THE COLLECTED POEMS OF RUPERT BROOKE
by Rupert Brooke
[British Poet — 1887-1915.]
[A new Appendix is included in this etext, consisting of poems ABOUT or TO Rupert Brooke.]
The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke with an introduction by George Edward Woodberry and a biographical note by Margaret Lavington
Born at Rugby, August 3, 1887 Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, 1913 Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.V.R., September, 1914 Antwerp Expedition, October, 1914 Sailed with British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, February 28, 1915 Died in the Aegean, April 23, 1915
Rupert Brooke was both fair to see and winning in his ways. There was at the first contact both bloom and charm; and most of all there was life. To use the word his friends describe him by, he was "vivid". This vitality, though manifold in expression, is felt primarily in his sensations — surprise mingled with delight —
"One after one, like tasting a sweet food."
This is life's "first fine rapture". It makes him patient to name over those myriad things (each of which seems like a fresh discovery) curious but potent, and above all common, that he "loved", — he the "Great Lover". Lover of what, then? Why, of
"White plates and cups clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines," —
and the like, through thirty lines of exquisite words; and he is captivated by the multiple brevity of these vignettes of sense, keen, momentary, ecstatic with the morning dip of youth in the wonderful stream. The poem is a catalogue of vital sensations and "dear names" as well. "All these have been my loves."
The spring of these emotions is the natural body, but it sends pulsations far into the spirit. The feeling rises in direct observation, but it is soon aware of the "outlets of the sky". He sees objects practically unrelated, and links them in strings; or he sees them pictorially; or, he sees pictures immersed as it were in an atmosphere of thought. When the process is complete, the thought suggests the picture and is its origin. Then the Great Lover revisits the bottom of the monstrous world, and imaginatively and thoughtfully recreates that strange under-sea, whose glooms and gleams and muds are well known to him as a strong and delighted swimmer; or, at the last, drifts through the dream of a South Sea lagoon, still with a philosophical question in his mouth. Yet one can hardly speak of "completion". These are real first flights. What we have in this volume is not so much a work of art as an artist in his birth trying the wings of genius.
The poet loves his new-found element. He clings to mortality; to life, not thought; or, as he puts it, to the concrete, — let the abstract "go pack!" "There's little comfort in the wise," he ends. But in the unfolding of his precocious spirit, the literary control comes uppermost; his boat, finding its keel, swings to the helm of mind. How should it be otherwise for a youth well-born, well-bred, in college air? Intellectual primacy showed itself to him in many wandering "loves", fine lover that he was; but in the end he was an intellectual lover, and the magnet seems to have been especially powerful in the ghosts of the men of "wit", Donne, Marvell — erudite lords of language, poets in another world than ours, a less "ample ether", a less "divine air", our fathers thought, but poets of "eternity". A quintessential drop of intellect is apt to be in poetic blood. How Platonism fascinates the poets, like a shining bait! Rupert Brooke will have none of it; but at a turn of the verse he is back at it, examining, tasting, refusing. In those alternate drives of the thought in his South Sea idyl (clever as tennis play) how he slips from phenomenon to idea and reverses, happy with either, it seems, "were t'other dear charmer away". How bravely he tries to free himself from the cling of earth, at the close of the "Great Lover"! How little he succeeds! His muse knew only earthly tongues, — so far as he understood.
Why this persistent cling to mortality, — with its quick-coming cry against death and its heaped anathemas on the transformations of decay? It is the old story once more: — the vision of the first poets, the world that "passes away". The poetic eye of Keats saw it, —
"Beauty that must die, And Joy whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu."
The reflective mind of Arnold meditated it, —
"the world that seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." —
So Rupert Brooke, —
"But the best I've known, Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown About the winds of the world, and fades from brains Of living men, and dies. Nothing remains."
And yet, —
"Oh, never a doubt but somewhere I shall wake;"
"the light, Returning, shall give back the golden hours, Ocean a windless level. . . ."
again, best of all, in the last word, —
"Still may Time hold some golden space Where I'll unpack that scented store Of song and flower and sky and face, And count, and touch, and turn them o'er, Musing upon them."
He cannot forego his sensations, that "box of compacted sweets". He even forefeels a ghostly landscape where two shall go wandering through the night, "alone". So the faith that broke its chrysalis in the first disillusionment of boyhood, in "Second Best", beautiful with the burden of Greek lyricism, ends triumphant with the spirit still unsubdued. —
"Proud, then, clear-eyed and laughing, go to greet Death as a friend."
So go, "with unreluctant tread". But in the disillusionment of beauty and of love there is an older tone. With what bitter savor, with what grossness of diction, caught from the Elizabethan and satirical elements in his culture, he spends anger in words! He reacts, he rebels, he storms. A dozen poems hardly exhaust his gall. It is not merely that beauty and joy and love are transient, now, but in their going they are corrupted into their opposites, — ugliness, pain, indifference. And his anger once stilled by speech, what lassitude follows!
Life, in this volume, is hardly less evident by its ecstasy than by its collapse. It is a book of youth, sensitive, vigorous, sound; but it is the fruit of intensity, and bears the traits. The search for solitude, the relief from crowds, the open door into nature; the sense of flight and escape; the repeated thought of safety, the insistent fatigue, the cry for sleep; — all these bear confession in their faces. "Flight", "Town and Country", "The Voice", are eloquent of what they leave untold; and the climax of "Retrospect", —
"And I should sleep, and I should sleep," —
or the sestet of "Waikiki", or the whole fainting sonnet entitled "A Memory", belong to the nadir of vitality. At moments weariness set in like a spiritual tide. I associate, too, with such moods, psychologically at least, his visions of the "arrested moment", as in "Dining-Room Tea", — a sort of trance state — or in the pendant sonnet. Analogous moods are not infrequent in the great poets. Rupert Brooke seems to have faltered, nervously, at times; these poems mirror faithfully such moments. But even when the image of life, imaginative or real, falters so, how essentially vital it still is, and clothed in an exquisite body of words like the traditional "rainbow hues of the dying fish"! For I cannot express too strongly my admiration of the literary sense of this young poet, and my delight in it. "All these have been my loves," he says, if I may repeat the phrase; but he seems to have loved the words, as much as the things, — "dear names", he adds. The born man of letters speaks there. So, when his pulse is at its lowest, he cannot forget the beautiful surface of his South Sea idyls or of versified English gardens and lanes. He cared as much for the expression as for the thing, which is what makes a man of letters. So fixed is this habit that his art, truly, is independent of his bodily state. In his poems of "collapse" as in those of "ecstasy" he seems to me equally master of his mood, — like those poets who are "for all time". His literary skill in verse was ripe, how long so ever he might have to live.
To come, then, to art, which is above personality, what of that? Art is, at most, but the mortal relic of genius; yet it is true of it that, like Ozymandias' statue, "nothing beside remains". Rupert Brooke was already perfected in verbal and stylistic execution. He might have grown in variety, richness and significance, in scope and in detail, no doubt; but as an artisan in metrical words and pauses, he was past apprenticeship. He was still a restless experimenter, but in much he was a master. In the brief stroke of description, which he inherited from his early attachment to the concrete; in the rush of words, especially verbs; in the concatenation of objects, the flow of things 'en masse' through his verse, still with the impulse of "the bright speed" he had at the source; in his theatrical impersonation of abstractions, as in "The Funeral of Youth", where for once the abstract and the concrete are happily fused; — in all these there are the elements, and in the last there is the perfection, of mastery. For one thing, he knew how to end. It is with him a dramatic secret. The brief stroke does this work time and time again in his verse, nowhere better than in "at dead YOUTH's funeral:" all were there, —
"All, except only LOVE — LOVE had died long ago."
The poem is like a vision of an old time MASQUE: —
"The sweet lad RHYME" —— "ARDOUR, the sunlight on his greying hair" —— "BEAUTY . . . pale in her black; dry-eyed, she stood alone."
How vivid! The lines owe something to his eye for costume, for staging; but, as mere picture writing, it is as firm as if carved on an obelisk. And as he reconciled concrete and abstract here, so he had left his short breath, in those earlier lines, behind, and had come into the long sweep and open water of great style: —
"And light on waving grass, he knows not when, And feet that ran, but where, he cannot tell."
"And feel, who have laid our groping hands away; And see, no longer blinded by our eyes,"
Or, more briefly, —
"In wise majestic melancholy train."
And this, —
"And evening hush broken by homing wings,"
Such lines as these, apart from their beauty, are in the best manner of English poetic style. So, in many minor ways, he shuffled contrast and climax, and the like, adept in the handling of poetic rhetoric that he had come to be; but in three ways he was conspicuously successful in his art.
