WALTER DE LA MARE
IN TWO VOLUMES
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LYRICAL POEMS— SHADOW UNREGARDING THEY TOLD ME SORCERY THE CHILDREN OF STARE AGE THE GLIMPSE REMEMBRANCE TREACHERY IN VAIN THE MIRACLE KEEP INNOCENCY THE PHANTOM VOICES THULE THE BIRTHNIGHT: TO F. THE DEATH-DREAM "WHERE IS THY VICTORY?" FOREBODING VAIN FINDING NAPOLEON ENGLAND TRUCE EVENING NIGHT THE UNIVERSE GLORIA MUNDI IDLENESS GOLIATH
CHARACTERS FROM SHAKESPEARE— FALSTAFF MACBETH BANQUO MERCUTIO JULIET'S NURSE IAGO IMOGEN POLONIUS OPHELIA HAMLET
SONNETS— THE HAPPY ENCOUNTER APRIL SEA-MAGIC THE MARKET-PLACE ANATOMY EVEN IN THE GRAVE BRIGHT LIFE HUMANITY VIRTUE
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD— REVERIE THE MASSACRE ECHO FEAR THE MERMAIDS MYSELF AUTUMN WINTER ENVOI: TO MY MOTHER
THE LISTENERS: 1914
THE THREE CHERRY TREES OLD SUSAN OLD BEN MISS LOO THE TAILOR MARTHA THE SLEEPER THE KEYS OF MORNING RACHEL ALONE THE BELLS THE SCARECROW NOD THE BINDWEED WINTER THERE BLOOMS NO BUD IN MAY NOON AND NIGHT FLOWER ESTRANGED THE TIRED CUPID DREAMS FAITHLESS THE SHADE BE ANGRY NOW NO MORE EXILE WHERE? MUSIC UNHEARD ALL THAT'S PAST WHEN THE ROSE IS FADED SLEEP THE STRANGER NEVER MORE SAILOR ARABIA THE MOUNTAINS QUEEN DJENIRA NEVER-TO-BE THE DARK CHATEAU THE DWELLING-PLACE THE LISTENERS TIME PASSES BEWARE! THE JOURNEY HAUNTED SILENCE WINTER DUSK THE GHOST AN EPITAPH "THE HAWTHORN HATH A DEATHLY SMELL"
THE LITTLE SALAMANDER THE LINNET THE SUNKEN GARDEN THE RIDDLERS MOONLIGHT THE BLIND BOY THE QUARRY MRS. GRUNDY THE TRYST ALONE THE EMPTY HOUSE MISTRESS FELL THE GHOST THE STRANGER BETRAYAL THE CAGE THE REVENANT MUSIC THE REMONSTRANCE NOCTURNE THE EXILE THE UNCHANGING INVOCATION EYES LIFE THE DISGUISE VAIN QUESTIONING VIGIL THE OLD MEN THE DREAMER MOTLEY THE MARIONETTES TO E.T.: 1917 APRIL MOON THE FOOL'S SONG CLEAR EYES DUST TO DUST THE THREE STRANGERS ALEXANDER THE REAWAKENING THE VACANT DAY THE FLIGHT FOR ALL THE GRIEF THE SCRIBE FARE WELL
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TO HENRY NEWBOLT
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THEY TOLD ME
They told me Pan was dead, but I Oft marvelled who it was that sang Down the green valleys languidly Where the grey elder-thickets hang.
Sometimes I thought it was a bird My soul had charged with sorcery; Sometimes it seemed my own heart heard Inland the sorrow of the sea.
But even where the primrose sets The seal of her pale loveliness, I found amid the violets Tears of an antique bitterness.
"What voice is that I hear Crying across the pool?" "It is the voice of Pan you hear, Crying his sorceries shrill and clear, In the twilight dim and cool."
"What song is it he sings, Echoing from afar; While the sweet swallow bends her wings, Filling the air with twitterings, Beneath the brightening star?"
The woodman answered me, His faggot on his back:— "Seek not the face of Pan to see; Flee from his clear note summoning thee To darkness deep and black!"
"He dwells in thickest shade, Piping his notes forlorn Of sorrow never to be allayed; Turn from his coverts sad Of twilight unto morn!"
The woodman passed away Along the forest path; His ax shone keen and grey In the last beams of day: And all was still as death:—
Only Pan singing sweet Out of Earth's fragrant shade; I dreamed his eyes to meet, And found but shadow laid Before my tired feet.
Comes no more dawn to me, Nor bird of open skies. Only his woods' deep gloom I see Till, at the end of all, shall rise, Afar and tranquilly, Death's stretching sea.
THE CHILDREN OF STARE
Winter is fallen early On the house of Stare; Birds in reverberating flocks Haunt its ancestral box; Bright are the plenteous berries In clusters in the air.
Still is the fountain's music, The dark pool icy still, Whereupon a small and sanguine sun Floats in a mirror on, Into a West of crimson, From a South of daffodil.
'Tis strange to see young children In such a wintry house; Like rabbits' on the frozen snow Their tell-tale footprints go; Their laughter rings like timbrels 'Neath evening ominous:
Their small and heightened faces Like wine-red winter buds; Their frolic bodies gentle as Flakes in the air that pass, Frail as the twirling petal From the briar of the woods.
Above them silence lours, Still as an arctic sea; Light fails; night falls; the wintry moon Glitters; the crocus soon Will ope grey and distracted On earth's austerity:
Thick mystery, wild peril, Law like an iron rod:— Yet sport they on in Spring's attire, Each with his tiny fire Blown to a core of ardour By the awful breath of God.
This ugly old crone— Every beauty she had When a maid, when a maid. Her beautiful eyes, Too youthful, too wise, Seemed ever to come To so lightless a home, Cold and dull as a stone. And her cheeks—who would guess Cheeks cadaverous as this Once with colours were gay As the flower on its spray? Who would ever believe Aught could bring one to grieve So much as to make Lips bent for love's sake So thin and so grey? O Youth, come away! As she asks in her lone, This old, desolate crone. She loves us no more; She is too old to care For the charms that of yore Made her body so fair. Past repining, past care, She lives but to bear One or two fleeting years Earth's indifference: her tears Have lost now their heat; Her hands and her feet Now shake but to be Shed as leaves from a tree; And her poor heart beats on Like a sea—the storm gone.
Art thou asleep? or have thy wings Wearied of my unchanging skies? Or, haply, is it fading dreams Are in my eyes?
Not even an echo in my heart Tells me the courts thy feet trod last, Bare as a leafless wood it is, The summer past.
My inmost mind is like a book The reader dulls with lassitude, Wherein the same old lovely words Sound poor and rude.
Yet through this vapid surface, I Seem to see old-time deeps; I see, Past the dark painting of the hour, Life's ecstasy.
Only a moment; as when day Is set, and in the shade of night, Through all the clouds that compassed her, Stoops into sight
Pale, changeless, everlasting Dian, Gleams on the prone Endymion, Troubles the dulness of his dreams: And then is gone.
The sky was like a waterdrop In shadow of a thorn, Clear, tranquil, beautiful, Dark, forlorn.
Lightning along its margin ran; A rumour of the sea Rose in profundity and sank Into infinity.
Lofty and few the elms, the stars In the vast boughs most bright; I stood a dreamer in a dream In the unstirring night.
Not wonder, worship, not even peace Seemed in my heart to be: Only the memory of one, Of all most dead to me.
She had amid her ringlets bound Green leaves to rival their dark hue; How could such locks with beauty bound Dry up their dew, Wither them through and through?
She had within her dark eyes lit Sweet fires to burn all doubt away; Yet did those fires, in darkness lit, Burn but a day, Not even till twilight stay.
She had within a dusk of words A vow in simple splendour set; How, in the memory of such words, Could she forget That vow—the soul of it?
I knocked upon thy door ajar, While yet the woods with buds were grey; Nought but a little child I heard Warbling at break of day.
I knocked when June had lured her rose To mask the sharpness of its thorn; Knocked yet again, heard only yet Thee singing of the morn.
The frail convolvulus had wreathed Its cup, but the faint flush of eve Lingered upon thy Western wall; Thou hadst no word to give.
Once yet I came; the winter stars Above thy house wheeled wildly bright; Footsore I stood before thy door— Wide open into night.
Who beckons the green ivy up Its solitary tower of stone? What spirit lures the bindweed's cup Unfaltering on? Calls even the starry lichen to climb By agelong inches endless Time?
Who bids the hollyhock uplift Her rod of fast-sealed buds on high; Fling wide her petals—silent, swift, Lovely to the sky? Since as she kindled, so she will fade, Flower above flower in squalor laid.
Ever the heavy billow rears All its sea-length in green, hushed wall; But totters as the shore it nears, Foams to its fall; Where was its mark? on what vain quest Rose that great water from its rest?
So creeps ambition on; so climb Man's vaunting thoughts. He, set on high, Forgets his birth, small space, brief time, That he shall die; Dreams blindly in his dark, still air; Consumes his strength; strips himself bare;
Rejects delight, ease, pleasure, hope, Seeking in vain, but seeking yet, Past earthly promise, earthly scope, On one aim set: As if, like Chaucer's child, he thought All but "O Alma!" nought.
Like an old battle, youth is wild With bugle and spear, and counter cry, Fanfare and drummery, yet a child Dreaming of that sweet chivalry, The piercing terror cannot see.
He, with a mild and serious eye Along the azure of the years, Sees the sweet pomp sweep hurtling by; But he sees not death's blood and tears, Sees not the plunging of the spears.
And all the strident horror of Horse and rider, in red defeat, Is only music fine enough To lull him into slumber sweet In fields where ewe and lambkin bleat.
O, if with such simplicity Himself take arms and suffer war; With beams his targe shall gilded be, Though in the thickening gloom be far The steadfast light of any star!
Though hoarse War's eagle on him perch, Quickened with guilty lightnings—there It shall in vain for terror search, Where a child's eyes beneath bloody hair Gaze purely through the dingy air.
And when the wheeling rout is spent, Though in the heaps of slain he lie; Or lonely in his last content; Quenchless shall burn in secrecy The flame Death knows his victors by.
Wilt thou never come again, Beauteous one? Yet the woods are green and dim, Yet the birds' deluding cry Echoes in the hollow sky, Yet the falling waters brim The clear pool which thou wast fain To paint thy lovely cheek upon, Beauteous one!
I may see the thorny rose Stir and wake The dark dewdrop on her gold; But thy secret will she keep Half-divulged—yet all untold, Since a child's heart woke from sleep.
The faltering sunbeam fades and goes; The night-bird whistles in the brake; The willows quake; Utter darkness walls; the wind Sighs no more. Yet it seems the silence yearns But to catch thy fleeting foot; Yet the wandering glowworm burns Lest her lamp should light thee not— Thee whom I shall never find; Though thy shadow lean before, Thou thyself return'st no more— Never more.
