By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Poems
Author: Maeterlinck, Maurice
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 "Poems" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

(Images generously made available at the Internet Archive.)




--Done into English Verse--


Methuen & Co. Ltd.
36 Essex Street W.C.




Once in a generation an author surpasses the bounds of nationality.
Of such cosmopolitan artists Maurice Maeterlinck is perhaps the most
shining example. Twenty years ago I was vainly endeavouring to interest
English publishers in his plays. To-day I am asked to produce a version
of one of his earlier and less familiar works, because the time is
approaching for that monument to his fame which so few writers enjoy
in their lifetime--namely, the complete edition. He is not a Belgian
writer merely or chiefly; above all he is an English, an American
author. His readers in England and the United States far outnumber
those who read the original French. His books are published in England
and America almost as soon as they appear in France and Belgium, and
in at least one case the English publication was the earlier. More and
more do his lovers demand every word that his pen has formed. Sooner or
later, therefore, it was inevitable that these "Poems" should appear in


The poems contained in this volume form part of a movement long
defunct--the Belgian Symbolist movement, an offshoot of that Belgian
renascence which produced so remarkable a body of great and noble
poetry. I cannot say, however, that perusal of the other poets of
the period will assist the reader to appreciate the volume in hand.
Eekhoud, Elskamp, Gilkin, Rodenbach, Verhaeren--none of these wrote
verse which could possibly be confounded with that of Maeterlinck;
twenty years ago the latter was no less original than he is to-day.

Many poets of the late nineteenth century were, without being
symbolists, affected by the Symbolist movement--a movement very loosely
named, since the actual symbolists connected with it could be counted
on the fingers of one hand. More particularly were they influenced by
the tendency to put music before matter, beauty before sense, which is
expressed by the so familiar lines of Verlaine:

    De la musique avant toute chose,
    Et pour cela préfère l'Impair,
    Plus vague et plus soluble dans l'air,
    Sans rien en lui qui pèse ou pose...
    De la musique encor et toujours!

But musical as Maeterlinck's verses are, and rich in sheer beauty,
we are very seldom in doubt as to what the poet says, however little
we may in some cases understand what he means. His statements are
concrete and lucid; it is the inner meaning, the soul of his verse,
that sometimes threatens to elude us. Had this volume been cast upon
the late Victorian world this preface would perhaps have been longer.
But I cannot believe that these poems will present any difficulties
to a generation which has degustated such phenomena as Cubism and its
kindred manifestations.


It is safe to assert that the writer of these poems had read his
Verlaine, his Rimbaud, his Mallarmé, and his Baudelaire, and of
English-speaking poets Emerson, Poe, perhaps Rossetti, and above all
Whitman. But he is no disciple; and his essential originality, and the
keynote of his aesthetics, is a system of symbolism.

Now here at once we are on dangerous ground. When a poet makes use of
a symbol it is because that symbol enables him to say something that
he cannot say so well, or so beautifully, or perhaps at all, in plain
language. He is a rash man, therefore, who will attempt to elucidate
another's symbolism. However, I have already been rash, in venturing
to translate, not a few selected lyrics, but an entire volume of verse
from cover to cover, than which there is no more appalling task in
literature. But I am not, therefore, disposed to court disaster by
attempting any detailed or positive explanation. I could indeed have
asked M. Maeterlinck for such; but at the moment of writing his country
is being crucified by the powers of darkness, and he has other and
sterner matters to think of.

This machinery of hot-houses, bell-glasses, hospitals, and what
not--what are we to make of it? I do not think we shall go far wrong in
supposing the hot-house, the bell-glass, the diving-bell, the hospital,
to typify the isolation and insulation caused by a false civilization
and an unreal religion, so productive of hypocrisy, fear, and confusion
that each man is a prisoner within himself, unable to reach his fellow.
And the inmates of the hot-house--the strange growths, the fantastic
visions, the violent antitheses and incongruities--these, we may take
it, are the morbidities fostered by a life which protects us and them
from the agencies by which Nature makes her own children perfect in
strength and beauty and service. That is my reading of it; the reader
is perfectly free to differ from me, and will lose little by so doing
if I have succeeded in preserving a tithe of the original beauty of the

If here and there--more particularly in the unrhymed pieces--the
violent and intentional incongruities and antitheses seem startling
and incomprehensible, and a little apt to tickle the risibility of the
frivolous Anglo-Saxon, let us remember that to read a symbolic poem
literally is as foolish as to seek for a cipher in Shakespeare, or to
set about interpreting a melody in terms of its notation, in the hope
of spelling out a message.

One peculiarity of Maeterlinck's which may at first confuse the English
reader is only a simple convention. All poetry is full of similes; the
simile confuses no one. If a poet tells us that his heart is like a
singing-bird we do not seriously suppose him to mean that his heart
has feathers and two legs; but merely that it possesses some other
essential quality of a singing-bird. Now Maeterlinck constantly, in
his verse, uses what is merely a modification of the simile, which has
precisely the same significance, but which takes the form of a positive
assertion of identity. He would say: My heart _is_ a singing-bird
or a plant in a green-house, or anything else that seemed to be
illuminating; and this apparent literalness of statement, which is
carried very far, is, and must always be understood as, a mere variant
of the familiar simile.


