Nirvana Days
by Cale Young Rice
Home - Random Browse


1. Passages in italics are surrounded by underscores. 2. Printer's inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been retained.





Copyright, 1909, by Cale Young Rice




A few of the poems of this volume are retained from two of the author's earlier volumes which are now out of print. The rest are new.





(From a High Cliff)

Sweep unrest Out of my blood, Winds of the sea! Sweep the fog Out of my brain For I am one Who has told Life he will be free. Who will not doubt of work that's done, Who will not fear the work to do. Who will hold peaks Promethean Better than all Jove's honey-dew. Who when the Vulture tears his breast Will smile into the Terror's Eyes. Who for the World has this Bequest— Hope, that eternally is wise.


Last night I slipt from the banks of dream And swam in the currents of God, On a tide where His fairies were at play, Catching salt tears in their little white hands, For human hearts; And dancing dancing, in gala bands, On the currents of God; And singing, singing:— There is no wind blows here or spray— Wind upon us! Only the waters ripple away Under our feet as we gather tears. God has made mortals for the years, Us for alway! God has made mortals full of fears, Fears for the night and fears for the day. If they would free them from grief that sears, If they would keep all that love endears, If they would lay no more lilies on biers— Let them say! For we are swift to enchant and tire Time's will! Our feet are wiser than all desire, Our song is better than faith or fame; To whom it is given no ill e'er came, Who has it not grows chill! Who has it not grows laggard and lame, Nor knows that the world is a Minstrel's lyre, Smitten and never still!... Last night on the currents of God.


The seven fleets of Venice Set sail across the sea For Cyprus and for Trebizond Ayoub and Araby. Their gonfalons are floating far, St. Mark's has heard the mass, And to the noon the salt lagoon Lies white, like burning glass.

The seven fleets of Venice— And each its way to go, Led by a Falier or Tron, Zorzi or Dandalo. The Patriarch has blessed them all, The Doge has waved the word, And in their wings the murmurings Of waiting winds are heard.

The seven fleets of Venice— And what shall be their fate? One shall return with porphyry And pearl and fair agate. One shall return with spice and spoil And silk of Samarcand. But nevermore shall one win o'er The sea, to any land.

Oh, they shall bring the East back, And they shall bring the West, The seven fleets our Venice sets A-sail upon her quest. But some shall bring despair back And some shall leave their keels Deeper than wind or wave frets, Or sun ever steals.



If I were in Japan today, In little Japan today, I'd watch the sampan-rowers ride On Yokohama bay. I'd watch the little flower-folk Pass on the Bund, where play Of "foreign" music fills their ears With wonder new alway.

Or in a kuruma I'd step And "Noge-yama!" cry, And bare brown feet should wheel me fast Where Noge-yama, high Above the city and sea's vast Uprises, with the sigh Of pines about its festal fanes Built free to sun and sky.

And there till dusk I'd sit and think Of Shaka Muni, lord Of Buddhas; or of Fudo's fire And rope and lifted sword. And, ere I left, a surging shade Of clouds, a distant horde, Should break and Fugi's cone stand clear— With sutras overscored.

Sutras of ice and rock and snow, Written by hands of heat And thaw upon it, till 'twould seem Meant for the final seat Of the lord Buddha and his bliss— If ever he repeat This life where millions still are bound Within Illusion's cheat.


Or were I in Japan today— Perchance at Kyoto— Down Tera-machi I would search For charm or curio. Up narrow stairs in sandals pure Of soil or dust I'd go Into a room of magic shapes— Gods, dragons, dread Nio.

And seated on the silent mats, With many a treasure near— Of ivory the gods have dreamt, And satsuma as dear, Of bronzes whose mysterious mint Seems not of now or here— I'd buy and dream and dream and buy, Lost far in Maya's sphere.

Then gathering up my gains at last, Mid "sayonaras" soft And bows and gentle courtesies Repeated oft and oft, My host and I should part—"O please The skies much weal to waft His years," I'd think, then cross San-jo To fair Chion-in aloft.

For set aloft and set apart, Beyond the city's din, Under the shade of ancient heights Lies templed calm Chion-in. And there the great bell's booming fills Its gates all day, and thin Low beating on mokugyo, by Priests passioning for sin.

And there the sun upon its courts And carvings, gods and graves, Rests as no light of earth-lands known, Like to Nirvana laves And washes with sweet under-flow Into the soul's far caves. And no more shall this life seem real To one who feels its waves.

"No more!" I'd say, then wander on To Kiyomizu-shrine, Which is so old antiquity's Far self cannot divine Its birth, but knows that Kwannon, she Of mercy's might benign, Has reached her thousand hands always From it to Nippon's line.

And She should hear my many prayers, And have my freest gifts. And many days beside her should I watch the crystal rifts Of Otawa's clear waters earn Their way, o'er rocks and drifts, Beside the trestled temple down— Like murmurs of sweet shrifts.

Then, when the city wearied me, To Katsura I'd wend— A garden hid across green miles Of rice-lands quaintly penned. And, by the stork-bestridden lake, I'd walk or musing mend My soul with lotus-memories And hopes—without an end.


Or were I in Japan today, Hiroshima should call My heart—Hiroshima built round Her ancient castle wall. By the low flowering moat where sun And silence ever fall Into a swoon, I'd build again Old days of Daimyo thrall.

Of charge and bloody countercharge, When many a samurai Fierce-panoplied fell at its pale, Suppressing groan or cry; Suppressing all but silent hates That swept from eye to eye, While lips smiled decorously on, Or mocked urbane goodbye.

Then to the river I would pass And drift upon its tide By many a tea-house hung in bloom Above its mirrored side. And geisha fluttering gay before Their guests should pause in pied Kimono, then with laughter bright Behind the shoji hide.

Unto an isle of Ugina's Low port my craft should swing, Or scarce an island seems it now To my fair fancying, But a shrined jut of earth up thro The sea from which to sing Unto the evening star of all Night's incarnations bring.

Then backward thro the darkened streets I'd walk: long lanterns writ With ghostly characters should dance Beside each door, or flit, Thin paper spirits, to and fro And mow the wind, when it Demanded of them reverence And passed with twirl or twit.

What music, too, of samisen And koto I should hear! Tinkle on weirder tinkle thro The strangely wistful ear What shadows on the shoji-door Of my dim soul should veer All night in sleep, and haunt the light Of many a coming year!


Or were I in Japan today, From Ujina I'd sail For mountain-isled Migajima Upon the distance, frail As the mirage, to Amida, Of this world's transient tale, Where he sits clothed in boundless light And sees it vainly ail.

Up to the great sea-torii, Its temple-gate, I'd wind, There furl my sail beneath its beam; And soon my soul should find What it shall never, tho it sift The world elsewhere, and blind Itself at last with sight of all Earth's blisses to mankind.

"Migajima! Migajima!" How would enchantment chant The syllables within me, till Desire should cease and pant Of passion press no more my will— But let charmed peace supplant All thought of birth and death and birth— Yea, karma turn askant.

For on Migajima none may Give birth and none may die— Since birth and death are equal sins Unto the wise. So I Should muse all day where the sea spills Its murmur softly by The still stone lanterns all arow Under the deathless sky.

And under cryptomeria-tree And camphor-tree and pine, And tall pagoda, rising roof On roof into the shine Of the pure air—red roof on roof, With memories in each line Of far Confucian China where They first were held divine.

