Poems New and Old
Part 4 out of 5
But when he ceased
And silence was--
Who could but fear what evil sprite
Crept through the tunnels of the night?
THE SILVERY ONE
Clear from the deep sky pours the moon
Her silver on the heavy dark;
The small stars blink.
Against the moon the maple bough
Flutters distinct her leafy spears;
All sound falls weak....
Weak the train's whistle, the dog's bark,
Slow steps; and rustling into her nest
At last, the thrush.
All's still; only earth turns and breathes.
Then that amazing trembling note
Cleaves the deep wave
Of silence. Shivers even that silvery one;
Sigh all the trees, even the cedar dark
----O joy, and I.
It was a night of smell and dew
When very old things seemed how new;
When speech was softest in the still
Air that loitered down the hill;
When the lime's sweetness could but creep
Like music to slow ears of sleep;
When far below the lapping sea
Lisped but of tired tranquillity....
No, 'twas a night that seemed almost
Of real night the little ghost,
As though a painter painted it
Out of the shallows of his wit--
The easy air, the whispered trees,
Faint prattle of strait distant seas,
Pettiness all: but hark, hark!
Large and rich in the narrow dark
Music rose. Was music never
Braver in her pure endeavour
Against the meanness of the world.
Her purple banner she unfurled
Of stars and suns upon the night
Amazed with the strange living light.
The notes rose where the dark trees knelt;
Their fiery joy made stillness melt
As flame in woods the low boughs burns,
Sere leaves, dry bushes, flame-shaped ferns.
The notes rose as great birds that rise
Majestically in lofty skies,
And in white clouds are lost; and then
Briefly they hushed, and woke again
Slowly silence came
As smoke after sinking flame
That spreads and thins across the sky
When day pales before it die.
The naked stars, deep beyond deep,
Burn purely through the nerved night.
Over the narrow sleep
Of men tired of light;
Deep within deep, as clouds behind
Huge grey clouds hidden gleaming rise,
Untroubled by sharp wind
In cold desert skies.
Cold deserts now with infinite host
Of gathered spears at watch o'er small
Armies of men lost
In glooms funereal.
O bitter light, all-threatening stars,
O tired ghosts of men that sleep
After stern mortal wars
'Neath skies chill and steep.
These mortal hills, this flickering sea,
This shadowy and thoughtful night,
Throb with infinity,
Burn with immortal light.
TEN O'CLOCK AND FOUR O'CLOCK
It stands there
Tall and solitary on the edge
Of the last hill, green on the green hill.
Ten o'clock the tree's called, no one knows why.
Perhaps it was planted there at ten o'clock
Or someone was hanged there at ten o'clock--
A hundred such good reasons might be found,
But no one knows. It vexed me that none knew,
Seeing it miles and miles off and then nearer
And nearer yet until, beneath the hill,
I looked up, up, and saw it nodding there,
A single tree upon the sharp-edged hill,
Holding its leaves though in the orchard all
Leaves and fruit were stripped or hung but few
Red and yellow over the littered grass.
--It vexed me, the brave tree and senseless name,
As I went through the valley looking up
And then looked round on elm and beech and chestnut
And all that lingering flame amid the hedge
That marked the miles and miles.
Then I forgot:
For through the apple-orchard's shadow I saw
Between the dark boughs of the cherry-orchard
A great slow fire which Time had lit to burn
The mortal seasons up, and leave bare black
The moon gave no light.
The clouds rode slowly over, broad and white,
From the soft south west.
The wind, that cannot rest,
Soothed and then waked the darkness of the yew
Until the tree was restless too.
Of all the winds I knew
I thought, and how they muttered in the yew,
Or raved under the eaves,
Or nosed the fallen dry leaves,
Or with harsh voice holloa'd the orchard round,
With snapped limbs littering the ground.
And I thought how the yew
Between the window and the west his shadow threw,
Grave and immense,
Darkening the dark past thought and sense,
And how the moon would make the darkness heavenly bright:
But the moon gave no light.
Than these November skies
Is no sky lovelier. The clouds are deep;
Into their gray the subtle spies
Of colour creep,
Changing that high austerity to delight,
Till even the leaden interfolds are bright.
And, where the cloud breaks, faint far azure peers
Ere a thin flushing cloud again
Shuts up that loveliness, or shares.
The huge great clouds move slowly, gently, as
Reluctant the quick sun should shine in vain,
Holding in bright caprice their rain.
And when of colours none,
Not rose, nor amber, nor the scarce late green,
Is truly seen,--
In all the myriad gray,
In silver height and dusky deep, remain
Faint purple flushes of the unvanquished sun.
Winter is fallen
On the wretched grass,
Dark winds have stolen
All the colour that was.
No leaf shivers:
The bare boughs bend and creak as the wind moans by
Fled is the fitful gleam of brightness
From the stooping sky.
A robin scatters
Like bright rain his song,
Of merry matters
The sparrows gossip long.
Snow in the sky
Lingers, soon to cover the world with white,
And hush the slender enchanting music
And chill the delight.
But snow new fallen
On the stiffened grass
Gives back beauty stolen
By the winds as they pass:--
Turns the climbing hedge
Into a gleaming ladder of frozen light:
And hark, in the cold enchanted silence
A cry of delight!
A late and lonely figure stains the snow,
Into the thickening darkness dims and dies.
Heavily homeward now the last rooks go,
And dull-eyed stars stare from the skies.
A whimpering wind
Sounds, then's still and whimpers again.
Yet 'twas a morn of oh, such air and light!
The early sun ran laughing over the snow,
The laden trees held out their arms all white
And whiteness shook on the white below.
Lovely the shadows were,
Deep purple niches, 'neath a dome of light.
