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Title: Poems
Author: Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1913 Methuen & Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                                  POEMS
                                    BY
                               OSCAR WILDE


                            WITH THE BALLAD OF
                               READING GAOL

                                * * * * *

                            METHUEN & CO. LTD.
                          36 ESSEX STREET  W.C.
                                  LONDON

                            _Twelfth Edition_

_First Published_—
   _Ravenna_                                                    _1878_
   _Poems_                                                      _1881_
   ,, _Fifth Edition_                                           _1882_
   _The Sphinx_                                                 _1894_
   _The Ballad of Reading Gaol_                                 _1898_
_First Issued by Methuen and Co._ (_Limited               _March 1908_
Editions on Handmade Paper and Japanese Vellum_)
_Seventh Edition_ (_F’cap. 8vo_).                     _September 1909_
_Eighth Edition_ ( ,, ,, )                             _November 1909_
_Ninth Edition_ ( ,, ,, )                              _December 1909_
_Tenth Edition_ ( ,, ,, )                              _November 1910_
_Eleventh Edition_ ( ,, ,, )                           _December 1911_
_Twelfth Edition_ ( ,, ,, )                               _April 1913_



NOTE


_This collection of Wilde’s Poems contains the volume of_ 1881 _in its
entirety_, ‘_The Sphinx_’, ‘_The Ballad of Reading Gaol_,’ _and_
‘_Ravenna_.’  _Of the Uncollected Poems published in the Uniform Edition
of_ 1908, _a few_, _including the Translations from the Green and the
Polish_, _are omitted_.  _Two new poems_, ‘_Désepoir_’ _and_ ‘_Pan_,’_
which I have recently discovered in manuscript_, _are now printed for the
first time_.  _Particulars as to the original publication of each poem
will be found in_ ‘_A Bibliography of the Poems of Oscar Wilde_,’ _by
Stuart Mason_, _London_ 1907.

                                                            _ROBERT ROSS_.



CONTENTS

POEMS (1881):                                                     PAGE
          Hélas!                                                     3
     ELEUTHERIA:
          Sonnet To Liberty                                          7
          Ave Imperatrix                                             8
          To Milton                                                 14
          Louis Napoleon                                            15
          Sonnet on the Massacre of the Christians in               16
          Bulgaria
          Quantum Mutata                                            17
          Libertatis Sacra Fames                                    18
          Theoretikos                                               19
     THE GARDEN OF EROS                                             21
     ROSA MYSTICA:
          Requiescat                                                39
          Sonnet on approaching Italy                               40
          San Miniato                                               41
          Ave Maria Gratia Plena                                    42
          Italia                                                    43
          Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa                      44
          Rome Unvisited                                            45
          Urbs Sacra Æterna                                         49
          Sonnet on hearing the Dies Iræ sung in the Sistine        50
          Chapel
          Easter Day                                                51
          E Tenebris                                                52
          Vita Nuova                                                53
          Madonna Mia                                               54
          The New Helen                                             55
     THE BURDEN OF ITYS                                             61
     WIND FLOWERS:
          Impression du Matin                                       83
          Magdalen Walks                                            84
          Athanasia                                                 86
          Serenade                                                  89
          Endymion                                                  91
          La Bella Donna della mia Mente                            93
          Chanson                                                   95
     CHARMIDES                                                      97
     FLOWERS OF GOLD:
          Impressions: I.  Les Silhouettes                         135
          II.  La Fuite de la Lune                                 136
          The Grave of Keats                                       137
          Theocritus: A Villanelle                                 138
          In the Gold Room: A Harmony                              139
          Ballade de Marguerite                                    140
          The Dole of the King’s Daughter                          143
          Amor Intellectualis                                      145
          Santa Decca                                              146
          A Vision                                                 147
          Impression de Voyage                                     148
          The Grave of Shelley                                     149
          By the Arno                                              150
     IMPRESSIONS DE THÉÀTRE:
          Fabien dei Franchi                                       155
          Phèdre                                                   156
          Sonnets written at the Lyceum Theatre
          I.  Portia                                               157
          II.  Queen Henrietta Maria                               158
          III.  Camma                                              159
     PANTHEA                                                       161
     THE FOURTH MOVEMENT:
          Impression: Le Réveillon                                 175
          At Verona                                                176
          Apologia                                                 177
          Quia Multum Amavi                                        179
          Silentium Amoris                                         180
          Her Voice                                                181
          My Voice                                                 183
          Tædium Vitæ                                              184
     HUMANITAD                                                     185
     FLOWER OF LOVE:
          ΓΛΥΚΥΠΙΚΡΟΣ ΕΡΩΣ                                         211
UNCOLLECTED POEMS (1876–1893):
          From Spring Days to Winter                               217
          Tristitiæ                                                219
          The True Knowledge                                       220
          Impressions: I. Le Jardin                                221
          II.  La Mer                                              222
          Under the Balcony                                        223
          The Harlot’s House                                       225
          Le Jardin des Tuileries                                  227
          On the Sale by Auction of Keats’ Love Letters            228
          The New Remorse                                          229
          Fantasisies Décoratives: I.  Le Panneau                  230
          II.  Les Ballons                                         232
          Canzonet                                                 233
          Symphony in Yellow                                       235
          In the Forest                                            236
          To my Wife: With a Copy of my Poems                      237
          With a Copy of ‘A House of Pomegranates’                 238
          Roses and Rue                                            239
          Désespoir                                                242
          Pan: Double Villanelle                                   243
THE SPHINX (1894)                                                  245
THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL (1898)                                  269
RAVENNA (1878)                                                     305



POEMS


HÉLAS!


   TO _drift with every passion till my soul_
   _Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play_,
   _Is it for this that I have given away_
   _Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control_?
   _Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll_
   _Scrawled over on some boyish holiday_
   _With idle songs for pipe and virelay_,
   _Which do but mar the secret of the whole_.
   _Surely there was a time I might have trod_
   _The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance_
   _Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God_:
   _Is that time dead_? _lo_! _with a little rod_
   _I did but touch the honey of romance_—
   _And must I lose a soul’s inheritance_?



ELEUTHERIA


SONNET TO LIBERTY


   NOT that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
   See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
   Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,—
   But that the roar of thy Democracies,
   Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
   Mirror my wildest passions like the sea
   And give my rage a brother—!  Liberty!
   For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
   Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
   By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
   Rob nations of their rights inviolate
   And I remain unmoved—and yet, and yet,
   These Christs that die upon the barricades,
   God knows it I am with them, in some things.


AVE IMPERATRIX


   SET in this stormy Northern sea,
      Queen of these restless fields of tide,
   England! what shall men say of thee,
      Before whose feet the worlds divide?

   The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
      Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
   And through its heart of crystal pass,
      Like shadows through a twilight land,

   The spears of crimson-suited war,
      The long white-crested waves of fight,
   And all the deadly fires which are
      The torches of the lords of Night.

   The yellow leopards, strained and lean,
      The treacherous Russian knows so well,
   With gaping blackened jaws are seen
      Leap through the hail of screaming shell.

   The strong sea-lion of England’s wars
      Hath left his sapphire cave of sea,
   To battle with the storm that mars
      The stars of England’s chivalry.

   The brazen-throated clarion blows
      Across the Pathan’s reedy fen,
   And the high steeps of Indian snows
      Shake to the tread of armèd men.

   And many an Afghan chief, who lies
      Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees,
   Clutches his sword in fierce surmise
      When on the mountain-side he sees

   The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes
      To tell how he hath heard afar
   The measured roll of English drums
      Beat at the gates of Kandahar.

   For southern wind and east wind meet
      Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire,
   England with bare and bloody feet
      Climbs the steep road of wide empire.

   O lonely Himalayan height,
      Grey pillar of the Indian sky,
   Where saw’st thou last in clanging flight
      Our wingèd dogs of Victory?

   The almond-groves of Samarcand,
      Bokhara, where red lilies blow,
   And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
      The grave white-turbaned merchants go:

   And on from thence to Ispahan,
      The gilded garden of the sun,
   Whence the long dusty caravan
      Brings cedar wood and vermilion;

   And that dread city of Cabool
      Set at the mountain’s scarpèd feet,
   Whose marble tanks are ever full
      With water for the noonday heat:

   Where through the narrow straight Bazaar
      A little maid Circassian
   Is led, a present from the Czar
      Unto some old and bearded khan,—

   Here have our wild war-eagles flown,
      And flapped wide wings in fiery fight;
   But the sad dove, that sits alone
      In England—she hath no delight.

   In vain the laughing girl will lean
      To greet her love with love-lit eyes:
   Down in some treacherous black ravine,
      Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.

   And many a moon and sun will see
      The lingering wistful children wait
   To climb upon their father’s knee;
      And in each house made desolate

   Pale women who have lost their lord
      Will kiss the relics of the slain—
   Some tarnished epaulette—some sword—
      Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.

   For not in quiet English fields
      Are these, our brothers, lain to rest,
   Where we might deck their broken shields
      With all the flowers the dead love best.

   For some are by the Delhi walls,
      And many in the Afghan land,
   And many where the Ganges falls
      Through seven mouths of shifting sand.

   And some in Russian waters lie,
      And others in the seas which are
   The portals to the East, or by
      The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.

   O wandering graves!  O restless sleep!
      O silence of the sunless day!
   O still ravine!  O stormy deep!
      Give up your prey!  Give up your prey!

   And thou whose wounds are never healed,
      Whose weary race is never won,
   O Cromwell’s England! must thou yield
      For every inch of ground a son?

   Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head,
      Change thy glad song to song of pain;
   Wind and wild wave have got thy dead,
      And will not yield them back again.

   Wave and wild wind and foreign shore
      Possess the flower of English land—
   Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more,
      Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.

   What profit now that we have bound
      The whole round world with nets of gold,
   If hidden in our heart is found
      The care that groweth never old?

   What profit that our galleys ride,
      Pine-forest-like, on every main?
   Ruin and wreck are at our side,
      Grim warders of the House of Pain.

   Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet?
      Where is our English chivalry?
   Wild grasses are their burial-sheet,
      And sobbing waves their threnody.

   O loved ones lying far away,
      What word of love can dead lips send!
   O wasted dust!  O senseless clay!
      Is this the end! is this the end!

   Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead
      To vex their solemn slumber so;
   Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head,
      Up the steep road must England go,

   Yet when this fiery web is spun,
      Her watchmen shall descry from far
   The young Republic like a sun
      Rise from these crimson seas of war.


TO MILTON


   MILTON!  I think thy spirit hath passed away
   From these white cliffs and high-embattled towers;
      This gorgeous fiery-coloured world of ours
   Seems fallen into ashes dull and grey,
   And the age changed unto a mimic play
      Wherein we waste our else too-crowded hours:
      For all our pomp and pageantry and powers
   We are but fit to delve the common clay,
   Seeing this little isle on which we stand,
      This England, this sea-lion of the sea,
      By ignorant demagogues is held in fee,
   Who love her not: Dear God! is this the land
      Which bare a triple empire in her hand
      When Cromwell spake the word Democracy!


LOUIS NAPOLEON


   EAGLE of Austerlitz! where were thy wings
      When far away upon a barbarous strand,
      In fight unequal, by an obscure hand,
   Fell the last scion of thy brood of Kings!

   Poor boy! thou shalt not flaunt thy cloak of red,
      Or ride in state through Paris in the van
      Of thy returning legions, but instead
   Thy mother France, free and republican,

   Shall on thy dead and crownless forehead place
      The better laurels of a soldier’s crown,
      That not dishonoured should thy soul go down
   To tell the mighty Sire of thy race

   That France hath kissed the mouth of Liberty,
      And found it sweeter than his honied bees,
      And that the giant wave Democracy
   Breaks on the shores where Kings lay couched at ease.


SONNET


              ON THE MASSACRE OF THE CHRISTIANS IN BULGARIA

   CHRIST, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones
   Still straitened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
   And was Thy Rising only dreamed by her
   Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones?
   For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
   The priests who call upon Thy name are slain,
   Dost Thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
   From those whose children lie upon the stones?
   Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
   Curtains the land, and through the starless night
   Over Thy Cross a Crescent moon I see!
   If Thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
   Come down, O Son of Man! and show Thy might
   Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!


QUANTUM MUTATA


   THERE was a time in Europe long ago
      When no man died for freedom anywhere,
      But England’s lion leaping from its lair
   Laid hands on the oppressor! it was so
   While England could a great Republic show.
      Witness the men of Piedmont, chiefest care
      Of Cromwell, when with impotent despair
   The Pontiff in his painted portico
   Trembled before our stern ambassadors.
      How comes it then that from such high estate
      We have thus fallen, save that Luxury
   With barren merchandise piles up the gate
   Where noble thoughts and deeds should enter by:
      Else might we still be Milton’s heritors.


LIBERTATIS SACRA FAMES


   ALBEIT nurtured in democracy,
      And liking best that state republican
      Where every man is Kinglike and no man
   Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see,
   Spite of this modern fret for Liberty,
      Better the rule of One, whom all obey,
      Than to let clamorous demagogues betray
   Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy.
   Wherefore I love them not whose hands profane
      Plant the red flag upon the piled-up street
      For no right cause, beneath whose ignorant reign
   Arts, Culture, Reverence, Honour, all things fade,
      Save Treason and the dagger of her trade,
      Or Murder with his silent bloody feet.


THEORETIKOS


   THIS mighty empire hath but feet of clay:
      Of all its ancient chivalry and might
      Our little island is forsaken quite:
   Some enemy hath stolen its crown of bay,
   And from its hills that voice hath passed away
      Which spake of Freedom: O come out of it,
      Come out of it, my Soul, thou art not fit
   For this vile traffic-house, where day by day
      Wisdom and reverence are sold at mart,
      And the rude people rage with ignorant cries
   Against an heritage of centuries.
      It mars my calm: wherefore in dreams of Art
      And loftiest culture I would stand apart,
   Neither for God, nor for his enemies.



THE GARDEN OF EROS


   IT is full summer now, the heart of June;
      Not yet the sunburnt reapers are astir
   Upon the upland meadow where too soon
      Rich autumn time, the season’s usurer,
   Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,
   And see his treasure scattered by the wild and spendthrift breeze.