And o'er Migajima the moon Should rise for me again. So magical its glow, I dare Think of it only when My heart is strong to shun the snare Of witcheries that men May lose their souls in evermore, Nor, after, care nor ken.


Yes, were I in Japan today These things I'd do, and more. For Ise gleams in royal groves, And Nara with its lore, And Nikko hid in mountains—where The Shogun, great of yore, Built timeless tombs whose glory glooms Funereally o'er.

These things I'd do! But last of all, On Kamakura's lea, I'd seek Daibutsu's face of calm And still the final sea Of all the West within me—from Its fret and fever free My spirit—into patience, peace, And passion's mastery.


You who are old— And have fought the fight— And have won or lost or left the field— Weigh us not down With fears of the world, as we run! With the wisdom that is too right, The warning to which we cannot yield, The shadow that follows the sun, Follows forever! And with all that desire must leave undone, Though as a god it endeavor; Weigh, weigh us not down!

But gird our hope to believe— That all that is done Is done by dream and daring— Bid us dream on! That Earth was not born Or Heaven built of bewaring— Yield us the dawn! You dreamt your hour—and dared, but we Would dream till all you despaired of be; Would dare—till the world, Won to a new wayfaring, Be thence forever easier upward drawn!


Gulls on the wind, Crying! crying! Are you the ghosts Of Erin's dead? Of the forlorn Whose days went sighing Ever for Beauty That ever fled?

Ever for Light That never kindled? Ever for Song No lips have sung? Ever for Joy That ever dwindled? Ever for Love that stung?


I know not where it was I saw them sit, For in my dreams I had outwandered far That endless wanderer men call the sea— Whose winds like incantations wrap the world And help the moon in her high mysteries. I know not how it was that I was led Unto their tryst; or what dim infinite Of perfect and imperishable night Hung round, a radiance ineffable; For I was too intoxicate and tranced With beauty that I knew was very love. So when divinity from her had stolen Into his spirit, as, from fields of myrrh Or forests of red sandal by the sea, Steal slaking airs, and he began to speak, I could but gather these few fleeting words: "Your glance sends fragrance sweeter than the lily, Your hands are visible bodiments of song You are the voice that April light has lost, Her silence that was music of glad birds. The wind's heart have you, and its mystery, When poet Spring comes piping o'er the hills To make of Tartarus forgotten fear. Yea all the generations of the world, Whose whence and whither but the gods shall know. Are vassal to your vows forevermore." And she, I knew, made answer, for her words Fell warm as womanhood with wordless things, But I had drifted on within my dream, To that pale space which is oblivion.



Night is above me, And Night is above the night. The sea is beside me soughing, or is still. The earth as a somnambulist moves on In a strange sleep ... A sea-bird cries. And the cry wakes in me Dim, dead sea-folk, my sires— Who more than myself are me. Who sat on their beach long nights ago and saw The sea in its silence; And cursed it or implored: Or with the Cross defied; Then on the morrow in their boats went down.


Night is above me ... And Night is above the night. Rocks are about me, and, beyond, the sand ... And the low reluctant tide, That rushes back to ebb a last farewell To the flotsam borne so long upon its breast. Rocks.... But the tide is out, And the slime lies naked, like a thing ashamed That has no hiding-place. And the sea-bird hushes— The bird and all far cries within my blood— And earth as a somnambulist moves on.



My gondola is a black sea-swan, And glides beneath the moon. Dark palaces beside me pass, Like visions in a beryl-glass Of what shall never be, alas, Or what has been too soon. Like what shall never be, but in The breathing of a swoon.

My gondola is a black sea-swan, And makes her mystic way From door to phantom water-door, While carven balconies hang o'er And casements framed for love say more Than love can ever say. Say more than any voice but voice Of silent magic may.

My gondola is a black sea-swan— Rialto lies behind. And by me the Salute swings, A loveliness that must take wings And vanish, as imaginings Within an Afrit's mind; As vague and vast imaginings That can no substance find.

My gondola is a black sea-swan: San Marco and the shaft Of the slim Campanile steal Into my trance and leave a seal Upon my senses, like the feel Of long enchantment quaffed: Of long enchantments such as songs Of sage Al Raschid waft.

My gondola is a black sea-swan And gains to the lagoon, Where samphire and sea-lavender Around me float or softly stir, While far-off Venice still lifts her Fair witchery to the moon And all that wonder e'er gave birth Seems out of beauty hewn.



O-Shichi, all my heart today Is dreaming of your fate; And of your little house that stood Beside the temple gate; Of its plum-garden hid away Behind white paper doors; And of the young boy-priest who read too late with you love-lores.


O-Shichi dwelt in Yedo—where A thousand wonders dwell. Gods, golden palaces and shrines That like a charm enspell. O-Shichi dwelt among them there, More wondrous, she, than all— A flower some forgetful god had from his hand let fall.


And all her days were as the dream On flowers in the sun. And all her ways were as the waves That by Shin-bashi run. And in her gaze there was the gleam Of stars that cannot wait Too long for love and so fare forth from heaven to find a mate.


O-Shichi dwelt so, till one night When all the city slept, When not a paper lantern swung, When only fire-flies swept Soft cipherings of spirit-light Across the temple's gloom— Sudden a cry was heard—the cry that should O-Shichi doom.


For following the cry came flame, A Chaya's roof a-blaze. And quickly was the street a stream Of stricken folk, whose gaze Knew well that when the morning came Their homes would be but smoke Vanished upon the winds: now had O-Shichi's fate awoke.


And waited. For at morning priests In pity of her years And desolation led her back Behind the great god's spheres; The great god Buddha, who of beasts And men all mindful was. O Buddha, in thy very courts O-Shichi learned love's laws!


Love of the body and the soul, Not of Nirvana's state! Love that beyond itself can see No beauty wise or great. O-Shichi for a moon—a whole Moon happy there beheld The young boy-priest whose yearning e'er into his eyes upwelled.


So all too soon for her was found Elsewhere a kindly thatch. And all too soon O-Shichi heard Behind her close love's latch. They led her from the temple's ground Into untrysting days. And all too soon that happy moon was hid in sorrow's haze.


For now at dawn she rose to dress With blooms some honored vase, Or to embroider or brew tea's Sweet ceremonial grace. Or she at dusk, in sick distress, Before the butsudan, Must to ancestral tablets pray—not to her Moto-San!


Not unto him, her love, who sways Her breast, as moon the tide, Whose breath is incense—Ah, again To see him softly glide Before the grave god-idol's gaze Of inward ecstasy, To watch the great bell boom for him its mystic sutra-plea.


But weeks grew into weariness, And weariness to pain, And pain to lonely wildness, which Set fire unto her brain. And, "I will see my love!" distress Made fair O-Shichi cry, "Tho for ten lives away from him I then must live and die."


Yet—no! She dared not go to him, To her he could not come. Then, sudden a thought her being swept And struck her loud heart dumb. Till in her rose confusion dim, Fear fighting with Desire— Which to O-Shichi took the shape of Fudo, god of fire.


And Fudo won her: for that night Did fond O-Shichi dare To set aflame her father's house, Hoping again to share The temple with her acolyte, Her lover-priest, who, spent With speechless passion for her face, in vain strove to repent.


But ah! what destiny can do Is not for folly's hand. The flames O-Shichi kindled were From sea to Shiba fanned. And it was learned a love-sick girl Had charred a thousand homes. Then were the fury-smitten folk like to a sea that foams.