And now night's fall'n, the west wind begins to creep
Among the stiff trees, over the frozen snow;
An hour--and the world stirs that was asleep,
A trickle of water's heard, stealthy and slow,
First faintly here and there,
And then continual everywhere.
And morn will look astonished for the snow,
And the warm, wind will laugh, "It's gone, gone, gone!"--
And will, when the immortal soft airs blow,
This mortal face of things change and be gone
So--and with none to hear
How in the night the wind crept near?
Was even as a little child that sleeps
All night its great unconsciousness of day.
Flashed when the wave rose, drooped, and slowly drew away.
From all that slumbering, full-bosomed water came;
Lay mute in childlike sleep, the moon was a gold candle-flame.
Save when a faint and mothlike air fluttered around.
But as a child that dreams and in his full sleep cries,
So turned the sleeping sea and heaved her bosom of slow sighs.
THE WEAVER OF MAGIC
Weave cunningly the web
Of twilight, O thou subtle-fingered Eve!
And at the slow day's ebb
With small blue stars the purple curtain weave.
If any wind there be,
Bid it but breathe lightly as woodland violets o'er the sea;
If any moon, be it no more than a white fluttering feather.
Call the last birds together.
O Eve, and let no wisp
Of day's distraction thine enchantment mar;
Thy soft spell lisp
And lure the sweetness down of each blue star.
Then let that low moan be
A while more easeful, trembling remote and strange, far oversea;
So shall the easeless heart of love rest then, or only sigh,
Hearing the swallows cry!
THE DARKSOME NIGHTINGALE
Why dost thou, darksome Nightingale,
Sing so distractingly--and here?
Dawn's preludings prick my ear,
Faint light is creeping up the vale,
While on these dead thy rarer
Song falls, dark night-farer.
Were it not better thou shouldst sing
Where the drenched lilac droops her plume,
Spreading frail banners of perfume?
Or where the easeless pines enring
The river-lulled village
Whose lads the lilac pillage?
Oh, if aught songful these hid bones
Might reach, like the slow subtle rain,
Surely the dead had risen again
And listened, white by the white stones;
Back to rich life song-charmed,
By ghostly joys alarmed.
This may not be. And yet, oh still
Pour like night dew thy richer speech
Some late-lost youth perchance to reach,
Or unloved girl; and stir and fill
Their passionless cold bosoms
Under red wallflower blossoms!
UNDER THE LINDEN BRANCHES
Under the linden branches
They sit and whisper;
Hardly a quiver
Of leaves, hardly a lisp or
Sigh in the air.
Under the linden branches
They sit, and shiver
At the slow air's fingers
Drawn through the linden branches
Where the year's sweet lingers;
And sudden avalanches
Of memories, fears,
Shake from the linden branches
Upon them sitting
With hardly a sigh or a whisper
Or quiver of tears.
The wind fought with the angry trees.
All morning in immense unease
They wrestled, and ruin strawed the ground,
And the north sky frowned.
The oak and aspen arms were held
Defiant, but the death was knelled
Of slender saplings, snappy boughs,
Twigs brittle as men's vows.
How moaned the trees the struggle through!
Anger almost to madness grew.
The aspen screamed, and came a roar
Of the great wind locked in anguish sore,
Desolate with defeat ... and then
Quiet fell again:
The trees slept quiet as great cows
That lie at noon under broad boughs.
How pure, how strange the calm; but hist!...
Was it the trees by the wind kissed?
Or from afar, where the wind's hid,
A throb, a sob?
O linger late, poor yellow whispering leaves!
As yet the eves
Are golden and the simple moon looks through
The clouds and you.
O linger yet although the night be blind,
And in the wind
You wake and lisp and shiver at the stir
And sigh of her
Whose rimy fingers chill you each and all:
And so you fall
As dead as hopes or dreams or whispered vows....
O _then_ the boughs
That bore your busy multitude shall feel
The cold light steal
Between them, and the timorous child shall start,
Hearing his heart
Drubbing affrighted at the frail gates, for lo,
The ghostly glow
Of the wild moon, caught in the barren arms
Of leafless branches loud with night's alarms!
Beauty walked over the hills and made them bright.
She in the long fresh grass scattered her rains
Sparkling and glittering like a host of stars,
But not like stars cold, severe, terrible.
Hers was the laughter of the wind that leaped
Arm-full of shadows, flinging them far and wide.
Hers the bright light within the quick green
Of every new leaf on the oldest tree.
It was her swimming made the river run
Shining as the sun;
Her voice, escaped from winter's chill and dark,
Singing in the incessant lark....
All this was hers--yet all this had not been
Except 'twas seen.
It was my eyes, Beauty, that made thee bright;
My ears that heard, the blood leaping in my veins,
The vehemence of transfiguring thought--
Not lights and shadows, birds, grasses and rains--
That made thy wonders wonderful.
For it has been, Beauty, that I have seen thee,
Tedious as a painted cloth at a bad play,
Empty of meaning and so of all delight.
Now thou hast blessed me with a great pure bliss,
Shaking thy rainy light all over the earth,
And I have paid thee with my thankfulness.
MORE THAN SWEET
The noisy fire,
The drumming wind,
The creaking trees,
And all that hum
Of summer air
And all the long inquietude
Of breaking seas----
Sweet and delightful are
But more than these
The quiet light
From the morn's sun
And night's astonished moon,
Falling gently upon breaking seas.
Another beauty is--
Ah, and those stars
So gravely still
More than light, than beauty pour
Upon the strangeness
Of the heart's breaking seas.
Through that strange void and vast
Brimmed with dying day;
So that I feel
Only the wind
Of the world's swift-rolling wheel.
See what a maze
Of whirling rays!
The sharp wind
Weakens; the air
Is but thin air,
Not fume and flying fire....
