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Title: Open Water
Author: Stringer, Arthur, 1874-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Open Water" ***

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Copyright, 1914, by


Press of J. J. Little & Ives Co.

New York, U. S. A.


  A Foreword
  Home Thoughts
  Some Day, Oh Seeker of Dreams
  Black Hours
  Before Renewal
  Hill-Top Hours
  Letters from Home
  The Drums
  A Summer Night
  Sappho's Tomb
  The Wild Swans Pass
  At Notre Dame
  The Pilot
  Spring Floods
  The Turn of the Year
  If I Love You
  What Shall I Care?
  Hunter and Hunted
  Apple Blossoms
  The House of Life
  The Life on the Table
  You Bid Me to Sleep
  The Last of Summer
  At Charing Cross
  The Steel Workers
  The Children
  The Nocturne
  The Wild Geese
  The Day
  The Revolt
  March Twilight
  The Echo
  There Is Strength in the Soil
  My Heart Stood Empty
  One Night in the Northwest
  The Question
  The Gift of Hate
  The Dream
  One Room in My Heart
  The Meaning
  The Veil
  The Man of Dreams
  April on the Rialto
  The Surrender
  The Passing
  I Sat in the Sunlight


To even the casual reader of poetry who may chance to turn to the
following pages it will be evident that the lyrics contained therein
have been written without what is commonly known as end-rhyme.  It may
also be claimed by this reader that the lyrics before him are without
rhythm.  As such, it may at first seem that they mark an effort in
revolt against two of the primary assets of modern versification.

All art, of course, has its ancestry.  While it is the duty of poetry
both to remember and to honour its inherited grandeurs, the paradoxical
fact remains that even this most convention-ridden medium of emotional
expression is a sort of warfare between the embattled soul of the
artist, seeking articulation, and the immuring traditions with which
time and the prosodian have surrounded him.

In painting and in music, as in sculpture and the drama, there has been
a movement of late to achieve what may be called formal emancipation, a
struggle to break away from the restraints and the technical
obligations imposed upon the worker by his artistic predecessors.  In
one case this movement may be called Futurism, and in another it may be
termed Romanticism, but the tendency is the same.  The spirit of man is
seen in rebellion against a form that has become too intricate or too
fixed to allow him freedom of utterance.

Poetry alone, during the last century, seems to have remained stable,
in the matter of structure.  Few new forms have been invented, and with
one or two rare exceptions success has been achieved through
ingeniously elaborating on an already established formula and through
meticulously re-echoing what has already been said.  This has resulted,
on the one hand, in a technical dexterity which often enough resembles
the strained postures of acrobatism, and, on the other, in that
constantly reiterated complaint as to the hollowness and aloofness of
modern poetry.  Yet this poetry is remote and insincere, not because
the modern spirit is incapable of feeling, but because what the singer
of to-day has felt has not been directly and openly expressed.  His
apparel has remained mediæval.  He must still don mail to face Mausers,
and wear chain-armour against machine-guns.  He must scout through the
shadowy hinterlands of consciousness in attire that may be historic,
yet at the same time is distressingly conspicuous.  And when he begins
his assault on those favouring moments or inspirational moods which
lurk in the deeper valleys and by-ways of sensibility, he must begin it
as a marked man, pathetically resplendent in that rigid steel which is
an anachronism and no longer an armour.

Rhyme, from the first, has been imposed upon him.  His only escape from
rhyme has been the larger utterance of blank verse.  Yet the iambic
pentameter of his native tongue, perfected in the sweeping sonority of
the later Shakespearean tragedies and left even more intimidatingly
austere in the organ-like roll of Milton, has been found by the later
singer to be ill-fitted for the utterance of those more intimate moods
and those subjective experiences which may be described as
characteristically modern.  Verse, in the nature of things, has become
less epic and racial, and more and more lyric and personal.  The poet,
consequently, has been forced back into the narrower domain so formally
and so rigidly fenced in by rhyme.  And before touching on the
limitations resulting from this incarceration, it may be worth while to
venture a brief glance back over the history of what Milton himself
denominated as "the jingling sounds of like endings" and Goldsmith
characterized as "a vile monotony" and even Howells has spoken of as
"the artificial trammels of verse."

It has been claimed that those early poets of Palestine who affected
the custom of beginning a number of lines or stanzas with the same
letter of the alphabet unconsciously prepared the way for that
latter-day ornamental fringe known as end-rhyme.  Others have claimed
that this insistence of a consonance of terminals is a relique of the
communal force of the chant, where the clapping of hands, the stamping
of feet, or the twanging of bow-strings marked the period-ends of
prehistoric recitative.  The bow-string of course, later evolved into
the musical instrument, and when poetry became a written as well as a
spoken language the consonantal drone of rhyming end-words took the
place of the discarded instrument which had served to mark a secondary
and wider rhythm in the progress of impassioned recitative.

It must be admitted, however, even in the face of this ingenious
pleading, that rhyme is a much more modern invention than it seems.
That it is not rudimentary in the race is evidenced by the fact that
many languages, such as the Celtic, the Teutonic, and the Scandinavian,
are quite without it.  The Greeks, even in their melic poetry, saw no
need for it.  The same may be said of the Romans, though with them it
will occasionally be found that the semi-feet of the pentameter
constitute what may be called accidental rhyme.  Rhyming Latin verse,
indeed, does not come into existence until the end of the fourth
century, and it is not until the time of the Conquest that end-rhyme
becomes in any way general in English song.  Layman, in translating
Wace's _Le Brut d'Angleterre_, found the original work written in
rhymed lines, and in following that early model produced what is
probably the first rhymed poem written in England.

