[A. R. D. Fairburn]
It seemed that Time had died,
And all the ghosts came wandering from the shades—
From Heaven's blue hills and from the darkling 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 an intangible world
Far beyond space, the living and the dead,
The fruits of unborn wombs,
All the bright 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, an olden dread
Long buried; change a half-remembered ghost
Haunting a ruined town;
Eternity the shadow of thistledown
Blowing upon a windy, timeless hill.
When She Speaks
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 words 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.
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 her bosom pressed against mine, soft-breathing.
The years have stolen
all her loveliness,
her days are fallen
in the long wet grass
like petals broken
from the lilac blossom,
when the winds have shaken
its tangled bosom.
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.
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 feverish 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….
Now from the darkened sky
The last light has drained:
All the world is drowned
In the ancient sea.
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.