O, heart's desire,
Now thou art still
And the air chill.
And but a stem
Of clear cold light
Shines in this stony dark.
Farewell, world of sense,
Too fair, too fair
To be so false!
Delight of ears, hands, eyes.
When I bid, O thou
Tide of the dark,
Whelming the pale last,
Reflection of that vast
To miss the vexing heat
Of the heart's desire:
Only to know
All's lost, lost....
To know the lack of sweet.
See how the steady dark
Is filled with eyes--
Eyes that smile,
Hot, then how cool!
Eyes that were stars till thou
Mad'st them eyes.
O, the tormenting
Look, the unrelenting
Of their wild light on thine--
Light of thine eyes!
As if one could
Loathe the world for too much sweetness!
All the air's a flame,
Wonderful--yet the same
Being briefly sated
With sweet of sweetness.
Forgive a heart whose madness
Was not of madness born,
But of mere wild
Waste of desire....
Who does not know
One speaks so, or so,
Out of mere passion
That sees not love
From hate, nor life from death,
Nor hell from heaven?
In the East--oh, that flashed
The loveliness even
Of sunset's flush!
THE HOLY MOUNTAINS
The holy mountains,
The gay streams,
And tall, trembling trees;
The light that sleeps
Between the heavy shadows,
Wind that creeps
Faintly, from far-off seas----
The mountains' light,
Clear, slow, calm air,
Are dreams, dreams,
And far, far-fallen echoes
Of secret worlds
And inconceivable dark seas.
If thou hast grief
And passion vex the spirit that is in thee--
There was a stony beach
Where the heat flickered and the little waves
Whispered each to each.
Dove-coloured was that stony beach,
And white birds hungering hovered over
The shining waves;
And men had kindled there
A great fierce heap of golden flame--
Spoiled grasses with dead buttercups and pale clover.
The agonising flame
Yearned in its vitals towards the quiet air
And died in a little smoke.
And on the coloured beach the black warm ash
Then on that warm ash
Another heap of grasses was outpoured,
And instant came
Another knot of struggling yellow smoke
That burst into new agonies of flame,
Dying into a drift of smoke;
And on the coloured beach the black cold ash
Or is thy grief too deep,
Passion too dear, the spirit in thee asleep?--
Twelve deep and sombre, still,
The miles-long crowd stood--and then listening.
The nervous drums,
The unendurable, low reeds:
Silence--and then the nearing drums
Again, again the thrilling reeds,
(The deep crowd hushed)
Following an almightier King
That rode unseen,
Drew near the tributary magnificence....
The deep crowd stood, devouring, listening;
But a child on his father's shoulder cried,
Only have thou no fear
Pride, but no fear.
Sweetly from the trembling string
When wizard fingers sweep
Dreamily, half asleep;
When through remembering reeds
Ancient airs and murmurs creep,
Oboe oboe following,
Flute answering clear high flute,
Voices, voices--falling mute,
And the jarring drums.
At night I heard
First a waking bird
Out of the quiet darkness sing....
Strangely to the brain asleep!
And I heard
Soft, wizard fingers sweep
Music from the trembling string,
And through remembering reeds
Ancient airs and murmurs creep;
Oboe oboe following,
Flute calling clear high flute,
Voices faint, falling mute,
And low jarring drums;
Then all those airs
Sweetly jangled--newly strange,
Rich with change....
Was it the wind in the reeds?
Did the wind range
Over the trembling string;
Into flute and oboe pouring
Solemn music; sinking, soaring
Low to high,
Up and down the sky?
Was it the wind jarring
Drowsy far-off drums?
Strangely to the brain asleep
He stands on the kerb
Watching the street.
He's always watching there,
Listening to the beat
Of time in the street,
Listening to the thronging feet,
Laughing at the world that goes
Scowling or laughing by.
He sees Time go by,
An old lonely man,
Crooked and furtive and slow.
He laughs as he sees
Time shambling by
While he stands at his ease,
Until Time smiles wanly back
At his laughing eye.
Greed's great paunch,
Lean Envy's ill looks,
Fond forgetful Love,
He reads them like books:
Whatever their tongue
He reads them like children's books,
Stands staring and laughing there
As all they go by.
O, he laughs as he sees
The fat and the thin,
The simple, the solemn and wise
He stares in their eyes,
Till they're angry and murmur, _Poor fool!_
And he hears and he laughs again
From the depth of his folly.
Even when with heavy
Plume and pall
The sleeky coaches roll by,
Coffin, flowers and all,
He laughs, for he sees
Crouched on the coffin a small
Yellowy shape go by--
Death, uneasy and melancholy.
Standing close by you
In the cold light
Of two tall candles
That measure the dark of night,
I hear the mouse,
The only thing that's moving
In the quiet house.
Don't you hear it,
That furious mouse?
How can you sleep so deep
And that noise in the house?
Won't you stir
At the furious scratching
In the cupboard there?
No! a sharper sound
Would wake you not;
Not the sweetest fluting
Tease you back to thought.
Yet the scratching mouse
Makes all my flesh a nervous
O, the dream, the dream
Must be sweet and deep
If life's scratching's heard not
On your cold sleep.
Yet if you should hear it,
So furious and fretful--
How could you bear it?
I have found happiness who looked not for it.
There was a green fresh hedge,
And willows by the river side,
And whistling sedge.
The heaviness I felt was all around.
No joy sang in the wind.
Only dull slow life everywhere,
And in my mind.
Then from the sedge a bird cried; and all changed.
Heaviness turned to mirth:
The willows the stream's cheek caressed,
The sun the earth.
What was it in the bird's song worked such change?
The grass was wonderful.
I did not dream such beauty was
In things so dull.
