Poems by George Meredith - Volume 2
[This etext was prepared from the 1912 Times Book Club "Surrey" edition by David Price]
TO J. M.
Let Fate or Insufficiency provide Mean ends for men who what they are would be: Penned in their narrow day no change they see Save one which strikes the blow to brutes and pride. Our faith is ours and comes not on a tide: And whether Earth's great offspring, by decree, Must rot if they abjure rapacity, Not argument but effort shall decide. They number many heads in that hard flock: Trim swordsmen they push forth: yet try thy steel. Thou, fighting for poor humankind, wilt feel The strength of Roland in thy wrist to hew A chasm sheer into the barrier rock, And bring the army of the faithful through.
LINES TO A FRIEND VISITING AMERICA
Now farewell to you! you are One of my dearest, whom I trust: Now follow you the Western star, And cast the old world off as dust.
From many friends adieu! adieu! The quick heart of the word therein. Much that we hope for hangs with you: We lose you, but we lose to win.
The beggar-king, November, frets: His tatters rich with Indian dyes Goes hugging: we our season's debts Pay calmly, of the Spring forewise.
We send our worthiest; can no less, If we would now be read aright, - To that great people who may bless Or curse mankind: they have the might.
The proudest seasons find their graves, And we, who would not be wooed, must court. We have let the blunderers and the waves Divide us, and the devil had sport.
The blunderers and the waves no more Shall sever kindred sending forth Their worthiest from shore to shore For welcome, bent to prove their worth.
Go you and such as you afloat, Our lost kinsfellowship to revive. The battle of the antidote Is tough, though silent: may you thrive!
I, when in this North wind I see The straining red woods blown awry, Feel shuddering like the winter tree, All vein and artery on cold sky.
The leaf that clothed me is torn away; My friend is as a flying seed. Ay, true; to bring replenished day Light ebbs, but I am bare, and bleed.
What husky habitations seem These comfortable sayings! they fell, In some rich year become a dream:- So cries my heart, the infidel! . . .
Oh! for the strenuous mind in quest, Arabian visions could not vie With those broad wonders of the West, And would I bid you stay? Not I!
The strange experimental land Where men continually dare take Niagara leaps;—unshattered stand 'Twixt fall and fall;—for conscience' sake,
Drive onward like a flood's increase; - Fresh rapids and abysms engage; - (We live—we die) scorn fireside peace, And, as a garment, put on rage,
Rather than bear God's reprimand, By rearing on a full fat soil Concrete of sin and sloth;—this land, You will observe it coil in coil.
The land has been discover'd long, The people we have yet to know; Themselves they know not, save that strong For good and evil still they grow.
Nor know they us. Yea, well enough In that inveterate machine Through which we speak the printed stuff Daily, with voice most hugeous, mien
Tremendous:- as a lion's show The grand menagerie paintings hide: Hear the drum beat, the trombones blow! The poor old Lion lies inside! . . .
It is not England that they hear, But mighty Mammon's pipers, trained To trumpet out his moods, and stir His sluggish soul: HER voice is chained:
Almost her spirit seems moribund! O teach them, 'tis not she displays The panic of a purse rotund, Eternal dread of evil days, -
That haunting spectre of success Which shows a heart sunk low in the girths: Not England answers nobleness, - 'Live for thyself: thou art not earth's.'
Not she, when struggling manhood tries For freedom, air, a hopefuller fate, Points out the planet, Compromise, And shakes a mild reproving pate:
Says never: 'I am well at ease, My sneers upon the weak I shed: The strong have my cajoleries: And those beneath my feet I tread.'
Nay, but 'tis said for her, great Lord! The misery's there! The shameless one Adjures mankind to sheathe the sword, Herself not yielding what it won:-
Her sermon at cock-crow doth preach, On sweet Prosperity—or greed. 'Lo! as the beasts feed, each for each, God's blessings let us take, and feed!'
Ungrateful creatures crave a part - She tells them firmly she is full; Lost sheared sheep hurt her tender heart With bleating, stops her ears with wool:-
Seized sometimes by prodigious qualms (Nightmares of bankruptcy and death), - Showers down in lumps a load of alms, Then pants as one who has lost a breath;
Believes high heaven, whence favours flow, Too kind to ask a sacrifice For what it specially doth bestow; - Gives SHE, 'tis generous, cheese to mice.
She saw the young Dominion strip For battle with a grievous wrong, And curled a noble Norman lip, And looked with half an eye sidelong;
And in stout Saxon wrote her sneers, Denounced the waste of blood and coin, Implored the combatants, with tears, Never to think they could rejoin.
Oh! was it England that, alas! Turned sharp the victor to cajole? Behold her features in the glass: A monstrous semblance mocks her soul!
A false majority, by stealth, Have got her fast, and sway the rod: A headless tyrant built of wealth, The hypocrite, the belly-God.
To him the daily hymns they raise: His tastes are sought: his will is done: He sniffs the putrid steam of praise, Place for true England here is none!
But can a distant race discern The difference 'twixt her and him? My friend, that will you bid them learn. He shames and binds her, head and limb.
Old wood has blossoms of this sort. Though sound at core, she is old wood. If freemen hate her, one retort She has; but one!—'You are my blood.'
A poet, half a prophet, rose In recent days, and called for power. I love him; but his mountain prose - His Alp and valley and wild flower -
Proclaimed our weakness, not its source. What medicine for disease had he? Whom summoned for a show of force? Our titular aristocracy!
Why, these are great at City feasts; From City riches mainly rise: 'Tis well to hear them, when the beasts That die for us they eulogize!
But these, of all the liveried crew Obeisant in Mammon's walk, Most deferent ply the facial screw, The spinal bend, submissive talk.
Small fear that they will run to books (At least the better form of seed)! I, too, have hoped from their good looks, And fables of their Northman breed; -
Have hoped that they the land would head In acts magnanimous; but, lo, When fainting heroes beg for bread They frown: where they are driven they go.
Good health, my friend! and may your lot Be cheerful o'er the Western rounds. This butter-woman's market-trot Of verse is passing market-bounds.
Adieu! the sun sets; he is gone. On banks of fog faint lines extend: Adieu! bring back a braver dawn To England, and to me my friend.
November 15th, 1867.
TIME AND SENTIMENT
I see a fair young couple in a wood, And as they go, one bends to take a flower, That so may be embalmed their happy hour, And in another day, a kindred mood, Haply together, or in solitude, Recovered what the teeth of Time devour, The joy, the bloom, and the illusive power, Wherewith by their young blood they are endued To move all enviable, framed in May, And of an aspect sisterly with Truth: Yet seek they with Time's laughing things to wed: Who will be prompted on some pallid day To lift the hueless flower and show that dead, Even such, and by this token, is their youth.
LUCIFER IN STARLIGHT
On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose. Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened, Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose. Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those. And now upon his western wing he leaned, Now his huge bulk o'er Afric's sands careened, Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows. Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars With memory of the old revolt from Awe, He reached a middle height, and at the stars, Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank. Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank, The army of unalterable law.
THE STAR SIRIUS
Bright Sirius! that when Orion pales To dotlings under moonlight still art keen With cheerful fervour of a warrior's mien Who holds in his great heart the battle-scales: Unquenched of flame though swift the flood assails, Reducing many lustrous to the lean: Be thou my star, and thou in me be seen To show what source divine is, and prevails. Long watches through, at one with godly night, I mark thee planting joy in constant fire; And thy quick beams, whose jets of life inspire Life to the spirit, passion for the light, Dark Earth since first she lost her lord from sight Has viewed and felt them sweep her as a lyre.
SENSE AND SPIRIT
The senses loving Earth or well or ill Ravel yet more the riddle of our lot. The mind is in their trammels, and lights not By trimming fear-bred tales; nor does the will To find in nature things which less may chill An ardour that desires, unknowing what. Till we conceive her living we go distraught, At best but circle-windsails of a mill. Seeing she lives, and of her joy of life Creatively has given us blood and breath For endless war and never wound unhealed, The gloomy Wherefore of our battle-field Solves in the Spirit, wrought of her through strife To read her own and trust her down to death.
Not solitarily in fields we find Earth's secret open, though one page is there; Her plainest, such as children spell, and share With bird and beast; raised letters for the blind. Not where the troubled passions toss the mind, In turbid cities, can the key be bare. It hangs for those who hither thither fare, Close interthreading nature with our kind. They, hearing History speak, of what men were, And have become, are wise. The gain is great In vision and solidity; it lives. Yet at a thought of life apart from her, Solidity and vision lose their state, For Earth, that gives the milk, the spirit gives.
Assured of worthiness we do not dread Competitors; we rather give them hail And greeting in the lists where we may fail: Must, if we bear an aim beyond the head! My betters are my masters: purely fed By their sustainment I likewise shall scale Some rocky steps between the mount and vale; Meanwhile the mark I have and I will wed. So that I draw the breath of finer air, Station is nought, nor footways laurel-strewn, Nor rivals tightly belted for the race. Good speed to them! My place is here or there; My pride is that among them I have place: And thus I keep this instrument in tune.
GRACE AND LOVE
Two flower-enfolding crystal vases she I love fills daily, mindful but of one: And close behind pale morn she, like the sun Priming our world with light, pours, sweet to see, Clear water in the cup, and into me The image of herself: and that being done, Choice of what blooms round her fair garden run In climbers or in creepers or the tree She ranges with unerring fingers fine, To harmony so vivid that through sight I hear, I have her heavenliness to fold Beyond the senses, where such love as mine, Such grace as hers, should the strange Fates withhold Their starry more from her and me, unite.
Earth was not Earth before her sons appeared, Nor Beauty Beauty ere young Love was born: And thou when I lay hidden wast as morn At city-windows, touching eyelids bleared; To none by her fresh wingedness endeared; Unwelcome unto revellers outworn. I the last echoes of Diana's horn In woodland heard, and saw thee come, and cheered. No longer wast thou then mere light, fair soul! And more than simple duty moved thy feet. New colours rose in thee, from fear, from shame, From hope, effused: though not less pure a scroll May men read on the heart I taught to beat: That change in thee, if not thyself, I claim.
