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Title: Shepherd Singing Ragtime and Other Poems
Author: Golding, Louis
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.

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  Ploughman at the Plough
  The Starry Lady
  When the Great Arm of a Tree Bends Stooping
  The Moon-Clock
  Unnamed Fruit
  Portrait of an Artist
  Shepherd Singing Ragtime
  Skylark Noon
  The Singer of High State
  Bird, Bird, Bird
  Green Beads
  The Wind, Whence Blowing
  Lady of Babylon
  This is the Happy Husband, This is He
  Cold Branch in the Black Air
  Ghosts Gathering
  Lyric in Gloom
  I Seek a Wild Star
  My Lady of Peace
  Our Jack
  Silver-Badged Waiter
  Sunset over Suburb
  Shrift among Hills
  Courage the Dreamers


  Three sheep graze on the low hill
      Beneath the shadow of five trees.
          Three sheep!
      Five old sycamores!
  (The noon is very full of sleep.
  The noon's a shepherd kind and still.
  The noon's a shepherd takes his ease
  Beneath the shadow of five trees,
      Five old sycamores.)
  Three sheep graze on the low hill.
  Down in the grass in twos and fours
  Cows are munching in the field.
  Three sheep graze on the low hill;
  Bless them, Lord, to give me wool.
  Cows are munching in the field;
  Bless them that their teats be full.
  Bless the sheep and cows to yield
  Wool to keep my children warm,
  Milk that they should grow therefrom.

  Three sheep graze on the low hill,
      Beneath five sycamores.
  Cows are munching in the field.
      All in twos and fours.

  On an elm-tree far aloof
  There are nine-and-twenty crows,
  Croaking to the blue sky roof
  Fifteen hundred ancient woes.

  In a cracked deserted house,
  Six owls cloaked with age and dream,
  In a cracked deserted house,
  Six owls wait upon a beam,
  Wait for the nocturnal mouse.

  In the stackyard at my farm
  There are fourteen stacks of hay.
      Lord, I pray
  Keep my golden goods from harm,
  Fourteen shining stacks of hay!

  Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
  Six owls, nine-and-twenty crows,
  Three sheep grazing on the hill
      Beneath five sycamores,
  Fat cows munching in a field,
      All in twos and fours,
  Fat cows munching in a field,
  Fourteen shining stacks of hay.

  At a table in a room
  Where beyond the window-frames
  Glows the sweet geranium,
  At a table in a room
  My three children play their games
  Till their father-poet come,
  Stop a moment, listen, wait
  Till a father-poet come.
  Lovely ones of lovely names,
      He shall not come late.

  Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
  Six owls, nine-and-twenty crows,
  Fifteen hundred ancient woes,
  Three sheep grazing on the hill,
      Beneath five sycamores,
  Fat cows munching in a field
      All in twos and fours,
  Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
  My three lovely children, one
  Mother laughing like the sun,
  Sweetheart laughing like the sun
    When the baby laughters run.

  Now the goal I sought is won,
  Sweetheart laughing like the sun,
  Now the goal I sought is won,
      Sweet, my song is done.


  He behind the straight plough stands
  Stalwart, firm shafts in firm hands.

  Naught he cares for wars and naught
  For the fierce disease of thought.

  Only for the winds, the sheer
  Naked impulse of the year,

  Only for the soil which stares
  Clean into God's face he cares.

  In the stark might of his deed
  There is more than art or creed;

  In his wrist more strength is hid
  Than the monstrous Pyramid;

  Stauncher than stern Everest
  Be the muscles of his breast;

  Not the Atlantic sweeps a flood
  Potent as the ploughman's blood.

  He, his horse, his ploughshare, these
  Are the only verities.

  Dawn to dusk with God he stands,
  The Earth poised on his broad hands.


  I shall insistently and proudly read
  Into the mud of things a mudless creed,
  Out of mud fashioning a palace so
  Clamant with beauty and superb with snow,
  That in this glory shall men's eyes be blurred,
  Stars be made slaves to this most potent Word.
  I in thick mud shall hear swift stars proclaim
  The intolerable splendour of the Name.
  I in a beetle's nerves shall search and find
  The processes of the chaos-cleaving mind,
  On my clock's second-fingers I shall see
  The tidal journeyings of Eternity.


