A MISCELLANY OF POETRY
Edited by W. Kean Seymour.
With decorations by Doris Palmer, Cecil Palmer and Hayward.
SIR ARTHUR QUILLER-COUCH
This 'Miscellany of Poetry, 1919', is issued to the public as a truly catholic anthology of contemporary poetry. The poems here printed are new, in the sense that they have not previously been issued by their authors in book form—a fact which surely gives the Miscellany an unique place among modern collections. My deep thanks are due to my fellow-contributors for their generous and hearty co-operation, and to the editors of the 'English Review', 'To-day', 'Voices', 'New Witness', 'Observer', 'Saturday Westminster', 'Art and Letters', 'Cambridge Magazine' and the 'Nation' for permission to reprint certain poems.
W. K. S.
Song Commercial Numbers The Children Dancing
BRANFORD, F. V.
Farewell to Mathematics Return Over the Dead
CHESTERTON, GILBERT KEITH
Elegy in a Country Churchyard The Ballad of St. Barbara
CHURCH, RICHARD Psyche goes forth to Life
DAVIES, WILLIAM H.
The Villain Bird and Brook Passion's Hounds The Truth The Force of Love April's Lambs
Nous Autres She to Him
GIBSON, WILFRED WILSON
IN WAR-TIME 1. Troopship 2. The Conscript 3. Air-Raid 4. In War-Time 5. Ragtime 6. Leave 7. Bacchanal
Shepherd Singing Ragtime The Singer of High State
Freedoms (Eight Sonnets)
LE GALLIENNE, RICHARD
The Palaces of The Rose
Peace, June 28th, 1919
Antony and Cleopatra
Dirge Desideravi Laus Deo!
MOORE, T. STURGE
Down here the Hawthorn Invocation
On Seeing a Portrait of Blake
The Fall Ghosties at the Wedding
SABIN, ARTHUR K.
SACKVILLE, LADY MARGARET
The Return To—
SEYMOUR, WILLIAM KEAN
Fruitage In the Wood Siesta To One who Eats Larks If Beauty Came to You
Prison The Sixth Day
Eventail The Lady with the Sewing Machine Portrait of a Barmaid Solo for Ear-Trumpet
The Father The Shore Thlus Wood The Thief of Beauty
TITTERTON, W. R.
The High Wall The Broken Sword Night-Shapes The Silent People
VISIAK, E. H.
Lamps and Lanterns Stranded
* * * * *
For Mercy, Courage, Kindness, Mirth, There is no measure upon earth. Nay, they wither, root and stem, If an end be set to them.
Overbrim and overflow, If your own heart you would know; For the spirit born to bless Lives but in its own excess.
Gross, with protruding ears, Sleek hair, brisk glance, fleshy and yet alert, Red, full, and satisfied, Cased in obtuseness confident not to be hurt,
He sits at a little table In the crowded congenial glare and noise, jingling Coin in his pocket; sips His glass, with hard eye impudently singling
A woman here and there:— Women and men, they are all priced in his thought, All commodities staked In the market, sooner or later sold and bought.
"Were I he," you are thinking, You with the dreamer's forehead and pure eyes, "What should I lose?—All, All that is worthy the striving for, all my prize,
"All the truth of me, all Life that is wonder, pity, and fear, requiring Utter joy, utter pain, From the heart that the infinite hurts with deep desiring
"Why is it I am not he? Chance? The grace of God? The mystery's plan? He, too, is human stuff, A kneading of the old, brotherly slime of man.
"Am I a lover of men, And turn abhorring as from fat slug or snake? Lives obstinate in me too Something the power of angels could not unmake?"
O self-questioner! None Unlocks your answer. Steadily look, nor flinch. This belongs to your kind, And knows its aim and fails not itself at a pinch.
It is here in the world and works, Not done with yet.—Up, then, let the test be tried! Dare your uttermost, be Completely, and of your own, like him, be justified.
Trefoil and Quatrefoil! What shaped those destinied small silent leaves Or numbered them under the soil? I lift my dazzled sight From grass to sky, From humming and hot perfume To scorching, quivering light, Empty blue!—Why, As I bury my face afresh In a sunshot vivid gloom— Minute infinity's mesh, Where spearing side by side Smooth stalk and furred uplift Their luminous green secrets from the grass, Tower to a bud and delicately divide— Do I think of the things unthought Before man was?
Bodiless Numbers! When there was none to explore Your winding labyrinths occult, None to delve your ore Of strange virtue, or do Your magical business, you Were there, never old nor new, Veined in the world and alive:— Before the Planets, Seven; Before these fingers, Five!
You that are globed and single, Crystal virgins, and you that part, Melt, and again mingle! We have hoisted sail in the night On the oceans that you chart: Dark winds carry us onward, on; But you are there before us, silent Answers, Beyond the bounds of the sun. You body yourselves in the stars, inscrutable dancers, Native where we are none.
O inhuman Numbers! All things change and glide, Corrupt and crumble, suffer wreck and decay, But, obstinate dark Integrities, you abide, And obey but them who obey. All things else are dyed In the colours of man's desire: But you no bribe nor prayer Avails to soften or sway. Nothing of me you share, Yet I cannot think you away. And if I seek to escape you, still you are there Stronger than caging pillars of iron Not to be passed, in an air Where human wish and word Fall like a frozen bird.
Music asleep In pulses of sound, in the waves! Hidden runes rubbed bright! Dizzy ladders of thought in the night! Are you masters or slaves— Subtlest of man's slaves,— Shadowy Numbers?
In a vision I saw Old vulture Time, feeding On the flesh of the world; I saw The home of our use undated— Seasons of fruiting and seeding Withered, and hunger and thirst Dead, with all they fed on: Till at last, when Time was sated, Only you persisted, Ddal Numbers, sole and same, Invisible skeleton frame Of the peopled earth we tread on— Last, as first.
Because naught can avail To wound or to tarnish you; Because you are neither sold nor bought, Because you have not the power to fail But live beyond our furthest thought, Strange Numbers, of infinite clue, Beyond fear, beyond ruth, You strengthen also me To be in my own truth.
THE CHILDREN DANCING
Away, sad thoughts, and teasing Perplexities, away! Let other blood go freezing, We will be wise and gay; For here is all heart-easing, An ecstasy at play!
The children dancing, dancing, Light upon happy feet, Both eye and heart entrancing, Mingle, escape, and meet, Come joyous-eyed advancing And floatingly retreat.
Now slow, now swifter treading Their paces timed and true, An instant poised, then threading A maze of printless clue, The music smoothly wedding To motions ever new.
They launch in chime, and scatter In looping ripples; they Are Music's airy matter, And their feet move, the way The raindrops shine and patter On tossing flowers in May.
As if those flowers were singing For joy of the bright air, As if you saw them springing To dance the breeze—so fair The lissom bodies swinging, So light the flung-back hair.
And through the mind enchanted A happy river goes, By its own young carol haunted And bringing, where it flows, What all the world has wanted But who in this world knows?
* * * * *
F. V. BRANFORD
FAREWELL TO MATHEMATICS
I laboured on the anvil of my brain And beat a metal out of pageantry. Figure and form I carry in my train To load the scaffolds of Eternity. Where the masters are Building star on star; Where, in solemn ritual, The great Dead Mathematical Wait and wait and wait for me.
To the deliberate presence of the Sun (Bright cynosure of every darkling sign, Wherein all numbers consummate in One,) Poised on the bolt of an Un-finite line, As one whose spirit's state, Is unafraid but desperate, Through far unfathomed fears, Through Time to timeless years, I soar, through Shade to Shine.
They say that on a night there came to Euler, As eager-eyed he stared upon a star, And fought the far infinitude, a toiler Like to himself and me, for things that are Buried from the eyes alone Of men whose sight is made of stone, And led him out in ecstasy, Over the dim boundary By the pale gleam of a scimitar.
Then Euler, mindful of thy lesser need, Be thou my pilot in this treacherous hour, That I be less unworth thy greater meed, O my strong brother in the halls of power; For here and hence I sail Alone beyond the pale. Where square and circle coincide, And the parallels collide, And perfect pyramids flower.
The hearts of the mountains were void, The sea spake foreign tongues, From the speed of the wind I gat me no breath, And the temples of Time were as sepulchres. I walked about the world in the midnight, I stood under water, and over stars, I cast Life from me, I handled Death, I walked naked into lightning, I had so great a thirst for God.
* * * * *
The heart of the Mountain overfloweth, The sea speaketh clear words, The Ark is brought to the Tabernacle. Lightnings, that withered in the sky, Are become great beacons roaring in a wind I see Death, lying in the arms of Life, And, in the womb of Death, I see Joy. I had said 'The spirit of the Earth is white, But lo! He is red with joy. He devoureth the meat of many nations, He absorbeth a vintage of scarlet. Though my head be with the stars, All the flowers of Earth are singing in mine ears. Though my foot be planted on the sea-bed. Yet is it shod with the thunder. Sorrow for Earth Transient is passed away, Pain of martyr'd splendour is no more. They have left a fair child in my lap— A lusty infant shouting to the dawn.