And so they seized her: but not in The temple—O not there Had she been led again by priests In pity—led to share Her lover's eyes; no, but her sin Brought not one dear delight To poor O-Shichi—who was now to look on her last rite.


For to the stake they bound her—fire They lit—to be her fate.... O-Shichi, have I dreamt it all? Your face, the temple gate, The fair boy-priest shut from desire In Buddhahood to-be? Then let me dream and ever dream, O flower by Yedo's sea.


The fishermen bade their wives farewell, (The sun floated merry up the morning) They sang, to the rhythm of the low-swung swell, "O come, lads, scorning The highlands high, There's no warning In the blue south sky, There's no warning, O come, lads, free, We'll cross the harbor bar and put to sea!"

The fisherwives prayed, the sails blew fast, (O home it is happy where there's hoping) They prayed—till the mist dimmed each dim mast: Then "We're not moping," They sweetly sang, "Winds come groping And clouds o'erhang, But we're not moping Tho left ashore; They'll come to us at dusk when day is o'er."

But swifter than God the sea-quake came, (The fishers they were swallowed in its swirling) O swifter than men could name God's name. And white waves curling Hissed in to shore. The sea-birds whirling Saw what, dashed hoar? The sea-birds whirling Saw dead upborne The fishers that went forth upon the morn.


One cricket left, of summer's choir. One glow-worm, flashing life's last fire. One frog with leathern croak Beneath the oak,— And the pool stands leaden Where November twilights deaden Day's unspent desire.

One star in heaven—East or West. One wind—a gypsy seeking rest. One prayer within my heart— For all who part Upon Death's dark portal, With no hope of an immortal Morrow for life's quest.


Live! Live! Live! O send no day unto death, Undrained of the light, of the song, of the dew, Distilling within its breath. Drink deep of the sun, drink deep of the night, Drink deep of the tempest's brew, Of summer, of winter, of autumn, of spring— Whose flight can give what men never give!— Live!

Live! Live! Live! And love life's every throb: The twinkling of shadows enmeshed in the trees, The passionate sunset's sob; The hurtling of wind, the heaving of hill, The moon-dizzy cloud, the seas That sweep with infinite sweeping all shores, And thrill with a joy unfugitive!— Live!

Live! Live! Live! Unloose from custom and care, From duty and sorrow and clinging design Thy soul, through the silent Air. Go into the fields where Nature's alone And drink from her mystic wine Divinity—till thou art even as She, Great all ills of the world to forgive! Live!


All night the rain And the wind that beat Dull wings of pain On the seas without. All night a Voice That broke in my brain And blew blind thoughts about.

All night they whirled As a haunted throng From some dim world Where there is no rest. All night the rain. And the wind that swirled, And the Infinite's lone quest.


I heard the buds open their lips and whisper, Whisper, "Spring is here!" The robins listened And sang it loud. The blue-birds came In a fluttering crowd. The cardinal preached It high and proud, Spring!

And thro the warm earth their song went trilling, Trilling, "Wake! Arise!" The kingcups quickly Assembled, strong. The bluets stept From the moss in throng. Like fairies too Came the cress along. Spring!

And love in your breast, my lass, awaking— Waking. Love was born! Your eyes were kindled, Your lips were warm. Wild beauties broke From your face and form. And all my heart Was a heaven-storm, Was Spring!


Tonight as I was riding on a wave Of triumph and of glory, A Question suddenly, as from the grave, Rose in me, culpatory.

"Whence come to you this joyance and this strength" It said, "this might of vision? This will that measures all things to its length, That cuts with calm decision?

"This blood within your veins, that is as wine Which Destiny's self blesses. Whence flows it, from what grape that is divine, Or trodden from what presses?

"Do you so proud forget what hands have borne You to the heights and crowned you? Would you behold what sackcloth has been worn That laurels may surround you?"...

"I would—O lips invisible! whose breath"— I answered—"so arraigns me; Whose voice is as a sound sent forth of Death, And like to Death entrains me.

"I would! For if the flesh of me and soul Are fibred with the ages, My triumph is of them and manifold Of all life's mystic stages."

So, forth they came—a vast ancestral line, Upon my vision teeming, All shapes whose natal semblance could affine Them to me, faintly gleaming.

I knew them as I knew myself, and felt The Day of each within me; And so began to speak, the while they dwelt About—they who had been me.

"My Sires," I said, "think you I have forgot The fervor of your living? How into me is moulded all you thought. Of getting or of giving?

"Think you I do not feel my every drop Of blood is as an ocean In which are surging and will never stop All things your hope gave motion?

"My senses, that are swift to take delight And shrine it in their being, Are they not born of all your faith, and bright With all your bliss of seeing?

"And my full heart within whose fount I hear Your voices that are vanished, Can it forget its gratitude or fear Foes that you braved and banished?

"No. But the blindly striving years that led You to the Rose's beauty, Or taught you out of Ill to disembed The golden veins of Duty;

"The wasting and incalculable wants That in you quailed or quivered; The longing that lit stars no dark now daunts— I know, who stand delivered!

"To you then from whose throng the centuries Long dead slip now their shrouding, Who from oblivion's profundities Rise up, and round are crowding,

"I say, Immortal do I hold your will! Its gathered might ascending Is sacred with the unconquerable might Of God—who sees its ending;

"Of God—on whose strong Vine, Heredity, Rooted in Voids primeval, The world climbs ever to some great To-Be Of passion or reprieval."

I said—and on night's infinite beheld Silence alone beside me; And majesty of greater meanings welled Into my soul, to guide me.


I could not sleep. The wind poured in my ear Immortal names—Lear, Hamlet, Hal, Macbeth, And thro the night I heard the rushing breath Of ghost and witch and fool go whirling by. I followed them, under the phantom sphere Of the pale moon, along the Avon's near And nimbused flowing, followed to his bier— Who had evoked them first with mighty eye. And as I gazed upon the peaceful spire That points above earth's most immortal dust, I could have asked God for His starry Lyre Out of the skies to play my praise upon. I could have shouted, as, O Wind, thou must, "Here lies Humanity: kneel, and pass on."


Up under the roof, in cold or heat, Far up, aloof from the city street, She sat all day And painted gray Cold idols, scarcely human. And if she thought of ease and rest, Of love that spells God's name the best, Her few friends heard but one request— "Pray for a tired little woman."

She sat from dawn till weary dusk. Her hands plied on—with but a husk Of bread to break And for Christ's sake To bless: was He not human? Then when the light would leave her brush She'd sit there still, in the dim hush, And say aloud, lest tears should rush— "Pray for a tired little woman."

They found her so—one morning when A knock brought no sweet welcome ken Of her still face And cloistral grace And brow so bravely human. They found her by the window bar, Her eyes fixed where had been some star. O you that rest, where'er you are, Pray for the tired little woman.


"She shall be sportive as the fawn That wild with glee across the lawn Or up the mountain springs;"

I'm Wanda born Of the mirthful morn So I heard the red-buds whisper To the forest beech, Tho I know that each Is but a gossipy lisper.

I taunt the brook With his hair outshook O'er the weir so cool and mossy, And mock the crow As he peers below With a caw that's vain and saucy.

Where the wahoo reds And the sumac spreads Tall plumes o'er the purple privet, I beg a kiss Of the wind, tho I wis Right well he never will give it.

I hide in the nook And sunbeams look For me everywhere, like fairies. Then out I glide By the gray deer's side— Ha, ha, but he never tarries!

