He Shall Not Rise
He Shall Not Rise
Parting they say is such sweet sorrow
that there's never a lad lifts up his pack
and takes to the hills, but a hundred voices
cry to him softly, calling him back.
And I know when I rode under the lilacs
and out of the gate, the eastern way,
taking the road and vagabond's luck
for good or ill, for a year or a day,
I was sick with the longing in my heart
for the green garden, and my little room;
I would have given my horse and bridle
for one last look at the cherry in bloom.
And even now, on a wild spring night
when the rain has ceased, I wake sometimes
from a dream of children playing in a garden
by an old grey wall where nasturtium climbs …
I was too young to be living on memories,
too old to be happy the way I'd known:
so I shut my heart against the crying voices
and lifted my head, and rode forth alone.
But oh, when I pass from the light of the sun
let no slight memory, no scent nor savour
of the things I loved go with me then,
or I shall be restless in my grave forever.
I have found sanctuary
under the blossoms
where the bees make music
in a white spring.
I have found rest
where the sea
unravels her foam
over the black rocks.
But the bee is a glutton,
clamorous, bloated with honey,
a fool, an unwitting pandar
to the blossoms;
and the sea is a very resdess woman,
a weeping strumpet, who in vain importunes
the race of men,
seeking a lover to her bed.
And all I have desired on earth,
all I have longed for really,
is the peace
and the forgetting
of the instant of love;
and the flat calm of death.
I have heard soft lutes
sob their ecstasies,
and the thrush's notes
tumble from the rain-wet trees.
I have heard the ocean's song
rise like a flame
with cold blue tongue
from the swirling foam,
and from the sky far whispers,
not tunes, not words,
the dim, mournful vespers
of homing birds.
Sea-chime, and fluting bird,
and tune from smitten strings,
all these are lovely, but I have heard
more lovely things:
There are songs that beat
and throb along the blood
when our flying feet
on the greensward thud,
and pipes that shrill
as with labouring step
we clamber up the hill,
pause, and then dip
down through the sweet
with flying feet
and flying hair…
Lovely are the birds, and the sobbing
of lutes, but braver far
is the voiceless music throbbing
in the runner's ear.
I would rid myself of an old way of life
that has clung about me since the day I was born,
covering me with its cloak of smiling hatred,
with its shield of nonchalance and easy scorn.
I have worn this armour, kept my soul inviolate,
mocking the estate of kings with cool bravado;
but I am tired now; I have lain too long
in the gutter of the world, crossed by a King's shadow.
I have done, indeed: as well be a whining moralist,
vile slave to a viler god, picking a sermon
from every cruel stone, as waste my breath
on this abominable world and all its vermin.
I would escape all this, and all things else;
I would creep within my life, and lie there curled
like a flower in ice, or a Pharaoh in his tomb,
lulled in a sleep that should outlast the world.
I shall not decry the dust, for the dust is immortal.
It rises not to Heaven nor descends into Hell.
Whatever befall the soul beyond the sombre portal,
for the dust there is neither flames nor asphodel.
I shall not decry the dust, for the world's storms
may harry the soul, and the last tempest break it;
but the dust flows on forever, through intricate forms,
and never the winds of time and chance may shake it.
The lamp may shine in the darkness, it may endure
eternally, or cease with death's cold gust.
I know not, care not. Of this alone am I sure—
that the dust is immortal: I shall not decry the dust.
I have come back as a stone falls to earth.
I have come back from the loneliness of the world
to the sunlit hills and meadows that gave me birth.
My heart is a ship, and all her sails are furled.
I have grown old in the wilderness of the seas;
I have felt the world slipping from; under my feet;
but now I am home at last where the olive trees
sleep in the silver dusk, and the flowers are sweet.
For though the heart grow desolate, though it roam
forever in vain the ways of earth, in quest
of high and lovely things, yet it comes home
in the end to the waiting arms, and finds its rest.
But I shall hear in dreams the sea that swirls
about those hungry rocks, and the wild gulls' cries;
and always I'll remember the singing girls—
the pale beseeching hands, and the pitiful eyes.
