Georgian Poetry 1920-22
Part 2 out of 3
Her nuns, dancing within her dying round,
Clear limbs and breasts silvered with Moon and waves
And quick with windlike mood and body's joy,
Withdrawn from alien vows, by wave and wind
Lightly absolved and lightly all forgetting.
An hour ago they left. Remains the gleam
Of their late motion on the salt sea-meadow,
As loveliest hues linger when the sun's gone
And float in the heavens and die in reedy pools--
So slowly, who shall say when light is gone?
IN THOSE OLD DAYS
In those old days you were called beautiful,
But I have worn the beauty from your face;
The flowerlike bloom has withered on your cheek
With the harsh years, and the fire in your eyes
Burns darker now and deeper, feeding on
Beauty and the remembrance of things gone.
Even your voice is altered when you speak,
Or is grown mute with old anxiety
Even as a fire leaps into flame and burns
Leaping and laughing in its lovely flight,
And then under the flame a glowing dome
Deepens slowly into blood-like light:--
So did you flame and in flame take delight,
So are you hollow'd now with aching fire.
But I still warm me and make there my home,
Still beauty and youth burn there invisibly
Now my lips falling on your silver'd skull,
My fingers in the valleys of your cheeks,
Or my hands in your thin strong hands fast caught,
Your body clutched to mine, mine bent to yours:
Now love undying feeds on love beautiful,
Now, now I am but thought kissing your thought ...
--And can it be in your heart's music speaks
A deeper rhythm hearing mine: can it be
Indeed for me?
Of caterpillars Fabre tells how day after day
Around the rim of a vast earth pot they crawled,
Tricked thither as they filed shuffling out one morn
Head to tail when the common hunger called.
Head to tail in a heaving ring day after day,
Night after slow night, the starving mommets crept,
Each following each, head to tail, day after day,
An unbroken ring of hunger--then it was snapt.
I thought of you, long-heaving, horned green caterpillars,
As I lay awake. My thoughts crawled each after each,
Crawling at night each after each on the same nerve,
An unbroken ring of thoughts too sore for speech.
Over and over and over and over again
The same hungry thoughts and the hopeless same regrets,
Over and over the same truths, again and again
In a heaving ring returning the same regrets.
I am that creature and creator who
Loosens and reins the waters of the sea,
Forming the rocky marge anon anew.
I stir the cold breasts of antiquity,
And in the soft stone of the pyramid
Move wormlike; and I flutter all those sands
Whereunder lost and soundless time is hid.
I shape the hills and valleys with these hands,
And darken forests on their naked sides,
And call the rivers from the vexing springs,
And lead the blind winds into deserts strange.
And in firm human bones the ill that hides
Is mine, the fear that cries, the hope that sings.
I am that creature and creator, Change.
* * * * *
In each black tile a mimic fire's aglow,
And in the hearthlight old mahogany,
Ripe with stored sunshine that in Mexico
Poured like gold wine into the living tree
Summer on summer through a century,
Burns like a crater in the heart of night:
And all familiar things in the ingle-light
Glow with a secret strange intensity.
And I remember hidden fires that burst
Suddenly from the midnight while men slept,
Long-smouldering rages in the darkness nursed
That to an instant ravening fury leapt,
And the old terror menacing evermore
A crumbling world with fiery molten core.
Stephen, wake up! There's some one at the gate.
Quick, to the window ... Oh, you'll be too late!
I hear the front door opening quietly.
Did you forget, last night, to turn the key?
A foot is on the stairs--nay, just outside
The very room--the door is opening wide...
Stephen, wake up, wake up! Who's there? Who's there?
I only feel a cold wind in my hair...
Have I been dreaming, Stephen? Husband, wake
And comfort me: I think my heart will break.
I never knew you sleep so sound and still....
O my heart's love, why is your hand so chill?
PHILIP AND PHOEBE WARE
Who is that woman, Philip, standing there
Before the mirror doing up her hair?
You're dreaming, Phoebe, or the morning light
Mixing and mingling with the dying night
Makes shapes out of the darkness, and you see
Some dream-remembered phantasy maybe.
Yet it grows clearer with the growing day;
And in the cold dawn light her hair is grey:
Her lifted arms are naught but bone: her hands
White withered claws that fumble as she stands
Trying to pin that wisp into its place.
O Philip, I must look upon her face
There in the mirror. Nay, but I will rise
And peep over her shoulder ... Oh, the eyes
That burn out from that face of skin and bone,
Searching my very marrow, are my own.
BY THE WEIR
A scent of Esparto grass--and again I recall
That hour we spent by the weir of the paper-mill
Watching together the curving thunderous fall
Of frothing amber, bemused by the roar until
My mind was as blank as the speckless sheets that wound
On the hot steel ironing-rollers perpetually turning
In the humming dark rooms of the mill: all sense and discerning
By the stunning and dazzling oblivion of hill-waters drowned.
And my heart was empty of memory and hope and desire
Till, rousing, I looked afresh on your face as you gazed--
Behind you an old gnarled fruit-tree in one still fire
Of innumerable flame in the sun of October blazed,
Scarlet and gold that the first white frost would spill
With eddying flicker and patter of dead leaves falling--
looked on your face, as an outcast from Eden recalling
A vision of Eve as she dallied bewildered and still
By the serpent-encircled tree of knowledge that flamed
With gold and scarlet of good and evil, her eyes
Rapt on the river of life: then bright and untamed
By the labour and sorrow and fear of a world that dies
Your ignorant eyes looked up into mine; and I knew
That never our hearts should be one till your young lips had tasted
The core of the bitter-sweet fruit, and wise and toil-wasted
You should stand at my shoulder an outcast from Eden too.
Through the pale green forest of tall bracken-stalks,
Whose interwoven fronds, a jade-green sky,
Above me glimmer, infinitely high,
Towards my giant hand a beetle walks
In glistening emerald mail; and as I lie
Watching his progress through huge grassy blades
And over pebble boulders, my own world fades
And shrinks to the vision of a beetle's eye.
