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Kettle boils like my anger

As the kettle boils.
So does my anger.
My anger is reder than the heat.
Its not just the heat of the moment.

The kettle is getting hot.
My anger nor depression will cease.
Its like some kind of disease.

As the kettle boils I melt.
In the heat of the depression.
And the mist of the anger

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How I Wish The World Does Not Have A Hundred Eyes To See Me Naked

how i wish the world is blind to see me naked and broken
they always say
ever since i was small
this little girl is ugly
she will not have a promising future

(did they think that i better be thrown
to the sea and be eaten by sharks
or to the forest so i can be the prey
to those predators?)

they let me live, however,
thanks, nonetheless, and i have grown to be what i am
ugly
learning to live this way
ugly
time however has told me a different story
about the ugliness that lies only on the surface of
things, and living memories have grown in me
the seeds

some possibilities
for beauty

like i can grow a mind of my own
like i can be cultivated like a beautiful flower
of my choosing
in my own garden

like i can have the possibility of
a sweet scent
or i can be a slender plant that will bear
some luscious fruits
to feed the world and make it feel
that i can
quench its thirst
or satisfy its hunger

i have learned patiently
how to be a better possibility and long time ago
when i undressed myself
removing some layers of sadness
and confusion
skin upon skin upon skin

i was once afraid of everything
the windows
the cracks and the crevices
i was once afraid of the hundred eyes of this world
those walls barring me
those writings on the fences of my existence
shouting that

i am ugly
(that i do not have the right to live
or anything to live with)

i go naked again
time places another mirror at the center of my
thoughts,

to see another me
i am beautiful
in my nakedness

now, i do not wish anymore a blind world
so it can see the unfolding
the coming of my
thousand possibilities like some kind winds
white sea caps and gentle sands,

i am beautiful and i really know it now
by heart

this confident soul undressed and still so beautiful.

that you, my lovely world, must start to see.

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The Rain Is Like A Man

the rain this early morning
has an accompanying wind

i look at them by the window
my inner world divided by a thick glass

the trees are swaying and some leaves
begin to fall like some kind of a dance

the rain like a man carries the wind
on his arms and the wind leans down

i catch a glimpse of how they passionately kiss
it is sad and lonely and then the rain stops

the morning sun comes and the leaves
are at the feet of the trees kind of wet with tears.

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Memorials Of A Tour In Scotland, 1803 XIV. Fly, Some Kind Haringer, To Grasmere-Dale

FLY, some kind Harbinger, to Grasmere-dale!
Say that we come, and come by this day's light;
Fly upon swiftest wing round field and height,
But chiefly let one Cottage hear the tale;
There let a mystery of joy prevail,
The kitten frolic, like a gamesome sprite,
And Rover whine, as at a second sight
Of near-approaching good that shall not fail:
And from that Infant's face let joy appear;
Yea, let our Mary's one companion child--
That hath her six weeks' solitude beguiled
With intimations manifold and dear,
While we have wandered over wood and wild--
Smile on his Mother now with bolder cheer.

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Like Some Connect To Oxygen To Breathe

No one I know,
Got a free express trip to success.
Many I have been associated with,
Connected to sacrifice...
Like some connect to oxygen to breathe.
And not thinking of anything else...
But to give from themselves their best!
Knowing their faith would provide the rest.

I have to say,
I admire people who are that way.
But as for me...
I like to eat.
If I can not make a sandwich...
This from my lips God will hear me plead:

'Dear Lord, My Father...
If I can only have a BLT on whole wheat,
I will 'then' have the energy...
To do 'Your' will, My Father.
With a bag of chips and ice tea! '

God knows my needs completely.
Because I do not keep them hidden.

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The guilt of innocence...

Sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit,
Execution at dawn... such a cliché,
All of my last request's denied,
Morning arrives on the final day of my existance,
Paraded through the streets like some kind of prize,
The aroma of life so evident in my final hours,
Dragged up onto this hellish platform, dignity stripped,
These man made gallows offer such a view 0f life,
How ironic that life is my final view when death comes to call,
Blindfold refused, rope placed around my neck,
Trembling uncontrolably... Goodbye cruel world,
Trap door opens and I fall, neck snapped like a twig,
Spiraling deeper and deeper into the darkness of the abyss,
May the maker have mercy upon my soul...

Spread the love... The peace will follow...

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Under The Mango Tree

i like the idea
of doing many things under the mango tree
like
watching time go by like it is a stranger
and i
am a stranger too watching time pass by
like i am so interested
with what time
can do to me

making me old
making the mango tree bloom and flower and have fruits
and they are so many
that the mango tree bends
to the ground
and time stays for a while and ripens the fruits
and make all of them
in time
fall one by one to the ground
like some kind
of withered flowers

luscious, sweet, fruits of the mango tree
falling
by the slightest passing of the wind
and then the children
come and with all joy
pick them one by one
putting what they can
under
their shirts and still rushing
to keep
and take some more

under the mango tree
all the people
are so much alike

the rushing, the taking, the joy
of always having more

and it will never stop
as i watch time slowly go by

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The Loneliness Of The Untiring Writer

with equanimity i write for this audience,

deaf,
blind,
mute,

....imagine some monkeys and rats, and worms and squirrels

mute, blind, deaf,
i have no regret at all,

their hearts are bigger than the islands of paradise,
the mute claps with three hundred hands,
the blind sings with all the angelic voices in tens of hundreds
the deaf dances like some kind of a wiggling worm
vitally replicating its numbers geometrically

there is still this
wanting to be caught by a hungry
black bird

it is the silence of the mute that speaks so loudly
like a speaker of the house,

it is the restlessness of the deaf that shakes me,
and i tremble like a cymbal clanging ceaselessly

the chants of the blind, mystifies me,
scented cinders, lighted candles, fireflies on the trees

conclusion: we have become one happy family
and tonight, i will be writing some more for them

I've got no other valuable audience anyway.
and, let me finally add,
it is only my dead mother who still loves me.

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I Just Dont Like This Kind Of Livin

Written and recorded by: hank williams, sr.
[d] I just dont like this kind of livin
Im tired of doin all the [a7] givin
I [d] give my all and [d7] sit and yearn
And [g] get no lovin [g7] in return
And I [d] just dont [a7] like this kind of [d] livin.
Why [g7] do we stay together
We al-[d] ways fuss and fight
[g7] you aint never known to be wrong
And [d] I aint never been [a7] right;
[d] tell me where you think were goin
cause I aint got no way of [a7] knowin
When [d] things go wrong, you [d7] go your way
You [g] leave me here, to [g7] pay and pay
And [d] I just dont [a7] like this kind of [d] livin.
I just dont like the things youre doin
Your evil heart will be your ruin
When things start runnin smooth and free
You haul right off and you pick on me
And I just dont like this way of livin.
They say the road of love is long
Its rocky and its rough
But if this road dont start to get smooth
Ive traveled it long enough;
Why dont you act a little older
And get that chip off of your shoulder
Ive told you once, now Ill tell you twice
You better start to treat me nice
cause I just dont like this way of livin.

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Some Kind Of Friend

Music by Barry Manilow
Lyrics by Adrienne Anderson
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I saw you at the Beechwood Cafe
You looked at me and then you looked away
That was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
You said you had places that you had to be
Now who is gonna be there for me
That was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
Lady that was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
Baby that was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
They say that women like you can't get enough
Got your Maserati built for two
They say that women like you like to play
with love
Is that true?
When I ran into you the other day
You smiled at me but you had nothing to say
That was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
Tell me why'd you do what you did to me
Covered up your life so I couldn't see
Now that was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
Lady that was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned to be
Baby that was some kind
Some kind of friend you turned out to be
I never should have let you get to me
Nevershould have let you bring me down
Didn't know that I was just some fantasy
That you found.

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Eating The Fear

Eating rose petals.
Choking on the thorns.
With such a sweet smell their should be some kind of warning.
A sign saying in big bold letters.
If you do it you will regret it.
Jumping into a brick wall head first.
Trust me it does hurt.
I would know.
I got my scars to prove it.
Black and blue bruises is a usual at least for me.
Maybe it cause I will never accept defeat.
Even if I know I'm already beat.
Things can and will change.
It is a matter of time ticking on by.
A color scheme mapped out.
A portrait perfected.
Yet it is still rejected.
Don't you know it is to be completely expected.
Don't give up.
Oh no not just yet.
No matter the dire circumstances.
You got to be strong.
Just hold on for one more moment.
I keep hearing these whispers that say I don't know if I can.
Oh does it make me any less of a man?
Failure at ones my weakest moment.
Ducking down in disgrace.
Walking away from an unfulfilled dream.
No sorry I just can't.
Even if suck every bit life out of me.
My inner strength will still remain.
Like a cloud floating high in the sky.
Taking many shapes.
Creating many escapes.
Going to an illusionary world where everything is alright.
Because I just don't know if I can make it another night.
Not here.
The uncertainty brings only fear.
And I must keep my distance and try to never let it get near.
Close my heart.
Shut it down.
It is an exposure that will ruin my perspective and objectives.

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Light Of Some Kind

i wish i didn't have this nervous laugh
i wish i didn't say half the stuff i say
i wish i could just learn to cover my tracks
i guess i'm not concerned about getting away

'cause every time i try to hold my tongue
it slips like a fish from a line
they say if you want to play
you should learn how to play dumb
i guess i can't bring myself to waste your time

'cause we both know what i've been doing
i've been intentionally bad at lying
you're the only boy i ever let see through me
and i hope you beleive me when i say i'm trying
and i hope i never improve my game
yeah i'd rather have these things weighing on my mind
and at the end of this tunnel of guilt and shame
there must be a light of some kind
there must be a light of some kind

i must have blown a fuse or something
cause it was so dark in my mind
she came up to me with the sweetest face
and she was holding a light of some kind
and i still think of you as my boyfriend
i don't think this is the end of the world
but i think maybe you should follow my example
and go meet yourself a really nice girl

'cause we both know. . .

in the end the world comes down to just a few people
but for you it comes down to one
but no one ever asked me if i thought i could be
everything to someone
there's a crowd of people harboured in every person
there are so many roles that we play
and you've decided to love me for eternity
i'm still deciding who i want to be today

'cause we both know. . .

