DREAMS & DUST
POEMS BY DON MARQUIS
TO MY MOTHER VIRGINIA WHITMORE MARQUIS
THIS IS ANOTHER DAY APRIL SONG THE EARTH, IT IS ALSO A STAR THE NAME THE BIRTH A MOOD OF PAVLOWA THE POOL "THEY HAD NO POET" NEW YORK A HYMN THE SINGER WORDS ARE NOT GUNS WITH THE SUBMARINES NICHOLAS OF MONTENEGRO DICKENS A POLITICIAN THE BAYONET THE BUTCHERS AT PRAYER
HAUNTED A NIGHTMARE THE MOTHER IN THE BAYOU THE SAILOR'S WIFE SPEAKS HUNTED A DREAM CHILD ACROSS THE NIGHT SEA CHANGES THE TAVERN OF DESPAIR
COLORS AND SURFACES
A GOLDEN LAD THE SAGE AND THE WOMAN NEWS FROM BABYLON A RHYME OF THE ROADS THE LAND OF YESTERDAY OCTOBER CHANT OF THE CHANGING HOURS
DREAMS AND DUST
SELVES THE WAGES IN MARS, WHAT AVATAR? THE GOD-MAKER, MAN UNREST THE PILTDOWN SKULL THE SEEKER THE AWAKENING A SONG OF MEN THE NOBLER LESSON AT LAST
"KING PANDION, HE IS DEAD" DAVID TO BATHSHEBA THE JESTERS "MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY" THE TRIOLET FROM THE BRIDGE "PALADINS, PALADINS, YOUTH NOBLE-HEARTED" "MY LANDS, NOT THINE" TO A DANCING DOLL LOWER NEW YORK—A STORM AT SUNSET A CHRISTMAS GIFT SILVIA THE EXPLORERS EARLY AUTUMN "TIME STEALS FROM LOVE" THE RONDEAU VISITORS THE PARTING AN OPEN FIRE
REALITIES THE STRUGGLE THE REBEL THE CHILD AND THE MILL "SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI" THE COMRADE ENVOI
"SO LET THEM PASS, THESE SONGS OF MINE"
So let them pass, these songs of mine, Into oblivion, nor repine; Abandoned ruins of large schemes, Dimmed lights adrift from nobler dreams,
Weak wings I sped on quests divine, So let them pass, these songs of mine. They soar, or sink ephemeral— I care not greatly which befall!
For if no song I e'er had wrought, Still have I loved and laughed and fought; So let them pass, these songs of mine; I sting too hot with life to whine!
Still shall I struggle, fail, aspire, Lose God, and find Gods in the mire, And drink dream-deep life's heady wine— So let them pass, these songs of mine.
THIS IS ANOTHER DAY
I AM mine own priest, and I shrive myself Of all my wasted yesterdays. Though sin And sloth and foolishness, and all ill weeds Of error, evil, and neglect grow rank And ugly there, I dare forgive myself That error, sin, and sloth and foolishness. God knows that yesterday I played the fool; God knows that yesterday I played the knave; But shall I therefore cloud this new dawn o'er With fog of futile sighs and vain regrets?
This is another day! And flushed Hope walks Adown the sunward slopes with golden shoon. This is another day; and its young strength Is laid upon the quivering hills until, Like Egypt's Memnon, they grow quick with song. This is another day, and the bold world Leaps up and grasps its light, and laughs, as leapt Prometheus up and wrenched the fire from Zeus.
This is another day—are its eyes blurred With maudlin grief for any wasted past? A thousand thousand failures shall not daunt! Let dust clasp dust; death, death—I am alive! And out of all the dust and death of mine Old selves I dare to lift a singing heart And living faith; my spirit dares drink deep Of the red mirth mantling in the cup of morn.
FLEET across the grasses Flash the feet of Spring, Piping, as he passes Fleet across the grasses, "Follow, lads and lasses! Sing, world, sing!" Fleet across the grasses Flash the feet of Spring!
Idle winds deliver Rumors through the town, Tales of reeds that quiver, Idle winds deliver, Where the rapid river Drags the willows down— Idle winds deliver Rumors through the town.
In the country places By the silver brooks April airs her graces; In the country places Wayward April paces, Laughter in her looks; In the country places By the silver brooks.
Hints of alien glamor Even reach the town; Urban muses stammer Hints of alien glamor, But the city's clamor Beats the voices down; Hints of alien glamor Even reach the town.
THIS EARTH, IT IS ALSO A STAR
WHERE the singers of Saturn find tongue, Where the Galaxy's lovers embrace, Our world and its beauty are sung! They lean from their casements to trace If our planet still spins in its place; Faith fables the thing that we are, And Fantasy laughs and gives chase: This earth, it is also a star!
Round the sun, that is fixed, and hung For a lamp in the darkness of space We are whirled, we are swirled, we are flung; Singing and shining we race And our light on the uplifted face Of dreamer or prophet afar May fall as a symbol of grace: This earth, it is also a star!
Looking out where our planet is swung Doubt loses his writhen grimace, Dry hearts drink the gleams and are young;— Where agony's boughs interlace His Garden some Jesus may pace, Lifting, the wan avatar, His soul to this light as a vase! This earth, it is also a star!
Great spirits in sorrowful case Yearn to us through the vapors that bar: Canst think of that, soul, and be base?— This earth, it is also a star!
IT shifts and shifts from form to form, It drifts and darkles, gleams and glows; It is the passion of the storm, The poignance of the rose; Through changing shapes, through devious ways, By noon or night, through cloud or flame, My heart has followed all my days Something I cannot name.
In sunlight on some woman's hair, Or starlight in some woman's eyne, Or in low laughter smothered where Her red lips wedded mine, My heart hath known, and thrilled to know, This unnamed presence that it sought; And when my heart hath found it so, "Love is the name," I thought.
Sometimes when sudden afterglows In futile glory storm the skies Within their transient gold and rose The secret stirs and dies; Or when the trampling morn walks o'er The troubled seas, with feet of flame, My awed heart whispers, "Ask no more, For Beauty is the name!"
Or dreaming in old chapels where The dim aisles pulse with murmurings That part are music, part are prayer— (Or rush of hidden wings) Sometimes I lift a startled head To some saint's carven countenance, Half fancying that the lips have said, All names mean God, perchance!"
THERE is a legend that the love of God So quickened under Mary's heart it wrought Her very maidenhood to holier stuff.... However that may be, the birth befell Upon a night when all the Syrian stars Swayed tremulous before one lordlier orb That rose in gradual splendor, Paused, Flooding the firmament with mystic light, And dropped upon the breathing hills A sudden music Like a distillation from its gleams; A rain of spirit and a dew of song!
A MOOD OF PAVLOWA
THE soul of the Spring through its body of earth Bursts in a bloom of fire, And the crocuses come in a rainbow riot of mirth.... They flutter, they burn, they take wing, they aspire.... Wings, motion and music and flame, Flower, woman and laughter, and all these the same! She is light and first love and the youth of the world, She is sandaled with joy ... she is lifted and whirled, She is flung, she is swirled, she is driven along By the carnival winds that have torn her away From the coronal bloom on the brow of the May.... She is youth, she is foam, she is flame, she is visible Song!
REACH over, my Undine, and clutch me a reed— Nymph of mine idleness, notch me a pipe— For I am fulfilled of the silence, and long For to utter the sense of the silence in song.
Down-stream all the rapids are troubled with pebbles That fetter and fret what the water would utter, And it rushes and splashes in tremulous trebles; It makes haste through the shallows, its soul is aflutter;
But here all the sound is serene and outspread In the murmurous moods of a slow-swirling pool; Here all the sounds are unhurried and cool; Every silence is kith to a sound; they are wed, They are mated, are mingled, are tangled, are bound; Every hush is in love with a sound, every sound By the law of its life to some silence is bound.
Then here will we hide; idle here and abide, In the covert here, close by the waterside— Here, where the slim flattered reeds are aquiver With the exquisite hints of the reticent river, Here, where the lips of this pool are the lips Of all pools, let us listen and question and wait; Let us hark to the whispers of love and of death, Let us hark to the lispings of life and of fate— In this place where pale silences flower into sound Let us strive for some secret of all the profound Deep and calm Silence that meshes men 'round! There's as much of God hinted in one ripple's plashes— There's as much of Truth glints in yon dragon-fly's flight— There's as much Purpose gleams where yonder trout flashes As in—any book else!—could we read things aright.
Then nymph of mine indolence, here let us hide, Learn, listen, and question; idle here and abide Where the rushes and lilies lean low to the tide.
"THEY HAD NO POET ..."
"Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride! They had no poet and they died."—POPE.
By Tigris, or the streams of Ind, Ere Colchis rose, or Babylon, Forgotten empires dreamed and sinned, Setting tall towns against the dawn,
Which, when the proud Sun smote upon, Flashed fire for fire and pride for pride; Their names were ... Ask oblivion! ... "They had no poet, and they died."
Queens, dusk of hair and tawny-skinned, That loll where fellow leopards fawn ... Their hearts are dust before the wind, Their loves, that shook the world, are wan!
Passion is mighty ... but, anon, Strong Death has Romance for his bride; Their legends ... Ask oblivion! ... "They had no poet, and they died."
Heroes, the braggart trumps that dinned Their futile triumphs, monarch, pawn, Wild tribesmen, kingdoms disciplined, Passed like a whirlwind and were gone;
They built with bronze and gold and brawn, The inner Vision still denied; Their conquests ... Ask oblivion! ... "They had no poet, and they died."
Dumb oracles, and priests withdrawn, Was it but flesh they deified? Their gods were ... Ask oblivion! ... "They had no poet, and they died."
SHE is hot to the sea that crouches beside, Human and hot to the cool stars peering down, My passionate city, my quivering town, And her dark blood, tide upon purple tide, With throbs as of thunder beats, With leaping rhythms and vast, is swirled Through the shaken lengths of her veined streets... She pulses, the heart of a world!