   Too soon indeed! yet here the daffodil,
      That love-child of the Spring, has lingered on
   To vex the rose with jealousy, and still
      The harebell spreads her azure pavilion,
   And like a strayed and wandering reveller
   Abandoned of its brothers, whom long since June’s messenger

   The missel-thrush has frighted from the glade,
      One pale narcissus loiters fearfully
   Close to a shadowy nook, where half afraid
      Of their own loveliness some violets lie
   That will not look the gold sun in the face
   For fear of too much splendour,—ah! methinks it is a place

   Which should be trodden by Persephone
      When wearied of the flowerless fields of Dis!
   Or danced on by the lads of Arcady!
      The hidden secret of eternal bliss
   Known to the Grecian here a man might find,
   Ah! you and I may find it now if Love and Sleep be kind.

   There are the flowers which mourning Herakles
      Strewed on the tomb of Hylas, columbine,
   Its white doves all a-flutter where the breeze
      Kissed them too harshly, the small celandine,
   That yellow-kirtled chorister of eve,
   And lilac lady’s-smock,—but let them bloom alone, and leave

   Yon spirèd hollyhock red-crocketed
      To sway its silent chimes, else must the bee,
   Its little bellringer, go seek instead
      Some other pleasaunce; the anemone
   That weeps at daybreak, like a silly girl
   Before her love, and hardly lets the butterflies unfurl

   Their painted wings beside it,—bid it pine
      In pale virginity; the winter snow
   Will suit it better than those lips of thine
      Whose fires would but scorch it, rather go
   And pluck that amorous flower which blooms alone,
   Fed by the pander wind with dust of kisses not its own.

   The trumpet-mouths of red convolvulus
      So dear to maidens, creamy meadow-sweet
   Whiter than Juno’s throat and odorous
      As all Arabia, hyacinths the feet
   Of Huntress Dian would be loth to mar
   For any dappled fawn,—pluck these, and those fond flowers which are

   Fairer than what Queen Venus trod upon
      Beneath the pines of Ida, eucharis,
   That morning star which does not dread the sun,
      And budding marjoram which but to kiss
   Would sweeten Cytheræa’s lips and make
   Adonis jealous,—these for thy head,—and for thy girdle take

   Yon curving spray of purple clematis
      Whose gorgeous dye outflames the Tyrian King,
   And foxgloves with their nodding chalices,
      But that one narciss which the startled Spring
   Let from her kirtle fall when first she heard
   In her own woods the wild tempestuous song of summer’s bird,

   Ah! leave it for a subtle memory
      Of those sweet tremulous days of rain and sun,
   When April laughed between her tears to see
      The early primrose with shy footsteps run
   From the gnarled oak-tree roots till all the wold,
   Spite of its brown and trampled leaves, grew bright with shimmering
   gold.

   Nay, pluck it too, it is not half so sweet
      As thou thyself, my soul’s idolatry!
   And when thou art a-wearied at thy feet
      Shall oxlips weave their brightest tapestry,
   For thee the woodbine shall forget its pride
   And veil its tangled whorls, and thou shalt walk on daisies pied.

   And I will cut a reed by yonder spring
      And make the wood-gods jealous, and old Pan
   Wonder what young intruder dares to sing
      In these still haunts, where never foot of man
   Should tread at evening, lest he chance to spy
   The marble limbs of Artemis and all her company.

   And I will tell thee why the jacinth wears
      Such dread embroidery of dolorous moan,
   And why the hapless nightingale forbears
      To sing her song at noon, but weeps alone
   When the fleet swallow sleeps, and rich men feast,
   And why the laurel trembles when she sees the lightening east.

   And I will sing how sad Proserpina
      Unto a grave and gloomy Lord was wed,
   And lure the silver-breasted Helena
      Back from the lotus meadows of the dead,
   So shalt thou see that awful loveliness
   For which two mighty Hosts met fearfully in war’s abyss!

   And then I’ll pipe to thee that Grecian tale
      How Cynthia loves the lad Endymion,
   And hidden in a grey and misty veil
      Hies to the cliffs of Latmos once the Sun
   Leaps from his ocean bed in fruitless chase
   Of those pale flying feet which fade away in his embrace.

   And if my flute can breathe sweet melody,
      We may behold Her face who long ago
   Dwelt among men by the Ægean sea,
      And whose sad house with pillaged portico
   And friezeless wall and columns toppled down
   Looms o’er the ruins of that fair and violet cinctured town.

   Spirit of Beauty! tarry still awhile,
      They are not dead, thine ancient votaries;
   Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile
      Is better than a thousand victories,
   Though all the nobly slain of Waterloo
   Rise up in wrath against them! tarry still, there are a few

   Who for thy sake would give their manlihood
      And consecrate their being; I at least
   Have done so, made thy lips my daily food,
      And in thy temples found a goodlier feast
   Than this starved age can give me, spite of all
   Its new-found creeds so sceptical and so dogmatical.

   Here not Cephissos, not Ilissos flows,
      The woods of white Colonos are not here,
   On our bleak hills the olive never blows,
      No simple priest conducts his lowing steer
   Up the steep marble way, nor through the town
   Do laughing maidens bear to thee the crocus-flowered gown.

   Yet tarry! for the boy who loved thee best,
      Whose very name should be a memory
   To make thee linger, sleeps in silent rest
      Beneath the Roman walls, and melody
   Still mourns her sweetest lyre; none can play
   The lute of Adonais: with his lips Song passed away.

   Nay, when Keats died the Muses still had left
      One silver voice to sing his threnody,
   But ah! too soon of it we were bereft
      When on that riven night and stormy sea
   Panthea claimed her singer as her own,
   And slew the mouth that praised her; since which time we walk alone,

   Save for that fiery heart, that morning star
      Of re-arisen England, whose clear eye
   Saw from our tottering throne and waste of war
      The grand Greek limbs of young Democracy
   Rise mightily like Hesperus and bring
   The great Republic! him at least thy love hath taught to sing,

   And he hath been with thee at Thessaly,
      And seen white Atalanta fleet of foot
   In passionless and fierce virginity
      Hunting the tuskèd boar, his honied lute
   Hath pierced the cavern of the hollow hill,
   And Venus laughs to know one knee will bow before her still.

   And he hath kissed the lips of Proserpine,
      And sung the Galilæan’s requiem,
   That wounded forehead dashed with blood and wine
      He hath discrowned, the Ancient Gods in him
   Have found their last, most ardent worshipper,
   And the new Sign grows grey and dim before its conqueror.

   Spirit of Beauty! tarry with us still,
      It is not quenched the torch of poesy,
   The star that shook above the Eastern hill
      Holds unassailed its argent armoury
   From all the gathering gloom and fretful fight—
   O tarry with us still! for through the long and common night,

   Morris, our sweet and simple Chaucer’s child,
      Dear heritor of Spenser’s tuneful reed,
   With soft and sylvan pipe has oft beguiled
      The weary soul of man in troublous need,
   And from the far and flowerless fields of ice
   Has brought fair flowers to make an earthly paradise.

   We know them all, Gudrun the strong men’s bride,
      Aslaug and Olafson we know them all,
   How giant Grettir fought and Sigurd died,
      And what enchantment held the king in thrall
   When lonely Brynhild wrestled with the powers
   That war against all passion, ah! how oft through summer hours,

   Long listless summer hours when the noon
      Being enamoured of a damask rose
   Forgets to journey westward, till the moon
      The pale usurper of its tribute grows
   From a thin sickle to a silver shield
   And chides its loitering car—how oft, in some cool grassy field

   Far from the cricket-ground and noisy eight,
      At Bagley, where the rustling bluebells come
   Almost before the blackbird finds a mate
      And overstay the swallow, and the hum
   Of many murmuring bees flits through the leaves,
   Have I lain poring on the dreamy tales his fancy weaves,

   And through their unreal woes and mimic pain
      Wept for myself, and so was purified,
   And in their simple mirth grew glad again;
      For as I sailed upon that pictured tide
   The strength and splendour of the storm was mine
   Without the storm’s red ruin, for the singer is divine;

   The little laugh of water falling down
      Is not so musical, the clammy gold
   Close hoarded in the tiny waxen town
      Has less of sweetness in it, and the old
   Half-withered reeds that waved in Arcady
   Touched by his lips break forth again to fresher harmony.

   Spirit of Beauty, tarry yet awhile!
      Although the cheating merchants of the mart
   With iron roads profane our lovely isle,
      And break on whirling wheels the limbs of Art,
   Ay! though the crowded factories beget
   The blindworm Ignorance that slays the soul, O tarry yet!

   For One at least there is,—He bears his name
      From Dante and the seraph Gabriel,—
   Whose double laurels burn with deathless flame
      To light thine altar; He too loves thee well,
   Who saw old Merlin lured in Vivien’s snare,
   And the white feet of angels coming down the golden stair,

   Loves thee so well, that all the World for him
      A gorgeous-coloured vestiture must wear,
   And Sorrow take a purple diadem,
      Or else be no more Sorrow, and Despair
   Gild its own thorns, and Pain, like Adon, be
   Even in anguish beautiful;—such is the empery

   Which Painters hold, and such the heritage
      This gentle solemn Spirit doth possess,
   Being a better mirror of his age
      In all his pity, love, and weariness,
   Than those who can but copy common things,
   And leave the Soul unpainted with its mighty questionings.

   But they are few, and all romance has flown,
      And men can prophesy about the sun,
   And lecture on his arrows—how, alone,
      Through a waste void the soulless atoms run,
   How from each tree its weeping nymph has fled,
   And that no more ’mid English reeds a Naiad shows her head.

   Methinks these new Actæons boast too soon
      That they have spied on beauty; what if we
   Have analysed the rainbow, robbed the moon
      Of her most ancient, chastest mystery,
   Shall I, the last Endymion, lose all hope
   Because rude eyes peer at my mistress through a telescope!

   What profit if this scientific age
      Burst through our gates with all its retinue
   Of modern miracles!  Can it assuage
      One lover’s breaking heart? what can it do
   To make one life more beautiful, one day
   More godlike in its period? but now the Age of Clay

   Returns in horrid cycle, and the earth
      Hath borne again a noisy progeny
   Of ignorant Titans, whose ungodly birth
      Hurls them against the august hierarchy
   Which sat upon Olympus; to the Dust
   They have appealed, and to that barren arbiter they must

   Repair for judgment; let them, if they can,
      From Natural Warfare and insensate Chance,
   Create the new Ideal rule for man!
      Methinks that was not my inheritance;
   For I was nurtured otherwise, my soul
   Passes from higher heights of life to a more supreme goal.

   Lo! while we spake the earth did turn away
      Her visage from the God, and Hecate’s boat
   Rose silver-laden, till the jealous day
      Blew all its torches out: I did not note
   The waning hours, to young Endymions
   Time’s palsied fingers count in vain his rosary of suns!

   Mark how the yellow iris wearily
      Leans back its throat, as though it would be kissed
   By its false chamberer, the dragon-fly,
      Who, like a blue vein on a girl’s white wrist,
   Sleeps on that snowy primrose of the night,
   Which ’gins to flush with crimson shame, and die beneath the light.

   Come let us go, against the pallid shield
      Of the wan sky the almond blossoms gleam,
   The corncrake nested in the unmown field
      Answers its mate, across the misty stream
   On fitful wing the startled curlews fly,
   And in his sedgy bed the lark, for joy that Day is nigh,

   Scatters the pearlèd dew from off the grass,
      In tremulous ecstasy to greet the sun,
   Who soon in gilded panoply will pass
      Forth from yon orange-curtained pavilion
   Hung in the burning east: see, the red rim
   O’ertops the expectant hills! it is the God! for love of him

   Already the shrill lark is out of sight,
      Flooding with waves of song this silent dell,—
   Ah! there is something more in that bird’s flight
      Than could be tested in a crucible!—
   But the air freshens, let us go, why soon
   The woodmen will be here; how we have lived this night of June!



ROSA MYSTICA


REQUIESCAT


   TREAD lightly, she is near
      Under the snow,
   Speak gently, she can hear
      The daisies grow.

   All her bright golden hair
      Tarnished with rust,
   She that was young and fair
      Fallen to dust.

   Lily-like, white as snow,
      She hardly knew
   She was a woman, so
      Sweetly she grew.

   Coffin-board, heavy stone,
      Lie on her breast,
   I vex my heart alone,
      She is at rest.

   Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
      Lyre or sonnet,
   All my life’s buried here,
      Heap earth upon it.

AVIGNON.


SONNET ON APPROACHING ITALY


   I REACHED the Alps: the soul within me burned,
      Italia, my Italia, at thy name:
      And when from out the mountain’s heart I came
   And saw the land for which my life had yearned,
   I laughed as one who some great prize had earned:
      And musing on the marvel of thy fame
      I watched the day, till marked with wounds of flame
   The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned.
   The pine-trees waved as waves a woman’s hair,
      And in the orchards every twining spray
      Was breaking into flakes of blossoming foam:
   But when I knew that far away at Rome
      In evil bonds a second Peter lay,
      I wept to see the land so very fair.

TURIN.


SAN MINIATO


      SEE, I have climbed the mountain side
      Up to this holy house of God,
      Where once that Angel-Painter trod
   Who saw the heavens opened wide,

      And throned upon the crescent moon
      The Virginal white Queen of Grace,—
      Mary! could I but see thy face
   Death could not come at all too soon.

      O crowned by God with thorns and pain!
      Mother of Christ!  O mystic wife!
      My heart is weary of this life
   And over-sad to sing again.

      O crowned by God with love and flame!
      O crowned by Christ the Holy One!
      O listen ere the searching sun
   Show to the world my sin and shame.


AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA


   WAS this His coming!  I had hoped to see
      A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
      Of some great God who in a rain of gold
   Broke open bars and fell on Danae:
   Or a dread vision as when Semele
      Sickening for love and unappeased desire
      Prayed to see God’s clear body, and the fire
   Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly:
   With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,
      And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
      Before this supreme mystery of Love:
   Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
      An angel with a lily in his hand,
      And over both the white wings of a Dove.

FLORENCE.


