The object of 'Georgian Poetry' 1911-1912 was to give a convenient survey of the work published within two years by some poets of the newer generation. The book was welcomed; and perhaps, even in a time like this, those whom it interested may care to have a corresponding volume for the three years which have since passed.
Two of the poets—I think the youngest, and certainly not the least gifted—are dead. Rupert Brooke, who seemed to have everything that is worth having, died last April in the service of his country. James Elroy Flecker, to whom life and death were less generous, died in January after a long and disabling illness.
A few of the contributors to the former volume are not represented in this one, either because they have published nothing which comes within its scope, or because they belong in fact to an earlier poetic generation, and their inclusion must be allowed to have been an anachronism. Two names are added.
The alphabetical arrangement of the writers has been modified in order to recognize the honour which Mr Gordon Bottomley has done to the book by allowing his play to be first published here.
My thanks for permission to print the poems are due to Messrs Constable, Duckworth, Heinemann, Herbert Jenkins, Macmillan, Elkin Mathews, Methuen, Martin Seeker, and Sidgwick and Jackson; and to the Editors of 'Country Life', the 'English Review, Flying Fame, New Numbers', the 'New Statesman', and the 'Westminster Gazette'.
King Lear's Wife
Tiare Tahiti (from '1914 and Other Poems') The Great Lover " " " Beauty and Beauty " " " Heaven " " " Clouds " " " Sonnet " " " The Soldier " " "
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
Thunderstorms (from 'Foliage') The Mind's Liberty (from 'The Bird of Paradise') The Moon " " " When on a Summer's Morn " " " A Great Time " " " The Hawk " " " Sweet Stay-at-Home (from 'Foliage') A Fleeting Passion (from 'The Bird of Paradise') The Bird of Paradise
WALTER DE LA MARE
Music Wanderers (from 'Peacock Pie') Melmillo " " " Alexander The Mocking Fairy " " " Full Moon " " " Off the Ground " " "
A Town Window (from 'Swords and Plough-shares') Of Greatham " " " The Carver in Stone " " "
JAMES ELROY FLECKER
The Old Ships A Fragment (from 'The Old Ships') Santorin (from 'The Golden Journey to Samarkand') Yasmin " " " Gates of Damascus " " " The Dying Patriot " " "
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
The Gorse (from 'Thoroughfares') Hoops (from 'Borderlands') The Going
The Bull The Song of Honour
Service of all the Dead Meeting among the Mountains Cruelty and Love (from 'Love Poems and Others')
The Wife of Llew (from 'Songs of the Fields') A Rainy Day in April " " " The Lost Ones " " "
The Wanderer (from 'Philip the King')
Milk for the Cat (from 'Children of Love') Overheard on a Saltmarsh " " Children of Love
The Rivals (from 'Songs from the Clay') The Goatpaths " " " The Snare " " " In Woods and Meadows " " " Deirdre " " "
The End of the World
* * * * *
KING LEAR'S WIFE 
LEAR, King of Britain. HYGD, his Queen. GONERIL, daughter to King Lear. CORDEIL, daughter to King Lear. GORMFLAITH, waiting-woman to Queen Hygd. MERRYN, waiting-woman to Queen Hygd. A PHYSICIAN. TWO ELDERLY WOMEN.
KING LEAR'S WIFE.
[The scene is a bedchamber in a one-storied house. The walls consist of a few courses of huge irregular boulders roughly squared and fitted together; a thatched roof rises steeply from the back wall. In the centre of the back wall is a doorway opening on a garden and covered by two leather curtains; the chamber is partially hung with similar hangings stitched with bright wools. There is a small window on each side of this door.
Toward the front a bed stands with its head against the right wall; it has thin leather curtains hung by thongs and drawn back. Farther forward a rich robe and a crown hang on a peg in the same wall. There is a second door beyond the bed, and between this and the bed's head stands a small table with a bronze lamp and a bronze cup on it. Queen HYGD, an emaciated woman, is asleep in the bed; her plenteous black hair, veined with silver, spreads over the pillow. Her waiting-woman, MERRYN, middle-aged and hard-featured, sits watching her in a chair on the farther side of the bed. The light of early morning fills the room.]
Many, many must die who long to live, Yet this one cannot die who longs to die: Even her sleep, come now at last, thwarts death, Although sleep lures us all half way to death ... I could not sit beside her every night If I believed that I might suffer so: I am sure I am not made to be diseased, I feel there is no malady can touch me— Save the red cancer, growing where it will.
[Taking her beads from her girdle, she kneels at the foot of the bed.]
O sweet Saint Cleer, and sweet Saint Elid too, Shield me from rooting cancers and from madness: Shield me from sudden death, worse than two death-beds; Let me not lie like this unwanted queen, Yet let my time come not ere I am ready— Grant space enow to relish the watchers' tears And give my clothes away and calm my features And streek my limbs according to my will, Not the hard will of fumbling corpse-washers.
[She prays silently.]
[KING LEAR, a great, golden-bearded man in the full maturity of life, enters abruptly by the door beyond the bed, followed by the PHYSICIAN.]
Why are you here? Are you here for ever? Where is the young Scotswoman? Where is she?
O, Sire, move softly; the Queen sleeps at last.
Lear (continuing in an undertone):
Where is the young Scotswoman? Where is Gormflaith? It is her watch ... I know; I have marked your hours. Did the Queen send her away? Did the Queen Bid you stay near her in her hate of Gormflaith? You work upon her yeasting brain to think That she's not safe except when you crouch near her To spy with your dropt eyes and soundless presence.
Sire, midnight should have ended Gormflaith's watch, But Gormflaith had another kind of will And ended at a godlier hour by slumber, A letter in her hand, the night-lamp out. She loitered in the hall when she should sleep. My duty has two hours ere she returns.
The Queen should have young women about her bed, Fresh cool-breathed women to lie down at her side And plenish her with vigour; for sick or wasted women Can draw a virtue from such abounding presence, When night makes life unwary and looses the strings of being, Even by the breath, and most of all by sleep. Her slumber was then no fault: go you and find her.
It is not strange that a bought watcher drowses; What is most strange is that the Queen sleeps Who would not sleep for all my draughts of sleep In the last days. When did this change appear?
We shall not know—it came while Gormflaith nodded. When I awoke her and she saw the Queen She could not speak for fear: When the rekindling lamp showed certainly The bed-clothes stirring about our lady's neck, She knew there was no death, she breathed, she said She had not slept until her mistress slept And lulled her; but I asked her how her mistress Slept, and her utterance faded. She should be blamed with rods, as I was blamed For slumber, after a day and a night of watching, By the Queen's child-bed, twenty years ago.
Lear: She does what she must do: let her alone. I know her watch is now: get gone and send her.
[MERRYN goes out by the door beyond the bed.]
Is it a portent now to sleep at night? What change is here? What see you in the Queen? Can you discern how this disease will end?
Surmise might spring and healing follow yet, If I could find a trouble that could heal; But these strong inward pains that keep her ebbing Have not their source in perishing flesh. I have seen women creep into their beds And sink with this blind pain because they nursed Some bitterness or burden in the mind That drew the life, sucklings too long at breast. Do you know such a cause in this poor lady?
There is no cause. How should there be a cause?
We cannot die wholly against our wills; And in the texture of women I have found Harder determination than in men: The body grows impatient of enduring, The harried mind is from the body estranged, And we consent to go: by the Queen's touch, The way she moves—or does not move—in bed, The eyes so cold and keen in her white mask, I know she has consented. The snarling look of a mute wounded hawk, That would be let alone, is always hers— Yet she was sorely tender: it may be Some wound in her affection will not heal. We should be careful—the mind can so be hurt That nought can make it be unhurt again. Where, then, did her affection most persist?
Old bone-patcher, old digger in men's flesh, Doctors are ever itching to be priests, Meddling in conduct, natures, life's privacies. We have been coupled now for twenty years, And she has never turned from me an hour— She knows a woman's duty and a queen's: Whose, then, can her affection be but mine? How can I hurt her—she is still my queen? If her strong inward pain is a real pain Find me some certain drug to medicine it: When common beings have decayed past help, There must be still some drug for a king to use; For nothing ought to be denied to kings.
For the mere anguish there is such a potion. The gum of warpy juniper shoots is seethed With the torn marrow of an adder's spine; An unflawed emerald is pashed to dust And mingled there; that broth must cool in moonlight. I have indeed attempted this already, But the poor emeralds I could extort From wry-mouthed earls' women had no force. In two more dawns it will be late for potions ... There are not many emeralds in Britain, And there is none for vividness and strength Like the great stone that hangs upon your breast: If you will waste it for her she shall be holpen.
Lear (with rising voice): Shatter my emerald? My emerald? My emerald? A High King of Eire gave it to his daughter Who mothered generations of us, the kings of Britain; It has a spiritual influence; its heart Burns when it sees the sun ... Shatter my emerald! Only the fungused brain and carious mouth Of senile things could shape such thought ... My emerald!
[HYGD stirs uneasily in her sleep.]
Speak lower, low; for your good fame, speak low— If she should waken thus ...
There is no wise man Believes that medicine is in a jewel. It is enough that you have failed with one. Seek you a common stone. I'll not do it. Let her eat heartily: she is spent with fasting. Let her stand up and walk: she is so still Her blood can never nourish her. Come away.
I must not leave her ere the woman comes— Or will some other woman ...
No, no, no, no; The Queen is not herself; she speaks without sense; Only Merryn and Gormflaith understand. She is better quiet. Come ...
[He urges the PHYSICIAN roughly away by the shoulder.]
[He follows the PHTSICIAN out by the door at the back. Queen HYGD awakes at his last noisy words as he disappears.]
I have not slept; I did but close mine eyes A little while—a little while forgetting ... Where are you, Merryn? ... Ah, it is not Merryn ... Bring me the cup of whey, woman; I thirst ... Will you speak to me if I say your name? Will you not listen, Gormflaith? ... Can you hear? I am very thirsty—let me drink ... Ah, wicked woman, why did I speak to you? I will not be your suppliant again ... Where are you? O, where are you? ... Where are you?