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Some Kind Of Monster

These are the eyes that can't see me
These are the hands that drop your trust
These are the boots that kick you around
This is the tongue that speaks on ths inside
These are the ears that ring with hate
This is the face that'll never change
This is the fist that grinds you down
This is the voice of silence no more
These are the legs in circles run
This is the beating you'll never know
These are the lips that taste no freedom
This is the feel that's not so safe
This is the face that you'll never change
This is the god that ain't so pure
This is the god that is not pure
This is the voice of silence no more
We the people
Are we the people?
Some kind of monster
This monster lives
This is the face that stones you cold
This is the moment that needs to breathe
These are the claws that scratch these wounds
This is the pain that never leaves
This is the tongue that whips you down
This is the burden of every man
These are the screams that pierce your skin
This is the voice of silence no more
This is the test of flesh and soul
This is the trap that smells so good
This is the flood that drains these eyes
These are the looks that chill to the bone
These are the fears that swing over head
These are the weights that hold you down
This is the end that will never end
This is the voice of silence no more
We the people
Are we the people?
Some kind of monster
This monster lives
This is the cloud that swallows trust
This is the black that uncolors us
This is the face that you hide from
This is the mask that comes undone
Ominous
I'm in us

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That you have abandoned all will and strife

That you have abandoned all will and strife
Discard any other activity which implies getting on with life
You do not want to break away forfeiting any bail
And you are punishing yourself, putting yourself in jail
put yourself in some kind of curfew under powerful bolt
put life and the world around in complete halt
Until yourself will give you what yourself has taken away from you.....
All in the name of this precarious love so divine and dear in your view
It melt you down as dawn stars are melt in blue
And all other suitors you disdain discarding so many
It raises doubt if you ever find true love with any


Your heart is always heavy for him with fruits of love
Like clusters of ripe pomegranate fruit bearing down
The canopy branches of the tree
But you never intend to give him one from above
It is waxed and sweetened by the full sun as jewels crown
The fruits of our love are subject to your status; they are not free


On the other side of the wall
He the fox is waiting for your fruit to fall
He knows this tree will shed its fruits
It always did, it ever will whenever ripe its shoots
Punctually by the season queue.
December, followed by May all season thru


And then on evening time, at dusk twilight, this fox dares to hide low
As bats chase moths encircling wandering in lights glow
Under summer night night with crimson skies’ pall
The emotional muscles ware out and a fruit from the tree may fall
And when in the gray hour it drops as lust’s prey
The fox feeds fiercely on its flesh, no one will ever know or say


As for me in all of this...
My work is done closed in uneasy halt
This heath, this strange calm and quiet scene
The memory of what has been
And never more will be
But it will ever live with me


Copy rights 2010
All rights reserved

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Patrick White

A Fluctuation In The Cosmic Void

A fluctuation in the cosmic void,
a wink of atoms,
a fallen eyelash of light,
the seeing of a lifetime
nothing but candle vapour,
ghost-water on the moon,
the exhalation of a vagrant star
looking for its lost constellation
like a berry or a gem
that had wandered off road
from the vine of a crown.
The eye that regards all
as it rises like a blue mystic sun
over the morning eyelids
of the remote hills
waking up in the arms of their shadows
demands exposure of the sky,
a clarity pure enough for stars
as it turns the day over
like the palm of a hand
to reveal how our lifestreams
join and break
at the junction of sacred rivers.
And the vision,
the illusion of the way I see life,
the romantic intoning
into the bell of the abyss
for a hopeless beauty that died like a bird,
the lostness and the loneliness,
the unknown sorrow
that seems to bleed out of the air
like a black rose born to grieve
for the separations of long ago,
and the child in the brutal fire
that pleads at a window
weeping in the heat
for rescue from an afterlife without salvation,
all that the heart features
in the deepest silence of the night,
nothing but the auroral trash
of an over ionized mind
trying to touch its own burns tenderly.
Until I became the knowing
even my own ignorance
didn't recognize me.
Until I vastly improved
the integrity of my lies,
every mirror I looked into
like a woman's eyes
was corrupt,
the prelude to a death certificate
in lipstick, a thorn of honey
that dripped like the fangs of the moon
with mysterious toxins and elixirs
that could scald and bleach the heart
or restore it with the kiss of a silver herb
grown in the garden of a cool eclipse.
My bitterness and fear
have made me less susceptible
to the empty boats that arrive
to take me on like some kind of foreign export,
a cargo of ashes and stars,
the bodybags
of the casualties and refugees
that perished in an unknown holy war of one
that I can't stop waging
against a universe that won't let me in,
but my solitude
could defeat me with a feather,
could shock the fool I am to hide
with the shadow of a wing
breaking the spell of this birdless sky
that seems to go on forever beyond the wind
like a caravan of rain
that's outwalked the longest known road
into a wilderness
of rootless trees in big city back alleys.
When the rose
has been stripped down to its claws and horns,
how few have the eyes
to keep yearning?
Let me drown in tears of fire,
in wells of thoughtful quicksand,
rack me on the iron in my blood
and stub my cherished stars out
like angry pincers applied to my feet
like a firewalk through a snakepit
and I will confess to nothing
but an earnest ignorance,
I will not betray the abyss
where I buried myself like nuclear waste.
I will remain true
to the merciless emptiness
I uttered to myself like a vow
I didn't know if I could keep
four decades ago.
Now I lay my head down to dream
on a stone pillow full of stars
that shine like rare metals in the night,
and when I wake
I seem to know less
about everything it took me a lifetime to master
than when I first
abandoned my eyes
like oceans on the moon to see
inconceivably, what has become of me in my absence.

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Patrick White

I See You In The Eyes Of The Rain

I see you in the eyes of the rain
and in the broken aspirations of the swallow
that hit the windowpane dead on.
Fire that no longer burns.
Water that no longer drowns.
Earth that no longer receives.
A gust of air that no one breathes.

I see you in the tender, green tendrils
of the wild grapevines clinging to life
like the last plank of a shipwrecked lifeboat
washed up on the shore of the moon.
The most bitter farewells are those
compelled by understanding
to cry a little in the open doorway
and leave as if there were nothing more to say.

Words lightyears beyond communication.
Metaphors like burning bridges
that never quite make it to the other side.
And o how gentle an eclipse comes
to a lover's coltish eyes
when it's time to say good-bye
and if you're a bad man, it's revenge,
and if you're good, it's a sacrifice.

Good-bye, get out, be gone,
I'll live on in my palace of lonely windows
like a man with class in an hourglass
and I'll write faceless songs
to the passage of time as autumn approaches.

Leave me now to the pain
I must wrestle with alone
like an angel in my way
that knows I don't have what it takes
to pull up stakes like a heretic
before I burn for the mistakes I made
on your invigilated test of love.

Once I feel like a loser again
I know I'm at home with myself
and I can feel the clouds laughing in tears
as I get around like rain.
I loved your body like a wishing well.
You loved my brain like an occult spell.

Three afterlives of a star, once you left me
holding the medicine bag of your absence,
I named a desolate street after you
like some kind of municipal gift
to the run down ghetto of a sub-prime heart.

My pain is consoled by my art
like a weather vane is comforted by the weather.
I ghost write the lyrics of the storm.
I incite riots against the norm.
I blood my poems like spearheads
in a wound that never scars the moon.

I shall be the nightwatchman
who makes the rounds of the zodiac
inspecting doors and windows
that are steadfastly closed to him
like lilies in the festering gene pools
of the idle rich in their bridal tents
spawning into money like goldfish.

I shall be an eagle at the extremity
of my wingspan and soar over the smoke
of burning cities like a cinder of freedom
in the eye of a failed revolution
and I will not lament my own extinction
when my starmud settles like a constellation
into the hearsay of bloodshot mirrors.

I will linger in precipitous heights
then shriek like the paper airplane of a poem
down on some bumptious homing pigeon
that was promised a comfortable flight
from here to there, until it was
snatched from the air like a pillow fight.

I will do this because I can feel the glee
of my talons sinking into hypocrisy
like the three crescents of the moon
with an eyrie full of skeletal snakes
that look like a pit full of twisted combs
without any meat on their bones.

Liars convince. Communicators convey.
It isn't what I say. It's the way I say it
that makes all the difference to the meaning
that tones me like a moody chameleon
resonating with a tuning fork of colour
that flickers like a photo-op of lightning
trying to get a glimpse of itself in the mirror.

And then I'm an illiterate divinity student
with a heart as big as an orphanage
full of baffled pilgrims that have lost their way
crutching through the labyrinths of the divine
on a cross that walks them to the end of the line
like the rapture of an apocalyptic anti-climax.

I talk to God about you and she talks back
like a comprehensive alibi for the way things are.
She's got a scar as big as the smile
on the dark side of her face she keeps
turned away from me like an embarassed moon
she doesn't want to reveal to anyone.
But I can see it in the rear view mirror
of my infernal lucidity leading me away from her
like an atomic Sufi reversing my spin
in the charged particle field of my happy sin.

I walk on the wild side in cowboy boots
in a truce with the shadows of Zen
that says a great general may establish peace
but that doesn't mean he gets to enjoy it.
And I'm resigned to the sternness of my discipline
like salt to the earth, like a sail to the wind,
like a ferocious heart to a gentle mind.