ITALIA


   ITALIA! thou art fallen, though with sheen
      Of battle-spears thy clamorous armies stride
      From the north Alps to the Sicilian tide!
   Ay! fallen, though the nations hail thee Queen
   Because rich gold in every town is seen,
      And on thy sapphire-lake in tossing pride
      Of wind-filled vans thy myriad galleys ride
   Beneath one flag of red and white and green.
   O Fair and Strong!  O Strong and Fair in vain!
      Look southward where Rome’s desecrated town
      Lies mourning for her God-anointed King!
   Look heaven-ward! shall God allow this thing?
      Nay! but some flame-girt Raphael shall come down,
      And smite the Spoiler with the sword of pain.

VENICE.


SONNET


                      WRITTEN IN HOLY WEEK AT GENOA

   I WANDERED through Scoglietto’s far retreat,
      The oranges on each o’erhanging spray
      Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day;
   Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet
   Made snow of all the blossoms; at my feet
      Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:
      And the curved waves that streaked the great green bay
   Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet.
   Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,
      ‘Jesus the son of Mary has been slain,
      O come and fill His sepulchre with flowers.’
   Ah, God!  Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours
      Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
      The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers and the Spear.


ROME UNVISITED


                                     I.

   THE corn has turned from grey to red,
      Since first my spirit wandered forth
      From the drear cities of the north,
   And to Italia’s mountains fled.

   And here I set my face towards home,
      For all my pilgrimage is done,
      Although, methinks, yon blood-red sun
   Marshals the way to Holy Rome.

   O Blessed Lady, who dost hold
      Upon the seven hills thy reign!
      O Mother without blot or stain,
   Crowned with bright crowns of triple gold!

   O Roma, Roma, at thy feet
      I lay this barren gift of song!
      For, ah! the way is steep and long
   That leads unto thy sacred street.

                                     II.

   AND yet what joy it were for me
      To turn my feet unto the south,
      And journeying towards the Tiber mouth
   To kneel again at Fiesole!

   And wandering through the tangled pines
      That break the gold of Arno’s stream,
      To see the purple mist and gleam
   Of morning on the Apennines

   By many a vineyard-hidden home,
      Orchard and olive-garden grey,
      Till from the drear Campagna’s way
   The seven hills bear up the dome!

                                    III.

   A PILGRIM from the northern seas—
      What joy for me to seek alone
      The wondrous temple and the throne
   Of him who holds the awful keys!

   When, bright with purple and with gold
      Come priest and holy cardinal,
      And borne above the heads of all
   The gentle Shepherd of the Fold.

   O joy to see before I die
      The only God-anointed king,
      And hear the silver trumpets ring
   A triumph as he passes by!

   Or at the brazen-pillared shrine
      Holds high the mystic sacrifice,
      And shows his God to human eyes
   Beneath the veil of bread and wine.

                                     IV.

   FOR lo, what changes time can bring!
      The cycles of revolving years
      May free my heart from all its fears,
   And teach my lips a song to sing.

   Before yon field of trembling gold
      Is garnered into dusty sheaves,
      Or ere the autumn’s scarlet leaves
   Flutter as birds adown the wold,

   I may have run the glorious race,
      And caught the torch while yet aflame,
      And called upon the holy name
   Of Him who now doth hide His face.

ARONA.


URBS SACRA ÆTERNA


   ROME! what a scroll of History thine has been;
      In the first days thy sword republican
      Ruled the whole world for many an age’s span:
   Then of the peoples wert thou royal Queen,
   Till in thy streets the bearded Goth was seen;
      And now upon thy walls the breezes fan
      (Ah, city crowned by God, discrowned by man!)
   The hated flag of red and white and green.
   When was thy glory! when in search for power
      Thine eagles flew to greet the double sun,
      And the wild nations shuddered at thy rod?
   Nay, but thy glory tarried for this hour,
      When pilgrims kneel before the Holy One,
      The prisoned shepherd of the Church of God.

MONTRE MARIO.


SONNET


            ON HEARING THE DIES IRÆ SUNG IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL

   NAY, Lord, not thus! white lilies in the spring,
   Sad olive-groves, or silver-breasted dove,
      Teach me more clearly of Thy life and love
   Than terrors of red flame and thundering.
   The hillside vines dear memories of Thee bring:
      A bird at evening flying to its nest
      Tells me of One who had no place of rest:
   I think it is of Thee the sparrows sing.
   Come rather on some autumn afternoon,
      When red and brown are burnished on the leaves,
      And the fields echo to the gleaner’s song,
   Come when the splendid fulness of the moon
      Looks down upon the rows of golden sheaves,
      And reap Thy harvest: we have waited long.


EASTER DAY


   THE silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
      The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
      And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
   Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
   Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
      And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
      Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
   In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
   My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
      To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
      And sought in vain for any place of rest:
   ‘Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest.
      I, only I, must wander wearily,
      And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.’


E TENEBRIS


   COME down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
      For I am drowning in a stormier sea
      Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
   The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
   My heart is as some famine-murdered land
      Whence all good things have perished utterly,
      And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
   If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
   ‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
      Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
      From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.’
   Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
      The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
      The wounded hands, the weary human face.


VITA NUOVA


   I STOOD by the unvintageable sea
      Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray;
      The long red fires of the dying day
   Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily;
   And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee:
      ‘Alas!’ I cried, ‘my life is full of pain,
      And who can garner fruit or golden grain
   From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!’
   My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw,
      Nathless I threw them as my final cast
      Into the sea, and waited for the end.
   When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw
      From the black waters of my tortured past
      The argent splendour of white limbs ascend!


MADONNA MIA


   A LILY-GIRL, not made for this world’s pain,
      With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,
      And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears
   Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:
   Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,
      Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,
      And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,
   Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.
   Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,
      Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,
      Being o’ershadowed by the wings of awe,
   Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice
      Beneath the flaming Lion’s breast, and saw
      The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.


THE NEW HELEN


   WHERE hast thou been since round the walls of Troy
      The sons of God fought in that great emprise?
         Why dost thou walk our common earth again?
   Hast thou forgotten that impassioned boy,
         His purple galley and his Tyrian men
      And treacherous Aphrodite’s mocking eyes?
   For surely it was thou, who, like a star
      Hung in the silver silence of the night,
      Didst lure the Old World’s chivalry and might
   Into the clamorous crimson waves of war!

   Or didst thou rule the fire-laden moon?
      In amorous Sidon was thy temple built
         Over the light and laughter of the sea
      Where, behind lattice scarlet-wrought and gilt,
         Some brown-limbed girl did weave thee tapestry,
   All through the waste and wearied hours of noon;
   Till her wan cheek with flame of passion burned,
      And she rose up the sea-washed lips to kiss
   Of some glad Cyprian sailor, safe returned
      From Calpé and the cliffs of Herakles!

   No! thou art Helen, and none other one!
      It was for thee that young Sarpedôn died,
         And Memnôn’s manhood was untimely spent;
      It was for thee gold-crested Hector tried
   With Thetis’ child that evil race to run,
         In the last year of thy beleaguerment;
   Ay! even now the glory of thy fame
      Burns in those fields of trampled asphodel,
      Where the high lords whom Ilion knew so well
   Clash ghostly shields, and call upon thy name.

   Where hast thou been? in that enchanted land
      Whose slumbering vales forlorn Calypso knew,
         Where never mower rose at break of day
      But all unswathed the trammelling grasses grew,
   And the sad shepherd saw the tall corn stand
         Till summer’s red had changed to withered grey?
   Didst thou lie there by some Lethæan stream
      Deep brooding on thine ancient memory,
      The crash of broken spears, the fiery gleam
   From shivered helm, the Grecian battle-cry?

   Nay, thou wert hidden in that hollow hill
      With one who is forgotten utterly,
         That discrowned Queen men call the Erycine;
      Hidden away that never mightst thou see
   The face of Her, before whose mouldering shrine
         To-day at Rome the silent nations kneel;
   Who gat from Love no joyous gladdening,
      But only Love’s intolerable pain,
      Only a sword to pierce her heart in twain,
   Only the bitterness of child-bearing.

   The lotus-leaves which heal the wounds of Death
      Lie in thy hand; O, be thou kind to me,
         While yet I know the summer of my days;
      For hardly can my tremulous lips draw breath
   To fill the silver trumpet with thy praise,
         So bowed am I before thy mystery;
   So bowed and broken on Love’s terrible wheel,
      That I have lost all hope and heart to sing,
      Yet care I not what ruin time may bring
   If in thy temple thou wilt let me kneel.

   Alas, alas, thou wilt not tarry here,
      But, like that bird, the servant of the sun,
         Who flies before the north wind and the night,
      So wilt thou fly our evil land and drear,
   Back to the tower of thine old delight,
         And the red lips of young Euphorion;
   Nor shall I ever see thy face again,
      But in this poisonous garden-close must stay,
      Crowning my brows with the thorn-crown of pain,
   Till all my loveless life shall pass away.

   O Helen!  Helen! Helen! yet a while,
      Yet for a little while, O, tarry here,
         Till the dawn cometh and the shadows flee!
      For in the gladsome sunlight of thy smile
   Of heaven or hell I have no thought or fear,
         Seeing I know no other god but thee:
   No other god save him, before whose feet
      In nets of gold the tired planets move,
      The incarnate spirit of spiritual love
   Who in thy body holds his joyous seat.

   Thou wert not born as common women are!
      But, girt with silver splendour of the foam,
         Didst from the depths of sapphire seas arise!
      And at thy coming some immortal star,
   Bearded with flame, blazed in the Eastern skies,
         And waked the shepherds on thine island-home.
   Thou shalt not die: no asps of Egypt creep
      Close at thy heels to taint the delicate air;
      No sullen-blooming poppies stain thy hair,
   Those scarlet heralds of eternal sleep.

   Lily of love, pure and inviolate!
      Tower of ivory! red rose of fire!
         Thou hast come down our darkness to illume:
   For we, close-caught in the wide nets of Fate,
      Wearied with waiting for the World’s Desire,
         Aimlessly wandered in the House of gloom,
   Aimlessly sought some slumberous anodyne
      For wasted lives, for lingering wretchedness,
   Till we beheld thy re-arisen shrine,
      And the white glory of thy loveliness.



THE BURDEN OF ITYS


   THIS English Thames is holier far than Rome,
      Those harebells like a sudden flush of sea
   Breaking across the woodland, with the foam
      Of meadow-sweet and white anemone
   To fleck their blue waves,—God is likelier there
   Than hidden in that crystal-hearted star the pale monks bear!

   Those violet-gleaming butterflies that take
      Yon creamy lily for their pavilion
   Are monsignores, and where the rushes shake
      A lazy pike lies basking in the sun,
   His eyes half shut,—he is some mitred old
   Bishop in _partibus_! look at those gaudy scales all green and gold.

   The wind the restless prisoner of the trees
      Does well for Palæstrina, one would say
   The mighty master’s hands were on the keys
      Of the Maria organ, which they play
   When early on some sapphire Easter morn
   In a high litter red as blood or sin the Pope is borne

   From his dark House out to the Balcony
      Above the bronze gates and the crowded square,
   Whose very fountains seem for ecstasy
      To toss their silver lances in the air,
   And stretching out weak hands to East and West
   In vain sends peace to peaceless lands, to restless nations rest.

   Is not yon lingering orange after-glow
      That stays to vex the moon more fair than all
   Rome’s lordliest pageants! strange, a year ago
      I knelt before some crimson Cardinal
   Who bare the Host across the Esquiline,
   And now—those common poppies in the wheat seem twice as fine.

   The blue-green beanfields yonder, tremulous
      With the last shower, sweeter perfume bring
   Through this cool evening than the odorous
      Flame-jewelled censers the young deacons swing,
   When the grey priest unlocks the curtained shrine,
   And makes God’s body from the common fruit of corn and vine.

   Poor Fra Giovanni bawling at the mass
      Were out of tune now, for a small brown bird
   Sings overhead, and through the long cool grass
      I see that throbbing throat which once I heard
   On starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady,
   Once where the white and crescent sand of Salamis meets sea.

   Sweet is the swallow twittering on the eaves
      At daybreak, when the mower whets his scythe,
   And stock-doves murmur, and the milkmaid leaves
      Her little lonely bed, and carols blithe
   To see the heavy-lowing cattle wait
   Stretching their huge and dripping mouths across the farmyard gate.

   And sweet the hops upon the Kentish leas,
      And sweet the wind that lifts the new-mown hay,
   And sweet the fretful swarms of grumbling bees
      That round and round the linden blossoms play;
   And sweet the heifer breathing in the stall,
   And the green bursting figs that hang upon the red-brick wall,

   And sweet to hear the cuckoo mock the spring
      While the last violet loiters by the well,
   And sweet to hear the shepherd Daphnis sing
      The song of Linus through a sunny dell
   Of warm Arcadia where the corn is gold
   And the slight lithe-limbed reapers dance about the wattled fold.

   And sweet with young Lycoris to recline
      In some Illyrian valley far away,
   Where canopied on herbs amaracine
      We too might waste the summer-trancèd day
   Matching our reeds in sportive rivalry,
   While far beneath us frets the troubled purple of the sea.

   But sweeter far if silver-sandalled foot
      Of some long-hidden God should ever tread
   The Nuneham meadows, if with reeded flute
      Pressed to his lips some Faun might raise his head
   By the green water-flags, ah! sweet indeed
   To see the heavenly herdsman call his white-fleeced flock to feed.