Within that forest world of twilight green
Ambushed with unknown perils, one endless day
I travel down the beetle-trail between
Huge glossy boles through green infinity ...
Till flashes a glimpse of blue sea through the bracken asway,
And my world is again a tumult of windy sea.
* * * * *
His eyes are quickened so with grief,
He can watch a grass or leaf
Every instant grow; he can
Clearly through a flint wall see,
Or watch the startled spirit flee
From the throat of a dead man.
Across two counties he can hear,
And catch your words before you speak.
The woodlouse or the maggot's weak
Clamour rings in his sad ear;
And noise so slight it would surpass
Credence:--drinking sound of grass,
Worm-talk, clashing jaws of moth
Chumbling holes in cloth:
The groan of ants who undertake
Gigantic loads for honour's sake--
Their sinews creak, their breath comes thin:
Whir of spiders when they spin,
And minute whispering, mumbling, sighs
Of idle grubs and flies.
This man is quickened so with grief,
He wanders god-like or like thief
Inside and out, below, above,
Without relief seeking lost love.
In my body lives a flame,
Flame that burns me all the day;
When a fierce sun does the same,
I am charred away.
Who could keep a smiling wit,
Roasted so in heart and hide,
Turning on the sun's red spit,
Scorched by love inside?
Caves I long for and cold rocks,
Minnow-peopled country brooks,
Blundering gales of Equinox,
Daily so I might restore
Calcined heart and shrivelled skin,
A morning phoenix with proud roar
Kindled new within.
A LOVER SINCE CHILDHOOD
Tangled in thought am I,
Stumble in speech do I?
Do I blunder and blush for the reason why?
Wander aloof do I,
Lean over gates and sigh,
Making friends with the bee and the butterfly?
If thus and thus I do,
Dazed by the thought of you,
Walking my sorrowful way in the early dew,
My heart cut through and through
In this despair of you,
Starved for a word or a look will my hope renew:
Give then a thought for me
Walking so miserably,
Wanting relief in the friendship of flower or tree;
Do but remember, we
Once could in love agree,
Swallow your pride, let us be as we used to be.
Love, do not count your labour lost
Though I turn sullen, grim, retired
Even at your side; my thought is crossed
With fancies by old longings fired.
And when I answer you, some days
Vaguely and wildly, do not fear
That my love walks forbidden ways,
Breaking the ties that hold it here.
If I speak gruffly, this mood is
Mere indignation at my own
Shortcomings, plagues, uncertainties;
I forget the gentler tone.
'You,' now that you have come to be
My one beginning, prime and end,
I count at last as wholly 'me,'
Lover no longer nor yet friend.
Friendship is flattery, though close hid;
Must I then flatter my own mind?
And must (which laws of shame forbid)
Blind love of you make self-love blind?
... Do not repay me my own coin,
The sharp rebuke, the frown, the groan;
No, stir my memory to disjoin
Your emanation from my own.
Help me to see you as before
When overwhelmed and dead, almost,
I stumbled on that secret door
Which saves the live man from the ghost.
Be once again the distant light,
Promise of glory not yet known
In full perfection---wasted quite
When on my imperfection thrown.
Lost manor where I walk continually
A ghost, while yet in woman's flesh and blood;
Up your broad stairs mounting with outspread fingers
And gliding steadfast down your corridors
I come by nightly custom to this room,
And even on sultry afternoons I come
Drawn by a thread of time-sunk memory.
Empty, unless for a huge bed of state
Shrouded with rusty curtains drooped awry
(A puppet theatre where malignant fancy
Peoples the wings with fear). At my right hand
A ravelled bell-pull hangs in readiness
To summon me from attic glooms above
Service of elder ghosts; here at my left
A sullen pier-glass cracked from side to side
Scorns to present the face as do new mirrors
With a lying flush, but shows it melancholy
And pale, as faces grow that look in mirrors.
Is here no life, nothing but the thin shadow
And blank foreboding, never a wainscot rat
Rasping a crust? Or at the window pane
No fly, no bluebottle, no starveling spider?
The windows frame a prospect of cold skies
Half-merged with sea, as at the first creation,
Abstract, confusing welter. Face about,
Peer rather in the glass once more, take note
Of self, the grey lips and long hair dishevelled,
Sleep-staring eyes. Ah, mirror, for Christ's love
Give me one token that there still abides
Remote, beyond this island mystery,
So be it only this side Hope, somewhere,
In streams, on sun-warm mountain pasturage,
True life, natural breath; not this phantasma.
A rumour, scarcely yet to be reckoned sound,
But a pulse quicker or slower, then I know
My plea is granted; death prevails not yet.
For bees have swarmed behind in a close place
Pent up between this glass and the outer wall.
The combs are founded, the queen rules her court,
Bee-sergeants posted at the entrance-chink
Are sampling each returning honey-cargo
With scrutinizing mouth and commentary,
Slow approbation, quick dissatisfaction--
Disquieting rhythm, that leads me home at last
From labyrinthine wandering. This new mood
Of judgment orders me my present duty,
To face again a problem strongly solved
In life gone by, but now again proposed
Out of due time for fresh deliberation.
Did not my answer please the Master's ear?
Yet, I'll stay obstinate. How went the question,
A paltry question set on the elements
Of love and the wronged lover's obligation?
_Kill or forgive?_ Still does the bed ooze blood?
Let it drip down till every floor-plank rot!
Yet shall I answer, challenging the judgment:--
_'Kill, strike the blow again, spite what shall come.'_
'Kill, strike, again, again,' the bees in chorus hum.
THE TROLL'S NOSEGAY
A simple nosegay! was that much to ask?
(Winter still gloomed, with scarce a bud yet showing).
He loved her ill, if he resigned the task.
'Somewhere,' she cried, 'there must be blossom blowing.'
It seems my lady wept and the troll swore
By Heaven he hated tears: he'd cure her spleen;
Where she had begged one flower, he'd shower four-score,
A haystack bunch to amaze a China Queen.
