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Title: Poems
Author: Millay, Edna St. Vincent
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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

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Poems _by_ Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Poems _by_
    Edna St. Vincent Millay


    Martin Secker

    _Printed in Great Britain_
    _London: Martin Secker (Ltd.) 1923_


    _Section One_

    Renascence,                                    13

    God’s World,                                   22

    Afternoon on a Hill,                           23

    Journey,                                       24

    Sorrow,                                        26

    Tavern,                                        27

    Ashes of Life,                                 28

    The Little Ghost,                              29

    Kin to Sorrow,                                 31

    Three Songs of Shattering,                     32

    The Shroud,                                    34

    The Dream,                                     35

    Indifference,                                  36

    Witch-wife,                                    37

    Blight,                                        38

    When the Year Grows Old,                       40

    Unnamed Sonnets, i-v,                          42

    Sonnet vi (Bluebeard),                         47

    _Section Two_

    I,                                             51

    II,                                            51

    Recuerdo,                                      52

    Thursday,                                      53

    To the Not Impossible Him,                     54

    The Singing-Woman from the Wood’s Edge,        55

    Humoresque,                                    58

    She is Overheard Singing,                      59

    The Unexplorer,                                61

    Grown-up,                                      62

    The Penitent,                                  63

    Daphne,                                        64

    Portrait by a Neighbour,                       65

    The Merry Maid,                                66

    To S. M.,                                      67

    The Philosopher,                               68

    Sonnet--Love, Though for This,                 69

    Sonnet--I Think I Should Have Loved You,       70

    Sonnet--Oh, Think Not I am Faithful,           71

    Sonnet--I Shall Forget You Presently,          72

    _Section Three_

    Spring,                                        75

    City Trees,                                    76

    The Blue-Flag in the Bog,                      77

    Eel-Grass,                                     86

    Elegy before Death,                            87

    The Bean-Stalk,                                88

    Weeds,                                         90

    Passer Mortuus Est,                            91

    Pastoral,                                      92

    Assault,                                       93

    Travel,                                        94

    Low-Tide,                                      95

    Song of a Second April,                        96

    The Poet and his Book,                         97

    Alms,                                         102

    Inland,                                       104

    To a Poet that Died Young,                    105

    Wraith,                                       107

    Ebb,                                          109

    Elaine,                                       110

    Burial,                                       111

    Mariposa,                                     112

    Doubt no more that Oberon,                    113

    Lament,                                       114

    Exiled,                                       115

    The Death of Autumn,                          117

    Ode to Silence,                               118

    Memorial to D. C.,                            127

    Unnamed Sonnets, i-xii,                       134

    Wild Swans,                                   146



  All I could see from where I stood
  Was three long mountains and a wood;
  I turned and looked another way,
  And saw three islands in a bay.
  So with my eyes I traced the line
  Of the horizon, thin and fine,
  Straight around till I was come
  Back to where I’d started from
  And all I saw from where I stood
  Was three long mountains and a wood.
  Over these things I could not see:
  These were the things that bounded me;
  And I could touch them with my hand,
  Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
  And all at once things seemed so small
  My breath came short, and scarce at all.
  But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
  Miles and miles above my head;
  So here upon my back I’ll lie
  And look my fill into the sky.
  And so I looked, and, after all,
  The sky was not so very tall.
  The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
  And--sure enough!--I see the top!
  The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
  I ’most could touch it with my hand!
  And reaching up my hand to try,
  I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

  I screamed, and--lo!--Infinity
  Came down and settled over me;
  Forced back my scream into my chest,
  Bent back my arm upon my breast,
  And, pressing of the Undefined
  The definition on my mind,
  Held up before my eyes a glass
  Through which my shrinking sight did pass
  Until it seemed I must behold
  Immensity made manifold;
  Whispered to me a word whose sound
  Deafened the air for worlds around,
  And brought unmuffled to my ears
  The gossiping of friendly spheres,
  The creaking of the tented sky,
  The ticking of Eternity.
  I saw and heard and knew at last
  The How and Why of all things, past,
  And present, and for evermore.
  The Universe, cleft to the core,
  Lay open to my probing sense
  That, sick’ning, I would fain pluck thence
  But could not,--nay! But needs must suck
  At the great wound, and could not pluck
  My lips away till I had drawn
  All venom out.--Ah, fearful pawn!
  For my omniscience paid I toll
  In infinite remorse of soul.
  All sin was of my sinning, all
  Atoning mine, and mine the gall
  Of all regret. Mine was the weight
  Of every brooded wrong, the hate
  That stood behind each envious thrust,
  Mine every greed, mine every lust.
  And all the while for every grief,
  Each suffering, I craved relief
  With individual desire,--
  Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
  About a thousand people crawl;
  Perished with each,--then mourned for all!
  A man was starving in Capri;
  He moved his eyes and looked at me;
  I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
  And knew his hunger as my own.
  I saw at sea a great fog bank
  Between two ships that struck and sank;
  A thousand screams the heavens smote;
  And every scream tore through my throat.
  No hurt I did not feel, no death
  That was not mine; mine each last breath
  That, crying, met an answering cry
  From the compassion that was I.
  All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
  Mine, pity like the pity of God.
  Ah, awful weight! Infinity
  Pressed down upon the finite Me!
  My anguished spirit, like a bird,
  Beating against my lips I heard;
  Yet lay the weight so close about
  There was no room for it without.
  And so beneath the weight lay I
  And suffered death, but could not die.

  Long had I lain thus, craving death,
  When quietly the earth beneath
  Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
  At last had grown the crushing weight,
  Into the earth I sank till I
  Full six feet under ground did lie,
  And sank no more,--there is no weight
  Can follow here, however great.
  From off my breast I felt it roll,
  And as it went my tortured soul
  Burst forth and fled in such a gust
  That all about me swirled the dust.
  Deep in the earth I rested now;
  Cool is its hand upon the brow
  And soft its breast beneath the head
  Of one who is so gladly dead.
  And all at once, and over all
  The pitying rain began to fall;
  I lay and heard each pattering hoof
  Upon my lowly, thatchèd roof,
  And seemed to love the sound far more
  Than ever I had done before.
  For rain it hath a friendly sound
  To one who’s six feet under ground;
  And scarce the friendly voice or face:
  A grave is such a quiet place.

  The rain, I said, is kind to come
  And speak to me in my new home.
  I would I were alive again
  To kiss the fingers of the rain,
  To drink into my eyes the shine
  Of every slanting silver line,
  To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
  From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
  For soon the shower will be done,
  And then the broad face of the sun
  Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
  Until the world with answering mirth
  Shakes joyously, and each round drop
  Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
  How can I bear it, buried here,
  While overhead the sky grows clear
  And blue again after the storm?
  O, multi-coloured, multiform,
  Beloved beauty over me,
  That I shall never, never see
  Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
  That I shall never more behold!
  Sleeping your myriad magics through,
  Close-sepulchred away from you!
  O God, I cried, give me new birth,
  And put me back upon the earth!
  Upset each cloud’s gigantic gourd
  And let the heavy rain, down-poured
  In one big torrent, set me free,
  Washing my grave away from me!

  I ceased; and through the breathless hush
  That answered me, the far-off rush
  Of herald wings came whispering
  Like music down the vibrant string
  Of my ascending prayer, and--crash!
  Before the wild wind’s whistling lash
  The startled storm-clouds reared on high
  And plunged in terror down the sky,
  And the big rain in one black wave
  Fell from the sky and struck my grave.
  I know not how such things can be;
  I only know there came to me
  A fragrance such as never clings
  To aught save happy living things;
  A sound as of some joyous elf
  Singing sweet songs to please himself,
  And, through and over everything,
  A sense of glad awakening.
  The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
  Whispering to me I could hear;
  I felt the rain’s cool finger-tips
  Brushed tenderly across my lips,
  Laid gently on my sealèd sight,
  And all at once the heavy night
  Fell from my eyes and I could see,--
  A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
  A last long line of silver rain,
  A sky grown clear and blue again.
  And as I looked a quickening gust
  Of wind blew up to me and thrust
  Into my face a miracle
  Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,--
  I know not how such things can be!--
  I breathed my soul back into me.

  Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
  And hailed the earth with such a cry
  As is not heard save from a man
  Who has been dead, and lives again.
  About the trees my arms I wound;
  Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
  I raised my quivering arms on high;
  I laughed and laughed into the sky,
  Till at my throat a strangling sob
  Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
  Sent instant tears into my eyes;
  O God, I cried, no dark disguise
  Can e’er hereafter hide from me
  Thy radiant identity!
  Thou canst not move across the grass
  But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
  Nor speak, however silently,
  But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
  I know the path that tells Thy way
  Through the cool eve of every day;
  God, I can push the grass apart
  And lay my finger on Thy heart!

  The world stands out on either side
  No wider than the heart is wide;
  Above the world is stretched the sky,--
  No higher than the soul is high.
  The heart can push the sea and land
  Farther away on either hand;
  The soul can split the sky in two,
  And let the face of God shine through.
  But East and West will pinch the heart
  That cannot keep them pushed apart;
  And he whose soul is flat--the sky
  Will cave in on him by and by.

_God’s World_

  O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
        Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
        Thy mists, that roll and rise!
  Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
  And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
  To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
  World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

  Long have I known a glory in it all,
        But never knew I this;
        Here such a passion is
  As stretcheth me apart,--Lord, I do fear
  Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
  My soul is all but out of me,--let fall
  No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

_Afternoon on a Hill_

  I will be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
  I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.

  I will look at cliffs and clouds
    With quiet eyes,
  Watch the wind bow down the grass,
    And the grass rise.

  And when lights begin to show
    Up from the town,
  I will mark which must be mine,
    And then start down.


  Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
  And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
  Blow over me,--I am so tired, so tired
  Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
  Following Care along the dusty road,
  Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
  Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
  Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long
      Over my shoulder have I looked at peace
      And now I fain would lie in this long grass
      And close my eyes.
                        Yet onward!
                                  Cat-birds call
  Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
  Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
  Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
  Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines
  Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
  Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
  Dim, shady wood-roads, redolent of fern
  And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
  Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
  Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
  Only my heart, only my heart responds.
  Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
  All through the dragging day,--sharp underfoot,
  And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs--
  But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
  And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
  The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
  Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
  A gateless garden, and an open path:
  My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.


  Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
    Beats upon my heart.
  People twist and scream in pain,--
  Dawn will find them still again;
  This has neither wax nor wane,
    Neither stop nor start.

  People dress and go to town;
    I sit in my chair.
  All my thoughts are slow and brown:
  Standing up or sitting down
  Little matters, or what gown
    Or what shoes I wear.


  I’ll keep a little tavern
    Below the high hill’s crest,
  Wherein all grey-eyed people
    May sit them down and rest.

  There shall be plates a-plenty,
    And mugs to melt the chill
  Of all the grey-eyed people
    Who happen up the hill.

  There sound will sleep the traveller,
    And dream his journey’s end,
  But I will rouse at midnight
    The falling fire to tend.

  Aye, ’tis a curious fancy--
    But all the good I know
  Was taught me out of two grey eyes
    A long time ago.

_Ashes of Life_

  Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
    Eat I must, and sleep I will,--and would that night were here!
  But ah!--to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
    Would that it were day again!--with twilight near!

  Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;
    This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
  But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through,--
    There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

  Love has gone and left me,--and the neighbours knock and borrow,
    And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,--
  And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
    There’s this little street and this little house.

_The Little Ghost_

  I knew her for a little ghost
    That in my garden walked;
  The wall is high--higher than most--
    And the green gate was locked.

  And yet I did not think of that
    Till after she was gone--
  I knew her by the broad white hat,
    All ruffled, she had on.

  By the dear ruffles round her feet,
    By her small hands that hung
  In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
    Her gown’s white folds among.

  I watched to see if she would stay,
    What she would do--and oh!
  She looked as if she liked the way
    I let my garden grow!

  She bent above my favourite mint
    With conscious garden grace,
  She smiled and smiled--there was no hint
    Of sadness in her face.

  She held her gown on either side
    To let her slippers show,
  And up the walk she went with pride,
    The way great ladies go.

  And where the wall is built in new
    And is of ivy bare
  She paused--then opened and passed through
    A gate that once was there.

_Kin to Sorrow_

    Am I kin to Sorrow,
    That so oft
  Falls the knocker of my door--
    Neither loud nor soft,
  But as long accustomed,
    Under Sorrow’s hand?
  Marigolds around the step
    And rosemary stand,
  And then comes Sorrow--
    And what does Sorrow care
  For the rosemary
    Or the marigolds there?
  Am I kin to Sorrow?
    Are we kin?
  That so oft upon my door--
    _Oh, come in!_

_Three Songs of Shattering_


  The first rose on my rose-tree
    Budded, bloomed, and shattered,
  During sad days when to me
    Nothing mattered.

  Grief of grief has drained me clean;
    Still it seems a pity
  No one saw,--it must have been
      Very pretty.


  Let the little birds sing;
    Let the little lambs play;
  Spring is here; and so ’tis spring;--
    But not in the old way!

  I recall a place
    Where a plum-tree grew;
  There you lifted up your face,
    And blossoms covered you.

  If the little birds sing,
    And the little lambs play,
  Spring is here; and so ’tis spring--
    But not in the old way!


  All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree!
    Ere spring was going--ah! spring is gone!
  And there comes no summer to the like of you and me,--
    Blossom time is early, but no fruit sets on.

  All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree,
    Browned at the edges, turned in a day;
  And I would with all my heart they trimmed a mound for me,
    And weeds were tall on all the paths that led that way!

_The Shroud_

  Death, I say, my heart is bowed
    Unto thine,--O mother!
  This red gown will make a shroud
    Good as any other!

  (I, that would not wait to wear
    My own bridal things,
  In a dress dark as my hair
    Made my answerings.

  I, to-night, that till he came
    Could not, could not wait,
  In a gown as bright as flame
    Held for them the gate.)

  Death, I say, my heart is bowed
    Unto thine,--O mother!
  This red gown will make a shroud
    Good as any other!

_The Dream_

  Love, if I weep it will not matter,
    And if you laugh I shall not care;
  Foolish am I to think about it,
    But it is good to feel you there.

  Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking,--
    White and awful the moonlight reached
  Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere,
    There was a shutter loose,--it screeched!

  Swung in the wind,--and no wind blowing!--
    I was afraid, and turned to you,
  Put out my hand to you for comfort,--
    And you were gone! Cold, cold as dew,

  Under my hand the moonlight lay!
    Love, if you laugh I shall not care,
  But if I weep it will not matter,--
    Ah, it is good to feel you there!


  I said,--for Love was laggard, O, Love was slow to come,--
    “I’ll hear his step and know his step when I am warm in bed;
  But I’ll never leave my pillow, though there be some
    As would let him in--and take him in with tears!” I said.
  I lay,--for Love was laggard, O, he came not until dawn,--
  I lay and listened for his step and could not get to sleep;
  And he found me at my window with my big cloak on,
    All sorry with the tears some folks might weep!


  She is neither pink nor pale,
    And she never will be all mine;
  She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
    And her mouth on a valentine.

  She has more hair than she needs;
    In the sun ’tis a woe to me!
  And her voice is a string of coloured beads,
    Or steps leading into the sea.

  She loves me all that she can,
    And her ways to my ways resign;
  But she was not made for any man,
    And she never will be all mine.


  Hard seeds of hate I planted
    That should by now be grown,--
  Rough stalks, and from thick stamens
    A poisonous pollen blown,
  And odours rank, unbreathable,
    From dark corollas thrown!

  At dawn from my damp garden
    I shook the chilly dew;
  The thin boughs locked behind me
    That sprang to let me through;
  The blossoms slept,--I sought a place
    Where nothing lovely grew.

  And there, when day was breaking,
    I knelt and looked around:
  The light was near, the silence
    Was palpitant with sound;
  I drew my hate from out my breast
    And thrust it in the ground.

  Oh, ye so fiercely tended,
    Ye little seeds of hate!
  I bent above your growing
    Early and noon and late,
  Yet are ye drooped and pitiful,--
    I cannot rear ye straight!

  The sun seeks out my garden,
    No nook is left in shade,
  No mist nor mould nor mildew
    Endures on any blade,
  Sweet rain slants under every bough:
    Ye falter, and ye fade.

