I close my eyes
And see him looming
Black and endless
Staring, staring in the night
His bony fingers
Softly scarring my face
Like a lover
Teased too long
He grows impatient
Tugging, tugging at my hair
Transforming raven tresses
Into lifeless white
A Coming winter
I feel his breath
Upon my cheek
His hungry kisses
Pecking, pecking at my lips
Taking little pieces
Till only brittle bones
He whispers to me
In my sleep
You will be mine
Soon, soon my sweet
And though I long to escape,
His bed of earth and worms
Awaits, and I alone
Rubber Of The Rosary
I am the rubber of the rosary,
said Sister Paul, my finger and
thumb move over the beads like
a humble worm, I utter prayers
like a hissing snake, my breath
rising in the air like a frightened
bird. The silence enfolds me like
my lover's arms, its peacefulness
kisses my ears like my lover's lips,
the touch of the thick silence my
lover's fingertips. His breath breathes
upon my neck, His requests utter
In my ears, His love echoes through
my being. The darkness embraces
me like a black cloth, my eyes see
shadows in nightly prayers, my sight
fails me with its tired eyes, the late
nights, the on knees prayers, the
going up and down the stairs to
and from the chilling chapel. I am
a denier of self, my self denial is
my weapon against the selfish I,
my way of keeping the ego in its
place, the surging wanter of wants
kept check, each fight for self denial
takes its toll, the selfish I wants its
revenge, seeks its way through my
daily walks, my day to day talks,
the moment of eating, drinking,
sleeping, the dreaming nights.
My lover comes at my least request,
His eyes see me in the darkness's
hold, His fingers find me and release
my bonds, His words echo through
the blackest night, His love warmer
than the sun's kiss, His nearness
closer than air to lungs, than stars
to sky. My Lover comes, my prayers
are heard, my soul is lifted up, my
finger and thumb push round the black
beads, He is there, noting each whispered
prayer, he lays me upon my bed, rests
me down, His holy lips healing my soul,
granting peace to my all too human head.
O! nothing earthly save the ray
(Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye,
As in those gardens where the day
Springs from the gems of Circassy-
O! nothing earthly save the thrill
Of melody in woodland rill-
Or (music of the passion-hearted)
Joy's voice so peacefully departed
That like the murmur in the shell,
Its echo dwelleth and will dwell-
Oh, nothing of the dross of ours-
Yet all the beauty- all the flowers
That list our Love, and deck our bowers-
Adorn yon world afar, afar-
The wandering star.
'Twas a sweet time for Nesace- for there
Her world lay lolling on the golden air,
Near four bright suns- a temporary rest-
An oasis in desert of the blest.
Away- away- 'mid seas of rays that roll
Empyrean splendor o'er th' unchained soul-
The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense)
Can struggle to its destin'd eminence,-
To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode
And late to ours, the favor'd one of God-
But, now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm,
She throws aside the sceptre- leaves the helm,
And, amid incense and high spiritual hymns,
Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs.
Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely Earth,
Whence sprang the 'Idea of Beauty' into birth,
(Falling in wreaths thro' many a startled star,
Like woman's hair 'mid pearls, until, afar,
It lit on hills Achaian, and there dwelt)
She looked into Infinity- and knelt.
Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled-
Fit emblems of the model of her world-
Seen but in beauty- not impeding sight
Of other beauty glittering thro' the light-
A wreath that twined each starry form around,
And all the opal'd air in color bound.
All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed
Of flowers: of lilies such as rear'd the head
On the fair Capo Deucato, and sprang
So eagerly around about to hang
Upon the flying footsteps of- deep pride-
Of her who lov'd a mortal- and so died.
The Sephalica, budding with young bees,
Upreared its purple stem around her knees:-
And gemmy flower, of Trebizond misnam'd-
Inmate of highest stars, where erst it sham'd
All other loveliness:- its honied dew
(The fabled nectar that the heathen knew)
Deliriously sweet, was dropp'd from Heaven,
And fell on gardens of the unforgiven
In Trebizond- and on a sunny flower
So like its own above that, to this hour,
It still remaineth, torturing the bee
With madness, and unwonted reverie:
In Heaven, and all its environs, the leaf
And blossom of the fairy plant in grief
Disconsolate linger- grief that hangs her head,
Repenting follies that full long have Red,
Heaving her white breast to the balmy air,
Like guilty beauty, chasten'd and more fair:
Nyctanthes too, as sacred as the light
She fears to perfume, perfuming the night:
And Clytia, pondering between many a sun,
While pettish tears adown her petals run:
And that aspiring flower that sprang on Earth,
And died, ere scarce exalted into birth,
Bursting its odorous heart in spirit to wing
Its way to Heaven, from garden of a king:
And Valisnerian lotus, thither flown'
From struggling with the waters of the Rhone:
And thy most lovely purple perfume, Zante!
Isola d'oro!- Fior di Levante!
And the Nelumbo bud that floats for ever
With Indian Cupid down the holy river-
Fair flowers, and fairy! to whose care is given
To bear the Goddess' song, in odors, up to Heaven:
'Spirit! that dwellest where,
In the deep sky,
The terrible and fair,
In beauty vie!
Beyond the line of blue-
The boundary of the star
Which turneth at the view
Of thy barrier and thy bar-
Of the barrier overgone
By the comets who were cast
From their pride and from their throne
To be drudges till the last-
To be carriers of fire
(The red fire of their heart)
With speed that may not tire
And with pain that shall not part-
Who livest- that we know-
In Eternity- we feel-
But the shadow of whose brow
What spirit shall reveal?
Tho' the beings whom thy Nesace,
Thy messenger hath known
Have dream'd for thy Infinity
A model of their own-
Thy will is done, O God!
The star hath ridden high
Thro' many a tempest, but she rode
Beneath thy burning eye;
And here, in thought, to thee-
In thought that can alone
Ascend thy empire and so be
A partner of thy throne-
By winged Fantasy,
My embassy is given,
Till secrecy shall knowledge be
In the environs of Heaven.'
She ceas'd- and buried then her burning cheek
Abash'd, amid the lilies there, to seek
A shelter from the fervor of His eye;
For the stars trembled at the Deity.
She stirr'd not- breath'd not- for a voice was there
How solemnly pervading the calm air!
A sound of silence on the startled ear
Which dreamy poets name 'the music of the sphere.'
Ours is a world of words: Quiet we call
'Silence'- which is the merest word of all.
All Nature speaks, and ev'n ideal things
Flap shadowy sounds from visionary wings-
But ah! not so when, thus, in realms on high
The eternal voice of God is passing by,
And the red winds are withering in the sky:-
'What tho 'in worlds which sightless cycles run,
Linked to a little system, and one sun-
Where all my love is folly and the crowd
Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud,
The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath-
(Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?)
What tho' in worlds which own a single sun
The sands of Time grow dimmer as they run,
Yet thine is my resplendency, so given
To bear my secrets thro' the upper Heaven!
Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly,
With all thy train, athwart the moony sky-
Apart- like fire-flies in Sicilian night,
And wing to other worlds another light!
Divulge the secrets of thy embassy
To the proud orbs that twinkle- and so be
To ev'ry heart a barrier and a ban
Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man!'
Up rose the maiden in the yellow night,
The single-mooned eve!- on Earth we plight
Our faith to one love- and one moon adore-
The birth-place of young Beauty had no more.
As sprang that yellow star from downy hours
Up rose the maiden from her shrine of flowers,
And bent o'er sheeny mountains and dim plain
Her way, but left not yet her Therasaean reign.
High on a mountain of enamell'd head-
Such as the drowsy shepherd on his bed
Of giant pasturage lying at his ease,
Raising his heavy eyelid, starts and sees
With many a mutter'd 'hope to be forgiven'
What time the moon is quadrated in Heaven-
Of rosy head that, towering far away
Into the sunlit ether, caught the ray
Of sunken suns at eve- at noon of night,
While the moon danc'd with the fair stranger light-
Uprear'd upon such height arose a pile
Of gorgeous columns on th' unburthen'd air,
Flashing from Parian marble that twin smile
Far down upon the wave that sparkled there,
And nursled the young mountain in its lair.
Of molten stars their pavement, such as fall
Thro' the ebon air, besilvering the pall
Of their own dissolution, while they die-
Adorning then the dwellings of the sky.
A dome, by linked light from Heaven let down,
Sat gently on these columns as a crown-
A window of one circular diamond, there,
Look'd out above into the purple air,
And rays from God shot down that meteor chain
And hallow'd all the beauty twice again,
Save, when, between th' empyrean and that ring,
Some eager spirit Flapp'd his dusky wing.
But on the pillars Seraph eyes have seen
The dimness of this world: that greyish green
That Nature loves the best Beauty's grave
Lurk'd in each cornice, round each architrave-
And every sculptur'd cherub thereabout
That from his marble dwelling peered out,
Seem'd earthly in the shadow of his niche-
Achaian statues in a world so rich!
Friezes from Tadmor and Persepolis-
From Balbec, and the stilly, clear abyss
Of beautiful Gomorrah! O, the wave
Is now upon thee- but too late to save!
Sound loves to revel in a summer night:
Witness the murmur of the grey twilight
That stole upon the ear, in Eyraco,
Of many a wild star-gazer long ago-
That stealeth ever on the ear of him
Who, musing, gazeth on the distance dim,
And sees the darkness coming as a cloud-
Is not its form- its voice- most palpable and loud?
But what is this?- it cometh, and it brings
A music with it- 'tis the rush of wings-
A pause- and then a sweeping, falling strain
And Nesace is in her halls again.
From the wild energy of wanton haste
Her cheeks were flushing, and her lips apart;
And zone that clung around her gentle waist
Had burst beneath the heaving of her heart.
Within the centre of that hall to breathe,
She paused and panted, Zanthe! all beneath,
The fairy light that kiss'd her golden hair
And long'd to rest, yet could but sparkle there.
Young flowers were whispering in melody
To happy flowers that night- and tree to tree;
Fountains were gushing music as they fell
In many a star-lit grove, or moon-lit dell;
Yet silence came upon material things-
Fair flowers, bright waterfalls and angel wings-
And sound alone that from the spirit sprang
Bore burthen to the charm the maiden sang:
''Neath the blue-bell or streamer-
Or tufted wild spray
That keeps, from the dreamer,
The moonbeam away-
Bright beings! that ponder,
With half closing eyes,
On the stars which your wonder
Hath drawn from the skies,
Till they glance thro' the shade, and
Come down to your brow
Like- eyes of the maiden
Who calls on you now-
Arise! from your dreaming
In violet bowers,
To duty beseeming
These star-litten hours-
And shake from your tresses
Encumber'd with dew
The breath of those kisses
That cumber them too-
(O! how, without you, Love!
Could angels be blest?)
Those kisses of true Love
That lull'd ye to rest!
Up!- shake from your wing
Each hindering thing:
The dew of the night-
It would weigh down your flight
And true love caresses-
O, leave them apart!
They are light on the tresses,
But lead on the heart.
My beautiful one!
Whose harshest idea
Will to melody run,
O! is it thy will
On the breezes to toss?
Or, capriciously still,
Like the lone Albatros,
Incumbent on night
(As she on the air)
To keep watch with delight
On the harmony there?
Thy image may be,
No magic shall sever
Thy music from thee.
Thou hast bound many eyes
In a dreamy sleep-
But the strains still arise
Which thy vigilance keep-
The sound of the rain,
Which leaps down to the flower-
And dances again
In the rhythm of the shower-
The murmur that springs
From the growing of grass
Are the music of things-
But are modell'd, alas!-
Away, then, my dearest,
Oh! hie thee away
To the springs that lie clearest
Beneath the moon-ray-
To lone lake that smiles,
In its dream of deep rest,
At the many star-isles
That enjewel its breast-
Where wild flowers, creeping,
Have mingled their shade,
On its margin is sleeping
Full many a maid-
Some have left the cool glade, and
Have slept with the bee-
Arouse them, my maiden,
On moorland and lea-
Go! breathe on their slumber,
All softly in ear,
Thy musical number
They slumbered to hear-
For what can awaken
An angel so soon,
Whose sleep hath been taken
Beneath the cold moon,
As the spell which no slumber
Of witchery may test,
The rhythmical number
Which lull'd him to rest?'
Spirits in wing, and angels to the view,
A thousand seraphs burst th' Empyrean thro',
Young dreams still hovering on their drowsy flight-
Seraphs in all but 'Knowledge,' the keen light
That fell, refracted, thro' thy bounds, afar,
O Death! from eye of God upon that star:
Sweet was that error- sweeter still that death-
Sweet was that error- even with us the breath
Of Science dims the mirror of our joy-
To them 'twere the Simoom, and would destroy-
For what (to them) availeth it to know
That Truth is Falsehood- or that Bliss is Woe?
Sweet was their death- with them to die was rife
With the last ecstasy of satiate life-
Beyond that death no immortality-
But sleep that pondereth and is not 'to be'!-
And there- oh! may my weary spirit dwell-
Apart from Heaven's Eternity- and yet how far from Hell!
What guilty spirit, in what shrubbery dim,
Heard not the stirring summons of that hymn?
But two: they fell: for Heaven no grace imparts
To those who hear not for their beating hearts.
A maiden-angel and her seraph-lover-
O! where (and ye may seek the wide skies over)
Was Love, the blind, near sober Duty known?
Unguided Love hath fallen- 'mid 'tears of perfect moan.'
He was a goodly spirit- he who fell:
A wanderer by moss-y-mantled well-
A gazer on the lights that shine above-
A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love:
What wonder? for each star is eye-like there,
And looks so sweetly down on Beauty's hair-
And they, and ev'ry mossy spring were holy
To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.
The night had found (to him a night of woe)
Upon a mountain crag, young Angelo-
Beetling it bends athwart the solemn sky,
And scowls on starry worlds that down beneath it lie.
Here sat he with his love- his dark eye bent
With eagle gaze along the firmament:
Now turn'd it upon her- but ever then
It trembled to the orb of EARTH again.
'Ianthe, dearest, see- how dim that ray!
How lovely 'tis to look so far away!
She seem'd not thus upon that autumn eve
I left her gorgeous halls- nor mourn'd to leave.
That eve- that eve- I should remember well-
The sun-ray dropp'd in Lemnos, with a spell
On th' arabesque carving of a gilded hall
Wherein I sate, and on the draperied wall-
And on my eyelids- O the heavy light!
How drowsily it weigh'd them into night!
On flowers, before, and mist, and love they ran
With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan:
But O that light!- I slumber'd- Death, the while,
Stole o'er my senses in that lovely isle
So softly that no single silken hair
Awoke that slept- or knew that he was there.
'The last spot of Earth's orb I trod upon
Was a proud temple call'd the Parthenon;
More beauty clung around her column'd wall
Than ev'n thy glowing bosom beats withal,
And when old Time my wing did disenthral
Thence sprang I- as the eagle from his tower,
And years I left behind me in an hour.
What time upon her airy bounds I hung,
One half the garden of her globe was flung
Unrolling as a chart unto my view-
Tenantless cities of the desert too!
Ianthe, beauty crowded on me then,
And half I wish'd to be again of men.'
'My Angelo! and why of them to be?
A brighter dwelling-place is here for thee-
And greener fields than in yon world above,
And woman's loveliness- and passionate love.'
'But, list, Ianthe! when the air so soft
Fail'd, as my pennon'd spirit leapt aloft,
Perhaps my brain grew dizzy- but the world
I left so late was into chaos hurl'd-
Sprang from her station, on the winds apart.
And roll'd, a flame, the fiery Heaven athwart.
Methought, my sweet one, then I ceased to soar
And fell- not swiftly as I rose before,
But with a downward, tremulous motion thro'
Light, brazen rays, this golden star unto!
Nor long the measure of my falling hours,
For nearest of all stars was thine to ours-
Dread star! that came, amid a night of mirth,
A red Daedalion on the timid Earth.'
'We came- and to thy Earth- but not to us
Be given our lady's bidding to discuss:
We came, my love; around, above, below,
Gay fire-fly of the night we come and go,
Nor ask a reason save the angel-nod
She grants to us, as granted by her God-
But, Angelo, than thine grey Time unfurl'd
Never his fairy wing O'er fairier world!
Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes
Alone could see the phantom in the skies,
When first Al Aaraaf knew her course to be
Headlong thitherward o'er the starry sea-
But when its glory swell'd upon the sky,
As glowing Beauty's bust beneath man's eye,
We paused before the heritage of men,
And thy star trembled- as doth Beauty then!'
Thus, in discourse, the lovers whiled away
The night that waned and waned and brought no day.
They fell: for Heaven to them no hope imparts
Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.
Book II - Part 04 - Absence Of Secondary Qualities
Now come, this wisdom by my sweet toil sought
Look thou perceive, lest haply thou shouldst guess
That the white objects shining to thine eyes
Are gendered of white atoms, or the black
Of a black seed; or yet believe that aught
That's steeped in any hue should take its dye
From bits of matter tinct with hue the same.
For matter's bodies own no hue the least-
Or like to objects or, again, unlike.
But, if percase it seem to thee that mind
Itself can dart no influence of its own
Into these bodies, wide thou wand'rest off.
For since the blind-born, who have ne'er surveyed
The light of sun, yet recognise by touch
Things that from birth had ne'er a hue for them,
'Tis thine to know that bodies can be brought
No less unto the ken of our minds too,
Though yet those bodies with no dye be smeared.
Again, ourselves whatever in the dark
We touch, the same we do not find to be
Tinctured with any colour.
Now that here
I win the argument, I next will teach
Now, every colour changes, none except,
Which the primordials ought nowise to do.
Since an immutable somewhat must remain,
Lest all things utterly be brought to naught.
For change of anything from out its bounds
Means instant death of that which was before.
Wherefore be mindful not to stain with colour
The seeds of things, lest things return for thee
All utterly to naught.
But now, if seeds
Receive no property of colour, and yet
Be still endowed with variable forms
From which all kinds of colours they beget
And vary (by reason that ever it matters much
With, what seeds, and in what positions joined,
And what the motions that they give and get),
Forthwith most easily thou mayst devise
Why what was black of hue an hour ago
Can of a sudden like the marble gleam,-
As ocean, when the high winds have upheaved
Its level plains, is changed to hoary waves
Of marble whiteness: for, thou mayst declare,
That, when the thing we often see as black
Is in its matter then commixed anew,
Some atoms rearranged, and some withdrawn,
And added some, 'tis seen forthwith to turn
Glowing and white. But if of azure seeds
Consist the level waters of the deep,
They could in nowise whiten: for however
Thou shakest azure seeds, the same can never
Pass into marble hue. But, if the seeds-
Which thus produce the ocean's one pure sheen-
Be now with one hue, now another dyed,
As oft from alien forms and divers shapes
A cube's produced all uniform in shape,
'Twould be but natural, even as in the cube
We see the forms to be dissimilar,
That thus we'd see in brightness of the deep
(Or in whatever one pure sheen thou wilt)
Colours diverse and all dissimilar.
Besides, the unlike shapes don't thwart the least
The whole in being externally a cube;
But differing hues of things do block and keep
The whole from being of one resultant hue.
Then, too, the reason which entices us
At times to attribute colours to the seeds
Falls quite to pieces, since white things are not
Create from white things, nor are black from black,
But evermore they are create from things
Of divers colours. Verily, the white
Will rise more readily, is sooner born
Out of no colour, than of black or aught
Which stands in hostile opposition thus.
Besides, since colours cannot be, sans light,
And the primordials come not forth to light,
'Tis thine to know they are not clothed with colour-
Truly, what kind of colour could there be
In the viewless dark? Nay, in the light itself
A colour changes, gleaming variedly,
When smote by vertical or slanting ray.
Thus in the sunlight shows the down of doves
That circles, garlanding, the nape and throat:
Now it is ruddy with a bright gold-bronze,
Now, by a strange sensation it becomes
Green-emerald blended with the coral-red.
The peacock's tail, filled with the copious light,
Changes its colours likewise, when it turns.
Wherefore, since by some blow of light begot,
Without such blow these colours can't become.
And since the pupil of the eye receives
Within itself one kind of blow, when said
To feel a white hue, then another kind,
When feeling a black or any other hue,
And since it matters nothing with what hue
The things thou touchest be perchance endowed,
But rather with what sort of shape equipped,
'Tis thine to know the atoms need not colour,
But render forth sensations, as of touch,
That vary with their varied forms.
Since special shapes have not a special colour,
And all formations of the primal germs
Can be of any sheen thou wilt, why, then,
Are not those objects which are of them made
Suffused, each kind with colours of every kind?
For then 'twere meet that ravens, as they fly,
Should dartle from white pinions a white sheen,
Or swans turn black from seed of black, or be
Of any single varied dye thou wilt.
Again, the more an object's rent to bits,
The more thou see its colour fade away
Little by little till 'tis quite extinct;
As happens when the gaudy linen's picked
Shred after shred away: the purple there,
Phoenician red, most brilliant of all dyes,
Is lost asunder, ravelled thread by thread;
Hence canst perceive the fragments die away
From out their colour, long ere they depart
Back to the old primordials of things.
And, last, since thou concedest not all bodies
Send out a voice or smell, it happens thus
That not to all thou givest sounds and smells.
So, too, since we behold not all with eyes,
'Tis thine to know some things there are as much
Orphaned of colour, as others without smell,
And reft of sound; and those the mind alert
No less can apprehend than it can mark
The things that lack some other qualities.
But think not haply that the primal bodies
Remain despoiled alone of colour: so,
Are they from warmth dissevered and from cold
And from hot exhalations; and they move,
Both sterile of sound and dry of juice; and throw
Not any odour from their proper bodies.
Just as, when undertaking to prepare
A liquid balm of myrrh and marjoram,
And flower of nard, which to our nostrils breathes
Odour of nectar, first of all behooves
Thou seek, as far as find thou may and can,
The inodorous olive-oil (which never sends
One whiff of scent to nostrils), that it may
The least debauch and ruin with sharp tang
The odorous essence with its body mixed
And in it seethed. And on the same account
The primal germs of things must not be thought
To furnish colour in begetting things,
Nor sound, since pow'rless they to send forth aught
From out themselves, nor any flavour, too,
Nor cold, nor exhalation hot or warm.
The rest; yet since these things are mortal all-
The pliant mortal, with a body soft;
The brittle mortal, with a crumbling frame;
The hollow with a porous-all must be
Disjoined from the primal elements,
If still we wish under the world to lay
Immortal ground-works, whereupon may rest
The sum of weal and safety, lest for thee
All things return to nothing utterly.
Now, too: whate'er we see possessing sense
Must yet confessedly be stablished all
From elements insensate. And those signs,
So clear to all and witnessed out of hand,
Do not refute this dictum nor oppose;
But rather themselves do lead us by the hand,
Compelling belief that living things are born
Of elements insensate, as I say.
Sooth, we may see from out the stinking dung
Live worms spring up, when, after soaking rains,
The drenched earth rots; and all things change the same:
Lo, change the rivers, the fronds, the gladsome pastures
Into the cattle, the cattle their nature change
Into our bodies, and from our body, oft
Grow strong the powers and bodies of wild beasts
And mighty-winged birds. Thus Nature changes
All foods to living frames, and procreates
From them the senses of live creatures all,
In manner about as she uncoils in flames
Dry logs of wood and turns them all to fire.
And seest not, therefore, how it matters much
After what order are set the primal germs,
And with what other germs they all are mixed,
And what the motions that they give and get?
But now, what is't that strikes thy sceptic mind,
Constraining thee to sundry arguments
Against belief that from insensate germs
The sensible is gendered?- Verily,
'Tis this: that liquids, earth, and wood, though mixed,
Are yet unable to gender vital sense.
And, therefore, 'twill be well in these affairs
This to remember: that I have not said
Senses are born, under conditions all,
From all things absolutely which create
Objects that feel; but much it matters here
Firstly, how small the seeds which thus compose
The feeling thing, then, with what shapes endowed,
And lastly what they in positions be,
In motions, in arrangements. Of which facts
Naught we perceive in logs of wood and clods;
And yet even these, when sodden by the rains,
Give birth to wormy grubs, because the bodies
Of matter, from their old arrangements stirred
By the new factor, then combine anew
In such a way as genders living things.
Next, they who deem that feeling objects can
From feeling objects be create, and these,
In turn, from others that are wont to feel
When soft they make them; for all sense is linked
With flesh, and thews, and veins- and such, we see,
Are fashioned soft and of a mortal frame.
Yet be't that these can last forever on:
They'll have the sense that's proper to a part,
Or else be judged to have a sense the same
As that within live creatures as a whole.
But of themselves those parts can never feel,
For all the sense in every member back
To something else refers- a severed hand,
Or any other member of our frame,
Itself alone cannot support sensation.
It thus remains they must resemble, then,
Live creatures as a whole, to have the power
Of feeling sensation concordant in each part
With the vital sense; and so they're bound to feel
The things we feel exactly as do we.
If such the case, how, then, can they be named
The primal germs of things, and how avoid
The highways of destruction?- since they be
Mere living things and living things be all
One and the same with mortal. Grant they could,
Yet by their meetings and their unions all,
Naught would result, indeed, besides a throng
And hurly-burly all of living things-
Precisely as men, and cattle, and wild beasts,
By mere conglomeration each with each
Can still beget not anything of new.
But if by chance they lose, inside a body,
Their own sense and another sense take on,
What, then, avails it to assign them that
Which is withdrawn thereafter? And besides,
To touch on proof that we pronounced before,
Just as we see the eggs of feathered fowls
To change to living chicks, and swarming worms
To bubble forth when from the soaking rains
The earth is sodden, sure, sensations all
Can out of non-sensations be begot.
But if one say that sense can so far rise
From non-sense by mutation, or because
Brought forth as by a certain sort of birth,
'Twill serve to render plain to him and prove
There is no birth, unless there be before
Some formed union of the elements,
Nor any change, unless they be unite.
In first place, senses can't in body be
Before its living nature's been begot,-
Since all its stuff, in faith, is held dispersed
About through rivers, air, and earth, and all
That is from earth created, nor has met
In combination, and, in proper mode,
Conjoined into those vital motions which
Kindle the all-perceiving senses- they
That keep and guard each living thing soever.
Again, a blow beyond its nature's strength
Shatters forthwith each living thing soe'er,
And on it goes confounding all the sense
Of body and mind. For of the primal germs
Are loosed their old arrangements, and, throughout,
The vital motions blocked,- until the stuff,
Shaken profoundly through the frame entire,
Undoes the vital knots of soul from body
And throws that soul, to outward wide-dispersed,
Through all the pores. For what may we surmise
A blow inflicted can achieve besides
Shaking asunder and loosening all apart?
It happens also, when less sharp the blow,
The vital motions which are left are wont
Oft to win out- win out, and stop and still
The uncouth tumults gendered by the blow,
And call each part to its own courses back,
And shake away the motion of death which now
Begins its own dominion in the body,
And kindle anew the senses almost gone.
For by what other means could they the more
Collect their powers of thought and turn again
From very doorways of destruction
Back unto life, rather than pass whereto
They be already well-nigh sped and so
Pass quite away?