Then I fright the hare From his turfy lair And after him send a volley Of song that stops Him under the copse In wonderment at my folly.

And Autumn cries "Be sad!" or sighs Thro her nun lips palely pouting. But then I leap To the woods and keep It wild with gleeing and shouting.

And when the sun Has almost spun A path to his far Golconda, I climb the hill And listen, still, While he calls me—"Wanda! Wanda!"

And then I go To the valley—Oh, My dreams are sweeter than dreaming! All night I play Over lands of Fay, In delight that seems not seeming.


(To a Petrel)

All day long in the spindrift swinging, Bird of the sea! bird of the sea! How I would that I had thy winging— How I envy thee!

How I would that I had thy spirit, So to careen, joyous to cry, Over the storm and never fear it! Into the night that hovers near it! Calm on a reeling sky!

All day long, and the night, unresting! Ah! I believe thy every breath Means that Life's Best comes ever breasting Peril and pain and death!



Life flung to Art this voice, of mercy bare. "Fool, to my human earth come you, so free, To wreathe with phantom immortality Whoever climbs with passionate lone care That shifting, feverous and shadow stair To Beauty—which is vainer than the sea On furious thirst, or than a mote to Me Who fill yon infinite great Everywhere? Let them alone—my children! they are born To mart and soil and saving commerce o'er Wind, wave and many-fruited continents. And you can feed them but of crumbs and scorn, And futile glory when they are no more. Within my hand alone is recompense!"


But Art made fierce reply, "Anathema, On you who fill flesh but the spirit scorn. Who give it to the unrequiting law Of your brute soullessness and heart unborn To aught than barter in your low bazaar— Though Beauty die for it from star to star. You are the god of Judas and those who Betrayed Him unto nail and thorn and sword! Of that relentless worm-bit Florence horde Who drove lone Dante from them till he grew So great in death they begged his bones to strew Their pride and wealth and useless praise upon. Anathema! I cry; and will, till none Of all earth's children still shall worship you."


A thousand years In a mummy's hand A seed may lie. Then, planted, spring Into life again Under sun and sky.

A thousand days In a soul's dark ways A word may wait. But a touch at length May arouse its strength And the word proves—Fate.


(The Cry of the Modern)

World-sorrow have I known, like unto God. Nothing there is of pain but echoes down My breast with wan reverberance and pang, And peaceless passes thro it evermore. The struck bird's cry wounds my all-feeling blood To pity that will not be solaced, Sounds on me like far pleas of the unborn Against predestined days. A withering bud Brews barrenness thro all the verdancy Of Spring. And in a tear—tho anguish shape it On the warm lid of joy—earth's Tragedy, Whose curtain falls not for it has no end, Comes mirrored to me as infinite Ill.

How shall I 'scape it! How, O how escape The trooping of prayers lost upon the void, Of hopes misborn and fading not to rest! How shall I burn not with all vain-lit loves That alway billow thro me their slow fire Fed by the agony of new-broke hearts! How loose me from too long commisery For those whom unrequiting Time has given To the altar of the aching world's unrest! A grief immitigable to the Hand Whose mystery of returning sun can heal Winter away, seems here; a grief but calm Of immortality can make forgiven!

For even as all the gleaming girth of stars That wreathe the Illimitable beauteously Quench not the vast of night, so do all joys Life strews along her passing to the grave Prevail not o'er the shadow of sure death. And O Humanity, long-suffering Harp Of passion-strings unnumbered, shall His skill Flung thus forever o'er thy fragile rest Build but these harmonies that seem sometimes Unworth the misery of the trampled worm? Would, would I were not vibrant with all strains He strikes from thee, or else more perfect tuned! World-sorrow have I known, like unto God.


Let me lie here— I care not for the distant hills today, And the blue sphere Of far infinity that draws away All to its deep, Would only sweep Soothing the farther from me with its sway.

Let me lie here— Gazing with vacant sadness on this weed. The cricket near Will utter all my heart can bear to heed. Another voice Would swell the noise And surge, that ever sound in human need.

Let me lie here: For now, so long my wasted soul has tossed On the wide Mere Of Mystery Hope's wing alone has crossed, I ask no more Than to restore To simple things the wonder they have lost.


(To A. H. R.)

My own, among the unnumbered years God casts from that full Garner which Is His Eternity one shall Be ours, beyond all fate or fears.

For, ranging lone amid its thorns. Seeking the buds that grew between, We met and made its morning seem New in a world grown old to morns.

And so tho He may scatter still Many a fadeless other round, In none, for us shall there be found That first awakening and thrill.

But as in peace we tread Love's Land, To which it gave us right of birth, We shall remember that New Earth Came when we first walked hand in hand.


(To A. H. R. on North Cliff, Lynton, Devon)

White-caps hurry to meet the shore An hundred fathoms down. Gray sails are shimmering on the wind Far out from Lynmouth town.

High crags above us are whispering keen, The heather and the ling Laugh to the sky as driven by The wild gulls cry or cling.

And, where the far sun like a god Scatters the mist, lies Shore. Is it Romance's magic realm Spring reigns forever o'er?

Romance that our morning hearts could see Across the darkest foam? Then do we know it well, my love, Because it is our Home.


(To A. H. R.)

Who stood upon that schooner's driven deck Last night as reefed and shuddering she hove Into the twilight and all desperate drove From wave to angrier wave that sought her wreck? Who labored at her helm and watched the wind Stagger the sea with all his stunning might, Until in dimness dwindling from our sight She vanished in the wrack that rode behind? We know not, you and I, but our two souls That followed as storm-petrels o'er the waves Felt all the might of Him who sinks or saves, And all the pity of earth's unreached goals. Felt all—then swift returning to our love Dwelt in its peace, uplifted safe above.


To sit by a silent stream, Watching water-lilies dream: While breezes winnow The floating seeds, And the aery minnow Weaves his wavy web among the reeds.

Where a fallen sycamore Whitely arches a pathway o'er, And shadows darkle The lambent cool, As, softly a-sparkle. Sunbeams arrow lightnings thro the pool.

Where the everlasting's breath Odors mysteries of death. Where iron-weeds, rusted Leaf and pod, By insects dusted, Rustle—then in autumn sadness nod.

To sit ... till every sense Lose thought of whither and whence; Till earth and heaven And faith and fate No longer leaven Life, with hope or fear, or love or hate.


Grave brother of the burning sands, Whose eyes enshrine forever The desert's soul, are you not worn Of gazing outward to dim strands Of stars that weary never?

Infinity no answer has For Time's untold distresses. Its deepest maze of mystery Is but Illusion built up as The blind build skies—with guesses.

Nor has Eternity a place On any starry summit. The winds of Death are wide as Life, And leave no world untouched—but race, And soon with Night benumb it.

And Karma is the law of soul And star—yea, of all Being. And from it but one way there is. Retreat into that tranced Whole— Which is not Sight nor Seeing;

Which is not Mind nor Mindlessness, Nor Deed nor driven Doer, Nor Want nor Wasting of Desire; But only that which won can bless; And of all else is pure.

Turn then your eyes from the far track Of worlds, and gazing inward, O brother, fare where Life has come, Yea, into its far Whence fare back. All other ways are sinward.


Can heedless gazing teach me more than toil? Can swaying of sere sedge along the slope, Or the dull lisp of oaken limbs that foil The sun's ensheathing fervor, interfuse My vacant being with far meanings whose Soft airs blow from the hidden seas of Hope? Or can the wintry sumac sably stooping So charm and lift my heart from heartless drooping When other healings all were asked in vain? Yes—there are witcheries in the things of earth That breathe with an illimitable voice Wisdom and calm to us, and lure to birth Dim intimations bidding us rejoice Even in the great mystery of Pain.


