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Title: Whipperginny
Author: Graves, Robert von Ranke
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             WHIPPERGINNY



                             WHIPPERGINNY


                                  BY

                             ROBERT GRAVES


                        [Illustration: colophon]

                               NEW YORK

                      ALFRED A. KNOPF : MCMXXIII



                                  TO

                             EDWARD MARSH


                      _Printed in Great Britain_



         AUTHOR’S NOTE


The poems in this volume cover a period of three years, beginning at the
New Year of 1920, except for the rhymes “Henry and Mary,” “What did I
dream?” and “Mirror, Mirror!” with parts of “An English Wood,” “The Bed
Post” and of “Unicorn and the White Doe,” which are bankrupt stock of
1918, the year in which I was writing _Country Sentiment_. _The Pier
Glass_, a volume which followed _Country Sentiment_, similarly contains
a few pieces continuing the mood of this year, the desire to escape from
a painful war neurosis into an Arcadia of amatory fancy, but the
prevailing mood of _The Pier Glass_ is aggressive and disciplinary,
under the stress of the same neurosis, rather than escapist.
_Whipperginny_ for a while continues so, but in most of the later pieces
will be found evidences of greater detachment in the poet and the
appearance of a new series of problems in religion, psychology and
philosophy, no less exacting than their predecessors, but, it may be
said, of less emotional intensity. The “Interlude” in the middle of the
book was written before the appearance of these less lyrical pieces, but
must be read as an apology for the book being now even less homogeneous
than before. To those who demand unceasing emotional stress in poetry at
whatever cost to the poet--I was one of these myself until recently--I
have no apology to offer; but only this proverb from the Chinese, that
_the petulant protests of all the lords and ladies of the Imperial
Court will weigh little with the whale when, recovering from his painful
excretory condition, he need no longer supply the Guild of Honourable
Perfumers with their accustomed weight of ambergris_.

                                                     ROBERT GRAVES.

_The World’s End,

     Islip._



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

_Whipperginny_                                                         1

The Bedpost                                                            2

A Lover since Childhood                                                4

Song of Contrariety                                                    5

The Ridge-Top                                                          6

Song in Winter                                                         7

Unicorn and the White Doe                                              8

Sullen Moods                                                          11

A False Report                                                        13

Children of Darkness                                                  14

Richard Roe and John Doe                                              15

The Dialecticians                                                     16

The Lands of Whipperginny                                             17

“The General Elliott”                                                 18

A Fight to the Death                                                  20

Old Wives’ Tales                                                      21

Christmas Eve                                                         23

The Snake and the Bull                                                24

The Red Ribbon Dream                                                  27

In Procession                                                         29

Henry and Mary                                                        34

An English Wood                                                       35

Mirror, Mirror!                                                       36

What did I dream?                                                     37

Interlude: On Preserving a Poetical Formula                           38

A History of Peace                                                    39

The Rock Below                                                        40

An Idyll of Old Age                                                   42

The Lord Chamberlain tells of a Famous Meeting                        44

The Sewing Basket                                                     48

Against Clock and Compasses                                           51

The Avengers                                                          52

On the Poet’s Birth                                                   53

The Technique of Perfection                                           54

The Sibyl                                                             56

A Crusader                                                            57

A New Portrait of Judith of Bethulia                                  58

A Reversal                                                            59

The Martyred Decadents: a Sympathetic Satire                          60

Epigrams--

  On Christopher Marlowe                                              62

  A Village Conflict                                                  62

  Dedicatory                                                          62

  To R. Graves, Senior                                                63

  “A Vehicle, to wit, a Bicycle”                                      63

  Motto to a Book of Emblems                                          63

The Bowl and Rim                                                      64

A Forced Music                                                        66

The Turn of a Page                                                    67

The Manifestation in the Temple                                       68

To Any Saint                                                          70

A Dewdrop                                                             71

A Valentine                                                           72



         _WHIPPERGINNY_

(“A card game, obsolete.”--_Standard Dictionary._)


    To cards we have recourse
      When Time with cruelty runs,
    To courtly Bridge for stress of love,
      To Nap for noise of guns.

    On fairy earth we tread,
      No present problems vex
    Where man’s four humours fade to suits,
      With red and black for sex.

    Where phantom gains accrue
      By tricks instead of cash,
    Where pasteboard federacies of Powers
      In battles-royal clash.

    Then read the antique word
      That hangs above this page
    As type of mirth-abstracted joy,
      Calm terror, noiseless rage,

    A realm of ideal thought,
      Obscured by veils of Time,
    Cipher remote enough to stand
      As namesake for my rhyme,

    A game to play apart
      When all but crushed with care;
    Let right and left, your jealous hands,
      The lists of love prepare.



         THE BEDPOST


    Sleepy Betsy from her pillow
      Sees the post and ball
    Of her sister’s wooden bedstead
      Shadowed on the wall.

    Now this grave young warrior standing
      With uncovered head
    Tells her stories of old battle,
      As she lies in bed.

    How the Emperor and the Farmer,
      Fighting knee to knee,
    Broke their swords but whirled their scabbards
      Till they gained the sea.

    How the ruler of that shore
      Foully broke his oath,
    Gave them beds in his sea cavern,
      Then stabbed them both.

    How the daughters of the Emperor,
      Diving boldly through,
    Caught and killed their father’s murderer,
      Old Cro-bar-cru.

    How the Farmer’s sturdy sons
      Fought the giant Gog,
    Threw him into Stony Cataract
      In the land of Og.

    Will and Abel were their names,
      Though they went by others;
    He could tell ten thousand stories
      Of these lusty brothers.

    How the Emperor’s elder daughter
      Fell in love with Will,
    And went with him to the Court of Venus
      Over Hoo Hill;

    How Gog’s wife encountered Abel
      Whom she hated most,
    Stole away his arms and helmet,
      Turned him to a post.

    As a post he shall be rooted
      For yet many years,
    Until a maiden shall release him
      With a fall of tears.

    But Betsy likes the bloodier stories,
      Clang and clash of fight,
    And Abel wanes with the spent candle,
      “Sweetheart, good-night!”



         A LOVER SINCE CHILDHOOD


    Tangled in thought am I,
    Stumble in speech do I?
    Do I blunder and blush for the reason why?
    Wander aloof do I,
    Lean over gates and sigh,
    Making friends with the bee and the butterfly?

    If thus and thus I do,
    Dazed by the thought of you,
    Walking my sorrowful way in the early dew,
    My heart cut through and through
    In this despair for you,
    Starved for a word or a look will my hope renew;

    Give then a thought for me
    Walking so miserably,
    Wanting relief in the friendship of flower or tree;
    Do but remember, we
    Once could in love agree,
    Swallow your pride, let us be as we used to be.



         SONG OF CONTRARIETY


    Far away is close at hand,
      Close joined is far away,
    Love might come at your command
      Yet will not stay.

    At summons of your dream-despair
      She could not disobey,
    But slid close down beside you there
      And complaisant lay.

    Yet now her flesh and blood consent
      In waking hours of day,
    Joy and passion both are spent,
      Fading clean away.

    Is the presence empty air,
      Is the spectre clay,
    That Love, lent substance by despair,
    Wanes, and leaves you lonely there
      On the bridal day?



         THE RIDGE-TOP


    Below the ridge a raven flew
    And we heard the lost curlew
    Mourning out of sight below;
    Mountain tops were touched with snow;
    Even the long dividing plain
    Showed no wealth of sheep or grain,
    But fields of boulders lay like corn
    And raven’s croak was shepherd’s horn
    To slow cloud shadow strayed across
    A pasture of thin heath and moss.
    The North Wind rose; I saw him press
    With lusty force against your dress,
    Moulding your body’s inward grace,
    And streaming off from your set face;
    So now no longer flesh and blood,
    But poised in marble thought you stood,
    O wingless Victory, loved of men,
    Who could withstand your triumph then?