Again, since pain is there
Where bodies of matter, by some force stirred up,
Through vitals and through joints, within their seats
Quiver and quake inside, but soft delight,
When they remove unto their place again:
'Tis thine to know the primal germs can be
Assaulted by no pain, nor from themselves
Take no delight; because indeed they are
Not made of any bodies of first things,
Under whose strange new motions they might ache
Or pluck the fruit of any dear new sweet.
And so they must be furnished with no sense.
Once more, if thus, that every living thing
May have sensation, needful 'tis to assign
Sense also to its elements, what then
Of those fixed elements from which mankind
Hath been, by their peculiar virtue, formed?
Of verity, they'll laugh aloud, like men,
Shaken asunder by a spasm of mirth,
Or sprinkle with dewy tear-drops cheeks and chins,
And have the cunning hardihood to say
Much on the composition of the world,
And in their turn inquire what elements
They have themselves,- since, thus the same in kind
As a whole mortal creature, even they
Must also be from other elements,
And then those others from others evermore-
So that thou darest nowhere make a stop.
Oho, I'll follow thee until thou grant
The seed (which here thou say'st speaks, laughs, and thinks)
Is yet derived out of other seeds
Which in their turn are doing just the same.
But if we see what raving nonsense this,
And that a man may laugh, though not, forsooth,
Compounded out of laughing elements,
And think and utter reason with learn'd speech,
Though not himself compounded, for a fact,
Of sapient seeds and eloquent, why, then,
Cannot those things which we perceive to have
Their own sensation be composed as well
Of intermixed seeds quite void of sense?
My Heart Is Yours But It Is Destined To Wander Far
my heart is yours, all yours,
it beats to the beating of your heart
feeling nothing but you
all these years
it has the hands of your hands
it sees what your eyes see
it was born for you
it will stay for you and die for you
only if you ask
but you didn't
you did not entice it with the breath of your heart
and so slighted
my heart shall wander faraway gasping for breath
wanting to die
do not really mind
you think it is nothing there inside me
like it is a tumor
malignant, it is dying and you see it
wandering away gasping for breath
while you look
and find someone else among the stars....
my heart is yours but it is destined to wander far
my heart is yours, all yours,
it beats to the beating of your heart
feeling nothing but you
all these years
it has the hands of your hands
it sees what your eyes see
it was born for you
it will stay for you and die for you
only if you ask
but you didn't
you did not entice it with the breath of your heart
and so slighted
my heart shall wander faraway gasping for breath
wanting to die
do not really mind
you think it is nothing there inside me
like it is a tumor
malignant, it is dying and you see it
wandering away gasping for breath
while you look
and find someone else among the stars....
Piety: Or, The Vision
'Twas when the night in silent sable fled,
When chearful morning sprung with rising red,
When dreams and vapours leave to crowd the brain,
And best the Vision draws its heav'nly scene;
'Twas then, as slumb'ring on my couch I lay,
A sudden splendor seem'd to kindle day,
A breeze came breathing in a sweet perfume,
Blown from eternal gardens, fill'd the room;
And in a void of blue, that clouds invest,
Appear'd a daughter of the realms of rest;
Her head a ring of golden glory wore,
Her honour'd hand the sacred volume bore,
Her rayment glitt'ring seem'd a silver white,
And all her sweet companions sons of light.
Strait as I gaz'd my fear and wonder grew,
Fear barr'd my voice, and wonder fix'd my view,
When lo! a cherub of the shining crowd
That sail'd as guardians in her azure cloud,
Fann'd the soft air and downward seem'd to glide,
And to my lips a living coal applied;
Then while the warmth on all my pulses ran,
Diffusing comfort, thus the maid began.
‘Where glorious mansions are prepar'd above,
‘The seats of Music, and the seats of Love,
‘Thence I descend, and piety my name,
‘To warm thy bosom with celestial flame,
‘To teach thee praises mix'd with humble pray'rs,
‘And tune thy soul to sing seraphic airs;
‘Be thou my bard.’ A vial here she caught,
(An angel's hand the chrystal vial brought)
And as with awful sound the word was said,
She pour'd a sacred unction on my head,
Then thus proceeded. ‘Be thy muse thy zeal,
‘Dare to be good, and all my joys reveal;
‘While other pencils flatt'ring forms create,
‘And paint the gawdy plumes that deck the great;
‘While other pens exalt the vain delight,
‘Whose wasteful revel wakes the depth of night;
‘Or others softly sing in idle lines,
‘How Damon courts, or Amaryllis shines;
‘More wisely thou select a theme divine;
‘'Tis Fame's their recompence, 'tis Heav'n is thine.
‘Despise the fervours of unhallow'd fire,
‘Where wine, or passion, or applause inspire,
‘Low restless life, and ravings born of earth,
‘Whose meaner subjects speak their humble birth;
‘Like working seas, that when loud Winters blow,
‘Not made for rising, only rage below:
‘Mine is a great, and yet a lasting heat,
‘More lasting still, as more intensely great,
‘Produc'd where pray'r, and praise, and pleasure breathe,
‘And ever mounting whence it shot beneath.
‘Unpaint the Love that hov'ring over beds,
‘From glitt'ring pinions guilty pleasure sheds,
‘Restore the colour to the golden mines
‘With which behind the feather'd idol shines;
‘To flow'ring greens give back their native care,
‘The rose and lily never his to wear;
‘To sweet Arabia send the balmy breath,
‘Strip the fair flesh, and call the phantom Death;
‘His bow be sabled o'er, his shafts the same,
‘And fork and point them with eternal flame.
‘But urge thy pow'rs, thine utmost voice advance,
‘Make the loud strings against thy fingers dance,
‘'Tis Love that angels praise, and men adore,
‘'Tis Love Divine that asks it all and more:
‘Fling back the gates of ever-blazing day,
‘Pour floods of liquid light to gild the way,
‘And all in glory wrapt, thro' paths untrod,
‘Pursue the great unseen descent of GOD!
‘Hail the meek virgin, bid the child appear,
‘The child is GOD! and call him Jesus here;
‘He comes; but where to rest? a manger's nigh,
‘Make the great being in a manger lye;
‘Fill the wide skies with angels on the wing,
‘Make thousands gaze, and make ten thousand sing:
‘Let men afflict him, men he came to save,
‘And still afflict him, 'till he reach the grave;
‘Make him resign'd, his loads of sorrow meet,
‘And me, like Mary, weep beneath his feet;
‘I'll bathe my tresses there, my pray'rs rehearse,
‘And glide in flames of love along thy verse.
‘Hah! while I speak, I feel my bosom swell,
‘My raptures smother what I long to tell!
‘'Tis GOD! a present GOD! thro' cleaving air
‘I see the throne! I see the Jesus there!
‘Plac'd on the right; he shows the wounds he bore!
‘(My fervours oft have won him thus before)
‘How pleas'd he looks! my words have reach'd his ear,
‘He bids the gates unbar, and calls me near.’
She ceas'd. The cloud on which she seem'd to tread,
Its curls unfolded, and around her spread;
Bright angels waft their wings to raise the cloud,
And sweep their iv'ry lutes, and sing aloud;
The scene moves off, while all its ambient sky
Is tun'd to wond'rous music, as they fly;
And soft the swelling sounds of music grow,
And faint their softness, till they fail below.
My downy sleep the warmth of Phoebus broke,
And while my thoughts were settling, thus I spoke;
Thou beauteous Vision on the soul imprest,
When most my reason wou'd appear to rest!
'Twas sure with pencils dipt in various lights
Some curious angel limn'd thy sacred sights;
From blazing suns his radiant gold he drew,
White moons the silver gave, and air the blue.
I'll mount the roving wind's expanded wing,
And seek the sacred hill, and light to sing;
('Tis known in Jewry well) I'll make my lays,
Obedient to thy summons, sound with praise.
But still I fear, unwarm'd with holy flame,
I take for truth the flatt'ries of a dream;
And barely wish the wond'rous gift I boast,
And faintly practise what deserves it most.
'Indulgent lord! whose gracious love displays
Joys in the light, and fills the dark with ease;
Be this, to bless my days, no dream of bliss,
Or be, to bless my nights, my dreams like this.
Somethings On The Move
She wore a black tiara
Rare gems upon her fingers
And she came from distant waters
Where northern lights explode
To celebrate the dawning
Of the new wastes of winter
Gathering royal momentum
On the icy road.
With chill mists swirling
Like petticoats in motion
Sighted on horizons
For ten thousand years
The lady of the ice sounds
A deathly distant rumble
To titanic-breaking children lost
In melting crystal tears.
Capturing black pieces
In a glass-fronted museum
The white queen rolls
On the chessboard of the dawn
Squeezing through the valleys
Pausing briefly in the corries
The ice-mother mates
And a new age is born.
Driving all before her
Her cold creaking mass
Follows reindeer down.
Thin spreading fingers seek
To embrace the sill-warm bundles
That huddle on the doorsteps
Of a white london town.
Oh, sunshine --- take me now away from here
Im a needle on a spiral in a groove.
And the turntable spins
As the last waltz begins
And the weather-man says
Somethings on the move.
Soon I Will Fly
I'm trying to break out of this cage-
To eviscerate from myself the pain so deeply embedded.
They cannot see this rogue part of me
That is now just a kernel of my being.
Soon they will see for themselves
When l let myself soar
To those purple heights:
Up to where no frame may be placed upon me.
I cannot stop it; even now I feel it implode within me,
The urgency to let this song of my freedom,
So sweet and melodic,
Burst free and fly as a pigeon
Over the crease of my innocence.
Innocence that is now rent, lying in shreds
Beneath the shade of my guilt.
The Unknown Eros. Book I.
Saint Valentine’s Day
Well dost thou, Love, thy solemn Feast to hold
In vestal February;
Not rather choosing out some rosy day
From the rich coronet of the coming May,
When all things meet to marry!
O, quick, prævernal Power
That signall'st punctual through the sleepy mould
The Snowdrop's time to flower,
Fair as the rash oath of virginity
Which is first-love's first cry;
O, Baby Spring,
That flutter'st sudden 'neath the breast of Earth
A month before the birth;
Whence is the peaceful poignancy,
The joy contrite,
Sadder than sorrow, sweeter than delight,
That burthens now the breath of everything,
Though each one sighs as if to each alone
The cherish'd pang were known?
At dusk of dawn, on his dark spray apart,
With it the Blackbird breaks the young Day's heart;
In evening's hush
About it talks the heavenly-minded Thrush;
The hill with like remorse
Smiles to the Sun's smile in his westering course;
The fisher's drooping skiff
In yonder sheltering bay;
The choughs that call about the shining cliff;
The children, noisy in the setting ray;
Own the sweet season, each thing as it may;
Thoughts of strange kindness and forgotten peace
In me increase;
And tears arise
Within my happy, happy Mistress' eyes,
And, lo, her lips, averted from my kiss,
Ask from Love's bounty, ah, much more than bliss!
Is't the sequester'd and exceeding sweet
Of dear Desire electing his defeat?
Is't the waked Earth now to yon purpling cope
Uttering first-love's first cry,
Vainly renouncing, with a Seraph's sigh,
Love's natural hope?
Fair-meaning Earth, foredoom'd to perjury!
Behold, all amorous May,
With roses heap'd upon her laughing brows,
Avoids thee of thy vows!
Were it for thee, with her warm bosom near,
To abide the sharpness of the Seraph's sphere?
Forget thy foolish words;
Go to her summons gay,
Thy heart with dead, wing'd Innocencies fill'd,
Ev'n as a nest with birds
After the old ones by the hawk are kill'd.
Well dost thou, Love, to celebrate
The noon of thy soft ecstasy,
Or e'er it be too late,
Or e'er the Snowdrop die!
Wind And Wave
The wedded light and heat,
Winnowing the witless space,
Without a let,
What are they till they beat
Against the sleepy sod, and there beget
Perchance the violet!
Is the One found,
Amongst a wilderness of as happy grace,
To make Heaven's bound;
So that in Her
All which it hath of sensitively good
Is sought and understood
After the narrow mode the mighty Heavens prefer?
She, as a little breeze
Following still Night,
Ripples the spirit's cold, deep seas
But, in a while,
The immeasurable smile
Is broke by fresher airs to flashes blent
With darkling discontent;
And all the subtle zephyr hurries gay,
And all the heaving ocean heaves one way,
T'ward the void sky-line and an unguess'd weal;
Until the vanward billows feel
The agitating shallows, and divine the goal,
And to foam roll,
And spread and stray
And traverse wildly, like delighted hands,
The fair and fleckless sands;
And so the whole
Unfathomable and immense
Triumphing tide comes at the last to reach
And burst in wind-kiss'd splendours on the deaf'ning beach,
Where forms of children in first innocence
Laugh and fling pebbles on the rainbow'd crest
Of its untired unrest.
I, singularly moved
To love the lovely that are not beloved,
Of all the Seasons, most
Love Winter, and to trace
The sense of the Trophonian pallor on her face.
It is not death, but plenitude of peace;
And the dim cloud that does the world enfold
Hath less the characters of dark and cold
Than warmth and light asleep,
And correspondent breathing seems to keep
With the infant harvest, breathing soft below
Its eider coverlet of snow.
Nor is in field or garden anything
But, duly look'd into, contains serene
The substance of things hoped for, in the Spring,
And evidence of Summer not yet seen.
On every chance-mild day
That visits the moist shaw,
The honeysuckle, 'sdaining to be crost
In urgence of sweet life by sleet or frost,
'Voids the time's law
With still increase
Of leaflet new, and little, wandering spray;
Often, in sheltering brakes,
As one from rest disturb'd in the first hour,
Primrose or violet bewilder'd wakes,
And deems 'tis time to flower;
Though not a whisper of her voice he hear,
The buried bulb does know
The signals of the year,
And hails far Summer with his lifted spear.
The gorse-field dark, by sudden, gold caprice,
Turns, here and there, into a Jason's fleece;
Lilies, that soon in Autumn slipp'd their gowns of green,
And vanish'd into earth,
And came again, ere Autumn died, to birth,
Stand full-array'd, amidst the wavering shower,
And perfect for the Summer, less the flower;
In nook of pale or crevice of crude bark,
Thou canst not miss,
If close thou spy, to mark
The ghostly chrysalis,
That, if thou touch it, stirs in its dream dark;
And the flush'd Robin, in the evenings hoar,
Does of Love's Day, as if he saw it, sing;
But sweeter yet than dream or song of Summer or Spring
Are Winter's sometime smiles, that seem to well
From infancy ineffable;
Her wandering, languorous gaze,
So unfamiliar, so without amaze,
On the elemental, chill adversity,
The uncomprehended rudeness; and her sigh
And solemn, gathering tear,
And look of exile from some great repose, the sphere
Of ether, moved by ether only, or
By something still more tranquil.
Of infinite Heaven the rays,
Piercing some eyelet in our cavern black,
Ended their viewless track
On thee to smite
Solely, as on a diamond stalactite,
And in mid-darkness lit a rainbow's blaze,
Wherein the absolute Reason, Power, and Love,
That erst could move
Mainly in me but toil and weariness,
Renounced their deadening might,
Renounced their undistinguishable stress
Of withering white,
And did with gladdest hues my spirit caress,
Nothing of Heaven in thee showing infinite,
Save the delight.
The Day After To-Morrow
Perchance she droops within the hollow gulf
Which the great wave of coming pleasure draws,
Not guessing the glad cause!
Ye Clouds that on your endless journey go,
Ye Winds that westward flow,
Thou heaving Sea
That heav'st 'twixt her and me,
Tell her I come;
Then only sigh your pleasure, and be dumb;
For the sweet secret of our either self
Tell her I come,
And let her heart be still'd.
One day's controlled hope, and then one more,
And on the third our lives shall be fulfill'd!
Yet all has been before:
Palm placed in palm, twin smiles, and words astray.
What other should we say?
But shall I not, with ne'er a sign, perceive,
Whilst her sweet hands I hold,
The myriad threads and meshes manifold
Which Love shall round her weave:
The pulse in that vein making alien pause
And varying beats from this;
Down each long finger felt, a differing strand
Of silvery welcome bland;
And in her breezy palm
And silken wrist,
Beneath the touch of my like numerous bliss
A diverse and distinguishable calm?
What should we say!
It all has been before;
And yet our lives shall now be first fulfill'd,
And into their summ'd sweetness fall distill'd
One sweet drop more;
One sweet drop more, in absolute increase
Of unrelapsing peace.
O, heaving Sea,
That heav'st as if for bliss of her and me,
And separatest not dear heart from heart,
Though each 'gainst other beats too far apart,
For yet awhile
Let it not seem that I behold her smile.
O, weary Love, O, folded to her breast,
Love in each moment years and years of rest,
Be calm, as being not.
Ye oceans of intolerable delight,
The blazing photosphere of central Night,
Be ye forgot.
Terror, thou swarthy Groom of Bride-bliss coy,
Let me not see thee toy.
O, Death, too tardy with thy hope intense
Of kisses close beyond conceit of sense;
O, Life, too liberal, while to take her hand
Is more of hope than heart can understand;
Perturb my golden patience not with joy,
Nor, through a wish, profane
The peace that should pertain
To him who does by her attraction move.
Has all not been before?
One day's controlled hope, and one again,
And then the third, and ye shall have the rein,
O Life, Death, Terror, Love!
But soon let your unrestful rapture cease,
Ye flaming Ethers thin,
Condensing till the abiding sweetness win
One sweet drop more;
One sweet drop more in the measureless increase
Of honied peace.
Darling, with hearts conjoin'd in such a peace
That Hope, so not to cease,
Must still gaze back,
And count, along our love's most happy track,
The landmarks of like inconceiv'd increase,
Promise me this:
If thou alone should'st win
God's perfect bliss,
And I, beguiled by gracious-seeming sin,
Say, loving too much thee,
Love's last goal miss,
And any vows may then have memory,
Never, by grief for what I bear or lack,
To mar thy joyance of heav'n's jubilee.
Promise me this;
For else I should be hurl'd,
Beyond just doom
And by thy deed, to Death's interior gloom,
From the mild borders of the banish'd world
Wherein they dwell
Who builded not unalterable fate
On pride, fraud, envy, cruel lust, or hate;
Yet loved too laxly sweetness and heart's ease,
And strove the creature more than God to please.
For such as these
Loss without measure, sadness without end!
Yet not for this do thou disheaven'd be
With thinking upon me.
Though black, when scann'd from heaven's surpassing bright,
This might mean light,
Foil'd with the dim days of mortality.
For God is everywhere.
Go down to deepest Hell, and He is there,
And, as a true but quite estranged Friend,
He works, 'gainst gnashing teeth of devilish ire,
With love deep hidden lest it be blasphemed,
If possible, to blend
Ease with the pangs of its inveterate fire;
Yea, in the worst
And from His Face most wilfully accurst
Of souls in vain redeem'd,
He does with potions of oblivion kill
Remorse of the lost Love that helps them still.
Apart from these,
Near the sky-borders of that banish'd world,
Wander pale spirits among willow'd leas,
Lost beyond measure, sadden'd without end,
But since, while erring most, retaining yet
Some ineffectual fervour of regret,
Retaining still such weal
As spurned Lovers feel,
Preferring far to all the world's delight
Their loss so infinite,
Or Poets, when they mark
In the clouds dun
A loitering flush of the long sunken sun,
And turn away with tears into the dark.
Know, Dear, these are not mine
But Wisdom's words, confirmed by divine
Doctors and Saints, though fitly seldom heard
Save in their own prepense-occulted word,
Lest fools be fool'd the further by false hope,
And wrest sweet knowledge to their own decline;
And (to approve I speak within my scope)
The Mistress of that dateless exile gray
Is named in surpliced Schools Tristitia.
But, O, my Darling, look in thy heart and see
How unto me,
Secured of my prime care, thy happy state,
In the most unclean cell
Of sordid Hell,
And worried by the most ingenious hate,
It never could be anything but well,
Nor from my soul, full of thy sanctity,
Such pleasure die
As the poor harlot's, in whose body stirs
The innocent life that is and is not hers:
Unless, alas, this fount of my relief
By thy unheavenly grief
So, with a consecrating kiss
And hearts made one in past all previous peace,
And on one hope reposed,
Promise me this!
There, where the sun shines first
Against our room,
She train'd the gold Azalea, whose perfume
She, Spring-like, from her breathing grace dispersed.
Last night the delicate crests of saffron bloom,
For this their dainty likeness watch'd and nurst,
Were just at point to burst.
At dawn I dream'd, O God, that she was dead,
And groan'd aloud upon my wretched bed,
And waked, ah, God, and did not waken her,
But lay, with eyes still closed,
Perfectly bless'd in the delicious sphere
By which I knew so well that she was near,
My heart to speechless thankfulness composed.
Till 'gan to stir
A dizzy somewhat in my troubled head—
It was the azalea's breath, and she was dead!
The warm night had the lingering buds disclosed,
And I had fall'n asleep with to my breast
A chance-found letter press'd
In which she said,
‘So, till to-morrow eve, my Own, adieu!
Parting's well-paid with soon again to meet,
Soon in your arms to feel so small and sweet,
Sweet to myself that am so sweet to you!’
It was not like your great and gracious ways!
Do you, that have nought other to lament,
Never, my Love, repent
Of how, that July afternoon,
With sudden, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten'd eye,
Upon your journey of so many days,
Without a single kiss, or a good-bye?
I knew, indeed, that you were parting soon;
And so we sate, within the low sun's rays,
You whispering to me, for your voice was weak,
Your harrowing praise.
Well, it was well,
To hear you such things speak,
And I could tell
What made your eyes a growing gloom of love,
As a warm South-wind sombres a March grove.
And it was like your great and gracious ways
To turn your talk on daily things, my Dear,
Lifting the luminous, pathetic lash
To let the laughter flash,
Whilst I drew near,
Because you spoke so low that I could scarcely hear.
But all at once to leave me at the last,
More at the wonder than the loss aghast,
With huddled, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten'd eye,
And go your journey of all days
With not one kiss, or a good-bye,
And the only loveless look the look with which you pass'd:
'Twas all unlike your great and gracious ways.
Is this the portent of the day nigh past,
And of a restless grave
O'er which the eternal sadness gathers fast;
Or but the heaped wave
Of some chance, wandering tide,
Such as that world of awe
Whose circuit, listening to a foreign law,
Conjunctures ours at unguess'd dates and wide,
Does in the Spirit's tremulous ocean draw,
To pass unfateful on, and so subside?
Thee, whom ev'n more than Heaven loved I have,
And yet have not been true
Even to thee,
I, dreaming, night by night, seek now to see,
And, in a mortal sorrow, still pursue
Thro' sordid streets and lanes
And houses brown and bare
And many a haggard stair
Ochrous with ancient stains,
And infamous doors, opening on hapless rooms,
In whose unhaunted glooms
Dead pauper generations, witless of the sun,
Their course have run;
And ofttimes my pursuit
Is check'd of its dear fruit
By things brimful of hate, my kith and kin,
Furious that I should keep
Their forfeit power to weep,
And mock, with living fear, their mournful malice thin.
But ever, at the last, my way I win
To where, with perfectly sad patience, nurst
By sorry comfort of assured worst,
Ingrain'd in fretted cheek and lips that pine,
On pallet poor
Thou lyest, stricken sick,
Beyond love's cure,
By all the world's neglect, but chiefly mine.
Then sweetness, sweeter than my tongue can tell,
Does in my bosom well,
And tears come free and quick
And more and more abound
For piteous passion keen at having found,
After exceeding ill, a little good;
A little good
Which, for the while,
Fleets with the current sorrow of the blood,
Though no good here has heart enough to smile.
My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
I struck him, and dismiss'd
With hard words and unkiss'd,
His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray'd
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood,
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
‘I will be sorry for their childishness.’
The stony rock of death's insensibility
Well'd yet awhile with honey of thy love
And then was dry;
Nor could thy picture, nor thine empty glove,
Nor all thy kind, long letters, nor the band
Which really spann'd
Thy body chaste and warm,
Upon the stony rock their wearied charm.
At last, then, thou wast dead.
Yet would I not despair,
But wrought my daily task, and daily said
Many and many a fond, unfeeling prayer,
To keep my vows of faith to thee from harm.
‘For 'tis,’ I said, ‘all one,
The wilful faith, which has no joy or pain,
As if 'twere none.’
Then look'd I miserably round
If aught of duteous love were left undone,
And nothing found.
But, kneeling in a Church, one Easter-Day,
It came to me to say:
‘Though there is no intelligible rest,
In Earth or Heaven,
For me, but on her breast,
I yield her up, again to have her given,
Or not, as, Lord, Thou wilt, and that for aye.’
And the same night, in slumber lying,
I, who had dream'd of thee as sad and sick and dying,
And only so, nightly for all one year,
Did thee, my own most Dear,
In gay, celestial beauty nothing coy,
And felt thy soft caress
With heretofore unknown reality of joy.
But, in our mortal air,
None thrives for long upon the happiest dream,
And fresh despair
Bade me seek round afresh for some extreme
Of unconceiv'd, interior sacrifice
Whereof the smoke might rise
To God, and 'mind Him that one pray'd below.
In agony, I cried:
‘My Lord, if Thy strange will be this,
That I should crucify my heart,
Because my love has also been my pride,
I do submit, if I saw how, to bliss
Wherein She has no part.’
And I was heard,
And taken at my own remorseless word.
O, my most Dear,
Was't treason, as I fear?
'Twere that, and worse, to plead thy veiled mind,
Kissing thy babes, and murmuring in mine ear,
‘Thou canst not be
Faithful to God, and faithless unto me!’
Ah, prophet kind!
I heard, all dumb and blind
With tears of protest; and I cannot see
But faith was broken. Yet, as I have said,
My heart was dead,
Dead of devotion and tired memory,
When a strange grace of thee
In a fair stranger, as I take it, bred
To her some tender heed,
Of purpose therewith blent,
And pure of faith, I think, to thee; yet such
That the pale reflex of an alien love,
So vaguely, sadly shown,
Did her heart touch
All that, till then, had woo'd her for its own.
And so the fear, which is love's chilly dawn,
Flush'd faintly upon lids that droop'd like thine,
And made me weak,
By thy delusive likeness doubly drawn,
And Nature's long suspended breath of flame
Persuading soft, and whispering Duty's name,
Awhile to smile and speak
With this thy Sister sweet, and therefore mine;
Thy Sister sweet,
Who bade the wheels to stir
Of sensitive delight in the poor brain,
Dead of devotion and tired memory,
So that I lived again,
And, strange to aver,
With no relapse into the void inane,
But (treason was't?) for thee and also her.
Magna Est Veritas
Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world's course will not fail:
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.
In the year of the great crime,
When the false English Nobles and their Jew,
By God demented, slew
The Trust they stood twice pledged to keep from wrong,
One said, Take up thy Song,
That breathes the mild and almost mythic time
Of England's prime!
But I, Ah, me,
The freedom of the few
That, in our free Land, were indeed the free,
Can song renew?
Ill singing 'tis with blotting prison-bars,
How high soe'er, betwixt us and the stars;
Ill singing 'tis when there are none to hear;
And days are near
When England shall forget
The fading glow which, for a little while,
Illumes her yet,
The lovely smile
That grows so faint and wan,
Her people shouting in her dying ear,
Are not two daws worth two of any swan!