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Patrick White

The Snow Grey Violet In The Ghostly Yellow Moonrise

The snow grey violet in the ghostly yellow moonrise.
Glazed mirrors of crude ice on the south side
of the metallic waves that faced the sun all day.
As if the white were the dark negative space
and the Prussian blue shadows of the cedars
had more substance than the light.
The burning clarity of -20 Celsius
when the Dutch elms and the basswood trees
and the oak on the hill
that keeps dropping its twigs
like frost-bitten fingers
groaned and cracked like a vice-grip of ice
crushing Frobisher’s ship
like a black walnut between its teeth.
And everywhere you walked
was like walking on the roof of a greenhouse
you kept putting your foot through.
Your breath growing stalactites of ice in your beard
so whenever you breathed out
it looked like smoke coming out of a cave.
I’d stand in the spent garden
among the bare tent-poles
that the summer had carried
like the fire of the scarlet runners
all the way up the burning rungs
of a ladder to heaven
that now stood out in the snow
like the skeletons of tipis
and abandoned easels
in a deserted native village.
The locust tree thorned like a bird of prey.
My tiny, tiny heart
like a solitary lightbulb in a well housing
trying to keep the pump from freezing up
as if I had stage fright
in front of all those stars.
Or I was a comma-sized deer mouse,
all ashes on the outside
but warm embers within,
standing in a splash of juniper
looking up at the moon like an owl
with a cosmic wingspan
and blood on its talons.
Far off, the barking of a farmyard dog
investigates the predatory silence
by throwing down the gauntlet of its voice
to hear who answers the challenge.
The coyotes lift their heads and snarl
and curl back into their body heat.
Too cold for man or beast.
The vole and the shrew and the mouse
sleep under the snow
in little igloos
lined with a few dry leaves
and a cache of seeds
that will get them through the winter
if they’re not crushed to death by snowmobiles.
Everything fixed, crystalline, structured
except for the black water of the creek
under its corrective lens of ice
as if time itself were held in abeyance
and decay were a thing of the past
and change that brings so much suffering
was put on hold like an abandoned barn
with the names of Irish immigrant kids
carved into its rafters,
scuttled like an ark on Mt. Ararat
that had unloaded all its occupants on land
escaping the 1848 Irish potato famine.
Time stops and there’s no pulse to space.
There’s no death or birth
in the void of the moment.
No movement to the wind
and even the ghosts
of the immigrant kids
are trying not to freeze their tongues
to the shrinking dime of the moon
as it adds more silver
to the copper of its coinage
rising toward zenith
like the cost of a chocolate bar.
I’d stand there stomping my feet
in a slow snow dance
around the small fire
that flared and embered in my body
a firefly shy of going out
to keep from passing out from hypothermia.
Smell of smoke pluming from the Selkirk chimney,
the windows of the farmhouse
shedding the petals of black-eyed Susans
like warm panels of light
spreading something flannel
over the cold bed of the snow.
All the cats, all the dogs in for the night
stretched out anoxically upon one another
in the igneous glow of the black airtight
that stood in the middle of the living room
like a black rhino
with a bent chimney pipe for a horn
in the middle of three hundred acres of snow
it wasn’t going to give in to
like a local ice age
it had already been through.
Everybody in but me mesmerized by
the uncompromising beauty of the scene,
as the stars burned like bridges in the abyss
and everything that lived under the sun by day,
surviving every which way they could
shared the same exact cause of death
by the time it went down
and the cold was one law for all
with no exceptions, no mercy, no malice,
no regrets for the blue-jay
that didn’t eat enough sunflower seeds
to keep from falling from its perch
like just another ornithological statistic.
And you couldn’t say with a straight face
even indifference
because there was nothing there
to ignore in the first place
and to shake your fist at the gods
as if there were gods
that did and didn’t give a shit
was to miss the point entirely.
A cosmic view through a local window
of eyes, flesh and blood,
without a frame of reference.
A man standing in a dead garden
in awe of the unearthly radiance
of the moon on the ice and the snow
looking upon the uneventful beauty
in the stillness of death
that would overtake many in the night
as he added his own ghost of breath
like smoke from the chimney
to the sublime inconsequence of it all.
Regulus in Leo going down in the west
like a toppled sphinx.
Twenty-five years of license plates
from 1939 to l964
nailed to the barn door
like some kind of helpless calendar
that ran out of cars and time
and seemed to imply
1965 was the year
life let go of the farm
and wandered off into the abyss
like a man no one knew existed
and only a very few would miss for awhile.

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Patrick White

Your Face Among Many, A Blossom

Your face among many, a blossom.
Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
The sun can't understand why it can't
open the buds of the parking meters.
Some people worry they don't have talent.
Given a name, who isn't a masterpiece?
A perfect self-portrait of what they're becoming?
Talent, the worst superstition of all.
That lullaby you sing to your voodoo doll
at bedtime, to let her know she's special
when, in fact, she's blind. Talent.
That estranged mix of an eclipse and an oilslick
that isn't sure of its standing in life.
Sensible shoes wishing they had wings on their heels.
The redundant navigator of mountain streams
that would have found their own way to the river
all by themselves. You ask if I think you have talent.
To me that's like a flower asking
if I think it will ever come to bloom,
a star wondering if it's shining or not,
a sea uncertain of its own waves and weather.
And I say, your eyes do, your ears do, your mouth has,
these birch-trees, those starlings, that tree, those rocks,
these rags of last year's flowers do, but not you.
On the day of creation when God exhausted herself
using up the leftovers of her inspiration
so as not to let anything go to waste, she pinched the noses
of a few sacred clowns and instead of
breathing life into their lungs, she opened their throats
and poured a special esoteric elixir of talent,
the mother of all oceanic love potions
that ever played favourites with a select few
among everyone she'd ever given birth to,
out of her mouth into theirs, such that like her
all they had to do, they were so talented,
was give the word. Say be. And it was.
Because the moment you ask if you have something,
you've already lost it. Like space or time or mind,
talent isn't possessed. It's made manifest spontaneously.
Do you see the ruby throated hummingbirds
in a last duel with the thorns
of the locust trees in blossom,
one drawing blood, the other, first honey?
Behind every river making its way to the sea
stands the cornerstone of a mountain
buried under an avalanche
it brought down upon itself
like the winter solstice
between the dolmens of Stonehenge,
just as every dropp of water is a lost key,
the Rosetta stone of a nameless grave in the rain
that can still speak fluently
the mother-tongue of the dead language
that buried oviparous metaphors
like oxymoronic dragons in cosmic eggs,
a coincidence of contradictory birds and snakes
the highs and the lows, made whole again.
Asking me if you've got talent is like
a nebula light years across asking me if it's got stars.
Do the candles wish they were fireflies?
Do you write with your eyes or your ears?
And if you're asking me if you've got
the bit, the spit, the spurs, the stirrups
to ride a wild, white-winged horse in a rodeo
without being thrown off, I'd say
the most seasoned saddle of all
is to ride bareback along the Milky Way in summer
and see for yourself if you can make it as far
as Altair in Aquila or the Deneb in the Swan.
And then realize, if you can't, the real star
of the show all along was the rodeo clown
who rescues the riders when they're down and out
by living dangerously on the horns of a dilemma
he had to make his own to spare the hero
from any further injury that might come
from taking anything too seriously.
And don't canter as if you had talent
you can put your trust in like a reliable lie.
Risk everything on one leap of the fence.
Assume you're a genius and fly.
You sweep the stars under your prayer rug
and then come and ask me if you're a good housekeeper.
You want to know if your third eye is glass
or real crystal, something from the depression era,
and I turn it circumspectly in the light
and focus it on the sun and the moon
and few oddball stars nearby,
and I can see where you've being crying a lot
and missed a spot that makes things perfectly clear.
Talent might polish the mirror of the Hubble Telescope
to get rid of the smear of the Andromeda Galaxy,
to rub a hundred billion stars out
for the sake of appearances, but genius
sees through every dropp of rain that falls
like an eye of its own through a broken windowpane
it's just thrown the moon through like a lunatic
at the reflection of its own face
on the waterless pond of its own seeing
to make waves just to see itself as it is
warped like space and time
by the crazy wisdom of the circus mirrors
that are always in tears of laughter.
And this by the merest of inclinations
to have a good chuckle at the expense
of the straight-faced paradigms
trying to get a fix on their shining as if
they were measuring the nearest distance
the fireflies approach earth at apogee by parallax.
Talent may well be the architectural blueprint
of the underlying infrastructure of the chrysalis,
but it's the worm that crawls
into whatever house of transformation,
whatever zodiac squatting on the outskirts
of whatever shantytown gerry-mandered out of scraps,
salvage, cast offs, discarded parts of mechanical experience
looking for a new purpose in life,
and flies out the other end with mandalas
not starmaps on its wings.
Talent takes note of the traffic signs
long before it's walked the road.
Until you realize through the eyes in your blood
with a passion that won't go back the way it came,
like the fish hook of the moon
torn out of the fleshy part of your heart the wrong way,
or revoke the names of the things you've given birth to
crossbreeding with a fertile imagination
when things get dark and narrow
in a black hole where the shadows of sacred fires
dance to the picture-music of hallowed cave paintings,
until you realize how meaningless and futile
the most significant things in life are
you'll never know the playful intensity
of being so wholly absorbed into your own creation
there's no afterbirth of inspiration to cast off
like a shadow of the mind upon the light.
If you're still looking for your own face
behind the veils you lift
like the mirages of mediocrity
in the breathless splendour
of the restless mirrors of reality
where you drink from your own reflection
like the false idol of an image
you've kissed the feet of before.
Be assured. If you're still down on your knees
before this simulacrum of seeing
you're just peeking through the keyhole
of a little door into a bigger world
that isn't sleepwalking through the same dream you are.
If you've got talent. And why not?
When everything else including you does,
except when you're a fish out of water
dying of thirst beside a fresh water lake
asking the stars if you can swim as well as they do.
If so. Why do you keep it to yourself
like some secret contagious disease
you haven't had time to spread around yet?
If you've got talent, don't judge
the quality of the wine by asking someone
to appraise the worth of the jewels
that open like the eyes of rubies and rhinestones,
like fierce Venutian diamonds in the twilight
of empty, golden goblets mortally wounded
by the going down of the sun
striking its colours like pennants of surrender.
But if you've ever known the delirious oblivion
of the protean genius or juno of a child
then your cup runneth over like the moon at full.
You drink from the cups
of the wild gypsy poppies
with the crazy lunar slips of the tongue
they keep whispering like the sacred syllable
of a cataba worm at the bottom of a bottle
like an unforgiving message for help in your ear.
And it's perfectly clear
from the either/or lens of your orbiting telescope
the stars aren't waiting for an answer
to all their big first magnitude questions,
but if you were to say anything, say it
like the ghost of a breath from the past,
a shadow in passing
that makes the candle flames tremble
at a seance of sensitive souls and murky mediums
in a delirium of stars giving rise
to a dancer in a dream riding her own thermals
in the cooling of an August afternoon like a red-tailed hawk
winging it on the fly for the euphoric high of it,
for the pure joy and solitude
in the miscreant freedom of it
from the wounded wild rose in her heart
like blood and wine and the miracle of mirages
in a bottled hourglass of quicksand.
Down to the lees of moonset
in your own bottomless skull
where you can read the black tea leaves for yourself
like the spinal vertebrae of books on a library shelf
to see if you're ever going to make it into print or not
like a fossil in the Burgess Shale
of a lonely species of heart and mind
that was one of a kind from beginning to end.
Of course, you're talented. Show me a star
or a stagestruck flower in the green room that isn't.
But talent isn't just another antidotal snake serum
you pour like iodine onto to the burn
of a lightning strike you can't mend any other way.
And genius, what can anybody say?
You won't find it out trying to stake a claim
to the insights it's been panning for
like nuggets of harvest gold
from the blue ore of the new moon's dark potential.
from the mindstreams that have been turning over
the reflections of the green mountains
they've been walking beside all day
like stones in the flow of an ongoing conversation
that might have something hidden under them
like stars that size of misfit diamonds
that ring the craters of the meteor impacts
that don't enlighten anything
that's bigger than your eyes
could ever dream of seeing.
And what new species of intensely creative visual life
might have come of them in the aftermath
by adapting that poem you're holding in your hand
like the neck of a dying swan song
to a whole new biosphere of picture-music
where merely to breathe the stars in and out
even at these lower altitudes
in these valleys of the fireflies
the storm passed over out of consideration
for their blood ties to the lightning,
were to sign your name in the first edition
of a cosmic guest book with the wingspan
of an immensely talented constellation
working on the first draft of a brilliant myth of origin
that says as it will be at the end,
so it was in the beginning
and is now in the coming of nightfall to a stranger.

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The Monk

I

In Nino's chamber not a sound intrudes
Upon the midnight's tingling silentness,
Where Nino sits before his book and broods,
Thin and brow-burdened with some fine distress,
Some gloom that hangs about his mournful moods
His weary bearing and neglected dress:
So sad he sits, nor ever turns a leaf-
Sorrow's pale miser o'er his hoard of grief.