The Ogre of midnight hath perished. He shivered in the glare of the mountain, He screamed upon the sea-swords, His bowels rushed out upon the lances of the Wind. I shall look through the eye of Mountain, I shall set in my scabbard the sabre of Sea, And the spear of Wind shall be my hand's delight. I shall not descend from the Hill. Never go down to the Valley; For I see, on a snow-crowned peak, The glory of the Lord, Erect as Orion, Belted as to his blade. But the roots of the mountains mingle with mist. And raving skeletons run thereon. I shall not go hence, For here is my Priest, Who hath broken me in the waters of Disdain. Here is my Jester, Who hath mended me on the wheels of Mirth. Here is my Champion, Who hath confounded mine ancient Enemy Ardgay—the slayer of Giants.
OVER THE DEAD
Who in the splendour of a simple thought, Whether for England or her enemies, Went in the night, and in the morning died; Each bleeding piece of human earth that lies Stark to the carrion wind, and groaning cries For burial—each Jesu crucified— Hath surely won the thing he dearly bought, For wrong is right, when wrong is greatly wrought.
Yet is the Nazarene no thigh of Thor, To play on partial fields the puppet king Bearing the battle down with bloody hand. Serene he towers above the gods of war, A naked man where shells go thundering— The great unchallenged Lord of No-Man's Land.
* * * * *
GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON
ELEGY IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD
The men that worked for England They have their graves at home; And bees and birds of England About the cross can roam.
But they that fought for England, Following a falling star, Alas, alas, for England They have their graves afar.
And they that rule in England In stately conclave met, Alas, alas, for England, They have no graves as yet.
THE BALLAD OF ST. BARBARA
(St. Barbara is the patroness of artillery, and of those who are in fear of sudden death.)
When the long grey lines came flooding upon Paris in the plain, We stood and drank of the last free air we never could love again; They had led us back from a lost battle, to halt we knew not where, And stilled us; and our gaping guns were dumb with our despair. The grey tribes flowed for ever from the infinite lifeless lands, And a Norman to a Breton spoke, his chin upon his hands:
"There was an end to Ilium; and an end came to Rome; And a man plays on a painted stage in the land that he calls home. Arch after arch of triumph, but floor beyond falling floor, That lead to a low door at last: and beyond there is no door."
The Breton to the Norman spoke, like a little child spake he, But his sea-blue eyes were empty as his home beside the sea: "There are more windows in one house than there are eyes to see; There are more doors in a man's house, but God has hid the key; Ruin is a builder of windows; her legend witnesseth Barbara, the saint of gunners, and a stay in sudden death."
It seemed the wheel of the worlds stood still an instant in its turning, More than the kings of the earth that turned with the turning of Valmy mill, While trickled the idle tale and the sea-blue eyes were burning, Still as the heart of a whirlwind, the heart of the world stood still.
"Barbara the beautiful had praise of lute and pen, Her hair was like a summer night, dark and desired of men, Her feet like birds from far away that linger and light in doubt, And her face was like a window where a man's first love looked out.
"Her sire was master of many slaves, a hard man of his hands; They built a tower about her in the desolate golden lands, Sealed as the tyrants sealed their tombs, planned with an ancient plan, And set two windows in the tower, like the two eyes of a man."
Our guns were set towards the foe; we had no word for firing; Grey in the gateways of St. Gond the Guard of the tyrant shone; Dark with the fate of a falling star, retiring and retiring, The Breton line went backwards and the Breton tale went on.
"Her father had sailed across the sea from the harbour of Africa, When all the slaves took up their tools for the bidding of Barbara; She smote the bare wall with her hand, and bade them smite again, She poured them wealth of wine and meat to stay them in their pain, And cried through the lifted thunder of thronging hammer and hod: 'Throw open the third window in the third name of God!' Then the hearts failed and the tools fell; and far towards the foam Men saw a shadow on the sands; and her father coming home."
Speak low and low, along the line the whispered word is flying, Before the touch, before the time, we may not lose a breath. Their guns must mash us to the mire and there be no replying Till the hand is raised to fling us for the final dice to Death.
"'There were two windows in your tower, Barbara, Barbara, For all between the sun and moon in the lands of Africa. Hath a man three eyes, Barbara, a bird three wings, That you have riven roof and wall to look upon vain things?' Her voice was like a wandering thing that falters, yet is free, Whose soul has drunk in a distant land of the rivers of liberty.
"'There are more wings than the wind knows, or eyes than see the sun, In the light of the lost window and the wind of the doors undone; For out of the first lattice are the red lands that break And out of the second lattice, sea like a green snake, But out of the third lattice, under low eaves like wings Is a new corner of the sky and the other side of things.'"
It opened in the inmost place an instant beyond uttering, A casement and a chasm and a thunder of doors undone, A seraph's strong wing shaken out the shock of its unshuttering That split the shattered sunlight from a light behind the sun.
"Then he drew sword and drave her where the judges sat and said: 'Csar sits above the Gods, Barbara the maid, Csar hath made a treaty with the moon and with the sun All the gods that men can praise, praise him every one. There is peace with the anointed of the scarlet oils of Bel, With the Fish God, where the whirlpool is a winding stair to hell, With the pathless pyramids of slime, where the mitred negro lifts To his black cherub in the cloud abominable gifts, With the leprous silver cities where the dumb priests dance and nod, But not with the three windows and the last name of God.'"
They are firing, we are falling, and the red skies rend and shiver us ... Barbara, Barbara, we may not loose a breath— Be at the bursting doors of doom, and in the dark deliver us, Who loosen the last window on the sun of sudden death.
"Barbara, the beautiful, stood up as a queen set free. Whose mouth is set to a terrible cup and the trumpet of liberty; 'I have looked forth from a window that no man now shall bar, Csar's toppling battle towers shall never stretch so far; The slaves are dancing in their chains, the child laughs at the rod, Because of the bird of the three wings, and the third face of God.' The sword upon his shoulder shifted and shone and fell, And Barbara lay very small and crumpled like a shell."
What wall upon what hinges turned stands open like a door? Too simple for the sight of faith, too huge for human eyes, What light upon what ancient way shines to a far off floor, The line of the lost land of France or the plains of Paradise?
"Csar smiled above the gods, his lip of stone was curled, His iron armies wound like chains round and round the world. And the strong slayer of his own that cut down flesh for grass, Smiled, too, and went to his own tower like a walking tower of brass, And the songs ceased and the slaves were dumb: and far towards the foam Men saw a shadow on the sands; and her father coming home....
"Blood of his blood upon the sword stood red but never dry, He wiped it slowly, till the blade was blue as the blue sky: But the blue sky split with a thunder-crack, spat down a blinding brand, And all of him lay back and flat as his shadow on the sand."
The touch and the tornado; all our guns give tongue together, St. Barbara for the gunnery and God defend the right— They are stopped and gapped and battered as we blast away the weather, Building window upon window to our lady of the light; For the light is come on Liberty, her foes are falling, falling, They are reeling, they are running, as the shameful years have run, She is risen for all the humble, she has heard the conquered calling, St. Barbara of the Gunners, with her hand upon the gun.
They are burst asunder in the midst that eat of their own flatteries, Whose lip is curled to order as its barbered hair is curled ... —Blast of the beauty of sudden death, St. Barbara of the batteries! That blew the new white window in the wall of all the world.
For the hand is raised behind us, and the bolt smites hard Through the rending of the doorways, through the death-gap of the Guard, For the shout of the Three Colours is in Cond and beyond, And the Guard is flung for carrion in the graveyard of St. Gond; Through Mondemont and out of it, through Morin marsh and on, With earthquake of salutation the impossible thing is gone; Gaul, charioted and charging, great Gaul upon a gun, Tiptoe on all her thousand years, and trumpeting to the sun, As day returns, as death returns, swung backward for a span, Back on the barbarous reign returns the battering-ram of Man.
While that the east held hard and hot like pincers in a forge, Came like the west wind roaring up the cannon of St. George, Where the hunt is up and racing over stream and swamp and tarn, And their batteries, black with battle, hold the bridge-heads of the Marne; And across the carnage of the Guard by Paris in the plain The Normans to the Bretons cried; and the Bretons cheered again; But he that told the tale went home to his house beside the sea And burned before St. Barbara, the light of the windows three. Three candles for an unknown thing, never to come again, That opened like the eye of God on Paris in the plain.
* * * * *
PSYCHE GOES FORTH TO LIFE
What are these tears of loneliness to-night? Hark! In my neighbour's house the music swells, Joins with the wind and fills the empty skies And dies away, like echo of old age Sighing and dying in the heart that fails. Ah! the cruel beauty ... how it creeps Into my home, into my waiting heart! Who am I that I wait to-night?... Alas, Where is the old content of maidenhood, The calmness and the laughter and the song, The patient hands unshaken as the needle Plied to the gentle rhythm that my lips Murmured, untroubled girlhood at their brink?