With shadows in the sky
enshrouding elm and oak
the dusk comes silently.
Now wreathed chimney-smoke
with thin blue mist is curled,
and lights begin to gleam
about the hollow world
of hamlet, vale and stream.
Here in this hour of dreams
earth's muted voices throng
to build me quiet hymns;
and a little flower-like song
love's silver-throated birds
sang in my forest once
comes now with sharpened chords
to stir my sleepy sense;
and the returning flood,
the spirit's urgent pulse,
moves all my sensuous blood
with stories sweet and false
of how love was a string
that snapped when Life was player,
but still the echoes ring
for loveless hearts to hear.
Let the night fall, calm and sweet,
I would not hear this thing.
Let the darkness smother it,
and hush its whispering.
Now are there candles lit in the water
where the stars have dropped their shadows
like sparks from some Olympian crater
glowing on cool green meadows.
A thousand fireflies shiver and float,
and the moon in silver bars
is spilt and broken where the boat
lies dim in a heaven of stars.
The lion, the rhinoceros and the boar
are gentle playmates—nothing more;
the bitterest wind to me is warm
and calm the most outrageous storm.
Fire and pestilence move me not
nor bate my bravery one jot;
sweet is vinegar, sweet the lemon;
but God preserve me from candid women.
Odysseus, the old wanderer,
came home at last from the long voyagings,
and those world-shaking wars, and reigned once more
a King in Ithaca.
And so the years slid by,
lapping his soul about with quietness:
until in the end, they say,
he fell to weariness and discontent,
grew tired of gentle living…could not sleep
for thinking, always thinking.
In the midst of merriment and song
he would fall silent, sit with clouded eyes
dreaming of war and pillage, of what had been
and might not come again…
hearing the clash of steel…the tempest's roar….
the wind that breathed in Circe's shadowed grove….
the voice of old Tiresias… the swift
crackling rush of foam under the prows,
and the screaming gulls, and the high song of the waves ….
and ever again, deep in his troubled heart,
that song that Sirens sang, that wild sweet song
that would not let him be,
calling him to the world's far ends….
It's only a fool who lets his dreams come true.
Who'd think the dream of twenty lovely years
(such a great, glowing dream
of love, and peace, and rest for the tired heart)
would swell in beauty like a golden bubble…
and then touch life, and break, and shine no more?
This narrow island sleeping in summer seas,
for all its calm,
its peace and loveliness beyond desiring,
left much to be desired … much indeed ….
and he was tired … so tired …
too much droning of bees in summer grass …
too many mumbling women about the castle …
even Penelope …
and a tinkle of pipes from the barn, that made him drowsy ….
The tall blade flaked with rust,
and the string of the great bow,
that sang shrill death of old, dribbled slack
as a loose sandal-thong….
This brooding peace, this heavy idleness
rotted the spirit, all but quenched the fire
that smouldered in his breast….
Better the dark clutch of the ravenous sea—
to lie in the cool depths, and far above,
a white agony of broken water …
better the hand of death
than this soft-dreaming ease under unclouded skies …
And if not death … then life …
out there in the cold and darkness
page 190 dreams never came true … were always dreams
lovely and inviolable …
And so (the story goes) one day he rises,
and shakes himself like a great dog roused from the hearth,
and bellows to the henchmen, bids them bring
fresh meat, and bales of corn, fat sheep and kine,
and skins of wine and water;
then calls to the young men with restless hearts,
gathers a hundred, bids them launch the ships
and lade them for a voyage,
for a long voyage, and there's no knowing where
it will all lead to, or what the end will be …
and then he gives them "glory or the grave",
and sets his prows
into the golden west, and sails away
to seek the Happy Isles or come what will…
And thus Odysseus, Lord of Ithaca,
he of the strong heart and the wily hand,
the ravager of cities, the feared of men,
passed to the shadows …
… and there the legend fails,
and no man knows, nor ever shall know,
whither he journeyed,
what strange seas he crossed … or did not cross.
whether he died in battle,
or reached the Happy Isles, and ruled once more
a prince among men ….