        Now with anger,
        Pomp and royal clangour,
        Now where his Lady is
          Starry with her crown;
  Now the hills waking from the day's languor,
  Now with many instruments in puissant harmonies,
        The sun goes down.

        Now rivers splendid
        Now song attended
  Throw ranks of music forward to the sea.
        Now hills like vocal moons
        Blow their prolonged bassoons
        Forth where the Monarch swoons,
          After long labour ended,
  Swoons for his Lady--ah starry she!

        From dim clouds wheeling
        Song down comes stealing
  Round flowers whose petals shaking
        Silver of song are making;
        Round the grand bronze of trees
        Whose trumpets pealing
        Peal through the sunset till
        Flower, tree and cloud and hill
  Fuse in the splendour of song that girdles the seas.

        The Sun now is set--and now
        Lips on her calm cool brow!
        Now there is heaping
        Of star-dust steeping
  With deep and drowsy scents
        Their bodies sleeping.

        Quiet now, quiet,
        Of golden instruments!
  Now still, most shadowy still
          Are cloud and hill;
        Still, in this solemn hour
        Lie cloud and flower;
        Still, most shadowy still
          Lie cloud and tree.
        Now under tranquil skies,
        Far, far the Monarch lies
  Lone with his starry Lady--ah starry she!


  When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
      Across the dark road ...
          Beware, beware!
  Beware lest fingers searching, scooping
    Snatch up your body by your hair,
  Think this no leafing clod,
    Insensible clay!
  Know you that through long ages in tense calm
  This tree hath held its arm,
  The instinct fingers nerved by most high God:
    Until you knowing nought
    Because of thick false thought,
  You came, frail fool, treading a secure way.

  When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
    Across the dark road ...
  Beware lest fingers meet within your hair,
    A stern arm clasp you round,
    Bear you from the ground;
    And you shall be held tight
    Against a bloodless breast
    Till human blood be pressed
    From finger-nails and eyes,
    And all the little cries
    Your lips gave forth of old
    Shall now no more arise
      Where you hang cold,
    Where you hang dry and stark
    Against the granite dark,
      Frozenly upright;
    And deeper, deeper you
    Shall thick leaves hide from view,
    Your dead limbs shall be sunk
    Down further through the trunk,
    And all your veins shall wrap
    Channels of flowing sap,
    Your brain and lungs and blood
      Shall be stiff wood,
    Till you at last shall be
    The cold heart of a tree.

  When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
    Across the dark road....


  (_For Alan Porter_)

  Tick-tock! the moon, that pale round clock
  Her big face peering, goes tick-tock!

  Metallic as a grasshopper
  The faint far tickings start and stir.

  All night tinily you can hear
  Tick-tock tinkling down the sheer

  Steep falls of space.  Minute, aloof,
  Here is no praise, here no reproof.

  Remote in voids star-purged of sense,
  Tick-tock in stark indifference!

  From ice-black lands of lack and rock,
  The two swords shake and clank tick-tock.

  In the dark din of the day's vault
  Demand thy headlong soul shall halt

  One moment.  Hearken, taut and tense,
  In the vast Silence beyond sense,

  The moon!  From the hushed heart of her,
  Metallic as a grasshopper,

  Patient though earth may writhe and rock,
  Imperturbably, tock, tick-tock!

  Till, boastful earth, your forests wilt
  In grotesque Death.  Till Death shall silt,

  Loud-blooded man, her unchecked sands
  From feet and warped expiring hands

  Through fatuous channels of the thinned
  Brain.  Till all the clangours which have dinned

  Through your arched ears are only this,
  Tick-tock down blank eternities,

  Where still the sallow death's-head ticks
  As stars burn down like candle-wicks.


  (_For A. E. Coppard_)

  What fruit grows viewless in my garden plot,
      So red the sun is shamed,
  Tipped with green starshine and with opal flamed!
      Days shall not rot
  My fruit so sacred that it is not named.

  Not with a carnal lip shalt thou devour
      A pulp so tragic-sweet.
  For here the juices of disaster meet
      When silly power
  Gives form to fancy that a man might eat.