Cold fog-drawn Lily, pale mist-magic Rose
He conjured, and in a glassy cauldron set
With elvish unsubstantial Mignonette
And such vague bloom as wandering dreams enclose.
Charmed to tears,
Even yet, perhaps, a trifle piqued--who knows?
Take now a country mood,
Resolve, distil it:--
Nine Acre swaying alive,
June flowers that fill it,
Spicy sweet-briar bush,
The uneasy wren
Fluttering from ash to birch
And back again.
Milkwort on its low stem,
Spread hawthorn tree,
Sunlight patching the wood,
A hive-bound bee....
Girls riding nim-nim-nim,
Gentlemen hard at gallop,
Now over the rough turf
Bridles go jingle,
And there's a well-loved pool,
By Fox's Dingle,
Where Sweetheart, my brown mare,
Old Glory's daughter,
May loll her leathern tongue
In snow-cool water.
THE GENERAL ELLIOTT
He fell in victory's fierce pursuit,
Holed through and through with shot,
A sabre sweep had hacked him deep
Twixt neck and shoulderknot....
The potman cannot well recall,
The ostler never knew,
Whether his day was Malplaquet,
The Boyne or Waterloo.
But there he hangs for tavern sign,
With foolish bold regard
For cock and hen and loitering men
And wagons down the yard.
Raised high above the hayseed world
He smokes his painted pipe,
And now surveys the orchard ways,
The damsons clustering ripe.
He sees the churchyard slabs beyond,
Where country neighbours lie,
Their brief renown set lowly down;
_His_ name assaults the sky.
He grips the tankard of brown ale
That spills a generous foam:
Oft-times he drinks, they say, and winks
At drunk men lurching home.
No upstart hero may usurp
That honoured swinging seat;
His seasons pass with pipe and glass
Until the tale's complete.
And paint shall keep his buttons bright
Though all the world's forgot
Whether he died for England's pride
By battle, or by pot.
THE PATCHWORK BONNET
Across the room my silent love I throw,
Where you sit sewing in bed by candlelight,
Your young stern profile and industrious fingers
Displayed against the blind in a shadow-show,
To Dinda's grave delight.
The needle dips and pokes, the cheerful thread
Runs after, follow-my-leader down the seam:
The patchwork pieces cry for joy together,
O soon to sit as a crown on Dinda's head,
Fulfilment of their dream.
Snippets and odd ends folded by, forgotten,
With camphor on a top shelf, hard to find,
Now wake to this most happy resurrection,
To Dinda playing toss with a reel of cotton
And staring at the blind.
Dinda in sing-song stretching out one hand
Calls for the playthings; mother does not hear:
Her mind sails far away on a patchwork Ocean,
And all the world must wait till she touches land;
So Dinda cries in fear,
Then Mother turns, laughing like a young fairy,
And Dinda smiles to see her look so kind,
Calls out again for playthings, playthings, playthings;
And now the shadows make an Umbrian _Mary
Adoring_, on the blind.
* * * * *
THE SINGING FURIES
The yellow sky grows vivid as the sun:
The sea glittering, and the hills dun.
The stones quiver. Twenty pounds of lead
Fold upon fold, the air laps my head.
Both eyes scorch: tongue stiff and bitter:
Flies buzz, but no birds twitter:
Slow bullocks stand with stinging feet,
And naked fishes scarcely stir for heat.
White as smoke,
As jetted steam, dead clouds awoke
And quivered on the Western rim.
Then the singing started: dim
And sibilant as rime-stiff reeds
That whistle as the wind leads.
The South whispered hard and sere,
The North answered, low and clear;
And thunder muffled up like drums
Beat, whence the East wind comes.
The heavy sky that could not weep
Is loosened: rain falls steep:
And thirty singing furies ride
To split the sky from side to side.
They sing, and lash the wet-flanked wind:
Sing, from Col to Hafod Mynd,
And fling their voices half a score
Of miles along the mounded shore:
Whip loud music from a tree,
And roll their pæan out to sea
Where crowded breakers fling and leap,
And strange things throb five fathoms deep.
The sudden tempest roared and died:
The singing furies muted ride
Down wet and slippery roads to hell:
And, silent in their captors' train,
Two fishers, storm-caught on the main:
A shepherd, battered with his flocks;
A pit-boy tumbled from the rocks;
A dozen back-broke gulls, and hosts
Of shadowy, small, pathetic ghosts,
--Of mice and leverets caught by flood;
Their beauty shrouded in cold mud.
Cold shone the moon, with noise
The night went by.
Trees uttered things of woe:
Bent grass dared not grow:
Ah, desperate man with haggard eyes
And hands that fence away the skies,
On rock and briar stumbling,
Is it fear of the storm's rumbling,
Of the hissing cold rain,
Or lightning's tragic pain
Drives you so madly?
See, see the patient moon;
How she her course keeps
Through cloudy shallows and across black deeps,
Now gone, now shines soon.
Where's cause for fear?
'I shudder and shudder
At her bright light:
I fear, I fear,
That she her fixt course follows
So still and white
Through deeps and shallows
With never a tremor:
Naught shall disturb her.
I fear, I fear
What they may be
That secretly bind her:
What hand holds the reins
Of those sightless forces
That govern her courses.
Is it Setebos
Who deals in her command?
Or that unseen Night-Comer
With tender curst hand?
--I shudder, and shudder.'
Poor storm-wisp, wander!
Wind shall not hurt thee,
Rain not appal thee,
Lightning not blast thee;
Thou art worn so frail,
Only the moonlight pale
To an ash shall burn thee,
To an invisible Pain.
When the slow year creeps hay-ward, and the skies
Are warming in the summer's mild surprise,
And the still breeze disturbs each leafy frond
Like hungry fishes dimpling in a pond,
It is a pleasant thing to dream at ease
On sun-warmed thyme, not far from beechen trees.
A robin flashing in a rowan-tree,
A wanton robin, spills his melody
As if he had such store of golden tones
That they were no more worth to him than stones:
The sunny lizards dream upon the ledges:
Linnets titter in and out the hedges,
Or swoop among the freckled butterflies.