         SONG IN WINTER


    The broken spray left hanging
    Can hold his dead leaf longer
    Into your glum November
    Than this live twig tossed shivering
    By your East Wind anger.

    Unrepentant, hoping Spring,
    Flowery hoods of glory hoping,
    Carelessly I sing,
    With envy none for the broken spray
    When the Spring comes, fallen away.



         UNICORN AND THE WHITE DOE


    “Alone
    Through forests evergreen,
    By legend known,
    By no eye seen,
    Unmated,
    Unbaited,
    Untrembling between
    The shifting shadows,
    The sudden echoes,
    Deathless I go
    Unheard, unseen,”
    Says the White Doe.

    Unicorn with bursting heart
      Breath of love hath drawn
    On his desolate crags apart
      At rumour of dawn;

    Has volleyed forth his pride
      Twenty thousand years mute,
    Tossed his horn from side to side,
      Lunged with his foot.

    “Like a storm of sand I run
      Breaking the desert’s boundaries,
    I go in hiding from the sun
      In thick shade of trees.

    Straight was the track I took
      Across the plains, but here with briar
    And mire the tangled alleys crook,
      Baulking desire.

    And there, what glinted white?
      (A bough still shakes.)
    What was it darted from my sight
      Through the forest brakes?

    Where are you fled from me?
      I pursue, you fade;
    I run, you hide from me
      In the dark glade.

    Towering straight the trees grow,
      The grass grows thick.
    Where you are I do not know,
      You fly so quick.”

    “Seek me not here
    Lodged among mortal deer,”
    Says the White Doe;
    “Keeping one place
    Held by the ties of Space,”
    Says the White Doe.
    “I
    Equally
    In air
    Above your bare
    Hill crest, your basalt lair,
    Mirage-reflected drink
    At the clear pool’s brink;
    With tigers at play
    In the glare of day
    Blithely I stray;
    Under shadow of myrtle
    With Phœnix and his Turtle
    For all time true;
    With Gryphons at grass
    Under the Upas,
    Sipping warm dew
    That falls hourly new;
    I, unattainable
    Complete, incomprehensible,
    No mate for you.
    In sun’s beam
    Or star-gleam,
    No mate for you,
    No mate for you,”
    Says the White Doe.



         SULLEN MOODS


    Love, do not count your labour lost
      Though I turn sullen, grim, retired
    Even at your side; my thought is crossed
      With fancies by old longings fired.

    And when I answer you, some days
      Vaguely and wildly, do not fear
    That my love walks forbidden ways,
      Breaking the ties that hold it here.

    If I speak gruffly, this mood is
      Mere indignation at my own
    Shortcomings, plagues, uncertainties;
      I forget the gentler tone.

    You, now that you have come to be
      My one beginning, prime and end,
    I count at last as wholly me,
      Lover no longer nor yet friend.

    Friendship is flattery, though close hid;
      Must I then flatter my own mind?
    And must (which laws of shame forbid)
      Blind love of you make self-love blind?

    Do not repay me my own coin,
      The sharp rebuke, the frown, the groan;
    Remind me, rather, to disjoin
      Your emanation from my own.

    Help me to see you as before
      When overwhelmed and dead, almost,
    I stumbled on that secret door
      Which saves the live man from the ghost.

    Be once again the distant light,
      Promise of glory, not yet known
    In full perfection--wasted quite
      When on my imperfection thrown.



         A FALSE REPORT


    Are they blind, the lords of Gaza,
    That each his fellow urges
    “Samson the proud is pillow-smothered,”
    They raise mock dirges?

    Philistines and dullards,
    Turn, look with amaze
    At my foxes running in your cornfields
    With their tails ablaze,

    At bloody jawbone, at bees flitting
    From the stark lion’s hide:
    At these, the gates of well-walled Gaza,
    Clanking to my stride.



         CHILDREN OF DARKNESS

(“In their generation wiser than the children of Light.”)


    We spurred our parents to the kiss,
    Though doubtfully they shrank from this--
    Day had no courage to review
    What lusty dark alone might do--
    Then were we joined from their caress
    In heat of midnight, one from two.

    This night-seed knew no discontent,
    In certitude his changings went;
    Though there were veils about his face,
    With forethought, even in that pent place,
    Down towards the light his way he bent
    To kingdoms of more ample space.

    Was Day prime error, that regret
    For darkness roars unstifled yet?
    That in this freedom, by faith won,
    Only acts of doubt are done?
    That unveiled eyes with tears are wet,
    They loathe to gaze upon the sun?



         RICHARD ROE AND JOHN DOE


    Richard Roe wished himself _Solomon_
    Made cuckold, you should know, by one John Doe;
    _Solomon’s_ neck was firm enough to bear
    Some score of antlers more than Roe could wear.

    Richard Roe wished himself _Alexander_,
    Being robbed of house and land by the same hand;
    Ten thousand acres or a principal town
    Would have cost _Alexander_ scarce a frown.

    Richard Roe wished himself _Job_ the prophet,
    Sunk past reclaim in stinking rags and shame;
    _Job’s_ plight was utterly bad, his own even worse,
    He found no God to call on or to curse.

    He wished himself _Job_, _Solomon_, _Alexander_,
    For cunning, patience, power to overthrow
    His tyrant, but with heart gone so far rotten
    That most of all he wished himself John Doe.



         THE DIALECTICIANS


    Thought has a bias,
      Direction a bend,
    Space its inhibitions,
      Time a dead end.

    Is whiteness white?
      O then, call it black:
    Farthest from the truth
      Is yet half-way back.

    Effect ordains Cause,
      Head swallowing its tail;
    Does whale engulf sprat,
      Or sprat assume whale?

    Contentions weary,
      It giddies all to think;
    Then kiss, girl, kiss!
      Or drink, fellow, drink!



         THE LANDS OF WHIPPERGINNY

     (“Heaven or Hell or the Lands of Whipperginny.”--Nashe’s _Jack
     Wilton_.)


    Come closer yet, sweet honeysuckle, my coney, O my Jinny,
      With a low sun gilding the bloom of the wood.
    Be this Heaven, be it Hell, or the Lands of Whipperginny,
      It lies in a fairy lustre, it savours most good.

    Then stern proud psalms from the chapel on the moors
      Waver in the night wind, their firm rhythm broken,
    Lugubriously twisted to a howling of whores
      Or lent an airy glory too strange to be spoken.



“THE GENERAL ELLIOTT”


    He fell in victory’s fierce pursuit,
      Holed through and through with shot,
    A sabre sweep had hacked him deep
      ’Twixt neck and shoulder-knot....

    The potman cannot well recall,
      The ostler never knew,
    Whether his day was Malplaquet,
      The Boyne, or Waterloo.

    But there he hangs for tavern sign,
      With foolish bold regard
    For cock and hen and loitering men
      And wagons down the yard.

    Raised high above the hayseed world
      He smokes his painted pipe,
    And now surveys the orchard ways,
      The damsons clustering ripe.

    He sees the churchyard slabs beyond,
      Where country neighbours lie,
    Their brief renown set lowly down;
      _His_ name assaults the sky.

    He grips the tankard of brown ale
      That spills a generous foam:
    Oft-times he drinks, they say, and winks
      At drunk men lurching home.