  Leave us a single tree of precious fruit;
      One dream to be our own;
  One shape which shall not stammer into stone;
      One sweet song mute
  To sing with fleshless lips when flesh is flown


  I have been given eyes
  Which are neither foolish nor wise,
  Seeing through joy or pain
  Beauty alone remain.

  I have been given an ear
  Which catches nothing clear,
  But only along the day
  A Song stealing away.

  My feet and hands never could
  Do anything evil or good:
  Instead of these things,
  A swift mouth that sings.


  (_For E. V. Branford_)

  The shepherd sings:
          "_Way down in Dixie,
          Way down in Dixie,
    Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay..._"

  With shaded eyes he stands to look
  Across the hills where the clouds swoon,
  He singing, leans upon his crook,
    He sings, he sings no more.
  The wind is muffled in the tangled hair
  Of sheep that drift along the noon.
      The mild sheep stare
  With amber eyes about the pearl-flecked June.
      Two skylarks soar
      With singing flame
    Into the sun whence first they came.
  All else is only grasshoppers
  Or a brown wing the shepherd stirs,
  Who, like a slow tree moving, goes
  Where the pale tide of sheep-drift flows.

      See! the sun smites
      With molten lights
    The turned wing of a gull that glows
    Aslant the violet, the profound
    Dome of the mid-June heights.
    Alas! again the grasshoppers,
    The birds, the slumber-winging bees,
    Alas! again for those and these
      Demure things drowned;
  Drowned in vain raucous words men made
  Where no lark rose with swift and sweet
  Ascent and where no dim sheep strayed
  About the stone immensities,
  Where no sheep strayed and where no bees
  Probed any flowers nor swung a blade
    Of grass with pollened feet.

  He sings
              "_In Dixie,
          Way down in Dixie,
      Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay
      Scrambled eggs in the new-mown hay..._"

  The herring-gulls with peevish cries
  Rebuke the man who sings vain words;
  His sheep-dog growls a low complaint,
  Then turns to chasing butterflies.
  But when the indifferent singing-birds
  From midmost down to dimmest shore
  Innumerably confirm their songs,
  And grasshoppers make summer rhyme
  And solemn bees in the wild thyme
  Clash cymbals and beat gongs,
    The shepherd's words once more are faint,
    Once more the alien song is thinned
    Upon the long course of the wind,
      He sings, he sings no more.

    Ah now the dear monotonies
    Of bells that jangle on the sheep
    To the low limit of the hills!
    Till the blue cup of music spills
    Into the boughs of lowland trees;
    Till thence the lowland singings creep
    Into the dreamful shepherd's head,
      Creep drowsily through his blood;
    The young thrush fluting all he knows,
    The ring dove moaning his false woes,
    Almost the rabbit's tiny tread,
      The last unfolding bud.

          But now,
  Now a cool word spreads out along the sea.
  Now the day's violet is cloud-tipped with gold.
    Now dusk most silently
  Fills the hushed day with other wings than birds'.
  Now where on foam-crest waves the seagulls rock,
  To their cliff-haven go the seagulls thence.
  So too the shepherd gathers in his flock,
    Because birds journey to their dens,
    Tired sheep to their still fold.

    A dark first bat swoops low and dips
    About the shepherd who now sings
    A song of timeless evenings;
    For dusk is round him with wide wings,
    Dusk murmurs on his moving lips.

      _There is not mortal man who knows
      From whence the shepherd's song arose:
        It came a thousand years ago._

      _Once the world's shepherds woke to lead
      The folded sheep that they might feed
        On green downs where winds blow._

      _One shepherd sang a golden word.
      A thousand miles away one heard.
        One sang it swift, one sang it slow._

      _Two skylarks heard, two skylarks told
      All shepherds this same song of gold
        On all downs where winds blow._

      _This is the song that shepherds must
      Sing till the green downlands be dust
        And tide of sheep-drift no more flow;_

      _The song two skylarks told again
      To all the sheep and shepherd men
        On green downs where winds blow._


          Now the tall sky
          Is pricked with stars of song as the sky at night
          With stars of light.
      I am loosened, I fly
    Till never a lark is near to the sun as I.
  Now through the steeps of air do my swift wings cut.
      My wings are seen and not seen
  Even as dawn-drenched waters that twinkle and shut,
  As I rise to the tops of the noon where no bird has been.
        My wings beat.
      I climb, I climb
  High hills of noon that soar from the plains of Time.
          But lo!
        As I go,
      Half flame, half snow,
  So far through unwinged places that even the brown
          Larks of the dwindling down
  Are as dust, and dimmer than dust are men and town--
      Who are these, who are these
      New larks whose song is so proud
        That my own is cowed?
      From what lands, what seas
  Have they flown with song so kingly my weak songs fade;
      Such song as no bird has made
  Though Love called long in Spring and his heart obeyed?