Was that but yesterday?... How long ago, How the swift moments flow along the flood. For yesterday was sweet indifference; These little drooping breasts had never known This pain that swells them out and makes them ache For Love to touch them, for the nestling lips To trouble them as a warm lifting wind Murmurs between two swelled and ripening grapes Whispering of future wines of mad delight. Ah, let me learn of this! A rapture fills My limbs, and in my womb there stirs a craving For life ... life! Oh, wonderful, the vision that glows About me in such radiance, the light, the strife Of music, hue and perfume of the rose. Oh garden of desire, where one awaits My coming with the sudden knowledge glowing Deep in my eyes, made sombre as the day Is somber in the summer noon of light. Now I perceive I am a sacred temple Long closed about the hidden flame of life, Closed with white ivories and gliding shapes Of river waves, and waves upon the sea Rising and gliding. Every magic curve Of these unheeded arms, this supple waist— So are my eyes set on the infinite— Are ministering music unto life Calling love forth to worship in my shrine, To fill this temple with the prophecy Of further, wider, deeper life to come.
Hark! The music of the night is rising up! My neighbour's house is all a flame of song. I must abide until the prelude closes, Until his heart has ceased its preparation And he comes forth into the dying year, Leaves his house of inspiration empty, And with a loneliness of heart creeps forth Eagerly into the night, and gropes his way With outstretched nerveless hands unto my home, Where I wait, alone! I hear his lips Murmur again, and moan, and murmur again Tones of the broken prelude, vainly trying To call me forth, who am waiting in my home, Waiting in sweet imprisonment, the bonds Of love restraining me from running forth To greet him and to lead him to my soul.
Oh the swift pain, the agony of waiting, Galled with these terrible sweet bonds of love That will not let me rise, though my cold hands Are wrung with grief ... for do I not behold Upon the outer night the rising fire, The danger and the terror of love's flight; Do I not know my lover; that his eyes Are blinded by this madness of the skies. Do I not hear him moaning in the night For one to lead him to his waiting love, To lead him to the temple of delight, To the white ivory casket where his soul Is set with lovely secrets? Do I not hear The little echoes roll, and fade, and fret About the murmuring foliage of the garden Wherein the temple lies? Do I not fear Lest in the outer glories he be lost And thwarted of his heart's desire, that flies Like a dove before his coming, and alights Within the inner courtyard of my soul Bearing such messages of him who comes That all the altars of my love are kindled To flame ere he approaches, which fades away And counterfeits the sweetest death that ever Sighed the approach of day, and left the stars More bright to be entranced of the dawn?
Be patient, Oh, my heart! A little while And he shall pierce the darkness of the night That flows between my home and his. The song The youth, the early light that he has lost Are as a little strength submerged and drowned In this fierce rage that bids him seek me out And take me in the darkness of my home, And change, and fill me, as the virgin night Is changed to day, and as the moonlight sky Is emptied of her sterile ray, and filled With overflooding light that spills to earth A golden augury of later fruits And a diviner birth.
Hark! Hark!... He comes He has found the temple of his soul's desire ..., Be still, Oh beating heart, be still ... be still, Lest he be troubled now his sacred fire Creeps through this temple to your inmost shrine. And I at last am his, and he is mine!
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
While joy gave clouds the light of stars, That beamed where'er they looked; And calves and lambs had tottering knees, Excited, while they sucked; While every bird enjoyed his song, Without one thought of harm or wrong— I turned my head and saw the wind, Not far from where I stood, Dragging the corn by her golden hair, Into a dark and lonely wood.
BIRD AND BROOK
My song, that's bird-like in its kind, Is in the mind, Love—in the mind; And in my season I am moved No more or less from being loved; No woman's love has power to bring My song back when I cease to sing; Nor can she, when my season's strong, Prevent my mind from song.
But where I feel your woman's part, Is in the heart, Love—in the heart; For when that bird of mine broods long, And I'd be sad without my song, Your love then makes my heart a brook That dreams in many a quiet nook, And makes a steady, murmuring sound Of joy the whole year round.
With mighty leaps and bounds, I followed Passion's hounds, My hot blood had its day; Lust, Gluttony, and Drink, I chased to Hell's black brink, Both night and day.
I ate like three strong men, I drank enough for ten, Each hour must have its glass Yes, Drink and Gluttony Have starved more brains, say I, Than Hunger has.
And now, when I grow old, And my slow blood is cold, And feeble is my breath— I'm followed by those hounds, Whose mighty leaps and bounds Hunt me to death.
Since I have seen a bird one day, His head pecked more than half away; That hopped about, with but one eye, Ready to fight again, and die— Ofttimes since then their private lives Have spoilt that joy their music gives.
So, when I see this robin now, Like a red apple on the bough, And question why he sings so strong, For love, or for the love of song; Or sings, maybe, for that sweet rill Whose silver tongue is never still—
Ah, now there comes this thought unkind, Born of the knowledge in my mind: He sings in triumph that last night He killed his father in a fight; And now he'll take his mother's blood— The last strong rival for his food.
THE FORCE OF LOVE
Have I now found an angel in Unrest, That wakeful Love is more desired than sleep: Though you seem calm and gentle, you shall show The force of this strong love in me so deep.
Yes, I will make you, though you seem so calm, Look from your blue eyes that divinest joy As was in Juno's, when she made great Jove Forget the war and half his heaven in Troy.
And I will press your lips until they mix With my poor quality their richer wine: Be my Parnassus now, and grow more green Each upward step towards your top divine.
Though I was born in April's prime, With many another lamb, Yet, thinking now of all my years, What am I but a tough old ram?
"No woman thinks of years," said she, "Or any tough old rams, When she can hear a voice that bleats As tenderly as any lamb's."
* * * * *
We never feel the lust of steel Or fury-woken blood, We live and die and wonder why In mud, and mud, and mud, And horror first and horror last And Phantom Terror riding past. We hear and hear the hounds of Fear Nearer and more near. We feel their breath.... Only the nights befriend And mitigate the hell; Of those who ponder, see and hear, Too well. The nights, and Death— The end. We feel but never fear His breath.
Day after weary day, In vain, in vain, in vain, We turn to Thee and pray, We cry and cry again— "O lord of Battle, why Should we alone be sane?"
We stifle cries with lightless eyes And face eternal night; We stifle cries to sacrifice Our eyes for Human Sight. And many give that men may live, A life, a limb, a brain, That fellow men may understand And be for ever sane. What matter if we lose a hand If others wander hand in hand; Or lose a foot if others greet The dawn of peace with dancing feet; What matter if we die unheard If others hear the Poet's Word?
Because we pay from day to day The price of sacrifice; Because we face each dreary place Again, again, again. Lord, set us free from Sanity— Who feel no fighting thrill; Must we remain for ever sane And never learn to kill? No answer came. In very shame Our long-unheeded cry Grew bitterly more bitterly, "O why, O why, O why. May we not feel the lust of steel The fury-woken thrill— For men may learn to live and die And never learn to kill?"
SHE TO HIM
The day you died, my Share of All My soul was tossed Hither and thither, like a leaf, And lost, lost, lost, From sounds and sight, Beneath the night Of gloom and grief.
But— (Hush, for the wind may hear) Soon, soon you came in solitude: And we renewed All happiness. Now, who shall guess How close we are, my dear? (Hush, for the wind may hear.)
Yet— Other women wait Their doors ajar; And listen, listen, listen, For the gate, And murmur, "Soon, the war Will seem a far, Dim agony of sleep."
May I be joyful, too, That day, For love of you May I not turn away Nor—weep.
* * * * *
Thrush, across the twilight Here in the abbey close, Pouring from your lilac-bough Note on pebbled note, Why do you sing so, Making your song so bright. Swelling to a throbbing curve That brave little throat?
Soon, but a season brief, The lice among your feathers, Stiff-winged and aimless-eyed, With song dead you shall fall; Refuse of some clotted ditch, Seeking no more berries; Why with lyric numbers now Do you the twilight call?
Proud in your tawny plumes Mottled in devising, Singing as though never sang Bird in close till now— Sharp are the javelins Of death that are seeking, Seeking even simple birds On a lilac-bough.
Crushed, forlorn, a frozen thing, For no more nesting, For no more speckled eggs In pattered cup of clay,— Soon your song shall come to this You who make the twilight yours, And echoes of the abbey, At the end of day.
In the song I hear it, The thud of a poor feathered death, In the swelling throat I see The splintering of song— What demon then has worked in me To tease my brain to bitterness— In me who have loved bird and tree So long, so long?
Until I come to charity, Until I find peace again, My curse upon the fiend or god That will not let me hear A bird in song upon the bough But, hovering about the notes, There chimes the maniac beating Of black-winged fear.