But I have sometimes mused,
in the dark hour between the sun and moon,
upon this tale …
have played with fancy, led the wandering ships
through storm and sunlight, over desperate seas,
and brought them to this land
whose hills and streams and meadow-paths I know
better than the dark paths of my own heart.
And I have seen Odysseus and his men
(some morning in the yellow summertime)
swing shoreward with slack sails and weary oars,
ride the long wave, and beach the golden ships,
and stretch their limbs, and dance upon the sands
page 191 like happy children … I have seen them lie
taking their ease beneath the gnarled black boughs
of giant pohutukawas, bursting red
for joy and honour … I have seen them bind
the red blooms in their hair, and walk like gods,
laughing, upon this shore…
And I have seen them, after many days,
when the sea called once more,
clamber aboard and hoist the storm-torn sails,
swing from the land, and melt upon the brink
of sea and sky, to roam and ever roam
upon their endless quest…
Whether this tale be true or false I know not.
Nor do I care at all. The old blind poet
never heard it… or hearing it, forgot…
or kept it to himself …
or maybe it fell out some other way …
nobody knows… But I have dreamed it so
in the dark hour between sun and moon,
when all tales are true
so far as they are strange and beautiful.
Along your starry ways
I used to rove;
you were my earliest love
in boyhood days.
Over the silvern pool
O most despised tree,
yet loveliest of all,
you'd toss a flower down
anon, as a woman might
to her lover in the night
a rose have thrown.
Often when I was tired,
seeking for rest,
under your dark breast
I'd sink and find quiet.
And in your skies there were
star-flowers, white and soft,
and little winds would waft
your vague scent on the air.
And I would lie there curled
happily for hours,
then rise, shake off your flowers,
and creep back to the world.
Where the wild red rata
and clematis grow
and the drooping kowhai
lets fall her golden snow,
once I found a pomegranate,
lonely as a captive
So amazed was I
that this strange, bizarre,
should have strayed so far,
that I laid me in the grass
for a couple of hours,
forgetting I had come
to gather flowers.
Then I bethought me
of a thousand things,
of dark Arabian tales,
and forgotten kings,
of a prophet's vision,
page 193 and a moon that shone
in the silver forests
I thought of a poet,
of two long dead—
a storied Princess
and her Grecian lad
who loved in deep meadows
and by woodland streams,
and built tall castles
of their slender dreams.
All these whimsies
came floating to me,
as I lay enchanted
by that Eastern tree.
But the pomegranate stood
stock still in despair,
with her buds all frozen
and her branches bare.
His white lips move, whispering, My time is short,
I would be gone.
O Lord, Lord! now let thy servant depart!
I am left alone
an old man with thin hands and a dry heart
sitting in the sun.
I am grown sadder than the gust that shakes
dead leaves in May,
lonelier than the sea that breaks
her heart in spray;
now, O Lord, ere another morrow wakes,
I would away.
For the spring returning moves not as before
this dolorous clay,
love is forgotten, a bright cloak I wore
and cast away;
page 194 the stars are dumb, the heavens resound no more
in this dark day;
I am old, I am old: thine ancient peace restore,
O Lord, I pray!
Daylong I dream in pleasant sloth
garmented in white cloth
where no wind murmureth
save the swart wind of death.
Lust of limb nor lust of food
mar the lovely solitude;
yet there stirreth in my clay
memory of an older day.
Love unhandselled, passion lost,
make a music in the dust,
and I hear, but all unmoved,
echoes of a voice I loved.
The years have stolen
all her loveliness,
her days are fallen
in the long wet grass
like petals shaken
from the lilac's bosom
when the winds have broken
her tangled blossom.
Her youth like a dim
under the seas
of her life's long dream,
yet she hears still
in her heart, sometimes,
the far sweet chimes
of a sunken bell.
