Georgian Poetry 1918-19
Part 3 out of 3
And the lines of green grew higher
And I breathed deep, and there above me
The forest wall stood high.
Those forest walls of the Amazon
Are level under the blazing blue
And yield no sound but the whistles and shrieks
Of the swarming bright macaws;
And under their lowest drooping boughs
Mud-banks torpidly bubble,
And the water drifts, and logs in the water
Drift and twist and pause.
And everywhere, tacitly joining,
Float noiseless tributaries,
Tall avenues paved with water:
And as I silent fly
The vegetation like a painted scene,
Spars and spikes and monstrous fans
And ferns from hairy sheaths up-springing,
Evenly passes by.
And stealthier stagnant channels
Under low niches of drooping leaves
Coil into deep recesses:
And there have I entered, there
To heavy, hot, dense, dim places
Where creepers climb and sweat and climb,
And the drip and splash of oozing water
Loads the stifling air.
Rotting scrofulous steaming trunks,
Great horned emerald beetles crawling,
Ants and huge slow butterflies
That had strayed and lost the sun;
Ah, sick I have swooned as the air thickened
To a pallid brown ecliptic glow,
And on the forest, fallen with languor,
Thunder has begun.
Thunder in the dun dusk, thunder
Rolling and battering and cracking,
The caverns shudder with a terrible glare
Again and again and again,
Till the land bows in the darkness,
Utterly lost and defenceless,
Smitten and blinded and overwhelmed
By the crashing rods of rain.
And then in the forests of the Amazon,
When the rain has ended, and silence come,
What dark luxuriance unfolds
From behind the night's drawn bars:
The wreathing odours of a thousand trees
And the flowers' faint gleaming presences,
And over the clearings and the still waters
Soft indigo and hanging stars.
* * * * *
O many and many are rivers,
And beautiful are all rivers,
And lovely is water everywhere
That leaps or glides or stays;
Yet by starlight, moonlight, or sunlight,
Long, long though they look, these wandering eyes,
Even on the fairest waters of dream,
Never untroubled gaze.
For whatever stream I stand by,
And whatever river I dream of,
There is something still in the back of my mind
From very far away;
There is something I saw and see not,
A country full of rivers
That stirs in my heart and speaks to me
More sure, more dear than they.
And always I ask and wonder
(Though often I do not know it):
Why does this water not smell like water?
Where is the moss that grew
Wet and dry on the slabs of granite
And the round stones in clear brown water?
--And a pale film rises before them
Of the rivers that first I knew.
Though famous are the rivers of the great world,
Though my heart from those alien waters drinks
Delight however pure from their loveliness,
And awe however deep,
Would I wish for a moment the miracle,
That those waters should come to Chagford,
Or gather and swell in Tavy Cleave
Where the stones cling to the steep?
No, even were they Ganges and Amazon
In all their great might and majesty,
League upon league of wonders,
I would lose them all, and more,
For a light chiming of small bells,
A twisting flash in the granite,
The tiny thread of a pixie waterfall
That lives by Vixen Tor.
Those rivers in that lost country,
They were brown as a clear brown bead is
Or red with the earth that rain washed down,
Or white with china-clay;
And some tossed foaming over boulders,
And some curved mild and tranquil,
In wooded vales securely set
Under the fond warm day.
Okement and Erme and Avon,
Exe and his ruffled shallows,
I could cry as I think of those rivers
That knew my morning dreams;
The weir by Tavistock at evening
When the circling woods were purple,
And the Lowman in spring with the lent-lilies,
And the little moorland streams.
For many a hillside streamlet
There falls with a broken tinkle,
Falling and dying, falling and dying,
In little cascades and pools,
Where the world is furze and heather
And flashing plovers and fixed larks,
And an empty sky, whitish blue,
That small world rules.
There, there, where the high waste bog-lands
And the drooping slopes and the spreading valleys,
The orchards and the cattle-sprinkled pastures
Those travelling musics fill,
There is my lost Abana,
And there is my nameless Pharphar
That mixed with my heart when I was a boy,
And time stood still.