THE DISCIPLINE OF WISDOM
Rich labour is the struggle to be wise, While we make sure the struggle cannot cease. Else better were it in some bower of peace Slothful to swing, contending with the flies. You point at Wisdom fixed on lofty skies, As mid barbarian hordes a sculptured Greece: She falls. To live and shine, she grows her fleece, Is shorn, and rubs with follies and with lies. So following her, your hewing may attain The right to speak unto the mute, and shun That sly temptation of the illumined brain, Deliveries oracular, self-spun. Who sweats not with the flock will seek in vain To shed the words which are ripe fruit of sun.
THE STATE OF AGE
Rub thou thy battered lamp: nor claim nor beg Honours from aught about thee. Light the young. Thy frame is as a dusty mantle hung, O grey one! pendant on a loosened peg. Thou art for this our life an ancient egg, Or a tough bird: thou hast a rudderless tongue, Turning dead trifles, like the cock of dung, Which runs, Time's contrast to thy halting leg. Nature, it is most sure, not thee admires. But hast thou in thy season set her fires To burn from Self to Spirit through the lash, Honoured the sons of Earth shall hold thee high: Yea, to spread light when thy proud letter I Drops prone and void as any thoughtless dash.
In Progress you have little faith, say you: Men will maintain dear interests, wreak base hates, By force, and gentle women choose their mates Most amorously from the gilded fighting crew: The human heart Bellona's mad halloo Will ever fire to dicing with the Fates. 'Now at this time,' says History, 'those two States Stood ready their past wrestling to renew. They sharpened arms and showed them, like the brutes Whose haunches quiver. But a yellow blight Fell on their waxing harvests. They deferred The bloody settlement of their disputes Till God should bless them better.' They did right. And naming Progress, both shall have the word.
THE WORLD'S ADVANCE
Judge mildly the tasked world; and disincline To brand it, for it bears a heavy pack. You have perchance observed the inebriate's track At night when he has quitted the inn-sign: He plays diversions on the homeward line, Still that way bent albeit his legs are slack: A hedge may take him, but he turns not back, Nor turns this burdened world, of curving spine. 'Spiral,' the memorable Lady terms Our mind's ascent: our world's advance presents That figure on a flat; the way of worms. Cherish the promise of its good intents, And warn it, not one instinct to efface Ere Reason ripens for the vacant place.
A CERTAIN PEOPLE
As Puritans they prominently wax, And none more kindly gives and takes hard knocks. Strong psalmic chanting, like to nasal cocks, They join to thunderings of their hearty thwacks. But naughtiness, with hoggery, not lacks When Peace another door in them unlocks, Where conscience shows the eyeing of an ox Grown dully apprehensive of an Axe. Graceless they are when gone to frivolousness, Fearing the God they flout, the God they glut. They need their pious exercises less Than schooling in the Pleasures: fair belief That these are devilish only to their thief, Charged with an Axe nigh on the occiput.
THE GARDEN OF EPICURUS
That Garden of sedate Philosophy Once flourished, fenced from passion and mishap, A shining spot upon a shaggy map; Where mind and body, in fair junction free, Luted their joyful concord; like the tree From root to flowering twigs a flowing sap. Clear Wisdom found in tended Nature's lap Of gentlemen the happy nursery. That Garden would on light supremest verge, Were the long drawing of an equal breath Healthful for Wisdom's head, her heart, her aims. Our world which for its Babels wants a scourge, And for its wilds a husbandman, acclaims The crucifix that came of Nazareth.
A LATER ALEXANDRIAN
An inspiration caught from dubious hues Filled him, and mystic wrynesses he chased; For they lead farther than the single-faced, Wave subtler promise when desire pursues. The moon of cloud discoloured was his Muse, His pipe the reed of the old moaning waste. Love was to him with anguish fast enlaced, And Beauty where she walked blood-shot the dews. Men railed at such a singer; women thrilled Responsively: he sang not Nature's own Divinest, but his lyric had a tone, As 'twere a forest-echo of her voice: What barrenly they yearn for seemed distilled From what they dread, who do through tears rejoice.
AN ORSON OF THE MUSE
Her son, albeit the Muse's livery And measured courtly paces rouse his taunts, Naked and hairy in his savage haunts, To Nature only will he bend the knee; Spouting the founts of her distillery Like rough rock-sources; and his woes and wants Being Nature's, civil limitation daunts His utterance never; the nymphs blush, not he. Him, when he blows of Earth, and Man, and Fate, The Muse will hearken to with graver ear Than many of her train can waken: him Would fain have taught what fruitful things and dear Must sink beneath the tidewaves, of their weight, If in no vessel built for sea they swim.
THE POINT OF TASTE
Unhappy poets of a sunken prime! You to reviewers are as ball to bat. They shadow you with Homer, knock you flat With Shakespeare: bludgeons brainingly sublime On you the excommunicates of Rhyme, Because you sing not in the living Fat. The wiry whizz of an intrusive gnat Is verse that shuns their self-producing time. Sound them their clocks, with loud alarum trump, Or watches ticking temporal at their fobs, You win their pleased attention. But, bright God O' the lyre, what bully-drawlers they applaud! Rather for us a tavern-catch, and bump Chorus where Lumpkin with his Giles hobnobs.
What say you, critic, now you have become An author and maternal?—in this trap (To quote you) of poor hollow folk who rap On instruments as like as drum to drum. You snarled tut-tut for welcome to tum-tum, So like the nose fly-teased in its noon's nap. You scratched an insect-slaughtering thunder-clap With that between the fingers and the thumb. It seemeth mad to quit the Olympian couch, Which bade our public gobble or reject. O spectacle of Peter, shrewdly pecked, Piper, by his own pepper from his pouch! What of the sneer, the jeer, the voice austere, You dealt?—the voice austere, the jeer, the sneer.
Oracle of the market! thence you drew The taste which stamped you guide of the inept. - A North-sea pilot, Hildebrand yclept, A sturdy and a briny, once men knew. He loved small beer, and for that copious brew, To roll ingurgitation till he slept, Rations exchanged with flavour for the adept: And merrily plied him captain, mate and crew. At last this dancer to the Polar star Sank, washed out within, and overboard was pitched, To drink the sea and pilot him to land. O captain-critic! printed, neatly stitched, Know while the pillory-eggs fly fast, they are Not eggs, but the drowned soul of Hildebrand.
Of me and of my theme think what thou wilt: The song of gladness one straight bolt can check. But I have never stood at Fortune's beck: Were she and her light crew to run atilt At my poor holding little would be spilt; Small were the praise for singing o'er that wreck. Who courts her dooms to strife his bended neck; He grasps a blade, not always by the hilt. Nathless she strikes at random, can be fell With other than those votaries she deals The black or brilliant from her thunder-rift. I say but that this love of Earth reveals A soul beside our own to quicken, quell, Irradiate, and through ruinous floods uplift.
'Tis true the wisdom that my mind exacts Through contemplation from a heart unbent By many tempests may be stained and rent: The summer flies it mightily attracts. Yet they seem choicer than your sons of facts, Which scarce give breathing of the sty's content For their diurnal carnal nourishment: Which treat with Nature in official pacts. The deader body Nature could proclaim. Much life have neither. Let the heavens of wrath Rattle, then both scud scattering to froth. But during calms the flies of idle aim Less put the spirit out, less baffle thirst For light than swinish grunters, blest or curst.
ON THE DANGER OF WAR
Avert, High Wisdom, never vainly wooed, This threat of War, that shows a land brain-sick. When nations gain the pitch where rhetoric Seems reason they are ripe for cannon's food. Dark looms the issue though the cause be good, But with the doubt 'tis our old devil's trick. O now the down-slope of the lunatic Illumine lest we redden of that brood. For not since man in his first view of thee Ascended to the heavens giving sign Within him of deep sky and sounded sea, Did he unforfeiting thy laws transgress; In peril of his blood his ears incline To drums whose loudness is their emptiness.
TO CARDINAL MANNING
I, wakeful for the skylark voice in men, Or straining for the angel of the light, Rebuked am I by hungry ear and sight, When I behold one lamp that through our fen Goes hourly where most noisome; hear again A tongue that loathsomeness will not affright From speaking to the soul of us forthright What things our craven senses keep from ken. This is the doing of the Christ; the way He went on earth; the service above guile To prop a tyrant creed: it sings, it shines; Cries to the Mammonites: Allay, allay Such misery as by these present signs Brings vengeance down; nor them who rouse revile.
TO COLONEL CHARLES (DYING GENERAL C.B.B.)
An English heart, my commandant, A soldier's eye you have, awake To right and left; with looks askant On bulwarks not of adamant, Where white our Channel waters break.
Where Grisnez winks at Dungeness Across the ruffled strip of salt, You look, and like the prospect less. On men and guns would you lay stress, To bid the Island's foemen halt.
While loud the Year is raising cry At birth to know if it must bear In history the bloody dye, An English heart, a soldier's eye, For the old country first will care.
And how stands she, artillerist, Among the vapours waxing dense, With cannon charged? 'Tis hist! and hist! And now she screws a gouty fist, And now she counts to clutch her pence.
With shudders chill as aconite, The couchant chewer of the cud Will start at times in pussy fright Before the dogs, when reads her sprite The streaks predicting streams of blood.
She thinks they may mean something; thinks They may mean nothing: haply both. Where darkness all her daylight drinks, She fain would find a leader lynx, Not too much taxing mental sloth.
Cleft like the fated house in twain, One half is, Arm! and one, Retrench! Gambetta's word on dull MacMahon: 'The cow that sees a passing train': So spies she Russian, German, French.
She? no, her weakness: she unbraced Among those athletes fronting storms! The muscles less of steel than paste, Why, they of nature feel distaste For flash, much more for push, of arms.
