Poems by William Ernest Henley
Dedication Advertisement In Hospital Preface Enter Patient Waiting Interior Before Operation After Vigil Staff-Nurse: Old Style Lady Probationer Staff-Nurse: New Style Clinical Etching Casualty Ave, Caeser! 'The Chief' House-Surgeon Interlude Children: Private Ward Srcubber Visitor Romance Pastoral Music Suicide Apparition Anterotics Nocturn Discharged Envoy The Song of the Sword Arabian Nights' Entertainments Bric-e-Brac Ballade of the Toyokuni Colour-Print Ballade of Youth and Age Ballade of Midsummer Days and Nights Ballade of Dead Actors Ballade Made in the Hot Weather Ballade of Truisms Double Ballade of Life and Death Double Ballade of the Nothingness of Things At Queensferry Orientale In Fisherrow Back-View Croquis Attadale, West Highlands From a Window in Princes Street In the Dials The gods are dead Let us be drunk When you are old Beside the idle summer sea The ways of Death are soothing and serene We shall surely die What is to come Echos Preface To my mother Life is bitter O, gather me the rose Out of the night that covers me I am the Reaper Praise the generous gods Fill a glass with golden wine We'll go no more a-roving Madam Life's a piece in bloom The sea is full of wandering foam Thick is the darkness To me at my fifth-floor window Bring her again, O western wind The wan sun westers, faint and slow There is a wheel inside my head While the west is paling The sands are alive with sunshine The nightingale has a lyre of gold Your heart has trembled to my tongue The surges gushed and sounded We flash across the level The West a glimmering lake of light The skies are strown with stars The full sea rolls and thunders In the year that's come and gone In the placid summer midnight She sauntered by the swinging seas Blithe dreams arise to greet us A child Kate-A-Whimsies, John-a-Dreams O, have you blessed, behind the stars O, Falmouth is a fine town The ways are green Life in her creaking shoes A late lark twitters from the quiet skies I gave my heart to a woman Or ever the knightly years were gone On the way to Kew The past was goodly once The spring, my dear The Spirit of Wine A Wink from Hesper Friends. . . old friends If it should come to be From the brake the Nightingale In the waste hour Crosses and troubles London Voluntaries Grave Andante con Moto Scherzando Largo e Mesto Allegro Maestoso Rhymes and Rhyhms Prologue Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade We are the Choice of the Will A desolate shore It came with the threat of a waning moon Why, my heart, do we love her so? One with the ruined sunset There's a regret Time and the Earth As like the Woman as you can Midsummer midnight skies Gulls in an aery morrice Some starlit garden grey with dew Under a stagnant sky Fresh from his fastnesses You played and sang a snatch of song Space and dread and the dark Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Crook When you wake in your crib O, Time and Change The shadow of Dawn When the wind storms by with a shout Trees and the menace of night Here they trysted, here they strayed Not to the staring Day What have I done for you Epilogue
DEDICATION—TO MY WIFE
Take, dear, my little sheaf of songs, For, old or new, All that is good in them belongs Only to you;
And, singing as when all was young, They will recall Those others, lived but left unsung - The bent of all. W. E. H APRIL 1888 SEPTEMBER 1897.
My friend and publisher, Mr. Alfred Nutt, asks me to introduce this re-issue of old work in a new shape. At his request, then, I have to say that nearly all the numbers contained in the present volume are reprinted from 'A Book of Verses' (1888) and 'London Voluntaries' (1892-3). From the first of these I have removed some copies of verse which seemed to me scarce worth keeping; and I have recovered for it certain others from those publications which had made room for them. I have corrected where I could, added such dates as I might, and, by re-arrangement and revision, done my best to give my book, such as it is, its final form. If any be displeased by the result, I can but submit that my verses are my own, and that this is how I would have them read.
The work of revision has reminded me that, small as is this book of mine, it is all in the matter of verse that I have to show for the years between 1872 and 1897. A principal reason is that, after spending the better part of my life in the pursuit of poetry, I found myself (about 1877) so utterly unmarketable that I had to own myself beaten in art, and to addict myself to journalism for the next ten years. Came the production by my old friend, Mr. H. B. Donkin, in his little collection of 'Voluntaries' (1888), compiled for that East-End Hospital to which he has devoted so much time and energy and skill, of those unrhyming rhythms in which I had tried to quintessentialize, as (I believe) one scarce can do in rhyme, my impressions of the Old Edinburgh Infirmary. They had long since been rejected by every editor of standing in London—I had well-nigh said in the world; but as soon as Mr. Nutt had read them, he entreated me to look for more. I did as I was told; old dusty sheaves were dragged to light; the work of selection and correction was begun; I burned much; I found that, after all, the lyrical instinct had slept—not died; I ventured (in brief) 'A Book of Verses.' It was received with so much interest that I took heart once more, and wrote the numbers presently reprinted from 'The National Observer' in the collection first (1892) called 'The Song of the Sword' and afterwards (1893), 'London voluntaries.' If I have said nothing since, it is that I have nothing to say which is not, as yet, too personal—too personal and too a afflicting—for utterance.
For the matter of my book, it is there to speak for itself:-
'Here's a sigh to those who love me And a smile to those who hate.'
I refer to it for the simple pleasure of reflecting that it has made me many friends and some enemies.
W. E. H.
Muswell Hill, 4th September 1897.
On ne saurait dire e quel point un homme, seul dans son lit et malade, devient personnel. -
The morning mists still haunt the stony street; The northern summer air is shrill and cold; And lo, the Hospital, grey, quiet, old, Where Life and Death like friendly chafferers meet. Thro' the loud spaciousness and draughty gloom A small, strange child—so aged yet so young! - Her little arm besplinted and beslung, Precedes me gravely to the waiting-room. I limp behind, my confidence all gone. The grey-haired soldier-porter waves me on, And on I crawl, and still my spirits fail: A tragic meanness seems so to environ These corridors and stairs of stone and iron, Cold, naked, clean—half-workhouse and half-jail.
A square, squat room (a cellar on promotion), Drab to the soul, drab to the very daylight; Plasters astray in unnatural-looking tinware; Scissors and lint and apothecary's jars.
Here, on a bench a skeleton would writhe from, Angry and sore, I wait to be admitted: Wait till my heart is lead upon my stomach, While at their ease two dressers do their chores.
One has a probe—it feels to me a crowbar. A small boy sniffs and shudders after bluestone. A poor old tramp explains his poor old ulcers. Life is (I think) a blunder and a shame.
The gaunt brown walls Look infinite in their decent meanness. There is nothing of home in the noisy kettle, The fulsome fire.
The atmosphere Suggests the trail of a ghostly druggist. Dressings and lint on the long, lean table - Whom are they for?
The patients yawn, Or lie as in training for shroud and coffin. A nurse in the corridor scolds and wrangles. It's grim and strange.
Far footfalls clank. The bad burn waits with his head unbandaged. My neighbour chokes in the clutch of chloral . . . O, a gruesome world!
Behold me waiting—waiting for the knife. A little while, and at a leap I storm The thick, sweet mystery of chloroform, The drunken dark, the little death-in-life. The gods are good to me: I have no wife, No innocent child, to think of as I near The fateful minute; nothing all-too dear Unmans me for my bout of passive strife. Yet am I tremulous and a trifle sick, And, face to face with chance, I shrink a little: My hopes are strong, my will is something weak. Here comes the basket? Thank you. I am ready. But, gentlemen my porters, life is brittle: You carry Caesar and his fortunes—steady!
You are carried in a basket, Like a carcase from the shambles, To the theatre, a cockpit Where they stretch you on a table.
Then they bid you close your eyelids, And they mask you with a napkin, And the anaesthetic reaches Hot and subtle through your being.
And you gasp and reel and shudder In a rushing, swaying rapture, While the voices at your elbow Fade—receding—fainter—farther.
Lights about you shower and tumble, And your blood seems crystallising - Edged and vibrant, yet within you Racked and hurried back and forward.
Then the lights grow fast and furious, And you hear a noise of waters, And you wrestle, blind and dizzy, In an agony of effort,
Till a sudden lull accepts you, And you sound an utter darkness . . . And awaken . . . with a struggle . . . On a hushed, attentive audience.
Like as a flamelet blanketed in smoke, So through the anaesthetic shows my life; So flashes and so fades my thought, at strife With the strong stupor that I heave and choke And sicken at, it is so foully sweet. Faces look strange from space—and disappear. Far voices, sudden loud, offend my ear - And hush as sudden. Then my senses fleet: All were a blank, save for this dull, new pain That grinds my leg and foot; and brokenly Time and the place glimpse on to me again; And, unsurprised, out of uncertainty, I wake—relapsing—somewhat faint and fain, To an immense, complacent dreamery.
Lived on one's back, In the long hours of repose, Life is a practical nightmare - Hideous asleep or awake.
Shoulders and loins Ache—- -! Ache, and the mattress, Run into boulders and hummocks, Glows like a kiln, while the bedclothes - Tumbling, importunate, daft - Ramble and roll, and the gas, Screwed to its lowermost, An inevitable atom of light, Haunts, and a stertorous sleeper Snores me to hate and despair.
All the old time Surges malignant before me; Old voices, old kisses, old songs Blossom derisive about me; While the new days Pass me in endless procession: A pageant of shadows Silently, leeringly wending On . . . and still on . . . still on!
Far in the stillness a cat Languishes loudly. A cinder Falls, and the shadows Lurch to the leap of the flame. The next man to me Turns with a moan; and the snorer, The drug like a rope at his throat, Gasps, gurgles, snorts himself free, as the night-nurse, Noiseless and strange, Her bull's eye half-lanterned in apron, (Whispering me, 'Are ye no sleepin' yet?'), Passes, list-slippered and peering, Round . . . and is gone.
Sleep comes at last - Sleep full of dreams and misgivings - Broken with brutal and sordid Voices and sounds that impose on me, Ere I can wake to it, The unnatural, intolerable day.
