And yet—perchance in this sea-tranced isle, Chewing the bitter fruit of memory, Some God lies hidden in the asphodel. Ah Love! if such there be, then it were well For us to fly his anger: nay, but see, The leaves are stirring: let us watch awhile.
Poem: A Vision
Two crowned Kings, and One that stood alone With no green weight of laurels round his head, But with sad eyes as one uncomforted, And wearied with man's never-ceasing moan For sins no bleating victim can atone, And sweet long lips with tears and kisses fed. Girt was he in a garment black and red, And at his feet I marked a broken stone Which sent up lilies, dove-like, to his knees. Now at their sight, my heart being lit with flame, I cried to Beatrice, 'Who are these?' And she made answer, knowing well each name, 'AEschylos first, the second Sophokles, And last (wide stream of tears!) Euripides.'
Poem: Impression De Voyage
The sea was sapphire coloured, and the sky Burned like a heated opal through the air; We hoisted sail; the wind was blowing fair For the blue lands that to the eastward lie. From the steep prow I marked with quickening eye Zakynthos, every olive grove and creek, Ithaca's cliff, Lycaon's snowy peak, And all the flower-strewn hills of Arcady. The flapping of the sail against the mast, The ripple of the water on the side, The ripple of girls' laughter at the stern, The only sounds:- when 'gan the West to burn, And a red sun upon the seas to ride, I stood upon the soil of Greece at last!
Poem: The Grave Of Shelley
Like burnt-out torches by a sick man's bed Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone; Here doth the little night-owl make her throne, And the slight lizard show his jewelled head. And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red, In the still chamber of yon pyramid Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid, Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead.
Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep, But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb In the blue cavern of an echoing deep, Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.
Poem: By The Arno
The oleander on the wall Grows crimson in the dawning light, Though the grey shadows of the night Lie yet on Florence like a pall.
The dew is bright upon the hill, And bright the blossoms overhead, But ah! the grasshoppers have fled, The little Attic song is still.
Only the leaves are gently stirred By the soft breathing of the gale, And in the almond-scented vale The lonely nightingale is heard.
The day will make thee silent soon, O nightingale sing on for love! While yet upon the shadowy grove Splinter the arrows of the moon.
Before across the silent lawn In sea-green vest the morning steals, And to love's frightened eyes reveals The long white fingers of the dawn
Fast climbing up the eastern sky To grasp and slay the shuddering night, All careless of my heart's delight, Or if the nightingale should die.
Poem: Fabien Dei Franchi
(To my Friend Henry Irving)
The silent room, the heavy creeping shade, The dead that travel fast, the opening door, The murdered brother rising through the floor, The ghost's white fingers on thy shoulders laid, And then the lonely duel in the glade, The broken swords, the stifled scream, the gore, Thy grand revengeful eyes when all is o'er,— These things are well enough,—but thou wert made For more august creation! frenzied Lear Should at thy bidding wander on the heath With the shrill fool to mock him, Romeo For thee should lure his love, and desperate fear Pluck Richard's recreant dagger from its sheath— Thou trumpet set for Shakespeare's lips to blow!
(To Sarah Bernhardt)
How vain and dull this common world must seem To such a One as thou, who should'st have talked At Florence with Mirandola, or walked Through the cool olives of the Academe: Thou should'st have gathered reeds from a green stream For Goat-foot Pan's shrill piping, and have played With the white girls in that Phaeacian glade Where grave Odysseus wakened from his dream.
Ah! surely once some urn of Attic clay Held thy wan dust, and thou hast come again Back to this common world so dull and vain, For thou wert weary of the sunless day, The heavy fields of scentless asphodel, The loveless lips with which men kiss in Hell.
(To Ellen Terry)
I marvel not Bassanio was so bold To peril all he had upon the lead, Or that proud Aragon bent low his head Or that Morocco's fiery heart grew cold: For in that gorgeous dress of beaten gold Which is more golden than the golden sun No woman Veronese looked upon Was half so fair as thou whom I behold. Yet fairer when with wisdom as your shield The sober-suited lawyer's gown you donned, And would not let the laws of Venice yield Antonio's heart to that accursed Jew— O Portia! take my heart: it is thy due: I think I will not quarrel with the Bond.
Poem: Queen Henrietta Maria
(To Ellen Terry)
In the lone tent, waiting for victory, She stands with eyes marred by the mists of pain, Like some wan lily overdrenched with rain: The clamorous clang of arms, the ensanguined sky, War's ruin, and the wreck of chivalry To her proud soul no common fear can bring: Bravely she tarrieth for her Lord the King, Her soul a-flame with passionate ecstasy. O Hair of Gold! O Crimson Lips! O Face Made for the luring and the love of man! With thee I do forget the toil and stress, The loveless road that knows no resting place, Time's straitened pulse, the soul's dread weariness, My freedom, and my life republican!
(To Ellen Terry)
As one who poring on a Grecian urn Scans the fair shapes some Attic hand hath made, God with slim goddess, goodly man with maid, And for their beauty's sake is loth to turn And face the obvious day, must I not yearn For many a secret moon of indolent bliss, When in midmost shrine of Artemis I see thee standing, antique-limbed, and stern?
And yet—methinks I'd rather see thee play That serpent of old Nile, whose witchery Made Emperors drunken,—come, great Egypt, shake Our stage with all thy mimic pageants! Nay, I am grown sick of unreal passions, make The world thine Actium, me thine Anthony!
Nay, let us walk from fire unto fire, From passionate pain to deadlier delight,— I am too young to live without desire, Too young art thou to waste this summer night Asking those idle questions which of old Man sought of seer and oracle, and no reply was told.
For, sweet, to feel is better than to know, And wisdom is a childless heritage, One pulse of passion—youth's first fiery glow,— Are worth the hoarded proverbs of the sage: Vex not thy soul with dead philosophy, Have we not lips to kiss with, hearts to love and eyes to see!
Dost thou not hear the murmuring nightingale, Like water bubbling from a silver jar, So soft she sings the envious moon is pale, That high in heaven she is hung so far She cannot hear that love-enraptured tune,— Mark how she wreathes each horn with mist, yon late and labouring moon.
White lilies, in whose cups the gold bees dream, The fallen snow of petals where the breeze Scatters the chestnut blossom, or the gleam Of boyish limbs in water,—are not these Enough for thee, dost thou desire more? Alas! the Gods will give nought else from their eternal store.
For our high Gods have sick and wearied grown Of all our endless sins, our vain endeavour For wasted days of youth to make atone By pain or prayer or priest, and never, never, Hearken they now to either good or ill, But send their rain upon the just and the unjust at will.
They sit at ease, our Gods they sit at ease, Strewing with leaves of rose their scented wine, They sleep, they sleep, beneath the rocking trees Where asphodel and yellow lotus twine, Mourning the old glad days before they knew What evil things the heart of man could dream, and dreaming do.
And far beneath the brazen floor they see Like swarming flies the crowd of little men, The bustle of small lives, then wearily Back to their lotus-haunts they turn again Kissing each others' mouths, and mix more deep The poppy-seeded draught which brings soft purple-lidded sleep.
There all day long the golden-vestured sun, Their torch-bearer, stands with his torch ablaze, And, when the gaudy web of noon is spun By its twelve maidens, through the crimson haze Fresh from Endymion's arms comes forth the moon, And the immortal Gods in toils of mortal passions swoon.
There walks Queen Juno through some dewy mead, Her grand white feet flecked with the saffron dust Of wind-stirred lilies, while young Ganymede Leaps in the hot and amber-foaming must, His curls all tossed, as when the eagle bare The frightened boy from Ida through the blue Ionian air.
There in the green heart of some garden close Queen Venus with the shepherd at her side, Her warm soft body like the briar rose Which would be white yet blushes at its pride, Laughs low for love, till jealous Salmacis Peers through the myrtle-leaves and sighs for pain of lonely bliss.
There never does that dreary north-wind blow Which leaves our English forests bleak and bare, Nor ever falls the swift white-feathered snow, Nor ever doth the red-toothed lightning dare To wake them in the silver-fretted night When we lie weeping for some sweet sad sin, some dead delight.
Alas! they know the far Lethaean spring, The violet-hidden waters well they know, Where one whose feet with tired wandering Are faint and broken may take heart and go, And from those dark depths cool and crystalline Drink, and draw balm, and sleep for sleepless souls, and anodyne.
But we oppress our natures, God or Fate Is our enemy, we starve and feed On vain repentance—O we are born too late! What balm for us in bruised poppy seed Who crowd into one finite pulse of time The joy of infinite love and the fierce pain of infinite crime.
O we are wearied of this sense of guilt, Wearied of pleasure's paramour despair, Wearied of every temple we have built, Wearied of every right, unanswered prayer, For man is weak; God sleeps: and heaven is high: One fiery-coloured moment: one great love; and lo! we die.
Ah! but no ferry-man with labouring pole Nears his black shallop to the flowerless strand, No little coin of bronze can bring the soul Over Death's river to the sunless land, Victim and wine and vow are all in vain, The tomb is sealed; the soldiers watch; the dead rise not again.
We are resolved into the supreme air, We are made one with what we touch and see, With our heart's blood each crimson sun is fair, With our young lives each spring-impassioned tree Flames into green, the wildest beasts that range The moor our kinsmen are, all life is one, and all is change.