All the world's woods, tree o'er tree, Come to nought. Birds, flowers, beasts, how transient they, Angels of a flying day. Love is quenched; dreams drown in sleep; Ruin nods along the deep: Only thou immortally Hauntest on This poor earth in Time's flux caught; Hauntest on, pursued, unwon, Phantom child of memory, Beauteous one!
Who is it calling by the darkened river Where the moss lies smooth and deep, And the dark trees lean unmoving arms, Silent and vague in sleep, And the bright-heeled constellations pass In splendour through the gloom; Who is it calling o'er the darkened river In music, "Come!"?
Who is it wandering in the summer meadows Where the children stoop and play In the green faint-scented flowers, spinning The guileless hours away? Who touches their bright hair? who puts A wind-shell to each cheek, Whispering betwixt its breathing silences, "Seek! seek!"?
Who is it watching in the gathering twilight When the curfew bird hath flown On eager wings, from song to silence, To its darkened nest alone? Who takes for brightening eyes the stars, For locks the still moonbeam, Sighs through the dews of evening peacefully Falling, "Dream!"?
If thou art sweet as they are sad Who on the shores of Time's salt sea Watch on the dim horizon fade Ships bearing love to night and thee;
If past all beacons Hope hath lit In the dark wanderings of the deep They who unwilling traverse it Dream not till dawn unseal their sleep;
Ah, cease not in thy winds to mock Us, who yet wake, but cannot see Thy distant shores; who at each shock Of the waves' onset faint for thee!
THE BIRTHNIGHT: TO F.
Dearest, it was a night That in its darkness rocked Orion's stars; A sighing wind ran faintly white Along the willows, and the cedar boughs Laid their wide hands in stealthy peace across The starry silence of their antique moss: No sound save rushing air Cold, yet all sweet with Spring, And in thy mother's arms, couched weeping there, Thou, lovely thing.
Who, now, put dreams into thy slumbering mind? Who, with bright Fear's lean taper, crossed a hand Athwart its beam, and stooping, truth maligned, Spake so thy spirit speech should understand, And with a dread "He's dead!" awaked a peal Of frenzied bells along the vacant ways Of thy poor earthly heart; waked thee to steal, Like dawn distraught upon unhappy days, To prove nought, nothing? Was it Time's large voice Out of the inscrutable future whispered so? Or but the horror of a little noise Earth wakes at dead of night? Or does Love know When his sweet wings weary and droop, and even In sleep cries audibly a shrill remorse? Or, haply, was it I who out of dream Stole but a little where shadows course, Called back to thee across the eternal stream?
"WHERE IS THY VICTORY?"
None, none can tell where I shall be When the unclean earth covers me; Only in surety if thou cry Where my perplexed ashes lie, Know, 'tis but death's necessity That keeps my tongue from answering thee.
Even if no more my shadow may Lean for a moment in thy day; No more the whole earth lighten, as if, Thou near, it had nought else to give: Surely 'tis but Heaven's strategy To prove death immortality.
Yet should I sleep—and no more dream, Sad would the last awakening seem, If my cold heart, with love once hot, Had thee in sleep remembered not: How could I wake to find that I Had slept alone, yet easefully?
Or should in sleep glad visions come: Sick, in an alien land, for home Would be my eyes in their bright beam; Awake, we know 'tis not a dream; Asleep, some devil in the mind Might truest thoughts with false enwind.
Life is a mockery if death Have the least power men say it hath. As to a hound that mewing waits, Death opens, and shuts to, his gates; Else even dry bones might rise and say,— "'Tis ye are dead and laid away."
Innocent children out of nought Build up a universe of thought, And out of silence fashion Heaven: So, dear, is this poor dying even, Seeing thou shall be touched, heard, seen, Better than when dust stood between.
Thou canst not see him standing by— Time—with a poppied hand Stealing thy youth's simplicity, Even as falls unceasingly His waning sand.
He will pluck thy childish roses, as Summer from her bush Strips all the loveliness that was; Even to the silence evening has Thy laughter hush.
Thy locks too faint for earthly gold, The meekness of thine eyes, He will darken and dim, and to his fold Drive, 'gainst the night, thy stainless, old Innocencies;
Thy simple words confuse and mar, Thy tenderest thoughts delude, Draw a long cloud athwart thy star, Still with loud timbrels heaven's far Faint interlude.
Thou canst not see; I see, dearest; O, then, yet patient be, Though love refuse thy heart all rest, Though even love wax angry, lest Love should lose thee?
Ever before my face there went Betwixt earth's buds and me A beauty beyond earth's content, A hope—half memory: Till in the woods one evening— Ah! eyes as dark as they, Fastened on mine unwontedly, Grey, and dear heart, how grey!
"What is the world, O soldiers? It is I: I, this incessant snow, This northern sky; Soldiers, this solitude Through which we go Is I."
No lovelier hills than thine have laid My tired thoughts to rest: No peace of lovelier valleys made Like peace within my breast.
Thine are the woods whereto my soul, Out of the noontide beam, Flees for a refuge green and cool And tranquil as a dream.
Thy breaking seas like trumpets peal; Thy clouds—how oft have I Watched their bright towers of silence steal Into infinity!
My heart within me faults to roam In thought even far from thee: Thine be the grave whereto I come, And thine my darkness be.
Far inland here Death's pinions mocked the roar Of English seas; We sleep to wake no more, Hushed, and at ease; Till sound a trump, shore on to echoing shore, Rouse from a peace, unwonted then to war, Us and our enemies.
When twilight darkens, and one by one, The sweet birds to their nests have gone; When to green banks the glow-worms bring Pale lamps to brighten evening; Then stirs in his thick sleep the owl Through the dewy air to prowl.
Hawking the meadows swiftly he flits, While the small mouse atrembling sits With tiny eye of fear upcast Until his brooding shape be past, Hiding her where the moonbeams beat, Casting black shadows in the wheat.
Now all is still: the field-man is Lapped deep in slumbering silentness. Not a leaf stirs, but clouds on high Pass in dim flocks across the sky, Puffed by a breeze too light to move Aught but these wakeful sheep above.
O what an arch of light now spans These fields by night no longer Man's! Their ancient Master is abroad, Walking beneath the moonlight cold: His presence is the stillness, He Fills earth with wonder and mystery.
All from the light of the sweet moon Tired men lie now abed; Actionless, full of visions, soon Vanishing, soon sped.
The starry night aflock with beams Of crystal light scarce stirs: Only its birds—the cocks, the streams, Call 'neath heaven's wanderers.
All silent; all hearts still; Love, cunning, fire fallen low: When faint morn straying on the hill Sighs, and his soft airs flow.
I heard a little child beneath the stars Talk as he ran along To some sweet riddle in his mind that seemed A-tiptoe into song.
In his dark eyes lay a wild universe,— Wild forests, peaks, and crests; Angels and fairies, giants, wolves and he Were that world's only guests.
Elsewhere was home and mother, his warm bed:— Now, only God alone Could, armed with all His power and wisdom, make Earths richer than his own.
O Man!—thy dreams, thy passions, hopes, desires!— He in his pity keep A homely bed where love may lull a child's Fond Universe asleep!
Upon a bank, easeless with knobs of gold, Beneath a canopy of noonday smoke, I saw a measureless Beast, morose and bold, With eyes like one from filthy dreams awoke, Who stares upon the daylight in despair For very terror of the nothing there.
This beast in one flat hand clutched vulture-wise A glittering image of itself in jet, And with the other groped about its eyes To drive away the dreams that pestered it; And never ceased its coils to toss and beat The mire encumbering its feeble feet.
Sharp was its hunger, though continually It seemed a cud of stones to ruminate, And often like a dog let glittering lie This meatless fare, its foolish gaze to sate; Once more convulsively to stoop its jaw, Or seize the morsel with an envious paw.
Indeed, it seemed a hidden enemy Must lurk within the clouds above that bank, It strained so wildly its pale, stubborn eye, To pierce its own foul vapours dim and dank; Till, wearied out, it raved in wrath and foam, Daring that Nought Invisible to come.
Ay, and it seemed some strange delight to find In this unmeaning din, till, suddenly, As if it heard a rumour on the wind, Or far away its freer children cry, Lifting its face made-quiet, there it stayed, Till died the echo its own rage had made.
That place alone was barren where it lay; Flowers bloomed beyond, utterly sweet and fair; And even its own dull heart might think to stay In livelong thirst of a clear river there, Flowing from unseen hills to unheard seas, Through a still vale of yew and almond trees.
And then I spied in the lush green below Its tortured belly, One, like silver, pale, With fingers closed upon a rope of straw, That bound the Beast, squat neck to hoary tail; Lonely in all that verdure faint and deep, He watched the monster as a shepherd sheep.
I marvelled at the power, strength, and rage Of this poor creature in such slavery bound; Tettered with worms of fear; forlorn with age; Its blue wing-stumps stretched helpless on the ground; While twilight faded into darkness deep, And he who watched it piped its pangs asleep.
I saw old Idleness, fat, with great cheeks Puffed to the huge circumference of a sigh, But past all tinge of apples long ago. His boyish fingers twiddled up and down The filthy remnant of a cup of physic That thicked in odour all the while he stayed. His eyes were sad as fishes that swim up And stare upon an element not theirs Through a thin skin of shrewish water, then Turn on a languid fin, and dip down, down, Into unplumbed, vast, oozy deeps of dream. His stomach was his master, and proclaimed it; And never were such meagre puppets made The slaves of such a tyrant, as his thoughts Of that obese epitome of ills. Trussed up he sat, the mockery of himself; And when upon the wan green of his eye I marked the gathering lustre of a tear, Thought I myself must weep, until I caught A grey, smug smile of satisfaction smirch His pallid features at his misery. And laugh did I, to see the little snares He had set for pests to vex him: his great feet Prisoned in greater boots; so narrow a stool To seat such elephantine parts as his; Ay, and the book he read, a Hebrew Bible; And, to incite a gross and backward wit, An old, crabbed, wormed, Greek dictionary; and A foxy Ovid bound in dappled calf.
