Poems and Ballads Second Series
By Algernon Charles Swinburne
Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne—Vol. III
SWINBURNE'S POETICAL WORKS
I. POEMS AND BALLADS (First Series).
II. SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE and SONGS OF TWO NATIONS.
III. POEMS AND BALLADS (Second and Third Series), and SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES.
IV. TRISTRAM OF LYONESSE, THE TALE OF BALEN, ATALANTA IN CALYDON, ERECHTHEUS.
V. STUDIES IN SONG, A CENTURY OF ROUNDELS, SONNETS ON ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS, THE HEPTALOGIA, ETC.
VI. A MIDSUMMER HOLIDAY, ASTROPHEL, A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
Poems and Ballads Second Series
By Algernon Charles Swinburne
Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne—Vol. III
1917 LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
First printed (Chatto), 1904 Reprinted 1904, '05, '10, '12 (Heinemann), 1917
London: William Heinemann, 1917
POEMS AND BALLADS
The Last Oracle 5
In the Bay 11
A Forsaken Garden 22
At a Month's End 29
The Year of the Rose 36
A Wasted Vigil 39
The Complaint of Lisa 42
For the Feast of Giordano Bruno 48
Ave Atque Vale 50
Memorial Verses on the Death of Theophile Gautier 58
Sonnet (with a Copy of Mademoiselle de Maupin) 66
Age and Song (to Barry Cornwall) 67
In Memory of Barry Cornwall 69
To Victor Hugo 74
A Birth-Song 77
A Ballad of Dreamland 85
Cyril Tourneur 87
A Ballad of Francois Villos 88
Before Sunset 92
A Vision of Spring in Winter 94
At Parting 100
A Song in Season 101
Two Leaders 107
Victor Hugo in 1877 109
Child's Song 110
Four Songs of Four Seasons:—
I. Winter in Northumberland 113
II. Spring in Tuscany 122
III. Summer in Auvergne 125
IV. Autumn in Cornwall 127
The White Czar 129
To Louis Kossuth 132
Translations from the French of Villon:—
The Complaint of the Fair Armouress 133
A Double Ballad of Good Counsel 137
Fragment on Death 139
Ballad of the Lords of Old Time 140
Ballad of the Women of Paris 142
Ballad written for a Bridegroom 144
Ballad against the Enemies of France 146
The Dispute of the Heart and Body of Francois Villon 148
Epistle in form of a Ballad to his Friends 150
The Epitaph in form of a Ballad 152
From Victor Hugo 154
Theophile Gautier 157
In Obitom Theophili Poetae 160
Ad Catullum 161
Dedication, 1878 162
POEMS AND BALLADS
RICHARD F. BURTON
IN REDEMPTION OF AN OLD PLEDGE AND IN RECOGNITION OF A FRIENDSHIP WHICH I MUST ALWAYS COUNT AMONG THE HIGHEST HONOURS OF MY LIFE
THE LAST ORACLE
[Greek: eipate to basilei, chamai pese daidalos aula; ouketi Phoibos echei kaluban, ou mantida daphnen, ou pagan laleousan; apesbeto kai lalon hudor.]
Years have risen and fallen in darkness or in twilight, Ages waxed and waned that knew not thee nor thine, While the world sought light by night and sought not thy light, Since the sad last pilgrim left thy dark mid shrine. Dark the shrine and dumb the fount of song thence welling, Save for words more sad than tears of blood, that said: Tell the king, on earth has fallen the glorious dwelling, And the watersprings that spake are quenched and dead. Not a cell is left the God, no roof, no cover In his hand the prophet laurel flowers no more. And the great king's high sad heart, thy true last lover, Felt thine answer pierce and cleave it to the core. And he bowed down his hopeless head In the drift of the wild world's tide, And dying, Thou hast conquered, he said, Galilean; he said it, and died. And the world that was thine and was ours When the Graces took hands with the Hours Grew cold as a winter wave In the wind from a wide-mouthed grave, As a gulf wide open to swallow The light that the world held dear. O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
Age on age thy mouth was mute, thy face was hidden, And the lips and eyes that loved thee blind and dumb; Song forsook their tongues that held thy name forbidden, Light their eyes that saw the strange God's kingdom come. Fire for light and hell for heaven and psalms for paeans Filled the clearest eyes and lips most sweet of song, When for chant of Greeks the wail of Galileans Made the whole world moan with hymns of wrath and wrong. Yea, not yet we see thee, father, as they saw thee, They that worshipped when the world was theirs and thine, They whose words had power by thine own power to draw thee Down from heaven till earth seemed more than heaven divine. For the shades are about us that hover When darkness is half withdrawn And the skirts of the dead night cover The face of the live new dawn. For the past is not utterly past Though the word on its lips be the last, And the time be gone by with its creed When men were as beasts that bleed, As sheep or as swine that wallow, In the shambles of faith and of fear. O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
Yet it may be, lord and father, could we know it, We that love thee for our darkness shall have light More than ever prophet hailed of old or poet Standing crowned and robed and sovereign in thy sight. To the likeness of one God their dreams enthralled thee, Who wast greater than all Gods that waned and grew; Son of God the shining son of Time they called thee, Who wast older, O our father, than they knew. For no thought of man made Gods to love or honour Ere the song within the silent soul began, Nor might earth in dream or deed take heaven upon her Till the word was clothed with speech by lips of man. And the word and the life wast thou, The spirit of man and the breath; And before thee the Gods that bow Take life at thine hands and death. For these are as ghosts that wane, That are gone in an age or twain; Harsh, merciful, passionate, pure, They perish, but thou shalt endure; Be their flight with the swan or the swallow, They pass as the flight of a year. O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
Thou the word, the light, the life, the breath, the glory, Strong to help and heal, to lighten and to slay, Thine is all the song of man, the world's whole story; Not of morning and of evening is thy day. Old and younger Gods are buried or begotten From uprising to downsetting of thy sun, Risen from eastward, fallen to westward and forgotten, And their springs are many, but their end is one. Divers births of godheads find one death appointed, As the soul whence each was born makes room for each; God by God goes out, discrowned and disanointed, But the soul stands fast that gave them shape and speech. Is the sun yet cast out of heaven? Is the song yet cast out of man? Life that had song for its leaven To quicken the blood that ran Through the veins of the songless years More bitter and cold than tears, Heaven that had thee for its one Light, life, word, witness, O sun, Are they soundless and sightless and hollow, Without eye, without speech, without ear? O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
Time arose and smote thee silent at his warning, Change and darkness fell on men that fell from thee; Dark thou satest, veiled with light, behind the morning, Till the soul of man should lift up eyes and see. Till the blind mute soul get speech again and eyesight, Man may worship not the light of life within; In his sight the stars whose fires grow dark in thy sight Shine as sunbeams on the night of death and sin. Time again is risen with mightier word of warning, Change hath blown again a blast of louder breath; Clothed with clouds and stars and dreams that melt in morning, Lo, the Gods that ruled by grace of sin and death! They are conquered, they break, they are stricken, Whose might made the whole world pale; They are dust that shall rise not or quicken Though the world for their death's sake wail. As a hound on a wild beast's trace, So time has their godhead in chase; As wolves when the hunt makes head, They are scattered, they fly, they are fled; They are fled beyond hail, beyond hollo, And the cry of the chase, and the cheer. O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
Day by day thy shadow shines in heaven beholden, Even the sun, the shining shadow of thy face: King, the ways of heaven before thy feet grow golden; God, the soul of earth is kindled with thy grace. In thy lips the speech of man whence Gods were fashioned, In thy soul the thought that makes them and unmakes; By thy light and heat incarnate and impassioned, Soul to soul of man gives light for light and takes. As they knew thy name of old time could we know it, Healer called of sickness, slayer invoked of wrong, Light of eyes that saw thy light, God, king, priest, poet, Song should bring thee back to heal us with thy song. For thy kingdom is past not away, Nor thy power from the place thereof hurled; Out of heaven they shall cast not the day, They shall cast not out song from the world. By the song and the light they give We know thy works that they live; With the gift thou hast given us of speech We praise, we adore, we beseech, We arise at thy bidding and follow, We cry to thee, answer, appear, O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo, Destroyer and healer, hear!
IN THE BAY
Beyond the hollow sunset, ere a star Take heart in heaven from eastward, while the west, Fulfilled of watery resonance and rest, Is as a port with clouds for harbour bar To fold the fleet in of the winds from far That stir no plume now of the bland sea's breast:
Above the soft sweep of the breathless bay Southwestward, far past flight of night and day, Lower than the sunken sunset sinks, and higher Than dawn can freak the front of heaven with fire, My thought with eyes and wings made wide makes way To find the place of souls that I desire.
If any place for any soul there be, Disrobed and disentrammelled; if the might, The fire and force that filled with ardent light The souls whose shadow is half the light we see, Survive and be suppressed not of the night; This hour should show what all day hid from me.
Night knows not, neither is it shown to day, By sunlight nor by starlight is it shown, Nor to the full moon's eye nor footfall known, Their world's untrodden and unkindled way. Nor is the breath nor music of it blown With sounds of winter or with winds of May.
But here, where light and darkness reconciled Hold earth between them as a weanling child Between the balanced hands of death and birth, Even as they held the new-born shape of earth When first life trembled in her limbs and smiled, Here hope might think to find what hope were worth.
Past Hades, past Elysium, past the long Slow smooth strong lapse of Lethe—past the toil Wherein all souls are taken as a spoil, The Stygian web of waters—if your song Be quenched not, O our brethren, but be strong As ere ye too shook off our temporal coil;
If yet these twain survive your worldly breath, Joy trampling sorrow, life devouring death, If perfect life possess your life all through And like your words your souls be deathless too, To-night, of all whom night encompasseth, My soul would commune with one soul of you.
Above the sunset might I see thine eyes That were above the sundawn in our skies, Son of the songs of morning,—thine that were First lights to lighten that rekindling air Wherethrough men saw the front of England rise And heard thine loudest of the lyre-notes there—
If yet thy fire have not one spark the less, O Titan, born of her a Titaness, Across the sunrise and the sunset's mark Send of thy lyre one sound, thy fire one spark, To change this face of our unworthiness, Across this hour dividing light from dark.