_When the Year Grows Old_

  I cannot but remember
    When the year grows old--
    How she disliked the cold!

  She used to watch the swallows
    Go down across the sky,
  And turn from the window
    With a little sharp sigh.

  And often when the brown leaves
    Were brittle on the ground,
  And the wind in the chimney
    Made a melancholy sound,

  She had a look about her
    That I wish I could forget--
  The look of a scared thing
    Sitting in a net!

  Oh, beautiful at nightfall
    The soft spitting snow!
  And beautiful the bare boughs
    Rubbing to and fro!

  But the roaring of the fire,
    And the warmth of fur,
  And the boiling of the kettle
    Were beautiful to her!

  I cannot but remember
    When the year grows old--
    How she disliked the cold!



  Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,--no,
  Nor honeysuckle; thou art not more fair
  Than small white single poppies,--I can bear
  Thy beauty; though I bend before thee, though
  From left to right, not knowing where to go,
  I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor there
  Find any refuge from thee, yet I swear
  So has it been with mist,--with moonlight so.
  Like him who day by day unto his draught
  Of delicate poison adds him one drop more
  Till he may drink unharmed the death of ten,
  Even so, inured to beauty, who have quaffed
  Each hour more deeply than the hour before,
  I drink--and live--what has destroyed some men.


  Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
  Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
  I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
  I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
  The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
  And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
  But last year’s bitter loving must remain
  Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
  There are a hundred places where I fear
  To go,--so with his memory they brim!
  And entering with relief some quiet place
  Where never fell his foot or shone his face
  I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
  And so stand stricken, so remembering him!


  Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring
  And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,
  And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
  Rising of the round moon, all throats that sing
  The summer through, and each departing wing,
  And all the nests that the bared branches show,
  And all winds that in any weather blow,
  And all the storms that the four seasons bring.
  You go no more on your exultant feet
  Up paths that only mist and morning knew,
  Or watch the wind, or listen to the beat
  Of a bird’s wings too high in air to view,--
  But you were something more than young and sweet
  And fair,--and the long year remembers you.


  Not in this chamber only at my birth--
  When the long hours of that mysterious night
  Were over, and the morning was in sight--
  I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firth
  I have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;
  And never shall one room contain me quite
  Who in so many rooms first saw the light,
  Child of all mothers, native of the earth.
  So is no warmth for me at any fire
  To-day, when the world’s fire has burned so low;
  I kneel, spending my breath in vain desire,
  At that cold hearth which one time roared so strong,
  And straighten back in weariness, and long
  To gather up my little gods and go.


  If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
  That you were gone, not to return again--
  Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
  Held by a neighbour in a subway train,
  How at the corner of this avenue
  And such a street (so are the papers filled)
  A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
  At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
  I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
  Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
  I should but watch the station lights rush by
  With a more careful interest on my face,
  Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
  Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.



  This door you might not open, and you did;
  So enter now, and see for what slight thing
  You are betrayed.... Here is no treasure hid,
  No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
  The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain
  For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
  But only what you see.... Look yet again--
  An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
  Yet this alone out of my life I kept
  Unto myself, lest any know me quite;
  And you did so profane me when you crept
  Unto the threshold of this room to-night
  That I must never more behold your face.
  This now is yours. I seek another place.



  My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
  But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
    It gives a lovely light!


  Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
  Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!


  We were very tired, we were very merry--
  We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
  It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable--
  But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
  We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
  And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

  We were very tired, we were very merry--
  We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
  And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
  From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
  And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
  And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

  We were very tired, we were very merry,
  We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
  We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
  And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
  And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
  And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.


  And if I loved you Wednesday,
    Well, what is that to you?
  I do not love you Thursday--
    So much is true.

  And why you come complaining
    Is more than I can see.
  I loved you Wednesday,--yes--but what
    Is that to me?

_To the Not Impossible Him_

  How shall I know, unless I go
    To Cairo and Cathay,
  Whether or not this blessed spot
    Is blest in every way?

  Now it may be, the flower for me
    Is this beneath my nose;
  How shall I tell, unless I smell
    The Carthaginian rose?

  The fabric of my faithful love
    No power shall dim or ravel
  Whilst I stay here,--but oh, my dear,
    If I should ever travel!

_The Singing-Woman from the Wood’s Edge_

  What should I be but a prophet and a liar,
  Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?
  Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,
  What should I be but the fiend’s god-daughter?

  And who should be my playmates but the adder and the frog,
  That was got beneath a furze-bush and born in a bog?
  And what should be my singing, that was christened at an altar,
  But Aves and Credos and Psalms out of the Psalter?

  You will see such webs on the wet grass, maybe,
  As a pixie-mother weaves for her baby,
  You will find such flame at the wave’s weedy ebb
  As flashes in the meshes of a mer-mother’s web,

  But there comes to birth no common spawn
  From the love of a priest for a leprechaun,
  And you never have seen and you never will see
  Such things as the things that swaddled me!

  After all’s said and after all’s done,
  What should I be but a harlot and a nun?

  In through the bushes, on any foggy day,
  My dad would come a-swishing of the drops away,
  With a prayer for my death and a groan for my birth,
  A-mumbling of his beads for all that he was worth.

  And there’d sit my ma, with her knees beneath her chin,
  A-looking in his face and a-drinking of it in,
  And a-marking in the moss some funny little saying
  That would mean just the opposite of all that he was praying!

  He taught me the holy-talk of Vesper and of Matin,
  He heard me my Greek and he heard me my Latin,
  He blessed me and crossed me to keep my soul from evil,
  And we watched him out of sight, and we conjured up the devil!

  Oh, the things I haven’t seen and the things I haven’t known,
  What with hedges and ditches till after I was grown,
  And yanked both ways by my mother and my father,
  With a “Which would you better?” and a “Which would you rather?”

  With him for a sire and her for a dam,
  What should I be but just what I am?


  “Heaven bless the babe!” they said;
  “What queer books she must have read!”
  (Love, by whom I was beguiled,
  Grant I may not bear a child.)

  “Little does she guess to-day
  What the world may be,” they say.
  (Snow, drift deep and cover
  Till the spring my murdered lover.)

_She is Overheard Singing_

  Oh, Prue she has a patient man,
    And Joan a gentle lover,
  And Agatha’s Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,--
    But my true love’s a rover!

  Mig, her man’s as good as cheese
    And honest as a briar,
  Sue tells her love what he’s thinking of,--
    But my dear lad’s a liar!

  Oh, Sue and Prue and Agatha
    Are thick with Mig and Joan!
  They bite their threads and shake their heads
    And gnaw my name like a bone;

  And Prue says, “Mine’s a patient man,
    As never snaps me up,”
  And Agatha, “Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,
    Could live content in a cup;”

  Sue’s man’s mind is like good jell--
    All one colour, and clear--
  And Mig’s no call to think at all
    What’s to come next year,

  While Joan makes boast of a gentle lad,
    That’s troubled with that and this;--
  But they all would give the life they live
    For a look from the man I kiss!

  Cold he slants his eyes about,
    And few enough’s his choice,--
  Though he’d slip me clean for a nun, or a queen,
    Or a beggar with knots in her voice,--

  And Agatha will turn awake
    When her good man sleeps sound,
  And Mig and Sue and Joan and Prue
    Will hear the clock strike round;

  For Prue she has a patient man,
    As asks not when or why,
  And Mig and Sue have naught to do
    But peep who’s passing by,

  Joan is paired with a putterer
    That bastes and tastes and salts,
  And Agatha’s Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,--
    But my true love is false!

_The Unexplorer_

  There was a road ran past our house
  Too lovely to explore.
  I asked my mother once--she said
  That if you followed where it led
  It brought you to the milk-man’s door.
  (That’s why I have not travelled more.)


  Was it for this I uttered prayers,
  And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
  That now, domestic as a plate,
  I should retire at half-past eight?

_The Penitent_

  I had a little Sorrow,
  Born of a little Sin,
  I found a room all damp with gloom
    And shut us all within;
  And, “Little Sorrow, weep,” said I,
  “And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
  And I upon the floor will lie
    And think how bad I’ve been!”

  Alas for pious planning--
    It mattered not a whit!
  As far as gloom went in that room,
    The lamp might have been lit!
  My Little Sorrow would not weep,
  My Little Sin would go to sleep--
  To save my soul I could not keep
    My graceless mind on it!