I have thrilled with her ecstasy, agony, woe— Hath she a mood that I do not know? The winds of her music tumultuous have seized me and swayed me, Have lifted, have swung me around In their whorls as of cyclonic sound; Her passions have torn me and tossed me and brayed me; Drunken and tranced and dazzled with visions and gleams,
I have spun with her dervish priests; I have searched to the souls of her hunted beasts And found love sleeping there; I have soared on the wings of her flashing dreams; I have sunk with her dull despair; I have sweat with her travails and cursed with her pains; I have swelled with her foolish pride; I have raged through a thick red mist at one with her branded Cains, With her broken Christs have died.
O beautiful half-god city of visions and love! O hideous half-brute city of hate! O wholly human and baffled and passionate town! The throes of thy burgeoning, stress of thy fight, Thy bitter, blind struggle to gain for thy body a soul, I have known, I have felt, and been shaken thereby! Wakened and shaken and broken, For I hear in thy thunders terrific that throb through thy rapid veins The beat of the heart of a world.
CLOTHED on with thunder and with steel And black against the dawn The whirling armies clash and reel.... A wind, and they are gone Like mists withdrawn, Like mists withdrawn!
Like clouds withdrawn, like driven sands, Earth's body vanisheth: One solid thing unconquered stands, The ghost that humbles death. All else is breath, All else is breath!
Man rose from out the stinging slime, Half brute, and sought a soul, And up the starrier ways of time, Half god, unto his goal,
He still must climb, He still must climb!
What though worlds stagger, and the suns Seem shaken in their place, Trust thou the leaping love that runs Creative over space: Take heart of grace, Take heart of grace!
What though great kingdoms fall on death Before the stabbing blade, Their brazen might was only breath, Their substance but a shade— Be not dismayed, Be not dismayed!
Man's dream which conquered brute and clod Shall fail not, but endure, Shall rise, though beaten to the sod, Shall hold its vantage sure— As sure as God, As sure as God!
A LITTLE while, with love and youth, He wandered, singing:— He felt life's pulses hot and strong Beat all his rapid veins along; He wrought life's rhythms into song: He laughed, he sang the Dawn! So close, so close to life he dwelt That at rare times and rapt he felt The fleshly barriers yield and melt; He trembled, looking on Creation at her miracles; His soul-sight pierced the earthly shells And saw the spirit weave its spells, The veil of clay withdrawn;— A little while, with love and youth, He wandered, singing!
A little while, with age and death, He wanders, dreaming;—
No more the thunder and the urge Of earth's full tides that storm the verge Of heaven with their sweep and surge Shall lift, shall bear him on; Where is the golden hope that led Him comrade with the mighty dead? The love that aureoled his head?— The glory is withdrawn! How shall one soar with broken wings? The leagued might of futile things Wars with the heart that dares and sings;— It is not always Dawn! A little while, with age and death, He wanders, dreaming.
WORDS ARE NOT GUNS
Put by the sword (a dreamer saith), The years of peace draw nigh! Already the millennial dawn Makes red the eastern sky!
Be not deceived. It comes not yet! The ancient passions keep Alive beneath their changing masks. They are not dead. They sleep.
Surely peace comes. As sure as Man Rose from primeval slime. That was not yesterday. There's still A weary height to climb!
And we can dwell too long with dreams And play too much with words, Forgetting our inheritance Was bought and held with swords.
But Truth (you say) makes tyrants quail— Beats down embattled Wrong? If truth be armed! Be not deceived. The strife is to the strong.
Words are not guns. Words are not ships. And ships and guns prevail. Our liberties, that blood has gained, Are guarded, or they fail.
Truth does not triumph without blows, Error not tamely yields. But falsehood closes with quick faith, Fierce, on a thousand fields.
And surely, somewhat of that faith Our fathers fought for clings! Which called this freedom's hemisphere, Despite Earth's leagued kings.
Great creeds grow thews, or else they die. Thought clothed in deed is lord. What are thy gods? Thy gods brought love? They also brought a sword.
Unchallenged, shall we always stand, Secure, apart, aloof? Be not deceived. That hour shall come Which puts us to the proof.
Then, that we hold the trust we have Safeguarded for our sons, Let us cease dreaming! Let us have More ships, more troops, more guns!
WITH THE SUBMARINES
ABOVE, the baffled twilight fails; beneath, the blind snakes creep; Beside us glides the charnel shark, our pilot through the deep; And, lurking where low headlands shield from cruising scout and spy, We bide the signal through the gloom that bids us slay or die.
All watchful, mute, the crouching guns that guard the strait sea lanes— Watchful and hawklike, plumed with hate, the desperate aeroplanes— And still as death and swift as fate, above the darkling coasts, The spying Wireless sows the night with troops of stealthy ghosts,
While hushed through all her huddled streets the tide-walled city waits The drumming thunders that announce brute battle at her gates.
Southward a hundred windy leagues, through storms that blind and bar, Our cheated cruisers search the waves, our captains seek the war; But here the port of peril is; the foeman's dreadnoughts ride Sullen and black against the moon, upon a sullen tide. And only we to launch ourselves against their stark advance— To guide uncertain lightnings through these treacherous seas of chance!
. . . . . .
And now a wheeling searchlight paints a signal on the night; And now the bellowing guns are loud with the wild lust of fight.
. . . . . .
And now, her flanks of steel apulse with all the power of hell, Forth from the darkness leaps in pride a hateful miracle, The flagship of their Admiral—and now God help and save!— We challenge Death at Death's own game; we sink beneath the wave!
. . . . . .
Ah, steady now—and one good blow—one straight stab through the gloom— Ah, good!—the thrust went home!—she founders— flounders to her doom!— Full speed ahead!—those damned quick-firing guns —but let them bark— What's that—the dynamos?—they've got us, men! —Christ! in the dark!
NICHOLAS OF MONTENEGRO
HE speaks as straight as his rifles shot, As straight as a thrusting blade, Waiting the deed that shall trouble the truce His savage guns have made.
"You have dared the wrath of a dozen states," Was the challenge that he heard; "We can die but once!" said the grim old King As he gripped his mountain sword.
"For I paid in blood for the town I took, The blood of my brave men slain,— And if you covet the town I took You must buy it with blood again!"
Stern old King of the stark, black hills, Where the lean, fierce eagles breed, Your speech rings true as your good sword rings— And you are a king indeed!
"The only book that the party had was a volume of Dickens. During the six months that they lay in the cave which they had hacked in the ice, waiting for spring to come, they read this volume through again and again."—From a newspaper report of an antarctic expedition.
HUDDLED within their savage lair They hearkened to the prowling wind; They heard the loud wings of despair ... And madness beat against the mind.... A sunless world stretched stark outside As if it had cursed God and died; Dumb plains lay prone beneath the weight Of cold unutterably great; Iron ice bound all the bitter seas, The brutal hills were bleak as hate.... Here none but Death might walk at ease!
Then Dickens spoke, and, lo! the vast Unpeopled void stirred into life;
The dead world quickened, the mad blast Hushed for an hour its idiot strife With nothingness....
And from the gloom, Parting the flaps of frozen skin, Old friends and dear came trooping in, And light and laughter filled the room.... Voices and faces, shapes beloved, Babbling lips and kindly eyes, Not ghosts, but friends that lived and moved ... They brought the sun from other skies, They wrought the magic that dispels The bitterer part of loneliness ... And when they vanished each man dreamed His dream there in the wilderness.... One heard the chime of Christmas bells, And, staring down a country lane, Saw bright against the window-pane The firelight beckon warm and red.... And one turned from the waterside Where Thames rolls down his slothful tide To breast the human sea that beats Through roaring London's battered streets
And revel in the moods of men.... And one saw all the April hills Made glad with golden daffodils, And found and kissed his love again....
. . . . . .
By all the troubled hearts he cheers In homely ways or by lost trails, By all light shed through all dark years When hope grows sick and courage quails, We hail him first among his peers; Whether we sorrow, sing, or feast, He, too, hath known and understood— Master of many moods, high priest Of mirth and lord of cleansing tears!
LEADER no more, be judged of us! Hailed Chief, and loved, of yore— Youth, and the faith of youth, cry out: Leader and Chief no more!
We dreamed a Prophet, flushed with faith, Content to toil in pain If that his sacrifice might be, Somehow, his people's gain.
We saw a vision, and our blood Beat red and hot and strong: "Lead us (we cried) to war against Some foul, embattled wrong!"
We dreamed a Warrior whose sword Was edged for sham and shame; We dreamed a Statesman far above The vulgar lust for fame.
We were not cynics, and we dreamed A Man who made no truce With lies nor ancient privilege Nor old, entrenched abuse.
We dreamed ... we dreamed ... Youth dreamed a dream! And even you forgot Yourself, one moment, and dreamed, too— Struck, while your mood was hot!
Struck three or four good blows ... and then Turned back to easier things: The cheap applause, the blatant mob, The praise of underlings!
Praise ... praise ... was ever man so filled, So avid still, of praise? So hungry for the crowd's acclaim, The sycophantic phrase?
O you whom Greatness beckoned to ... O swollen Littleness Who turned from Immortality To fawn upon Success!
O blind with love of self, who led Youth's vision to defeat, Bawling and brawling for rewards, Loud, in the common street!
O you who were so quick to judge— Leader, and loved, of yore— Hear now the judgment of our youth: Leader and Chief no more!
THE great guns slay from a league away, the death-bolts fly unseen, And bellowing hill replies to hill, machine to brute machine, But still in the end when the long lines bend and the battle hangs in doubt They take to the steel in the same old way that their fathers fought it out— It is man to man and breast to breast and eye to bloodshot eye And the reach and twist of the thrusting wrist, as it was in the days gone by!
Along the shaken hills the guns their drumming thunder roll— But the keen blades thrill with the lust to kill that leaps from the slayer's soul!