Look not to the west where the sun is dying On fields of darkening clouds! Look not to the west where the wild birds nest And the winds are hieing To sweep away sleep from the forest, And tatter the shrouds of sable silence Lit by the fire-fly's morris-dance. Look not to the west— 'Tis best for the heart to hear not the chants Of Evening over day's death!

Look not to the west where the sun is dying— The sun that rose with song! Look not to the west where the closed quest Of thy soul seems lying; Where every sorrow that ever Was wed with wrong in human breast, From the sea of its radiance never fades! Look not to the west— 'Tis best for the heart to see not the shades That rise—the wrecks of the Past!


Under the sway, in old Japan, Of silent cryptic trees, There is a shrine the worldliest Would near with bended knees.

Green, thro a torii, the way Leads to it, worn, across A rivulet whose voice intones With mystery of moss.

A mystery that is everywhere: The god beneath his shrine Seems but a mossy shape—yet so Ensheathed is more divine.

For tho Nature has muffled him And sealed him there away, The meaning of all faith remains— That men will ever pray.

Aye will, as long as soul has need, As long as earth is sod With tombs, bow down the knee to all That wakens in them God.


I shall lie so one day, With lips of Silence set; Eyes that no tear can wet Again: a thing of Clay.

I shall lie so, and Earth Will seize again her dust— Though she must gnaw and rust The coffin's iron girth.

I shall lie so—and they Who still the Day bestride, Will stand so by my side And with sad yearning say:

"What is he now, this man, Shut in a pallor there, His spirit that could dare, What—what now is its span?

"A withered atom's space Within a withered brain? Or can it from the Wain To far Orion race?"

And, like all that have died, I shall but answer—naught. Yet Time this truth has taught: The Question—will abide.


I'll look no more! thro timeless hours my eyes Without intent have watched the slowing flight Of ebon crows across quiescent skies Till all are gone; the last, a lonely bird, Scudding to rest thro streams of golden curd That flow far eastward to the coming night. And as I turn again to foiling thought My spirit leaves me—as faint zephyrs leave The trees at evening; tho all day they've sought A place to hide them in and fondly grieve. And silently the slow oil sinks beneath The noiseless burning wick of yellow flame. It is as if God back to him would breathe All the world's given life, and end its Aim.


Northward the twilight thro dark drifts Of cloud-wreck lingers cold. Southward the sated lightning sinks Beneath the wooded wold.

Eastward immovable deep shade Is sealed with mystery. Westward a memory of dead gold Wakes on a sunset sea.

Under, is earth's still orbiting; Over, a clearing star: In all, the spirit litany Of life's strange avatar.


I am not other than men are, you say? But faulty and failing? And your love can lend No glory of illusion to o'erlay The lack, and make me seem one in whom blend Nobilities wherein your heart may lose All that it feels of flaw in me, or rues?

Can it so be? Did ever woman love Whose faith wreathed not about the brow she chose Aureolas illumining him above All that another thinks he is, or knows? I ask it bravely, for the way is long, And, haloless, should I not lead you wrong?


(By Sir Giles, whom the Witch of Urm leads to Judas Iscariot)

Against a castle moated gloomily by a bitter drain of blood, From whose fetid wave contumely Of all truth was reeking fumily And infectiously, I stood; Waiting for her sign— A shriek repeated nine.

I shrank at every aspish quivering fear set crawling in my breast. But betimes I felt a shivering Shriek cut ear and brain with slivering Stings of terror, sin, unrest— Christ! it raised the dead Out of the moat's black bed.

Nine times—and then across the thickening reek a rusty draw was dropped; Thro portcullis sped a quickening Shadow past to where with sickening Feet, befixed by awe I stopped— There she laughed a laugh No devil's soul could quaff.

I swear its clamor tore the stuttering leaves from shrub and shrunken tree; Swear no limbo e'er heard muttering Like that spawn of echoes sputtering Midnight with their drunken glee— Yet, ere half were done, I could not hear a one.

She put her finger burning eerily to my lips—I heard them lock. Led me then a marsh-way, cheerily— Tho the quick ooze spurted drearily Thro root-rotten curd and rock. Things like water-ghouls Slid slimily in pools.

She stepped just once upon a hideous burrow, dank and haired with grass; Fixed upon me eyes perfidious As a fiend's are, yet insidious— Questioned if I dared to pass. "I will search all Hell To find him," from me fell.

And so was drawn thro dark cadaverous with the sound of gabbling dead. Where we heard them hoot palaverous Drivel learned beneath unsavorous Moulds, and saw a glutton's head Grin to a hissing bat, That scraped him as he spat.

Witch she was, I knew, turned shepherdess to a soul blind as a sheep's. But I dogged her on o'er jeopardous Steeps down which she sped with leopardess Limbs into miasmic deeps. "Swim," she gasped behind— Then like a she-wolf whined.

It almost seemed to me as deadening as the sluice of dreary Styx. Fire and foulness mixed with leadening Slush I drank; but swam the reddening Stuff a league with weary licks. Up a sulphurous bank We climbed, and there I sank.

Again she laughed that laugh—a shrivelling, ghastly, gaunt, uncanny spate. Up I sprang and cursed my snivelling Soul for weariness—for drivelling, And for so forgetting Hate. "You will find him there" She pointed—thro her hair.

I write these words from Hell where bloodily locked with him in fight I woke. Where we fall down caverns ruddily Spilt with glazing gore and muddily Dashed with stagnant night and smoke. Yet I do not care, For he groans by me—there.


(Nova Scotian)

Fog, and a wind that blows the sea Blindly into my eyes. And I know not if my soul shall be When the day dies.

But if it be not and I lose All that men live to gain— I who have little known but hues Of wind and rain—

Still I shall envy no man's lot, For I have held this great, Never in whines to have forgot That Fate is Fate.


If this should never end— This wandering in oblivious mood Along a rutless road that leads From wood to deeper wood— This crunching with unheedful foot Acorns, I think, and withered leaves ... Perhaps a rotten root—

If this should never end— This seeing with insentient eyes Something that seems like earth, and, too, Like overbending skies; This feeling, well—that time is space, Space, time; and each a pallid glass In which Life sees her face—

If it should never end— The road, the wandering and the feel Of dead infinities that seem O'er our dead sense to steal, And like seas cease above— Would it much matter, love?


(Song for a drama)

Much the wind Knows of my heart, Though he whispers in my ear That he has seen me burn and start When I dream of your breast, my dear.

Much the wind Knows of my soul! For no soul has he to lose On a mistress who can dole Kisses that drug as poison-dews.


(A Breton Maid)

Three waves of the sea came up on the wind to me! One said: "Away! he is dead! Upon my foam I have flung his head! Go back to your cote, you shall never wed!— (Nor he!)"

Three waves of the sea came up on the wind to me. Two brake. The third with a quake Cried loud, "O maid, I'll find for thy sake His dead lost body: prepare his wake!" (And back it plunged to the sea!)

Three waves of the sea came up on the wind to me. One bore— And swept on the shore— His pale, pale face I shall kiss no more! Ah, woe to women death passes o'er! (Woe's me!)


(A ballad for God)

A. D. 909

Three kings with naught of a care To a hunting went; Three kings of stirrup fair And of yew-bow bent.