The first of these — they are all in the larger forms of art — is the dramatic sonnet, by which I do not mean merely a sonnet in dialogue or advancing by simple contrast; but one in which there may be these things, but also there is a tragic reversal or its equivalent. Not to consider it too curiously, take "The Hill". This sonnet is beautiful in action and diction; its eloquence speeds it on with a lift; the situation is the very crest of life; then, —
"We shall go down with unreluctant tread, Rose-crowned into the darkness! . . . Proud we were, And laughed, that had such brave true things to say. — And then you suddenly cried and turned away."
The dramatic sonnet in English has not gone beyond that, for beauty, for brevity, for tragic effect, — nor, I add, for unspoken loyalty to reality. Reality was, perhaps, what he most dearly wished for; here he achieved it. In many another sonnet he won the laurel; but if I were to venture to choose, it is in the dramatic handling of the sonnet that he is most individual and characteristic.
The second great success of his genius, formally considered, lay in the narrative idyl, either in the Miltonic way of flashing bits of English country landscape before the eye, as in "Grantchester", or by applying essentially the same method to the water world of fishes or the South Sea world, both on a philosophic background. These are all master poems of a kaleidoscopic beauty and charm, where the brief pictures play in and out of a woven veil of thought, irony, mood, with a delightful intellectual pleasuring. He thoroughly enjoys doing the poetical magic. Such bits of English retreats or Pacific paradises, so full of idyllic charm, exquisite in image and movement, are among the rarest of poetic treasures. The thought of Milton and of Marvell only adds an old world charm to the most modern of the works of the Muses. What lightness of touch, what ease of movement, what brilliancy of hue! What vivacity throughout! Even in "Retrospect", what actuality!
And the third success is what I should call the "melange". That is, the method of indiscrimination by which he gathers up experience, and pours it out again in language, with full disregard of its relative values. His good taste saves him from what in another would be shipwreck, but this indifference to values, this apparent lack of selection in material, while at times it gives a huddled flow, more than anything else "modernizes" the verse. It yields, too, an effect of abundant vitality, and it makes facile the change from grave to gay and the like. The "melange", as I call it, is rather an innovation in English verse, and to be found only rarely. It exists, however; and especially it was dear to Keats in his youth. It is by excellent taste, and by style, that the poet here overcomes its early difficulties.
In these three formal ways, besides in minor matters, it appears to me that Rupert Brooke, judged by the most orthodox standards, had succeeded in poetry.
But in his first notes, if I may indulge my private taste, I find more of the intoxication of the god. These early poems are the lyrical cries and luminous flares of a dawn, no doubt; but they are incarnate of youth. Capital among them is "Blue Evening". It is original and complete. In its whispering embraces of sense, in the terror of seizure of the spirit, in the tranquil euthanasia of the end by the touch of speechless beauty, it seems to me a true symbol of life whole and entire. It is beautiful in language and feeling, with an extraordinary clarity and rise of power; and, above all, though rare in experience, it is real. A young poet's poem; but it has a quality never captured by perfect art. A poem for poets, no doubt; but that is the best kind. So, too, the poem, entitled "Sleeping Out", charms me and stirs me with its golden clangors and crying flames of emotion as it mounts up to "the white one flame", to "the laughter and the lips of light". It is like a holy Italian picture, — remote, inaccessible, alone. The "white flame" seems to have had a mystic meaning to the boy; it occurs repeatedly. And another poem, — not to make too long a story of my private enthusiasms — "Ante Aram", — wakes all my classical blood, —
"voice more sweet than the far plaint of viols is, Or the soft moan of any grey-eyed lute player."
But these things are arcana.
There is a grave in Scyros, amid the white and pinkish marble of the isle, the wild thyme and the poppies, near the green and blue waters. There Rupert Brooke was buried. Thither have gone the thoughts of his countrymen, and the hearts of the young especially. It will long be so. For a new star shines in the English heavens. G. E. W. Beverly, Mass., October, 1915.
Second Best Day That I Have Loved Sleeping Out: Full Moon In Examination Pine-Trees and the Sky: Evening Wagner The Vision of the Archangels Seaside On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess The Song of the Pilgrims The Song of the Beasts Failure Ante Aram Dawn The Call The Wayfarers The Beginning
Sonnet: "Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire" Sonnet: "I said I splendidly loved you; it's not true" Success Dust Kindliness Mummia The Fish Thoughts on the Shape of the Human Body Flight The Hill The One Before the Last The Jolly Company The Life Beyond Lines Written in the Belief That the Ancient Roman Festival of the Dead Was Called Ambarvalia Dead Men's Love Town and Country Paralysis Menelaus and Helen Libido Jealousy Blue Evening The Charm Finding Song The Voice Dining-Room Tea The Goddess in the Wood A Channel Passage Victory Day and Night
Choriambics — I Choriambics — II Desertion
I. Peace II. Safety III. The Dead IV. The Dead V. The Soldier The Treasure
The South Seas
Tiare Tahiti Retrospect The Great Lover Heaven Doubts There's Wisdom in Women He Wonders Whether to Praise or to Blame Her A Memory (From a sonnet-sequence) One Day Waikiki Hauntings Sonnet (Suggested by some of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research) Clouds Mutability
The Busy Heart Love Unfortunate The Chilterns Home The Night Journey Song Beauty and Beauty The Way That Lovers Use Mary and Gabriel The Funeral of Youth: Threnody
The Old Vicarage, Grantchester Fafaia
Fragment The Dance Song Sometimes Even Now Sonnet: In Time of Revolt A Letter to a Live Poet Fragment on Painters The True Beatitude Sonnet Reversed It's not Going to Happen Again The Little Dog's Day Rupert Brooke (A Biographical Note)
Here in the dark, O heart; Alone with the enduring Earth, and Night, And Silence, and the warm strange smell of clover; Clear-visioned, though it break you; far apart From the dead best, the dear and old delight; Throw down your dreams of immortality, O faithful, O foolish lover! Here's peace for you, and surety; here the one Wisdom — the truth! — "All day the good glad sun Showers love and labour on you, wine and song; The greenwood laughs, the wind blows, all day long Till night." And night ends all things. Then shall be No lamp relumed in heaven, no voices crying, Or changing lights, or dreams and forms that hover! (And, heart, for all your sighing, That gladness and those tears are over, over. . . .)
And has the truth brought no new hope at all, Heart, that you're weeping yet for Paradise? Do they still whisper, the old weary cries? "'MID YOUTH AND SONG, FEASTING AND CARNIVAL, THROUGH LAUGHTER, THROUGH THE ROSES, AS OF OLD COMES DEATH, ON SHADOWY AND RELENTLESS FEET, DEATH, UNAPPEASABLE BY PRAYER OR GOLD; DEATH IS THE END, THE END!" Proud, then, clear-eyed and laughing, go to greet Death as a friend!
Exile of immortality, strongly wise, Strain through the dark with undesirous eyes To what may lie beyond it. Sets your star, O heart, for ever! Yet, behind the night, Waits for the great unborn, somewhere afar, Some white tremendous daybreak. And the light, Returning, shall give back the golden hours, Ocean a windless level, Earth a lawn Spacious and full of sunlit dancing-places, And laughter, and music, and, among the flowers, The gay child-hearts of men, and the child-faces O heart, in the great dawn!
Day That I Have Loved
Tenderly, day that I have loved, I close your eyes, And smooth your quiet brow, and fold your thin dead hands. The grey veils of the half-light deepen; colour dies. I bear you, a light burden, to the shrouded sands,
Where lies your waiting boat, by wreaths of the sea's making Mist-garlanded, with all grey weeds of the water crowned. There you'll be laid, past fear of sleep or hope of waking; And over the unmoving sea, without a sound,
Faint hands will row you outward, out beyond our sight, Us with stretched arms and empty eyes on the far-gleaming And marble sand. . . . Beyond the shifting cold twilight, Further than laughter goes, or tears, further than dreaming, There'll be no port, no dawn-lit islands! But the drear Waste darkening, and, at length, flame ultimate on the deep. Oh, the last fire — and you, unkissed, unfriended there! Oh, the lone way's red ending, and we not there to weep!
(We found you pale and quiet, and strangely crowned with flowers, Lovely and secret as a child. You came with us, Came happily, hand in hand with the young dancing hours, High on the downs at dawn!) Void now and tenebrous,
The grey sands curve before me. . . . From the inland meadows, Fragrant of June and clover, floats the dark, and fills The hollow sea's dead face with little creeping shadows, And the white silence brims the hollow of the hills.
Close in the nest is folded every weary wing, Hushed all the joyful voices; and we, who held you dear, Eastward we turn and homeward, alone, remembering . . . Day that I loved, day that I loved, the Night is here!
Sleeping Out: Full Moon
They sleep within. . . . I cower to the earth, I waking, I only. High and cold thou dreamest, O queen, high-dreaming and lonely.
