Little Jack Horner pulled the wings
off birds and insects and such things,
attempting to discover why
the insects and the birds could fly.
He pulled to bits expensive toys
to find out what thing made the noise;
he could not eat a simple plum
without enquiring how it come.
Young Jack, a surgeon fresh from college,
held life synonymous with knowledge,
and knife in hand, with small compunction,
explored the function of a function.
Dr Horner, enquiring fellow,
observed that corpses turned quite yellow,
could not make love, embrace the arts,
when he'd laid out their private parts.
Impelled by a godlike discontent
he strove to find out what things meant,
trusting the last analysis
to justify God's artifice.
He died in hope of sure salvation
through bodily disintegration,
believing Zion was built on Styx
and Rome contrived by breaking bricks.
He was such a curious lover of shells
and the hallucinations of water
that he could never return out of the sea
without first having to settle a mermaid's bill.
Groping along the sea-bottom of the age
he discovered many particulars he did not care to speak about
even in the company of water-diviners
things sad and unspeakable
moss-covered skulls with bodies fluttering inside
with the unreality of specks moving before the eyes of a photograph
trumpets tossed from the decks of ocean-going liners
eccentric starfish fallen from impossible heavens
fretting on uncharted rocks
still continents with trees and houses like a child's drawing
and in every cupboard of the ocean
weary dolphins trapped in honey-coloured cobwebs
murmuring to the revolution Will you be long.
He was happy down there under the frothing ship-lanes
because nobody ever bothered him with statistics
or talk of yet another dimension of the mind.
And eventually and tragically finding he could not drown
he submitted himself to the judgment of the desert
and was devoured by man-eating ants
with a rainbow of silence branching from his lips.
Lord of our world, take off your velvet
mask. Remove your gentle glove, disclose
the claw-like hand, the dried blood under the nails,
the murder print that never shows.
We have spotted your guilt before the final
bloodstained page of our modern super-thriller;
ignoring the views of the bum police detective
we have identified the killer.
We have explored your paradise
in the unpacific ocean, where many drown;
we know the zoology of your coral island;
we have counted the skulls beneath your town.
Tended by tight-lipped servants, muse
on the day the rabble will spit on your polished floor,
yourself forgotten like foul weather, groomed
by the worm, your patient servitor.
There will be little of your estate
after the notary Clay has proved your will;
your assets will melt in the great slump, and time's
invisible violence do you ill.
You have forgotten the diver dead
of a bad heart who groped for your wife's pearls.
Her diamonds shine like water sprinkled on bought
flowers, or the sweat of factory girls.
Your opulent curtains woven of blood
lend a sweet charnel fragrance to your room.
Under your rich carpet are bones buried
that shall speak up at crack of doom.
You cover your pits with grass, ascribe
our broken limbs to Providence; you advise
gentleness and restraint, you counsel prayer,
for when men pray they shut their eyes.
page 64 What is your world but a dark glass
that is thronged with images of its own disruption,
your soul but a facing mirror that reflects back
the accurate pattern of corruption?
Two mirrors in rigid dialectic
display the secular process of your life,
leading through infinite recession to nothingness
yourself, your world of strife.
Anyway, the old man said, and winked at the barmaid,
it's no use running around
with your guts hanging out. But the young man knew
that it wasn't a question of what ought or ought not to be
or of what was useful and what was not useful
but of walking barefoot over red-hot fact
with a load of life that mustn't be dropped
and the young man looked at his watch
not because he wanted to know the time
he was only in a hurry to get nowhere quickly
and the watch wouldn't help him
and he began to speak
softly and persuasively as if
he were trying to sell himself a correspondence course
in the art of self-defence:
There are people who say they can
take it and maybe they can,
I knew such a man
and the rind on his mind was so thick
there was nothing at all inside,
his mind was all hide.
When people say they can take it
generally it doesn't matter
like food spilt on a very old dress
or the death of a distant poor relation.
And there are people whose minds are so tortuous and dishonest
that they can take anything
page 65 take it and like it and come back for more
like a half-witted negro boxer.