A word as to the work of translation. Most of the lyrics in _Serres
Chaudes_ are written in the metre familiar to English readers as that
of "In Memoriam." It is, in English, rather a dull metre, the stanza
being in reality no stanza at all, but merely a line of thirty-two
syllables with interior rhymes. It is greatly improved and enlivened
by the omission of four syllables, or rather by their replacement by
pauses of one syllable's value. This change I have sometimes made; and
in one case I have, in order to avoid a verbal obscurity, extended
the line to ten syllables. Apart from these exceptions all the poems
in this volume are translated into their original metres, and it has
always been my first object to produce a literal, almost a word for
word, translation. Whatever the faults of my version, it is strictly
faithful. If I am deemed to have also preserved something of the beauty
of the original I shall feel more than rewarded for a task that has
presented many difficulties.

                                                        BERNARD MIALL


_September 1914_.


Translator's Preface





      The right to reproduce these poems or to set them to
      music is reserved by the translator, and application must
      be made to him or to Mr J. B. Pinker of Talbot House,
      Arundel Street.


                                  "DE IMITATIONE"



    O Hot-house deep in the forest's heart!
    O doors forever sealed!
    Lo, all that lives beneath thy dome,
    And in my soul, and the likeness of these things!

    The thoughts of a princess who is sick with hunger,
    The listless mood of a mariner in the desert,
    And brazen music at the windows
    Of men who are sick to death!

    Seek out the coolest corners--
    And you think of a woman who has swooned
        on a day of harvest.

    Postilions have entered the courtyard of the hospital,
    And there passes yonder an Uhlan, who has turned sick-nurse.

    Behold it all by moonlight!
    (Nothing, nothing is in its rightful place!)
    And you think of a madwoman haled before the judges,
    A warship in full sail on the waters of a canal,
    Birds of the night perched among lilies,
    And the knell of a passing-bell at the mid-day hour of Angelus.
    And yonder--beneath those domes of glass--
    A group of sick folk halted amid the meadows,
    An odour of ether abroad on the sunny air!

    My God, my God, when shall we feel the rain,
    And the snow, and the wind, in this close house of glass?


    O Pity me that wander hence
      To haunt the threshold of intent
    My soul is pale with impotence,
      Colourless and indolent.

    A soul for action all too weak,
      Pallid with tears, it vainly heeds
    The weary hands that idly seek
      To grapple with abortive deeds.

    Forth from my slumbering heart exhale
      The purple bubbles of its dream;
    My soul, with waxen hands and frail,
      Pours forth a drowsy lunar gleam,

    A listless light that dimly shows
      The faded lilies of days unborn;
    A languid light that only throws
      The shadows of those hands forlorn.


    O Blue monotony of my heart!
      Blue with languor are my dreams,
      When the mournful moonlight seems
    Clearer vision to impart:

    Blue as is the house of shade,
      Close within whose lofty green
      Casements whose pellucid screen
    Seems of crystal moonlight made,

    Mighty vegetations rise,
      Whose nocturnal shadow deep
      Silent as a charmed sleep
    Over passion's roses lies;

    Where slow-rising waters gleam,
      Mingling moon and heaven, and throb
      In one eternal glaucous sob,
    Monotonously as in a dream.


    Green as the sea, temptations creep
      Through the shadows of the mind,
      Where with flaming flowers entwined
    Dark ejaculations leap--

    Stems obscure that coil and thrust
      In the moon's unhallowed glow,
      And the autumnal shadows throw
    Of their auguries of lust.

    And the moon may hardly shine
      Through their fevered fast embrace:
      Limb and slimy limb enlace,
    Emerald and serpentine.

    Sacrilegiously they grow,
      And their secret will reveal,
      Dismal as regrets that steal
    O'er men dying in the snow;

    And their mournful shadows hide
      Tangled wounds that mark the thrust
      Of the azure swords of lust
    In the crimson flesh of pride.

    When will the dreams of earth, alas,
      Find in my heart their final tomb?
      O let Thy glory, Lord, illume
    This dark and evil house of glass,

    And that oblivion nought may win!
      The dead leaves of their fevers fall,
      The stars between their lips, and all
    The visceræ of woe and sin!


    O Domes of crystal!
    O curious plants forever sheltered,
    While the wind stirs my senses here without!
    A valley of the soul forever undisturbed!
    O humid warmth at noon!
    O shifting pictures glimpsed in the crystal walls!

    Never lift one of these!
    Some have been set upon ancient pools of moonlight.
    Peer through the prisoned foliage:
    There you may see a beggar upon a throne,
    Or maybe pirates, lurking upon a pond,
    Or antediluvian beasts about to invade the cities!

    Some have been set on ancient drifts of snow,
    And some on pools of rain long fallen.
    (O pity the imprisoned air!)
    I hear them keeping Carnival on a Sabbath in time of famine;
    I see an ambulance in the midst of the fields of harvest,
    And all the king's daughters, on a day of fast,
    Are wandering through the meadows!

    Mark more especially those on the horizon!
    Carefully they cover the tempests of long ago.
    Somewhere, I think, you will see a great armada, sailing across a swamp!
    And there the brooding swans have hatched a nest of crows!
    (It is hard to see through the veil of moisture.)
    And a maiden is watering the heath with steaming water,
    A troop of little girls is watching the hermit in his cell,
    And I see my sisters asleep in the depth of a poisonous cavern!

    Wait until the moonlight, wait until the winter
    Shall cover these domes of crystal set amid ice and snow!