To change this face of our chill time, that hears No song like thine of all that crowd its ears, Of all its lights that lighten all day long Sees none like thy most fleet and fiery sphere's Outlightening Sirius—in its twilight throng No thunder and no sunrise like thy song.
Hath not the sea-wind swept the sea-line bare To pave with stainless fire through stainless air A passage for thine heavenlier feet to tread Ungrieved of earthly floor-work? hath it spread No covering splendid as the sun-god's hair To veil or to reveal thy lordlier head?
Hath not the sunset strewn across the sea A way majestical enough for thee? What hour save this should be thine hour—and mine, If thou have care of any less divine Than thine own soul; if thou take thought of me, Marlowe, as all my soul takes thought of thine?
Before the moon's face as before the sun The morning star and evening star are one For all men's lands as England. O, if night Hang hard upon us,—ere our day take flight, Shed thou some comfort from thy day long done On us pale children of the latter light!
For surely, brother and master and lord and king, Where'er thy footfall and thy face make spring In all souls' eyes that meet thee wheresoe'er, And have thy soul for sunshine and sweet air— Some late love of thine old live land should cling, Some living love of England, round thee there.
Here from her shore across her sunniest sea My soul makes question of the sun for thee, And waves and beams make answer. When thy feet Made her ways flowerier and their flowers more sweet With childlike passage of a god to be, Like spray these waves cast off her foemen's fleet.
Like foam they flung it from her, and like weed Its wrecks were washed from scornful shoal to shoal, From rock to rock reverberate; and the whole Sea laughed and lightened with a deathless deed That sowed our enemies in her field for seed And made her shores fit harbourage for thy soul.
Then in her green south fields, a poor man's child, Thou hadst thy short sweet fill of half-blown joy, That ripens all of us for time to cloy With full-blown pain and passion; ere the wild World caught thee by the fiery heart, and smiled To make so swift end of the godlike boy.
For thou, if ever godlike foot there trod These fields of ours, wert surely like a god. Who knows what splendour of strange dreams was shed With sacred shadow and glimmer of gold and red From hallowed windows, over stone and sod, On thine unbowed bright insubmissive head?
The shadow stayed not, but the splendour stays, Our brother, till the last of English days. No day nor night on English earth shall be For ever, spring nor summer, Junes nor Mays, But somewhat as a sound or gleam of thee Shall come on us like morning from the sea.
Like sunrise never wholly risen, nor yet Quenched; or like sunset never wholly set, A light to lighten as from living eyes The cold unlit close lids of one that lies Dead, or a ray returned from death's far skies To fire us living lest our lives forget.
For in that heaven what light of lights may be, What splendour of what stars, what spheres of flame Sounding, that none may number nor may name, We know not, even thy brethren; yea, not we Whose eyes desire the light that lightened thee, Whose ways and thine are one way and the same.
But if the riddles that in sleep we read, And trust them not, be flattering truth indeed, As he that rose our mightiest called them,—he, Much higher than thou as thou much higher than we— There, might we say, all flower of all our seed, All singing souls are as one sounding sea.
All those that here were of thy kind and kin, Beside thee and below thee, full of love, Full-souled for song,—and one alone above Whose only light folds all your glories in— With all birds' notes from nightingale to dove Fill the world whither we too fain would win.
The world that sees in heaven the sovereign light Of sunlike Shakespeare, and the fiery night Whose stars were watched of Webster; and beneath, The twin-souled brethren of the single wreath, Grown in kings' gardens, plucked from pastoral heath, Wrought with all flowers for all men's heart's delight.
And that fixed fervour, iron-red like Mars, In the mid moving tide of tenderer stars, That burned on loves and deeds the darkest done, Athwart the incestuous prisoner's bride-house bars; And thine, most highest of all their fires but one, Our morning star, sole risen before the sun.
And one light risen since theirs to run such race Thou hast seen, O Phosphor, from thy pride of place. Thou hast seen Shelley, him that was to thee As light to fire or dawn to lightning; me, Me likewise, O our brother, shalt thou see, And I behold thee, face to glorious face?
You twain the same swift year of manhood swept Down the steep darkness, and our father wept. And from the gleam of Apollonian tears A holier aureole rounds your memories, kept Most fervent-fresh of all the singing spheres, And April-coloured through all months and years.
You twain fate spared not half your fiery span; The longer date fulfils the lesser man. Ye from beyond the dark dividing date Stand smiling, crowned as gods with foot on fate. For stronger was your blessing than his ban, And earliest whom he struck, he struck too late.
Yet love and loathing, faith and unfaith yet Bind less to greater souls in unison, And one desire that makes three spirits as one Takes great and small as in one spiritual net Woven out of hope toward what shall yet be done Ere hate or love remember or forget.
Woven out of faith and hope and love too great To bear the bonds of life and death and fate: Woven out of love and hope and faith too dear To take the print of doubt and change and fear: And interwoven with lines of wrath and hate Blood-red with soils of many a sanguine year.
Who cannot hate, can love not; if he grieve, His tears are barren as the unfruitful rain That rears no harvest from the green sea's plain, And as thorns crackling this man's laugh is vain. Nor can belief touch, kindle, smite, reprieve His heart who has not heart to disbelieve.
But you, most perfect in your hate and love, Our great twin-spirited brethren; you that stand Head by head glittering, hand made fast in hand, And underfoot the fang-drawn worm that strove To wound you living; from so far above, Look love, not scorn, on ours that was your land.
For love we lack, and help and heat and light To clothe us and to comfort us with might. What help is ours to take or give? but ye— O, more than sunrise to the blind cold sea, That wailed aloud with all her waves all night, Much more, being much more glorious, should you be.
As fire to frost, as ease to toil, as dew To flowerless fields, as sleep to slackening pain, As hope to souls long weaned from hope again Returning, or as blood revived anew To dry-drawn limbs and every pulseless vein, Even so toward us should no man be but you.
One rose before the sunrise was, and one Before the sunset, lovelier than the sun. And now the heaven is dark and bright and loud With wind and starry drift and moon and cloud, And night's cry rings in straining sheet and shroud, What help is ours if hope like yours be none?
O well-beloved, our brethren, if ye be, Then are we not forsaken. This kind earth Made fragrant once for all time with your birth, And bright for all men with your love, and worth The clasp and kiss and wedlock of the sea, Were not your mother if not your brethren we.
Because the days were dark with gods and kings And in time's hand the old hours of time as rods, When force and fear set hope and faith at odds, Ye failed not nor abased your plume-plucked wings; And we that front not more disastrous things, How should we fail in face of kings and gods?
For now the deep dense plumes of night are thinned Surely with winnowing of the glimmering wind Whose feet are fledged with morning; and the breath Begins in heaven that sings the dark to death. And all the night wherein men groaned and sinned Sickens at heart to hear what sundawn saith.
O first-born sons of hope and fairest, ye Whose prows first clove the thought-unsounded sea Whence all the dark dead centuries rose to bar The spirit of man lest truth should make him free, The sunrise and the sunset, seeing one star, Take heart as we to know you that ye are.
Ye rise not and ye set not; we that say Ye rise and set like hopes that set and rise Look yet but seaward from a land-locked bay; But where at last the sea's line is the sky's And truth and hope one sunlight in your eyes, No sunrise and no sunset marks their day.
A FORSAKEN GARDEN
In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland, At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee, Walled round with rocks as an inland island, The ghost of a garden fronts the sea. A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses The steep square slope of the blossomless bed Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses Now lie dead.
The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken, To the low last edge of the long lone land. If a step should sound or a word be spoken, Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand? So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless, Through branches and briars if a man make way, He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless Night and day.
The dense hard passage is blind and stifled That crawls by a track none turn to climb To the strait waste place that the years have rifled Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time. The thorns he spares when the rose is taken; The rocks are left when he wastes the plain. The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken, These remain.
Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not; As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry; From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not, Could she call, there were never a rose to reply. Over the meadows that blossom and wither Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song; Only the sun and the rain come hither All year long.
The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath. Only the wind here hovers and revels In a round where life seems barren as death. Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping, Haply, of lovers none ever will know, Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping Years ago.
Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither," Did he whisper? "look forth from the flowers to the sea; For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither, And men that love lightly may die—but we?" And the same wind sang and the same waves whitened, And or ever the garden's last petals were shed, In the lips that had whispered, the eyes that had lightened, Love was dead.
Or they loved their life through, and then went whither? And were one to the end—but what end who knows? Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither, As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose. Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them? What love was ever as deep as a grave? They are loveless now as the grass above them Or the wave.
All are at one now, roses and lovers, Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea. Not a breath of the time that has been hovers In the air now soft with a summer to be. Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons hereafter Of the flowers or the lovers that laugh now or weep, When as they that are free now of weeping and laughter We shall sleep.
Here death may deal not again for ever; Here change may come not till all change end. From the graves they have made they shall rise up never, Who have left nought living to ravage and rend. Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing, While the sun and the rain live, these shall be; Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing Roll the sea.
Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble, Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink, Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink, Here now in his triumph where all things falter, Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread, As a god self-slain on his own strange altar, Death lies dead.
This flower that smells of honey and the sea, White laurustine, seems in my hand to be A white star made of memory long ago Lit in the heaven of dear times dead to me.
A star out of the skies love used to know Here held in hand, a stray left yet to show What flowers my heart was full of in the days That are long since gone down dead memory's flow.
Dead memory that revives on doubtful ways, Half hearkening what the buried season says Out of the world of the unapparent dead Where the lost Aprils are, and the lost Mays.
Flower, once I knew thy star-white brethren bred Nigh where the last of all the land made head Against the sea, a keen-faced promontory, Flowers on salt wind and sprinkled sea-dews fed.
Their hearts were glad of the free place's glory; The wind that sang them all his stormy story Had talked all winter to the sleepless spray, And as the sea's their hues were hard and hoary.
Like things born of the sea and the bright day, They laughed out at the years that could not slay, Live sons and joyous of unquiet hours, And stronger than all storms that range for prey.