The man with a smashed leg who calls for a cigarette
has been using some hero of cheap fiction
as a bathroom mirror, and men who lose
their wives or their money and put up
a good show are doing private theatricals.
Philosophers, sportsmen, and men who are very busy
about their own or other people's business
are three kinds of escapologists
and there are 3,000 more and they can all
take it more or less and all this perhaps may
be very admirable in its way
but more often it is merely folly or knavery
or just a lot of bravery
or stupidity, some leather-faced fool
of a ship's captain going down with his ship
with a stiff upper lip
his mind a motto from the wall of a preparatory school.
There was a young girl who killed herself
and a little later, a month or a hell of a time,
her lover shot himself and people said
he couldn't take it
but he could take it and he did,
he took it in the side of the head.
When people do
in any way the words mean sense
they take it because they have to
as the slave takes the lash across his face
or young animals the bitter weather they die in
and although there is nothing whatever to be done about it
let's get it straight, let's shout it,
Nobody who really gets it
can ever take it
and if you think you can take it
it only means you haven't really looked at it
and all this (he said, breaking off) is only
the bitter vapour of my self-consciousness,
the hangman getting sentimental in his cups,
and the young man winked at the barmaid,
said he wouldn't have another drink, he couldn't take it.
It is no fault in us that we should grieve
for irremediable wrong and mortal woe:
the death of sons, lost youth, rain-flattened crops,
tempest and drought, all that the gods bestow.
For such, take comfort: call to mind the dead
whom we have loved, how bravely they drew breath,
and with such splendour loved and sang that still
they live in us, and give the lie to death.
But those black wrongs that rogues and fools contrive
for our disquiet, to twist us to their will—
suffer them if you must, but do not grieve:
not tears, but blows, best heal the tyrant ill.
Soon, soon we shed this troubled garment of earth:
let us remember, you and I, how strong,
how valiant were the dead: let us put on
such pride as theirs, and suffer no man's wrong.
Shapeless and soft with slime I pictured him,
that loathsome beast that stirred and slopped the brim,
and heaved his body through the brain's black mud,
fouling the sweetness of my living blood.
I gazed at the flowers that grew beside the pool
and made them fairies, played the moonstruck fool
with thought and sense, cast off the load of mind
a dozen ways, all timorous and all blind.
And then, with shame and agony grown bold,
one day I fumbled in the ooze, took hold,
and shuddering dragged him from his watery lair
and threw him on the sward, a-gasp for air.
All that I saw, for the horror that had been,
was a great fat bull-frog, sleek and grassy green,
a comfortable beast, with friendly eyes,
who gasped, and blinked at me in dumb surprise.
These have their temples, citadels and schools,
builded by those of old who toiled and wrought
new gods to guard the world, nor comfort sought
nor honour in their day. But we whose tools
inherit that vast labour, no smooth rules
nor laws have we, no sure foundation, naught
but our own hard, bitter faith. Betrayed and caught
in the engines of our kind, we are made the fools
of time and chance. But surely we are brave
who know our gods are false, yet make them true,
toiling with shape and vigour to imbue
the lie, the truth enwombed. The world to save,
we take and eat the lie: the truth we give.
These others live, and die: we die, yet live.
Old Milton, sitting in darkness many days,
with food and drink, and knowledge, and some music,
evoked the demon sleeping in his blood
and builded Hell and Heaven in a dark room.
No thought of men impaired his musings. His
was a sedentary genius. Not for him
the life of action, the bending of the bow
whose string snaps backward when the will's relaxed
in death or thought and sends an aimless arrow
to lodge in some far breast that's innocent
of all but history; that brings fulfilment
to one man's muscles, one man's lust for deeds,
and leaves a gaping world dabbing its wounds.
Old Milton, blinded, cast in a den of mice,
tickled his brain and brought forth, lo, a lion.
But what of us, the youngest sons of men,
of generations who enslaved the sun,
harnessed him to their purpose and bred rancour
between man's heart and the live air of heaven?