Down to a beechen hollow winds the track
And tunnels past my twilit bivouac:
Two spiring wisps of smoke go singly up
And scarcely tremble in the leafy air.
--There are more shadows in this loamy cup
Than God could count: and oh, but it is fair:
The kindly green and rounded trunks, that meet
Under the soil with twinings of their feet
And in the sky with twinings of their arms:
The yellow stools: the still ungathered charms
Of berry, woodland herb, and bryony,
And mid-wood's changeling child, Anemone.
* * * * *
Quiet as a grave beneath a spire
I lie and watch the pointed climbing fire,
I lie and watch the smoky weather-cock
That climbs too high, and bends to the breeze's shock,
And breaks, and dances off across the skies
Gay as a flurry of blue butterflies.
But presently the evening shadows in,
Heralded by the night-jar's solitary din
And the quick bat's squeak among the trees;
--Who sudden rises, darting across the air
To weave her filmy web in the Sun's bright hair
That slowly sinks dejected on his knees....
Now is he vanished: the bewildered skies
Flame out a desperate and last surmise;
Then yield to Night, their sudden conqueror.
From pole to pole the shadow of the world
Creeps over heaven, till itself is lit
By the very many stars that wake in it:
Sleep, like a messenger of great import,
Lays quiet and compelling hands athwart
The easy idlenesses of my mind.
--There is a breeze above me, and around:
There is a fire before me, and behind:
But Sleep doth hold me, and I hear no sound.
In the far West the clouds are mustering,
Without hurry, noise, or blustering:
And soon as Body's nightly Sentinel
Himself doth nod, I open furtive eyes....
With darkling hook the Farmer of the Skies
Goes reaping stars: they flicker, one by one,
Nodding a little; tumble,--and are gone.
POETS, PAINTERS, PUDDINGS
Poets, painters, and puddings; these three
Make up the World as it ought to be.
Poets make faces
And sudden grimaces:
They twit you, and spit you
On words: then admit you
To heaven or hell
By the tales that they tell.
Painters are gay
As young rabbits in May:
They buy jolly mugs,
Bowls, pictures, and jugs:
The things round their necks
Are lively with checks,
(For they like something red
As a frame for the head):
Or they'll curse you with oaths,
That tear holes in your clothes.
(With nothing to mend them
You'd best not offend them.)
Puddings should be
Full of currants, for me:
Boiled in a pail,
Tied in the tail
Of an old bleached shirt:
So hot that they hurt,
So huge that they last
From the dim, distant past
Until the crack o' doom
Lift the roof off the room.
Poets, painters, and puddings; these three
Crown the day as it crowned should be.
* * * * *
IN MEMORIAM D. O. M.
Chestnut candles are lit again
For the dead that died in spring:
Dead lovers walk the orchard ways,
And the dead cuckoos sing.
Is it they who live and we who are dead?
Hardly the springtime knows
For which today the cuckoo calls,
And the white blossom blows.
Listen and hear the happy wind
Whisper and lightly pass:
'Your love is sweet as hawthorn is,
Your hope green as the grass.
'The hawthorn's faint and quickly gone,
The grass in autumn dies;
Put by your life, and see the spring
With everlasting eyes.'
PAST AND PRESENT
Daisies are over Nyren, and Hambledon
Hardly remembers any summer gone:
And never again the Kentish elms shall see
Mynn, or Fuller Pilch, or Colin Blythe.
--Nor shall I see them, unless perhaps a ghost
Watching the elder ghosts beyond the moon.
But here in common sunshine I have seen
George Hirst, not yet a ghost, substantial,
His off-drives mellow as brown ale, and crisp
Merry late cuts, and brave Chaucerian pulls;
Waddington's fury and the patience of Dipper;
And twenty easy artful overs of Rhodes,
So many stanzas of the Faerie Queen.
Mere living wears the most of life away:
Even the lilies take thought for many things,
For frost in April and for drought in May,
And from no careless heart the skylark sings.
Those cheap utilities of rain and sun
Describe the foolish circle of our years,
Until death takes us, doing all undone,
And there's an end at last to hopes and fears.
Though song be hollow and no dreams come true,
Still songs and dreams are better than the truth:
But there's so much to get, so much to do,
Mary must drudge like Martha, dainty Ruth
Forget the morning music in the corn,
And Rachel grudge when Leah's boys are born.
THE APPLE TREE
Secret and wise as nature, like the wind
Melancholy or light-hearted without reason,
And like the waxing or the waning moon
Ever pale and lovely: you are like these
Because you are free and live by your own law;
While I, desiring life and half alive,
Dream, hope, regret and fear and blunder on.
Your beauty is your life and my content,
And I will liken you to an apple-tree,
Mary and Margaret playing under the branches,
And everywhere soft shadows like your eyes,
And scattered blossom like your little smiles.
HER NEW-YEAR POSY
When I seek the world through
For images of you,
Though apple-blossom is glad
And the lily stately-sad,
Gilliflowers kind of breath,
Rosemary true till death;
Though the wind can stir the grass
To memories as you pass.
And the soft-singing streams
Are music like your dreams;
Though constant stars embrace
The quiet of your face,
Your smile lights up sunrise,
And evening's in your eyes--
Each so shadows its part,
All cannot show your heart;
And weighing the beauty of earth
I see it so little worth,
When reckoned beside you,
That I hold heaven for true
--But all my heaven is you.
Half-awake I walked
A dimly-seen sweet hawthorn lane
Until sleep came;
I lingered at a gate and talked
A little with a lonely lamb.
He told me of the great still night,
Of calm starlight,
And of the lady moon, who'd stoop
For a kiss sometimes;
Of grass as soft as sleep, of rhymes
The tired flowers sang:
The ageless April tales
Of how, when sheep grew old,
As their faith told,
They went without a pang
To far green fields, where fall
Perpetual streams that call
To deathless nightingales.
