silken sheen,
But red rays of the sunset stain
Its pictures, from the steep shore caught,
Till shades of rock, and fern, and tree
Glow like the figures on a pane
Of some old church by twilight seen,
Or like the rich devices wrought
In mediaeval tapestry.
All lonely in a drifting boat
Through shine and shade I float and float,
Dreaming and dreaming, till I seem
Part of the picture and the dream.
There is no sound to break the spell,
No voice of bird or stir of bough;
Only the lisp of waters wreathing
In little ripples round the prow,
And a low air, like Silence breathing,
That hardly dusks the sleepy swell
Whereon I float to that strange deep
That sighs upon the shores of Sleep.
But in the silent heaven blooming
Behold the wondrous sunset flower
That blooms and fades within the hour—
The flower of fantasy, perfuming
With subtle melody of scent
The blue aisles of the firmament!
For colour, music, scent, are one;
From deeps of air to airless heights,
Lo! how he sweeps, the splendid sun,
His burning lyre of many lights!
See the clear golden lily blowing!
It shines as shone thy gentle soul,
O my most sweet, when from the goal
Of life, far-gazing, thou didst see—
While Death still feared to touch thine eyes,
Where such immortal light was glowing—
The vision of eternity,
The pearly gates of Paradise!
Now richer hues the skies illume:
The pale gold blushes into bloom,
Delicate as the flowering
Of first love in the tender spring
Of Life, when love is wizardry
That over narrow days can throw
A glamour and a glory! so
Did thine, my Beautiful, for me
So long ago; so long ago.
So long ago! so long ago!
Ah, who can Love and Grief estrange?
Or Memory and Sorrow part?
Lo, in the West another change—
A deeper glow: a rose of fire:
A rose of passionate desire
Lone burning in a lonely heart.
A lonely heart; a lonely flood.
The wave that glassed her gleaming head
And smiling passed, it does not know
That gleaming head lies dark and low;
The myrtle-tree that bends above,
I pray that it may early bud,
For under its green boughs sat we—
We twain, we only, hand in hand,
When Love was lord of all the land—
It does not know that she is dead
And all is over now with Love,
Is over now with Love and me.
Once more, once more, O shining years
Gone by; once more, O vanished days
Whose hours flew by on iris-wings,
Come back and bring my love to me!
My voice faints down the wooded ways
And dies along the darkling flood.
The past is past; I cry in vain,
For when did Death an answer deign
To Love’s heart-broken questionings?
The dead are deaf; dust chokes their ears;
Only the rolling river hears
Far off the calling of the sea—
A shiver strikes through all my blood,
Mine eyes are full of sudden tears.
. . . . .
The shadows gather over all,
The valley, and the mountains old;
Shadow on shadow fast they fall
On glooming green and waning gold;
And on my heart they gather drear,
Damp as with grave-damps, dark with fear.
O Sorrow, Sorrow, couldst thou leave me
Not one brief hour to dream alone?
Hast thou not all my days to grieve me?
My nights, are they not all thine own?
Thou hauntest me at morning light,
Thou blackenest the white moonbeams;
A hollow voice at noon; at night
A crowned ghost, sitting on a throne,
Ruling the kingdom of my dreams.
Maker of men, Thou gavest breath,
Thou gavest love to all that live,
Thou rendest loves and lives apart;
Allwise art Thou; who questioneth
Thy will, or who can read Thy heart?
But couldst Thou not in mercy give
A sign to us—one little spark
Of sure hope that the end of all
Is not concealed beneath the pall,
Or wound up with the winding-sheet?
Who heedeth aught the preacher saith
When eyes wax dim, and limbs grow stark,
And fear sits on the darkened bed?
The dying man turns to the wall.
What hope have we above our dead?—
Tense fingers clutching at the dark,
And hopeless hands that vainly beat
Against the iron doors of Death!
When I got to his marker, I sat on it,
like sitting on the edge of someone's bed
and I rubbed the smooth, speckled granite.
I took some tears from my jaw and neck
and started to wash a corner of his stone.
Then a black and amber ant
ran out onto the granite, and off it,
and another ant hauled a dead
ant onto the stone, leaving it, and not coming back.
Ants ran down into the grooves of his name
and dates, down into the oval track of the
first name's O, middle name's O,
the short O of his last name,
and down into the hyphen between
his birth and death--little trough of his life.
Soft bugs appeared on my shoes,
like grains of pollen, I let them move on me,
I rinsed a dark fleck of mica,
and down inside the engraved letters
the first dots of lichen were appearing
like stars in early evening.
I saw the speedwell on the ground with its horns,
the coiled ferns, copper-beech blossoms, each
petal like that disc of matter which
swayed, on the last day, on his tongue.
Tamarack, Western hemlock,
manzanita, water birch
with its scored bark,
I put my arms around a trunk and squeezed it,
then I lay down on my father's grave.