  Such song is theirs as the winds have always sought
      But the winds not found;
  Such song as the seas at dawn have almost caught
      Ere the song was drowned;
      Such song as no birds achieve,
      Though nightingale may grieve,
      And lyric thrush may scold,
      And blackbird make so bold
  As to declare this silver and his own song gold.
      Who are these whose singings here
  Compass the noon with splendour, but my heart with fear,
      Lest I, unworth this height,
  Drop through narrowing deeps of unplumbed night?

        Lo! the dead poets they
      Who passed through flesh this way,
      These with no lips of clay
  Now sing supremest song throughout the duskless day.
      In the music now they make
      My own few notes forsake
  My heart that rocks in silence as a lone bird on a lake.
          I vail within my wings
    I vail my head in worship before the poet kings;
          Until from the far brink
        Of this last Song whence I shrink
  Ah slowly now and slowly down the tall noon I sink.

  So am I wrapped in quiet, still trancèd by their Word,
      Until I reach the airs
      Where a mortal skylark fares
  But not in his first rapture shall match his song with theirs!
  And now my feet are fallen, I am no more a bird,
  Now for my little seeing the high gold noon is blurred;
          For now where grey roads wind
  I walk the low world mutely among my human kind.


  On hills too harsh for firs to climb,
    Where eagle dare not hatch her brood,
    On the sheer peak of Solitude,
    With anvils of black granite crude
  He beats austerities of rhyme.

  Such godlike stuff his spirit drinks
    He made grand odes of tempest there.
    The steel-winged eagle, if he dare
    To cleave these tracts of frozen air,
  Hearing such music, swoops and sinks.

  Stark tumults, which no tense night awes,
    Of godly love and titan hate
    Down crags of song reverberate.
    Held by the Singer of High State,
  Battalions of the midnight pause.

  On hills uplift from Space and Time,
    On the sheer peak of Solitude,
    With stars to give his furnace food,
    On anvils of black granite crude
  He beats austerities of rhyme.


  "_Oiseau!_" said the French boy, "_oiseau!_"
      --but the word
          Was absurd!
  "_Vogel!_" said the German boy, but that
          Fell flat.
  "_Bird!_" said the English boy--the fresh word rolled
          Pure gold.

          Bird, bird, bird, bird!
        When the quiet branches heard
              Bird, bird!
        Lovesome and immortal word!
  They tossed their plumes of green in delight through the clean
  Glory of the morning for the wind blew keen;
  For the clouds that had stayed like a will-not-answer maid
  Went shining, the white girls, in their marriage things arrayed;
        Till the leaves in the dark dells
        Were a chorus of swung bells
        At the bidding of a word,
        Were the din of many bells
        The tall towers fling
        On the lyric day that tells
  Of the beauty and the splendour and the crowning of a King.

          Said the boy,
        With the voice like a flute.
      His feathered brothers heard
        In their warm nests mute,
        Said the boy
      With the morning in his cheeks.
        Bird, bird, bird, bird!
  His feathered brothers answered from the silver of their beaks.

  There was lifting of bright heads and a gleam of little eyes,
      And a twitter of surprise,
      And a flutter of alarm.
          Said the boy,
        Bird, bird, bird, bird!
  There fell a shining moment of wide wet calm.

  Then suddenly a music from a hundred thousand throats
  Crashed like the bows of the ocean-cleaving boats.
  A phalanx of swift song made assault against the day,
          The winds made way.
        Birds rose stark in an ecstasy of fire
          To the heart of Song's desire.

  The last skies shook with the throbbing of their flight
      Through the blue far height.
  There were only birds and song where the globe sped along
          To the limits of the far
              Blue height.
          There was neither sun nor star,
          There was neither day nor night,
          There was one thing heard
          In the limits of the far
              Blue height.
          Bird, bird, bird, bird!
            Said the boy,
      Said the boy in the morning of the world.