II

Young Nino and Leonora, they had met
Once at a revel by some lover's chance,
And they were young with hearts already set
To tender thoughts, attuned to romance;
Wherefore it seemed they never could forget
That winning touch, that one bewildering glance:
But found at last a shelter safe and sweet,
Where trembling hearts and longing hands might meet.

III

Ah, sweet their dreams, and sweet, the life they led
With that great love that was their bosoms' all,
Yet ever shadowed by some circling dread
It gloomed at moments deep and tragical,
And so for many a month they seemed to tread
With fluttering hearts, whatever might befall,
Half glad, half sad, their sweet and secret way
To the soft tune of some old lover's lay.

IV

But she is gone, alas he knows not where,
Or how his life that tender gift should lose:
Indeed his love was ever full of care,
The hasty joys and griefs of him who woos,
Where sweet success is neighbour to despair,
With stolen looks and dangerous interviews:
But one long week she came not, nor the next,
And so he wandered here and there perplext;

V

Nor evermore she came. Full many days
He sought her at their trysts, devised deep schemes
To lure her back, and fell on subtle ways
To win some word of her; but all his dreams
Vanished like smoke, and then in sore amaze
From town to town, as one that crazed seems,
He wandered, following in unhappy quest
Uncertain clues that ended like the rest.

VI

And now this midnight, as he sits forlorn,
The printed page for him no meaning bears;
With every word some torturing dream is born;
And every thought is like a step that scares
Old memories up to make him weep and mourn,
He cannot turn but from their latchless lairs,
The weary shadows of his lost delight.
Rise up like dusk birds through the lonely night.

VII

And still with questions vain he probes his grief,
Till thought is wearied out, and dreams grow dim.
What bitter chance, what woe beyond belief
Could keep his lady's heart so hid from him?
Or was her love indeed but light and brief,
A passing thought, a moment's dreamy whim?
Aye there it stings, the woe that never sleeps:
Poor Nino leans upon his book, and weeps.

VIII

Until at length the sudden grief that shook
His pierced bosom like a gust is past,
And laid full weary on the wide-spread book,
His eyes grow dim with slumber light and fast;
But scarcely have his dreams had time to look
On lands of kindlier promise, when aghast
He starts up softly, and in wondering wise
Listens atremble with wide open eyes.

IX

What sound was that? Who knocks like one in dread
With such swift hands upon his outer door?
Perhaps some beggar driven from his bed
By gnawing hunger he can bear no more,
Or questing traveller with confused tread,
Straying, bewildered in the midnight hoar.
Nino uprises, scared, he knows not how,
The dreams still pale about his burdened brow.

X

The heavy bolt he draws, and unawares
A stranger enters with slow steps, unsought,
A long robed monk, and in his hand he bears,
A jewelled goblet curiously wrought;
But of his face beneath the cowl he wears
For all his searching Nino seeth nought;
And slowly past him with long stride he hies,
While Nino follows with bewildered eyes.

XI

Straight on he goes with dusky rustling gown
His steps are soft, his hands are white and fine;
And still he bears the goblet on whose crown
A hundred jewels in the lamplight shine;
And ever from its edges dripping down
Falls with dark stain the rich and lustrous wine,
Wherefrom through all the chamber's shadowy deeps
A deadly perfume like a vapour creeps.

XII

And now he sets it down with careful hands
On the slim table's polished ebony;
And for a space as if in dreams he stands,
Close hidden in his sombre drapery.
'Oh lover, by thy lady's last commands,
I bid thee hearken, for I bear with me
A gift to give thee and a tale to tell
From her who loved thee, while she lived too well.'

XIII

The stranger's voice falls slow and solemnly.
Tis soft, and rich, and wondrous deep of tone;
And Nino's face grows white as ivory,
Listening fast-rooted like a shape of stone.
Ah, blessed saints, can such a dark thing be?
And was it death, and is Leonora gone?
Oh, love is harsh, and life is frail indeed,
That gives men joy, and then so makes them bleed.

XIV

'There is the gift I bring'; the stranger's head
Turns to the cup that glitters at his side;
'And now my tongue draws back for very dread,
Unhappy youth, from what it must not hide.
The saddest tale that ever lips have said;
Yet thou must know how sweet Lenora died,
A broken martyr for love's weary sake,
And left this gift for thee to leave or take.'

XV

Poor Nino listens with that marble face,
And eyes that move not, strangely wide and set.
The monk continues with his mournful grace:
'She told me, Nino, how you often met
In secret, and your plighted loves kept pace,
Together, tangled in the self-same net;
Your dream's dark danger and its dread you knew,
And still you met, and still your passion grew.

XVI

'And aye with that luxurious fire you fed
Your dangerous longing daily, crumb by crumb;
Nor ever cared that still above your head
The shadow grew; for that your lips were dumb.
You knew full keenly you could never wed:
'Twas all a dream: the end must surely come;
For not on thee her father's eyes were turned
To find a son, when mighty lords were spurned.

XVII

'Thou knowest that new-sprung prince, that proud up-start,
Pisa's new tyrant with his armed thralls,
Who bends of late to take the people's part,
Yet plays the king among his marble halls,
Whose gloomy palace in our city's heart,
Frowns like a fortress with its loop-holed walls.
'Twas him he sought for fair Leonora's hand,
That so his own declining house might stand.

XVIII

'The end came soon; 'twas never known to thee;
But, when your love was scarce a six months old,
She sat one day beside her father's knee,
And in her ears the dreadful thing was told.
Within one month her bridal hour should be
With Messer Gianni for his power and gold;
And as she sat with whitened lips the while,
The old man kissed her, with his crafty smile.

XIX

'Poor pallid lady, all the woe she felt
Thou, wretched Nino, thou alone canst know,
Down at his feet with many a moan she knelt,
And prayed that he would never wound her so.
Ah, tender saints! it was a sight to melt
The flintiest heart; but his could never glow.
He sat with clenched hands and straightened head,
And frowned, and glared, and turned from white to red.

XX

'And still with cries about his knees she clung,
Her tender bosom broken with her care.
His words were brief, with bitter fury flung:
'The father's will the child must meekly bear;
I am thy father, thou a girl and young.'
Then to her feet she rose in her despair,
And cried with tightened lips and eyes aglow,
One daring word, a straight and simple, 'No!'

XXI

'Her father left her with wild words, and sent
Rough men, who dragged her to a dungeon deep,
Where many a weary soul in darkness pent
For many a year had watched the slow days creep,
And there he left her for his dark intent,
Where madness breeds and sorrows never sleep.
Coarse robes he gave her, and her lips he fed
With bitter water and a crust of bread.

XXII

'And day by day still following out his plan,
He came to her, and with determined spite
Strove with soft words and then with curse and ban
To bend her heart so wearied to his might,
And aye she bode his bitter pleasure's span,
As one that hears, but hath not sense or sight.
Ah, Nino, still her breaking heart held true:
Poor lady sad, she had no thought but you.

XXIII

'The father tired at last and came no more,
But in his settled anger bade prepare
The marriage feast with all luxurious store,
With pomps and shows and splendors rich and rare;
And so in toil another fortnight wore,
Nor knew she aught what things were in the air,
Till came the old lord's message brief and coarse:
Within three days she should be wed by force.

XXIV

'And all that noon and weary night she lay,
Poor child, like death upon her prison stone,
And none that came to her but crept away,
Sickened at heart to see her lips so moan,
Her eyes so dim within their sockets grey,
Her tender cheeks so thin and ghastly grown;
But when the next morn's light began to stir,
She sent and prayed that I might be with her.

XXV

'This boon he gave: perchance he deemed that I,
The chaplain of his house, her childhood's friend,
With patient tones and holy words, might try
To soothe her purpose to his gainful end.
I bowed full low before his crafty eye,
But knew my heart had no base help to lend.
That night with many a silent prayer I came
To poor Leonora in her grief and shame.

XXVI

'But she was strange to me: I could not speak
For glad amazement, mixed with some dark fear;
I saw her stand no longer pale and weak,
But a proud maiden, queenly and most clear,
With flashing eyes and vermeil in her cheek:
And on the little table, set anear,
I marked two goblets of rare workmanship
With some strange liquor crowned to the lip.

XXVII

'And then she ran to me and caught my hand,
Tightly imprisoned in her meagre twain,
And like the ghost of sorrow she did stand,
And eyed me softly with a liquid pain:
'Oh father, grant, I pray thee, I command,
One boon to me, I'll never ask again,
One boon to me and to my love, to both;
Dear father, grant, and bind it with an oath.'

XXVIII

'This granted I, and then with many a wail
She told me all the story of your woe,
And when she finished, lightly but most pale,
To those two brimming goblets she did go,
And one she took within her fingers frail,
And looked down smiling in its crimson glow:
'And now thine oath I'll tell; God grant to thee
No rest in grave, if thou be false to me.

XXIX

''Alas, poor me! whom cruel hearts would wed
On the sad morrow to that wicked lord;
But I'll not go; nay, rather I'll be dead,
Safe from their frown and from their bitter word.
Without my Nino life indeed were sped;
And sith we two can never more accord
In this drear world, so weary and perplext,
We'll die, and win sweet pleasure in the next.

XXX

''Oh father, God will never give thee rest,
If thou be false to what thy lips have sworn,
And false to love, and false to me distressed,
A helpless maid, so broken and outworn.
This cup-she put it softly to her breast-
I pray thee carry, ere the morrow morn,
To Nino's hand, and tell him all my pain;
This other with mine own lips I will drain.'

XXXI

'Slowly she raised it to her lips, the while
I darted forward, madly fain to seize
Her dreadful hands, but with a sudden wile
She twisted and sprang from me with bent knees,
And rising turned upon me with a smile,
And drained her goblet to the very lees.
'Oh priest, remember, keep thine oath,' she cried,
And the spent goblet fell against her side.

XXXII

'And then she moaned and murmured like a bell:
'My Nino, my sweet Nino!' and no more
She said, but fluttered like a bird and fell
Lifeless as marble to the footworn floor;
And there she lies even now in lonely cell,
Poor lady, pale with all the grief she bore,
She could not live, and still be true to thee,
And so she's gone where no rude hands can be.'

XXXIII

The monk's voice pauses like some mournful flute,
Whose pondered closes for sheer sorrow fail,
And then with hand that seems as it would suit
A soft girl best, it is so light and frail,
He turns half round, and for a moment mute
Points to the goblet, and so ends his tale:
'Mine oath is kept, thy lady's last command;
'Tis but a short hour since it left her hand.'

XXXIV

So ends the stranger: surely no man's tongue
Was e'er so soft, or half so sweet, as his.
Oft as he listened, Nino's heart had sprung
With sudden start as from a spectre's kiss;
For deep in many a word he deemed had rung
The liquid fall of some loved emphasis;
And so it pierced his sorrow to the core,
The ghost of tones that he should hear no more.

