New York Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers
Copyright, 1913, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
Copyright, 1906, 1907, 1908, by The Macmillan Company
Copyright, 1909, 1910, 1911, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
Copyright, 1906, 1909, by Alfred Noyes
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian. All dramatic and acting rights, both professional and amateur, are reserved. Application for the right of performing should be made to the publishers
THE LOOM OF YEARS 1
IN THE HEART OF THE WOODS 2
A TRIPLE BALLAD OF OLD JAPAN 8
THE SYMBOLIST 10
HAUNTED IN OLD JAPAN 11
THE MYSTIC 15
THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 17
APES AND IVORY 48
A SONG OF SHERWOOD 49
THE WORLD'S MAY-QUEEN 50
A SONG OF ENGLAND 55
THE OLD SCEPTIC 57
THE DEATH OF CHOPIN 59
SONG OF THE WOODEN-LEGGED FIDDLER 66
THE FISHER-GIRL 67
A SONG OF TWO BURDENS 71
ART, THE HERALD 74
THE OPTIMIST 74
A POST-IMPRESSION 76
THE BARREL-ORGAN 80
THE LITANY OF WAR 85
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 86
THE LAST BATTLE 88
THE PARADOX 89
THE PROGRESS OF LOVE 94
THE FOREST OF WILD THYME 123
FORTY SINGING SEAMEN 171
THE EMPIRE BUILDERS 175
NELSON'S YEAR 177
IN TIME OF WAR 180
ODE FOR THE SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY OF SWINBURNE 186
IN CLOAK OF GREY 188
A RIDE FOR THE QUEEN 189
THE HIGHWAYMAN 192
THE HAUNTED PALACE 196
THE SCULPTOR 200
AT DAWN 204
THE SWIMMER'S RACE 206
THE VENUS OF MILO 208
THE NET OF VULCAN 209
ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE 211
FROM THE SHORE 220
THE RETURN 222
A PRAYER 224
LOVE'S GHOST 224
ON A RAILWAY PLATFORM 225
OXFORD REVISITED 226
THE THREE SHIPS 228
SLUMBER-SONGS OF THE MADONNA 230
IN THE COOL OF THE EVENING 241
A ROUNDHEAD'S RALLYING SONG 242
VICISTI, GALILAEE 243
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF JAMES PAYNE
THE LOOM OF YEARS
In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea, In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree, Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears, I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.
The leaves of the winter wither and sink in the forest mould To colour the flowers of April with purple and white and gold: Light and scent and music die and are born again In the heart of a grey-haired woman who wakes in a world of pain.
The hound, the fawn and the hawk, and the doves that croon and coo, We are all one woof of the weaving and the one warp threads us through, One flying cloud on the shuttle that carries our hopes and fears As it goes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.
The crosiers of the fern, and the crown, the crown of the rose, Pass with our hearts to the Silence where the wings of music close, Pass and pass to the Timeless that never a moment mars, Pass and pass to the Darkness that made the suns and stars.
Has the soul gone out in the Darkness? Is the dust sealed from sight? Ah, hush, for the woof of the ages returns thro' the warp of the night! Never that shuttle loses one thread of our hopes and fears, As It comes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.
O, woven in one wide Loom thro' the throbbing weft of the whole, One in spirit and flesh, one in body and soul, The leaf on the winds of autumn, the bird in its hour to die, The heart in its muffled anguish, the sea in its mournful cry,
One with the flower of a day, one with the withered moon, One with the granite mountains that melt into the noon, One with the dream that triumphs beyond the light of the spheres, We come from the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.
IN THE HEART OF THE WOODS
The Heart of the woods, I hear it, beating, beating afar, In the glamour and gloom of the night, in the light of the rosy star, In the cold sweet voice of the bird, in the throb of the flower-soft sea!... For the Heart of the woods is the Heart of the world and the Heart of Eternity, Ay, and the burning passionate Heart of the heart in you and me.
Love of my heart, love of the world, linking the golden moon With the flowery moths that flutter thro' the scented leaves of June, And the mind of man with beauty, and youth with the dreaming night Of stars and flowers and waters and breasts of glimmering white, And streaming hair of fragrant dusk and flying limbs of lovely light;
Life of me, life of me, shining in sun and cloud and wind, In the dark eyes of the fawn and the eyes of the hound behind, In the leaves that lie in the seed unsown, and the dream of the babe unborn, O, flaming tides of my blood, as you flow thro' flower and root and thorn, I feel you burning the boughs of night to kindle the fires of morn.
Soul of me, soul of me, yearning wherever a lavrock sings, Or the crimson gloom is winnowed by the whirr of wood-doves' wings, Or the spray of the foam-bow rustles in the white dawn of the moon, And mournful billows moan aloud, Come soon, soon, soon, Come soon, O Death with the Heart of love and the secret of the rune.
Heart of me, heart of me, heart of me, beating, beating afar, In the green gloom of the night, in the light of the rosy star, In the cold sweet voice of the bird, in the throb of the flower-soft sea!... O, the Heart of the woods is the Heart of the world and the Heart of Eternity, Ay, and the burning passionate Heart of the heart in you and me.
O, Death will never find us in the heart of the wood, The song is in my blood, night and day: We will pluck a scented petal from the Rose upon the Rood Where Love lies bleeding on the way. We will listen to the linnet and watch the waters leap, When the clouds go dreaming by, And under the wild roses and the stars we will sleep, And wander on together, you and I.
We shall understand the mystery that none has understood, We shall know why the leafy gloom is green. O, Death will never find us in the heart of the wood When we see what the stars have seen! We have heard the hidden song of the soft dews falling At the end of the last dark sky, Where all the sorrows of the world are calling, We must wander on together, you and I.
They are calling, calling, Away, come away! And we know not whence they call; For the song is in our hearts, we hear it night and day, As the deep tides rise and fall: O, Death will never find us in the heart of the wood, While the hours and the years roll by! We have heard it, we have heard it, but we have not understood, We must wander on together, you and I.
The wind may beat upon us, the rain may blind our eyes, The leaves may fall beneath the winter's wing; But we shall hear the music of the dream that never dies, And we shall know the secret of the Spring. We shall know how all the blossoms of evil and of good Are mingled in the meadows of the sky; And then—if Death can find us in the heart of the wood— We shall wander on together, you and I.
(IMITATED FROM DE BANVILLE AND GAUTIER)
Yes! Beauty still rebels! Our dreams like clouds disperse: She dwells In agate, marble, verse.
No false constraint be thine! But, for right walking, choose The fine, The strict cothurnus, Muse.
Vainly ye seek to escape The toil! The yielding phrase Ye shape Is clay, not chrysoprase.
And all in vain ye scorn That seeming ease which ne'er Was born Of aught but love and care.
Take up the sculptor's tool! Recall the gods that die To rule In Parian o'er the sky.
For Beauty still rebels! Our dreams like clouds disperse: She dwells In agate, marble, verse.
When Beauty from the sea, With breasts of whiter rose Than we Behold on earth, arose.
Naked thro' Time returned The Bliss of Heaven that day, And burned The dross of earth away.
Kings at her splendour quailed. For all his triple steel She haled War at her chariot-wheel.
The rose and lily bowed To cast, of odour sweet A cloud Before her wandering feet.
And from her radiant eyes There shone on soul and sense The skies' Divine indifference.
O, mortal memory fond! Slowly she passed away Beyond The curling clouds of day.
Return, we cry, return, Till in the sadder light We learn That she was infinite.
The Dream that from the sea With breasts of whiter rose Than we Behold on earth, arose.
Take up the sculptor's tool! Becall the dreams that die To rule In Parian o'er the sky; And kings that not endure In bronze to re-ascend Secure Until the world shall end.
Poet, let passion sleep Till with the cosmic rhyme You keep Eternal tone and time,
By rule of hour and flower, By strength of stern restraint And power To fail and not to faint.
The task is hard to learn While all the songs of Spring Return Along the blood and sing.
Yet hear—from her deep skies, How Art, for all your pain, Still cries Ye must be born again!
Reject the wreath of rose, Take up the crown of thorn That shows To-night a child is born.
The far immortal face In chosen onyx fine Enchase, Delicate line by line.
Strive with Carrara, fight With Parian, till there steal To light Apollo's pure profile.
Set the great lucid form Free from its marble tomb To storm The heights of death and doom.
Take up the sculptor's tool! Recall the gods that die To rule In Parian o'er the sky,
Love, awake! Ah, let thine eyes Open, clouded with thy dreams. Now the shy sweet rosy skies, Love, awake. Ah, let thine eyes Dawn before the last star dies. O'er thy breast the rose-light gleams: Love, awake! Ah, let thine eyes Open, clouded with thy dreams.
A TRIPLE BALLAD OF OLD JAPAN
In old Japan, by creek and bay, The blue plum-blossoms blow, Where birds with sea-blue plumage gay Thro' sea-blue branches go: Dragons are coiling down below Like dragons on a fan; And pig-tailed sailors lurching slow Thro' streets of old Japan.