For hand and heart and living steel, one pulse of hate they feel. Is your clan afraid of the naked blade? Does it flinch from the bitter steel? Perish your dreams of conquest then, your swollen hopes and bold, For empire dwells with the stabbing blade, as it did in the days of old!
THE BUTCHERS AT PRAYER
EACH nation as it draws the sword And flings its standard to the air Petitions piously the Lord— Vexing the void abyss with prayer.
O irony too deep for mirth! O posturing apes that rant, and dare This antic attitude! O Earth, With your wild jest of wicked prayer!
I dare not laugh ... a rising swell Of laughter breaks in shrieks somewhere— No doubt they relish it in Hell, This cosmic jest of Earth at prayer!
(THE GHOST SPEAKS)
A GHOST is the freak of a sick man's brain? Then why do ye start and shiver so? That's the sob and drip of a leaky drain? But it sounds like another noise we know! The heavy drops drummed red and slow, The drops ran down as slow as fate— Do ye hear them still?—it was long ago!— But here in the shadows I wait, I wait!
Spirits there be that pass in peace; Mine passed in a whorl of wrath and dole; And the hour that your choking breath shall cease I will get my grip on your naked soul— Nor pity may stay nor prayer cajole— I would drag ye whining from Hell's own gate: To me, to me, ye must pay the toll! And here in the shadows I wait, I wait!
The dead they are dead, they are out of the way? And a ghost is the whim of an ailing mind? Then why did ye whiten with fear to-day When ye heard a voice in the calling wind? Why did ye falter and look behind At the creeping mists when the hour grew late? Ye would see my face were ye stricken blind! And here in the shadows I wait, I wait!
Drink and forget, make merry and boast, But the boast rings false and the jest is thin— In the hour that I meet ye ghost to ghost, Stripped of the flesh that ye skulk within, Stripped to the coward soul 'ware of its sin, Ye shall learn, ye shall learn, whether dead men hate! Ah, a weary time has the waiting been, But here in the shadows I wait, I wait!
LEAGUES before me, leagues behind, Clamor warring wastes of flood, All the streams of all the worlds Flung together, mad of mood; Through the canon beats a sound, Regular of interval, Distant, drumming, muffled, dull, Thunderously rhythmical;
Crafts slip by my startled soul— Soul that cowers, a thing apart— They are corpuscles of blood! That's the throbbing of a heart! God of terrors!—am I mad?— Through my body, mine own soul, Shrunken to an atom's size, Voyages toward an unguessed goal!
THE mother by the gallows-tree, The gallows-tree, the gallows-tree, (While the twitching body mocked the sun) Lifted to Heaven her broken heart And called for sympathy.
Then Mother Mary bent to her, Bent from her place by God's left side, And whispered: "Peace—do I not know?— My son was crucified!"
"O Mother Mary," answered she, "You cannot, cannot enter in To my soul's woe—you cannot know— For your son wrought no sin!"
(And men whose work compelled them there, Their hearts were stricken dead;
They heard the rope creak on the beam; I thought I heard the frightened ghost Whimpering overhead.)
The mother by the gallows-tree, The gallows-tree, the gallows-tree, Lifted to Christ her broken heart And called in agony.
Then Lord Christ bent to her and said: "Be comforted, be comforted; I know your grief; the whole world's woe I bore upon my head."
"But O Lord Christ, you cannot know, No one can know," she said, "no one"— (While the quivering corpse swayed in the wind)— "Lord Christ, no one can understand Who never had a son!"
IN THE BAYOU
LAZY and slow, through the snags and trees Move the sluggish currents, half asleep; Around and between the cypress knees, Like black, slow snakes the dark tides creep— How deep is the bayou beneath the trees? "Knee-deep, Knee-deep, Knee-deep, Knee-deep!" Croaks the big bullfrog of Reelfoot Lake From his hiding-place in the draggled brake.
What is the secret the slim reeds know That makes them to shake and to shiver so, And the scared flags quiver from plume to foot?— The frogs pipe solemnly, deep and slow: "Look under the root! Look under the root!"
The hoarse frog croaks and the stark owl hoots Of a mystery moored in the cypress roots.
Was it love turned hate? Was it friend turned foe? Only the frogs and the gray owl know, For the white moon shrouded her face in a mist At the spurt of a pistol, red and bright— At the sound of a shriek that stabbed the night— And the little reeds were frightened and whist; But always the eddies whimper and choke, And the frogs would tell if they could, for they croak: "Deep, deep! Death-deep! Deep, deep! Death-deep!" And the dark tide slides and glisters and glides Snakelike over the secret it hides.
THE SAILOR'S WIFE SPEAKS
YE are dead, they say, but ye swore, ye swore, Ye would come to me back from the sea! From out of the sea and the night, ye cried, Nor the crawling weed nor the dragging tide Could hold ye fast from me:— Come, ah, come to me!
Three spells I have laid on the rising sun And three on the waning moon— Are ye held in the bonds of the night or the day Ye must loosen your bonds and away, away! Ye must come where I wait ye, soon— Ah, soon! soon! soon!
Three times I have cast my words to the wind, And thrice to the climbing sea; If ye drift or dream with the clouds or foam Ye must drift again home, ye must drift again home—
Wraith, ye are free, ye are free; Ghost, ye are free, ye are free!
Are the coasts of death so fair, so fair? But I wait ye here on the shore! It is I that ye hear in the calling wind— I have stared through the dark till my soul is blind! O lover of mine, ye swore, Lover of mine, ye swore!
Oh, why do they hunt so hard, so hard, who have no need of food? Do they hunt for sport, do they hunt for hate, do they hunt for the lust of blood?
. . . . . .
If I were a god I would get me a spear, I would get me horse and dog, And merrily, merrily I would ride through covert and brake and bog,
With hound and horn and laughter loud, over the hills and away— For there is no sport like that of a god with a man that stands at bay!
Ho! but the morning is fresh and fair, and oh! but the sun is bright, And yonder the quarry breaks from the brush and heads for the hills in flight;
A minute's law for the harried thing—then follow him, follow him fast, With the bellow of dogs and the beat of hoofs and the mellow bugle's blast.
. . . . . .
_Hillo! Halloo! they have marked a man! there is sport in the world to-day— And a clamor swells from the heart of the wood that tells of a soul at bay!
A DREAM CHILD
WHERE tides of tossed wistaria bloom Foam up in purple turbulence, Where twining boughs have built a room And wing'd winds pause to garner scents And scattered sunlight flecks the gloom, She broods in pensive indolence.
What is the thought that holds her thrall, That dims her sight with unshed tears? What songs of sorrow droop and fall In broken music for her ears? What voices thrill her and recall The poignant joy of happier years?
She dreams 'tis not the winds which pass That whisper through the shaken vine; Whose footstep stirs the rustling grass None else that listened might divine; She sees her child that never was Look up with longing in his eyne.
Unkissed, his lifted forehead gains A grace not earthly, but more rare— For since her heart but only feigns, Wherefore should love not feign him fair? Put blood of roses in his veins, Weave yellow sunshines for his hair?
All ghosts of little children dead That wander wistful, uncaressed, Their seeking lips by love unfed, She fain would cradle on her breast For his sweet sake whose lonely head Has never known that tender rest.
And thus she sits, and thus she broods, Where drifted blossoms freak the grass; The winds that move across her moods Pulse with low whispers as they pass, And in their eerier interludes She hears a voice that never was.
ACROSS THE NIGHT
MUCH listening through the silences, Much staring through the night, And lo! the dumb blind distances Are bridged with speech and sight!
Magician Thought, informed of Love, Hath fixed her on the air— Oh, Love and I laughed down the fates And clasped her, here as there!
Across the eerie silences She came in headlong flight, She stormed the serried distances, She trampled space and night!
Oh, foolish scientists might give This miracle a name— But Love and I care but to know That when we called she came.
And since I find the distances Subservient to my thought, And of the sentient silences More vital speech have wrought,
Then she and I will mock Death's self, For all his vaunted might— There are no gulfs we dare not leap, As she leapt through the night!
WE stood among the boats and nets; We saw the swift clouds fall, We watched the schooners scamper in Before the sudden squall;— The jolly squall strove lustily To whelm the sheltered street— The merry squall that piled the seas About the patient headland's knees And chased the fishing fleet.
She laughed; as if with wings her mirth Arose and left the wingless earth And all tame things behind; Rose like a bird, wild with delight Whose briny pinions flash in flight Through storm and sun and wind.
Her laughter sought those skies because Their mood and hers were one, For she and I were drunk with love And life and storm and sun!
And while she laughed, the Sun himself Leapt laughing through the rain And struck his harper hand along The ringing coast; and that wind-song Whose joy is mixed with pain Forgot the undertone of grief And joined the jocund strain, And over every hidden reef Whereon the waves broke merrily Rose jets and sprays of melody And leapt and laughed again.
We stood among the boats and nets ... We marked the risen moon Walk swaying o'er the trembling seas As one sways in a swoon;
The little stars, the lonely stars, Stole through the hollow sky, And every sucking eddy where The waves lapped wharf or rotten stair Moaned like some stricken thing hid there And strangled with its own despair As the shuddering tide crept by.
I loved her, and I hated her— Or did I hate myself because, Bound by obscure, strong, silken laws, I felt myself the worshiper Of beauty never wholly mine? With lures most apt to snare, entwine, With bonds too subtle to define, Her lighter nature mastered mine; Herself half given, half withheld, Her lesser spirit still compelled Its tribute from my franker soul: So—rebel, slave, and worshiper!— I loved her and I hated her.
I gazed upon her, I, her thrall, And musing, murmured, What if death
Were just the answer to it all?— Suppose some dainty dagger quaffed Her life in one deep eager draught?— Suppose some amorous knife caressed The lovely hollow of her breast?"— She turned a mocking look to mine: She read the thought within my eyne, She held me with her look—and laughed!
