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Silverpoints
by John Gray
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Transcriber's note: In the original text all the verse titles and dedications are in regular type, while all the stanzas are italicized. I have not indicated these different styles in this online text.

SILVERPOINTS

BY

JOHN GRAY

LONDON M.DCCC.XC.III ELKIN MATHEWS AND JOHN LANE. AT THE SIGN OF THE BODLEY HEAD IN VIGO STREET

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

. . . EN COMPOSANT DES ACROSTICHES INDOLENTS P.V.



LES DEMOISELLES DE SAUVE

TO S. A. S. ALICE, PRINCESSE DE MONACO

Beautiful ladies through the orchard pass; Bend under crutched-up branches, forked and low; Trailing their samet palls o'er dew-drenched grass.

Pale blossoms, looking on proud Jacqueline, Blush to the colour of her finger tips, And rosy knuckles, laced with yellow lace.

High-crested Berthe discerns, with slant, clinched eyes, Amid the leaves pink faces of the skies; She locks her plaintive hands Sainte-Margot-wise.

Ysabeau follows last, with languorous pace; Presses, voluptuous, to her bursting lips. With backward stoop, a bunch of eglantine.

Courtly ladies through the orchard pass; Bow low, as in lords' halls; and springtime grass Tangles a snare to catch the tapering toe.



HEART'S DEMESNE

TO PAUL VERLAINE

Listen, bright lady, thy deep Pansie eyes Made never answer when my eyes did pray, Than with those quaintest looks of blank surprise.

But my love longing has devised a way To mock thy living image, from thy hair To thy rose toes and keep thee by alway.

My garden's face is oh! so maidly fair, With limbs all tapering and with hues all fresh; Thine are the beauties all that flourish there.

Amaranth, fadeless, tells me of thy flesh. Briar rose knows thy cheek, the Pink thy pout. Bunched kisses dangle from the Woodbine mesh.

I love to loll, when Daisy stars peep out, And hear the music of my garden dell, Hollyhock's laughter and the Sunflowers shout.

And many whisper things I dare not tell.



SONG OF THE SEEDLING

TO ARTHUR SEWELL BUTT

Tell, little seedling, murmuring germ, Why are you joyful? What do you sing? Have you no fear of that crawling thing, Him that has so many legs? and the worm?

Rain drops patter above my head— Drip, drip, drip. To moisten the mould where my roots are fed— Sip, sip, sip. No thought have I of the legged thing. Of the worm no fear, When the goal is so near; Every moment my life has run, The livelong day I've not ceased to sing: I must reach the sun, the sun.



LADY EVELYN

I know no Name too sweet to tell of her, For Love's sweet Sake and Domination. She hath me all; her Spell hath Power to stir My Heart to every Lust, and spur me on. Love saith: 'tis even thus; her Will no Thrall, But Touchstone of thy Worth in Love's Armure; They only conquer in Love's Lists that fall, And Wounds renewed for Wounds are captain Cure. He doubly is inslaved that gilts his Chain, Saith Reason, chaffering for his Empire gone, Bestir, and root the Canker that hath ta'en Thy Breast for Bed, and feeds thy Heart upon.

I this: Sweet Love, an sweet an sour thou be, I know no Name too sweet to tell of thee.



COMPLAINT

TO FELIX FENEON

Men, women, call thee so or so; I do not know. Thou hast no name For me, but in my heart aflame

Burns tireless, neath a silver vine. And round entwine Its purple girth All things of fragrance and of worth.

Thou shout! thou burst of light! thou throb Of pain! thou sob! Thou like a bar Of some sonata, heard from far

Through blue-hue'd veils! When in these wise, To my soul's eyes, Thy shape appears, My aching hands are full of tears.



A HALTING SONNET

TO MISS ELLEN TERRY ON HER BIRTHDAY

It is not meet for one like me to praise A lady, princess, goddess, artist such; For great ones crane their foreheads to her touch, To change their splendours into crowns of bays. But poets never rhyme as they are bid; Nor never see their ft goal; but aspire, With straining eyes, to some far silvern spire; Flowers among, sing to the gods cloud-hid. One of these, onetime, opened velvet eyes Upon the world—the years recall the day; Those lights still shine, conscious of power alway, But flattering men with feigned looks of surprise.