Ye outlaw'd Best, who yet are bright
With the sunken light,
Whose common style
Is Virtue at her gracious ease,
The flower of olden sanctities,
Ye haply trust, by love's benignant guile,
To lure the dark and selfish brood
To their own hated good;
Ye haply dream
Your lives shall still their charmful sway sustain,
Unstifled by the fever'd steam
That rises from the plain.
Know, 'twas the force of function high,
In corporate exercise, and public awe
Of Nature's, Heaven's, and England's Law
That Best, though mix'd with Bad, should reign,
Which kept you in your sky!
But, when the sordid Trader caught
The loose-held sceptre from your hands distraught,
And soon, to the Mechanic vain,
Sold the proud toy for nought,
Your charm was broke, your task was sped,
Your beauty, with your honour, dead,
And though you still are dreaming sweet
Of being even now not less
Than Gods and Goddesses, ye shall not long so cheat
Your hearts of their due heaviness.
Go, get you for your evil watching shriven!
Leave to your lawful Master's itching hands
Your unking'd lands,
But keep, at least, the dignity
Of deigning not, for his smooth use, to be,
Voteless, the voted delegates
Of his strange interests, loves and hates.
In sackcloth, or in private strife
With private ill, ye may please Heaven,
And soothe the coming pangs of sinking life;
And prayer perchance may win
A term to God's indignant mood
And the orgies of the multitude,
Which now begin;
But do not hope to wave the silken rag
Of your unsanction'd flag,
And so to guide
The great ship, helmless on the swelling tide
Of that presumptuous Sea,
Unlit by sun or moon, yet inly bright
With lights innumerable that give no light,
Flames of corrupted will and scorn of right,
Rejoicing to be free.
And, now, because the dark comes on apace
When none can work for fear,
And Liberty in every Land lies slain,
And the two Tyrannies unchallenged reign,
And heavy prophecies, suspended long
At supplication of the righteous few,
And so discredited, to fulfilment throng,
Restrain'd no more by faithful prayer or tear,
And the dread baptism of blood seems near
That brings to the humbled Earth the Time of Grace,
Breathless be song,
And let Christ's own look through
The darkness, suddenly increased,
To the gray secret lingering in the East.
‘If I Were Dead’
‘If I were dead, you'd sometimes say, Poor Child!’
The dear lips quiver'd as they spake,
And the tears brake
From eyes which, not to grieve me, brightly smiled.
Poor Child, poor Child!
I seem to hear your laugh, your talk, your song.
It is not true that Love will do no wrong.
And did you think, when you so cried and smiled,
How I, in lonely nights, should lie awake,
And of those words your full avengers make?
Poor Child, poor Child!
And now, unless it be
That sweet amends thrice told are come to thee,
O God, have Thou no mercy upon me!
O England, how hast thou forgot,
In dullard care for undisturb'd increase
Of gold, which profits not,
The gain which once thou knew'st was for thy peace!
Honour is peace, the peace which does accord
Alone with God's glad word:
‘My peace I send you, and I send a sword.’
O England, how hast thou forgot,
How fear'st the things which make for joy, not fear,
Hard days? 'Tis what the pamper'd seek to buy
With their most willing gold in weary lands.
Loss and pain risk'd? What sport but understands
These for incitements! Suddenly to die,
With conscience a blurr'd scroll?
The sunshine dreaming upon Salmon's height
Is not so sweet and white
As the most heretofore sin-spotted soul
That darts to its delight
Straight from the absolution of a faithful fight.
Myriads of homes unloosen'd of home's bond,
And fill'd with helpless babes and harmless women fond?
Let those whose pleasant chance
Took them, like me, among the German towns,
After the war that pluck'd the fangs from France,
With me pronounce
Whether the frequent black, which then array'd
Child, wife, and maid,
Did most to magnify the sombreness of grief,
Or add the beauty of a staid relief
And freshening foil
To cheerful-hearted Honour's ready smile!
Beneath the heroic sun
Is there then none
Whose sinewy wings by choice do fly
In the fine mountain-air of public obloquy,
To tell the sleepy mongers of false ease
That war's the ordained way of all alive,
And therein with goodwill to dare and thrive
Is profit and heart's peace?
But in his heart the fool now saith:
‘The thoughts of Heaven were past all finding out,
Indeed, if it should rain
Intolerable woes upon our Land again,
After so long a drought!’
‘Will a kind Providence our vessel whelm,
With such a pious Pilot at the helm?’
‘Or let the throats be cut of pretty sheep
That care for nought but pasture rich and deep?’
‘Were 't Evangelical of God to deal so foul a blow
At people who hate Turks and Papists so?’
‘What, make or keep
A tax for ship and gun,
When 'tis full three to one
Yon bully but intends
To beat our friends?’
‘Let's put aside
Our costly pride.
Our appetite's not gone
Because we've learn'd to doff
Our caps, where we were used to keep them on.’
‘If times get worse,
We've money in our purse,
And Patriots that know how, let who will scoff,
To buy our perils off.
Yea, blessed in our midst
Art thou who lately didst,
The old bargain of the Saxon with the Dane.’
Thus in his heart the fool now saith;
And, lo, our trusted leaders trust fool's luck,
Which, like the whale's 'mazed chine,
When they thereon were mulling of their wine,
Will some day duck.
Remnant of Honour, brooding in the dark
Over your bitter cark,
Staring, as Rispah stared, astonied seven days,
Upon the corpses of so many sons,
Who loved her once,
Dead in the dim and lion-haunted ways,
Who could have dreamt
That times should come like these!
Prophets, indeed, taught lies when we were young,
And people loved to have it so;
For they teach well who teach their scholars' tongue!
But that the foolish both should gaze,
With feeble, fascinated face,
Upon the wan crest of the coming woe,
The billow of earthquake underneath the seas,
And sit at ease,
Or stand agape,
Without so much as stepping back to 'scape,
Mumbling, ‘Perchance we perish if we stay:
'Tis certain wear of shoes to stir away!’
Who could have dreamt
That times should come like these!
Remnant of Honour, tongue-tied with contempt,
Consider; you are strong yet, if you please.
A hundred just men up, and arm'd but with a frown,
May hoot a hundred thousand false loons down,
Or drive them any way like geese.
But to sit silent now is to suborn
The common villainy you scorn.
In the dark hour
When phrases are in power,
And nought's to choose between
The thing which is not and which is not seen,
One fool, with lusty lungs,
Does what a hundred wise, who hate and hold their tongues,
Shall ne'er undo.
In such an hour,
When eager hands are fetter'd and too few,
And hearts alone have leave to bleed,
Speak; for a good word then is a good deed.
With all my will, but much against my heart,
We two now part.
My Very Dear,
Our solace is, the sad road lies so clear.
It needs no art,
With faint, averted feet
And many a tear,
In our opposed paths to persevere.
Go thou to East, I West.
We will not say
There's any hope, it is so far away.
But, O, my Best,
When the one darling of our widowhead,
The nursling Grief,
And no dews blur our eyes
To see the peach-bloom come in evening skies,
Perchance we may,
Where now this night is day,
And even through faith of still averted feet,
Making full circle of our banishment,
The bitter journey to the bourne so sweet
Seasoning the termless feast of our content
With tears of recognition never dry.
Ye Wise, by whom Heav'n rules!
Your kingly hands suit not the hangman's tools.
When God has doom'd a glorious Past to die,
Are there no knaves and fools?
For ages yet to come your kind shall count for nought.
Smoke of the strife of other Powers
And tongues inscrutable with fury fraught
'Wilder the sky,
Till the far good which none can guess be wrought.
Since tears are vain, here let us rest and laugh,
But not too loudly; for the brave time's come,
When Best may not blaspheme the Bigger Half,
And freedom for our sort means freedom to be dumb.
Lo, how the dross and draff
Jeer up at us, and shout,
‘The Day is ours, the Night is theirs!’
And urge their rout
Where the wild dawn of rising Tartarus flares.
Yon strives their Leader, lusting to be seen.
His leprosy's so perfect that men call him clean!
Listen the long, sincere, and liberal bray
Of the earnest Puller at another's hay
'Gainst aught that dares to tug the other way,
Quite void of fears
With all that noise of ruin round his ears!
Yonder the people cast their caps o'erhead,
And swear the threaten'd doom is ne'er to dread
That's come, though not yet past.
All front the horror and are none aghast;
Brag of their full-blown rights and liberties,
Nor once surmise
When each man gets his due the Nation dies;
Nay, still shout ‘Progress!’ as if seven plagues
Should take the laggard who would stretch his legs.
Forward! glad rush of Gergesenian swine;
You've gain'd the hill-top, but there's yet the brine.
Forward! to meet the welcome of the waves
That mount to 'whelm the freedom which enslaves.
Forward! bad corpses turn into good dung,
To feed strange futures beautiful and young.
Forward! God speed ye down the damn'd decline,
And grant ye the Fool's true good, in abject ruin's gulf
As the Wise see him so to see himself!
Ah, Land once mine,
That seem'd to me too sweetly wise,
Too sternly fair for aught that dies,
Past is thy proud and pleasant state,
That recent date
When, strong and single, in thy sovereign heart,
The thrones of thinking, hearing, sight,
The cunning hand, the knotted thew
Of lesser powers that heave and hew,
And each the smallest beneficial part,
And merest pore of breathing, beat,
Full and complete,
The great pulse of thy generous might,
Equal in inequality,
That soul of joy in low and high;
When not a churl but felt the Giant's heat,
Albeit he simply call'd it his,
Flush in his common labour with delight,
And not a village-Maiden's kiss
But was for this
And not a sorrow but did lightlier sigh,
And for its private self less greet,
The whilst that other so majestic self stood by!
Integrity so vast could well afford
To wear in working many a stain,
To pillory the cobbler vain
And license madness in a lord.
On that were all men well agreed;
And, if they did a thing,
Their strength was with them in their deed,
And from amongst them came the shout of a king!
But, once let traitor coward meet,
Not Heaven itself can keep its feet.
Come knave who said to dastard, ‘Lo,
‘The Deluge!’ which but needed ‘No!’
For all the Atlantic's threatening roar,
If men would bravely understand,
Is softly check'd for evermore
By a firm bar of sand.
But, dastard listening knave, who said,
‘'Twere juster were the Giant dead,
That so yon bawlers may not miss
To vote their own pot-belly'd bliss,’
All that is past!
We saw the slaying, and were not aghast.
But ne'er a sun, on village Groom and Bride,
Albeit they guess not how it is,
At Easter or at Whitsuntide,
But shines less gay for this!
The Two Deserts
Not greatly moved with awe am I
To learn that we may spy
Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.
The best that's known
Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.
View'd close, the Moon's fair ball
Is of ill objects worst,
A corpse in Night's highway, naked, fire-scarr'd, accurst;
And now they tell
That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst
Too horribly for hell.
So, judging from these two,
As we must do,
The Universe, outside our living Earth,
Was all conceiv'd in the Creator's mirth,
Forecasting at the time Man's spirit deep,
To make dirt cheap.
Put by the Telescope!
Better without it man may see,
Stretch'd awful in the hush'd midnight,
The ghost of his eternity.
Give me the nobler glass that swells to the eye
The things which near us lie,
Till Science rapturously hails,
In the minutest water-drop,
A torment of innumerable tails.
These at the least do live.
But rather give
A mind not much to pry
Beyond our royal-fair estate
Betwixt these deserts blank of small and great.
Wonder and beauty our own courtiers are,
Pressing to catch our gaze,
And out of obvious ways
Ne'er wandering far.
Crest And Gulf
Much woe that man befalls
Who does not run when sent, nor come when Heaven calls;
But whether he serve God, or his own whim,
Not matters, in the end, to any one but him;
And he as soon
Shall map the other side of the Moon,
As trace what his own deed,
In the next chop of the chance gale, shall breed.
This he may know:
His good or evil seed
Is like to grow,
For its first harvest, quite to contraries:
The father wise
Has still the hare-brain'd brood;
'Gainst evil, ill example better works than good;
The poet, fanning his mild flight
At a most keen and arduous height,
Unveils the tender heavens to horny human eyes
Amidst ingenious blasphemies.
Wouldst raise the poor, in Capuan luxury sunk?
The Nation lives but whilst its Lords are drunk!
Or spread Heav'n's partial gifts o'er all, like dew?
The Many's weedy growth withers the gracious Few!
Strange opposites, from those, again, shall rise.
Join, then, if thee it please, the bitter jest
Of mankind's progress; all its spectral race
Mere impotence of rest,
The heaving vain of life which cannot cease from self,
Crest altering still to gulf
And gulf to crest
In endless chace,
That leaves the tossing water anchor'd in its place!
Ah, well does he who does but stand aside,
Sans hope or fear,
And marks the crest and gulf in station sink and rear,
And prophesies 'gainst trust in such a tide:
For he sometimes is prophet, heavenly taught,
Whose message is that he sees only nought.
Nathless, discern'd may be,
By listeners at the doors of destiny,
The fly-wheel swift and still
Of God's incessant will,
Mighty to keep in bound, tho' powerless to quell,
The amorous and vehement drift of man's herd to hell.
Ah, yes; we tell the good and evil trees
By fruits: But how tell these?
Who does not know
That good and ill
Are done in secret still,
And that which shews is verily but show!
How high of heart is one, and one how sweet of mood:
But not all height is holiness,
Nor every sweetness good;
And grace will sometimes lurk where who could guess?
The Critic of his kind,
Dealing to each his share,
With easy humour, hard to bear,
May not impossibly have in him shrined,
As in a gossamer globe or thickly padded pod,
Some small seed dear to God.
Haply yon wretch, so famous for his falls,
Got them beneath the Devil-defended walls
Of some high Virtue he had vow'd to win;
And that which you and I
Call his besetting sin
Is but the fume of his peculiar fire
Of inmost contrary desire,
And means wild willingness for her to die,
Dash'd with despondence of her favour sweet;
He fiercer fighting, in his worst defeat,
Than I or you,
That only courteous greet
Where he does hotly woo,
Did ever fight, in our best victory.
Another is mistook
Through his deceitful likeness to his look!
Let be, let be:
Why should I clear myself, why answer thou for me?
That shaft of slander shot
Miss'd only the right blot.
I see the shame
They cannot see:
'Tis very just they blame
The thing that's not.
‘Faint Yet Pursuing’
Heroic Good, target for which the young
Dream in their dreams that every bow is strung,
And, missing, sigh
Unfruitful, or as disbelievers die,
Thee having miss'd, I will not so revolt,
But lowlier shoot my bolt,
And lowlier still, if still I may not reach,
And my proud stomach teach
That less than highest is good, and may be high.
An even walk in life's uneven way,
Though to have dreamt of flight and not to fly
Be strange and sad,
Is not a boon that's given to all who pray.
If this I had
I'd envy none!
Nay, trod I straight for one
Year, month or week,
Should Heaven withdraw, and Satan me amerce
Of power and joy, still would I seek
Another victory with a like reverse;
Because the good of victory does not die,
As dies the failure's curse,
And what we have to gain
Is, not one battle, but a weary life's campaign.
Yet meaner lot being sent
Should more than me content;
Yea, if I lie
Among vile shards, though born for silver wings,
In the strong flight and feathers gold
Of whatsoever heavenward mounts and sings
I must by admiration so comply
That there I should my own delight behold.
Yea, though I sin each day times seven,
And dare not lift the fearfullest eyes to Heaven,
Thanks must I give
Because that seven times are not eight or nine,
And that my darkness is all mine,
And that I live
Within this oak-shade one more minute even,
Hearing the winds their Maker magnify.
Victory In Defeat
Ah, God, alas,
How soon it came to pass
The sweetness melted from thy barbed hook
Which I so simply took;
And I lay bleeding on the bitter land,
Afraid to stir against thy least command,
But losing all my pleasant life-blood, whence
Force should have been heart's frailty to withstand.
Life is not life at all without delight,
Nor has it any might;
And better than the insentient heart and brain
Is sharpest pain;
And better for the moment seems it to rebel,
If the great Master, from his lifted seat,
Ne'er whispers to the wearied servant ‘Well!’
Yet what returns of love did I endure,
When to be pardon'd seem'd almost more sweet
Than aye to have been pure!
But day still faded to disastrous night,
And thicker darkness changed to feebler light,
Until forgiveness, without stint renew'd,
Was now no more with loving tears imbued,
Vowing no more offence.
Not less to thine Unfaithful didst thou cry,
‘Come back, poor Child; be all as 'twas before.
‘No, no; I will not promise any more!
Yet, when I feel my hour is come to die,
And so I am secured of continence,
Then may I say, though haply then in vain,
'My only, only Love, O, take me back again!'’
Thereafter didst thou smite
So hard that, for a space,
Uplifted seem'd Heav'n's everlasting door,
And I indeed the darling of thy grace.
But, in some dozen changes of the moon,
A bitter mockery seem'd thy bitter boon.
The broken pinion was no longer sore.
Again, indeed, I woke
Under so dread a stroke
That all the strength it left within my heart
Was just to ache and turn, and then to turn and ache,
And some weak sign of war unceasingly to make.
And here I lie,
With no one near to mark,
Thrusting Hell's phantoms feebly in the dark,
And still at point more utterly to die.
O God, how long!
Put forth indeed thy powerful right hand,
While time is yet,
Or never shall I see the blissful land!
Thus I: then God, in pleasant speech and strong,
(Which soon I shall forget):
‘The man who, though his fights be all defeats,
Enters at last
The heavenly Jerusalem's rejoicing streets
With glory more, and more triumphant rites
Than always-conquering Joshua's, when his blast
The frighted walls of Jericho down cast;
And, lo, the glad surprise
Of peace beyond surmise,
More than in common Saints, for ever in his eyes.
Since succour to the feeblest of the wise
Is charge of nobler weight
Than the security
Of many and many a foolish soul's estate,
This I affirm,
Though fools will fools more confidently be:
Whom God does once with heart to heart befriend,
He does so till the end:
And having planted life's miraculous germ,
One sweet pulsation of responsive love,
He sets him sheer above,
Not sin and bitter shame
And wreck of fame,
But Hell's insidious and more black attempt,
The envy, malice, and pride,
Which men who share so easily condone
That few ev'n list such ills as these to hide.
From these unalterably exempt,
Through the remember'd grace
Of that divine embrace,
Of his sad errors none,
Though gross to blame,
Shall cast him lower than the cleansing flame,
Nor make him quite depart
From the small flock named ‘after God's own heart,’
And to themselves unknown.
Nor can he quail
In faith, nor flush nor pale
When all the other idiot people spell
How this or that new Prophet's word belies
Their last high oracle;
But constantly his soul
Points to its pole
Ev'n as the needle points, and knows not why;
And, under the ever-changing clouds of doubt,
When others cry,
‘The stars, if stars there were,
Are quench'd and out!’
To him, uplooking t'ward the hills for aid,
Appear, at need display'd,
Gaps in the low-hung gloom, and, bright in air,
Orion or the Bear.
In strenuous hope I wrought,
And hope seem'd still betray'd;
Lastly I said,
‘I have labour'd through the Night, nor yet
Have taken aught;
But at Thy word I will again cast forth the net!’
And, lo, I caught
(Oh, quite unlike and quite beyond my thought,)
Not the quick, shining harvest of the Sea,
For food, my wish,
Then, hiding even in me,
As hid was Simon's coin within the fish,
Thou sigh'd'st, with joy, ‘Be dumb,
Or speak but of forgotten things to far-off times to come.’
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about victory
- quotes about wisdom
- quotes about honor
- quotes about promises
- quotes about saint
- quotes about oceans
I Can See It In Your Eyes
By your leave, I think that Ill be going now
I think Ive stayed a little long
I looked up all my mothers recipes
I cant think what I did wrong
We go to a restaurant, but you dont like wine
You say its love you want, but there is no time
I realize, I can see it in your eyes
You keep staring at the floor
I used to look at your school photographs
But I dont have them anymore
I wonder whos in my old college rooms
Or stuck on my old locker door
I dream of the ships at sea, on a stormy night
I wish that it was me, but I wake in fright
I realize, I can see it in your eyes
Ive only got myself to blame
Winter kisses when your lips were blue
Like chasing wild geese in the snow
Pressing faces on the window panes
But thats a long long time ago
We go to a restaurant
You say its love you want
I realize, I can see it in your eyes
Youre moving on to something more
Won't Mean Much If Your Eyes Aren't Open In Your Blood
Won't mean much if your eyes aren't open in your blood.
If the stars can't see you because you don't know how
to read them poetry in the small cafes of your heart
accompanied by spoons and plates and broken goblets
of the cheap house wine that smash just like love affairs
dashing your skull against the rocks, hoping the mermaids come back.
If you can't hear in the parking lot of a raucous industry
the colours of your emotions, you're a deaf chameleon
and who could make you listen to what you can't listen to
even if you had enough people who loved you around you
to want you to try to listen to your own tears when you cry?
Your ear on the same wavelength as a corrugated tin roof,
maybe you can see what I'm trying to say to you
if you close your eyes, and just listen to the rain without
trying too hard to make a big effortless effort to be
auditorily enlightened by the racket of your delusions.
I can't remember when my life stopped being my own
and I went to bed one night, and I was as human as my toes are
and I awoke, I was merely the afterbirth of a visionary
I didn't recognize, as my eyes were being igneously wrung
from a cope of dark ore like stars out of the distant hills.
Not a lot of self-respect from the beginning, maybe
it wasn't that hard becoming everyone and everything else,
and I was a prime candidate for effacement
but when I looked into the mirror of my
ten inch, equatorially mounted, clock-driven, reflecting telescope
I used like a canning jar to capture and mount stars and fireflies
on a black velvet starmap, all I could see
was this abyss staring back at me that couldn't say
where I'd gone, but the last I thought I heard
was that I got a job as a janitor in an hourglass
sweeping mirages out of a desert of private school stars.
I say what I see as it occurs to me spontaneously.
And I'm compelled to say it without hesitation
so the vision isn't tainted by the colour of the jewel
it's passing through, from one eye to the next, ad infinitum.
No light pollution in the shining, though there's something
about the idea of purity that continues to appal me
because I never had so much against chaos from the beginning
and I sense a deep hatred of all that is soiled and flawed,
in which case, I'd rather be an outlaw than one of these monks
who disdain me because I can't help seeing their discipline
as uncreatively redundant. Eventually, if they're blessed,
all our faces are going to fall off by themselves
like the scabs of sunspots that healed the wounded light
like a wildflower shedding its petals like nurses' caps
and deathmasks frozen like a moment in time meant
to last forever though we go on being estranged by them forever.
Uncanny transformations of the solid into the real.
Maybe it's time to let the mindstream flow as it will
and let the burning bridges of our delusions cross us for a change
to get to the other side of a life that's only got one bank
and it's as clear as space, we're not even standing on that.
Hang on. Let go. It's just your hand opening and closing
like a door in a dream, and you'll find your falling
just as fast as you ever were and if you were to ask your eyes
they couldn't tell in this vastness whether your were falling up or down.
When you've dismantled all you've desired,
post neo-deconstructionism sets in like spiritual rigor mortis
and you can't tell if you're sleeping with the living or the dead
when you haven't got your mask on. You can wear holes
in your shoes, and windows and carpets, pacing
like a waterclock of the heart in an hourglass of waiting
like a boy at the edge of the curb with his elbows on his knees
and his face in his glum hands, waiting for a parade
with sacred clowns throwing away free candies
like stars along the route of the mystic Milky Way.
Just be sure to keep your eyes open like a spring thaw
so the light can recognize you like the flower that brought it
to full illumination this time last year like a candle
that keeps blowing its petals out so you can see
the black matter of what you are not deeper
into the eyeless dark than you've ever bloomed before.
OH come, thou power divine,
Thou lovely spirit with the wings of light,
And let thy dewy eyes
Shed their sweet influences on my soul;
Oh let me hear thy voice,
Whose sound thrills with a keener, deeper bliss,
Than the shrill jubilance the bird of joy
Pours on the air!
Or the child babblings of the gladsome rill
When, issuing first from out its mossy couch
In venturesome delight, it frisks in glee
Adown the hoary mountain, silver-fraught.
Where I do lie drenched in my bitter tears,
And drowning in dejection: haunted by
The pale gaunt fears that spectre-like rush forth
In shadowy swarms from out the brains's black cells,
Like glaring madmen in confusion 'scaped
From out their dens, whirling with shambling limbs
In whooping dances through the startled dusk,
And pouncing wildly on my shiv'ring soul,
Where in her hour of weakness prostrate she
Doth palpitate in terror, like a deer,
That hunted by the swift pursuing hounds,
Wounded and bleeding, sinks upon the ground,
While with hoarse croaks the ravening birds of prey
Wheel close and closer, darkening all the air.
Come breathe upon me with thy balmy breath,
Like a young wind, born in the rosèd east,
That leapeth boy-like from the lap of morn,
To blow the land all clear from crouching fogs:
Thus drive thou hence the phantoms; cleanse my soul!
Thou sweet enchantress, with the magic spells!
Wails there a heart, lone on the populous earth,--
Like a weak infant lost within the night
That crieth piteously in helplessness,
And pusheth its blind limbs with gestures scared
Against the gloom,--
Then with an airy footfall glidest thou
Gently anigh, as softly as a cloud,
When one alone in crimson glory slides
Along the twilight sky: tak'st the bewildered thing
Into thine arms, thy fair and downy arms,
And rock'st it on thy bosom--singing low
An old, old song, old as the flowers that bloom,
And like them ever young; till dreams rise up,
Like cool white mists from out the heart of hills,
And lie dew-sweet upon it in its sleep!
Sits there an orphan girl with sunken cheeks,
And red-rimmed eyes, high up beneath the leads,
Stitching with aching fingers all the night
Beside the meagre flame, to earn her bread,
And feed with scanty fuel the low fire
Of life, while the shrill blast
Dashes the rain against the rattling panes,
And down the chimney roars with smoke and wet;--
Then comest thou, with memories all dim
And faint, with beauty from the childish years,
Transposing them into the time to come
With a new lustre of the full-grown heart.
Where the bare walls stood with a hungry stare,
The golden cornfields, weighed down by their wealth,
Sway to and fro; purling the brook flows on;
And, like a bit of sky drawn down by love,
Wilds of forget-me-nots run riot round;
And meadows scent the air; and lowing kine
Are driven home; and silver geese hiss loud
Within the pools; and childhood's silver laughs
Ring o'er the green like chimes of silver bells
In the clear atmosphere; and through green boughs
Curls up the smoke from many a thatchèd roof,
Flushed all the land with roseate floods of eve,
While large and full glows low the harvest moon,
There as through homely fields she lightly walks,
And one is by her side, and whispers low,
And thine, oh hope! the future's kindling glow.
Rocks there a sailor on a reeling ship,
That staggers blindly like a brain-struck man,
Around the staring cliffs!
While the wild blast, the fiddler of the deep,
Wakes such mad music on his shrieking strings
That the fierce elements in huge delight
Vault from their torpor, rearing giant heights!
Ha! The maned billows from abysmal deeps
Leap like live Alps, and catch the tearing clouds
That dizzy haste along the wilds of sky;
Tossing them round in labyrinthic whirls
To the witch light of lightning, and the roar
Of thunder, in its crashing clattering fall.
Yea, while the ocean yawneth for its prey,
Yelling with starvèd jaws around the hull,
Man's sole frail guardian from the fangs of death,--
Thou softly float'st,
Like to the dove that bore the olive branch
Across the waste of waters, to his side. . . .