This stubborn beach, whereon are tossed
white roses from the seas's green bough,
has never sheathed a Norman prow
nor flinched beneath a Roman host;
yet in my bones I feel the stir
of ancient wrongs and vanished woes,
and through my troubled spirit goes
the shadow of an old despair.
When the candles burn again in the kowhai tree,
I shall return, remembering older springs
when the sky was a blue pool where dreamily
clouds floated like silver swans with folded wings.
I shall return, remembering how Love
fulfils in the spring her immortal trust,
and builds her leafy temple in the kowhai grove,
scorning the dull remonstrance of the dust.
I shall lie on the cliffs under the small gold flowers,
and smell wild honeysuckle, and hear the chime
of the waves, like bells ringing in the shadowy towers
of some grey village of the olden time.
I shall return. But oh, the spring will falter …
yield her green faith to summer's unbelief,
and the kowhai will darken the candles on her altar,
and strew on the grey winds her golden grief.
Winter falls darkly on the woods,
and the blue boughs are washed with rain;
it will be long ere the springtime buds,
and the flowers come forth again.
But wraiths of the summer's lovely host
still linger in the woodland ways,
sorrowfully calling, ghost to ghost,
in the harsh sunless days.
A thin moon shivering in the leaves
that shroud the stream's soft chuckling mirth,
the while her watery shuttle weaves
a shy blue garment for the earth—
I know not any hour of sun
or shadow half so sweet as this,
when sleep and twilight tremble on
the waters like a drowsy kiss.
No crown of thorn
she bears for shield
like roses born
in sheltered field—
O Life, tread not
this gentle plot
of lilies down.
Some day she will
be old and wise
as Eve, yet still
may her brown eyes
and golden hair
be lovely yet,
still shining fair
through toil and fret.
O Life, tread soft
upon this heart
till pale winds waft
her soul apart,
and she be laid
where lovely eyes
must surely fade,
and heart be wise.
The sun has spread his shining wings
and moves upon his endless way:
he tells the passing of the day,
and mocks the breath of mortal things.
Across the desert of the sky
he trails his burning caravan:
page 198 he lights the dusty ways of man,
and whispers him that he must die.
His light is music in the leaves
all day, with sunbeams stretched for strings:
yet as he touches them he sings—
and wise men know the tale he weaves.
When Love and Life were children
Life said, "Let's go and play,"
and led his little sweetheart
to faery fields away.
He told her all his secrets—
unwisely, it befell,
for now he's old and foolish.
and doesn't see too well,
and Love's a cunning lady,
a wrinkled courtesan,
who knows more tricks and secrets
than any daft old man.
Mary sleeps in Heaven's bowers,
Heaven knows where Helen lies;
Dido is a noise of flowers
at dusk, in Paradise.
Lost is Caesar's laurelled brow
and Arthur's idle chivalrous lust;
beggar maids are beggars now
and love is turned to dust.
Queens and harlots and bright kings,
all are clothed in earth again—
brief unhallowed whisperings
on the tongues of men.
Where are dappled fields to show,
fields where crimson poppies blow?
Where are lilies undefiled,
purple violets growing wild?
Francis the ragged saint
(the man of birds and flowers),
Francis, the barefoot saint,
came with a sorrowful plaint:
"Consider the little lilies
that toil not, neither spin.
Oh, see how bare are the valleys!
They have been gathered in,
"gathered from vale and pasture
and garlanded for death.
O God! that the earth's spring vesture
be bound for a funeral wreath!
"See, on the coffin yonder
that lies in that drab black hearse,
they have heaped all the valleys' plunder.
A curse on those bones, a curse!
"And see, where the violets gathered
from banks of green and blue,
flowers that the old earth mothered,
are bound with the lilies too.
"Mourners and mutes are riven
with grief for the vulgar dead,
but the saints all weep in Heaven:
for the flowers their tears are shed.
"O God! that the flowers be tortured
to pageant men to the dust—
flowers that the old earth nurtured
all twisted, tied and trussed!
"But see! …they have laid his body
hard by yon field of corn,
and the poppies are gathered ready,
their lips all wreathed in scorn.