    I bring my piteous work, in form
      Like the dreaming of a corse,
    And the moon illumes the storm
      O'er the creatures of remorse.

    There the purple snakes of dream
      Writhing twine till sleep be done;
    Crowned with swords, my longings gleam;
      Lions are whelmed in the sun,

    Lilies in waters desolate,
      Clenched hands that may not move,
    And the ruddy stems of hate,
      Bearing verdant woes of love--

    Lord, pity our mortal speech!
      O that my prayers, morose and dim,
    With the dishevelled moon may reach
      And reap the night to the world's rim


    Neath the azure crystal bell
      Of my listless melancholy
      All my formless sorrows wholly
    Sink to rest, and all is well;

    Symbols all, the plans entwine:
      Water lilies, flowers of pleasure,
      Palms desirous, slow with leisure,
    Frigid mosses, pliant bine.

    'Mid them all a lily only,
      Pale and fragile and unbending,
      Imperceptibly ascending
    In that place of leafage lonely,

    Like a moon the prisoned air
      Fills with glimmering light wherethro'
      Rises to the crystal blue,
    White and mystical, its prayer.


    The dark brings visions to mine eyes:
      Thro' my desires they seek their goal.
      O nights within the humid soul,
    O heart to dreams that open lies!

    With azure reveries I bedew
      The roses of attempts undone;
      My lashes close the gates upon
    The longings that will ne'er come true.

    My pallid indolent fingers plant
    Ever in vain, at close of day,
    The emerald bells of hope that lay
    Over the purple leaves of want.

    Helpless, my soul beholds with dread
      The bitter musings of my lips,
      Amid the crowding lily-tips:
    O that this wavering heart were dead


    My soul!
    O, my soul, verily too closely sheltered!
    And the flocks of my desires, imprisoned in a house of glass!
    Waiting until the tempest break upon the meadows!

    Come first of all to these, so sick and fragile:
    From these a strange effluvium rises.
    And lo, it seems I am with my mother,
    Crossing a field of battle.
    They are burying a brother-in-arms at noon,
    While the sentinels are snatching a meal.

    Now let us go to the feeblest:
    These are covered with a strange sweat.
    Here is an ailing bride,
    And an act of treachery done upon a Sabbath,
    And little children in prison,
    And yonder, yonder through the mist,
    Do I see there a woman dying at the door of a kitchen,
    Or a Sister of Charity, shelling peas at the bedside of a dying patient?

    Last of all let us go to the saddest:
    (Last of all, for these are venom'd.)
    O, my lips are pressed by the kisses of a wounded man!

    In the castles of my soul this summer all the
        chatelaines have died of hunger!

    Now it is twilight on the morning of a day of festival!
    I catch a glimpse of sheep along the quays,
    And there is a sail by the windows of the hospital.

    The road is long from my heart to my soul,
    And all the sentinels have died at their posts!
    One day there was a poor little festival in the suburbs of my soul!
    They were mowing the hemlock there one Sunday morning,
    And all the maiden women of the convent
    were watching the passing vessels,
    On the canal, one sunny fast-day.
    But the swans were ailing, in the shadow of the rotting bridge.
    They were lopping the trees about the prison,
    They were bringing remedies, on an afternoon of June,
    And on every hand there were sick folk feasting!

    Alas, my soul,

    And alas, the sadness of all these things!


    These lips have long forgotten to bestow
    Their kiss on blind eyes chiller than the snow,
    Henceforth absorbed in their magnificent dream.
    Drowsy as hounds deep in the grass they seem;
    They watch the grey flocks on the sky-line pass,
    Browsing on moonlight scattered o'er the grass,
    By skies as vague as their own life caressed.
    They see, unvexed by envy or unrest,
    The roses of joy that open on every hand,
    The long green peace they cannot understand.


    My soul is sick, in an evil mood;
      Stricken with many a lack it lies,
      Stricken with silence, and mine eyes
    Illume it with their lassitude.

    Arrested visions of the chase
      Obsess me; memory whips them on;
      The sleuth-hounds of Desire are gone
    On fading scents--a weary race.

    In misty woods the hunt is met;
      The questing packs of dreams depart;
      Toward the white stags of falsehood dart
    The jaundiced arrows of Regret.

    Ah, my desires! For breath they swoon
      The wearied longings of mine eyes
      Have clouded with their azure sighs,
    Within my soul, the flooding moon!


    Narrow paths my passions tread:
      Laughter rings there, sorrow cries
      Sick and sad, with half-shut eyes,
    Thro' the leaves the woods have shed,

    My sins like yellow mongrels slink;
      Uncouth hyænas, my hates complain,
      And on the pale and listless plain
    Couching low, love's lions blink.

    Powerless, deep in a dream of peace,
      Sunk in a languid spell they lie,
      Under a colourless desolate sky,
    There they gaze and never cease,

    Where like sheep temptations graze,
      One by one departing slow:
      In the moon's unchanging glow
    My unchanging passions gaze.


    A woman's fears my heart control:
      What have I done with these, my part,
    My hands, the lilies of my soul,
      Mine eyes, the heavens of my heart?

    O Lord, have pity on my grief:
      I have lost the palm and ring, alas!
    Pity my prayers, my poor relief,
      Cut flowers and fragile in a glass.

    Pity the trespass of my mouth,
      And things undone, and words unsaid;
    Shed lilies on my fever's drouth,
      And roses on the marshes shed!