What was it in the bird's song gave the water
That living, sentient look?
Lent the rare brightness to the hedge?
That sweetness shook
Down on the green path by the running water?
Or the small daisies lit
With light of the white northern stars
In dark skies set?
What was it made the whole world marvellous?
Mere common things were joys.
The cloud running upon the grass,
Children's faint noise,
The trees that grow straight up and stretch wide arms,
The snow heaped in the skies,
The light falling so simply on all;
My lifted eyes
That all this startling aching beauty saw?
I felt the sharp excess
Of joy like the strong sun at noon--
Most comfortable Light,
Light of the small lamp burning up the night,
With dawn enleagued against the beaten dark;
Pure golden perfect spark;
Or sudden wind-bright flame,
That but the strong-handed wind can urge or tame;
Chill loveliest light the kneeling clouds between,
Comfort of happy light,
That mouse-like leaps amid brown leaves, cheating sight;
Clear naked stars, burning with swift intense
Points in the dark inane that purely tingle
With eager fire, pouring night's circles through
Their living blue;
Dark light still waters hold;
Broad silver moonpath trodden into gold:
Candle-flame glittering through the traveller's night--
Most comfortable light....
And lovelier, the eye
Where light from darkness shines unfathomably,
Light secret, clear, shallow, profound, known, strange,
Constant alone in change:--
Not that wild light that turns
Hunted from dying eyes when the last fire burns;
O, not that bitter light of wounded things,
When bony anguish springs
Nor light of mad eyes gleaming up from hell....
Come not again, wild light! Shine not again,
Hill-flare of pain!
But thou, most holy light....
Not the noon blaze that stings, too fiercely bright,
Not that unwinking stare of shameless day;
But thou, the gray,
Nun-like and silent, still,
Fine-breathed on many an eastern bare green hill;
Keen light of gray eyes, cool rain, and stern spears;
Sad light, but not to tears:--
--O, comfort thou of eyes
Watching expectant from chill northern skies,
Excellent joy for lids heavy with night--
Strange with delight!
"Hallo, hallo!" impatiently he cried,
And I replied,
No sound then; and I stretched
My hand for the receiver, all my nerves
Tingling and listening.
My hand clutched nothing, and I lit
I could have sworn it was the shouting wire....
Besides, a bare and unfamiliar room
And he, why, long-forgotten, maybe dead.
Yet all around,
Filling the silence up with tiny sound,
A million tremulous thin echoings,
There was a child that screamed,
And if it was the gathering tingling dark,
Or if it was the tingling silences
Between few words,
Or if the water's drip and quivering drip--
Or if the child half sleeping suddenly dreamed--
Who knows? for she knew not, but was afraid,
And then angry with fear,
And then it seemed afraid of all the voices
And then afraid again of that drip, drip
Of water somewhere near.
Yet a man dying would not with such fear
Scream out at hell.
Easier it were to die than to endure,
Unless death brought the instant consciousness
Of all the wrongs of all lost years
Falling like water, drip after trembling drip
Upon the naked anguish of the soul.
But death's stupidity
Is gentle to the lunatic last wits.
Little of terror, little of consciousness,
But stupor, a great ease,
And then no more the drip, drip of the years,
No more the strangeness, agonies and fears;
No more the noise, but one imponderable unhaunted
I heard the child that cried
Chattering a moment after in the light,
And singing out of such contentment as
Lamps and familiar voices bring.
She needs must sing
Now that sharp, spiny agony thrust no more,
Nor water fell, drip, drip by quivering drip;
Her face was bright,
Unapprehensive as a day in spring.
Lying beneath a hundred seas of sleep
With all those heavy waves flowing over me,
And I unconscious of the rolling night
Until, slowly, from deep to lesser deep
Risen, I felt the wandering seas no longer cover me
But only air and light....
It was a sleep
So dark and so bewilderingly deep
That only death's were deeper or completer,
And none when I awoke stranger or sweeter.
Awake, the strangeness still hung over me
As I with far-strayed senses stared at the light.
I--and who was I?
Saw--oh, with what unaccustomed eye!
The room was strange and everything was strange
Like a strange room entered by wild moonlight;
And yet familiar as the light swept over me
And I rose from the night.
Strange--yet stranger I.
And as one climbs from water up to land
Fumbling for weedy steps with foot and hand,
So I for yesterdays whereon to climb
To this remote and new-struck isle of time.
But I found not myself nor yesterday--
Until, slowly, from deep to lesser deep
Risen, I felt the seas no longer over me
But only air and light.
Yes, like one clutching at a ring I heard
The household noises as they stirred,
And holding fast I wondered. What were they?
I felt a strange hand lying at my side,
Limp and cool. I touched it and knew it mine.
A murmur, and I remembered how the wind died
In the near aspens. Then
Strange things were no more strange.
I travelled among common thoughts again;
And felt the new forged links of that strong chain
That binds me to myself, and this to-day
To yesterday. I heard it rattling near
With a no more astonished ear.
And I had lost the strangeness of that sleep,
No more the long night rolled its great seas over me.
--O, too anxious I!
For in this press of things familiar
I have lost all that clung
Round me awaking of strangeness and such sweetness
Nothing now is strange
Except the man that woke and then was I.
From that warm height and pure,
The peak undreamed of out of heavy air
Rising to heaven more strange and rare;
From that amazed brief sojourn, exquisite, insecure;
Fallen from thence to this,
From all immortal sunk to mortal sweet,
To slow gross joys from joy so fleet,
Fallen to mere remembrance of unsustainable bliss....
O harsh, O heavy air,
Difficult endurance, pain of common things!
The slow sun east to westward swings,
The flat-faced moon climbs labouring with a senseless stare.