For we, the youngest men in all the world,
are fallen on age, betrayed by false ambition
page 68 of those proud exiles of the baser earth
who made a cowards' compact with the gods,
bought up some disused garments, shirts and breeches
still smelling of stale wine, ladies' apparel
worn at some marriage-feast upon Olympus
and since discarded, a little the worse for wear,
rank with nostalgic odours of divine
revels and routs; which stirred their eager minds
to godlike musings, airy dreams of power.
We are the sons of men and wear their clothes,
cast off, but patched, dry-cleaned for the coronation.
And now we're dressed and find there is no party,
the king is indisposed, doubts his succession,
is half-converted to the Revolution,
prays day and nightly for a Revelation.
Old Milton sat in darkness. Not for him
the lust of wealth, the trampling of the earth,
empires and fierce aggressions: only the slow
ticking of time and a new world to make
out of the fleeting shadows of the brain.
Evil is to be conquered by absorption, not by rejection.
I passed my life in one horizon,
locked in the sky's blue prison.
That blue bubble of the sky
broke, and left me here to die.
The sky is a cup whereof men sip,
with air and sunlight wet the lip.
But there is one whose ceaseless strife
imperilleth our immortal life.
He hath poured poison in the sky,
and they that drink that cup shall die.
I drank the golden wine of day,
the dregs of twilight cast away.
Now at the end I cry for peace,
mercy and pity without cease.
My courage faileth, my strength is wasted:
dregs and darkness have I tasted.
O hand unseen, O spirit of grace,
shower the darkness on my face.
Now let me drink of that foul cup
and swallow all its bitterness up.
The fruit of evil more than good
is the just man's spiritual food.
Ill turneth good in the spirit's fire
as the lily bloometh in the mire.
And he that licketh the beggar's sore
hath mercy and grace for evermore.
(From an unfinished poem, 1929)
Let us speak, my beloved, of death,
and of the divine right of kings. Let us discuss
the Constitution of the realms of darkness
and our vassalage and subservience to my Lord Barebones.
I have sung him often, prettily enough, in times past,
knowing him for a very honest gentleman,
an old friend of the family,
who has given advancement to my progenitors one and all
without discrimination or exception.
Yet what is he? All things to all men, indubitably,
according to the mood and the circumstance.
To me has he been in the nonage of my spirit
many things: a robber; a ghoul; a destroyer
page 70 of flesh and soul; a medicine, a sweet balm
for the wound of love. He has played the gravedigger
to many a Hamletish posture of my soul.
And once in the dead of night
as I lay dreaming deep did he come to me
in the guise of an old grey abbess, and took you, my beloved
from my arms, and led you away to that dark nunnery
where is no mingling of blood and wine to the glory
of God, but a mumbling over the beads for ever.
He has played many quips and pranks, has provoked
many unreal and illusory conceits,
as if to assure me he is no old sobersides
but a mere grim unreality who can crack a jest
and laugh with the best of these old tavern fellows.
I went through the market-place crying, There is no death,
and was greeted only by the frightened laughter of fools
who live in such terror of the dissolution
and decay of their pitiful bodies that they see
only the faggots, and not the fire of God.
Take comfort, little ones, I said. How should Homunculus
flare on the void, how should he cause a disruption
of the elements? That Leonardo at his going-out
was attended with lightning is well within our credence,
but surely death for the poor in spirit is only
a matter of degree, bringing no great change in their estate?
Yet it may be that their fear of the dark is well-founded,
for they are temporal stuff, rooted in earth,
reared on unleavened bread, and well may they find
the wine of immortality strange tipple.
But the soul of Leonardo was steeped in infinity,
and his death was but the merging of air and wind,
the mingling of a raindrop in a river,
a fading of music, a beautiful surcease
of thought and sense, like to the gentle passage
of a dove, weary of the world's sun, that drifts
on slumbrous wings to the darkness of the forest
and finds sweet rest among the shadowy leaves.
I went through the market-place and proclaimed the word,
but they mocked me, and there was fear beneath their mockery.
I sang that life and death are vain illusions,
that only the spirit of God exists, which they
in their folly had clothed in rags and rotten flesh.
I cried, There is only the king, and the king has no clothes on.
page 71 But they mocked, and passed on, striving in vain with laughter
to choke the fear that quickened in their breasts.