  So up I got in anger,
    And took a book I had,
  And put a ribbon on my hair
    To please a passing lad.
  And, “One thing there’s no getting by--
  I’ve been a wicked girl,” said I;
  “But if I can’t be sorry, why,
    I might as well be glad!”


  Why do you follow me?--
  Any moment I can be
  Nothing but a laurel-tree.

  Any moment of the chase
  I can leave you in my place
  A pink bough for your embrace.

  Yet if over hill and hollow,
  Still it is your will to follow,
  I am off;--to heel, Apollo!

_Portrait by a Neighbour_

  Before she has her floor swept
    Or her dishes done,
  Any day you’ll find her
    A-sunning in the sun!

  It’s long after midnight
    Her key’s in the lock,
  And you never see her chimney smoke
    Till past ten o’clock!

  She digs in her garden
    With a shovel and a spoon,
  She weeds her lazy lettuce
    By the light of the moon.

  She walks up the walk
    Like a woman in a dream,
  She forgets she borrowed butter
    And pays you back cream!

  Her lawn looks like a meadow,
    And if she mows the place
  She leaves the clover standing
    And the Queen Anne’s lace!

_The Merry Maid_

  Oh, I am grown so free from care
    Since my heart broke!
  I set my throat against the air,
    I laugh at simple folk!

  There’s little kind and little fair
    Is worth its weight in smoke
  To me, that’s grown so free from care
    Since my heart broke!

  Lass, if to sleep you would repair
    As peaceful as you woke,
  Best not besiege your lover there
    For just the words he spoke
  To me, that’s grown so free from care
    Since my heart broke!

_To S. M._

    _If he should lie a-dying_

  I am not willing you should go
  Into the earth, where Helen went;
  She is awake by now, I know.
  Where Cleopatra’s anklets rust
  You will not lie with my consent;
  And Sappho is a roving dust;
  Cressid could love again; Dido,
  Rotted in state, is restless still;
  You leave me much against my will.

_The Philosopher_

  And what are you that, wanting you,
    I should be kept awake
  As many nights as there are days
    With weeping for your sake?

  And what are you that, missing you,
    As many days as crawl
  I should be listening to the wind
    And looking at the wall?

  I know a man that’s a braver man
    And twenty men as kind,
  And what are you, that you should be
    The one man in my mind?

  Yet women’s ways are witless ways,
    As any sage will tell,--
  And what am I, that I should love
    So wisely and so well?

_Four Sonnets_


  Love, though for this you riddle me with darts,
  And drag me at your chariot till I die,--
  Oh, heavy prince! Oh, panderer of hearts!--
  Yet hear me tell how in their throats they lie
  Who shout you mighty: thick about my hair,
  Day in, day out, your ominous arrows purr,
  Who still am free, unto no querulous care
  A fool, and in no temple worshipper!
  I, that have bared me to your quiver’s fire,
  Lifted my face into its puny rain,
  Do wreathe you Impotent to Evoke Desire
  As you are Powerless to Elicit Pain!
  (Now will the god, for blasphemy so brave,
  Punish me, surely, with the shaft I crave!)


  I think I should have loved you presently,
  And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
  And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
  And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
  And all my pretty follies flung aside
  That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
  Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
  Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
  I, that had been to you, had you remained,
  But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
  Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
  And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
  A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
  Who would have loved you in a day or two.


  Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
  Faithless am I save to love’s self alone.
  Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
  After the feet of beauty fly my own.
  Were you not still my hunger’s rarest food,
  And water ever to my wildest thirst,
  I would desert you--think not but I would!--
  And seek another as I sought you first.
  But you are mobile as the veering air,
  And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
  Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
  I have but to continue at your side.
  So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
  I am most faithless when I most am true.


  I shall forget you presently, my dear,
  So make the most of this, your little day,
  Your little month, your little half a year,
  Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
  And we are done forever; by and by
  I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
  If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
  I will protest you with my favourite vow.
  I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
  And oaths were not so brittle as they are,
  But so it is, and nature has contrived
  To struggle on without a break thus far,--
  Whether or not we find what we are seeking
  Is idle, biologically speaking.



  To what purpose, April, do you return again?
  Beauty is not enough.
  You can no longer quiet me with the redness
  Of little leaves opening stickily.
  I know what I know.
  The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
  The spikes of the crocus.
  The smell of the earth is good.
  It is apparent that there is no death.
  But what does that signify?
  Not only under ground are the brains of men
  Eaten by maggots.
  Life in itself
  Is nothing,
  An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
  It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
  Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

_City Trees_

  The trees along this city street,
    Save for the traffic and the trains,
  Would make a sound as thin and sweet
    As trees in country lanes.

  And people standing in their shade
    Out of a shower, undoubtedly
  Would hear such music as is made
    Upon a country tree.

  Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
    Against the shrieking city air,
  I watch you when the wind has come--
    I know what sound is there.

_The Blue-Flag in the Bog_

  God had called us, and we came;
    Our loved Earth to ashes left;
  Heaven was a neighbour’s house,
    Open flung to us, bereft.

  Gay the lights of Heaven showed,
    And ’twas God Who walked ahead;
  Yet I wept along the road,
    Wanting my own house instead.

  Wept unseen, unheeded cried,
    “All you things my eyes have kissed,
  Fare you well! We meet no more,
    Lovely, lovely tattered mist!

    Weary wings that rise and fall
  All day long above the fire!”--
    Red with heat was every wall,
  Rough with heat was every wire--

  “Fare you well, you little winds
    That the flying embers chase!
  Fare you well, you shuddering day,
    With your hands before your face!

  And, ah, blackened by strange blight,
    Or to a false sun unfurled,
  Now for evermore good-bye,
    All the gardens in the world!

  On the windless hills of Heaven,
    That I have no wish to see,
  White, eternal lilies stand,
    By a lake of ebony.

  But the Earth forevermore
    Is a place where nothing grows,--
  Dawn will come, and no bud break;
    Evening, and no blossom close.

  Spring will come, and wander slow
    Over an indifferent land,
  Stand beside an empty creek,
    Hold a dead seed in her hand.”

  God had called us, and we came,
    But the blessed road I trod
  Was a bitter road to me,
    And at heart I questioned God.

  “Though in Heaven,” I said, “be all
    That the heart would most desire,
  Held Earth naught save souls of sinners
    Worth the saving from a fire?

  Withered grass,--the wasted growing!
    Aimless ache of laden boughs!”
  Little things God had forgotten
    Called me, from my burning house.

  “Though in Heaven,” I said, “be all
    That the eye could ask to see,
  All the things I ever knew
    Are this blaze in back of me.”

  “Though in Heaven,” I said, “be all
    That the ear could think to lack,
  All the things I ever knew
    Are this roaring at my back.”

  It was God Who walked ahead,
    Like a shepherd to the fold;
  In His footsteps fared the weak,
    And the weary and the old,

  Glad enough of gladness over,
    Ready for the peace to be,--
  But a thing God had forgotten
    Was the growing bones of me.

  And I drew a bit apart,
    And I lagged a bit behind,
  And I thought on Peace Eternal,
    Lest He look into my mind;

  And I gazed upon the sky,
    And I thought of Heavenly Rest,--
  And I slipped away like water
    Through the fingers of the blest!

  All their eyes were fixed on Glory,
    Not a glance brushed over me;
  “Alleluia! Alleluia!”
    Up the road,--and I was free.

  And my heart rose like a freshet,
    And it swept me on before,
  Giddy as a whirling stick,
    Till I felt the earth once more.

  All the Earth was charred and black,
    had swept from pole to pole;
  And the bottom of the sea
    Was as brittle as a bowl;

  And the timbered mountain-top
    Was as naked as a skull,--
  Nothing left, nothing left,
    Of the Earth so beautiful!

  “Earth,” I said, “how can I leave you?
    “You are all I have,” I said;
  “What is left to take my mind up,
    Living always, and you dead?

  “Speak!” I said, “Oh, tell me something!
    Make a sign that I can see!
  For a keepsake! To keep always!
    Quick!--before God misses me!”

  And I listened for a voice;--
    But my heart was all I heard;
  Not a screech-owl, not a loon,
    Not a tree-toad said a word.