With the introduction of end-rhymes came the discovery that a
decoration so formal could convert verse into something approaching the
architectural.  It gave design to the lyric.  With this new
definiteness of outline, of course, came a newer rigidity of medium.
Form was acknowledged as the visible presentation of this particular
art.  Formal variations became a matter of studious attention.  Efforts
were made to leave language in itself instrumental, and in these
efforts sound frequently comes perilously near triumphing over sense.
The exotic formal growths of other languages were imported into
England.  No verbal _tour de force_ of _troubadour_ or _trouvère_ or
_jongleur_ or Ronsardist was too fantastic for imitation and adoption.
The one-time primitive directness of English was overrun by such forms
as the ballade, the chant royal, the rondel, the kyrielle, the rondeau
and the rondeau redoublé, the virelai and the pantoum, the sestina, the
villanelle, and last, yet by no means least, the sonnet.  But through
the immense tangle of our intricate lyric growths it can now be seen
that mere mechanics do not always make poetry.  While rhyme has,
indeed, served its limited purposes, it must be remembered that the
highest English verse has been written without rhyme.  This verbal
embroidery, while it presents to the workman in words a pleasingly
decorative form, at the same time imposes on him both an adventitious
restraint and an increased self-consciousness.  The twentieth century
poet, singing with his scrupulously polished vocalisation, usually
finds himself content to re-echo what has been said before.  He is
unable to "travel light"; pioneering with so heavy a burden is out of
the question.  Rhyme and meter have compelled him to sacrifice content
for form.  It has left him incapable of what may be called abandonment.
And the consciousness of his technical impedimenta has limited the
roads along which he may adventure.  His preoccupation with formal
exactions has implanted in him an instinctive abhorrence for anything
beyond the control of what he calls common-sense.  Dominated by this
emotional and intellectual timidity, he has attributed to end-rhyme and
accentual rhythm the self-sufficiency of mystic rites, in the face of
the fact that the fewer the obstacles between feeling and expression
the richer the literary product must be, and forgetting, too, that
poetry represents the extreme vanguard of consciousness both
adventuring and pioneering along the path of future progress.

For the poet to turn his back on rhythm, as at times he has been able
to do with rhyme, is an impossibility.  For the rhythmising instinct is
innate and persistent in man, standing for a law which permeates every
manifestation of energy.  The great heart of Nature itself beats with a
regular systole and diastole.  But, rhythmically, the modern versifier
has been a Cubist without quite comprehending it.  He has been viewing
the world mathematically.  He has been crowding his soul into a
geometrically designed mould.  He has bowed to a rule-of-thumb order of
speech, arbitrarily imposed on him by an ancestry which wrung its
ingenuous pleasure out of an ingenuous regularity of stress and accent.
To succeed under that law he must practise an adroit form of
self-deception, solemnly pretending to fit his lines to a mould which
he actually over-runs and occasionally ignores.  He has not been
satisfied with the rhythm of Nature, whose heart-beats in their
manifold expressions are omnipresent but never confined to any single
sustained pulse or any one limited movement.  It is not argued that he
should ignore rhythm altogether.  To do so, as has already been said,
would be impossible, since life itself is sustained by the rise and
fall of mortal breasts and the beat and throb of mortal hearts.  Rhythm
is in man's blood.  The ear of the world instinctively searches for
cadences.  The poet's efforts towards symphonic phrasing have long
since become habitual and imperative.  But that he should confine
himself to certain man-made laws of meter, that he should be shackled
by the prosodian of the past, is quite another matter.  His
predecessors have fashioned many rhythms that are pretty, many
accentual forms that are cunningly intricate, but at a time when his
manner of singing has lost its vital swing it is well for man to forget
these formal prettinesses and equally well to remember that poetry is
not an intellectual exercise but the immortal soul of perplexed
mortality seeking expression.

To abandon fixed rhythm, or meter, for the floating rhythm of the chant
may not be an immediate solution of the problem.  To follow the Psalms
of David, for example, will not suddenly conjure a new school of verse
into the world.  But to return to the more open movement of the chant,
which is man's natural and rudimentary form of song, may constitute a
step towards freedom.  The mere effort towards emancipation, in fact,
is not without its value.  It may serve to impress on certain minds the
fact that poetry is capable of exhausting one particular form of
expression, of incorporating and consuming one particular embodiment of
perishable matter and passing on to its newer fields.  Being a living
organism, it uses up what lies before it, and to find new vigour must
forever feed on new forms.  Being the product of man's spirit, which is
forever subject to change, verse must not be worshipped for what it has
been, but for what it is capable of being.  No necrophilic regard for
its established conventions must blind the lover of beautiful verse to
the fact that the primary function of poetry is both to intellectualize
sensation and to elucidate emotional experience.  If man must worship
beauty only as he has known it in the past, man must be satisfied with
worshipping that which has lived and now is dead.

A. S.




  The blue, blue sea,
  And the drone of waves,
  And the wheeling swallows,
  And the sun on the opal sails,
  And the misty and salt-bleached headlands,
  And the milkweed thick at my feet,
  And the milkweed held in the hand of a child
  Who dreams on the misty cliff-edge,
  Watching the fading sails
  And the noonday blue
  Of the lonely sea!


  Was it all years ago,
  Or was it but yesterday?
  I only know that the scent
  Of the milkweed brings it back,
  Back with a strangle of tears:
  The child and the misty headlands,
  The drone of the dark blue sea,
  And the opal sails
  In the sun!


  I am tired of the dust
  And the fever and noise
  And the meaningless faces of men;
  And I want to go home!
  Oh, day after day I get thinking of home
  Where the black firs fringe the skyline,
  And the birds wheel down the silence,
  And the hemlocks whisper peace,
  And the hill-winds cool the blood,
  And the dusk is crowned with glory,
  And the lone horizon softens,
  And the world's at home with God!
  Oh, I want to go there!
  _I want to go home!_


  A rind of light hangs low
  On the rim of the world;
  A sound of feet disturbs
  The quiet of the cell
  Where a rope and a beam looms high
  At the end of the yard.

  But in the dusk
  Of that walled yard waits a woman;
  And as the thing from its cell,
  Still guarded and chained and bound,
  Crosses that little space,
  Silent, for ten brief steps,
  A woman hangs on his neck.