    No upstart hero may usurp
      That honoured swinging seat;
    His seasons pass with pipe and glass
      Until the tale’s complete.

    And paint shall keep his buttons bright
      Though all the world’s forgot
    Whether he died for England’s pride
      By battle, or by pot.



         A FIGHT TO THE DEATH


    Two blind old men in a blind corridor
      Fought to the death, by sense of sound or touch.
    Doom flailed unseen, an iron hook-hand tore
      Flesh from the enemy’s ribs who swung the crutch.
    One gasped, “She looked on me and smiled, I say,”
      So life was battered out, for yea or nay.



         OLD WIVES’ TALES


    Were the tales they told absurd,
      Random tags for a child’s ear?
    Soon I mocked at all I heard,
      Though with cause indeed for fear.

    Of the mermaids’ doleful game
      In deep water I heard tell,
    Of lofty dragons blowing flame,
      Of the hornèd fiend of Hell.

    Now I have met the mermaid kin
      And find them bound by natural laws,
    They have neither tail nor fin,
      But are the deadlier for that cause.

    Dragons have no darting tongues,
      Teeth saw-edged nor rattling scales,
    No fire issues from their lungs,
      Poison has not slimed their tails.

    But they are creatures of dark air,
      Unsubstantial tossing forms,
    Thunderclaps of man’s despair
      In mid whirl of mental storms.

    And there’s a true and only fiend
      Worse than prophets prophesy,
    Whose full powers to hurt are screened
      Lest the race of man should die.

    Ever in vain may courage plot
      The dragon’s death with shield and sword,
    Or love abjure the mermaid grot,
      Or faith be fixed in one blest word.

    Mermaids will not be denied
      Of our last enduring shame,
    The dragon flaunts his unpierced hide,
      The fiend makes laughter with God’s Name.



         CHRISTMAS EVE


    On Christmas Eve the brute Creation
      Lift up their heads and speak with human voices;
    The Ox roars out his song of jubilation
      And the Ass rejoices.

    They dance for mirth in simple credence
      That man from devildom this day was saved,
    That of his froward spirit he has found riddance;
      They hymn the Son of David.

    Ox and Ass cloistered in stable,
      Break bounds to-night and see what shall astound you,
    A second Fall, a second death of Abel,
      Wars renewed around you.

    Cabals of great men against small men,
      Mobs, murders, informations, the packed jury,
    While Ignorance, the lubber prince of all men,
      Glowers with old-time fury.

    Excellent beasts, resign your speaking,
      Tempted in man’s own choleric tongue to name him.
    Hoof-and-horn vengeance have no thought of wreaking,
      Let your dumb grief shame him.



         THE SNAKE AND THE BULL


    Snake Bull, my namesake, man of wrath,
    By no expense of knives or cloth,
    Only by work of muttered charms
    Could draw all woman to his arms;
    None whom he summoned might resist
    Nor none recall whom once he kissed
    And loosed them from his kiss, by whom
    This mother-shame had come.

    The power of his compelling flame
    Was bound in virtue of our name,
    But when in secret he taught me
    Like him a thief of love to be,
    For half his secret I had found
    And half explored the wizard ground
    Of words, and when giving consent
    Out at his heels I went.

    Then Fessé, jungle-god whose shape
    Is one part man and three parts ape,
    Avenger of misuse by man
    Of lust that by his art began,
    And master of all mimicries
    Made tittering laughter in the trees.
    With girlish whispers, sighs and giggling
    Set the Bull prancing, the Snake wriggling;
    Where leaves were broadest and light dim,
    Fessé ambushed him.

    Up through the air I saw him swung
    To bridal bowers with red flowers hung;
    He choked for mercy like a maid
    By his own violent whim betrayed;
    Blood broke in fountains from his neck,
    I heard his hugged ribs creak and break,
    But what the tree-top rites might be
    How should I stay to see?

    In terror of the Ape God’s power
    I changed my person in that hour,
    Cast off the livery of my clan,
    Over unlawful hills I ran,
    I soiled me with forbidden earth.
    In nakedness of second birth
    I scorched away the Snake’s red eyes
    Tattoed for name about my thighs,
    And slew the Sacred Bull oppressed
    With passion on my breast.

    The girls of my new tribe are cold,
    Amazon, scarred, not soft to hold.
    They seek not men, nor are they sought,
    Whose children are not theirs, but bought
    From outlaw tribes who dwell in trees--
    Tamed apes suckle these.

    The young men of the tribe are such
    That knife or bow they dare not touch,
    But in close watching of the skies
    And reckoning counts they dim their eyes.
    Closed, each by each, in thoughtful bars
    They plot the circuits of the stars,
    And frozen music dulls their need
    Of drink and man-flesh greed.

    They hold that virtue from them slips
    When eye greets eye or lips touch lips;
    Down to the knee their broad beards fall
    And hardly are they men at all.
    Possessions they have none, nor schools
    For tribal duties, nor close rules,
    No gods, no rites, no totem beasts,
    No friendships, no love feasts.

    Now quit, as they, of gong-roused lust,
    The leap of breasts, the scattering dust,
    In hermit splendour at my glass
    I watch the skies’ procession pass,
    Tracing my figures on the floor
    Of planets’ paths and comets’ lore;
    In calm amaze I cloak my will,
    I gaze, I count, until

    Harsh from his House the Bull roars out,
    Forked lightning leaps his points about,
    Tattoos his shape upon the sky:
    Night anger fills the Serpent’s eye
    With desolating fire for one
    Who thought the Serpent’s days were done,
    And girlish titterings from the trees
    Loosen my firm knees.



         THE RED RIBBON DREAM


    As I stood by the stair-head in the upper hall
        The rooms to left and right were locked as before.
        It was senseless to hammer at an unreal door
    Painted on the plaster of a ten-foot wall.

    There was half-light here, piled darkness beyond
        Rising up sheer as the mountain of Time,
        The blank rock-face that no thought can climb,
    Girdled around with the Slough of Despond.

    I stood quite dumb, sunk fast in the mire,
        Lonely as the first man, or the last man,
        Chilled to despair since evening began,
    Dazed for the memory of a lost desire.

    But a voice said “Easily,” and a voice said “Come!”
        Easily I followed with no thought of doubt,
        Turned to the right hand, and the way stretched out;
    The ground held firmly; I was no more dumb.

    For that was the place where I longed to be,
        And past all hope there the kind lamp shone,
        The carpet was holy that my feet were on,
    And logs on the fire lay hissing for me.

    The cushions were friendship and the chairs were love,
        Shaggy with love was the great wolf skin,
        The clock ticked “Easily” as I entered in,
    “Come,” called the bullfinch from his cage above.

    Love went before me; it was shining now
        From the eyes of a girl by the window wall,
        Whose beauty I knew to be fate and all
    By the thin red ribbon on her calm brow.

    Then I was a hero and a bold boy
        Kissing the hand I had never yet kissed;
        I felt red ribbon like a snake twist
    In my own thick hair, so I laughed for joy.

        *       *       *       *       *

    I stand by the stair-head in the upper hall;
        The rooms to the left and right are locked as before.
        Once I found entrance, but now never more,
    And Time leans forward with his glassy wall.



         IN PROCESSION


    Donne (for example’s sake),
    Keats, Marlowe, Spenser, Blake,
    Shelley and Milton,
    Shakespeare and Chaucer, Skelton--
    We love them as we know them,
    But who could dare outgo them
    At their several arts,
    At their particular parts
    Of wisdom, power and knowledge?
    In the Poets’ College                                             10
    Are no degrees nor stations,
    Comparisons, rivals,
    Stern examinations,
    Class declarations,
    Senior survivals;
    No creeds, religions, nations
    Combatant together
    With mutual damnations.
    Or tell me whether
    Shelley’s hand could take                                         20
    The laurel wreath from Blake?
    Could Shakespeare make the less
    Chaucer’s goodliness?