What will the years tell? Hush! If it would but speak— That shadow athwart the stream, In the gloom of a dream;
Could my brain but spell The thought in the brain of that weak Old ghost that hides in the gloom, Over there, of the chestnut bloom.
I sit in the broad June light On the open bank of the river, In the summer of manhood, young; And over the water bright Is a lair that is overhung With coned pink blooms that quiver And droop, till the water's breast Is of petal and leaf caressed.
And the June sky glares on my prime— But there in the gloom, with Time, Huddled, with Time on its back, Is a shadow that is my wrack. Yes, it is I in the lair, Peering and watching me there.
Under the chestnut bloom My old age hides in the gloom. And the years to be have been, Could I spell the lore of that brain. But the river flows between, Over the weeds of pain, Over the snares of death, Maybe, should I leap to hold, With myself grown old, Council there in the gloom Under the chestnut bloom.
And so, with instruction none, I go, and leave it there, My ghost with Time in its lair, And the things that must yet be done Tear at my heart unknown, And the years have tongues of stone With no syllable to make For consolation's sake.
But peradventure yet I shall return To dare the weeds of death, And plunge through the coned pink bloom, And cry on that spectre set In its silent ring of gloom, And stay my youth to learn The thing that my old age saith.
* * * * *
WILFRED WILSON GIBSON
IN WAR TIME
TROOPSHIP, (s.s. Baltic: Mid-Atlantic: July, 1917)
Dark waters into crystalline brilliance break About the keel, as through the moonless night The dark ship moves in its own moving lake Of phosphorescent cold moon-coloured light; And to the clear horizon, all around Drift pools of fiery beryl flashing bright As though, still flashing, quenchless, cold and white, A million moons in the dark green waters drowned.
And staring at the magic with eyes adream, That never till now have looked upon the sea, Boys from the Middle-West lounge listlessly In the unlanterned darkness, boys who go Beckoned by some unchallengeable gleam To unknown lands to fight an unknown foe.
Indifferent, flippant, earnest, but all bored, The doctors sit in the glare of electric light Watching the endless stream of naked white Bodies of men for whom their hasty award Means life or death, maybe, or the living death Of mangled limbs, blind eyes or darkened brain: And the chairman, as his monocle falls again, Pronounces each doom with easy, indifferent breath.
Then suddenly they all shudder as they see A young man move before them wearily, Pallid and gaunt as one already dead; And they are strangely troubled as he stands With arms outstretched and drooping, thorn-crowned head, The nail-marks glowing in his feet and hands.
Night shatters in mid-heaven: the bark of guns, The roar of planes, the crash of bombs, and all The unshackled skiey pandemonium stuns The senses to indifference, when a fall Of masonry near by startles awake, Tingling wide-eyed, prick-eared, with bristling hair, Each sense within the body crouched aware Like some sore-hunted creature in the brake.
Yet side by side we lie in the little room, Just touching hands, with eyes and ears that strain Keenly, yet dream-bewildered, through tense gloom, Listening in helpless stupor of insane Drugged nightmare panic fantastically wild, To the quiet breathing of our sleeping child.
As gaudy flies across a pewter plate, On the grey disk of the unrippling sea, Beneath an airless, sullen sky of slate Dazzled destroyers zig-zag restlessly, While underneath the sleek and livid tide, Blind monsters nosing through the soundless deep, Lean submarines among blind fishes glide And through primeval weedy forests sweep.
Over the hot grey surface of my mind Glib, motley rumours zig-zag without rest, While deep within the darkness of my breast Monstrous desires, lean, sinister and blind, Slink through unsounded night and stir the slime And ooze of oceans of forgotten time.
A minx in khaki struts the limelit boards: With false moustache, set smirk and ogling eyes And straddling legs and swinging hips she tries To swagger it like a soldier, while the chords Of rampant ragtime jangle, clash, and clatter; And over the brassy blare and drumming din She strains to squirt her squeaky notes and thin Spirtle of sniggering lascivious patter.
Then out into the jostling Strand I turn, And down a dark lane to the quiet river, One stream of silver under the full moon, And think of how cold searchlights flare and burn Over dank trenches where men crouch and shiver. Humming, to keep their hearts up, that same tune.
Crouched on the crowded deck, we watch the sun In naked gold leap out of a cold sea Of shivering silver; and stretching drowsily Crampt legs and arms, relieved that night is done And the slinking, deep-sea peril past, we turn Westward to see the chilly, sparkling light Quicken the Wicklow Hills, till jewel-bright In their Spring freshness of dewy green they burn.
And silent on the deck beside me stands A soldier, lean and brown, with restless hands, And eyes that stare unkindling on the life And rapture of green hills and glistening morn: He comes from Flanders home to his dead wife, And I, from England, to my son newborn.
Into the twilight of Trafalgar Square They pour from every quarter, banging drums And tootling penny trumpets: to a blare Of tin mouth-organs, while a sailor strums A solitary banjo, lads and girls, Locked in embraces, in a wild dishevel Of flags and streaming hair, with curdling skirls Surge in a frenzied, reeling, panic revel.
Lads who so long have looked death in the face, Girls who so long have tended death's machines, Released from the long terror shriek and prance: And watching them, I see the outrageous dance, The frantic torches and the tambourines Tumultuous on the midnight hills of Thrace.
* * * * *
SHEPHERD SINGING RAGTIME
The shepherd sings:— "Way down in Dixie, Way down in Dixie, Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay ..."
With shaded eyes he stands to look Across the hills where the clouds swoon, He singing, leans upon his crook, He sings, he sings no more. The wind is muffled in the tangled hairs Of sheep that drift along the noon. One mild sheep stares With amber eyes about the pearl-flecked June. Two skylarks soar With singing flame Into the sun whence first they came. All else is only grasshoppers Or a brown wing the shepherd stirs, Who, like a tall tree moving, goes Where the pale tide of sheep-drift flows.
See! the sun smites With sea-drawn lights The turned wing of a gull that glows Aslant the violet, the profound Dome of the mid-June heights.
Alas! again the grasshoppers, The birds, the slumber-winging bees, Alas! again for those and these Demure and sweet things drowned; Drowned in vain raucous words men made Where no lark rose with swift and sweet Ascent and where no dim sheep strayed About the stone immensities, Where no sheep strayed and where no bees Probed any flowers nor swung a blade Of grass with pollened feet.
He sings:— "In Dixie, Way down in Dixie, Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay Scrambled eggs in the new-mown hay..."
The herring-gulls with peevish cries Rebuke the man who sings vain words; His sheep-dog growls a low complaint, Then turns to chasing butterflies. But when the indifferent singing-birds From midmost down to dimmest shore Innumerably confirm their songs, And grasshoppers make summer rhyme And solemn bees in the wild thyme Clash cymbals and beat gongs, The shepherd's words once more are faint, The shepherd's song once more is thinned Upon the long course of the wind, He sings, he sings no more.
Ah, now the sweet monotonies Of bells that jangle on the sheep To the low limit of the hills! Till the blue cup of music spills Into the boughs of lowland trees; Till thence the lowland singings creep Into the silenced shepherd's head, Creep drowsily through his blood: The young thrush fluting all he knows, The ring-dove moaning his false woes, Almost the rabbit's tiny tread, The last unfolding bud.
But now, Now a cool word spreads out along the sea. Now the day's violet is cloud-tipped with gold. Now dusk most silently Fills the hushed day with other wings than birds'. Now where on foam-crest waves the seagulls rock, To their cliff-haven go the seagulls thence. So too the shepherd gathers in his flock, Because birds journey to their dens, Tired sheep to their still fold. A dark first bat swoops low and dips About the shepherd who now sings A song of timeless evenings; For dusk is round him with wide wings, Dusk murmurs on his moving lips.
_There is not mortal man who knows From whence the, shepherd's song arose: It came a thousand years ago.
Once the world's shepherds woke to lead The folded sheep that they might feed On green downs where winds blow.
One shepherd sang a golden word. A thousand miles away one heard. One sang it swift, one sang it slow._
_Three skylarks heard, three skylarks told All shepherds this same song of gold On all downs where winds blow.
This is the song that shepherds must Sing till the green downlands be dust And tide of sheep-drift no more flow:
The song three skylarks told again To all the sheep and shepherd men On green downs where winds blow._
THE SINGER OF HIGH STATE
On hills too harsh for firs to climb, Where eagle dare not hatch her brood, Upon the peak of solitude, With anvils of black granite crude I forge austerities of rhyme.
Such godlike stuff my spirit drinks I make grand odes of tempests there. The steel-winged eagle, if he dare To cleave these tracts of frozen air, Hearing such music, swoops and sinks.
Stark clangours of forgotten wars, Tumults of primal love and hate, Through crags of song reverberate. Held by the Singer of High State, Battalions of the midnight pause.