With beat of systole and of diastole One grand great life throbs through earth's giant heart, And mighty waves of single Being roll From nerveless germ to man, for we are part Of every rock and bird and beast and hill, One with the things that prey on us, and one with what we kill.
From lower cells of waking life we pass To full perfection; thus the world grows old: We who are godlike now were once a mass Of quivering purple flecked with bars of gold, Unsentient or of joy or misery, And tossed in terrible tangles of some wild and wind-swept sea.
This hot hard flame with which our bodies burn Will make some meadow blaze with daffodil, Ay! and those argent breasts of thine will turn To water-lilies; the brown fields men till Will be more fruitful for our love to-night, Nothing is lost in nature, all things live in Death's despite.
The boy's first kiss, the hyacinth's first bell, The man's last passion, and the last red spear That from the lily leaps, the asphodel Which will not let its blossoms blow for fear Of too much beauty, and the timid shame Of the young bridegroom at his lover's eyes,—these with the same
One sacrament are consecrate, the earth Not we alone hath passions hymeneal, The yellow buttercups that shake for mirth At daybreak know a pleasure not less real Than we do, when in some fresh-blossoming wood, We draw the spring into our hearts, and feel that life is good.
So when men bury us beneath the yew Thy crimson-stained mouth a rose will be, And thy soft eyes lush bluebells dimmed with dew, And when the white narcissus wantonly Kisses the wind its playmate some faint joy Will thrill our dust, and we will be again fond maid and boy.
And thus without life's conscious torturing pain In some sweet flower we will feel the sun, And from the linnet's throat will sing again, And as two gorgeous-mailed snakes will run Over our graves, or as two tigers creep Through the hot jungle where the yellow-eyed huge lions sleep
And give them battle! How my heart leaps up To think of that grand living after death In beast and bird and flower, when this cup, Being filled too full of spirit, bursts for breath, And with the pale leaves of some autumn day The soul earth's earliest conqueror becomes earth's last great prey.
O think of it! We shall inform ourselves Into all sensuous life, the goat-foot Faun, The Centaur, or the merry bright-eyed Elves That leave their dancing rings to spite the dawn Upon the meadows, shall not be more near Than you and I to nature's mysteries, for we shall hear
The thrush's heart beat, and the daisies grow, And the wan snowdrop sighing for the sun On sunless days in winter, we shall know By whom the silver gossamer is spun, Who paints the diapered fritillaries, On what wide wings from shivering pine to pine the eagle flies.
Ay! had we never loved at all, who knows If yonder daffodil had lured the bee Into its gilded womb, or any rose Had hung with crimson lamps its little tree! Methinks no leaf would ever bud in spring, But for the lovers' lips that kiss, the poets' lips that sing.
Is the light vanished from our golden sun, Or is this daedal-fashioned earth less fair, That we are nature's heritors, and one With every pulse of life that beats the air? Rather new suns across the sky shall pass, New splendour come unto the flower, new glory to the grass.
And we two lovers shall not sit afar, Critics of nature, but the joyous sea Shall be our raiment, and the bearded star Shoot arrows at our pleasure! We shall be Part of the mighty universal whole, And through all aeons mix and mingle with the Kosmic Soul!
We shall be notes in that great Symphony Whose cadence circles through the rhythmic spheres, And all the live World's throbbing heart shall be One with our heart; the stealthy creeping years Have lost their terrors now, we shall not die, The Universe itself shall be our Immortality.
Poem: Impression—Le Reveillon
The sky is laced with fitful red, The circling mists and shadows flee, The dawn is rising from the sea, Like a white lady from her bed.
And jagged brazen arrows fall Athwart the feathers of the night, And a long wave of yellow light Breaks silently on tower and hall,
And spreading wide across the wold Wakes into flight some fluttering bird, And all the chestnut tops are stirred, And all the branches streaked with gold.
Poem: At Verona
How steep the stairs within Kings' houses are For exile-wearied feet as mine to tread, And O how salt and bitter is the bread Which falls from this Hound's table,—better far That I had died in the red ways of war, Or that the gate of Florence bare my head, Than to live thus, by all things comraded Which seek the essence of my soul to mar.
'Curse God and die: what better hope than this? He hath forgotten thee in all the bliss Of his gold city, and eternal day'— Nay peace: behind my prison's blinded bars I do possess what none can take away My love, and all the glory of the stars.
Is it thy will that I should wax and wane, Barter my cloth of gold for hodden grey, And at thy pleasure weave that web of pain Whose brightest threads are each a wasted day?
Is it thy will—Love that I love so well— That my Soul's House should be a tortured spot Wherein, like evil paramours, must dwell The quenchless flame, the worm that dieth not?
Nay, if it be thy will I shall endure, And sell ambition at the common mart, And let dull failure be my vestiture, And sorrow dig its grave within my heart.
Perchance it may be better so—at least I have not made my heart a heart of stone, Nor starved my boyhood of its goodly feast, Nor walked where Beauty is a thing unknown.
Many a man hath done so; sought to fence In straitened bonds the soul that should be free, Trodden the dusty road of common sense, While all the forest sang of liberty,
Not marking how the spotted hawk in flight Passed on wide pinion through the lofty air, To where some steep untrodden mountain height Caught the last tresses of the Sun God's hair.
Or how the little flower he trod upon, The daisy, that white-feathered shield of gold, Followed with wistful eyes the wandering sun Content if once its leaves were aureoled.
But surely it is something to have been The best beloved for a little while, To have walked hand in hand with Love, and seen His purple wings flit once across thy smile.
Ay! though the gorged asp of passion feed On my boy's heart, yet have I burst the bars, Stood face to face with Beauty, known indeed The Love which moves the Sun and all the stars!
Poem: Quia Multum Amavi
Dear Heart, I think the young impassioned priest When first he takes from out the hidden shrine His God imprisoned in the Eucharist, And eats the bread, and drinks the dreadful wine,
Feels not such awful wonder as I felt When first my smitten eyes beat full on thee, And all night long before thy feet I knelt Till thou wert wearied of Idolatry.
Ah! hadst thou liked me less and loved me more, Through all those summer days of joy and rain, I had not now been sorrow's heritor, Or stood a lackey in the House of Pain.
Yet, though remorse, youth's white-faced seneschal, Tread on my heels with all his retinue, I am most glad I loved thee—think of all The suns that go to make one speedwell blue!
Poem: Silentium Amoris
As often-times the too resplendent sun Hurries the pallid and reluctant moon Back to her sombre cave, ere she hath won A single ballad from the nightingale, So doth thy Beauty make my lips to fail, And all my sweetest singing out of tune.
And as at dawn across the level mead On wings impetuous some wind will come, And with its too harsh kisses break the reed Which was its only instrument of song, So my too stormy passions work me wrong, And for excess of Love my Love is dumb.
But surely unto Thee mine eyes did show Why I am silent, and my lute unstrung; Else it were better we should part, and go, Thou to some lips of sweeter melody, And I to nurse the barren memory Of unkissed kisses, and songs never sung.
Poem: Her Voice
The wild bee reels from bough to bough With his furry coat and his gauzy wing, Now in a lily-cup, and now Setting a jacinth bell a-swing, In his wandering; Sit closer love: it was here I trow I made that vow,
Swore that two lives should be like one As long as the sea-gull loved the sea, As long as the sunflower sought the sun,— It shall be, I said, for eternity 'Twixt you and me! Dear friend, those times are over and done; Love's web is spun.
Look upward where the poplar trees Sway and sway in the summer air, Here in the valley never a breeze Scatters the thistledown, but there Great winds blow fair From the mighty murmuring mystical seas, And the wave-lashed leas.
Look upward where the white gull screams, What does it see that we do not see? Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams On some outward voyaging argosy,— Ah! can it be We have lived our lives in a land of dreams! How sad it seems.
Sweet, there is nothing left to say But this, that love is never lost, Keen winter stabs the breasts of May Whose crimson roses burst his frost, Ships tempest-tossed Will find a harbour in some bay, And so we may.
And there is nothing left to do But to kiss once again, and part, Nay, there is nothing we should rue, I have my beauty,—you your Art, Nay, do not start, One world was not enough for two Like me and you.
Poem: My Voice
Within this restless, hurried, modern world We took our hearts' full pleasure—You and I, And now the white sails of our ship are furled, And spent the lading of our argosy.
Wherefore my cheeks before their time are wan, For very weeping is my gladness fled, Sorrow has paled my young mouth's vermilion, And Ruin draws the curtains of my bed.
But all this crowded life has been to thee No more than lyre, or lute, or subtle spell Of viols, or the music of the sea That sleeps, a mimic echo, in the shell.
Poem: Taedium Vitae
To stab my youth with desperate knives, to wear This paltry age's gaudy livery, To let each base hand filch my treasury, To mesh my soul within a woman's hair, And be mere Fortune's lackeyed groom,—I swear I love it not! these things are less to me Than the thin foam that frets upon the sea, Less than the thistledown of summer air Which hath no seed: better to stand aloof Far from these slanderous fools who mock my life Knowing me not, better the lowliest roof Fit for the meanest hind to sojourn in, Than to go back to that hoarse cave of strife Where my white soul first kissed the mouth of sin.