Away they rode with a song On the summer tide; Away from thrid and throng By the blue lake side.

And "Ho!" they vaunted aloud To the morning hills. And "Ha!"—What reck the proud For the God of Ills?

Naught! so they swagged thro the glade Where the roe-buck rose: She nosed the wind, affrayed By the blod "Ho, hos!"

"Three arrows now to her heart!" They shouted, and sped, Each king, an evil dart With a flinten head.

And O she staggered down— O unpitied, slain! But in her dreadful swoun There was more than pain!

For Horror sprang from her blood, A Spectre of Death! It drew them thro the wood— Where a Chapel saith

Masses for souls that are lost In the wilds of sin— There mumbled, "Ye'll pay cost Ere to shrift ye win!"

Then led them to a bay tree By an open grave, Where three ghost-kings in three Stony coffins clave.

Which spake, "Lo, we too were fair!"— "Unto this ye'll come!"— "Ay ye, who of naught beware!"— So spake—and were dumb.

Then of fright and dread the kings flung Away yew-tree bow (The Chapel bell slow rung With the bleak wind's blow).

And fast they fled thro the glade To the castle hall. But God had not been stayed— They were lepers, all!

Woe then to kings! to the pelf That men call pride! Christ shrive us all from self, From the Death-sprite hide!


(In Old England)

What is he whispering to her there Under the hedge-row spray? "Spring, Spring, Spring?"—Is the world so fair To him, fool, that he has no care As he cuckoos it all day?

Is he quite sure—quite sure the sap Of life's not hate, but love? If I should tell him there's no gap Between her and a ... nameless hap, Would he still want his "dove"?

Or would he go as blind to buds As I am, who watch here, While he is pouring poet floods From his thin lips, and while his blood's Burning for her so near?

It would be swords—swords!... And his steel Should rip death from my breast. But would he ever know the feel Of Spring again, of its ribald reel, As once I did, the best?

No! He would curse henceforward leaf And flower and light—as I. Spring?—It is fire, lust, ashes, grief— All that a Hell can hold, in fief!... He'll learn it ere he die.



(Before He Comes)

Sweet under swooning blue and mellow mist September waves of forest overflow The hills with crimson, amaranth and gold. Winds warm with the memory of scented hours Dead Summer gathers in her leafy lap, Rustle the distance with dim murmurings That sink upon the air as soft as shades Dropt from the overleaning clouds to earth; While golden-rod and sedge and aster hushed In sunny silence and the oblivion Of life drawn from the insentient veins of Time, Await the searing swoon of Autumn's reign. It is a day when death must seem as birth, And birth as death; and life—till love comes—pain.


(He Has Come)

These are the leafy hills and listless vales Of iridescent Autumn—this the oak Against whose lichened bole I leant and looked Away the sunny hours of afternoon. Here are the bitter-sweet and elder sprays I fingered, dreaming to the muted flow Of breezes overhead—and here the word I wrote unwittingly upon the soil. How long ago it was I cannot tell: The loneliness of unrequited love Lies like a blank eternity between Those hours and these I hear slip thro my heart. I only know all days I've ever seen Must seem now of some other life apart!


(He Loves)

"Will you let any moment dip its wing Into your heart and find no love of me To tint with deathless Dream"—he said—"and Spring, Its flight to the dim bourne of memory? Will you have any grief that can forget How grief should find forgetfulness in love? And since your soul in my soul's zone is set Will it sometimes ask other spheres to rove Where touch and voice of me shall not be met? Ah no! in all the underdeeps of Death Or overheights of Life it still shall be At tryst with mine thro moan or ecstasy. In all!" ... Yet ere a year he'll draw no breath But is another's!—Will God let it be?


(Betrayed by Him)

All day I've bent my heart beneath the yoke Of goading toil, remembering to forget, To still upon my lips his kiss that woke Me in elysian love one word has broke— One stinging word of severance and regret. All day I've blotted from my eyes his face, But now at evening tide it comes again, And memories into my darkened soul Rush as the stars into high heaven's space. As the bright stars! But, ah, tomorrow! when Once more I must forget and see life's goal, That was so green, with sering laurel hung. Tomorrow and tomorrow! till is wrung Peace from the piteous hours I strive among!


(Finding No Peace)

I say unto all hearts that cannot rest For want of love, for beating loud and lonely, Pray the great Mercy-God to give you only Love that is passionless within the breast. Pray that it may not be a haunting fire, A vision that shall steal insatiably All beauteous content, all sweet desire, From faith and dream, star, flower, and song, and sea. But seek that soul and soul may meet together Knowing they have forever been but one— Meet and be surest when ill's chartless weather Drives blinding gales of doubt across their sun. Pray—pray! lost love uptorn shall seem as nether Hell-hate and rage beyond oblivion.


(In After Years to Him)

You say that love then led us—you and me? I say 'twas hate, that wore love's wanting eyes: Hate that I could not tear away the lies That wrapped you with their silken sorcery. Hate that for you I could not open skies Where beauty lives of her own loveliness; That God would give me no omnipotence To purge and mould anew your soul's numb sense. Aye, hate that I could love you not tho love Pent in me ached with passion-born distress— While thro unfathomable dark the Prize Seemed sinking, as my soul, from heaven above. Love, say you? love? and hate rent us apart? I tell you hate alone so tears the heart.


(To Him After His Death)

God who can bind the stars eternally With but a breath of spirit speech, a thought; Who can within earth's arms lay the mad sea Unseverably, and count it as sheer naught; With his All-might could bind not you and me. For tho He pressed us heart to burning heart And set then to the passion that enthralls His sanction, still our souls stood e'er apart, As aliens beating fierce against the walls Of dark unsympathy that would upstart. Stood aliens, aye! and would tho we should meet, Beyond the oblivion of unnumbered births, Upon some world where Time cannot repeat The feeblest syllable that once was earth's.


I care not what they say who hold We should speak but of life and joy; I have met death in one I love, Death lusting to destroy.

And I have fought him vein by vein, Loosened his cold and creeping clutch, Driven him from her—twice and thrice— With might too much.

Yet with too little! for I know That she at last will lie there still. Then all my fire of love shall fail To thaw that chill;

For it will freeze light from her eyes, Pulse from her breast and from her soul Me, whom no opiate of peace Can e'er console.

None: ... till I follow her, in time, And find her, though all Dust deny! With that to be I'll front the day, And fronting die.


If I had died last year when Death And I were at finger-tips, till Life Slipping between blew her warm breath Into my heart again and veins, And opened my eyes and nulled my pains—

If I had died where would you be? You so passionate, yet quick To escape from passion's mastery, When clasping and kiss and touch are gone, And days and space are between us drawn?

Where would you be? My arms you chose— Arms too ready to seize and sin— And kept no burning forbiddance in those Still eyes of yours, or else, I think ... No! I unsay it! No!... So drink.

Drink! the last glass! And then ... "My thought?" It is that when we've reached the last Of pleasure we are like two who've fought, Who have no common love but love Of fighting—so does our passion prove!

For it is only passion—such! Tho clasping and kiss and touch were love, A little—and sometimes, maybe, much, When soul and heaven looked far away, And flesh seemed only flesh—and clay.

But, it is ended! So, drink!... How You've ruined me, as I have you! All that you might have been! and—now! All that I was, until ... 'Tis clear I should have died in Spring last year.