The sun shone down on me, the powerful
ants walked on me. When I woke,
my cheek was crumbly, yellowish
with a mustard plaster of earth. Only
at the last minute did I think of his body
actually under me, the can of
bone, ash, soft as a goosedown
pillow that bursts in bed with the lovers.
When I kissed his stone it was not enough,
when I licked it my tongue went dry a moment, I
ate his dust, I tasted my dirt host.
Easy to extract oneself from the climacteric of doom
that will absolve humanity of its horrors
by placing its destiny in its own hands
like a loaded gun in the hands of a child
by taking long nocturnal walks by the Tay River
among wildflowers full of farewell.
To watch the moonrise glowing
on the Texas toes of my wet black boots
as if they'd just been spit polished by morning snails
and sense the just proportions
and inchoate eloquence of eternity
in the trivialities of sublime coincidence.
How randomly everything fits
into this urgent medium of life and death
as if it played the tailor to its own emergence seamlessly
the way the mind stream cuts a path for itself
among a bewildering array of rocks and fallen birch
or a startled rat snake adds its wavelength
like a higher frequency to the laconic water
and yet no river has ever flowed the wrong way to the sea.
Easy to step out of the polluted light of the streetlamps
into the cleaner darkness on the outskirts of town
to renew my innocence
in the macrocosmic reveries of my solitude
enchanted by the mesmerizing details
of the mystically miniscule.
How the New England asters
in the middle of September
that yesterday bloomed like stars
in happier zodiacs than this
today are watching their eyelashes fall out one by one
and the daylilies that blazed with desire
wither like the kisses of old women
when no one's there to receive them.
Easy to accept catastrophe in nature
as the spontaneous gesture of a hidden wisdom
that our eyes are too dependent on the light to see yet.
The muskrat gutted by the cattails
by a posse of rampant coyotes
in a frenzy of panicked hunger
sensing the cold-blooded wind turn vicious.
Soon the air will bare its fangs and snarl.
Soon the earth will harden into knuckles of ice
and the raccoons semi-hibernate
and the blue jays come like thieves
to pick the time-locks on the sunflowers
and the seeds enter the cryonic comas of their afterlives
confident of their revival in a future beyond doubt
as the planet sidles up to the sun at perigee
like an old love affair gone cold
tilting its head away
to rebuff any further advances.
Easy to lose yourself in the life of the mind
and the phantasmagoria of reality
that makes you feel you're walking with gods
you'll never know the name of.
Turn your back on the world
and let your thoughts wander off like smoke
from the fire pits of lost caravans
that have pitched their tents
on the dark side of the moon
where they can make up their own myths
about the strange stars
that have misled them this far from home.
How the creek laps the rock
like a doe at a salt block
left out in a farmer's field.
How the water purls over the terraced shale
that looks like a burnt book in the ashes
of a fire that's just been put out
like the library of Alexandria.
You could do that.
And who could blame you?
You wouldn't be wrong.
It's hard to listen
the way you listen to a star stream
slipping through a grove of birches at night
astute to everything it's whispering;
hard to listen to the blood
gurgling out of a wounded child
like a poppy choking to death.
Hard to fine-tune your sensibilities
to the miscreant devolution of your own species
and not be savagely appalled
into holding a mirror up to nature
that blocks the view as surely
as if you'd put your hands up over your eyes
to escape it all and wake up somewhere else
where skulls are more natural in Eden
than in the abattoirs of human carnage.
A clean life with no skidmarks of despair.
No fingernails scratching at the walls
in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
No graffiti under the bridges of PsychoBabylon.
No university students on the road to Damascus
tortured like Rosetta Stones
that have just had their tongues cut out
for not saying anything
that makes any sense
to the body language of the depraved
mutilating their flesh like slang.
Just the claw marks on the rocks
that have been sanitized by time
like the glacial striations of the last ice age
that gouged out the eyes of the lakes around here.
The bitter aesthetes of retreat run back to paradise
to study demonology by the light of fireflies
to better understand their fellow man
and live tactically out of reach
of their common inhumanity
where there's not chance of a ricochet.
Under a locust tree in full bloom.
A fragrant cloud of honey-bees
with as many thorns as they have stingers
behind a wall of zinnias, cosmos, gladiolas
on a hill in the eye of clearing
completely surrounded by trees
sitting at a picnic table
with a black coffee, cigarette, and journal
inspired by the beauty of the morning to write
before your lover wakes up
to tend nine bean rows in Innisfree
though it's eleven miles
and a hundred years ago
outside Westport Ontario
where you can hear the scarlet carillons
of the wild columbine in the rain
tinkling like delicate wind chimes
and modestly agitated chandeliers
plucked by the rain like the plectra
of home-made harpsichords
on the moss-pated rocks
of their composer's skulls.
No mediocrities in nature
it's hard not to feel like Mozart
whatever you're listening to.