From that inconceivable height----
O inward eyes that saw and ears that heard,
Spiritual swift wings that stirred
In that warm-flushing air and unendurable light;
When I was as mere down
On a swift-running youthful wind uptaken
Over tall trees, white mountains, shaken,
Into the uttermost azure lifted, lifted alone.
From that peak can it be
That I am fallen, fallen that was so high?
Or was that truly, surely I?
Who is it crawls here now, sad, uncontentedly?
Fallen from that high content,
--Fool, thou that wast content merely with bliss!
Happy those lovers that will not kiss;
Never to be fulfilled was the heart's endless passion meant.
Never on joys attainable
To linger, never on easy near delight--
O bitter, unreached infinite,
Merciful defeat, availless anguish, hunger unendurable!
O who shall be in longing wise,
Skilled in refusal, in embracing free,
Glad with earth's innocent ecstasy,
Yet all the uncomprehended heaven in his eyes!
Stay, thou desired one, stay!
Brighten the curious darkness of the world.
Cold through the chill dark swings the sleeping world,
Sense-heavy, dreaming dully of clear day.
No moon, no stars, no sound of wind or seas:
Wearily sleeping in immense unease,
Dreams, dreams the world of day.
Stay, thou adored one, stay,
Who on the dark hang'st lamps of gold delight,
Gold flames amid the purple pit of night.
Who the cool dawn's most lovely gray
Mak'st lovelier with rose of far away.
Stay, thou, who buildest wonder of things mean
(More truly so they're seen).
Stay--nay, fly not, nay--stay;
Youth gone, remain thou yet and yet.
Though the world spin in darkness and forget
Stay thou, whose coming's joy and flight despair.
Thou unimaginably more than fair,
Brief unsustainable strange dream, stay yet!
Lamping the world's close unsustainable dark
With golden unimaginable day.
The shadow of the lantern on the wall,
The lantern hanging from the twisted beam,
The eye that sees the lantern, shadow and all.
The crackle of the sinking fire in the grate,
The far train, the slow echo in the coombe,
The ear that hears fire, train and echo and all.
The loveliness that is the secret shape
Of once-seen, sweet and oft-dreamed loveliness,
The brain that builds shape, memory, dream and all....
A white moon stares Time's thinning fabric through,
And makes substantial insubstantial seem,
And shapes immortal mortal as a dream;
And eye and brain flicker as shadows do
Restlessly dancing on a cloudy wall.
WALKING AT EVE
Walking at eve I met a little child
Running beside a tragic-featured dame,
Who checked his blitheness with a quick "For shame!"
And seemed by sharp caprice froward and mild.
Scarce heeding her the sweet one ran, beguiled
By the lit street, and his eyes too aflame;
Only, at whiles, into his eyes there came
Bewilderment and grief with terror wild.
So, Beauty, dost thou run with tragic life;
So, with the curious world's caress enchanted,
Even of ill things thine ecstasy dost make;
Yet at the touch of fear and vital strife
The splendours thy young innocency forsake,
And with thy foster-mother's woe thou art haunted.
She comes when I am grieving and doth say,
"Child, here is that shall drive your grief away."
When I am hopeless, kisses me and stirs
My breast with the strong lively courage of hers.
Proud--she will humble me with but a word,
Or with mild mockery at my folly gird;
Fickle--she holds me with her loyal eyes;
Remorseful--tells of neighbouring Paradise;
Envious--"Be not so mad, so mad," she saith,
"Envied and envier both race with Death"
She my good Angel is: and who is she?--
The soul's divine Physician, Memory.
VISION AND ECHO
I have seen that which sweeter is
Than happy dreams come true.
I have heard that which echo is
Of speech past all I ever knew.
Vision and echo, come again,
Nor let me grieve in easeless pain!
It was a hill I saw, that rose
Like smoke over the street,
Whose greening rampires were upreared
Suddenly almost at my feet;
And tall trees nodded tremblingly
Making the plain day visionary.
But ah, the song, the song I heard
And grieve to hear no more!
It was not angel-voice, nor child's
Singing alone and happy, nor
Note of the wise prophetic thrush
As lonely in the leafless bush.
It was not these, and yet I knew
That song; but now, alas,
My unpurged ears prove all too gross
To keep the nameless air that was
And is not; and my eyes forget
The vision that I follow yet.
Yet though forgetful I did see.
And heard, but cannot tell,
And on my forehead felt an air
Unearthly, on my heart a spell.
I have seen that which deathless is,
And heard--what I for ever miss!
It is here--the lime-tree in the garden path,
The lilac by the wall, the ivied wall
That was so high, the heavy, close-leaved creeper,
The harsh gate jarring on its hinges still,
The echoing clean flags--all
The same, the same, and never more the same.
That mound was once a hill,
The old lime-tree a forest (now as small
As the poor lilac by the ivied wall),
And this neglected narrow greenery
A wilderness, and I its king and keeper;
Lying upon the grass I saw the sky
And all its clouds: the garden edged the sky.
The harsh gate jars upon its hinges still.
Gentle as the air that kisses
The splendid and ignoble with one breath,
Gentle as obliterating Death--
Though you be gentler yet,
In days when the old, old things begin to fret
The backward-looking consciousness,
Will you forget?
Or if remembering, will you forgive?
But there is one severer.
Stung by your forgivingness so great
Shall I forgive you then?--
Basest of men
Would rise in bitterness and sting again.
Not if you should forget
Could I forget:
Or if remembering, myself could I forgive?
Never! And yet such things have been,
And ills as dark forgiven or forgot.
But in those black hours when the heart burns hot
And there's no nerve that's not
Quick with the sense of things unheard, unseen--
A terrible voice that's mine yet not mine cries,
"Can that Eternal Righteousness
SOME HURT THING
I came to you quietly when you were lying
In perfect midnight sleep.