XXXV

But now the tale is ended, and still keeps
The stranger hidden in dusky weed;
And Nino stands, wide-eyed, as one that sleeps,
And dimly wonders how his heart doth bleed.
Anon he bends, yet neither moans nor weeps,
But hangs atremble, like a broken reed;
'Ah! bitter fate, that lured and sold us so,
Poor lady mine; alas for all our woe!'

XXXVI

But even as he moans in such dark mood,
His wandering eyes upon the goblet fall.
Oh, dreaming heart! Oh, strange ingratitude!
So to forget his lady's lingering call,
Her parting gift, so rich, so crimson-hued,
The lover's draught, that shall be cure for all.
He lifts the goblet lightly from its place,
And smiles, and rears it with his courtly grace.

XXXVII

'Oh, lady sweet, I shall not long delay:
This gift of thine shall bring me to thine eyes.
Sure God will send on no unpardoned way
The faithful soul, that at such bidding dies.
When thou art gone, I cannot longer stay
To brave this world with all its wrath and lies,
Where hands of stone and tongues of dragon's breath
Have bruised mine angel to her piteous death.'

XXXVIII

And now the gleaming goblet hath scarce dyed
His lips' thin pallor with its deathly red,
When Nino starts in wonder, fearful-eyed,
For, lo! the stranger with outstretched head
Springs at his face one soft and sudden stride,
And from his hand the deadly cup hath sped,
Dashed to the ground, and all its seeded store
Runs out like blood upon the marble floor.

XXXIX

'Oh, Nino, my sweet Nino! speak to me,
Nor stand so strange, nor look so deathly pale.
'Twas all to prove thy heart's dear constancy
I brought that cup and told that piteous tale.
Ah! chains and cells and cruel treachery
Are weak indeed when women's hearts assail.
Art angry, Nino?' 'Tis no monk that cries,
But sweet Leonora with her love-lit eyes.

XL

She dashes from her brow the pented hood;
The dusky robe falls rustling to her feet;
And there she stands, as aye in dreams she stood.
Ah, Nino, see! Sure man did never meet
So warm a flower from such a sombre bud,
So trembling fair, so wan, so pallid sweet.
Aye, Nino, down like saint upon thy knee,
And soothe her hands with kisses warm and free.

XLI

And now with broken laughter on her lips,
And now with moans remembering of her care,
She weeps, and smiles, and like a child she slips
Her lily fingers through his curly hair,
The while her head with all it's sweet she dips,
Close to his ear, to soothe and murmur there;
'Oh, Nino, I was hid so long from thee,
That much I doubted what thy love might be.

XLII

'And though 'twas cruel hard of me to try
Thy faithful heart with such a fearful test,
Yet now thou canst be happy, sweet, as I
Am wondrous happy in thy truth confessed.
To haggard death indeed thou needst not fly
To find the softness of thy lady's breast;
For such a gift was never death's to give,
But thou shalt have me for thy love, and live.

XLIII

'Dost see these cheeks, my Nino? they're so thin,
Not round and soft, as when thou touched them last:
So long with bitter rage they pent me in,
Like some poor thief in lonely dungeons cast;
Only this night through every bolt and gin
By cunning stealth I wrought my way at last.
Straight to thine heart I fled, unfaltering,
Like homeward pigeon with uncaged wing.

XLIV

'Nay, Nino, kneel not; let me hear thee speak.
We must not tarry long; the dawn is nigh.'
So rises he, for very gladness weak;
But half in fear that yet the dream may fly,
He touches mutely mouth and brow and cheek;
Till in his ear she 'gins to plead and sigh:
'Dear love, forgive me for that cruel tale,
That stung thine heart and made thy lips so pale.'

XLV

And so he folds her softly with quick sighs,
And both with murmurs warm and musical
Talk and retalk, with dim or smiling eyes,
Of old delights and sweeter days to fall:
And yet not long, for, ere the starlit skies,
Grow pale above the city's eastern wall,
They rise, with lips and happy hands withdrawn,
And pass out softly into the dawn.

XLVI

For Nino knows the captain of a ship,
The friend of many journeys, who may be
This very morn will let his cables slip
For the warm coast of Sicily.
There in Palermo, at the harbour's lip,
A brother lives, of tried fidelity:
So to the quays by hidden ways they wend
In the pale morn, nor do they miss their friend.

XLVII

And ere the shadow off another night
Hath darkened Pisa, many a foe shall stray
Through Nino's home, with eyes malignly bright
In wolfish quest, but shall not find his prey:
The while those lovers in their white-winged flight
Shall see far out upon the twilight grey,
Behind, the glimmer of the sea, before,
The dusky outlines of a kindlier shore.

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Merlin And Vivien

A storm was coming, but the winds were still,
And in the wild woods of Broceliande,
Before an oak, so hollow, huge and old
It looked a tower of ivied masonwork,
At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay.

For he that always bare in bitter grudge
The slights of Arthur and his Table, Mark
The Cornish King, had heard a wandering voice,
A minstrel of Caerlon by strong storm
Blown into shelter at Tintagil, say
That out of naked knightlike purity
Sir Lancelot worshipt no unmarried girl
But the great Queen herself, fought in her name,
Sware by her--vows like theirs, that high in heaven
Love most, but neither marry, nor are given
In marriage, angels of our Lord's report.

He ceased, and then--for Vivien sweetly said
(She sat beside the banquet nearest Mark),
'And is the fair example followed, Sir,
In Arthur's household?'--answered innocently:

'Ay, by some few--ay, truly--youths that hold
It more beseems the perfect virgin knight
To worship woman as true wife beyond
All hopes of gaining, than as maiden girl.
They place their pride in Lancelot and the Queen.
So passionate for an utter purity
Beyond the limit of their bond, are these,
For Arthur bound them not to singleness.
Brave hearts and clean! and yet--God guide them--young.'

Then Mark was half in heart to hurl his cup
Straight at the speaker, but forbore: he rose
To leave the hall, and, Vivien following him,
Turned to her: 'Here are snakes within the grass;
And you methinks, O Vivien, save ye fear
The monkish manhood, and the mask of pure
Worn by this court, can stir them till they sting.'

And Vivien answered, smiling scornfully,
'Why fear? because that fostered at THY court
I savour of thy--virtues? fear them? no.
As Love, if Love is perfect, casts out fear,
So Hate, if Hate is perfect, casts out fear.
My father died in battle against the King,
My mother on his corpse in open field;
She bore me there, for born from death was I
Among the dead and sown upon the wind--
And then on thee! and shown the truth betimes,
That old true filth, and bottom of the well
Where Truth is hidden. Gracious lessons thine
And maxims of the mud! "This Arthur pure!
Great Nature through the flesh herself hath made
Gives him the lie! There is no being pure,
My cherub; saith not Holy Writ the same?"--
If I were Arthur, I would have thy blood.
Thy blessing, stainless King! I bring thee back,
When I have ferreted out their burrowings,
The hearts of all this Order in mine hand--
Ay--so that fate and craft and folly close,
Perchance, one curl of Arthur's golden beard.
To me this narrow grizzled fork of thine
Is cleaner-fashioned--Well, I loved thee first,
That warps the wit.'

Loud laughed the graceless Mark,
But Vivien, into Camelot stealing, lodged
Low in the city, and on a festal day
When Guinevere was crossing the great hall
Cast herself down, knelt to the Queen, and wailed.

'Why kneel ye there? What evil hath ye wrought?
Rise!' and the damsel bidden rise arose
And stood with folded hands and downward eyes
Of glancing corner, and all meekly said,
'None wrought, but suffered much, an orphan maid!
My father died in battle for thy King,
My mother on his corpse--in open field,
The sad sea-sounding wastes of Lyonnesse--
Poor wretch--no friend!--and now by Mark the King
For that small charm of feature mine, pursued--
If any such be mine--I fly to thee.
Save, save me thou--Woman of women--thine
The wreath of beauty, thine the crown of power,
Be thine the balm of pity, O Heaven's own white
Earth-angel, stainless bride of stainless King--
Help, for he follows! take me to thyself!
O yield me shelter for mine innocency
Among thy maidens!

Here her slow sweet eyes
Fear-tremulous, but humbly hopeful, rose
Fixt on her hearer's, while the Queen who stood
All glittering like May sunshine on May leaves
In green and gold, and plumed with green replied,
'Peace, child! of overpraise and overblame
We choose the last. Our noble Arthur, him
Ye scarce can overpraise, will hear and know.
Nay--we believe all evil of thy Mark--
Well, we shall test thee farther; but this hour
We ride a-hawking with Sir Lancelot.
He hath given us a fair falcon which he trained;
We go to prove it. Bide ye here the while.'

She past; and Vivien murmured after 'Go!
I bide the while.' Then through the portal-arch
Peering askance, and muttering broken-wise,
As one that labours with an evil dream,
Beheld the Queen and Lancelot get to horse.

'Is that the Lancelot? goodly--ay, but gaunt:
Courteous--amends for gauntness--takes her hand--
That glance of theirs, but for the street, had been
A clinging kiss--how hand lingers in hand!
Let go at last!--they ride away--to hawk
For waterfowl. Royaller game is mine.
For such a supersensual sensual bond
As that gray cricket chirpt of at our hearth--
Touch flax with flame--a glance will serve--the liars!
Ah little rat that borest in the dyke
Thy hole by night to let the boundless deep
Down upon far-off cities while they dance--
Or dream--of thee they dreamed not--nor of me
These--ay, but each of either: ride, and dream
The mortal dream that never yet was mine--
Ride, ride and dream until ye wake--to me!
Then, narrow court and lubber King, farewell!
For Lancelot will be gracious to the rat,
And our wise Queen, if knowing that I know,
Will hate, loathe, fear--but honour me the more.'

Yet while they rode together down the plain,
Their talk was all of training, terms of art,
Diet and seeling, jesses, leash and lure.
'She is too noble' he said 'to check at pies,
Nor will she rake: there is no baseness in her.'
Here when the Queen demanded as by chance
'Know ye the stranger woman?' 'Let her be,'
Said Lancelot and unhooded casting off
The goodly falcon free; she towered; her bells,
Tone under tone, shrilled; and they lifted up
Their eager faces, wondering at the strength,
Boldness and royal knighthood of the bird
Who pounced her quarry and slew it. Many a time
As once--of old--among the flowers--they rode.

But Vivien half-forgotten of the Queen
Among her damsels broidering sat, heard, watched
And whispered: through the peaceful court she crept
And whispered: then as Arthur in the highest
Leavened the world, so Vivien in the lowest,
Arriving at a time of golden rest,
And sowing one ill hint from ear to ear,
While all the heathen lay at Arthur's feet,
And no quest came, but all was joust and play,
Leavened his hall. They heard and let her be.