And in the close indomitable flowers A keen-edged odour of the sun and showers Was as the smell of the fresh honeycomb Made sweet for mouths of none but paramours.
Out of the hard green wall of leaves that clomb They showed like windfalls of the snow-soft foam, Or feathers from the weary south-wind's wing, Fair as the spray that it came shoreward from.
And thou, as white, what word hast thou to bring? If my heart hearken, whereof wilt thou sing? For some sign surely thou too hast to bear, Some word far south was taught thee of the spring.
White like a white rose, not like these that were Taught of the wind's mouth and the winter air, Poor tender thing of soft Italian bloom, Where once thou grewest, what else for me grew there?
Born in what spring and on what city's tomb, By whose hand wast thou reached, and plucked for whom? There hangs about thee, could the soul's sense tell, An odour as of love and of love's doom.
Of days more sweet than thou wast sweet to smell, Of flower-soft thoughts that came to flower and fell, Of loves that lived a lily's life and died, Of dreams now dwelling where dead roses dwell.
O white birth of the golden mountain-side That for the sun's love makes its bosom wide At sunrise, and with all its woods and flowers Takes in the morning to its heart of pride!
Thou hast a word of that one land of ours, And of the fair town called of the Fair Towers, A word for me of my San Gimignan, A word of April's greenest-girdled hours.
Of the old breached walls whereon the wallflowers ran Called of Saint Fina, breachless now of man, Though time with soft feet break them stone by stone, Who breaks down hour by hour his own reign's span.
Of the old cliff overcome and overgrown That all that flowerage clothed as flesh clothes bone, That garment of acacias made for May, Whereof here lies one witness overblown.
The fair brave trees with all their flowers at play, How king-like they stood up into the day! How sweet the day was with them, and the night! Such words of message have dead flowers to say.
This that the winter and the wind made bright, And this that lived upon Italian light, Before I throw them and these words away, Who knows but I what memories too take flight?
AT A MONTH'S END
The night last night was strange and shaken: More strange the change of you and me. Once more, for the old love's love forsaken, We went out once more toward the sea.
For the old love's love-sake dead and buried, One last time, one more and no more, We watched the waves set in, the serried Spears of the tide storming the shore.
Hardly we saw the high moon hanging, Heard hardly through the windy night Far waters ringing, low reefs clanging, Under wan skies and waste white light.
With chafe and change of surges chiming, The clashing channels rocked and rang Large music, wave to wild wave timing, And all the choral water sang.
Faint lights fell this way, that way floated, Quick sparks of sea-fire keen like eyes From the rolled surf that flashed, and noted Shores and faint cliffs and bays and skies.
The ghost of sea that shrank up sighing At the sand's edge, a short sad breath Trembling to touch the goal, and dying With weak heart heaved up once in death—
The rustling sand and shingle shaken With light sweet touches and small sound— These could not move us, could not waken Hearts to look forth, eyes to look round.
Silent we went an hour together, Under grey skies by waters white. Our hearts were full of windy weather, Clouds and blown stars and broken light.
Full of cold clouds and moonbeams drifted And streaming storms and straying fires, Our souls in us were stirred and shifted By doubts and dreams and foiled desires.
Across, aslant, a scudding sea-mew Swam, dipped, and dropped, and grazed the sea: And one with me I could not dream you; And one with you I could not be.
As the white wing the white wave's fringes Touched and slid over and flashed past— As a pale cloud a pale flame tinges From the moon's lowest light and last—
As a star feels the sun and falters, Touched to death by diviner eyes— As on the old gods' untended altars The old lire of withered worship dies—
(Once only, once the shrine relighted Sees the last fiery shadow shine, Last shadow of flame and faith benighted, Sees falter and flutter and fail the shrine)
So once with fiery breath and flying Your winged heart touched mine and went, And the swift spirits kissed, and sighing, Sundered and smiled and were content.
That only touch, that feeling only, Enough we found, we found too much; For the unlit shrine is hardly lonely As one the old fire forgets to touch.
Slight as the sea's sight of the sea-mew, Slight as the sun's sight of the star: Enough to show one must not deem you For love's sake other than you are.
Who snares and tames with fear and danger A bright beast of a fiery kin, Only to mar, only to change her Sleek supple soul and splendid skin?
Easy with blows to mar and maim her, Easy with bonds to bind and bruise; What profit, if she yield her tamer The limbs to mar, the soul to lose?
Best leave or take the perfect creature, Take all she is or leave complete; Transmute you will not form or feature, Change feet for wings or wings for feet.
Strange eyes, new limbs, can no man give her; Sweet is the sweet thing as it is. No soul she hath, we see, to outlive her; Hath she for that no lips to kiss?
So may one read his weird, and reason, And with vain drugs assuage no pain. For each man in his loving season Fools and is fooled of these in vain.
Charms that allay not any longing, Spells that appease not any grief, Time brings us all by handfuls, wronging All hurts with nothing of relief.
Ah, too soon shot, the fool's bolt misses! What help? the world is full of loves; Night after night of running kisses, Chirp after chirp of changing doves.
Should Love disown or disesteem you For loving one man more or less? You could not tame your light white sea-mew, Nor I my sleek black pantheress.
For a new soul let whoso please pray, We are what life made us, and shall be. For you the jungle and me the sea-spray, And south for you and north for me.
But this one broken foam-white feather I throw you off the hither wing, Splashed stiff with sea-scurf and salt weather, This song for sleep to learn and sing—
Sing in your ear when, daytime over, You, couched at long length on hot sand With some sleek sun-discoloured lover, Wince from his breach as from a brand:
Till the acrid hour aches out and ceases, And the sheathed eyeball sleepier swims, The deep flank smoothes its dimpling creases. And passion loosens all the limbs:
Till dreams of sharp grey north-sea weather Fall faint upon your fiery sleep, As on strange sands a strayed bird's feather The wind may choose to lose or keep.
But I, who leave my queen of panthers, As a tired honey-heavy bee Gilt with sweet dust from gold-grained anthers Leaves the rose-chalice, what for me?
From the ardours of the chaliced centre, From the amorous anthers' golden grime, That scorch and smutch all wings that enter, I fly forth hot from honey-time.
But as to a bee's gilt thighs and winglets The flower-dust with the flower-smell clings; As a snake's mobile rampant ringlets Leave the sand marked with print of rings;
So to my soul in surer fashion Your savage stamp and savour hangs; The print and perfume of old passion, The wild-beast mark of panther's fangs.
I saw my soul at rest upon a day As a bird sleeping in the nest of night, Among soft leaves that give the starlight way To touch its wings but not its eyes with light; So that it knew as one in visions may, And knew not as men waking, of delight.
This was the measure of my soul's delight; It had no power of joy to fly by day, Nor part in the large lordship of the light; But in a secret moon-beholden way Had all its will of dreams and pleasant night, And all the love and life that sleepers may.
But such life's triumph as men waking may It might not have to feed its faint delight Between the stars by night and sun by day, Shut up with green leaves and a little light; Because its way was as a lost star's way, A world's not wholly known of day or night.
All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of night Made it all music that such minstrels may, And all they had they gave it of delight; But in the full face of the fire of day What place shall be for any starry light, What part of heaven in all the wide sun's way?
Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the way, Watched as a nursling of the large-eyed night, And sought no strength nor knowledge of the day, Nor closer touch conclusive of delight, Nor mightier joy nor truer than dreamers may, Nor more of song than they, nor more of light.
For who sleeps once and sees the secret light Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer way Between the rise and rest of day and night, Shall care no more to fare as all men may, But be his place of pain or of delight, There shall he dwell, beholding night as day.
Song, have thy day and take thy fill of light Before the night be fallen across thy way; Sing while he may, man hath no long delight.
THE YEAR OF THE ROSE
From the depths of the green garden-closes Where the summer in darkness dozes Till autumn pluck from his hand An hour-glass that holds not a sand; From the maze that a flower-belt encloses To the stones and sea-grass on the strand How red was the reign of the roses Over the rose-crowned land!
The year of the rose is brief; From the first blade blown to the sheaf, From the thin green leaf to the gold, It has time to be sweet and grow old, To triumph and leave not a leaf For witness in winter's sight How lovers once in the light Would mix their breath with its breath, And its spirit was quenched not of night, As love is subdued not of death.
In the red-rose land not a mile Of the meadows from stile to stile, Of the valleys from stream to stream, But the air was a long sweet dream And the earth was a sweet wide smile Red-mouthed of a goddess, returned From the sea which had borne her and burned, That with one swift smile of her mouth Looked full on the north as it yearned, And the north was more than the south.
For the north, when winter was long, In his heart had made him a song, And clothed it with wings of desire, And shod it with shoon as of fire, To carry the tale of his wrong To the south-west wind by the sea. That none might bear it but he To the ear of the goddess unknown Who waits till her time shall be To take the world for a throne.
In the earth beneath, and above In the heaven where her name is love, She warms with light from her eyes The seasons of life as they rise, And her eyes are as eyes of a dove, But the wings that lift her and bear As an eagle's, and all her hair As fire by the wind's breath curled, And her passage is song through the air, And her presence is spring through the world.
So turned she northward and came, And the white-thorn land was aflame With the fires that were shed from her feet, That the north, by her love made sweet, Should be called by a rose-red name; And a murmur was heard as of doves, And a music beginning of loves In the light that the roses made, Such light as the music loves, The music of man with maid.
But the days drop one upon one, And a chill soft wind is begun In the heart of the rose-red maze That weeps for the roseleaf days And the reign of the rose undone That ruled so long in the light, And by spirit, and not by sight, Through the darkness thrilled with its breath, Still ruled in the viewless night, As love might rule over death.
The time of lovers is brief; From the fair first joy to the grief That tells when love is grown old, From the warm wild kiss to the cold, From the red to the white-rose leaf, They have but a season to seem As roseleaves lost on a stream That part not and pass not apart As a spirit from dream to dream, As a sorrow from heart to heart.