No longer sees he then the wide wild sea,
No longer hears he the tempestuous blast:
But where the cottage leans against the cliff,
The evening star shedding its peace adown,
He lifts the latch, and with one bound of joy
He stands in the low room, beside the hearth,
Where sits his winsome wife, and rocks her babe
With lullabies; and heaving one big sob
He strains her to his breast, her whom he thought
On this side of the grave to see no more!
Then does she take him by the hand, and leads
Him round from cot to cot, where with round cheeks
His children lie, sleep-flushed, 'twixt snow-white sheets,
And snatching up the youngest in his arms,
With an untameable emotion, weeps
His kisses on him, till it opens wide
Large dream-dew'd eyes, and lisps with cherry mouth,
'Oh, Dada, Dada!'----That thou dost for him!
Wanders the patriot on a stranger shore,
And exile from the land he loved too well:
Within his heart
The festering wound a thankless nation strikes,
When cloud-capp'd by its ignorance and fear,
And goaded on by spurring king and priest,
Like a mad dog it turns and bites the hand
Stretched out to heal.
He sees his friends fall off like rotten leaves
That scrambling flee the tempest-girted oak;
He sees the enemies he boldly braved,
Forging the red-hot slanders wherewithal
To scorch his writhing soul!
Alone in the wide world, alone he stands;
Alone, save where beyond the roaring seas
His mother weeps, and weeps, oh God! through him.
Then, blowing from dead deserts the simoom
Of doubt breathes on him, with its killing breath,
With'ring the flowers of faith, the groves of youth,
And buffeting his heart on cruel waves
Of wind, e'en like a quiv'ring autumn leaf.
Oh, is it strange?
That in the midnight, on the dark there grow
Pale faces sweating blood, and wrapped in shrouds,
Turning reproachful eyes upon his eyes,
And asking dumbly, 'Wherefore did we die,
And spill the wine-filled goblets of our youth
On barren soil that will not teem with birth?'
That brides, like broken lilies whirled along
By arrowy streams, glide past and sadly sob,
'Thou'st mowed us down, and mowed us down in vain!'
That infants thrill the silence with their wail,
'Why are we fatherless, if fatherland
Is still denied?' And that his heartstrings quake
With sobs of mothers' hearts that hopeless break?
Strange that his purpose, that did seem so fair,
With a white blaze of light around her head,
Which fell like orient beams on nations' brows,
Should wane before his terror-stricken eyes?
And that in direst agony of soul
His noble nature tott'ring on her base,
Should question if his deeds were rightful deeds?
Stirred up by God's own living breath, or pushed
By hot ambition's ravenous desire?
And if the aim that drew were but a dream
By which his visionary youth was mocked,
As travellers in the desert by the shine
Of fair false waters?--At that torturing thought
Smells of cold graves struck damp upon his brow,
Till his wilds eyes grew void, and limp his limbs,
And he had dropped resistless in the jaws
Of madness or of death!
Hadst thou not come, perennial presence! bright
As Phosphorus in the dim morning skies!
And poured thy morning sunbeams on his heart,
And blown thy morning breezes on his soul,
Till freshly born the world, and on him smiled
With eyes as tender as his mother's were,
When sowing love upon his cradled self.
Then back plucked he his purpose, fixed it firm
In iron steadfastness upon his soul,
And called on faith, where with upturnèd eyes
Above the clouds she treads the mountain peaks,
And on that love, which boundless as the sky,
Stretches o'er all mankind its azured vault.
Then rose he, set his trustful eyes on high,
And set his heart among the lowly born:
For in the vasty glimmerings of the dawn
He saw such visions of the things to be,
Such heights of being ascended, and such love
And justice throning on the seats of men,
That with unflagging steps he calmly trod
The walks of martyrdom! Oh, crown his brows
With buds of those full summers of the race!
Mourns there an aged mother, lying low
Upon the lowly grave,
Round which the autumn moans her mournful dirge,
And shivering cadence of the shrunken leaves
Keeps saddest measure with the wailing wind;
While the pale glimm'rings of the waning moon
Fall in cold tears upon the unknown tomb,
Beneath whose sod, washed by the ghastly mists,
Lies he, her one sole flower, that on the breast
Of life bloomed for her all the days and nights;
In the midsummer of his lusty life
Devoured by that grim beast, whose reeking breath
Is saturated with the blood of man--
The twin of pestilence--the foul firstborn
Of her who spinneth in the nether gloom
The phantasms that turn mad the brains of men,
And him whose savage lusts and greedy soul
Would make his footstool on the necks of men!
Oh here, even here like a stray beam of light
That glides unscared in sacred tenderness
Across the heavy vapours, brooding blind
In shapeless masses o'er a joyless tarn
Deep sunk in mountains,--even here the gleam
Of thy gold hair makes music in the dark,
Cradlest the head of grief on thy warm breast,
Whisperest in tones sweeter than honeycomb
Of that new heaven where death shall be no more,
Nor grief, nor crying, neither shall there be
More pain; for former things have passed away.
And with thy wings of light around her soul,
And with thy dewy eyes upon her heart,
Death takes her gently like a cherubim
By the shrunk hand, and leads her to her rest.
* * * * *
Oh Hope! thou consolation of the soul!
Flash forth, and like a sun strike on the clouds
Of dull despondency, that pour their rain
In showers upon the sad heart's shivering soil;
Flash forth, and force each drop e'en as it falls
To glass thy loveliness, and on the cloud
Frowning in dumb defiance, paint such bloom
Etherial, that its blackness but becomes
A foil on which thy brightness brighter beams,
Till spanned with rainbow-glory the sad soul
Glistens in glimmering smiles through all her tears,
And life shone through by white eternity,
Circled with calm as by a covenant,
Is born in beauty of the bitter tears,
Like Aphrodite from the salt sea waves.
Poems For Piraye (9 To 10 O’Clock Poems)
Remembering you is good
amid the news
of victory and death
as my fortieth year passes...
Remembering you is good
forgotten upon a blue dress
with the grave softness
of the earth of my beloved Istanbul.
This joy of loving you
is like a second person inside me...
The smell of geranium leaves
on your fingertips
warm and comforting
The invitation of your flesh
scored by vivid red lines...
Remembering you is good
or writing about you
as I lie on my back
thinking of such and such a day
at such and such a place
of some words you said
not of the words so much
but of the world and you within them...
Remembering you is good
I must carve some things for you again
a jewel box
I must weave a length of thin silk
then jump up
and clutching the window bars
shout what I have written for you
to the innocent blue
Remembering you is good
amid the news
of victory and death
as my fortieth year passes...
At this late hour
on this autumn night
I am filled with your words.
like time like matter
like an eye
like a hand
Words which sparkle
Your words came to me
from your heart
Your words delivered you
Your words were sad
they were bitter
Your words were human.
September 20, 1945
Our son is sick
his father in prison
your heavy head
fallen in your tired palms
the laughter drained from your golden eyes.
will surely carry people
on to sunnier days
our son will get well
his father out of prison
your golden eyes
will fill with laughter once more...
is the world's fate.
September 21, 1945
you're there inside me
you're inside me
Eating my bread
you're sitting before me
Or at my work
you're before me.
You're my 'silent partner'
Although we cannot speak
Although we cannot hear
each other's voices.
You're my widow of eight years.
September 22, 1945
What is she doing now
this second, this very second?
Is she at home, outside,
working, lying down, on her feet?
could she be raising her arm?
O my love!
how this movement bares
her strong white wrist!
What is she doing now
this second, this very second?
Perhaps she has a kitten on her lap,
she's petting it.
Or, perhaps she's walking, about to step.
O those feet I cherish,
those feet which bring her to me
on tip-toe when days are dark...
And what is she thinking about,
Or, who knows,
why the beans take so long to cook?
why the majority of men are so miserable?
What is she thinking now
this second, this very second?
September 23, 1945
The loveliest sea
is the sea not yet traveled
The loveliest child
is the child not yet born
Our loveliest days
are those we have not yet lived through.
And the loveliest word I would say to you
is the word that I have not yet said.
September 24, 1945
Squatting, I look at the earth
I look at the grasses
I look at the insects
I look at the deep blue flowers opening from stems.
I look at you, my love,
You are like the spring earth.
Stretched out on my back, I see the sky
I see the tree's branches
I see the storks flying
I see you, my love,
You are like the spring sky.
Lighting a night fire, I touch the fire
I touch the water
I touch the cloth
I touch the silver
I touch you, my love
You are the fire lit beneath the stars.
Inside of people, I love people
I love action
I love thinking
I love my struggle
I love you, my love,
You are a person inside my struggle.
horns blare in the yard
soon they will close the cell doors.
This prison term
is longer than the others
nearly eight years now...
Living is a labor of hope, my love,
living is a serious business
like loving you...
September 25, 1945
They enslaved us
threw us in prison
inside the walls
outside the walls.
But that is nothing,
the true evil is that
a man carries the prison
Most of the men
fallen to this state
and deserve to be loved
as I love you.
September 26, 1945
Thinking of you
is a beautiful thing
a hopeful thing
a thing like hearing
the most beautiful song
from the world's most beautiful voice...
But hope no longer is enough for me
I no longer want to hear the song—
I want to sing it...
September 30, 1945
Above the mountain
there is a cloud
swollen with sun above the mountain.
passed without you
with and without the world another day.
They will open soon
in bursts of red
nightflowers will open in bursts of red.
Soundless bold wings
carry our separation
that separation like an exile
from the homeland...
October 1, 1945
The wind flows by
no cherry branch moves
with the same wind twice.
Birds chatter in the trees:
wings poised for flight.
A closed door:
waiting to be thrown open.
I want you
I want life to be as lovely
and friendly and good as you.
I know this feast of misery
is not yet finished.
But it will be finished...
October 2, 1945
Both of us know, my love,
they taught us
the hunger, the shivering,
the withering exhaustion,
the separation from each other.
Still, we have not been forced to kill
nor tasted the moment of being killed.
Both of us know, my love,
we can teach them
to fight for our people
to love each day
a little stronger
a little more from our souls...
October 5, 1945
Clouds pass, heavy
and swollen with news,
Crushing in my fist
the letter that hasn't come yet,
Tears in the corners of my eyes,
goodbyes said to the endless earth,
And I want to shout: Piraye!
October 6, 1945
At night, the wind carries the cries of men
across the open seas
At night, there is danger still in straying
across the open seas.
This field, unplowed for six years,
still bears the tracks of tank treads
This winter, the snow will cover
these untouched tracks of tank treads.
Ah, my dearest, the antennas are lying again
so that the merchants of sweat can close
with 100% profits.
But those who have returned from Azrail's feast
have returned with their decisions made...
October 7, 1945
I've become unbearable again
sleepless, petty, cross.
You can see
I'm working one day
like a blasphemous shrew
like a raging animal.
I'm on my back the next day
from morning to evening
a lazy folksong in my mouth
like a cigarette that has gone out.
and the pity I feel for myself
hold me totally in their grasp.
I've become unbearable again
sleepless, petty, cross.
As always, I'm unfair.
Without any reason
or any possibility of one,
and even though it's a vile humiliation
I can't help it,
October 8, 1945
Last night I had a dream:
You were sitting at my feet,
You raised your head, turned
Your enormous golden eyes to me,
And asked a question,
Your wet lips opened and closed,
But I didn't hear your voice.
The hour struck as though somewhere
There was good news in the night.
Whispers of endlessness in the air,
My canary in its red cage
Singing the Song of Memo.
The small cracking sounds of seeds
Pushing and lifting the earth,
And the just and triumphant humming
Of some gathering comes to my ear.
Your wet lips still opened and closed,
But I didn't hear your voice.
I awoke in a nervous uncertainty.
I had fallen asleep over my book, it seems,
But I am wondering now
Whether all those voices were not your voice?
October 9, 1945
Looking in your eyes
I am drunk with the smell of warm earth
lost in a wheat field among the stalks...
are like an eternal substance, changing endlessly
pits without bottom, with flashes of green...
whose secret is given up a little each day
but never completely surrendered.
October 10, 1945
When I leave the prison to meet my death
And when we turn for the last time
to look at the city,
We shall be able to say these words, my love:
'Though you never made our hearts rejoice,
we worked hard as we could
thinking we could make you happy.
Roads to happiness lead on, as life goes on.
We are content, our hearts are satisfied
with the bread we earned;
Our eyes bear the afflictions
of separation from your light.
See, we have come
and now we are going.
May you be happy,
city of Aleppo...'
October 18, 1945
We are one half of an apple
the other half is this enormous world
We are one half of an apple
the other half is our people
You are one half of an apple
I am the other half
we are two...
October 27, 1945
The smell rises from the geraniums
The waves hum on the seas
Autumn is here with its full clouds
And intelligent earth...
My love, the year has reached its maturity.
It seems that we have known
Perhaps a thousand years' worth of life,
But we are still wide-eyed children
Running hand in hand in the sun...
October 28, 1945
Forget the flowering almond trees.
Why think of that which cannot be regained?
Dry your wet hair in the sun,
Your hair with the smell of ripe fruit,
That shines, heavy and damp, with redness.
My love, my love,
the season is autumn...
November 5, 1945
From above the roofs
of my distant city,
passing the tip
of the Marmara sea,
the autumn earth
Came your voice—
moist and mature—
For three minutes.
Then, the telephone
was closed down
like pitch darkness...
November 8, 1945
The last southwinds have begun to blow
warm and humming
like blood pouring from a vein.
I listen to the weather:
it's pulse is slowing down.
There is snow on Olympia's peak.
On the Kirezli plateau
the bears with great charm and majesty
lie down on the chestnut leaves to sleep.
The poplars on the plain undress.
Silkworm eggs will be taken soon
to their winter shelter.
Autumn is about to end,
The earth to enter its pregnant sleep.
And we will pass again one more winter
with this great rage inside,
warming ourselves in the fire
of our sacred hope...
November 12, 1945
it doesn't allow description—
the misery of Istanbul.
the people are crushed by hunger.
tuberculosis lurks everywhere.
And the young girls, they say,
are taken in the ruins
and in theater loges.
This black news comes
from my distant city,
from the city of hard-working
from the real Istanbul,
from the city which is your home,
which I carry on my back in a bag
wherever I am exiled
wherever I am in prison
Which I bear in my heart
like the grieving for a lost child
like your image
which I hold in my eyes...
November 13, 1945
Although you'll find carnations still
in vases now and then,
seeds are being scattered in the fields
plowed up long ago for planting
and olives, stuffed with oil,
are being picked now.
On one side we're moving into winter
on another the earth is being opened
for the seedlings of spring.
As for me
filled with longing
and heavy with impatience
for great travels,
I am lying in Bursa
like a ship at anchor...
November 20, 1945
Take out from your chest
the dress you wore
the first time I saw you
and dress up
like the spring trees.
Put in your hair the carnation
I am sending you from prison,
Lift your broad forehead
white and creased with those lines
that should be kissed,
And by no means look tired
or worried on such a day.
The wife of Nazim Hikmet must be beautiful
like the flag of a rebellion
on such a day!
December 4, 1945
A hole wore through the ship's hull
the slaves cut to pieces their chains
the wind from the northeast blew
about to hurl the ship upon the rocks.
this pirate ship
it will sink.
And we will create
a free, spacious, hopeful world
like your face
December 5, 1945
They are the enemies of hope, my love,
the enemies of a life
that grows and develops
of a tree that bears fruit
of water that flows.
Because death is stamped on their foreheads—
their teeth rot
their flesh decays—
and never come back.
And surely, my love,
surely this lovely country of mine
will be a garden of brothers
without masters or slaves...
December 6, 1945
Enemy to Receb
the towel-maker in Bursa
Enemy to Hasan
the fitter in Karabük factory
Enemy to the woman Hatçe
the village peasant
Enemy to Süleyman
Enemy to me
Enemy to you
Enemy to thinking men.
My love, they are the enemy
of the country which houses them.
December 7, 1945
On the plain
trees burn in a final effort
spangles of gold
brass and bronze.
Hooves of oxen
two by two sink
in dampened earth.
And the mountains are soaked and gray
submerged in mist...
Perhaps this day is all
that is left of autumn.
And now the wild geese wing past
heading for Iznik lake.
Something cool in the air
like the smell of soot in the air
the smell of snow in the air...
Now to be outside!
Now to charge a horse straight for the mountains!
'But you don't know how to ride,' you'll say.
Don't laugh at me
and don't be jealous
This new love of nature
I've acquired in prison
I love almost
but not as much
as I love you...
And both of you so far away...
December 12, 1945
Snow suddenly set in at night
morning began with crows
scattering from white branches.
Winter on the Bursa plain
past the eye's reaching
My love, the season
burst through to change
after continuous struggle,
working hard beneath the snow
still pushing on
December 13, 1945
Damn, the winter has come down hard.
Who knows what's happened to you
and to my Istanbul.
Have you coal?
Can you get wood?
Stuff newspaper in the window cracks,
and go to bed early.
There's nothing in the house to sell,
Even when we shiver
Even in this we are in the majority
in our country
in our city
in the world.
December 14, 1945
Ballad of Reading Gaol II
He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.
He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby gray;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
'That fellow's got to swing.'
Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.
I only knew what haunted thought
Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.
He does not die a death of shame
On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
Into an empty space.
He does not sit with silent men
Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
The prison of its prey.
He does not wake at dawn to see
Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
With the yellow face of Doom.
He does not rise in piteous haste
To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
Fingering a watch whose little ticks
Are like horrible hammer-blows.
He does not feel that sickening thirst
That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves
Comes through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
That the throat may thirst no more.
He does not bend his head to hear
The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the anguish of his soul
Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
Into the hideous shed.
He does not stare upon the air
Through a little roof of glass:
He does not pray with lips of clay
For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
The kiss of Caiaphas.
Six weeks the guardsman walked the yard,
In the suit of shabby gray:
His cricket cap was on his head,
And his step was light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
Its ravelled fleeces by.
He did not wring his hands, as do
Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
And drank the morning air.
He did not wring his hands nor weep,
Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
As though it had been wine!
And I and all the souls in pain,
Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
The man who had to swing.
For strange it was to see him pass
With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.
The oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
With its alder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit!
The loftiest place is the seat of grace
For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer's collar take
His last look at the sky?
It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!
So with curious eyes and sick surmise
We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
His sightless soul may stray.
At last the dead man walked no more
Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
In the black dock's dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
For weal or woe again.
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.
A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men we were:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.
In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,
And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a warder walked,
For fear the man might die.
Or else he sat with those who watched
His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
Their scaffold of its prey.
The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called,
And left a little tract.
And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
The hangman's day was near.
But why he said so strange a thing
No warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
And make his face a mask.
Or else he might be moved, and try
To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
Pent up in Murderers' Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
Could help a brother's soul?
With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devils' Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.
We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.
We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.
So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.
With yawning mouth the horrid hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
The fellow had to swing.
Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And I trembled as I groped my way
Into my numbered tomb.
That night the empty corridors
Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
White faces seemed to peer.
He lay as one who lies and dreams
In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watchers watched him as he slept,
And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
With a hangman close at hand.
But there is no sleep when men must weep
Who never yet have wept:
So we- the fool, the fraud, the knave-
That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
Another's terror crept.
Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another's guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
For the blood we had not spilt.
The warders with their shoes of felt
Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
Gray figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
Who never prayed before.
All through the night we knelt and prayed,
Mad mourners of a corse!
The troubled plumes of midnight shook
Like the plumes upon a hearse:
And as bitter wine upon a sponge
Was the savour of Remorse.
The gray cock crew, the red cock crew,
But never came the day:
And crooked shapes of Terror crouched,
In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
Before us seemed to play.
They glided past, the glided fast,
Like travellers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
The phantoms kept their tryst.
With mop and mow, we saw them go,
Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
They trod a saraband:
And the damned grotesques made arabesques,
Like the wind upon the sand!
With the pirouettes of marionettes,
They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
For they sang to wake the dead.
'Oho!' they cried, 'the world is wide,
But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
In the secret House of Shame.'
No things of air these antics were,
That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
Most terrible to see.
Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
Some wheeled in smirking pairs;
With the mincing step of a demirep
Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
Each helped us at our prayers.
The morning wind began to moan,
But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
Of the Justice of the Sun.
The moaning wind went wandering round
The weeping prison wall:
Till like a wheel of turning steel
We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
To have such a seneschal?
At last I saw the shadowed bars,
Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
God's dreadful dawn was red.
At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,
At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
Had entered in to kill.
He did not pass in purple pomp,
Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
Are all the gallows' need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
To do the secret deed.
We were as men who through a fen
Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or to give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.
For Man's grim Justice goes its way
And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong
The monstrous parricide!
We waited for the stroke of eight:
Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
For the best man and the worst.
We had no other thing to do,
Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man's heart beat thick and quick,
Like a madman on a drum!
With sudden shock the prison-clock
Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
Of impotent despair,
Like the sound the frightened marshes hear
From some leper in his lair.
And as one sees most fearful things
In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman's snare
Strangled into a scream.
And all the woe that moved him so
That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths that one must die.
There is no chapel on the day
On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
Which none should look upon.
So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
And then they rang the bell,
And the warders with their jingling keys
Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
Each from his separate Hell.
Out into God's sweet air we went,
But not in wonted way,
For this man's face was white with fear,
And that man's face was gray,
And I never saw sad men who looked
So wistfully at the day.
I never saw sad men who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
We prisoners called the sky,
And at every happy cloud that passed
In such strange freedom by.
But there were those amongst us all
Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived,
Whilst they had killed the dead.
For he who sins a second time
Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud
And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,
And makes it bleed in vain!
Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
And no man spoke a word.
Silently we went round and round,
And through each hollow mind
The Memory of dreadful things
Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
And Terror crept behind.
The warders strutted up and down,
And watched their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were spick and span,
And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at,
By the quicklime on their boots.
For where a grave had opened wide,
There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
That the man should have his pall.
For he has a pall, this wretched man,
Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
Naked, for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
Wrapt in a sheet of flame!
And all the while the burning lime
Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bones by night,
And the soft flesh by day,
It eats the flesh and bone by turns,
But it eats the heart alway.
For three long years they will not sow
Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
With unreproachful stare.
They think a murderer's heart would taint
Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God's kindly earth
Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but glow more red,
The white rose whiter blow.
Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
Christ brings His will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?
But neither milk-white rose nor red
May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
A common man's despair.
So never will wine-red rose or white,
Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard
That God's Son died for all.
Yet though the hideous prison-wall
Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit may not walk by night
That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may but weep that lies
In such unholy ground,
He is at peace- this wretched man-
At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
Has neither Sun nor Moon.
They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
They did not even toll
A requiem that might have brought
Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
And hid him in a hole.
The warders stripped him of his clothes,
And gave him to the flies:
They mocked the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
In which the convict lies.
The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save.
Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.
But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took His brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.
This too I know- and wise it were
If each could know the same-
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.
With bars they blur the gracious moon,
And blind the goodly sun:
And the do well to hide their Hell,
For in it things are done
That Son of things nor son of Man
Ever should look upon!
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the warder is Despair.
For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and gray,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.
Each narrow cell in which we dwell
Is a foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
In Humanity's machine.
The brackish water that we drink
Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.
But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
Becomes one's heart by night.
With midnight always in one's heart,
And twilight in one's cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
Than the sound of a brazen bell.
And never a human voice comes near
To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
With soul and body marred.
And thus we rust Life's iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.
And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
With the scent of costliest nard.
Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?
And he of the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise.
The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.
And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
Became Christ's snow-white seal.
In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.
And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.
And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Lycus the Centaur
FROM AN UNROLLED MANUSCRIPT OF APOLLONIUS CURIUS
(The Argument: Lycus, detained by Circe in her magical dominion, is beloved by a Water Nymph, who, desiring to render him immortal, has recourse to the Sorceress. Circe gives her an incantation to pronounce, which should turn Lycus into a horse; but the horrible effect of the charm causing her to break off in the midst, he becomes a Centaur).
Who hath ever been lured and bound by a spell
To wander, fore-doomed, in that circle of hell
Where Witchery works with her will like a god,
Works more than the wonders of time at a nod,—
At a word,—at a touch,—at a flash of the eye,
But each form is a cheat, and each sound is a lie,
Things born of a wish—to endure for a thought,
Or last for long ages—to vanish to nought,
Or put on new semblance? O Jove, I had given
The throne of a kingdom to know if that heaven,
And the earth and its streams were of Circe, or whether
They kept the world's birthday and brighten'd together!
For I loved them in terror, and constantly dreaded
That the earth where I trod, and the cave where I bedded,
The face I might dote on, should live out the lease
Of the charm that created, and suddenly cease:
And I gave me to slumber, as if from one dream
To another—each horrid,—and drank of the stream
Like a first taste of blood, lest as water I quaff'd
Swift poison, and never should breathe from the draught,—
Such drink as her own monarch husband drain'd up
When he pledged her, and Fate closed his eyes in the cup.
And I pluck'd of the fruit with held breath, and a fear
That the branch would start back and scream out in my ear;
For once, at my suppering, I plucked in the dusk
An apple, juice-gushing and fragrant of musk;
But by daylight my fingers were crimson'd with gore,
And the half-eaten fragment was flesh at the core;
And once—only once—for the love of its blush,
I broke a bloom bough, but there came such a gush
On my hand, that it fainted away in weak fright,
While the leaf-hidden woodpecker shriek'd at the sight;
And oh! such an agony thrill'd in that note,
That my soul, startling up, beat its wings in my throat,
As it long'd to be free of a body whose hand
Was doom'd to work torments a Fury had plann'd!
There I stood without stir, yet how willing to flee,
As if rooted and horror-turn'd into a tree,—
Oh! for innocent death,—and to suddenly win it,
I drank of the stream, but no poison was in it;
I plunged in its waters, but ere I could sink,
Some invisible fate pull'd me back to the brink;
I sprang from the rock, from its pinnacle height,
But fell on the grass with a grasshopper's flight;
I ran at my fears—they were fears and no more,
For the bear would not mangle my limbs, nor the boar,
But moan'd—all their brutalized flesh could not smother
The horrible truth,—we were kin to each other!
They were mournfully gentle, and group'd for relief,
All foes in their skin, but all friends in their grief:
The leopard was there,—baby-mild in its feature;
And the tiger, black-barr'd, with the gaze of a creature
That knew gentle pity; the bristle-back'd boar,
His innocent tusks stain'd with mulberry gore;
And the laughing hyena—but laughing no more;
And the snake, not with magical orbs to devise
Strange death, but with woman's attraction of eyes;
The tall ugly ape, that still bore a dim shine
Through his hairy eclipse of a manhood divine;
And the elephant stately, with more than its reason,
How thoughtful in sadness! but this is no season
To reckon them up from the lag-bellied toad
To the mammoth, whose sobs shook his ponderous load.
There were woes of all shapes, wretched forms, when I came,
That hung down their heads with a human-like shame;
The elephant hid in the boughs, and the bear
Shed over his eyes the dark veil of his hair;
And the womanly soul turning sick with disgust,
Tried to vomit herself from her serpentine crust;
While all groan'd their groans into one at their lot,
As I brought them the image of what they were not.