And I say I will go there and die there:
But I do not go there, and sometimes
I think that the train could not carry me there,
And it's possible, maybe,
That it's farther than Asia or Africa,
Or any voyager's harbour,
Farther, farther, beyond recall....
O even in memory!
EPITAPH IN OLD MODE
The leaves fall gently on the grass,
And all the willow trees and poplar trees and elder trees
That bend above her where she sleeps,
O all the willow trees, the willow trees
Breathe sighs above her tomb.
O pause and pity as you pass.
She loved so tenderly, so quietly, so hopelessly;
And sometimes comes one here and weeps--
She loved so tenderly, so tenderly,
And never told them whom.
There was an Indian, who had known no change,
Who strayed content along a sunlit beach
Gathering shells. He heard a sudden strange
Commingled noise: looked up; and gasped for speech.
For in the bay, where nothing was before,
Moved on the sea, by magic, huge canoes,
With bellying cloths on poles, and not one oar,
And fluttering coloured signs and clambering crews.
And he, in fear, this naked man alone,
His fallen hands forgetting all their shells,
His lips gone pale, knelt low behind a stone,
And stared, and saw, and did not understand,
Columbus's doom-burdened caravels
Slant to the shore, and all their seamen land.
Within mankind's duration, so they say,
Khephren and Ninus lived but yesterday.
Asia had no name till man was old
And long had learned the use of iron and gold;
And Šons had passed, when the first corn was planted,
Since first the use of syllables was granted.
Men were on earth while climates slowly swung,
Fanning wide zones to heat and cold, and long
Subsidence turned great continents to sea,
And seas dried up, dried up interminably,
Age after age; enormous seas were dried
Amid wastes of land. And the last monsters died.
Earth wore another face. O since that prime
Man with how many works has sprinkled time!
Hammering, hewing, digging tunnels, roads;
Building ships, temples, multiform abodes.
How, for his body's appetites, his toils
Have conquered all earth's products, all her soils;
And in what thousand thousand shapes of art
He has tried to find a language for his heart!
Never at rest, never content or tired:
Insatiate wanderer, marvellously fired,
Most grandly piling and piling into the air
Stones that will topple or arch he knows not where.
And yet did I, this spring, think it more strange,
More grand, more full of awe, than all that change,
And lovely and sweet and touching unto tears,
That through man's chronicled and unchronicled years,
And even into that unguessable beyond
The water-hen has nested by a pond,
Weaving dry flags, into a beaten floor,
The one sure product of her only lore.
Low on a ledge above the shadowed water
Then, when she heard no men, as nature taught her,
Plashing around with busy scarlet bill
She built that nest, her nest, and builds it still.
O let your strong imagination turn
The great wheel backward, until Troy unburn,
And then unbuild, and seven Troys below
Rise out of death, and dwindle, and outflow,
Till all have passed, and none has yet been there:
Back, ever back. Our birds still crossed the air;
Beyond our myriad changing generations
Still built, unchanged, their known inhabitations.
A million years before Atlantis was
Our lark sprang from some hollow in the grass,
Some old soft hoof-print in a tussock's shade;
And the wood-pigeon's smooth snow-white eggs were laid,
High, amid green pines' sunset-coloured shafts,
And rooks their villages of twiggy rafts
Set on the tops of elms, where elms grew then,
And still the thumbling tit and perky wren
Popped through the tiny doors of cosy balls
And the blackbird lined with moss his high-built walls;
A round mud cottage held the thrush's young,
And straws from the untidy sparrow's hung.
And, skimming forktailed in the evening air,
When man first was were not the martens there?
Did not those birds some human shelter crave,
And stow beneath the cornice of his cave
Their dry tight cups of clay? And from each door
Peeped on a morning wiseheads three or four.
Yes, daw and owl, curlew and crested hern,
Kingfisher, mallard, water-rail and tern,
Chaffinch and greenfinch, warbler, stonechat, ruff,
Pied wagtail, robin, fly-catcher and chough,
Missel-thrush, magpie, sparrow-hawk, and jay,
Built, those far ages gone, in this year's way.