And then I saw, hard by,
A shepherd lad with shining eyes,
And round him gathered one by one
Countless sheep, snow-white;
More and more they crowded
With tender cries,
Till all the field was full
Of voices and of coming sheep.
Countless they came, and I
Watched, until deep
As dream-fields lie
I was asleep.
THE TREES AT NIGHT
Under vague silver moonlight
The trees are lovely and ghostly,
In the pale blue of the night
There are few stars to see.
The leaves are green still, but brown-blent:
They stir not, only known
By a poignant delicate scent
To the lonely moon blown.
The lonely lovely trees sigh
For summer spent and gone:
A few homing leaves drift by,
Poor souls bewildered and wan.
How shall the living be comforted for the dead
When they are gone, and nothing's left behind
But a vague music of the words they said
And a fast-fading image in the mind?
Let no forgetting sully that dim grace;
Our heart's infirmity is too easily won
To set a new love in the old love's place
And seek fresh vanity under the sun.
Time brings to us at last, as night the stars,
The starry silence of eternity:
For there is no discharge in our long wars,
Nor balm for wounds, nor love's security.
Be patient to the end, and you shall sleep
Pillowed on heartsease and forget to weep.
* * * * *
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge
of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid you would kill him.
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that
horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
* * * * *
This might have been a place for sleep,
But, as from that small hollow there
Hosts of bright thistledown begin
Their dazzling journey through the air,
An idle man can only stare.
They grip their withered edge of stalk
In brief excitement for the wind;
They hold a breathless final talk,
And when their filmy cables part
One almost hears a little cry.
Some cling together while they wait,
And droop and gaze and hesitate,
But others leap along the sky,
Or circle round and calmly choose
The gust they know they ought to use;
While some in loving pairs will glide,
Or watch the others as they pass,
Or rest on flowers in the grass,
Or circle through the shining day
Like silvery butterflies at play.
Some catch themselves to every mound,
Then lingeringly and slowly move
As if they knew the precious ground
Were opening for their fertile love:
They almost try to dig, they need
So much to plant their thistle-seed.
'Tell me about that harvest field.'
Oh! Fifty acres of living bread.
The colour has painted itself in my heart;
The form is patterned in my head.
So now I take it everywhere,
See it whenever I look round;
Hear it growing through every sound,
Know exactly the sound it makes--
Remembering, as one must all day,
Under the pavement the live earth aches.
Trees are at the farther end,
Limes all full of the mumbling bee:
So there must be a harvest field
Whenever one thinks of a linden tree.
A hedge is about it, very tall,
Hazy and cool, and breathing sweet.
Round paradise is such a wall,
And all the day, in such a way,
In paradise the wild birds call.
You only need to close your eyes
And go within your secret mind,
And you'll be into paradise:
I've learnt quite easily to find
Some linden trees and drowsy bees,
A tall sweet hedge with the corn behind.
I will not have that harvest mown:
I'll keep the corn and leave the bread.
I've bought that field; it's now my own:
I've fifty acres in my head.
I take it as a dream to bed.
I carry it about all day....
Sometimes when I have found a friend
I give a blade of corn away.
Here, in this other world, they come and go
With easy dream-like movements to and fro.
They stare through lovely eyes, yet do not seek
An answering gaze, or that a man should speak.
Had I a load of gold, and should I come
Bribing their friendship, and to buy a home,
They would stare harder and would slightly frown:
I am a stranger from the distant town.
Oh, with what patience I have tried to win
The favour of the hostess of the Inn!
Have I not offered toast on frothing toast
Looking toward the melancholy host;
Praised the old wall-eyed mare to please the groom;
Laughed to the laughing maid and fetched her broom;
Stood in the background not to interfere
When the cool ancients frolicked at their beer;
Talked only in my turn, and made no claim
For recognition or by voice or name,
Content to listen, and to watch the blue
Or grey of eyes, or what good hands can do?
Sun-freckled lads, who at the dusk of day
Stroll through the village with a scent of hay
Clinging about you from the windy hill,
Why do you keep your secret from me still?
You loiter at the corner of the street;
I in the distance silently entreat.
I know too well I'm city-soiled, but then
So are today ten million other men.
My heart is true: I've neither will nor charms
To lure away your maidens from your arms.
Trust me a little. Must I always stand
Lonely, a stranger from an unknown land?
There is a riddle here. Though I'm more wise
Than you, I cannot read your simple eyes.
I find the meaning of their gentle look
More difficult than any learned book.
I pass: perhaps a moment you may chaff
My walk, and so dismiss me with a laugh.
I come: you all, most grave and most polite,
Stand silent first, then wish me calm Good-Night.
When I go back to town some one will say:
'I think that stranger must have gone away.'
And 'Surely!' some one else will then reply.
Meanwhile, within the dark of London, I
Shall, with my forehead resting on my hand,
Not cease remembering your distant land;
Endeavouring to reconstruct aright
How some treed hill has looked in evening light;
Or be imagining the blue of skies
Now as in heaven, now as in your eyes;
Or in my mind confusing looks or words
Of yours with dawnlight, or the song of birds:
Not able to resist, not even keep
Myself from hovering near you in my sleep:
You still as callous to my thought and me
As flowers to the purpose of the bee.
* * * * *
How beautiful it is to wake at night,
When over all there reigns the ultimate spell
Of complete silence, darkness absolute,
To feel the world, tilted on axle-tree,
In slow gyration, with no sensible sound,
Unless to ears of unimagined beings,
Resident incorporeal or stretched
In vigilance of ecstasy among
Ethereal paths and the celestial maze.
The rumour of our onward course now brings
A steady rustle, as of some strange ship
Darkling with soundless sail all set and amply filled
By volume of an ever-constant air,
At fullest night, through seas for ever calm,
Swept lovely and unknown for ever on.