Your dark soft hair was all about your pillow,
So black upon the white.
I could not see your face except the lovely
Curve of the pale cheek;
Your head was bent as though your stirless slumber
Was sea-like heavy and deep.
The wind came gently in at the wide window,
Shaking the candle-light
And shadows on the wall; and there was silence,
Or sound but far and weak.
By the bedside your daytime toys were gathered:
The bright bell-ringing wheel,
Dolls clad in violent yellow and vermilion,
Strings of gay-coloured beads....
But you were far and far from these beside you,
Entranced with other joys
In fresh fields, among other children running:
Your voice, I knew, must peal
Purely among their high unearthly voices
Over green daisied meads,
While I stood watching your scarce-heaving slumber
Beside your human toys----
And heard, faint from the woods all through the night,
The cry of some hurt thing that moaned for light.
Frost in the air and music in the air,
And the singing is sweet in the street.
She wakes from a dream to a dream--O hark!
The singing so faint in the dark.
The musicians come and stand at the door,
A fiddler and singers three,
And one with a bright lamp thrusts at the dark,
And the music comes sudden--O hark!
She hears the singing as sweet as a dream
And the fiddle that climbs to the sky,
With head 'neath the curtain she stares out--O hark!
The music so strange in the dark.
She listens and looks and sees but the sky,
While the fiddle is sweet in the porch,
And she sings back into the singing dark
Hark, herald angels, hark!
IN THE LANE
The birds return,
The blossom brightens again the cherry bough.
The hedges are green again
In the airless lane,
And hedge and blossom and bird call, Now, now, now!
O birds, return!
Who will care if the blossom die on the bough,
Or the hedge be bare again
In the screaming lane?
For what they were these are not, are not now.
The one gone makes
All that remain seem strange and lonely now.
She will not walk here again
In the blossoming lane:--
And there's a dead bough in every blossoming bough.
THE LAST TIME
For the last time,
The last, last time,
The last ...
All those last times have I lived through again,
And every "last" renews itself in pain--
Yes, each returns, and each returns in vain:
You return not, the last remains the last,
And I remain to cast
Weak anchors of my love in shifting sands
The anchors drag, nothing I see save death.
Talked and were glad. I could not see
That one black gesture menaced you and me!
We kissed, and parted;
I left you, and was even merry-hearted....
And now my love is thwarted
That reaches back to you and searches round,
And dares not look on that harsh turfless mound.
And that last time
We walked together and the air acold
Hummed shrill around; the time that you
And I dared not to see,
Nor dared you then to speak of what must be.
We knew not what the shut days would unfold--
Nay, could not know till all the days were told....
But that last time we walked together, and
--And walk no more together, nor clasp hand
In hand, just stiffly as we used to do.
Never in dreams,
O happy, never in stealing dreams
We meet; never again
I live by night the day's slow-dying pain ...
The last, last time,
That time _is_ past; yet in too-golden day
My heart goes from me whispering,
"Where are you--you--you--you?"
And comes back easeless to an easeless breast.
But at night I rest
Dreamless as derelict ships ride out to sea
Empty, and no bird even on the snapp'd mast
Pauses: into oblivion her shadow's cast;
Into the empty night goes lonely she,
And into sleep go--oh, more lonely I.
YOU THAT WERE
You that were
Half my life ere life was mine;
You that on my shape the sign
Set of yours;
You that my young lips did kiss
When your kiss summed up my bliss....
Ah, once more
You to kiss were all my bliss!
You whom I
Could forget--strange, could forget
Even for days (ah, now the fret
Of my grief!);
You who loved me though forgot;
Welcomed still, reproaching not....
Ah, that now
That forgetting were forgot!
You that now
On my shoulder as I go
Put your hand that wounds me so;
You that brush
Yet my lips with that one last
Kiss that bitters all things past....
How shall I
Yet endure that kiss the last?
You that are
Where the feet of my blind grief
Find you not, nor find relief;
You that are
Where my thought flying after you
Broken falls and flies anew,
Now you're gone
My love accusing aches for you.
_March 4, 1911._
"THE LIGHT THAT NEVER WAS ON SEA OR LAND"
O gone are now those eager great glad days of days, but I remember
Yet even yet the light that turned the saddest of sad hours to mirth;
I remember how elate I swung upon the thrusting bowsprits,
And how the sun in setting burned and made the earth all unlike earth.
O gone are now those mighty ships I haunted days and days together,
And gone the mighty men that sang as crawled the tall craft out to sea;
And fallen ev'n the forest tips and changed the eyes that watched their
But still I hear that shout and clang, and still the old spell stirs in
And as to some poor ship close locked in water dense and dark and vile
The wind comes garrulous from afar and sets the idle masts a-quiver;
And ev'n to her so foully docked, swift as the sun's first beam at dawn
The sea-bird comes and like a star wheels by and down along the river;--
So to me the full wind blows from far strange waters echoingly,
And faint forgotten longings break the fast-sealed pools within my
So to me when sunset glows the scream comes of the white sea-bird,
And all those ancient raptures wake and wakes again the old unrest.
I see again the masts that crowd and part lie trees in living wind,
I hear again the shouts and cries and lip-lap of the waveless pool;
I see again the smalling cloud of sail that into distance fades,
I am again the boy whose eyes with tears of grief and hope are full.
AT EVENING'S HUSH
Now pipe no more, glad Shepherd,
Your joys from this fair hill
Through golden eves and still:
There sounds from yon dense quarry
A burden harsh and sorry.
No piping now, poor Shepherd.
Men strive with violent hand,
And anger stirs the bland
Blithe heaven that ne'er yet trembled,
Save with great spirits assembled.