VIII—STAFF-NURSE: OLD STYLE
The greater masters of the commonplace, REMBRANDT and good SIR WALTER—only these Could paint her all to you: experienced ease And antique liveliness and ponderous grace; The sweet old roses of her sunken face; The depth and malice of her sly, grey eyes; The broad Scots tongue that flatters, scolds, defies; The thick Scots wit that fells you like a mace. These thirty years has she been nursing here, Some of them under SYME , her hero still. Much is she worth, and even more is made of her. Patients and students hold her very dear. The doctors love her, tease her, use her skill. They say 'The Chief' himself is half-afraid of her.
Some three, or five, or seven, and thirty years; A Roman nose; a dimpling double-chin; Dark eyes and shy that, ignorant of sin, Are yet acquainted, it would seem, with tears; A comely shape; a slim, high-coloured hand, Graced, rather oddly, with a signet ring; A bashful air, becoming everything; A well-bred silence always at command. Her plain print gown, prim cap, and bright steel chain Look out of place on her, and I remain Absorbed in her, as in a pleasant mystery. Quick, skilful, quiet, soft in speech and touch . . . 'Do you like nursing?' 'Yes, Sir, very much.' Somehow, I rather think she has a history.
X—STAFF-NURSE: NEW STYLE
Blue-eyed and bright of face but waning fast Into the sere of virginal decay, I view her as she enters, day by day, As a sweet sunset almost overpast. Kindly and calm, patrician to the last, Superbly falls her gown of sober gray, And on her chignon's elegant array The plainest cap is somehow touched with caste. She talks BEETHOVEN; frowns disapprobation At BALZAC'S name, sighs it at 'poor GEORGE SAND'S'; Knows that she has exceeding pretty hands; Speaks Latin with a right accentuation; And gives at need (as one who understands) Draught, counsel, diagnosis, exhortation.
Hist? . . . Through the corridor's echoes, Louder and nearer Comes a great shuffling of feet. Quick, every one of you, Strighten your quilts, and be decent! Here's the Professor.
In he comes first With the bright look we know, From the broad, white brows the kind eyes Soothing yet nerving you. Here at his elbow, White-capped, white-aproned, the Nurse, Towel on arm and her inkstand Fretful with quills. Here in the ruck, anyhow, Surging along, Louts, duffers, exquisites, students, and prigs - Whiskers and foreheads, scarf-pins and spectacles - Hustles the Class! And they ring themselves Round the first bed, where the Chief (His dressers and clerks at attention), Bends in inspection already.
So shows the ring Seen from behind round a conjurer Doing his pitch in the street. High shoulders, low shoulders, broad shoulders, narrow ones, Round, square, and angular, serry and shove; While from within a voice, Gravely and weightily fluent, Sounds; and then ceases; and suddenly (Look at the stress of the shoulders!) Out of a quiver of silence, Over the hiss of the spray, Comes a low cry, and the sound Of breath quick intaken through teeth Clenched in resolve. And the Master Breaks from the crowd, and goes, Wiping his hands, To the next bed, with his pupils Flocking and whispering behind him.
Now one can see. Case Number One Sits (rather pale) with his bedclothes Stripped up, and showing his foot (Alas for God's Image!) Swaddled in wet, white lint Brilliantly hideous with red.
Two and thirty is the ploughman. He's a man of gallant inches, And his hair is close and curly, And his beard; But his face is wan and sunken, And his eyes are large and brilliant, And his shoulder-blades are sharp, And his knees.
He is weak of wits, religious, Full of sentiment and yearning, Gentle, faded—with a cough And a snore. When his wife (who was a widow, And is many years his elder) Fails to write, and that is always, He desponds.
Let his melancholy wander, And he'll tell you pretty stories Of the women that have wooed him Long ago; Or he'll sing of bonnie lasses Keeping sheep among the heather, With a crackling, hackling click In his voice.
As with varnish red and glistening Dripped his hair; his feet looked rigid; Raised, he settled stiffly sideways: You could see his hurts were spinal.
He had fallen from an engine, And been dragged along the metals. It was hopeless, and they knew it; So they covered him, and left him.
As he lay, by fits half sentient, Inarticulately moaning, With his stockinged soles protruded Stark and awkward from the blankets,
To his bed there came a woman, Stood and looked and sighed a little, And departed without speaking, As himself a few hours after.
I was told it was his sweetheart. They were on the eve of marriage. She was quiet as a statue, But her lip was grey and writhen.
From the winter's grey despair, From the summer's golden languor, Death, the lover of Life, Frees us for ever.
Inevitable, silent, unseen, Everywhere always, Shadow by night and as light in the day, Signs she at last to her chosen; And, as she waves them forth, Sorrow and Joy Lay by their looks and their voices, Set down their hopes, and are made One in the dim Forever.
Into the winter's grey delight, Into the summer's golden dream, Holy and high and impartial, Death, the mother of Life, Mingles all men for ever.
His brow spreads large and placid, and his eye Is deep and bright, with steady looks that still. Soft lines of tranquil thought his face fulfill - His face at once benign and proud and shy. If envy scout, if ignorance deny, His faultless patience, his unyielding will, Beautiful gentleness and splendid skill, Innumerable gratitudes reply. His wise, rare smile is sweet with certainties, And seems in all his patients to compel Such love and faith as failure cannot quell. We hold him for another Herakles, Battling with custom, prejudice, disease, As once the son of Zeus with Death and Hell.
Exceeding tall, but built so well his height Half-disappears in flow of chest and limb; Moustache and whisker trooper-like in trim; Frank-faced, frank-eyed, frank-hearted; always bright And always punctual—morning, noon, and night; Bland as a Jesuit, sober as a hymn; Humorous, and yet without a touch of whim; Gentle and amiable, yet full of fight. His piety, though fresh and true in strain, Has not yet whitewashed up his common mood To the dead blank of his particular Schism. Sweet, unaggressive, tolerant, most humane, Wild artists like his kindly elderhood, And cultivate his mild Philistinism.
O, the fun, the fun and frolic That The Wind that Shakes the Barley Scatters through a penny-whistle Tickled with artistic fingers!
Kate the scrubber (forty summers, Stout but sportive) treads a measure, Grinning, in herself a ballet, Fixed as fate upon her audience.
Stumps are shaking, crutch-supported; Splinted fingers tap the rhythm; And a head all helmed with plasters Wags a measured approbation.
Of their mattress-life oblivious, All the patients, brisk and cheerful, Are encouraging the dancer, And applauding the musician.
Dim the gas-lights in the output Of so many ardent smokers, Full of shadow lurch the corners, And the doctor peeps and passes.
There are, maybe, some suspicions Of an alcoholic presence . . . 'Tak' a sup of this, my wumman!' . . . New Year comes but once a twelvemonth.
XVIII—CHILDREN: PRIVATE WARD
Here in this dim, dull, double-bedded room, I play the father to a brace of boys, Ailing but apt for every sort of noise, Bedfast but brilliant yet with health and bloom. Roden, the Irishman, is 'sieven past,' Blue-eyed, snub-nosed, chubby, and fair of face. Willie's but six, and seems to like the place, A cheerful little collier to the last. They eat, and laugh, and sing, and fight, all day; All night they sleep like dormice. See them play At Operations:- Roden, the Professor, Saws, lectures, takes the artery up, and ties; Willie, self-chloroformed, with half-shut eyes, Holding the limb and moaning—Case and Dresser.
She's tall and gaunt, and in her hard, sad face With flashes of the old fun's animation There lowers the fixed and peevish resignation Bred of a past where troubles came apace. She tells me that her husband, ere he died, Saw seven of their children pass away, And never knew the little lass at play Out on the green, in whom he's deified. Her kin dispersed, her friends forgot and gone, All simple faith her honest Irish mind, Scolding her spoiled young saint, she labours on: Telling her dreams, taking her patients' part, Trailing her coat sometimes: and you shall find No rougher, quainter speech, nor kinder heart.
Her little face is like a walnut shell With wrinkling lines; her soft, white hair adorns Her withered brows in quaint, straight curls, like horns; And all about her clings an old, sweet smell. Prim is her gown and quakerlike her shawl. Well might her bonnets have been born on her. Can you conceive a Fairy Godmother The subject of a strong religious call? In snow or shine, from bed to bed she runs, All twinkling smiles and texts and pious tales, Her mittened hands, that ever give or pray, Bearing a sheaf of tracts, a bag of buns: A wee old maid that sweeps the Bridegroom's way, Strong in a cheerful trust that never fails.
'Talk of pluck!' pursued the Sailor, Set at euchre on his elbow, 'I was on the wharf at Charleston, Just ashore from off the runner.
'It was grey and dirty weather, And I heard a drum go rolling, Rub-a-dubbing in the distance, Awful dour-like and defiant.
'In and out among the cotton, Mud, and chains, and stores, and anchors, Tramped a squad of battered scarecrows - Poor old Dixie's bottom dollar!
'Some had shoes, but all had rifles, Them that wasn't bald was beardless, And the drum was rolling Dixie, And they stepped to it like men, sir!
'Rags and tatters, belts and bayonets, On they swung, the drum a-rolling, Mum and sour. It looked like fighting, And they meant it too, by thunder!'
It's the Spring. Earth has conceived, and her bosom, Teeming with summer, is glad.
Vistas of change and adventure, Thro' the green land The grey roads go beckoning and winding, Peopled with wains, and melodious With harness-bells jangling: Jangling and twangling rough rhythms To the slow march of the stately, great horses Whistled and shouted along.
White fleets of cloud, Argosies heavy with fruitfulness, Sail the blue peacefully. Green flame the hedgerows. Blackbirds are bugling, and white in wet winds Sway the tall poplars. Pageants of colour and fragrance, Pass the sweet meadows, and viewless Walks the mild spirit of May, Visibly blessing the world.
O, the brilliance of blossoming orchards! O, the savour and thrill of the woods, When their leafage is stirred By the flight of the Angel of Rain! Loud lows the steer; in the fallows Rooks are alert; and the brooks Gurgle and tinkle and trill. Thro' the gloamings, Under the rare, shy stars, Boy and girl wander, Dreaming in darkness and dew.
It's the Spring. A sprightliness feeble and squalid Wakes in the ward, and I sicken, Impotent, winter at heart.