   Then sing to me thou tuneful chorister,
      Though what thou sing’st be thine own requiem!
   Tell me thy tale thou hapless chronicler
      Of thine own tragedies! do not contemn
   These unfamiliar haunts, this English field,
   For many a lovely coronal our northern isle can yield

   Which Grecian meadows know not, many a rose
      Which all day long in vales Æolian
   A lad might seek in vain for over-grows
      Our hedges like a wanton courtesan
   Unthrifty of its beauty; lilies too
   Ilissos never mirrored star our streams, and cockles blue

   Dot the green wheat which, though they are the signs
      For swallows going south, would never spread
   Their azure tents between the Attic vines;
      Even that little weed of ragged red,
   Which bids the robin pipe, in Arcady
   Would be a trespasser, and many an unsung elegy

   Sleeps in the reeds that fringe our winding Thames
      Which to awake were sweeter ravishment
   Than ever Syrinx wept for; diadems
      Of brown bee-studded orchids which were meant
   For Cytheræa’s brows are hidden here
   Unknown to Cytheræa, and by yonder pasturing steer

   There is a tiny yellow daffodil,
      The butterfly can see it from afar,
   Although one summer evening’s dew could fill
      Its little cup twice over ere the star
   Had called the lazy shepherd to his fold
   And be no prodigal; each leaf is flecked with spotted gold

   As if Jove’s gorgeous leman Danae
      Hot from his gilded arms had stooped to kiss
   The trembling petals, or young Mercury
      Low-flying to the dusky ford of Dis
   Had with one feather of his pinions
   Just brushed them! the slight stem which bears the burden of its suns

   Is hardly thicker than the gossamer,
      Or poor Arachne’s silver tapestry,—
   Men say it bloomed upon the sepulchre
      Of One I sometime worshipped, but to me
   It seems to bring diviner memories
   Of faun-loved Heliconian glades and blue nymph-haunted seas,

   Of an untrodden vale at Tempe where
      On the clear river’s marge Narcissus lies,
   The tangle of the forest in his hair,
      The silence of the woodland in his eyes,
   Wooing that drifting imagery which is
   No sooner kissed than broken; memories of Salmacis

   Who is not boy nor girl and yet is both,
      Fed by two fires and unsatisfied
   Through their excess, each passion being loth
      For love’s own sake to leave the other’s side
   Yet killing love by staying; memories
   Of Oreads peeping through the leaves of silent moonlit trees,

   Of lonely Ariadne on the wharf
      At Naxos, when she saw the treacherous crew
   Far out at sea, and waved her crimson scarf
      And called false Theseus back again nor knew
   That Dionysos on an amber pard
   Was close behind her; memories of what Mæonia’s bard

   With sightless eyes beheld, the wall of Troy,
      Queen Helen lying in the ivory room,
   And at her side an amorous red-lipped boy
      Trimming with dainty hand his helmet’s plume,
   And far away the moil, the shout, the groan,
   As Hector shielded off the spear and Ajax hurled the stone;

   Of wingèd Perseus with his flawless sword
      Cleaving the snaky tresses of the witch,
   And all those tales imperishably stored
      In little Grecian urns, freightage more rich
   Than any gaudy galleon of Spain
   Bare from the Indies ever! these at least bring back again,

   For well I know they are not dead at all,
      The ancient Gods of Grecian poesy:
   They are asleep, and when they hear thee call
      Will wake and think ’t is very Thessaly,
   This Thames the Daulian waters, this cool glade
   The yellow-irised mead where once young Itys laughed and played.

   If it was thou dear jasmine-cradled bird
      Who from the leafy stillness of thy throne
   Sang to the wondrous boy, until he heard
      The horn of Atalanta faintly blown
   Across the Cumnor hills, and wandering
   Through Bagley wood at evening found the Attic poets’ spring,—

   Ah! tiny sober-suited advocate
      That pleadest for the moon against the day!
   If thou didst make the shepherd seek his mate
      On that sweet questing, when Proserpina
   Forgot it was not Sicily and leant
   Across the mossy Sandford stile in ravished wonderment,—

   Light-winged and bright-eyed miracle of the wood!
      If ever thou didst soothe with melody
   One of that little clan, that brotherhood
      Which loved the morning-star of Tuscany
   More than the perfect sun of Raphael
   And is immortal, sing to me! for I too love thee well.

   Sing on! sing on! let the dull world grow young,
      Let elemental things take form again,
   And the old shapes of Beauty walk among
      The simple garths and open crofts, as when
   The son of Leto bare the willow rod,
   And the soft sheep and shaggy goats followed the boyish God.

   Sing on! sing on! and Bacchus will be here
      Astride upon his gorgeous Indian throne,
   And over whimpering tigers shake the spear
      With yellow ivy crowned and gummy cone,
   While at his side the wanton Bassarid
   Will throw the lion by the mane and catch the mountain kid!

   Sing on! and I will wear the leopard skin,
      And steal the moonèd wings of Ashtaroth,
   Upon whose icy chariot we could win
      Cithæron in an hour ere the froth
   Has over-brimmed the wine-vat or the Faun
   Ceased from the treading! ay, before the flickering lamp of dawn

   Has scared the hooting owlet to its nest,
      And warned the bat to close its filmy vans,
   Some Mænad girl with vine-leaves on her breast
      Will filch their beech-nuts from the sleeping Pans
   So softly that the little nested thrush
   Will never wake, and then with shrilly laugh and leap will rush

   Down the green valley where the fallen dew
      Lies thick beneath the elm and count her store,
   Till the brown Satyrs in a jolly crew
      Trample the loosestrife down along the shore,
   And where their hornèd master sits in state
   Bring strawberries and bloomy plums upon a wicker crate!

   Sing on! and soon with passion-wearied face
      Through the cool leaves Apollo’s lad will come,
   The Tyrian prince his bristled boar will chase
      Adown the chestnut-copses all a-bloom,
   And ivory-limbed, grey-eyed, with look of pride,
   After yon velvet-coated deer the virgin maid will ride.

   Sing on! and I the dying boy will see
      Stain with his purple blood the waxen bell
   That overweighs the jacinth, and to me
      The wretched Cyprian her woe will tell,
   And I will kiss her mouth and streaming eyes,
   And lead her to the myrtle-hidden grove where Adon lies!

   Cry out aloud on Itys! memory
      That foster-brother of remorse and pain
   Drops poison in mine ear,—O to be free,
      To burn one’s old ships! and to launch again
   Into the white-plumed battle of the waves
   And fight old Proteus for the spoil of coral-flowered caves!

   O for Medea with her poppied spell!
      O for the secret of the Colchian shrine!
   O for one leaf of that pale asphodel
      Which binds the tired brows of Proserpine,
   And sheds such wondrous dews at eve that she
   Dreams of the fields of Enna, by the far Sicilian sea,

   Where oft the golden-girdled bee she chased
      From lily to lily on the level mead,
   Ere yet her sombre Lord had bid her taste
      The deadly fruit of that pomegranate seed,
   Ere the black steeds had harried her away
   Down to the faint and flowerless land, the sick and sunless day.

   O for one midnight and as paramour
      The Venus of the little Melian farm!
   O that some antique statue for one hour
      Might wake to passion, and that I could charm
   The Dawn at Florence from its dumb despair,
   Mix with those mighty limbs and make that giant breast my lair!

   Sing on! sing on!  I would be drunk with life,
      Drunk with the trampled vintage of my youth,
   I would forget the wearying wasted strife,
      The riven veil, the Gorgon eyes of Truth,
   The prayerless vigil and the cry for prayer,
   The barren gifts, the lifted arms, the dull insensate air!

   Sing on! sing on!  O feathered Niobe,
      Thou canst make sorrow beautiful, and steal
   From joy its sweetest music, not as we
      Who by dead voiceless silence strive to heal
   Our too untented wounds, and do but keep
   Pain barricadoed in our hearts, and murder pillowed sleep.

   Sing louder yet, why must I still behold
      The wan white face of that deserted Christ,
   Whose bleeding hands my hands did once enfold,
      Whose smitten lips my lips so oft have kissed,
   And now in mute and marble misery
   Sits in his lone dishonoured House and weeps, perchance for me?

   O Memory cast down thy wreathèd shell!
      Break thy hoarse lute O sad Melpomene!
   O Sorrow, Sorrow keep thy cloistered cell
      Nor dim with tears this limpid Castaly!
   Cease, Philomel, thou dost the forest wrong
   To vex its sylvan quiet with such wild impassioned song!

   Cease, cease, or if ’t is anguish to be dumb
      Take from the pastoral thrush her simpler air,
   Whose jocund carelessness doth more become
      This English woodland than thy keen despair,
   Ah! cease and let the north wind bear thy lay
   Back to the rocky hills of Thrace, the stormy Daulian bay.

   A moment more, the startled leaves had stirred,
      Endymion would have passed across the mead
   Moonstruck with love, and this still Thames had heard
      Pan plash and paddle groping for some reed
   To lure from her blue cave that Naiad maid
   Who for such piping listens half in joy and half afraid.

   A moment more, the waking dove had cooed,
      The silver daughter of the silver sea
   With the fond gyves of clinging hands had wooed
      Her wanton from the chase, and Dryope
   Had thrust aside the branches of her oak
   To see the lusty gold-haired lad rein in his snorting yoke.

   A moment more, the trees had stooped to kiss
      Pale Daphne just awakening from the swoon
   Of tremulous laurels, lonely Salmacis
      Had bared his barren beauty to the moon,
   And through the vale with sad voluptuous smile
   Antinous had wandered, the red lotus of the Nile

   Down leaning from his black and clustering hair,
      To shade those slumberous eyelids’ caverned bliss,
   Or else on yonder grassy slope with bare
      High-tuniced limbs unravished Artemis
   Had bade her hounds give tongue, and roused the deer
   From his green ambuscade with shrill halloo and pricking spear.

   Lie still, lie still, O passionate heart, lie still!
      O Melancholy, fold thy raven wing!
   O sobbing Dryad, from thy hollow hill
      Come not with such despondent answering!
   No more thou wingèd Marsyas complain,
   Apollo loveth not to hear such troubled songs of pain!

   It was a dream, the glade is tenantless,
      No soft Ionian laughter moves the air,
   The Thames creeps on in sluggish leadenness,
      And from the copse left desolate and bare
   Fled is young Bacchus with his revelry,
   Yet still from Nuneham wood there comes that thrilling melody

   So sad, that one might think a human heart
      Brake in each separate note, a quality
   Which music sometimes has, being the Art
      Which is most nigh to tears and memory;
   Poor mourning Philomel, what dost thou fear?
   Thy sister doth not haunt these fields, Pandion is not here,

   Here is no cruel Lord with murderous blade,
      No woven web of bloody heraldries,
   But mossy dells for roving comrades made,
      Warm valleys where the tired student lies
   With half-shut book, and many a winding walk
   Where rustic lovers stray at eve in happy simple talk.

   The harmless rabbit gambols with its young
      Across the trampled towing-path, where late
   A troop of laughing boys in jostling throng
      Cheered with their noisy cries the racing eight;
   The gossamer, with ravelled silver threads,
   Works at its little loom, and from the dusky red-eaved sheds

   Of the lone Farm a flickering light shines out
      Where the swinked shepherd drives his bleating flock
   Back to their wattled sheep-cotes, a faint shout
      Comes from some Oxford boat at Sandford lock,
   And starts the moor-hen from the sedgy rill,
   And the dim lengthening shadows flit like swallows up the hill.

   The heron passes homeward to the mere,
      The blue mist creeps among the shivering trees,
   Gold world by world the silent stars appear,
      And like a blossom blown before the breeze
   A white moon drifts across the shimmering sky,
   Mute arbitress of all thy sad, thy rapturous threnody.

   She does not heed thee, wherefore should she heed,
      She knows Endymion is not far away;
   ’Tis I, ’tis I, whose soul is as the reed
      Which has no message of its own to play,
   So pipes another’s bidding, it is I,
   Drifting with every wind on the wide sea of misery.

   Ah! the brown bird has ceased: one exquisite trill
      About the sombre woodland seems to cling
   Dying in music, else the air is still,
      So still that one might hear the bat’s small wing
   Wander and wheel above the pines, or tell
   Each tiny dew-drop dripping from the bluebell’s brimming cell.

   And far away across the lengthening wold,
      Across the willowy flats and thickets brown,
   Magdalen’s tall tower tipped with tremulous gold
      Marks the long High Street of the little town,
   And warns me to return; I must not wait,
   Hark! ’t is the curfew booming from the bell at Christ Church gate.



WIND FLOWERS


IMPRESSION DU MATIN


   THE Thames nocturne of blue and gold
      Changed to a Harmony in grey:
      A barge with ochre-coloured hay
   Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold

   The yellow fog came creeping down
      The bridges, till the houses’ walls
      Seemed changed to shadows and St. Paul’s
   Loomed like a bubble o’er the town.

   Then suddenly arose the clang
      Of waking life; the streets were stirred
      With country waggons: and a bird
   Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.

   But one pale woman all alone,
      The daylight kissing her wan hair,
      Loitered beneath the gas lamps’ flare,
   With lips of flame and heart of stone.


MAGDALEN WALKS


   THE little white clouds are racing over the sky,
      And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,
      The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch
   Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.

   A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,
      The odour of deep wet grass, and of brown new-furrowed earth,
      The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth,
   Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.

   And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
      And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
      And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
   Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.

   And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love
      Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,
      And the gloom of the wych-elm’s hollow is lit with the iris sheen
   Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.

   See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,
      Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,
      And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!
   The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.


ATHANASIA


   TO that gaunt House of Art which lacks for naught
      Of all the great things men have saved from Time,
   The withered body of a girl was brought
      Dead ere the world’s glad youth had touched its prime,
   And seen by lonely Arabs lying hid
   In the dim womb of some black pyramid.

   But when they had unloosed the linen band
      Which swathed the Egyptian’s body,—lo! was found
   Closed in the wasted hollow of her hand
      A little seed, which sown in English ground
   Did wondrous snow of starry blossoms bear
   And spread rich odours through our spring-tide air.

   With such strange arts this flower did allure
      That all forgotten was the asphodel,
   And the brown bee, the lily’s paramour,
      Forsook the cup where he was wont to dwell,
   For not a thing of earth it seemed to be,
   But stolen from some heavenly Arcady.

   In vain the sad narcissus, wan and white
      At its own beauty, hung across the stream,
   The purple dragon-fly had no delight
      With its gold dust to make his wings a-gleam,
   Ah! no delight the jasmine-bloom to kiss,
   Or brush the rain-pearls from the eucharis.

   For love of it the passionate nightingale
      Forgot the hills of Thrace, the cruel king,
   And the pale dove no longer cared to sail
      Through the wet woods at time of blossoming,
   But round this flower of Egypt sought to float,
   With silvered wing and amethystine throat.

   While the hot sun blazed in his tower of blue
      A cooling wind crept from the land of snows,
   And the warm south with tender tears of dew
      Drenched its white leaves when Hesperos up-rose
   Amid those sea-green meadows of the sky
   On which the scarlet bars of sunset lie.

   But when o’er wastes of lily-haunted field
      The tired birds had stayed their amorous tune,
   And broad and glittering like an argent shield
      High in the sapphire heavens hung the moon,
   Did no strange dream or evil memory make
   Each tremulous petal of its blossoms shake?

