SOME IMAGIST POETS
SOME IMAGIST POETS
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1915
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published April 1915
In March, 1914, a volume appeared entitled "Des Imagistes." It was a collection of the work of various young poets, presented together as a school. This school has been widely discussed by those interested in new movements in the arts, and has already become a household word. Differences of taste and judgment, however, have arisen among the contributors to that book; growing tendencies are forcing them along different paths. Those of us whose work appears in this volume have therefore decided to publish our collection under a new title, and we have been joined by two or three poets who did not contribute to the first volume, our wider scope making this possible.
In this new book we have followed a slightly different arrangement to that of the former Anthology. Instead of an arbitrary selection by an editor, each poet has been permitted to represent himself by the work he considers his best, the only stipulation being that it should not yet have appeared in book form. A sort of informal committee—consisting of more than half the authors here represented—have arranged the book and decided what should be printed and what omitted, but, as a general rule, the poets have been allowed absolute freedom in this direction, limitations of space only being imposed upon them. Also, to avoid any appearance of precedence, they have been put in alphabetical order.
As it has been suggested that much of the misunderstanding of the former volume was due to the fact that we did not explain ourselves in a preface, we have thought it wise to tell the public what our aims are, and why we are banded together between one set of covers.
The poets in this volume do not represent a clique. Several of them are personally unknown to the others, but they are united by certain common principles, arrived at independently. These principles are not new; they have fallen into desuetude. They are the essentials of all great poetry, indeed of all great literature, and they are simply these:—
1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
2. To create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not insist upon "free-verse" as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it as for a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.
3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to write badly about aeroplanes and automobiles; nor is it necessarily bad art to write well about the past. We believe passionately in the artistic value of modern life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 1911.
4. To present an image (hence the name: "Imagist"). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.
The subject of free-verse is too complicated to be discussed here. We may say briefly, that we attach the term to all that increasing amount of writing whose cadence is more marked, more definite, and closer knit than that of prose, but which is not so violently nor so obviously accented as the so-called "regular verse." We refer those interested in the question to the Greek Melic poets, and to the many excellent French studies on the subject by such distinguished and well-equipped authors as Remy de Gourmont, Gustave Kahn, Georges Duhamel, Charles Vildrac, Henri Gheon, Robert de Souza, Andre Spire, etc.
We wish it to be clearly understood that we do not represent an exclusive artistic sect; we publish our work together because of mutual artistic sympathy, and we propose to bring out our cooeperative volume each year for a short term of years, until we have made a place for ourselves and our principles such as we desire.
RICHARD ALDINGTON Childhood 3 The Poplar 10 Round-Pond 12 Daisy 13 Epigrams 15 The Faun sees Snow for the First Time 16 Lemures 17
H. D. The Pool 21 The Garden 22 Sea Lily 24 Sea Iris 25 Sea Rose 27 Oread 28 Orion Dead 29
JOHN GOULD FLETCHER The Blue Symphony 33 London Excursion 39
F. S. FLINT Trees 53 Lunch 55 Malady 56 Accident 58 Fragment 60 Houses 62 Eau-Forte 63
D. H. LAWRENCE Ballad of Another Ophelia 67 Illicit 69 Fireflies in the Corn 70 A Woman and Her Dead Husband 72 The Mowers 75 Scent of Irises 76 Green 78
AMY LOWELL Venus Transiens 81 The Travelling Bear 83 The Letter 85 Grotesque 86 Bullion 87 Solitaire 88 The Bombardment 89
Thanks are due to the editors of Poetry, The Smart Set, Poetry and Drama, and The Egoist for their courteous permission to reprint certain of these poems which have been copyrighted to them.
The bitterness, the misery, the wretchedness of childhood Put me out of love with God. I can't believe in God's goodness; I can believe In many avenging gods. Most of all I believe In gods of bitter dullness, Cruel local gods Who seared my childhood.
I've seen people put A chrysalis in a match-box, "To see," they told me, "what sort of moth would come." But when it broke its shell It slipped and stumbled and fell about its prison And tried to climb to the light For space to dry its wings.
That's how I was. Somebody found my chrysalis And shut it in a match-box. My shrivelled wings were beaten, Shed their colours in dusty scales Before the box was opened For the moth to fly.
And then it was too late, Because the beauty a child has, And the beautiful things it learns before its birth, Were shed, like moth-scales, from me.
I hate that town; I hate the town I lived in when I was little; I hate to think of it. There were always clouds, smoke, rain In that dingy little valley. It rained; it always rained. I think I never saw the sun until I was nine— And then it was too late; Everything's too late after the first seven years.
That long street we lived in Was duller than a drain And nearly as dingy. There were the big College And the pseudo-Gothic town-hall. There were the sordid provincial shops— The grocer's, and the shops for women, The shop where I bought transfers, And the piano and gramaphone shop Where I used to stand Staring at the huge shiny pianos and at the pictures Of a white dog looking into a gramaphone.