On hills uplift from Space and Time, Upon the peak of Solitude, With stars to give my furnace food, On anvils of black granite crude I forge austerities of rhyme.
* * * * *
Those were our freedoms, and we come to this: The climbing road that lures the climbing feet Is lost: there lies no mist above the wheat, Where-thro' to glimpse the silver precipice, Far off, about whose base the white seas hiss In spray; the world grows narrow and complete; We have lost our perils in the certain sweet; We have sold our great horizon for a kiss.
To every hill there is a lowly slope, But some have heights beyond all height—so high They make new worlds for the adventuring eye. We for achievement have forgone our hope, And shall not see another morning ope, Nor the new moon come into the new sky.
Where is our freedom sought, and where to seek? The voices of the various world agree The future's ours: to hope is to be free: Only to doubt, to fear, is to be weak. Have you not felt upon your calm clear cheek The kiss of the bright wind of liberty? What more is there to ask, what more to be? Peace, peace, my soul, and let the silence speak!
To hope is to be free? Nay, hope's a slave To every chance; hope is the same as fear; Hope trembles at the wind, the star, the wave, The voice, the mood, the music; hope stands near The chilly threshold of the waiting grave, And when the silence speaks, hope does not hear.
In the old days came freedom with a sword. Ev'n so; but also freedom came with wings Fanning the faint and purple bloom that clings To the great twilight where our dreams are stored. Freedom was what the waters would afford That yet obeyed the white moon's whisperings, And freedom leapt and listened in the strings Of dulcimer and lute and clavichord.
In the old days? But those old days are now. O merciful, O bright, O valiant brow, Can you seek freedom that way and I this? Not in the single note is music free, But where creation's climbing fires agree In multitudes, in nights, in silences.
Shall we mark off our little patch of power From time's compulsive process? Shall we sit With memory, warming our weak hands at it, And say: "So be it; we have had one hour"? Surely the mountains are a better dower, With their dark scope and cloudy infinite, Than small perfection, trivial exquisite; 'Mid all that dark the brightness of a flower!
Lovers are not themselves: they are more, they are all: For them are past and future spread together Like a green landscape lit by golden weather: For them the rhythmic change conjectural Of time and place is but the question whether Their God shall stand (as stand he must) or fall.
O cold remembrance, careful-careless kiss, That does not wake to hope with waking day, And at the hour of bed-time does not say: "That was for rapture, that for peace, but this Burns for the night's more terrible auspices, And pangs and sweets of doubt and disarray!"— Yet in one kiss two hearts found once the way From perfect ignorance to perfect bliss.
Love has so many voices, low and high. Such range of reason, such delight of rhyme! Yet when I asked love such a simple thing As why the autumn comes where came the spring, The only soul that answered me was I, And love was silent then for the first time.
Our love is hurt, and the bad world goes on Moving to its conclusion: in a year This corn now reaped will come again to ear, The moon will shine as last night the moon shone; The tide, whose thought is the moon's thought, will don The silver livery of subjection. Dear, Is it not strange that hearts will hope and fear And break, when our hearts, broken now, are gone?
If this were true, life's movement would rebel, And curdle to its source, as blood to the heart When the cold fires of indignation start From their obscure lair in the body.—Well, If for us two to part were just to part All years would have one pointless tale to tell.
The little things, the little restless things, The base and barren things, the things that spite The day, and trail processions through the night Of sad remembrances and questionings; The poverties, stupidities and stings, The silted misery, the hovering blight; The things that block the paths of sound and sight; The things that snare our thought and break its wings—
How shall we bear these?—we who suffer so The shattering sacrifice, the huge despair, The terrors loosed like lightnings on the air, To leave all nature blackened from that curse! The big things are the enemies we know, The little things the traitors. Which are worse?
Now must we gather up and comprehend The volume of vicissitude, and take Account of loving, for each other's sake, And ask how love began and how will end (If there be any end of love, O friend Of my worst hours and best desires!)—and stake Our all upon the sweetness and the ache Of what men's stories and God's stars intend.
You have my all: you are my all: you give, Out of your bounty and content of soul, The only strength that makes me fit to live— Since earth of spirit takes such heavy toll: Yet I, the weak, the faint, the fugitive, Stand here, an equal part of the great whole.
* * * * *
Light, like a closing flower, covers to earth her herds, Out of the world we only watch for the rise of moon; Darker the twilight glimmers, dulls the warble of birds, Over the silent field travels the night-jar's tune.
Here, at my side, so close that even your breath I hear, Face and form that I love, now with the night made one, Pray not for any star! Come not, O moon, for fear Lest in thy light we lose our way ere the dream be done.
Touch, and clasp, and be close! Kiss, oh kiss, and be warm! What is here, O beloved, so like a sea without sound? Under the swathe at our feet, swifter than wings of storm, Summer speeds on his way: Spring lies dead in the ground.
How like a closing flower, clasped by a sleeping bee, Life folds over us now:—and here in the midst love lies. O beloved, O flower of night, no morrow's moon shall we see: Between a dusk and a day we meet, and at dawn Time dies!
THE PALACES OF THE ROSE
Which of my palaces? Gold one by one, Of all the splendid houses of my throne, This day in grave thought have I over-gone: Those roofs of stars where I have lived alone Gladly with God; those blue-encompassed bowers Hushed round with lakes, and guarded with still flowers, Where I have watched a face from eve till morn, Wondering at being born— Then on from morn again till the next eve, Still with strange eyes, unable to believe; And yet, though week and month and year went by. Incredulous of my ensorcelled eye. O had I thus in trance for ever stayed, Still were she there in the reed-girdled isle, And I there still—I who go treading now Eternity, a-hungered mile by mile: Because I pressed one kiss upon her brow,— After a thousand years that seemed an hour Of looking on my flower, After that patient planetary fast, One kiss at last; One kiss—and then strange dust that once was she.
Sayest thou, Rose, "What is all this to me?" This would I answer, if it pleaseth thee, Thou Rose and Nightingale so strangely one: That of my palaces, gold one by one, I fell a-thinking, pondering which to-day, The day of the Blessed Saint, Saint Valentine, Which of those many palaces of mine, I, with bowed head and lowly bended knee, Might bring to thee. O which of all my lordly roofs that rise To kiss the starry skies May with great beams make safe that golden head, With all that treasure of hair showered and spread. Careless as though it were not gold at all— Yet in the midnight lighting the black hall; And all that whiteness lying there as though It were but driven snow. Pondering on all these pinnacles and towers, That, as I come with trumpets, call me lord, And crown their battlements with girlhood flowers, I can but think of one. 'Twas not my sword That won it, nor was it aught I did or dreamed, But O it is a palace worthy thee! For all about it flows the eternal sea, A blue moat guarding an immortal queen; And over it an everlasting crown That, as the moon comes and the sun goes down, Adds jewel after jewel, gem on gem, To the august appropriate diadem Of her, in whom all potencies that are Wield sceptres and with quiet hands control, Kind as that fairy wand the evening star, Or the strong angel that we call the soul.
Thou splendid girl that seemest the mother of all, Dear Ceres-Aphrodite, with every lure That draws the bee to honey, with the call Of moth-winged night to sinners, yet as pure As the white nun that counts the stars for beads; Thou blest Madonna of all broken needs, Thou Melusine, thou sister of sorrowing man, Thou wave-like laughter, thou dear sob in the throat, Thou all-enfolding mercy, and thou song That gathers up each wild and wandering note, And takes and breaks and heals and breaks the heart With the omnipotent tenderness of art; And thou Intelligence of rose-leaves made That makes that little thing the brain afraid.
For thee my Castle of the Spring prepares: On the four winds are sped my couriers, For thee the towered trees are hung with green; Once more for thee, O queen, The banquet hall with ancient tapestry Of woven vines grows fair and still more fair. And ah! how in the minstrel gallery Again there is the sudden string and stir Of music touching the old instruments, While on the ancient floor The rushes as of yore Nymphs of the house of spring plait for your feet— Ancestral ornaments. And everywhere a hurrying to and fro, And whispers saying, "She is so sweet—so sweet"; O violets, be ye not too late to blow, O daffodils be fleet: For, when she comes, all must be in its place, All ready for her entrance at the door, All gladness and all glory for her face, All flowers for her flower-feet a floor; And, for her sleep at night in that great bed Where her great locks are spread, O be ye ready, ye young woodland streams To sing her back her dreams.
June 28th, 1919
From the tennis lawn you can hear the guns going, Twenty miles away, Telling the people of the home counties That the peace was signed to-day. To-night there'll be feasting in the city; They will drink deep and eat— Keep peace the way you planned you would keep it (If we got the Boche beat). Oh, your plan and your word, they are broken, For you neither dine nor dance; And there's no peace so quiet, so lasting, As the peace you keep in France.