(On a Devon Moor)

Why do I babble of bitter chills— And icy trees—and snowy fallows? Why do I shudder as twilight spills A ghostly gray and the bent moon sallows The moor with her wicked flame? Why do the gibbering croons of the hag In her hut by the wood Go muttering, muttering in my blood— Till the hoot of an owl On the snag of a tomb Breaks out of the gloom Like the wail of a witch's name?

Ugh, it is drawing my feet away— The road's gone! the moonlet's sunken! What shall I do if it comes to fray With fiends invisible, wild and drunken— Fiends on a churchless fell! Ha, is it cracking of ice in the bog That is clutching my throat, Or devils gnawing the widow's shoat? By the Cross of the Christ, There's a fog that is black As—U-r-r!—at my back!— They are dragging me ... down to ... hell!


And is it so That two who stand Heart closed in heart, Hand knit to hand, Can let love go Asunder, so? Speak hard—not understand?

That one asks much? One gives too small? And so is lost, It may be—All? That for a touch Of pride we such A heaven can let fall?

No!—But to Fate Say with me, "Go: Death may bring dross But this I know; Love can abate Life's harshest hate, So loving I bend low."


(At Monte Carlo)

We met upon the street; Quick passion sprung into the eye of each; No dilettante heat! For though I do not love her now, beseech You, signor, do you think We could face so in any spot, nor fear To leap the fatal brink Into each other's arms—that, once a-near, Hell's self could make us shrink?

No, no! Such love as ours Stabbed peace heart-deep and burnt the flesh to mad. It scorned the simple powers Of sympathy and mild repose, and had One thirst alone—to hold Each other mouth to still unsated mouth Until, perchance, the cold And damp of death should end some night its drouth.

But only day would come, Unlock our arms and show us duty's eye Calm, pale, and sternly dumb. And so we'd swear never to kiss or sigh Again—for well we knew God grants such boons only to man and wife. But night distilled the dew Of loneliness—and so, once more, that life.

And how was the spell burst? Each long embrace seemed sweeter than the last; Each dulling heart-beat nurst The shame, until I tore me from the past, And cried, "I hate my soul, And thine and this false love!" She fainted—fell. I kissed her lips ... stole The ring that choked her finger ... said farewell.

And since then Time has pressed Ten restless years. But if I saw her lay Her hand upon her breast, As once she used, and send her soul to say A word with those dark eyes ... Ha, what is that, signor? "Respect?... My wife?" That's as may be. You rise? Adieu, signor. Fate deals the cards in life.


(For a Drama)

Toll no bell and say no prayer, Let no rose die on my bier. All I hoped for shall appear Or be well forgotten, there. (Like the waves of yesteryear.)

Toll no bell and drop no sigh, Bear me softly to the tomb; Life was dark, but light is nigh— Light no sorrow shall consume (And no kiss of love—or cry).

Toll no bell; the clod will toll Grief enough for any ear. When the last has sounded clear, Know that I have reached the Goal (Which is God seen thro no tear).


I've heard the sea-dead three nights come keening And crying to my door. Why will they affright me with their threening Forevermore! O have they no grave in the salt sea-places To lay them in? Do they know, do they know—with their cold dead faces!— Know ... my sin?

There's blood on my soul. The Lord cannot wipe it Away with His own blood. I've beaten my breast with blows that stripe it, And burned His Rood With kisses that shrivel my lips—that shrivel To sin on the air. But the night and the storm cry on me evil. Does He not care?

There's blood on my soul: but then ... she should never Have said it was his—the child— And hers—for she knew I'd never forgive her ... I grew so wild There was just one thing to be done—to kill her: Just one—no more. I took the keen steel ... one stroke would still her ... I counted four.

And she fell—fell down on the kelp—none near her. But when she lay so fair I kissed her ... because I knew I should fear her, And smoothed her hair; And shut her two eyes that fixed me fearless Of death and pain. And the blood on my hand I wiped off tearless— And that on my brain.

And I buried her quickly. The thorn-trees cover Her grave with spines. I pray That each in its fall will prick her and shove her To colder clay. But ... yonder! ... she's up! and moans in the heather A whimpering thing! I'll bury her deeper in Autumn weather ... Or Winter ... or Spring.

And then if she comes with them still to call me Each night, I'll tell her loud He was mine! and laugh when they try to pall me With sea and shroud. And I'll swear not to care for Christ or Devil. They'll skitter back To the waves, at that, and be gone with their revel.... God spare me the rack!


[1] This clan of tobacco outlaws in Kentucky during 1907-1908 cast such disgrace on her good name as years will not suffice to erase.

See them mount in the dead of night— Men, three hundred strong! Armed and silent, masked from the light, Speeding swartly along. What is their errand? manly fight? Clench with a manly foe? I would rather be dead of wrong Than ride among them so.

See them enter the sleeping town. Hear the warning shot! Keep to your beds, free men—down, down! Dare you to move?—dare not! These are your masters—these who crown Black Anarchy their king— I would rather my hand should rot Than have it do this thing.

See them steal to the house they seek— Brave men, O, brave all! There lies a sick boy, fever-weak; Who comes forth at call? A woman? "Go in, you bitch!" they reek. "Give us the old man out!" Rather my bitten tongue should fall To palsy than so shout.

And—they have him, "the old man," now, Bound—with nine beside. One, a Judge of the Law's grave brow, Sworn by it to bide. "Lash him!"—a hundred lashes plow A free-born back with pain! God, shall we let such cowards ride And burn and beat and stain?

O the shame, and the bitter shame, That thus, across our land, Crime can arise and write her name Broad, with a bloody hand! O the shame, and the bitter shame Upon our chivalry. I would rather have led the band That diced on Calvary.

So, Night-errants, ride on and ride— Avenging, wrongly, wrong. But when the children at your side Grow lawless up and strong; When at their drunken hands you've died As beasts beside your door, You will repent, God knows it—long, These nights to Hell made o'er.


(To the Night-Riders Who Murdered Hedges)

Honor to men Who leave their homes And children safe asleep, To take the cover of night and fright Women that wake and weep! Honor, again, To those who mount For blood—hounds in a pack! But let us honor the most of all— Men that shoot in the back!

For, it is good To fare a-field And frighten helpless things, And how good with a torch to scorch A poor man's harvestings. But, if you would Do something high And blameless, brave not black, Ride till you find a peaceful man— Then shoot—shoot in the back!

Why, there was one In Palestine Who gave a certain kiss. More, fine friends, do you give who live In a land not far from this! For what he had done He hanged himself— Shame made a sick heart crack. But you will muster and ride again— And shoot—shoot in the back!

Oh, and you may! But wait, the Day Will come—shall it not come? The Sovereign Law that you flaunt and daunt, Will she lie always dumb? Her prisons gray They are slow, but wide; When they open, you will lack Many a thing—but most the fair, Brave chance to shoot in the back!

O that a man Should write such words Of any soul alive! That any shameless ear should hear— And still in stealth connive To burn and to ban, From home and help, The weak who fear the rack! That he could wait till Justice turns, Then shoot—shoot in the back!


(A Dramatic Fantasy)

[2] This sketch, written in 1898, was in no sense conceived for the stage.

Dealing with: Boadicea, queen of the Britons. Lamora, a Gaulish captive. Brude, a Druid. Cormo, a warrior. Corlun, Druid high-priest, and Horma, a wandering hag.