    The poets of old,
    Each with his pen of gold
    Gloriously writing,
    Found no need for fighting,
    In common being so rich;
    None need take the ditch,
    Unless this Chaucer beats                                         30
    That Chaucer, or this Keats
    With other Keats is flyting:
    See Donne deny Donne’s feats,
    Shelley take Shelley down,
    Blake snatch at his own crown.
    Without comparison aiming high,
    Watching with no jealous eye
    A neighbour’s renown,
    Each in his time contended,
    But with a mood late ended,                                       40
    Some manner now put by,
    Or force expended,
    Sinking a new well when the old ran dry.

    So like my masters I
    Voice my ambition loud,
    In prospect proud,
    Treading the poet’s road,
    In retrospect most humble,
    For I stumble and tumble,
    I spill my load.                                                  50

    But often,
      Half-way to sleep,
    On a mountain shagged and steep,
    The sudden moment on me comes
    With terrible roll of dream drums,
    Reverberations, cymbals, horns replying,
    When with standards flying,
    A cloud of horsemen behind,
    The coloured pomps unwind
    The Carnival wagons
    With their saints and their dragons                               60
    On the screen of my teeming mind,
    The Creation and Flood
    With our Saviour’s Blood
    And fat Silenus’ flagons,
    With every rare beast
    From the South and East,
    Both greatest and least,
    On and on,
    In endless variable procession.
    I stand at the top rungs                                          70
    Of a ladder reared in the air,
    And I speak with strange tongues
    So the crowds murmur and stare,
    Then volleys again the blare
    Of horns, and summer flowers
    Fly scattering in showers,
    And the Sun rolls in the sky,
    While the drums thumping by
    Proclaim me....
        Oh, then, when I wake
    Could I recovering take                                           80
    And propose on this page
    The words of my rage
    And my blandishing speech
    Steadfast and sage,
    Could I stretch and reach
    The flowers and the ripe fruit
    Laid out at the ladder’s foot,
    Could I rip a silken shred
    From the banner tossed ahead,
    Could I call a double flam                                        90
    From the drums, could the Goat
    Horned with gold, could the Ram
    With a flank like a barn-door,
    The dwarf, the blackamoor,
    Could _Jonah and the Whale_
    And the _Holy Grail_
    With the _Sacking of Rome_
    And _Lot at his home_,
    The Ape with his platter,
    Going clitter-clatter,                                           100
    The Nymphs and the Satyr,
    And every other such matter
    Come before me here
    Standing and speaking clear
    With a “How do ye do?”
    And “Who are ye, who?”
    Could I show them so to you
    That you saw them with me,
    Oh then, then I could be
    The Prince of all Poetry                                         110
    With never a peer,
    Seeing my way so clear
    To unveil mystery.

    Telling you of land and sea,
    Of Heaven blithe and free,
    How I know there to be
    Such and such Castles built in Spain,
    Telling also of Cockaigne,
    Of that glorious kingdom, Cand,
    Of the Delectable Land,                                          120
    The land of Crooked Stiles,
    The Fortunate Isles,
    Of the more than three score miles
    That to Babylon lead,
    A pretty city indeed
    Built on a four-square plan,
    Of the land of the Gold Man
    Whose eager horses whinny
    In their cribs of gold,
    Of the lands of Whipperginny,                                    130
    Of the land where none grow old.

    Especially I could tell
    Of the Town of Hell,
    A huddle of dirty woes
    And houses in endless rows
    Straggling across all space;
    Hell has no market-place,
    Nor point where four ways meet,
    Nor principal street,
    Nor barracks, nor Town Hall,                                     140
    Nor shops at all,
    Nor rest for weary feet,
    Nor theatre, square, or park,
    Nor lights after dark,
    Nor churches nor inns,
    Nor convenience for sins,
    Hell nowhere begins,
    Hell nowhere ends,
    But over the world extends
    Rambling, dreary, limitless, hated well:                         150
    The suburbs of itself, I say, is Hell.

    But back to the sweets
    Of Spenser and Keats
    And the calm joy that greets
    The chosen of Apollo!
    Here let me mope, quirk, holloa
    With a gesture that meets
    The needs that I follow
    In my own fierce way.
    Let me be grave-gay                                              160
    Or merry-sad,
    Who rhyming here have had
    Marvellous hope of achievement
    And deeds of ample scope,
    Then deceiving and bereavement
    Of this same hope.



         HENRY AND MARY


    Henry was a worthy king,
      Mary was his queen,
    He gave to her a snowdrop,
      Upon a stalk of green.

    Then all for his kindness
      And all for his care
    She gave him a new-laid egg
      In the garden there.

    Love, can you sing?
                    I cannot sing.
    Or story-tell?
                    Not one I know.
    Then let us play at king and queen,
    As down the garden lawns we go.



         AN ENGLISH WOOD


    This valley wood is hedged
    With the set shape of things.
    Here sorrows come not edged,
    Here are no harpies fledged,
    No roc has clapped his wings,
    No gryphons wave their stings;
    Here, poised in quietude
    Calm elementals brood
    On the set shape of things,
    They fend away alarms
    From this green wood.
    Here nothing is that harms,
    No bull with lungs of brass,
    No toothed or spiny grass,
    No tree whose clutching arms
    Drink blood when travellers pass,
    No mount of Glass.
    No bardic tongues unfold
    Satires or charms.
    Only the lawns are soft,
    The tree-stems, grave and old.
    Slow branches sway aloft,
    The evening air comes cold,
    The sunset scatters gold.
    Small grasses toss and bend,
    Small pathways idly tend
    Towards no certain end.



         MIRROR, MIRROR!


    Mirror, Mirror, tell me,
      Am I pretty or plain?
    Or am I downright ugly
      And ugly to remain?

    Shall I marry a gentleman?
      Shall I marry a clown?
    Or shall I marry Old Knives-and-Scissors
      Shouting through the town?



         WHAT DID I DREAM?


    What did I dream? I do not know.
      The fragments fly like chaff.
    Yet, strange, my mind was tickled so
      I cannot help but laugh.

    Pull the curtains close again,
      Tuck my blanket in;
    Must a glorious humour wane
      Because birds begin

    Discoursing in a restless tone,
      Rousing me from sleep--
    The finest entertainment known,
      And given rag-cheap?



         INTERLUDE: ON PRESERVING A POETICAL FORMULA


                 (I)

    “There’s less and less cohesion
    In each collection
    Of my published poetries?”
    You are taking me to task?
    And “What were my last Royalties?
    Reckoned in pounds, were they, or shillings,
    Or even perhaps in pence?”
                                No, do not ask!
    I’m lost, in buyings and sellings.
    But please permit only once more for luck
    Irreconcilabilities in my book....

    For these are all the same stuff really,
    The obverse and reverse, if you look closely,
    Of busy Imagination’s new-coined money;
    And if you watch the blind
    Phototropisms of my fluttering mind,
    Whether, growing strong, I wrestle Jacob-wise
    With fiendish darkness blinking threatfully
    Its bale-fire eyes,
    Or whether childishly

    I dart to Mother-skirts of love and peace
    To play with toys until those horrors leave me--
    Yet note, whichever way I find release,
    By fight or flight
    By being harsh or tame,
    The SPIRIT’S the same, the Pen-and-Ink’s the same.