You'll be needing no Covenant of Nations To hold your peace intact. It does not hang on the close guarding Of a frail and wordy pact. When ours screams, shattered and driven, Dust down the storming years, Yours will stand stark, like a grey fortress, Blind to the storm's tears.
Our peace ... your peace ... I see neither. They are a dream, and a dream. I only see you laughing on the tennis lawn; And brown and alive you seem, As you stoop over the tall red foxglove, (It flowers again this year) And imprison within a freckled bell A bee, wild with fear....
* * * * *
Oh, you cannot hear the noisy guns going: You sleep too far away. It is nothing to you, who have your own peace, That our peace was signed to-day.
* * * * *
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Beneath th' triumphal blue, th' riotous day, Her silvern galley beats the black flood white, Whilst the long sillage hoards some close delight Of incense, flutes, and stir of silk array. From forth the pompous poop, her royal sway, Near where the mystic hawk stands poised for flight, The Queen, erect, stares out, flushed, exquisite, Like some great golden bird that spies her prey.
The tryst is kept: her spoild warrior there: And the brown gipsy in the swooning air Spreads amber arms the purple glow stains red; Nor hath she seen, nor known with shuddering breath. Symbols of Doom, those Youths Divine who shed Rose-leaves on sombre deeps—Desire and Death.
BATTLE AT SUNSET
The shock was stern: the cohorts near to rout. Staying the flight, tribune, centurion, From heat of carnage 'neath th' enduring sun Breathe blood, and smell its savour as they shout. With haggard eyes, that count the dead about, Each spearman marks the archers, all undone, Whirl like heaped leaves before Euroclydon. From the brown faces sweat falls gout by gout.
That fated hour—with many a shaft stuck o'er, Streaming in burnished brass and purple weed, Red with the scarlet flux of wounds full sore, With trumpets shrilling forth their urgent need, Against the sunset, on his frighted steed— Surged, glorious, the ensanguined Emperor.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
From the high terrace they might see far down, Egypt asleep, by plague of heat opprest; Old Father Nile, in beauty manifest, Roll his rich flood towards many a famous town. And lo, the Roman felt 'neath mail and gown (Captain and slave, soothing a child to rest) Relax and fail on his triumphant breast That body made for love, by love o'erthrown.
Lifting her silken head and blanched face To him whose senses reel at such rare grace And piercing sweetness, she prefers her lips; But stooping close, his ardent eyes behold In those deep eyes, sewn thick with points of gold, A hazardous sea bestrewn with fleeing ships.
From the French of Jos Maria de Heredia
* * * * *
If on a day it should befall That love must have her funeral; And men weep tears that love is dead, That never more her gracious head Can turn to meet their eyes and hold Their hearts with chains of silky gold; That never more her hands can be As dear as was virginity; That in her coffin there is laid Beauty, the body of a maid, The body of one so piteous-sweet, With candles burning at her feet And cowled monks singing requiem....
I think I would not go with them, Her lordly lovers, to the place Where lies that lovely mournful face, That curving throat and marvellous hair Under the sconces' yellow flare— How shall a man be comforted When love is dead, when love is dead?
But I would make my moan apart, Keeping my dreams within my heart— For guarded as a sepulchre Shall be the house I built for her Of silver spires and pinnacles With carillons of mellow bells, A house of song for her delight Whose joy was as the strong sunlight— But now love's ultimate word is said, For love is dead, for love is dead!
But even should all hope be lost Some memory, like a thin white ghost, Might stealthily move in midnight hours Among those silent sacred towers, And glimmer on the moonlit lawn Until the cold ironic dawn Arises from her saffron bed— When love is dead, when love is dead.
Lest, tortured by the world's strong sin, Her little bruised heart should die— Give her your heart to shelter in, O earth and sky!
Kneel, sun, to clothe her round about With rays to keep her body warm; And, kind moon, shut the shadows out That work her harm.
Yes, even shield her from my will's Wild folly—hold her safe and close!— For my rough hand in touching spills Life from the rose.
But teach me, too, that I may learn Your passion classical and cool; To me, who tremble so and burn, Be pitiful!
Praise! that when thick night circled over me In chaos ere my time or world began, Thy finger shaped my body cunningly, Thy thought conceived me ere I was a man! Thy Spirit breathed upon me in the dark Wherein I strangely grew, Bestowing glowing powers to the spark The mouth of heaven blew!
Praise! that a babe I leapt upon the world Spread at my feet in its magnificence, With trees as giants, flowers as flags unfurled. And rains as diamonds in their excellence! Praise! for the solemn splendour of surprise That came with breaking day; For all the ranks of stars that met my eyes When sunset burned away!
Praise! that there burst on my unfolding heart The coloured radiance of leafy June, With choirs of song-birds perfected in art, And nightingales beneath the summer moon— Praise! that this beauty, an unravished bride Doth hold her lover still; Doth hide and beckon, laugh at me, and hide Upon each grassy hill.
Praise! that I know the dear capricious sky In every infinitely varied mood— Yet under her maternal wings can lie The smallest chick among her countless brood! Praise! that I hear the strong winds wildly race Their chariots on the sea, But feel them lift my hair and stroke my face Softly and tenderly!
Praise! for the joy and gladness thou didst send, When I have sat in gracious fellowship In firelight for an evening with a friend. When wine and magic entered at the lip! For laughter which the fates can overthrow Thy mercy doth accord— To Thee, who didst my godlike joy bestow, I lift my glass, O Lord!
Praise! that a lady leaning from her height, A lady pitiful, a tender maid, A queen majestical unto my sight, Spoke words of love to me, and sweetly laid Her hand within my own unworthy hand! (Rise, soul, to greet thy guest, Mysterious love, whom none shall understand, Though love be all confessed!)
Praise! that upon my bent and bleeding back Was stretched some share of Thy redeeming cross, Some poverty as largess for my lack, Some loss that shall prevent my utter loss! Praise! that thou gavest me to keep joy sweet The sanguine salt of pain! Praise! for the weariness of questing feet That else might quest in vain!
* * * * *
T. STURGE MOORE
TO GORDON BOTTOMLEY
Dear exile from the hurrying crowd, At work I muse to you aloud; Thought on my anvil softens, glows, And I forget our art has foes; For life, the mother of beauty, seems A joyous sleep with waking dreams. Then the toy armoury of the brain Opining, judging, looks as vain As trowels silver gilt for use Of mayors and kings, who have to lay Foundation stones in hope they may Be honoured for walls others build. I, in amicable muse, With fathomless wonder only filled, Whisper over to your ear Listening two hundred odd miles north, And give thought chase that, were you here, Our talk would never run to earth.