  And I waited for a sign;--
    Coals and cinders, nothing more;
  And a little cloud of smoke
    Floating on a valley floor.

  And I peered into the smoke
    Till it rotted, like a fog:--
  There, encompassed round by fire,
    Stood a blue-flag in a bog!

  Little flames came wading out,
    Straining, draining towards its stem,
  But it was so blue and tall
    That it scorned to think of them!

  Red and thirsty were their tongues,
    As the tongues of wolves must be,
  But it was so blue and tall--
    Oh, I laughed, I cried, to see!

  All my heart became a tear,
    All my soul became a tower,
  Never loved I anything
    As I loved that tall blue flower!

  It was all the little boats
    That had ever sailed the sea,
  It was all the little books
    That had gone to school with me;

  On its roots like iron claws
    Rearing up so blue and tall,--
  It was all the gallant Earth
    With its back against a wall!

  In a breath, ere I had breathed,--
    Oh, I laughed, I cried, to see!--
  I was kneeling at its side,
    And it leaned its head on me!

  Crumbling stones and sliding sand
    Is the road to Heaven now;
  Icy at my straining knees
    Drags the awful under-tow;

  Soon but stepping-stones of dust
    Will the road to Heaven be,--
  Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
    Reach a hand and rescue me!

  “There--there, my blue-flag flower;
    Hush--hush--go to sleep;
  That is only God you hear,
    Counting up His folded sheep!

    That is only God that calls,
  Missing me, seeking me,
    Ere the road to nothing falls!

  He will set His mighty feet
    Firmly on the sliding sand;
  Like a little frightened bird
    I will creep into His hand;

  I will tell Him all my grief,
    I will tell Him all my sin;
  He will give me half His robe
    For a cloak to wrap you in.

    Rocks the burnt-out planet free!--
  Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
    Reach a hand and rescue me!

  Ah, the voice of love at last!
    Lo, at last the face of light!
  And the whole of His white robe
    For a cloak against the night!

  And upon my heart asleep
    All the things I ever knew!--
  “Holds Heaven not some cranny, Lord,
    For a flower so tall and blue?”

  All’s well and all’s well!
    Gay the lights of Heaven show!
  In some moist and Heavenly place
    We will set it out to grow.


  No matter what I say,
    All that I really love
  Is the rain that flattens on the bay,
    And the eel-grass in the cove;
  The jingle-shells that lie and bleach
    At the tide-line, and the trace
  Of higher tides along the beach:
    Nothing in this place.

_Elegy before Death_

  There will be rose and rhododendron
    When you are dead and under ground;
  Still will be heard from white syringas
    Heavy with bees, a sunny sound;

  Still will the tamaracks be raining
    After the rain has ceased, and still
  Will there be robins in the stubble,
    Brown sheep upon the warm green hill.

  Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
    Nothing will know that you are gone,
  Saving alone some sullen plough-land
    None but yourself sets foot upon;

  Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
    Nothing will know that you are dead,--
  These, and perhaps a useless wagon
    Standing beside some tumbled shed.

  Oh, there will pass with your great passing
    Little of beauty not your own,--
  Only the light from common water,
    Only the grace from simple stone!

_The Bean-Stalk_

  Ho, Giant! This is I!
  I have built me a bean-stalk into your sky!
  La,--but it’s lovely, up so high!

  This is how I came,--I put
  There my knee, here my foot,
  Up and up, from shoot to shoot--
  And the blessed bean-stalk thinning
  Like the mischief all the time,
  Till it took me rocking, spinning,
  In a dizzy, sunny circle,
  Making angles with the root,
  Far and out above the cackle
  Of the city I was born in,
  Till the little dirty city
  In the light so sheer and sunny
  Shone as dazzling bright and pretty
  As the money that you find
  In a dream of finding money--
  What a wind! What a morning!--

  Till the tiny, shiny city,
  When I shot a glance below,
  Shaken with a giddy laughter,
  Sick and blissfully afraid,
  Was a dew-drop on a blade,
  And a pair of moments after
  Was the whirling guess I made,--
  And the wind was like a whip
  Cracking past my icy ears,
  And my hair stood out behind,
  And my eyes were full of tears,
  Wide-open and cold,
  More tears than they could hold,
  The wind was blowing so,
  And my teeth were in a row,
  Dry and grinning,
  And I felt my foot slip,
  And I scratched the wind and whined,
  And I clutched the stalk and jabbered,
  With my eyes shut blind,--
  What a wind! What a wind!

  Your broad sky, Giant,
  Is the shelf of a cupboard;
  I make bean-stalks, I’m
  A builder, like yourself,
  But bean-stalks is my trade,
  I couldn’t make a shelf,
  Don’t know how they’re made,
  Now, a bean-stalk is more pliant--
  La, what a climb!


  White with daisies and red with sorrel
    And empty, empty under the sky!--
  Life is a quest and love a quarrel--
    Here is a place for me to lie.

  Daisies spring from damnèd seeds,
    And this red fire that here I see
  Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
    Cursed by farmers thriftily.

  But here, unhated for an hour,
    The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
  The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
    Like flowers that bear an honest name.

  And here a while, where no wind brings
    The baying of a pack athirst,
  May sleep the sleep of blessed things
    The blood too bright, the brow accurst.

_Passer Mortuus Est_

  Death devours all lovely things;
    Lesbia with her sparrow
  Shares the darkness,--presently
    Every bed is narrow.

  Unremembered as old rain
    Dries the sheer libation,
  And the little petulant hand
    Is an annotation.

  After all, my erstwhile dear,
    My no longer cherished,
  Need we say it was not love,
    Now that love is perished?


  If it were only still!--
  With far away the shrill
  Crying of a cock;
  Or the shaken bell
  From a cow’s throat
  Moving through the bushes;
  Or the soft shock
  Of wizened apples falling
  From an old tree
  In a forgotten orchard
  Upon the hilly rock!

  Oh, grey hill,
  Where the grazing herd
  Licks the purple blossom,
  Crops the spiky weed!
  Oh, stony pasture,
  Where the tall mullein
  Stands up so sturdy
  On its little seed!



  I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
  After a year of silence, else I think
  I should not so have ventured forth alone
  At dusk upon this unfrequented road.


  I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
  Between me and the crying of the frogs?
  Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
  That am a timid woman, on her way
  From one house to another!


  The railroad track is miles away,
    And the day is loud with voices speaking,
  Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
    But I hear its whistle shrieking.

  All night there isn’t a train goes by,
    Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
  But I see its cinders red on the sky,
    And hear its engine steaming.

  My heart is warm with the friends I make,
    And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
  Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
    No matter where it’s going.


  These wet rocks where the tide has been,
    Barnacled white and weeded brown
  And slimed beneath to a beautiful green,
    These wet rocks where the tide went down
  Will show again when the tide is high
    Faint and perilous, far from shore,
  No place to dream, but a place to die,--
    The bottom of the sea once more.
  _There was a child that wandered through
    A giant’s empty house all day,--
  House full of wonderful things and new,
    But no fit place for a child to play._

_Song of a Second April_

  April this year, not otherwise
    Than April of a year ago,
  Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
    Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
    Hepaticas that pleased you so
  Are here again, and butterflies.

  There rings a hammering all day,
    And shingles lie about the doors;
  In orchards near and far away
    The grey woodpecker taps and bores;
    And men are merry at their chores,
  And children earnest at their play.

  The larger streams run still and deep,
    Noisy and swift the small brooks run
  Among the mullein stalks the sheep
    Go up the hillside in the sun,
    Pensively,--only you are gone,
  You that alone I cared to keep.

_The Poet and his Book_

  _Down, you mongrel, Death!
    Back into your kennel!
  I have stolen breath
    In a stalk of fennel!
  You shall scratch and you shall whine
    Many a night, and you shall worry
    Many a bone, before you bury
  One sweet bone of mine!_

  When shall I be dead?
    When my flesh is withered,
  And above my head
    Yellow pollen gathered
  All the empty afternoon?
    When sweet lovers pause and wonder
    Who am I that lie thereunder,
  Hidden from the moon?

  This my personal death?--
    That my lungs be failing
  To inhale the breath
    Others are exhaling?
  This my subtle spirit’s end?--
    Ah, when the thawed winter splashes
    Over these chance dust and ashes,
  Weep not me, my friend!