Down the quiet eve, Thro' my window with the sunset Pipes to me a distant organ Foolish ditties;
And, as when you change Pictures in a magic lantern, Books, beds, bottles, floor, and ceiling Fade and vanish,
And I'm well once more . . . August flares adust and torrid, But my heart is full of April Sap and sweetness.
In the quiet eve I am loitering, longing, dreaming . . . Dreaming, and a distant organ Pipes me ditties.
I can see the shop, I can smell the sprinkled pavement, Where she serves—her chestnut chignon Thrills my senses!
O, the sight and scent, Wistful eve and perfumed pavement! In the distance pipes an organ . . . The sensation
Comes to me anew, And my spirit for a moment Thro' the music breathes the blessed Airs of London.
Staring corpselike at the ceiling, See his harsh, unrazored features, Ghastly brown against the pillow, And his throat—so strangely bandaged!
Lack of work and lack of victuals, A debauch of smuggled whisky, And his children in the workhouse Made the world so black a riddle
That he plunged for a solution; And, although his knife was edgeless, He was sinking fast towards one, When they came, and found, and saved him.
Stupid now with shame and sorrow, In the night I hear him sobbing. But sometimes he talks a little. He has told me all his troubles.
In his broad face, tanned and bloodless, White and wild his eyeballs glisten; And his smile, occult and tragic, Yet so slavish, makes you shudder!
Thin-legged, thin-chested, slight unspeakably, Neat-footed and weak-fingered: in his face - Lean, large-boned, curved of beak, and touched with race, Bold-lipped, rich-tinted, mutable as the sea, The brown eyes radiant with vivacity - There shines a brilliant and romantic grace, A spirit intense and rare, with trace on trace Of passion and impudence and energy. Valiant in velvet, light in ragged luck, Most vain, most generous, sternly critical, Buffoon and poet, lover and sensualist: A deal of Ariel, just a streak of Puck, Much Antony, of Hamlet most of all, And something of the Shorter-Catechist.
Laughs the happy April morn Thro' my grimy, little window, And a shaft of sunshine pushes Thro' the shadows in the square.
Dogs are tracing thro' the grass, Crows are cawing round the chimneys, In and out among the washing Goes the West at hide-and-seek.
Loud and cheerful clangs the bell. Here the nurses troop to breakfast. Handsome, ugly, all are women . . . O, the Spring—the Spring—the Spring!
At the barren heart of midnight, When the shadow shuts and opens As the loud flames pulse and flutter, I can hear a cistern leaking.
Dripping, dropping, in a rhythm, Rough, unequal, half-melodious, Like the measures aped from nature In the infancy of music;
Like the buzzing of an insect, Still, irrational, persistent . . . I must listen, listen, listen In a passion of attention;
Till it taps upon my heartstrings, And my very life goes dripping, Dropping, dripping, drip-drip-dropping, In the drip-drop of the cistern.
Carry me out Into the wind and the sunshine, Into the beautiful world.
O, the wonder, the spell of the streets! The stature and strength of the horses, The rustle and echo of footfalls, The flat roar and rattle of wheels! A swift tram floats huge on us . . . It's a dream? The smell of the mud in my nostrils Blows brave—like a breath of the sea!
As of old, Ambulant, undulant drapery, Vaguery and strangely provocative, Fluttersd and beckons. O, yonder - Is it?—the gleam of a stocking! Sudden, a spire Wedged in the mist! O, the houses, The long lines of lofty, grey houses, Cross-hatched with shadow and light! These are the streets . . . Each is an avenue leading Whither I will!
Free . . . ! Dizzy, hysterical, faint, I sit, and the carriage rolls on with me Into the wonderful world.
THE OLD INFIRMARY, EDINBURGH, 1873-75
ENVOY—TO CHARLES BAXTER
Do you remember That afternoon—that Sunday afternoon! - When, as the kirks were ringing in, And the grey city teemed With Sabbath feelings and aspects, LEWIS—our LEWIS then, Now the whole world's—and you, Young, yet in shape most like an elder, came, Laden with BALZACS (Big, yellow books, quite impudently French), The first of many times To that transformed back-kitchen where I lay So long, so many centuries - Or years is it!—ago?
Dear CHARLES, since then We have been friends, LEWIS and you and I, (How good it sounds, 'LEWIS and you and I!'): Such friends, I like to think, That in us three, LEWIS and me and you, Is something of that gallant dream Which old DUMAS—the generous, the humane, The seven-and-seventy times to be forgiven! - Dreamed for a blessing to the race, The immortal Musketeers.
Our ATHOS rests—the wise, the kind, The liberal and august, his fault atoned, Rests in the crowded yard There at the west of Princes Street. We three - You, I, and LEWIS!—still afoot, Are still together, and our lives, In chime so long, may keep (God bless the thought!) Unjangled till the end.
W. E. H.
CHISWICK, March 1888
THE SONG OF THE SWORD—TO RUDYARD KIPLING
The Sword Singing - The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword Clanging imperious Forth from Time's battlements His ancient and triumphing Song.
In the beginning, Ere God inspired Himself Into the clay thing Thumbed to His image, The vacant, the naked shell Soon to be Man: Thoughtful He pondered it, Prone there and impotent, Fragile, inviting Attack and discomfiture; Then, with a smile - As He heard in the Thunder That laughed over Eden The voice of the Trumpet, The iron Beneficence, Calling his dooms To the Winds of the world - Stooping, He drew On the sand with His finger A shape for a sign Of his way to the eyes That in wonder should waken, For a proof of His will To the breaking intelligence. That was the birth of me: I am the Sword.
Bleak and lean, grey and cruel, Short-hilted, long shafted, I froze into steel; And the blood of my elder, His hand on the hafts of me, Sprang like a wave In the wind, as the sense Of his strength grew to ecstasy; Glowed like a coal In the throat of the furnace; As he knew me and named me The War-Thing, the Comrade, Father of honour And giver of kingship, The fame-smith, the song-master, Bringer of women On fire at his hands For the pride of fulfilment, PRIEST (saith the Lord) OF HIS MARRIAGE WITH VICTORY Ho! then, the Trumpet, Handmaid of heroes, Calling the peers To the place of espousals! Ho! then, the splendour And glare of my ministry, Clothing the earth With a livery of lightnings! Ho! then, the music Of battles in onset, And ruining armours, And God's gift returning In fury to God! Thrilling and keen As the song of the winter stars, Ho! then, the sound Of my voice, the implacable Angel of Destiny! - I am the Sword.
Heroes, my children, Follow, O, follow me! Follow, exulting In the great light that breaks From the sacred Companionship! Thrust through the fatuous, Thrust through the fungous brood, Spawned in my shadow And gross with my gift! Thrust through, and hearken O, hark, to the Trumpet, The Virgin of Battles, Calling, still calling you Into the Presence, Sons of the Judgment, Pure wafts of the Will! Edged to annihilate, Hilted with government, Follow, O, follow me, Till the waste places All the grey globe over Ooze, as the honeycomb Drips, with the sweetness Distilled of my strength, And, teeming in peace Through the wrath of my coming, They give back in beauty The dread and the anguish They had of me visitant! Follow, O follow, then, Heroes, my harvesters! Where the tall grain is ripe Thrust in your sickles! Stripped and adust In a stubble of empire, Scything and binding The full sheaves of sovranty: Thus, O, thus gloriously, Shall you fulfil yourselves! Thus, O, thus mightily, Show yourselves sons of mine - Yea, and win grace of me: I am the Sword!
I am the feast-maker: Hark, through a noise Of the screaming of eagles, Hark how the Trumpet, The mistress of mistresses, Calls, silver-throated And stern, where the tables Are spread, and the meal Of the Lord is in hand! Driving the darkness, Even as the banners And spears of the Morning; Sifting the nations, The slag from the metal, The waste and the weak From the fit and the strong; Fighting the brute, The abysmal Fecundity; Checking the gross, Multitudinous blunders, The groping, the purblind Excesses in service Of the Womb universal, The absolute drudge; Firing the charactry Carved on the World, The miraculous gem In the seal-ring that burns On the hand of the Master - Yea! and authority Flames through the dim, Unappeasable Grisliness Prone down the nethermost Chasms of the Void! - Clear singing, clean slicing; Sweet spoken, soft finishing; Making death beautiful, Life but a coin To be staked in the pastime Whose playing is more Than the transfer of being; Arch-anarch, chief builder, Prince and evangelist, I am the Will of God: I am the Sword.
The Sword Singing - The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword Clanging majestical, As from the starry-staired Courts of the primal Supremacy, His high, irresistible song.
ARABIAN NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS -To Elizabeth Robins Pennell
'O mes cheres Mille et Une Nuits!'—Fantasio.
Once on a time There was a little boy: a master-mage By virtue of a Book Of magic—O, so magical it filled His life with visionary pomps Processional! And Powers Passed with him where he passed. And Thrones And Dominations, glaived and plumed and mailed, Thronged in the criss-cross streets, The palaces pell-mell with playing-fields, Domes, cloisters, dungeons, caverns, tents, arcades, Of the unseen, silent City, in his soul Pavilioned jealously, and hid As in the dusk, profound, Green stillnesses of some enchanted mere. -
I shut mine eyes . . . And lo! A flickering snatch of memory that floats Upon the face of a pool of darkness five And thirty dead years deep, Antic in girlish broideries And skirts and silly shoes with straps And a broad-ribanded leghorn, he walks Plain in the shadow of a church (St. Michael's: in whose brazen call To curfew his first wails of wrath were whelmed), Sedate for all his haste To be at home; and, nestled in his arm, Inciting still to quiet and solitude, Boarded in sober drab, With small, square, agitating cuts Let in a-top of the double-columned, close, Quakerlike print, a Book! . . . What but that blessed brief Of what is gallantest and best In all the full-shelved Libraries of Romance? The Book of rocs, Sandalwood, ivory, turbans, ambergris, Cream-tarts, and lettered apes, and calendars, And ghouls, and genies—O, so huge They might have overed the tall Minster Tower Hands down, as schoolboys take a post! In truth, the Book of Camaralzaman, Schemselnihar and Sindbad, Scheherezade The peerless, Bedreddin, Badroulbadour, Cairo and Serendib and Candahar, And Caspian, and the dim, terrific bulk - Ice-ribbed, fiend-visited, isled in spells and storms - Of Kaf! . . . That centre of miracles, The sole, unparalleled Arabian Nights!