[She tries to raise herself to look about the room, but sinks back helplessly. The curtains of the door at the back are parted, and GONERIL appears in hunting dress,—her kirtle caught up in her girdle, a light spear over her shoulder—stands there a moment, then enters noiselessly and, approaches the bed. She is a girl just turning to woman-hood, proud in her poise, swift and cold, an almost gleaming presence, a virgin huntress.]
Mother, were you calling? Have I awakened you? They said that you were sleeping. Why are you left alone, mother, my dear one?
Who are you? No, no, no! Stand farther off! You pulse and glow; you are too vital; your presence hurts ... Freshness of hill-swards, wind and trodden ling, I should have known that Goneril stands here. It is yet dawn, but you have been afoot Afar and long: where could you climb so soon?
Dearest, I am an evil daughter to you: I never thought of you—O, never once— Until I heard a moor-bird cry like you. I am wicked, rapt in joys of breath and life, And I must force myself to think of you. I leave you to caretakers' cold gentleness; But O, I did not think that they dare leave you. What woman should be here?
I have forgot ... I know not ... She will be about some duty. I do not matter: my time is done ... nigh done ... Bought hands can well prepare me for a grave, And all the generations must serve youth. My girls shall live untroubled while they may, And learn happiness once while yet blind men Have injured not their freedom; For women are not meant for happiness. Where have you been, my falcon?
I dreamt that I was swimming, shoulder up, And drave the bed-clothes spreading to the floor: Coldness awoke me; through the waning darkness I heard far hounds give shivering aery tongue, Remote, withdrawing, suddenly faint and near; I leapt and saw a pack of stretching weasels Hunt a pale coney in a soundless rush, Their elfin and thin yelping pierced my heart As with an unseen beauty long awaited; Wolf-skin and cloak I buckled over this night-gear, And took my honoured spear from my bed-side Where none but I may touch its purity, And sped as lightly down the dewy bank As any mothy owl that hunts quick mice. They went crying, crying, but I lost them Before I stept, with the first tips of light, On Raven Crag near by the Druid Stones; So I paused there and, stooping, pressed my hand Against the stony bed of the clear stream; Then entered I the circle and raised up My shining hand in cold stern adoration Even as the first great gleam went up the sky.
Ay, you do well to worship on that height: Life is free to the quick up in the wind, And the wind bares you for a god's descent— For wind is a spirit immediate and aged. And you do well to worship harsh men-gods, God Wind and Those who built his Stones with him: All gods are cruel, bitter, and to be bribed, But women-gods are mean and cunning as well. That fierce old virgin, Cornish Merryn, prays To a young woman, yes and even a virgin— The poorest kind of woman—and she says That is to be a Christian: avoid then Her worship most, for men hate such denials, And any woman scorns her unwed daughter. Where sped you from that height? Did Regan join you there?
Does Regan worship anywhere at dawn? The sweaty half-clad cook-maids render lard Out in the scullery, after pig-killing, And Regan sidles among their greasy skirts, Smeary and hot as they, for craps to suck. I lost my thoughts before the giant Stones ... And when anew the earth assembled round me I swung out on the heath and woke a hare And speared it at a cast and shouldered it, Startled another drinking at a tarn And speared it ere it leapt; so steady and clear Had the god in his fastness made my mind. Then, as I took those dead things in my hands, I felt shame light my face from deep within, And loathing and contempt shake in my bowels, That such unclean coarse blows from me had issued To crush delicate things to bloody mash And blemish their fur when I would only kill. My gladness left me; I careered no more Upon the morning; I went down from there With empty hands: But under the first trees and without thought I stole on conies at play and stooped at one; I hunted it, I caught it up to me As I outsprang it, and with this thin knife Pierced it from eye to eye; and it was dead, Untorn, unsullied, and with flawless fur. Then my untroubled mind came back to me.
Leap down the glades with a fawn's ignorance; Live you your fill of a harsh purity; Be wild and calm and lonely while you may. These are your nature's joys, and it is human Only to recognise our natures' joys When we are losing them for ever.
But why Do you say this to me with a sore heart? You are a queen, and speak from the top of life, And when you choose to wish for others' joys Those others must have woe.
The hour comes for you to turn to a man And give yourself with the high heart of youth More lavishly than a queen gives anything. But when a woman gives herself She must give herself for ever and have faith; For woman is a thing of a season of years, She is an early fruit that will not keep, She can be drained and as a husk survive To hope for reverence for what has been; While man renews himself into old age, And gives himself according to his need, And women more unborn than his next child May take him yet with youth And lose him with their potence.
But women need not wed these men.
We are good human currency, like gold, For men to pass among them when they choose.
[A child's hands beat on the outside of the door beyond the bed.]
Cordeil's Voice (a child's voice, outside):
Father ... Father ... Father ... Are you here? Merryn, ugly Merryn, let me in ... I know my father is here ... I want him ... Now ... Mother, chide Merryn, she is old and slow ...
My little curse. Send her away—away ...
Father... O, father, father... I want my father.
Goneril (opening the door a little way):
Hush; hush—you hurt your mother with your voice. You cannot come in, Cordeil; you must go away: Your father is not here ...
He must be here: He is not in his chamber or the hall, He is not in the stable or with Gormflaith: He promised I should ride with him at dawn And sit before his saddle and hold his hawk, And ride with him and ride to the heron-marsh; He said that he would give me the first heron, And hang the longest feathers in my hair.
Then you must haste to find him; He may be riding now ...
But Gerda said she saw him enter here.
Indeed, he is not here ...
Let me look ...
You are too noisy. Must I make you go?
Mother, Goneril is unkind to me.
Hygd (raising herself in bed excitedly, and speaking so vehemently that her utterance strangles itself):
Go, go, thou evil child, thou ill-comer.
[GONERIL, with a sudden strong movement, shuts the resisting door and holds it rigidly. The little hands beat on it madly for a moment, then the child's voice is heard in a retreating wail.]
Though she is wilful, obeying only the King, She is a very little child, mother, To be so bitterly thought of.
Because a woman gives herself for ever Cordeil the useless had to be conceived (Like an after-thought that deceives nobody) To keep her father from another woman. And I lie here.
Goneril (after a silence):
Hard and unjust my father has been to me; Yet that has knitted up within my mind A love of coldness and a love of him Who makes me firm, wary, swift and secret, Until I feel if I become a mother I shall at need be cruel to my children, And ever cold, to string their natures harder And make them able to endure men's deeds; But now I wonder if injustice Keeps house with baseness, taught by kinship— I never thought a king could be untrue, I never thought my father was unclean ... O mother, mother, what is it? Is this dying?
I think I am only faint ... Give me the cup of whey ...
[GONERIL takes the cup and, supporting HYGD lets her drink.]
There is too little here. When was it made?
Yester-eve ... Yester-morn ...
Unhappy mother, You have no daughter to take thought for you— No servant's love to shame a daughter with, Though I am shamed—you must have other food, Straightway I bring you meat ...
It is no use ... Plenish the cup for me ... Not now, not now, But in a while; for I am heavy now ... Old Wynoc's potions loiter in my veins, And tides of heaviness pour over me Each time I wake and think. I could sleep now.
Then I shall lull you, as you once lulled me.
[Seating herself on the bed, she sings.]
The owlets in roof-holes Can sing for themselves; The smallest brown squirrel Both scampers and delves; But a baby does nothing— She never knows how— She must hark to her mother Who sings to her now. Sleep then, ladykin, peeping so; Hide your handies and ley lei lo.
[She bends over HYGD and kisses her; they laugh softly together. LEAR parts the curtains of the door at the back, stands there a moment, then goes away noiselessly.]
The lish baby otter Is sleeky and streaming, With catching bright fishes Ere babies learn dreaming; But no wet little otter Is ever so warm As the fleecy-wrapt baby 'Twixt me and my arm. Sleep big mousie...
Hygd (suddenly irritable):
Be quiet ... I cannot bear it.
[She turns her head away from GONERIL and closes her eyes.]
[As GONERIL watches her in silence GORMFLAITH enters by the door beyond the bed. She is young and tall and fresh-coloured; her red hair coils and crisps close to her little head, showing its shape. Her movements are soft and unhurried; her manner is quiet and ingratiating and a little too agreeable; she speaks a little too gently.]
Goneril (meeting her near the door and speaking in a low voice):
Why did you leave the Queen? Where have you been? Why have you so neglected this grave duty?
This is the instant of my duty, Princess: From midnight until now was Merryn's watch. I thought to find her here: is she not here?
[HYGD turns to look at the speakers; then, turning back, closes her eyes again and lies as if asleep.]
I found the Queen alone. I heard her cry your name.
Your anger is not too great, Madam; I grieve That one so old as Merryn should act thus— So old and trusted and favoured, and so callous.
The Queen has had no food since yester-night.
Madam, that is too monstrous to conceive: I will seek food. I will prepare it now.
Stay here: and know, if the Queen is left again, You shall be beaten with two rods at once.
[She picks up the cup and goes out by the door beyond the bed.]
[GORMFLAITH turns the chair a little away from the bed so that she can watch the jar door, and, seating herself, draws a letter from her bosom.]
Gormflaith (to herself, reading):
"Open your window when the moon is dead, And I will come again. The men say everywhere that you are faithless, The women say your face is a false face And your eyes shifty eyes. Ah, but I love you, Gormflaith. Do not forget your window-latch to-night, For when the moon is dead the house is still."
[LEAR again parts the door-curtains at the back, and, seeing GORMFLAITH, enters. At the first slight rustle of the curtains GORMFLAITH stealthily slips the letter back into her bosom before turning gradually, a finger to her lips, to see who approaches her.]
Lear (leaning over the side of her chair):
Lady, what do you read?
I read a letter, Sire.
A letter—a letter—what read you in a letter?