How dull and greasy and grey and sordid it was! On wet days—it was always wet— I used to kneel on a chair And look at it from the window.
The dirty yellow trams Dragged noisily along With a clatter of wheels and bells And a humming of wires overhead. They threw up the filthy rain-water from the hollow lines And then the water ran back Full of brownish foam bubbles.
There was nothing else to see— It was all so dull— Except a few grey legs under shiny black umbrellas Running along the grey shiny pavements; Sometimes there was a waggon Whose horses made a strange loud hollow sound With their hoofs Through the silent rain.
And there was a grey museum Full of dead birds and dead insects and dead animals And a few relics of the Romans—dead also. There was the sea-front, A long asphalt walk with a bleak road beside it, Three piers, a row of houses, And a salt dirty smell from the little harbour.
I was like a moth—- Like one of those grey Emperor moths Which flutter through the vines at Capri. And that damned little town was my match-box, Against whose sides I beat and beat Until my wings were torn and faded, and dingy As that damned little town.
At school it was just dull as that dull High Street. They taught me pothooks— I wanted to be alone, although I was so little, Alone, away from the rain, the dingyness, the dullness, Away somewhere else—
The town was dull; The front was dull; The High Street and the other street were dull— And there was a public park, I remember, And that was damned dull too, With its beds of geraniums no one was allowed to pick, And its clipped lawns you weren't allowed to walk on, And the gold-fish pond you mustn't paddle in, And the gate made out of a whale's jaw-bones, And the swings, which were for "Board-School children," And its gravel paths.
And on Sundays they rang the bells, From Baptist and Evangelical and Catholic churches. They had the Salvation Army. I was taken to a High Church; The parson's name was Mowbray, "Which is a good name but he thinks too much of it—" That's what I heard people say.
I took a little black book To that cold, grey, damp, smelling church, And I had to sit on a hard bench, Wriggle off it to kneel down when they sang psalms, And wriggle off it to kneel down when they prayed— And then there was nothing to do Except to play trains with the hymn-books.
There was nothing to see, Nothing to do, Nothing to play with, Except that in an empty room upstairs There was a large tin box Containing reproductions of the Magna Charta, Of the Declaration of Independence And of a letter from Raleigh after the Armada. There were also several packets of stamps, Yellow and blue Guatemala parrots, Blue stags and red baboons and birds from Sarawak, Indians and Men-of-war From the United States, And the green and red portraits Of King Francobollo Of Italy.
I don't believe in God. I do believe in avenging gods Who plague us for sins we never sinned But who avenge us.
That's why I'll never have a child, Never shut up a chrysalis in a match-box For the moth to spoil and crush its bright colours, Beating its wings against the dingy prison-wall.
Why do you always stand there shivering Between the white stream and the road?
The people pass through the dust On bicycles, in carts, in motor-cars; The waggoners go by at dawn; The lovers walk on the grass path at night.
Stir from your roots, walk, poplar! You are more beautiful than they are.
I know that the white wind loves you, Is always kissing you and turning up The white lining of your green petticoat. The sky darts through you like blue rain, And the grey rain drips on your flanks And loves you. And I have seen the moon Slip his silver penny into your pocket As you straightened your hair; And the white mist curling and hesitating Like a bashful lover about your knees.
I know you, poplar; I have watched you since I was ten. But if you had a little real love, A little strength, You would leave your nonchalant idle lovers And go walking down the white road Behind the waggoners.
There are beautiful beeches down beyond the hill. Will you always stand there shivering?
Water ruffled and speckled by galloping wind Which puffs and spurts it into tiny pashing breakers Dashed with lemon-yellow afternoon sunlight. The shining of the sun upon the water Is like a scattering of gold crocus-petals In a long wavering irregular flight.
The water is cold to the eye As the wind to the cheek.
In the budding chestnuts Whose sticky buds glimmer and are half-burst open The starlings make their clitter-clatter; And the blackbirds in the grass Are getting as fat as the pigeons.
Too-hoo, this is brave; Even the cold wind is seeking a new mistress.
"Plus quam se atque suos amavit omnes, Nunc..."
You were my playmate by the sea. We swam together. Your girl's body had no breasts.
We found prawns among the rocks; We liked to feel the sun and to do nothing; In the evening we played games with the others.
It made me glad to be by you.
Sometimes I kissed you, And you were always glad to kiss me; But I was afraid—I was only fourteen.
And I had quite forgotten you, You and your name.
To-day I pass through the streets. She who touches my arm and talks with me Is—who knows?—Helen of Sparta, Dryope, Laodamia....
And there are you A whore in Oxford Street.
You were that clear Sicilian fluting That pains our thought even now. You were the notes Of cold fantastic grief Some few found beautiful.
She has new leaves After her dead flowers, Like the little almond-tree Which the frost hurt.
The beech-leaves are silver For lack of the tree's blood.
At your kiss my lips Become like the autumn beech-leaves.