We have slept too long, who can hardly win The white one flame, and the night-long crying; The viewless passers; the world's low sighing With desire, with yearning, To the fire unburning, To the heatless fire, to the flameless ecstasy! . . .
Helpless I lie. And around me the feet of thy watchers tread. There is a rumour and a radiance of wings above my head, An intolerable radiance of wings. . . .
All the earth grows fire, White lips of desire Brushing cool on the forehead, croon slumbrous things. Earth fades; and the air is thrilled with ways, Dewy paths full of comfort. And radiant bands, The gracious presence of friendly hands, Help the blind one, the glad one, who stumbles and strays, Stretching wavering hands, up, up, through the praise Of a myriad silver trumpets, through cries, To all glory, to all gladness, to the infinite height, To the gracious, the unmoving, the mother eyes, And the laughter, and the lips, of light.
Lo! from quiet skies In through the window my Lord the Sun! And my eyes Were dazzled and drunk with the misty gold, The golden glory that drowned and crowned me Eddied and swayed through the room . . . Around me, To left and to right, Hunched figures and old, Dull blear-eyed scribbling fools, grew fair, Ringed round and haloed with holy light. Flame lit on their hair, And their burning eyes grew young and wise, Each as a God, or King of kings, White-robed and bright (Still scribbling all); And a full tumultuous murmur of wings Grew through the hall; And I knew the white undying Fire, And, through open portals, Gyre on gyre, Archangels and angels, adoring, bowing, And a Face unshaded . . . Till the light faded; And they were but fools again, fools unknowing, Still scribbling, blear-eyed and stolid immortals.
Pine-Trees and the Sky: Evening
I'd watched the sorrow of the evening sky, And smelt the sea, and earth, and the warm clover, And heard the waves, and the seagull's mocking cry.
And in them all was only the old cry, That song they always sing — "The best is over! You may remember now, and think, and sigh, O silly lover!" And I was tired and sick that all was over, And because I, For all my thinking, never could recover One moment of the good hours that were over. And I was sorry and sick, and wished to die.
Then from the sad west turning wearily, I saw the pines against the white north sky, Very beautiful, and still, and bending over Their sharp black heads against a quiet sky. And there was peace in them; and I Was happy, and forgot to play the lover, And laughed, and did no longer wish to die; Being glad of you, O pine-trees and the sky!
Creeps in half wanton, half asleep, One with a fat wide hairless face. He likes love-music that is cheap; Likes women in a crowded place; And wants to hear the noise they're making.
His heavy eyelids droop half-over, Great pouches swing beneath his eyes. He listens, thinks himself the lover, Heaves from his stomach wheezy sighs; He likes to feel his heart's a-breaking.
The music swells. His gross legs quiver. His little lips are bright with slime. The music swells. The women shiver. And all the while, in perfect time, His pendulous stomach hangs a-shaking.
The Vision of the Archangels
Slowly up silent peaks, the white edge of the world, Trod four archangels, clear against the unheeding sky, Bearing, with quiet even steps, and great wings furled, A little dingy coffin; where a child must lie, It was so tiny. (Yet, you had fancied, God could never Have bidden a child turn from the spring and the sunlight, And shut him in that lonely shell, to drop for ever Into the emptiness and silence, into the night. . . .)
They then from the sheer summit cast, and watched it fall, Through unknown glooms, that frail black coffin — and therein God's little pitiful Body lying, worn and thin, And curled up like some crumpled, lonely flower-petal — Till it was no more visible; then turned again With sorrowful quiet faces downward to the plain.
Swiftly out from the friendly lilt of the band, The crowd's good laughter, the loved eyes of men, I am drawn nightward; I must turn again Where, down beyond the low untrodden strand, There curves and glimmers outward to the unknown The old unquiet ocean. All the shade Is rife with magic and movement. I stray alone Here on the edge of silence, half afraid,
Waiting a sign. In the deep heart of me The sullen waters swell towards the moon, And all my tides set seaward. From inland Leaps a gay fragment of some mocking tune, That tinkles and laughs and fades along the sand, And dies between the seawall and the sea.
On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess
Song of a tribe of the ancient Egyptians
(The Priests within the Temple) She was wrinkled and huge and hideous? She was our Mother. She was lustful and lewd? — but a God; we had none other. In the day She was hidden and dumb, but at nightfall moaned in the shade; We shuddered and gave Her Her will in the darkness; we were afraid.
(The People without) She sent us pain, And we bowed before Her; She smiled again And bade us adore Her. She solaced our woe And soothed our sighing; And what shall we do Now God is dying?
(The Priests within) She was hungry and ate our children; — how should we stay Her? She took our young men and our maidens; — ours to obey Her. We were loathed and mocked and reviled of all nations; that was our pride. She fed us, protected us, loved us, and killed us; now She has died.
(The People without) She was so strong; But death is stronger. She ruled us long; But Time is longer. She solaced our woe And soothed our sighing; And what shall we do Now God is dying?
The Song of the Pilgrims
(Halted around the fire by night, after moon-set, they sing this beneath the trees.)
What light of unremembered skies Hast thou relumed within our eyes, Thou whom we seek, whom we shall find? . . . A certain odour on the wind, Thy hidden face beyond the west, These things have called us; on a quest Older than any road we trod, More endless than desire. . . . Far God, Sigh with thy cruel voice, that fills The soul with longing for dim hills And faint horizons! For there come Grey moments of the antient dumb Sickness of travel, when no song Can cheer us; but the way seems long; And one remembers. . . . Ah! the beat Of weary unreturning feet, And songs of pilgrims unreturning! . . . The fires we left are always burning On the old shrines of home. Our kin Have built them temples, and therein Pray to the Gods we know; and dwell In little houses lovable, Being happy (we remember how!) And peaceful even to death. . . . O Thou, God of all long desirous roaming, Our hearts are sick of fruitless homing, And crying after lost desire. Hearten us onward! as with fire Consuming dreams of other bliss. The best Thou givest, giving this Sufficient thing — to travel still Over the plain, beyond the hill, Unhesitating through the shade, Amid the silence unafraid, Till, at some sudden turn, one sees Against the black and muttering trees Thine altar, wonderfully white, Among the Forests of the Night.
The Song of the Beasts
(Sung, on one night, in the cities, in the darkness.)
Come away! Come away! Ye are sober and dull through the common day, But now it is night! It is shameful night, and God is asleep! (Have you not felt the quick fires that creep Through the hungry flesh, and the lust of delight, And hot secrets of dreams that day cannot say?). The house is dumb; The night calls out to you. Come, ah, come! Down the dim stairs, through the creaking door, Naked, crawling on hands and feet — It is meet! it is meet! Ye are men no longer, but less and more, Beast and God. . . . Down the lampless street, By little black ways, and secret places, In the darkness and mire, Faint laughter around, and evil faces By the star-glint seen — ah! follow with us! For the darkness whispers a blind desire, And the fingers of night are amorous. Keep close as we speed, Though mad whispers woo you, and hot hands cling, And the touch and the smell of bare flesh sting, Soft flank by your flank, and side brushing side — TO-NIGHT never heed! Unswerving and silent follow with me, Till the city ends sheer, And the crook'd lanes open wide, Out of the voices of night, Beyond lust and fear, To the level waters of moonlight, To the level waters, quiet and clear, To the black unresting plains of the calling sea.
Because God put His adamantine fate Between my sullen heart and its desire, I swore that I would burst the Iron Gate, Rise up, and curse Him on His throne of fire. Earth shuddered at my crown of blasphemy, But Love was as a flame about my feet; Proud up the Golden Stair I strode; and beat Thrice on the Gate, and entered with a cry —
All the great courts were quiet in the sun, And full of vacant echoes: moss had grown Over the glassy pavement, and begun To creep within the dusty council-halls. An idle wind blew round an empty throne And stirred the heavy curtains on the walls.
Before thy shrine I kneel, an unknown worshipper, Chanting strange hymns to thee and sorrowful litanies, Incense of dirges, prayers that are as holy myrrh.
Ah, goddess, on thy throne of tears and faint low sighs, Weary at last to theeward come the feet that err, And empty hearts grown tired of the world's vanities.
How fair this cool deep silence to a wanderer Deaf with the roar of winds along the open skies! Sweet, after sting and bitter kiss of sea-water,
The pale Lethean wine within thy chalices! I come before thee, I, too tired wanderer, To heed the horror of the shrine, the distant cries,
And evil whispers in the gloom, or the swift whirr Of terrible wings — I, least of all thy votaries, With a faint hope to see the scented darkness stir,
And, parting, frame within its quiet mysteries One face, with lips than autumn-lilies tenderer, And voice more sweet than the far plaint of viols is,
Or the soft moan of any grey-eyed lute-player.
(From the train between Bologna and Milan, second class.)