Gormflaith (taking another letter from her girdle):
Your words to me—my lonely joy your words ... "If you are steady and true as your gaze "—
Lear (tearing the letter from her, crumpling it, and flinging it to the back of the room):
Pest! You should not carry a king's letters about, Nor hoard a king's letters.
Must the King also stand in the presence now?
Pardon my troubled mind; you have taken my letter from me.
[LEAR seats himself and takes GORMFLAITH'S hand.]
Wait, wait—I might be seen. The Queen may waken yet.
[Stepping lightly to the led, she noiselessly slips the curtain on that side as far forward as it will come. Then she returns to LEAR, who draws her to him and seats her on his knee.]
You have been long in coming: Was Merryn long in finding you?
Gormflaith (playing with Lear's emerald):
Did Merryn ... Has Merryn been ... She loitered long before she came, For I was at the women's bathing-place ere dawn ... No jewel in all the land excites me and enthralls Like this strong source of light that lives upon your breast.
Lear (taking the jewel chain from his neck and slipping it over Gormflaith's head while she still holds the emerald):
Wear it within your breast to fill the gentle place That cherished the poor letter lately torn from you.
Did Merryn at your bidding, then, forsake her Queen?
You must not, ah, you must not do these masterful things, Even to grasp a precious meeting for us two; For the reproach and chiding are so hard to me, And even you can never fight the silent women In hidden league against me, all this house of women. Merryn has left her Queen in unwatched loneliness, And yet your daughter Princess Goneril has said (With lips that scarce held back the spittle for my face) That if the Queen is left again I shall be whipt.
Children speak of the punishments they know. Her back is now not half so white as yours, And you shall write your will upon it yet.
Ah, no, my King, my faithful.. Ah, no.. no.. The Princess Goneril is right; she judges me: A sinful woman cannot steadily gaze reply To the cool, baffling looks of virgin untried force. She stands beside that crumbling mother in her hate, And, though we know so well—she and I, O we know— That she could love no mother nor partake in anguish, Yet she is flouted when the King forsakes her dam, She must protect her very flesh, her tenderer flesh, Although she cannot wince; she's wild in her cold brain, And soon I must be made to pay a cruel price For this one gloomy joy in my uncherished life. Envy and greed are watching me aloof (Yes, now none of the women will walk with me), Longing to see me ruined, but she'll do it ... It is a lonely thing to love a king ...
[She puts her cheek gradually closer and closer to LEAR'S cheek as she speaks: at length he kisses her suddenly and vehemently, as if he would grasp her lips with his: she receives it passively, her head thrown back, her eyes closed.]
Goldilocks, when the crown is couching in your hair And those two mingled golds brighten each other's wonder, You shall produce a son from flesh unused— Virgin I chose you for that, first crops are strongest— A tawny fox with your high-stepping action, With your untiring power and glittering eyes, To hold my lands together when I am done, To keep my lands from crumbling into mouthfuls For the short jaws of my three mewling vixens. Hatch for me such a youngster from my seed, And I and he shall rein my hot-breathed wenches To let you grind the edges off their teeth.
Gormflaith (shaking her head sadly):
Life holds no more than this for me; this is my hour. When she is dead I know you'll buy another Queen— Giving a county for her, gaining a duchy with her— And put me to wet nursing, leashing me with the thralls. It will not be unbearable—I've had your love. Master and friend, grant then this hour to me: Never again, maybe, can we two sit At love together, unwatched, unknown of all, In the Queen's chamber, near the Queen's crown And with no conscious Queen to hold it from us: Now let me wear the Queen's true crown on me And snatch a breathless knowledge of the feeling Of what it would have been to sit by you Always and closely, equal and exalted, To be my light when life is dark again.
Girl, by the black stone god, I did not think You had the nature of a chambermaid, Who pries and fumbles in her lady's clothes With her red hands, or on her soily neck Stealthily hangs her lady's jewels or pearls. You shall be tiring-maid to the next queen And try her crown on every day o' your life In secrecy, if that is your desire: If you would be a queen, cleanse yourself quickly Of menial fingering and servile thought.
You need not crown me. Let me put it on As briefly as a gleam of Winter sun. I will not even warm it with my hair.
You cannot have the nature of a queen If you believe that there are things above you: Crowns make no queens, queens are the cause of crowns.
Gormflaith (slipping from his knee):
Then I will take one. Look.
[She tip-toes lightly round the front of the bed to where the crown hangs on the wall.]
Come here, mad thing—come back! Your shadow will wake the Queen.
Hush, hush! That angry voice Will surely wake the Queen.
[She lifts the crown from the peg, and returns with it.]
Go back; bear back the crown: Hang up the crown again. We are not helpless serfs To think things are forbidden And steal them for our joy.
Hush, hush! It is too late; I dare not go again.
Put down the crown: your hands are base hands yet. Give it to me: it issues from my hands.
Gormflaith (seating herself on his knee again, and crowning herself):
Let anger keep your eyes steady and bright To be my guiding mirror: do not move. You have received two queens within your eyes.
[She laughs clearly, like a bird's sudden song. HYGD awakes and, after an instant's bewilderment, turns her head toward the sound; finding the bed-curtain dropt, she moves it aside a little with her fingers; she watches LEAR and GORMFLAITH for a short time, then the curtain slips from her weak grasp and she lies motionless.]
Lear (continuing meanwhile):
Doff it ... (GORMFLAITH kisses him.) Enough ... (Kiss) Unless you do ... (Kiss) my will ... (Kiss) I shall——(Kiss) I shall——(Kiss) I'll have you ... (Kiss) sent ... (Kiss) to ...(Kiss.)
Come to the garden: you shall hear me there.
I dare not leave the Queen ... Yes, yes, I come.
No, you are better here: the guard would see you.
Not when we reach the pathway near the apple-yard.
Girl, you are changed: you yield more beauty so.
[They go out hand in hand by the doorway at the back. As they pass the crumpled letter GORMFLAITH drops her handkerchief on it, then picks up handkerchief and letter together and thrusts them into her bosom as she passes out.]
Hygd (fingering back the bed-curtain again):
How have they vanished? What are they doing now?
Gormflaith (singing outside):
If you have a mind to kiss me You shall kiss me in the dark: Yet rehearse, or you might miss me— Make my mouth your noontide mark. See, I prim and pout it so; Now take aim and ... No, no, no. Shut your eyes, or you'll not learn Where the darkness soon shall hide me: If you will not, then, in turn, I'll shut mine. Come, have you spied me?
[GORMFLAITH'S voice grows fainter as the song closes.]
Does he remember love-ways used with me? Shall I never know? Is it too near? I'll watch him at his wooing once again, Though I peer up at him across my grave-sill.
[She gets out of bed and takes several steps toward the garden doorway; she totters and sways, then, turning, stumbles back to the bed for support.]
Limbs, will you die? It is not yet the time. I know more discipline: I'll make you go.
[She fumbles along the bed to the head, then, clinging against the wall, drags herself toward the back of the room.]
It is too far. I cannot see the wall. I will go ten more steps: only ten more. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Sundown is soon to-day: it is cold and dark. Now ten steps more, and much will have been done. One. Two. Three. Four. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Sixteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-three. Twenty-eight. Thirty. Thirty-one. At last the turn. Thirty-six. Thirty-nine. Forty. Now only once again. Two. Three. What do the voices say? I hear too many. The door: but here there is no garden ... Ah!
[She holds herself up an instant by the door-curtains; then she reels and falls, her body in the room, her head and shoulders beyond the curtains.]
[GONERIL enters by the door beyond the bed, carrying the filled cup carefully in both hands.]
Where are you? What have you done? Speak to me.
[Turning and seeing HYGD, she lets the cup fall and leaps to the open door by the bed.]
Merryn, hither, hither ... Mother, O mother!
[She goes to HYGD. MERRYN enters.]
Princess, what has she done? Who has left her? She must have been alone.
Where is Gormflaith?
Mercy o' mercies, everybody asks me For Gormflaith, then for Gormflaith, then for Gormflaith, And I ask everybody else for her; But she is nowhere, and the King will foam. Send me no more; I am old with running about After a bodiless name.
She has been here, And she has left the Queen. This is her deed.
Ah, cruel, cruel! The shame, the pity—
[Together they raise HYGD, and carry her to bed.]
She breathes, but something flitters under her flesh: Wynoc the leech must help us now. Go, run, Seek him, and come back quickly, and do not dare To come without him.
It is useless, lady: There's fever at the cowherd's in the marsh, And Wynoc broods above it twice a day, And I have lately seen him hobble thither.
I never heard such scornful wickedness As that a king's physician so should choose To watch and even heal base men and poor— And, more than all, when there's a queen a-dying ...
Hygd (recovering consciousness):
Whence come you, dearest daughter? What have I done? Are you a dream? I thought I was alone. Have you been hunting on the Windy Height? Your hands are not thus gentle after hunting. Or have I heard you singing through my sleep? Stay with me now: I have had piercing thoughts Of what the ways of life will do to you To mould and maim you, and I have a power To bring these to expression that I knew not. Why do you wear my crown? Why do you wear My crown I say? Why do you wear my crown? I am falling, falling! Lift me: hold me up.
[GONERIL climbs on the bed and supports HYGD against her shoulder.]
It is the bed that breaks, for still I sink. Grip harder: I am slipping!
[MERRYN hurries round to the front of the bed and supports HYGD on her other side. HYGD points at the far corner of the room.]
Why is the King's mother standing there? She should not wear her crown before me now. Send her away, she had a savage mind. Will you not hang a shawl across the corner So that she cannot stare at me again?
[With a rending sob she buries her face in GONERIL'S bosom.]
Ah, she is coming! Do not let her touch me! Brave splendid daughter, how easily you save me: But soon will Gormflaith come, she stays for ever. O, will she bring my crown to me once more? Yes, Gormflaith, yes ... Daughter, pay Gormflaith well.
Gormflaith has left you lonely: 'Tis Gormflaith who shall pay.
No, Gormflaith; Gormflaith ... Not my loneliness ... Everything ... Pay Gormflaith ...
[Her head falls back over GONERIL'S shoulder and she dies.]