Thereafter as an enemy that has left
Death in the living waters, and withdrawn,
The wily Vivien stole from Arthur's court.

She hated all the knights, and heard in thought
Their lavish comment when her name was named.
For once, when Arthur walking all alone,
Vext at a rumour issued from herself
Of some corruption crept among his knights,
Had met her, Vivien, being greeted fair,
Would fain have wrought upon his cloudy mood
With reverent eyes mock-loyal, shaken voice,
And fluttered adoration, and at last
With dark sweet hints of some who prized him more
Than who should prize him most; at which the King
Had gazed upon her blankly and gone by:
But one had watched, and had not held his peace:
It made the laughter of an afternoon
That Vivien should attempt the blameless King.
And after that, she set herself to gain
Him, the most famous man of all those times,
Merlin, who knew the range of all their arts,
Had built the King his havens, ships, and halls,
Was also Bard, and knew the starry heavens;
The people called him Wizard; whom at first
She played about with slight and sprightly talk,
And vivid smiles, and faintly-venomed points
Of slander, glancing here and grazing there;
And yielding to his kindlier moods, the Seer
Would watch her at her petulance, and play,
Even when they seemed unloveable, and laugh
As those that watch a kitten; thus he grew
Tolerant of what he half disdained, and she,
Perceiving that she was but half disdained,
Began to break her sports with graver fits,
Turn red or pale, would often when they met
Sigh fully, or all-silent gaze upon him
With such a fixt devotion, that the old man,
Though doubtful, felt the flattery, and at times
Would flatter his own wish in age for love,
And half believe her true: for thus at times
He wavered; but that other clung to him,
Fixt in her will, and so the seasons went.

Then fell on Merlin a great melancholy;
He walked with dreams and darkness, and he found
A doom that ever poised itself to fall,
An ever-moaning battle in the mist,
World-war of dying flesh against the life,
Death in all life and lying in all love,
The meanest having power upon the highest,
And the high purpose broken by the worm.

So leaving Arthur's court he gained the beach;
There found a little boat, and stept into it;
And Vivien followed, but he marked her not.
She took the helm and he the sail; the boat
Drave with a sudden wind across the deeps,
And touching Breton sands, they disembarked.
And then she followed Merlin all the way,
Even to the wild woods of Broceliande.
For Merlin once had told her of a charm,
The which if any wrought on anyone
With woven paces and with waving arms,
The man so wrought on ever seemed to lie
Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower,
From which was no escape for evermore;
And none could find that man for evermore,
Nor could he see but him who wrought the charm
Coming and going, and he lay as dead
And lost to life and use and name and fame.
And Vivien ever sought to work the charm
Upon the great Enchanter of the Time,
As fancying that her glory would be great
According to his greatness whom she quenched.

There lay she all her length and kissed his feet,
As if in deepest reverence and in love.
A twist of gold was round her hair; a robe
Of samite without price, that more exprest
Than hid her, clung about her lissome limbs,
In colour like the satin-shining palm
On sallows in the windy gleams of March:
And while she kissed them, crying, 'Trample me,
Dear feet, that I have followed through the world,
And I will pay you worship; tread me down
And I will kiss you for it;' he was mute:
So dark a forethought rolled about his brain,
As on a dull day in an Ocean cave
The blind wave feeling round his long sea-hall
In silence: wherefore, when she lifted up
A face of sad appeal, and spake and said,
'O Merlin, do ye love me?' and again,
'O Merlin, do ye love me?' and once more,
'Great Master, do ye love me?' he was mute.
And lissome Vivien, holding by his heel,
Writhed toward him, slided up his knee and sat,
Behind his ankle twined her hollow feet
Together, curved an arm about his neck,
Clung like a snake; and letting her left hand
Droop from his mighty shoulder, as a leaf,
Made with her right a comb of pearl to part
The lists of such a board as youth gone out
Had left in ashes: then he spoke and said,
Not looking at her, 'Who are wise in love
Love most, say least,' and Vivien answered quick,
'I saw the little elf-god eyeless once
In Arthur's arras hall at Camelot:
But neither eyes nor tongue--O stupid child!
Yet you are wise who say it; let me think
Silence is wisdom: I am silent then,
And ask no kiss;' then adding all at once,
'And lo, I clothe myself with wisdom,' drew
The vast and shaggy mantle of his beard
Across her neck and bosom to her knee,
And called herself a gilded summer fly
Caught in a great old tyrant spider's web,
Who meant to eat her up in that wild wood
Without one word. So Vivien called herself,
But rather seemed a lovely baleful star
Veiled in gray vapour; till he sadly smiled:
'To what request for what strange boon,' he said,
'Are these your pretty tricks and fooleries,
O Vivien, the preamble? yet my thanks,
For these have broken up my melancholy.'

And Vivien answered smiling saucily,
'What, O my Master, have ye found your voice?
I bid the stranger welcome. Thanks at last!
But yesterday you never opened lip,
Except indeed to drink: no cup had we:
In mine own lady palms I culled the spring
That gathered trickling dropwise from the cleft,
And made a pretty cup of both my hands
And offered you it kneeling: then you drank
And knew no more, nor gave me one poor word;
O no more thanks than might a goat have given
With no more sign of reverence than a beard.
And when we halted at that other well,
And I was faint to swooning, and you lay
Foot-gilt with all the blossom-dust of those
Deep meadows we had traversed, did you know
That Vivien bathed your feet before her own?
And yet no thanks: and all through this wild wood
And all this morning when I fondled you:
Boon, ay, there was a boon, one not so strange--
How had I wronged you? surely ye are wise,
But such a silence is more wise than kind.'

And Merlin locked his hand in hers and said:
'O did ye never lie upon the shore,
And watch the curled white of the coming wave
Glassed in the slippery sand before it breaks?
Even such a wave, but not so pleasurable,
Dark in the glass of some presageful mood,
Had I for three days seen, ready to fall.
And then I rose and fled from Arthur's court
To break the mood. You followed me unasked;
And when I looked, and saw you following me still,
My mind involved yourself the nearest thing
In that mind-mist: for shall I tell you truth?
You seemed that wave about to break upon me
And sweep me from my hold upon the world,
My use and name and fame. Your pardon, child.
Your pretty sports have brightened all again.
And ask your boon, for boon I owe you thrice,
Once for wrong done you by confusion, next
For thanks it seems till now neglected, last
For these your dainty gambols: wherefore ask;
And take this boon so strange and not so strange.'

And Vivien answered smiling mournfully:
'O not so strange as my long asking it,
Not yet so strange as you yourself are strange,
Nor half so strange as that dark mood of yours.
I ever feared ye were not wholly mine;
And see, yourself have owned ye did me wrong.
The people call you prophet: let it be:
But not of those that can expound themselves.
Take Vivien for expounder; she will call
That three-days-long presageful gloom of yours
No presage, but the same mistrustful mood
That makes you seem less noble than yourself,
Whenever I have asked this very boon,
Now asked again: for see you not, dear love,
That such a mood as that, which lately gloomed
Your fancy when ye saw me following you,
Must make me fear still more you are not mine,
Must make me yearn still more to prove you mine,
And make me wish still more to learn this charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands,
As proof of trust. O Merlin, teach it me.
The charm so taught will charm us both to rest.
For, grant me some slight power upon your fate,
I, feeling that you felt me worthy trust,
Should rest and let you rest, knowing you mine.
And therefore be as great as ye are named,
Not muffled round with selfish reticence.
How hard you look and how denyingly!
O, if you think this wickedness in me,
That I should prove it on you unawares,
That makes me passing wrathful; then our bond
Had best be loosed for ever: but think or not,
By Heaven that hears I tell you the clean truth,
As clean as blood of babes, as white as milk:
O Merlin, may this earth, if ever I,
If these unwitty wandering wits of mine,
Even in the jumbled rubbish of a dream,
Have tript on such conjectural treachery--
May this hard earth cleave to the Nadir hell
Down, down, and close again, and nip me flat,
If I be such a traitress. Yield my boon,
Till which I scarce can yield you all I am;
And grant my re-reiterated wish,
The great proof of your love: because I think,
However wise, ye hardly know me yet.'

And Merlin loosed his hand from hers and said,
'I never was less wise, however wise,
Too curious Vivien, though you talk of trust,
Than when I told you first of such a charm.
Yea, if ye talk of trust I tell you this,
Too much I trusted when I told you that,
And stirred this vice in you which ruined man
Through woman the first hour; for howsoe'er
In children a great curiousness be well,
Who have to learn themselves and all the world,
In you, that are no child, for still I find
Your face is practised when I spell the lines,
I call it,--well, I will not call it vice:
But since you name yourself the summer fly,
I well could wish a cobweb for the gnat,
That settles, beaten back, and beaten back
Settles, till one could yield for weariness:
But since I will not yield to give you power
Upon my life and use and name and fame,
Why will ye never ask some other boon?
Yea, by God's rood, I trusted you too much.'

And Vivien, like the tenderest-hearted maid
That ever bided tryst at village stile,
Made answer, either eyelid wet with tears:
'Nay, Master, be not wrathful with your maid;
Caress her: let her feel herself forgiven
Who feels no heart to ask another boon.
I think ye hardly know the tender rhyme
Of "trust me not at all or all in all."
I heard the great Sir Lancelot sing it once,
And it shall answer for me. Listen to it.

"In Love, if Love be Love, if Love be ours,
Faith and unfaith can ne'er be equal powers:
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.

"It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.

"The little rift within the lover's lute
Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,
That rotting inward slowly moulders all.

"It is not worth the keeping: let it go:
But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
And trust me not at all or all in all."

O Master, do ye love my tender rhyme?'

And Merlin looked and half believed her true,
So tender was her voice, so fair her face,
So sweetly gleamed her eyes behind her tears
Like sunlight on the plain behind a shower:
And yet he answered half indignantly:

'Far other was the song that once I heard
By this huge oak, sung nearly where we sit:
For here we met, some ten or twelve of us,
To chase a creature that was current then
In these wild woods, the hart with golden horns.
It was the time when first the question rose
About the founding of a Table Round,
That was to be, for love of God and men
And noble deeds, the flower of all the world.
And each incited each to noble deeds.
And while we waited, one, the youngest of us,
We could not keep him silent, out he flashed,
And into such a song, such fire for fame,
Such trumpet-glowings in it, coming down
To such a stern and iron-clashing close,
That when he stopt we longed to hurl together,
And should have done it; but the beauteous beast
Scared by the noise upstarted at our feet,
And like a silver shadow slipt away
Through the dim land; and all day long we rode
Through the dim land against a rushing wind,
That glorious roundel echoing in our ears,
And chased the flashes of his golden horns
Till they vanished by the fairy well
That laughs at iron--as our warriors did--
Where children cast their pins and nails, and cry,
"Laugh, little well!" but touch it with a sword,
It buzzes fiercely round the point; and there
We lost him: such a noble song was that.
But, Vivien, when you sang me that sweet rhyme,
I felt as though you knew this cursd charm,
Were proving it on me, and that I lay
And felt them slowly ebbing, name and fame.'