  Whence have you drawn, O shining beads,
    The tints which blind my sight?
  "Down in the woods a wild cat bleeds,
    He moans along the night.
  He gave his green green eyes to deck
  The whiteness of your lady's neck.

  "He moans into the dark, he dies.
    He has not eyes nor blood.
  Your lady's beads may shine, he lies
    Stretched cold within the wood.
  --But she shall never lose again
  The wild cat moaning in her brain."


  From what land where the winds meet
  Art thou come, O Wind, O ruthless feet,
  O cloak of the most High of Lords,
  O shattering thrust of untamed swords?

  From what land where the winds tell
  Of ancient Powers sin-swept to Hell,
  Of meagre men by Christ's craft
  Borne to the Throne where Satan laughed?

  From what land where a Hill stands,
  The stars uplift upon his hands;
  A Hill stands, and round his knees
  There is concourse of all seas?

      "I from the sheer crags of the skies,
      To thy hair and hollow eyes!"


  Pink face of deftly prepared flesh,
  Soft limbs whose language you employ
  In scheduled hours of bartered joy
  Against the limbs of a pale boy
  Who flounders in your mesh.

  What ashes hide beyond your eye,
  What dry winds fanged with thin disdain
  Below the convex of your brain
  Howl through the bleached bones in the plain
  Where your sucked lovers lie?

  God save you, exquisite-obscene,
  For her poor sake who one time bore
  Your sword-edged baby limbs that tore
  Red lumps of flesh from her heart's core,
  Christ save you, Magdalene!


  Like a sleek slab of pork his pate
  Bends moonwise over the heaped plate.

  And from his twin-topped whiskers stoop
  Icicular, two beads of soup.

  His belly whimpers in the dun
  Processes of digestion,

  While his fat fingers play like nice-
  Behaved and clean-licked sewer mice.

  His speckled orbs lurk deep and squat,
  Two sick thick toads in a pool's rot.

  Before him on the platter lies
  A girl's heart salt with miseries.

  His lip sweats thirst.  A withdrawn cork
  Plops ... he lifts his knife and fork...

  Down the pink champaign of his chops
  Glucose appreciation drops...


  Who taps?  You are not the wind tapping?
      _No!  Not the wind!_
  You straining and moaning there,
  Are you a cold branch in the black air
      Which the storm has skinned?
          _No! Not a cold branch!
            Not the wind!_

  Who are you?  Who are you?
                          _But you loved me once,_
          You drank me like wine.
  The dead wood simmers in my skull.  I am rotten.
  And your blood is red still and you have forgotten,
          And my blood was yours once and yours mine!

  Are you there still?  O fainter, O further.... nothing!
          Nothing taps!
  Surely you straining and moaning there,
  You were only a cold branch in the black air?
          ... Or a door perhaps?


  (_For B. C._)

  You hear no bones click, see no shaken shroud.
  Though no tombs grin, you feel ghosts gathering.  Crowd
  On pitiful crowd of small dead singing men
  Tread the sure earth they feebly hymned; again

  With fleshless hand seize unswayed grass.  They seize
  Insensitive flowers which bend not.  Through gross trees
  They sift.  Nothing withstands them.  Nothing knows
  Them nor the songs they sang, their busy woes.

  "Hence from these ingrate things!  To the towns!" they weep,
  (If ghosts have tears).  You think a wrinkled heap
  Of leaves heaved, or a wing stirred, less than this.
  Some chance on the midnight cities.  Others miss

  The few faint lights, thin voices.  Wretched these
  Doomed to beat long the windy vacancies!

  Some mourn through forlorn towns.  They prowl and seek
  --What seek they?  Who knows them?  If branches creak
  And leaves flap and slow women ply their trade,
  Those all are living things, but these are dead,

  All that they were, dead totally.  What fool still
  Knows their extinguished songs?  They had their fill

  Of average joys and sorrows.  They learned how
  Love wilts, Death does not wilt.  What more left now?