Then rose a wild sound of the human voice choking
Through vile brutal organs—low tremulous croaking:
Cries swallow'd abruptly—deep animal tones
Attuned to strange passion, and full-utter'd groans;
All shuddering weaken, till hush'd in a pause
Of tongues in mute motion and wide-yawning jaws;
And I guessed that those horrors were meant to tell o'er
The tale of their woes; but the silence told more,
That writhed on their tongues; and I knelt on the sod,
And pray'd with my voice to the cloud-stirring god,
For the sad congregation of supplicants there,
That upturn'd to his heaven brute faces of prayer;
And I ceased, and they utter'd a moaning so deep,
That I wept for my heart-ease,—but they could not weep,
And gazed with red eyeballs, all wistfully dry,
At the comfort of tears in a stag's human eye.
Then I motion'd them round, and, to soothe their distress,
I caress'd, and they bent them to meet my caress,
Their necks to my arm, and their heads to my palm,
And with poor grateful eyes suffer'd meekly and calm
Those tokens of kindness, withheld by hard fate
From returns that might chill the warm pity to hate;
So they passively bow'd—save the serpent, that leapt
To my breast like a sister, and pressingly crept
In embrace of my neck, and with close kisses blister'd
My lips in rash love,—then drew backward, and glister'd
Her eyes in my face, and loud hissing affright,
Dropt down, but swift started away from my sight!
This sorrow was theirs, but thrice wretched my lot,
Turn'd brute in my soul, though my body was not,
When I fled from the sorrow of womanly faces,
That shrouded their woe in the shade of lone places,
And dash'd off bright tears, till their fingers were wet,
And then wiped their lids with long tresses of jet:
But I fled—though they stretch'd out their hands, all entangled
With hair, and blood-stain'd of the breasts they had mangled,—
Though they call'd—and perchance but to ask, had I seen
Their loves, or to tell the vile wrongs that had been:
But I stayed not to hear, lest the story should hold
Some hell-form of words, some enchantment, once told,
Might translate me in flesh to a brute; and I dreaded
To gaze on their charms, lest my faith should be wedded
With some pity,—and love in that pity perchance—
To a thing not all lovely; for once at glance,
Methought, where one sat, I descried a bright wonder
That flow'd like a long silver rivulet under
The long fenny grass,—with so lovely a breast,
Could it be a snake-tail made the charm of the rest?
So I roamed in that circle of horrors, and Fear
Walk'd with me, by hills, and in valleys, and near
Cluster'd trees for their gloom—not to shelter from heat—
But lest a brute-shadow should grow at my feet;
And besides that full oft in the sunshiny place
Dark shadows would gather like clouds on its face,
In the horrible likeness of demons (that none
Could see, like invisible flames in the sun);
But grew to one monster that seized on the light,
Like the dragon that strangles the moon in the night;
Fierce sphinxes, long serpents, and asps of the south;
Wild birds of huge beak, and all horrors that drouth
Engenders of slime in the land of the pest,
Vile shapes without shape, and foul bats of the West,
Bringing Night on their wings; and the bodies wherein
Great Brahma imprisons the spirits of sin,
Many-handed, that blent in one phantom of fight
Like a Titan, and threatfully warr'd with the light;
I have heard the wild shriek that gave signal to close,
When they rushed on that shadowy Python of foes,
That met with sharp beaks and wide gaping of jaws,
With flappings of wings, and fierce grasping of claws,
And whirls of long tails:—I have seen the quick flutter
Of fragments dissevered,—and necks stretch'd to utter
Long screamings of pain,—the swift motion of blows,
And wrestling of arms—to the flight at the close,
When the dust of the earth startled upward in rings,
And flew on the whirlwind that follow'd their wings.
Thus they fled—not forgotten—but often to grow
Like fears in my eyes, when I walk'd to and fro
In the shadows, and felt from some beings unseen
The warm touch of kisses, but clean or unclean
I knew not, nor whether the love I had won
Was of heaven or hell—till one day in the sun,
In its very noon-blaze, I could fancy a thing
Of beauty, but faint as the cloud-mirrors fling
On the gaze of the shepherd that watches the sky,
Half-seen and half-dream'd in the soul of his eye.
And when in my musings I gazed on the stream,
In motionless trances of thought, there would seem
A face like that face, looking upward through mine:
With his eyes full of love, and the dim-drownd shine
Of limbs and fair garments, like clouds in that blue
Serene:—there I stood for long hours but to view
Those fond earnest eyes that were ever uplifted
Towards me, and wink'd as the water-weed drifted
Between; but the fish knew that presence, and plied
Their long curvy tails, and swift darted aside.
There I gazed for lost time, and forgot all the things
That once had been wonders—the fishes with wings,
And the glimmer of magnified eyes that look'd up
From the glooms of the bottom like pearls in a cup,
And the huge endless serpent of silvery gleam,
Slow winding along like a tide in the stream.
Some maid of the waters, some Naiad, methought
Held me dear in the pearl of her eye—and I brought
My wish to that fancy; and often I dash'd
My limbs in the water, and suddenly splash'd
The cool drops around me, yet clung to the brink,
Chill'd by watery fears, how that beauty might sink
With my life in her arms to her garden, and bind me
With its long tangled grasses, or cruelly wind me
In some eddy to hum out my life in her ear,
Like a spider-caught bee,—and in aid of that fear
Came the tardy remembrance—Oh falsest of men!
Why was not that beauty remember'd till then?
My love, my safe love, whose glad life would have run
Into mine—like a drop—that our fate might be one,
That now, even now,—may-be,—clasp'd in a dream,
That form which I gave to some jilt of the stream,
And gazed with fond eyes that her tears tried to smother
On a mock of those eyes that I gave to another!
Then I rose from the stream, but the eyes of my mind,
Still full of the tempter, kept gazing behind
On her crystalline face, while I painfully leapt
To the bank, and shook off the curst waters, and wept
With my brow in the reeds; and the reeds to my ear
Bow'd, bent by no wind, and in whispers of fear,
Growing small with large secrets, foretold me of one
That loved me,—but oh to fly from her, and shun
Her love like a pest—though her love was as true
To mine as her stream to the heavenly blue;
For why should I love her with love that would bring
All misfortune, like hate, on so joyous a thing?
Because of her rival,—even Her whose witch-face
I had slighted, and therefore was doom'd in that place
To roam, and had roam'd, where all horrors grew rank,
Nine days ere I wept with my brow on that bank;
Her name be not named, but her spite would not fail
To our love like a blight; and they told me the tale
Of Scylla,—and Picus, imprison'd to speak
His shrill-screaming woe through a woodpecker's beak.
Then they ceased—I had heard as the voice of my star
That told me the truth of my fortunes—thus far
I had read of my sorrow, and lay in the hush
Of deep meditation,—when lo! a light crush
Of the reeds, and I turn'd and look'd round in the night
Of new sunshine, and saw, as I sipp'd of the light
Narrow-winking, the realized nymph of the stream,
Rising up from the wave with the bend and the gleam
Of a fountain, and o'er her white arms she kept throwing
Bright torrents of hair, that went flowing and flowing
In falls to her feet, and the blue waters roll'd
Down her limbs like a garment, in many a fold,
Sun-spangled, gold-broider'd, and fled far behind,
Like an infinite train. So she came and reclined
In the reeds, and I hunger'd to see her unseal
The buds of her eyes that would ope and reveal
The blue that was in them;—they oped and she raised
Two orbs of pure crystal, and timidly gazed
With her eyes on my eyes; but their color and shine
Was of that which they look'd on, and mostly of mine—
For she loved me,—except when she blush'd, and they sank,
Shame-humbled, to number the stones on the bank,
Or her play-idle fingers, while lisping she told me
How she put on her veil, and in love to behold me
Would wing through the sun till she fainted away
Like a mist, and then flew to her waters and lay
In love-patience long hours, and sore dazzled her eyes
In watching for mine 'gainst the midsummer skies.
But now they were heal'd,—O my heart, it still dances
When I think of the charm of her changeable glances,
And my image how small when it sank in the deep
Of her eyes where her soul was,—Alas! now they weep,
And none knoweth where. In what stream do her eyes
Shed invisible tears? Who beholds where her sighs
Flow in eddies, or sees the ascent of the leaf
She has pluck'd with her tresses? Who listens her grief
Like a far fall of waters, or hears where her feet
Grow emphatic among the loose pebbles, and beat
Them together? Ah! surely her flowers float adown
To the sea unaccepted, and little ones drown
For need of her mercy,—even he whose twin-brother
Will miss him forever; and the sorrowful mother
Imploreth in vain for his body to kiss
And cling to, all dripping and cold as it is,
Because that soft pity is lost in hard pain
We loved,—how we loved!—for I thought not again
Of the woes that were whisper'd like fears in that place
If I gave me to beauty. Her face was the face,
Far away, and her eyes were the eyes that were drown'd
For my absence,—her arms were the arms that sought round
And claspt me to nought; for I gazed and became
Only true to my falsehood, and had but one name
For two loves, and call'd ever on Ægle, sweet maid
Of the sky-loving waters,—and was not afraid
Of the sight of her skin;—for it never could be;
Her beauty and love were misfortunes to me!
Thus our bliss had endured for a time-shorten'd space,
Like a day made of three, and the smile of her face
Had been with me for joy,—when she told me indeed
Her love was self-task'd with a work that would need
Some short hours, for in truth 'twas the veriest pity
Our love should not last, and then sang me a ditty,
Of one with warm lips that should love her, and love her
When suns were burnt dim and long ages past over.
So she fled with her voice, and I patiently nested
My limbs in the reeds, in still quiet, and rested
Till my thoughts grew extinct, and I sank in a sleep
Of dreams,—but their meaning was hidden too deep
To be read what their woe was;—but still it was woe
That was writ on all faces that swam to and fro
In that river of night;—and the gaze of their eyes
Was sad,—and the bend of their brows,—and their cries
Were seen, but I heard not. The warm touch of tears
Travell'd down my cold cheeks, and I shook till my fears
Awaked me, and lo! I was couch'd in a bower,
The growth of long summers rear'd up in an hour!
Then I said, in the fear of my dream, I will fly
From this magic, but could not, because that my eye
Grew love-idle among the rich blooms; and the earth
Held me down with its coolness of touch, and the mirth
Of some bird was above me,—who, even in fear,
Would startle the thrush? and methought there drew near
A form as of Ægle,—but it was not the face
Hope made, and I knew the witch-Queen of that place,
Even Circe the Cruel, that came like a Death,
Which I fear'd, and yet fled not, for want of my breath.
There was thought in her face, and her eyes were not raised
From the grass at her foot, but I saw, as I gazed,
Her spite—and her countenance changed with her mind
As she plann'd how to thrall me with beauty, and bind
My soul to her charms,—and her long tresses play'd
From shade into shine and from shine into shade,
Like a day in mid-autumn,—first fair, O how fair!
With long snaky locks of the adder-black hair
That clung round her neck,—those dark locks that I prize,
For the sake of a maid that once loved me with eyes
Of that fathomless hue,—but they changed as they roll'd,
And brighten'd, and suddenly blazed into gold
That she comb'd into flames, and the locks that fell down
Turn'd dark as they fell, but I slighted their brown,
Nor loved, till I saw the light ringlets shed wild,
That innocence wears when she is but a child;
And her eyes,—Oh I ne'er had been witched with their shine,
Had they been any other, my Ægle, than thine!
Then I gave me to magic, and gazed till I madden'd
In the full of their light,—but I sadden'd and sadden'd
The deeper I look'd,—till I sank on the snow
Of her bosom, a thing made of terror and woe,
And answer'd its throb with the shudder of fears,
And hid my cold eyes from her eyes with my tears,
And strain'd her white arms with the still languid weight
Of a fainting distress. There she sat like the Fate
That is nurse unto Death, and bent over in shame
To hide me from her the true Ægle—that came
With the words on her lips the false witch had fore-given
To make me immortal—for now I was even
At the portals of Death, who but waited the hush
Of world-sounds in my ears to cry welcome, and rush
With my soul to the banks of his black-flowing river.
Oh, would it had flown from my body forever,
Ere I listen'd those words, when I felt with a start,
The life-blood rush back in one throb to my heart,
And saw the pale lips where the rest of that spell
Had perished in horror—and heard the farewell
Of that voice that was drown'd in the dash of the stream!
How fain had I follow'd, and plunged with that scream
Into death, but my being indignantly lagg'd
Through the brutalized flesh that I painfully dragg'd
Behind me:—O Circe! O mother of spite!
Speak the last of that curse! and imprison me quite
In the husk of a brute,—that no pity may name
The man that I was,—that no kindred may claim—
'The monster I am! Let me utterly be
Brute-buried, and Nature's dishonor with me
Uninscribed!'—But she listen'd my prayer, that was praise
To her malice, with smiles, and advised me to gaze
On the river for love,—and perchance she would make
In pity a maid without eyes for my sake,
And she left me like Scorn. Then I ask'd of the wave,
What monster I was, and it trembled and gave
The true shape of my grief, and I turn'd with my face
From all waters forever, and fled through that place,
Till with horror more strong than all magic I pass'd
Its bounds, and the world was before me at last.
There I wander'd in sorrow, and shunned the abodes
Of men, that stood up in the likeness of Gods,
But I saw from afar the warm shine of the sun
On the cities, where man was a million, not one;
And I saw the white smoke of their altars ascending,
That show'd where the hearts of many were blending,
And the wind in my face brought shrill voices that came
From the trumpets that gather'd whole bands in one fame
As a chorus of man,—and they stream'd from the gates
Like a dusky libation poured out to the Fates.
But at times there were gentler processions of peace
That I watch'd with my soul in my eyes till their cease,
There were women! there men! but to me a third sex
I saw them all dots—yet I loved them as specks:
And oft to assuage a sad yearning of eyes
I stole near the city, but stole covert-wise
Like a wild beast of love, and perchance to be smitten
By some hand that I rather had wept on than bitten!
Oh, I once had a haunt near a cot where a mother
Daily sat in the shade with her child, and would smother
Its eyelids in kisses, and then in its sleep
Sang dreams in its ear of its manhood, while deep
In a thicket of willows I gazed o'er the brooks
That murmur'd between us and kiss'd them with looks;
But the willows unbosom'd their secret, and never
I return'd to a spot I had startled forever,
Though I oft long'd to know, but could ask it of none,
Was the mother still fair, and how big was her son?
For the haunters of fields they all shunn'd me by flight;
The men in their horror, the women in fright;
None ever remain'd save a child once that sported
Among the wild bluebells, and playfully courted
The breeze; and beside him a speckled snake lay
Tight strangled, because it had hiss'd him away
From the flower at his finger; he rose and drew near
Like a Son of Immortals, one born to no fear,
But with strength of black locks and with eyes azure bright
To grow to large manhood of merciful might.
He came, with his face of bold wonder, to feel,
The hair of my side, and to lift up my heel,
And question'd my face with wide eyes; but when under
My lids he saw tears,—for I wept at his wonder,
He stroked me, and utter'd such kindliness then,
That the once love of women, the friendship of men
In past sorrow, no kindness e'er came like a kiss
On my heart in its desolate day such as this!
And I yearn'd at his cheeks in my love, and down bent,
And lifted him up in my arms with intent
To kiss him,—but he cruel-kindly, alas!
Held out to my lips a pluck'd handful of grass!
Then I dropt him in horror, but felt as I fled
The stone he indignantly hurl'd at my head,
That dissever'd my ear,—but I felt not, whose fate
Was to meet more distress in his love than his hate!
Thus I wander'd, companion'd of grief and forlorn
Till I wish'd for that land where my being was born
But what was that land with its love, where my home
Was self-shut against me; for why should I come
Like an after-distress to my gray-bearded father,
With a blight to the last of his sight?—let him rather
Lament for me dead, and shed tears in the urn
Where I was not, and still in fond memory turn
To his son even such as he left him. Oh, how
Could I walk with the youth once my fellows, but now
Like Gods to my humbled estate?—or how bear
The steeds once the pride of my eyes and the care
Of my hands? Then I turn'd me self-banish'd, and came
Into Thessaly here, where I met with the same
As myself. I have heard how they met by a stream
In games, and were suddenly changed by a scream
That made wretches of many, as she roll'd her wild eyes
Against heaven, and so vanish'd.—The gentle and wise
Lose their thoughts in deep studies, and others their ill
In the mirth of mankind where they mingle them still.
Of Ancient Mastodon, Sleepy Bee & Young Men Who Leap Too Soon From Bridges - Nightingale Confesses Into Straighter Teeth
'...descend, and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane
Pueri aeterna, septem cadens
Etiam plures ad
The boys eternal, seven falling
Too many more to come
Sub olivae, pacem
Ut vos omnes adoremus orientatio
Under the olive trees, peace
May you all adore this orientation
"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their
hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once
hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."
- James Baldwin
'Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood
Do not ask me to see it! '
- Federico Garcia Lorca*
Even the pigeons on my stoop are silent now.
One mourning dove coos tenderly for these who
have taken their own lives publicly on our behalf,
for those many gone before them, broken hearts
enraged, no more to engage the unpersuaded
world which, one of them, one of the public ones,
in spite of murmuring wharves, in spite of amorous
dark alleys bitter in the pitch of the last hateful
American Century, Hart Crane, wrote before his leap
from the ship beside the phallic curve where Cuba
meets the lisping sea, took his tongue away which
sang of chill dawns breaking upon bridges whose
spans still freely splinter light returning hungover
from the night wharves, grottoes, and denim World
Wars, industrial embraces crushing every man and
now another one abandons his fingers and fiddling
to scattering light, takes flight from ledges to
edge close to an embrace no longer forbidden -
'And so it was I entered the broken world
to trace the visionary company of love...'
I am at the 'Way of Peace Bistro, ' where the server
Alberto whose cousins are the famous Wolf Boys in
Jalisco, Mexico, hirsute himself, gives me free double
espressos so I may hear his confession, who only just
yesterday came out to me in my confessional booth
here at the perpetually wobbly table in the far corner
at the cracked window rocking with Hart's un-confessed
bones wrapped in soothing silt which he now dreams
to be his silken pall.
Life is indeed strange above the veiled bottom.
I do receive confessions here where I weekly haunt
for studying, writing, chasing down dreams, waves,
Why, I wonder, is each window where I sit cracked?
I am the itinerant priest who sits at meager feasts.
Suffering congregants, forlorn over their starfish
and soup, ask about dreams, confess to anguish, ask
what should be done. I consult espresso foam, open
the nearest book at hand willy nilly to see what advice
or wisdom might be gained from That which, we hope,
indiscriminately sustains us all here straining after
some realing thing to keep us going when Hart and
those too recent others obey some impulse to place
at last the final period, reifiying the punctuate
though unrepentant ending of this too too long run-on
sentence of hate. One hopes this period holds fast,
that Logos/meaning is somehow, plates of starfish
with fork and knife beside, true or truing at least.
One serves where needed. And when.
So come unto me you 'sad young men.
All the news is bad again so kiss your dreams goodbye.'**
Here at my confessional I can only plead mercy upon the boys
who have jumped from bridges, hung themselves, cut, sliced their
compulsive hands, exploded hearts, leaping dears eyes ablaze in
thrall of antlers, trembling flanks strong to fly decrying the
violent hunt which always ends in a death bequeathing these
chopped bits to me and to others like me who remain at table,
plates before, to stare at what is to be later scattered, sown,
these pieces in and for Love-without-name still a stain upon
confused local deities and their wild-eyed supplicants.
But there is no stain upon the promiscuous sea.
The compliant sky is not confused.
Neither is all that is between confused,
allowing birth and blessing, passing of
all kinds in all manner of motive and motion.
But in the human world, distressing, there
will be more boys, more men growing up as
from the very beginning where earliest enmity
mythically grew strong before shoes, before
hearts were capable of breaking, before turgid
theological floods spilled blood of brother
by brother turning witness stones toward silence,
echoing lamenting Federico,
'Do not ask me to see it! '
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it!
But I, but perhaps we, who remain to plant these
petaled parts of these unwitting scapegoats whose
eyes are milk now forever, we must bar sentimentality,
must move toward genuine knowing which comes from
the long hard stare beyond Milky Ways at the way
things still inexorably are. 'Nothing gets better -
or changes for the better - until it is what it is.'
But the falling ones, half-way to eternity while
here and eschewed, know what the 'is' is of the matter,
that it is the others, too many of them, who don't
or won't know, who willingly refuse to see 'what is'
in order to reach beyond the collective NOT SEE
solutions' of hetero-normative culture/religion.
Perhaps even in the deepest fault of the ocean that
very visionary company - in league with stuporous
pigeons, a mourning dove, me here who remains-not
-yet-remains, tearful over my espresso looking for
signs, finding only an endlessly fracturing rainbow,
remembering, too, the murmuring secrets of wharves
and co-mingled breath - that very visionary company
traces all the sunken ones, the jumping ones, those
with other means for departure by their own hands
empty now of demands for love.
Here I sit, arthritic living hands still
demanding, remembering full of past and
present griefs the Violin with a cut throat
in a youthful suicide once writ years ago,
hidden, hiding out, refusing to shout my
rage to Almighty 'Nothing-But':
Do not hear nothing but the cabin walls,
do not hear nothing but late summer roses
petal by petal leaping from the still too
white trellises, leaping pinkly, redly,
memory to breezes, overwhelmed by trellises
shagged with cut sleeves.***
But not me. Not yet.
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it.
On the mute page, the Violin refusing to sing
- in love with Garcia Lorca,
the goring horn of the Bull,
the destined cornada -
each and all appalling, commanding 'Write'
in long nights working where the mentally ill
wandered with me, keys ironically in my hand,
the yellowing hallways with even more ironic
EXIT signs brightly RED above the locked doors,
silent companions somnolent but for the jangling
joke of the keys.
Do not ask me to see it!
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it.
Still, I have now these better days in the Village,
broke or near to it, with eggs and beans, cheap but
edible things. An epicurean after all, I do luxuriously
head to the Polish butcher shop nearby to gather meat
but not any of the young butchers want to be gathered
- too Catholic - for Poland is 'passing strange' with
bad teeth, fingers stained with nicotine. Or is it rust
from once Curtains of Iron,
or the Blood of the Acetylene Virgin? ****
I get my meat, cook my greens and things, have good-enough feasts for garlic and the right spice make grander the demanded abstemiousness of current coin. I purloin my pleasure during eats in my dirty yet happy apron with recordings of poetry, lectures or a good aria or two to salt my food with tears, a blubbering fool beside his one low watt lamp, darkness too too comfortable like a pooch or cat at feet. What is that bleating in the darker corner? I shall wait for daylight to see what it can be. And if I can I shall free it from it's trap and in doing so perhaps free me from all this, all this witnessing as life demands I must, of young ones setting themselves free because they are forced to do so by collective psychopathology now rendered even more effective and efficient via technology, via internet, emphasis upon the 'net', where the ills set free from Pandora's Modem have only begun to be revealed.
But I shall use that 'net' and my still goodly paper and goodly pen to dim whatever ill tides there are and to come, as they surely will in spite of low wattage. I'll jangle keys on the night watches reading my mystic books, making my prayers with roamers of wards and wharves glancing up, considering bridges, edges, silty bottoms. The tides are here even now. But right now I wish to sing a lullaby in protest to those hurting departed, even to those coming ills, that I may sing innocence dumbly back to those who may come ashore again more gently having forgotten enforcing depths insisting them toward resistant yet resolved embraces...
...So breech then, waves. Feet first. Heads in the brine. I shall keep time on your wrinkled toes sticking up from the sand, play peek-a-boo. Then while you sleep I shall harvest gently, place them firmly in that old woman's shoe...'there was an old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn't know what to do'.
She may yet have learned what to by now.
I haven't. But for my one strange harvest here below...
Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased
He is busy even as I write this preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday, nervous and excited about it all. Working out regularly at the gym he is now very toned, muscular in a good way, not too pumped in exaggerated lumps, and he is even more radiantly beautiful/handsome than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden, such aromas are not to be tucked down like the shop is beside and below the avenue.
Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.
If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.
And so we began our time together, the cooking lessons, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:
I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me
Yesterday I coached him on slowing down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:
'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'
A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,
You may shout if you wish to wake
the Temple for the cow cannot speak -
Wake up! Awake! Make haste!
Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,
the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!
Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!
There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.
After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.
'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?
Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.
I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...
I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.
Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?
Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.
So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.
And he leaves me.
I return to my poems.
The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.
I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .
I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.
Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.
The violin's throat cut.
'Do not ask me to see it! '
Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.
Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them
I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.
Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.
I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.
I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.
*Opening quote is from Lorca's elegy, 'Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías'
** The Ballad of the Sad Young Men
Music written by: Tommy WolfLyrics written by: Fran Landesman
(best version sung that I know of is by an aged Mabel Mercer in concert, hard to find it now)
Sing a song of sad young men
Glasses full of rye
All the news is bad again so
Kiss your dreams goodbye
All the sad young men
Sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights
Missing all the stars
All the sad young men
Drifting through the town
Drinking up the night
Trying not to drown
All the sad young men
Singing in the cold
Trying to forget
That they're growing old
All the sad young men
Choking on their youth
Trying to be brave
Running from the truth
Autumn turns the leaves to gold
Slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old
That's the cruelest part
All the sad young men
Seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold
For a little while
Tired little bird,
She does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her
sad young man
While the grimy moon
Blossoms up above
All the sad young men
Play at making love
Shine for sad young men
Let your gentle light
Guide them home again
All the sad young men
***In China homosexuality was referred to as 'the cut sleeve'.
Read an excellent account of this in
Passions of the Cut Sleeve, The Male Homosexual Tradition in China.
http: //www.ucpress.edu/book.php? isbn=9780520078697
****Surrealistic Sutures For The Acetylene Virgin by Warren Falcon
'I think that poetry should stay awake all night drinking in dark cellars.' - Thomas Merton
Look to the body for metaphor
Look to blood, use this word
in relation to dreams or flowers
while silver runs in veins which
are usually streets or vines.
Breasts, male and female,
are stars, have to do with
a handful or feet to span them.
Abdomen, then, is a great
Milky Way gathering,
holding, expelling comets,
caroling colons' humming.
Spleens are bones to
pick teeth with, teeth
which are, of course,
sea horses or gravestones
bearing images of the Flagrant
Heart to tame this spot of
gypsum and flint, to charm
where Violin's cut throat
sings itself awake, one
black breast out of its fold
slapping metal seas against
dropping metal shores in
Sidelight's shadow across
this hand writing now,
slap of waves mute in
this stillness of knees.
So lend a darkness to gardens,
ancient pattern of a breast,
cloth lightly lifting, black on black.
From Her chest reveal a slenderer throat
that nods when she swallows
and names her peace.
The delicate will not pass away just yet.
Great Seamstress of Space
with fingers of dew.
How fresh the Dartle's little waves that day!
A steely silver, underlined with blue,
And flashing where the round clouds, blown away,
Let drop the yellow sunshine to gleam through
And tip the edges of the waves with shifts
And spots of whitest fire, hard like gems
Cut from the midnight moon they were, and sharp
As wind through leafless stems.
The Lady Eunice walked between the drifts
Of blooming cherry-trees, and watched the rifts
Of clouds drawn through the river's azure warp.
Her little feet tapped softly down the path.
Her soul was listless; even the morning breeze
Fluttering the trees and strewing a light swath
Of fallen petals on the grass, could please
Her not at all. She brushed a hair aside
With a swift move, and a half-angry frown.