The couplet is so great that, where thou art, —Thou being a poem—it is past my art.



WINGS IN THE DARK

TO ROBERT HARBOROUGH SHERARD

Forth into the warm darkness faring wide— More silent momently the silent quay— Towards where the ranks of boats rock to the tide, Muffling their plaintive gurgling jealously.

With gentle nodding of her gracious snout, One greets her master till he step aboard; She flaps her wings, impatient to get out; She runs to plunder, straining every cord,

Full-winged and stealthy like a bird of prey, All tense the muscles of her seemly flanks; She, the coy creature that the idle day Sees idly riding in the idle ranks.

Backward and forth, over the chosen ground, Like a young horse, she drags the heavy trawl, Tireless; or speeds her rapturous course unbound, And passing fishers through the darkness call

Deep greeting, in the jargon of the sea. Haul upon haul, flounders and soles and dabs, And phosphorescent animalcule, Sand, seadrift, weeds, thousands of worthless crabs.

Low on the mud the darkling fishes grope. Cautious to stir, staring with jewel eyes; Dogs of the sea, the savage congers mope, Winding their sulky march Meander-wise.

Suddenly all is light and life and flight, Upon the sandy bottom, agate strewn. The fishers mumble, waiting till the night Urge on the clouds, and cover up the moon.



THE BARBER

I

I dreamed I was a barber; and there went Beneath my hand, oh! manes extravagant. Beneath my trembling fingers, many a mask Of many a pleasant girl. It was my task To gild their hair, carefully, strand by strand; To paint their eyebrows with a timid hand; To draw a bodkin, from a vase of kohl, Through the closed lashes; pencils from a bowl Of sepia to paint them underneath; To blow upon their eyes with a soft breath. They lay them back and watched the leaping bands.

II

The dream grew vague. I moulded with my hands The mobile breasts, the valley; and the waist I touched; and pigments reverently placed Upon their thighs in sapient spots and stains, Beryls and crysolites and diaphanes, And gems whose hot harsh names are never said. I was a masseur; and my fingers bled With wonder as I touched their awful limbs.

III

Suddenly, in the marble trough, there seems O, last of my pale, mistresses, Sweetness! A twylipped scarlet pansie. My caress Tinges thy steelgray eyes to violet. Adown thy body skips the pit-a-pat Of treatment once heard in a hospital For plagues that fascinate, but half appal.

IV

So, at the sound, the blood of me stood cold. Thy chaste hair ripened into sullen gold. The throat, the shoulders, swelled and were uncouth. The breasts rose up and offered each a mouth. And on the belly pallid blushes crept, That maddened me, until I laughed and wept.



MISHKA

TO HENRI TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS

Mishka is poet among the beasts. When roots are rotten, and rivers weep. The bear is at play in the land of sleep. Though his head be heavy between his fists. The bear is poet among the beasts.

THE DREAM:

Wide and large are the monster's eyes, Nought saying, save one word alone: Mishka! Mishka, as turned to stone, Hears no word else, nor in anywise Can see aught save the monster's eyes.

Honey is under the monster's lips; And Mishka follows into her lair, dragged in the net of her yellow hair, Knowing all things when honey drips On his tongue like rain, the song of the hips

Of the honey-child, and of each twin mound. Mishka! there screamed a far bird-note, Deep in the sky, when round his throat The triple coil of her hair she wound. And stroked his limbs with a humming sound.

Mishka is white like a hunter's son Tor he knows no more of the ancient south When the honey-child's lips are on his mouth, When all her kisses are joined in one, And his body is bathed in grass and sun.

The shadows lie mauven beneath the trees, And purple stains, where the finches pass, Leap in the stalks of the deep, rank grass. Flutter of-wing, and the buzz of bees, Deepen the silence, and sweeten ease.

The honey-child is an olive tree, The voice of birds and the voice of flowers, Each of them all and all the hours, The honey-child is a winged bee, Her touch is a perfume, a melody.



SUMMER PAST

TO OSCAR WILDE

There was the summer. There Warm hours of leaf-lipped song, And dripping amber sweat. O sweet to see The great trees condescend to cast a pearl Down to the myrtles; and the proud leaves curl In ecstasy.