Man can answer no momentous question: Whence comes his spirit? Has it lived before? Reason fails; hot springs of feeling spout Their snowy columns high in the dim land Of his surmise—violent divine decisions That often rule him: and at times he views Portraits of places he has never been to, Yet more minute and vivid than remembrance, Of boyhood homes, sail between sleep and waking Like some mirage, refuting all experience With topsy-turvy ships, That steals by in dead calms through tropic haze: And many a man in his climacteric years, Thoughts and remembered words have roused from sleep With knowledge that he lacked on lying down: And I, lapped in a trance of reverie, doubt Some spore of episodes Anterior far beyond this body's birth, Dispersed like puffs of dust impalpable, Wind-carried round this globe for centuries, May, breathed with common air, yet swim the blood, And striking root in this or that brain, raise Imaginations unaccountable; One such seems half-implied in all I am, And many times re-pondered shapes like this:
A child myself I watched a woman loll Like to a clot of seaweed thrown ashore; Heavy and limp as cloth soaked in black dye, She glooms the noontide dazzle where a bay Bites into vineyarded flats close-fenced by hills, Over whose tops lap forests of cork and fir And reach in places half down their rough slopes. Lower, some few cleared fields square on the thickets Of junipers and longer thorns than furze So clumped that they are trackless even for goats I know two things about that woman: first She is a slave and I am free, and next As mothers need their sons' love she needs mine. Longings to utter fond compassionate sounds Stir through me, checked by knowing wiser folk Reprobate such indulgence. Ill at ease, Mute, yet her captive, I thrust brown toes through Loose sand no daily large tides overwhelm To cake and roll it firm and smooth and clean As the Atlantic remakes shores, you know. But there, like trailing skirts, long flaws of wind Obliterate the prints feet during calms Track over and over its always lonely stretch, Till some will have, it ghosts must rove at night; For folk by day are rare, yet a still week Leaves hardly ten yards anywhere uncrossed; Tempest spreads all revirginate like snow, Half burying dead wood snapped off from tossed trees, Since right along the foreshore, out of reach Of furious driven waves, three hundred pines Straggle the marches between sand and soil. Like maps of stone-walled fields their branching roots Hold the silt still so that thin grass grows there, Its blades whitened with travelling powdery drift The besom of the lightest breeze sets stirring. That woman's gaze toils worn from remote years, Yet forward yearns through the bright spacious noon, Beyond the farthest isle, whose filmy shape Floats faint on the sea-line. I, scooping grains up with the frail half-shell Pale green and white-lined of sea-urchin, knew What her eyes sought as often children know Of grief or sin they could not name or think of Yet sooth or shrink from, so I saw and longed To heal her tender wound and yet said naught. The energy of bygone joy and pain Had left her listless figure charged with magic That caught and held my idleness near hers. Resentful of her power, my spirit chafed Against its own deep pity, as though it were Raised ghost and she the witch had bid it haunt me. What's more I knew this slave by rights should glean And faggot drift-wood, not lounge there and waste My father's food dreaming his time away. For then as now the common-minded rich Grudged ease to those whose toil brought them in means For every waste of life. At length I spoke, Insulting both my inarticulate soul And her with acted anger: "Lazy wretch, Is it for eyes like yours to watch the sea As though you waited for a homing ship? My father might with reason spend his hours Scanning the far horizon; for his Swan Whose outward lading was full half a vintage Is now months overdue." She turned on me Her languor knit and, through its homespun wrap, Her muscular frame gave hints of rebel will, While those great caves of night, her eyes, faced mine, Dread with the silence of unuttered wrongs: At last she spoke as one who must be heeded. Truly I am not clear Whether her meaning was conveyed in words (She mingled accents of an eastern tongue With deformed phrases of our native Latin) Or whether thought from her gaze poured through mine. The gravity of recollected life Was hers, condensed and, like a vision, flashed Suddenly on the guilty mind, a whole Compact, no longer a mere tedious string Of moments negligible, each so small As they were lived, but stark like a slain man Who would alive have been ourself with twice The skill, the knowledge, the vitality Actually ours. Yea, as a tree may view With fingerless boughs and lorn pole impotent, An elephant gorged upon its leaves depart, Men often have reviewed an unwieldy past, That like a feasted Mammoth, leisured and slow, Turned its back on their warped bones. Even thus, Momentous with reproach, her grave regard Made me feel mean, cashiered of rank and right, My limbs that twelve good years had nursed were numbed And all their fidgety quicksilver grew stiff, Novel and fevering hallucinations Invaded my attention. So daylight When shutters are thrown back spreads through a house; As then the dreams and terrors of the night Decamp, so from my mind were driven All its own thoughts and feelings. Close she leant Propped on a swarthy arm, while the other helped With eloquent gesture potent as wizard wand, Veil the world off as with an airy web, Or flowing tent a-gleam with pictured folds. These tauten and distend—one sea of wheat, Islanded with black cities, borders now The voluminous blue pavilion of day. There-under to the nearest of those towns This woman younger by ten years made haste While at her side ran a small boy of six. They neared the walls, half a huge double gate Lay prostrate, though the other by stone hinges Hung to its flanking tower. The path they followed Threaded an old paved road whose flags were edged With dry grass and dry weeds, even cactuses Had pushed the stones up or found root in muck heaps: The path struck up the slope of the fallen door, Basalt like midnight, o'er which dusty feet Had greyed a passage, for it rested on Some dbris fallen from the left-hand tower, And from its upper edge rude blocks like steps Led down into the straight main street, that ran Past eyeless buildings mined as it were from coal, And earthquake-raised to light. Palaces and Roofless wide-flighted colonnaded temples, The uncemented walls piled-plumb with blocks Squared, polished, fitted with daemonic patience. Each gaping threshold high again as need be Waited a nine-foot lord to enter hall, Where the least draughty corner sheltered now Half-tented hut or improvised small home For Arab, brown, light-footed and proud-necked As was this woman with the compelling voice. Their present hutched and hived within that past As bees in the parchment chest of Samson's lion; And all seem conscious that their life was sweet, Like mice who clean their faces after meals And have such grace of movement, when unscared, As wins the admiration even of those Whose stores they rob and soil. I saw her eyes Young with contentment in her son And smaller babe and in their handsome sire, And knew that many a supper had been relished With hearts as joyous as waited while she cooked And served upon returning to their cot In hall where once far other hearts caroused. They and their tribe could never reap a tithe Of the vast harvest rustling round those ruins, And over which a half-moon soon set forth From black hills mounded up both east and south, While north-west her light played on distant summits; All the huge interspace floored with standing corn Which kings afar send soldiery to reap, Who now, beside a long canal cut straight In ancient days, have pitched their noisy camp Which on that vast staid silence makes a bruise Of blare and riot that its robust health Will certainly heal in a brief lapse of time.
One night, re-thought on after ten whole years, Is like the condor high above the Andes, A speck with difficulty found again Once the attention quits it. And I next Descried our woman under breathless noon, Bathing in a clear lane of gliding water Whose banks seem lonely as the path of light Crossing mid ocean south of Capricorn. Her son steals warily after a butterfly And is as hushed with hope to capture it As are the birds with heat. An insect hum Circles the spot as round a cymbal's rim, Long after it has clanged, tingles a throb Which in a dream forgets the parent sound, Oppressed by this protracted and awe-filled pause, She hardly dares to wade the stream and moves As though in dread to wake some sleeping god, Yet still she nears and nears the further bank Where there is shade under a shumac's eaves. The brilliant surface cut her right in two, And the reflection of her bronzed torso Hid all beneath the polished gliding mirror; How her face listened to that sleep divine Whose audible breath was tuned to dreams of bliss!
Sudden, as though the woof of heaven were torn, A strident shout rang from some neighbour shrubs Three Nubian soldiers ran upon her with Delighted oily faces. Screaming first Commands to her small son to make for home, She laboured to recross the current as when In nightmares the scared soul expects to die Tortured by mutiny in limbs like lead, But as the playful lion of the sea Climbs the rock ledges hard by Fingal's cave To throw himself down into deep green baths, While others barking follow his vigorous lead, The foremost Abyssinian threw his weight Before her with a splash that hid them both, As the explosion of light-filled liquid parcels Shot forth in all directions. In his arms She re-appeared, a tragic terrified face Beside his coarse one laughing with success. Squeezing her with a pantomime of love, He turns to follow an arrow with his eyes That his companion, still upon the bank, Has aimed towards her son's small head that bobbed Like a black cork across the basking corn. But from the level of the sunk stream bed Neither he nor she could see the target aimed at, Yet in the pause they heard the poor child scream; A second arrow, second scream; she fought, But soon like bundle bound, hung o'er his shoulder, Helpless as a mouse in cat's mouth carried off In search of quiet, there to play with it. Those arrows missed?—or did they not? The child Shrieked twice, yet scarcely like a wounded thing She thought and hoped and still but thinks and hopes. Where is that boy? Where is her husband now? While she submitted body to force and soul To the great shuddering violence of despair How had their life progressed in that far place? Compassion fused my consciousness with hers And second-sighted eloquence arose To claim my mind for rostrum, But obstinately tranced My eyes clung to their vision; For regions to explore allure the boy No stretch of thought or sea of feeling tempts. Entranced, the mind I then had, haunted Those basalt ruins. High on sable towers Some silky patriarchal goat appears And ponders silent streets, or suddenly Some nanny, her huge bag swollen with milk, Trots out on galleries that unfenced run Round vacant courts, there, stopped by plaintive kids, Lets them complete their meal. While always, always, Throughout, those mazed, sullen and sun-soaked walls, The steady, healthy wind, Which often blows for weeks without a lull Across that upland plain, Flutes staidly. Moaning Continuously as seas Or forests before storm, And, gathering moment, Articulated by her woe, begins With second-sighted eloquence To wail through me, Nigh as unheeded, As though it still had been Meaningless wind.
For ah! the heart is cowed And dares not use her strength, Hears the kind impulse plead Against the common avaricious fear, Grants it but life, though sovereignty was due Or doles it sway but one day out of seven Or one a year.
So, so, and ever, so In the close-curtained court Those causes are deferred Which most import; These wait man's leisure. These daily matters elbow; Merely because His panic meanness Jibs blindly ere it hear What wisdom has prepared, Bolts headlong ere it see Her face unfold its smile. Man after man, race after race Drops jaded by the iterancy Of petty fear. Even as horses on the green steppes grazing, Hundreds scattered through lonely peacefulness, If shadow of cloud or red fox breaking earth Delude but one with dream of a stealthy foe, All are stampeded. Their frantic torrent draws in, With dire attraction, cumulative force, Stragglers grazing miles from where it started; On it thunders quite devoid of meaning. The tender private soul Thus takes contagion from the sordid crowd, And shying at mere dread of loss, Loses the whole of life. Thus, in the vortex of a base turmoil, Those myriad million energies wear down That might have raised mankind To live the life of gods. Had but my soul been his, As his was mine, Those wind-resembling accents Had found fit auditor. Their second-sighted eloquence, Welcomed with acclamation, Had fired action. But that was ages since: he was not then What now I am, Who have no longer The opportunity then mine, then missed,— Who still am dazed and troubled Surmising others mine, others missed.