THE FAUN SEES SNOW FOR THE FIRST TIME
Zeus, Brazen-thunder-hurler, Cloud-whirler, son-of-Kronos, Send vengeance on these Oreads Who strew White frozen flecks of mist and cloud Over the brown trees and the tufted grass Of the meadows, where the stream Runs black through shining banks Of bluish white.
Zeus, Are the halls of heaven broken up That you flake down upon me Feather-strips of marble?
Dis and Styx! When I stamp my hoof The frozen-cloud-specks jam into the cleft So that I reel upon two slippery points....
Fool, to stand here cursing When I might be running!
In Nineveh And beyond Nineveh In the dusk They were afraid.
In Thebes of Egypt In the dusk They chanted of them to the dead.
In my Lesbos and Achaia Where the God dwelt We knew them.
Now men say "They are not": But in the dusk Ere the white sun comes— A gay child that bears a white candle— I am afraid of their rustling, Of their terrible silence, The menace of their secrecy.
Are you alive? I touch you. You quiver like a sea-fish. I cover you with my net. What are you—banded one?
You are clear, O rose, cut in rock, hard as the descent of hail.
I could scrape the colour from the petal, like spilt dye from a rock.
If I could break you I could break a tree.
If I could stir I could break a tree, I could break you.
O wind, rend open the heat, cut apart the heat, rend it sideways.
Fruit can not drop through this thick air: fruit can not fall into heat that presses up and blunts the points of pears and rounds the grapes.
Cut the heat, plough through it, turning it on either side of your path.
Reed, slashed and torn, but doubly rich— such great heads as yours drift upon temple-steps, but you are shattered in the wind.
Myrtle-bark is flecked from you, scales are dashed from your stem, sand cuts your petal, furrows it with hard edge, like flint on a bright stone.
Yet though the whole wind slash at your bark, you are lifted up, aye—though it hiss to cover you with froth.
Weed, moss-weed, root tangled in sand, sea-iris, brittle flower, one petal like a shell is broken, and you print a shadow like a thin twig.
Fortunate one, scented and stinging, rigid myrrh-bud, camphor-flower, sweet and salt—you are wind in our nostrils.
Do the murex-fishers drench you as they pass? Do your roots drag up colour from the sand? Have they slipped gold under you; rivets of gold?
Band of iris-flowers above the waves, You are painted blue, painted like a fresh prow stained among the salt weeds.
Rose, harsh rose, marred and with stint of petals, meagre flower, thin, sparse of leaf.
more precious than a wet rose, single on a stem— you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf, you are flung on the sands, you are lifted in the crisp sand that drives in the wind.
Can the spice-rose drip such acrid fragrance hardened in a leaf?
Whirl up, sea— Whirl your pointed pines, Splash your great pines On our rocks, Hurl your green over us, Cover us with your pools of fir.
[Artemis speaks] The cornel-trees uplift from the furrows, the roots at their bases strike lower through the barley-sprays.
So arise and face me. I am poisoned with the rage of song.
I once pierced the flesh of the wild-deer, now am I afraid to touch the blue and the gold-veined hyacinths?
I will tear the full flowers and the little heads of the grape-hyacinths. I will strip the life from the bulb until the ivory layers lie like narcissus petals on the black earth.
Arise, lest I bend an ash-tree into a taut bow, and slay—and tear all the roots from the earth.
The cornel-wood blazes and strikes through the barley-sprays, but I have lost heart for this.
I break a staff. I break the tough branch. I know no light in the woods. I have lost pace with the winds.
JOHN GOULD FLETCHER
JOHN GOULD FLETCHER
THE BLUE SYMPHONY
The darkness rolls upward. The thick darkness carries with it Rain and a ravel of cloud. The sun comes forth upon earth.
Palely the dawn Leaves me facing timidly Old gardens sunken: And in the gardens is water.
Sombre wreck—autumnal leaves; Shadowy roofs In the blue mist, And a willow-branch that is broken.
O old pagodas of my soul, how you glittered across green trees!
Blue and cool: Blue, tremulously, Blow faint puffs of smoke Across sombre pools. The damp green smell of rotted wood; And a heron that cries from out the water.
Through the upland meadows I go alone. For I dreamed of someone last night Who is waiting for me.
Flower and blossom, tell me do you know of her?
Have the rocks hidden her voice? They are very blue and still.
Long upward road that is leading me, Light hearted I quit you, For the long loose ripples of the meadow-grass Invite me to dance upon them.
Quivering grass Daintily poised For her foot's tripping.
O blown clouds, could I only race up like you, Oh, the last slopes that are sun-drenched and steep!
Look, the sky! Across black valleys Rise blue-white aloft Jagged, unwrinkled mountains, ranges of death.
One chuckles by the brook for me: One rages under the stone. One makes a spout of his mouth, One whispers—one is gone.
One over there on the water Spreads cold ripples For me Enticingly.
The vast dark trees Flow like blue veils Of tears Into the water.
Sour sprites, Moaning and chuckling, What have you hidden from me?
"In the palace of the blue stone she lies forever Bound hand and foot."