There, in the dim blue death of day Where white tea-roses grow, Petals and scents are strewn astray Till night be sweet enow, Then lovers wander whispering low As lovers only can, Where rosy paper lanterns glow Thro' streets of old Japan.
From Wonderland to Yea-or-Nay The junks of Weal-and-Woe Dream on the purple water-way Nor ever meet a foe; Though still, with stiff mustachio And crooked ataghan, Their pirates guard with pomp and show The ships of old Japan.
That land is very far away, We lost it long ago! No fairies ride the cherry spray, No witches mop and mow, The violet wells have ceased to flow; And O, how faint and wan The dawn on Fusiyama's snow, The peak of old Japan.
Half smilingly, our hearts delay, Half mournfully forego The blue fantastic twisted day When faithful Konojo, For small white Lily Hasu-ko Knelt in the Butsudan, And her tomb opened to bestrow Lilies thro' old Japan.
There was a game they used to play I' the San-ju-san-jen Do, They filled a little lacquer tray With powders in a row, Dry dust of flowers from Tashiro To Mount Daimugenzan, Dry little heaps of dust, but O They breathed of old Japan.
Then knights in blue and gold array Would on their thumbs bestow A pinch from every heap and say, With many a hum and ho, What blossoms, nodding to and fro For joy of maid or man, Conceived the scents that puzzled so The brains of old Japan.
The hundred ghosts have ceased to affray The dust of Kyoto, Ah yet, what phantom blooms a-sway Murmur, a-loft, a-low, In dells no scythe of death can mow, No power of reason scan, O, what Samurai singers know The Flower of old Japan?
Dry dust of blossoms, dim and gray, Lost on the wind? Ah, no, Hark, from yon clump of English may, A cherub's mocking crow, A sudden twang, a sweet, swift throe, As Daisy trips by Dan, And careless Cupid drops his bow And laughs—from old Japan.
There, in the dim blue death of day Where white tea-roses grow, Petals and scents are strewn astray Till night be sweet enow, Then lovers wander, whispering low, As lovers only can, Where rosy paper lanterns glow Thro' streets of old Japan.
Help me to seek that unknown land! I kneel before the shrine. Help me to feel the hidden hand That ever holdeth mine.
I kneel before the Word, I kneel Before the Cross of flame I cry, as thro' the gloom I steal, The glory of the Name.
Help me to mourn, and I shall love; What grief is like to mine? Crown me with thorn, the stars above Shall in the circlet shine!
The Temple opens wide: none sees The love, the dream, the light! O, blind and finite, are not these Blinding and infinite?
The veil, the veil is rent: the skies Are white with wings of fire, Where victim souls triumphant rise In torment of desire.
Help me to seek: I would not find, For when I find I know I shall have clasped the hollow wind And built a house of snow.
HAUNTED IN OLD JAPAN
Music of the star-shine shimmering o'er the sea Mirror me no longer in the dusk of memory: Dim and white the rose-leaves drift along the shore. Wind among the roses, blow no more!
All along the purple creek, lit with silver foam, Silent, silent voices, cry no more of home! Soft beyond the cherry-trees, o'er the dim lagoon, Dawns the crimson lantern of the large low moon.
We that loved in April, we that turned away Laughing ere the wood-dove crooned across the May, Watch the withered rose-leaves drift along the shore. Wind among the roses, blow no more!
We the Sons of Reason, we that chose to bride Knowledge, and rejected the Dream that we denied, We that chose the Wisdom that triumphs for an hour, We that let the young love perish like a flower....
We that hurt the kind heart, we that went astray, We that in the darkness idly dreamed of day.... ... Ah! The dreary rose-leaves drift along the shore. Wind among the roses, blow no more!
Lonely starry faces, wonderful and white, Yearning with a cry across the dim sweet night, All our dreams are blown a-drift as flowers before a fan, All our hearts are haunted in the heart of old Japan.
Haunted, haunted, haunted—we that mocked and sinned Hear the vanished voices wailing down the wind, Watch the ruined rose-leaves drift along the shore. Wind among the roses, blow no more!
All along the purple creek, lit with silver foam, Sobbing, sobbing voices, cry no more of home! Soft beyond the cherry-trees, o'er the dim lagoon, Dawns the crimson lantern of the large low moon.
(AFTER THE PROSE OF BAUDELAIRE)
This necromantic palace, dim and rich, Dim as a dream, rich as a reverie, I knew it all of old, surely I knew This floating twilight tinged with rose and blue, This moon-soft carven niche Whence the calm marble, wan as memory, Slopes to the wine-brimmed bath of cold dark fire Perfumed with old regret and dead desire.
There the soul, slumbering in the purple waves Of indolence, dreams of the phantom years, Dreams of the wild sweet flower of red young lips Meeting and murmuring in the dark eclipse Of joy, where pain still craves One tear of love to mingle with their tears, One passionate welcome ere the wild farewell, One flash of heaven across the fires of hell.
* * * *
Queen of my dreams, queen of my pitiless dreams, Dim idol, moulded of the wild white rose, Coiled like a panther in that silken gloom Of scented cushions, where the rich hushed room Breaks into soft warm gleams, As from her slumbrous clouds Queen Venus glows, Slowly thine arms up-lift to me, thine eyes Meet mine, without communion or surmise.
Here, at thy feet, I watched, I watched all day Night floating in thine eyes, then with my hands Covered my face from that dumb cry of pain: And when at last I dared to look again My heart was far away, Wrapt in the fragrant gloom of Eastern lands, Under the flower-white stars of tropic skies Where soft black floating flowers turned to ... thine eyes.
I breathe, I breathe the perfume of thine hair: Bury in thy deep hair my fevered face, Till as to men athirst in desert dreams The savour and colour and sound of cool dark streams Float round me everywhere, And memories float from some forgotten place, Fulfilling hopeless eyes with hopeless tears And fleeting light of unforgotten years.
Dim clouds of music in the dim rich hours Float to me thro' the twilight of thine hair, And sails like blossoms float o'er purple seas, And under dark green skies the soft warm breeze Washes dark fruit, dark flowers, Dark tropic maidens in some island lair Couched on the warm sand nigh the creaming foam To dream and sing their tawny lovers home.
Lost in the magic ocean of thine hair I find the haven of the heart of song: There tired ships rest against the pale red sky! And yet again there comes a thin sad cry And all the shining air Fades, where the tall dark singing seamen throng From many generations, many climes, Fades, fades, as it has faded many times.
I hear the sweet cool whisper of the waves! Drowned in the slumbrous billows of thine hair, I dream as one that sinks thro' passionate hours In a strange ship's wild fraughtage of dark flowers Culled for pale poets' graves; And opiate odours load the empurpled air That flows and droops, a dark resplendent pall Under the floating wreaths funereal.
Under the heavy midnight of thine hair An altar flames with spices of the south Burning my flesh and spirit in the flame; Till, looking tow'rds the land from whence I came I find no comfort there, And all the darkness to my thirsty mouth Is fire, but always and in every place Blossoms the secret wonder of thy face.
* * * *
The walls, the very walls are woven of dreams, All undefined by blasphemies of art! Here, pure from finite hues the very night Conceives the mystic harmonies of light, Delicious glooms and gleams; And sorrow falls in rose-leaves on the heart, And pain that yearns upon the passing hour Is but a perfume haunting a dead flower.
Hark, as a hammer on a coffin falls A knock upon the door! The colours wane, The dreams vanish! And leave that foul white scar, Tattoo'd with dreadful marks, the old calendar Blotching the blistered walls! The winter whistles thro' a shivered pane, And scatters on the bare boards at my feet These poor soiled manuscripts, torn, incomplete...
The scent of opium floats about my breath; But Time resumes his dark and hideous reign; And, with him, hideous memories troop, I know. Hark, how the battered clock ticks, to and fro,— Life, Death—Life, Death—Life, Death— O fool to cry! O slave to bow to pain, Coward to live thus tortured with desire By demon nerves in hells of sensual fire.
With wounds out-reddening every moon-washed rose King Love went thro' earth's garden-close! From that first gate of birth in the golden gloom, I traced Him. Thorns had frayed His garment's hem, Ay, and His flesh! I marked, I followed them Down to that threshold of—the tomb?
And there Love vanished, yet I entered! Night And Doubt mocked at the dwindling light: Strange claw-like hands flung me their shadowy hate. I clomb the dreadful stairways of desire Between a thousand eyes and wings of fire And knocked upon the second Gate.
The second Gate! When, like a warrior helmed, In battle on battle overwhelmed, My soul lay stabbed by all the swords of sense, Blinded and stunned by stars and flowers and trees, Did I not struggle to my bended knees And wrestle with Omnipotence?
Did earth not flee before me, when the breath Of worship smote her with strange death, Withered her gilded garment, broke her sword, Shattered her graven images and smote All her light sorrows thro' the breast and throat Whose death-cry crowned me God and Lord?