Opposite me two Germans snore and sweat. Through sullen swirling gloom we jolt and roar. We have been here for ever: even yet A dim watch tells two hours, two aeons, more. The windows are tight-shut and slimy-wet With a night's foetor. There are two hours more; Two hours to dawn and Milan; two hours yet. Opposite me two Germans sweat and snore. . . .
One of them wakes, and spits, and sleeps again. The darkness shivers. A wan light through the rain Strikes on our faces, drawn and white. Somewhere A new day sprawls; and, inside, the foul air Is chill, and damp, and fouler than before. . . . Opposite me two Germans sweat and snore.
Out of the nothingness of sleep, The slow dreams of Eternity, There was a thunder on the deep: I came, because you called to me.
I broke the Night's primeval bars, I dared the old abysmal curse, And flashed through ranks of frightened stars Suddenly on the universe!
The eternal silences were broken; Hell became Heaven as I passed. — What shall I give you as a token, A sign that we have met, at last?
I'll break and forge the stars anew, Shatter the heavens with a song; Immortal in my love for you, Because I love you, very strong.
Your mouth shall mock the old and wise, Your laugh shall fill the world with flame, I'll write upon the shrinking skies The scarlet splendour of your name,
Till Heaven cracks, and Hell thereunder Dies in her ultimate mad fire, And darkness falls, with scornful thunder, On dreams of men and men's desire.
Then only in the empty spaces, Death, walking very silently, Shall fear the glory of our faces Through all the dark infinity.
So, clothed about with perfect love, The eternal end shall find us one, Alone above the Night, above The dust of the dead gods, alone.
Is it the hour? We leave this resting-place Made fair by one another for a while. Now, for a god-speed, one last mad embrace; The long road then, unlit by your faint smile. Ah! the long road! and you so far away! Oh, I'll remember! but . . . each crawling day Will pale a little your scarlet lips, each mile Dull the dear pain of your remembered face.
. . . Do you think there's a far border town, somewhere, The desert's edge, last of the lands we know, Some gaunt eventual limit of our light, In which I'll find you waiting; and we'll go Together, hand in hand again, out there, Into the waste we know not, into the night?
Some day I shall rise and leave my friends And seek you again through the world's far ends, You whom I found so fair (Touch of your hands and smell of your hair!), My only god in the days that were. My eager feet shall find you again, Though the sullen years and the mark of pain Have changed you wholly; for I shall know (How could I forget having loved you so?), In the sad half-light of evening, The face that was all my sunrising. So then at the ends of the earth I'll stand And hold you fiercely by either hand, And seeing your age and ashen hair I'll curse the thing that once you were, Because it is changed and pale and old (Lips that were scarlet, hair that was gold!), And I loved you before you were old and wise, When the flame of youth was strong in your eyes, — And my heart is sick with memories.
Sonnet: "Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire"
Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire Of watching you; and swing me suddenly Into the shade and loneliness and mire Of the last land! There, waiting patiently,
One day, I think, I'll feel a cool wind blowing, See a slow light across the Stygian tide, And hear the Dead about me stir, unknowing, And tremble. And I shall know that you have died,
And watch you, a broad-browed and smiling dream, Pass, light as ever, through the lightless host, Quietly ponder, start, and sway, and gleam — Most individual and bewildering ghost! —
And turn, and toss your brown delightful head Amusedly, among the ancient Dead.
Sonnet: "I said I splendidly loved you; it's not true"
I said I splendidly loved you; it's not true. Such long swift tides stir not a land-locked sea. On gods or fools the high risk falls — on you — The clean clear bitter-sweet that's not for me. Love soars from earth to ecstasies unwist. Love is flung Lucifer-like from Heaven to Hell. But — there are wanderers in the middle mist, Who cry for shadows, clutch, and cannot tell Whether they love at all, or, loving, whom: An old song's lady, a fool in fancy dress, Or phantoms, or their own face on the gloom; For love of Love, or from heart's loneliness. Pleasure's not theirs, nor pain. They doubt, and sigh, And do not love at all. Of these am I.
I think if you had loved me when I wanted; If I'd looked up one day, and seen your eyes, And found my wild sick blasphemous prayer granted, And your brown face, that's full of pity and wise, Flushed suddenly; the white godhead in new fear Intolerably so struggling, and so shamed; Most holy and far, if you'd come all too near, If earth had seen Earth's lordliest wild limbs tamed, Shaken, and trapped, and shivering, for MY touch — Myself should I have slain? or that foul you? But this the strange gods, who had given so much, To have seen and known you, this they might not do. One last shame's spared me, one black word's unspoken; And I'm alone; and you have not awoken.
When the white flame in us is gone, And we that lost the world's delight Stiffen in darkness, left alone To crumble in our separate night;
When your swift hair is quiet in death, And through the lips corruption thrust Has stilled the labour of my breath — When we are dust, when we are dust! —
Not dead, not undesirous yet, Still sentient, still unsatisfied, We'll ride the air, and shine, and flit, Around the places where we died,
And dance as dust before the sun, And light of foot, and unconfined, Hurry from road to road, and run About the errands of the wind.
And every mote, on earth or air, Will speed and gleam, down later days, And like a secret pilgrim fare By eager and invisible ways,
Nor ever rest, nor ever lie, Till, beyond thinking, out of view, One mote of all the dust that's I Shall meet one atom that was you.
Then in some garden hushed from wind, Warm in a sunset's afterglow, The lovers in the flowers will find A sweet and strange unquiet grow
Upon the peace; and, past desiring, So high a beauty in the air, And such a light, and such a quiring, And such a radiant ecstasy there,
They'll know not if it's fire, or dew, Or out of earth, or in the height, Singing, or flame, or scent, or hue, Or two that pass, in light, to light,
Out of the garden, higher, higher. . . . But in that instant they shall learn The shattering ecstasy of our fire, And the weak passionless hearts will burn
And faint in that amazing glow, Until the darkness close above; And they will know — poor fools, they'll know! — One moment, what it is to love.
When love has changed to kindliness — Oh, love, our hungry lips, that press So tight that Time's an old god's dream Nodding in heaven, and whisper stuff Seven million years were not enough To think on after, make it seem Less than the breath of children playing, A blasphemy scarce worth the saying, A sorry jest, "When love has grown To kindliness — to kindliness!" . . . And yet — the best that either's known Will change, and wither, and be less, At last, than comfort, or its own Remembrance. And when some caress Tendered in habit (once a flame All heaven sang out to) wakes the shame Unworded, in the steady eyes We'll have, — THAT day, what shall we do? Being so noble, kill the two Who've reached their second-best? Being wise, Break cleanly off, and get away. Follow down other windier skies New lures, alone? Or shall we stay, Since this is all we've known, content In the lean twilight of such day, And not remember, not lament? That time when all is over, and Hand never flinches, brushing hand; And blood lies quiet, for all you're near; And it's but spoken words we hear, Where trumpets sang; when the mere skies Are stranger and nobler than your eyes; And flesh is flesh, was flame before; And infinite hungers leap no more In the chance swaying of your dress; And love has changed to kindliness.
As those of old drank mummia To fire their limbs of lead, Making dead kings from Africa Stand pandar to their bed;
Drunk on the dead, and medicined With spiced imperial dust, In a short night they reeled to find Ten centuries of lust.
So I, from paint, stone, tale, and rhyme, Stuffed love's infinity, And sucked all lovers of all time To rarify ecstasy.
Helen's the hair shuts out from me Verona's livid skies; Gypsy the lips I press; and see Two Antonys in your eyes.
The unheard invisible lovely dead Lie with us in this place, And ghostly hands above my head Close face to straining face;
Their blood is wine along our limbs; Their whispering voices wreathe Savage forgotten drowsy hymns Under the names we breathe;
Woven from their tomb, and one with it, The night wherein we press; Their thousand pitchy pyres have lit Your flaming nakedness.
For the uttermost years have cried and clung To kiss your mouth to mine; And hair long dust was caught, was flung, Hand shaken to hand divine,
And Life has fired, and Death not shaded, All Time's uncounted bliss, And the height o' the world has flamed and faded, Love, that our love be this!
In a cool curving world he lies And ripples with dark ecstasies. The kind luxurious lapse and steal Shapes all his universe to feel And know and be; the clinging stream Closes his memory, glooms his dream, Who lips the roots o' the shore, and glides Superb on unreturning tides. Those silent waters weave for him A fluctuant mutable world and dim, Where wavering masses bulge and gape Mysterious, and shape to shape Dies momently through whorl and hollow, And form and line and solid follow Solid and line and form to dream Fantastic down the eternal stream; An obscure world, a shifting world, Bulbous, or pulled to thin, or curled, Or serpentine, or driving arrows, Or serene slidings, or March narrows. There slipping wave and shore are one, And weed and mud. No ray of sun, But glow to glow fades down the deep (As dream to unknown dream in sleep); Shaken translucency illumes The hyaline of drifting glooms; The strange soft-handed depth subdues Drowned colour there, but black to hues, As death to living, decomposes — Red darkness of the heart of roses, Blue brilliant from dead starless skies, And gold that lies behind the eyes, The unknown unnameable sightless white That is the essential flame of night, Lustreless purple, hooded green, The myriad hues that lie between Darkness and darkness! . . .