Now who may tell what stirs, controls, And shapes mad fancies into facts? What trivial things may quicken souls To irrevocable, swift acts? Now who has known, who understood, Wherefore some idle thing May stab with deadlier sting Than well-considered insult could?— May spur the languor of a mood And rouse a tiger in the blood?—
Ah, Christ!—had she not laughed just when That fancy came! ... for then ... and then ... A sudden mist dropped from the sky,
A mist swept in across the sea ... A mist that hid her face from me ... A weeping mist all tinged with red, A dripping mist that smelt like blood ... It choked my throat, it burnt my brain ... And through it peered one sallow star, And through it rang one shriek of pain ... And when it passed my hands were red, My soul was dabbled with her blood; And when it passed my love was dead And tossed upon the troubled flood.
But see! ... the body does not sink; It rides upon the tide (A starbeam on the dagger's haft), With staring eyes and wide ... And now, up from the darkling sea, Down from the failing moon, Are come strange shapes to mock at me ... All pallid from the star-pale sea, White from the paling moon ...
Or whirling fast or wheeling slow Around, around the corpse they go, All bloodless o'er the sickened sea Beneath the ailing moon!
And are they only wisps of fog That dance along the waves? Only shapes of mist the wind Drives along the waves? Or are they spirits that the sea Has cheated of their graves? The ghosts of them that died at sea, Of murdered men flung in the sea, Whose bodies had no graves?— Lost souls that haunt for evermore The sobbing reef and hollowed shore And always-murmuring caves?
Ah, surely something more than fog, More than starlit mist! For starlight never makes a sound And fogs are ever whist— But hearken, hearken, hearken, now, For these sing as they dance!
As airily, as eerily, They wheel about and whirl, They jeer at me, they fleer at me, They flout me as they swirl! As whirling fast or swaying slow, Reeling, wheeling, to and fro, Around, around the corpse they go, They chill me with their chants! These be neither men nor mists— Hearken to their chants:
Ever, ever, ever, Drifting like a blossom Seaward, with the starlight Wan upon her bosom— Ever when the quickened Heart of night is throbbing, Ever when the trembling Tide sets seaward, sobbing, Shall you see this burden Borne upon its ebbing: See her drifting seaward Like a broken blossom,
_Ever see the starlight Kiss her bruised bosom.
Flight availeth nothing ... Still the subtle beaches Draw you back where Horror Walks their shingled reaches ... Ever shall your spirit Hear the surf resounding, Evermore the ocean Thwarting you and bounding; Vainly struggle inland! Lashing you and hounding, Still the vision hales you From the upland reaches, Goading you and gripping, Binds you to the beaches!
Ever, ever, ever, Ever shall her laughter, Hunting you and haunting, Mock and follow after; Rising where the buoy-bell Clangs across the shallows,_
Leaping where the spindrift Hurtles o'er the hollows, Ringing where the moonlight Gleams along the billows, Ever, ever, ever, Ever shall her laughter, Hounding you and haunting, Whip and follow after!
I stood among the boats The sinking sun, the angry sun, Across the sullen wave Laid the sudden strength of his red wrath Like to a shaken glaive:— Or did the sun pause in the west To lift a sword at me, Or was it she, or was it she, Rose for an instant on some crest And plucked the red blade from her breast And brandished it at me?
THE TAVERN OF DESPAIR
THE wraiths of murdered hopes and loves Come whispering at the door, Come creeping through the weeping mist That drapes the barren moor; But we within have turned the key 'Gainst Hope and Love and Care, Where Wit keeps tryst with Folly, at The Tavern of Despair.
And we have come by divers ways To keep this merry tryst, But few of us have kept within The Narrow Way, I wist; For we are those whose ampler wits And hearts have proved our curse— Foredoomed to ken the better things And aye to do the worse!
Long since we learned to mock ourselves; And from self-mockery fell
To heedless laughter in the face Of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. We quiver 'neath, and mock, God's rod; We feel, and mock, His wrath; We mock our own blood on the thorns That rim the "Primrose Path."
We mock the eerie glimmering shapes That range the outer wold, We mock our own cold hearts because They are so dead and cold; We flout the things we might have been Had self to self proved true, We mock the roses flung away, We mock the garnered rue;
The fates that gibe have lessoned us; There sups to-night on earth No madder crew of wastrels than This fellowship of mirth.... (Of mirth ... drink, fools!—nor let it flag Lest from the outer mist Creep in that other company Unbidden to the tryst.
We're grown so fond of paradox Perverseness holds us thrall, So what each jester loves the best He mocks the most of all; But as the jest and laugh go round, Each in his neighbor's eyes Reads, while he flouts his heart's desire, The knowledge that he lies.
Not one of us but had some pearls And flung them to the swine, Not one of us but had some gift— Some spark of fire divine— Each might have been God's minister In the temple of some art— Each feels his gift perverted move Wormlike through his dry heart.
If God called Azrael to Him now And bade Death bend the bow Against the saddest heart that beats Here on this earth below, Not any sobbing breast would gain The guerdon of that barb—
The saddest ones are those that wear The jester's motley garb.
Whose shout aye loudest rings, and whose The maddest cranks and quips— Who mints his soul to laughter's coin And wastes it with his lips— Has grown too sad for sighs and seeks To cheat himself with mirth; We fools self-doomed to motley are The weariest wights on earth!
But yet, for us whose brains and hearts Strove aye in paths perverse, Doomed still to know the better things And still to do the worse,— What else is there remains for us But make a jest of care And set the rafters ringing, in Our Tavern of Despair?
COLORS AND SURFACES
A GOLDEN LAD
(D. V. M.)
"Golden lads and lasses must Like chimney-sweepers come to dust." —SHAKESPEARE.
So young, but already the splendor Of genius robed him about— Already the dangerous, tender Regard of the gods marked him out—
(On whom the burden and duty They bind, at his earliest breath, Of showing their own grave beauty, They love and they crown with death.)
We were of one blood, but the olden Rapt poets spake out in his tone; We were of one blood, but the golden Rathe promise was his, his alone.
And ever his great eye glistened With visions I could not see, Ever he thrilled and listened To voices withholden from me.
Young lord of the realms of fancy, The bright dreams flocked to his call Like sprites that the necromancy Of a Prospero holds in thrall—
Quick visions that served and attended, Elusive and hovering things, With a quiver of joy in the splendid Wild sweep of their luminous wings;
He dwelt in an alien glamor, He wrought of its gleams a crown,— But the world, with its cruelty and clamor, Broke him and beat him down;
So he passed; he was worn, he was weary, He was slain at the touch of life;— With a smile that was wistful and eerie He passed from the senseless strife;—
So he ceased (is their humor satiric, These gods that make perfect and blight?)— He ceased like an exquisite lyric That dies on the breast of night.
THE SAGE AND THE WOMAN
'TWIXT ancient Beersheba and Dan Another such a caravan Dazed Palestine had never seen As that which bore Sabea's queen Up from the fain and flaming South To slake her yearning spirit's drouth At wisdom's pools, with Solomon.
With gifts of scented sandalwood, And labdanum, and cassia-bud, With spicy spoils of Araby And camel-loads of ivory And heavy cloths that glanced and shone With inwrought pearl and beryl-stone She came, a bold Sabean girl.
And did she find him grave, or gay? Perchance his palace breathed that day With psalters sounding solemnly— Or cymbals' merrier minstrelsy— Perchance the wearied monarch heard Some loose-tongued prophet's meddling word;— None knows, no one—but Solomon!
She looked—with eyne wherein were blent All ardors of the Orient; She spake—all magics of the South Were compassed in the witch's mouth;— He thought the scarlet lips of her More precious than En Gedi's myrrh, The lips of that Sabean girl;
By many an amorous sun caressed, From lifted brow to amber breast She gleamed in vivid loveliness— And lithe as any leopardess— And verily, one blames thee not If thine own proverbs were forgot, O Solomon, wise Solomon!
She danced for him, and surely she Learnt dancing from some moonlit sea
Where elfin vapors swirled and swayed While the wild pipes of witchcraft played Such clutching music 'twould impel A prophet's self to dance to hell— So spun the light Sabean girl.
He swore her laughter had the lilt Of chiming waters that are spilt In sprays of spurted melody From founts of carven porphyry, And in the billowy turbulence Of her dusk hair drowned soul and sense— Dark tides and deep, O Solomon!
Perchance unto her day belongs His poem called the Song of Songs, Each little lyric interval Timed to her pulse's rise and fall;— Or when he cried out wearily That all things end in vanity Did he mean that Sabean girl?
The bright barbaric opulence, The sun-kist Temple, Kedar's tents,—
How many a careless caravan 'Twixt Beersheba and ruined Dan, Within these forty centuries, Has flung their dust to many a breeze, With dust that was King Solomon!
But still the lesson holds as true, O King, as when she lessoned you: That very wise men are not wise Until they read in Folly's eyes The wisdom that escapes the schools, That bids the sage revise his rules By light of some Sabean girl!
NEWS FROM BABYLON
"Archaeologists have discovered a love-letter among the ruins of Babylon." —Newspaper report.
The world hath just one tale to tell, and it is very old, A little tale—a simple tale—a tale that's easy told: "There was a youth in Babylon who greatly loved a maid!" The world hath just one song to sing, but sings it unafraid, A little song—a foolish song—the only song it hath: "There was a youth in Ascalon who loved a girl in Gath!"
Homer clanged it, Omar twanged it, Greece and Persia knew!— Nimrod's reivers, Hiram's weavers, Hindu, Kurd, and Jew— Crowning Tyre, Troy afire, they have dreamed the dream; Tiber-side and Nilus-tide brightened with the gleam—
Oh, the suing, sighing, wooing, sad and merry hours, Blisses tasted, kisses wasted, building Babel's towers! Hearts were aching, hearts were breaking, lashes wet with dew, When the ships touched the lips of islands Sappho knew; Yearning breasts and burning breasts, cold at last, are hid Amid the glooms of carven tombs in Khufu's pyramid— Though the sages, down the ages, smile their cynic doubt, Man and maid, unafraid, put the schools to rout; Seek to chain love and retain love in the bonds of breath, Vow to hold love, bind and fold love even unto death!