It is full winter now: the trees are bare, Save where the cattle huddle from the cold Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear The autumn's gaudy livery whose gold Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true To the green doublet; bitter is the wind, as though it blew
From Saturn's cave; a few thin wisps of hay Lie on the sharp black hedges, where the wain Dragged the sweet pillage of a summer's day From the low meadows up the narrow lane; Upon the half-thawed snow the bleating sheep Press close against the hurdles, and the shivering house-dogs creep
From the shut stable to the frozen stream And back again disconsolate, and miss The bawling shepherds and the noisy team; And overhead in circling listlessness The cawing rooks whirl round the frosted stack, Or crowd the dripping boughs; and in the fen the ice-pools crack
Where the gaunt bittern stalks among the reeds And flaps his wings, and stretches back his neck, And hoots to see the moon; across the meads Limps the poor frightened hare, a little speck; And a stray seamew with its fretful cry Flits like a sudden drift of snow against the dull grey sky.
Full winter: and the lusty goodman brings His load of faggots from the chilly byre, And stamps his feet upon the hearth, and flings The sappy billets on the waning fire, And laughs to see the sudden lightening scare His children at their play, and yet,—the spring is in the air;
Already the slim crocus stirs the snow, And soon yon blanched fields will bloom again With nodding cowslips for some lad to mow, For with the first warm kisses of the rain The winter's icy sorrow breaks to tears, And the brown thrushes mate, and with bright eyes the rabbit peers
From the dark warren where the fir-cones lie, And treads one snowdrop under foot, and runs Over the mossy knoll, and blackbirds fly Across our path at evening, and the suns Stay longer with us; ah! how good to see Grass-girdled spring in all her joy of laughing greenery
Dance through the hedges till the early rose, (That sweet repentance of the thorny briar!) Burst from its sheathed emerald and disclose The little quivering disk of golden fire Which the bees know so well, for with it come Pale boy's-love, sops-in-wine, and daffadillies all in bloom.
Then up and down the field the sower goes, While close behind the laughing younker scares With shrilly whoop the black and thievish crows, And then the chestnut-tree its glory wears, And on the grass the creamy blossom falls In odorous excess, and faint half-whispered madrigals
Steal from the bluebells' nodding carillons Each breezy morn, and then white jessamine, That star of its own heaven, snap-dragons With lolling crimson tongues, and eglantine In dusty velvets clad usurp the bed And woodland empery, and when the lingering rose hath shed
Red leaf by leaf its folded panoply, And pansies closed their purple-lidded eyes, Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise, And violets getting overbold withdraw From their shy nooks, and scarlet berries dot the leafless haw.
O happy field! and O thrice happy tree! Soon will your queen in daisy-flowered smock And crown of flower-de-luce trip down the lea, Soon will the lazy shepherds drive their flock Back to the pasture by the pool, and soon Through the green leaves will float the hum of murmuring bees at noon.
Soon will the glade be bright with bellamour, The flower which wantons love, and those sweet nuns Vale-lilies in their snowy vestiture Will tell their beaded pearls, and carnations With mitred dusky leaves will scent the wind, And straggling traveller's-joy each hedge with yellow stars will bind.
Dear bride of Nature and most bounteous spring, That canst give increase to the sweet-breath'd kine, And to the kid its little horns, and bring The soft and silky blossoms to the vine, Where is that old nepenthe which of yore Man got from poppy root and glossy-berried mandragore!
There was a time when any common bird Could make me sing in unison, a time When all the strings of boyish life were stirred To quick response or more melodious rhyme By every forest idyll;—do I change? Or rather doth some evil thing through thy fair pleasaunce range?
Nay, nay, thou art the same: 'tis I who seek To vex with sighs thy simple solitude, And because fruitless tears bedew my cheek Would have thee weep with me in brotherhood; Fool! shall each wronged and restless spirit dare To taint such wine with the salt poison of own despair!
Thou art the same: 'tis I whose wretched soul Takes discontent to be its paramour, And gives its kingdom to the rude control Of what should be its servitor,—for sure Wisdom is somewhere, though the stormy sea Contain it not, and the huge deep answer ''Tis not in me.'
To burn with one clear flame, to stand erect In natural honour, not to bend the knee In profitless prostrations whose effect Is by itself condemned, what alchemy Can teach me this? what herb Medea brewed Will bring the unexultant peace of essence not subdued?
The minor chord which ends the harmony, And for its answering brother waits in vain Sobbing for incompleted melody, Dies a swan's death; but I the heir of pain, A silent Memnon with blank lidless eyes, Wait for the light and music of those suns which never rise.
The quenched-out torch, the lonely cypress-gloom, The little dust stored in the narrow urn, The gentle XAIPE of the Attic tomb,— Were not these better far than to return To my old fitful restless malady, Or spend my days within the voiceless cave of misery?
Nay! for perchance that poppy-crowned god Is like the watcher by a sick man's bed Who talks of sleep but gives it not; his rod Hath lost its virtue, and, when all is said, Death is too rude, too obvious a key To solve one single secret in a life's philosophy.
And Love! that noble madness, whose august And inextinguishable might can slay The soul with honeyed drugs,—alas! I must From such sweet ruin play the runaway, Although too constant memory never can Forget the arched splendour of those brows Olympian
Which for a little season made my youth So soft a swoon of exquisite indolence That all the chiding of more prudent Truth Seemed the thin voice of jealousy,—O hence Thou huntress deadlier than Artemis! Go seek some other quarry! for of thy too perilous bliss.
My lips have drunk enough,—no more, no more,— Though Love himself should turn his gilded prow Back to the troubled waters of this shore Where I am wrecked and stranded, even now The chariot wheels of passion sweep too near, Hence! Hence! I pass unto a life more barren, more austere.
More barren—ay, those arms will never lean Down through the trellised vines and draw my soul In sweet reluctance through the tangled green; Some other head must wear that aureole, For I am hers who loves not any man Whose white and stainless bosom bears the sign Gorgonian.
Let Venus go and chuck her dainty page, And kiss his mouth, and toss his curly hair, With net and spear and hunting equipage Let young Adonis to his tryst repair, But me her fond and subtle-fashioned spell Delights no more, though I could win her dearest citadel.
Ay, though I were that laughing shepherd boy Who from Mount Ida saw the little cloud Pass over Tenedos and lofty Troy And knew the coming of the Queen, and bowed In wonder at her feet, not for the sake Of a new Helen would I bid her hand the apple take.
Then rise supreme Athena argent-limbed! And, if my lips be musicless, inspire At least my life: was not thy glory hymned By One who gave to thee his sword and lyre Like AEschylos at well-fought Marathon, And died to show that Milton's England still could bear a son!
And yet I cannot tread the Portico And live without desire, fear and pain, Or nurture that wise calm which long ago The grave Athenian master taught to men, Self-poised, self-centred, and self-comforted, To watch the world's vain phantasies go by with unbowed head.
Alas! that serene brow, those eloquent lips, Those eyes that mirrored all eternity, Rest in their own Colonos, an eclipse Hath come on Wisdom, and Mnemosyne Is childless; in the night which she had made For lofty secure flight Athena's owl itself hath strayed.
Nor much with Science do I care to climb, Although by strange and subtle witchery She drew the moon from heaven: the Muse Time Unrolls her gorgeous-coloured tapestry To no less eager eyes; often indeed In the great epic of Polymnia's scroll I love to read
How Asia sent her myriad hosts to war Against a little town, and panoplied In gilded mail with jewelled scimitar, White-shielded, purple-crested, rode the Mede Between the waving poplars and the sea Which men call Artemisium, till he saw Thermopylae
Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall, And on the nearer side a little brood Of careless lions holding festival! And stood amazed at such hardihood, And pitched his tent upon the reedy shore, And stayed two days to wonder, and then crept at midnight o'er
Some unfrequented height, and coming down The autumn forests treacherously slew What Sparta held most dear and was the crown Of far Eurotas, and passed on, nor knew How God had staked an evil net for him In the small bay at Salamis,—and yet, the page grows dim,
Its cadenced Greek delights me not, I feel With such a goodly time too out of tune To love it much: for like the Dial's wheel That from its blinded darkness strikes the noon Yet never sees the sun, so do my eyes Restlessly follow that which from my cheated vision flies.
O for one grand unselfish simple life To teach us what is Wisdom! speak ye hills Of lone Helvellyn, for this note of strife Shunned your untroubled crags and crystal rills, Where is that Spirit which living blamelessly Yet dared to kiss the smitten mouth of his own century!
Speak ye Rydalian laurels! where is he Whose gentle head ye sheltered, that pure soul Whose gracious days of uncrowned majesty Through lowliest conduct touched the lofty goal Where love and duty mingle! Him at least The most high Laws were glad of, he had sat at Wisdom's feast;
But we are Learning's changelings, know by rote The clarion watchword of each Grecian school And follow none, the flawless sword which smote The pagan Hydra is an effete tool Which we ourselves have blunted, what man now Shall scale the august ancient heights and to old Reverence bow?
One such indeed I saw, but, Ichabod! Gone is that last dear son of Italy, Who being man died for the sake of God, And whose unrisen bones sleep peacefully, O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower, Thou marble lily of the lily town! let not the lour
Of the rude tempest vex his slumber, or The Arno with its tawny troubled gold O'er-leap its marge, no mightier conqueror Clomb the high Capitol in the days of old When Rome was indeed Rome, for Liberty Walked like a bride beside him, at which sight pale Mystery
Fled shrieking to her farthest sombrest cell With an old man who grabbled rusty keys, Fled shuddering, for that immemorial knell With which oblivion buries dynasties Swept like a wounded eagle on the blast, As to the holy heart of Rome the great triumvir passed.