And Vivien answered smiling mournfully:
'O mine have ebbed away for evermore,
And all through following you to this wild wood,
Because I saw you sad, to comfort you.
Lo now, what hearts have men! they never mount
As high as woman in her selfless mood.
And touching fame, howe'er ye scorn my song,
Take one verse more--the lady speaks it--this:

'"My name, once mine, now thine, is closelier mine,
For fame, could fame be mine, that fame were thine,
And shame, could shame be thine, that shame were mine.
So trust me not at all or all in all."

'Says she not well? and there is more--this rhyme
Is like the fair pearl-necklace of the Queen,
That burst in dancing, and the pearls were spilt;
Some lost, some stolen, some as relics kept.
But nevermore the same two sister pearls
Ran down the silken thread to kiss each other
On her white neck--so is it with this rhyme:
It lives dispersedly in many hands,
And every minstrel sings it differently;
Yet is there one true line, the pearl of pearls:
"Man dreams of Fame while woman wakes to love."
Yea! Love, though Love were of the grossest, carves
A portion from the solid present, eats
And uses, careless of the rest; but Fame,
The Fame that follows death is nothing to us;
And what is Fame in life but half-disfame,
And counterchanged with darkness? ye yourself
Know well that Envy calls you Devil's son,
And since ye seem the Master of all Art,
They fain would make you Master of all vice.'

And Merlin locked his hand in hers and said,
'I once was looking for a magic weed,
And found a fair young squire who sat alone,
Had carved himself a knightly shield of wood,
And then was painting on it fancied arms,
Azure, an Eagle rising or, the Sun
In dexter chief; the scroll "I follow fame."
And speaking not, but leaning over him
I took his brush and blotted out the bird,
And made a Gardener putting in a graff,
With this for motto, "Rather use than fame."
You should have seen him blush; but afterwards
He made a stalwart knight. O Vivien,
For you, methinks you think you love me well;
For me, I love you somewhat; rest: and Love
Should have some rest and pleasure in himself,
Not ever be too curious for a boon,
Too prurient for a proof against the grain
Of him ye say ye love: but Fame with men,
Being but ampler means to serve mankind,
Should have small rest or pleasure in herself,
But work as vassal to the larger love,
That dwarfs the petty love of one to one.
Use gave me Fame at first, and Fame again
Increasing gave me use. Lo, there my boon!
What other? for men sought to prove me vile,
Because I fain had given them greater wits:
And then did Envy call me Devil's son:
The sick weak beast seeking to help herself
By striking at her better, missed, and brought
Her own claw back, and wounded her own heart.
Sweet were the days when I was all unknown,
But when my name was lifted up, the storm
Brake on the mountain and I cared not for it.
Right well know I that Fame is half-disfame,
Yet needs must work my work. That other fame,
To one at least, who hath not children, vague,
The cackle of the unborn about the grave,
I cared not for it: a single misty star,
Which is the second in a line of stars
That seem a sword beneath a belt of three,
I never gazed upon it but I dreamt
Of some vast charm concluded in that star
To make fame nothing. Wherefore, if I fear,
Giving you power upon me through this charm,
That you might play me falsely, having power,
However well ye think ye love me now
(As sons of kings loving in pupilage
Have turned to tyrants when they came to power)
I rather dread the loss of use than fame;
If you--and not so much from wickedness,
As some wild turn of anger, or a mood
Of overstrained affection, it may be,
To keep me all to your own self,--or else
A sudden spurt of woman's jealousy,--
Should try this charm on whom ye say ye love.'

And Vivien answered smiling as in wrath:
'Have I not sworn? I am not trusted. Good!
Well, hide it, hide it; I shall find it out;
And being found take heed of Vivien.
A woman and not trusted, doubtless I
Might feel some sudden turn of anger born
Of your misfaith; and your fine epithet
Is accurate too, for this full love of mine
Without the full heart back may merit well
Your term of overstrained. So used as I,
My daily wonder is, I love at all.
And as to woman's jealousy, O why not?
O to what end, except a jealous one,
And one to make me jealous if I love,
Was this fair charm invented by yourself?
I well believe that all about this world
Ye cage a buxom captive here and there,
Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower
From which is no escape for evermore.'

Then the great Master merrily answered her:
'Full many a love in loving youth was mine;
I needed then no charm to keep them mine
But youth and love; and that full heart of yours
Whereof ye prattle, may now assure you mine;
So live uncharmed. For those who wrought it first,
The wrist is parted from the hand that waved,
The feet unmortised from their ankle-bones
Who paced it, ages back: but will ye hear
The legend as in guerdon for your rhyme?

'There lived a king in the most Eastern East,
Less old than I, yet older, for my blood
Hath earnest in it of far springs to be.
A tawny pirate anchored in his port,
Whose bark had plundered twenty nameless isles;
And passing one, at the high peep of dawn,
He saw two cities in a thousand boats
All fighting for a woman on the sea.
And pushing his black craft among them all,
He lightly scattered theirs and brought her off,
With loss of half his people arrow-slain;
A maid so smooth, so white, so wonderful,
They said a light came from her when she moved:
And since the pirate would not yield her up,
The King impaled him for his piracy;
Then made her Queen: but those isle-nurtured eyes
Waged such unwilling though successful war
On all the youth, they sickened; councils thinned,
And armies waned, for magnet-like she drew
The rustiest iron of old fighters' hearts;
And beasts themselves would worship; camels knelt
Unbidden, and the brutes of mountain back
That carry kings in castles, bowed black knees
Of homage, ringing with their serpent hands,
To make her smile, her golden ankle-bells.
What wonder, being jealous, that he sent
His horns of proclamation out through all
The hundred under-kingdoms that he swayed
To find a wizard who might teach the King
Some charm, which being wrought upon the Queen
Might keep her all his own: to such a one
He promised more than ever king has given,
A league of mountain full of golden mines,
A province with a hundred miles of coast,
A palace and a princess, all for him:
But on all those who tried and failed, the King
Pronounced a dismal sentence, meaning by it
To keep the list low and pretenders back,
Or like a king, not to be trifled with--
Their heads should moulder on the city gates.
And many tried and failed, because the charm
Of nature in her overbore their own:
And many a wizard brow bleached on the walls:
And many weeks a troop of carrion crows
Hung like a cloud above the gateway towers.'

And Vivien breaking in upon him, said:
'I sit and gather honey; yet, methinks,
Thy tongue has tript a little: ask thyself.
The lady never made UNWILLING war
With those fine eyes: she had her pleasure in it,
And made her good man jealous with good cause.
And lived there neither dame nor damsel then
Wroth at a lover's loss? were all as tame,
I mean, as noble, as the Queen was fair?
Not one to flirt a venom at her eyes,
Or pinch a murderous dust into her drink,
Or make her paler with a poisoned rose?
Well, those were not our days: but did they find
A wizard? Tell me, was he like to thee?

She ceased, and made her lithe arm round his neck
Tighten, and then drew back, and let her eyes
Speak for her, glowing on him, like a bride's
On her new lord, her own, the first of men.

He answered laughing, 'Nay, not like to me.
At last they found--his foragers for charms--
A little glassy-headed hairless man,
Who lived alone in a great wild on grass;
Read but one book, and ever reading grew
So grated down and filed away with thought,
So lean his eyes were monstrous; while the skin
Clung but to crate and basket, ribs and spine.
And since he kept his mind on one sole aim,
Nor ever touched fierce wine, nor tasted flesh,
Nor owned a sensual wish, to him the wall
That sunders ghosts and shadow-casting men
Became a crystal, and he saw them through it,
And heard their voices talk behind the wall,
And learnt their elemental secrets, powers
And forces; often o'er the sun's bright eye
Drew the vast eyelid of an inky cloud,
And lashed it at the base with slanting storm;
Or in the noon of mist and driving rain,
When the lake whitened and the pinewood roared,
And the cairned mountain was a shadow, sunned
The world to peace again: here was the man.
And so by force they dragged him to the King.
And then he taught the King to charm the Queen
In such-wise, that no man could see her more,
Nor saw she save the King, who wrought the charm,
Coming and going, and she lay as dead,
And lost all use of life: but when the King
Made proffer of the league of golden mines,
The province with a hundred miles of coast,
The palace and the princess, that old man
Went back to his old wild, and lived on grass,
And vanished, and his book came down to me.'

And Vivien answered smiling saucily:
'Ye have the book: the charm is written in it:
Good: take my counsel: let me know it at once:
For keep it like a puzzle chest in chest,
With each chest locked and padlocked thirty-fold,
And whelm all this beneath as vast a mound
As after furious battle turfs the slain
On some wild down above the windy deep,
I yet should strike upon a sudden means
To dig, pick, open, find and read the charm:
Then, if I tried it, who should blame me then?'

And smiling as a master smiles at one
That is not of his school, nor any school
But that where blind and naked Ignorance
Delivers brawling judgments, unashamed,
On all things all day long, he answered her:

'Thou read the book, my pretty Vivien!
O ay, it is but twenty pages long,
But every page having an ample marge,
And every marge enclosing in the midst
A square of text that looks a little blot,
The text no larger than the limbs of fleas;
And every square of text an awful charm,
Writ in a language that has long gone by.
So long, that mountains have arisen since
With cities on their flanks--thou read the book!
And ever margin scribbled, crost, and crammed
With comment, densest condensation, hard
To mind and eye; but the long sleepless nights
Of my long life have made it easy to me.
And none can read the text, not even I;
And none can read the comment but myself;
And in the comment did I find the charm.
O, the results are simple; a mere child
Might use it to the harm of anyone,
And never could undo it: ask no more:
For though you should not prove it upon me,
But keep that oath ye sware, ye might, perchance,
Assay it on some one of the Table Round,
And all because ye dream they babble of you.'

And Vivien, frowning in true anger, said:
'What dare the full-fed liars say of me?
THEY ride abroad redressing human wrongs!
They sit with knife in meat and wine in horn!
THEY bound to holy vows of chastity!
Were I not woman, I could tell a tale.
But you are man, you well can understand
The shame that cannot be explained for shame.
Not one of all the drove should touch me: swine!'

Then answered Merlin careless of her words:
'You breathe but accusation vast and vague,
Spleen-born, I think, and proofless. If ye know,
Set up the charge ye know, to stand or fall!'

And Vivien answered frowning wrathfully:
'O ay, what say ye to Sir Valence, him
Whose kinsman left him watcher o'er his wife
And two fair babes, and went to distant lands;
Was one year gone, and on returning found
Not two but three? there lay the reckling, one
But one hour old! What said the happy sire?'
A seven-months' babe had been a truer gift.
Those twelve sweet moons confused his fatherhood.'