                 (II)

         _Epitaph on an Unfortunate Artist_

    He found a formula for drawing comic rabbits:
      This formula for drawing comic rabbits paid,
    So in the end he could not change the tragic habits
      This formula for drawing comic rabbits made.



         A HISTORY OF PEACE

(Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant)


    Here rest in peace the bones of Henry Reece,
    Dead through his bitter championship of Peace
    Against all eagle-nosed and cynic lords
    Who keep the _Pax Romana_ with their swords.

    Henry was only son of Thomas Reece,
    Banker and sometime Justice of the Peace,
    And of Jane Reece whom Thomas kept in dread
    By _Pax Romana_ of his board and bed.



         THE ROCK BELOW


    Comes a muttering from the earth
      Where speedwell grows and daisies grow,
    “Pluck these weeds up, root and all,
      Search what hides below.”

    Root and all I pluck them out;
      There, close under, I have found
    Stumps of thorn with ancient crooks
      Grappled in the ground.

    I wrench the thorn-stocks from their hold
      To set a rose-bush in that place;
    Love has pleasure in my roses
      For a summer space.

    Yet the bush cries out in grief:
      “Our lowest rootlets turn on rock,
    We live in terror of the drought
      Withering crown and stock.”

    I grow angry with my creature,
      Tear it out and see it die;
    Far beneath I strike the stone,
      Jarring hatefully.

    Impotently must I mourn
      Roses never to flower again?
    Are heart and back too slightly built
      For a heaving strain?

    Heave shall break my proud back never,
      Strain shall never burst my heart:
    Steely fingers hook in the crack,
      Up the rock shall start.

    Now from the deep and frightful pit
      Shoots forth the spiring phœnix-tree
    Long despaired in this bleak land,
    Holds the air with boughs, with bland
      Fragrance welcome to the bee,
      With fruits of immortality.



         AN IDYLL OF OLD AGE


    Two gods once visited a hermit couple,
    Philemon and his Baucis, old books tell;
    They sampled elder-wine and called it nectar,
    Though nectar is the tastier drink by far.
    They made ambrosia of pot-herb and lentil,
    They ate pease-porridge even, with a will.
    Why, and so forth....
          But that night in the spare bedroom
    Where they lay shivering in the musty gloom,
    Hermes and Zeus overheard conversation,
    Behind the intervening wall, drag on
    In thoughtful snatches through the night. They idly
    Listened, and first they heard Philemon sigh:--

    _Phi._ “Since two souls meet and merge at time of marriage,
    Conforming to one stature and one age,
    An honest token each with each exchanging
    Of Only Love unbroken as a ring--
    What signified my boyhood’s ideal friendship
    That stared its ecstasy at eye and lip,
    But dared not touch because love seemed too holy
    For flesh with flesh in real embrace to lie?”

    _Bau._ Then Baucis sighed in answer to Philemon,
    “Many’s the young man that my eye rests on
    (Our younger guest to-night provides the instance)
    Whose body brings my heart hotter romance
    Than your dear face could ever spark within me;
    Often I wish my heart from yours set free.”

    _Phi._ “In this wild medley round us of Bought Love,
    Free Love and Forced Love and pretentious No-Love,
    Let us walk upright, yet with care consider
    Whether, in living thus, we do not err.
    Why might we not approve adulterous licence
    Increasing pleasurable experience?
    What could the soul lose through the body’s rapture
    With a body not its mate, where thought is pure?”

    _Bau._ “Are children bonds of love? But even children
    Grow up too soon as women and as men,
    And in the growing find their own love private,
    Meet parent-love with new suspicious hate.
    Our favourites run the surest to the Devil
    In spite of early cares and all good will.”

    _Phi._ “Sweetheart, you know that you have my permission
    To go your own way and to take love on
    Wherever love may signal.”

                                She replying
    _Bau._ Said, “I allow you, dearest, the same thing.”

    Zeus was struck dumb at this unholy compact,
    But Hermes knew the shadow from the fact
    And took an oath that for whole chests of money
    Neither would faithless to the other be,
    Would not and could not, being twined together
    In such close love that he for want of her
    Removed one night-time from his side, would perish,
    And she was magnet-drawn by his least wish.

    Eternal Gods deny the sense of humour,
    That well might prejudice their infallible power,
    So Hermes and King Zeus not once considered,
    In treating of this idyll overheard,
    That love rehearses after life’s defeat
    Remembered conflicts of an earlier heat,
    Baucis, kind soul, was palsied, withered and bent,
    Philemon, too, was ten years impotent.



         THE LORD CHAMBERLAIN TELLS OF A FAMOUS MEETING


    Unknown to each other in a hostile camp,
    Spies of two empire nations unallied,
    These heroes met, princes of East and West,
    Over a ragged pack of cards, by chance.
    Never believe what credulous annalists
    Record you in good faith of that encounter.
    I was there myself, East’s man, and witnessed all.
    In the main camp of the Middle Kingdom’s army
    At a soldier’s mess, shortly before Retreat,
    East, a pretended trooper, stepping in                            10
    Glanced round the room, shortly discerning West,
    Who sat dejected at a corner table.
    East moved by curiosity or compassion
    Pulled out his cards, offering West the cut,
    And West, disguised as a travelling ballad-man,
    Took and cut; they played together then
    For half an hour or more; then went their ways.

    Never believe such credulous annalists
    As tell you, West for sign of recognition,
    Greatness to greatness, wit to dexterous wit,                     20
    With sleight of magic most extraordinary
    Alters the Duty on his Ace of Spades,
    Making three-pence three-halfpence; East, it’s said,
    For a fantastic sly acknowledgment,
    While his grave eyes betoken no surprise,
    Makes magic too; presto, the Knave of Hearts
    Nims the Queen’s rose and cocks it in his cap
    Furtively, so that only West remarks it.
    But such was not the fact; contrariwise,
    When Proteus meets with Proteus, each annuls                      30
    The variability of the other’s mind.
    Single they stand, casting their mutable cloaks.
    So for this present chance, I take my oath
    That leaning across and watching the cards close
    I caught no hint of prestidigitation.

    Never believe approved biographers
    Who’ll show a sequence of the games then played,
    Explaining that the minds of these two princes
    Were of such subtlety and such nimbleness
    That Whipperginny on the fall of a card                           40
    Changed to Bézique or Cribbage or Piquet,
    Euchre or Écarté, then back once more,
    Each comprehending with no signal shown
    The opposing fancies of the other’s mind.
    It’s said, spectators of this play grew dazed,
    They turned away, thinking the gamesters drunk.
    But I, who sat there watching, keeping score,
    Say they observed the rules of but one game
    The whole bout, playing neither well nor ill
    But slowly, with their thoughts in other channels,                50
    Serene and passionless like wooden men.

    Neither believe those elegant essayists
    Who reconstruct the princes’ conversation
    From grotesque fabrics of their own vain brains.
    I only know that East gave West a nod,
    Asking him careless questions about trade;
    West gave the latest rumours from the front,
    Raising of sieges, plots and pillages.
    He told a camp-fire yarn to amuse the soldiers
    Whereat they all laughed emptily (East laughed too).              60
    He sang a few staves of the latest catch,
    And pulling out his roll of rhymes, unfurled it,
    Ballads and songs, measured by the yard-rule.
    But do not trust the elegant essayists
    Who’d have you swallow all they care to tell
    Of the riddling speech in painful _double entendre_
    That West and East juggled across the cards,
    So intricate, so exquisitely resolved
    In polished antithetical periods
    That by comparison, as you must believe,                          70
    Solomon himself faced with the Queen of Sheba
    And Bishop Such, preaching before the King,
    Joined in one person would have seemed mere trash.
    I give my testimony beyond refutal,
    Nailing the lie for all who ask the facts.