He knew the holiest heart and heights of Rome, He drave the base wolf from the lion's lair, And now lies dead by that empyreal dome Which overtops Valdarno hung in air By Brunelleschi—O Melpomene Breathe through thy melancholy pipe thy sweetest threnody!
Breathe through the tragic stops such melodies That Joy's self may grow jealous, and the Nine Forget awhile their discreet emperies, Mourning for him who on Rome's lordliest shrine Lit for men's lives the light of Marathon, And bare to sun-forgotten fields the fire of the sun!
O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower! Let some young Florentine each eventide Bring coronals of that enchanted flower Which the dim woods of Vallombrosa hide, And deck the marble tomb wherein he lies Whose soul is as some mighty orb unseen of mortal eyes;
Some mighty orb whose cycled wanderings, Being tempest-driven to the farthest rim Where Chaos meets Creation and the wings Of the eternal chanting Cherubim Are pavilioned on Nothing, passed away Into a moonless void,—and yet, though he is dust and clay,
He is not dead, the immemorial Fates Forbid it, and the closing shears refrain. Lift up your heads ye everlasting gates! Ye argent clarions, sound a loftier strain For the vile thing he hated lurks within Its sombre house, alone with God and memories of sin.
Still what avails it that she sought her cave That murderous mother of red harlotries? At Munich on the marble architrave The Grecian boys die smiling, but the seas Which wash AEgina fret in loneliness Not mirroring their beauty; so our lives grow colourless
For lack of our ideals, if one star Flame torch-like in the heavens the unjust Swift daylight kills it, and no trump of war Can wake to passionate voice the silent dust Which was Mazzini once! rich Niobe For all her stony sorrows hath her sons; but Italy,
What Easter Day shall make her children rise, Who were not Gods yet suffered? what sure feet Shall find their grave-clothes folded? what clear eyes Shall see them bodily? O it were meet To roll the stone from off the sepulchre And kiss the bleeding roses of their wounds, in love of her,
Our Italy! our mother visible! Most blessed among nations and most sad, For whose dear sake the young Calabrian fell That day at Aspromonte and was glad That in an age when God was bought and sold One man could die for Liberty! but we, burnt out and cold,
See Honour smitten on the cheek and gyves Bind the sweet feet of Mercy: Poverty Creeps through our sunless lanes and with sharp knives Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily, And no word said:- O we are wretched men Unworthy of our great inheritance! where is the pen
Of austere Milton? where the mighty sword Which slew its master righteously? the years Have lost their ancient leader, and no word Breaks from the voiceless tripod on our ears: While as a ruined mother in some spasm Bears a base child and loathes it, so our best enthusiasm
Genders unlawful children, Anarchy Freedom's own Judas, the vile prodigal Licence who steals the gold of Liberty And yet has nothing, Ignorance the real One Fraticide since Cain, Envy the asp That stings itself to anguish, Avarice whose palsied grasp
Is in its extent stiffened, moneyed Greed For whose dull appetite men waste away Amid the whirr of wheels and are the seed Of things which slay their sower, these each day Sees rife in England, and the gentle feet Of Beauty tread no more the stones of each unlovely street.
What even Cromwell spared is desecrated By weed and worm, left to the stormy play Of wind and beating snow, or renovated By more destructful hands: Time's worst decay Will wreathe its ruins with some loveliness, But these new Vandals can but make a rain-proof barrenness.
Where is that Art which bade the Angels sing Through Lincoln's lofty choir, till the air Seems from such marble harmonies to ring With sweeter song than common lips can dare To draw from actual reed? ah! where is now The cunning hand which made the flowering hawthorn branches bow
For Southwell's arch, and carved the House of One Who loved the lilies of the field with all Our dearest English flowers? the same sun Rises for us: the seasons natural Weave the same tapestry of green and grey: The unchanged hills are with us: but that Spirit hath passed away.
And yet perchance it may be better so, For Tyranny is an incestuous Queen, Murder her brother is her bedfellow, And the Plague chambers with her: in obscene And bloody paths her treacherous feet are set; Better the empty desert and a soul inviolate!
For gentle brotherhood, the harmony Of living in the healthful air, the swift Clean beauty of strong limbs when men are free And women chaste, these are the things which lift Our souls up more than even Agnolo's Gaunt blinded Sibyl poring o'er the scroll of human woes,
Or Titian's little maiden on the stair White as her own sweet lily and as tall, Or Mona Lisa smiling through her hair,— Ah! somehow life is bigger after all Than any painted angel, could we see The God that is within us! The old Greek serenity
Which curbs the passion of that level line Of marble youths, who with untroubled eyes And chastened limbs ride round Athena's shrine And mirror her divine economies, And balanced symmetry of what in man Would else wage ceaseless warfare,—this at least within the span
Between our mother's kisses and the grave Might so inform our lives, that we could win Such mighty empires that from her cave Temptation would grow hoarse, and pallid Sin Would walk ashamed of his adulteries, And Passion creep from out the House of Lust with startled eyes.
To make the body and the spirit one With all right things, till no thing live in vain From morn to noon, but in sweet unison With every pulse of flesh and throb of brain The soul in flawless essence high enthroned, Against all outer vain attack invincibly bastioned,
Mark with serene impartiality The strife of things, and yet be comforted, Knowing that by the chain causality All separate existences are wed Into one supreme whole, whose utterance Is joy, or holier praise! ah! surely this were governance
Of Life in most august omnipresence, Through which the rational intellect would find In passion its expression, and mere sense, Ignoble else, lend fire to the mind, And being joined with it in harmony More mystical than that which binds the stars planetary,
Strike from their several tones one octave chord Whose cadence being measureless would fly Through all the circling spheres, then to its Lord Return refreshed with its new empery And more exultant power,—this indeed Could we but reach it were to find the last, the perfect creed.
Ah! it was easy when the world was young To keep one's life free and inviolate, From our sad lips another song is rung, By our own hands our heads are desecrate, Wanderers in drear exile, and dispossessed Of what should be our own, we can but feed on wild unrest.
Somehow the grace, the bloom of things has flown, And of all men we are most wretched who Must live each other's lives and not our own For very pity's sake and then undo All that we lived for—it was otherwise When soul and body seemed to blend in mystic symphonies.
But we have left those gentle haunts to pass With weary feet to the new Calvary, Where we behold, as one who in a glass Sees his own face, self-slain Humanity, And in the dumb reproach of that sad gaze Learn what an awful phantom the red hand of man can raise.
O smitten mouth! O forehead crowned with thorn! O chalice of all common miseries! Thou for our sakes that loved thee not hast borne An agony of endless centuries, And we were vain and ignorant nor knew That when we stabbed thy heart it was our own real hearts we slew.
Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds, The night that covers and the lights that fade, The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds, The lips betraying and the life betrayed; The deep hath calm: the moon hath rest: but we Lords of the natural world are yet our own dread enemy.
Is this the end of all that primal force Which, in its changes being still the same, From eyeless Chaos cleft its upward course, Through ravenous seas and whirling rocks and flame, Till the suns met in heaven and began Their cycles, and the morning stars sang, and the Word was Man!
Nay, nay, we are but crucified, and though The bloody sweat falls from our brows like rain Loosen the nails—we shall come down I know, Staunch the red wounds—we shall be whole again, No need have we of hyssop-laden rod, That which is purely human, that is godlike, that is God.
Poem: [Greek Title]
Sweet, I blame you not, for mine the fault was, had I not been made of common clay I had climbed the higher heights unclimbed yet, seen the fuller air, the larger day.
From the wildness of my wasted passion I had struck a better, clearer song, Lit some lighter light of freer freedom, battled with some Hydra-headed wrong.
Had my lips been smitten into music by the kisses that but made them bleed, You had walked with Bice and the angels on that verdant and enamelled mead.
I had trod the road which Dante treading saw the suns of seven circles shine, Ay! perchance had seen the heavens opening, as they opened to the Florentine.
And the mighty nations would have crowned me, who am crownless now and without name, And some orient dawn had found me kneeling on the threshold of the House of Fame.
I had sat within that marble circle where the oldest bard is as the young, And the pipe is ever dropping honey, and the lyre's strings are ever strung.
Keats had lifted up his hymeneal curls from out the poppy-seeded wine, With ambrosial mouth had kissed my forehead, clasped the hand of noble love in mine.
And at springtide, when the apple-blossoms brush the burnished bosom of the dove, Two young lovers lying in an orchard would have read the story of our love.
Would have read the legend of my passion, known the bitter secret of my heart, Kissed as we have kissed, but never parted as we two are fated now to part.
For the crimson flower of our life is eaten by the cankerworm of truth, And no hand can gather up the fallen withered petals of the rose of youth.
Yet I am not sorry that I loved you—ah! what else had I a boy to do,— For the hungry teeth of time devour, and the silent-footed years pursue.
Rudderless, we drift athwart a tempest, and when once the storm of youth is past, Without lyre, without lute or chorus, Death the silent pilot comes at last.
And within the grave there is no pleasure, for the blindworm battens on the root, And Desire shudders into ashes, and the tree of Passion bears no fruit.
Ah! what else had I to do but love you, God's own mother was less dear to me, And less dear the Cytheraean rising like an argent lily from the sea.
I have made my choice, have lived my poems, and, though youth is gone in wasted days, I have found the lover's crown of myrtle better than the poet's crown of bays.
