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Arachne. No. 2

Verses by Six Poets

page 10

Verses by Six Poets

Death of Hylas: Nymphs' Song

We sucked on his mouth
When he drank;
Grabbed his golden hair (whoops!)
Down he sank.

We drank his love-blue eyes;
Crushed his flesh
And bubbling mouth on ours:
Mortal trash.

Coming of Spring

Already a brittle light chills
And hardens the wind-bent trees.
A post away a morepork shrills
In sudden short alarm. Cows on knees

Deep-buried in the grass turn
Ceremoniously their steaming heads
As we walk past. How strangely burn
The daffodils in your arms! So we tread

The long valley home with no word
Spoken, and into deeper night
Where cold air rushes like a bird
Released, into our faces, and the light

Cast by the daffodils illumines
Your brow and eyes so dark
In their anguish, and past the pines
Where the leaping farm-dogs bark.

From the Persian

The stars are marigolds
Tossed into a canopy of silk
By happy children;
page 11 Or delicately worked by girls
In costly thread.

The moon is a white bull
Deliciously stepping on velvet.


Charles Spear

So long ago, in tears, she turned
To watch, on that radiant autumn day,
When it seemed that Europe smoked and burned,
And the Guards began to march away.

She stood by Chelsea Barracks, and her tears,
Her filmy hat, like a perching butterfly,
Her eager shyness, who would heed, when cheers
Stormed up to heaven for those who marched to die?

Unknown she came, and she disappeared unknown,
And what she has meant to me who shall say?
But, with the Coldstream marching, time has flown,
And her world and my world passed away.


Sweet water bear my body down
The river like an Autumn leaf,
And in your willow murmur drown
My too intelligible grief.

Oh let your reed thin voice imply
The sadness of forsaken girls
Whose lips were lovely as the sky
And rounded as the river curls.

Sweet waters slow to singing turn
My little cry of human shame,
And let my deep-drowned body learn
Your beauty, virgin as a flame.

page 12

A Figure at the Window

That was a vacant gesture. The wind
At four o'clock in the morning knew it well,
Too well, for you whose desperate small hand
Stretched only as far as the light from your window fell,
Not to be broken. But the wind that rides along
The empty street and over the shuttered sea
Will tell you her wisdom is you will listen long
To her voice. Then it will seem, for she alone is free

That it was not without a certain grace,
The ritual rising and falling of a closed hand.
In another, more remote and timeless place
It may be well founded. This renunciation may stand
Sculptured and spare, as cold as a dreaming face
And always have meaning in that wind-filled land.

The face of this land is pitted with antique marble,
The wind tells stories among colonnades;
Her voices whisper through deserted rooms, able
To wander at will, she can rule where the shades
Are perpetual, among the slender statues and the ruins
Of an early tormented time. Her tales enhance
The pale untortured beauty they assume
Under the dead light, in their perfect trance.

And one looks on with eyes as pale as glass,
Whose hands held, one time, joy and grief and pain;
But now among the marble trees he moves,
Sings with the homeless wind, as wordless as
A gathered spirit. And at last attains,
Here in this paradise, his world, and all its sorrow proves.

Spring thunder over the sleeping country
Carried from the high blue mountains a tremor of doom,
So that you asked the wind—are the heavens angry?
page 13 But the wind was ignorant, the wind played her own tune.
And again you asked—can the mountains mean murder?
But the falling leaves were indifferent, the pillars, the trees,
Would not answer. Then you wondered, can there be further
Destruction in a dead place, can the numbed hand freeze?

But the spring thunder was merciless, and an eddy of air,
Cold from serene mountains, swept all leaves
From the rooms, from the corridors, from the immaculate gardens.
Then the wind's breath, rising, sang with a severe
Hatred, like a spirit grieved by lost and remembered lives,
And you were running, running, gripped by a familiar pain.

The Morepork

A quiet night, and over the hills fog
After a day of late December heat.
I listen to the stillness; then of a sudden the sharp
Clear double shout of a shepherd calling his dog
On the hill, but no answering bark or bleat:
Then the call again and again, as the driven silence goes.
No shepherd it is but an owl
As old as Europe and as full of woes
Hooting from under his cowl
Of bush on the lonely height;
A native of no country but the night
Of whose wide city he is sentinel
Going his noiseless rounds to cry the hours
To the somnambulist moon and watching stars.
'Twelve of the clock, and all's well'
Might be his words now as I go indoors,
And yet I cannot sleep
For that most melancholy voice up on the hill
Monotonously calling, mustering the midnight sheep.

page 14

Spring in Roxburgh

This grey and legendary tableland
Throngs with stone sagas like a sculptor's yard:
Heraldic figures; anvils in a forge;
Old gods and gargoyles, altars and cromlechs stand
Keeping majestic, melancholy guard
Above the graven grandeur of the gorge.

In the antlered valley, every orchard bough
Is trimmed with blossom like suspended snow.
Before rich earth and pruning hook and plough
Minted their gold, men hunted for it here
At fever heat. I see them with their gear,
Uncouth battalions, crumpled hat on head,
And swag worn crosswise like a bandolier;
And think of all, by ridge and river-bed,
Who died in the Great Blizzard long ago.

Wanaka Holiday

Valley and scarp, fierce desert and poplar shade;
The lake half pond, half ocean the wind has made;
Far off, beyond Glendhu Bay, silent white-throned Aspiring:
At hand, campers and cribs, bathers, and boats for hiring.

Molten and bare the hills; the rivers rage in their beds:
By the dusty road are blues and yellows and reds
Of bugloss and furred mullein, stonecrop and centaury,
And on that pine-warm island the wild strawberry.

We, visitors or inhabitants, pass through:
Splendour remains, indifferent to what we do.
Peak, ridge, and pilgrim waters still remote, untamed,
Charted but all intractable, anonymous though named.

page 15


Thunder in the Oaks

Seas in her ears, by airy trees,
A girl as a gull goes,
Grace full. Breaks the breeze
Back. Grimm rose.

Steps too through tornadoes of time
To space spell bound
Where oaks hours intersecting mime
Magically masked what

None knows. That Knot.
Drums. Dark. The burning Imago
Roars in the glass ground.
The world is a war, a wedding, a window, there.

Rich as the rose,
And poised impaired in a time-tossed frieze,
A girl as a gull goes,
Seas in her ears, by airy trees.



The character of a man was his desire,
Sturdy and tough and timeless as an oak,
A brain of ice commanding a heart of fire,
After a life or nine it looked a joke.

Loudly he laughed with a lurch of laughter
Smiling naively he forgot to frown
Within thin clothing as the year ran colder.
In a lake of peace I watched him drown.

page 16


Chorus One

Toiling on our rolling rock
Every man's a tramp.
Stripped to every staring star
Stands this camp

Where fires don't seem to warm the good
And the damned are never cool,
And to a land of fury goes
The flame-blind fool

Who seeks a mother in the sea,
A father in the sky.
Man is married to simple clay,
In clay will lie.

Under all the falling rain
Round the warm earth,
The stop of life's death,
The stop of death, birth.

He Rests. He has Travelled

Watering the red rose of a rich neurosis
Let him settle in a cabin by the sea.
Nine bean rows will he have there, ecstatic apotheosis,
And a hive for the honey-bee.

Inquisitor of ecstasy, at the burning window
Of his inward I entranced,
Leave him that island where the waters worship
At the sands where Ariel danced.

Leave him a childhood. We work
In cities where to all
Whimpers from Moscow and the Alamo
Death's dull call.