Old friends I had a-many—kindly and grim Familiars, cronies quaint And goblin! Never a Wood but housed Some morrice of dainty dapperlings. No Brook But had his nunnery Of green-haired, silvry-curving sprites, To cabin in his grots, and pace His lilied margents. Every lone Hillside Might open upon Elf-Land. Every Stalk That curled about a Bean-stick was of the breed Of that live ladder by whose delicate rungs You climbed beyond the clouds, and found The Farm-House where the Ogre, gorged And drowsy, from his great oak chair, Among the flitches and pewters at the fire, Called for his Faery Harp. And in it flew, And, perching on the kitchen table, sang Jocund and jubilant, with a sound Of those gay, golden-vowered madrigals The shy thrush at mid-May Flutes from wet orchards flushed with the triumphing dawn; Or blackbirds rioting as they listened still, In old-world woodlands rapt with an old-world spring, For Pan's own whistle, savage and rich and lewd, And mocked him call for call!
I could not pass The half-door where the cobbler sat in view Nor figure me the wizen Leprechaun, In square-cut, faded reds and buckle-shoes, Bent at his work in the hedge-side, and know Just how he tapped his brogue, and twitched His wax-end this and that way, both with wrists And elbows. In the rich June fields, Where the ripe clover drew the bees, And the tall quakers trembled, and the West Wind Lolled his half-holiday away Beside me lolling and lounging through my own, 'Twas good to follow the Miller's Youngest Son On his white horse along the leafy lanes; For at his stirrup linked and ran, Not cynical and trapesing, as he loped From wall to wall above the espaliers, But in the bravest tops That market-town, a town of tops, could show: Bold, subtle, adventurous, his tail A banner flaunted in disdain Of human stratagems and shifts: King over All the Catlands, present and past And future, that moustached Artificer of fortunes, Puss-in-Boots! Or Bluebeard's Closet, with its plenishing Of meat-hooks, sawdust, blood, And wives that hung like fresh-dressed carcases - Odd-fangled, most a butcher's, part A faery chamber hazily seen And hazily figured—on dark afternoons And windy nights was visiting of the best. Then, too, the pelt of hoofs Out in the roaring darkness told Of Herne the Hunter in his antlered helm Galloping, as with despatches from the Pit, Between his hell-born Hounds. And Rip Van Winkle . . . often I lurked to hear, Outside the long, low timbered, tarry wall, The mutter and rumble of the trolling bowls Down the lean plank, before they fluttered the pins; For, listening, I could help him play His wonderful game, In those blue, booming hills, with Mariners Refreshed from kegs not coopered in this our world.
But what were these so near, So neighbourly fancies to the spell that brought The run of Ali Baba's Cave Just for the saying 'Open Sesame,' With gold to measure, peck by peck, In round, brown wooden stoups You borrowed at the chandler's? . . . Or one time Made you Aladdin's friend at school, Free of his Garden of Jewels, Ring and Lamp In perfect trim? . . . Or Ladies, fair For all the embrowning scars in their white breasts Went labouring under some dread ordinance, Which made them whip, and bitterly cry the while, Strange Curs that cried as they, Till there was never a Black Bitch of all Your consorting but might have gone Spell-driven miserably for crimes Done in the pride of womanhood and desire . . . Or at the ghostliest altitudes of night, While you lay wondering and acold, Your sense was fearfully purged; and soon Queen Labe, abominable and dear, Rose from your side, opened the Box of Doom, Scattered the yellow powder (which I saw Like sulphur at the Docks in bulk), And muttered certain words you could not hear; And there! a living stream, The brook you bathed in, with its weeds and flags And cresses, glittered and sang Out of the hearthrug over the nakedness, Fair-scrubbed and decent, of your bedroom floor! . . .
I was—how many a time! - That Second Calendar, Son of a King, On whom 'twas vehemently enjoined, Pausing at one mysterious door, To pry no closer, but content his soul With his kind Forty. Yet I could not rest For idleness and ungovernable Fate. And the Black Horse, which fed on sesame (That wonder-working word!), Vouchsafed his back to me, and spread his vans, And soaring, soaring on From air to air, came charging to the ground Sheer, like a lark from the midsummer clouds, And, shaking me out of the saddle, where I sprawled Flicked at me with his tail, And left me blinded, miserable, distraught (Even as I was in deed, When doctors came, and odious things were done On my poor tortured eyes With lancets; or some evil acid stung And wrung them like hot sand, And desperately from room to room Fumble I must my dark, disconsolate way), To get to Bagdad how I might. But there I met with Merry Ladies. O you three - Safie, Amine, Zobeide—when my heart Forgets you all shall be forgot! And so we supped, we and the rest, On wine and roasted lamb, rose-water, dates, Almonds, pistachios, citrons. And Haroun Laughed out of his lordly beard On Giaffar and Mesrour (I knew the Three For all their Mossoul habits). And outside The Tigris, flowing swift Like Severn bend for bend, twinkled and gleamed With broken and wavering shapes of stranger stars; The vast, blue night Was murmurous with peris' plumes And the leathern wings of genies; words of power Were whispering; and old fishermen, Casting their nets with prayer, might draw to shore Dead loveliness: or a prodigy in scales Worth in the Caliph's Kitchen pieces of gold: Or copper vessels, stopped with lead, Wherein some Squire of Eblis watched and railed, In durance under potent charactry Graven by the seal of Solomon the King . . .
Then, as the Book was glassed In Life as in some olden mirror's quaint, Bewildering angles, so would Life Flash light on light back on the Book; and both Were changed. Once in a house decayed From better days, harbouring an errant show (For all its stories of dry-rot Were filled with gruesome visitants in wax, Inhuman, hushed, ghastly with Painted Eyes), I wandered; and no living soul Was nearer than the pay-box; and I stared Upon them staring—staring. Till at last, Three sets of rafters from the streets, I strayed upon a mildewed, rat-run room, With the two Dancers, horrible and obscene, Guarding the door: and there, in a bedroom-set, Behind a fence of faded crimson cords, With an aspect of frills And dimities and dishonoured privacy That made you hanker and hesitate to look, A Woman with her litter of Babes—all slain, All in their nightgowns, all with Painted Eyes Staring—still staring; so that I turned and ran As for my neck, but in the street Took breath. The same, it seemed, And yet not all the same, I was to find, As I went up! For afterwards, Whenas I went my round alone - All day alone—in long, stern, silent streets, Where I might stretch my hand and take Whatever I would: still there were Shapes of Stone, Motionless, lifelike, frightening—for the Wrath Had smitten them; but they watched, This by her melons and figs, that by his rings And chains and watches, with the hideous gaze, The Painted Eyes insufferable, Now, of those grisly images; and I Pursued my best-beloved quest, Thrilled with a novel and delicious fear. So the night fell—with never a lamplighter; And through the Palace of the King I groped among the echoes, and I felt That they were there, Dreadfully there, the Painted staring Eyes, Hall after hall . . . Till lo! from far A Voice! And in a little while Two tapers burning! And the Voice, Heard in the wondrous Word of God, was—whose? Whose but Zobeide's, The lady of my heart, like me A True Believer, and like me An outcast thousands of leagues beyond the pale! . . .
Or, sailing to the Isles Of Khaledan, I spied one evenfall A black blotch in the sunset; and it grew Swiftly . . . and grew. Tearing their beards, The sailors wept and prayed; but the grave ship, Deep laden with spiceries and pearls, went mad, Wrenched the long tiller out of the steersman's hand, And, turning broadside on, As the most iron would, was haled and sucked Nearer, and nearer yet; And, all awash, with horrible lurching leaps Rushed at that Portent, casting a shadow now That swallowed sea and sky; and then, Anchors and nails and bolts Flew screaming out of her, and with clang on clang, A noise of fifty stithies, caught at the sides Of the Magnetic Mountain; and she lay, A broken bundle of firewood, strown piecemeal About the waters; and her crew Passed shrieking, one by one; and I was left To drown. All the long night I swam; But in the morning, O, the smiling coast Tufted with date-trees, meadowlike, Skirted with shelving sands! And a great wave Cast me ashore; and I was saved alive. So, giving thanks to God, I dried my clothes, And, faring inland, in a desert place I stumbled on an iron ring - The fellow of fifty built into the Quays: When, scenting a trap-door, I dug, and dug; until my biggest blade Stuck into wood. And then, The flight of smooth-hewn, easy-falling stairs, Sunk in the naked rock! The cool, clean vault, So neat with niche on niche it might have been Our beer-cellar but for the rows Of brazen urns (like monstrous chemist's jars) Full to the wide, squat throats With gold-dust, but a-top A layer of pickled-walnut-looking things I knew for olives! And far, O, far away, The Princess of China languished! Far away Was marriage, with a Vizier and a Chief Of Eunuchs and the privilege Of going out at night To play—unkenned, majestical, secure - Where the old, brown, friendly river shaped Like Tigris shore for shore! Haply a Ghoul Sat in the churchyard under a frightened moon, A thighbone in his fist, and glared At supper with a Lady: she who took Her rice with tweezers grain by grain. Or you might stumble—there by the iron gates Of the Pump Room—underneath the limes - Upon Bedreddin in his shirt and drawers, Just as the civil Genie laid him down. Or those red-curtained panes, Whence a tame cornet tenored it throatily Of beer-pots and spittoons and new long pipes, Might turn a caravansery's, wherein You found Noureddin Ali, loftily drunk, And that fair Persian, bathed in tears, You'd not have given away For all the diamonds in the Vale Perilous You had that dark and disleaved afternoon Escaped on a roc's claw, Disguised like Sindbad—but in Christmas beef! And all the blissful while The schoolboy satchel at your hip Was such a bulse of gems as should amaze Grey-whiskered chapmen drawn From over Caspian: yea, the Chief Jewellers Of Tartary and the bazaars, Seething with traffic, of enormous Ind. -
Thus cried, thus called aloud, to the child heart The magian East: thus the child eyes Spelled out the wizard message by the light Of the sober, workaday hours They saw, week in week out, pass, and still pass In the sleepy Minster City, folded kind In ancient Severn's arm, Amongst her water-meadows and her docks, Whose floating populace of ships - Galliots and luggers, light-heeled brigantines, Bluff barques and rake-hell fore-and-afters—brought To her very doorsteps and geraniums The scents of the World's End; the calls That may not be gainsaid to rise and ride Like fire on some high errand of the race; The irresistible appeals For comradeship that sound Steadily from the irresistible sea. Thus the East laughed and whispered, and the tale, Telling itself anew In terms of living, labouring life, Took on the colours, busked it in the wear Of life that lived and laboured; and Romance, The Angel-Playmate, raining down His golden influences On all I saw, and all I dreamed and did, Walked with me arm in arm, Or left me, as one bediademed with straws And bits of glass, to gladden at my heart Who had the gift to seek and feel and find His fiery-hearted presence everywhere. Even so dear Hesper, bringer of all good things, Sends the same silver dews Of happiness down her dim, delighted skies On some poor collier-hamlet—(mound on mound Of sifted squalor; here a soot-throated stalk Sullenly smoking over a row Of flat-faced hovels; black in the gritty air A web of rails and wheels and beams; with strings Of hurtling, tipping trams) - As on the amorous nightingales And roses of Shiraz, or the walls and towers Of Samarcand—the Ineffable—whence you espy The splendour of Ginnistan's embattled spears, Like listed lightnings. Samarcand! That name of names! That star-vaned belvedere Builded against the Chambers of the South! That outpost on the Infinite! And behold! Questing therefrom, you knew not what wild tide Might overtake you: for one fringe, One suburb, is stablished on firm earth; but one Floats founded vague In lubberlands delectable—isles of palm And lotus, fortunate mains, far-shimmering seas, The promise of wistful hills - The shining, shifting Sovranties of Dream.