  _And that walk from a cell to a sleep
  Is known as Life,
  And those ten dark steps
  Of tangled rapture and tears
  Men still call Love._


  Some day, O Seeker of Dreams, they will seek even us!
  Some day they will wake, Fellow Singer, and hunger and want
  For the Ways to the Lonelier Height!
  So let us, Shy Weaver of Beauty, take heart,
  For out of their dust they will call to us yet!
  Let us wait, and sing, and be wise,
  As the sea has waited and sung,
  As the hills through the night have been wise!
  For we are the Bringers of Light, and the Voices of Love,
  Aye, we are the Soothers of Pain, the Appeasers of Death,
  The Dusk and the Star and the Gleam and the Loneliest Peak!
  And when they have found and seen, and know not whither they trend,
  They will come to us, crying aloud like a child in the night;
  And when they have learned of our lips,
  Still back to our feet they will grope
  For that ultimate essence and core of all song,
  To usher them empty and naked, then, out to the unanswering stars,
  Where Silence and Dreaming and Music are one!


  I have drunk deep
  Of the well of bitterness.
  Black hours have harried me,
  Blind fate has bludgeoned my bent head,
  And on my brow the iron crown
  Of sorrow has been crushed.
  And being mortal, I have cried aloud
  At anguish ineluctable.
  But over each black hour has hung
  Forlorn this star of knowledge:
  The path of pain too great to be endured
  Leads always unto peace;
  And when the granite road of anguish mounts
  Up and still up to its one ultimate
  And dizzy height of torture,
  Softly it dips and meets
  The valley of endless rest!


  Summer is dead.
  And love is gone.
  And life is glad of this.
  For sad were both, with having given much;
  And bowed were both, with great desires fulfilled;
  And both were grown too sadly wise
  Ever to live again.
  Too aged with hours o'er-passionate,
  Too deeply sung by throats
  That took no thought of weariness,
  Moving too madly toward the crest of things,
  Giving too freely of the fountaining sap,
  Crowding too gladly into grass and leaves,
  Breathing too blindly into flower and song!
  Again the lyric hope may thrill the world,
  Again the sap may sweeten into leaves,
  Again will grey-eyed April come
  With all her choiring throats;
  But not to-day--
  For the course is run.
  And the cruse is full,
  And the loin ungirt,
  And the hour ordained!
  And now there is need of rest;
  And need of renewal there is;
  And need of silence,
  And need of sleep.
  Too clear the light
  Now lies on hill and valley;
  And little is left to say,
  And nothing is left to give.
  Summer is dead;
  And love is gone!


  I am through with regret.
  No more shall I kennel with pain.
  I have called to this whimpering soul,
  This soul that is sodden with tears
  And sour with the reek of the years!
  And now we shall glory in light!
  Like a tatter of sail in the wind,
  Like a tangle of net on the sand,
  Like a hound stretched out in the heat,
  My soul shall lie in the sun,
  And be drowsy with peace,
  And not think of the past!


  Letters from Home, you said.
  Unopened they lay on the shack-sill
  As you stared with me at the prairie
  And the foothills bathed with light.
  Letters from Home, you whispered,
  And the homeland casements shone
  Through the homeland dusk again,
  And the sound of the birds came back,
  And the soft green sorrowing hills,
  And the sigh of remembered names,
  The wine of remembered youth,--
  Oh, these came back,
  Back with those idle words
  Of "Letters from Home"!

  Over such desolate leagues,
  Over such sundering seas,
  Out of the lost dead years,
  After the days of waiting,
  After the ache had died,
  After the brine of failure,
  After the outland peace
  Of the trail that never turns back,
  Now that the night-wind whispers
  How Home shall never again be home,
  And now that the arms of the Far-away
  Have drawn us close to its breast,
  Out of the dead that is proved not dead,
  To waken the sorrow that should have died,
  To tighten the throat that never shall sing,
  To sadden the trails that we still must ride,
  Too late they come to us here--
  Our Letters from Home!


  I watched the men at work on the stubborn rock,
  But mostly the one man poised on a drill
  Above the steam that hissed and billowed about him
  White in the frosty air,
  Where the lordly house would stand.

  Majestic, muscular, high like a god,
  He stood,
  And controlled and stopped
  And started his thundering drill,
  Offhand and careless and lordly as Thor,
  Begrimed and solemn and crowned with sweat,
  Where the great steel chains swung over the buckets of rock.

  Then out of a nearby house came a youth,
  All gloved and encased in fur and touched with content,
  Thin-shouldered and frail and finished,
  Leading a house-dog out on a silver chain.
  He peered at the figure that fought with the drill
  Above the billowing steam and tumult of sound,
  Peered up for a moment impassive,
  With almost pitying eyes,
  And then went pensively down the Avenue's calm,
  In the clear white light of the noonday sun,
  Not holding, but held by his silvery chain!


  A village wrapped in slumber,
  Silent between the hills,
  Empty of moon-lit marketplace,
  Empty of moving life--
  Such is my quiet heart.
  Shadowy-walled it rests,
  Sleeping its heavy sleep;
  But sudden across the dark
  Tingles a sound of drums!
  The drums, the drums, the distant drums,
  The throb of the drums strikes up,
  The beat of the drums awakes!
  Then loud through the little streets,
  And strange to the startled roofs,
  The drums, the drums approach and pound,
  And throb and clamour and thrill and pass,
  And between the echoing house-walls
  All swart and grim they go,
  The battalions of regret,
  After the drums, the valiant drums
  That die away in the night!


  I caught the smell of ether
  From the glass-roofed room
  Where the hospital stood.
  Suddenly all about me
  I felt a mist of anguish
  And the old, old hour of dread
  When Death had shambled by.

  Yellow with time it is,
  This letter on which I look;
  But up from it comes a perfume
  That stabs me still to the heart;
  And suddenly, at the odour,
  Through a ghost-like mist I know
  Rapture and love and wild regret
  When Life, and You, went by.


  Mournful the summer moon
  Rose from the quiet sea.
  Golden and sad and full of regret
  As though it would ask of earth
  Where all her lovers had vanished
  And whither had gone the rose-red lips
  That had sighed to her light of old.
  Then I caught a pulse of music,
  Brokenly, out at the pier-end,
  And I heard the voices of girls
  Going home in the dark,
  Laughing along the sea-wall
  Over a lover's word!