My ears listened to their laughter but my heart was deaf,
I went on my way and minded not their mockery,
for the derision of fools is a benediction.
It is this body-death they fear indeed,
this scavenger of flesh and all living substance,
this is the very fountainhead of fear.
How should so beautiful a thing as death
be a stench in the nostrils, be clothed in such bitter finality?
For death is but the digestive organ of God,
by its prime metabolism giving
fresh form and shape to the immortal spirit;
so that the leaf, the fruit, bowel and gut of swine,
the beggar's scabs, the flesh of emperors,
the lips of Guinivere and the blood of Christ,
dissolved and scattered, have worn a million shapes.
We are one flesh, one spirit, and all that is
shines fair in the eyes of God. Nothing so low
but is a part of us, of our true being,
and we love all, so we be pure in heart.
But some there be who defile God's living word,
saints and ascetics who sunder flesh from soul,
hoping in woeful ambition to raise man's spirit
to a higher dignity. They gaze on God's handiwork
and say, It is not good. They make of the flesh
a beastly and ungodly thing. So by their vile deceit
and betrayal of God's gracious trust have they brought
the spirit low and made it one in kind
with their blasphemous illusion.
But let us rather follow our father Rabelais,
who by the alchemy of a bright and loving mind
would raise all beastly things to the brink of godhead.
Kant's dead, the gods be praised.
That old man ruled me five years or more,
wagging the finger of reproof under my nose,
bloodless, lifeless, sexless he ruled me,
he and his system, a two-and-elevenpenny clock
with an alarm like the conscience of Calvin.
He's dead, and I no more eat German haggis.
I came upon him in a corner of the park
page 72 and pushed my umbrella through his newspaper,
so that he died old with no dazzling eyes.
Let him rot slowly.
Let his end be modest and seemly, no whit spectacular.
A decent, quiet end, if you please, Master Death.
In my youth I followed other metaphysicians
and whirling dervishes of the intellect
who prance in the meadows of the imagination
trying to catch the stars in butterfly nets.
In the mansions of my spirit did they dwell
like worms in a cheese. They consumed my substance, they walked
in my garden, nipping the flowers from their stalks,
inventing systems to break the bank of the cosmos.
But now at last am I quit of their black magic,
now in my mind
a place of trees and flowers where the bright horde
of the imagination, the children of my delight,
sing and make dances under the horned moon.
For reason is but a foolish serpent that takes
its tongue in its teeth and attempts to swallow itself.
I cried: I am weary of summer and her shrunken streams
and the arrogant sun that in the heavens marches
heedless through dry clouds when earth is faint.
I am tired of miraculous spring, the fire and fret
and the earth's clotted beauty. I have gazed in the sky
and heard the song of the death-enshadowed larks.
The emptiness of the sky and the teeming fullness
of the earth's belly are an affront to the mind of man,
an irony too bitter for the soul to contemplate.
The godlike spirit of man has suffered eclipse.
Yet I believe with the deep faith that lives
in my mind and blood that this vanquishment of the spirit
is illusory, and a figment of fear—that lie
the past tells of the future. But for the wise
in the moment of vision there is neither past nor future
but eternal present in which all things exist.
In the wide wastes of time, that boundless desert
where only mirage and traveller's tale are true,
there lies no hope for the fallen spirit of man.
I am no babbler of the world's golden age.
Time and man's scheming will not mend the wall.
page 73 The Sphinx smiles, say some, I say she sneers.
But love's bright eye may pierce the painted veil
and in the visionary moment ransom life
from the entanglements of time and fear.
The innocence that burns in the heart of man
has been shrouded in darkness by the destroyers,
Onan, Calvin, Automaton, black Trinity.
They have spilled the wine of life and preached us fear.
They have dragged truth and love at the world's heels.
They have decked out truth in the world's finery, saying
that all men are equal in the sight of the Devil,
that the blood that surges through the veins of Smith is royal
and the marrow in the bones of Jones imperial stuff;
and their flattery has persuaded our belief.
Kings, emperors and the princes of this world
are but regents of darkness, ruling a shadowy kingdom,
and with the passing of days their ramparts fall.