The poet sings, and well know we, That 'iron draws men after it.' But towering wealth may seem the tree Which bears the fruit INDEMNITY, And draw as fast as battle's fit,
If feeble be the hand on guard, Alas, alas! And nations are Still the mad forces, though the scarred. Should they once deem our emblem Pard Wagger of tail for all save war; -
Mechanically screwed to flail His flanks by Presses conjuring fear; - A money-bag with head and tail; - Too late may valour then avail! As you beheld, my cannonier,
When with the staff of Benedek, On the plateau of Koniggratz, You saw below that wedgeing speck; Foresaw proud Austria rammed to wreck, Where Chlum drove deep in smoky jets.
TO CHILDREN: FOR TYRANTS
Strike not thy dog with a stick! I did it yesterday: Not to undo though I gained The Paradise: heavy it rained On Kobold's flanks, and he lay.
Little Bruno, our long-ear pup, From his hunt had come back to my heel. I heard a sharp worrying sound, And Bruno foamed on the ground, With Koby as making a meal.
I did what I could not undo Were the gates of the Paradise shut Behind me: I deemed it was just. I left Koby crouched in the dust, Some yards from the woodman's hut.
He bewhimpered his welting, and I Scarce thought it enough for him: so, By degrees, through the upper box-grove, Within me an old story hove, Of a man and a dog: you shall know.
The dog was of novel breed, The Shannon retriever, untried: His master, an old Irish lord, In an oaken armchair snored At midnight, whisky beside.
Perched up a desolate tower, Where the black storm-wind was a whip To set it nigh spinning, these two Were alone, like the last of a crew, Outworn in a wave-beaten ship.
The dog lifted muzzle, and sniffed; He quitted his couch on the rug, Nose to floor, nose aloft; whined, barked; And, finding the signals unmarked, Caught a hand in a death-grapple tug.
He pulled till his master jumped For fury of wrath, and laid on With the length of a tough knotted staff, Fit to drive the life flying like chaff, And leave a sheer carcase anon.
That done, he sat, panted, and cursed The vile cross of this brute: nevermore Would he house it to rear such a cur! The dog dragged his legs, pained to stir, Eyed his master, dropped, barked at the door.
Then his master raised head too, and sniffed: It struck him the dog had a sense That honoured both dam and sire. You have guessed how the tower was afire. The Shannon retriever dates thence.
I mused: saw the pup ease his heart Of his instinct for chasing, and sink Overwrought by excitement so new: A scene that for Koby to view Was the seizure of nerves in a link.
And part sympathetic, and part Imitatively, raged my poor brute; And I, not thinking of ill, Doing eviller: nerves are still Our savage too quick at the root.
They spring us: I proved it, albeit I played executioner then For discipline, justice, the like. Yon stick I had handy to strike Should have warned of the tyrant in men.
You read in your History books, How the Prince in his youth had a mind For governing gently his land. Ah, the use of that weapon at hand, When the temper is other than kind!
At home all was well; Koby's ribs Not so sore as my thoughts: if, beguiled, He forgives me, his criminal air Throws a shade of Llewellyn's despair For the hound slain for saving his child.
THE WOODS OF WESTERMAIN
Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare. Nothing harms beneath the leaves More than waves a swimmer cleaves. Toss your heart up with the lark, Foot at peace with mouse and worm, Fair you fare. Only at a dread of dark Quaver, and they quit their form: Thousand eyeballs under hoods Have you by the hair. Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare.
Here the snake across your path Stretches in his golden bath: Mossy-footed squirrels leap Soft as winnowing plumes of Sleep: Yaffles on a chuckle skim Low to laugh from branches dim: Up the pine, where sits the star, Rattles deep the moth-winged jar. Each has business of his own; But should you distrust a tone, Then beware. Shudder all the haunted roods, All the eyeballs under hoods Shroud you in their glare. Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare.
Open hither, open hence, Scarce a bramble weaves a fence, Where the strawberry runs red, With white star-flower overhead; Cumbered by dry twig and cone, Shredded husks of seedlings flown, Mine of mole and spotted flint: Of dire wizardry no hint, Save mayhap the print that shows Hasty outward-tripping toes, Heels to terror on the mould. These, the woods of Westermain, Are as others to behold, Rich of wreathing sun and rain; Foliage lustreful around Shadowed leagues of slumbering sound. Wavy tree-tops, yellow whins, Shelter eager minikins, Myriads, free to peck and pipe: Would you better? would you worse? You with them may gather ripe Pleasures flowing not from purse. Quick and far as Colour flies Taking the delighted eyes, You of any well that springs May unfold the heaven of things; Have it homely and within, And thereof its likeness win, Will you so in soul's desire: This do sages grant t' the lyre. This is being bird and more, More than glad musician this; Granaries you will have a store Past the world of woe and bliss; Sharing still its bliss and woe; Harnessed to its hungers, no. On the throne Success usurps, You shall seat the joy you feel Where a race of water chirps, Twisting hues of flourished steel: Or where light is caught in hoop Up a clearing's leafy rise, Where the crossing deerherds troop Classic splendours, knightly dyes. Or, where old-eyed oxen chew Speculation with the cud, Read their pool of vision through, Back to hours when mind was mud; Nigh the knot, which did untwine Timelessly to drowsy suns; Seeing Earth a slimy spine, Heaven a space for winging tons. Farther, deeper, may you read, Have you sight for things afield, Where peeps she, the Nurse of seed, Cloaked, but in the peep revealed; Showing a kind face and sweet: Look you with the soul you see't. Glory narrowing to grace, Grace to glory magnified, Following that will you embrace Close in arms or aery wide. Banished is the white Foam-born Not from here, nor under ban Phoebus lyrist, Phoebe's horn, Pipings of the reedy Pan. Loved of Earth of old they were, Loving did interpret her; And the sterner worship bars None whom Song has made her stars. You have seen the huntress moon Radiantly facing dawn, Dusky meads between them strewn Glimmering like downy awn: Argent Westward glows the hunt, East the blush about to climb; One another fair they front, Transient, yet outshine the time; Even as dewlight off the rose In the mind a jewel sows. Thus opposing grandeurs live Here if Beauty be their dower: Doth she of her spirit give, Fleetingness will spare her flower. This is in the tune we play, Which no spring of strength would quell; In subduing does not slay; Guides the channel, guards the well: Tempered holds the young blood-heat, Yet through measured grave accord, Hears the heart of wildness beat Like a centaur's hoof on sward. Drink the sense the notes infuse, You a larger self will find: Sweetest fellowship ensues With the creatures of your kind. Ay, and Love, if Love it be Flaming over I and ME, Love meet they who do not shove Cravings in the van of Love. Courtly dames are here to woo, Knowing love if it be true. Reverence the blossom-shoot Fervently, they are the fruit. Mark them stepping, hear them talk, Goddess, is no myth inane, You will say of those who walk In the woods of Westermain. Waters that from throat and thigh Dart the sun his arrows back; Leaves that on a woodland sigh Chat of secret things no lack; Shadowy branch-leaves, waters clear, Bare or veiled they move sincere; Not by slavish terrors tripped Being anew in nature dipped, Growths of what they step on, these; With the roots the grace of trees. Casket-breasts they give, nor hide, For a tyrant's flattered pride, Mind, which nourished not by light, Lurks the shuffling trickster sprite: Whereof are strange tales to tell; Some in blood writ, tombed in bell. Here the ancient battle ends, Joining two astonished friends, Who the kiss can give and take With more warmth than in that world Where the tiger claws the snake, Snake her tiger clasps infurled, And the issue of their fight People lands in snarling plight. Here her splendid beast she leads Silken-leashed and decked with weeds Wild as he, but breathing faint Sweetness of unfelt constraint. Love, the great volcano, flings Fires of lower Earth to sky; Love, the sole permitted, sings Sovereignly of ME and I. Bowers he has of sacred shade, Spaces of superb parade, Voiceful . . . But bring you a note Wrangling, howsoe'er remote, Discords out of discord spin Round and round derisive din: Sudden will a pallor pant Chill at screeches miscreant; Owls or spectres, thick they flee; Nightmare upon horror broods; Hooded laughter, monkish glee, Gaps the vital air. Enter these enchanted woods You who dare.