   Ah no! to this bright flower a thousand years
      Seemed but the lingering of a summer’s day,
   It never knew the tide of cankering fears
      Which turn a boy’s gold hair to withered grey,
   The dread desire of death it never knew,
   Or how all folk that they were born must rue.

   For we to death with pipe and dancing go,
      Nor would we pass the ivory gate again,
   As some sad river wearied of its flow
      Through the dull plains, the haunts of common men,
   Leaps lover-like into the terrible sea!
   And counts it gain to die so gloriously.

   We mar our lordly strength in barren strife
      With the world’s legions led by clamorous care,
   It never feels decay but gathers life
      From the pure sunlight and the supreme air,
   We live beneath Time’s wasting sovereignty,
   It is the child of all eternity.


SERENADE


                               (FOR MUSIC)

   THE western wind is blowing fair
      Across the dark Ægean sea,
   And at the secret marble stair
      My Tyrian galley waits for thee.
   Come down! the purple sail is spread,
      The watchman sleeps within the town,
   O leave thy lily-flowered bed,
      O Lady mine come down, come down!

   She will not come, I know her well,
      Of lover’s vows she hath no care,
   And little good a man can tell
      Of one so cruel and so fair.
   True love is but a woman’s toy,
      They never know the lover’s pain,
   And I who loved as loves a boy
      Must love in vain, must love in vain.

   O noble pilot, tell me true,
      Is that the sheen of golden hair?
   Or is it but the tangled dew
      That binds the passion-flowers there?
   Good sailor come and tell me now
      Is that my Lady’s lily hand?
   Or is it but the gleaming prow,
      Or is it but the silver sand?

   No! no! ’tis not the tangled dew,
      ’Tis not the silver-fretted sand,
   It is my own dear Lady true
      With golden hair and lily hand!
   O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
      Good sailor, ply the labouring oar,
   This is the Queen of life and joy
      Whom we must bear from Grecian shore!

   The waning sky grows faint and blue,
      It wants an hour still of day,
   Aboard! aboard! my gallant crew,
      O Lady mine, away! away!
   O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
      Good sailor, ply the labouring oar,
   O loved as only loves a boy!
      O loved for ever evermore!


ENDYMION


                               (FOR MUSIC)

   THE apple trees are hung with gold,
      And birds are loud in Arcady,
   The sheep lie bleating in the fold,
   The wild goat runs across the wold,
   But yesterday his love he told,
      I know he will come back to me.
   O rising moon!  O Lady moon!
      Be you my lover’s sentinel,
      You cannot choose but know him well,
   For he is shod with purple shoon,
   You cannot choose but know my love,
      For he a shepherd’s crook doth bear,
   And he is soft as any dove,
      And brown and curly is his hair.

   The turtle now has ceased to call
      Upon her crimson-footed groom,
   The grey wolf prowls about the stall,
   The lily’s singing seneschal
   Sleeps in the lily-bell, and all
      The violet hills are lost in gloom.
   O risen moon!  O holy moon!
      Stand on the top of Helice,
      And if my own true love you see,
   Ah! if you see the purple shoon,
   The hazel crook, the lad’s brown hair,
      The goat-skin wrapped about his arm,
   Tell him that I am waiting where
      The rushlight glimmers in the Farm.

   The falling dew is cold and chill,
      And no bird sings in Arcady,
   The little fauns have left the hill,
   Even the tired daffodil
   Has closed its gilded doors, and still
      My lover comes not back to me.
   False moon!  False moon!  O waning moon!
      Where is my own true lover gone,
      Where are the lips vermilion,
   The shepherd’s crook, the purple shoon?
   Why spread that silver pavilion,
      Why wear that veil of drifting mist?
   Ah! thou hast young Endymion,
      Thou hast the lips that should be kissed!


LA BELLA DONNA DELLA MIA MENTE


   MY limbs are wasted with a flame,
      My feet are sore with travelling,
   For, calling on my Lady’s name,
      My lips have now forgot to sing.

   O Linnet in the wild-rose brake
      Strain for my Love thy melody,
   O Lark sing louder for love’s sake,
      My gentle Lady passeth by.

   She is too fair for any man
      To see or hold his heart’s delight,
   Fairer than Queen or courtesan
      Or moonlit water in the night.

   Her hair is bound with myrtle leaves,
      (Green leaves upon her golden hair!)
   Green grasses through the yellow sheaves
      Of autumn corn are not more fair.

   Her little lips, more made to kiss
      Than to cry bitterly for pain,
   Are tremulous as brook-water is,
      Or roses after evening rain.

   Her neck is like white melilote
      Flushing for pleasure of the sun,
   The throbbing of the linnet’s throat
      Is not so sweet to look upon.

   As a pomegranate, cut in twain,
      White-seeded, is her crimson mouth,
   Her cheeks are as the fading stain
      Where the peach reddens to the south.

   O twining hands!  O delicate
      White body made for love and pain!
   O House of love!  O desolate
      Pale flower beaten by the rain!


CHANSON


   A RING of gold and a milk-white dove
      Are goodly gifts for thee,
   And a hempen rope for your own love
      To hang upon a tree.

   For you a House of Ivory,
      (Roses are white in the rose-bower)!
   A narrow bed for me to lie,
      (White, O white, is the hemlock flower)!

   Myrtle and jessamine for you,
      (O the red rose is fair to see)!
   For me the cypress and the rue,
      (Finest of all is rosemary)!

   For you three lovers of your hand,
      (Green grass where a man lies dead)!
   For me three paces on the sand,
      (Plant lilies at my head)!



CHARMIDES


                                     I.

   HE was a Grecian lad, who coming home
      With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
   Stood at his galley’s prow, and let the foam
      Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
   And holding wave and wind in boy’s despite
   Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night.

   Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
      Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
   And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear,
      And bade the pilot head her lustily
   Against the nor’west gale, and all day long
   Held on his way, and marked the rowers’ time with measured song.

   And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
      Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
   And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
      And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
   And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
   Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,

   And a rich robe stained with the fishers’ juice
      Which of some swarthy trader he had bought
   Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
      And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
   And by the questioning merchants made his way
   Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day

   Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
      Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
   Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
      Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
   Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
   The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling

   The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
      His studded crook against the temple wall
   To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
      Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
   And then the clear-voiced maidens ’gan to sing,
   And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,

   A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
      A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
   Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
      Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee
   Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
   Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked spoil

   Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
      To please Athena, and the dappled hide
   Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
      Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
   And from the pillared precinct one by one
   Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had
   done.

   And the old priest put out the waning fires
      Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed
   For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
      Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
   In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
   And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.

   Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
      And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
   And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
      As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
   And seemed to be in some entrancèd swoon
   Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon

   Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
      When from his nook up leapt the venturous lad,
   And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
      Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
   And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
   From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared

   Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
      The Gorgon’s head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
   And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
      And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
   In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
   The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.

   The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
      Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
   The net for tunnies, heard a brazen tramp
      Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
   Divide the folded curtains of the night,
   And knelt upon the little poop, and prayed in holy fright.

   And guilty lovers in their venery
      Forgat a little while their stolen sweets,
   Deeming they heard dread Dian’s bitter cry;
      And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
   Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
   Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.

   For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
      And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
   And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
      Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
   And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
   And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.

   Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
      And well content at such a price to see
   That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
      The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
   Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
   Since Troy’s young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.

   Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
      Grew silent, and the horses ceased to neigh,
   And off his brow he tossed the clustering hair,
      And from his limbs he throw the cloak away;
   For whom would not such love make desperate?
   And nigher came, and touched her throat, and with hands violate

   Undid the cuirass, and the crocus gown,
      And bared the breasts of polished ivory,
   Till from the waist the peplos falling down
      Left visible the secret mystery
   Which to no lover will Athena show,
   The grand cool flanks, the crescent thighs, the bossy hills of snow.

   Those who have never known a lover’s sin
      Let them not read my ditty, it will be
   To their dull ears so musicless and thin
      That they will have no joy of it, but ye
   To whose wan cheeks now creeps the lingering smile,
   Ye who have learned who Eros is,—O listen yet awhile.

   A little space he let his greedy eyes
      Rest on the burnished image, till mere sight
   Half swooned for surfeit of such luxuries,
      And then his lips in hungering delight
   Fed on her lips, and round the towered neck
   He flung his arms, nor cared at all his passion’s will to check.

   Never I ween did lover hold such tryst,
      For all night long he murmured honeyed word,
   And saw her sweet unravished limbs, and kissed
      Her pale and argent body undisturbed,
   And paddled with the polished throat, and pressed
   His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast.

   It was as if Numidian javelins
      Pierced through and through his wild and whirling brain,
   And his nerves thrilled like throbbing violins
      In exquisite pulsation, and the pain
   Was such sweet anguish that he never drew
   His lips from hers till overhead the lark of warning flew.

   They who have never seen the daylight peer
      Into a darkened room, and drawn the curtain,
   And with dull eyes and wearied from some dear
      And worshipped body risen, they for certain
   Will never know of what I try to sing,
   How long the last kiss was, how fond and late his lingering.

   The moon was girdled with a crystal rim,
      The sign which shipmen say is ominous
   Of wrath in heaven, the wan stars were dim,
      And the low lightening east was tremulous
   With the faint fluttering wings of flying dawn,
   Ere from the silent sombre shrine his lover had withdrawn.

   Down the steep rock with hurried feet and fast
      Clomb the brave lad, and reached the cave of Pan,
   And heard the goat-foot snoring as he passed,
      And leapt upon a grassy knoll and ran
   Like a young fawn unto an olive wood
   Which in a shady valley by the well-built city stood;

   And sought a little stream, which well he knew,
      For oftentimes with boyish careless shout
   The green and crested grebe he would pursue,
      Or snare in woven net the silver trout,
   And down amid the startled reeds he lay
   Panting in breathless sweet affright, and waited for the day.

   On the green bank he lay, and let one hand
      Dip in the cool dark eddies listlessly,
   And soon the breath of morning came and fanned
      His hot flushed cheeks, or lifted wantonly
   The tangled curls from off his forehead, while
   He on the running water gazed with strange and secret smile.

   And soon the shepherd in rough woollen cloak
      With his long crook undid the wattled cotes,
   And from the stack a thin blue wreath of smoke
      Curled through the air across the ripening oats,
   And on the hill the yellow house-dog bayed
   As through the crisp and rustling fern the heavy cattle strayed.

   And when the light-foot mower went afield
      Across the meadows laced with threaded dew,
   And the sheep bleated on the misty weald,
      And from its nest the waking corncrake flew,
   Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
   And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,

   Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
      ‘It is young Hylas, that false runaway
   Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
      Forgetting Herakles,’ but others, ‘Nay,
   It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
   Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman can allure.’

   And when they nearer came a third one cried,
      ‘It is young Dionysos who has hid
   His spear and fawnskin by the river side
      Weary of hunting with the Bassarid,
   And wise indeed were we away to fly:
   They live not long who on the gods immortal come to spy.’

   So turned they back, and feared to look behind,
      And told the timid swain how they had seen
   Amid the reeds some woodland god reclined,
      And no man dared to cross the open green,
   And on that day no olive-tree was slain,
   Nor rushes cut, but all deserted was the fair domain,

   Save when the neat-herd’s lad, his empty pail
      Well slung upon his back, with leap and bound
   Raced on the other side, and stopped to hail,
      Hoping that he some comrade new had found,
   And gat no answer, and then half afraid
   Passed on his simple way, or down the still and silent glade

   A little girl ran laughing from the farm,
      Not thinking of love’s secret mysteries,
   And when she saw the white and gleaming arm
      And all his manlihood, with longing eyes
   Whose passion mocked her sweet virginity
   Watched him awhile, and then stole back sadly and wearily.

   Far off he heard the city’s hum and noise,
      And now and then the shriller laughter where
   The passionate purity of brown-limbed boys
      Wrestled or raced in the clear healthful air,
   And now and then a little tinkling bell
   As the shorn wether led the sheep down to the mossy well.

   Through the grey willows danced the fretful gnat,
      The grasshopper chirped idly from the tree,
   In sleek and oily coat the water-rat
      Breasting the little ripples manfully
   Made for the wild-duck’s nest, from bough to bough
   Hopped the shy finch, and the huge tortoise crept across the slough.

   On the faint wind floated the silky seeds
      As the bright scythe swept through the waving grass,
   The ouzel-cock splashed circles in the reeds
      And flecked with silver whorls the forest’s glass,
   Which scarce had caught again its imagery
   Ere from its bed the dusky tench leapt at the dragon-fly.

   But little care had he for any thing
      Though up and down the beech the squirrel played,
   And from the copse the linnet ’gan to sing
      To its brown mate its sweetest serenade;
   Ah! little care indeed, for he had seen
   The breasts of Pallas and the naked wonder of the Queen.

   But when the herdsman called his straggling goats
      With whistling pipe across the rocky road,
   And the shard-beetle with its trumpet-notes
      Boomed through the darkening woods, and seemed to bode
   Of coming storm, and the belated crane
   Passed homeward like a shadow, and the dull big drops of rain

   Fell on the pattering fig-leaves, up he rose,
      And from the gloomy forest went his way
   Past sombre homestead and wet orchard-close,
      And came at last unto a little quay,
   And called his mates aboard, and took his seat
   On the high poop, and pushed from land, and loosed the dripping sheet,

   And steered across the bay, and when nine suns
      Passed down the long and laddered way of gold,
   And nine pale moons had breathed their orisons
      To the chaste stars their confessors, or told
   Their dearest secret to the downy moth
   That will not fly at noonday, through the foam and surging froth

   Came a great owl with yellow sulphurous eyes
      And lit upon the ship, whose timbers creaked
   As though the lading of three argosies
      Were in the hold, and flapped its wings and shrieked,
   And darkness straightway stole across the deep,
   Sheathed was Orion’s sword, dread Mars himself fled down the steep,

   And the moon hid behind a tawny mask
      Of drifting cloud, and from the ocean’s marge
   Rose the red plume, the huge and hornèd casque,
      The seven-cubit spear, the brazen targe!
   And clad in bright and burnished panoply
   Athena strode across the stretch of sick and shivering sea!