She stopped to pull a daffodil or two,
And held them to her gown
To test the colours; put them at her side,
Then at her breast, then loosened them and tried
Some new arrangement, but it would not do.
A lady in a Manor-house, alone,
Whose husband is in Flanders with the Duke
Of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, she's grown
Too apathetic even to rebuke
Her idleness. What is she on this Earth?
No woman surely, since she neither can
Be wed nor single, must not let her mind
Build thoughts upon a man
Except for hers. Indeed that were no dearth
Were her Lord here, for well she knew his worth,
And when she thought of him her eyes were kind.
Too lately wed to have forgot the wooing.
Too unaccustomed as a bride to feel
Other than strange delight at her wife's doing.
Even at the thought a gentle blush would steal
Over her face, and then her lips would frame
Some little word of loving, and her eyes
Would brim and spill their tears, when all they saw
Was the bright sun, slantwise
Through burgeoning trees, and all the morning's flame
Burning and quivering round her. With quick shame
She shut her heart and bent before the law.
He was a soldier, she was proud of that.
This was his house and she would keep it well.
His honour was in fighting, hers in what
He'd left her here in charge of. Then a spell
Of conscience sent her through the orchard spying
Upon the gardeners. Were their tools about?
Were any branches broken? Had the weeds
Been duly taken out
Under the 'spaliered pears, and were these lying
Nailed snug against the sunny bricks and drying
Their leaves and satisfying all their needs?
She picked a stone up with a little pout,
Stones looked so ill in well-kept flower-borders.
Where should she put it? All the paths about
Were strewn with fair, red gravel by her orders.
No stone could mar their sifted smoothness. So
She hurried to the river. At the edge
She stood a moment charmed by the swift blue
Beyond the river sedge.
She watched it curdling, crinkling, and the snow
Purfled upon its wave-tops. Then, 'Hullo,
My Beauty, gently, or you'll wriggle through.'
The Lady Eunice caught a willow spray
To save herself from tumbling in the shallows
Which rippled to her feet. Then straight away
She peered down stream among the budding sallows.
A youth in leather breeches and a shirt
Of finest broidered lawn lay out upon
An overhanging bole and deftly swayed
A well-hooked fish which shone
In the pale lemon sunshine like a spurt
Of silver, bowed and damascened, and girt
With crimson spots and moons which waned and played.
The fish hung circled for a moment, ringed
And bright; then flung itself out, a thin blade
Of spotted lightning, and its tail was winged
With chipped and sparkled sunshine. And the shade
Broke up and splintered into shafts of light
Wheeling about the fish, who churned the air
And made the fish-line hum, and bent the rod
Almost to snapping. Care
The young man took against the twigs, with slight,
Deft movements he kept fish and line in tight
Obedience to his will with every prod.
He lay there, and the fish hung just beyond.
He seemed uncertain what more he should do.
He drew back, pulled the rod to correspond,
Tossed it and caught it; every time he threw,
He caught it nearer to the point. At last
The fish was near enough to touch. He paused.
Eunice knew well the craft - 'What's got the thing!'
She cried. 'What can have caused -
Where is his net? The moment will be past.
The fish will wriggle free.' She stopped aghast.
He turned and bowed. One arm was in a sling.
The broad, black ribbon she had thought his basket
Must hang from, held instead a useless arm.
'I do not wonder, Madam, that you ask it.'
He smiled, for she had spoke aloud. 'The charm
Of trout fishing is in my eyes enhanced
When you must play your fish on land as well.'
'How will you take him?' Eunice asked. 'In truth
I really cannot tell.
'Twas stupid of me, but it simply chanced
I never thought of that until he glanced
Into the branches. 'Tis a bit uncouth.'
He watched the fish against the blowing sky,
Writhing and glittering, pulling at the line.
'The hook is fast, I might just let him die,'
He mused. 'But that would jar against your fine
Sense of true sportsmanship, I know it would,'
Cried Eunice. 'Let me do it.' Swift and light
She ran towards him. 'It is so long now
Since I have felt a bite,
I lost all heart for everything.' She stood,
Supple and strong, beside him, and her blood
Tingled her lissom body to a glow.
She quickly seized the fish and with a stone
Ended its flurry, then removed the hook,
Untied the fly with well-poised fingers. Done,
She asked him where he kept his fishing-book.
He pointed to a coat flung on the ground.
She searched the pockets, found a shagreen case,
Replaced the fly, noticed a golden stamp
Filling the middle space.
Two letters half rubbed out were there, and round
About them gay rococo flowers wound
And tossed a spray of roses to the clamp.
The Lady Eunice puzzled over these.
'G. D.' the young man gravely said. 'My name
Is Gervase Deane. Your servant, if you please.'
'Oh, Sir, indeed I know you, for your fame
For exploits in the field has reached my ears.
I did not know you wounded and returned.'
'But just come back, Madam. A silly prick
To gain me such unearned
Holiday making. And you, it appears,
Must be Sir Everard's lady. And my fears
At being caught a-trespassing were quick.'
He looked so rueful that she laughed out loud.
'You are forgiven, Mr. Deane. Even more,
I offer you the fishing, and am proud
That you should find it pleasant from this shore.
Nobody fishes now, my husband used
To angle daily, and I too with him.
He loved the spotted trout, and pike, and dace.
He even had a whim
That flies my fingers tied swiftly confused
The greater fish. And he must be excused,
Love weaves odd fancies in a lonely place.'
She sighed because it seemed so long ago,
Those days with Everard; unthinking took
The path back to the orchard. Strolling so
She walked, and he beside her. In a nook
Where a stone seat withdrew beneath low boughs,
Full-blossomed, hummed with bees, they sat them down.
She questioned him about the war, the share
Her husband had, and grown
Eager by his clear answers, straight allows
Her hidden hopes and fears to speak, and rouse
Her numbed love, which had slumbered unaware.
Under the orchard trees daffodils danced
And jostled, turning sideways to the wind.
A dropping cherry petal softly glanced
Over her hair, and slid away behind.
At the far end through twisted cherry-trees
The old house glowed, geranium-hued, with bricks
Bloomed in the sun like roses, low and long,
Gabled, and with quaint tricks
Of chimneys carved and fretted. Out of these
Grey smoke was shaken, which the faint Spring breeze
Tossed into nothing. Then a thrush's song
Needled its way through sound of bees and river.
The notes fell, round and starred, between young leaves,
Trilled to a spiral lilt, stopped on a quiver.
The Lady Eunice listens and believes.
Gervase has many tales of her dear Lord,
His bravery, his knowledge, his charmed life.
She quite forgets who's speaking in the gladness
Of being this man's wife.
Gervase is wounded, grave indeed, the word
Is kindly said, but to a softer chord
She strings her voice to ask with wistful sadness,
'And is Sir Everard still unscathed? I fain
Would know the truth.' 'Quite well, dear Lady, quite.'
She smiled in her content. 'So many slain,
You must forgive me for a little fright.'
And he forgave her, not alone for that,
But because she was fingering his heart,
Pressing and squeezing it, and thinking so
Only to ease her smart
Of painful, apprehensive longing. At
Their feet the river swirled and chucked. They sat
An hour there. The thrush flew to and fro.
The Lady Eunice supped alone that day,
As always since Sir Everard had gone,
In the oak-panelled parlour, whose array
Of faded portraits in carved mouldings shone.
Warriors and ladies, armoured, ruffed, peruked.
Van Dykes with long, slim fingers; Holbeins, stout
And heavy-featured; and one Rubens dame,
A peony just burst out,
With flaunting, crimson flesh. Eunice rebuked
Her thoughts of gentler blood, when these had duked
It with the best, and scorned to change their name.
A sturdy family, and old besides,
Much older than her own, the Earls of Crowe.
Since Saxon days, these men had sought their brides
Among the highest born, but always so,
Taking them to themselves, their wealth, their lands,
But never their titles. Stern perhaps, but strong,
The Framptons fed their blood from richest streams,
Scorning the common throng.
Gazing upon these men, she understands
The toughness of the web wrought from such strands
And pride of Everard colours all her dreams.
Eunice forgets to eat, watching their faces
Flickering in the wind-blown candle's shine.
Blue-coated lackeys tiptoe to their places,
And set out plates of fruit and jugs of wine.
The table glitters black like Winter ice.
The Dartle's rushing, and the gentle clash
Of blossomed branches, drifts into her ears.
And through the casement sash
She sees each cherry stem a pointed slice
Of splintered moonlight, topped with all the spice
And shimmer of the blossoms it uprears.
'In such a night -' she laid the book aside,
She could outnight the poet by thinking back.
In such a night she came here as a bride.
The date was graven in the almanack
Of her clasped memory. In this very room
Had Everard uncloaked her. On this seat
Had drawn her to him, bade her note the trees,
How white they were and sweet
And later, coming to her, her dear groom,
Her Lord, had lain beside her in the gloom
Of moon and shade, and whispered her to ease.
Her little taper made the room seem vast,
Caverned and empty. And her beating heart
Rapped through the silence all about her cast
Like some loud, dreadful death-watch taking part
In this sad vigil. Slowly she undrest,
Put out the light and crept into her bed.
The linen sheets were fragrant, but so cold.
And brimming tears she shed,
Sobbing and quivering in her barren nest,
Her weeping lips into the pillow prest,
Her eyes sealed fast within its smothering fold.
The morning brought her a more stoic mind,
And sunshine struck across the polished floor.
She wondered whether this day she should find
Gervase a-fishing, and so listen more,
Much more again, to all he had to tell.
And he was there, but waiting to begin
Until she came. They fished awhile, then went
To the old seat within
The cherry's shade. He pleased her very well
By his discourse. But ever he must dwell
Upon Sir Everard. Each incident
Must be related and each term explained.
How troops were set in battle, how a siege
Was ordered and conducted. She complained
Because he bungled at the fall of Liege.
The curious names of parts of forts she knew,
And aired with conscious pride her ravelins,
And counterscarps, and lunes. The day drew on,
And his dead fish's fins
In the hot sunshine turned a mauve-green hue.
At last Gervase, guessing the hour, withdrew.
But she sat long in still oblivion.
Then he would bring her books, and read to her
The poems of Dr. Donne, and the blue river
Would murmur through the reading, and a stir
Of birds and bees make the white petals shiver,
And one or two would flutter prone and lie
Spotting the smooth-clipped grass. The days went by
Threaded with talk and verses. Green leaves pushed
Through blossoms stubbornly.
Gervase, unconscious of dishonesty,
Fell into strong and watchful loving, free
He thought, since always would his lips be hushed.
But lips do not stay silent at command,
And Gervase strove in vain to order his.
Luckily Eunice did not understand
That he but read himself aloud, for this
Their friendship would have snapped. She treated him
And spoilt him like a brother. It was now
'Gervase' and 'Eunice' with them, and he dined
Whenever she'd allow,
In the oak parlour, underneath the dim
Old pictured Framptons, opposite her slim
Figure, so bright against the chair behind.
Eunice was happier than she had been
For many days, and yet the hours were long.
All Gervase told to her but made her lean
More heavily upon the past. Among
Her hopes she lived, even when she was giving
Her morning orders, even when she twined
Nosegays to deck her parlours. With the thought
Of Everard, her mind
Solaced its solitude, and in her striving
To do as he would wish was all her living.
She welcomed Gervase for the news he brought.
Black-hearts and white-hearts, bubbled with the sun,
Hid in their leaves and knocked against each other.
Eunice was standing, panting with her run
Up to the tool-house just to get another
Basket. All those which she had brought were filled,
And still Gervase pelted her from above.
The buckles of his shoes flashed higher and higher
Until his shoulders strove
Quite through the top. 'Eunice, your spirit's filled
This tree. White-hearts!' He shook, and cherries spilled
And spat out from the leaves like falling fire.
The wide, sun-winged June morning spread itself
Over the quiet garden. And they packed
Full twenty baskets with the fruit. 'My shelf
Of cordials will be stored with what it lacked.
In future, none of us will drink strong ale,
But cherry-brandy.' 'Vastly good, I vow,'
And Gervase gave the tree another shake.
The cherries seemed to flow
Out of the sky in cloudfuls, like blown hail.
Swift Lady Eunice ran, her farthingale,
Unnoticed, tangling in a fallen rake.
She gave a little cry and fell quite prone
In the long grass, and lay there very still.
Gervase leapt from the tree at her soft moan,
And kneeling over her, with clumsy skill
Unloosed her bodice, fanned her with his hat,
And his unguarded lips pronounced his heart.
'Eunice, my Dearest Girl, where are you hurt?'
His trembling fingers dart
Over her limbs seeking some wound. She strove
To answer, opened wide her eyes, above
Her knelt Sir Everard, with face alert.
Her eyelids fell again at that sweet sight,
'My Love!' she murmured, 'Dearest! Oh, my Dear!'
He took her in his arms and bore her right
And tenderly to the old seat, and 'Here
I have you mine at last,' she said, and swooned
Under his kisses. When she came once more
To sight of him, she smiled in comfort knowing
Herself laid as before
Close covered on his breast. And all her glowing
Youth answered him, and ever nearer growing
She twined him in her arms and soft festooned
Herself about him like a flowering vine,
Drawing his lips to cling upon her own.
A ray of sunlight pierced the leaves to shine
Where her half-opened bodice let be shown
Her white throat fluttering to his soft caress,
Half-gasping with her gladness. And her pledge
She whispers, melting with delight. A twig
Snaps in the hornbeam hedge.
A cackling laugh tears through the quietness.
Eunice starts up in terrible distress.
'My God! What's that?' Her staring eyes are big.
Revulsed emotion set her body shaking
As though she had an ague. Gervase swore,
Jumped to his feet in such a dreadful taking
His face was ghastly with the look it wore.
Crouching and slipping through the trees, a man
In worn, blue livery, a humpbacked thing,
Made off. But turned every few steps to gaze
At Eunice, and to fling
Vile looks and gestures back. 'The ruffian!
By Christ's Death! I will split him to a span
Of hog's thongs.' She grasped at his sleeve, 'Gervase!
What are you doing here? Put down that sword,
That's only poor old Tony, crazed and lame.
We never notice him. With my dear Lord
I ought not to have minded that he came.
But, Gervase, it surprises me that you
Should so lack grace to stay here.' With one hand
She held her gaping bodice to conceal
Her breast. 'I must demand
Your instant absence. Everard, but new
Returned, will hardly care for guests. Adieu.'
'Eunice, you're mad.' His brain began to reel.
He tried again to take her, tried to twist
Her arms about him. Truly, she had said
Nothing should ever part them. In a mist
She pushed him from her, clasped her aching head
In both her hands, and rocked and sobbed aloud.
'Oh! Where is Everard? What does this mean?
So lately come to leave me thus alone!'
But Gervase had not seen
Sir Everard. Then, gently, to her bowed
And sickening spirit, he told of her proud
Surrender to him. He could hear her moan.
Then shame swept over her and held her numb,
Hiding her anguished face against the seat.
At last she rose, a woman stricken - dumb -
And trailed away with slowly-dragging feet.
Gervase looked after her, but feared to pass
The barrier set between them. All his rare
Joy broke to fragments - worse than that, unreal.
And standing lonely there,
His swollen heart burst out, and on the grass
He flung himself and wept. He knew, alas!
The loss so great his life could never heal.
For days thereafter Eunice lived retired,
Waited upon by one old serving-maid.
She would not leave her chamber, and desired
Only to hide herself. She was afraid
Of what her eyes might trick her into seeing,
Of what her longing urge her then to do.
What was this dreadful illness solitude
Had tortured her into?
Her hours went by in a long constant fleeing
The thought of that one morning. And her being
Bruised itself on a happening so rude.
It grew ripe Summer, when one morning came
Her tirewoman with a letter, printed
Upon the seal were the Deane crest and name.
With utmost gentleness, the letter hinted
His understanding and his deep regret.
But would she not permit him once again
To pay her his profound respects? No word
Of what had passed should pain
Her resolution. Only let them get
Back the old comradeship. Her eyes were wet
With starting tears, now truly she deplored
His misery. Yes, she was wrong to keep
Away from him. He hardly was to blame.
'Twas she - she shuddered and began to weep.
'Twas her fault! Hers! Her everlasting shame
Was that she suffered him, whom not at all
She loved. Poor Boy! Yes, they must still be friends.
She owed him that to keep the balance straight.
It was such poor amends
Which she could make for rousing hopes to gall
Him with their unfulfilment. Tragical
It was, and she must leave him desolate.
Hard silence he had forced upon his lips
For long and long, and would have done so still
Had not she - here she pressed her finger tips
Against her heavy eyes. Then with forced will
She wrote that he might come, sealed with the arms
Of Crowe and Frampton twined. Her heart felt lighter
When this was done. It seemed her constant care
Might some day cease to fright her.
Illness could be no crime, and dreadful harms
Did come from too much sunshine. Her alarms
Would lessen when she saw him standing there,
Simple and kind, a brother just returned
From journeying, and he would treat her so.
She knew his honest heart, and if there burned
A spark in it he would not let it show.
But when he really came, and stood beside
Her underneath the fruitless cherry boughs,
He seemed a tired man, gaunt, leaden-eyed.
He made her no more vows,
Nor did he mention one thing he had tried
To put into his letter. War supplied
Him topics. And his mind seemed occupied.
Daily they met. And gravely walked and talked.
He read her no more verses, and he stayed
Only until their conversation, balked
Of every natural channel, fled dismayed.
Again the next day she would meet him, trying
To give her tone some healthy sprightliness,
But his uneager dignity soon chilled
Her well-prepared address.
Thus Summer waned, and in the mornings, crying
Of wild geese startled Eunice, and their flying
Whirred overhead for days and never stilled.
One afternoon of grey clouds and white wind,
Eunice awaited Gervase by the river.
The Dartle splashed among the reeds and whined
Over the willow-roots, and a long sliver
Of caked and slobbered foam crept up the bank.
All through the garden, drifts of skirling leaves
Blew up, and settled down, and blew again.
The cherry-trees were weaves
Of empty, knotted branches, and a dank
Mist hid the house, mouldy it smelt and rank
With sodden wood, and still unfalling rain.
Eunice paced up and down. No joy she took
At meeting Gervase, but the custom grown
Still held her. He was late. She sudden shook,
And caught at her stopped heart. Her eyes had shown
Sir Everard emerging from the mist.
His uniform was travel-stained and torn,
His jackboots muddy, and his eager stride
Jangled his spurs. A thorn
Entangled, trailed behind him. To the tryst
He hastened. Eunice shuddered, ran - a twist
Round a sharp turning and she fled to hide.
But he had seen her as she swiftly ran,
A flash of white against the river's grey.
'Eunice,' he called. 'My Darling. Eunice. Can
You hear me? It is Everard. All day
I have been riding like the very devil
To reach you sooner. Are you startled, Dear?'
He broke into a run and followed her,
And caught her, faint with fear,
Cowering and trembling as though she some evil
Spirit were seeing. 'What means this uncivil
Greeting, Dear Heart?' He saw her senses blur.
Swaying and catching at the seat, she tried
To speak, but only gurgled in her throat.
At last, straining to hold herself, she cried
To him for pity, and her strange words smote
A coldness through him, for she begged Gervase
To leave her, 'twas too much a second time.
Gervase must go, always Gervase, her mind
Repeated like a rhyme
This name he did not know. In sad amaze
He watched her, and that hunted, fearful gaze,
So unremembering and so unkind.
Softly he spoke to her, patiently dealt
With what he feared her madness. By and by
He pierced her understanding. Then he knelt
Upon the seat, and took her hands: 'Now try
To think a minute I am come, my Dear,
Unharmed and back on furlough. Are you glad
To have your lover home again? To me,
Pickthorn has never had
A greater pleasantness. Could you not bear
To come and sit awhile beside me here?
A stone between us surely should not be.'
She smiled a little wan and ravelled smile,
Then came to him and on his shoulder laid
Her head, and they two rested there awhile,
Each taking comfort. Not a word was said.
But when he put his hand upon her breast
And felt her beating heart, and with his lips
Sought solace for her and himself. She started
As one sharp lashed with whips,
And pushed him from her, moaning, his dumb quest
Denied and shuddered from. And he, distrest,
Loosened his wife, and long they sat there, parted.
Eunice was very quiet all that day,
A little dazed, and yet she seemed content.
At candle-time, he asked if she would play
Upon her harpsichord, at once she went
And tinkled airs from Lully's `Carnival'
And `Bacchus', newly brought away from France.
Then jaunted through a lively rigadoon
To please him with a dance
By Purcell, for he said that surely all
Good Englishmen had pride in national
Accomplishment. But tiring of it soon
He whispered her that if she had forgiven
His startling her that afternoon, the clock
Marked early bed-time. Surely it was Heaven
He entered when she opened to his knock.
The hours rustled in the trailing wind
Over the chimney. Close they lay and knew
Only that they were wedded. At his touch
Anxiety she threw
Away like a shed garment, and inclined
Herself to cherish him, her happy mind
Quivering, unthinking, loving overmuch.
Eunice lay long awake in the cool night
After her husband slept. She gazed with joy
Into the shadows, painting them with bright
Pictures of all her future life's employ.
Twin gems they were, set to a single jewel,
Each shining with the other. Soft she turned
And felt his breath upon her hair, and prayed
Her happiness was earned.
Past Earls of Crowe should give their blood for fuel
To light this Frampton's hearth-fire. By no cruel
Affrightings would she ever be dismayed.
When Everard, next day, asked her in joke
What name it was that she had called him by,
She told him of Gervase, and as she spoke
She hardly realized it was a lie.
Her vision she related, but she hid
The fondness into which she had been led.
Sir Everard just laughed and pinched her ear,
And quite out of her head
The matter drifted. Then Sir Everard chid
Himself for laziness, and off he rid
To see his men and count his farming-gear.
At supper he seemed overspread with gloom,
But gave no reason why, he only asked
More questions of Gervase, and round the room
He walked with restless strides. At last he tasked
Her with a greater feeling for this man
Than she had given. Eunice quick denied
The slightest interest other than a friend
Might claim. But he replied
He thought she underrated. Then a ban
He put on talk and music. He'd a plan
To work at, draining swamps at Pickthorn End.
Next morning Eunice found her Lord still changed,
Hard and unkind, with bursts of anger. Pride
Kept him from speaking out. His probings ranged
All round his torment. Lady Eunice tried
To sooth him. So a week went by, and then
His anguish flooded over; with clenched hands
Striving to stem his words, he told her plain
Tony had seen them, 'brands
Burning in Hell,' the man had said. Again
Eunice described her vision, and how when
Awoke at last she had known dreadful pain.
He could not credit it, and misery fed
Upon his spirit, day by day it grew.
To Gervase he forbade the house, and led
The Lady Eunice such a life she flew
At his approaching footsteps. Winter came
Snowing and blustering through the Manor trees.
All the roof-edges spiked with icicles
In fluted companies.
The Lady Eunice with her tambour-frame
Kept herself sighing company. The flame
Of the birch fire glittered on the walls.
A letter was brought to her as she sat,
Unsealed, unsigned. It told her that his wound,
The writer's, had so well recovered that
To join his regiment he felt him bound.
But would she not wish him one short 'Godspeed',
He asked no more. Her greeting would suffice.
He had resolved he never should return.
Would she this sacrifice
Make for a dying man? How could she read
The rest! But forcing her eyes to the deed,
She read. Then dropped it in the fire to burn.
Gervase had set the river for their meeting
As farthest from the farms where Everard
Spent all his days. How should he know such cheating
Was quite expected, at least no dullard
Was Everard Frampton. Hours by hours he hid
Among the willows watching. Dusk had come,
And from the Manor he had long been gone.
Eunice her burdensome
Task set about. Hooded and cloaked, she slid
Over the slippery paths, and soon amid
The sallows saw a boat tied to a stone.
Gervase arose, and kissed her hand, then pointed
Into the boat. She shook her head, but he
Begged her to realize why, and with disjointed
Words told her of what peril there might be
From listeners along the river bank.
A push would take them out of earshot. Ten
Minutes was all he asked, then she should land,
He go away again,
Forever this time. Yet how could he thank
Her for so much compassion. Here she sank
Upon a thwart, and bid him quick unstrand
His boat. He cast the rope, and shoved the keel
Free of the gravel; jumped, and dropped beside
Her; took the oars, and they began to steal
Under the overhanging trees. A wide
Gash of red lantern-light cleft like a blade
Into the gloom, and struck on Eunice sitting
Rigid and stark upon the after thwart.
It blazed upon their flitting
In merciless light. A moment so it stayed,
Then was extinguished, and Sir Everard made
One leap, and landed just a fraction short.
His weight upon the gunwale tipped the boat
To straining balance. Everard lurched and seized
His wife and held her smothered to his coat.
'Everard, loose me, we shall drown -' and squeezed
Against him, she beat with her hands. He gasped
'Never, by God!' The slidden boat gave way
And the black foamy water split - and met.
Bubbled up through the spray
A wailing rose and in the branches rasped,
And creaked, and stilled. Over the treetops, clasped
In the blue evening, a clear moon was set.
They lie entangled in the twisting roots,
Embraced forever. Their cold marriage bed
Close-canopied and curtained by the shoots
Of willows and pale birches. At the head,
White lilies, like still swans, placidly float
And sway above the pebbles. Here are waves
Sun-smitten for a threaded counterpane
Gold-woven on their graves.
In perfect quietness they sleep, remote
In the green, rippled twilight. Death has smote
Them to perpetual oneness who were twain.
the Source of ‘Crab Nebula'
'The greats molder in their graves
Their words collect as dust upon their spines
Their hearts do not beat in time with today
and yet, the Spirit calls & you answer
What more can a ‘writer' do'?
(poetic writers are compelled to write
& seldom know why)
There is a cold water'd house
On a bleak winter'd street
With stale musty stink
Of unwashed sock and sheet
Dirty dishes left still
Standing there in the sink.
Memories drenched in scent
Of kerosene and coal
Christmases without trees
Colored paper or ribbon bows.
Yet ___ there was laughter, warm
and yes ___ love
Her making toast over-done
and coffee too thin for him.
Poverty of wage and things
Cannot suppress the hope
Of loves gentle kiss
Became a foggy mist
Of what could have been
Instead of what is.
(Genetic Memory of Life before I was)
(I did not ask to be born)
Knowing why, doesn't make the search go away
Knowing how, doesn't mean you can stop
There are alternative ways, different days
No one gets to stay forever
There are traps
There are walls
People trip and people fall
and some never get up and walk again
The world continues to change
Nothing stays the same
Tomorrow is not always better
Bad things happen to good people
Good things happen to bad
and no one knows, why the wind blows
The water rises and why everything must die
Wishing will not make the pain of life go away
Life, is what it is.
Son... this is Karma calling ___
I did not hear him as he called out
As if I could have comforted him
Or kept him from slipping away
Perhaps he was waiting to say goodbye
Or to hear how sorry I was to see him go
I did not hear him as he called out
I was young and caught up in living my life
Of squander, waste and dark skinned girls
With eyes of fire and ice
I admit I was not very nice
I did not hear him as he called out
Now fear grips my stony heart
Holds me tight as I call out
and there is no one there
In the middle of the night.