    O God! The doves whose flights are gold
      On heavens remembered! Pity too
    These garments that my loins enfold,
      That rustle round me, dimly blue!


    Here are the old desires that pass,
      The dreams of weary men, that die,
    The dreams that faint and fail, alas!
      And there the days of hope gone by!

    Where to fly shall we find a place?
      Never a star shines late or soon:
    Weariness only with frozen face,
      And sheets of blue in the icy moon.

    Behold the fireless sick, and lo!
      The sobbing victims of the snare!
    Lambs whose pasture is only snow!
      Pity them all, O Lord, my prayer!

    For me, I wait the awakening call:
      I pray that slumber leave me soon.
    I wait until the sunlight fall
      On hands yet frozen by the moon.


    Proud, indifferent, slow, they have fled, they have flown away,
    The peacocks white as snow, lest weariness awake;
    I see the birds of snow, the white birds of To-day,
    The birds that fly away before my slumber break;
    Proud, indifferent, slow, the white birds of To-day,
    Winning with indolent flight the shores of the sunless lake;
    The birds of listless thought, I hear them on their way,
    Indolently waiting for the sunless day to break.


    The hospital on the banks of the canal,
    The hospital, and the month July!
    They are lighting a fire in the ward,
    While the Atlantic steamers are whistling on the canal!

    (Do not go near the windows!)
    Here are emigrants loitering through a palace,
    And I see a yacht in a tempest!
    And herds of cattle on all the ships!

    (It is better to keep the windows fastened;
    Then we are all but safe from the outside world!)

    One thinks of a forcing-frame placed upon a snow-drift,
    Or a woman being churched on a day of thunder;
    One catches a glimpse of plants scattered over a blanket,
    And a conflagration on a sunny day,
    And I pass through a forest full of wounded men....

    O, here at last is the moonlight!

    A fountain is playing in the middle of the ward!
    And a troop of little girls has opened the door!
    And lo, a glimpse of lambs in an isle of meadows!
    And beautiful plants on a glacier!
    And lilies in a hall of marble!
    There is a banquet in a virgin forest,
    And the vegetation of the tropics in a cavern of ice!

    Listen! They are opening the locks,
    And the ocean steamers are churning the waters of the canal!

    But see, the Sister of Charity is making up the fire!

    All the lovely green rushes of the banks are in flames!
    And a boat full of wounded men is tossing in the moonlight!
    All the king's daughters are out in a boat in the storm!
    And the princesses are dying in a field of hemlock!

    Oh, do not unfasten the windows!
    Listen--the ocean steamers are still hooting on the horizon!

    They are poisoning someone in a garden!
    They are holding a splendid festival in the houses of the enemy!
    There are deer in a beleaguered city!
    And a menagerie in a garden of lilies!
    And the jungle of the tropics in the depths of a coal-mine!
    A flock of sheep is crossing an iron bridge!
    And the lambs have come from the meadows and are mournfully
        entering the ward!

    Now the Sister of Charity is lighting the lamps;
    Now she is bringing the patients their supper,
    She has closed the windows upon the canal,
    And all the doors to the light of the moon!


    Below the somnolence of prayer,
      Under languid visions I
      Hear the passions surge and cry:
    Lust with lust is warring there.

    Thro' the lassitude of dreams
      Shines the moon as thro' a mesh;
      And the wandering joy of flesh
    Still on pestilent beaches gleams.

    Under ever-shrouded skies,
      Thirsting for their starry fires,
      Thro' my veins I hear desires
    Toward the green horizon rise.

    Evil fondnesses I hear
      Blackly surging through my mind:
      Phantom marshes vanish blind
    Sudden on the sky-line drear.

    O Lord, thy wrath will slay me soon!
      Have pity on me, Lord, I pray!
      Sweating and sick, O let me stray
    Thro' pastures glimmering in the moon!

    For now, O Lord, the time is nigh
      To rase the hemlock with the steel,
      Whose moon my secret hopes reveal
    Green as a serpent in the sky:

    And the plague of dreams mine eyes
      Smites, and all its sins subdue,
      And the rustling fountains blue
    Toward the sovereign moon arise!


    I mourn the lips of yesterday,
      Lips whose kisses are yet unborn,
      And the old desires outworn,
    Under sorrows hid away.

    Always rain on the far sky-line;
      Always snow on the beaches gleams,
      While by the bolted gate of dreams
    Crouching wolves in the grasses whine.

    Into my listless soul I gaze:
      With clouded eyes I search the past,
      At all the long-spilt blood aghast
    Of lambs that died in wintry ways.

    Only the moon its mournful fires
      Enkindles, and a desolate light
      Falls where the autumn frosts are white
    Over my famishing desires.


    I sing the pale ballades of eld,
      Of kisses lost without reward,
      And lo, on love's luxurious sward,
    The nuptials of the sick are held.

    Voices thro' my slumber sound:
      Listlessly they gather near.
      Lilies bloom in closes where
    Star nor sun hath blessed the ground.

    And lo, these ghosts of old desire,
      These lagging throbs of impulse crost,
      Are paupers in a palace lost,
    Sick tapers in the auroral fire.

    When shall the moon my vision bathe,
      That seeks to plume the eternal streams
      Of darkness, and about my dreams
    Her slow cerulean raiment swathe?


    At length the consecrating hour is here
      That sains the slave's extenuated sleep.
    And I who wait shall see its hands appear,
      Full of white roses in these caverns deep.