The dust of forty centuries has buried Babylon, And out of all her lovers dead rises only one; Rises with a song to sing and laughter in his eyes, The old song—the only song—for all the rest are lies!
For, oh, the world has just one dream, and it is very old— 'Tis youth's dream—a silly dream—but it is flushed with gold!
A RHYME OF THE ROADS
PEARL-SLASHED and purple and crimson and fringed with gray mist of the hills, The pennons of morning advance to the music of rock-fretted rills, The dumb forest quickens to song, and the little gusts shout as they fling A floor-cloth of orchard bloom down for the flashing, quick feet of the Spring.
To the road, gipsy-heart, thou and I! 'Tis the mad piper, Spring, who is leading; 'Tis the pulse of his piping that throbs through the brain, irresistibly pleading; Full-blossomed, deep-bosomed, fain woman, light-footed, lute-throated and fleet, We have drunk of the wine of this Wanderer's song; let us follow his feet!
Like raveled red girdles flung down by some hoidenish goddess in mirth The tangled roads reach from rim unto utter-most rim of the earth— We will weave of these strands a strong net, we will snare the bright wings of delight,— We will make of these strings a sweet lute that will shame the low wind-harps of night.
The clamor of tongues and the clangor of trades in the peevish packed street, The arrogant, jangling Nothings, with iterant, dissonant beat, The clattering, senseless endeavor with dross of mere gold for its goal, These have sickened the senses and wearied the brain and straitened the soul.
"Come forth and be cleansed of the folly of strife for things worthless of strife, Come forth and gain life and grasp God by foregoing gains worthless of life"—
It was thus spake the wizard wildwood, low-voiced to the hearkening heart, It was thus sang the jovial hills, and the harper sun bore part.
O woman, whose blood as my blood with the fire of the Spring is aflame, We did well, when the red roads called, that we heeded the call and came— Came forth to the sweet wise silence where soul may speak sooth unto soul, Vine-wreathed and vagabond Love, with the goal of Nowhere for our goal!
What planet-crowned Dusk that wanders the steeps of our firmament there Hath gems that may match with the dew-opals meshed in thine opulent hair? What wind-witch that skims the curled billows with feet they are fain to caress Hath sandals so wing'd as thine art with a god-like carelessness?
And dare we not dream this is heaven?—to wander thus on, ever on. Through the hush-heavy valleys of space, up the flushing red slopes of the dawn?— For none that seeks rest shall find rest till he ceaseth his striving for rest, And the gain of the quest is the joy of the road that allures to the quest.
THE LAND OF YESTERDAY
AND I would seek the country town Amid green meadows nestled down If I could only find the way Back to the Land of Yesterday!
How I would thrust the miles aside, Rush up the quiet lane, and then, Just where her roses laughed in pride, Find her among the flowers again. I'd slip in silently and wait Until she saw me by the gate, And then ... read through a blur of tears Quick pardon for the selfish years.
This time, this time, I would not wait For that brief wire that said, Too late!— If I could only find the way Into the Land of Yesterday.
I wonder if her roses yet Lift up their heads and laugh with pride, And if her phlox and mignonette Have heart to blossom by their side; I wonder if the dear old lane Still chirps with robins after rain, And if the birds and banded bees Still rob her early cherry-trees....
I wonder, if I went there now, How everything would seem, and how— But no! not now; there is no way Back to the Land of Yesterday.
CEASE to call him sad and sober, Merriest of months, October! Patron of the bursting bins, Reveler in wayside inns, I can nowhere find a trace Of the pensive in his face; There is mingled wit and folly, But the madcap lacks the grace Of a thoughtful melancholy. Spendthrift of the seasons' gold, How he flings and scatters out Treasure filched from summer-time!— Never ruffling squire of old Better loved a tavern bout When Prince Hal was in his prime. Doublet slashed with gold and green; Cloak of crimson; changeful sheen, Of the dews that gem his breast; Frosty lace about his throat;
Scarlet plumes that flaunt and float Backward in a gay unrest— Where's another gallant drest With such tricksy gaiety, Such unlessoned vanity? With his amber afternoons And his pendant poets' moons— With his twilights dashed with rose From the red-lipped afterglows— With his vocal airs at dawn Breathing hints of Helicon— Bacchanalian bees that sip Where his cider-presses drip— With the winding of the horn Where his huntsmen meet the morn— With his every piping breeze Shaking from familiar trees Apples of Hesperides— With the chuckle, chirp, and trill Of his jolly brooks that spill Mirth in tangled madrigals Down pebble-dappled waterfalls— (Brooks that laugh and make escape Through wild arbors where the grape
Purples with a promise of Racy vintage rare as love)— With his merry, wanton air, Mirth and vanity and folly Why should he be made to bear Burden of some melancholy Song that swoons and sinks with care? Cease to call him sad or sober,— He's a jolly dog, October!
CHANT OF THE CHANGING HOURS
THE Hours passed by, a fleet, confused crowd; With wafture of blown garments bright as fire, Light, light of foot and laughing, morning-browed, And where they trod the jonquil and the briar Thrilled into jocund life, the dreaming dells Waked to a morrice chime of jostled bells;— They danced! they danced! to piping such as flings The garnered music of a million Springs Into one single, keener ecstasy;— One paused and shouted to my questionings: "Lo, I am Youth; I bid thee follow me!"
The Hours passed by; they paced, great lords and proud, Crowned on with sunlight, robed in rich attire; Before their conquering word the brute deed bowed, And Ariel fancies served their large desire;
They spake, and roused the mused soul that dwells In dust, or, smiling, shaped new heavens and hells, Dethroned old gods and made blind beggars kings: "And what art thou," I cried to one, "that brings His mistress, for a brooch, the Galaxy?"— "I am the plumed Thought that soars and sings: Lo, I am Song; I bid thee follow me!"
The Hours passed by, with veiled eyes endowed Of dream, and parted lips that scarce suspire, To breathing dusk and arrowy moonlight vowed, South wind and shadowy grove and murmuring lyre;— Swaying they moved, as drows'd of wizard spells Or tranc'd with sight of recent miracles, And yet they trembled, down their folded wings Quivered the hint of sweet withholden things, Ah, bitter-sweet in their intensity! One paused and said unto my wonderings: "Lo, I am Love; I bid thee follow me!"
The Hours passed by, through huddled cities loud With witless hate and stale with stinking mire:
So cowled monks might march with bier and shroud Down streets plague-spotted toward some cleansing pyre;— Yet, lo! strange lilies bloomed in lightless cells, And passionate spirits burst their clayey shells And sang the stricken hope that bleeds and clings: Earth's bruised heart beat in the throbbing strings, And joy still struggled through the threnody! One stern Hour said unto my marvelings: "Lo, I am Life; I bid thee follow me!"
The Hours passed by, the stumbling hours and cowed, Uncertain, prone to tears and childish ire,— The wavering hours that drift like any cloud At whim of winds or fortunate or dire,— The feeble shapes that any chance expells; Their wisdom useless, lacking the blood that swells The tensed vein: the hot, swift tide that stings With life. Ah, wise! but naked to the slings Of fate, and plagued of youthful memory! A cracked voice broke upon my pityings: "Lo, I am Age; I bid thee follow me!"
Ah, Youth! we dallied by the babbling wells Where April all her lyric secret tells;— Ah, Song! we sped our bold imaginings As far as yon red planet's triple rings;— O Life! O Love! I followed, followed thee! There waits one word to end my journeyings: "Lo, I am Death; I bid thee follow me!"
DREAMS AND DUST
My dust in ruined Babylon Is blown along the level plain, And songs of mine at dawn have soared Above the blue Sicilian main.
We are ourselves, and not ourselves ... For ever thwarting pride and will Some forebear's passion leaps from death To claim a vital license still.
Ancestral lusts that slew and died, Resurgent, swell each living vein; Old doubts and faiths, new panoplied, Dispute the mastery of the brain.
The love of liberty that flames From written rune and stricken reed Shook the hot hearts of swordsmen sires At Marathon and Runnymede.
What are these things we call our "selves"? ... Have I not shouted, sobbed, and died In the bright surf of spears that broke Where Greece rolled back the Persian tide?
Are we who breathe more quick than they Whose bones are dust within the tomb? Nay, as I write, what gray old ghosts Murmur and mock me from the gloom....
They call ... across strange seas they call, Strange seas, and haunted coasts of time.... They startle me with wordless songs To which the Sphinx hath known the rhyme.
Our hearts swell big with dead men's hates, Our eyes sting hot with dead men's tears; We are ourselves, but not ourselves, Born heirs, but serfs, to all the years!
I rode with Nimrod ... strove at Troy ... A slave I stood in Crowning Tyre, A queen looked on me and I loved And died to compass my desire.
EARTH loves to gibber o'er her dross, Her golden souls, to waste; The cup she fills for her god-men Is a bitter cup to taste.
Who sees the gyves that bind mankind And strives to strike them off Shall gain the hissing hate of fools, Thorns, and the ingrate's scoff.
Who storms the moss-grown walls of eld And beats some falsehood down Shall pass the pallid gates of death Sans laurel, love or crown;
For him who fain would teach the world The world holds hate in fee— For Socrates, the hemlock cup; For Christ, Gethsemane.
IN MARS, WHAT AVATAR?
"In Vishnu-land, what avatar?" —BROWNING.
PERCHANCE the dying gods of Earth Are destined to another birth, And worn-out creeds regain their worth In the kindly air of other stars— What lords of life and light hold sway In the myriad worlds of the Milky Way? What avatars in Mars?
What Aphrodites from the seas That lap the plunging Pleiades Arise to spread afar The dream that was the soul of Greece? In Mars, what avatar?