From the bloom and the gloom that encloses The death-bed of Love where he dozes Till a relic be left not of sand To the hour-glass that breaks in his hand; From the change in the grey garden-closes To the last stray grass of the strand, A rain and ruin of roses Over the red-rose land
A WASTED VIGIL
Couldst thou not watch with me one hour? Behold, Dawn skims the sea with flying feet of gold, With sudden feet that graze the gradual sea; Couldst thou not watch with me?
What, not one hour? for star by star the night Falls, and her thousands world by world take flight; They die, and day survives, and what of thee? Couldst thou not watch with me?
Lo, far in heaven the web of night undone, And on the sudden sea the gradual sun; Wave to wave answers, tree responds to tree; Couldst thou not watch with me?
Sunbeam by sunbeam creeps from line to line, Foam by foam quickens on the brightening brine; Sail by sail passes, flower by flower gets free; Couldst thou not watch with me?
Last year, a brief while since, an age ago, A whole year past, with bud and bloom and snow, O moon that wast in heaven, what friends were we! Couldst thou not watch with me?
Old moons, and last year's flowers, and last year's snows! Who now saith to thee, moon? or who saith, rose? O dust and ashes, once found fair to see! Couldst thou not watch with me?
O dust and ashes, once thought sweet to smell! With me it is not, is it with thee well? O sea-drift blown from windward back to lee! Couldst thou not watch with me?
The old year's dead hands are full of their dead flowers. The old days are full of dead old loves of ours, Born as a rose, and briefer born than she; Couldst thou not watch with me?
Could two days live again of that dead year, One would say, seeking us and passing here, Where is she? and one answering, Where is he? Couldst thou not watch with me?
Nay, those two lovers are not anywhere; If we were they, none knows us what we were, Nor aught of all their barren grief and glee. Couldst thou not watch with me?
Half false, half fair, all feeble, be my verse Upon thee not for blessing nor for curse; For some must stand, and some must fall or flee; Couldst thou not watch with me?
As a new moon above spent stars thou wast; But stars endure after the moon is past. Couldst thou not watch one hour, though I watch three? Couldst thou not watch with me?
What of the night? The night is full, the tide Storms inland, the most ancient rocks divide; Yet some endure, and bow nor head nor knee; Couldst thou not watch with me?
Since thou art not as these are, go thy ways; Thou hast no part in all my nights and days. Lie still, sleep on, be glad—as such things be; Thou couldst not watch with me.
THE COMPLAINT OF LISA
Decameron, x. 7
There is no woman living that draws breath So sad as I, though all things sadden her. There is not one upon life's weariest way Who is weary as I am weary of all but death. Toward whom I look as looks the sunflower All day with all his whole soul toward the sun; While in the sun's sight I make moan all day, And all night on my sleepless maiden bed Weep and call out on death, O Love, and thee, That thou or he would take me to the dead, And know not what thing evil I have done That life should lay such heavy hand on me.
Alas, Love, what is this thou wouldst with me? What honour shall thou have to quench my breath, Or what shall my heart broken profit thee? O Love, O great god Love, what have I done, That thou shouldst hunger so after my death? My heart is harmless as my life's first day: Seek out some false fair woman, and plague her Till her tears even as my tears fill her bed: I am the least flower in thy flowery way, But till my time be come that I be dead Let me live out my flower-time in the sun Though my leaves shut before the sunflower.
O Love, Love, Love, the kingly sunflower! Shall he the sun hath looked on look on me, That live down here in shade, out of the sun, Here living in the sorrow and shadow of death? Shall he that feeds his heart full of the day Care to give mine eyes light, or my lips breath? Because she loves him shall my lord love her Who is as a worm in my lord's kingly way? I shall not see him or know him alive or dead; But thou, I know thee, O Love, and pray to thee That in brief while my brief life-days be done, And the worm quickly make my marriage-bed.
For underground there is no sleepless bed: But here since I beheld my sunflower These eyes have slept not, seeing all night and day His sunlike eyes, and face fronting the sun. Wherefore if anywhere be any death, I would fain find and fold him fast to me, That I may sleep with the world's eldest dead, With her that died seven centuries since, and her That went last night down the night-wandering way. For this is sleep indeed, when labour is done, Without love, without dreams, and without breath, And without thought, O name unnamed! of thee.
Ah, but, forgetting all things, shall I thee? Wilt thou not be as now about my bed There underground as here before the sun? Shall not thy vision vex me alive and dead, Thy moving vision without form or breath? I read long since the bitter tale of her Who read the tale of Launcelot on a day, And died, and had no quiet after death, But was moved ever along a weary way, Lost with her love in the underworld; ah me, O my king, O my lordly sunflower, Would God to me too such a thing were done!
But if such sweet and bitter things be done, Then, flying from life, I shall not fly from thee. For in that living world without a sun Thy vision will lay hold upon me dead, And meet and mock me, and mar my peace in death. Yet if being wroth God had such pity on her, Who was a sinner and foolish in her day, That even in hell they twain should breathe one breath, Why should he not in some wise pity me? So if I sleep not in my soft strait bed I may look up and see my sunflower As he the sun, in some divine strange way.
O poor my heart, well knowest thou in what way This sore sweet evil unto us was done. For on a holy and a heavy day I was arisen out of my still small bed To see the knights tilt, and one said to me "The king," and seeing him, somewhat stopped my breath, And if the girl spake more, I heard not her, For only I saw what I shall see when dead, A kingly flower of knights, a sunflower, That shone against the sunlight like the sun, And like a fire, O heart, consuming thee, The fire of love that lights the pyre of death.
Howbeit I shall not die an evil death Who have loved in such a sad and sinless way, That this my love, lord, was no shame to thee. So when mine eyes are shut against the sun, O my soul's sun, O the world's sunflower, Thou nor no man will quite despise me dead. And dying I pray with all my low last breath That thy whole life may be as was that day, That feast-day that made trothplight death and me, Giving the world light of thy great deeds done; And that fair face brightening thy bridal bed, That God be good as God hath been to her.
That all things goodly and glad remain with her, All things that make glad life and goodly death; That as a bee sucks from a sunflower Honey, when summer draws delighted breath, Her soul may drink of thy soul in like way, And love make life a fruitful marriage-bed Where day may bring forth fruits of joy to day And night to night till days and nights be dead. And as she gives light of her love to thee, Give thou to her the old glory of days long done; And either give some heat of light to me, To warm me where I sleep without the sun.
O sunflower made drunken with the sun, O knight whose lady's heart draws thine to her, Great king, glad lover, I have a word to thee. There is a weed lives out of the sun's way, Hid from the heat deep in the meadow's bed, That swoons and whitens at the wind's least breath, A flower star-shaped, that all a summer day Will gaze her soul out on the sunflower For very love till twilight finds her dead. But the great sunflower heeds not her poor death, Knows not when all her loving life is done; And so much knows my lord the king of me.
Aye, all day long he has no eye for me; With golden eye following the golden sun From rose-coloured to purple-pillowed bed, From birthplace to the flame-lit place of death, From eastern end to western of his way. So mine eye follows thee, my sunflower, So the white star-flower turns and yearns to thee, The sick weak weed, not well alive or dead, Trod underfoot if any pass by her, Pale, without colour of summer or summer breath In the shrunk shuddering petals, that have done No work but love, and die before the day.
But thou, to-day, to-morrow, and every day, Be glad and great, O love whose love slays me. Thy fervent flower made fruitful from the sun Shall drop its golden seed in the world's way, That all men thereof nourished shall praise thee For grain and flower and fruit of works well done; Till thy shed seed, O shining sunflower, Bring forth such growth of the world's garden-bed As like the sun shall outlive age and death. And yet I would thine heart had heed of her Who loves thee alive; but not till she be dead. Come, Love, then, quickly, and take her utmost breath.
Song, speak for me who am dumb as are the dead; From my sad bed of tears I send forth thee, To fly all day from sun's birth to sun's death Down the sun's way after the flying sun, For love of her that gave thee wings and breath, Ere day be done, to seek the sunflower.
FOR THE FEAST OF GIORDANO BRUNO,
PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR
Son of the lightning and the light that glows Beyond the lightning's or the morning's light, Soul splendid with all-righteous love of right, In whose keen fire all hopes and fears and woes Were clean consumed, and from their ashes rose Transfigured, and intolerable to sight Save of purged eyes whose lids had cast off night, In love's and wisdom's likeness when they close, Embracing, and between them truth stands fast, Embraced of either; thou whose feet were set On English earth while this was England yet, Our friend that art, our Sidney's friend that wast, Heart hardier found and higher than all men's past, Shall we not praise thee though thine own forget?
Lift up thy light on us and on thine own, O soul whose spirit on earth was as a rod To scourge off priests, a sword to pierce their God, A staff for man's free thought to walk alone, A lamp to lead him far from shrine and throne On ways untrodden where his fathers trod Ere earth's heart withered at a high priest's nod And all men's mouths that made not prayer made moan. From bonds and torments and the ravening flame Surely thy spirit of sense rose up to greet Lucretius, where such only spirits meet, And walk with him apart till Shelley came To make the heaven of heavens more heavenly sweet And mix with yours a third incorporate name.
AVE ATQUE VALE
IN MEMORY OF CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
Nous devrions pourtant lui porter quelques fleurs; Les morts, les pauvres morts, ont de grandes douleurs, Et quand Octobre souffle, emondeur des vieux arbres, Son vent melancolique a l'entour de leurs marbres, Certe, ils doivent trouver les vivants bien ingrats.
Les Fleurs du Mal.
Shall I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel, Brother, on this that was the veil of thee? Or quiet sea-flower moulded by the sea, Or simplest growth of meadow-sweet or sorrel, Such as the summer-sleepy Dryads weave, Waked up by snow-soft sudden rains at eve? Or wilt thou rather, as on earth before, Half-faded fiery blossoms, pale with heat And full of bitter summer, but more sweet To thee than gleanings of a northern shore Trod by no tropic feet?
For always thee the fervid languid glories Allured of heavier suns in mightier skies; Thine ears knew all the wandering watery sighs Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories, The barren kiss of piteous wave to wave That knows not where is that Leucadian grave Which hides too deep the supreme head of song. Ah, salt and sterile as her kisses were, The wild sea winds her and the green gulfs bear Hither and thither, and vex and work her wrong, Blind gods that cannot spare.