Poem: From Spring Days To Winter (For Music)
In the glad springtime when leaves were green, O merrily the throstle sings! I sought, amid the tangled sheen, Love whom mine eyes had never seen, O the glad dove has golden wings!
Between the blossoms red and white, O merrily the throstle sings! My love first came into my sight, O perfect vision of delight, O the glad dove has golden wings!
The yellow apples glowed like fire, O merrily the throstle sings! O Love too great for lip or lyre, Blown rose of love and of desire, O the glad dove has golden wings!
But now with snow the tree is grey, Ah, sadly now the throstle sings! My love is dead: ah! well-a-day, See at her silent feet I lay A dove with broken wings! Ah, Love! ah, Love! that thou wert slain— Fond Dove, fond Dove return again!
[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]
O well for him who lives at ease With garnered gold in wide domain, Nor heeds the splashing of the rain, The crashing down of forest trees.
O well for him who ne'er hath known The travail of the hungry years, A father grey with grief and tears, A mother weeping all alone.
But well for him whose foot hath trod The weary road of toil and strife, Yet from the sorrows of his life. Builds ladders to be nearer God.
Poem: The True Knowledge
[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]
Thou knowest all; I seek in vain What lands to till or sow with seed— The land is black with briar and weed, Nor cares for falling tears or rain.
Thou knowest all; I sit and wait With blinded eyes and hands that fail, Till the last lifting of the veil And the first opening of the gate.
Thou knowest all; I cannot see. I trust I shall not live in vain, I know that we shall meet again In some divine eternity.
Poem: Le Jardin
The lily's withered chalice falls Around its rod of dusty gold, And from the beech-trees on the wold The last wood-pigeon coos and calls.
The gaudy leonine sunflower Hangs black and barren on its stalk, And down the windy garden walk The dead leaves scatter,—hour by hour.
Pale privet-petals white as milk Are blown into a snowy mass: The roses lie upon the grass Like little shreds of crimson silk.
Poem: La Mer
A white mist drifts across the shrouds, A wild moon in this wintry sky Gleams like an angry lion's eye Out of a mane of tawny clouds.
The muffled steersman at the wheel Is but a shadow in the gloom;— And in the throbbing engine-room Leap the long rods of polished steel.
The shattered storm has left its trace Upon this huge and heaving dome, For the thin threads of yellow foam Float on the waves like ravelled lace.
Poem: Under The Balcony
O beautiful star with the crimson mouth! O moon with the brows of gold! Rise up, rise up, from the odorous south! And light for my love her way, Lest her little feet should stray On the windy hill and the wold! O beautiful star with the crimson mouth! O moon with the brows of gold!
O ship that shakes on the desolate sea! O ship with the wet, white sail! Put in, put in, to the port to me! For my love and I would go To the land where the daffodils blow In the heart of a violet dale! O ship that shakes on the desolate sea! O ship with the wet, white sail!
O rapturous bird with the low, sweet note! O bird that sits on the spray! Sing on, sing on, from your soft brown throat! And my love in her little bed Will listen, and lift her head From the pillow, and come my way! O rapturous bird with the low, sweet note! O bird that sits on the spray!
O blossom that hangs in the tremulous air! O blossom with lips of snow! Come down, come down, for my love to wear! You will die on her head in a crown, You will die in a fold of her gown, To her little light heart you will go! O blossom that hangs in the tremulous air! O blossom with lips of snow!
Poem: The Harlot's House
We caught the tread of dancing feet, We loitered down the moonlit street, And stopped beneath the harlot's house.
Inside, above the din and fray, We heard the loud musicians play The 'Treues Liebes Herz' of Strauss.
Like strange mechanical grotesques, Making fantastic arabesques, The shadows raced across the blind.
We watched the ghostly dancers spin To sound of horn and violin, Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.
Like wire-pulled automatons, Slim silhouetted skeletons Went sidling through the slow quadrille,
Then took each other by the hand, And danced a stately saraband; Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.
Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed A phantom lover to her breast, Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.
Sometimes a horrible marionette Came out, and smoked its cigarette Upon the steps like a live thing.
Then, turning to my love, I said, 'The dead are dancing with the dead, The dust is whirling with the dust.'
But she—she heard the violin, And left my side, and entered in: Love passed into the house of lust.
Then suddenly the tune went false, The dancers wearied of the waltz, The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.
And down the long and silent street, The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet, Crept like a frightened girl.
Poem: Le Jardin Des Tuileries
This winter air is keen and cold, And keen and cold this winter sun, But round my chair the children run Like little things of dancing gold.
Sometimes about the painted kiosk The mimic soldiers strut and stride, Sometimes the blue-eyed brigands hide In the bleak tangles of the bosk.
And sometimes, while the old nurse cons Her book, they steal across the square, And launch their paper navies where Huge Triton writhes in greenish bronze.
And now in mimic flight they flee, And now they rush, a boisterous band— And, tiny hand on tiny hand, Climb up the black and leafless tree.
Ah! cruel tree! if I were you, And children climbed me, for their sake Though it be winter I would break Into spring blossoms white and blue!
Poem: On The Sale By Auction Of Keats' Love Letters
These are the letters which Endymion wrote To one he loved in secret, and apart. And now the brawlers of the auction mart Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note, Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote The merchant's price. I think they love not art Who break the crystal of a poet's heart That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.
Is it not said that many years ago, In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran With torches through the midnight, and began To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw Dice for the garments of a wretched man, Not knowing the God's wonder, or His woe?
Poem: The New Remorse
The sin was mine; I did not understand. So now is music prisoned in her cave, Save where some ebbing desultory wave Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand. And in the withered hollow of this land Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave, That hardly can the leaden willow crave One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.
But who is this who cometh by the shore? (Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this Who cometh in dyed garments from the South? It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss The yet unravished roses of thy mouth, And I shall weep and worship, as before.
Poem: Le Panneau
Under the rose-tree's dancing shade There stands a little ivory girl, Pulling the leaves of pink and pearl With pale green nails of polished jade.
The red leaves fall upon the mould, The white leaves flutter, one by one, Down to a blue bowl where the sun, Like a great dragon, writhes in gold.
The white leaves float upon the air, The red leaves flutter idly down, Some fall upon her yellow gown, And some upon her raven hair.
She takes an amber lute and sings, And as she sings a silver crane Begins his scarlet neck to strain, And flap his burnished metal wings.
She takes a lute of amber bright, And from the thicket where he lies Her lover, with his almond eyes, Watches her movements in delight.
And now she gives a cry of fear, And tiny tears begin to start: A thorn has wounded with its dart The pink-veined sea-shell of her ear.
And now she laughs a merry note: There has fallen a petal of the rose Just where the yellow satin shows The blue-veined flower of her throat.
With pale green nails of polished jade, Pulling the leaves of pink and pearl, There stands a little ivory girl Under the rose-tree's dancing shade.
Poem: Les Ballons
Against these turbid turquoise skies The light and luminous balloons Dip and drift like satin moons, Drift like silken butterflies;
Reel with every windy gust, Rise and reel like dancing girls, Float like strange transparent pearls, Fall and float like silver dust.
Now to the low leaves they cling, Each with coy fantastic pose, Each a petal of a rose Straining at a gossamer string.
Then to the tall trees they climb, Like thin globes of amethyst, Wandering opals keeping tryst With the rubies of the lime.
I have no store Of gryphon-guarded gold; Now, as before, Bare is the shepherd's fold. Rubies nor pearls Have I to gem thy throat; Yet woodland girls Have loved the shepherd's note.
Then pluck a reed And bid me sing to thee, For I would feed Thine ears with melody, Who art more fair Than fairest fleur-de-lys, More sweet and rare Than sweetest ambergris.
What dost thou fear? Young Hyacinth is slain, Pan is not here, And will not come again. No horned Faun Treads down the yellow leas, No God at dawn Steals through the olive trees.
Hylas is dead, Nor will he e'er divine Those little red Rose-petalled lips of thine. On the high hill No ivory dryads play, Silver and still Sinks the sad autumn day.
Poem: Symphony In Yellow
An omnibus across the bridge Crawls like a yellow butterfly, And, here and there, a passer-by Shows like a little restless midge.
Big barges full of yellow hay Are moored against the shadowy wharf, And, like a yellow silken scarf, The thick fog hangs along the quay.
The yellow leaves begin to fade And flutter from the Temple elms, And at my feet the pale green Thames Lies like a rod of rippled jade.
Poem: In The Forest
Out of the mid-wood's twilight Into the meadow's dawn, Ivory limbed and brown-eyed, Flashes my Faun!
He skips through the copses singing, And his shadow dances along, And I know not which I should follow, Shadow or song!
O Hunter, snare me his shadow! O Nightingale, catch me his strain! Else moonstruck with music and madness I track him in vain!
Poem: To My Wife—With A Copy Of My Poems
I can write no stately proem As a prelude to my lay; From a poet to a poem I would dare to say.
For if of these fallen petals One to you seem fair, Love will waft it till it settles On your hair.
And when wind and winter harden All the loveless land, It will whisper of the garden, You will understand.
Poem: With A Copy Of 'A House Of Pomegranates'
Go, little book, To him who, on a lute with horns of pearl, Sang of the white feet of the Golden Girl: And bid him look Into thy pages: it may hap that he May find that golden maidens dance through thee.
Poem: Roses And Rue
(To L. L.)
Could we dig up this long-buried treasure, Were it worth the pleasure, We never could learn love's song, We are parted too long.
Could the passionate past that is fled Call back its dead, Could we live it all over again, Were it worth the pain!