'The tune of the time.'—HAMLET, concerning OSRIC
BALLADE OF A TOYOKUNI COLOUR-PRINT—To W. A.
Was I a Samurai renowned, Two-sworded, fierce, immense of bow? A histrion angular and profound? A priest? a porter?—Child, although I have forgotten clean, I know That in the shade of Fujisan, What time the cherry-orchards blow, I loved you once in old Japan.
As here you loiter, flowing-gowned And hugely sashed, with pins a-row Your quaint head as with flamelets crowned, Demure, inviting—even so, When merry maids in Miyako To feel the sweet o' the year began, And green gardens to overflow, I loved you once in old Japan.
Clear shine the hills; the rice-fields round Two cranes are circling; sleepy and slow, A blue canal the lake's blue bound Breaks at the bamboo bridge; and lo! Touched with the sundown's spirit and glow, I see you turn, with flirted fan, Against the plum-tree's bloomy snow . . . I loved you once in old Japan!
Dear, 'twas a dozen lives ago; But that I was a lucky man The Toyokuni here will show: I loved you—once—in old Japan.
BALLADE (DOUBLE REFRAIN) OF YOUTH AND AGE—I. M. Thomas Edward Brown (1829-1896)
Spring at her height on a morn at prime, Sails that laugh from a flying squall, Pomp of harmony, rapture of rhyme - Youth is the sign of them, one and all. Winter sunsets and leaves that fall, An empty flagon, a folded page, A tumble-down wheel, a tattered ball - These are a type of the world of Age.
Bells that clash in a gaudy chime, Swords that clatter in onsets tall, The words that ring and the fames that climb - Youth is the sign of them, one and all. Hymnals old in a dusty stall, A bald, blind bird in a crazy cage, The scene of a faded festival - These are a type of the world of Age.
Hours that strut as the heirs of time, Deeds whose rumour's a clarion-call, Songs where the singers their souls sublime - Youth is the sign of them, one and all. A staff that rests in a nook of wall, A reeling battle, a rusted gage, The chant of a nearing funeral - These are a type of the world of Age.
Struggle and turmoil, revel and brawl - Youth is the sign of them, one and all. A smouldering hearth and a silent stage - These are a type of the world of Age.
BALLADE (DOUBLE REFRAIN) OF MIDSUMMER DAYS AND NIGHTS—To W. H.
With a ripple of leaves and a tinkle of streams The full world rolls in a rhythm of praise, And the winds are one with the clouds and beams - Midsummer days! Midsummer days! The dusk grows vast; in a purple haze, While the West from a rapture of sunset rights, Faint stars their exquisite lamps upraise - Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights!
The wood's green heart is a nest of dreams, The lush grass thickens and springs and sways, The rathe wheat rustles, the landscape gleams - Midsummer days! Midsummer days! In the stilly fields, in the stilly ways, All secret shadows and mystic lights, Late lovers murmur and linger and gaze - Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights!
There's a music of bells from the trampling teams, Wild skylarks hover, the gorses blaze, The rich, ripe rose as with incense steams - Midsummer days! Midsummer days! A soul from the honeysuckle strays, And the nightingale as from prophet heights Sings to the Earth of her million Mays - Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights!
And it's O, for my dear and the charm that stays - Midsummer days! Midsummer days! It's O, for my Love and the dark that plights - Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights!
BALLADE OF DEAD ACTORS—I. M. Edward John Henley (1861-1898)
Where are the passions they essayed, And where the tears they made to flow? Where the wild humours they portrayed For laughing worlds to see and know? Othello's wrath and Juliet's woe? Sir Peter's whims and Timon's gall? And Millamant and Romeo? Into the night go one and all.
Where are the braveries, fresh or frayed? The plumes, the armours—friend and foe? The cloth of gold, the rare brocade, The mantles glittering to and fro? The pomp, the pride, the royal show? The cries of war and festival? The youth, the grace, the charm, the glow? Into the night go one and all.
The curtain falls, the play is played: The Beggar packs beside the Beau; The Monarch troops, and troops the Maid; The Thunder huddles with the Snow. Where are the revellers high and low? The clashing swords? The lover's call? The dancers gleaming row on row? Into the night go one and all.
Prince, in one common overthrow The Hero tumbles with the Thrall: As dust that drives, as straws that blow, Into the night go one and all.
BALLADE MADE IN THE HOT WEATHER—To C. M.
Fountains that frisk and sprinkle The moss they overspill; Pools that the breezes crinkle; The wheel beside the mill, With its wet, weedy frill; Wind-shadows in the wheat; A water-cart in the street; The fringe of foam that girds An islet's ferneries; A green sky's minor thirds - To live, I think of these!
Of ice and glass the tinkle, Pellucid, silver-shrill; Peaches without a wrinkle; Cherries and snow at will, From china bowls that fill The senses with a sweet Incuriousness of heat; A melon's dripping sherds; Cream-clotted strawberries; Dusk dairies set with curds - To live, I think of these!
Vale-lily and periwinkle; Wet stone-crop on the sill; The look of leaves a-twinkle With windlets clear and still; The feel of a forest rill That wimples fresh and fleet About one's naked feet; The muzzles of drinking herds; Lush flags and bulrushes; The chirp of rain-bound birds - To live, I think of these!
Dark aisles, new packs of cards, Mermaidens' tails, cool swards, Dawn dews and starlit seas, White marbles, whiter words - To live, I think of these!
BALLADE OF TRUISMS
Gold or silver, every day, Dies to gray. There are knots in every skein. Hours of work and hours of play Fade away Into one immense Inane. Shadow and substance, chaff and grain, Are as vain As the foam or as the spray. Life goes crooning, faint and fain, One refrain: 'If it could be always May!'
Though the earth be green and gay, Though, they say, Man the cup of heaven may drain; Though, his little world to sway, He display Hoard on hoard of pith and brain: Autumn brings a mist and rain That constrain
Him and his to know decay, Where undimmed the lights that wane Would remain, If it could be always May.
YEA, alas, must turn to NAY, Flesh to clay. Chance and Time are ever twain. Men may scoff, and men may pray, But they pay Every pleasure with a pain. Life may soar, and Fortune deign To explain Where her prizes hide and stay; But we lack the lusty train We should gain, If it could be always May.
Time, the pedagogue, his cane Might retain, But his charges all would stray Truanting in every lane - Jack with Jane - If it could be always May.
DOUBLE BALLADE OF LIFE AND FATE
Fools may pine, and sots may swill, Cynics gibe, and prophets rail, Moralists may scourge and drill, Preachers prose, and fainthearts quail. Let them whine, or threat, or wail! Till the touch of Circumstance Down to darkness sink the scale, Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.
What if skies be wan and chill? What if winds be harsh and stale? Presently the east will thrill, And the sad and shrunken sail, Bellying with a kindly gale, Bear you sunwards, while your chance Sends you back the hopeful hail:- 'Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.'
Idle shot or coming bill, Hapless love or broken bail, Gulp it (never chew your pill!), And, if Burgundy should fail, Try the humbler pot of ale! Over all is heaven's expanse. Gold's to find among the shale. Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.
Dull Sir Joskin sleeps his fill, Good Sir Galahad seeks the Grail, Proud Sir Pertinax flaunts his frill, Hard Sir AEger dints his mail; And the while by hill and dale Tristram's braveries gleam and glance, And his blithe horn tells its tale:- 'Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.'
Araminta's grand and shrill, Delia's passionate and frail, Doris drives an earnest quill, Athanasia takes the veil: Wiser Phyllis o'er her pail, At the heart of all romance Reading, sings to Strephon's flail:- 'Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.'
Every Jack must have his Jill (Even Johnson had his Thrale!): Forward, couples—with a will! This, the world, is not a jail. Hear the music, sprat and whale! Hands across, retire, advance! Though the doomsman's on your trail, Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.
Boys and girls, at slug and snail And their kindred look askance. Pay your footing on the nail: Fate's a fiddler, Life's a dance.
DOUBLE BALLADE OF THE NOTHINGNESS OF THINGS
The big teetotum twirls, And epochs wax and wane As chance subsides or swirls; But of the loss and gain The sum is always plain. Read on the mighty pall, The weed of funeral That covers praise and blame, The -isms and the -anities, Magnificence and shame:- 'O Vanity of Vanities!'