How beautiful it is to wake at night,
Embalmed in darkness watchful, sweet, and still,
As is the brain's mood flattered by the swim
Of currents circumvolvent in the void,
To lie quite still and to become aware
Of the dim light cast by nocturnal skies
On a dim earth beyond the window-ledge,
So, isolate from the friendly company
Of the huge universe which turns without,
To brood apart in calm and joy awhile
Until the spirit sinks and scarcely knows
Whether self is, or if self only is,
How beautiful to wake at night,
Within the room grown strange, and still, and sweet,
And live a century while in the dark
The dripping wheel of silence slowly turns;
To watch the window open on the night,
A dewy silent deep where nothing stirs,
And, lying thus, to feel dilate within
The press, the conflict, and the heavy pulse
Of incommunicable sad ecstasy,
Growing until the body seems outstretched
In perfect crucifixion on the arms
Of a cross pointing from last void to void,
While the heart dies to a mere midway spark.
All happiness thou holdest, happy night,
For such as lie awake and feel dissolved
The peaceful spice of darkness and the cool
Breath hither blown from the ethereal flowers
That mist thy fields! O happy, happy wounds,
Conditioned by existence in humanity,
That have such powers to heal them! slow sweet sighs
Torn from the bosom, silent wails, the birth
Of such long-treasured tears as pain his eyes,
Who, waking, hears the divine solicitudes
Of midnight with ineffable purport charged.
How beautiful it is to wake at night,
Another night, in darkness yet more still,
Save when the myriad leaves on full-fledged boughs,
Filled rather by the perfume's wandering flood
Than by dispansion of the still sweet air,
Shall from the furthest utter silences
In glimmering secrecy have gathered up
An host of whisperings and scattered sighs,
To loose at last a sound as of the plunge
And lapsing seethe of some Pacific wave,
Which, risen from the star-thronged outer troughs,
Rolls in to wreathe with circling foam away
The flutter of the golden moths that haunt
The star's one glimmer daggered on wet sands.
So beautiful it is to wake at night!
Imagination, loudening with the surf
Of the midsummer wind among the boughs,
Gathers my spirit from the haunts remote
Of faintest silence and the shades of sleep,
To bear me on the summit of her wave
Beyond known shores, beyond the mortal edge
Of thought terrestrial, to hold me poised
Above the frontiers of infinity,
To which in the full reflux of the wave
Come soon I must, bubble of solving foam,
Borne to those other shores--now never mine
Save for a hovering instant, short as this
Which now sustains me ere I be drawn back--
To learn again, and wholly learn, I trust,
How beautiful it is to wake at night.
As I walk the misty hill
All is languid, fogged, and still;
Not a note of any bird
Nor any motion's hint is heard,
Save from soaking thickets round
Trickle or water's rushing sound,
And from ghostly trees the drip
Of runnel dews or whispering slip
Of leaves, which in a body launch
Listlessly from the stagnant branch
To strew the marl, already strown,
With litter sodden as its own,
A rheum, like blight, hangs on the briars,
And from the clammy ground suspires
A sweet frail sick autumnal scent
Of stale frost furring weeds long spent;
And wafted on, like one who sleeps,
A feeble vapour hangs or creeps,
Exhaling on the fungus mould
A breath of age, fatigue, and cold.
Oozed from the bracken's desolate track,
By dark rains havocked and drenched black.
A fog about the coppice drifts,
Or slowly thickens up and lifts
Into the moist, despondent air.
Mist, grief, and stillness everywhere....
And in me, too, there is no sound
Save welling as of tears profound,
Where in me cloud, grief, stillness reign,
And an intolerable pain
Rolled on as in a flood there come
Memories of childhood, boyhood, home,
And that which, sudden, pangs me most,
Thought of the first-belov'd, long lost,
Too easy lost! My cold lips frame
Tremulously the familiar name,
Unheard of her upon my breath:
No voice answers on the hill,
All is shrouded, sad, and still ...
Stillness, fogged brakes, and fog on high.
Only in me the waters cry
Who mourn the hours now slipped for ever,
Hours of boding, joy, and fever,
When we loved, by chance beguiled,
I a boy and you a child--
Child! but with an angel's air,
Astonished, eager, unaware,
Or elfin's, wandering with a grace
Foreign to any fireside race,
And with a gaiety unknown
In the light feet and hair backblown,
And with a sadness yet more strange,
In meagre cheeks which knew to change
Or faint or fired more swift than sight,
And forlorn hands and lips pressed white,
And fragile voice, and head downcast,
Hiding tears, lifted at the last
To speed with one pale smile the wise
Glance of the grey immortal eyes.
How strange it was that we should dare
Compound a miracle so rare
As, 'twixt this pace and Time's next pace,
Each to discern th' elected's face!
Yet stranger that the high sweet fire,
In hearts nigh foreign to desire,
Could burn, sigh, weep, and burn again
As oh, it never has since then!
Most strange of all that we so young
Dared learn but would not speak love's tongue,
Love pledged but in the reveries
Of our sad and dreaming eyes....
Now upon such journey bound me,
Grief, disquiet, and stillness round me,
As bids me where I cannot tell,
Turn I and sigh, unseen, farewell.
Breathe the name as soft as mist,
Lips, which nor kissed her nor were kissed!
And again--a sigh, a death--
No voice answers; but the mist
Glows for a moment amethyst
Ere the hid sun dissolves away,
And dimness, growing dimmer grey,
Hides all ... till nothing can I see
But the blind walls enclosing me,
And no sound and no motion hear
But the vague water throbbing near,
Sole voice upon the darkening hill
Where all is blank and dead and still.
* * * * *
J. D. C. FELLOW
London Bridge is broken down;
Green is the grass on Ludgate Hill;
I know a farmer in Camden Town
Killed a brock by Pentonville.
I have heard my grandam tell
How some thousand years ago
Houses stretched from Camberwell
Right to Highbury and Bow.
Down by Shadwell's golden meads
Tall ships' masts would stand as thick
As the pretty tufted reeds
That the Wapping children pick.
All the kings from end to end
Of all the world paid tribute then,
And meekly on their knees would bend
To the King of the Englishmen.
Thinks I while I dig my plot,
What if your grandam's tales be true?
Thinks I, be they true or not,
What's the odds to a fool like you?