Yea, God and Lord! Had tears not purged my sight? I saw the myriad gates of Light Opening and shutting in each way-side flower, And like a warder in the gleam of each, Death, whispering in some strange eternal speech To every passing hour.
The second Gate? Was I not born to pass A million? Though the skies be brass And the earth iron, shall I not win thro' all? Shall I who made the infinite heavens my mark Shrink from this first wild horror of the dark, These formless gulfs, these glooms that crawl?
Never was mine that easy faithless hope Which makes all life one flowery slope To heaven! Mine be the vast assaults of doom, Trumpets, defeats, red anguish, age-long strife, Ten million deaths, ten million gates to life, The insurgent heart that bursts the tomb.
Vain, vain, unutterably vain are all The sights and sounds that sink and fall, The words and symbols of this fleeting breath: Shall I not drown the finite in the Whole, Cast off this body and complete my soul Thro' deaths beyond this gate of death?
It will not open! Through the bars I see The glory and the mystery Wind upward ever! The earth-dawn breaks! I bleed With beating here for entrance. Hark, O hark, Love, Love, return and give me the great Dark, Which is the Light of Life indeed.
THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN
DEDICATED TO CAROL, A LITTLE MAIDEN Of MYAKO.
PERSONS OF THE TALE
OURSELVES THE TALL THIN MAN THE DWARF BEHIND THE TWISTED PEAR-TREE CREEPING SIN THE MAD MOONSHEE THE NAMELESS ONE
Pirates, Mandarins, Bonzes, Priests, Jugglers, Merchants, Ghastroi, Weirdrians, etc.
You that have known the wonder zone Of islands far away; You that have heard the dinky bird And roamed in rich Cathay; You that have sailed o'er unknown seas To woods of Amfalula trees Where craggy dragons play: Oh, girl or woman, boy or man, You've plucked the Flower of Old Japan!
Do you remember the blue stream; The bridge of pale bamboo; The path that seemed a twisted dream Where everything came true; The purple cherry-trees; the house With jutting eaves below the boughs; The mandarins in blue, With tiny, tapping, tilted toes, And curious curved mustachios?
The road to Old Japan! you cry, And is it far or near? Some never find it till they die; Some find it everywhere; The road where restful Time forgets His weary thoughts and wild regrets And calls the golden year Back in a fairy dream to smile On young and old a little while.
Some seek it with a blazing sword, And some with old blue plates; Some with a miser's golden hoard; Some with a book of dates; Some with a box of paints; a few Whose loads of truth would ne'er pass through The first, white, fairy gates; And, oh, how shocked they are to find That truths are false when left behind!
Do you remember all the tales That Tusitala told, When first we plunged thro' purple vales In quest of buried gold? Do you remember how he said That if we fell and hurt our head Our hearts must still be bold, And we must never mind the pain But rise up and go on again?
Do you remember? Yes; I know You must remember still: He left us, not so long ago, Carolling with a will, Because he knew that he should lie Under the comfortable sky Upon a lonely hill, In Old Japan, when day was done; "Dear Robert Louis Stevenson."
And there he knew that he should find The hills that haunt us now; The whaups that cried upon the wind His heart remembered how; And friends he loved and left, to roam Far from the pleasant hearth of home, Should touch his dreaming brow; Where fishes fly and birds have fins, And children teach the mandarins.
Ah, let us follow, follow far Beyond the purple seas; Beyond the rosy foaming bar, The coral reef, the trees, The land of parrots, and the wild That rolls before the fearless child Its ancient mysteries: Onward and onward, if we can, To Old Japan—to Old Japan.
When the firelight, red and clear, Flutters in the black wet pane, It is very good to hear Howling winds and trotting rain: It is very good indeed, When the nights are dark and cold, Near the friendly hearth to read Tales of ghosts and buried gold.
So with cozy toes and hands We were dreaming, just like you; Till we thought of palmy lands Coloured like a cockatoo; All in drowsy nursery nooks Near the clutching fire we sat, Searching quaint old story-books Piled upon the furry mat.
Something haunted us that night Like a half-remembered name; Worn old pages in that light Seemed the same, yet not the same: Curling in the pleasant heat Smoothly as a shell-shaped fan, O, they breathed and smelt so sweet When we turned to Old Japan!
Suddenly we thought we heard Someone tapping on the wall, Tapping, tapping like a bird. Then a panel seemed to fall Quietly; and a tall thin man Stepped into the glimmering room, And he held a little fan, And he waved it in the gloom.
Curious red, and golds, and greens Danced before our startled eyes, Birds from painted Indian screens, Beads, and shells, and dragon-flies; Wings, and flowers, and scent, and flame, Fans and fish and heliotrope; Till the magic air became Like a dream kaleidoscope.
Then he told us of a land Far across a fairy sea; And he waved his thin white hand Like a flower, melodiously; While a red and blue macaw Perched upon his pointed head, And as in a dream, we saw All the curious things he said.
Tucked in tiny palanquins, Magically swinging there, Flowery-kirtled mandarins Floated through the scented air; Wandering dogs and prowling cats Grinned at fish in painted lakes; Cross-legged conjurers on mats Fluted low to listening snakes.
Fat black bonzes on the shore Watched where singing, faint and far, Boys in long blue garments bore Roses in a golden jar. While at carven dragon ships Floating o'er that silent sea, Squat-limbed gods with dreadful lips Leered and smiled mysteriously.
Like an idol, shrined alone, Watched by secret oval eyes, Where the ruby wishing-stone Smouldering in the darkness lies, Anyone that wanted things Touched the jewel and they came; We were wealthier than kings Could we only do the same.
Yes; we knew a hundred ways We might use it if we could; To be happy all our days As an Indian in a wood; No more daily lesson task, No more sorrow, no more care; So we thought that we would ask If he'd kindly lead us there.
Ah, but then he waved his fan, Laughed and vanished through the wall; Yet as in a dream, we ran Tumbling after, one and all; Never pausing once to think, Panting after him we sped; Far away his robe of pink Floated backward as he fled.
Down a secret passage deep, Under roofs of spidery stairs, Where the bat-winged nightmares creep, And a sheeted phantom glares Rushed we; ah, how strange it was Where no human watcher stood; Till we reached a gate of glass Opening on a flowery wood.
Where the rose-pink robe had flown, Borne by swifter feet than ours, On to Wonder-Wander town, Through the wood of monstrous flowers; Mailed in monstrous gold and blue Dragon-flies like peacocks fled; Butterflies like carpets, too, Softly fluttered overhead.
Down the valley, tip-a-toe, Where the broad-limbed giants lie Snoring, as when long ago Jack on a bean-stalk scaled the sky; On to Wonder-Wander town Stole we past old dreams again, Castles long since battered down, Dungeons of forgotten pain.
Noonday brooded on the wood, Evening caught us ere we crept Where a twisted pear-tree stood, And a dwarf behind it slept; Round his scraggy throat he wore, Knotted tight, a scarlet scarf; Timidly we watched him snore, For he seemed a surly dwarf.
Yet, he looked so very small, He could hardly hurt us much; We were nearly twice as tall, So we woke him with a touch Gently, and in tones polite, Asked him to direct our path; O, his wrinkled eyes grew bright Green with ugly gnomish wrath.
He seemed to choke, And gruffly spoke, "You're lost: deny it, if you can! You want to know The way to go? There's no such place as Old Japan.
"You want to seek— No, no, don't speak! You mean you want to steal a fan. You want to see The fields of tea? They don't grow tea in Old Japan.
"In China, well Perhaps you'd smell The cherry bloom: that's if you ran A million miles And jumped the stiles, And never dreamed of Old Japan.
"What, palanquins, And mandarins? And, what d'you say, a blue divan? And what? Hee! hee! You'll never see A pig-tailed head in Old Japan.
"You'd take away The ruby, hey? I never heard of such a plan! Upon my word It's quite absurd There's not a gem in Old Japan!
"Oh, dear me, no! You'd better go Straight home again, my little man: Ah, well, you'll see But don't blame me; I don't believe in Old Japan."
Then, before we could obey, O'er our startled heads he cast, Spider-like, a webby grey Net that held us prisoned fast; How we screamed, he only grinned, It was such a lonely place; And he said we should be pinned Safely in his beetle-case.
Out he dragged a monstrous box From a cave behind the tree! It had four-and-twenty locks, But he could not find the key, And his face grew very pale When a sudden voice began Drawing nearer through the vale, Singing songs of Old Japan,
Satin sails in a crimson dawn Over the silky silver sea; Purple veils of the dark withdrawn; Heavens of pearl and porphyry; Purple and white in the morning light Over the water the town we knew, In tiny state, like a willow-plate, Shone, and behind it the hills were blue.
There, we remembered, the shadows pass All day long like dreams in the night; There, in the meadows of dim blue grass, Crimson daisies are ringed with white. There the roses flutter their petals, Over the meadows they take their flight, There the moth that sleepily settles Turns to a flower in the warm soft light.