No air raid sirens, ambulances
squad cars or firetrucks
screaming like banshees
like furies and erinyes
to the scene of the tragic event.
No fractious braying of political jackasses
grinding their teeth in their sleep
like the mill wheels of the stony bread
the rich resent the poor
like loaves and fishes and mice in the silo
boat-tailed grackles and black-capped chickadees
salvaging what they can
from the dumpsters of leftover gardens.
No pathological racket of garbage cans
being tipped over in a street fight
to end all street fights
like knights in armour on their backs
in front a shield wall of local police
picking them up to hold them for ransom.
No drunks and druggies in the hallways
only bats velcroed to the burdock
blinded by the porch light
and star-nosed moles and snakes on the threshold
the cats leave like offerings
on the stairs of the temple of Bast.
So much easier to listen to the eerie wailing
of baby porcupines high in the basswood trees
than the shrieks of a family
being dragged out of their beds
by an occupation army
to see which of their daughters sisters mothers
will be raped like the Congo
whose childhood shall be pressed into murder
and who shall be bred out of existence.
Easy to buff the crack of the world with talcum powder
to spare you from getting diaper-rash of the mind
and side-track the ferocity of your insight into the horror
with lightning-rods and tuning forks
you can break with your pinky finger like wishbones
torn from the throats of children
who didn't have time enough on earth
to learn to read the names on their own gravestones
if they're lucky enough to have one.
Easy to have a time-share
in nature's indifference to death
when there no place left
on the surface of a raging planet
that isn't a dangerous vacation.
So much easier to tinker with echinacea
and smudge the bad spirits
out of the renovated farm house with sage
from home-grown herb gardens
than it is to inhale the reek of cordite
or the stench of organic decomposition
of the adolescent flesh of the festering corpse
found in a drainage ditch among the weeds
like a lily that smelled far worse than them
on the outskirts of Argentina
in the stadiums of Chile
in the Tiananmen Squares of China
in the mass hysteria of the bloodbanks of Syria
trying to assail a nest of dynastic vampires
with a silver bullet through the heart of the cloaked one
in the radical slums of Gaza
in the Warsaw ghettos of the West Bank
run by Israel searching children outside the gate
for smuggled vegetables from the Fertile Crescent
in the native reservations of the originals
who peopled Canada
like a charter of indigenous freedoms
without any concept of surveying their mother like real estate.
Outside the emergency exits and entrances of Arizona
where immigrants beaten to death
and dumped on the pavement to die
abandon all hope of ever entering there
and bullfrogs squatting on their sheriff's badge
croak about getting tough on the mosquitoes
by hand-cuffing them to the food chain for deportation.
Flies eggs in the goat's milk.
Spiders sucking the life out of the jewel
in the heart of the American dream catcher.
All that is hideous, grotesque, perverse,
genocidal, fratricidal, patricidal, matricidal, suicidal and worse
than acid splashed in the eyes of Afghani schoolgirls
learning to read through holes in the ozone
by flashlight under the veils of Isis.
Seek ye knowledge even as far as China.
Wheresoever ye turn is the face of God revealed
like the encaustic portrait of girl that came unglued
like a multilated candle on CNN
trying to shine a light on
nur wa nur
what's dark and brutal
about the alif ba ta tha gim
of an alphabet in the mouth of an oral tradition
with an alchemical regime of hashashim for muscle.
You know how many dolls they collected at Dachau?
You know how many soccer balls
have had their feet blown off by cluster bombs in Gaza?
You know how many weathervanes
have stiffened their resolve
to look the other way like iron roosters
with alarmist political agendas
and industrious military complexes
as corrupted as the weather
when the wind is blowing the wrong way
like bad spin from the chimneys of Auschwitz
and Sabra and Shatila lie in the direction of prayer
like the gunsight of a Palestinian sniper?
Is this God's ferocity
or the inconceivable atrocities of mad men
eaten alive by Herodian maggots
seeking the life of the first born of every nation
to preserve their myth of spontaneous generation.
Sweet to see the shadows of the autumn leaves
fossilized like bat wings on the sidewalk;
to notice how they turn
in the same succession of colours
from the outside in
as rainbows sunsets
and the emission spectra of nearby stars
busy on the nightshift making calcium and carbon.
Sweet to know this and to wonder at it
easy in the mystery
among the dragonflies and the blue hyacinth,
nailing bluebird boxes out of the reach of the barn cats
and egg-stealing raccoons
to play your part in it like a companionable spirit.
Asylum from the world.
Diplomatic immunity among the great blue herons
because you've stood there so long
without disturbing a fish
they think you're one of them.
The thoughts that rain their steady glow
Like stars on life's cold sea,
Which others know, or say they know --
They never shone for me.
Thoughts light, like gleams, my spirit's sky,
But they will not remain.
They light me once, they hurry by,
And never come again.