But where is the tower that shall outlast all time,
that pilèd centuries besiege in vain?
O it is builded in the heart of man,
and innocence, that thin taper in the dungeon
brought to the yard may blind the world's great sun.
Let us speak lastly of the decease of love.
(Love, with ruddy lips, and dew on his wings,
with gossip of the court and tales of heaven,
to what has love come, sweet love!) First let me say
not Pandarus with a hundred maids at heel,
not Helen with her whorish tricks, the delight
of young and old, not Eve's self with the juice
of the fruit new-bitten dribbling fresh at her lips,
had moved me, but that death sent his merry procuress,
beguiling spring, to stir my sleeping heart.
Do you remember the morning you and I
walked on the tall cliffs among the flowers,
and the broad sun-dazzled ocean
towering from under us to the high horizon,
and the sea-wind, and the blue water mocking
the battlemented rocks? So deep we waded
through seas of sunlight, drunken with the spring,
that we forgot the grave and the hungry earth
page 74 crying for its supper, knew only the living fire
within our veins. We were two trees that blossomed
with mingling boughs, and the golden hive of desire
swarmed in our branches. Suddenly, you recall,
the air was thick with music and thrown flowers,
and the foam-born goddess with her singing maidens
descended from a cloud and hallowed us
with pagan benedictions. Then, alas,
the lady left us, and time ran its course.
We climbed through the bracken one evening, you and I,
along the familiar path our feet had made.
You will remember the setting sun and the far
golden hills like mice embalmed in honey,
and the sky of china blue, and the mist in the valley;
and the trees that towered above the gloom like peaks
of jagged greenstone, and the brown boles beneath.
You will remember, as I do, the hush that fell
over the world, and the one cricket chirping.
We climbed, you know, beyond the trees, then down
by the little stream that bubbles under the fern,
and lay in the soft darkness beside the waters.
There was a mystery. You and I became one.
There's no knowing how it happened, or how
by the mere merging of body and perishable dust
grace should have bloomed in us: but I have heard
that old greybeard, that ragged seer who stalks
in the gutters of my brain and eats dry crusts
pending his kingdom, I have heard him tell
how love was the perfect merging of two souls,
and of all men's souls in God, but that man dreamed
a lie, and set the gulf of fear betwixt
the flesh and spirit to sunder them in twain;
and yet how later lovers may o'erleap
the fearful chasm and make God's covenant
on earth again … But there, it's an older tale
than I have made it, and I heard it firs
from a nightingale in Eden, long ago.
So did we lie in darkness, lulled by the music
of a hidden stream. (O lovers, let me speak
this wisdom: never make love by running water.
It is a symbol, and a mockery of holy things.)
So did we love. And my body, that burned in flame,
page 75 remembered nothing. It was my spirit that led me,
some five years after, to climb again through the bracken,
alone, or with a ghost, to the selfsame spot.
The path was overgrown. In the western sky
was a moon like a clipping from a man's thumbnail,
or as I recall it more like a shive of cheese,
with a few stars peering like rats from their holes
bright-eyed and gluttonous. All that remembered vale
that you and I so loved was like a well
sucked dry of its sweet water. I turned, and ran.
Were I Endymion with a world to gain
I would take the stars and scatter them under your feet,
were I a Spanish knight upon a charger
with lance a-tilt would I ride, drunken with love,
gallop and capture yon cloud-castle gleaming
gold on the world's rim, I would make you empress
of twelve horizons. But I have neither the time
nor the inclination. I am a weary man
who has outlived himself, whose lust is chastened,
and I am already a little tired of your caresses.
I have no fear that passion, pure and sweet,
should curdle into hate and cruelty:
for see, I cast it as a worn-out coat
to time's consuming fire. So dying, it lives.
So dying sleeps until his Easter day.
Air, earth and water meet at the sea's edge:
see, Dian cold thrusts in with Iustless hand
her watery wedge
where, whirled through skies and walled with rock, cling wind and land.
One element was lacking till you came:
you, lovely wife of Sol, life-giving fire,
you are the flame
that welds the clashing worlds of matter and desire.