    I wait--at length to feel its cooling wind
      Strike on my heart, impregnable to lies,
    A paschal lamb lost amid marshes blind,
      A wound o'er which the surging waters rise.

    I wait--for nights no morrow shall defy,
      I wait--for weakness nothing shall avail;
    To feel upon my hands its shadow lie,
      To see in peaceful tides its image pale.

    I wait until those nights of thine shall show
      All my desires with cleansed eyes go by,
    For then my dreams shall bathe in evening's glow,
      And then within their crystal castle die.


    Lo, the diver, forever within his bell!
    And a whole sea of glass, a sea eternally warm!
    A whole motionless world, a world of slow
        green rhythms!
    So many curious creatures beyond those walls
        of glass,
    And any contact eternally prohibited!
    And yet there is so much life in those bright
    waters yonder!

    Look! The shadows of great sailing-ships--
    they glide over the flowers, the dahlias of
        the submarine forest!
    And I stand for a moment in the shadow of
    whales that are voyaging to the Pole!

    And at this very moment, I doubt not, my
        fellow-men in the harbour
    Are discharging the vessels that sail hither
        laden with ice:
    A glacier was there, in the midst of the July meadows!
    And men are swimming and floating in the
        green waters of the creek,
    And at noon they enter shadowy caverns...
    And the breezes of ocean are fanning the roofs
        and balconies.

    Lo, the flaming tongues of the Gulf-Stream!
    Take heed lest their kisses touch the walls of
    They have ceased to lay ice on the brows of
        the fevered,
    And the patients have lit a bonfire
    And are casting great handfuls of green lilies
        into the flames!

    Lean your brows upon the cooler panes,
    While waiting for the moonlight to enter the
        bell from above,
    And close your eyes tightly, to the forest of colour,
    The pendulous blues and albuminous violets,
    And close your ears to the suggestions of the
        tepid water.

    Dry the brows of your desires; they are weak
        with sweat.
    Go firstly to those on the point of swooning.
    They have the air of people celebrating a
        wedding in a dungeon,
    Or of people entering, at mid-day, a long lamp-lit
        avenue underground;
    In festival procession they are passing
    Thro' a landscape like an orphaned childhood.

    Go now to those about to die:
    They move like virgins who have wandered far
    In the sun, on a day of fast;
    They are pale as patients who placidly listen
        to the rain in the gardens of the hospital;
    They have the look of survivors, breaking their
        fast on a battle-field;
    They are like prisoners who know that all their
        gaolers are bathing in the river,
    And who hear men mowing the grass in the
    garden of the prison.


    Now my desires no more, alas,
      Summon my soul to my eyelids' brink,
    For with its prayers that ebb and pass
      It too must sink,

    To lie in the depth of my closed eyes;
      Only the flowers of its weary breath
    Like icy blooms to the surface rise,
      Lilies of death.

    Its lips are sealed; in the depths of woe,
      And a world away, in the far-off gloom,
    They sing of azure stems that grow
      A mystic bloom.

    But lo, its fingers--I have grown
      Pallid beholding them, I who perceive
    Them trace the marks its poor unblown
      Lost lilies leave.

    I know it must die, for its hour is o'er:
      Folding its impotent hands at last,
    Hands too weary to pluck any more
      The flowers of the past!


    I watch the hours of long ago:
      Their blue and secret depths I set
      Under the burning-glass, Regret,
    And watch a happier flora blow.

    Hold up the glass o'er my desires!
      Behold them through my soul, a glass
      At memory's touch the withered grass
    Breaks forth into devouring fires.

    Now above my thoughts I hold
      The azure crystal, in whose heart
      Suddenly unfolding start
    The leaves of agonies borne of old,

    Until those nights remote I see
      Even to memory dead so long
      That their sullen tears do wrong
    To the green soul of hopes to be.


    Under the brimming tide of dreams
      O, my soul is full of fear!
      In my heart the moon is clear;
    Deep it lies in the tide of dreams.

    Under the listless reeds asleep,
      Only the deep reflection shows
      Of palm, of lily and of rose,
    Weeping yet in the waters deep;

    And the flowers, late and soon,
      Fall upon the mirrored sky,
      To sink and sink eternally
    Thro' dreamy waters and the moon.


    All the tears that I have shed,
      All my kisses, lo, they pass
      Thro' my mind as in a glass:
    All my kisses whose joy is dead.

    There are flowers without a hue,
      Lilies that under the moonlight fade,
      Moonlight over the meadows laid,
    Fountains far on the sky-line blue.

    Weary and heavy with slumber I
      See thro' the lids that slumber closes
      Crows that gather amid the roses,
    Sick folk under a sunbright sky.

    Of these vague loves the weary smart
      Shines unchanging late and soon
      Like a pale slow-moving moon
    Sadly into my indolent heart.


    Thou know'st, O Lord, my spirit's dearth
      Thou see'st the worth of what I bring
    The evil blossoms of the earth,
      The light upon a perished thing.

    Thou see'st my sick and weary mood:
      The moon is dark, the dawn is slain.
    Thy glory on my solitude
      Shed Thou like fructifying rain.

    Light Thou, O Lord, beneath my feet
      The way my weary soul should pass,
    For now the pain of all things sweet
      Is piteous as the ice-bound grass.