And all's one. Gentle, embracing, quiet, dun, The world he rests in, world he knows, Perpetual curving. Only — grows An eddy in that ordered falling, A knowledge from the gloom, a calling Weed in the wave, gleam in the mud — The dark fire leaps along his blood; Dateless and deathless, blind and still, The intricate impulse works its will; His woven world drops back; and he, Sans providence, sans memory, Unconscious and directly driven, Fades to some dank sufficient heaven.
O world of lips, O world of laughter, Where hope is fleet and thought flies after, Of lights in the clear night, of cries That drift along the wave and rise Thin to the glittering stars above, You know the hands, the eyes of love! The strife of limbs, the sightless clinging, The infinite distance, and the singing Blown by the wind, a flame of sound, The gleam, the flowers, and vast around The horizon, and the heights above — You know the sigh, the song of love!
But there the night is close, and there Darkness is cold and strange and bare; And the secret deeps are whisperless; And rhythm is all deliciousness; And joy is in the throbbing tide, Whose intricate fingers beat and glide In felt bewildering harmonies Of trembling touch; and music is The exquisite knocking of the blood. Space is no more, under the mud; His bliss is older than the sun. Silent and straight the waters run. The lights, the cries, the willows dim, And the dark tide are one with him.
Thoughts on the Shape of the Human Body
How can we find? how can we rest? how can We, being gods, win joy, or peace, being man? We, the gaunt zanies of a witless Fate, Who love the unloving and lover hate, Forget the moment ere the moment slips, Kiss with blind lips that seek beyond the lips, Who want, and know not what we want, and cry With crooked mouths for Heaven, and throw it by. Love's for completeness! No perfection grows 'Twixt leg, and arm, elbow, and ear, and nose, And joint, and socket; but unsatisfied Sprawling desires, shapeless, perverse, denied. Finger with finger wreathes; we love, and gape, Fantastic shape to mazed fantastic shape, Straggling, irregular, perplexed, embossed, Grotesquely twined, extravagantly lost By crescive paths and strange protuberant ways From sanity and from wholeness and from grace. How can love triumph, how can solace be, Where fever turns toward fever, knee toward knee? Could we but fill to harmony, and dwell Simple as our thought and as perfectible, Rise disentangled from humanity Strange whole and new into simplicity, Grow to a radiant round love, and bear Unfluctuant passion for some perfect sphere, Love moon to moon unquestioning, and be Like the star Lunisequa, steadfastly Following the round clear orb of her delight, Patiently ever, through the eternal night!
Voices out of the shade that cried, And long noon in the hot calm places, And children's play by the wayside, And country eyes, and quiet faces — All these were round my steady paces.
Those that I could have loved went by me; Cool gardened homes slept in the sun; I heard the whisper of water nigh me, Saw hands that beckoned, shone, were gone In the green and gold. And I went on.
For if my echoing footfall slept, Soon a far whispering there'd be Of a little lonely wind that crept From tree to tree, and distantly Followed me, followed me. . . .
But the blue vaporous end of day Brought peace, and pursuit baffled quite, Where between pine-woods dipped the way. I turned, slipped in and out of sight. I trod as quiet as the night.
The pine-boles kept perpetual hush; And in the boughs wind never swirled. I found a flowering lowly bush, And bowed, slid in, and sighed and curled, Hidden at rest from all the world.
Safe! I was safe, and glad, I knew! Yet — with cold heart and cold wet brows I lay. And the dark fell. . . . There grew Meward a sound of shaken boughs; And ceased, above my intricate house;
And silence, silence, silence found me. . . . I felt the unfaltering movement creep Among the leaves. They shed around me Calm clouds of scent, that I did weep; And stroked my face. I fell asleep.
Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill, Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass. You said, "Through glory and ecstasy we pass; Wind, sun, and earth remain, the birds sing still, When we are old, are old. . . ." "And when we die All's over that is ours; and life burns on Through other lovers, other lips," said I, — "Heart of my heart, our heaven is now, is won!"
"We are Earth's best, that learnt her lesson here. Life is our cry. We have kept the faith!" we said; "We shall go down with unreluctant tread Rose-crowned into the darkness!" . . . Proud we were, And laughed, that had such brave true things to say. — And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.
The One Before the Last
I dreamt I was in love again With the One Before the Last, And smiled to greet the pleasant pain Of that innocent young past.
But I jumped to feel how sharp had been The pain when it did live, How the faded dreams of Nineteen-ten Were Hell in Nineteen-five.
The boy's woe was as keen and clear, The boy's love just as true, And the One Before the Last, my dear, Hurt quite as much as you.
* * * * *
Sickly I pondered how the lover Wrongs the unanswering tomb, And sentimentalizes over What earned a better doom.
Gently he tombs the poor dim last time, Strews pinkish dust above, And sighs, "The dear dead boyish pastime! But THIS — ah, God! — is Love!"
— Better oblivion hide dead true loves, Better the night enfold, Than men, to eke the praise of new loves, Should lie about the old!
* * * * *
Oh! bitter thoughts I had in plenty. But here's the worst of it — I shall forget, in Nineteen-twenty, YOU ever hurt abit!
The Jolly Company
The stars, a jolly company, I envied, straying late and lonely; And cried upon their revelry: "O white companionship! You only In love, in faith unbroken dwell, Friends radiant and inseparable!"
Light-heart and glad they seemed to me And merry comrades (EVEN SO GOD OUT OF HEAVEN MAY LAUGH TO SEE THE HAPPY CROWDS; AND NEVER KNOW THAT IN HIS LONE OBSCURE DISTRESS EACH WALKETH IN A WILDERNESS).
But I, remembering, pitied well And loved them, who, with lonely light, In empty infinite spaces dwell, Disconsolate. For, all the night, I heard the thin gnat-voices cry, Star to faint star, across the sky.
The Life Beyond
He wakes, who never thought to wake again, Who held the end was Death. He opens eyes Slowly, to one long livid oozing plain Closed down by the strange eyeless heavens. He lies; And waits; and once in timeless sick surmise Through the dead air heaves up an unknown hand, Like a dry branch. No life is in that land, Himself not lives, but is a thing that cries; An unmeaning point upon the mud; a speck Of moveless horror; an Immortal One Cleansed of the world, sentient and dead; a fly Fast-stuck in grey sweat on a corpse's neck.
I thought when love for you died, I should die. It's dead. Alone, most strangely, I live on.
Lines Written in the Belief That the Ancient Roman Festival of the Dead Was Called Ambarvalia
Swings the way still by hollow and hill, And all the world's a song; "She's far," it sings me, "but fair," it rings me, "Quiet," it laughs, "and strong!"
Oh! spite of the miles and years between us, Spite of your chosen part, I do remember; and I go With laughter in my heart.
So above the little folk that know not, Out of the white hill-town, High up I clamber; and I remember; And watch the day go down.
Gold is my heart, and the world's golden, And one peak tipped with light; And the air lies still about the hill With the first fear of night;
Till mystery down the soundless valley Thunders, and dark is here; And the wind blows, and the light goes, And the night is full of fear,
And I know, one night, on some far height, In the tongue I never knew, I yet shall hear the tidings clear From them that were friends of you.
They'll call the news from hill to hill, Dark and uncomforted, Earth and sky and the winds; and I Shall know that you are dead.
I shall not hear your trentals, Nor eat your arval bread; For the kin of you will surely do Their duty by the dead.
Their little dull greasy eyes will water; They'll paw you, and gulp afresh. They'll sniffle and weep, and their thoughts will creep Like flies on the cold flesh.
They will put pence on your grey eyes, Bind up your fallen chin, And lay you straight, the fools that loved you Because they were your kin.
They will praise all the bad about you, And hush the good away, And wonder how they'll do without you, And then they'll go away.
But quieter than one sleeping, And stranger than of old, You will not stir for weeping, You will not mind the cold;
But through the night the lips will laugh not, The hands will be in place, And at length the hair be lying still About the quiet face.
With snuffle and sniff and handkerchief, And dim and decorous mirth, With ham and sherry, they'll meet to bury The lordliest lass of earth.
The little dead hearts will tramp ungrieving Behind lone-riding you, The heart so high, the heart so living, Heart that they never knew.
I shall not hear your trentals, Nor eat your arval bread, Nor with smug breath tell lies of death To the unanswering dead.
With snuffle and sniff and handkerchief, The folk who loved you not Will bury you, and go wondering Back home. And you will rot.