You must love the light so well That no darkness will seem fell. Love it so you could accost Fellowly a livid ghost. Whish! the phantom wisps away, Owns him smoke to cocks of day. In your breast the light must burn Fed of you, like corn in quern Ever plumping while the wheel Speeds the mill and drains the meal. Light to light sees little strange, Only features heavenly new; Then you touch the nerve of Change, Then of Earth you have the clue; Then her two-sexed meanings melt Through you, wed the thought and felt. Sameness locks no scurfy pond Here for Custom, crazy-fond: Change is on the wing to bud Rose in brain from rose in blood. Wisdom throbbing shall you see Central in complexity; From her pasture 'mid the beasts Rise to her ethereal feasts, Not, though lightnings track your wit Starward, scorning them you quit: For be sure the bravest wing Preens it in our common spring, Thence along the vault to soar, You with others, gathering more, Glad of more, till you reject Your proud title of elect, Perilous even here while few Roam the arched greenwood with you. Heed that snare. Muffled by his cavern-cowl Squats the scaly Dragon-fowl, Who was lord ere light you drank, And lest blood of knightly rank Stream, let not your fair princess Stray: he holds the leagues in stress, Watches keenly there. Oft has he been riven; slain Is no force in Westermain. Wait, and we shall forge him curbs, Put his fangs to uses, tame, Teach him, quick as cunning herbs, How to cure him sick and lame. Much restricted, much enringed, Much he frets, the hooked and winged, Never known to spare. 'Tis enough: the name of Sage Hits no thing in nature, nought; Man the least, save when grave Age From yon Dragon guards his thought. Eye him when you hearken dumb To what words from Wisdom come. When she says how few are by Listening to her, eye his eye. Self, his name declare. Him shall Change, transforming late, Wonderously renovate. Hug himself the creature may: What he hugs is loathed decay. Crying, slip thy scales, and slough! Change will strip his armour off; Make of him who was all maw, Inly only thrilling-shrewd, Such a servant as none saw Through his days of dragonhood. Days when growling o'er his bone, Sharpened he for mine and thine; Sensitive within alone; Scaly as the bark of pine. Change, the strongest son of Life, Has the Spirit here to wife. Lo, their young of vivid breed, Bear the lights that onward speed, Threading thickets, mounting glades, Up the verdurous colonnades, Round the fluttered curves, and down, Out of sight of Earth's blue crown, Whither, in her central space, Spouts the Fount and Lure o' the chase. Fount unresting, Lure divine! There meet all: too late look most. Fire in water hued as wine, Springs amid a shadowy host, Circled: one close-headed mob, Breathless, scanning divers heaps, Where a Heart begins to throb, Where it ceases, slow, with leaps. And 'tis very strange, 'tis said, How you spy in each of them Semblance of that Dragon red, As the oak in bracken-stem. And, 'tis said, how each and each: Which commences, which subsides: First my Dragon! doth beseech Her who food for all provides. And she answers with no sign; Utters neither yea nor nay; Fires the water hued as wine; Kneads another spark in clay. Terror is about her hid; Silence of the thunders locked; Lightnings lining the shut lid; Fixity on quaking rocked. Lo, you look at Flow and Drought Interflashed and interwrought: Ended is begun, begun Ended, quick as torrents run. Young Impulsion spouts to sink; Luridness and lustre link; 'Tis your come and go of breath; Mirrored pants the Life, the Death; Each of either reaped and sown: Rosiest rosy wanes to crone. See you so? your senses drift; 'Tis a shuttle weaving swift. Look with spirit past the sense, Spirit shines in permanence. That is She, the view of whom Is the dust within the tomb, Is the inner blush above, Look to loathe, or look to love; Think her Lump, or know her Flame; Dread her scourge, or read her aim; Shoot your hungers from their nerve; Or, in her example, serve. Some have found her sitting grave; Laughing, some; or, browed with sweat, Hurling dust of fool and knave In a hissing smithy's jet. More it were not well to speak; Burn to see, you need but seek. Once beheld she gives the key Airing every doorway, she. Little can you stop or steer Ere of her you are the seer. On the surface she will witch, Rendering Beauty yours, but gaze Under, and the soul is rich Past computing, past amaze. Then is courage that endures Even her awful tremble yours. Then, the reflex of that Fount Spied below, will Reason mount Lordly and a quenchless force, Lighting Pain to its mad source, Scaring Fear till Fear escapes, Shot through all its phantom shapes. Then your spirit will perceive Fleshly seed of fleshly sins; Where the passions interweave, How the serpent tangle spins Of the sense of Earth misprised, Brainlessly unrecognized; She being Spirit in her clods, Footway to the God of Gods. Then for you are pleasures pure, Sureties as the stars are sure: Not the wanton beckoning flags Which, of flattery and delight, Wax to the grim Habit-Hags Riding souls of men to night: Pleasures that through blood run sane, Quickening spirit from the brain. Each of each in sequent birth, Blood and brain and spirit, three, (Say the deepest gnomes of Earth), Join for true felicity. Are they parted, then expect Some one sailing will be wrecked: Separate hunting are they sped, Scan the morsel coveted. Earth that Triad is: she hides Joy from him who that divides; Showers it when the three are one Glassing her in union. Earth your haven, Earth your helm, You command a double realm; Labouring here to pay your debt, Till your little sun shall set; Leaving her the future task: Loving her too well to ask. Eglantine that climbs the yew, She her darkest wreathes for those Knowing her the Ever-new, And themselves the kin o' the rose. Life, the chisel, axe and sword, Wield who have her depths explored: Life, the dream, shall be their robe Large as air about the globe; Life, the question, hear its cry Echoed with concordant Why; Life, the small self-dragon ramped, Thrill for service to be stamped. Ay, and over every height Life for them shall wave a wand: That, the last, where sits affright, Homely shows the stream beyond. Love the light and be its lynx, You will track her and attain; Read her as no cruel Sphinx In the woods of Westermain, Daily fresh the woods are ranged; Glooms which otherwhere appal, Sounded: here, their worths exchanged Urban joins with pastoral: Little lost, save what may drop Husk-like, and the mind preserves. Natural overgrowths they lop, Yet from nature neither swerves, Trained or savage: for this cause: Of our Earth they ply the laws, Have in Earth their feeding root, Mind of man and bent of brute. Hear that song; both wild and ruled. Hear it: is it wail or mirth? Ordered, bubbled, quite unschooled? None, and all: it springs of Earth. O but hear it! 'tis the mind; Mind that with deep Earth unites, Round the solid trunk to wind Rings of clasping parasites. Music have you there to feed Simplest and most soaring need. Free to wind, and in desire Winding, they to her attached Feel the trunk a spring of fire, And ascend to heights unmatched, Whence the tidal world is viewed As a sea of windy wheat, Momently black, barren, rude; Golden-brown, for harvest meet, Dragon-reaped from folly-sown; Bride-like to the sickle-blade: Quick it varies, while the moan, Moan of a sad creature strayed, Chiefly is its voice. So flesh Conjures tempest-flails to thresh Good from worthless. Some clear lamps Light it; more of dead marsh-damps. Monster is it still, and blind, Fit but to be led by Pain. Glance we at the paths behind, Fruitful sight has Westermain. There we laboured, and in turn Forward our blown lamps discern, As you see on the dark deep Far the loftier billows leap, Foam for beacon bear. Hither, hither, if you will, Drink instruction, or instil, Run the woods like vernal sap, Crying, hail to luminousness! But have care. In yourself may lurk the trap: On conditions they caress. Here you meet the light invoked Here is never secret cloaked. Doubt you with the monster's fry All his orbit may exclude; Are you of the stiff, the dry, Cursing the not understood; Grasp you with the monster's claws; Govern with his truncheon-saws; Hate, the shadow of a grain; You are lost in Westermain: Earthward swoops a vulture sun, Nighted upon carrion: Straightway venom wine-cups shout Toasts to One whose eyes are out: Flowers along the reeling floor Drip henbane and hellebore: Beauty, of her tresses shorn, Shrieks as nature's maniac: Hideousness on hoof and horn Tumbles, yapping in her track: Haggard Wisdom, stately once, Leers fantastical and trips: Allegory drums the sconce, Impiousness nibblenips. Imp that dances, imp that flits, Imp o' the demon-growing girl, Maddest! whirl with imp o' the pits Round you, and with them you whirl Fast where pours the fountain-rout Out of Him whose eyes are out: Multitudes on multitudes, Drenched in wallowing devilry: And you ask where you may be, In what reek of a lair Given to bones and ogre-broods: And they yell you Where. Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare.
A BALLAD OF PAST MERIDIAN
Last night returning from my twilight walk I met the grey mist Death, whose eyeless brow Was bent on me, and from his hand of chalk He reached me flowers as from a withered bough: O Death, what bitter nosegays givest thou!
Death said, I gather, and pursued his way. Another stood by me, a shape in stone, Sword-hacked and iron-stained, with breasts of clay, And metal veins that sometimes fiery shone: O Life, how naked and how hard when known!
Life said, As thou hast carved me, such am I. Then memory, like the nightjar on the pine, And sightless hope, a woodlark in night sky, Joined notes of Death and Life till night's decline Of Death, of Life, those inwound notes are mine.
THE DAY OF THE DAUGHTER OF HADES
He who has looked upon Earth Deeper than flower and fruit, Losing some hue of his mirth, As the tree striking rock at the root, Unto him shall the marvellous tale Of Callistes more humanly come With the touch on his breast than a hail From the markets that hum.
Now the youth footed swift to the dawn. 'Twas the season when wintertide, In the higher rock-hollows updrawn, Leaves meadows to bud, and he spied, By light throwing shallow shade, Between the beam and the gloom, Sicilian Enna, whose Maid Such aspect wears in her bloom Underneath since the Charioteer Of Darkness whirled her away, On a reaped afternoon of the year, Nigh the poppy-droop of Day. O and naked of her, all dust, The majestic Mother and Nurse, Ringing cries to the God, the Just, Curled the land with the blight of her curse: Recollected of this glad isle Still quaking. But now more fair, And momently fraying the while The veil of the shadows there, Soft Enna that prostrate grief Sang through, and revealed round the vines, Bronze-orange, the crisp young leaf, The wheat-blades tripping in lines, A hue unillumined by sun Of the flowers flooding grass as from founts: All the penetrable dun Of the morn ere she mounts.
Nor had saffron and sapphire and red Waved aloft to their sisters below, When gaped by the rock-channel head Of the lake, black, a cave at one blow, Reverberant over the plain: A sound oft fearfully swung For the coming of wrathful rain: And forth, like the dragon-tongue Of a fire beaten flat by the gale, But more as the smoke to behold, A chariot burst. Then a wail Quivered high of the love that would fold Bliss immeasurable, bigger than heart, Though a God's: and the wheels were stayed, And the team of the chariot swart Reared in marble, the six, dismayed, Like hoofs that by night plashing sea Curve and ramp from the vast swan-wave: For, lo, the Great Mother, She! And Callistes gazed, he gave His eyeballs up to the sight: The embrace of the Twain, of whom To men are their day, their night, Mellow fruits and the shearing tomb: Our Lady of the Sheaves And the Lily of Hades, the Sweet Of Enna: he saw through leaves The Mother and Daughter meet. They stood by the chariot-wheel, Embraced, very tall, most like Fellow poplars, wind-taken, that reel Down their shivering columns and strike Head to head, crossing throats: and apart, For the feast of the look, they drew, Which Darkness no longer could thwart; And they broke together anew, Exulting to tears, flower and bud. But the mate of the Rayless was grave: She smiled like Sleep on its flood, That washes of all we crave: Like the trance of eyes awake And the spirit enshrouded, she cast The wan underworld on the lake. They were so, and they passed.
He tells it, who knew the law Upon mortals: he stood alive Declaring that this he saw: He could see, and survive.