    O all these poor weary glances!
    And yours, and mine!
    And those that are no more, and those to be!
    And those that will never be, and yet exist!
    There are those that seem to visit the poor on a Sabbath;
    There are some like sick folk who are houseless,
    There are some like lambs in a meadow full of bleaching linen;
    And O, these strange unwonted glances!
    Under the vaults of some we behold
    A maiden being put to death in a chamber with closed doors.
    And some make us dream of unknown sorrows,

    Of peasants at the windows of a factory,
    Of a gardener turned weaver,
    Of a summer afternoon in a wax-work show,
    Of the thoughts of a queen on beholding sick man in a garden,
    Of an odour of camphor in the forest,
    Of a princess locked in a tower on a day of rejoicing,
    Of men sailing all the week on the stagnant waters of a canal.

    Have pity on those that come creeping forth
        like convalescents at harvest-tide!
    Have pity on those that have the air of children
        who have lost their way at supper-time!
    Have pity on the glances of the wounded man at the surgeon,
    Like tents stricken by a hurricane!
    Have pity on the glances of the virgin tempted!
    (Rivers of milk are flowing away in the darkness;
    And the swans have died in the midst of serpents!)
    And the gaze of the virgin who surrenders!

    There are princesses deserted in swamps that have no issue!
    And lo, those eyes in which you may see ships
        in full sail, lit up by flashes of the storm!
    And how pitiful are all those glances which
        suffer because they are not elsewhere!
    And so much suffering, so indistinguishable
        and yet so various!
    And those glances which no one will ever understand!
    And those poor glances which are all but dumb!
    And those poor whispering glances!
    And those poor stifled glances!

    Amid some of these you might think yourself
        in a mansion serving as hospital,
    And many others have the air of tents, lilies of war,
        on the little lawn of the convent!
    And many others have the air of wounded men
        tended in a hot-house!
    Or Sisters of Charity on an ocean devoid of patients!

    Oh, to have encountered all these glances,
    To have admitted them all,
    And to have exhausted mine thereby!
    And henceforth to be unable to close mine eyes!


    My soul her unused hands to pray
    Folds, that hide the world away:
    Lord, my broken dreams complete,
    That Thine angels' lips repeat.

    While beneath my wearied eyes
    She breathes the prayers that in her rise--
    Prayers that find my lids a tomb,
    And whose lilies may not bloom:

    While in dreams her barren breast
    Hushes 'neath my gaze to rest--
    Still her eyes from perils cower,
    Such as wake by falsehood's power.


    Mine eyes have snared my soul. But O,
      Grant me, O Lord, my one desire:
    Let fall Thy leaves upon the snow,
      Let fall Thy rain upon the fire.

    The sun upon my pillow plays,
      The self-same hours they sound again,
    And always falls my questing gaze
      On dying men that harvest grain.

    My hands they pluck the withered grass,
      Mine eyes with sleep are all undone,
    Are sick folk in a springless pass,
      Or flowers of darkness in the sun.

    When will my dreams unchanging know
      The rain, and when the meadows brown
    Along the far horizon, lo,
      The lambs are herded toward the town.


    Dreams within mine eyes remain,
      And beneath its crystal dome
      Lights my soul it somewhile home,
    Taps upon the azure pane.

    Houses of the listless soul!
      Up the panes the lilies creep;
      Reeds unfold in waters deep,
    Longings nought shall e'er make whole

    Closing eyes it all but seems
      Past oblivion I could hold
      All the rosy flowers of old
    Of my half-remembered dreams.

    Their leaves are dead and scattered far.
      Shall I not see them verdant soon
      When with her azure hands the moon
    In silence sets the gates ajar?


    Have pity on the eyes morose
      Wherein the soul its hope reveals
    On fated things that ne'er unclose,
      And all that wait what night conceals.

    Ripples that rock the spirit's lake!
      Lilies that sway beneath the tide
    To threads the eternal rhythms shake!
      O powers that close to vision hide!

    Behold, O Lord, unwonted flowers
      Among the water-lilies' white!
    Dim hands of Thine angelic powers
      Trouble the waters of my sight:

    At mystic signs the buds unroll,
      Shed on the waters from the skies,
    And as the swans take flight my soul
      Spreads the white pinions of its eyes.


    The sense of contact!
    Darkness lies between your fingers!
    The cries of brazen instruments in a tempest!
    The music of organs in the sunlight!
    All the flocks of the soul in the depths of a night of eclipse!
    All the salt of the sea on the grass of the meadows!
    And the blaze of blue lightning on every horizon!
    (Have pity on this human sense!)

    But O these sadder, wearier contacts!
    O the touch of your poor moist hands!
    I hear your pure fingers as they glide between mine,
    And flocks of lambs are departing by moonlight
    Along the banks of a misty river.

    I can remember all the hands that have touched my hands,
    And again I see all that was protected by those hands,
    And I see to-day what I was, protected by those cool hands.
    I was often the beggar who gnaws his crust
        on the steps of a throne.

    I was sometimes the diver, who cannot evade the surging waters.
    I was often a whole people, no longer able to escape from the town!
    And some hands were like a convent without a garden!
    And some confined me like a group of invalids in a glass-house
        on a rainy day!
    Until other cooler hands should come to set the doors ajar,
    And sprinkle a little water upon the threshold!