  In an old and ashen island,
  Beside a city grey with death,
  They are seeking Sappho's tomb!


  Beneath a vineyard ruinous
  And a broken-columned temple
  They are delving where she sleeps!
  There between a lonely valley
  Filled with noonday silences
  And the headlands of soft violet
  Where the sapphire seas still whisper,
  Whisper with her sigh;
  Through a country sad with wonder
  Men are seeking vanished Sappho,
  Men are searching for the tomb
  Of muted Song!


  They will find a Something there,
  In a cavern where no sound is,
  In a room of milky marble
  Walled with black amphibolite
  Over-scored with faded words
  And stained with time!


  Sleeping in a low-roofed chamber,
  With her phials of perfume round her,
  In a terra-cotta coffin
  With her image on the cover,
  Childish echo of her beauty
  Etched in black and gold barbaric--
  Lift it slowly, slowly, seekers,
  Or your search will end in dust!


  With a tiny nude Astarte,
  Bright with gilt and gravely watching
  Over grass-green malachite,
  Over rubies pale, and topaz,
  And the crumbled dust of pearls!


  With her tarnished silver mirror,
  With her rings of beaten gold,
  With her robes of faded purple,
  And the stylus that so often
  Traced the azure on her eyelids,--
  Eyelids delicate and weary,
  Drooping, over-wise!
  And at her head will be a plectron
  Made of ivory, worn with time,
  And a flute and gilded lyre
  Will be found beside her feet,
  And two little yellow sandals,
  And crude serpents chased in silver
  On her ankle rings--
  And a cloud of drifting dust
  All her shining hair!


  In that lost and lonely tomb
  They may find her;
  Find the arms that ached with rapture,
  Softly folded on a breast
  That for evermore is silent;
  Find the eyes no longer wistful,
  Find the lips no longer singing,
  And the heart, so hot and wayward
  When that ashen land was young,
  Cold through all the mists of time,
  Cold beneath the Lesbian marble
  In the low-roofed room
  That drips with tears!


  In the dead of the night
  You turned in your troubled sleep
  As you heard the wild swans pass;
  And then you slept again.

  You slept--
  While a new world swam beneath
  That army of eager wings,
  While plainland and slough and lake
  Lay wide to those outstretched throats,
  While the far lone Lights allured
  That phalanx of passionate breasts.

  And I who had loved you more
  Than a homing bird loves flight,--
  I watched with an ache for freedom,
  I rose with a need for life,
  Knowing that love had passed
  Into its unknown North!



  O odour of incense, pride of purple and gold,
  Burst of music and praise, and passion of flute and pipe!
  O voices of silver o'er-sweet, and soothing antiphonal chant!
  O Harmony, ancient, ecstatic, a-throb to the echoing roof,
  With tremulous roll of awakened reverberant tubes, and thunder of sound!
  And illusion of mystical song and outclangour of jubilant bell,
  And glimmer of gold and taper, and throbbing, insistent pipe--
  If song and emotion and music were all--
  Were it only all!


  For see, dark heart of mine,
  How the singers have ceased and gone!
  See, how all of the music is lost and the lights are low,
  And how, as our idle arms, these twin ineloquent towers
  Grope up through the old inaccessible Night to His stars!
  How in vain we have stormed on the bastions of Silence with sound!
  How in vain with our music and song and emotion assailed the Unknown,
  How beat with the wings of our worship on Earth's imprisoning bars!
  For the pinions of Music have wearied, the proud loud tubes have tired,
  Yet still grim and taciturn stand His immutable stars,
  And, lost in the gloom, to His frontiers old I turn
  Where glimmer those sentinel fires,
  Beyond which, Dark Heart, we two
  Some night must steal us forth,
  Quite naked, and alone!


  I lounge on the deck of the river-steamer,
  Homeward bound with its load,
  Churning from headland to headland,
  Through moonlight and silence and dusk.
  And the decks are alive with laughter and music and singing,
  And I see the forms of the sleepers
  And the shadowy lovers that lean so close to the rail,
  And the romping children behind,
  And the dancers amidships.
  But high above us there in the gloom,
  Where the merriment breaks like a wave at his feet,
  Unseen of lover and dancer and me,
  Is the Pilot, impassive and stern,
  With his grim eyes watching the course.


  Are they,
  That falter through the gloom,
  That echo through the lonely chambers
  Of our house of life?

  Did a door close?
  Did a whisper waken?
  Did a ghostly something
  Sigh across the dusk?

  From the mournful silence
  Something, something went!
  Far down some shadowy passage
  Faintly closed a door--
  And O how empty lies
  Our house of life!


  You stood alone
  In the dusky window,
  Watching the racing river.
  Touched with a vague unrest,
  And if tired of loving too much
  More troubled at heart to find
  That the flame of love could wither
  And the wonder of love could pass,
  You kneeled at the window-ledge
  And stared through the black-topped maples
  Where an April robin fluted,--
  Stared idly out
  At the flood-time sweep of the river,
  Silver and paling gold
  In the ghostly April twilight.

  Shadowy there in the dusk
  You watched with shadowy eyes
  The racing, sad, unreasoning
  Hurrying torrent of silver
  Seeking its far-off sea.
  Faintly I heard you sigh,
  And faintly I heard the robin's flute,
  And faintly from rooms remote
  Came a broken murmur of voices.
  And life, for a breath, stood bathed
  In a wonder crowned with pain,
  And immortal the moment hung;
  And I know that the thought of you
  There at the shadowy window,
  And the matted black of the maples,
  And the sunset call of a bird,
  And the sad wide reaches of silver,
  Will house in my haunted heart
  Till the end of Time!


  The pines shake and the winds wake,
  And the dark waves crowd the sky-line!
  The birds wheel out on a troubled sky;
  The widening road runs white and long,
  And the page is turned,
  And the world is tired!

  So I want no more of twilight sloth,
  And I want no more of resting,
  And of all the earth I ask no more
  Than the green sea, the great sea,
  The long road, the white road,
  And a change of life to-day!