Now the youth was not ware of the beams With the grasses intertwined, For each thing seen, as in dreams, Came stepping to rear through his mind, Till it struck his remembered prayer To be witness of this which had flown Like a smoke melted thinner than air, That the vacancy doth disown. And viewing a maiden, he thought It might now be morn, and afar Within him the memory wrought Of a something that slipped from the car When those, the august, moved by: Perchance a scarf, and perchance This maiden. She did not fly, Nor started at his advance: She looked, as when infinite thirst Pants pausing to bless the springs, Refreshed, unsated. Then first He trembled with awe of the things He had seen; and he did transfer, Divining and doubting in turn, His reverence unto her; Nor asked what he crouched to learn: The whence of her, whither, and why Her presence there, and her name, Her parentage: under which sky Her birth, and how hither she came, So young, a virgin, alone, Unfriended, having no fear, As Oreads have; no moan, Like the lost upon earth; no tear; Not a sign of the torch in the blood, Though her stature had reached the height When mantles a tender rud In maids that of youths have sight, If maids of our seed they be: For he said: A glad vision art thou! And she answered him: Thou to me! As men utter a vow.
Then said she, quick as the cries Of the rainy cranes: Light! light! And Helios rose in her eyes, That were full as the dew-balls bright, Relucent to him as dews Unshaded. Breathing, she sent Her voice to the God of the Muse, And along the vale it went, Strange to hear: not thin, not shrill: Sweet, but no young maid's throat: The echo beyond the hill Ran falling on half the note: And under the shaken ground Where the Hundred-headed groans By the roots of great AEtna bound, As of him were hollow tones Of wondering roared: a tale Repeated to sunless halls. But now off the face of the vale Shadows fled in a breath, and the walls Of the lake's rock-head were gold, And the breast of the lake, that swell Of the crestless long wave rolled To shore-bubble, pebble and shell. A morning of radiant lids O'er the dance of the earth opened wide: The bees chose their flowers, the snub kids Upon hindlegs went sportive, or plied, Nosing, hard at the dugs to be filled: There was milk, honey, music to make: Up their branches the little birds billed: Chirrup, drone, bleat and buzz ringed the lake. O shining in sunlight, chief After water and water's caress, Was the young bronze-orange leaf, That clung to the tree as a tress, Shooting lucid tendrils to wed With the vine-hook tree or pole, Like Arachne launched out on her thread. Then the maiden her dusky stole In the span of the black-starred zone, Gathered up for her footing fleet. As one that had toil of her own She followed the lines of wheat Tripping straight through the fields, green blades, To the groves of olive grey, Downy-grey, golden-tinged: and to glades Where the pear-blossom thickens the spray In a night, like the snow-packed storm: Pear, apple, almond, plum: Not wintry now: pushing, warm! And she touched them with finger and thumb, As the vine-hook closes: she smiled, Recounting again and again, Corn, wine, fruit, oil! like a child, With the meaning known to men. For hours in the track of the plough And the pruning-knife she stepped, And of how the seed works, and of how Yields the soil, she seemed adept. Then she murmured that name of the dearth, The Beneficent, Hers, who bade Our husbandmen sow for the birth Of the grain making earth full glad. She murmured that Other's: the dirge Of life-light: for whose dark lap Our locks are clipped on the verge Of the realm where runs no sap. She said: We have looked on both! And her eyes had a wavering beam Of various lights, like the froth Of the storm-swollen ravine stream In flame of the bolt. What links Were these which had made him her friend? He eyed her, as one who drinks, And would drink to the end.
Now the meadows with crocus besprent, And the asphodel woodsides she left, And the lake-slopes, the ravishing scent Of narcissus, dark-sweet, for the cleft That tutors the torrent-brook, Delaying its forceful spleen With many a wind and crook Through rock to the broad ravine. By the hyacinth-bells in the brakes, And the shade-loved white windflower, half hid, And the sun-loving lizards and snakes On the cleft's barren ledges, that slid Out of sight, smooth as waterdrops, all, At a snap of twig or bark In the track of the foreign foot-fall, She climbed to the pineforest dark, Overbrowing an emerald chine Of the grass-billows. Thence, as a wreath, Running poplar and cypress to pine, The lake-banks are seen, and beneath, Vineyard, village, groves, rivers, towers, farms, The citadel watching the bay, The bay with the town in its arms, The town shining white as the spray Of the sapphire sea-wave on the rock, Where the rock stars the girdle of sea, White-ringed, as the midday flock, Clipped by heat, rings the round of the tree. That hour of the piercing shaft Transfixes bough-shadows, confused In veins of fire, and she laughed, With her quiet mouth amused To see the whole flock, adroop, Asleep, hug the tree-stem as one, Imperceptibly filling the loop Of its shade at a slant of sun. The pipes under pent of the crag, Where the goatherds in piping recline, Have whimsical stops, burst and flag Uncorrected as outstretched swine: For the fingers are slack and unsure, And the wind issues querulous:- thorns And snakes!—but she listened demure, Comparing day's music with morn's. Of the gentle spirit that slips From the bark of the tree she discoursed, And of her of the wells, whose lips Are coolness enchanting, rock-sourced. And much of the sacred loon, The frolic, the Goatfoot God, For stories of indolent noon In the pineforest's odorous nod, She questioned, not knowing: he can Be waspish, irascible, rude, He is oftener friendly to man, And ever to beasts and their brood. For the which did she love him well, She said, and his pipes of the reed, His twitched lips puffing to tell In music his tears and his need, Against the sharp catch of his hurt. Not as shepherds of Pan did she speak, Nor spake as the schools, to divert, But fondly, perceiving him weak Before Gods, and to shepherds a fear, A holiness, horn and heel. All this she had learnt in her ear From Callistes, and taught him to feel. Yea, the solemn divinity flushed Through the shaggy brown skin of the beast, And the steeps where the cataract rushed, And the wilds where the forest is priest, Were his temple to clothe him in awe, While she spake: 'twas a wonder: she read The haunts of the beak and the claw As plain as the land of bread, But Cities and martial States, Whither soon the youth veered his theme, Were impervious barrier-gates To her: and that ship, a trireme, Nearing harbour, scarce wakened her glance, Though he dwelt on the message it bore Of sceptre and sword and lance To the bee-swarms black on the shore, Which were audible almost, So black they were. It befel That he called up the warrior host Of the Song pouring hydromel In thunder, the wide-winged Song. And he named with his boyish pride The heroes, the noble throng Past Acheron now, foul tide! With his joy of the godlike band And the verse divine, he named The chiefs pressing hot on the strand, Seen of Gods, of Gods aided, and maimed. The fleetfoot and ireful; the King; Him, the prompter in stratagem, Many-shifted and masterful: Sing, O Muse! But she cried: Not of them She breathed as if breath had failed, And her eyes, while she bade him desist, Held the lost-to-light ghosts grey-mailed, As you see the grey river-mist Hold shapes on the yonder bank. A moment her body waned, The light of her sprang and sank: Then she looked at the sun, she regained Clear feature, and she breathed deep. She wore the wan smile he had seen, As the flow of the river of Sleep, On the mouth of the Shadow-Queen. In sunlight she craved to bask, Saying: Life! And who was she? who? Of what issue? He dared not ask, For that partly he knew.
A noise of the hollow ground Turned the eye to the ear in debate: Not the soft overflowing of sound Of the pines, ranked, lofty, straight, Barely swayed to some whispers remote, Some swarming whispers above: Not the pines with the faint airs afloat, Hush-hushing the nested dove: It was not the pines, or the rout Oft heard from mid-forest in chase, But the long muffled roar of a shout Subterranean. Sharp grew her face. She rose, yet not moved by affright; 'Twas rather good haste to use Her holiday of delight In the beams of the God of the Muse. And the steeps of the forest she crossed, On its dry red sheddings and cones Up the paths by roots green-mossed, Spotted amber, and old mossed stones. Then out where the brook-torrent starts To her leap, and from bend to curve A hurrying elbow darts For the instant-glancing swerve, Decisive, with violent will In the action formed, like hers, The maiden's, ascending; and still Ascending, the bud of the furze, The broom, and all blue-berried shoots Of stubborn and prickly kind, The juniper flat on its roots, The dwarf rhododaphne, behind She left, and the mountain sheep Far behind, goat, herbage and flower. The island was hers, and the deep, All heaven, a golden hour. Then with wonderful voice, that rang Through air as the swan's nigh death, Of the glory of Light she sang, She sang of the rapture of Breath. Nor ever, says he who heard, Heard Earth in her boundaries broad, From bosom of singer or bird A sweetness thus rich of the God Whose harmonies always are sane. She sang of furrow and seed, The burial, birth of the grain, The growth, and the showers that feed, And the green blades waxing mature For the husbandman's armful brown. O, the song in its burden ran pure, And burden to song was a crown. Callistes, a singer, skilled In the gift he could measure and praise, By a rival's art was thrilled, Though she sang but a Song of Days, Where the husbandman's toil and strife Little varies to strife and toil: But the milky kernel of life, With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil The song did give him to eat: Gave the first rapt vision of Good, And the fresh young sense of Sweet The grace of the battle for food, With the issue Earth cannot refuse When men to their labour are sworn. 'Twas a song of the God of the Muse To the forehead of Morn.
Him loved she. Lo, now was he veiled: Over sea stood a swelled cloud-rack: The fishing-boat heavenward sailed, Bent abeam, with a whitened track, Surprised, fast hauling the net, As it flew: sea dashed, earth shook. She said: Is it night? O not yet! With a travail of thoughts in her look. The mountain heaved up to its peak: Sea darkened: earth gathered her fowl; Of bird or of branch rose the shriek. Night? but never so fell a scowl Wore night, nor the sky since then When ocean ran swallowing shore, And the Gods looked down for men. Broke tempest with that stern roar Never yet, save when black on the whirl Rode wrath of a sovereign Power. Then the youth and the shuddering girl, Dim as shades in the angry shower, Joined hands and descended a maze Of the paths that were racing alive Round boulder and bush, cleaving ways, Incessant, with sound of a hive. The height was a fountain-urn Pouring streams, and the whole solid height Leaped, chasing at every turn The pair in one spirit of flight To the folding pineforest. Yet here, Like the pause to things hunted, in doubt, The stillness bred spectral fear Of the awfulness ranging without, And imminent. Downward they fled, From under the haunted roof, To the valley aquake with the tread Of an iron-resounding hoof, As of legions of thunderful horse Broken loose and in line tramping hard. For the rage of a hungry force Roamed blind of its mark over sward: They saw it rush dense in the cloak Of its travelling swathe of steam; All the vale through a thin thread-smoke Was thrown back to distance extreme: And dull the full breast of it blinked, Like a buckler of steel breathed o'er, Diminished, in strangeness distinct, Glowing cold, unearthly, hoar: An Enna of fields beyond sun, Out of light, in a lurid web; And the traversing fury spun Up and down with a wave's flow and ebb; As the wave breaks to grasp and to spurn, Retire, and in ravenous greed, Inveterate, swell its return. Up and down, as if wringing from speed Sights that made the unsighted appear, Delude and dissolve, on it scoured. Lo, a sea upon land held career Through the plain of the vale half-devoured. Callistes of home and escape Muttered swiftly, unwitting of speech. She gazed at the Void of shape, She put her white hand to his reach, Saying: Now have we looked on the Three. And divided from day, from night, From air that is breath, stood she, Like the vale, out of light.