Fruit of a quest, despair. Smart of a sullen wrong. Where may they hide them yet? One hour, yet one, To find the mossgod lurking in his nest, To see the naiads' floating hair, caressed By fragrant sun.

Beams. Softly lulled the eves The song-tired birds to sleep, That other things might tell Their secrecies. The beetle humming neath the fallen leaves. Deep in what hollow do the stern gods keep Their bitter silence? By what listening well Where holy trees,

Song-set, unfurl eternally the sheen Of restless green?



THE VINES

TO ANDRE CHEVRILLON

"Have you seen the listening snake?" bramble clutches for his bride, Lately she was by his side, Woodbine, with her gummy hands.

In the ground the mottled snake Listens for the dawn of day; Listens, listening death away, Till the day burst winter's bands.

Painted ivy is asleep, Stretched upon the bank, all torn, Sinewy though she be; love-lorn Convolvuluses cease to creep.

Bramble clutches for his bride, Woodbine, with her gummy hands, All his horny claws expands; She has withered in his grasp.

"Till the day dawn, till the tide Of the winter's afternoon." "Who tells dawning?"—"Listen, soon." Half born tendrils, grasping, gasp.



Je pleure dans les coins; je n'ai plus gout a rien; Oh! j'ai tant pleure, Dimanche, en mon paroissien!

JULES LAFORGUE

Did we not, Darling, you and I, Walk on the earth like other men? Did we not walk and wonder why They spat upon us so. And then

We lay us down among fresh earthy Sweet flowers breaking overhead, Sore needed rest for our frail girth, For our frail hearts; a well-sought bed.

So Spring came, and spread daffodils; Summer, and fluffy bees sang on; The fluffy bee knows us, and fills His house with sweet to think upon.

Deep in the dear dust, Dear, we dream, Our melancholy is a thing At last our own; and none esteem How our black lips are blackening.

And none note how our poor eyes fall, Nor how our cheeks are sunk and sere . . . Dear, when you waken, will you call? . . . Alas! we are not very near.



Ainsi, elle viendrait a moi! les yeux bien fous! Et elle me suivrait avec cet air partout!

TO E. M. G.

Lean back, and press the pillow deep, Heart's dear demesne, dear Daintiness; Close your tired eyes, but not to sleep . . . How very pale your pallor is!

You smile, your cheek's voluptuous line Melts in your dimpled saucy cave. Your hairbraids seem a wilful vine, Scorning to imitate a wave.

Your voice is tenebrous, as if An angel mocked a blackbird's pipe. You are my magic orchard feoff, Where bud and fruit are always ripe.

O apple garden! all the days Are fain to crown the darling year, Ephemeral bells and garland bays, Shy blade and lusty, bursting ear.

In every kiss I call you mine, Tell me, my dear, how pure, how brave Our child will be! what velvet eyne, What bonny hair our child will have!



CROCUSES IN GRASS

TO CHARLES HAZELWOOD SHANNON

Purple and white the crocus flowers, And yellow, spread upon The sober lawn; the hours Are not more idle in the sun.

Perhaps one droops a prettier head, And one would say: Sweet Queen, Your lips are white and red, And round you lies the grass most green.

And she, perhaps, for whom is fain The other, will not heed; Or, that he may complain, Babbles, for dalliaunce, with a weed.

And he dissimulates despair, And anger, and suprise; The while white daisies stare —And stir not—with their yellow eyes.



POEM

TO ARTHUR EDMONDS

Geranium, houseleek, laid in oblong beds On the trim grass. The daisies' leprous stain Is fresh. Each night the daisies burst again, Though every day the gardener crops their heads.

A wistful child, in foul unwholesome shreds, Recalls some legend of a daisy chain That makes a pretty necklace. She would fain Make one, and wear it, if she had some threads.

Sun, leprous flowers, foul child. The asphalt burns. The garrulous sparrows perch on metal Burns. Sing! Sing! they say, and flutter with their wings. He does not sing, he only wonders why He is sitting there. The sparrows sing. And I Yield to the strait allure of simple things.



ON A PICTURE

TO PIERRE LOUYS

Not pale, as one in sleep or holier death, Nor illcontent the lady seems, nor loth To lie in shadow of shrill river growth, So steadfast are the river's arms beneath.