And the first man who walked the cliffs of Rame,
As I this year, looked down and saw the same
Blotches of rusty red on ledge and cleft
With grey-green spots on them, while right and left
A dizzying tangle of gulls were floating and flying,
Wheeling and crossing and darting, crying and crying,
Circling and crying, over and over and over,
Crying with swoop and hover and fall and recover.
And below on a rock against the grey sea fretted,
Pipe-necked and stationary and silhouetted,
Cormorants stood in a wise, black, equal row
Above the nests and long blue eggs we know.
O delicate chain over all the ages stretched,
O dumb tradition from what far darkness fetched:
Each little architect with its one design
Perpetual, fixed and right in stuff and line,
Each little ministrant who knows one thing,
One learned rite to celebrate the spring.
Whatever alters else on sea or shore,
These are unchanging: man must still explore.
* * * * *
W. J. TURNER
It was bright day and all the trees were still
In the deep valley, and the dim Sun glowed;
The clay in hard-baked fire along the hill
Leapt through dark trunks to apples green and gold,
Smooth, hard and cold, they shone like lamps of stone:
They were bright bubbles bursting from the trees,
Swollen and still among the dark green boughs;
On their bright skins the shadows of the leaves
Seemed the faint ghosts of summers long since gone,
Faint ghosts of ghosts, the dreams of ghostly eyes.
There was no sound between those breathless hills.
Only the dim Sun hung there, nothing moved;
The thronged, massed, crowded multitude of leaves
Hung like dumb tongues that loll and gasp for air:
The grass was thick and still, between the trees.
There were big apples lying on the ground,
Shining, quite still, as though they had been stunned
By some great violent spirit stalking through,
Leaving a deep and supernatural calm
Round a dead beetle upturned in a furrow.
A valley filled with dark, quiet, leaf-thick trees,
Loaded with green, cold, faintly shining suns;
And in the sky a great dim burning disc!--
Madness it is to watch these twisted trunks
And to see nothing move and hear no sound!
Let's make a noise, Hey!... Hey!... Hullo! Hullo!
KENT IN WAR
The pebbly brook is cold to-night,
Its water soft as air,
A clear, cold, crystal-bodied wind
Shadowless and bare,
Leaping and running in this world
Where dark-horned cattle stare:
Where dark-horned cattle stare, hoof-firm
On the dark pavements of the sky,
And trees are mummies swathed in sleep
And small dark hills crowd wearily;
Soft multitudes of snow-grey clouds
Without a sound march by.
Down at the bottom of the road
I smell the woody damp
Of that cold spirit in the grass,
And leave my hill-top camp--
Its long gun pointing in the sky--
And take the Moon for lamp.
I stop beside the bright cold glint
Of that thin spirit in the grass,
So gay it is, so innocent!
I watch its sparkling footsteps pass
Lightly from smooth round stone to stone,
Hid in the dew-hung grass.
My lamp shines in the globes of dew,
And leaps into that crystal wind
Running along the shaken grass
To each dark hole that it can find--
The crystal wind, the Moon my lamp,
Have vanished in a wood that's blind.
High lies my small, my shadowy camp,
Crowded about by small dark hills;
With sudden small white flowers the sky
Above the woods' dark greenness fills;
And hosts of dark-browed, muttering trees
In trance the white Moon stills.
I move among their tall grey forms,
A thin moon-glimmering, wandering Ghost,
Who takes his lantern through the world
In search of life that he has lost,
While watching by that long lean gun
Up on his small hill post.
TALKING WITH SOLDIERS
The mind of the people is like mud,
From which arise strange and beautiful things,
But mud is none the less mud,
Though it bear orchids and prophesying Kings,
Dreams, trees, and water's bright babblings.
It has found form and colour and light,
The cold glimmer of the ice-wrapped Poles;
It has called a far-off glow Arcturus,
And some pale weeds, lilies of the valley.
It has imagined Virgil, Helen and Cassandra;
The sack of Troy, and the weeping for Hector--
Rearing stark up 'mid all this beauty
In the thick, dull neck of Ajax.