Goneril (laying Hygd down in bed again):
Send horsemen to the marshes for the leech, And let them bind him on a horse's back And bring him swiftlier than an old man rides.
This is no leech's work: she's a dead woman. I'd best be finding if the wisdom-women Have come from Brita's child-bed to their drinking By the cook's fire, for soon she'll be past handling.
This is not death: death could not be like this. She is quite warm—though nothing moves in her. I did not know death could come all at once: If life is so ill-seated no one is safe. Cannot we leave her like herself awhile? Wait awhile, Merryn ... No, no, no; not yet!
Child, she is gone and will not come again However we cover our faces and pretend She will be there if we uncover them. I must be hasty, or she'll be as stiff As a straw mattress is.
[She hurries out by the door near the bed.]
Goneril (throwing the whole length of her body along Hygd's body, and embracing it):
Come back, come back; the things I have not done Beat in upon my brain from every side: I know not where to put myself to bear them: If I could have you now I could act well. My inward life, deeds that you have not known, I burn to tell you in a sudden dread That now your ghost discovers them in me. Hearken, mother; between us there's a bond Of flesh and essence closer than love can cause: It cannot be unknit so soon as this, And you must know my touch, And you shall yield a sign. Feel, feel this urging throb: I call to you ...
[GORMFLAITH, still crowned, enters by the garden doorway.]
Come back! Help me and shield me!
[She disappears through the curtains. GONERIL has sprung to her feet at the first sound of GORMFLAITH'S voice.
LEAR enters through the garden doorway, leading GORMFLAITH by the hand.]
Lear: What is to do?
Goneril (advancing to meet them with a deep obeisance):
O, Sir, the Queen is dead: long live the Queen, You have been ready with the coronation.
What do you mean? Young madam, will you mock?
But is not she your choice? The old Queen thought so, for I found her here, Lipping the prints of her supplanter's feet, Prostrate in homage, on her face, silent. I tremble within to have seen her fallen down. I must be pardoned if I scorn your ways: You cannot know this feeling that I know, You are not of her kin or house; but I Share blood with her, and, though she grew too worn To be your Queen, she was my mother, Sir.
The Queen has seen me.
She is safe in bed.
Do not speak low: your voice sounds guilty so; And there is no more need—she will not wake.
She cannot sleep for ever. When she wakes I will announce my purpose in the need Of Britain for a prince to follow me, And tell her that she is to be deposed ... What have you done? She is not breathing now. She breathed here lately. Is she truly dead?
Your graceful consort steals from us too soon: Will you not tell her that she should remain— If she can trust the faith you keep with a queen?
[She steps to GORMFLAITH, who is sidling toward the garden door-way, and, taking her hand, leads her to the foot of the bed.]
Lady, why will you go? The King intends That you shall soon be royal, and thereby Admitted to our breed: then stay with us In this domestic privacy to mourn The grief here fallen on our family. Kneel now; I yield the eldest daughter's place. Why do you fumble in your bosom so? Put your cold hands together; close your eyes, In inward isolation to assemble Your memories of the dead, your prayers for her.
[She turns to LEAR, who has approached the bed and drawn back the curtain.]
What utterance of doom would the king use Upon a watchman in the castle garth Who left his gate and let an enemy in? The watcher by the Queen thus left her station: The sick bruised Queen is dead of that neglect. And what should be the doom on a seducer Who drew that sentinel from his fixt watch?
She had long been dying, and she would have died Had all her dutiful daughters tended her bed.
Yes, she had long been dying in her heart. She lived to see you give her crown away; She died to see you fondle a menial: These blows you dealt now, but what elder wounds Received them to such purpose suddenly? What had you caused her to remember most? What things would she be like to babble over In the wild helpless hour when fitful life No more can choose what thoughts it shall encourage In the tost mind? She has suffered you twice over, Your animal thoughts and hungry powers, this day, Until I knew you unkingly and untrue.
Punishment once taught you daughterly silence; It shall be tried again ... What has she said?
You cannot touch me now I know your nature: Your force upon my mind was only terrible When I believed you a cruel flawless man. Ruler of lands and dreaded judge of men, Now you have done a murder with your mind Can you see any murderer put to death? Can you—
What has she said?
Continue in your joy of punishing evil, Your passion of just revenge upon wrong-doers, Unkingly and untrue?
Enough: what do you know?
That which could add a further agony To the last agony, the daily poison Of her late, withering life; but never word Of fairer hours or any lost delight. Have you no memory, either, of her youth, While she was still to use, spoil, forsake, That maims your new contentment with a longing For what is gone and will not come again?
I did not know that she could die to-day. She had a bloodless beauty that cheated me: She was not born for wedlock. She shut me out. She is no colder now ... I'll hear no more. You shall be answered afterward for this. Put something over her: get her buried: I will not look on her again.
[He breaks from GONERIL and flings abruptly out by the door near the bed.]
My king, you leave me!
Soon we follow him: But, ah, poor fragile beauty, you cannot rise While this grave burden weights your drooping head.
[Laying her hand caressingly on GORMFLAITH'S neck, she gradually forces her head farther and farther down.]
You were not nurtured to sustain a crown, Your unanointed parents could not breed The spirit that ten hundred years must ripen. Lo, how you sink and fail.
You had best take care, For where my neck has bruises yours shall have wounds. The King knows of your wolfish snapping at me: He will protect me.
Ay, if he is in time.
Gormflaith (taking off the crown and holding it up blindly toward Goneril with one hand):
Take it and let me go!
Nay, not to me: You are the Queen's, to serve her even in death. Yield her her own. Approach her: do not fear; She will not chide you or forgive you now. Go on your knees; the crown still holds you down.
[GORMFLAITH stumbles forward on her knees and lays the crown on the bed, then crouches motionlessly against the bedside.]
Goneril (taking the crown and putting it on the dead Queen's head):
Mother and Queen, to you this holiest circlet Returns, by you renews its purpose and pride; Though it is sullied with a menial warmth, Your august coldness shall rehallow it, And when the young lewd blood that lent it heat Is also cooler we can well forget.
[She steps to GORMFLAITH.]
Rise. Come, for here there is no more to do, And let us seek your chamber, if you will, There to confer in greater privacy; For we have now interment to prepare.
[She leads GORMFLAITH to the door near the bed.]
You must walk first, you are still the Queen elect.
[When GORMFLAITH has passed before her GONERIL unsheathes her hunting knife.]
Gormflaith (turning in the doorway):
What will you do?
Goneril (thrusting her forward with the haft of the knife):
On. On. On. Go in.
[She follows GORMFLAITH out. After a moment's interval two elderly women, one a little younger than the other, enter by the same door: they wear black hoods and shapeless black gowns with large sleeves that flap like the wings of ungainly birds: between them they carry a heavy cauldron of hot water.]
The Younger Woman:
We were listening. We were listening.
The Elder Woman:
We were both listening.
The Younger Woman:
Did she struggle?
The Elder Woman:
She could not struggle long.
[They set down the cauldron at the foot of the bed.]
The Elder Woman (curtseying to the Queen's body):
Saving your presence, Madam, we are come To make you sweeter than you'll be hereafter, And then be done with you.
The Younger Woman (curtseying in turn):
Three days together, my Lady, y'have had me ducked For easing a foolish maid at the wrong time; But now your breath is stopped and you are colder, And you shall be as wet as a drowned rat Ere I have done with you.
The Elder Woman (fumbling in the folds of the robe that hangs on the wall):
Her pocket is empty; Merryn has been here first. Hearken, and then begin: You have not touched a royal corpse before, But I have stretched a king and an old queen, A king's aunt and a king's brother too, Without much boasting of a still-born princess; So that I know, as a priest knows his prayers, All that is written in the chamberlain's book About the handling of exalted corpses, Stripping them and trussing them for the grave: And there it says that the chief corpse-washer Shall take for her own use by sacred right The coverlid, the upper sheet, the mattress Of any bed in which a queen has died, And the last robe of state the body wore; While humbler helpers may divide among them The under sheet, the pillow, and the bed-gown Stript from the cooling queen. Be thankful, then, and praise me every day That I have brought no other women with me To spoil you of your share.
The Younger Woman:
Ah, you have always been a friend to me: Many's the time I have said I did not know How I could even have lived but for your kindness.
[The ELDER WOMAN draws down the bedclothes from the Queen's body, loosens them from the bed, and throws them on the floor.]
The Elder Woman:
Pull her feet straight: is your mind wandering?
[She commences to fold the bedclothes, singing as she moves about.]
A louse crept out of my lady's shift— Ahumm, Ahumm, Ahee— Crying "Oi! Oi! We are turned adrift; The lady's bosom is cold and stiffed, And her arm-pit's cold for me."
[While the ELDER WOMAN sings, the YOUNGER WOMAN straightens the Queen's feet and ties them together, draws the pillow from under her head, gathers her hair in one hand and knots it roughly; then she loosens her nightgown, revealing a jewel hung on a cord round the Queen's neck.]
The Elder Woman (running to the vacant side of the bed):
What have you there? Give it to me.
The Younger Woman:
It is mine: I found it.
The Elder Woman:
The Younger Woman:
The Elder Woman:
Leave it, I say. Will you not? Will you not? An eye for a jewel, then!
[She attacks the face of the YOUNGER WOMAN with her disengaged hand.]
The Younger Woman (starting back):
[The ELDER WOMAN breaks the cord and thrusts the jewel into her pocket.]
The Younger Woman:
Aie! Aie! Aie! Old thief! You are always thieving! You stole a necklace on your wedding day: You could not bear a child, you stole your daughter: You stole a shroud the morn your husband died: Last week you stole the Princess Regan's comb ...
[She stumbles into the chair by the bed, and, throwing her loose sleeves over her head, rocks herself and moans.]
The Elder Woman (resuming her clothes-folding and her song):
"The lady's linen's no longer neat;"— Ahumm, Ahumm, Ahee— "Her savour is neither warm nor sweet; It's close for two in a winding sheet, And lice are too good for worms to eat; So here's no place for me."