Then again in disorderly words He muttered of home, and was mute, With the heart of the cowering birds Ere they burst off the fowler's foot. He gave her some redness that streamed Through her limbs in a flitting glow. The sigh of our life she seemed, The bliss of it clothing in woe. Frailer than flower when the round Of the sickle encircles it: strong To tell of the things profound, Our inmost uttering song, Unspoken. So stood she awhile In the gloom of the terror afield, And the silence about her smile Said more than of tongue is revealed. I have breathed: I have gazed: I have been: It said: and not joylessly shone The remembrance of light through the screen Of a face that seemed shadow and stone. She led the youth trembling, appalled, To the lake-banks he saw sink and rise Like a panic-struck breast. Then she called, And the hurricane blackness had eyes. It launched like the Thunderer's bolt. Pale she drooped, and the youth by her side Would have clasped her and dared a revolt Sacrilegious as ever defied High Olympus, but vainly for strength His compassionate heart shook a frame Stricken rigid to ice all its length. On amain the black traveller came. Lo, a chariot, cleaving the storm, Clove the fountaining lake with a plough, And the lord of the steeds was in form He, the God of implacable brow, Darkness: he: he in person: he raged Through the wave like a boar of the wilds From the hunters and hounds disengaged, And a name shouted hoarsely: his child's. Horror melted in anguish to hear. Lo, the wave hissed apart for the path Of the terrible Charioteer, With the foam and torn features of wrath, Hurled aloft on each arm in a sheet; And the steeds clove it, rushing at land Like the teeth of the famished at meat. Then he swept out his hand.
This, no more, doth Callistes recall: He saw, ere he dropped in swoon, On the maiden the chariot fall, As a thundercloud swings on the moon. Forth, free of the deluge, one cry From the vanishing gallop rose clear: And: Skiegeneia! the sky Rang; Skiegeneia! the sphere. And she left him therewith, to rejoice, Repine, yearn, and know not his aim, The life of their day in her voice, Left her life in her name.
Now the valley in ruin of fields And fair meadowland, showing at eve Like the spear-pitted warrior's shields After battle, bade men believe That no other than wrathfullest God Had been loose on her beautiful breast, Where the flowery grass was clod, Wheat and vine as a trailing nest. The valley, discreet in grief, Disclosed but the open truth, And Enna had hope of the sheaf: There was none for the desolate youth Devoted to mourn and to crave. Of the secret he had divined Of his friend of a day would he rave: How for light of our earth she pined: For the olive, the vine and the wheat, Burning through with inherited fire: And when Mother went Mother to meet, She was prompted by simple desire In the day-destined car to have place At the skirts of the Goddess, unseen, And be drawn to the dear earth's face. She was fire for the blue and the green Of our earth, dark fire; athirst As a seed of her bosom for dawn, White air that had robed and nursed Her mother. Now was she gone With the Silent, the God without tear, Like a bud peeping out of its sheath To be sundered and stamped with the sere. And Callistes to her beneath, As she to our beams, extinct, Strained arms: he was shade of her shade. In division so were they linked. But the song which had betrayed Her flight to the cavernous ear For its own keenly wakeful: that song Of the sowing and reaping, and cheer Of the husbandman's heart made strong Through droughts and deluging rains With his faith in the Great Mother's love: O the joy of the breath she sustains, And the lyre of the light above, And the first rapt vision of Good, And the fresh young sense of Sweet: That song the youth ever pursued In the track of her footing fleet. For men to be profited much By her day upon earth did he sing: Of her voice, and her steps, and her touch On the blossoms of tender Spring, Immortal: and how in her soul She is with them, and tearless abides, Folding grain of a love for one goal In patience, past flowing of tides. And if unto him she was tears, He wept not: he wasted within: Seeming sane in the song, to his peers, Only crazed where the cravings begin. Our Lady of Gifts prized he less Than her issue in darkness: the dim Lost Skiegencia's caress Of our earth made it richest for him. And for that was a curse on him raised, And he withered rathe, dry to his prime, Though the bounteous Giver be praised Through the island with rites of old time Exceedingly fervent, and reaped Veneration for teachings devout, Pious hymns when the corn-sheaves are heaped And the wine-presses ruddily spout, And the olive and apple are juice At a touch light as hers lost below. Whatsoever to men is of use Sprang his worship of them who bestow, In a measure of songs unexcelled: But that soul loving earth and the sun From her home of the shadows he held For his beacon where beam there is none: And to join her, or have her brought back, In his frenzy the singer would call, Till he followed where never was track, On the path trod of all.
THE LARK ASCENDING
He rises and begins to round, He drops the silver chain of sound, Of many links without a break, In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake, All intervolved and spreading wide, Like water-dimples down a tide Where ripple ripple overcurls And eddy into eddy whirls; A press of hurried notes that run So fleet they scarce are more than one, Yet changeingly the trills repeat And linger ringing while they fleet, Sweet to the quick o' the ear, and dear To her beyond the handmaid ear, Who sits beside our inner springs, Too often dry for this he brings, Which seems the very jet of earth At sight of sun, her music's mirth, As up he wings the spiral stair, A song of light, and pierces air With fountain ardour, fountain play, To reach the shining tops of day, And drink in everything discerned An ecstasy to music turned, Impelled by what his happy bill Disperses; drinking, showering still, Unthinking save that he may give His voice the outlet, there to live Renewed in endless notes of glee, So thirsty of his voice is he, For all to hear and all to know That he is joy, awake, aglow; The tumult of the heart to hear Through pureness filtered crystal-clear, And know the pleasure sprinkled bright By simple singing of delight; Shrill, irreflective, unrestrained, Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustained Without a break, without a fall, Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical, Perennial, quavering up the chord Like myriad dews of sunny sward That trembling into fulness shine, And sparkle dropping argentine; Such wooing as the ear receives From zephyr caught in choric leaves Of aspens when their chattering net Is flushed to white with shivers wet; And such the water-spirit's chime On mountain heights in morning's prime, Too freshly sweet to seem excess, Too animate to need a stress; But wider over many heads The starry voice ascending spreads, Awakening, as it waxes thin, The best in us to him akin; And every face to watch him raised, Puts on the light of children praised; So rich our human pleasure ripes When sweetness on sincereness pipes, Though nought be promised from the seas, But only a soft-ruffling breeze Sweep glittering on a still content, Serenity in ravishment For singing till his heaven fills, 'Tis love of earth that he instils, And ever winging up and up, Our valley is his golden cup, And he the wine which overflows To lift us with him as he goes: The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine, He is, the hills, the human line, The meadows green, the fallows brown, The dreams of labour in the town; He sings the sap, the quickened veins; The wedding song of sun and rains He is, the dance of children, thanks Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks, And eye of violets while they breathe; All these the circling song will wreathe, And you shall hear the herb and tree, The better heart of men shall see, Shall feel celestially, as long As you crave nothing save the song.
Was never voice of ours could say Our inmost in the sweetest way, Like yonder voice aloft, and link All hearers in the song they drink. Our wisdom speaks from failing blood, Our passion is too full in flood, We want the key of his wild note Of truthful in a tuneful throat; The song seraphically free Of taint of personality, So pure that it salutes the suns The voice of one for millions, In whom the millions rejoice For giving their one spirit voice. Yet men have we, whom we revere, Now names, and men still housing here, Whose lives, by many a battle-dint Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint, Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet For song our highest heaven to greet: Whom heavenly singing gives us new, Enspheres them brilliant in our blue, From firmest base to farthest leap, Because their love of Earth is deep, And they are warriors in accord With life to serve, and, pass reward, So touching purest and so heard In the brain's reflex of yon bird: Wherefore their soul in me, or mine, Through self-forgetfulness divine, In them, that song aloft maintains, To fill the sky and thrill the plains With showerings drawn from human stores, As he to silence nearer soars, Extends the world at wings and dome, More spacious making more our home, Till lost on his aerial rings In light, and then the fancy sings.