  Me, by no means dead
    In that hour, but surely
  When this book, unread,
    Rots to earth obscurely,
  And no more to any breast,
    Close against the clamorous swelling
    Of the thing there is no telling,
  Are these pages pressed!

  When this book is mould,
    And a book of many
  Waiting to be sold
    For a casual penny,
  In a little open case,
    In a street unclean and cluttered,
    Where a heavy mud is spattered
  From the passing drays,

  Stranger, pause and look;
    From the dust of ages
  Lift this little book,
    Turn the tattered pages,
  Read me, do not let me die!
    Search the fading letters, finding
    Steadfast in the broken binding
  All that once was I!

  When these veins are weeds,
    When these hollowed sockets
  Watch the rooty seeds
    Bursting down like rockets,
  And surmise the spring again,
    Or, remote in that black cupboard,
    Watch the pink worms writhing upward
  At the smell of rain,

  Boys and girls that lie
    Whispering in the hedges,
  Do not let me die,
    Mix me with your pledges;
  Boys and girls that slowly walk
    In the woods, and weep, and quarrel,
    Staring past the pink wild laurel,
  Mix me with your talk,

  Do not let me die!
    Farmers at your raking,
  When the sun is high,
    While the hay is making,
  When, along the stubble strewn,
    Withering on their stalks uneaten,
    Strawberries turn dark and sweeten
  In the lapse of noon;

  Shepherds on the hills,
    In the pastures, drowsing
  To the tinkling bells
    Of the brown sheep browsing;
  Sailors crying through the storm;
    Scholars at your study; hunters
    Lost amid the whirling winter’s
  Whiteness uniform;

  Men that long for sleep;
    Men that wake and revel;--
  If an old song leap
    To your senses’ level
  At such moments, may it be
    Sometimes, though a moment only,
    Some forgotten, quaint and homely
  Vehicle of me!

  Women at your toil,
    Women at your leisure
  Till the kettle boil,
    Snatch of me your pleasure,
  Where the broom-straw marks the leaf;
    Women quiet with your weeping
    Lest you wake a workman sleeping,
  Mix me with your grief!

  Boys and girls that steal
    From the shocking laughter
  Of the old, to kneel
    By a dripping rafter
  Under the discoloured eaves,
    Out of trunks with hingeless covers
    Lifting tales of saints and lovers,
  Travellers, goblins, thieves,

  Suns that shine by night,
    Mountains made from valleys,--
  Bear me to the light,
    Flat upon your bellies
  By the webby window lie,
    Where the little flies are crawling,--
    Read me, margin me with scrawling,
  Do not let me die!

  _Sexton, ply your trade!
    In a shower of gravel
  Stamp upon your spade!
    Many a rose shall ravel,
  Many a metal wreath shall rust
    In the rain, and I go singing
    Through the lots where you are flinging
  Yellow clay on dust!_


  My heart is what it was before,
    A house where people come and go;
  But it is winter with your love,
    The sashes are beset with snow.

  I light the lamp and lay the cloth,
    I blow the coals to blaze again;
  But it is winter with your love,
    The frost is thick upon the pane.

  I know a winter when it comes:
    The leaves are listless on the boughs;
  I watched your love a little while,
    And brought my plants into the house.

  I water them and turn them south,
    I snap the dead brown from the stem;
  But it is winter with your love,--
    I only tend and water them.

  There was a time I stood and watched
    The small, ill-natured sparrows’ fray;
  I loved the beggar that I fed,
    I cared for what he had to say,

  I stood and watched him out of sight;
    To-day I reach around the door
  And set a bowl upon the step;
    My heart is what it was before,

  But it is winter with your love;
    I scatter crumbs upon the sill,
  And close the window,--and the birds
    May take or leave them, as they will.


  People that build their houses inland,
    People that buy a plot of ground
  Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
    Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

  Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
    Tons of water striking the shore,--
  What do they long for, as I long for
    One salt smell of the sea once more?

  People the waves have not awakened,
    Spanking the boats at the harbour’s head,
  What do they long for, as I long for,--
    Starting up in my inland bed,

  Beating the narrow walls, and finding
    Neither a window nor a door,
  Screaming to God for death by drowning,--
    One salt taste of the sea once more?

_To a Poet that Died Young_

  Minstrel, what have you to do
  With this man that, after you,
  Sharing not your happy fate,
  Sat as England’s Laureate?
  Vainly, in these iron days,
  Strives the poet in your praise,
  Minstrel, by whose singing side
  Beauty walked, until you died.

  Still, though none should hark again,
  Drones the blue-fly in the pane,
  Thickly crusts the blackest moss,
  Blows the rose its musk across,
  Floats the boat that is forgot
  None the less to Camelot.

  Many a bard’s untimely death
  Lends unto his verses breath;
  Here’s a song was never sung:
  Growing old is dying young.
  Minstrel, what is this to you:
  That a man you never knew,
  When your grave was far and green,
  Sat and gossipped with a queen?

  Thalia knows how rare a thing
  Is it, to grow old and sing;
  When the brown and tepid tide
  Closes in on every side.
  Who shall say if Shelley’s gold
  Had withstood it to grow old?


  “Thin Rain, whom are you haunting,
    That you haunt my door?”
  --Surely it is not I she’s wanting;
    Someone living here before--
  “Nobody’s in the house but me:
  You may come in if you like and see.”

  Thin as thread, with exquisite fingers,--
    Have you seen her, any of you?--
  Grey shawl, and leaning on the wind,
    And the garden showing through?

  Glimmering eyes,--and silent, mostly,
    Sort of a whisper, sort of a purr,
  Asking something, asking it over,
    If you get a sound from her.--

  Ever see her, any of you?--
    Strangest thing I’ve ever known,--
  Every night since I moved in,
    And I came to be alone.

  “Thin Rain, hush with your knocking!
    You may not come in!
  This is I that you hear rocking;
    Nobody’s with me, nor has been!”

  Curious, how she tried the window,--
    Odd, the way she tries the door,--
  _Wonder just what sort of people
    Could have had this house before...._


  I know what my heart is like
    Since your love died:
  It is like a hollow ledge
  Holding a little pool
    Left there by the tide,
    A little tepid pool,
  Drying inward from the edge.


  Oh, come again to Astolat!
    I will not ask you to be kind.
  And you may go when you will go,
    And I will stay behind.

  I will not say how dear you are,
    Or ask you if you hold me dear,
  Or trouble you with things for you
    The way I did last year.

  So still the orchard, Lancelot,
    So very still the lake shall be,
  You could not guess--though you should guess--
    What is become of me.

  So wide shall be the garden-walk,
    The garden-seat so very wide,
  You needs must think--if you should think--
    The lily maid had died.

  Save that, a little way away,
    I’d watch you for a little while,
  To see you speak, the way you speak,
    And smile,--if you should smile.


  Mine is a body that should die at sea!
    And have for a grave, instead of a grave
  Six feet deep and the length of me,
    All the water that is under the wave!

  And terrible fishes to seize my flesh,
    Such as a living man might fear,
  And eat me while I am firm and fresh,--
    Not wait till I’ve been dead for a year!


  Butterflies are white and blue
  In this field we wander through.
  Suffer me to take your hand.
  Death comes in a day or two.

  All the things we ever knew
  Will be ashes in that hour.
  Mark the transient butterfly,
  How he hangs upon the flower.

  Suffer me to take your hand.
  Suffer me to cherish you
  Till the dawn is in the sky.
  Whether I be false or true,
  Death comes in a day or two.

_Doubt no more that Oberon_

  Doubt no more that Oberon--
  Never doubt that Pan
  Lived, and played a reed, and ran
  After nymphs in a dark forest
  In the merry, credulous days,--
  Lived, and led a fairy band
  Over the indulgent land!
  Ah, for in this dourest, sorest
  Age man’s eye has looked upon,
  Death to fauns and death to fays,
  Still the dog-wood dares to raise--
  Healthy tree, with trunk and root--
  Ivory bowls that bear no fruit,
  And the starlings and the jays--
  Birds that cannot even sing--
  Dare to come again in spring!