[GONERIL enters by the door near the bed: her knife and the hand that holds it are bloody. She pauses a moment irresolutely.]
The Elder Woman:
Still work for old Hrogneda, little Princess?
[GONERIL goes straight to the cauldron, passing the women as if they were not there: she kneels and washes her knife and her hand in it. The women retire to the back of the chamber.]
Goneril (speaking to herself):
The way is easy: and it is to be used. How could this need have been conceived slowly? In a keen mind it should have leapt and burnt: What I have done would have been better done When my sad mother lived and could feel joy. This striking without thought is better than hunting; She showed more terror than an animal, She was more shiftless ... A little blood is lightly washed away, A common stain that need not be remembered; And a hot spasm of rightness quickly born Can guide me to kill justly and shall guide.
[LEAR enters by the door near the bed.]
Goneril, Gormflaith, Gormflaith ... Have you seen Gormflaith?
I led her to her chamber lately, Sir.
Ay, she is in her chamber. She is there.
Have you been there already? Could you not wait?
Daughter, she is bleeding: she is slain.
Goneril (rising from the cauldron with dripping hands):
Yes, she is slain: I did it with a knife: And in this water is dissolved her blood,
(Raising her arms and sprinkling the Queen's body)
That now I scatter on the Queen of death For signal to her spirit that I can slake Her long corrosion of misery with such balm— Blood for weeping, terror for woe, death for death, A broken body for a broken heart. What will you say against me and my deed?
That now you cannot save yourself from me. While your blind virgin power still stood apart In an unused, unviolated life, You judged me in my weakness, and because I felt you unflawed I could not answer you; But you have mingled in mortality And violently begun the common life By fault against your fellows; and the state, The state of Britain that inheres in me Not touched by my humanity or sin, Passions or privy acts, shall be as hard And savage to you as to a murderess.
Goneril (taking a letter from her girdle):
I found a warrant in her favoured bosom, King: She wore this on her heart when you were crowning her.
But this is not my hand:
(Looking about him on the floor)
Where is the other letter?
Is there another letter? What should it say?
There is no other letter if you have none. (Reading) "Open your window when the moon is dead, And I will come again. The men say everywhere that you are faithless ... And your eyes shifty eyes. Ah, but I love you, Gormflaith." ... This is not hers: she'd not receive such words.
Her name stands twice therein: her perfume fills it: My knife went through it ere I found it on her.
The filth is suitably dead. You are my true daughter.
I do not understand how men can govern, Use craft and exercise the duty of cunning, Anticipate treason, treachery meet with treachery, And yet believe a woman because she looks Straight in their eyes with mournful, trustful gaze, And lisps like innocence, all gentleness. Your Gormflaith could not answer a woman's eyes. I did not need to read her in a letter; I am not woman yet, but I can feel What untruths are instinctive in my kind, And how some men desire deceit from us. Come; let these washers do what they must do: Or shall your Queen be wrapped and coffined awry?
[She goes out by the garden doorway.]
I thought she had been broken long ago: She must be wedded and broken, I cannot do it.
[He follows GONERIL out. The two women return to the bedside.]
The Elder Woman:
Poor, masterful King, he is no easier, Although his tearful wife is gone at last: A wilful girl shall prick and thwart him now. Old gossip, we must hasten; the Queen is setting. Lend me a pair of pennies to weight her eyes.
The Younger Woman:
Find your own pennies: then you can steal them safely.
The Elder Woman:
Praise you the gods of Britain, as I do praise them, That I have been sweet-natured from my birth, And that I lack your unforgiving mind. Friend of the worms, help me to lift her clear And draw away the under sheet for you; Then go and spread the shroud by the hall fire— I never could put damp linen on a corpse.
The louse made off unhappy and wet;— Ahumm, Ahumm, Ahee— He's looking for us, the little pet; So haste, for her chin's to tie up yet, And let us be gone with what we can get— Her ring for thee, her gown for Bet, Her pocket turned out for me.
[Footnote 1: Copyright by Gordon Bottomley, 1915, in the United States of America.]
* * * * *
Mamua, when our laughter ends, And hearts and bodies, brown as white, Are dust about the doors of friends, Or scent ablowing down the night, Then, oh! then, the wise agree, Comes our immortality. Mamua, there waits a land Hard for us to understand. Out of time, beyond the sun, All are one in Paradise, You and Pupure are one, And Tau, and the ungainly wise. There the Eternals are, and there The Good, the Lovely, and the True, And Types, whose earthly copies were The foolish broken things we knew; There is the Face, whose ghosts we are; The real, the never-setting Star; And the Flower, of which we love Faint and fading shadows here; Never a tear, but only Grief; Dance, but not the limbs that move; Songs in Song shall disappear; Instead of lovers, Love shall be; For hearts, Immutability; And there, on the Ideal Reef, Thunders the Everlasting Sea!
And my laughter, and my pain, Shall home to the Eternal Brain; And all lovely things, they say, Meet in Loveliness again; Miri's laugh, Teipo's feet, And the hands of Matua, Stars and sunlight there shall meet, Coral's hues and rainbows there, And Teilra's braided hair; And with the starred 'tiare's' white, And white birds in the dark ravine, And 'flamboyants' ablaze at night, And jewels, and evening's after-green, And dawns of pearl and gold and red, Mamua, your lovelier head! And there'll no more be one who dreams Under the ferns, of crumbling stuff, Eyes of illusion, mouth that seems, All time-entangled human love. And you'll no longer swing and sway Divinely down the scented shade, Where feet to Ambulation fade, And moons are lost in endless Day. How shall we wind these wreaths of ours, Where there are neither heads nor flowers? Oh, Heaven's Heaven!—but we'll be missing The palms, and sunlight, and the south; And there's an end, I think, of kissing, When our mouths are one with Mouth ...
'Tau here', Mamua, Crown the hair, and come away! Hear the calling of the moon, And the whispering scents that stray About the idle warm lagoon. Hasten, hand in human hand, Down the dark, the flowered way, Along the whiteness of the sand, And in the water's soft caress, Wash the mind of foolishness, Mamua, until the day. Spend the glittering moonlight there Pursuing down the soundless deep Limbs that gleam and shadowy hair, Or floating lazy, half-asleep. Dive and double and follow after, Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call, With lips that fade, and human laughter, And faces individual, Well this side of Paradise! ... There's little comfort in the wise.
THE GREAT LOVER
I have been so great a lover: filled my days So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise, The pain, the calm, and the astonishment, Desire illimitable, and still content, And all dear names men use, to cheat despair, For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear Our hearts at random down the dark of life. Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far, My night shall be remembered for a star That outshone all the suns of all men's days. Shall I not crown them with immortal praise Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see The inenarrable godhead of delight? Love is a flame;—we have beaconed the world's night. A city:—and we have built it, these and I. An emperor:—we have taught the world to die. So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence, And the high cause of Love's magnificence, And to keep loyalties young, I'll write those names Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames, And set them as a banner, that men may know, To dare the generations, burn, and blow Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming ...
These I have loved: White plates and cups, clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust; Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food; Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood; And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers; And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours, Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon; Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen Unpassioned beauty of a great machine; The benison of hot water; furs to touch; The good smell of old clothes; and other such— The comfortable smell of friendly fingers, Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers About dead leaves and last year's ferns ... Dear names, And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames; Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring; Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing; Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain, Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train; Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home; And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould; Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew; And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new; And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;— All these have been my loves. And these shall pass, Whatever passes not, in the great hour, Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power To hold them with me through the gate of Death. They'll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath, Break the high bond we made, and sell Love's trust And sacramented covenant to the dust. —Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake, And give what's left of love again, and make New friends, now strangers... But the best I've known, Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown About the winds of the world, and fades from brains Of living men, and dies. Nothing remains.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again This one last gift I give: that after men Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed, Praise you, 'All these were lovely'; say, 'He loved.'
BEAUTY AND BEAUTY
When Beauty and Beauty meet All naked, fair to fair, The earth is crying-sweet, And scattering-bright the air, Eddying, dizzying, closing round, With soft and drunken laughter; Veiling all that may befall After—after—
Where Beauty and Beauty met, Earth's still a-tremble there, And winds are scented yet, And memory-soft the air, Bosoming, folding glints of light, And shreds of shadowy laughter; Not the tears that fill the years After—after—
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June, Dawdling away their wat'ry noon) Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear, Each secret fishy hope or fear. Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond; But is there anything Beyond? This life cannot be All, they swear, For how unpleasant, if it were! One may not doubt that, somehow, Good Shall come of Water and of Mud; And, sure, the reverent eye must see A Purpose in Liquidity. We darkly know, by Faith we cry, The future is not Wholly Dry. Mud unto mud!—Death eddies near— Not here the appointed End, not here! But somewhere, beyond Space and Time, Is wetter water, slimier slime! And there (they trust) there swimmeth One Who swam ere rivers were begun, Immense, of fishy form and mind, Squamous, omnipotent, and kind; And under that Almighty Fin, The littlest fish may enter in. Oh! never fly conceals a hook, Fish say, in the Eternal Brook, But more than mundane weeds are there, And mud, celestially fair; Fat caterpillars drift around, And Paradisal grubs are found; Unfading moths, immortal flies, And the worm that never dies. And in that Heaven of all their wish, There shall be no more land, say fish.
Down the blue night the unending columns press In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow, Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness. Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless, And turn with profound gesture vague and slow, As who would pray good for the world, but know Their benediction empty as they bless.
They say that the Dead die not, but remain Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth. I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these, In wise majestic melancholy train, And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas, And men, coming and going on the earth.
(Suggested by some of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research)
Not with vain tears, when we're beyond the sun, We'll beat on the substantial doors, nor tread Those dusty high-roads of the aimless dead Plaintive for Earth; but rather turn and run Down some close-covered by-way of the air, Some low sweet alley between wind and wind, Stoop under faint gleams, thread the shadows, find Some whispering ghost-forgotten nook, and there
Spend in pure converse our eternal day; Think each in each, immediately wise; Learn all we lacked before; hear, know, and say What this tumultuous body now denies; And feel, who have laid our groping hands away; And see, no longer blinded by our eyes.