Thinks I, while I smoke my pipe
Here beside the tumbling Fleet,
Apples drop when they are ripe,
And when they drop are they most sweet.
ON A FRIEND WHO DIED SUDDENLY UPON THE SEASHORE
Quiet he lived, and quietly died;
Nor, like the unwilling tide,
Did once complain or strive
To stay one brief hour more alive.
But as a summer wave
Serenely for a while
Will lift a crest to the sun,
Then sink again, so he
Back to the bright heavens gave
An answering smile;
Then quietly, having run
His course, bowed down his head,
And sank unmurmuringly,
Sank back into the sea,
The silent, the unfathomable sea
Of all the happy dead.
They say that I shall find him if I go
Along the dusty highways, or the green
Tracks of the downland shepherds, or between
The swaying corn, or where cool waters flow;
And others say, that speak as if they know,
That daily in the cities, in the mean
Dark streets, amid the crowd he may be seen,
With thieves and harlots wandering to and fro.
But I am blind. How shall a blind man dare
Venture along the roaring crowded street,
Or branching roads where I may never hit
The way he has gone? But someday if I sit
Quietly at this corner listening, there
May come this way the slow sound of his feet.
WHEN ALL IS SAID
When all is said
And all is done
Beneath the Sun,
And Man lies dead;
When all the earth
Is a cold grave,
And no more brave
Bright things have birth;
When cooling sun
And stone-cold world,
Flame up as one--
O Sons of Men,
When all is flame,
What of your fame
And splendour then?
When all is fire
And flaming air,
What of your rare
And high desire
To turn the clod
To a thing divine,
The earth a shrine,
And Man the God?
* * * * *
TO MY MOTHER IN CANADA, FROM SICK-BED IN ITALY
Dear mother, from the sure sun and warm seas
Of Italy, I, sick, remember now
What sometimes is forgot in times of ease,
Our love, the always felt but unspoken vow.
So send I beckoning hands from here to there,
And kiss your black once, now white thin-grown hair
And your stooped small shoulder and pinched brow.
Here, mother, there is sunshine every day;
It warms the bones and breathes upon the heart;
But you I see out-plod a little way,
Bitten with cold; your cheeks and fingers smart.
Would you were here, we might in temples lie,
And look from azure into azure sky,
And paradise achieve, slipping death's part.
But now 'tis time for sleep: I think no speech
There needs to pass between us what we mean,
For we soul-venturing mingle each with each.
So, mother, pass across the world unseen
And share in me some wished-for dream in you;
For so brings destiny her pledges true,
The mother withered, in the son grown green.
VOICES OF WOMEN
Met ye my love?
Ye might in France have met him;
He has a wooing smile,
Who sees cannot forget him!
Met ye my Love?
--We shared full many a mile.
Saw ye my Love?
In lands far-off he has been,
With his yellow-tinted hair--
In Egypt such ye have seen;
Ye knew my love?
--I was his brother there.
Heard ye my love?
My love ye must have heard,
For his voice when he will
Tinkles like cry of a bird;
Heard ye my love?
--We sang on a Grecian hill.
Behold your love,
And how shall I forget him,
His smile, his hair, his song?
Alas, no maid shall get him
For all her love,
Where he sleeps a million strong.
THE SOMME VALLEY, JUNE, 1917
Comrade, why do you weep?
Is it sorrow for a friend
Who fell, rifle in hand,
His last stand at an end?
The thunder-lipped grey guns
Lament him, fierce and slow,
Where he found his dreamless bed,
Head to head with a foe.
The sweet lark beats on high
For the peace of those who sleep
In the quiet embrace of earth:
Comrade, why do you weep?
The blue sky arches wide
From hill to hill;
The little grasses stand
Upright and still.
Only these stones to tell
The deadly strife,
The all-important schemes,
The greed for life.
For they are gone, who fought;
But still the skies
Stretch blue, aloof, unchanged,
From rise to rise.
They come fluttering helpless to the ground
Like wreaths of wind-caught snow,
Uttering a plaintive, chirping sound,
And rise and fall, and know not where they go.
So small they are, with feathers ruffled blown,
Adrift between earth desolate and leaden sky;
Nor have they ever known
Any but frozen earth, and scudding clouds on high.
What hand doth guide these hapless creatures small
To sweet seeds that the withered grasses hold?--
The little children of men go hungry all,
And stiffen and cry with numbing cold.
In a sudden gust the flock are whirled away
Uttering a frightened, chirping cry,
And are lost like a wraith of departing day,
Adrift between earth desolate and leaden sky.
THE KELSO ROAD
Morning and evening are mine,
And the bright noon-day;
But night to no man doth belong
When the sad ghosts play.
From Kelso town I took the road
By the full-flood Tweed;
The black clouds swept across the moon
With devouring greed.
Seek ye no peace who tread the night;
I felt above my head
Blowing the cloud's edge, faces wry
In pale fury spread.
Twelve surly elves were digging graves
Beside black Eden brook;
Eleven dug and stared at me,
But one read in a book.
In Birgham trees and hedges rocked,
The moon was drowned in black;
At Hirsel woods I shrieked to find
A fiend astride my back.
His legs he closed about my breast,
His hands upon my head,
Till Coldstream lights beamed in the trees
And he wailed and fled.
Morning and evening are mine,
And the bright noon-heat,
But at night the sad thin ghosts
For their revels meet.
As I went down the Baldon lane,
Alone I went, as oft I went,
Weighing if it were loss or gain
To give a maidenhead.
I met, just as the day was spent,
A fancy man, a gentleman,
Who smiled on me, and then began,
'Come sit with me, my maid.'
With him had I no mind to sit
In Baldon lane for loss or gain,
Said I to him with feeble wit,
And close beside him crept;
The branches might have heard my pain,
The sudden cry, the maiden cry,--
My fancy man departed sly,
And woman-like, I wept.
I kept the roads until my bed,
A nine months' time, a weary time,
And then to Baldon woods I fled
In Spring-time weather mild;
The kindly trees, they fear no crime,
So back I came, to Baldon came,
Received their welcome without blame,
And moaned and dropped my child.