The Fates are subtile girls! They give us chaff for grain. And Time, the Thunderer, hurls, Like bolted death, disdain At all that heart and brain Conceive, or great or small, Upon this earthly ball. Would you be knight and dame? Or woo the sweet humanities? Or illustrate a name? O Vanity of Vanities!
We sound the sea for pearls, Or drown them in a drain; We flute it with the merles, Or tug and sweat and strain; We grovel, or we reign; We saunter, or we brawl; We answer, or we call; We search the stars for Fame, Or sink her subterranities; The legend's still the same:- 'O Vanity of Vanities!'
Here at the wine one birls, There some one clanks a chain. The flag that this man furls That man to float is fain. Pleasure gives place to pain: These in the kennel crawl, While others take the wall. SHE has a glorious aim, HE lives for the inanities. What comes of every claim? O Vanity of Vanities!
Alike are clods and earls. For sot, and seer, and swain, For emperors and for churls, For antidote and bane, There is but one refrain: But one for king and thrall, For David and for Saul, For fleet of foot and lame, For pieties and profanities, The picture and the frame:- 'O Vanity of Vanities!'
Life is a smoke that curls - Curls in a flickering skein, That winds and whisks and whirls A figment thin and vain, Into the vast Inane. One end for hut and hall! One end for cell and stall! Burned in one common flame Are wisdoms and insanities. For this alone we came:- 'O Vanity of Vanities!'
Prince, pride must have a fall. What is the worth of all Your state's supreme urbanities? Bad at the best's the game. Well might the Sage exclaim:- 'O Vanity of Vanities!'
AT QUEENSFERRY—To W. G. S.
The blackbird sang, the skies were clear and clean We bowled along a road that curved a spine Superbly sinuous and serpentine Thro' silent symphonies of summer green. Sudden the Forth came on us—sad of mien, No cloud to colour it, no breeze to line: A sheet of dark, dull glass, without a sign Of life or death, two spits of sand between. Water and sky merged blank in mist together, The Fort loomed spectral, and the Guardship's spars Traced vague, black shadows on the shimmery glaze: We felt the dim, strange years, the grey, strange weather, The still, strange land, unvexed of sun or stars, Where Lancelot rides clanking thro' the haze.
She's an enchanting little Israelite, A world of hidden dimples!—Dusky-eyed, A starry-glancing daughter of the Bride, With hair escaped from some Arabian Night, Her lip is red, her cheek is golden-white, Her nose a scimitar; and, set aside The bamboo hat she cocks with so much pride, Her dress a dream of daintiness and delight. And when she passes with the dreadful boys And romping girls, the cockneys loud and crude, My thought, to the Minories tied yet moved to range The Land o' the Sun, commingles with the noise Of magian drums and scents of sandalwood A touch Sidonian—modern—taking—strange!
A hard north-easter fifty winters long Has bronzed and shrivelled sere her face and neck; Her locks are wild and grey, her teeth a wreck; Her foot is vast, her bowed leg spare and strong. A wide blue cloak, a squat and sturdy throng Of curt blue coats, a mutch without a speck, A white vest broidered black, her person deck, Nor seems their picked, stern, old-world quaintness wrong. Her great creel forehead-slung, she wanders nigh, Easing the heavy strap with gnarled, brown fingers, The spirit of traffic watchful in her eye, Ever and anon imploring you to buy, As looking down the street she onward lingers, Reproachful, with a strange and doleful cry.
BACK-VIEW—To D. F.
I watched you saunter down the sand: Serene and large, the golden weather Flowed radiant round your peacock feather, And glistered from your jewelled hand. Your tawny hair, turned strand on strand And bound with blue ribands together, Streaked the rough tartan, green like heather, That round your lissome shoulder spanned. Your grace was quick my sense to seize: The quaint looped hat, the twisted tresses, The close-drawn scarf, and under these The flowing, flapping draperies - My thought an outline still caresses, Enchanting, comic, Japanese!
CROLUIS—To G. W.
The beach was crowded. Pausing now and then, He groped and fiddled doggedly along, His worn face glaring on the thoughtless throng The stony peevishness of sightless men. He seemed scarce older than his clothes. Again, Grotesquing thinly many an old sweet song, So cracked his fiddle, his hand so frail and wrong, You hardly could distinguish one in ten. He stopped at last, and sat him on the sand, And, grasping wearily his bread-winner, Stared dim towards the blue immensity, Then leaned his head upon his poor old hand. He may have slept: he did not speak nor stir: His gesture spoke a vast despondency.
ATTADALE WEST HIGHLANDS—To A. J.
A black and glassy float, opaque and still, The loch, at furthest ebb supine in sleep, Reversing, mirrored in its luminous deep The calm grey skies; the solemn spurs of hill; Heather, and corn, and wisps of loitering haze; The wee white cots, black-hatted, plumed with smoke; The braes beyond—and when the ripple awoke, They wavered with the jarred and wavering glaze. The air was hushed and dreamy. Evermore A noise of running water whispered near. A straggling crow called high and thin. A bird Trilled from the birch-leaves. Round the shingled shore, Yellow with weed, there wandered, vague and clear, Strange vowels, mysterious gutturals, idly heard.
FROM A WINDOW IN PRINCES STREET—To M. M. M'B.
Above the Crags that fade and gloom Starts the bare knee of Arthur's Seat; Ridged high against the evening bloom, The Old Town rises, street on street; With lamps bejewelled, straight ahead, Like rampired walls the houses lean, All spired and domed and turreted, Sheer to the valley's darkling green; Ranged in mysterious disarray, The Castle, menacing and austere, Looms through the lingering last of day; And in the silver dusk you hear, Reverberated from crag and scar, Bold bugles blowing points of war.
IN THE DIALS
To GARRYOWEN upon an organ ground Two girls are jigging. Riotously they trip, With eyes aflame, quick bosoms, hand on hip, As in the tumult of a witches' round. Youngsters and youngsters round them prance and bound. Two solemn babes twirl ponderously, and skip. The artist's teeth gleam from his bearded lip. High from the kennel howls a tortured hound. The music reels and hurtles, and the night Is full of stinks and cries; a naphtha-light Flares from a barrow; battered and obtused With vices, wrinkles, life and work and rags, Each with her inch of clay, two loitering hags Look on dispassionate—critical—something 'mused.
The gods are dead? Perhaps they are! Who knows? Living at least in Lempriere undeleted, The wise, the fair, the awful, the jocose, Are one and all, I like to think, retreated In some still land of lilacs and the rose.
Once high they sat, and high o'er earthly shows With sacrificial dance and song were greeted. Once . . . long ago. But now, the story goes, The gods are dead.
It must be true. The world, a world of prose, Full-crammed with facts, in science swathed and sheeted, Nods in a stertorous after-dinner doze! Plangent and sad, in every wind that blows Who will may hear the sorry words repeated:- 'The Gods are Dead!'
To F. W.
Let us be drunk, and for a while forget, Forget, and, ceasing even from regret, Live without reason and despite of rhyme, As in a dream preposterous and sublime, Where place and hour and means for once are met.
Where is the use of effort? Love and debt And disappointment have us in a net. Let us break out, and taste the morning prime . . . Let us be drunk.
In vain our little hour we strut and fret, And mouth our wretched parts as for a bet: We cannot please the tragicaster Time. To gain the crystal sphere, the silver dime, Where Sympathy sits dimpling on us yet, Let us be drunk!
When you are old, and I am passed away - Passed, and your face, your golden face, is gray - I think, whate'er the end, this dream of mine, Comforting you, a friendly star will shine Down the dim slope where still you stumble and stray.
So may it be: that so dead Yesterday, No sad-eyed ghost but generous and gay, May serve you memories like almighty wine, When you are old!
Dear Heart, it shall be so. Under the sway Of death the past's enormous disarray Lies hushed and dark. Yet though there come no sign, Live on well pleased: immortal and divine Love shall still tend you, as God's angels may, When you are old.
Beside the idle summer sea And in the vacant summer days, Light Love came fluting down the ways, Where you were loitering with me.
Who has not welcomed, even as we, That jocund minstrel and his lays Beside the idle summer sea And in the vacant summer days?
We listened, we were fancy-free; And lo! in terror and amaze We stood alone—alone at gaze With an implacable memory Beside the idle summer sea.
I. M. R. G. C. B. 1878
The ways of Death are soothing and serene, And all the words of Death are grave and sweet. From camp and church, the fireside and the street, She beckons forth—and strife and song have been.
A summer night descending cool and green And dark on daytime's dust and stress and heat, The ways of Death are soothing and serene, And all the words of Death are grave and sweet.
O glad and sorrowful, with triumphant mien And radiant faces look upon, and greet This last of all your lovers, and to meet Her kiss, the Comforter's, your spirit lean . . . The ways of Death are soothing and serene.
We shall surely die: Must we needs grow old? Grow old and cold, And we know not why?
O, the By-and-By, And the tale that's told! We shall surely die: Must we needs grow old?
Grow old and sigh, Grudge and withhold, Resent and scold? . . . Not you and I? We shall surely die!
What is to come we know not. But we know That what has been was good—was good to show, Better to hide, and best of all to bear. We are the masters of the days that were: We have lived, we have loved, we have suffered . . . even so.
Shall we not take the ebb who had the flow? Life was our friend. Now, if it be our foe - Dear, though it spoil and break us!—need we care What is to come?
Let the great winds their worst and wildest blow, Or the gold weather round us mellow slow: We have fulfilled ourselves, and we can dare And we can conquer, though we may not share In the rich quiet of the afterglow What is to come.
Aqui este encerrada el alma del licenciado Pedro Garcias Gil Blas AU LECTEUR
I—TO MY MOTHER
Chiming a dream by the way With ocean's rapture and roar, I met a maiden to-day Walking alone on the shore: Walking in maiden wise, Modest and kind and fair, The freshness of spring in her eyes And the fulness of spring in her hair.
Cloud-shadow and scudding sun-burst Were swift on the floor of the sea, And a mad wind was romping its worst, But what was their magic to me? Or the charm of the midsummer skies? I only saw she was there, A dream of the sea in her eyes And the kiss of the sea in her hair.
I watched her vanish in space; She came where I walked no more; But something had passed of her grace To the spell of the wave and the shore; And now, as the glad stars rise, She comes to me, rosy and rare, The delight of the wind in her eyes And the hand of the wind in her hair.