  But one ghost yet of all these ghosts may find
  Himself not utterly faded.
                              Through his blind

  Some old man's lamp-rays probe the darkness. Sick
  Of his gaunt quest, the ghost halts.  The clock's tick

  Troubles the silence.  Tiredly the ghost scans
  The opened book on the table.  A flame fans,

  A weak wan fire floods through his subtle veins.
  No, no, not wholly forgotten!  Loves and pains

  Not suffered wholly for nothing!
                              (The old man bends
  Over the book, makes notes for pious ends,

  --Some curious futile work twelve men at most
  Will read and yawn over.)  The dizzy ghost,

  Like some more ignorant moth circles the light...
  Not suffered wholly for nothing! ...
                              "A sweet night!"

  The old man mumbles....  A warmth is in the air,
  He smiles, not knowing why.  He moves his chair

  Closer against the table.  And sitting bowed
  Lovingly turns the leaves and chants aloud.


  Knights and ladies all are dead,
    Heigh-ho! so am I!
  Now the sunset falls like lead,
  Never a star is in the sky.
          Near or far,
          Never a star!
  Knights and ladies all are dead.
    Heigh-ho! so am I!

  We shall never be born again!
    Heigh-ho! why should we?
  Jesus, first and last of men,
  Christ I crucified in me.
          Near or far,
          Never a star!
  We shall never be born again,
    Heigh-ho! why should we?


  What seek you in this hoarse hard sand
  That, shuffles from your futile hand?
  Your limbs are wry.  With salt despair
  All day the scant winds freeze your hair.
  What mystery in the barren sand
  Seek you to understand?

      _All day the acute winds' finger-tips
      Flay my skin and cleave my lips.
      But though like flame about my skull
      Leap the gibes of the cynic gull,
      I shall not go from this place.  I
      Seek through all curved vacancy
      Though the sea taunt me and frost scar,
      I seek a star, a star!_

  Why seek you this, why seek you this
  Of all distraught futilities?
  The tide slides closer.  The tide's teeth
  Shall bite your body with keen death!
  Of all unspaced things that are
  Vain, vain, most hideously far,
  Why seek you then a star?

      _I seek a wild star, I that am
      Eaten by earth and, all her shame;
      To whom fields, towns are a close clot
      Of mud whence the worm dieth not;
      To whom all running water is
      Besnagged with timeless treacheries,
      Who in a babe's heart see designed
      Mine own distortion and the blind
      Lusts of all my kind!
      Hence of all vain things that are
      Fain, most hideously far,
      A star, I seek, a star!_


  In the sickening away of the trumpets and the shuddering
          of the drums,
  She comes, my Lady of Peace, with her grief, her grief,
          she comes.
  With the blood on her teeth she comes, the lost wild
          eyeballs stare;
  There is foam in the blood on her lips; ashes are strewn
          in her hair.
  Like flowers are her dry fingers, pale flowers grey frost
          has nipped,
  Being empty of hands they held like desolate seas
  And she dances, the strayed white woman, she dances a
          forlorn tread,
  Being sad for the men that are living and glad for the men
          that are dead.


  Our Jack is dead, our jolly and simple Jack.
  To him are fierce stars clay and snow is black.
  Black blinding silences are all his hours,
  He knows not birds nor laughter nor any flowers.

  And when white winds come calling over the hill,
  To him no white winds call, he lies so still.
  And now, when all his singing pals come back,
  He'll not leave France behind, our little Jack.


  There were three men when grey dawn broke
      That walked in a sad wood.
  There were three Solemn Men who spoke
      No speech I understood.

  The singings of the singing birds
      In lorn beaks were subdued.
  There was a grief enchained the herds
      That beat this bourneless wood.

  One Man was Moses.  Lo! he struck
      A grim stone with his rod.
  There was no living fount that shook
      From the far wells of God!

  One Man was Christ.  Around His head
      The jagged thorns were keen.
  But all the blood His body shed
      Made not the foul world clean.

  One Man was Everyman.  He went
      Blank-eyed to the dark mesh.
  One Man was Everyman that rent
      From his own bones his flesh.

  No boon hath Moses rendered, nor
      Shall Christ His bleeding cease.
  For swift as Peace hath stifled War,
      Huge War hath stifled Peace.