  If I love you, woman of rose
  And warmth and wondering eyes,
  If it so fall out
  That you are the woman I choose,
  Oh, what is there left to say,
  And what should it matter to me,
  Or what can it mean to you?
  For under the two white breasts
  And the womb that makes you woman
  The call of the ages whispers
  And the countless ghosts awaken,
  And stronger than sighs and weeping
  The urge that makes us one,
  And older than hate or loving or shame
  This want that builds the world!


  What shall I care for the ways
  Of these idle and thin-flanked women in silk
  And the lisping men-shadows that trail at their heels?
  What are they worth in my world
  Or the world that I want,
  These flabby-armed, indolent, delicate women
  And these half-women daring to call themselves men
  Yet afraid to get down to the earth
  And afraid of the wind,
  Afraid of the truth,
  And so sadly afraid of themselves?
  How can they help me in trouble and death?
  How can they keep me from hating my kind?
  Oh, I want to get out of their coffining rooms,
  I want to walk free with a man,
  A man who has lived and dared
  And swung through the cycle of life!
  God give me a man for a friend
  To the End,
  Give me a man with his heel on the neck of Hate,
  With his fist in the face of Death,
  A man not fretted with womanish things,
  Unafraid of the light,
  Of the worm in the lip of a corpse,
  Unafraid of the call from the cell of his heart,--
  God give me a man for friend!



  When the sun is high,
  And the hills are happy with light,
  Then virile and strong I am!
  Then ruddy with life I fare,
  The fighter who feels no dread,
  The roamer who knows no bounds,
  The hunter who makes the world his prey,
  And shouting and swept with pride,
  Still mounts to the lonelier height!


  In the cool of the day,
  When the huddling shadows swarm,
  And the ominous eyes look out
  And night slinks over the swales
  And the silence is chill with death,
  Then I am the croucher beside the coals,
  The lurker within the shadowy cave,
  Who listens and mutters a charm
  And trembles and waits,
  A hunted thing grown
  Afraid of the hunt,
  A silence enisled in silence,
  A wonder enwrapped in awe!


  I saw a woman stand
  Under the seas of bloom,
  Under the waves of colour and light,
  The showery snow and rose of the odorous trees
  That made a glory of earth.
  She stood where the petals fell,
  And her hands were on her breast,
  And her lips were touched with wonder,
  And her eyes were full of pain--
  For pure she was, and young,
  And it was Spring!


  Quietly I closed the door.
  Then I said to my soul:
  "I shall never come back,
  Back to this haunted room
  Where Sorrow and I have slept."
  I turned from that hated door
  And passed through the House of Life,
  Through its ghostly rooms and glad
  And its corridors dim with age.
  Then lightly I crossed a threshold
  Where the casements showed the sun
  And I entered an unknown room,--
  And my heart went cold,
  For about me stood that Chamber of Pain
  I had thought to see no more!


  I am desolate,
  Desolate because of a woman.
  When at midnight walking alone
  I look up at the slow-wheeling stars,
  I see only the eyes of this woman.
  In bird-haunted valleys and by-ways secluded,
  Where once I sought peace,
  I find now only unrest
  And this one unaltering want.
  When the dawn-wind stirs in the pine-tops
  I hear only her voice's whisper.
  When by day I gaze into the azure above me
  I see only the face of this woman.
  In the sunlight I cannot find comfort,
  Nor can I find peace in the shadows.
  Neither can I take joy in the hill-wind,
  Nor find solace on kindlier breasts;
  For deep in the eyes of all women I watch
  I see only her eyes stare back.
  Nor can I shut the thought of her out of my heart
  And the ache for her out of my hours.
  Ruthlessly now she invades even my dreams
  And wounds me in sleep;
  And my body cries out for her,
  Early and late and forever cries out for her,
  And her alone,--
  _And I want this woman!_

  I am sick at heart because of this woman;
  I am lost to shame because of my want;
  And mine own people have come to mean naught to me;
  And with many about me still am I utterly alone,
  And quite solitary now I take my way
  Where men are intent on puny things
  And phantasmal legions pace!
  And a wearisome thing is life,
  And forever the shadow of this one woman
  Is falling across my path.
  The turn in the road is a promise of her.
  The twilight is thronged with her ghosts;
  The grasses speak only of her,
  The leaves whisper her name forever;
  The odorous fields are full of her.
  Her lips, I keep telling myself,
  Are a cup from which I must drink;
  Her breast is the one last pillow
  Whereon I may ever find peace!
  Yet she has not come to me,
  And being denied her, everything stands denied,
  And all men who have waited in vain for love
  Cry out through my desolate heart;
  And the want of the hungering world
  Runs like fire through my veins
  And bursts from my throat in the cry
  _That I want this woman!_

  I am possessed of a great sickness
  And likewise possessed of a great strength,
  And the ultimate hour has come.
  I will arise and go unto this woman,
  And with bent head and my arms about her knees
  I shall say unto her: "Beloved beyond all words,
  Others have sought your side,
  And many have craved your kiss,
  But none, O body of flesh and bone,
  Has known a hunger like mine!
  And though evil befall, or good,
  This hunger is given to me,
  And is now made known to you,--
  For I must die,
  Or you must die,
  Or Desire must die
  This night!"


  In the white-walled room
  Where the white bed waits
  Stand banks of meaningless flowers;
  In the rain-swept street
  Are a ghost-like row of cabs;
  And along the corridor-dusk
  Phantasmal feet repass.
  Through the warm, still air
  The odour of ether hangs;
  And on this slenderest thread
  Of one thin pulse
  Hangs and swings
  The hope of life--
  The life of her
  I love!


  You bid me to sleep,--
  But why, O Daughter of Beauty,
  Was beauty thus born in the world?
  Since out of these shadowy eyes
  The wonder shall pass!
  And out of this surging and passionate breast
  The dream shall depart!
  And out of these delicate rivers of warmth
  The fire shall wither and fail!
  And youth like a bird from your body shall fly!
  And Time like a fang on your flesh shall feed!
  And this perilous bosom that pulses with love
  Shall go down to the dust from which it arose,--
  Yet Daughter of Beauty, close,
  Close to its sumptuous warmth
  You hold my sorrowing head,
  And smile with shadowy eyes,
  And bid me to sleep again!