Was it the wind That rattled the reeds together?
Dry reeds, A faint shiver in the grasses.
On the left hand there is a temple: And a palace on the right-hand side. Foot-passengers in scarlet Pass over the glittering tide.
Under the bridge The old river flows Low and monotonous Day after day.
I have heard and have seen All the news that has been: Autumn's gold and Spring's green!
Now in my palace I see foot-passengers Crossing the river: Pilgrims of Autumn In the afternoons.
Lotus pools: Petals in the water. Such are my dreams.
For me silks are outspread. I take my ease, unthinking.
And now the lowest pine-branch Is drawn across the disk of the sun. Old friends who will forget me soon I must go on, Towards those blue death-mountains I have forgot so long.
In the marsh grasses There lies forever My last treasure, With the hope of my heart.
The ice is glazing over, Torn lanterns flutter, On the leaves is snow.
In the frosty evening Toll the old bell for me Once, in the sleepy temple.
Perhaps my soul will hear.
Afterglow: Before the stars peep I shall creep out into darkness.
Great walls of green, City that is afar.
We gallop along Alert and penetrating, Roads open about us, Housetops keep at a distance.
Soft-curling tendrils, Swim backwards from our image: We are a red bulk, Projecting the angular city, in shadows, at our feet.
Black coarse-squared shapes, Hump and growl and assemble. It is the city that takes us to itself, Vast thunder riding down strange skies.
An arch under which we slide Divides our lives for us: After we have passed it We know we have left something behind We shall not see again.
Passivity, Gravity, Are changed into hesitating, clanking pistons and wheels. The trams come whooping up one by one, Yellow pulse-beats spreading through darkness.
Music-hall posters squall out: The passengers shrink together, I enter indelicately into all their souls.
It is a glossy skating rink, On which winged spirals clasp and bend each other: And suddenly slide backwards towards the centre, After a too-brief release.
A second arch is a wall To separate our souls from rotted cables Of stale greenness.
A shadow cutting off the country from us, Out of it rise red walls.
Yet I revolt: I bend, I twist myself I curl into a million convolutions: Pink shapes without angle, Anything to be soft and woolly, Anything to escape.
Sudden lurch of clamours, Two more viaducts Stretch out red yokes of steel, Crushing my rebellion.
My soul Shrieking Is jolted forwards by a long hot bar— Into direct distances. It pierces the small of my back.
Only this morning I sang of roses; Now I see with a swift stare, The city forcing up through the air Black cubes close piled and some half-crumbling over.
My roses are battered into pulp: And there swells up in me Sudden desire for something changeless, Thrusts of sunless rock Unmelted by hissing wheels.
Here is too swift a movement, The rest is too still.
It is a red sea Licking The housefronts.
They quiver gently From base to summit. Ripples of impulse run through them, Flattering resistance.
Soon they will fall; Already smoke yearns upward. Clouds of dust, Crash of collapsing cubes.
I prefer deeper patience, Monotony of stalled beasts. O angle-builders, Vainly have you prolonged your effort, For I descend amid you, Past rungs and slopes of curving slippery steel.
Sudden struggle for foothold on the pavement, Familiar ascension.
I do not heed the city any more, It has given me a duty to perform. I pass along nonchalantly, Insinuating myself into self-baffling movements. Impalpable charm of back streets In which I find myself: Cool spaces filled with shadow. Passers-by, white hammocks in the sunlight.
Bulging outcrush into old tumult; Attainment, as of a narrow harbour, Of some shop forgotten by traffic With cool-corridored walls.
Black shapes bending, Taxicabs crush in the crowd. The tops are each a shining square Shuttles that steadily press through woolly fabric.
Drooping blossom, Gas-standards over Spray out jingling tumult Of white-hot rays.
Monotonous domes of bowler-hats Vibrate in the heat.
Silently, easily we sway through braying traffic, Down the crowded street. The tumult crouches over us, Or suddenly drifts to one side.
I am blown like a leaf Hither and thither. The city about me Resolves itself into sound of many voices, Rustling and fluttering, Leaves shaken by the breeze.
A million forces ignore me, I know not why, I am drunken with it all. Suddenly I feel an immense will Stored up hitherto and unconscious till this instant. Projecting my body Across a street, in the face of all its traffic.
I dart and dash: I do not know why I go. These people watch me, I yield them my adventure.
Lazily I lounge through labyrinthine corridors, And with eyes suddenly altered, I peer into an office I do not know, And wonder at a startled face that penetrates my own.
Roses—pavement— I will take all this city away with me— People—uproar—the pavement jostling and flickering— Women with incredible eyelids: Dandies in spats: Hard-faced throng discussing me—I know them all. I will take them away with me, I insistently rob them of their essence, I must have it all before night, To sing amid my green.
I glide out unobservant In the midst of the traffic Blown like a leaf Hither and thither, Till the city resolves itself into a clamour of voices, Crying hollowly, like the wind rustling through the forest, Against the frozen housefronts: Lost in the glitter of a million movements.