Which hundred moons are wan with love For dull Endymions? Which hundred moons hang tranced above Audacious Ajalons?
What Holy Grail lures errants pale Through the wastes of yonder star? What fables sway the Milky Way? In Mars, what avatar?
When morning skims with crimson wings Across the meres of Mercury, What dreaming Memnon wakes and sings Of miracles on Mercury? What Christs, what avatars, Claim Mars?
THE GOD-MAKER, MAN
NEVERMORE Shall the shepherds of Arcady follow Pan's moods as he lolls by the shore Of the mere, or lies hid in the hollow; Nevermore Shall they start at the sound of his reed-fashioned flute;
Fallen mute Are the strings of Apollo, His lyre and his lute; And the lips of the Memnons are mute Evermore; And the gods of the North,—are they dead or forgetful, Our Odin and Baldur and Thor? Are they drunk, or grown weary of worship and fretful, Our Odin and Baldur and Thor?
And into what night have the Orient dieties strayed? Swart gods of the Nile, in dusk splendors arrayed, Brooding Isis and somber Osiris, You were gone ere the fragile papyrus, (That bragged you eternal!) decayed.
The avatars But illumine their limited evens And vanish like plunging stars; They are fixed in the whirling heavens No firmer than falling stars; Brief lords of the changing soul, they pass Like a breath from the face of a glass, Or a blossom of summer blown shallop-like over The clover And tossed tides of grass.
Sink to silence the psalms and the paeans The shibboleths shift, and the faiths, And the temples that challenged the aeons Are tenanted only by wraiths; Swoon to silence the cymbals and psalters, The worships grow senseless and strange,
And the mockers ask, "Where be thy altars?" Crying, "Nothing is changeless—but Change!"
Yes, nothing seems changeless, but Change. And yet, through the creed-wrecking years, One story for ever appears; The tale of a City Supernal— The whisper of Something eternal— A passion, a hope, and a vision That peoples the silence with Powers; A fable of meadows Elysian Where Time enters not with his Hours;— Manifold are the tale's variations, Race and clime ever tinting the dreams, Yet its essence, through endless mutations, Immutable gleams.
Deathless, though godheads be dying, Surviving the creeds that expire, Illogical, reason-defying, Lives that passionate, primal desire; Insistent, persistent, forever Man cries to the silences, Never
Shall Death reign the lord of the soul, Shall the dust be the ultimate goal— I will storm the black bastions of Night! I will tread where my vision has trod, I will set in the darkness a light, In the vastness, a god!"
As the forehead of Man grows broader, so do his creeds; And his gods they are shaped in his image, and mirror his needs; And he clothes them with thunders and beauty, he clothes them with music and fire; Seeing not, as he bows by their altars, that he worships his own desire; And mixed with his trust there is terror, and mixed with his madness is ruth, And every man grovels in error, yet every man glimpses a truth.
For all of the creeds are false, and all of the creeds are true; And low at the shrines where my brothers bow, there will I bow, too;
For no form of a god, and no fashion Man has made in his desperate passion But is worthy some worship of mine;— Not too hot with a gross belief, Nor yet too cold with pride, I will bow me down where my brothers bow, Humble—but open-eyed!
A FIERCE unrest seethes at the core Of all existing things: It was the eager wish to soar That gave the gods their wings.
From what flat wastes of cosmic slime, And stung by what quick fire, Sunward the restless races climb!— Men risen out of mire!
There throbs through all the worlds that are This heart-beat hot and strong, And shaken systems, star by star, Awake and glow in song.
But for the urge of this unrest These joyous spheres were mute; But for the rebel in his breast Had man remained a brute.
When baffled lips demanded speech, Speech trembled into birth— (One day the lyric word shall reach From earth to laughing earth)—
When man's dim eyes demanded light The light he sought was born— His wish, a Titan, scaled the height And flung him back the morn!
From deed to dream, from dream to deed, From daring hope to hope, The restless wish, the instant need, Still lashed him up the slope!
. . . . . .
I sing no governed firmament, Cold, ordered, regular— I sing the stinging discontent That leaps from star to star!
THE PILTDOWN SKULL
WHAT was his life, back yonder In the dusk where time began, This beast uncouth with the jaw of an ape And the eye and brain of a man?— Work, and the wooing of woman, Fight, and the lust of fight, Play, and the blind beginnings Of an Art that groped for light?—
In the wonder of redder mornings, By the beauty of brighter seas, Did he stand, the world's first thinker, Scorning his clan's decrees?— Seeking, with baffled eyes, In the dumb, inscrutable skies, A name for the greater glory That only the dreamer sees?
One day, when the afterglows, Like quick and sentient things,
With a rush of their vast, wild wings, Rose out of the shaken ocean As great birds rise from the sod, Did the shock of their sudden splendor Stir him and startle and thrill him, Grip him and shake him and fill him With a sense as of heights untrod?— Did he tremble with hope and vision, And grasp at a hint of God?
London stands where the mammoth Caked shag flanks with slime— And what are our lives that inherit The treasures of all time? Work, and the wooing of woman, Fight, and the lust of fight, A little play (and too much toil!) With an Art that gropes for light; And now and then a dreamer, Rapt, from his lonely sod Looks up and is thrilled and startled With a fleeting sense of God!
THE creeds he wrought of dream and thought Fall from him at the touch of life, His old gods fail him in the strife— Withdrawn, the heavens he sought!
Vanished, the miracles that led, The cloud at noon, the flame at night; The vision that he wing'd and sped Falls backward, baffled, from the height;
Yet in the wreck of these he stands Upheld by something grim and strong; Some stubborn instinct lifts a song And nerves him, heart and hands:
He does not dare to call it hope;— It is not aught that seeks reward—
Nor faith, that up some sunward slope Runs aureoled to meet its lord;
It touches something elder far Than faith or creed or thought in man, It was ere yet these lived and ran Like light from star to star;
It touches that stark, primal need That from unpeopled voids and vast Fashioned the first crude, childish creed,— And still shall fashion, till the last!
For one word is the tale of men: They fling their icons to the sod, And having trampled down a god They seek a god again!
Stripped of his creeds inherited, Bereft of all his sires held true, Amid the wreck of visions dead He thrills at touch of visions new....
He wings another Dream for flight.... He seeks beyond the outmost dawn A god he set there ... and, anon, Drags that god from the height!
. . . . . .
But aye from ruined faiths and old That droop and die, fall bruised seeds; And when new flowers and faiths unfold They're lovelier flowers, they're kindlier creeds.
THE steam, the reek, the fume, of prayer Blown outward for a million years, Becomes a mist between the spheres, And waking Sentience struggles there.
Prayer still creates the boon we pray; And gods we've hoped for, from those hopes Will gain sufficient form one day And in full godhood storm the slopes Where ancient Chaos, stark and gray, Already trembles for his sway.
When that the restless worlds would fly Their wish created rapid wings, But not till aeons had passed by With dower of many idler things; And when dumb flesh demanded speech Speech struggled to the lips at last;— Now the unpeopled Void, and vast,
Clean to that uttermost blank beach Whereto the boldest thought may reach That voyages from the vaguest past— (Dim realm and ultimate of space)— Is vexed and troubled, stirs and shakes, In prescience of a god that wakes, Born of man's wish to see God's face!
The endless, groping, dumb desires,— The climbing incense thick and sweet, The lovely purpose that aspires, The wraiths of vapor wing'd and fleet That rise and run with eager feet Forth from a myriad altar fires: All these become a mist that fills The vales and chasms nebular; A shaping Soul that moves and thrills The wastes between red star and star!
A SONG OF MEN
OUT of the soil and the slime, Reeking, they climb,
Out of the muck and the mire, Rank, they aspire;
Filthy with murder and mud, Black with shed blood,
Lust and passion and clay— Dying, they slay;
Stirred by vague hints of a goal, Seeking a soul!
Groping through terror and night Up to the light:
Life in the dust and the clod Sensing a God;
Flushed of the glamor and gleam Caught from a dream;
Stained of the struggle and toil, Stained of the soil,
Ally of God in the end— Helper and friend—
Hero and prophet and priest Out of the beast!
THE NOBLER LESSON
CHRIST was of virgin birth, and, being slain, The creedists say, He rose from death again. Oh, futile age-long talk of death and birth!— His life, that is the one thing wonder-worth; Not how He came, but how He lived on earth. For if gods stoop, and with quaint jugglery Mock nature's laws, how shall that profit thee?— The nobler lesson is that mortals can Grow godlike through this baffled front of man!
EACH race has died and lived and fought for the "true" gods of that poor race, Unconsciously, divinest thought of each race gilding its god's face. And every race that lives and dies shall make itself some other gods, Shall build, with mingled truth and lies, new icons from the world-old clods. Through all the tangled creeds and dreams and shifting shibboleths men hold The false-and-true, inwoven, gleams: a matted mass of dross and gold. Prove, then, thy gods in thine own soul; all others' gods, for thee, are vain; Nor swerved be, struggling for the goal, by bribe of joy nor threat of pain.
As skulls grow broader, so do faiths; as old tongues die, old gods die, too,
And only ghosts of gods and wraiths may meet the backward-gazer's view. Where, where the faiths of yesterday? Ah, whither vanished, whither gone? Say, what Apollos drive to-day adown the flaming slopes of dawn? Oh, does the blank past hide from view forgotten Christs, to be reborn, The future tremble where some new Messiah-Memnon sings the morn? Of all the worlds, say any earth, like dust wind-harried to and fro, Shall give the next Prometheus birth; but say—at last—you do not know.
How should I know what dawn may gleam beyond the gates of darkness there?— Which god of all the gods men dream? Why should I whip myself to care? Whichever over all hath place hath shaped and made me what I am; Hath made me strong to front his face, to dare to question though he damn.