There when the sunset colours the streets Everyone buys at wonderful stalls Toys and chocolates, guns and sweets, Ivory pistols, and Persian shawls: Everyone's pockets are crammed with gold; Nobody's heart is worn with care, Nobody ever grows tired and old, And nobody calls you "Baby" there.
There with a hat like a round white dish Upside down on each pig-tailed head, Jugglers offer you snakes and fish, Dreams and dragons and gingerbread; Beautiful books with marvellous pictures, Painted pirates and streaming gore, And everyone reads, without any strictures, Tales he remembers for evermore.
There when the dim blue daylight lingers Listening, and the West grows holy, Singers crouch with their long white fingers Floating over the zithern slowly: Paper lamps with a peachy bloom Burn above on the dim blue bough, While the zitherns gild the gloom With curious music! I hear it now!
Now: and at that mighty word Holding out his magic fan, Through the waving flowers appeared, Suddenly, the tall thin man: And we saw the crumpled dwarf Trying to hide behind the tree, But his knotted scarlet scarf Made him very plain to see.
Like a soft and smoky cloud Passed the webby net away; While its owner squealing loud Down behind the pear-tree lay; For the tall thin man came near, And his words were dark and gruff, And he swung the dwarf in the air By his long and scraggy scruff.
There he kickled whimpering. But our rescuer touched the box, Open with a sudden spring Clashed the four-and-twenty locks; Then he crammed the dwarf inside, And the locks all clattered tight: Four-and-twenty times he tried Whether they were fastened right.
Ah, he led us on our road, Showed us Wonder-Wander town; Then he fled: behind him flowed Once again the rose-pink gown: Down the long deserted street, All the windows winked like eyes, And our little trotting feet Echoed to the starry skies.
Low and long for evermore Where the Wonder-Wander sea Whispers to the wistful shore Purple songs of mystery, Down the shadowy quay we came— Though it hides behind the hill You will find it just the same And the seamen singing still.
There we chose a ship of pearl, And her milky silken sail Seemed by magic to unfurl, Puffed before a fairy gale; Shimmering o'er the purple deep, Out across the silvery bar, Softly as the wings of sleep Sailed we towards the morning star.
Over us the skies were dark, Yet we never needed light; Softly shone our tiny bark Gliding through the solemn night; Softly bright our moony gleam, Glimmered o'er the glistening waves, Like a cold sea-maiden's dream Globed in twilit ocean caves.
So all night our shallop passed Many a haunt of old desire, Blurs of savage blossom massed Red above a pirate-fire; Huts that gloomed and glanced among Fruitage dipping in the blue; Songs the sirens never sung, Shores Ulysses never knew.
All our fairy rigging shone Richly as a rainbow seen Where the moonlight floats upon Gossamers of gold and green: All the tiny spars were bright; Beaten gold the bowsprit was; But our pilot was the night, And our chart a looking-glass.
With rosy finger-tips the Dawn Drew back the silver veils, Till lilac shimmered into lawn Above the satin sails; And o'er the waters, white and wan, In tiny patterned state, We saw the streets of Old Japan Shine, like a willow plate.
O, many a milk-white pigeon roams The purple cherry crops, The mottled miles of pearly domes, And blue pagoda tops, The river with its golden canes And dark piratic dhows, To where beyond the twisting vanes The burning mountain glows.
A snow-peak in the silver skies Beyond that magic world, We saw the great volcano rise With incense o'er it curled, Whose tiny thread of rose and blue Has risen since time began, Before the first enchanter knew The peak of Old Japan.
Nobody watched us quietly steer The pinnace to the painted pier, Except one pig-tailed mandarin, Who sat upon a chest of tea Pretending not to hear or see!... His hands were very long and thin, His face was very broad and white; And O, it was a fearful sight To see him sit alone and grin!
His grin was very sleek and sly: Timidly we passed him by. He did not seem at all to care: So, thinking we were safely past, We ventured to look back at last. O, dreadful blank!—He was not there! He must have hid behind his chest: We did not stay to see the rest.
But, as in reckless haste we ran, We came upon the tall thin man, Who called to us and waved his fan, And offered us his palanquin: He said we must not go alone To seek the ruby wishing-stone, Because the white-faced mandarin Would dog our steps for many a mile, And sit upon each purple stile Before we came to it, and smile And smile; his name was Creeping Sin.
He played with children's beating hearts, And stuck them full of poisoned darts And long green thorns that stabbed and stung: He'd watch until we tried to speak, Then thrust inside his pasty cheek His long, white, slimy tongue: And smile at everything we said; And sometimes pat us on the head, And say that we were very young: He was a cousin of the man Who said that there was no Japan.
And night and day this Creeping Sin Would follow the path of the palanquin; Yet if we still were fain to touch The ruby, we must have no fear, Whatever we might see or hear, And the tall thin man would take us there; He did not fear that Sly One much, Except perhaps on a moonless night, Nor even then if the stars were bright.
So, in the yellow palankeen We swung along in state between Twinkling domes of gold and green Through the rich bazaar, Where the cross-legged merchants sat, Old and almond-eyed and fat, Each upon a gorgeous mat, Each in a cymar; Each in crimson samite breeches, Watching his barbaric riches.
Cherry blossom breathing sweet Whispered o'er the dim blue street Where with fierce uncertain feet Tawny pirates walk: All in belts and baggy blouses, Out of dreadful opium houses, Out of dens where Death carouses, Horribly they stalk; Girt with ataghan and dagger, Right across the road they swagger.
And where the cherry orchards blow, We saw the maids of Miyako, Swaying softly to and fro Through the dimness of the dance: Like sweet thoughts that shine through dreams They glided, wreathing rosy gleams, With stately sounds of silken streams, And many a slim kohl-lidded glance; Then fluttered with tiny rose-bud feet To a soft frou-frou and a rhythmic beat As the music shimmered, pursuit, retreat, "Hands across, retire, advance!" And again it changed and the glimmering throng Faded into a distant song.
The maidens of Miyako Dance in the sunset hours, Deep in the sunset glow, Under the cherry flowers.
With dreamy hands of pearl Floating like butterflies, Dimly the dancers whirl As the rose-light dies;
And their floating gowns, their hair Upbound with curious pins, Fade thro' the darkening air With the dancing mandarins.
And then, as we went, the tall thin man Explained the manners of Old Japan; If you pitied a thing, you pretended to sneer; Yet if you were glad you ran to buy A captive pigeon and let it fly; And, if you were sad, you took a spear To wound yourself, for fear your pain Should quietly grow less again.
And, again he said, if we wished to find The mystic City that enshrined The stone so few on earth had found, We must be very brave; it lay A hundred haunted leagues away, Past many a griffon-guarded ground, In depths of dark and curious art, Where passion-flowers enfold apart The Temple of the Flaming Heart, The City of the Secret Wound.
About the fragrant fall of day We saw beside the twisted way A blue-domed tea-house, bossed with gold; Hungry and thirsty we entered in, How should we know what Creeping Sin Had breathed in that Emperor's ear who sold His own dumb soul for an evil jewel To the earth-gods, blind and ugly and cruel? We drank sweet tea as his tale was told, In a garden of blue chrysanthemums, While a drowsy swarming of gongs and drums Out of the sunset dreamily rolled.
But, as the murmur nearer drew, A fat black bonze, in a robe of blue, Suddenly at the gate appeared; And close behind, with that evil grin, Was it Creeping Sin, was it Creeping Sin? The bonze looked quietly down and sneered. Our guide! Was he sleeping? We could not wake him. However we tried to pinch and shake him!
Nearer, nearer the tumult came, Till, as a glare of sound and flame, Blind from a terrible furnace door Blares, or the mouth of a dragon, blazed The seething gateway: deaf and dazed With the clanging and the wild uproar We stood; while a thousand oval eyes Gapped our fear with a sick surmise.
Then, as the dead sea parted asunder, The clamour clove with a sound of thunder In two great billows; and all was quiet. Gaunt and black was the palankeen That came in dreadful state between The frozen waves of the wild-eyed riot Curling back from the breathless track Of the Nameless One who is never seen: The close drawn curtains were thick and black; But wizen and white was the tall thin man As he rose in his sleep: His eyes were closed, his lips were wan, He crouched like a leopard that dares not leap.
The bearers halted: the tall thin man, Fearfully dreaming, waved his fan, With wizard fingers, to and fro; While, with a whimper of evil glee, The Nameless Emperor's mad Moonshee Stepped in front of us: dark and slow Were the words of the doom that he dared not name; But, over the ground, as he spoke there came Tiny circles of soft blue flame; Like ghosts of flowers they began to glow, And flow like a moonlit brook between Our feet and the terrible palankeen.
But the Moonshee wrinkled his long thin eyes, And sneered, "Have you stolen the strength of the skies? Then pour before us a stream of pearl! Give us the pearl and the gold we know, And our hearts will be softened and let you go; But these are toys for a foolish girl— These vanishing blossoms—what are they worth? They are not so heavy as dust and earth: Pour before us a stream of pearl!"