I remember we used to meet By an ivied seat, And you warbled each pretty word With the air of a bird;
And your voice had a quaver in it, Just like a linnet, And shook, as the blackbird's throat With its last big note;
And your eyes, they were green and grey Like an April day, But lit into amethyst When I stooped and kissed;
And your mouth, it would never smile For a long, long while, Then it rippled all over with laughter Five minutes after.
You were always afraid of a shower, Just like a flower: I remember you started and ran When the rain began.
I remember I never could catch you, For no one could match you, You had wonderful, luminous, fleet, Little wings to your feet.
I remember your hair—did I tie it? For it always ran riot— Like a tangled sunbeam of gold: These things are old.
I remember so well the room, And the lilac bloom That beat at the dripping pane In the warm June rain;
And the colour of your gown, It was amber-brown, And two yellow satin bows From your shoulders rose.
And the handkerchief of French lace Which you held to your face— Had a small tear left a stain? Or was it the rain?
On your hand as it waved adieu There were veins of blue; In your voice as it said good-bye Was a petulant cry,
'You have only wasted your life.' (Ah, that was the knife!) When I rushed through the garden gate It was all too late.
Could we live it over again, Were it worth the pain, Could the passionate past that is fled Call back its dead!
Well, if my heart must break, Dear love, for your sake, It will break in music, I know, Poets' hearts break so.
But strange that I was not told That the brain can hold In a tiny ivory cell God's heaven and hell.
The seasons send their ruin as they go, For in the spring the narciss shows its head Nor withers till the rose has flamed to red, And in the autumn purple violets blow, And the slim crocus stirs the winter snow; Wherefore yon leafless trees will bloom again And this grey land grow green with summer rain And send up cowslips for some boy to mow.
But what of life whose bitter hungry sea Flows at our heels, and gloom of sunless night Covers the days which never more return? Ambition, love and all the thoughts that burn We lose too soon, and only find delight In withered husks of some dead memory.
Poem: Pan—Double Villanelle
O goat-foot God of Arcady! This modern world is grey and old, And what remains to us of thee?
No more the shepherd lads in glee Throw apples at thy wattled fold, O goat-foot God of Arcady!
Nor through the laurels can one see Thy soft brown limbs, thy beard of gold, And what remains to us of thee?
And dull and dead our Thames would be, For here the winds are chill and cold, O goat-foot God of Arcady!
Then keep the tomb of Helice, Thine olive-woods, thy vine-clad wold, And what remains to us of thee?
Though many an unsung elegy Sleeps in the reeds our rivers hold, O goat-foot God of Arcady! Ah, what remains to us of thee?
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady, Thy satyrs and their wanton play, This modern world hath need of thee.
No nymph or Faun indeed have we, For Faun and nymph are old and grey, Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!
This is the land where liberty Lit grave-browed Milton on his way, This modern world hath need of thee!
A land of ancient chivalry Where gentle Sidney saw the day, Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!
This fierce sea-lion of the sea, This England lacks some stronger lay, This modern world hath need of thee!
Then blow some trumpet loud and free, And give thine oaten pipe away, Ah, leave the hills of Arcady! This modern world hath need of thee!
Poem: The Sphinx
(To Marcel Schwob in friendship and in admiration)
In a dim corner of my room for longer than my fancy thinks A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me through the shifting gloom.
Inviolate and immobile she does not rise she does not stir For silver moons are naught to her and naught to her the suns that reel.
Red follows grey across the air, the waves of moonlight ebb and flow But with the Dawn she does not go and in the night-time she is there.
Dawn follows Dawn and Nights grow old and all the while this curious cat Lies couching on the Chinese mat with eyes of satin rimmed with gold.
Upon the mat she lies and leers and on the tawny throat of her Flutters the soft and silky fur or ripples to her pointed ears.
Come forth, my lovely seneschal! so somnolent, so statuesque! Come forth you exquisite grotesque! half woman and half animal!
Come forth my lovely languorous Sphinx! and put your head upon my knee! And let me stroke your throat and see your body spotted like the Lynx!
And let me touch those curving claws of yellow ivory and grasp The tail that like a monstrous Asp coils round your heavy velvet paws!
A thousand weary centuries are thine while I have hardly seen Some twenty summers cast their green for Autumn's gaudy liveries.
But you can read the Hieroglyphs on the great sandstone obelisks, And you have talked with Basilisks, and you have looked on Hippogriffs.
O tell me, were you standing by when Isis to Osiris knelt? And did you watch the Egyptian melt her union for Antony
And drink the jewel-drunken wine and bend her head in mimic awe To see the huge proconsul draw the salted tunny from the brine?
And did you mark the Cyprian kiss white Adon on his catafalque? And did you follow Amenalk, the God of Heliopolis?
And did you talk with Thoth, and did you hear the moon-horned Io weep? And know the painted kings who sleep beneath the wedge-shaped Pyramid?
Lift up your large black satin eyes which are like cushions where one sinks! Fawn at my feet, fantastic Sphinx! and sing me all your memories!
Sing to me of the Jewish maid who wandered with the Holy Child, And how you led them through the wild, and how they slept beneath your shade.
Sing to me of that odorous green eve when crouching by the marge You heard from Adrian's gilded barge the laughter of Antinous
And lapped the stream and fed your drouth and watched with hot and hungry stare The ivory body of that rare young slave with his pomegranate mouth!
Sing to me of the Labyrinth in which the twi- formed bull was stalled! Sing to me of the night you crawled across the temple's granite plinth
When through the purple corridors the screaming scarlet Ibis flew In terror, and a horrid dew dripped from the moaning Mandragores,
And the great torpid crocodile within the tank shed slimy tears, And tare the jewels from his ears and staggered back into the Nile,
And the priests cursed you with shrill psalms as in your claws you seized their snake And crept away with it to slake your passion by the shuddering palms.
Who were your lovers? who were they who wrestled for you in the dust? Which was the vessel of your Lust? What Leman had you, every day?
Did giant Lizards come and crouch before you on the reedy banks? Did Gryphons with great metal flanks leap on you in your trampled couch?
Did monstrous hippopotami come sidling toward you in the mist? Did gilt-scaled dragons writhe and twist with passion as you passed them by?
And from the brick-built Lycian tomb what horrible Chimera came With fearful heads and fearful flame to breed new wonders from your womb?
Or had you shameful secret quests and did you harry to your home Some Nereid coiled in amber foam with curious rock crystal breasts?
Or did you treading through the froth call to the brown Sidonian For tidings of Leviathan, Leviathan or Behemoth?
Or did you when the sun was set climb up the cactus-covered slope To meet your swarthy Ethiop whose body was of polished jet?
Or did you while the earthen skiffs dropped down the grey Nilotic flats At twilight and the flickering bats flew round the temple's triple glyphs
Steal to the border of the bar and swim across the silent lake And slink into the vault and make the Pyramid your lupanar
Till from each black sarcophagus rose up the painted swathed dead? Or did you lure unto your bed the ivory-horned Tragelaphos?
Or did you love the god of flies who plagued the Hebrews and was splashed With wine unto the waist? or Pasht, who had green beryls for her eyes?
Or that young god, the Tyrian, who was more amorous than the dove Of Ashtaroth? or did you love the god of the Assyrian
Whose wings, like strange transparent talc, rose high above his hawk-faced head, Painted with silver and with red and ribbed with rods of Oreichalch?
Or did huge Apis from his car leap down and lay before your feet Big blossoms of the honey-sweet and honey- coloured nenuphar?
How subtle-secret is your smile! Did you love none then? Nay, I know Great Ammon was your bedfellow! He lay with you beside the Nile!
The river-horses in the slime trumpeted when they saw him come Odorous with Syrian galbanum and smeared with spikenard and with thyme.
He came along the river bank like some tall galley argent-sailed, He strode across the waters, mailed in beauty, and the waters sank.
He strode across the desert sand: he reached the valley where you lay: He waited till the dawn of day: then touched your black breasts with his hand.
You kissed his mouth with mouths of flame: you made the horned god your own: You stood behind him on his throne: you called him by his secret name.
You whispered monstrous oracles into the caverns of his ears: With blood of goats and blood of steers you taught him monstrous miracles.
White Ammon was your bedfellow! Your chamber was the steaming Nile! And with your curved archaic smile you watched his passion come and go.
With Syrian oils his brows were bright: and wide-spread as a tent at noon His marble limbs made pale the moon and lent the day a larger light.
His long hair was nine cubits' span and coloured like that yellow gem Which hidden in their garment's hem the merchants bring from Kurdistan.
His face was as the must that lies upon a vat of new-made wine: The seas could not insapphirine the perfect azure of his eyes.
His thick soft throat was white as milk and threaded with thin veins of blue: And curious pearls like frozen dew were broidered on his flowing silk.
On pearl and porphyry pedestalled he was too bright to look upon: For on his ivory breast there shone the wondrous ocean-emerald,
That mystic moonlit jewel which some diver of the Colchian caves Had found beneath the blackening waves and carried to the Colchian witch.
Before his gilded galiot ran naked vine-wreathed corybants, And lines of swaying elephants knelt down to draw his chariot,
And lines of swarthy Nubians bare up his litter as he rode Down the great granite-paven road between the nodding peacock-fans.
The merchants brought him steatite from Sidon in their painted ships: The meanest cup that touched his lips was fashioned from a chrysolite.