  The opal afternoon
  Is cool, and very still.
  A wash of tawny air,
  Sea-green that melts to gold,
  Bathes all the skyline, hill by hill.
  Out of the black-topped pinelands
  A black crow calls,
  And the year seems old!
  A woman from a doorway sings,
  And from the valley-slope a sheep-dog barks,
  And through the umber woods the echo falls.
  Then silence on the still world lies,
  And faint and far the birds fly south,
  And behind the dark pines drops the sun,
  And a small wind wakes and sighs,
  And Summer, see, is done!


  Alone amid the Rockies I have stood;
  Alone across the prairie's midnight calm
  Full often I have fared
  And faced the hushed infinity of night;
  Alone I have hung poised
  Between a quietly heaving sea
  And quieter sky,
  Aching with isolation absolute;
  And in Death's Valley I have walked alone
  And sought in vain for some appeasing sign
  Of life or movement,
  While over-desolate my heart called out
  For some befriending face
  Or some assuaging voice!
  But never on my soul has weighed
  Such loneliness as this,
  As here amid the seething London tides
  I look upon these ghosts that come and go,
  These swarming restless souls innumerable,
  Who through their million-footed dirge of unconcern
  Must know and nurse the thought of kindred ghosts
  As lonely as themselves,
  Or else go mad with it!



  "The sting of it all," you said, as you stooped low over your roses,
  "The worst of it is, when I think of Death,
  That Spring by Spring the Earth shall still be beautiful,
  And Summer by Summer be lovely again,
  --And I shall be gone!"


  "I would not care, perhaps," you said, watching your roses,
  "If only 'twere dust and ruin and emptiness left behind!
  But the thought that Earth and April
  Year by casual year
  Shall waken around the old ways, soft and beautiful,
  Year by year when I am away,
  --This, this breaks my heart!"


  I watched the workers in steel,
  The Pit-like glow of the furnace,
  The rivers of molten metal,
  The tremulous rumble of cranes,
  The throb of the Thor-like hammers
  On sullen and resonant anvils!
  I saw the half-clad workers
  Twisting earth's iron to their use,
  Shaping the steel to their thoughts;
  And, in some way, out of the fury
  And the fires of mortal passion,
  It seemed to me,
  In some way, out of the torture
  And tumult of inchoate Time,
  The hammer of sin is shaping
  The soul of man!


  The city is old in sin,
  And children are not for cities,
  And, wan-eyed woman, you want them not,
  You say with a broken laugh.
  Yet out of each wayward softness of voice,
  And each fulness of breast,
  And each flute-throated echo of song,
  Each flutter of lace and quest of beautiful things,
  Each coil of entangling hair built into its crown,
  Each whisper and touch in the silence of night,
  Each red unreasoning mouth that is lifted to mouth,
  Each whiteness of brow that is furrowed no more with thought,
  Each careless soft curve of lips that can never explain,
  Arises the old and the inappeasable cry!
  Every girl who leans from a tenement sill
  And flutters a hand to a youth,
  Every woman who waits for a man in the dusk,
  Every harlotous arm flung up to a drunken heel
  That would trample truth down in the dust,
  Reaches unknowingly out for its own,
  And blind to its heritage waits
  For its child!


  Remote, in some dim room,
  On this dark April morning soft with rain,
  I hear her pensive touch
  Fall aimless on the keys,
  And stop, and play again.

  And as the music wakens
  And the shadowy house is still,
  How all my troubled soul cries out
  For things I know not of!
  Ah, keen the quick chords fall,
  And weighted with regret,
  Fade through the quiet rooms;
  And warm as April rain
  The strange tears fall,
  And life in some way seems
  Too deep to bear!


  Over my home-sick head,
  High in the paling light
  And touched with the sunset's glow,
  Soaring and strong and free,
  The unswerving phalanx sweeps,
  The honking wild geese go,--
  Go with a flurry of wings
  Home to their norland lakes
  And the sedge-fringed tarns of peace
  And the pinelands soft with Spring!

  I cannot go as the geese go,
  But into the steadfast North,
  The North that is dark and tender,
  My home-sick spirit wings,--
  Wings with a flurry of longing thoughts
  And nests in the tarns of youth.



  Dewy, dewy lawn-slopes,
  Is this the day she comes?
  O wild-flower face of Morning,
  Must you never wake?
  Silvery, silvery sea-line,
  Does she come to-day?
  O murmurous, murmurous birch-leaves,
  Beneath your whispering shadow
  She will surely pass;
  And thrush beneath the black-thorn
  And white-throat in the pine-top,
  Sing as you have never sung,
  For she will surely come!


  The lone green of the lawn-slope,
  The grey light on the sky-line,
  The mournful stir of birch-leaves,
  The thin note of the brown thrush,
  And the call of troubled white-throats
  Across the afternoon!--
  Ah, Summer now is over,
  And for us the season closed,
  For she who came an hour ago
  Has gone again--
  Has gone!


  God knows that I've tinkled and jingled and strummed,
  That I've piped it and jigged it until I'm fair sick of the game,
  That I've given them slag and wasted the silver of song,
  That I've thrown them the tailings and they've taken them up content!
  But now I want to slough off the bitterness born of it all,
  I want to throw off the shackles and chains of time,
  I want to sit down with my soul and talk straight out,
  I want to make peace with myself,
  And say what I have to say,
  While still there is time!

  Yea, I will arise and go forth, I have said,
  To the uplands of truth, to be free as the wind,
  Rough and unruly and open and turbulent-throated!
  Yea, I will go forth and fling from my soul
  The shackles and chains of song!

  But, lo, on my wrists are the scars,
  And here on my ankles the chain-galls,
  And the cell-pallor, see, on my face!
  And my throat seems thick with the cell-dust,
  And for guidance I grope to the walls,
  And after my moment of light

  I want to go back to the Dark,
  Since the Open still makes me afraid,
  And silence seems best in the sun,
  And song in the dusk!