Pale petals follow her in very faith, Unmixed with pleasure or regret, and both Her maidly hands look up, in noble sloth To take the blossoms of her scattered wreath.

No weakest ripple lives to kiss her throat. Nor dies in meshes of untangled hair; No movement stirs the floor of river moss.

Until some furtive glimmer gleam across Voluptuous mouth, where even teeth are bare, And gild the broidery of her petticoat. . . .



PARSIFAL IMITATED FROM THE FRENCH OF PAUL VERLAINE

Conquered the flower-maidens, and the wide embrace Of their round proffered arms, that tempt the virgin boy; Conquered the trickling of their babbling tongues; the coy Back glances, and the mobile breasts of subtle grace;

Conquered the Woman Beautiful, the fatal charm Of her hot breast, the music of her babbling tongue; Conquered the gate of Hell, into the gate the young Man passes, with the heavy trophy at his arm,

The holy Javelin that pierced the Heart of God. He heals the dying king, he sits upon the throne, King, and high priest of that great gift, the living Blood.

In robe of gold the youth adores the glorious Sign Of the green goblet, worships the mysterious Wine. And oh! the chime of children's voices in the dome.



A CRUCIFIX

TO ERNEST DOWSON

A gothic church. At one end of an aisle, Against a wall where mystic sunbeams smile Through painted windows, orange, blue, and gold, The Christ's unutterable charm behold. Upon the cross, adorned with gold and green, Long fluted golden tongues of sombre sheen, Like four flames joined in one, around the head And by the outstretched arms, their glory spread. The statue is of wood; of natural size Tinted; one almost sees before one's eyes The last convulsion of the lingering breath. "Behold the man!" Robust and frail. Beneath That breast indeed might throb the Sacred Heart. And from the lips, so holily dispart, The dying murmur breathes "Forgive! Forgive!" O wide-stretched arms! "I perish, let them live." Under the torture of the thorny crown, The loving pallor of the brow looks down On human blindness, on the toiler's woes; The while, to overturn Despair's repose, And urge to Hope and Love, as Faith demands, Bleed, bleed the feet, the broken side, the hands. A poet, painter, Christian,—it was a friend Of mine—his attributes most fitly blend— Who saw this marvel, made an exquisite Copy; and, knowing how I worshipped it, Forgot it, in my room, by accident. I write these verses in acknowledgment.



LE CHEVALIER MALHEUR

Grim visor'd cavalier! Rides silently MISCHANCE. Stabbed is my dying heart of his unpitying lance. My poor hearts blood leaps forth, a single crimson jet. The hot sun licks it up where petals pale are wet. Deep shadow seals my sight, one shriek my lips has fed. With a wrung, sullen shudder my poor heart is dead. The cavalier dismounts; and, kneeling on the ground, His finger iron-mailed he thrusts into the wound. Suddenly, at the freezing touch, the iron smart, At once within me bursts a new, a noble heart. Suddenly, as the steel into the wound is pressed, A heart all beautiful and young throbs in my breast. Trembling, incredulous I sat; but ill at ease, As one who, in a holy trance, strange visions sees. While the good cavalier, remounted on his horse, Left me a parting nod as he retook his course, And shouted to me (still I hear his cries): "Once only can the miracle avail.—Be wise!"



SPLEEN

The roses every one were red, And all the ivy leaves were black.

Sweet, do not even stir your head, Or all of my despairs come back.

The sky is too blue, too delicate: Too soft the air, too green the sea.

I fear—-how long had I to wait!— That you will tear yourself from me.

The shining box-leaves weary me, The varnished holly's glistening,

The stretch of infinite country; So, saving you, does everything.



CLAIR DE LUNE

How like a well-kept garden is your soul, With bergomask and solemn minuet! Playing upon the lute! The dancers seem But sad, beneath their strange habiliments. While, in the minor key, their songs extol The victor Love, and life's sweet blandishments, Their looks belie the burden of their lays, The songs that mingle with the still moon-beams. So strange, so beautiful, the pallid rays; Making the birds among the branches dream, And sob with ecstasy the slender jets,

The fountains tall that leap upon the lawns Amid the garden gods, the marble fauns.



MON DIEU M'A DIT: . . .