The merchants brought him cedar chests of rich apparel bound with cords: His train was borne by Memphian lords: young kings were glad to be his guests.
Ten hundred shaven priests did bow to Ammon's altar day and night, Ten hundred lamps did wave their light through Ammon's carven house—and now
Foul snake and speckled adder with their young ones crawl from stone to stone For ruined is the house and prone the great rose-marble monolith!
Wild ass or trotting jackal comes and couches in the mouldering gates: Wild satyrs call unto their mates across the fallen fluted drums.
And on the summit of the pile the blue-faced ape of Horus sits And gibbers while the fig-tree splits the pillars of the peristyle
The god is scattered here and there: deep hidden in the windy sand I saw his giant granite hand still clenched in impotent despair.
And many a wandering caravan of stately negroes silken-shawled, Crossing the desert, halts appalled before the neck that none can span.
And many a bearded Bedouin draws back his yellow-striped burnous To gaze upon the Titan thews of him who was thy paladin.
Go, seek his fragments on the moor and wash them in the evening dew, And from their pieces make anew thy mutilated paramour!
Go, seek them where they lie alone and from their broken pieces make Thy bruised bedfellow! And wake mad passions in the senseless stone!
Charm his dull ear with Syrian hymns! he loved your body! oh, be kind, Pour spikenard on his hair, and wind soft rolls of linen round his limbs!
Wind round his head the figured coins! stain with red fruits those pallid lips! Weave purple for his shrunken hips! and purple for his barren loins!
Away to Egypt! Have no fear. Only one God has ever died. Only one God has let His side be wounded by a soldier's spear.
But these, thy lovers, are not dead. Still by the hundred-cubit gate Dog-faced Anubis sits in state with lotus-lilies for thy head.
Still from his chair of porphyry gaunt Memnon strains his lidless eyes Across the empty land, and cries each yellow morning unto thee.
And Nilus with his broken horn lies in his black and oozy bed And till thy coming will not spread his waters on the withering corn.
Your lovers are not dead, I know. They will rise up and hear your voice And clash their cymbals and rejoice and run to kiss your mouth! And so,
Set wings upon your argosies! Set horses to your ebon car! Back to your Nile! Or if you are grown sick of dead divinities
Follow some roving lion's spoor across the copper- coloured plain, Reach out and hale him by the mane and bid him be your paramour!
Couch by his side upon the grass and set your white teeth in his throat And when you hear his dying note lash your long flanks of polished brass
And take a tiger for your mate, whose amber sides are flecked with black, And ride upon his gilded back in triumph through the Theban gate,
And toy with him in amorous jests, and when he turns, and snarls, and gnaws, O smite him with your jasper claws! and bruise him with your agate breasts!
Why are you tarrying? Get hence! I weary of your sullen ways, I weary of your steadfast gaze, your somnolent magnificence.
Your horrible and heavy breath makes the light flicker in the lamp, And on my brow I feel the damp and dreadful dews of night and death.
Your eyes are like fantastic moons that shiver in some stagnant lake, Your tongue is like a scarlet snake that dances to fantastic tunes,
Your pulse makes poisonous melodies, and your black throat is like the hole Left by some torch or burning coal on Saracenic tapestries.
Away! The sulphur-coloured stars are hurrying through the Western gate! Away! Or it may be too late to climb their silent silver cars!
See, the dawn shivers round the grey gilt-dialled towers, and the rain Streams down each diamonded pane and blurs with tears the wannish day.
What snake-tressed fury fresh from Hell, with uncouth gestures and unclean, Stole from the poppy-drowsy queen and led you to a student's cell?
What songless tongueless ghost of sin crept through the curtains of the night, And saw my taper burning bright, and knocked, and bade you enter in?
Are there not others more accursed, whiter with leprosies than I? Are Abana and Pharphar dry that you come here to slake your thirst?
Get hence, you loathsome mystery! Hideous animal, get hence! You wake in me each bestial sense, you make me what I would not be.
You make my creed a barren sham, you wake foul dreams of sensual life, And Atys with his blood-stained knife were better than the thing I am.
False Sphinx! False Sphinx! By reedy Styx old Charon, leaning on his oar, Waits for my coin. Go thou before, and leave me to my crucifix,
Whose pallid burden, sick with pain, watches the world with wearied eyes, And weeps for every soul that dies, and weeps for every soul in vain.
Poem: The Ballad Of Reading Gaol
(In memoriam C. T. W. Sometime trooper of the Royal Horse Guards obiit H.M. prison, Reading, Berkshire July 7, 1896)
He did not wear his scarlet coat, For blood and wine are red, And blood and wine were on his hands When they found him with the dead, The poor dead woman whom he loved, And murdered in her bed.
He walked amongst the Trial Men In a suit of shabby grey; A cricket cap was on his head, And his step seemed light and gay; But I never saw a man who looked So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky, And at every drifting cloud that went With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain, Within another ring, And was wondering if the man had done A great or little thing, When a voice behind me whispered low, 'That fellow's got to swing.'
Dear Christ! the very prison walls Suddenly seemed to reel, And the sky above my head became Like a casque of scorching steel; And, though I was a soul in pain, My pain I could not feel.
I only knew what hunted thought Quickened his step, and why He looked upon the garish day With such a wistful eye; The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young, And some when they are old; Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold: The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow cold.
Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die.
He does not die a death of shame On a day of dark disgrace, Nor have a noose about his neck, Nor a cloth upon his face, Nor drop feet foremost through the floor Into an empty space.
He does not sit with silent men Who watch him night and day; Who watch him when he tries to weep, And when he tries to pray; Who watch him lest himself should rob The prison of its prey.
He does not wake at dawn to see Dread figures throng his room, The shivering Chaplain robed in white, The Sheriff stern with gloom, And the Governor all in shiny black, With the yellow face of Doom.
He does not rise in piteous haste To put on convict-clothes, While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes Each new and nerve-twitched pose, Fingering a watch whose little ticks Are like horrible hammer-blows.
He does not know that sickening thirst That sands one's throat, before The hangman with his gardener's gloves Slips through the padded door, And binds one with three leathern thongs, That the throat may thirst no more.
He does not bend his head to hear The Burial Office read, Nor, while the terror of his soul Tells him he is not dead, Cross his own coffin, as he moves Into the hideous shed.
He does not stare upon the air Through a little roof of glass: He does not pray with lips of clay For his agony to pass; Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek The kiss of Caiaphas.
Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard, In the suit of shabby grey: His cricket cap was on his head, And his step seemed light and gay, But I never saw a man who looked So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky, And at every wandering cloud that trailed Its ravelled fleeces by.
He did not wring his hands, as do Those witless men who dare To try to rear the changeling Hope In the cave of black Despair: He only looked upon the sun, And drank the morning air.
He did not wring his hands nor weep, Nor did he peek or pine, But he drank the air as though it held Some healthful anodyne; With open mouth he drank the sun As though it had been wine!
And I and all the souls in pain, Who tramped the other ring, Forgot if we ourselves had done A great or little thing, And watched with gaze of dull amaze The man who had to swing.
And strange it was to see him pass With a step so light and gay, And strange it was to see him look So wistfully at the day, And strange it was to think that he Had such a debt to pay.
For oak and elm have pleasant leaves That in the springtime shoot: But grim to see is the gallows-tree, With its adder-bitten root, And, green or dry, a man must die Before it bears its fruit!
The loftiest place is that seat of grace For which all worldlings try: But who would stand in hempen band Upon a scaffold high, And through a murderer's collar take His last look at the sky?
It is sweet to dance to violins When Love and Life are fair: To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes Is delicate and rare: But it is not sweet with nimble feet To dance upon the air!
So with curious eyes and sick surmise We watched him day by day, And wondered if each one of us Would end the self-same way, For none can tell to what red Hell His sightless soul may stray.
At last the dead man walked no more Amongst the Trial Men, And I knew that he was standing up In the black dock's dreadful pen, And that never would I see his face In God's sweet world again.
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm We had crossed each other's way: But we made no sign, we said no word, We had no word to say; For we did not meet in the holy night, But in the shameful day.
A prison wall was round us both, Two outcast men we were: The world had thrust us from its heart, And God from out His care: And the iron gin that waits for Sin Had caught us in its snare.
In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard, And the dripping wall is high, So it was there he took the air Beneath the leaden sky, And by each side a Warder walked, For fear the man might die.
Or else he sat with those who watched His anguish night and day; Who watched him when he rose to weep, And when he crouched to pray; Who watched him lest himself should rob Their scaffold of its prey.
The Governor was strong upon The Regulations Act: The Doctor said that Death was but A scientific fact: And twice a day the Chaplain called, And left a little tract.
And twice a day he smoked his pipe, And drank his quart of beer: His soul was resolute, and held No hiding-place for fear; He often said that he was glad The hangman's hands were near.
But why he said so strange a thing No Warder dared to ask: For he to whom a watcher's doom Is given as his task, Must set a lock upon his lips, And make his face a mask.
Or else he might be moved, and try To comfort or console: And what should Human Pity do Pent up in Murderers' Hole? What word of grace in such a place Could help a brother's soul?
With slouch and swing around the ring We trod the Fools' Parade! We did not care: we knew we were The Devil's Own Brigade: And shaven head and feet of lead Make a merry masquerade.
We tore the tarry rope to shreds With blunt and bleeding nails; We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors, And cleaned the shining rails: And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank, And clattered with the pails.