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
My mind has thunderstorms, That brood for heavy hours: Until they rain me words, My thoughts are drooping flowers And sulking, silent birds.
Yet come, dark thunderstorms, And brood your heavy hours; For when you rain me words My thoughts are dancing flowers And joyful singing birds.
THE MIND'S LIBERTY
The mind, with its own eyes and ears, May for these others have no care; No matter where this body is, The mind is free to go elsewhere. My mind can be a sailor, when This body's still confined to land; And turn these mortals into trees, That walk in Fleet Street or the Strand.
So, when I'm passing Charing Cross, Where porters work both night and day, I ofttimes hear sweet Malpas Brook, That flows thrice fifty miles away. And when I'm passing near St Paul's, I see, beyond the dome and crowd, Twm Barlum, that green pap in Gwent, With its dark nipple in a cloud.
Thy beauty haunts me heart and soul, Oh thou fair Moon, so close and bright; Thy beauty makes me like the child That cries aloud to own thy light: The little child that lifts each arm To press thee to her bosom warm.
Though there are birds that sing this night With thy white beams across their throats, Let my deep silence speak for me More than for them their sweetest notes: Who worships thee till music fails, Is greater than thy nightingales.
WHEN ON A SUMMER'S MORN
When on a summer's morn I wake, And open my two eyes, Out to the clear, born-singing rills My bird-like spirit flies,
To hear the Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush, Or any bird in song; And common leaves that hum all day, Without a throat or tongue.
And when Time strikes the hour for sleep, Back in my room alone, My heart has many a sweet bird's song— And one that's all my own.
A GREAT TIME
Sweet Chance, that led my steps abroad, Beyond the town, where wild flowers grow— A rainbow and a cuckoo, Lord, How rich and great the times are now! Know, all ye sheep And cows, that keep On staring that I stand so long In grass that's wet from heavy rain— A rainbow and a cuckoo's song May never come together again; May never come This side the tomb.
Thou dost not fly, thou art not perched, The air is all around: What is it that can keep thee set, From falling to the ground? The concentration of thy mind Supports thee in the air; As thou dost watch the small young birds, With such a deadly care.
My mind has such a hawk as thou, It is an evil mood; It comes when there's no cause for grief, And on my joys doth brood. Then do I see my life in parts; The earth receives my bones, The common air absorbs my mind— It knows not flowers from stones.
Sweet Stay-at-Home, sweet Well-content, Thou knowest of no strange continent: Thou hast not felt thy bosom keep A gentle motion with the deep; Thou hast not sailed in Indian seas, Where scent comes forth in every breeze. Thou hast not seen the rich grape grow For miles, as far as eyes can go; Thou hast not seen a summer's night When maids could sew by a worm's light; Nor the North Sea in spring send out Bright hues that like birds flit about In solid cages of white ice— Sweet Stay-at-Home, sweet Love-one-place. Thou hast not seen black fingers pick White cotton when the bloom is thick, Nor heard black throats in harmony; Nor hast thou sat on stones that lie Flat on the earth, that once did rise To hide proud kings from common eyes. Thou hast not seen plains full of bloom Where green things had such little room They pleased the eye like fairer flowers— Sweet Stay-at-Home, all these long hours. Sweet Well-content, sweet Love-one-place, Sweet, simple maid, bless thy dear face; For thou hast made more homely stuff Nurture thy gentle self enough; I love thee for a heart that's kind— Not for the knowledge in thy mind.
A FLEETING PASSION
Thou shalt not laugh, thou shalt not romp, Let's grimly kiss with bated breath; As quietly and solemnly As Life when it is kissing Death. Now in the silence of the grave, My hand is squeezing that soft breast; While thou dost in such passion lie, It mocks me with its look of rest.
But when the morning comes at last, And we must part, our passions cold, You'll think of some new feather, scarf To buy with my small piece of gold; And I'll be dreaming of green lanes, Where little things with beating hearts Hold shining eyes between the leaves, Till men with horses pass, and carts.
THE BIRD OF PARADISE
Here comes Kate Summers, who, for gold, Takes any man to bed: "You knew my friend, Nell Barnes," she said; "You knew Nell Barnes—she's dead.
"Nell Barnes was bad on all you men, Unclean, a thief as well; Yet all my life I have not found A better friend than Nell.
"So I sat at her side at last, For hours, till she was dead; And yet she had no sense at all Of any word I said.
"For all her cry but came to this— 'Not for the world! Take care: Don't touch that bird of paradise, Perched on the bed-post there!'
"I asked her would she like some grapes, Some damsons ripe and sweet; A custard made with new-laid eggs, Or tender fowl to eat.
"I promised I would follow her, To see her in her grave; And buy a wreath with borrowed pence, If nothing I could save.
"Yet still her cry but came to this— 'Not for the world! Take care: Don't touch that bird of paradise, Perched on the bed-post there!'"
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
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 dream 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; And from Time's woods break into distant song The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.
Wide are the meadows of night, And daisies are shining there, Tossing their lovely dews, Lustrous and fair; And through these sweet fields go, Wanderers amid the stars— Venus, Mercury, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars.
'Tired in their silver, they move, And circling, whisper and say, Fair are the blossoming meads of delight Through which we stray.
Three and thirty birds there stood In an elder in a wood; Called Melmillo—flew off three, Leaving thirty in the tree; Called Melmillo—nine now gone, And the boughs held twenty-one; Called Melmillo—and eighteen Left but three to nod and preen; Called Melmillo—three—two—one— Now of birds were feathers none.
Then stole slim Melmillo in To that wood all dusk and green, And with lean long palms outspread Softly a strange dance did tread; Not a note of music she Had for echoing company; All the birds were flown to rest In the hollow of her breast; In the wood—thorn, elder, willow— Danced alone—lone danced Melmillo.
It was the Great Alexander, Capped with a golden helm, Sate in the ages, in his floating ship, In a dead calm.
Voices of sea-maids singing Wandered across the deep: The sailors labouring on their oars Rowed as in sleep.
All the high pomp of Asia, Charmed by that siren lay, Out of their weary and dreaming minds Faded away.
Like a bold boy sate their Captain, His glamour withered and gone, In the souls of his brooding manners, While the song pined on.
Time like a falling dew, Life like the scene of a dream Laid between slumber and slumber Only did seem ...
O Alexander, then, In all us mortals too, Wax not so overbold On the wave dark-blue!
Come the calm starry night, Who then will hear Aught save the singing Of the sea-maids clear?
THE MOCKING FAIRY
'Won't you look out of your window, Mrs Gill?' Quoth the Fairy, nidding, nodding in the garden; 'CAN'T you look out of your window, Mrs Gill?' Quoth the Fairy, laughing softly in the garden; But the air was still, the cherry boughs were still, And the ivy-tod 'neath the empty sill, And never from her window looked out Mrs Gill On the Fairy shrilly mocking in the garden.
'What have they done with you, you poor Mrs Gill?' Quoth the Fairy brightly glancing in the garden; 'Where have they hidden you, you poor old Mrs Gill?' Quoth the Fairy dancing lightly in the garden; But night's faint veil now wrapped the hill, Stark 'neath the stars stood the dead-still Mill, And out of her cold cottage never answered Mrs Gill The Fairy mimbling mambling in the garden.
One night as Dick lay half asleep, Into his drowsy eyes A great still light began to creep From out the silent skies. It was the lovely moon's, for when He raised his dreamy head, Her surge of silver filled the pane And streamed across his bed. So, for awhile, each gazed at each— Dick and the solemn moon— Till, climbing slowly on her way, She vanished, and was gone.
OFF THE GROUND
Three jolly Farmers Once bet a pound Each dance the others would Off the ground. Out of their coats They slipped right soon, And neat and nicesome Put each his shoon. One—Two—Three! And away they go, Not too fast, And not too slow; Out from the elm-tree's Noonday shadow, Into the sun And across the meadow. Past the schoolroom, With knees well bent, Fingers a-flicking, They dancing went. Up sides and over, And round and round, They crossed click-clacking The Parish bound; By Tupman's meadow They did their mile, Tee-to-tum On a three-barred stile. Then straight through Whipham, Downhill to Week, Footing it lightsome, But not too quick, Up fields to Watchet, And on through Wye, Till seven fine churches They'd seen skip by— Seven fine churches, And five old mills, Farms in the valley, And sheep on the hills; Old Man's Acre And Dead Man's Pool All left behind, As they danced through Wool. And Wool gone by, Like tops that seem To spin in sleep They danced in dream: Withy—Wellover— Wassop—Wo— Like an old clock Their heels did go. A league and a league And a league they went, And not one weary, And not one spent. And lo, and behold! Past Willow-cum-Leigh Stretched with its waters The great green sea. Says Farmer Bates, 'I puffs and I blows, What's under the water, Why, no man knows!' Says Farmer Giles, 'My mind comes weak, And a good man drowned Is far to seek.' But Farmer Turvey, On twirling toes, Up's with his gaiters, And in he goes: Down where the mermaids Pluck and play On their twangling harps In a sea-green day; Down where the mermaids, Finned and fair, Sleek with their combs Their yellow hair ... Bates and Giles— On the shingle sat, Gazing at Turvey's Floating hat. But never a ripple Nor bubble told Where he was supping Off plates of gold. Never an echo Rilled through the sea Of the feasting and dancing And minstrelsy. They called—called—called: Came no reply: Nought but the ripples' Sandy sigh. Then glum and silent They sat instead, Vacantly brooding On home and bed, Till both together Stood up and said:— 'Us knows not, dreams not, Where you be, Turvey, unless In the deep blue sea; But axcusing silver— And it comes most willing— Here's us two paying Our forty shilling; For it's sartin sure, Turvey, Safe and sound, You danced us square, Turvey, Off the ground!'