Then, with a wild strange laugh, our guide Stretched his arms to the West and cried Once, and a song came over the sea; And all the blossoms of moon-soft fire Woke and breathed as a wind-swept lyre, And the garden surged into harmony; Till it seemed that the soul of the whole world sung, And every petal became a tongue To tell the thoughts of Eternity.
But the Moonshee lifted his painted brows And stared at the gold on the blue tea-house: "Can you clothe your body with dreams?" he sneered; "If you taught us the truths that we always know Our heart might be softened and let you go: Can you tell us the length of a monkey's beard, Or the weight of the gems on the Emperor's fan, Or the number of parrots in Old Japan?"
And again, with a wild strange laugh, our guide Looked at him; and he shrunk aside, Shrivelling like a flame-touched leaf; For the red-cross blossoms of soft blue fire Were growing and fluttering higher and higher, Shaking their petals out, sheaf by sheaf, Till with disks like shields and stems like towers Burned the host of the passion-flowers ... Had the Moonshee flown like a midnight thief? ... Yet a thing like a monkey, shrivelled and black, Chattered and danced as they forced him back.
As the coward chatters for empty pride, In the face of a foe that he cannot but fear, It chattered and leapt from side to side, And its voice rang strangely upon the ear. As the cry of a wizard that dares not own Another's brighter and mightier throne; As the wrath of a fool that rails aloud On the fire that burnt him; the brazen bray Clamoured and sang o'er the gaping crowd, And flapped like a gabbling goose away.
THE CRY OF THE MAD MOONSHEE
_If the blossoms were beans, I should know what it means— This blaze, which I certainly cannot endure; It is evil, too, For its colour is blue, And the sense of the matter is quite obscure. Celestial truth _Is the food of youth; But the music was dark as a moonless night. The facts in the song Were all of them wrong,_
And there was not a single sum done right; Tho' a metaphysician amongst the crowd, In a voice that was notably deep and loud, Repeated, as fast as he was able, The whole of the multiplication table.
So the cry flapped off as a wild goose flies, And the stars came out in the trembling skies, And ever the mystic glory grew In the garden of blue chrysanthemums, Till there came a rumble of distant drums; And the multitude suddenly turned and flew. ... A dead ape lay where their feet had been ... And we called for the yellow palankeen, And the flowers divided and let us through.
The black-barred moon was large and low When we came to the Forest of Ancient Woe; And over our heads the stars were bright. But through the forest the path we travelled Its phosphorescent aisle unravelled In one thin ribbon of dwindling light: And twice and thrice on the fainting track We paused to listen. The moon grew black, But the coolies' faces glimmered white, As the wild woods echoed in dreadful chorus A laugh that came horribly hopping o'er us Like monstrous frogs thro' the murky night.
Then the tall thin man as we swung along Sang us an old enchanted song That lightened our hearts of their fearful load. But, e'en as the moonlit air grew sweet, We heard the pad of stealthy feet Dogging us down the thin white road; And the song grew weary again and harsh, And the black trees dripped like the fringe of a marsh, And a laugh crept out like a shadowy toad; And we knew it was neither ghoul nor djinn: It was Creeping Sin! It was Creeping Sin!
But we came to a bend, and the white moon glowed Like a gate at the end of the narrowing road Far away; and on either hand, As guards of a path to the heart's desire, The strange tall blossoms of soft blue fire Stretched away thro' that unknown land, League on league with their dwindling lane Down to the large low moon; and again There shimmered around us that mystical strain, In a tongue that it seemed we could understand.
Hold by right and rule by fear Till the slowly broadening sphere Melting through the skies above Merge into the sphere of love.
Hold by might until you find Might is powerless o'er the mind: Hold by Truth until you see, Though they bow before the wind, Its towers can mock at liberty.
Time, the seneschal, is blind; Time is blind: and what are we? Captives of Infinity, Claiming through Truth's prison bars Kinship with the wandering stars.
O, who could tell the wild weird sights We saw in all the days and nights We travelled through those forests old. We saw the griffons on white cliffs, Among fantastic hieroglyphs, Guarding enormous heaps of gold:
We saw the Ghastroi—curious men Who dwell, like tigers, in a den, And howl whene'er the moon is cold; They stripe themselves with red and black And ride upon the yellow Yak.
Their dens are always ankle-deep With twisted knives, and in their sleep They often cut themselves; they say That if you wish to live in peace The surest way is not to cease Collecting knives; and never a day Can pass, unless they buy a few; And as their enemies buy them too They all avert the impending fray, And starve their children and their wives To buy the necessary knives.
* * * *
The forest leapt with shadowy shapes As we came to the great black Tower of Apes: But we gave them purple figs and grapes In alabaster amphoras: We gave them curious kinds of fruit With betel nuts and orris-root, And then they let us pass: And when we reached the Tower of Snakes We gave them soft white honey-cakes, And warm sweet milk in bowls of brass: And on the hundredth eve we found The City of the Secret Wound.
We saw the mystic blossoms blow Round the City, far below; Faintly in the sunset glow We saw the soft blue glory flow O'er many a golden garden gate: And o'er the tiny dark green seas Of tamarisks and tulip-trees, Domes like golden oranges Dream aloft elate.
And clearer, clearer as we went, We heard from tower and battlement A whisper, like a warning, sent From watchers out of sight; And clearer, brighter, as we drew Close to the walls, we saw the blue Flashing of plumes where peacocks flew Thro' zones of pearly light.
On either side, a fat black bonze Guarded the gates of red-wrought bronze, Blazoned with blue sea-dragons And mouths of yawning flame; Down the road of dusty red, Though their brown feet ached and bled, Our coolies went with joyful tread: Like living fans the gates outspread And opened as we came.
THE MYSTIC RUBY
The white moon dawned; the sunset died; And stars were trembling when we spied The rose-red temple of our dreams: Its lamp-lit gardens glimmered cool With many an onyx-paven pool, Amid soft sounds of flowing streams; Where star-shine shimmered through the white Tall fountain-shafts of crystal light In ever changing rainbow-gleams.
Priests in flowing yellow robes Glided under rosy globes Through the green pomegranate boughs Moonbeams poured their coloured rain; Roofs of sea-green porcelain Jutted o'er the rose-red house; Bells were hung beneath its eaves; Every wind that stirred the leaves Tinkled as tired water does.
The temple had a low broad base Of black bright marble; all its face Was marble bright in rosy bloom; And where two sea-green pillars rose Deep in the flower-soft eave-shadows We saw, thro' richly sparkling gloom, Wrought in marvellous years of old With bulls and peacocks bossed in gold, The doors of powdered lacquer loom.
Quietly then the tall thin man, Holding his turquoise-tinted fan, Alighted from the palanquin; We followed: never painter dreamed Of how that dark rich temple gleamed With gules of jewelled gloom within; And as we wondered near the door A priest came o'er the polished floor In sandals of soft serpent-skin; His mitre shimmered bright and blue With pigeon's breast-plumes. When he knew Our quest he stroked his broad white chin, And looked at us with slanting eyes And smiled; then through his deep disguise We knew him! It was Creeping Sin!
But cunningly he bowed his head Down on his gilded breast and said Come: and he led us through the dusk Of passages whose painted walls Gleamed with dark old festivals; Till where the gloom grew sweet with musk And incense, through a door of amber We came into a high-arched chamber.
There on a throne of jasper sat A monstrous idol, black and fat; Thick rose-oil dropped upon its head: Drop by drop, heavy and sweet, Trickled down to its ebon feet Whereon the blood of goats was shed, And smeared around its perfumed knees In savage midnight mysteries.
It wore about its bulging waist A belt of dark green bronze enchased With big, soft, cloudy pearls; its wrists Were clasped about with moony gems Gathered from dead kings' diadems; Its throat was ringed with amethysts, And in its awful hand it held A softly smouldering emerald.
Silkily murmured Creeping Sin, "This is the stone you wished to win!" "White Snake," replied the tall thin man, "Show us the Ruby Stone, or I Will slay thee with my hands." The sly Long eyelids of the priest began To slant aside; and then once more He led us through the fragrant door.
And now along the passage walls Were painted hideous animals, With hooded eyes and cloven stings: In the incense that like shadowy hair Streamed over them they seemed to stir Their craggy claws and crooked wings. At last we saw strange moon-wreaths curl Around a deep, soft porch of pearl.
O, what enchanter wove in dreams That chapel wild with shadowy gleams And prismy colours of the moon? Shrined like a rainbow in a mist Of flowers, the fretted amethyst Arches rose to a mystic tune; And never mortal art inlaid Those cloudy floors of sea-soft jade.
There, in the midst, an idol rose White as the silent starlit snows On lonely Himalayan heights: Over its head the spikenard spilled Down to its feet, with myrrh distilled In distant, odorous Indian nights: It held before its ivory face A flaming yellow chrysoprase.