I can no longer find a place for myself: I go.
There are too many things to detain me, But the force behind is reckless.
Noise, uproar, movement Slide me outwards, Black sleet shivering Down red walls.
In thick jungles of green, this gyration, My centrifugal folly, Through roaring dust and futility spattered, Will find its own repose.
Golden lights will gleam out sullenly into silence, Before I return.
We rush, a black throng, Straight upon darkness: Motes scattered By the arc's rays.
Over the bridge fluttering, It is theatre-time, No one heeds.
Lost amid greenness We will sleep all night; And in the morning Coming forth, we will shake wet wings Over the settled dust of to-day.
The city hurls its cobbled streets after us, To drive us faster.
We must attain the night Before endless processions Of lamps Push us back. A clock with quivering hands Leaps to the trajectory-angle of our departure.
We leave behind pale traces of achievement: Fires that we kindled but were too tired to put out, Broad gold fans brushing softly over dark walls, Stifled uproar of night.
We are already cast forth: The signal of our departure Jerks down before we have learned we are to go.
We descend Into a wall of green. Straggling shapes: Afterwards none are seen.
I find myself Alone. I look back: The city has grown.
One grey wall Windowed, unlit. Heavily, night Crushes the face of it.
I go on. My memories freeze Like birds' cry In hollow trees.
I go on. Up and outright To the hostility Of night.
F. S. FLINT
F. S. FLINT
Elm trees and the leaf the boy in me hated long ago— rough and sandy.
Poplars and their leaves, tender, smooth to the fingers, and a secret in their smell I have forgotten.
Oaks and forest glades, heart aching with wonder, fear: their bitter mast.
Willows and the scented beetle we put in our handkerchiefs; and the roots of one that spread into a river: nakedness, water and joy.
Hawthorn, white and odorous with blossom, framing the quiet fields, and swaying flowers and grasses, and the hum of bees.
Oh, these are the things that are with me now, in the town; and I am grateful for this minute of my manhood.
Frail beauty, green, gold and incandescent whiteness, narcissi, daffodils, you have brought me Spring and longing, wistfulness, in your irradiance.
Therefore, I sit here among the people, dreaming, and my heart aches with all the hawthorn blossom, the bees humming, the light wind upon the poplars, and your warmth and your love and your eyes ... they smile and know me.
I move; perhaps I have wakened; this is a bed; this is a room; and there is light....
Have I performed the dozen acts or so that make me the man men see?
The door opens, and on the landing— quiet! I can see nothing: the pain, the weariness!
Stairs, banisters, a handrail: all indistinguishable. One step farther down or up, and why? But up is harder. Down! Down to this white blur; it gives before me.
I extend all ways: I fit into the walls and they pull me.
Light! I know it is light.
Stillness, and then, something moves: green, oh green, dazzling lightning! And joy! this is my room; there are my books, there the piano, there the last bar I wrote, there the last line, and oh the sunlight!
A parrot screeches.
Dear one! you sit there in the corner of the carriage; and you do not know me; and your eyes forbid.
Is it the dirt, the squalor, the wear of human bodies, and the dead faces of our neighbours? These are but symbols.
You are proud; I praise you; your mouth is set; you see beyond us; and you see nothing.
I have the vision of your calm, cold face, and of the black hair that waves above it; I watch you; I love you; I desire you.
There is a quiet here within the thud-thud of the wheels upon the railway.
There is a quiet here within my heart, but tense and tender....
This is my station....
... That night I loved you in the candlelight. Your golden hair strewed the sweet whiteness of the pillows and the counterpane. O the darkness of the corners, the warm air, and the stars framed in the casement of the ships' lights! The waves lapped into the harbour; the boats creaked; a man's voice sang out on the quay; and you loved me. In your love were the tall tree fuchsias, the blue of the hortensias, the scarlet nasturtiums, the trees on the hills, the roads we had covered, and the sea that had borne your body before the rocks of Hartland. You loved me with these and with the kindness of people, country folk, sailors and fishermen, and the old lady who had lodged us and supped us. You loved me with yourself that was these and more, changed as the earth is changed into the bloom of flowers.
Evening and quiet: a bird trills in the poplar trees behind the house with the dark green door across the road.
Into the sky, the red earthenware and the galvanised iron chimneys thrust their cowls. The hoot of the steamers on the Thames is plain.
No wind; the trees merge, green with green; a car whirs by; footsteps and voices take their pitch in the key of dusk, far-off and near, subdued.
Solid and square to the world the houses stand, their windows blocked with venetian blinds.
Nothing will move them.
On black bare trees a stale cream moon hangs dead, and sours the unborn buds.
Two gaunt old hacks, knees bent, heads low, tug, tired and spent, an old horse tram.
Damp smoke, rank mist fill the dark square; and round the bend six bullocks come.
A hobbling, dirt-grimed drover guides their clattering feet to death and shame.