Still as a mountain with dark pines and sun He stood between the armies, and his shout Rolled from the empyrean above the host: "Bid any little flea ye have come forth, And wince at death upon my finger-nail!" He turned his large-boned face; and all his steel Tossed into beams the lustre of the noon; And all the shaggy horror of his locks Rustled like locusts in a field of corn. The meagre pupil of his shameless eye Moved like a cormorant over a glassy sea. He stretched his limbs, and laughed into the air, To feel the groaning sinews of his breast, And the long gush of his swollen arteries pause: And, nodding, wheeled, towering in all his height. Then, like a wind that hushes, gazed and saw Down, down, far down upon the untroubled green A shepherd-boy that swung a little sling. Goliath shut his lids to drive that mote, Which vexed the eastern azure of his eye, Out of his vision; and stared down again. Yet stood the youth there, ruddy in the flare Of his vast shield, nor spake, nor quailed, gazed up, As one might scan a mountain to be scaled. Then, as it were, a voice unearthly still Cried in the cavern of his bristling ear, "His name is Death!" ... And, like the flush That dyes Sahara to its lifeless verge, His brows' bright brass flamed into sudden crimson; And his great spear leapt upward, lightning-like, Shaking a dreadful thunder in the air; Spun betwixt earth and sky, bright as a berg That hoards the sunlight in a myriad spires, Crashed: and struck echo through an army's heart. Then paused Goliath, and stared down again. And fleet-foot Fear from rolling orbs perceived Steadfast, unharmed, a stooping shepherd-boy Frowning upon the target of his face. And wrath tossed suddenly up once more his hand; And a deep groan grieved all his strength in him. He breathed; and, lost in dazzling darkness, prayed— Besought his reins, his gloating gods, his youth: And turned to smite what he no more could see. Then sped the singing pebble-messenger, The chosen of the Lord from Israel's brooks, Fleet to its mark, and hollowed a light path Down to the appalling Babel of his brain. And like the smoke of dreaming Souffriere Dust rose in cloud, spread wide, slow silted down Softly all softly on his armour's blaze.
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CHARACTERS FROM SHAKESPEARE
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'Twas in a tavern that with old age stooped And leaned rheumatic rafters o'er his head— A blowzed, prodigious man, which talked, and stared, And rolled, as if with purpose, a small eye Like a sweet Cupid in a cask of wine. I could not view his fatness for his soul, Which peeped like harmless lightnings and was gone; As haps to voyagers of the summer air. And when he laughed, Time trickled down those beams, As in a glass; and when in self-defence He puffed that paunch, and wagged that huge, Greek head, Nosed like a Punchinello, then it seemed An hundred widows swept in his small voice, Now tenor, and now bass of drummy war. He smiled, compact of loam, this orchard man; Mused like a midnight, webbed with moonbeam snares Of flitting Love; woke—and a King he stood, Whom all the world hath in sheer jest refused For helpless laughter's sake. And then, forfend! Bacchus and Jove reared vast Olympus there; And Pan leaned leering from Promethean eyes. "Lord!" sighed his aspect, weeping o'er the jest, "What simple mouse brought such a mountain forth?"
Rose, like dim battlements, the hills and reared Steep crags into the fading primrose sky; But in the desolate valleys fell small rain, Mingled with drifting cloud. I saw one come, Like the fierce passion of that vacant place, His face turned glittering to the evening sky; His eyes, like grey despair, fixed satelessly On the still, rainy turrets of the storm; And all his armour in a haze of blue. He held no sword, bare was his hand and clenched, As if to hide the inextinguishable blood Murder had painted there. And his wild mouth Seemed spouting echoes of deluded thoughts. Around his head, like vipers all distort, His locks shook, heavy-laden, at each stride. If fire may burn invisible to the eye; O, if despair strive everlastingly; Then haunted here the creature of despair, Fanning and fanning flame to lick upon A soul still childish in a blackened hell.
What dost thou here far from thy native place? What piercing influences of heaven have stirred Thy heart's last mansion all-corruptible to wake, To move, and in the sweets of wine and fire Sit tempting madness with unholy eyes? Begone, thou shuddering, pale anomaly! The dark presses without on yew and thorn; Stoops now the owl upon her lonely quest; The pomp runs high here, and our beauteous women Seek no cold witness—O, let murder cry, Too shrill for human ear, only to God. Come not in power to wreak so wild a vengeance! Thou knowest not now the limit of man's heart; He is beyond thy knowledge. Gaze not then, Horror enthroned lit with insanest light!
Along an avenue of almond-trees Came three girls chattering of their sweethearts three. And lo! Mercutio, with Byronic ease, Out of his philosophic eye cast all A mere flowered twig of thought, whereat— Three hearts fell still as when an air dies out And Venus falters lonely o'er the sea. But when within the further mist of bloom His step and form were hid, the smooth child Ann Said, "La, and what eyes he had!" and Lucy said, "How sad a gentleman!" and Katherine, "I wonder, now, what mischief he was at." And these three also April hid away, Leaving the Spring faint with Mercutio.
In old-world nursery vacant now of children, With posied walls, familiar, fair, demure, And facing southward o'er romantic streets, Sits yet and gossips winter's dark away One gloomy, vast, glossy, and wise, and sly: And at her side a cherried country cousin. Her tongue claps ever like a ram's sweet bell; There's not a name but calls a tale to mind— Some marrowy patty of farce or melodram; There's not a soldier but hath babes in view; There's not on earth what minds not of the midwife: "O, widowhood that left me still espoused!" Beauty she sighs o'er, and she sighs o'er gold; Gold will buy all things, even a sweet husband, Else only Heaven is left and—farewell youth! Yet, strangely, in that money-haunted head, The sad, gemmed crucifix and incense blue Is childhood once again. Her memory Is like an ant-hill which a twig disturbs, But twig stilled never. And to see her face, Broad with sleek homely beams; her babied hands, Ever like 'lighting doves, and her small eyes— Blue wells a-twinkle, arch and lewd and pious— To darken all sudden into Stygian gloom, And paint disaster with uplifted whites, Is life's epitome. She prates and prates— A waterbrook of words o'er twelve small pebbles. And when she dies—some grey, long, summer evening, When the bird shouts of childhood through the dusk, 'Neath night's faint tapers—then her body shall Lie stiff with silks of sixty thrifty years.
A dark lean face, a narrow, slanting eye, Whose deeps of blackness one pale taper's beam Haunts with a fitting madness of desire; A heart whose cinder at the breath of passion Glows to a momentary core of heat Almost beyond indifference to endure: So parched Iago frets his life away. His scorn works ever in a brain whose wit This world hath fools too many and gross to seek. Ever to live incredibly alone, Masked, shivering, deadly, with a simple Moor Of idiot gravity, and one pale flower Whose chill would quench in everlasting peace His soul's unmeasured flame—O paradox! Might he but learn the trick!—to wear her heart One fragile hour of heedless innocence, And then, farewell, and the incessant grave. "O fool! O villain!"—'tis the shuttlecock Wit never leaves at rest. It is his fate To be a needle in a world of hay, Where honour is the flattery of the fool; Sin, a tame bauble; lies, a tiresome jest; Virtue, a silly, whitewashed block of wood For words to fell. Ah! but the secret lacking, The secret of the child, the bird, the night, Faded, flouted, bespattered, in days so far Hate cannot bitter them, nor wrath deny; Else were this Desdemona.... Why! Woman a harlot is, and life a nest Fouled by long ages of forked fools. And God— Iago deals not with a tale so dull: To have made the world! Fie on thee, Artisan!
Even she too dead! all languor on her brow, All mute humanity's last simpleness,— And yet the roses in her cheeks unfallen! Can death haunt silence with a silver sound? Can death, that hushes all music to a close, Pluck one sweet wire scarce-audible that trembles, As if a little child, called Purity, Sang heedlessly on of his dear Imogen? Surely if some young flowers of Spring were put Into the tender hollow of her heart, 'Twould faintly answer, trembling in their petals. Poise but a wild bird's feather, it will stir On lips that even in silence wear the badge Only of truth. Let but a cricket wake, And sing of home, and bid her lids unseal The unspeakable hospitality of her eyes. O childless soul—call once her husband's name! And even if indeed from these green hills Of England, far, her spirit flits forlorn, Back to its youthful mansion it will turn, Back to the floods of sorrow these sweet locks Yet heavy bear in drops; and Night shall see Unwearying as her stars still Imogen, Pausing 'twixt death and life on one hushed word.
There haunts in Time's bare house an active ghost, Enamoured of his name, Polonius. He moves small fingers much, and all his speech Is like a sampler of precisest words, Set in the pattern of a simpleton. His mirth floats eerily down chill corridors; His sigh—it is a sound that loves a keyhole; His tenderness a faint court-tarnished thing; His wisdom prates as from a wicker cage; His very belly is a pompous nought; His eye a page that hath forgot his errand. Yet in his brain—his spiritual brain— Lies hid a child's demure, small, silver whistle Which, to his horror, God blows, unawares, And sets men staring. It is sad to think, Might he but don indeed thin flesh and blood, And pace important to Law's inmost room, He would see, much marvelling, one immensely wise, Named Bacon, who, at sound of his youth's step, Would turn and call him Cousin—for the likeness.
There runs a crisscross pattern of small leaves Espalier, in a fading summer air, And there Ophelia walks, an azure flower, Whom wind, and snowflakes, and the sudden rain Of love's wild skies have purified to heaven. There is a beauty past all weeping now In that sweet, crooked mouth, that vacant smile; Only a lonely grey in those mad eyes, Which never on earth shall learn their loneliness. And when amid startled birds she sings lament, Mocking in hope the long voice of the stream, It seems her heart's lute hath a broken string. Ivy she hath, that to old ruin clings; And rosemary, that sees remembrance fade; And pansies, deeper than the gloom of dreams; But ah! if utterable, would this earth Remain the base, unreal thing it is? Better be out of sight of peering eyes; Out—out of hearing of all-useless words, Spoken of tedious tongues in heedless ears. And lest, at last, the world should learn heart-secrets; Lest that sweet wolf from some dim thicket steal; Better the glassy horror of the stream.
Umbrageous cedars murmuring symphonies Stooped in late twilight o'er dark Denmark's Prince: He sat, his eyes companioned with dream— Lustrous large eyes that held the world in view As some entranced child's a puppet show. Darkness gave birth to the all-trembling stars, And a far roar of long-drawn cataracts, Flooding immeasurable night with sound. He sat so still, his very thoughts took wing, And, lightest Ariels, the stillness haunted With midge-like measures; but, at last, even they Sank 'neath the influences of his night. The sweet dust shed faint perfume in the gloom; Through all wild space the stars' bright arrows fell On the lone Prince—the troubled son of man— On Time's dark waters in unearthly trouble: Then, as the roar increased, and one fair tower Of cloud took sky and stars with majesty, He rose, his face a parchment of old age, Sorrow hath scribbled o'er, and o'er, and o'er.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE HAPPY ENCOUNTER
I saw sweet Poetry turn troubled eyes On shaggy Science nosing in the grass, For by that way poor Poetry must pass On her long pilgrimage to Paradise. He snuffled, grunted, squealed; perplexed by flies, Parched, weatherworn, and near of sight, alas, From peering close where very little was In dens secluded from the open skies.