"God! like the stings of nettles,
like scorpions bound for whips,
are the smiles on the myriad petals
of those cruel crimson lips!"
There are no bumping buses
that busy to and fro,
no corporation tramways
in Paradise, I know.
But there is peace from clamour,
and rest from jars and dins,
and silence that is sweeter
than crying violins.
Oh, youth has thoughts a-plenty,
what matter if they're wrong?
For we who are but twenty,
we love not truth, but song.
And when we're old, and sodden
with creeds of bright deceit,
our songs will all be trodden
like dust about our feet.
What matter if the aged
imagine they have heard,
and keep the secret caged
like some sad singing-bird?
And what if those who're older
are wiser far than we?
For Wisdom, with a winding-sheet
is coming here to tea.
I have talked, often it seems,
on thymy cliffs with white-limbed Grecian lads,
and wandered arm in arm with the grey shades
of those old years, in dreams.
And often, it seems to me,
have I splashed in blue Ionian waves, or sat
listening to vague unreal philosophers chat
in marbled sanctity.
And, wearied of those dim shades
of wise men, stolen away and turned my steps
to find a more subtle wisdom on the lips
of laughing Grecian maids.
And once, by some shadowy sea
in the lands of sleep, I saw the Idalian rise
blossom-crowned from the foam, and dim were her eyes
with love's quiet ecstasy.
And the gallows-god has slipped
unremembered into the void as my soul has seen
the loveliness of the Grecian gods, and the queen
of pagan love, rose-lipped.
Oh, I shall pluck the wild rose sweet
that blooms here in the grass,
and tramp this way my wandering feet
must some day cease to pass.
For stars and wind and grass will fade
like the first wreath Helen wore,
and soon I'll crumble and be laid
where Beauty cries no more.
And some far day this magic gloom
will gild a city street,
and the rose of steel, black-petalled, bloom
where now the night is sweet.
Her eyes were full of unborn children,
beauty had withered in her face,
yet I saw shadowed there, most strangely,
shreds of some olden grace.
I saw the paint and the tawdry clothes,
the tired leer, the bedraggled hair:
yet as I gazed I thought I saw
two Marys standing there.
This is my dearest wish,
my smallest dream:
I would be cool as a fish
threading his stream
where lilies in pale clouds
under a tree that shrouds
the summer sky.
It seemed that Time had died,
and all the ghosts came wandering from the shades—
from Heaven's blue shining hills, from the dark glades
of unborn years, from Hell's rose-tinted tombs…
And by the poppied side
of a slow stream that lies with limbs soft-curled
in the green darkness of some intangible world
far beyond space, the living and the dead,
the fruits of unborn wombs,
all the souls of unknown fathomless ages
past and yet to be, were suddenly bound
into a moment's compass, trapped and caught,
(lovers and fools, voluptuaries and sages),
and with them all the things that they had sought
of loveliness and joy, were prisoned fast…
fair orchards, blossom-crowned,
all singing and all sound,
all love and laughter, touch and taste and scent,
and all things men had found,
had gathered, stored, and spent
in markets of the soul to buy delight;
the ocean and her moon, the myriad stars,
and the still-shining sun;
all things, unknown and known, all were made one
in one immortal moment, crowned with content,
timeless and immutable, wreathed with flowers
of brief far-gathered hours,
of mouldering centuries and unborn years…
For Time, the old grey Robber-God, lay dead,
with his unnumbered host
gathered about him, cold and quiet and still.
Age was a tavern-jest, and olden dread
long-buried; Change a half-remembered ghost
haunting a ruined town;
Eternity the shadow of thistledown
blowing upon a windy, timeless hill.
Where the water-lilies
are thick on the stream
the old wooden bridge
joins brim to brim,
and scattered leaves
discoloured and sodden
lie where the countless
footsteps have trodden.
There's moss and lichen,
russet and green,
on the falling timbers;
and thick in between
the time-worn edges
of plank and plank
leaf mould and fungus
moist and dank.