PHOEBUS WITH ADMETUS
When by Zeus relenting the mandate was revoked, Sentencing to exile the bright Sun-God, Mindful were the ploughmen of who the steer had yoked, Who: and what a track showed the upturned sod! Mindful were the shepherds, as now the noon severe Bent a burning eyebrow to brown evetide, How the rustic flute drew the silver to the sphere, Sister of his own, till her rays fell wide. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Chirping none, the scarlet cicadas crouched in ranks: Slack the thistle-head piled its down-silk grey: Scarce the stony lizard sucked hollows in his flanks: Thick on spots of umbrage our drowsed flocks lay. Sudden bowed the chestnuts beneath a wind unheard, Lengthened ran the grasses, the sky grew slate: Then amid a swift flight of winged seed white as curd, Clear of limb a Youth smote the master's gate. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Water, first of singers, o'er rocky mount and mead, First of earthly singers, the sun-loved rill, Sang of him, and flooded the ripples on the reed, Seeking whom to waken and what ear fill. Water, sweetest soother to kiss a wound and cool, Sweetest and divinest, the sky-born brook, Chuckled, with a whimper, and made a mirror-pool Round the guest we welcomed, the strange hand shook. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Many swarms of wild bees descended on our fields: Stately stood the wheatstalk with head bent high: Big of heart we laboured at storing mighty yields, Wool and corn, and clusters to make men cry! Hand-like rushed the vintage; we strung the bellied skins Plump, and at the sealing the Youth's voice rose: Maidens clung in circle, on little fists their chins; Gentle beasties through pushed a cold long nose. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Foot to fire in snowtime we trimmed the slender shaft: Often down the pit spied the lean wolf's teeth Grin against his will, trapped by masterstrokes of craft; Helpless in his froth-wrath as green logs seethe! Safe the tender lambs tugged the teats, and winter sped Whirled before the crocus, the year's new gold. Hung the hooky beak up aloft, the arrowhead Reddened through his feathers for our dear fold. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Tales we drank of giants at war with Gods above: Rocks were they to look on, and earth climbed air! Tales of search for simples, and those who sought of love Ease because the creature was all too fair. Pleasant ran our thinking that while our work was good, Sure as fruits for sweat would the praise come fast. He that wrestled stoutest and tamed the billow-brood Danced in rings with girls, like a sail-flapped mast. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
Lo, the herb of healing, when once the herb is known, Shines in shady woods bright as new-sprung flame. Ere the string was tightened we heard the mellow tone, After he had taught how the sweet sounds came Stretched about his feet, labour done, 'twas as you see Red pomegranates tumble and burst hard rind. So began contention to give delight and be Excellent in things aimed to make life kind. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
You with shelly horns, rams! and, promontory goats, You whose browsing beards dip in coldest dew! Bulls, that walk the pastures in kingly-flashing coats! Laurel, ivy, vine, wreathed for feasts not few! You that build the shade-roof, and you that court the rays, You that leap besprinkling the rock stream-rent: He has been our fellow, the morning of our days! Us he chose for housemates, and this way went. God! of whom music And song and blood are pure, The day is never darkened That had thee here obscure.
With love exceeding a simple love of the things That glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck; Or change their perch on a beat of quivering wings From branch to branch, only restful to pipe and peck; Or, bristled, curl at a touch their snouts in a ball; Or cast their web between bramble and thorny hook; The good physician Melampus, loving them all, Among them walked, as a scholar who reads a book.
For him the woods were a home and gave him the key Of knowledge, thirst for their treasures in herbs and flowers. The secrets held by the creatures nearer than we To earth he sought, and the link of their life with ours: And where alike we are, unlike where, and the veined Division, veined parallel, of a blood that flows In them, in us, from the source by man unattained Save marks he well what the mystical woods disclose.
And this he deemed might be boon of love to a breast Embracing tenderly each little motive shape, The prone, the flitting, who seek their food whither best Their wits direct, whither best from their foes escape. For closer drawn to our mother's natural milk, As babes they learn where her motherly help is great: They know the juice for the honey, juice for the silk, And need they medical antidotes, find them straight.
Of earth and sun they are wise, they nourish their broods, Weave, build, hive, burrow and battle, take joy and pain Like swimmers varying billows: never in woods Runs white insanity fleeing itself: all sane The woods revolve: as the tree its shadowing limns To some resemblance in motion, the rooted life Restrains disorder: you hear the primitive hymns Of earth in woods issue wild of the web of strife.
Now sleeping once on a day of marvellous fire, A brood of snakes he had cherished in grave regret That death his people had dealt their dam and their sire, Through savage dread of them, crept to his neck, and set Their tongues to lick him: the swift affectionate tongue Of each ran licking the slumberer: then his ears A forked red tongue tickled shrewdly: sudden upsprung, He heard a voice piping: Ay, for he has no fears!
A bird said that, in the notes of birds, and the speech Of men, it seemed: and another renewed: He moves To learn and not to pursue, he gathers to teach; He feeds his young as do we, and as we love loves. No fears have I of a man who goes with his head To earth, chance looking aloft at us, kind of hand: I feel to him as to earth of whom we are fed; I pipe him much for his good could he understand.
Melampus touched at his ears, laid finger on wrist He was not dreaming, he sensibly felt and heard. Above, through leaves, where the tree-twigs inter-twist, He spied the birds and the bill of the speaking bird. His cushion mosses in shades of various green, The lumped, the antlered, he pressed, while the sunny snake Slipped under: draughts he had drunk of clear Hippocrene, It seemed, and sat with a gift of the Gods awake.
Divinely thrilled was the man, exultingly full, As quick well-waters that come of the heart of earth, Ere yet they dart in a brook are one bubble-pool To light and sound, wedding both at the leap of birth. The soul of light vivid shone, a stream within stream; The soul of sound from a musical shell outflew; Where others hear but a hum and see but a beam, The tongue and eye of the fountain of life he knew.
He knew the Hours: they were round him, laden with seed Of hours bestrewn upon vapour, and one by one They winged as ripened in fruit the burden decreed For each to scatter; they flushed like the buds in sun, Bequeathing seed to successive similar rings, Their sisters, bearers to men of what men have earned: He knew them, talked with the yet unreddened; the stings, The sweets, they warmed at their bosoms divined, discerned.
Not unsolicited, sought by diligent feet, By riddling fingers expanded, oft watched in growth With brooding deep as the noon-ray's quickening wheat, Ere touch'd, the pendulous flower of the plants of sloth, The plants of rigidness, answered question and squeeze, Revealing wherefore it bloomed, uninviting, bent, Yet making harmony breathe of life and disease, The deeper chord of a wonderful instrument.
So passed he luminous-eyed for earth and the fates We arm to bruise or caress us: his ears were charged With tones of love in a whirl of voluble hates, With music wrought of distraction his heart enlarged. Celestial-shining, though mortal, singer, though mute, He drew the Master of harmonies, voiced or stilled, To seek him; heard at the silent medicine-root A song, beheld in fulfilment the unfulfilled.
Him Phoebus, lending to darkness colour and form Of light's excess, many lessons and counsels gave, Showed Wisdom lord of the human intricate swarm, And whence prophetic it looks on the hives that rave, And how acquired, of the zeal of love to acquire, And where it stands, in the centre of life a sphere; And Measure, mood of the lyre, the rapturous lyre, He said was Wisdom, and struck him the notes to hear.
Sweet, sweet: 'twas glory of vision, honey, the breeze In heat, the run of the river on root and stone, All senses joined, as the sister Pierides Are one, uplifting their chorus, the Nine, his own. In stately order, evolved of sound into sight, From sight to sound intershifting, the man descried The growths of earth, his adored, like day out of night, Ascend in song, seeing nature and song allied.
And there vitality, there, there solely in song, Resides, where earth and her uses to men, their needs, Their forceful cravings, the theme are: there is it strong, The Master said: and the studious eye that reads, (Yea, even as earth to the crown of Gods on the mount), In links divine with the lyrical tongue is bound. Pursue thy craft: it is music drawn of a fount To spring perennial; well-spring is common ground.
Melampus dwelt among men: physician and sage, He served them, loving them, healing them; sick or maimed, Or them that frenzied in some delirious rage Outran the measure, his juice of the woods reclaimed. He played on men, as his master, Phoebus, on strings Melodious: as the God did he drive and check, Through love exceeding a simple love of the things That glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck.
LOVE IN THE VALLEY
Under yonder beech-tree single on the greensward, Couched with her arms behind her golden head, Knees and tresses folded to slip and ripple idly, Lies my young love sleeping in the shade. Had I the heart to slide an arm beneath her, Press her parting lips as her waist I gather slow, Waking in amazement she could not but embrace me: Then would she hold me and never let me go?
* * *
Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow, Swift as the swallow along the river's light Circleting the surface to meet his mirrored winglets, Fleeter she seems in her stay than in her flight. Shy as the squirrel that leaps among the pine-tops, Wayward as the swallow overhead at set of sun, She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer, Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won!
* * *
When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror, Tying up her laces, looping up her hair, Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded, More love should I have, and much less care. When her mother tends her before the lighted mirror, Loosening her laces, combing down her curls, Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded, I should miss but one for the many boys and girls.
* * *
Heartless she is as the shadow in the meadows Flying to the hills on a blue and breezy noon. No, she is athirst and drinking up her wonder: Earth to her is young as the slip of the new moon. Deals she an unkindness, 'tis but her rapid measure, Even as in a dance; and her smile can heal no less: Like the swinging May-cloud that pelts the flowers with hailstones Off a sunny border, she was made to bruise and bless.
* * *
Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star. Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-note unvaried, Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar. Darker grows the valley, more and more forgetting: So were it with me if forgetting could be willed. Tell the grassy hollow that holds the bubbling well-spring, Tell it to forget the source that keeps it filled.
* * *
Stepping down the hill with her fair companions, Arm in arm, all against the raying West, Boldly she sings, to the merry tune she marches, Brave in her shape, and sweeter unpossessed. Sweeter, for she is what my heart first awaking Whispered the world was; morning light is she. Love that so desires would fain keep her changeless; Fain would fling the net, and fain have her free.
* * *
Happy happy time, when the white star hovers Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew, Near the face of dawn, that draws athwart the darkness, Threading it with colour, like yewberries the yew. Thicker crowd the shades as the grave East deepens Glowing, and with crimson a long cloud swells. Maiden still the morn is; and strange she is, and secret; Strange her eyes; her cheeks are cold as cold sea-shells.
* * *
Sunrays, leaning on our southern hills and lighting Wild cloud-mountains that drag the hills along, Oft ends the day of your shifting brilliant laughter Chill as a dull face frowning on a song. Ay, but shows the South-west a ripple-feathered bosom Blown to silver while the clouds are shaken and ascend Scaling the mid-heavens as they stream, there comes a sunset Rich, deep like love in beauty without end.
* * *
When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams, Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams. When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May, Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden lily Pure from the night, and splendid for the day.
* * *
Mother of the dews, dark eye-lashed twilight, Low-lidded twilight, o'er the valley's brim, Rounding on thy breast sings the dew-delighted skylark, Clear as though the dewdrops had their voice in him. Hidden where the rose-flush drinks the rayless planet, Fountain-full he pours the spraying fountain-showers. Let me hear her laughter, I would have her ever Cool as dew in twilight, the lark above the flowers.