There is a dark Pine in Lapland,
And the great, figured Horn of the Reindeer,
Moving soundlessly across the snow,
Is its twin brother, double-dreamed,
In the mind of a far-off people.
It is strange that a little mud
Should echo with sounds, syllables, and letters,
Should rise up and call a mountain Popocatapetl,
And a green-leafed wood Oleander.
These are the ghosts of invisible things;
There is no Lapland, no Helen and no Hector,
And the Reindeer is a darkening of the brain,
And Oleander is but Oleander.
Mary Magdalena and the vine Lachryma Christi
Were like ghosts up the ghost of Vesuvius,
As I sat and drank wine with the soldiers,
As I sat in the Inn on the mountain,
Watching the shadows in my mind.
The mind of the people is like mud,
Where are the imperishable things,
The ghosts that flicker in the brain--
Silent women, orchids, and prophesying Kings,
Dreams, trees, and water's bright babblings!
Gently, sorrowfully sang the maid
Sowing the ploughed field over,
And her song was only:
'Come, O my lover!'
Strangely, strangely shone the light,
Stilly wound the river:
'Thy love is a dead man,
He'll come back never.'
Sadly, sadly passed the maid
The fading dark hills over;
Still her song far, far away said:
'Come, O my lover!'
The stone-grey roses by the desert's rim
Are soft-edged shadows on the moonlit sand,
Grey are the broken walls of Khangavar,
That haunt of nightingales, whose voices are
Fountains that bubble in the dream-soft Moon.
Shall the Gazelles with moonbeam pale bright feet
Entering the vanished gardens sniff the air--
Some scent may linger of that ancient time,
Musician's song, or poet's passionate rhyme,
The Princess dead, still wandering love-sick there.
A Princess pale and cold as mountain snow,
In cool, dark chambers sheltered from the sun,
With long dark lashes and small delicate hands:
All Persia sighed to kiss her small red mouth
Until they buried her in shifting sand.
And the Gazelles shall flit by in the Moon
And never shake the frail Tree's lightest leaves,
And moonlight roses perfume the pale Dawn
Until the scarlet life that left her lips
Gathers its shattered beauty in the sky.
In low chalk hills the great King's body lay,
And bright streams fell, tinkling like polished tin,
As though they carried off his armoury,
And spread it glinting through his wide domain.
Old bearded soldiers sat and gazed dim-eyed
At the strange brightness flowing under trees,
And saw his sword flashing in ancient battles,
And drank, and swore, and trembled helplessly.
And bright-haired maidens dipped their cold white arms,
And drew them glittering colder, whiter, still;
The sky sparkled like the dead King's blue eye
Upon the sentries that were dead as trees.
His shining shield lay in an old grey town,
And white swans sailed so still and dreamfully,
They seemed the thoughts of those white, peaceful hills
Mirrored that day within his glazing eyes.
And in the square the pale cool butter sold,
Cropped from the daisies sprinkled on the downs,
And old wives cried their wares, like queer day owls,
Piercing the old men's sad and foolish dreams.
And Time flowed on till all the realm forgot
The great King lying in the low chalk hills;
Only the busy water dripping through
His hard white bones knew of him lying there.
When I am dead a few poor souls shall grieve
As I grieved for my brother long ago.
Scarce did my eyes grow dim,
I had forgotten him;
I was far-off hearing the spring winds blow,
And many summers burned
When, though still reeling with my eyes aflame,
I heard that faded name
Whispered one Spring amid the hurrying world
From which, years gone, he turned.
I looked up at my windows and I saw
The trees, thin spectres sucked forth by the moon.
The air was very still
Above a distant hill;
It was the hour of night's full silver moon.
'O are thou there my brother?' my soul cried;
And all the pale stars down bright rivers wept,
As my heart sadly crept
About the empty hills, bathed in that light
That lapped him when he died.
Ah! it was cold, so cold; do I not know
How dead my heart on that remembered day!