  I feel all primal and savage to-day.
  I could eat and drink deep and love strong
  I could fight and exult and boast and be glad!
  I could tear out the life of a wild thing and laugh at it!
  I could crush into panting submission the breast of a woman
  A-stray from her tribe and her smoke-stained tent-door!
  I could glory in folly and fire and ruin,
  And race naked-limbed with the wind,
  And slink on the heels of my foes
  And dabble their blood on my brows--
  For to-day I am sick of it all,
  This silent and orderly empty life,
  And I feel all savage again!


  Black with a batter of mud
  Stippled with silvery pools
  Stands the pavement at the street-end;
  And the gutter snow is gone
  From cobble and runnelling curb;
  And no longer the ramping wind
  Is rattling the rusty signs;
  And moted and soft and misty
  Hangs the sunlight over the cross-streets,
  And the home-bound crowds of the city
  Walk in a flood of gold.

  And suddenly out of the dusk
  There comes the ancient question:
  Can it be that I have lived
  In earlier worlds unknown?
  Or is it that somewhere deep
  In this husk that men call Me
  Are kennelled a motley kin
  I never shall know or name,--
  Are housed still querulous ghosts
  That sigh and awaken and move,
  And sleep once more?



  I am only a note in the chorus,
  A leaf in the fluttering June,
  A wave on the deep.
  These things that I struggle to utter
  Have all been uttered before.
  In many another heart
  The selfsame song was born,
  The ancient ache endured,
  The timeless wonder faced,
  The unanswered question nursed,
  The resurgent hunger felt,
  And the eternal failure known!


  But glad is the lip of its whisper;
  The wave, of its life;
  The leaf, of its lisp;
  And glad for its hour is my soul
  For its echo of godlier music,
  Its fragment of song!


  The thin gold of the sun lies slanting on the hill;
  In the sorrowful greys and muffled violets of the old orchard
  A group of girls are quietly gathering apples.
  Through the mingled gloom and green they scarcely speak at all,
  And their broken voices rise and fall unutterably sad.
  There are no birds,
  And the goldenrod is gone.
  And a child calls out, far away, across the autumn twilight;
  And the sad grey of the dusk grows slowly deeper,
  And all the world seems old!


  I tire of these empty masks,
  These faces of city women
  That seem so vapid and well-controlled.
  I get tired of their guarded ways
  And their eyes that are always empty
  Of either passion or hate
  Or promise or love,
  And that seem to be old
  And are never young!
  I think of the homelier faces
  That I have seen,
  The vital and open faces
  In the by-ways of the world:
  A Polish girl who met
  Her lover one wintry morning
  Outside the gaol at Ossining;
  A lean young Slav violinist
  And the steerage women about him,
  Held by the sound of his music;
  A young and deep-bosomed Teuton
  Suckling her shawl-wrapped child
  On a grey stone bridge in Detmold;
  A group of girls from Ireland,
  Crowding the steps of a colonist-car
  And singing half-sadly together
  As their train rocked on and on
  Over the sun-bathed prairie;
  A mournful Calabrian mother
  Standing and staring out
  Past the mists of Ischia
  After a fading steamer;
  A Nautch girl held by a sailor
  Who'd taken a knife from her fingers
  But not the fire from her eyes;
  And a silent Sicilian mother
  Standing alone in the Marina
  Awaiting her boy who had been
  Long years away!--
  These I remember!
  And of these
  I never tire!


  There is strength in the soil;
  In the earth there is laughter and youth.
  There is solace and hope in the upturned loam.
  And lo, I shall plant my soul in it here like a seed!
  And forth it shall come to me as a flower of song;
  For I know it is good to get back to the earth
  That is orderly, placid, all-patient!
  It is good to know how quiet
  And noncommittal it breathes,
  This ample and opulent bosom
  That must some day nurse us all!


  On opal Aprilian mornings like this
  I seem dizzy and drunk with life.
  I waken and wander and laugh in the sun;
  With some mystical knowledge enormous
  I lift up my face to the light.
  Drunk with a gladness stupendous I seem;
  With some wine of Immensity god-like I reel;
  And my arm could fling Time from His throne;
  I could pelt the awed taciturn arch
  Of Morning with music and mirth;
  And I feel, should I find but a voice for my thought,
  That the infinite orbits of all God's loneliest stars
  That are weaving vast traceries out on the fringes of Night
  Could never stand more than a hem on the robe of my Song!


  My heart stood empty and bare,
  So I hung it with thoughts of a woman.
  The remembered ways of this woman
  Hung sweet in my heart.
  So I followed where thought should lead,
  And it led to her feet.
  But the mouth of this woman was pain,
  And the love of this woman, regret;
  And now only the thought
  Of all those remembered thoughts
  Of remembered ways,
  Is shut in my heart!


  When they flagged our train because of a broken rail,
  I stepped down out of the crowded car,
  With its clamour and dust and heat and babel of broken talk.
  I stepped out into the cool, the velvet cool, of the night,
  And felt the balm of the prairie-wind on my face,
  And somewhere I heard the running of water,
  I felt the breathing of grass,
  And I knew, as I saw the great white stars,
  That the world was made for good!


  There's a poet tombed in you,
  Man of blood and iron!
  There's a dreamer dead and buried
  Deep beneath your cynic frown,
  Deep beneath your toil!

  And deep beneath my music,
  There's a strong man stirs in me;
  There's a ghost of blood and granite
  Coffined in this madness
  Carpentered of Song!

  You live your day and drain it;
  I weave my dream and lose it;
  But the red blood lost in me awakens still at times,
  At all your city's sky-line,
  At all your roaring market-place,
  At all its hum of power--
  And the poet dead within you stirs
  Still at the plaintive note or two
  Of a dreamer's plaintive song!



  Glad with the wine of life,
  Reeling I go my way,
  Drunk with the ache of living
  And mouthing my drunken song!
  Then comes the lucid moment
  And the shadow across the lintel;
  And I hear the ghostly whisper,
  And I glimpse with startled eyes
  The Door beyond the doorway,
  And I see the small dark house
  Where I must sleep.