  Listen, children:
  Your father is dead.
  From his old coats
  I’ll make you little jackets;
  I’ll make you little trousers
  From his old pants.
  There’ll be in his pockets
  Things he used to put there,
  Keys and pennies
  Covered with tobacco;
  Dan shall have the pennies
  To save in his bank;
  Anne shall have the keys
  To make a pretty noise with.
  Life must go on,
  And the dead be forgotten;
  Life must go on,
  Though good men die;
  Anne, eat your breakfast;
  Dan, take your medicine;
  Life must go on;
  I forget just why.


  Searching my heart for its true sorrow,
    This is the thing I find to be:
  That I am weary of words and people,
    Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

  Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness
    Of the strong wind and shattered spray;
  Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound
    Of the big surf that breaks all day.

  Always before about my dooryard,
    Marking the reach of the winter sea,
  Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,
    Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

  Always I climbed the wave at morning,
    Shook the sand from my shoes at night,
  That now am caught beneath great buildings
    Stricken with noise, confused with light.

  If I could hear the green piles groaning
    Under the windy wooden piers,
  See once again the bobbing barrels,
    And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

  If I could see the weedy mussels
    Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,
  Hear once again the hungry crying
    Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

  Feel once again the shanty straining
    Under the turning of the tide,
  Fear once again the rising freshet,
    Dread the bell in the fog outside,--

  I should be happy,--that was happy
    All day long on the coast of Maine!
  I have a need to hold and handle
    Shells and anchors and ships again!

  I should be happy, that am happy
    Never at all since I came here.
  I am too long away from water.
    I have a need of water near.

_The Death of Autumn_

  When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
  And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
  Like agèd warriors westward, tragic, thinned
  Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes,
  Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
  Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek,--
  Then leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
  My heart. I know that Beauty must ail and die,
  And will be born again,--but ah, to see
  Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
  Oh, Autumn! Autumn!--What is the Spring to me?

_Ode to Silence_

  Aye, but she?
  Your other sister and my other soul,
  Grave Silence, lovelier
  Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
  Clio, not you,
  Not you, Calliope,
  Nor all your wanton line,
  Not Beauty’s perfect self shall comfort me
  For Silence once departed,
  For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
  Whom evermore I follow wilfully,
  Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
  Thalia, not you,
  Not you, Melpomene,
  Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore,
  I seek in this great hall,
  But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
  I seek her from afar.
  I come from temples where her altars are,
  From groves that bear her name,
  Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame,
  And cymbals struck on high and strident faces
  Obstreperous in her praise
  They neither love nor know,
  A goddess of gone days,
  Departed long ago,
  Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes
  Of her old sanctuary,
  A deity obscure and legendary,
  Of whom there now remains,
  For sages to decipher and priests to garble,
  Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble,
  Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases,
  And the inarticulate snow,
  Leaving at last of her least signs and traces
  None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.

  “She will love well,” I said,
  “If love be of that heart inhabiter,
  The flowers of the dead;
  The red anemone that with no sound
  Moves in the wind, and from another wound
  That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth,
  That blossoms underground,
  And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
  And will not Silence know
  In the black shade of what obsidian steep
  Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep?
  (Seed which Demeter’s daughter bore from home,
  Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago,
  Reluctant even as she,
  Undone Persephone,
  And even as she set out again to grow
  In twilight, in perdition’s lean and inauspicious loam).
  She will love well,” I said,
  “The flowers of the dead;
  Where dark Persephone the winter round,
  Uncomforted for home, uncomforted,
  Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily,
  With sullen pupils focussed on a dream,
  Stares on the stagnant stream
  That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell,
  There, there will she be found,
  She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound.”

  “I long for Silence as they long for breath
  Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea;
  What thing can be
  So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death
  What fury, what considerable rage, if only she,
  Upon whose icy breast,
  Unquestioned, uncaressed,
  One time I lay,
  And whom always I lack,
  Even to this day,
  Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away,
  If only she therewith be given me back?”

  I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth,
  Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell,
  And in among the bloodless everywhere
  I sought her, but the air,
  Breathed many times and spent,
  Was fretful with a whispering discontent,
  And questioning me, importuning me to tell
  Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more,
  Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
  I paused at every grievous door,
  And harked a moment, holding up my hand,--and for a space
  A hush was on them, while they watched my face;
  And then they fell a-whispering as before;
  So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
  I sought her, too,
  Among the upper gods, although I knew
  She was not like to be where feasting is,
  Nor near to Heaven’s lord,
  Being a thing abhorred
  And shunned of him, although a child of his,
  (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath,
  Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
  Fearing to pass unvisited some place
  And later learn, too late, how all the while,
  With her still face,
  She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile,
  I sought her even to the sagging board whereat
  The stout immortals sat;
  But such a laughter shook the mighty hall
  No one could hear me say:
  Had she been seen upon the Hill that day?
  And no one knew at all
  How long I stood or when at last I sighed and went away.

  There is a garden lying in a lull
  Between the mountains and the mountainous sea,
  I know not where, but which a dream diurnal
  Paints on my lids a moment till the hull
  Be lifted from the kernel
  And Slumber fed to me.
  Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene,
  Though it would seem a ruined place and after
  Your lichenous heart, being full
  Of broken columns, caryatides
  Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees,
  And urns funereal altered into dust
  Minuter than the ashes of the dead,
  And Psyche’s lamp out of the earth up-thrust,
  Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed
  Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.

  There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria
  Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall,
  And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds;
  There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds;
  But never an echo of your daughters’ laughter
  Is there, nor any sign of you at all
  Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria!
  Only her shadow once upon a stone
  I saw,--and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.

  I tell you you have done her body an ill,
  You chatterers, you noisy crew!
  She is not anywhere!
  I sought her in deep Hell;
  And through the world as well;
  I thought of Heaven and I sought her there;
  Above nor underground
  Is Silence to be found,
  That was the very warp and woof of you,
  Lovely before your songs began and after they were through!
  Oh, say if on this hill
  Somewhere your sister’s body lies in death,
  So I may follow there, and make a wreath
  Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast
  Shall lie till age has withered them!

                          (Ah, sweetly from the rest
  I see
  Turn and consider me
  Compassionate Euterpe!)
  “There is a gate beyond the gate of Death,
  Beyond the gate of everlasting Life,
  Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell,” she saith,
  “Whereon but to believe is horror!
  Whereon to meditate engendereth
  Even in deathless spirits such as I
  A tumult in the breath,
  A chilling of the inexhaustible blood
  Even in my veins that never will be dry,
  And in the austere, divine monotony
  That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.

  This is her province whom you lack and seek;
  And seek her not elsewhere.
  Hell is a thoroughfare
  For pilgrims,--Herakles,
  And he that loved Euridice too well,
  Have walked therein; and many more than these;
  And witnessed the desire and the despair
  Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air;
  You, too, have entered Hell,
  And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak
  None has returned;--for thither fury brings
  Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
  Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there.”
  Oh, radiant Song! Oh, gracious Memory!
  Be long upon this height
  I shall not climb again!
  I know the way you mean,--the little night,
  And the long empty day,--never to see
  Again the angry light,
  Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain!

  Ah, but she,
  Your other sister and my other soul,
  She shall again be mine;
  And I shall drink her from a silver bowl,
  A chilly thin green wine,
  Not bitter to the taste,
  Not sweet,
  Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,--
  To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth--
  But savouring faintly of the acid earth,
  And trod by pensive feet
  From perfect clusters ripened without haste
  Out of the urgent heat
  In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine.

  Lift up your lyres! Sing on!
  But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.

_Memorial to D. C._


  _Oh, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,
    Where now no more the music is,
  With hands that wrote you little notes
    I write you little elegies!_



  Heap not on this mound
    Roses that she loved so well;
  Why bewilder her with roses,
    That she cannot see or smell?
  She is happy where she lies
  With the dust upon her eyes.


_Prayer to Persephone_

  Be to her, Persephone,
  All the things I might not be;
  Take her head upon your knee.
  She that was so proud and wild,
  Flippant, arrogant and free,
  She that had no need of me,
  Is a little lonely child
  Lost in Hell,--Persephone,
  Take her head upon your knee;
  Say to her, “My dear, my dear,
  It is not so dreadful here.”