   To the dull sailors’ sight her loosened looks
      Seemed like the jagged storm-rack, and her feet
   Only the spume that floats on hidden rocks,
      And, marking how the rising waters beat
   Against the rolling ship, the pilot cried
   To the young helmsman at the stern to luff to windward side

   But he, the overbold adulterer,
      A dear profaner of great mysteries,
   An ardent amorous idolater,
      When he beheld those grand relentless eyes
   Laughed loud for joy, and crying out ‘I come’
   Leapt from the lofty poop into the chill and churning foam.

   Then fell from the high heaven one bright star,
      One dancer left the circling galaxy,
   And back to Athens on her clattering car
      In all the pride of venged divinity
   Pale Pallas swept with shrill and steely clank,
   And a few gurgling bubbles rose where her boy lover sank.

   And the mast shuddered as the gaunt owl flew
      With mocking hoots after the wrathful Queen,
   And the old pilot bade the trembling crew
      Hoist the big sail, and told how he had seen
   Close to the stern a dim and giant form,
   And like a dipping swallow the stout ship dashed through the storm.

   And no man dared to speak of Charmides
      Deeming that he some evil thing had wrought,
   And when they reached the strait Symplegades
      They beached their galley on the shore, and sought
   The toll-gate of the city hastily,
   And in the market showed their brown and pictured pottery.

                                     II.

   BUT some good Triton-god had ruth, and bare
      The boy’s drowned body back to Grecian land,
   And mermaids combed his dank and dripping hair
      And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clenching hand;
   Some brought sweet spices from far Araby,
   And others bade the halcyon sing her softest lullaby.

   And when he neared his old Athenian home,
      A mighty billow rose up suddenly
   Upon whose oily back the clotted foam
      Lay diapered in some strange fantasy,
   And clasping him unto its glassy breast
   Swept landward, like a white-maned steed upon a venturous quest!

   Now where Colonos leans unto the sea
      There lies a long and level stretch of lawn;
   The rabbit knows it, and the mountain bee
      For it deserts Hymettus, and the Faun
   Is not afraid, for never through the day
   Comes a cry ruder than the shout of shepherd lads at play.

   But often from the thorny labyrinth
      And tangled branches of the circling wood
   The stealthy hunter sees young Hyacinth
      Hurling the polished disk, and draws his hood
   Over his guilty gaze, and creeps away,
   Nor dares to wind his horn, or—else at the first break of day

   The Dryads come and throw the leathern ball
      Along the reedy shore, and circumvent
   Some goat-eared Pan to be their seneschal
      For fear of bold Poseidon’s ravishment,
   And loose their girdles, with shy timorous eyes,
   Lest from the surf his azure arms and purple beard should rise.

   On this side and on that a rocky cave,
      Hung with the yellow-belled laburnum, stands
   Smooth is the beach, save where some ebbing wave
      Leaves its faint outline etched upon the sands,
   As though it feared to be too soon forgot
   By the green rush, its playfellow,—and yet, it is a spot

   So small, that the inconstant butterfly
      Could steal the hoarded money from each flower
   Ere it was noon, and still not satisfy
      Its over-greedy love,—within an hour
   A sailor boy, were he but rude enow
   To land and pluck a garland for his galley’s painted prow,

   Would almost leave the little meadow bare,
      For it knows nothing of great pageantry,
   Only a few narcissi here and there
      Stand separate in sweet austerity,
   Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
   And here and there a daffodil waves tiny scimitars.

   Hither the billow brought him, and was glad
      Of such dear servitude, and where the land
   Was virgin of all waters laid the lad
      Upon the golden margent of the strand,
   And like a lingering lover oft returned
   To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense fire burned,

   Ere the wet seas had quenched that holocaust,
      That self-fed flame, that passionate lustihead,
   Ere grisly death with chill and nipping frost
      Had withered up those lilies white and red
   Which, while the boy would through the forest range,
   Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counter-change.

   And when at dawn the wood-nymphs, hand-in-hand,
      Threaded the bosky dell, their satyr spied
   The boy’s pale body stretched upon the sand,
      And feared Poseidon’s treachery, and cried,
   And like bright sunbeams flitting through a glade
   Each startled Dryad sought some safe and leafy ambuscade.

   Save one white girl, who deemed it would not be
      So dread a thing to feel a sea-god’s arms
   Crushing her breasts in amorous tyranny,
      And longed to listen to those subtle charms
   Insidious lovers weave when they would win
   Some fencèd fortress, and stole back again, nor thought it sin

   To yield her treasure unto one so fair,
      And lay beside him, thirsty with love’s drouth,
   Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair,
      And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth
   Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid
   Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then, fond renegade,

   Returned to fresh assault, and all day long
      Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy,
   And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song,
      Then frowned to see how froward was the boy
   Who would not with her maidenhood entwine,
   Nor knew that three days since his eyes had looked on Proserpine;

   Nor knew what sacrilege his lips had done,
      But said, ‘He will awake, I know him well,
   He will awake at evening when the sun
      Hangs his red shield on Corinth’s citadel;
   This sleep is but a cruel treachery
   To make me love him more, and in some cavern of the sea

   Deeper than ever falls the fisher’s line
      Already a huge Triton blows his horn,
   And weaves a garland from the crystalline
      And drifting ocean-tendrils to adorn
   The emerald pillars of our bridal bed,
   For sphered in foaming silver, and with coral crownèd head,

   We two will sit upon a throne of pearl,
      And a blue wave will be our canopy,
   And at our feet the water-snakes will curl
      In all their amethystine panoply
   Of diamonded mail, and we will mark
   The mullets swimming by the mast of some storm-foundered bark,

   Vermilion-finned with eyes of bossy gold
      Like flakes of crimson light, and the great deep
   His glassy-portaled chamber will unfold,
      And we will see the painted dolphins sleep
   Cradled by murmuring halcyons on the rocks
   Where Proteus in quaint suit of green pastures his monstrous flocks.

   And tremulous opal-hued anemones
      Will wave their purple fringes where we tread
   Upon the mirrored floor, and argosies
      Of fishes flecked with tawny scales will thread
   The drifting cordage of the shattered wreck,
   And honey-coloured amber beads our twining limbs will deck.’

   But when that baffled Lord of War the Sun
      With gaudy pennon flying passed away
   Into his brazen House, and one by one
      The little yellow stars began to stray
   Across the field of heaven, ah! then indeed
   She feared his lips upon her lips would never care to feed,

   And cried, ‘Awake, already the pale moon
      Washes the trees with silver, and the wave
   Creeps grey and chilly up this sandy dune,
      The croaking frogs are out, and from the cave
   The nightjar shrieks, the fluttering bats repass,
   And the brown stoat with hollow flanks creeps through the dusky grass.

   Nay, though thou art a god, be not so coy,
      For in yon stream there is a little reed
   That often whispers how a lovely boy
      Lay with her once upon a grassy mead,
   Who when his cruel pleasure he had done
   Spread wings of rustling gold and soared aloft into the sun.

   Be not so coy, the laurel trembles still
      With great Apollo’s kisses, and the fir
   Whose clustering sisters fringe the seaward hill
      Hath many a tale of that bold ravisher
   Whom men call Boreas, and I have seen
   The mocking eyes of Hermes through the poplar’s silvery sheen.

   Even the jealous Naiads call me fair,
      And every morn a young and ruddy swain
   Woos me with apples and with locks of hair,
      And seeks to soothe my virginal disdain
   By all the gifts the gentle wood-nymphs love;
   But yesterday he brought to me an iris-plumaged dove

   With little crimson feet, which with its store
      Of seven spotted eggs the cruel lad
   Had stolen from the lofty sycamore
      At daybreak, when her amorous comrade had
   Flown off in search of berried juniper
   Which most they love; the fretful wasp, that earliest vintager

   Of the blue grapes, hath not persistency
      So constant as this simple shepherd-boy
   For my poor lips, his joyous purity
      And laughing sunny eyes might well decoy
   A Dryad from her oath to Artemis;
   For very beautiful is he, his mouth was made to kiss;

   His argent forehead, like a rising moon
      Over the dusky hills of meeting brows,
   Is crescent shaped, the hot and Tyrian noon
      Leads from the myrtle-grove no goodlier spouse
   For Cytheræa, the first silky down
   Fringes his blushing cheeks, and his young limbs are strong and brown;

   And he is rich, and fat and fleecy herds
      Of bleating sheep upon his meadows lie,
   And many an earthen bowl of yellow curds
      Is in his homestead for the thievish fly
   To swim and drown in, the pink clover mead
   Keeps its sweet store for him, and he can pipe on oaten reed.

   And yet I love him not; it was for thee
      I kept my love; I knew that thou would’st come
   To rid me of this pallid chastity,
      Thou fairest flower of the flowerless foam
   Of all the wide Ægean, brightest star
   Of ocean’s azure heavens where the mirrored planets are!

   I knew that thou would’st come, for when at first
      The dry wood burgeoned, and the sap of spring
   Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst
      To myriad multitudinous blossoming
   Which mocked the midnight with its mimic moons
   That did not dread the dawn, and first the thrushes’ rapturous tunes

   Startled the squirrel from its granary,
      And cuckoo flowers fringed the narrow lane,
   Through my young leaves a sensuous ecstasy
      Crept like new wine, and every mossy vein
   Throbbed with the fitful pulse of amorous blood,
   And the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem’s maidenhood.

   The trooping fawns at evening came and laid
      Their cool black noses on my lowest boughs,
   And on my topmost branch the blackbird made
      A little nest of grasses for his spouse,
   And now and then a twittering wren would light
   On a thin twig which hardly bare the weight of such delight.

   I was the Attic shepherd’s trysting place,
      Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
   And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
      The timorous girl, till tired out with play
   She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,
   And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such delightful snare.

   Then come away unto my ambuscade
      Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
   For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
      Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify
   The dearest rites of love; there in the cool
   And green recesses of its farthest depth there is pool,

   The ouzel’s haunt, the wild bee’s pasturage,
      For round its rim great creamy lilies float
   Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,
      Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
   Steered by a dragon-fly,—be not afraid
   To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the place was made

   For lovers such as we; the Cyprian Queen,
      One arm around her boyish paramour,
   Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
      The moon strip off her misty vestiture
   For young Endymion’s eyes; be not afraid,
   The panther feet of Dian never tread that secret glade.

   Nay if thou will’st, back to the beating brine,
      Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
   And walk all day beneath the hyaline
      Huge vault of Neptune’s watery portico,
   And watch the purple monsters of the deep
   Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen Xiphias leap.

   For if my mistress find me lying here
      She will not ruth or gentle pity show,
   But lay her boar-spear down, and with austere
      Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
   And draw the feathered notch against her breast,
   And loose the archèd cord; aye, even now upon the quest

   I hear her hurrying feet,—awake, awake,
      Thou laggard in love’s battle! once at least
   Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake
      My parchèd being with the nectarous feast
   Which even gods affect!  O come, Love, come,
   Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine azure home.’

   Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
      Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
   Grew conscious of a god, and the grey seas
      Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
   Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
   And like a flame a barbèd reed flew whizzing down the glade.

   And where the little flowers of her breast
      Just brake into their milky blossoming,
   This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
      Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
   And ploughed a bloody furrow with its dart,
   And dug a long red road, and cleft with wingèd death her heart.

   Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry
      On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid,
   Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
      And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
   And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
   And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing side.

   Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
      And very pitiful to see her die
   Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
      The joy of passion, that dread mystery
   Which not to know is not to live at all,
   And yet to know is to be held in death’s most deadly thrall.

   But as it hapt the Queen of Cythere,
      Who with Adonis all night long had lain
   Within some shepherd’s hut in Arcady,
      On team of silver doves and gilded wain
   Was journeying Paphos-ward, high up afar
   From mortal ken between the mountains and the morning star,

   And when low down she spied the hapless pair,
      And heard the Oread’s faint despairing cry,
   Whose cadence seemed to play upon the air
      As though it were a viol, hastily
   She bade her pigeons fold each straining plume,
   And dropt to earth, and reached the strand, and saw their dolorous
   doom.

   For as a gardener turning back his head
      To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows
   With careless scythe too near some flower bed,
      And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose,
   And with the flower’s loosened loneliness
   Strews the brown mould; or as some shepherd lad in wantonness

   Driving his little flock along the mead
      Treads down two daffodils, which side by aide
   Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede
      And made the gaudy moth forget its pride,
   Treads down their brimming golden chalices
   Under light feet which were not made for such rude ravages;

   Or as a schoolboy tired of his book
      Flings himself down upon the reedy grass
   And plucks two water-lilies from the brook,
      And for a time forgets the hour glass,
   Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way,
   And lets the hot sun kill them, even go these lovers lay.

   And Venus cried, ‘It is dread Artemis
      Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty,
   Or else that mightier maid whose care it is
      To guard her strong and stainless majesty
   Upon the hill Athenian,—alas!
   That they who loved so well unloved into Death’s house should pass.’

   So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl
      In the great golden waggon tenderly
   (Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl
      Just threaded with a blue vein’s tapestry
   Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast
   Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest)

   And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
      The bright car soared into the dawning sky,
   And like a cloud the aerial caravan
      Passed over the Ægean silently,
   Till the faint air was troubled with the song
   From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long.

   But when the doves had reached their wonted goal
      Where the wide stair of orbèd marble dips
   Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul
      Just shook the trembling petals of her lips
   And passed into the void, and Venus knew
   That one fair maid the less would walk amid her retinue,

   And bade her servants carve a cedar chest
      With all the wonder of this history,
   Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest
      Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky
   On the low hills of Paphos, and the Faun
   Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on till dawn.

   Nor failed they to obey her hest, and ere
      The morning bee had stung the daffodil
   With tiny fretful spear, or from its lair
      The waking stag had leapt across the rill
   And roused the ouzel, or the lizard crept
   Athwart the sunny rock, beneath the grass their bodies slept.

   And when day brake, within that silver shrine
      Fed by the flames of cressets tremulous,
   Queen Venus knelt and prayed to Proserpine
      That she whose beauty made Death amorous
   Should beg a guerdon from her pallid Lord,
   And let Desire pass across dread Charon’s icy ford.