God has spoken: Love me, son, thou must; Oh see My broken side; my heart, its rays refulgent shine; My feet, insulted, stabbed, that Mary bathes with brine Of bitter tears my sad arms, helpless, son, for thee;

With thy sins heavy; and my hands; thou seest the rod; Thou seest the nails, the sponge, the gall; and all my pain Must teach thee love, amidst a world where flesh doth reign, My flesh alone, my blood, my voice, the voice of God,

Say, have I not loved thee, loved thee to death, O brother in my Father, in the Spirit son? Say, as the word is written, is my work not done? Thy deepest woe have I not sobbed with struggling breath? Has not thy sweat of anguished nights from all my pores in pain Of blood dripped, piteous friend, who seekest me in vain?



GREEN

Leaves and branches, flowers and fruits are here; And here my heart, which throbs alone for thee. Ah! do not wound my heart with those two dear White hands, but take the poor gift tenderly.

I come, all covered with the dews of night The morning breeze has pearled upon my face. Let my fatigue, at thy feet, in thy sight, Dream through the moments of its sweet solace.

With thy late kisses ringing, let my head Roll in blest indolence on thy young breast; To lull the tempest thy caresses bred, And soothe my senses with a little rest.



FLEURS. IMITATED FROM THE FRENCH OF STEPHANE MALLARME

The tawny iris—oh! the slim-necked swan; And, sign of exiled souls, the bay divine; Ruddy as seraph's heel its fleckless sheen, Blushing the brightness of a trampled dawn.

The hyacinth; the myrtle's sweet alarm; Like to a woman's flesh, the cruel rose, Blossom'd Herodiade of the garden close, Fed with ferocious dew of blooddrops warm.

Thou mad'st the lilies' pallor, nigh to swoon. Which, rolling billows of deep sighs upon, Through the blue incense of horizons wan, Creeps dreamily towards the weeping moon.

Praise in the censers, praise upon the gong, Madone! from the garden of our woes: On eves celestial throb the echo long! Ecstatic visions! radiance of haloes!

Mother creatrice! in thy strong, just womb, Challices nodding the not distant strife; Great honey'd blossoms, a balsamic tomb For weary poets blanched with starless life.



CHARLEVILLE. IMITATED FROM THE FRENCH OF ARTHUR RIMBAUD

TO FRANK HARRIS

The square, with gravel paths and shabby lawns. Correct, the trees and flowers repress their yawns. The tradesman brings his favourite conceit, To air it, while he stifles with the heat.

In the kiosk, the military band. The shakos nod the time of the quadrilles. The flaunting dandy strolls about the stand. The notary, half unconscious of his seals.

On the green seats, small groups of grocermen, Absorbed, their sticks scooping a little hole Upon the path, talk market prices; then Take up a cue: I think, upon the whole. . . .

The loutish roughs are larking on the grass. The sentimental trooper, with a rose Between his teeth, seeing a baby, grows More tender, with an eye upon the nurse.

Unbuttoned, like a student, I follow A couple of girls along the chesnut row. They know I am following, for they turn and laugh, Half impudent, half shy, inviting chaff.

I do not say a word. I only stare At their round, fluffy necks. I follow where The shoulders drop; I struggle to define The subtle torso's hesitating line.

Only my rustling tread, deliberate, slow; The rippled silence from the still leaves drips. They think I am an idiot, they speak low; — I feel faint kisses creeping on my lips.



SENSATION

I walk the alleys trampled through the wheat, Through whole blue summer eves, on velvet grass. Dreaming, I feel the dampness at my feet; The breezes bathe my naked head and pass.

I do not think a single thought, nor say A word; but in my soul the mists upcurl Of infinite love. I will go far away With nature, happily, as with a girl.



A UNE MADONE. IMITATED FROM THE FRENCH OF CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

Madone! my lady, I will build for thee A grotto altar of my misery. Deep will I scoop, where darkest lies my heart, Far from the world's cupidity apart,

A niche, with mercy stained, and streaked with gold, Where none thy statue's wonder may behold.

Then, for thy head, I will fashion a tiar, A filigree of verse, with many a star

Of crystal rhyme its heavy folds upon. And jealousy, O mortal! my Madone,

Shall cut for thee a gown, of dreadful guise, Which like a portcullis, shall veil thy thighs;

Rude, heavy curtain, faced with bitter fears, Broidered, in place of pearls, with all my tears.