Thou sawest, in thine old singing season, brother, Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us: Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous, Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime; The hidden harvest of luxurious time, Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech; And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep; And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each, Seeing as men sow men reap.
O sleepless heart and sombre soul unsleeping, That were athirst for sleep and no more life And no more love, for peace and no more strife! Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping Spirit and body and all the springs of song, Is it well now where love can do no wrong, Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang Behind the unopening closure of her lips? Is it not well where soul from body slips And flesh from bone divides without a pang As dew from flower-bell drips?
It is enough; the end and the beginning Are one thing to thee, who art past the end. O hand unclasped of unbeholden friend, For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning, No triumph and no labour and no lust, Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust. O quiet eyes wherein the light saith nought, Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night With obscure finger silences your sight, Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought, Sleep, and have sleep for light.
Now all strange hours and all strange loves are over, Dreams and desires and sombre songs and sweet, Hast thou found place at the great knees and feet Of some pale Titan-woman like a lover, Such as thy vision here solicited, Under the shadow of her fair vast head, The deep division of prodigious breasts, The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep, The weight of awful tresses that still keep The savour and shade of old-world pine-forests Where the wet hill-winds weep?
Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision? O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom, Hast thou found sown, what gathered in the gloom? What of despair, of rapture, of derision, What of life is there, what of ill or good? Are the fruits grey like dust or bright like blood? Does the dim ground grow any seed of ours, The faint fields quicken any terrene root, In low lands where the sun and moon are mute And all the stars keep silence? Are there flowers At all, or any fruit?
Alas, but though my flying song flies after, O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet, Some dim derision of mysterious laughter From the blind tongueless warders of the dead, Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veiled head, Some little sound of unregarded tears Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes, And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs— These only, these the hearkening spirit hears, Sees only such things rise.
Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow, Far too far off for thought or any prayer. What ails us with thee, who art wind and air? What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow? Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire, Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire, Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find. Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies, The low light fails us in elusive skies, Still the foiled earnest ear is deaf, and blind Are still the eluded eyes.
Not thee, O never thee, in all time's changes, Not thee, but this the sound of thy sad soul, The shadow of thy swift spirit, this shut scroll I lay my hand on, and not death estranges My spirit from communion of thy song— These memories and these melodies that throng Veiled porches of a Muse funereal— These I salute, these touch, these clasp and fold As though a hand were in my hand to hold, Or through mine ears a mourning musical Of many mourners rolled.
I among these, I also, in such station As when the pyre was charred, and piled the sods, And offering to the dead made, and their gods, The old mourners had, standing to make libation, I stand, and to the gods and to the dead Do reverence without prayer or praise, and shed Offering to these unknown, the gods of gloom, And what of honey and spice my seedlands bear, And what I may of fruits in this chilled air, And lay, Orestes-like, across the tomb A curl of severed hair.
But by no hand nor any treason stricken, Not like the low-lying head of Him, the King, The flame that made of Troy a ruinous thing, Thou liest, and on this dust no tears could quicken There fall no tears like theirs that all men hear Fall tear by sweet imperishable tear Down the opening leaves of holy poets' pages. Thee not Orestes, not Electra mourns; But bending us-ward with memorial urns The most high Muses that fulfil all ages Weep, and our God's heart yearns.
For, sparing of his sacred strength, not often Among us darkling here the lord of light Makes manifest his music and his might In hearts that open and in lips that soften With the soft flame and heat of songs that shine. Thy lips indeed he touched with bitter wine, And nourished them indeed with bitter bread; Yet surely from his hand thy soul's food came, The fire that scarred thy spirit at his flame Was lighted, and thine hungering heart he fed Who feeds our hearts with fame.
Therefore he too now at thy soul's sunsetting, God of all suns and songs, he too bends down To mix his laurel with thy cypress crown, And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting. Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art, Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart, Mourns thee of many his children the last dead, And hallows with strange tears and alien sighs Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes, And over thine irrevocable head Sheds light from the under skies.
And one weeps with him in the ways Lethean, And stains with tears her changing bosom chill: That obscure Venus of the hollow hill, That thing transformed which was the Cytherean, With lips that lost their Grecian laugh divine Long since, and face no more called Erycine; A ghost, a bitter and luxurious god. Thee also with fair flesh and singing spell Did she, a sad and second prey, compel Into the footless places once more trod, And shadows hot from hell.
And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom, No choral salutation lure to light A spirit sick with perfume and sweet night And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom. There is no help for these things; none to mend And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend, Will make death clear or make life durable. Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine And with wild notes about this dust of thine At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell And wreathe an unseen shrine.
Sleep; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon, If sweet, give thanks; thou hast no more to live; And to give thanks is good, and to forgive. Out of the mystic and the mournful garden Where all day through thine hands in barren braid Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade, Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants grey, Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted, Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that started, Shall death not bring us all as thee one day Among the days departed?
For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother, Take at my hands this garland, and farewell. Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell, And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother, With sadder than the Niobean womb, And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb. Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done; There lies not any troublous thing before, Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more, For whom all winds are quiet as the sun, All waters as the shore.
ON THE DEATH OF THEOPHILE GAUTIER
Death, what hast thou to do with me? So saith Love, with eyes set against the face of Death; What have I done, O thou strong Death, to thee, That mine own lips should wither from thy breath?
Though thou be blind as fire or as the sea, Why should thy waves and storms make war on me? Is it for hate thou hast to find me fair, Or for desire to kiss, if it might be,
My very mouth of song, and kill me there? So with keen rains vexing his crownless hair. With bright feet bruised from no delightful way, Through darkness and the disenchanted air,
Lost Love went weeping half a winter's day. And the armed wind that smote him seemed to say, How shall the dew live when the dawn is fled, Or wherefore should the Mayflower outlast May?
Then Death took Love by the right hand and said, Smiling: Come now and look upon thy dead. But Love cast down the glories of his eyes, And bowed down like a flower his flowerless head.
And Death spake, saying: What ails thee in such wise, Being god, to shut thy sight up from the skies? If thou canst see not, hast thou ears to hear? Or is thy soul too as a leaf that dies?
Even as he spake with fleshless lips of fear, But soft as sleep sings in a tired man's ear, Behold, the winter was not, and its might Fell, and fruits broke forth of the barren year.
And upon earth was largess of great light, And moving music winged for worldwide flight, And shapes and sounds of gods beheld and heard, And day's foot set upon the neck of night.
And with such song the hollow ways were stirred As of a god's heart hidden in a bird, Or as the whole soul of the sun in spring Should find full utterance in one flower-soft word,
And all the season should break forth and sing From one flower's lips, in one rose triumphing; Such breath and light of song as of a flame Made ears and spirits of them that heard it ring.
And Love beholding knew not for the same The shape that led him, nor in face nor name, For he was bright and great of thews and fair, And in Love's eyes he was not Death, but Fame.
Not that grey ghost whose life is empty and bare And his limbs moulded out of mortal air, A cloud of change that shifts into a shower And dies and leaves no light for time to wear:
But a god clothed with his own joy and power, A god re-risen out of his mortal hour Immortal, king and lord of time and space, With eyes that look on them as from a tower.
And where he stood the pale sepulchral place Bloomed, as new life might in a bloodless face, And where men sorrowing came to seek a tomb With funeral flowers and tears for grief and grace,
They saw with light as of a world in bloom The portal of the House of Fame illume The ways of life wherein we toiling tread, And watched the darkness as a brand consume.
And through the gates where rule the deathless dead The sound of a new singer's soul was shed That sang among his kinsfolk, and a beam Shot from the star on a new ruler's head.
A new star lighting the Lethean stream, A new song mixed into the song supreme Made of all souls of singers and their might, That makes of life and time and death a dream.
Thy star, thy song, O soul that in our sight Wast as a sun that made for man's delight Flowers and all fruits in season, being so near The sun-god's face, our god that gives us light.
To him of all gods that we love or fear Thou amongst all men by thy name wast dear, Dear to the god that gives us spirit of song To bind and burn all hearts of men that hear.
The god that makes men's words too sweet and strong For life or time or death to do them wrong, Who sealed with his thy spirit for a sign And filled it with his breath thy whole life long.
Who made thy moist lips fiery with new wine Pressed from the grapes of song, the sovereign vine, And with all love of all things loveliest Gave thy soul power to make them more divine.
That thou might'st breathe upon the breathless rest Of marble, till the brows and lips and breast Felt fall from off them as a cancelled curse That speechless sleep wherewith they lived opprest.
Who gave thee strength and heat of spirit to pierce All clouds of form and colour that disperse, And leave the spirit of beauty to remould In types of clean chryselephantine verse.
Who gave thee words more golden than fine gold To carve in shapes more glorious than of old, And build thy songs up in the sight of time As statues set in godhead manifold:
In sight and scorn of temporal change and clime That meet the sun re-risen with refluent rhyme —As god to god might answer face to face— From lips whereon the morning strikes sublime.
Dear to the god, our god who gave thee place Among the chosen of days, the royal race, The lords of light, whose eyes of old and ears Saw even on earth and heard him for a space.
There are the souls of those once mortal years That wrought with fire of joy and light of tears In words divine as deeds that grew thereof Such music as he swoons with love who hears.
There are the lives that lighten from above Our under lives, the spheral souls that move Through the ancient heaven of song-illumined air Whence we that hear them singing die with love.
There all the crowned Hellenic heads, and there The old gods who made men godlike as they were, The lyric lips wherefrom all songs take fire, Live eyes, and light of Apollonian hair.
There, round the sovereign passion of that lyre Which the stars hear and tremble with desire, The ninefold light Pierian is made one That here we see divided, and aspire,
Seeing, after this or that crown to be won; But where they hear the singing of the sun, All form, all sound, all colour, and all thought Are as one body and soul in unison.
There the song sung shines as a picture wrought, The painted mouths sing that on earth say nought, The carven limbs have sense of blood and growth And large-eyed life that seeks nor lacks not aught.
There all the music of thy living mouth Lives, and all loves wrought of thine hand in youth And bound about the breasts and brows with gold And coloured pale or dusk from north or south.