Passionate, never-wearied voice, Tombed in thy brittle shell, This human heart Thou croonest age on age, "Give and ask not, Help and blame not," Heeded less than large and mottled cowry The which at least some child may hold to ear All smiles to listen.
Thou findest parables; With fond imagination Adorning truth For the successive Unpersuaded Generations.
This boy, myself that was, Musing visions by that woman raised, Watched that land she came from, towned with ruins Send mile-long files of laden camels out With grain to hostile cities,— Knew too the blue entrancing plain of waters Teemed with fresh shoals, buoyed up indifferently, Fisher—trader—pirate bark,— Even the straight thought whispered at his ear, "Thy lips might join with hers as with some cousin's, Here, now, at noon, Hugging her bereavd sadness close, And still, to-night, with equal satisfaction, Thy mother's blind contentment with her son." While half-seduced, half-chafed, his mind was shaken As with conflicting gusts a choppy sea, His eyes, still greedy of their visions, Fastened a swarthy town enisled in wheat, And to the ebon threshold of each house, Conjured forth the man that each was planned for: Great creatures smiling with his father's smile, Muscular, wealthy and self-satisfied, Wearing loud-coloured raiment, earrings, chains, Armlet and buckle, all of clanking gold. His spirit drank from theirs great draughts of pride And read their minds more clearly than his own; All, with one counsel like a chorus, dinned His soul that then was mine, With truths well-proved in action. "Love is chaos, For order's sake Whatever must be, should be," Roared those bulls of Bashan. Then their proud chant argued, "How should this woman know Her little lad again, Who either now is bones Under the fertile field, Or well nigh a grown man? Say they should cross at market Both slaves would pass on, not a start the wiser. What is she then to him Or he to her After these years? To drag a life that might have been but is not With toil of mind and heart, Through dreary year on year, Neglecting for its sake the life that is, Spells folly and ingratitude to those Who treat their slaves well. Thy father's household and thyself should be More to her now than those who may be dead, The place she lives in dearer Than any unattainable far land Where she is more forgotten than old dreams. Why make the day of evil worse By dwelling on it after it has past? Near things alone are real, Now is the whole of time: Places beyond the horizon are but pictures; Memory cheats the eye with an illusion!"
"Your thoughts are sound, bold builders, I am my father's son. Behold this home-shore, these our hills, this bay, And this our slave!— Up, work, look sharp about it!" Bounding a foot and fast retiring from her, I stoop for stones strewn thick about the sand, Aim them, fling them, And, as my idle arm resumes the knack, Score a hit and laugh To see her stumble hurt, behind the pine trunks. "Unless you work, I throw again, To it and steady at it. Mark me, drab, we Camilli Mean what we say." Stone after stone still flies, But aimed to knock chips from the pine-boles now; For she is busy gathering sticks, increasing Her distance as she may. The noon is sultry, Heated and clammy, I, Towards the live waves turning, slip my tunic, Then run in naked. Cooled and soothed by swimming, Both mind and heart from their late tumult tuned To placid acquiescent health, I float, suspended in the limpid water, Passive, rhythmically governed; So tranced worlds travel the dark shoreless ether.
"Where should this stream of pictures tend?" No, Bottomley, you will not ask; To you I am quite free to send The unexpected, unexplained, You will not take me thus to task.
So they be painted well, they live; If ill, they yet may cling to fame Associated with your name. In which case you, and not I, give That we are both contented with.
* * * * *
DOWN HERE THE HAWTHORN
Down here the hawthorn.... And a stir of wings, Spring-lit wings that wake Sudden tumult in the brake, Tumult of blossom tide, tumult of foaming mist Where the bright bird's tumultuous feathers kissed. White mists are blinding me, White mist of hedgerow, white mist of wings. Down here the hawthorn And a stir of wings.... Softly swishing, swift with spray All along the green laneway Dewdimmed, sunwashed, windsweet and winter-free They flash upon the light, They swing across the sight, I cannot see, I cannot see!...
Down here the flowering hawthorn flings Sleet of petals, petalled shells Spread the coloured air that sings Magic and a myriad spells Spun by my count of Springs. Down here the hawthorn.... And the flower-foam stirred By a Spring-lit bird. White hawthorn mist is blinding me. I lower my gaze, and on this old Brown bridle road Crusted with golden moss and mould The hedgerow flings Lush carpetings, Blossom woven carpetings light lain Under the farmer's lumbering load; And, floating past the spent March wrack, The footstep trail, the traveller's track. Down here the hawthorn.... White mists are blinding me, White mists that rime the fresh green bank Where fernleaf-fall And sorrel tall Upwaving, rank on rank, Shall flush the bed whereon the windflowers sank.
I turn these Spring-bewildered eyes of mine, I seek above the surf of hedgerow line Where peeping branches reach, and reaching twine Faint cherry or plum or eglantine. But with pretence of whisperings The year's young mischief-wind shall take By storm these shy striplings, And soon or later shake Their slender limbs, and make Free with their clinging may— Strip from them in a single boisterous day Their first and last vesture of pale bloom spray. So, as to meet such lack In bush or brack, The kindly hedgerows make Sure of a Springtime for these frailer things, Shedding on each the lavish creamthorn flake. Down here the hawthorn.... On all the green leaf-clusters round me clings Thickly a spray of gentle blossomings Everywhere as with many bells The young year with white magic swells. The morning rings. White mist is blinding me, I cannot see, I cannot see!
Blind grows the coloured air that sings The marvel of a myriad spells Spun by my count of Springs. Sleet of petals, petalled shells Falling with sudden poignancy (As the sleet stings) Upon the lightheart-hope which only clear sight knows. And slowly drifts, Lingering among the snows Nor, though the snow lifts, Ever goes The wistful heartache as the fresh Spring flows With slipping sureness to the time of the rose, and the withered rose. Down here the hawthorn.... And heaping blossom stirred By a joy-swift bird. White mists are blinding me, White mist of hedgerow, white mist of wings. The bird's flight flings Deep carpetings Over the wrack Of my life's track. Down here the hawthorn.... The air of coloured years is blurred By the Spring, by a bird. White mists are blinding me, White mists on the years to be. I cannot see, I cannot see....
Hurl down, harsh hills, your bitterness Of wind and storm. Stem ye the drift of herded men With your uncouthness So, tasting of your power, they press Back shrinking where upon their warm Safe ways of smoothness They feed their various lusts again.
Guard ye, wild hills, with scar and whip Your outlawry Lest alien-hearted pigmies tame Your trackless boulders, And with their unclean cunning slip The leash of civilry Fast round your shoulders. O keep ye from that shame.
Or they shall surely come, black hordes Swarming as lice With their obscenities and greed Across your fastness, Even your peaks that swing white swords, Rent, splintered ice Into the vastness Of skies where fanged winds feed.
Hurl down, harsh hills, your bitterness, Guard ye with flail Of shattering wind and thong of sleet Your pride uplifting To the impaled stars; be pitiless Before this unquiet trail Of man-herds drifting Against your stone still feet.
* * * * *
ON SEEING A PORTRAIT OF BLAKE.
Something moves in his dust, Flame sleeps beneath the crust; O whence had he those eyes Lit with celestial surprise? From what world blew that gust? Are we near to Paradise?
Gather a chaplet of five stars And the opalescent hue Of the aureole brightness cast— Red, hardly red, and blue, scarce blue,— Round th' immaculate frosty moon, Splintering light in glacial spars, When November's loudening blast Sweeps heaven's floor till burnished More crystal than at August noon, So we fit radiance may cast Before his feet, around his head.
How visits he an earthly place, Wanders among a mortal race? How were his footsteps led That still about his face Lingers a ghostly trace Of a secret influence shed By a Hand the world denies, In a land her most son flies, As a gift upon him thrust For an end he knoweth not, Yet will shine because he must, Shine and sing because he must Reap a wrong he soweth not Of contempt anger and distrust For a world which boweth not To the Flame which binds our dust.
Go net the moon, go snare the sun, Set them upon his either hand! Beneath his heels Leviathan Roll your thick coils! His head be spanned By rainbows tripled! Set a gem At the Cross-scabbard of his sword Whiter than lambwool or lilystem! Place on his brow the diadem Given the warrior of the Lord, The crown-turrets of Jerusalem!
* * * * *
I'll sing a song of kings and queens And falling leaves and flying rain, With Time to mow, and Fate who gleans Their good and evil, boon and bane.
I'll sing a song of leaves and rains And flying queens and falling kings. Yet doubt not reason still remains Snug hidden at the core of things.
For every year an autumn brings To round the root and fat the sheaves And haply garner queens and kings With falling rain and flying leaves.
The rain is salt with tears of queens The leaves are red with blood of kings; Unknowing what the mystery means We puzzle at these splendid things.
For why great kings and rains should fall, And wherefore leaves and queens should fly, Or such rare wonders be at all, You cannot tell; no more can I.