Though Time's black mountain overhangs
the night where she's engrossed in sleep
its shadow cannot bruise my love,
so calm she lies, she dreams so deep.
She is not hurt by what shall be,
death stands enchanted in her eyes;
remote and lovely, a floating flower
on the lily pool of sleep she lies.
Dream deep, my love, as in the time
when your sweet spirit was unborn,
but rise up when the east is purple
and dress your hair for Judgment morn.
To stave off disaster, or bring the devil to heel,
or to fight against fear, some carry a ring or a locket,
but I, who have nothing to lose by the turn of the wheel,
and nothing to gain, I carry the world in my pocket.
For all I have gained, and have lost, is locked up in this thing,
this cup of cracked bone from the skull of a fellow long dead,
with a hank of thin yellowish hair fastened in with a ring.
For a symbol of death and desire these tokens are wed.
The one I picked out of a cave in a windy cliff-face
where the old Maoris slept, with a curse on the stranger who moved,
in despite of tapu, but a splinter of bone from that place.
The other I cut from the head of the woman I loved.
How should he know, this man of mine,
so strong, so true, so lovingkind,
that when he takes me in his arms
his love goes by, is not confined
within the meshes of my mind?
His vision of my loins, I know,
blooms like a rose as thrust on thrust
he loves me, till his brow is wet,
and splits my womb and spills his lust;
but my rose blooms in older dust.
The image burning in my brain
springs from another's loins, whose vow
was made by lust, renounced by time;
and though his mark is on my brow
I'm nothing to his purpose now.
My body has no secret thoughts,
fulfils its office, works by rote;
the mind alone knows second-best;
I'll bear his children, let him dote,
and cook his food and mend his coat.
Said the Queen to her fancy man at break of day,
stroking her burden with soft finger-tips,
'There's nothing we can say or do will outlive
my heart's last beat, the latest breath of your lips.'
And she sighed, and picked a feather from the bolster
and puffed it in the air, and watched it sail.
'The moments of our love are flakes of dream
falling on a snow-scene, in a fairy tale.'
Then suddenly her eyes grew big, and her body
stiffened, and she cried with what voice she could find:
'Who are you, tell me, you I have known and loved
in my heart's deep marrow, and in the bones of my mind?'
And that familiar animal from Heaven
with whom she had mixed her soul, and seed, and breath,
lifted his head, and smiled, and kissed her hair,
and taking off his mask of love, was Death.
We have found our peace, and move with a turning globe;
the night is all about us, the lovers' robe.
Mortal my love, my strength: your beauty their wound.
Strip quickly darling, your fingers be the wind
undressing a snowy peak to the sun's love,
scatter your clouds, be Everest, O my Eve.
Leap on the bed, lie still, your body truth become dream
torturing my arms before their kingdom come.
Give the wise their negations, the moralists their maps;
our empire the moment, the geometer's point where all shapes
of delight are hidden as joy sleeps in the vine.
I tell you again, what the poor have always known,
that this is all the heaven we shall ever find
in all our footsore and fatal journey and beyond,
and we shall never have enough to keep out foul weather,
or to eke out age, will perish forgetful of each other,
yet breeding saints or subduing Asia set against this
were violating our lives with littleness.
Now at the brink of being, in our pride of blood
let us remember lost lovers, think of the dead
who have no power, who aching in earth lie,
the million bones, white longings in the night of eternity.
O love, how many of our faith have fallen!
Endless the torrent of time, endless and swollen
with tributaries from the broken veins of lovers.
I kiss you in remembrance of all true believers.
Midnight thoughts. Dark garlands to adorn your flesh
so it shine like snow, like fire. Flakes of ash
blowing from doom's far hill. Such wisps of terror
gazed at too long even in your body's mirror
would disrupt our continent, drain our seas,
bring all to nothing. Love, let us laugh and kiss,
only your lips but not with speech can tell
moving in the darkness what is unspeakable,
and though your eyes reflect spring's green and yellow like a pool
I cannot see them, can only guess at what is more beautiful
than home at last, than a child's sleep, more full of pity
and gentleness than snow falling on a burning city.