But Poetry in bravery went down, And called his name, soft, clear, and fearlessly; Stooped low, and stroked his muzzle overgrown; Refreshed his drought with dew; wiped pure and free His eyes: and lo! laughed loud for joy to see In those grey deeps the azure of her own.
Come, then, with showers; I love thy cloudy face Gilded with splendour of the sunbeam thro' The heedless glory of thy locks. I know The arch, sweet languor of thy fleeting grace, The windy lovebeams of thy dwelling-place, Thy dim dells where in azure bluebells blow, The brimming rivers where thy lightnings go Harmless and full and swift from race to race.
Thou takest all young hearts captive with thine eyes; At rumour of thee the tongues of children ring Louder than bees; the golden poplars rise Like trumps of peace; and birds, on homeward wing, Fly mocking echoes shrill along the skies, Above the waves' grave diapasoning.
My heart faints in me for the distant sea. The roar of London is the roar of ire The lion utters in his old desire For Libya out of dim captivity. The long bright silver of Cheapside I see, Her gilded weathercocks on roof and spire Exulting eastward in the western fire; All things recall one heart-sick memory:—
Ever the rustle of the advancing foam, The surges' desolate thunder, and the cry As of some lone babe in the whispering sky; Ever I peer into the restless gloom To where a ship clad dim and loftily Looms steadfast in the wonder of her home.
My mind is like a clamorous market-place. All day in wind, rain, sun, its babel wells; Voice answering to voice in tumult swells. Chaffering and laughing, pushing for a place, My thoughts haste on, gay, strange, poor, simple, base; This one buys dust, and that a bauble sells: But none to any scrutiny hints or tells The haunting secrets hidden in each sad face.
Dies down the clamour when the dark draws near; Strange looms the earth in twilight of the West, Lonely with one sweet star serene and clear, Dwelling, when all this place is hushed to rest, On vacant stall, gold, refuse, worst and best, Abandoned utterly in haste and fear.
By chance my fingers, resting on my face, Stayed suddenly where in its orbit shone The lamp of all things beautiful; then on, Following more heedfully, did softly trace Each arch and prominence and hollow place That shall revealed be when all else is gone— Warmth, colour, roundness—to oblivion, And nothing left but darkness and disgrace.
Life like a moment passed seemed then to be; A transient dream this raiment that it wore; While spelled my hand out its mortality Made certain all that had seemed doubt before: Proved—O how vaguely, yet how lucidly!— How much death does; and yet can do no more.
EVEN IN THE GRAVE
I laid my inventory at the hand Of Death, who in his gloomy arbour sate; And while he conned it, sweet and desolate I heard Love singing in that quiet land. He read the record even to the end— The heedless, livelong injuries of Fate, The burden of foe, the burden of love and hate; The wounds of foe, the bitter wounds of friend:
All, all, he read, ay, even the indifference, The vain talk, vainer silence, hope and dream. He questioned me: "What seek'st thou then instead?" I bowed my face in the pale evening gleam. Then gazed he on me with strange innocence: "Even in the grave thou wilt have thyself," he said.
"Come now," I said, "put off these webs of death, Distract this leaden yearning of thine eyes From lichened banks of peace, sad mysteries Of dust fallen-in where passed the flitting breath: Turn thy sick thoughts from him that slumbereth In mouldered linen to the living skies, The sun's bright-clouded principalities, The salt deliciousness the sea-breeze hath!
"Lay thy warm hand on earth's cold clods and think What exquisite greenness sprouts from these to grace The moving fields of summer; on the brink Of arched waves the sea-horizon trace, Whence wheels night's galaxy; and in silence sink The pride in rapture of life's dwelling-place!"
"Ever exulting in thyself, on fire To flaunt the purple of the Universe, To strut and strut, and thy great part rehearse; Ever the slave of every proud desire; Come now a little down where sports thy sire; Choose thy small better from thy abounding worse; Prove thou thy lordship who hadst dust for nurse, And for thy swaddling the primeval mire!"
Then stooped our Manhood nearer, deep and still, As from earth's mountains an unvoyaged sea, Hushed my faint voice in its great peace until It seemed but a bird's cry in eternity; And in its future loomed the undreamable, And in its past slept simple men like me.
Her breast is cold; her hands how faint and wan! And the deep wonder of her starry eyes Seemingly lost in cloudless Paradise, And all earth's sorrow out of memory gone. Yet sings her clear voice unrelenting on Of loveliest impossibilities; Though echo only answer her with sighs Of effort wasted and delights foregone.
Spent, baffled, 'wildered, hated and despised, Her straggling warriors hasten to defeat; By wounds distracted, and by night surprised, Fall where death's darkness and oblivion meet: Yet, yet: O breast how cold! O hope how far! Grant my son's ashes lie where these men's are!
* * * * *
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
* * * * *
Bring not bright candles, for his eyes In twilight have sweet company; Bring not bright candles, else they fly— His phantoms fly— Gazing aggrieved on thee!
Bring not bright candles, startle not The phantoms of a vacant room, Flocking above a child that dreams— Deep, deep in dreams,— Hid, in the gathering gloom!
Bring not bright candles to those eyes That between earth and stars descry, Lovelier for the shadows there, Children of air, Palaces in the sky!
The shadow of a poplar tree Lay in that lake of sun, As I with my little sword went in— Against a thousand, one.
Haughty and infinitely armed, Insolent in their wrath, Plumed high with purple plumes they held The narrow meadow path.
The air was sultry; all was still; The sun like flashing glass; And snip-snap my light-whispering steel In arcs of light did pass.
Lightly and dull fell each proud head, Spiked keen without avail, Till swam my uncontented blade With ichor green and pale.
And silence fell: the rushing sun Stood still in paths of heat, Gazing in waves of horror on The dead about my feet.
Never a whir of wing, no bee Stirred o'er the shameful slain; Nought but a thirsty wasp crept in, Stooped, and came out again.
The very air trembled in fear; Eclipsing shadow seemed Rising in crimson waves of gloom— On one who dreamed.
"Who called?" I said, and the words Through the whispering glades, Hither, thither, baffled the birds— "Who called? Who called?"
The leafy boughs on high Hissed in the sun; The dark air carried my cry Faintingly on:
Eyes in the green, in the shade, In the motionless brake, Voices that said what I said, For mockery's sake:
"Who cares?" I bawled through my tears; The wind fell low: In the silence, "Who cares? who cares?" Wailed to and fro.
I know where lurk The eyes of Fear; I, I alone, Where shadowy-clear, Watching for me, Lurks Fear.
'Tis ever still And dark, despite All singing and All candlelight, 'Tis ever cold, And night.
He touches me; Says quietly, "Stir not, nor whisper, I am nigh; Walk noiseless on, I am by!"
He drives me As a dog a sheep; Like a cold stone I cannot weep. He lifts me Hot from sleep
In marble hands To where on high The jewelled horror Of his eye Dares me to struggle Or cry.
No breast wherein To chase away That watchful shape! Vain, vain to say "Haunt not with night The Day!"
Sand, sand; hills of sand; And the wind where nothing is Green and sweet of the land; No grass, no trees, No bird, no butterfly, But hills, hills of sand, And a burning sky.
Sea, sea, mounds of the sea, Hollow, and dark, and blue, Flashing incessantly The whole sea through; No flower, no jutting root, Only the floor of the sea, With foam afloat.
Blow, blow, winding shells; And the watery fish, Deaf to the hidden bells, In the water splash; No streaming gold, no eyes, Watching along the waves, But far-blown shells, faint bells, From the darkling caves.
There is a garden, grey With mists of autumntide; Under the giant boughs, Stretched green on every side,
Along the lonely paths, A little child like me, With face, with hands, like mine, Plays ever silently;
On, on, quite silently, When I am there alone, Turns not his head; lifts not his eyes; Heeds not as he plays on.
After the birds are flown From singing in the trees, When all is grey, all silent, Voices, and winds, and bees;
And I am there alone: Forlornly, silently, Plays in the evening garden Myself with me.
There is a wind where the rose was; Cold rain where sweet grass was; And clouds like sheep Stream o'er the steep Grey skies where the lark was.
Nought gold where your hair was; Nought warm where your hand was; But phantom, forlorn, Beneath the thorn, Your ghost where your face was.
Sad winds where your voice was; Tears, tears where my heart was; And ever with me, Child, ever with me, Silence where hope was.
Green Mistletoe! Oh, I remember now A dell of snow, Frost on the bough; None there but I: Snow, snow, and a wintry sky.
None there but I, And footprints one by one, Zigzaggedly, Where I had run; Where shrill and powdery A robin sat in the tree.
And he whistled sweet; And I in the crusted snow With snow-clubbed feet Jigged to and fro, Till, from the day, The rose-light ebbed away.
And the robin flew Into the air, the air, The white mist through; And small and rare The night-frost fell In the calm and misty dell.
And the dusk gathered low, And the silver moon and stars On the frozen snow Drew taper bars, Kindled winking fires In the hooded briers.
And the sprawling Bear Growled deep in the sky; And Orion's hair Streamed sparkling by: But the North sighed low, "Snow, snow, more snow!"
* * * * *
* * * * *
TO MY MOTHER
Thine is my all, how little when 'tis told Beside thy gold! Thine the first peace, and mine the livelong strife; Thine the clear dawn, and mine the night of life; Thine the unstained belief, Darkened in grief.
Scarce even a flower but thine its beauty and name, Dimmed, yet the same; Never in twilight comes the moon to me, Stealing thro' those far woods, but tells of thee, Falls, dear, on my wild heart, And takes thy part.
Thou art the child, and I—how steeped in age! A blotted page From that clear, little book life's taken away: How could I read it, dear, so dark the day? Be it all memory 'Twixt thee and me!
* * * * *
THE LISTENERS: 1914
* * * * *
THE THREE CHERRY TREES
There were three cherry trees once, Grew in a garden all shady; And there for delight of so gladsome a sight, Walked a most beautiful lady, Dreamed a most beautiful lady.
Birds in those branches did sing, Blackbird and throstle and linnet, But she walking there was by far the most fair— Lovelier than all else within it, Blackbird and throstle and linnet.
But blossoms to berries do come, All hanging on stalks light and slender, And one long summer's day charmed that lady away, With vows sweet and merry and tender; A lover with voice low and tender.
Moss and lichen the green branches deck; Weeds nod in its paths green and shady: Yet a light footstep seems there to wander in dreams, The ghost of that beautiful lady, That happy and beautiful lady.
When Susan's work was done, she would sit, With one fat guttering candle lit, And window opened wide to win The sweet night air to enter in. There, with a thumb to keep her place, She would read, with stern and wrinkled face, Her mild eyes gliding very slow Across the letters to and fro, While wagged the guttering candle flame In the wind that through the window came. And sometimes in the silence she Would mumble a sentence audibly, Or shake her head as if to say, "You silly souls, to act this way!" And never a sound from night I would hear, Unless some far-off cock crowed clear; Or her old shuffling thumb should turn Another page; and rapt and stern, Through her great glasses bent on me, She would glance into reality; And shake her round old silvery head, With—"You!—I thought you was in bed!"— Only to tilt her book again, And rooted in Romance remain.