Life is bitter. All the faces of the years, Young and old, are grey with travail and with tears. Must we only wake to toil, to tire, to weep? In the sun, among the leaves, upon the flowers, Slumber stills to dreamy death the heavy hours . . . Let me sleep.
Riches won but mock the old, unable years; Fame's a pearl that hides beneath a sea of tears; Love must wither, or must live alone and weep. In the sunshine, through the leaves, across the flowers, While we slumber, death approaches though the hours! . . . Let me sleep.
O, gather me the rose, the rose, While yet in flower we find it, For summer smiles, but summer goes, And winter waits behind it!
For with the dream foregone, foregone, The deed forborne for ever, The worm, regret, will canker on, And Time will turn him never.
So well it were to love, my love, And cheat of any laughter The fate beneath us and above, The dark before and after.
The myrtle and the rose, the rose, The sunshine and the swallow, The dream that comes, the wish that goes, The memories that follow!
IV—I. M. To R. T. HAMILTON BRUCE (1846-1899)
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
I am the Reaper. All things with heedful hook Silent I gather. Pale roses touched with the spring, Tall corn in summer, Fruits rich with autumn, and frail winter blossoms - Reaping, still reaping - All things with heedful hook Timely I gather.
I am the Sower. All the unbodied life Runs through my seed-sheet. Atom with atom wed, Each quickening the other, Fall through my hands, ever changing, still changeless Ceaselessly sowing, Life, incorruptible life, Flows from my seed-sheet.
Maker and breaker, I am the ebb and the flood, Here and Hereafter. Sped through the tangle and coil Of infinite nature, Viewless and soundless I fashion all being. Taker and giver, I am the womb and the grave, The Now and the Ever.
Praise the generous gods for giving In a world of wrath and strife With a little time for living, Unto all the joy of life.
At whatever source we drink it, Art or love or faith or wine, In whatever terms we think it, It is common and divine.
Praise the high gods, for in giving This to man, and this alone, They have made his chance of living Shine the equal of their own.
Fill a glass with golden wine, And the while your lips are wet Set their perfume unto mine, And forget, Every kiss we take and give Leaves us less of life to live.
Yet again! Your whim and mine In a happy while have met. All your sweets to me resign, Nor regret That we press with every breath, Sighed or singing, nearer death.
We'll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon. November glooms are barren beside the dusk of June. The summer flowers are faded, the summer thoughts are sere. We'll go no more a-roving, lest worse befall, my dear.
We'll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon. The song we sang rings hollow, and heavy runs the tune. Glad ways and words remembered would shame the wretched year. We'll go no more a-roving, nor dream we did, my dear.
We'll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon. If yet we walk together, we need not shun the noon. No sweet thing left to savour, no sad thing left to fear, We'll go no more a-roving, but weep at home, my dear.
IX—To W. R.
Madam Life's a piece in bloom Death goes dogging everywhere: She's the tenant of the room, He's the ruffian on the stair.
You shall see her as a friend, You shall bilk him once and twice; But he'll trap you in the end, And he'll stick you for her price.
With his kneebones at your chest, And his knuckles in your throat, You would reason—plead—protest! Clutching at her petticoat;
But she's heard it all before, Well she knows you've had your fun, Gingerly she gains the door, And your little job is done.
The sea is full of wandering foam, The sky of driving cloud; My restless thoughts among them roam . . . The night is dark and loud.
Where are the hours that came to me So beautiful and bright? A wild wind shakes the wilder sea . . . O, dark and loud's the night!
XI—To W. R.
Thick is the darkness - Sunward, O, sunward! Rough is the highway - Onward, still onward!
Dawn harbours surely East of the shadows. Facing us somewhere Spread the sweet meadows.
Upward and forward! Time will restore us: Light is above us, Rest is before us.
To me at my fifth-floor window The chimney-pots in rows Are sets of pipes pandean For every wind that blows;
And the smoke that whirls and eddies In a thousand times and keys Is really a visible music Set to my reveries.
O monstrous pipes, melodious With fitful tune and dream, The clouds are your only audience, Her thought is your only theme!
Bring her again, O western wind, Over the western sea: Gentle and good and fair and kind, Bring her again to me!
Not that her fancy holds me dear, Not that a hope may be: Only that I may know her near, Wind of the western sea.
The wan sun westers, faint and slow; The eastern distance glimmers gray; An eerie haze comes creeping low Across the little, lonely bay; And from the sky-line far away About the quiet heaven are spread Mysterious hints of dying day, Thin, delicate dreams of green and red.
And weak, reluctant surges lap And rustle round and down the strand. No other sound . . . If it should hap, The ship that sails from fairy-land! The silken shrouds with spells are manned, The hull is magically scrolled, The squat mast lives, and in the sand The gold prow-griffin claws a hold.
It steals to seaward silently; Strange fish-folk follow thro' the gloom; Great wings flap overhead; I see The Castle of the Drowsy Doom Vague thro' the changeless twilight loom, Enchanted, hushed. And ever there She slumbers in eternal bloom, Her cushions hid with golden hair.
There is a wheel inside my head Of wantonness and wine, An old, cracked fiddle is begging without, But the wind with scents of the sea is fed, And the sun seems glad to shine.
The sun and the wind are akin to you, As you are akin to June. But the fiddle! . . . It giggles and twitters about, And, love and laughter! who gave him the cue? - He's playing your favourite tune.
While the west is paling Starshine is begun. While the dusk is failing Glimmers up the sun.
So, till darkness cover Life's retreating gleam, Lover follows lover, Dream succeeds to dream.
Stoop to my endeavour, O my love, and be Only and for ever Sun and stars to me.
The sands are alive with sunshine, The bathers lounge and throng, And out in the bay a bugle Is lilting a gallant song.
The clouds go racing eastward, The blithe wind cannot rest, And a shard on the shingle flashes Like the shining soul of a jest;
While children romp in the surges, And sweethearts wander free, And the Firth as with laughter dimples . . . I would it were deep over me!
XVIII—To A. D.
The nightingale has a lyre of gold, The lark's is a clarion-call, And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute, But I love him best of all.
For his song is all of the joy of life, And we in the mad, spring weather, We two have listened till he sang Our hearts and lips together.
Your heart has trembled to my tongue, Your hands in mine have lain, Your thought to me has leaned and clung, Again and yet again, My dear, Again and yet again.
Now die the dream, or come the wife, The past is not in vain, For wholly as it was your life Can never be again, My dear, Can never be again.
The surges gushed and sounded, The blue was the blue of June, And low above the brightening east Floated a shred of moon.
The woods were black and solemn, The night winds large and free, And in your thought a blessing seemed To fall on land and sea.
We flash across the level. We thunder thro' the bridges. We bicker down the cuttings. We sway along the ridges.
A rush of streaming hedges, Of jostling lights and shadows, Of hurtling, hurrying stations, Of racing woods and meadows.
We charge the tunnels headlong - The blackness roars and shatters. We crash between embankments - The open spins and scatters.
We shake off the miles like water, We might carry a royal ransom; And I think of her waiting, waiting, And long for a common hansom.
The West a glimmering lake of light, A dream of pearly weather, The first of stars is burning white - The star we watch together. Is April dead? The unresting year Will shape us our September, And April's work is done, my dear - Do you not remember?
O gracious eve! O happy star, Still-flashing, glowing, sinking! - Who lives of lovers near or far So glad as I in thinking? The gallant world is warm and green, For May fulfils November. When lights and leaves and loves have been, Sweet, will you remember?
O star benignant and serene, I take the good to-morrow, That fills from verge to verge my dream, With all its joy and sorrow! The old, sweet spell is unforgot That turns to June December; And, tho' the world remembered not, Love, we would remember.
The skies are strown with stars, The streets are fresh with dew A thin moon drifts to westward, The night is hushed and cheerful. My thought is quick with you.
Near windows gleam and laugh, And far away a train Clanks glowing through the stillness: A great content's in all things, And life is not in vain.
The full sea rolls and thunders In glory and in glee. O, bury me not in the senseless earth But in the living sea!
Ay, bury me where it surges A thousand miles from shore, And in its brotherly unrest I'll range for evermore.
In the year that's come and gone, love, his flying feather Stooping slowly, gave us heart, and bade us walk together. In the year that's coming on, though many a troth be broken, We at least will not forget aught that love hath spoken.
In the year that's come and gone, dear, we wove a tether All of gracious words and thoughts, binding two together. In the year that's coming on with its wealth of roses We shall weave it stronger, yet, ere the circle closes.
In the year that's come and gone, in the golden weather, Sweet, my sweet, we swore to keep the watch of life together. In the year that's coming on, rich in joy and sorrow, We shall light our lamp, and wait life's mysterious morrow.
In the placid summer midnight, Under the drowsy sky, I seem to hear in the stillness The moths go glimmering by.
One by one from the windows The lights have all been sped. Never a blind looks conscious - The street is asleep in bed!
But I come where a living casement Laughs luminous and wide; I hear the song of a piano Break in a sparkling tide;
And I feel, in the waltz that frolics And warbles swift and clear, A sudden sense of shelter And friendliness and cheer . . .
A sense of tinkling glasses, Of love and laughter and light - The piano stops, and the window Stares blank out into the night.
The blind goes out, and I wander To the old, unfriendly sea, The lonelier for the memory That walks like a ghost with me.
She sauntered by the swinging seas, A jewel glittered at her ear, And, teasing her along, the breeze Brought many a rounded grace more near.
So passing, one with wave and beam, She left for memory to caress A laughing thought, a golden gleam, A hint of hidden loveliness.
XXVIII—To S. C.
Blithe dreams arise to greet us, And life feels clean and new, For the old love comes to meet us In the dawning and the dew. O'erblown with sunny shadows, O'ersped with winds at play, The woodlands and the meadows Are keeping holiday. Wild foals are scampering, neighing, Brave merles their hautboys blow: Come! let us go a-maying As in the Long-Ago.