Lay you so cold and still
no wound could make you cry
no kiss could break your sleep
in dark and bulk of earth
our clasp all bone to bone
beneath the ruined wall
or in the dead of night
the wind among the rocks
the uproar of the sea
or came you round the door
stood still for ever there
your look all mine again
O Love, however strange,
wherever I shall be lost
or do you go or stay
or at the cloudless noon
or in the stealth of dawn
O Love, however far,
your breath upon my lips
your blood entreating mine
this time still warm and living
when flesh and fleeting ghost
are salt upon our lips
and savour of forever.
Age will unfasten us, and take our strength;
our world will end when you,
the lovely husk of love, lie still at length
on the cold bed, and I,
my limbs stained through and through
with your beauty's blood, powerless beside you lie.
The world was old when we awoke
in this rebirth, and looked our love, and spoke;
the moon, white seal upon our midnight bliss,
a desert ages old at our first kiss.
Time will devour our days,
love die before we die.
Dear girl, when the dawn no longer finds us close
and sleeping still, wrapped in one dream,
Heaven's air around; when we,
rising in sunlight, gaze
no more on the enriched earth, but see
dust on the leaves and thin
light from the famished sun, and feel
the dryness of the heart;
then will our world be past, and a new age begun,
wherein we sleep and have no part.
And I would come up singing from the south,
or rise through smothering tides of sleep
deep as the sea, and find your mouth,
and lie there motionless till we became
(O flame and shadow of remembered time!)
one shape, one thought, the living form
of love itself; then slip beneath the wave
still warm from you, still crying your name.
From the cliff-top it appeared a place of defeat,
the nest of an extinct bird, or the hole where the sea hoards its bones,
a pocket of night in the sun-faced rock,
sole emblem of mystery and death in that enormous noon.
We climbed down, and crossed over the sand,
and there were islands floating in the wind-whipped blue,
and clouds and islands trembling in your eyes,
and every footstep and every glance
was a fatality felt and unspoken, our way
rigid and glorious as the sun's path,
unbroken as the genealogy of man.
And when we had passed beyond
into the secret place and were clasped
by the titanic shadows of the earth,
all was transfigured, all was redeemed,
so that we escaped from the days
that had hunted us like wolves, and from ourselves,
in the brief eternity of the flesh.
There should be the shapes of leaves and flowers
printed on the rock, and a blackening of the walls
from the flame on your mouth,
to be found by the lovers straying
from the picnic two worlds hence, to be found and known,
because the form of the dream is always the same,
and whatever dies or changes this will persist and recur,
will compel the means and the end, find consummation,
whether it be
silent in swansdown and darkness, or in grass moonshadow-mottled,
or in a murmuring cave of the sea.
We left, and returned to our lives:
the act entombed, its essence caught
for ever in the wind, and in the noise of waves,
for ever mixed
with lovers' breaths who by salt-water coasts
in the sea's beauty dwell.
What is there left to be said?
There is nothing we can say,
nothing at all to be done
to undo the time of day;
no words to make the sun
roll east, or raise the dead.
I loved you as I love life:
the hand I stretched out to you
returning like Noah's dove
brought a new earth to view,
till I was quick with love;
but Time sharpens his knife,
Time smiles and whets his knife,
and something has got to come out
quickly, and be buried deep,
not spoken or thought about
or remembered even in sleep.
You must live, get on with your life.
I sing Wild Love, the bitterest of Time's fruit,
born out of time, half angel and half brute,
fathered in Paradise, from there flung down
to haunt the fragrant gutters of the town—
Wild Love, the Lord's unwanted, lacking bread,
who feeds on crumbs brushed out from Virtue's bed,
whose blood is blue, whose bone is scullion bone,
the flesh-starved anarchist who walks in lone
pride in the wilderness with bleeding feet.
I sing Wild Love, and may my song be sweet.
Wild Love is handsome as the scarlet spray
of poison berries robbed by the birds all day
(poor birds, that have no souls) but death to men;
brave as a bull and timid as the wren,
as secret as the rat that lies in straw,
weak as a slave in chains, stronger than law;
more violent than the bursting avalanche;
lonely as Judas under the flowering branch;
as crammed with evil as the womb of Eve,
and yet so lovely that a saint will grieve
to cast him out, and lie three nights in prayer
doubting his God and fighting down despair.