The poor brat gasped an hour or so,
A goodly child, a thoughtful child;
Perceiving nought for us but woe
It stretched and sudden died;
But I, when Spring breaks fresh and mild,
To Baldon lane return again,
For there's my home, and women vain
Must hold their homes in pride.
COME GIRL, AND EMBRACE
Come girl, and embrace
And ask no more I wed thee;
Know then you are sweet of face,
Soft-limbed and fashioned lovingly;--
Must you go marketing your charms
In cunning woman-like,
And filled with old wives' tales' alarms?
I tell you, girl, come embrace;
What reck we of churchling and priest
With hands on paunch, and chubby face?
Behold, we are life's pitiful least,
And we perish at the first smell
Of death, whither heaves earth
To spurn us cringing into hell.
Come girl, and embrace;
Nay, cry not, poor wretch, nor plead,
But haste, for life strikes a swift pace,
And I burn with envious greed:
Know you not, fool, we are the mock
Of gods, time, clothes, and priests?
But come, there is no time for talk.
* * * * *
PROCNE (A FRAGMENT)
So she became a bird, and bird-like danced
On a long sloe-bough, treading the silver blossom
With a bird's lovely feet;
And shaken blossoms fell into the hands
Of Sunlight. And he held them for a moment
And let them drop.
And in the autumn Procne came again
And leapt upon the crooked sloe-bough singing,
And the dark berries winked like earth-dimmed beads,
As the branch swung beneath her dancing feet.
A MAN TO A SUNFLOWER
See, I have bent thee by thy saffron hair
--O most strange masker--
Towards my face, thy face so full of eyes
--O almost legendary monster--
Thee of the saffron, circling hair I bend,
Bend by my fingers knotted in thy hair
--Hair like broad flames.
So, shall I swear by beech-husk, spindleberry,
To break thee, saffron hair and peering eye,
--To have the mastery?
While I have vision, while the glowing-bodied,
Drunken with light, untroubled clouds, with all this cold sphered sky,
Are flushed above trees where the dew falls secretly,
Where no man goes, where beasts move silently,
As gently as light feathered winds that fall
Chill among hollows filled with sighing grass;
While I have vision, while my mind is borne
A finger's length above reality,
Like that small plaining bird that drifts and drops
Among these soft lapped hollows;
Robed gods, whose passing fills calm nights with sudden wind,
Whose spears still bar our twilight, bend and fill
Wind-shaken, troubled spaces with some peace,
With clear untroubled beauty;
That I may rise not chill and shrilling through perpetual day,
Remote, amazèd, larklike, but may hold
The hours as firm, warm fruit,
This finger's length above reality.
As wind-drowned scents that bring to other hills
Disquieting memories of silences,
Broad silences beyond the memory;
As feathered swaying seeds, as wings of birds
Dappling the sky with honey-coloured gold;
Faint murmurs, clear, keen-winged of swift ideas
Break my small silences;
And I must hunt and come to tire of hunting
Strange laughing thoughts that roister through my mind,
Hopelessly swift to flit; and so I hunt
And come to tire of hunting.
* * * * *
A SAXON SONG
Tools with the comely names,
Mattock and scythe and spade,
Couth and bitter as flames,
Clean, and bowed in the blade,--
A man and his tools make a man and his trade.
Breadth of the English shires,
Hummock and kame and mead,
Tang of the reeking byres,
Land of the English breed,--
A man and his land make a man and his creed.
Leisurely flocks and herds,
Cool-eyed cattle that come
Mildly to wonted words,
Swine that in orchards roam,--
A man and his beasts make a man and his home.
Children sturdy and flaxen
Shouting in brotherly strife,
Like the land they are Saxon,
Sons of a man and his wife,--
For a man and his loves make a man and his life.
MARIANA IN THE NORTH
All her youth is gone, her beautiful youth outworn,
Daughter of tarn and tor, the moors that were once her home
No longer know her step on the upland tracks forlorn
Where she was wont to roam.
All her hounds are dead, her beautiful hounds are dead,
That paced beside the hoofs of her high and nimble horse,
Or streaked in lean pursuit of the tawny hare that fled
Out of the yellow gorse.
All her lovers have passed, her beautiful lovers have passed,
The young and eager men that fought for her arrogant hand,
And the only voice which endures to mourn for her at the last
Is the voice of the lonely land.
She was wearing the coral taffeta trousers
Someone had brought her from Ispahan,
And the little gold coat with pomegranate blossoms,
And the coral-hafted feather fan;
But she ran down a Kentish lane in the moonlight,
And skipped in the pool of the moon as she ran.
She cared not a rap for all the big planets,
For Betelgeuse or Aldebaran,
And all the big planets cared nothing for her,
That small impertinent charlatan;
But she climbed on a Kentish stile in the moonlight,
And laughed at the sky through the sticks of her fan.
Lying on Downs above the wrinkling bay
I with the kestrels shared the cleanly day,
The candid day; wind-shaven, brindled turf;
Tall cliffs; and long sea-line of marbled surf
From Cornish Lizard to the Kentish Nore
Lipping the bulwarks of the English shore,
While many a lovely ship below sailed by
On unknown errand, kempt and leisurely;
And after each, oh, after each, my heart
Fled forth, as, watching from the Downs apart,
I shared with ships good joys and fortunes wide
That might befall their beauty and their pride;
Shared first with them the blessèd void repose
Of oily days at sea, when only rose
The porpoise's slow wheel to break the sheen
Of satin water indolently green,
When for'ard the crew, caps tilted over eyes,
Lay heaped on deck; slept; mumbled; smoked; threw dice;
The sleepy summer days; the summer nights
(The coast pricked out with rings of harbour-lights),
The motionless nights, the vaulted nights of June
When high in the cordage drifts the entangled moon,
And blocks go knocking, and the sheets go slapping,
And lazy swells against the sides come lapping;
And summer mornings off red Devon rocks,
Faint inland bells at dawn and crowing cocks;
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