    Pay no heed to those vagabond dramatists
    Who, to present this meeting on the stage,
    Would make my Prince, stealthily drawing out
    A golden quill and stabbing his arm for blood,
    Scratch on a vellum slip some hasty sentence                      80
    And pass it under the table; which West signs
    With _his_ blood, so the treaty’s made between them
    All unobserved and two far nations wedded
    While enemy soldiers loll, yawning, around.
    I was there myself, I say, seeing everything.
    Truly, this is what passed, that East regarding
    West with a steady look and knowing him well,
    For an instant let the heavy soldier-mask,
    His best protection, a dull cast of face,
    Light up with joy, and his eyes shoot out mirth.                  90
    West then knew East, checked, and misdealt the cards.
    Nothing at all was said, on went the game.
    But East bought from West’s bag of ballads, after,
    Two sombre histories, and some songs for dancing.

    Also distrust those allegorical
    Painters who treating of this famous scene
    Are used to splash the skies with lurching Cupids,
    Goddesses with loose hair, and broad-cheeked Zephyrs;
    They burnish up the soldiers’ breastplate steel
    Rusted with languor of their long campaign,                      100
    To twinkling high-lights of unmixed white paint,
    Giving them buskins and tall plumes to wear,
    While hard by, in a wanton imagery,
    Aquatic Triton thunders on his conch
    And Satyrs gape from behind neighbouring trees.
    I who was there, sweating in my shirt-sleeves,
    Felt no divinity brooding in that mess,
    For human splendour gave the gods rebuff.

    Do not believe them, seem they never so wise,
    Credibly posted with all new research,                           110
    Those elegant essayists, vagabond dramatists,
    Authentic and approved biographers,
    Solemn annalists, allegorical
    Painters, each one misleading or misled.
    One thing is true, that of all sights I have seen
    In any quarter of this world of men,
    By night, by day, in court, field, tavern, or barn,
    That was the noblest, East encountering West,
    Their silent understanding and restraint,
    Meeting and parting like the Kings they were                     120
    With plain indifference to all circumstance;
    Saying no good-bye, no handclasp and no tears,
    But letting speech between them fade away
    In casual murmurs and half compliments,
    East sauntering out for fresh intelligence,
    And West shuffling away, not looking back,
    Though each knew well that this chance meeting stood
    For turning movement of world history.
    And I? I trembled, knowing these things must be.



         THE SEWING BASKET

(Accompanying a wedding present from Jenny Nicholson to Winifred
         Roberts)


    To Winifred
    The day she’s wed
    (Having no gold) I send instead
    This sewing basket,
    And lovingly
    Demand that she,
    If ever wanting help from me,
    Will surely ask it.

    Which being gravely said,
    Now to go straight ahead
    With a cutting of string,
    An unwrapping of paper,
    With a haberdasher’s flourish,
    The airs of a draper,
    To review
    And search this basket through.

    Here’s one place full
    Of coloured wool,
    And various yarn
    With which to darn;
    A sampler, too,
    I’ve worked for you,
    Lettered from A to Z,
    The text of which
    In small cross-stitch
    Is _Love to Winifred_.

    Here’s a rag-doll wherein
    To thrust the casual pin.
    His name is Benjamin
    For his ingenuous face;
    Be sure I’ve not forgotten
    Black thread or crochet cotton;
    While Brussels lace
    Has found a place
    Behind the needle-case.
    (But the case for the scissors?
    Empty, as you see;
    Love must never be sundered
    Between you and me.)

    Winifred Roberts,
    Think of me, do,
    When the friends I am sending
    Are working for you.
    The song of the thimble
    Is, “Oh, forget her not.”
    Says the tape-measure,
    “Absent but never forgot.”

    Benjamin’s song
    He sings all day long,
    Though his voice is not strong:
    He hoarsely holloas
      More or less as follows:--

    _Button boxes
    Never have locks-es,
    For the keys would soon disappear.
    But here’s a linen button
      With a smut on,
    And a big bone button
      With a cut on,
    A pearly and a fancy
    Of small significancy,
    And the badges of a Fireman and a Fusilier._
    Which song he’ll alternate
    With sounds like a Turkish hubble-bubble
    Smoked at a furious rate,
    The words are scarcely intelligible:--

    (_Prestissimo_) _Needles and ribbons and packets of pins,
    Prints and chintz and odd bodikins,
    They’d never mind whether
    You laid ’em together
    Or one from the other in pockets and tins._

    _For packets of pins and ribbons and needles
    Or odd bodikins and chintz and prints,
    Being birds of a feather.
    Would huddle together
    Like minnows on billows or pennies in mints._

    He’ll learn to sing more prettily
    When you take him out to Italy
    On your honeymoon,
    (Oh come back soon!)
    To Florence or to Rome,
    The _prima donnas’_ home,
    To Padua or to Genoa
    Where tenors all sing tra-la-la....

    Good-bye, Winifred,
    Bless your heart, Ben.
    Come back happy
    And safe agen.



         AGAINST CLOCK AND COMPASSES


    “_Beauty dwindles into shadow,
      Beauty dies, preferred by Fate,
    Past the rescue of bold thought.
      Sentries drowsed_,” they say, “_at Beauty’s gate_.”

    “_Time duteous to his hour-glass,
      Time with unerring sickle,
    Garners to a land remote
      Where your vows of true love are proved fickle._”

    “_Love chill upon her forehead,
      Love fading from her cheek,
    Love dulled in either eye,
      With voice of love_,” they say, “_no more to speak_.”

    I deny to Time his terror;
      Come-and-go prevails not here;
    Spring is constant, loveless winter
      Looms, but elsewhere, for he comes not near.

    I deny to Space the sorrow;
      No leagues measure love from me;
    Turning boldly from her arms,
      Into her arms I shall come certainly.

    Time and Space, folly’s wonder,
      Three-card shufflers, magic-men!
    True love is, that none shall say
      It ever was, or ever flowers again.



         THE AVENGERS


    Who grafted quince on Western may,
      Sharon’s mild rose on Northern briar?
    In loathing since that Gospel day
      The two saps flame, the tree’s on fire.

    The briar-rose weeps for injured right,
      May sprouts up red to choke the quince.
    With angry throb of equal spite
      Our wood leaps maddened ever since.

    Then mistletoe, of gods not least,
      Kindler of warfare since the Flood,
    Against green things of South and East
      Voices the vengeance of our blood.

    Crusading ivy Southward breaks
      And sucks your lordly palms upon,
    Our island oak the water takes
      To outrage cedared Lebanon.

    Our slender ash-twigs feathered fly
      Against your vines; bold buttercup
    Pours down his legions; malt of rye
      Inflames and burns your lentils up....

    For bloom of quince yet caps the may,
      The briar is held by Sharon’s rose,
    Monsters of thought through earth we stray,
      And how remission comes, God knows.



         ON THE POET’S BIRTH


    A page, a huntsman, and a priest of God,
      Her lovers, met in jealous contrariety,
    Equally claiming the sole parenthood
      Of him the perfect crown of their variety.
    Then, whom to admit, herself she could not tell;
    That always was her fate, she loved too well.

    “But, many-fathered little one,” she said,
      “Whether of high or low, of smooth or rough,
    Here is your mother whom you brought to bed.
      Acknowledge only me, be this enough,
    For such as worship after shall be told
    A white dove sired you or a rain of gold.”