D. H. LAWRENCE
D. H. LAWRENCE
BALLAD OF ANOTHER OPHELIA
Oh, the green glimmer of apples in the orchard, Lamps in a wash of rain, Oh, the wet walk of my brown hen through the stackyard, Oh, tears on the window pane!
Nothing now will ripen the bright green apples, Full of disappointment and of rain, Brackish they will taste, of tears, when the yellow dapples Of Autumn tell the withered tale again.
All round the yard it is cluck, my brown hen, Cluck, and the rain-wet wings, Cluck, my marigold bird, and again Cluck for your yellow darlings.
For the grey rat found the gold thirteen Huddled away in the dark, Flutter for a moment, oh the beast is quick and keen, Extinct one yellow-fluffy spark.
* * * * * *
Once I had a lover bright like running water, Once his face was laughing like the sky; Open like the sky looking down in all its laughter On the buttercups—and buttercups was I.
What then is there hidden in the skirts of all the blossom, What is peeping from your wings, oh mother hen? 'T is the sun who asks the question, in a lovely haste for wisdom— What a lovely haste for wisdom is in men?
Yea, but it is cruel when undressed is all the blossom, And her shift is lying white upon the floor, That a grey one, like a shadow, like a rat, a thief, a rain-storm Creeps upon her then and gathers in his store.
Oh, the grey garner that is full of half-grown apples, Oh, the golden sparkles laid extinct—! And oh, behind the cloud sheaves, like yellow autumn dapples, Did you see the wicked sun that winked?
In front of the sombre mountains, a faint, lost ribbon of rainbow, And between us and it, the thunder; And down below, in the green wheat, the labourers Stand like dark stumps, still in the green wheat.
You are near to me, and your naked feet in their sandals, And through the scent of the balcony's naked timber I distinguish the scent of your hair; so now the limber Lightning falls from heaven.
Adown the pale-green, glacier-river floats A dark boat through the gloom—and whither? The thunder roars. But still we have each other. The naked lightnings in the heaven dither And disappear. What have we but each other? The boat has gone.
FIREFLIES IN THE CORN
A Woman taunts her Lover Look at the little darlings in the corn! The rye is taller than you, who think yourself So high and mighty: look how its heads are borne Dark and proud in the sky, like a number of knights Passing with spears and pennants and manly scorn.
And always likely!—Oh, if I could ride With my head held high-serene against the sky Do you think I'd have a creature like you at my side With your gloom and your doubt that you love me? O darling rye, How I adore you for your simple pride!
And those bright fireflies wafting in between And over the swaying cornstalks, just above All their dark-feathered helmets, like little green Stars come low and wandering here for love Of this dark earth, and wandering all serene—!
How I adore you, you happy things, you dears Riding the air and carrying all the time Your little lanterns behind you: it cheers My heart to see you settling and trying to climb The cornstalks, tipping with fire their spears.
All over the corn's dim motion, against the blue Dark sky of night, the wandering glitter, the swarm Of questing brilliant things:—you joy, you true Spirit of careless joy: ah, how I warm My poor and perished soul at the joy of you!
The Man answers and she mocks You're a fool, woman. I love you and you know I do! —Lord, take his love away, it makes him whine. And I give you everything that you want me to. —Lord, dear Lord, do you think he ever can shine?
A WOMAN AND HER DEAD HUSBAND
Ah, stern cold man, How can you lie so relentless hard While I wash you with weeping water! Ah, face, carved hard and cold, You have been like this, on your guard Against me, since death began.
You masquerader! How can you shame to act this part Of unswerving indifference to me? It is not you; why disguise yourself Against me, to break my heart, You evader?
You've a warm mouth, A good warm mouth always sooner to soften Even than your sudden eyes. Ah cruel, to keep your mouth Relentless, however often I kiss it in drouth.
You are not he. Who are you, lying in his place on the bed And rigid and indifferent to me? His mouth, though he laughed or sulked Was always warm and red And good to me.
And his eyes could see The white moon hang like a breast revealed By the slipping shawl of stars, Could see the small stars tremble As the heart beneath did wield Systole, diastole.
And he showed it me So, when he made his love to me; And his brows like rocks on the sea jut out, And his eyes were deep like the sea With shadow, and he looked at me, Till I sank in him like the sea, Awfully.
Oh, he was multiform— Which then was he among the manifold? The gay, the sorrowful, the seer? I have loved a rich race of men in one— —But not this, this never-warm Metal-cold—!
Ah, masquerader! With your steel face white-enamelled Were you he, after all, and I never Saw you or felt you in kissing? —Yet sometimes my heart was trammelled With fear, evader!
You will not stir, Nor hear me, not a sound. —Then it was you— And all this time you were Like this when I lived with you. It is not true, I am frightened, I am frightened of you And of everything. O God!—God too Has deceived me in everything, In everything.
There's four men mowing down by the river; I can hear the sound of the scythe strokes, four Sharp breaths swishing:—yea, but I Am sorry for what's i' store.