"Though my timbers creak
and my beams wax old,
and I've only leaves
to keep out the cold,
yet many a traveller
who passed my way
fares ill and colder
this winter's day."
Under the green curling world of leaves
sleek-bosomed Summer sprawls upon the grass,
dreaming of brazen noons and twinkling eves
and the bright pageant of the days that pass.
A little time she sleeps; then, waking, flies,
as Autumn, clutching a sheaf of scarlet dawns
and rainy dusks, comes tramping through the trees
and strews her blood-red leaves upon the lawns.
A little and the old hag Winter comes
page 205 holding her white fang'd pack on straining leash
in grim restraint.
Then suddenly the drums
roll out across the world, the trumpets flash,
and, loosed from the bonds of her gigantic birth,
Spring carves her flaming legend on the earth.
They lift their lovely heads and gaze,
wide-eyed and laughing, at the sun,
and all about my garden ways
they heap on grey autumnal days
their golden benison.
Not lonely, as the lily sways,
nor fragrant, like the leafy thyme,
but rising in a merry blaze
of yellow, like a bright-winged phrase
from some old lover's rhyme.
O sunflowers, ere cold winds undo
your beauty, and your flags are furled,
teach me the magic Midas knew,
that I may touch all grey things too
and make a golden world.
I heard the apple-trees cry:
Is it nothing, nothing to you,
all you that pass by,
that our fair young limbs should fade
and our beauty die?
Is it nothing to you who pass,
eyes sunk in the ground,
that our blossoms in summer grass
should drift, and be drowned?
We clothe the world like a bride
in the days of spring,
yet our blossoms have withered and died,
Soon will you come for the spoil
of our fruitfulness—
red apples that drink from the soil
and your eyes will no longer be turned
to the roadside dust,
for where blossoms flamed and were scorned
will be fruit, for your lust.
Though I have lost the light
I count it not a woe,
for through my starless night
flock dreams of long ago,
brave dreams of old delight,
lost, lovely things aglow,
that never shone so bright
in days I used to know.
I see the blaze of noon
upon the world once more
and sunlit flowers all strewn
upon her meadow-floor.
I see the earth again
wake from her slumbering;
and silver scars of rain
upon the skies of spring.
The colours of the earth
flow through my darkened brain,
and things of little worth
are now unbounded gain.
Such things I did not prize
when soul, not eye, was blind,
but now I have not eyes
they blossom in the mind.
The trees stand by the river
like ghosts of long-dead girls,
withered are the garlands
and all the curls;
gone is their coloured mesh
of loveliness; no leaf falls;
winter has scattered their flesh
and their pretty faces are skulls.
O men, why mourn ye the dead,
and seal them in quiet tomb?
Earth, the eternal mother, wears
no sorrow, sheds no tears
for the children of her womb:
fruit and berry and fallen leaf
moulder where they lie;
and if there comes a whisper of grief
and a thin music shaking
the brittle bones of the poplar tree,
it is no dirge of a mother's making
but only the wind's sigh.
The skies are wide and beautiful,
the stars are strong—
Orion, belted like a warrior,
magnificent and young,
and the shining Cross that shrives the southern ocean
all night long.
Here where the starlit seas of darkness,
wave on cresting wave,
break on the world, and the cold deep desolate night
foreshadows the grave,
sun and moon are blind, only the resolute stars
are strong to save.
O lord of the firmament, O warrior-god,
Orion, serene and bright,
lead me through the dark and across the years
till my soul's swift flight
shall end where the stars and the sun are gathered at last
in ultimate night.
Now evening shakes her wings
and the feathers of darkness
flutter upon the world
like finished songs.
And like music that is still
after soft playing
the dead sun's petals are lying
on the seaward hill
heaped in their rose-red riot
of dusky flames,
bright as the lonely dreams
of an old, mad poet.