Fair living things made to thy will of old, Born of thy lips, no births of mortal mould, That in the world of song about thee wait Where thought and truth are one and manifold.
Within the graven lintels of the gate That here divides our vision and our fate, The dreams we walk in and the truths of sleep, All sense and spirit have life inseparate.
There what one thinks, is his to grasp and keep; There are no dreams, but very joys to reap, No foiled desires that die before delight, No fears to see across our joys and weep.
There hast thou all thy will of thought and sight, All hope for harvest, and all heaven for flight; The sunrise of whose golden-mouthed glad head To paler songless ghosts was heat and light.
Here where the sunset of our year is red Men think of thee as of the summer dead, Gone forth before the snows, before thy day, With unshod feet, with brows unchapleted.
Couldst thou not wait till age had wound, they say, Round those wreathed brows his soft white blossoms? Nay, Why shouldst thou vex thy soul with this harsh air, Thy bright-winged soul, once free to take its way?
Nor for men's reverence hadst thou need to wear The holy flower of grey time-hallowed hair; Nor were it fit that aught of thee grew old, Fair lover all thy days of all things fair.
And hear we not thy words of molten gold Singing? or is their light and heat acold Whereat men warmed their spirits? Nay, for all These yet are with us, ours to hear and hold.
The lovely laughter, the clear tears, the call Of love to love on ways where shadows fall, Through doors of dim division and disguise, And music made of doubts unmusical;
The love that caught strange light from death's own eyes, And filled death's lips with fiery words and sighs, And half asleep let feed from veins of his Her close red warm snake's mouth, Egyptian-wise:
And that great night of love more strange than this, When she that made the whole world's bale and bliss Made king of all the world's desire a slave, And killed him in mid kingdom with a kiss;
Veiled loves that shifted shapes and shafts, and gave, Laughing, strange gifts to hands that durst not crave, Flowers double-blossomed, fruits of scent and hue Sweet as the bride-bed, stranger than the grave;
All joys and wonders of old lives and new That ever in love's shine or shadow grew, And all the grief whereof he dreams and grieves, And all sweet roots fed on his light and dew;
All these through thee our spirit of sense perceives, As threads in the unseen woof thy music weaves, Birds caught and snared that fill our ears with thee, Bay-blossoms in thy wreath of brow-bound leaves.
Mixed with the masque of death's old comedy Though thou too pass, have here our flowers, that we For all the flowers thou gav'st upon thee shed, And pass not crownless to Persephone.
Blue lotus-blooms and white and rosy-red We wind with poppies for thy silent head, And on this margin of the sundering sea Leave thy sweet light to rise upon the dead.
[Footnote 1: La Morte Amoureuse.]
[Footnote 2: Une Nuit de Cleopatre.]
[Footnote 3: Mademoiselle de Maupin.]
(WITH A COPY OF Mademoiselle de Maupin)
This is the golden book of spirit and sense, The holy writ of beauty; he that wrought Made it with dreams and faultless words and thought That seeks and finds and loses in the dense Dim air of life that beauty's excellence Wherewith love makes one hour of life distraught And all hours after follow and find not aught. Here is that height of all love's eminence Where man may breathe but for a breathing-space And feel his soul burn as an altar-fire To the unknown God of unachieved desire, And from the middle mystery of the place Watch lights that break, hear sounds as of a quire, But see not twice unveiled the veiled God's face.
AGE AND SONG
(TO BARRY CORNWALL)
In vain men tell us time can alter Old loves or make old memories falter, That with the old year the old year's life closes. The old dew still falls on the old sweet flowers, The old sun revives the new-fledged hours, The old summer rears the new-born roses.
Much more a Muse that bears upon her Raiment and wreath and flower of honour, Gathered long since and long since woven, Fades not or falls as fall the vernal Blossoms that bear no fruit eternal, By summer or winter charred or cloven.
No time casts down, no time upraises, Such loves, such memories, and such praises, As need no grace of sun or shower, No saving screen from frost or thunder To tend and house around and under The imperishable and fearless flower.
Old thanks, old thoughts, old aspirations, Outlive men's lives and lives of nations, Dead, but for one thing which survives— The inalienable and unpriced treasure, The old joy of power, the old pride of pleasure, That lives in light above men's lives.
IN MEMORY OF BARRY CORNWALL
(October 4, 1874)
In the garden of death, where the singers whose names are deathless One with another make music unheard of men, Where the dead sweet roses fade not of lips long breathless, And the fair eyes shine that shall weep not or change again, Who comes now crowned with the blossom of snow-white years? What music is this that the world of the dead men hears?
Beloved of men, whose words on our lips were honey, Whose name in our ears and our fathers' ears was sweet, Like summer gone forth of the land his songs made sunny, To the beautiful veiled bright world where the glad ghosts meet, Child, father, bridegroom and bride, and anguish and rest, No soul shall pass of a singer than this more blest.
Blest for the years' sweet sake that were filled and brightened, As a forest with birds, with the fruit and the flower of his song; For the souls' sake blest that heard, and their cares were lightened, For the hearts' sake blest that have fostered his name so long; By the living and dead lips blest that have loved his name, And clothed with their praise and crowned with their love for fame.
Ah, fair and fragrant his fame as flowers that close not, That shrink not by day for heat or for cold by night, As a thought in the heart shall increase when the heart's self knows not, Shall endure in our ears as a sound, in our eyes as a light; Shall wax with the years that wane and the seasons' chime, As a white rose thornless that grows in the garden of time.
The same year calls, and one goes hence with another, And men sit sad that were glad for their sweet songs' sake; The same year beckons, and elder with younger brother Takes mutely the cup from his hand that we all shall take. They pass ere the leaves be past or the snows be come; And the birds are loud, but the lips that outsang them dumb.
Time takes them home that we loved, fair names and famous, To the soft long sleep, to the broad sweet bosom of death; But the flower of their souls he shall take not away to shame us, Nor the lips lack song for ever that now lack breath. For with us shall the music and perfume that die not dwell, Though the dead to our dead bid welcome, and we farewell.
[Footnote 1: Sydney Dobell died August 22, 1874.]
(James Lorimer Graham died at Florence, April 30, 1876)
Life may give for love to death Little; what are life's gifts worth To the dead wrapt round with earth? Yet from lips of living breath Sighs or words we are fain to give, All that yet, while yet we live, Life may give for love to death.
Dead so long before his day, Passed out of the Italian sun To the dark where all is done, Fallen upon the verge of May; Here at life's and April's end How should song salute my friend Dead so long before his day?
Not a kindlier life or sweeter Time, that lights and quenches men, Now may quench or light again, Mingling with the mystic metre Woven of all men's lives with his Not a clearer note than this, Not a kindlier life or sweeter.
In this heavenliest part of earth He that living loved the light, Light and song, may rest aright, One in death, if strange in birth, With the deathless dead that make Life the lovelier for their sake In this heavenliest part of earth.
Light, and song, and sleep at last— Struggling hands and suppliant knees Get no goodlier gift than these. Song that holds remembrance fast, Light that lightens death, attend Round their graves who have to friend Light, and song, and sleep at last.
TO VICTOR HUGO
He had no children, who for love of men, Being God, endured of Gods such things as thou, Father; nor on his thunder-beaten brow Fell such a woe as bows thine head again, Twice bowed before, though godlike, in man's ken, And seen too high for any stroke to bow Save this of some strange God's that bends it now The third time with such weight as bruised it then. Fain would grief speak, fain utter for love's sake Some word; but comfort who might bid thee take? What God in your own tongue shall talk with thee, Showing how all souls that look upon the sun Shall be for thee one spirit and thy son, And thy soul's child the soul of man to be?
January 3, 1876.
Spring, and the light and sound of things on earth Requickening, all within our green sea's girth; A time of passage or a time of birth Fourscore years since as this year, first and last.
The sun is all about the world we see, The breath and strength of very spring; and we Live, love, and feed on our own hearts; but he Whose heart fed mine has passed into the past.
Past, all things born with sense and blood and breath; The flesh hears nought that now the spirit saith. If death be like as birth and birth as death, The first was fair—more fair should be the last.
Fourscore years since, and come but one month more The count were perfect of his mortal score Whose sail went seaward yesterday from shore To cross the last of many an unsailed sea.
Light, love and labour up to life's last height, These three were stars unsetting in his sight; Even as the sun is life and heat and light And sets not nor is dark when dark are we.
The life, the spirit, and the work were one That here—ah, who shall say, that here are done? Not I, that know not; father, not thy son, For all the darkness of the night and sea.
March 5, 1877
(For Olivia Frances Madox Rossetti, born September 20, 1875)
Out of the dark sweet sleep Where no dreams laugh or weep Borne through bright gates of birth Into the dim sweet light Where day still dreams of night While heaven takes form on earth, White rose of spirit and flesh, red lily of love, What note of song have we Fit for the birds and thee, Fair nestling couched beneath the mother-dove?
Nay, in some more divine Small speechless song of thine Some news too good for words, Heart-hushed and smiling, we Might hope to have of thee, The youngest of God's birds, If thy sweet sense might mix itself with ours, If ours might understand The language of thy land, Ere thine become the tongue of mortal hours:
Ere thy lips learn too soon Their soft first human tune, Sweet, but less sweet than now, And thy raised eyes to read Glad and good things indeed, But none so sweet as thou: Ere thought lift up their flower-soft lids to see What life and love on earth Bring thee for gifts at birth, But none so good as thine who hast given us thee:
Now, ere thy sense forget The heaven that fills it yet, Now, sleeping or awake, If thou couldst tell, or we Ask and be heard of thee, For love's undying sake, From thy dumb lips divine and bright mute speech Such news might touch our ear That then would burn to hear Too high a message now for man's to reach.
Ere the gold hair of corn Had withered wast thou born, To make the good time glad; The time that but last year Fell colder than a tear On hearts and hopes turned sad, High hopes and hearts requickening in thy dawn, Even theirs whose life-springs, child, Filled thine with life and smiled, But then wept blood for half their own withdrawn.