         THE TECHNIQUE OF PERFECTION


    Said hermit monk to hermit monk,
      “Friend, in this island anchorage
    Our life has tranquilly been sunk
      From pious youth to pious age,

    “In such clear waves of quietness,
      Such peace from argument or brawl
    That one prime virtue I confess
      Has never touched our hearts at all.

    “Forgiveness, friend! who can forgive
      But after anger or dissent?
    This never-pardoning life we live
      May earn God’s blackest punishment.”

    His friend, resolved to find a ground
      For rough dispute between the two
    That mutual pardons might abound,
      With cunning from his wallet drew

    A curious pebble of the beach
      And scowled, “This treasure is my own:”
    He hoped for sharp unfriendly speech
      Or angry snatching at the stone.

    But honeyed words his friend outpours,
      “Keep it, dear heart, you surely know
    Even were it mine it still were yours,
      This trifle that delights you so.”

    The owner, acting wrath, cries, “Brother,
      What’s this? Are my deserts so small
    You’d give me trifles?” But the other
      Smiles, “Brother, you may take my all.”

    He then enraged with one so meek,
      So unresponsive to his mood,
    Most soundly smites the martyr cheek
      And rends the island quietude.

    The martyr, who till now has feigned
      In third degree of craftiness
    That meekness is so deep ingrained
      No taunt or slight can make it less,

    Spits out the tooth in honest wrath,
      “You hit too hard, old fool,” cried he.
    They grapple on the rocky path
      That zigzags downward to the sea.

    In rising fury strained and stiff
      They lunge across the narrow ground;
    They topple headlong from the cliff
      And murderously embraced are drowned.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Here Peter sits: two spirits reach
      To sound the knocker at his Gate.
    They shower forgiveness each on each,
      Beaming triumphant and elate.

    But oh, their sweats, their secret fears
      Lest clod-souled witnesses may rise
    To set a tingling at their ears
      And bar the approach to Paradise!



         THE SIBYL


    Her hand falls helpless: thought amazements fly
      Far overhead, they leave no record mark--
    Wild swans urged whistling across dazzled sky,
      Or Gabriel hounds in chorus through the dark.

    Yet when she prophesies, each spirit swan,
      Each spectral hound from memory’s windy zones,
    Flies back to inspire one limb-strewn skeleton
      Of thousands in her valley of dry bones.

    There as those life-restored battalions shout,
      Succession flags and Time goes maimed in flight:
    From each live gullet twenty swans glide out
      With hell-packs loathlier yet to amaze the night.

     Gabriel hounds, a spectral pack hunting the souls of the damned
     through the air at night: the origin of this belief some find in
     the strange noise made by the passage of flocks of wild geese or
     swans.



         A CRUSADER


    Death, kindly eager to pretend
      Himself my servant in the land of spears,
    Humble allegiance at the end
      Broke where the homeward track your castle nears,
    Let his white steed before my red steed press
    And rapt you from me into quietness.



A NEW PORTRAIT OF JUDITH OF BETHULIA


    She trod the grasses grey with dew,
      She hugged the unlikely head;
    Avenging where the warrior Jew
      Incontinent had fled.

    The bearded lips writhed ever more
      At this increase of shame--
    Killed by a girl, pretending whore,
      Gone scatheless as she came!

    His doom yet loathlier that he knew
      Hers was no nation-pride,
    No high religion snatched and slew
      Where he lay stupefied.

    Nebuchadnezzar’s duke enticed
      To pay a megrim’s fee?
    Assyrian valour sacrificed
      For a boudoir dignity?

    “Only for this, that some tall knave
      Had scorned her welcoming bed,
    For this, the assault, the stroke, the grave,”
      Groaned Holofernes’ head.



         A REVERSAL


    The old man in his fast car
      Leaves Achilles lagging,
    The old man with his long gun
      Outshoots Ulysses’ bow,
    Nestor in his botched old age
      Rivals Ajax bragging,
    To Nestor’s honeyed courtship
      Could Helen say “No”?

    Yet, ancient, since you borrow
      From youth the strength and speed,
    Seducing as an equal
      His playmates in the night,
    He, robbed, assumes your sceptre,
      He overgoes your rede,
    And with his brown and lively hairs
      Out-prophesies your white.



         THE MARTYRED DECADENTS: A SYMPATHETIC SATIRE


    We strain our strings thus tight,
      Our voices pitch thus high,
    A song to indite
      That nevermore shall die.

    The Poet being divine
      Admits no social sin,
    Spurring with wine
      And lust the Muse within.

    Finding no use at all
      In arms or civic deeds,
    Perched on a wall
      Fulfilling fancy’s needs.

    Let parents, children, wife,
      Be ghosts beside his art,
    Be this his life
      To hug the snake to his heart.

    Sad souls, the more we stress
      The advantage of our crown,
    So much the less
      Our welcome by the Town,

    By the gross and rootling hog
      Who grunts nor lifts his head,
    By jealous dog
      Or old ass thistle-fed.

    By so much less their praise,
      By so much more our glory.
    Grim pride outweighs
      The anguish of our story.

    We strain our strings thus tight,
      Our voices pitch thus high,
    To enforce our right
      Over futurity.



         EPIGRAMS


         ON CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

    Here ranted Isaac’s elder son,
    The proud shag-breasted godless one,
    From whom observant Smooth-Cheek stole
    Birthright, blessing, hunter’s soul.


         A VILLAGE CONFLICT

    The cottage damson laden as could be
    Scowls at the Manor House magnolia tree
    That year by year within its thoughtless powers
    Yields flowers and leaves and flowers and leaves and flowers,
    While the Magnolia shudders as in fear,
    “_Figurez-vous!_ two sackfuls every year!”


         DEDICATORY

    Dolon, analyst of souls,
      To the Graces hangs up here
    His shrimp-net rotting into holes
      And oozy from the infernal mere;
    He wreathes his gift around with cress,
    Lush harvest of the public cess.


     TO MY COLLATERAL ANCESTOR, REV. R. GRAVES, THE FRIEND OF THE POET
     SHENSTONE AND AUTHOR OF _THE SPIRITUAL QUIXOTE_: ON RECEIPT OF A
     PRESS-CUTTING INTENDED FOR HIM.

    O friend of Shenstone, do you frown
      In realms remote from me
    When Messrs Durrant send you down
      By inadvertency
    Clippings identifying you
      With some dim man in the moon,
    A Spiritual Quixote, true,
      But friend of S. Sassoon?


         “A VEHICLE, TO WIT, A BICYCLE.”

(Dedicated, without permission, to my friend P. C. Flowers)

    “My front-lamp, constable? Why, man, the moon!
      My rear-lamp? Shining there ten yards behind me,
    Warm parlour lamplight of _The Dish and Spoon_!”
      But for all my fancy talk, they would have fined me,
    Had I not set a rather sly half-crown
      Winking under the rays of my front lamp:
    Goodwill towards men disturbed the official frown,
      My rear-light beckoned through the evening’s damp.


         MOTTO TO A BOOK OF EMBLEMS

    Though you read these, but understand not, curse not!
      Or though you read and understand, yet praise not!
    What poet weaves a better knot or worse knot
      Untangling which, your own lives you unbrace not?



         THE BOWL AND RIM

    The bearded rabbi, the meek friar,
      Linked by their ankles in one cell,
    Through joint distress of dungeon mire
      Learned each to love his neighbour well.

    When four years passed and five and six,
      When seven years brought them no release,
    The Jew embraced the crucifix,
      The friar assumed phylacteries.