No more, no more, sad Shepherd,
Let thy bright fingers stray
Idly in the old way;
No more their nimble glancing
Set gleeful spirits a-dancing.
Put by thy pipe, O Shepherd!
There needs no note of thine
For men deaf, undivine....
And lest brute hands should take it,
O sorrowful Shepherd, break it!
Bugle and battle-cry are still,
The long strife's over;
Low o'er the corpse-encumbered hill
The sad stars hover.
It is in vain, O stars! you look
On these forsaken:
Awhile with blows on blows they shook,
Or struck unshaken.
Needs now no pity of God or man ...
Tears for the living!
They have 'scaped the confines of life's plan
That holds us grieving.
The unperturbed soft moon, the stars,
The breeze that lingers,
Wake not to ineffectual wars
Their hearts and fingers.
Warriors o'ercoming and o'ercome,
Have marched now to the last far drum,
Bugle and battle-cry are still,
The long strife's over;
Oh, that with them I had fought my fill
And found like cover!
WISDOM AND A MOTHER
Why, mourner, do you mourn, nor see
The heavenly Earth's felicity?
I mourn for him, my Dearest, lost,
Who lived a frail life at my cost.
A grief like yours how many have known!
Were that a balm to ease my own!
Or rather might I not accuse
The Hand that does not even choose,
But, taking blindly, took my best,
And as indifferently takes the rest ...
Like mine? Is there denied to me
Even Sorrow's singularity?
THE THRUSH SINGS
Singeth the Thrush, forgetting she is dead....
How could you, Thrush, forget that she is dead?
Or though forgetting, sing--and she is dead?
Untimely, truant Thrush!
Singeth the Thrush, "I sing that she is dead!"
Thou thoughtless Thrush, she loved you who is dead,
Singeth the Thrush, "I sing her praise though dead."
Untimely, grievous Thrush!
Singeth the Thrush, "I sing your happy dead,
I sing her who is living, and no more dead,
I sing her joy--she is no longer dead."
Enough, thou heavenly Thrush!
TO MY MOTHER
No foreign tribute from a stranger-hand,
Mother, I bring thee, whom not Heaven's songs
Would as an alien reach.... Ah, but how far
From Heaven's least heavenly is the changing note
And changing fancy of these fitful cries!
Mother, forgive them, as the best of me
Has ever pleaded only for thy pardon,
Not for thy praise.
Mother, there is a love
Men give to wives and children, lovers, friends;
There is a love which some men give to God.
Ah! between this, I think, and that last love,
Last and too-late-discovered love of God,
There shines--and nearer to the love of God--
The love a man gives only to his mother,
Whose travail of dear thought has never end
Until the End. Oh that my mouth had words
Comfortable as thy kisses to the boy
Who loved while he forgot thee! Now I love,
Sundered and far, with daily heart's remembrance
The face the wind brings to me, the sun lights,
The birds and waters sing; the face of thee
Whom I love with a love like love of God.
For so long and so long had I forgot,
With thousand things; at whiles desire grew hot
And my soul dizzied
With hapless and insatiable salt thirst.
Nor was I humbled
Saving with shame that, running with the worst
My feet yet stumbled.
Pride and delight of life enchained my heart,
My heart enchanted,
And oh, soft subtle fingers had their part,
And eyes love-haunted.
But while my busy mind was thus intent,
Or thus surrendered,
What was it, oh what strange thing was it sent
Through all that hindered
A thrill that woke the buried soul in me?--
It seemed there fluttered
A thought--or was it a sudden fear?--of Thee,
Fair Eve, as fair and still
As fairest thought, climbs the high sheltering hill;
As still and fair
As the white cloud asleep in the deep air.
As cool, as fair and cool,
As starlight swimming in a lonely pool;
Subtle and mild
As through her eyes the soul looks of a child.
A linnet sings and sings,
A shrill swift cleaves the air with blackest wings;
Run frankly in their meadow as day fails.
On such a night, a night
That seems but the full sleep of tired light,
I look and wait
For what I know not, looking long and late.
Is it for a dream I look,
A vision from the Tree of Heaven shook,
As sweetness shaken
From the fresh limes on lonely ways forsaken?
A dream of one, maybe,
Who comes like sudden wind from oversea?
Or most loved swallow
Whom all fair days and golden musics follow?--
More sudden yet, more strange
Than magic airs on magic hills that range:--
Of one who'll steep
The soul in soft forgetfulness ere it sleep.
Yes, down the hillside road,
Where Eve's unhasty feet so gently trod,
Follow His feet
Whose leaf-like echoes make even spring more sweet.
Loose me and let me go!
I am not yours.
I do not know
Your dark name ev'n, O Powers
That out of the deep rise
And wave your arms
To weave strange charms.
Though the snare of eyes
You weave for me,
As a pool lies
In wait for the moon when she
Out of the deep will rise;
And though you set
Like mist your net;
And though my feet you catch,
O dark, strange Powers,
You may not snatch
My soul, or call it yours.
Out of your snare I rise
And pass your charms,
Nor feel your harms.
You loose me and I go:
O see the arms
Spread for me! lo,
His lips break your charms.
From the deep did He rise
And round me set
His Love for net.
O HIDE ME IN THY LOVE
O hide me in Thy love, secure
From this earth-clinging meanness.
Lave my uncleanness
In Thy compassionating love!
Bury this treachery as deep
As mercy is enrooted.
My days ill-fruited
Shake till the shrivelled burden fall.
Put by those righteous arrows, Lord,
Put even Thy justice by Thee;
So I come nigh Thee
As came the Magdalen to Thy feet.
And like a heavy stone that's cast
In a pool, on Thee I throw me,
And feel o'erflow me
Ripples of pity, deep waves of love.