Perhaps to cringe and cower and bring a shrine a forced and faithless faith Is far more futile than to fling your laughter in the face of Death. For writhe or whirl in dervish rout, they are not flattered there on high, Or sham belief to hide a doubt—no gods are mine that love a lie! Nor gods that beg belief on earth with portents that some seer foretells— Is life itself not wonder-worth that we must cry for miracles? Is it not strange enough we breathe? Does every- thing not God reveal? Or must we ever weave and wreathe some creed that shall his face conceal? Some creed of which its prophets cry it holds the secret's all-in-all: Some creed which ever bye and bye doth crumble, totter, to its fall! Say any dream of all the dreams that drift and darkle, glint and glow, Holds most of truth within its gleams; but say —at last—you do not know.
Oh, say the soul, from star to star, with victory wing'd, leap on through space And scale the bastioned nights that bar the secret's inner dwelling-place; Or say it ever roam dim glades where pallid wraiths of long-dead moons Flit like blown feathers through the shades, borne on the breath of sobbing tunes: Say any tide of any time, of all the tides that ebb and flow, Shall buoy us on toward any clime; but say—at last—you do not know!
"KING PANDION, HE IS DEAD"
"King Pandion, he is dead; All thy friends are lapp'd in lead." —SHAKESPEARE.
DREAMERS, drinkers, rebel youth, Where's the folly free and fine You and I mistook for truth? Wits and wastrels, friends of wine, Wags and poets, friends of mine, Gleams and glamors all are fled, Fires and frenzies half divine! King Pandion, he is dead!
Time's unmannerly, uncouth! Here's the crow's-foot for a sign! And, upon our brows, forsooth, Wits and wastrels, friends of wine, Time hath set his mark malign; Frost has touched us, heart and head, Cooled the blood and dulled the eyne: King Pandion, he is dead!
Time's a tyrant without ruth:— Fancies used to bloom and twine Round a common tavern booth, Wits and wastrels, friends of wine, In that youth of mine and thine! 'Tis for youth the feast is spread; When we dine now—we but dine!— King Pandion, he is dead!
How our dreams would glow and shine, Wits and wastrels, friends of wine, Ere the drab Hour came that said: King Pandion, he is dead!
DAVID TO BATHSHEBA
VERY red are the roses of Sharon, But redder thy mouth, There is nard, there is myrrh, in En Gedi, From the uplands of Lebanon, heavy With balsam, the winds Drift freighted and scented and cedarn— But thy mouth is more precious than spices!
Thy breasts are twin lilies of Kedron; White lilies, that sleep In the shallows where loitering Kedron Broadens out and is lost in the Jordan; Globed lilies, so white That David, thy King, thy beloved Declareth them meet for his gardens.
Under the stars very strangely The still waters gleam; Deep down in the waters of Hebron
The soul of the starlight is sunken, But deep in thine eyes Stirs a more wonderful secret Than pools ever learn of the starlight.
A TOAST to the Fools! Pierrot, Pantaloon, Harlequin, Clown, Merry-Andrew, Buffoon— Touchstone and Triboulet—all of the tribe.— Dancer and jester and singer and scribe. We sigh over Yorick—(unfortunate fool, Ten thousand Hamlets have fumbled his skull!)— But where is the Hamlet to weep o'er the biers Of his brothers? And where is the poet solicits our tears For the others? They have passed from the world and left never a sign, And few of us now have the courage to sing That their whimsies made life a more livable thing— We, that are left of the line, Let us drink to the jesters—in gooseberry wine!
Then here's to the Fools! Flouting the sages Through history's pages And driving the dreary old seers into rages— The humbugging Magis Who prate that the wages Of Folly are Death—toast the Fools of all ages! They have ridden like froth down the whirlpools of time, They have jingled their caps in the councils of state, They have snared half the wisdom of life in a rhyme, And tripped into nothingness grinning at fate— Ho, brothers mine, Brim up the glasses with gooseberry wine!
Though the prince with his firman, The judge in his ermine, Affirm and determine Bold words need the whip, Let them spare us the rod and remit us the sermon, For Death has a quip
Of the tomb and the vermin That will silence at last the most impudent lip! Is the world but a bubble, a bauble, a joke? Heigho, Brother Fools, now your bubble is broke, Do you ask for a tear?—or is it worth while? Here's a sigh for you, then—but it ends in a smile! Ho, Brother Death, We would laugh at you, too—if you spared us the breath!
"MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY"
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle-shells And pretty maids all in a row!" —Mother Goose.
MARY, Mistress Mary, How does your garden grow? From your uplands airy, Mary, Mistress Mary, Float the chimes of faery When the breezes blow! Mary, Mistress Mary, How does your garden grow?
With flower-maidens, singing Among the morning hills— With silvern bells a-ringing, With flower-maidens singing, With vocal lilies, springing By chanting daffodils; With flower-maidens, singing Among the morning hills!
YOUR triolet should glimmer Like a butterfly; In golden light, or dimmer, Your triolet should glimmer, Tremble, turn, and shimmer, Flash, and flutter by; Your triolet should glimmer Like a butterfly.
FROM THE BRIDGE
HELD and thrilled by the vision I stood, as the twilight died, Where the great bridge soars like a song Over the crawling tide—
Stood on the middle arch— And night flooded in from the bay, And wonderful under the stars Before me the city lay;
Girdled with swinging waters— Guarded by ship on ship— A gem that the strong old ocean Held in his giant grip;
There was play of shadows above And drifting gleams below, And magic of shifting waves That darkle and glance and glow;
Dusky and purple and splendid, Banded with loops of light, The tall towers rose like pillars, Lifting the dome of night;
The gliding cars of traffic Slid swiftly up and down Like monsters, fiery mailed, Leaping across the town.
Not planned with a thought of beauty; Built by a lawless breed; Builded of lust for power, Builded of gold and greed.
Risen out of the trader's Brutal and sordid wars— And yet, behold! a city Wonderful under the stars!
"PALADINS, PALADINS, YOUTH NOBLE-HEARTED"
GALAHADS, Galahads, Percivals, gallop! Bayards, to the saddle!—the clangorous trumpets, Hoarse with their ecstasy, call to the mellay. Paladins, Paladins, Rolands flame-hearted, Olivers, Olivers, follow the bugles!
Girt with the glory and glamor of power, Error sits throned in the high place of justice; Paladins, Paladins, youth noble-hearted, Saddle and spear, for the battle-flags beckon! Thrust the keen steel through the throat of the liar.
Star (or San Grael) that illumines thy pathway, Follow it, follow that far Ideal!— Thine not the guerdon to gain it or grasp it; Soul of thee, passing, ascendeth unto it, Augmenting its brightness for them that come after.
Heed then the call of the trumpets, the trumpets, Hoarse with the fervor, the frenzy of battle,— Paladins, Paladins, saddle! to saddle! Bide not, abide not, God's bugles are calling!— Thrust the sharp sword through the heart of the liar.
"MY LANDS, NOT THINE"
MY lands, not thine, we look upon, Friend Croesus, hill and vale and lawn. Mine every woodland madrigal, And mine thy singing waterfall That vaguely hints of Helicon.
Mark how thine upland slopes have drawn A golden glory from the dawn!— Fool's gold?—thy dullness proves them all My lands—not thine!
For when all title-deeds are gone, Still, still will satyr, nymph, and faun Through brake and covert pipe and call In dances bold and bacchanal— For them, for me, you hold in pawn, My lands—not thine!
TO A DANCING DOLL
FORMAL, quaint, precise, and trim, You begin your steps demurely— There's a spirit almost prim In the feet that move so surely, So discreetly, to the chime Of the music that so sweetly Marks the time.
But the chords begin to tinkle Quicker, And your feet they flash and flicker— Twinkle!— Flash and flutter to a tricksy Fickle meter; And you foot it like a pixie— Only fleeter!
Now our current, dowdy Things—
"Turkey-trots" and rowdy Flings— For they made you overseas In politer times than these, In an age when grace could please, Ere St. Vitus Clutched and shook us, spine and knees;— Loosed a plague of jerks to smite us!
Well, our day is far more brisk And our manner rather slacker), And you are nothing more than bisque And lacquer— But you shame us with the graces Of courtlier times and places When the cheap And vulgar wasn't "art"— When the faunal prance and leap Weren't "smart."
Have we lost the trick of wedding Grace to pleasure? Must we clown it at the bidding Of some tawdry, common measure?
Can't you school us in the graces Of your pose and dainty paces?— Now the chords begin to tinkle Quicker— And your feet they flash and flicker— Twinkle!— And you mock us as you featly Swing and flutter to the chime Of the music-box that sweetly Marks the time!
LOWER NEW YORK—A STORM
WHITE wing'd below the darkling clouds The driven sea-gulls wheel; The roused sea flings a storm against The towers of stone and steel.
The very voice of ocean rings Along the shaken street— Dusk, storm, and beauty whelm the world Where sea and city meet—
But what care they for flashing wings, Quick beauty, loud refrain, These huddled thousands, deaf and blind To all but greed and gain?
THE sun-god stooped from out the sky To kiss the flushing sea, While all the winds of all the world Made jovial melody; The night came hurrying up to hide The lovers with her tent; The governed thunders, rank on rank, Stood mute with wonderment; The pale worn moon, a jealous shade, Peered from the firmament; The early stars, the curious stars, Came peering forth to see What mighty nuptials shook the world With such an ecstasy Whenas the sun-god left the sky To mingle with the sea.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT
ALACK-A-DAY for poverty! What jewels my mind doth give to thee!
Carved agate stone porphyrogene, Green emerald and beryl green, Deep sapphine and pale amethyst, Sly opal, cloaking with a mist The levin of its love elate, Shy brides' pearls, flushed and delicate, Sea-colored lapis lazuli, Sardonyx and chalcedony, Enkindling diamond, candid gold, Red rubies and red garnets bold: And all their humors should be blent In one intolerable blaze, Barbaric, fierce, and opulent, To dazzle him that dared to gaze!