* * * * *
A TOWN WINDOW
Beyond my window in the night Is but a drab inglorious street, Yet there the frost and clean starlight As over Warwick woods are sweet.
Under the grey drift of the town The crocus works among the mould As eagerly as those that crown The Warwick spring in flame and gold.
And when the tramway down the hill Across the cobbles moans and rings, There is about my window-sill The tumult of a thousand wings.
(To those who live there)
For peace, than knowledge more desirable, Into your Sussex quietness I came, When summer's green and gold and azure fell Over the world in flame.
And peace upon your pasture-lands I found, Where grazing flocks drift on continually, As little clouds that travel with no sound Across a windless sky.
Out of your oaks the birds call to their mates That brood among the pines, where hidden deep From curious eyes a world's adventure waits In columned choirs of sleep.
Under the calm ascension of the night We heard the mellow lapsing and return Of night-owls purring in their groundling flight Through lanes of darkling fern.
Unbroken peace when all the stars were drawn Back to their lairs of light, and ranked along From shire to shire the downs out of the dawn Were risen in golden song.
* * * * *
I sing of peace who have known the large unrest Of men bewildered in their travelling, And I have known the bridal earth unblest By the brigades of spring.
I have known that loss. And now the broken thought Of nations marketing in death I know, The very winds to threnodies are wrought That on your downlands blow.
I sing of peace. Was it but yesterday I came among your roses and your corn? Then momently amid this wrath I pray For yesterday reborn.
THE CARVER IN STONE
He was a man with wide and patient eyes, Grey, like the drift of twitch-fires blown in June, That, without fearing, searched if any wrong Might threaten from your heart. Grey eyes he had Under a brow was drawn because he knew So many seasons to so many pass Of upright service, loyal, unabased Before the world seducing, and so, barren Of good words praising and thought that mated his. He carved in stone. Out of his quiet life He watched as any faithful seaman charged With tidings of the myriad faring sea, And thoughts and premonitions through his mind Sailing as ships from strange and storied lands His hungry spirit held, till all they were Found living witness in the chiselled stone. Slowly out of the dark confusion, spread By life's innumerable venturings Over his brain, he would triumph into the light Of one clear mood, unblemished of the blind Legions of errant thought that cried about His rapt seclusion: as a pearl unsoiled, Nay, rather washed to lonelier chastity, In gritty mud. And then would come a bird, A flower, or the wind moving upon a flower, A beast at pasture, or a clustered fruit, A peasant face as were the saints of old, The leer of custom, or the bow of the moon Swung in miraculous poise—some stray from the world Of things created by the eternal mind In joy articulate. And his perfect mood Would dwell about the token of God's mood, Until in bird or flower or moving wind Or flock or shepherd or the troops of heaven It sprang in one fierce moment of desire To visible form. Then would his chisel work among the stone, Persuading it of petal or of limb Or starry curve, till risen anew there sang Shape out of chaos, and again the vision Of one mind single from the world was pressed Upon the daily custom of the sky Or field or the body of man. His people Had many gods for worship. The tiger-god, The owl, the dewlapped bull, the running pard, The camel, and the lizard of the slime, The ram with quivering fleece and fluted horn, The crested eagle and the doming bat Were sacred. And the king and his high priests Decreed a temple, wide on columns huge, Should top the cornlands to the sky's far line. They bade the carvers carve along the walls Images of their gods, each one to carve As he desired, his choice to name his god ... And many came; and he among them, glad Of three leagues' travel through the singing air Of dawn among the boughs yet bare of green, The eager flight of the spring leading his blood Into swift lofty channels of the air, Proud as an eagle riding to the sun ... An eagle, clean of pinion—there's his choice.
Daylong they worked under the growing roof, One at his leopard, one the staring ram, And he winning his eagle from the stone, Until each man had carved one image out, Arow beyond the portal of the house.
They stood arow, the company of gods, Camel and bat, lizard and bull and ram, The pard and owl, dead figures on the wall, Figures of habit driven on the stone By chisels governed by no heat of the brain But drudges of hands that moved by easy rule. Proudly recorded mood was none, no thought Plucked from the dark battalions of the mind And throned in everlasting sight. But one God of them all was witness of belief And large adventure dared. His eagle spread Wide pinions on a cloudless ground of heaven, Glad with the heart's high courage of that dawn Moving upon the ploughlands newly sown, Dead stone the rest. He looked, and knew it so.
Then came the king with priests and counsellors And many chosen of the people, wise With words weary of custom, and eyes askew That watched their neighbour face for any news Of the best way of judgment, till, each sure None would determine with authority, All spoke in prudent praise. One liked the owl Because an owl blinked on the beam of his barn. One, hoarse with crying gospels in the street, Praised most the ram, because the common folk Wore breeches made of ram's wool. One declared The tiger pleased him best,—the man who carved The tiger-god was halt out of the womb— A man to praise, being so pitiful. And one, whose eyes dwelt in a distant void, With spell and omen pat upon his lips, And a purse for any crystal prophet ripe, A zealot of the mist, gazed at the bull— A lean ill-shapen bull of meagre lines That scarce the steel had graved upon the stone— Saying that here was very mystery And truth, did men but know. And one there was Who praised his eagle, but remembering The lither pinion of the swift, the curve That liked him better of the mirrored swan. And they who carved the tiger-god and ram, The camel and the pard, the owl and bull, And lizard, listened greedily, and made Humble denial of their worthiness, And when the king his royal judgment gave That all had fashioned well, and bade that each Re-shape his chosen god along the walls Till all the temple boasted of their skill, They bowed themselves in token that as this Never had carvers been so fortunate.
Only the man with wide and patient eyes Made no denial, neither bowed his head. Already while they spoke his thoughts had gone Far from his eagle, leaving it for a sign Loyally wrought of one deep breath of life, And played about the image of a toad That crawled among his ivy leaves. A queer Puff-bellied toad, with eyes that always stared Sidelong at heaven and saw no heaven there, Weak-hammed, and with a throttle somehow twisted Beyond full wholesome draughts of air, and skin Of wrinkled lips, the only zest or will The little flashing tongue searching the leaves. And king and priest, chosen and counsellor, Babbling out of their thin and jealous brains, Seemed strangely one; a queer enormous toad Panting under giant leaves of dark, Sunk in the loins, peering into the day.
Their judgment wry he counted not for wrong More than the fabled poison of the toad Striking at simple wits; how should their thought Or word in praise or blame come near the peace That shone in seasonable hours above The patience of his spirit's husbandry? They foolish and not seeing, how should he Spend anger there or fear—great ceremonies Equal for none save great antagonists? The grave indifference of his heart before them Was moved by laughter innocent of hate, Chastising clean of spite, that moulded them Into the antic likeness of his toad Bidding for laughter underneath the leaves.
He bowed not, nor disputed, but he saw Those ill-created joyless gods, and loathed, And saw them creeping, creeping round the walls, Death breeding death, wile witnessing to wile, And sickened at the dull iniquity Should be rewarded, and for ever breathe Contagion on the folk gathered in prayer. His truth should not be doomed to march among This falsehood to the ages. He was called, And he must labour there; if so the king Would grant it, where the pillars bore the roof A galleried way of meditation nursed Secluded time, with wall of ready stone In panels for the carver set between The windows—there his chisel should be set,— It was his plea. And the king spoke of him, Scorning, as one lack-fettle, among all these Eager to take the riches of renown; One fearful of the light or knowing nothing Of light's dimension, a witling who would throw Honour aside and praise spoken aloud All men of heart should covet. Let him go Grubbing out of the sight of those who knew The worth of substance; there was his proper trade.
A squat and curious toad indeed ... The eyes, Patient and grey, were dumb as were the lips, That, fixed and governed, hoarded from them all The larger laughter lifting in his heart. Straightway about his gallery he moved, Measured the windows and the virgin stone, Till all was weighed and patterned in his brain. Then first where most the shadows struck the wall, Under the sills, and centre of the base, From floor to sill out of the stone was wooed Memorial folly, as from the chisel leapt His chastening laughter searching priest and king— Huge and wrinkled toad, with legs asplay, And belly loaded, leering with great eyes Busily fixed upon the void.
All days His chisel was the first to ring across The temple's quiet; and at fall of dusk Passing among the carvers homeward, they Would speak of him as mad, or weak against The challenge of the world, and let him go Lonely, as was his will, under the night Of stars or cloud or summer's folded sun, Through crop and wood and pasture-land to sleep. None took the narrow stair as wondering How did his chisel prosper in the stone, Unvisited his labour and forgot. And times when he would lean out of his height And watch the gods growing along the walls, The row of carvers in their linen coats Took in his vision a virtue that alone Carving they had not nor the thing they carved. Knowing the health that flowed about his close Imagining, the daily quiet won From process of his clean and supple craft, Those carvers there, far on the floor below, Would haply be transfigured in his thought Into a gallant company of men Glad of the strict and loyal reckoning That proved in the just presence of the brain Each chisel-stroke. How surely would he prosper In pleasant talk at easy hours with men So fashioned if it might be—and his eyes Would pass again to those dead gods that grew In spreading evil round the temple walls; And, one dead pressure made, the carvers moved Along the wall to mould and mould again The self-same god, their chisels on the stone Tapping in dull precision as before, And he would turn, back to his lonely truth.