SCENE: A Hall of hewn wood, on the island of Mona, in which BOADICEA sits enthroned and attended. On her right, warriors, long-haired, mustached and painted with woad. On the left, a band of Druids robed in white: among them BRUDE, whom she watches jealously from time to time. On the floor in front of her cringes LAMORA, held by CORMO.

Boadicea. Britons, hear! Ye know how my lord, Caerleon's liege, Swore feal to the Romans His lorn wife and daughters— When the wolf, Death, Gnawed life from his heart. Ye know how the Roman, Ravenous traitor, Slaves us with thongs Of brutal behest. Will ye still daunt Your necks to the noose?

All. No! no! Queen! no, no, no!

Boadicea. Then, warriors of iron, Sworded with terror, Fly to your henges! Fight till ye crowd Hell with the ghosts Of ethlings that Britons hate.

Warriors. To the slaughter! Hro! to the slaughter!

[They rush from the hall in haste.

Boadicea (continuing). And ye, Druid seers, Heard by the gods, Feared by the fiends, Ye must away! To your dark fane, The gaunt oak-forest Holy with mistle! White-robed as spirits, Gold knives uplifting, Sing to the serpents, Seek the Charmed Egg!

Druids (bowing with weird signs). Great is the Queen. Her Druids hear. But shall no gift be made?

Boadicea. Yea ... since Lactantius, God more than all gods, Will not be soothed By sheep or cattle, On your high altar Slay ye this maiden of Gaul!

[Points to LAMORA, who cries out to her, then to BRUDE:

Lamora. Nay, Queen, O pity! O, Brude, win pity! Let her not yield me Prey to the gods. Rather in battle 'Gainst the hard Roman Would I be trampled Into the grave. Trampled by war-hoofs ... Into a grave of blood!

Boadicea. Proud-lip! mocker! Dare you sputter Shame on the awful gods?

[Strikes her down.... BRUDE watches helpless.

Corlun (coming forward). Kneel, Druids, kneel! Then bear her away! Meet me at midnight, Druids' day, Deep within Mona's wood.

[They kneel, then go, bearing LAMORA.

SCENE II: Sunset. A rocky cave near the forest. BRUDE facing back and forth with restless muttering.

Brude. O thou Lactantius, Whom other gods Worship with trembling, While their star-chariots Roll to the sea! Symbolled by circles, Endless in being, Dost thou love life-blood As Druids say? When the white maiden's Pierced on the altar Dost thou drink praises From her wide wound? So teach the seers, So did I, Brude, swear— Till I saw Lamora! Her eyes are love-fires, Her words are sorcery Stronger than god-laws! But ... who comes hither? [Has heard a moan. Hither harasser Of these my thoughts? Ha! is it Lamora Followed by Cormo? Curses like vampires Fall on his head! [Steps aside.

Lamora (entering in despair). Mother! sweet mother, Far in the Eastland, Soon must thy daughter Pass from earth's day! Ne'er shall a boy-babe Suck from her bosom Valor to strangle Wolves in the lair! Never shall husband From the red war-fields Bring her the foeman's spoils!

Cormo (behind her). Lamora, proud one—

Lamora. Leave me, viper! Stand from me farther! Will you e'en now With tongue spit poison On my last ebbing hour?

Cormo. Nay, maiden, cruel, But I will aid thee. Words are as smoke, Deeds as flame! Hear! I will save thee From Druid talons And bear thee whither thou wilt: Give but thy vow to wed me!

Lamora. Wed thee?—thee?... Never—while cliffs O'er the plain jutting Plight void death to the leaper! Never while waves Curl gray lips Yearning to gulf the doomed!

Cormo. Then thou shalt die! shalt die! Druids shall gash Streamings of life Out of thy shrinking sides!

Lamora. Then die I will!... But not thro fear. Coward of Britons, Will I e'er mother Child of thy loins. Rather let flames, Tongues of the gods, Suck the red life from my breast. Yea, let the gods, Glutless as men, And, as women, Treacherous, vain— Strike, at the call of thy Queen! [Goes, followed by CORMO.

Brude (coming forward). No! thou shalt live, live, live!

[Goes into cave, then comes forth with a knife.

SCENE III: Midnight. A stormy glade in the forest. On one side a cromlech whereon LAMORA lies bound: CORLUN beside her with an uplifted blade of gold. On the other side Druids—around a pot of serpents over a fire in the cavern of an uprooted tree.

[BRUDE is among them, watchful.

Corlun (chanting). Orpo!—Ai!— Now shall the Roman Backward be driven, O gods! Orpo!—Ai!— For to the death stroke Lamora's given, O gods! Orpo! Ai!— Her skyward soul Thro the dank dark shall rise, As the morn's sun Unto your halls Far o'er the skies. And she shall say Thus Druids crave Help of the helpers of men.

Druids (incanting around the cavern). Orpo!—Ai!— Serpents are spawned Of devils' spit, O gods! Orpo!—Ai!— Spit boiled with blood In caverns lit By fungous fangs From Mona's wood.

[They circle. BRUDE steals behind CORLUN.

Orpo!—Ai!— Serpents are spawned In magic broth To coil and wriggle, Writhe and twist; Till their froth Becomes a mist, Till the mist An egg shall form— Charm that Druids prize.

Brude (with a sudden cry). Corlun, the gods Wait for thy soul! [Slays him. Lamora, fly! With me, fly— Thro the black forest! [Has cut her bonds. Great Lactantius, Maker of gods, Loves not the maiden's death-cry!

[They escape.

Druids (in terror). Corlun is slain! Corlun! slain! Woe to the Druids! Woe from the heavens! Woe from the ireful Queen!

[They pursue confusedly.

SCENE IV: Dawn; far in the forest. Enter BRUDE and LAMORA faintingly to a spot where HORMA, the hag, unseen by them is gathering herbs.

Lamora. Strength no more Wings me for flight. With hunger of sleep I faint. [Falls.

Brude (sinking by her). Yet ere thy sleep, Maid like the dawn, List to my heart's wild uttering! All I have dared Was for thy love— Tho but to love thee Would I dare all!

Lamora. Ah! What is love, Brude wise and noble? Is it this burning Far in my breast Melting my soul to thine? Is it this power Hid in my eyes Shaping thy face On hill and cloud? Is it this whisper, As of sea-waves, Singing thy name to me? Yea! So now we may sleep.

[They lie down. HORMA, the hag, who has heard them, creeps maundering up and gazes at them.

Horma. Owl and eaglet? Have they fled? Then let witch-toads sing! Oaths forgotten, Would they wed? Then let bull-bats, Wild a-wing, Flap the moon from heaven! Deep in the forest— Ha! ho! ho!

[Breaks off, hearing shouts. Continues.

They'll be slain!


They'll be slain!

Brude (waking). What was my dream?...

[Hears the shouts.

Lamora! Lamora!

[They start up and look at each other. Silence.

Lamora (at length). So was it doomed. Now we must cross Thro the death-fog Unto the blest. But side by side, And ere they come. [Hands him her knife. Here we shall die. But in the Meadows Where the thin shades Wander and wander, Ever in love we'll live! Fold first thy arms around me. [They embrace.

Brude (starting from her). Hear! they have come— Cormo! The Queen!...

Lamora. Then strike! for thy face Alone would I see in death!

Brude (killing her then himself). Cormo!... Queen!... Death! Ye shall never ... tear us apart!

[Falls with her in his arms, as BOADICEA and warriors enter.

Boadicea (seeing them). Dead!... Leave them, food For beast and bird! Leave them! away! away!

[All go with pride and spurning.


Home - Random Browse