If death and birth be one, And set with rise of sun, And truth with dreams divine, Some word might come with thee From over the still sea Deep hid in shade or shine, Crossed by the crossing sails of death and birth, Word of some sweet new thing Fit for such lips to bring, Some word of love, some afterthought of earth.
If love be strong as death, By what so natural breath As thine could this be said? By what so lovely way Could love send word to say He lives and is not dead? Such word alone were fit for only thee, If his and thine have met Where spirits rise and set, His whom we see not, thine whom scarce we see:
His there new-born, as thou New-born among us now; His, here so fruitful-souled, Now veiled and silent here, Now dumb as thou last year, A ghost of one year old: If lights that change their sphere in changing meet, Some ray might his not give To thine who wast to live, And make thy present with his past life sweet?
Let dreams that laugh or weep, All glad and sad dreams, sleep; Truth more than dreams is dear. Let thoughts that change and fly, Sweet thoughts and swift, go by; More than all thought is here. More than all hope can forge or memory feign The life that in our eyes, Made out of love's life, lies, And flower-like fed with love for sun and rain.
Twice royal in its root The sweet small olive-shoot Here set in sacred earth; Twice dowered with glorious grace From either heaven-born race First blended in its birth; Fair God or Genius of so fair an hour, For love of either name Twice crowned, with love and fame, Guard and be gracious to the fair-named flower.
October 19, 1875.
[Footnote 1: Oliver Madox Brown died November 5, 1874, in his twentieth year.]
When their last hour shall rise Pale on these mortal eyes, Herself like one that dies, And kiss me dying The cold last kiss, and fold Close round my limbs her cold Soft shade as raiment rolled And leave them lying,
If aught my soul would say Might move to hear me pray The birth-god of my day That he might hearken, This grace my heart should crave, To find no landward grave That worldly springs make brave, World's winters darken,
Nor grow through gradual hours The cold blind seed of flowers Made by new beams and showers From limbs that moulder, Nor take my part with earth, But find for death's new birth A bed of larger girth, More chaste and colder.
Not earth's for spring and fall, Not earth's at heart, not all Earth's making, though men call Earth only mother, Not hers at heart she bare Me, but thy child, O fair Sea, and thy brother's care, The wind thy brother.
Yours was I born, and ye, The sea-wind and the sea, Made all my soul in me A song for ever, A harp to string and smite For love's sake of the bright Wind and the sea's delight, To fail them never:
Not while on this side death I hear what either saith And drink of either's breath With heart's thanksgiving That in my veins like wine Some sharp salt blood of thine, Some springtide pulse of brine, Yet leaps up living.
When thy salt lips wellnigh Sucked in my mouth's last sigh, Grudged I so much to die This death as others? Was it no ease to think The chalice from whose brink Fate gave me death to drink Was thine—my mother's?
Thee too, the all-fostering earth, Fair as thy fairest birth, More than thy worthiest worth, We call, we know thee, More sweet and just and dread Than live men highest of head Or even thy holiest dead Laid low below thee.
The sunbeam on the sheaf, The dewfall on the leaf, All joy, all grace, all grief, Are thine for giving; Of thee our loves are born, Our lives and loves, that mourn And triumph; tares with corn, Dead seed with living:
All good and ill things done In eyeshot of the sun At last in thee made one Rest well contented; All words of all man's breath And works he doth or saith, All wholly done to death, None long lamented.
A slave to sons of thee, Thou, seeming, yet art free; But who shall make the sea Serve even in seeming? What plough shall bid it bear Seed to the sun and the air, Fruit for thy strong sons' fare, Fresh wine's foam streaming?
What oldworld son of thine, Made drunk with death as wine, Hath drunk the bright sea's brine With lips of laughter? Thy blood they drink; but he Who hath drunken of the sea Once deeplier than of thee Shall drink not after.
Of thee thy sons of men Drink deep, and thirst again; For wine in feasts, and then In fields for slaughter; But thirst shall touch not him Who hath felt with sense grown dim Rise, covering lip and limb, The wan sea's water.
All fire of thirst that aches The salt sea cools and slakes More than all springs or lakes, Freshets or shallows; Wells where no beam can burn Through frondage of the fern That hides from hart and hern The haunt it hallows.
Peace with all graves on earth For death or sleep or birth Be alway, one in worth One with another; But when my time shall be, O mother, O my sea, Alive or dead, take me, Me too, my mother.
A BALLAD OF DREAMLAND
I hid my heart in a nest of roses, Out of the sun's way, hidden apart; In a softer bed than the soft white snow's is, Under the roses I hid my heart. Why would it sleep not? why should it start, When never a leaf of the rose-tree stirred? What made sleep flutter his wings and part? Only the song of a secret bird.
Lie still, I said, for the wind's wing closes, And mild leaves muffle the keen sun's dart; Lie still, for the wind on the warm sea dozes, And the wind is unquieter yet than thou art. Does a thought in thee still as a thorn's wound smart? Does the fang still fret thee of hope deferred? What bids the lids of thy sleep dispart? Only the song of a secret bird.
The green land's name that a charm encloses, It never was writ in the traveller's chart, And sweet on its trees as the fruit that grows is, It never was sold in the merchant's mart. The swallows of dreams through its dim fields dart, And sleep's are the tunes in its tree-tops heard; No hound's note wakens the wildwood hart, Only the song of a secret bird.
In the world of dreams I have chosen my part, To sleep for a season and hear no word Of true love's truth or of light love's art, Only the song of a secret bird.
A sea that heaves with horror of the night, As maddened by the moon that hangs aghast With strain and torment of the ravening blast, Haggard as hell, a bleak blind bloody light; No shore but one red reef of rock in sight, Whereon the waifs of many a wreck were cast And shattered in the fierce nights overpast Wherein more souls toward hell than heaven took flight; And 'twixt the shark-toothed rocks and swallowing shoals A cry as out of hell from all these souls Sent through the sheer gorge of the slaughtering sea, Whose thousand throats, full-fed with life by death, Fill the black air with foam and furious breath; And over all these one star—Chastity.
A BALLAD OF FRANCOIS VILLON
PRINCE OF ALL BALLAD-MAKERS
Bird of the bitter bright grey golden morn Scarce risen upon the dusk of dolorous years, First of us all and sweetest singer born Whose far shrill note the world of new men hears Cleave the cold shuddering shade as twilight clears; When song new-born put off the old world's attire And felt its tune on her changed lips expire, Writ foremost on the roll of them that came Fresh girt for service of the latter lyre, Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name!
Alas the joy, the sorrow, and the scorn, That clothed thy life with hopes and sins and fears, And gave thee stones for bread and tares for corn And plume-plucked gaol-birds for thy starveling peers Till death clipt close their flight with shameful shears; Till shifts came short and loves were hard to hire, When lilt of song nor twitch of twangling wire Could buy thee bread or kisses; when light fame Spurned like a ball and haled through brake and briar, Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name!
Poor splendid wings so frayed and soiled and torn! Poor kind wild eyes so dashed with light quick tears! Poor perfect voice, most blithe when most forlorn, That rings athwart the sea whence no man steers Like joy-bells crossed with death-bells in our ears! What far delight has cooled the fierce desire That like some ravenous bird was strong to tire On that frail flesh and soul consumed with flame, But left more sweet than roses to respire, Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name?
Prince of sweet songs made out of tears and fire, A harlot was thy nurse, a God thy sire; Shame soiled thy song, and song assoiled thy shame. But from thy feet now death has washed the mire, Love reads out first at head of all our quire, Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name.
Now the days are all gone over Of our singing, love by lover, Days of summer-coloured seas Blown adrift through beam and breeze.
Now the nights are all past over Of our dreaming, dreams that hover In a mist of fair false things, Nights afloat on wide wan wings.
Now the loves with faith for mother, Now the fears with hope for brother, Scarce are with us as strange words, Notes from songs of last year's birds.
Now all good that comes or goes is As the smell of last year's roses, As the radiance in our eyes Shot from summer's ere he dies.
Now the morning faintlier risen Seems no God come forth of prison, But a bird of plume-plucked wing, Pale with thoughts of evening.
Now hath hope, outraced in running, Given the torch up of his cunning And the palm he thought to wear Even to his own strong child—despair.
In the lower lands of day On the hither side of night, There is nothing that will stay, There are all things soft to sight; Lighted shade and shadowy light In the wayside and the way, Hours the sun has spared to smite, Flowers the rain has left to play.
Shall these hours run down and say No good thing of thee and me? Time that made us and will slay Laughs at love in me and thee; But if here the flowers may see One whole hour of amorous breath, Time shall die, and love shall be Lord as time was over death.
Love laid his sleepless head On a thorny rosy bed; And his eyes with tears were red, And pale his lips as the dead.
And fear and sorrow and scorn Kept watch by his head forlorn, Till the night was overworn And the world was merry with morn.
And Joy came up with the day And kissed Love's lips as he lay, And the watchers ghostly and grey Sped from his pillow away.
And his eyes as the dawn grew bright, And his lips waxed ruddy as light: Sorrow may reign for a night, But day shall bring back delight.
A VISION OF SPRING IN WINTER
O tender time that love thinks long to see, Sweet foot of spring that with her footfall sows Late snowlike flowery leavings of the snows, Be not too long irresolute to be; O mother-month, where have they hidden thee? Out of the pale time of the flowerless rose I reach my heart out toward the springtime lands, I stretch my spirit forth to the fair hours, The purplest of the prime; I lean my soul down over them, with hands Made wide to take the ghostly growths of flowers; I send my love back to the lovely time.
Where has the greenwood hid thy gracious head? Veiled with what visions while the grey world grieves, Or muffled with what shadows of green leaves, What warm intangible green shadows spread To sweeten the sweet twilight for thy bed? What sleep enchants thee? what delight deceives? Where the deep dreamlike dew before the dawn Feels not the fingers of the sunlight yet Its silver web unweave, Thy footless ghost on some unfooted lawn Whose air the unrisen sunbeams fear to fret Lives a ghost's life of daylong dawn and eve.