  Give away her gowns,
  Give away her shoes;
  She has no more use
  For her fragrant gowns;
  Take them all down,
  Blue, green, blue,
  Lilac, pink, blue,
  From their padded hangers;
  She will dance no more
  In her narrow shoes;
  Sweep her narrow shoes
  From the closet floor.



  Let them bury your big eyes
  In the secret earth securely,
  Your thin fingers, and your fair,
  Soft, indefinite-coloured hair,--
  All of these in some way, surely,
  From the secret earth shall rise;
  Not for these I sit and stare,
  Broken and bereft completely;
  Your young flesh that sat so neatly
  On your little bones will sweetly
  Blossom in the air.

  But your voice,--never the rushing
  Of a river underground,
  Not the rising of the wind
  In the trees before the rain,
  Not the woodcock’s watery call,
  Not the note the white-throat utters,
  Not the feet of children pushing
  Yellow leaves along the gutters
  In the blue and bitter fall,
  Shall content my musing mind
  For the beauty of that sound
  That in no new way at all
  Ever will be heard again.
  Sweetly through the sappy stalk
  Of the vigorous weed,
  Holding all it held before,
  Cherished by the faithful sun,
  On and on eternally
  Shall your altered fluid run,
  Bud and bloom and go to seed;
  But your singing days are done;
  But the music of your talk
  Never shall the chemistry
  Of the secret earth restore.
  All your lovely words are spoken.
  Once the ivory box is broken,
  Beats the golden bird no more.



  Boys and girls that held her dear,
    Do your weeping now;
  All you loved of her lies here.

  Brought to earth the arrogant brow,
    And the withering tongue
  Chastened; do your weeping now.

  Sing whatever songs are sung,
    Wind whatever wreath,
  For a playmate perished young,

  For a spirit spent in death.
  Boys and girls that held her dear,
  All you loved of her lies here.



  We talk of taxes, and I call you friend;
  Well, such you are,--but well enough we know
  How thick about us root, how rankly grow
  Those subtle weeds no man has need to tend,
  That flourish through neglect, and soon must send
  Perfume too sweet upon us and overthrow
  Our steady senses; how such matters go
  We are aware, and how such matters end.
  Yet shall be told no meagre passion here;
  With lovers such as we for evermore
  Isolde drinks the draught, and Guinevere
  Receives the Table’s ruin through her door,
  Francesca, with the loud surf at her ear,
  Lets fall the coloured book upon the floor.


  Into the golden vessel of great song
  Let us pour all our passion; breast to breast
  Let other lovers lie, in love and rest;
  Not we,--articulate, so, but with the tongue
  Of all the world: the churning blood, the long
  Shuddering quiet, the desperate hot palms pressed
  Sharply together upon the escaping guest,
  The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong.
  Longing alone is singer to the lute;
  Let still on nettles in the open sigh
  The minstrel, that in slumber is as mute
  As any man, and love be far and high,
  That else forsakes the topmost branch, a fruit
  Found on the ground by every passer-by.


  Not with libations, but with shouts and laughter
  We drenched the altars of Love’s sacred grove,
  Shaking to earth green fruits, impatient after
  The launching of the coloured moths of Love.
  Love’s proper myrtle and his mother’s zone
  We bound about our irreligious brows,
  And fettered him with garlands of our own,
  And spread a banquet in his frugal house.
  Not yet the god has spoken; but I fear
  Though we should break our bodies in his flame,
  And pour our blood upon his altar, here
  Henceforward is a grove without a name,
  A pasture to the shaggy goats of Pan,
  Whence flee forever a woman and a man.


  Only until this cigarette is ended,
  A little moment at the end of all,
  While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
  And in the firelight to a lance extended,
  Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
  The broken shadow dances on the wall,
  I will permit my memory to recall
  The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
  And then adieu,--farewell!--the dream is done.
  Yours is a face of which I can forget
  The colour and the features, every one,
  The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
  But in your day this moment is the sun
  Upon a hill, after the sun has set.


  Once more into my arid days like dew,
  Like wind from an oasis, or the sound
  Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,
  A treacherous messenger, the thought of you
  Comes to destroy me; once more I renew
  Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found
  Long since to be but just one other mound
  Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.
  And once again, and wiser in no wise,
  I chase your coloured phantom on the air,
  And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise
  And stumble pitifully on to where,
  Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,
  Once more I clasp,--and there is nothing there.


  No rose that in a garden ever grew,
  In Homer’s or in Omar’s or in mine,
  Though buried under centuries of fine
  Dead dust of roses, shut from sun and dew
  Forever, and forever lost from view,
  But must again in fragrance rich as wine
  The grey aisles of the air incarnadine
  When the old summers surge into a new.
  Thus when I swear, “I love with all my heart,”
  ’Tis with the heart of Lilith that I swear,
  ’Tis with the love of Lesbia and Lucrece;
  And thus as well my love must lose some part
  Of what it is, had Helen been less fair,
  Or perished young, or stayed at home in Greece.


  When I too long have looked upon your face,
  Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
  Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
  And terrible beauty not to be endured,
  I turn away reluctant from your light,
  And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
  A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
  From having looked too long upon the sun.
  Then is my daily life a narrow room
  In which a little while, uncertainly,
  Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
  Among familiar things grown strange to me
  Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
  Till I become accustomed to the dark.


  And you as well must die, beloved dust,
  And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
  This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
  This body of flame and steel, before the gust
  Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
  Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
  Than the first leaf that fell,--this wonder fled,
  Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
  Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
  In spite of all my love, you will arise
  Upon that day and wander down the air
  Obscurely as the unattended flower,
  It mattering not how beautiful you were,
  Or how beloved above all else that dies.


  Let you not say of me when I am old,
  In pretty worship of my withered hands
  Forgetting who I am, and how the sands
  Of such a life as mine run red and gold
  Even to the ultimate sifting dust, “Behold,
  Here walketh passionless age!”--for there expands
  A curious superstition in these lands,
  And by its leave some weightless tales are told.
  In me no lenten wicks watch out the night;
  I am the booth where Folly holds her fair;
  Impious no less in ruin than in strength,
  When I lie crumbled to the earth at length,
  Let you not say, “Upon this reverend site
  The righteous groaned and beat their breasts in prayer.”


  Oh, my beloved, have you thought of this:
  How in the years to come unscrupulous Time,
  More cruel than Death, will tear you from my kiss,
  And make you old, and leave me in my prime?
  How you and I, who scale together yet
  A little while the sweet, immortal height
  No pilgrim may remember or forget,
  As sure as the world turns, some granite night
  Shall lie awake and know the gracious flame
  Gone out forever on the mutual stone;
  And call to mind how on the day you came
  I was a child, and you a hero grown?--
  And the night pass, and the strange morning break
  Upon our anguish for each other’s sake!


  As to some lovely temple, tenantless
  Long since, that once was sweet with shivering brass,
  Knowing well its altars ruined and the grass
  Grown up between the stones, yet from excess
  Of grief hard driven, or great loneliness,
  The worshipper returns, and those who pass
  Marvel him crying on a name that was,--
  So is it now with me in my distress.
  Your body was a temple to Delight;
  Cold are its ashes whence the breath is fled,
  Yet here one time your spirit was wont to move;
  Here might I hope to find you day or night,
  And here I come to look for you, my love,
  Even now, foolishly, knowing you are dead.


  Cherish you then the hope I shall forget
  At length, my lord, Pieria?--put away
  For your so passing sake, this mouth of clay,
  These mortal bones against my body set,
  For all the puny fever and frail sweat
  Of human love,--renounce for these, I say,
  The Singing Mountain’s memory, and betray
  The silent lyre that hangs upon me yet?
  Ah, but indeed, some day shall you awake,
  Rather, from dreams of me, that at your side
  So many nights, a lover and a bride,
  But stern in my soul’s chastity, have lain,
  To walk the world forever for my sake,
  And in each chamber find me gone again!

_Wild Swans_

  I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
  And what did I see I had not seen before?
  Only a question less or a question more;
  Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
  Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
  House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
  Wild swans, come over the town, come over
  The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

_Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and

  Works by
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Martin Secker

Transcriber’s Notes

Italic text is enclosed in _underscores_.

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling inconsistencies were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation marks
were remedied by examining other copies of the same poems.

Transcriber added a missing exclamation mark at the end of “Burial.”

Decorative floral bullets are similar, but not identical, to the ones
in the original.

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