    Then every Sunday, keeping score,
      And every Sabbath in this hymn
    They reconciled an age-long war
      Between the platter’s bowl and rim.

    _Together._

    Man-like he lived, but God-like died,
      All hatred from His thought removed,
    Imperfect until crucified,
      In crucifixion well-beloved.

    _The Friar._

    If they did wrong, He too did wrong,
      (For Love admits no contraries)
    In blind religion rooted strong
      Both Jesus and the Pharisees.

    “Love all men as thyself,” said He.
      Said they, “Be just with man or dog,”
    “But only loathe a Pharisee,”
      “But crucify this demagogue.”

    He died forgiving on the Tree
      To make amends for earlier spite,
    They raised him up their God to be,
      And black with black accomplished white.

    _The Rabbi._

    When He again descends on man
      As chief of Scribes and Pharisees,
    With loathing for the Publican,
      The maimed and halt His enemies,

    And when a not less formal fate
      Than Pilate’s justice and the Rood,
    His righteous angers expiate
      To make men think Him wholly good,

    Then He again will have done wrong,
      If God be Love for every man,
    For lewd and lettered, weak and strong,
      For Pharisee or Publican,

    _Together._

    But like a God He will have died,
      All hatred from His thought removed,
    Imperfect until crucified,
      In crucifixion well-beloved.



         A FORCED MUSIC


    Of Love he sang, full-hearted one.
    But when the song was done
    The King demanded more,
    Ay, and commanded more.
    The boy found nothing for encore,
    Words, melodies, none:
    Ashamed the song’s glad rise and plaintive fall
    Had so charmed King and Queen and all.

    He sang the same verse once again,
    But urging less Love’s pain,
    With altered time and key
    He showed variety,
    Seemed to refresh the harmony
    Of his only strain,
    So still the glad rise and the plaintive fall
    Could charm the King, the Queen, and all.

    He of his song then wearying ceased,
    But was not yet released;
    The Queen’s request was _More_,
    And her behest was _More_.
    He played of random notes some score,
    He found his rhymes at least--
    Then suddenly let his twangling harp down fall
    And fled in tears from King and Queen and all.



         THE TURN OF A PAGE


    _He suddenly_, the page read as it turned,
    _Died_.
          The indignant eye discerned
    No sense. “Good page, turn back,” it cried
    (Happily evermore was cheated).
    _After these things he suddenly died_,
    The truthful page repeated.

    “Turn back yon earlier pages, nine or ten,
    To _Him she loved_ and _He alone of men_.
    Now change the sentence, page!” But still it read
    _He suddenly died: they scarce had time to kiss_.
    “Read on, ungentle reader,” the book said,
    “Resign your hopes to this.”

    The eye could not resign, restless in grief,
    But darting forward to a later leaf
    Found _Him she loved_ and _He alone of men_.
    Oh, who this He was, being a second He
    Confused the plan; the book spoke sternly then,
    “Read page by page and see!”



         THE MANIFESTATION IN THE TEMPLE


        On the High Feast Day in that reverent space
        Between the Sacrifice and the word of Grace,
        I, come to town with a merry-making throng
        To pay my tithes and join in the season’s song,
        Closing my eyes, there prayed--and was hurried far
        Beyond what ages I know not, or what star,
        To a land of thought remote from the breastplate glint
        And the white bull’s blood that flows from the knife of flint,
        Then, in this movement, being not I but part
        In the fellowship of the universal heart,                     10
        I sucked a strength from the primal fount of strength,
        I thought and worked omnipotence. At length
        Hit in my high flight by some sorry thought
        Back to the sweat of the soil-bound I was caught
        And asked in pique what enemy had worked this,
        What folly or anger thrust against my bliss?
        Then I grew aware of the savour of sandal-wood
        With noise of a distant fluting, and one who stood
        Nudging my elbow breathed “Oh, miracle! See!”
        The folk gape wonder, urge tumultuously,                      20
        They fling them down on their faces every one,
        Some joyfully weep, others for anguish moan.
        Lo, the tall gilt image of God at the altar niche
        Wavers and stirs, we see his raiment twitch.
        Now he stands and signs benediction with his rod.
        The courtyard quakes, the fountains gush with blood.
        The whistling scurry and throb of spirit wings
        Distresses man and child. Now a bird-voice sings,
        And a loud throat bellows, that every creature hears,
        A sign to himself he must lay aside his fears.                30
        It babbles an antique tongue, and threatening, pleads
        Prompt sacrifice and a care for priestly needs,
        Wholeness of heart, the putting away of wrath,
        A generous measure for wine, for oil, for cloth,
        A holding fast to the law that the Stones ordain,
        And the rites of the Temple watch that ye maintain
        Lest fire and ashes down from the mountain rain!
        With expectance of goodly harvest and rain in Spring
        To such as perform the will of the Jealous King.
        To his priestly servants hearken!
                                        The syllables die.            40
        Now up from the congregation issues a sigh
        As of stopped breath slow released. But here stands one
        Who has kept his feet though the others fell like stone,
        Who prays with outstretched palms, standing alone,
        To a God who is speechless, not to be known by touch,
        By sight, sound, scent. And I cry, “Not overmuch
        Do I love this juggling blasphemy, O High Priest.
        Or do you deny your part here? Then, at least,
        An honest citizen of this honest town
        May preach these nightmare apparitions down,                  50
        These blundering, perfumed noises come to tell
        No more than a priest-instructed folk knows well.
        Out, meddlesome Imps, whatever Powers you be,
        Break not true prayer between my God and me.”



         TO ANY SAINT


    You turn the unsmitten other cheek,
      In silence welcoming God’s grace,
    Disdaining, though they scourge, to speak,
      Smiling forgiveness face to face.

    You plunge your arms in tyrant flame,
      From ravening beasts you do not fly,
    Calling aloud on one sweet Name,
      Hosannah-singing till you die.

    So angered by your undefeat,
      Revenge through Christ they meditate,
    Disciples at the bishop’s feet
      They learn this newer sort of hate,

    This unresisting meek assault
      On furious foe or stubborn friend,
    This virtue purged of every fault
      By furtherance of the martyr’s end,

    This baffling stroke of naked pride,
      When satires fail and curses fail
    To pierce the justice’s tough hide,
      To abash the cynics of the jail.

    Oh, not less violent, not less keen
      And barbèd more than murder’s blade!
    “The brook,” you sigh, “that washes clean,
      The flower of love that will not fade!”



         A DEWDROP


    The dewdrop carries in its eye
    Snowdon and Hebog, sea and sky,
    Twelve lakes at least, woods, rivers, moors,
    And half a county’s out-of-doors:
    Trembling beneath a wind-flower’s shield
    In this remote and rocky field.

    But why should man in God’s Name stress
    The dewdrop’s inconspicuousness
    When to lakes, woods, the estuary,
    Hebog and Snowdon, sky and sea,
    This dewdrop falling from its leaf
    Can spread amazement near to grief,
    As it were a world distinct in mould
    Lost with its beauty ages old?



         A VALENTINE


    The hunter to the husbandman
    Pays tribute since our love began,
    And to love-loyalty dedicates
    The phantom kills he meditates.
    Let me embrace, embracing you,
    Beauty of other shape and hue,
    Odd glinting graces of which none
    Shone more than candle to your sun,
    Your well-kissed hand was beckoning me
    In unfamiliar imagery--
    Smile your forgiveness; each bright ghost
    Dives in love’s glory and is lost,
    Yielding your comprehensive pride
    A homage, even to suicide.


    MADE AND PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN. RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LTD.
    PRINTERS, BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.





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