Wild Love is proud and friendless, and must roam
for ever through the world and find no home;
he has no board, nor bed to rest his bones,
plunders the wild bees' nest, sleeps on cold stones
and dreams of blood and flowers, of warm delight,
and pain dissolving in soft arms, all night—
sleeps as the hare sleeps in the tasseled corn,
one ear pricked up to catch the huntsman's horn.
And oh, Wild Love is mournful in the sedges,
and haunts about the world's forgotten edges
where the lost abide, unheard. Wild Love is sweet
as titheless beauty when the running feet
of Time grow faint, and sorrow wafts away,
and tears are all for joy. Wild love is gay,
and young, and desperate, and quick with grief,
immortal as the springtime, and as brief;
wears his green garland in the withering sun,
lights the world's blinding dark, and then is done.
We are wild lovers, wantons of the night,
day's fugitives, who feed on rich delight
as Christmas paupers, through the secular year
nibbling our iron ration of despair.
Across the smiling earth in sweat and dust
we run, and lay a reeking scent of lust
for the fanged pack. Now for an hour at best
the chase has lost us and we lie at rest,
panting, upon this hillside ringed with trees,
close to the sky, and take our long-sought ease.
O love, what ease can our poor arms enfold
that are so torn with brambles, and so cold
from wandering, and long-drawn-out defeat?
The moon is round more often than we meet,
two Arabs, in oases few and green,
with absence like a desert stretched between.
Hot-breathed like hunted animals we take
page 85 our hasty pleasure in the forest brake;
however starved for joy, however fond,
we never kiss but each will look beyond
to where the moving branches will betray
the hidden bowman or the beast of prey.
Had we such love as saints and martyrs give
to their eternal God, then might we live
to bask for ever in unchanging day;
alas, our hands were never taught to pray,
our lips and tongues have worshipped at no shrine,
have touched no sacramental bread or wine.
Our love's unhallowed, all our acts profane,
and even your pure flesh must bear the stain
of sin and ripening death (close wed to mine),
more blackly damned the more it seems divine.
Our world's a barren garden choked with weeds;
we have no children but our thoughts and deeds,
and small grandchildren memories, fading fast
(refreshed in action, faint when action's past),
foredoomed with all your beauty, all my strength
(still wed) to rot upon the ground at length.
Even our souls, love's creatures, then must die;
look in the flawless mirror of the sky,
you shall see our estate foreshadowed there
who love like mayflies in the glistening air.
Yet as we dream on this midsummer hill,
whispering our love (as if the world were still
in its first dewy dawn, Time at its youth)
I will forget all cold and mortal truth;
and like a starving bee that racks the flowers
to hoard wild honey for black winter hours
I'll range your meadows, let my famished heart
feed on the beauty shining in each part.
Your eyes are love's entreaty to the sun
that this day end as well as it's begun,
let it end well, not ill (but end it will,
echo the sleeping stones upon the hill),
your breasts and thighs are light carved out of night,
your lips the living scripture of delight;
your heart a store of kindness that gives forth
warmth to the south and zephyrs to the north,
fragrance to east and west, and at its core
still holds all warmth and fragrance evermore.
When I am dead, I'll plague you every way,
haunt you by night and follow you by day,
pluck at your arm along the shouting street
and watch you turn, a silent ghost to greet.
Invisible as the wind that turns the mill
my naked essence will pervade you still;
I'll mix myself with every breath you take,
creep through your dream, oppress you when you wake.
In all those vain assemblies you frequent
I'll be the night-winged thought that came and went
and left your laughter dangling in mid-air,
a broken stump to make the revellers stare.
I'll be the mirror where you watch the days
gather upon you like a smoky haze;
you will not see me in the unchanging glass
watching your beauty like an epoch pass.
When I am dead, and sleeping all alone,
your love will lie like strychnine in the bone;
that poison prisoned fast until world's end
will no more murder do to foe or friend.