  Poor trussed-up lad, what piteous guise
  Cloaks the late splendour of your eyes,
  Stiffens the fleetness of your face
  Into a mask of sleek disgrace,
  And makes a smooth caricature
  Of your taut body's swift and sure
  Poise, like a proud bird waiting one
  Moment ere he taunt the sun;
  Your body that stood foolish-wise
  Stormed by the treasons of the skies,
  Star-like that hung, deliberate
  Above the dubieties of Fate,
  But with an April gesture chose
  Unutterable and certain woes!

  And now you stand with discreet charm
  Dropping the napkin round your arm,
  Anticipate your tip while you
  Hear the commercial travellers chew.
  You shuffle with their soups and beers
  Who held at heel the howling fears,
  You whose young limbs were proud to dare
  Challenge the black hosts of despair!


  (_For Neville Whymant_)

  The sun setting down the suburb holds
  Impermanent crimsons and elusive golds.
  See the false banners! folds on magic folds
          Sway down deluded streets!
  Refuse and ruin now most featly kissed
          By lips flushed amethyst!
  The walls are shimmered with a vaporous dusk,
            A glamour glooms
          The sorrowful pale husk
      With rich twilight of witchcraft blooms.
  Ah! spurious wizardry that flows and fleets
  Where sword-gems flash and melt in a moon-mist!

      The roofs so ashen-dark of old
      Flare down the streets like lifted brands,
      Flare like the burning arc of sands
      Where the recurrent seas have rolled
  Long breakers molten from astounding gold

          The chimneys which all day
            Scowling have stood
          Against the devouring mills,
          Boding no thought of good
          For whoso came that way--
          Lo now! from evil thought
  Soaring through steeps of fire their brows are caught.

  Columnar topaz in this time of shrift,
          Their tall heads lift
      Among the bases of celestial hills.

  Ah streets, rent roofs, ah chimneys, I am blind!
          I dare not find
  You lifted so from purgatorial dooms.
          I cannot breathe.
  Hold me!  I sink where the dense colour fumes!
  Now opiate hands close round me, draw me down,
  Foam-lulled where soundless tides of sunset seethe!
          Hold me!  I drown!

    My eyes open! ah so wretched eyes!
          Have ye no gift to steep
          Your seeing in swart sleep?
          Cannot your harsh lids close
          Tighter than midnight knows,
  Make sleep a burial whence the last star dies?
  Now ebbing like the blood in a faint pulse,
          Relentless, with no pause,
  Shorn of the lying sapphires, aureate cheats,
          The glamorous tide withdraws.
            The false sky dulls
  From redmost roses into drooping weeds.
  Ah dying beauty now that dying bleeds,
          Your banners fail in dust!
          A slow rot gnaws
  The disillusioned roofs with teeth of rust.
          Now chimneys reassume
          Their ominous dark doom.

  Sick grey, sick brown and grey once more are penned
  Within the network of the haggard streets.
  The suburb stretches drably to life's end!

          Like sheep in a mange-ridden flock
          Once more the aimless houses sprawl
            Along the dishevelled streets,
          Where grocers shew their flyblown stock,
          Where butchers shew their pulpy meats,
          Where down a tin-heaped backyard wall
            Thin cats and women call.
          As night comes close the suburb flares
          To petty sins and cheap carouse
          Along its foolish thoroughfares.
          The smirking adolescents stand
          About the corners in coarse groups.
          Somewhere a blind knocks like a hand,
          A lodger rings a stuttering bell,
          A stray tree mutely droops thin boughs.
          A window opening throws a smell
          From kitchens where smeared saucepans boil
          Their quarts of scurfy soups.
          An unlatched door swings wide and wails.
          A patch of wilted grass exhales
          Scents not of dust nor dustless soil.

  For lo! this twofold sorrow was set down
  On the doomed suburb till the last of days,
  Which hath been placed in intermediate ways
  Between two bournes from which her heart is sealed:
  The intimate keep of the far midmost town,
  The green quick raptures of far outmost field.