Then answered Merlin, 'Nay, I know the tale.
Sir Valence wedded with an outland dame:
Some cause had kept him sundered from his wife:
One child they had: it lived with her: she died:
His kinsman travelling on his own affair
Was charged by Valence to bring home the child.
He brought, not found it therefore: take the truth.'

'O ay,' said Vivien, 'overtrue a tale.
What say ye then to sweet Sir Sagramore,
That ardent man? "to pluck the flower in season,"
So says the song, "I trow it is no treason."
O Master, shall we call him overquick
To crop his own sweet rose before the hour?'

And Merlin answered, 'Overquick art thou
To catch a loathly plume fallen from the wing
Of that foul bird of rapine whose whole prey
Is man's good name: he never wronged his bride.
I know the tale. An angry gust of wind
Puffed out his torch among the myriad-roomed
And many-corridored complexities
Of Arthur's palace: then he found a door,
And darkling felt the sculptured ornament
That wreathen round it made it seem his own;
And wearied out made for the couch and slept,
A stainless man beside a stainless maid;
And either slept, nor knew of other there;
Till the high dawn piercing the royal rose
In Arthur's casement glimmered chastely down,
Blushing upon them blushing, and at once
He rose without a word and parted from her:
But when the thing was blazed about the court,
The brute world howling forced them into bonds,
And as it chanced they are happy, being pure.'

'O ay,' said Vivien, 'that were likely too.
What say ye then to fair Sir Percivale
And of the horrid foulness that he wrought,
The saintly youth, the spotless lamb of Christ,
Or some black wether of St Satan's fold.
What, in the precincts of the chapel-yard,
Among the knightly brasses of the graves,
And by the cold Hic Jacets of the dead!'

And Merlin answered careless of her charge,
'A sober man is Percivale and pure;
But once in life was flustered with new wine,
Then paced for coolness in the chapel-yard;
Where one of Satan's shepherdesses caught
And meant to stamp him with her master's mark;
And that he sinned is not believable;
For, look upon his face!--but if he sinned,
The sin that practice burns into the blood,
And not the one dark hour which brings remorse,
Will brand us, after, of whose fold we be:
Or else were he, the holy king, whose hymns
Are chanted in the minster, worse than all.
But is your spleen frothed out, or have ye more?'

And Vivien answered frowning yet in wrath:
'O ay; what say ye to Sir Lancelot, friend
Traitor or true? that commerce with the Queen,
I ask you, is it clamoured by the child,
Or whispered in the corner? do ye know it?'

To which he answered sadly, 'Yea, I know it.
Sir Lancelot went ambassador, at first,
To fetch her, and she watched him from her walls.
A rumour runs, she took him for the King,
So fixt her fancy on him: let them be.
But have ye no one word of loyal praise
For Arthur, blameless King and stainless man?'

She answered with a low and chuckling laugh:
'Man! is he man at all, who knows and winks?
Sees what his fair bride is and does, and winks?
By which the good King means to blind himself,
And blinds himself and all the Table Round
To all the foulness that they work. Myself
Could call him (were it not for womanhood)
The pretty, popular cause such manhood earns,
Could call him the main cause of all their crime;
Yea, were he not crowned King, coward, and fool.'

Then Merlin to his own heart, loathing, said:
'O true and tender! O my liege and King!
O selfless man and stainless gentleman,
Who wouldst against thine own eye-witness fain
Have all men true and leal, all women pure;
How, in the mouths of base interpreters,
From over-fineness not intelligible
To things with every sense as false and foul
As the poached filth that floods the middle street,
Is thy white blamelessness accounted blame!'

But Vivien, deeming Merlin overborne
By instance, recommenced, and let her tongue
Rage like a fire among the noblest names,
Polluting, and imputing her whole self,
Defaming and defacing, till she left
Not even Lancelot brave, nor Galahad clean.

Her words had issue other than she willed.
He dragged his eyebrow bushes down, and made
A snowy penthouse for his hollow eyes,
And muttered in himself, 'Tell HER the charm!
So, if she had it, would she rail on me
To snare the next, and if she have it not
So will she rail. What did the wanton say?
"Not mount as high;" we scarce can sink as low:
For men at most differ as Heaven and earth,
But women, worst and best, as Heaven and Hell.
I know the Table Round, my friends of old;
All brave, and many generous, and some chaste.
She cloaks the scar of some repulse with lies;
I well believe she tempted them and failed,
Being so bitter: for fine plots may fail,
Though harlots paint their talk as well as face
With colours of the heart that are not theirs.
I will not let her know: nine tithes of times
Face-flatterer and backbiter are the same.
And they, sweet soul, that most impute a crime
Are pronest to it, and impute themselves,
Wanting the mental range; or low desire
Not to feel lowest makes them level all;
Yea, they would pare the mountain to the plain,
To leave an equal baseness; and in this
Are harlots like the crowd, that if they find
Some stain or blemish in a name of note,
Not grieving that their greatest are so small,
Inflate themselves with some insane delight,
And judge all nature from her feet of clay,
Without the will to lift their eyes, and see
Her godlike head crowned with spiritual fire,
And touching other worlds. I am weary of her.'

He spoke in words part heard, in whispers part,
Half-suffocated in the hoary fell
And many-wintered fleece of throat and chin.
But Vivien, gathering somewhat of his mood,
And hearing 'harlot' muttered twice or thrice,
Leapt from her session on his lap, and stood
Stiff as a viper frozen; loathsome sight,
How from the rosy lips of life and love,
Flashed the bare-grinning skeleton of death!
White was her cheek; sharp breaths of anger puffed
Her fairy nostril out; her hand half-clenched
Went faltering sideways downward to her belt,
And feeling; had she found a dagger there
(For in a wink the false love turns to hate)
She would have stabbed him; but she found it not:
His eye was calm, and suddenly she took
To bitter weeping like a beaten child,
A long, long weeping, not consolable.
Then her false voice made way, broken with sobs:

'O crueller than was ever told in tale,
Or sung in song! O vainly lavished love!
O cruel, there was nothing wild or strange,
Or seeming shameful--for what shame in love,
So love be true, and not as yours is--nothing
Poor Vivien had not done to win his trust
Who called her what he called her--all her crime,
All--all--the wish to prove him wholly hers.'

She mused a little, and then clapt her hands
Together with a wailing shriek, and said:
'Stabbed through the heart's affections to the heart!
Seethed like the kid in its own mother's milk!
Killed with a word worse than a life of blows!
I thought that he was gentle, being great:
O God, that I had loved a smaller man!
I should have found in him a greater heart.
O, I, that flattering my true passion, saw
The knights, the court, the King, dark in your light,
Who loved to make men darker than they are,
Because of that high pleasure which I had
To seat you sole upon my pedestal
Of worship--I am answered, and henceforth
The course of life that seemed so flowery to me
With you for guide and master, only you,
Becomes the sea-cliff pathway broken short,
And ending in a ruin--nothing left,
But into some low cave to crawl, and there,
If the wolf spare me, weep my life away,
Killed with inutterable unkindliness.'

She paused, she turned away, she hung her head,
The snake of gold slid from her hair, the braid
Slipt and uncoiled itself, she wept afresh,
And the dark wood grew darker toward the storm
In silence, while his anger slowly died
Within him, till he let his wisdom go
For ease of heart, and half believed her true:
Called her to shelter in the hollow oak,
'Come from the storm,' and having no reply,
Gazed at the heaving shoulder, and the face
Hand-hidden, as for utmost grief or shame;
Then thrice essayed, by tenderest-touching terms,
To sleek her ruffled peace of mind, in vain.
At last she let herself be conquered by him,
And as the cageling newly flown returns,
The seeming-injured simple-hearted thing
Came to her old perch back, and settled there.
There while she sat, half-falling from his knees,
Half-nestled at his heart, and since he saw
The slow tear creep from her closed eyelid yet,
About her, more in kindness than in love,
The gentle wizard cast a shielding arm.
But she dislinked herself at once and rose,
Her arms upon her breast across, and stood,
A virtuous gentlewoman deeply wronged,
Upright and flushed before him: then she said:

'There must now be no passages of love
Betwixt us twain henceforward evermore;
Since, if I be what I am grossly called,
What should be granted which your own gross heart
Would reckon worth the taking? I will go.
In truth, but one thing now--better have died
Thrice than have asked it once--could make me stay--
That proof of trust--so often asked in vain!
How justly, after that vile term of yours,
I find with grief! I might believe you then,
Who knows? once more. Lo! what was once to me
Mere matter of the fancy, now hath grown
The vast necessity of heart and life.
Farewell; think gently of me, for I fear
My fate or folly, passing gayer youth
For one so old, must be to love thee still.
But ere I leave thee let me swear once more
That if I schemed against thy peace in this,
May yon just heaven, that darkens o'er me, send
One flash, that, missing all things else, may make
My scheming brain a cinder, if I lie.'

Scarce had she ceased, when out of heaven a bolt
(For now the storm was close above them) struck,
Furrowing a giant oak, and javelining
With darted spikes and splinters of the wood
The dark earth round. He raised his eyes and saw
The tree that shone white-listed through the gloom.
But Vivien, fearing heaven had heard her oath,
And dazzled by the livid-flickering fork,
And deafened with the stammering cracks and claps
That followed, flying back and crying out,
'O Merlin, though you do not love me, save,
Yet save me!' clung to him and hugged him close;
And called him dear protector in her fright,
Nor yet forgot her practice in her fright,
But wrought upon his mood and hugged him close.
The pale blood of the wizard at her touch
Took gayer colours, like an opal warmed.
She blamed herself for telling hearsay tales:
She shook from fear, and for her fault she wept
Of petulancy; she called him lord and liege,
Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve,
Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate love
Of her whole life; and ever overhead
Bellowed the tempest, and the rotten branch
Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain
Above them; and in change of glare and gloom
Her eyes and neck glittering went and came;
Till now the storm, its burst of passion spent,
Moaning and calling out of other lands,
Had left the ravaged woodland yet once more
To peace; and what should not have been had been,
For Merlin, overtalked and overworn,
Had yielded, told her all the charm, and slept.

Then, in one moment, she put forth the charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands,
And in the hollow oak he lay as dead,
And lost to life and use and name and fame.

Then crying 'I have made his glory mine,'
And shrieking out 'O fool!' the harlot leapt
Adown the forest, and the thicket closed
Behind her, and the forest echoed 'fool.'

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The Misery That Seeks More Company

when failures
fall down
they decide not to rise
from the place of
their perdition

from where they fall
hardly surviving
on hands grappling
and breaths grasping

they simply sit there
silently
looking for
more of their kin and kind

like some kind of
bus passengers waiting
for their trip
to nowhere

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