Sad is old Ben Tristlewaite, Now his day is done, And all his children Far away are gone.
He sits beneath his jasmined porch, His stick between his knees, His eyes fixed vacant On his moss-grown trees.
Grass springs in the green path, His flowers are lean and dry, His thatch hangs in wisps against The evening sky.
He has no heart to care now, Though the winds will blow Whistling in his casement, And the rain drip through.
He thinks of his old Bettie, How she'd shake her head and say, "You'll live to wish my sharp old tongue Could scold—some day."
But as in pale high autumn skies The swallows float and play, His restless thoughts pass to and fro, But nowhere stay.
Soft, on the morrow, they are gone; His garden then will be Denser and shadier and greener, Greener the moss-grown tree.
When thin-strewn memory I look through, I see most clearly poor Miss Loo, Her tabby cat, her cage of birds, Her nose, her hair, her muffled words, And how she would open her green eyes, As if in some immense surprise, Whenever as we sat at tea She made some small remark to me.
'Tis always drowsy summer when From out the past she comes again; The westering sunshine in a pool Floats in her parlour still and cool; While the slim bird its lean wires shakes, As into piercing song it breaks; Till Peter's pale-green eyes ajar Dream, wake; wake, dream, in one brief bar. And I am sitting, dull and shy, And she with gaze of vacancy,
And large hands folded on the tray, Musing the afternoon away; Her satin bosom heaving slow With sighs that softly ebb and flow. And her plain face in such dismay, It seems unkind to look her way: Until all cheerful back will come Her gentle gleaming spirit home: And one would think that poor Miss Loo Asked nothing else, if she had you.
Few footsteps stray when dusk droops o'er The tailor's old stone-lintelled door. There sits he stitching half asleep, Beside his smoky tallow dip. "Click, click," his needle hastes, and shrill Cries back the cricket beneath the sill. Sometimes he stays, and over his thread Leans sidelong his old tousled head; Or stoops to peer with half-shut eye When some strange footfall echoes by; Till clearer gleams his candle's spark Into the dusty summer dark. Then from his crosslegs he gets down, To find how dark the evening is grown; And hunched-up in his door he will hear The cricket whistling crisp and clear; And so beneath the starry grey Will mutter half a seam away.
"Once ... once upon a time ..." Over and over again, Martha would tell us her stories, In the hazel glen.
Hers were those clear grey eyes You watch, and the story seems Told by their beautifulness Tranquil as dreams.
She would sit with her two slim hands Clasped round her bended knees; While we on our elbows lolled, And stared at ease.
Her voice and her narrow chin, Her grave small lovely head, Seemed half the meaning Of the words she said.
"Once ... once upon a time ..." Like a dream you dream in the night, Fairies and gnomes stole out In the leaf-green light.
And her beauty far away Would fade, as her voice ran on, Till hazel and summer sun And all were gone:
All fordone and forgot; And like clouds in the height of the sky, Our hearts stood still in the hush Of an age gone by.
As Ann came in one summer's day, She felt that she must creep, So silent was the clear cool house, It seemed a house of sleep. And sure, when she pushed open the door, Rapt in the stillness there, Her mother sat, with stooping head, Asleep upon a chair; Fast—fast asleep; her two hands laid Loose-folded on her knee, So that her small unconscious face Looked half unreal to be: So calmly lit with sleep's pale light Each feature was; so fair Her forehead—every trouble was Smoothed out beneath her hair. But though her mind in dream now moved, Still seemed her gaze to rest— From out beneath her fast-sealed lids, Above her moving breast— On Ann; as quite, quite still she stood; Yet slumber lay so deep Even her hands upon her lap Seemed saturate with sleep. And as Ann peeped, a cloudlike dread Stole over her, and then, On stealthy, mouselike feet she trod, And tiptoed out again.
THE KEYS OF MORNING
While at her bedroom window once, Learning her task for school, Little Louisa lonely sat In the morning clear and cool, She slanted her small bead-brown eyes Across the empty street, And saw Death softly watching her In the sunshine pale and sweet.
His was a long lean sallow face; He sat with half-shut eyes, Like an old sailor in a ship Becalmed 'neath tropic skies. Beside him in the dust he had set His staff and shady hat; These, peeping small, Louisa saw Quite clearly where she sat—
The thinness of his coal-black locks, His hands so long and lean They scarcely seemed to grasp at all The keys that hung between: Both were of gold, but one was small, And with this last did he Wag in the air, as if to say, "Come hither, child, to me!"
Louisa laid her lesson book On the cold window-sill; And in the sleepy sunshine house Went softly down, until She stood in the half-opened door, And peeped. But strange to say, Where Death just now had sunning sat Only a shadow lay: Just the tall chimney's round-topped cowl, And the small sun behind, Had with its shadow in the dust Called sleepy Death to mind. But most she thought how strange it was Two keys that he should bear, And that, when beckoning, he should wag The littlest in the air.
Rachel sings sweet— Oh yes, at night, Her pale face bent In the candle-light, Her slim hands touch The answering keys, And she sings of hope And of memories: Sings to the little Boy that stands Watching those slim, Light, heedful hands. He looks in her face; Her dark eyes seem Dark with a beautiful Distant dream; And still she plays, Sings tenderly To him of hope, And of memory.
A very old woman Lives in yon house. The squeak of the cricket, The stir of the mouse, Are all she knows Of the earth and us.
Once she was young, Would dance and play, Like many another Young popinjay; And run to her mother At dusk of day.
And colours bright She delighted in; The fiddle to hear, And to lift her chin, And sing as small As a twittering wren.
But age apace Comes at last to all; And a lone house filled With the cricket's call; And the scampering mouse In the hollow wall.
Shadow and light both strove to be The eight bell-ringers' company, As with his gliding rope in hand, Counting his changes, each did stand; While rang and trembled every stone, To music by the bell-mouths blown: Till the bright clouds that towered on high Seemed to re-echo cry with cry. Still swang the clappers to and fro, When, in the far-spread fields below, I saw a ploughman with his team Lift to the bells and fix on them His distant eyes, as if he would Drink in the utmost sound he could; While near him sat his children three, And in the green grass placidly Played undistracted on, as if What music earthly bells might give Could only faintly stir their dream, And stillness make more lovely seem. Soon night hid horses, children, all In sleep deep and ambrosial. Yet, yet, it seemed, from star to star, Welling now near, now faint and far, Those echoing bells rang on in dream, And stillness made even lovelier seem.
All winter through I bow my head Beneath the driving rain; The North Wind powders me with snow And blows me back again; At midnight 'neath a maze of stars I flame with glittering rime, And stand, above the stubble, stiff As mail at morning-prime. But when that child, called Spring, and all His host of children, come, Scattering their buds and dew upon These acres of my home, Some rapture in my rags awakes; I lift void eyes and scan The skies for crows, those ravening foes, Of my strange master, Man. I watch him striding lank behind His clashing team, and know Soon will the wheat swish body high Where once lay sterile snow; Soon shall I gaze across a sea Of sun-begotten grain, Which my unflinching watch hath sealed For harvest once again.
Softly along the road of evening, In a twilight dim with rose, Wrinkled with age, and drenched with dew, Old Nod, the shepherd, goes.
His drowsy flock streams on before him, Their fleeces charged with gold, To where the sun's last beam leans low On Nod the shepherd's fold.
The hedge is quick and green with brier, From their sand the conies creep; And all the birds that fly in heaven Flock singing home to sleep.
His lambs outnumber a noon's roses, Yet, when night's shadows fall, His blind old sheep-dog, Slumber-soon, Misses not one of all.
His are the quiet steeps of dreamland, The waters of no-more-pain, His ram's bell rings 'neath an arch of stars, "Rest, rest, and rest again."
The bindweed roots pierce down Deeper than men do lie, Laid in their dark-shut graves Their slumbering kinsmen by.
Yet what frail thin-spun flowers She casts into the air, To breathe the sunshine, and To leave her fragrance there.
But when the sweet moon comes, Showering her silver down, Half-wreathed in faint sleep, They droop where they have blown.
So all the grass is set, Beneath her trembling ray, With buds that have been flowers, Brimmed with reflected day.
Clouded with snow The cold winds blow, And shrill on leafless bough The robin with its burning breast Alone sings now.
The rayless sun, Day's journey done, Sheds its last ebbing light On fields in leagues of beauty spread Unearthly white.
Thick draws the dark, And spark by spark, The frost-fires kindle, and soon Over that sea of frozen foam Floats the white moon.
THERE BLOOMS NO BUD IN MAY
There blooms no bud in May Can for its white compare With snow at break of day, On fields forlorn and bare.
For shadow it hath rose, Azure, and amethyst; And every air that blows Dies out in beauteous mist.
It hangs the frozen bough With flowers on which the night Wheeling her darkness through Scatters a starry light.
Fearful of its pale glare In flocks the starlings rise; Slide through the frosty air, And perch with plaintive cries.
Only the inky rook, Hunched cold in ruffled wings, Its snowy nest forsook, Caws of unnumbered Springs.
NOON AND NIGHT FLOWER
Not any flower that blows But shining watch doth keep; Every swift changing chequered hour it knows Now to break forth in beauty; now to sleep.
This for the roving bee Keeps open house, and this Stainless and clear is, that in darkness she May lure the moth to where her nectar is.
Lovely beyond the rest Are these of all delight:— The tiny pimpernel that noon loves best, The primrose palely burning through the night.
One 'neath day's burning sky With ruby decks her place, The other when Eve's chariot glideth by Lifts her dim torch to light that dreaming face.
No one was with me there— Happy I was—alone; Yet from the sunshine suddenly A joy was gone.
A bird in an empty house Sad echoes makes to ring, Flitting from room to room On restless wing:
Till from its shades he flies, And leaves forlorn and dim The narrow solitudes So strange to him.
So, when with fickle heart I joyed in the passing day, A presence my mood estranged Went grieved away.
THE TIRED CUPID
The thin moonlight with trickling ray, Thridding the boughs of silver may, Trembles in beauty, pale and cool, On folded flower, and mantled pool. All in a haze the rushes lean— And he—he sits, with chin between His two cold hands; his bare feet set Deep in the grasses, green and wet. About his head a hundred rings Of gold loop down to meet his wings, Whose feathers, arched their stillness through, Gleam with slow-gathering drops of dew. The mouse-bat peers; the stealthy vole Creeps from the covert of its hole; A shimmering moth its pinions furls, Grey in the moonshine of his curls; 'Neath the faint stars the night-airs stray, Scattering the fragrance of the may; And with each stirring of the bough Shadow beclouds his childlike brow.