Sunrise it sees not, neither set of star, Large nightfall, nor imperial plenilune, Nor strong sweet shape of the full-breasted noon; But where the silver-sandalled shadows are, Too soft for arrows of the sun to mar, Moves with the mild gait of an ungrown moon: Hard overhead the half-lit crescent swims, The tender-coloured night draws hardly breath, The light is listening; They watch the dawn of slender-shapen limbs, Virginal, born again of doubtful death, Chill foster-father of the weanling spring.
As sweet desire of day before the day, As dreams of love before the true love born, From the outer edge of winter overworn The ghost arisen of May before the May Takes through dim air her unawakened way, The gracious ghost of morning risen ere morn. With little unblown breasts and child-eyed looks Following, the very maid, the girl-child spring, Lifts windward her bright brows, Dips her light feet in warm and moving brooks, And kindles with her own mouth's colouring The fearful firstlings of the plumeless boughs.
I seek thee sleeping, and awhile I see, Fair face that art not, how thy maiden breath Shall put at last the deadly days to death And fill the fields and fire the woods with thee And seaward hollows where my feet would be When heaven shall hear the word that April saith To change the cold heart of the weary time, To stir and soften all the time to tears, Tears joyfuller than mirth; As even to May's clear height the young days climb With feet not swifter than those fair first years Whose flowers revive not with thy flowers on earth.
I would not bid thee, though I might, give back One good thing youth has given and borne away; I crave not any comfort of the day That is not, nor on time's retrodden track Would turn to meet the white-robed hours or black That long since left me on their mortal way; Nor light nor love that has been, nor the breath That comes with morning from the sun to be And sets light hope on fire; No fruit, no flower thought once too fair for death, No flower nor hour once fallen from life's green tree, No leaf once plucked or once fulfilled desire.
The morning song beneath the stars that fled With twilight through the moonless mountain air, While youth with burning lips and wreathless hair Sang toward the sun that was to crown his head, Rising; the hopes that triumphed and fell dead, The sweet swift eyes and songs of hours that were; These may'st thou not give back for ever; these, As at the sea's heart all her wrecks lie waste, Lie deeper than the sea; But flowers thou may'st, and winds, and hours of ease, And all its April to the world thou may'st Give back, and half my April back to me.
Love, what ailed thee to leave life that was made lovely, we thought, with love? What sweet visions of sleep lured thee away, down from the light above?
What strange faces of dreams, voices that called, hands that were raised to wave, Lured or led thee, alas, out of the sun, down to the sunless grave?
Ah, thy luminous eyes! once was their light fed with the fire of day; Now their shadowy lids cover them close, hush them and hide away.
Ah, thy snow-coloured hands! once were they chains, mighty to bind me fast; Now no blood in them burns, mindless of love, senseless of passion past.
Ah, thy beautiful hair! so was it once braided for me, for me; Now for death is it crowned, only for death, lover and lord of thee.
Sweet, the kisses of death set on thy lips, colder are they than mine; Colder surely than past kisses that love poured for thy lips as wine.
Lov'st thou death? is his face fairer than love's, brighter to look upon? Seest thou light in his eyes, light by which love's pales and is overshone?
Lo the roses of death, grey as the dust, chiller of leaf than snow! Why let fall from thy hand love's that were thine, roses that loved thee so?
Large red lilies of love, sceptral and tall, lovely for eyes to see; Thornless blossom of love, full of the sun, fruits that were reared for thee.
Now death's poppies alone circle thy hair, girdle thy breasts as white; Bloodless blossoms of death, leaves that have sprung never against the light.
Nay then, sleep if thou wilt; love is content; what should he do to weep? Sweet was love to thee once; now in thine eyes sweeter than love is sleep.
For a day and a night Love sang to us, played with us, Folded us round from the dark and the light; And our hearts were fulfilled of the music he made with us, Made with our hearts and our lips while he stayed with us, Stayed in mid passage his pinions from flight For a day and a night.
From his foes that kept watch with his wings had he hidden us, Covered us close from the eyes that would smite, From the feet that had tracked and the tongues that had chidden us Sheltering in shade of the myrtles forbidden us Spirit and flesh growing one with delight For a day and a night.
But his wings will not rest and his feet will not stay for us: Morning is here in the joy of its might; With his breath has he sweetened a night and a day for us; Now let him pass, and the myrtles make way for us; Love can but last in us here at his height For a day and a night.
A SONG IN SEASON
Thou whose beauty Knows no duty Due to love that moves thee never; Thou whose mercies Are men's curses, And thy smile a scourge for ever;
Thou that givest Death and livest On the death of thy sweet giving; Thou that sparest Not nor carest Though thy scorn leave no love living;
Thou whose rootless Flower is fruitless As the pride its heart encloses, But thine eyes are As May skies are, And thy words like spoken roses;
Thou whose grace is In men's faces Fierce and wayward as thy will is; Thou whose peerless Eyes are tearless, And thy thoughts as cold sweet lilies;
Thou that takest Hearts and makest Wrecks of loves to strew behind thee, Whom the swallow Sure should follow, Finding summer where we find thee;
Thou that wakest Hearts and breakest, And thy broken hearts forgive thee, That wilt make no Pause and take no Gift that love for love might give thee;
Thou that bindest Eyes and blindest, Serving worst who served thee longest; Thou that speakest, And the weakest Heart is his that was the strongest;
Take in season Thought with reason; Think what gifts are ours for giving; Hear what beauty Owes of duty To the love that keeps it living.
Dust that covers Long dead lovers Song blows off with breath that brightens; At its flashes Their white ashes Burst in bloom that lives and lightens.
Had they bent not Head or lent not Ear to love and amorous duties, Song had never Saved for ever, Love, the least of all their beauties.
All the golden Names of olden Women yet by men's love cherished, All our dearest Thoughts hold nearest, Had they loved not, all had perished.
If no fruit is Of thy beauties, Tell me yet, since none may win them, What and wherefore Love should care for Of all good things hidden in them?
Pain for profit Comes but of it, If the lips that lure their lover's Hold no treasure Past the measure Of the lightest hour that hovers.
If they give not Or forgive not Gifts or thefts for grace or guerdon, Love that misses Fruit of kisses Long will bear no thankless burden.
If they care not Though love were not, If no breath of his burn through them, Joy must borrow Song from sorrow, Fear teach hope the way to woo them.
Grief has measures Soft as pleasure's, Fear has moods that hope lies deep in, Songs to sing him, Dreams to bring him, And a red-rose bed to sleep in.
Hope with fearless Looks and tearless Lies and laughs too near the thunder; Fear hath sweeter Speech and meeter For heart's love to hide him under.
Joy by daytime Fills his playtime Full of songs loud mirth takes pride in; Night and morrow Weave round sorrow Thoughts as soft as sleep to hide in.
Graceless faces, Loveless graces, Are but motes in light that quicken, Sands that run down Ere the sundown, Roseleaves dead ere autumn sicken.
Fair and fruitless Charms are bootless Spells to ward off age's peril; Lips that give not Love shall live not, Eyes that meet not eyes are sterile.
But the beauty Bound in duty Fast to love that falls off never Love shall cherish Lest it perish, And its root bears fruit for ever.
[Greek: Bate domon, megaloi philotimoi Nuktos paides apaides, hup euphroni pompa.]
O great and wise, clear-souled and high of heart, One the last flower of Catholic love, that grows Amid bare thorns their only thornless rose, From the fierce juggling of the priests' loud mart Yet alien, yet unspotted and apart From the blind hard foul rout whose shameless shows Mock the sweet heaven whose secret no man knows With prayers and curses and the soothsayer's art; One like a storm-god of the northern foam Strong, wrought of rock that breasts and breaks the sea And thunders back its thunder, rhyme for rhyme Answering, as though to outroar the tides of time And bid the world's wave back—what song should be Theirs that with praise would bring and sing you home?
With all our hearts we praise you whom ye hate, High souls that hate us; for our hopes are higher, And higher than yours the goal of our desire, Though high your ends be as your hearts are great. Your world of Gods and kings, of shrine and state, Was of the night when hope and fear stood nigher, Wherein men walked by light of stars and fire Till man by day stood equal with his fate. Honour not hate we give you, love not fear, Last prophets of past kind, who fill the dome Of great dead Gods with wrath and wail, nor hear Time's word and man's: "Go honoured hence, go home, Night's childless children; here your hour is done; Pass with the stars, and leave us with the sun."
VICTOR HUGO IN 1877
"Dazzle mine eyes, or do I see three suns?"
Above the spring-tide sundawn of the year, A sunlike star, not born of day or night, Filled the fair heaven of spring with heavenlier light, Made of all ages orbed in one sole sphere Whose light was as a Titan's smile or tear; Then rose a ray more flowerlike, starry white, Like a child's eye grown lovelier with delight, Sweet as a child's heart-lightening laugh to hear; And last a fire from heaven, a fiery rain As of God's wrath on the unclean cities, fell And lit the shuddering shades of half-seen hell That shrank before it and were cloven in twain; A beacon fired by lightning, whence all time Sees red the bare black ruins of a crime.
What is gold worth, say, Worth for work or play, Worth to keep or pay, Hide or throw away, Hope about or fear? What is love worth, pray? Worth a tear?
Golden on the mould Lie the dead leaves rolled Of the wet woods old, Yellow leaves and cold, Woods without a dove; Gold is worth but gold; Love's worth love.
The word of the sun to the sky, The word of the wind to the sea, The word of the moon to the night, What may it be?
The sense to the flower of the fly, The sense of the bird to the tree, The sense to the cloud of the light, Who can tell me?
The song of the fields to the kye, The song of the lime to the bee, The song of the depth to the height, Who knows all three?
The message of April to May That May sends on into June And June gives out to July For birthday boon;
The delight of the dawn in the day, The delight of the day in the noon, The delight of a song in a sigh That breaks the tune;
The secret of passing away, The cost of the change of the moon, None knows it with ear or with eye, But all will soon.
The live wave's love for the shore, The shore's for the wave as it dies, The love of the thunder-fire That sears the skies,
We shall know not though life wax hoar, Till all life, spent into sighs, Burn out as consumed with desire Of death's strange eyes;
Till the secret be secret no more In the light of one hour as it flies, Be the hour as of suns that expire Or suns that rise.