The first man out o' the four that's mowin' Is mine: I mun claim him once for all: —But I'm sorry for him, on his young feet, knowin' None o' the trouble he's led to stall.
As he sees me bringin' the dinner, he lifts His head as proud as a deer that looks Shoulder-deep out o' th' corn: and wipes His scythe blade bright, unhooks
His scythe stone, an' over the grass to me! —Lad, tha 's gotten a chilt in me, An' a man an' a father tha 'lt ha'e to be, My young slim lad, an' I'm sorry for thee.
SCENT OF IRISES
A faint, sickening scent of irises Persists all morning. Here in a jar on the table A fine proud spike of purple irises Rising above the class-room litter, makes me unable To see the class's lifted and bended faces Save in a broken pattern, amid purple and gold and sable.
I can smell the gorgeous bog-end, in its breathless Dazzle of may-blobs, when the marigold glare overcast You with fire on your brow and your cheeks and your chin as you dipped Your face in your marigold bunch, to touch and contrast Your own dark mouth with the bridal faint lady-smocks Dissolved in the golden sorcery you should not outlast.
You amid the bog-end's yellow incantation, You sitting in the cowslips of the meadows above, —Me, your shadow on the bog-flame, flowery may-blobs, Me full length in the cowslips, muttering you love— You, your soul like a lady-smock, lost, evanescent, You, with your face all rich, like the sheen on a dove—!
You are always asking, do I remember, remember The buttercup bog-end where the flowers rose up And kindled you over deep with a coat of gold? You ask again, do the healing days close up The open darkness which then drew us in, The dark that swallows all, and nought throws up.
You upon the dry, dead beech-leaves, in the fire of night Burnt like a sacrifice;—you invisible— Only the fire of darkness, and the scent of you! —And yes, thank God, it still is possible The healing days shall close the darkness up Wherein I breathed you like a smoke or dew.
Like vapour, dew, or poison. Now, thank God, The golden fire has gone, and your face is ash Indistinguishable in the grey, chill day, The night has burnt you out, at last the good Dark fire burns on untroubled without clash Of you upon the dead leaves saying me yea.
The sky was apple-green, The sky was green wine held up in the sun, The moon was a golden petal between.
She opened her eyes, and green They shone, clear like flowers undone, For the first time, now for the first time seen.
Tell me, Was Venus more beautiful Than you are, When she topped The crinkled waves, Drifting shoreward On her plaited shell? Was Botticelli's vision Fairer than mine; And were the painted rosebuds He tossed his lady, Of better worth Than the words I blow about you To cover your too great loveliness As with a gauze Of misted silver?
For me, You stand poised In the blue and buoyant air, Cinctured by bright winds, Treading the sunlight. And the waves which precede you Ripple and stir The sands at my feet.
THE TRAVELLING BEAR
Grass-blades push up between the cobblestones And catch the sun on their flat sides Shooting it back, Gold and emerald, Into the eyes of passers-by.
And over the cobblestones, Square-footed and heavy, Dances the trained bear. Tho cobbles cut his feet, And he has a ring in his nose Which hurts him; But still he dances, For the keeper pricks him with a sharp stick, Under his fur.
Now the crowd gapes and chuckles, And boys and young women shuffle their feet in time to the dancing bear. They see him wobbling Against a dust of emerald and gold, And they are greatly delighted.
The legs of the bear shake with fatigue And his back aches, And the shining grass-blades dazzle and confuse him. But still he dances, Because of the little, pointed stick.
Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper Like draggled fly's legs, What can you tell of the flaring moon Through the oak leaves? Or of my uncurtained window and the bare floor Spattered with moonlight? Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them Of blossoming hawthorns, And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness Beneath my hand.
I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against The want of you; Of squeezing it into little inkdrops, And posting it. And I scald alone, here, under the fire Of the great moon.
Why do the lilies goggle their tongues at me When I pluck them; And writhe, and twist, And strangle themselves against my fingers, So that I can hardly weave the garland For your hair? Why do they shriek your name And spit at me When I would cluster them? Must I kill them To make them lie still, And send you a wreath of lolling corpses To turn putrid and soft On your forehead While you dance?
My thoughts Chink against my ribs And roll about like silver hail-stones. I should like to spill them out, And pour them, all shining, Over you. But my heart is shut upon them And holds them straitly.
Come, You! and open my heart; That my thoughts torment me no longer, But glitter in your hair.
When night drifts along the streets of the city, And sifts down between the uneven roofs, My mind begins to peek and peer. It plays at ball in old, blue Chinese gardens, And shakes wrought dice-cups in Pagan temples, Amid the broken flutings of white pillars. It dances with purple and yellow crocuses in its hair, And its feet shine as they flutter over drenched grasses. How light and laughing my mind is, When all the good folk have put out their bed-room candles, And the city is still!
Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the city. It stops a moment on the carved head of Saint John, then slides on again, slipping and trickling over his stone cloak. It splashes from the lead conduit of a gargoyle, and falls from it in turmoil on the stones in the Cathedral square. Where are the people, and why does the fretted steeple sweep about in the sky? Boom! The sound swings against the rain. Boom, again! After it, only water rushing in the gutters, and the turmoil from the spout of the gargoyle. Silence. Ripples and mutters. Boom!