* * *
All the girls are out with their baskets for the primrose; Up lanes, woods through, they troop in joyful bands. My sweet leads: she knows not why, but now she loiters, Eyes bent anemones, and hangs her hands. Such a look will tell that the violets are peeping, Coming the rose: and unaware a cry Springs in her bosom for odours and for colour, Covert and the nightingale; she knows not why.
* * *
Kerchiefed head and chin, she darts between her tulips, Streaming like a willow grey in arrowy rain: Some bend beaten cheek to gravel, and their angel She will be; she lifts them, and on she speeds again. Black the driving raincloud breasts the iron gate-way: She is forth to cheer a neighbour lacking mirth. So when sky and grass met rolling dumb for thunder, Saw I once a white dove, sole light of earth.
* * *
Prim little scholars are the flowers of her garden, Trained to stand in rows, and asking if they please. I might love them well but for loving more the wild ones. O my wild ones! they tell me more than these. You, my wild one, you tell of honied field-rose, Violet, blushing eglantine in life; and even as they, They by the wayside are earnest of your goodness, You are of life's, on the banks that line the way.
* * *
Peering at her chamber the white crowns the red rose, Jasmine winds the porch with stars two and three. Parted is the window; she sleeps; the starry jasmine Breathes a falling breath that carries thoughts of me. Sweeter unpossessed, have I said of her my sweetest Not while she sleeps: while she sleeps the jasmine breathes, Luring her to love; she sleeps; the starry jasmine Bears me to her pillow under white rose-wreaths.
* * *
Yellow with birdfoot-trefoil are the grass-glades; Yellow with cinquefoil of the dew-grey leaf: Yellow with stonecrop; the moss-mounds are yellow; Blue-necked the wheat sways, yellowing to the sheaf. Green-yellow, bursts from the copse the laughing yaffle; Sharp as a sickle is the edge of shade and shine: Earth in her heart laughs looking at the heavens, Thinking of the harvest: I look and think of mine.
* * *
This I may know: her dressing and undressing Such a change of light shows as when the skies in sport Shift from cloud to moonlight; or edging over thunder Slips a ray of sun; or sweeping into port White sails furl; or on the ocean borders White sails lean along the waves leaping green. Visions of her shower before me, but from eyesight Guarded she would be like the sun were she seen.
* * *
Front door and back of the mossed old farmhouse Open with the morn, and in a breezy link Freshly sparkles garden to stripe-shadowed orchard, Green across a rill where on sand the minnows wink. Busy in the grass the early sun of summer Swarms, and the blackbird's mellow fluting notes Call my darling up with round and roguish challenge: Quaintest, richest carol of all the singing throats!
* * *
Cool was the woodside; cool as her white dairy Keeping sweet the cream-pan; and there the boys from school, Cricketing below, rushed brown and red with sunshine; O the dark translucence of the deep-eyed cool! Spying from the farm, herself she fetched a pitcher Full of milk, and tilted for each in turn the beak. Then a little fellow, mouth up and on tiptoe, Said, 'I will kiss you': she laughed and leaned her cheek.
* * *
Doves of the fir-wood walling high our red roof Through the long noon coo, crooning through the coo. Loose droop the leaves, and down the sleepy road-way Sometimes pipes a chaffinch; loose droops the blue. Cows flap a slow tail knee-deep in the river, Breathless, given up to sun and gnat and fly. Nowhere is she seen; and if I see her nowhere, Lightning may come, straight rains and tiger sky.
* * *
O the golden sheaf, the rustling treasure-armful! O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced! O the treasure-tresses one another over Nodding! O the girdle slack about the waist! Slain are the poppies that shot their random scarlet Quick amid the wheatears: wound about the waist, Gathered, see these brides of earth one blush of ripeness! O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced!
* * *
Large and smoky red the sun's cold disk drops, Clipped by naked hills, on violet shaded snow: Eastward large and still lights up a bower of moon-rise, Whence at her leisure steps the moon aglow. Nightlong on black print-branches our beech-tree Gazes in this whiteness: nightlong could I. Here may life on death or death on life be painted. Let me clasp her soul to know she cannot die!
* * *
Gossips count her faults; they scour a narrow chamber Where there is no window, read not heaven or her. 'When she was a tiny,' one aged woman quavers, Plucks at my heart and leads me by the ear. Faults she had once as she learnt to run and tumbled: Faults of feature some see, beauty not complete. Yet, good gossips, beauty that makes holy Earth and air, may have faults from head to feet.
* * *
Hither she comes; she comes to me; she lingers, Deepens her brown eyebrows, while in new surprise High rise the lashes in wonder of a stranger; Yet am I the light and living of her eyes. Something friends have told her fills her heart to brimming, Nets her in her blushes, and wounds her, and tames. - Sure of her haven, O like a dove alighting, Arms up, she dropped: our souls were in our names.
* * *
Soon will she lie like a white-frost sunrise. Yellow oats and brown wheat, barley pale as rye, Long since your sheaves have yielded to the thresher, Felt the girdle loosened, seen the tresses fly. Soon will she lie like a blood-red sunset. Swift with the to-morrow, green-winged Spring! Sing from the South-west, bring her back the truants, Nightingale and swallow, song and dipping wing.
* * *
Soft new beech-leaves, up to beamy April Spreading bough on bough a primrose mountain, you Lucid in the moon, raise lilies to the skyfields, Youngest green transfused in silver shining through: Fairer than the lily, than the wild white cherry: Fair as in image my seraph love appears Borne to me by dreams when dawn is at my eye-lids: Fair as in the flesh she swims to me on tears.
* * *
Could I find a place to be alone with heaven, I would speak my heart out: heaven is my need. Every woodland tree is flushing like the dogwood, Flashing like the whitebeam, swaying like the reed. Flushing like the dogwood crimson in October; Streaming like the flag-reed South-west blown; Flashing as in gusts the sudden-lighted whitebeam: All seem to know what is for heaven alone.
THE THREE SINGERS TO YOUNG BLOOD
Carols nature, counsel men. Different notes as rook from wren Hear we when our steps begin, And the choice is cast within, Where a robber raven's tale Urges passion's nightingale.
Hark to the three. Chimed they in one, Life were music of the sun. Liquid first, and then the caw, Then the cry that knows not law.
As the birds do, so do we, Bill our mate, and choose our tree. Swift to building work addressed, Any straw will help a nest. Mates are warm, and this is truth, Glad the young that come of youth. They have bloom i' the blood and sap Chilling at no thunder-clap. Man and woman on the thorn Trust not Earth, and have her scorn. They who in her lead confide, Wither me if they spread not wide! Look for aid to little things, You will get them quick as wings, Thick as feathers; would you feed, Take the leap that springs the need.
Contemplate the rutted road: Life is both a lure and goad. Each to hold in measure just, Trample appetite to dust. Mark the fool and wanton spin: Keep to harness as a skin. Ere you follow nature's lead, Of her powers in you have heed; Else a shiverer you will find You have challenged humankind. Mates are chosen marketwise: Coolest bargainer best buys. Leap not, nor let leap the heart: Trot your track, and drag your cart. So your end may be in wool, Honoured, and with manger full.
O the rosy light! it fleets, Dearer dying than all sweets. That is life: it waves and goes; Solely in that cherished Rose Palpitates, or else 'tis death. Call it love with all thy breath. Love! it lingers: Love! it nears: Love! O Love! the Rose appears, Blushful, magic, reddening air. Now the choice is on thee: dare! Mortal seems the touch, but makes Immortal the hand that takes. Feel what sea within thee shames Of its force all other claims, Drowns them. Clasp! the world will be Heavenly Rose to swelling sea.
THE ORCHARD AND THE HEATH
I chanced upon an early walk to spy A troop of children through an orchard gate: The boughs hung low, the grass was high; They had but to lift hands or wait For fruits to fill them; fruits were all their sky.
They shouted, running on from tree to tree, And played the game the wind plays, on and round. 'Twas visible invisible glee Pursuing; and a fountain's sound Of laughter spouted, pattering fresh on me.
I could have watched them till the daylight fled, Their pretty bower made such a light of day. A small one tumbling sang, 'Oh! head!' The rest to comfort her straightway Seized on a branch and thumped down apples red.
The tiny creature flashing through green grass, And laughing with her feet and eyes among Fresh apples, while a little lass Over as o'er breeze-ripples hung: That sight I saw, and passed as aliens pass.
My footpath left the pleasant farms and lanes, Soft cottage-smoke, straight cocks a-crow, gay flowers; Beyond the wheel-ruts of the wains, Across a heath I walked for hours, And met its rival tenants, rays and rains.
Still in my view mile-distant firs appeared, When, under a patched channel-bank enriched With foxglove whose late bells drooped seared, Behold, a family had pitched Their camp, and labouring the low tent upreared.
Here, too, were many children, quick to scan A new thing coming; swarthy cheeks, white teeth: In many-coloured rags they ran, Like iron runlets of the heath. Dispersed lay broth-pot, sticks, and drinking-can.
Three girls, with shoulders like a boat at sea Tipped sideways by the wave (their clothing slid From either ridge unequally), Lean, swift and voluble, bestrid A starting-point, unfrocked to the bent knee.
They raced; their brothers yelled them on, and broke In act to follow, but as one they snuffed Wood-fumes, and by the fire that spoke Of provender, its pale flame puffed, And rolled athwart dwarf furzes grey-blue smoke.
Soon on the dark edge of a ruddier gleam, The mother-pot perusing, all, stretched flat, Paused for its bubbling-up supreme: A dog upright in circle sat, And oft his nose went with the flying steam.
I turned and looked on heaven awhile, where now The moor-faced sunset broadened with red light; Threw high aloft a golden bough, And seemed the desert of the night Far down with mellow orchards to endow.
EARTH AND MAN
On her great venture, Man, Earth gazes while her fingers dint the breast Which is his well of strength, his home of rest, And fair to scan.