Be gentle, O hands of a child; Be true: like a shadowy sea In the starry darkness of night Are your eyes to me.
But words are shallow, and soon Dreams fade that the heart once knew; And youth fades out in the mind, In the dark eyes too.
What can a tired heart say, Which the wise of the world have made dumb? Save to the lonely dreams of a child, "Return again, come!"
The words you said grow faint; The lamps you lit burn dim; Yet, still be near your faithless friend To urge and counsel him.
Still with returning feet To where life's shadows brood, With steadfast eyes made clear in death Haunt his vague solitude.
So he, beguiled with earth, Yet with its vain things vexed, Keep even to his own heart unknown Your memory unperplexed.
Darker than night; and oh, much darker she, Whose eyes in deep night darkness gaze on me. No stars surround her; yet the moon seems hid Afar somewhere, beneath that narrow lid. She darkens against the darkness; and her face Only by adding thought to thought I trace, Limned shadowily: O dream, return once more To gloomy Hades and the whispering shore!
BE ANGRY NOW NO MORE
Be angry now no more! If I have grieved thee—if Thy kindness, mine before, No hope may now restore: Only forgive, forgive!
If still resentment burns In thy cold breast, oh if No more to pity turns, No more, once tender, yearns Thy love; oh yet forgive!...
Ask of the winter rain June's withered rose again: Ask grace of the salt sea: She will not answer thee. God would ten times have shriven A heart so riven; In her cold care thou would'st be Still unforgiven.
Had the gods loved me I had lain Where darnel is, and thorn, And the wild night-bird's nightlong strain Trembles in boughs forlorn.
Nay, but they loved me not; and I Must needs a stranger be, Whose every exiled day gone by Aches with their memory.
Where is my love— In silence and shadow she lies, Under the April-grey, calm waste of the skies; And a bird above, In the darkness tender and clear, Keeps saying over and over, Love lies here!
Not that she's dead; Only her soul is flown Out of its last pure earthly mansion; And cries instead In the darkness, tender and clear, Like the voice of a bird in the leaves, Love— Love lies here.
Sweet sounds, begone— Whose music on my ear Stirs foolish discontent Or lingering here; When, if I crossed The crystal verge of death, Him I should see. Who these sounds murmureth.
Sweet sounds, begone— Ask not my heart to break Its bond of bravery for Sweet quiet's sake; Lure not my feet To leave the path they must Tread on, unfaltering, Till I sleep in dust.
Sweet sounds, begone! Though silence brings apace Deadly disquiet Of this homeless place; And all I love In beauty cries to me, "We but vain shadows And reflections be."
ALL THAT'S PAST
Very old are the woods; And the buds that break Out of the brier's boughs, When March winds wake, So old with their beauty are— Oh, no man knows Through what wild centuries Roves back the rose.
Very old are the brooks; And the rills that rise Where snow sleeps cold beneath The azure skies Sing such a history Of come and gone, Their every drop is as wise As Solomon.
Very old are we men; Our dreams are tales Told in dim Eden By Eve's nightingales; We wake and whisper awhile, But, the day gone by, Silence and sleep like fields Of amaranth lie.
WHEN THE ROSE IS FADED
When the rose is faded, Memory may still dwell on Her beauty shadowed, And the sweet smell gone.
That vanishing loveliness, That burdening breath No bond of life hath then Nor grief of death.
'Tis the immortal thought Whose passion still Makes of the changing The unchangeable.
Oh, thus thy beauty, Loveliest on earth to me, Dark with no sorrow, shines And burns, with Thee.
Men all, and birds, and creeping beasts, When the dark of night is deep, From the moving wonder of their lives Commit themselves to sleep.
Without a thought, or fear, they shut The narrow gates of sense; Heedless and quiet, in slumber turn Their strength to impotence.
The transient strangeness of the earth Their spirits no more see: Within a silent gloom withdrawn, They slumber in secrecy.
Two worlds they have—a globe forgot Wheeling from dark to light; And all the enchanted realm of dream That burgeons out of night.
Half-hidden in a graveyard, In the blackness of a yew, Where never living creature stirs, Nor sunbeam pierces through,
Is a tomb, green and crooked,— Its faded legend gone,— With but one rain-worn cherub's head Of smouldering stone.
There, when the dusk is falling, Silence broods so deep It seems that every wind that breathes Blows from the field of sleep.
Day breaks in heedless beauty, Kindling each drop of dew, But unforsaking shadow dwells Beneath this lonely yew.
And, all else lost and faded, Only this listening head Keeps with a strange unanswering smile Its secret with the dead.
NEVER MORE SAILOR
Never more, Sailor, Shall thou be Tossed on the wind-ridden, Restless sea. Its tides may labour; All the world Shake 'neath that weight Of waters hurled: But its whole shock Can only stir Thy dust to a quiet Even quieter. Thou mock'st at land Who now art come To such a small And shallow home; Yet bore the sea Full many a care For bones that once A sailor's were. And though the grave's Deep soundlessness Thy once sea-deafened Ear distress, No robin ever On the deep Hopped with his song To haunt thy sleep.
Far are the shades of Arabia, Where the Princes ride at noon, 'Mid the verdurous vales and thickets, Under the ghost of the moon; And so dark is that vaulted purple Flowers in the forest rise And toss into blossom 'gainst the phantom stars Pale in the noonday skies.
Sweet is the music of Arabia In my heart, when out of dreams I still in the thin clear mirk of dawn Descry her gliding streams; Hear her strange lutes on the green banks Ring loud with the grief and delight Of the dim-silked dark-haired Musicians In the brooding silence of night.
They haunt me—her lutes and her forests; No beauty on earth I see But shadowed with that dreams recalls Her loveliness to me: Still eyes look coldly upon me, Cold voices whisper and say— "He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia, They have stolen his wits away."
Still, and blanched, and cold, and lone, The icy hills far off from me With frosty ulys overgrown Stand in their sculptured secrecy.
No path of theirs the chamois fleet Treads, with a nostril to the wind; O'er their ice-marbled glaciers beat No wings of eagles in my mind—
Yea, in my mind these mountains rise, Their perils dyed with evening's rose; And still my ghost sits at my eyes And thirsts for their untroubled snows.
When Queen Djenira slumbers through The sultry noon's repose, From out her dreams, as soft she lies, A faint thin music flows.
Her lovely hands lie narrow and pale With gilded nails, her head Couched in its handed nets of gold Lies pillowed on her bed.
The little Nubian boys who fan Her cheeks and tresses clear, Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful voices Seem afar to hear.
They slide their eyes, and nodding, say, "Queen Djenira walks to-day The courts of the lord Pthamasar Where the sweet birds of Psuthys are."
And those of earth about her porch Of shadow cool and grey Their sidelong beaks in silence lean, And silent flit away.
Down by the waters of the sea Reigns the King of Never-to-be. His palace walls are black with night; His torches star and moon's light, And for his timepiece deep and grave Beats on the green unhastening wave.
Windswept are his high corridors; His pleasance the sea-mantled shores; For sentinel a shadow stands With hair in heaven, and cloudy hands; And round his bed, king's guards to be, Watch pines in iron solemnity.
His hound is mute; his steed at will Roams pastures deep with asphodel; His queen is to her slumber gone; His courtiers mute lie, hewn in stone; He hath forgot where he did hide His sceptre in the mountain-side.
Grey-capped and muttering, mad is he— The childless King of Never-to-be; For all his people in the deep Keep, everlasting, fast asleep; And all his realm is foam and rain, Whispering of what comes not again.
THE DARK CHATEAU
In dreams a dark chateau Stands ever open to me, In far ravines dream-waters flow, Descending soundlessly; Above its peaks the eagle floats, Lone in a sunless sky; Mute are the golden woodland throats Of the birds flitting by.
No voice is audible. The wind Sleeps in its peace. No flower of the light can find Refuge beneath its trees; Only the darkening ivy climbs Mingled with wilding rose, And cypress, morn and evening, time's Black shadow throws.
All vacant, and unknown; Only the dreamer steps From stone to hollow stone, Where the green moss sleeps, Peers at the rivers in its deeps, The eagle lone in the sky, While the dew of evening drips, Coldly and silently.
Would that I could steal in!— Into each secret room; Would that my sleep-bright eyes could win To the inner gloom; Gaze from its high windows, Far down its mouldering walls, Where amber-clear still Lethe flows, And foaming falls.
But ever as I gaze, From slumber soft doth come Some touch my stagnant sense to raise To its old earthly home; Fades then that sky serene; And peak of ageless snow; Fades to a paling dawn-lit green, My dark chateau.
Deep in a forest where the kestrel screamed, Beside a lake of water, clear as glass, The time-worn windows of a stone house gleamed Named only "Alas."
Yet happy as the wild birds in the glades Of that green forest, thridding the still air With low continued heedless serenades, Its heedless people were.
The throbbing chords of violin and lute, The lustre of lean tapers in dark eyes, Fair colours, beauteous flowers, faint-bloomed fruit Made earth seem Paradise
To them that dwelt within this lonely house: Like children of the gods in lasting peace, They ate, sang, danced, as if each day's carouse Need never pause, nor cease.
Some to the hunt would wend, with hound and horn, And clash of silver, beauty, bravery, pride, Heeding not one who on white horse upborne With soundless hoofs did ride.
Dreamers there were who watched the hours away Beside a fountain's foam. And in the sweet Of phantom evening, 'neath the night-bird's lay, Did loved with loved-one meet.
All, all were children, for, the long day done, They barred the heavy door against lightfoot fear; And few words spake though one known face was gone, Yet still seemed hovering near.
They heaped the bright fire higher; poured dark wine; And in long revelry dazed the questioning eye; Curtained three-fold the heart-dismaying shine Of midnight streaming by.
They shut the dark out from the painted wall, With candles dared the shadow at the door, Sang down the faint reiterated call Of those who came no more.
Yet clear above that portal plain was writ, Confronting each at length alone to pass Out of its beauty into night star-lit, That word "Alas!"
"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller, Knocking on the moonlit door; And his horse in the silence champed the grasses Of the forest's ferny floor: And a bird flew up out of the turret, Above the Traveller's head: And he smote upon the door again a second time; "Is there anybody there?" he said. But no one descended to the Traveller; No head from the leaf-fringed sill Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes, Where he stood perplexed and still. But only a host of phantom listeners That dwelt in the lone house then Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight To that voice from the world of men: Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair, That goes down to the empty hall, Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken By the lonely Traveller's call. And he felt in his heart their strangeness, Their stillness answering his cry, While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf, 'Neath the starred and leafy sky; For he suddenly smote on the door, even Louder, and lifted his head:— "Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word," he said. Never the least stir made the listeners, Though every word he spake Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house From the one man left awake: Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup, And the sound of iron on stone, And how the silence surged softly backward, When the plunging hoofs were gone.