                                     III

   IN melancholy moonless Acheron,
      Farm for the goodly earth and joyous day
   Where no spring ever buds, nor ripening sun
      Weighs down the apple trees, nor flowery May
   Chequers with chestnut blooms the grassy floor,
   Where thrushes never sing, and piping linnets mate no more,

   There by a dim and dark Lethæan well
      Young Charmides was lying; wearily
   He plucked the blossoms from the asphodel,
      And with its little rifled treasury
   Strewed the dull waters of the dusky stream,
   And watched the white stars founder, and the land was like a dream,

   When as he gazed into the watery glass
      And through his brown hair’s curly tangles scanned
   His own wan face, a shadow seemed to pass
      Across the mirror, and a little hand
   Stole into his, and warm lips timidly
   Brushed his pale cheeks, and breathed their secret forth into a sigh.

   Then turned he round his weary eyes and saw,
      And ever nigher still their faces came,
   And nigher ever did their young mouths draw
      Until they seemed one perfect rose of flame,
   And longing arms around her neck he cast,
   And felt her throbbing bosom, and his breath came hot and fast,

   And all his hoarded sweets were hers to kiss,
      And all her maidenhood was his to slay,
   And limb to limb in long and rapturous bliss
      Their passion waxed and waned,—O why essay
   To pipe again of love, too venturous reed!
   Enough, enough that Eros laughed upon that flowerless mead.

   Too venturous poesy, O why essay
      To pipe again of passion! fold thy wings
   O’er daring Icarus and bid thy lay
      Sleep hidden in the lyre’s silent strings
   Till thou hast found the old Castalian rill,
   Or from the Lesbian waters plucked drowned Sappho’s golden quid!

   Enough, enough that he whose life had been
      A fiery pulse of sin, a splendid shame,
   Could in the loveless land of Hades glean
      One scorching harvest from those fields of flame
   Where passion walks with naked unshod feet
   And is not wounded,—ah! enough that once their lips could meet

   In that wild throb when all existences
      Seemed narrowed to one single ecstasy
   Which dies through its own sweetness and the stress
      Of too much pleasure, ere Persephone
   Had bade them serve her by the ebon throne
   Of the pale God who in the fields of Enna loosed her zone.



FLOWERS OF GOLD


IMPRESSIONS

I
LES SILHOUETTES


      THE sea is flecked with bars of grey,
      The dull dead wind is out of tune,
      And like a withered leaf the moon
   Is blown across the stormy bay.

      Etched clear upon the pallid sand
      Lies the black boat: a sailor boy
      Clambers aboard in careless joy
   With laughing face and gleaming hand.

      And overhead the curlews cry,
      Where through the dusky upland grass
      The young brown-throated reapers pass,
   Like silhouettes against the sky.


II
LA FUITE DE LA LUNE


      TO outer senses there is peace,
      A dreamy peace on either hand
      Deep silence in the shadowy land,
   Deep silence where the shadows cease.

      Save for a cry that echoes shrill
      From some lone bird disconsolate;
      A corncrake calling to its mate;
   The answer from the misty hill.

      And suddenly the moon withdraws
      Her sickle from the lightening skies,
      And to her sombre cavern flies,
   Wrapped in a veil of yellow gauze.


THE GRAVE OF KEATS


   RID of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
      He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
      Taken from life when life and love were new
   The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
   Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
      No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
      But gentle violets weeping with the dew
   Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
   O proudest heart that broke for misery!
      O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
      O poet-painter of our English Land!
   Thy name was writ in water—it shall stand:
      And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
      As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

ROME.


THEOCRITUS


                               A VILLANELLE

   O SINGER of Persephone!
      In the dim meadows desolate
   Dost thou remember Sicily?

   Still through the ivy flits the bee
      Where Amaryllis lies in state;
   O Singer of Persephone!

   Simætha calls on Hecate
      And hears the wild dogs at the gate;
   Dost thou remember Sicily?

   Still by the light and laughing sea
      Poor Polypheme bemoans his fate;
   O Singer of Persephone!

   And still in boyish rivalry
      Young Daphnis challenges his mate;
   Dost thou remember Sicily?

   Slim Lacon keeps a goat for thee,
      For thee the jocund shepherds wait;
   O Singer of Persephone!
   Dost thou remember Sicily?


IN THE GOLD ROOM


                                A HARMONY

   HER ivory hands on the ivory keys
      Strayed in a fitful fantasy,
   Like the silver gleam when the poplar trees
      Rustle their pale-leaves listlessly,
   Or the drifting foam of a restless sea
   When the waves show their teeth in the flying breeze.

   Her gold hair fell on the wall of gold
      Like the delicate gossamer tangles spun
   On the burnished disk of the marigold,
      Or the sunflower turning to meet the sun
      When the gloom of the dark blue night is done,
   And the spear of the lily is aureoled.

   And her sweet red lips on these lips of mine
      Burned like the ruby fire set
   In the swinging lamp of a crimson shrine,
      Or the bleeding wounds of the pomegranate,
      Or the heart of the lotus drenched and wet
   With the spilt-out blood of the rose-red wine.


BALLADE DE MARGUERITE


                                (NORMANDE)

   I AM weary of lying within the chase
   When the knights are meeting in market-place.

   Nay, go not thou to the red-roofed town
   Lest the hoofs of the war-horse tread thee down.

   But I would not go where the Squires ride,
   I would only walk by my Lady’s side.

   Alack! and alack! thou art overbold,
   A Forester’s son may not eat off gold.

   Will she love me the less that my Father is seen
   Each Martinmas day in a doublet green?

   Perchance she is sewing at tapestrie,
   Spindle and loom are not meet for thee.

   Ah, if she is working the arras bright
   I might ravel the threads by the fire-light.

   Perchance she is hunting of the deer,
   How could you follow o’er hill and mere?

   Ah, if she is riding with the court,
   I might run beside her and wind the morte.

   Perchance she is kneeling in St. Denys,
   (On her soul may our Lady have gramercy!)

   Ah, if she is praying in lone chapelle,
   I might swing the censer and ring the bell.

   Come in, my son, for you look sae pale,
   The father shall fill thee a stoup of ale.

   But who are these knights in bright array?
   Is it a pageant the rich folks play?

   ’T is the King of England from over sea,
   Who has come unto visit our fair countrie.

   But why does the curfew toll sae low?
   And why do the mourners walk a-row?

   O ’t is Hugh of Amiens my sister’s son
   Who is lying stark, for his day is done.

   Nay, nay, for I see white lilies clear,
   It is no strong man who lies on the bier.

   O ’t is old Dame Jeannette that kept the hall,
   I knew she would die at the autumn fall.

   Dame Jeannette had not that gold-brown hair,
   Old Jeannette was not a maiden fair.

   O ’t is none of our kith and none of our kin,
   (Her soul may our Lady assoil from sin!)

   But I hear the boy’s voice chaunting sweet,
   ‘Elle est morte, la Marguerite.’

   Come in, my son, and lie on the bed,
   And let the dead folk bury their dead.

   O mother, you know I loved her true:
   O mother, hath one grave room for two?


THE DOLE OF THE KING’S DAUGHTER


                                 (BRETON)

   SEVEN stars in the still water,
      And seven in the sky;
   Seven sins on the King’s daughter,
      Deep in her soul to lie.

   Red roses are at her feet,
      (Roses are red in her red-gold hair)
   And O where her bosom and girdle meet
      Red roses are hidden there.

   Fair is the knight who lieth slain
      Amid the rush and reed,
   See the lean fishes that are fain
      Upon dead men to feed.

   Sweet is the page that lieth there,
      (Cloth of gold is goodly prey,)
   See the black ravens in the air,
      Black, O black as the night are they.

   What do they there so stark and dead?
      (There is blood upon her hand)
   Why are the lilies flecked with red?
      (There is blood on the river sand.)

   There are two that ride from the south and east,
      And two from the north and west,
   For the black raven a goodly feast,
      For the King’s daughter rest.

   There is one man who loves her true,
      (Red, O red, is the stain of gore!)
   He hath duggen a grave by the darksome yew,
      (One grave will do for four.)

   No moon in the still heaven,
      In the black water none,
   The sins on her soul are seven,
      The sin upon his is one.


AMOR INTELLECTUALIS


   OFT have we trod the vales of Castaly
      And heard sweet notes of sylvan music blown
      From antique reeds to common folk unknown:
   And often launched our bark upon that sea
   Which the nine Muses hold in empery,
      And ploughed free furrows through the wave and foam,
      Nor spread reluctant sail for more safe home
   Till we had freighted well our argosy.
   Of which despoilèd treasures these remain,
      Sordello’s passion, and the honeyed line
   Of young Endymion, lordly Tamburlaine
      Driving his pampered jades, and more than these,
   The seven-fold vision of the Florentine,
      And grave-browed Milton’s solemn harmonies.


SANTA DECCA


   THE Gods are dead: no longer do we bring
      To grey-eyed Pallas crowns of olive-leaves!
      Demeter’s child no more hath tithe of sheaves,
   And in the noon the careless shepherds sing,
   For Pan is dead, and all the wantoning
      By secret glade and devious haunt is o’er:
      Young Hylas seeks the water-springs no more;
   Great Pan is dead, and Mary’s son is King.

   And yet—perchance in this sea-trancèd 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.

CORFU.


A VISION


   TWO crownèd 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 Beatricé, ‘Who are these?’
   And she made answer, knowing well each name,
      ‘Æschylos first, the second Sophokles,
      And last (wide stream of tears!) Euripides.’


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!

KATAKOLO.


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.

ROME.


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.



IMPRESSIONS DE THÉÂTRE


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!


PHÈDRE


                            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 Phæacian 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.


WRITTEN AT THE LYCEUM THEATRE

I
PORTIA


                              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 Veronesé 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 accursèd Jew—
      O Portia! take my heart: it is thy due:
   I think I will not quarrel with the Bond.


II
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!


III
CAMMA


                              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!



PANTHEA


   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 Lethæan 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 bruisèd 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-stainèd 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-mailèd 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 dædal-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 æons 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.



THE FOURTH MOVEMENT


IMPRESSION


                               LE RÉVEILLON

      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.


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.


APOLOGIA


   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 belovèd 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 gorgèd 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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


TÆDIUM VITÆ


   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.



HUMANITAD


   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 blanchèd 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 sheathèd 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 ΧΑΙΡΕ 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-crownèd 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 archèd 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 Æschylos 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 Thermopylæ

   Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall,
      And on the nearer side a little brood
   Of careless lions holding festival!
      And stood amazèd 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 Ægina 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.



FLOWER OF LOVE


ΓΛΥΚΥΠΙΚΡΟΣ ΕΡΩΣ


   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 Cytheræan 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.



UNCOLLECTED POEMS


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!



TRISTITÆ


               _Αἴλινον_, _αἴλινον εἰπέ_, _τὸ δ’ εὖ νικάτω_

   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.



THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE


   . . . _ἀναyκαίως δ’ ἔχει_
   _Βίον θερίζειν ὥστε κάρπιμον στάχυν_,
   _καὶ τὸν yὲν εἶναι τὸν δὲ yή_.

   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.



IMPRESSIONS


I
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.


II
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.



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!



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.



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!



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?



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.



FANTAISIES DÉCORATIVES


I
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.


II
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.



CANZONET


      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 hornèd 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.



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.



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!



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.



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.



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.



DÉSESPOIR


   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.



PAN


                            DOUBLE VILLANELLE

                                      I

   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?

                                     II

   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!



THE SPHINX


                                    TO
                              MARCEL SCHWOB
                              IN FRIENDSHIP
                                   AND
                              IN ADMIRATION



THE SPHINX


   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 lúpanar

   Till from each black sarcophagus rose up the painted swathèd 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 hornèd 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 bruisèd 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.



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



THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL


                                      I

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                                     II

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                                     III

   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?

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                                     IV

   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!

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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

                                      V

   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!

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   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.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
      Like asp with adder fight,
   We have little care of prison fare,
      For what chills and kills outright
   Is that every stone one lifts by day
      Becomes one’s heart by night.

   With midnight always in one’s heart,
      And twilight in one’s cell,
   We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
      Each in his separate Hell,
   And the silence is more awful far
      Than the sound of a brazen bell.

   And never a human voice comes near
      To speak a gentle word:
   And the eye that watches through the door
      Is pitiless and hard:
   And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
      With soul and body marred.

   And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
      Degraded and alone:
   And some men curse, and some men weep,
      And some men make no moan:
   But God’s eternal Laws are kind
      And break the heart of stone.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   And every human heart that breaks,
      In prison-cell or yard,
   Is as that broken box that gave
      Its treasure to the Lord,
   And filled the unclean leper’s house
      With the scent of costliest nard.

   Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
      And peace of pardon win!
   How else may man make straight his plan
      And cleanse his soul from Sin?
   How else but through a broken heart
      May Lord Christ enter in?

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

   And he of the swollen purple throat,
      And the stark and staring eyes,
   Waits for the holy hands that took
      The Thief to Paradise;
   And a broken and a contrite heart
      The Lord will not despise.

   The man in red who reads the Law
      Gave him three weeks of life,
   Three little weeks in which to heal
      His soul of his soul’s strife,
   And cleanse from every blot of blood
      The hand that held the knife.

   And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
      The hand that held the steel:
   For only blood can wipe out blood,
      And only tears can heal:
   And the crimson stain that was of Cain
      Became Christ’s snow-white seal.

                                     VI

   IN Reading gaol by Reading town
      There is a pit of shame,
   And in it lies a wretched man
      Eaten by teeth of flame,
   In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
      And his grave has got no name.

   And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
      In silence let him lie:
   No need to waste the foolish tear,
      Or heave the windy sigh:
   The man had killed the thing he loved,
      And so he had to die.

   And all men kill the thing they love,
      By all 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!



RAVENNA


                          _Newdigate Prize Poem_
                    Recited in the Sheldonian Theatre
                                  Oxford
                             June 26th, 1878

                                * * * * *

                               TO MY FRIEND
                              GEORGE FLEMING
                                AUTHOR OF
                      ‘THE NILE NOVEL’ AND ‘MIRAGE’

                         _Ravenna_, _March_ 1877
                          _Oxford_, _March_ 1878



RAVENNA


                                     I.