  She knows not the heart throbbing nor the tense
  Roads shimmering where the hundred thousand feet
          Make thunders where they meet.
  Nor tumult storming in loud sense on sense:
          Eyes where the profligate hues
  Mingle in whirlpools of untamed delight,
  Where scarlet or shrill green pursues
          Purples and yellows and star-blues,
              And find or lose
  Their bodies in white day or profound night;
  Smells of strange spices from uncharted lands,
          Of blood on unwiped hands,
  Of woman's hair, of ripe flamboyant flowers,
  Of buildings leaping to the displaced skies,
  Of all the body's and soul's mad merchandise
  Sold through the crowded unremitting hours;
  Sounds of innumerable singings since the dawn
          Came dancing and, her gown withdrawn,
  Her white breasts blinded night's most impotent eyes;
  Cracked murmurs of pale harlots in their beds,
  Who have paid more than gold for nothing bought;
  The mumbling of old women with drooped heads
  Who are defeated though they sternly fought;
  Music and terror and the shock of wings!--
  Not these she knows--colours and sounds and smells,
          The conjoint heavens and the massed hells,
            No, not these things!

  Not these she knows,--nor these, nor these:
  The snowdrops under the dark yews,
  The challenge on the young lips borne
          Of brave blackthorn
  Against the jagged teeth and the harsh beard
          Of winter seared.
  Nor primroses washed with sweet dews,
  Nor daffodils where bees are stuck
  Who probe too deeply for their sweet,
  Nor celandine whence they refuse
      To move until they suck
  Their heads drunk and a stupor to their feet.
  Ah the dog-violets on low hills
  And woodland sorrel in deep woods
  And blackbirds with fine yellow bills
  And thrushes of a thousand moods
  And nesting-time when these make rhyme
  Amid the youngling leaves that climb
  On sycamores and chestnut trees!
      Not these she knows, not these!
  She hath not seen the kingfisher
  By willowed waters dart blue fires.
  She hath not seen the skylark stir
  When a sheep's foot came near his nest,
  And rise to lead the morning choirs
  From flushed East to pale West.
  Nor all the blossoms of all fruit,
  Apple and pear and rosy peach,
  Nor, palisaded from man's reach
  Behind a guard of frowning fir,
  Wild cherry tipped with dawn.
  Nor heard grass-belfries chink and chime
  When poplars sway like a slim faun,
  Nor known the tardy oak-tree suit
  His body to the crescent time.

  Not these things and not these she knows
  Behind her rampart of pale woes,
  For she with twofold grief is sealed
  From midmost town and outmost field.
  Ah sunset! thou who lying came
  To flood her streets with traitor flame,
          Come thou no more
          With gilded lies!
  Her heart is numbed, her eyes are sore,
  Her heart is troubled with sick shame.
          Open no more
  One fitful instant the wild door
  Which brought one breeze of Paradise.
  In this dun midway where she lies
  Each day a twofold death she dies.
  Thou false and lovely, come no more
  With warm wings touched of Paradise!


  The gaunt stones upright on nude fells
  Alone shall be his gods: naught else
  Hold his urgent blood and sense
  Subdued in proud stern reverence.
  Only to these who make their house
  Among clean winds he bends his brows.
  On their austere lips he shall place
  The spent passions of his face.
  The cupped midnight like a great bowl
  Shall lave him.  He shall go forth whole.


  (_For Anthony Bertram_)

  We swing our swords against the bare
  Bleak brows of granite.  Yea, we dare.
    We of clay limbs, armed with frail rhyme,
  To taunt the passive globes that stare
    From the eye-sockets of stern Time.

  Though our long anguish may not dint
  His towering flanks, yet from this flint
    Our swords strike such fierce sparks of light,
  The moon is blanched, the fool stars stint
    Their weak flames at the crest of night.

  Yea though we bleed from crown to heel,
  Yea though the points of our split steel
    Make futile glories and then die
  Against Time's blear immensity,
    Yet for black woe there shall be weal!

  Stauncher than Time our dream is built.
    Despair not, human dreamers, for
    We shall prevail after much war.
  Yea, the poor stump of our sword's hilt
    At length shall be Time's conqueror!

A number of these poems are reprinted from _Voices_, _Coterie_, the
_Nation_, the _English Review_, the _Englishwoman_, _To-day_, _Colour_,
the _Apple_, the _New Witness_, the _Sphere_, the _Saturday
Westminster_, and other journals; and from "A Queen's College
Miscellany," "The Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany," and Messrs. Palmer
and Hayward's "Miscellany of Poetry."


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