    O, I have known strange contacts,
    And here they surround me forever!
    Some were wont to give alms on a day of sun-shine,
    Some gathered a harvest in the depths of a cavern,
    And the music of mountebanks was heard outside the prison.
    There were wax-work figures in the summer woods,
    And elsewhere the moon had swept the whole oasis,
    And at times I found a virgin, flushed and sweating,
        in a grotto of ice!

    Pity these strange hands!
    These hands contain the secrets of all the kings!
    Pity these hands too pale!
    They seem to have emerged from the caverns of the moon;
    They are worn with spinning threads from the
    distaffs of fountains!
    Pity these hands, too white, too moist!
    They are like princesses that slumber at noon
        all the summer through.

    Avoid these hard harsh hands!
    They seem to have issued from the rocks!
    But pity these cold hands!
    I see a heart bleeding under ribs of ice!
    And pity these evil hands,
    For these have poisoned the springs!
    They have set young cygnets in a nest of hemlock!
    I have seen the angels of evil open the gates at noon!
    Here are only madmen on a pestilent river!
    Here are black sheep only in starless pastures!
    And lambs hasting away to graze in darkness!

    But O these cool faithful hands!
    They come to offer ripe fruits to the dying!
    They bring clear cold water in their palms!
    They water the battlefields with milk!
    They have surely come from wonderful and
        eternally virgin forests!


    My soul is sick at the end of all,
    Sick and sad, being weary too,
    Weary of being so vain, so vain,
    Weary and sad at the end of all,
    And O I long for the touch of you!

    I long for your hands upon my face;
    Snow-cold as spirits they will be;
    I wait until they bring the ring.
    I wait for their coolness over my face
    Like a treasure deep in the sea.

    I wait to know their healing spell,
    Lest in the desolate sun I die,
    So that I die not out in the sun;
    O bathe mine eyes and make them well,
    Where things unhappy slumbering lie.

    Where many swans upon the sea,
    Swans that wander over the sea,
    Stretch forth their mournful throats in vain
    In wintry gardens by the sea
    Sick men pluck roses in their pain.

    I long for your hands upon my face;
    Snow-cold as spirits they will be,
    And soothe my aching sight, alas!
    My vision like the withered grass
    Where listless lambs irresolute pass!



    She chained her in a cavern frore.
    She set a sign upon the door.
    The key into the ocean fell:
    The maid forgot the lamp as well.

    She waited for the days of spring;
    Year by year did seven die,
    And every year one passed her by.

    She waited thro' the winter's cold,
    And her tresses, waiting too,
    Recalled the light that once they knew.

    They sought the light, they found it out,
    Crept thro' the rocks and round about,
    And lit the rocks with all their gold.

    He comes at eve that passed of old:
    Amazéd at the wondrous sight
    He does not dare approach the light.

    He deems it is a mystic sign,
    Or else a spring that gushes gold,
    Or angels at their sport divine:
    He turns, and passes as of old.


    If he one day come again
      What shall then be said?
    --Say that one awaited him,
      Always, that is dead.

    Ay, but if he ask me more,
      Yet know me not again?
    --Speak as any sister might,
      Lest he be in pain.

    If he ask where you are gone
      What shall I reply?
    --Give him then my golden ring,
      Make him no reply.

    If he asks me why the hall
      Shows a silent floor?
    --Show him then the smouldered lamp
      And the open door.

    If he ask me of the hour
      When you fell asleep?
    --Tell him, tell him that I smiled
      Lest my love should weep.


    Three little maids they did to death,
    To see what hid within their hearts.

    The first little heart was full of bliss,
    And lo, wherever its blood might run,
    Three serpents hissed till three years were done.

    The second was full of gentlehood,
    And lo, wherever its blood might run
    Three lambs that fed till three years were done.

    The third was full of pain and woe,
    And lo, wherever the red blood crept
    Archangels three their vigil kept.


    Maidens with bounden eyes
        (O loose the scarves of gold!)
    Maidens with bounden eyes,
    They sought their destinies.

    At noon they opened wide
        (O keep the scarves of gold!)
    At noon they opened wide
    The palace in the plain:

    There they greeted life
        (Bind close the scarves of gold!)
    There they greeted life,
    And turned them back again.


    The three blind sisters
    (Hope is not cold),
    The three blind sisters
    Light their lamps of gold.

    Up the tower go they
    (They and you and we),
    Up the tower go they
    To wait the seventh day.

    Ah, saith one, turning
    (Still let us hope),
    Ah, saith one, turning,
    I hear our lamps burning....

    Ah, the second saith
    (They and you and we),
    Ah, the second saith,
    Tis the king's tread....

    Nay, the holiest saith
    (Still let us hope),
    Nay, the holiest saith,
    But our light is dead.


    There came one here to say
    (O child, I am afraid!)
    There came one here to say
    'Twas time to haste away....

    A burning lamp I bear,
    (O child, I am afraid!)
    A burning lamp I bear,
    And I draw near!

    At the first door,
    (O child, I am afraid!)
    At the first door
    The flame shook sore....

    Then, at the second,
    (O child, I am afraid!)
    Then, at the second,
    The flame spoke and beckoned....

    The third door is wide
    (O child, but this is fear!)
    The third door is wide,
    And the flame has died.


    Orlamonde had seven daughters
      When the fairy died
    The seven maids, the seven daughters,
      Sought to win outside.

    Then they lit their seven lamps;
      Through all the towers they sought;
    They opened full four hundred halls;
      The day, they found it not.