   A YEAR ago I breathed the Italian air,—
   And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair,—
   These fields made golden with the flower of March,
   The throstle singing on the feathered larch,
   The cawing rooks, the wood-doves fluttering by,
   The little clouds that race across the sky;
   And fair the violet’s gentle drooping head,
   The primrose, pale for love uncomforted,
   The rose that burgeons on the climbing briar,
   The crocus-bed, (that seems a moon of fire
   Round-girdled with a purple marriage-ring);
   And all the flowers of our English Spring,
   Fond snowdrops, and the bright-starred daffodil.
   Up starts the lark beside the murmuring mill,
   And breaks the gossamer-threads of early dew;
   And down the river, like a flame of blue,
   Keen as an arrow flies the water-king,
   While the brown linnets in the greenwood sing.
   A year ago!—it seems a little time
   Since last I saw that lordly southern clime,
   Where flower and fruit to purple radiance blow,
   And like bright lamps the fabled apples glow.
   Full Spring it was—and by rich flowering vines,
   Dark olive-groves and noble forest-pines,
   I rode at will; the moist glad air was sweet,
   The white road rang beneath my horse’s feet,
   And musing on Ravenna’s ancient name,
   I watched the day till, marked with wounds of flame,
   The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned.

      O how my heart with boyish passion burned,
   When far away across the sedge and mere
   I saw that Holy City rising clear,
   Crowned with her crown of towers!—On and on
   I galloped, racing with the setting sun,
   And ere the crimson after-glow was passed,
   I stood within Ravenna’s walls at last!

                                     II.

      How strangely still! no sound of life or joy
   Startles the air; no laughing shepherd-boy
   Pipes on his reed, nor ever through the day
   Comes the glad sound of children at their play:
   O sad, and sweet, and silent! surely here
   A man might dwell apart from troublous fear,
   Watching the tide of seasons as they flow
   From amorous Spring to Winter’s rain and snow,
   And have no thought of sorrow;—here, indeed,
   Are Lethe’s waters, and that fatal weed
   Which makes a man forget his fatherland.

      Ay! amid lotus-meadows dost thou stand,
   Like Proserpine, with poppy-laden head,
   Guarding the holy ashes of the dead.
   For though thy brood of warrior sons hath ceased,
   Thy noble dead are with thee!—they at least
   Are faithful to thine honour:—guard them well,
   O childless city! for a mighty spell,
   To wake men’s hearts to dreams of things sublime,
   Are the lone tombs where rest the Great of Time.

                                    III.

      Yon lonely pillar, rising on the plain,
   Marks where the bravest knight of France was slain,—
   The Prince of chivalry, the Lord of war,
   Gaston de Foix: for some untimely star
   Led him against thy city, and he fell,
   As falls some forest-lion fighting well.
   Taken from life while life and love were new,
   He lies beneath God’s seamless veil of blue;
   Tall lance-like reeds wave sadly o’er his head,
   And oleanders bloom to deeper red,
   Where his bright youth flowed crimson on the ground.

      Look farther north unto that broken mound,—
   There, prisoned now within a lordly tomb
   Raised by a daughter’s hand, in lonely gloom,
   Huge-limbed Theodoric, the Gothic king,
   Sleeps after all his weary conquering.
   Time hath not spared his ruin,—wind and rain
   Have broken down his stronghold; and again
   We see that Death is mighty lord of all,
   And king and clown to ashen dust must fall

      Mighty indeed _their_ glory! yet to me
   Barbaric king, or knight of chivalry,
   Or the great queen herself, were poor and vain,
   Beside the grave where Dante rests from pain.
   His gilded shrine lies open to the air;
   And cunning sculptor’s hands have carven there
   The calm white brow, as calm as earliest morn,
   The eyes that flashed with passionate love and scorn,
   The lips that sang of Heaven and of Hell,
   The almond-face which Giotto drew so well,
   The weary face of Dante;—to this day,
   Here in his place of resting, far away
   From Arno’s yellow waters, rushing down
   Through the wide bridges of that fairy town,
   Where the tall tower of Giotto seems to rise
   A marble lily under sapphire skies!

   Alas! my Dante! thou hast known the pain
   Of meaner lives,—the exile’s galling chain,
   How steep the stairs within kings’ houses are,
   And all the petty miseries which mar
   Man’s nobler nature with the sense of wrong.
   Yet this dull world is grateful for thy song;
   Our nations do thee homage,—even she,
   That cruel queen of vine-clad Tuscany,
   Who bound with crown of thorns thy living brow,
   Hath decked thine empty tomb with laurels now,
   And begs in vain the ashes of her son.

      O mightiest exile! all thy grief is done:
   Thy soul walks now beside thy Beatrice;
   Ravenna guards thine ashes: sleep in peace.

                                     IV.

      How lone this palace is; how grey the walls!
   No minstrel now wakes echoes in these halls.
   The broken chain lies rusting on the door,
   And noisome weeds have split the marble floor:
   Here lurks the snake, and here the lizards run
   By the stone lions blinking in the sun.
   Byron dwelt here in love and revelry
   For two long years—a second Anthony,
   Who of the world another Actium made!
   Yet suffered not his royal soul to fade,
   Or lyre to break, or lance to grow less keen,
   ’Neath any wiles of an Egyptian queen.
   For from the East there came a mighty cry,
   And Greece stood up to fight for Liberty,
   And called him from Ravenna: never knight
   Rode forth more nobly to wild scenes of fight!
   None fell more bravely on ensanguined field,
   Borne like a Spartan back upon his shield!
   O Hellas!  Hellas! in thine hour of pride,
   Thy day of might, remember him who died
   To wrest from off thy limbs the trammelling chain:
   O Salamis!  O lone Platæan plain!
   O tossing waves of wild Euboean sea!
   O wind-swept heights of lone Thermopylæ!
   He loved you well—ay, not alone in word,
   Who freely gave to thee his lyre and sword,
   Like Æschylos at well-fought Marathon:

      And England, too, shall glory in her son,
   Her warrior-poet, first in song and fight.
   No longer now shall Slander’s venomed spite
   Crawl like a snake across his perfect name,
   Or mar the lordly scutcheon of his fame.

      For as the olive-garland of the race,
   Which lights with joy each eager runner’s face,
   As the red cross which saveth men in war,
   As a flame-bearded beacon seen from far
   By mariners upon a storm-tossed sea,—
   Such was his love for Greece and Liberty!

      Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
   Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
   Shall bind thy brows; the myrtle blooms for thee,
   In hidden glades by lonely Castaly;
   The laurels wait thy coming: all are thine,
   And round thy head one perfect wreath will twine.

                                     V.

      The pine-tops rocked before the evening breeze
   With the hoarse murmur of the wintry seas,
   And the tall stems were streaked with amber bright;—
   I wandered through the wood in wild delight,
   Some startled bird, with fluttering wings and fleet,
   Made snow of all the blossoms; at my feet,
   Like silver crowns, the pale narcissi lay,
   And small birds sang on every twining spray.
   O waving trees, O forest liberty!
   Within your haunts at least a man is free,
   And half forgets the weary world of strife:
   The blood flows hotter, and a sense of life
   Wakes i’ the quickening veins, while once again
   The woods are filled with gods we fancied slain.
   Long time I watched, and surely hoped to see
   Some goat-foot Pan make merry minstrelsy
   Amid the reeds! some startled Dryad-maid
   In girlish flight! or lurking in the glade,
   The soft brown limbs, the wanton treacherous face
   Of woodland god! Queen Dian in the chase,
   White-limbed and terrible, with look of pride,
   And leash of boar-hounds leaping at her side!
   Or Hylas mirrored in the perfect stream.

      O idle heart!  O fond Hellenic dream!
   Ere long, with melancholy rise and swell,
   The evening chimes, the convent’s vesper bell,
   Struck on mine ears amid the amorous flowers.
   Alas! alas! these sweet and honied hours
   Had whelmed my heart like some encroaching sea,
   And drowned all thoughts of black Gethsemane.

                                     VI.

      O lone Ravenna! many a tale is told
   Of thy great glories in the days of old:
   Two thousand years have passed since thou didst see
   Cæsar ride forth to royal victory.
   Mighty thy name when Rome’s lean eagles flew
   From Britain’s isles to far Euphrates blue;
   And of the peoples thou wast noble queen,
   Till in thy streets the Goth and Hun were seen.
   Discrowned by man, deserted by the sea,
   Thou sleepest, rocked in lonely misery!
   No longer now upon thy swelling tide,
   Pine-forest-like, thy myriad galleys ride!
   For where the brass-beaked ships were wont to float,
   The weary shepherd pipes his mournful note;
   And the white sheep are free to come and go
   Where Adria’s purple waters used to flow.

      O fair!  O sad!  O Queen uncomforted!
   In ruined loveliness thou liest dead,
   Alone of all thy sisters; for at last
   Italia’s royal warrior hath passed
   Rome’s lordliest entrance, and hath worn his crown
   In the high temples of the Eternal Town!
   The Palatine hath welcomed back her king,
   And with his name the seven mountains ring!

      And Naples hath outlived her dream of pain,
   And mocks her tyrant!  Venice lives again,
   New risen from the waters! and the cry
   Of Light and Truth, of Love and Liberty,
   Is heard in lordly Genoa, and where
   The marble spires of Milan wound the air,
   Rings from the Alps to the Sicilian shore,
   And Dante’s dream is now a dream no more.

      But thou, Ravenna, better loved than all,
   Thy ruined palaces are but a pall
   That hides thy fallen greatness! and thy name
   Burns like a grey and flickering candle-flame
   Beneath the noonday splendour of the sun
   Of new Italia! for the night is done,
   The night of dark oppression, and the day
   Hath dawned in passionate splendour: far away
   The Austrian hounds are hunted from the land,
   Beyond those ice-crowned citadels which stand
   Girdling the plain of royal Lombardy,
   From the far West unto the Eastern sea.

      I know, indeed, that sons of thine have died
   In Lissa’s waters, by the mountain-side
   Of Aspromonte, on Novara’s plain,—
   Nor have thy children died for thee in vain:
   And yet, methinks, thou hast not drunk this wine
   From grapes new-crushed of Liberty divine,
   Thou hast not followed that immortal Star
   Which leads the people forth to deeds of war.
   Weary of life, thou liest in silent sleep,
   As one who marks the lengthening shadows creep,
   Careless of all the hurrying hours that run,
   Mourning some day of glory, for the sun
   Of Freedom hath not shewn to thee his face,
   And thou hast caught no flambeau in the race.

      Yet wake not from thy slumbers,—rest thee well,
   Amidst thy fields of amber asphodel,
   Thy lily-sprinkled meadows,—rest thee there,
   To mock all human greatness: who would dare
   To vent the paltry sorrows of his life
   Before thy ruins, or to praise the strife
   Of kings’ ambition, and the barren pride
   Of warring nations! wert not thou the Bride
   Of the wild Lord of Adria’s stormy sea!
   The Queen of double Empires! and to thee
   Were not the nations given as thy prey!
   And now—thy gates lie open night and day,
   The grass grows green on every tower and hall,
   The ghastly fig hath cleft thy bastioned wall;
   And where thy mailèd warriors stood at rest
   The midnight owl hath made her secret nest.
   O fallen! fallen! from thy high estate,
   O city trammelled in the toils of Fate,
   Doth nought remain of all thy glorious days,
   But a dull shield, a crown of withered bays!

      Yet who beneath this night of wars and fears,
   From tranquil tower can watch the coming years;
   Who can foretell what joys the day shall bring,
   Or why before the dawn the linnets sing?
   Thou, even thou, mayst wake, as wakes the rose
   To crimson splendour from its grave of snows;
   As the rich corn-fields rise to red and gold
   From these brown lands, now stiff with Winter’s cold;
   As from the storm-rack comes a perfect star!

      O much-loved city!  I have wandered far
   From the wave-circled islands of my home;
   Have seen the gloomy mystery of the Dome
   Rise slowly from the drear Campagna’s way,
   Clothed in the royal purple of the day:
   I from the city of the violet crown
   Have watched the sun by Corinth’s hill go down,
   And marked the ‘myriad laughter’ of the sea
   From starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady;
   Yet back to thee returns my perfect love,
   As to its forest-nest the evening dove.

      O poet’s city! one who scarce has seen
   Some twenty summers cast their doublets green
   For Autumn’s livery, would seek in vain
   To wake his lyre to sing a louder strain,
   Or tell thy days of glory;—poor indeed
   Is the low murmur of the shepherd’s reed,
   Where the loud clarion’s blast should shake the sky,
   And flame across the heavens! and to try
   Such lofty themes were folly: yet I know
   That never felt my heart a nobler glow
   Than when I woke the silence of thy street
   With clamorous trampling of my horse’s feet,
   And saw the city which now I try to sing,
   After long days of weary travelling.

                                    VII.

      Adieu, Ravenna! but a year ago,
   I stood and watched the crimson sunset glow
   From the lone chapel on thy marshy plain:
   The sky was as a shield that caught the stain
   Of blood and battle from the dying sun,
   And in the west the circling clouds had spun
   A royal robe, which some great God might wear,
   While into ocean-seas of purple air
   Sank the gold galley of the Lord of Light.

      Yet here the gentle stillness of the night
   Brings back the swelling tide of memory,
   And wakes again my passionate love for thee:
   Now is the Spring of Love, yet soon will come
   On meadow and tree the Summer’s lordly bloom;
   And soon the grass with brighter flowers will blow,
   And send up lilies for some boy to mow.
   Then before long the Summer’s conqueror,
   Rich Autumn-time, the season’s usurer,
   Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,
   And see it scattered by the spendthrift breeze;
   And after that the Winter cold and drear.
   So runs the perfect cycle of the year.
   And so from youth to manhood do we go,
   And fall to weary days and locks of snow.
   Love only knows no winter; never dies:
   Nor cares for frowning storms or leaden skies
   And mine for thee shall never pass away,
   Though my weak lips may falter in my lay.

      Adieu!  Adieu! yon silent evening star,
   The night’s ambassador, doth gleam afar,
   And bid the shepherd bring his flocks to fold.
   Perchance before our inland seas of gold
   Are garnered by the reapers into sheaves,
   Perchance before I see the Autumn leaves,
   I may behold thy city; and lay down
   Low at thy feet the poet’s laurel crown.

      Adieu!  Adieu! yon silver lamp, the moon,
   Which turns our midnight into perfect noon,
   Doth surely light thy towers, guarding well
   Where Dante sleeps, where Byron loved to dwell.

                                * * * * *

         Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                    at the Edinburgh University Press





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