But laughing and half-way up to heaven, With wind and hill and star, I yet shall keep, before I sleep, Your Ambarvalia.
Dead Men's Love
There was a damned successful Poet; There was a Woman like the Sun. And they were dead. They did not know it. They did not know their time was done. They did not know his hymns Were silence; and her limbs, That had served Love so well, Dust, and a filthy smell.
And so one day, as ever of old, Hands out, they hurried, knee to knee; On fire to cling and kiss and hold And, in the other's eyes, to see Each his own tiny face, And in that long embrace Feel lip and breast grow warm To breast and lip and arm.
So knee to knee they sped again, And laugh to laugh they ran, I'm told, Across the streets of Hell . . . And then They suddenly felt the wind blow cold, And knew, so closely pressed, Chill air on lip and breast, And, with a sick surprise, The emptiness of eyes.
Town and Country
Here, where love's stuff is body, arm and side Are stabbing-sweet 'gainst chair and lamp and wall. In every touch more intimate meanings hide; And flaming brains are the white heart of all.
Here, million pulses to one centre beat: Closed in by men's vast friendliness, alone, Two can be drunk with solitude, and meet On the sheer point where sense with knowing's one.
Here the green-purple clanging royal night, And the straight lines and silent walls of town, And roar, and glare, and dust, and myriad white Undying passers, pinnacle and crown
Intensest heavens between close-lying faces By the lamp's airless fierce ecstatic fire; And we've found love in little hidden places, Under great shades, between the mist and mire.
Stay! though the woods are quiet, and you've heard Night creep along the hedges. Never go Where tangled foliage shrouds the crying bird, And the remote winds sigh, and waters flow!
Lest — as our words fall dumb on windless noons, Or hearts grow hushed and solitary, beneath Unheeding stars and unfamiliar moons, Or boughs bend over, close and quiet as death, —
Unconscious and unpassionate and still, Cloud-like we lean and stare as bright leaves stare, And gradually along the stranger hill Our unwalled loves thin out on vacuous air,
And suddenly there's no meaning in our kiss, And your lit upward face grows, where we lie, Lonelier and dreadfuller than sunlight is, And dumb and mad and eyeless like the sky.
For moveless limbs no pity I crave, That never were swift! Still all I prize, Laughter and thought and friends, I have; No fool to heave luxurious sighs For the woods and hills that I never knew. The more excellent way's yet mine! And you
Flower-laden come to the clean white cell, And we talk as ever — am I not the same? With our hearts we love, immutable, You without pity, I without shame. We talk as of old; as of old you go Out under the sky, and laughing, I know,
Flit through the streets, your heart all me; Till you gain the world beyond the town. Then — I fade from your heart, quietly; And your fleet steps quicken. The strong down Smiles you welcome there; the woods that love you Close lovely and conquering arms above you.
O ever-moving, O lithe and free! Fast in my linen prison I press On impassable bars, or emptily Laugh in my great loneliness. And still in the white neat bed I strive Most impotently against that gyve; Being less now than a thought, even, To you alone with your hills and heaven.
Menelaus and Helen
Hot through Troy's ruin Menelaus broke To Priam's palace, sword in hand, to sate On that adulterous whore a ten years' hate And a king's honour. Through red death, and smoke, And cries, and then by quieter ways he strode, Till the still innermost chamber fronted him. He swung his sword, and crashed into the dim Luxurious bower, flaming like a god.
High sat white Helen, lonely and serene. He had not remembered that she was so fair, And that her neck curved down in such a way; And he felt tired. He flung the sword away, And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there, The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.
So far the poet. How should he behold That journey home, the long connubial years? He does not tell you how white Helen bears Child on legitimate child, becomes a scold, Haggard with virtue. Menelaus bold Waxed garrulous, and sacked a hundred Troys 'Twixt noon and supper. And her golden voice Got shrill as he grew deafer. And both were old.
Often he wonders why on earth he went Troyward, or why poor Paris ever came. Oft she weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent; Her dry shanks twitch at Paris' mumbled name. So Menelaus nagged; and Helen cried; And Paris slept on by Scamander side.
How should I know? The enormous wheels of will Drove me cold-eyed on tired and sleepless feet. Night was void arms and you a phantom still, And day your far light swaying down the street. As never fool for love, I starved for you; My throat was dry and my eyes hot to see. Your mouth so lying was most heaven in view, And your remembered smell most agony.
Love wakens love! I felt your hot wrist shiver And suddenly the mad victory I planned Flashed real, in your burning bending head. . . . My conqueror's blood was cool as a deep river In shadow; and my heart beneath your hand Quieter than a dead man on a bed.
When I see you, who were so wise and cool, Gazing with silly sickness on that fool You've given your love to, your adoring hands Touch his so intimately that each understands, I know, most hidden things; and when I know Your holiest dreams yield to the stupid bow Of his red lips, and that the empty grace Of those strong legs and arms, that rosy face, Has beaten your heart to such a flame of love, That you have given him every touch and move, Wrinkle and secret of you, all your life, — Oh! then I know I'm waiting, lover-wife, For the great time when love is at a close, And all its fruit's to watch the thickening nose And sweaty neck and dulling face and eye, That are yours, and you, most surely, till you die! Day after day you'll sit with him and note The greasier tie, the dingy wrinkling coat; As prettiness turns to pomp, and strength to fat, And love, love, love to habit! And after that, When all that's fine in man is at an end, And you, that loved young life and clean, must tend A foul sick fumbling dribbling body and old, When his rare lips hang flabby and can't hold Slobber, and you're enduring that worst thing, Senility's queasy furtive love-making, And searching those dear eyes for human meaning, Propping the bald and helpless head, and cleaning A scrap that life's flung by, and love's forgotten, — Then you'll be tired; and passion dead and rotten; And he'll be dirty, dirty! O lithe and free And lightfoot, that the poor heart cries to see, That's how I'll see your man and you! —
But you — Oh, when THAT time comes, you'll be dirty too!
My restless blood now lies a-quiver, Knowing that always, exquisitely, This April twilight on the river Stirs anguish in the heart of me.
For the fast world in that rare glimmer Puts on the witchery of a dream, The straight grey buildings, richly dimmer, The fiery windows, and the stream
With willows leaning quietly over, The still ecstatic fading skies . . . And all these, like a waiting lover, Murmur and gleam, lift lustrous eyes,
Drift close to me, and sideways bending Whisper delicious words. But I Stretch terrible hands, uncomprehending, Shaken with love; and laugh; and cry.
My agony made the willows quiver; I heard the knocking of my heart Die loudly down the windless river, I heard the pale skies fall apart,
And the shrill stars' unmeaning laughter, And my voice with the vocal trees Weeping. And Hatred followed after, Shrilling madly down the breeze.
In peace from the wild heart of clamour, A flower in moonlight, she was there, Was rippling down white ways of glamour Quietly laid on wave and air.
Her passing left no leaf a-quiver. Pale flowers wreathed her white, white brows. Her feet were silence on the river; And "Hush!" she said, between the boughs.
In darkness the loud sea makes moan; And earth is shaken, and all evils creep About her ways. Oh, now to know you sleep! Out of the whirling blinding moil, alone, Out of the slow grim fight, One thought to wing — to you, asleep, In some cool room that's open to the night Lying half-forward, breathing quietly, One white hand on the white Unrumpled sheet, and the ever-moving hair Quiet and still at length! . . .
Your magic and your beauty and your strength, Like hills at noon or sunlight on a tree, Sleeping prevail in earth and air.
In the sweet gloom above the brown and white Night benedictions hover; and the winds of night Move gently round the room, and watch you there. And through the dreadful hours The trees and waters and the hills have kept The sacred vigil while you slept, And lay a way of dew and flowers Where your feet, your morning feet, shall tread. And still the darkness ebbs about your bed. Quiet, and strange, and loving-kind, you sleep. And holy joy about the earth is shed; And holiness upon the deep.
From the candles and dumb shadows, And the house where love had died, I stole to the vast moonlight And the whispering life outside. But I found no lips of comfort, No home in the moon's light (I, little and lone and frightened In the unfriendly night), And no meaning in the voices. . . . Far over the lands and through The dark, beyond the ocean, I willed to think of YOU! For I knew, had you been with me I'd have known the words of night, Found peace of heart, gone gladly In comfort of that light.
Oh! the wind with soft beguiling Would have stolen my thought away; And the night, subtly smiling, Came by the silver way; And the moon came down and danced to me, And her robe was white and flying; And trees bent their heads to me Mysteriously crying; And dead voices wept around me; And dead soft fingers thrilled; And the little gods whispered. . . . But ever Desperately I willed; Till all grew soft and far And silent . . . And suddenly I found you white and radiant, Sleeping quietly, Far out through the tides of darkness. And I there in that great light Was alone no more, nor fearful; For there, in the homely night, Was no thought else that mattered, And nothing else was true, But the white fire of moonlight, And a white dream of you.