The room is damp, but warm. Little flashes swarm about from the firelight. The lustres of the chandelier are bright, and clusters of rubies leap in the bohemian glasses on the etagere. Her hands are restless, but the white masses of her hair are quite still. Boom! Will it never cease to torture, this iteration! Boom! The vibration shatters a glass on the etagere. It lies there formless and glowing, with all its crimson gleams shot out of pattern, spilled, flowing red, blood-red. A thin bell-note pricks through the silence. A door creaks. The old lady speaks: "Victor, clear away that broken glass." "Alas! Madame, the bohemian glass!" "Yes, Victor, one hundred years ago my father brought it—" Boom! The room shakes, the servitor quakes. Another goblet shivers and breaks. Boom!
It rustles at the window-pane, the smooth, streaming rain, and he is shut within its clash and murmur. Inside is his candle, his table, his ink, his pen, and his dreams. He is thinking, and the walls are pierced with beams of sunshine, slipping through young green. A fountain tosses itself up at the blue sky, and through the spattered water in the basin he can see copper carp, lazily floating among cold leaves. A wind-harp in a cedar-tree grieves and whispers, and words blow into his brain, bubbled, iridescent, shooting up like flowers of fire, higher and higher. Boom! The flame-flowers snap on their slender stems. The fountain rears up in long broken spears of disheveled water and flattens into the earth. Boom! And there is only the room, the table, the candle, and the sliding rain. Again, Boom!—Boom!—Boom! He stuffs his fingers into his ears. He sees corpses, and cries out in fright. Boom! It is night, and they are shelling the city! Boom! Boom!
A child wakes and is afraid, and weeps in the darkness. What has made the bed shake? "Mother, where are you? I am awake." "Hush, my Darling, I am here." "But, Mother, something so queer happened, the room shook." Boom! "Oh! What is it? What is the matter?" Boom! "Where is Father? I am so afraid." Boom! The child sobs and shrieks. The house trembles and creaks. Boom!
Retorts, globes, tubes, and phials lie shattered. All his trials oozing across the floor. The life that was his choosing, lonely, urgent, goaded by a hope, all gone. A weary man in a ruined laboratory, that was his story. Boom! Gloom and ignorance, and the jig of drunken brutes. Diseases like snakes crawling over the earth, leaving trails of slime. Wails from people burying their dead. Through the window he can see the rocking steeple. A ball of fire falls on the lead of the roof, and the sky tears apart on a spike of flame. Up the spire, behind the lacings of stone, zig-zagging in and out of the carved tracings, squirms the fire. It spouts like yellow wheat from the gargoyles, coils round the head of Saint John, and aureoles him in light. It leaps into the night and hisses against the rain. The Cathedral is a burning stain on the white, wet night.
Boom! The Cathedral is a torch, and the houses next to it begin to scorch. Boom! The bohemian glass on the etagere is no longer there. Boom! A stalk of flame sways against the red damask curtains. The old lady cannot walk. She watches the creeping stalk and counts. Boom!—Boom!—Boom!
The poet rushes into the street, and the rain wraps him in a sheet of silver. But it is threaded with gold and powdered with scarlet beads. The city burns. Quivering, spearing, thrusting, lapping, streaming, run the flames. Over roofs, and walls, and shops, and stalls. Smearing its gold on the sky the fire dances, lances itself through the doors, and lisps and chuckles along the floors.
The child wakes again and screams at the yellow petalled flower flickering at the window. The little red lips of flame creep along the ceiling beams.
The old man sits among his broken experiments and looks at the burning Cathedral. Now the streets are swarming with people. They seek shelter and crowd into the cellars. They shout and call, and over all, slowly and without force, the rain drops into the city. Boom! And the steeple crashes down among the people. Boom! Boom, again! The water rushes along the gutters. The fire roars and mutters. Boom!
JOHN GOULD FLETCHER Fire and Wine. Grant Richards, Ltd., London, 1913. Fool's Gold. Max Goschen, London, 1913. The Dominant City. Max Goschen, London, 1913. The Book of Nature. Constable & Co., London, 1913. Visions of the Evening. Erskine McDonald, London, 1913. Irradiations: Sand and Spray. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1914.
F. S. FLINT The Net of Stars. Elkin Mathews, London, 1909.
D. H. LAWRENCE Love Poems and Others. Duckworth & Co., London, 1913. Prose: The White Peacock. William Heinemann, London, 1911. The Trespasser. Duckworth & Co., London, 1912. Sons and Lovers. Duckworth & Co., London, 1913. Drama: The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. Mitchell Kennerley, New York, 1914.
AMY LOWELL A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1912. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1914. Sword Blades and Poppy Seed. The Macmillan Company, New York; and Macmillan & Co., London, 1914.
The Riverside Press
CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
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