We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones, We turned the dusty drill: We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns, And sweated on the mill: But in the heart of every man Terror was lying still.
So still it lay that every day Crawled like a weed-clogged wave: And we forgot the bitter lot That waits for fool and knave, Till once, as we tramped in from work, We passed an open grave.
With yawning mouth the yellow hole Gaped for a living thing; The very mud cried out for blood To the thirsty asphalte ring: And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair Some prisoner had to swing.
Right in we went, with soul intent On Death and Dread and Doom: The hangman, with his little bag, Went shuffling through the gloom: And each man trembled as he crept Into his numbered tomb.
That night the empty corridors Were full of forms of Fear, And up and down the iron town Stole feet we could not hear, And through the bars that hide the stars White faces seemed to peer.
He lay as one who lies and dreams In a pleasant meadow-land, The watchers watched him as he slept, And could not understand How one could sleep so sweet a sleep With a hangman close at hand.
But there is no sleep when men must weep Who never yet have wept: So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave— That endless vigil kept, And through each brain on hands of pain Another's terror crept.
Alas! it is a fearful thing To feel another's guilt! For, right within, the sword of Sin Pierced to its poisoned hilt, And as molten lead were the tears we shed For the blood we had not spilt.
The Warders with their shoes of felt Crept by each padlocked door, And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe, Grey figures on the floor, And wondered why men knelt to pray Who never prayed before.
All through the night we knelt and prayed, Mad mourners of a corse! The troubled plumes of midnight were The plumes upon a hearse: And bitter wine upon a sponge Was the savour of Remorse.
The grey cock crew, the red cock crew, But never came the day: And crooked shapes of Terror crouched, In the corners where we lay: And each evil sprite that walks by night Before us seemed to play.
They glided past, they glided fast, Like travellers through a mist: They mocked the moon in a rigadoon Of delicate turn and twist, And with formal pace and loathsome grace The phantoms kept their tryst.
With mop and mow, we saw them go, Slim shadows hand in hand: About, about, in ghostly rout They trod a saraband: And the damned grotesques made arabesques, Like the wind upon the sand!
With the pirouettes of marionettes, They tripped on pointed tread: But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear, As their grisly masque they led, And loud they sang, and long they sang, For they sang to wake the dead.
'Oho!' they cried, 'The world is wide, But fettered limbs go lame! And once, or twice, to throw the dice Is a gentlemanly game, But he does not win who plays with Sin In the secret House of Shame.'
No things of air these antics were, That frolicked with such glee: To men whose lives were held in gyves, And whose feet might not go free, Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things, Most terrible to see.
Around, around, they waltzed and wound; Some wheeled in smirking pairs; With the mincing step of a demirep Some sidled up the stairs: And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer, Each helped us at our prayers.
The morning wind began to moan, But still the night went on: Through its giant loom the web of gloom Crept till each thread was spun: And, as we prayed, we grew afraid Of the Justice of the Sun.
The moaning wind went wandering round The weeping prison-wall: Till like a wheel of turning steel We felt the minutes crawl: O moaning wind! what had we done To have such a seneschal?
At last I saw the shadowed bars, Like a lattice wrought in lead, Move right across the whitewashed wall That faced my three-plank bed, And I knew that somewhere in the world God's dreadful dawn was red.
At six o'clock we cleaned our cells, At seven all was still, But the sough and swing of a mighty wing The prison seemed to fill, For the Lord of Death with icy breath Had entered in to kill.
He did not pass in purple pomp, Nor ride a moon-white steed. Three yards of cord and a sliding board Are all the gallows' need: So with rope of shame the Herald came To do the secret deed.
We were as men who through a fen Of filthy darkness grope: We did not dare to breathe a prayer, Or to give our anguish scope: Something was dead in each of us, And what was dead was Hope.
For Man's grim Justice goes its way, And will not swerve aside: It slays the weak, it slays the strong, It has a deadly stride: With iron heel it slays the strong, The monstrous parricide!
We waited for the stroke of eight: Each tongue was thick with thirst: For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate That makes a man accursed, And Fate will use a running noose For the best man and the worst.
We had no other thing to do, Save to wait for the sign to come: So, like things of stone in a valley lone, Quiet we sat and dumb: But each man's heart beat thick and quick, Like a madman on a drum!
With sudden shock the prison-clock Smote on the shivering air, And from all the gaol rose up a wail Of impotent despair, Like the sound that frightened marshes hear From some leper in his lair.
And as one sees most fearful things In the crystal of a dream, We saw the greasy hempen rope Hooked to the blackened beam, And heard the prayer the hangman's snare Strangled into a scream.
And all the woe that moved him so That he gave that bitter cry, And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats, None knew so well as I: For he who lives more lives than one More deaths than one must die.
There is no chapel on the day On which they hang a man: The Chaplain's heart is far too sick, Or his face is far too wan, Or there is that written in his eyes Which none should look upon.
So they kept us close till nigh on noon, And then they rang the bell, And the Warders with their jingling keys Opened each listening cell, And down the iron stair we tramped, Each from his separate Hell.
Out into God's sweet air we went, But not in wonted way, For this man's face was white with fear, And that man's face was grey, And I never saw sad men who looked So wistfully at the day.
I never saw sad men who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue We prisoners called the sky, And at every careless cloud that passed In happy freedom by.
But there were those amongst us all Who walked with downcast head, And knew that, had each got his due, They should have died instead: He had but killed a thing that lived, Whilst they had killed the dead.
For he who sins a second time Wakes a dead soul to pain, And draws it from its spotted shroud, And makes it bleed again, And makes it bleed great gouts of blood, And makes it bleed in vain!
Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb With crooked arrows starred, Silently we went round and round The slippery asphalte yard; Silently we went round and round, And no man spoke a word.
Silently we went round and round, And through each hollow mind The Memory of dreadful things Rushed like a dreadful wind, And Horror stalked before each man, And Terror crept behind.
The Warders strutted up and down, And kept their herd of brutes, Their uniforms were spick and span, And they wore their Sunday suits, But we knew the work they had been at, By the quicklime on their boots.
For where a grave had opened wide, There was no grave at all: Only a stretch of mud and sand By the hideous prison-wall, And a little heap of burning lime, That the man should have his pall.
For he has a pall, this wretched man, Such as few men can claim: Deep down below a prison-yard, Naked for greater shame, He lies, with fetters on each foot, Wrapt in a sheet of flame!
And all the while the burning lime Eats flesh and bone away, It eats the brittle bone by night, And the soft flesh by day, It eats the flesh and bone by turns, But it eats the heart alway.
For three long years they will not sow Or root or seedling there: For three long years the unblessed spot Will sterile be and bare, And look upon the wondering sky With unreproachful stare.
They think a murderer's heart would taint Each simple seed they sow. It is not true! God's kindly earth Is kindlier than men know, And the red rose would but blow more red, The white rose whiter blow.
Out of his mouth a red, red rose! Out of his heart a white! For who can say by what strange way, Christ brings His will to light, Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?
But neither milk-white rose nor red May bloom in prison-air; The shard, the pebble, and the flint, Are what they give us there: For flowers have been known to heal A common man's despair.
So never will wine-red rose or white, Petal by petal, fall On that stretch of mud and sand that lies By the hideous prison-wall, To tell the men who tramp the yard That God's Son died for all.
Yet though the hideous prison-wall Still hems him round and round, And a spirit may not walk by night That is with fetters bound, And a spirit may but weep that lies In such unholy ground,
He is at peace—this wretched man— At peace, or will be soon: There is no thing to make him mad, Nor does Terror walk at noon, For the lampless Earth in which he lies Has neither Sun nor Moon.
They hanged him as a beast is hanged: They did not even toll A requiem that might have brought Rest to his startled soul, But hurriedly they took him out, And hid him in a hole.
They stripped him of his canvas clothes, And gave him to the flies: They mocked the swollen purple throat, And the stark and staring eyes: And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud In which their convict lies.
The Chaplain would not kneel to pray By his dishonoured grave: Nor mark it with that blessed Cross That Christ for sinners gave, Because the man was one of those Whom Christ came down to save.
Yet all is well; he has but passed To Life's appointed bourne: And alien tears will fill for him Pity's long-broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn
I know not whether Laws be right, Or whether Laws be wrong; All that we know who lie in gaol Is that the wall is strong; And that each day is like a year, A year whose days are long.
But this I know, that every Law That men have made for Man, Since first Man took his brother's life, And the sad world began, But straws the wheat and saves the chaff With a most evil fan.
This too I know—and wise it were If each could know the same— That every prison that men build Is built with bricks of shame, And bound with bars lest Christ should see How men their brothers maim.
With bars they blur the gracious moon, And blind the goodly sun: And they do well to hide their Hell, For in it things are done That Son of God nor son of Man Ever should look upon!
The vilest deeds like poison weeds, Bloom well in prison-air; It is only what is good in Man That wastes and withers there: Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate, And the Warder is Despair.
For they starve the little frightened child Till it weeps both night and day: And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool, And gibe the old and grey, And some grow mad, and all grow bad, And none a word may say.
Each narrow cell in which we dwell Is a foul and dark latrine, And the fetid breath of living Death Chokes up each grated screen, And all, but Lust, is turned to dust In Humanity's machine.
The brackish water that we drink Creeps with a loathsome slime, And the bitter bread they weigh in scales Is full of chalk and lime, And Sleep will not lie down, but walks Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.