Decadent Dreams ___
Every day I am borne anew
Through the mud and sludge
Of decadent dreams
And some vague remembrance
That I'm connected to my past
I stare at a mirrored reflection
I do not recognize
My cold pinching shoes feel too far away to tie
As I try to remember, where I'm going and why
I try to capture that which is lost
The world that was meant for me
Is not the world in which I live
My face feels the sting of one hand clapping
My eyes focus on the world outside of my self
The colors change from ‘Dali-esque vibrancy
To being all sooty and smelling of sweat
Ahhh, ... it must be Monday and time to go back to work.
I found center and faced South
(thinking to my self)
‘Might as well start walking my ass some more'
I had gone back home, it wasn't there anymore
I had no future ‘cept my next step
Hungries forced asleep
Dead-air feed's on my innards
And yet, never have I felt so alive
I felt the wind push me further along the highway
Pushed by the driving force of Peterbilts and Reo's
Death a dark lonely step just to the left of shoulder
the Sign read
‘Watch Out For Falling Rocks'
Impact on the endless lostness
Despair unworthy of the energy required
Step impact, step, step
Taillights stop, door open
Light on friendly face
Jump in as a grateful alley-cat seeking shelter from the rain,
Sot, footsoak, water-blister, blood wet, of another years-end drizzle
Feel the warm fragrant above my own Zen-stench
Cross the Line___
I've been to the other side
you know, Crossed the line
Where the juke joints live and people die
Where the rhythms have a hitch and some jive
And the words flow as a sudden snow
Where the rules ain't as important
As the fire and ice, going through my veins
and the sound of underground trains
Made me feel gritty in my B-flat' strains
The city makes me crazy
Air I breathed, kinda hazy
& I couldn't take it anymore
So, I poured all my feelings onto the page
Bounced off the ceilings with all of my rage,
To see if it would fit, into the message I had writ
I have been, to the other side.
Just Relax ___
We are all just passing through
If we decide to stay a while, sit a spell
We may be able to rent or lease some place
As we ride this rock through space
We can't own it, even if we pay for it
The tax man will take it back
Come with bricks and bats
We own nothing, that we can take with us
As we build our towers and bridges
We can't even take the smell of flowers
They leave at our grave
Or the sweat we gave to make this place ours
So just relax
Don't get too attached, It ain't ours
We just use it for hours, to do what They' want us to do.
One Way Ticket___
Another day of the dead as I stare at my empty bed
I see shadows of the Moon as time falls behind
Love had grown old and turned to dust
The papers of Divorce have finally been signed
Disappointment has replaced my once young lust
Words can no longer describe what is left of my mind
As once held hopes and dreams
Now slowly unravel and unwind
The Sun turns dim and grows small upon the western sky
Clouds from the East, join with clouds from the North
And grayness comes into my world
The ecstatic colors of Autumn leaves silently fall to ground
The ‘Dog Winds of Winter' called forth their biting
Knowing she was no longer there to warm me with her smile.
No one knows why some choices made are unwise / certainly not I
Or why some are out of step with the universal mind / as is mine
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure
There are those that believe with all their heart / I know not why
They see things that are not here or there / that I cannot
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure
While others are willing to kill or die
For an idea that I cannot comprehend
Or bring about a final end
Without trying to mend a broken fence
To me / makes no sense
All I know for sure ___ is, I know nothing' for sure.
I opened the bag *, that I had carried a lifetime
There was a lot of dark empty space
Some memories, smiles and tears
That never found my face
Knowledge without wisdom
Experiences never intended
Pain I could not erase
Many failures and disappointed others,
I had met along the way
Many books unread, many games not played
In my search for what? I'm still not sure
My motives, though well intended, my thoughts often impure
I could have been / should have been
Meant to be so much more
I barely managed to carry that dusty bag
Now empty, lying there on the floor
I hadn't wanted it, to end like this
Shuffling, dragging one foot
Elbow pressed to my waist
Holding up my rumpled trousers
Whimpering with each painful step
Some times life' just be like that.
(* I had stood up too quickly and passed out, an ‘out of body experience,
revealed my ‘self from above, as my body appeared as an empty bag) .
El Gatos ___
Padded feet on deserted streets
After-hours as others sleep
With half Moon hidden
Behind clouds and trees stripped of leaves.
Familiar walks of solitude and classic etude's
Whispering in tall Fall grasses
Fences blending shadows into the night.
As Life's fabric of mystery weft and weaves.
There are gardens of purple hush
With no access for trespasses
No stone pillows for the restless and the lost
That wander the forever in dirty sleeves.
The air smells of dogs of war
Avoiding the whore of death
That tempts my contempt of the pleasures
Society so eagerly receives.
Being alone is my preference in life
Not the cackle of woman and bleating sheep
Or those that would lie in wait
To destroy dreams and dawns of precious sleep.
(the night belongs to stray cats & homeless old men)
Grandfather Clock / tick tick ___
Blustery she is...
The wind that crosses the River East
Shaking the remaining leaves from their wresting
Never resting she does not cease her hoary breath.
Others, stronger than I ignore her warnings
But I, hear her curse.
She is coming for the weary and infirm
She is searching for me in shudders and shakes
This is all it takes to confirm
That this year I am willing to go without a whimper.
I am ready for the kiss that takes my breath away.
As a child I saw the gathering of suits
and dresses of somber smells.
Murmurs and the whispering of flowers
Sickly surrounding wooden chairs,
And guilt, because I did not feel anything.
'He is just a child, he does not know'.
I knew I did not like this Death thing.
Why is Uncle asleep there?
Why does she cry?
Why won't they say, so I understand?
Why can't I play?
'Shhhh, He's gone away'.
As leaves are beaten down from their homes of trees
and drops of rain rush fast towards the street corners drains
My words written in messy script on paper scraps
Are soon forgotten and do not last. I wonder...,
Was there a glimpse of gold in words unspoken?
A reflection of celebrity missed by me,
Crumpled and tossed into the waste in haste?
Probably not. But still I thought ___ maybe.
Maybe I am as among the undiscovered stars,
That flicker and shine but briefly, then burn away,
That no one sees and no one will ever know existed.
(Life is like that.)
I dreamt dreams as a child
And it was with fresh eyes when I woke
That I saw and remembered
What had been written in previous sleeps
Another world / the other world
That runs parallel to my own
Perhaps a step ahead or behind,
but... always, just out of reach.
A Catch of Breath___
Soon the falling will begin
Sunlight will weave in and out of leaves of trees
Changing the once dull and dusty green
Into complex tapestries
Closer to the ground
The grasses are cool and mute
Death will again dance to the tune
Of a seasons changing door
I have heard this melody before.
I consider my existence and
Truth is only in the now
Everything past is muddled
Covered with a widows veil
Distorted by pride and fear
That future thing is never
What we suppose, hope or fantasize
Only the now, this moment
That eternal space between breaths
Means anything at all
Empathy with my self is all
That allows me to believe
That I deserve to exist
& gives me the will to go on.
Homeless Dust Dancer *____
Dressed in the rags of time and places
Signifying in loud incoherent phrases
With bluff and blunder
He talks a storm
Sings as thunder
Scaring tourists and their children
From tame towns that have no Zen
With once dull eyes they come
To see just another homeless bum
Believing their lives are the only way
They lie to self wishing they
Could also speak the magic of dirt and dust
And do what the dust dancer must.
* (Mike, a homeless person, lived on the sidewalk across the street) .
The Autumn clouds gather &
Roll slowly across the small town quiet
Oak leaves tense in anticipation
Of the wrenching winds to come
The Birch trees tighten their iron grip
And brace their bark against the chilling
All things joined in Sighs
Breathing in the last long warmth of Sun
October's celebration colors emerge
For their frantic dance of dying
Spent, then drained
The cold shadows fell into their nocturnal slumber
Memories fall away in swirls
Mere dreams of another time
The world slips to sleep
As man once again, prepares for war.
Epiphany of the backward child ___
Sitting at the table of empty chairs
His world so small inside
Wishing he knew how to pray
How to dance
Laugh out loud
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
Dreamt in threes
Wept without tears
Love got lost on Monday
Never knew how much he missed
His Mothers kiss
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
Turned his back on the streets and roads
Never climbed the tree
Played in Clouds
Left the Porch
Splashed in puddles
Or kicked the can
Wishing didn't work, so he stopped.
(If you wish in one hand and spit in the other hand,
which hand gets filled first?)
On the Wall / a soldier's lament___
Amid the dark of night when drunks
Cease their raucous noise
Murky dews come once again
Upon the wall of stone
Standing in doorways shadow
Hearing Earth in its turning
and aging timbers in their moan
I sense the rose petal hue of dawn
Peek its eye on the edge of a mourning sky
I will to survive another night so that my bones
Might embrace again the warm before I die
The watching having been worth the while
My tour of duty over, I could then go home.
(' They also serve, who stand and wait.'.)
Nautilus Shell ___
Night under a Summer's warm
I left the shell of me to see
How my sojourn thus far had come.
The breeze breathed a sigh
As I raised my eyes to see the polar star.
Through the night sky and summer trees
Transfixed and entranced, I held my gaze
and saw the universe as under an upturned bowl
the numberless days, slowly turning, yet,
Holding within my entire life.
Whether my journeys tonight end
Or the turnings cease and suspend
I am now no further than I have ever been.
I know not WHO, has thrust me thus or why
As I stand and watch the universe unfold on
The night time sky.
There are those that seem to understand and know
Though for me it is enough,
That I have lived to see
This wondrous thing called life.
(Inspired by, Omar Khyyam)
Nautilus - Living fossil
The Nautilus (in Greek 'sailor') has survived relatively unchanged for 450 million years and is one of the only shells to survive from the Dinosaurs era. This is why the Nautilus is sometimes referred to as a 'living fossil'. The Nautilus is a nocturnal creature and spends most of its time in the great depths of the ocean. The Nautilus shell, lined with mother-of-pearl, grows into increasingly larger chambers throughout its life and so has become a symbol for expansion and renewal.)
Red Dirt Road ___
Respectfully bowing at the waist, I acknowledged his presence.
'Where do you know me from? ' he asked.
‘From the land of Shu', I said.
His green drab field jJacket showed no rank.
It was his character that showed through the dirt and stank.
'I thank you for the respect you have shown... and more,
Although we were adversaries on opposing sides in the Great War.
Now, we are equal in both status and intellect'.
‘Isn't that the truth? , I said
Come share some tea and a piece of old bread.
There is nothing else left, so let us be friends.'
'We, at least both succeeded, in bringing the world to its end'.
('WAR! What's is it good for? NOTHING ')
Night Shift ___
Each of us has an image of paradise,
A destinations resting reward, and yet
I am troubled as my own view is dim.
Deep down many levels beneath the sun
Where hand hewn roots of Sequoia support
the Marble hall of others, I am sweeping
the dust gatherings and collecting into piles
The cardboard refuse of gifts not meant for me.
Toiling the forever among vague others I never knew
While I was sleepwalking somewhere up there.
I go on, in the certainty that eventually
I too will rise to the Alabaster Porticos
Washed by brief sweet showers of rain.
Till then I accept my role
As Janitor, this side of the Gate.
Loss of Memory ___
Presenting masks wherever we go.
Mere representations that we give the world to see.
However, hidden deep down within and behind the eyes,
the (i) hides, wearing a mask that we expect others to recognize.
All who play the game of Life are afraid to strip away the facade
and show our true nature known only to God.
We have forgotten what we once were, before we learned
To speak lies and subterfuge
Before we stared at a dusty glass mirror,
As if that which is there, is forever.
After years of empty laughter turns to a dry sardonic grin,
Will we remember, what still lies within.
Pawned Guitar ___
Once we were as two strings on the instrument of Life's vibration.
Each different in composition and position,
Resonating one to the other in sympathetic harmonics.
A simple and pleasant chord of quiet discretion,
Far from the cacophonies of dissonance
That filled the chaos surrounding us.
Now it appears to our tone deaf ear,
That we too, have taken up noise as our chosen song.
Our once lullaby of love can no longer be heard.
'I no longer believe'!
Barely had the air escaped my lips
That my life turned left, veered into chaos & the magic left me.
The protection ripped from above my head,
As the wind rips the ribs of an umbrella,
Turning it, uselessly inside out.
The Earth continues to turn slowly,
Rolling towards the Sun.
Warming one side, then the other.
Day was done.
Night has come.
Once upon a long ago
A Slitherwhumping to and fro
I'e clumb the chimmney brim
To find what I'e might know
The world had run amok and fallen to the Runes
(Runes be seen as a future already been
buried beneath the sandy dunes)
At present the air is not a gift
All thicky gloob and gone far adrift
The rain she burn the snigglebum
Once rivers flowed as crystal lead
Now filled with green and yallow scum
The fishees floating wide eyed ded
Ahhh da world
She be a' cryin
She be such a' mess
Wimmens wearing mustache
Mens be wearing dress
What kin I do?
What kin I do
To fix this globe of ‘Foam?
I will rite a pome'
‘Bout the starrries shine
An a' Moon
A' hanging on a cloud
and happy Willow trees
Instead of crying shrouds
I'd never take a bath
Never get dirty knees
As I'e go crawling in the grass
With Ziggy Bumblebees
Spread joy an happiness
But ___ alas
Sittin on this chimney brim
I jus' be a boy
With a heart of glass.
(Respects & Apologies to; Lewis Carrol's 'Jabberwocky')
Novembers Embers ___
I felt the winds turning and the chilling
Come forth as Sun rays crept past
Shadowed peaks, angling rise to the north
Reflecting on the glass of panels new sleek buildings
Setting the leaves aglow in gold
Surely the seasons end went as a friend
Leaving memories to times gone by
It was Indians Summer's wave goodbye
That which was priceless began to die
Death was close at hand and winter's slow trod
According to the will of god
The cycle began its turning and
Trampled hearts in ember's burning
From dust to dust again.
Burnt Canvases ___
I tried not to let it happen
It happened all the same
I was stuck unhappily in my own time
Trapped in my own within.
Not a time others were in
(I was still back in the ‘Fifties)
When Jazz was King
When oil paints on canvas
and being ‘Cool, was my everything.
I suspect... I now look sad
Being old and still trying to act as if I am still like that
I never had that much, but it was all that I had.
So I leaned on it, as one leans on a cane
It's too late to change, so I can't & never will.
Expiration Date ___
When did I get as old as this carton of warm milk?
Yesterday I was laughing with fellow soldiers
On a sandy beach
This morning I was being helped
To cross the busy street
The curb seemed farther than I could reach
I realize I had forgot to zip my fly
The first indication that I, was losing my youth
My trousers have lost its press
I feel to be an wrinkled mess
Do I really care?
I hope I don't have that old man smell of unwashed hair
As I slowly walk in front of others in a hurry
I worry I have become a burden & no longer of any use
Its not fair
I was so good looking just yesterday
Or maybe not
Perhaps I just forgot all those other days in between.
Gypsy Recital ___
Opening her case with the edges frayed
Burnished in carved leather dyed black
She laid her strange stringed instrument
Upon its polished rosewood back
Proceeding to press her fingers
Between the inlaid ivory frets
As if it were a piano keyboard
Playing strange sounding couplets
I thought her face rather plain
Until I heard the music that came
Emanating from deep down within
That changed her olive skin
Into a Regal face in classic profile
My hand fell from the one that I was with
I clutched my heart and began to drift
Sensing her spirit, I then became aware
That I could not tear myself away
From what she had become
The music stopped
And then too, my empty heart
Her hungry eyes became almost primitive
As I was left just barely breathing
Quietly, she said,
'Take that, you heartless Aristocrat'
It was then that I finally recognized
That in my youthful arrogance
I had casually abandoned.
Revenge of the Leaves of Autumn ___
They all came together in one place
Each with each and all with all
They said their piece
From early Spring to almost Fall.
They listened intent to understand
What was to become of the rest of Man
After assimilation's of the great debate
A conclusion was decided on their fate.
After man had raked, pillaged & burned their kin
Destroying memories of those within
The great leaves of trees would finally take revenge.
'Let US no longer give air for them to breathe
No longer the beauty of our Majesty
Never again provide shade from the Sun
Let them burn, as our Fathers had been done.'
From that day forward till the end
Trees and leaves held their breath
Until all the ‘Rakers had died
The most boring of deaths.
... and for any that may come long after,
That sound you hear
Of breeze in the trees
Is the leaves in their laughter.
The Olde Poet ___
My body has turned to Winter now
Though I still think it's Spring.
The wisdom I have acquired now
Has become a dusty thing.
Memories no longer found when trying now
They come and go on Raven's wings.
My passions are all brash and bravado now
Having lost my bite and lost my sting.
But that which bothers me most now,
Is the inability to balance and rhyme this darned poem.
Heavy reed tones of the tenor Sax
Soft & gentle chords of the flat string guitar
& yes, the shush of brush on snare skin drum
Cut down the lights
Let the blue cool glow seep into the soul
Gin on the rocks makes the day go away
It's Jazz night at the Hotel Bar
Drifting in and out
Stranger and regular alike
Mixing murmurs of smoke and whispers
'got's to show PROPS to the band'
The tempo slides down a notch
Clumsily, I try to look urbane as I dance with my date
True I'm glued to who I just met
Mostly jus' tryin to be cool
Cool as the night I hope never ends
Now, as I look in the misty bathroom mirror
the old man I no longer recognize, says:
'Everything for me has changed on Saturday nights'.
A New York Fall ___
Blown dusty and dry
& painted iron gates
No one smiles
& no one knows their neighbors name
and yet the Sun shines on those with money
& those with none at all.
Alzheimer Images ___
The lips pursed
Not for kiss, but for curse
Pressed then held
Lest come forth
The yellowing of antique white upon the walls.
Dusty lies withheld / Silence is spilled
Truth mistaken as understood
All is hidden beneath dreams
As faces formed in a carpet of themes.
Staring up from the abyss
There is no respect found there
Only spittle and drools
& staring eyes unseeing
Blinded by memories of never was.
Such are the ways of the melting of aging
All is medical now
Furrows are re-visited upon the brow
Trips & stumbles now
Stands alone amused
Lost in thought
Refused it all
Stranger to my Self ___
In my need to lose my past,
I've forgotten all I know,
Cep't Yesterdays never last,
Though lined up in a row.
Now I have lost the way.
Cannot find my home.
A stranger to those, that say:
' We know You and your Poem'.
Stripped of all I had acquired,
Penniless and getting old.
Viewed through eyes very tired,
My World has turned gray and cold.
The spark that lit the flame
Is damped and worn away
Only I am left to blame
For this always empty day.
If only I knew Now
What I knew back then.
I would never have allowed
This inevitable end.
If you have to explain your Poems,
Describe your Paintings,
Justify the existence of your Sculpture,
Then you have Failed.
If you have to receive affirmation from others,
To affirm your Self,
Then you have Failed.
If your center is self and the creative process,
Instead of others and the alleviation of pain and injustice,
Then you have failed.
the Outsider ___
In dreams as in waking I am nearly naked
Seeing and seen by people I do not know.
Though streets seem familiar of places been
I am and have always been alone.
Approaching encampments I smile my name
Extend my empty hand in peace
Shuffle and shly stand
Waiting for solitude's release
I will fight to be accepted, to prove my worth.
I will stand down to show my intent
I will not accept label as slave
I will not serve the corrupters Tent.
If I must remain or go alone
Bags or belongings be damned
All I ask from those within
Is - that I keep that which I am.
Never Learned to Laugh___
Lifetimes have passed,
The lips stay dry pressed.
I have heard ' mirth upon the path.
Jealous have leaned forward,
Eager to see this marvelous thing.
Always some unfortunate soul was in pain.
Laughter of small minds,
Gleefully sarcastic at the
Imposed shortcomings of another.
At seeing me they would stop and stare,
Looking for any caricature of difference.
Any blemish or distortion.
A shade of color not before seen.
Then the stabbings would begin.
Insults thrown javelin.
Hoping to rise a tear.
To them'___ that was funny,
To enjoy the susceptibilities
Of the soft unprotected underbelly.
I have always looked beyond
The mis shapen shell God has given us,
Hiding the beauty hidden within.
Looked deep down, past
The shallow Freudian mask.
Amazed at the lovliness.
Still I have never learned to laugh.
Hope I never will.
Invitation to Reality ___
Embossed, Elegant and Proper
With White Glove upon Silver Tray
(___‘He imagined) the invitation
Would surely come
To announce his required presence to attend.
His Fellow wordsmith's and other known
Notorious Poets of the Dusky Café',
would say, 'Come Speak and Bend your phrase
and entertain us, on this, your sixty-first Birthday'.
A celebration that would envy, Cyrano, Don Quixote'
and those other guys
Wine, laughter and Raucous noise
Out on the town with the boys.
With this a gentle tear did shyly slip
Past cheek, M'stache and hidden laugh.'
My life is proven to be all that I have dreamed '
(and With that___)
A crack of burn'n wood and steam
Did rise to wake from within that Barrel of fire
To warm the homeless and dispossessed,
Quaked! Don Booda,
In cold damp shoe and common cloth,
Of yesterday's still dressed.
Breath of kerosene, and hunger now asleep,
Did creep 'round to avoid the shift of wind
That hawkish did bite the face.
Covered in smoke and ash and forgotten sins
For which, he must now pay for his mistake
Of pride, rebellion and anti-social ways.
' Ahhh ___ but those were the days
Those were the days. '
So he wanders in whatever direction
The wind blows his back
Across the tracks through the brush
Of once garden's pruned and manicured
‘Til bloom of fragrant wafting airs turned to sickly smell
Of graves now frozen gates to hell.
Leaning against granite reality...
Scrapes his knuckles and barely bleeds
Feels the need to rest
Exhausted, crumples and collapses
The stars remain fixed
His world spins in ellipse
Of forever turning
Churning through the airless void.
His Belly flutters
Eyelids squint against the light
Wind whoosh chases night
Summer and being seven follow him
Down the path to a porch well worn
An unlocked door
His Mother's scolding scorn,
' Your hands are dirty and you're late for Dinner '
(About: Old homeless Man wanders into neglected cemetery,
Dies, and spends eternity in memories of Thanksgivings past.)
Stone in the stream ___
As I tried to continue my meaningless life
Grumbling, assigning all negativity to that which my eyes beheld
My spirit damped and soggy with the ‘clay of life's drudgeries
I came upon a narrowing of the way
The hall of doors closed.
Attempting to turn and return from whence I had come
The girth of my consuming, weakened by excess,
I could not.
Stifled, by the smalling enclousures
My gaze went floorward and as my chin touched my chest,
My windpipe bent, the scent of my failures filled my lungs.
As a wounded naked child in the chill of the long night
I pondered my decisions in life and could find no fault
with any... other than my self.
I had rejected the wisdom of experience
Going my own way in arrogant delusional defiance.
With too much pride and too late in the game to change,
I accepted my fate and was slowly erased from the book of life.
There are other unread books still flapping their pages in the dust.
Soon their words too, will be bleached by the Sun
and the ink washed away by Spring rains.
They usually appear darkly on the street corners of cities,
Staring vacantly... as the rush of Life moves around them,
As a Salmon swimming upstream past a wet rock
In a fast moving stream.
All just nameless poets, left behind.
Old Man with Stick ___
They have left me now
My childhood heroes.
My Loves long hair and dark eyes.
As wild horses chasing sunsets.
Now come the Specters of the dark unknown.
No longer warmed of the sun.
The nights of unresolved memories and unwise choices.
I chose to be & do, no other than I am.
Malcontents Epilogue ____
No matter where I am
I would rather be somewhere else
No matter who I am with
I would rather be with someone else
Or better yet ___ be alone
For me, it is better to reject the world
Than give the world the opportunity
To reject who I have decided I should be
I am a malcontent
A label I am content to live with
Have you ever seen a stand of birch
Braced against the snow?
A field untouched by buildings
Sleeping under nights blue white glow?
Or how a country road unpaved
Weaves among the barren brush?
Can you hear winter's gentle breath
Beneath full moons hush?
Then you know the peace,
That comes with an old mans death.
By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.
It ended, and the morrow brought the task.
Her eyes were guilty gates, that let him in
By shutting all too zealous for their sin:
Each sucked a secret, and each wore a mask.
But, oh, the bitter taste her beauty had!
He sickened as at breath of poison-flowers:
A languid humour stole among the hours,
And if their smiles encountered, he went mad,
And raged deep inward, till the light was brown
Before his vision, and the world, forgot,
Looked wicked as some old dull murder-spot.
A star with lurid beams, she seemed to crown
The pit of infamy: and then again
He fainted on his vengefulness, and strove
To ape the magnanimity of love,
And smote himself, a shuddering heap of pain.
This was the woman; what now of the man?
But pass him. If he comes beneath a heel,
He shall be crushed until he cannot feel,
Or, being callous, haply till he can.
But he is nothing:- nothing? Only mark
The rich light striking out from her on him!
Ha! what a sense it is when her eyes swim
Across the man she singles, leaving dark
All else! Lord God, who mad'st the thing so fair,
See that I am drawn to her even now!
It cannot be such harm on her cool brow
To put a kiss? Yet if I meet him there!
But she is mine! Ah, no! I know too well
I claim a star whose light is overcast:
I claim a phantom-woman in the Past.
The hour has struck, though I heard not the bell!
All other joys of life he strove to warm,
And magnify, and catch them to his lip:
But they had suffered shipwreck with the ship,
And gazed upon him sallow from the storm.
Or if Delusion came, 'twas but to show
The coming minute mock the one that went.
Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.
Oh, wisdom never comes when it is gold,
And the great price we pay for it full worth:
We have it only when we are half earth.
Little avails that coinage to the old!
A message from her set his brain aflame.
A world of household matters filled her mind,
Wherein he saw hypocrisy designed:
She treated him as something that is tame,
And but at other provocation bites.
Familiar was her shoulder in the glass,
Through that dark rain: yet it may come to pass
That a changed eye finds such familiar sights
More keenly tempting than new loveliness.
The 'What has been' a moment seemed his own:
The splendours, mysteries, dearer because known,
Nor less divine: Love's inmost sacredness
Called to him, 'Come!'-In his restraining start,
Eyes nurtured to be looked at scarce could see
A wave of the great waves of Destiny
Convulsed at a checked impulse of the heart.
It chanced his lips did meet her forehead cool.
She had no blush, but slanted down her eye.
Shamed nature, then, confesses love can die:
And most she punishes the tender fool
Who will believe what honours her the most!
Dead! is it dead? She has a pulse, and flow
Of tears, the price of blood-drops, as I know,
For whom the midnight sobs around Love's ghost,
Since then I heard her, and so will sob on.
The love is here; it has but changed its aim.
O bitter barren woman! what's the name?
The name, the name, the new name thou hast won?
Behold me striking the world's coward stroke!
That will I not do, though the sting is dire.
- Beneath the surface this, while by the fire
They sat, she laughing at a quiet joke.
She issues radiant from her dressing-room,
Like one prepared to scale an upper sphere:
- By stirring up a lower, much I fear!
How deftly that oiled barber lays his bloom!
That long-shanked dapper Cupid with frisked curls
Can make known women torturingly fair;
The gold-eyed serpent dwelling in rich hair
Awakes beneath his magic whisks and twirls.
His art can take the eyes from out my head,
Until I see with eyes of other men;
While deeper knowledge crouches in its den,
And sends a spark up:- is it true we are wed?