O, silkily murmured Creeping Sin, "This is the stone you wished to win." But in his ear the tall thin man Whispered with slow, strange lips—we knew Not what, but Creeping Sin went blue With fear; again his eyes began To slant aside; then through the porch He passed, and lit a tall, brown torch.
Down a corridor dark as death, With beating hearts and bated breath We hurried; far away we heard A dreadful hissing, fierce as fire When rain begins to quench a pyre; And where the smoky torch-light flared Strange vermin beat their bat-like wings, And the wet walls dropped with slimy things.
And darker, darker, wound the way, Beyond all gleams of night and day, And still that hideous hissing grew Louder and louder on our ears, And tortured us with eyeless fears; Then suddenly the gloom turned blue, And, in the wall, a rough rock cave Gaped, like a phosphorescent grave.
And from the purple mist within There came a wild tumultuous din Of snakes that reared their heads and hissed As if a witch's cauldron boiled; All round the door great serpents coiled, With eyes of glowing amethyst, Whose fierce blue flames began to slide Like shooting stars from side to side.
Ah! with a sickly gasping grin And quivering eyelids, Creeping Sin Stole to the cave; but, suddenly, As through its glimmering mouth he passed, The serpents flashed and gripped him fast: He wriggled and gave one awful cry, Then all at once the cave was cleared; The snakes with their victim had disappeared.
And fearlessly the tall thin man Opened his turquoise-tinted fan And entered; and the mists grew bright, And we saw that the cave was a diamond hall Lit with lamps for a festival. A myriad globes of coloured light Went gliding deep in its massy sides, Like the shimmering moons in the glassy tides Where a sea-king's palace enchants the night.
Gliding and flowing, a glory and wonder, Through each other, and over, and under, The lucent orbs of green and gold, Bright with sorrow or soft with sleep, In music through the glimmering deep, Over their secret axles rolled, And circled by the murmuring spheres We saw in a frame of frozen tears A mirror that made the blood run cold.
For, when we came to it, we found It imaged everything around Except the face that gazed in it; And where the mirrored face should be A heart-shaped Ruby fierily Smouldered; and round the frame was writ, Mystery: Time and Tide shall pass, I am the Wisdom Looking-Glass.
This is the Ruby none can touch: Many have loved it overmuch; Its fathomless fires flutter and sigh, Being as images of the flame That shall make earth and heaven the same When the fire of the end reddens the sky, And the world consumes like a burning pall, Till where there is nothing, there is all.
So we looked up at the tall thin man And we saw that his face grew sad and wan: Tears were glistening in his eyes: At last, with a breaking sob, he bent His head upon his breast and went Swiftly away! With dreadful cries We rushed to the softly glimmering door And stared at the hideous corridor. But his robe was gone as a dream that flies: Back to the glass in terror we came, And stared at the writing round the frame.
We could not understand one word: And suddenly we thought we heard The hissing of the snakes again: How could we front them all alone? O, madly we clutched at the mirrored stone And wished we were back on the flowery plain: And swifter than thought and swift as fear The whole world flashed, and behold we were there.
Yes; there was the port of Old Japan, With its twisted patterns, white and wan, Shining like a mottled fan Spread by the blue sea, faint and far; And far away we heard once more A sound of singing on the shore, Where boys in blue kimonos bore Roses in a golden jar: And we heard, where the cherry orchards blow, The serpent-charmers fluting low, And the song of the maidens of Miyako.
And at our feet unbroken lay The glass that had whirled us thither away: And in the grass, among the flowers We sat and wished all sorts of things: O, we were wealthier than kings! We ruled the world for several hours! And then, it seemed, we knew not why, All the daisies began to die.
We wished them alive again; but soon The trees all fled up towards the moon Like peacocks through the sunlit air: And the butterflies flapped into silver fish; And each wish spoiled another wish; Till we threw the glass down in despair; For, getting whatever you want to get, Is like drinking tea from a fishing net.
At last we thought we'd wish once more That all should be as it was before; And then we'd shatter the glass, if we could; But just as the world grew right again, We heard a wanderer out on the plain Singing what none of us understood; Yet we thought that the world grew thrice more sweet And the meadows were blossoming under his feet.
And we felt a grand and beautiful fear, For we knew that a marvellous thought drew near; So we kept the glass for a little while: And the skies grew deeper and twice as bright, And the seas grew soft as a flower of light, And the meadows rippled from stile to stile; And memories danced in a musical throng Thro' the blossom that scented the wonderful song.
We sailed across the silver seas And saw the sea-blue bowers, We saw the purple cherry trees, And all the foreign flowers, We travelled in a palanquin Beyond the caravan, And yet our hearts had never seen The Flower of Old Japan.
The Flower above all other flowers, The Flower that never dies; Before whose throne the scented hours Offer their sacrifice; The Flower that here on earth below Reveals the heavenly plan; But only little children know The Flower of Old Japan.
There, in the dim blue flowery plain We wished with the magic glass again To go to the Flower of the song's desire: And o'er us the whole of the soft blue sky Flashed like fire as the world went by, And far beneath us the sea like fire Flashed in one swift blue brilliant stream, And the journey was done, like a change in a dream.
THE END OF THE QUEST
Like the dawn upon a dream Slowly through the scented gloom Crept once more the ruddy gleam O'er the friendly nursery room. There, before our waking eyes, Large and ghostly, white and dim, Dreamed the Flower that never dies, Opening wide its rosy rim.
Spreading like a ghostly fan, Petals white as porcelain, There the Flower of Old Japan Told us we were home again; For a soft and curious light Suddenly was o'er it shed. And we saw it was a white English daisy, ringed with red.
Slowly, as a wavering mist Waned the wonder out of sight, To a sigh of amethyst, To a wraith of scented light. Flower and magic glass had gone; Near the clutching fire we sat Dreaming, dreaming, all alone, Each upon a furry mat.
While the firelight, red and clear, Fluttered in the black wet pane, It was very good to hear Howling winds and trotting rain. For we found at last we knew More than all our fancy planned, All the fairy tales were true, And home the heart of fairyland.
Carol, every violet has Heaven for a looking-glass!
Every little valley lies Under many-clouded skies; Every little cottage stands Girt about with boundless lands. Every little glimmering pond Claims the mighty shores beyond— Shores no seamen ever hailed, Seas no ship has ever sailed.
All the shores when day is done Fade into the setting sun, So the story tries to teach More than can be told in speech.
Beauty is a fading flower, Truth is but a wizard's tower, Where a solemn death-bell tolls, And a forest round it rolls.
We have come by curious ways To the Light that holds the days; We have sought in haunts of fear For that all-enfolding sphere: And lo! it was not far, but near.
We have found, O foolish-fond, The shore that has no shore beyond.
Deep in every heart it lies With its untranscended skies; For what heaven should bend above Hearts that own the heaven of love?
Carol, Carol, we have come Back to heaven, back to home.
APES AND IVORY
Apes and ivory, skulls and roses, in junks of old Hong-Kong, Gliding over a sea of dreams to a haunted shore of song, Masts of gold and sails of satin, shimmering out of the East, O, Love has little need of you now to make his heart a feast.
Or is it an elephant, white as milk and bearing a severed head That tatters his broad soft wrinkled flank in tawdry patches of red, With a negro giant to walk beside and a temple dome above, Where ruby and emerald shatter the sun,—is it these that should please my love?
Or is it a palace of pomegranates, where ivory-limbed young slaves Lure a luxury out of the noon in the swooning fountain's waves; Or couch like cats and sun themselves on the warm white marble brink? O, Love has little to ask of these, this day in May, I think.
Is it Lebanon cedars or purple fruits of the honeyed southron air, Spikenard, saffron, roses of Sharon, cinnamon, calamus, myrrh, A bed of spices, a fountain of waters, or the wild white wings of a dove, Now, when the winter is over and gone, is it these that should please my love?
The leaves outburst on the hazel-bough and the hawthorn's heaped wi' flower, And God has bidden the crisp clouds build my love a lordlier tower, Taller than Lebanon, whiter than snow, in the fresh blue skies above; And the wild rose wakes in the winding lanes of the radiant land I love.
Apes and ivory, skulls and roses, in junks of old Hong-Kong, Gliding over a sea of dreams to a haunted shore of song, Masts of gold and sails of satin, shimmering out of the East, O, Love has little need of you now to make his heart a feast.
A SONG OF SHERWOOD
Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake? Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake, Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn, Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.
Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves, Calling as he used to call, faint and far away, In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June: All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon, Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.
Merry, merry England is waking as of old, With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold: For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Love is in the greenwood building him a house Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs: Love is in the greenwood, dawn is in the skies, And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.
Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep! Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep? Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay, In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold, Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould, Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red, And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.
Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather. The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows. All the heart of England hid in every rose Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap, Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?
Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep, Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?
Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men— Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day—
Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash, The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly, And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.
Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves, Calling as he used to call, faint and far away, In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
THE WORLD'S MAY-QUEEN
Whither away is the Spring to-day? To England, to England! In France they heard the South wind say, "She's off on a quest for a Queen o' the May, So she's over the hills far away, To England!"