The sea has brimmed the bay
to the sand's edge
along the windless beach;
the small craft lie
on her pearl breast asleep
like old ships' ghosts
long-drowned, with their ropes and masts
All the world's in the water,
see where it lies—
grey cliffs and trees, and skies
with the new-born gleaming stars
of heaven's meadows
lost in wet shadows
with silver planet-flowers,
and the white, bulging clouds
where the young moon shines
crossed by the wavering lines
of the ship's shrouds…
Now from the darkened sky
the last light has drained;
all the world is drowned
in the ancient sea.
"When shall we sleep?" cries the sea
to her lover, the land,
and she smoothes his brow
with her cool white fingers,
and strokes his hand.
"When shall we lie
with only the sough
of the wind in the bough
and the song of the wind on the foam,
earth-music and sea-music,
"When the ways of men be dust,
and the days of men be past,
and earth be free
of the feet of men,
and you, O my lover, the sea,
unburdened of all your ships …
then shall we take our rest
page 210 like lovers, breast to breast,
then shall we lie in peace,
dark lips on paler lips
quietly at the last,
and sleep again…"
Oh, were I turned all suddenly
into a star,
in the cool wilderness of space
to dwell afar;
or should they make of my body moondust,
and scatter me about the silent roads
of the world, at night;
or burn me in flame until I was but smoke
upon the air …
still should my shadowy heart tremble a little,
at the words your voice spake, crying as of old
in the dark to me.
I dreamed that I had died,
and you were not born yet,
and so, I going, you coming,
along the shades we met.
We stood and spoke a moment
of the broad earth's delight;
then parted, you to the shadows,
I to the endless night.
All night she's been
love-making in the shades
with twilight men
who walk in Lethe's glades.
She has been happy there
with the amorous dead,
they have found her eyes still fair,
and her lips still red.
All night she's lain
by Lethe's dusky streams:
Arise, O dawn!
and tumble down her dreams.
For now the sun
steals past her waking eaves,
slumber is done,
the dawn-wind shakes the leaves,
and I have an earthly love
more sweet to tell
than the tales the sly tongues wove
in the glades of Hell.
Lovelier are her words
than the exquisite notes
that speak the souls of flutes.
The songs of birds
at dusk, when the first-born star
swims in the willow tree,
are not more dear to me
than her songs are.
When she speaks, all sound begins
to tremble, and melt
in music rarer than the lilt
Her voice is more delicate
than the croon of wind in the coppice;
all the world's songs are poppies
under her feet.
My soul it is but gossamer
hung on an apple-tree,
and never a wind of heaven doth stir
but it shakes the heart of me.
And oh, my life is a gossamer
hung on the tree of her heart,
and never a sigh in her breast doth stir
but my soul is rent apart.
Since that Zenophila is common dust
and Meleager sings to her no more,
ring me love's bell, before his tongue is rust,
O goddess of the Cytherean shore.
Love, and the roses on his forehead, drip
petal by petal into oblivion;
raise then love's chalice to my parched lip,
and let me for a little while dream on.
Turn your face to mine,
let me look in your eyes
before love fades with the green
days, in the silences.
All summer love has been
your voice, and your hair that shone,
and the peace of your lips on mine.
But these are gone,
and loving is at an end,
is less than nothingness,
is quieter than the wind
in the dead grass.
And we are left alone
to go our separate ways…
Oh, your lips, and your hair that shone,
and the peace in your eyes!
O heart, be not dismayed
that fair should prove so brittle:
love, as the summers fade,
must droop a little.
Time grays the golden locks,
even the loveliest things
with the chiming of his clocks
fail like forgotten springs.
O love, have no regrets
that the rose should fade, and the bay:
there's quiet, where the heart forgets
in the end, they say;
where earth's harsh storms are dumb,
and the skies no longer weep,
and the leaves and the flowers come
and lie in their olden sleep.
As springs well forth
in rock-girt lands,
laving the sands
and the parched earth,
or even as a bright
vision in slumber
lightens the sombre
shadows of the night,
rise ghosts of the gone
and lovely day
when love came our way
and led us on.
If flowers grew in the sky,
and I were seven,
I think I'd like to die,
and walk in Heaven.