Yea! filthiness of body is most vile,
But faithlessness of heart I do hold worse.
The former, it were not so great a curse
To read on the steel-mirror of her smile.
Yet it was plain she struggled, and that salt
Of righteous feeling made her pitiful.
Poor twisting worm, so queenly beautiful!
Where came the cleft between us? whose the fault?
My tears are on thee, that have rarely dropped
As balm for any bitter wound of mine:
My breast will open for thee at a sign!
But, no: we are two reed-pipes, coarsely stopped:
The God once filled them with his mellow breath;
And they were music till he flung them down,
Used! used! Hear now the discord-loving clown
Puff his gross spirit in them, worse than death!
I do not know myself without thee more:
In this unholy battle I grow base:
If the same soul be under the same face,
Speak, and a taste of that old time restore!
He felt the wild beast in him betweenwhiles
So masterfully rude, that he would grieve
To see the helpless delicate thing receive
His guardianship through certain dark defiles.
Had he not teeth to rend, and hunger too?
But still he spared her. Once: 'Have you no fear?'
He said: 'twas dusk; she in his grasp; none near.
She laughed: 'No, surely; am I not with you?'
And uttering that soft starry 'you,' she leaned
Her gentle body near him, looking up;
And from her eyes, as from a poison-cup,
He drank until the flittering eyelids screened.
Devilish malignant witch! and oh, young beam
Of heaven's circle-glory! Here thy shape
To squeeze like an intoxicating grape -
I might, and yet thou goest safe, supreme.
But where began the change; and what's my crime?
The wretch condemned, who has not been arraigned,
Chafes at his sentence. Shall I, unsustained,
Drag on Love's nerveless body thro' all time?
I must have slept, since now I wake. Prepare,
You lovers, to know Love a thing of moods:
Not, like hard life, of laws. In Love's deep woods,
I dreamt of loyal Life:- the offence is there!
Love's jealous woods about the sun are curled;
At least, the sun far brighter there did beam. -
My crime is, that the puppet of a dream,
I plotted to be worthy of the world.
Oh, had I with my darling helped to mince
The facts of life, you still had seen me go
With hindward feather and with forward toe,
Her much-adored delightful Fairy Prince!
Out in the yellow meadows, where the bee
Hums by us with the honey of the Spring,
And showers of sweet notes from the larks on wing
Are dropping like a noon-dew, wander we.
Or is it now? or was it then? for now,
As then, the larks from running rings pour showers:
The golden foot of May is on the flowers,
And friendly shadows dance upon her brow.
What's this, when Nature swears there is no change
To challenge eyesight? Now, as then, the grace
Of heaven seems holding earth in its embrace.
Nor eyes, nor heart, has she to feel it strange?
Look, woman, in the West. There wilt thou see
An amber cradle near the sun's decline:
Within it, featured even in death divine,
Is lying a dead infant, slain by thee.
Not solely that the Future she destroys,
And the fair life which in the distance lies
For all men, beckoning out from dim rich skies:
Nor that the passing hour's supporting joys
Have lost the keen-edged flavour, which begat
Distinction in old times, and still should breed
Sweet Memory, and Hope,-earth's modest seed,
And heaven's high-prompting: not that the world is flat
Since that soft-luring creature I embraced
Among the children of Illusion went:
Methinks with all this loss I were content,
If the mad Past, on which my foot is based,
Were firm, or might be blotted: but the whole
Of life is mixed: the mocking Past will stay:
And if I drink oblivion of a day,
So shorten I the stature of my soul.
'I play for Seasons; not Eternities!'
Says Nature, laughing on her way. 'So must
All those whose stake is nothing more than dust!'
And lo, she wins, and of her harmonies
She is full sure! Upon her dying rose
She drops a look of fondness, and goes by,
Scarce any retrospection in her eye;
For she the laws of growth most deeply knows,
Whose hands bear, here, a seed-bag-there, an urn.
Pledged she herself to aught, 'twould mark her end!
This lesson of our only visible friend
Can we not teach our foolish hearts to learn?
Yes! yes!-but, oh, our human rose is fair
Surpassingly! Lose calmly Love's great bliss,
When the renewed for ever of a kiss
Whirls life within the shower of loosened hair!
What soul would bargain for a cure that brings
Contempt the nobler agony to kill?
Rather let me bear on the bitter ill,
And strike this rusty bosom with new stings!
It seems there is another veering fit,
Since on a gold-haired lady's eyeballs pure
I looked with little prospect of a cure,
The while her mouth's red bow loosed shafts of wit.
Just heaven! can it be true that jealousy
Has decked the woman thus? and does her head
Swim somewhat for possessions forfeited?
Madam, you teach me many things that be.
I open an old book, and there I find
That 'Women still may love whom they deceive.'
Such love I prize not, madam: by your leave,
The game you play at is not to my mind.
I think she sleeps: it must be sleep, when low
Hangs that abandoned arm toward the floor;
The face turned with it. Now make fast the door.
Sleep on: it is your husband, not your foe.
The Poet's black stage-lion of wronged love
Frights not our modern dames:- well if he did!
Now will I pour new light upon that lid,
Full-sloping like the breasts beneath. 'Sweet dove,
Your sleep is pure. Nay, pardon: I disturb.
I do not? good!' Her waking infant-stare
Grows woman to the burden my hands bear:
Her own handwriting to me when no curb
Was left on Passion's tongue. She trembles through;
A woman's tremble-the whole instrument:-
I show another letter lately sent.
The words are very like: the name is new.
In our old shipwrecked days there was an hour,
When in the firelight steadily aglow,
Joined slackly, we beheld the red chasm grow
Among the clicking coals. Our library-bower
That eve was left to us: and hushed we sat
As lovers to whom Time is whispering.
From sudden-opened doors we heard them sing:
The nodding elders mixed good wine with chat.
Well knew we that Life's greatest treasure lay
With us, and of it was our talk. 'Ah, yes!
Love dies!' I said: I never thought it less.
She yearned to me that sentence to unsay.
Then when the fire domed blackening, I found
Her cheek was salt against my kiss, and swift
Up the sharp scale of sobs her breast did lift:-
Now am I haunted by that taste! that sound!
At dinner, she is hostess, I am host.
Went the feast ever cheerfuller? She keeps
The Topic over intellectual deeps
In buoyancy afloat. They see no ghost.
With sparkling surface-eyes we ply the ball:
It is in truth a most contagious game:
HIDING THE SKELETON, shall be its name.
Such play as this the devils might appal!
But here's the greater wonder; in that we,
Enamoured of an acting nought can tire,
Each other, like true hypocrites, admire;
Warm-lighted looks, Love's ephemerioe,
Shoot gaily o'er the dishes and the wine.
We waken envy of our happy lot.
Fast, sweet, and golden, shows the marriage-knot.
Dear guests, you now have seen Love's corpse-light shine.
Here Jack and Tom are paired with Moll and Meg.
Curved open to the river-reach is seen
A country merry-making on the green.
Fair space for signal shakings of the leg.
That little screwy fiddler from his booth,
Whence flows one nut-brown stream, commands the joints
Of all who caper here at various points.
I have known rustic revels in my youth:
The May-fly pleasures of a mind at ease.
An early goddess was a country lass:
A charmed Amphion-oak she tripped the grass.
What life was that I lived? The life of these?
Heaven keep them happy! Nature they seem near.
They must, I think, be wiser than I am;
They have the secret of the bull and lamb.
'Tis true that when we trace its source, 'tis beer.
No state is enviable. To the luck alone
Of some few favoured men I would put claim.
I bleed, but her who wounds I will not blame.
Have I not felt her heart as 'twere my own
Beat thro' me? could I hurt her? heaven and hell!
But I could hurt her cruelly! Can I let
My Love's old time-piece to another set,
Swear it can't stop, and must for ever swell?
Sure, that's one way Love drifts into the mart
Where goat-legged buyers throng. I see not plain:-
My meaning is, it must not be again.
Great God! the maddest gambler throws his heart.
If any state be enviable on earth,
'Tis yon born idiot's, who, as days go by,
Still rubs his hands before him, like a fly,
In a queer sort of meditative mirth.
I am not of those miserable males
Who sniff at vice and, daring not to snap,
Do therefore hope for heaven. I take the hap
Of all my deeds. The wind that fills my sails
Propels; but I am helmsman. Am I wrecked,
I know the devil has sufficient weight
To bear: I lay it not on him, or fate.
Besides, he's damned. That man I do suspect
A coward, who would burden the poor deuce
With what ensues from his own slipperiness.
I have just found a wanton-scented tress
In an old desk, dusty for lack of use.
Of days and nights it is demonstrative,
That, like some aged star, gleam luridly.
If for those times I must ask charity,
Have I not any charity to give?
We three are on the cedar-shadowed lawn;
My friend being third. He who at love once laughed
Is in the weak rib by a fatal shaft
Struck through, and tells his passion's bashful dawn
And radiant culmination, glorious crown,
When 'this' she said: went 'thus': most wondrous she.
Our eyes grow white, encountering: that we are three,
Forgetful; then together we look down.
But he demands our blessing; is convinced
That words of wedded lovers must bring good.
We question; if we dare! or if we should!
And pat him, with light laugh. We have not winced.
Next, she has fallen. Fainting points the sign
To happy things in wedlock. When she wakes,
She looks the star that thro' the cedar shakes:
Her lost moist hand clings mortally to mine.
What may the woman labour to confess?
There is about her mouth a nervous twitch.
'Tis something to be told, or hidden:- which?
I get a glimpse of hell in this mild guess.
She has desires of touch, as if to feel
That all the household things are things she knew.
She stops before the glass. What sight in view?
A face that seems the latest to reveal!
For she turns from it hastily, and tossed
Irresolute steals shadow-like to where
I stand; and wavering pale before me there,
Her tears fall still as oak-leaves after frost.
She will not speak. I will not ask. We are
League-sundered by the silent gulf between.
You burly lovers on the village green,
Yours is a lower, and a happier star!
'Tis Christmas weather, and a country house
Receives us: rooms are full: we can but get
An attic-crib. Such lovers will not fret
At that, it is half-said. The great carouse
Knocks hard upon the midnight's hollow door,
But when I knock at hers, I see the pit.
Why did I come here in that dullard fit?
I enter, and lie couched upon the floor.
Passing, I caught the coverlet's quick beat:-
Come, Shame, burn to my soul! and Pride, and Pain -
Foul demons that have tortured me, enchain!
Out in the freezing darkness the lambs bleat.
The small bird stiffens in the low starlight.
I know not how, but shuddering as I slept,
I dreamed a banished angel to me crept:
My feet were nourished on her breasts all night.
The misery is greater, as I live!
To know her flesh so pure, so keen her sense,
That she does penance now for no offence,
Save against Love. The less can I forgive!
The less can I forgive, though I adore
That cruel lovely pallor which surrounds
Her footsteps; and the low vibrating sounds
That come on me, as from a magic shore.
Low are they, but most subtle to find out
The shrinking soul. Madam, 'tis understood
When women play upon their womanhood,
It means, a Season gone. And yet I doubt
But I am duped. That nun-like look waylays
My fancy. Oh! I do but wait a sign!
Pluck out the eyes of pride! thy mouth to mine!
Never! though I die thirsting. Go thy ways!
You like not that French novel? Tell me why.
You think it quite unnatural. Let us see.
The actors are, it seems, the usual three:
Husband, and wife, and lover. She-but fie!
In England we'll not hear of it. Edmond,
The lover, her devout chagrin doth share;
Blanc-mange and absinthe are his penitent fare,
Till his pale aspect makes her over-fond:
So, to preclude fresh sin, he tries rosbif.
Meantime the husband is no more abused:
Auguste forgives her ere the tear is used.
Then hangeth all on one tremendous IF:-
IF she will choose between them. She does choose;
And takes her husband, like a proper wife.
Unnatural? My dear, these things are life:
And life, some think, is worthy of the Muse.
Love ere he bleeds, an eagle in high skies,
Has earth beneath his wings: from reddened eve
He views the rosy dawn. In vain they weave
The fatal web below while far he flies.
But when the arrow strikes him, there's a change.
He moves but in the track of his spent pain,
Whose red drops are the links of a harsh chain,
Binding him to the ground, with narrow range.
A subtle serpent then has Love become.
I had the eagle in my bosom erst:
Henceforward with the serpent I am cursed.
I can interpret where the mouth is dumb.
Speak, and I see the side-lie of a truth.
Perchance my heart may pardon you this deed:
But be no coward:- you that made Love bleed,
You must bear all the venom of his tooth!
Distraction is the panacea, Sir!
I hear my oracle of Medicine say.
Doctor! that same specific yesterday
I tried, and the result will not deter
A second trial. Is the devil's line
Of golden hair, or raven black, composed?
And does a cheek, like any sea-shell rosed,
Or clear as widowed sky, seem most divine?
No matter, so I taste forgetfulness.
And if the devil snare me, body and mind,
Here gratefully I score:- he seemed kind,
When not a soul would comfort my distress!
O sweet new world, in which I rise new made!
O Lady, once I gave love: now I take!
Lady, I must be flattered. Shouldst thou wake
The passion of a demon, be not afraid.
I must be flattered. The imperious
Desire speaks out. Lady, I am content
To play with you the game of Sentiment,
And with you enter on paths perilous;
But if across your beauty I throw light,
To make it threefold, it must be all mine.
First secret; then avowed. For I must shine
Envied,-I, lessened in my proper sight!
Be watchful of your beauty, Lady dear!
How much hangs on that lamp you cannot tell.
Most earnestly I pray you, tend it well:
And men shall see me as a burning sphere;
And men shall mark you eyeing me, and groan
To be the God of such a grand sunflower!
I feel the promptings of Satanic power,
While you do homage unto me alone.
Am I failing? For no longer can I cast
A glory round about this head of gold.
Glory she wears, but springing from the mould;
Not like the consecration of the Past!
Is my soul beggared? Something more than earth
I cry for still: I cannot be at peace
In having Love upon a mortal lease.
I cannot take the woman at her worth!
Where is the ancient wealth wherewith I clothed
Our human nakedness, and could endow
With spiritual splendour a white brow
That else had grinned at me the fact I loathed?
A kiss is but a kiss now! and no wave
Of a great flood that whirls me to the sea.
But, as you will! we'll sit contentedly,
And eat our pot of honey on the grave.
What are we first? First, animals; and next
Intelligences at a leap; on whom
Pale lies the distant shadow of the tomb,
And all that draweth on the tomb for text.
Into which state comes Love, the crowning sun:
Beneath whose light the shadow loses form.
We are the lords of life, and life is warm.
Intelligence and instinct now are one.
But nature says: 'My children most they seem
When they least know me: therefore I decree
That they shall suffer.' Swift doth young Love flee,
And we stand wakened, shivering from our dream.
Then if we study Nature we are wise.
Thus do the few who live but with the day:
The scientific animals are they. -
Lady, this is my sonnet to your eyes.
This golden head has wit in it. I live
Again, and a far higher life, near her.
Some women like a young philosopher;
Perchance because he is diminutive.
For woman's manly god must not exceed
Proportions of the natural nursing size.
Great poets and great sages draw no prize
With women: but the little lap-dog breed,
Who can be hugged, or on a mantel-piece
Perched up for adoration, these obtain
Her homage. And of this we men are vain?
Of this! 'Tis ordered for the world's increase!
Small flattery! Yet she has that rare gift
To beauty, Common Sense. I am approved.
It is not half so nice as being loved,
And yet I do prefer it. What's my drift?
Full faith I have she holds that rarest gift
To beauty, Common Sense. To see her lie
With her fair visage an inverted sky
Bloom-covered, while the underlids uplift,
Would almost wreck the faith; but when her mouth
(Can it kiss sweetly? sweetly!) would address
The inner me that thirsts for her no less,
And has so long been languishing in drouth,
I feel that I am matched; that I am man!
One restless corner of my heart or head,
That holds a dying something never dead,
Still frets, though Nature giveth all she can.
It means, that woman is not, I opine,
Her sex's antidote. Who seeks the asp
For serpent's bites? 'Twould calm me could I clasp
Shrieking Bacchantes with their souls of wine!
'In Paris, at the Louvre, there have I seen
The sumptuously-feathered angel pierce
Prone Lucifer, descending. Looked he fierce,
Showing the fight a fair one? Too serene!
The young Pharsalians did not disarray
Less willingly their locks of floating silk:
That suckling mouth of his upon the milk
Of heaven might still be feasting through the fray.
Oh, Raphael! when men the Fiend do fight,
They conquer not upon such easy terms.
Half serpent in the struggle grow these worms.
And does he grow half human, all is right.'
This to my Lady in a distant spot,
Upon the theme: WHILE MIND IS MASTERING CLAY,
GROSS CLAY INVADES IT. If the spy you play,
My wife, read this! Strange love talk, is it not?
Madam would speak with me. So, now it comes:
The Deluge or else Fire! She's well; she thanks
My husbandship. Our chain on silence clanks.
Time leers between, above his twiddling thumbs.
Am I quite well? Most excellent in health!
The journals, too, I diligently peruse.
Vesuvius is expected to give news:
Niagara is no noisier. By stealth
Our eyes dart scrutinizing snakes. She's glad
I'm happy, says her quivering under-lip.
'And are not you?' 'How can I be?' 'Take ship!
For happiness is somewhere to be had.'
'Nowhere for me!' Her voice is barely heard.
I am not melted, and make no pretence.
With commonplace I freeze her, tongue and sense.
Niagara or Vesuvius is deferred.
It is no vulgar nature I have wived.
Secretive, sensitive, she takes a wound
Deep to her soul, as if the sense had swooned,
And not a thought of vengeance had survived.
No confidences has she: but relief
Must come to one whose suffering is acute.
O have a care of natures that are mute!
They punish you in acts: their steps are brief.
What is she doing? What does she demand
From Providence or me? She is not one
Long to endure this torpidly, and shun
The drugs that crowd about a woman's hand.
At Forfeits during snow we played, and I
Must kiss her. 'Well performed!' I said: then she:
'Tis hardly worth the money, you agree?'
Save her? What for? To act this wedded lie!
My Lady unto Madam makes her bow.
The charm of women is, that even while
You're probed by them for tears, you yet may smile,
Nay, laugh outright, as I have done just now.
The interview was gracious: they anoint
(To me aside) each other with fine praise:
Discriminating compliments they raise,
That hit with wondrous aim on the weak point:
My Lady's nose of Nature might complain.
It is not fashioned aptly to express
Her character of large-browed steadfastness.
But Madam says: Thereof she may be vain!
Now, Madam's faulty feature is a glazed
And inaccessible eye, that has soft fires,
Wide gates, at love-time, only. This admires
My Lady. At the two I stand amazed.
Along the garden terrace, under which
A purple valley (lighted at its edge
By smoky torch-flame on the long cloud-ledge
Whereunder dropped the chariot) glimmers rich,
A quiet company we pace, and wait
The dinner-bell in prae-digestive calm.
So sweet up violet banks the Southern balm
Breathes round, we care not if the bell be late:
Though here and there grey seniors question Time
In irritable coughings. With slow foot
The low rosed moon, the face of Music mute,
Begins among her silent bars to climb.
As in and out, in silvery dusk, we thread,
I hear the laugh of Madam, and discern
My Lady's heel before me at each turn.
Our tragedy, is it alive or dead?
Give to imagination some pure light
In human form to fix it, or you shame
The devils with that hideous human game:-
Imagination urging appetite!
Thus fallen have earth's greatest Gogmagogs,
Who dazzle us, whom we can not revere:
Imagination is the charioteer
That, in default of better, drives the hogs.
So, therefore, my dear Lady, let me love!
My soul is arrowy to the light in you.
You know me that I never can renew
The bond that woman broke: what would you have?
'Tis Love, or Vileness! not a choice between,
Save petrifaction! What does Pity here?
She killed a thing, and now it's dead, 'tis dear.
Oh, when you counsel me, think what you mean!
She yields: my Lady in her noblest mood
Has yielded: she, my golden-crowned rose!
The bride of every sense! more sweet than those
Who breathe the violet breath of maidenhood.
O visage of still music in the sky!
Soft moon! I feel thy song, my fairest friend!
True harmony within can apprehend
Dumb harmony without. And hark! 'tis nigh!
Belief has struck the note of sound: a gleam
Of living silver shows me where she shook
Her long white fingers down the shadowy brook,
That sings her song, half waking, half in dream.
What two come here to mar this heavenly tune?
A man is one: the woman bears my name,
And honour. Their hands touch! Am I still tame?
God, what a dancing spectre seems the moon!
I bade my Lady think what she might mean.
Know I my meaning, I? Can I love one,
And yet be jealous of another? None
Commits such folly. Terrible Love, I ween,
Has might, even dead, half sighing to upheave
The lightless seas of selfishness amain:
Seas that in a man's heart have no rain
To fall and still them. Peace can I achieve,
By turning to this fountain-source of woe,
This woman, who's to Love as fire to wood?
She breathed the violet breath of maidenhood
Against my kisses once! but I say, No!
The thing is mocked at! Helplessly afloat,
I know not what I do, whereto I strive.
The dread that my old love may be alive
Has seized my nursling new love by the throat.
How many a thing which we cast to the ground,
When others pick it up becomes a gem!
We grasp at all the wealth it is to them;
And by reflected light its worth is found.
Yet for us still 'tis nothing! and that zeal
Of false appreciation quickly fades.
This truth is little known to human shades,
How rare from their own instinct 'tis to feel!
They waste the soul with spurious desire,
That is not the ripe flame upon the bough.
We two have taken up a lifeless vow
To rob a living passion: dust for fire!
Madam is grave, and eyes the clock that tells
Approaching midnight. We have struck despair
Into two hearts. O, look we like a pair
Who for fresh nuptials joyfully yield all else?
I am to follow her. There is much grace
In woman when thus bent on martyrdom.
They think that dignity of soul may come,
Perchance, with dignity of body. Base!
But I was taken by that air of cold
And statuesque sedateness, when she said
'I'm going'; lit a taper, bowed her head,
And went, as with the stride of Pallas bold.
Fleshly indifference horrible! The hands
Of Time now signal: O, she's safe from me!
Within those secret walls what do I see?
Where first she set the taper down she stands:
Not Pallas: Hebe shamed! Thoughts black as death
Like a stirred pool in sunshine break. Her wrists
I catch: she faltering, as she half resists,
'You love . . .? love . . .? love . . .?' all on an indrawn breath.
Mark where the pressing wind shoots javelin-like
Its skeleton shadow on the broad-backed wave!
Here is a fitting spot to dig Love's grave;
Here where the ponderous breakers plunge and strike,
And dart their hissing tongues high up the sand:
In hearing of the ocean, and in sight
Of those ribbed wind-streaks running into white.
If I the death of Love had deeply planned,
I never could have made it half so sure,
As by the unblest kisses which upbraid
The full-waked sense; or failing that, degrade!
'Tis morning: but no morning can restore
What we have forfeited. I see no sin:
The wrong is mixed. In tragic life, God wot,
No villain need be! Passions spin the plot:
We are betrayed by what is false within.
They say, that Pity in Love's service dwells,
A porter at the rosy temple's gate.
I missed him going: but it is my fate
To come upon him now beside his wells;
Whereby I know that I Love's temple leave,
And that the purple doors have closed behind.
Poor soul! if, in those early days unkind,
Thy power to sting had been but power to grieve,
We now might with an equal spirit meet,
And not be matched like innocence and vice.
She for the Temple's worship has paid price,
And takes the coin of Pity as a cheat.
She sees through simulation to the bone:
What's best in her impels her to the worst:
Never, she cries, shall Pity soothe Love's thirst,
Or foul hypocrisy for truth atone!
It is the season of the sweet wild rose,
My Lady's emblem in the heart of me!
So golden-crowned shines she gloriously,
And with that softest dream of blood she glows;
Mild as an evening heaven round Hesper bright!
I pluck the flower, and smell it, and revive
The time when in her eyes I stood alive.
I seem to look upon it out of Night.
Here's Madam, stepping hastily. Her whims
Bid her demand the flower, which I let drop.
As I proceed, I feel her sharply stop,
And crush it under heel with trembling limbs.
She joins me in a cat-like way, and talks
Of company, and even condescends
To utter laughing scandal of old friends.
These are the summer days, and these our walks.
At last we parley: we so strangely dumb
In such a close communion! It befell
About the sounding of the Matin-bell,
And lo! her place was vacant, and the hum
Of loneliness was round me. Then I rose,
And my disordered brain did guide my foot
To that old wood where our first love-salute
Was interchanged: the source of many throes!
There did I see her, not alone. I moved
Toward her, and made proffer of my arm.
She took it simply, with no rude alarm;
And that disturbing shadow passed reproved.
I felt the pained speech coming, and declared
My firm belief in her, ere she could speak.
A ghastly morning came into her cheek,
While with a widening soul on me she stared.
We saw the swallows gathering in the sky,
And in the osier-isle we heard them noise.
We had not to look back on summer joys,
Or forward to a summer of bright dye:
But in the largeness of the evening earth
Our spirits grew as we went side by side.
The hour became her husband and my bride.
Love, that had robbed us so, thus blessed our dearth!
The pilgrims of the year waxed very loud
In multitudinous chatterings, as the flood
Full brown came from the West, and like pale blood
Expanded to the upper crimson cloud.
Love, that had robbed us of immortal things,
This little moment mercifully gave,
Where I have seen across the twilight wave
The swan sail with her young beneath her wings.
Their sense is with their senses all mixed in,
Destroyed by subtleties these women are!
More brain, O Lord, more brain! or we shall mar
Utterly this fair garden we might win.
Behold! I looked for peace, and thought it near.
Our inmost hearts had opened, each to each.
We drank the pure daylight of honest speech.
Alas! that was the fatal draught, I fear.
For when of my lost Lady came the word,
This woman, O this agony of flesh!
Jealous devotion bade her break the mesh,
That I might seek that other like a bird.
I do adore the nobleness! despise
The act! She has gone forth, I know not where.
Will the hard world my sentience of her share
I feel the truth; so let the world surmise.
He found her by the ocean's moaning verge,
Nor any wicked change in her discerned;
And she believed his old love had returned,
Which was her exultation, and her scourge.
She took his hand, and walked with him, and seemed
The wife he sought, though shadow-like and dry.
She had one terror, lest her heart should sigh,
And tell her loudly she no longer dreamed.
She dared not say, 'This is my breast: look in.'
But there's a strength to help the desperate weak.
That night he learned how silence best can speak
The awful things when Pity pleads for Sin.
About the middle of the night her call
Was heard, and he came wondering to the bed.
'Now kiss me, dear! it may be, now!' she said.
Lethe had passed those lips, and he knew all.
Thus piteously Love closed what he begat:
The union of this ever-diverse pair!
These two were rapid falcons in a snare,
Condemned to do the flitting of the bat.
Lovers beneath the singing sky of May,
They wandered once; clear as the dew on flowers:
But they fed not on the advancing hours:
Their hearts held cravings for the buried day.
Then each applied to each that fatal knife,
Deep questioning, which probes to endless dole.
Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life! -
In tragic hints here see what evermore
Moves dark as yonder midnight ocean's force,
Thundering like ramping hosts of warrior horse,
To throw that faint thin fine upon the shore!