And why did she fly with her golden feet To England, to England? In Italy, too, they heard the sweet Roses whisper and flutter and beat— "She's an old and a true, true love to greet In England!"
A moon ago there came a cry From England, from England, Faintly, fondly it faltered nigh The throne of the Spring in the Southern sky, And it whispered "Come," and the world went by, And with one long loving blissful sigh The Spring was away to England!
When Spring comes back to England And crowns her brows with May, Round the merry moonlit world She goes the greenwood way: She throws a rose to Italy, A fleur-de-lys to France; But round her regal morris-ring The seas of England dance.
When Spring comes back to England And dons her robe of green, There's many a nation garlanded But England is the Queen; She's Queen, she's Queen of all the world Beneath the laughing sky, For the nations go a-Maying When they hear the New Year cry—
"Come over the water to England, My old love, my new love, Come over the water to England, In showers of flowery rain; Come over the water to England, April, my true love; And tell the heart of England The Spring is here again!"
So it's here, she is here with her eyes of blue In England, In England! She has brought us the rainbows with her, too, And a glory of shimmering glimmering dew And a heaven of quivering scent and hue And a lily for me and a rose for you In England.
There's many a wanderer far away From England, from England, Will toss upon his couch and say— Though Spain is proud and France is gay, And there's many a foot on the primrose way, The world has never a Queen o' the May But England.
When Drake went out to seek for gold Across the uncharted sea, And saw the Western skies unfold Their veils of mystery; To lure him through the fevered hours As nigh to death he lay, There floated o'er the foreign flowers A breath of English May:
And back to Devon shores again His dreaming spirit flew Over the splendid Spanish Main To haunts his childhood knew, Whispering "God forgive the blind Desire that bade me roam, I've sailed around the world to find The sweetest way to home."
And it's whither away is the Spring to-day? To England, to England! In France you'll hear the South wind say, "She off on a quest for a Queen o' the May, So she's over the hills and far away, To England!"
She's flown with the swallows across the sea To England, to England! For there's many a land of the brave and free But never a home o' the hawthorn-tree, And never a Queen o' the May for me But England!
And round the fairy revels whirl In England, in England! And the buds outbreak and the leaves unfurl, And where the crisp white cloudlets curl The Dawn comes up like a primrose girl With a crowd of flowers in a basket of pearl For England!
Come to me, you with the laughing face, in the night as I lie Dreaming of days that are dead and of joys gone by; Come to me, comrade, come through the slow-dropping rain, Come from your grave in the darkness and let us be pirates again.
Let us be boys together to-night, and pretend as of old We are pirates at rest in a cave among huge heaps of gold, Red Spanish doubloons and great pieces of eight, and muskets and swords, And a smoky red camp-fire to glint, you know how, on our ill-gotten hoards.
The old cave in the fir-wood that slopes down the hills to the sea Still is haunted, perhaps, by young pirates as wicked as we: Though the fir with the magpie's big mud-plastered nest used to hide it so well, And the boys in the gang had to swear that they never would tell.
Ah, that tree; I have sat in its boughs and looked seaward for hours. I remember the creak of its branches, the scent of the flowers That climbed round the mouth of the cave. It is odd I recall Those little things best, that I scarcely took heed of at all.
I remember how brightly the brass on the butt of my spy-glass gleamed As I climbed through the purple heather and thyme to our eyrie and dreamed; I remember the smooth glossy sun-burn that darkened our faces and hands As we gazed at the merchantmen sailing away to those wonderful lands.
I remember the long, slow sigh of the sea as we raced in the sun, To dry ourselves after our swimming; and how we would run With a cry and a crash through the foam as it creamed on the shore, Then back to bask in the warm dry gold of the sand once more.
Come to me, you with the laughing face, in the gloom as I lie Dreaming of days that are dead and of joys gone by; Let us be boys together to-night and pretend as of old We are pirates at rest in a cave among great heaps of gold.
Come; you shall be chief. We'll not quarrel, the time flies so fast. There are ships to be grappled, there's blood to be shed, ere our playtime be past. No; perhaps we will quarrel, just once, or it scarcely will seem So like the old days that have flown from us both like a dream.
Still; you shall be chief in the end; and then we'll go home To the hearth and the tea and the books that we loved: ah, but come, Come to me, come through the night and the slow-dropping rain; Come, old friend, come thro' the darkness and let us be playmates again.
A SONG OF ENGLAND
There is a song of England that none shall ever sing; So sweet it is and fleet it is That none whose words are not as fleet as birds upon the wing, And regal as her mountains, And radiant as the fountains Of rainbow-coloured sea-spray that every wave can fling Against the cliffs of England, the sturdy cliffs of England, Could more than seem to dream of it, Or catch one flying gleam of it, Above the seas of England that never cease to sing.
There is a song of England that only lovers know; So rare it is and fair it is, O, like a fairy rose it is upon a drift of snow, So cold and sweet and sunny, So full of hidden honey, So like a flight of butterflies where rose and lily blow Along the lanes of England, the leafy lanes of England; When flowers are at their vespers And full of little whispers, The boys and girls of England shall sing it as they go.
There is a song of England that only love may sing, So sure it is and pure it is; And seaward with the sea-mew it spreads a whiter wing, And with the sky-lark hovers Above the tryst of lovers, Above the kiss and whisper that led the lovely Spring Through all the glades of England, the ferny glades of England, Until the way enwound her With sprays of May, and crowned her With stars of frosty blossom in a merry morris-ring.
There is a song of England that haunts her hours of rest: The calm of it and balm of it Are breathed from every hedgerow that blushes to the West From the cottage doors that nightly Cast their welcome out so brightly On the lanes where laughing children are lifted and caressed By the tenderest hands in England, hard and blistered hands of England: And from the restful sighing Of the sleepers that are lying With the arms of God around them on the night's contented breast.
There is a song of England that wanders on the wind; So sad it is and glad it is That men who hear it madden and their eyes are wet and blind, For the lowlands and the highlands Of the unforgotten islands, For the Islands of the Blessed and the rest they cannot find As they grope in dreams to England and the love they left in England; Little feet that danced to meet them And the lips that used to greet them, And the watcher at the window in the home they left behind.
There is a song of England that thrills the beating blood With burning cries and yearning Tides of hidden aspiration hardly known or understood; Aspirations of the creature Tow'rds the unity of Nature; Sudden chivalries revealing whence the longing is renewed In the men that live for England, live and love and die for England: By the light of their desire They shall blindly blunder higher, To a wider, grander Kingdom and a deeper, nobler Good.
There is a song of England that only heaven can hear; So gloriously victorious, It soars above the choral stars that sing the Golden Year; Till even the cloudy shadows That wander o'er her meadows In silent purple harmonies declare His glory there, Along the hills of England, the billowy hills of England; While heaven rolls and ranges Through all the myriad changes That mirror God in music to the mortal eye and ear.
There is a song of England that none shall ever sing; So sweet it is and fleet it is That none whose words are not as fleet as birds upon the wing, And regal as her mountains, And radiant as her fountains Of rainbow-coloured sea-spray that every wave can fling Against the cliffs of England, the sturdy cliffs of England, Could more than seem to dream of it, Or catch one flying gleam of it, Above the seas of England that never cease to sing.
THE OLD SCEPTIC
I am weary of disbelieving: why should I wound my love To pleasure a sophist's pride in a graven image of truth? I will go back to my home, with the clouds and the stars above, And the heaven I used to know, and the God of my buried youth.
I will go back to the home where of old in my boyish pride I pierced my father's heart with a murmur of unbelief. He only looked in my face as I spoke, but his mute eyes cried Night after night in my dreams; and he died in grief, in grief.
Books? I have read the books, the books that we write ourselves, Extolling our love of an abstract truth and our pride of debate: I will go back to the love of the cotter who sings as he delves, To that childish infinite love and the God above fact and date.
To that ignorant infinite God who colours the meaningless flowers, To that lawless infinite Poet who crowns the law with the crime; To the Weaver who covers the world with a garment of wonderful hours, And holds in His hand like threads the tales and the truths of time.
Is the faith of the cotter so simple and narrow as this? Ah, well, It is hardly so narrow as yours who daub and plaster with dyes The shining mirrors of heaven, the shadowy mirrors of hell, And blot out the dark deep vision, if it seem to be framed with lies.
No faith I hurl against you, no fact to freeze your sneers. Only the doubt you taught me to weld in the fires of youth Leaps to my hand like the flaming sword of nineteen hundred years, The sword of the high God's answer, O Pilate, what is truth?
Your laughter has killed more hearts than ever were pierced with swords, Ever you daub new mirrors and turn the old to the wall; And more than blood is lost in the weary battle of words; For creeds are many; but God is One, and contains them all.
Ah, why should we strive or cry? Surely the end is close! Hold by your little truths: deem your triumph complete! But nothing is true or false in the infinite heart of the rose; And the earth is a little dust that clings to our travelling feet.