    They came to the echoing caverns deep;
      Down, tho' the air was cold,
    Went, and in a stubborn door
      Found a key of gold.

    They see the ocean through the chinks;
      They fear to die outside;
    They beat on the unmoving door
      They dare not open wide.


    She had three crowns of gold:
    To whom did she give the three?

    One she gave to her parents dear,
    And they have bought three reeds of gold,
    And kept her till the spring was near.

    And one to those that loved her well:
    And they have bought three nets of gold,
    And kept her till the autumn fell.

    And one she gave to those she bore,
    And they have bought three gyves of iron,
    To chain her till the winter's o'er.


    Toward the castle she made her way
    (Hardly yet was the sun on the sea),
    Toward the castle she made her way;
    Knight looked at knight and looked away;
    The women had never a word to say.

    She came to rest before the door
    (Hardly yet was the sun on the sea),
    She came to rest before the door;
    They heard the queen as she paced the floor,
    And the king that asked her what would she.

    "What do you seek, O where do you go?
    (Have a care, it is hard to see),
    What do you seek, O where do you go?
    Doth one await you there below?"
    But never a word, a word spake she.

    Down she went to the one unknown
    (Have a care, it is hard to see),
    Down she went to the one unknown,
    And round the queen her arms were thrown;
    Never a word did either say;
    Without a word they went their way.

    The king wept on the threshold sore
    (Have a care, it is hard to see),
    The king wept by the open door;
    They heard the footsteps of the queen,
    And the fall of the leaves where she had been.


    Her lover went his way
    (I heard the gate),
    Her lover went his way;
    Yet she was gay.

    When he came again
    (I heard the lamp),
    When he came again
    Another made the twain.

    And the dead I met
    (I heard her spirit cry),
    And the dead I met:
    She who waits him yet.


    Mother, mother, do you not hear?
    Mother, they come; there is news to tell!
    --Give me your hands, my daughter dear:
    Tis a tall ship that saileth well.

    Mother dear, have a care, give heed!
    --They go, my daughter, away they speed.
    Mother, the danger is sore, alas!
    --Child, my child, it will quickly pass.

    Mother, mother, She draweth near!
    --It is down in the harbour, daughter dear.
    Mother, mother, She opens the door!
    --Child, they go, to return no more.

    Mother, She enters! I am afraid!
    --Child, they now have the anchor weighed.
    Mother, I hear Her speaking low.
    --Child, my child, it is they that go.

    Mother, She makes the stars go dark!
    --Child,'tis the sails of a shadowy bark.
    Mother, She knocks at the casements still!
    --Child, it may be they are fastened ill....

    Mother, mother, my sight grows dim....
    --Child, they sail for the open sea.
    On every hand I can see but Him....
    --Daughter, what is it, and who is He?


    Now your lamps are all alight,
    --The sun's in the garden on every side
    Now your lamps are all alight;
    The sun through every chink is bright:
    Open the doors on the garden wide!

    The keys of the doors are lost one and all,
    We must be patient what e'er befall;
    The keys they fell from the tower on high.
    We must be patient whate'er befall,
    Wait and wait as the days go by.

    The days to be will open the doors,
    The keys are safe in the forest wide.
    The forest blazes on every side;
    The light of the dying leafage pours
    Blazing bright beneath the doors.

    The days to be already ail,
    The days to be they fear and fail,
    The days to be will never come;
    For day by day will die as we,
    Die as we in this our tomb.


    Sisters, sisters, thirty years
      I sought where he might be;
    Thirty years I sought for him:
      Never did I see.

    Thirty years the way I trod;
      Long the road and hot;
    Sisters, he was everywhere,
      He who yet is not.

    Sisters, sad the hour and late,
      My sandal's thongs unpick.
    Even as I the evening dies,
      And my soul is sick.

    You whose years are seventeen,
      Forth and seek him too;
    Sisters, sisters, take my staff,
      Seek the whole world through.


    There were three sisters fain to die.
    Her crown of gold each putteth on,
    And forth to seek their death they're gone.

    They wander to the forest forth:
    "Give us our death, O forest old,
    For here are our three crowns of gold."

    The forest broke into a smile,
    And kisses gave to each twice twain,
    That showed them all the future plain.

    There were three sisters fain to die:
    They wandered forth to seek the sea:
    They found it after summers three.

    "Give us our death, thou ocean old,
    For here are our three crowns of gold."
    Then the ocean began to weep:

    Three hundred kisses it gave the three,
    And all the past was plain to see.
    There were three sisters fain to die,

    To find the city they sought awhile;
    They found it midmost of an isle.

    "Give us our death, thou city old,
    For here are our three crowns of gold."

    The city opened then and there,
    And covered them with kisses dear
    That showed them all the present clear.


    Canticle of the Virgin in "Sister Beatrice"[1]

    I hold, to every sin,
      To every soul that weeps,
    My hands with pardon filled
      Out of the starry deeps.

    There is no sin that lives
      When love hath vigil kept;
    There is no soul that mourns
      When love but once hath wept.

    And tho' on many paths
      Of earth love lose its way,
    Its tears will find me out
      And shall not go astray.

[1] Reprinted from "Soeur Beatrice." The translation is reprinted,
by kind permission of Messrs Geo. Allen & Unwin, from my version of
"Sister Beatrice: and Ardiane and Barbe Bleue," published by them.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Poems" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.