He carved apace. And first his people's gods, About the toad, out of their sterile time, Under his hand thrilled and were recreate. The bull, the pard, the camel and the ram, Tiger and owl and bat—all were the signs Visibly made body on the stone Of sightless thought adventuring the host That is mere spirit; these the bloom achieved By secret labour in the flowing wood Of rain and air and wind and continent sun ... His tiger, lithe, immobile in the stone, A swift destruction for a moment leashed, Sprang crying from the jealous stealth of men Opposed in cunning watch, with engines hid Of torment and calamitous desire. His leopard, swift on lean and paltry limbs, Was fear in flight before accusing faith. His bull, with eyes that often in the dusk Would lift from the sweet meadow grass to watch Him homeward passing, bore on massy beam The burden of the patient of the earth. His camel bore the burden of the damned, Being gaunt, with eyes aslant along the nose. He had a friend, who hammered bronze and iron And cupped the moonstone on a silver ring, One constant like himself, would come at night Or bid him as a guest, when they would make Their poets touch a starrier height, or search Together with unparsimonious mind The crowded harbours of mortality. And there were jests, wholesome as harvest ale, Of homely habit, bred of hearts that dared Judgment of laughter under the eternal eye: This frolic wisdom was his carven owl. His ram was lordship on the lonely hills, Alert and fleet, content only to know The wind mightily pouring on his fleece, With yesterday and all unrisen suns Poorer than disinherited ghosts. His bat Was ancient envy made a mockery, Cowering below the newer eagle carved Above the arches with wide pinion spread, His faith's dominion of that happy dawn.
And so he wrought the gods upon the wall, Living and crying out of his desire, Out of his patient incorruptible thought, Wrought them in joy was wages to his faith. And other than the gods he made. The stalks Of bluebells heavy with the news of spring, The vine loaded with plenty of the year, And swallows, merely tenderness of thought Bidding the stone to small and fragile flight; Leaves, the thin relics of autumnal boughs, Or massed in June ... All from their native pressure bloomed and sprang Under his shaping hand into a proud And governed image of the central man,— Their moulding, charts of all his travelling. And all were deftly ordered, duly set Between the windows, underneath the sills, And roofward, as a motion rightly planned, Till on the wall, out of the sullen stone, A glory blazed, his vision manifest, His wonder captive. And he was content.
And when the builders and the carvers knew Their labours done, and high the temple stood Over the cornlands, king and counsellor And priest and chosen of the people came Among a ceremonial multitude To dedication. And, below the thrones Where king and archpriest ruled above the throng, Highest among the ranked artificers The carvers stood. And when, the temple vowed To holy use, tribute and choral praise Given as was ordained, the king looked down Upon the gathered folk, and bade them see The comely gods fashioned about the walls, And keep in honour men whose precious skill Could so adorn the sessions of their worship, Gravely the carvers bowed them to the ground. Only the man with wide and patient eyes Stood not among them; nor did any come To count his labour, where he watched alone Above the coloured throng. He heard, and looked Again upon his work, and knew it good, Smiled on his toad, passed down the stair unseen, And sang across the teeming meadows home.
* * * * *
JAMES ELROY FLECKER
THE OLD SHIPS
I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep Beyond the village which men still call Tyre, With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep For Famagusta and the hidden sun That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire; And all those ships were certainly so old— Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun, Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges, The pirate Genoese Hell-raked them till they rolled Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold. But now through friendly seas they softly run, Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green, Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.
But I have seen Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn And image tumbled on a rose-swept bay A drowsy ship of some yet older day; And, wonder's breath indrawn, Thought I—who knows—who knows—but in that same (Fished up beyond AEaea, patched up new —Stern painted brighter blue—) That talkative, bald-headed seaman came (Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar) From Troy's doom-crimson shore, And with great lies about his wooden horse Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.
It was so old a ship—who knows, who knows? —And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain To see the mast burst open with a rose, And the whole deck put on its leaves again.
O pouring westering streams Shouting that I have leapt the mountain bar, Down curve on curve my journey's white way gleams— My road along the river of return.
I know the countries where the white moons burn, And heavy star on star Dips on the pale and crystal desert hills. I know the river of the sun that fills With founts of gold the lakes of Orient sky.
* * * * *
And I have heard a voice of broken seas And from the cliffs a cry. Ah still they learn, those cave-eared Cyclades, The Triton's friendly or his fearful horn, And why the deep sea-bells but seldom chime, And how those waves and with what spell-swept rhyme In years of morning, on a summer's morn Whispering round his castle on the coast, Lured young Achilles from his haunted sleep And drave him out to dive beyond those deep Dim purple windows of the empty swell, His ivory body flitting like a ghost Over the holes where flat blind fishes dwell, All to embrace his mother throned in her shell.
(A Legend of the AEgean)
'Who are you, Sea Lady, And where in the seas are we? I have too long been steering By the flashes in your eyes. Why drops the moonlight through my heart, And why so quietly Go the great engines of my boat As if their souls were free?' 'Oh ask me not, bold sailor; Is not your ship a magic ship That sails without a sail: Are not these isles the Isles of Greece And dust upon the sea? But answer me three questions And give me answers three. What is your ship?" 'A British.' 'And where may Britain be?' 'Oh it lies north, dear lady; It is a small country.' 'Yet you will know my lover, Though you live far away: And you will whisper where he has gone, That lily boy to look upon And whiter than the spray.' 'How should I know your lover, Lady of the sea?' 'Alexander, Alexander, The King of the World was he.' 'Weep not for him, dear lady, But come aboard my ship. So many years ago he died, He's dead as dead can be.' 'O base and brutal sailor To lie this lie to me. His mother was the foam-foot Star-sparkling Aphrodite; His father was Adonis Who lives away in Lebanon, In stony Lebanon, where blooms His red anemone. But where is Alexander, The soldier Alexander, My golden love of olden days The King of the world and me?'
She sank into the moonlight And the sea was only sea.
How splendid in the morning glows the lily: with what grace he throws His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?
But when the silver dove descends I find the little flower of friends Whose very name that sweetly ends I say when I have said, Yasmin.
The morning light is clear and cold: I dare not in that light behold A whiter light, a deeper gold, a glory too far shed, Yasmin.
But when the deep red eye of day is level with the lone highway, And some to Mecca turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin;
Or when the wind beneath the moon is drifting like a soul aswoon, And harping planets talk love's tune with milky wings outspread, Yasmin,
Shower down thy love, O burning bright! For one night or the other night Will come the Gardener in white, and gathered flowers are dead, Yasmin.
GATES OF DAMASCUS
Four great gates has the city of Damascus, And four Grand Wardens, on their spears reclining, All day long stand like tall stone men And sleep on the towers when the moon is shining.
'This is the song of the East Gate Warden When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden'.
Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster's Cavern, Fort of Fear, The Portal of Bagdad am I, the Doorway of Diarbekir.
The Persian dawn with new desires may net the flushing mountain spires, But my gaunt buttress still rejects the suppliance of those mellow fires.
Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard That silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird?
Pass not beneath! Men say there blows in stony deserts still a rose But with no scarlet to her leaf—and from whose heart no perfume flows.
Wilt thou bloom red where she buds pale, thy sister rose? Wilt thou not fail When noonday flashes like a flail? Leave, nightingale, the Caravan!
Pass then, pass all! Bagdad! ye cry, and down the billows of blue sky Ye beat the bell that beats to hell, and who shall thrust ye back? Not I.
The Sun who flashes through the head and paints the shadows green and red— The Sun shall eat thy fleshless dead, O Caravan, O Caravan!
And one who licks his lips for thirst with fevered eyes shall face in fear The palms that wave, the streams that burst, his last mirage, O Caravan!
And one—the bird-voiced Singing-man—shall fall behind thee, Caravan! And God shall meet him in the night, and he shall sing as best he can.
And one the Bedouin shall slay, and one, sand-stricken on the way, Go dark and blind; and one shall say—'How lonely is the Caravan!'
Pass out beneath, O Caravan, Doom's Caravan, Death's Caravan! I had not told ye, fools, so much, save that I heard your Singing-man.
'This was sung by the West Gate's keeper When heaven's hollow dome grew deeper'.
I am the gate toward the sea: O sailor men, pass out from me! I hear you high on Lebanon, singing the marvels of the sea.
The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea, The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming sea.
Beyond the sea are towns with towers, carved with lions and lily flowers, And not a soul in all those lonely streets to while away the hours.
Beyond the towns, an isle where, bound, a naked giant bites the ground: The shadow of a monstrous wing looms on his back: and still no sound.
Beyond the isle a rock that screams like madmen shouting in their dreams, From whose dark issues night and day blood crashes in a thousand streams.
Beyond the rock is Restful Bay, where no wind breathes or ripple stirs, And there on Roman ships, they say, stand rows of metal mariners.
Beyond the bay in utmost West old Solomon the Jewish King Sits with his beard upon his breast, and grips and guards his magic ring:
And when that ring is stolen, he will rise in outraged majesty, And take the World upon his back, and fling the World beyond the sea.
'This is the song of the North Gate's master, Who singeth fast, but drinketh faster.'
I am the gay Aleppo Gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there: Eat not thy heart with fear and care, O brother of the beast we hate!
Thou hast not many miles to tread, nor other foes than fleas to dread; Homs shall behold thy morning meal, and Hama see thee safe in bed.
Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots, And coffee tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots:
And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers' price, And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice.
Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade: Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honourable Trade!
Sell them the rotten, buy the ripe! Their heads are weak; their pockets burn. Aleppo men are mighty fools. Salaam Aleikum! Safe return!
'This is the song of the South Gate Holder, A silver man, but his song is older.'
I am the Gate that fears no fall: the Mihrab of Damascus wall, The bridge of booming Sinai: the Arch of Allah all in all.
O spiritual pilgrim, rise: the night has grown her single horn: The voices of the souls unborn are half adream with Paradise.
To Meccah thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that burn: Ah, Hajji, whither wilt thou turn when thou art there, when thou art there?
God be thy guide from camp to camp: God be thy shade from well to well; God grant beneath the desert stars thou hear the Prophet's camel bell.
And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowledge to endure This ghost-life's piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life again.
And God shall make thy soul a Glass where eighteen thousand AEons pass, And thou shalt see the gleaming Worlds as men see dew upon the grass.
And son of Islam, it may be that thou shalt learn at journey's end Who walks thy garden eve on eve, and bows his head, and calls thee Friend.
THE DYING PATRIOT
Day breaks on England down the Kentish hills, Singing in the silence of the meadow-footing rills, Day of my dreams, O day! I saw them march from Dover, long ago, With a silver cross before them, singing low, Monks of Rome from their home where the blue seas break in foam, Augustine with his feet of snow.