And, of my worship, shoes will I design; Two satin shoes, to case thy feet divine,

Which, while their precious freight they softly hold, Shall guard the imprint in a faithful mould.

If I should fail to forge a silver moon, I with my art, for thee to tread upon,

Then will I place the writhing beast that hangs Upon my heart, and tears it with his fangs,

Where thou may'st crush his head, and smile supreme, O majesty! all potent to redeem.

And all my thoughts, like candles, shalt thou see before thine altar spread, Star of the Sea!

Starring thine azure roof with points of fire. With nought hut thee to cherish and admire,

So shall my soul in plaintive fumes arise Of incense ever to thy pitying eyes.

Last, that indeed a Mary thou may'st be, And that my love be mixed with cruelty—

O foul voluptuousness! when I have made Of every deadly sin a deadlier blade,

Torturer filled with pain will I draw near The target of thy breast, and, sick with fear,

Deliberately plant them all where throbs Thy bleeding heart, and stifling with its sobs.



FEMMES DAMNEES

Like moody beasts they lie along the sands;, Look where the sky against the sea-rim clings: Foot stretches out to foot, and groping hands Have languors soft and bitter shudderings.

Some, smitten hearts with the long secrecies, On velvet moss, deep in their bowers' ease, Prattling the love of timid infancies, Are tearing the green bark from the young trees.

Others, like sisters, slowly walk and grave; By rocks that swarm with ghostly legions, Where Anthony saw surging on the waves The purple breasts of his temptations,

Some, by the light of crumbling, resinous gums, In the still hollows of old pagan dens, Call thee in aid to their deliriums O Bacchus! cajoler of ancient pains.

And those whose breasts for scapulars are fain Nurse under their long robes the cruel thong. These, in dim woods, where huddling shadows throng. Mix with the foam of pleasure tears of pain.



LE VOYAGE A CYTHERE

Bird-like, my heart was glad to soar and vault; Fluttering among the cordages; and on The vessel flew, under an empty vault: An angel drunken of a radiant sun.

Tell me, what is that gray, that sombre isle? 'Tis Cythera, famed on many a poet string; A name that has not lacked the slavering smile; But now, you see, it is not much to sing.

Isle of soft whispers, tremours of the heart! The splendid phantom of thy rude goddess Floats on thy seas like breath of spikenard, Charging men's souls with love and lusciousness.

Sweet isle of myrtles, once of open blooms: Now only of lean lands most lean: it seems A flinty desert bitter with shrill screams: But one strange object on its horror looms.

Not a fair temple, foiled with coppiced trees, Where the young priestess, mistress of the flowers, Goes opening her gown to the cool breeze, To still the fire, the torment that devours.

But as along the shore we skirted, near Enough to scare the birds with our white sails, We saw a three-limbed gibbet rising sheer. Detached against the sky in spare details.

Perched on their pasturage, ferocious fowl Riddled with rage a more than putrid roast; Each of them stabbing, like a tool, his foul Beak in the oozing members of his host.

Below, a troop of jealous quadrupeds, Looking aloft with eye and steadfast snout; A larger beast above the others' heads, A hangman with his porters round about.

The eyes, two caves; and from the rotten paunch, Its freight, too heavy, streamed along the haunch, Hang for these harpies' hideous delight, Poor rag of flesh, torn of thy sex and sight!

Cythera's child, child of so sweet a sky! Silent thou bearest insult—as we must— In expiation of what faults deny Thee even a shallow shelter in the dust.

Ludicrous sufferer! thy woes are mine. There came, at seeing of thy dangling limbs, Up to my lips, like vomiting, the streams Of ancient miseries, of gall and brine.

Before thee, brother in my memory fresh! I felt the mangling of the appetites Of the black panthers, of the savage kites, That were so fain to rend and pick my flesh.

The sea was sleeping. Blue and beautiful The sky. Henceforth I saw but murk and blood, Alas! and as it had been in a shroud, My heart lay buried in that parable,

All thine isle showed me, Venus! was upthrust, A symbol calvary where my image hung. Give me, Lord God, to look upon that dung, My body and my heart, without disgust.

THE END

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