For man, until he sighs
for love of woman,
is denizen of skies
and nothing human.
But since I'm prisoned, shut,
I'd rather bed the slut
The night we lay together
upon a moonlit hill,
the boisterous god of weather
was reverently still.
The little breeze that nightly
guards lovers' hearts till dawn
seems sometimes, most politely,
to hide a gentle yawn.
But now that love lies bleeding,
soon gloriously to die,
the winds, with perfect breeding,
most exquisitely sigh.
There is grave beauty here
in this orchard-valley
where no storms sully
the rich purple gloom where the lilies are.
And there is quietness here
now, as of old,
where great trees fold
their dark limbs round the coolness of the air.
The pearls of the sky still gleam
through the branches of the trees,
and the little wandering breeze
that ruffles the feathers of the grass is still the same.
Yet there is loneliness
more stark than I have known
as I stray alone
through the dim grass…
O blue-grey dusk, where have you hidden my lover?
—she who would steal softly to this place
unbidden, in other days,
and lie in my arms in the haven of the clover.
Now there is left to me nothing
but frail lilies of evening, and her face
is only a shadow in the gloom of this place,
and a memory of her bosom pressed against mine, soft-breathing.
On the hill the night is cool and sweet;
the grass is soft as a woman's hair;
but I hear no more, no more the beat
of wings through the silver air.
We stood by the bridge. The willow-tree
trailed listless fingers in the brook.
The moonlight curdled. Nothing to me
her tears, and her faery look.
Strange how sluggish and stale my blood
now: but the end of the meteor's flash
is a cold stone stuck in the earth's dank mud:
and the end of the fire is ash.
On the hill the night is sweet and cool
and the grass is soft as a woman's breast.
Well, it's little to reck if a man's a fool,
he still may take his rest.
I may not love you: love's cool arms
are made for cowards who in fear
cry for a haven: I have charms
other than this against despair.
But this I know: that man grows old
in a little time, and like a flower
his courage withers: so would I hold
some thoughts of you against that hour.
And in the lonely waste of years,
in witless age, and creeping folly,
I shall remember, girl, those stars
you lit for me, and call them holy.
I had been down in the lovers' hell
watching the faces of the damned,
laughing to hear those poor fools tell
of young love mocked at, passion shamed.
But now at last I am caught in the web
of my own scorn, like a silly spider,
and nevermore shall I be so glib
with talk of love and the fools who chide her.
My love is too strong for my heart to hold:
not Antony's great breast might cage it,
this fiery essence, shape its mould,
nor Balkis nor Helena assuage it.
But only you, if that you deem
a beggar's love worth nibbling at,
might fill one cranny of my dream,
share one small rood of my estate.
I am a seeker: how then should I love you?
Finding my treasure, how should I seek again,
whose treasure lies in seeking, not in finding?
I'll leave the sweets of love to other men.
But I have need of some sure talisman,
some luck-piece that, worn like a soldier's bible
over the heart, may turn a casual bullet
and guard the flesh, but leave the soul a rebel.
Therefore I say your spirit shall be mine,
my fair sweet prisoner till this world shall fade,
and over all its pomp, its brittle glory,
a handful of ironic dust be laid.
All our days are dead,
love lies burnt,
the last word is read,
the last lesson learnt.
Hopes have been banished
dreams all have vanished;
it came not as we willed.
There is left no song now
that is worth the singing;
there is left no thing now
worth the doing.
Turn where we may,
despair lies deep;
let us end this day,
come, let us sleep.
He Shall Not Rise
Tonight I have taken all that I was
and strangled him that pale lily-white lad
I have choked him with these my hands these claws
catching him as he lay a-dreaming in his bed.
Then chuckling I dragged out his foolish brains
that were full of pretty love-tales heigho the holly
and emptied them holus bolus to the drains
those dreams of love oh what ruinous folly.
He is dead pale youth and he shall not rise
on the third day or any other day
sloughed like a snakeskin there he lies
and he shall not trouble me again for aye.