Clear in a far-away place
I see his delicate face
Just as he called me from my solitary play,
Giving into my hands a tiny tree.
We planted it in the dark, blossomless ground
Gravely, without a sound;
Then back I went and left him standing by
His birthday gift to me.
In that far land perchance it quietly grows
Drinking the rain, making a pleasant shade;
Birds in its branches fly
Out of the fathomless sky
Where worlds of circling light arise and fade.
Blindly it quivers in the bright flood of day,
Or drowned in multitudinous shouts of rain
Glooms o'er the dark-veiled plain--
Buried below, the ghost that's in his bones
Dreams in the sodden clay.
And, while he faded, drunk with beauty's eyes
I kissed bright girls and laughed deep in dumb trees,
That stared fixt in the air
Like madmen in despair
Gaped up from earth with the escaping breeze.
I saw earth's exaltation slowly creep
Out of their myriad sky-embracing veins.
I laughed along the lanes,
Meeting Death riding in from the hollow seas
Through black-wreathed woods asleep.
I laughed, I swaggered on the cold hard ground--
Through the grey air trembled a falling wave--
'Thou'rt pale, O Death!' I cried,
Mocking him in my pride;
And passing I dreamed not of that lonely grave,
But of leaf-maidens whose pale, moon-like hands
Above the tree-foam waved in the icy air,
Sweeping with shining hair
Through the green-tinted sky, one moment fled
Out of immortal lands.
One windless Autumn night the Moon came out
In a white sea of cloud, a field of snow;
In darkness shaped of trees,
I sank upon my knees
And watched her shining, from the small wood below--
Faintly Death flickered in an owl's far cry---
We floated soundless in the great gulf of space,
Her light upon my face--
Immortal, shining in that dark wood I knelt
And knew I could not die.
And knew I could not die--O Death, didst thou
Heed my vain glory, standing pale by thy dead?
There is a spirit who grieves
Amid earth's dying leaves;
Was't thou that wept beside my brother's bed?
For I did never mourn nor heed at all
Him passing on his temporal elm-wood bier;
I never shed a tear.
The drooping sky spread grey-winged through my soul,
While stones and earth did fall.
That sound rings down the years--I hear it yet--
All earthly life's a winding funeral--
And though I never wept,
But into the dark coach stept,
Dreaming by night to answer the blood's sweet call,
She who stood there, high-breasted, with small, wise lips,
And gave me wine to drink and bread to eat,
Has not more steadfast feet,
But fades from my arms as fade from mariners' eyes
The sea's most beauteous ships.
The trees and hills of earth were once as close
As my own brother, they are becoming dreams
And shadows in my eyes;
More dimly lies
Guaya deep in my soul, the coastline gleams
Faintly along the darkening crystalline seas.
Glimmering and lovely still, 'twill one day go;
The surging dark will flow
Over my hopes and joys, and blot out all
Earth's hills and skies and trees.
I shall look up one night and see the Moon
For the last time shining above the hills,
And thou, silent, wilt ride
Over the dark hillside.
'Twill be, perchance, the time of daffodils--
_'How come those bright immortals in the woods?
Their joy being young, didst thou not drag them all
Into dark graves ere Fall?'_
Shall life thus haunt me, wondering, as I go
To thy deep solitudes?
There is a figure with a down-turned torch
Carved on a pillar in an olden time,
A calm and lovely boy
Who comes not to destroy
But to lead age back to its golden prime.
Thus did an antique sculptor draw thee, Death,
With smooth and beauteous brow and faint sweet smile,
Not haggard, gaunt and vile,
And thou perhaps art thus to whom men may,
Unvexed, give up their breath.
But in my soul thou sittest like a dream
Among earth's mountains, by her dim-coloured seas;
A wild unearthly Shape
In thy dark-glimmering cape,
Piping a tune of wavering melodies,
Thou sittest, ay, thou sittest at the feast
Of my brief life among earth's bright-wreathed flowers,
Staining the dancing hours
With sombre gleams until, abrupt, thou risest
And all, at once, is ceased.
END OF TEXT.
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