There was nought in the Valley But a Tower of Ivory, Its base enwreathed with red Flowers that at evening Caught the sun's crimson As to Ocean low he sped.
Lucent and lovely It stood in the morning Under a trackless hill; With snows eternal Muffling its summit, And silence ineffable.
Sighing of solitude Winds from the cold heights Haunted its yellowing stone; At noon its shadow Stretched athwart cedars Whence every bird was flown.
Its stair was broken, Its starlit walls were Fretted; its flowers shone Wide at the portal, Full-blown and fading, Their last faint fragrance gone.
And on high in its lantern A shape of the living Watched o'er a shoreless sea, From a Tower rotting With age and weakness, Once lovely as ivory.
An ominous bird sang from its branch, "Beware, O Wanderer! Night 'mid her flowers of glamourie spilled Draws swiftly near:
"Night with her darkened caravans, Piled deep with silver and myrrh, Draws from the portals of the East, O Wanderer near."
"Night who walks plumed through the fields Of stars that strangely stir— Smitten to fire by the sandals of him Who walks with her."
Heart-sick of his journey was the Wanderer; Footsore and parched was he; And a Witch who long had lurked by the wayside, Looked out of sorcery.
"Lift up your eyes, you lonely Wanderer," She peeped from her casement small; "Here's shelter and quiet to give you rest, young man, And apples for thirst withal."
And he looked up out of his sad reverie, And saw all the woods in green, With birds that flitted feathered in the dappling, The jewel-bright leaves between.
And he lifted up his face towards her lattice, And there, alluring-wise, Slanting through the silence of the long past, Dwelt the still green Witch's eyes.
And vaguely from the hiding-place of memory Voices seemed to cry; "What is the darkness of one brief life-time To the deaths thou hast made us die?
"Heed not the words of the Enchantress Who would us still betray!" And sad with the echo of their reproaches, Doubting, he turned away.
"I may not shelter beneath your roof, lady, Nor in this wood's green shadow seek repose, Nor will your apples quench the thirst A homesick wanderer knows."
"'Homesick' forsooth!" she softly mocked him: And the beauty in her face Made in the sunshine pale and trembling A stillness in that place.
And he sighed, as if in fear, that young Wanderer, Looking to left and to right, Where the endless narrow road swept onward, Till in distance lost to sight.
And there fell upon his sense the brier, Haunting the air with its breath, And the faint shrill sweetness of the birds' throats, Their tent of leaves beneath.
And there was the Witch, in no wise heeding; Her arbour, and fruit-filled dish, Her pitcher of well-water, and clear damask— All that the weary wish.
And the last gold beam across the green world Faltered and failed, as he Remembered his solitude and the dark night's Inhospitality.
And he looked upon the Witch with eyes of sorrow In the darkening of the day; And turned him aside into oblivion; And the voices died away....
And the Witch stepped down from her casement: In the hush of night he heard The calling and wailing in dewy thicket Of bird to hidden bird.
And gloom stole all her burning crimson, Remote and faint in space As stars in gathering shadow of the evening Seemed now her phantom face.
And one night's rest shall be a myriad, Midst dreams that come and go; Till heedless fate, unmoved by weakness, bring him This same strange by-way through:
To the beauty of earth that fades in ashes, The lips of welcome, and the eyes More beauteous than the feeble shine of Hesper Lone in the lightening skies:
Till once again the Witch's guile entreat him; But, worn with wisdom, he Steadfast and cold shall choose the dark night's Inhospitality.
The rabbit in his burrow keeps No guarded watch, in peace he sleeps; The wolf that howls in challenging night Cowers to her lair at morning light; The simplest bird entwines a nest Where she may lean her lovely breast, Couched in the silence of the bough. But thou, O man, what rest hast thou?
Thy emptiest solitude can bring Only a subtler questioning In thy divided heart. Thy bed Recalls at dawn what midnight said. Seek how thou wilt to feign content, Thy flaming ardour's quickly spent; Soon thy last company is gone, And leaves thee—with thyself—alone.
Pomp and great friends may hem thee round, A thousand busy tasks be found; Earth's thronging beauties may beguile Thy longing lovesick heart awhile; And pride, like clouds of sunset, spread A changing glory round thy head; But fade will all; and thou must come, Hating thy journey, homeless, home.
Rave how thou wilt; unmoved, remote, That inward presence slumbers not, Frets out each secret from thy breast, Gives thee no rally, pause, nor rest, Scans close thy very thoughts, lest they Should sap his patient power away, Answers thy wrath with peace, thy cry With tenderest taciturnity.
With changeful sound life beats upon the ear; Yet, striving for release, The most seductive string's Sweet jargonings, The happiest throat's Most easeful, lovely notes Fall back into a veiling silentness.
Even 'mid the rumour of a moving host, Blackening the clear green earth, Vainly 'gainst that thin wall The trumpets call, Or with loud hum The smoke-bemuffled drum: From that high quietness no reply comes forth.
When, all at peace, two friends at ease alone Talk out their hearts,—yet still Between the grace-notes of The voice of love From each to each Trembles a rarer speech, And with its presence every pause doth fill.
Unmoved it broods, this all-encompassing hush Of one who stooping near, No smallest stir will make Our fear to wake; But yet intent Upon some mystery bent Harkens the lightest word we say, or hear.
Dark frost was in the air without, The dusk was still with cold and gloom, When less than even a shadow came And stood within the room.
But of the three around the fire, None turned a questioning head to look, Still read a clear voice, on and on, Still stooped they o'er their book.
The children watched their mother's eyes Moving on softly line to line; It seemed to listen too—that shade, Yet made no outward sign.
The fire-flames crooned a tiny song, No cold wind moved the wintry tree; The children both in Faerie dreamed Beside their mother's knee.
And nearer yet that spirit drew Above that heedless one, intent Only on what the simple words Of her small story meant.
No voiceless sorrow grieved her mind, No memory her bosom stirred, Nor dreamed she, as she read to two, 'Twas surely three who heard.
Yet when, the story done, she smiled From face to face, serene and clear, A love, half dread, sprang up, as she Leaned close and drew them near.
Peace in thy hands, Peace in thine eyes, Peace on thy brow; Flower of a moment in the eternal hour, Peace with me now.
Not a wave breaks, Not a bird calls, My heart, like a sea, Silent after a storm that hath died, Sleeps within me.
All the night's dews, All the world's leaves, All winter's snow Seem with their quiet to have stilled in life's dream All sorrowing now.
Here lies a most beautiful lady, Light of step and heart was she; I think she was the most beautiful lady That ever was in the West Country. But beauty vanishes; beauty passes; However rare—rare it be; And when I crumble, who will remember This lady of the West Country?
"THE HAWTHORN HATH A DEATHLY SMELL"
The flowers of the field Have a sweet smell; Meadowsweet, tansy, thyme, And faint-heart pimpernel; But sweeter even than these, The silver of the may Wreathed is with incense for The Judgment Day.
An apple, a child, dust, When falls the evening rain, Wild brier's spiced leaves, Breathe memories again; With further memory fraught, The silver of the may Wreathed is with incense for The Judgment Day.
Eyes of all loveliness— Shadow of strange delight, Even as a flower fades Must thou from sight; But oh, o'er thy grave's mound, Till come the Judgment Day, Wreathed shall with incense he Thy sharp-thorned may.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE LITTLE SALAMANDER
When I go free, I think 'twill be A night of stars and snow, And the wild fires of frost shall light My footsteps as I go; Nobody—nobody will be there With groping touch, or sight, To see me in my bush of hair Dance burning through the night.
Upon this leafy bush With thorns and roses in it, Flutters a thing of light, A twittering linnet. And all the throbbing world Of dew and sun and air By this small parcel of life Is made more fair; As if each bramble-spray And mounded gold-wreathed furze, Harebell and little thyme, Were only hers; As if this beauty and grace Did to one bird belong, And, at a flutter of wing, Might vanish in song.
THE SUNKEN GARDEN
Speak not—whisper not; Here bloweth thyme and bergamot; Softly on the evening hour, Secret herbs their spices shower. Dark-spiked rosemary and myrrh, Lean-stalked, purple lavender; Hides within her bosom, too, All her sorrows, bitter rue.
Breathe not—trespass not; Of this green and darkling spot, Latticed from the moon's beams, Perchance a distant dreamer dreams; Perchance upon its darkening air, The unseen ghosts of children fare, Faintly swinging, sway and sweep, Like lovely sea-flowers in its deep; While, unmoved, to watch and ward, Amid its gloomed and daisied sward, Stands with bowed and dewy head That one little leaden Lad.
"Thou solitary!" the Blackbird cried, "I, from the happy Wren, Linnet and Blackcap, Woodlark, Thrush, Perched all upon a sweetbrier bush, Have come at cold of midnight-tide To ask thee, Why and when Grief smote thy heart so thou dost sing In solemn hush of evening, So sorrowfully, lovelorn Thing— Nay, nay, not sing, but rave, but wail, Most melancholic Nightingale? Do not the dews of darkness steep All pinings of the day in sleep? Why, then, when rocked in starry nest We mutely couch, secure, at rest, Doth thy lone heart delight to make Music for sorrow's sake?" A Moon was there. So still her beam, It seemed the whole world lay in dream, Lulled by the watery sea. And from her leafy night-hung nook Upon this stranger soft did look The Nightingale: sighed he:—
"'Tis strange, my friend; the Kingfisher But yestermorn conjured me here Out of his green and gold to say Why thou, in splendour of the noon, Wearest of colour but golden shoon, And else dost thee array In a most sombre suit of black? 'Surely,' he sighed, 'some load of grief, Past all our thinking—and belief— Must weigh upon his back!' Do, then, in turn, tell me, If joy Thy heart as well as voice employ Why dost thou now most Sable, shine In plumage woefuller far than mine? Thy silence is a sadder thing Than any dirge I sing!"
Thus, then, these two small birds, perched there, Breathed a strange riddle both did share Yet neither could expound. And we—who sing but as we can, In the small knowledge of a man— Have we an answer found? Nay, some are happy whose delight Is hid even from themselves from sight; And some win peace who spend The skill of words to sweeten despair Of finding consolation where Life has but one dark end; Who, in rapt solitude, tell o'er A tale as lovely as forlore, Into the midnight air.
The far moon maketh lovers wise In her pale beauty trembling down, Lending curved cheeks, dark lips, dark eyes, A strangeness not her own. And, though they shut their lids to kiss, In starless darkness peace to win, Even on that secret world from this Her twilight enters in.