Alack-a-day for poverty: My rhymes are all you get of me! Yet, if your heart receive, behold! The worthless words are set in gold.
I STILL remember how she moved Among the rathe, wild blooms she loved, (When Spring came tip-toe down the slopes, Atremble 'twixt her doubts and hopes, Half fearful and all virginal)— How Silvia sought this dell to call Her flowers into full festival, And chid them with this madrigal:
_"The busy spider hangs the brush With filmy gossamers, The frogs are croaking in the creek, The sluggish blacksnake stirs, But still the ground is bare of bloom Beneath the fragrant firs.
"Arise, arise, O briar rose, And sleepy violet! Awake, awake, anemone, Your wintry dreams forget—_
_For shame, you tardy marigold, Are you not budded yet?
"The Swallow's back, and claims the eaves That last year were his home; The Robin follows where the plow Breaks up the crusted loam; And Red-wings spies the Thrush and pipes: 'Look! Speckle-breast is come!'
"Up, blooms! and storm the wooded slopes, The lowlands and the plain— Blow, jonquil, blow your golden horn Across the ranks of rain! To arms! to arms! and put to flight The Winter's broken train!"_
She paused beside this selfsame rill, And as she ceased, a daffodil Held up reproachfully his head And fluttered into speech, and said:
"Chide not the flowers! You little know Of all their travail 'neath the snow,
Their struggling hours Of choking sorrow underground. Chide not the flowers! You little guess of that profound And blind, dumb agony of ours! Yet, victor here beside the rill, I greet the light that I have found, A Daffodil!"
And when the Daffodil was done A boastful Marigold spake on:
"Oh, chide the white frost, if you choose, The heavy clod, so hard to loose, The preying powers Of worm and insect underground. Chide not the flowers! For spite of scathe and cruel wound, Unconquered by the sunless hours, I rise in regal pride, a bold And golden-hearted, golden-crowned Marsh Marigold!"
And when she came no more, her creek Would not believe, but bade us seek
Hither, yon, and to and fro— Everywhere that children go When the Spring Is on the wing And the winds of April blow— "I will never think her dead; "She will come again!" it said; And then the birds that use the vale, Broken-hearted, turned the tale Into syllables of song And chirped it half a summer long:
"Silvia, Silvia, Be our Song once more, Our vale revisit, Silvia, And be our Song once more: For joy lies sleeping in the lute; The merry pipe, the woodland flute, And all the pleading reeds are mute That breathed to thee of yore.
"Silvia, Silvia, Be our Moon again,
_Shine on our valley, Silvia, And be our Moon again: The fluffy owl and nightingale Flit silent through the darkling vale, Or utter only words of wail From throats all harsh with pain.
"Silvia, Silvia, Be Springtime, as of old; Come clad in laughter, Silvia, Our Springtime, as of old: The waiting lowlands and the hills Are tremulous with daffodils Unblown, until thy footstep thrills Their promise into gold."_
And, musing on her here, I too Must wonder if it can be true She died, as other mortals do. The thought would fit her more, to feign That, full of life and unaware That earth holds aught of grief or stain, The fairies stole and hold her where Death enters not, nor strife nor pain;—
That, drowsing on some bed of pansies, By Titania's necromancies Her senses were to slumber lulled, Deeply sunken, steeped and dulled, And by wafture of swift pinions She was borne out through earth's portals To the fairy queen's dominions, To some land of the immortals.
AND some still cry: "What is the use? The service rendered? What the gain? Heroic, yes!—but in what cause? Have they made less one earth-borne pain? Broadened the bounded spirit's scope? Or died to make the dull world hope?"
Must man still be the slave of Use?— But these men, careless and elate, Join battle with a burly world Or come to wrestling grips with fate, And not for any good nor gain Nor any fame that may befall— But, thrilling in the clutch of life, Heed the loud challenge and the call;— And grown to symbols at the last, Stand in heroic silhouette Against horizons ultimate, As towers that front lost seas are set;—
The reckless gesture, the strong pose, Sharp battle-cry flung back to Earth, And buoyant humor, as a god Might say: "Lo, here my feet have trod!"— There lies the meaning and the worth!
They bring no golden treasure home, They win no acres for their clan, Nor dream nor deed of theirs shall mend The ills of man's bedeviled span— Nor are they skilled in sleights of speech, (Nor overeager) to make plain The use they serve, transcending use,— The gain beyond apparent gain!
WITH half-hearted levies of frost that make foray, retire, and refrain— Ambiguous bugles that blow and that falter to silence again—
With banners of mist that still waver above them, advance and retreat, The hosts of the Autumn still hide in the hills, for a doubt stays their feet;—
But anon, with a barbaric splendor to dazzle the eyes that behold, And regal in raiment of purple and umber and amber and gold,
And girt with the glamor of conquest and scarved with red symbols of pride, From the hills in their might and their mirth on the steeds of the wind will they ride,
To make sport and make spoil of the Summer, who dwells in a dream on the plain, Still tented in opulent ease in the camps of her indolent train.
"TIME STEALS FROM LOVE"
TIME steals from Love all but Love's wings; And how should aught but evil things, Or any good but death, befall Him that is thrall unto Time's thrall, Slave to the lesser of these Kings?
O heart of youth that wakes and sings! O golden vows and golden rings! Life mocks you with the tale of all Time steals from Love!
O riven lute and writhen strings, Dead bough whereto no blossom clings, The glory was ephemeral! Nor may our Autumn grief recall The passion of the perished Springs Time steals from Love!
YOUR rondeau's tale must still be light— No bugle-call to life's stern fight! Rather a smiling interlude Memorial to some transient mood Of idle love and gala-night.
Its manner is the merest sleight O' hand; yet therein dwells its might, For if the heavier touch intrude Your rondeau's stale.
Fragrant and fragile, fleet and bright, And wing'd with whim, it gleams in flight Like April blossoms wind-pursued Down aisles of tangled underwood;— Nor be too serious when you write Your rondeau's tail!
THEY haunt me, they tease me with hinted Withheld revelations, The songs that I may not utter; They lead me, they flatter, they woo me. I follow, I follow, I snatch At the veils of their secrets in vain— For lo! they have left me and vanished, The songs that I cannot sing.
There are visions elusive that come With a quiver and shimmer of wings;— Shapes shadows and shapes, and the murmur Of voices;— Shapes, that out of the twilight Leap, and with gesture appealing Seem to deliver a message, And are gone 'twixt a breath and a breath;— Shapes that race in with the waves Moving silverly under the moon,
And are gone ere they break into foam on the rocks And recede;— Breathings of love from invisible Flutes, Blown somewhere out in the tender Dusk, That die on the bosom of Silence;— Formless, And fleeter than thought, Vaguer than thought or emotion, What are these visitors?
Out of the vast and uncharted Realms that encircle the visible world, With a glimmer of light on their pinions, They rush ... They waver, they vanish, Leaving me stirred with a dream of the ultimate beauty, A sense of the ultimate music, I never shall capture;—
They are Beauty, Formless and tremulous Beauty,
Beauty unborn; Beauty as yet unappareled In thought; Beauty that hesitates, Falters, Withdraws from the verge of birth, Flutters, Retreats from the portals of life;— O Beauty for ever uncaptured! O songs that I never shall sing!
WE have come "the primrose way," Folly, thou and I! Such a glamor and a grace Ever glimmered on thy face, Ever such a witchery Lit the laughing eyes of thee, Could a fool like me withstand Folly's feast and beckoning hand? Drinking, how thy lips' caress Spiced the cup of waywardness! So we came "the primrose way," Folly, thou and I!
But now, Folly, we must part, Folly, thou and I! Shall one look with mirth or tears Back on all his wasted years, Purposes dissolved in wine, Pearls flung to the heedless swine?—
Idle days and nights of mirth, Were they pleasures nothing worth? Well, there's no gainsaying we Squandered youth right merrily! But now, Folly, we must part, Folly, thou and I!
AN OPEN FIRE
THESE logs with drama and with dream are rife, For all their golden Summers and green Springs Through leaf and root they sucked the forest's life, Drank in its secret, deep, essential things, Its midwood moods, its mystic runes, Its breathing hushes stirred of faery wings, Its August nights and April noons; The garnered fervors of forgotten Junes Flare forth again and waste away; And in the sap that leaps and sings We hear again the chant the cricket flings Across the hawthorn-scented dusks of May.
WE are deceived by the shadow, we see not the substance of things. For the hills are less solid than thought; and deeds are but vapors; and flesh Is a mist thrown off and resumed by the soul, as a world by a god. Back of the transient appearance dwells in ineffable calm The utter reality, ultimate truth; this seems and that is.
I HAVE been down in a dark valley; I have been groping through a deep gorge; Far above, the lips of it were rimmed with moonlight, And here and there the light lay on the dripping rocks So that it seemed they dripped with moonlight, not with water; So deep it was, that narrow gash among the hills, That those great pines which fringed its edge Seemed to me no larger than upthrust fingers Silhouetted against the sky; And at its top the vale was strait, And the rays were slant And reached but part way down the sides; I could not see the moon itself; I walked through darkness, and the valley's edge Seemed almost level with the stars, The stars that were like fireflies in the little trees.
It was the midnight of defeat; I felt that I had failed; I was mocked of the gods; There was no way out of that gorge; The paths led no whither And I could not remember their beginnings; I was doomed to wander evermore, Thirsty, with the sound of mocking waters in mine ears, Groping, with gleams of useless light Splashed in ironic beauty on the rocks above. And so I whined.
And then despair flashed into rage; I leapt erect, and cried: "Could I but grasp my life as sculptors grasp the clay And knead and thrust it into shape again!— If all the scorn of Heaven were but thrown Into the focus of some creature I could clutch!— If something tangible were but vouchsafed me By the cold, far gods!— If they but sent a Reason for the failure of my life I'd answer it; If they but sent a Fiend, I'd conquer it!—