PRAYER TO MY LORD
If ever Thou didst love me, love me now,
When round me beat the flattering vans of life,
Kissing with rapid breath my lifted brow.
Love me, if ever, when the murmur of strife,
In each dark byway of my being creeps,
When pity and pride, passion and passion's loss
Wash wavelike round the world's eternal cross,
Till 'mid my fears a new-born love indignant leaps.
If ever Thou canst love me, love me yet,
When sweet, impetuous loves within me stir
And the frail portals of my spirit fret--
The love of love, that makes Heaven heavenlier,
The love of earth, of birds, children and light,
Love of this bitter, lovely native land....
O, love me when sick with all these I stand
And Death's far-rumoured wings beat on the lonely night.
Oh, like a tree
Let me grow up to Thee!
And like a Tree
Send down my roots to Thee.
Let my leaves stir
In each sigh of the air,
My branches be
Lively and glad in Thee;
Each leaf a prayer,
And green fire everywhere ...
And all from Thee
The sap within the Tree.
And let Thy rain
Fall--or as joy or pain
So that I be
Yet unforgot of Thee.
Then shall I sing
The new song of Thy Spring,
Every leaf of me
Whispering Love in Thee!
EARTH TO EARTH
What is the soul? Is it the wind
Among the branches of the mind?
Is it the sea against Time's shore
Breaking and broken evermore?
Is it the shore that breaks Time's sea,
The verge of vast Eternity?
And in the night is it the soul
Sleep needs must hush, must needs kiss whole?
Or does the soul, secure from sleep,
Safe its bright sanctities yet keep?
And oh, before the body's death
Shall the confined soul ne'er gain breath,
But ever to this serpent flesh
Subdue its alien self afresh?
Is it a bird that shuns earth's night,
Or makes with song earth's darkness bright?
Is it indeed a thought of God,
Or merest clod-fellow to clod?
A thought of God, and yet subdued
To any passion's apish mood?
Itself a God--and yet, O God,
As like to earth as clod to clod?
ON A PIECE OF SILVER
So! the fierce acid licks the silver clean,
Unwonted plain the superscription's seen
Round the cleared head; the metal, virgin-bright,
Shines a mild Moon to the Sun candle-light.
And in these floating stains, this evil murk,
All your change-crowded, moment-histories lurk,
Voluble Silverling! Dost yield me now
Your chance-illumined record, and allow
Prying of idle eyes?... you came a boon
To men as weary as any the weak moon
Shines on but cheers not; you were life in death;
Almost a God to give the prize of breath,
Almost a God to give the prize of joy,
Almost a God--but God! the veriest toy
Child's fingers break, from death to buy back life,
Turn the keen trouble of grief's eager knife,
Or sense-confounded hearts heal of the ancient strife.
O Coin that men have toiled for, lacked and mourned,
Sold life for and sold honour, won and scorned;
O Coin that oft hast been a spinning Fate,
Yet impotent _her_ bitterness to abate;
O Coin that Love contemns, reckoning nought
(But with you, ah, Love's best is sold and bought)--
Heart of the harlot, you; the Judas blood
Hell's devils leech on; you the Price of God!
Like one who runs
Fearful at night, he knows not why,
Dreading the loneliness, yet shuns
The highway's casual company;
Wherefore he hastes,
The friendly gloom of ancient trees
Unheeding, and the shining wastes
Lying broad and quiet as the seas;
The beauty of night
Hating for very fear, until
Beyond the bend a lowly light
Beams single from a lowly sill;
And the poor fool,
Flying the sacred, solemn dark,
Leaves gladly the large, cool
Night for that serviceable spark;
And thankful then
To have 'scaped the peril of the way,
Turns not his timid steps again
That night, but waits the common day;--
So I, as weak,
Have fled the great hills of Thy love,
Too faint to hear what Thou dost speak,
Too feeble with fear to look above,
And hasten to win
Some flickering, brief security,
In sinful sleep or waking sin,
From the enfolding thought of Thee!
Following upon the faint wind's fickle courses
A feather drifts and strays.
My thought after her thought
Floated--how many ways and days!
She swayed me as the wind swayeth a feather.
I was a leaf upon
Her breath, a dream within
Her dream. The dream how soon was done!
For now all's changed, not Time's change more wondrous,
I am her sun, and she
(Herself doth swear) the moon;
Or she the ship upon my sea.
How should this be? I know not; I so grossly
Mastering her spirit pure.
O, how can her bird's breast
My nervous and harsh hand endure?
Tell me if this be love indeed, fond lovers,
That high stoop to low,
Soul be to flesh subdued;
That the sun around the earth should go?
I know not: I but know that love is misery,
O'erfilled with delight.
Day follows night: her love
Is gay as day, yet strange as night.
The rain beat on me as I walked,
In the roadside it ran and muttered.
It seemed the rain to the wind talked
Of storm: in the wind the wild cloud fluttered.
Across the down, now bleak and loud,
I went and the rain ran with me.
How swift the rain, how low the cloud!
No heavenly comfort could I see,
Nor comfort of low beaming light
From any casement creeping out.
The swift rain on the patient night
Swept, and anon would great winds shout.
Rain, rain, nought else, until I turned
The thrusting shoulder of the down,
And through the mist of rain there burned
The few green lanterns of the town.
And in the rain the night was lit
With my love's eyes burning for me;
Her white face in the dark was sweet,
Her hands like moonflowers quiveringly
Fell upon mine, and each was dashed
With rain blown in from streaming eaves,
While overhead the broad flood plashed
Noisily on the broad plane leaves.
Within we heard the gurgle-glock
In the pipe, the tip-tap on the sill
Like the same ticking of the clock;
We heard the water-butt o'erspill,
The wind come blustering at the door,
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