  Then song turns sour on my lips,
  And the warmth goes out of my blood,
  And I turn me back to the beaker,
  And re-draining my cup of dream,
  I drown the whispering voices,
  I banish the ghostly question
  As to which in the end is true:
  The wine and the open road?
  Or the waiting Door?


  Empty it seems, at times, their cry about Love,
  Their claim that love is the only thing that survives.
  For I who am born of my centuries strewn with hate,
  Who was spewed into life from a timeless tangle of sin,
  I can hate as strong and as long as I love!

  There are hours and issues I hate;
  There are creeds and deeds and doubts I hate;
  There are men I hate to the uttermost;
  And although in their graves they listen and weep,
  Earth's mothers and wistful women who cried for peace,
  I hate this King of Evil who has crowned my heart with Hate!


  I lay by your side last night.
  By you, in my dreams,
  I felt the damp of the grave.
  I was dead with you--
  And my bones still ache with Death.
  For my hand went out and I touched your lips,
  And I found them fallen away,
  Wasted and lost!
  Those lips once warm with life
  Were eaten and gone!
  And my soul screamed out in the dark
  At the intimate blackness of Death.
  And then I arose from the dead
  And returned to the day;
  And my bones and my heart still ache with it all,
  And I hunger to hear the relieving babble of life,
  The crowd in the hurrying street,
  The tumult and laughter and talk,
  To make me forget!


  One room in my heart shall be closed, I said;
  One chamber at least in my soul shall be secret and locked!
  I shall hold it my holy of holies, and no one shall know it!
  But you, calm woman predestined, with casual hands,
  You came with this trivial key,
  And ward by obdurate ward the surrendering lock fell back,
  And disdainfully now you wander and brood and wait
  In this room that I thought was my own!


  It isn't the Sea that I love,
  But the ships
  That must dare and endure and defy and survive it!
  It isn't the flesh that I love,
  But the spirit
  That guides and derides and controls and outlives it!
  It isn't this earth that I love,
  But the mortals
  Who give to it meaning and colour and passion and life!
  For what is the Sea without ships?
  And what is the flesh without soul?
  And what is a world without love?


  You have said that I sold
  My life for a song;
  Laid bare my heart
  That men might listen
  And go their ways--
  My inchoate heart
  That I dare not plumb,
  That goes unbridled
  To the depths of Hell,
  That sings in the sun
  To the brink of Heaven!
  I have tossed you the spindrift
  Born of its fretting
  On its shallowest coast,
  But over the depths of it
  Bastioned in wonder
  And silent with fear
  God sits with me!


  All my lean life
  I garnered nothing but a dream or two,
  These others gathered harvests
  And grew fat with grain.
  But no man lives by bread,
  And bread alone.
  So, forgetful of their scorn,
  When starved, they cried for life,
  I gave them my last dreams,
  I bared for them my heart,
  That they might eat!


  A canyon of granite and steel,
  A river of grim unrest,
  And over the fever and street-dust
  Arches the azure of dream.
  And fretting along the tumult,
  Threading the iron curbs,
  Tawdry in tinsel and feather
  Drift the daughters of pleasure,
  The sad-eyed traders in song,
  The makers of joy,
  The Columbines of the city
  Seeking their ends!
  But under the beaded eye-lash,
  Under the lip with its rouge,
  Under the mask of white
  Splashed with geranium-red,
  As God's own arch of azure
  Leans softly over the street,
  Surely, this day, runs warmer
  The blood through a wasted breast!


  Must I round my life to a song,
  As the waves wear smooth the shore-stone?
  Shall the mortal beat and throb
  Of this heart of mine
  Be only to crumble a dream,
  And fashion the pebbles of fancy,
  That the tides of time may cover,
  Or a child may find?

  Little in truth it matters;
  But this at the most I know:
  Infinite is the ocean
  That thunders upon man's soul,
  And the sooner the soul falls broken,
  The smoother will be its song!


  Ere the thread is loosed,
  And the sands run low,
  And the last hope fails,
  Wherever we fare,
  O Fond and True,
  May it fall that we come in the end,
  Come back to the crimson valleys,
  Back to the Indian Summer,
  Back to the northern pine-lands,
  And the grey lakes draped with silence,
  And the sunlight thin and poignant,
  And the leaf that flutters earthward,
  And the skyline green and lonely,
  And the ramparts of the dead world
  Ruddy with wintry rose!
  May we fare, O Fond and True,
  Through our soft-houred Indian Summer,
  Through the paling twilight weather,
  And facing the lone green uplands,
  And greeting the sun-warmed hills,
  Step into the pineland shadows
  And enter the sunset valley
  And go as the glory goes
  Out of the dreaming autumn,
  Out of the drifting leaf
  And the dying light!


  If I tire of you, beautiful woman,
  I know that the fault is mine;
  Yet not all mine the failure
  And not all mine the loss!
  In loveliness still you walk;
  But I have walked with sorrow!
  I have threaded narrows,
  And I have passed through perils
  That you know nothing of!
  And I in my grief have gazed
  In eyes that were not yours;
  And my emptier hours have known
  The sigh of kindlier bosoms,
  The kiss of kindlier mouths!
  Yet the end of all is written,
  And nothing, O rose-leaf woman,
  You ever may dream or do
  Henceforth can bring me anguish
  Or crown my days with joy!

      _Three tears, O stately woman,
      You said could float your soul,
      So little a thing it seemed!
      Yet all that's left of life
      I'd give to know your love,
      I'd give to show my love,
      And feel your kiss again!_


  I sat in the sunlight thinking of life;
  I sat there, dreaming of Death.
  And a moth alit on the sun-dial's face,
  And the birds sang sleepily,
  And the leaves stirred,
  And the sun lay warm on the hills,
  And the afternoon grew old.

  So, some day I knew the birds would sing,
  And the leaves would stir,
  And the afternoon grow old--
  And I would not be there.
  And the warmth went out of the day,
  And a wind blew out of the West where I sat,
  And the birds were still!

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Open Water" ***

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