Here we but peak and dwindle: The clank of chain and crane, The whir of crank and spindle Bewilder heart and brain; The ends of our endeavour Are merely wealth and fame, Yet in the still Forever We're one and all the same; Delaying, still delaying, We watch the fading west: Come! let us go a-maying, Nor fear to take the best.
Yet beautiful and spacious The wise, old world appears. Yet frank and fair and gracious Outlaugh the jocund years. Our arguments disputing, The universal Pan Still wanders fluting—fluting - Fluting to maid and man. Our weary well-a-waying His music cannot still: Come! let us go a-maying, And pipe with him our fill.
When wanton winds are flowing Among the gladdening glass; Where hawthorn brakes are blowing, And meadow perfumes pass; Where morning's grace is greenest, And fullest noon's of pride; Where sunset spreads serenest, And sacred night's most wide; Where nests are swaying, swaying, And spring's fresh voices call, Come! let us go a-maying, And bless the God of all!
XXIX—To R. L. S.
A child, Curious and innocent, Slips from his Nurse, and rejoicing Loses himself in the Fair.
Thro' the jostle and din Wandering, he revels, Dreaming, desiring, possessing; Till, of a sudden Tired and afraid, he beholds The sordid assemblage Just as it is; and he runs With a sob to his Nurse (Lighting at last on him), And in her motherly bosom Cries him to sleep.
Thus thro' the World, Seeing and feeling and knowing, Goes Man: till at last, Tired of experience, he turns To the friendly and comforting breast Of the old nurse, Death.
Kate-a-Whimsies, John-a-Dreams, Still debating, still delay, And the world's a ghost that gleams - Wavers—vanishes away!
We must live while live we can; We should love while love we may. Dread in women, doubt in man . . . So the Infinite runs away.
O, have you blessed, behind the stars, The blue sheen in the skies, When June the roses round her calls? - Then do you know the light that falls From her beloved eyes.
And have you felt the sense of peace That morning meadows give? - Then do you know the spirit of grace, The angel abiding in her face, Who makes it good to live.
She shines before me, hope and dream, So fair, so still, so wise, That, winning her, I seem to win Out of the dust and drive and din A nook of Paradise.
XXXII—To D. H.
O, Falmouth is a fine town with ships in the bay, And I wish from my heart it's there I was to-day; I wish from my heart I was far away from here, Sitting in my parlour and talking to my dear. For it's home, dearie, home—it's home I want to be. Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea. O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree They're all growing green in the old countrie.
In Baltimore a-walking a lady I did meet With her babe on her arm, as she came down the street; And I thought how I sailed, and the cradle standing ready For the pretty little babe that has never seen its daddie. And it's home, dearie, home . . .
O, if it be a lass, she shall wear a golden ring; And if it be a lad, he shall fight for his king: With his dirk and his hat and his little jacket blue He shall walk the quarter-deck as his daddie used to do. And it's home, dearie, home . . .
O, there's a wind a-blowing, a-blowing from the west, And that of all the winds is the one I like the best, For it blows at our backs, and it shakes our pennon free, And it soon will blow us home to the old countrie. For it's home, dearie, home—it's home I want to be. Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea. O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree They're all growing green in the old countrie.
NOTE: The burthen and the third stanza are old.
The ways are green with the gladdening sheen Of the young year's fairest daughter. O, the shadows that fleet o'er the springing wheat! O, the magic of running water! The spirit of spring is in every thing, The banners of spring are streaming, We march to a tune from the fifes of June, And life's a dream worth dreaming.
It's all very well to sit and spell At the lesson there's no gainsaying; But what the deuce are wont and use When the whole mad world's a-maying? When the meadow glows, and the orchard snows, And the air's with love-motes teeming, When fancies break, and the senses wake, O, life's a dream worth dreaming!
What Nature has writ with her lusty wit Is worded so wisely and kindly That whoever has dipped in her manuscript Must up and follow her blindly. Now the summer prime is her blithest rhyme In the being and the seeming, And they that have heard the overword Know life's a dream worth dreaming.
XXXIV—To K. de M.
Love blows as the wind blows, Love blows into the heart. - Nile Boat-Song
Life in her creaking shoes Goes, and more formal grows, A round of calls and cues: Love blows as the wind blows. Blows! . . . in the quiet close As in the roaring mart, By ways no mortal knows Love blows into the heart.
The stars some cadence use, Forthright the river flows, In order fall the dews, Love blows as the wind blows: Blows! . . . and what reckoning shows The courses of his chart? A spirit that comes and goes, Love blows into the heart.
XXXV—I. M.—MARGARITAE SORORI (1886)
A late lark twitters from the quiet skies; And from the west, Where the sun, his day's work ended, Lingers as in content, There falls on the old, grey city An influence luminous and serene, A shining peace.
The smoke ascends In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires Shine, and are changed. In the valley Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun, Closing his benediction, Sinks, and the darkening air Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night - Night with her train of stars And her great gift of sleep.
So be my passing! My task accomplished and the long day done, My wages taken, and in my heart Some late lark singing, Let me be gathered to the quiet west, The sundown splendid and serene, Death.
I gave my heart to a woman - I gave it her, branch and root. She bruised, she wrung, she tortured, She cast it under foot.
Under her feet she cast it, She trampled it where it fell, She broke it all to pieces, And each was a clot of hell.
There in the rain and the sunshine They lay and smouldered long; And each, when again she viewed them, Had turned to a living song.
XXXVII—To W. A.
Or ever the knightly years were gone With the old world to the grave, I was a King in Babylon And you were a Christian Slave.
I saw, I took, I cast you by, I bent and broke your pride. You loved me well, or I heard them lie, But your longing was denied. Surely I knew that by and by You cursed your gods and died.
And a myriad suns have set and shone Since then upon the grave Decreed by the King in Babylon To her that had been his Slave.
The pride I trampled is now my scathe, For it tramples me again. The old resentment lasts like death, For you love, yet you refrain. I break my heart on your hard unfaith, And I break my heart in vain.
Yet not for an hour do I wish undone The deed beyond the grave, When I was a King in Babylon And you were a Virgin Slave.
On the way to Kew, By the river old and gray, Where in the Long Ago We laughed and loitered so, I met a ghost to-day, A ghost that told of you - A ghost of low replies And sweet, inscrutable eyes Coming up from Richmond As you used to do.
By the river old and gray, The enchanted Long Ago Murmured and smiled anew. On the way to Kew, March had the laugh of May, The bare boughs looked aglow, And old, immortal words Sang in my breast like birds, Coming up from Richmond As I used with you.
With the life of Long Ago Lived my thought of you. By the river old and gray Flowing his appointed way As I watched I knew What is so good to know - Not in vain, not in vain, Shall I look for you again Coming up from Richmond On the way to Kew.
The Past was goodly once, and yet, when all is said, The best of it we know is that it's done and dead.
Dwindled and faded quite, perished beyond recall, Nothing is left at last of what one time was all.
Coming back like a ghost, staring and lingering on, Never a word it speaks but proves it dead and gone.
Duty and work and joy—these things it cannot give; And the Present is life, and life is good to live.
Let it lie where it fell, far from the living sun, The Past that, goodly once, is gone and dead and done.
The spring, my dear, Is no longer spring. Does the blackbird sing What he sang last year? Are the skies the old Immemorial blue? Or am I, or are you, Grown cold?
Though life be change, It is hard to bear When the old sweet air Sounds forced and strange. To be out of tune, Plain You and I . . . It were better to die, And soon!
XLVI—To R. A. M. S.
The Spirit of Wine Sang in my glass, and I listened With love to his odorous music, His flushed and magnificent song.
- 'I am health, I am heart, I am life! For I give for the asking The fire of my father, the Sun, And the strength of my mother, the Earth. Inspiration in essence, I am wisdom and wit to the wise, His visible muse to the poet, The soul of desire to the lover, The genius of laughter to all.
'Come, lean on me, ye that are weary! Rise, ye faint-hearted and doubting! Haste, ye that lag by the way! I am Pride, the consoler; Valour and Hope are my henchmen; I am the Angel of Rest.
'I am life, I am wealth, I am fame: For I captain an army Of shining and generous dreams; And mine, too, all mine, are the keys Of that secret spiritual shrine, Where, his work-a-day soul put by, Shut in with his saint of saints - With his radiant and conquering self - Man worships, and talks, and is glad.
'Come, sit with me, ye that are lovely, Ye that are paid with disdain, Ye that are chained and would soar! I am beauty and love; I am friendship, the comforter; I am that which forgives and forgets.' -
The Spirit of Wine Sang in my heart, and I triumphed In the savour and scent of his music, His magnetic and mastering song.
A wink from Hesper, falling Fast in the wintry sky, Comes through the even blue, Dear, like a word from you . . . Is it good-bye?
Across the miles between us I send you sigh for sigh. Good-night, sweet friend, good-night: Till life and all take flight, Never good-bye.
Friends . . . old friends . . . One sees how it ends. A woman looks Or a man tells lies, And the pleasant brooks And the quiet skies, Ruined with brawling And caterwauling, Enchant no more As they did before. And so it ends With friends.
Friends . . . old friends . . . And what if it ends? Shall we dare to shirk What we live to learn? It has done its work, It has served its turn; And, forgive and forget Or hanker and fret, We can be no more As we were before. When it ends, it ends With friends.
Friends . . . old friends . . . So it breaks, so it ends. There let it rest! It has fought and won, And is still the best That either has done. Each as he stands The work of its hands, Which shall be more As he was before? . . . What is it ends With friends?
If it should come to be, This proof of you and me, This type and sign Of hours that smiled and shone, And yet seemed dead and gone As old-world wine:
Of Them Within the Gate Ask we no richer fate, No boon above, For girl child or for boy, My gift of life and joy, Your gift of love.
XLV—To W. B.
From the brake the Nightingale Sings exulting to the Rose; Though he sees her waxing pale In her passionate repose, While she triumphs waxing frail, Fading even while she glows; Though he knows How it goes - Knows of last year's Nightingale Dead with last year's Rose.
Wise the enamoured Nightingale, Wise the well-beloved Rose! Love and life shall still prevail, Nor the silence at the close Break the magic of the tale In the telling, though it shows - Who but knows How it goes! - Life a last year's Nightingale, Love a last year's Rose.