"Oh! Love," they said, "is King of Kings, And Triumph is his crown. Earth fades in flame before his wings, And Sun and Moon bow down." — But that, I knew, would never do; And Heaven is all too high. So whenever I meet a Queen, I said, I will not catch her eye.
"Oh! Love," they said, and "Love," they said, "The gift of Love is this; A crown of thorns about thy head, And vinegar to thy kiss!" — But Tragedy is not for me; And I'm content to be gay. So whenever I spied a Tragic Lady, I went another way.
And so I never feared to see You wander down the street, Or come across the fields to me On ordinary feet. For what they'd never told me of, And what I never knew; It was that all the time, my love, Love would be merely you.
Safe in the magic of my woods I lay, and watched the dying light. Faint in the pale high solitudes, And washed with rain and veiled by night,
Silver and blue and green were showing. And the dark woods grew darker still; And birds were hushed; and peace was growing; And quietness crept up the hill;
And no wind was blowing
And I knew That this was the hour of knowing, And the night and the woods and you Were one together, and I should find Soon in the silence the hidden key Of all that had hurt and puzzled me — Why you were you, and the night was kind, And the woods were part of the heart of me.
And there I waited breathlessly, Alone; and slowly the holy three, The three that I loved, together grew One, in the hour of knowing, Night, and the woods, and you ——
And suddenly There was an uproar in my woods,
The noise of a fool in mock distress, Crashing and laughing and blindly going, Of ignorant feet and a swishing dress, And a Voice profaning the solitudes.
The spell was broken, the key denied me And at length your flat clear voice beside me Mouthed cheerful clear flat platitudes.
You came and quacked beside me in the wood. You said, "The view from here is very good!" You said, "It's nice to be alone a bit!" And, "How the days are drawing out!" you said. You said, "The sunset's pretty, isn't it?"
* * * * *
By God! I wish — I wish that you were dead!
When you were there, and you, and you, Happiness crowned the night; I too, Laughing and looking, one of all, I watched the quivering lamplight fall On plate and flowers and pouring tea And cup and cloth; and they and we Flung all the dancing moments by With jest and glitter. Lip and eye Flashed on the glory, shone and cried, Improvident, unmemoried; And fitfully and like a flame The light of laughter went and came. Proud in their careless transience moved The changing faces that I loved.
Till suddenly, and otherwhence, I looked upon your innocence. For lifted clear and still and strange From the dark woven flow of change Under a vast and starless sky I saw the immortal moment lie. One instant I, an instant, knew As God knows all. And it and you I, above Time, oh, blind! could see In witless immortality. I saw the marble cup; the tea, Hung on the air, an amber stream; I saw the fire's unglittering gleam, The painted flame, the frozen smoke. No more the flooding lamplight broke On flying eyes and lips and hair; But lay, but slept unbroken there, On stiller flesh, and body breathless, And lips and laughter stayed and deathless, And words on which no silence grew. Light was more alive than you.
For suddenly, and otherwhence, I looked on your magnificence. I saw the stillness and the light, And you, august, immortal, white, Holy and strange; and every glint Posture and jest and thought and tint Freed from the mask of transiency, Triumphant in eternity, Immote, immortal.
Dazed at length Human eyes grew, mortal strength Wearied; and Time began to creep. Change closed about me like a sleep. Light glinted on the eyes I loved. The cup was filled. The bodies moved. The drifting petal came to ground. The laughter chimed its perfect round. The broken syllable was ended. And I, so certain and so friended, How could I cloud, or how distress, The heaven of your unconsciousness? Or shake at Time's sufficient spell, Stammering of lights unutterable? The eternal holiness of you, The timeless end, you never knew, The peace that lay, the light that shone. You never knew that I had gone A million miles away, and stayed A million years. The laughter played Unbroken round me; and the jest Flashed on. And we that knew the best Down wonderful hours grew happier yet. I sang at heart, and talked, and eat, And lived from laugh to laugh, I too, When you were there, and you, and you.
The Goddess in the Wood
In a flowered dell the Lady Venus stood, Amazed with sorrow. Down the morning one Far golden horn in the gold of trees and sun Rang out; and held; and died. . . . She thought the wood Grew quieter. Wing, and leaf, and pool of light Forgot to dance. Dumb lay the unfalling stream; Life one eternal instant rose in dream Clear out of time, poised on a golden height. . . .
Till a swift terror broke the abrupt hour. The gold waves purled amidst the green above her; And a bird sang. With one sharp-taken breath, By sunlit branches and unshaken flower, The immortal limbs flashed to the human lover, And the immortal eyes to look on death.
A Channel Passage
The damned ship lurched and slithered. Quiet and quick My cold gorge rose; the long sea rolled; I knew I must think hard of something, or be sick; And could think hard of only one thing — YOU! You, you alone could hold my fancy ever! And with you memories come, sharp pain, and dole. Now there's a choice — heartache or tortured liver! A sea-sick body, or a you-sick soul!
Do I forget you? Retchings twist and tie me, Old meat, good meals, brown gobbets, up I throw. Do I remember? Acrid return and slimy, The sobs and slobber of a last years woe. And still the sick ship rolls. 'Tis hard, I tell ye, To choose 'twixt love and nausea, heart and belly.
All night the ways of Heaven were desolate, Long roads across a gleaming empty sky. Outcast and doomed and driven, you and I, Alone, serene beyond all love or hate, Terror or triumph, were content to wait, We, silent and all-knowing. Suddenly Swept through the heaven low-crouching from on high, One horseman, downward to the earth's low gate.
Oh, perfect from the ultimate height of living, Lightly we turned, through wet woods blossom-hung, Into the open. Down the supernal roads, With plumes a-tossing, purple flags far flung, Rank upon rank, unbridled, unforgiving, Thundered the black battalions of the Gods.
Day and Night
Through my heart's palace Thoughts unnumbered throng; And there, most quiet and, as a child, most wise, High-throned you sit, and gracious. All day long Great Hopes gold-armoured, jester Fantasies, And pilgrim Dreams, and little beggar Sighs, Bow to your benediction, go their way. And the grave jewelled courtier Memories Worship and love and tend you, all the day.
But when I sleep, and all my thoughts go straying, When the high session of the day is ended, And darkness comes; then, with the waning light, By lilied maidens on your way attended, Proud from the wonted throne, superbly swaying, You, like a queen, pass out into the night.
Choriambics — I
Ah! not now, when desire burns, and the wind calls, and the suns of spring Light-foot dance in the woods, whisper of life, woo me to wayfaring; Ah! not now should you come, now when the road beckons, and good friends call, Where are songs to be sung, fights to be fought, yea! and the best of all, Love, on myriad lips fairer than yours, kisses you could not give! . . . Dearest, why should I mourn, whimper, and whine, I that have yet to live? Sorrow will I forget, tears for the best, love on the lips of you, Now, when dawn in the blood wakes, and the sun laughs up the eastern blue; I'll forget and be glad! Only at length, dear, when the great day ends, When love dies with the last light, and the last song has been sung, and friends All are perished, and gloom strides on the heaven: then, as alone I lie, 'Mid Death's gathering winds, frightened and dumb, sick for the past, may I Feel you suddenly there, cool at my brow; then may I hear the peace Of your voice at the last, whispering love, calling, ere all can cease In the silence of death; then may I see dimly, and know, a space, Bending over me, last light in the dark, once, as of old, your face.
Choriambics — II
Here the flame that was ash, shrine that was void, lost in the haunted wood, I have tended and loved, year upon year, I in the solitude Waiting, quiet and glad-eyed in the dark, knowing that once a gleam Glowed and went through the wood. Still I abode strong in a golden dream, Unrecaptured. For I, I that had faith, knew that a face would glance One day, white in the dim woods, and a voice call, and a radiance Fill the grove, and the fire suddenly leap . . . and, in the heart of it, End of labouring, you! Therefore I kept ready the altar, lit The flame, burning apart. Face of my dreams vainly in vision white Gleaming down to me, lo! hopeless I rise now. For about midnight Whispers grew through the wood suddenly, strange cries in the boughs above Grated, cries like a laugh. Silent and black then through the sacred grove Great birds flew, as a dream, troubling the leaves, passing at length. I knew Long expected and long loved, that afar, God of the dim wood, you Somewhere lay, as a child sleeping, a child suddenly reft from mirth, White and wonderful yet, white in your youth, stretched upon foreign earth, God, immortal and dead! Therefore I go; never to rest, or win Peace, and worship of you more, and the dumb wood and the shrine therein.