THE BLIND BOY
"I have no master," said the Blind Boy, "My mother, 'Dame Venus' they do call; Cowled in this hood she sent me begging For whate'er in pity may befall.
"Hard was her visage, me adjuring,— 'Have no fond mercy on the kind! Here be sharp arrows, bunched in quiver, Draw close ere striking—thou art blind.'
"So stand I here, my woes entreating, In this dark alley, lest the Moon Point with her sparkling my barbed armoury Shine on my silver-laced shoon.
"Oh, sir, unkind this Dame to me-ward; Of the salt billow was her birth ... In your sweet charity draw nearer The saddest rogue on Earth!"
You hunted me with all the pack, Too blind, too blind, to see By no wild hope of force or greed Could you make sure of me.
And like a phantom through the glades, With tender breast aglow, The goddess in me laughed to hear Your horns a-roving go.
She laughed to think no mortal ever By dint of mortal flesh The very Cause that was the Hunt One moment could enmesh:
That though with captive limbs I lay, Stilled breath and vanquished eyes, He that hunts Love with horse and hound Hunts out his heart and eyes.
"Step very softly, sweet Quiet-foot, Stumble not, whisper not, smile not: By this dark ivy stoop cheek and brow. Still even thy heart! What seest thou?..."
"High-coifed, broad-browed, aged, suave yet grim, A large flat face, eyes keenly dim, Staring at nothing—that's me!—and yet, With a hate one could never, no, never forget ..."
"This is my world, my garden, my home, Hither my father bade mother to come And bear me out of the dark into light, And happy I was in her tender sight.
"And then, thou frail flower, she died and went, Forgetting my pitiless banishment, And that Old Woman—an Aunt—she said, Came hither, lodged, fattened, and made her bed.
"Oh yes, thou most blessed, from Monday to Sunday, Has lived on me, preyed on me, Mrs. Grundy: Called me, 'dear Nephew'; on each of those chairs Has gloated in righteousness, heard my prayers.
"Why didst thou dare the thorns of the grove, Timidest trespasser, huntress of love? Now thou hast peeped, and now dost know What kind of creature is thine for foe.
"Not that she'll tear out thy innocent eyes, Poison thy mouth with deviltries. Watch thou, wait thou: soon will begin The guile of a voice: hark!..." "Come in, Come in!"
Flee into some forgotten night and be Of all dark long my moon-bright company: Beyond the rumour even of Paradise come, There, out of all remembrance, make our home: Seek we some close hid shadow for our lair, Hollowed by Noah's mouse beneath the chair Wherein the Omnipotent, in slumber bound, Nods till the piteous Trump of Judgment sound. Perchance Leviathan of the deep sea Would lease a lost mermaiden's grot to me, There of your beauty we would joyance make— A music wistful for the sea-nymph's sake: Haply Elijah, o'er his spokes of fire, Cresting steep Leo, or the heavenly Lyre, Spied, tranced in azure of inanest space, Some eyrie hostel, meet for human grace, Where two might happy be—just you and I— Lost in the uttermost of Eternity. Think! In Time's smallest clock's minutest beat Might there not rest be found for wandering feet? Or, 'twixt the sleep and wake of Helen's dream, Silence wherein to sing love's requiem? No, no. Nor earth, nor air, nor fire, nor deep Could lull poor mortal longingness asleep. Somewhere there Nothing is; and there lost Man Shall win what changeless vague of peace he can.
The abode of the nightingale is bare, Flowered frost congeals in the gelid air, The fox howls from his frozen lair: Alas, my loved one is gone, I am alone: It is winter.
Once the pink cast a winy smell, The wild bee hung in the hyacinth bell, Light in effulgence of beauty fell: Alas, my loved one is gone, I am alone: It is winter.
My candle a silent fire doth shed, Starry Orion hunts o'erhead; Come moth, come shadow, the world is dead: Alas, my loved one is gone, I am alone: It is winter.
THE EMPTY HOUSE
See this house, how dark it is Beneath its vast-boughed trees! Not one trembling leaflet cries To that Watcher in the skies— "Remove, remove thy searching gaze, Innocent, of heaven's ways, Brood not, Moon, so wildly bright, On secrets hidden from sight."
"Secrets," sighs the night-wind, "Vacancy is all I find; Every keyhole I have made Wails a summons, faint and sad, No voice ever answers me, Only vacancy." "Once, once ..." the cricket shrills, And far and near the quiet fills With its tiny voice, and then Hush falls again.
Mute shadows creeping slow Mark how the hours go. Every stone is mouldering slow. And the least winds that blow Some minutest atom shake, Some fretting ruin make In roof and walls. How black it is Beneath these thick-boughed trees!
"Whom seek you here, sweet Mistress Fell?" "One who loved me passing well. Dark his eye, wild his face— Stranger, if in this lonely place Bide such an one, then, prythee, say I am come here to-day."
"Many his like, Mistress Fell?" "I did not look, so cannot tell. Only this I surely know, When his voice called me, I must go; Touched me his fingers, and my heart Leapt at the sweet pain's smart."
"Why did he leave you, Mistress Fell?" "Magic laid its dreary spell.— Stranger, he was fast asleep; Into his dream I tried to creep; Called his name, soft was my cry; He answered—not one sigh.
"The flower and the thorn are here; Falleth the night-dew, cold and clear; Out of her bower the bird replies, Mocking the dark with ecstasies, See how the earth's green grass doth grow, Praising what sleeps below!
"Thus have they told me. And I come, As flies the wounded wild-bird home. Not tears I give; but all that he Clasped in his arms, sweet charity; All that he loved—to him I bring For a close whispering."
"Who knocks?" "I, who was beautiful, Beyond all dreams to restore, I, from the roots of the dark thorn am hither. And knock on the door."
"Who speaks?" "I—once was my speech Sweet as the bird's on the air, When echo lurks by the waters to heed; 'Tis I speak thee fair."
"Dark is the hour!" "Ay, and cold." "Lone is my house." "Ah, but mine?" "Sight, touch, lips, eyes yearned in vain." "Long dead these to thine ..."
Silence. Still faint on the porch Brake the flames of the stars. In gloom groped a hope-wearied hand Over keys, bolts, and bars.
A face peered. All the grey night In chaos of vacancy shone; Nought but vast sorrow was there— The sweet cheat gone.
In the woods as I did walk, Dappled with the moon's beam, I did with a Stranger talk, And his name was Dream.
Spurred his heel, dark his cloak, Shady-wide his bonnet's brim; His horse beneath a silvery oak Grazed as I talked with him.
Softly his breast-brooch burned and shone; Hill and deep were in his eyes; One of his hands held mine, and one The fruit that makes men wise.
Wondrously strange was earth to see, Flowers white as milk did gleam; Spread to Heaven the Assyrian Tree, Over my head with Dream.
Dews were still betwixt us twain; Stars a trembling beauty shed; Yet—not a whisper comes again Of the words he said.
She will not die, they say, She will but put her beauty by And hie away.
Oh, but her beauty gone, how lonely Then will seem all reverie, How black to me!
All things will sad be made And every hope a memory, All gladness dead.
Ghosts of the past will know My weakest hour, and whisper to me, And coldly go.
And hers in deep of sleep, Clothed in its mortal beauty I shall see, And, waking, weep.
Naught will my mind then find In man's false Heaven my peace to be: All blind, and blind.
Why did you flutter in vain hope, poor bird, Hard-pressed in your small cage of clay? 'Twas but a sweet, false echo that you heard, Caught only a feint of day.
Still is the night all dark, a homeless dark. Burn yet the unanswering stars. And silence brings The same sea's desolate surge—sans bound or mark— Of all your wanderings.
Fret now no more; be still. Those steadfast eyes, Those folded hands, they cannot set you free; Only with beauty wake wild memories— Sorrow for where you are, for where you would be.
O all ye fair ladies with your colours and your graces, And your eyes clear in flame of candle and hearth, Toward the dark of this old window lift not up your smiling faces, Where a Shade stands forlorn from the cold of the earth.
God knows I could not rest for one I still was thinking of; Like a rose sheathed in beauty her spirit was to me; Now out of unforgottenness a bitter draught I'm drinking of, 'Tis sad of such beauty unremembered to be.
Men all all shades, O Woman.—Winds wist not of the way they blow. Apart from your kindness, life's at best but a snare. Though a tongue now past praise this bitter thing doth say, I know What solitude means, and how, homeless, I fare.
Strange, strange, are ye all—except in beauty shared with her— Since I seek one I loved, yet was faithless to in death. Not life enough I heaped, so thus my heart must fare with her, Now wrapt in the gross clay, bereft of life's breath.
When music sounds, gone is the earth I know, And all her lovely things even lovelier grow; Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees, Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.
When music sounds, out of the water rise Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes, Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face, With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.
When music sounds, all that I was I am Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came; While from Time's woods break into distant song The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.
I was at peace until you came And set a careless mind aflame. I lived in quiet; cold, content; All longing in safe banishment, Until your ghostly lips and eyes Made wisdom unwise.
Naught was in me to tempt your feet To seek a lodging. Quite forgot Lay the sweet solitude we two In childhood used to wander through; Time's cold had closed my heart about; And shut you out.
Well, and what then?... O vision grave, Take all the little all I have! Strip me of what in voiceless thought Life's kept of life, unhoped, unsought!— Reverie and dream that memory must Hide deep in dust!
This only I say:—Though cold and bare The haunted house you have chosen to share, Still 'neath its walls the moonbeam goes And trembles on the untended rose;
Still o'er its broken roof-tree rise The starry arches of the skies; And in your lightest word shall be The thunder of an ebbing sea.
'Tis not my voice now speaks; but a bird In darkling forest hollows a sweet throat— Pleads on till distant echo too hath heard And doubles every note: So love that shrouded dwells in mystery Would cry and waken thee.
Thou Solitary, stir in thy still sleep; All the night waits thee, yet thou still dream'st on. Furtive the shadows that about thee creep, And cheat the shining footsteps of the moon: Unseal thine eyes, it is my heart that sings, And beats in vain its wings.
Lost in heaven's vague, the stars burn softly through The world's dark latticings, we prisoned stray Within its lovely labyrinth, and know Mute seraphs guard the way Even from silence unto speech, from love To that self's self it still is dreaming of.
I am that Adam who, with Snake for guest, Hid anguished eyes upon Eve's piteous breast. I am that Adam who, with broken wings, Fled from the Seraph's brazen trumpetings. Betrayed and fugitive, I still must roam A world where sin, and beauty, whisper of Home.
Oh, from wide circuit, shall at length I see Pure daybreak lighten again on Eden's tree? Loosed from remorse and hope and love's distress, Enrobe me again in my lost nakedness? No more with wordless grief a loved one grieve, But to Heaven's nothingness re-welcome Eve?