I will go back to my home and look at the wayside flowers, And hear from the wayside cabins the kind old hymns again, Where Christ holds out His arms in the quiet evening hours, And the light of the chapel porches broods on the peaceful lane.
And there I shall hear men praying the deep old foolish prayers, And there I shall see, once more, the fond old faith confessed, And the strange old light on their faces who hear as a blind man hears,— Come unto Me, ye weary, and I will give you rest.
I will go back and believe in the deep old foolish tales, And pray the simple prayers that I learned at my mother's knee, Where the Sabbath tolls its peace thro' the breathless mountain-vales, And the sunset's evening hymn hallows the listening sea.
THE DEATH OF CHOPIN
Sing to me! Ah, remember how Poor Heine here in Paris leant Watching me play at the fall of day And following where the music went, Till that old cloud upon his brow Was almost smoothed away.
"Do roses in the moonlight flame Like this and this?" he said and smiled; Then bent his head as o'er his dead Brother might breathe some little child The accustomed old half-jesting name, With all its mockery fled,
Like summer lightnings, far away, In heaven. O, what Bohemian nights We passed down there for that brief year When art revealed her last delights; And then, that night, that night in May When Hugo came to hear!
"Do roses in the moonlight glow Like this and this?" I could not see His eyes, and yet—they were quite wet, Blinded, I think! What should I be If in that hour I did not know My own diviner debt?
For God has made this world of ours Out of His own exceeding pain, As here in art man's bleeding heart Slow drop by drop completes the strain; And dreams of death make sweet the flowers Where lovers meet to part.
Recall, recall my little room Where all the masters came that night, Came just to hear me, Meyerbeer, Lamartine, Balzac; and no light But my two candles in the gloom; Though she, she too was there,
George Sand. This music once unlocked My heart, she took the gold she prized: Her novel gleams no richer: dreams Like mine are best unanalysed: And she forgets her poor bemocked Prince Karol, now, it seems.
I was Prince Karol; yes, and Liszt Count Salvator Albani: she My Floriani—all so far Away!—My dreams are like the sea That round Majorca sighed and kissed Each softly mirrored star.
O, what a golden round of hours Our island villa knew: we two Alone with sky and sea, the sigh Of waves, the warm unfathomed blue; With what a chain of nights like flowers We bound Love, she and I.
What music, what harmonious Glad triumphs of the world's desire Where passion yearns to God and burns Earth's dross out with its own pure fire, Or tolls like some deep angelus Through Death's divine nocturnes.
"Do roses in the moonlight glow Like this and this?" What did she think Of him whose hands at Love's command Made Life as honey o'er the brink Of Death drip slow, darkling and slow? Ah, did she understand?
She studied every sob she heard, She watched each dying hope she found; And yet she understood not one Poor sorrow there that like a wound Gaped, bleeding, pleading—for one word— No? And the dream was done.
For her—I am "wrapped in incense gloom, In drifting clouds and golden light;" Once I was shod with fire and trod Beethoven's path through storm and night: It is too late now to resume My monologue with God.
Well, my lost love, you were so kind In those old days: ah, yes; you came When I was ill! In dreams you still Will come? (Do roses always flame By moonlight, thus?) I, too, grow blind With wondering if she will.
Yet, Floriani, what am I To you, though love was life to me? My life consumed like some perfumed Pale altar-flame beside the sea: You stood and smiled and watched it die! You, you whom it illumed, Could you not feed it with your love? Am I not starving here and now? Sing, sing! I'd miss no smile or kiss— No roses in Majorca glow Like this and this—so death may prove Best—ah, how sweet life is!
(AFTER THE FRENCH OF ROSTAND)
O, many a lover sighs Beneath the summer skies For black or hazel eyes All day. No light of hope can mar My whiter brighter star; I love a Princess far Away.
Now you that haste to meet Your love's returning feet Must plead for every sweet Caress; But, day and night and day, Without a prayer to pray, I love my far away Princess.
Sun-child, as you watched the rain Beat the pane, Saw the garden of your dreams Where the clove carnation grows And the rose Veiled with shimmering shades and gleams, Mirrored colours, mystic gleams, Fairy dreams, Drifting in your radiant eyes Half in earnest asked, that day, Half in play, Where were all the butterflies?
Where were all the butterflies When the skies Clouded and their bowers of clover Bowed beneath the golden shower? Every flower Shook and the rose was brimming over.
Ah, the dog-rose trembling over Thyme and clover, How it glitters in the sun, Now the hare-bells lift again Bright with rain After all the showers are done!
See, when all the showers are done, How the sun Softly smiling o'er the scene Bids the white wings come and go To and fro Through the maze of gold and green.
Magic webs of gold and green Rainbow sheen Mesh the maze of flower and fern, Cuckoo-grass and meadow-sweet, And the wheat Where the crimson poppies burn.
Ay; and where the poppies burn, They return All across the dreamy downs, Little wings that flutter and beat O'er the sweet Bluffs the purple clover crowns.
Where the fairy clover crowns Dreamy downs, And amidst the golden grass Buttercups and daisies blow To and fro When the shadowy billows pass;
Time has watched them pause and pass Where Love was; Ah, what fairy butterflies, Little wild incarnate blisses, Coloured kisses, Floating under azure skies!
Under those eternal skies See, they rise: Mottled wings of moony sheen, Wings in whitest star-shine dipped, Orange tipped, Eyed with black and veined with green.
They were fairies plumed with green Rainbow-sheen Ere Time bade their host begone From that palace built of roses Which still dozes In the greenwood all alone.
In the greenwood all alone And unknown: Now they roam these mortal dells Wondering where that happy glade is, Painted Ladies, Admirals, and Tortoise-shells,
O, Fritillaries, Admirals, Tortoise-shells; You, like fragments of the skies Fringed with Autumn's richest hues, Dainty blues Patterned with mosaic dyes; Oh, and you whose peacock dyes Gleam with eyes; You, whose wings of burnished copper Burn upon the sunburnt brae Where all day Whirrs the hot and grey grasshopper;
While the grey grasshopper whirrs In the furze, You that with your sulphur wings Melt into the gold perfume Of the broom Where the linnet sits and sings;
You that, as a poet sings, On your wings Image forth the dreams of earth, Quickening them in form and hue To the new Glory of a brighter birth;
You that bring to a brighter birth Dust and earth, Rapt to glory on your wings, All transfigured in the white Living light Shed from out the soul of things;
Heralds of the soul of things, You whose wings Carry heaven through every glade; Thus transfigured from the petals Death unsettles, Little souls of leaf and blade;
You that mimic bud and blade, Light and shade; Tinted souls of leaf and stone, Flower and sunny bank of sand, Fairyland Calls her children to their own; Calls them back into their own Great unknown; Where the harmonies they cull On their wings are made complete As they beat Through the Gate called Beautiful.
SONG OF THE WOODEN-LEGGED FIDDLER
I lived in a cottage adown in the West When I was a boy, a boy; But I knew no peace and I took no rest Though the roses nigh smothered my snug little nest; For the smell of the sea Was much rarer to me, And the life of a sailor was all my joy.
CHORUS.—The life of a sailor was all my joy!
My mother she wept, and she begged me to stay Anchored for life to her apron-string, And soon she would want me to help with the hay; So I bided her time, then I flitted away On a night of delight in the following spring, With a pair of stout shoon And a seafaring tune And a bundle and stick in the light of the moon, Down the long road To Portsmouth I strode, To fight like a sailor for country and king.
CHORUS.—To fight like a sailor for country and king.
And now that my feet are turned homeward again My heart is still crying Ahoy! Ahoy! And my thoughts are still out on the Spanish main A-chasing the frigates of France and Spain, For at heart an old sailor is always a boy; And his nose will still itch For the powder and pitch Till the days when he can't tell t'other from which, Nor a grin o' the guns from a glint o' the sea, Nor a skipper like Nelson from lubbers like me.
CHORUS.—Nor a skipper like Nelson from lubbers like me.
Ay! Now that I'm old I'm as bold as the best, And the life of a sailor is all my joy; Though I've swapped my leg For a wooden peg And my head is as bald as a new-laid egg, The smell of the sea Is like victuals to me, And I think in the grave I'll be crying Ahoy! For, though my old carcass is ready to rest, At heart an old sailor is always a boy.
CHORUS.—At heart an old sailor is always a boy.
Where the old grey churchyard slopes to the sea, On the sunny side of a mossed headstone; Watching the wild white butterflies pass Through the fairy forests of grass, Two little children with brown legs bare Were merrily, merrily Weaving a wonderful daisy-chain, And chanting the rhyme that was graven there Over and over and over again; While the warm wind came and played with their hair And laughed and was gone Out, far out to the foam-flowered lea Like an ocean-wandering memory.
Eighteen hundred and forty-three, Dan Trevennick was lost at sea; And, buried here at her husband's side Lies the body of Joan, his bride, Who, a little while after she lost him, died.