So light we were, so right we were, so fair faith shone, And the way was laid so certainly, that, when I'd gone, What dumb thing looked up at you? Was it something heard, Or a sudden cry, that meekly and without a word You broke the faith, and strangely, weakly, slipped apart. You gave in — you, the proud of heart, unbowed of heart! Was this, friend, the end of all that we could do? And have you found the best for you, the rest for you? Did you learn so suddenly (and I not by!) Some whispered story, that stole the glory from the sky, And ended all the splendid dream, and made you go So dully from the fight we know, the light we know?
O faithless! the faith remains, and I must pass Gay down the way, and on alone. Under the grass You wait; the breeze moves in the trees, and stirs, and calls, And covers you with white petals, with light petals. There it shall crumble, frail and fair, under the sun, O little heart, your brittle heart; till day be done, And the shadows gather, falling light, and, white with dew, Whisper, and weep; and creep to you. Good sleep to you!
Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour, And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping, With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power, To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping, Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary, Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move, And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary, And all the little emptiness of love!
Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there, Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending, Naught broken save this body, lost but breath; Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there But only agony, and that has ending; And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.
Dear! of all happy in the hour, most blest He who has found our hid security, Assured in the dark tides of the world that rest, And heard our word, 'Who is so safe as we?' We have found safety with all things undying, The winds, and morning, tears of men and mirth, The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying, And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth. We have built a house that is not for Time's throwing. We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever. War knows no power. Safe shall be my going, Secretly armed against all death's endeavour; Safe though all safety's lost; safe where men fall; And if these poor limbs die, safest of all.
III. The Dead
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead! There's none of these so lonely and poor of old, But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold. These laid the world away; poured out the red Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, That men call age; and those who would have been, Their sons, they gave, their immortality.
Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth, Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain. Honour has come back, as a king, to earth, And paid his subjects with a royal wage; And Nobleness walks in our ways again; And we have come into our heritage.
IV. The Dead
These hearts were woven of human joys and cares, Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth. The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs, And sunset, and the colours of the earth. These had seen movement, and heard music; known Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended; Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone; Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after, Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, A width, a shining peace, under the night.
V. The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
When colour goes home into the eyes, And lights that shine are shut again With dancing girls and sweet birds' cries Behind the gateways of the brain; And that no-place which gave them birth, shall close The rainbow and the rose: —
Still may Time hold some golden space Where I'll unpack that scented store Of song and flower and sky and face, And count, and touch, and turn them o'er, Musing upon them; as a mother, who Has watched her children all the rich day through Sits, quiet-handed, in the fading light, When children sleep, ere night.
The South Seas
Mamua, when our laughter ends, And hearts and bodies, brown as white, Are dust about the doors of friends, Or scent ablowing down the night, Then, oh! then, the wise agree, Comes our immortality. Mamua, there waits a land Hard for us to understand. Out of time, beyond the sun, All are one in Paradise, You and Pupure are one, And Tau, and the ungainly wise. There the Eternals are, and there The Good, the Lovely, and the True, And Types, whose earthly copies were The foolish broken things we knew; There is the Face, whose ghosts we are; The real, the never-setting Star; And the Flower, of which we love Faint and fading shadows here; Never a tear, but only Grief; Dance, but not the limbs that move; Songs in Song shall disappear; Instead of lovers, Love shall be; For hearts, Immutability; And there, on the Ideal Reef, Thunders the Everlasting Sea!
And my laughter, and my pain, Shall home to the Eternal Brain. And all lovely things, they say, Meet in Loveliness again; Miri's laugh, Teipo's feet, And the hands of Matua, Stars and sunlight there shall meet, Coral's hues and rainbows there, And Teura's braided hair; And with the starred 'tiare's' white, And white birds in the dark ravine, And 'flamboyants' ablaze at night, And jewels, and evening's after-green, And dawns of pearl and gold and red, Mamua, your lovelier head! And there'll no more be one who dreams Under the ferns, of crumbling stuff, Eyes of illusion, mouth that seems, All time-entangled human love. And you'll no longer swing and sway Divinely down the scented shade, Where feet to Ambulation fade, And moons are lost in endless Day. How shall we wind these wreaths of ours, Where there are neither heads nor flowers? Oh, Heaven's Heaven! — but we'll be missing The palms, and sunlight, and the south; And there's an end, I think, of kissing, When our mouths are one with Mouth. . . .
'Tau here', Mamua, Crown the hair, and come away! Hear the calling of the moon, And the whispering scents that stray About the idle warm lagoon. Hasten, hand in human hand, Down the dark, the flowered way, Along the whiteness of the sand, And in the water's soft caress, Wash the mind of foolishness, Mamua, until the day. Spend the glittering moonlight there Pursuing down the soundless deep Limbs that gleam and shadowy hair, Or floating lazy, half-asleep. Dive and double and follow after, Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call, With lips that fade, and human laughter And faces individual, Well this side of Paradise! . . . There's little comfort in the wise.
Papeete, February 1914
In your arms was still delight, Quiet as a street at night; And thoughts of you, I do remember, Were green leaves in a darkened chamber, Were dark clouds in a moonless sky. Love, in you, went passing by, Penetrative, remote, and rare, Like a bird in the wide air, And, as the bird, it left no trace In the heaven of your face. In your stupidity I found The sweet hush after a sweet sound. All about you was the light That dims the greying end of night; Desire was the unrisen sun, Joy the day not yet begun, With tree whispering to tree, Without wind, quietly. Wisdom slept within your hair, And Long-Suffering was there, And, in the flowing of your dress, Undiscerning Tenderness. And when you thought, it seemed to me, Infinitely, and like a sea, About the slight world you had known Your vast unconsciousness was thrown. . . .
O haven without wave or tide! Silence, in which all songs have died! Holy book, where hearts are still! And home at length under the hill! O mother quiet, breasts of peace, Where love itself would faint and cease! O infinite deep I never knew, I would come back, come back to you, Find you, as a pool unstirred, Kneel down by you, and never a word, Lay my head, and nothing said, In your hands, ungarlanded; And a long watch you would keep; And I should sleep, and I should sleep!
Mataiea, January 1914
The Great Lover
I have been so great a lover: filled my days So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise, The pain, the calm, and the astonishment, Desire illimitable, and still content, And all dear names men use, to cheat despair, For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear Our hearts at random down the dark of life. Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far, My night shall be remembered for a star That outshone all the suns of all men's days. Shall I not crown them with immortal praise Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see The inenarrable godhead of delight? Love is a flame; — we have beaconed the world's night. A city: — and we have built it, these and I. An emperor: — we have taught the world to die. So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence, And the high cause of Love's magnificence, And to keep loyalties young, I'll write those names Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames, And set them as a banner, that men may know, To dare the generations, burn, and blow Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming. . . . These I have loved: White plates and cups, clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust; Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food; Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood; And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers; And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours, Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon; Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen Unpassioned beauty of a great machine; The benison of hot water; furs to touch; The good smell of old clothes; and other such — The comfortable smell of friendly fingers, Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers About dead leaves and last year's ferns. . . . Dear names, And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames; Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring; Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing; Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain, Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train; Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home; And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould; Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew; And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new; And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass; — All these have been my loves. And these shall pass, Whatever passes not, in the great hour, Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power To hold them with me through the gate of Death. They'll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath, Break the high bond we made, and sell Love's trust And sacramented covenant to the dust. —— Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake, And give what's left of love again, and make New friends, now strangers. . . . But the best I've known, Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown About the winds of the world, and fades from brains Of living men, and dies. Nothing remains.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again This one last gift I give: that after men Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed, Praise you, "All these were lovely"; say, "He loved."
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June, Dawdling away their wat'ry noon) Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear, Each secret fishy hope or fear. Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond; But is there anything Beyond? This life cannot be All, they swear, For how unpleasant, if it were! One may not doubt that, somehow, Good Shall come of Water and of Mud; And, sure, the reverent eye must see A Purpose in Liquidity. We darkly know, by Faith we cry, The future is not Wholly Dry. Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near — Not here the appointed End, not here! But somewhere, beyond Space and Time. Is wetter water, slimier slime! And there (they trust) there swimmeth One Who swam ere rivers were begun, Immense, of fishy form and mind, Squamous, omnipotent, and kind; And under that Almighty Fin, The littlest fish may enter in. Oh! never fly conceals a hook, Fish say, in the Eternal Brook, But more than mundane weeds are there, And mud, celestially fair; Fat caterpillars drift around, And Paradisal grubs are found; Unfading moths, immortal flies, And the worm that never dies. And in that Heaven of all their wish, There shall be no more land, say fish.
When she sleeps, her soul, I know, Goes a wanderer on the air, Wings where I may never go, Leaves her lying, still and fair, Waiting, empty, laid aside, Like a dress upon a chair. . . . This I know, and yet I know Doubts that will not be denied.
For if the soul be not in place, What has laid trouble in her face? And, sits there nothing ware and wise Behind the curtains of her eyes, What is it, in the self's eclipse, Shadows, soft and passingly, About the corners of her lips, The smile that is essential she?